Blood and Fire

Blood and Fire

by Shannon McKenna

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Restless and impulsive, Bruno Ranieri fits right in with the McClouds. And just like the McCloud brothers, Bruno has a dangerous past to contend with--one that's about to come crashing back into his life. . .

Bruno is working hard to keep his nose clean and save the family business. Not easy when the nightmares that plagued his childhood are hi-jacking what little rest he gets. Even harder when beautiful fugitive Lily Parr appears, on the run from assassins--and implying that Bruno is involved. But the violence that accompanies her is no illusion. Nor is the blisteringly hot desire that explodes between them.

After her father's suspicious death, and an attempt on her own life, snippets of information have led Lily to Bruno's door. . .and his charisma soon compels her into his bed. But with killers on her heels, running won't help--not with the terrifying secret lurking in Bruno and Lily's pasts. A secret their mysterious enemy will gladly destroy them to protect. . .

"McKenna strikes gold again." –Publishers Weekly

"Her books will take readers on a nonstop thrill ride and leave them begging for more when the last pages are devoured." –Maya Banks, New York Times bestselling author

"Edgy, erotic, and breathtaking." –Maya Banks

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780758228680
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 08/28/2012
Series: Mccloud Brothers Series , #8
Pages: 544
Product dimensions: 4.15(w) x 6.71(h) x 1.42(d)

About the Author

Shannon McKenna is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous romantic thrillers and several novellas. After a bizarre assortment of jobs, from singing cocktail waitress to medical secretary to strolling madrigal singer, she decided that writing hot romantic suspense suits her best. She lives with her husband and family in a small seaside town in southern Italy. Write to Shannon at her website

Read an Excerpt

Blood and Fire

By Shannon McKenna


Copyright © 2011 Shannon McKenna
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-2867-3

Chapter One

Portland, OR Present Day

Just a dream, man. Just a dumb dream.

Right, and so? Knowing it was a dream didn't help. When he was in it, he was in it. Stuck in a white nowhere, that booming voice in his head saying words that made him want to scream, though they were just bland numeric sequences. "... DeepWeave four point two, combat level eight, sequence five commencing ... four, three, two, one ..."

Then Rudy came at him, stinking of drink and sweat. Slashing at Bruno, switchblade in one hand, broken beer bottle in the other.

Mamma lay on the floor behind Rudy, beaten and bleeding, eyes pleading over the gag. All because her useless, pussy son hadn't had the balls to steal Rudy's Beretta and shoot the scumbag dead. Kitchen shears would do fine, too, slashed across the jugular. A bread knife right between the ribs. A machete. Take that, dickhead. Or a chainsaw, even better. Swoosh, swing. Splatter that rabid bastard every which way. That's what you get for hitting my mamma, fucking shit-for-brains.

But he never killed Rudy in the dream, even if he landed a perfect blow. The bastard just winked out of existence, and a fresh, unharmed Rudy popped out from another direction. The video game from hell, but somebody with a forked tongue was plugging in the quarters.

He fought grimly on, ducking, lunging, slashing, punching, and kicking, then Rudy cloned himself into six Rudys, and they slammed him all at once, knocking him to the ground—

The images broke apart, fighting to maintain their space in his head, but waking reality rushed in through the cracks.

Ouch. It should have been a relief, but God, his head. It throbbed, like he'd been clobbered with a bat. His heart banged against his ribs.

He'd hit the floor. That was what had wakened him. He was on the floor, next to his bed. He was Bruno Ranieri, and he was thirty-two, not twelve, and this was his own king-sized bed, in his own condo, not Mamma's tenement apartment in Newark. The sweat-soaked sheet wound like a noose around one ankle was custom-made high-thread-count Egyptian cotton. His picture window framed the pink-tinted Portland skyline and a view of Mount Hood, not a sooty brick wall over a cluster of garbage cans. No drunken Rudy bellowing through thin walls as he beat up Mamma. He stared around at his own space, his own life.

Tried to believe it. To own it.

He gasped for breath. Hoarse rasps. Drenched with sweat, muscles twitching like he'd been electrocuted. He pried the twisted sheet off his ankle and sprawled flat against the cool wooden floor.

It was all behind him now. Rudy was dead, decades ago. Uncle Tony had seen to it. Mamma was dead, too, eighteen years ago. Nothing could hurt her anymore.

Just ... a ... fucking ... dream. Long past. Dead and gone.

He'd moved on, gotten his shit together. He was not that helpless boy anymore. He deepened his breathing, got up on wobbly legs. He'd use the tricks Kev had taught him. When you can't stand what's happening in your head, float back from it, Kev always said. Three steps. Turn down the volume. Then look at it. Idly curious. It's just a bunch of monkeys fighting in a cage. Stupid. Irrelevant. Can't hurt you.

He stumbled into the living room, air cooling his naked skin. The city lights reflected off the broad swath of planked flooring. He sank down into horse stance and began the kung fu forms Kev had taught him. His legs shook, and monkeys screeched and flailed in their cage for a while, but eventually, he got where he needed to be. One with the night, crouching, leaping, punching. Black panther climbs the tree. Crane guards his nest. Crane flies into the sky. Wild tiger raises his head. Golden dragon stretches his left claw. Time flowed, smoothing.

Buzzzz. Buzzzz. Who the hell would call at this ungodly hour?

Oh, man. Maybe it was Kev. The blaze of hope broke his mellow Zen trance, had him leaping for the phone like a fish for a bug. "Yeah?"

"It's Julio." The cigarette-roughened voice of the fry cook at Zia Rosa's restaurant rasped uncomfortably over Bruno's nerve endings.

Bruno's stomach thudded down a couple notches. Not Kev.

Of course not. Why would Kev call? He was traveling the globe with his true love, Edie. Tied up in erotic knots on some sugar sand beach under the moonlight. Which was fine. Bruno was thrilled for that. He'd hoped and schemed to get Kev happy, smiling, sexually fulfilled. He loved that scenario, loved it. Kev deserved blithering happiness and nonstop screaming orgasms after the horrific shit he'd been through.

But those dreams, man. Kev was the only person Bruno could talk to about that stuff. Kev had saved him, back when he was thirteen. He'd been wild-eyed and desperate with the grinding, constant Rudy nightmares. At the time, the idea of throwing himself under a bus had been looking kind of restful. Kev had understood that. The way he understood everything. He'd saved Bruno's ass, so many times, on so many levels.

But then, Kev was a freaking genius. Nobody argued with that.

"... is the matter with you, man? Do you even hear me?"

Bruno shook himself out of his daze and tried to zero in on Julio's grating monologue. "Sorry. Still half asleep. What did you say?"

"I was saying that Otis didn't come in tonight at all, and Jillian called, said she can't make it in at six, either, and I am so done, man. I've been here for twelve and a half hours."

"Not coming in? What's the matter with those guys?"

Julio grunted. "I don't know or care, buddy. Call 'em yourself if you're curious. But I'm outta here, at six sharp. Closing the place up and locking the door. Just lettin' ya know."

Bruno glanced at the clock again, calculating dressing time, driving time. "Make it six thirty?"

Julio paused, considering it. "On the nose, dude," he growled.

Click. Julio was gone. Bruno let the phone drop, slid down the wall until his naked butt hit the floor. Great. An extra shift at the diner. This negated the mellow kung fu vibe in one crushing blow.

There was no logical reason to be so uptight about closing Tony's Diner while he scoured the city for some decent wait-staff. But the place had been a fixture in his life since Mamma sent him there at age twelve, right before all the bad stuff happened. Bruno had worked there throughout his adolescence, bussing plates, waiting tables.

Thirty years ago, after Vietnam, Uncle Tony decided that he wanted to run a food joint in his adopted West Coast city of Portland, Oregon. A no bullshit place that slung great hash twentyfour- seven, like the diners of his youth in New Jersey and New York. Where a guy working swing shift could get great fries or chops anytime, day or night. He'd persuaded his unmarried sister, Bruno's Zia Rosa, to move out and help. Zia had added her own heroic efforts to the production of food that made your taste buds burst into six-part harmony while simultaneously clogging your arteries with deadly plaque.

But Uncle Tony was dead. He'd died a hero, almost a year ago, now, saving Bruno's life among many others. He could hear his uncle's gruff, Marines drill sergeant voice in his head. What's this? Ya wanna close Tony's Diner because of, what? Nightmares? Fuckin' stress? You tired, boy? Fuck tired! Tired's for pussies! You can rest when you're dead!

Tony was resting. It was Bruno that couldn't seem to manage it. Not with the Rudy dreams and Zia Rosa missing in action. Zia had gone haring off a few weeks ago to attend the birth of yet another of the McCloud crowd's innumerable spawn, expecting Bruno to pick up the slack. Kev was off the hook, because Rosa wanted so badly for him to procreate, and all that sweaty humping took time and effort, right? But Bruno, man. Anything goes. Put that boy to work, day and night. Never mind lost sleep. Never a thought for his own kite and toy business.

Fortunately, his own outfit was a smoothly functioning perpetual-motion machine. One of Bruno's talents was to pick good staff and motivate them well. Too bad Zia Rosa couldn't do the same.

But the restaurant was his most visceral link to Tony. God, how he missed the old bastard. Tony had loved the place. Bruno owed Tony his life, several times over. Tony had never closed the joint but for a couple of very notable days; one being the day eighteen years ago that Rudy and his goons had come to the diner to kidnap and murder Bruno. They had not succeeded, thanks to Kev, aka white-hot ninja maniac, and Tony. His uncle had carted the goons away in his pickup to an unknown fate. Or, well. Unknown, maybe, but certainly not un-guessed. It had been a day of blood, terror, and broken glass.

The other day the diner had closed had been the day Tony died. Another day of blood, terror, and broken glass. Bombs and bullets, too.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Thought about in those terms, closing down Tony's Diner was starting to look like the knell of fucking doom.

Aw, hell with it. He'd cover at the diner, for as long as it took. He wasn't sleeping worth a damn anyhow, with Rudy coming at him full bore every night. His sex life was decimated. A guy couldn't invite lady friends over for erotic frolics when he had an early-morning date with monsters from the depths of his damaged psyche. Real mood-killer, that. Hadn't seen any between-the-sheets action in months now.

Or missed it much, to be honest. Too tired.

He headed into the bathroom, stared at his face over the sink. He looked bad, he noted critically. Reddened eyes, cheeks starting to cave. He'd lost about twenty pounds since the dreams started up again. His head still throbbed, now that the calming spell of the kung fu forms was broken. He yanked open the medicine cabinet, rummaged 'til he found a cluster of prescription bottles, rubber banded together.

He'd gone to a shrink with his problem a few weeks ago. This eerie cocktail of antidepressants, antianxiety meds, and anti-psychotics had been the guy's recommendation. Bruno checked it out on the Internet, discovered that his dose of the anti-psychotic was higher than the max recommended dose for schizophrenia patients. Similar to what they were giving Iraq veterans suffering from PTSD after multiple combat tours. He'd made a real impression on that shrink. Possible side effects included, but were by no means limited to: diabetes, weight gain, muscle spasms, slurred speech, disorientation, tremors. And to top it off, some of the vets who took it were dying in their sleep.

Yet here he was, getting out the bottles. Rereading those labels.

No. Aside from possible side effects—like, say, death—he had a creeping sense that if he drove Rudy underground, the guy would really be able to fuck with him. At least when Rudy was in his face, he could see what he was dealing with. Who knew? He was feeling his way. He wasn't great at introspection. He liked action. Constant, restless motion.

Don't think about it. Shine it on. The hole in his belly was deep enough as it was. Just stay shallow, that was the trick. Babbling-brook shallow. He was great at that. Ask any of his ex-girlfriends.

He batted the bottles aside with the back of his hand and kept digging. Found some aspirin, swallowed it dry, and turned on the water to wash that fried look off his face. Maybe he could sneakily do for himself what Kev had done for him years ago. Kev had researched lucid dreaming, speed reading hundreds of books and medical journals. Every night, Kev made him practice kung fu forms in the wide part of the alley out back, behind the diner, practicing stepping back from the cage of monkey. And after, Kev sat next to Bruno's bed as he went to sleep, helping him visualize Rudy putting down his weapons and fading away. Imagining that booming voice getting softer, until it disappeared.

Then Kev stretched out with a blanket and slept on the floor. And when Bruno had the nightmare, Kev woke him and did it again. Every night, for months. And bit by bit, it started to work. A night would go by, no dream. Then another. Bruno stopped freaking out in school, for the most part. He'd stopped getting straight D's and F's. He'd never gotten particularly good at sleep, being hyper by nature, but it was better. And finally, the dreams stopped altogether. He was cured.

Or so he thought, until a couple of months ago.

He could make a recording similar to Kev's mesmerizing monologue, and hypnotize himself, as Kev had hypnotized him. Problem was, he suspected it was the force of Kev's will that made the technique work. Kev had been a bulwark by his bed. No one messed with Kev.

But Rudy knew damn well he could mess with Bruno. No lame guided visualization with waves crashing and birds chirping was going to change that. But what could he do? Call Kev, bleating for him to come home, tuck Bruno into bed? Whining to be rescued, like the zinged-out twelve-year-old dingbat he'd been when Kev met him?

No. Grow up. Get a spine transplant. Get the fuck over it.

He muscled himself into the shower and slumped against the tiles for support. Let the water beat down against his closed eyelids.

Move your pansy ass, Ranieri. They ain't payin' you by the hour. He almost laughed. Tony, again. Made him nostalgic to channel the old guy's brusque rudeness. Aw, hell with sleep. Kev would be back soon, for the wedding that Edie's terrifying aunt was planning for Kev and Edie in a few weeks. He could talk to Kev between tux fittings, wedding rehearsals, dinners, showers and all that standard nuptial fluff.

In the meantime, he'd face his monsters like a man.

Brave words, dude. Brave words, an inner voice commented.

So? he shot back. Shut the fuck up, or say something useful.

He listened in the silence for more as he got ready, but surprise, surprise ... the little voice said nothing further.

Chapter Two

Lily Parr stared into her laptop. The taxi's swerving on the bends in the highway was making her queasy, but she powered on. Nausea was nasty, but if she shut the laptop and closed her eyes, she'd have to think about what she was about to do. And the way it made her feel.

She'd rather cram psych texts into her brain until there was no room for so much as a fleeting thought. After all, she had six years worth of studying to do in four short days for the grad thesis she was writing. A steep learning curve, but the guy who'd hired her to write it for him had forked over the 50 percent in cash she asked for up front this very morning, thank God, so she was committed. With that, plus the other fees she'd scraped together, letting utility bills slide and paying the minimum on her maxed-out credit cards, she'd covered the monthly fee for Aingle Cliff House, Howard's private clinic. Assuming she didn't need to buy anything frivolous, like subway fare or groceries, until some fresh fees trickled in. But once they did, she'd already be budgeting for next month's check. She wasn't sure what was left in the dark corners of the pantry, but she was going to get friendly with it this week. And who needed subway fare? She lived in Manhattan. She could walk. Her thighs could use the workout.

She muscled her mind back to the screen. The trick was to keep her mind constantly applied, like a pen that did not dare leave the paper. If only she could forget she had a body. Just be a vaporous cloud. Things would be simpler. Talk about saving on the grocery bill. Her inconvenient body was the medium through which feelings made themselves known. She hadn't been able to afford feelings since she was ten, but they never figured out that they weren't welcome. Clueless.

Ironic, to be writing a thesis in psychology. A crash course in the inner workings of the human brain, yay. That stuff belonged to the category of things that she could not afford to personally worry about. Like, for instance, the fact that a guy who'd paid another person to study for him, take his exams for him, and write his papers and his graduate thesis for him was about to graduate with a PhD, probably cum laude, thanks to Lily, and then go out to find work in the field of psychology, perhaps diagnosing or even treating people.

Yep. She, Lily Parr, had made that scenario possible.

Too bad. She pushed it away. She hadn't chosen to do this. It just happened, and then it snowballed, and now she had no way out, not with Howard to take care of. The world was a shitty place, and she was sorry, but an ethical dilemma was another luxury she could not afford.


Excerpted from Blood and Fire by Shannon McKenna Copyright © 2011 by Shannon McKenna. Excerpted by permission of BRAVA BOOKS. 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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Blood and Fire 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was ok. I loved all of the other McCloud series, but this one didn't really do it for me. I think Shannon should of left Bruno and his family out of the stories. Didn't really like how they found Kev in the first place. But it was a ok book to read once.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As with the previous books, this one was a fast-paced and intriguing thriller. However, the love story between Bruno and Lily was not as exciting as the previous ones. I think the series should have ended when they found Kevin. Somehow this book stretched the story too much, but Bruno's character was too tangential. The author tried too hard to make him into a McCloud and it was not very believable. The book does provide some sort of reunion and resolution between Kev and his brothers, but this should have happened in Kev's book. I am not sure I will buy the next book about Alex Aaro. I fear it will be even more outstretched.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have this in paper back and its quite large 500 pages. Okay i like long stories but feel this one was reaching a bit. If anything I felt Tam's book should have been longer because she is a much more complex character than Bruno plus she seemed to be the most mysterious. Anyway pretty good read. By my standards this is a could read manly due to the over developement of the plot.
Courtney Maloney More than 1 year ago
Great addition to the McCloud brothers series. Bruno can certainly hold his own against the trio! I can't wait to see what Shannon comes up with next!!
VivalaErin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I know he's the close to the ages of the McCloud's, but Bruno feels and acts much younger. But I like that part of his personality. I also liked Lily - she was more a kick-ass kind of chick than some of the other heroines. And the McCloud's do finally get their reunion/brotherly brawl in this one, which I was waiting for. King (the villain) and his plot could have used a bit more explanation in parts, but it makes for an interesting twist at the end. Overall, another McKenna success.
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GA_Girl More than 1 year ago
Could Bruno be whinier?  I don't think so. Normally, Shannon McKenna's heroes are uber-alpha.  But now there is Bruno, who is whiny and childish and definitely one of the lamest heroes ever.  This book is extremely convoluted and unrealistic; I was tempted to leave it mid-way, but since I've read all her earlier books and had Alex Aaro's story waiting in the wings, I finished it up.  Not a total waste of time, but still not one of Ms. McKenna's better works. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read.i didnt want to it down till the end..ready for alex's story.
ElleJRossi More than 1 year ago
This was my first Shannon McKenna book and I must say I absolutely devoured it. I loved the edge, the grit, the hard-core banter between Lily and Bruno. King was the ultimate bad guy...twisted, jaded, out and out pure evil. Zia Rosa tugged at my heart and had me laughing out loud! I'd love to sit in her kitchen for a day. The action kept me on the edge of my seat. The romance was atypical, hot and frantic. Blood and Fire was an escape for me. It took me on an adventurous trip full of danger, sex, and oddly endearing characters. What a ride! I'll definitely read more from Ms. McKenna!
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Great book.
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kt153 More than 1 year ago
Would have been better if Bruno had his own story instead of a continuation of the same plot (ie: mind control) as the others. I have read all the others in this series, but I was lost for a while in this one.
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