From C. C. Hunter, the New York Times bestselling author of the Shadow Falls series, comes another story set in the Shadow Falls world.
Werewolf Fredericka Lakota prefers to be alone. Even years after being abandoned by her rogue werewolf father, she's still never found a place for herself in Shadow Falls.
Fredericka’s only comfort comes from the jewelry she creates…and now from Brandon Hart, the owner of a new art gallery who wants to showcase Fredericka’s work.
But Fredericka’s life has gotten more complicated: she’s learned her father has died, the death angels from the falls are calling to her, an ex won’t let her go, and she may be seeing the ghost of a missing woman who needs her help. On top of all that, her attraction to the mysterious Brandon only grows stronger; but if other supernaturals won’t accept a rogue werewolf, how could a human?
Originally released as part of the anthology Almost Midnight, Fierce is a fast-paced, romantic thrill ride that will make you fall in love with Shadow Falls all over again.
About the Author
C.C. Hunter is the author of the young adult fantasy series Shadow Falls, including the books Born at Midnight and Awake at Dawn. She grew up in Alabama, where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and regularly rescued potential princes, in the form of Alabama bullfrogs, from her brothers. Today, she's still fascinated with lightning bugs, mostly wears shoes, but has turned her focus to rescuing mammals. She now lives in Texas with her four rescued cats, one dog, and a prince of a husband, who for the record, is so not a frog. When she's not writing, she's reading, spending time with her family, or shooting things--with a camera, not a gun. C.C. Hunter is a pseudonym. Her real name is Christie Craig and she also writes humorous romantic suspense romance novels.
Read an Excerpt
Fredericka Lakota slipped the polished hammered wolf pendant on the silver chain, and hung it up. Stepping back, she ... frowned. She was a better artist in her head than she was in the flesh. But wasn't that appropriate? She was better at everything in her head — even a better person — than she was in life, too.
Not a good person, but better than most people considered her. But people were like jewelry, the quality depended on what you were made of. She hadn't come from great stock.
Not that she wasn't pure-blooded werewolf. Any supernatural could tell that by looking at her pattern. But her parents had been rogue. Or at least her father had, she'd never known her mother.
She stepped back and looked at her ten jewelry sets. At the bottom of the black velvet display case she'd made was her logo painted in silver script: Ricka Lakota Designs.
Ricka because Fredericka was too long. In time, she supposed the nickname wouldn't bother her.
Was her work good enough to show in a gallery?
In the morning she'd take her entire collection into Fallen, where after viewing her work, Brandon Hart, the owner of the new gallery in Fallen, would either invite her to sell her wares in the new business, or she'd be told to take a hike.
He planned to pick ten individuals' works to display in his gallery.
However, he'd warned her in an e-mail that he'd already had two other jewelry artists make appointments and only wanted one.
She didn't know shit about Brandon Hart — she guessed he was human. Was he even qualified to judge her work? What if he didn't like it? Or didn't like her? She wasn't what anyone would call likable. Raised a rogue, always a rogue. So many supernaturals believed it. And she'd given up trying to prove people wrong.
All of a sudden she heard footsteps. The workshop located behind Holiday James' cabin was off the beaten path. Fredericka didn't get a lot of company, which was exactly why she liked it. The only one who'd seen her work was Holiday, who also happened to be the owner of the school. Which was another reason the interview frightened Fredericka.
Moving to the opened window, she pulled air through her nose to see who trotted through the woods toward her. Instead of picking up a scent first, she heard the rush of waterfalls. What the heck? She'd woken up in the middle of the night hearing it, too.
Then catching the scent, Fredericka hurried over to the chair where her long-sleeved shirt lay and slipped it on over her tank top.
She'd barely gotten the shirt on when Kylie, a chameleon, the rarest species of supernatural, knocked. "Fredericka?"
The door swished open. Fredericka shot in front of the display. Her shirt slipped off her shoulder but she snagged it back before Kylie's gaze went there. "What?"
"Holiday sent me," Kylie said. "Someone's at the office to see you."
"You must have misunderstood." Fredericka stepped forward, hoping the girl would step out. No such luck.
"I don't think so." Kylie made an apologetic face.
Oh, please, no one had come to see Fredericka. Case in point, she'd been here six months and hadn't had one visitor. On Parents' Day she always found a place to hide out. The last thing she wanted was for her peers to start feeling sorry for her. That was worse than them judging her.
Kylie remained in the doorway. "Holiday said she tried to call you, but you didn't answer. She texted me and asked me to see if you were here."
Fredericka pulled her cell phone from her back pocket. It was out of battery again.
"Then let's go," Fredericka said, certain Kylie had misunderstood the reason Fredericka was being summoned, but eager to get the girl out of her private haven.
Fredericka gave another wave toward the door. Kylie leaned to the right.
"Wow! Did you make those?" The girl moved around Fredericka. She touched a necklace. Fredericka almost told her to keep her paws to herself.
"Ricka Lakota Designs," Kylie read then looked back. "Ricka. I like that. Is that your nickname?"
"No." Fredericka emotionally flinched. And after hearing the name from someone's lips, she knew her next order of business was to change her logo.
"Can we go?" She motioned to the door for the second time.
"Sorry." Kylie backed out.
Fredericka locked the door. Kylie waited to walk with her. Any other person would have skedaddled, especially after Fredericka had been so curt. But Kylie wasn't just anyone.
Not only was she the rarest of supernaturals, who could go invisible — and yeah, Fredericka had actually seen her do it — but unlike so many of those here, she was the type who tried to see good in everyone. The poor thing had to look long and hard before she spotted any in Fredericka. Especially considering they'd had a rocky start. Like boulder-size rocky.
Kylie had taken the one guy Fredericka had thought she loved. Key word, thought. Not that Fredericka held it against Kylie now. Lucas had been the one pursuing the relationship. Fredericka had come to see that.
They started down the path. The cool breeze, scented with wet earth, whispered through the trees and brought with it the sound of rushing water again.
Fredericka stopped and glanced back in the woods. "Do you hear that?"
Kylie glanced over her shoulder. "Hear what?"
Kylie's eyes widened as if Fredericka had asked something weird. "You hear the falls?"
"Yeah. Why? Is that bad or something?"
"No, it's just ..."
"Just what?" Fredericka asked.
"Usually, when you hear the falls, it's calling you."
"Why would it call me?" Fredericka asked.
"Normally, it's when the death angels are trying to communicate with you."
"Oh, I have nothing to say to them."
"I don't think they call you to the falls to punish you," she said, reading Fredericka's fear.
Fredericka's shoulders tightened. She didn't like being read. And she sure as hell didn't want to be called. "Well, if they want me, they'll have to text me." And she hoped like hell they didn't. The death angels were spirits who held supernaturals responsible for their actions. Fredericka had more than her share of negative checkmarks on her conduct card.
Kylie shrugged and they continued on. Before they even got past Holiday's cabin, the girl spoke again. "Why don't you want anyone to see your work? It's amazing. I'd give anything to have talent like that."
Call it stupid, but the compliment fell like soft rain on Fredericka. "How about I swap you my jewelry-making talent for the ability to go invisible?" Kylie laughed. "It's not nearly as cool as it seems."
"You aren't gonna convince me," Fredericka said.
"Seriously," Kylie said. "That necklace was gorgeous."
"Thanks. I guess I'll know for sure tomorrow."
"What's happening tomorrow?" Kylie sounded genuinely interested.
Fredericka didn't have a clue why she did it, but she told her about the interview.
"Oh, you are so gonna get it!"
"I hope so," Fredericka said, and got a buzz of excitement talking about it. Right then, she realized the reason she might not have told anyone about her work was because she didn't have friends. Or at least, she didn't have girlfriends. She hung out with the guys. And face it, those guys weren't interested in her jewelry making.
Not that she needed anyone to be interested. She simply got along better with boys. Girls could be bitches.
For a while, a rumor spread around the school that she was gay. But nope. She was totally into the opposite sex. In particular, Cary.
Almost if Kylie read her mind, she asked, "So how are things with you and Mr. Cannon?
"Good," Fredericka said, but they'd be so much better when school was out. Cary Cannon, a full were, taught history at the Academy. Only two years older than she, the guy took her breath away the first time she'd laid eyes on him. Smart and sexy. She'd never been a history fan until now.
He'd acknowledged his attraction to her, but insisted they only be friends until she graduated. The wait was killing her. Meanwhile, they met every day after school, and she'd listen to him talk about all his trips to see historic places — Paris, Rome, Egypt. If it had history, Cary had been there or wanted to go there. Someday she hoped to go with him, too.
"How good?" Kylie smiled in that way girls did when they wanted you to tell them a secret.
"We're just friends," Fredericka said.
"Well, think how good it will be when you move it to that next stage. You two will know everything about each other."
"Yeah." It hit her that while she'd gotten to know a lot about Cary, he didn't know much about her. Not his fault. She wasn't exactly forthcoming.
She'd almost told him yesterday about her jewelry, but had chickened out. He wasn't like the male were students. But face it, the man got excited about pyramids, about Notre Dame. Her biggest fear was that he'd think her passion for jewelry was silly. And that was the last way she wanted him to see her.
"This is where I drop off," Kylie said when they got to the main path, obviously going back to her cabin. Her smile came off so real and it made Fredericka wish that she could be like other girls and have close friends. The way Kylie was with her witch and vampire roommates.
"I want to hear how things go tomorrow. Good luck."
Fredericka nodded, then instantly realized the downside of having shared her secret. If her work didn't get accepted, everyone would know she'd failed. Why hadn't she just kept her mouth shut?
Fredericka took off, her pace faster than it had been in the morning. With a full moon coming soon, her strength grew greater daily.
"Hey." Kylie's call had Fredericka glancing over her shoulder. "You may want to mention to Holiday about hearing the falls."
"Yeah," Fredericka said, but she wouldn't. She wanted to forget about that.
As she got closer to the office, she wondered exactly what it was that Holiday wanted, because no one could be here to see her. But when she stepped on the front porch, she caught the trace of another were. A familiar trace.
She curled her hands into fists.
What the hell did Marissa Canzoni want? Her gaze shot back to the trail. She didn't have to face this. Her feet were poised to swing around, when she remembered she'd stopped running from her problems a long time ago.
Bracing herself for whatever shit Marissa had dug up and the emotional backlash that seeing her would bring, she walked into Holiday's office.
"Ricka." Marissa nodded as Fredericka walked in. "Look at you. All grown up." Thankfully, the woman didn't appear to be about to put on some front, like jumping up and hugging her. There was no affection between them. Not that Fredericka hated her. She'd been the nicest in the long line of her father's bitches who he'd expected to take care of Fredericka the first ten years of her life. Her father would bring them into his home, sleep with them, make house with them for a month, maybe two, and then disappear for weeks at a time. Work, he called it.
But Fredericka always wondered if deep down he'd simply been trying to get away from her. How could he not resent her? Her mother had died giving Fredericka life. Nothing like growing up knowing you'd killed your own mother — especially when you saw the grief in your father's eyes each time he looked at you and said, "You look just like her."
Some of her dad's women really hated Fredericka. Like Donique, who'd left those damn scars on Fredericka's arm. Like Shelbie, whose cruel words left scars on Fredericka's heart. Or Karine, who simply neglected to feed her. Marissa had simply tolerated Fredericka. A far cry from feeling loved, but who needed to feel loved, as long as you weren't abused, called terrible names, or left hungry.
"Hello, Marissa." Fredericka moved in and sat down on the sofa in Holiday's office. "What brings you here?" she asked, and tried not to look at Holiday — not wanting to give the fae an opportunity to read her emotions.
"It's your father," Marissa said. "I'm sorry, but he was killed last week."
It felt as though her words floated around the room for several seconds before Fredericka could take them in. Even then, Fredericka sat there, not letting one pinch of emotion sneak out. It wasn't the announcement of his death that took a bite out of her heart, but rather the time of his passing. She had always felt better believing he'd been dead these last eight years. Better than believing he'd purposely abandoned her with a pack of rogue weres.
Thankfully, Lucas Parker's dad had taken pity on her and assigned one of his pack matrons to watch over her. Not that there had been any love there either, but the woman had never dared mistreat her, for fear of Mr. Parker's retaliation.
"I, uhh, had a few things to give you." Marissa held an envelope but reached into her purse and handed Fredericka a small strip of photos. The pictures felt thin, aged. Fredericka didn't look at them — didn't have to.
She knew exactly what they were. She'd been five and her father had taken her to a mall where there had been one of those photo booths. He'd put his money in and they'd made funny faces as the camera took their pictures. It was one of her favorite memories and it had been captured on film.
Fredericka's breath hitched in her lungs. Just holding those images threatened to unearth her vulnerability and lack of self-worth she fought so diligently to deny.
"He loved you, Ricka. I know he didn't show it all the time, but he carried those four photos with him forever. He never carried one photo of me, or the other women he called his own. And when he came to me these last eight years, he would always ask me, "Do you think she's happier, there?"
Loved? He'd abandoned her.
Strangely, the most Fredericka had ever felt loved by the man was when she saw him kill Donique after she showed him the burns on her arm. But that had done a number on Fredericka, too. And she'd never told him any of the things his next bitches did to her. Then their deaths would have been on her, just like Donique's, like her own mother's.
"Thank you for letting me know." Fredericka stood and shot out.
She heard Holiday call her back, but no way in hell would she turn around.
No way in hell would she cry either! She wouldn't. Folding the pictures, she tucked them in her pocket and ran back to the workshop, determined to make another display board. One where the nickname her father had given her wouldn't appear. If she never heard that name again, it would be too soon.
As her feet hit the hard cold earth, her thoughts echoed from her head to her heart. He'd been alive. All this time, he'd been alive. All of those birthdays, Christmases, when others clung to their families, she'd been alone. He could have been there.
"Rest in hell, Daddy," she muttered.
She got to the workshop and dug into her pockets for the key. First the right pocket, beneath the photos. It wasn't there. Then the left. It wasn't there either. What the hell had she done with it?
She considered just breaking down the door, but that door didn't belong to her. Holiday and Burnett had entrusted her with the shop. Destroying it would have been unacceptable.
She searched the ground, thinking she might have dropped it. Even got on her hands and knees. The position tugged at her inner wolf and she longed for the full moon that was less than a week away. A time when her spirit felt free of the emotional ties of the human world.
That's when she heard it again. The rush of water cascading down.
It grew louder and louder.
"Come get the key," a voice echoed from the sound.
She looked down the trail. The death angels had taken it? What right did they have to take something that didn't belong to them? She stood up, her fear of the death angels shattered. Nothing but fury motivated her now.
Did they want to condemn her for how she'd turned out? Hold her responsible for her inability to trust, to let people close? For occasionally shooting life the middle finger? Where were they when she'd been young?
The anger and a shitload of resentment had her running down the path, ready to offer a little comeuppance to anyone who dared to judge her.
Excerpted from "Fierce"
Copyright © 2017 Christie Craig.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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