She spotted the cat lying on the concrete roof of the cage, staring right at her.

Lunch time!

Fear clogged her throat, making it impossible to swallow.

She couldn’t move, she couldn’t breathe.

The cat probably weighed nearly two hundred pounds. A rare, solid black jaguar, his black on black spots barely discernible in the fading light. It wasn’t one of their cats.




Sheba snarled, pacing her cage as if she knew the danger Callie was in.

Callie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. God, just let me get through this without being ripped to shreds.

Cautiously, she took a step back, then another. The jaguar didn’t move. This was a good sign, right? Five more steps and she felt a little better. A few more and she would be around the corner and she could take off running. She would survive this encounter. She would…

The cat came to its feet.

She froze.

How far would she get if she turned and ran right now? Two feet? Maybe farther if the cat was in the mood to do a little hunting. Jaguars liked to stalk, then ambush their prey, clamping down on the heads of their poor victims, their sharp teeth sinking into the skull.

So much for the new haircut she’d gotten yesterday. She stifled hysterical laughter. Nice, she was already losing what little mental function she had left.

The jaguar jumped to the ground in one fluid movement, barely making a sound when it landed. Any other time, she would have admired its grace and agility, but right now, she just wanted it to go away.

Was it a good sign her life wasn’t flashing before her eyes? Probably not, since she really didn’t have a life.

The meat! God, she’d forgotten about the meat. If she could tempt the big cat with it, she might be able to escape.

She eased her hand inside her pocket and brought out the baggie with the chunks of meat, then scooped out as much as she could hold.

“I have food,” she squeaked, then tossed it toward the cat. It landed with barely a thud. Why hadn’t she grabbed a big juicy hunk of meat just this once, rather than the measly one-inch chunks?

The animal ignored it. Ambled past without so much as a glance, its golden eyes never leaving her face.

Of course, why would it go for a handful of food when it could dine on her? One hundred and twenty pounds of juicy—she swallowed hard—steak.

The cat moved closer, circling her. She froze to the spot. She tried lifting one foot, but nothing moved. She figured this was what was meant by being scared stiff. Oh, hell, she was going to die.

As the cat sauntered in front of her again, a fog began to roll in. The guttural purr of the cat became louder.

“Please forgive me of my sins,” she whispered. Oh, God, there weren’t that many. Not nearly enough in her twenty-six years. She didn’t go to bars and get totally zonkered, or have one-night stands.

She read lots of books. She lived vicariously through the heroines on the pages of a romance novel. Her life was boring. Well, except the books were really good. Still, the closest she’d ever gotten to a hot guy was drooling over the cover models, and praying that one would come into her life.

A drop of sweat slid down the side of her face. She squeezed her eyes closed. If she was going to die, then she didn’t want to watch it happen.

The cat’s hot breath was on her hand, moving up her bare arm. Trembles of fear swept over her. So, this was the end of her life. Would anyone even miss her? It was sad, but she couldn’t think of a soul besides her friend, DeeDee. She didn’t have any relatives—not one. Her landlady would miss her, but only because the rent was due tomorrow.

The jaguar’s purr grew louder. She flinched. Her eyes opened. The cat walked behind her again. She trembled so hard her whole body shook like a California skyscraper during an earthquake. Not that she’d ever felt one since she’d never been out of Texas—at least, that she could remember.

She couldn’t take any more suspense. “Oh, hell, just end it now,” she finally whimpered.

Silence. The fog rolled in thicker, more dense.

She heard someone groan. Her? Oh, no, her mind was going fast. Her brain had already stopped functioning.

“End it now? You’re ready to die?” A deep, husky male voice asked close to her ear.

She whirled around.

The jaguar was gone.

A man stood behind her.

“Did you see the jaguar?” she frantically whispered, squinting her eyes as her gaze searched the shadows. Nothing moved.

He smiled. “He left us.”

“Not possible. The cat would have attacked. Why would it just leave?”

“It was time.”

“I don’t know what you did to make it go away, but I’ll be eternally grateful.” She looked at him then. Really looked. There were flecks of gold in his dark eyes. They were just as mesmerizing as the jaguar’s. The man’s black hair brushed his shoulders, and he wore a medallion that had a diamond in the center, encircled by jewels in different colors. The stones shimmered in the dim light.

Of course, it couldn’t be real. The diamond was as big as her thumbnail. Her gaze moved lower, then jerked back to his eyes. “You’re naked.”

His smile was slow and lazy. “It would seem that way.”

This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be. Maybe she was already dead and this was heaven. Wow, it looked pretty good to her!

No, no, no. She would know if she was dead. Then again.

“Is your name Adam by any chance?”

He shook his head.

She hadn’t thought so. “I’m going to close my eyes and when I open them, you won’t be here.” She closed her eyes. There wasn’t really a hot, sexy, naked man standing in front of her.

It was a shame really. Her imagination had outdone itself this time. First a jaguar roaming loose in the zoo, then poof, it’s gone, and in its place is a tanned, very sexy man with longish hair, a slight accent that she couldn’t place, dark eyes with flecks of gold that made her want to melt into a puddle when he looked at her, and he was hung like…yeah, it had to be her imagination.

She opened her eyes.

He was still there.

What was happening? Had one of the little monsters at the petting zoo drugged her water? No, not possible.

“You’re not real,” she said.

“I’m real.” His deep sultry words boldly rolled over her.

“I’ll prove you’re not real.” She reached out, her hand coming in contact with his hard male chest. She could feel the strong beat of his heart, the smoothness of his skin, the sinewy muscle. She swallowed past the lump in her throat. If she moved her hand a little to the right she would just graze his nipple…

She jerked her hand away, but tingles of anticipation still lingered. “You are real,” she choked. Unable to stop herself, her gaze moved downward…again. He was still naked.

“I’m as real as you. I’m Prince Rogar Valkyir from New Symtaria.”

She cleared her throat and kept her gaze on his face. “Thank you very much for…for whatever you did to get rid of the jaguar, but you can’t run around in the zoo without clothes. Public nudity is against the law, no

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