Badlands: The Lion's Den

By: Georgette St. Clair
Chapter One

Music blared on the jukebox, and the colored strobe lights splashed across scenes of decadence throughout the Lion’s Den.

A wolf shifter female was up on the nightclub’s main stage, bound hand and foot to a St. Andrew’s Cross. A jaguar shifter caned her bare buttocks, wrenching cries of ecstasy from her with each stroke, and the crowd howled their enthusiasm.

A male lion shifter was licking a pussy – on her neck. The female lion lay sprawled on her back on a wooden table, and as the lion nuzzled her and lapped at her neck with his tongue, a cougar shifter dripped wax on her naked, shaved genitals.

Finn Hudson stood by the bar, arms folded, surveying the crowd with eagle-eyed focus. He was watching for signs of trouble, not trying to get off.

The club, located in an old warehouse, was packed, even though it was a week night. It was the most popular nightspot in Darwin, a shifter-only town located in the state that used to be known as Wisconsin. Now it was called the Badlands. It was the only state in the country that wasn’t supervised by the Council for Shifter Affairs, and it attracted a mix of criminals and malcontents who couldn’t make it in the outside world. The mad, bad and dangerous to know. Finn’s favorite kind of people.

The Lion’s Den was divided in half, with the bar to the left of the entrance and the play area on the right. House rules said that if anyone had more than one alcoholic drink, they couldn’t go over to the BDSM play area. Alcohol and single-tail whips were generally considered to be a bad combination.

A petite, red-headed fox shifter strode by and accidentally-on-purpose brushed up against Finn, fluttering her eyelashes at him. She tilted her head back to stare up at him. “Are you on the menu?” she asked.

“Sorry. ’Fraid not.” His tone was gruff, and he favored her with only the briefest of glances before looking away again. Her face fell, and she stalked off with a sulky glower.

Finn accepted propositions from customers from time to time, but he wasn’t in the mood tonight. He kept finding himself distracted by the feline shifter at the end of the bar. She was drinking a Shirley Temple, of all things. Her figure was full and curvy. He wasn’t sure what species she was yet; he hadn’t gotten close enough to smell her.

She had chosen a seat that let her face the door at all times, and she was trying to hide the fact that she was watching the door, with a nervous expression on her face.

And Finn was trying to hide the fact that he was watching her, but apparently he wasn’t doing too well at it.

“Cat got your tongue?” Jennifer, one of the waitresses, asked with an amused glance.

“Har-de-har-har.” Finn gave her a pitying look and shook his head. “Fail.”

“Because she’s a cat shifter, and—”

“Yeah, Jennifer, when you explain the joke, it kind of ruins the magic.”

“So long as you think I’m magic,” she said with a wink, and glided away with a tray of drinks balanced expertly on one hand.

Finn sighed. He didn’t, unfortunately, think she was magic. Jennifer looked a lot like Marybeth had, sure, but the resemblance was purely physical. He’d never had those kinds of feelings for Marybeth’s little sister. His feelings for women were the kind that were located below the belt, and quickly and easily satisfied. That was fine; the Lion’s Den provided an unending supply of women who were only interested in a quick fling. It was a way to distract himself and numb the dull ache that lived inside him.

Apparently, Jennifer wasn’t the only one who’d noticed Finn’s interest in the deliciously full-figured shifter.

“You like her? She’s not your usual type.” Liam had walked up to Finn while he was distracted. Liam and Axe, Finn’s two older brothers, owned the bar and the west side of town.

Finn snorted. “Oh yeah? What is my usual type?”

Liam pretended to consider the question. “Well, female, walks on two legs…”

“Thanks,” Finn said drily. “I do have my standards.”

“And looking for a hookup. That doesn’t really describe your new girlfriend over there. You might actually have to work to get that one out of her panties.” Liam flashed Finn an enormous grin and walked away, ignoring Finn’s dirty look.

Finn found his attention dragged back to the feline, as if by some strange outside force. He wasn’t the only one who was interested, he realized. A panther shifter had sidled up and was trying to talk to her, and Finn felt his insides twist in a sudden, hard knot of anger.

She glanced at the man and shook her head. The man persisted, leaning in too close.