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They live in the shadows—half human, half beast—a powerful breed of shape-shifters who protect the civilized world from the deadliest of their kind…
Caprise is tall, beautiful, exotic. A goddess in the flesh. A dancer, when Caprise takes the stage, she feels the power she holds over men—especially the man known as X. He watches her night after night. He follows her with hungry eyes. And he knows her deepest, darkest secret—her true animal nature…
And falling in love with a Shadow Shifter is the most dangerous game of all.
Xavier has always lived for the thrill of the hunt—and the pleasure of the kill. But now, as a shifter working for the FBI, he is dedicated to keeping a leash on the world's most savage predators. Keeping an eye on a gorgeous creature like Caprise is part of his job. But when a deadly new breed of half-human killer marks Caprise as his mate, Xavier must fight tooth and claw to save her—or risk losing the most sensual and exciting woman he's ever known…
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About the Author
A.C. Arthur was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland where she currently lives with her husband and three children. An active imagination and a love for reading encouraged her to begin writing in high school and she hasn't stopped since. Her debut novel Object of His Desire was written when a picture of an Italian villa sparked the idea of an African-American/Italian hero. Determined to bring a new edge to romance, she continues to develop intriguing plots, sensual love scenes, racy characters, and fresh dialogue—thus keeping the readers on their toes!
A.C. Arthur was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland where she currently lives with her husband and three children. An active imagination and a love for reading encouraged her to begin writing in high school and she hasn’t stopped since. Her debut novel Object of His Desire was written when a picture of an Italian villa sparked the idea of an African-American/Italian hero. Determined to bring a new edge to romance, she continues to develop intriguing plots, sensual love scenes, racy characters, and fresh dialogue—thus keeping the readers on their toes!
Read an Excerpt
By A.C. Arthur
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 A.C. Arthur
All rights reserved.
His mouth opened wide, the scream buried somewhere deep inside him. But it was there. Years later the scream would manifest into a roar that matched the deadliest animal in the rain forest. That made him powerful, stronger and deadlier than his tormentor. It gave him control. And with that control the pain of abuse was buried, the pleasure of the kill was born.
Xavier Santos-Markland stood naked, palms pressed against the Indian-stone-tiled wall of his shower, while water drizzled down over his bowed head. He let its simmering heat ease the tension that seemed forever embedded in his muscles. His teeth clenched as memories poured off him just like the stream of water, his mind forever occupied by the dark clips of his past.
It hurt. That was the first and most prevalent memory. The pain, both inside and out, of that very first time, the first day of his nightmare.
And it was unnatural. Another fact he realized instantly. He'd cried out, his scream loud to his little-boy ears, almost earth-shattering. But no one came to his rescue. Nobody heard him.
He was too small to fight, too weak to do any real damage or even to defend himself. As time passed, the pain increased, lodging itself like a tumor in his chest, growing steadily with each assault. He craved revenge, even then. Not just revenge, but justice. The boy in him hated every breath he took, every sunrise he saw, every morning he rose again. Because they all meant it would happen again. There was no one to stop it, no one who knew.
Then one of those mornings years later, he woke to a change. To his own ears his heartbeat sounded different; his blood pumped a little faster in his veins. His undershirts didn't fit, his pants were too tight on his thighs. In school when he talked, his voice sounded different, deeper. And when it was time for the pain to come again, he was ready.
It happened so fast: In the blink of an eye the tables were turned. The tormentor became the victim, the inflictor became the inflicted.
The rage was released with teeth so long and so sharp, claws so vicious, roars so powerful. Blood rained from all around, its acidic stench filling his nostrils, rushing through his system like a tsunami. Death became the answer to the pain. And he became the killer.
* * *
X had the perfect view.
Tits and ass — T&A — were bountiful in Athena's, one of Washington, DC's, premier adult nightclubs. When he'd walked in, the two bouncers standing on either side of the doorway had looked him up and down. They even frisked him to make sure he wasn't carrying a weapon. Little did they know he didn't need one — he was a weapon. A hostess, which X thought was a nice touch for the establishment, walked him to his seat. Five feet, ten inches tall, tiny waist, thick thighs, rounded ass, and breasts that made his mouth water — just what the doctor ordered for his state of mind.
Which he'd rank close to being fucked completely up.
He'd consumed an entire bottle of Hennessy while sitting alone in his apartment. But because he was a Shadow Shifter, he wasn't falling-on-his-face drunk. Instead he was mellow to the point of wanting to pull this physically perfect female onto his lap and give her every pent-up stroke his dick had stored for the last few months. He was in that place that he lingered in sometimes after the dream. The lonely dark space that threatened to suck him in if he didn't get ahold of something tangible, something that could handle all that was locked inside him.
X slid into the booth directly to the right side of the stage and watched as the hostess placed a slim drink list and a napkin in front of him, leaning forward so her ample breasts jiggled in his face.
She had a ready smile, thin lips, and eyes that looked like she was used to having sex — normal sex. That definitely was not what X had in mind. Not tonight.
No, after the day he'd had he wanted — was at the point now where he desperately needed — something more.
So he ordered another Hennessy, straight, and sat back in the booth, waiting for the next act to hit the stage. He watched with one hand on his thigh, close to his semi-erect dick, all the T&A on display, because as far as appetizers went, Athena's was doing a pretty damn good job.
The lights dimmed, and members of the audience began cheering. The next act was about to begin. There came a flurry of lights dancing around the room in slow motion as the first notes of a sultry tune began to play. The spotlight stopped on the pole, shined to perfection. The crowd went wild, jumping up out of their seats already. X remained perfectly still.
He'd picked up a scent.
Her leg appeared first, a strappy silver number with heels that looked too high to be legal. X's gaze followed her calves down to her toned thighs as she'd kicked her leg out to line up with the pole. He shifted in his seat, adjusting his growing length.
The spotlight spread wider, the music's sexy slow rhythm pulsing throughout the room. Her thighs were killer, the plump globe of her ass only slightly covered in silver sparkling boy shorts as she jumped onto the pole and made a twisting move that put her entire body upside down, her legs splitting in midair. The crowd roared, but X tuned out their sounds. Dollar bills were already flying through the air, but X didn't reach into his pocket to retrieve any of his own. Instead his eyes stayed trained on the body. She had a milky, heavily creamed–coffee complexion, the hoop ring threading through her navel sparkling as if in response to the crowd. He had no idea what the material was that was able to hold her heavy breasts inside the bra that matched her shorts, but the plump mounds gyrated with her movement, giving everyone a view of what could possibly be her most prized possessions.
His breath froze, his gut clenching when his gaze fixed on her face. She'd just turned so that she was upright; long, ebony hair slid down her back like a cloak. And even though her makeup was plentiful, making her look like an exotic temptation, there was no mistaking who she was.
His fists clenched on his thighs as his dick threatened to break free of the zipper that held it back. Questions filled his mind, but Caprise alone filled his sight. He couldn't look away, couldn't move to grab her ass off that stage, and couldn't open his mouth — now salivating with lust — to yell at her.
Once again she bounced on the pole, this time extending her legs forward, then opening them so her crotch was displayed — luckily covered by the shorts, he thought with only minor relief. That was short-lived. In the next second she was off the pole, ripping the shorts from her ass to reveal a tiny string with more sparkles disappearing into the curvy cheeks of her ass.
A man tried to jump onto the stage, money in hand. His mouth was hanging open, eyes all but bulging out. X felt his cat roar and slapped a hand on the table in front of him. A bouncer grabbed the man by the collar and yanked him back, dropping him into his seat. X let out a quick sigh. When his gaze returned to the stage her bra had been removed to reveal pasties on her nipples, more sparkling, as if that were what he was supposed to look at. She was basically naked, he thought, swallowing hard in an effort to regain his senses. When her hands grabbed her breasts and she leaned over shaking them to the crowd, X's sharp teeth pricked his lower lip. He wanted her. The thought hit him like a punch to the gut. She licked her finger, traced it along the small patch of material at her juncture, and X had to drag a hand down his face.
The rest of the show was lost on him as he'd stood and made his way to the side of the stage. There was a bouncer there giving him the don't-even-try-it look. On impulse, X flashed his FBI badge and the bouncer, intelligent character that he was, took a step back. Vaguely he realized her music had ended. He was more focused on the fact that she was sashaying her naked ass off the stage. Because the bouncer had taken a hike, X was able to slip through the STAFF ONLY door and was right there the moment Caprise stepped those sex-on-stilts shoes of hers on the floor.
He grabbed her by the arm. "Don't say a word," he warned when she looked up at him in surprise. "Not one fuckin' word!"CHAPTER 2
This was not the career Caprise Delgado had in mind for herself. Truth be told, she'd never given a whole lot of thought to what her career goals and aspirations were. Hence the reason she was buckling the strap on her five-inch-heeled Manolo Blahnik sandals in a costume that looked like it was meant more for the hotel room than the stage. There was a contrast here, one Caprise hoped nobody picked up on. Why would a woman who could afford Blahnik shoes be on a stripper pole?
None of your damn business would be her definite reply.
This was her life and she was going to lead it however she damn well pleased. Even if it meant running from the truth.
For Caprise, complaining had been deemed futile a long time ago. For one reason: There was no one for her to complain to. Her parents were dead, and until last month she hadn't seen her brother in five years. Friends weren't on her list of priorities; generally, any type of long-term connection to people was off limits to her. Why? Because pain was an emotion she was too damn familiar with.
She had a trust fund that she'd come into the day she turned twenty-one. Ten million was hers to do with as she pleased. This meant she didn't have to really do anything. But her parents had worked, both of them. Her father had been an architect, her mother a registered nurse. Her older brother, Nick, even though he'd come into his own trust fund when he turned twenty-one, also had a law degree and ran a very successful law firm with his partner and best friend, Roman Reynolds. Just because the Delgados had money didn't mean they were pampered. And it hadn't escaped her that an architect and a registered nurse were actually millionaires. Just one of those questions regarding her family she'd refused to scrutinize.
"Ten minutes, Cee." Yandy Linch, the night floor manager, opened the door to the dressing room she shared with two other girls, said what she had to say, then closed the door again with a bang.
That's how things went at Athena's, hustle and flow, dance and make money. It wasn't the best place in the world to work, but it gave her the chance to do something she'd always loved to do, dance. It had been one of those hidden indulgences, started when her mother had enrolled her in ballet at the age of seven. From there her love of the solitary art had grown, until now she was willing to put on this ridiculous costume and take it back off again, just for the release of dancing.
She'd auditioned for the Dance Institute of Washington when she'd finished college, and had been accepted. Then her parents had died, and her perspective had shifted. Just recently she'd gone back to the institute to see if there were any teaching or intern positions she could take — anything that would keep her in touch with what was once very important to her. In the meantime, she'd slake her need, her one true love, by doing this.
It wasn't all bad, she'd told herself when she'd checked the mirror one last time and left the dressing room. Here at Athena's they loved the Goddess — that was her stage name. Patrons began lining up at the club at nine just to see her eleven-thirty show. She only did one show four nights a week; that's all she'd committed to once she'd come back to town. The owner of the club, Bam Milton, had known her for years. Actually, he'd been one of the only constants in her life so far. But Caprise wouldn't call them friends — more like associates who bumped into each other a lot.
As she walked gracefully on the heels, clicking through the small hallway that led to the stage, she thought about her brother and what he'd think if he knew what she was doing. He'd flip the hell out without a doubt. Then again, Nick was famous for flipping out all the time anyway. Just recently he'd lost it over his female being kidnapped.
That had been wild — these last few weeks, that is. How Caprise had been drawn into the world of the Shadow Shifters once more she had no idea. She'd never owned up to being a shifter, never wanted to and didn't want to now. Yet she was stuck with Seth, the cute and generally nice shifter guard who clung to her like glue and was right at this moment probably lurking around some corner in the club. She was living at Havenway, the new headquarters for Rome, the head of the Stateside Assembly, and his First Female, Kalina. Caprise was not only drawn into their world, she was smack in the middle of it.
Still, to be honest, she didn't hate it all that much. She got to see Nick almost every day. And she was getting to know her sister-in-law, Ary, who would be giving birth to her niece or nephew in the next few months. So there was some benefit to that hulking goof of an FBI agent and Shadow Shifter, Xavier, keeping her locked in that room at Rome's mansion all those weeks ago. He really irked her, X did. Each time she saw him, each time he opened his mouth to speak to her, something inside her moved. His voice slid through her entire body like something infecting her. She couldn't quite put the feeling into words but hated it just the same. Some days she'd go so far as to say she hated Xavier Santos-Markland even if she didn't have an explainable reason why.
Her music started and Caprise closed her eyes, stepped into the world of the Goddess, the persona that was her alter ego. The woman she really wasn't, but secretly was.
As she danced, all thoughts cleared her mind; there was only the music. She always picked slow, sultry songs with piano or violin solos that pulled at the heart. Reached out and grabbed anyone listening, making them pay total attention to her and what she was giving them.
This gave her power. It made the Goddess exactly who she was. She commanded the attention of every male and female in this room; their eyes could not focus on anything or anyone but her. It was like a drug, and tonight Caprise was flying higher than a kite.
As she grasped the pole and pulled herself up, flipping effortlessly until she was upside down, she wondered fleetingly about the first man to throw money on the stage. It was too dark for her to see his face, but she knew he was there. She'd heard his panting as he'd made his way as close to the stage as he could get before tossing the bills.
Where did he work? What did he do? Was he married? Did he have children? A boy and a girl maybe? Did he fuck his wife while thoughts of her ran rampant through his mind?
That question stuck and Caprise slipped from the pole, moving her hips to the rhythm, easing her body down so that her legs were spread wide, her palms touching the floor. She leaned forward then, using her fingers to simulate a crawling motion as she stretched out on the stage. Rolling over to her back had the crowd roaring again. The music did things to her, rubbed along her like the fingers of a lover. A lover she didn't have.
With the feeling of appreciation and a gentle tug of lust pushing her forward she stood, danced around the pole for a couple more notes, then stripped away her boy shorts, letting the strangers in the dark see what she'd been blessed with. Inside she laughed: They really couldn't see her at all.
When her breasts were all but bared she could hear the crowd getting more excited. The sound of money moving through fingers grew louder. The scent of lust, need, sex, tinged her nose. Damn the senses of a shifter. In one minute she hated them. In the next they were second nature.
They loved her, the crowd out there. Even though not one of them knew her name, the day she was born, her favorite color, her most detested food. They loved her. The Goddess and the myth she created for them.
The song came to an end too soon, her body still humming with energy, with a need still unfulfilled. She picked up her cash, although she didn't need it. On her way back to Havenway she'd have Zach stop her at the local House of Ruth to make her nightly contribution.
Stepping off the stage put her into a different atmosphere. The temperature changed, and she shivered. Where was Norm with her robe? Norm was the stagehand, a young boy with glasses as thick as a beer bottle, eyes so small she almost didn't know they were there. His body looked like he suffered from malnutrition, his face the victim of a total acne attack. But his voice was soft and always layered over the Goddess like warm rain after her performance.
Excerpted from Passion's Prey by A.C. Arthur. Copyright © 2013 A.C. Arthur. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
PRAISE FOR A.C. ARTHUR
and her Shadow Shifter novels
“Deliciously edgy, sexy, and certainly not to be missed. A.C. Arthur knows how to deliver the heat.” —Lora Leigh, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“The shifter universe just got sexier with the kick-off to Arthur’s sizzling new series, Shadow Shifters…intriguing.”—RT Book Reviews
“Arthur does a great job of building up the sexual tension…I’ll be looking for the next one in the series.”—Under the Covers
“Romantic…exciting…fast-paced.”—Genre Go Round Reviews
“I am in love with A.C. Arthur’s new series, Shadow Shifters. From start to finish, I was absolutely hooked…an incredible roller coaster ride! With amazing suspense and sizzling sparks, Arthur creates a fantastic cast of characters that have secrets and lusts and so much more…Highly recommended to all paranormal romance lovers.” —Romancing the Book
“Temptation Rising has everything a good book should: action, adventure, suspense, mystery, and fiery hot passion…The love scenes are intense and the detail, especially when they wind up in the jungle, is amazling…A.C. Arthur is a talented author and reader will eagerly look forward to the next one in the Shadow Shifters series.” —Romance Junkies Review