by Jacquelyn Frank

ISBN: 9781420134445

Publisher Zebra

Published in Romance/Werewolves & Shifters, Literature & Fiction/United States, Romance/Paranormal, Romance/Vampires, Romance/Contemporary, Romance/Romantic Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Book Description

This can't be happening to her. A random breakdown, an isolated mountain road, a seemingly chance meeting with a hotter-than-hot stranger. Tatyana is a modern gal who can handle any crisis, but before she knows what's hit her, she's sensing a hideous threat, not to her but to this man who draws her like a moth to a flame. Hunter. "I know things¿I saw it." When the attack comes, she is his protection from a diabolical enemy, even as he initiates her into a startling world of magic, sorcery, and sensuality. For in a moment of terrifying danger a spark has been struck, and neither can escape the erotic fire to come.


Sample Chapter

Tatyana Petrova bent her head forward and banged her foreheadon the upper rim of her steering wheel.

"This isn't happening to me," she announced to thequickly chilling interior of her car. "This is the sort of thingthat happens to stupid, unprepared women. You see," she explained,"I'm neither stupid nor unprepared. Therefore, logicdictates that this isn't happening to me."

She reached for her key, confident that her speech wouldmake all the difference in the world. It turned in the ignition... and a nifty little click echoed into the car. This wasfollowed by immediate, deafening, highly discouraging silence.Tatyana growled with disgust and yanked the uselesskey from the ignition of what had always been the most incrediblyreliable automotive companion she had ever owned.She loved her car. From its multi-disc CD player to its in-dashhands-free cell phone, and even its cup holder that fitperfectly around her favorite cup.

"I have triple A. I have a cell phone. I even know how tochange a damn tire!" She made an exaggerated sound offrustration. "But of course I can't get a cell signal in the middleof nowhere because I'm surrounded by mountains, and Idon't have a flat tire!"

Tatyana sighed, laying her head back on the headrest. Shecast a mean look at the cell phone on the passenger seat, andthen decided it was time to end her temper tantrum. She wasa modern gal and she could handle any crisis. It was just thatshe needed about five minutes of woe-is-me, PMS-worthydespair before she took action. Scooping up the phone andshoving it in her bag, she swung herself out of the car andmarched back to the trunk. After popping it open, she rummagedaround in her gym bag until she found her sneakers.She traded her heels for them, sliding her stocking feet easilyinto the Nikes. Granted, it didn't make a fashion statementwhen she was wearing a designer silk dress in shocking redthat sparkled with a light dusting of glitter, but she wasn'tabout to trek up and down mountain roads in spiky leatherstilettos just because they looked good. It was bad enoughshe had chosen a fringed shawl for a wrap and was likely tofreeze her butt off by the time she found a working phone.

And that wasn't even the worst of it.

No, the worst of it was that her best friend, her confidant,the man she adored and loved most in the world ... wasgoing to kill her. Possibly even literally. She sighed as sheslammed the trunk shut, then shivered.

"Happy freakin' New Year!" she cheered to herself, watchingher breath cloud ominously in the air.

She was supposed to be in Manhattan at one of the swankiestNew Year's parties in town. The firm she worked for wasnotorious for going all out, reserving the entire PanoramaGrill, the restaurant at the top of the building she worked in.There was also the minor technicality that it was consideredvery bad form by your bosses if you didn't show up at theyear-end party. Promotions could be gained or lost at thisevent based solely on appearances.

But was she making a fabulous impression on her bosseslike she was supposed to? Nooo. Of course not. Here shewas, her car broken down in the back of beyond with her unhappilyfreezing her cha-chas off, all for the sake of a be lovedbrother who was going to murder her for the effort.

"Dimitre, I love you very much and I know you are worththis, but why in hell did you have to move to this scenestraight out of Deliverance? God, I can't see a single lightanywhere." She turned herself in a complete circle, to noavail. If the skyline around her was any indication, she wascurrently in a valley and the Catskills surrounded her withtheir sparsely populated mountain faces. "Well, at least theroads are paved and I don't hear any banjos in the distance,"she quipped to herself as she shouldered her purse and beganto trek off in the direction she'd been headed.

It was really her only choice. Tatyana was closer to whereher brother lived than the nearest town, so it just made senseto keep going.

"And someone should have warned me about the suckycell phone reception out here. I can't believe that, with whatI pay for this phone, I can't even get a signal in an emergency.Now, here I am, a stranded woman marching down aspooky, remote road with no one to hear me scream. I'm in adamned plot for a B horror flick!"

Tatyana kept marching down said remote road at full steam,promising an ignorant Dimitre that he would be very sorry ifhis sister met a gruesome death by chainsaw. Of course, atthe rate she was talking to herself, and considering her pres entframe of mind, maybe she'd be picking up her own chainsaw.

If she could only find a hardware store.

"Annali, love, what are you doing?"

Annali waved off the taunting query with a graceful hand,the filmy material of her blouse fluttering like the petals of alavender orchid around her wrist. The romantic cuffs at theends of the snug sleeves made for an incongruous picture asshe leaned over a massive worktable, one that was clutteredto the very edges with a hundred or more labeled bottles andpouches filled with all manner of curiosities. Adjoining tablesheld burners, sinks, a heavy mortar and pestle of marble,and a network of beakers, flasks, and distillery equipment.She toiled over all of these while dressed in an outfit spun ofthe finest silk, yet she hadn't even bothered to don an apronto protect her blouse or skirt.

She was clearly in the middle of something complex. Herright hand was toying with a strand of pearls at her throat ina rapid, absent gesture, while the notebook she was scrawlingin was filled nearly corner to corner with notations byher left hand.

Only half of her hair, a myriad sandy blond tones, remainedswept up into its original coiffure; the other half wasa tumble of wayward curls that bounced happily on hershoulders at their parole from the severe upsweep. She wasmissing one of her shoes, her bare foot swinging in tempo tosome internal beat only she could hear. She had a smudge ofink on her cheek that had an eerie Rorschach effect whenstared at too long.

"Stop hovering, Ryce," she scolded as she continued towrite furious notes without even bothering to look up.

"How long have you been closeted away here, Annali?"Ryce persisted, looking for clues. There was a half-drunkcup of tea on the table behind her, but he knew it was longcold. There were no indications as to whether or not she'deaten. It was par for the course when she worked in a feverlike this that she'd always forget to eat.

"What day is it?" she countered.


"I've been here since Thursday."

Ryce was not misled.

"Of what bloody week?" he shot back.

She made a little moue with her pretty lips and finallylooked up at him so she could give him a full-on pout. "Pleasestop pestering me. I'm a grown woman and I'm quite capableof caring for myself."

"That remains to be seen," Ryce said dryly, reaching outto sweep one of her slender hands in his, drawing it to hislips in a flutter of soft, lavender ruffles. He kissed the backof her wrist. "You know, Dimitre would never forgive me if Iallowed you to starve to death. Come on, let me take you todinner. Once I've fed you, I promise to leave you be."

"In the middle of all this?" she demanded, clearly aghastat the suggestion as she swept her free hand over the largework area, the pen in her fingers almost being flung away inher enthusiasm. "Ryce, you know very well I can't just getup and abandon things mid-experiment."

"It's nice to know that some things never change."

Annali gasped even as Ryce pivoted around sharply onthe ball of his foot to face the new voice. The familiar newcomerhad entered via the exterior conservatory doors, byway of the outlying gardens, and held the knobs, one in eachhand, as he grinned at their gaping expressions.


Leave it to Annali to recover herself the quickest, Rycethought with humor as she whipped her hand out of hisgrasp and flew at the fresh arrival like a beautiful lavenderflamingo, all slim, delicate-looking arms and legs. She coiledher wrists behind Hunter's neck and drew him down for anenthusiastic welcome home kiss as he caught her around theribs. Hunter flushed as her kisses moved to his cheeks withrepeated enthusiasm. He flicked up brilliant blue eyes to seeRyce smirking at him, enjoying this display of Annali's affections.Hunter grinned and gave him a rude hand gesturebehind her back as he bent to kiss her supple cheek affectionately.

"Blessed be. It's good to see you, Annali," he said warmlywhen she finally settled back onto her heels.

"Well it's not good to see you," she declared in contradiction,her Southern accent exaggerated by pique as she reachedout to slap him smartly on his shoulder in true ScarlettO'Hara style. All she was missing was a hoopskirt and a fan."You are such a fiend, staying away so long!"

"Anna," Ryce scolded her from the worktables.

"Well, it's true," Annali said, whipping out one of her infamouspouts. There was a collective sigh from the men. Itwas very hard to resist Annali's adorably perfect little pouts.

"I had my reasons, Annie," Hunter said simply, puttingher a little farther away from himself, trying to ease the discomfortof her little guilt trip.

"I know. But, in the name of the Lady, Hunter, this is theinformation age! You could have written. A few lousy e-mailshere and there to let us know you were still alive wouldn'thave killed you."

Hunter glanced up at Ryce in a silent plea. Ryce gave hima meaningful look and shook his head. Both men knew Annalihad never, and would never, fully understand the reasonsbehind Hunter's departure so long ago. Neither wouldshe understand why Hunter had cut himself off from all contactwith his friends. It had been difficult for Ryce to comprehendas well; but though he didn't agree with all of Hunter'sreasons, he respected them. For ten years he'd left Hunter tohis own devices, never contacting him, as per his wishes.

Until now.

It was painfully good to see him, Ryce thought as heclasped his arms behind his back in a casual movement thatbelied the emotions he was feeling, taking the opportunity tolook over Hunter. His old friend had changed in many ways.He was as vigorous and sturdy a man as he'd ever been, in aphysical sense, but time had matured his body, making himseem far more at ease within the roped musculature of hisbuild. It took discipline to maintain such a physique. Rycewondered if it was still Hunter's passions for Thoroughbredsand martial arts that kept him fit and motivated. A personcould change a great deal in one decade, but Ryce doubtedthat those essentials had altered. Hunter was born to ride andfight. His seat on a horse was a phenomenal thing to behold,poetry between man and beast. His hand-to-hand reactions,the ease of his uncanny reflexes, and his succinct choices inthe heat of a fight made him unbelievably valuable at one'sback.

Hunter had also cut his hair. That was a sharp difference.He'd previously kept the pitch-colored locks long enough totouch his shoulders, sweeping them into a tail as Ryce himselfdid. Now his hair was severely shortened, cropped to aperfectly manicured line over the back of his neck, with onlythe front and top showing a slightly rakish length that hungin curving spears over his forehead. His eyes, the remarkablecerulean blue that leapt out at anyone he glanced at, were notablyless shadowed by pain and grief, and Ryce was glad tosee it. As for the rest, he could only guess at this juncture.Who knew how time had treated Hunter? It had treated themall so differently. In fact, it was time that had compelledRyce to draw Hunter home at last, back into their fold wherehe truly belonged.

Time and danger.

"Well, anyway," Annali said breezily, "I forgive you. Butonly because I have so much to tell you and I need to hearabsolutely everything about you as well."

"Since Ryce is intent on feeding you, pet, why don't weall go out to eat?" Hunter suggested. "I'm starved, as well asjet-lagged, and I think dinner and a fresh bed would make allthe difference."

"I don't doubt it," Ryce said at last. "Annali, go and changefor dinner. Hunter and I will be waiting for you in the frontparlor when you're ready."

"Ryce," Annali used his name as a gentle scold, her fairlavender blue eyes holding a world of admonishment. "Hunter'sonly just come through the door. I don't want you harping onhim already, okay?" She spoke with lightness, but knowingher so well, Ryce knew there was a little bit of an irrationalfear that if he upset the apple cart, Hunter would just walkoff again and this time he wouldn't come back for good.

"I'm curious over her definition of harping," Hunterchuckled, an ungentlemanly reminder that she'd just beenharassing him herself.

Annali turned a speaking glance on Hunter that announcedher pique that he should make fun at her expense. "I meanit," she sniffed, her tone like a mother scolding young boys."Both of you behave and be nice."

"Go change, Anna," Ryce persisted, giving her a gentleshove in the direction of the conservatory exit.

As she left, Hunter turned to close the exterior doors againstthe winter cold before it destroyed the hothouse atmosphereand endangered some of Annali's precious plants. By thetime he turned around, Ryce had done the same with the hallwaydoors. The two men crossed the room, meeting in themiddle with an enthusiastic handshake and hug.

"It's good to see you, my friend. Blessed be to you," Rycegreeted with an eagerness no less keen than Annali's beforehe stepped back.

"And you as well," Hunter said with a grin. "Ryce, Annaliis beautiful. And happy. It's hard to reconcile the woman Ijust saw with the haunted seventeen-year-old she was when Ileft. Well done, my friend."

"Annali deserves all the credit," Ryce said dismissively."I see you've picked up a fair bit of Romany in your inflections."He noted this as a first clue to Hunter's whereaboutsall these years.

"No doubt," Hunter chuckled. "Among others. Whereasthe Queen's English is sounding surprisingly bastardizedfrom your tongue. Too much time in New York, I'm thinking."Hunter released Ryce's hand and clasped his shoulderbriefly. "You look very well. I hope the others are all in goodhealth, too?"

"As well as ever. As you can see"—he gestured to theworkstations sprawled in the center of the conservatory—"Annaliis a thriving biochemist and is still the obsessivebotanist. With much success, I might add."

"I'm not surprised at Annali succeeding at anything,"Hunter remarked, with a visibly strong streak of pride.

"Agreed," Ryce said, taking great comfort in the signs hesaw in Hunter that told him he'd made the right choice bysummoning him home. The only thing he would ever regretwas that he hadn't done so much sooner. "Kaia is buriedknee deep in work at the local hospital, as well as a freeclinic. She's presently on a short lecture circuit. Dimitre, thenew witch I told you about, is with her."

"You mean Annali's new love?"

"New and only. Besides you, there was never anyoneelse."

Hunter smiled at that, a whimsical tilting of his lips. "Shehad a young girl's crush back then. Hero-worship. It lastedonly as long as those things do. She's thought of me as a bigbrother ever since, just as she does you." He raised a brow ofinquisition. "I assume you're going to tell me why Annali'smate is off with Kaia?"

"In time," Ryce agreed. He watched as Hunter turned toinspect some of Annali's potion bottles. "Lennox is well, butGracelynne is recovering from a riding accident," he said casually.

That brought Hunter's attention fully back to Ryce, hishandsome face folding into concern and consternation. "Ariding accident?" Ryce knew there was no getting aroundthe sharp questions in those intuitive eyes. "Forgive me,Ryce, but I am trying to wrap my mind around the conceptof Gracie having a riding accident. She's nearly as good as Iam on horseback."

"Of course she is. You can just imagine her embarrassment.A spirited horse and a low branch was all it took," theEnglishman said dismissively. "She landed on her rear goodand hard, but she's got nothing worse than a bruised coccyxand a broken wrist to show for it. After dinner we will discussit in more detail. Annali was unusually disturbed seeingGracelynne brought down like that, and I'd prefer we notthrash it out in front of her. You know how she can be whensomeone she loves is hurt. Brings up bad memories."


Excerpted from "Hunter" by Jacquelyn Frank. Copyright © 2013 by Jacquelyn Frank. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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