The Awakening Page 32

Maggie kicked to the surface, her heart pounding. She dragged herself from the pool. The sounds were terrifying, the noise so loud the forest would carry it throughout the interior. The black panther and the spotted leopard were raking and biting, ramming each other to force the other into submission. She looked around for a weapon, anything she could use to help Brandt. James had caught him off guard, had torn a gaping wound in his side. He was at a disadvantage.

The change started in her mind first. He had told her that. With tears running down her face, she tried to block out the sight and smell of blood, the sight of two powerful males in real combat. She knew the leopard inside and out. She was the leopard. Her fur was reddish with beautiful rosettes, her tail long and tipped red. She heard the noises, the cracks and pops, felt the stretching of her skin and bones.

Maggie lay on the rock, astonished that she had managed to do such a thing. She stretched, snarled to show her canines. The wildness of the battle was already in her, thickening her blood and pumping adrenaline through her. A warning growl escaped her throat as instincts took over. She trusted that part of her, accepted it. Reveled in it. The threat was to her mate. To her family. To everything she cared about.

She leapt on the back of the spotted leopard, sinking her teeth deep into his neck, raking with claws. He shook her off easily, but the distraction was all Brandt needed to gain the advantage. He was on the other cat before it could recover, taking the throat, twisting until the leopard was on his side, the hold impossible to break.

Maggie was already inspecting Brandt’s injuries, padding around him on her soft cushioned paws. When he let go, backing away, the spotted leopard didn’t rise.

Brandt could hear the others coming fast, coming to his aid. It was too late for any of them. He’d had no choice but to make the kill, but it sickened him that he had to do such a thing to one of his own kind. He looked at Maggie bleakly, his head down, his heart filled with sorrow. His sides were heaving as his lungs worked to recover.

Her tongue soothed a rip on his shoulder, lapped at another along his side. She nudged him to his feet, already aware of the others on their way. She was clearly stating her position. His people could deal with the aftermath of jungle justice. Brandt was to go with this mate, allow her to take care of his injuries. Her tongue was busy, and her smaller body continually urged his toward the forest, away from the sight and smells of his savage way of life. Urged him toward their home.

Maggie had clearly chosen her destiny and Brandt finally accepted she knew what she was doing. His heart overflowing, he went with her, basking in her love and care.

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