How many people out there like to travel? I do. There are so many different places that I'd like to visit. Unfortunately, like most people now-a-days, my wallet prohibits me from going anywhere at the moment.
That's the great thing about a good book. They can take you away to exotic locations without ever leaving your living room.
Choosing the right setting can add a whole new dimension to your story. It can help create a mood, or set a tone. A story set in Las Vegas would have a very different feel from one set in Mubai or Edinborough.
In Cria, I chose to set the story in the Amazon Rainforest. The special type of shifters in the book need the hot, wet landscape the rainforest provides in order to survive. Unfortunately, local loggers are destroying their home and leaving them less and less territory to roam. Tribes are squeezed on top of each other, creating feuds and turf wars that are the basis for this story.
So what is your favorite exotic location for paranormals? Is there anywhere you'd like to see paranormals set in the future?
In the meantime, check out my sexy shifter story, Cria:
Learn more about Cria here.
Deep in the heart of the Amazon Jungle, an ancient breeding race begins…
Ever since she was jilted by her lover, Aleta had been subjected to humiliation by her Jaguarundi tribe. Not anymore. She is determined to emerge from her final Cria unmated, and finally be free of tribal traditions and her overbearing father. Aleta has plans — bigger plans than her father’s desire to see her marked by some oafish warrior in an outdated breeding competition. After the Cria she’ll move to the city and start fresh, leaving her clan — and her broken heart — behind.
Unfortunately, the past is unwilling to let her go.
Forced to abandon Aleta when he went into exile, Luiz knows that this Cria will be his last chance to reclaim what is rightfully his. When a surprise encounter doesn’t go exactly as planned, he realizes it will take more than a little seduction for Aleta to forgive the sins of the past. The race is on, and the battle of wills has begun. Everyone knows that in the Cria anything can happen, and with the stakes this high, all bets are off.
The ancient horn’s blast rained down over the crowd gathered on the side of the mountain. Sound vibrations shook the ground with a thunderous roar, causing the birds to squawk and dart out of the trees that covered the valley below.
The race had begun.
Children covered their ears. Elders shouted encouragement to their loved ones. The men stood off to one side, watching with interest.
Aleta Cortes sprang up from her crouched position on the starting line and sprinted with the other females in her tribe. The familiar terrain sped past her in a blur as she made her way over the rocks to the Amazon forest below. A mist rose up from the ground and caused a haze around the setting sun. It had rained earlier, taking away some of the summer heat. This was good; the haze would help with camouflage as she navigated the forest. Aleta needed every advantage she could get if she hoped to reach the finish line, an old waterfall on the other side of their lands, by daybreak.
Only then would she be free. But if she was caught before she could finish…
No, she wouldn’t think of it. For most of the females in her Jaguarundi tribe—okay, all females—the race was a technicality. No one really wanted to finish. This ancient breeding race, the Cria, was deeply rooted in tribal tradition. It gave the young male warriors a chance to show off their strength while allowing the eligible females an opportunity to choose their mates. It was expected that every man and woman entering these woods would be mated by daybreak.
Everyone except her.
The horn blasted a second time, signaling the men of her tribe to begin their chase. Aleta pushed herself to move faster, ignoring the beads of sweat on her temple and neck. Her body thrummed with excitement and adrenaline. This was her last time running the Cria. She was the first and only Jaguarundi female ever to finish the race nine years in a row without a mate. After tonight, she would no longer be eligible to run. According to tribal tradition, she would be beyond her mating years. Her father would have no choice but to let her do as she wished.
Finally, she could leave. She would make her way up to Rio, board a plane, and get out of this godforsaken jungle. Away from her tribe’s backward ways. Away from her controlling father. She could enter civilization. Be normal, human. Well, almost human.
Aleta frowned with determination and jumped over a large rock. Shouts rose up from behind, causing her heart to thud against her rib cage. She glanced at the setting sun, noticing the full round sphere hanging ominously in the sky. Ribbons of mist wove in front of it, giving the orb a hazy glow. Its pull would make the shifting easier tonight, less painful. Once in her feline form, Aleta could triple her speed. Unfortunately, the rules of the Cria dictated no shifting until the runners finished their path down the mountain and entered the thickest part of the forest below.
The trees became denser, blocking out all but a few rays of light. Aleta continued to run. As soon as she reached flat ground, she let go of her inner beast. The familiar popping and cracking of muscles echoed in her ears as her body changed from that of a petite Brazilian woman into a dark gray feline. Her vision sharpened with catlike clarity. In this form she’d have no problem reaching the finish line. The only one who might have been able to catch her wasn’t here.
Nor would he ever be again.
She’d been foolish to fall in love with Luiz, her father’s most honored warrior. The bastard led her to believe that he loved her, that they would be together forever. At fifteen she was too young to know of men’s lies and lovers’ betrayals. She had no reason not to believe that Luiz wouldn’t run with her in her first Cria at sixteen. No reason to believe that he wouldn’t claim her as his mate. After all, the whole village had expected it.
But he hadn’t come for her. Luiz had humiliated her by not running the Cria, and he’d further disgraced her and her family by leaving the tribe. No good-byes, no promises of return. Nothing.
Hours passed as she concentrated on navigating the trees around her. Howls of excitement filled the air as the men caught their prey. A twinge of jealousy stabbed her chest, but she pushed it aside. Finally, rushing water echoed through the trees to her left. Biting back a cry of delight, she cleared a fallen tree limb and loped in the direction of the noise.
The shouts of her brethren echoed in her ears as couples began the mating rituals that would bind them forever. Her father would be disappointed that she was yet again unmated, but that was to be expected. As tribal leader, he was responsible for upholding tradition and enforcing the laws. She smiled to herself as she ran. The tribal law was clear on this matter. This was to be her tenth Cria unmated. He would have no choice but to let her go.
Aleta pushed herself harder. So close. She knew her family wouldn’t be there yet. They, like the others, would arrive at the waterfall in a couple of hours. There was a cave nearby. It would be a safe place to wait for their arrival. She could taste her freedom now. Its sweetness lingered in her mouth and made her light-headed. A roar rose up in her throat and she gave herself up to the cry of victory.
No more pain, no more humiliation. A fresh start.
Aleta jumped over a rock, eager to cover the last hundred paces to the clearing where the waterfall marked the finish line. Suddenly a shadowy figure materialized in front of her.
No. How could it be possible? She tried to jump around the intruder, but everything happened so fast.
He was naked. The thought streamed through her mind as she flew backward, shifting into her human form as she hit the ground. The figure went down with her, covering her body with its own. Skin touched skin, and her whole body warmed at the contact. She struggled.
No, not now. Getting caught wasn’t an option. The finish line was so close. Freedom was so close.
Aleta twisted her body, disengaging her hand and fisting her fingers. She swung and connected with her attacker’s jaw. He grunted and rolled a short distance away. Aleta sprang to her feet just as the stranger began to rise.
“Wait…” A low, masculine voice reached her ears. The figure grabbed her arm and straightened.
She shook the hand away and stepped back. “I wait for no one. You should know better than to…” Her words died on her lips as her attacker stepped into a beam of fading sunlight. An eerie glow hung around the figure, making him look more apparition than man.
“Luiz,” she breathed. Shock pierced her body and froze her muscles. He was here.
Luiz, her love.
She raised her hands to cover herself, then remembered that body mass remained the same when she shifted. The clothes she wore when she changed into her cat form would automatically reappear when she changed back into a human. A quick glance told her that he was also clothed, but only from the waist down. Tingles of awareness raced over her skin, and she averted her gaze from his tan, muscular chest.
He rubbed his hand on his jaw. “I see you haven’t changed much, querida.”
From the looks of things, he hadn’t changed much either. His ebony hair had grown longer, curling around his ears and framing the angular features of his face in soft waves. His deep green eyes peered back at her with the same dark intensity she remembered from long ago. Desire sparked in her core, its flames licking over her skin. Heat crept up her body, settling in her cheeks.
Her breath caught in her throat. Was he here for the race? For her? She shook her head to dispel the traitorous thoughts and took another step toward the waterfall. Luiz had his chance. He lost her when he refused to run with her in her first Cria. She let the humiliation of that day wash over her, give her strength. It didn’t matter why he came. The only thing that mattered was gaining her freedom.
Aleta lifted her chin. “A lot has changed since you were last here.”
“I don’t doubt it.” An arrogant smile slid across his face as he lowered his hand. “I see you still wear the necklace I gave you.”
She resisted the urge to touch the smooth emerald stone around her neck. “It means nothing to me. I just forgot to take it off, that’s all.”
“For nine years?” He made a tsk sound and crossed his arms in front of his chest. His smile deepened.
Aleta shrugged. “Believe what you want. It’s the truth.” What was she thinking? She should have taken off the foolish trinket years ago. Why did she still wear it anyway? Luiz gave it to her the night he promised to run the Cria for her, the night he promised he would be hers for as long as she wore it.
Foolish dreams. They were for a little girl, not a woman. The piece had been around her neck for so long that it had become a part of her. She should have taken it off after that first Cria, when she learned of his betrayal.
And yet, she couldn’t. Giving up the necklace would have been like giving up part of herself. At first she left it on in the foolish hope that he would come back to her. Later, she kept it on to remember the price of losing her heart to another.
He would never understand. Luiz obviously wasn’t hurt by their separation. If anything, the time apart made him surer of himself, more arrogant.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
His expression softened as he stepped toward her. “This is the Cria, is it not? I’ve come to claim my mate.”
What? Aleta glanced behind her shoulder at the waterfall. She was so close to the finish line.
“Why?” she whispered, turning back to him.
He reached out and brushed a stray hair from her face. Her skin burned as he slipped his fingers over her cheek. She flinched at the little knots of desire twisting in her abdomen.
The mating heat.
Lust flared, whipping its flames through her body until she thought she would combust. She stepped back and tried to clear her head. Jaguarundi females were only fertile once a year. It was then that the Cria was run, when the mating heat was at its height. For nine years she had been able to deal with the longing. Why was it so hard to control now?
“I never stopped loving you, Aleta.”
Tears blurred her vision. “You humiliated me, Luiz.”
“I’m sorry.” He stepped closer. His musky scent rose up with the heat from his body and enveloped her, lowering her defenses. So familiar. So…nice.
Aleta formed fists at her sides as she fought back the emotions raging inside her.
“There were reasons I had to leave. Things happened beyond my control.”
“Reasons? What reasons?” She hardened her jaw and forced herself to meet his gaze.
He stepped forward, arms raised. When she didn’t move, he framed her face with his hands, sending small sparks of heat to dance across her skin. “It doesn’t matter. I’m here now.”
Aleta held her breath as he dipped his head toward her. No, this couldn’t be happening. There must be an ulterior motive. Nothing with Luiz was ever this straightforward or easy. Aleta placed her hands on his chest in an effort to push him away.
Then he brushed his lips against hers.
Heat burst through her center, its long tendrils curling through her body. Feelings, long forgotten, returned to the surface. Never before had she needed to work so hard for control.
She curled her fingers on his bare chest and leaned into his warmth. His skin felt hot, his muscles hard. The only clothing separating them were the thin pants he wore and her ceremonial running dress, both made from smooth cloth bartered at a nearby village. The light fabric around her body felt heavy and cumbersome. She focused on his mouth and the way it teased waves of emotion from her body.
He drew his hands away from her face and slipped them around the center of her back. She sagged against him as another tendril of heat curled around her center. For the first time in a long time, Aleta remembered what it was like to need, to long, to love. Desire hummed inside her, causing her heart to thud against her rib cage and the pulsing heat to center between her thighs. He stroked her back as they kissed, each movement brushing away her fears, her hurt.
He slipped his hands down, letting his fingers spread over her ass. Anticipation and excitement ran over her skin. She moaned against his mouth as he pulled her close, pressing her hips into his hardened cock. Tilting his head, he deepened the kiss and moved his hand around the curve of her ass, down her thigh. Energy charged the air between them.
She purred and wrapped her arms around his neck. It had been so long since she had felt this alive, this needy. The walls that took nine years to build were slipping, and she didn’t care. His musky male scent surrounded her and made her light-headed.
Luiz must have sensed her surrender, for a low and primal sound escaped his lips as he edged her back against a nearby tree. He slipped his hands down below her ass and rubbed the back of her thighs. They explored and caressed, the moisture from the heat and fog making them glide over her body. With another moan she lifted her leg and positioned it against his hip. There she hooked her ankle around him, holding him close. He slipped his hand under her short skirt and inched it up with his long fingers. She felt the thin fabric gather around her hips. Hot, heavy Amazon air clung to her skin, raising the temperature in the clearing and dampening their skin.
He broke the kiss and nipped her jaw. “Aleta… You have no idea how many nights I’ve waited. Finally…” He kissed a trail along her jaw and traced his tongue along the outer rim of her ear. “You’re mine.”
She gasped and closed her eyes. It was as if every secret fantasy were coming true right before her eyes. How many lonely nights had she dreamed that he’d come for her? That he would take her in the middle of the mating heat and make her his?
She drove her fingers into his hair, holding him close to her skin as the sweet heat of desire enveloped every inch of her body. He inched his hands up farther under her dress, coming closer to that burning ache between her thighs… Oh God, so close… Her whole body tightened in anticipation.
He kissed her neck, slowly moving down to the collar of her dress. There he lingered, tracing with his tongue the point where fabric ended and skin began. “Your mating heat is driving me crazy, Aleta.” He nipped her collarbone and chuckled when she gasped his name. “I want nothing more than to drive myself deep inside you and claim you like I should have all those years ago.”
Yes, all those years—years of pain and loneliness. She loosened her grip and slipped her hands to his shoulders. Did he think he could just walk back into her life and pick up where he left off?
She pushed at his chest. “Stop.”
“You don’t want me to stop.” He slipped his hand around to the front of her leg, then inched it up, lifting her skirt. “Do you?”
She moistened her lips. If he could just inch that hand up a little more…