Guardian's Mate (Shifters Unbound Series #9)

Guardian's Mate (Shifters Unbound Series #9)

by Jennifer Ashley

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780698196254
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/06/2016
Series: Shifters Unbound Series , #9
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 21,998
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Jennifer Ashley, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Shifters Unbound series, and winner of a Romance Writers of America RITA Award, also writes as national bestselling and award-winning author Allyson James. She lives in the Southwest with her husband and cats, and spends most of her time in the wonderful worlds of her stories.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Rae's job on the day of the Choosing was to stand behind her foster father and hold the absent Guardian's sword. Absent, because the Guardian was dead, had been for months.

The woods were quiet, dark, and cold. Any sane Shifter would still be in bed, snuggled under a few blankets, looking forward to a warm shower and a hot cup of coffee.

But no, the Shifters of the Western Montana Shiftertown had crept out just before dawn, following Eoin, Rae's adoptive father and leader of this Shiftertown, to see whether the Goddess was in a good mood.

Four times in the last six months they'd trudged out here in the gloom and cold, waiting for the Goddess to pick a new Guardian. They'd come at a full moon, a new moon, a waxing moon, a blue moon. They'd turn toward wherever the moon happened to be and wait.

All the young men of the Montana Shiftertown who were past their Transition were required to attend, including Rae's foster brothers. They formed the now-familiar circle, some excited, some fearful, some simply wanting to go back to bed.

Eoin, a Feline Shifter who was mostly mountain lion, sent Rae an encouraging look. Rae was a Lupine, black wolf, but she conceded that her foster dad was handsome-for a Feline. He was currently mateless, which made him a target for every female Shifter near and far. What some of them would do to try to sneak into his bed was beyond ridiculous. Rae sometimes felt like his bodyguard rather than his daughter.

"Not long now," Eoin said to her. Even speaking softly, his voice was a full rumble.

"Then we can go out for breakfast?" Rae asked. "I could use a stack of waffles. With bacon."

"Sure, sweetie," Eoin answered with a smile, then turned to the circle. Beyond the young males, the rest of the Shifters waited, anxious and impatient.

Months ago, their Guardian, Daragh, had been killed by humans, his sword stolen. Rae still fumed over that terrible deed. The humans had been found, punished, the sword returned by an unlikely messenger and Daragh sent to dust, but no new Guardian had been chosen. The Goddess had not answered their call.

The faintest light came through the stand of trees, turning the mist that had gathered ghostly white. The Shifters dropped into silence as Eoin raised his arms.

"Goddess, mother of us all, lady of the moon," he began in a loud voice, "we beseech thee. Send us your light to touch the Guardian, that most holy of men, so that he may do thy work."

Rae loved listening to her father speak. Her earliest memories were of Eoin reading her books, soothing her to sleep, wrapping her in comfort, letting her know she was protected when he was near. The sword, which she held point down by the hilt, vibrated in time with his words.

The sword gave her the creeps, but no one else would touch it-it had burned those who'd tried, as though it were red-hot. Even Eoin's trackers, the bravest of the brave, refused to put their hands on it. For some reason the sword didn't burn Rae, so she'd had to step up. She didn't mind so much when it was sheathed, but for the ritual the sword had to be naked, the runes on the silver blade catching the dawn light.

They'd done this four times. Rae prayed to the Goddess that the fifth time was the charm, so she could hand the sword to the new Guardian and never hold it again.

Eoin went on chanting. He repeated his plea to the Goddess, his arms high.

In the old days, Shifters had worn robes and crowns of leaves and crap like that for these rituals. Eoin wore jeans, a sweatshirt, and thick-soled boots, sensible attire in the Rocky Mountain woods. Rae, and every Shifter here, wore something similar.

Maybe they should have donned robes and painted themselves with moon goddess symbols, she decided. Or danced naked at midnight. It would make the same difference. The Goddess wasn't coming. She never did.

"We beseech thee!" Eoin shouted.

His words echoed through the woods as the sun climbed higher, brushing the treetops with golden light. The mists thickened and the air became colder.

The sun kept climbing. The mist turned to fog. The Shifters shivered and rubbed their arms, wanting to shift, cuddle up to something furry, or at least go the hell home.

Eoin finally lowered his arms, letting out a sigh, defeated. A whisper of breeze echoed his sigh, then died.

The Shifters didn't look happy. Eoin, as Shiftertown leader, was supposed to solve problems like this. He should ask the human government to bring in a Guardian from another Shiftertown or figure out a way to use the sword himself-something.

If the more dominant Shifters got too impatient, they'd start challenging, and then things would really hit the fan. The human government didn't allow Shifters to change leaders without their approval but that wouldn't matter if Eoin were dead.

Rae picked up the sword's sheath from the grass, her braid of black hair falling over her shoulder. A thin finger of light made it through the fog to dance on the blade as she lifted it to slide it into the sheath. The runes glittered and seemed to move.

They did that sometimes. The sword was one creep-toid piece of metal.

The tip of the blade jerked out of the leather sheath. Rae's eyes widened in surprise, then she let out a cry as the sword shot upward, dragging her arm with it.

Rae tried to drop the sword but her hand was fixed to the hilt, her fingers not obeying her command to let go. The sword jerked again, nearly pulling her arm out of its socket.

Rae grabbed the hilt with her other hand, holding on while her heels came off the ground.

"Dad!" she yelled. "Help!"

Eoin, who'd moved off to speak to his trackers, spun back to her. At the same time, the sword yanked itself upward and Rae was pulled all the way off her feet.

She yelped in terror, but she couldn't pry her hand free. She had no idea what the damned sword was trying to do-return to the Goddess? Fly to the next Guardian?

Eoin ran for her, his trackers behind him, but before they could reach her, a brilliant shaft of light shot down from the treetops and enclosed Rae, the sword, and the sheath that lay on the ground.

Pain seared through her, as though every cell in her skin, every bit of iron in her blood, suddenly burned hot. Her Collar went off, arcs of electricity driving into her throat.

Rae screamed. The sound echoed up through the trees, crescendoed into a piercing shriek, and swooped back down again. The Shifters clapped hands over ears, some falling to their knees.

The sword lifted Rae a few more feet in the air, then it suddenly went slack, and Rae fell hard to the ground. She lost hold of the sword, and the blade plummeted toward her, point downward.

Eoin dove for it, but he couldn't reach it in time. The sword plunged straight into the earth between Rae's outstretched arms, quivered, and went still. The light died and Rae's pain faded.

"What the hell?" one of the trackers growled.

Rae slowly climbed to her feet, groaning all the way, having to use the hilt of the stupid sword to brace herself.

Eoin had halted a few feet away, his face drawn, his eyes wet. "The Goddess has Chosen," he said in a hushed voice.

"What?" Rae tore her hands from the sword. "What are you talking about? It was a lightning strike, or something . . ."

Eoin seized Rae's hands and turned them upward. Burned into each palm was the symbol of the Celtic knot, the sign of the Goddess. Though Rae's hands were clearly branded, she felt no pain, not even itching.

Her heart hammered. "No way. Dad-no!"

Tears rolled down Eoin's cheeks. "The Goddess has Chosen," he repeated, his voice breaking. "We have our new Guardian."

The Shifters, Rae's brothers most of all, stared at Rae in shock. Dead silence filled the clearing, broken only by the morning breeze that sprang up to clear away the mists.

An elderly Feline male stepped forward, giving voice to the thought in the head of every Shifter present.

"But she's a woman!"

ZanderÕs cell phone rang. ÒAw, son of a . . .Ó

Zander vented to every deity, familiar and obscure, as he hoisted himself from the chair at the stern of his boat. His fishing pole, secured to the deck, went on enjoying itself dangling bait in the water, while Zander trudged down the swaying boat, shading his eyes against the setting sun, to where he'd left the damn phone this time.

He should just throw the bloody thing overboard. The point of being in a fishing boat all alone off the coast of Alaska was being alone.

Zander knew why he didn't toss the phone even as the thought formed. If someone had dire need and they couldn't reach him, he'd never forgive himself.

Zander's two braids swung against his cheeks as he reached for the phone he'd left on top of the cooler. He figured he might as well grab another beer at the same time, and came up with a phone in one hand, a can in the other.

"Go for Zander," he growled.

He stilled as a voice from far away rumbled in his ear. Kendrick, a white tiger Guardian and leader of a band of rogue Shifters, wouldn't call for no good reason. Zander's reflection in the window of the wheelhouse showed his dark eyes growing wider and wider as he glued the phone to his ear and listened.

"You want me to what?" he yelled when Kendrick finished. "Seriously, what the fuck? How am I supposed to teach her to be a Guardian? Hello? I'm not a Guardian."

"I know." Kendrick's voice wavered with the bad connection. "But she needs-"

At the end of the boat, the fishing pole started to buzz. "Kendrick, I'm busy. I don't have time to babysit a woman who thinks she's been chosen by the Goddess to be a Guardian, for crap's sake. There are no female Guardians! I'm supposed to be the crazy one. When you regain your sanity, call me back."

Zander moved the phone but Kendrick's stern voice had him listening again. "Oh, you've got to be kidding me," Zander snarled. "You're going to play that card?"

Over the whirring of the fishing pole came the drone of a motor, a boat rushing toward him across the deep waters.

Zander yelled into the phone. "Do you know how much shit you're in right now?"

Kendrick rumbled something Zander couldn't make out, but he heard the amused bite in Kendrick's voice. The man and his cute little mate must be laughing their asses off.

Zander clicked off the phone and tossed it down. The boat moved closer. Three figures stood on its deck-the man piloting it, a tall stern-looking Feline Shifter, and a smaller woman-a Lupine-with a Sword of the Guardian strapped to her back. The sword's hilt gleamed in the light of the sinking sun.

"Perfect," Zander said. "Just effing perfect."

He squeezed the can of beer until the pop-top burst open, then he poured the cold liquid down his throat, wiped his mouth, and strode to meet the intruders.

Chapter Two

Rae looked across the tossing water at Zander Moncrieff and couldn't decide whether she should jump overboard or leap onto his boat and smack him.

He was huge, a bear Shifter, with muscles bulging out of a black sweatshirt with a Harley logo and hard legs stretching out blue jeans. He wore a long black duster coat that whirled in the unceasing wind and thick-soled boots for walking around a wet deck. Zander's white blond hair was cut short against his head, except for two dreadlocks that hung on either side of his face, swinging down to his shoulders. He'd braided blue beads into the dreads, stark against the white. His trim goatee beard was, in contrast, jet black.

His eyes were the same black, burning with anger and glaring at Rae. Rae read a boatload of other emotions behind those eyes-pain and a loneliness that ran deep.

Goddess-touched, Eoin had called him. Brimming with power but never quite fitting in.

Like me, Rae thought with a jolt.

Zander's fury reached Rae across the narrowing space between the boats. He was not at all happy Eoin wanted to bring Rae aboard.

Well, tough shit. Rae didn't want to be out here either. One day she'd been an innocuous Lupine Shifter, hanging out with her friends and comfortable with her family, the next she was a Guardian, sent away to the middle of the northern Pacific to be trained by a polar bear everyone claimed was insane. Doesn't play well with others, they'd said.

The boats bobbed up and down out of sync, the waves becoming more pronounced the closer the boats slid to each other. Rae was getting seasick. She'd been fine riding on the boat from the island where the small plane had landed, but now that both boats were rocking in the calm, rising and falling at different rates, she grew dizzy.

Eoin sprang to the deck of Zander's boat with the grace of a Feline and faced him, one Shifter entering another's territory.

Now it was Rae's turn. She paused with her feet on the edge of the speedboat, where a gate in the rail had been opened for her. Rae was wolf, okay with water but not with boats. And by water, she meant streams, lakes, and ponds, not the vast expanse of cold ocean she found herself in now. If she fell into the drink, she'd freeze to death before she could be fished out.

Zander was a polar bear. Super-cold water and ice off the Alaska coast must be paradise to him. Rae liked beaches in Baja or Hawaii, long stretches of warm, empty sand, breezes, and cabana boys bringing her fruity cocktails. In theory-Rae had never actually been in any of these places.

Zander glanced behind Eoin to watch her impatiently, every inch a bear. Arrogant shit.

Rae drew a deep breath and willed her feet to make the jump, but her boat heaved upward while the other dropped. She lost her balance, dancing as she tried desperately not to fall between the undulating decks.

Zander reached Rae before Eoin could. He leaned across the stretch of blue water, grabbed Rae by both hands, and hauled her aboard.

His grip was immensely strong, pulling Rae right off her feet. She floated a few inches above the deck before she landed on the boards with a whump. The Sword of the Guardian banged against her back.

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Guardian's Mate 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is jthe second book ive read in this series and it was very fast paced with lots of action in and out of the bedroom and other places! Lol not happy having to wait until next year for the next one as ill forget about it all by the time the new book comes out. It was a really good read either way and if you like adult paranormal youll love this and zander will crack you up with his craziness and Rae with her stubbornness. They balance each other out!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this series. Pre-ordered the 10th book. Now have to wait for it to come out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellant read great addition to the series I can hardly wait for the next book in the series
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the shifter series and Zander an Rae have a special place in my heart. You wont be dissapointed!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an good book
Hfowler More than 1 year ago
There has never been a female Guardian, until now. Zander is the eccentric healer that everyone thinks is crazy and he has retreated back to his Alaskan home to find solitude and peace. What he wasn't expecting was for a favor to be called in and for him to have to take on the very first female Guardian and train her. Rae is really out of her comfort zone and doesn't like being left by her foster father with Zander, the crazy polar bear shifter. Well, adventure follows Zander and it doesn't take long until they are going into the environs of Alaska to release a dead shifter's soul, end up in a bar fight, get chased out of Alaska by bounty hunters, and end up back home in Montana with a broken sword on the hunt for feral shifters. It was fun and their banter back and forth was enjoyable to watch. I liked watching them try and resist each other because they really couldn't afford to let into their mating frenzy while dealing with everything they dealt with. Zander, I think is one of my favorite characters; you really don't know what to expect to come out of his mouth, how he will react to things, or the fact that he seemed less guarded than the other shifters. Part of it I think is because he was never collared and seems to be able to make friends anywhere he goes. I liked their story a lot. A lot happens in such a short amount of pages, only 336 pages. The size of the book is deceiving, it is jam packed with adventure, humor, passion, friendships, and experiences. I loved it.
thereadingchick More than 1 year ago
Rae Lyall has been chosen by the Goddess to be the first female Guardian which pisses off a lot of elder shifters. They claim her choosing was engineered by her father, the leader of the Montana shifter town. Wanting to keep her safe he travels with her to Alaska and leaves her with Zander, in the hopes Zander will protect her, but also train her to use her gifts. If you have read the last several books in this series, then you are familiar with Zander. He is Goddess blessed, using his gifts to heal. He is also considered to be a slightly crazy polar bear shifter who is a bit anti social. He does not appreciate this young woman being his responsibility, but her loneliness and fear of being an outcaste tugs on his heart. The last few books in this series have lacked the fun and originality that were in the first few books. Zander brings back that joy and fun, living life for the moment, determined that even if he's in the middle of a cluster@*#^, things usually turn out alright. Rae who has been sheltered in a shifter town, doesn't know what hits her when life turns upside down, and their adventures begin. Guardian's Mate has brought the fun back into this series with Zander and Rae's story. His guidance is somewhat unorthodox, but it seems to be exactly what she needs to gain confidence and prove to everyone that she was the right choice as Guardian. If the author continues to have fun with this series then I will keep reading her stories. After all, these books are not serious, they are romances between people who turn into animals. That should be fun!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While I liked the plot it did get slow and boring in a few places. The new characters are a great addition and I look forward to their stories. I prefer the Austin shiftertown community and was happy to see some old faces show up. Still a good read for the series but not as wonderful as most of the reviewers stated.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite. Highly recommend it :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A return to the action of the early books. I loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this series but this book was outstanding thank you
PollyBennett More than 1 year ago
This book is now my favorite in one of my favorite series. I loved having Zander as our hero, and Rae was the perfect heroine. Fast, and exciting. Paranormal at it's best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I so enjoy this series. It's like visiting family everytime. Love seeing how the characters develop! Can't wait for the next one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
306 pages. Love this series
ReadingInPajamas More than 1 year ago
✦Review & Giveaway: Guardian's Mate: A Shifters Unbound Novel by Jennifer Ashley Publication Date: September 6, 2016 Reviews by: Reading in Pajamas/ Donna Rated: 5 Stars #TopFav2016 REVIEW: I truly enjoyed reading about Rae and Zander. Their story takes the reader through a lot of territory, while seamlessly building their relationship. I felt an instant connection with them both right away and loved that neither of them fit into a stereotype, other than a sexy one. I even began to think of the sword as a character and really enjoyed that. It was a fast yet smooth story that pulled in people we knew and some new interesting players that I hope will pop back in now and then. Fun all the way around. I can’t wait to see where it brings us next. *Review copy provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review. Note from Cori: Totally loved this one too!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book and wonderful series
Sandy-thereadingcafe More than 1 year ago
GUARDIAN’S MATE is the ninth full length installment in Jennifer Ashley’s contemporary, adult SHIFTERS UNBOUND paranormal/fantasy romance series. This is polar bear shifter/healer Alexander ‘Zander’ Moncrief, and lupine shifter/Guardian Rae Lyall’s story line GUARDIAN’S MATE can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty but for cohesion and backstory I recommend reading the series in order. SOME BACKGROUND: Thousands of years in the past, the Fae created the shifters-a cross between beast and man-and in the ensuing time the Fae lost control and power over the creatures they had created. Approximately twenty years ago shifters were exposed to the human population. Out of fear, discrimination and specieism, the shifters were collared with Fae magic in the belief that it would control aggression; then they were forced into segregated communities known as Shiftertowns. There are several Shiftertowns located throughout America where shifters live in a relative but strained peace amongst their own kind. Told from several third person perspectives GUARDIAN’S MATE focuses on the first female Guardian, chosen by the goddess, and the resulting fall out when the shifters of the Montana Shiftertown don’t take too kindly to a woman in charge. Hoping to protect his daughter from potential harm, Montana Shiftertown leader Eoin Lyall sends Rae to Alaska and reclusive polar bear shifter Alexander Moncrief for training and protection. What ensues is the building relationship between Zander and Rae, and threats against out couple when a vigilante bounty hunter takes aim at everything shifter. A group of feral shifters has targeted both human and shifter populations, and Zander and Rae are caught up in the fight. Xander Moncrief is a healer imbued with magical, empathic powers that have forced our hero into a reclusive life where the pain and suffering of others is far from his mind. Rae is a young shifter, barely past her transition, and the first woman chosen as the Guardian of her kind. The Guardian is tasked with ‘sending’ their dead to the Summerland-the shifter ‘after life’-but Rae has never been trained to handle the magical sword that is usually passed down from father to son. Xander Moncrief must temper his emotions as it pertains to the feisty lupine Guardian but attraction and the mating frenzy begin to over power our couple even as they are on the run from the people trying to destroy their lives. The romance is very slow to build; the $ex scenes are intimate and provocative. There is a large ensemble cast of secondary and supporting characters including several shifters we have met in previous story lines, as well as the introduction of lupine shifter Ezra Wilcox, a man whose aging father recently passed away; Miles Keegan, a boat captain who hides a secret from the people with whom he works; Zander’s friend Piotr Ivanov who adds a little bit of humor and fun; and human Carson McCade, a man out to avenge the attack on his wife. GUARDIAN’S MATE is a story line that follows a new arc for the series focusing on an impending war between the shifters and the Fae. The premise is entertaining; the romance is a bit of push and pull as Zander tries to keep his distance while the couple is on the run; the characters are an eclectic and colorful mix of shifters and humans. GUARDIAN’S MATE is an imaginative tale of adventure, action and romance. If you like paranormal story lines about shifters and their struggle in a world controlled by hum
In_My_Humble_OpinionDA More than 1 year ago
New and exciting things are happening in the world of Shifters Unbound. Wolf Shifter Rae Lyall is chosen by the Goddess as the first female Guardian. Rae is a young orphaned wolf shifter raised by big cats and just barely out of her transition. Traditionalists are not happy with her being picked so her Alpha and step father takes her up to Alaska to be trained by polar bear Shifter and healer, Zander. Zander knows that being chosen of the Goddess is not an easy path. He is not happy with the task being thrust upon them both nor is he happy with the feelings she engenders in him. The Goddess knows what she is doing and the rest are along for the ride. This book is a roller coaster ride of emotions action and adventure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is as good as the others! Waiting was worth it!