Focus, Susan, focus. This isn’t about sex, this is about a naked stranger in your house.

One she wanted out of here, ASAP. And luckily his pulse was beating strongly against her fingertips.

Still, he didn’t try to grab her.

Maybe he wasn’t faking after all.

“Okay,” she breathed. He was alive and unconscious on her floor. Where did that leave her?

Up stinky creek sans a paddle.

Sighing, she continued to stare at the bruise on his neck. He couldn’t really be the cat, could he?

“Oh, don’t be stupid. This so can’t be happening. Not now. Not to me.”

And yet it was. She couldn’t deny the fact that there was a gorgeous naked man on her floor and the cat appeared to have completely vanished.

No, it had to be some kind of trick. Something like a Criss Angel stunt—he was the king of pulling off incredible illusions while millions of people watched. Never had she believed in magic of any kind and she wasn’t about to buy into that crap now. She only believed in what she could see and feel.

And you could feel him right now. No one would ever know

“Oh, get thee behind me, Id.” But then it had been way too long since she’d had a naked guy around, and she’d never had one around who was quite this fine. Of course there was a really good reason for that. Most guys who looked like this weren’t exactly date material. They were more the players who came and went so fast that they often left skid marks on a woman’s heart and in her bedroom.

That was the last thing she needed in her life.

Returning her thoughts to her dilemma, Susan glanced to her couch, where she’d taken cover when the lightning had started—an easy trick to pull off probably. They could have rigged something to her outlets to cause the lightning and friction. Maybe that’s what had thrown her back when she’d pulled the collar off—it could have been some kind of remote. Then, while she’d been distracted by the light show, this guy must have traded places with the cat.

Yeah, that was it. That made sense.

Now he was pretending to be unconscious. He had to be.

She looked up at the ceiling. “If you’re filming this, I’m not amused. It’ll take more than this to make me believe the cat turned into Mr. Gorgeous.”

There was no response. Fine. Let them laugh. At least she got some good eye candy out of it.

Licking her dry lips, she studied him carefully. He lay as if in some kind of coma, but if he was an actor, that would be easy to fake, too. Against her better judgment, she reached out and brushed the hair from his face until she could see him.

Her breath caught. His features were chiseled and perfect. His eyebrows finely arched, his cheekbones high and covered by at least two days’ worth of black whiskers. He had an almost sullen, bad-boy look to him. It was smoldering and animalistic. Magnetic. That moody, dark sexuality that made every woman pant whenever a guy like this came on the scene.

And those sensuous lips of his, completely kissable. Yeah, it was hard to be this close to him and not take advantage of it. Honestly, he was the best-looking guy she’d ever seen in the flesh.

All of a sudden, she started laughing. Deep and loud. She couldn’t help herself. Good Lord, how weird was this?

Over and over, she could hear Leo’s voice in her head:

“CAT TURNS INTO STUNNING NAKED MAN IN

SINGLE WOMAN’S HOME…WOMEN STAMPEDING

LOCAL ANIMAL SHELTERS EVERYWHERE.

KEEP YOUR CAT UNDER LOCK AND KEY.“

It made her wonder who she should call… a doctor or a vet.

She froze as that thought triggered another. “Angie.”

That was it. Angie had to have been in on this. No wonder Angie had insisted that she take the cat home in spite of her allergies. Now it all made sense. Jimmy’s insanity, Leo insisting that she check into the Catman story. Angie’s fake acting—nobody was that bad an actor.

Not to mention the fact that she was no longer sneezing…

Yeah, they were all playing some kind of prank on her. She was positive. And damn them for it. Like she didn’t have anything better to do with her life. Well, you don’t. Narrowing her eyes, she chose to ignore that irritating little voice in the back of her mind.

There for a second, they’d almost had her going.

Well, fine, two could play this game and she could play it a whole lot better than all of them combined.

Disgusted at herself for even buying into it for a second, Susan grabbed the cell phone from her pocket and called Angie’s number.

There was no answer.

“Come on, babe. Pick up the phone.” She called again, only to have it roll over to the voice mail. Deciding to continue her friend’s game, she added a tremor of panic into her voice. “Hey, Ang. It’s me. Give me a call, okay? I really need to ask you about this cat you gave me. Something really weird has happened. Give me a call as soon as you get this. Talk to you later.”

Susan tucked the phone back into her pocket and glanced at the unconscious hottie as another thought went through her head…

I’m sure Catman Moron found some bimbo to shack up with and shag for the day, but dammit all. Couldn’t he have called and told me that?

That would be Round Two. The girl, Dark Angel, and her blog. Leo probably had her in on this, too. Then again, Leo could very well be Dark Angel for all she knew. Anyone with an Internet connection could set up a blog page.

After all, there couldn’t be more than one Catman in Seattle. I mean, really, what were the odds of there being one, never mind a whole tribe of them. Right?

So it was time to tackle that leg of the hoax. Grabbing the pink throw from her couch and tossing it over her unwelcome guest, she took her laptop off the coffee table and opened it up. It didn’t take her long to boot it up and find the blog again. She quickly located the e-mail link for Dark Angel. Susan clicked on it, then sat there staring at the blank e-mail screen.

How should she even begin?

Might as well be blunt. She honestly didn’t know any other way to live her life or write.

Dear Dark Angel,

I’ve found your missing Catman in a local animal shelter. He’s currently passed out on my floor. Please respond soon and let me know what you want me to do with him as I am highly allergic and I don’t have time to housebreak him.

Thanks,

Susan

Okay, so it read like she was on some serious medication. But what the hell? If this was real, she’d probably start needing some.

She reread the post about Dark Angel losing her boss last night. Glancing over to the man on her floor, Susan gave a wicked smile. “Well, if I lost something like you, I’d certainly want him back.”

Okeydokie, she thought as she sent the e-mail off. Now it was time for her to see about securing the

Catman of Seattle until she heard from either Dark Angel or Angie. Hmmm… here’s where being a rock climber would have come in handy, or even a serial killer. Any kind of hobby that would’ve allowed her to have had some kind of rope on hand. But she didn’t.

As she searched the room for something to use, her gaze fell to the collar that she’d pulled off the cat. Frowning, she went over to it and picked it up. It was the strangest thing she’d ever seen. The material felt like both metal and cloth. Truly, it was odd. And unfortunately, it was too small to use on the guy.

You do have some bungee cords in the closet ….

Would they work?

All she could do was see.

As she headed for the closet, she heard the ping from her computer, telling her that mail had arrived. Her cords forgotten, she went over to it and paused as she saw an e-mail from Dark Angel.

Clicking on it, she couldn’t wait to see what the girl had to say.

Dear Psycho Susan,

You need help. Really. This isn’t a game here, but let’s say for argument’s sake that by some long stretch of the imagination you’re not lying and that you did find him. If I were you, I’d be on my knees, praying.

‘Cause when he wakes up, he’ll rip your heart out and laugh about it, then drink your blood and dump your body in the nearest ditch. Shapeshifters don’t have a sense of humor and they can’t stand to be trapped anywhere. Therefore, I’m not worried about getting him back from you. He’ll come home when he’s ready to.

DA

Susan stared at the words as a feeling of anger filled her. What kind of crap was that?

They were screwing with her. They had to be.

And to think there for a minute she’d almost bought into it.

What about the lightning?

Special effects. Really, what were the odds? Out of all of Seattle, she would be the one to find the missing cat that Leo had told her to investigate…

Yeah, right. Leo and Angie were always saying that she needed to loosen up. What better way than to pay some cute guy to come play a prank on her?

“That’s it, Puss,” she said, aggravated at all of them. “It’s time to get you out of here.”

Shutting the lid for her laptop, she headed for the unconscious man. She was no more than a foot from him when one long, muscular arm shot out and swept her feet out from under her.

Two heartbeats later, she was pinned to the floor and staring up into the blackest eyes she’d ever seen.

Chapter four

Ravyn paused as he stared into pale blue eyes that seared him. Not to mention the fact that his body was being cushioned by the softest curves he’d ever felt, curves that would only feel better if she were naked underneath him.

The scent of woman mixed with sweet perfume filled his head and it was enough to silence the beast inside him as he wondered how she’d gotten into his house while he slept.

It took a full ten seconds before he remembered that he wasn’t in his own home. Another five before he remembered everything that’d happened since last night. The woman, Susan, had taken him out of the animal shelter and brought him to her house. As soon as she’d taken the collar off, his suppressed magick had run riot.

Now he was—

About to be creamed by the lamp she was lifting up to beat him with. Rolling away from her, he came to a crouch at the same time Susan lunged at him with her lamp.

“Hey, hey, hey!” he snapped, deflecting it with his arm. “What are you doing?”

She forced him back with the tip of the lamp. “Keep your hands to yourself, buddy.”

Ravyn struggled to disentangle his feet from a pink Power Puff Girl blanket while he dodged her pokes. “Put the damn lamp down.”

She refused.

Too aggravated to argue, Ravyn tried to disintegrate it with his mind. Unfortunately, all that happened was a sharp pain to his head. Cursing, he put the heel of his hand against his forehead to combat the ache. He realized that he’d worn the collar so long, it had all but drained him of his powers. He was completely lacking all magick until he had time to recharge. Damn.

So instead, he jerked the lamp from her hands and made as if to hit her with it—not that he ever would, but dammit he was pissed, and the stupid blanket that seemed to be melded to his legs wasn’t helping any. Irritated, he set the lamp down behind him as he finally succeeded in stepping out of the mess at his feet.

The woman seemed every bit as aggravated with him as she tried to reclaim her property. “You know, that wasn’t cheap. I want my lamp back.”

He kept her from reaching around him to grab the lamp. Finally, he forced her back, toward the brown leather sofa. “Yeah, and people in hell want ice water. Doesn’t mean they’re going to get it, especially when someone can’t keep herself from poking me with it.”

He glanced around the spartan living room, grateful that all the shades were drawn shut to keep the daylight out. The whole house was done in simple, contemporary lines with earth tones and only a bare minimum of furniture. It was obvious that she wasn’t into anything too fussy, frilly, or complicated. “It’s still daylight, isn’t it?”

“You think?”

A tic started in his jaw. His luck just kept improving every step of the way. “Whatever you do, don’t open those blinds.”

“Why? You gonna burst into flames or something?”

He looked at her drolly but didn’t answer. How he wished he had enough juice to summon clothes for himself. But that, too, would have to wait, so instead he retrieved the evil pink blanket from the floor and wrapped it around him. He grimaced as he realized the word Puff covered his cock—yeah, he was feeling really manly at the moment. “You got a phone I can use?”

Susan folded her arms over her chest. All things considered, she had to give Leo and Angie credit, the guy was scrumptious—even with the childish blanket wrapped low around his lean hips. His shoulder-length black hair was tousled but looked really good with his sullen features. As he raked a hand through his hair to settle it into place, the muscles of his arm and side flexed in a most captivating way.

He had the deepest voice she’d ever heard—the kind that just rippled down her spine like a hot caress. And he had the most intriguing way of speaking without opening his mouth more than a tiny bit. Truly the man was sex on a stick.

She didn’t know where they’d found him, but given his build and beauty, she’d guess he was probably a local stripper. It would explain why he was so comfortable with being naked in front of a complete stranger.

But since they’d gone to such trouble, she might as well play along to see how far Mr. Buff carried the charade. “A phone? For what? Can’t you mind meld to your cat people or something?”

He sneered at her as if that offended him. “Just how much TV do you watch?”

“Very little.”

He looked less than amused. “So can I have a phone or not?”

“Who are you going to call?”

“Someone to get me out of here.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so.” She tossed him her cell phone.

Ravyn wasn’t sure if her quick capitulation amused him or pissed him off. Deciding on the former, he flipped the cover up and dialed for Erika.

“This is Erika. I can’t answer the phone right now, but please leave your name and number and I’ll get around to chatting later.”

He glanced over to the clock on the wall. It was just after four in the afternoon.

“Dammit, Erika, where are you? You’re not in class and you should be home studying with your phone turned on. It’s me and I need you to bring me some clothes and come pick me up pronto. Call me back for directions.” Disgusted with his wayward Squire, he hit the CANCEL button.

He dialed Acheron’s number.

Yet another voice mail. Great, just great. He really hated these things. Hanging up, he growled deep in his throat.

He considered calling the other Seattle Dark-Hunters and warning them about the Apollite uprising but decided it would wait a bit. Either they were safe at home or they were dead. If the latter, then there wasn’t anything he could do for them.

He glanced at the woman who was still watching him with a strange look of perturbance. “I don’t suppose you have some clothes I could borrow, do you?”

“Sorry. Extra-large male isn’t my specialty. Besides, can’t you just poof some clothes on?”