Five thousand years ago, in order to be saved from the horrors of Hell, shapeshifting warrior Roric was imprisoned in his animal form on a carousel. Only one woman’s touch can release him. After that, all he has to do is stay alive for twenty-hours, and his soul is safe from Hades for all eternity. But is the woman who sets him free a distraction sent by Hades?
When graphic novel illustrator Aimee Horner visits a traveling carnival, she’s drawn to an abandoned carousel and its carved white tiger. One touch of her skin against the massive beast, and Aimee’s world is changed forever.
The ancient curse is broken, and Hades and his demons are out for blood…and Roric’s and Aimee’s souls.
Each book in the Hades’ Carnival series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 Night of the Tiger
Book #2 Mark of the Bear
Book #3 Pride of the Lion
Book #4 Howl of the Wolf
Book #5 Heart of the Serpent
Book #6 Flame of the Phoenix
Book #7 Lure of the Jaguar
About the Author
Once upon a time N.J. had the idea that she would like to quit her job at the bookstore, sell everything she owned, leave her hometown, and write romance novels in a place where no one knew her. And she did. Two years later, she went back to the bookstore and her hometown and settled in for another seven years. One day she gave notice at her job on a Friday morning. On Sunday afternoon, she received a tentative acceptance for her first romance novel and life would never be the same.
N.J. Walters is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has always been a voracious reader, and now she spends her days writing novels of her own. Vampires, werewolves, dragons, time-travelers, seductive handymen, and next-door neighbors with smoldering good looks—all vie for her attention. It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to live it.
Read an Excerpt
Lightning flashed outside the window, illuminating the entire bedroom for one brief second. A crash of thunder quickly followed, rattling the windows. The long, white curtains billowed in the breeze like some ghostly visitor as the wind pushed through the screen, bringing the damp air with it.
Aimee Horner shifted restlessly in her bed, rolling from her side to her back. The covers bunched around her waist, a silent testament to her growing agitation. Her skin was covered in a light sheen of sweat, and she shivered as the chill in the night air hit her bare flesh.
But she didn't wake. The dream was upon her.
Lightning flashed behind her eyelids, revealing a trio of skeletal remains casually leaning against a rock wall, their skin rotted and ripped away from their bodies. Large black ravens swooped around them, pecking what little flesh remained on their bones. Maggots swarmed around their decomposing internal organs and through empty eye sockets.
Aimee swallowed back the scream of terror that threatened to erupt from her throat. It would do no good. There was no one to help her. No way out.
As always, she was alone.
The trio straightened and bowed at their waists as she passed. Their actions were unexpectedly graceful and formal. Like some terrible hosts from a horror movie, they invited her closer.
They held out their bony fingers, beckoning her forward. Their shiny teeth and smooth jaws were locked in a permanent smile, offering a macabre greeting as she entered the darkness beyond. She didn't want to go any farther, wanted desperately to wake up. But her feet shuffled forward as if propelled by some unseen force.
It was always this way.
Her heart pounded so hard it felt as though it would erupt from her chest at any moment. A bead of sweat trickled down her temple, rolled down her cheek and slipped off the edge of her jaw. Clad in only the thin cotton shift she slept in, her feet bare, Aimee inched into the darkness. Evil laughter, mixed with tortured screams, mocked her. Taunted her. Drew her onward.
The air was damp and moldy, a product of centuries of decay and rot. She tried to breathe through her mouth, not her nose, but the stench surrounded her, clinging to her and permeating her skin. She could taste the despair, the rising fear, on her tongue and not all of it was her own. Sweat dotted her forehead, plastering her hair to her skull.
Aimee tried to discern the ground beneath her feet, desperate to see where she was stepping, but it was almost impossible to catch even a glimpse. The darkness seemed intent on swallowing her whole.
Goose bumps rose on her skin as a blast of chilly air swept over her. The fine hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. A shiver crept down her spine. Someone was behind her.
The urge to glance over her shoulder was overwhelming, like an itch she didn't dare scratch. She didn't look back. Couldn't look back.
She ignored the urge to scream, the increasing pressure swelling in her throat, and pretended she didn't see the multitude of red eyes observing her every move, stalking her silently from the darkness.
Lightning flashed again, illuminating her surroundings as though it were midday. For a brief second, she saw everything. Grotesque creatures of every conceivable shape, color and size surrounded her. Watching. Waiting.
For what, she didn't know. Wasn't sure she wanted to.
Some of them had skin like leather, tough and scaly. Several had horns in place of ears and hooves where their feet should be. One or two had wings of a sort, spread wide, making them appear even larger. There were several no bigger than a dog, while others were at least seven feet tall. Most fell somewhere in-between.
A few of the creatures appeared almost human, until you looked into their eyes. There was nothing human about them then. Aimee closed her eyes and swallowed hard. Those red, soulless, pitiless eyes would haunt her for the rest of her life. Somehow, the human-looking creatures were more frightening than the ones that truly looked like monsters.
She was in some sort of underground cave, her steps leading her downward when what she most wanted to do was turn around and bolt back to where she'd come from. She longed to feel the sunlight on her face and smell the fresh air filling her lungs. Still, she could not go back. Not until she'd done what she was supposed to do.
A sense of knowing came from somewhere inside her. If she didn't do this now, it would be even worse for her the next time. If she showed any reluctance, the demons would fall on her like a pack of rabid dogs on a chunk of prime meat. She didn't question her instincts, but went with them, taking a cautious step forward.
The air grew thicker and hotter with each step, harder to breathe. The stench of rotted flesh and death grew more stifling with each passing second. A crash of thunder shook the walls, sending a shower of rocks tumbling to the dirt path in front of her.
A stone bounced off the wall and smashed into her forehead. Aimee stumbled but didn't fall. Slivers of rock bit into her bare feet as she staggered slightly before catching herself. Locking her knees, she somehow managed to remain upright. Something trickled down her right temple. She reached up and touched her face, frowning when her fingers encountered something sticky and warm. She was bleeding.
Swiping the blood away with her palm, she prayed the wound wasn't too bad. She had nothing to clean or bandage it with. And there was no help to be found with the denizens of this cavern. She knew they were waiting for her to falter. If she showed any sign of weakness, they would attack.
Something hissed low and long in the darkness. It was a voice, but it wasn't even vaguely human. Whatever it was, it sounded as though it was whispering her name. She ignored the stink of fear and sweat that permeated her flesh and the sense of foreboding swamping her senses. She ignored the frantic pounding of her heart and the fact her nightgown was plastered to her body like a second skin. She ignored the pain in her feet and head. There was nothing else she could do. Tilting up her chin, she moved forward.
She knew where she was, but didn't want to say the word aloud. Didn't dare to. Didn't even want to think it.
As if someone or something had been reading her thoughts, a deep, compelling voice emanated from the darkness. "Welcome to Hell."
Aimee froze. She wanted to turn. Wanted to run. Wanted to be anywhere but where she was. But her limbs were frozen in place. All she could do was blink as the owner of the voice came nearer. His feet made no sound on the rocks, but she knew he was getting closer. The air stirred in front of her. Dust tickled her nose.
A wave of pure, unadulterated evil suddenly struck her, sucking the air from her lungs. She'd thought she was as afraid as a person could get. She'd been wrong. Terror swamped her in waves, threatening to drown her. The strong stink of sulfur stung her nostrils and coated the back of her throat.
The other creatures in the darkness shrank back from whoever, whatever, was moving forward. She tried to swallow, but her mouth and throat were bone dry.
Aimee closed her eyes briefly. Bad analogy. Don't think about bones. Her eyes shot open again as the hideous creatures surrounding her stirred and crept closer with excitement now. If they were excited, it couldn't be good for her. She wanted to run, but her limbs refused to cooperate. Her brain and body were disconnected. All she could do was watch and wait and pray.
Flames flickered, seemingly in thin air, before jumping to life all around her. It took her a moment to realize that some of the demonic creatures had lit torches. The light swelled, filling the cavern. There was no longer any darkness to hide the reality of her situation, nothing to blanket or soften her fears.
She watched, both terrified and fascinated, as he glided toward her. It was definitely male, this creature that stalked her from the stygian depths of this cursed place. Power and evil combined in a formidable package. The man was simply gorgeous, so physically perfect he defied the laws of nature. There was something inherently wrong with that. Evil should be ugly.
He threw back his head and laughed, and the deep, seductive sound filled the air. The movement sent his glossy black hair tumbling down his back. His jawline was strong, his nose straight, his cheekbones high. He was tall, so very tall. And strong. Dark leather pants molded to his thighs and calves. His chest was bare, revealing rock-hard abs and smooth, tanned skin.
He looked at her then, and her heart skipped a beat. His eyes were as black as the night. No, they were night. The ultimate darkness from which there is no escape. There was no kindness there, no shadow of mercy. Only cunning and power and expectation.
Reaching out, he tucked one finger under her chin and lifted it higher for his inspection. Her skin burned, scorched by his touch, and she cried out in spite of her resolve to be brave. His thin lips turned up at the corners into a cruel smile. "You'll do."
A cacophony of noise erupted around her. A wolf howled, a lion snarled and a bear growled. Other animals joined in, their cries and calls echoing in her ears. Above them all came the roar of a tortured tiger.
Aimee slapped her hands over her ears, desperately trying to block out the yowls of anger and pain that clawed their way to the very depths of her soul, beseeching her to help them. The cries were filled with anguish, but worst of all, with hopelessness.
Somehow, she knew these noble beasts weren't here in Hell. They were out there somewhere in the world, locked in some kind of unending torture. And she knew who was responsible for their suffering — the man standing before her — Hades, King of the Underworld.
Aimee suddenly realized she'd moved her hands. She was no longer frozen in place. Somehow, the lament of the beasts had broken the spell she'd been under. Not taking her eyes off the devil in front of her, she lowered her hands from her ears and took a step backward. Something crunched beneath her foot, but she didn't look down, telling herself it was stone, not bits of bone from others who had been lured to this place.
She had to escape.
He smiled at her, sweeping out his arms to encompass the creatures around him. "There is no escape, sweet Aimee. Unless I allow it." His taunting smile had anger bubbling up inside her, shoving aside some of the fear surrounding her.
He wouldn't allow. This was her dream. Hers. She was in control here.
Like Dorothy in the Land of Oz, she closed her eyes and concentrated on being tucked safely back in her bed. She even thought about clicking her heels together even though she was barefoot and there wasn't a pair of ruby slippers in sight. Everything went silent and she breathed a sigh of relief before opening her eyes again.
She screamed. Or rather she tried to. Sheer terror tightened her vocal cords, making her scream sound more like the squeak of a mouse. And that's what she felt like — a small, brown mouse in the presence of a great, hungry cat.
Hades' cruel smile mocked her attempt to escape. He leaned forward, his breath hot on her face. "This isn't Oz, and you most certainly aren't Dorothy."
Oh, crap, he can read my thoughts. There was no other way he could have known about her Wizard of Oz reference. No wonder he'd laughed when she'd thought that evil should be ugly. He knew exactly what he looked like.
He brushed his finger over her jaw and down her neck, leaving a sizzling brand on her flesh as he went. She flinched, but didn't cry out.
"So brave." Lowering his hand, he studied her. "How much courage will you have when the beast comes for you? Will you trade your life for his?"
"What beast?" She hadn't meant to ask, but the question was past her lips before she could stop it.
Hades shrugged. "Who knows? Only you can decide that. You hold the fate of the beast in your hands." He wrapped his fingers around hers, squeezing tight. She bit her bottom lip to keep from crying. His touch burned. A whisper of singed flesh assailed her nostrils. "Such small hands. Weak."
Cruel pleasure lit his dark eyes. "You will be the new lady of the beast, at least for one of them." He laughed, but it wasn't a pleasant sound. It was filled with a cruel expectation that froze her from the inside out. Even the demons ringed around them shrank back at the sound.
"I don't understand." There was something important happening here. Something she needed to know. She gave herself a mental shake, dismissing the thought. The only thing she needed to be concerned about at this moment was getting out of this nightmare.
"That's right," he crooned as he released her fingers. She pulled her stinging hands close to her chest, cradling them there as he continued. "You just have to worry about yourself. Serve up the beast to save yourself, and everything will be just fine." Hades leaned down and stared directly into her eyes.
Flames jumped in the depths of his pupils. Or maybe it was his irises. His eyes were so black it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began. Aimee could see her death reflected there.
It was a horrible, never-ending torture. Her flesh burned from her body, only to regenerate and burn yet again. Over and over, it went on for all eternity. She could smell her scorched skin, hear the sizzle of her hair before it went up in smoke, feel the flames eating her internal organs and continuing on all the way to her bones until all that was left was ash.
"That's right," he whispered in her ear like a lover, his hot breath searing the delicate skin. "That is your fate if you don't give me what I want." He took a step back and glared down at her. "Don't disappoint me."
The air thickened, becoming too hot to breathe. Aimee coughed and began to choke as it filled her lungs. Her head swam and she fell to her knees. Her vision dimmed. Voices filled her head, promising torture and death. She had to get up. She couldn't stay here. She didn't belong in this antechamber of Hell.
Desperately, she pushed herself up, only to stumble and fall again. Her hand skidded on the damp earth and her face hit the ground. It was less stifling here, the air not quite so hot. She dug her fingers into the cool dirt and hauled herself forward. It was only a few inches, but it was a start.
It would be so easy to lay her head down on the ground, to just give in to the forces surrounding her, to accept her fate. She could hear the hiss of voices behind her encouraging her to quit fighting, to accept the inevitable.
But Aimee had never been a quitter, and she saw no reason to start now.
Anger washed over her in waves. How dare they do this to her? How dare he do this to her? She wouldn't even say his name, not even in her mind. She sensed that to do so would give him even more power over her, and she needed whatever edge she could get.
She dug her fingers into the ground and pulled with all her might, ignoring the burning in her lungs and the fatigue seeping into her muscles. Her thin gown was no match for the rough ground beneath her. Fabric tore as rocks and debris dug into her tender skin.
Not that way.
Aimee stilled. The voice was feminine and light. Kind. Tears filled her eyes, but she blinked them back. This was a trick. It had to be.
No trick. Follow my voice.
Even though she didn't fully trust the voice, she turned toward it. Any chance of escape was better than none. Immediately, a draft of fresh air struck her face. She sucked in a huge breath. The air was sweet. Clean. Adrenaline rushed through Aimee's veins as she sensed the way out. Grabbing the nearest rock, she hauled herself to her knees.
The demons watched her from their various perches, their eyes glowing with anticipation and hunger. Some clung to stones, others sat in crevices, while two hung from the ceiling, saliva dripping from six-inch fangs.
Why didn't they attack her?
They can't. You are the key.
The key? The key to what?
The voice sounded worried, and that was all the impetus Aimee needed to get moving. Digging deep, she found the last vestiges of her strength and pushed to her feet, stumbling forward. She could see the light at the end of the tunnel. See her body still lying in her bed. She raced toward it.
Excerpted from "Night of the Tiger"
Copyright © 2013 N.J. Walters.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I will agree that at times the plot was abvious, but over all I think this book was well written and I really enjoyes it. I will read the next in the series when it comes out.
2.5 Stars ~Reviewed by SUZANNE & posted at Under the Covers Book Blog I really loved the premise of it; however, for me it just didn’t live up to expectation. ~ Under the Covers Aimee Horner has been having nightmares of being stuck in hell, which seem to get more vivid as time goes on, the only relieve she ever seems to get is when she dreams of her white tiger. But as a graphic novel illustrator she has always had a lively imagination and so she uses her nightmares to try and create her own graphic novel. But when she goes to a carnival with her friend, it seems that her nightmares are coming to life and so is the white tiger… I am so disappointed in this book! I really loved the premise of it; however, for me it just didn’t live up to expectation. I found myself losing interest in the characters as I was reading, they just didn’t hold my attention, although Roric, the hero of the story, was sexy and intense he didn’t stand out enough in a genre full of sexy and intense heroes. However, there were aspects of this book I did like, tension and atmosphere was created really well. This was especially the case when Aimee was having nightmares and whilst she was in the carnival N.J. Walters managed to make it seem creepy and unreal and I did enjoy those parts. But it did fall down in the romance department; this could have been because of my disinterest in the characters themselves though rather then any lack of chemistry on their part. Although this was book was okay and I loved the idea behind it, unfortunately this hasn’t captured my imagination like other Paranormal Romance series have. *ARC provided by publisher
Hades, demons and sadistic clowns, Oh My! Night of the Tiger I'm trying, as I write this, to imagine Judy Garland cozying on up not to a Tin Man, not to a scruffy but timid lion, not to an adorable bunch of puff bodied Munchkins, but to a man-creature older than recorded time itself. N.J. Walters has stepped into the ever shifting sands of the Greek Gods of old, brought tendrils of their legends forward and told tales written in the past that must come to fruition in the present with such passion and danger you dare not stop to take a breath. Demons, insane circus comedians, a goddess, long forced into mere skin and bones of her former self, and the Lord of the Underworld, too physically beautiful not to nearly blind you, and too evil not to make you fear the place you've landed inside his design with every skittering beat of your heart. My daughter, Kat Holmes is my resident Greek Mythology GENIUS. Since the beginning of HER writing career, she has been molding stories around the ancient gods, bringing them into these more modern...better?...times. Because of Kat when I see a new take on these ancient specters from times long gone, I find myself, like a magnet drawn. Can N.J. Walters, an author I have reviewed before and admire deeply, measure up to the already high standards I place on all story telling involving the God's my daughter knows inside out and upside down? N.J. Walter's writing voice consistently packs a wallop worthy of trusting her to take us into the nefarious lair of the God of the Underworld, Hades. The far too gorgeously treacherous Immortal, Hades, is here, with creatures as flawlessly grotesque as he is exquisitely beautiful. Demonic things of all shapes, sizes, and temperaments pack the pages of this powerful walk, through, around, and deeply into, hell...and they are all bent on preventing the heroine from saving the hero N.J.'s demented deity Hades means to crush at all costs. A-1 story telling. A-1 writing talents. A-1 entwining of passion and fear. A-1 brilliantly layered journey into a high octane world of suspense...and love. A full package of anciently modern TNT. FIVE STARS for Book One in this Hades Carnival Series, NIGHT OF THE TIGER.
The premise of the book is great. I truly enjoyed reading the entire series but I have one major complaint. I feel she took too much liberty with Hades' character. Hades is not the devil as christians know him. Hates is simply the god of the underworld. The underworld is also not hell. The underworld is where every mortal goes when they die. It consists of the fields of punishment, Asphodel, Elisium, and the Isle of the Blest. My point being, if you are going to write a book based on the Greek gods don't change their nature to make it fit your book. Change your book to fit the nature of the gods. I still enjoyed the books very much even if my eye did twitch every time she made Hades into the devil.
This book is very good, and i highly recomend it to anyone who enjoys greek mythology abd the paramormal. Keep up the good work Ms. Walters.
it was okay was a bit rushed
I dont get it.
A IS L B IS V C IS N D IS K SO FOURTH
This is the hunters center. This is where the hunters meet. They will hunt and kill and get meals for the wounded warriors.