His eyebrow lifted. "Attraction."

Her mock confusion died and she glared at him. "Get serious. He's unconscious and he bit me."

"He marked you."

She didn't like this conversation, didn't like where it was leading. "Okay, I'm going home now. And I think you should get out of here. Take a break, maybe get some sleep."

But Brodan's eyes continued to track her. "Maybe."

Petra glanced at the male one last time before she rushed out the door, ripping off her bandage as she headed down the hallway.

Marked her.

Brodan was acting like a jealous male instead of a concerned doctor. It was a bite, a moment of madness, nothing more, she assured herself as she brushed her thumb against the skin of her wrist. A soft gasp of shock escaped her as she felt only smooth, unharmed skin.

Her gaze dropped. The bite marks had already healed.

* * *

Within the rainforest community there were four factions, all existing together: the Avians, the Mountain Beasts, the Land Dwellers, and the Water Lords. Petra worked within all four and had grown quite close with certain families. It was a strange closeness, as each faction tended to work, hunt and breed with its own kind. Of course, there was a common bond being Shifters, and much was traded and shared between them, but the factions couldn't help but form their own tight communities.

* * *

Petra's family-her pride-were Land Dwellers. They lived in a sprawling one-story home with six bedrooms and a grass roof on a stretch of flat land near the river. It was the largest dwelling in the area, as her father and two brothers were the law enforcement.

"I was starting to get worried about you."

Petra's mother, Wen, stood in the doorway, her blond hair loose to her ankles, her blue eyes concerned, but her broad smile happy.

"Nothing to worry about, Mom," she said, passing through the door and into the hallway where she dropped her bag on a chair.

Wen followed her into the kitchen. "Okay, I'm sorry for pushing and prying, but you said you'd be here an hour ago." She rounded on Petra and gave her a wicked smile across the cutting table. "Please tell me it was a male."

Oh, it was a male all right.

There wasn't much she kept from her mother and closest friend. Besides the grand secret of her non-Shifter lineage, there were the small crushes she'd had and the danger she sometimes faced at work. But mostly, she liked to share her day-to-day life events with the female. This, however, seemed different. Problematic. Telling her mother, her family, about the male she'd rescued from the sun, the male who had no heartbeat like her, and the male who had bitten her . . . well, it seemed like a bad idea.

She gripped the table, still feeling shaken up inside. The last thing she wanted was for her family to know all that had gone down at the clinic and all she was feeling regarding the male's physicality and behavior. If they did, they'd make damn sure she didn't see him ever again.

"I was with Brodan," she said simply, truthfully.

Shit. Brodan . . . She was going to have to intercept him. If he came to the house tonight he might very well say something he shouldn't.

Her mother's smile brightened as it always did when Brodan was mentioned. "A good male, handsome too." She shrugged demurely. "Your father and brothers would approve. And I suppose I can forgive him for being a bear Shifter if you really care for him."

"Thanks, Mom." She leaned across the table and kissed the female's cheek. "That's really generous of you."

Wen laughed, showing off her brilliantly white teeth. "Help me set the table, Pets? Your father's off dealing with some infraction with the Avians, but your brothers will be home soon."

Soon? How about now? Petra grinned as she heard movement outside the house. "Did you have to invite the boys to lunch? They'll eat everything in sight. And their table manners. Disgusting. Like animals."

"No," her mother corrected. "Like lions, dear."

Two raucous roars followed those words, and Petra turned to the open doorway with a mock scowl. Lions crowded the wide archway. Two massive, beautiful creatures stood with manes as gold as the sky at day's end and eyes as black as the ashes in the fireplace to their right.

"Lions eat with far finer grace," Petra said, her eyes flashing, her mouth twitching. "I would say you two should've been pig Shifters."

Behind her, their mother's tinkling laughter filled the air, and Petra couldn't help but join in. She watched as the lions shifted back to males. Gorgeous blond, blue-eyed, tall as trees, smirking like cats, males. They grabbed jeans from the hooks on the wall and yanked them on.

Petra rushed at them and let each one lift her high in the air, then toss her to the other. It was their ritual, had been since they were young, as were all the good-natured insults.

But today, for some reason, Sasha appeared surly as he placed her back down on the ground. In fact, he growled at her, his eyes narrowing.

"What's with you?" Petra asked. "Did the lioness down on River Three dump you again? I swear I told you to stop using that hideous scent."

"It's not my scent that's the problem today," Sasha returned, his nostrils twitching in her direction. "What the hell is that?"

Petra went instantly on high alert. "What?"

"Yes, I scent it too," said Valentin, inspecting her with his gaze, his own nostrils flaring. "Are you bleeding?"