Read an Excerpt
By Mandy M. Roth Michelle M. Pillow Sydney Somers Jaycee Clark, Shannon Stacey
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2007 Mandy M. Roth, Michelle M. Pillow, Sydney Somers, Jaycee Clark, Shannon Stacey
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCaged Desire by Sydney Somers
Taking her chances, she gripped the bars and pulled hard. The cage was heavy, but without too much trouble-and without the bird making a move for her fingers-she dragged it free of the crate. With every step around the cage, her curiosity grew, her eyes never straying from the creature that turned its head to follow her.
Was this some late April Fool's present? Seeing as Kyle had once sent her a snake as a joke, she wouldn't put it past him. He could be sitting in some South American bar right now, laughing his ass off as he pictured her reaction to his gift.
Inside the cage the eagle-which was her best guess-inched down the horizontal bar, its talons curling tighter. She wouldn't have thought birds this large existed anymore. Obviously rare. Which made it all the more strange Kyle sent it to her in the first place.
The creature's golden eyes surveyed her carefully, as though it sized her up the same way she assessed a potential threat.
"You're certainly beautiful, aren't you?" Eve whispered.
The eagle squawked at her.
Still puzzled, Eve moved until she was just shy of touching the bars. She could quickly back away if need be, but she couldn't stop from getting as close a look at the large bird as she could.
How long had it been in transport? Had anyone fed it? A few small skeletons littered the cage floor, but told her nothing about how old they might be. She didn't want to give much thought to what a bird this size would eat. Somehow she doubted field mice would come close to putting a dent in this creature's appetite.
At the thought of food, her own hunger pulsed fiercely inside her. First, she'd try to get in touch with Kyle then she could hunt. There was a blood supply here, but she preferred to keep that for the rare nights she couldn't tear herself away from her latest book.
With one more curious look at the eagle, she turned towards the kitchen. Kyle might not be anywhere near a tower capable of carrying a cell call, but she had to try. As she punched in the numbers on her cordless phone, she found herself moving back to the foyer.
The eagle followed her movements, but didn't appear nervous. Maybe he was used to seeing people.
As expected Kyle didn't pick up. Eve gave the feathered animal another once-over, still unable to figure out what Kyle had been thinking, and then crossed to the front door. Once she took care of the thunderous need surfacing within her, she'd decide what to do about the eagle.
Logan watched the woman dim the lights before letting herself out the front door. The sound of it closing echoed in the front hall.
Who was she? She had looked surprised to see the contents of the crate he'd been shipped in. Did she know the man who had found him in the rotting hole Dominic and the rest of his clan had banished him to more than fifty years ago?
Overhearing the present date after he was found a few days ago shocked him. At the beginning of his imprisonment he kept track of the days, but eventually that became harder to handle than simply not knowing.
An invisible fist clawed his insides at the thought of how they had locked him away because of a prophecy, one he was more certain than ever involved Dominic, not Logan. But upon discovering the contents of the encrypted scroll, Dominic had no doubt feared he himself would be banished and had taken steps to ensure that didn't happen.
And so Logan spent the last half a century buried in some abandoned temple in South America, barely surviving on the occasional creature unfortunate enough to get within striking distance. Immortal or not, he still needed to feed to live and only in eagle form could he manage that. He was far stronger that the average mortal but he'd been unable to free himself from the cage with only his hands.
But then someone had stumbled along and found the temple. Logan hadn't cared who the man was that arranged to have him shipped back to the U.S. He had bided his time, waiting for the most opportune moment to try to get free of the cage. One way or another he'd find a way out, familiarize himself with the changes fifty years had brought about, and then he would track down his brother.
Logan wasn't sure how much time had passed before the front door opened and the woman again stood in front of his prison, studying him. The smell of blood teased his senses and he shifted in place, the animal within reacting to the scent. He looked her over, but saw no sign of injury.
Like before, Logan found his attention drawn to her extraordinary blue eyes.
She wasn't mortal.
The realization spun through him, unexpected, but intriguing. He had wondered when she opened the crate with far more ease and speed than he would have expected. Still, it left him speculating on whether or not her immortality had anything to do with how he wound up with her.
Logan tilted his head to the side, watching the woman brush a few red curls that fell from their clip over her shoulder. He was glad to be in eagle form. As a man the sight of her, the soft, warm scent that was distinctly feminine, would have been damn painful to bear after being far from the opposite sex for so long.
The woman inched closer. She tried not to show she feared him. Not that he blamed her. His talons could easily tear through her flesh.
Her eyes widened when he hopped off the bar and moved towards the bars. She stayed rooted in place, her lush lips parted, her expression curious before a frown brought two sculpted brows together.
What he wouldn't give to know what was going through her head.
Firebird by Jaycee Clark
Reen wiped the blood out of her eye and limped up the stone steps. She really hated this job sometimes. Her black boots rarely felt this heavy. The doors at the top of the steps opened into the grand foyer. The mansion looked like any other in Europe, except it was still a functioning castle. Not merely a museum for retirees and backpackers to tour through, this castle had a purpose. It wasn't just any castle, this one was special-a defense like castles of old.
It was headquarters for the Hunters.
The Hunters tracked supernaturals that had become problematic. In this day and age of decadence, where the supernaturals were both worshipped and ignored by mortals, they often became bored. No longer was the world their playground. Now sciences wanted them for research, men and women alike wanted them for the simple fact of novelty and other supernaturals felt merely displaced. Displaced. She snorted. Supernaturals with identity crises led rise to the new super shrinks-a new breed of psychiatrists. Whether or not she agreed with therapy for the confused supers, was irrelevant.
Cyzarine knew some people needed such help. Her? She'd rather eat her leather boots. Vamps, weres, the fae, all were trying to figure out how they fit into the new order of the world quickly outstripping itself of humanity.
Powers shifting and vying for attention left vacuums for greed, corruption and crime.
That's where the Hunters came into play. The supernaturals still needed balances, checks and in most cases, retribution.
She was a Hunter. Though more specifically, she didn't just hunt the criminals, as many Hunters did, she eliminated the problems.
She was an assassin.
She was no different than many of her kind before her-a firebird could destroy. She merely cashed in on her genetic legend.
Petrov, the guard, nodded to her as she passed him, her trench coat hiding the weapons she used.
She shoved through the waiting area, completely ignoring Valerie at the outer desk in front of Erik's office.
The doors were shut, but she also ignored the unspoken rule to wait until invited into the inner sanctum of her boss. Opening it, she saw someone stood in the shadows in the corner, smelled the spice of his cologne, gave him a quick glance, and then ignored him as well. She had only one man in her sights.
"Reen." He looked at her from behind his desk with a raised brow. "I'm busy."
"You call me in off a job, have your boys pick me up and expect me to wait prettily?" She shook her head and walked to the desk, tossing down the amulet she was supposed to have retrieved, which of course, she had. "Target is taken care of."
Erik was a vampire, ancient, as the office rumors went. She knew for a fact the whispers weren't just rumors. Though she'd never actually come out and asked the man how old he was. Some things were better left alone.
He looked at it for a moment, then turned completely from the window behind his desk to pick up the dull necklace. The stone glimmered faintly as if whispering secrets, and the gold beckoned to be polished.
Cyzarine merely waited. Erik brushed the stone and then the chain with his thumb. He was dressed as he always was. Black. Black shirt, black pants, black shoes. She often gave him a hard time. Every chance she got, she gifted him some bright tie, scarf or pair of gloves. He'd yet to wear any of them. Not that she cared either way, right now she was pissed.
"I should shove that up your ass," she said, again wiping the blood from her eye. She pressed her fingers to the wound in her scalp still trickling blood over her forehead and down her ear.
His gaze narrowed on her. "I should lock you in the infirmary."
She blew out a breath and strode to the windows, looking out on the cold winter landscape. She hated the winter. Hated the snow, and here in Grubsretep there was plenty.
"I'll be fine."
Someone cleared their throat and she was reminded of the other person in the room. Without looking at him, she turned from the window and strode towards the door, saying over her shoulder, "I get one day off, then you can give me my next assignment."
"Actually, I can't do that."
She stopped halfway to the door.
"Reen, sit down."
Her eyes narrowed on his and for the first time, since storming in, she took a deep breath and tried to read the situation.
Erik was calm, but then he generally always was. He was however, frowning, the lines around his mouth and across his forehead deeper than normal.
Something warned her she might not like what was coming.
"I want to introduce you to someone." He motioned to the other occupant of the room.
Reen waited as the man stepped from the shadows. He was tall, taller than she, but then many were as she was average in height. Where her hair was black, his was blond, almost white. Her eyes had a golden hue to them that many had often commented on. Including Erik.
This man, with his pale hair, had dark, almost black eyes. She had no idea if the color was dark brown or dark blue, they were just extremely dark. His body was long, not lean, but not overly muscular, reminding her of a runner. He had muscles, she could see them through the tight pale blue shirt he wore.
His face was altogether different. One might expect with his coloring and build that he'd have a refined face, one of beauty, of the classical statues she'd seen in Greece and Rome on her journeys there. But his jaw was too square, his brow too deep, making his eyes appear even darker. His nose was ridged, giving him a birdlike appearance almost. Bird, she almost snorted. He sure as hell wasn't a sparrow.
He merely raised a brow. Or she assumed he did, as his brows were as pale as his hair.
He offered a hand. "Saker."
Saker. It meant falcon. Falcon. A cold, hard twist rolled inside her. She took a deep breath and merely looked at the long-fingered hand, the sinews of the wrist, noted the scars on the back, across the knuckles.
Without taking it, she looked back up to his face and said, "Reen."
The man arched a brow and lowered his hand. "We worked a case together a few months back."
"Did we?" She didn't remember him, or didn't think she did.
He smiled slowly. "Yeah, we did."
She tilted her head. "Did we get the bad guy?"
"Yes, we did." His gaze stayed locked on hers.
A tingle of awareness swirled down her spine. She frowned.
Erik cleared his throat. "Now that the introductions are out of the way."
She glanced at Erik and shook her pounding head. "Luv, what have you cooked up now?"
He glared at her. Erik rarely glared at anyone. Reen wondered what she'd done to aggravate him. Then again, she normally did very little.
Without another word, Reen sat in the chair. Her head hurt, her arm throbbed where one of the target's guards had caught her with a knife toss.
She rolled her shoulder, leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Still applying pressure to the wound on the side of her scalp-thanks to the target and his sword-she merely said, "Get on with it, Erik. You obviously worry I won't like it or you'd have already spit it out, then."
She could sense it, hostility in the air. And it wasn't hers.
Still she didn't open her eyes. Instead, she shoved the pain away and thought of light. Light a pale pink, tinged in blue. Light soothed her, the colors of twilight calmed her more than anything.
With her eyes closed she could smell Saker even more, outdoors and ... something dark. Saker. Now that she thought about it, maybe she did remember him. He was with the undercover team. Or was he? She had heard about him. Saker and Company did freelance work. Mercenary. He was some sort of bird shifter-falcons.
She had no use for falcons. Anger swirled through her, but she pushed it aside. Falcons-in her opinion-were very unreliable.
Erik cleared his throat again. "We've got a problem," he said finally.
"Usually do," she muttered.
He sighed. She knew the sound of Erik's sighs. The way so much emotion could be in one little sound. Anger, frustration, resignation. His was currently a mixture of all three.
"Luv, just spit it out."
"Would you stop calling him that?" the other man asked.
She slowly opened her eyes to see Saker looking at her from across the small sitting area. He did not sit. He was leaning against the chair, his arms crossed. His voice was even timbred, deeper than she would have thought.
"Why?" she asked.
He opened his mouth, then snapped it shut, and turned a look onto Erik. If she hadn't been watching, she would have missed it. But Saker's eyes turned from black to a dark green glow.
She glanced to Erik, whose eyes hadn't changed. As always he was calm, or appeared so.
"Look, we might have worked together before. But you obviously didn't leave an impression on me. I don't know who you are, but I do know that Erik and I go way back. I can call him luv, Erik or dickhead if I so choose, none of which you have any say in. And I really need to get going if that's all."
What the hell was going on?
"Sit down," Saker said, not looking at her.
She walked to him and poked him in the chest until he looked at her, her own power, so recently used, still close to the surface. She felt the heat tingle along her fingers. "I don't know who you think you are, Saker, but-"
Those glowing green eyes swung back to her and stilled.
King of Prey by Mandy M. Roth
Rayna Vogel walked carefully along the narrow path. The waterfalls around her continued to draw her attention and it was only a matter of time before she either killed herself trying to see their beauty or got the picture she desperately wanted. Hopefully, the second of the scenarios prevailed.
Her boot slid on the loose gravel and Rayna lost her footing. Her heart felt as if it leapt to her throat and blocked the scream wanting to come. A strong hand caught hold of her, plucking her from the air with an ease and strength normal men didn't seem to possess. As she stared into a set of unnaturally golden eyes, she couldn't help but smile. A nervous giggle sounded from her and her cheeks heated out of embarrassment.
"Careful, I would very much like you to remain in one piece," Kabril said, his voice so deep and so sexy that Rayna had to bite back a sigh. She still had yet to place his accent. It wasn't thick but it did tinge his voice ever so. She'd often tried to get exactly where he was from out of him but Kabril liked his secrets and she didn't mind letting him have them.
He set her on her feet and visually inspected her. "Are you hurt?"
Excerpted from Talons by Mandy M. Roth Michelle M. Pillow Sydney Somers Jaycee Clark, Shannon Stacey Copyright © 2007 by Mandy M. Roth, Michelle M. Pillow, Sydney Somers, Jaycee Clark, Shannon Stacey. Excerpted by permission.
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