One pack, one coven, a destiny intertwined...
Five hundred years ago, facing extinction, a group of powerful witches united to create a pact with the Were to save witch–kind. The pact expelled an ancient evil, known only as the Darkness, that was blocking the Were from their wolves. With the Darkness destroyed, the Packs and their Covens grew strong as they thrived beside each other in their brand–new world.
But the Darkness was not destroyed.
Shifter–Witch Eloise O'Brien has betrayed her Coven and almost killed her brother to save the Were Pack she'd infiltrated as a spy. Now living with the Were she once feared and hated, she learns the truth of who she really is–the prophesied Nexus. A witch of unspeakable power, she must make a choice between the light and the dark, between Iain McShane, the Lone Wolf she is coming to love, and her once beloved brother and Coven who are now working for the Darkness.
About the Author
Leisl is a tall red head with an overly large imagination. As a child, she identified strongly with Anne of Green Gables. A voracious
reader and a born performer, it came as no surprise to anyone when she did a double major in English Literature and Drama for her
BA, then went on to a career as an actor, singer and dancer, as well as script writer, stage manager and musical director for cabaret
and theatre restaurants (one of which she co-owned and ran for six years).
After starting a family, Leisl stopped performing and instead, began writing the stories that had been plaguing her dreams. Leisl's
stories have won and placed in many competitions in Australia and the US, including the STALI, Golden Opportunities, Heart of the
West, Linda Howard Award of Excellence, Touch of Magic and many others.
Leisl lives in the leafy suburbs of Melbourne with her two beautiful boys, lovely hubby, overly spunky dogs, Buffy and Skye, and
likes to spend time with family and friends. She is addicted to the Syfy channel, and her shelves are full of fantasy and paranormal
books and scifi DVDs. She sometimes sings in a choir, has worked as a swim teacher, loves to ski, can talk the hind leg off a
donkey and has been President of Romance Writers of Australia from 2014-2017.
To find out more, visit Leisl on her website.
You can also follow Leisl on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
Read an Excerpt
The word was a whispered breath of sound, so soft and low that Iain thought he'd misheard it. But then her eyelids fluttered and her lips moved over the word again. He sat forward. 'Eloise?'
Her eyes snapped open — those beautiful golden-green peridot eyes — and she looked right at him. 'Mal? Where am I? What happened?'
'I'm not Mal. I'm Iain.'
'Iain?' She frowned, confused.
'It's okay. You're safe.'
She smiled softly, lifted a hand as if to touch him. 'Of course I am safe. You are here.' Her eyes fluttered and then she was gone again.
'Damn it.' Iain thumped the arm of the chair.
'Did I miss something?'
Iain looked up as Bron entered the room. 'She woke up again.'
'How long was she awake this time?' Bron bent over Eloise, putting one hand over her patient's forehead and the other over her chest.
'Did she say anything?'
'She was whispering something about forever when she woke up, but not much else.' He sat forward, fingertips pressed to his lips. 'She looked right at me this time, but then her eyes went foggy and she was gone again.'
Bron breathed in deeply and closed her eyes. Iain waited in silence, skin prickling at the use of her magic. Finally, she pulled her hands away from Eloise and straightened. 'She's asleep.' She smiled. 'Her body is healing itself in a natural way now. Finally.' She breathed out a sigh. 'She'll probably wake again soon and be awake longer next time.'
'That's good. You can start working with her then to control it.'
She looked thoughtful. 'Have there been any other episodes?'
He shook his head. 'Not like last time. Her heart's still thrumming like a hummingbird, though, when she's dreaming.'
'The dreaming isn't hurting her.'
'The flames don't seem to either.' Those flames that resembled the flames of power that surrounded Skye and Bron and Shelley when their power was building. Flames that usually were only found in witches with ties to the original lines. Flames that were indicators of significant power held within. 'Has Cordy figured out what they are yet?'
'No. She's as lost as we are. But she and Shelley are pouring through the diaries, trying to find out information.' She frowned. 'What they do agree on is that they are an expression of uncontrolled raw power, and that is never good.' She touched the leather cuff on Eloise's wrist. 'It seems this is working.'
'I thought Cordy said it was only a stopgap measure.'
'It is. She needs to wake up so we can truly help her.'
He took her hand in his as she stood. 'And we will.'
She touched his face, then brushed his hair off his brow. 'Yes, we will.'
His wolf hummed in pleasure at the caress, but he turned back to the bed and the woman in it. Behind him, Bron sighed.
'If you want to take a break, I'll stay with her.'
'No. It's okay. I'll stay.' He avoided looking at her, but could feel her gaze like a hand hovering just above his skin.
'She isn't your responsibility alone, Iain.'
'If I'd known you'd tie yourself to her when I asked you to stay, I wouldn't have asked.'
'I want to stay.'
'I don't want you damaging your wolf.'
'My wolf is fine.'
'I can feel your desire to roam. It's like an itch I can't quite reach.'
'It's my itch, though, and I'm fine with it.'
'Are you?' She touched Eloise's hand. 'And this she has nothing to do with the dreams you've been having?'
His jaw twitched. He hated that she could see so much. 'Don't try to see more than is here, Bron. I'm simply here because it's the right thing to do. She helped save my life. I owe her. That's it.'
She watched him for a moment longer. He relaxed his shoulders, hoping she wouldn't question him further. He fought the desire to stretch his fingers, release the tension by cracking the knuckles. Bron knew him too well, knew his signs. He had to give nothing away. He didn't want to talk about why he was still here. He didn't fully understand it himself. He'd been so angry when Bron had kept him bed-bound for longer than he thought was necessary. He hadn't wanted to wait until his wounds were fully healed. All he'd wanted was to run free. To forget that feeling of helplessness he'd been unable to shrug off since that night before Yule last year when Morrigan had taken him, River and Gareth prisoner and tortured them, almost killing him and Gareth. He never wanted to feel like that again.
Then he'd found out Eloise was here, seen her lying in this bed. She was tall, but still managed to look small. No, not small. Fragile and delicate, like a little bird. Or like Sleeping Beauty. With her mane of tawny hair and the freckles splashed across her nose like little drops of brown sugar on cream, she did resemble the fairy-tale princess. Except there was nothing restful about the expressions that crossed her face.
As the days passed, he'd spent more and more time at her side, watching, trying to figure her out, until it had got to the point where he'd been unable to make himself leave, even for more than the time it took to take a run. It should have been torture to him, to his Lone Wolf soul, and yet his wolf didn't want to leave her either. It didn't make any sense.
His gaze slid back to her face as it so often did. He'd studied her for hours each day, and yet, every time he looked at her, he saw something new. Which was kind of surprising. There wasn't much to her. Fragile bones. Too-pale skin. Lips that held a stubborn pout even in sleep. She wasn't pretty — her eyes too big, mouth too wide, chin too pointed — and yet there was something about her that stayed in his mind even when he wasn't with her. Striking. That's what she was. Ethereal.
Purple smudges marked the skin under her eyes today. Every now and again she tossed her head, lips muttering words he couldn't catch. Her eyes moved constantly under almost translucent eyelids — eyes he'd been unable to forget since seeing them in Morrigan's cave that night. Eyes he'd seen so often in the cat that had watched him warily last year. She'd spied on them, giving Morrigan information that had almost allowed her to destroy them, but then she'd saved them all.
None of it made sense. He wanted her to wake up, to answer his questions, to help him put a stop to this endless fascination.
He realised he was leaning forward, his fingers stroking the edges of her hair. Tawny like a lion's mane, it was thick and shiny despite her having been in a coma for over two months. It felt like silk.
He turned, saw Bron watching him. Damn! He'd forgotten she was there. Making out like he was just re-settling her pillow, he sat back. 'Is Mal one of her old coven?' Bron shrugged. 'None of the ones we have are called Mal — although it could be one of the ones who got away with Morrigan.'
His gaze returned to Eloise. He wished he knew who Mal was and why that was the first name to her lips upon waking.
'How about you stop growling at me before River comes in here and shoves that growl down your throat,' Bron said.
He snapped off the growl. 'Sorry, I didn't realise.'
She stroked her hand over his hair. 'I know.'
He thought she was going to say something else, push him further about his need to be here with Eloise, but instead she bent and kissed his cheek. 'I'll bring you some lunch, but after you've eaten, I want you to go for a run. You've been in this room too long.' He opened his mouth to argue, but she held up a hand. 'River will sit with her.'
His mouth snapped closed. If anyone else had a right to look after Eloise, it was River. 'You're evil, you know that, don't you?' She laughed. 'I try.' She pointed at him. 'Lunch, then run.'
She flashed him a bright smile. 'Good.'
The door closed behind her. He returned to watching Eloise.
Bron brought him his lunch later and after eating it, he went for the promised run. He usually loved being out in the open spaces, the freedom of running under the clear blue sky, the brush of long grass against his legs, the briny scent of the ocean in his lungs. He could run forever, except
He didn't want to. There was a pull inside him, a pull to return to the packhouse. To not go too far. But he didn't have to go far to let his wolf out to play.
He ran across packland down to the ocean, climbed down the cliff face. His feet pounded on the sand, the spray cold against the warmth of his skin as he ran. It was a private beach, accessible only from the McVale land, and there were sentries around to ensure it stayed that way. Knowing he would be left alone for as long as he wished, he shed his clothes and gave in to the press of his wolf under his skin. With a burst of rainbow glow, he transformed, black and silver hair shimmering in the breeze as he leapt down the beach, paws eating up the sand.
The joy as he ran was almost enough to rid him of the itchy need to return to his sentry duty. With a loud bark, he let his wolf completely off the leash, stretching out muscles that had only recently healed. He romped into the surf, snapped at the waves, chased seagulls off the sand and explored the rock pools at the far end of the bay. A crab snapped at his nose when he upset it sniffing at the seaweed it was hiding in. He jumped back with a yelp. Chuckling, he pranced away to go and roll in the sand and enjoy the sun.
Too soon though, the drive to go back and check on Eloise became greater than the drive to keep running. He transformed back into his human skin, threw his clothes on and returned. He needed a shower, but couldn't help going straight to Eloise's room. River — who was reading aloud to Eloise — looked up as he walked in.
'Hey man. You look better.'
Iain nodded, looking past the man who'd become his closest friend in the last six months, to the woman lying so quietly in the bed.
'She's fine. Has barely moved,' River said, fingers splayed out on his book. 'I'm happy to stay for longer if you want to take a shower. Or do something else.'
Iain shrugged. 'I might take a shower, but there's nothing else I need to do.'
'Not even making the bench and chair you promised me for the new garden?' 'What's the rush?' River snapped his book shut and stood. 'No rush. It's just been a while since you did some serious sculpture or carpentry. I know if it was me, my fingers would be itching to get dirty after all this time.' He rubbed his hands on his jeans, as if he could feel the itch. 'Besides, those sketches you did for me were so intriguing, I'd love to see the reality. And there's all that wood Adam and Jason found on the beach just begging to be used. I saw how you were running your hand over the grain the other day. The way your eyes glazed over. I know that look.' His lips hitched into a lopsided smile. 'Have felt it on myself. I'm just a bit floored you can deny it, though.'
'I'm not denying it.' Iain pushed down the annoyance that flared at the other man's pushing. He knew River meant well. Knew that if anyone would understand, it would be River. But for some reason, he still couldn't tell the other Were what was stopping him from resuming his normal life. 'I just haven't felt the push, you know? Not like before. I was kind of waiting for it to come before I started. But you're right, that wood is prime now. I should use it.'
'Great. That's great.' River took a seat again and opened his book, The Call of The Wild — he insisted on reading it to Eloise, saying it would speak to the animal nature that was at the heart of any shifter. 'I'll come get you if she stirs.'
River's eyes were on him, questions there as Iain hesitated. Seeing them, Iain shot one more look at Eloise and then forced himself to leave. He stood for a moment outside the door, fighting the urge to go back in. No. He couldn't let the others know about the pull he felt towards the shifter. Not until he understood it himself. He ran outside, through the garden, to his work shed.
The sketches he'd made were on his drafting table, the wood River mentioned piled in the corner. Running his hands over the smooth flotsam, he forced himself to see nothing but the grain, the knots and twists that could be used to form the rough structure of the bench he'd seen so clearly in his mind. A bench he'd seen in his dreams, where he'd come upon a glade in the middle of a wood to see a woman sitting on a bench that looked as if it had grown from the twisted roots and branches of the trees around them. She'd been staring at the clear green pool of water at the centre of the glade, but turned as he entered, a blinding smile of happiness on her face as she'd seen him. That smile had filled him, made him whole in a way he'd never felt before. Then she'd held her hands out. He went to her, and it felt like home.
A cracking sound snapped him from the dream memory. Blinking, he shook his head and looked down to see he'd gripped a piece of the wood so tightly it had crumbled in his hand. Cursing, he shoved the broken pieces aside. He really wasn't in the mood for this, but he couldn't return to the room. Not yet. Not with River there with that knowing look in his eyes.
How could he explain the inexplicable?
Lone Wolves did not get tied down. It was lore. And their lore had always held true.
So, given that this pull he felt towards Eloise couldn't be the mating bond, what was it? And why was he having dreams that were so vivid, they felt real?
Smashing his fist against the bench, he gritted his teeth against the flare of pain and turned from the drawing. He couldn't start on that bench right now — emotion was a savaging rawness in his chest whenever he pictured it — but he could make something else.
A chair. Made out of this wood. He could do that.
Picking up his tool belt, he strapped it around his waist, clamped a large piece of silky-soft wood onto the saw horse and began to saw. He didn't need to draw the design out first because he could see it in his mind's eye. See exactly the dimensions it needed to be. Dimensions that would be perfect for a woman who was five foot ten and too thin. Yes, he could see it exactly.
The sun had begun its descent towards sunset and twilight when he finished and headed in to have a shower. He needed to thank River for making him use his hands. The tension locked inside him had been released for the time being. The runs hadn't been enough to smooth out the kinks in his temperament, but creating that chair had.
He couldn't wait to see it being used. He knew exactly where it should be placed, but would have to wait while River finished what he was doing in that section of the garden — it should only be a few days.
'I know that look,' River said as Iain walked into the room after his shower.
Iain laughed and clapped River on the shoulder. 'Thanks man.'
'My pleasure. Bronwyn kept me company for a few hours. She's just gone to check on our other guests, but will be back later.'
'Tell her not to bother. I'll call if there's any need.' He took the chair as River stood, pulling it closer to the bed. 'You two deserve some time alone.'
River halted at the door. 'You shouldn't stay here all night.'
'I'll be right. I can sleep standing up if need be.'
River chuckled. 'Lone Wolf thing?' He shared his friend's grin. 'Lone Wolf thing.' He nodded at the door. 'Go kiss your mate. I'll be fine.'
'I'm going to do more than kiss my mate,' River said, his mouth slanting, a glint in his eyes that was such a relief to see after the events of the year before.
But instead of making comments about it, Iain covered his ears. 'Lalalala. Too much information.'
River's laughter warmed him — it was a sound that had almost never come into being — and he waved the other man out the door then settled in for the night.
The room darkened soon after as the sun began to dip below the hills, the curtains a red flare for a brief few minutes. Iain closed his eyes against the glare, the red a blaze behind his eyes. Slumping in the chair, drowsiness took him over and before he could stop them, images — vicious, blood-tinged images — tore through his mind. Desperation clung to the images, the sound of a pleading voice sobbing nearby, the vibrant tang of copper in the air as warm liquid splashed over his face, down his side, thick and viscous. The sounds of wet tearing followed by an ear-piercing scream that brought bile to his throat, choking him.
He coughed, gagging, and sat bolt upright out of the nightmares that had plagued him since that night just before Yule. He shook, skin crawling, as he tried to shove down the terror that left a bitter tang in the back of his throat and constricted his chest. Helpless. He'd never felt so helpless.
Excerpted from "Shifter Bound"
Copyright © 2018 Leisl Leighton.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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