Lion shapeshifter, Agent Chase Payne, doesn’t have time for distractions — especially the kind that involve his best friend’s younger sister. He has a job to do: leading his team of Therian agents to fight against those who would expose their kind to the world.
Lora Oliver wants to be a Therian Agent, but shocking secrets from her past have damaged the bond between her human and animal natures, and threaten to destroy everything she’s worked so hard for, along with the people she loves.
Assigned to Chase’s team, Lora struggles to retain control and keep her secrets buried, while Chase denies what he feels for Lora. And then, one kiss changes everything…
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Another one of my daydreams. I started writing the second book in this series first, and realized a quarter way through that Chase’s story needed to be told before Turning Payne.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The characters unfold in my head, but the story has always unfolded as I write. Sometimes those crazy characters just want to do their own thing.
Lora wiped her hands on her black pants and blew out an uneven breath. The lioness within her paced like the temperamental beast she was. Overemotional to a fault, it had taken one nearly fatal event to learn to control her dual nature. She had severed the connection years ago, making it impossible for her lion to emerge, but that didn’t mean the beast didn’t fight her on a daily basis.
Today the struggle seemed nearly unbearable. The very thought of seeing Chase Payne again set her hormones on overdrive, and her big bad kitty scratching to get out.
What was wrong with her?
She was being ridiculous, acting like some emotional teenage girl swooning over a high school crush. Chase was her brother’s friend, and now her boss. He was way out of her league, and she needed to get rid of all unsolicited thoughts ASAP. She was here to do a job, and she wasn’t about to let some adolescent crush ruin her chances of advancing towards her goal as a Therian field agent.
Anxiety raced through her. She needed this job. It was more than just a paycheck; it was a chance to redeem herself. An opportunity to stop those of her kind who would use their strength and animal abilities to cause harm. They were predators, rogue Metamorphs that allowed their animal nature to govern their actions. Dangerous not only to other shifters, but also to the oblivious humans they shared their world with.
Straightening her shoulders, she walked through the concrete hallway, and with feigned confidence entered Chase’s office.
Head bowed over an open manila file, his dark hair fell over his forehead, casting a shadow across his face. A face that Lora had memorized; strong chiselled jaw, lush lower lip, and blue eyes that could make a girl’s knees grow weak with just one glance.
No man should be that good looking. Her animal growled in agreement. She pushed the thought away, clenched her hands into fists, and took a deep breath. It didn’t matter that her lioness had claimed him for her own, he would never be hers. She’d learned that hard truth five years ago.
She saw the moment his animal senses recognized her presence. His nostrils flared and the thickly coiled muscles in his neck and shoulders went rigid. He lifted his head from what he was reading and sharpened his blue eyes on her.
She sucked in a deep breath as his gaze slowly roamed over her body. Primal, masculine power radiated off him in waves. Her nipples hardened and her skin sizzled, every hormone in her body suddenly activated.
This was a mistake. She should have insisted, no demanded to be assigned to someone else. Someone who didn’t make her body turn to liquid heat, or obliterate the control she’d gained over her animal DNA.
Chase cleared his throat and crossed his arms over his chest. He leaned back in his chair and watched her. Unease flashed in his sapphire eyes.
“Sit,” he ordered.
She clenched her teeth and sat down in the steel chair across from him. Taking a deep breath, she counted backwards from ten in her mind, controlling the animal who paced too close to the surface.
“It’s been a while since we’ve spoken,” he said, standing.
She nodded and glanced around the sterile room. He’d worked at the agency for nearly ten years, and yet there was nothing, not even a picture, to personalize it.
A muscle twitched in his jaw. “I was surprised to hear you joined the agency. I never knew you had any interest in working with the Therian Council.”
Neither had she until recently, but it was time she stepped up and did something with her life. Something that made a difference. Something that would erase the guilt that had plagued her for five years.
She had something to prove, at least to herself, and where better to do it than alongside the nation’s most powerful Alphas. The only thing that stood in her way was the six-foot-two werelion that currently hovered over her, inspecting her with an expression that challenged her conviction.
“I’ve always envied the work that you and Jacob do. You save lives, protect the innocent, expose those who would use their animal abilities as a weapon…” She bit her lip and shook away the violent memory that assaulted her mind. “I want to be a part of that.”
“You do realize how dangerous this job is?”
She tilted her chin. “I’ve spent years listening to my brothers brag about what they do here. I know as well as anyone what the job requires.”
Chase paced the room for several moments before sitting on the edge of the desk with his arms crossed over his powerful chest. “You’re ready to risk your life?”
He wasn’t trying to hide his disapproval, and Lora felt her own irritation mounting. “I don’t have a death wish if that’s what you’re asking.”
His gaze locked on her, watching her with a silent intensity that was more than unnerving. It was downright intimidating.
“I’ll be honest—I don’t like this.” He uncrossed his arms and gripped the edge of the desk, his knuckles whitening. “There are other jobs within the agency that don’t pose any risk.”
Was he freaking serious? So it was all right for him to risk his life, but not her? Bullshit! She wouldn’t let Chase Payne bully her into leaving. She’d worked too hard over the past year to get where she was.
“If you don’t want to be my supervisor, I can ask Jacob to reassign me.”
“No.” A snarl resonated from his chest. A dominant sound, meant to intimidate.
Damn him. The man reeked of scare tactics. He wouldn’t win. She wouldn’t let him. Did he really think she would back down that easily? She’d grown up in a houseful of alpha males, all fighting for control.
“I graduated top in my class. I’m more than qualified to—”
He moved so quickly that she barely had time to react. Placing his hands on the arms of her chair, he leaned over her, blue eyes blazing, his face inches from her own. “To what?”
She swallowed hard and bit her lip. His hot breath tickled her cheek, and his male scent surrounded her like a musky cocoon, turning her insides to mush.
To her horror, a small whimper escaped her lips.
A hard smile played across his mouth, his gaze cool and calculating. “Tell me, Lora, what are you qualified to do?”
Pure male confidence.
His eyes remained locked on hers, daring her to challenge him. Her animal stalked, paced, rumbling to get out, clouding her mind with dark, dangerous desire. He was so close, his mouth tempting her, drawing her—
Without thinking, she grabbed his collar, yanked him down to her level and drew his mouth towards her own. Her lips brushed against his, and he went still.
Oh god, what was she doing? She knew she should stop, but something primal pushed her forward. She dragged her tongue across his lips and felt the tiniest shudder rip through his body.
His tongue swept against hers and for a mouth-watering moment, he returned her kiss, setting fire to her senses. Years of dreaming about Chase Payne hadn’t prepared her for the electrifying sensation that coursed through her body.
A groan reverberated in his throat, low and deep, a sexual sound that left her panting for more. Lust rippled through her body, invading her senses. He tasted sweet, with a mix of tanginess and just a hint of spice. She couldn’t stop even if she wanted to. Her animal growled, wanting more, needing more.
He broke the connection with a sudden jerk backwards. His eyes wide, dark with desire and something akin to fear. “What the hell?”
A hint of satisfaction rolled through her. For the first time in her life, she felt like she had the upper hand. She looked up at him and smirked. “I’m qualified in more areas than you know.”
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