Tiger Eye (Dirk & Steele Series #1)

Tiger Eye (Dirk & Steele Series #1)

4.0 663
by Marjorie M. Liu

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The first book in Marjorie M. Liu's extraordinary Dirk & Steele Series!

Long ago they roamed the earth —dragons, tigers . . . shapeshifters — men whowore the forms of beasts. Their worldwas magic. Now it is gone.But some remain . . .

He looks out of place in Dela Reese’s Beijing hotel room—exotic and poignant,

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The first book in Marjorie M. Liu's extraordinary Dirk & Steele Series!

Long ago they roamed the earth —dragons, tigers . . . shapeshifters — men whowore the forms of beasts. Their worldwas magic. Now it is gone.But some remain . . .

He looks out of place in Dela Reese’s Beijing hotel room—exotic and poignant, some mythic, tragic hero of an epic tale.With his feline yellow eyes, he’s like nothing from her world.Yet Dela has danced through the echo of his soul andknows this warrior will obey her every command.

Hari has been used and abused for millennia. But he sees,upon his release from the riddle box, that this new mistress isdifferent. There is a hidden power in Dela’s eyes—and with her,he may regain all that was lost to him. Where once he savaged,now he must protect; where before he knew only hatred,now he must embrace love. Dela is the key.

For Dela, he will risk all.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the start of Liu's first-rate debut, psychically sensitive tourist Dela Reese browses for treasures at Beijing's Dirt Market, where an old woman sells her a riddle box for only one yuan. Surprisingly, when Dela opens the box back in her hotel room, a gorgeous seven-foot-tall warrior appears, bearing 2,000-year-old weapons. The warrior, Hari, has been cursed for two millennia to serve as a slave-bereft of his power to shape-shift into a tiger-to anyone who opens the box. Assassins follow Delilah and Hari from Beijing back home to the U.S., where Dela and Hari soon find themselves in the midst of a war between Chinese crime syndicates. The reappearance of Hari's age-old nemesis, the Magi, who has been searching for Hari since he was imprisoned in the box, jacks up the suspense. The romance between Delilah and Hari tantalizingly builds until it culminates in a sensual love scene. Repetitive references to Hari's great stature fortunately don't detract from the appeal of this striking paranormal romance. Agent, Lucienne Diver. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Dirk & Steele Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

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Tiger Eye

By Marjorie M. Liu

Dorchester Publishing

Copyright © 2005

Marjorie M. Liu

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-505-52626-3

Chapter One

Dela had mysterious dreams the night before she bought the
riddle box. A portent, maybe. She did not think much of it.
She was used to strange dreams, only a few of which had ever
come true.

Still, she was alert when she left the hotel the next morning,
stepping into the dry furnace of a rare clear Beijing day.
Winds had swept through the night, sloughing away the smog and
scent of exhaust and decay. Blue sky, everywhere. Sun
glinted off the glass of skyscrapers, cars, diamonds - the
aluminum spines of umbrellas shading dark-eyed women - casting
sparks in Dela's unprotected eyes. The world trickled

The city had changed. Ten years of capitalist influence,
spinning a web of glass and advertisements; a modern
infrastructure sweeping over the land as surely as the fine
Gobi dust imported by the northern winds. A new cultural
revolution, here in the city, across China. It mattered to
Dela, the form and result. She could hear Beijing's growing
song, the soul of the city - the collective soul of its
thirteen million inhabitants - etched into the steel.

Dangerous, alluring - she did not like to listen long. There
was too much hunger in that voice, overwhelming promise and
hope, twisted with despair. A double-edged blade, forged from
the dreams of the people livingtheir lives around her.

Just like any other big city, she reminded herself, pouring
strength into her mental shields. Devils and angels, the lost
and found.

Cabs swarmed the hotel drive - like fire-ants, fast and red
- and Dela jumped into the first one that squealed to a stop.
Directions, spoken in perfect Mandarin, slipped off her
tongue. One week in China, and her old language lessons had
returned with a fury. True, she sometimes practiced with her
assistant, Adam - a former resident of Nanjing - but regular
life had settled its wings on her shoulders, years without
stretching herself, dredging up the studies that had once
taken her around the world. Dela thought she might have
forgotten all those parts that were not metal, of the forge,
and was glad she had not.

The cab wrenched from one clogged lane to another - a
hair-raising mish-mash of roaring engines and squealing tires
-curving down a tree-lined street where colorful exercise
bars lined a scrap of shaded park. Elderly men and women
pushed and pulled their way through rotating stress exercises,
children screaming on seesaws. Bicycles overburdened with
cargo, both human and vegetable, trundled down the crowded
street, cars swerving to avoid the monstrously wide loads, as
well as the packs of ragged young men darting across the road.

Dela saw a familiar low wall, cracked with age, its carved
flowers and barbed wire still unchanged. She tapped the
plastic barrier and the driver let her out before the wide
entrance, scratched blue doors flung open to admit both
foreigners and locals, making their way through a treacherous
maze of parked bicycles. Dela saw faces bright with
curiosity and greed.

Entering Pan Jia-Yuan. The Dirt Market. Tourist trap, hive
of antique rip-offs and bald-faced lies - a treasure hunter's
paradise. And Dela was in the mood to hunt.

Dust swirled around her feet as she slipped past crooked old
men and women hawking nylon shopping bags to beleaguered early
birds, hands already full of purchases. Stepping onto the
concrete platform shaded by a voluminous tin roof, she
listened to cheap jade jingle: bracelets, statues, necklaces.
Pretty enough, and quite popular, if the gathered crowds were
any indication. Nothing caught her eye. Potential gifts,
perhaps, for acquaintances who would appreciate the gesture.
Not good enough for actual friends, few and far between - deserving
of special care, something beyond trinkets.

But later. Dela had something else to find.

She combed the shadowed interiors of the open-air stalls,
searching until she heard a familiar call inside her mind.
Weapons. She followed the whispers to their source.

Scimitars and short swords; Tibetan daggers, hilts engraved
with piled grinning skulls. Mongol bows, rough with use and
age, quivers flimsy with faded embroidery, metal trimmings.
Everywhere, dusty tinted steel - but all of it disappointing.
The metalwork was poor - cheap imitations for not-so-cheap

Dela stared at the eager merchants, who smiled at her blond
hair, pale skin, and electric eyes. Easy mark. She could see
it written on their faces, and their judgment made her feel
lonely; a foreign emotion, and unpleasant.

Bad enough they probably think I'm dumb, she thought sourly.
Solitude was a gift, but only when paired with anonymity -
the disinterested observer.

Dela frowned at herself. You shouldn't have returned to China
if you didn't want to stand out. Buck up, girl.

She left the weapons stalls, ignoring protests - some of
which bordered on desperate - with a polite shake of her
head. Those weapons offered her nothing. She knew quality
when she saw it, age and history when she felt it. A simple
thing, when one worked with steel as much as she did. When it
sang its secrets inside her head.

Still looking for treasures, Dela simply wandered for a time,
soaking in the heat, the scents of incense and musty artifacts
kept too long in shadow. She watched children sell boxed
breakfasts of fried noodles and onion pancakes, crying out
prices in high voices. She listened to an old man play a
lilting melody on a stone flute, and bought one of his small
instruments. He laughed when she tried stringing notes
together, the hollow stone wheezing miserably. Dela grinned,

After nearly an hour of browsing, Dela found something perfect
for her mother. Generous rectangles of linen, dyed a vibrant
navy, embroidered with delicate stylized flowers - a bouquet
of colors, random and perfect. She bargained like a fiend,
dredging up every scrap of charm and language she possessed,
and by the end of the transaction, both she and the seller
were grinning foolishly.

"Aiii yo," sighed the older woman, as she smoothed glossy
silver hair away from an oval face that looked at least twenty
years younger than her body. Gold-flecked eyes glittered, but
not unkindly. "It has been a long time since I met a
foreigner who made me work for a sale."

Dela laughed. "It's been a long time since I met anyone I
enjoyed arguing with."

The woman quirked her lips, and for a moment, her gaze
changed, becoming older, darker, wiser. "I have something
else you might want."

"Ah, no. I think I have enough."

The old woman ignored her, already digging through the
tapestries and knickknacks piled at her feet. Dela watched,
helpless. She did not have the heart to simply walk away. A
good haggle created a bond - certain unspoken etiquette. The
"last chance" possibility of a final transaction.

The late summer heat was growing oppressive; air moved
sluggishly between the stalls, thick with wares and milling
bodies. The scents of dust and grease tickled Dela's nose.
Sweat ran down her back. Slightly bored and uncomfortable,
she turned full circle, gazing at the throng of shoppers.

A man at the end of the aisle caught her eye. He was of an
indeterminate race, darkly handsome, wearing sandals and loose
black slacks, as well as a white shirt with the sleeves rolled
up. Crisp, clean, and somehow out of place, although Dela
could not determine exactly why.

At first she thought he was staring at her - and perhaps he
had been - but now he studied the old woman digging through
her wares, and Dela felt inexplicably uneasy for her. His
eyes were cold, measuring, haunted by a simmering intensity
that would have been overwhelming if not matched to such an
attractive face and body.

When the old woman popped up with a triumphant sigh, Dela
stepped close.

"Behind me," she whispered, not caring if the woman thought
her strange, "there is a man watching you."

Her gold-flecked gaze flickered; something hard rippled
through her face. "I am used to him. He seems to think I
have something he wants."

"I don't like him," Dela said.

The old woman smiled. For a moment, her teeth looked sharp,
predatory. "Which is why I am going to do you a favor. For
one yuan, you may have this riddle box."

Dela stared. One yuan was an incredibly low price for the
Dirt Market, where everything was inflated to exorbitant
amounts, especially for foreigners. She gazed at the object
in the old woman's hands. Loosely wrapped in linen, she saw
soft lines, rounded edges. Wood, perhaps, although she
imagined the hint of something harder beneath the cloth. No
metal. Nothing called to her.

"What is the riddle?" Dela asked.

The old woman bared her teeth. "Choice."

Dela looked at her sharply and reached for the box. The woman
pulled away, shaking her head.

"Bought and sold," she whispered, and Dela was struck by the
intensity of her stare, more powerful than the gaze of the
strange man still observing them. "It must be bought and
sold. One yuan, please."

Dela could not bring herself to argue, to refuse. Despite the
odd air surrounding the transaction, the vague uneasiness
pricking her spine, she fished a bill from her purse and
handed it to the old woman.

Another sigh, and the old woman looked deep into Dela's eyes.
"A good choice," she said, and Dela sensed some deeper,
inexplicable meaning. She carefully slid the wrapped box into
Dela's purse - a swift act, as though to conceal. Dela felt

You know better, she chided herself. This 'box' could be full
of drugs, and you're the stupid American courier, traipsing
around until you get pulled over by the cops, and thrown into
a sweaty prison.

Or not, she thought, staring into the old woman's mysterious
face. Dreams and portents, she reminded herself, fighting
down a shudder. The stifling air was suddenly not warm
enough. Her bones felt cold.

The old woman stepped back, smiling, and suddenly she was just
like any other Dirt Market hawker. Eyes sharp, but somewhat
glassy. Easy mark eyes.

"Bye-bye," she said, and turned her back on Dela.

The sudden reversal in attitude, from intimate to dismissive,
took Dela off guard. She almost protested, but from the
corner of her eye, felt the strange man's attention suddenly
weigh upon her. An odd sensation; tangible, like sticky
fingers on the back of her neck. Impossible to ignore.

Go, whispered her instincts.

Without another look at the old woman, Dela walked down the
aisle, away from the strange man and his searching eyes. She
did not look back; she moved gracefully through the thickening
crowds, slipping between stalls and merchants, ragged men and
women rising from their haunches to shove vases in front of
her flushed face. Her chill vanished; the heat suddenly felt
overwhelming, the press of bodies too much, the sensation of
being hunted tightening her gut. Premonition haunted her.

When Dela finally broke free of her winding path, she found
herself near the front gates. Heart pounding, she jogged to
the street and hailed a cab. A breath of cool air brushed
against her sweaty neck.

"My," drawled a smooth masculine voice. "You are in a hurry.
What a shame."

Dela was used to unpleasant surprises, but it was still
difficult not to flinch. The strange man stood beside her,
intimately close. Perfectly coifed, breathtakingly handsome.

She disliked him immediately. He was too perfect, fake and
unreal. Even his voice sounded over-cultured, as though he
was trying to affect an unfamiliar accent. There was nothing
kind about his smile, which skirted the edge of hunger,
conceit. He made Dela's skin crawl, and she stepped out of
his shadow, frowning.

A cab stopped in front of her; Dela opened the door to slide
in. The stranger caught her hand. His touch burned, and she
barely kept from gasping at the strange sensation. His skin
felt thin as parchment, ancient, but with such heat - actual
fire, to her ice.

Shock turned to anger.

"Get your hand off me," she said, low and hard.

He smiled. "It has been a long time since I had a
conversation with a beautiful woman. Perhaps I could share
your cab? I know a lovely courtyard restaurant."

Conversation? Beautiful woman? Dela would have laughed,
except he clearly expected her to say yes; he even nudged her
toward the cab, maintaining his iron grip on her hand, his
smile as white and plastic as a cheap doll.

"I don't think so," Dela snapped, surprised and pleased to see
his dark eyes shutter, his smile falter. Did he really think
she would be so easily cowed, so stupid and desperate? "And
if you don't let go of me this instant, I am going to start

Perhaps it was the cold promise in Dela's voice; all charm
fled the stranger's face. The transformation was stunning.
He leaned close, his breath hot, smelling faintly of garlic,
pepper. His gaze, dark and oppressive, lifted the hairs on
the back of Dela's neck.

Something fluttered against her mind, then, bitter and sharp.

Dela clenched her jaw so tight her teeth ached, and the
stranger smiled. A real smile, bright and blistering and

"How interesting," he said, squeezing her hand until her bones
creaked. The pain sparked rage, striking Dela's fear to dust.
No one hurt her. Ever. Not while there was still breath in
her body.

Loosening her jaw, Dela smiled - and screamed.

It was a marvelous scream, and Dela took an unholy amount of
glee in the look of pain that crossed over the stranger's
face. Bikes crashed into cars; passersby stopped dead in their
tracks to stare. Dela pulled against his hand.

"Help me!" she screeched in both Chinese and English.
"Please! This man is trying to rob me! He's going to rape
me! Please, please ... someone!"

Dela did not think she had ever sounded so frightened or
pathetic in her entire life, but the horrible part was that
while she had started out acting, the growing fury in the
man's face suddenly did scare her. He looked like he wanted
to kill her with his bare hands - as though he would, right
there with everyone watching. Her entire arm screamed with
pain as his fingers crushed bone.

Soldiers, common enough on Beijing's streets, ran from the
gathered crowd of onlookers. Strong young men, they latched
onto Dela's assailant, wrenching him away from her. It was
quite a struggle; he was very strong and refused to let go of
her hand. When he did, a cry escaped his throat; a bark of
frustration, anger.

Dela slipped backwards into the cab, fumbling for the door,
eyes wide upon the hate distorting that handsome face. The
urge to run overwhelmed and she rapped her knuckles on the
plastic barrier. The startled cab driver did not wait for her
destination. He swerved into traffic, car brakes squealing
all around them, horns blaring. Within seconds, the Dirt
Market - and the ongoing struggle outside its gate - was
left behind.

Dela rubbed her arms, shuddering. Her face felt hot to the
touch, but the rest of her burned cold. She bowed her head
between her knees, taking deep measured breaths. The
breathing helped her sudden nausea, but her heart continued to
thud painfully against her ribs. She managed to tell the
driver the name of the hotel, and then held her aching hand,
trying to forget the feel of the man's fingers squeezing flesh
and bone. The hot ash of his skin. The cool tremble against
her mind.

A great stillness stole over Dela as she rode the memory of
that sensation. She could count on one hand the number of
times a stranger had purposely pressed his mind to her own,
and while her shields were strong - her brother had made sure
of that - Dela was in no mood to test herself against anyone
who really wished her harm.

But he didn't know I was different until the end. Which meant
the stranger had followed her out of the Dirt Market for
another reason, one that had nothing to do with her
psi-abilities. Dela remembered his cold dark eyes, how he had
watched the old woman long before paying attention to her.
What was his need, his purpose?

Through her purse, Dela felt a hard lump. The riddle box.
Clarity spilled over her, and she almost examined her tiny
purchase then and there. She caught the driver watching her
through his rear view mirror, and hesitated. If she really
had just purchased something awful like drugs or
God-knows-what, she did not want any witnesses when she began
poking her nose into Trouble. If that was what the riddle box

He can't find me, Dela reminded herself. That creep has no
idea who I am, and this is a big city.
It was a small


Excerpted from Tiger Eye
by Marjorie M. Liu
Copyright © 2005 by Marjorie M. Liu.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Marjorie M. Liu is an attorney and New York Times bestselling author of paranormal romances and urban fantasy. In the world of comic books, she is also the writer of NYX: No Way Home, Black Widow, X-23, and Dark Wolverine. She lives in the American Midwest and Beijing, China.

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