Category Archives: Paranormal Romance

Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs


ORDER A COPY: Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson

Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publishing Date: September 2, 2014
Paperback: 450 pages
Narrators: Lorelei King and Alexander Cendese

Rating: 5 stars


Shifting Shadows is a collection of short stories from the World of Mercy Thompson. Some feature Mercy and her friends and some do not. Patricia Briggs has a wonderful storyteller and she has created an interesting world of Urban Fantasy. These stories give you a taste of her Mercy Thompson series, as well as several stories that don’t feature characters from her Mercy Thompson series so you can simply enjoy the stories and see if Patricia Briggs is for you.


The Mercy Thompson series are told in the first person by Mercy. A few of these stories are fill in scenes from her books that didn’t fit since there were told by Mercy. So it gives you extras views but it will give spoilers if you haven’t reached those stories yet.

We also get to spend time with Warren and Kyle as well as Ben.  It is nice to get a little deeper into these characters. Ben is challenged to not swear for a month and it is quite entertaining to see him almost struggle to speak without his expletives.  There is a back story on Samuel and Ariana.

As you can probably guess, Alpha and Omega is the novella which began the Alpha and Omega spinoff series.  We never spent much time with Charles in any of Mercy’s book but we kind of knew him as Bran’s scary powerful and unsocial son.  I hadn’t jumped on his spin off but now I have picked up the first three audiobooks in this series and am looking forward to those.

The remaining stories involve vampires, ghosts, witches and fae which will all follow the world building rules which is presented in the Mercy Thompson series.  These were all very entertaining stories.  It reminded me of Stephen King novels when he would give you a full back story on a character who was just crossing the street (and about to be killed), but by the time King killed off the guy, you were so intrigued and invested in this guy you were sad he died.   I enjoyed these little peeks in the windows of others who live in Mercy’s world.

I found it interesting that Patricia Briggs gives a brief description of what prompted the story or what guidelines she was presented in the previously published stories. For example, for the story Gray , she needed to write a story featuring a color and a holiday. It is interesting the stories that are created for the different anthologies that these stories were originally part of.

THOUGHTS:
I am a big fan of Patricia Briggs’ writing and Mercy Thompson and friends. So I enjoyed all the stories presented in this collection. If you are looking for a new paranormal/urban fantasy author, this would be a great way to check out Patricia’s work without making the full commitment to an entire series.

I have listened to this entire series by audiobook. Lorelei King brings Mercy and the gang to life for me.  She has a very natural narration style and gives voice to a cast of characters.  This was my first time listening to Alexander Cendese, but I thought he did a wonderful job narrating for Samuel and for David.

Received a review audiobook from Brilliance audio in exchange for an honest review.


 

Previously Published Stories

  • Alpha and Omega The first novella about Anna and Charles, which led to a whole spin-off series.
  • Gray An vampire buys the home where she lived with her husband, which has fallen into disrespair. She begins remodeling the place, only to find that old and beloved ghosts still linger.
  • Fairy Gifts Mining towns are rough and human life is cheap. In the turn-of-the-century Butte Montana, a young man, turned to a vampire, struggles with his nature and eventually finds a measure of redemption in an unlikely place.
  • Seeing Eye White witches are rare, and seldom as powerful as their morally-compromised counterparts. In this story, a blind witch teams up with a werewolf on a mission.
  • The Star of David Being a werewolf can wreck havoc on family relations. This is a story of how murder and deception can bring a family together . . .
  • In Red, with Pearls Warren is a werewolf, and a private detective. This is a noir-flavored story about some truly terrible neighbors and why you should always treat a werewolf nicely.

New Stories

  • Silver This is probably the only depressing story I’ve ever written, and it was a hard story to write. This covers how Bran and Samuel were first made into werewolves, and how Samuel first fell in love with the Ariana. Of course, as we learned in Silver Borne, things have to take a tragic turn.
  • Outtake One After the tragedy of Silver, I had to remind myself that with long life comes the opportunity to overcome the past, and forge a better future. Samuel and Ariana have another chance at love, and they’re determined to make it work. This is an outtake from Silver Borne
  • Roses in Winter A young girl survives a werewolf attack, and is transformed into a werewolf. When she wasn’t able to control the wolf, she was moved to Bran’s pack. The law is absolute: if a werewolf cannot learn to control the wolf, they must be destroyed for the safety of all. With hope fading, Asil intervenes.
  • Redemption Ben’s got a quick temper, and a quicker tongue. He’s also made a bet that he can stop swearing for a week, and it just might change his life.
  • Hollow A wealthy recluse is haunted by a terrible ghost, and asks Mercy for help. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Outtake Two A bit that I wrote in Adam’s viewpoint for Night Broken.

Favorite Scene:

This is from Alpha and Omega:

“I think maybe you are the key to Leo’s mystery.”

She couldn’t help a snort of derision. “Me? Leo needed a new doormat?”

He leaned suddenly forward, knocking his chair over as he swept her off of her own and stood her on her feet. She’d thought she was used to the speed and strength of the wolves, but he stole her breath.

As she stood still and shocked, he prowled around her until he came back around the front and kissed her, a long, dark, deep kiss that left her breathless for another reason entirely.

“Leo found you and decided that he needed you,” he told her. “He sent Justin after you, because any of his other wolves would know what you were. Even before your Change, they’d have known. So he sent a half-crazy wolf because any other would have been unable to attack you.”

Hurt, she flinched away from him. He made her sound special, but she knew he was lying. He sounded like he was telling the truth, but she was no prize. She was nothing. For three years she had been nothing. He made her feel special today, but she knew better.

His hands, when they came down on her shoulders, were hard and impossible to resist. “Let me tell you something about Omega wolves, Anna. Look at me.”

She blinked back tears, and, unable to resist his command, raised her eyes to glare at him.

“Almost unique,” he said and gave her a little shake. “I work with numbers and percentages all the time, Anna. I might not be able to figure the odds exactly, but I’ll tell you that the chances that Justin picked you out to Change by sheer chance are almost infinitesimal. No werewolf, acting on instincts alone, would attack an Omega. And Justin strikes me as a wolf who acts on very little else.”

“Why no? Why wouldn’t he have attacked me? And what is an Omega?”

It was evidently the right question because Charles stilled, his former agitation gone. “You are an Omega, Anna. I bet that when you walk into a room, people come to you. I bet complete strangers tell you things they wouldn’t tell their own mothers.”

Incredulous, she stared at him. “You saw Justin this morning. Did he look calm to you?”

“I saw Justin,” he agreed slowly. “And I think that in any other pack he would have been killed shortly after he was made because his control is not good enough. I don’t know why he was not. But I think you allow him to control his wolf—and he hates you for it. You should not be ranked last in your pack.” His hands slid down her shoulders until he held her hands. Oddly that felt more intimate than his kiss had. “An Omega wolf is like the Indian medicine men, outside of the normal pack rankings. They had to teach you to lower your eyes, didn’t they?  To submissive wolves, such things are instinctive. You, they had to beat down. You bring peace to all those around you, Anna,” he said intently, his eyes on her. “A werewolf, especially a dominant wolf, is always on the edge of violence. After being shut in an aircraft with too many people for hours, I came into the airport craving bloodshed like a junkie craves his next fix. But when you came up to me, the anger, the hunger left.”

He squeezed her hands. “You are a gift, Anna. An Omega wolf in the pack means that more wolves survive the Change from human to wolf because they can find control easier with you there. It means that we lose fewer males to stupid dominance fights because an Omega brings a calmness to all those around him. Or her.”

There was a hole in his argument. “But what about earlier, when you almost changed because you were so angry.”

Something happened to his face, an emotion she didn’t know him well enough to read, except to know that it was strong.

When he spoke it was with the visible effort, as if his throat had tightened. “Most werewolves find someone they love, get married, and spend a long time with their spouse before the wolf accepts her as his mate.” He dropped her gaze and turned away, walking across the room and giving her his back.

Without the warmth of his body, she felt cold and alone. Scared.

“Sometimes it doesn’t happen that way,” he told the wall. “Let it rest there for now, Anna. You have been through enough without this.”

“I am so tired of being ignorant,” she spat, suddenly hugely angry. “You’ve changed all the rules on me—so you can damned well tell me what the new rules are.” As abruptly as the anger had come, it was gone, leaving her shaky and on the verge of tears.

He turned and his eyes had gone gold, reflecting the dim light of the room until they glowed. “Fine. You should have let it be, but you want truth.” His voice rumbled like thunder, though it wasn’t very loud. “My Brother Wolf has taken you for his mate. Even if you were nothing to me, I would have never allowed such abuse as you have suffered since your Change. But you are mine, and the though of you hurt, of being able to do nothing about it, is an anger that even an Omega wolf cannot easily soothe.”

Chained by Night by Larissa Ione

ORDER A COPY: Chained by Night (Moonbound Clan Vampires)

Publisher: Pocket Books
Publishing Date: September 30, 2014
Paperback: 400 pages

Rating: 5 stars


Wow. Wow. Wow. Larissa Ione kicks up the excitement in Book 2. Hunter has to make a choice – marry one twin and bring peace with ShadowSpawn or marry the twin he wants and kick off an all out war with a larger and more brutal Clan.   But first he has to break an ancient agreement with a demon.   He has to pick one twin to take with him on a trial through Hell or give up his first born child.  Chose the wrong twin and he’ll never make it out alive.


At the end of Bound by Night, Hunter makes a deal with the barbaric leader of ShadowSpawn in order to save Riker’s mate, Nicole. He agreed to mate with Kars’s oldest daughter, Rasha. Rasha is a warrior in her own right. Growing up in ShadowSpawn’s more vicious camp where disagreements were settled by bloody battles where the victor is in the right, she has always had to prove her value to the Clan. Rasha doesn’t approve of Hunter’s more lax leadership which allows learning, playing, and for injured Clan members to sit and eat amongst the strong warriors, even though one of those injured is her own sister who was born with a deformed leg. Rasha plans to make changes once she becomes Hunter’s mate and one of those changes might just be a change of leadership.

Hunter’s head is spinning with all the problems laid at his feet right now. For the good of the Clan he will mate with Rasha, even if he can’t stand the sight of her. Well, actually it’s not really the sight of her that is the problem, is it? Hunter can’t stop lusting over her identical twin sister, Aylin.  For a brief moment, Hunter believes that his future might not be so bleak when he mistakes Aylin for Rasha and a kiss turns toward passion. At least until they both realize the error.  Now they know what they want and what they can’t have. Aylin is everything her sister is not: sweet, caring, thoughtful, intelligent, but with a bad leg she is considered worthless in her father’s camp of warriors.

Before any mating can happen, Hunter and Rasha have a task they must perform. Vampires did not come to be as legend has always told. The story of the raven and the crow mixing their blood with the blood of two fallen Chiefs is a myth and the modern day rumor about a virus creating vampires is also wrong. The original vampires made a deal with the demon Samnult for strength to fight their enemies and they promised their first born child as well as the first born of the first generation of vampires as payment. As a first generation, Hunter will be expected to give up his first born to Sumnult and Hunter will do whatever is required to break that contract. Samnult has agreed if Hunter brings his intended to complete a series of tasks, and if they both survive, they can keep their first child. Hunter’s best scene was at the end of Book 1 when he contacts Samnult and tells him that Hunter will do whatever is necessary to break the contract. Samnult says What if I tell you to blow me? and Hunter drops to his knees and says I’m gonna get very drunk when it’s over, but I said I would do whatever it took. The demon was actually frazzled by Hunter’s willingness to do whatever was necessary to keep his child, something no other vampire was willing to do.  Samnult obviously did not accept the blow job in favor of the more exciting trial storyline.

Rasha refuses to risk her own life and is willing to let the demon have her first born. Both Hunter and Aylin are disgusted with her behavior and because Aylin is an identical twin, Samnult allows her to go in her sister’s place. And we’re barely a third into the book. Obviously they survive the quest, or do they? Samnult offers Aylin a deal asking her to make an ultimate sacrifice for Hunter and her sister so they win the quest, and of course she agrees.

They might have won the trials, but it has also strengthened the bond between Hunter and Aylin. Not only does Hunter not get to mate Aylin, but after his mating ceremony to Rasha, Aylin will be sent to mate a vampire more vicious than her father who has a harem of wives. Hunter is in a frenzy and the only way to save Aylin would be for her to lose her virginity…and Hunter will need to chose one of his own men to do it.

Except it might not be so easy after all. Samnult has gifted Aylin with something very special for her sacrifice and now both her father and her intended are knocking on the door to take Aylin away. So the questions we need answered are:  How can Hunter mate Aylin instead of Rasha without causing a war that MoonBound Clan will doubtless lose? Who is giving information to ShadowSpawn about MoonBound business? And what the heck is Samnult doing with all those first borns?

THOUGHTS:
This book was really exciting and kept me on the edge of my seat.  It was the age old romance storyline between sacrifice and want.  Hunter wants Aylin but he needs to sacrifice for his Clan and mate Rasha.

First of all, I couldn’t tell what we were supposed to be feeling about Rasha. Oh, we hated Rasha and we don’t trust her, but every once in a while she would be so nice to Aylin and you would start to think, maybe she’s not all bad. Then she would do something else awful and it was no question, she’s a bitch! But I just couldn’t figure out how Hunter was going to possibly get out of mating Rasha so he could mate Aylin instead, because obviously we all wanted Aylin.

The first half of the book was the quest and leading up to the quest which was all very tension filled, and after that was introducing BitchyPoo and Aylin to the MoonBound Clan and everyone’s reactions. The buzz between Hunter and Aylin kept intensifying and he kept wanting to pull away for the good of the Clan and the quest gave Aylin a boost of confidence that she has never had before to stand up to Hunter’s torment of I want you but I can’t have you which made him even crazier about her than before. Aylin was an incredible heroine at the start of the book and the fact that she was so selfless as to sacrifice her own dreams for Hunter (and her bitch sister) just makes her stand out as extraordinary.

This story was sensational. I couldn’t put it down and the fact that I couldn’t figure a way for them to be together was making me crazy.

I highly recommend grabbing a copy of this and Bound by Night. I had a Twitter conversation with Larissa Ione over the star of the next book who will be…wait for it…<strong>Myne</strong> (Yay!) and you’ll never guess who his lady love will be.  (Not Rasha thank God!)  I will be looking forward to Myne’s story next year.

Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Favorite Scene:

The scene I wanted to share gave away too much information, so you get the next best. :)

“Do you know what kind of alliances your father has made with other clans recently?”

“No why?”

“I think he’s up to something. He might be trying to unite the clans.”

“Wouldn’t that be a good thing? Samnult said war with the humans was coming.”

“Uniting the clans is vital if we want to save ourselves from extinction. But your father wants more than allied clans. He wants the allied clans under his control.”

“Like a king? That’s crazy.” But was it really? Kars had always been power-hungry, and she’d often wondered why he spent so much time digging into the affairs of rival clans. “You know, now that I think about it…remember I told you about the competitions ShadowSpawn has been holding? We’ve had more than usual, and clans have been coming from farther away than ever before. JaggedSky from Montana and BoneSworn from New Mexico. They’d never been to one of my father’s competitions before, but they’ve both been twice in the last three years. He’s even arrange for truces with sworn enemies. Like you.”

“Damn,” Hunter breathed.

For some reason, she pictured him saying the same thing, just as softly, against the skin of her throat. Her breasts. Her inner thighs.

As if he knew, his dark gaze sparked. He swore again and inhaled raggedly. “You okay? How have you been?”

“Do you really want to chitchat?”

A low, pumping growl vibrated the air and rumbled through her in an erotic wave. “What I want to do is strip you, throw you onto the counter, spread you thighs, and lick you until you scream. That’s what I want to do. I want to be the male who takes you for the first time. And every time after that. The thought of you being with someone else tonight is killing me, to the point where I’m tempted to have Riker lock me up so I don’t do something stupid. I don’t understand it, and frankly, it’s pissing me off. But there it is.”

His stark, raw honesty stole her breath. She wanted all of that too, could relate to everything he’d said. Here he was in front of her, and she couldn’t have him. And in this moment, she was ashamed to admit that if he offered her even the smallest scrap of his attention, she’d take it. Without thinking, she reached for him, but he stepped back with a hiss, his massive fangs bared.

“If you touch me, I’m lost.” His big body trembled as he continued backing up. He took panting breaths and his eyes were as wild as a cornered cougar’s. “I…have to go.”

“Hunter, wait.” She moved toward him. He stopped, and she had a feeling he was fighting a battle with himself deep inside. Good. Now he knew how she felt every time she saw him. “Don’t have sex with her. Not tonight.”

He barked out a laugh. “Really? Just yesterday you told me to get it over with. Now you get jealous?”

“This isn’t about jealousy,” she said. Okay, it was, but there was also the fact that Rasha mentioned getting pregnant. “You can’t…” You can’t trust Rasha.  Aylin didn’t say it.  She couldn’t.  As true as it was, she would sell out her sister like that.

“Can’t what?”

Aylin closed her lids. “Nothing. Just trust your instincts.”

“I got news for you,” he said roughly.  “I can’t trust myself right now.”

He took off in a rush, and something told her he was heading straight for Rasha.

Hunter had always been one to play with fire, had never minded the burns. But Aylin burned hotter than any flame, and if he hadn’t left when he did, he’d have turned to ash.

Holy Spirit, she tested his self-control. Samnult’s trials were a piece of cake compared with the challenge of keeping his hands off Aylin.

Stone Cold Lover by Christine Warren

ORDER A COPY: Stone Cold Lover (Gargoyles Series)

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publishing Date: August 26, 2014
Paperback: 336 pages

Rating: 4 stars


Stone Cold Lover had a much more interesting story plot than the first book in the series, Heart of Stone, but so far the overall series plotline isn’t exciting enough to warrant my going out of the way to follow it. I didn’t grab a copy of this book until I was asked to do a First Look for Heroes&Heartbreakers. I am certain there will be big epic battle at the end of the series after all of the guardians are awoken, but seven semi-interesting stories to get to one epic battle is more of a commitment than I want to make on this series.


Felicity Shaltis thinks she is just doing a favor for her college friend, Ella Harrow. She doesn’t realize yet how looking for a gargoyle statute is going to change her life forever.

Fil can’t blame her new obsession with the unbelievably hot statue on Ella either. Ella just asked Fil to find the statue, not to have a burning need to touch it and she certainly didn’t ask Fil to break in to the monastery in the middle of the night so she can see it again. Maybe if she gets arrested for the B&E she they’ll get her some therapy for her crazy behavior. But Fil isn’t the only one creeping around in the dark. The nocturnis have also found the Guardian and plan to blow up the statue while the Guardian is helpless.

While protecting the statue (by hiding behind it) Fil is hit by a bolt of magic from the creep in robe just before the Guardian is roused from his slumber and creepy nocturnis guy blows himself up. The next question is who is more confused Fil looking at the gorgeous, half-naked man that used to be a statue or Spar who is suddenly out of his slumber with no Warden around to wake him.

Using her iphone, Fil gets Ella on facetime who explains to Fil and Spar about what she and Kees have learned so far about the missing Guardians, Wardens and the nocturnis’s evil plot to destroy the sleeping Guardians so evil can win. I find it ironic that a guy named Spar has a problem with the name Fil. His feeling is Fil isn’t feminine enough, but the last time Spar was awake Gertrude, Agnes and Winifred were the popular girl names. No offense meant Gertrude, Agnes and Winifred! I’m just saying it was an odd thing for him to be so upset about.  Dude, your name is Spar. Don’t judge.

Fil and Spar take up the task of finding Wardens in hiding on their side of Canada.   Once they find one, they just missed him (he saw them coming) but he leaves a present of information that directs them toward their next task and the next missing Guardian.

They are also trying to locate a witch or someone with enough magic to help remove the spell put on Fil by Creepy Nocturnis Guy who apparently put the equivalent of a GPS cow brand on Fil marking her as dinner for one of the demons when it arises.

THOUGHTS:
The marking of Fil which attracts all the bad guys added more of an interest to this plot, but overall I haven’t  found enough romance or interesting plots in the first two books to be all that exciting a series. If we have to wake all seven Guardians by using the same plot of women who all have just enough of a magic to do it without actually being a Warden and who will all be the great love of the Guardian’s long, long life, before we can do more than just drive around looking for Wardens in hiding, then I’m out!

Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Favorite Scene:

“Spar, my getting hurt wasn’t your fault,” she told him after a minute of uncomfortable silence. “You realize that, right? I mean, you can’t keep your eyes on me twenty-four seven, no matter what you feel your duty is. I just went into another room. You were only a few steps away, and when I got hurt, you were right there to keep it from being any worse. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

He grunted and reached for her left hand. “I have done nothing right from the moment I awoke. If I had, this would not be here.”

He traced a finger over her palm, following the lines of the demon’s mark. Fil followed his gaze and choked on a gasp. The reddened henna-like lines of the mark had darkened again, now appearing a dark, dark brown, almost black, with a charred look on the outer edges. It no longer pained her, she realized but it was starting to freak her the hell out.

“What’s going on, Spar?” she demanded in a whisper that threatened to break into jagged pieces. “It’s getting worse. Why is it doing that?”

“It is the way of the mark. I had hoped I was wrong, that it hadn’t fully settled on you.” He looked up at her, pinning her with his gaze. “The mark is attempting to claim you.”

“Claim me?” She choked on the words, and a sense of foreboding swept through her. “What the hell does that mean?”

Spar grasped her other hand and tugged her closer. His knees closed around her, but instead of making her feel trapped the pressure comforted her on a visceral level. Without Fil realizing it, in the past twenty-four hours, this man had become a safe haven for her. Somehow that frightened her almost more than everything else put together.

“Listen to me,” he said, squeezing her hands to focus her attention back on him. He waited for her to take a shaky breath before he continued. “I want you to understand that I will protect you from this moment forward. I will allow no other enemy to touch you, no other harm to come your way, and we will find a way to remove the mark.  I swear this to you.”

“Okay, I know you’re trying to reassure me, Spar, but you’re just kinda freaking me out even worse.  What the hell is up wit this mark thing? Why is it changing?”

“The mark was placed on you to try to claim you in the name of Uhlthor, one of the Seven. By placing his symbol in your skin, the nocturnis hoped for one of two outcomes: either you would become an offering for the demon to feast upon, or you would surrender yourself to his power and become another of his army of minions.”

A hysterical laugh bubbled out of her chest. “Uh, neither of those options really works for me, you know?”

High Moon by Jennifer Harlow

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ORDER A COPY: High Moon (A F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Investigation Series) (Volume 4)

Publisher: Midnight Ink
Publishing Date: September 16, 2014
eBook: 234 pages

Rating: 4 stars=story – 1 star=series ending


This was a great series with an adorable, self-deprecating heroine and her two very interesting love interests. A big part of the fun was the flirty banter between Beatrice and (vampire) Oliver, while Beatrice chased after serious and sexy team leader (werewolf) Will. Unfortunately, once Beatrice finally catches Will, we lose all the Oliver banter while Oliver sulks in the corner. Beatrice also learns that there are some serious issues to deal with once you catch your man who has his own PMS from hell every full moon.


Beatrice is a woman who knows what she wants and for the last year, she has wanted the love of her F.R.E.A.K.S. team leader, werewolf William Price. She doesn’t care that he gets furry and chases his tail once a month. She has their future children already named, she just needs Will to acknowledge his own feelings for Beatrice. The few kisses they have exchanged tell her that Will isn’t as immune to her as he tries to make her believe. But no matter what she does, Will keeps pushing her away. Yet a slipped “I love you” will bring about a change to her future that she might not have been as ready for as she thought she was.

Not everyone is happy for Willitrice. The team is once again fracturing over what their new relationship will mean to the team. The biggest casualty to this new romance is Beatrice’s friendship with partner and BFF, vampire Oliver Montrose. Oliver and Will have been enemies and reluctant teammates for decades, but their animosity to each other exploded over their mutual feelings for Beatrice. Oliver was aware that Beatrice was in love with Will. She cried on his shoulder many a night over Will. But watching her unrequited mooning is different than watching the smooching lovers.  Knowing he lost her to a man whose “condition” could cause Beatrice to be ripped to shreds if they aren’t careful is making him act irrationally.

In between kissing Will and arguing with Oliver, Beatrice and the team are still on duty. Their latest case takes them to the woods of Appalachia Summit State Park in North Carolina. Part of a leg is found by hikers, but where is the rest of the body? When evidence shows several werewolves hunting in the woods, the team knows that are trying to find a sadistic pack hunting humans for sport. It also looks like this pack is being lead by a female werewolf who is using magic to keep her pack in an perpetual state of lust for her.

Local packmasters join the hunt for the rogues and we can add them to the list of those who are not happy to find Will cavorting with a Beatrice. Bea is having a hard enough time dealing with the fact that her dream relationship with Will is suddenly speeding ahead faster than a two-man luge and it seems no one is in their corner.  Although to be fair she does have to admit that she and Will have been a bit…distracted on this latest case and maybe they aren’t being fair to the rest of the team.

It seems that finally getting the man of her dreams might be the worst thing that has ever happened to Beatrice. Now that she has him, will she have to give him up in the name of public safety?

THOUGHTS:
My inner girly-girl was squealing with joy when we finally get Will to admit his feelings for Beatrice. Between being down about himself about being a real monster…a deadly werewolf, and the fact that he was not able to save his wife when they were attacked all those years ago, Will is always carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. If it was up to him, he would continue to live in a constant state of self-punishment. But we knew that there was a buzz in the air from the moment he met Beatrice, and that any anger toward Beatrice was focused more on her relationship with Oliver, especially when he thought that they were sleeping together. So after Book 3 when Beatrice told him she would get him to admit his feelings for her, I waited on pins and needles not sure if there would be a Book 4 or if Jennifer Harlow was ending the series as a trilogy and leaving us hanging.

There is part of me that now wishes she has left us with the three book series imaging what would happen upon Beatrice’s return. You will note that although I gave the story a 4 star rating, I gave the series ending only 1. The investigation and story were as good as her other books. It was odd to read big, strong, dangerous Will Price texting “Love U. Love U. Love U.” messages. I think I would have lost all respect if there was a “Shmoopsie” in there.

I like that Bea was the one to finally watch over the caged Will while he changed to werewolf at the next full moon. We finally got to see the change happen.  Everything went as I imagined it would, including Will’s freak out when an angry Oliver (his nemesis) shows up to confront Bea when he finally learns that Will and Beatrice became a couple while he was in his death sleep.

Investigation aside, what was really missing in the story was the great rapport between Bea and Oliver. Oliver freaks out that he lost Beatrice to Will and becomes the psycho vampire everyone has been warning her about since she got there in Book 1. Beatrice is the only person Oliver has cared about since…ever. He behaves very badly upon learning the news and Beatrice refuses to speak to Oliver until he can apologize and be happy for them. So instead of the usual fun, flirty banter, we barely hear from Oliver at all unless his is yelling and pointing out how dangerous it is for Beatrice to be with a werewolf. I missed Oliver. I missed Oliver/Beatrice a lot.

I gave the series ending a 1 simply because I have never been so upset and absolutely angry finishing a story before in my life. I was going to let a friend borrow my Nook on her vacation because she too is a big fan of the series. I texted her as soon as I finished and told her I would not allow her to read it until she returned so she would not ruin her vacation.

After she finally read it she texted me this:

the book was  :D then it went to  :) to  :| to   :(    to  :'( :'( :'(

I always enjoyed this series as a fun and entertaining series. Beatrice is very self-deprecating and Oliver is flirty and charming. Even the serious Will you knew was grumpy because he wanted Beatrice but had his “woe is the werewolf” thing going. There are some paranormals and Urban Fantasies that you know take themselves very seriously, for example, The Black Dagger Brotherhood and Mercy Thompson. Maybe the author always intended her series to be dark, but I couldn’t help but enjoy the fun parts of the series. The ending was so dark and awful I am still angry about it a month later. I tried to re-read one of the prior stories just to enjoy the camaraderie but it was so tainted by the ending, I couldn’t continue.

There is no doubt in my mind that the author was simply done with this series.  I am so sorry she felt that way. I would have read these stories for several more years and enjoyed the characters she created. I truly wish I had a talent for writing. I would hit the fan fiction sites and carry on writing my own saga of the F.R.E.A.K.S.

We don’t know why an author chooses how their characters will react, but even if Jennifer Harlow wanted to walk away from the F.R.E.A.K.S., she didn’t need to be so gruesome. I could think of several different endings which could have left us maybe without a perfect Hollywood happy ending or simply one open to use our own imagination.

For paranormal lovers, I would still highly recommend the first three books in this series. As far as High Moon, you will have to read it at your own risk.

Received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.


Favorite Scene:

Watching the man you love suck face with a gorgeous woman is not the best way to start a birthday. Welcome to my world.

He sits at a back booth, lips and every other body part pressed against that succubus, appearing to love every second and caress, the rat bastard. And how can he not be? The evil slut queen of doom has everything I don’t. Long, straight hay-colored hair, big blue eyes, big breasts, long lean legs, tight body all encased in a skintight black dress clinging to her perfect curves that only a plastic surgeon could ever recreate on me. I’ve envied women like her all my life, and now that succubus has my future husband in her enticing clutches. Literally. An actual succubus is clutching his soft brown hair and kissing him as if her life depended on it. Which I guess it does—as she feeds off sexual energy to live—but still. Does he have to frigging enjoy the whole experience so much?

Howdy. The jealous, insecure, emotional wreck before you is Special Agent Beatrice Alexander of the covert branch of the FBI known to the underworld as the F.R.E.A.K.S. We fight the monsters under your bed: the vampires, the ghosts, and the soon to be decapitated succubi of the world. Those terrors in horror movies? Real. Trolls, zombies, even giant snakes. Killed them all so the citizens of American can go about their normal lives. Why am I so lucky? Because technically I’m one of them. I can move anything with my mind. It’s called tele or psychokinesis. I can carry in groceries or stop hearts without lifting a finger. And let me say doing the latter is mighty tempting right about now.

The man having his tonsils examined by the succubus is my teammate Special Agent Will Price. He’s technically a monster too, at least once a month. He’s a werewolf, not that I hold that against him. After all us freaks can’t help who or what we are. We’re actually a lot alike everyone else. Though Will did literally eat my last boyfriend. The psycho was trying to kill me at the time, so I gave Will a pass on that. But this…

Will shifts in his seat to get closer to her. They haven’t broken apart in over forty-seven seconds. Forty-seven! He’s kissed her longer than he’s ever kissed me all three times combined. I don’t care that she’s more or less bewitched him. I don’t care that its all for a case. My hands ball into fists, fingers digging so deep in my own flesh it hurts. A cool hand touches mine. I look away from this nauseating PDA toward the hand’s owner. My friend, the delectable Oliver Montrose gazes at me, his gray eyes warning me not to put into action what I’ve been contemplating. Namely storming over there and cold cocking that female dog with the butt of my Glock. Though she so deserves it. In Virginia Beach alone she’d been linked to two deaths. Two young seamen were found naked and dead in their own beds of apparent heart attacks after going home from a club with a hot blonde. Who knows how many others she’d sucked dry over the years?

For those not in the monster killer business, a succubus is a woman who Hoovers up the life-force from her lovers, much like a vampire feeds off blood. Now, I don’t begrudge a life form getting whatever they need to live. I watch Animal Planet. Sometimes it’s kill or be killed. But a succubus doesn’t need to kill anymore than a vampire does. A little can go a long way. Some people are just evil. And right now evil has Will in a head lock.

“Whatever course of action you are contemplating inside that beautiful head of years, I suggest you forget it post haste,” my vampire friend warns. His hand remains heavy on mine, a reminder about restraint. We don’t want to blow our cover. While Will plays doctor, Oliver and I sit at the bar, just another couple enjoying the Virginia nightlife. A few stools down, Agents Rushmore and Wolfe, in their chic Ralph Lauren polo shirts and buzz cuts, nurse ginger ales, and keep their eyes locked on the same booth. Chandler is lucky enough to be out in the parking lot waiting for the signal to take her down. Darn you, innocent bystanders. Darn you.

Lord, I hate clubs. They’re loud, crowded, expensive and filled with hormone crazed men and women with no sense of shame or decorum. I’ve lost count of how many strange crotches have rubbed up against my backside while “dancing.” I’d only been a handful of times before I joined the F.R.E.A.K.S., and now it seems as if I live in one. Why preternaturals feel so at home in these places is beyond me. I guess to them it’s nothing but a smorgasbord. Easy picking. Everyone’s mind is so filled with sex and booze they forget basics like safety and common sense. And now Will has joined their ranks.

“I wasn’t contemplating anything,” I snap, downing my screwdriver. “I’m not bothered by them. Not a bit. It’s work. We’re working. Another drink, please! Now! Now!

“That is not a wise idea, my dear.”

“Wise is so overrated,” I mutter.

I glance back at the couple. Still making out, still…oh, no she isn’t! Her graceful hand slides up Will’s thigh, resting on the bulge in his pants. At first she just traces the outline with her fingertip, and then rubs against him with her whole harlot hand. He doesn’t push it away.

Rage boils over. Involuntarily I leap up, every inch of me tense and ready to rip her shining hair out at the roots. Before I’m totally upright, a hand on my shoulder presses me back into my seat. “No.”

“But she—“

No,” Oliver says as if I’m an ill-behaved dog.

“But he—“

“No.”

Torture.

Son of No One by Sherrilyn Kenyon


ORDER A COPY:

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publishing Date: September 2, 2014
Hardcover: 432 pages

Rating: 3 stars


Absolutely disappointing. For this story Sherrilyn Kenyon chose such an obscure legend to base her story off of that I had a hard time keeping up with all the names and all the bad guys. A boatload of cameo appearances from the series wasn’t enough to make me enjoy this story.


Son of No One is the most recent release by Sherrilyn Kenyon who has given us such wonderful stories in the Dark Hunter/Were Hunter/Dream Hunter series.

We meet Josette Landry who is cousin to the Devereaux clan. She is recently divorced from her cheating husband, who although he is unemployed, managed to walk away with all their money. Her house has been foreclosed and all she has in the world is her beat up 1964 Ford Falcon. She is in New Orleans to live with her cousins until she can find a job and rebuild her life.

Jo and cousin Amanda are the only paranormal skeptics in the clan, but Karma Devereaux has offered her a job as a videographer while they investigate paranormal happenings in some of the local homes. Since they already lost several camera people, the offer is something that the cash strapped Jo can’t refuse.

While setting up in one of the local homes, Jo trips and goes crashing through the large mirror like Alice through the Looking Glass. In this new reality where everything is in black and white, Jo is saved from attack by zombie like creatures by Cadegan

Cadegan Maboddiumun (which translates to “Cadegan Son of No One”) is a demigod/demonkyn since his mother was the goddess Brigid, and his father was the demon Paimon, who is the son of the demon, Noir. (Said like we should know how bad that is.)  In fact this story is chock full of listings of relations. “I’m Talon of the Morrigantes. My wife is the granddaughter of the Mórrígan and the Dagda. We’re cousins.” All I could think of was the Spaceballs speech where Dark Helmet tells Lonestar. spaceballs

At his birth Cadegan is left in a local monastery to be raised in the hopes that he won’t come across evil amongst the brothers. But we know that evil lurks everywhere and even in this tiny monastery, Cadegan was accused of stealing money and was severely punished for it although he wasn’t the thief. One of the Brothers let him take the fall.  Cadegan couldn’t hide in the monastery forever and when war came through their town, twelve-year-old Cadegan was conscripted by the King to join his army. Unaware of his demon side, Cadegan was surprised how well he fought even when no one bothered to train him.

At this point, Cadegan’s brother Leucious finds him and convinces him to come fight with him against the demons. Eventually even Leucious turns on him because he believed that Cade’s demonside was winning out and he condemns him to this limbo world of Terre Derrière le Voile where he is trapped in the mirror. We have been introduced to Leucious in the Hellchasers stories and we know him better as Thorn.

Now when Cade and Jo meet, we have only just started on all the crazy names that we need to know for this story. And by God, everyone has at least one accent over their name so much so that now I want to change my name to Ľűćŷ.  Cade takes Jo home until daylight when it is safer to go out.   In the morning, he tries to return her through the portal and it is closed.  So he goes to the dark wizard Brenin Gwyn ap Nudd to make a deal for the wizard to create a dragon key to the world of men so that Jo can leave before the autumnal equinox when she will be stuck here forever. He can’t go to another of the other named wizards or demons because he trusts them even less than Gwyn even though the price he will need to pay to free Jo is pretty steep.

I thought, “Okay the story will be quest for the items”, not so much.  Overnight the back stabbing has begun and the dark wizard switches Cade and Jo’s bodies, which leads to having sex in each other’s bodies so they know what it feels like for the other.  Ewww. Ewww.  Ewww.  I was a quite uncomfortable about the whole having sex with yourself aspect and felt a little creepy about the whole thing. The point of body switching first includes Gwyn being able to capture Jo as Cadegan since they will torture her for Cadegan’s memories to get the treasure he is protecting. The second point is that Jo’s family with the help of Thorn and Asheron pull Jo from the mirror realm.  Cadegan as Jo goes batshit crazy on Thorn/Leucious until a rescue party is sent back in for Jo.

The remainder of the book includes back and forth trips and rescue parties first to rescue Jo and return her body to her and then to go back to rescue Cadegan who ended up getting left behind, with many, many strange named people popping up who all want to get their hands on Cadegan either to get their hands on the treasure he protects or to turn over Cadegan for the huge bounty that his demon father has placed on his head.

It comes up in the story that Cadegan/Jo’s story mirrors the story of ancient Goddess, Britomartis, cousin of Artemis, who had a magic mirror and saw the Welsh prince and fell in love with him and traveled through the mirror where they lived happily ever after as mortals and that Cadegan and Jo are descendants of the original goddess and Welsh price and are reliving their story.  She screwed up her face in distaste. “Please don’t tell me we’re related. Honey, I ain’t that Southern.”

Thoughts:
I can tell you that after 150 pages I was ready to toss this book and move on but decided to tough it out. The dozen unpronounceable and similar names was making me crazy and the story itself wasn’t all that exciting and it included several sidetrip flashbacks to Cadegan’s youth in the middle of scenes.

I would recommend that even fans of Sherrilyn Kenyon pass this one by and save yourself several hours of disappointment.


Favorite Scene:

“Um, Cade?”

“Aye, lass.”

“How big is this dragon, anyway?”

He paused to consider it. “I’ve only seen him from a distance. When he’s flying in the sky, hunting for prey. But from nip to tail, I’d say about twenty-five to thirty feet.”

“Nip?”

“Mouth.”

“That’s a big-ass dragon. Does he breathe fire?”

“I know naught, but would assume it.”

Great. A giant, fire-breathing dragon. Just what she’d put on her Christmas list.

Never.

Suddenly, Jo realized they weren’t entirely alone in the woods. Trying not to panic or be an alarmist, she reached out quietly and put her hand on Cadegan’s arm. “What would his range be on that fire?”

“No idea, lass, why?”

She held him by her side. “Because I’m looking at him and he doesn’t appear happy that he has guests.

Cadegan froze as her words hit him. The blood drained from his face as he turned to see the dragon crouched low, watching them.

“Nice, draggy, draggy,” Josette breathed in a singsongy tone. “You don’t want to eat the nice people. Do you?” She shook her head. “No, you don’t. We’re not even snack size.”

His jaw dropped. Was she out of her gourd? “What are you doing, lass?”

“Shh,” she snapped. “I’m being a dragon whisperer.”

He was even more aghast at her words. “A what?”

“Dragon whisperer.” She slid her gaze to Cadegan. “I’m assuming that if you fight him, it’s going to be a bloody mess. Right?”

“Probably.”

“Could result in both our guts and entrails flying?”

“Most likely.”

She patted his arm kindly. “Then let’s try my way first. Shall we?”

He snorted at her offer. “I’m not sure I like your way, Josette. It seems even more dangerous than mine.”

She winked at him. “Not sure I like my way, either. Just promise me that if he starts to eat me, you’ll flash us out of here.”

“I shall do me best.”

“Cool, now shush and let me do something galactically stupid.”

Amused and horrified, Cadegan held his breath as he watched her bravely and slowly make her way toward the dragon. He wanted to stop her, but she was right. Battle wouldn’t get them anywhere except wounded for him and probably dead for her.

Jo stopped before she reached the nose of the creature. Swallowing her fear, she knew she had to do this, even though what she really wanted to do was run screaming in the other direction.

“Hi, Mr. Dragon. How are you today? Feeling in a good mood, aren’t you? Yes. Yes, you are. You don’t want to eat people, do you? No. No, people taste icky. They’re sinew and gross. No eat people.” She shook her head to emphasize her words. “You’re gonna be a sweetie, aren’t you?” This time she nodded.

Maybe it was wishful thinking on her part, but the dragon seemed to be scowling at her as if he understood her words yet was baffled by her context. It was an expression she saw often on Cadegan’s face.

She took a step forward.

The dragon actually inched back. he made a strange, rumbling sound. Not quite a growl.

“Shh, it’s okay, Mr. Dragon. We’re not going to hurt you. No. We like dragons. I used to draw you all the time when I was a kid. I did. I had a whole collection of toy dragons. ‘Cause you’re a cutie, you are.”

It cocked its head.

Jo drew up short as she realized one of its wings was on the ground at a weird angle. “You got a boo-boo, Mr. Dragon?”

Cadegan drew closer to her. “Its wing’s broken.” He started to unsheathe his sword.

The dragon turned on him with a hiss.

“No!” she said to both of them. “Cade, keep your sword down.”

“Why? Now’s the time to strike.”

She shook her head. “I think he understands me.”

The dragon turned its head back toward her.

“You do, don’t you?”

He appeared to nod.

She inched closer and closer, until she was able to reach out and touch the gray scales around his nose. Treating him like a dog, she allowed him to smell her skin. “See, I mean you no harm, little big dragon.”

He didn’t move as he eyed her warily. As if he was as suspicious of her as she was of him.

She moved her hand slowly to pet his head, near his ear. “It’s okay.” She cradled its massive head against her chest and stroked his dry, leathery skin. Then she looked over at Cadegan. “See? He’s harmless.”

“I wouldn’t go that far. But I can understand his motivation. I’d be quiet too for a chance to rest me head on your breasts.”

She blushed.

The dragon growled at him.

“Now, boys,” she teased. “Play nice.”

Bound by Night by Larissa Ione


ORDER A COPY: Bound by Night (Moonbound Clan Vampires)

Publisher: Pocket Books
Publishing Date: September 24, 2013
Paperback: 392 pages

Rating: 4 stars


A WOMAN OUT FOR BLOOD

Nicole Martin was only eight years old when the vampire slaves rose up in rebellion and killed her family. Now she devotes her life to finding a vaccine against vampirism, hoping to wipe out her memories—along with every bloodsucker on the planet. But there’s one thing she cannot destroy: her searing, undeniable attraction for the one man she should hate and fear the most . . .

A VAMPIRE OUT FOR REVENGE

A member of the renegade vampire MoonBound Clan, Riker is haunted by demons of his own. When he recognizes Nicole and remembers how her family enslaved his loved ones, his heart burns for vengeance. But when he kidnaps Nicole and holds her in a secret lair, his mortal enemy becomes his soul obsession, his greatest temptation, and, perhaps, his only salvation—a hot-blooded lover who could heal him with her touch . . . or bury him forever.


Once Nicole Martin believed in a fantasy world where the family’s vampire servants enjoyed serving her family. She once believed that her family took care of these vampires who would have lived like animals without her family’s care. She also believed that these vampires would never, ever hurt them. At least she did until the day the vampire slaves at her family’s home rebelled and murdered her parents, and tried to drain her of her blood.

Twenty year later, Nicole has been told she must step into her father’s role and become the new CEO of Daedalus, the largest researcher and supplier of vampire slaves. She has spent her time learning vampire physiology and helping to create cures for human health issues based upon what she learns from her research. She doesn’t wish to become CEO, she would rather remain in her lab and leave the running of the company to her half brother, Charles, but her father’s Will decrees that his legitimate daughter step up and take the reins of the company.

After the night of her attack, Nicole holds no love for the vampires but she would never intentionally harm a living creature. When the vampires in her lab were executed, on a directive signed by Nicole, she knows that someone is setting her up to take a fall, but she doesn’t know who. Before she is able to figure out who is behind the executions, one of her worst nightmares shows up at her front door. Twenty years prior Nicole watched the vampire Riker kill his mate and their unborn child and there was nothing Nicole could do to stop him.

Now Riker has kidnapped Nicole to use as leverage to get Daedalus to return to them a female vampire taken by poachers. This female is a midwife and she belongs to the rival clan, ShadowSpawn. Vampires have a very low birth rate and high mortality rate for their women and children and the MoonBound clan borrowed Neriya’s services. A midwife of Neriya’s talent is very valuable and ShadowSpawn is blaming her loss on MoonBound. If they don’t return her by the full moon there will be a war between the clans.

While under the “care” of MoonBound, Nicole is learning first hand that everything she has ever been told about the vampires is wrong. It is hard to swallow that the vampires that humans have been enslaving all this time aren’t the beasts she was led to believe and knowing that her family and their company has done these people the most wrong is weighing heavily on her soul.   Can she now work against her family’s company to help MoonBound retrieve Neriya before ShadowSpan declares war, and if she does, will anyone trust the help coming from their former enemy?

THOUGHTS:
It took me awhile to get into this story because of the world building. I misinterpreted some of the information on the book jacket. I thought the uprising of the vampires slaves caused the vampires to now be in charge of the world. That is not correct. As a leg up, here is some information: (1) the vampire uprising was not universal. It was only at Nicole’s house and the vampires only killed her parents and their party guests. (2) We never really find out how Nicole survives the attack. (3) Vampires are still used as slaves.  (4) Wild Vampires still survive in clans are in hiding from the human hunters and poachers. (5) Daedalus sells vampire slaves but also buys wild vampires for experimenting on as well as black market purchases for unauthorized experiments.

Once my brain caught up with all of the nuances of this world building, I really got into the story and I liked all the characters introduced along with the main characters of Nicole and Riker.   I liked that Nicole accepted and acknowledged that her family has done wrong  by the vampires and she immediately steps up to do what she can to make things right.  She doesn’t try to defend their actions.  She’s all “what can I do now to make things right.”

I will say that after 20 years of each blaming the other for Riker’s mate’s death, they seem to have had a reasonable discussion about the day of her death and got over their hatred of each other kind of quickly.   This isn’t like the day my husband and I were arguing and the call dropped and we each thought the other was an ass for hanging up.   This was 20 years of “you killed her” and it ends quietly with a “sorry I misunderstood.”  Terese’s ghost does play into the story as a wedge between Nicole and Riker since Nicole’s family holding her as a slave was one of the reasons for her death and Riker feeling guilty for having feelings for Nicole after everything that happened to Terese. (BTW – That is a figurative ghost, but a literal ghost although this is a paranormal.)

You do need have suspend your disbelief a bit to enjoy the series since there are a few issues that at least didn’t make sense to me.  First of all, the vampires clans are threatening war with each other.  Since they are in hiding from humans and the poachers and hunters are always stalking them, it seems stupid to have an all out war–literally outside where all the humans will see them and hear them fighting.  If anyone is left alive after the fight, the humans will have followed all the noise and be standing by ready to grab survivors.   Secondly, each group seems to have created their own underground catacomb system.  While ShadowSpan sleeps on furs on dirty floors and somehow manages to create cells for prisoners, MoonBound has embraced a more modern lifestyle including hardwood flooring, comfy furniture, big screen TVs and laptops??  I don’t get great WiFi out on my back deck, vampires in hiding in caves have cable?   Hunter paused a news conference so unless vampires are stuck with VHS, that means they have DVRs too?  Couldn’t the human just follow the cable connection to their lair  or notice a satellite dish out in the middle of the woods?    Hey, sometimes you just have to roll with it.

I am happy that I have a copy of Chained by Night, which is Book 2, or I would hate the cliffhangerish ending especially since it appears Larissa Ione will only be writing one of these a year.  (UPDATE:  Finished Chained by Night and it’s awesome!)

I felt really bad for Riker’s friend Myne. He’s a huge, tough natural-born vampire. He had been captured and kept as a slave at some point in his life and luckily for him, he was not among the male slaves who are normally castrated, but unluckily for him he was defanged. He now had titanium fangs which is great for warfare, but not so much on the monthly feeding from the females. Understandably his dance card is not full since his bite will hurt–badly.  (I do have a problem with the male/female feeding issue, if you had a chance to read my Black Dagger Brotherhood post.) But at least in this case, the females need to feed on the new moon and the males need to feed on the full moon. Since there isn’t exactly an even ratio of males to females, no one dies if they don’t feed and get their sexual needs met, but it does make for some post-moon cranky vampires. So back to Myne, at one point he is left to look after Nicole for awhile when Riker needs to leave the compound, and poor, lonely Myne realizes how perfect Nicole would be for him as a mate because she is brave, smart, beautiful and caring of others but since its “Bros over Hoes” in vampireworld, he would never make a move on Riker’s woman. It made me sad that this big guy is so lonely and that even if Riker doesn’t claim her as a mate, Myne would never pursue her himself, no matter how much he likes her, out of respect for his friend. :(

I hope Myne gets a book next, but that will be at least a year away. :( :(

It was a slow start but overall a good story and very interesting secondary characters who are introduced and I am looking forward to starting Book 2.

This was my first Larissa Ione story.  I know — WTF? right.   I guess I will have to look into an audiobook catchup of her Demonica series.

Received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Favorite Scene:

This was an interesting scene between Nicole and one of the vampire women after she is taken to the compound and allowed to help out in the lab.

“Whatcha doing’?”

Nicole jumped at the sound of the scary Katina chick’s voice right behind her. “It would be helpful if you guys would stomp your feet when you walk,” Nicole muttered.

“But then we couldn’t scare you.” Katina eased next to her. “What’s in that vial?”

Nicole followed Katina’s gaze. “The green one? That’s Kool-Aid. Lime, I think.”

“Why?”

“You’ll have to ask Dr. Frankenstein.”

Katina laughed, a deep melodic sound that was as beautiful as she herself was. “I dare you to call Grant that to his face.”

“I already did.” She sighed.

“What did he do?”

“He called me dinner a la O-Positive.”

Katina laughed again. “Pretty cool how he can determine your blood type by smell, huh? Most of us can’t do that.”

“Cool is not the word I’d use,” Nicole said as she pulled a tray of vials close, “but we’ll go with it.”

Katina flipped her thick black braid over her shoulder. The vampire had fabulous hair. “did you know each type tastes different?”

“No, I didn’t.” Nicole squeezed a dropper full of liquid from one of the vials onto a microscope slide.

“It’s true. You Os are lame. Too metallic-tasting. My favorite is B-positive. There’s a spicy aftertaste I love.” She frowned. “It’s so rare, though.”

“You need to be eating Asian people.” Nicole checked on Grant’s whereabouts—far across the room, thank God. “Asians have the highest percentage of B-positive blood.”

“Really?”

Nicole’s stomach turned when she realized she had just offered an entire ethnic group of people on a platter. She might as well draw up a menu for all the blood types and people who shared them and distribute menus to vampires who wanted to know how to find their favorite flavors.

“Um…can you pretend I didn’t say that?”

“Nope. I’m so taking a trip to Chinatown tomorrow.” Katina playfully slugged Nicole in the shoulder, and it was all Nicole could do to keep from rubbing her arm and crying like a baby. “You know, I’m glad we didn’t eat you that first day. I think I’ll ask Hunter if we can keep you.”

Keep her. Like a stray dog or a captured wild bird…or a vampire slave. With every passing hour, Nicole became more and more ashamed of her race.

“How do you know so much about blood, anyway?” Katina asked.

“My specialty is vampire physiology,” she said, happy to talk about something she actually enjoyed. “To know how vampires work, I need to know how humans work. Vampires are dependent on humans to live, which means I need to know everything I can about blood and how it affects vampires. Blood type can play a huge role in everything from the vampire origins to how vampires breed, mature, get diseases…The possibilities are endless, especially when we apply what we’ve learned about vampires to human medicine. It’s fascinating. I even discovered a way to use the vampire rac1b2 protein to cure ovarian cancer in humans.”

Silence.

Nicole took a deep breath. “Aaaand…I’ve just reminded you why I’m here and why you hate me, haven’t I?”

“Yup.”

Wanted: Wild Thing by Jessica Sims


ORDER A COPY: Wanted: Wild Thing (Midnight Liaisons)

Publisher: Pocket Books
Publishing Date: August 26, 2014
Paperback: 354 pages

Rating: 4 stars


The final book in a romance series set in a “fun, sexy world” (USA TODAY), where paranormals seek love through a dating service called Midnight Liaisons.

Ryder is hiding a dark secret from her coworkers at Midnight Liaisons. Every time she’s sexually attracted to a man, her dragon side breaks through. Not exactly man-bait! But she needs to lose her virginity before her twenty-fifth birthday, or she’ll become a dragon forever.

Her solution? Big, hunky Hugh, the appointed guardian of her chastity. He’s clearly hot for her, but he has powerful reasons to resist Ryder. Can temptation—and love—possibly find a way?


Ryder Sinclair has a wardrobe like Baby Spice and flirts with anything in pants. She is a human working nights at Midnight Liaison, the paranormal dating service, or at least she lets everyone think she’s your average, everyday human. Ryder is actually a changeling and if a man touches her skin with sexual intent, he triggers her changeling side. She has had to pretend food poisoning and run out the back door on more dates than she can remember.

When she was a teen, a half-Fae fortune teller once told her that if she finds The One she can keep the change at bay, but she must do it before she reaches her twenty-fifth birthday. If she remains a virgin at her twenty-fifth birthday, she will change into her changeling form permanently. So Ryder has become a flirting-machine trying to find that one man who can touch her without triggering her changeling side. With only a month to her twenty-fifth birthday, she is getting pretty desperate to remain human.

Ryder doesn’t realize that life can get so much worse than growing scales and sprouting horns until the night a Fae prince shows up in her office with his brutish bodyguard and let’s her know that he is the one who brought her to the human realm to be raised in safety after replacing her for her parents’s human child. He is excited that her change is almost complete and his investment will soon come to fruition. Ryder is a very rare and valuable changeling in the Fae realm and he plans to use her for breeding litters of valuable baby changelings that he will sell to rebuild his family’s fortunes.

Becoming a full-time monster isn’t enough of a horrific future to worry about, and now a Fae prince wants to turn her into a brood mare. He has also sent a bruiser to insure that she doesn’t loose her virginity before her transformation is complete. Since she can’t get out from under the watchful eye of Hugh, she’s going to have to give him an eyeful and convince him that taking her virginity is a better prize than whatever the Fae prince has promised him.

Hugh is holding firm to his vow, but he has never come across the Queen of Flirting who is desperate to remain human. This shifter might have a will of iron, but he doesn’t know what he’s up against when Ryder turns up the charm.

THOUGHTS:
This was a fun story. This was my first Jessica Sims novel but I was gifted by Pocket Books with a few of other novels in the series, and I also picked up one novella which was free the other day on Amazon, so I would like to try the rest of the series. The Goodreads info says it is the last in the series, but the author’s website is declaring that as a rumor. She has a good cast of characters and this latest novel brings in a few more. I would think is it premature to walk away from such a promising series. I do want to read Marie’s story, who is Ryder’s BFF. She is as obnoxious and snarky as I like my heroines.

Although I haven’t read the other books in the series, Ryder does work with and talk about the other characters from the series and I got the idea that this story differs a bit from the others. The other stories involve shifters and some humans and even they think changelings are a myth. This story also involves Hugh who is brought over from the Fae Realm and he calls himself a Primordial while the Fae call him a Long-Tooth. From this and Ryder’s initial description, it is not hard to guess that Hugh is a saber-toothed tiger shifter. He and his men are kept in a primordial land where they don’t even wear clothing. So everything here is new and dangerous to Hugh.

I was a bit stressed for Ryder since the Fae Prince was planning to use her to breed and sell her offspring like she was a puppymill. He would swing by and check her progress, make her strip down and make her change for him so he could check on his investment. But to thwart his plans, she needed to lose her virginity and if she did that, Hugh would lose his prize which was women/mates for himself and the men of his tribe who have no women there. So for Ryder to win, Hugh’s men would lose out. This was a problem even Ryder struggled with.

There were some really funny part of this story where, in Ryder’s attempt to seduce Hugh, she puts on porn for him which started with a pizza delivery guy showing up and getting an extra special tip. This becomes a bit of a running gag in the story, including Hugh telling his men that there are women who will have lots of sex with you if you give them food. Ooooo!

I was a little disappointed that Ryder’s “dragon” form. As it is described it makes her more of a Sleestak with crumpled wings like a newly emerged butterfly than anything dragon-like. (If you got that reference, you are old like me.) As the last month progresses, her scales become more luminescent and her claws nicer, etc., but she is always very humanoid and she never becomes a dragon as they are usually described. Hugh might have thought she was beautiful, but me…not so much.

This was cleverly written and entertaining and a series I want to look into further.

Received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Favorite Scene:

“Perhaps you should leave her alone.”

“My job is to remain at her side and protect her virginity.” Hugh snarled in Brad’s face. His big hand clamped down on my shoulder again.

Despite the fact that we were in a side room at the restaurant, several people in the next room turned to look over at us, overhearing Hugh’s words.

“Oh, my God,” I moaned. “You did not just say that out loud in a crowded restaurant.”

“And if she doesn’t want it protected?” Brad asked.

“Yeah,” I said, pushing Hugh’s hand off my shoulder again.

“Then I will protect it for her,” Hugh said. “Against her will if I must.”

“You can’t make me leave,” I hissed at him. “This is a public place.” I was safe from him here.

Hugh leaned in to me, his face close to mine. “I am sorry for what I am about to do.”

“Do? What–“

His hand moving to the back of my neck, he leaned forward and pressed his mouth to mine in a startling, fierce kiss. his lips mashed against my own, and his scent was in my nostrils, his body pressed to mine.

Then, just as quickly, he pulled away. I stared up at him, dazed.

“Now, we leave,” Hugh said.

I blinked, trying to process all of this. Kiss? Leave? What?  He grabbed my hand in his and dragged me toward the doors of the restaurant.

I immediately tried to jerk away, realizing what all this was about.

He was deliberately activating my changeling side. Hugh knew that if my curse kicked in I’d have no choice but to leave with him. Anger burned inside me, but it was quickly swallowed up by the transformation spiraling through my body. My monster coiled and reared, and I felt my skin shiver with awareness. Anger at Hugh blossomed, then quickly turned to fear when others started to look at us.

Damn him! I stopped struggling and gave everyone a cheerful wave, practically running with Hugh as he stomped toward the parking lot. I had to make things seem like they were normal, or else someone was sure to follow us out due to concern for me. And that was the last thing I wanted—if someone followed us, they’d get a glimpse of my scaly side.

It was evident to me that the change was going to come whether I wanted it or not. Even now, I could feel the throb in my shoulder blades that was the onset of my wings, and my gums ached from where my fangs were about to pop.  My grip tightened in High’s, and I knew the pressure I was exerting would soon be intense.

But if that didn’t communicate my anxiety, nothing would.

As soon as we got to the parking lot, I bolted, dashing away from Hugh. He let me, and I continued on, racing for my car. My hand fumbled to find my keys, but claws were sprouting and my muscles were clenching, and it was impossible for me to concentrate. Pain erupted, throbbing through my body.

Too late. Before I could even open the door to my vehicle, my legs gave out. I crouched, huddling around myself as my changes tore through me.

Hugh crouched low next to me. His hand smoothed down my back, ignoring the fact that it was lumpy and muscles were seething. “I am sorry Ryder.”

“You…suck…” I whispered between gasps, my hands clenched tight as my tail ripped out of my back. I gave a small cry of pain, only to have it swallowed as he pulled me to his chest, Muffling my cries as he held me close.

“It grieves me to do this to you,” he murmured and his hand stroked my hair even as he cradled me tight.

I fought him for a moment, but feebly. The transformation was happening, and I couldn’t stop it any more than I could stop him from holding me close.

And what was worse? With every stroke of his hand on my hair, I didn’t want him to stop holding me.

Night Unbound by Dianne Duvall


ORDER A COPY: Night Unbound (Immortal Guardians)

Publisher: Zebra
Publishing Date: September 2, 2014
Paperback: 432 pages

Rating: 5 stars


For centuries, Lisette d’Alençon has been a warrior against the dark. She fights alongside her brothers and comrades. But when the dreams start coming, she can’t bear to confess them to the Immortal Guardians’ command. Dreams of a dark-haired man with soft eyes and brutal wounds, a man her heart aches for–and a man she knows has been declared a traitor.

Zach is an exile, a loner. He won’t defend himself against false accusations or grovel to those who should have faith in him. But he’ll damn sure defend the woman who kept him sane against a plague of super-vamps that seems to have appeared from nowhere. The Guardians will blame him, and that will make Lisette suspect, too. With life, death and eternity on the line, who can they really trust?


Things are heating up in North Carolina. The Immortal Guardians thought the threat to them was once again just the vampires who they must protect the humans from. They thought the military threat was over after they killed everyone who had knowledge of the drug used, but someone has once again gained possession of the one drug that can effect a Guardian. They are also turning military trained men into vampires. For the first time in centuries, the Immortal Guardians are in real danger, and the biggest question is — who turned on them and created this new army? Seth is certain the only one with the information and enough power to do it would be Zach.

Zach has been hanging around the Immortal Guardians for more than just the lollipops being offered by Ami. Lisette d’Alençon has caught his attention and the longer he watches her, the more he desires the type of relationship he sees the other Guardians enjoying. Zach is an outcast among his own people and he knows that Seth would kill Zach if he found out how often Zach spends watching his Guardians.

Always being an outcast, Zach can’t imagine that Lisette would return his interest, but Lisette’s own fantasies about Zach have been increasing the longer she catches him watching her. Lisette is also aware of Seth’s dislike of Zach and knows that she risks alienating her boss and her fellow Immortal Guardians if she starts a relationship with Zach, but after centuries alone, she too would do anything to once again feel loved.

But secrets always have a cost and eventually someone always finds out. Can Zach and Lisette live with the consequences that a forbidden relationship will bring to their lives?

THOUGHTS:
I love the Immortal Guardians! Zach and Lisette are now my second favorite characters just after Bastian and Melanie. I re-read this story after I finished. I just didn’t want to let them go. It was just one of those stories.  Even just writing this review, I want to pick it up again to read.

Zach is another of my tortured heroes. Literally tortured by his own people and it is his desire to be with Lisette that gives him the power to escape. He always seems unwanted and the fact that Lisette is attracted to him just floors him. He is not even used to someone willingly touching him and his strong reaction to just holding Lisette is heartbreaking.

We, of course, love Lisette so it is wonderful to see her find happiness with Zach and funny to see her brothers’ reaction to the new man in her life, especially when Richart pops in at a very inopportune time. Yikes.

Now you would think that since Zach and Seth are alike, we would finally get detailed answers on what Seth is (because we know he is more than just an Immortal Guardian) and Zach has wings so it goes to follow that if Seth is like Zach, he would have wings, etc., etc., and of course, Zach would tell all to Lisette, so…ummm, nothing.  What??  Clever author that she is, Dianne has worked in the whys and wherefores that Lisette can’t be told anything since any telepath amongst them, including her brother, would be able to read the information in her head, and it is too dangerous for anyone to have that information. Dammit! It all made sense in the storyline not to tell Lisette and she agreed that it was too dangerous to give her too much information. So we get Nothing!  Well played, Ms. Duvall. Well played!

If you haven’t yet, you really need to try the Immortal Guardians. It is a great series with great characters. Even vampire Cliff who has been helping Melanie learn about the virus affect humans is being allowed to go outside and help. Unless they can find a cure/drug to suppress the madness, which would really change the series, I am going to be so upset when we lose Cliff.

Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Favorite Scene:

Go many great scenes. It was hard to choose.

“So what are you doing out here?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “Habit perhaps. I’ve watched over Ami for so long, it’s hard to stop. Or maybe…”

He arched a brow. “Maybe?”

“Maybe I was looking for you.”

Heat swept through his body. “Me?” He straightened away from the tree.

“I was worried about you.” She gave him a long, thorough once-over. “The last time I saw you, you were wounded. And, I have to tell you, you still aren’t looking so good. Are you okay?”

He lanced down and swore when he saw the slashes that marred his form. “Don’t worry about that.”

“Zach–“

“I’m all right,” he interrupted before she could protest further.

After a moment, she nodded, face pensive. How she tempted him. The sight of her in black pants that hugged full hips and long, slender legs. Full breasts stretching the cotton of her long-sleeved shirt. Moonlight flirting with her pale skin and plump, pink lips. Weapons adorning her like jewelry, an ever-present reminder that she was a warrior and could kick ass.

All beckoned him, daring him to do something reckless.

He moved a step closer.

She didn’t back away.

He took another step.

She held her ground.

Barely a breath separated them.

“I want to try something,” he proposed.

Her heartbeat increased. “Okay.”

Lowering his head, Zach pressed his lips to hers. His pulse jumped at the warm contact, racing to match hers.

Her breath caught.

Tilting his head, he increased the pressure, deepened the contact, and drew his tongue across those soft lips. She tasted incredible. Made him want to devour her. And yet…

Frowning, he broke the sweet contact. “You didn’t pull away.”

Her eyes now bore a faint amber glow. “What?”

“You didn’t pull away.”

“Why would I pull away?” she asked, voice husky.

Because I’m me, he almost said.

Disappointment seared him. The pain of his injuries increased.

Just to be sure…

“I’m going to try something else now.”

Her lips quirked up as she arched a brow. “Okay.”

Raising a hand, he cupped her breast.

The amber glow in her eyes flashed brighter.

Lisette’s heart slammed against her ribs.

Zach molded his large, warm hand to her breast as he watched her warily. His eyes shone with a faint golden light. His fingers squeezed gently before he drew his thumb across the taut peak that strained against the cotton of her shirt.

Lust whipped through her, weakening her knees and making her fingers curl with the need to touch him, to stroke him, to explore every muscled inch of him.

Swearing, he withdrew his hand and took a step back.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, embarrassed by how breathless she sounded.

“You didn’t hit me.”

She stared up at him. “I’m sorry, what?”

“You didn’t hit me,” he said, and actually sounded angry.

“I don’t…”

Turning, he paced away several steps. “I thought this was a dream. I thought I had made into another of your dreams. But I touched your breast and you didn’t hit me, so this must just be another fantasy of mine.”

Lisette bit her lip when she saw his back. He bore no wings. An oddity. She had never seen him without them.

No, tonight his back boasted only bloody stripes that had clearly been carved by a whip.

“You fantasize about me?” she murmured.

He glanced at her over his shoulder. “I’ve done little else since I met you.”

Just thinking about it turned her insides to mush and upped her desire another notch. “Zach, this isn’t a fantasy. This is a dream. It’s my dream.”

He faced her, his expression uncertain. “It is?”

“Yes.”

“Then why didn’t you…?”

“Hit you?” she asked, amused by his confusion despite her concern for him.

He nodded.

“Because I wanted you to touch me.” Emboldened by his uncertainty, she closed the distance between them. “And I fantasize about you, too.” Raising a hand, she caressed his strong jaw.

He closed his eyes. Turning into her touch, he covered her hand with one of his own and held it to his cheek.

A Curse Awakened by Cecy Robson

A Curse Awakened Cover


ORDER A COPY: A Curse Awakened: A Weird Girls Novella

Publisher: Loveswept
Publishing Date: August 19, 2014
eBook: 94 pages

Rating: 4 stars


Discover Cecy Robson’s sensational Weird Girls series—or return to where the magic first began—with this eBook original prequel novella about four sisters coming to grips with their unique supernatural powers.

Celia Wird shouldn’t possess the ability to transform into a tigress. Her three sisters should never be able to burst into flames, heal wounds, or transform common objects into deadly weapons. And yet they do.

Before they were born, the Wird Sisters were cursed by a spell that was intended to destroy them, not endow them with extraordinary powers. The sisters’ magic is untamed and explosive at best, and time is running out for them to take command.

Vampires have targeted Celia’s sweet, tragically human ex-boyfriend Danny. The sisters rush to his aid, but in order to take down the vamps, first they must face their dark past and break a spell that’s screwing up their powers. Except this curse wasn’t meant to be broken . . . and the witch who cast it isn’t done toying with them yet.


When Celia receives a phone call from her ex-boyfriend Danny that he and his father are being attacked by vampires, Celia’s need to protect won’t let her walk away from them. But getting into a war with a crazy vampire mistress who has claimed Danny’s father as her new pet, isn’t what she needs right now on top of packing up to move to their new home.

Yet it is Danny who realizes that the sisters’ powers have been bound by a witch and if they can locate and destroy the witch’s alter, they will be able to control their gifts, rather than having them always backfire.

Knowing they need all their strengths to go up against a powerful family of vampires, their first stop is to their old neighborhood to find Tia Griselda’s alter and break the spell. If they can take on a powerful witch and survive, maybe they will have what it takes to take on a mad vampire, or maybe it would be just smarter to get out of town before they make some very powerful enemies.

THOUGHTS:
I enjoyed this novella which focused more on the sisters together. Although all of the Weird Girl stories are enjoyable, they are told in the first person and in the last few stories Celia is spending more time with either Misha or Aric. While those plots bring their own enjoyment, it is fun to see the sisters working, or in this case fighting, together.

This novella also gives us a better understanding of the curse which gives the sisters their powers.

This is an enjoyable series and I am looking forward to the next installment.

Received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.


Favorite Scene:

(Tiny scene. It made me laugh.)

I leaped from the elevated lot and landed in a deep crouch in the sand, perfectly poised and ready to haul tail across the beach.

Until my sisters and Danny landed in a heap on top of me and I ate about half a cup of sand.

They rolled off me, moaning while I hacked out the nasty mess. I scraped the excess with my nails while drooling like a dumbass. “Oops. Sorry, Celia.” Emme mumbled.

The Cage King by Danielle Monsch


ORDER A COPY: The Cage King: A Novella of the Entwined Realms

Publisher: Romantic Geek Publishing
Publishing Date: August 11, 2014
eBook: 135 pages

Rating: 5 stars


USA Today Bestselling author Danielle Monsch invites you back to the magic of the Entwined Realms with The Cage King. Esh is the undisputed ruler of the underground fight scene, but five years ago a decision not to fight cost him his best friend and the woman he loves. Now Nalah is back, a member of the Guild and in need of his help to get into the greatest cage match in the New Realms. Oh he’ll help, but it will be on his terms, and Nalah had better get ready because when Esh fights for something, he always wins.


Esh, Nalah and her brother Jac were three street kids who banded together and created their own family. They took care of each other and protected each other.

But Five years ago Nalah walked away from Esh. He refused to fight in her brother’s place and her brother lost his life. Esh let her down and she walked away from him and was found by The Guild. They trained her to build mental shields and helped her control her abilities.

Now The Guild needs her to find one of the artifacts stolen from their vault. And in order for her to find it, she needs the help of the one man who she never expected to see again. Nalah needs to get to the underground fights and the Guild wants her to get Esh, The Cage King, to accept his invitation to the Underground Tour and take Nalah with him.

Esh knows that Nalah will find a way to get there without him, but she walked away from him once. He’s not allowing her to walk away again. Especially not into a dangerous situation without him to protect her. He’ll help the Guild recover their missing magic treasure and the only thing he expects is return is Nalah. She was everything to him…she still is and he won’t lose her again.

THOUGHTS:
I love the Entwined Realms series. The Cage King is like a magical Mission Impossible. The Guild always seems to be two steps ahead and even though it seems like things are going wrong, they end up exactly where the Guild wanted them to be.

Nalah and Esh are definitely a couple meant to be together, and although it is heartbreaking that Jac had to died, I think Nalah and Esh needed that time apart in order to grow and to appreciate each other. They wouldn’t have gotten to the place they ended if they had just continued together from kids to teens to adults.

We can understand Nalah pain and heartbreak at losing her brother and her feeling that Esh could have done something to prevent it and she feels he failed her.  Then we see the same scenario with Esh’s view, trying to protect Nalah and Jac, losing Jac and Nalah disappearing and him not knowing what happened to her and it is heartbreaker to see what Esh went through.  Nalah (and the readers) are given a good shake up after Esh has been portrayed as being to blame for everything.

Although this is only a novella, it is all part of the build up of the items stolen from the Guild and all the baddies who are trying to get their hands on everything.

Great series. Great characters. Can’t wait to read more.


Favorite Scene:

Those gorgeous dark-brown eyes were wide with surprise as he rolled her under him. No reason why they should be. He told her this was where she was going to be for the duration of the Tour.

“Esh,” she started, and in response he pushed his hips against her pelvis, rubbing hard against her.

Her mouth parted. A long, deep breath met the movement while her eyes went half-lidded. Her hands went to his shoulders, her fingers half digging into the muscle, her arms both pulling him closer and pushing him away.

His Nalah was conflicted? Well, he was going to put an end to that real quick. By the end of the Tour she was going to be back in his bed and standing by his side, where she belonged now, and where she’d belonged these last five years before she’d run away.

To the Guild. Of all fucking people, she had gotten involved with the Guild. He growled, the need to mark her as his and not theirs growing in him, and he lowered his mouth to her throat.

She panted and moaned as his lips and teeth ravaged the sensitive skin below her ear, the sounds tightening his belly and ratcheting up his arousal. He wanted her to make those sounds all night, he wanted her hoarse tomorrow and embarrassed because everyone would give her a knowing look each time she spoke. He sucked the dark skin into his mouth, wishing the small bruise would show.

How had he lived without this these last years? She even smelled the same, summer nights on the beach. He told her that after their first kiss, and she laughed, saying they’d never been near the ocean in their lives.

Didn’t matter. That was what she reminded him of. Her scent was always a mix of citrus and salt where her eyes and skin glowed under moonlight. She was wondrous, his escape from a shitty life, and always had been. Her eyes alight with pride as he fought in the ring, making him a hero and a warrior instead of a thug. Or how she never stopped teaching him or acted like he was too stupid to be bothered with.

He nipped her, a little harder, teeth a little deeper into her velvety skin, and her answering moan had his cock beating against the zipper of his jeans, demanding to be let out.

“Esh, let go,” she whispered, those long fingers still digging into his upper arms.

She wasn’t saying anything he wanted to hear, so he concentrated on licking the tang from her skin and listening to that tiny hitch in her breathing.

“Warned you.” And before his brain processed, Nalah shifted, using her leg to dislodge him while those fingers twisted his body and had him on the floor.

She got off the bed and now stood above him, hip cocked to the side and fists on them, her eyes sparking in an all-too-familiar way, one that used to mean he was sleeping on the cough that night. “Damn, woman, who taught you that?”

“Who do you think? I might not be a warrior, but do you think I’d let myself be totally vulnerable?”

She was vulnerable. Any of Beylor’s men could have her on her back with either a sword in her belly or them crawling on top of her in five seconds flat. But right now, with her foot that close to his balls, he wasn’t going to point that out. Instead he rolled and got to his feet, watching her watch him the entire time.

There was appreciation mixed with the earlier anger, the way she followed the bunching of the muscles in his thighs and his arms. Nalah wasn’t immune to him any more than her was to her. “Why’d you stop me?”

“Again, why do you think? I’m not here to be your personal amusement. Already told you.”

He snorted. “When have you ever been that? If that’s all I considered you good for, do you think I’d be here?”

That stopped her, her mouth closing, her face scrunching up in a V of confusion. She collapsed on the nearest chair, her arm draped across the table. “You and I need a little clearing of the air. Cards on the table?”

Yeah, that didn’t promise a good time. He shrugged, going to sit across from her.

She waited until he was settled before she began. “Why did you agree to do this?”

Talk about denial. He met her gaze, held it, until she was near fidgeting but still didn’t look away. “You aren’t stupid. You know why. I’m not changed.”

At that, Nalah did look away, out a window that overlooked the nearby forest. “It’s been five year,” she said, her voice as low as he’d ever heard from her.

“So? Fuck does five years mean? You’re it for me, always have been. Knew it as soon as you looked at me with those big brown eyes and I told you so back then. Told you the same before we came here, though you wanted to pretend that wasn’t what it meant. If it won’t change in fifty years. why do you think five years is some magic number?”

She swallowed the movement doing little to hide the slight quiver of her chin. “‘Cause I haven’t been around.”

He snorted. “Yeah, like that changes shit.”

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