Prodigal Sonthe new paranormal romance from acclaimed historical romance author Debra Mullins
Bounty hunter Rafe Montana is a Seer, descended from the fabled Atlanteans. He uses his inherited power to "see" criminals across the globe and track them down, and he's just started on a new case. Danny Cangialosi is accused of disappearing with a stolen car…but for the first time in his life, when Rafe goes looking, he is unable to "see" him. Instead, his search leads him to Danny's stubborn, meddling, and very cute stepsister, Cara McGaffigan.
Cara is looking for Danny, too, but not to turn him in. He is her brother, after all, and she's convinced he has a good heart. If she can just find him before the cops do, she'll figure out a way to get him out of this. But Cara didn't count on a scorching-hot bounty hunter getting in her way.
Despite instant chemistry, Rafe and Cara know they're never going to see eye-to-eye when it comes to Danny. What they don't know is that Danny didn't just steal a carhe stole a precious stone, a stone right out of the legends of Atlantis. It holds powers they can only dream of…and its owner wants it back.
About the Author
DEBRA MULLINS is an award-winning author of historical and paranormal romances, including Prodigal Son. She has been nominated for the Holt Medallion, the Rita from Romance Writers of America, and the National Readers Choice Award. When not writing, Mullins is reading or traveling or working on her family treesometimes all at the same time. Born and raised in the New York/New Jersey area, she now lives in California with her family, where she doesn't miss snowstorms in the least and continues her search for real pizza.
Read an Excerpt
The diner had seen better days.
The smells encompassed Rafe Montana as he walked in: fresh coffee and the lingering aroma of bacon, burgers, and fries served twenty-four hours a day. At this hour of the night, fluorescent lighting glared off the red vinyl of the empty booths, emphasizing without pity every rip and patch. A Formica counter stretched the length of the far wall, and a waitress nursed both a steaming cup and a magazine near the coffee machine at the end. She looked up at the sound of his booted feet on the worn tile, her heavy mascara failing to disguise the fatigue in her eyes.
“Sure.” She waved a hand in the direction of the empty dining room, then dropped her eyes back to her magazine. “Menu’s on the table. Let me know when you’re ready.”
“Thanks.” He slid into the booth facing the restrooms, on the side where the door would swing toward him. He took a menu from the holder and opened it to block his face. And to give his damn hands something to do so they wouldn’t shake like some rookie’s.
He had to do this. He was the only one who could.
His gut clenched. He kept thinking about the job, tied himself in knots over it. He gritted his teeth, his fingers tightening on the menu before he blew out a deep, slow breath and forced himself to relax. If he wasn’t the one to do this, it would be someone else. And he had to look Jack Needham in the eye to find out the truth.
Seeing the truth was just the smallest part of what he could do, along with the way he sometimes knew things, like nuggets of information dropped into his mind by the universe. And he could focus on a person and immediately see that person’s location. If the image was in color, the person was alive. Black and white, dead. All gifts, the family stories said, from some ancient ancestor in Atlantis. He could find anyone, anywhere.
He was a Hunter.
He’d used his power earlier to Hunt Jack. The vision he’d gotten had exploded with color and put his quarry right here in this run-down diner near the Nevada-Arizona border. When Jack came out of the men’s room, he would find Rafe waiting.
And Rafe would know for certain if Jack really was dirty.
When Rafe had first come to Vegas a few years ago, he’d had big dreams about using his truth-seeing gift to play professional poker. But nowadays the players usually wore sunglasses to hide their eyes, and the mojo wouldn’t work if he couldn’t see the eyes. So he went to plan B and became a bounty hunter. After a couple of years as a PI, he’d aced the training, gotten his license, and jumped right in. That’s how he’d met Jack.
His friend. His mentor. Now his prey.
None of these fellas would have any trouble with me if they hadn’t broken the law. They made the choice. Jack’s voice, about mellow as a rusty hinge, echoed in Rafe’s memories even now. How many times had he echoed Jack’s motto? Considered it gospel?
Rafe shook his head. He should have known better than to get caught up in the whole team thing. He was better off alone.
“You made the choice this time, Jack,” he murmured, his throat tight. “You broke the law.”
The restroom door swung open with a creak, momentarily blocking Rafe from Jack’s view. He had five, maybe ten seconds before Jack’s training would have him looking this way.
The door started to swing closed, and Rafe used the resulting squeak to cover the sound of his movements as he slid from the booth. He rose to his feet just as Jack turned his head. Their eyes met.
Rafe gave him a short nod. “Jack.”
“Damn, kid.” The older man swept a quick, assessing gaze over him, his dark eyes sharp. A half smile quirked his mouth. “Long time, no see.”
Yeah, Rafe hadn’t seen Jack in a while and was shocked by the tiny differences in his appearance. Deeper lines around his mouth and eyes in a face tanned by Nevada sun. More gray in his black hair than there used to be. A leaner, hungrier look that made his wiry body appear even thinner and, for some reason, made him look older than his fifty-nine years.
“So, did you do it?”
Jack jerked his gaze up, challenged him with his rigid posture. “Hell, no.”
Disappointment unraveled through him, merging with his churning misgivings and promising misery later. “You’ve been taking bribes to let skips go. Willie the Fish. John Allen. Martino Sanchez. And now you blew off your court date to make a run for Mexico.”
Surprise flickered across Jack’s face for just a second, before he squared his jaw and narrowed his eyes. “Where do you get your info, kid? I haven’t even left the state, much less thought about Mexico. And I thought the court date was tomorrow.”
Truth, lie, and lie.
Rafe wouldn’t allow himself to be fooled by the cajoling tone. His powers had never failed him, and he could see the cunning, the calculation, lurking in Jack’s gaze. He’d never thought Jack would lie, not to him. Betrayal sliced deep, shredding any lingering hope with cruel finality. In his book, there was never any excuse for screwing the people you cared about.
In a way, it made the situation easier. With friendship and trust destroyed, now there was only the job.
“The coyote is supposed to meet you here at two A.M.,” he said, responding to the inner prompt that suddenly fed him the information. “You were going to ditch your truck and ride with him to Naco, where he would hand you off to another coyote who would get you across the border.” He shook his head. “Bad plan. I don’t think a guy your height would fit behind the dashboard.”
Jack had stiffened more and more as Rafe laid out the scenario in a calm, sure tone. “You don’t know shit.”
“I know this.” Rafe took out his cuffs. “I know I have to take you in, Jack.”
“Like hell.” All pretense melted away. Jack leaned toward him, pointed a finger. “You don’t know, Montana. You don’t know what it’s like to work for years perfecting skills to get to the top, only to have some punk like you roll in and take it all away without breaking a sweat.”
Rafe flinched at the vicious attack. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“What’s the matter, rich boy? You get bored with corporate America? Needed to slum?” Jack took a step toward him, his familiar face a rictus of rage. “I worked my butt off making a name for myself, and then you show up. I decide to be a nice guy, show you the ropes. Then what happens? You start snagging all the good cases out from under me like some goddamn Vegas Mountie who always gets his man. Zero percent failure rate. What the hell? Your rich family got a bunch of PIs on the payroll or something?”
Truth and lies, tumbling over each other like dirty laundry, but Jack believed every word. Of course he’d checked out Rafe’s background, found out about his family. Rafe would have done the same thing. He didn’t discuss his family; he hadn’t seen or talked to any of them in years. That was safer for everybody. As for his success rate, what could he say? Hey, Jack, I have this psychic thing that tells me where all the skips are. Cold crept through him. He’d relaxed too much, used his powers too freely. Just like before. But at least no one had gotten hurt this time.
Lie. Jack had gotten hurt, however inadvertently.
Guilt pinched. But then again, Jack had made the choice to go bad. He could have found another way. That was on him, not Rafe.
“Say something.” Jack opened and closed his fists at his sides. “You ruined me. The money dried up. My girlfriend left me and took my bank account with her. No one wanted to hire me anymore, not for the good stuff. They had me chasing DUIs and deadbeat dads. That’s not me. I’m better than that.” He sucked in a shaky breath. “I had to find some way to survive.”
Rafe gave him a hard look. “By taking kickbacks? C’mon, Jack.”
“You’ll see what I mean.” Jack lifted his chin, glared. “This job burns the hell out of guys like us. A pace like you’ve been keeping? A couple of years from now, when you’re sitting alone in an empty house with your bones aching and all the innocence beaten out of your soul, easy money for looking the other way will seem like salvation.”
“No.” Rafe shook his head. “I won’t let it happen.”
“That’s what I said, too, kid.” Jack gave a hard laugh. “Just wait until some young hotshot shows up and muscles you out of the top spot.” He paused, his lips curving ever so slightly. “Unless you screw up before then. Like you did back in Arizona.”
The verbal sucker punch stole the breath from his lungs. He fought to keep steady. How the hell did Jack know about that? It wasn’t in any public record anywhere.
“Told you I’m good.” Jack narrowed his gaze, studying Rafe’s reaction with apparent satisfaction. “You got no woman, no friends, and a family you turned your back on. All you’ve got is the job, Montana, and when it’s gone, what are you gonna do? What will you have left?”
Nothing. Harsh truth, echoing down to his bones. Looking at Jack, Rafe realized he could be gazing at the reflection of his future self: lonely, bitter, fading into the shadows like some dusty legend.
Is that how he wanted to live his life? Is that how he wanted to go out?
Hell, no. But he had no choice. He couldn’t take the chance of risking any more lives.
Jack had a choice.
“You’re gonna dry up and blow away, just like the rest of us,” Jack sneered. “Better get used to it.” His gaze flitted to the windows, then back to Rafe.
The small movement triggered alarm bells. All it took was a thought, and the Hunter kicked in, showing Rafe a vision of a Latino guy in jeans, blue shirt, and a hat parking his ancient pickup at the far end of the parking lot outside. The coyote sat in the truck, engine running, and lit a cigarette before glancing at his watch. Rafe pushed the image away, focused on Jack.
The job was all he had, at least for now. And he was going to do it.
“Your coyote is here, Jack.” His ex-mentor jerked. Alarm flickered across his face before he masked it. Rafe pushed a little more. “So how long’s he going to wait for you? Five minutes? Ten on the outside?” Seconds ticked by in heartbeats and drips of sweat. “If you want out of this place, buddy, you’re going to have to get through me.”
Jack narrowed his eyes. “Fine.” And charged.
Rafe reached for the Hunter, channeling energy through the clear crystal he always wore beneath his shirt. His senses flared into battle mode, adrenaline flooding his system. His eyesight sharpened. His hearing heightened. He met Jack’s attack, shoving him in the chest with both hands. Jack flew back, skidding along the floor and crashing into a booth. His face hit the corner of the seat with a wet smack.
Rafe stalked down the aisle after him. The Hunter prowled in the back of his mind, not satisfied with just a taste. His muscles hummed with the strain it took to keep that side of himself at bay. He didn’t want to hurt Jack if he could help it. He opened up a little more, let some of the raw power ripple along his flesh in a blatant show of intimidation. The crystal grew hotter against his chest. Maybe the old man would pick up the energy and back down.
Jack got to his feet, his gaze calculating as he wiped blood from his mouth. “Not bad, kid.”
“Give it up, Jack. Don’t make it harder than it has to be.”
Jack curled his bleeding lip. “I never run from a fight.”
Stubborn old man. Rafe flexed his fingers, hungry for a little carnage. Taking Jack down was starting to seem like a good idea. Was that his thought, or the Hunter’s? Logic warred with raw instinct. “You won’t win.”
Jack flexed his shoulders. “I got a few tricks left.”
“Yeah?” Rafe opened a little more, let the predator show in the bared teeth of his smile, the narrowing of his eyes. “You haven’t seen all mine yet, either.”
The pickup outside revved its engine. Jack’s eyes widened. Panic flared in his expression, and he whipped out a knife. “Get out of the way, Montana.”
“Can’t do that, Jack.” The Hunter snapped at the leash, smelled the desperation in the air. Wanted to take down the prey—for good.
That would not, could not, happen. He was a civilized human being, damn it, not a wild animal. And blood always cost a price no one wanted to pay.
“I don’t want to hurt you, kid.”
Rafe saw the truth in his eyes. “Yes, you do. What you don’t want is to do time for murder.”
Jack blinked, then shrugged, his mouth curving with scorn. “Got me there. But I’ll take the chance if it means getting out of here.”
Him or me. You know he’ll kill you and not lose any sleep over it.
“Sorry, Jack.” With no other choice, he unleashed the Hunter completely, the power surging through the crystal, overwhelming Rafe Montana, making him something different, something other. His mind winked out.…
* * *
He came back to himself with a snap, disoriented, worried, a little sick to his stomach. The crystal seared like a brand. How long had it been this time? Seconds? Minutes?
Jack lay on the floor, his face battered. His nose looked broken, blood seeping everywhere. The copper tang scented the air, filling Rafe’s nose and lungs, coating his tongue. Slowly he removed his boot from Jack’s throat, his heart pounding, his labored breathing straining his aching ribs. The knife lay on the floor several feet away.
No, no, not again. Bitter bile rose in his throat. He opened his clenched fists and crouched down, pressed battered, bleeding fingers to Jack’s neck. Nearly keeled over when he felt the steady beat. Alive. He squeezed his eyes closed. Sent quiet thanks to the universe.
Outside, the screech of tires drew his attention. He rose and glanced out the window as the pickup peeled out of the parking lot. He blew out a slow breath and turned back to Jack. He had no beef with the coyote, not today.
A shuffle reminded him he wasn’t alone. He turned to look at the waitress. She froze in her tracks, halfway around the counter with her purse over her shoulder. He didnt need any special powers to read the terror in her eyes.
Damn it. He’d forgotten she was there. He took a deep breath and tried to smile. “It’s okay. Don’t be afraid.”
She drew back, wariness plain on her face. “I didn’t see anything.”
“I hope that’s not true, ma’am.” He reached into his pocket.
She screamed and crouched down, covered her head with her arms. “Don’t shoot me! I won’t say anything, really!”
“Hold on, hold on.” He yanked out his ID and held it up. “It’s just my wallet. Look, I’m a bail enforcement agent, and this man is a wanted fugitive.”
She peeked out between her arms, then slowly lowered them as she straightened. “What do you mean, bail enforcement agent?”
He shook his head, blamed Hollywood. “A bounty hunter. This is my ID. I’m one of the good guys.”
She tilted her head, considering him. “A real life bounty hunter, like on TV?”
“Yes. Like I said, I have ID. And my gun is still holstered.”
She gave a cynical laugh. “Pal, from what I saw, you don’t need no gun.”
He ignored the whisper of self-loathing that curled in his gut at the distrustful way she watched him. Very few had witnessed the Hunter in full action, and she seemed a little freaked. But he didn’t know how long Jack would stay out, and his cuffs had slid under the table during the fight. He had to take care of business before the burnout kicked in. Already his legs trembled with the beginning of the reaction.
You never got something for nothing in this world, and the price he paid for full-throttle Hunter equaled total physical shutdown for about twelve hours. He needed to get Jack in custody, and he needed her help to do it … before she had another unconscious body on the floor.
“Look—” He paused, flashed her an expectant glance.
“Vivian,” she offered.
“Vivian,” he echoed with a smile. “This guy is going to wake up eventually. You saw him pull a knife on me, right?”
“He’s dangerous, and I need to get him cuffed so he can’t hurt anyone. You can help me out by calling the cops while I do that.”
She considered for a moment longer, then nodded. “Okay. But you stay over there, got it? I don’t need you doing some crazy ninja moves on me like you did on that guy. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Her voice quivered, and he could see the doubt in her eyes as she remembered what had happened earlier. “I sure hope you’re the good guy you say you are.”
So do I. He smiled, trying to project reassurance. “Thank you, Vivian. I appreciate the help.” He ducked beneath the table and stood up again, holding the handcuffs where she could see them. “I’m going to cuff old Jack here, and you can call the police for me.”
“Guess a bad guy wouldn’t want the police, huh?” She went behind the counter, dumped her purse on the Formica and picked up the phone. Then she paused, her finger poised above the buttons. “So … you got a name or badge number or something I should give them?”
“My name is Rafe Montana.” He grabbed Jack’s arms and snapped the cuffs in place. “And Vivian, make sure you tell them we’re going to need an ambulance.”
As Rafe straightened, the diner tilted, then steadied. He groped for a booth, half fell into the seat. Vivian’s voice seemed to increase in volume as she reported the incident to the cops, though he knew she wasn’t shouting. Then the handset hit the cradle like a sonic boom. The ancient vinyl beneath him creaked like thunder as he started to slump into it. The crystal around his neck faded to warm, then cool.
“Hey, Rafe Montana, you all right?” Her voice scraped like sandpaper over his whacked-out senses.
“No,” he muttered, shading his eyes against the suddenly blinding fluorescent lights. “I’m not.”
Burnout slammed over him.
Copyright © 2013 by Debra Mullins
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Prodigal Son is an excellent choice for those of you who don’t mind reading in the romance genre. Like it’s counterparts in this genre, the love interest is first and foremost. There is an excellent connection between the two characters, and they definitely spice things up between the sheets. If you enjoy urban fantasy Prodigal Son is also an excellent fit but being more on the paranormal romance side. Debra Mullins is using a tried and true configuration in this series. This first book starts on love connection, and the next book is about a sibling character and their romantic connection… and then there is a third sibling to finish off the trilogy a la Nora Roberts. The Montana family, however, gives off more of a Vegas Heat by Fern Michaels feel, where nothing and no one is perfect and they are uber-super-duper rich. Our leading lady in Prodigal Son is Cara, a successful an intelligent business owner who is looking for her step-brother Danny, the last member of her family. Danny is the perfect victim of Las Vegas, looking to get rich quick with little self-control and a whole heap of laziness. Danny has skipped bail, putting Cara’s hard earned condo at risk. Cara flies out to Vegas to find him, fearing the worst. She is positive that Danny would never put her condo at risk, and since he is the only family she has left she will try to move oceans to save him. Our leading Man in is Rafe Montana, bounty hunter with super powers. Rafe is a seer, and his special power is called the Hunter. The Hunter is a primeval warrior who is extra-strong and super fast. Rafe is able to partially allow the hunter to do things like find people’s location, or he can go full-throttle where Rafe’s personality goes on hiatus and the Hunter has free reign to do whatever is needed to keep family and love interests safe. The only problem is that the Hunter doesn’t have the same morals as Rafe, and Rafe has zero control when he allows the Hunter to take over. This has led to Rafe’s estrangement with his family, and a deep seated fear that he is a danger to those he loves. Prodigal Son is about Cara and Rafe’s hunt for Danny. Rafe introduces Cara to the secret survivors of Atlantis, and learns more about his heritage and his family. The attraction between Cara and Rafe is intense and well-satisfied. Things that bothered me about Prodigal Son: The fact that the Montana family calls significant others “mates.” This is hugely annoying. “She/he is your mate.” is not something I ever want to read. There has to be better terminology, or simply just make up a word. There were plenty of made up Atlantean terminology, anyway. Rafe’s decision to run away from his family to “protect” them from his Hunter personality is also ridiculous. He didn’t even call them. That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Cara has an ex-fiance named Warren who needs a butt whoopin. I hope he gets one in a future novel. I despise him. Cara’s brother Danny doesn’t ever seem to realize that he almost got himself and Cara killed. He was selfish and weak until the end. I hope that he has a chance for redemption as well. Both of those characters feel like loose ends for me. Overall, I enjoyed Prodigal Son as a well thought out and well written romance. I plan on continuing with this series, even though it uses the word “Mate.” So annoying.
This book was actually quite fantastic. Since I have been reading so much lately, I have noticed that I have gotten picker with not just my rating scale, but I'm picker about what I enjoy. I need originality and something that's as a whole very different to keep my attention focused on the book. This story was not just great. It was engaging, fast paced, original, and really creative. There is a certain lack of originality when it comes to Urban Fantasy/PNR lately. I noticed that people say this, yet when they read something different, they slaughter it because their brains are predisposed to the cookie cutter weavings of what Harlequin deemed the 'formula' for this genre of book. Well, I'm happy to report that I am not one of the brain washed masses and this story broke the mold on so many levels. I was engaged totally with all the characters. The banter was stilted and forced. The story flowed quickly, and if I'm being honest the 'supernatural beings' in the story was totally unique. I was like, "Oh, well this is new!" I haven't read a story this put together in this genre for quite sometime time. Everyone is so concerned with writing the next great shapeshifter novel, and there is this little gem hiding out in Tor's catalog. I feel quite bad for it. I think the cover doesn't do it a lick of justice because it doesn't really encompass what the story is trying to tell. Yes, Rafe is awesomely hunky and has a nice back--BUT the story is so much better than its packaging. I think people aren't being sold on the story description nor the cover so they are passing it by. I can only hope that my review grabs in some readers because I was so impressed by this witty, fun, and daring adventure that I can't WAIT for the sequel to come out and I can't WAIT for Darius's book! Yes, I know I'm a sucker for a fallen hero! With characters that fly off the page, this story is truly one of the record books where PNR is concerned. *I received a copy of this book from Macmillan-Tor/Forge via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
3.5 *Book source ~ NetGalley Rafe Montana is a bounty hunter with a little something extra. He’s a Seer and it makes him exceptional at his job. However, there are serious shenanigans afoot and Rafe gets caught up in the middle of it along with his new skip trace, Danny Cangialosi and Danny’s step-sister Cara McGaffigan. Now it’s not just a matter of bringing back an errant alleged criminal, it’s a race to prevent evil from destroying mankind. An interesting concept about Atlanteans, their descendants and how they have powers. I like the backstory and the characters are decently crafted. However, the dialogue lacks at times, the plot drags here and there, and some of the actions stretch the bounds of believability. Like Cara. She can be totally stupid at times which jars when she’s being pretty smart. I mean, come on. All-in-all a so-so read and I may continue with the rest of the books at some point. Right now there appears to only be two more, so maybe it’s only a trilogy.
Nice original plot with relatable characters. Would definately recommend it.
A fast fun read that has a cool twist on what happened to Atlantis. Cara is smart, witty, and just skeptical enough to keep her from being an idiot but enough of a believer to keep the story moving. Rafe is sexy, brooding, psychic, and sort of a shifter. The story is filled with UF cliches. The typical brooding rich hero who made a mistake and is punishing himself. A lonely smart, woman who is basically the last survivor of her family. And a magical secret that has been kept from humanity for eons. Luckily the world the author built is interesting. I like that these Atlantean’s have super psychic powers, and although they are not quite human they seem to have all of our weaknesses and a shared lifespan. The idea that they are just as vulnerable as regular old humans up’s the risk factor nicely. I loved the mysterious Adrian Gray, and Rafe’s (especially his sister Tessa and brother Darius) family. Who ever the next book follows I am on board.