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Previously Released
Box set contains Protector of Dragons and Destiny of Dragons

Protector of Dragons
Secrets long hidden are brought to the surface on the shiny scales of a dragon.
After thousands of years petrified in stone Jiang is finally free. The search to find his friends leads him to the doorstep of Aden Gale. Will Jiang’s need for his comrades unravel a family’s hidden secrets?
Meeting pigeon shifter Kurtis changes everything for Jiang. Drawn to the sweet man, Jiang vows to find a way to end Kurtis’ curse. However, dark magic works against them and it will take the combined strength of many people to keep back the tide of destruction coming their way.

Destiny of Dragons
When everyone is against you, you must fulfill your destiny.
Liang wakes up and discovers breaking the curse had separated him far from the others. The bad news is another dragon has captured him, the good news is he found his mate.
Proteus couldn’t believe he found his mate. Unfortunately circumstances make it impossible for him to go with Liang and it breaks his heart when his mate goes on without him.

Aden has been struggling to keep everyone safe. With the evil against him mounting and the number of people he needs to protect increasing, will he be able to live up to his destiny and become the leader the dragons need or will evil triumph against him?



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Welcome to Day 29!

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Chapter One

A maniacal smile enhanced the eeriness of the man clutching a knife in his right hand. Blood crusted the blade. Quain’s blood. “Let’s see what it takes to make you scream.”

Quain Ilves jerked awake, a shout strangling his throat. Sweat beaded his forehead and trickled down his spine in a sticky anemic river. He rubbed his hands up and down his arms, trying to combat the unnatural chill skating across his body.

I’m not there anymore. I’m not there anymore. He chanted in his head until the words created an impenetrable ward against his terrifying dreams.

If only his nightmares weren’t regurgitated memories, they would be easier to battle. Recently, they had grown bolder, making his waking and vision worlds bleed together until he jumped at looming shadows and his lover’s touch. Without quality sleep, he had become like a narcoleptic, falling unconscious throughout the day with a little warning. It didn’t help that car rides made him drowsy. For most of the road trip, this unexpected bonding time with Peter, Quain had faded in and out of consciousness.

“Are you all right?”

He jerked out of his half daze to meet Peter’s worried stare. The concern and care in Peter Woods’ blue-green eyes never failed to loosen the tight knot in Quain’s chest. Past romantic interludes had been cold, rushed one-offs with barely a name exchanged between them. This new constant attention from a dedicated lover took some getting used to. A task he embraced with both glee and puzzlement.

He adored his sweet, kind mate—who needed to look where the fuck he was driving.

“Pay attention to the road!” Quain shouted as they whipped down the highway at seventy miles per hour. While he appreciated the concern, he preferred living.

“Sorry.” Peter snapped his head back around and wrapped his long, beautiful fingers tighter around the wheel.

Quain sighed when memories of the amazing things Peter did with those fingers drifted through his semi-awake mind. He rubbed at his now burning cheeks. “No, I’m sorry. I had a bad dream. I didn’t mean to snap at you. I haven’t been sleeping well lately,” he confessed. Each time he closed his eyes he relived his days of torture. Eventually, the memories would fade, but in the short term, his hands trembled and he couldn’t manage more than a few hours of rest at a time. Although his physical wounds had healed, emotional damage thrived in his subconscious mind. His mental trauma had left dragon-claw-worthy scars across his psyche.

“Can I do anything to help?” Peter’s rich, calming voice broke through Quain’s tortured thoughts.

“No. I-I’ll be fine.” Eventually. If he didn’t go mad first. He rubbed at the uneven weave of denim covering his right knee, idly planning a shopping trip once they were done saving the mountain lions. He snatched a full water bottle from the drink holder, then chugged half as if he could drown the images in his head while soothing his burning throat. The cold liquid tugged him the rest of the way into wakefulness. An uneasy silence fell between them until Quain finally broke the quiet bubble with more than a little trepidation.

His stomach churned as he spoke the words he never thought he’d say. “I’m going to call that therapist Anthony recommended when we get back home. I thought I could handle this, but I can’t.”

It hurt to admit to his own personal failure. He spent most of his life controlling his emotions, and the jumble of pain and horror dancing around his brain while he slept was beyond his usual amazing coping abilities. Shame burned his cheeks. Even with his family’s help over the years, Quain had always considered himself a quiet island in the storm of his loud family. An island that could handle the terrors and visions smashing across its shores. Now his fragile ecosystem had been shattered, and he couldn’t find his previous emotional steadiness. Maybe this doctor could help him fix this new gaping hole in his psyche.

“Good. I’m glad you’re willing to get help, but if you just need to talk, you can always talk to me.” Peter didn’t ask any probing questions or interrogate Quain further about his problems. Instead, he kept his focus on the road and his curiosity to himself.

Quain had never loved Peter more. He wiggled around until he settled his seat belt in a more satisfactory spot before blurting out the question he feared to hear an honest answer to. “Do you think I’m weak?” He winced at the broken quiver in his voice.

“Why would I think that?” Peter’s honest confusion convinced Quain more than any sweet words Peter could’ve uttered.

Turning his attention to the empty road in front of him, he confessed his inner shame. “I can’t get over my captivity.”

Peter pulled the car to the side of the road, then engaged the parking brake.

“Why are we stopping?” Quain curled his right hand around the panic bar while his skittering gaze calculated the odds of a quick escape from both this conversation and the car. Why had he started blabbing out his weaknesses? No one wanted a damaged mate. He should have kept up the illusion that he was a strong and capable life partner. Was this where Peter finally had enough and decided to unload his useless mate?

“Because someone doesn’t like it when I take my eyes from the road and I think this is more important than driving.” Peter didn’t crack a grin, but his eyes danced with tender amusement.

Quain almost cracked a smile.

Peter unbuckled his seat belt before carefully unwrapping Quain’s clenched fingers from around the panic bar. He cupped both of Quain’s hands between his larger callused ones. “Listen to me, my beautiful mate. There is nothing wrong with you. You are a wonderful, sweet man who has had some very bad things happen to you. It wasn’t your fault you were kidnapped, and if you think it would be better to turn around and go back home, say the word and I will do that. Your needs come far above some random group of shifters, and if you’d rather go back and deal with your shit, then that is what we will do.”

“What about our assignment?” The pack was everything to a wolf shifter. Would Peter really go against them to make Quain happy?

Peter’s sexy mouth curled up into a small smile. “You are my mate. Nothing is as important to me. Silver understands that, and no Alpha worth his title would countermand one of his pack dropping everything for his mate. Now should we turn around or go forward?”

A comforting glow grew in Quain’s chest. Never before had anyone put him first. Sure, his parents had in the way of adults protecting their offspring, but no one ever had in the romantic sense.

He chose his words with care before pushing them through his emotionally roughened throat. “Thank you for that. I worry you’ll leave me once you learn what a mess I am, but maybe that is more my history of bad relationships than reality.” He blinked back the tears blurring his vision.

Peter squeezed Quain’s fingers, then placed a kiss on his forehead. “Everyone processes trauma differently. From what you’ve told me, you’re used to facing visions where the focus is on someone else. This time, you can’t really distance yourself from the actions because you know they are true and really happened. You went through a terrible ordeal. There is nothing wrong with seeking help with the memories. You’re the strongest person I know; never doubt that. Just let me be there for you. I can always provide a shoulder to cry on or a willing ear to listen. I might not know how to get over trauma like you’ve experienced, but I can offer comfort while you work things through.”

Quain threw himself into Peter’s arms, sobbing at the tight hug he received. Who knew the faint smell of grease could be as comforting as a bowl of chicken soup?

“I have the best mate,” he whispered.

A low rumble vibrated Peter’s chest in a reassuring manner. Peter’s wolf trying to send soothing vibes to his mate. “I could argue about that, but we should probably get back on the road before the cops come by to ask why I’m illegally parked.”

A gurgling laugh burst from his chest as he moved out of Peter’s comforting arms. Swiping his palms across his cheeks, he offered Peter a watery smile. “Thanks.”

“Any time, and I do mean that.”

“I know you do.” And he did. Peter’s honesty shone out of him. As much as Peter said he regretted his mutant past, he had kept the kernel of who he was throughout that horror and came out of it as the wonderful individual Quain happily called his mate.

“Now enough mush. Are we going forward or turning back?”

Quain took a deep, meditative breath before letting it out again. “Forward.”

“Are you sure?”

Quain nodded. “Positive.” He could do this. “I do appreciate your offer, though.”

Turning back now might get him to the therapist sooner, but it could negatively affect Peter’s standing in the pack. Silver and Anthony would probably say all the proper things about Quain’s mental health being more important than any mission and even mean it. That didn’t necessarily reflect the attitude of the rest of the pack. From what Peter told him about his past, Anthony had saved his life and never asked for anything except for information about the scientist who had been conducting the mutations. The Moon Pack had more than earned Peter’s loyalty and Quain didn’t want to become a liability to his mate.

Quain’s trauma needed to be buried beside the bodies of his torturers. He hadn’t bothered to ask Anthony if anyone had survived his kidnappers’ slaughter. His family wouldn’t have left loose ends or accidental evidence. He didn’t approve of murder, but he couldn’t deny the death of his captors helped his anxiety. Knowing that most of the people who kidnapped him were dead kept away a small fraction of the night terrors. It was the wizards who hadn’t been at the facility who were the problem now. Other cells were kidnapping shifters for experimentation and if they didn’t at least alert their future victims to their danger, they were no better than the wizards.

After checking for traffic, Peter pulled back onto the road. So far on this trip, they hadn’t run into any serious congestion and Quain hoped it remained that way. He didn’t really enjoy car trips. Oh, he didn’t get car sick. He just found them boring. Riding with his mate had changed his view a little, but didn’t completely take away the drowsiness car travel gave him. He had spent the first part of the trip drifting between sleeping and talking about their likes and dislikes. So far, he had learned Peter liked green, Quain, fast cars, Quain, and even though he disliked cats, he’d make an exception for Quain.

“If you change your mind at any time, even if it is right before we reach the mountain lions, I will turn around. I want you to be happy.”

“I am. I just need time to heal.” Quain rubbed a hand across the seat’s shiny red leather. Peter had worked hard over the past two weeks to ready his car for their road trip. Luckily, Peter knew a guy who painted cars and could do a rush job. “I’m glad we were able to take your car.”

“Me too.” Peter gave the dashboard an affectionate pat.

Quain leaned against the headrest. The car’s vibration sent him into a half-sleep trance. In a dreamlike state, the scenery flashed by in an unending flow of scraggly brush, old houses, and dilapidated barns. How much family history had been lost in those abandoned buildings? He could proudly trace his own heritage back five hundred years and mark where each generation birthed a seer. When he didn’t suffer from his sight, he enjoyed history. Maybe because his seer abilities focused on the future, he appreciated the solidity of things that had already happened. He floated in that state with only the car radio breaking the silence.

“Doing okay?” Peter’s deep voice pulled Quain’s attention from his unfocused pondering. A glance at the dashboard revealed an hour had already passed.

“Mmhm, I was wondering about the history of those barns. Who did they belong to? Why were they allowed to fall to ruin? I mean they’re still part of a farm and I don’t see a new barn, so what’s the story? Couldn’t they be salvaged?”

Peter made a humming thoughtful noise. “I’ve never thought about it. A lot of farms go out of business. They could’ve been sold and the new owner had no use for a barn. If they’re smart, they’ll sell the wood to one of those re-use companies. They will pay good money for reclaimed lumber.”

Quain sighed. “I guess so, but it seems like such a waste of a building.”

Peter shrugged. “Some things just aren’t meant to last. Are you missing your family?”

Was he? “Not really. We’ve only been gone a few hours. I’ve certainly been separated from them for much longer.”

“Do you think they’ll get into trouble?”

“Over the massacre?” Quain shrugged. “If there was going to be repercussions, they would’ve struck right away, I think. I can’t say I’m an expert about these things. Ilves are known for assassinations, not slaughters, and I can’t remember a time when anyone has ever been caught or sent to jail.” The Ilves had a reputation for a reason, and it wasn’t because anyone had ever found evidence against them.

“You haven’t participated in the family business?” Peter probed.

Quain let laughter bubble out of him. Genuine amusement washed away some of this recent angst. “No, seers aren’t encouraged to go on assassination sprees. Having a vision in the middle of a coup rarely works out well.”

“I can imagine,” Peter replied in a dry tone that set Quain chuckling again.

“Besides, my family rarely goes on killing sprees. This was to send a message as much as it was to take revenge on those who tortured me.”

It still amazed him that his family had decimated an entire group of wizards for him. He kept an ear out for any news over the hit but hadn’t heard anything yet. The wizards would retaliate, the only question was when.

“Are you enjoying the drive?” Peter’s new topic was a welcome change.

Quain was tired of talking about his family’s murderous tendencies. He wasn’t ashamed of them, but he didn’t want to think about it either.

“Yes. I’ve never been on a road trip before.” He didn’t like to admit he had never been anywhere. It wasn’t his family’s fault that he tended to fall into visionary fits when left alone for any length of time. Among regular humans, he always claimed epilepsy when he toppled to the floor in a public location.

“Oddly enough, neither have I,” Peter said. “Maybe next time we go on one, it can be a longer trip, just for us. I’d love to travel cross-country sometime.”

“That would be nice.” Quain smiled at the idea of planning future trips with his mate. “Where are we spending the night?”

“Anthony had his assistant set us up with a hotel. I have it marked on the map on my phone.”

“Great.” He didn’t really care where they spent the night as long as they got a room. He wiggled his butt to find a better position. He could only sit on his tailbone for so long before he needed to stand up and stretch. “Do you think we can find them?”

“A group of mountain lions who can make it snow? How hard could it be?” Peter’s dry tone made Quain grin.

“I just hope the wizards don’t capture them first.” Quain bit his fingernail as he stared blindly out the window. After his experience in the wizards’ tender clutches, he wouldn’t wish that fate on anyone. Silver hadn’t been able to find a phone number for the mountain lions. Although they had the group’s location, they didn’t have contact info. Surprisingly, none of Anthony’s contacts could find out anything either. It only proved how little connection the mountain lions had with the outside world.

“I’m sure they’ll be fine. They are large cat shifters. They aren’t completely helpless.”

“I know.” He pressed his forehead against the cold glass of the window. No matter how much he hoped the mountain lions were safe, he had to be prepared for disappointment. They had no way of knowing if someone had leaked the information before they could reach them. “If only we knew how the wizards were organized, we might have better information. I mean, do they work together, or is each cell independent?”

“Oliver didn’t know much,” Peter said.

“Are we sure we can trust him?”

“Yes.” Peter’s conviction came through his tone.

Quain nodded, then rubbed his forehead. “Okay.”

“Are you getting a vision?” Peter reached over to lightly squeeze Quain’s knee.

“No, just a little headache. I’ll be fine.”

Peter made a noncommittal noise. “Let me know if you need anything. Do you think visions are blending with your dreams now?” Peter’s concern lifted a bit of Quain’s depression.

“I’m not sure. Lately, I’ve been having restless dreams, and I don’t usually remember them when I wake up.” He didn’t tell Peter that he remembered enough bits and pieces to give him shivers from the flashes of memories, which were more disturbing than entire dreams.

“Is that normal?”

“No. I usually recall my dreams in excruciating detail.” This new nebulous dreaming was driving him insane.

“Hmm. If it continues, you might want to tell Anthony. I don’t know if he can do anything, but it wouldn’t hurt to get a second opinion. He’s good at the supernatural stuff.”

“Yeah, maybe.” He’d almost automatically rejected the idea out of hand, but the Alpha mate had access to gods. He’d be an idiot to ignore those kinds of resources. If Anthony didn’t know anything, Quain could consult the other family seers and see if they ever experienced the same thing. For all he knew, it could just be his powers developing. Sometimes after traumatic experiences, abilities changed.

Peter checked the time on the dashboard. “We have two more hours before we reach the hotel. Do you want me to pull over at the next rest stop?”

“I wouldn’t mind stretching my legs.” After several hours in the car, his back and legs ached. His inner lynx yowled for a good run, but his animal form wasn’t exactly indigenous to the area and would attract all the wrong kind of attention.

“Are you hungry? I saw a fast food sign for the next exit.”

“Not really.” He eyed the large cooler set on the floor between them. “You stocked enough snacks for the entire pack. I can wait until we stop for the night to get a proper meal.”

An attractive pink brightened Peter’s cheeks. “I didn’t want you going hungry.”

Quain held back the cooing sound building in his throat. “I don’t think anyone has a mate as attentive as you. I’m safe from starving to death for now.” Peter’s adorable mother-henning instincts always made Quain smile even if he overdid things sometimes. He would take every bit of cosseting over being ignored.

“Good.” A wealth of satisfaction lived in those words. If he were a cat shifter, Peter would’ve purred.

“The fates must have smiled on me the day they assigned you as my mate.” If karma was real, then Quain had earned this relationship.

Peter scowled. “I would’ve liked it better if you didn’t have to be tortured before we found each other.”

“I’d suffer through a lot more torture to find you.” Quain’s voice cracked beneath the weight of his emotions. He patted Peter’s muscular forearm before retreating back to his side of the car and turning his attention to the view of endless farmland.

Peter didn’t speak for the next mile but swiped at his eyes a few times. Ten minutes later, they pulled into a rest stop with the same generic look as the others they had passed on the way.

As soon as they rolled to a stop, Quain felt his bladder twinge a complaint. After a fast unbuckle, then a kiss to Peter’s cheek, he scampered out of the car, shouting, “Be back in a bit.”

“Are you talking to me?” A dangerously thin woman in a tattered dress swayed at the edge of the cement by the parking lot. Her dirty sneakers were neatly aligned to the curb as she teetered precariously back and forth. She aimed her unfocused violet eyes to the sky as she spoke.

“No, sorry.” Quain hurried past, pushing aside his natural compassion. Leaving a puddle on the sidewalk wouldn’t give a positive impression. He still wanted to remain sexy for Peter.

After a quick visit to use the facilities, a much happier Quain headed back to the car. As he passed the vending machines, the same woman blocked his path.

“I can help you.” Her eyes roamed everywhere but on Quain.

Quain came to an awkward stop. His instincts crackled like fire and insisted he give this woman his attention. “Can you?” Too many strange things happened in his life for him to immediately dismiss her. Once gods started popping into his visions, Quain’s insistent grip on reality, as he knew it, began to slip. “What do you think you can help me with?”

“Life, of course. If only you’d listen.” Her airy tone held a demanding impatience, like a toddler insisting her parents decipher her brilliant gibberish.

“And what do you know about my life?” His mental warning flags flapped frantically for attention.

“I see you in my dreams.”

“You have visions?” Quain would be the last person to refute a seer’s abilities.

“Yes. You’ll need to be careful. They won’t trust your warning. Take care of the frosted lion and leave the others to their fates.”


“They have secrets they don’t want outsiders to know. There is only one you can save from his fate, and he is the most important of them all, if you wish to survive this battle.”

Quain bit his lip as he considered his options. “Anything else you can tell me?”

She didn’t answer directly. Her eyes turned opaque before she spoke again. “Know this, Quain Ilves, you are on the precipice. Don’t fall.”

A shiver raced down his spine with the ferocity of a winter storm.

“Problem?” Peter pressed a hand to Quain’s back, grounding him and providing emotional support. A united front.

“This lady says we’ll only be able to save one of the cats.”

“What’s your name?” Peter swept a flickering glance over her unkempt appearance, but didn’t question Quain’s statement.

“You can call me Cassie,” she said with a thin smile.

“Is that your real name?” Quain refused to play word games when an entire group’s lives were at risk.

“It is for now. It changes.” She didn’t add anything else.

“What do you think?” Peter asked, rubbing his hand across Quain’s back.

Quain beamed. Peter always checked before making decisions affecting them both. He pressed a kiss to Peter’s cheek. “I think we should take her with us.”

“I can’t leave here,” Cassie interrupted. “I am only to warn, not to travel. I speak your fate. Listen or not.”

“Do you live here?” Quain asked. There were enough farms nearby, she could even be living in one of those shabby barns.

Cassie’s sad smile only added to her despair-inspiring appearance. “The trio will find you, but it is not them who you seek. They can lead you to the one you need. The others cannot be saved.”

“The one?” Peter asked the question burning on the tip of Quain’s tongue. “We didn’t come all this way to rescue one person.”

The more she talked, the less Quain understood.

“Give this coin to the isolated cat.” She pressed a heavy gold coin into Quain’s hand. “It will help him find his courage.”

Quain flipped the disk over to examine each side. One half had an impression of a Greek god with the word Apollo printed below and the other had a curled-up cat. The features appeared to be a mountain lion, but it was too small to confirm.

When Quain lifted his head to ask her about it, she was gone. A quick spin around showed no sign of her presence. “Huh, did you see her leave?” He wished he could say that was the strangest thing that had ever happened to him.

“No, I was looking at the coin too. Do you think she’s connected to Zeus?”

“Maybe.” Quain tapped the coin to his chin. “If she’s the original Cassandra, then she’s forced to tell people prophecies that no one will listen to.”

“But we listened,” Peter objected.

“Which means either she’s not the original Cassandra, or the story might not be true. Most of those old stories are meant as warnings. My family always took it as a sign that not listening to a seer could be your downfall.” The cold metal in the coin pressed against his hand. “I wonder how this will help us.”

“Something tells me we’ll learn soon enough. Let’s get back on the road. This place gives me the creeps.” Peter shuddered.

“Don’t like disappearing people?” Quain asked, grinning.

“Not really, and as much as I appreciate your visions, I don’t like receiving them from strangers, who won’t tell us their real name and then vanish. She could’ve been a ghost.”

“Maybe. Besides, we don’t know that Cassie isn’t really her name. She did give us information after all. There are probably a million girls named Cassandra that have never been prophets.”

“True, doesn’t make her any less creepy, though.”

Quain sniffed the air, but he couldn’t smell anything. “Whoever she was, she left no scent behind.”

Peter grimaced. “Yeah, I can’t smell anything either. Weird.”

“Very,” Quain agreed. “But after dealing with gods who vanish whenever they want, I’m not willing to rule her out entirely.”

“True,” Peter grimaced.

Their car’s tires squealed as they rushed away from the rest stop, but Quain didn’t complain. He shared Peter’s unease over the strange lady and hoped she wasn’t a bad omen to the success of their trip.


Welcome Birthday Guest Mary Calmes!

As always, thank you for having me Amber.


The Further Adventures of Cael & Frank

He wasn’t wrong, per say, and so the continual griping, though annoying, was actually warranted.

“What if you die,” he growled at me, and I felt it more than heard it as I was sitting behind him on one of those Budweiser draft horses with my arms wrapped around his waist. “Did that even cross your mind when you ran in after me?!”

He was getting worked up again and I felt bad, I did, but there was no way when the portal opened that I wasn’t following.

It was his birthday after all. I had to be with him on his birthday. Though, in his defense, celebrating in limbo was not where I saw my weekend going. I thought we’d be doing some Black Friday shopping but instead there had been an angel in our living room at 4 am telling Cael—born Caelenh in the pit of hell and now, from falling in love with me, had been elevated to that of heavenly host—that Eae, a fellow angel, was stuck in purgatory. Well, more precisely, limbo, which never scared me because I pictured people holding a pole all day that others had to bend over backwards to get under while everyone stood around drinking Mai Tais and Pina Coladas. Hard for that to inspire fear. But it was a big deal because Eae, the angel, they guy who had showed up to give Cael the news that his pitchfork had been traded in for a halo, had apparently been jumped and taken there.  It was not the place for an angel.

“How can that happen?” I asked the angel, Jericho, standing in my living room. It was just like in Supernatural, the TV show, except there was no flutter of wings. Angels just popped in and poof, were there in front of you. It annoyed the crap out of Cael.

When it was just me being a courier for all manner of paranormal creatures, my home was warded and nothing could just pop in. And once I first lived with, and then later married Cael, as a demon lord, nothing could ever manifest in his home so there was no worry over that. But when he went from demon to angel—which happened through love—the house was protected from all evil, yes, but fellow angels could just show up unannounced.

Cael was not amused.

“You know limbo,” Jericho had been saying when I woke up from the yelling and came stumbling out of our bedroom, bleary and squinting. “You can find him quickly without causing a disturbance and bring him out.”

“It’s his birthday,” I protested even before I knew what was going on.

Both Cael and Jericho turned to me.

“What, it is,” I griped at the angel. “We made it Thanksgiving and then we moved it and finally settled on the day after because that made more sense.”

“I—don’t know what that has to do with anything,” Jericho snapped at me. “We have a dire situation. None of us have ever been to hell or purgatory or limbo and would have no idea where to find Eae but Cael has and Chamuel said that Cael could find Eae once he was there.”

“And this Chamuel knows this how?”

Cael scowled at me and Jericho looked horrified.

Clearly I’d missed something about the angel Chamuel and what he knew for certain. “Whatever,” I grunted. “Just—you want Cael to go to limbo just because he used to be a demon? That’s no fair.”

“Nothing is fair,” Jericho said, and gestured at the air between our living room and kitchen and suddenly there was a portal there and through it, clear as day, I saw a town out of every Robin Hood movie I’d ever seen. Apparently limbo looked like the middle ages.

“Holy crap,” I murmured, watching people walk around in peasant garb.

“Cael,” Jericho pleaded. “Please, I would go in a heartbeat if I knew where to look and would not be detected so quickly. As you were made and not born, we hope that the knights of the pit will not find you so easily.”

“So this is a suicide mission?” I choked out, my throat dry, the lump there suddenly huge.

“It could be,” Jericho whispered. “But our hope is that the second Cael takes Eae’s hand that they both will be transported back here to the earthly plane.”

“And if you’re wrong?” I barely got out.

“Then they will both perish,” Jericho rushed out and even managed to sound a bit sad.

“No,” I rasped, clutching Cael’s hand in mine. “No.”

“Only Cael may go as his presence will not be as bright as ours.”

I wanted to argue that the ex-demon, now angel that I loved, glowed like a super-charged night light.

“You will protect my mate for all time,” Cael said resolutely, staring at Jericho.

He put his hand over his heart. “I will and my word is my bond. An angel cannot lie, as well you know.”

“I do know,” he said, turning to face me so I had to let go as he took my face in his hands. “You know what lives in my heart and that you are my every breath—I will return to you in one form or another.”

He meant in body or in spirit and that would not do. I wanted his body with his spirit intact; I wasn’t ready for anything else.

Yanking free, I bolted toward the portal at a dead heat in my sleep shorts and the old threadbare Foo Fighter tee I had on and it hurt when I hit it and found myself gasping for breath on the other side, standing on rocky ground and wrapping my arms around myself because it had to be in the thirties.

The growl behind me would have been scary but it was a frustrated one, not a scary one. Instantly, Cael was in front of me, hands on my shoulders as he shook me. Hard.

I wasn’t small, I’d always been heavy set, but I’d been dropping weight the last few years. I would never be thin though so the fact that he could shake me, rattle my brain, showed his strength and power. He was taller than me, but built long and lean, like a swimmer, with those great shoulders. His platinum blond hair that fell to the middle of his back was blowing forward into his face, and mine, and I closed my eyes loving the feel and smell of it.

“I’m going to murder you,” he threatened me.

I sighed and lifted for the kiss.

The snarl made me smile as his lips touched mine. I was where I belonged, no doubt in my mind. For better or worse and what could be worse than hell?

An hour or so later, he’d used some snazzy spell work to get him and I both outfitted in early serf-chic and we were ready to start on our journey.

Now, as we rode across a field of long dead grass under a dirty dishwater sky, I was eaten up with questions.

“No,” he said as I opened my mouth.

“But I want to know everything about where we are.”

“You’re not supposed to be here,” he reminded me. “Humans don’t get to cross over to limbo with the bodies they had in life and as soon as one of the demons realizes that you’re actually in your own skin, we’ll be in for the fight of our life.”

“But if it’s never happened before, doesn’t it stand to reason that no one will notice?”

He made a noise of pure annoyance. “It’s fortunate you were born pretty because you’re not very bright.”

All my life people had seen me as fat and funny until Cael. I’d taken our first encounter wrong, as though I were not desirable. I’d been corrected. And no, it; wasn’t up to someone else to give you your confidence, but having the most beautiful man I’d ever laid eyes on look at me daily with a tangible mixture of lust and love that was bone meltingly hot, was a continual source of amazement for me.

When we stopped, I was expecting a castle with a moat and the whole nine yards, what I got was like an old western stop on a stagecoach route. There were a few horses in a make-shift corral and everything was muddy and broken down. Cael dismounted first and I followed and I noticed as I stood there that the sky, as far as the eye could see, was now the color of clay. Everything was in shades of brown, nothing vibrant or clear.

“So in limbo everything is just sort of washed out and sepia?” I asked him.

“It is. The point is to know that you are not in Kansas anymore,” he told me as the door opened and eight…men…came out.

I didn’t even have time to appreciate his Wizard of Oz reference because of the demons, or demon knights. The wings and the red armor were a dead giveaway as were the yellow-gold snake eyes, the curse that went back to the garden.

The last two that came out threw Eae down in front of the others. He was bruised and beaten, lips cracked, eyes swollen, wings broken, those, like the rest of him, covered in blood.

“How did you know where he was?” One of the demons asked Cael. “You’re not one of us anymore; the suffering of the pure no longer draws you.”

He pointed at Eae. “He is my brother; all angels can find their own.”

There was laughing. They were a bad B movie so of course they did that but I forgot everything but going to Eae. Rushing to his side, I dropped down into the dirt and put my hands on him gently, lifting him up.

He squinted at me. “Frank?”

I smiled at him.

“You cannot be here. A human cannot pass into this realm.”

Not so great with the keeping of the secret that one but funny thing happened when the demon closest to me lunged—he hit an invisible shield.

It was interesting. He sort of bounced off, shrieked loudly, and…incinerated.

I was surprised.

Eae’s mouth dropped open as he looked over at Cael.

For his part, Cael looked a bit shocked as well.

That didn’t stop the demons and they acted like every guy in every Friday night Kung-Fu theatre movie I’d ever seen. They rushed us. I never understood. If you saw a guy beat the holy shit out of a hundred of your buddies  right in front of you, why didn’t running ever enter your mind? But instead of bolting after they saw their friends literally turn to ash…they came at me.

They hurled themselves forward and like a scene out of Avengers Infinity War, they crumbled. Some of them got wise and charged Cael instead only to get within five feet of him—further away than they got to me—and go super nova and disappear. No ash, just poof, gone after burning from the inside out. It looked way more painful than when they came after me.

When the last guy turned and ran—which made good sense to me—Cael moved like he was going to go after him.

“No, please,” I called to him. “Come here and heal Eae.”

He wasn’t happy about it, and glowered all the way over, dropping to one knee beside me and then smoothing his hands over Eae who caught his breath and trembled.

Poor guy, he looked terrible and I wondered how long he’d actually been there. Hard to say how time moved in limbo and I knew that what to me had been two, maybe three hours, to Eae could have been weeks

“How are you both here?” He asked when Cael was done and he looked great again, standing easily under his own power in white armor with this jet black wings. People thought all angels had white wings but I’d been told that only archangels got gold or white. It was a hierarchy thing.

“I’m here because of Jericho,” Cael told him, gesturing at our mount. “Frank is here because he doesn’t let me traipse across dimensions without him and had I known that bringing him meant protection from all creatures of perdition, I wouldn’t have worried in the first place and this could have all happened without any drama.”

“Well, I assure you, a rescue mission to limbo is normally a life and death undertaking, and not for the faint of heart.”

“I think heart is the point,” Cael told him, taking my hand in his. “Clearly the sacrament of love exists here.”

“The bond of love exists across all planes,” Eae apprised him. “There is no limit.”

“But most mortals cross into limbo with only their souls and the form they take here is merely an affect like that of my mount.”

I pointed at the horse. “That’s not a Clydesdale?”

Cael was back to scowling at me. “Why would there be horses in limbo? All animal souls rise, they have no sin.”

I nodded. “That makes sense.”

He let out an exasperated sigh.

“So what is it really?” I wanted to know.

“It’s a cross between a komodo dragon and a—what—a tarantula would be the closest thing I believe.”

I was really glad I couldn’t see it.

Eae turned to me. “May I ask what you saw when you looked at the demons?”

“Fallen angels. They have wings and armor just like you.”

He smiled at me. “I wish I could see myself as you do. Human eyes are so blessed to see what they perceive and not as we truly are.”

“You have that wrong,” I said, taking hold of his shoulder. “I had a demon for a mate and now I have an angel—I’ve always seen things crystal clear.”

He looked quickly at Cael who gave him a slow shrug. “I think he sees the truth.”

“Yes,” he rasped, nodding fast, choked up, I could tell. “Yes.”

I watched then as Cael took Eae’s hand and the portal Jericho had suspected would be there, suddenly was.  We were all though it and back in our living room, in moments.

Cael didn’t love it when first Eae, and then Jericho, hugged him. Apparently Jericho had remained in our home, watching Netflix for the two weeks that we were gone. He’d held down the fort and talked to my best friend, James Castile, or Charming, who co-owned Covenant with me, a rehabilitation shelter in downtown Long Beach. He was a werewolf without a pack and I was the mate of an angel so—we were weird together.

“Thank you for staying,” I said to Jericho.

“Thank you for saving my brother,” he said, tears in his eyes as he looked at Eae before lunging at Cael again.

“Oh could you just leave?” My mate groused, the annoyance rolling off of him. “It was supposed to be my birthday and all I wanted was a nice meal, maybe some cake and lots of sex. Is that too much to ask?”

Apparently not because the angels were both suddenly gone and in their place was what looked like pasta carbonara and an antipasto salad and a small chocolate cake.

“I used to be impressed with how well angels got blood out of clothes but it turns out they can cater too,” I teased him, grinning.

He grabbed me then, hands on the side of my neck. “You will never scare me like that again do you understand me? I may take chances but you may not.” He finished, putting a little thunder in his voice like he could do lately, the big voice an actual thing.

“No,” I argued, not backing down, my own hands on his hips. “I go with you always. We won’t ever be apart and that goes for your birthday and every other day. You’re stuck with me,” I said, lifting my left hand into his line of vision. “With this ring, you did wed.”

“Yes,” he murmured as he bent and kissed me.

It seared through me, and I moaned into his mouth.

“Perhaps the food can wait,” he husked before he kissed me again.

I was betting it could.

Welcome to Day 28!

From Pack to Pride 400

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Chapter One

“I can’t believe you did that.” Adrian stared at his brother as if he’d never seen him before. He looked around Kade’s office, his head spinning as he absorbed this sudden shift in reality.

Nothing was out of place in the masculine wood panelled room. Same soft throw rugs, same desk their father had used before Kade. No changes because his brother was a fanatic about traditions. Traditions he was breaking by sending his wolf shifter brother to go live with the lions.

Maybe he fell asleep after his heavy meal and he was dreaming. Yes, that must be it. Surely his brother wouldn’t sell him off to a bunch of fur balls. He could see maybe another canine pack, wolves or coyotes¼hell, he’d even take the group of dog shifters that lived in the alley behind the ice cream shop downtown.

But cats!

He was in hell.

Adrian examined Kade carefully hoping to see some external sign that his brother and alpha had completely lost his fucking mind.

Nope, the man still looked the same. Dark hair, green eyes identical to Adrian’s, and a dimpled smile, but he’d obviously lost his marbles.

Adrian sighed.

His day had started out so marvellously too with a nice run with his fellow pack mates that resulted in taking down a wounded deer. He couldn’t think of a nicer way to start the day.

Now his evil brother had ruined it.

“What? It makes perfect sense.” Kade looked innocently back at him. A look the powerful alpha wolf totally couldn’t pull off.

“You sold me to the pussycats!”

“You’re exaggerating,” Kade protested. “I made a peace agreement between two packs.”

“Well Mr. Peacekeeper. Lions packs are called prides,” Adrian sneered. “If you’re going to sell me out at least know something about the creatures you’re sacrificing me to.”

“Sacrificing is such a strong word,” Kade said with an infuriating smile.

“Who’s sacrificing?” Helen, Kade’s mate, asked walking into the room.

As usual the alpha mate was dressed in a pair of paint splattered denim capris and a loose white smock top. Adrian always thought of that outfit as her work uniform. As an artist Helen almost always wore some version of the same outfit. She said in order to create she had to be comfortable. Before she mated with Kade she used to work in the nude, but the protective alpha had put an end to that practice. A fact she complained about daily just to give Kade a hard time.

“Brain trust here made a pact to give me to the lion pride in exchange for peace between the lions and the wolves.”

“Have some respect for your alpha,” Helen snapped. Her golden brows formed a frown on her smooth forehead as she looked from brother to brother.

Kade flashed him a smug smile. The impact was lost when his mate smacked him across the back of the head.

“What were you thinking?” Helen demanded.

“I was thinking I could get my brother out of danger and find him a mate to protect him from Olson. That wolf has it in for you, bro. He won’t be happy until you’re belly up beneath his fangs.”

“I can take care of myself,” Adrian said through gritted teeth. “I do know some self-defence.”

“Olson is twice your size and three times as vicious,” Kade said. “I’m not going to stand by and let that bastard rip you apart. After you turn twenty-five, pack rules say you’ll have to fight him if he challenges you and there will be nothing I can do. Nothing. Next week you turn twenty-five! If I get you out of here before then, he can’t challenge you.”

“Oddly enough I know both the pack rules and when I turn twenty-five. I can take this guy,” Adrian insisted.

“He’s right, Adrian,” Helen said. “I might not agree with my wonderful husband’s technique, but I have to admit I am worried about Olson. Besides, the lion alpha is completely gorgeous,” she added with a wicked smile.

“Hey! I’m right here!”

“I know, honey.” Helen patted his chest, but her eyes were focused on Adrian. “I know it will be hard being away from the pack, but your brother made this pact out of love and concern for you.” She turned back to her mate. “What exactly was your agreement?”

“That I would give them Adrian and in exchange Adrian would be able to mate with the lion of his choice, barring previous mating agreements between lions.”

“What, didn’t they reach their quota of lion/wolf hybrid freaks? What would you call that combination anyway? Liowolf? Wolfli?” Adrian asked.

“You did tell them Adrian is gay, didn’t you?” Helen interrupted. “I mean you wouldn’t really sell your brother as a stud wolf or something. I might be only human here, but that’s all kinds of wrong.”

“Hah,” Adrian said, pointing a finger at Kade. “At least you had the good sense to pick a reasonable mate. Couldn’t you at least send me to some other wolves?”

“My reasonable mate can stay out of this,” Kade growled.

Adrian could see his brother was reaching the end of his limited patience. The fangs were starting to come out, literally.

“As much as I’m enjoying the tarring and feathering process, I would appreciate a moment to defend myself. First, I did explain that my brother was gay and apparently that was a selling point. They are looking for a companion for their alpha who is also gay, but having problems finding a mate. After giving them the entire catalogue of pack members, the alpha insisted on Adrian. I saw a chance to save my little brother from Olson and took it. Sorry if that makes me the bad guy. Second, I only agreed if they promised to let Adrian leave in six months if he was unhappy or didn’t find his mate. Since you are gay I think we can rule out the wolf/lion mutant hybrids you’re so anxious to create. Any questions?”

“Nope. Not for me,” Helen said, turning to her brother-in-law, “Adrian?”

Adrian sighed. “Fine. You’re the best brother ever. I’ll go play nice-nice with the kitties. Maybe I’ll bring a basket of yarn and some radio controlled mice as an offering.”

At least there was time limit on this thing. He’d rather go feral and live life as a wolf than stay with the damn kitties forever. Snooty cats didn’t know anything about having a good howl.

Kade rolled his eyes and was about to speak when knocking on his office door interrupted him.

Adrian sniffed the air, letting out a low growl.

“Behave, Adrian. Pack your bags and go play with the big kitties. Shifters need to start banding together if we’re going to survive against the humans.”

Adrian nodded, biting back the comments he yearned to make. His brother was right about that at least. Humans were starting to encroach on pack and pride lands. It benefitted everyone if shifters learned to work together instead of tying up their resources fighting over territory disputes. Even though Adrian knew he could handle Olson, he didn’t want to cause his brother any further problems.

It was hard enough being the alpha of a large pack; Kade didn’t need the added burden of his gay brother causing difficulties. As much as it hurt to leave his family behind, Adrian was willing to give the lions a try. He wasn’t finding a mate among the wolves. Maybe it was time for him to expand his horizons. Besides it wasn’t that he hated cats, he just didn’t understand them. Not to mention the lions were known to be particularly vicious.

Adrian decided to look at it as if he was going on a vacation. He’d just finished a large project and could use some time away. When he got back, he’d start circulating to the other wolf packs. A gay wolf wasn’t unheard of, you just had to find a pack that didn’t rip them open and leave them for the vultures.

Pleased with his plan, Adrian gave his brother a reassuring smile knowing it would freak Kade out more than any amount arguing.

With a cautioning glance at Adrian, Helen opened the door. “Good evening, Olson.”

“Evening, alpha mate,” Olson said.

Olson’s voice was properly respectful, but Adrian knew he would rip out her jugular in a second if he thought it would get him one step closer to the alpha position.

The shifter walked into the room, stopping when he saw Adrian. His eyes glowed a bright yellow as his wolf peeked out from behind his polite human façade. After a moment of staring, he gave Adrian a stiff nod. Adrian had to admire the other man’s control even as he disliked him.

Olson was biding his time, but Adrian had seen that look before when pack members were culling the weakest animal in the herd. The older wolf wanted him dead and Olson wouldn’t be too particular about how it happened.

“Evening, Olson,” Adrian said. He made sure to look Olson straight in the eyes, knowing it would make Olson want to slash Adrian open with his bare claws.

“Adrian,” Olson sneered.

Pleased with his night’s work Adrian left the room with a spring in his step. A bounce he quickly lost as he realised he was leaving behind everything he’d ever known to go live with a bunch of cats.

“I bet they get fur balls,” he said, morosely.

* * * *

Talan sprawled on his massive couch staring at the picture in his hand. His eyes faithfully traced the glossy black hair and piercing green eyes of the man in the photo.

Damn, he was beautiful.

It wasn’t a word he usually attributed to men, but there was no other word for the wolf that would be his mate. He longed to bite the tender junction between neck and shoulder and claim the man as his.

Talan’s cock responded to the vision in his head. He wondered if his mate would taste salty or sweet when he sucked him down.

“Still mooning over that wolf?” Talla asked as she walked into the room. Not bothering to wait for an invitation, she plopped down beside her brother and looked at the picture with him. “For a puppy he sure is pretty.”

“Pretty?” Talan tilted his head as he examined the picture closer. “Nope. He’s beautiful and he’s all mine,” he said with satisfaction.

“He does have an out, you know,” Talla reminded him. “The alpha was quite clear that if his brother was unhappy he would call him back home.”

“Sneaky wolf.” Talan frowned. “I’ve got to get Adrian to commit before the six months are over because there’s no way I’m letting him go once he gets here. He’s mine and no one is going to take him away from me.”

“The wolf alpha is just looking out for his brother.”

Talan nodded. He got that, he did, but he didn’t have to like it. “I also don’t like what he told us about that Olson guy. Adrian turned twenty-five yesterday, he can now be legally challenged. If that wolf comes around here, I’ll kill him. I won’t have him touching my mate.” Talan let his displeasure show with a low rumbling growl.

“He still has to pick you to be his mate.”

“Did you come here to ruin my day? Because I was happy all by myself.”

Talla smirked. “You and your picture?”

“That’s right and we’ll be very happy together until tomorrow.” Talan gave her a wide smile. “Then I can play with the real thing.”

“Pitiful.” Talla shook her head as she looked at her brother. “There are others who are going to be interested in him, you know.”

Talan’s fangs popped out. “They’d best keep their interest to themselves.”

“You’re going to be difficult about this, aren’t you? It won’t be easy getting a pride of lions to accept a wolf as your mate.”

“Anyone who doesn’t like it can leave,” Talan said, indifferently.

Talla sighed. “Some might try to battle to be your mate.”

Talan shook his head. “You don’t understand, Talla. He’s my fated mate. I felt it as soon as I saw his picture. No one can argue with my mate choice once we are bound.”

There were all kinds of mating combinations, but only the Gods chose a fated mate. It was a rare event and Talan knew as soon as he saw the picture of the slim wolf shifter that Adrian was the one chosen for him.

“Fine, I’ll let the others know. It will prevent them from trying to lure him away or kill him.”

Talan let out a roar. “Anyone who touches a hair on his head will lose theirs. Make sure you spread that around.”

“Yes, oh king of the jungle,” Talla said standing up to leave. “I’ll go share the news that you are unreasonable about our new resident wolf and for everyone to mind their manners.”

“Great.” Talan went back to his picture, stroking the dimple he spotted on his future mate’s cheek.

“He could be an asshole. Looks aren’t everything. I’ve dated enough men to know that for a fact,” she said with a rueful grin.

“He’s not. I asked around. He’s a genius, with advanced degrees in mathematics and computer science, has a family that adores him and,” Talan said, waving a finger in the air, “he teaches little girls self-defence in his spare time.”

“Is he getting ready for sainthood?”

“Not when I’m done with him,” Talan said with a wicked smile.

“Yuck. I’m sorry I asked.”

The door slammed behind her as she left.

“Sometimes it’s too easy,” Talan said, smiling at the picture. “We’ll have to freak her out in person when you come tomorrow. It will be great fun,” he promised his future mate.

Welcome Birthday Guest Rory Ni Coileain!

At first, when I sat down to try to come up with a guest list of fictional characters for my own birthday party, I have to admit I had just a tiny little panic attack. See, my favorite fictional characters tend to be a tad… well, demonstrative. Flamboyant, even. And despite what y’all might think of me based on the bad boys I love to write, I’m a stone introvert. Well, on my good days I’m an ambivert, but when I’m done peopling, I’m outies. And the last thing in the world someone like me wants is to be the center of attention in a room full of people like my favorite fictional characters!

But then it dawned on me that if I could actually fill a room with my favorites, there’s about zero chance I’d be the center of attention – they’d all be way too busy entertaining/being entertained by/possibly getting into fistfights with one another. Panic attack over.

So here’s the list, chosen expressly to be so interesting that all I have to do is sit back and watch:

Rocky Jones and Gaby Plauget, from John Varley’s Titan trilogy

Lucien Vaudrey and Stephen Day, from KJ Charles’ The Magpie Lord

James Bolivar diGriz, a/k/a the Stainless Steel Rat, and his lovely and lethal wife Angelina, courtesy of Harry Harrison

Toby Prentiss and Rain Engel, from Susan MacNicol’s Waiting for Rain

From movies:  Deadpool, Indiana Jones (from before he survived a nuclear explosion inside a lead-lined refrigerator, pleaseandthankyou), Iron Man (although Tony Stark would be welcome too), Wonder Woman, StarLord, Gandalf (the movie one rather than the book one because that way I get Sir Ian McKellen), and any fictional character Liam Neeson has ever played, in fact all of them

From television: Jean-Luc Picard, Q, Captain Jack Harkness, and the Fourth and Tenth Doctors

And no party would be complete without some of my Fae, but if I don’t pare the list down a little, I’m not sure we could get special event insurance. Let’s go with Mac, amputee Vietnam veteran and bartender par excellence, his human husband Lucien, a fuzzy muscle bear who looks like the love child of a bulldog and his favorite fire hydrant, and their Fae husband Rhoann, a half-water elemental who has to keep being reminded to wear clothes. (Shhhh…)

Check out her most recent release Stone Cold

Stone Cold final

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In Stone Cold, the eighth title in the Rainbow-Award-nominated M/M paranormal Soulshares series, Maelduin Guaire is a Fae with a mission. An obsession, really. He’s trained his entire life to become the greatest scian-damhsa, blade-dancer, the Fae have ever known, for the sole purpose of killing the blade-dancer who murdered his father and gave House Guaire its reputation as the Cursed House. Now he’s followed Tiernan Guaire through the Pattern to the human world, to fulfill his oath or die trying… but the passage has cost him all his skill with a blade.

Terry Miller, Josh LaFontaine’s business partner at the Raging Art-on Tattoo and Piercing Parlor, has the worst luck with men since… well, since ever, as far as he’s concerned. Years ago, he walked out on a great thing with Josh, when Bryce Newhouse offered to play sugar daddy for Terry’s ballet company; then Bryce kicked him to the curb, and Terry ended up relying on big-hearted Josh to help him get back on his feet. And now a too-good-to-be-true stranger has turned up in Terry’s half-built dance studio, with a beautiful sword and a bloody nose.

In order to regain the grace and skill he needs to keep his vow, a Fae cursed with the inability to love must SoulShare with a human convinced that love runs screaming when it sees him coming. All with the Marfach looking over their shoulders. No pressure…

Giveaway: Rory is giving away a kindle ecopy of the first book in her SoulShares series, Hard as Stone!

Hard as Stone Final

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Tiernan Guaire was exiled from the Fae Realm a century and a half ago for his brother’s murder. His soul torn in half, he lives by his vows — never to trust, never to love. And if he can only be whole by finding and loving the human with the other half of his soul? He’s content to live broken and half-souled.

Kevin Almstead’s future, the career he’s worked for as long as he can remember, has been taken away by a vote of the partners at his law firm. Chance brings him to Purgatory, the hottest all-male nightclub in Washington, D.C., to a meeting with a Fae, with long blond hair, ice-blue eyes, and a smile promising pleasures he’s never dreamed of. But there’s no such thing as chance.

But Tiernan isn’t the only one to find Kevin in Purgatory. The most ancient enemy of the Fae race sees in the handsome lawyer a way to destroy the world from which it, too, was exiled. And only the strength of a true SoulShare bond can keep it from what it seeks.