Kingdom of Exiles
By Maxym M. Martineau
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
Assassin’s Creed meets Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in this gripping, epic fantasy romance trilogy.
My heart wasn’t part of the deal when I bargained for my life,
But assassins so rarely keep their word.
Exiled Charmer Leena Edenfrell is running out of time. Empty pockets forced her to sell her beloved magical beasts—an offense punishable by death—and now there’s a price on her head. With the realm’s most talented murderer-for-hire nipping at her heels, Leena makes Noc an offer he can’t refuse: powerful mythical creatures in exchange for her life.
Plagued by a curse that kills everyone he loves, Noc agrees to Leena’s terms in hopes of finding a cure. Never mind that the dark magic binding the assassin’s oath will eventually force him to choose between Leena’s continued survival…and his own.
The Beast Charmer Series:
Kingdom of Exiles
The Frozen Prince (coming early 2020)
The Shattered Crown (coming late 2020)
Praise for Kingdom of Exiles
A Bookish Staff Read Pick
A June LibraryReads Pick
“Impressive debut…Martineau’s intricate world-building melds traditional high fantasy with a hint of Victorian sensibility, then elevates it with endearing characters and a deliciously complex story that will leave readers anxiously awaiting the second book.” D—Publishers Weekly, STARRED review and Best Book of Summer 2019
“A powerful new voice in fantasy romance, Martineau has crafted a stunning story full of razor-sharp intrigue, delicious characters, and a love story you never want to end. Keep an eye on Maxym M. Martineau. If I’m not mistaken, we have a bona fide genius in our midst.” —Darynda Jones, New York Times bestselling author
“Maxym Martineau weaves an irresistible blend of adventure, magic, and romance. A unique world full of danger and intrigue and a delightful ensemble of characters will leave fans of fantasy romance breathlessly awaiting more from this author. Prepare to be charmed!” —Amanda Bouchet, USA Today Bestselling Author
Maxym M. Martineau is an article and social media writer by day and a fantasy romance author by night. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Arizona State University, and lives with her husband and fur babies in Arizona. Connect with her at MaxymMartineau.com or through Twitter and Instagram @maxymmckay.
Author Website: MaxymMartineau.com
Exclusive Excerpt: Leena and Calem spar
For the first time in my life, I witnessed Calem blush. Ozias exploded in a fit of laughter as Leena stalked toward the clearing, a slight sway to her hips. Kost mumbled to himself as he moved to join Ozias, his spine tense. Adrenaline hummed through my body, and an anxious desire to protect her stirred. She had no idea what she was getting herself into. Catching Kost off guard was one thing. But taking Calem head-on? His deadliness was bar none—he had no moral qualms with his work. There were even times he reveled in it.
Shadows fled from the forest to cling to him as he chuckled. “You’re in for it.”
They positioned themselves on either side of the clearing, and Leena settled into the weight of her heels. Every sound stopped. Nightingales halted midcall, and the lightning bugs scattered for safety. It was as if they knew. As if they could feel the sudden swell of power emanating from her emblem. Her Charmer’s symbol ignited in a brilliant display of rosewood light, roots and branches climbing the expanse of her hand and arm—a beautiful interlocking filigree of leaves and flowers. Fingers twitching, she studied the space between her and Calem.
“Go ahead. I’ll give you a chance to call forth your beast. Otherwise, it will be over before you know it.” He was nothing more than shadows and red eyes, a terrifying mockery of a man.
The heavy groan of a door opening shattered the silence of the night, and an influx of magic encircled Leena. Wind mussed her hair, and my heart stilled. Something was different. Beside me, Kost’s eyes widened and Ozias stiffened. Power unlike anything she’d demonstrated streamed from her, lashing against the night air and sending a charge through the wind.
When the breeze receded and the rosewood glow died, all the breath left my body.
Not one monster, but three emerged from the beast realm and clung to their master.
Leena grinned. “You said no rules.” Twin serpents with dragon-like heads and whiskers trailing the length of their scaly bodies glided through the air around her, constantly moving, constantly assessing. Electric blue in coloring, the first one growled, barring heavy fangs in Calem’s direction. The other, white as fresh snow, simply watched: sharp gray eyes trained on its target.
“Assassins don’t fight fair, either.” He winked out of existence, only an empty space where he used to be. The serpents tilted their heads, nostrils flaring wide as they searched for his scent. The third beast remained motionless. Child-size and sitting cross-legged at her feet, six arms with humanlike hands spread wide around its frame—two palms facing up to the sky, two flat and parallel to the earth, and the final two firmly pressed against the ground. Its cow-like head swiveled in our direction, ears going taut, and ten white eyes locked on us.
Shadows naturally began to fester around my feet. Safety in darkness.
Ozias rubbed his hand over cropped hair, back to front. “Leena might have strength in numbers, but Calem doesn’t like to lose. Ever.”
Calem crept through the dark, visible only to us. Her serpents hissed and groaned as they failed to flush him out. Leena only smiled, occasionally encouraging them with a soft clucking. Kost shifted into a low crouch, muscles tense, and waited for me to give the command—only I didn’t know if he’d be targeting Calem or Leena.
Calem moved before I could think. Leaping from the shadows and barreling toward her with unmatched swiftness, he had a clear shot on her unprotected neck. The world slowed as I remembered the way purplish bruises had immediately swelled against her skin when I’d held her suspended above the ground.
As Calem’s hands sliced through the air, an invisible, bubble-like shield rippled to life. He smashed into it, ricocheted off, and landed on the ground a few feet away from Leena. One of the cow beast’s eyes closed.
“Kinana, now,” Leena said. The blue serpent sped toward Calem, flying over the grass with the fluidity and grace of liquid. Dislocating her jaw, she opened her mouth wide, and an ocean of water blasted Calem deep into the ground. Leena flicked her wrist. “Kapro.” Kinana peeled off, and the snow-white serpent bulleted toward Calem. Snowflakes and tiny crystals trailed behind it, frosting the blades of grass beneath its underbelly. Like Kinana, Kapro unhinged his jaw.
Calem was spurred into motion and leaped away just as Kapro unleashed a blizzard of frosty air. The droplets of water in the grass cracked and froze, an icy imprint in the ground where Calem had landed. He bounded out of reach onto a nearby branch, dusting icicles off the edges of his trousers. He laughed, a croak from the back of his throat. Flashes of oily black blades winked in his palms. “Missed me.”
“Calem.” We needed her alive. I needed to know more about the Gyss and the wishes it could grant. Only after… I flexed my hand, and the binding oath on my wrist seemed to smirk at me.
He flinched, but didn’t acknowledge me. He’d certainly heard me, but the drive that made him so unbelievably lethal had started to take hold. He was by no means an old member of our guild, and yet he’d completed more jobs than any assassin. Including me.
Calem sped forward again, and a barrage of jet-black shadow blades cascaded from his hands. Crafted from darkness by the god of death, those blades could pierce almost anything. They careened right toward Leena’s unmoving body. One by one, they crashed into her shield.
The beast by her feet closed six more eyes.
Leena shuddered as another blade smashed against the dome. A sweat broke out across her forehead, and the beast closed yet another eye. Two milky orbs left. What would happen when all lids sealed shut? Was that good? Or bad?
“Calem!” This couldn’t go on. A dead Charmer was only good once we got our beasts. More than that, I couldn’t stand the thought of her hurt or, worse, gone.
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Mafia Romance
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
About Jennifer Bene
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
He’ll protect her reckless heart.
No matter the cost…
Lily Travis may be a Harvey Girl, but she’s a rebel—and a romantic—at heart. Too bad her impulsive nature led her to marry a man who promised a life of ease and prosperity, only to disappear the very next day. She’s kept her secret as best she can, and now she’s convinced she’ll never find true love…not even with the handsome local sheriff she can’t get off her mind.
Cody Daniels knows Lily isn’t the right woman for a by-the-book lawman with political ambitions. She’s brash, headstrong…and entirely too tempting. But when Lily’s past catches up with her and the villain she married threatens everything she holds dear, Cody is determined to defend her honor and show her the future they could have together—no matter the consequences.
Cowboys & Harvey Girls Series:
Renegade (book 2)
Praise for Anna Schmidt:
“Readers wanting a good old-fashioned Western romance need look no further than this one.” —Dear Author for Last Chance Cowboys: The Drifter
“The perfect read.” —RT Book Reviews for Last Chance Cowboys: The Lawman
“A plot twist that will leave readers speechless.” —Fresh Fiction for Last Chance Cowboys: The Lawman
Award-winning author Anna Schmidt delights in creating stories where her characters must wrestle with the challenges of their times. Critics have consistently praised Schmidt for the reality of her characters—exposing their flaws as well as their strengths as she delivers strong tales of hope and love in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. She resides in Wisconsin and Florida. Readers can visit her online at booksbyanna.com.
Author Website: booksbyanna.com
Renegade is the second book in the Cowboys & Harvey Girls series. It’s a sweeping, powerful Western historical romance series, featuring intrepid Harvey Girls and the rugged cowboys who win their hearts.
I hope you enjoy this excerpt!
Never in his life had Cody wanted a woman more than he wanted Lily Travis. If he gave in to that desire, he was pretty sure there would be no going back—not for him. One kiss, he thought, at the same time knowing it would never be enough.
Besides, she’s married—or might be.
Everything he knew about men like Victor Johnson told him the marriage had been a sham, a trick to get Lily in bed. But he had no real proof. And until he did, a married woman was off-limits.
He cleared his throat, tucked the curl of her hair behind her ear, and took half a step away. Her eyes flew open, and she looked up at him with confusion and disappointment, and he took the blanket from her and wrapped it around her shoulders. “Can’t have you getting a chill,” he murmured.
True to form, she jerked away from him. If he’d learned one thing about Lily, it was that she was a proud woman. She’d enjoyed that kiss as much as he had, and now she was embarrassed. He gently but firmly took hold of her by the shoulders and forced her to look at him.
“Look, Lily, I wanted that kiss. I still want it. I’ll go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow wanting it.”
Her gaze collided with his, green eyes flashing like the lightning outside. She placed her hands on his face and stood on tiptoe as she drew him closer. Just before their lips met, she whispered, “Then let me put us both out of our misery.”
Excerpted from Renegade by Anna Schmidt. © 2019 by Anna Schmidt. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.
By Joanne Kennedy
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
The first book in Joanne Kennedy’s brand-new Blue Sky Cowboys series!
“Bring on the hunky cowboys.” —Linda Lael Miller, New York Times bestselling author
Jess Bailey broke Cade Walker’s heart when she left for the city—but she was just trying to find her own way in the world. When Jess’s dad calls her home and tells her he’s selling the ranch, she realizes she’s about to lose the life she was born to live. And when she sees Cade again, she knows how much she’s lost already.
As their nearest neighbor, Cade is always trying to help. But he’s got his own ranch and his horse training business to think about. Even though his heart fills with hope for a second chance when he sees Jess, she left him once when things got tough. And she knows he moved on without her.
As the sale of the Bailey ranch looms over them, Jess and Cade start looking to the future. But can they ever trust one another again?
Also by Joanne Kennedy:
One Fine Cowboy
Tall, Dark and Cowboy
What People are Saying about Cowboy Tough:
“Packs a powerful, emotional punch, and when it comes to capturing the appeal and feel of the West and its people, nobody does it better.”—Booklist
“Touching, vivid, entertaining and fun.”—Romance Book Junkies
“Real honest-to-goodness red hot passion.”—Contemporary Romance Reviews
Joanne Kennedy is the RITA-nominated author of ten contemporary Western romance novels. The first book in her Decker Ranch Trilogy, How to Handle a Cowboy, was named one of Booklist’s “Best Romances of the Decade.” She lives near Cheyenne, Wyoming. Joanne loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website, www.joannekennedybooks.com.
Author Website: www.joannekennedybooks.com
The First Kiss is always the best… part of a book!
I feel so lucky to spend my days writing romance novels. Most people think I lead a quiet, settled life, but every day, I experience the same ups and downs as my characters. Their emotions flow through me—sorrow, happiness, dread, exultation, remorse, and triumph. It’s exhausting, but it’s also wonderfully rewarding.
I love it when that first scene begins to flow, and the characters start asserting themselves, letting me know how they’ll react to all the tests the story has in store. In Cowboy Summer, those tests begin right away when Jess Bailey’s father tells her he’s selling the family ranch. For Cade Walker, the testing starts when Jess returns to the Diamond Jack, making him hope and pray he can resurrect the love she left behind.
I also enjoy scenes where my hero and heroine ride straight off a metaphorical cliff. Much as I love my characters, they have to prove they deserve to be together, and that means they’re constantly challenged. Every turning point is exciting for me, and by the time my writing day is done, I’m usually exhausted.
But my favorite scene to write is the lead-up to the story’s first kiss. All the possibilities in a romance flow from that scene. In a first kiss, emotions are at their height; tentative desires are tested, tried, and finally released. A first kiss is always a risk, but there’s no going back. No matter what happens later, it creates a foundation of intimacy that changes everything.
What makes the scene delicious is the promise of the kiss, the certainty that it’s going to happen no matter how hard the characters resist. The tension is so tight it sings, and the release once the couple give in…well, like I said, it’s my favorite part. It’s also my promise to readers that this couple is meant for each other. Whatever obstacles they face, they’ll ultimately discover their only safe harbor is the one they find together.
Here’s how it happens for Jess and Cade. This isn’t really their first kiss. They’re childhood sweethearts, but they’ve grown apart and left each other behind…until now.
The brim of Cade’s Stetson hung low over his eyes, which left Jess staring at a shred of hay caught in the blond hairs strewn across his chest. It gleamed in the sunlight that poured through the window, and her fingertips itched to flick it away.
Once, she’d touched this man every day. She’d worn his love like an old shirt, casual and comfortable. The trouble was, she’d treated him like an old shirt, too.
“Well, I ought to go.” He stood and stretched. “You probably want to spend your time with your dad.”
Rising, she joined him. “I’ve got lots of time.”
Her voice came out husky. She sounded like the kind of woman who dragged men to the hayloft and ravished them. Come to think of it, she’d been that kind of woman a time or two. But that wasn’t a good idea now.
She reached out, running the back of her fingers down his chest and knocking that bit of hay to the ground. It was a gesture from the past, the ghost of an old habit come to life. He took her hand and held it, gazing into her eyes.
If she was going to resurrect old habits, she might as well dig up the fun ones. Tilting her head ever-so-slightly, she licked her lips. It was a question without words, and he answered.
He didn’t use words, either.
The moment their lips touched, her world rushed away as if they were streaming into the past on a runaway train. Old fears surfaced and pressed the brakes, but memory raced on, rushing backward in a blur.
He’s changed. He’s been married, divorced. He’s not yours anymore.
Brakes, brakes, brakes—but the train sped on. Nothing mattered but the smooth, slow glide of his tongue, the warmth of his mouth, the press of his lips on hers. And his body—that body!—pressed to her own, making her feel all warm and melty.
There was no barn, no hay, no horses. No divorce, no sick father, no stepmom, no job in Denver. Her fear of losing the ranch faded away. There was nothing but Cade in the whole wide world. He filled her empty places, warmed her cold spots, and chased off all her fears.
I think it’s clear that no matter how hard Jess fights her attraction to this man, they’re destined to be together. Through the wild ride that awaits them, that kiss continues to shine like a gem in their hearts—and the hardships they suffer, the doubts they resolve, and the tests they endure only polish it to a higher luster.
By the time the story’s done, I think you’ll see these two have earned their happily ever after. I don’t think I’ve ever found two characters more perfect for each other than Jess and Cade—and I hope you enjoy their story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Excerpted from Cowboy Summer by Joanne Kennedy. © 2019 by Joanne Kennedy. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.
Beyond the Limit
By Cindy Dees
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
Team Reaper has a new mission…Train the first female SEALs
Navy SEAL Griffin Caldwell is not happy with his team’s top-secret mission, training the first female SEALs. Griffin’s determined to prove that that his trainee Sherri Tate—a former beauty queen no less—doesn’t have what it takes to join the world’s most elite warrior’s club. Until he sees what she’s capable of, and even this hard-nosed SEAL has to admit she’s tough as nails. What he won’t admit to is the attraction sizzling between them.
Navy media officer Sherri Tate is more than just a pretty face. When she’s given the opportunity to achieve her dream of becoming a SEAL, she won’t let anything stand in her way, not even her arrogant trainer, who is too sexy for words.
When a dangerous mission lands Sherri and Griffin in the cross hairs of the world’s most feared terrorist, it’s going to take everything they have to come out with their lives—and hearts—intact.
Praise for Cindy Dees:
“A pulse-pounding adventure that will keep readers enthralled.”—RT Book Reviews for Hot Intent
“A well-crafted plot with plenty of action, love and danger…make this a must-read romance.”—RT Book Reviews for Undercover with a SEAL
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sixty books, 2-time RITA winner and five-time RITA finalist, Cindy Dees writes military romance and romantic suspense. A former U.S. Air Force pilot and part-time spy, she draws upon real-life experience to fuel her stories of love on the edge. She resides in eastern Texas. Cindy loves to chat with readers, and all her social media links are on her website, www.cindydees.com
Author Website: www.cindydees.com
Okay, set-up for the excerpt:
Griffin Caldwell is a long-time SEAL and not thrilled at the idea of women joining the teams. Sherri, a former pageant queen and media officer for the Navy, has been chosen purely to be a poster child SEAL, and it’s clear to her the actual SEALs have no intention of letting her actually function as a one. She’s out to prove them all wrong—particularly her smoking hot instructor, Griffin Caldwell. This scene takes place early in her training…
Sherri ran over to Griffin’s push-up station for the fifth time, looking ragged around the edges. She was sucking wind and looked to be in pain. Welcome to the jungle, baby.
“Drop and start pumping ‘em out, Tate,” he snapped. “Don’t waste my time. I’ve got places to go and things to do.”
She dropped into a front leaning rest position, and he started the stopwatch on his wrist. “Count aloud,” he ordered as he dropped into a front leaning rest beside her.
As she popped out the first twenty push-ups quickly, he matched her in silence. But as she started to slow down, he ragged on her. Hard.
“What’s the matter? Arms tired? Or are you just weak, Tate? C’mon. Don’t wimp out on me, now. Surely, you’ve got more than this. We’re not even to the pre-BUD/S minimum, yet.”
She finished another twenty push-ups—as did he—and paused in a front leaning rest to catch her breath.
He, however, laid down on the ground beside Sherri so he could talk right up into her red face. “You can always quit, Tate. There’s no shame in not being able to hack this. Go back to your nice, clean, comfortable life where no one yells at you and you don’t have to be in pain. You know you want to.”
She made it halfway up through a push-up, and her arms trembled, protesting against finishing the movement. Just to make his point, he paused halfway up through his matching push-up as well. He waited patiently, while she gathered the strength to finish. She threw him a baleful look, obviously not appreciative of his demonstration of casual strength.
He smirked back at her. “You’re not to the minimum yet, Tate.”
She took a deep breath, exhaled hard and finished the push up. Reluctantly, he was impressed. Too bad she wasn’t cheating on the push-ups, or he could’ve yelled at her about that. too.
As he watched her chest brush the ground out of the corner of his eye, it almost made a guy want to be that strip of gravel beneath her, getting caressed by those lush globes.
“Forty-three!” she grunted in triumph as she finished one more push-up. She collapsed on the ground, breathing hard, with about twenty seconds to go in the timed rotation.
Clearly, she knew forty-two was the minimum number of push-ups required of a BUD/S candidate in two minutes. Parked in a plank beside her to press home his point, he demanded, “You think you can make it in BUD/S if all you do is reach the minimums? You think just surviving is enough? SEALs don’t survive, Tate. They win. If you’re going make it through BUD/s you have to strive to win every single training evolution. Where’s your desire? Show me some goddamned guts!”
Clenching her teeth, she resumed doing push-ups, straining through a half-dozen more before he called, “Time. Two minutes. Get off my road, Tate. Move, move, move!”
She crawled to her feet and stumbled off toward Trevor at the pull-up bars. Truth be told, he was stunned that she’d found the will to do more push-ups after she’d clearly exhausted herself. It was the sort of thing a SEAL might do—
No. No! Cancel that thought.
Excerpted from Beyond the Limit by Cindy Dees. © 2019 by Cindy Dees. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.
By Paige Tyler
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
He’s a wolf shifter.
She hunts monsters.
How can she be The One for him?
SWAT werewolf Zane Kendrick will do whatever it takes to take down the man who attacked his pack. His search takes him to Los Angeles, but when he meets Alyssa, the smart, sexy agent who comes to his aid, he’s immediately interested in pursuing more than just the next lead. All his wolf instincts tell him that she’s The One.
FBI agent Alyssa Carson has investigated some weird stuff lately, and finding missing people drained of their blood definitely falls into that category. When following a clue leads her to Zane, she agrees to work with him and his team. She’s attracted to the gorgeous Brit, but she doesn’t have time for anything but finding answers.
When Zane and Alyssa discover the sinister truth, it’ll take everything they have to make it out of this mission with their lives—and hearts—intact.
Hungry Like the Wolf (Book 1)
Wolf Trouble (Book 2)
In the Company of Wolves (Book 3)
To Love a Wolf (Book 4)
Wolf Unleashed (Book 5)
Wolf Hunt (Book 6)
Wolf Hunger (Book 7)
Wolf Rising (Book 8)
Wolf Instinct (Book 9)
Praise for Paige Tyler’s Wolf Rising:
“If you love hunks in uniform, a spitfire heroine, drama, danger, intrigue, and some really steamy moments, then get your hands on Wolf Rising.” —Fresh Fiction
“Will leave readers panting.” —Booklist
“This fast-paced procedural brims with heat and action.” —Publishers Weekly
“Totally unputdownable.” —USA Today Happy Ever After
Paige Tyler is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sexy, romantic fiction. Paige writes books about hunky alpha males and the kick-butt heroines they fall in love with. She lives with her very own military hero (a.k.a. her husband) and their adorable dog on the beautiful Florida coast. Visit www.paigetylertheauthor.com
Author Website: www.paigetylertheauthor.com
Zane had no idea why he was shrugging out of his jacket so he could show Alyssa the god-awful injury he’d gotten from those hunters. But what she’d said about being alone with his scars because he wouldn’t let people in made a lot of sense to him. His friend Brooks had said something similar to him back in Dallas about needing to stop using his injured arm as an excuse to push people away. He’d been pushing people away for so long, it seemed like all he knew how to do.
But he didn’t feel like pushing Alyssa away. When he was alone with her like this, surrounded by her scent and mesmerized by the sound of her voice, he found himself having a difficult time remembering why he’d been fighting the connection they so clearly had. The idea that she was his soul mate still scared the hell out of him—especially since she was FBI—but at the same time, there was something about her that gave him the courage to take risks he thought were beyond him.
He got his leather jacket off his left shoulder, making sure not to move that arm any more than he had to. Contracting his triceps could cause anywhere from a slight twinge to a burning firebrand of pain. Since he never knew which he was going to get, he tried his best to avoid aggravating the shredded muscles as much as he could.
Alyssa stood and came around the table, her expression curious as he carefully pushed the sleeve of his T-shirt up higher. Something as simple as skimming his fingers over the scar tissue along the back of his arm could trigger a stinger of pain, so he definitely avoided doing that.
“It’s difficult to explain,” he said as Alyssa studied the long, ragged scar that ran along the back of his arm from an inch below his left shoulder all the way down to his elbow. Several places along it, horizontal slices had been made so the skin could be folded back, exposing the damaged tissue underneath. “But basically, the bullet I got shot with was filled with…well…poison, for lack of a better word. It destroyed most of the muscle and it had to be taken it out. That’s why my arm looks so messed up.”
He glanced at Alyssa out of the corner of his eye, waiting for her to look away from the ugly scar in disgust, but she didn’t. He waited for her to ask the inevitable question about whether it hurt or not. That’s what the few people who’d seen the wound usually started with. But instead, she reached up and gently rested the palm of her hand on the vertical scar. He instinctively held his breath, waiting for the wretched pain to come.
But it didn’t.
In fact, as he slowly let the air ease out of his lungs, he realized Alyssa’s touch felt unbelievably nice. It was hard to describe, but the contact was both soothing and exciting, calming the tremors that had been a near constant companion since the shooting, but also creating a pleasant tingle everywhere her fingers traced. He was once again thankful she didn’t have a werewolf’s hearing, or she would have picked up on the fact that his heart was racing.
Alyssa moved her fingers along the wide suture line of the main scar and the smaller lines radiating out from it, pressing and examining the injury, her expression curious and a little confused. “These cuts don’t look like something a doctor would do with a scalpel. I don’t mean to make this sound like a joke, but it looks like someone took a steak knife to you.”
Zane snorted. “You’re actually closer to being right than you might think. The poison in the bullet was fast acting, and there was no possibility of me making it to the nearest hospital alive if it spread. So one of the SWAT team medics had to remove the infected tissue with a pocket knife while transporting me in the back of an SUV.”
Alyssa stood there with her hand resting on his damaged arm, staring up at him with a look that suggested she hoped he was messing with her. “That sounds extremely painful.”
It had been. The mere mention of the shooting brought back memories that he tried to always keep tucked away. The pain of the wolfsbane poison spreading through his bloodstream had been unreal. Worse even than the feel of his teammate’s knife cutting through his flesh. He vividly remembered asking one of his pack mates to cut off his arm and be done with it—or kill him.
That probably wasn’t something he should tell Alyssa. So he shrugged with his right shoulder—he’d gotten good at doing that—and smiled. “It was bad, but I survived.”
Now that Alyssa had heard the story and seen the scar, he expected her to pull her hand away and walk back over to her side of the table. There were still more fries to be devoured after all. But instead, she slid her hand farther up his left arm. Then she lifted the other and casually placed it on his chest.
Maybe the move was casual to her, but as her fingers slid under the edge of the sleeve of his T-shirt, lightly massaging the scar tissue as if trying to soothe it, his heart beat even faster. With her hand on his chest like that, there was no way she couldn’t feel it thumping like mad.
His fangs slowly extended.
Bloody hell. He’d never lost control so much since he’d first gone through his change. And it was all from a simple touch.
“Does it hurt when I do this?” she murmured, interrupting the thoughts spinning through his head as she ran the tips of her fingers above the top of the scar, testing the muscles along his shoulder.
He tried to speak, wanting to tell her how amazing her fingers felt on his skin, how the hand on his chest was as warm as the sun right then. But there was no way he could open his mouth and say a thing, not without letting the growl bubbling up in his throat escape. So instead, he shook his head, hoping she’d get the message and keep going.
It was crazy. He’d slept with women over the years since everything had fallen apart with Sienna. But not a single kiss or touch from any of them had felt as intimate as the simple contact of Alyssa’s hand on the bare skin of his arm. It felt like the first time a woman had touched him in nearly forever. Hell, who was he kidding? He’d never been touched like this. It made him want things he’d been telling himself he shouldn’t want. Things he couldn’t have.
“Is there anything the doctors can do?” she asked, running her fingers tenderly from his shoulder and along his triceps. “Some kind of surgery maybe?”
He shook his head but felt he needed to answer. “The doctor has me on a few different experimental drug protocols trying to encourage new muscle growth. So far, it’s not working. Truthfully, I think he’s running out of options.”
Alyssa gazed up at him, eyes filled with concern as she gently pressed the palm of her hand against the scar. Her heart was racing as fast as his. “You can’t give up, okay? Something is going to work. You have to keep trying until it does.”
He opened his mouth to reply when a scent so overwhelming and intoxicating surrounded him that he didn’t even stop to think before bending his head to softly brush his lips against hers. Even that slight touch was electric, but he forced himself to hesitate, wanting to give Alyssa a chance to pull back.
But it didn’t seem like pulling back was something Alyssa was interested in. Instead, she wrapped her hand around the back of his neck and tugged him down farther, her mouth urgent and demanding on his. Zane was more than willing to meet those demands, slipping his tongue between her lips, tangling and teasing as a growl rumbled out. She tasted even better than she smelled.
He moved a hand down to her waist, intending to tug her closer, when the sound of squawking tires from the direction of the garage caught his attention. His inner wolf told him to ignore the noise and keep snogging, but his human side got in the way, forcing him to lift his head and glance at the window.
Alyssa stepped back a bit, looking slightly embarrassed. His inner wolf, on the other hand, was pissed off—and turned on.
Shoving his arousal to a small, dark corner of his mind, Zane leaned over to look out the window. He immediately caught sight of a vehicle spiraling up one level of the garage to the next, moving fast enough to squeal the tires.
“They’re heading up, not down to the lower levels,” Alyssa pointed out, moving up beside him, her delicious scent almost making him drool. “That probably means they’re not involved with Stefan.”
Zane would have agreed if he had been capable of forming coherent words at the moment. But he wasn’t, because he’d finally recognized what it was about Alyssa’s scent that was so mesmerizing.
She was aroused, too.
He curled his fingers in as he felt his claws partially extend…then his fangs…then his cock. Bloody hell, it was like a werewolf hard-on trifecta. He fought for control, but it was nearly impossible. She smelled like chocolate buttercream frosting. And damn, did he want to lick her off a spoon right then.
“They stopped on the fifth level and turned off their lights, but they’re not getting out of the car,” she added. “What the hell are they up to?”
Zane forced his gaze away from Alyssa and looked across the street, finding the car easily in the darkness. Yeah, werewolves had excellent night vision.
He saw movement inside the front seat of the car, then even more movement as the two occupants of the vehicle climbed into the back seats. It didn’t take too long after that to figure out what they were up to.
He chuckled. “They’re shagging.”
Alyssa laughed as she moved around the table and sat down on her side. “Sex in a parking garage. O-kay. But I guess we should take that as a sign and pay attention to what’s going on across the street. If those two hadn’t been in such a hurry for a quickie, we never would have heard them pull in. We could miss Stefan just as easily.”
He sighed with disappointment and dropped into his own chair. “You’re right. It wasn’t very professional of us to let ourselves get distracted.”
“No, it wasn’t.” She picked up the last few fries she’d spilled out on her burger wrapper earlier. “But it sure was fun.”
Alyssa said that last part so softly she probably thought he wouldn’t hear. But he’d heard all right. That’s when his inner werewolf told his human side to get lost. The animal inside him wanted her, risk be damned.
Excerpted from Wolf Instinct by Paige Tyler. © 2019 by Paige Tyler. Used with permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.