Dragon shifter and Pyr warrior Kristofer follows the spark of his firestorm into Maeve’s dark realm, only to discover that it’s an illusion and a trap, not his firestorm at all. The fake mate who lures him into Fae is another species threatened by Maeve – Brianna is a Valkyrie, whose sister has been imprisoned by the dark queen. Brianna has to collect a Pyr soul to save her sister, but Kristofer doesn’t intend to die just yet. Trapped by Maeve, Kristofer and Brianna reluctantly join forces to save her sister—even when they discover that their skills are complementary, they know that there can be no future between a mortal Pyr and an immortal collector of souls. How much will either surrender to triumph over Maeve? And what will they do when the firestorm sparks in truth?
Coming November 26, 2019
Buy print book at:
• Barnes & Noble
An excerpt from Dragon’s Kiss
Sunday, October 27, 2019—New York City
This had to be the crappiest way to begin a vacation. Bree had scheduled everything with her usual precision and attention to detail, but her sister hadn’t shown up on time this morning. Trust Kara to screw up all their plans.
Bree had known it was a long shot booking an early morning departure, but Kara had promised to be on time.
Kara wasn’t at her apartment, either, or answering her phone. Bree would have been more worried if she hadn’t known her sister so well: they were both immortal Valkyries, after all, and both remarkably strong and invulnerable to human diseases. Kara had just found something else to do, and didn’t want to admit it to Bree until the confession was unavoidable.
They’d missed their flight to Oslo. Bree thought the moment for sharing the truth had arrived. Worst of all, she had no other choice than to go to that place and look for her sister. Kara and Bree had argued repeatedly about Kara’s chosen profession and the place she’d decided to work. Apparently, they were going to have that argument again, in that very place.
Why did Kara have to make everything so difficult? Bree fumed as she walked down the street on the west side, disliking everything about it as much as her destination. Bones. It was only six in the morning and there were still shadows in the alleys. The street was really quiet and her footsteps echoed loudly as she marched down the street, but she didn’t care who she awakened.
Why would Kara even think about working in a bar with that name? And what was in her sister’s mind, to be associating with the Others? It was complicated enough that they were the last two Valkyries. To Bree’s thinking, she and Kara should just keep their heads down and get on with the business of blending into human society. These days, it wasn’t often that they were summoned to collect a soul, after all.
But Kara never could accept the easy answer.
In fact, she found trouble like she’d invented it. Some things never changed.
Bree had just drained the last of her coffee from the take-out cup when there was a flash of light overhead. She instinctively stepped back against the wall and looked up. She thought she caught a glimpse of a dragon in flight, one that looked to have jeweled scales, but it was just a quick look between the buildings. Bree stepped into the road for a better look, but only saw a plume of flames crackle through the air. There was a flash of silver, like lightning, then silence.
It was so quiet that the hair prickled on the back of her neck. She heard a rushing sound then, as if something hurried past her, but when she spun to look, she was alone. The fallen leaves swirled into the air in a spiral, as if caught by that gust of wind, before settling onto the pavement again.
The street was then as still as if she’d imagined it all. Bree frowned, then continued to the restaurant. She’d never been there before, but the sign left no doubt in her mind that she’d arrived. She gritted her teeth then tried to open the door to Bones.
Of course, it was locked. She considered the merit of ripping it off its hinges, but then there’d be explanations required—probably to the woman walking her whippet down the other side of the street. Bree sighed. Probably no one associated with the place had any experience of mornings. Kara was proud of herself if she got out of bed before noon.
Of course, the morning flight had been such a good deal because it was non-refundable. Maybe the issue wasn’t that Kara was unreliable, but that Bree—despite centuries of disappointments—was still dumb enough to trust her sister.
She knocked on the door and when there was no response, she kicked it. Hard. Bree was angry enough to forget herself. Her boot made a dent in the steel.
There wasn’t a sound from the other side.
She knocked again, harder, then shouted into the lock.
Then she heard the jingle of keys from inside the restaurant. She tried to take another sip of coffee, but the cup was absolutely empty.
A short and chubby man opened the door, then squinted against the brightness of the light. “What’s the problem?” he demanded, his expression almost as hostile as his tone.
“I’m looking for Kara. I’m her sister Brianna and she’s late.”
He looked her up and down. “Sisters,” he said, then his eyes narrowed. “Blood sisters? Or just good friends?”
“So you have the same gift?”
“Yes.” Bree held his gaze until he nodded.
He leaned in the doorway. “You never come out to meet with the Others. Why not?”
Bree bristled. This wasn’t about her choices. It was about finding Kara. “I don’t mingle with Others. I prefer my own company, thanks.”
“That might be all you’re left with soon enough.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m going to go looking for trouble.”
“You’re going to find it anyway. Or it’s going to find all of us.”
“I’ll take my chances.” She hesitated, then asked. “Did you see the dragon overhead just now? And the flash of silver lightning?”
He considered her for a moment. “No, but I felt something,” he admitted, barely stifling a shiver. “Murray,” he said then, thrusting out his hand. Bree reluctantly shook it. His fingers were short and his grip was strong. “Kara’s not here. She’s on vacation.”
“She’s supposed to be on holiday with me, but I can’t find her.” Bree watched Murray straighten. “I came here because I don’t know where else she could be. She didn’t show up at my place as agreed to go to the airport. She’s not at her apartment, but her packed suitcase is still there, right in the middle of the room.” Bree wasn’t really afraid for her sister’s welfare, given their abilities, but she didn’t like that Kara was AWOL either. “She’s not answering her phone.”
Murray nodded and turned back toward the darkness of the bar. “She was here last night. We had a meeting.”
“It was late. I wonder if she went to the circus with the others.”
That sounded, unfortunately, like something Kara would do. “What circus? Where is it? What time was this?”
He frowned and shook his head. “Hang on. I need a coffee before I get interrogated.” Murray walked away, disappearing into the darkness but leaving the door unlocked.
Bree followed him, seething with impatience—not that it was going to make any difference. Murray appeared to be one of those methodical types who can’t be rushed. Hadn’t Kara said he was a dwarf? Bree couldn’t remember. She hadn’t wanted to know anything about the Others or about Bones.
All the same, she couldn’t help taking a good look. It looked like a warehouse converted to a restaurant and bar, with a heavy focus on the bar. There was a big dance floor and the place smelled of spilled beer, perspiration and faintly of cigarette smoke. It would have been essentially the same as hundreds of similar establishments frequented by mortals, if not for one thing.
There was another scent, one that made the hair prickle on the back of Bree’s neck.
“What kind of place is this?” she asked, her tone sharp with suspicion.
Murray yawned and opened a bag of ground coffee. He put it in the filter and started the coffeemaker. Bree was surprised that the coffee actually smelled good, given how much of a coffee snob she tended to be. The magick was throwing her game. Where was it coming from? Not from Murray. Bree inhaled but she couldn’t pinpoint the source.
“It’s a bar. It’s a restaurant. It’s a haven.” He spoke wearily then nodded, watching the steam rise. “And it’s a cover story.”
“How much magick do you practice in here? Because if I’d had any idea Bones was that kind of place, I would have insisted that Kara quit months ago…”
“Magick?” Murray echoed, looking startled. “There’s no magick here.” His expression became insulted. “I run a clean establishment,” he began, drumming one heavy fingertip on the bar.
“Magick,” Bree insisted, interrupting what was obviously going to be a lecture. “Where is it and why is it here?”
Murray surveyed the restaurant and she was glad he’d stopped arguing with her. “Wait a minute. There were talking about book last night…”
“That’s not what I smell,” Bree said. “I smell pure unadulterated magick. I smell it seeking. I smell it emanating. It’s pervasive and its on the hunt.”
Murray swore softly and looked around. “Not here,” he whispered.
Definitely here. The tattoo on the back of her hand, the one embued with magick, began to burn, recognizing the presence of its source. Bree had an almost uncontrollable urge to loose its power, but she knew the magick was trying to bend her to its will.
She took a deep breath as Murray watched her. “There,” she said, pointing to the far wall. The dance floor was between the bar and that wall, a table at one end that she assumed was for a DJ. There were lights in the floor and hanging overhead, but the wall was glossy black.
If she narrowed her eyes, she could see the silver light eeking through the mortar.
Silver lightning. Had the dragon come from Fae or gone into that realm? Who else had been on this side?
“That can’t be,” Murray began to protest.
Bree ignored him and approached the wall, scanning it. It was brick but had been painted black. The surface of the bricks was uneven, as if they were old. They were probably porous. It should be faced with steel. The thick paint had made a coating at least, like a varnish, but it wouldn’t be nearly enough of a barrier if the magick was trying to break through.
Magick was always trying to break through. Bree ran her hands over the wall, looking for an opening. There might be a small hole, a breach, a spot that the magick would widen into a hole…
“That’s an original wall,” Murray continued, following behind her. “It’s one place we didn’t have to have the masonry repaired…” He fell silent when silver light flashed under Bree’s palm. It was quick, so quick it might not have been there at all.
She heard him swear, so at least he knew enough to recognize the truth when he saw it.
She moved her hand over the same area again, holding her breath, but the light flashed again.
There was a breach.
Murray had paled. “It can’t be. Not here. This is a sanctuary.”
“Doesn’t look like it’s a good one,” Bree said then leaned close to the hole, listening. Her tattoo was scorching, drawing her hand to the bit of light, like to like, and she wanted to release the power of her tattoo with all her heart.
Even though she knew better.
The magick behind the wall had sensed the presence in her tattoo and was summoning it someone. She halfway thought the tattoo would burst into flames. She held it away from the wall, but a sudden stabbing beam of light fired through the hole and seared the tattoo.
It hurt, which said something about the force of the blow.
There was a roar from behind the wall, and one brick moved toward her. It pushed against the layer of paint, like it was encased in a balloon, and she watched in horror as the tiny speck of light grew into a tear. Bree would have slapped the brick back into place, but she heard a familiar cry.
“Help me!” someone cried on the other side of the wall.
She sounded as if she was in pain. The anguish in her voice tore at Bree’s heart—she had never heard a Valkyrie in agony before and she never wanted to hear it again. She couldn’t imagine what was being done to Kara to hurt her so badly.
“How can that be?” Murray whispered. “How did they get her?”
Bree didn’t care. There was only one thing to do. She ripped the brick free, then tossed it to Murray. A beam of silver light shone into the bar and Murray ducked, covering his eyes with his hands and doubling over to protect himself.
“Put the brick back when I’m through,” she instructed. “Get it mortared in,” she added. “Preferably by a wizard.”
“But how will you get out?”
“Fae is ridden with portals. I’ll find another one. The important thing is that this one be sealed. I’d face this wall with steel if I were you.” She held his gaze until he nodded, then considered the tattoo. It was the last bit of magick she possessed, and she’d never wanted it. This was an ideal opportunity to return it to the source—and let it take her with it.
Bree kissed the tattoo and whispered the old charm. The ink writhed on her hand, then lifted away, like a tendril of smoke.
Or a spider web.
Bree closed her eyes and asked the magick to take her along, uncertain whether it would or not. The dark smoke writhed around her, surrounding her, and she shivered as she felt her shape change. She tried to speak but heard herself buzz instead. Her vision became faceted and the world became enormously large.
She’d become a bumble bee, just like the other time.
The tendril of smoke slipped through the hole, glittering as it melded with its own. Bree took flight and followed. She’d only just landed on the lip of the brick hole and moved into the gap than Murray slammed the brick back in place. It pushed her through the gap but her leg was caught between the brick and the one below it. She struggled to pull her foot free and succeeded in time to fall out the other side, surrounded by the brilliant silver light of magick.
Kara screamed again and Bree knew her injury was irrelevant. She tried to fly, but a net was flung around her. It was sticky, like a spider web, and her wings were snared. The more she tried to move, the worse she became entangled. She tried to shift back, but the magick had her fast in its grip.
A heartbeat later she knew why. She was lifted before the familiar face of the Dark Queen herself, who smiled as she surveyed Bree. “How is it that Valkyries always know the perfect gift?” she murmured, then dropped Bree into a glass jar and stoppered the top. Bree fought the web with new strength since the glass protected her from the power of the magick.
But she knew that it didn’t matter whether she freed herself from the web, or even if she managed to change back to her own form. She was the captive of Maeve, the Queen of the Fae, and her release would have a price.
Bree just hoped the price wasn’t Kara’s life.
Or her own.