Soul Whisperer (Harlequin Nocturne #126)

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Overview

Her father's death has long haunted shape-shifter Bess Suncatcher, leading her deep into the Northern California forests in search of healing…and peace. But that peace is threatened when she discovers a dead human body—and is detained by a dangerously sexy stranger.

As a Soul Whisperer, Cesar Garza is fated to use his gifts to track demonic predators. But he can't crack this case alone. He needs the talents of the mysterious woman who peaks his suspicion…and his desire. Cesar is...

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Overview

Her father's death has long haunted shape-shifter Bess Suncatcher, leading her deep into the Northern California forests in search of healing…and peace. But that peace is threatened when she discovers a dead human body—and is detained by a dangerously sexy stranger.

As a Soul Whisperer, Cesar Garza is fated to use his gifts to track demonic predators. But he can't crack this case alone. He needs the talents of the mysterious woman who peaks his suspicion…and his desire. Cesar is determined to fight his attraction to Bess and focus on the investigation. For theirs is a potentially deadly—and forbidden—alliance….

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373618736
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 11/15/2011
  • Series: Harlequin Nocturne Series , #126
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 4.24 (w) x 6.66 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Jenna writes fast-paced romantic adventures. Set in out of the way places and populated with larger-than-life characters, Jenna's stories pit independent heroes and heroines against the forces of nature. Jenna is every bit as adventurous as her heroines. Her travels have taken her from Alaska’s interior to Florida's coral reefs and many interesting places in between.

Please visit her anytime at www.jennakernan.com

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Read an Excerpt

Bess Suncatcher smelled the human body from a long way off. Her senses were acute when she was in her raven form, and she tipped her wings to investigate, veering sharply to the west. It was unusual to find a human corpse in the forest, but not unheard-of. Despite the humans' high opinion of themselves, here in the wild they were outmatched. Their arrogance and smug superiority served them poorly against "nature red in tooth and claw." Bess thought it must be dreadful not to be able to fly.

She swept through the massive tree trunks, which stood tall and sacred as the columns of a cathedral. As Bess circled the corpse her concentration slipped and her heart lurched. The body was a female, mauled by a predator. Bess's curiosity died in a vacuum of dread.

She landed high above the clearing on the limb of a pine and glanced down. She knew she should be detached, that her job was to see that animals had their proper share of the earth. With the balance between all creatures as her prime objective, what happened to one woman, here or there, should make no difference.

But still there was a definite knot in her throat as she looked at the thick black hair on the woman's head.

Who was waiting for this one to come home? Whose life would be changed forever by her passing? And who would be left behind?

Don't think about that. This isn't her.

But she was slim and dark-headed, just like Bess's human mother. Her mother's injuries had not been so obvious, yet they had been just as deadly.

After all these years, she still felt the ripping loss, sharp as talons, as it gripped her heart. First she'd lost her mother and then her father, too. Bess huddled against the wellspring of sorrow that choked her.

She took solace in the fact that, by guarding her heart, she would never again have to stand beside the grave of one she loved. That much, at least, she could control.

Bess dropped to the spongy carpet of moss and pine needles, transforming to her human form, then changed her feather cloak to resemble human clothing before stepping forward into the clearing. Her skin flashed first hot and then cold as adrenaline poured into her bloodstream, telling her that she was not alone. Was the predator still here?

She glanced about to see what was amiss, her keen eyes absorbing every detail. It took only a moment to spot him. He was closer to her than she would have liked and looked straight at her, so she could not transform without him seeing. The inside of Bess's mouth seemed rough as an emery board and she could not swallow.

Was this the murderer?

Her gaze swept the man, tall and powerful, standing with unnatural stillness and a calm that radiated confidence.

Bess's instinct told her to flee, but she did not follow the urging of her animal-self because, despite her fear, she knew she could escape in an instant where he could never follow. And she wanted to know who he was. His eyes narrowed as she made no effort to step back, but waited for him to close the distance between them.

Oh, but he was fine to look at. She ran her tongue along her bottom lip. He hesitated, lowering his chin, confused at her mixed signals.

Taking a handsome man to her bed was an easy way to connect on some physical level, while maintaining complete autonomy over her heart. She cocked her head to study him. If he hurt this woman, she'd see him pay, even if it wasn't her purpose. But if not.. she allowed her mind to wander.

What was with the designer suit? She took in his tailored gray jacket and the pristine white shirt that did little to disguise the brawn beneath. His tie was drab, but his black leather belt sported a showy silver-and-turquoise buckle and those cockroach-killer cowboy boots with silver tips were definitely not standard garb for business types. Something about the way his jacket hung suggested he wore a shoulder holster. Did it make him feel safe here in the wild?

His posture radiated complete assurance. But then he didn't know what he was dealing with yet, did he?

Her eyes narrowed on his face. Was he a business type out on some strange corporate survival seminar or a murderer caught in the act?

He took a graceful step closer now. She allowed it for it brought him near enough for her to see that his eyes were not dark brown, as she had first thought, but a deep shimmering gray full of the heat only adrenaline could bring.

"Where'd you come from?"

His gravelly voice resonated through her insides, the epicenter of the tremor now quaking through her.

She pointed up into the canopy of branches far above them and he chuckled. Bess smiled in response.

He reached, as if to capture her upper arm. She nearly allowed it, but at the last instant she stepped away. His brow rose. Did her speed surprise him?

Bess let her gaze dip to glance at his strong jawline, his high cheekbones and full sensual mouth. That coupled with the healthy coppery glow of his skin made her wonder if he might also have some Native heritage. Peak sexual prowess, she thought, and then wondered where that notion came from.

"Who are you?" he asked.

What are you? would have been a more appropriate question and one that she wished to ask him, as well. Something about him raised alarm bells. So she kept a safe distance.

He frowned. Had he expected her to answer simply because he asked?

With a body like that, she surmised he didn't often face resistance of any sort from human females. What a bore that must be. Then again, that was her general experience with human males. She wondered if he was up for a little challenge.

He lifted his index finger and inched toward her hand.

He leaned closer, repeating his question as she permitted his fingers to brush hers. The brief contact sent her skin to gooseflesh as the prickle of an electric charge swept up her arm and into her chest. She gasped in surprise as her heart galloped, sending blood throbbing in her ears and pulsing in her core.

She stared into his deep, dark eyes, seeing them widen in astonishment. So, he hadn't expected that, either. He broke the tingling contact between them, but not the contact of their eyes.

His pupils dilated and she felt her breathing quicken in response. His full lips curled down and he stepped farther back.

What had just happened?

Bess was used to choosing her partners and enjoyed the rush of heat and excitement of this man, but some instinct held her in check. She coupled that with the potential involvement with the dead woman and increased her vigilance.

Bess conceded that he had a killer body. Such a form as his was designed for hunting, and she had unintentionally become his prey. Not all chases wound up with killing. Some ended with coupling. So was she his next conquest or next victim?

She stepped away to better assess the pulsing salmon-colored aura of sexual energy and only then glimpsed the constant golden glow that encircled him.

Most of her kind could not read auras, which put them at a disadvantage when they met something not quite human, like this Niyanoka standing far too close.

But she knew.

The golden aura told her he was born of the Spirit Niyan, protector of men—the other Halfling race. So, he was not responsible for the killing. More than likely he was here to investigate, for it was their mission to protect man at the expense of all else. And instead of the murderer, he had found her.

Bess's eyes narrowed as she took in the clear white vibration of spiritual energy but stilled at what she saw next. The white light spiked out past the gold and was capped with black. Her breath caught. She had never seen one like it. His body was encircled with the aura of death just like the shell of an egg encircles the albumen.

This Niyanoka dealt with the dead or perhaps just with killing. She did not know what he was, but her instinct for survival now overrode her sexual interest. He was dangerous. Far more dangerous than his significant physical presence first made her believe.

She surmised he was a warrior, but what could this blending of auras mean, clear white and inky black? They were polar opposites.

Was he one of the army who brought death to the mighty Fleetfoot, the leader of the uprising against his kind? Bess recalled the face of her father's killer. This was not that man, but he could still be one of the vigilantes.

Something inside her turned to stone and her icy calm returned.

Ah, she saw it now in his eyes, the flicker of confusion and then the narrowing as he recognized her for what she was and hated her for it. The lustful hot pink aura spiked red with anger and then he moved too close for her to see his aura, pinning her against the trunk of the tree. His hips pressed to her stomach and his arms bunched at each side of her head in a posture that was both possessive and hostile. She lifted her chin in defiance as he leaned in, her pride keeping her from transforming. Did he see the hot angry flush as blood coursed with greater power? Her neck and face burned and her hands grew slick with perspiration. Still she faced him, refusing to acknowledge her fear. She would not flee like some little rabbit. She was his equal, no matter what he and his kind thought.

"Skinwalker," he hissed. "What shape do you take?"

She was tempted to show him since she no longer needed hide who and what she was. She could leave if she wished, but her curiosity stayed her. Most of his kind never set foot off the sidewalks of major cities.

What was he doing here and how was he connected to this death?

Cesar Garza pressed the beautiful Skinwalker back against the trunk of the tree, wishing this proximity did not make him long to stroke her soft skin again. His lungs now acted as bellows, gobbling up the air that suddenly seemed too thin to satisfy him, while lower down his body responded to her proximity in the most basic way possible. She was an animal, only half human, yet the reality of this simply fueled his hunger for her. It was said that female Skinwalkers were irresistible to the males of his kind. Was she bringing this dizzy, giddy rush to him? Was she the cause of his body going haywire?

What did she know of this death?

His questions yielded nothing and that had never happened before. How was she immune to his touch…his gift? As a Truth Seeker, he had always been able to divine the answers to any spoken question simply by touching a person. But he could read nothing from her but emotion.

And he had certainly never experienced the shot of pure sexual awareness that had come when he touched her naked flesh. The sensation was like a drug; he needed to touch her again, not for answers but for the pure lustful heat. Was that why all contact with her kind was forbidden? He splayed his hands on the rough bark of the redwood, inches from her head, resisting the urge to stroke her. He could lift one finger and brush that long neck.

Why couldn't he read her? His mind flashed back to the dying male Skinwalker. Cesar had read his thoughts, hadn't he? And in that instant recognized with horror what he had done. His fingers moved across the fabric of her blouse as he leaned in, breathing deep of the subtle, airy fragrance of her skin. To read her, he must touch her again and that was what he wanted to do, despite the danger. His resistance crumbled and he stroked the column of her neck only to be overcome again by rich longing and hunger. The power of this connection caused him to draw back. What was she doing to him?

It must be some power she had, some defense, for when he touched her, all he read was heat. He'd never touched a she-walker before, so for all he knew his response could be normal. But he was uncertain.

Damn, he couldn't think around her. She was as arousing as hell.

He gazed down, forgetting again about his mission, forgetting everything but the deep, churning waters of her dark eyes. They shimmered with promises he would see she kept. Her high arching brows lifted like the wings of a bird as she continued to stare at him—majestic, proud.

She was tall for a woman, nearly looking him in the eye, but fine boned with the bearing of a dancer. He pressed her more firmly to the tree, feeling her curves as their hips aligned in perfect union, or it would be perfect if she were naked.

He forced himself to focus, trying again to pry answers from her mind.

"How do you know what I am, beauty?" He crooked one finger and used it to stroke the downy skin of her jawline, expecting to read the answer to his question. But instead he got another blast of fierce need that caused the wind to leave him in one long exhalation. Had that been his desire or hers?

The she-walker bit her bottom lip, as if also struggling with her need. Had she felt it, too, this yearning to press naked flesh to naked flesh? That thought aroused him further, causing his blood to pulse and pound.

When she spoke, her voice was breathless and halting.

"I can see your aura."

"Impossible." He didn't need to pin her hips to the tree with his own in order to read her, but he could not seem to convince his body to leave her. It was as if she had woven some spell over him.

His mind flicked back to the stories, old lore of men seduced by beautiful Skinwalkers, the white buffalo woman who turned her male lovers' bodies into snakes and bones. Was this her—the legendary temptress of old? A sheen of sweat, as fine as sea spray, now covered his chest and back. Uncertainty stilled him.

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