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The Darkest Kiss (Riley Jenson Guardian Series #6)

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Danger turns her on.
Desire turns her dangerous...

Riley Jenson hunts evildoers—and does it with a style all her own. With vamp blood coursing her through her veins, and a werewolf’s uncanny instinct for danger, Riley wears snakeskin stilettos and pure, in-your-face attitude when she plunges into her latest case: hunting down a killer whose victims are high-society strumpets—and the rich and powerful men ...

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The Darkest Kiss (Riley Jenson Guardian Series #6)

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Danger turns her on.
Desire turns her dangerous...

Riley Jenson hunts evildoers—and does it with a style all her own. With vamp blood coursing her through her veins, and a werewolf’s uncanny instinct for danger, Riley wears snakeskin stilettos and pure, in-your-face attitude when she plunges into her latest case: hunting down a killer whose victims are high-society strumpets—and the rich and powerful men they’ve dated.

But for Riley, the case takes a chilling turn when a second killer starts trailing mutilated bodies of his own: a crazed young vamp choosing victims from a past marked by tragedy. Riley knows she’s got the skill and cunning to catch two serial killers at once…until one of them strikes inside her own tight-knit clan—and a sexy beast of a vampire reenters her life to aid in the hunt. His name is Quinn. He’s lived forever, shed blood, and shared pleasure…and he’s the only man over whom Riley has absolutely no control….

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The paranormal Australia that Arthur concocts works perfectly, and the plot speeds along at a breakneck pace.”—Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly

Vampire hunter Riley Jenson (Embraced by Darkness) returns to take on two serial killers: one kills high society women and the men in their lives; the other is kills seemingly unrelated people, gruesomely. Riley has her own problems: she can't sense the spirits of the dead at the murder scenes, and she's nursing a broken heart. The more investigating Riley does, the more she realizes that her brother's lover may be in danger, and the reappearance of Quinn O'Connor, a vampire that she loved and lost, complicates matters further. The paranormal Australia that Arthur concocts works perfectly, and the plot speeds along at a breakneck pace. Riley fans won't be disappointed. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553591149
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/29/2008
  • Series: Riley Jenson Guardian Series , #6
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 246,111
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.86 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Keri Arthur first started writing when she was twelve years old, and to date, she's finished fifteen novels. Her books have received many nominations and prizes, including making the final five in the Random House Australia George Turner Prize. She has also been nominated in the Best Contemporary Paranormal category of the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Awards, received a 'perfect 10' from Romance Reviews Today, as well as being nominated for Best Shapeshifter in PNR's PEARL Awards. She's a dessert and function cook by trade, and married to a wonderful man who not only supports her writing, but who also does the majority of the housework. They have one daughter, and live in Melbourne, Australia.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Being thrown out of a tree wasn't my idea of fun.

Granted, countless nestlings all over the world went through this every year, but they only had to do it once, and for them it was simply fly or die trying.

I wasn't a nestling, and I wasn't built to die. Not easily, anyway. I was dhampire—the offspring of a newly turned vampire whose dying seed somehow created life in the werewolf who raped and then killed him—and my bones were extraordinarily strong.

Being pushed from a tree couldn't kill me like it did those countless nestlings. But God, it could still hurt.

I mean, werewolves weren't designed to fly, and muscles used to being either a wolf or a woman were having trouble with the mechanics of being a bird.

Not that I particularly wanted to be a bird. And particularly not the type of bird I could now become. I mean, a seagull? A rat of the sea? Why that? Why not something more dignified and fearsome—like a hawk or an eagle? Something with useful weapons like talons and a hooked beak built for tearing?

But no. Fate had thrown me a seagull. I'm sure she was up there laughing at me right now.

Of course, I probably could become something else. The drug in my system that had caused the initial change into a gull would probably allow me to take other forms, but I wasn't about to risk it. The other half-breeds who'd been injected with ARC1-23 had changed into so many different forms that they'd lost the ability to become human again, and that wasn't a problem I was willing to face. Especially not when I'd already felt that moment of confusion, right after I'd first attained gull shape, when the magic that allowed me to shift shape had seemed to hesitate, as if it couldn't remember my human form.

That had terrified me.

So, much as I hated being a gull, I was going to stick with it, practice its form, until being a gull was as natural and as ingrained into my psyche as the wolf and the woman.

Maybe then I would play with other shapes.


"Riley, you cannot stay on the ground forever," a deep voice rumbled from above. "Learning to fly is a matter of perseverance. And height."

I muttered something unpleasant under my breath and rolled onto my back. A dozen different aches assaulted the muscles along my shoulders, spine, and arms, and made me long for the heat of a nice, deep bath. Though even a bath wouldn't do much for all the bruises I was beginning to collect.

Not that a bath was in my immediate future anyway, if old Henry had his way.

He was sitting in one of the top forks of the gum tree high above me, his bright red shirt contrasting sharply against the cheery yellow flowers that dotted the tree. His silver hair gleamed like ice in the dappled sunlight, and his nut-brown skin was as weathered and worn as the bark of the tree itself.

He wasn't Directorate personnel, but rather a friend of Jack's. He was also a hawk-shifter, and his family apparently had ties with Jack's that went way back. I'd tried some gentle questioning in an effort to glean something useful about my boss, but Henry had so far proved an unwilling gossiper.

"Riley," he warned again.

"Henry," I said, mimicking his cross tone. "I'm not going to have an inch of white skin left if you keep this up."

"Jack says you must learn as quickly as possible."

"Jack hasn't been thrown out of a tree a million times."

He laughed—a rich, merry sound that had a smile tugging at my lips despite my grumpiness.

"It's only twenty today. It took Jack a good thirty or so times a day—for a week—before he got it."

Jack might be a vampire now—thanks to the blood ceremony he'd taken over eight hundred years ago—but he'd been born a hawk-shifter and had the advantage of coming from a family of shifters. If it had taken him so long to learn, then heaven help me.

I raised my eyebrows and pushed up into a sitting position. "You taught Jack?"

 "I am not that old, little wolf. No, it's just something of a legend in our roost. Few hawks are so slow to learn." He laughed again. "There are some who say that's why he's bald. He lost his hair because he landed on his head too often."

I grinned. "Well, I'm glad to know it's not just us seagulls."

"You have spent most of your life as a wolf. It's natural that you would find the ways of flying difficult." He shook the rope tied to the branch near his legs. "Come."

"If it was as easy as coming, I'd be a natural." I rose, and bit back a groan as a dozen fresh aches erupted across my torso and legs. Damn, I was going to be black and blue by tonight. Not that it really mattered. It wasn't like I had anyone to go home to anymore.

Pain rose like an old ghost. I quickly shoved any thoughts of Kellen back into the box labeled "do not think about," then reached for the rope and began to climb. It had been two months since we'd split. I should be getting over it by now. Should be getting over him.

But I wasn't, and I wasn't actually sure I ever would. I'd loved him, and he'd walked away. And not for the reason I'd most expected—the fact that I was infertile, and a half-breed. No, he'd walked away because I was a guardian and wouldn't give it up. And the fact that I couldn't, thanks to the drug and the havoc it was still wreaking on my system, hadn't made a difference.

He'd walked away. Become just another man who couldn't accept what I was. Another man who'd managed to smash my heart.

I'd had just about enough of the whole damn "love and relationships" thing. So much so that, since our split, I'd been keeping pretty much to myself. Of course, I was a werewolf, so the moon heat would always ensure sex was a part of my life. But that one week was about it for me and men. It seemed that love and I were never going to find a happy medium, and as much as I still wanted the whole picket fence ideal, I just wasn't up to coping with the whims and foibles of men right now.

Chocolate, coffee, and ice cream were far more reliable when it came to providing a good time, and at least they would never disappoint me.

I just had to thank the fast metabolism of a wolf for the fact that I hadn't put on any weight over the last few months. If I were human, I'd be the size of a house.

I reached Henry's branch and edged carefully past, sitting down and letting my feet dangle. My fingers were clamped around the branch tightly and I avoided looking down. Since my last fall off a cliff—the same one in which I'd gained my gull shape—my stomach had been getting a mite queasy at even the slightest hint of a drop. Though I suppose that jumping repeatedly out of this tree and landing face-first on the ground below—and not breaking any bones—was going a long way toward curing a little of my unease.

I took a deep breath and blew it out softly. "So, explain it all to me one more time."

"A bird does not fly by simply flapping its wings," he said patiently. "Hold your arms out now, and try moving them really fast."

I did, feeling like a fool. Luckily, we were on Henry's estate up in the Dandenong hills, and well out of the way of curious passersby.

"Now, try turning your arms as you move them. More air motion happens as you twist your arms, does it not?"

I nodded, though to be honest, the difference was negligible. But then, maybe I'd hit the ground one too many times and my skin just wasn't up to feeling anything anymore.

"This is how it works with a bird. On the downstroke of the wing, the leading edge must be lower than the rear edge. And it doesn't just move down, it moves down and back, providing lift and forward movement."

"Yep, got that totally." Not.

He clipped me lightly over the ear. "Enough of the smart mouth, young woman. You can do this. You just need to think."

"All the thinking cells are either too bruised or knocked senseless," I muttered, edging a little farther along the branch so he couldn't hit me harder.

Anyone would have thought I was a teenager back at school again. I used to get clips over the ear for my smart mouth then, too.

"Think," he said. "Down, back, then up. Not up and down. Now change."

I blew out a breath, then shifted position and called to the magic that lay in my soul—the magic that had been altered to supply the form of the gull as well as the wolf. Power swept through me, around me, changing my body, changing my form, sweeping me from human to gull in the blink of an eye.

"Go," Henry said.

I spread my wings, closed my eyes, and jumped. Felt myself falling, felt the old familiar sense of panic roll through me, threatening to overwhelm. To freeze.

So I tried to concentrate on moving my wings instead. Down, back, up, down, back, up.

And miraculously, I was no longer falling. I squeezed open an eye, saw the ground sweeping past underneath me, and opened the other eye. I was flying.

"That's it," Henry said. "You've got it, my girl!"

"Woohoo!" The sound came out as a harsh-sounding squawk rather than any actual word, but for once I didn't care. I was flying. And it was such an amazing, powerful feeling.

Unfortunately, it didn't last long enough. Maybe I was so wrapped up in the sensation of flying that I actually forgot to fly, because suddenly the ground was approaching at the rate of knots and I was tumbling through the grass and twigs and dirt again.

I shifted to human shape and spat out a mouthful of earth. "Well, crap."

Henry laughed. He was lucky that I wasn't up there with him, because I would have damn well pushed him off the branch.

"It's not funny, Henry."

"No, it's hysterical. Most fledglings at least learn to land with some dignity by this time. I fear you and Jack are two peas in a pod."

I rolled onto my back and stared up at the blue sky that seemed as impossible to reach as ever. "If all this makes me go bald like him, I will not be happy."

"You flew, Riley," he said, amusement still evident in his voice. "It might not have been for long, but you flew. Soon you'll get a grip on the mechanics of it all."

"Even with my coordination? Or lack thereof?"

"Even with."

I grunted and hoped like hell he was right. When I glanced at my watch, I saw it was nearly three. I'd been at this whole falling thing for nearly six hours, and I'd just about had enough.

Of course, a crash course in flying was the least of my problems. Jack wasn't happy that I'd waited so long before telling him about the change, and lately he'd been taking every opportunity to chew me out. According to him, a broken heart was no reason for stupidity. I was beginning to think he'd never been in love. Or that it had happened so long ago that he'd forgotten the pain of it.

"I think I'll call it quits for the day, Henry. My bones are feeling a little battered."

"Go on up and help yourself to a shower, then. I think I'll go for a fly myself, stretch some of the kinks out of my wings."

"I'll see you tomorrow?"

"You will, my girl, you will."

He shifted shape and stepped off the branch, swooping low past my head before soaring up into the blue. I watched his brown and gold form until it disappeared, and couldn't help the touch of jealousy. I wanted to fly like that, I really did, but I was beginning to doubt it would ever happen.

With a sigh, I dragged my battered body to its feet and walked over to the tree to retrieve my clothes. The magic that allowed us to shift shape didn't always take the best care of the clothes we were wearing, so I tended to shed my outer layer for these lessons and just wear strong cotton undies and a T-shirt. Of course, that meant more scrapes and bruises than I would have gotten if I'd worn jeans and thicker tops. But, like most weres and shifters, I healed extraordinarily fast. Jeans and tops weren't as easy to fix or replace. Not when I had a brother who kept blowing the family budget.

I grabbed the bundle of clothes and headed back to Henry's tree house. Not that it was actually a tree house—just an old wooden house built on stilts, so that the living areas were high in the canopy of the surrounding trees. The light that filtered in through the windows had a pale, green-gold look, and the air was always rich with the smell of eucalyptus and the songs of birds. I loved it, despite my fear of heights. It had to be heaven for a bird-shifter.

I rattled up the stairs and made my way to the bathroom, taking a quick hot shower before getting dressed. Brushing my hair took a little longer than usual. It had grown amazingly fast in the last few months, and now streamed in thick red layers to well past my shoulders. The only trouble was it tended to get horribly knotted, especially when falling out of trees onto leaf-littered ground.

Once it was tangle-free, I swept it into a ponytail to keep it that way, then collected my purse and car keys and headed out. But I'd barely made it back to my car when my cell phone rang.

I knew, without a doubt, that it would be Jack. And it wasn't my strengthening skill of clairvoyance that told me that.

It was experience.

Jack always tended to ring when I least wanted or needed to work.

I dug through the mess of my purse until I found my vid-phone. "You gave me a week to learn to fly," I said, by way of greeting. "It's only been three days."

"Yeah, well, tell it to the bad guys." Jack's voice was etched with a tiredness that matched the dark bags under his eyes. "The bastards seem to be going out of their way to be pains in the asses lately. Just like some guardians I know."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 311 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 313 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:


    So far, I have enjoyed every last book in this series! The characters have become some of my all-time favorites, and the stories are extremely entertaining! If you enjoy paranormal romance / urban fantasy / mystery books, then you will love the Riley Jensen series!

    If you like werewolves, you might like the "Night-Creature" novels by Lori Handeland. Also, if you enjoy Keri Arthur, I bet you'll also like Laurell K. Hamilton!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2013

    A Must Read

    If you are a Riley Jenson Guardian fan, this is a must read. It introduces new characters and new twists that will have you not wanting to put the book down.

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  • Posted July 28, 2012

    good quick read

    when I have nothing else to read this series keeps me occupied. I dont feel the need to read all the books back to back but I enjoy the story.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Good book

    Good book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2012

    Greatly enjoyable urban fantasy

    I truelly enjoyed this book (in audio)! I found striking similarities with the Kate Daniels series, but unlike KD, this series does lose it's appeal.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2011

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Loved it!

    Just finished this book and I have to say that Keri Arthur is fast becoming one of my favorite authors! I love the characters in her books! It's not just romance but fast paced action! A real page turner, I couldn't put it down!

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  • Posted May 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Another Good Book

    Once again Keri Arthur has kept me reading a book that I found disturbing in so many ways. It amazes me that she can do that. I had a hard time with the escalation of violence in the story...gross...but her story and Riley Jenson are just so good I can't put it down and just keep reading. I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to read the next.

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  • Posted May 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Love every page!

    Big fan of Riley Jenson novels and I loved every page of this novel! The series is amazing and a great escape from reality. I cannot wait for the next chapter in Riley's life and see what or who comes her way next.

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  • Posted November 3, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Awesome series cann't wait until the next one comes out but well worth the wait.

    This was the first book I read of the series I feel in love with the story line as well as the charcters.So i then went and got all of the series and have read the books 3 times start to finish all 6 of them.I can not what until the next book comes out.I hate waiting but I know the wait is worth it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2008

    Thank You! Keri Arthur

    In my last review of one other book. I had asked to please bring Quinn back to Riley and in this book you did!! All I can say is Thank You. I don't know if this is the last of the Riley series! But for me it brings closer to this exciting to read person, that in my mined was witty, cocky, very tender, had a great heart and it was broken very badly. But in the end with one Rose was all that was needed for Riley which she knew it was from Quinn. So again Thank you!! I look forward to reading your new series!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2008

    Riley Jenson is super cool

    this book was vey good..if u enjoy the others in the series you will enjoy this. you will see how much Riley has changed throughout the series. It brings hope for all the next books to come

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2008

    Dont waste your time!!!!!

    ok heres the deal my mom works on the production line and snagged me a copy so i could read it early....she did this cause im a huge fan of all her books but this book is terribale....i mean everybody dies its so bad i almost didnt want to finish it but i did so if u wanna waste your time go ahead and waste your money!!!!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2008


    i love all her other books so even though i havent read this one yet i know its going to be smash hit !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Enjoyable police procedural fantasy

    In Melbourne, Dhampire Riley Jensen takes her work as a Directorate of Other Races guardian seriously for if she did not she would be dead as her cases are dangerous since she is judge, jury, and executioner when a non-human breaks the law. Her boss Jack Parnell orders her to investigate the death of hawk shifter Gerald James, head of the Non Human Rights league that was pushing for political representation. Her partner is horse shifter Kade with wolf shifter Cole working the crime scene. Both Riley and Kade sense something is not right Cole tells them the victim had quite a sex marathon. While scratches on the deceased¿s neck look like they came from a cat. Gerald¿s assistant says he was seeing Alana Burns, one of the Torrack Trollops who sell themselves to millionaires in order to live the good life. --- Wolf Ben Wilson, manager of the Nonpareil striptease, calls Riley to ask her to look into the death of one of his strippers, Denny, who was into the BDSM scene and died during erotic asphyxiation. She agrees and meets Ben at Denny¿s place where she senses a creature similar to a vampire, but different. --- Riley investigates both cases following a trail of death. In each the clues point towards the culprits being different than the normal other races that she knows of. However, understanding the danger to herself, her beloved brother, and his soulmate, Riley continues her pursuit of two dangerously deranged unique killers. --- The key to the Arthurian universe (see KISSING SIN and DANGEROUS GAMES) is that the prime supernatural species seem genuine especially dhampires, psychic vampires (the ultimate dominant), and shapeshifters. The two serial killer investigations are interesting as the opponents are super paranormals with nasty grudges that has turned deadly. Although the two killers being two different distinct species that almost no one ever heard of loses some plausibility, police procedural fantasy fans will enjoy this strong investigative tale starring a fascinating individual. --- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2008

    don't listen to the one below

    when the last book ended i emailed keri arthur to ask if there would be more and she said there are two books after this one so not everyone dies if any at all

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    Posted July 16, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2010

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