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Wolf shifter Nadya comes to the Chateau seeking a missing pack mate. Instead, she discovers her fated mate--a human. Impossible, yet she can't resist the attraction to Cameron.
A forbidden, enemies-to-lovers romance!
“I have read the first 2 books in this series and could not wait to get my hands on this one; and I was not disappointed. The thing I love most, is that while this is a story about paranormal creatures, you can still relate to the trial and tribulations that they go through. You can relate to how each character is feeling, even though you are nothing like them.” 5* Review of Dark Stranger from Books and Beyond Fifty Shades!
- Gargoyle shifter
- Shy heroine
- Enemies to lovers
- Secret affair
Wolf shifters come to Chateau seeking a missing pack member. During an altercation, Cameron Stevens, the manager of the art colony, is separated from the others. He ends up alone with Nadya, one of the female shifters.
Together, in the forests of DeRoche Island, they struggle against conflicting feelings. In addition to battling each other as well as their mistrust, they fight a powerful, inexplicable attraction to one another—one that leaves them irrevocably entwined.
They're mates? Cameron can’t comprehend or accept such a thing is possible. They’re two different species and their worlds don’t mesh. It must be lust. His fixation on her is simply an attraction that he’ll get out of his system after one night with her. But his heart and mind aren't on the same page where she's concerned. One thing is certain—Nadya is stamped on both.
“The shifters are coming.”
Cameron stared at Dante, who’d burst through the door with the disturbing announcement. He measured the implications of this news. They’d expected something like this happening since an incident on the wolf shifters’ island weeks ago. He placed a violinist’s application onto his desk and was surprised by the strange sense of calm that flowed through him similar to what he’d experienced in combat overseas. A sense of purpose.
“Where are they?”
“In a boat, approaching the dock on the other side of the island.”
Cameron rose from his leather-backed chair. “Close the door.” Keeping the residents of the art colony safe was paramount, and the less they knew in this situation, the better.
Dante glanced into the hallway of the castle, and then closed Cameron’s door. “Sorry, man, didn’t think of it. Don’t worry, nobody’s out there.”
Cameron removed the black-and-white photo he’d taken of the castle off the wall to access the safe. He took his pistol, ensuring he had plenty of silver bullets, and added the silencer. “So they finally found us.”
Dante pursed his lips. “Bound to happen one day.”
Cameron took a quick assessment of the contents of the safe and focused on a vial. Remembering the wounds inflicted by a shifter earlier that year, he stuffed it into his pocket. Better safe than sorry.
“How long did it take you to fly back to the Chateau?” he asked Dante.
Although Dante now appeared human, as a gargoyle, he shifted into his winged form to survey the island for danger each night. The owner of the art colony, Antoine, had asked Dante to watch over the residents at Les Beaux Arts at the Chateau DeRoche. Recent incidents with wolf shifters had left them wary.
“Five minutes, I’d say. Which probably means they’re docking now.”
Cameron holstered the pistol. “How many?”
“Three. Two men and one woman.”
“If we get the others to help, we’ll outnumber them.”
“No. We can’t have humans fighting shifters. Too much of a disadvantage.”
“You’re human, Cameron.”
As if he didn’t know. “But I know things. And I’m armed. We’ve already decided—keep the humans out of it. We don’t need any casualties.” He glanced outside the window. The sun had almost set over the Atlantic, a brilliant array of pinks and oranges in the sky dancing in a shimmery reflection below. At any other time, he’d appreciate it; now he wished it away, needing darkness to fall.
“How long ‘til Antoine rises?” Dante asked, echoing his thoughts.
Cameron gauged the level of the sun creeping beneath the horizon. “Maybe twenty minutes. That should give us enough time if they make their way over here.”
Dante’s features hardened. “Not if they shift into wolf form and run.”
Cameron ran his fingers over his stubble. “Shit. You’re right.” He paced while he thought. “Fly back that way and see if they’re approaching. I’ll wake Antoine.”
“Can he rise when the sun’s still out?”
“Yes. We’ll have to keep him inside the castle, or covered.”
Dante nodded. “I’ll be back soon.” His expression turned grave. “Take care of Gina.”
After the gargoyle left, Cameron rushed to wake Antoine. Dread as heavy as a wet sandbag weighed him down, threatening to slow his progress as he hurried down the hall. Paintings done by masters or former residents hung on the walls, ones he’d helped acquire or artists he’d encouraged during their residency. It could be the last time he walked past them. It could all end tonight. But he couldn’t pause to speculate on his life’s work; the art colony he’d helped Antoine build over the last decade.
No, he was overreacting. Just because wolf shifters were sailing to the island, it didn’t mean they wanted to fight. Hell, they might not even come to the Chateau. He bounded down the stairs to the lower level.
Why else would they visit—for a tea party? Not likely. If they came to the island, it wasn’t good. Weeks before, Antoine and Dante had flown to the shifters’ island. The wolves discovered them and thought they were spies. A fight ensued, and they’d barely escaped, knowing the shifters would look for them. Wolf pride ran deep, and they wouldn’t let the breach of their territory go easily. After battling a shifter earlier in the year, facing another wasn’t something Cameron wanted to do again. No matter how prepared he was with weapons, their supernatural strength and skill put them at an unfair advantage. He’d be the only human if the encounter escalated to blows.
He pulled out his key before he reached Antoine’s library door. Antoine trusted few, yet Cameron had proven his loyalty over the past decade. He strode past the custom bookshelves he’d ordered and leather-bound volumes he’d procured. The scent of those rare books reminded him of past travels, the early days of building the colony. He pushed the decoy shelving unit to enter Antoine’s bedroom.
Antoine lay asleep, his lower body covered by black sheets, and his arm draped around his lover, Savannah.
“Antoine, wake up.” The man’s skin was cold, his body temperature having dropped while he slept.
He didn’t move. Waking a vampire while the sun was out was literally like trying to wake the dead. Savannah murmured and then stirred beside him.
“What’s wrong, Cameron?” she asked through half-closed eyes and then propped herself onto her elbows, making sure the sheet covered her breasts.
“Help me wake him.”
Her eyes widened with fear before she steeled her expression. “Antoine, love, wake up.” She shook his shoulders.
Still nothing. They shouted for him to wake while continuing to shake him.
“Turn away, Cameron. I know what to do.”
Cameron turned to face a window. The blocked façade with wrought-iron fastenings was for Antoine’s protection from intruders and the sun.
“Mmmm, chérie.” The rousing sounds in a French accent signaled Antoine was finally waking. “That feels so good.”
Cameron kept his eyes fixed on the stone, not wanting to know what she was doing.
“You need to wake up,” she said. “Cameron’s here. It’s important.”
The swooshing sound of a sheet and the thud of something hitting the floor; he presumed it was Antoine’s feet.
“What is it?” Antoine demanded.
Cameron turned. Antoine put on a pair of boxers so quickly Cameron couldn’t follow the movements.
“Four shifters are docking on the other side of the island.”
“He flew back to monitor them.”
Antoine dressed at a speed too quick for a human to register. He faced Savannah. “You know what this means.”
“I do,” she replied solemnly. “I’ll go to Gina. We’ll be ready to tell the other residents, and arm them, if necessary.”
Antoine walked to her and cupped her cheek. He gazed at her for a prolonged moment before kissing her on the lips. “Be careful. Don’t take any risks. I couldn’t bear it if something happened to you.”
“Same with you, my love. Talk to them first. Don’t rush to violence.”
“I’ll try, chérie. But remember, they are animals. You can’t reason with a predator on the hunt.”
Another island. Nadya remained silent for most of the duration to this one, DeRoche Island. They’d been sailing for weeks to search for a shifter who’d gone missing months before. Days of traveling by boat with nothing to see but sky and sea were taking its toll. Why had she volunteered to look for Alex again?
Viktor and Douglas also wanted to find out what was behind the breach on their island by a gargoyle and a vampire. Before they could get answers from the spies, the two had escaped.
An odd sensation prickled at her throughout the voyage, accentuating the discomfort of yet another journey. Something was about to happen that would change the course of her life, she was sure of it. Whether it was positive or negative, she couldn’t determine, which distressed her all the more.
Lights peering out from the ragged cliffs of the island captured her attention. No, not the cliffs, they were shining out from windows. She narrowed her eyes and discerned a castle looming at the highest point. In the twilight, the ominous stone edifice appeared to be an extension of the gray cliffs. She tilted her head to gauge any sounds from that direction.
“Why is there a castle here on a New England island?” Douglas asked.
Her thoughts exactly.
“No idea,” Viktor replied. “That must be the art colony I’ve heard about.”
Douglas arched an eyebrow. “Sounds like a bunch of fruity humans finger painting.”
“Hush, Douglas,” Nadya admonished. “Just because you don’t appreciate the arts doesn’t mean they lack value.”
“Not true,” he replied. “I appreciate the beauty of our island, the forest, the ocean. That’s what true art is.”
“Oh, that’s almost poetic,” she teased. “Perhaps you should check into the art colony.”
“Please,” Douglas scoffed. “I’ll pass.”
Viktor steered the boat from the castle. “We’re not going anywhere near that end of the island. Too many rocks. We’ll sail around until we find a safer place to approach the shore.”
They continued to the other end where they found a dock and then disembarked. The village area appeared to be inhabited by humans. Scents of seafood drifted from nearby. They would’ve tempted her if her stomach wasn’t still in knots from the journey. The three shifters searched for familiar signs or scents, as they had on several islands before this one.
Viktor said, “Come, we need to check out that castle.”
“What for?” Douglas asked.
With a wry smile, he said, “Wouldn’t it be so characteristic of a vampire?”
Douglas snorted. “With their flair for dramatic abodes and gothic elements, yes, you’re right.”
The trio stuck to the coastline as they circled DeRoche Island. The sun had almost disappeared, and, although they could see better than humans in the darkness of the forest, their sight wasn’t as sharp as when they were in wolf form. As Nadya’s vision diminished, her other senses grew more acute. The sounds of wildlife in the forest were magnified. Nocturnal animals scurried amid the intermittent backdrop of rustling leaves and chirring insects. An owl hooted in the distance. She caught the scents of squirrels, rabbits, and birds on the fringes of the forests. And one more.
When she glanced at Viktor, he said, “Yes, I smell him,” through gritted teeth.
They approached the castle, and Douglas pointed out the gargoyle statues perched high on the exterior stone. “Well, what do you know?”
“Could be a coincidence,” Viktor replied in an even tone, despite the sarcasm.
Douglas spoke to the statue. “Any life behind that stone, gargoyle? Come out, come out. Time to play.”
Viktor rang a bell to the right of an imposing double door.
“What are you doing?” Nadya asked.
“Seeing who lives here. And what they know.”
No one answered. He rang the doorbell again and banged on the door knocker.
A full minute later, the door opened. A male with dark hair and deep guarded eyes answered. Strong jawline, rough stubble, muscular frame. A rough masculine look that appealed to her, but something else about him arrested her. Something she couldn’t quite place.
“Can I help you?”
His voice was calm and deep, a rich baritone that flowed through her with sensual fluidity. Her wolf senses flared in a visceral reaction, and tiny flickers of awareness sparked through her like a steadily moving brush fire. She almost forgot why they were there until Viktor spoke.
What on earth was happening?
“I’m Viktor, this is Douglas and Nadya. We’re looking for a man who went missing months ago.” He held up a photo of Alec. “Have you seen him?”
While the man glanced at the photo, she inhaled, taking in his scent. Human. One who had a woodsy scent as enchanting as the forests. Wonderful.
“No. I’m afraid I haven’t seen him.”
He was lying. It was obvious in the change in tone as it became carefully measured. The sudden avoidance of eye contact, followed by a direct wide-eyed look to counter it. By his body language, he knew far more than he admitted. The question was—why?
“Are you sure?” she asked. “Can you take a closer look?”
He’d barely scanned over her when he first opened the door, but now he fixed his gaze on her in a way that made her hold her breath. His eyes lingered on hers too long for comfort, boring deep into her. She’d never felt so naked before, so vulnerable, as though all her secret hopes and desires were revealed for this human to see and judge. The connection terrified, yet exhilarated, her. That one moment freezing time, leaving the world around them to melt into nothingness.
“Sure.” He scanned the photo again. He narrowed his eyes as if studying it. “I don’t recognize him.”
He was hiding something. She was sure of it. The wolf in her wagged her tail furiously as she caught other scents in the castle. Vampire and gargoyle. Glancing at Viktor and Douglas to see their hardened expressions revealed they’d picked up on them, too. Her radar went up.
“I’m curious,” Viktor said. “What’s this place all about?”
“Les Beaux Arts at the Chateau DeRoche is an art colony. Artists, musicians, writers, and more come here for residencies to focus on their craft.”
“How about vampires and gargoyles?” Viktor asked with a pointed glare.
Her stomach tightened. Once Viktor fixed on something, he wouldn’t let it go.
The man narrowed his eyes, now flashing with an intensity that made her heartbeat quicken.
“I smell them clear as day.”
“You must be mistaken. We’re all humans here.” He laughed, but it was forced. “Vampires and gargoyles, good one. As if they exist.”
“Human, you clearly know more than you’re revealing. Why don’t you let us in, and we’ll talk about it?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” the man replied in a carefully measured tone.
“And why not?” Viktor asked. “Do you have something to hide?”
“No. However, I’m the manager of this colony.” He straightened. “I cannot disrupt the residents with unannounced guests.”
Viktor fixed his icy stare on the man. “I’m afraid it’s too late for that.” He pushed open the door, forcing his way into the castle. Douglas followed, forging past the human.
“Antoine! Dante!” the man shouted.
A winged being flew down from atop the castle and pulled Douglas back outside. His skin was gray and appeared to be the texture of leather, not soft and pliant like human skin. Black feathered wings spread wide, giving him the appearance that he was twice as large. His face was marked by exaggerated features. A distinguishing scent. Gargoyle.
Another being flew out from behind a castle wall and forced Viktor outside the castle. Mouth open and fangs exposed. Pale skin and the unmistakable scent of the undead. Vampire.
No doubt these were the two who had breached Oakes Island, the ones caught spying. While Viktor fought the vampire, the gargoyle pinned Douglas down. Nadya quickly assessed the situation before jumping into action. The human pulled out a gun, aiming at the scuffling figures before him.
“No!” Nadya jumped onto him, knocking the gun loose as he fell back through the doorway onto the castle floor.
She struggled with him, and they rolled on the hard stone floor. He was remarkably strong for a human, so much so that she inhaled his scent quickly to verify what she was up against.
Definitely human. With a delicious male smell beyond the wilderness she’d scented before, stirring an unfamiliar reaction within.
While she was distracted, he got the upper hand, pinning her down with his body and holding her by the wrists. She tried to wriggle out of his grasp, a natural instinct to fight back. As she writhed beneath him, a sudden awareness of his body took over. The way his hard chest pressed down on hers, how his strong thighs straddled her own, and how his rugged face lay only inches from hers wasn’t something she should notice while in such a vulnerable position. His eyes were a captivating blend of brown and green, lulling her with an almost magnetic hold. For a moment, she stopped fighting him, caught up in the intimate way their bodies touched. Her breaths came out in pants from the struggle. And something more. Some kind of primal reaction she couldn’t explain.
The realization hit her with as much shock as an unexpected slap to the face. Hell no. Not now. Not ever! She must be misreading the signs. She forced it away, compartmentalizing it to deal with it another time.
A quick glance to her right showed the four still fighting. Fangs and claws were exposed. All were marked by crimson streaks. The sight and coppery scent of blood spurred her back into action, reminding her how dire the situation. She tried to wiggle her arms out of his grasp, but he didn’t yield his hold. Even though she had the strength of a wolf, she wasn’t as strong in human form, and he must have outweighed her by eighty pounds of muscle. The way he held her indicated he’d been well-trained in wrestling or some type of martial arts. Clearly, he wasn’t a typical human, but one well-trained.
“Stop fighting me,” he commanded.
His warm breath fanned her cheek. Scents of chocolate and wine reached her. And his masculine scent continued to make her body light up with awareness in a way it never had. Even his voice sent intimate shivers through her.
She ignored the sexually charged effect he had on her. What was wrong with her to respond this way during a fight, when he could harm her and the others? It couldn’t be what she feared she’d just discovered. It had to be adrenaline, not lust.
“Get off me!” She thrashed up with her lower body to buck him off, but it was futile. Each thrust reminded her of an intimate act, especially when her pelvis brushed his. She dropped her hips back to the stone floor.
This was stupid. Stupid! She shouldn’t feel turned on by someone pinning her down, especially a human. Time to force the inappropriate thoughts away and find a way to escape this human’s grasp.
“Not until you stop fighting me.” He took his fiery eyes off hers and scanned the area.
She followed his gaze to something dark and metallic. The gun.
He reached for it with one hand while holding her wrist with the other. It was just out of his grasp. He raised his lower body to extend himself further. She couldn’t let him get it. Using the brief respite of his body weight shifting off her, she extended her leg and kicked the gun, sending it sliding down the hall.
“Fuck!” He climbed off her and ran for the gun.
Hell no. He could kill them all. He might be stronger, but she was faster. Just as he dove for the gun, she leaped on him, knocking him back on the stone floor. As they skidded across the floor, he claimed hold of the weapon and turned onto his back, aiming it right at her forehead.