Passion is a primal force to be reckoned with in this final, breathtaking installment of the Shadow Shifters e-serial.
Powerful werejaguar Eli is sworn to serve his leader, to protect his kind. But he has fallen completely under Nivea's spell...and there's no turning back. He knows what he must do-and the risks he must take. Now, the battlelines are drawn: man versus animal, shapeshifter versus shapeshifter. Eli must be prepared to fight for his life-and his love-or he will lose Nivea forever...in Primal Heat, the last of the Shadow Shifter novels by A.C. Arthur.
"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 4
By A.C. Arthur
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 A.C. Arthur
All rights reserved.
"Women," Rome said as he leaned forward, placing the phone receiver into its cradle before easing back into his burgundy leather office chair. "Female shifters, I should say, are something else."
Eli, who had been standing at the window looking down onto the streets of downtown D.C., seeing the people and cars milling about, turned slowly at the sound of his Leader's voice.
"I guess it's a good thing shifter pregnancies do not last as long as human ones," Eli replied, very uneasy talking to Rome about his mate.
Rome nodded, a smile that Eli didn't see often ghosting his face. "Twelve to eighteen weeks," he said. "Well, she's already five weeks along so more like seven to thirteen weeks to go."
The usually composed and reticent Assembly Leader clasped his hands, released them, and then used one to smooth down his goatee. He rubbed both hands down his thighs, then looked up at Eli as if just remembering he wasn't in the room alone.
"It's not all that bad, you know," Rome told him.
"What isn't? Being a pregnant female or being the mate that's waiting for said pregnant female to give birth?" He chuckled and slipped his hands into his pockets.
Eli wasn't wearing his normal guard uniform. Whenever Rome went into the office or to court, Eli wore dress slacks and a button- down shirt and tie so that he appeared to be more of a colleague than a bodyguard. Today it was all gray, a color that signified his mood. Still, he had a job to do and he planned to do it no matter how he was feeling.
"Being mated," Rome said seriously.
Eli didn't reply. He didn't know what Rome expected him to say, or what he was comfortable revealing. In the past few days he'd come to the conclusion that there was just too much that wasn't a certainty in his life and he wasn't pleased by that fact.
"You know, Shadow Shifters are born to mate. And they mate for life," Rome told him as if Eli didn't already know this part of their history.
"Like Boden and Acacia," he said without really meaning to. Ever since the dream, no, the vision where Nivea was wearing Acacia's joining necklace, Eli had been thinking a lot about that particular shifter couple.
Rome nodded. "That was an unlikely pairing, I admit. But once that connection is made there's really no breaking it. Teodoro tried and it ended badly."
"It hasn't ended," Eli snapped. "That motherfucker is here now looking for some measure of revenge."
Rome held up a hand, his elbow now resting on the desk. "Whoa, let's not get off track here. Boden is back and it's to bring his own brand of hell and damnation to all of the Shadows. Because he believes we all betrayed him and conspired to have him murdered. Don't think for one minute that his mission is solely aimed at you or Ezra."
Eli sighed, shaking his head. "Nah, not solely, Rome. But he's gunning for us too. How else do you explain him sending me that necklace?"
The morning after the vision, Eli had gone straight to Ezra's room with the necklace in hand. His brother had taken the news a lot better than Eli had, possibly because Dawn had been sitting right beside him, her hand on his thigh while he held the necklace in his hands. Eli had unsuccessfully tried to ignore that little show of support. An hour later the twins had stood in front of Rome, Nick, and X, giving them a rundown of how what happened in the Sierra Leone rain forest connected to the necklace and verified Boden's reappearance. He was the only one who would have had possession of the necklace he'd intended to give his mate the night of their joining — the night that Teodoro had Boden taken away.
"Yes, he wants a piece of you and Ezra because you dared to touch his mate," Rome continued slowly. "That's precisely the point I'm trying to make to you about shifters and their mating, Eli. It's not something you can make go away or attempt to ignore."
"On the mating level, this has nothing to do with me," Eli said, knowing full well how absolutely wrong that statement was.
Rome simply stared at him until Eli found himself dropping into one of the guest chairs across from Rome's desk and resting his elbows on his gaped thighs. "Look, I know what my limitations are. I know why I'm here and what my mission is. That's what's important." He didn't look up at the Assembly Leader, didn't want to see the look of disbelief he figured the shifter would have.
"Your mate is important, Eli. That's what Nivea was trying to make you see." Rome gave a little chuckle then. "I have to admit, it's been kind of entertaining watching her give you and every other male shifter at Havenway a cold shoulder the likes of which shifters living in Siberia wouldn't be able to stand. She's been one angry cat lately."
"Tell me about it," Eli said. She'd been angry and he'd been lonelier than he'd ever imagined he could be.
"But it's because she sees so clearly what you allow to be blurred. I heard her tell Kalina she'd like to take your shades and ram them down your throat since you depend on them so much to hide who you really are and what you're really feeling. Even though I thought that was a bit drastic, I trembled at the notion that she would actually do it if given the opportunity." Rome sighed. "You hurt her, man. You hurt her pretty bad."
Eli cursed, slamming his back against the chair and looking to Rome. "I didn't mean to. The one thing that's been constant and true in my mind is that I never wanted to hurt her. There's nothing I wouldn't do to keep her from ever suffering again. Only the grace of some higher deity is keeping Richard Cannon alive and breathing in that cell."
"I hear you," Rome said with a nod. "But none of those words are what Nivea wants to hear, and I can guarantee you that none of them will ease the pain she's enduring right now."
"She's reunited with her sisters. I see them going out to dinner and shopping and whatever else they do all the time now."
"You know everything they're doing, Eli. Don't try to fool me. You're watching her more closely now than you have in the last few months."
Eli didn't speak.
"Yeah, I know you assigned Prince and Naz to guard her whenever she wasn't out in the field with you, which has been less than I would like since you're still responsible for her continued training."
Eli was about to say something but Rome stood from his chair, raising a brow that silenced him.
"What I'm saying to you is coming from the man, Eli. Not your Leader or boss or any of that crap. I'm talking to you man to man, shifter to shifter, because over these past years you and Ezra have become a part of my family." Rome had circled the desk and now leaned against its edge as he stared squarely at Eli. "Accept it. Go to her on your knees begging she forgive you for being an ignorant ass and claim her. Claim your mate and make it known to the entire tribe that she belongs to you. Because if you don't ..." Rome paused. "Just do it, man, because it's the right thing to do and because it's painfully obvious how much turmoil you're suffering by being apart from her."
"You don't understand," Eli started to say.
Rome leaned forward, clapping a hand on his shoulder. "I understand completely about thinking you're unworthy and doubting what your true destiny is. I fought my own for years. So I know firsthand just how futile it is. Embrace what was meant to be and get ready to have your mate fight this war by your side. We're all going to need every defense we can muster and love is a much stronger one than weapons."
Sure, Rome's words sounded good, they didn't call him the Lethal Litigator for nothing. The man could deliver closing arguments that changed every mind on a jury when he needed to. And when necessary he stood in front of the Assembly of Stateside Elders and representatives from the Gungi and told them how he was going to run his division of the shifters. That's what he'd just done with Eli. He'd laid it all out so simply and so tight that Eli couldn't figure out how to swivel around anything he'd said. He'd known Rome's words were right, but that didn't make doing what the Leader said any easier.
Luckily for Eli, there was a hurried knock at Rome's office door before it flew open, a very excited Thelma, Rome's secretary, running inside.
"Mr. Reynolds, something's happened," she said, one hand still holding the doorknob, the other fluttering at her neck. "Security came up and said they want to lock down the building. They've called the police and animal control."
"Wait a minute," Rome said to her as he walked to where she stood. "What are you talking about?"
"There's something ... I mean, a thing ... or I don't know, sir. I just came back from lunch and this van pulled up and soldiers got out and dropped this big ... animal. There's blood, oh my, so much blood," Thelma finished and made a sound that said she needed to be taken to the restroom quickly before she lost her lunch.
"Okay, fine. I'll handle it. You go on and get yourself together," Rome told her. "Don't leave this floor, Thelma. I want this building locked down."
Eli was already up when his cell phone vibrated on his hip. Yanking it out of the holder quickly he answered, "Yeah?"
"We got a problem," Aidan said. "There's a dead cougar in front of the police station."
"What?" Eli yelled into the phone, catching Rome's gaze as he pulled out his own phone to call building security. "Yeah," Eli continued. "We've got something here too."
In seconds Nick was in Rome's office. "What the hell is going on?"
"Aidan says there's a cougar in front of the police station," Eli told them.
"Let's get downstairs and see what the hell's out front," Rome said, moving past both of them.
Ezra stood to the rear of the elevator, Eli directly in front, blocking anyone else from boarding, while Nick and Rome stood side by side between them. They rode down in silence and walked out to utter pandemonium. There were people, other tenants of the building milling about, crowding the front foyer and blocking the view of the glass-fronted walls.
Nick yanked one of the security guards nearly off his feet, yelling into the man's face, "Get them the hell out of here!"
The man whistled for his coworkers, who immediately began shuttling the people to the back of the floor, away from the doors.
"We locked the doors, sir. We didn't want people rushing in from outside and we didn't want that thing in here," another guard said, looking back at the glass with disgust.
Rome barely acknowledged him but continued on to the glass doors, saying forcefully, "Unlock it."
The guard didn't move.
Then Rome yelled, "Now!"
The security guard's body literally shook as he moved to the doors, going down on one knee to insert his key into the lock and disengaging it. The door opened and screams and sirens sounded from the outside. Rome stepped out first, Nick right on his heels. Eli and Ezra came through the adjoining door, both standing with their backs to the sidewalk as Rome and Nick bent down to look at what was lying on the sidewalk in front of their building.
"Dammit!" Rome cursed.
"What the fucking hell is this?" Nick added as he pulled back the rest of the tarp that the dead cat was lying in.
Blood marred the sidewalk, its acrid stench rising up and floating on the cool day's breeze. Ezra cursed under his breath while Eli clenched his teeth. It was a shifter. Its head and claws had already changed to that of a jaguar while the rest of its human body, still garbed in the navy blue guard uniform, signified he was one of theirs.
"Who did this?" Nick was still yelling. "I want to know right now who left this here!"
Rome stood after pulling the tarp over the shifter. "Get a team in here to clean this up right away," he told Ezra. "Eli, you get the truck and meet me in the garage in ten minutes. We're going to see what other little presents have been left for us."
By the time Rome and Nick climbed into the back of the SUV, Eli had more bad news.
"A tiger was left at the hospital. Papplin had it put in a body bag and taken to the morgue. He's waiting for X to come and pick it up."
Nick slammed a fist into the seat in front of him, while Rome remained silent.
"What else?" the Assembly Leader asked.
Eli replied, "They were each one of our guards."
* * *
"This is a state-of-the-art facility," Kalina said to Priya as she sat on the caramel-colored leather couch on the other side of Priya's office.
"I know," Priya replied, sitting back in the matching chair positioned to the right of where Kalina sat. "Your husband sure knows how to design a headquarters."
They were at the brand-new Assembly Headquarters located in Prince George's County, Maryland. It was a fifteen-story building constructed out of steel and glass, rising into the sky with its innovative design and slick contemporary décor. Priya's office was a calm and soothing range of burgundy and beige, leather and marble. Everything that represented the confidence and unequivocal reign of the Stateside Assembly.
The fact that these two females were sitting with their feet up on the glass-topped coffee table having a relaxed conversation wasn't exactly the type of business that was meant for this office, but she was the First Female; she could do whatever she wanted. And what she wanted most right now was to talk about becoming a mother.
Rubbing her hand over the belly that just five weeks ago was flat as a board but now sported a nice round bump, Kalina looked down and sighed. "I cannot believe I'm doing this," she told Priya. "I never wanted to have children before."
Priya looked over at her quizzically. "Really? I would have thought you and Rome were dying to start a family, what with the way you both dote on Shya."
Kalina shook her head. "I was an orphan and I didn't see myself having a committed relationship. I always knew I didn't want to bring a child into this world without having something rock solid to offer him or her."
"And now you've got that," Priya said. "You've got it all, Mrs. Roman Reynolds. And I know plenty of women who would line up for the chance to walk in your shoes."
She shrugged. "That's because they don't really know what it's like. I'm a shape shifter about to give birth to her first child in about thirteen weeks. I have no idea how to be a mother to a little boy or girl, let alone a shifter girl or boy. And that's not saying anything about the situation we find ourselves in now." She looked over to Priya then and said honestly, "I don't know how this is going to turn out for us. So why would I pick now to become pregnant? Why would I want to bring another life into this turmoil?"
Priya stood, going to sit beside Kalina on the couch, taking the First Female's hands into hers. They hadn't known each other that long, but Kalina had taken a quick liking to Priya Drake. It was most likely because Priya was just like Kalina used to be, career-focused and tenacious. Neither of them had thought they'd find love and certainly not with a shape shifter, but here they were.
"You and Rome are doing what is natural for humans or any other species. As for the timing, well, that's never ideal and nobody could have foreseen Crowe's hybrids or Boden's plan of revenge," Priya said. "Besides, I have complete faith that the Shadows will come out on top and dispel all the evil that's currently swirling around you ... us," she corrected. "It's all going to come to a head soon and blow over just as quickly."
Kalina was about to agree, albeit still with her own inner misgivings, and hug Priya for her kindness when the door to Priya's office was thrust open and Jax came running in.
"Rome wants you back at Havenway, now!" he told her, reaching for her to take his hand so he could help her up off the chair.
"What's going on?" Priya asked instantly. "What happened?"
On the desk her cell phone rang. Jax looked at her. "Answer it and you'll be filled in."
He took Kalina's hand as she stood up, staring at him. "Tell me, Jax."
"Let's get you to the truck and I'll tell you what I know."
She nodded, knowing better than to stand there wasting time arguing.
"Okay, let's go," she said, grabbing her purse.
Within fifteen minutes Kalina was whisked from the office on the sixth floor, down to the parking garage, and into the back of the black Suburban she always traveled in with Jax. She was snapping her seat belt when Jax climbed in from the other side, talking as he put on his seat belt. By the time he'd given her the rundown of what had been happening while she sat languishing in the gorgeous headquarters offices, she was speechless.
"He murdered shifters and left them out in the open for anyone to see," she said quietly.
"He wrapped them up, but people on the street saw the heads and the blood and news crews are all over the place. Traffic's going to be rough getting out of the city, but Rome wants you safe so that's what we're going to do."
Excerpted from Primal Heat: Part 4 by A.C. Arthur. Copyright © 2015 A.C. Arthur. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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