Authors: Lacey Thorn
Tags: #Shapeshifter Erotic Romance
Saving the Beast
By Lacey Thorn
Gems of Romantic Fiction
Saving the Beast
Copyright © 2014, Lacey Thorn
Edited by Delaney Sullivan and Liza Green
Cover Art by Les Byerley
Published by Resplendence Publishing, LLC
1093 A1A Beach Blvd, #146
St. Augustine, FL 32080
Electronic format ISBN: 978-1-60735-841-1
Warning: All rights reserved. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
Electronic Release: December 2014
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and occurrences are a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places or occurrences, is purely coincidental.
A Primal Panther...
An injection of a feral virus surges through his veins, trapping him in the skin of his animal. He’s fighting for dominance, struggling not to lose himself to the beast. There’s only one thing that can save him, one person who can help set him free.
A Mate’s Love...
Diane left everything she knew behind to follow the Professor into the unknown. Now, she lives among people she never knew existed and fights daily to keep them alive and healthy. She’s felt a spark with Zane since the day he arrived, but his avoidance leaves her guessing.
As the virus rages, only the touch of a mate can rescue the man trapped inside, leading Diane down a path she feels ill-prepared to take. If she’s not his mate, Zane might just kill her. If she is, then she’s the only one with a chance at saving the beast.
This one goes out to my close friend, Brynn Paulin. I love the fact I can pick up the phone and call her anytime to bounce ideas or just share my excitement. When I first came up with the storyline for Waking the Beast, I called her. I know she could tell how excited I was and how much the story and series idea meant to me. She was just as excited and urged me to hurry and write the book. Who knew all those years ago when we met in a “Frog’s Pond”, we’d end up becoming such fast friends.
Diane Renway stood at the window, looking out into the woods that surrounded the cabin. Once again she waged an internal debate over Zane Ephraim and whether or not she should go after him. According to Clara, only his mate could save him now, and the veiled looks she sent Diane indicated who Clara thought that person could be. Diane wasn’t so sure. She’d been around long enough to know how these shifters were with their mates, and they didn’t avoid them as Zane had her. It was the uncertainty that dominated her thoughts lately, at a time when she couldn’t afford to split her focus. There was too much demanding her attention at present.
Most important was Abby—the wife of their pride leader Tah—who was pregnant and expected to deliver within the next ten to twelve days. Then there was the Professor, who had so many studies going on when it came to the shifter blood that Diane’s head hurt. It didn’t help that the man was prone to keeping things to himself until situations forced him to share with the rest of them. His latest project had them monitoring Finn Dockery closely and running scheduled testing on him to watch for any changes.
Finn had been captured by a group of hunters and left for dead. Luckily his brother, Murphy, along with Zane, found Finn in time and got him back to them. The Professor had given Finn a shot of the concoction the Professor had been working on using shifter blood to help speed up the healing process in the human contingent of their little group. Finn was the first person tested with it. Finn was also the brother of a shifter, something the Professor only disclosed after he’d been given the shot. As a full-blooded sibling, Finn carried the same DNA coding as his brother and was also thought to carry an animal spirit within him. So far that animal remained dormant.
“Wouldn’t you agree, Diane?” the Professor asked, interrupting her train of thoughts.
“What?” she asked, trying to focus once more on the conversation around her. She wanted to disappear back into the lab, not be up here for this meeting. Unfortunately, Tah had informed them it was mandatory and demanded her presence.
“The tests, Diane! I was telling them about the tests we’ve been running on Finn,” the Professor answered, sounding exasperated with her.
“Are you okay?” Abby asked, rubbing her hand over the mound of her belly.
“I’m fine,” Diane said. “I apologize.” She glanced at Tah. “So far, all the tests show is an increase in the hormone we’ve isolated as being present in only the shifters, but the level is still much lower than the rest of you so we’re assuming his animal is still dormant at this time.”
“Which sucks,” Finn interjected, making Murphy laugh.
“We’ll keep up the testing—” Diane began.
“But move it to weekly at this point,” the Professor continued.
“How are you feeling?” Tah asked Finn.
“Great,” Finn replied. “Never been better.”
“He’s just ready to get away from the labs and the Professor,” Murphy interjected.
“Finish up tests today and we’ll talk about putting you back on permanent rotation,” Tah said.
“I’d be happy to have him with me,” Murphy offered. “I’m used to keeping an eye on his sorry ass.”
“You wish,” Finn grunted good-naturedly. “Everyone knows I’m the one who watches out for you.”
“We’ll talk about it after the tests.” Tah interrupted the brothers then turned back to the Professor. “What about Logan?”
“I’m fine,” Logan vowed.
Diane shook her head without thinking, earning a glare from Logan. He’d made his wishes abundantly clear—he didn’t want Tah worrying about him anymore.
“What is that exchange all about? Are they keeping something from me, Diane?” Tah demanded while the Professor sent her a glare, too.
He’d also asked her not to say anything, though his reasoning was to wait until they had more information to go on. Too late now.
“The feral virus hasn’t dissipated like we expected,” she admitted. “There are still traces showing up in his blood work.”
“What does that mean?” Tah demanded, then turned to glare at Logan. “And why the hell wasn’t I supposed to know this?”
“You’ve got enough on your plate to worry about.” Logan grunted.
“Fuck that!” Tah roared.
“Logan is fine.” Diane rushed to assure the leader of their growing pride. “He’s not displaying any other signs of the feral fever as he did immediately after being injected.”
“Is that true?” Tah turned and demanded of Clara, Logan’s mate.
She nodded. “He’s fine, Tah. I’m keeping an eye on him. I promise.”
Tah snorted. “I swear if one more person tries to hide shit from me, I’m going to come totally fucking unglued on their ass. You’re not alleviating the stress by trying to keep me in the dark. You’re adding to it!”
Tah turned and glared at Diane. “Don’t keep secrets from me anymore,” he thundered.
She felt her temper flare as his gaze locked with hers, making her feel as if she were the one responsible for all the half-truths and undisclosed information. Luckily, the Professor answered before she opened her mouth to vent the scathing remark hovering on the tip of her tongue.
“We’ve only kept quiet because we don’t know what it means,” the Professor stated. “It’s there but doesn’t seem to be causing any problems. We’re watching it. If it changes in any way, we’ll let you know.”
“I want full disclosure, Professor.” Tah growled, his canines flashing.
The Professor narrowed his gaze but didn’t reply.
“Is there anything else I need to be aware of?” Tah asked, and Diane saw him make a point of meeting the eyes of everyone in the room.
The Professor shook his head, and Diane could almost hear him reminding her there was nothing to report until there was something to report.
“Diane?” Tah asked, turning toward her once more.
“Oh for God’s sake,” the Professor boomed out when she didn’t answer immediately. “Pay attention to the conversation.”
“Are you asking me if there’s anything you should be aware of?” she asked Tah sweetly, sending a veiled look toward the Professor. She saw him blanch and give an almost imperceptible nod of his head. If she didn’t have so much respect for the man, she’d let her temper have free reign. But she did respect him, and damn it, she loved him like the father she’d never had.
“Diane,” Tah prompted again.
“No,” she answered. “There’s nothing I’m aware of. We’ve got our hands full as it is.”
Tah nodded, but Diane wasn’t sure if he believed her or not.
“What about Lydia?” Clara lobbed her question into the silence. “Any change there?”
Diane shook her head and hated the sadness that filled Clara’s eyes and the wary concern that shone in Amia’s. Both women had loved Lydia at one time as a mother figure. Amia Blane, mate to Reno, was the biological daughter of Lydia and Marcus Blane. When her mother had escaped the cruelty of the Blane Hunters, she’d left Amia behind with Marcus, the leader of the Blanes. Despite the reasons that had come to light about her mother’s decision, Amia still couldn’t forgive her.
Then there was Clara, who’d been living in the community Lydia had run to for help and safety. Clara’s father had been the captured shifter who’d sent Lydia to them. Unfortunately, his fate had already been sealed when Lydia had tried to save him. Clara had lost her dad but gained a mom for the first time since her birth when her biological mother hadn’t survived the delivery. Clara had found it hard not to remember the broken down Lydia who’d arrived devastated about leaving her daughter behind. Clara tolerated the hatred and contempt that spewed from Lydia now because she remembered the early days—the broken days. But even with Amia and Clara’s differing opinions, they still seemed to have become the best of friends, along with Abby.
“Dillon isn’t talking about what he gave her. Her blood work doesn’t show the same anomaly Logan’s does, making me think it’s not the same form of feral cat virus. There are enough similarities to make us suspect it could be a similar strain. But without knowing for sure…” Diane’s words trickled off, and she shook her head again in frustration. “Whatever drug he gave her, she’s had it in her system a long time. It’s had an enormous effect on her body, and…” She paused, unsure of how to disclose the rest.
“And what?” Amia asked and went over to stand next to Clara, taking the other woman’s hand with hers. “Tell us.”
“Lydia Blane is dying,” the Professor informed them all when Diane faltered. “Whatever drug she’s been fed, it’s taken over her entire body, every system. And now without it—she’s shutting down.”
“Dying? Is there nothing we can do?” Clara demanded, shaking her head in denial.
Logan moved behind her, wrapping his arms at her waist and pulling her back to rest against his chest while Amia continued to hold her hand.
Reno moved to Amia’s side, showing his mate support and love with an arm at her hip and a shoulder where Amia leaned her head. The way they stood, the four of them, warmed Diane’s heart and made her ache for something similar for herself. Before her thoughts could once more turn to Zane, she shoved them aside and answered.
“We don’t know,” Diane answered softly. “Everything we’ve tried to do, hoping to counter it, isn’t working. I don’t know what he gave her or why. Unless we find out and can get our hands on it or find a way to help her body begin healing, she won’t last much longer.”
“I’ll beat it out of the bastard,” Logan swore as tears trickled down his mate’s cheeks.
“Already tried,” Murphy admitted with a grunt. “Even broke his arm.”
“What?” Tah snarled. “You tortured him?”
“He’s a shifter. He’ll heal…eventually,” Murphy said with a shrug. “Diane needed answers. He wasn’t willing to speak. I showed him what I thought of that.”