Her Perfect Mate(111)By: Paige Tyler
Minka Pajari’s breath came fast and hard as she stared up at the ceiling above her head. She didn’t know how long she’d been lying there strapped down to the cold, metal table, or what the two foreign men who’d kidnapped her wanted with her. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t raped and killed her yet. They would. It was the only reason men abducted women in her part of the world. But then why did they keep poking her with needles and taking blood?
She’d worked at the small U.S. military camp on the other side of the mountain for several years and had become good enough with the language that they occasionally paid her to be a translator. But the two men used strange English words she didn’t know, and she couldn’t make sense of the things they were saying.
Minka bit back a cry as one of the men suddenly loomed over her, another needle in his hand. Only this time, the vial wasn’t empty. It was filled with a red liquid that looked suspiciously like blood.
She yanked desperately at the bindings around her wrists, but the leather straps held her fast no matter how hard she pulled, and she winced as the man jabbed the needle into her arm and injected her with the liquid.
“This might hurt a bit,” he said in his guttural accent. “But it will make you better.”
She opened her mouth to tell him she wasn’t sick and that she didn’t need to get better, but the words wouldn’t come out. Her throat was locked tight.
Then the pain struck, and it felt worse than anything she’d ever felt in her life. She was on fire; she had to be on fire. When she looked, though, she didn’t see any flames. But maybe that was because her vision went dim.
She squeezed her eyes shut, praying for relief from the unbelievable agony. But she only convulsed and quivered more violently on the table.
Then the pain receded. She ached all over, though. And there was something wrong with her eyes, too. She couldn’t see right.
The man smoothed her long, dark hair back from her face. “There, there, girl. I told you we’d make you better, and we did. Look.”
He held something over her face, and it took her a moment to realize it was a mirror. Minka tried to focus on the reflection, but it was hard in the darkened room, especially with her eyes not working right.
Then something appeared in the mirror. She stared at her reflection in confusion. It was her face, but it was different. Her eyes were not their usual cinnamon brown, but glowed green. And the small, white teeth at the corners of her mouth had been replaced with long, needle-sharp fangs.
She moved her mouth, sure she was wrong, but the image in the mirror moved, too. The man had injected her with something to make her look like this. Something that had turned her into a monster.
Minka screamed, and once she started, she couldn’t stop.
My husband and I came up with the idea for the X-Ops series at the Lori Foster Get Together in 2012. I’d wanted to write a book I could make the jump from small press to New York with, and the idea for a romance pairing a shifter with a military guy had been dancing around in my head for a while. I wasn’t quite sure what kind of adventure the hero and heroine were going to have, but I knew whatever it was, it was going to be exciting, action-packed, and sexy. So, we went to P. F. Chang’s (our favorite restaurant!) and batted ideas back and forth over spicy chicken until we came up with our feline shifter heroine and Special Forces hero working for a super-secret government organization to keep the world safe.
I know I already thanked my hubby in the dedication, but I want to thank him again. I also want to also thank authors Kate Douglas, Monette Michaels, and Cynthia Eden for reading Her Perfect Mate and loving it; my agent, Bob Mecoy, for believing in me and encouraging me and being there when I need to talk; my editor Leah Hultenschmidt for loving this series as much as I do and bringing it to Sourcebooks; editorial assistant and my go-to person at Sourcebooks whenever I need something, Cat Clyne; and all the other amazing people at Sourcebooks, including Todd, Beth, Rachel, and their crazy-talented art department. I’m still drooling over this cover!
And a thank you to my creative writing teacher in high school, Sharon Griffin, for encouraging me to follow my passion.