Winter Halo

Winter Halo

by Keri Arthur

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780698185388
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/06/2016
Series: Keri Arthur's Outcast Series , #2
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 57,772
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Keri Arthur is the New York Times bestselling author of the Outcast series, including City of Light, as well as the Souls of Fire, Dark Angels, and Riley Jenson Guardian series. She has written more than thirty books and has been nominated in the Best Contemporary Paranormal category of the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Awards and has won a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for urban fantasy.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

There were ghosts in this place.

Most kept their distance, simply watching as I made my way through the broken remnants of their tombstones. One or two of the braver ones brushed my arms with ethereal fingers-a caress that reached past the layers of jacket and shirt to chill my skin. But these ghosts meant me no harm. It was simple curiosity, or maybe even an attempt to feel again the heat and life that had once been theirs. And while I knew from experience that ghosts could be dangerous, I was not here to disturb or challenge the dead.

I simply was here to follow-and maybe even kill-the living.

Because the person I was tracking had come from the ruined city of Carleen that lay behind us. It was the very last city destroyed in a war that might have lasted only five years but had altered the very fabric of our world forever. One hundred and three years had passed since the war's end, but Carleen had never been rebuilt. No one lived there. No one dared.

Given that the figure had come from that city, it could only mean one of two things: Either he or she was a human or shifter up to no good, or it was one of the two people responsible for kidnapping fourteen children from Central City-the only major city in this region. No one else had any reason to be out here, in the middle of nowhere, at night. Especially when the night was friend to no one but the vampires.

Of course, vampires weren't the only evil to roam the night or the shadows these days. The bombs the shifters had unleashed to end the war against humans had resulted in the rifts-bands of energy and magic that roamed the landscape and mauled the essence of anything and anyone unlucky enough to be caught in their path. But that was not the worst of it, because many rifts were also doorways into this world from another time or dimension. Maybe even from hell itself. And the creatures that came through them-which were collectively called the Others but had been nicknamed demons, wraiths, or death spirits, depending on their form-had all found a new and easy hunting ground.

These rifts were the reason Carleen had never been rebuilt. There were a dozen of them drifting through the city's ruins, and there was no way of predicting their movements. Neither wind nor gravitational pull had any influence on them, and they could just as easily move against a gale-force wind as they could leap upward to consume whatever might be taking flight that day-be it birds, aircraft, or even clouds. Once upon a time I'd believed that being caught in a rift meant death, but I now knew otherwise.

Because the people responsible for kidnapping those children were living proof that rifts were survivable-although by calling them "people" I was granting them a humanity they did not deserve. Anyone who could experiment on young children for any reason was nothing short of a monster. That anyone was doing so in an effort to discover a means by which vampires could become immune to light just made them more abominable.

But it wasn't as if they could actually claim humanity in the first place. I might be a dŽchet-a lab-designed humanoid created by humans, before the war had begun, as a means to combat the superior strength and speed of the shifters-but every bit of my DNA was of this world.

The same could not be said of those responsible for the missing children.

I'd managed to rescue five of the children but I had no idea how they were or if they'd recovered from the horrific injuries inflicted on them. Those who could tell me were no longer my allies; they'd tried to kill me. Twice. They were not getting a third chance.

I continued to slip quietly through the night, following the teasing drift of footsteps. Whoever-whatever-was up ahead certainly wasn't adept at walking quietly. Which suggested it wasn't a vampire, or even a shifter. The former rarely traveled alone, despite the fact that they had very little to fear at night, and the latter were night-blind. Or so Nuri-who was one of my former allies, and a powerful human witch-had said.

I tended to believe her-at least on that point. Even before the war, both shifters and humans had lived in either cities or campsites that were lit by powerful light towers twenty-four/seven. Vampires had always been a problem-the war had just kept them well fed and increased their numbers. It made sense that after generations of living in never-ending daylight, the need for night sight would be filtered out of the DNA of all but a few throwbacks.

No, it was Nuri's promise that no harm would befall the ghosts living in the old military bunker-one of the three in which they'd all been created, trained, and killed more than one hundred years ago-if I helped her group find the remaining children that I wasn't so sure about. While she might not hold any prejudices against dŽchet, the others were all shifters and, from what they'd said, had all lost kin to dŽchet soldiers during the war.

While I wasn't by design a soldier, I could fight, and I'd certainly been responsible for more than a few shifter deaths. Only my kills hadn't happened in open fields or battered forests, but rather in the bedroom. I was a lure-a dŽchet specifically created to infiltrate shifter camps and seduce those in charge. Once I was firmly established in their beds, it had been my duty to gain and pass on all information relating to the war and their plans. And then, when my task was completed, I killed.

I'd been a very successful lure.

And I still was, I thought bleakly. Images of Sal-and the brutal way I'd killed him-rose, but I pushed them away. Sal might have been the only friend and confidant I'd really had during the war, but he'd also been part of the group responsible for kidnapping the children. And when I'd realized that, I'd had little choice but to take action. There were many things in this world I could ignore-many things I had no desire to be a part of-but I could not idly stand by and watch children suffer. Not again. Not if I could help it.

It was thanks to Sal-to the information I'd forced out of him before he died-that those five kids were now free. Six, if you included Penny, the child I'd rescued from the vampires who'd been tracking her in the park beyond the military bunker in which I still lived.

But that meant they still held eight. And while I had no intention of helping Nuri and her crew, I also had no intention of abandoning those children to their fates.

Which was why I'd been in Carleen tonight.

Sal and his two partners had created what the ghosts there called "false rifts": balls of dirty energy that resembled regular rifts but were-as far as I could tell-nothing more than a means of quick transport from one location to another. I'd gone there tonight to investigate one of them. Cat and Bear-the two little ghosts who normally accompanied me on such journeys-were back home in our bunker. We'd learned the hard way that ghosts could not enter the rifts, and I wasn't about to place them in any sort of danger if I could avoid it. They might be dŽchet, or they might be ghosts, but they were also only children.

The graveyard gave way to a long slope that was filled with rock debris and the broken, decaying remnants of trees. Halfway down the hill lay a gigantic crater, its rim strewn with rocks, building rubble, and twisted, sick-looking plants. Weirdly, even though I was standing above it, I couldn't see into the crater itself. I frowned, my gaze narrowing. It might be the middle of the night, but the vampire DNA in my body had gifted me with-among other things-a vampire's ability to see as clearly in darkness as I could during the day. But the shadows that clustered just below the crater's rim were thick and impenetrable and emitted an energy that was dark and dirty.

Rift, an inner voice whispered, even as my skin crawled at the thought of getting any closer.

But the figure I was tracking had disappeared, and there was no place he or she could have gone other than the crater. If I wanted to uncover whether that person was one of my targets, then I had to keep following.

I started down the hill. Small stones and fragmented metal scooted out from underfoot with every step, the latter chiming softly as the pieces hit the larger rocks in my path. The graveyard ghosts danced lightly to the tune, seemingly unconcerned about either leaving the tombs or approaching the rift. Which in itself suggested that whatever that darkness was, it wasn't dangerous. Either that or it was one of the few stationary rifts and, as such, posed no immediate threat to either them or me.

I wished I could talk to them. Maybe they could have told me whether my target came here regularly, or even who he or she might be. But these ghosts, like those in Carleen, were human, and that meant I couldn't converse with them, as I could with shifter or dŽchet ghosts. Not without help, anyway. The scientists who'd designed us had made damn sure those destined to become lures could not use their seeker skills to read either their thoughts or their emotions. They might have created us to be their frontline soldiers against the shifters, but they'd also feared us. Mind reading wasn't the only restriction placed on us when it came to humans-killing them was also out-of-bounds. Not that I'd ever tested that particular restriction-it had never occurred to me to do so during the war, and there'd been no need in the 103 years after it.

Energy began to burn across my skin as I drew closer to the crater. The ghosts finally hesitated, then retreated. Part of me wished I could do the same.

I stopped at the crater's rim and stared down into it. The darkness was thick, almost gelatinous, and lapped at the tips of my boots in gentle waves. It was unlike anything I'd ever come across before. Even the shadows that had covered the other false rifts had not felt this foul, this . . . alien.

This wasn't magic. Or, if it was, it wasn't the sort of magic that had originated from this world. It just didn't have the right feel. So did that mean it had come from the Others? From wherever they'd come from?

Were they even capable of magic?

I really had no idea. I doubted there was anyone alive who did know, simply because anyone who'd ever come across one of them didn't live to tell the tale.

Except, I thought with a chill, Sal and his partners. They'd not only survived, but-thanks to the rift that had hit them just as a wraith was emerging-Sal's partners now had its DNA running through their bodies.

I stared down at my boots, at the oily, glistening substance that stained the tips of them. Revulsion stirred, and the urge to retreat hit so strongly I actually took a step back. But that wouldn't give me the answers I needed. Wouldn't help find the missing children.

And it was that desire, more than anything, that got me moving in the right direction. One step; two. No stones slid from under my feet this time. Or, if they did, they made no sound. It was still and hushed in this small part of the world-almost as if the night held its breath in expectation. Or horror.

The darkness slid over my feet and ankles, and oddly felt like water. Thick, foul water that was colder than ice. It pressed my combat pants against my skin as it rose up my legs, and the weapons clipped to my thighs gained an odd, frosty sheen. I crossed mental fingers and hoped like hell this stuff didn't damage them. I didn't want to face whatever-whoever-might be waiting at the bottom of this crater without any means of protection.

The farther I moved down the slope-the deeper I got into the darkness-the harder every step became. Sweat trickled down my spine, but its cause wasn't just the effort of moving forward. This stuff, whatever it was, scared me.

I reached back and pulled free one of the two slender machine rifles that were strapped to my back. I'd adapted them ages ago to fire small wooden stakes rather than bullets, simply because wood was deadlier than metal when it came to vampires-at least for shots to the body, which were generally easier. Stakes would poison them if they didn't immediately kill; metal would not. But you had to hit them first for either weapon to cause any sort of damage, and that wasn't always easy, given their shadowing ability.

Of course, there was a very big chance none of my weapons would work after this muck touched them, but I still felt better with the rifle's weight in my hand.

The darkness washed up my stomach, over my breasts, then up to my neck. I raised my face in an effort to avoid becoming fully immersed for as long as possible. Which was stupid. It was just darkness, not water, no matter how much it felt otherwise. I wouldn't drown in this stuff.

But could I breathe?

I took one final, deep breath, just in case, and then pushed on. The ink washed up my face and then over my head, and it suddenly felt like there was a ton of weight pressing down on me. Every step became an extreme effort; all too soon my leg muscles were quivering and it took every ounce of determination I had to keep upright, to keep moving.

I pressed on, but I really had no idea if I was heading in the right direction. Not only did the darkness envelop me, but it also stole all sense of time and direction. God, what if this was a trap? What if all along they'd intended nothing more than to lure me down here to get rid of me? Sal's partners had to be aware of his death by now, just as they had to be aware that I was the one who'd found and rescued the five kids-after all, those kids had been nothing more than bait in an attempt to trap and kill me. That it hadn't gone exactly as they'd hoped was due to good luck on my part rather than bad planning on their part. Or, rather, good luck and a whole lot of help from the adult dŽchet who haunted my bunker.

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Winter Halo 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
cherlym 10 months ago
I guess I am different. I loved Winter Halo. I was dreading going into it, but it took me for a ride. I like the little twists and turns, with Nauri, Jonas, Tig and hey.... want about Penny...and the ending? I can't complain, each time I open a book by Keri Arthur I am transported to another world. I would highly recommend reading book 1 first, City of Light (or listen to it on audio, that's what I did, and it was extremely well done) then grab Winter Halo.
Suze-Lavender More than 1 year ago
Tiger is one of the very few déchet survivors of the war between humans and shifters. Her kind was supposed to be wiped out, but she managed to keep herself alive. She kept herself hidden for many years with only the ghosts of déchet children that were killed as her company. Tiger risked her life trying to find children that are going missing in Central. She found a few of them, but there are still children out there. When she discovers there's a link between Winter Halo, a pharmaceutical company, and the disappearances, she knows she has to be quick before disaster will strike. Something strange is going on within Winter Halo, women who work there are being attacked. Tiger has to infiltrate the organization to find out what is happening to them. Her déchet skills might make her immune to a lot of substances, but that doesn't mean she can't be hurt, harmed or killed. While trying to unravel the mystery behind this disturbing business she finally finds out who her true enemies are. Will she be able to stop them? Winter Halo is another fantastic gripping story about the fabulous Tiger. Tiger has plenty of abilities. She's a déchet, made to fight, spy and kill, but she's also got a heart. I loved the way she tries to keep others safe. Children are her weak spot, there's nothing she won't do for them. She risks her life numerous times to make sure she'll rescue as many as possible. Tiger is an admirable main character. She has plenty of interesting skills and I enjoyed reading more about her versatile abilities. Keri Arthur describes them in a fantastic captivating way. Keri Arthur has a great mesmerizing writing style. The worlds she creates feel real and complete. She describes every interesting detail and makes them come to life in a brilliant way. Her stories are filled with unexpected twists and turns, thrilling rescue missions and terrific combat scenes. I couldn't turn the pages quickly enough to find out more about Tiger's opponents and their plans. Keri Arthur kept me glued to the pages from beginning to end and I absolutely loved Winter Halo.
kDreamer More than 1 year ago
I really like this series. The story does feel familiar with the current popular theme of wierd violent world with supernatural creatures threatening humans...or humanity at every turn, corrupt government and main female character with unique abilities.
Samantha1020 More than 1 year ago
I am loving this series so much! I read the first book in this series, City of Light, earlier this year and just adored it. I've been pining for this book every since I finished and was so excited to finally get the chance to read this one. I'm happy to say that I enjoyed this book just as much as I did the first book. What a mark of a great series (and author)! One of the things that I love most about this series is how original and unique it feels. Tiger is a déchet which is both a very rare and dangerous thing to be in this new world. Tiger was created in a laboratory and created for a specific purpose which gives her many special skills and abilities. The entire world that Arthur has created with shifters, vampires, wraiths, and all kinds of other supernatural creatures just feels so fresh to me. I can't seem to get enough of it! Then you add in a fast paced storyline where Tiger constantly gets herself into trouble and I found myself flying through this book as fast as I could. This might be slightly spoiler-ly (there is your warning) but I really liked that with this book we got to see more of Tiger's relationship with Jonas. I like that the characters are starting to trust Tiger more and find that I'm anxious for more of that in the third book. My one and only complaint with this book was that it definitely had a build up to the next book feel. There was resolution at the end so don't get me wrong but there was also a lot of set up for book three. It didn't bother me too much though as now I'm absolutely chomping at the bit to get my hands on that next book. The wait is going to be the hardest part!! I'm going to have to move on to one of Arthur's other series while I wait for this next book to be released. The ending of this book was completely intense! I got to a point where I just couldn't see how it was all going to end and the author had me on the edge of my seat. It was completely worth the ride and I am left eager for more. Overall, this is by far one of my favorite new series that I have found in 2016. It is pretty rare that I'm caught up with a series but when the books are this good...well, how could I not be? I think that fans of science fiction and urban fantasy would both enjoy these books. I do think that you should start with book one first just so that you get the full back story as this second book continues on after events from the first. You don't have to as the author does a pretty great job of refreshing the reader on everything that happened but I just think the reading experience would be better reading in order. I would highly recommend this book and the series. I can't say enough good things about it! Bottom Line: Such a great follow-up to book one! I need more! Disclosure: I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher courtesy of NetGalley.
Boundlessbookreviews More than 1 year ago
I don’t even know how to begin, to write this review.  This is such an incredibly complex and rich world that Arthur has created.  It is bleak and harsh, yet with her main character Tiger, it begs the question what makes someone worthy of being valued and treated as an equal?  And what doesn’t?  What makes one person better than the other?  What makes one life have more value than the other?  Tiger, who is considered less because she is “man made” has been prophesized to be the one to free the kidnapped children.  She has the skills the others don’t.  She is determined to complete the task if it kills her, because she has vowed to never let another child suffer if she can help it.  Old hatreds are questioned, some are brought back some are eliminated.  The story gets so complex and at times a little confusing.  At the same time, there is a ton of action and I couldn’t help but keep listening.  I can’t wait to see what happens to Tiger next....Sara   
BluHawk More than 1 year ago
There are a few reasons why Keri Arthur is one of my top authors: ◾Her heroines are always kickass and fun ◾Her writing is page turning good ◾Her stories are always creative, and ◾Her books are always packed with a great mix of action, mystery, and romance Where Winter Halo takes it one step further is the love story. Many urban fantasies hit you over the head immediately with a love interest (or two). In this case, all we’ve gleaned so far is the potential for a good love story, which is both promising an excellent payoff down the road and allowing the story to focus on all the other aspects that make it so good. Like how strong the main character is. Tiger is a lab-created shifter/vampire hybrid bred for subterfuge during the apocalyptic war between shifters and humans. Her specialty is seduction and intelligence-gathering, a combination which led to some “steamy” moments. Even with such a unique backstory, it’s Tiger’s actions and motives that make her so interesting. Having not been able to save children under her care during the war, she’d go to the ends of the earth to help them now. And, as the overall arc of the series so far is finding and rescuing some missing kids, it’s a combination that is as compelling as it is heart-wrenching. I love Keri Arthur’s characters (Riley Jensen being one of my favorites from a past series), and Tiger is just as good. Awesome characters, great writer, and understated love story aside, it’s the overall mystery of the series that has me chomping at the bit for the next one. Arthur did a great job weaving all of her plot points into a complex storyline. If I had just one complaint it’s that many of these plot points are revamped (no pun intended) ideas from her other series. However, They were spun freshly enough that I found them more nostalgic than tiresome. If you’re looking for an urban fantasy that’s interesting and slightly off the beaten path, City of Light is a great place to start – the series only seems to be getting better and better! Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller
Caroles_Random_Life More than 1 year ago
This was a good read. This is the second book in the Outcast series and it picks up right where the first one left off. I do think that this is a series that needs to be read in order since it is really a continuation of the events from the first book. I absolutely loved the first book in this series, City of Light so I couldn't wait to get my hands on the next installment. It ended up being a entertaining story. I enjoyed this one but not quite as much as the first in the series. I really had a hard time getting into this book. I am not sure if it was because it had been months since I read the first book or what but it took some time for me to really get back into Tiger's world. Things did pick up quickly for me and before I knew it I was pulled in by the excitement of the story. I seriously couldn't turn the pages fast enough. There were enough action and plot twists to really keep the story moving. I love the characters in this series. Tiger is such an interesting and strong character. Being the last of her kind, she has learned to depend only on herself and her ghost friends. She still cares about others and is willing to risk everything to save lives. She was created with certain skills and she knows her strengths. It was just a lot of fun to watch her manipulate situations into to get the information that she needs. I would recommend this series to fans of futuristic fantasy. I do think that readers will need to read the first book in the series to enjoy this second installment. I do wish that this book had wrapped up a little more. I can't wait to get my hands on the next book in this series because I need to find out what happens next. I received an advance reader edition of this book from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story, new and unusual characters, really enjoy this series.