He Would Do Anything To Claim Her
Salvatore Giuliani is not a happy werewolf. It’s his duty as leader to track down the pure blood females who can keep his people from extinction. But the moment he catches scent of Harley, a pure blood held by a pack of mangy curs, his savage need for her obliterates all other instincts. And the only thing worse than being captured is finding that beautiful, independent Harley defiantly refuses to become his mate.
And Everything To Keep Her
Harley has been taught to distrust all Weres, especially their arrogant king. She won’t be used for breeding or bonded against her will, not even to a man who makes every nerve tingle with awareness. Yet Salvatore is her key to saving the family she never knew she had—if she dares to succumb to his dark, predatory desire, and face a vicious enemy sworn to destroy them both…
Praise for Alexandra Ivy
“Captivating, sexy, and with a sinful bite like rich, dark chocolate, Beyond The Darkness kept me riveted! The Guardians of Eternity series is highly addictive, the dialogue clever, the characters woven with subtle complexity. Alexandra Ivy has made me her fangirl!” —Larissa Ione, New York Times bestselling author
“Oh, so hot and wonderfully dangerous.” —Gena Showalter on Darkness Unleashed
“A darkly erotic adventure with a vampire hero who can bite me anytime!” —Angela Knight on Darkness Revealed
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About the Author
Audiobook narrator Arika Rapson has performed a wide range of genres, from classics to contemporary thrillers, children's books, urban fantasy, and women's literature. Her voice has been featured on national television, on radio, and in video games, and she is the ongoing narrator for Amazon Kindle's how-to video series.
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It wasn't his finest day, Salvatore Giuliani, the mighty King of Weres, had to admit.
As a matter of fact, it was swerving toward downright shitty.
It was bad enough to regain consciousness to discover he was stretched out in a dark, nasty tunnel that was currently ruining his Gucci suit, and that he had no clear memory of how he had gotten there.
But to open his eyes and use the perfect night vision of his werewolf heritage to discover a three-foot gargoyle with stunted horns, ugly gray features, and delicate wings in shades of blue and gold and crimson hovering over him was enough to ruin a perfectly horrible mood.
"Wake up," Levet hissed, his French accent pronounced and his wings fluttering in fear. "Wake up, you mangy dog or I'll have you spayed."
"Call me a dog again and be assured you'll soon be chopped into bits of gravel and paving my driveway," Salvatore growled, his head throbbing in time to his heartbeat.
What the hell had happened?
The last thing he remembered, he'd been in a remote cabin north of St. Louis to meet with Duncan, a cur who'd promised information regarding his traitor of a pack leader, and the next he was waking up with Levet buzzing over him like an oversized, extremely ugly butterfly.
God Almighty. When Salvatore got out of the tunnel, he was going to track down Jagr and cut out his heart for sticking him with the annoying Levet. Damned vampire.
"You will not be doing anything unless you get up and move," the gargoyle warned. "Shake your tail, King of Slugs."
Ignoring the grinding pain in his joints, Salvatore rose to his feet and smoothed back his shoulder-length raven hair. He didn't bother knocking the dirt from his silk suit. It was going in the nearest fire.
Along with gargoyle.
"Where are we?"
"In some nasty tunnel."
"A brilliant deduction. What would I do without you?"
"Look, Cujo, all I know is that one minute we were in a cabin with an extremely dead Duncan, and the next I was being dropped on my head by a gorgeous but très ill-mannered woman." Bizarrely, the gargoyle rubbed his butt rather than his head. Of course, his skull was far too thick to harm. "That female is fortunate that I did not turn her into a beaver."
"It had to have been a spell. Was the woman a witch?"
"Non. A demon, but ..."
"She is a mongrel."
Salvatore shrugged. It was common among the demon world to interbreed.
"Her power is."
Salvatore frowned. He might want to choke the gargoyle, but the tiny demon possessed the ability to sense magic that Salvatore couldn't.
A chill inched down Salvatore's spine and he cast a swift glance up and down the tunnel. In the distance he could sense the approach of his curs and a vampire. The cavalry rushing to the rescue. His attention, however, was focused on searching for any hint of the jinn.
A pure-blooded jinn was a cruel, unpredictable creature who could manipulate nature. They could call lightning, turn wind into a lethal force, and lay flat an entire city with an earthquake. They could also disappear into a wisp of smoke. Thankfully, they rarely took an interest in the world and preferred to remain isolated.
He shuddered. They might not possess the power of a full-fledged jinn, but their inability to control their volatile energy made them even more dangerous.
"Jinn have been forbidden to breed with other demons."
Levet snorted. "There are many things forbidden in this world."
"The Commission must be told," Salvatore muttered, referring to the cryptic Oracles who were the ultimate leaders of the demon world. He reached into his pocket, coming up empty. "Cristo."
"My cell phone is gone."
"Fine." Levet threw his hands in the air. "We will send a memo. For now we need to get out of here."
"Relax, gargoyle. Help is on the way."
With a frown, Levet sniffed the air. "Your curs."
"And a leech."
Levet sniffed again. "Tane."
Expecting Jagr, Salvatore's brows snapped together. One vampire was as bad as another, but Tane's reputation for killing first and asking questions later didn't exactly warm the cockles of a Were's heart.
Whatever the hell a cockle was.
"The Charon?" he demanded. Charons were assassins who hunted down rogue vampires. God only knew what they did to lesser demons. And in a vampire's mind, every demon was lesser.
"An arrogant, condescending donkey," Levet muttered.
Salvatore rolled his eyes. "Jackass, you idiot, not donkey."
Levet waved a dismissive hand. "It is my theory that the taller the demon, the larger his conceit and the smaller his ..."
"Continue, gargoyle," a cold voice cut through the dark, abruptly lowering the temperature in the tunnel. "I find your theory fascinating."
With a flutter of his wings, Levet dashed behind Salvatore. As if he was stupid enough to think Salvatore would keep him from certain death.
"Dio, get away from me, you pest," Salvatore growled, swiping a hand at the gargoyle even as his gaze was warily focused on the vampire rounding the corner of the tunnel.
He was worth focusing on.
Although not as large as many of his brothers, the vampire was dangerously muscular, with the golden skin of his Polynesian ancestors, thick black hair shaved on the sides, and a long Mohawk that fell past his shoulders. His face was that of a predator, lean and hard with faintly slanted honey eyes. At the moment he was wearing nothing more than a pair of khaki shorts, obviously not sharing Salvatore's own fondness for designer clothes.
Of course, the big dagger he was holding in his hands made sure that no one was going to question his taste in fashion.
Not if they wanted to live.
There was the sound of footsteps and four of his curs came into sight, the largest of them rushing forward to drop to his knees and press his bald head to the ground in front of Salvatore's feet.
"Sire, are you harmed?" Hess demanded.
"Only my pride." Salvatore returned his attention to the vampire as Hess rose to his feet and towered at his side. "I remember nothing after entering the cabin and finding Duncan dead. No, wait. There was a voice, then ..." He shook his head in aggravation as his memory went blank. "Damn. Did you follow us?"
Tane absently stroked the hilt of his dagger. "When we found the cabin empty, Jagr assumed you were in trouble. Since your clueless crew seemed incapable of forming a singular coherent thought, I agreed to come in search of you."
Not surprising. Unlike purebloods who were born from full Weres, the curs were humans who had been bitten and transformed into werewolves. Hess and the other curs were excellent killers. Which was why he kept them as guards. Using their brains, however ... well, he did the thinking for them. It solved any number of problems.
"So what happened to our captors?"
"We've been gaining on you over the past half hour." Tane shrugged. "They obviously preferred escape over keeping their hostages."
"You never caught sight of them?"
"No. A cur escaped through a side tunnel a mile back, and the demon simply disappeared." Frustration flashed through the honey eyes. Salvatore could sympathize. He was anxious for a bit of blood and violence himself. "There're only a handful of demons capable of vanishing into thin air."
"The gargoyle thinks it's a jinn mongrel."
"Hey, the gargoyle has a name." Stepping from behind Salvatore, Levet planted his hands on his hips. "And I do not think, I know."
Tane narrowed his eyes. "How can you be certain?"
"I had a slight misunderstanding with a jinn a few centuries ago. He zapped off one of my wings. It took years to grow back."
Tane was supremely unimpressed. "And that's somehow relevant?"
"Before the demon dropped me and did her disappearing act, she left a little present." Turning around, Levet revealed the perfectly shaped handprint that had been branded onto his butt. Salvtore's laughter echoed through the tunnel, and the gargoyle turned to stab him with a wounded glare. "It is not amusing."
"That still doesn't prove it was a jinn," Tane pointed out, his own lips twitching with amusement.
"Being struck by lightning is not a sensation you easily forget."
Tane instinctively glanced over his shoulder. No demon in his right mind wanted to cross paths with a jinn.
"How do you know it isn't a full jinn?"
Levet grimaced. "I am still alive."
The vampire turned to Salvatore. "The Commission must be warned."
"This is Were business. It's your duty."
"I can't lose the trail of the cur," Salvatore smoothly pointed out. Ah. There was nothing better than getting the upper hand with a leech. "He's proven a danger to more than just Weres. I'm sure the Commission would agree that my duty is to put an end to the traitors."
A blast of frigid air filled the tunnel. Salvatore smiled, releasing his own energy to counter the chill with a prickling heat.
The curs stirred uneasily, reacting to the power play between two dangerous predators. Salvatore never allowed his gaze to stray from Tane. Few Weres could best a vampire, but Salvatore wasn't just a Were. He was king. He wasn't going to back down from any demon.
At last, Tane snapped his fangs in Salvatore's direction and stepped back. Salvatore could only assume that the vampire had been ordered to keep the bloodshed to a minimum.
"This will not be forgotten, dog," Tane warned, turning on his heel and silently disappearing down the tunnel.
"Good riddance, leech."
Waiting long enough to make sure the vampire didn't have a change of heart and return to rip out his throat, Salvatore turned back to his waiting curs to discover them battling back their urge to shift.
He grimaced. As a pureblood, he had the ability to control his shifts unless it was a full moon. Curs, on the other hand, were at the mercy of their emotions.
With a shudder, Hess at last gained control and sucked in a deep breath.
Salvatore didn't hesitate. "We follow the cur."
Hess clenched his meaty hands at his side. "It's too dangerous. The jinn ..." His words broke off in a squeal as Salvatore's power once again reached out, striking the cur like the lash of a whip.
"Hess, on how many occasions have I told you that if I want your opinion I'll ask for it?" Salvatore drawled.
The cur lowered his head. "Forgive me, sire."
"The cringing cretin is not entirely wrong." Levet waddled forward, his long tail twitching. "It had to have been the demon who killed Duncan and knocked both of us out."
"No one is asking you to join us, gargoyle," Salvatore snapped.
"Sacre bleu. I am not going to be left alone in these tunnels."
"Then chase after the vampire."
The damned gargoyle refused to budge, a sly amusement entering the gray eyes.
"Darcy would not be pleased if something was to happen to me. And if Darcy is not happy, then Styx is not happy."
Salvatore snapped his teeth. Darcy was one of the female purebloods he'd been searching for over the past thirty years, and while he didn't have the least fear of her, she'd recently mated with the King of Vampires.
Styx he did fear.
Hey, he wasn't stupid.
Muttering a curse, Salvatore led the way down the tunnel, his already pissy mood plunging to foul.
"Get in my way and I'll chop you up and feed you to the vultures. Understood, gargoyle?"
He sensed his curs falling into step behind him, with Levet bringing up the rear.
"Mangy dogs can smooch my posterior," the gargoyle muttered.
"A jinn is not the only creature capable of ripping off a wing," Salvatore warned.
A blessed silence filled the dark tunnel, and at last able to concentrate on the faint trail of cur, Salvatore quickened his pace.
It was moments like this that he regretted leaving Italy.
In his elegant lair near Rome, no one dared treat him as anything other than Master of the Universe. His word was law, and his underlings scrambled to do his bidding. Best of all, there were no filthy vampires or stunted gargoyles.
Unfortunately, he'd had no choice in the matter.
The Weres were becoming extinct. Pure-blooded females could no longer control their shifts during pregnancy, and more often than not lost their babies before they could be born. Even the bite of Weres was losing its potency. A new cur had not been created in years.
Salvatore had to act, and after years of research, his very expensive scientists had at last managed to alter the DNA of four female pureblood babies so they could not shift.
They were a miracle. Born to save the Weres.
Until they had been stolen from the nursery.
He growled low in his throat, his anger still a potent force even after thirty years. He had wasted far too much time searching through Europe before he at last traveled to America and managed to stumble across two of the female Weres. Unfortunately Darcy was in the hands of Styx, while Regan had proven to be infertile.
During his trip to Hannibal, however, he'd managed to discover that the babies had at some point been in the hands of Caine, a cur with a death wish who'd convinced himself that he would be capable of using the blood of the females to turn common curs into Weres. Moron.
Salvatore had been in a cabin to meet with one of Caine's pack who'd promised to reveal the traitor's location, when he and Levet had been knocked unconscious and kidnapped.
It had to have been Caine who attacked him.
Now the bastard was leaving a trail straight to his lair.
A smile curved Salvatore's lips. He intended to savor ripping out the traitor's throat.
A near half hour passed as Salvatore weaved his way through the winding tunnel, his steps slowing as he tilted back his head to sniff the air.
The scent of cur was still strong, but he was beginning to pick up the distant scent of other curs, and ... pure-blood.
Coming to a sharp halt, Salvatore savored the rich vanilla aroma that filled his senses.
He loved the smell of women. Hell, he loved women.
But this was different.
It was intoxicating.
"Cristo," he breathed, his blood racing, an odd tightness coiling through his body, slowly draining his strength.
Almost as if ...
No. It wasn't possible.
There hadn't been a true Were mating for centuries.
"Curs," Levet said, moving to his side. "And a female pureblood."
"Si," Salvatore muttered, distracted.
"You think it's a trap?"
Salvatore swallowed a grim laugh. Hell, he hoped it was a trap. The alternative was enough to send any intelligent Were howling into the night.
"There's only one way to find out."
He moved forward, sensing the end of the tunnel just yards in front of him.
"Salvatore?" Levet tugged on his pants.
Salvatore shook him off. "What?"
"You smell funny. Mon Dieu, are you ..."
With blinding speed, Salvatore grasped the gargoyle by one stunted horn and yanked him off his feet to glare into his ugly face. Until that moment, he hadn't noticed the musky scent that clung to his skin.
"One more word and you lose that tongue," he snarled.
"Do not screw with me."
"I do not intend to screw with anyone." The gargoyle curled his lips in a mocking smile. "I am not the one in heat."
Hess appeared beside Salvatore, halting his urge to rip off the gargoyle's head.
"Sire?" the cur demanded, his thick brow furrowed.
"Take Max and the other curs and keep guard on the rear. I don't want anyone sneaking up on us," he commanded.
It was unlikely the cur would recognize Salvatore's disturbing reaction to the female's scent. Hess hadn't even been transformed when the last mating had happened. Not to mention the fact that he was as thick as a stump. But Levet was certainly annoying enough to let the cat out of the bag.
Waiting for the curs to grudgingly shift back, he gave the gargoyle a shake before dropping him onto the ground.
"You — not another word."
Regaining his balance, Levet glanced upward, his wings fluttering and his tail twitching.
"Um. Actually, I have two words," he muttered. Then, without warning, he was charging forward, ramming directly into Salvatore and sending him flying backwards. "CAVEIN!!!"
Momentarily stunned, Salvatore watched in horror as the low ceiling abruptly gave way, sending an avalanche of dirt and stone into the tunnel.
Because of Levet's swift action, he had avoided the worst of the landslide, but rising to his feet he was in no mood for gratitude. Hard to believe this hideous day had just gotten worse.
Moving to the wall of debris that blocked the tunnel, he sent out his sense to find his curs.
"Hess?" he shouted.
Levet coughed at the cloud of dust that filled the air. "Are they ...?"
"They're injured, but alive," Salvatore said, able to pick up the heartbeats of his pack, although they were currently unconscious. "Can we dig our way through to them?"
"It would take hours, and we risk bringing even more down on our heads."
Of course. Why the hell would it be easy?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Beyond the Darkness"
Copyright © 2010 Debbie Raleigh.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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