Book Three in the Sons of Midnight mini-series
February 21, 2012
Ignorant of his true heritage, half-breed vampire Slade Donovan is fated to feel like an outsider among his clan. Until a mysterious woman arrives with the ability to unlock his secrets—and make him crave a future he never believed he could have….
As a Game Warden, Raina Ravenwing has only one mission in the Cascade Mountains: to track down a pack of rare wolves that is terrorizing her tribe. Her instant attraction to Slade is a distraction the beautiful wolf whisperer can't afford, unless she agrees to let him help her. Yet working so closely together only intensifies their passion…even as the unfolding truth of Slade's identity threatens everything Raina holds sacred and could potentially destroy both their worlds.
Excerpt from THE HALF-BREED VAMPIRE
Total bliss only lasted four hours.
Hey, Donovan. You got a visitor. The sound of his commander, Achilles Stefano's voice echoed in his head, waking him from a dead sleep and leaving his ears ringing.
Slade grimaced, turned over in his tangled sheets. Talk about lousy timing. Can it wait?
No. Get your ass in here.
What vampire on earth would want to speak to him at this ungodly hour? Either something was wrong, or was going to be. Slade grumbled. He grappled the sides of his sleeping spot, a double-wide grave-sized hole carved out of the gray bedrock, the black satin sheets pooling around his hips as he sat up.
He phased himself a fresh-showered look and clean fatigues so he'd at least look presentable, then focused pulling his energy together at his core, visualizing the security room inside the clan headquarters, so he could transport.
An image of pale green smooth walls and military issue furniture circa 1950 filled his mind, accented by the musty smell that pervaded the room despite the heat thrown off by the banks of flat-screen computers. A pull, centered at his navel yanked him by the balls inside out as he transported from his position in the Cascade Mountains to the complex system of passages and rooms fifty feet below the asphalt streets and buildings of Seattle.
The minute his particles knit back together he could see exactly why the hour was so damn late, or rather so damn early. His visitor wasn't a vampire. It was the woman from the woods, only now she was in full uniform for a state police officer - a pair of olive green pants, a short-sleeved khaki shirt with matching olive green breast pocket flaps and epaulets, a standard issue gun belt, ugly black shoes, and her glorious ebony hair pulled back in a no-nonsense bun at her nape. Damn. Double Damn. The cop.
Before being brought into the clan, he'd had his share of run-ins with the law and still felt uncomfortable around cops. Even pretty, strawberry-scented ones. He glanced at Achilles. His commander was one-hundred-percent pure golden Spartan warrior, but his modern military-short hair cut was starting to grow out. His hard jaw didn't flex in a smile, but the wicked twinkle in his unnaturally green eyes said he knew something about this woman Slade didn't.
Slade shifted, crossing his arms over his chest, forcing himself not to wince at the sharp sting in his ribs that were still a little tender. "Can I help you?"
She extended a slender hand. Her nails were short and mostly clean, only a few had fine traces of dirt underneath.
"I'm Raina Ravenwing, Mr. Blackwolf." She said smoothly, extending her hand. There was no sign of recognition in her dark brown eyes. "Fish and Wildlife Officer with the state wildlife department." She clarified, just in case the emblem on her sleeve didn't do the job.
He stared at her hand but didn't take it, and she let it drop. "Sorry, wrong guy. Last name's Donovan. If that's it, I'm out of here." He turned on his heel, giving her his back as he headed for the door.
"So you go by your mother's maiden name?"
That stopped him cold. His mother's maiden name? He didn't know whose name it was, let alone why he'd used it for as long as he could remember. The only glimpse of his mother - at least he thought it was her - were distorted slow-motion images he saw in his daymares.
Dark hair, wide brown-sugar eyes. A wide-generous mouth, which smiled one moment and screamed the next. A wash of red blood and the howl of wolves.
To think Officer Raina Ravenwing knew something about him that he didn't even know about himself rankled. He turned slowly, facing her once more. "Couldn't tell you. Don't know."
The petite woman widened her stance, pulled her shoulders back and stiffened her spine. "Well, Mr. Donovan, I've been told you're a wolf expert of sorts." Her gaze flicked to Achilles briefly, disbelief evident in the firm set of her generous mouth.
The dark hairs prickled all along Slade's arm. Somehow, gut deep, he knew she wasn't here to talk about just wolves. "I guess."
"Don't let him fool you Officer Ravenwing. There's not another vampire who can track better than Donovan." It was true. Slade's senses were more finely tuned than most of the other vamps in the clan. That's why he'd been tapped to be in the security detail by the commander himself. While his technical specialty was explosives, tracking came in a close second. Very close.
She stuck her chin out a bit, almost daring him. "What do you know about unusually large wolves in our area?"
Slade brushed at the slowly healing cut at his scalp line. Good. She didn't remember a thing. Weres weren't something you talked about in polite vampire society, let alone with mortals. They were less than mortal. A cruel joke of the gods. A cross between an unpredictable animal and an unsympathetic mortal.
"There've been reports of some rather unusual wolves causing trouble in the edges of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. The people are getting lathered up about it and ready to go on a wolf hunt."
"So let them."
Her eyes narrowed. She crossed her arms over her chest, making her B-cup breasts jut out enticingly. At least he thought they were B-cups. They might be just a shade larger, but he wouldn't be able to tell unless he got his hands on them.
Whoa. Where had that come from? Slade flexed his fingers, reigning in his wayward thoughts. She wasn't even his type. Of course, who the hell did he think he was kidding? Female was his type. It was police officer that wasn't.
"My job as a Game Warden, Mr. Donovan, is to protect these animals and enforce the laws in this state. The fact that they've returned at all and may be migrants from the reestablished packs in Idaho or Montana is significant enough. They're an important part of our ecosystem and until I find out who or what is really behind these attacks, I'm doing my best not to let anyone near those wolves."
The scrape on his scalp was beginning to itch like holy hell and he wasn't really interested in her long-winded eco lecture. "Lady, the wolves aren't in any danger. If you want my advice, you'd do better to worry about keeping people away from them."
"It's Officer Ravenwing, Mr. Donovan, and that's about what I expected from a vampire." She said the last word with such distain that Slade could smell the sulfur of it like rotten eggs tainting the air.
Achilles stepped closer placing a huge hand on her delicate shoulder. "Officer Ravenwing, Donovan will be happy to help you with whatever you need to bring your investigation to a close."
Slade glared at his commander. What the hell? I don't want to be anywhere near her.
Achilles glanced back at him, his words echoing loud and clear in Slade's head. She's part of the mortals' law enforcers, so we will cooperate fully. We don't need them digging up problems with the Wenatchee Were Pack to put at our door. You'll help her or you'll be pulling day shift for the next decade. Do I make myself clear?
Achilles gave the game warden a nod, and she relaxed. "If you'll excuse me, Officer Ravenwing, I have another pressing matter." He grasped her free hand and lightly brushed the back of it with a brief kiss. "I'll leave you to fill Donovan in on how you want this handled."
She gave Achilles a generous smile that pissed off Slade even more.
She blushed slightly. "Thanks for your help."
Achilles vanished in a swirl of dark particles as he transported from the room leaving Slade alone with the cop.
He glared at Officer nature girl. Just because he had to help her didn't mean he had to like it. "What do you need?"
"I need your help tracking one of them down so I can find out if they've established a new pack from the groups further east, or if they are a new breed or rare mutation. And find out what's really going on with this rash of incidents."
Damn. Double Damn. Sure, waltz in on the Were territory and give them a 'hey, whatz up?' Why didn't she just ask him to go stake his balls to the ground and sunbathe nude? That would be less painful. Well, maybe. "So you want me to go on a nature hike with you?"
Raina restrained herself from making a smart-ass comeback. If nothing else she was a professional. She would have preferred to have Achilles go with her. At least he could be trusted and had some respect for her badge. With Donovan it was a whole other matter.
Everything about him shouted 'danger', from the rumble of his deep voice and dark good looks to his tiger-like topaz eyes. But it was his broad shoulders encased in black tight black t-shirt and military cut camo fatigues and wide jaw bisected by a devil-may-care dent in his chin that made him appear intriguing, which were an even greater danger to any female in sight. That was, if he'd been her type. Which he wasn't.
Something at the edge of her mind nagged her. She'd seen him before. He'd done something horrible. But no matter how hard she concentrated it floated in her memory just out of reach.
"It's a bit more complicated than that. There's an investigation currently underway. I need to track one down and put a locator on it."
He glanced away, sending not so subtle uninterested signals her way. "I'm sorry am I boring you, Mr. Donovan?"
He shook his head. "Locator. Please continue."
Raina was slightly surprised he had actually been listening. "I need to know if there's only one, or if there are more and if so, what the pack's territory is so I can advise the state game department of potential impact on the local farmers and the game in the area."
She didn't like the way he narrowed his eyes. The air around him swirled with a potent mixture of testosterone and wild side that were too intense to be comfortable. While his commander was at least polite, Slade Blackwolf, or Donovan, or whatever he wanted to call himself, was barely civilized.
He reeked of bad boy, something she'd tried scrupulously to avoid since graduating the police academy. If she got close enough she could probably smell motorcycle fumes and leather on him if she tried. But she had no intention of getting that close, now or ever. Getting mixed up with a bad boy was career suicide for a cop, especially a young female cop, no matter what department she worked in.
This was business, plain and simple. Being a game warden offered her an opportunity to help out her tribe in a practical way instead of all the hocus-pocus they kept insisting she was somehow tied to as part of their hopelessly outdated beliefs.
From what she'd been able to discover he was her best chance at finding the elusive wolves. So far everything else she'd tried had gotten her squat. And if things went on much longer it wouldn't be just the state she'd have to deal with, the Feds would get involved since her investigation was criss-crossing areas of the Wenatchee National Forest. She needed to find those wolves. Now.
"Sounds like a lost cause. Can't prove something's perfectly harmless when it's not."
Raina didn't like his belligerent attitude any more than his bad-boy demeanor. "Look, if you aren't capable of helping me-"
Between one breath and the next she found herself wedged up against the wall. A hard male body too dangerously close to her own in front and the rough edges of a cold brick wall digging into her back. Power, like smoke billowing from a forest fire, rolled off of him in waves. He pinned her, his arms on either side, a lethal look in his golden eyes that was mesmerizing like a wild animal's. She'd never been this close to an actual vampire before and it scared the hell out of her.
With an audible flick his sharp fangs appeared out of the gums just above his very normal looking teeth. His voice came out low, almost a growl. "I'm perfectly capable of doing anything you could possibly need done, Officer Ravenwing. But let's get one thing straight. You came to me. You need me. So if I tell you to jump when we're out there bushwhacking, you don't ask why, you just jump. I don't want have to explain to my commander why I came back with a dead game warden. Are we clear?"
Rania managed to gather enough moisture in her dry mouth to swallow, but words were beyond her. All she could manage was a nod, her heart pounding so hard her pulse throbbed in her fingers and toes.
All the resolve she'd made to keep good and gone from bad boys of any kind began to dissolve, running like heated honey through her veins. He was too close and it was too confining. She tried to push against him, her hands on his broad chest, and found herself falling forward and stumbling.
He'd dissolved beneath her touch into nothing but smoke, then reappeared on the other side of the room, in less time than it had taken her to blink. His large hand was where hers had been a moment before, his eyes darker than before.
His voice came out almost a growl. "Next time you touch me, it had better be because you want to."
Copyright © 2012 by Theresa Meyers
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.
COMING IN APRIL:
Book Two of the Legend Chronicles
Zebra - Steampunk Romance
April 3, 2012
Brothers Winchester, Remington and Colt know the legends—they were trained from childhood to destroy demon predators, wielding the latest steam-powered gadgetry. It’s a devil of a job. But sometimes your fate chooses you...
Winn Jackson isn’t interested in hunting nightmares across the Wild West—even if it’s the family business. Unlike his rakehell brothers, Winn believes in rules. As sheriff of Bodie, California, he only shoots actual law breakers. That’s what he’s doing when he rescues the Contessa Drossenburg, Alexandra Porter, a lady with all the elegance of the Old World—grace, beauty and class. And then he sees her fangs.
Alexandra isn’t just some bloodsucking damsel in distress, though. She’s on a mission to save her people—and she’s dead certain that Winn’s family legacy is the only way. Luckily, aside from grace and class, she also has a stubborn streak a mile wide. So like it or not, Winn is going to come back with her to the mountains of Transylvania, and while he’s at it, change his opinions about vampires, demon-hunting, and who exactly deserves shooting. And if she has her way, he’s going to do his darnedest to save the world...
Branches cracked and snapped as Alexa tore through them on her way to the forest floor. Fortunately the drop wasn't too great. She landed in a crouch on the ground, letting her knees absorb the shock of her fall. She slowly rose and glanced up at Winchester, still suspended in the ruined glider. From this distance he reminded her of a Christmas ornament in a very tall tree.
"Are you going to join me?" she shouted up at him, enjoying the opportunity to dig at him.
"Not like that, I'm not," he replied as he carefully maneuvered his way out of the pod, loading his pack and the holstered rifle onto his back. Hunters. They were nothing without their toys.
She sniffed the wind, trying to scent out their distance from the Castle Barranoch where the captain had adjusted their course. It lay on the edge of the border with France. The moldering smell of ancient stone and fresh blood reached her, but it was tainted with the feral scent of wet wolf. The castle was fifteen miles to the northeast, and the wolves were no more than a few miles away, between them and the protection of the castle. She swore heartily in Russian under her breath. For herself she wasn't afraid. She was stringer and smarter than any were. But the Hunter was merely human, with all the frailties that entailed.
"Insufferable creatures," she muttered to herself. When they later retrieved the wreckage of the airship, she had no doubt that it would be Sidhe bolts recovered. No one else but the dark fae who lingered in the Black Forest could shoot that distance accurately, which was bad news. It meant the Sidhe and the Russian werewolves had formed an alliance in her absence. While the werewolves were brute strength, the Sidhe had more powers. It was a formidable combination. Now that the Sidhe had brought down their airship, the werewolves were closing in for the kill.
Where are you? Are you harmed? Enric's insistent voice, edged with worry penetrated her mind.
The Hunter and I are fine, for the moment. How far are you from Castle Barranoch?
We transported there, per your instructions.
Excellent. Inform Count Vernay that we have landed and need an escort through the forest. There are werewolves on the ground and I suspect Sidhe in the forests. We shall be arriving shortly.
His majesty is not going to be please his airship was wrecked.
Pfft. He can have another built. He'll be more worried if we allow these werewolves to kill the Chosen.
She kept a close eye on Winn's progress down the tree. A crackle in the underbrush caused her to tense. Alexa sniffed the air, her gumline beginning to throb. The wolves were still a few miles away; this was a different scent altogether. Gun powder, oil and leather.
From the bushes sprang five men, all armed and pointing their weapons at her. Helsing crossbows, loaded with silver tipped arrows that could pin her to a tree in less time than it would take to transport herself away from the clearing. Each of them had a scabbard at his side, the handgrip of their swords easy for her to see even in the gathering gloom.
"I think we have us a lone vampire, men, and one worth ransoming from the look of it," said the blonde man, German by the sound of him, a glitter of avarice in his eyes.
Alexa hissed at them. Damn Hunters. "Where is your honor? Do you not have treaties with his vampiric imperial majesty?"
"What that old vamp doesn't know won't bother him," the blond Hunter sneered. "Take her." Two of his comrades lowered their crossbows, shifting them to their backs, then pulled out their swords and started forward.
There was a crack just above her and Winn dropped from the tree between her and the Hunters. He sprang up, armed and ready to fight, the Amanarath stretched and loaded.
"Not so fast, boys. This vampire happens to be off limits."
The blonde Hunter stepped forward, brandishing a blade with a twist and flourish of his wrist, making the metal flash.
"Drop it." Winn held the Amanarath poised and pointed right at the Hunter's chest.
"Identify yourself," the Hunter demanded.
"You first. I'm gettin' a mighty itchy trigger finger. Takes a lot of thought to control it. Might hit everyone of you before I get my control back."
"I'm Lieutenant Victor Van der Hoff, a Hunter with Saxe-Coburg regiment of the Legion. And this vampire is in our custody."
"Is she now? How do I know you aren't just making that up?"
Van der Hoff quickly unfastened the buttons of his shirt, pulling it aside. A tattoo of the triple cross bracketed by a lion, palm tree and raven at the points was inscribed over his heart. He was definitely a Hunter. No one else would want a tattoo that ugly. "Satisfied?"
Winn nodded and lowered the crossbow slightly from his shoulder. "I'm Winchester Jackson, part of the Legion out in the western territories of America."
"A Slayer?" One of the others behind Van der Hoff said, a note of derision in his tone. Two of the others snickered as if it were some kind of a joke.
Winchester frowned. He didn't know what they meant, but he knew he didn't like it. Choosing to ignore them, he locked gazes with Van der Hoff. "Our airship went down. We're trying to get to Castle Barranoch."
Van der Hoff jerked his chin in the Contessa's direction. "What about the vampire?"
Winn's hands tensed on the Amanarath, ready to aim and fire in an instant if it became necessary. "She's my guide."
One of the Hunters in Van der Hoff's party gave Alexa a lewd appraisal. "To what?" he interjected.
Van der Hoff glared at the other member of his hunting party. "Hold your tongue, Werner. I'll ask the questions." He turned back to Winn. "What are you looking for? Perhaps we can help you and you can give her to us in exchange."
Winn raised the barrel of the Amanarath an inch from Van der Hoff's face. "No deal."
Van der Hoff smiled, but it didn't reach his pale green eyes. They remained as unyielding and cold as deep lake ice. "Alright. No harm, no foul, Slayer. But you can't possibly want to protect that Darkin."
For a moment the irony did sink in. Here he was protecting a Darkin, and a vampire at that, from other Hunters. Pa would have risen out of the grave and kicked his ass if he'd known. But this wasn't a normal situation. He needed her help. "My bow begs to differ with you."
A blood curdling howl tore through the night and all of them turned to peer at the dark maw of the forest. "Werewolves!" Alexa shouted as she ran up and grabbed Winn's arm, almost causing him to misfire the bow. "We're running out of time!"
"Correction," Winn said as the shadows burst from the trees. "We're outta time."
The twenty or so wolves were far larger than any Winn had seen before. They were the size of grizzly bears, and while most of them were gray, there were a few brown, white and black wolves among them as well. With coordinated movement they circled him, the Contessa and the small band of German hunters.
"Insufferable Weres," the Contessa muttered, her voice turning more guttural and growl-like as her face shifted and changed.
By now it didn't shock Winn as much, even thought the sight of her in her fighting mode still disturbed him. She hissed, and the wolves came to a stop. They were close enough in their formation that Winn could see no easy gap for him and the Contessa to get through.
He changed his target for the crossbow, grateful Marley had offered it. Winn's mind quickly calculated his options. With only fifteen shots in his rifle he would have been out of ammo before dispatching all of the wolves. He had that pathetic water shooter, but he didn't trust it to do more than slow the wolves down. And it wouldn't do anything to the Hunters. If he ran out of bolts, he could likely take out the other Hunters with his rifle butt first, backed up by his fists if necessary.
"Kill only if necessary," the Contessa warned under her breath.
Winn nestled the crossbow against his shoulder ready to let it release. "They attack, then it's all necessary."
"Hold your bloodthirst, Slayer." Van der Hoff's voice itself was irritating right now.
Winn wanted to tell the Hunter to go screw himself. This was no time for being some pasty yellow-bellied mama's boy. It was kill or be killed. That's how it always went in these kinds of situations. Negotiation was done by who had the least dead. Period. "This ain't bloodthirst. It's survival, and I swear I'll kill every damn one of them if I have to."
The wolves glanced at one another, ears twitching as if they talked to one another the way the Contessa did with the other vampires. The hair on the back of Winn's neck prickled up like an agitated porcupine.
A few of the wolves growled low and belly-deep, their black lips curling up to reveal razor sharp yellowed teeth. It was a veritable Mexican standoff with the furries on one side and the Hunters, and vampire on the other. "They don't look like they're here for a tea party, Van der Hoff. What do you wanna do here?" Winn prompted. His finger was getting itchy to pull the trigger on the bow as tension pulled at the muscles in his neck and shoulders.
"Hold," Van der Hoff ordered.
"You don't even know what they want." Winn's thigh burned with the tension of the muscles beneath his skin.
"Does it matter? They're Darkin."
Winn's mood darkened further. He didn't see a good way out of this. He edged closer to the Contessa. "I thought you said there were treaties for this sort of thing."
"That's the problem with treaties. They get broken all the time, and usually when it's most inconvenient," she said with annoyance.
"What the hell do they want?" Winn asked. "They're just holding back."
"Why don't you ask them?" the Contessa growled through her fangs.
A loud howl broke the standoff. Winn didn't wait another second. His Hunter training kicked into gear, taking over both his body and his mind, making his movements as automatic as breathing. He shot down three of the Werewolves in quick succession. The thwang of the crossbow jolted up his arm with each rapid release of the bolts. Thunk. Thunk, thunk. Three of them fell. The others kept coming, a blur of movement.
Winn cranked the bolts into place and shot off three more. The Contessa leaped forward into the fray, fangs at the ready. For an instant Winn's heart forgot to beat as he watched a bolt graze past her, shearing off a lock of her hair. An inch closer and he would have hit her square in the head. She tore every Were within reach with her bare hands, sending fur, muscle and skin flying as she ripped away limbs.
His heartbeat returned twice as hard and Winn turned away from the grisly sight to glance in the direction of Van der Hoff and his men. The Hunter hacked and slashed at anything with fur that came within striking distance. Winn's chest burned. His blood was pumping hard. The fighting had turned hand to hand now, wolves and men in mixed battle. Winn swung his crossbow to his back and pulled the bowie knife from his boot.
A great gray wolf coiled his back legs a split second before he launched into the air, seeming to sail toward Winn in slow motion. The dinner-plate sized paws connected like a solid punch to the solar plexus, knocking the wind from him and leaving him gasping as he fell backward into the fir needles of the forest floor. But he didn't need to breathe to act. Winn pulled hard and fast, slashing the blade of his Bowie across the exposed throat of the wolf, looming over him.
Hot blood splattered his face and the weight of the enormous dead wolf crushed down, smothering him. Winn's lungs burned as he scrabbled to lift the huge beast off of himself. Cries of anguish and pain from Van der Hoff's men were followed by the sickening crunching sounds and abrupt silence.
Winn managed to shift the weight enough to crawl out from beneath the wolf carcass. The Contessa was surrounded. He scrambled up, hacking a bloody path to her. He and the Contessa stood back-to-back against the ten remaining werewolves.
The growls of the largest wolf shifted and warped into words Winn could comprehend, stunning him. "Slayer, cease your resistance. Rathe wants you taken alive, but he didn't say unharmed. Put down your weapons. Come with us now and we will let the vampire live."
Winn twisted the handle of the Bowie in his extended hand, still brandishing it against the werewolves. Tessa was snugged up tight against his back, her derrière brushing the backs of his thighs. "Let me get this straight. You expect me to just give in and come quietly?"
Winn let out a brittle, caustic bark of laughter. "Clearly you've never met an American Hunter before. We don't quit, and we sure as hell don't give in."