First Heat
November 2009
Harlequin Nocturne Bites

Available in e-book.


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Excerpt

Researcher Luisa Marshall was used to studying bears, not being studied by one. But Skinwalker Ty Moon has been watching her for months, admiring how she cared for animals...and being driven wild with arousal.

Though he vowed to remain solitary, his wanting was too strong to be contained—especially when he brings an injured Luisa home to his cabin....


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Excerpt from Moon Shadow

Luisa sank farther into the warm cushions as the sound of magnificent music echoed low and soothing all about her. She recognized it, ‘Humming Chorus’ from Madame Butterfly.

Her eyes blinked open and she gazed up at a spectacular wood beam ceiling gleaming golden in the sunlight.

“Welcome back.” The voice was familiar, low and deep. But she couldn’t place it.

Then it all crashed back in on her, the poachers, the shooting, the terrible wind—the dark stranger. She craned her neck and found him, sitting forward in a mammoth leather armchair beside a fieldstone hearth. His smile tripled her heart rate. She threw herself into a sitting position, which made her head spin and the room rock crazily.

He was beside her in an instant, the cushions sinking deep to accommodate him. The imbalance caused her to tip toward him, falling against the wall of muscle. His powerful arms encircled her, steadying her until her head cleared.

“Who are you?”

“Friends call me Ty Moon.”

She pushed back to arms length. “And what should I call you?”

He blinked at her and then smiled as if suddenly understanding her jibe. “Good one. You fainted.”

She recalled the blinding blizzard and the freezing cold air.

“What the hell was that?” She made a circular motion with her hand.

His laugh rumbled under her ear. “The Thunderbirds. They carry us through The Whirlwind.”

“Us?” She sat back, disbelief clear in her voice. He was pulling her leg. He had to be. “Oh, come on.”

He shrugged. “I don’t require your belief.”

Her stomach clenched at his proximity. He smelled strongly of pine but beneath that was the arousing scent that made her acutely aware of his maleness. Desire rippled through her, sending sparks flashing through her middle. The shock of her reaction starched her spine.

“You kept your eyes closed?” he asked, drawing back to look at her.

“Mostly.”

He laughed, the sound deep and rich. She could not keep herself from staring at the transformation. He was handsome before the smile, in a deadly sort of way, but now his grin and the small lines beside his tempting brown eyes transformed his ruggedly beautiful features to jaw-dropping irresistible. She couldn’t breathe again, but this time she knew the reason. This man, this gorgeous man took her breath away. She needed to move. His proximity was shorting her out like a radio tossed in a full bathtub.

“How do you feel, Luisa?”

She inched back on the couch, her unease growing. “How do you know my name?”

“I’ve been watching you for months.”

She sprang over the back, skidding over the arm of the couch, keeping it between her and this stranger as he inched forward but found the change in position too fast as a wave of dizziness assaulted her.

He bent his knees and leapt, landing beside her in a move more puma than man. She staggered and he caught her, holding her safely erect before him. Once she had her balance he released her.

“You’re one of them? Those men who stole my maps, robbed my house!”

He shook his head. “No. I’m a guardian.”

He lifted a lock of her curling hair and brought it to his nose, inhaling. “Chamomile blossoms in winter.” He tucked the strand behind her ear. “You’re feeling better?”

His question reminded her of her bullet wound. She stared down at her bare bicep, finding it perfect and whole. She twisted her arm to examine the unblemished skin more thoroughly.

“It’s gone. But how…” She gapped up at him to find warm brown eyes on her. “Was it a dream?”

He shook his head, his smile seemed sad. “No. I healed you.”

“That’s not possible.” But neither was throwing a snowmobile, carrying grizzly bears and riding on whirlwinds.

He made no effort to explain, only leaned placidly against the back of the couch as her world shattered to pieces all about her. He folded his arms and waited with the controlled stillness of a panther. He wore a white shirt, open at the collar to reveal his unusual claw necklace. The view of smooth coppery skin and swell of muscle made her mouth go dry. He seemed to have native blood, just as she did.

"Your heart is racing,” he said.

She pressed a hand to her cheek, but it felt icy cold. “How could you know that?”

“I can hear it and I can smell your agitation. Are your frightened or aroused?”

She mouth dropped open. “Aroused? I think I’m losing my mind. How could you heal me without leaving a mark? It must be an illusion or…or”

“It would be easier to believe that.”

His eyes glittered like moonlight on the water. He studied her as if deciding whether to attack or withdraw. Ty rose to his feet and stalked to the picture windows to stare out at the pink light receding off the Tetons.

She remained where she was, happy to be able to breathe without inhaling the stirring scent of him. She leaned against the back of the reassuring bulk of the sofa, following him only with her eyes.

He stood before the wall of glass, surrounded by the majesty of the mountain range. Until now, she had never met a man who so perfectly matched the natural beauty and inherent danger of this country. Even with his back turned she felt his attention pinned on her. Her skin prickled a warning and she decided that she was definitely more frightened than aroused.

“I am sorry to upset you. It is why I do not show myself to your kind.” he said, turning to stare at her with intent, focused eyes.

What did he mean, ‘your kind’? She glanced at her surroundings, looking for a way out. A massive flagstone fireplace anchored the room. Inside a fire blazed, devouring the dry wood and filling the space with an ominous crackling sound. An oak mantle jutted from the rock but was devoid of one single photo, knickknack or personal possession. She glanced past the rectangle of furniture about the hearth, past the huge oak table sat beneath a chandelier constructed of elk horns and wrought iron. Beyond lay a spotless kitchen of gleaming wood and dark granite. The place looked like a model home, artificial, hollow and impersonal.

There must be a back door through the kitchen. She inched in that direction.

He turned back to the windows and the darkening sky, brooding and solitary. She did a double take as she recognizing she was far south of where she had started this morning. A growing sense of the bizarre echoed within her.

“Where are we?” she asked.

He shoved his hands deep in his pockets as if trying to imprison them.

“One of my homes. West of the park entrance.”

One of? How many did he have?

She did not mean to but found herself stopping only a few steps behind him, hesitating now, as one might do with an unfamiliar dog. Answers or flight, she weighed her options as she took in his wide shoulders, narrow hips and thickly muscled legs. She’d never seen a man more powerfully built. He rocked slightly, swaying from his heels to his toes in a rhythmic motion. There was something primal about his movements, something familiar. He swept a hand through his tawny, shoulder length hair. That hair reminded her of— Goliath. The male grizzly bear was the largest of all her research subjects and had fur the same exact shade, right down to the gold highlights.

Oh—hell no.

Her mind flooded with the legends of her youth. The wonderful stories of her grandmother’s people, the lore of the bear clan. But those things weren’t possible. They were just legends. Tales told by the elders at tribal gatherings. Stories only stories. Weren’t they?

Suddenly she was shaking, her body accepting what her mind denied. She staggered into the dining table and he followed, catching up in two steps. She pushed off the oak and held her ground before his advance until he stood only inches before her.

After everything that had happened today, was it so far-fetched?

“You’re a skinwalker, aren’t you…Goliath?”