So, a long time ago (last winter, in fact) my dear twitter buddy Holly from The Book Binge sent me many flaily, hand-wavey emails about this new book she’d read, Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison. She was super excited and made me super excited, and I read the book and it was awesome fun and happily ever afters all around!
Some time later I ended up getting to know Thea on twitter, which is one of the many reasons I love twitter. I get to meet cool people (see: Holly & Thea). As it happened, Thea had recently contracted a novella with Samhain and graciously sent me an advance copy so that I could enjoy my favorite thing ever: novellas with hot shapeshifter wolves in them. <3
True Colors is an amazingly fun story, and it comes out tomorrow from Samhain Publishing! In honor of that, I sweet-talked Thea into letting me post an excerpt. And in honor of how much I enjoyed the novella, I’ll buy a copy for someone tomorrow on release day! (Nook, Kindle or ARe gifting.)
Meeting your soulmate? Great. Preventing your possible murder? Even better.
Alice Clark, a Wyr and schoolteacher, has had two friends murdered in as many days, and she’s just found the body of a third. She arrives at the scene only minutes before Gideon Riehl, a wolf Wyr and current detective in the Wyr Division of Violent Crime—and, as Alice oh-so-inconveniently recognizes at first sight, her mate.
But the sudden connection Riehl and Alice feel is complicated when the murders are linked to a serial killer who last struck seven years ago, killing seven people in seven days. They have just one night before the killer strikes again. And every sign points to Alice as the next victim.
Warning: This book contains a hot police detective, a violent murderer on the hunt, and a heroine that can blend in anywhere…
Enjoy this Excerpt from TRUE COLORS!
Don’t move. Stay perfectly still.
The enormous monster plunged through the apartment with the lethal speed of a stealth bomber. A Molotov cocktail of pheromones and Power spewed through the blood-tainted air, the classic signs of a strong male Wyr in a rage. Alice clung to her perch, her heart knocking so hard she thought it was going to burst out of her chest. Had the murderer returned?
Then the monster slowed. Alice heard him utter vicious curses under his breath as he came upon Haley’s still-warm body. Alice took the New York subway daily to work, and thought she had heard it all, but she learned a few things as she listened to him. Did he curse because he saw the murdered woman for the first time, or because he realized he had made some kind of mistake?
Alice had only just arrived at Haley’s apartment herself. She had found the door open and rushed inside to discover that her friend’s body had been laid out on her bed. Haley’s torso had been cut open, organs lying across the flowered bedspread like a child’s abandoned toys.
Alice had gone numb at the sight, the normal cool, gentle logic of her mind seizing in shock. Then she had heard someone running up the stairs. She had barely gotten to her hiding place before the monster appeared. If he was the murderer and he had returned to clean up some clue he had left behind, neither Alice nor the police would know what it was now.
He prowled through Haley’s home in complete silence. Alice couldn’t even hear the soft pad of footsteps. Her awareness of him was excruciating, as though someone had stroked the flat of a razor blade along her bare skin with the smiling promise of a cut. His presence was a violation of Haley’s private space. He paused not two feet away from Alice, so close she could see the pocket of his worn leather jacket out of the corner of her eye and hear the almost imperceptible sound of his steady breathing.
She wanted to scream and strike at him. She wanted to run away and dial 9-1-1. The shadowed apartment hallway was a million miles long, the open front door too far away for her to make a run for it and hope she wouldn’t be noticed. She didn’t dare move, did not dare even shift her gaze for fear a glancing light might reflect off her eyes and give her position away. She hardly dared to breathe. The only thing she could do was taste the air and know that, if nothing else, she could recognize this man again by his scent. Underneath the scent of violence, he smelled warm and clean. If they were in any other kind of situation, she would have found his scent sexy. She fought the sudden urge to vomit.
Wait. If she could scent him, then what kind of trail had she left behind? Could he scent her as well? Would he be able to recognize her again, too? Oh gods.
Riehl struggled with his rage and got it under control. His body settled out of the partial shapeshift. He couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching him. He kept one hand close to his holstered SIG P226, and an invisible six-pack of whoop-ass ready in the other.
already soaked through the floor to the apartment below. Someone was going to have a bitch of a time cleaning that out.
Goddammit, the body was still warm. Her keys and half-opened purse were on the floor, and the ruins of a business outfit pillowed her mutilated body. It looked like the killer had surprised her as she arrived home from work. There was no sign of forced entry, which meant she had thought she had reason to trust him. Had the killer posed as a utility or maintenance worker, or was he an acquaintance?
If Riehl didn’t find anybody else to open the whoop-ass on, he could always save it for himself. If he had made the connections a little faster, if he had heard back from the Jacksonville PD a little sooner, if he had run the internet database searches right away instead of jawing over ideas with his new boss, Wyr sentinel and gryphon Bayne, this pretty lady might still be alive.
Goddammit, this was partly his fault.
He needed to call HQ, but… Riehl did a slow swivel, his sharp eyes noting every detail of the place. The vic’s home was a tiny, postage stamp-sized one-bedroom on the top floor of a four-story walk-up. It was furnished with space-saving IKEA décor. To Riehl, the vic had kept the apartment so warm it felt stifling. A flat screen TV was mounted on one wall. Every small-apartment dweller in New York must have cheered when that innovation came out. There were plants and books and shit, such as a tangle of female frippery on a bedroom dresser. He nudged closets open and they were full of normal stuff—clothes, shoes, coats and a few umbrellas, and small boxes. A Thursday paper was folded on a Barbie doll-sized dinette table, alongside an open box of holiday decorations with an elegant feathered and sequined half-mask perched on top.
Christians had Christmas, Jews had Hanukkah, and the universal African holiday celebration was Kwanzaa. For the Elder Races, winter solstice was the time to celebrate the seven Primal Powers in the Masque of the Gods. The vic had been in the middle of decorating her home for next week’s Festival of the Masque. Maybe she had planned on attending one of the many balls that were held throughout the city. The mask was a nice one, the kind one wore and passed down to one’s kids. It had set someone back a paycheck or two. Maybe she had looked at it with happy memories and anticipation.
All in all, the apartment was pretty typical for the city, and a perfectly charming place for a petite, 135-pound single female like the vic. Riehl stood six-foot-five and topped 263. He had only recently decided to domesticate himself from ninety-six roaming years spent as a captain in the Wyr lord Dragos Cuelebre’s army. He was used to a rugged lifestyle and spending a lot of time outdoors, often in inclement weather. To him the small overheated place felt claustrophobic.
There was no doubt in his mind the killing itself was the reason for the invasion. Her jewelry still lay scattered on the dresser and the corner of a wallet was visible in her open purse. It looked like nothing had been taken, unless the killer had snipped off a little something from one of the organs to keep as a souvenir, which would have to be determined by an autopsy.
He just couldn’t shake the sense of someone else being present. He was looking for some kind of fricking giveaway. Someone’s eye peering out from behind a closet door, or a webcam stuffed in a cute pink bunny. He even scoped the snow-covered scene outside the window to see if someone was watching from another building.
As he searched he took in deep, even, deliberate breaths. The heavy copper scent of blood pervaded everything. It all but buried the vic’s normal scent. There were other odors that he classified as normal and dismissed, like the faint lingering scent of fried fish and some floral stink that came from a bowl of potpourri. If Riehl had been in his Wyr form, his wolf would have had a sneezing fit at the potpourri and looked for the fish to roll in.
He noted two other very interesting things. He could taste faintly at the back of his throat a chemical tinge that hung in the air around the vic, along with the smell of rubber. He would bet his next week’s paycheck that the killer had worn rubber gloves, and that the chemical taint was KO Odorless Odor Eliminator, handy tool of deer hunters and Wyr criminals everywhere.
He would have expected the gloves, but using the KO meant the killer was either Wyr himself or at least he was familiar with Wyr investigative capabilities. The killer was organized, knew how to hide his scent, and planned ahead. That all fit with the deliberate care with which he had set out the victim’s organs, which was an exact match with the Jacksonville slaughter from seven years ago.
The second, very interesting thing Riehl noticed was another scent in the apartment. It was a light, delicate, feminine scent that tantalized his senses. Haunting and delectable, it hinted at an unforeseen, mysterious reality he wanted to dive into headfirst, except that the scent had turned jagged with stress pheromones that set his teeth on edge and had his hand inching closer to his weapon. The scent hadn’t had time to sink very deeply into the surroundings and was already fading.
The body was still warm, and a woman had been in the apartment before him. Well, how about that.
If the stubborn prickle at the back of Riehl’s neck was anything to go by, the woman might even still be around, although if she was, he didn’t have the first clue where she could be hiding.
He came to a sudden decision and strode out of the apartment.
* * *
This contest is going to be a quick one! Leave a comment telling me why you want to read True Colors by midnight tonight, and tomorrow I’ll randomly choose one commenter to win a copy! If you don’t want to take your chances, you can pre-order True Colors for 30% off at Samhain! $2.85 is a heck of a deal.