Home > Bite Me (Pride #9)

Bite Me (Pride #9)
Author: Shelly Laurenston


Pride series
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Dear Reader—

As those of you who have read my books over the years know, I am against bigotry of any kind. Especially bigotry against my friends . . . the hybrid shifters.

I’m the first to say it’s unfair to have prejudice against those with tusk-like fangs or snaggle-claws or excessively long legs combined with tiny paws. It’s just wrong to hate those differently endowed. And, until the end of time, I will stand tall with my mutt . . . er . . . my hybrid soul siblings.

That being said, there’s only so much pressure I can put on a design team. Especially the team that creates all my lovely covers. And with that in mind, I’m sure that all my loyal readers and hybrid friends will forgive the liberties taken with Bite Me.

Now it’s true that our hero, Vic Barinov, is a grizzly-tiger hybrid, but creating a cover that can successfully get that across . . . that’s a bit of a challenge. So one animal was chosen—the sexy tiger. I know some grizzlies will take this as an affront, and I’m the first to say that the Ursidae is just as sexy as the feline. But there’s only so much an artist can do.

So, yes, I’m fully aware the cover has a white tiger on it, and no, it’s not a mistake. It’s simply the limitations of a non-shifter society, unable to conceive of the wonder that is a grizzly-Siberian tiger male with a honey fetish and introvert tendencies.

But, hopefully, in time, when the world comes to truly understand the wonders of the hybrid nation, this situation will be a thing of the past. Until then, let’s all just enjoy the pretty kitty on my cover.

—Shelly Laurenston

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Livy Kowalski blew out a breath when the battling females landed hard on top of the casket.

Livy’s father was in that casket. And it was her father’s sister and Livy’s mother busy fighting on top of it.

Her cousin Jake leaned in and whispered, “Like watching a somber and ancient grieving ceremony with the Windsor family, isn’t it?”

Thank God Jake was here. She didn’t know if she could have faced this nightmare without him.

No. Not the death of her father, but dealing with her family. Then again, this was how they mourned. Although why they all seemed so surprised by her father’s death, Livy didn’t know. Damon Kowalski was not exactly known for his quiet, even-tempered ways. He was a thief, a liar, a brawler, an instigator, and a drinker. Not just a drinker, but a honey badger drinker. Her father drank liquor spiked with different snake poisons. Poisons that would kill most humans unless they were treated immediately with antivenin—and sometimes not even then—but for HBs they merely caused a ridiculous high and intense hunger.

Most of Livy’s kind just kept their venom intake to the rattler family, but her father had actually tried the more odious poison-spiked beers and tequila, like Black Mamba or the Puff Adder.

And, sadly, her father hadn’t been right since the first time he drank that swill, going from a verbose, sometimes annoying thief to a downright bastard of a human being.

It had become so bad that, eventually, even Livy’s mother refused to put up with him. She’d thrown him out of their Washington State home and eventually divorced him, but the connection between her parents had always been . . . ridiculous. Because no matter how much they argued, no matter how many times they threw things at each other, or threatened each other with the murder of whomever they might be dating at the moment, there were two things the pair did well together—sex and stealing.

Livy’s parents made a great team when it came to stealing, and money was king to the honey badger shifter. Because money allowed them to pursue their off-putting lifestyle without worries as well as purchase extremely robust and necessary health insurance—plastic surgery for scarring could be costly these days.

And, it turned out, money also allowed for even more robust life insurance that Livy’s aunt didn’t think Livy’s mother had a right to, considering her parents had been divorced since Livy was fifteen. Sadly, Livy’s mother didn’t agree with that logic since she’d been the one paying the premiums on that insurance for the last twenty years, always guessing that she’d easily outlive Damon Kowalski. Even if that meant killing him herself.

Even worse, this particular issue came to a head at Damon’s graveside. Not appropriate for most people during a funeral, but honey badgers . . . well, “appropriate” was relative when it came to Livy’s kind.

Livy looked around at the rest of her relatives, wondering if some of her uncles or cousins would break her mother and aunt apart—but they were too busy watching . . . and drinking . . . and bickering among themselves.

“So you’re still hanging around with her, huh?”

Livy glanced over her shoulder at “her.”

Toni Jean-Louis Parker, in her mourning best, gave Livy a little wave and an encouraging smile. That smile said, “You can get through this!” Livy hoped her friend was right.

But Toni wasn’t here for Livy on her own. There was also Toni’s parents, Jackie and Paul. Sadly, Toni’s brother Cooper and Toni’s sister Cherise were on tour in Europe. They were brilliant musicians who got a lot of money to perform for sold-out audiences. Their sixteen-year-old sister Oriana was training—and soon to perform—with the Royal Ballet in England. Twelve-year-old Kyle was studying art in Italy. Ten-year-old Troy was getting his master’s in math . . . or science . . . one of those. Livy never really knew or cared. Eight-year-old Freddy was getting his bachelor’s in theoretical physics and, in his off time, creating video games that were seriously fun. The youngest brother, six-year-old Dennis, was studying architecture; and the three-year-old twins, Zia and Zoe, were busy learning the many dialects of most of the world’s major languages while terrorizing their nanny by just being themselves.

Oh. And there was nineteen-year-old Delilah, but no one really talked about her much. She was currently running a cult in Upstate New York that saw her as their messiah. She and her cult were also making the federal government kind of nervous, but the family liked to pretend that wasn’t happening.

And no, Livy wasn’t a blood relative of the Jean-Louis Parkers. They were jackals, after all. In the wild, their kind were enemies. Then again, HBs were enemies to . . . well . . . everyone. Lions. Hyenas. Leopards. Beekeepers. Beekeepers really hated their kind, but only because one didn’t find grizzly bears on the African plains. Yet the fact that Livy wasn’t blood had never mattered to the Jean-Louis Parkers. As far as they were concerned, she was family, which was why Toni had left her job in Manhattan and come with Livy to watch Livy’s mother deck her ex-husband’s younger sister while scuffing up the steel casket of her ex-husband.

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