Against All Odds
With war on the horizon, Spirit Hunter Ryder Furlow, Captain of the elite branch of changeling warriors, knows his life and those of his men depend on his legendary control. Yet when he is pulled from both men and mission to protect the mysterious Lily Simone, man and animal know but one thing--hunger.
Broken Shaman healer, Lily Simone, is horrified to discover the Shaman instincts she's spent nearly a lifetime living without have returned. Forced to take refuge with Ryder at the epicenter of her darkest nightmares, the Spirit Council stronghold, it isn't long before he pries her deepest secrets from her--one scorching encounter at a time.
When an evil from both their pasts threatens to destroy all those they love, their fledgling trust is put to the ultimate test. With the odds stacked against them, will their mating bond survive?
Word Count: 71,478
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
© Cover Art by Kat Richards, August 2012
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
Ryder’s gaze gave nothing away. His body a tight mass of muscle against her. “Trust me.” A pained, harsh whisper.
Lily placed her hands palms down across his bare chest driven to soak up his hurt. Her inability to trust was a wedge of thorns between them, sinking deeper into him every time he asked. She wanted to trust the dangerous predator. Trust that the strength in his hardened body and the skill which had elevated him to Captain of a Special Forces unit would protect her.
“My blood could open the door to genetic replicas, testing, transfusions of the sci-fi sort. That information in the wrong hands…” She shivered thinking of just how formidable an opponent Trent Bradshaw would be then. “Can you stand here and say you know their agenda?”
Ryder dropped his hands and turned away, his emotional barrier a solid wall with no visible clues. Lily gripped the counter, fighting off the instinct to comfort. She vibrated with indecision, part of her demanding she soothe her mate’s hurt, part insisting she couldn’t risk making this new bond of theirs permanent.
“I trust this organization.”
She tallied the dozen new claw marks healing across his back and knew she should expect no less from such a magnificent warrior. He’d fought hard battles for the Spirit Council, protected the vulnerable and gave justice and closure to those who needed it most. His place was alongside his fellow Hunters.
Hers was not. And she knew leaving this dark angel would hurt. Fiercely. “I can’t.”
So by default that means you neither.
She flinched at the subtle warning laced in his tone. He turned to pierce her with a calculating gaze. One that irritated the hell out of her.
“You’re one of their elite, Ryder, and yet they gave you nothing more than a blank file on me. Trust them by all means if you wish, but they have secrets. And I don’t want to contribute to any more of them.”
He nodded once, eyes softening to reveal a worry she knew all too well. No matter what else, Ryder cared for her. Deeply so.
“Am I just another changeling monster, Lily?”
She sucked in a startled breath. Never in a million would she have guessed a man as comfortable in his skin as Ryder would succumb to vulnerability. Another wall around her heart crumbled. She reached out with one hand. “I—no.”
With the admission, another link in the steel bond snapped together. She felt the connection strengthen, felt the invisible pull to be with him. His fingers closed around hers. She would drown in him if they didn’t capture Bradshaw soon.
“But you’re ashamed of showing our relationship to young Dev.”
Her cheeks flamed. The stubborn cat demanded too much! “His father was murdered by Rogue Lions six months ago. He needs me to be his rock. No complications.”
She’d never be able to justify to her company, to her children—the ones who depended on her to find safety—how she was falling for a changeling warrior. And falling hard she was.
“When in this period of rehab and counseling are the victims exposed to changelings again?”
His criticism of her therapeutic methods stung deep, like claws sinking into her flesh. Lily moved to step away only Ryder held her wrist tight. “They aren’t.” she answered a bit on the defensive.
His green eyes gave nothing away but she sensed his disappointment. Heaviness gathered in the air around her.
“Not even the non-violent species?”
Running her free hand through her hair, she blew out a frustrated sigh. She understood where Ryder was coming from, could appreciate his logic even. The changeling races were deeply mixed in today’s society. One couldn’t ignore them forever, couldn’t possibly hope to never run into them. Not working with her kids to distinguish between non-violent and violent and the deeper difference between rogue and predatory left her children at a distinct disadvantage.
Still, asking Ryder to comprehend what being a victim felt like was like asking for ice cubes in hell. “You can’t possibly understand what these children have witnessed, their fear.”
Everyone will tell you that children are resilient, that they’ll heal. But the truth was, losing a parent left unseen scars. Losing loved ones during a rogue attack left physical reminders as well.
“Yet you still fear.”
His voice had gone predator soft. An animal stalking its prey. His hands closed around her waist and drew her closer. Her heart raced a bit faster. When his breath fanned out in hot flames over her face and neck, she knew he could feel the wildly erratic beat pulsing between them.
Was she still afraid of changelings? Absolutely.
“This is not about me,” she countered. She admitted that the Humans Against Changelings had some flaws but it still provided a hugely beneficial service to those most vulnerable. She hadn’t had this opportunity as a child. Could not say whether it would have impacted her outlook regarding the other races.
“Tell me, lily pad,” he crooned as he backed them into the bedroom together and used one bare foot to shut the door. “Are you still afraid of me?”