Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Hailey Edwards
eBook release date: April 30, 2016
Print release date: April 30, 2016
Gemini, Book 2
Gemini, Book 2
Camille Ellis has tracked many killers during her career,but this time it’s personal. Cut off from conclave resources, she won’t let a small thing like a suspension keep her from accepting Cord Graeson’s offer of help.
Pretending to be mated to him is one way to secure allies, but the best that can be said of the Chandler Pack is they haven’t killed or eaten her. Yet. Between the alpha’s displeasure and the pack’s distrust of fae, she’s working overtime to keep her head above water.
Just when the fur starts to fly, a tip cracks her case–and her life–wide open.
Titles available in this series include:
Head Above Water Excerpt
I disembarked my flight from Mobile, Alabama with a laptop tucked under my arm and the breathless expectation of a reunion with a certain hazel-eyed warg only to be met with a sea of eager faces, none of which brightened in recognition of me. I stood there, heart in my throat, but the man who shoved through the outer doors and strolled into the lobby wasn’t Graeson.
“Hey coz.” Isaac greeted me with a brief hug that brought his burnt-metal scent into my lungs. He dropped the keys to my pickup into one hand then pressed a paper cup of chai into the other. The latte was welcome, but even piping hot, it did little to ease the ache from what somehow stung like rejection. “Nice suit. Trying to impress the boyfriend?”
“No. I’m not,” I huffed. “I had a meeting.” Wearing jeans, a white tee with a black and red checked flannel shirt buttoned over it and ratty sneakers, Isaac had no room to judge my wardrobe choices. “Since when are you the fashion police?”
“I’m not.” He shuddered. “One cop in the family is plenty.” He picked at a dried mustard stain on his shirt pocket then started cleaning the yellow crust from under his nail. “So is Cord meeting us here or…?”
“No.” I scanned the now-empty lobby one more time then checked my phone before turning to go. “He’s not.”
Cord Graeson and I weren’t actually dating. That was just the lie he had told my family. Being a fake boyfriend, he wasn’t obligated to do the couples thing and meet me at the gate. Though it might have been nice if he’d at least texted me an excuse instead of hanging me out to dry with Isaac.
“You want to take point?” Isaac jingled his own keys in hand. “You’re the one familiar with the area.”
“Not hardly.” The state of Georgia and I were acquaintances, not friends. “I’ve been to Villanow once.”
“That’s once more than Mom or me.” He tossed his keys in the air then caught them. “Keep it between the lines, Cammie. Mom will watch your six. I’ll take the rear.”
Outside the airport, the caravan waited. Four silver Airstream trailers, three trucks, two parking violations and Aunt Dot. Stepping into the parking lot felt like coming home.
I climbed behind the wheel of my truck and settled in for the forty-five minute drive ahead of us. All those empty miles allowed me to work up a good head of steam over Graeson’s absence. We had a missing changeling to find and a serial killer to put down—for good this time—and he was burning precious hours by playing hide-and-seek.
Two quarters of the way into our trip, I stabbed the button on my infotainment screen and gave the voice command to call Aunt Dot, who was hauling Theo’s trailer in addition to hers.
“ETA fifteen minutes.” I drummed my fingers. “Don’t run me over this time, okay?”
“That was one time, and I paid the insurance premium to have your trailer repaired.” She puffed out an insulted breath. “The audiobook I was listening to was intense. I wasn’t prepared when you made a sudden stop.”
At a red light.
Hence the fifteen-minute warning.
“Maybe turn off the radio until we get where we’re going?” I suggested.
“You dent one bumper, and people act like it’s the end of the world,” she muttered, ending the call.
The remaining miles slid past my windows, a montage of evergreens that blurred after a while.
Our caravan rolled to a stop on neutral ground, a stretch of country road shaded by forest that marked the eastern border of the Chandler pack lands, in time for a cricket serenade. I exited the vehicle and checked the coordinates Graeson had rattled off to Isaac after he’d finished buttering up Aunt Dot, but our welcome party consisted of a turkey vulture and the picked-over remains of what might once have been a beaver.
Great. I had been stood up. Twice in one day.
Isaac laid on the horn, and my middle finger itched to rise. The blame for this visit sat squarely at Aunt Dot’s feet, not mine. She had accepted Graeson’s invitation without consulting me, not the other way around. Choosing that moment to stick her head out her window, Aunt Dot winked at me like this was all part of some grand adventure, and I made a fist instead.
“Well?” she hollered as she craned to see around my trailer. “Where does Cord want us?”
“He’s not here,” I called back. “I guess we wait.”
Arms crossed, I leaned against my truck’s front bumper. A forest of pines, hickories, oaks and the occasional dogwood tree created a natural barrier to protect the wargs’ privacy. I kicked at one of the clumps of grass responsible for the bumpy drive and watched the clod go sailing. It landed with a dull thud, and a heartbeat later twin specks of gold winked into existence deep in the velvet-dark heart of the forest.
“Maybe I spoke too soon,” I murmured, straightening.
One blink. Two. The apparition vanished, and the woods went silent. Chills swept down my arms in a prickling cascade. Eerie quiet lured me nearer to the leaf-strewn line separating the single-lane road from the encroaching wilderness.
Wind swirled blond strands of hair into my eyes and kicked up dust at my feet. Leaves rustled over my head as if the hickories were shooing me away, warning me to climb back in the cab to safety. I rocked back on my heels, prepared to heed their warning, until a pitiful whine from the underbrush played on my heartstrings. “Graeson?”
A door opened behind me. “Pumpkin?”
“It’s fine.” I flung out my arm to keep her and Isaac corralled at their vehicles. “Get back in the truck.”
A throaty rumble issued from the woods that grated like laughter in my ears. Fear dug talons into my spine a second before the wolf I had assumed was Graeson leapt for my throat. Black as the oncoming night, the sinuous beast widened its maw. All those months of marshal academy training snapped like a rubber band in my brain, and I swung my left forearm up high in a defensive pose that absorbed the impact of the wolf’s body smacking into mine. Teeth grazed the tip of my nose as I shoved up with my right arm, turning as I used the wolf’s momentum against it and flung it aside.
It landed nimbly on all fours and, as if its legs were spring-loaded, pivoted and launched itself right back at me.
The fingernail of my right hand’s middle finger wobbled and fell off. A sickle claw extended from my nailbed. Clacking teeth grazed my chin before I cinched my hand around the wolf’s throat. Spur fully extended, I punched its curved tip through the thick fur protecting the beast’s throat, sucking in a gasp as its blood wet my fingertip, its magic flowing over my tongue.
The wolf hit the ground hard, flung its head side to side, then bunched for a third strike.
Ebony fur erupted down my right forearm, the bones lengthening as my fingernails arrowed into claws. Droning white noise buzzed in my head, persistent bees, as a cacophony of presence clashed against a chorus of indistinct words without substance or meaning.
The pack bond.
“Cam,” Isaac roared.
“Stay back,” I growled. “I can handle this.”
The coiled wolf lunged, and I threw my weight behind swinging out with my clawed arm. Nails swiping across its neck, I ribboned the column of its throat. Crimson sprayed my face, my shirt, running hot and slick through my fingers. Gurgling wetly, the beast thumped on its side.
This time it stayed there.
Strong hands clamped over my upper arms, and I yelped at the pinch. Isaac spun me on my heels until the carnage I had wrought was hidden behind my back. Struck dumb by the sudden violence of the attack, the stickiness coating my palm, I let him fold me against his chest until the shock dulled enough for anger to flare in its place.
His chin bumped the top of my head. “What the hell?”
Breathless, I couldn’t speak and didn’t know how to answer. The fingers of my right hand—sleekly furred and razor-tipped—trembled where they scrunched his T-shirt into a fist.
Hard pops brought a lump to my throat, and I pivoted on my heel. The animal seized, back arched. Lips peeled away from its teeth, claws raked furrows in the dirt. Its gasping whimper as a human shape emerged caused me to dig my nails into my palms. That had to hurt.
A high-pitched whine accompanied the final, vicious crack of bone. The rich pelt shed and left a woman with dark-brown skin panting on the cushion of leaves. Her breasts were full and her hips lush, her body sheened with sweat. Short twists of burgundy hair covered her scalp, and even stained with the effort of her change, she was a beauty.
A beauty whose throat I had ripped out in self-defense moments earlier, whose flesh knitted together as I watched. Eyes the color of topaz soaked in Isaac like he was a tempting cut of prime beef that would tear softly under her teeth. It tempted me to test her regenerative capabilities by removing her windpipe for a second time. My cousin was not on the menu. Neither was I for that matter.
“Who are you lovely dishes?” she rasped, sitting upright and curving her legs under her. The pose was comfortable, not modest. Wargs weren’t prudes in either form. “Wander where you don’t belong out here, and you might get gobbled up.”
A glance down confirmed I had, stupidly, allowed her to lure me onto Chandler land without a warg escort. “I’m Camille Ellis. Cord Graeson invited us. We’re his guests.”
Magic shivered over my skin, contracting, and I lost my grip on the borrowed energy. Fur fell out in clumps down my forearm, my fingers shrank and nails reformed into perfect ovals. I eased forward, angling so Isaac stood a step behind me. “Who are you?”
“Handsome here can call me Aisha.” She licked her lips in Isaac’s direction before snapping her gaze to me. “You, beta, may address me as alpha. I’m Bessemer’s mate. These are our lands where you trespass.”
Oh. She was one of those women. Each time I transferred to a new marshal’s office, I got dropped into the frothing miasma of office politics. Thanks to those experiences, I recognized a power play when I saw one. If I bowed to her now, she would never let me off my knees.
“Aisha.” I cleaned her blood out from under my nails. “Can you tell Graeson his girlfriend is here?”
An unladylike snort ripped through her. “Wargs don’t have girlfriends, fae. We mate, and it’s for life.”
My every instinct is telling me you belong to me.
Graeson had said that to me right before giving me an impromptu haircut.
Too bad his every instinct hadn’t informed him when my flight was arriving.
“A wise woman once cautioned me never to get into a pissing match with a warg.” That wasn’t strictly true. I’d read it in the stall of a ladies’ restroom years ago. “Tell him or not.” I spread my hands as I backed onto land owned by the state of Georgia. “I’ve got nothing but time.”
A lie if ever I’d told one.
Copyright © 2016 Hailey Edwards
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