Saturday, November 7, 2015

Down Will Come Tiger (Tiger Shifters 6) EXCERPT

Enjoy this excerpt from DOWN WILL COME TIGER (Tiger Shifters 6) out now!

Chapter One

The ambulance had driven away from the estate two hours ago. Joseph Bennett watched from his perch in a tree outside the massive security walls as the vehicle left silently. He hadn’t been close enough to catch a scent, so he wasn’t sure which of the estate’s occupants had been inside, if any. Given the size of the staff in the mansion, it could have been anyone.

Now, hours later, he continued to study the distant lights of the main house, wondering.

He pulled in a deep breath, taking in the night scents, the green taste of the coming spring mixing with the cold remains of winter, manicured grass and damp soil, the distant chlorine tang from the estate’s swimming pool, the even more distant fresh water bite of the river. He released his breath slowly, carefully.

He wasn’t sure whether to hope Bradley Williams was still inside or not.

Rather than decide, he watched the estate and waited for a sign of the human man he wanted to kill more than he wanted anything else in the world.

He had tonight, tomorrow night, maybe the night after before Victor Romanov, his former boss and best friend, tracked him down and forced him away from Bradley. Again.

He was tempted, not for the first time, to kill Victor and get him out of the way. He wasn’t sure why he never went through with it. Maybe the fact that Victor’s wife Alexis might get to him before he could get to Bradley?

It was as good an explanation as any.

As he contemplated a way to get through the various security alarms and close to the house, a movement across the huge expanse of lawn caught his attention. The Williams didn’t keep deer on their property and that figure was too large to be a dog. He scented the air, then lifted his eyebrows.

Paige Williams. Oldest daughter of Carmen Williams. Stepdaughter to Duke Williams. Half sister to Bradley Williams.

Years of stalking Bradley meant Joseph was well acquainted with who she was, at least in general. She was a weak human, always deferring to her father, avoiding eye contact in public, staying away from attention or notice. He’d seen the video of her attending her brother’s trial for attempted kidnapping ten years ago—Joseph had been in confinement at the time or he’d have gone to the courthouse in person to murder the man. Paige had looked…bland and timid.

Since then, he’d barely caught glimpses of her, as when she did leave the estate it was usually in a limo with black windows, going to her father’s Philadelphia office where she ran a charitable something-or-other. He’d never cared enough to find out the details. He knew, in all the times he’d sat in this very tree, watching this estate, he’d never seen Paige Williams take a walk through the grounds. Especially not at three in the morning.

Even from this distance, he could see she had her arms wrapped tightly around her body, her head down. A dark hat covered her pale blond hair. Her clothes were loose and dark, too, not really hinting at a figure, and she wasn’t wearing a coat, though it was March and still too cold for a human to be out without one.


She was heading right for him, and the small pedestrian gate in the wall not far from his tree perch. He watched her approach, her scent carried to him on the wind. His eyes narrowed.



Paige Williams tightened her arms around her stomach, hugging herself against the cold she didn’t really feel. Her body was numb even as her brain exploded with so much chaos she couldn’t think.

She reached the pedestrian gate in the northern part of the wall near the main road without realizing she’d walked that far. Keying in the alarm code, she pushed open the steel door and stepped out onto the grassy shoulder lining the road, making sure the door closed behind her out of habit more than conscious thought. Once beyond the walls of her prison, she just stood there, staring into the dark.

What now? What did she think this would do for her?

Pulling in a deep gulp of cold air, she let the night scents and sounds wash through her as she closed her eyes and tried with everything she had not to think.

She frowned when a slight shiver moved down her spine, an awareness of…something. Not like the feeling she got when she knew her brother was watching her, smirking at her, or when her stepfather was around. At those times, the hair on her nape rose and her shoulders hunched under the ever-looming sense of threat and judgment from the men in her life.

This was different. She didn’t actually have any emotional response to the sensation, just a vague sort of awareness of… She didn’t know how to explain it, though this wasn’t the first time she’d felt it. If not for having experienced the sensation before, she might have wondered if it was her mother’s ghost.

Did ghosts come back to haunt you only hours after dying?

She snorted at the idea. She couldn’t imagine her mother pulling together the psychic strength to haunt anyone anyway.

Glancing around the quiet road, Paige wondered if maybe after all these years she really was going crazy, if the stress of her life, of hiding in plain sight from her family, had finally broken her. Shouldn’t she feel something about the death of her mother? Shouldn’t she hurt?

Should relief really be the only sensation coursing through her blood?

She growled at nothing and started to walk. She’d only gone a few hundred yards before she turned back. She reached the pedestrian gate, put her hand to the alarm panel, cursed, and stalked away again. She didn’t want to go back inside. She didn’t want to be in that house, that prison, where her mother had died and her stepfather greeted the news with a raised brow and a snort of disgust. Where her half brother barely paused to hear the news before shrugging and continuing on to his wing of the house.

Paige had spent years, years, inside that mansion, playing a part, keeping everything she felt, everything she knew buried deep in her heart where no one could see. For her mother’s sake.

Because despite everything, Carmen Williams had loved her children. Bradley didn’t deserve it, but then their mother didn’t really know the truth about the creature she’d given birth to, and given everything else Carmen had gone through in her sad life, Paige was grateful for that. She’d actively worked to keep her own knowledge of Bradley away from their mother.

It was one of the very few kindnesses she’d been able to give Carmen.

Now her mother was dead.

Paige stopped where the estate wall veered away from the road and stared into the darkness. Her mother was gone. There was no longer a reason to hide.

She’d squirrelled away resources and money, things neither her brother nor stepfather knew about. She could just…go. Now. Leave everything behind and go.

The relief at that thought almost dropped her to her knees. She actually had to lean against a tree skirting the road to keep from falling. No more judgmental stepfather, no more psychotic brother. No more pretending to be as weak and malleable as her mother.

Enough. Done.

Her heart pounded hard as the chaos churning through her mind quieted and the clarity of a possible future descended. A vision of hope she hadn’t dared consider, even as she’d planned for it.

She was so caught up in the thought of just…going, she didn’t recognize when that awareness of something she could never pinpoint got stronger. But her instincts had been honed on the stone wheel of years of living as potential prey to the predatory men in her life. So she was already turning, preparing to scream and fight and run, when she heard the very slight sound of shoes shuffling over grass.

The scream building in her throat caught at the sight of the stranger. His features were impossible to discern in the darkness, though she had excellent night vision, but his face seemed full of shadows and sharp edges. He was considerably taller and wider than her. His hand were at his sides, loose and weaponless. He wore a black hoodie and jeans, dark enough that he blended with the background, and somewhat to her surprise, she lost sight of him once or twice even though he didn’t move.

It was his stillness that really struck her. He didn’t even seem to be breathing.

She swallowed to wet a dry throat and considered questioning him, but she was afraid to end the standoff, afraid if she said anything at all, it would break him out of his stillness. She was almost positive that once this man went into motion, there would be no stopping him.

And because she’d lived in the same house with a killer for most of her life, she recognized another one when she saw him.

He spoke, shattering the tense silence. “It’s late. You shouldn’t be out here alone.”

His voice was husky and deep, rough like he didn’t use it much, and completely emotionless. He might as well have asked what time it was or noted that the grass was green. She couldn’t tell if he’d intended his comment to be a warning or a threat. Or simply a statement like the sky is blue.

She pulled herself up to her full height—which wasn’t very impressive—and tried to put on the privileged, icy aura she adopted when all else failed. She infused prim frost into her tone, something her stepfather had forced her to learn, when she said, “And you would be?”

He tilted his head to one side as he considered her. “Roses,” he murmured.

He said it so quietly she suspected she wasn’t supposed to hear his comment. Or maybe he just didn’t realize he’d spoken aloud.

“Are you going to answer my question or should I call the police?” she asked, still in that same clipped tone.

“You don’t have a phone with you.”

She blinked. He couldn’t possibly know that. She had left her cell behind on purpose, but she was wearing loose clothing with pockets. She could easily have it.

To make her point, she reached into her pocket, pretending to grip a phone that wasn’t there. “I will call the cops, whoever you are. I suggest you leave.”

“Who was in the ambulance?”

Again, surprise made her blink. “You’ve been watching my home? Are you a paparazzi? I assure you, there’s no story here.”

His shoulders moved, just a little, not a threat but…a gesture she couldn’t interpret.

“Who was in the ambulance?” he asked again.

She pursed her lips. He didn’t have an obvious camera on him so he wasn’t likely someone out for gossip. He felt too dangerous, too intense, for a paparazzo anyway. And there was that stillness, that emotionlessness in his voice.

For some reason, the mere fact that he didn’t seem to care about this conversation much one way or the other made her feel better. She shrugged and answered honestly. “My mother.”

“She’s sick?”


His head moved just slightly, maybe a nod of acknowledgement at the news. She waited for him to offer the expected condolences. But the silence stretched on. He didn’t say or do anything beyond that almost nod.

She held his intense stare, easier because she couldn’t actually see his eyes, just the shadowed area where his eyes were on his face.

“Are you sad?” he finally asked.

“Of course,” she snapped. “What a stupid question.” She realized she’d dropped her guard and instantly put the wall back up.

But for the first time since confronting him, she saw something almost like an expression move across his face—one corner of his mouth lifted fractionally. It might have been a smile, though it could also just as easily have been a facial tic since in the next moment his mouth was flat and emotionless again.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tiger Shifters #5 -- Preview Excerpt!

Here's a little excerpt from TO TEMPT A TIGER (Tiger Shifters, Book 5), out now! Enjoy!


Rose Callaghan hugged her daughter, rocking her as another wave of pain wracked her little body. Panic and torment twisted in her gut, emotions she’d almost gotten used to over the last year. “I’m here, baby. It’ll be okay.”

“Hurts, Mommy.”

“I know, I know. We’ll fix it. We’ll find a way.”

The doorbell rang. Rose ignored it. Whoever it was could come back later. She rubbed the sweat-soaked hair from her daughter’s brow, wondering if she should take her to the emergency room again. It never helped. Nothing helped. The doctors never uncovered the problem. No test had produced an explanation. No specialist had found an answer. No one knew why her daughter went through these episodes of extreme pain.

All her prayers to God, Mary, and all the saints she could remember from mass didn’t seem to be working either. But she had to do something.

Rose was desperate—she just didn’t know where else to turn.

The doorbell rang again, followed by insistent knocking.

She growled, then said, “Baby, I need to go get that. I’ll be right back.”

Zoe nodded but as soon as Rose released her, she curled up into a ball on her bed, rocking as another wave of pain visibly shivered over her skin.

Rose ran to the front door, grumbling kid-safe curses, ready to take the hide off whoever was there. Why couldn’t they take the hint and just go away?

The doorbell rang again, and Rose hissed a not-kid-friendly curse. She threw open the door, her mouth open to yell at whoever it was—until she saw the man on her front step. She froze, her brain momentarily too stunned to work.

Vladimir Dubrovsky. The love of her life. The man she’d planned to marry.

The man who’d accused her of cheating on him and left her when he found out she was pregnant.

Rose blinked as the reality of Vlad being on her doorstep sank in. He looked the same—dark hair, dark eyes, sharp, sexy features, the perfect mouth, and a body designed to make a woman’s mouth water.

“Hello, Rose,” he said. “I realize this is a little…unexpected.”

His voice was still that deep rich octave that had always made her shiver. She released a loud huff.

“Unexpected?” She wanted to laugh. She grabbed his arm and jerked him inside. “Thank God. Get in here.”

His wide-eyed shock might have given her some satisfaction if she wasn’t so worried.

“Your daughter is sick,” she said, dragging him into her living room. “The doctors can’t tell me what’s wrong. She’s in pain right now. What did you pass on to her? This isn’t anything from my side—we’ve run tests and done the research. You need to tell me everything about your family medical history.”

Vlad stood in her living room staring at her, his head angled down slightly, his brow furrowed. He looked at her like she was speaking a foreign language.

Her patience didn’t stretch that far. “Damn it, Vlad, snap out of it. I need your help. What the hell is wrong with our daughter? While we’re standing here wasting time, she’s hurting, and I have to stop it. If you have any information that will help, you need to tell me. Now.”

“This isn’t the reception I was expecting.”

“I don’t have time for that right now. Can you help or not? If not, get out.”

He shook his head like a dog shaking off water and straightened. “May I see her?”

She hesitated. This man had abandoned them. She hadn’t seen or heard from him in four years. She wasn’t sure she wanted him around her daughter—even if he was Zoe’s father.

But if he could help with Zoe’s pain…

The familiar panic and desperation churned in her stomach and tightened her muscles. “Do you know what’s wrong with her?” she asked.

“I might. Is the pain cyclical? Does it comes and go? Does she complain her muscles and bones feel like they’re stretching and aching? Has she ever said her body feels like it’s coming apart?”

“Yes! The doctors have tried a bunch of stuff and none of it works.”

“None of it would. May I see her?” he asked again.

This time Rose didn’t hesitate. “Come on.”

If he could help with Zoe’s pain, she might just be able to forgive him for breaking her heart. Maybe. She’d certainly stop wishing the torments of hell on him.

At the entrance to Zoe’s bedroom, she spun to face him. The move brought them up close, and for an instant, her breath caught. He still smelled like the most delicious thing ever—spice and musk and male.

She pushed the thought aside and pointed a finger at him. “Don’t scare her or hurt her. If you do anything that pisses me off, you’re out of here. I’m too scared and worried about her to put up with nonsense. Also, no cursing.” She turned and walked into her daughter’s brightly decorated white and yellow room.

“Zoe. Someone’s here to see you.”

“No doctors.” Zoe’s frown was set, stubbornness in every cute, chubby little line of her face. Then her body jerked and she moaned.

Rose forgot about Vlad as she hurried to her daughter. “Baby, I’m here. I’m here. It’s going to be okay. I promise.” She pulled Zoe into her arms.

“Mommy, it hurts.”

“I know, baby. We’ll fix it.” Rose hated that she said this every single time and hadn’t been able to fulfill this promise. The words were like ash in her mouth.

“Zoe.” Vlad’s tone was soothing and soft.

Rose blinked. She’d almost forgotten him in those seconds of hearing Zoe’s pain in her voice.

“My name is Vlad. I’m not a doctor, but I might be able to help you. Can I sit next to you?”

She glanced up at Rose, pain pinching the skin around her beautiful dark eyes—eyes that had always reminded Rose of Vlad’s. Rose nodded her approval.

Zoe looked at him. “You got a funny name.”

He smiled, then very gently sat next to her on the bed. “When the pain comes, does it feel like your skin is stretching?”

She nodded.

“Do you…see any images in your mind when the pain hits? Does anything pop up in your imagination?”


He straightened and sucked in a sharp breath.

“What?” Rose asked. “What is it? Why are tigers significant?”

He ignored her questions and focused on Zoe. “I’m going to talk you through breathing and things to think about that should help ease the pain. Okay?”

Rose glared. Positive thinking wasn’t going to help her baby.

“I want you to take a long, slow breath,” Vlad coached.

“Can’t. Hurts.”

“I know. But this will help. I promise. One long deep breath, and imagine the way your arms feel when you feel good.”

Zoe nodded as she tried to take a deep, stuttering breath.

“That’s it. Good girl. Now close your eyes and concentrate on how your whole body feels when you feel good. How your two legs feel. What the shoes on your feet feel like. What it feels like to wiggle your toes against the inside of your shoes. Got it?” He looked up at Rose. “What’s her favorite toy or game? Something that involves physical sensation.”

Rose snatched up Zoe’s special blanket and handed it to him.

“I want you to imagine feeling your blanket against your fingers,” he continued, speaking to Zoe. 

“Do you remember what if feels like? Concentrate on the soft material against your skin.”

“She sucks on the corner,” Rose added.

Vlad nodded. “Remember what the corner feels like against your lips, on your tongue. How the blanket feels when it touches your cheek.”

As he talked in slow, rhythmic, soothing tones, Zoe’s breathing evened out and the tight lines around her eyes and mouth eased. Her little body relaxed and her shoulders slumped.

“Feeling better now?” Vlad asked.

She opened her eyes and smiled. “Better. I tired.”

“You rest, baby,” Rose said. Vlad stood and Rose tucked Zoe into her bed, making sure she had her favorite blanket in hand. “I’ll be in the living room if you need me.”

She nodded, then looked up at Vlad, her dark eyes narrowing toward sleep. “Thanks for stopping the pain.”

“You’re welcome.”

Rose felt tears pricking her eyes and sniffled them back. She didn’t like Zoe seeing her upset, not so soon after an episode. She motioned to Vlad, and they left Zoe to sleep.

In the living room, Rose stood for a long moment just staring at the pale carpet and breathing deeply. She felt so drained she wanted to sleep, too. And cry. She desperately needed to cry.

But she refused to do it in front of Vlad.

“Why are you here?” She kept her back to him until she was sure the tears pricking at her eyes wouldn’t fall.

“I’m not sure how to start.”

She finally faced him. “Let me start then…by saying thank you for helping Zoe. If you can tell me how to do that, I’d appreciate it. Then you can leave.”

Vlad scowled. “I can’t leave you.”

“You did before.”

“That’s not what I meant. It’s… This is a complicated story.”

“I’m too tired for stories, Vlad.” She crossed her arms and braced her legs to stave off the emotional exhaustion weighing on her. She wouldn’t let him see her pain, only her anger. Even if he had just helped with her daughter.

“I was expecting a different reaction to my being here,” he said.


He shrugged. “I thought you might slap me.”

“Maybe if Zoe hadn’t been in the middle of an episode, I would have.”

The corner of his mouth lifted, and Rose’s heart thumped hard. Damn him, how did he do that to her with just a smile? She hated him. It didn’t make sense that she could feel anything else for him, especially not this longing.

“Don’t get cocky,” she told him. “I still might slap you if you don’t get to the point and then get out.”

“I’ll start with an apology then,” he said.

She snorted. “Little late for that now.”

“It’s offered anyway.”


He paused before saying, “I have reason to believe I was mistaken when I left.”

She gave him a deadpan stare that would have shriveled a weaker man. “Really? What led you to this epiphany?”

“Discovering I had a half sister I didn’t know about. Seeing the state Zoe was just in confirmed my suspicions.”

“How does you having a sister have anything to do with our past?”

“I was telling you the truth when I said we couldn’t have kids. At least, the truth as I knew it. You and I should not have been able to conceive a child. Because of that, I was left with no alternative but to think you’d been with another man.”

“We did have a child. I didn’t cheat on you. And if you’d truly loved me, you should have trusted me enough to believe me.”

“I believe you now.”

“Why now? Why were you so convinced back then that we couldn’t have kids?”

All those years ago, he’d been very clear about the fact that they wouldn’t be able to have children naturally. He’d always seemed sad when he talked about not having kids, and she’d really wanted them, too. But he’d been clear—if she wanted them, she either needed to find someone else, or they’d have to consider alternatives like adoption. She’d been prepared to adopt. So long as she and Vlad were together, it didn’t matter how they built their family. At least not to her.

When she’d realized she was pregnant, she’d been thrilled, thinking whatever Vlad had been told about his inability to reproduce had been a mistake. She’d expected him to be as excited as she was, and she’d even deluded herself into thinking he’d propose the moment he heard the news.

But he hadn’t proposed.

He fisted his hands against his thighs. “You’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you. But for Zoe’s sake, you need to know the truth. Then we need to go somewhere safe for a few weeks.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. What are you talking about? Why would we need a ‘safe’ place?”

“I’m pretty sure my brothers have figured out…about Zoe.”

“Vlad, you are as clear as mud right now. What the hell?”

“Okay. The truth.” He braced his feet a little farther apart and met her gaze. “I’m a tiger shapeshifter. Tigers and humans aren’t supposed to be able to have children. That’s why I thought you’d cheated on me. Then I learned about my sister. Her father is human, but her mother—my mother—was a tiger. Turns out it is possible for me to have children with a human woman. And if my brothers learn Zoe is my child, they will try to kill her.”

TO TEMPT A TIGER (Tiger Shifters 5) -- OUT NOW!