Hunter of the Heart
Available November 2011 from Samhain Publishing
Genre: Paranormal Romance, werewolf / shape-shifter
His darkest secret could be her only hope.
Tessa Archer is sick of sitting on the sidelines of life, but the man she’s just met on her first Caribbean cruise is way out of her comfort zone. He’s dazzlingly handsome, compelling…and she swears she can hear his voice in her head before he speaks.
When Nathan Barcza touches Tessa’s hand, the jolt of recognition is unmistakable—and impossible. Werewolves mate only once—for life—and his mate was murdered by the creature he hunts, a Pithcus that hides somewhere aboard this ship. This is his final chance for vengeance.
The last thing he can afford is any distraction, but the siren call of Tessa’s open heart is irresistible. It also makes her a target of the creature who’s had a taste of her and wants more. To save her, Nate will have to unleash his last secret in a confrontation with no hope of survival.
For if the Pithcus doesn’t kill him, Nate’s partner is under orders to finish the job…
Warning: This excerpt contains strong language that may be inappropriate for some readers
“And all I’m saying is, you been off your game lately. I know it gets rough around this time of year for you—”
“That has nothing to do with it,” Nate warned in a snarled whisper.
The anniversary of that night in the woods was coming up hard and fast. But regardless of what little Mitch knew, or thought he knew, about Beth’s death, the topic was closed for discussion.
“It has everything to do with this,” Mitch stated—the fuck you bitch, clearly implied in his tone. “I’m not the enemy here, Nate. So let’s save the righteous indignation for the right mutha-effing target. We cool on that?”
Nate inhaled and worked to unclench his jaw. “Yeah, we’re cool.”
“Well all right then. At least one thing’s for sure, we know that mutha-effer’s still on board.”
“And that’s about all we got.”
The monster jumping ship had been a huge concern, but fresh evidence of its tell-tale odor lingered in odd pockets on board. Those pockets were proving few and far between on the twelve-storey, four-thousand passenger vessel, however. The constantly blowing sea breeze and frequent ports of call stops, didn’t help either. Nor the fact the creature’s unique scent was strongest when it was in shifter form and almost undetectable when human. Another bloody Elder super-power. So far the stench had dissipated in the salt air before Nate could follow the trail back to its origin, but the creature’s luck would run out soon.
Then that night, those grizzly minutes watching the monster feed on his mate, would be laid to rest forever and Nate could gain some measure of peace. Maybe even go back home… the faces of Sebastian and Giselle swam into murky focus, tweaking something in his chest which he ruthlessly suppressed. His step-brother and step-mother were part of the past, a different world, a different life from the one he’d entered with the creature’s taunt: I know you now wolf.
Nate’s bones began to grind and he clamped down on his emotions. He’d give it five more minutes on this deck before scouting out other parts of the ship.
With that he resumed scanning the crowd, primed for any suspicious signs—a walk too fluid or features that hinted at something more than human. By the time he checked out the blond on the opposite side of the pool for the third time, he started paying attention and asking himself why.
Compared to what some of the other females were wearing, her black two-piece was downright modest, yet his gaze kept returning to her slim golden figure. A little too slim if you asked him, almost fragile. And there was something awkward in her body language, a certain self-consciousness—like a gazelle coming out in the clearing. Weak. He could practically scent it from here.
Mitch moved restlessly in his seat, emitting a sound halfway between a groan and a whine and Nate tore his gaze from the woman.
“Can’t you whip up something for sea sickness?”
“How many times do I have to tell you I ain’t seasick? We cats just don’t dig the water. Look at those waves, up and down and up and down—” Mitch clamped his lips together, his whole face tight as he went from greenish to blanched.
Funny, it sure as hell seemed like sea-sickness to Nate.
“But I guess sometimes a man has to suffer for his art.” Mitch gamely raised his glass to a busty brunette further down the bar.
“The way I perform? Take a picture and hang it in the Guggenheim, baby. Entertain and enlighten the masses.” Mitch began to coon in a raspy unsteady voice, “Nobody does it better. Makes me feel sad for the rest…”
“Hey, feel sad for my ears.”
“Hey, suck my dick.”
Nate just managed to hold back his laughter and he glanced around, ready suggest they be on their way, when his attention landed on the blonde again. His smile thinned.
Some no-neck nimrod was sitting way too close to her, breathing in her face. Nate told himself it was none of his business, the guy was probably her boyfriend, but if it were possible her body language was even more rigid and defensive.
As he watched, she shook her head periodically at whatever No-neck was whispering in her ear.
Nate didn’t question his rising anger, just signaled the server and ordered another bottled-water. When it came, he took it and stood.
“I’ll be right back.”
“Take your time.”
As Mitch slid off his stool and headed for the brunette, Nate turned, then wove his way through the maze of loungers to the other side of the pool.
Suntan lotion, sweat, ocean air, chlorine.., as he parsed out the different odors, one eluded him, flitting away before he could analyze it.
He was tempted to stand still, see if he could catch the fragrance again, but the male had just touched the woman’s thigh and Nate so badly wanted to break every bone in that hand.
Just before he arrived at the female’s side, he sent out the greeting on impulse. Now why the hell did he do that?
It had the right affect, though—she looked up at him expectantly.
That wasn’t supposed to happen. A queer sensation coiled inside him.
“Sorry I took so long.” He handed her the water, it was the same brand as the almost empty bottle on the table beside her. ‘I’m here to help.’
After a slight hesitation she took it from him. “Thanks.”
Her voice was a soft caress to his senses; soothing, cool to brittle fires plaguing him. He would have curled up at her feet just to hear her speak some more.
That flash of need caught him up short. This was getting too weird. Nate almost backed away when he locked eyes with the guy hitting on her. Instead he took a step closer, claiming the alpha position over the seated male.
“So who’s your friend?” he asked casually.
He watched Rod size him up and come up three sizes too small.
“Who the hell are you?” Roid-tard flexed a few oversized muscles.
Nate let the bones in his face shift slightly and flashed a smile, knowing his incisors looked unnaturally prominent. I’m the thing you don’t believe in asshole.
Dude’s eyes widened and his aggression suffered a bout of erectile dysfunction.
Unfortunately Nate couldn’t fully enjoy the beginnings of the male’s submission, because woman was giving off major waves of anxiety. For her sake he erased the small signs of transformation, but still held the guy’s gaze.
That’s what you did with prey.
Rod shot up out of the lounger. “Listen man, I was just having a friendly conversation with Tessa.”
Nate exhaled in a low growl and Rod held up his hands.
“It’s cool. I’ll leave you two alone.”
“Do that.” Nate bared his teeth once more.
He didn’t relax until Rod was gone from sight and he could barely smell the drops of urine that had trickled down between the human’s legs. But his smile faded with the awareness of Tessa’s growing agitation.
He turned to her, ‘I mean you no harm’, and watched as she searched his face. He saw the exact moment she decided to trust him; her hazel eyes lightened a shade.
‘Thank you, Nate.” She held out her hand, her mouth curving into a smile.
He felt a surprising twist in his chest at the sight of that smile and paused before taking her slender hand in his.
His heart still pumped hard from the confrontation with Rod, but that didn’t explain the premonition that snaked through him. Nate drew in a deep breath—that scent again, lilacs and something peppery, where was coming from it?
He stared down at Tessa. It couldn’t be.
With a deep sense of foreboding he slowly took her hand in his.
And knowledge slammed into him. One word.
She gasped, her eyes widening.
Had he spoken out aloud?
Nate dropped Tessa’s hand.
“You’ll be fine now,” he said with a calm he was far from feeling. He could hear the rush of blood through her veins as that gorgeous scent invaded his nostrils again, wrapped itself around his cock and tugged.
Nate spun on his heels and stalked away, putting distance between him and the female.
Beth. He searched for the memories, needing to embrace the fading ache and the ever present, familiar anger. He reached past that one word: