Read an Excerpt
A Moon Series Novel
By Lisa Kessler, Danielle Poiesz
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Lisa Kessler
All rights reserved.
The dry Las Vegas wind stung my eyes as I rounded the building, scanning the shadowed parking lot for my prey. Even the dark of night couldn't cool the desert heat wafting up from the pavement. The stench of the spy's fear teased my nostrils, making the corner of my mouth twitch. I could admit I was eager to take this guy down, but knowing he was scared shitless sweetened the deal considerably.
For the past several months, this secret had festered inside me like an open wound. I'd been traveling too often. Instead of protecting my Pack back in Reno, I had found myself sneaking around, unable to stop tracking her, protecting our enemy.
The wolf inside of me growled, aching to fight for this woman I barely even knew, who'd tried to kill me. Twice. I forced a slow breath into my lungs. Patience. I could wait this guy out. My bum ankle left me little choice anyway.
My senses were on full alert, adrenaline pumping through my veins. The Nero Organization was still searching for her, and this scumbag was the latest in a string of informants looking for easy money. With a bounty on her head, they were eager to provide proof that she was still on the loose.
Finally he made his move. Footsteps raced toward the alley. Toward me. Perfect. I stepped into his path, blocking his only exit. He tried to pivot and change course, but it was too late. The weasel rammed into me, falling backward. Before he could roll over and scramble away, I grabbed his shirt and yanked him off the ground.
"You're not going anywhere." My eyes narrowed as I pulled him even closer, his scent filling my nostrils. He was human. Apparently Nero wasn't ready to risk another jaguar assassin to search for her. Maybe they were starting to believe she really had died at the fight in Lake Tahoe. "Tell me about Nero."
"I don't know nothin'."
He wriggled like a fish, his feet struggling to touch the pavement. I was at least six inches taller than him, and I had no intention of letting him get away. I head-butted him. Blood erupted from his nose, the thick coppery scent immediately bringing the wolf inside me to full attention.
"Goddammit," he shouted, kicking me in the shins while he yanked at my wrists. "Let go of me, you crazy son of a bitch."
I kept my grip tight on his shirt. "I asked you a question."
"And I told you, I don't know nothin'."
"You're lying," I said before slamming him against the brick wall of the alley.
He coughed, spewing putrid breath into my face. He reeked of week-old cigarettes and cheap vodka. "Please," he stammered. "I never heard of any Nero."
"Why have you been trailing the red-haired woman?" He started to shake his head, so I freed one hand from his shirt and landed a solid punch to his stomach to joggle his memory. "Answer me."
He stopped kicking his feet, and his stare met mine. Gradually the fear in his eyes faded. My patience was wearing thin, but before I could rattle his cage for a reply, he started to smile. "They know she didn't die in that fight," he whispered.
Pain burst through my gut, setting my entire side on fire. Dammit! The slimy little bastard had stabbed me.
I pressed him against the wall, forcing myself not to loosen my grip. Fear crept back into his eyes when I didn't let him go. I held him up with one arm and pulled his knife out of my side with the other.
His eyes opened wide. "What the hell are you?"
Using both hands I threw him across the alley, his skull crunching against the bricks. He hit the ground like a rag doll while I clutched the new hole in my side.
"I'm a wolf, asshole."
* * *
Usually Jason, our Pack doctor, patched up our wounds, but that wasn't an option for me right now. My twin, Adam — our Alpha — would demand to know what happened.
And for the first time in my life, I had no intention of telling him. What could I say? I let the Pack believe I'd killed Sasha during the fight with Nero six months ago instead of admitting I'd pulled her to safety. And now I watched out for her, protecting her from a distance. Even Adam wouldn't — couldn't — let that one alone.
Never in a million years would I have ever believed myself capable of betraying my Pack, my family. But I also hadn't understood the depth of my wolf instincts. Now they demanded I walk both sides of the line, leaving my loyalty torn in shreds.
I couldn't return to the Pack with this wound. I had to sort it out without them. Besides I was at least an eight-hour drive from Reno. I'd have to risk a few stitches here in Vegas and be sure I didn't allow any blood to be drawn. I could do that.
By the time I pulled into the urgent care center, I knew the stab wound wasn't too serious. If he'd hit an artery or a major organ, I would have bled out by now. But ignoring a gaping wound in my side wasn't an option either. Werewolves may heal a little faster than humans, but a nasty staph infection could take a wolf down just as well as the next person.
Stepping out of the car, I winced as pain radiated up my leg. I sucked in a deep breath through clenched teeth. My ankle was fucking killing me. Perfect. At least I had the guy's knife wrapped and hidden under the floor of the trunk with my spare tire. Maybe I'd be able to pull fingerprints from it later and get something out of this other than a stab wound.
Wiping the sweat off my forehead, I limped into the brightly lit ER. The triage nurse jumped up and rushed me to an exam room. Being covered in blood apparently trumped the other emergencies.
I hated the smell of hospitals. My acute wolf senses caught a mixture of blood, urine, and disinfectant, morphing it into a disgusting scent of decay that turned my stomach. I got up on the exam table, slightly wobbly from the blood loss. The nurse laid a clipboard on the counter and scribbled something quickly before turning to face me.
"So what happened?" She snapped on a pair of latex gloves and reached for the hem of my shirt to inspect the wound.
"I'm all right. It's just a little scratch."
Her eyes widened when she found the source of my bleeding. "This isn't a scratch. You've been stabbed."
I forced what I hoped was a convincing smile. "All I need is a couple of stitches, and I'll be on my way."
She shook her head and stepped back. "You can try to charm me all you want, but you'll still need to speak with the police about your injury. It's hospital policy with stabbings and shootings."
"It was an accident. I fell while holding a steak knife." This was exactly the reason no one in the Pack went to hospitals — too many questions. "Come on, I feel stupid enough as it is."
She raised a brow and left the room.
I raked a hand back through my hair and groaned. I was screwed.
I couldn't talk to the police any more than I could face the Pack and tell them why I was in Las Vegas killing Nero informants. No self-respecting cop was going to believe my story. I needed something better than falling on a steak knife.
My gaze flicked to the closed door. Physically I was only a wolf one night a month, but I still had heightened senses while I was a man. My hearing and sense of smell were far stronger than any human's, and right now I could hear a woman talking to the staff, followed by introductions and the click of determined footsteps.
I recognized that voice.
When the door opened the wolf inside of me howled.
"This is Detective Marsh." The nurse snatched my chart from the counter. "The doctor will be in shortly to check your wound."
Once the nurse was gone, I couldn't help but stare at the most incredible woman I'd ever seen. Tough, beautiful, resilient Sasha. Her full lips were pressed together as her dark eyes met mine. I struggled to remind myself that this was also the same woman who had Tasered me and then shattered my ankle with a single gunshot. She had threatened to kill Adam ... and his mate Lana. The Nero Organization had ordered her to do so. They bred jaguar shape-shifters and trained them as silent assassins for the highest bidder. Sasha had been bitten rather than bred, but she was in their employ nonetheless. Or at least she used to be. So what was she doing here impersonating an officer?
I had every reason to hate her. Yet here she was, standing five feet from me, and not only was I not attacking her, but I was drinking in her scent. She didn't smell like most of the women I worked with, like flowers and lace. Or like any of the jaguars I'd encountered. Her scent was spicy, like leather and musk.
And I was more certain with each breath that I'd never be able to deny my instincts. I needed her.
When my brother told me he'd found his mate, I didn't understand how he knew. I wasn't sure I believed the old stories about the wolf recognizing the one woman we'd spend a lifetime with from one touch of her skin, and when Adam claimed a jaguar for his mate, I thought he'd gone insane. The bottom line was simple: We don't take in enemies of our Pack.
But here she was, glaring at me in the urgent care center, and instead of killing her I caught myself wondering how her mouth might taste. I shoved aside the lust and dug deep for cold indifference.
"It's Detective Marsh now? I thought you'd sold your badge to Nero."
She dodged my barb without even acknowledging it. "Look, wolf, I'm doing you a favor by coming in here flashing a phony badge. I don't know why, but you saved me at the lake, so I figure I owe you this." She tucked the fake ID into her pocket and met my eyes. "If you came here to settle the score with me, then bring it on. I deserve it. But if you think you're slowing Nero down, you're not. I can fight my own battles." She looked poised to say something else but just shook her head slowly. "Just back off."
I laughed and sat up. It took all I had not to wince at the pain that burned through my abdomen. "You think I'm trying to help you? Is that it?"
Her chin lifted as she crossed her arms over her chest. I did my best not to stare at her breasts. "What I think isn't important. What I know is that you've been following me, and this is the second Nero informant you've killed. Did you think I wouldn't notice?" Her hands dropped to her sides again. "You don't know who you're dealing with, wolf. Nero has eyes and ears everywhere. Do yourself a favor and stay out of this."
She spun on her heel and left, slamming the door behind her. I could hear her telling the nurse she'd sign off on my medical treatment. She confirmed it was a household accident. No investigation would follow.
I smirked. Sasha, the jaguar assassin who tried to kill me twice, had helped me.
Go figure.CHAPTER 2
I cranked up the stereo in the Beamer as I pulled out of the parking lot. It was a nice ride and I didn't lose sleep keeping the Nero Organization's car. I knew they couldn't report it stolen. The last thing they would want is the police nosing around their door.
Since I'd made the irreparable mistake of allowing Sebastian into my bed and my heart, I'd been bitten and converted into a jaguar shifter against my will. If I'd known about what he was, and whom he worked for, I would've run as fast I could. Instead, they changed me and stole my career and my life.
The least they owed me was a car.
Or so I told my conscience.
It'd been over six months since I'd heard the wolf's voice — since that night I spared his life and shot his ankle instead of his head. My stomach twisted. I wished that statistic didn't come to me so quickly. It wasn't like I missed hearing his voice.
I'd never met a man like him before. Although I'd Tasered him and held him hostage, he was never afraid. I'd know — I could smell fear. He'd tried to talk to me, to negotiate, until I gagged him. And even then, no panic. Instead he wore a quiet confidence in himself and his Pack. It reminded me of being on the police force.
Somehow he'd wormed his way under my skin even when he couldn't speak. His green eyes would watch me, but they never pleaded. Quiet strength, that was all I got from him, and in spite of spending years in a male-dominated field proving I wasn't the weaker sex, he made me very aware I was a woman.
It didn't help that when I had walked into the emergency room he'd been half-naked. And completely gorgeous. I did my best to banish the memory and lust from my mind and focus on the road. I didn't even know this man.
He'd been following me off and on for months now. At first I thought he was hunting me, maybe looking for revenge. I wasn't really concerned; I'm never more than an arm's length from a weapon, and when I fire, I don't miss. But as time passed and he didn't attack, I realized I wasn't the prey.
I kept my attention split between the darkened streets in front of me and the rearview mirror. After the conversion, my night vision became superhuman. The BMW's headlights were only on to keep other drivers from hitting me. I could see just as well without them.
And so far, no one was tailing me.
Not a huge surprise since the wolf killed the last one. I'd circled back to take care of the Nero informant myself, but the dreg was already dead and the wolf wounded. I shouldn't have followed him to the ER, but I couldn't help myself. Seeing him continue to be hurt because of me was a millstone I was sick of wearing around my neck.
Besides, it wouldn't be long before Nero sent someone else. Ever since the fight at Lake Tahoe, I'd been on the run. The bastards were never going to give me a cure anyway. I knew that now. The moment they hit me with a tranquillizer dart at Lake Tahoe, it was painfully clear they had no intention of giving me what I'd been promised in exchange for Lana and the wolves. I was stuck. A monster.
But I wasn't going to be their puppet. Not anymore.
That's why I had to keep moving. By now, they probably knew I'd survived the showdown at Lake Tahoe, and there was a good chance I was marked for death. I'd lived inside of Nero's walls — I knew too much.
But jaguar assassins like me were just the tip of the shape-shifting iceberg. They were also involved in covert experimental DNA enhancement. And the women ... They kidnapped and imprisoned human women within the compound to be part of Nero's jaguar-shifter breeding program and DNA testing. I didn't have proof yet, but if I could find some solid evidence before they killed me, I'd have the leverage I needed to bargain for my life.
I checked my rearview mirror, trying to clear my mind of the memories, of the other women still inside the Nero compound. Bitten, converted into jaguar shifters, and being used, with no hope of escape.
I pressed the accelerator, aching to evade the mental images. I'd been in Las Vegas too long. I needed to disappear. Maybe this time I could dodge Nero and the wolf. He couldn't keep being hurt on my behalf. The last thing I needed was more blood on my hands.
I hurt him enough on my own.
I merged onto the highway and slid my Bluetooth over my ear. One voicemail.
"Hi, Sash. I hope your case is going all right. Maybe we could get together over the weekend? I miss you, sis. Hope I can see you soon ..."
I bit my lip as I listened to my younger sister's sweet voice. I'd only managed to visit her once since the Nero nightmare began. Nadya still thought I carried my badge, fighting the good fight. How could I tell the sister I'd raised, who'd idolized me, how far I'd fallen, how much I'd changed?
I sighed and glared at the dark sky. It was a goddamned new moon this weekend, too. Around midnight the night of the new moon, I'd sprout fur, teeth, and claws until I was fully shifted into a black jaguar. I couldn't see my sister like that. For all I knew I'd eat her.
I had lost everything after Sebastian bit me. I couldn't lose her too.
It'd been over a year since I visited her at college, and with Nero tailing me I didn't see that changing anytime soon. With the hope of an antidote, I'd kept postponing my next visit, thinking we'd get a chance when I was back to myself again. And now, since the showdown at Lake Tahoe, I'd been laying low, drifting between Las Vegas and Phoenix, far from the east coast and Nero's headquarters. I couldn't risk a cross-country trip to the Boston area to see her.
But lying to Nadya never got easier. I'd just have to make another excuse not to visit. She would understand. She always did.
Excerpted from Hunter's Moon by Lisa Kessler, Danielle Poiesz. Copyright © 2013 Lisa Kessler. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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