Scarlet

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Overview

Thrust into a world full of creatures she never dreamed existed, Gina “Red” Santiago is coming to grips with the fact that she's a werewolf while adjusting to her new life in the small town of Nuria. The transition isn’t easy, especially since her boyfriend, alpha werewolf Morgan Hunter, is called away on an important mission.

Unfortunately, someone doesn't want Red to get too comfortable with her new life – someone who will resort to anything, including murder, to run her out ...

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Overview

Thrust into a world full of creatures she never dreamed existed, Gina “Red” Santiago is coming to grips with the fact that she's a werewolf while adjusting to her new life in the small town of Nuria. The transition isn’t easy, especially since her boyfriend, alpha werewolf Morgan Hunter, is called away on an important mission.

Unfortunately, someone doesn't want Red to get too comfortable with her new life – someone who will resort to anything, including murder, to run her out of town. Alone among hostile strangers, Red must fight to prove her innocence, to catch a ruthless murderer, and to preserve her relationship with an increasingly distant Morgan.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Summers (Off Limits) occasionally stumbles in this intense series launch, a futuristic paranormal romance set in an ecologically desolate 2160. Gina "Red" Santiago, the lone woman in the elite international tactical team commanded by the grandfather who raised her, travels off-duty to Nuria in the Republic of Arizona to investigate a woman's mysterious, brutal death. Gina doesn't believe in the rumors of supersoldiers, vampires and werewolves created by a secret government genetic engineering project, until she learns that almost everyone in Nuria is a werewolf and finds herself powerfully attracted to lycanthrope sheriff Morgan Hunter even as she connects others in his pack to the murder investigation. Complex and sometimes confusing world building combine with a steamy and conflicted romance between a strong heroine and a literal alpha male hero, with plenty of chemistry to fuel future volumes. (Nov.)

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

  • ISBN-13: 9780765359155
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 6/2/2009
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 4.14 (w) x 6.86 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

JORDAN SUMMERS is an ex-flight attendant with a penchant for huge bookstores and big dumb action movies. She prefers quiet dinners with friends over maddening crowds. Happily married to her very own Highlander, they split their time between two continents. Summers is the author of Red, the first novel featuring Gina Santiago.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Red stood naked in the barren valley. The cool desert air brushed her skin, leaving gooseflesh in its wake. She shivered and took a deep breath, closing her eyes to picture the wolf in her mind.

Eyes the color of autumn stared back at her from a shaggy elongated face. Not quite animal and definitely not human. White teeth glowed against its black pelt. Deadly claws curled into minidaggers, rearing to score the earth. Whether on two legs or on four, the beast looked impressive. And dangerous.

She felt its hunger. Its need for survival. The desire to escape. The urge to run blindly into the darkness rode her hard. She longed to feel the dirt and compacted sand beneath rough pads. Red reached out, drawing the vision nearer, beckoning it to come. She embraced that which she feared.

Close. Closer. Almost there.

Pain seared her flesh, causing her back to contort. Her head jerked to the night sky, her mouth open in a silent scream. Yanked by the fire coursing through her veins, she could no longer control her movements. Her muscles bunched under her skin. Bones in her hand snapped as the beast fought its way out. Red shrieked and threw open her eyes. To night was the night. She could feel it. The change had to work.

Her body continued to coil and bulge, twisting into unnatural shapes until Red thought she'd go mad. Her vision dimmed and fear engulfed her. The pain suddenly stopped.

Red looked down at her gnarled, broken hand, expecting to see a smattering of fur—or at least a misshapen paw where her fingers should be. One claw protruded through the top of her fingernail and blood dripped fat drops onto the thirsty desert floor—a glistening scarlet reminder that she'd failed once more.

"Damn it!" she shouted. It had been weeks since she'd moved to Nuria in the Republic of Arizona. Weeks since she'd first attempted the change. And she still couldn't control the wolf inside her.

Red stared at her hand, watching the bones pop back into place. Her body had already started to repair the damage. More excruciating pain followed. It was the same every night. She would've thought that she'd be used to it by now. But she wasn't. Red glanced over at Morgan, who'd been waiting quietly in the distance, just in time to see the disappointment on his face.

Disapproval she could deal with, but disappointment . . .

She'd spent her whole life trying not to disappoint anyone. She had succeeded with her parents and her grandfather. At least Red thought she had. But now, thinking about it, how could she be sure? Maybe they'd lied. Maybe like Morgan, they'd hid their disappointment and she'd been too young to realize it. She debated whether to try one more time. She glanced at the night sky. It was getting late.

They'd been out here for two hours already while she attempted to make the change. Two wasted hours with only a claw to show for it. Red picked up a rock and threw it at a tank, half buried under the desert. It was a rotting reminder of the last world war, which brought about the dissolution of countries and fostered the development of self- governing republics. Those republics now took up 70 percent of the landmass in the world. The other 30 percent fell into no- man's-land, a place of utter lawlessness. The rock pinged off the rusting metal, then dropped with a thud to the ground.

Red picked up another rock and sent it hurling through the air out of sight. She had no doubt that the town would know about her failure by morning. Morgan wouldn't lie, if someone asked. She didn't expect him to, but sometimes she wished he would. How much longer could she go before the townsfolk decided to run her out of Nuria?

She sighed. Werewolves who couldn't control their change were as dangerous to the town as a loaded laser rifle in the hands of a criminal. Then there was the damage they could do to themselves. Since they'd been created by the old order to fight as super soldiers in the last war, adult- size wolves could take several laser pistol blasts before they even realized they'd been hit. It would take a couple of more after that to finish the job. It was easy to injure your body without knowing it when in wolf form. Not that she'd know firsthand, since she'd spent the majority of her time without fur.

Morgan's influence as sheriff would only protect Red for so long. Soon that would end, then it would be open season on her. The pressure from that invisible clock only made things worse. Morgan hid his worry well, but Red could still sense it. Hard to keep things like that from someone you're sleeping with. He hadn't come right out and said anything. Morgan never would. It wasn't his way. There'd be enough people in town to do it for him.

Red glanced over at Morgan's shirtless form. Scars etched his chest and abdomen, carving out a tragic story. He hadn't had those scars when she'd first met him. His cousin Kane had put them there, thanks to her. In his madness, he'd almost killed Morgan.

She couldn't believe how close she'd come to losing him. What would she have done then? Gone back to the International Police Tactical Team? Doubtful. Found a new job? Who would hire her? She was only qualified to do one job and that was hunt unknowns. Maybe she'd have retired. And do what? Live on dirt, since she didn't have enough credits to support herself. And Red absolutely refused to ask her grandfather for help.

The wind picked up. Morgan had his dark head thrown back, letting the desert breeze caress his skin. Wildness surrounded him, oozing out of his pores like the sweet musk that covered his body. The man was magnificent in his rugged beauty. His wolf brushed his flesh in a primitive caress. Despite his civilized reserve, it always lurked just beneath the surface, a barely leashed sexual being that was impossible to ignore. Even now he drew her to him without trying, the aura of dominant power second nature.

Red's body tightened in anticipation.

She wanted to change just to be near him. The sensual creature inside of her itched to embrace this newfound ability, even though she'd never had a sexual nature before coming to Nuria. Everything involving the wolf was happening too fast. What if she couldn't control it? What if she released the beast inside her and it killed someone? Did she want the death of a Nurian citizen on her conscience? What if she killed Morgan? Could she take that chance? Red shuddered at the thought.

There was no way she could live with herself if she killed an innocent. Morgan would be forced to put her down—no matter his feelings for her and their burgeoning relationship. Nuria had survived this long by following a few simple rules: 1. Never tell an outsider that you're an Other. 2. Do not hunt humans. 3. Shape- shifters must be able to control their changes.

Violation of rule number two garnered an automatic death sentence. Breaking rule number three came with two forms of punishment: banishment or death.

Neither was appealing, but Red could live with those rules. At least she hoped she could. When she'd agreed to the terms, she had thought learning to shift wouldn't take her long. She'd always been a fast learner, even as a child. Her parents had praised her academic and athletic prowess until the day they were killed. Her abilities hadn't changed as far as she could tell. If anything, they'd gotten better. So why was she having problems, when she'd already shifted in her sleep on several occasions? How hard could it be to do it consciously?

Apparently, very hard.

Her finger burned as the claw finished receding into her hand. In two weeks, she'd never so much as gotten a single whisker, much less a pelt of fur. She had to be doing something wrong, but Red didn't know what that might be. She'd followed Morgan's instructions to the letter. She was good at following instructions, when they suited her. Morgan had told her to hold the image in her mind, bring it toward her, then let her body do the rest.

Watching him shift in seconds, seeing all the muscles in his body spring to life, made it seem so easy. His enthusiasm was palpable and addictive enough to fuel her in the beginning. He'd continued their nightly ritual until he realized his presence was more of a hindrance than a help. Maggie Sheppard, his assistant at the sheriff's station, had taken over her lessons. But after a frustrating week of false starts, she'd given up and suggested Red do the same. So Morgan came back, and he'd been with her ever since. Her gaze strayed in his direction.

Morgan stayed in the woods, silently moving along the edge. He'd watched night after night, partly to bear witness and partly to make sure she didn't do anything she shouldn't while in her other form. So far, there wasn't a chance of that happening, since Red had yet to shift.

Red could feel the tension rolling off him in waves. He wanted her to succeed. His support was palpable. He pushed her hard because he knew she could take it. And she loved him for it, even though the pressure had started to get to her.

She stared at him, mesmerized. The wind shifted. Morgan inhaled and his amber eyes flew open, pinning her in place.

"Gina, you're not concentrating," Morgan said, a feral grin on his face. That look alone made her heart skip a beat. He stalked toward her, grace and stealth giving a fluidness to his movements.

Red watched him approach, anticipation coursing through her veins. It was still taking awhile to get used to Morgan using her given name. Everyone at her old job on the International Police Tactical Team had called her Red, a name that had started out as an insult due to her uncanny ability to cause excessive amounts of bloodshed on the job. It wasn't her fault that unknowns refused to surrender. She did her best to bring them back alive, but rarely succeeded. She'd embraced the negative nickname, wearing it proudly, and wasn't quite ready to give it up just yet.

"I was concentrating," she said. "Just not on the change." She bent to gather her clothes.

Morgan was behind her before she could straighten. His strong hands gripped her hips, his blunt nails digging into her skin. He leaned forward until his chest scraped her back. "Do you know what you just offered by bending over naked in front of an alpha wolf?"

Gooseflesh rose on her skin and her nipples marbled into two painful peaks. "Maybe." She laughed. The truth was she'd been too distracted by her failure to pay attention. She'd only meant to gather her clothes to cover her embarrassment over another wasted evening.

"You won't be needing your clothes for a while," he rasped in her ear, then nipped her tender lobe.

Red groaned, dropping her clothes onto the ground, her failure temporarily forgotten. She heard a button pop behind her and the slow, teasing purr of a zipper being lowered. His musky scent surrounded her, drowning her senses. The material from his pants brushed the back of her thighs and she bit her lip. It was always like this between them, so heated and urgent. Like they'd never get enough of each other.

"Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to wait in the woods, while you're standing naked forty feet away?" Morgan asked. He trailed kisses along her spine while his callused hands kneaded the round globes of her bottom.

"No," she gasped. "Tell me." She rocked back into his grip, loving the feel of his hands on her.

Morgan's voice strangled in his chest. "Your delicious scent calls to me," he said, inhaling loudly, before catching the tender flesh of her neck in a love bite. Her knees shook. With a flick of his tongue, he released her, only to have his stubbled jaw abrade her shoulder as he nuzzled her skin.

Red practically howled under the onslaught.

"You watch me, when you think that I'm not looking. But my wolf is always aware of your presence. It's so attuned to your body that I know the second you become wet." To prove his point, Morgan ran his finger along the seam of her bottom until he reached her moist center.

Red shimmied, trying to get closer.

"Do you want to know how I know?" he asked.

"Yes," she bit out, as he slipped two thick fingers inside of her, stretching her. He slowly curled them to stroke the hidden nerves that would send her over the edge.

"Because," he gasped, his hot breath bathing her ear. "I get hard the moment your body sends out that signal." He rocked his hips to show her just how hard he was.

"Morgan, please," Red begged, nearly mindless with passion. After failing to shift, she needed this connection.

His hot, throbbing length scalded her as he slid the head of his cock to her entrance. He slowly pushed inside, swirling the tip in her juices. "Please what?"

Red tried to deepen their connection. Morgan growled, his hands tightening on her hips to hold her in place and prevent her from impaling herself. "I want you," she said. Red reached around and brushed his testicles.

The slight caress sent the air rushing out of Morgan's lungs. His entire body clenched. "Stop!"

She stroked him again. This time giving his balls a gentle squeeze.

"Not fair," he said, shuddering.

"That makes us even," Red said. If he didn't move soon, she'd die from the exquisite torture.

"You're mine. Don't ever forget that," he said, then thrust forward, burying himself to the hilt.

Red's knees nearly gave out as Morgan took her roughly from behind. His hands seemed to be everywhere at once, teasing her nipples, stroking her clit, caressing her skin, all while supporting her. His feral grunts only served to ratchet up her need. Moans filled the air as flesh slapped flesh.

Morgan ground his hips into her bottom, lifting her onto her toes. "I love you so much." The words came out as both a curse and a confession. He latched onto the piece of skin where her shoulder met her neck. "Please don't ever leave me again," he murmured almost too low for her to hear, then bit down.

The sensation of him drawing on her flesh and drinking her blood sent Red spinning out of control. She screamed and her body convulsed beneath him. They collapsed onto the ground, Morgan still hard inside of her. His rough tongue lapped the spot he'd bitten as he waited for the flutters of her orgasm to fade. His taste for blood had grown since the vampire Raphael Vega had saved his life after Kane's vicious attack. He hadn't taken on any other vampiric quirks that Red could see, but it had only been a couple of months.

"That was incredible," she whispered as she tried to catch her breath. Morgan pulled her close and rolled them onto their sides.

"I'm just getting started," he said, rocking his hips for emphasis.

They made love for the next two hours, sometimes slow and easy, others fast and heated. The wolf was nothing if not insatiable. Red lost track of her orgasms by the time Morgan was spent. They lay on the desert floor, gasping like a couple of naughty teenagers who'd just discovered sex.

It was like this between them every time. Red had thought the intensity would fade or at least cool, but as she lay there listening to her heart pound in her ears, she realized if anything, the feelings were stronger. Was that her wolf responding?

Eventually her strength returned and she stood, helping Morgan to his feet. They gathered their clothes and began to dress. The air had cooled. Red hadn't noticed while Morgan had been wrapped around her. The breeze chilled her flesh and cleared her love- fogged mind.

"You know I haven't managed to do anything in weeks but produce a claw. I know you're trying to help me, but I've heard the talk that's going around town."

His expression soured. "You can't listen to gossip," Morgan admonished as he yanked on his pants.

"Be that as it may, I know most teenagers can slip easily in and out of form. If the rumors are true, it's never taken anyone this long to learn. What if I can't do it? What if I'm some kind of freak?" Red croaked on the last word.

She'd never fit in on the tactical team, even though her grandfather was the commander of IPTT headquarters. When her gift was revealed, she'd finally understood why. She thought that she'd found her place among the Others of Nuria, but now she wasn't so sure. What if she couldn't fit in here either?

Not being able to shift made her different. Made her stand out. Acceptance here was an illusion Red had created in her mind and religiously cultivated because of Morgan's love, and because she'd wanted so badly to belong. Maybe she didn't belong anywhere, and never would.

"Failure isn't an option," Morgan said matter-of-factly. "You keep forgetting you've already done it several times. Now you just have to learn to do it when you're awake. Take learning how to talk for example; it takes some people longer than others. Does it mean the late bloomers' language skills pale in comparison to the early adopters'? Absolutely not. It just took them longer. So don't be too hard on yourself. It'll happen. I have faith in you." He smiled encouragingly.

He might have faith in her, but did she? Red swallowed the lump that had suddenly formed in her throat and finished dressing. She laced up her black combat boots, then turned to Morgan. "All done," she said.

They strolled back to the hydrogen car and drove slowly back to town.Excerpted from Scarlet by Jordan Summers.Copyright © 2008 by Jordan Summers.

Published in June 2009 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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