Leopard's Hunt (Leopard Series #15)

Leopard's Hunt (Leopard Series #15)

by Christine Feehan
Leopard's Hunt (Leopard Series #15)

Leopard's Hunt (Leopard Series #15)

by Christine Feehan

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Overview

In this pulse-pounding novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling Leopard series, animal instinct unites two elite shifters whose heads are at war with their hearts.

Gorya Amurov might be known as his family's peacekeeper, but the leopard inside him wants nothing more than to claw to the surface and unleash hell. A harsh life has shaped him into a vicious fighter with a calm exterior, but Gorya knows it's only a matter of time until he loses all control. Deep down, he truly believes he'd be better off dead, and that no woman will ever accept him as a mate....

Maya Averina has spent years hunting the criminals who destroyed her life, and she always takes down her prey. She keeps to herself, stays under the radar, and never loses focus. But with her body burning up and her mind distracted by her first heat, an ambush takes her by surprise. Now she's trapped, an unmated female shifter about to be sold off to the highest bidder. Maya is ready to fight her way out—until the most dangerous, powerful man she's ever encountered arrives to set her free....

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593638774
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/20/2024
Series: Leopard Novel Series , #15
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: eBook
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 960
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

About The Author
Christine Feehan is the New York Times bestselling author of many novels, including the Carpathian series, the GhostWalker series, the Leopard series, the Shadow Riders series, the Torpedo Ink series, and standalone romantic suspense novels.

Read an Excerpt

1

Gedeon Volkov had been a fixer for years-and he was considered the best in his field. There was a reason for that, which few understood, and it was better if they didn't. He was a shifter-an Amur leopard. Not only was he a shifter; he was also elite. As far as he knew, there were only two of them in the world-his wife, Meiling Chang, and himself. There was always the chance that a rare few more might exist, but if so, he'd never caught so much as a hint of a rumor of one.

Intellectually, he knew there had to be more. Others had to have come before them. They didn't just appear out of nowhere. Anomalies. Three families in three countries: South Korea, southeastern Russia and China near the Russian border. There had to be others.

Meiling and he had discussed it and even quietly tried to find others like themselves, but if they were out there, they were hiding just as Gedeon and Meiling were. They were faster and stronger than other shifters. Their brains worked at greater speeds. They'd been born that way, and because of it their families had been targeted and destroyed. They had watched everyone they loved be betrayed, tortured and murdered. Both lived under the threat of a death sentence should anyone discover they still lived.

Gedeon had been a loner for years, feared by those who hired him, which kept him alive. He worked mainly for the bratva, the Russian mob, and they could be quite brutal if one didn't get the job done. He had the reputation of always getting it done. When he'd met Meiling, they had joined forces, another added layer of protection. Eventually they had become more than business partners and were now married.

"Why do I have the feeling this might be more dangerous than what we've been doing?" Meiling asked, a hint of laughter in her voice.

She'd taught him fun. He'd never had that before Meiling. She'd brought so much to him, had become his world in a short time. He knew he couldn't live without her. He wouldn't want to. More importantly, his leopard, Slayer, always a killer and difficult to control, would go insane. Some leopards could drive their human male counterparts to become killers. Slayer was one of those alpha leopards. Gedeon had always known there would come a day when he would be forced to suicide to protect those around him. Then came Meiling. His Lotus Blossom. Just when he was certain he couldn't love her more, there was always more.

Still, Meiling might have laughter in her voice, but there was also a bit of sobriety there. A warning. Her radar had gone off, the same as his, which didn't make sense. Drake Donovan would never have asked them to consider this job if he didn't think it was legitimate. His company was solid. Renowned. Known and respected the world over. That was the only reason Gedeon had even considered working for him.

Gedeon and Meiling had talked for a long while about getting out of the business he'd been in now that they were married and she was pregnant. He was a man of action, and he'd gone his own way for far too long. It wasn't as if he were ever going to take orders from anyone else. He needed not only the mental activity but also the physicality that he'd had for years of being a fixer.

He'd had to realistically face who he was many times in his life, and he'd learned not to shy away from the truth of who and what he was. Fixing problems within the bratva wasn't always about negotiating or trading favors. Often, it was about having to kill, and Gedeon was excellent at that particular skill.

He had Meiling now and his number one priority was keeping her and his children safe. He wanted her to have friends. He wanted his children to have them. Being a fixer wasn't exactly conducive to those goals.

Drake Donovan, the man who owned the Donovan International Security Company, had approached him with the offer of a job. One of his clients had specifically asked Donovan to try to recruit Gedeon for the head of his security. The client was not only bratva but also a leopard shifter, as were many of his men. He'd recently taken over a territory about which little was known. He was attempting to free it of all human trafficking. In doing so, he had incurred the wrath of locals who had been profiting from the business for years.

The locals weren't his only problem. Many of the men under him weren't happy he wasn't continuing that part of the business. Those his predecessor had been doing business with really weren't happy. Basically, it was a nightmare they would be helping the man with. Ordinarily, it was exactly the thing Gedeon would have jumped on.

"I've got the same feeling," Gedeon told Meiling. "What's more, Slayer's warning me to be very careful." Again, that made little sense.

He knew Gorya Amurov-at least he knew of him. He'd met him a couple of times, which wasn't the same as knowing him. He'd been around the Amurov family, all members of the bratva and lethal as hell. Gorya seemed the most easygoing of all the cousins. He seemed relaxed in the tensest of situations and played the role of the peacemaker, although now that Gedeon thought about it, Gorya faded into the background quite easily-much in the way Meiling did. He was soft-spoken, but his cousins always seemed to listen to him.

"You know, Lotus, now that I really think about it, the information we have on the Amurov family here in the States was pieced together and difficult to get. Not so much the ones in Russia. That was easy enough. But there isn't much on Gorya at all. He isn't in the news. There's no speculation on him. No one talks about him. It's almost as if he doesn't exist."

Meiling nodded her agreement. "That bothered me. His cousins run territories and are considered very brutal if crossed. There have been assassination attempts on Fyodor and his wife, Evangeline. Mitya was horribly wounded throwing himself in front of his cousin and Evangeline. There are hits taken out on all of them, but there never seems to be anything written up on Gorya. Not here, and not even in Russia."

Gedeon took his time processing that information. Meiling was good at research. His man, Rene Guidry, was equally good. Between the two of them, they should have found all kinds of data on Gorya, yet nothing of significance had turned up. Drake's people had done research as well, and he was renowned for his ability to ferret out secrets on shifters. He was close to the Amurovs, knew them quite well, but when it came to Gorya, he had very little to contribute other than that he was a good man.

"We know the Amurov family comes from the absolute worst lairs in the Primorye region of Russia," Meiling said. "Four brothers-Patva, Lazar, Rolan and Filipp Amurov-were pakhans in the bratva and ruled those lairs. Each held his own territory and ruled it with an iron fist. They demanded loyalty to the bratva, and by that, I mean not to their own families. They demanded that once the men serving under them were given sons, they were to show their loyalty to the bratva by murdering their wives. Their leopards were never allowed a true mate. They deliberately turned not only their leopards into killers but also the other males in their lair."

Gedeon knew all about the cruelty those kinds of pakhans were capable of. His family had been murdered by one. He didn't want to think of the suffering his mother had undergone at the hands of the leader of the lair he'd belonged to. He shut down that memory and turned his attention to the problem at hand. Those four men, the pakhans of those territories in Russia, were the fathers of the Amurov cousins residing in the United States.

Gedeon liked and respected Fyodor, Mitya, Sevastyan and Timur Amurov. They were tough, lethal men, but he'd found them to be fair, and they'd always kept their word. They'd been raised in brutal conditions. That had been easy enough to discover. He also knew that Fyodor had saved his brother and cousins by destroying the entire lair. The cousins were tight and loyal to one another.

What of Gorya Amurov? He was always with them.

"You've been around the Amurovs far more than I have," Meiling said. "Are you certain Gorya is really related to them?"

Gedeon brought up every encounter he'd had with the man. Gorya didn't have the obvious bulk his cousins had. He was leaner, but there was no mistaking the muscles rippling beneath his skin. He moved with the fluid stealth of a leopard. Gedeon just hadn't paid enough attention to him, not with his cousins around. They were lethal, dangerous men, every single one. Gorya, in comparison, had seemed gentle and considerate. He thought before he spoke. He soothed explosive situations and then seemed to fade into the background.

Could Meiling have the answer? Was Gorya not really an Amurov? Gedeon frowned as he stood in the shadows outside the building where they would be meeting with Gorya Amurov. They had come very early, as they always did. It was how they stayed alive. They trusted no one.

Drake Donovan had chosen the location. It wasn't in territory where Gorya was pakhan. That was a little-known town on the edge of the swamp between New Orleans and San Antonio, hidden from the eyes of law enforcement. There was a straight shot to the Gulf of Mexico by boat.

At Gorya's request, Drake had chosen a neutral location to meet. Gorya hadn't wanted any of his men to know he was meeting with Gedeon and Meiling. When Drake had first come to Gedeon with the proposal of working for Gorya, the job of head of his security had been for Gedeon alone. Gorya hadn't wanted Meiling. Gedeon made it clear he didn't work without his partner. Gorya took his time thinking it over before he offered a meeting.

"He has the scent of an Amurov. The eyes of one. We're missing something, Lotus, there's no doubt about it."

"Maybe the danger's to Gorya and not to us," Meiling ventured. "Just taking over this territory was a huge risk. He's made a lot of enemies."

Gedeon studied the buildings surrounding the rectangular building they were to meet Gorya in. Mostly garages and mechanic buildings, with one warehouse close. "He doesn't seem to have any bodyguards or snipers lying in wait for us."

"I'm going up on the roof," Meiling said. "If there's a way in, I'll take it."

He didn't tell her to be careful. She would have been insulted if he did. He didn't remind her that she was pregnant either. Obviously, she was aware that she was. His eyes met hers just to let her know she was his world. That was the reminder.

She nodded, and then she was going up the side of the building, a small shadow blending in with the darker side of the concrete wall.

Gedeon was grateful they were able to speak mind to mind. The leopards helped with that. He could always stay in touch with her, know exactly where she was or if she was in trouble and needed him-or the other way around.

Gedeon moved around the building slowly, checking the streets, the cars, the pattern of traffic, rooftops, every doorway and window facing the warehouse. He could find no threat to them or to the man they had come to interview.

Donovan had chosen a good location. It was off the beaten path, yet not so far out that it appeared abandoned. On either side of the small warehouse were two shops, still open. One was a garage that custom-painted cars, and the other repaired tires. Across the street was a welding shop. It was closed.

I can only detect one man inside, Gedeon. If that's Gorya Amurov, he's alone. He came without bodyguards. Does that seem right?

Nothing about this meeting was right. Gedeon was half inclined to call it off, but he knew part of that decision would be because he was becoming overprotective of Meiling. He would have gone in immediately had he been alone.

I'm going in, Meiling. Drake was adamant that Amurov needs help. He specifically asked for me. He had no idea we were considering getting out of our business, yet he reached out to Drake and asked for a meeting to be set up.

Wanting to exclude me, Meiling reminded him.

He noted that this time she didn't sound hurt. She sounded thoughtful.

Gorya's cousins weren't like their fathers. They didn't think of women as lesser beings. If anything, they treated their wives the way he did Meiling-as if they wouldn't be able to survive without them. Gedeon was sure their leopards were mated as well. That made the women doubly important to their men.

Gorya was the only cousin without a woman of his own. How difficult would that be for him? For his leopard? Now he'd been thrown into a situation demanding him to make snap decisions and contend with violence at every turn. The pakhan of the bratva, when challenged, had to respond with speed and ferocity. His men had to respect him. Their leopards had to fear his leopard. Was Gorya Amurov capable of commanding the same kind of deference and fear as his cousins?

I don't think it's about you being a woman, Meiling, he mused. Icy fingers of dread crept down his spine at his next thought, the one he couldn't push away.

What is it?

He sighed. There was no getting around Meiling. He's leopard, Lotus. Leopards are capable of slipping into a building unseen and unheard. We do it all the time. Suppose, just for a moment, that Gorya researched us the way we researched him. Only he was even more thorough.

I don't like where you're going with this.

It's possible he knows you're pregnant.

No one knows I'm pregnant. We haven't even told Rene.

The more he considered the idea, the more Gedeon feared he could be on the right track. That doesn't mean he didn't figure it out. You were in heat. Leopard sex is wild. The odds of you getting pregnant were very high. Even if he's just guessing, he's got a fifty-fifty shot at being correct. He didn't think Gorya was making a guess. He thought the man had found a way to confirm his suspicion, and he didn't want Meiling in the line of fire.

Gedeon was more intrigued than ever. He often got strong hunches, and so far, those premonitions had always been right.

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