Beautiful Mistake Copyright © 2014 by Nancy Corrigan All Rights Are Reserved.
Devin Moore peered through the windshield at the sprawling mansion. He took in the small pond, the English garden with its ornate fountain, and the hedge maze. Butterflies fluttered above the bushes. A frog hopped from a lily pad into the water. And a squirrel ran down the side of a tree.
There were no standoffs. No fighting lions. No gun-toting agents. No people whatsoever. For the scene of a shifter trafficking deal, the property was essentially deserted. Only the fancy red sports car parked near the front door offered any indication that the large home was occupied.
“Are you sure this is the place?” Devin asked.
Kade, his pride leader, caught his gaze in the rearview mirror. “I put the address Shifter Affairs gave us into my phone’s GPS. I’m sure.”
Six hours ago, Shifter Affairs, the small unit of the government dedicated to shifter-related issues, contacted their pride with an update on Molly, their missing lion cub. The agent working her case had not only found their preschooler but was in the process of organizing a retrieval. Time was of the essence. He’d discovered Molly was set to be sold to a lion shifter pride.
The older human had broken protocol by contacting the Alexander pride directly. Devin, along with his pride members, were liaisons to the department, not full-fledged agents. They did recon, followed up on low probability leads, and helped rehabilitate recovered shifters. As civilians, they weren’t supposed to be exposed to any dangerous situations.
Devin didn’t care if his life was endangered. He’d wade into a gunfight, a fire, anything, if it meant saving a kid, but the closer they got to the quiet house, the stronger his unease grew. The three predators who shared his body—tiger, lion, and jaguar—matched his wariness.
They were walking into a trap.
Trained task force members should’ve been called in to deal with any confirmed shifter trafficking case. Yet, no government cars were on site. Hell, there should’ve at least been a Delaware state trooper here. Although not all humans knew shifters existed, many larger law enforcement agencies had at least one individual who did. That person was often the first responder. Not today.
He focused on the expensive car. “It’s odd nobody from Shifter Affairs has arrived.”
Xander, the male Devin considered a brother despite the fact Xander housed wolves instead of big cats, turned in his seat and leveled a stare from hardened brown eyes at Devin. “You know how slow the humans can be, especially when it’s not one of their own in jeopardy.”
“But why call us immediately?”
“Guilt?” Kade shrugged. “The agent who called is the same one who had Rafe escorted out with an order not to return until he could act like a civilized person, not an animal.”
Rafe, Kade’s twin, had contacted the humans for help finding the little girl a few weeks prior but hadn’t been given the warmest of responses. The agents had hundreds of missing shifter cases. Molly was only one of many lost kids. The explanation hadn’t soothed Devin, not when Molly’s sister, Megan, was crying for her twin.
“Look.” Xander motioned to the side of the house with a jerk of his head, his black hair swinging with the move. He shoved it out of his eyes with an annoyed grunt. “Guess the humans will have to sit this one out.”
Devin turned his attention to the group moving from the house to the five-car garage. Close to a dozen shifter males surrounded a human woman and a little girl. Only glimpses of the two females were visible between the tight circle of bodies, but Devin saw enough. Molly’s white-blonde hair was unmistakable. So was the human’s hand twined with the largest of the lion shifters.
“Recognize them?” Xander asked.
“Yeah. They’re members of Edmund’s pride.” The aura surrounding them was one Devin was intimately familiar with. He’d watched it fade as his sister’s rapist lay dying in a pool of his own blood.
“Devin’s right. They’re from the Krisban pride.” Kade gripped the steering wheel with claw-tipped hands. “Last I heard, they were in trouble with the human government for keeping human females as sex slaves too.”
“So what are we going to do with them?” Devin asked, even though he knew the answer. As a lower member of the pride, he understood his place in the pride’s hierarchy. His rank didn’t allow him to order his alpha around.
“Invoke Pride law.”
“I want first blood.” And if the government decided to punish them for it, Devin would be the one who paid for the crime.
“It’s yours.” Kade turned the wheel hard, exposing Devin’s side of the car to the group.
Devin leapt from the moving vehicle, hitting the blacktop on a roll.
Two fully shifted lions charged him. He spread his legs and waited until they jumped him before unleashing his claws. One swipe. Two. And their heads fell with a thump. He kicked them aside and ran toward the throng of males.
Kade’s car spun, coming to a stop on the other side of the group. Devin didn’t look to see if Xander and Kade ran to the house or attacked the rival shifters. His gaze remained locked on the human female’s fingers twined with the bastard who’d thought to kidnap Molly.
Devin wanted the woman away from the male. The urge built into a compulsion. His cats fed it. Devin didn’t know why it suddenly seemed important, but he wasn’t about to give in to it. Getting Molly away from the pride known across the globe for their cruelty was all that mattered.
He focused on the need to save Molly and charged them. The other shifter released the female’s hand and spread his arms wide, inviting the fight. The male’s cockiness wouldn’t last, not once Devin ripped him open with a single slash from his sharpened nails.
Movement caught his attention. The female picked up Molly and ran toward the house. He wanted to go after them, but it was better if they hid. Molly didn’t need to witness the bloodshed he’d deliver. However, the sooner he eliminated the threat, the sooner he’d be able to help Kade with Molly, calming her and easing her fears.
Devin curled his upper lip, exposing his fangs, and met the shifter, slamming into the smaller male’s body. They hit the hard pavement and rolled onto the grass next to the driveway.
The lion shifter pinned Devin to the ground with clawed hands dug into Devin’s shoulders. Glowing hazel eyes focused on him. Hatred burned in them. The sight of them yanked a memory out of the depth of Devin’s mind when another lion shifter had stared at him. Those hazel orbs had been unfocused and hazed with pain, yet the depravity in them had been clear.
“Your whore sister sealed her fate. She’ll suffer for this. My pride will make sure of it.”
Devin shook his head to clear it of Edmund’s dying words. It didn’t do any good. For three centuries, they had replayed in Devin’s soul, taunting and angering him.
Reminding him of his biggest failure.
Devin slammed his forehead against the other male, knocking him back, then reversed their position. Edmund’s image superimposed over his distant relative. The male’s hair lengthened, and his lips thinned. It wasn’t real. Devin’s mind was messing with him. He recognized the signs. Couldn’t stop them. His hatred for Edmund had never abated. Devin had failed Mira. Gotten to her too late. She’d had to save herself.
A snarl tore from Devin’s throat. He gave himself over to the anger—to the guilt he could never escape—and ripped the male’s throat out. The shifter’s death didn’t ease his remorse, but the sneering laugh echoing in Devin’s head cut off. At least for the moment.
He dragged his hand across his bloody mouth. A weight landed against his back, knocking him to the ground. With his eyes closed, so as not to be pulled into another memory, Devin rolled with his attacker.
Devin’s cats supplied the sensory details to replace the loss of his vision—the male’s heartbeat betraying his rage, his scent identifying him as a Krisban, and the flexing of his muscles warning of an attack. Devin took the clues his cats supplied him and acted.
With a swipe of Devin’s hand, he tore his opponent’s gut open. Another blow and the male’s growls stopped.
More males came at Devin. All met the same fate. He lost track of how many lives he took. Didn’t care, either. They meant to steal Molly. Hurt her. Just like the Krisban males had wanted to do to Mira. Their women were treated as slaves, breeders. That hadn’t changed over the three centuries since Edmund wanted to trap Mira into the role of his mate. Devin knew. He kept tabs on this pride.
He pivoted on his heel to attack the last male. The other shifter’s heartbeat grew fainter. Devin glanced over his shoulder in the direction of the sound and got the rear view of the other shifter’s arms and legs pumping as the coward fled across the front lawn.
Devin took two steps after him, then stopped. The screech of squealing tires pierced the air. He turned. Taillights disappeared around the bend.
He swept his gaze over the scene of carnage. Bodies littered the ground. No sign of his friends, the human female, or Molly. He glanced toward where the expensive car had been. Gone.
He snarled, fists clenching and releasing at his sides. His anger fed the predators sharing his body until he vibrated with the effort it took to contain the three big cats he’d been born with. The animals wanted to be released. To hunt. To kill.
Colors faded from the world around him. Vertigo took hold, making the ground tilt under his feet. He stumbled and nearly fell in the blood-soaked grass.
A door slammed behind him, saving him from slipping into one of the mental episodes that had plagued him since his youth. For years, he’d hidden the blackouts, a result of shouldering his twin Mira’s punishment. Lately, he’d had trouble keeping the episodes in check, not surprising, really. Stress and rage triggered the memories. He’d lived with both emotions these past few months, ever since the prophecy involving Mira became a hot topic at the Shifter Council meetings. The reason given to Devin by one of the single shifters—curiosity—didn’t satisfy him.
The Council was up to something. Devin was sure of it, but he didn’t know what. That lack of knowledge had left him frustrated and tense. And the situation with Molly? Yeah, it drove him to the brink of insanity. No way would he walk away, though. He hadn’t saved Mira, but he would save Molly.
He faced the house. Kade and Xander ran toward him.
“She tricked us. There are freakin’ hidden corridors in that house. We lost them,” Kade called out.
Devin pointed in the direction the car had gone with a thankfully steady hand. No need to let his pride leader know how close he’d come to losing complete control. “She took off.”
A savage grin spread over Kade’s face that didn’t match his blond-beach-bum features. “Then let’s go round us up some prey.”
That was exactly what they’d be. Devin had no mercy for anyone involved in the trafficking of shifters or humans. One question remained, though. What side did the brown-haired female fall on?
No matter what her involvement in Molly’s situation, the woman wasn’t getting away. Devin would make sure of it.
Get the book from:
Shop now at: