Book 4 of The Amoveo Legend
Praise for Untouched:
"Red-hot love scenes punctuate a well-plotted suspense story that will keep readers turning pages as fast as they can."Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
She's Far From Human...
With her secret race of shapeshifteres embroiled in civil war, all Marianna Coltari wants is to stay far from controversy. Even so, when her overprotective brother insists on hiring his human friend Pete as her bodyguard, Marianna is furious.
Does She Dare to Love One?
Like most retired cops, Pete Castro resents his new job as a bodyguard. It's even worse because he'll be babysitting a party girl like Marianna. But that's before he meets her for the first time and discovers his instincts on red alert. Would he kill to protect her?
The Amoveo Legend Series:
Unleashed (Book 1, The Amoveo Legend)
Untouched (Book 2, The Amoveo Legend)
Untamed (Book 3, The Amoveo Legend)
Undone (Book 4, The Amoveo Legend)
Unclaimed (Book 5, The Amoveo Legend)
Praise for Untamed:
"Humphreys spectacular talent is on full display...this series is getting better with each book."RT Book Reviews, 4 ½ stars
"Compelling...deft world-building and sensuous love scenes make this an enjoyable journey."Publishers Weekly
"The characters are well developed, the twists and turns of the plot are well crafted...alternately funny, action packed, and sensual..."Fresh Fiction
About the Author
Sara Humphreys is the award winning author of the Amoveo Legend series. The third book in the series, Untamed, won two PRISM awardsDark Paranormal and Best of the Best. The first two novels from her Dead in the City series have been nominated for the National Readers Choice Award. Sara was also a professional actress. Some of her television credits include A&E Biography, Guiding Light, Another World, As the World Turns and Rescue Me.
She loves writing hot heroes and heroines with moxie but above all, Sara adores a satisfying happily-ever-after. She lives in New York with Mr. H., their four amazing sons, and two adorable pups. When she's not writing or hanging out with the men in her life, she can be found working out with Shaun T in her living room or chatting with readers on Facebook. For a full list of Sara's books and reading order, please visit www.sarahumphreys.com
Read an Excerpt
White light pulsed and flickered through the club in time with the gritty dance music. The crowd of writhing bodies throbbed with the unmistakable energy of lust as they clamored for a connection-any connection. Hands wandered, looks were cast, and figures melded together, almost becoming one.
Maybe living like a human wouldn't be that bad.
Marianna leaned back in the horseshoe-shaped VIP booth and watched the humans as they danced. The scene before her flickered rapidly between darkness to blinding, artificial light as the strobes flared. She observed couples as they disappeared into the crowd, losing themselves in the music, the sex in the air, and in the moment.
No conversations. Eyes closed.
No past. Bodies touching.
No future. Hips swaying.
She sipped her champagne and crossed her bare legs as she witnessed the mating rituals that they participated in with relentless energy. They spent their lives looking for someone to ease the loneliness, with no idea who or what they were looking for. No predestined mate. No clan. No telepathy. No shapeshifting. No powers of visualization. Aging and eventually dying.
On second thought, living like a human was going to suck.
Marianna shuddered and took a swig of her champagne. As a pure-blooded Amoveo female from the Bear Clan, she should have found her mate by now, or he should've found her, but he hadn't. Having past her thirtieth birthday, she could already feel her Amoveo abilities waning, and if she didn't find her mate soon, they would disappear altogether, and she would have to live, for all intents and purposes, as a human.
Mateless. Powerless. Alone.
Yup, she thought, sighing heavily, it was going to suck.
The bass beat vibrated the tabletop beneath her fingers. Hayden sat next to her with his arm draped behind her, wearing his usual air of irritating arrogance. She wanted to tell him where he could stick it, but instead, opted for ignoring him as much as possible.
He hated this place-most Amoveo did because it was owned and operated by vampires-but of course, that's exactly why she came here. Up until tonight, hanging out at The Coven had been a surefire way to keep Hayden and the rest of the Amoveo out of her hair. Apparently, his desire to try and get her to mate with him overrode his innate disgust of vampires.
"I have to admit, Hayden," she said over the music. "I'm more than a little surprised that you came to The Coven tonight."
Marianna glanced at him over the rim of her glass and offered him a tight smile. She could still connect with any Amoveo telepathically, but didn't necessarily want to. She didn't care for being next to him in the booth, so the last thing she wanted to do was invite him into her head.
"You practically live here now." He drained the rest of his scotch. "Although I can't fathom why."
He didn't look at her, but leveled his dark eyes at the humans who passed by their table. Marianna noticed how hard and unforgiving his features were. Hatred and contempt oozed off him like bad cologne and stuck in her throat. She knew most women found him handsome, but she thought he was far too much of an asshole to be attractive.
Hayden was a self-entitled tool who rode his father's coattails with obnoxious ease and made no secret that he wanted her for himself. He wasn't her predestined mate, and he knew it as well as she did, but that didn't stop him from trying. Unfortunately.
"Olivia is my friend, Hayden. If I'm going to go clubbing in the city, then I may as well go someplace where I'm friends with the owner." She narrowed her eyes and struggled to keep her voice even. She didn't want to fight with him. She just wanted him to go away. "I like sitting at the VIP booth and doing a bit of people-watching."
"Your friend? She's a vampire," he said with contempt. "Vampires are dirty, disgusting creatures. They drink the blood of humans, which makes them no better than humans. In fact, it makes them worse and puts them far below us on the evolutionary chain. If it weren't for you, I would never step foot in a place like this."
At that moment, a young human girl with dark, heavy eye makeup sauntered by the table and gave Hayden what was surely her most seductive look. Clad in a tiny black dress, fishnets, and several tattoos, she looked like a regular here at The Coven. She ran one hand through her long dark hair and winked at Hayden as she swayed to the music.
Hayden promptly looked away and inched closer to Marianna. The girl shot him a dirty look and turned her attentions to another clubgoer who had almost as many tattoos as she did. Moments later, they were absorbed into the dancing mob.
"As for your people-watching," he sneered, "I could do without it. I may as well be at a farm watching pigs wallow in mud."
Your friend looks a tad uncomfortable. Olivia's voice touched her mind gently, and Marianna suppressed a grin. She scanned the club and found Olivia behind the bar with her two bartenders-both vamps. Her bright red hair made her easy to spot in the sea of black. Olivia was the owner of the club, the head of this all-female vampire coven, and one of Marianna's best friends.
He's not my friend, and you know it, but I'm thrilled that he's squirming, Marianna thought back with a smirk. You have to come over here soon. It will annoy him and hopefully get him to leave.
He's not bad looking, but you obviously loathe him, and you already told me he's not your mate, so why even bother? Olivia continued to make drinks and tend customers without missing a beat. Tell him to fuck off.
Let's just say it's politics. She gripped her champagne flute and gave a slanted glance toward Hayden. I have no interest in picking sides in this stupid civil war that my people started. However, I'm getting tired of playing nice. Now be a good friend. Get your ass over here, and flash him your fangs.
Olivia's laughter jingled along her mind. Now, come on. If any of my human customers got wind of my wiles, we'd have a serious problem on our hands. I don't feel like fending off silver, crosses, garlic, and wooden stakes-that's so last millennium.
I thought that garlic couldn't hurt vampires?
It can't, but Hollywood keeps perpetuating the myth. I really don't care for garlic, and it takes forever to get rid of the stench. She threw a wink from behind the bar. I'll be over in a second.
Another song erupted loudly, and the startled look on Hayden's face made Marianna want to bust out laughing. If he insisted on chasing her, then she was going to make it as uncomfortable for him as possible.
"I love this freaking song!" Marianna raised her arms in the air. "I think it's just about time to dance."
"I don't think so." He grabbed her arm and yanked her toward him, preventing her from leaving. "Aren't you almost finished with your champagne?" He shouted over the music and looked at his watch for the tenth time in as many minutes.
"Oh dear, I hope you're not leaving yet." Olivia's voice cut into their conversation, and Marianna smothered a giggle when she saw the look of surprise flicker briefly over Hayden's face.
"Hey, Olivia," Marianna said with a big smile as she tugged her arm free of Hayden's grasp. "The club is packed tonight, so thanks again for hooking me up with the VIP booth. I would tell you that you don't always have to give me VIP status, but I'd be lying. However, as much as I adore it, I don't want to wear out my welcome."
"Anything for you, Marianna. You know that," she replied without taking her emerald green eyes off of Hayden. Olivia folded her arms over her chest, and her lips lifted at the corners. "I don't believe I've had the pleasure."
"Hayden," he bit out. He kept a neutral expression on his face, but his energy signature-the spiritual fingerprint that all Amoveo had-pulsed with nerves and fear in the air around her.
Holy shit. Marianna arched one eyebrow and touched her mind to Olivia's. I think he's afraid of you.
Marianna had expected him to be uncomfortable. To climb up on his high-horse of superiority and look down his nose at Olivia, but never, in a million years, did she think he was afraid of vampires.
Slap my ass, and call me Sally. A smile spread across Olivia's face. This is going to be more fun than I'd hoped.
I thought you didn't want to do anything to draw attention to yourself. Marianna rubbed her thumb along the edge of the champagne flute as she surveyed the humans who brushed by the table. Clad in her Armani suit, Olivia may as well have been wearing a sign that said, "I own this place and could buy you free drinks if I wanted to."
Don't worry. I'm just going to see how easily his buttons are pushed. Her voice dropped low as it wafted along Marianna's mind. Besides, I don't like the way he put his hands on you. This guy isn't just a dick; he's violent. I can see it in him as clearly as I can see his hideous taste in clothing. No man-Amoveo or otherwise-should be caught dead wearing a T-shirt like that. He looks like a Jersey Shore reject.
Marianna almost spit out her mouthful of champagne on the last comment.
"Where the hell is the waitress?" Hayden flicked his cold gaze back to Olivia and slid his glass across the table. "I need another Scotch."
In a blur of inhuman speed, Olivia leaned on the table with both hands and got right in Hayden's face. "I'm sorry," she said innocently. "I couldn't hear you over the music. What did you say?"
They all knew that was bullshit. Olivia's hearing was better than any Amoveo's. Members of the Fox Clan had extremely acute hearing-the best of all ten clans-but not better than a vampire. She was just messing with Hayden, and he knew it.
"A Scotch," he seethed. "On the rocks."
"Are you sure you wouldn't like something with a little more bite?" Olivia's green eyes flicked down to Hayden's throat, which worked as he swallowed. "Our signature drink is very popular." Her grin broadened. "The Bloody Mary."
Hayden's lip curled in disgust, and sweat broke out on his brow. "Scotch."
"Of course." Olivia sighed and pushed herself off the table, while keeping her attention on Hayden. "I suppose there's no accounting for taste, but who am I to argue with the customer?" She flashed her fangs so quickly that Marianna almost missed it. However, based on Hayden's pasty complexion, he didn't. "I'll be right back," she said with a wink.
Hayden's energy signature calmed down as Olivia increased the distance between them and went behind the bar to collect his drink. Marianna studied him more closely and scolded herself for not seeing it before. She wondered how many other shifters were afraid of vampires like Hayden was. It made sense. Most prejudice was rooted in fear, wasn't it?
"It's time to go, Marianna." Hayden threw a wad of cash on the table. "This place is making me sick to my stomach."
"You're welcome to leave anytime you like, but I'm not going anywhere." He tried telepathy again, but she held up a mental barrier to prevent it and was certain that bothered him more than the ear-shattering music. "Besides, Olivia will be back soon with your Scotch."
"I ordered another just to get her the hell away from me. I can't abide the stench of vampires." He looked at his watch again, and she suppressed a smirk. Vampires didn't smell bad. Maybe he was smelling his own fear? "It's well after midnight, and we still haven't discussed the subject at hand."
"There's nothing left to discuss." She sighed without looking at him. "You aren't my mate, and I'm not yours, so I don't know what else there is to talk about."
"Marianna," he growled. "This isn't just about us."
She let out a short laugh and shook her head. "There is no us."
"You still haven't declared your allegiance to the Purists," he said, ignoring her last comment. "My father is losing patience. You are a high-ranking member of the Bear Clan and served on the Council before it dissolved. I don't understand what the holdup is." He waved at Susie, the only human waitress at the club, but she failed to see it, which increased his level of aggravation. "Since you're obviously not siding with your brother and the rest of those human-loving traitors-"
"Don't," she ground out. Marianna leveled a deadly glare at him. The space suddenly felt too small, and if she didn't get control over her emotions, she was going to shift into her Kodiak bear form and tear off his head off right there in the middle of the club. "Don't you dare say a bad word about Dante. He is not a traitor, and you can tell your father that I said as much." Her dark eyes narrowed. "We may be part of the same clan, Hayden, but that doesn't mean much these days, now does it?"
"Really?" Hayden let out a harsh laugh. "Your brother is mated to a half-breed freak. He and the others like him are breeding human weakness into our race." He grabbed her upper arm, pulled her close, and growled into her ear. "Your father knew this and tried to wipe them out. He's dead because of the hybrids and the other Amoveo who have the nerve to call themselves Loyalists. How can you consider soiling the Coltari name any further?"
"Stop it." Marianna squeezed her eyes shut and flinched as his fingers dug into her bicep. He was as strong as he looked. She struggled to keep from letting him know how much he was hurting her. Causing her pain would only get him off. His Scotch-tainted breath puffed along her cheek and made her want to puke. "Get your hands off me," she hissed.
"Is there a problem?" Pete's voice washed over her, providing instant relief.
Marianna opened her eyes to find him standing at their table with a lethal stare locked on Hayden. His intense eyes, the ones that made her stomach flutter every time she looked into them, were fixed on Hayden, and he looked ready to pounce. His broad-shouldered frame cut an imposing figure and towered over them with surprising authority, especially since he was only a human.
Even if he weren't dressed in that dark gray suit, he still would've stuck out like a sore thumb at the nightclub. Pete Castro was strikingly handsome in a wholesome, Midwestern way and lacked the piercings and tattoos that covered most of the patrons. At the moment, he looked just like a cop, which wasn't all that surprising, becase up until a couple of years ago, that's exactly what he had been.
"Ms. Coltari?" His lips barely moved, and if it weren't for her acute hearing, she wouldn't have heard him above the pulsing music. His eyes didn't move from Hayden's face. "I think it's time to leave."
"We'll leave whenever Marianna wants to," Hayden bit out as he met Pete's stony stare. He released Marianna from his grip and slipped his arm over her shoulders with unwarranted possessiveness. "Now, why don't you be a good boy, and go back and wait in the car like you're supposed to. You're her chauffeur, so run along, and she'll let you know when we're ready to go." He leaned back in the booth, picked up his empty glass, and waved it at Pete. "I requested another Scotch, but that woman seems to have gotten lost. Find out where my drink is on your way out, would you?"
"I'm fine, Pete." Marianna mustered up a smile, but Pete continued to stare down Hayden. She rubbed her arm as she glanced back and forth between the two men. Pete didn't flinch, but his energy waves, which were remarkably thick for a human, fluttered violently around them. He was one hundred percent tuned into Hayden. One of the girls at the club could've run past him stark naked, and the guy wouldn't have flinched.
"I think we should go." He turned those piercing blue eyes on her, and her stomach did that odd fluttery thing again. He must've sensed her apprehension because his features softened, and his energy waves shifted subtly. "I'm ready to take you home whenever you've had enough." He glanced at the empty champagne bottle on the table and then back at her.
The fluttering in her stomach was swiftly replaced by a knot of anger as he gave her a scolding look. What the hell? Yet another man who felt he had the right to judge her, tell her what to do, and monitor her choices? Apparently, Amoveo men hadn't cornered the market on being bossy and butting their noses into what doesn't concern them. Pete may be human, but he could be as alpha male and overbearing as all of the men in her clan put together.
She wondered whether he'd be this bold if he knew she could shapeshift into a bear and tear him a new one. She smirked. He was just a human, and if he knew what she was, he'd probably piss his pants.
"Really?" Marianna's eyes narrowed. She placed the champagne flute on the table and held his gaze as she slid to the edge of her seat. She smiled as she noticed his attention instantly went to her bare legs and admittedly short hemline. "Well, I'll be the judge of that-not you. My brother hired you to be my driver... not my babysitter."
"Yeah?" he scoffed harshly. "You could've fooled me."
She rose slowly from the table and stood to meet his challenging gaze. She kept her eyes fixed firmly on his as she moved her body close, but he remained motionless. In her stilettos, she was just a few inches shorter than he was, and she noted that his heart beat faster as she closed the distance between them.
Her intent was to intimidate him and unnerve him, but something far more surprising happened.
Heat wafted from his muscular body and flowed over her erotically, which sent her heightened senses into overdrive. She took a deep breath to steady herself, but the instant his distinctly male scent filled her head-it had the exact opposite effect. Her eyes tingled, and she struggled to keep them from shifting into those of her Bear Clan. It was common for an Amoveo's eyes to shift into the eyes of their clan animal during moments of extreme emotion. Like lust. Red-hot, fuck-me-blind kind of lust.
Right now, Marianna was more turned on than she had ever been before. It was as though he was tuned directly into her energy, her soul, and her body. Suddenly and inexplicably, she was connected to this man-this human-more than she had been to any other creature she'd encountered.
For a second, she forgot where she was-where they were-and she had the ridiculous urge to kiss him. Forget that Hayden was sitting right next to them and would flip his lid-nothing mattered but the man standing in front of her and how he made her feel.
Her eyes wandered over the hard planes and angles of his face, his strong jawline with late-night stubble, the high cheekbones, and strong dark brows that framed those ice-blue eyes flawlessly. It seemed for a moment as if they were the only two people in the entire place.
All she could see was him.
Her body moved to the music, subtly at first, and willed her toward him almost imperceptibly. She inched nearer, until their lips were just a breath apart... and then she heard him.
What in the hell is this woman doing to me?
Marianna blinked, breaking the spell as the rest of the club and the crowd came roaring into focus. She stepped back as if he'd slapped her-and in a way he had. She'd heard his voice in her mind, which made absolutely no sense. Not only had she been actively shielding her mind to keep Hayden out of it-but Pete was human, and there was no way she should've heard him like that.
"I-I want to dance." Her confused eyes searched his equally befuddled ones as she backed away toward the dancing mob. "This is a nightclub after all," she shouted. Marianna strutted into the writhing crowd, hoping that neither Pete nor Hayden was aware of how rattled she was.
She threw her hands up and swayed to the beat amid the sea of bodies, but kept her sights fixed on Pete. A handsome, young human male sidled up behind her and began to bump and grind to the pulsating tune. Marianna danced with him as though she didn't have a care in the world, a facade she prayed that both Hayden and Pete would buy.
Pete glowered from his spot by the table as she dirty-danced with the stranger. Then he said something to Hayden, and he stalked out. Marianna watched him go and wondered if he even knew what he'd done. She'd heard his deep, gravelly voice in her mind, and he'd touched her in a way that only one person on the planet could... her mate.