Primal Mirror

Primal Mirror

Primal Mirror

Primal Mirror

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Daughter of two ruthless high-Gradient telepaths, Auden Scott is not the child her Psy parents wanted or expected, even before her brain injury. Her thoughts are scattered, her memories fuzzy—or just terrifyingly blank. The only thing she knows for certain is that she must protect her unborn baby . . . a baby she has no recollection of conceiving and who draws an unnerving depth of interest from her dead mother's closest associates.

Leopard alpha Remi Denier is a man driven by the primal instinct to protect. Protect his pack, protect his allies . . . and protect the mysterious woman who has become a most unlikely neighbor. With eerie eyes that see too much and a scent that alters in ways disturbing and impossible, Auden Scott is the enemy . . . but nothing about this strange Psy is what it seems, and Remi's feline heart is as fascinated by her as his human half.

Then Auden asks Remi to help her shatter the wall of secrets that is the Scott bloodline. What they unearth will reveal a nightmare beyond imagination. This time, the battle is to the death . . .

Contains mature themes.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9798874796242
Publisher: Tantor
Publication date: 07/23/2024
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x (d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

About The Author
New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh is passionate about writing. Though she's traveled as far afield as the deserts of China, the temples of Japan, and the frozen landscapes of Antarctica, it is the journey of the imagination that fascinates her most. She's beyond delighted to be able to follow her dream as a writer.

She is the author of the Guild Hunter series, including Archangel's Resurrection, Archangel's Light, and Archangel's Sun. She is also the author of the Psy-Changeling novels, including Resonance Surge, Storm Echo, and Last Guard, and three stand-alone novels, There Should Have Been Eight, A Madness of Sunshine, and Quiet in Her Bones.

Angela Dawe is an actor, writer, and audiobook narrator based in the Midwest. Her work as an actor has included roles in theater, film, and television, as well as improv and sketch comedy with such theaters as Second City and the Annoyance. In the literary world, Angela has received multiple awards and nominations for her work as an audiobook narrator, and is a published fiction author herself. She holds a BA in philosophy, so if the writing/performing work dries up, she has something to fall back on.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

"Stand down. I have your squadmate in the truck."

-Remington Denier, alpha of RainFire, to Aden Kai, leader of the Arrow Squad, one storm-lashed night (April 9, 2082)

Remi swore under his breath.

He'd been hoping that what he'd picked up hadn't been conscious movement, merely branches breaking in the aftermath of the rainstorm that had passed over this part of the Smoky Mountains an hour earlier.

But what was happening on the land adjacent to his pack's northernmost border had nothing to do with nature. Remi and his people, as well as their very dangerous friends, the Arrow Squad, had been attempting to trace the ownership of that land since two senior Arrows had woken up badly wounded in the single building that sat on the land: a flat square bunker created of old-fashioned concrete.

Back then, it had been draped in camouflage netting and dead foliage. These days, the walls were covered with moss and lichen, the concrete itself dirty and marked by exposure to the elements. Two or three more decades, and the creeping tendrils of the forest would overpower it until nothing of the bunker showed to the naked eye.

Remi would've been fine with that-though he'd much rather have found the owner. The Arrows knew who'd been behind their capture, but they hadn't been able to tie any member of that group to this land. At first, it appeared the trail ended with the name of a deceased five-year-old child, but that had turned out to be just another misdirection.

Last Remi had heard, the squad's civilian specialist had landed on another faceless shell corporation. "Whoever did the paperwork to hide ownership," Tamar had muttered, "they were good, did all the same things I would have. Trail's circular and eats its own tail."

As it was, the Arrows had had to shelve the search for the time being. The PsyNet, the psychic network that connected the majority of the Psy on the planet and that the other race needed to survive, was breaking down at a catastrophic rate. The squad had focused their power and attention on that looming threat to millions of lives.

"As it is," the leader of the squad-and Remi's friend-Aden Kai had said, "we've poisoned that location for the owner, regardless. No way to run black ops out of it anymore, not when they know it's in our crosshairs."

Now, eyes narrowed, Remi leaned one shoulder against a mature yellow birch, its spring-green leaves a falling rain around him, and watched the small gathering in the clearing in front of the bunker: two women, three men, all of them in suits a little too lightweight for the temperature at this elevation.

The older woman-maybe in her early fifties-was a tall and very thin brunette with skin of pale brown and eyes that appeared dark from this distance. She looked to be in charge, the three men listening intently to whatever it was that she was saying.

The younger woman stood apart, her possibly curly black hair viciously contained in a knot at the back of her head, her skin an ebony that glowed even in the cloud-heavy light. She was on the taller side for a woman, maybe five eight, and wore a black skirt suit paired with a white shirt, her black heels so unsuitable for this terrain that it was laughable.

That wasn't what caught his attention.

It was that the woman wasn't simply silent and uninvolved in the discussion. She didn't appear to be present, her expression seeming lax as she stared into the distance away from both Remi and the other group. Though all he could see of her was her profile, the way she stood-her arms loose at her sides, her body swaying the slightest amount, confirmed that something wasn't quite right.

Shifting his attention off her because she wasn't the threat, he zeroed in on the brunette. But no matter how much he strained, he couldn't pick up on the conversation. The group was just a fraction too far away for even his leopard's acute hearing.

Which left him with only one real choice.

He straightened, and was about to prowl out of the trees when the younger woman jerked her head in his precise direction.

Her eyes were a hauntingly eerie blue, moonstone made liquid.

Remi sucked in a breath. His leopard surged to the surface of his skin at the same time, Remi's own eyes shifting to the yellow-green of the primal creature that was the other half of his self.

The cat's response wasn't, however, aggressive. It was . . . more complicated. As if the cat was compelled and repelled by her in equal measures. The animal within Remi had belatedly realized the same thing the human part of him already had: she might be strikingly beautiful, but even with her expression no longer distant and vacant, her body held with tension, something about her raised his hackles.

Still, aware that he couldn't afford to scare her, Remi allowed the human side of him to rise to the surface once again as the woman began to walk toward him. The others didn't look to be paying attention to her, but, soon, the most heavyset of the men turned to follow her.

Then the older woman called out to him, and the man returned to the huddle around her without giving the blue-eyed woman a second glance.

Not worried. Why should they be?

After all, they were meant to be alone in the wilderness.

In truth, they should have been alone. The heart of RainFire's territory lay a significant distance away-but that didn't mean Remi and his packmates didn't patrol this area on a regular basis. It would've been stupid in the extreme to leave an unguarded threat on their border.

No one came after the younger woman even when she walked into the trees, but Remi stepped forward so she wouldn't come too far. Right now, given the shadows thrown by the other trees immediately around them-a mix of maple and beech along with a stand of poplar-the others would still be able to see the back of her body, but would have no chance of spotting Remi.

"Good morning," he said as he took a deep inhale of her scent in an instinctive changeling act.

Scents could tell you a lot about a person.

Hers was . . . problematic. Erratic in the most abnormal way he'd ever sensed. He'd never usually use that term about a person-each person's normal was their own, scent a very unique marker-but it was the only one that suited this specific situation.

Her scent fit none of the parameters for a sentient being. Had it been formed of light, he'd have said the rays were reflecting off a funhouse mirror that distorted everything. Muddy and sluggish and with too many pieces to it, it made his leopard snarl.

Those extraordinary eyes-such a striking translucent hue-held his for a split second before drifting away.

He didn't mistake it for an act of submission.

Lost in her own world, this woman likely didn't hold anyone's eyes.

It would've been easy to peg her as neurologically atypical, but that didn't sit right either. Not when her scent was so wrong. He'd interacted with others through the years who wouldn't meet his eyes in the same way, but their scents had read as natural nonetheless.

Never had he met anyone with such a fragmented and unsettled scent . . . almost as if she wasn't a whole person at all, rather a collection of disparate pieces that clashed and broke against each other.

The hairs on his nape prickled.

Yet he didn't do anything to stop her when she reached for his hand. He couldn't, however, keep his leopard's claws from pushing out of his skin or his eyes from shifting back to those of his cat. That cat's initial fascination with her had turned into a confused protectiveness: it didn't want to hurt her, seeing her as wounded, but it also didn't want her too close.

She didn't pause or stare at his clawed hands, continuing on her trajectory until her fingers grazed the face of his mobile comm unit. Small as an ordinary watch, the thing was pristine even more than ten years after its purchase . . . because Remi had never been able to make himself use it except for this one day every year.

Her birthday.

"I know you'll never spend this kind of money on yourself," his mother had said with a smile right before the end, when she'd insisted he take it. "You and your dragon's hoard."

All those years he'd been denying his instincts to nurture and protect a pack, determined he'd never be an alpha, he'd still hardly spent anything. He'd told himself he was saving for retirement . . . even when he'd believed with every fiber of his being that he'd fuck up his life well before then.

"Rem-Rem." A whisper of a word from the woman with the muddy scent.

One that kicked him right in the gut.

"So tired." She swayed left and right. "My wrist is so thin this is falling off. Wonder if my Rem-Rem will figure out I bought it for him in the first place."

Remi fought not to strike out, not to react in a rage of grief. Because she couldn't be reading his mind. Changeling shields were too powerful. She'd have had to launch a violent telepathic assault before she could have ever gotten to his memories-and such an assault would've probably destroyed his brain in the process.

Whatever this was, it wasn't mind reading.

"It's my mother's," he said, his voice harsh. "She left it to me." She was also the only person in the entire world who'd called him Rem-Rem. But only when they were alone together. Because it was a little boy's name, and "oh my Rem-Rem, what a man you've become"-words she'd spoken to him more than once, her eyes shining with love.

But the blue-eyed woman who knew his deepest memories was listening only to her own internal voice. "One last gift." Her face softened. "My boy, I'm so proud of you." Her lashes quivered, her eyes staring hard into nothing. "Cake. Brown cake. Small brown cakes."

"Chocolate cupcakes." His mother's favorite; she'd baked them at least once a week.

Later, after she was too sick, he'd baked them for her.

"Pieces of color. Tiny pieces of color on the small brown cakes." A blink that appeared to have been forced by her watering eyes. "It hurts." She pressed a hand to her stomach. "Oh, it hurts." Then she made soft sounds . . . that were an exact mimicry of his mother's small heart monitor signaling an emergency alert.

Remi jerked away his hand.

She stumbled, swayed.

Feeling like shit, though his face was hot, his grief tangled with anger at the intrusion into the most painful part of his past, he gripped her upper arm to stabilize her. A jolt under him before her head shifted, her eerie, beautiful eyes meeting him head-on.

At that instant, there was no lack of clarity to her, no fuzziness to the edges of her.

And no muddiness in her scent.

It was complex, and bright, and intoxicating.

"She was happy the last time she wore that watch." Clear words, the intent in them potent. "No pain, just comfort at being with you, at lying by the window in the sun, with the forest just outside.

"She was so proud of what she'd accomplished in life. You were her greatest pride . . ." Gaze turning dull and unfocused, her eyes drifting away, her muscles going slack under his grip . . . and her scent twisting once more in that funhouse mirror.

Shaken, he released her.

She turned and walked back the way she'd come, until she stood in the same spot as when he'd first seen her. But she'd left carnage in her wake.

Bending down, his hands on his thighs, he gulped in lungfuls of air as his mind filled with memories of the mother who'd brought him up with love and heart and courage. She'd also held his feet to the fire when needed, especially during his teenage years, when he'd wanted to rage at the entire world.

"You sit your ass down, Remington, and we'll have this out until I know what's hurting you." Fierce eyes of palest brown locked with his, her leopard a golden glow on the edges of her irises. "No son of mine is going to go off the rails because he's got a fear inside him that he's allowing to fester."

Her strong, capable hands cupping his face, holding him in place. "You are not only your father's son, Rem-Rem, you are also your mother's son. Don't you ever forget that."

You were her greatest pride . . .

His throat closed up. How could a Psy know to say that? How could a Psy understand what a blow it struck to his weathered but never-forgotten grief to know that his mother had died proud of the man he'd become?

In the sun, in her favorite chair, in the little cottage he'd built for her when she got too tired and sick to get up to her aerie. She'd wanted to die at home, not in the antiseptic environs of a hospital. "I'm dying anyway, baby boy." A husky whisper of memory. "I'd rather spend my last days surrounded by the green that's always fed my wild heart."

So he'd brought her home, and when she'd asked, he'd carried her outside, into the trees. But she'd been content to spend most days in her favorite armchair, next to an open window from where she could watch the world while the sun caressed her face.

She'd shifted in that sunlight one last time right before the end: a leopard who was too thin, whose bones stuck out against her pelt. But who'd sighed in contentment as her eyes closed, her head placed on her forelegs as if she was just taking a lazy afternoon nap. His last memory of his mother, sunbeams dancing over the black and gold of her.

. . . lying by the window in the sun . . .

How could this strange Psy with the broken scent know any of that?

It took effort for him to rise to his full height, even more effort for him to retract his claws into his body. His leopard was right at the forefront of his mind, and he knew his eyes hadn't yet returned to their human shade.

He had to get that under control if he was going to talk to the group. Because he was certain the woman with the unnerving presence that disturbed both man and leopard on a fundamental level hadn't said a thing to them about him, telepathically or otherwise. They remained in the exact same positions, while she stood there rocking back and forth, her arms hugging her curvy body.

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