Book Cover: Tangled In Shadows

In a world of intrigue and shadows, tangling with the monsters can leave its mark…

Step into the world of Jami Gray’s Kyn with this collection of short stories, and discover why readers are disappearing into this exciting, Urban Fantasy series.

Wrapped In Shadows, .5 (previously published in Things That Go Bump For The Holidays)

The magic of the holiday season can be hell…
Elite Kyn, Gavin Durand and Raine McCord, are called in to investigate the aftermath of a Christmas engagement party gone horrifically wrong, only to face an unexpected gift.

Submerged in Shadows, 1.5

Treasures from the deep come in all shapes and sizes…
Forced on an unwanted vacation, Raine soon discovers that boredom is the least of her worries when danger washes ashore, bringing unexpected complications.

Masked by Shadows, 2.5

Nothing is ever easy…
For Gavin and Raine the job is simple, deliver a package to an interested party in New Orleans. Yet even the easiest job can mask unexpected challenges.

Ensnared by Shadows, 3.5

Deception leaves a tangled web…
Ryuu Kern, Motoki Pack’s Second, is no stranger to sticky situations, but when delectable Division Agent, Iliana Krychek, comes to him for help, it will take more than claws and teeth to untangle a deadly web of deceit.

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Publisher: Black Opal Books
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Submerged In Shadows (The Kyn Kronicles 1.5)

“You call this a vacation?”

“Until a few moments ago, yes.”

He didn’t bother to respond, but picked up the extra blanket from the second chair and sat down. The night was closing in, light fading away under the gathering storm clouds on the horizon, a chill with more teeth than bite rode the air, but what else could you expect in November. At least it wasn’t raining. Yet.

“Why here?”

Taking another sip of tea, Raine McCord savored the delicate combination of chamomile and spice in hopes it would wash away the bitterness his presence wrought. He waited, his silence creating more pressure than being battered with questions. Ryan Mulcahy, CEO of Taliesin Security and head of the Northwest Kyn, knew how to work the non-verbal interrogation. She focused on the waves lapping the edges of rocky sand. “It’s quiet.”

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And here, on Shaw Island nestled among the San Juan Islands in Washington, quiet was an understatement. No street lights glared, no busy streets rumbled, no bustle of shops distracted. Endless starry skies stretched above, while water whispered over sand and stone below. Between them, there was silence. With under three hundred residents, she didn’t worry about nosy neighbors or unexpected guests during her impromptu vacation. Well, except for the man currently sitting next to her, comfortable in his tailored slacks and pressed shirt sans tie. He didn’t fit here. Hell, she didn’t fit here, but she needed this after...Her mind shied away from the memories and the guilt.

“Not the vacation spot I expected,” he said.

Her lips twitched. She couldn’t help it, but to hide it she brought the mug to her lips and murmured, “Did you think I’d go to Hawaii or something?”

“Or something.” Quiet humor drifted in his voice.

“Yeah, sorry Uncle, that’s not really my style.” The moody waters surrounding the island matched her thoughts. Besides she was much more comfortable in the shadows. Hawaii would have required a bikini, something she didn’t own. “Surprised you made it out here.”

“Caught the last ferry in from Anacortes.”

The tension she fought so hard to lose came back in a heartbeat. For her maternal uncle to make an effort to come here did not bode well. Her hands tightened on her mug, and her jaw locked. It was difficult, but she managed to keep her voice level. “You can’t stay here.”

“Can’t leave until the morning ferry, and you choose the one spot without a hotel or B and B.”

Damn him. He was a master game player, one she had no hope of ever outmaneuvering. Why did she even try? She glared at him, but the effort was lost as he continued to stare out over the inky stain spreading across the waters. “Why are you here?” Each word escaped with a snap.

His head turned slowly until he faced her. The light spilling from the small cabin behind her and the last gasps of dusk brushed over his face, carving illusions of emotions she knew damn well he’d never show. “He’s coming back.”

Her heart stalled, then picked up a panicked pace. He was Gavin Durand, the man she led straight into a nightmare because she trusted the wrong person. A nightmare he was still fighting through.

“You need to be there when he arrives.”

Guilt rushed in and wrapped choking hands around her throat. Under it, shame coursed. She turned back to the water and brought her shaky mug to her lips. The incoming storm clouds crept closer. Winds nipped over the water and curled around her, leaving the tea’s warmth useless against the chill in her veins. When the cruel grip of memories eased, she choked out, “I’ve done enough to him. He won’t want me there.”

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Reviews:Anne-Marie Reynolds', Readers' Favorites wrote:

"Enter a world of intrigue. A world that you never knew existed, or at least told yourself it didn’t. This is a collection of five short stories that...will leave you wondering about the dark underworld you didn’t know existed...Each story was complete but leaves you wanting more."


Book Cover: Shadow's Curse

Death and chaos can devastate even the best-laid plans…

After tragedy strikes the Northwest Kyn, leaving the houses in chaos and the Wraiths hungry for blood, the fallout threatens Natasha Bertoi’s carefully laid plans. When the Council sends Darius Abazi, the one man guaranteed to skew the odds, she faces her toughest opponent yet.

As death stalks the Northwest Kyn, can Natasha trust Darius, a man well versed in subterfuge, to uncover the truth before treachery destroys them all?

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Present Day, Deep in the Taurus Mountains in Turkey:

Darkness spread its opaque cloak over the cobbled paths winding between the stone buildings while silence crouched and waited. In this small corner, goats walked streets too narrow for cars, and the human inhabitants were tucked inside their humble homes. Inside the inky confines of a rustic alley, a figure slipped from the shadows and through the unlocked wooden door of one of the homes.

“You’re late, Darius.” The sharp greeting came from the man lounging with casual elegance among the jewel-festooned pillows on one of the low-slung couches.

“And you’re in a pisser of a mood, Zayn.” Unfazed by the rude welcome, Darius snagged an olive from the table. Popping it into his mouth, he grabbed an empty cup and poured a drink.

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Taking a handful of olives and his cup, he walked across the lush, overlapping rugs and sprawled on the other sofa. He studied Zayn as he chewed, taking in the overly long white shirt paired with sand-colored linen pants. Despite his sun-streaked blond hair and the small abode’s rich haven of comfort, Zayn still managed to convey a Middle Eastern flare.

“Until we find out who is behind Mulcahy’s death, I don’t see that changing.” Zayn lifted his own cup, his sleeve fluttering with the movement. “What did you find out?”

Darius chased the olives’ lingering salty tartness away with a quick sip and wiped his fingers against the dark denim covering his thigh before answering. “We were right to question the account received from the Northwest Kyn. There is more to the story than they are sharing.” And he intended to uncover just what that “more” entailed.

Zayn’s lips twisted into a grimace. “No surprise there. No way would Natasha cough up the whole story.”

No, the little demon queen was too intelligent to show her hand to the Council. It didn’t stop the whispers, though. “There are rumors she could be behind his death.” And if the rumors were true, Darius would ensure she’d be facing someone much more dangerous than the Kyn’s Council.

“I thought they shared a history.”

Darius gave his companion a dark frown and shrugged his shoulders. “Shared history doesn’t mean shit when power is on the line. Mulcahy’s death created some damn explosive opportunities. She’s grabbing as many as she can. What does that tell you?”

“She’s an intelligent woman?”

Zayn’s quip drew a snort from Darius. “Of that, I have no doubt. She didn’t get to her current position on looks alone.”

“No, she’s not one to let emotional attachments get in the way of her plans.” His tone as dry as the winds of summer, Zayn advised, “Be careful that she doesn’t return you and your ego in nice, bloody pieces.”

Leaning back, Darius stretched his arms across the back of the couch, confident in his appeal to the fairer sex. He’d been de- scribed as a study of shadows. From his olive-toned skin to his dark, shoulder-length hair and closely trimmed goatee, the description was warranted. The only unsettling bit of color was his eyes— ice-cold blue, ringed in fiery red. A deep chuckle escaped. “Would you miss me?”

“You?” Zayn shrugged. “Not so much. But there might be few others with a different opinion.” Humor bled away, a startling seriousness taking its place. “This change. It’s been hundreds of years in the making. Unfortunately, Mulcahy’s death has accelerated things. If they aren’t handled correctly, the outcome could be extremely detrimental to our goals.”

“I haven’t forgotten.” Hard to forget when the line they walked was razor thin.

A small nod. “We won’t be welcome.”

Darius’s smile was anything but friendly. “Their welcome is not my worry. Nor should it be yours.”

“Don’t underestimate them. Ryan Mulcahy was not the only reason the Northwest Kyn have become who they are.”

“Yet, he’s the one who held them together.” A fact that some- one out there knew all too well, or Mulcahy wouldn’t be dead. Darius’s hand tightened into a fist, his knuckles showing white through his skin as he fought back the grim wave of fury and grief.

“Perhaps. But he hasn’t done it alone.” Zayn paused. “Do they know about you?”

They could apply to so many—the Council, the Northwest Kyn, the one’s behind Mulcahy’s death—but in this instance Darius knew which they was implied. They were the Northwest’s Wraiths, a shadowy group of warriors, standing between the American public and the nightmares haunting the dark. “No. They know only what they need to.” And until he discovered who was playing for whom, it would remain that way.

Zayn rubbed a hand over his clean-shaven chin. “The potential for a shitstorm is tremendous.”

“There’s no ‘potential’ about it.” Too much was at stake to walk delicately now. “Mulcahy’s death changed the game. With- out him, there is no one left to bridge the emerging division of the Council. Sides will be picked. We need to stack the odds in our favor.” Odds that had shifted with one violent act.

Zayn raised his cup in silent agreement. For a few minutes, quiet reigned. He broke it with, “Did DiMarcco give you your orders?” When Darius remained mute, Zayn gave a small smile of acknowledgement. “Our esteemed leader won’t admit to worry. Instead, he and the rest of the Council will couch it in false concern and empty platitudes. Yet they are watching and waiting. Will Mulcahy’s Kyn will rise or fall?” He slowly rolled the cup cradled in his hands. “Of course, it would not surprise me if some are trying to assist their desired outcome.”

Council maneuverings were a given, especially as current events threatened to tear the last threads from the fragile veil hiding the Kyn from mortal view. Some on the Council weren’t op- posed to the impending revelation, so long as their agenda succeeded. “Dissension is an insidious ploy. It can turn on a whim. Many are unprepared for what they wrought.” A lesson Darius had watched more than one learn the hard way. “I don’t think the outcome will be what anyone expects.”

“Still, tread carefully. The path isn’t as clear as it once was, and I would not put it past the high-and-mighty Council to offer you up should a scapegoat be needed.”

“Or you,” Darius drawled.

Zayn sighed then raised his cup in a silent toast. “I’m going to miss the bastard. He was bloody brilliant. His people should prove interesting.”

“If nothing else, they will make our visit all the more entertaining.” A predatory grin broke across Darius’s face, while anticipation hummed under his words.

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Reviews:Nana Prah, Author of Destiny Mine wrote:

“I have no idea how Ms. Gray does it, but every single book in this series is AMAZING.”

Crystal, Amazon Review wrote:

“This author has a gift with words. She paints a picture, and the reader feels like they are RIGHT there…I highly recommend this book if you like urban fantasy with a sprinkle of romance!”


Book Cover: Shadow's Moon

Even wild hearts can be broken…

Tracker, Xander Cade, confronts an enraged Shifter in a crowded human nightclub, fraying the thin secrecy shielding the supernatural community from public scrutiny. Danger stalks the pack and she must protect her alpha and mate, Warrick Vidis, even if he doesn’t want it.

If they don’t find a way to trust each other and accept their rare bond they risk losing everything-their pack, their friends and each other.

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“How many deaths will it take?” The distorted voice circled through the well-appointed home office, creating a pervasive menace that curled around the warm woods and plush leather, leaving behind an unsettling chill. “A real alpha protects the pack. Who are you protecting, Vidis?”

Warrick Vidis, the most powerful shifter of the Northwest Kyn and alpha of the Motoki Pack, leaned forward and jabbed the disconnect button on the phone, silencing the taunting voicemail. He quashed the impulse to throw the phone across the room and alleviate the anger and frustration roiling in his stomach. Instead, he resettled in his chair, his movements ruthlessly controlled. Across the desk his pack’s Second, Ryuu Kern, watched him.

Ryuu frowned. “I don’t recognize the voice.”

“Neither do I,” Warrick answered. “I’m assuming they’re using a voice modifier.”

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“It’s a threat.” Ryuu tapped his fingers on the arm of his chair. “Even you can’t deny it this time.”

“It’s a challenge,” Warrick corrected. “Someone wants to let the humans know we’re here.” Restless, he rose to his feet and strode around the large desk to the huge bank of windows.
Oregon’s trademark rain was misting the winter-bare branches of the surrounding forest. His home, unlike his office at Taliesin Security, was an oasis of privacy. Something both he and his inner wolf craved, especially now when someone was threatening their territory.

“Revealing our existence to the masses isn’t a smart move,” Ryuu muttered.

Warrick’s lips tightened at the comment. No, there was no possible scenario where the humans would welcome his kind with open arms. His kept his back to Ryuu as he said, “I think Neil Eilers is tied in somehow.”

“Eilers is a maverick, Vidis. He chose to remain outside of the pack.”

Warrick tilted his head in acknowledgement, never turning from his view. “Yet he said nearly the same thing, word for word, when he threatened me.”

Ryuu snorted. “He’s a barely controlled pup. He challenges you and he might as well dig his own grave.”

Under his skin, Warrick’s wolf agreed and he barely suppressed the low growl rumbling in his chest. “If he was truly working alone, perhaps.”
“You think someone’s using the mavericks to create problems for the pack?” Ryuu asked.

His Second wasn’t really asking. He could follow a trail as well as his alpha. Warrick watched a doe step delicately between the trees lining the edge of the forest surrounding his home. Her head jerked up when she caught scent of his territory markers and she froze, her tail twitching. As the deer bounded back into the foliage, he answered, “I think someone is using any tool they can find to damage us.”

“Including the two Bitten wolves Xander had to kill in the last couple of weeks?”

Warrick was glad his back was to Ryuu, in case something showed on his face at the mention of her name. Xander Cade. His lover and now reluctant mate. The one woman guaranteed to drive him and his wolf insane. Every since their return from Arizona a few weeks ago, it had been harder than ever to sit back and let her continue her job as the pack’s Tracker. It kept her front and center on the firing line, something the man respected, but his wolf had a hell of a time allowing.

“Highly probable,” Warrick said, pushing his personal issues aside to focus on the immediate threat. “The full moon’s already passed, yet both of them managed a partial shift when confronted.” It was an anomaly that was setting off all his warning bells.

“The Bitten aren’t suppose to be capable of holding a partial shift.” Puzzled disbelief sharpened Ryuu’s words. “Hell, for that mat- ter, I’ve never heard of one shifting when it wasn’t a full moon.”

“Neither have I,” Warrick answered.

“To mess with a wolf’s ability to shift would require some serious magic.” There was an underlying thread of worry in Ryuu’s voice.

Warrick turned to face his Second, one of the few men he trusted, and shared his growing suspicion. “Or some serious science.”

“You think the humans are behind this?”

“I don’t think we should discount them.” Warrick knew for a fact that humans had managed to alter the very nature of some Kyn. “We need to find out where the threat is coming from, and to do that we need Neil Eilers alive.”

Ryuu stood, his face grim. “I’ll call Xander.”

Ignoring his wolf’s internal howl of protest for putting Xander in danger yet again, Warrick nodded, his movement stiff. “As soon as you have a starting point, call me.”

Something perilously close to sympathy flashed across Ryuu’s face. “I’ll watch over her.” He didn’t wait for Warrick’s answer, but slipped out of the office.

* * *

Xander Cade crept through the shadows of the wooden pavilion perched next to the tranquil, lotus-strewn lake. She followed the erratic path of her prey, one Neil Eilers, a dangerously enraged shifter, whose scent wound under the swaying willows. Drawing in a deep breath, she automatically catalogued the smells—wet earth, with a jarring hint of fish, and the spicy bite of moisture-laden fir and pine from the structure next to her. Quivering under it all, like a shy rabbit, was something not quite right.

Between the wispy clouds and the dancing branches, the light of the half moon played along her face, calling to the wolf crouched beneath her skin. She tilted her head back, taking a moment to bask in the ethereal call. The faint tang of copper teased her nose, the familiar scent of spilt blood made her stomach clench, even as her wolf struggled to rise.
Not yet, she soothed the wild half of her soul. Work now, play later.

Dropping her head, she scanned her night-shrouded surroundings. Portland’s Classical Chinese Gardens were quiet. Much like her natural wolf counterparts, she was able to detect the smallest nuances in the various shades of gray. A helpful skill as she slipped among the heavy greenery. Light didn’t stick around long during Northwest winters, which meant the popular tourist attraction closed at five. A small blessing. In a couple more months, spring would take center stage, bringing in meandering crowds, which would’ve made tracking the rogue shifter a nightmare, not to mention offering him an all he could eat dinner buffet.

The longer it took to track Neil down, the more her hope of stop- ping him before he killed again whimpered into oblivion. She followed his subtle scent trail, making her way deeper into the forty- thousand-square-foot garden.

She kept her footsteps light, nearly silent, as she crept over a small bridge leading into the darkened interior of stone and trees that made up the northwest corner of the Gardens. Bamboo posts, connected by thick ropes, were meant to keep visitors on set paths, but she ignored them. Skirting small pools of water, she scaled the rocky outcrop- pings and their surrounding foliage. Working her way around, she stopped just outside three small caverns created by the craggy structures. Muted thunder of falling water from inside the caverns help mask the sounds of her movements.

Large, flat stepping-stones lay in a shallow pool, offering a dry path to the grotto. Her booted foot slid off the first one and water beaded over the cuff of her leather pants with a soft splash. She reached out to steady herself, her fingers brushing against the Chinese characters etched into the stone. But even the crisp combination of moisture from the merrily tumbling mini-waterfall and the dense greenery couldn’t drown out the bitter scent scraping across her senses.

She was close.

Crouching down, she traced a visible smudge on one of the stones and some of it transferred to her fingertips, leaving a dark smear. She brought it to her nose, inhaling the scent and matching it to the one she’d been tracking. The sharp stench of shifter blood assailed her nose, the pungent odor making it twitch. Her quarry must be injured.

Perched on the stone, she dropped her hand into the icy water, let- ting it wash away the stain. She straightened, shaking the moisture from her skin, and eyed the three adjoining niches in front of her. Enie, menie, minie, moe. Deep shadows wrapped around the left one, making it the perfect place to hide a kill. Anticipation hummed under her skin, setting the fur of her inner wolf on end.

Carefully, she made her way closer, until she stood on the last stepping-stone. She was fairly certain her prey wasn’t waiting to pounce, but in case the dead decided to rise, or Neil was indulging in more than his lust for blood, she tapped into her intrinsic magic. Small pinpricks ran from her wrists to the tips of her fingers as her bones elongated. Fur sprouted on the back of her hands, covering the pale skin. In moments, her hands had shifted into a weird mix of human and wolf. The partial shift left her with instant weapons—thick, sharp claws.

She slipped inside the carved entrance, grateful for her small stature. There wasn’t much room inside the rocky recess and the shadows had given her the impression that it was deeper than it actually was. Two steps in, her biker boots skidded against the slick ground, send- ing her into ankle deep water. A gasp of surprise escaped before she could hold it back as she scrambled for purchase. Uttering a soft curse, she gave up trying to stay dry.

Her vision adjusted to the murky interior and snagged on the crumpled form sprawled against the back wall. There was no imminent threat. Neil had struck and left. Sighing, she released her partial shift. Under the sleeves of her brown biker jacket her wrists and hands returned to normal.

Xander shook away the resulting tingle then tapped the earpiece nestled in her right ear. “Ryuu. You copy?”

There was a brief crackle of static, then a growling, “Yeah. What’s up?”

“Found a body in the Gardens.” She turned it over. The surrounding water made a soft sucking sound as it released its victim. Reaching over carefully, she pushed damp hair off the ghostly pale face.

“Tell me it’s not the ex-girlfriend.” Faint street noises leached around his demand.

“Nope. It’s a male.” She leaned down and inhaled. The water diluted the coppery stench of blood, leaving behind the familiar odor of raw meat. Crouched within, her wolf perked up. “Human.”

A low string of curses danced in her ear. “Damn it!” Then a sigh. “Wounds?”

She dug into the inside pocket of her jacket, pulled out a small penlight, then played it over the victim. One side of the male’s skull sported a very large dent. The semi-dried blood added a macabre touch to the frozen features. “Heavy bruising, no claw or teeth marks. Looks like Neil bashed the poor guy’s head in against the rocks.”

“So he hasn’t shifted yet. I guess we should be grateful for small miracles.”

“Maybe,” she muttered, pity moving through her. The victim had been no more than a boy, maybe mid-twenties. Once upon a time, he’d been attractive. Now, death and fury had left him a broken version of who he’d been in life. “From the amount of damage, I’d say Neil was furious.”

“How much you want to bet our vic was flirting with the ex?”

“That’s a sucker’s bet.” From her position, she ran her penlight over the confined space. Dark crimson marks splattered the far wall. “Considering he stashed the body where it wasn’t likely to be found easily, I’d say Neil stalked him first. The chase would’ve appealed to his wolf, but the beating was all man.”

“Since he didn’t dine out, you think the human side is still in control?” Ryuu asked.

“Maybe.” She clicked off the light and stood up. The last two wolves she’d hunted hadn’t been completely Feral, a condition where the human intellect was devoured by the wolf within. But they had been oh so close, enough to pull an unexpected partial shift. Here, it looked as if the one they were chasing had stayed human. That small realization didn’t quiet her internal alarms. Maybe he just hadn’t been pissed enough. Yet. She squashed the nightmarish flash of claws, screams, and blood before it could grab hold. “If he catches up with the girl and she challenges him, his wolf will rise.”

Ryuu sighed. “Sara is human.”

Xander grimaced. “What the hell is the allure of dating a human? They’re way too fragile.”

Ryuu’s snort sounded in her ear. “Variety is the spice of life, Xander.”

“Whatever.” She paused. “Do we know if Neil was Born or Bitten?”

“Bastard’s another Bitten.”

“Lovely,” she said. The Bitten had two forms—human or, under a full moon, completely wolf. If he or she followed the rules. Lately, the rules had been on an extended vacation. “It’s a waning moon, so if we’re lucky, he’ll be stuck playing hunter in human skin. Keep your eyes peeled.”

“Do you know how many people are out tonight?”

She began making her way out of the cavern. “It’s Saturday night, Ryuu. Most people aren’t running around chasing psychotic furballs.”

“Instead, they’re all trying to get laid,” he groused.

His obvious disgruntlement had her lips twitching into a small grin. “Jealous?”

“Please,” he scoffed. “Even if I was, I’ve had plenty of offers tonight.”

She didn’t doubt it. Ryuu’s mixed heritage left him with the alluring combination of almond eyes, dark hair and gold tinted skin from his Asian mother, while blessing him with the whipcord physique and height of his Anglo father. Add in his inherent confidence of being the Motoki Pack’s Second, and he was catnip for women.

“The night’s still young, so there’s a chance to take one of your pretties up on her offer,” she teased, quickly retracing her steps through the dark garden. “Maybe it’ll mellow you out.” She made her way to the back fence where the trees stretched over the garden’s walls. “Where are you?”

“Third Avenue. Over by Hobo’s.”

“Where they do the tunnel tours?” she asked, stopping beneath the spreading branches of a tree guarding the stone wall. She easily leapt to the top of the six-foot wall and leaned around the overhanging branches of a tree to check that no one was coming down the sidewalk on the other side.

“Yeah,” Ryuu confirmed. “Sara’s neighbor said she and her friends were hitting some of the bars around here.”

When the sidewalk remained empty, Xander dropped lightly to the ground on the other side. To anyone watching, the heavy shadows from the dense trees camouflaged her sudden appearance. She brushed some loose leaves from her shoulders and strode out to the sidewalk. “Are you working your way north or south?”

“North,” came the answer. “Forget Drucilla’s.”

Xander’s lips quirked. Drucilla’s boasted a raunchy drag-queen show. One in which Ryuu had played a prominent role the week be- fore. She came to the end of the street and made a left on to Third Avenue. “Afraid you’ll be asked to do an encore?” she murmured, passing an older couple. The male gave her a short nod, his companion tucked lovingly under his arm as they hustled by. She ignored the tiny pang at the image they created.

Ryuu’s low growl distracted her. “A purple wig, Xander? I looked like a damn Anime character.”

“Not my fault your team can’t hold onto their football.” Lights from the various clubs and restaurants chased away the cloying dark- ness. Small clusters of young people wove down the sidewalks, their energy turning the night bright and sparkly. “Besides, I warned you not to bet against me.”

“Whatever,” he answered. “I’m coming up on the Boiler Club.”

“I’ll check out 88 Ivories across the street. If you spot either of them, holler.” She twisted, narrowly missing being trampled by an obviously inebriated male in jeans and a Storm-Trooper T-shirt proclaiming, I had friends on that Death Star.

Her quick move caused him to stumble. “Whoa, man—sorry,” he slurred, lurching to the side.

“Watch it,” she snarled, before turning back to her hunt.

“Hey!” Unexpectedly, the drunk managed to snag the back of her jacket. “Don’t rush off, baby,” he leered. “Why doncha come with me and my friends? We can show ya a good time.”

She pivoted on her heel and grabbed his wrist. She might be small, but one advantage to being a shifter was that even if you looked like you couldn’t lift a feather, you could bench press a small car and barely break a sweat.
“A good time?” She slowly increased the pressure on his wrist, feeling his bones creak under her grip.

“Hey, man! That fuckin’ hurts!” he yelped, twisting to get away from her.

“Dan, you okay?”

The question came from behind her. She turned, ignoring his pro- tests as she dragged the inebriated Dan with her. “This belong to you?” she asked the three approaching males. Recognizing pack mentality, her wolf prowled close to the surface, changing her voice to a growl.

They drew up short, uncertain of who, or what, they were facing. She knew what they saw. A small blonde woman with short, spiky, purple-tipped hair, wearing a battered brown motorcycle jacket over a fitted fluorescent green T-shirt. Soft leather pants were matched with heavily soled biker boots, complete with silver chains. Add in the intricate tattoo trailing over the right side of her face and you had Hell’s-Angel-meets-Goth-fairy-princess.

“Let him go,” the taller blond male said, taking an aggressive step forward. A wanna-be alpha.

“Gladly.” With a little shove, she pushed the drunken idiot into his friend.

The blond stumbled back as his friend tumbled into him. “You don’t have to be such a bitch.” He passed his friend off and closed in on Xander.

“I haven’t even come close to being a bitch,” she said as he loomed over her, as if his height gave him some sort of advantage. She rocked back on her heels, keeping her body loose. There really wasn’t time to teach these kids a lesson but, seriously, they needed to learn some manners.

“You think you’re some kind of bad ass with that stupid tattoo?” he sneered, his fists clenching at his side.

Keeping a pleasant smile on her face, she decided to let her wolf come out and play, changing her eyes to a burning amber. “Oh, it’s a lot more than that. Haven’t you heard? Dangerous things come in small packages,” she drawled.

He paled.

“C’mon, Matt,” one of his friends called. “Let it go. She’s not worth it.”

“Yeah, Matt,” she taunted softly, “let it go.”

Fear flashed over Matt’s face as he stumbled back. She took a step forward, to chase, when the beep of her earpiece pulled her up short. She hit the button to talk but kept her gaze on Matt and his friends. “Yeah?”

“Boiler Room is clear.” Ryuu’s voice filled her ear. “I’m heading over to 88 Ivories. Where are you?”

“Just visiting with the local nightlife,” she answered. The little pack of college boys scurried away, but Matt kept shooting her looks as they retreated. She flashed more teeth and he hurried after his friends down the sidewalk, disappearing into the crowd.

“Well, when you can tear yourself away, perhaps you’d like to see if our little monster found his way to the club?” Ryuu drawled.

“They started it. I just finished it,” she said, turning around to resume her hunt. Inside, her wolf chuffed with satisfaction at making the boys run. “I’m almost there.”

She threaded her way through the milling crowds and stepped through a brick entryway to an open patio. Small clusters of people dotted the area while music pulsed into the night air. Scents wove around her—alcohol, sweat, perfumes, soaps, fabrics—a maelstrom of odors. Years of practice had her picking through them until she found the distinctive musk of shifter. Bingo. Somewhere inside was her prey.

Stopping outside the door where repetitive bass beats rattled the walls, she tapped her earpiece. “Ryuu?”

A brief spurt of static cleared, replaced by a faint echo of the beat and a gruff, “What?”

“I’m on the Ivories’s patio.”
“You waiting for an engraved invitation?”
“Aren’t you a funny one?” she quipped. “Wanted to make sure you wouldn’t miss the party.”
“I’ll be there in a minute. See if you can spot him.”
She stepped through the double doors. There were no screams of horror, no flying debris or body parts. Just wooden tables and chairs surrounding the dance floor. Most were filled with one, sometimes two bodies to a chair.

The miasma of fried food, alcohol, and perspiring bodies hit her like a battering ram. There would be no using her nose in this mess. She shook her head and made her way deeper inside. The dance floor was packed. At the far end sat the bar’s infamous, dueling, black baby grand pianos. But tonight, no one tickled the ivory keys. Instead, the DJ was lost in the rhythmic beats of the pounding music, spinning his vinyl. The club’s lighting leaned heavily on a strobe effect, which guaranteed a rousing headache by the time the night was over. The snaps of brightness stung her eyes but she did her best to ignore it and tried to make out individual faces in the heavy crowd.

Needing to get an aerial view of the packed room, she found a lone empty chair sitting against the wall. Climbing up, she stood on tiptoe, stretching to see over the sea of bobbing heads. Between bursts of light, a disturbance in the rhythmic mass caught her attention. Two burly bouncers were making their way from the bar to the back of the club. Patrons stumbled out of their way, leaving a visible path. The bouncers pushed through with identical grim expressions. The strobe lights flashed off the taller one’s bald head, while his buzz-cut partner pointed toward something ahead of them.

Following the gesture, Xander found Neil arguing with a pretty, honey-brown-haired young woman. She tapped her earpiece. “Ryuu?”

“Yeah?”

“How long before you get here?”

“I’m almost there.” There was a pause. “You found him.”

“Oh, yeah. And it’s going to get ugly. Quick.” Xander watched the woman jerk away from the tall, lanky, dishwater blond, shaking her head. “I think I’ve found Sara, too.”

Xander jumped off her chair just as Neil reached out to snag the girl, fury evident in his bared teeth and curled hands. “We’re out of time,” she told Ryuu, pushing her way through the dense crowd.

“Be careful.” Ryuu’s warning was lost as she hit a broad shouldered form in front of her. The answering bump knocked her hard enough she lost her earpiece. Screw it. Done being polite, she gave him a shove, sending him into the arms of his buddy as she continued toward the impending showdown at the back of the club.

Through the sea of gyrating bodies, she caught glimpses of the confrontation playing out. Sara was verbally ripping Neil a new one, while the club’s security duo drew closer to the arguing couple. Sara’s tirade wasn’t the reaction Neil had expected. Under the strobe lights, his face contorted into something not altogether human.

Dread morphed into grim acceptance as Xander continued to shove her way through the crowd. The distance between her and the impending epic disaster might as well have been miles instead of feet. “Damn it. Damn it,” she muttered.

So much for keeping the existence of monsters on the down-low from humans. Neil was going to shift and she was too far away to stop it. If she didn’t get to him before he tore his way through the surrounding club goers, the good people of Portland were going to have irrefutable proof that the Kyn, all those creatures they had relegated to scary campfire stories, were shockingly, violently real.

The song switched, the music’s driving beat ramping up faster and louder. In response, the crowd surged and she lost sight of her targets. Forcing her way through, she ignored the litany of complaints and shouts. She made it a couple more feet when the first terror-filled scream cut through her withering hope, and the heavy music, like a blade.

Another scream, this one deep, agonized, male, accompanied the tang of freshly spilt blood perfuming the air. Before the cry faded, the sea of bodies turned into a herd of panicked prey. A chorus of screams drowned out the music. As panic set in, some of the club’s patrons fell under the press of the fleeing crowds. As hard as it was for Xander to ignore the cries and pleas from those being trampled and crushed, she fought her way forward.

It took her precious minutes to break through the battering throng and stumble free. She wiped away the blood from a shallow cut that something—probably the sharp edge of a purse—had opened along her temple.

Greeting her was a scene that would have done any horror flick proud. Neil was crouched near the back wall, sporting a bastardized version of the Born’s half form. Instead of the graceful meld of wolf and human, he was a monstrous mix of beast and twisted human features. Thin lips curled back from a hairless muzzle, revealing elongated canines nestled among other sharp, pointy teeth. Tufted ears rose above lank blond hair, hair that merged into patches of heavier fur belonging to a wolf’s pelt.

His chest and shoulders had expanded with inhuman muscle, tearing his T-shirt along the seams and leaving it hanging in tatters from the collar. The mishmash of human and wolf was downright disturbing, almost as disturbing as the surrounding carnage.

Blood smeared the back wall with the abandon of a child’s finger- painting. Baldy twitched on the floor, his severed right arm lying a few feet away in its own puddle of gore. His partner was curled into a fetal position, in a futile effort to keep his pale gray intestines from spilling onto the floor. Sara cowered against the back wall, as far from the wreckage as she could get. Her arms, scored with deep claw marks, were wrapped around her head as she tried to make herself smaller, attempting to disappear.

Not everyone in the club had the intelligence to get the hell away from the monster. While the majority of the crowd kept trying to make it to the exits, there were those foolish few who remained be- hind, either too stubborn or too dense to understand the danger they were in. A couple of very buff males were trying to keep Neil’s attention off of Sara and the two downed bouncers.

They succeeded. Unfortunately, they were woefully unprepared to face the nightmare in front of them. Improvised weapons of broken bottles didn’t do much to dissuade the shifter. Lethal nails, tipping what had once been human fingers, glinted under the sporadic lighting, leaving more red ruin and agonized screams behind.

Xander shoved past the last ring of shocked onlookers and stalked forward, drawing the monster’s attention. His nails scraped against the floor as he pivoted to face her. His amber gaze, awash in a demonic red glow, filled with single-minded murderous purpose as he focused on her. His threatening growl flashed deadly fangs and raised every hair on her body. She stilled, but didn’t look away from the feral intelligence staring back at her.

Around her, the human on-lookers scrambled back, finally realizing what stood before them was something they had no chance of defeating. The music cut off, leaving behind the low moans of the injured and dying. Sara’s piteous mewls of terror and the discordant sounds of fleeing masses played like a ghostly chorus while the tension between her and Neil stretched, creating a small well of eerie quiet.

“Come get me,” she taunted.

It was never smart to bait the insane, but she had one chance to stop this before it got any worse. Just one.

She’d probably get hurt.
 Okay, scratch that. She was definitely going to get hurt. 
Small price to pay for getting some answers as to what the hell was turning wolves into psychotic furry monsters. Hopefully she’d bring Neil in alive. The last two wolves hadn’t given her a choice. She was tired of dragging broken bodies back to her alpha.

Neil darted forward, forcing her backwards as he swiped out. Yanking back, she sucked in her stomach, but not in time to miss the burn of his nails against her skin. Dammit, the one area her open jacket didn’t manage to cover. Even as she spun out of reach, the warning kiss of heat filtered through her thin T-shirt to the skin beneath. Pivoting to follow her, he turned, keeping her trapped between the back wall, the torn bodies, and him.

She held her position, trapping his maddened gaze with her own and let her wolf join the fight. He paused, his nose twitching, taking in her altered scent. His muscles tensed and a cunning intelligence emerged under the insane fury, twisting his features, as he realized who he faced.

Without enough time to shift into full warrior form, she kept her transformation localized until her fingers mirrored the same deadly talons as her opponent. His rumbled snarls echoed through the club as he closed the distance between them, one stiff step at a time.

Xander curled her lip and met him halfway. Their bodies hit and her heavy leather jacket shredded under his claws. His fetid breath fanned her face as the warped wolf snarled and snapped, trying to find an opening. She managed to rip her claws across his ribs, causing him to grunt, as she momentarily forced him to retreat. Undeterred, he rushed back in.

Xander’s focus narrowed to the whirlwind of fangs and claws as they grappled for dominance. All her training took a back seat to instinct as she faced the maddened creature.

Skin, hers and his, tore under the merciless attacks. The sound of snapping teeth was punctuated by menacing growls and painful yips. She managed to block his repeated attempts to tear out her throat by slashing her nails over his distorted muzzle, forcing him to pull back. Her jacket sported a collection of ragged tears, and her T-shirt was a poor layer of protection between his lethal swipes and her skin.

Fresh blood began to decorate the floor at their feet. She used her smaller stature to go in low, trying to hamstring him. He twisted and spun away from her. Changing direction, she sprang up, curled her nails into lethal hooks, and dug them into his muscled back. With a wrench, she dragged them down his spine, leaving scarlet slashes be- hind.

His pain-filled yelp quickly turned into a low threatening growl as the iron rich scent of blood flooded the air. With unexpected speed, he grabbed her arm, yanked her over his back, and flung her to the floor. Her spine met the concrete, slamming the breath from her chest, and slowing her reactions.

She struggled to sit up, barely getting her arms in front of her to hold Neil off. Time slowed. Razor sharp teeth snapped inches from her face. Inch by precious inch, she forced him back, her arms trembling under his weight. He was so close, there was no way to miss the moment when his bloodlust rose, sweeping away what little remained of the man and leaving behind a homicidal-crazy wolf. As he turned Feral, her option of bringing him in alive took a flying leap.

Done with the kid gloves, she let the pressing weight of her attacker drive her back and down to the ground. Distracted by the potential meal, he didn’t notice as she curled her legs and tucked her feet against his stomach, while keeping one claw-tipped hand wrapped around his neck. Then she shoved with her feet. Neil went airborne. The force of his flight left her holding a chunk of bloody meat, what had been part of his throat.

Before the gravely injured monster could hit the ground another shape sprang out of the shadows and sailed over Xander, crashing into the rogue and sending him sprawling across the blood-slicked floor. Xander rolled to her hands and knees to find Ryuu crouched over the downed shifter. A series of low, dangerously serious noises trickled from Ryuu’s throat.

“A little late to the party, aren’t you, Ryuu?” Xander asked, care- fully getting to her feet. Her movements pulled her torn skin, causing her to grimace. Needing a minute to get her breath back, she examined the tattered remains of her leather jacket. “Damn it, I loved this jacket.”

Walking over to the two men, she released the magic holding her partial shift. She shook out the pins and needles of her hands as she brushed past Ryuu, who didn’t take his eyes off Neil. Kneeling beside her injured prey, her fingers drifted over the wound in Neil’s throat.

“Why isn’t this healing?” she murmured. When Neil tried to snap at her, she whacked his distorted muzzle. “Settle down.”

Shifters were notoriously fast healers, unless silver was involved.

Blood continued to pool from the wound, a dark puddle that sucked the club’s muted light into its abyss. Murmurs grew around them, but no one dared to come forward. Yet.

She was about to lose her only lead. If he took his human form, maybe he’d heal enough to keep breathing. She grabbed his snout and forced him to meet her gaze. “Change, damn you!”

Savage madness stared back.
She shot Ryuu a look. “You need to take over.”
The slender Asian man knelt next to her and pushed her hand away. He grasped the warped face in his hands. Xander scooted back to give him room while the warm brush of magic rose. Movement on the edge of her vision had her looking up in time to spot some brave soul making her way over to one of the bleeding men who had faced Neil with a broken bottle.

Pale and shaken, the young woman met Xander’s gaze briefly be- fore dropping her eyes. “I’m a second year med student,” she said, her glance flicking up again.

Xander gave her a short nod. As the med student scrambled to the wounded man, Xander felt the energy gathering around Ryuu. The wolf inside her pressed against her skin, wanting to get closer to the familiar warmth of the pack. She fought her instinctive reaction to the magic Ryuu was drawing on to heal Neil. As the Motoki Pack’s Second, the amount of power he was using would normally force an injured shifter to change, allowing them to heal. Yet, the form under Ryuu’s hands quivered, but didn’t transform.

“Ryuu?” Alarm rose. This wasn’t making sense.

“Not now, Xander,” he gritted through his teeth. The magical energy deepened, like electrical currents before a lightening strike. Neil’s misshapen hands began to churn, his nails scraping against the rough floor. A great shudder wracked his grotesque body.

Ryuu let go and sat back on his heels, his face grim. The frantic scrapes and magical energy stopped, leaving an odd, uneasy silence in their wake. He met Xander’s gaze and shook his head. She turned to watch Neil’s eyes dull as death crept in. His twisted body dissolved into a battered young man with longish, dishwater-blond hair and a torn throat. His chest rose once more, then stilled.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:The Romance Reviews wrote:

“This is a great story for those who like suspense with their romance.”

Forever Book Lover Reivews wrote:

“Shadow’s Moon is a blast to read. The writing flows nicely, the characters are three-dimensional and intriguing, and the plot has several surprises along the way. The characters are very vivid, and realistic.”

I Heart Reading Reviews wrote:

“A well-written paranormal romance novel with an interesting plot, plenty of surprises, and a couple I could cheered for from the start.”

Stewart, Amazon Review wrote:

“This was a wonderful, heart pumping, grab the edge of your seat book. It was so hard to put it down. I loved reading how the Xander and Warrick grew together and what kind of relationship developed.”


Awards:

2015_EBook_finalist adjusted

2015 Epic Ebook Award Finalist

GoldenCladdaghHeader

2013 Golden Claddaugh Finalist in Paranormal Romance

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RomCon Reader Rating - 8

Book Cover: Shadow's Soul

Some nightmares are born of love…

A simple assignment turns into a nightmare when Raine McCord follows Cheveyo to the Southwest on a consulting gig. When the most feared beings of the Kyn kidnaps Cheveyo and leaves Raine for dead, her ability to heal her mind and spirit hinges on the one man who can touch her soul, Gavin Durand.

Unraveling the Southwest Kyn’s web of secrets and hidden vendettas will either bring them together or tear them apart forever.

Published:
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Editors:
Cover Artists:
Genres:
Excerpt:

Blood dripped into her eyes. Raine McCord raised a hand to brush it away, smearing the warm wetness across her face. The world shimmered feverishly around her, sunlight glinting off the snow-draped forest. She stumbled over a fallen log. Pain screamed through tattered nerve endings and down her right leg before the overload caused it to go limp. Collapsing to her side, she tried to protect her right shoulder, which was singing its own chorus of agonies. With a groan, she used her left hand to push herself up to her knees.

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She knelt, head down, eyes closed, trying to breathe through the never-ending dizziness. She had to keep moving. Struggling to lift her heavy head, she forced her eyes open so she could focus on the ground ahead of her. You’re dead if you don’t move, Raine! her mind screamed. Faint whimpers and the sound of ragged breathing filled her ears as she dug her bloodied hands into the wet, cold dirt. Dead leaves and fallen twigs scraped against her tender palms. The chill from the patches of snow still clinging to the forest floor under the white barked trees barely made a dint in the pain.

Inadvertent sounds fell like whispers on the icy air as she pulled her battered body along the ground. Somewhere a branch cracked, jerking her attention behind her. Only drag marks denoted her path, looking as if they’d been made with scarlet paint. Forcing her attention forward, she blinked. Her vision wavered between gray and bright white. She aimed for the large, dark shape looming just out of reach.

Inch by agonizing inch, she made her way forward. The indistinct shape came into focus. It was the remains of a large tree, large enough to hide behind. Reaching the dubious protection, she managed to crawl behind it before her arms and knees gave out, sending her face first into the cold, wet earth. The winter forest was strangely silent. Each slow movement torture, she pulled her knees to her chest and curled into a ball.
Quiet. She had to be quiet. Stuffing her fist against her bruised lips, she muted the soft pain-filled noises coming from her abused throat. The rattling shivers from earlier had been replaced by a bone deep weariness. She might freeze to death, but she couldn’t find the strength to care. Closing her eyes, she let the swirling darkness and cold drag her under.

* * *

Her dreams included strangely soothing chants and curiously subdued drumming. It was a new experience. Generally, her nightmares involved cages, mad scientists, and monsters. At least the forest motif remained familiar. Rough edges dug into her spine. Trying not to be obvious, Raine reached behind her and found—tree bark? Slitting her eyes open, she was met with a curtain of dark, matted hair. Hazy light filtered through the strands. She rolled over. Her hair slid away to reveal a lattice work of branches above her with leaves dancing in the soft green light. Something was off. Something besides the fact that she was lying at the foot of a freaking huge tree. The towering branches swayed hypnotically. There was no wind. How did leaves dance without wind?

Gingerly she sat up, brushing her hair out of her face and snagged her hand on a twig. Pulling the tangled mass forward, she found crushed sticks and leaves snared in the inky strands. Flowing white sleeves fell back from her arms as she pushed the mess back.

White? Flowing? What the hell? She didn’t own a white, flowing anything. Jeans, leather, and steel, that’s what she was comfortable in. The crackling of dried leaves heralded the arrival of a new player. All thoughts of the weird clothing disappeared as she instinctively moved into a crouch, reaching for her weapons. A streak of panic hit when she found nothing.
All she could do was wait. It didn’t take long before a wolf emerged from the shifting shadows. Its amber gaze was strangely calm as it padded forward then sat, like a dog. Not once did its attention waver. No dog she knew had fur blending from white to gray to black. She slowly eased back until the great oak pressed against her spine, not once breaking eye contact with the waiting animal.

Unsure of where she was, she dropped the mental barrier she held for protection between herself and the everyday world. Her senses flared to life. Thanks to her Fey heritage she could feel the presence of the natural magic in the fauna around her, a steady ebb and flow of life. If she really wanted, she could dig a little deeper and paint that energy with a visible palette of colors. A recently discovered talent which had nothing to do with her bloodlines and everything to do with her time spent as a lab rat.

She reached for her magic, only to have it slip through her psychic fingers like mist. Startled, she tried again while the strange wolf continued to watch her. The result was frustratingly the same. “What the hell?” she muttered.

Feeling behind her she dug her physical fingers into the rough edges of the tree bark. That was definitely real. She eyed the wolf, possible options cascading through her mind. Escape or confront?

As if reading her mind, the wolf gave her a canine grin full of very pointed teeth. The taunt was clear.

She snorted. “Yeah right, Mr. Big Bad Wolf. Do I look like I’m wearing a little red hood?” She was surprised at how hoarse her voice was. Only one thing had ever made her throat this raw. Problem was she couldn’t remember anything requiring that much screaming.

“Red would not be your color, Raine,” a female voice mocked. Raine jerked her head up so fast everything did a slow, stomach- churning spin. Once her vision settled, she was able to refocus on her surroundings. Other than the wolf and the tree behind her, everything else was shrouded in shadows and mists.

“You need to come back.” A woman stepped out of the shadows. Moving to stand beside the wolf, she scratched behind one gray ear. The woman was tall, taller than Raine’s own five-foot-five frame by a good couple of inches. Various shades of blonde were drawn into a simple braid. Deep brown eyes sparkled with some inner amusement. “You can’t stay here.”

“I don’t know where here is.”

The blonde tilted her head in a strange bird-like manner. “Here is where you go to heal, to get away from the rest of the world. Think of it as your own personal garden of Eden.”

Raine couldn’t stop the snort of disbelief or the bitter twist of her mouth. “This is the first time my Eden doesn’t look like hell, so I’m not so sure this is all my doing.”

Impatience passed over the strong-boned face. “Regardless, you need to go back now.”

The snappy tone didn’t sit well with Raine. Rising from her crouch, she hid the shakiness of her legs with a sneer. “How am I supposed to get back?” This place set her teeth on edge and getting out of here was priority number one.

Frustration tightened the woman’s lips. “Don’t you know how to do this?” Her voice was sharp, impatient. “It’s your spirit you’ve trapped here. You have to make the decision to come back to yourself. If you don’t, you’re going to die.” Her braid slid over her shoulder when she crossed her arms. A flash of comprehension passed over her face. “Ah. Perhaps that’s what you want then?”

Raine found her hands clenching into fists at her sides. Her instincts were screaming that danger was barreling toward her. “If this is my Eden, who the hell are you?”

“Tala Whiteriver, and you, Raine McCord, are dying.” Tala’s voice was melodic, yet there was something in the undertones which sent shivers down Raine’s spine. The woman turned, her voice floating back to Raine. “Follow then, if you have the courage.”

The last was a challenge. Rising to its feet, the wolf stood, its tongue lolling out in obvious canine laughter. Tala’s figure disappeared into the thick surrounding shadows. The wolf began to follow his mistress into the haze.
Not one to ever back down, Raine stepped away from the sheltering tree. As she moved near the gray shifting shadows, the drums and chanting came back. At the edges of the glade, they became insistent, driving. A few more steps and she was in the mist of dark shadows.

They wrapped around her like ghosts, pulling her forward. A strange fear spiked deep in her bones. The flash of a tail up ahead was her only clue she was on the same path as Tala and the wolf. She tried to push the phantom mists away, but they held on, tighter than before. Obviously whatever this was, it didn’t want her to leave. She stopped her struggles and noticed the ghostly bindings began to fade as she moved forward.

“Try to keep up.” Tala’s voice drifted back to her. “There’s no woodcutter coming to save you.”

Raine’s teeth snapped together. She really disliked this woman.

Any sense of direction was compromised by the dense gray soup. Flashes of fur were Raine’s only clue she was facing forward. Time passed—she wasn’t sure how much. The fog grew lighter and the disturbing shadows dissipated. When the wolf disappeared between one blink and the next, she stepped up her pace and broke free of the shadows abruptly.

Light blinded her, while the chanting and drumbeats took up a resonant pulse in her bones.

“Show me how strong you are, warrior girl.” Tala’s whispered taunt cut through the chaos of noise and blinding glare of light.

A strong shove sent Raine stumbling forward. She was falling blind. Panic caused a metallic taste to coat her mouth. Blood rushed through her veins in time to the drumbeats. Colors became a dizzying kaleidoscope, while sonorous chanting infiltrated her mind like a thousand voices. As she drew a breath to scream, blinding pain hit. Every bone in her body shattered at once while acid replaced the blood in her veins. The chanting swelled until it swallowed her agonized screams, following her into the terrifying abyss.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:The Romance Reviews wrote:

“Jami Gray delivers another fantastic action-packed novel with SHADOW'S SOUL, book two in the Kyn Kronicles series. Carve out some time, sit down and buckle up because SHADOW'S SOUL will take you on a wild ride through the world of magic.”

Crystal, Amazon Review wrote:

“Words can't describe how much I love this series! It is so incredibly well-written that the world and the characters seem to come to life before your very eyes.”

Chrissie, Amazon Review wrote:

“Shadow's Soul is a great work of the Paranormal Romance genre. Jami Gray has no trouble weaving an enticing cast of characters and a whole different world…I will never look at shifters and witches the same way again.”

Jae Park, Goodreads Review wrote:

“The adventures of Raine McCord, as told in Shadow's Soul, are indeed riveting. Non-stop action from beginning to end as the job of protecting the head Magi of the Northwest leads her into a confrontation with a Soul Stealer as well as Chindis.”


Awards:

2012 Shooting Star Winner for Paranormal Romance

Book Cover: Shadow's Edge

Everyone fears what hunts in the shadows—especially the monsters…

When the supernatural lurks in the shadows of the mundane, hunting monsters requires unique skills, like those of Raine McCord. A series of deaths threatens to reveal the Kyn community and forces her to partner with the sexy Gavin Durand.

As the trail leads to the foundation haunting Raine’s childhood, she and Gavin must unravel lies and betrayals to discover not only each other, but the emerging threat to them and the entire magical community.

Published:
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Editors:
Cover Artists:
Genres:
Excerpt:

With a quick twist of her wrist, Raine slipped the blade between Quinn’s ribs. His heart gave one last desperate beat then fell silent. He slid slowly down her body to his knees, ending up in a strange, lover-like tableau.

Wrenching out her blade with a soft grunt, she held him in a gentle grasp, carefully lowering his lifeless body to the cracked concrete floor of the deserted warehouse. She closed his now dull brown eyes, knowing they would join the handful of others haunting her dreams.

As she knelt to wipe her blade clean on his shirt, her hands shook slightly. Shaking hands were good. It was a sign she hadn’t yet slipped off the crumbling edge into the same deep hole holding the monsters she hunted. It was a small comfort, but a comfort all the same.

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She was careful to keep her knees away from the creeping trick- le of blood inching outward. Standing, she caught her breath in a near-silent hiss of pain. A reminder of a stupid mistake on her part. She knew better. Every time she thought she’d seen it all, something came along and bit her in the ass. Or in this case, distracted her enough to get past her guard. The four inch gash along her ribs was a small price to pay for her inattention. The illusion Quinn had used was good, damn good. Almost good enough to save his life.

She slipped her knife back in its wrist sheath, careful not to touch the iron blade. Not wanting to leave a blood trail, she stripped off her coat and long sleeve shirt, leaving her pale skin covered in a simple black T-shirt. She tore the shirt into strips creating a primitive binding for her ribs. Settling her trench coat around her, she moved out into the night-shrouded streets of downtown Portland.

Raine needed to get home and clean out the wound. It would probably need stitches, thanks to the spell Quinn had so thoughtfully wrought on his own weapon. Raine’s mixed heritage might help her heal faster than a human, but this was one gash that would probably need mending. Damn, how she detested needles. They always brought back the sick helplessness of being a living pincushion for a demented scientist and his distorted visions of grandeur. Her steps faltered briefly as she wrestled the destructive memories back behind their door.

She blew out her breath in a deep sigh, her long strides making quick work of the winding streets in the deserted neighborhood. In seconds, she disappeared into the shadows, leaving behind the hazy- yellow streetlights shining feebly through the misty fog.

A few blocks later, she opened the door to her dark-green SUV and climbed in just as a soft rain began to fall. The Northwest was a great place to live, so long as you didn’t mind being wet and growing mold.

Raine did a fast scan of the deserted parking lot before turning the key in the ignition. It would just complete her night to finish this assignment by getting car jacked by some tanked-up group of mortal teenagers, or a pack of hormonal shifters. They’d take one look at her five-foot-five frame—okay five-foot-seven with her leather boots—and think easy mark. It was a mistake people rarely made twice. Even Quinn had known better.

A quick glance at the dashboard clock showed it was past three in the morning. She grabbed the cell phone from the glove compartment and hit a programmed number. It rang once and was picked up on the other end.
“This is McCord,” she said. “The job’s done.”

Raine hung up without waiting for an answer. She never expected one and wouldn’t have gotten it anyway. Flicking the stereo on, she let the throbbing bass and heavy guitars pound through the speakers as she turned out of the lot and headed home.

The money she’d spent on the protection spell for her leather trench coat was definitely a good investment. Without it, Quinn’s attack would have left her with a mortal injury. She would’ve bled out before too long.

In her line of work, protection spells were just as important as a finely sharpened blade. Costly, but well worth it.

Her well-funded bank account bore testimony to the generosity of her employer, Taliesin Security. However, even as the top security company in the U.S., they were now down one employee. Quinn wouldn’t be reporting in anytime soon. Truth was, she had liked Quinn. Liked him enough, she had tried to bring him in alive. Unfortunately, he hadn’t felt so accommodating.

Maybe it was the thought of facing her boss, Ryan Mulcahy, which had made Quinn attack. From personal experience, Raine knew dealing with Mulcahy created a tendency toward violence.

The man had manipulation and control down to an art form. She wondered if those two characteristics had been listed as requirements on his job application. “Wanted: one powerful, arrogant, type-A, control freak to head up the Fey population in the North- west.” She snorted. It wouldn’t surprise her.

The SUV hit a pothole, making her wince. It pulled her thoughts back to Quinn. His name had been linked to the disappearance and bloody murders of two college students. In general, the deaths would have caused a small ripple in the human world. How- ever, if one of the few government agencies who knew about the Kyn had uncovered Quinn’s name before Taliesin Security had— well, the ripple would have turned into a tsunami. The threat to the magical community had been too great. So Mulcahy had sent Raine, one of his specially trained Security Officers, to bring Quinn in.

She knew Quinn’s weakness—power. Wanting what he couldn’t have, hating those who had it, and always trying to obtain it. Those driving needs must have factored into his fateful decision to kill those girls. Unfortunately, Taliesin had a very literal termination policy for those who didn’t follow the one unbreakable rule. Never take out the innocents, especially if they were human. Not only was it bad for business, it would earn you a permanent demotion to a lovely, airless box six feet under.

Hell, no matter how you looked at it, Quinn’s decision had been just plain stupid.

Sirens jerked her attention back to the wet road in front of her. Glancing in her rearview mirrors, she saw the flashing red and blue lights streak toward her. Her fingers whitened on the steering wheel. She could not be pulled over right now. There were too many hidden weapons on her person and in her vehicle to get out of this with a simple ticket. She checked her speed. Nope, she wasn’t speeding. The blare of the siren rose above the pulsating music, and the spasmodic lights filled up the side mirror.

Muttering a string of epitaphs under her breath, she began to slow, pulling her SUV over to the shoulder, while frantically trying to piece together a believable story. Before she came to a complete stop, the siren and lights blasted by her, spraying a fine mist of grit and water across her windshield. Relief swept through her and she slumped against the steering wheel, watching the small red brake lights fade into the night.

As her adrenaline levels dropped, she let out a shaky sounding laugh. It would be just her luck to get stopped for speeding and arrested for the small arsenal she was transporting. Not to mention the question of whose blood was staining the metal of the knife strapped to her wrist. It wouldn’t take much to match the unusual blood on her blades to the body that would soon be found. Even humans could connect the dots.

The Kyn had managed to keep their existence quiet for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, the advent of modern technology made blending into the shadows difficult. Decades ago, some of the human governments, various high level military personnel, and a select handful of others became privy to the Kyn’s existence. The decision was made to keep the presence of creatures, that humans believed were only fantastic stories, a closely guarded secret. The humans in power didn’t want to scare the general population, and the Kyn, secretive by nature, didn’t argue.

Raine pulled back out onto the freeway. The rest of her drive was uneventful, and with a grateful sigh, she slowed to take the approaching turn off the highway. Tires crunched onto a gravel road heading into the mountains. Home wasn’t far now, and she was looking forward to a warm shower and a cup of hot tea. The SUV crossed the bridge spanning the dried-up streambed. She felt the steady vibrations of her primary wards which served as a basic magical warning system surrounding her land. They were fairly strong—a surprise since warding magic wasn’t her greatest strength. But she knew enough that she didn’t have to spend money on bringing in a Warder. The wards seemed undisturbed, and she felt some of the night’s tension begin to dissolve. She loved living out in the middle of nowhere. It was her haven, her refuge.

She parked the SUV in the detached garage and opened her door. As soon as her foot touched the ground, she felt the disturbance of her inner wards inside the house. Something, or someone, had breached them. A powerful someone, since the outer wards hadn’t been tripped. She muttered a brief oath and caught the edge of the car door before it slammed then realized her element of surprise was shot since her headlights weren’t exactly hard to miss in the inky darkness.

Easing the door almost closed until the interior light clicked off, she stood by the SUV, an unmoving shadow. The soft rhythm of falling rain and the slight rustling of the breeze running through the dense tree leaves helped to cover her movements.

She kept to the darkness of the garage, scanning her front and side yards. The lights were still off, none of the small bushes were mangled, and there were no strange cars visible. Whoever it was either flew in or parked somewhere out in the surrounding woods. Raine sent out a flicker of energy to read the house wards. Crouching down, she moved silently toward the wrap-around porch. The wards weren’t offering much help. All she could sense was one intruder. One trespasser versus her and her knives? She’d take those odds. She slipped over the porch railing, dropping softly to the deck.

She moved toward the door from the left side, avoiding the windows and keeping her back to the wall. Staying low, she approached the door below eye level, in case whoever or whatever was inside took a shot. The hope being their shot would go over her head. No sense in being an easy target. With a flick of her wrist, her blade dropped out of its sheath into her right palm, while her left hand reached for the doorknob.

A deep voice emerged from the darkened interior as the door swung open. “Raine, its Gavin. I have a message for you.”

Far from being reassured, Raine pushed the door all the way open, staying low. Her night vision functioned perfectly as her eyes swept the entrance hall. Sure enough, a large man was sprawled in her favorite cushy chair. His dark form was outlined in a reddish- orange glow. She caught his movement as he reached for the switch on the wall and blinked in preparation as the soft light flicked on, her vision adjusting rapidly back to normal. As she rose to her feet, she moved her knife down to her side. Out, but not readily visible.

Gavin Durand made her uneasy, itchy. She had overheard more than a few female conversations at the office focusing on his exotic looks. Something about the golden skin, lean muscles, and long legs sent the women all drooling. If she was honest, she’d have to admit to drooling—once or twice—herself. That well-hidden fact created a crack in her hard-won control, making her resent him. All enticing six-feet-four inches of him, to be exact.

"Deliver it and leave, Gavin.” Her voice quiet, she stepped in- side, closing the door. Her eyes never left the man in front of her.

“Could I get a cup of tea, at least?” he asked, his green eyes regarding her steadily. She watched him warily as she moved down the hall to the closet. They had worked together before on a few assignments for Taliesin, and Raine’s cautious reaction to him seemed to provide Gavin endless amusement. He leaned a shoulder against the entryway between the front room and the hall, watching her. His stance was relaxed, and his arms were crossed in front of his broad chest. His empty hands were meant to be a clear message he wasn’t armed.

She took the message at face value, deciding he was probably here to irritate her. Feeling his gaze as she turned her back to him, she slid the knife back in its sheath. His presence was unsettling be- cause not only was he a fellow Security Officer for Taliesin but, like Raine, he was also part of the Wraiths.

Since human justice didn’t work well on the Kyn, they had their own version of the police. The Wraiths were a twelve member, highly skilled and specialized group, operating in similar fashion to human military black-ops groups. They were not publicly acknowledged, even within the Kyn society, and provided the last line of defense for the supernatural community.
Wraiths were essential in keeping the monsters at bay and holding the fragile peace between Kyn and humans. They were authorized to use whatever powers and skills necessary to get the job done.

They had yet to fail.

Wraiths did not visit other Wraiths in the dead of the morning for tea. A well-known fact to Raine as she was one of the elite twelve. Feeling the nerves blooming under her skin just pissed her off. Nerves were a sign of weakness, not desire, she assured herself. Her inner voice scoffed and a soft snarl escaped her. It ended in a slight hiss of pain when she yanked her coat off, pulling at the wound in her side. Damn it, Gavin was an attractive pain in the ass.

He hadn’t moved and stood there watching her, his thoughts hidden by a mask of mild amusement. She hated that particular expression as much as she disliked the tumultuous feelings he always managed to invoke. He was rubbing her metaphoric fur the wrong way.

“If you want tea, there’s the kitchen.” She was proud of how level her voice sounded. “Go put the water on.” She grabbed a hanger, hung up her coat, and gently closed the closet door. Stepping by him, she headed to the kitchen, deliberately keeping herself just out of his reach.

“Hurt?” His dark voice tumbled down her spine, spreading un- expected chills. She whirled, her back hitting the hall wall. The reali- zation of just how close he was had her sucking in a breath. The damn man could move more quietly than a cat, she thought, nerves and anger accelerating her pulse.

“It’s just a scratch.” Her jaw tightened with frustration and the unwanted awareness she couldn’t hide as she met his brilliant green eyes. “I need to clean it up.”

She wasn’t going to stand here like some girly-girl, letting him crowd her. She put her hand on his broad chest and pushed him away. Surreptitiously wiping her tingling palm on her jeans, she moved warily around him, trying not to breathe in his woodsy scent as she continued to the kitchen. Her body was hyper aware of the man pacing behind her. She wasn’t used to having people in her house, especially a male who watched every move she made. Screw it, it was her house, and Gavin wasn’t here on her invite.

Moving into the kitchen, she grabbed the bottom of her black T-shirt and pulled it off, throwing it in the trash as she headed to the sink. Tattered and bloody, the T-shirt was a loss. The black tank underneath was torn, blood seeping through the binding. Raine re- moved both wrist sheaths, revealing old scars that traced patterns on her arms. Her wrists held a matching set of scars, circling them like bracelets. A lasting impression left from an old nightmare.

She laid the wrist blades on the counter to clean later. She knew if Gavin chose to start something, he would at least play fair and give her a chance to grab them. Besides, she still had the two in her boots. She started to unravel the make-shift bandage from her ribs.

He grabbed the tea kettle from the stove and reached around her to fill it. Trying to ignore him, she pulled up her tank top, knowing she’d flashed him a colorful glimpse of the delicate Celtic artwork of intertwining lines and lithe cats that cradled her lower back as she made a closer inspection of the wound. She opened the drawer next to the sink grabbed the first aid kit—gritting her teeth against the pain dancing across her ribs—and cleaned and disinfected the cut.

Gavin was suddenly next to her. “Here, let me do it.”

He grasped her left shoulder. The contrast of his darker skin against her own pale flesh shot a spark of heat through her blood- stream. Turning her slightly, he guided her to the kitchen table. He shifted and pressed firmly down on her right shoulder. When she balked, he kept his hand in place and pushed until she reluctantly sat in one of the straight-backed chairs. His long fingers lingered over the second tattooed band of ancient knots and ravens covering the upper part of her right arm. She stiffened instinctively.

Gavin dropped his hand and pulled out the chair facing her, his sharp eyes inspecting the wound. “It needs stitches.”

“Yeah, I figured.” She jerked a thumb over her shoulder. “There’s surgical thread and needle in the kit.”

She watched the shadows play over the angles of his face as he scrounged through the kit, finding what he needed. From the small smile he tried to hide, Raine knew he had caught the slight grimace and her wary look as she watched him prepare the needle.

“Ready?” He made his way back to where she was sitting.

She gave a short nod and took a deep breath. Years ago she had been used as a lab rat, making her fairly immune to pain. Yet, for all the horror she had faced, needles still tended to make her cringe in- side. Gavin bent over her side working the needle in and out of her flesh. She felt the tug and pull of it moving through her skin.

The dull pain triggered flashes of past tortures. The bone- searing ache of cold iron as it burned its lasting impression into her wrists, ankles, and neck. Her body seizing as rivers of fire and ice ran through her blood. Inhuman noises ripping from her raw throat as she fought not to lose her mind to the agony consuming her.

Men in white lab coats watching it all with emotionless eyes.

The shrill whistle of the teakettle snapped her back to her kitchen. Gavin finished the last stitch. He looked up and his gaze sharpened. She felt the thin film of cold sweat coating her face.

“Go make the tea,” she said, her voice hoarse. She needed a moment to pull herself together before he saw more than she wanted him to. “I’ll put the bandage on and clean up this mess.”

He watched her for another moment, and she wondered if the tiredness she felt was reflected in her eyes. She knew what he saw. Unlike his sherry colored hair held back by a neat tie, her black hair was unraveling from its tight braid and straggling around her face. Thanks to her partial Fey heritage from her mother, she looked like she was in her late teens, early twenties. Most people mistook her for a kid until they got a good look in her eyes. Silvery gray, they held the coldness and knowledge of someone who had gone through hell— with a couple of repeat tours. She had overheard the word “eerie” used a few times. That look, along with the faint scars on her wrists and the one resembling a collar around her throat, generally made people walk cautiously around her. It was either her looks or her take-no-shit personality. Raine preferred to attribute it to her personality.

She stood slowly, a little light-headed, keeping a hand on the table until she was sure she wouldn’t embarrass herself by falling over. She grabbed some gauze and tape to cover the stitches. The delicate chimes of her teapot on her mother’s china came from behind her as Gavin poured two cups of tea. She could feel the weight of his gaze as she moved to the sink and began cleaning things up.

Turning to face the silent, disturbing man behind her, she wiped her hands on a towel. “Okay, you have your tea. Now what’s so important you had to break through my wards at—” She glanced at the clock behind him. “Three-forty-five in the morning?”

“Your wards were good, just not complicated enough.” His mouth twitched at her small flash of temper from his critique. After he took the two cups to the table, he asked in an innocent voice, “Would you like me to re-do them?”

She knew his proficiency with warding magic was legendary among the Wraiths, a gift from his very powerful witch mother.

“No.” She kept a close eye on him as she followed and sat in her chair, wondering what the truth was behind his visit. “Answer my question.”

Wraiths rarely made house calls, or to be more accurate, they were rarely caught making house calls. His unexpected appearance sent a tendril of unease through her. Thoughts of past sins flashed lightning quick, but she shoved them down ruthlessly. Her secrets were still safe. She hoped.

Her normal rock steady self-control was already shaky from the night’s earlier events. Gavin in her home on business had her on edge. He wore his usual sardonic expression, which gave nothing away. Leaning back in the chair, he crossed his long, jean-clad legs at the ankles and sipped his tea.

“Mulcahy wants you to report in tomorrow morning. There’s a new high level job waiting for us.”

“Us?” This was unexpected. “High level” was just another way of saying the job was Wraith material, not a job for an S.O. Thing was, being loners by nature, most Wraiths didn’t work well in pairs. The highly secretive nature of their work didn’t help either. Only in extreme circumstances did they team up. So what did the boss consider so dangerous it required the top two Wraiths? Granted, Gavin’s main strength lay in his use of magic, his weapons skills following a close second.

Raine, on the other hand, had trained herself to be a living weapon, nearly unstoppable when armed with anything holding a sharp edge. Magic had its uses, but she didn’t have the patience needed to master such a fickle force. The one thing she and Gavin both shared was their belief that rules were merely suggestions. Mulcahy, their boss, was very aware of this fact. He’d commented on it many times, usually accompanied by gritted teeth and growls.

Gavin’s eyes may have been half closed, but Raine was certain he was judging her reaction, so she gave him nothing. Previous experience had taught her the nonchalant attitude was a front hiding his lethal mind and lightning-fast body. “Yeah, us,” he drawled. “And no, I don’t have a clue what it is.”

She took a sip of her tea, letting her mind puzzle it out. Ryan Mulcahy was the public CEO of Taliesin, the head of the Fey contingent and, more importantly, the captain of the Wraiths. The company housed the four heads of the Northwest Kyn Community which consisted of the Fey, Shifters, Magi, and Amanusa. The worldwide magical community had divided into regions across the globe, and each region’s power structure was determined by its ruling majority or as in Taliesin Security’s case, ruling majorities.

Raine knew the Northwest had one of the highest concentrations of Kyn, thanks to the vast amounts of untouched nature running from Northern California up to the Western edge of Canada. It provided a huge power source for those whose magic came from the natural world; the Fey, the Shifters, and the Magi.

Those in the fourth group, the Amanusa, were less able to tap into that source. Since their magic came from a darker power the other Kyn didn’t want to play with, they were on their own. Their population might be small in comparison to the other Kyn species, but the reputation of the half-demon crowd was more than enough to make the supernatural community step lightly around them.

Something big was behind the request if Mulcahy was calling in both Raine and Gavin. She hadn’t heard any unsettling rumors recently, so she was curious as to what was up. Obviously, so was Gavin, since he had hunted her down. He was probably hoping she would know what was going on. He was out of luck. The realization almost made her smile. “Fine, what time am I to report in?” She knew her voice was far from friendly.

“We,” Gavin stressed, “have to be there at seven.”

“What?” She drawled. “You lost your cell phone and couldn’t just call me?” Sarcasm coated each word.

A grin lit his emerald eyes, causing her breath to audibly hitch. His lips twitched. “Maybe I just wanted to see if I could get past your protections.” When she refused to acknowledge his double meaning, he raised his tea cup in an informal salute. “Besides I heard your tea was good.”

She snorted. “Couldn’t have been from anyone breathing.” Restless she rose, taking her empty cup to the sink. Rinsing it out, she decided to be blunt. “More like you wanted to know if I knew anything. I don’t, so you’re out a few hours of sleep for tea.”

She heard the chair shift as he stood up. She turned her head, drying her hands with a towel. “Good night, Gavin.” She gave him empty, yet pleasant eyes. “I’ll see you out. Unlike others, I like my sleep.”

Moving with a rolling gait no female could fail to appreciate, he brought his cup over, crowding her as she turned fully around to face him. She refused to give ground. Trapped between his big, hard body and the counter’s edge, pressing into her spine, she was stuck there. Unless she planned on maiming him to get him to move, she grumbled mentally.

Invading the hell out of her personal space, he rinsed the cup and proceeded to dry his hands on the towel Raine still held. As he placed the cup gently on the counter behind her, he leaned down. “Good night, Raine.” His voice, low and quiet, stroked down her spine like the rub of soft fur. Chills danced up her arms. “Just to clarify, it wasn’t the tea I wanted to check out.”

He bent his head a fraction closer, his mouth just over her ear, making her visibly shiver as his warm breath caressed her. She fought to hide her body’s reaction and didn’t look away. His smile was slight, his amusement evident. “I’ll see myself out, thanks.”

She didn’t move, couldn’t move, as she watched his tall figure walk down the hall and out her door.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:The Romance Reviews wrote:

“SHADOW'S EDGE by Jami Gray will definitely keep you on the edge... of your seat, that is. This fantastic paranormal action novel is quite possibly the best book I've read this year.”

Adriana Ryan, Amazon Review wrote:

“I highly recommend this book for those looking for a strong heroine to follow in an urban fantasy!”

Linda, Goodreads review wrote:

“WOW! Book one jumps out with a fury that whets your appetite for the next!!”

Mary Waible, Goodreads Review wrote:

“Fans of Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series and Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series will enjoy the introduction to the paranormal world created by Jami Gray.”