It’s been only days since Rowan and her friends eliminated the immediate threat to magic users and Vampires, but they’re already back on the hunt. Rowan’s out for vengeance, and she’s never been more driven—or angry. But she’s up against a being stronger than any she’s ever fought. To bring it down she’ll need more than the powers the goddess Brigid gave her…
This time she’ll need her friends, too.
She knows her husband will always have her back. As an ancient Vampire and Scion of North America, Clive has more clout and dominance than almost anyone. Rowan’s small but trusted inner circle insist they’ll join her in the thick of the battle, even as she argues it’s too dangerous for them. She’s also got a new dog. Familiar. Whatever. Star is a magical being put in Rowan’s path to help and protect her.
The hunt for ancient evil takes Rowan and her team to London and back to Las Vegas, bringing with them an unexpected alliance. Fortified by their rage, grief and determination, Rowan and her friends will stop at nothing when they track their enemy to the high desert in a final, deadly showdown.
This book is approximately 77,000 words
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About the Author
Visit Lauren on the web at www.laurendane.com
You can write to her at: PO BOX 45175, Seattle, WA 98145
Read an Excerpt
"I need a car," she told Clive while avoiding direct eye contact.
He slowly lowered the notes Alice had just handed him, all his considerable focus locking onto her. It was so hot all her parts fluttered and warmed.
"Why is that, my dearest Hunter?" he practically purred as he flowed toward her with all his predator's grace.
She held her ground but knew her heartbeat kicked up. Let him know it as well.
He smirked. "I'm waiting for your answer, Rowan."
"Okay look. It wasn't even my fault. I mean. I'm not a mechanic. It's not in my skill set, though I wish it was. It would be very handy to be able to fix things for myself."
Clive just stared at her so she went on.
"Some dingus pulled out in front of me. A tourist most likely. I had to slam on my brakes and yank pretty hard into the next lane. That's when my tire blew out and then as I managed to get to the drive at the Mediterranean the grinding started. Meanwhile tourist guy is probably already on the way back to wherever he came from and I'll never ever get to punch his stupid face. Anyway, I had my car towed to my mechanic before heading over here to borrow one of your cars because you have a fleet and you'll be ever so British if I rented anything instead of asking you."
He tipped his chin, accepting that he would have worked up a snit if she hadn't come to him.
"Are you injured?" He cocked his head and took a deep breath, his eyes closing slightly.
"That's weird." She waved him back. "Stop. I'm not hurt. I wasn't going very fast. My airbag didn't even go off." Thank the Goddess for that. The last time she'd been in an accident the airbag had inflated and had given her a black eye. "Not looking forward to the bill for the repairs to whatever that grindy thing is all about, though."
"Given that your usual signs of injury are absent in our link, I'll accept your assurance of well-being. However, are you entirely sure it was an accident?" A good question and one she'd asked herself as it had all unfolded.
"I took precautions when it happened. I didn't see or sense anything out of the ordinary. Genevieve warded my car so I think it was just something random. Annoying. But random. And now I need a car because I need to get home for a call."
"You can take my personal vehicle. I'll make my own way home in a few hours. Unless there's something else I should know?" "No. Nothing new to report."
He made a quick call to Alice to have the car fueled and sent around for Rowan to pick up before he stalked over and pulled her close.
"I'll expect recompense for this later on, Hunter."
She grinned. "I like the way you think, Scion."
"I'll remind you of this the next time you complain about the way I think, shall I?"
Rowan rolled her eyes but kissed him quick and headed out before he changed his mind and decided he had to be her escort.
* * *
Downstairs, Rowan eyed the cab line but knew he'd arranged to have her pick the car up in valet. It was best for all involved if she didn't have to stand in a knot of tourists jostling to jump into a taxi before the others. Like there wasn't a line of cabs all waiting for tourists to jump into the backseat one after the next.
People agitated her. But her man knew it and made her life easier. Despite his being a control freak, she knew a good thing when she had it.
Rowan caught sight of the sleek black nose of the car and moved to the drive, cash in hand to thank the valet, thoughts already on the call she would need to make with Susan in less than an hour.
The driver door opened and she didn't realize the valet was on the passenger side until she did a double take when no one exited.
That's when she realized who sat on the passenger side. In an orange camo novelty cowboy hat and neon green camo pants. His T-shirt sported a raging bear on a motorcycle blowing into a bugle.
"Hey there, Carl. Been a while since I've seen you." The appearance of her kooky sage cab driver meant he had something to tell her. Something important.
He grinned like a loon. "Good evening, Dixie! Get on in. We have things to discuss."
"Does Clive know you're in his car? How did you manage this?" Die Mitte was Vampire central. And it was currently under a threat designation, which meant security was even tighter than usual.
Rowan couldn't begin to imagine how he was able to jump into the Scion's car and drive it like he was allowed to. That took some serious spine. Or magic. Sages had their own unique kind of magic. Quite powerful but they had lots and lots of rules about how they were allowed to interact with others when they went about their sage type business.
Really crap rules like they couldn't just come out and say things clearly to warn you or whatever. Each of them had their own way of delivering information. Some were super old school and threw bones. Some used poetry and songs — Rowan was glad she didn't get that kind. Carl was a weirdo with a penchant for stuffing all manner of wildlife for display on dashboards, seats and other places. He showed up in some type of public conveyance — taxis, including a water taxi in Venice, usually — and he told her stories she had to piece together like puzzles.
Which according to her husband, she was good at.
Whatever. It would just be peachy if one day someone just told her straight up what the hell was happening.
"Your husband knows what he needs to know," Carl said with laughter in his tone.
"Well. I mean if there's a security issue. We've had problems with stuff exploding."
"If someone with my power level wants you blown up, Maggie, you'd be blown up. I just saw the car and took an opportunity. Fate blesses those who keep their eyes open. Are you going to get in or are we going to attract attention and your husband will come down here and stern frown us to death?" Carl asked.
"Goddess." Rowan got in because there was no arguing with a sage and because she had to admit he amused her and she wanted to know what he had to say.
"The Scion has the cleanest vehicle I've ever been in," Carl said as they pulled away from the valet stand and she wove her way around the knots of people in the drive without indulging her fantasy of simply plowing through everyone dumb enough to just loiter in the middle of a roadway like they were the only people on the planet.
"If I ever tell him about this, I'll be sure to lead with that. But let's be honest, I'm not going to tell him unless I have no choice. He's going to get a permanent line between his eyebrows from all that frowning. He's got a pretty face. Don't mess with him, that's my job."
Carl wheezed out a laugh that had her smiling. "What do you want, Carl?" Rowan asked. She liked him, despite his weirdness. Maybe even a little bit because of it. For sure she respected him and appreciated whatever he had to tell her though it was often in the form of some long weird story usually featuring wildlife or nature and she had to figure out whatever he was trying to say.
He set his hat, which had gone crooked, back to rights. The mere sight of the soup of neon oranges, yellows and greens swimming all around his head in Clive's car made her snort laugh.
"Hush now. I've a few things to discuss with you. First, I want you to meet someone."
Something cold and wet touched the side of her neck and she yelped, nearly running off the road.
Carl thought that was hilarious as he wheezed out a laugh.
"There's a dog in the back seat of Clive's car." With sharp claws against that buttery soft leather. Her Scion was going to have a cow. It would have been funny but he was already short tempered due to the investigation they were involved with.
It was still actually funny, but she'd keep that part to herself. There'd be no hiding this if that dog clawed the seats.
"An Australian kelpie, which is fitting, isn't it?" Carl said, all satisfied with himself.
"Kelpie? Like the magical horse thing that drowns people? How is that fitting? Is that what's coming next? Drowning by horse shifter?"
"Sally." Carl shook his head like she was slow. Or that her name was Sally.
"What?" She got back on the road safely and resumed her trip home.
"That's a dog. Not a horse. Don't get out much do you?"
The dog snorted and nosed her neck again.
"Why is there a dog in the back seat of my spouse's luxury car?" Rowan asked, trying to stay patient.
"You're on a journey. A map is helpful. And Star here needed someone to guide. That's what kelpies do. Guide. If anyone needs a guide more than you, I can't think of who it might be."
"I don't need a dog. I travel a lot. My life is sort of chaotic, in case you hadn't noticed." And she had a fussy spouse who would shit every time the dog shed some hair or, Goddess forbid, peed in the house or something like that.
"Of course you need a dog. You have one right here. Are you paying attention, Dolly? You're driving out here on unmarked roads. To an uncertain destination. In chaotic times as you so rightfully point out."
"I liked it better when you drove a cab and picked me up in cars or boats full of stuffed, dead animals," she muttered.
"In the interests of not angering your husband, I didn't bring any of my babies along for the ride."
Babies. Naturally he'd consider a stuffed coyote or snake or weasel to be his babies. Weirdo.
"No. Just a random dog."
"Not random at all," Carl said as if that answered everything.
A mile or two later he spoke. "Blood and magic. It all comes down to that."
Rowan shoved aside the three dozen things she'd been mulling over to give him — and the road — all her focus. She needed to pay close attention to everything he said. And didn't say.
"You ever been to the Grand Canyon?" he asked.
The dog barked and despite herself, Rowan snorted, amused. "It's not that far from here. I went when Hunter Corp. sent me here." It had been more of a, fine, everyone says you should see it type of thing at first. But the magic there had hummed in the air, greeting her, welcoming her the moment she'd gotten out of the car and her booted foot had hit the dirt.
There'd been so much power emanating from the earth she'd stayed three extra days. Camping and soaking it all up. A system of ley lines crisscrossed the park, guiding her and the Goddess as they settled into their new home.
"There're a lot of juicy ley lines there, but not so much leading there from here. I expect you know that," Rowan added.
"I'm glad you do too. I love the Grand Canyon. Makes the hair on my body stand up. Not just power. But friction. Earth rubbing against earth. Pushing up through the soil, rising. Slow but relentless friction as water flows. Canyons open up. There's so much ancient magic and power where things touch."
So was this about magic? Or friction? Water? Canyons? Ley lines?
"It's about all those things and more," he said, as if she'd spoken the words aloud.
He was quiet long enough that she knew he wanted her to fill him in on what was happening.
"So we were just in Los Angeles. We killed a big bad. Magic-using Vamp named Lyr. Blood Front is back again. Or never left. Like cockroaches. Ugh. Anyway. We aren't done. There's more. Someone or something more powerful. Or I don't know. A different power making all this upset and murder type business between paranormal groups so it can be free to do whatever its own goal is and soak up all that discord in the offing."
"Bill Shakespeare said something about there being more here on earth than we could have dreamed of. Or something like that," Carl told her.
Which was his way of agreeing with her.
"Your man has bad magic on him," he said after being silent for a long while.
Ice washed over Rowan's skin. "What? How?"
"You know what. How isn't important and I can't tell you anyway. The priestess witch needs to intervene."
Damn it. Rowan had been trying to talk Clive into letting Genevieve give him the magical once-over but he'd insisted he didn't need any help. He'd used his gifts to jump into Lyr's brain to take his memories.
But unlike his usual instant to a few hours before all the memories from the other person came to him, this time a week had passed and Clive was still having problems accessing memories and impressions.
It had turned him into a cranky, sulky dude and it was wearing on her.
"Because you love him. You don't like it when he's upset and you can't fix it."
She growled at his comments and the way he'd yet again plucked things from her head. And because he was right and she'd turned into a sap for love. Gross.
"I don't mind poking at him to get him agitated. He's way too uptight. He needs that. But I certainly don't like it when something is hurting him. But I can't kill it until I know just what it is."
"Very true. Pull into that parking lot over there." He pointed.
Rowan realized they'd only gone about five miles. Being with Carl often meant she lost track of time. Or he bent it. Or took them outside it. Or something.
When she did and parked in the spot he'd indicated, Carl removed his seat belt and turned to face her.
"Seriously. You can't give me a dog. That's not a present."
Carl cackled and gave Star a scratch behind her ears that made her groan. She tipped her head to look at Rowan carefully before snorting and giving her shoulder a headbutt.
"Course not. She's not a present. Star gave herself to you. I only introduced you."
"Are you some sort of magic dog?" Rowan asked Star. Intelligent and curious amber eyes blinked back at her. She had a black coat with golden markings on her face and chest. Including the star shaped one that'd most likely given her the name.
"A cat would have been a very bad choice for you. And a lot of them were wary about you. Star here, well she knows her mind."
"Is that so? I do like a lady who knows her own mind. It's sort of my jam."
Star licked her nose and it wasn't disgusting.
"I'll be seeing you soon enough. This one is going to take some work," Carl said before he got out of the car.
"Where are you going?" Rowan called out after him.
"I'll find my way. You do the same and let the dog and your little supernatural friends watch your back."
He did a little jig and like a heat shimmer, faded from sight.
"That's a really cool trick."
Clive wasn't going to go easily into the box marked dog owner. She bet in the old days he had those English wolfhounds other people took care of.
Star jumped into the front seat and made herself at home.
"Okay then, magic dog. Let's go home. I'm going to have to do really dirty things with your new daddy to ease your transition into the family," Rowan muttered as she pulled back out to the road.CHAPTER 2
"Here's a thought," Rowan said while she took in her very grumpy spouse.
He'd just touched down in their backyard and had sauntered into the house all smooth and debonair but the line between his eyes and the set of his mouth told of his ruffled feathers.
Her super competitive, hyper achieving alpha Vampire had been used to being the best at everything he tried for so long, he was decidedly averse to anything else. His inability to access what had always been a unique and powerful Vampiric gift was eating away at him.
It was time to get this situation in hand before she broke furniture over his increasingly grumpy head because she rather liked fucking him but being crosswise with him — in truth seeing him distressed — was uncomfortable for her.
Ugh. She was sappy now. That was what love got you.
"This never ends well for me," he grumbled.
Rowan rolled her eyes at him. So spoiled.
"Listening to me always ends well for you. It's when you don't that there's a problem. So. Back to my idea so we can remedy that. Guess who I ran into earlier tonight?"
"I need a cup of tea for this, I can tell," he muttered as he started toward the kitchen of their beautiful new home complete with a freaking butler slash house manager and his wife, a fantastic cook and housekeeper.
"Elisabeth, Clive would like a cup of tea," Rowan called out.
"Of course he would. And who wouldn't after a long night of work?" Elisabeth replied as they entered her domain. "There's dinner soon but the teapot is already out on the table there for after you've changed your clothes."
Clive looked down at himself and corrected his trajectory, heading to the side of the house their bedrooms were located in. His was a light tight vault where he spent his daylight hours. Not in a coffin or anything like that — though she teased him about it from time to time. A super luxurious bed with one of those mattresses that was perfection naturally. He liked his comforts, did her Scion.
They shared a communal sitting room connecting her bedroom to his. The space was super comfortable, sporting a television that tucked away into a cabinet and a fireplace. It was a room she could easily see them spending those hours before sunrise together just watching movies.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Blood and Blade"
Copyright © 2019 Lauren Dane.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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