Drama. Scandal. Secrets.
And a whole lot of supernatural goings-on.
No one’s more surprised than Sophia when she’s struck by an unfamiliar maternal urge to move closer to her daughters. But there’s one obstacle to enjoying her luxurious new home near Lake Michigan: her fourth daughter, Cassandra. Revealed to be a rare prophet, Cassandra is missing. And that means the whole family is in danger. So instead of being greeted by a welcome committee, Sophia is targeted by kidnappers—and saddled with an exasperatingly sexy bodyguard…
Six feet of pure-blooded Were, Luc is gorgeous, ruthless, and immediately stunned by Sophia’s smoldering beauty. The man in him is on a mission to protect—while the wolf in him is on a mission to seduce, and possess. All the more reason to keep Sophia safe—assuming she doesn’t get them both killed first…
WHERE DARKNESS LIVES
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Where Darkness Lives
By Alexandra Ivy
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2011 Debbie Raleigh
All rights reserved.
Sophia was a female who took pride in being idolized by her fellow pureblooded Weres.
Why shouldn't they worship her?
Not only had she managed to produce a litter of four healthy daughters during a time when the Weres were hovering on the brink of extinction, but one daughter, Darcy, had managed to mate with Styx, the King of all Vampires, while another daughter, Regan, had wed Styx's most trusted vampire guard, Jagr, and a third, Harley, had landed Salvatore as a mate, the current King of Weres.
She was literally choking on royal sons-in-law.
And if that wasn't enough, her fourth daughter, Cassandra, had been revealed as a prophet, the rarest of all creatures. Although she was currently missing, dammit to hell.
Sophia took equal pride in her reputation as being the "bitch of all bitches."
It was a reputation she'd worked hard to earn and the primary reason why she'd hesitated before she'd returned to Chicago to purchase the sprawling brick house in the chi-chi neighborhood near the shores of Lake Michigan.
She didn't want anyone thinking she'd become all mushily maternal in her old age. Okay, she might be secretly delighted that her daughter Harley was expecting her first litter of children. And there might be the teeny-tiniest desire to settle into a lair near her family.
It wasn't like she was going to sit around knitting booties.
Hell, she'd just opened a high-end strip club with the finest male Were dancers to be found in the Northern Hemisphere. Sophia's Menagerie would soon be known as the one and only destination for women of discerning taste.
Human or demon.
And of course, she'd already managed to cause a stir among her snotty neighbors.
Without undue vanity she knew she was drop-dead gorgeous.
Her hair was a curtain of pale gold satin that tumbled to the center of her back. Her face was heart-shaped with fragile features that were dominated by a pair of pure green eyes. And her slender body, which was currently attired in skintight leather pants and barely there halter top, could (and often did) stop traffic.
But it was the smoldering sexuality that heated the air around her, along with the predatory hunger in her smile that made the men trip over their tongues when she was near.
And made women detest her on sight.
The flutter over her arrival had definitely added a spice to her move to the stuck-up, overly pretentious gated community.
And earned her an enemy.
Sophia shook off the unwelcome thought as she stomped across the tiled floor of her foyer to yank open one of the double oak doors that was framed by high arched windows.
"Go away," she growled.
Ignoring her warning, the tall, raven-haired Were attired in a black Gucci suit with a white shirt and blue silk tie brushed past her.
Salvatore, King of all Weres, looked like royalty with his arrogantly handsome features and golden eyes that glowed with the power of his wolf. His hair was slicked into a short tail at his nape, and his lips curved into a sardonic smile.
"Is that any way to greet your favorite son-in-law?" he demanded, folding his arms over his chest.
Sophia planted her hands on her hips, not about to be intimidated. Salvatore might be her king, but she'd already gone above and beyond when it came to duty to her people.
She was done taking orders.
"Have you found Cassandra?" she demanded, referring to her missing daughter.
Salvatore grimaced. "Not yet."
"Then you're not my favorite son-in-law and we have nothing to discuss." She motioned her hand toward the still open door. "Ta-ta."
"Cristo, Sophia." Salvatore frowned, his Italian accent more pronounced than usual. "Why will you not be reasonable?"
It was a tediously familiar argument.
"By reasonable I assume you mean, 'Why won't I be a good girl and allow myself to be incarcerated in Styx's dungeon? '"
The king snorted. "Hardly a dungeon. I might not like the leeches, but not even you can deny Styx's lair is the finest piece of real estate in Chicago. It makes most museums look shabby."
It was true.
Styx and Darcy's lair, which was only a few miles to the north, was a sprawling mausoleum filled with acres of marble and gilt and priceless works of art.
Her own home was half the size, but as far as she was concerned it was far superior.
The long sunken living room was decorated in shades of pale gray and silver with a glass wall overlooking the pool and distant tennis courts. The kitchen was large and airy with a breakfast nook and an attached dining room. A curved double staircase led from the foyer to the master suite upstairs, which had a bed large enough to accommodate a football team and a built-in whirlpool that would make any Were purr in pleasure.
And her bathroom ... it was every woman's fantasy, with a shower that ran the entire length of one wall, while the tub was deep enough to drown in.
No way in hell was she giving up her comforts to hide in the basement of a leech.
Or at least, that was the story she'd given her daughters when they pleaded for her to join them.
And she was sticking to it.
"It's cold," she informed her unwelcome guest. "And it's crawling with bloodsuckers."
"Your daughters are all settled in."
"Good. They need your protection." She was genuinely relieved to know that Darcy and Harley and Regan were safely hidden. If only Cassandra was with them she could at last breathe easy. "I, however, do not."
"These are dangerous times, Sophia. Even for a pure-blooded Were."
She rolled her eyes.
Yeah, King of the Obvious.
There wasn't a demon alive who wasn't aware that the Dark Lord was threatening to return from his banishment and unleash all hell. Or that there were all sorts of nasties crawling out of the shadows.
Which was precisely why her daughters were currently being hidden in Styx's lair.
And why she wasn't about to put them in any further danger.
"I've been taking care of myself for centuries."
Salvatore studied her stubborn expression.
"You don't have to anymore," he said at last, his voice soft. "You have a family."
Once those words would have given her a rash. Now it made her heart warm with a strange emotion.
Hell, maybe she was getting old.
"A family is like medicine." She twisted her lips into a sardonic smile. "Best in small doses."
The golden eyes flared as his wolf prowled close to the surface.
"I'm also your king. I could make joining us an order."
Her smile widened, edged with a warning that made the large predator pale.
"And I could tell Harley about those nymph triplets that you —"
"Fine," he abruptly interrupted, headed toward the door. "Be careful."
"What danger could I be in here?"
"Trust me, evil can lurk anywhere." Salvatore paused on the wide veranda to glance toward the distant homes surrounded by their perfectly manicured grounds. "Even suburbia."
Sophia managed to hide her tiny shiver.
"Concentrate on finding Cassandra," she said. "If I need you, I'll call."
"Take care of yourself. ..." Salvatore tossed her a mocking grin. "Granny."
Sophia narrowed her gaze.
Okay, she might be tickled pink that Harley was pregnant, but there was no way in hell she was putting up with "granny."
"Call me that again and the litter Harley is carrying will be the last babies you're capable of producing."
With a chuckle, Salvatore headed toward his BMW, which was parked next to her low-slung Lamborghini.
Sophia watched his departure with a faint frown.
She hadn't expected Salvatore to concede defeat so easily.
Which could only mean one thing.
This particular battle wasn't over.
* * *
Sophia's Menagerie was a two-story brick building that discreetly blended in with the more conservative businesses that lined the quiet Chicago street.
Once inside, however, there was nothing discreet about the crimson carpet and shimmering gold wallpaper. Or the Venetian chandeliers that spilled light over the padded booths that were arranged to face the low stage.
There was an atmosphere of indulgent luxury that lifted her club above all others.
Well, that and the insanely gorgeous male strippers who could send an entire audience of women into a frenzy of screaming excitement.
Entering through the back door, Sophia made her way past the dressing rooms to the main floor, a satisfied smile curling her lips as her employees scurried about, preparing for the upcoming flood of customers.
This place might be just another strip club to some people, but for her it was her tangible display of independence.
She halted a moment to appreciate the sight of Dmitri and Dominic practicing their dance routine. The twin Weres had recently immigrated from Russia and were so exquisitely handsome it was a wonder they hadn't melted Siberia.
Tall and slender with short, spiky blond hair and ice-blue eyes, they moved with the liquid grace of all pure-bloods. Combine that with the tiny fur G-strings that were the only thing covering their pale, perfect bodies ... yummy.
Then her smile twisted as she caught sight of the man standing near the edge of the stage, his hand reaching toward Dmitri. Or was it Dominic?
Troy, prince of imps, was a large, muscular man with the build of a professional wrestler and the fashion taste of a drag queen. At the moment he was attired in silver spandex pants and a see-through jade shirt that gave a nice glimpse of his broad chest.
His long, brilliant red hair flowed down his back like a river of fire and his emerald eyes danced with a wicked sense of humor that was contagious.
He was like an exotic butterfly that oozed a blatant sensuality.
"Mmm ..." he drawled as Sophia halted next to him, his gaze never wavering from the nearby dancers. "Delectable as always, my love."
Reaching out she slapped his hand. "No touching the merchandise, Troy."
The imp pouted, but, dropping his arm, he turned to face her. "But you know how I love them tall, blond, and furry."
"You love them any way you can get them."
"True." Troy ran his hands down his shirt, licking his lips. "A wise imp swims with the tide."
She snorted. Troy did a lot of swimming with the tide. Which, of course, meant that he had connections throughout the demon world.
And that was precisely why Sophia had contacted him a few days before.
"Did you bring what I asked?"
With a chuckle that should have given her ample warning, he gave a lift of his hand, motioning toward a nearby doorway.
"Don't I always deliver?"
Her lips parted, but her words were forgotten as a man stepped from the shadows.
No, not a man ... a pure-blooded Were, she quickly corrected, catching the feral scent of his wolf. And so sinfully gorgeous that he made her heart slam against her ribs.
She covertly clenched her hands as he strolled forward. What the hell was wrong with her?
Her entire life had been filled with handsome, powerful men. All of them anxious for the opportunity to impress her. Whether it was to earn the right to breed with her. Or just to enjoy a few wicked nights of pleasure.
But she couldn't recall ever feeling as if she'd just stepped off the edge of a cliff and was plummeting through thin air.
Was that why she couldn't breathe?
More than a little disturbed by her unwelcome reaction, she warily studied the stranger.
He was handsome, but it wasn't the polished elegance of her dancers.
The blue-black hair was cut short, as if he couldn't be bothered to mess with it, but the severe style only emphasized the stark male beauty of his face. His skin was the rich bronze that came from Latin heat and his eyes more black than brown.
He was taller than her, perhaps six foot, but he was thick with muscles that rippled beneath the skintight black T-shirt that was matched with a pair of black combat pants.
The word whispered through her mind at the same moment his potent heat wrapped around her, inflaming her blood with a pulsing awareness she hadn't felt in decades.
"Good ... God," she muttered.
Troy cleared his throat, doing a piss-poor job of hiding his amusement.
"Sophia, this is Luc. Luc, Sophia." The imp waved a languid hand toward the massive Were. "Isn't he just to die for?"
Sophia's gaze clashed with the burning black gaze, her skin suddenly feeling too tight for her body.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
This Were was trouble with a capital T and the very last thing she needed.
Tilting her chin, she allowed her gaze to slowly skim over the body that begged to be licked from head to toe, deliberately allowing her lips to curl into a sneer.
Neanderthals like this were always hyperarrogant. An insult to his pride and he'd be out the door right quick and in a hurry.
"I asked for a bodyguard, not a stripper wannabe," she mocked.
The dark eyes narrowed, but instead of the chest-thumping and the fast exit she'd been hoping for, he stepped even closer, the rich scent of male musk teasing at her senses.
"Good, because I'm not into public displays." His voice slid over her like hot chocolate, smoothly decadent. "Of course, if you want a private performance you could ask me nicely."
Oh, she wasn't going there.
Not even in her mind.
"What I want is protection, not another pretty boy," she said between clenched teeth, shoving her hands against his chest as she prepared to leave.
Let Troy deal with the muscle-bound fool. She was through.
Only she wasn't.
Even as her palms slammed against his chest, his fingers captured her wrists in an unbreakable grip. At the same time he was spinning her around, jerking her until her back was pressed hard against his chest and pinning her arms across her chest.
"I know what you want," he growled, his face buried against her neck left bare by her red halter top.
She shivered, telling herself it was outrage at being manhandled and not white-hot excitement at the brush of his warm breath over skin or the feel of his body pressed so intimately against her.
"I'll let you two play." Troy chuckled, wiggling his fingers as he moved past them. "Ciao."
"Troy," she snapped in disbelief. Surely the imp didn't intend to leave her alone with this ... psychopath?
Evidently he did.
"Don't worry, I'll send you my bill," he assured her, sashaying out the door.
"Idiot," she muttered, her wolf prowling restlessly just below the surface. It wasn't angry, it was ... on edge. As if it sensed something momentous was about to happen. Which was as disturbing as the ease with which he'd captured her.
"Can we talk now?" he asked softly.
"Not until you let go of me."
"If you insist," he taunted, his lips brushing against the pounding pulse at the base of her throat before he slowly released his grip.
Holding her head high, Sophia refused to glance in his direction, instead heading across the crimson carpet.
"We'll finish this in the privacy of my office."
She sensed him fall into step behind her. "You're the boss."
"Actually, that has yet to be decided."
* * *
Despite his bulging muscles and impressive fighting skills, Luc wasn't stupid. Hell, until this moment he'd always prided himself on being the most intelligent Were in the room.
Now he had to wonder if he'd left his brain back in Miami.
Not that it was entirely his fault, he swiftly assured himself, his gaze trained on the finest ass he'd ever set eyes on as it swayed across the room. A man would have to be a saint to think clearly when face-to-face with Sophia.
Even warned of her lethal beauty, he'd been stunned by his first glance at the delicate features that looked as if she was barely out of her adolescent years and her slender body that was shown to advantage in her leather pants and tiny halter top.
He'd expected a hard, jaded female who would turn him off with her bloated conceit. Not an exquisite woman who attempted to hide her vulnerability behind a brittle shell. Or one whose emerald eyes held a haunted fear.
The man in him wanted to haul her into the nearest bed and teach her the true meaning of howling at the moon. The wolf in him wanted to toss her over his shoulder and take her to the safety of his lair.
It was his wolf's reaction that was most troubling.
Lust he could handle.
It was addling his wits and jeopardizing his mission.
Grimly he shoved aside the disquieting thought.
He was here with a purpose. It was time to get on with it.
Following her into the private office, he reached to pull out the folded sheets of paper he'd tucked into his back pocket. His first order of business was making sure he was hired as Sophia's bodyguard.
Of course, he wouldn't say no to an invitation for a more ... intimate arrangement, a voice whispered in the back of his mind.
It would certainly make it easier to keep an eye on her.
His eye and so much more ...
Excerpted from Where Darkness Lives by Alexandra Ivy. Copyright © 2011 Debbie Raleigh. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
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