Thursday, January 23, 2014

STORM'S HEART by Thea Harrison

I loved Dragos, the Dragon, in Book 1. However, I found Tiago, the Thunderbird, to be equally sexy and memorable. Maybe it was because he was mythological and unlike any shifter I had read about before. Rarely does a character seem invincible, but this hero came across to me as absolutely unshakeable.  ~ DM

BOOK 2 of the ELDER RACES Series


He’s a wyr warrior, a god of storms. She’s the heir to the Dark Fae throne. But desire will bring both to their knees in this all-new Novel of the Elder Races.

During the rule of her murderous Dark Fae uncle, Thistle “Tricks” Periwinkle found sanctuary among the wyr in New York. Her ethereal beauty and sparkling personality won the hearts of the public, but after her uncle’s death, there are those who don’t want to see her ascend to the throne…

Able to wield thunder and lightning, wyr sentinel Tiago Black Eagle has ruled the skies for centuries. His massive build and thunderous power make him one of the wyr’s best weapons. And he’s sent to protect Tricks when she’s almost assassinated in Chicago.

Soon, both Tiago and Tricks will fall prey to the stormy hunger that engulfs them—a passion that will shake the very foundation of all the worlds…

The Elder Races series is set in an alternative universe where magical and mythological creatures live openly alongside humankind.  The stories are full of insouciant sexy alpha heroes and the strong-minded heroines that tame them.   ~ From Thea

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EXCERPT --  Chapter 1

Motel 6 wasn’t so bad. In fact it was kind of cute in a polyester sort of way.

Sure, it wasn’t the Regent, or the Renaissance, or the Ritz-Carlton. But the desk attendant had been cheerfully disinterested when she had checked in, the prices were affordable, and, most importantly, they had smoking rooms. Score.

On the one hand, there wasn’t any room service or those darling little liquor bottles in a small refrigerator. On the other hand, there weren’t any assassination attempts or a pending coronation. Hmm. Niniane wondered if they offered a twelve-month lease.

She limped into the room. She pulled her new sunglasses down her nose and took a long, careful look over the rim at the surrounding scene. The warm afternoon sun toasted the asphalt of the motel parking lot, and a fitful wind swirled dirt and exhaust fumes into a toxic soup. The motel was located near some interstate exit, along with several fast-food restaurants, gas stations, and a Walgreens. The sound of traffic was a constant in the background, but it shouldn’t be too disruptive once she had the door closed.

She couldn’t see or hear anything unusual in the motel’s immediate vicinity, and her sight and hearing, along with her sensitivity to magic, were inhumanly acute. She wasn’t up to a more strenuous inspection. A visual scan from the doorway would have to be good enough.

After she shut the door and put on the security chain, the first thing she did was kick off her stylish four-inch heels. Ah, thank you, god of feet. She set her sunglasses on the TV. The double room was either painted or wallpapered beige. It had bright bedspreads patterned with an insistent orange, a window covered with short heavy curtains that hung over a long thin wall air-conditioner unit, and a plain table and chair that were pushed against the wall. She dropped her shopping bags on the nearest bed, limped to the air conditioner and turned it on full blast.

Life had sure gone to hell since Dragos had killed her uncle. Oh, Urien had to die, without a doubt. She was glad he was dead. She just wished it could have happened in a couple of decades or so. This business about her becoming the Dark Fae Queen? She was so not in the mood.

She dumped out the contents of the shopping bags. The items chronicled a long, busy day.

She’d had a lot to do once she had killed her second cousin Geril and his two cohorts. First item on her agenda was to run away. The second item was to get stuff and keep running. She had walked into a twenty-four-hour pharmacy, bought bandages, a pair of sweatpants, sunglasses and a T-shirt, changed in their bathroom and walked out.

Sunglasses at midnight. Huh. Idiot.

Those had gone into her first shopping bag until daybreak. Then she stole a car and drove in aimless circles while she tried to think past the frozen tundra in her head. She stopped at a superstore and bought more stuff, left the stolen car in the parking lot and got a cab, took the cab to the airport where she got another cab, and here she was.

Her path had been so random, so erratic, made up as it was by stress-induced on-the-spot decisions, that she defied anybody to figure out where “here” was. Hell, even she didn’t know where “here” was, just that she was still somewhere in the greater Chicago area. Neither ride had been long enough to get her anywhere else, more’s the pity. She hadn’t wanted to imprint herself too deeply in the memory of either cab driver so she had tried to keep both trips as normal as possible. She could always steal a car again and drive away from the area, but first she needed a few hours to recuperate while she considered what her next moves should be. At the moment she was too awash with conflicting impulses, pain and exhaustion to be sure of anything.

One shopping bag held her crumpled red halter dress and the matching evening bag that carried a compact powder, a lipstick, her wallet and two small stiletto knives. She kept the tips touched with poison and had a variety of places she could wear or carry them, in the side pocket of a purse, strapped to her arms, or underneath her dress and strapped to her thighs.

Good thing the red color of the dress hid the bloodstains or she might have occasioned more attention at the pharmacy. She set that bag aside. Another bag held an unopened bottle of vodka, a bag of Cheetos, three packs of Marlboro reds and a lighter.

Say hello to tonight’s hot date. Why did she always want to smoke when she was stressed? She sighed and set it all on the bedside table near the head of the second bed.

The third bag held a first aid kit, extra bandages, toiletries, and underwear. The last bag had jeans, flip-flop sandals, a pair of shorts and a couple of tops.

She sat on the edge of the bed and inspected the blisters on her heels. Should have changed into the flip-flops as soon as she bought them. Should have bought the flip-flops at the first store and the sunglasses later, but all she could think after the attack was, oh gods, I can’t be recognized.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda. They were the Three Stooges of regret. All they were good for was saying whoop-whoop-whoop and smacking each other over the head.

She gritted her teeth. She had slapped a temporary bandage on herself when she had changed in the pharmacy bathroom, but she needed to clean and bandage her knife wound properly.

She showered first. It was harder and more exhausting than she had counted on. Afterward she sat on the toilet and hissed as she blotted the knife wound with fresh cotton pads. She poked it to see if there were any cloth fibers from her dress or any other kind of dirt still in the wound. Gray stars bloomed in front of her eyes. Damn, that hurt. A deep puncture, it kept seeping a slow steady stream of crimson.

She put antibacterial goop on it, doubled up on the padding and taped it in place as best she could. She smeared more goop on the blisters on her heels and put Hello Kitty Band-Aids on them. Then she put on her new underwear. Teeny-tiny little camo boxer shorty-shorts that rode low on the hips.

The next bit wasn’t so easy. She grunted as she worked her way as carefully as she could into a sports bra. Structurally she may not be very big but her perky pair of puppies made her a C-cup. Shoulda bought a bra with a front clasp but today hadn’t been a shining example of her best thinking. Whoop-whoop-whoop, smack. After she managed to get the bra on, she eased on a matching camo spaghetti strap T-shirt that stopped above her pierced navel.

Then she put her hair in pigtails. Because it was layered to fall in an outward flipping bob, the pigtails stood up on her head like twin black starbursts. She pouted at herself in the mirror, wrinkled her nose and said, “Sowwy.”

Didn’t she look cute? Looking cute and helpless could get you a long way sometimes. It had gotten her out of a whole lot of trouble in the past. You never know. The way things were going, she might need to rely on it again.

And now it was past time for that hot date. She limped to the bed and eased her sore bruised body onto it, lit a cigarette and flipped on the TV. She tore open the bag of Cheetos and popped a bright orange puff into her mouth.

Then what was playing on the television registered in her tired brain.

She stared. Put the cigarette in the ashtray. Picked up the vodka bottle, opened it and took a stiff drink.

That was the first time she saw the cell phone video footage of the attack in the alleyway, where she had kicked the crap out of her second cousin Geril’s dead body.

It wasn’t going to be the last time. Not by a long shot.
Tiago believed in giving credit where credit was due. The little shit had tried like hell to avoid being tracked down.

By the time he had reached Chicago, the SUV Rune had requisitioned was waiting for him, along with a detailed list of assorted supplies, including cash, a couple changes of clothes, a laptop and an assortment of his preferred types of weapons. Tiago picked up the vehicle in Lakeview from their Wyr contact, Tucker, who had already stashed the supplies in a large duffle bag in the backseat.

Tucker was, like his Wyr badger nature, a short, powerful, stocky and antisocial male. He did well living in relative isolation outside the social structure of the Wyr demesne. The badger was content with a job that had sporadic, often strange duties and irregular hours, as long as he could live within walking distance of his beloved Wrigley Field.

Although Tiago hadn’t thought to ask for one, there was also a cell phone tucked into a side pocket of the heavy canvas duffle bag. He discovered it when it rang as he climbed into the driver’s seat.

He clicked it on. “What.”

Dragos said, “Preliminary autopsy report is in on the three dead Dark Fae males.”

His eyebrows rose. “That was fast.”

“With the next ruler of the Dark Fae demesne missing, the authorities put a rush on the job,” Dragos said. “All the Dark Fae males died of the same kind of poison T—Niniane favors on her stilettos.”

Tiago adjusted the seat and pulled into traffic. He grunted, “At least she kept her weapons poisoned when she left New York. Good for her.”

“The fucker who filmed the footage is cooperating with police,” Dragos said. “He’s claiming he didn’t see anybody else in the vicinity when she took off down the street.”

“I want to know where he lives,” said Tiago. He drove fast and aggressively as he glared at the other vehicles on the road.

“Later. Check out the airport. Security footage shows someone that looks like it could have been her climbing out of a cab.”

Dragos hung up without saying good-bye. Tiago turned off the phone and tossed it into the passenger’s seat.

When Urien had assumed control of the Dark Fae government, Niniane had taken sanctuary with Dragos in 1809. While young, she had already reached her adult size. She was small and delicate even for one of the Fae. She had a mere fraction of the strength the Wyrs had. She also had her uncle Urien, one of the nastiest and most Powerful men in the world, who had been determined to see her dead.

The Wyr sentinels had proceeded to teach her every dirty trick they could think of in order to help keep her alive, which was how she had gotten her nickname. Nothing was off-limits, or so Tiago had heard. He had been busy elsewhere, helping to keep the peace in Missouri when the Osage signed the Treaty of Fort Clark and ceded their land to the U.S. government.

Everything added up. She had left the hotel with three males, and three males were dead. She had either been taken from the site of the attack, or she was on the run. Logic said she had gotten away and was on the run.

But if so, why hadn’t she called New York for backup? She was family. Any of them would gladly have rushed to help her, but she still hadn’t tried to call anybody and she hadn’t replied to any of the phone messages left on her cell.

Tiago planned on asking her that very question when he caught up with her. She might be hell to track down, but he was old and steeped in Power and most of his talents were concentrated on the hunt. There wasn’t anything on this Earth he couldn’t track once he put his mind to the task. He recovered lost scent trails, made intuitive leaps no one else would think of and shit, more often than not, luck just fell his way. It might take him awhile but in the end he always brought down his prey.

His prey, in the end, appeared to be holed up in a motel room off the I294 Tri-State Tollway.

He paused for a moment outside a door and listened. Her scent was all around on the surrounding sidewalk, but it was close to midnight and he didn’t want to knock on the wrong door by mistake.

He heard her inside. She was singing in a clear, sweet voice. His eyebrows rose.

“‘Down in the valley, the valley so low, hang your head over, and hear the wind blow…’” The singing stopped. He heard her mumble, “Can’t remember what comes next, something, something . . .”

He grinned as he relaxed and leaned against the doorpost. If she was singing and talking to herself, she wasn’t dead in a ditch. It was all good.

She said, “Oh, that’s right . . . No, wait, that’s another song. Crap, I’m too drunk.”

That sounded like his cue. He knocked. Silence. He imagined there was a startled quality to it. He knocked again. “Tricks, it’s Tiago. Open up.”

She said with the slow incredulity of the inebriated, “Is that you, Dr. Death? There isn’t anybody named Tricks here.”

Dr. Death? He rolled his eyes. “Come on, Niniane. Open the door.”

“Wait, I’m in hiding. Don’t use that name either.”

He put his hands on his hips. “Then what the hell do you want me to call you?”

“Nothing. Thank you for stopping by and go away. I’m okay. Everything’s okay. It’s all taken care of now. Just don’t watch any TV for a while, okay? You can go back to New York, or wherever it is you lair when you’re not killing things.”

He scowled. No, thank you and don’t watch any TV? What the hell did she mean by that? He muttered, “I do not live in a lair.”

He settled his shoulder against the heavy metal door that was constructed to meet fire safety codes and keep thieves out. After pushing with a steady increase of pressure, the lock and chain broke.

Cigarette smoke billowed as the door opened. He coughed, waved a hand in front of his face and stared at the scene inside.

The motel room was a pigsty. Shopping bags were piled on the bed nearest the door, with clothes and other items spilling out. Clothes tags littered the floor. Niniane lay on her back on the other bed, which was rumpled. She had kicked off the pillows and they were on the floor too. She was dressed in some kind of porno version of camouflage, in very short shorts and a tiny stretchy T-shirt that left her narrow waist bare. Her head was hanging off the end of the bed. She held a bottle of vodka in one small hand. It was significantly low in liquid. She clutched a remote control in the other hand. A cigarette smoldered in a half-full ashtray and an open bag of Cheetos lay on the bed beside her.

Her compact curvaceous body was laid out like some kind of offering to a pagan god. As someone who had once been a pagan god, he knew what he was talking about, and he definitely appreciated the view. As her head hung over the end of the bed, it accentuated the thrust of round luscious breasts that curved over a contrasting narrow waist. A gold ring glinted at her navel, just begging to be licked. Her graceful hip bones and the arc of her pelvis were outlined by shorts that Congress ought to make illegal. Slender shapely bare legs tipped with toes painted a saucy pink completed the package, and his appreciative cock swelled to salute every visible succulent inch of her.

He glowered, thrown off balance by his own intense, unwelcome reaction. Rein it in, stud. Under the reek of smoke he could smell feminine perfume and—was that the scent of blood?

“Oh, you shouldn’ta done that,” Niniane said. Large upside-down Fae eyes tried to focus on him. “Breaking and entering. That’s against the law.” She sniggered.

Tiago took refuge from his strange feelings in the much more familiar emotion of aggression. “What are you doing?” he demanded. “What do you mean ‘go back to New York’? Do I smell blood?”

“I can only answer one question at a time, you know,” she said. With remarkable dignity, considering. “I am hanging my head over to hear the wind blow. I never did get that bit in the lyrics. Who hears the wind blow when they hang their head over? Hang their head over what? What does that even mean? Do you know?”

He had no idea what she was babbling about. Something about the stupid song she had been trying to sing. He pushed the door shut with a foot and strode over to stub out the smoldering cigarette. “This is disgusting,” he snapped. “Why haven’t you called? We’ve been worried sick about you.”

“Whoa,” she said. She looked up—or down, as it were—at Tiago’s crotch, which had stopped right in front of her. He was one scary mean-looking oversized barbarian, in black jeans, black boots and black leather vest. He bristled with weapons and anger, and muscles bulged everywhere. His crotch sported a significant bulge too. A very significant bulge. She licked her lips. She might be drunk but she wasn’t dead. She wouldn’t be forgetting this sight in a hurry.

Obsidian eyes glittered. “Tricks, what the hell? Seriously.”

“I’m gonna be Queen, you know,” she said. “You gotta stop calling me Tricks. It makes me sound like a circus clown. And I don’t think I’ll be a highness for long, so you should practice calling me your majesty.” She hiccupped and waved a hand in the air. “You may begin.”

“I notice how you’re ignoring the important part of what I said,” Tiago told her. He squatted and suddenly his upside-down face was in front of hers. “So I’ll repeat: what the hell?”


About the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Thea Harrison is the pen name for Teddy Harrison. Thea has traveled extensively, having lived in England and explored Europe for several years. Now she resides in Colorado. She wrote her first book, a romance, when she was nineteen and had sixteen romances published under the name Amanda Carpenter.

She took a break from writing to collect a couple of graduate degrees and a grown child. She experienced waitressing as a teenager, has worked as an activist for a non-profit consumer rights organization, has been a receptionist, an office manager, a penniless graduate student, a director of development and research, and a single mom. Her graduate degrees are in Philanthropic Studies and Library Information Science, but her first love has always been writing fiction.

Her paranormal Elder Races series began May 3, 2011 with Dragon Bound, which won RT Book Review’s Book of the Year Award, and the Romance Writer’s of America RITA in the paranormal romance category.

All five of her full length novels in the Elder Races series have won Top Picks from RT Book Reviews. Book two in the series, Storm’s Heart, and book four, Oracle’s Moon, hit the USA Today bestseller’s list, while book three, Serpent’s Kiss, hit the New York Times extended bestseller list. Her fifth book, Lord’s Fall, hit both the USA Today and the New York Times extended lists.

She adores animals and currently resides with two small dogs that have very large personalities.