As Nurse Edie Spence embarks on her latest supernatural adventure from Cassie Alexander, the perils of the deep threaten to pull her under...
Edie Spence is in desperate need of a vacation-some R&R away from the craziness that shadows her as a nurse dealing with paranormal patients. But as she and her shapeshifter boyfriend, Asher, set sail on a cruise for Hawaii, they'll realize that seasickness isn't the only thing threatening their romantic getaway....
While on board, Asher comes face-to-face with Nathaniel, an old nemesis from his dark past. Asher is convinced he's up to no good...especially when passengers start to come down with a mysterious illness unlike anything Edie and Asher have ever encountered. Soon Edie finds herself fighting for the life of the one person who means the most to her-Asher. As chaos explodes, will Edie be able to save their future together...or will this close encounter with the paranormal side be her last?
"Edie is stone cold awesome. She's scrappy, fiercely independent, and by the time the conclusion came around I wanted to share a fist bump of solidarity with her." -The Book Smugglers
About the Author
In addition to being a writer, Cassie Alexander is an active registered nurse. All of her patients are of the human variety…she thinks. She is the author of the Edie Spence Novels, including Nightshifted, Moonshifted, and Shapeshifted.
Read an Excerpt
I wake up with a start, gasping for air. I have to tell Asher something.
Everything’s bright and orange, and I can only see through one eye. The other eye’s swollen shut; it burns when I try to open it. Water slaps rubber, over and over, in endless slow applause. I remember the sound from childhood, floating down a lazy river in an inner tube, drunk from beer my older brother had snuck me when I was sixteen.
“Edie? Are you okay?” Asher’s leaning over me. His voice is hoarse.
I have to tell him something.
But I can’t. There’s rope in my mouth. And I can’t pull the rope away because my hands are tied. My feet too. I’m hog-tied, and when I move, my shoulder starts to throb.
“Is it still you?” Asher asks me. I don’t know why he’s asking. I don’t know what he means.
I have to tell you something, I try to say around the rope, even though I can’t remember what it is.
“I’m so sorry, Edie. I’m so, so sorry. It is you, right?” he asks, and his voice cracks.
I want to comfort him. To tell him that I’m okay, even though it’s clear that I am not. He looks so afraid right now. I’ve never seen him this afraid before.
“We’re going to be all right. We’re going to get away from here. I’m going to save you,” he says, more to himself than me. He scuttles backward and brings up what I realize is a paddle, then leans over the side of the orange thing we’re riding on, paddling for all his might.
Inside my mind, things slide into place. My ties, our lifeboat. What I want to say to him.
He’s paddling so hard to nowhere that salt water is spraying my face.
And I remember.
* * *
I had a death grip on the balcony railing and was looking down at the ocean with trepidation. Our room on the Maraschino was six floors up, maybe four down to the waterline. I couldn’t help but wonder just how deep the sea was after that.
“Edie, it’s not like I booked us on the Titanic,” Asher called from the doorway of our room.
I turned around to give him a nervous grin. “I know,” I said, then returned my gaze to the sea. He’d planned this trip for us. A chance for us to get away from the weather in Port Cavell, to go on our first official vacation together. It was just what we’d needed, especially when winter rolled in with a white-out blizzard that’d lasted two weeks, making it impossible for us to get to the clinic where we both worked, me as a nurse and him as a doctor. We met before I knew he was a doctor, I swear.
Our cruise had sounded fabulous up until my last-minute packing extravaganza this morning. That was when I realized my period was a week late. My luggage had felt like I’d been carrying an anchor with me ever since—and it was why I was staring out at the ocean like it was a Magic 8 Ball now. I was hoping for a sign, a yes or a no, but the only thing the waves seemed to say was Reply hazy, try again. “Don’t help or anything. I’ve totally got it all,” Asher said behind me, bringing in our bags.
“Okay!” I said with feigned gullibility. He rolled his eyes and tossed the last of our bags onto the bed. I let go of the rail and came over to him. “If you hadn’t booked us such a long trip, I wouldn’t have had to pack so much.”
Asher spread his hands. “Well, if you’d just listened to my plan to keep you in here naked the whole time, I feel sure we could have gotten you down to one small carry-on. I kept telling you they have twenty-four-hour room service.”
His look—mystified at how I could fail to grasp such logic—made me laugh. He reached for me, and I stepped into his arms. “Think of it, Edie. A two-week trip from LA to Hawaii and back. No snow the whole way.”
“Yay, adventure!” I said from the safety of his armpit.
“No. We’ve had enough of adventure. This”—and he swept his arm grandly over the ocean, like he was Poseidon—“is a vacation.”
I hadn’t had a vacation in a very long time. The road trips my brother and I had been hauled on as a kid where we’d seen Mount Rushmore hardly counted. I’d had time off before, but I’d never been on a real vacation.
And Asher was right about adventures. I didn’t need any more of those. I’d spent a year of my life knowing too much about the underworld of our hometown, being involved in what could charitably called hijinks or more reasonably Machiavellian death plans orchestrated by the vampire, werewolf, and shapeshifter communities.
All of that had ended when I’d started dating Asher seven months ago. In a way, the past seven months with him had already been the best and longest vacation in my whole life.
Asher spun me and I yelped in surprise. We both landed on the bed—all white linens, with mountainous amounts of white pillows—and Asher pulled me closer to him. “Imagine it. Two weeks, no patients, no MRSA, no vampires—just you, me, and the sun.”
I propped myself up, put my chin on his chest, and squinted at him. “No norovirus?”
He laughed. “I may be a doctor, but I’m not God. No guarantees.”
His warm smile lit up the whole room. I was so in love with him. I thought about telling him then, blurting out that I was late—but what if it was nothing? Or—what if by saying something, I jinxed it? Would that be a relief? I didn’t even really know yet if I wanted to be pregnant, or even if I was. I was sort of happy, sort of scared, and everything was still sort of imaginary. But we were on board this ship for two weeks—I’d know by the end of our trip. My uterus would have to declare itself one way or the other by then.
He reached out and smoothed my brow with his thumb. “I love you. Everything’s going to be perfect.”
Yeah. It would be. Either way. I had him, and he had me. I tilted my head to kiss the inside of his palm. “I completely believe you.”
The boat, or ship, whatever it was supposed to be properly called, left the dock with a lurch and began to rock beneath our feet. We gained speed as we left the harbor and I heard the sound of waves slapping against its metal sides. It made noises like an older building in a strong wind.
Asher rolled out of bed and started to industriously unpack.
“Can’t we go look around first?” Our luggage wasn’t going anywhere, and Asher was right, I had packed a lot of stuff. It wasn’t my fault there were two separate formal nights on board. Formal nights required a lot of extra provisioning.
“Hang on,” he said, while pulling out a stack of jeans, shorts, and swim trunks. “There’s a safety lecture coming up that we have to go to.” He started putting his clothes away into the drawers beneath the desk diagonally across from our bed.
“How do you—” I was asking when a five-note chime crackled overhead from an intercom I hadn’t noticed in the ceiling. Captain Ames introduced himself and welcomed us aboard at incredible volume, and then a scratchy recording instructing passengers to report to their designated safety zones began.
“I just know,” Asher said, answering my unfinished question when our instructions were over. “But after this, we can take a tour. I promise.”
I just know was Asher’s polite way of telling me he knew, knew. From before, when he’d been a full-fledged shapeshifter.
Despite us dating for seven months, there were all sorts of things I didn’t know know about Asher. Things I might never even have the time to find out. As a shapeshifter, he wasn’t just the summation of his own memories and experiences, he was the combination of the knowledge and form of everyone he’d ever touched. Anyone he’d ever had skin-to-skin contact with before this past summer was inside him, and he could make himself look like them, and have access to everything they knew. Up to and including me.
Back in July he’d almost gone insane because of it, like all shapeshifters approaching their mid-thirties. He’d been saved from his fate by Santa Muerte, whom we’d been helping at the time; she’d stopped his descent into madness. Afterward, Asher could access old forms and memories, but not take on any new ones. Which was nice because it meant he didn’t always know what I was thinking anymore when he touched me. But it was still strange when he just knew things for no good reason.
And it was one of the reasons why I’d sort of assumed we couldn’t have kids, much to my mother’s dismay. I knew enough science to know about interspecies dating. Maybe Asher and I would have a liger together. I snorted.
“What?” Asher asked from inside the closet, where he was hanging up his suit jackets.
“Nothing! Hey, can you hang up my dresses for me?”
I watched him from my position sprawled across the arctic-white bedspread. When he was done he came over to stand beside me on the bed, the red formal gown that I’d bought specifically for this trip hanging down in the open closet behind him.
“Hey,” he said quietly. “What’s wrong? Are you sick or something?”
His question was maybe a little too close to the truth. I stood up quickly. “Just jet-lagged. Sorry.” I smiled at him like I was carefree. “I’m ready now. Let’s go.”
And my heart melted when he smiled back at me.
* * *
He led us down the hallways without stopping to look at any signs, and I wondered if he or one of his other personalities had been on this same ship before. I held his hand but trailed behind him, as the hallways weren’t very wide.
I concentrated on the warmth of his hand as he held mine. He had a normal body temperature, which I liked. I’d dated zombies before, and they were cool, while werewolves could be too hot. If I were Goldilocks, Asher-the-shapeshifter was just right. Apparently my uterus agreed.
We reached the entrance to a grand banquet room together. There were multiple hand sanitizer stations right outside its doors.
“Look, it’s like we never left home!” I let go of his hand to cup mine beneath the automatic foam. Asher snorted but followed my lead. It was easy for him to blow things off; he never seemed to get sick. But he grinned at me, and I found myself grinning back.
The cruise employees inside the banquet room’s entrance checked our names off their list, and Asher led us to the table that corresponded to our room number.
The room itself was huge. Strange to think that such a big space was confined inside a ship, itself another big space. And that together, we, with those spaces, were hurtling over the ocean. I hadn’t really gotten a sense of our movement yet, and I looked around for cues. The chandeliers overhead were brightly colored ornate glass affairs, like the tops of tropical trees, complete with glass flowers and glass birds, all fixed so as not to swing, and the chair Asher pulled out for me to sit down on felt stable against the low carpet underneath. So far the only indication I was even on a ship was the waves I could see out the window, three tables down.
A crowd of people pushed in and slowly filled every chair. Kids too young to be back in school just yet, a few lucky though sullen teenagers whose families were letting them escape school for enforced family bonding, a lot of older adults who could afford to take two weeks off work, and lastly us. I felt very sympathetic toward the teenagers just then.
An older man with short gray hair and wearing a suit jacket pushed a woman up in a wheelchair to join us. She had a blanket covered in pink-and-purple paisley tucked around her legs. He was barrel-chested, one of those old men who’d managed to hold on to his bulk as he aged, betrayed only by the pull-tabs of his hearing aids just barely poking out of his ears. But she had aged even better than him, with bright eyes darting behind her librarian-style half-lenses and short hair smartly styled. Everyone ages, and as a nurse I was forced to be more aware of my mortality than most, but I also knew that some few are lucky enough to age well, and it was clear she fell into this happy category.
He positioned her at the table, put on the wheelchair’s brakes, and then sat down beside her. I inhaled to ask her why she was in a wheelchair, then stopped myself and gave her a big camouflaging smile. At my job, being nosy was practically mandatory. But in real life, asking random people rude questions about their health doesn’t make you many friends—and makes you seem a little creepy.
Despite my attempts not to stare awkwardly at her wheelchair, she smiled. “Car accident.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.” I backpedaled—this was a vacation, after all. “Is this your first cruise?”
“Yes. I’m kind of nervous about it.” That’d be a good excuse for my rude behavior, and it wasn’t that far from the truth. “I don’t really like the sea.”
The cant of her left eyebrow rising over her glasses’ frame said she thought this was an odd vacation choice for me, but age had also given her more tact than I possessed. “We’ve been going on one a year for the past forty-five years. On our anniversary.”
“How nice,” I said and gave Asher a side-eye look, hoping he could rescue me from myself, only to find he was looking at something over his shoulder and not currently paying attention. He’d seemed so pleased with himself when he’d planned this trip for us. I couldn’t help but wonder just what traditions we’d create together or where we’d be in the next forty-five years.
Asher stood suddenly and gave me a tight hold-that-thought smile. “I’ll be right back,” he said, and he walked quickly across the room without another word.
“Are you all newlyweds?” the wheelchair woman’s husband asked. I flushed bright red.
“Um, no…” Even though I might be pregnant by him. Way to stay classy, Edie. But people made mistakes, and besides, if everything worked out, it wasn’t a mistake now, was it? Just a happy accident. That was okay, right? This wasn’t 1887 anymore. Or even 2007.
“Hal—” she chastised.
“If we’re at the same table here our cabins are probably next door. I just want to know if I should take my hearing aids out at night is all,” Hal went on, giving me a knowing look.
I caught his gist, with horror, and felt myself turning a Technicolor shade of red.
“Hal, shush!” she said with a laugh at my rising discomfort. She leaned over to pat my hand. “You’ll have to ignore him. Lord knows I do.”
And to think I’d thought I had the lock on awkward questions. “Ha ha,” I forced out.
She leaned forward and gave me a confessional look. “Don’t let anyone ever tell you not to have a good time when you can, dear. Married or not.”
“Thanks. I’ll remember that.” Anything to not discuss my sex life with the elderly. “I’m Edie. My erstwhile boyfriend is Asher.” I resisted craning my head around to look for him, so he could help get me out of this mess.
“I’m Claire and he’s Hal,” the woman replied. Hal gave me a nod and a jowly smile.
“Nice to meet you all,” Asher said, returning to the table. About time.
An Indian family of four sat down in a rush at the far side of our table before I could ask him where he’d been. The couple was a little older than Asher and me, but they had their acts more together, as evidenced by their two children, a boy, ten, and a girl, maybe eight. The girl was wearing Coke-bottle glasses over wide-set eyes and her face was cherubically round. Both the girl and the woman had long black hair—the mother’s was up, expertly coiffed, showing off large diamond earrings, while the girl’s trailed down her back in one thick jealousy-inducing braid.
“I hope we didn’t miss anything—” the man said as they sat down.
“No, they haven’t started talking yet,” Claire informed them.
A life-jacket-wearing cruise employee did a silly dance to attract our attention. He was joined by two other staff, and they mimed rowing across the stage. Oddly, their levity didn’t make me feel any safer.
“Have you ever had to do any emergency procedures?” I asked Claire in a whisper.
She smiled indulgently, and I noticed that for an elderly woman she had very good teeth. “Only once, dear, a long time ago. But everything worked out.”
Hal leaned in, overhearing. “Don’t worry. This cruise line has a stellar reputation.”
Asher elbowed me gently. “See? What’d I tell you?”
I gave him a look. He wasn’t the one dealing with being scared of the ocean and pregnancy and old people listening to us having sex. But—he was dealing with something. Asher could camouflage his emotions more than most people, but I’d learned he had certain tells. The small crease between his eyebrows was one of them. Had he seen someone else he knew here? If so, I didn’t want to think about how he knew them. I was leaning over to ask him what had happened when a person with a megaphone started the safety lecture up front. Asher gave me a pensive look, but shrugged. His problems must not have had anything to do with the integrity of the ship, seeing as he wasn’t herding us toward the life rafts. I figured I should listen first and ask questions later.
In the “unlikely” event of any problems, we’d meet in this room again, get life jackets handed out to us, and then be guided to the lifeboats in an orderly fashion. The demonstrated life jackets were low-rent affairs that you had to breathe into to inflate. I wondered if the adjustable straps on them would be able to accommodate some of the larger people in the room.
Our table shook and startled me, but it was just the kids at the far end, playing some sort of hand-tapping tag with each other. As their parents tried to stop them I realized I was the only one at the table even trying to pay attention. Asher’s focus was still divided, the parents were pointing and giving their children stern looks, and Hal and Claire were absorbed in thumbing through a tour book for Hawaii, murmuring suggestions and dog-earing pages. Occasionally Claire would glance up and over at the children, giving them a wide grandmotherly grin.
In a way, our little table here was the complete circle of human experience. Asher and I, together, maybe having a kid; that other couple with their handsome if fidgety children; and finally Hal and Claire, with matching short gray hair and wrinkles, aging gracefully. If I was pregnant, it would be weird … but we’d be doing what thousands—no, millions—of people did every day. Plunking our little car token around the game board of Life.
I should probably just relax. About everything. No matter what happened, baby, no baby, everything would be fine. There was no reason for it not to be.
The safety lecture was wrapping up. Our vacation had begun, and we were going to have a good time. I reached underneath the table to take Asher’s hand, feeling serene—and found his hand balled into a tight fist.
Copyright © 2014 by Erin Cashier
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Took a little longer to read this than the others. Wasn't too thrilled with the ending and where the story is going. Still looking forward to the next one.
This is a series best read from the beginning. From the start our hero, Edie Spence, is a nurse in a very paranormal hospital unit who meets more than one strange patient. From there things just get stranger. One of my favorite series.
Loved reading this! This series must continue for decades to come....Edie as a 70 year old will be awesome!
~Reviewed by ANGELA & posted at Under the Covers Book Blog Edie and Asher go on a cruise for a vacay attempting time away from their work. Unfortunately, paranormals and trouble seem to always follow Edie wherever she goes. In this case, they go to a cruise ship which Ash’s old not-do-good acquaintance is on the boat with them. Evil plot is brewing, and Edie and Ash will be in the middle of chaos yet again. I have had my eyes on Ash since the first book of this series. Obviously, he finally gets together with Edie. This book started several months after Shapeshifted had ended. Though Ms Alexander does a great job with recap, i can’t help but feel like I missed something. I’m kinda bummed I didn’t see their honeymoon stage. No worries, Ms. Alexander does give Ash and Edie some smexy time. I could just eat up the pages when Ash is totally sweet on Edie. There were some decisions that Edie makes that I didn’t quite agree with. But as a Nurse, the compulsion of saving others is unavoidable and I guess I can understand. However, Edie and Ash takes decisions to a higher level that it always ends in some kind of turmoil, and it risks not only their relationship but also their lives. It’s a bit frustrating to witness but I have been and will always cheer for them. Though Shapeshifted is not my fave, I can still tell you that Ms. Alexander did a good job with this installment. I like that she is not afraid to add on creatures who are not in your typical Urban Fantasy or PNR novels. I also want to mention that the cover is by far the best of this series. A heed of warning. There is a cliffhanger that will leave you wanting for more. Review copy provided by Publisher
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