The passion reaches the boiling point in the third installment of this exclusive Shadow Shifter e-serial from popular romance author A.C. Arthur.
For six years, Nivea has been waiting for Eli-a supremely hot werejaguar-to take her in his arms, unleash his animal urges, and claim her as his mate. But once their passion is unleashed-in a reckless moment of pure unbridled lust-nothing can ever be the same...
"The shifter universe just got sexier...sizzling!"-RT Book Reviews
Read all four parts of this sensational e-series-and look for the full volume of Primal Heat in August 2015 from St. Martin's Paperbacks.
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!
Read an Excerpt
Primal Heat: Part 3
By A.C. Arthur
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 A.C. Arthur
All rights reserved.
Richard Cannon sat with his dress shirt rumpled, his face fixed in a scowl, across a short table from Rome. They were in a section at the far end of Havenway that had been blocked off from the rest of the facility.
They'd taken to calling it lockdown even though up until a day ago, they'd had no one to house in it. But with tensions rising for the shifters, Rome had decided that they definitely needed a location such as this. There were four rooms with steel-reinforced doors with automatic locks on either side of a narrow hallway that also had its own bolted and electronically secure access. X and Nick had been sure to design this part of the facility as if it were the humans' Fort Knox. There were even magnetized beams that, once activated, would prevent anyone from moving throughout this part of the facility without being detected.
Today they were interrogating one of their own. Richard was not a rogue but he wasn't aligned with the Shadows either. He'd never taken a stance on either side for as long as Rome had been working with the Stateside Assembly. In fact, Richard had been one of the few rich and influential shifters that had ignored all of Rome's invitations to join him at the Assembly. For the past couple of years Rome hadn't thought much of it, as he figured there would always be those shifters that had a greater desire to be considered more for their human attributes than those of their cats. He'd respected that choice. Until now.
"You're sending money to the Comastaz Labs. Why?" Rome asked without preamble.
Richard's response was rude but factual. "This is a free country. I can do whatever I want with my money."
Rome had only nodded. Nick on the other hand, had moved quicker than either Rome or Richard had anticipated, grabbing the man by the back of his neck and slamming his face down on the steel table. Blood oozed instantly from Richard's nose and Rome casually reached into his inside jacket pocket, extending his arm slowly to offer the man a tissue.
Richard snatched the tissue as Rome said, "I'm not going to repeat the question, but I am still expecting an answer."
He used the tissue to blot the blood, an angry glare aimed at Nick as he pulled from the obviously bigger and stronger shifter's grasp. Nick allowed that little action, but he didn't move from standing right behind Cannon, just in case he had to do more convincing.
"Tax credits," he replied with a roll of his eyes. "I get a certain amount of tax credits for my donations to government agencies."
"Bullshit!" Nick replied immediately.
"You run a marketing agency but that's not where the checks originated from. Your nonprofit — the one that's already qualified for certain tax credits — is the one cutting the checks. There's no legal gain to that donation unless it's somehow connected to the work the nonprofit is doing. Is that the case?" Rome inquired.
"I guess you wouldn't know anything about business since you're so hell-bent on acting like savages. The more I write off of the nonprofit, the bigger my tax breaks are," Richard replied with distaste.
Nick grabbed his neck once more.
"Hey!" he yelled, trying to slip from Nick's grasp. "You can't do this! We're not in the jungle, you filthy animals. In case you didn't notice, this is civilization. We walk upright and behave like we have some decency in America."
The man might have continued with his rant but Nick lifted him out of the chair and slammed him front first into the cement wall, angling his forearm on the man's neck to keep the side of his face pressed against the dark blue paint.
"You sure you want to keep calling us names, asshole?" Nick asked, his face close to Cannon's.
Rome remained seated.
"We cleared our schedules for the day just so we could spend this time with you, Mr. Cannon. Now, this can take another few minutes or it can take much, much longer. It's up to you."
It took Nick ramming his fist into the guy's back to get a gasping, "All right, all right, get this Neanderthal off me!"
"Neanderthals couldn't crack your skull with their teeth," Nick said before dropping Cannon's limp body onto the floor. "I can, you sorry sonofabitch."
In the time they'd had Richard Cannon in their custody they'd learned a few more disturbing things about him, one of which started with the pictures he'd had on his office computer of Nivea posed in a way a father should never see their child. They'd also found receipts from Comastaz and invoices that they hadn't quite figured out yet. All of that, coupled with Cannon's apparent distaste of the Shadows had Nick a little on edge and a lot repulsed. Rome didn't blame him, and so he hadn't bothered to stop him or to help Cannon get up off the floor.
"I'm still waiting," he said after the man had attempted to get up only to land flat on his face again.
Finally, he simply rolled over onto his back, his hands flapping like a fish out of water over his chest as he continued to heave for his breath.
"It's research," Richard finally coughed out. "Research to help the humans catch up to where we are. I'm only helping them to even the playing field when this shit finally hits the fan!"
Nick had been about to kick him when Rome stood abruptly, blocking Richard from his friend's reach. Leaning down, he grabbed the front of Cannon's shirt, lifting his top half off the floor.
"How exactly were you helping them, you piece of shit? What else did you give them besides money?"
Rome hadn't thought about it until just a few seconds ago, the moment Richard said he'd been helping to level the playing field. He thought about those invoices they'd found in Cannon's office. The papers that documented hundreds of units shipped directly to the labs. Rome frowned. If Cannon was saying what Rome thought he was, so help the sick bastard. If Nick didn't rip his head off, Rome was very likely to.
"The unwanteds," Cannon said, looking Rome directly in the eye. "I gave him what your people in the rain forest didn't want. They cast them aside, said they were born of the wrong class of shifter and could not stand with them. So I brought them over here. I found somewhere for them to be useful since, because of their unfortunate lineage, they had no place on this earth."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Nick asked.
Rome let Richard's body drop to the floor, standing and backing away from him as he felt his cat rising up inside, ready to shift, ready to pounce. To restrain himself, he turned away from the man, rubbing a hand down his face as Nick repeated, "What the hell are the unwanteds?"
At his side, Rome's fists clenched as he dropped his head. "That's what they call the children in the Gungi whose parents have been found to be rogues, or descendants of rogues. Elder Alamar reported on this when the Stateside Assembly was just being formed. The tribes in the rain forest were now afraid that the rogue trait was hereditary. I didn't believe it until Lidia Morales arrived here with Brayden Sanchez. She's Sabar's niece and apparently was ostracized for that relation. That's why the Sanchezes finally took her abroad with them. She was a big part of the reason Sabar had targeted the Sanchez brothers when he first began building his army."
"Wait a minute," Nick said incredulously.
Before his friend could start speaking again, Rome turned to face him, nodding his head. "Yes, that's exactly what I mean. This piece of crap's been sending shifter children to Crowe at Comastaz and Crowe's been picking them apart to continue building those damned hybrids."
"Because he couldn't get his hands on my daughter," Nick finished for Rome. "He couldn't get her DNA so they settled for what they thought was distorted shifter DNA. And the only way they would have known that was from a sneaking traitor like this."
The kick that landed in Richard's gut could not have been prevented even if Rome wanted to. The man curled into a fetal position and Nick landed another kick to his spine.
"Don't kill him," Rome said in a level but commanding tone. "He should suffer the same way he made those kids suffer. Spend some time with him and then lock him up again."
He was leaving the room when he heard the man land another kick. Nick was fuming; everything they'd learned from Cannon coupled with the still fresh memory of his daughter being kidnapped had the shifter at his breaking point. Now, with the knowledge that Richard Cannon had sent other shifter children to the fate that could have been Shya's — that was a rage that Rome could not begin to explain. As angry and as hurt as he was with the discovery, he knew it was worse for Nick. And so he'd left him with Cannon, but he'd given the order not to kill. This meant Nick would not kill the shifter, but he would beat him until the bastard wished he were dead.
* * *
"I was just on my way out," Nivea said when she'd opened the door to her room, only to find the First Female and X's mate, Caprise, standing in the doorway.
She'd awakened once again to Eli being gone. That man sure did like to perform a disappearing act, especially after sex. Emotionally drained from seeing her father and telling Eli all that had happened between them, and more than a little agitated with her so-called mate for leaving her once again, she wasn't really in the mood for chitchat. And she especially was not in the mood for two of the highest-ranking mated females in the Assembly and whatever they felt they needed to say to her.
"We won't take up much of your time," Kalina said. "We just thought it might be time for us to talk."
Realizing that she was standing in the doorway, actually blocking the First Female from entering her room, Nivea moved to the side, swaying her arm as invitation for them to come in. When the door was closed she took a deep breath and prayed she would handle this the way she should, that she wouldn't show the attitude that was brimming just beneath the surface, that her agitation would remain in check, that ...
"Look, I can tell you're not in a very good mood." Caprise spoke first. She was a tall and exotically gorgeous female with thick black hair hanging almost to her waist. She'd just begun guard training a few months ago, but Nivea had seen her in the training center and knew she was a natural at defensive tactics, just like her older brother, Nick. Caprise was also a trained dancer and had a grace about her that bordered on the overtly sexy, which kept her mate, X, on his toes. Of the two ladies standing across from her, Caprise was definitely the most candid. Nivea could so appreciate that.
"No. I'm not," she admitted and then took a deep breath, expelling it slowly. "But I do not want to take it out on either of you. So if we could possibly do this later ..."
Kalina shook her head.
"No. Unfortunately, there are a couple of things I'd like to ask you about the incident at the cabin. Did you or did you not see Agent Dorian Wilson there that night?"
Okay, that was a little better, Nivea thought with an inward sigh. She could talk about Wilson and the cabin. That was her job. What she didn't want to talk to them about was her father or Eli or anything related to those two people.
"Eli and I followed Agent Wilson to the cabin," she started, willing her hands to remain still at her sides. "Fifteen minutes after he went inside, two other men showed up, and then two more."
"So there were five men in total in that cabin and two ended up dead?" Caprise asked.
"Right," Nivea conceded. "And I have no idea where the other three went, mostly because I hadn't been able to identify two of them. As for Wilson, X received reports from his contact at the Bureau that the man is MIA. I've been to his apartment twice every day. No car, mail falling out of its box. Nothing."
"And you think that's normal?" Kalina asked her.
Nivea shook her head. "No. Not normal. Then again there was nothing normal about Wilson's obsession with us."
"He thought he knew what we were doing," Kalina said, turning away from them and walking a few steps across the room. She turned back, a finger resting on her chin. "From the start he thought he knew who and what Roman was. Then he decided to come after X. I told him he was wrong and I warned him to back off."
"Hardheaded S.O.B., ain't he?" Caprise added with a smirk.
"But he's not stupid," Kalina replied. "And continuing to come after us was just stupid. Dorian should have known better, he should have backed off."
Nivea could see where the First Female was going with this conversation as she'd been down that road herself. She just hadn't had the time to follow up on that particular hunch. "Unless he found others who shared his assumptions. If those men in the cabin were ones that thought they knew everything about us as well, they would have had a common bond. A reason to meet in a secluded spot."
"And if there was somebody that didn't want them to really figure out what we are, then there would be anger, blood, death," Caprise added. "All three of which were found in that cabin."
Nivea let out a shaky breath.
"You think a shifter was in that cabin?"
"X said there was a rogue scent in the hospital room where that guy Eli beat the hell out of was killed," Caprise offered. She'd been moving around as they talked, looking at everything on Nivea's dresser, from her deodorant to the Betty Boop lunch box where she kept her fancy jewelry.
Now the guard had turned to face them, crossing her arms over her chest as she thought about what she'd just said.
"Rogues usually don't care who knows about us," Nivea commented, thinking about what was being said. She'd relaxed a little having the women in her personal space, thinking of them as her two sisters for a moment. She leaned against the wall by the bathroom.
"Their goal is to wreak as much havoc in the human world as possible," she continued.
"And killing a human that's just been beat down by a Shadow in a hospital room surrounded by other humans would be right at the top of the wreak havoc meter, don't you think?" Kalina asked.
"Sonofabitch!" Caprise yelled.
Nivea had to agree with her. "So whoever killed the wannabe investigators in the cabin is the same one who killed Rimas at the hospital. Because what better way to get humans riled up than to start killing them off without any regard? We all know rogues don't give a damn who they kill, just that it gets this war between humans and shifters going a little sooner."
Kalina was nodding. "Right. The question now is who is controlling these rogues, because there's no doubt that the real way to get humans up in arms would be for one of them to simply shift in a public place."
Caprise snapped her finger as if she'd just thought of something. "Just like when Sabar was alive and running the rogues. He wanted to kill humans, but he also needed them to keep buying his drugs, so he didn't have the rogues just running through the streets in cat form."
"So somebody new is pulling their strings. Just as Eli and the other guys believe someone is working along with Crowe. What are the odds that this 'someone' could be the same person controlling the rogues and Crowe's hybrid project?" Nivea asked.
Kalina cursed. "We need to figure out who this bastard is."
"And take his ass down, now!" Caprise completed. "Are you off your house arrest?" she asked, looking over to where Nivea stood.
She couldn't help it, Nivea gave the female a warning glare, which resulted in Caprise's impulsive laughter.
"I'd say her shoulder looks pretty healed to me," Kalina added. "Besides, it's gonna have to be the two of you on the outside. Ever since Rome found out I was pregnant, I've been living under a microscope. I'm actually surprised he hasn't sent Jax to come in here and haul me back into our room and into that bed that I'm thoroughly sick of lying in."
"What?" Nivea asked, coming closer. "Wait, you're pregnant?"
"I am," Kalina said with a proud grin, her palm going immediately to her stomach.
Caprise shook her head. "All this domestication around here is really cramping my style."
"Ah, congratulations," Nivea finally managed after she tore her gaze from Kalina's stomach and her mind from the loud scream of disappointment.
Ary and Nick were mated and they had a child.
Ezra and Dawn were mated and could barely keep their hands off each other. Bas and Priya were talking about a huge wedding. And Caprise, she was so in love with X she didn't know what to do with herself, despite her bravado.
Excerpted from Primal Heat: Part 3 by A.C. Arthur. Copyright © 2015 A.C. Arthur. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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