”Come and catch me—idiot!” he spat.
Damn it. I squinted as I tried to see where he went. It was already dark, and the area where my nephew was headed was clearly restricted. The smell of raw meat filled the air the closer I got to him.
My arms pumped as regretful thoughts filled my mind. The only reason I’d agreed to take Tariq to see the zoo lights was because I wanted to show my sister I could handle it. Ever since she turned 30 she talked to me like I was spineless.
“You’re too nice—have no backbone, Lala. You should never have kids—they would run all over you,” she would always say to me. Now that I was chasing her child through some forbidden area of the zoo, I wondered if it was true.
A monstrous roar hit my ears and stopped my heart. I rubbed my wet palms together and ran faster towards Tariq.
Shoot if this child gets eaten by something out here I’ll never forgive myself. Tariq was climbing inside of one the exhibits. Somehow he’d managed to get up the tall gate. It would have been impressive if his life, and mine for that matter, wasn’t at stake.
I ran up behind Tariq full speed to try to pull him down but a lion had managed to jump up and caught him by the arm.
The lion’s sharp teeth clutched Tariq’s arm and for once…he was dead silent.
“Help!” I yelled at the top of my lungs while I struggled to dial 911 on my cell. My entire body shook like crazy but before I could yell again, the lion released the pre-teen.
“Ouch—damn!” Tariq said when he landed on the grass. I tried to run over to Tariq but I was distracted.
Something weird was up with the lion. His fluffy mane shrunk and turned into long auburn colored dreadlocks, and his fur depleted into flawless, coffee-colored skin. He was human. My mouth hung open as I observed it. His muscles were defined and he had to be over 6ft tall. He stood next to Tariq, who was now looking up at him from the ground.
“Whoa—what the hell just happened,” Tariq said.
“Watch your language,” the gorgeous man said. Naked, the man cupped his genitals with his hands and I blushed as my heart rate increased.
I was still shaking like a leaf but I couldn’t keep my eyes off of this naked man. “T-Tariq get over here and stand next to me.” He ran over to me and I gripped his small hand and squeezed it.
The man closed his eyes for a few seconds then suddenly he had on basketball shorts and a compression shirt.
“Yuck, why is your hand so fucking sweaty?” Tariq said as he threw my hand down.
The man whispered something and instantly Tariq was a few feet away from me, standing in a weird pose next to the sign for the Zebras. I called his name and realized he literally could not move. He still had one shoe lifted mid-air and his braces glistened since his mouth hung open. As scared as I was—it was sort of funny to see Tariq like that—frozen and unable to throw another insult at me.
“You,” the man said. His deep voice made my insides vibrate. I backed up slowly and looked around the zoo for other people. How was it that absolutely no one was here?
“The people are still here—but I’ve got things locked down right now. I stopped time periodically,” he said. “I’m Ethan.” He stretched out his hand to me but I didn’t dare touch it.
“Um. I’m Lala,” I hesitated. “Did you just—did you read my mind?”
He chuckled. “I did. And don’t worry. I know the kid is your family. He’ll be okay.”
“How did you—what—are you?” He was right in my face and though I knew I should have been afraid—his strong body was doing something to me. Something that made me feel the opposite of fear.
“But yeah,” he continued as he stared into my eyes. “I’m not from here.”
“I mean I figured you weren’t when you kind of changed from a dangerous wild animal into a…” I caught myself lusting again. What had he changed into? All I saw was a fine, chocolate man in front of me. Wait—can he hear my thoughts still?
He wrinkled his brows and smirked. “Anyway, what I was going to say is I’ve been looking for a human woman like you for a while now. Your scent tells me that you are exactly who I need.”
I placed my hand to my chest. “I’m who you need—what? And you still didn’t answer me…what are you?”
He sighed. “I’m a spirit—from the Leo constellation. My father kicked me out of the constellation and before my spirit left my body he told me to descend here—he said I needed to be humbled and endure life on earth and to learn—something about “how to balance my rage.”
“Dang. What did you do to deserve death?”
“Death isn’t a big deal up in the stars. It’s like moving from one house to another is on earth. My father was mad I didn’t wanna live my life the way the rest of my family was so one day he came at me sideways and I beat his ass. I probably would have had him if he hadn’t have fucked around and killed me—sending me to earth.”
“Sheesh. He had to lay the law down on you. Why did you come here as a lion though?”
“It was what I embodied. All inhabitants of the Leo constellation have a domineering, prideful energy, so to make the challenge harder for me he sent me down as an shifter.
“A shifter?” I said.
“Yeah I’m a hybrid being. Lion or human when I wanna be.”
“Well why didn’t you just turn human and break out of this place?” I glanced over and checked on Tariq. Still frozen. “I’m sure you don’t like being trapped,” I said.
“You’re right about that, but being trapped here was part of my punishment. My father made sure I would be placed in a zoo and made it so that the only way for me to get out of here and have more freedom to live my zoo life and human life—would be for me to find a human woman—one who needs my roar. Until now I just haven’t been able to find one.”
This shit was getting beyond weird. I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone about this without being institutionalized. No one would believe me.
“You’re not crazy,” he reassured me.
I crossed my arms. “And you think I—need your roar? What does that even mean?”
His eyes were the color of brown sugar and I was lost in them. If I was honest, I was thinking about giving him some of the sweet stuff in between my legs. But wait—what the hell am I thinking? This is not why I’m here.
“Look, Ethan. Lion man or whatever you are,” I said. “I’m responsible for this child and I can’t just be out here-
“Then let me give it to you. You and I both know that kid is a knucklehead who needs to be taught a lesson. I’ve watched women come through here for years and they are all so serious, like warriors. They weren’t in need of my roar. I’m attracted to you because…you make me feel like I have something you can use.”
“Something I can use? What is that something?” I said.
“I told you—my roar. Don’t you want to stop being bossed around by a pre-teen? Don’t you want to command respect everywhere you go—without fear? I can give you the strength to do that—I just require one thing from you.”
I rolled my eyes but inside he had struck a nerve. He had knocked on the door of all of my insecurities and it was damn near scary how accurate he was.
“And what do you require?” I asked. “My soul?”
“Not even. Just a single kiss.” He grabbed my hand. “If you kiss me—you will have the strength you need to be more aggressive in your life. You will also gain the ability to…”
“To what?” My heart raced.
“To shift into a lion, and be my mate.”
“What the heck! Why would I want to be a lion? I can’t do that I have a career and-
“And what? I see you didn’t object to being my mate,” he winked.
I couldn’t help but laugh. He was right—I didn’t object to being his mate because he was indeed attractive to me.
“Being a lion is fucking fun,” he said. We can hang out here and—make little cubs and wrestle. Then you can still go back to your human life. Maybe we can even be a couple…”
I stared into his eyes again. This shit was crazy but the reality was, I had no man, no children, I lived in a huge house which I went home to alone every single night. Hell I was 26 years old and still out here trying to impress my big sister. What had become of my life? What did I really have to lose by giving in to him? He had powers and shit that could change my life for the better, right?
“Right,” he said after he read my mind again.
I studied his face. “If I kiss you—will everything return back to normal—you know, as far as my nephew?” I pointed at Tariq who was still frozen like a statue.
“Yeah. Your nephew won’t even remember anything. Like I said the only difference is you will have more strength—and you will be able to shift into a lion. You can come out here and—play with me sometimes. I’ll teach you how to control your lion. We can stop time and have a blast out here after dark.” He winked. “Also I won’t be able to read your mind anymore.”
This was the freakiest shit I’d ever witnessed. I would be a fool to pass it up—right? If nothing else I could write a book about it. Besides—Ethan was fine and I had never seen a man who was this enticing before.
Like a magnet, my body sucked into his and he stroked my hair gently. “You won’t regret this Lala, I promise,” he whispered in my ear. I gazed into his eyes until I couldn’t anymore and my lips finally met his. He held tightly to the back of my neck and placed his other hand at the small of my back.
I pressed my body further into his and let his hand continue to play with my backside. By the time the kiss was over, I was sure my cheeks were an entirely different color. I looked down at my breasts and saw they had transformed. They were lifted. My arms were chiseled and sexy as hell like Michelle Obama’s, and it seemed like my posture was better without even trying.
His thick mane grew back and his body lowered onto all fours. He was a lion again and he jumped back behind the gate.
Thoughts entered my mind that certainly weren’t mine—they were his. He was thinking about how he wanted to design his new life outside of the zoo, and in his imagination, I was his woman.
As soon as he landed back in the lion area, as he promised, the park was back to normal. Little Tariq was smiling and he held my hand. Families passed us and smiled, the Zoo lights were bright and beautiful, and when I looked up I could see the Leo constellation clearer than I ever had before.
For the rest of the night Tariq was well behaved without me even saying too much to him. Before we left the zoo, I was sure to buy a membership.
As we walked out of the zoo I looked down at Tariq. “Did you have fun?”
“I had the time of my life, Auntie, and I’m willing to bet you did too.” He eyed my new zoo membership card and we both laughed.
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