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Bride of the Tiger

Heather Graham


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15


The sculpture was magnificent.

It was in the Roman section of the museum, with a plaque beneath it: Anonymous, A.D. 100, Black Marble.

Tara was entranced by it.

It was a life-size tiger, standing—watching. The ancient artist had caught all the tension, passion and cunning vitality of the creature. The beauty was there, the danger. One paw was raised as it stalked its prey, its grace casual, its quest unmistakable. Though the sculpture was carved in sleek black marble, Tara could almost see the true color in the eyes; they would be a tawny gold, like candle flames, like the endless sun, with a heat that was just as piercing. The tiger was all power, all grace.

Tara realized suddenly that she was alone with the beast, and smiled whimsically. She wanted to be alone to marvel at this creature.

There were lions and boars in the room, salukis and mystical cats, maidens and warriors. But nothing compared with the tiger, a fact that was made clear by its position of prominence, dead center, encircled by velvet ropes.

Still fascinated, Tara began to circle the creature. She glanced at her watch, aware that she couldn’t linger much longer, or she would be late for lunch. But she did have a few minutes.

The tiger was lean and sleek, yet each muscle and sinew was well-honed and clearly delineated—again she got that sense of sheer power. It didn’t need to move or growl to display that power. Primal, subdued, awesome, it touched her senses beyond all logic.

Her back was to the doorway when she became aware that someone had joined her in the room. Watching the tiger? Or watching her?

She looked up. In the glass case around a majestic granite centurion, she could see the reflection of a man. He appeared to be as tall as the centurion, seemed to tower there, blocking her way. He stood in the doorway, as striking and as haunting as the ancient works of art on display.

He was silent, not moving. As powerful as the tiger.

A chill played along her spine in a peculiar dance. Whimsy took hold of her in the most disturbing fashion. Like the tiger, he was a hunter. Subtle, entrancing, deadly. He would tread silently, watch, then encircle his prey. He would play with it, perhaps. When he grew bored of his game, he would pounce with complete arrogance and confidence and lethal precision.

You’re mad! she accused herself. He wasn’t a tiger, and this was a public museum. Crowds were everywhere; guards lingered just yards away.

Tara took a breath, mentally ridiculing herself. Still, she moved carefully. She didn’t want him at her back. She wanted to circle the tiger again and face him, then laugh at herself, because he would just be an ordinary man.

She came around the tiger, casually.

But her ridiculous feelings of hypnotism and tension did not leave her. He was not just an ordinary man.

She stared at the tiger but looked beyond it, to the tall, compelling stranger in the doorway. Silent, hands on hips, he, too, watched the tiger.

Her heartbeat began to quicken.

His short, well-cut hair was dark, nearly jet. He wore black corduroy jeans, a cavalry-style leather jacket. Both hugged his trim form nicely.

A form like the tiger’s. Slim, but with strong, smooth muscles at the shoulders, at the thighs, encased in that midnight corduroy. He radiated a sleek and subtle power. Beautiful, dangerous. Taut, tense and vital, apparently casual, never really so.

And she still felt that, like the tiger, he was on the hunt.

She inhaled sharply as her scrutiny reached his face. It was weathered and bronzed, rugged, though still young. Firm jaw, high smooth cheekbones, full mouth, dark, arched brows and—

Golden eyes. Tawny eyes. Alive with their color, like a candle’s glow, like the sun…

She was openly staring at him, Tara realized.

He was returning her gaze, aware of it.

Slowly, his sensual mouth twisted into a small, subtle smile.

Tara felt her face flame; she quickly averted her eyes.

She had to go, she reminded herself; she would be late for lunch. But she couldn’t possibly go through the doorway where he was standing. The tiger man. All subtle, graceful power…stalking. Stalking—her?

She told herself that she was being ridiculous. Millions of visitors came to the museum, and they did not come to stalk Tara Hill. The notion was absurd.

It wasn’t a notion. It was a feeling.

Walk past him, fool! she ordered herself.

And then her breath caught again, because he moved, just slightly, into the room.

His hands remained on his hips. His gaze was fixed on the work of art to which she was mentally comparing him.

He was closer, she realized. She felt hot and flushed, and totally irritated with herself. But there was just something about him, something that was both base and noble, that lured and enticed. She wanted to read the message in his eyes. She was painfully tempted to touch him and discover whether he, too, was of marble or true flesh and blood. Sleek and agile, alive and breathing…

He captivated one. He touched something beneath the cool exteriors of civility. He lured; he repelled. He fascinated….

And he terrified.

Absurd, Tara thought once again. But she felt frozen, willed to stillness, by the mere presence of a stranger. Her palms were damp; her throat was dry, and the ripples of heat and fear and excitement still played havoc all the way down her spine.

Run past him! she commanded herself.

Walk normally; don’t be an idiot!

She moved the silver fox fur of her collar closer to her face, squared her shoulders, and started to walk.

So did he.

They passed each other. He nodded to her. She lowered her eyes, hurrying, breathing deeply.

His scent was subtle, clean and pleasant, elementally male. It was filled, too, with a sense of primal power.

The tiger was stalking. He would strike at any moment.

He walked right on by her.

When Tara reached the doorway,

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