Lion's Woman, The
Word Count: 58,553
Genre: Sci-Fi/ Futuristic Romance
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
© Cover Art by Jenny Dixon, July 2013
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
It was the worst part of the city to be in at 2:00 AM. Bright streets lights had been installed to discourage crime, but the area still looked like a war zone in some third world country. Keeping her eyes on the deserted street in front of her, Kelly Scott reached for the automatic door lock and depressed it—again—just to be sure.
She was a stranger to the area, had only moved to the city the week before. Wryly, she wondered why it was that she still couldn’t find her way to the mall nearest her apartment, but she could, almost unerringly, find her way into the worst part of the slums any time she got into her car.
Obviously, she’d missed the turn for the freeway. She debated briefly whether to simply keep going in a straight line and hope she’d see another sign indicating the freeway, or to turn around and go back. Going back was almost as risky as continuing. The street she was on was one way. If she turned off to look for a street heading back the way she’d come, she could be diverted by blocks and would risk getting even more lost. That option also involved, possibly, driving down streets not nearly so well lit.
And then there was the little matter that she’d have to decrease her speed to make the turn, and she had no desire to slow down at all.
She covered three more city blocks and saw she only seemed to be traveling deeper into the heart of the ‘urban jungle’.
She was tempted to just make a U-turn and head back on the same street. She hadn’t seen another car in miles. It would be risking a ticket if she ran up on a cop, but she rather thought she’d prefer that than to continue traveling this ‘no man’s land’.
It occurred her, forcefully, that it would have been wiser if she’d followed her first instincts and declined the invitation to meet up with some of her new coworkers at the local nightclub they frequented. She’d convinced herself it was actually a good idea to go, that she needed to familiarize herself with the area as soon as possible, and she couldn’t do that unless she got out and got to know the city. So much for impulsiveness!
Finally, she chose a cross street at random, braked, took the turn. Her heart leapt into her throat as she straightened the car. Only one street light illuminated the narrow side street. Dead center about halfway down the block, a dark, mingling mass indicated a roving gang. Even from this distance, they looked big and mean.
Kelly slammed on the brakes, bringing the car to a screeching halt. Several shadowy heads lifted at the noise her tires made on the pavement, turning in her direction, but none of them showed any indication, yet, of an interest in her. Slamming the gear stick into reverse, Kelly had already stepped on the pedal when something about the scene in front of her clicked in her brain.
A solitary figure stood in the center of the group.
She patted her brake, turned back to get a better look and reassess the situation she’d stumbled upon.
No one had followed her. The group still encircled the lone figure, who stood only slightly apart. It might, of course, have been their leader, discussing the plan for the night, or whatever it was gang leaders did. But there was something about the man’s stance that told her he was in trouble.
She stopped the car, torn.
It wasn’t her problem. It was a man ... a big man. He could take care of himself.
He was surrounded by at least a half a dozen gang members.
She ought to just head out and flag down the first cop she ran across.
But she hadn’t seen one since she’d left ‘civilization’ behind.
Coming to a decision, she put the car in drive abruptly and floored it, heading straight for the knot of animals still milling around in the street. Unless they were too doped up to know which end was up, they’d get out of the way. If they didn’t … well, she just hoped none of the bodies slowed her down, because she didn’t have any intention of stopping and facing a pissed off mob of thugs.
Alerted by the roaring engine, a couple of members of the band stiffened. She watched as their heads swiveled in her direction as she gunned the engine. The two studied her a few seconds, then nudged the men standing beside them.
As if they were caught up in some sort of old western show down, the group began to spread out across the street, forming a threatening wall between her and the man in trouble.
Kelly gritted her teeth, gripping the steering wheel in white knuckled fists. She wasn’t playing a game of chicken. If they weren’t totally bombed, they’d figure out she meant business. At the last second, they dove left and right, parting like the red sea before Moses. Kelly slammed on the brakes at almost the same instant. Smoke and the fumes of burning rubber filled the air as she skidded, the rear end of the car trying to outrun the front. The victim hadn’t moved. He was looking at her swerving car as if mesmerized, like a wild animal caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.
Kelly laid down on the horn, fighting for control of the car. “Move!” she yelled.
In the next moment she saw him spring straight up into the air. He landed on the hood of her car. The sound of crunching metal filled her ears as the hood caved in with the impact. Kelly screamed, broke two nails getting the car door open and ran around to the front of the car.
She came up short when she saw he was crouched, as if nothing had happened, or more accurately, as if ready to spring, facing off against a newer threat. She stared at him, opened mouthed, dumbfounded. He should have been covered in blood. He should have been unconscious or dead. Her mind couldn’t seem to grasp the implications.
She could not spare the time at the moment to jar her brain into presenting her with an answer to the puzzle, however. She’d only intended to slam on the breaks and fling the door open for him, something that could’ve been executed in a matter of moments. Instead, she’d wasted valuable time slamming the car into park and leaping out to check on the man. She knew she’d lost the element of surprise. The gang members were already picking themselves up, muttering curses as stunned surprise gave way to murderous fury. “Get in the car! Hurry! They’re coming back!”
He said nothing. He didn’t move, although, dimly, she realized that it wasn’t shock that held him still. He was waiting, watchful. She grabbed his arm, urging him off the hood of her car.
“Quick! Get in the car before they come back!”
She saw his gaze move from her face to a spot above her shoulder just as someone caught her from behind. Screaming in anger as much as surprise, she lifted one leg and slammed her heel against her assailant’s shin as hard as she could. At the same time, she clasped her hands together, using the strength of both arms to shove her right elbow backwards as hard as she could. The guy who’d grabbed her grunted in pain as her elbow connected with his solar plexus. He released her abruptly, bending double as he struggled to catch his breath. She whirled the moment his grip relaxed, slamming the palm of her hand straight at the man standing next to the first assailant, knowing it was a dangerous maneuver, hoping she wouldn’t kill him with the blow. Her palm connected with the tip of his nose, driving upward, rocking his head back on his neck. Blood spurted in every direction. He collapsed on the ground, screaming in pain, both hands clasping his bleeding nose.
“Get in the car before they kill both of us!” she yelled to the man behind her, bracing herself for the onslaught of the two men rushing toward her.
A body flew over her head, missing her by inches. The flying man connected with the two racing toward her, knocking their feet out from under them so that the three went down in a tangled mass. Kelly whirled in time to see the ‘victim’ catch another one of their attackers. Lifting the man over his head, he tossed the wriggling, yelling man in the direction of the only two thugs still standing, a distance of at least five feet.
She was still gaping when the man she’d come to rescue leapt over the hood of her car and landed on the pavement in front of her. Grasping her, he urged her toward her open door. She held onto him when he would have shoved her into the car.
“No! I’m not leaving you here! Come on!” she cried, holding onto him when he would have released her, trying, without much success, to push him into the car. He hesitated and finally dove through the door opening and into the passenger side of her car. She scrambled in behind him, stabbed the auto lock button and threw the car in drive all at the same time. Several of the gang members had already staggered to their feet when the car shot forward with a squeal of tires, swerving a little wildly as she grappled with her seat belt.
She was gasping for air, partly from fear, partly from the struggle, her heart pounding in her ears like a jackhammer. It took her a few moments to realize the man beside her didn’t seem to be suffering a similar distress. She tossed a glance in the rearview mirror to make certain the gang hadn’t had a vehicle close enough to give chase. Once she was certain they weren’t on her tail, she spared several quick glances at her passenger, trying to decide whether he was conscious or had passed out. “You OK?”
He said nothing. He was hunched over, as if in pain, twisted slightly away from her, his head down, but the rigid set of his body told her he was not unconscious.
“Hey? Are you hurt?” She realized the moment it left her mouth that it was a stupid question. She’d hit him with her car.
Oddly enough, she couldn’t remember hearing an impact, couldn’t remember feeling one. As big as this guy was, surely she would have? Or had she just been too shocked to notice? And if so, why had she noticed when he’d landed on the hood of her car, because she’d certainly heard and felt that impact.
She glanced over at the man again when he spoke. He had an accent. Maybe he didn’t speak much English? “I need to get him to a hospital,” she muttered to herself.
“No hospi-tal. No hurt.”
His accent was so thick she could’ve cut it with a butter knife. It took her brain a couple of seconds to translate the unfamiliarly pronounced words. “Hey! Don’t go all macho man on me, OK? I hit you with the car. I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just couldn’t think of anything else to do to get those guys off of you. I thought you’d jump out of the way.”
He turned his head slightly, but he didn’t look directly at her. “You no hit.”
Kelly laughed shakily, fighting a sudden urge to burst into tears now that the terror was beginning to seep beyond her shock. “I saw you. I must have knocked you twenty feet into the air. Maybe you’re just running on adrenaline. Maybe you’re hurt worse than you think and just can’t feel it yet.” She’d heard of that, of people driven by sheer adrenaline after an accident, and then abruptly dropping dead.
“No hospi-tal. No hurt. I get out now.”
Panic seized her. She leaned over, grasping his sleeve. “No! You can’t! I can’t let you do that! Not here. They’re liable to find you again. It’s a wonder they didn’t kill you! Obviously you’ve got no idea how dangerous some of the people around here are! The drug addicts would just as soon kill you as to look at you.”
As distracted as she was, she noticed he felt a little warmer than she thought he should have. He might be overheated from the fracas they’d just been involved in, but she couldn’t help but wonder if he had a fever. Maybe he’d already been sick and that accounted for him wandering around such a god awful place in the middle of the night?
It was dark in the car, and her attention was focused of necessity on her driving in any case, but she had glimpsed him well enough to know he didn’t have the look of a homeless man. For that matter, she could smell he didn’t. His clothing didn’t appear to be grime spattered or wrinkled. His hair was long, falling past his shoulders, but clean not oily and stringy. She didn’t detect cologne of any kind, but he didn’t smell like unwashed body either.
He was obviously a foreigner, though. Maybe he’d just gotten lost like she had?
“Look. You really, really should go to the hospital, but I don’t want to upset you so I’m not going to argue with you about it anymore. I probably couldn’t find the hospital anyway. But, how about doing me a favor, huh?”
He still didn’t glance at her, but she knew from the way he’d tensed that he was listening. “Vat fa-vor?”
“Let me take you somewhere where I can get a good look at you and make sure you’re all right. It’d make me feel better. I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight if I just let you out. I’ll be having nightmares about leaving an injured man on the side of the road. Please?”
“Vhy vant do dot?”
Again, she had to run what he’d said through her mind several times to filter out the strange accent and understand what he’d said. What was he, Russian? German? She’d heard a lot of accents in her time, but his eluded her. “Uh. I’m not sure what you’re asking.”
He seemed to be searching his mind for the word he wanted.
Kelly was taken aback. Annoyance quickly replaced her surprise, however. She was trying to help the guy and he thought she was trying to put the make on him? She’d seen plenty of egotistical males in her time, but this one took the cake!
“No … wong verd. Care?”
She relaxed. “If I hadn’t cared what happened to you, I wouldn’t have stuck my neck out and almost got myself killed! Look, I don’t know you and you don’t know me, so I can understand why you wouldn’t trust me. I realize you probably think there’s no reason why I should care, except … I saw a fellow human being in trouble. I just couldn’t pretend I hadn’t seen it and ignore the fact that you needed help. I’m not trying to make you feel like you owe me anything. The truth is, I’d have done it for anybody.
“Anyway, I screwed up. I hit you with my car. I’m responsible for you now. If I let you out and you are hurt, and something happens to you, then it would be my fault.
All I want to do is get a good look at you and make sure you’re O.K. If you don’t look like you’ve got any serious injuries, I’ll let it go. I promise I won’t bother you anymore.”
She glanced over at him. “Be reasonable, huh? This is a bad neighborhood. If you hadn’t been here in the first place, you wouldn’t have been attacked. If we stop we’re risking another gang attack, or mugging … or who knows what? I’ve got no weapons of any description. Nothing to protect either of us from an assault. Anyway, I need to know you’re not hurt. You owe me that much, don’t you think? A little peace of mind?”
He lapsed into silence, but she had the impression that he wasn’t terribly pleased about her rescue efforts. Well, that was tough! She hadn’t meant to hit him, but she had. She wasn’t going to let him out of her sight until she was convinced he wasn’t going to keel over dead somewhere, wearing a chip of paint from her car that the cops would trace back to her.
She was concerned about his well being. But she was also determined to cover her ass.
She saw the freeway sign and whipped in that direction without thinking. She’d no sooner edged into traffic, however, than it occurred to her that taking the man to her apartment was almost as insane as what she’d done on the dark side street.
She cut a considering glance sideways at the man, recalling suddenly that he’d lifted one of the men over his head and tossed him. Make that two. She didn’t think the other guy had suddenly dove over the car. Maybe he was on something, after all? PCP? People on PCP had been known to display super human strength.
He didn’t act like anybody on drugs though. He didn’t act crazy, or even dazed. Maybe he was just strong and it had been a super adrenaline rush?
“My name’s Kelly. Kelly Scott. What’s your name?”
He glanced directly toward her for the first time. Unfortunately, it was too dark in the car now to tell anything about his face. “Am Tau.”
The gruff timber of his voice sent a little tingle of awareness through her. She liked the accent, too. She smiled faintly. “Nice name. I like it. What sort of name is it?”
He remained silent and she decided she’d lost him. He seemed to understand English pretty well though, maybe better than he could speak it. She got the distinct impression that he managed to understand much of what she said, at least when she didn’t talk too fast.
“I’m from Mississippi … originally. Where are you from?”
He glanced at her. “Oddur place.”
She chuckled. “I figured that out. I can tell from the accent that you’re not from around here. You’re not an illegal alien, are you?”
This time his movement told her he was startled by her remark. Undoubtedly, he’d jumped ship somewhere. That must be why he was so determined not to go to the hospital.
She felt a twinge of guilt as she realized the incident might well result in deportation for him, but decided whether he objected or not she couldn’t ignore any injuries resulting from their meeting. If she saw any indication whatsoever that he was in need of medical attention, she was going to dial 911.
It took almost twenty minutes on the freeway and another twenty after she got off before she pulled into her parking spot at the apartment complex. Kelly was becoming increasingly jittery. If he was hurt, as she suspected, he should be at the hospital now, not miles from it with somebody who knew next to nothing about medicine. She jumped out of the car when she had parked and ran around to the other side as he opened the door. Grasping one of his arms, she pulled it across her shoulder, wrapping an arm around his waist to help support him. Uneasiness crept up her spine as she leaned against him and realized for the first time that the man wasn’t just huge, he was hard as a rock all over, and weighed a ton, despite the fact that he did not appear to be of much more than medium build. He must have muscles on top of muscles to be so heavy.
It flickered through her mind that it was just this side of ridiculous for her to be trying to support the man. She was strong, but he was easily twice her weight, if not more, and at least a head taller. His arm alone bulged with muscle and felt like a tree limb. From the arm she’d put around him she could feel that his waist was trim and narrow, his stomach flat, but every part of him her hand had touched was taut, muscular. Fortunately, he seemed to be supporting most of his own weight. She was fairly certain that the two of them would’ve been wallowing around on the ground otherwise.
She urged him to lean against the wall while she fished her keys out and opened the door of the apartment. Reaching in, she flicked the light switch on the living room wall, then assisted him inside and helped him to sit.
Dropping her purse to the floor, she knelt in front of him, her attention immediately caught by the strange clothing he was wearing. Oddly, it looked almost as if it was some sort of metal, and yet it clung to every part of his body like a snug stretch knit. The color was almost as unusual as the fabric itself. Curious, she laid her hand on the knee closest to her, rubbing her palm across it, examining the texture with her fingertips for several moments before it occurred to her that it was a rather personal touch and might be misconstrued as caressing his knee and thigh.
If the huge bulge in his crotch was any indication, and she suspected it was, then he had certainly noticed her invasive touch. His cock looked like a python! Kelly felt heat rush through her as she stared at it, unable to pull her eyes away for several moments.
Feeling a blush creep into her cheeks when she realized what she was doing, Kelly looked up and met his gaze for the first time. It was on the tip of her tongue to beg pardon for her behavior, but as their gazes connected her mind went perfectly blank with shock. Her heart lurched in her chest. She jumped reflexively, sitting backward on the floor.
His eyes looked like cat eyes.
After a couple of frozen seconds, her brain functions kicked in. She caught her breath, laughed shakily. “Sorry. Cool contacts, but they startled the hell out of me!”
He said nothing, merely continued to stare at her unblinkingly.
There was curiosity in his intense scrutiny, as if he’d never seen anyone quite like her.
She knew it was a crazy notion, but she couldn’t shake it. There was just something about the way he was studying her that strengthened her conviction that she hadn’t misunderstood the nature of his interest.
But she saw something else, as well … Desire.
It brought her to the realization that she had unconsciously laid a palm on either of his thighs to balance herself when she’d picked herself up off the floor to kneel in front of him once more.
As casually as she could, she removed her hands, sitting back on her heels and dropping her hands to her lap, but she could not shake an equal fascination with him.
Maybe it was the cat eye contacts, but, as she studied his face, something about him reminded her very distinctly of a lion. His face was a long oval. His nose was straight, sharply defined and well formed, almost the perfect classic nose, except slightly hooked on the end. Looking at him straight on, though, the tip looked wedge shaped, like the tip of a feline’s nose. His lips were hard and thin, curling up slightly at the corners, even though he wasn’t smiling. Above his piercing yellow gold eyes, were thin, arched brows only slightly darker than the hair on his head. His hair grew down his forehead in a wide widow’s peak. It was streaked with varying shades of blond, though mostly a russet color.
She finally decided it must be the hair and the contacts, that made the impression of a lion-like appearance.
Overall, his face was very appealing despite the effect—maybe because of it-- making her stomach muscles clench reflexively, sending tremors of awareness through her she had rarely felt, even when she’d been an impressionable teenager and had fallen for Rick, her ‘first love’.
His skin, all of it that was visible, was golden brown, the skin tones not quite like anyone else she knew, but she thought he probably had the prettiest tan she’d ever seen.
She blinked when she realized she’d been staring at him a full minute, and that he’d been looking straight at her and couldn’t have failed to notice her fascination. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude. It’s those eyes.”
Shaking her abstraction, she came up on her knees and took his hand to examine it. As she did so she saw it was covered in blood, mostly dried, making it impossible to tell where the cut was. “Hold on a minute and let me get something for this.”
She dashed into the bathroom, grabbed bandages from the cabinet and antibiotic cream, then got a washcloth from the linen cabinet and dampened it. When she returned to the living room, he was still sitting as she’d left him. She washed his hand gently, then frowned when she saw no cut.
She looked up at him questioningly.
“Blood no mine.”
“I see that.”
She sat back on her heels, looked up at him, studying him. It took an effort to concentrate on searching for injuries instead of merely gazing at him in starry-eyed fascination. The pheromones were so thick in the air between them they could’ve been cut with a knife.
She couldn’t help but wonder if he found her as attractive as she found him.
Somehow, she doubted it. It seemed to be the bane of her existence that the men she was most attracted to had no interest in her. It was the ones she had no interest in that she couldn’t scrape off.
She’d seen the evidence of his desire, of course, could barely concentrate on anything beyond the bulge that continued to draw her eyes like a magnet, but she was hardly ignorant of men. A man’s cock was erectile tissue and tended to respond to certain stimuli even when a man didn’t find a woman particularly to his taste. She’d overheard too many guys laughing about ‘putting a bag’ over a woman’s head to be in any doubt that a man was capable of getting a hard on for anything with hole they could poke.
Under the circumstances, it was hardly conclusive evidence of a mutual attraction when she’d been practically stroking his thighs.
Finally, she shook her musings off and rose, lifting each arm in turn and checking it for cuts, making sure there was no visible sign of broken bones. She’d checked his legs and his torso and seen nothing that looked out of place, no sign of bleeding or swelling … except that monstrous bulge she couldn’t keep off her mind. Finally, she stood, placed her hands on either side of his head and felt around carefully for any sign of a knot that would indicate an injury. “How about your head? Did you bump your head?”
She felt something, though, and parted his hair to reveal an ear—not just any old ear, though. Her heart thudded painfully as she examined it, knowing it wasn’t a prosthesis even as she looked for signs that the pointy elf ear she’d just discovered wasn’t anything out of nature.
She stepped away, feeling a little lightheaded, trying to focus on her original goal in bringing him home with her, although it was becoming momentarily more difficult. There was certainly no sign of any broken bones, which was almost as disconcerting as her other discoveries. “This is … unbelievable. Great, but … I can’t believe you weren’t hurt when I hit you.”
Kelly swallowed with some difficulty, licked suddenly dry lips. “You flew into the air. I saw you.”
He frowned. Finally, almost reluctantly, he said, “Leap up.”
Despite the uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach, she looked at him skeptically. “Twenty feet? Straight up? You looked like you’d been launched off of a trampoline.”
“I go now.”
She moved back so he could rise, still puzzled, more than a little unnerved. It occurred to her, however, that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to try to detain him any longer, even if she’d been stupid enough to think there was any way to stop him from leaving. “You want me to call a cab?” she asked tentatively.
He looked at her in confusion.
“Call a car to come get you and take you where you need to go?”
He looked like he would speak, then paused, lifting his head suddenly, as if he’d heard something, tensing.
Kelly stared at him blankly. She heard nothing at all … at first.
Abruptly, her door burst open with a splintering of wood. Kelly froze in shock as four men moved into her apartment.
She was shocked over a good deal more than the fact that four strange men had just burst into her apartment, however. The four men, like the one standing beside her, all stared at her with the same golden feline eyes. And all of them were wearing the exact same outfit that Tau was wearing, right down to the strangely contoured boots.
She glanced quickly at the man beside her. “Tau?”