Victoria Johnson loves her life. She's her own boss in a quaint beachside town, and has great friends who keep her grounded. If only they knew who she really is: an heiress to an ancient race who possesses astonishing superhuman powers. It's Victoria's duty to restore her clan of Light Hunters to their former glory by choosing the perfect mate. In Christopher Sombrosa, she just may have found him. Strong, smart, and successful, Christopher exudes a powerful energy. Their connection is sensual, irresistible-and forbidden.
A member of the Shadow Hunter clan, Christopher has defied his own father to lead his people away from affliction and violence. Yet he cannot ignore his duty to carry on his ancient bloodline. Stunningly beautiful and brimming with an erotic life force, Victoria is everything Christopher ever hoped for in a mate . . . but as a Light Hunter, she's his mortal enemy. Together, they could unite their warring tribes. But murderous factions on both sides don't want peace-and they'll stop at nothing to keep light and darkness apart forever . . . 80000 words
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By Piñeiro, Caridad
ForeverCopyright © 2012 Piñeiro, Caridad
All right reserved.
The flares of energy shooting off Alexander’s aura were Christopher’s first clue that his father was weak enough to be defeated.
The second hint was the way his father rubbed at a spot on his chest. The action left dirty streaks on the pristine white cotton shirt from the pustules beneath that ruptured with each irritated stroke of Alexander’s hand. Clearly his energy was too low to control the pox contaminating his Shadow Hunter body.
“What happened to my men?” Alexander said, agitation apparent in every jerky movement, a rash emerging along the edges of his collar. Soon it would blossom into even angrier sores as his father allowed emotion to eat away at his control over his life force.
“I suggest you call the Monmouth County Coroner’s Office. I hear they have some unusual objects in their possession,” Christopher replied drolly and walked to the bar tucked along one side of Alexander’s office. He picked up the lead crystal decanter and waved it toward his father.
“Would you care for a drink, Alexander?” Christopher asked, as if his future and the very fate of the Shadow Hunters weren’t at stake. Inside, however, his gut churned with the possibility that since his father’s command was so diminished, he wouldn’t hesitate to attack in order to replenish his flagging energy.
The sly glance that Alexander shot the other occupants of the room, Christopher’s cadre captain Ryan and Christopher’s ex-fiancée, Maya, hinted that some part of Alexander’s twisted mind was in fact considering a strike. That his intentions were obvious to the others was evident as Ryan dipped his head in deference and tried to distract Alexander. “Añaru. We only live to serve. We believe William and his man were crystallized by Light Hunters.”
“And it was a quick death, which I can guarantee was not the fate that Andrew suffered,” Christopher added, still furious at the fact that his father had drained his cadre member’s life force. Although his father was the leader of their Shadow Hunter clan and had the right to take energy from his clansmen, Alexander should have respected that his son’s cadre members were off limits.
Alexander shrugged, but shot a sly glance at Maya. For some time Christopher had believed that his ex-fiancée had known the truth about Andrew’s disappearance. The look confirmed his suspicions and reinforced another: Maya could not be trusted. That distrust had been the main reason why Christopher had called off their engagement. That and the fact that they had little respect for each other. Only duty had brought them together for a short time.
With a dismissive flip of his hand, Alexander said, “Andrew betrayed you, Christopher. He came here with tales—”
“Not tales, but you know that, don’t you? You tasted the power the Light Hunter Quinchu infused in Andrew when you fed from my man,” Christopher said as he uncapped the decanter and poured brandy into three matching snifters.
“Truly amazing power. So pure and full of healing energy. Have you discovered the source of it? Where the Quinchu is?” Alexander asked, wringing his hands before him like a hungry man staring at a feast. Most of the Light Hunters had lost the ability to gather energy, but their highest leaders—the Quinchus—had retained that ability and were luckily not contaminated by the pox that ate away at his clan’s Shadow Hunter bodies. Consuming them was the ultimate way to sustain a Shadow’s life force and was the reason the Light and Shadow Hunters had been engaged in a civil war for centuries.
Christopher strolled to his father’s desk and placed the glass on its surface. “We are still searching for the source of the energy, but believe we are close to finding it.”
Not wanting to stay within striking distance of Alexander in his unstable state, Christopher continued across the room toward Maya, glancing at his captain, Ryan, who stood at ease a few feet away. Ryan’s hands were held before him loosely, but he was ready to take action if necessary. Like Christopher, he clearly did not trust either Maya or Alexander.
His ex-fiancée lounged in a leather wing chair, her legs crossed, displaying their elegant lines. Her skin was a flawless creamy expanse, a testament to the fact that she had recently drained someone or something to abate the pox in her body. Her demeanor was seemingly relaxed, but Christopher knew her well enough to recognize the changes in her aura that signaled her unease. Small tendrils of silver and blue shivered in the dirty red of her visible life force.
Christopher sat on the arm of the wing chair and handed her a snifter. This close he could feel the pulse of her sexual energy, awakening need. Too bad it was meaningless, he thought, and took a sip of the aged brandy.
His father continued with his plea. “You must share the Light Hunter energy. You cannot be selfish, Christopher. The clan needs such power—”
“You mean you need it, father.” He glanced at Alexander over the rim of his snifter as he took another pull on the liquor and its warmth traveled down his throat. He focused on that instead of the heat growing in his loins from his proximity to Maya.
“You ungrateful bastard,” his father growled and charged around his desk, all vestiges of control gone.
With practiced ease, both Christopher and Ryan jumped to action and raised their hands, discharging waves of power that stopped Alexander in his tracks. He lifted his hand and pushed against the barrier they had created with their combined life forces.
“You dare defy your Añaru?” Shoving the barrier with determination, Alexander dug his hands into the wall of energy. Tiny tendrils erupted from his fingers and slowly wove a fine mesh across the surface of the field. Like the spiders for which the Añaru were named, Alexander spun a web to capture the men’s energy and drink it in along the rapacious threads.
“Break off, Ryan,” Christopher called out, realizing that his father intended to devour them to restore himself.
Christopher experienced a ripple through his body as Ryan pulled back his life force, leaving only him and his father connected. As the Añaru, his father’s power should have been devastating, rendering Christopher weak and listless in a matter of seconds. Instead Christopher sensed only a negligible draw, like that of a mewling pup at his mother’s teat.
“You are weak.” He marched closer and jostled his father back with the strength of his energy.
“I am your Añaru. You will obey me,” Alexander replied, but his words lacked conviction and held only fear. He, too, recognized that the son had become greater.
If Christopher had been like Alexander, he would have issued the challenge for leadership of the clan now, the way Alexander had done to his father. But Christopher had no desire for a fight to the death as was demanded by the traditions of his people.
Christopher was not his father.
He pushed forward and Alexander stumbled back again until he was pinned to the edge of his desk. At that Maya jumped to her feet and approached, as if to intercede, but a cautionary glare from Christopher and Ryan’s presence at her side stopped her.
Christopher returned his attention to his father and, leaning close, delivered a warning. “You are vulnerable because you continue to feed on the humans and other contaminated Hunters. That only strengthens the pox that blights us and weakens our life forces.”
“You’re wrong,” Alexander retorted, wild-eyed from the euphoria of his feeding and the fear of the power imprisoning him against his desk.
“You forget the ways of our people, Father. We were stronger when we worked to gather energy,” Christopher chastised.
Shaking his head in denial, his father increased the size of the web ensnaring Christopher’s field of power.
“You, see. I am in command even though you try to deny me a share of your energy,” Alexander said.
While Christopher watched, the red rash along his father’s neck slowly faded as he consumed Christopher’s purer vitality.
Christopher jerked away his power with a sharp mental command, severing the connection with his father, who slumped against the desk, obviously debilitated by the disruption.
“The problem with your way is that eventually either you run out of people to drain or they revolt against your constant demands for more.”
With a sidelong glance at Ryan and then at Maya, Christopher gestured with a flick of his hand to the door. “I will not challenge you today. But I cannot allow my people to follow this path to ruin.”
He strode to the door, Ryan at his back, protecting him. When Christopher reached the entrance, he paused to look toward Alexander and Maya, who stood hesitantly in the middle of the room. She was glancing from his father to him, as if trying to decide with whom to cast her fate.
“Maya?” Christopher questioned, having no delusions that his ex would make her choice out of love. She had been selected to be his mate solely because she was the most powerful female in their clan and at her Equinox, as was he. With that peak upon them, their mating would have heightened their power and created a more formidable child to ensure the continuation of their Shadow Hunter clan and the leadership of the Sombrosa family.
He didn’t wait for her response and stalked out of the room with Ryan. In the hall outside his father’s office, the remaining members of their respective cadres waited.
Christopher inspected his half-dozen men and women, aware that he would be asking them to make a difficult choice. Go with him and they would likely be exiled from the clan. To a people who for centuries had relied on their collective energies to sustain them, exile was like death.
And yet Christopher had no doubt that continuing down the path on which his father was leading their people would be their eventual downfall. Those who chose to follow Christopher would embrace the old ways of the Hunters. He was certain that would not only make each of them more powerful in their own right, but lift the prospects of all within the clan.
“Do you go with me?” he asked his people immediately after his father’s cadre members had stepped back into Alexander’s office and closed the door. They had to move quickly. He feared his father would not hesitate to launch an attack against them as long as they remained within the Sombrosa complex. He would have to get his people to a safe place amongst the humans. His father would not risk exposing the existence of the Shadow Hunters with a full-scale assault in public.
The members of his cadre lined up before him without hesitation. Almost in unison they dipped their heads and raised their right hands to their chests. In a chorus of powerful and united voices, they said, “We live to serve, Añaru.”
And there it was. A transfer of power without a single ion of energy being lost.
Christopher glanced at Ryan and realized that Maya stood beside his friend as well. Both Ryan and Maya assumed positions before him, and as the others had done, they saluted him and repeated the vow.
Christopher swiftly moved from one Hunter to the other, shaking their hands and bestowing a touch of his greater vitality, acknowledging the trust they had placed in him as well as their sacrifice. When he was done, he stepped before them once again. With a regal nod of his head, he said, “Let us leave the past. Our future awaits.”
Christopher’s one hope was that the future would be peaceful, but knowing his father, that was highly unlikely.
Victoria Johnson stared at her two friends as they leaned on the counter in her shop.
“Why can’t you come with?” Janet playfully whined as Victoria finished tallying the day’s receipts so she could deposit them at the bank.
“I already told you why, Jan,” Victoria said, ignoring the roll of her friend’s eyes at her continued refusal.
Her other friend, Samantha Cunningham, jumped into the fray as well. “It’s my last night as the jammer for the roller derby team. Why would you want to miss that? Not to mention that Jan’s time as a single girl will soon come to an end.”
With a tired sigh, Victoria collected the assorted checks and cash she had taken from the register and stuffed them into the bank deposit envelope. The assistant manager who normally handled the business end of things for her shop had been out today, forcing Victoria to deal with the scheduling, sales, and rentals. Normally she would not have to deal with such things, which allowed her to focus on the kayak lessons and tours. The rest of the staff was responsible for the surf rentals and classes as well as the parasailing excursions along the beachfront.
“Sammie and Jan,” she began, amusement in her voice. “I have to finish cleaning and prepping the equipment for tomorrow. Then I have to drop this off at the bank. And then my mom and dad expect me home for a big family meeting.”
Sammie and Jan shared a conspiratorial look before Sammie blurted out, “You sure have a lot of big family meetings.”
“I have a big family,” Victoria replied patiently, aware that even despite their many years of friendship, her two human friends had no clue just how expansive her “family” was and why it demanded so much of her time.
As the daughter of the Ocean clan Quinchus, Victoria was next in line to lead her Light Hunter people. Worse yet, she was getting to an age where her Equinox—her mating time—was nearly upon her. That meant the added stress of her high-ranking parents trying to arrange for a proper mate from amongst the clans in the area. Especially since the man to whom she had been promised at birth had broken his pledge to bond with her.
Jan jerked her thumb in the direction of the pile of life vests, kayaks and assorted water equipment strewn around the open work space at one corner of the shop. “How about we come over early tomorrow morning to help you straighten up? That should give you some time to hang with us tonight.”
“My first kayak tour is at six a.m. That means you’d need to be here—”
“How does five o’clock sound?” Sammie jumped in. “With the three of us working, we can have this place ready in no time.”
Victoria glanced from Sammie to Jan and noted the determination in their features. She knew they only wanted the best for her and in truth, heading down to the Convention Center for a night of just hanging with her friends sounded like heaven. Normal, something for which she yearned way too much.
“I love you guys. You know that, right?” She reached across the counter to embrace them before pulling away, a little misty-eyed. “I’ll meet Jan at the front door by eight. Is that good?”
Sammie reached into her back pocket and pulled out complimentary tickets, which she handed to Jan. “Perfect. Maybe after we’re done we can grab a bite and drink at McLoone’s?”
“Sounds perfect.” Victoria hugged them again. The energy from their bodies was warm against hers, charged as it was with their affection, but she held back from absorbing any of it.
Unlike the Shadows, the Light Hunters didn’t feed from humans, for a number of reasons, including avoiding detection. Her Ocean clan camouflaged their energies and affinities so as to appear as human as possible. It was a safeguard against discovery not only by the humans, but also by the Shadow Hunters in the area, who would gladly feast on them in order to contain the pox that ravaged their bodies when their energies ran low.
Satisfied with the plan to which Victoria had agreed, her friends walked her to her silver Jeep Liberty and waited until she was locked inside with the day’s receipts before heading out in their own cars.
Victoria made the drive to the bank in no time and returned to her parents’ impressive home along the Shark River in Avon-by-the-Sea, just a half mile or so from the water sports rental and tour business she owned along the inlet and nearby Jersey Shore. Victoria lived above her shop in a two-story, loft-like space that afforded her marvelous views of the river and, on a clear day, the Atlantic from her third-floor balcony.
For a Hunter whose affinity was water, it was a perfect location. Victoria never had to go far to be able to balance herself and recharge her power from the natural energies of the river and ocean around her.
As she parked, Victoria noted the half a dozen or so cars gathered in front of her parents’ home and recognized not only those of her parents’ cadre members, but also that of her cadre captain, Rafael Guerrero. That her parents had felt it necessary to include him meant there might be trouble brewing with either another clan of Light Ones in the area or worse, some Shadow Hunters.
Rumor had it that several Dark Ones had been spotted in the area over the last couple of months, which always presented a risk. It had been many years since they had lost one of their people to an attack from the Shadows, but other Light Hunter clans had not been so lucky.
She rang the bell at her parents’ door and glanced up at the security camera. A second later the magnetic lock on the door disengaged to allow her entry. As Victoria pushed through, she was immediately greeted by her cadre captain.
“Quinchu,” Rafael said, dipping his head and bringing his closed right fist to his chest to honor her.
“That’s not necessary, Rafael,” she said, laying her hand on his and urging it downward. She was uneasy with forced deference, maybe because she preferred the casual ways of the humans around them.
He leaned in her direction and even though she was nearly six feet tall, Rafael towered over her with his massive frame. He was darkly handsome, and she had always wondered why he had not found a mate from amongst the many willing women in their clan. Bringing his mouth close to the shell of her ear, he whispered, “There is trouble.”
His statement confirmed what she had feared.
“Shadow or Light?” she asked while peering straight ahead to the living room where her parents, the senior members of their cadre, and some clan elders were gathered. From the dour faces on one and all, it was big trouble.
“Both,” he said.
With a nod, she strode ahead, Rafael following behind respectfully. Victoria knew she could count on him for anything, including sacrificing himself to protect her. He had been her cadre captain since they had both been teens and was like a brother to her. Her parents had chosen him from the many possible candidates in the clan because of his obedient and honorable nature.
The remaining six members of her cadre had also been with her for over a decade and they were all close friends, although Victoria did not demand that they constantly be at her beck and call as other Quinchus did.
When Victoria entered the living room, her parents’ cadre members and the clan elders rose and saluted her. She uncomfortably acknowledged their veneration with a dip of her head and then pushed forward to where her parents held court. As the high priest and priestess of the Ocean Light Ones, they made every decision that affected the continuation of the clan, including with whom Victoria should mate. That process had become a constant source of friction lately.
Bowing her head, she saluted her parents. “Quinchus. You asked me to attend tonight.”
Her mother and father rose almost as one and took turns hugging her before returning to their comfortable wing chairs. While the space and its appointments lacked the trappings of European throne rooms, there was no doubt about the power the Quinchus wielded, Victoria thought as she stepped to the side, every person in the room focusing on her parents.
“We have received word from the Desert clan Quinchus that Adam Bruno’s father—his human one—has passed. The funeral will be held tomorrow. Please spread the word that the members of our clan should be in attendance if at all possible,” her father declared.
Considering that the human had stolen Adam from his Hunter parents, Victoria wondered why the Light Ones in the area would honor him in such a fashion. But as she met her father’s shrewd gaze, she realized the attendance of their clan members was not about honor.
It was about intimidation.
“Adam Bruno has chosen his mate, father. A show of force will not change that,” she said, unable to fathom why her parents continued to hope for the impossible.
“Kikin,” he began, using Adam’s Hunter name, “has too many ties to the humans.”
She sensed the condemnation in his words, so reminiscent of his feelings toward her mortal friends. Because of that, she came to Adam’s defense. “He was raised by his human father. It’s only natural that he would have affection for the man.”
“A man who stole him from his true parents. Light Hunter Quinchus,” her mother reminded, clearly on board with her husband’s sentiments.
Before Victoria could respond, her father continued. “With this first connection to the human world severed, it may weaken the bonds to his human mate.”
There was just one problem with her parents’ continued determination to see her mated to Adam: Victoria had no desire to enter into an arranged marriage. She wanted love and affection and passion. She wanted the kind of relationship she saw with her friend Jan and her fiancé, not some loveless joining.
“Adam’s Equinox has arrived and the bond to his mate has been forged. That tie is more powerful than any that we know,” she reminded her father. If he wanted to go all Hunter on her, then she would remind him of just what that entailed in their world.
A flush of bright red swept over his cheeks at her challenge and his emerald aura became visible as his irritation grew. Brilliant shards of silver and gold swirled around him and he was about to lash out at Victoria when her mother laid her hand on his arm. The glow of her cerulean aura emerged when she used her energy to soothe her spouse. “Jonathan, calm yourself.”
Then her mother faced Victoria and in a soft tone, which was nevertheless as hard as tempered steel, she said, “Human bonds with the Light Ones are never strong, Victoria. That was not meant to be the way of our people.”
No, it wasn’t, Victoria acknowledged. For millennia the Hunters had lived in peaceful isolation, away from the humans. It was contact with the humans that had forever changed the course of her people with the introduction of the smallpox virus. That human contamination had created the Shadows and robbed many Light Hunters of the ability to gather energy. Thanks to those changes their Hunter race had been condemned to centuries of civil war and deprivation.
But not all humans were weak and not all humans created trouble for her people. Her friendships with Sammie and Jan were proof of the strong bonds that could be forged. Victoria was certain that being less insular was a way to expand possibilities for her Light Hunter clan, including introducing new life energies into their diminishing numbers. When the time came for her to rule, she hoped to make her clan more open to such human-Hunter ties.
She suspected Adam Bruno had found such vitality with the human mate he had chosen.
“Every day our numbers grow smaller. Our powers diminish. Why will you not consider that it is time to change course? To explore new ways to sustain our people?”
“Silence,” her father warned quietly, although his aura displayed the true extent of his anger, growing ever larger and brighter, the silver and gold filaments of energy beginning to escape the edges of his life force.
Aware that her parents would not be swayed, but also certain that she would not be cowed by her father’s display of power, Victoria released her control over her own aura. The brilliant aqua blue was thicker and larger than her father’s, flecked with many more tendrils of silver and cerulean, a testament to her greater abilities to gather energy. A low murmur arose from those in the room as they noted her very visible show of force and defiance.
Despite her display, Victoria was not yet ready to usurp her parents’ leadership. Reining in her energy field, she nevertheless picked her chin up in challenge. “If that is all. I will see you at the funeral tomorrow.”
Without waiting for their reply, she turned and marched for the door, Rafael obediently following. Outside they paused by their cars, her cadre captain waiting for instructions.
“What are you doing tonight?” she asked, leaning against the fender of her serviceable Jeep. The back storage area of the vehicle was filled with objects from the human life she had adopted, much like the car. Hunters had no need of such transportation since they were able to skip across the energy in the cosmos, but they normally held back from doing so in order to protect their true identities.
Rafael smiled at her friendly query. “I guess that depends on what you’re doing,” he teased, obviously trying to lighten her mood.
“I’m heading to the Convention Center to meet Sammie and Jan for some roller derby action. Want to join me?”
“Do you think that the sight of a number of strong, beautiful women battling each other would interest me?” he said, but his dark eyes glittered with amusement.
“Yes,” she answered, deadpan.
He grinned and offered her his arm. “Then who am I to challenge my Quinchu?”
Victoria glanced back at the house where her parents and her clan elders were still gathered. “Sometimes I don’t feel like much of a Quinchu.”
Rafael snorted in surprise. “You are far more powerful than your parents and are our most effective warrior. Your parents and elders are lucky that you respect their wishes.”
She dipped her head to acknowledge his belief in her, but still it rankled that she could not do more to help her people or choose her own course. “How much longer do we follow the old ways while our clan languishes? While our people grow weaker by the day?”
With a sheepish shrug, Rafael replied, “Until you know the moment is right for change, I guess.”
It was a guess, all right. At twenty-six the upcoming end of her first triad would bring about her mating time—the Equinox. If she chose the right mate with whom to bond, it would bring even greater power to herself and her people.
But Victoria didn’t want to wait that long to lead. Especially not when she saw the people of her clan suffering. The pox that had contaminated the Shadows had left many of the Light Hunters unable to gather and retain energy. That made them reliant on her parents, her, and some of the other elders to sustain their life forces.
She wanted to strengthen her people. Provide them a way to secure sustenance on their own, including forging bonds with the humans. Especially those hybrid humans who possessed a touch of Hunter power deep within them. Contrary to what her parents and elders believed, Victoria thought such interactions could be part of the answer to their issues.
Which reminded her of the promise she had made to her friends for that night. Glancing up at her cadre captain, she said, “Let’s go. Sammie and Jan will be waiting.”
With a nod, Rafael followed almost dutifully, although she thought of him more as a brother than as a cadre captain. They had been raised together since they were children and she had counted on his honor and obedient nature since he had become her captain in their teens.
That nature made him a good captain and friend, she thought as they slipped into her car for the drive to Asbury Park and the meeting with her friends.
The Convention Center in Asbury Park was hopping with a wide assortment of patrons. Elementary school and tween-aged girls dressed in the colors of the local roller girl team hopped and danced along the sidelines, cheering for their favorite skaters as they looped around the flat oval delineated on the floor. Young couples, both hetero and gay, were out for a night of fun, as well as retired folk seeking inexpensive entertainment.
Her friend Sammie was one of the skaters speeding around the oval, nimbly threading through the sea of fellow skaters. Her skills and athletic ability far surpassed those of the other women on the flat track, making her a very popular skater, judging from the cheers every time her name was mentioned as the commentator reported on the action.
Victoria was equally impressed as Sammie elbowed her way past much larger opponents. When Sammie feinted around one, her friend seemed to become a blur of light that zipped past the hulking blocker to rack up points for the home team.
Victoria closed her eyes to refocus, just to make sure she had really seen that almost inhuman blur, but by then Sammie had cleared the last obstacle, which brought an end to that jam.
Gracefully Sammie skated over to where Victoria sat with Rafael, Jan, and Jan’s fiancé, Josh. When Jan hadn’t been busy bursting eardrums with screams in support of Sammie, she had been blathering about all the things she had to do now that she and Josh were engaged.
Unfortunately, some of those things included having Victoria and Sammie try on dresses, help pick flowers, and do an assortment of other chores that had never occurred to Victoria. In Hunter circles, unions were accomplished with much more simplicity. However, it was difficult not to get caught up in the infectiousness of Jan’s almost manic planning. Even harder not to imagine what it might be like to be able to marry for love and not because of obligation.
Luckily Sammie’s arrival on the floor directly below their row put a hold on Jan’s wedding talk. At least temporarily.
“How’d I do?” her friend asked with a broad grin as she ripped off her brightly colored helmet and ruffled her short-cropped cocoa-colored hair. It was damp from her exertions and a slight sheen of sweat glowed on Sammie’s skin.
“You were amazing,” Victoria answered with a playful lilt in her voice. In truth, Sammie always amazed her. There was a vibrant energy around her friend that was extraordinary for a human. Victoria had wondered often if there wasn’t some Hunter in her friend, given Sammie’s strength, intelligence, and athleticism. She hoped that in time she’d be able to confirm that and if so, include Sammie in the plans for her Hunter clan.
“Truly interesting,” Rafael responded, clearly bemused by Sammie and her enthusiasm.
His comment deepened the exercise-induced flush on her friend’s cheeks. “Thanks, Rafael. I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
The loud tweet of a whistle and the shout of her name ripped Sammie away from them and back to the skating oval. As she roller-skated away, her powerful legs propelling her into action, Victoria leaned over and whispered to Rafael. “See. Not all humans are puny and weak.”
“Just most,” he mumbled beneath his breath as he scrutinized the individuals gathered around the convention hall, seemingly bemused by their activities.
“So you wouldn’t be interested in a date with Sammie? I could arrange it, you know.”
That seemed to pique his interest for a moment, until he asked, “You can command her as well?”
Victoria elbowed her captain playfully. “Come on, Rafael. You know better, or has it been so long since you’ve mingled with humans that you’ve forgotten?”
Hurt blossomed across his features and he dipped his head down, avoiding her gaze as she tried to decipher his expression. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—”
“I am your captain, Victoria. You are my one and only responsibility and even though you may not always see me…”
He was always there. That she found his protectiveness kind of stalkerish worried her that maybe she was becoming too human, as her parents had warned. There was nothing unusual about Rafael being vigilant. Since his affinity was the wind, he could waft a bit of his power along a strong current to observe all in its path.
But being her captain didn’t mean that he had to sacrifice his personal life on her account. With a friendly pat on his rock-hard thigh, she said, “Think about it. I don’t doubt that Sammie would be pleased to go out with you. What woman wouldn’t?”
A flush worked across his cheeks at the compliment and once again he averted his gaze and said, “As you wish, Quinchu.”
Rolling her eyes at his stubbornness, she returned her attention to the track and to Jan, who was back to blathering about the wedding and how grateful she was that Sammie was quitting the roller derby, because she had been worried Sammie would have bruises in all the wedding photos.
Chuckling, Victoria kidded, “It’s always about you, Jan.” That prompted a guffaw from Jan’s fiancé, Josh, who in turn got a hard elbow in retaliation.
With a defiant sniff with her nose in the air, Jan shot back, “You’re just jealous that you don’t have a boyfriend.”
Victoria shrugged, unfazed by Jan’s comment, although maybe there was just the tiniest scintilla of truth in the statement.
It would be nice to have a boyfriend, especially one that she had picked. One that she could grow to love and bond with emotionally before her Equinox eliminated that possibility. Once her Equinox was upon her, energy would call to the most potent energy. Many an unfortunate bond had been forged that was all about the power and nothing else. Such matings were often weak due to the lack of an emotional union.
She wanted more than such a loveless coupling.
A gentle nudge from Jan was followed by a remorseful, “You know I was teasing you, right?”
“I know,” she said, wrapping her arm around her friend’s shoulders and giving her a hug, which Jan returned.
With that simple exchange, all was right for the moment.
Victoria returned her attention to the jam, but something caught her eye at ground level. Two men sauntered in from the entrance, potent alpha energy oozing from every pore.
One was as bright and rosy as the sun, while the other…
Dark as midnight. Tall and lean, he had hair as black as coal and fathomless eyes. A very powerful pull of energy came from him, although he lacked any discernible aura.
Rafael leaned close and tracked her gaze. With a sidelong glance, she noted his annoyance and the angry burst of his energy registered before he controlled it. “Do you sense trouble, Quinchu?”
Definitely trouble, but not in the way he suspected, she thought as the handsome man at ground level looked her way. A shiver traveled through her, one of desire, as their gazes locked, but then a roar went up from the crowd.
Everyone turned their attention to the player down on the track, writhing with pain. Her teammates gathered around her while a trainer worked on her. A shoving match soon ensued between some of the women on the local team and the blocker from the visitors who had caused the injury.
Fists were about to fly when Sammie stepped into the fray and laid a hand on each of the women, giving them just a fleeting glance while she spoke to them in low tones. The women immediately backed down and after the injured player was helped off the track, action resumed.
Once again Victoria wondered about Sammie and her origins, but then she looked back to where she had seen the man.
He was gone.
Victoria opened her Hunter senses, searching for that very enticing alpha strength she had perceived earlier. No remnant remained of that vitality, creating unexpected disappointment.
Another cheer from the crowd pulled her attention back to the oval track. Sammie was at it again, dodging and weaving her way past blockers. Racking up points for the home team to the delight of the crowd and Jan, who released an ear-splitting whistle as the jam ended.
From beside her, Rafael grumbled, “Humans.”
Victoria smiled and teased her captain. “Aren’t they great?”
“No,” he replied.
Victoria nudged him playfully and returned her attention to the floor of the Convention Center, but the handsome man, whoever he might have been, was destined to remain a mystery.
The alarm sounded in the calm of morning, but Victoria was already awake. The pull and push of the tide had registered against her Hunter senses, leisurely lulling her from wickedly sexy dreams involving Mr. Dark and Dangerous from the night before.
She was definitely too caught up in the spillover romantic energy from Jan’s ceaseless wedding planning. How else to explain the deliciously naughty thoughts about a total stranger? But those slightly erotic nighttime adventures had eaten away at her sleep time.
Rolling over, she smacked the clock into silence, wishing she could sneak in just a few more minutes of rest. She had been out with Rafael and her friends until nearly two in the morning, enjoying a late-night dinner and a few drinks. That, coupled with her fantasies, meant that she had only slept for a few hours, which would not be enough to sustain her today.
Rising, she ambled onto the balcony off her bedroom and to its edge, drinking in the views of the Shark River, inlet, and ocean. The energy of the tide pulling toward the shore and the reviving rays of the sun just creeping over the horizon caressed her life force. A slight morning chill sat in the air and low-lying gloom hugged the shore, but the fog would dissipate with the rising of the sun. Closing her eyes, she raised her face and stretched out her arms, gathering energy from those first flares of sunlight as her people had been doing for millennia. She experienced the slow seepage of power through her body, driving away some of the tiredness from the long night.
Once she dealt with her morning obligations at the shop and made it through Salvatore Bruno’s funeral, she would paddle off in a kayak to a deserted stretch of beach on one of the smaller islands. Tucked into the waterways of the estuaries, it was there that she could most effectively recharge her life forces with a nice long soak.
Returning to her bedroom, she quickly washed and dressed. In the kitchen she fixed a large mug of coffee and then went down another flight of stairs to her water sports business. It was barely five, but as promised, a sleepy-eyed Sammie and Jan were already waiting at the entrance to the shop.
Their loyalty warmed her insides, and, smiling, she popped open the door. “Good morning.”
A grumpy Jan, whose eyes were barely open, said, “What’s so good about being up at this ungodly hour?”
“And how can you be so glowing and full of energy after last night?” Sammie groused, arms wrapped around herself to ward off the morning chill.
For a moment Victoria was taken aback, wondering if Sammie’s comment about her energy meant she had somehow failed to hide her Hunter aura. Most humans usually failed to see even their own energy fields, but on occasion, and especially after a full feeding, Hunter life forces were powerful enough to be seen by humans. Snagging a quick glimpse at her hands and arms, however, she could barely detect a hint of her aqua aura.
Sammie hadn’t seen it either. It had just been one of those regular human comments with no ulterior meanings.
“It’s the caffeine and sugar rush,” she answered and pointed up the back stairs to her home. “Run up and grab yourselves some coffee.”
“How about I just crawl up?” Jan said, and Sammie playfully added, “Or limp up?”
In truth, a slight hitch marred Sammie’s steps, probably from one of the shots she had taken during last night’s roller derby match. As one of the jammers, she had avoided the other team’s defenders to snake by them for points quite a few times. Unfortunately, Sammie had gotten nailed more than once during the later rounds last night, when she had been beginning to lose steam.
“How about I give that ol’ body of yours a massage when you come back down?” she called up the stairs as her friends went for the coffee.
“I’d be your slave forever,” Sammie shot back down, and in the meantime, Victoria went around the work space in the shop, righting kayaks and surfboards, getting them settled into their storage racks, and picking up and hanging out the assorted life vests and wetsuits as well as the harnesses they used on those patrons who wanted to take one of their parasailing trips along the shore. Carefully she checked each fitting and strap, making sure they were in good order, setting aside those which would require repair.
Her friends came down just minutes later, redolent mugs of coffee in hand, and joined her, helping to put away paddles and other equipment and reorganize the display cases holding the assorted goggles, life vests, wetsuits, and other water-related paraphernalia she sold. They filled in other empty areas with new inventory from her stockroom.
Sammie went into a small storage room and came back with a box of T-shirts, grimacing as she placed the carton by the display rack at which she had been working.
Victoria glanced at her watch. They had been cleaning up for almost forty-five minutes and the customers, if they came on time, would be there shortly. But she had promised to help out her friend and she kept her promises.
“Time for that massage.” Victoria walked to her friend and urged Sammie toward a nearby work table. Snagging a clean towel from a peg on the wall, Victoria laid it out and then helped Sammie up onto the table. Her friend’s movements were guarded, a testament to her discomfort, and Victoria berated herself for not seeing the true extent of her friend’s pain before now.
When Sammie was on her stomach, Victoria immediately began a slow massage of the knotted muscles, gauging with her heightened senses the extent of injury. Minor muscle damage and some bruising, she thought. To alleviate her friend’s aches, she slowly released a bit of her gathered energy to help heal Sammie’s discomfort. She also tried to see if she could sense any Hunter power in her friend, but there was none apparent at that moment.
“That feels great,” Sammie acknowledged with a low moan of pleasure.
To distract Sammie from what she was actually doing, Victoria kneaded the muscles while sending curing bursts of power and joked, “I guess it’s a good thing you retired last night. Your old bones can’t take that kind of abuse anymore.”
Jan let out a hoot of laughter. “Who are you calling old? I believe you are the one closest to thirty, are you not?”
Victoria chuckled and shook her head. “Guilty as charged.”
“Which I guess means that you should start thinking about settling down? Maybe with that sexy Rafael?” Sammie said, peering over her shoulder at Victoria.
“You think Rafael is sexy?” she asked, not that she was surprised by her friend’s appraisal. Her captain was handsome, and the masculine alpha energy that Hunter males projected was a potent pheromone, especially to human females. They possessed no defenses against such masculine vigor.
Which made her think of the handsome stranger from last night.
Jan laughed out loud again and walked over, gave her a playful hip check. “Girl, don’t tell me that you haven’t noticed that he’s gaga over you?”
Victoria paused her massage and treatment of Sammie as she considered Jan’s words. “Really? I’ve known him for so long that he’s like a brother.”
Sammie blurted out, “For starters, don’t stop the massage. And secondly, you cannot be serious. Like a brother?”
Glancing back and forth between the determined gazes of her friends, she said, “Totally serious. He’s just a friend and there can’t be anything more between us.”
Rafael was a Hunter whose descendants had lost the gift of gathering energy centuries earlier. As such, he could never be a worthy mate for a Quinchu. But even if she defied her parents and opted to choose her own bonding partner, Rafael would not be on her list. They were friends and only friends.
“Because of my family,” Sammie and Jan mimicked in tired unison, having heard more than once how any man she chose had to be acceptable to her parents. Victoria left it at that, not wanting to continue the discussion. With a last stream of healing energy into Sammie’s body, she good-naturedly patted her friend on the butt. “Back to work. I’ve got to go to a funeral in a couple of hours.”
“Me, too,” Sammie replied as she sat up, dangling her legs over the edge of the table.
Victoria narrowed her eyes as she considered her friend. “You knew Salvatore Bruno?”
“My dad is an old friend, but not me. However, I do know Adam and his new wife, Bobbie. They’ve been ordering some T-shirts and things from my store,” Sammie said. The evasiveness in her voice could not be denied.
Sammie was doing more than just providing T-shirts for Adam and his wife, but Victoria didn’t press. She understood that her friend had other businesses with the kind of clientele who demanded confidentiality about the services which Sammie offered. Much as Sammie knew when to stop pressing about Victoria’s family obligations, she refrained from asking more about Sammie’s connections to the Brunos.
“Want to go to the funeral together?” It would be nice to have a buffer between her family, the newlywed Brunos, and their people. The Desert Light Hunter clan had been in the area for several months, but she hadn’t spent much time with either them or Adam and Bobbie. That this next encounter would be over the grave of the man who had been both his father and kidnapper was the height of awkwardness.
“I’d like that. These things are always so uncomfortable,” Sammie said, as if reading her thoughts.
“You can say that again.”
And because Sammie was Sammie, she did, dragging a chuckle from all of them, easing everyone from a difficult moment and back to the work they had to complete before Victoria’s first customers arrived and the morning disappeared.
Her energy registered long before she lifted the edge of the bed coverings and slipped onto the mattress beside Christopher. Maya’s hand snaked around his waist, skimming along his midsection toward the erection caused by a combination of the morning and the strength of her Hunter allure.
Sucking in a breath, he grabbed her hand before she could touch him intimately and left the bed. He stood beside it, naked, glaring at her, nearly hobbled by his almost painful erection. As Maya peered at his engorged cock, she smiled like the proverbial cat.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, reaching for a robe.
Maya lowered the bed coverings to expose her breasts. Another wave of need rolled over him and she knew it. Her particular affinity was sexual energy, and she both gathered and dispensed it to suit her needs. Maya smiled, raised her hand, and stroked the tip of her breast. His erection jerked in response and his balls tightened to the point of agony.
“You are my Añaru. I live to please you,” she said, smiling sexily while she continued to touch herself.
“I have no need of your services, Maya. If you came to me hoping to rekindle our relationship—”
“I came because I believe you are right about the old ways,” she replied, but the words were as false as the passion she roused.
“Go back to your room, Maya. Find someone else to satisfy,” he commanded, his tone flat and hard as granite, leaving no doubt about his intentions.
With a quirk of her lips and a final tug on her hardened nipple, Maya flounced from his bed, making it a point to brush against him. She emitted another blast of her power, which nearly buckled his knees, dragging a groan from him. She paused, as if believing he would reconsider and ask her to satisfy him, but he warned, “Leave now. I am not my father.”
Alexander would take anything and everything he wanted, but Christopher required more in a relationship. With a flick of his wrist, he slammed the door after her.
Maya chuckled with daring. Alexander would have already crumpled under the onslaught of her power and would have been gratifying both of them by now. Hard, fast, almost impatiently, and with a final stroke of his hand and sip of Añaru power, Alexander could curl her toes with pleasure and have her screaming out her completion.
Not that Christopher was a slouch in bed, Maya thought as she left his bedroom and returned to her own. During their short engagement they had made love more than once and it had been incredibly rewarding. But she knew Christopher had delusions that it should be about more than just physical gratification.
Maya had no such delusions. As the equivalent of what humans called a succubus, she lived for only one thing: sexual pleasure. It was both her gift and her curse.
When she entered her room, she crept back beneath her covers and picked up the cell phone by the bed. With a quick push she speed-dialed while fondling her breast with the other hand. Christopher might not want morning satisfaction, but she did.
“Good morning, Alexander,” she said after hearing his low, sex-husky tone.
“Is it a good morning?” he asked, seemingly perturbed by her call. When a very feminine chuckle erupted in the background, she understood why.
“I can hear that it’s good for you,” she teased and imagined him with another woman. Her sex swelled and dampened and she inched her hand downward, stroking her fingers along the moist cleft.
“Have you satisfied my son?” he asked abruptly.
With a soft sigh as pleasure rose in her, she said, “Not yet, Alexander. But he will find that resisting me can be quite… painful.”
Alexander chortled with understanding. “Work him hard, Maya. We need to find where that font of Quinchu energy is,” he said, referring to the amazing Light Hunter power that Christopher believed to be somewhere along this bit of Jersey Shore.
“Do not worry, Alexander. I know just what to do.” She snapped the cell phone shut and tossed it onto the bedspread, having more pressing business for her hand.
With one hand between her legs and the other at her breasts, she closed her eyes and recreated the mental image of Christopher’s magnificent state that morning. She stroked herself and imagined it was him, filling her with that long thick girth. Caressing herself more roughly, she pressed harder until she perched on the rim of release.
With a wave of her own power that she sent through her body, Maya pulled herself over the edge, arching her back and crying out with the ecstasy that suffused her.
Afterward, she lay on the bed, breathing heavily. A light sheen of sweat coated her body, but combined with the nip of the morning air it chilled her skin, reminding her that she lacked a lover’s warmth in her bed.
Driving away the nascent self-pity, she jerked up the sheets and buried herself beneath them. Allowing her mind to wander across all she knew about Christopher, she laid out her one goal for him: binding with Christopher during his Equinox.
Alexander’s son might be advocating a new direction for their Shadow Hunter clan, but Maya was certain that he would not avoid his responsibilities to the woman with whom he mated. That binding was essential to the survival of their people and Christopher would not risk that for his own selfish wants.
Because of that, she would be in his face and elsewhere, making sure that Christopher was aware of her presence and more than willing to help him with his needs.
Maya intended to be his Equinox mate and nothing was going to stop her.
Victoria stood beside her parents at Salvatore Bruno’s funeral, front and center where the Brunos, Desert clan Light Ones, and Quinchus would be sure to see them. With such short notice, the show of force that her parents had wanted to present amounted to approximately three dozen of their Ocean clan. Possibly intimidating to a clan that had been decimated by Shadow attacks and a hard life in the desert, but not to Adam Bruno, who seemed to have amassed many acquaintances in his life as a human.
Besides Sammie and the man that Victoria recognized as Sammie’s father, a hundred or more people filled the church behind the tight-knit group closest to the casket. Judging from the strong resemblance of the individuals near Adam and his wife, she assumed they were his family.
What surprised her were the varying strengths of the auras the human family members possessed. The fields of power hinted at long-ago Hunter origins, especially in the woman who stood in black beside Adam. Her fingers were laced tightly with his as she pressed to Adam’s side, offering comfort. The Hunter power there could not be denied, Victoria thought. It radiated powerfully from his wife and melded with Adam’s huge and amazingly intense life force, enveloping them in a field of visible energy.
Grief had likely weakened Adam’s control, and as a Hybrid, the woman was still possibly learning how to shield her aura and keep it private. Victoria hoped that the humans present would not be able to see the energy vibrating around them, filled with shivering tendrils of silver and blue that gave testament to their grief.
Victoria scanned the crowd while the priest intoned his final blessing at the grave. The power was definitely visible to the other Hunters gathered nearby, but not to the humans, who seemed oblivious, their attention focused on the priest. In precaution, Victoria carefully identified the auras of those gathered, searching for any signs of tainted Shadow power, but luckily there were none.
Thankful for that at least, she hung back as the funeral attendees paid their last respects at the casket and then to Adam and his family. His family, she thought, gazing at his new wife and her relatives once more. Noting the profound emotion apparent in all of them, Victoria took special notice of Adam and Bobbie. The love was almost palpable, creating an ache in the middle of her chest.
How she wished that one day she would find someone filled with such love. Someone who would be by her side to help her lead her clan to a better life.
There were few people left by the graveside when she finally approached, biding her turn until she stood before Adam. She had met him on only a few occasions since he had been restored to his Desert clan. His power was like none she had ever experienced and would help him protect his people from attacks by the Shadows in their quest for energy to maintain their contaminated bodies.
But what struck her more strongly was the way he gazed at his wife. Such love and care, Victoria thought, experiencing that yearning once again.
Her parents, who had already paid their respects and departed, would be sorely frustrated if they continued to think that Adam’s bonding with his human was inconsequential. Nothing but death would part these two, and as Adam shifted his hand and lightly rubbed it across his wife’s stomach, it hit her like a punch to the gut.
His Hybrid wife was pregnant. Adam’s Equinox had come and their mating was now complete in ways no Hunter traditions could usurp.
As Victoria stood before them, she held out her hand and said, “I’m sorry about your loss, Adam. I know you cared for him deeply.”
Adam’s emerald eyes were shadowed, haunted by what had happened, and yet they lightened a bit as his wife replied, “Thank you for coming, Victoria. I can imagine that the past few weeks haven’t been easy for you either.”
Victoria smiled at his wife, because even in those brief moments they had shared, Victoria had come to like Bobbie Carrera. She was strong and no-nonsense. Level-headed and compassionate. Loyal. What was there not to like? she thought, and shook Bobbie’s hand.
“If there is anything that you need, you know you can count on me, Bobbie,” Victoria said and meant it. Her parents might be spoiling to break up this union, but she was all in favor of true love.
After all, she hoped to find some of her own one day.
With a last good-bye and consoling handshakes with the other Carrera family members, she walked back toward her car. Sammie was leaning against the bumper of the Jeep, watching her approach.
“Was he the one?” Sammie asked, sensing her upset, but misinterpreting the reason for it.
Victoria shook her head and peered back over her shoulder to where only Adam and Bobbie remained by the casket. “You know how family can be. They always hoped something would happen between us.”
With a diffident shrug, Sammie replied, “Actually I don’t know about family. Dad and I were always pretty much alone.”
Victoria had suspected as much from what she knew of her friend. Even now Sammie kept to herself, for the most part. When she wasn’t hanging out with her and Jan, she usually occupied her time by running several different businesses and doing secret hacking stuff for people she would not mention.
“Well, now you have me and Jan,” Victoria said and linked her arm through her friend’s.
Sammie nodded and squeezed Victoria’s arm reassuringly. “I’m headed back to the T-shirt shop. How about you?”
Excerpted from The Claimed by Piñeiro, Caridad Copyright © 2012 by Piñeiro, Caridad. Excerpted by permission.
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
Posted on Romancing the Book's blog Reviewed by Meli Review Copy Provided by Netgalley This is the first I have read from Caridad Pineiro and have to say I started on a good series. This is book 2 but can probably read as a standalone. The Dark Shadows and the Light Ones are at odds again. One side was to do good which is Victoria Johnson’s family and the Dark Shadows, Christopher Sombrosa’s family are unfortunately the bad one. Yet I loved that even though he is from the bad family Chris is trying very hard to be good and bring back the peace that there once was in their families. The one thing that Caridad Pineiro kind of got me disappointed was Maya in this book. Here is a woman who is so infatuated with Chris she doesn’t see the harm she is inflicting. Victoria and Chris warmed my heart for even though they know it is wrong to fall for one another they still strive to make it happen. All in all it was a good book and definitely a series that will keep up to date. The story I have to say was quick and passionate in a way that makes you constantly turning the pages. Loved it.
EVEN BETTER THAN THE LOST! Our Review [By LITERAL ADDICTION’s Pack Alpha-Michelle L Olson]: Once again, Caridad Pineiro does not disappoint. I enjoyed this book even better than book #1, The Lost, and cannot wait for the next installment. Those of you that read my review for The Lost may know that I wasn't so sure about this series, despite begin a huge Caridad fan, but I am so happy that I put my apprehensions aside and jumped in. Like book #1, this was a 2 sitting wonder, and only because I was forced to put it down. As I mentioned, I thought it was even better than the first book, and I absolutely adored the characters. Christopher is a Shadow trying to walk the straight and narrow, even though is father is diabolical, and the Light Hunters were groomed to hate all Shadows. With his best friend and cadre captain Ryan by his side, he tries to get his tribe back in order and revert back to the ancient ways to combat the plague that has been haunting them for ages. Victoria is a Light Hunter in line to take over the ocean tribe, and living the life of a virtual human. With her best friends around her, she has a charmed life, but it's missing one thing... love. When the two meet, sparks fly (literally) and they can't deny their unbelievable attraction. But does the whole 'Romeo and Juliet' thing ever end up being more than a tragedy? In their case, and with a lot of hard work, convinction and support... Yes. :) This series continues to be an emotional roller-coaster full of excitement, regret, love, passion, uncertainty, betrayal, retribution, and so much more! In true Caridad Pineiro fashion it was incredibly written, with vivid imagery and strong, well developed characters. The book was an incredible installment to the series and it just makes readers want book #3 all that much more. In a nutshell, LITERAL ADDICTION Paranormal Book Club gives The Claimed 5 Skulls, and would recommend it to Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and even some Sci-Fi readers.
THE CLAIMED by Caridad Pineiro is an exciting paranormal romance. Book 2 in the “Sin Hunters” series,but can be read as a stand alone. See, “The Lost”. I enjoy this author’s works,she knows how to draw in the reader with her powerful love story along with the mystery and suspense. In “The Claimed” she has pulled to enemies into a love affair for the ages with Victoria Johnson,a Light Hunter and Christopher Sombrosa, a Shadow Hunter. The two clans are mortal enemies,but Victoria draws Christopher to her with her erotic life force. Christopher who is tired of his father’s violence and his affliction, defies him and led some of his clan away. With betrayal,sensual tension,passion,uniting two warring tribes,romance and love. You can not go wrong by picking up Ms. Pineiro’s “The Claimed”. A must read paranormal romance full of excitement,brimming with sensual tension,a bit of violence and murderous clan members who would stop at nothing to from having peace between the Light Hunters and the Shadow Hunters. Received for an honest review from the author. Details can be found at Forever, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing,the author’s website and My Book Addiction and More. RATING: 4 HEAT: MILD:Mild detailed scenes of intimacy,mild violence or profanity REVIEWED BY: AprilR, My Book Addiction and More
I read the first book in the series, The Lost and really enjoyed it. It was a new mythology and had intriguing characters that I wanted to learn more about. So I was especially excited when Caridad sent me the arc for the second book, The Claimed. While I liked The Lost, I loved The Claimed!We were introduced to the Sin Hunters in The Lost, but because Adam was new to this world we were learning with him as he navigated this new world. With The Claimed, Christopher and Victoria were raised knowing what they are, so we do get to put more pieces about the history of the Sin Hunters together. They are a fascinating race and Caridad gives the reader a lot of information about them without it sounding forced or repetitive. It kept the book moving along at a steady pace and kept me flipping the pages to absorb everything I could.I think the main element that grabbed hold of me in this book was the romance. It almost has a Romeo and Juliet star-crossed lover¿s vibe to it. Christopher and Victoria come from two opposing sides of the Sin Hunters, he being a Shadow and she being a Light. So their relationship is doomed before it even starts. They have many obstacles in their way, their families, their friends and a long history filled with distrust for each other¿s clans. This is one of my favorite types of relationships because the couple can gain so much by working past all the obstacles they face. If they can work through all these issues they end up with a partner in life and their clans might be able to have some sort of peace between one another.Christopher¿s father, Alexander is still running around causing trouble and will do anything he can to keep these two apart. It was interesting to think of Christopher as the hero in this novel, since he was the enemy in the last one. However, once we get inside his head and see his true intentions it is easy to fall in love with him. Victoria was also a great character; she struggles between what is right for her clan and what she wants for herself. She is very loyal and loves her people, but it is time she needs to start thinking about what is good for her. It is difficult to gain her trust, but once you have it she will stand by you to the end. It is almost her downfall because there are Hunters that she trusts who ultimately betray her. The full weight of their treachery is still yet to be revealed, but I am sure future books will explore those outcomes and how Victoria will react to them.Another aspect of this book that I enjoyed was the overall plot that continued on from the first book. At the end of The Lost, we know that Adam and Bobbie are together, but their lives are still intertwined with Christopher. I was so happy that Caridad let us see them and how they were connected with the events in The Claimed. She has done a great job of interconnecting all these people so the overall storyline flows well.There are also some great secondary characters that are easy to get attached to. One of the ones that stuck out the most to me was Sammie. We saw her in The Lost when she aided Adam, but she is also really close with Victoria. She appears to be human, but many have suspected for a while that something is different about her. I love her attitude and the way she was self-reliant. I am keeping fingers crossed that we will get to see more from her in future books.Overall, I am just in love with this series. Caridad stepped it up a notch in this book and has put herself on my must read list. I am so excited to see what she will bring us next in the Sin Hunter world! I would recommend this book to any lover of paranormal romance, but definitely suggest reading The Lost first!
Victoria Johnson lives in a small beachside town where she has what she needs in that she is her own boss and has some great friends. The only problem is that her friends really don’t know who she really is and that is someone with superhuman powers that she has because she is an heiress to an ancient race. Victoria is a Light Hunter whose sole duty is to restore her people to the glory they once had and to do that she has to find the perfect mate. Christopher Sombrosa is a Shadow Hunter that has defied his father for the good of his people so that they can get away from the affliction and violence that has so far ruled their world. Christopher also knows that the best chance for his people to survive is to find a mate, one that helps him carry on his bloodline. Christopher and Victoria find everything they hope to find in their mates though with Christopher being a Shadow Hunter and Victoria being a Light Hunter they should be mortal enemies but they are finding that their attraction is too strong. There are those on both sides that will stop at nothing to keep Christopher and Victoria apart and make sure that their people never get a chance to unite and possibly find the peace that they have not had for generations. This is a great paranormal story that continues the storyline from the first book in this series, The Lost. The characters draw the reader into the story and they don’t release the reader until the very end. The potential of several secondary characters getting their own stories will have the reader eagerly awaiting the next book in this series. While this one can be read as a stand alone the story is much richer if the reader first reads the first book before reading this one. This is one series that not be missed.
Caridad's books take you away. This seriesput a new and exciting spin on tge idea of vampire like creatures.
Light and Shadow, good and evil come together and no-one, well almost no-one, is happy about it. Victoria is the heir leader to the Light Hunters and Chris is the heir leader to the Shadow Hunters. They are supposed to be enemies and Chris is supposed to be suffering from small pox, but neither of those things happens. Chris and his group of followers have shunned the practices of the Shadow Hunters and do not take life force from people or other hunters; this has resulted in his group not having symptoms of the pox like the rest of their people. This is unusual, but it is one of the things that connect him to Victoria. When Victoria and Chris fall in love, they defy both the packs and things become a little complicated. It is especially complicated when someone in both of their circles is selling them out. This book was interesting. I liked the concept of pulling energy from nature to for life energy. I love that the supposed bad guy isn’t willing to accept the status quo and is willing to work to overcome his birthright. And the overcoming cures him of this disease that has been plaguing his clan for eras. I also loved that the “good” girl is willing to look at the real person and not just their place in life. She isn’t going to look down on Chris and his followers because there are dark hunters, but she is willing to accept them for what they really are. I give this book 5 out of 5 clouds. This product or book may have been distributed for review; this in no way affects my opinions or reviews.
Love her books and cannot wait here next
I have to start by saying I think this is a series you need to read in order. I made the mistake of picking up book 2 and reading it first. I will tell you I was a little, okay fine totally confused about the world that Caridad create. Not that the world itself is confusing. I just have a feeling so much happened in book one that I would highly recommend you read The Lost first. Okay with that being said now for my review. I enjoyed this book. Didn’t love, didn’t hate, really I am on the fence about it. I wanted to badly to love Christopher and Victoria’s characters but for me I just never felt a connection with them. Now Ryan, Christophers slightly uptight second in command I like him and am hoping that his book is next. Christopher and Victoria have a rough road ahead of them. Never before have Shadow and Light joined forces. But there seems to be so much and so many people standing in their way. But love and destiny will not be denied. Once joined nothing will stop them from trying to make the world of the Hunters better.
Amazing. I ate this story up! It was such a refreshing read. The storyline is so unique and each page just kept me so into the story I never wanted to put it down. LOVED the conflicts Caridad threw at the hero and heroine. The sense of honor and loyalty---and love--was so intense I found myself reading faster and faster to find out what happened next. Christopher is one of my favorite types of heroes. Strong and sensitive, dedicated to his values. Strong, but not arrogant. I just loved Christopher. Great story, Caridad. Can't wait to see what you come up with next in this series!!!
I couldn’t put it down The Claimed (Sin Hunters #2) by Caridad Piñeiro I had a hard time getting into this book but once I got about a third of the way in I couldn’t put it down. I’m not sure why it was so slow for me at the start as I know this series and really enjoy it. I do recommend it and look forward to the next installment. Victoria is a light hunter. Christopher is a shadow hunter. The two should be mortal enemies. But Christopher is trying to take his people back to a time when the light and dark weren’t so far apart. Victoria is drawn to him despite her parents. Can these two from different backgrounds come together and lead their people together for into a peaceful future?