The fifth book in the new Arctic Brotherhood series--heart-pounding werewolf romances by Jane Godman that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
They are the Arctic Brotherhood.
They are deadly fighters, fierce protectors and loyal mates.
Six months ago, the Arctic Brotherhood was torn apart when a respected former member, Hendrik Rickard was murdered. Cindy Harper, Hendrik’s best friend and housekeeper, is still struggling to come to terms with his death when she feels an invisible presence watching her. Alone and frightened, she turns to the only man who can help her.
Sebastian Novak is the maverick of the Arctic Brotherhood. Infuriated at the lack of progress they have made toward defeating their sworn enemy, Chastel, Sebastian wants to go on the attack. The discovery that Cindy is being targeted, increases his fury further. Forced to deny his feelings for Cindy in the past, Sebastian is overwhelmed by the strength of his desire for her as he protects her from this new threat.
Sebastian and Cindy succumb to the intensity of the attraction between them, but their lives are thrown into turmoil by a series of unexpected events. Before they can claim the happiness they have long denied themselves, they must face the evil mastermind determined to destroy the brotherhood.
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The wind was bitter as Cindy Harper performed her weekly ritual. There was something soothing about the familiarity of the routine she had established. Methodically removing the dead and dying floral tributes that had been placed at the base of the memorial, she set about clearing the leaves that had blown onto the neat square of grass that surrounded it. She was on first-name terms now with the head of the ground maintenance team. He had greeted her this morning as she passed through City Hall. The conversation always went the same way.
"Ms. Harper, you really don't have to. My guys are paid to do that stuff."
"I know that, Larry. But I want to do this for him."
Her quiet dignity always convinced him. Even though she sensed him wondering about her story, he left her to get on with her task, and she was grateful for that. Everyone wondered about her story.
I wonder about my story.
When she was satisfied that the memorial was in perfect order, she placed the bunch of wildflowers into the holder at the marble base. Hendrik wouldn't have wanted anything formal. A slight smile touched her lips. If he were here now, he would probably ask what the hell she was playing at picking wildflowers. The environment had been his passion. He would ask her why she hadn't left them to grow in peace.
Despite the cold, Cindy took a seat on the bench nearby. She had nowhere else to be, and it soothed her to stay here. Six months had passed since Hendrik's death, and she still couldn't shake off the lethargy that had pulled her down once the initial horror had passed.
The inscription was simple. HENDRIK RICKARD, A TRUE SON OF ALASKA. There was a date of birth followed by the date of his murder. The truth was that Hendrik had been born centuries earlier than the date on the memorial. And, because the police had never found his body, the date of his death was an estimate.
But he is dead. Cindy couldn't allow herself to feel any false hope on that score. This wouldn't turn out to be a bad dream. The only reason the police had not found his body was because Hendrik's friends — the members of the elite force known as the Brotherhood of the Midnight Sun — had discovered it first and disposed of it. They couldn't allow his remains to be found by anyone else. Forensic tests on his corpse would have shown that Hendrik, a prominent Alaskan senator, was actually an Arctic werewolf. The scandal would have rocked Hendrik's family, Alaskan politics, and the whole world. Every werewolf currently living anonymously in the human world would have been in constant fear of discovery.
There was another reason why the brotherhood had intervened. A true Arctic werewolf could only be killed by the light of the midnight sun. Ivan Joseph, the man who had abducted Hendrik, had brutalized his body, but he couldn't kill him. Hendrik's human body had been destroyed, but his inner werewolf did not die with it. His wolf body was broken beyond repair. If the brotherhood had left him that way, he would have remained alive, but he would have been a shadow of the man he was. Hendrik would have been unable to return to the human realm and unable to enjoy the freedom of the werewolf world. His friends had to perform the final kindness for him and deliver the mercy blow. Heartbroken, they had killed Hendrik, decapitating him and burning his remains.
"I don't know what to do." Cindy whispered the words to herself, but she was also saying them to Hendrik. Almost four years had passed since the night when Samson Lee, one of the brotherhood members, had rescued her from the motorcycle gang that had kidnapped her. When Samson had taken her to the luxurious mansion of his friend Hendrik, she had been traumatized, terrified, and alone. The realization that she was in the home of an Arctic werewolf had not improved her emotional state.
She could smile at the memory now. You took care of me. The thought brought a rush of tears to her eyes. And now I don't know how to survive without you.
She was staying in Hendrik's house until it was sold. Taking care of the beautiful mansion as she had done for the last four years. It belonged to Hendrik's daughter, Valetta, now. Hendrik had left Cindy well provided for in his will, a fact that had shocked her. Because, contrary to what everyone believed, they had never been anything more than friends.
Would he still be alive if things had been different? If I had been his mate as the world believed? She choked back a sob at the thought. I didn't love him in that way. And I loved him too much to try and fool him. Hendrik had explained it to her. Werewolves mated for life. They knew their mate instantly. He had described it as like a rush of blood to the head ... that hit the whole body. Hendrik had found his mate once. He had been married briefly and Valetta had been born before his wife had died.
Humans and werewolves could have sex. It could be a no-strings arrangement, just as it could between two humans. Longer term, the human mate would accept the werewolf's bite and also be transformed into a werewolf.
"But we are not mates." Cindy had swallowed her disappointment. More than anything, she had wanted to make him happy. But she couldn't pretend to be something she wasn't.
"No, we're not." Hendrik had sighed, draping an arm around her shoulders and pressing his lips to her temple. "I guess the phrase 'just good friends' has more meaning than ever in our case."
"Your friends"— she had meant his daughter and the members of the brotherhood —"all think we are having sex. They believe we are lovers."
"Let them think what they like. All that matters is we care about each other. The details are unimportant."
So she had spent four years living a lie. Her best friends — her only friends — were werewolves. But I'm not one of them. They assumed she had taken Hendrik's bite. And we never told them the truth. Now Hendrik's protection was removed, she felt a cold chill of loneliness creeping in. How could I possibly tell them now? How can I watch their faces change from warm affection to distaste when they realize that I'm a liar?
She supposed one alternative would be to take the money Hendrik had left her and quietly disappear. The thought caused her throat to tighten further. That would mean saying goodbye to everything, and everyone, she cared for. One face in particular flashed into her mind and, determinedly, she pushed it aside. Sebastian didn't mean any more to her than the others. He was just a friend.
She turned her head as though listening for something, even though the silence of the garden remained undisturbed. This feeling had been bothering her for several weeks now, and it was growing stronger, creeping up on her — and creeping her out — at different times during the day, often when she least expected it. When she was out shopping. When she was cooking a meal for herself in the evening. When she first woke in the morning. At first, she had decided it was another symptom of her grief. Call it anxiety, sorrow, a fear of being alone ... call it whatever the hell she wanted. It was unpleasant and it sent a cold finger of dread down her spine. Now she was getting used to it and she was able to analyze it.
It wasn't a random fear. It wasn't in her mind. She knew exactly what it was. She was being watched.
Sebastian Novak wasn't concentrating. The story in front of him was huge, and he had been pursuing the finer details for weeks, but his brain was refusing to process the information he was reading. That was pretty much how it had been for the last six months. Ever since Hendrik Rickard had been murdered, Sebastian, a freelance journalist, had been unable to focus on anything else for very long.
His desire for revenge was eating him up. He knew it wasn't healthy, but he couldn't shake free of it. Hendrik had been his friend and his mentor. As a man, Sebastian had looked up to him. As a werewolf, and a member of the Brotherhood of the Midnight Sun, Hendrik had been everything Sebastian wanted to be. Everything he had become. More than anything, Hendrik embodied the brotherhood code.
Value the pack before the individual. Protect the young and honor your mate. Never place another member of your pack at risk through your actions.
They were basic wild wolf rules for survival, but they were also werewolf values, and Hendrik had lived them. Now he was gone, slaughtered because of his connection to the brotherhood. Ivan Joseph, the man who killed him was dead, but the man who had driven his murderer to kill was still at large. Jean Chastel, the sworn enemy of the brotherhood — of all werewolves — was still out there somewhere, congratulating himself on his success.
The knowledge that there was nothing he could do except wait for Chastel to strike again was driving Sebastian crazy. Because he knew it was only a matter of time before Chastel did strike again. The centuries-old bounty hunter had sworn to wipe out all werewolves, starting with the Arctic species he loathed. He had made several recent attempts, plotting to kill Samson and abducting Valetta, who was now Samson's wife. When that effort to destroy the Arctic werewolves had failed, Chastel had faked his own death and plotted to reignite an age-old conflict between the Arctic werewolves and their Siberian enemies. During that mission, Lowell, another brotherhood member, had come close to death.
Chastel's most recent endeavors had taken the form of collaboration with a serial killer. Determined to undermine the brotherhood, the heartbeat of the Arctic species, Chastel had contacted Joseph, the unhinged murderer known as the Cage Killer, encouraging him to commit more and more horrific atrocities. Joseph's killing spree had ended with Hendrik's death.
As if on cue, Sebastian's cell phone rang. He shouldn't be glad of the distraction, this story was too important, but he turned away from his laptop with a feeling of relief. Checking the screen, he saw it was Madden, a brotherhood member and probably the person Sebastian could call his closest friend.
"This sucks." Madden didn't bother with a greeting.
Sebastian didn't need to ask what he meant. "She won't let us go after him."
He also didn't need to elaborate on who "she" was. Sebastian had spent his whole life fighting authority. As a human, that fight had come in the form of a determination never to let another person dictate his destiny. As a werewolf, he thought outside the pack. But, when it came to the big decisions, there was a higher authority in the werewolf world. The goddess Angrboda, known as the Mother of All Werewolves, was in charge. And nothing irked Sebastian more than being forced to bend to the will of another.
He leaned back in his chair, surveying the bustling scene outside his window. He hated large cities. One of the worst aspects of chasing a big story was that he was forced to spend time away from his natural environment. The ice and snow of the Arctic was in his blood, and so was the unique light of the midnight sun. If he was away from it for too long, it tugged at something deep within him, reminding him that he was far from home.
True Arctic werewolves could only shift by the light of the midnight sun. They could also only be killed under its unique glow, although they could be damaged elsewhere. But the midnight sun called to them in the same way that the moon called to other werewolves. It was theirs, creating a mystical, magical bond among them and between them.
Four years ago, the goddess Angrboda had granted the members of the brotherhood a great gift. She had given the power to shift into their wolf form away from the midnight sun. It meant they could travel anywhere in the world in their role as the werewolf peacekeeping force. It also came with a price. The members of the Arctic Brotherhood could be killed away from the light of the midnight sun. Their new gift brought them an increased vulnerability.
The goddess was the person who had decided centuries ago that the werewolf world needed the brotherhood. Comprised of the seven bravest and strongest Arctic werewolves, the brotherhood's role was to defend against evil.
Which was why Sebastian felt so frustrated. He wanted to go after Chastel. Had repeatedly lobbied the goddess with his reasons why they shouldn't wait for the bounty hunter to come to them. Next time, he had reasoned, the brotherhood could be wiped out. Worse than that. The entire Arctic species could be destroyed. That was certainly Chastel's intention. He had killed Hendrik, a former brotherhood member. It was time to take the fight to Chastel.
The goddess, ensconced in her palace in the magical realm of Jotunheim, had listened sympathetically. But at the end of Sebastian's appeal, she had explained there was nothing she could do. The brotherhood was not an attacking force. If she agreed to let Sebastian lead a mission against Chastel, she would be changing the nature of the brotherhood. And that was something she was not prepared to allow.
Frustrated, Sebastian had experienced a moment of madness. For an instant, he had been tempted to tell the deity who ruled all werewolves to go to hell. He would go after Chastel without her permission. Luckily, common sense had prevailed before the words left his lips. Such an act would be unthinkable. Wolves were pack animals. They were governed by rules. Their lives were orderly and simple. Werewolves followed a similar path. And the most important rule was loyalty. There was no place for a disloyal wolf.
Even if Sebastian had cast every wolf feeling aside and decided to pursue Chastel without the approval of the goddess, there was no way his fellow brotherhood members would support him. They might laugh at his maverick tendencies, even approve of them when his creative thinking got them out of a difficult situation. But defying the goddess? Sebastian couldn't imagine a situation in which his six friends would approve of such a drastic step.
The other option would be to go it alone. Me against Chastel. It was a daunting prospect. The bounty hunter was a powerful centuries-old sorcerer with a wealth of tricks up his sleeve and an evil streak a mile wide. Yes, it was daunting. But it was also appealing ...
"How's Cindy?" Madden's voice intruded on his thoughts.
Sebastian shifted in his seat. "I haven't seen her for a while." He winced at the way the words sounded. Cold, hard, and distant. The opposite of what he felt. Where Cindy was concerned, he always felt too much. That was the problem.
There was brief silence before Madden continued. "It's got to be tough on her, coping with Hendrik's death when she has no family of her own."
Give me a break. Sebastian clenched his fist against his thigh. He had a feeling Madden knew exactly what he was doing. Staying away from Cindy was proving to be one of the hardest things Sebastian had ever done. If he followed his instincts he'd have been at her side the whole time. But instincts were overrated. Cindy was hurt and fragile, and Sebastian wasn't going to risk their friendship ... and it would be in danger if he went to her now. But where would giving in to their feelings take them? What did he have to offer Cindy? Himself? He almost laughed out loud at the thought. I couldn't have found a more worthless offering.
"How's life in the frozen north?" He turned the subject to his friend's recent marriage and life-changing move to the frozen wastes of Svalbard.
Madden made him laugh by telling him stories about the lengths he and his wife Maria were forced into to hide the fact that they loved the icy temperatures. While their neighbors wore thermal underwear and layers of fleece and down, Madden and Maria wanted to dive naked into the nearest snowdrift. After a few minutes, they ended the call and Sebastian returned to his contemplation of the view. His thoughts were on Cindy. Let's face it, they are rarely anywhere else.
Talking to Madden had made Sebastian's desire to be with Cindy even stronger. He pulled his laptop toward him. Instead of continuing with his research, he opened a favorite tab and began searching for a flight to Fairbanks, Alaska. He could go and see how Cindy was. They were friends. It didn't have to be anything more.
So what if two geeks had made billions by selling their online gaming channel to a national company? Now, two years later, they had resurfaced and were taking the cyber world by storm, to the extent that there was a suggestion they were brainwashing their followers. The story would still be there in the morning.
Excerpted from "Wolf Hunter"
Copyright © 2017 Jane Godman.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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