Agent Grace Masterson has been on leave after a mission went very wrong. She
About the Author
Shelli Stevens read her first romance novel when she snuck it off her mother’s bookshelf at age eleven. One taste and she was forever hooked. It wasn’t until many years later that she decided to pursue writing stories of her own. Shelli currently lives in the Pacific Northwest where she writes various genres of romance. You can find her at www.shellistevens.com.
Read an Excerpt
Someone was on her property.
Despite the massive heat from the glass-blowing furnace in front of her, an icy chill swept through Grace's body. It faded into anger that coiled quickly through her limbs, tightening her muscles as disbelief pounded in her blood.
How? How had someone made it through without tripping any alarms? No average human could've done that.
Which is exactly why he'd succeeded. He wasn't average. He wasn't even fully human. Whoever was stalking her house was just like her. Their genetic abnormality meant they were part of a species that most of the world's population was oblivious to — would be incapable of comprehending. It also made them highly elusive.
But she knew exactly what he was — this person on her property, and the knowledge that he was one of her own kind offered little comfort. Maybe once it might have, but not anymore.
He made no attempts to hide what he was, or his arrival at her isolated home a half hour outside of Seattle.
The son of a bitch. Her fury expanded, growing as hot and threatening as the fire she'd been using to create her glass sculptures.
For a moment she considered using the blowpipe in her hand as a weapon, but decided it might hinder more than help. With steady hands, she laid it down and turned off the furnace before rushing back to flick off the lights in the garage.
Whoever was approaching the building might want the element of surprise — like hell would she let him have it. He should know better than to think he'd have that advantage. Even if he'd deftly avoided all her little traps and alarms, she would never be a sitting duck.
Grace moved to the window, tugging the curtain aside just enough to peer out into the chilly autumn morning. The sunrise left streaks of pink in the sky and the fog outside curled its heavy fingers through dense evergreen trees and past the rotting wood of her fence some fifty feet away. It left patches of her property in shadow and gaping open areas where there was nowhere to hide.
And yet he did. Though she couldn't immediately spot the intruder, she knew he was there. Watching. Waiting to make his next move. She could smell the scent of his confidence and determination.
Come any closer, you bastard, and I'll shove that self-assurance so far up your ass ...
How fucking dare he come onto her property? She would never again be a victim. Been there, done that, and had the nearly faded scars to prove it.
The dark memories, still so fresh, so raw, threatened to bubble to the front of her mind, but she ruthlessly shoved them back. They were better hidden away, not to be dwelled on or psychoanalyzed ...
She almost missed the blur of movement as the person leapt stealthily above the silent alarm she had rigged at the far end of her yard.
Her heart thumped and her shoulders went rigid.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
Grace dropped the curtain back into place. There were several more alarms and traps set to slow someone down, but she knew he'd avoid them just as deftly as the ones he'd already passed.
Who was he? The question raced through her mind as she went to the metal garbage can in the corner and jerked off the lid. Guns, knives, and perhaps the underestimated baseball bat, were all among her choices in weapons.
Though the idea of taking her Louisville Slugger to this shifter's head had appeal, it was along the lines of the blowpipe. Not quite what she needed. Instead, Grace pulled out the Glock and removed the safety before slipping up against the wall beside the side door to the garage.
Whoever had snuck onto her ranch wasn't looking to steal her Eclipse out front — they'd come for her. She knew it with a certainty that gave her the calm and determination to face this head-on.
The birds that had been chirping outside went ominously silent. Grace turned her head and stared at the door.
She waited for him to break in, for some kind of dramatic entrance so that she could pull the trigger. Seconds ticked by. Slow. Menacing. Making the clouds of fear she'd kept at bay threaten to seep back in.
Her training kept her completely still and kept every one of her heightened senses on the alert. She drew in slow, deep breaths to keep calm.
But it was hard. Because with each breath drawn in came the image of what could potentially happen. Soon he'd be inside, and if she didn't successfully defend herself she'd be at his mercy.
Memories assailed her. Being grabbed. Held down.
She tried to shake the image from her head. But her throat closed up as she could almost feel the prick of the needle again. And then hell. Pure hell. The present vanished as she was completely sucked into her reality from two months ago.
You think you'll be free when you leave here? I'll find you again, Grace, and I'll make you pay.
She always wondered if the threat from a shadowed male figure had been real, or a dream. Today it seemed she'd find out.
Bile rose in her throat, and her hands — a moment ago so steady — began to shake.
If she'd learned anything, it was that she had to focus. Had to fight.
There was the smallest thud outside the garage and Grace pulled the trigger. Four times. The bullets splintered the wood and pierced through the door, but there was no answering sound of pain or shock from outside.
Son of a bitch, how had she missed?
The door burst open and Grace lurched forward, desperate to shove him back out. Instinct screamed at her to keep him at bay. But he pushed back harder on the door, and her sneakered feet skidded on the cement floor as she was thrust back into the garage and toward the wall.
Grace let go of the door and struggled to regain her balance. Darkness hid his features, but she lifted her gun at the silhouette of the man who filled her doorway.
Her finger just brushed the trigger before the gun was knocked fiercely from her hands and clattered across the floor.
"Stop shooting," the male voice rasped.
Something registered. That the voice was familiar, but rational thought disappeared as her assailant grabbed her around the waist and dragged her against him, forcing her body against a solid wall of muscle and man. Her scream of rage started to morph into terror, and she increased her energy in fighting him.
Despite the strong fingers that manacled her wrists, she tried to use her elbows to drive into his ribs, but he quickly subdued her. He put her into a position that made her helpless to fight back.
"Stop fighting me, Masterson."
Even as realization clicked into place at what he was — exactly who he was, she knew she'd failed. She'd completely choked. And this was so much worse than if he had been an intruder with a sinister purpose.
"Take a deep breath." The rough, familiar voice of her fellow P.I.A. Agent confirmed his identity. Darrius Hilliard.
Oh God. Grace went limp against him and bit her lip, unable to hold back her sob of frustration. Of relief.
He held her for a just a moment, his arms closing around her almost in comfort, and she instinctively melted into him and clung to him. He was safe, not some bastard who'd come to hurt her.
"You're okay." His gruff voice soothed, and the hand moving down her back reassured. "Just ... hang on a moment."
And then he let her go so he could move away, and her legs could no longer support her.
Grace sank to her knees, burying her face in the palms of her hands. Her breathing was still erratic and shaky. The seconds ticked by and her pulse slowed once more, and she came fully back to reality as he turned the lights on.
Agent Hilliard's footsteps approached once more, but she resisted the urge to look up. She couldn't bear to see him staring down at her with pity and shock.
This was bad. This was really bad. Tears burned behind her closed lids and she drew in another ragged breath.
She'd always been so composed, so determined to prove herself as an agent and keep her shit together. Being new, and the only female on their team, she'd worked her ass off to earn their respect. And she'd had it, until she'd made one fateful choice.
And now Agent Hilliard had seen her like this. Vulnerable. Paranoid. Weak. It had been a reaction left over from the emotional trauma of the experiments. Understandable, she could rationalize that, but humiliating all the same.
Dammit, why had he come here today? Why now?
Get yourself together, Grace.
She slowed her breathing and waited until the tears that threatened finally dissolved. Then, forcing her expression into complete indifference, she lifted her head from her hands.
Agent Hilliard's expression was definitely not one of pity. He didn't even look uncomfortable. Instead there was a gleam of amusement in his dark, coffee-brown eyes, and his mouth was curved into a smirk that had her blinking in dismay.
"Hey, Masterson, while you're down there ..."
"W-what?" And then she realized the suggestive position she was in — on her knees in front of him.
"Oh, go to hell." But her words held no sting, because she was too relieved he wasn't going to treat her with kid gloves. He wasn't walking on eggshells or looking at her like she was going to break. Even if they both knew she'd been dangerously close to it.
His grin widened and he let out a laugh that resonated in the small garage. She took the hand he held out to her, because having this conversation on her knees wasn't doing much for her dignity. Or what she had left of it.
There was no assisting her to her feet. He simply pulled her right up off the floor as if she weighed no more than a blow-up doll.
She stumbled to keep her balance and then gave a brisk nod of thanks. "A pity you didn't call first, Agent Hilliard. I would've skipped the part where I tried to blow your head off."
Hilliard shook his head and made a tsking noise. "I did call. Twelve times in the last three days."
Yes, he had. Guilt sent a flush of hot color into her cheeks and she slid her gaze away from him.
"I apologize, I've been having trouble with my phones."
"Is that so?"
No. They both knew she was lying, but he obviously wasn't going to call her out on it. Besides, it was her choice to answer or not answer the phone, and she'd chosen not to plenty of times in the last couple of months.
As the silence stretched on, she finally turned her gaze back to him. There was no judgment in his eyes, only a subdued scrutiny.
She took a moment to do a little scrutinizing of her own. Who had sent Agent Hilliard today?
Like her, Darrius was an agent who worked for the Preternatural Investigation Agency. A secret government agency that protected and enforced the law within a secret species of humans who had the ability to shift into wolves.
They were both on the same elite field op team. He'd always been the agent to crack the jokes and ease the tension. Even when they were all hungry, dirty, frozen with cold, Hilliard had a way of making it feel like it was a day at the fair.
He wasn't mated and was notorious for flirting with the female agents. And, well, most women he came into contact with. And the women flirted back, almost like they couldn't help themselves. He had a smile and laugh that put people at ease, and a tall, dark, muscled body that made women nearly trip over themselves to get his attention.
But to Grace he'd always been more like a big brother — all the men on her team had. She couldn't afford to think about them in any other way. She didn't want to be seen as the lone female in the group, but as their equal.
"What are you doing here?"
Agent Hilliard arched a brow. "Seriously? You're not taking anyone's calls, responding to any attempts at contacting you —"
"I'm on a medical leave of absence. It's common knowledge."
He took a step toward her, his expression gentling. "You've been on leave for almost two months now, Grace. When are you coming back?"
The use of her first name threw her. She'd always been Agent Masterson, or just Masterson, to them. Somehow, hearing her name on his lips and having him here in her garage added an intimacy to the situation that was far too much of a threat. It made her too damn vulnerable.
Grace folded her arms across her chest and shrugged. "So that's why you came? Why you snuck onto my property and broke into my garage? To ask when I'm coming back to the agency?"
His gaze darkened, became unreadable. No. That wasn't the only reason he'd come today. She sensed it by the slight tension that had invaded his body.
"Did the agency send you? The boys?" Boys was a loose term she gave to her fellow agents, because they were fierce, full-grown men.
"Everyone's concerned," he admitted quietly. "But I came on my own accord."
Why? The question hovered on the tip of her tongue as her stomach did some weird little flipping motion. He'd come on his own. For what purpose?
"We should talk." He gestured toward the south end of the garage. "Think we can head over to your house? Have some coffee or something?"
Invite him into her home for coffee. The whole scenario was so normal. Non-threatening. And yet the idea of it had her wanting to shake her head and bark out a refusal.
She'd do it, but on her own terms.
"Let me finish this last piece first."
In the handful of months he'd worked with Agent Grace Masterson — and on every dangerous mission they'd been on together — Darrius had never seen any indication that she was capable of fear. Not even during that God-awful week ...
Until tonight, when the terror had been radiating off her in nearly tangible waves.
He watched as she strode past him toward a fire burning in some type of oven that glowed red, her chin lifted and her gaze unreadable. He allowed his gaze to follow the curve of her body. Her chestnut-brown hair was fastened on top of her head in some sort of loose bun, which exposed the graceful curve of the back of her neck and a tattoo he hadn't realized she'd had. A small, blue flower that looked vaguely familiar. Probably something native to the Northwest.
His gaze slipped lower to her outfit. He wasn't used to seeing her in clothes that showed off her form so well. In work clothes it was easy enough to write her off as a scrawny white chick. But what she was wearing now ... damn.
The purple tank top she wore hugged decent sized breasts before disappearing into the waistband of her jeans. Jeans that he had to wonder how she even got into. They were skintight, clinging to gently flaring hips, a curvy ass he hadn't seen coming, and then molding down her slim legs. The look was a little too girl-next-door slash sex-bomb, right down to the scuffed up, stained sneakers on her feet.
Uneasy that he was becoming all too aware of Agent Masterson's chick side, he cast another glance around the garage.
The building was hot, and no doubt the heat came from the oven she was currently pulling some metal pipe from. On the end of the pipe a ball of orange glowed molten.
"Holy shit. What is all this?" His gaze shifted to the shelves on the wall, and to the variety of blown glass.
"Glass blowing. It's a hobby of mine." Masterson nodded her head toward the fire. "That is a glory hole — and no jokes please."
His mouth curved in amusement, because she obviously knew a dirty reply had been on his tongue.
"And this —" she lifted the pipe slightly "— is a blowpipe."
She went silent as she dipped molten glass into what looked like crushed blue glass, rolling it around before walking back to the glory hole and placing the pipe and glass back inside.
Amazed and a little nervous she had such a dangerous-looking hobby, he shook his head. "How the hell did I not know this about you, Masterson?"
"I don't exactly put it on my resume. Now, quiet for a minute. I like to work in silence."
He kept his mouth shut, but with reluctance. From the way her small, defined muscles rippled in her arms, he knew the pipe was a hell of a lot heavier than it looked. It also just affirmed what a strong, hard woman she was, in and outside the agency.
Obviously deeply committed to what she was doing, she seemed almost unaware of him as she took a seat on a bench. Masterson braced the pipe on a ledge and grabbed some hollowed out wooden bowl type of thing.
Darrius was completely entranced as he watched her shape the ball of glass before she set it down and picked up something that looked like tweezers.
Deftly, and with the ease of a professional, she pinched and poked various parts of the glass, until it began to take on the unmistakable shape of a flower.
Excerpted from "Savage Betrayal"
Copyright © 2012 Shelli Stevens.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a good book. It didn't hold my interest well. I personally prefer books where the couple come together by the middle of the book then work together in order to defeat what or who are their problem. In this book the characters keep trying to distance themselves from their feelings for each other until almost the end.
I love this book and the series so far. I usually read Shelli's contemporary books, but have am really happy I tried her paranormal. I can't wait to start Savage Revenge!