Grace Mercer's unmatched wraith-killing ability made her the unofficial defender of a city shattered by supernatural catastrophe. So there's no way she'll allow the new regent of Seattle's most powerful dragon shifter clan to "protect" her from a vicious evil stalking the ruined streets--and keep her from the freedom she's risked everything to earn. Leif's science-honed instincts tell him Grace is the key to keeping shifters and humans safe. But helping this wary fighter channel her untapped power is burning away the dragon's sensual self-control and putting a crucial alliance at risk. Soon the only chance Leif and Grace will have to save their world will be a dangerously fragile link that could forever unite their souls. . .or consume all in a storm of destruction.
Praise for Hearts of Darkness
"Dazzling. . .thrilling. . .irresistible." --Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Hearts of Shadow
A Deadglass Novel
By KIRA BRADY
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013Kira Brady
All rights reserved.
Leif Asgard looked up when the blood slave slipped into the crowded council chamber. Hidden in the back of the mob, the slight figure blended with the shadows in a black sweatshirt. A few blue bangs stuck out from beneath the hood. Leif could pinpoint the kid with his eyes closed. No one else noticed. But Leif did, because he felt the ring on his finger softly thrum. It was his brother's ring, and Leif couldn't figure out how to get the damned thing off.
One more thing to curse Sven for. Worse, his brother had the balls to die and leave Leif to this madness. Six months since the Unraveling. Six months since the world turned upside down. Six months since all hell had broken loose, literally, and brought down the civilization he had come to depend on.
Six months since Sven had died and left Leif shackled at the reins of this runaway circus train.
From his seat at the defendant's gate, Leif watched Admiral Jameson ranting across the room. In his mind he turned the sound off like an old silent movie. He was tired of listening, tired of having to defend himself and his kind, tired of having to prove his right to exist when some moments he didn't even know if he believed it himself.
Admiral Jameson wore his navy uniform like a shield. Frayed about the collar and threadbare in some places, it was a nostalgic symbol of authority in the once great United States of America. The fallen government had few spokesmen left. Those who chose to fill the void were frightened, bullheaded, and incredibly paranoid. Jameson pointed his gavel at Leif, and Leif tuned back in. "—let me remind you, sir, that you are under oath. Do you mean to say you have never killed?"
Leif didn't think anyone could survive two hundred years without shedding blood, but the human admiral was having difficulty wrapping his head around the idea of immortality. There was any number of honorable reasons for killing in the course of his two centuries. There had been revolutions, riots, duels. Insults that couldn't be borne. Revenge. Justice. But Leif refused to be tried for past deeds in this laughable shoestring mockery of a court, judged by a mob of terrified mortals.
He wouldn't die for his brother's sins either.
"Dragons are not killers," Leif said, "any more than the lion on the Serengeti is a killer. A predator, yes, but man is also at the top of the food chain."
"Humans don't harvest souls!" Jameson shouted, and the mob in the council audience murmured its agreement. Leif could almost imagine them with pitchforks, right out of Shelley's tale. Time might progress, but humans stayed as ignorant and xenophobic as ever. Zetian had promised him this would be an easy council meeting, but it had turned into a trial.
"But you kill to eat," Leif said. "The imbibing of souls doesn't require the death of the donor. Think of it as a blood transfusion."
"Our donors are willing." At least his were. "And this really isn't the point of contention, is it? Humans could choose to be vegetarians, but most of you don't. For a Dreki to choose not to eat souls would be suicide."
Tiamat blight him. He'd told Zetian this was a mistake. She sat on one side of the long council bench separated from the Kivati by Jameson and his fellow human representatives. It made a pretty tableau: two shape-shifting races forced to play nice beneath the terrified watch of the humans. Everyone had pulled together to help put the world back to rights after the Unraveling. Leif had left the political wrangling to Zetian, because she was experienced in this bullshit. Astrid Zetian had served Sven's interests on the Seattle City Council for four decades, right here in this room beneath the blithely ignorant noses of the humans. Since the Unraveling, she'd stopped dying her hair grey. She wasn't pretending to be human anymore. None of them were.
Leif didn't have Sven's silver tongue or Zetian's slippery morals. He shouldn't be here debating his people's right to live when he could be doing real work in his laboratory. He was a scientist, not a politician, and he was a damned good one. The Unraveling had unleashed a massive electromagnetic pulse from the Land of the Dead, which had fried the Aether. The Aether could no longer hold an electric charge. There were people dying in the streets. People cold and hungry without jobs, without the skills needed to live in a world without electricity, without shelter from the wraiths. Leif could help those people, but not here. He needed to get back to work inventing tools that could make a difference.
"Your kind put us into this situation," Jameson accused.
"Not my kind. Not the Drekar." Sven might have set up the fall of the Gate, but a Kivati man pulled the trigger. "Please stop lumping all supernatural races into the same group—"
"You are all killers!" Jameson shouted.
"Please." Emory Corbette, the leader of the Kivati, was elegant in a coal-black three-piece suit, silver rings in his ears. His ebony hair brushed his straight shoulders. A thin circle of violet—the tell of all Kivati shape-shifters—ringed his jet-black eyes. A vein ticked in his temple. His people were an ancient race who could shift into a totem animal: Thunderbird, Crow, Wolf, Bear, Fox, and the like. Corbette's totem was the Raven, and his sharp beak of a nose gave him away. He raised his hand, and a silent wave of Aether licked through the room, quieting tempers, easing the rabid murmurs of the crowd. "This is unproductive. We are all here to help rebuild civilization. We have the same goal. The new Regent is not his brother."
Thank Tiamat for that, Leif thought. But what if he was? He'd felt the darkness swirling in the empty space where his soul should have been. He could easily follow it down and get lost somewhere between despair and madness. It happened to all Drekar eventually. But Sven had always seemed so sane.
Corbette rapped his silver-tipped cane on the banister. Since the Unraveling, everything about the Kivati leader was sharper, crueler. "As a scientist, Leif Asgard was building steam and coal-powered technology in its heyday. He is an invaluable resource for reviving our technological capabilities and building a new world. Even if the Drekar deserve to be exterminated"—and his tone said they did—"we can't afford to lose his skills."
Leif granted Corbette a tight smile. After more than a century of bloodshed between their two races, he was hesitant to trust Corbette. Leif didn't want to be the Regent, and he had good reason. His people still needed a wartime leader, and it would never be him. Dragons might have survived the apocalypse better than most, given their thick hides and imperviousness to fire, but how many would want to live on in this barren new world? Their treasure hoards lay beneath miles of collapsed rubble and dirt. Their once-clear skies were constantly grey with thick volcanic ash. They needed someone to rally behind. A Machiavellian leader who could wield fear to keep them in line.
Zetian finally decided to intervene. About damned time. She rose. With her black hair undyed, she didn't look a day over twenty-five, though she'd seen the fall of Genghis Khan.
Act charming and a little clueless, the elder Dreki had coached him. Humans don't trust anyone smarter than them.
She should be the one standing behind the defendant's gate answering questions, not Leif.
"Admiral, Lord Raven, gracious members of the council." Her smile caught their attention. Gorgeous like all dragon-kind, she had the cat eyes of her Mongol father and the fair skin of her Norse mother. Few could resist her charm, even before
Excerpted from Hearts of Shadow by KIRA BRADY. Copyright © 2013 by Kira Brady. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.