Hearts of Darknessby Kira Brady
In the first of a dazzling new romantic trilogy, one woman's courageous search plunges her into a millennia-old supernatural warand an irresistible passion. . .
Nurse Kayla Friday has dedicated her life to science and reason. But for her, Seattle is a place of eerie loss and fragmented, frightening memories. And now the only clue to her sister's murder
In the first of a dazzling new romantic trilogy, one woman's courageous search plunges her into a millennia-old supernatural warand an irresistible passion. . .
Nurse Kayla Friday has dedicated her life to science and reason. But for her, Seattle is a place of eerie loss and fragmented, frightening memories. And now the only clue to her sister's murder reveals a secret battle between two ancient mythologies. . .and puts Kayla in the sights of lethally-sexy werewolf mercenary Hart. He'll do whatever it takes to obtain the key to the Gate of the Land of the Dead and free what's left of his soul. But seducing the determined Kayla is putting them at the mercy of powerful desires neither can control. And as the clock ticks down to hellish catastrophe, the untested bond between Kayla and Hart may lead to the ultimate sacrifice.
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Hearts of DarknessA Deadglass Novel
By KIRA BRADY
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2012 Kira Brady
All right reserved.
Chapter One"These shores will swarm with the invisible Dead of my Tribe. The White Man will never be alone. Let him be kind and just to my People, for the Dead are not powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a Change of Worlds." —Chief Seattle, Washington Territories, 1854
Seattle, Present Day
The drowning world was gray through the riflescope. From the exposed rooftop across the street, Hart watched the Seattle morgue. Charms to guard against the dead were woven into the cyclone fence. They whistled in the harsh March wind—a low haunted noise, like the keening of spirits.
Hart hunched in his worn bomber jacket. Rain sliced his skin and pummeled the broken asphalt far below. Soggy leaves and cigarette butts raged through overflowing gutters toward distant Puget Sound. Wiping the water out of his eyes, he watched a woman come into view. She fit the profile of his target: midtwenties, short, curvy, with smooth latte skin, generous eyebrows, and a high forehead. She shivered in a thin jean jacket that did nothing to shield her from the rain. Did she have the necklace with her? Her body tensed when she caught sight of the morgue. She wrapped her arms around herself, hesitating momentarily as she took a shaky breath.
She pushed the thick brown hair out of her face, and he saw her eyes. Framed with wet-clumped lashes, they were golden brown and red from crying. Nothing special, and yet for a moment he forgot himself. Forgot his stiff aches and his cold fingers. Forgot the job and the madness and the constant stench of blood on his hands. Forgot his one driving goal: freedom.
Then she turned her head and the moment was lost. He felt the rain again beating on his face and the familiar burning in his chest. He tamped it down before it consumed him, before the thing inside him clawed out of his skin.
She continued down the sidewalk. Her generous ass swayed in the soaked jeans plastered to her body. Hart swallowed.
Around her, the Aether roiled—a sure sign she was not alone. The shining water that surrounded all matter didn't take kindly to ghosts on the wrong side of the Gate to the Land of the Dead. Spirits were supposed to pass peacefully through those Gates, leaving this world to the living, but the Gate in Seattle was busted. Dark spirits slipped free through the crack formed by Chief Seattle's curse to wreak havoc among the living.
Hart pulled a small spyglass out of his pocket. Holding the Deadglass to his eye, he adjusted the cluster of gears to focus the glittering cut-glass lens. The murky sight that emerged sent a jolt of fear to his gut. His lips peeled back, baring his teeth, and the beast inside him sat up and growled.
He knew the spirit world was alongside him, but it was another thing entirely to see it with his own eyes. The damned souls who refused to pass through the Gate swarmed around the woman on the street below. Her grief attracted them like moths to the flame. He could almost taste their hunger. The ethereal forms floated around her. Craving her touch. Coveting her senses.
She unconsciously waved a hand in front of her face as if brushing away fog, but was unaware of the danger. Why did humans choose to ignore their instincts?
For some reason the sight of the woman trapped by the wraiths affected him more than it should have. His beast strained forward, trying to catch her scent across the waterlogged street. Energy tingled through his core. Fur rippled beneath his skin. He hung on to his human form, snuffing out the glow that preceded the Change. Sweat broke on his brow. His pulse raced. With three days until the full moon, he should have more control.
The crows chose that moment to show up and distract him, which for once was a good thing. Gossiping in their guttural tongue, they landed on the telephone wires and rooftops. Watching. Waiting. Spying on him for their Kivati masters.
Lady be damned.
Kivati sentinels couldn't be far behind. An ancient race of shape-changers, the Kivati were legends in their own right: Raven, Cougar, Coyote, Thunderbird. Wolf. They once protected the land and humankind. Still did, officially. But they did little to prove it, too caught up in a bloody war with the Drekar to waste time on humans.
At least the Drekar's intentions were honest. Cursed with no souls of their own, the dragon-shifters fed on human souls. They weren't always careful to leave their food alive. Who cared how many humans died, as long as there were enough to feed on? Better the weak were culled from the flock, leaving the strongest souls to provide sustenance. The Kivati felt honor-bound to defend humans, and the Drekar gave as good as they got.
It was a secret war, carried out in the shadowed alleys and boardrooms, behind the backs of the humans. The battles might be hidden, but the damage was everywhere. Outright neglect as resources were diverted into the war. A failing power grid as ghosts fried electrical circuits. Midnight explosions made to look like accidents. The shining skyscrapers deteriorating as soon as the last nail was hammered in. People disappeared and murder splashed across the nightly news, but humans chalked it up to gang violence. Other major metropolises had similar problems of urban decay and crime. It was the high price of city living. Those who didn't like it were welcome to leave, and they did.
The damage accelerated every time some damn fool tried to open the Gate, cracking it farther, letting more ghosts and demons slip into the living world. The last time, it caused Mount St. Helens to erupt. Next time, who knew? From his vantage point on the roof, Hart could count three more volcanoes just waiting to blow their tops.
He could take care of himself. Always had. He aimed his rifle at the north end of the street where Kivati sentinels were sure to appear. Their crow scouts gave them away. Odds were good they were here for the same necklace he was. He had to get it first. Norgard wouldn't take no for an answer.
Once Hart completed this job there was a single task left to pay off the blood debt that bound him. He could taste his freedom on the bitter north wind. After fifteen years in Norgard's service, Hart's soul was a dark, twisted thing, but it was his.
Down on the street, the woman glanced briefly up at the cackling crows, before stepping through the fence gate. The whistling charms that hung from the wrought-iron bars kept the dead from following her. Too bad the Kivati weren't so easily put off. She climbed the steps, heaved open the morgue's heavy iron door, and slipped inside.
Hart didn't have time to follow and interrogate her about the necklace. All he could do was train his rifle on the two black jeeps that screeched to a halt on the street below. Black titanium scales plated the sides and tops of the vehicles. Two long tailpipes trailed from the undercarriage, one puffing black smoke from the firebox, the other a cloud of white water droplets. The Kivati had kept their old technology and adapted it to the new era. Though the large armored vehicles resembled modern cars, they ran on steam.
The Kivati sentinels moved with the grace and speed of their animal counterparts. Six tall, muscled men untucked themselves from the cramped vehicles and spilled onto the sidewalk, long black dusters swinging in the wind. Even though the sun hadn't been seen in a good week or more, they wore dark sunglasses—the better to hide eerie violet-ringed pupils. The Kivati believed in secrecy at any cost. Humans could never learn of the monsters that battled for control of their city.
Hart recognized the Fox and his usual crew of hotheaded young Thunderbirds and Crows. Rudrick was shorter than the others, with the lean build of a runner, red-streaked hair and a tuft of fur at his chin. Cocky too, as he wore no glasses. The look in his beady black eyes was crafty and calculated, his inner Fox brought to the fore by the pleasure of the hunt.
Hart had a clear shot of the sidewalk and anyone trying to walk past the fence to the morgue front door. He raised his rifle, aimed at the ground in front of Rudrick, and fired. The bullet nicked the concrete. The sentinels scattered, dodging his bullets as they ran behind their jeeps for safety.
The bastards might not have time to pull their own guns, but they weren't without weapons. From the sky, a crow swooped, talons extended, straight at Hart's face. He shot it. On the ground, a sentinel cried out as his mental connection to the bird was severed.
The other birds attacked, slashing and clawing. Razor-sharp beaks aimed at Hart's eyes.
He was too quick. He rolled onto his back and came up blasting. The guns he kept strapped beneath his jacket settled into his grip as if he'd been born with them instead of hands. Black feathers rained down. Screams like rusty violins filled the air. A few crows slipped past his bullets, and he felt his scalp tear and blood splatter his cheek.
He relished it, though it wasn't a real battle, just a game. A bit of professional courtesy between one killer and another: This target's mine.
Message received, thank you.
Crow blood sprayed his tongue, bitter and warm and disgustingly familiar. More and more came until the sky was black and beating wings obscured his vision. His ears rang with the blast from his guns.
The attack stopped all at once, after a single mental command from their Kivati masters. The birds—the survivors—limped off to sit on the telephone wires and clean their wounds. Hart's jacket had held up well against the assault, shielding him like a tough leather skin, but his face and hands stung with talon marks. He rolled onto his stomach and pulled himself to the edge of the building so that he could look down on the street and assess the damage.
Behind the cover of the jeeps, the sentinels waited with firepower ticking in their hungry fingers. One man clutched his right shoulder; blood welled slowly from a hole shot through the black wool coat. Another lay moaning on the cold, wet ground, hands pressed to his temple, his consciousness ripped apart by the loss of too many crows. Mental wounds were hard to stitch up.
Sucked to be him, but what did the man expect, connecting himself to another being like that? Kivati felt the death of their familiars like the loss of a limb, keen as a knife to the heart. Dumb bastards. Attachments were weakness. Hart would give his left nut—hell, both nuts—to be rid of the crazed beast inside him.
The rain washed the blood from his skin and swept broken feathers into the clogged gutters in the street below. In the distance, beyond the stormy Sound, sunlight broke over the Olympic Mountains.
To Hart's surprise, the Kivati gave up. With an order from Rudrick, they loaded into the jeeps and drove off in a cloud of smoke, the chug of the steam engines echoing in the empty, waterlogged street.
Strange. Either they weren't here for the necklace after all, or they didn't want it as badly as he'd thought. Maybe it was only sentimental junk, but he doubted it. His instincts said Norgard was holding out on him, as usual. Norgard wouldn't lift a claw to save his own mother.
Dead crows lay where they had fallen along the rooftop and the asphalt below. Hart pulled the Deadglass out of his pocket and held it to his eye. Through the glass he watched shadows pull away from the small broken bodies. They condensed and solidified, feather by translucent feather. A pathway through the Aether began to shine, guiding the way home. One by one, the spirit birds flew into the sky and disappeared beyond the shimmering veil.
Rising, Hart shouldered his rifle. He slipped the Deadglass into his pocket, slid down the fire escape, and headed to the morgue. Nothing could keep him from finding that necklace. No Kivati. No wraith. He'd earn his freedom if he had to fight hell itself.
Kayla entered the dimly lit morgue and bit her lip to keep from crying. She had to hold it together. If she allowed the swelling sorrow to shatter her into a million bits, there would be no one left to pick up the pieces. Seattle, this godforsaken, desolate city, had stolen everyone from her. Her mother in a violent "accident" that Kayla only vaguely remembered. Her father from the heartbreak of it years later. Now her sister, who was shockingly, mysteriously dead. A yawning chasm opened in her chest, threatening to suck her down into the black abyss. She couldn't let it.
Instead of harsh fluorescents, the Seattle morgue was lit with soft gaslights. A fire hazard, but the warm glow was strangely comforting. It made everything seem less real, like she'd stepped back in time.
A skinny, middle-aged woman with sallow skin manned the welcome desk. Her shirt had a vaguely Edwardian air with a short collar and lightly puffed sleeves. She was filling out forms by hand, holding the pencil awkwardly with her long pink nails. She didn't look up when she asked for Kayla's name. Too tired to care, perhaps.
"Friday," Kayla said, proud that her voice didn't shake, "Kayla Friday. I'm here to identify my ... sister."
The woman set the pencil down and raised her head. She was younger than she had first appeared. Her salt-and-pepper hair and the weary sag of her shoulders were deceptive. "I.D.?"
Kayla fumbled with her purse to pull out her driver's license and handed it over.
The woman eyed the Philadelphia address. "Long way from home."
No kidding. Seattle might be a six-hour plane ride from Philly, but Kayla felt like she'd traveled halfway around the world to some war-torn, third world country where electricity was rationed. She'd never seen so many old diesel cars or broken traffic lights. Half-empty skyscrapers lorded over roads strewn with uncollected trash and abandoned vehicles. The few brave souls out on the streets of the once-great city scuttled about with creased foreheads and downcast eyes.
Desi should have taken one look at this dump and come back home, but she hadn't. The contrary kid had liked it. She had started taking mythology classes at the university. Useless degree, Kayla thought. But for the first time Desi was excited about school, so Kayla let it slide.
Until recently. In the past few weeks, Desi had grown distant. Preoccupied. She hadn't returned Kayla's last two phone calls.
The receptionist tapped her pencil against the desk and thinned her lips. "You took longer than you should have to show up."
"I got the call yesterday," Kayla protested. "Took the first flight I could." She was going on thirty hours without sleep. The policeman's voice haunted her, repeating those terrible words in her head: Your sister is dead.
"Dangerous to let a body sit empty and whole overnight." The woman stood and unlocked the cabinet behind her.
Why? In her two years of nursing, Kayla had never heard of such a thing. Perhaps if Desi had died of something contagious—bubonic plague or smallpox came to mind—but then she would be quarantined.
The receptionist pulled a paper bag out of the cabinet and handed it to Kayla. "The deceased's effects." Kayla licked her lips, trying and failing to say thank you like her mama had taught her. Her mouth was dry as bone. She clutched the bag to her chest, the last articles found on her sister, the only clues to solving the mystery of her death.
The woman stabbed one long nail down the dim hallway. "Body is waiting. First door on your left." Washing her hands of the matter, she returned to her paperwork.
The deceased. The body. The words were so impersonal, detached from the loving, bubbly girl who was her sister. Had been her sister.
Strength of will held Kayla together and carried her down the long empty hallway to the exam room. A wave of formaldehyde and a blast of freezing air greeted her when she opened the door. Unforgiving metal covered every surface, and—despite the soft glow of the gas lamps—the air felt stagnant and dead. Dead as the body beneath the sheet.
How could her heart hurt so much yet still beat so quickly? She could do this. She was a nurse, for goodness sake. Dead bodies were nothing new. Approaching the exam table in the center of the room, she reached out to touch the cold cotton sheet. Her hand trembled. With a deep breath, she yanked the cloth back.
It took a few minutes for her brain to recognize the blue-tinged figure on the slab in front of her. At first she thought there'd been some mistake. This wasn't her sister. This was some alien body: lips purple and cracked, belly swollen and distended, dark veins clearly outlined as if they'd been drawn on the skin in magic marker.
Pregnant? Her sister wasn't pregnant.
But that small hope that this wasn't her sister shattered as she took in the familiar cheekbones; wide-set eyes; the rich, wavy, mahogany hair; proud nose; and delicately pointed chin. Desi.
A sob burst from deep in her chest. How could Desi be so still? Desi was always full of life, overflowing with passion. A little touch of the devil in her twinkling brown eyes. How could a life so vibrant be snuffed out?
Excerpted from Hearts of Darkness by KIRA BRADY Copyright © 2012 by Kira Brady. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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3.5 Stars Ms. Brady did a very fine job on her first novel. There were a few bumps; some small, some big, but all-in-all, a very entertaining read. Kayla is light and Hart is dark. She is a healer and he is a killer. Put these two together and something special is made. Kayla has returned to Seattle to expose her sister’s murderer. From the very start, things aren’t what they seem. Seattle is not the city she expected; shadows are everywhere, buildings are crumbling, electricity is sparse and even more questions arise the moment her eyes are set upon her sister’s dead body. Unknown to her, her life is going to be thrown into a world she never heard about and to her surprise, a world that she was forever to be a part of. Hart is bound and determined to get free from his blood bond. Only two more jobs and he will be a free man. His plans of running in the wilds are derailed the moment he sets his rifle scope on Kayla’s face. She sparks something in him that makes his wolf sit up and take notice. He is too close to fail now and he will not let one woman ruin his plans. Warring factions, prophetic futures and raising passions have forced these two to work together. Can they trust each other? Can they save the world? Can they find solace in each other’s arms? With time ticking away, neither have time to think on their choices or the consequences. All they can do is hope for the best. Hearts of Darkness is a hard novel for me to rate. The plot is fascinating, the characters have been developed nicely, the setting is chilling and the book as a whole is rather well written. I really liked the idea behind the book, but what I didn’t like was inconsistencies in the story telling. I have to admit first off that I’m a stickler for continuity and reasoning. There were several areas in the book that something would be clearly stated and then a page or so down the road it would be contradicted and then explained away even further in the book. If the order of the story telling would have been laid out better, I believe a better product would have been achieved. To not give any spoilers I’ll just use one example: The villain states that the dragons can’t have children; why I won’t divulge. But his mistress was pregnant. He also states that while he is very old, well over a century, he has a brother that is two hundred years old. So wait…they CAN have children? Much later in the book the reasoning was explained, but if the subject came up, prior to the explanation, I was sent back into confusion. What it turned out to be was that they can’t have children within their species. Yes, I know a minor spoiler, but this type of problem popped up more than once. Make a rather important statement, contradict it and then explain the real reason much later. It was very frustrating. When this type of problem came up, it yanked me away from the novel and made me engage my brain to think it out, when it should have been lost in the storytelling. I do have to say, I am rather interested in the base story. I have not read many steam punk or apocalyptic type novels, but I enjoyed how these two ideas were merged. When I think of the genres, steam punk is set in the past and apocalyptic in the future, but Ms. Brady gave it a very contemporary feeling. She also did a great job with her imagery and the premise of the trilogy is superb. For her debut novel, I give her two thumbs up and I foresee with time, patience and hard work, her storytelling will only get better. I have very high hopes for this author and I will keep an eye out for her future works.
Sorry that movi was long)"good night,i love you forever and always my gem"
This was a very enjoyable book. Exciting and suspenseful. Kira Brady is a winner. Can't wait for the next book and hope for a long series!!!!
Hearts of Darkness is an outstanding debut novel for the Deadglass series. With a very intricate world and character building, Ms. Brady did a superb job of creating a world of mix mythology, shape shifters, ghost, and dragons. I do have to say how impressed I am with this book. I was skeptical of the world building as I had a bit of trouble understanding it in the prequel, Hearts of Fire (Deadglass, #0.5). Though it was slow in the beginning, THIS book had just the right length to better describe this world. In a nut shell, this world revolves around two clans who are in battle with each other for centuries. It is between the Kivati shifters who are of different animals of Native American mythology and the Drekar, dragon shifters which had the Norse mythology back ground. Both clans are living in secret among humans but always in battle for power. Kayla’s sister (Desiree) recently passed away and being the nurse that she is, finding out the exact cause of her sister’s death is important to her. To do just that, Kayla visits her sister’s town (alternate world of Seattle) and unraveled a lot more than she expected. On the other hand, we have Hart Lupus of the Kivati clan but has little contact with any Kivatis since he was a child. This Wolfe shifter is an independent mercenary who’s worked for the Drekar. Indentured for 15 years, he is at a point of earning his freedom. The question is, will he survive this last mission to get what he wants? Both on a mission to find answers, our Hero and Heroine decides to work together to better their chances. And yes, they worked! A bad boy tamed by the strong heroine, Kayla and Hart are good together. They had a lot of sexual tension and their intimate moments were pretty hot. I really enjoyed reading about them. Speaking of hot, I wanted to note the leader of the Kivati, Emory Corbette. He has totally captured my eye. If you’ve read the novella, he is Alice's brother who seemed eager to rule and push for what he believes in. We see what type of a leader he became after all these years. He and Princess Lucia, the harbinger of destiny has a very intriguing relationship and one I would love to follow. Though the overall romance was good, I felt like there was more focus on the plot. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing because the plot was pretty damn good, IMO. It was full of excitement, suspense, lies and betrayals along with magic, ghost, shifters and mix mythologies. While there is a HEA, this book may have been categorized in the PNR genre but IMO; there is a big UF feel about it. Overall a great read and I recommended it to both PNR/UF fans. *ARC provided by publisher
Kayla Friday flies out to Seattle to ID her sister’s body. The authorities said she died of an overdose but Kayla, being a nurse, knows what a drug overdose looks like and her sister’s body does not look like that. When the mysterious Hart comes crashing into the morgue, Kayla is thrown into a war that has been brewing for awhile between the Kivati and Drekar. Whoever holds the necklace that Kayla’s sister was hiding will have the key to the gate that protects the world of the living from the world of the dead. Kayla and Hart are drawn toward each other yet there are many obstacles in the way. The big one is Hart is a hired mercenary werewolf in charge of recovering the necklace to earn his own freedom. The paranormal world is new to Kayla but she soon discovers a secret about herself that makes her realize that this whole new world she discovered isn’t that foreign to her. Kayla finds strength inside her she didn’t know she possessed but when Hart is in danger she is the one who comes to the rescue. The ending has a bit of a twist considering up until then you honestly don’t know which side is good or bad. As I was reading Brady’s novel I couldn’t help but find many similarities to the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. Characters and plots are eerily comparable. Aside from that, there are some unique aspects that make me curious to read the next installment. I liked the combination of the different mythologies that Brady stirs together to create some interesting characters. Having it set in Seattle was just genius because when I think of Seattle I think of a nitty gritty world that is always a bit dreary. I thought this was a good debut for Kira Brady. (ARC was provided by publisher for an honest review)