Sunday, November 9, 2014

Scent of Valor by Annie Nicholas ♥ New Release GIVEAWAY ♥ (Paranormal Romance)

Courage blooms in the meekest of hearts.

Chronicles of Eorthe, Book 2
After spending twenty years trapped in her civil body, Kele can finally shift into feral form. By tooth and claw, she’s determined to climb the Payami pack hierarchy.

Her parents plan to mate her with a hunter from a rival pack, but her heart’s already been stolen by the most unsuitable wolf possible—Peder, an omega male. She’d gladly give him her body except he’s disappeared from her life. Maybe into the thieving arms of another female.

Peder has spent every moment of their forced separation training to be a hunter. When he hears of her arranged marriage, he fears he’s waited too long to trespass back onto Payami lands to fight for her hand—but he damned well isn’t giving up.

On his journey to confront Kele, Peder is attacked and wakes in a cage, helpless as a band of vampires attack Kele’s mating party. Separated by social standing, thrown together by tragedy, they must work together to survive. And find out if their attraction is merely puppy love, or a bond that’s stronger than time.

Warning: This book contains an omega male who’s done submitting and a hunter female who isn’t used to needing anyone to come to her rescue. Violence ensues, not for the faint of heart.
Chapter One

Most of the marks on Kele’s flesh consisted of fresh scratches and bites, but a few had already begun to scar. Badges of authority, as her parents referred to them, but to her, the wounds meant she’d finally become a true wolf shifter. No more being the little healer who couldn’t change to feral form.

Pack life revolved around dominance and Kele’s whole future depended on this challenge.
She faced the most dominant female hunter of the Payami pack and crouched low within the challenge circle. For the last seven months, all she’d done was win challenges, recover, and climb pack hierarchy.

Tegrathe stood three hands taller, which gave her a better reach. As they circled each other, an unfamiliar silence filled their mountain den, as if the whole pack held its breath. Tegrathe favored her left leg—an old knee injury, according to Kele’s mother. Tegrathe might be bigger and more experienced, but Kele was younger and had more to lose.

So much more.

Claws extended, Kele stopped pacing and held her ground. Outside the challenge ring, civil law was enforced by their alpha—her father. Once inside the circle, they changed, and feral laws took over. Only the strong survived, and if either one of them wanted to live, then the loser had to forfeit the fight by leaving the circle, or by dying.

Kele lunged and tore into Tegrathe’s right shoulder with her claws. The muscle below her opponent’s fur parted without resistance. Like it or not, Kele wasn’t leaving this circle unless she won.

She would be alpha female of this pack one day like her foremothers before her. Their rule spanned six generations and nobody would stand in her way.

Back and forth, she and Tegrathe exchanged strikes, revealing each other’s weaknesses until their limbs tangled and canines clashed. Blood trickled over Kele’s claws and muddied the challenge circle floor.

The pack exploded into cheers so loud the only evidence that Kele growled was the vibration in her chest. Tegrathe kept her close so she could use her superior strength to control Kele’s attacks, but like every other opponent Kele had challenged, she had clearly forgotten that Kele’s mother had trained her since birth. She had learned to fight in only her weak civil form against her mother’s stronger feral beast. These painful lessons taught her cunning and to use her small stature to her advantage.

Kele allowed Tegrathe to pull her dangerously close. She even let her sink her claws into Kele’s back, and howled from the sharp pain like a mewling pup. But she never lost sight of Tegrathe’s left knee.

“You should have stayed a healer.” Tegrathe spat out the last word as if it left a bad taste in her mouth. She had always had a cruel streak and it didn’t surprise Kele when Tegrathe’s next bite was aimed at her throat. Tegrathe wasn’t playing. She truly saw Kele as a threat…and there was no greater compliment.

Kele went limp and set Tegrathe off balance so the strike hit the top of her hard head instead of ripping out her windpipe. Sliding from Tegrathe’s grip, she hit the dirt floor and didn’t let that lame leg out of her sight.

Tegrathe stumbled back and caught her balance.

Without a second thought, Kele bent her legs and kicked the side of Tegrathe’s weak knee. A satisfying sharp snap followed her contact. Shifters fought with tooth and claw. Not many bothered to learn combat in civil form that used the power behind the body’s motion. She’d spent the last twenty years trapped in a civil body and that knowledge gave her an advantage.

Kele rose to her feet and waited for Tegrathe to crawl out of the circle. The other hunter’s leg would heal in a few weeks. It would give her time to adjust to the shift of power within the hunters now that Kele had bested her.

Tegrathe panted, glaring in her direction. “Get it over with.”

She blinked. “What?”

“I’m not stepping out of this ring.” Tegrathe crawled toward her, every movement evidently causing her great discomfort.

Stepping back, Kele scanned the surrounding pack for her parents and met her father’s stare.

He frowned and firmly pointed at his feet, which meant to stand her ground.

She slid her gaze to the injured shifter. Challenges rarely led to someone dying. If they allowed such practices, there would hardly be anyone left in the pack. Only ascending challenges to become an alpha were to the death, because no one with an alpha spirit would ever leave the ring. Oh, by the Goddess. “Tegrathe.” Her name came out as a whispered plea.

Tegrathe was the dominant female hunter—only Kele’s mother outranked her—and she really wouldn’t leave this ring. Not alive, anyway. It was in her nature since she carried alpha instincts. Just as Kele did. That another female in the pack dared dream of being the Payami alpha hadn’t crossed Kele’s mind.

No wonder every able body—aside from the pups—had shown up to this challenge. Why hadn’t her parents warned her?

Kele’s gaze darted to them again. They stood by the edge of the ring side by side: tall, strong and proud. Her vision sizzled. How dare they test her so publically?

Burning pain sliced over her shins as Tegrathe ran her claws over the thin hide covering her leg bone, causing Kele to jump back reflexively once more. She landed with her heels just outside the ring’s boundaries. The roar of the crowd shook the hollow mountain walls as they celebrated Tegrathe’s win. Her mate raced inside the ring to support her injured side so Tegrathe could walk out of the ring triumphant.

Kele remained rooted on the edge of the challenge circle, still in feral form, her white fur a mess of clotted blood and saliva. She panted. What had just happened?

The pack paraded toward the den’s living area. There were calls for wine and someone struck up a beat on the drums. Not a single person made eye contact or offered her a word of encouragement. They wouldn’t. It was rude to comfort the loser.

Loser. That stung more than she’d thought it could.

She faced the ring and discovered her parents had stayed behind—the alpha female and male of the Payami. She flinched. Their disappointment seared her to the soul. Was it really that shameful to hesitate before slaughtering a packmate? Tegrathe had been one of the few shifters who would play with her when they’d been pups. Was she supposed to ignore the fact that the female would leave behind a loving mate and their children?

The ache within her chest grew until it hurt to breathe. Kele pointed a bloody claw at her mother. “You set me up to fail. Why?” Her voice didn’t shake for once when faced with her alpha’s displeasure.

Her mother, Chaska, crossed the ring, her midnight hair a tangled storm around her head. She tossed Kele’s clothes at her feet. “Shift and get dressed. You should attend to Tegrathe’s injured leg, healer.” To add insult, Chaska turned her back on Kele, as if she wasn’t a threat, and she left.

“I don’t recall advising you to challenge Tegrathe.” Inali, her father, waited as she shifted to civil form and dressed. She was still learning not to blush when forced to be nude in front of others. Unlike other shifter children, she hadn’t learned her trigger emotion to shift to feral form until a few months ago. Others had grown up shifting and dressing in front of each other. She hadn’t.

“I don’t recall you advising me on anything,” she shouted. “Only Mother seems interested in me, now that I can fight the challenges she can only dream about. How am I supposed to learn about becoming alpha if you won’t help teach me?”

“One doesn’t learn to become alpha, Kele. It’s not like healing. I have no books for you to read or lessons to give.”

Part of Kele’s feral side still had hold on her, and she snarled at him like an animal.

He approached her. Each step hinted at the commanding beast under his skin. Her father sent shock waves of alpha attitude without trying. It oozed from his pores like magic. “You’re lucky no one was around to witness that. I would have had to put you to the ground for being so aggressive.” He smoothed some of her pale hair from her face. “What did you learn today?”

She inhaled. He smelled of stone and dust and power. It soothed her frayed nerves. “That I’m a fool.”

“Besides that.”

Staring at the ring, she pictured Tegrathe on the ground, crawling toward her, gravely injured. She glanced down at the cuts across her shins—cuts that Tegrathe had given her even though the hunter hadn’t been able to stand. Tegrathe wouldn’t give in. She would have died first. “I didn’t want to kill her.”

“And?”

Blood rushed from her head and weakened her knees. “She would have killed me before accepting a loss.” She clutched her father’s hand. “Is that the difference? I should be ready to kill before ever losing? Is that what makes her better than me?”

He stroked her hair, the same pale shade of yellow as his. “Yes.”

Kele jerked from his touch. “She would have sacrificed her life and left behind a family just to be more dominant than me.”

His laugh was sharp. “You sound surprised. This challenge would have cost her the pack’s respect. If you truly want to lead shifters, Kele, you have to be willing to kill for them at any cost. The pack doesn’t value weakness.”

“And mercy is a weakness?” She wanted to pull out her hair. All these confused thoughts were Peder’s fault. He seeded his Apisi ideas in her mind with his endless letters of poetic words and idealistic fancies. Who would have known only a few short months ago he couldn’t even read? But the letters had stopped and her heart lay shattered. She focused on her place within the pack and the future her parents planned for her instead of her own dreams.

“Of course it’s weakness within the challenge ring.” He shook his head as if confused by her question. “Challenges hardly ever come to killing. Thankfully, today’s didn’t.” He stroked her hair. “As the alpha, I would have been forced to celebrate Tegrathe’s win if she had killed you, but my heart would have died along with my only child.” In a rare moment of affection, he kissed her forehead. “Be wiser next time. I can’t bear the thought of putting you in the ground.” He held her gaze with his intense blue eyes. “And neither could your mother.”

Kele rolled her eyes. “She seemed heartbroken at the thought.”

“She was. Trust me. Have you ever seen her yell at any loser after a challenge?” He chucked her under the chin. “Your timing to pick this challenge could have been better. Did you do it on purpose so your mother would be at her worst?”

“No.” She didn’t want to think about today. Maybe that’s why she’d run into this foolish challenge—so she could deny that her time as an unmated female was running out. Dying in the ring didn’t seem like such a terrible fate now.

Her father strode toward the noise of celebration. Most challenges went unnoticed, but apparently she’d struck a nerve within the pack by facing Tegrathe. The pack seemed thrilled by Kele’s loss. The thought of her as dominant hunter must have struck fear in all their hearts. How would they feel when she tried for alpha in the far future? At least she had some time to work on their respect.

She gave a disheartened laugh before following her father. Years of studying the art of healing had guaranteed her place within the pack, but now she could actually shift and fulfill her dream. If she wanted to become alpha, she’d have to be willing to kill.

Her father continued to the pack gathering room in the center of the den.

She spied Tegrathe’s oldest son standing outside the room entrance.

He hurried toward her and knelt at her feet, a sign of submission, though he’d been a hunter for at least a year now. The gesture more than raised her eyebrows since she’d lost the challenge and her place in the hierarchy just dropped lower than his.

“Kele, will you still tend my mother’s injuries?”

“Of course, I will.” That was another thing to consider next time she challenged someone. The more she hurt them, the more work she would create for herself afterwards in healing. Maybe she should consider finding an apprentice. “Show me where she is.” It had better not be in the center of the celebration. She couldn’t think of anything more degrading than having to heal Tegrathe in front of the whole pack after a sound public defeat.

The young male hurried away from the gathering room and toward the family caves on the second level.

She eyed him and thought him young, yet she wasn’t more than two winters older. After this year’s events with Susan—and Peder—she felt much older. She ignored the dull ache in her chest. Her parents would hate everything about Peder if they knew he existed. Just the thought of Chaska and Peder meeting sent a shiver down her spine. It didn’t matter. He hadn’t replied to her letters in five months. He had obviously found another to keep him warm during the winter.

The spring sun shone through the hollow mountaintop and lit their way. The den had three levels along the walls of the mountain, with stairs carved into the ancient rock shelves. Each level had multiple bridges to make travel quicker. Tegrathe’s son led her over one of these to his family’s home.

Inside, she found Tegrathe lying on a pile of thick cushions. A thin sheenof sweat covered her skin as she panted.

Kele knelt at her side. “I have to examine your leg.”

“You broke it.”

“Very observant.” Kele lifted the hem of Tegrathe’s dress and studied her handiwork. It appeared as if she’d broken the lower bones just below the knee. “You’re lucky I broke it here. If I had aimed higher and broken the thicker bone in your thigh, I would have lamed you bad enough you couldn’t hunt anymore.”

The more dominant female’s eyes went wide. “You aimed lower on purpose?”

She nodded. “It was my intention to rise in the pack. Not to destroy your life. The pack can’t afford to lose you as a hunter. I’ll have to gather a few things to ease your pain and create a splint. By summer, you should be healed.”

“I guess I won’t be able to attend your mating ceremony tomorrow.”

Kele grimaced. “Maybe I should have let you break my leg instead.”

Tegrathe relaxed into the cushions a little more. “I wouldn’t have stopped at just breaking a bone. I would have killed you.”

“That might have been a better fate.”

“You never know. This Yaundeeshaw hunter might turn out to be a sex god like Ahote.” After a long moment of silence, Tegrathe gave her a weak smile. “Thank you.”

For the second time that day, Kele did a slow blink of confusion. “For mating a stranger?” She should check Tegrathe for a head injury.

“No, you could have killed me. You had a choice.” She tapped her chest over her heart in a sign of admiration. “You don’t always have to win a challenge to gain respect. Sometimes, that’s worth more than dominance. Now go get your medicine before this pain makes me vomit all over my new cushions, Hunter Kele.”

Something tight inside her gut loosened and a heavy weight eased off her shoulders. Kele nodded to her as an equal. “Yes, Hunter Tegrathe.”


Chapter Two


Fighting went against Peder’s nature, otherwise he’d have been a hunter of the Apisi instead of an omega. Or at least, that was what he’d thought until he met Kele. Maybe he just hadn’t had anything worth fighting for.

He watched a very pregnant Susan as she waddled in civil form, away from him and the Temple. She held one end of a rope in her hand. The other end was in his grip. He called out to her, “You should be the one standing here. I can walk to wherever you like.”

“You don’t know where I landed when I fell from the sky. I do.” She gazed up at the trees. Seven months ago, she’d fallen from a blue light and saved his pack.

He glanced at the forest.

Sorin, his alpha, paced around them. The expecting father’s protective nature was driving everyone crazy. The last two days had been constant arguments between the alpha couple about traveling to Temple lands. Somehow Susan had won and here they were, with five hunters prowling neutral territory while Peder helped measure things with a rope.

Susan stood under a rather large tree. “This is it.” She then marked the rope with a piece of coal she’d carried from their den’s fire pit. “Sorin?”

Not even a second later, he was at her side as if ready to carry her in his arms. “Are the pups coming?”

Her silence spoke volumes.

“Not the pups?”

“You need to get your shit together. I can’t handle your nerves.” She tapped his sensitive nose with her fingertips. “Show me where we saw the other gates. Th-the blue lights.” She twisted around.

“Peder, come stand here with that end.” She pointed.

Sorin rubbed his muzzle, leading her farther away as he changed position. “I wish you’d stop doing that to my nose. It’s sensitive.”

Vendu, one of their hunters, rose from a nearby bush. “Sorin would be more relaxed if she’d stay in feral form while outside the den.”

“She’s more comfortable as civil. Maybe once she has her pups, she’ll be more, uh, more graceful in feral.” Peder leaned against the tree and took a deep breath of fresh green scents. Spring shoots spotted the forest floor and thickened the air with their fragrances. He’d first spotted Kele on such a day about a year ago from the cliff overlooking these lands, long before Susan changed their lives.

“Peder, come stand here now,” Susan shouted.

“Yeah, Peder, go stand over there now.” Vendu gave him a lopsided wolf grin.

Peder playfully slapped him across the muzzle. “You’re just jealous that you’re not her favorite.”

Vendu rubbed the spot where Peder had hit him. “Hey, you’re getting strong.” He pinched Peder’s upper arm and trailed him as Peder followed the rope to where Susan and Sorin stood. “Have you checked out Peder’s new muscles?” Vendu poked his stomach. “Not bad.”

“Stop, that tickles.” Peder elbowed the bigger hunter in the side.

Vendu dropped to the ground, clutching the spot where he’d taken the shot. “That hurt, Peder. I think all that building and digging Susan makes you do is starting to pay off.” Climbing to his feet, Vendu eyed him more carefully.

Peder stood where Susan had gestured. She walked away, shaking her head again as if confused by their conversation. She’d been born human and still was learning pack dynamics. Peder was so low in Apisi hierarchy, he shouldn’t have been able to draw the hunter’s attention. Because he’d dropped Vendu accidently with one shot, suddenly the big hunter was watching him more closely.

Peder had no desire to fight challenges. Not just so he could beat his chest and declare he was stronger than Vendu. What was the purpose? To get a better mate? The mate he wanted lived with another pack. To get better clothes and food? Their pack was so poor that better wasn’t possible.

He’d keep his fur intact and duck his head.

Sorin followed Susan, but shouted back to Vendu, “Peder’s been training with me every morning.”

“Training?” The young hunter’s ears came forward. “As in fighting?”

Peder stared at his feet and nodded.

“Hunter Peder has a nice sound to it.”

He jerked his head up, half expecting to see a teasing grin on Vendu’s face, but found him quite serious instead.

“About time too.” Vendu slapped him on the back. “I look forward to when you work up the courage to challenge me.”

A few months ago, such a strike would have landed Peder on his knees, but his stronger body absorbed the impact. “I’m not ready for challenges. I just want to be able to hold my ground if I need to defend the den.” Or claim Kele, if he ever found the courage to cross onto Payami lands, but she had stopped writing him. He didn’t want to shed blood only to discover she had no interest in him anymore. When she had released him from his imprisonment with the Payami, he’d thought she felt something for him.

A hunter ahead of them called out to Sorin. “We shouldn’t stay much longer. I heard there will be a mating here tomorrow. They’ll be sending scouts soon.”

Peder handed his end of the rope to Vendu and approached the other hunter. “A mating?” Most shifters didn’t bother with a mating ceremony. Marking each other with scents was enough claim, but it was good for packs to mingle blood, so occasionally a mating agreement was formed. “What packs?”

“The Yaundeeshaw and the Payami. I hear the alpha is giving away his daughter to bring strong hunter blood back in the pack.”

Peder couldn’t breathe. The Payami alpha had only one child. “How do you know this?”

“Are you all right?” The hunter, Awe, grabbed Peder by the elbow to steady him.

He shook him off. “Answer me.”

The fur on Awe’s neck rose and his ears went flat. “You best watch your tone, omega.”

Peder dropped his gaze and bowed his head. “Sorry.”

“Oh, answer him, you ass,” said Vendu.

“Every six days, some of the omegas from the Ohneka pack do their wash by the river that borders our lands. One of them fancies me. She’s the one who told me.”

The truth grabbed Peder by the balls. Kele was mating some Yaundeeshaw dog. Was that why she’d stopped writing? “Do you think they know each other?”

“With a mating? I doubt it. Those are all arranged by alphas. Speaking of which…” The hunter ambled toward Sorin. “Alpha, have you ever considered arranging a mating?”

The rest of their conversation faded as the pounding of Peder’s heart filled his ears. She’d mate a stranger before allowing him a chance to win her? He knew being an omega was not an attractive trait in a male, but he’d been really trying to change. He had the bruises to prove it.

Susan called Vendu to bring his end of the rope to her. She scratched symbols called math into the dirt all the while muttering under her breath.

The hunters continued to watch the forest.

Peder crouched close to Sorin. For some reason, being around his alpha helped him calm. The roar in his chest faded to a dull hollow ache and he stared at the empty Temple. What had he done to the Goddess to deserve such a fate?

“Peder?” Sorin knelt to face him and spoke quietly.

He grimaced. “How many times must I tell you to call me Sorin in private?”

He dragged his gaze from the Temple. “Yes, Sorin?”

“You smell anxious. Are you sensing danger?” Sorin’s eyes darted to the forest.

“No, I’d tell you if I did.” He plucked at his fur. Many found his golden color attractive, but to him it seemed a curse. No matter how he tried, he always drew someone’s unwanted attention. “The news about Kele surprised me.” His alpha knew of his pleasant stay within the Payami den, but didn’t know of his feelings toward Kele.

A few months ago, he’d spent a few days hidden in an abandoned room within the Payami den. To ensure that Sorin didn’t hurt Susan, Kele had taken Peder hostage. She had been attracted to him—Peder could tell, after years of being a sexually active omega, when someone wanted him. Yet Kele never once tried to seduce him even though he wouldn’t have denied her. Instead, she had appeared shy and sweet, something very rare in a hunter female. Her letters always hinted at wanting to see him again but she never made any commitments.

Then the letters had stopped.

Sorin made an annoyed noise. “Kele probably thinks it’s her duty.” The alpha stared intently at Peder. “There’s more to this than you’ve told me, isn’t there?”

The omega nodded. Shifters could scent lies.

“After their first pup is born, she doesn’t have to stay with him. She’d be free to mate another.” Sorin shrugged. “It’s not an ideal situation. Not unless you’re willing to fight for her.”

That Yaundeeshaw hunter was going to touch her. The fur on Peder’s back rose. The dog would take her to his bed tomorrow night. He should have crossed onto Payami land already, but no, he had stayed hidden in his den like a coward.

The rumble of growling in his chest drew him out of his thoughts. Everyone stared at him.

Sorin stood at alert. “What is it?”

Shit, he was making things worse. Quieting, he shook his fur flat. “Sorry, got lost in my thoughts.”

Susan pointed to the marks in the dirt. “It’s difficult to calculate this by hand, but I roughly estimate that the doorway will open again in five days. Unless the door has already done so unwitnessed, then my math is all wrong.” She scratched her head. “We should watch the area and make sure no one stumbles in. I can’t imagine what would happen to my world if this virus went through the portal.”

Here he was worried about a female who obviously cared nothing for him, and Susan—carrying two pups in her belly—was trying to protect a whole world. “I thought you had destroyed your machine.”

“I thought so too.” She continued to scribble a few more things in the dirt. “Something is keeping the portal from closing. At one end, in my world, the portal is anchored.” She drew a box to represent this. “At this end, the portal is whipping around like a cat’s tail and jumping positions. If I’m correct, the radius of this tail can grow, which is bad.” She rubbed her belly.

Sorin immediately joined her in touching the bump of her belly protecting their unborn offspring. “It’s time to go home. I’ll send hunters in four days to camp and watch for the blue light.”

“No, no, I’m coming back.”

Sorin snarled, sharp and commanding. “For ten generations, my family has been born in that den. I will not have my pups dropped on common forest ground like strays. Once they are born and you are well, then you can return.” He leaned down and met her glare. “Don’t you dare try to sneak off on your own. You remember what happened last time.”

Susan’s expression grew somber. “Yes.” She set her hands upon his. “Babies first.”

“Pups.”

She laughed. “Fine, pups.”

Peder stared at her scribbles, understanding a few of the symbols. She’d been teaching the pack simple math. Things like adding and multiplying. He could comprehend it better than anyone in the pack, but the stuff in the dirt didn’t even contain numbers. “If the portal’s exit whips around like a tail on Eorthe, that means it can open anywhere on our world?”

“Yes.”

“How do you know it hasn’t already opened somewhere outside this forest?”

“I can only pray it hasn’t. So far, from the measurements I’ve taken, it seems to be getting more distant from the original point of entry by that tree.”

“Each time it opens, it gets farther from here like a pendulum swinging.”

“Exactly. You truly grasp things quickly, Peder.” Odd how a few simple words could soothe his deep wounds.

He had rarely received such praise while growing. Sorin’s father made sure they’d all been miserable, but he’d had a special place in his heart for torturing pretty omega males.

“That means I might only get two more chances at the doorway before it leaves this forest for good.” She rubbed her chin.

Sorin’s ears folded even farther back over his head until it appeared he had none. “Why do you want access? I thought you had chosen to stay with me.”

“I’m staying. I’ve been infected. Even if I wanted to leave, I couldn’t. But I have to send my world a message. Whoever is on the other side needs to be warned. They have to guard the portal from letting anything go through. They also have to know the risk of walking into it as well.” She rubbed her temples. “I have to figure out how to send a message. It’s not like I have a cell phone or a two-way radio.”

Sometimes Susan was too smart. She said things no one understood and could bypass a simple solution in pursuit of something bigger. “Write them a letter. Tie it to a rock to give it weight and throw it through the portal.”

“Jesus, that’s so easy. They’d also be able to verify it’s truly from me by the handwriting.” She clapped Peder on the back almost as hard as Vendu had.

“Very well, the decision’s been made. I’ll send hunters to watch for the blue light to return with a message for them to toss inside.” Sorin scooped Susan into his arms and started toward their home.
Peder glanced at the Temple one last time.

What should he do about Kele? If he knew she held even a raindrop of affection for him, he’d stay for the mating and challenge this Yaundeeshaw. He’d lose, but at least she would know he was willing to die for her.
 
♥ Click on the cover for more info ♥

Love blooms across species, culture, and time.


Chronicles of Eorthe, Book 1

Stranded in another dimension, on a primitive version of Earth, Dr. Susan Barlow needs to find a way to survive. There’s no electricity, no cities, and to her shock, no humans. Instead, she faces a population of werewolves, vampires and incubi. The people are vicious but she must find her place among them. And live.

An illness is killing Sorin’s pack. As alpha it’s his responsibility to save them, but it’s a battle this warrior doesn’t know how to fight. Then a blue light in the sky brings a creature he’s never seen. She calls herself human, but to him she smells like hope.

Sorin offers Susan a safe haven in return for a cure, but she’s not that kind of a doctor. She’s a doctor of physics, not a physician. Yet as they search for a cure to save a dying people, they find something special—each other.

But even with Sorin’s protection, Susan can’t help but wonder how long she can survive in a world without humans…


Warning: Feral shifters, power-hungry vampires, and a sole human female suffering culture shock.
Before Susan could explain anything about dimensions and gateways, the door to Kele’s chamber crashed open, and Susan jumped to the balls of her feet, prepared—to what, fight? Was she nuts?

A female blocked the entrance, her muscular physique hinting at enough strength to twist Susan into a pretzel without breaking a sweat. The newcomer flung her black hair over her shoulder.

Rising with grace, Kele straightened her dress before addressing the intruder. “Mother.”

“Daughter, I heard you’ve brought home a stray along with the Apisi alpha.” The female’s stare drilled into Susan, her sneer far from welcoming.

Susan’s breath caught in her throat. Black, soulless eyes ate her gaze. Her fingers clutched the lapels of her jacket as she pulled it closed. She wiped her sweaty palms on her pants and offered her hand. “I’m Dr. Susan Barlow.”

The female shifter narrowed her eyes, nostrils flaring.

Susan withdrew her untouched hand, then hid it behind her back and glanced at Kele. Maybe she should have sniffed her mother instead? She wished someone would give her the Dummies Guide to Shifter Society and a little time to study it.

Kele’s mother crossed the room in two great strides and swung her arm.

Susan did her best impression of a statue. She didn’t budge as the impact of the slap swerved her head to the side and dragged her gaze from mother to daughter. Both of them were flushed with emotion yet at opposite poles of the color spectrum—one dark as an oncoming storm and the other pale as the moonlight.

The back of Susan’s heel caught the edge of the cushion and she landed hard on her back.

The bitter flavor of blood swept over her taste buds. “What the hell?” She rubbed her jaw and glared daggers at the crazy woman looming over her. Just as quickly, she schooled her expression to something less threatening before she insulted the bigger shifter further. With the tip of her tongue, Susan explored her mouth. She didn’t encounter any big gaps, so no lost tooth. A small blessing.

Kele’s crazy mother hovered over Susan’s face and bared her teeth. In beast form, her expression would have appeared fierce, but in human form it seemed terrifying. With an easy grace, she flipped Susan onto her stomach. A bony knee pressed between her shoulder blades, making her kiss the floor. Pain shot across Susan’s upper back and neck.

“How dare you come into my den and not submit to me.”

“She’s not a shifter!” Kele shouted. “You can’t expect her to know how to be polite.”

Something ran over Susan’s hair, and the sound of sniffing followed. She tried to take a deep breath but the weight on her back made it difficult.

The nutjob exhaled in disgust. “What is she?”

“A human.” Kele peered at Susan’s throbbing face as she stroked her hair. “Please, I wanted to teach her how to behave before meeting you and father.”

“Your father.” The bitch snorted. “It’s bad enough he’s entertaining a vampire and dealing with trespassing alphas. We don’t need any more vermin within the den.”

Susan was jerked from the ground by her hair and dragged across the floor. Pain shot into her scalp while she scrambled to support her weight with her legs.

“Let go. Let go.” The shifter world was more brutal than anything she’d ever experienced. Susan slapped at the crazy woman’s hands tangled in her hair.

“My daughter took too many liberties in offering you shelter. You’ll need to find another den to take you in.”

At a loss, Susan yanked and squirmed but only made the pain worse. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Kele leap.

The petite blonde used her wiry strength to jump across the room and land on her mother’s back. The collision knocked them both to the ground in a knot of arms and legs.

Untangling her limbs from the struggling shifters, Susan could finally elbow the bitch in the face. The impact made a satisfying crunch. She pulled back her arm for a second shot, but Kele grabbed her and half carried, half dragged her out of the chamber.

“Hurry, we need to reach my father before she beats you into cinders.”

Not needing any further incentive, Susan ran after her new friend. “Your people are crazy.”
Scent of Salvation
Fantastic!!! Absolutely brilliant. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The love scenes were SMOKIN', and the story kept developing more twists that kept me turning the pages. Annie was without a doubt "in the zone" when she wrote this book. The love between the hero and heroine was so real and intense...I would have kept reading this story even if it was a zillion pages long. The text throughout was so witty and sharp. I was not bored once with tis one!

I can't wait to read more in this series!!!
Annie Nicholas
Annie Nicholas writes paranormal romance with a twist. She has courted vampires, hunted with shifters, and slain a dragon’s ego all with the might of her pen. Riding the wind of her imagination, she travels beyond the restraints of reality and shares them with anyone wanting to read her stories.

Mother, daughter, and wife are some of the other hats she wears while hiking through the hills and dales of her adopted state of Vermont.

Annie writes for Samhain Publishing, Carina Press, and Lyrical Press.
Annie is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card!
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@annienicholas pic.twitter.com/KY0gzjFQHI http://goo.gl/uzDmns

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