Read the first chapter of...

Immortal Ties

Book four in the Hearts on Fire Series, Immortal Ties can be read as a stand alone and is a full length novel, releasing 23 March 2018. Here's the blurb:

There was one thing I’d sworn I’d never do. Fall for my best friend and SIA partner, Carter.

Despite the growing attraction between us, I was determined to stay focused on the job at hand. Hunting rogue paranormals.

Until I became the hunted.

With an unknown enemy intent on my demise, human bodies dropping around us, and the realization that the threat is closer than I could ever imagine, my own hope lies with overcoming my emotionally scarred past and putting my trust in Carter. Will he be my salvation…or will he lead the wolves to my door?

Boots splashing on the wet pavement, I rounded the corner, squinting through the rain. There, just ahead. Little weasel thought he could lose me, well, I've got news for him, and none of it's good. With a burst of adrenaline, I picked up the pace, ignoring the cold, wet trickle down my back where my hair had soaked through my collar. I was gaining ground, legs pumping, lungs heaving. Ahead of me, he turned another corner. Stupid mistake. I knew this city like the back of my hand, and my friend ahead had just turned into a dead-end alley. Seconds later I swung into the alley behind him, skidding to a halt when greeted with his growl.

He was cornered and not happy about it. His lips curled back in a snarl, revealing elongated k-nines. Yep, a werewolf. He beckoned me toward him.

"Bring it, bitch."

"Oh come on," I chided. "Really?"

"Really."

I kept my stance loose, hand resting on my pyre-gun. I flicked my long trench coat open, making sure he could clearly see my SIA badge. Seems he wasn't impressed, judging by the sneer on his face.

"Supernatural Investigation Agency? Gotta be a fake 'cos you sure as hell aren't no paranormal." I could see his nose twitching as he sniffed the air, trying to identify my scent.

"I'd love to stand around and chat all night, but to be honest, it's pissing down, I'm cold and wet, and I've got better things to be doing. My shift ends in half an hour and I fully intend to have you bagged, booked, and in a cell by then."

"You ain't no SIA agent, bitch." He lunged for me, claws at the end of his fingers going for my throat. I knew a slice from those mean babies would cut my throat open, maybe even remove my head. Holding up my right hand, I threw my power at him.

"Freeze!" I demanded. "You are under arrest." I almost laughed. I'd frozen him, literally, mid change. He'd started to turn wolf as he'd leaped, but my interference had him suspended, part man, part wolf, unable to move.

"Oh, darlin', that's gotta sting." Approaching him with a grin, I reached for the cuffs on my belt. I read him his rights as I slapped a cuff around his wrists. Keeping him frozen, I tapped the comms unit on my wrist.

"Black here. Got him. In the alley just off Main and Magnolia. Bring the collar."

"Roger that," my partner Carter responded. Another trickle of rain worked its way down my back and I adjusted my collar in irritation.

Lights flashed and I heard the steady grumble of our patrol SUV approach. Carter stopped at the end of the alley, headlights on, windscreen wipers flapping against the downpour. Leaving the engine running, he jumped out and jogged to where we were waiting.

Carter fixed the collar around the wolf's neck then stepped back. Pulling my energy back to myself, I released him. He fell to his knees, groaning.

"See, sugar, all that could have been avoided if you'd just stopped when I asked you to," I told him sweetly, patting him on the head. With the silver cuffs and collar, his transformation had receded and he was back to his human form. Changing from man to wolf was painful: bones broke, organs rearranged themselves. To be frozen mid change just prolonged the agony, because when you were on the receiving end of my “gift” you could feel and hear everything, you could still breathe and sometimes speak, you simply couldn't move. Not supernatural, my ass.

Carter dragged the wolf to the back of the van and shoved him inside. A custom-built cage in the back with reinforced silver bars kept our more violent supernaturals under control during transportation to SIA HQ. The SIA had been formed twelve years ago to manage rogue paranormals, those killing or harming humans in any way. For a while, the stubborn humans thought they could control us and wasted precious years tying themselves up in bureaucracy before admitting they were ill equipped to deal with rogues. They barely managed to keep humans in check, let alone manage any supernatural element when the supernatural community came out twenty-five years ago.

I climbed into the passenger seat, dripping water all over the seat and floor. A rumble of thunder accompanied the slamming of the door and I glanced up to catch a flash of lightning over the night sky. I loved storms, but running around in this freezing rain was the pits. Cranking up the heater, I put my hands out, rubbing them together and trying to instill some warmth.

"Good tag." Carter grinned at me from the driver's seat.

"Thank you. You weren't so shabby yourself."

While I'd been chasing after the wolf, Carter had bagged his two mates. He'd called backup and they'd already been loaded and were on their way to HQ.

"Fucking human hunt," he muttered, shaking his head as he reversed out of the alley and swung the car out into the street.

"Sick, isn't it? The humans don't stand a chance."

"Hey, we buy them fair and square!" our prisoner piped up. I turned in my seat to eyeball him.

"Fair and square? You idiot, you can't BUY humans."

"That's what you think."

I tried to grill him further, but he clammed up. I met Carter's gaze —someone was selling humans.

After dropping the wolf off at the holding cells, I slumped into my chair, wet coat and all. My hair hung around me in dripping strands. It had been a long night and I was cold and tired. Carter shrugged out of his jacket and took the seat at the desk opposite mine. We were four stories underground, so I couldn't hear if the storm was easing, but the lights flickered, so I took that as a no, Mother Nature wasn’t done ranting yet.

"You look beat," Carter observed critically. No doubt noticing the dark shadows beneath my eyes. Given my pale skin, the slightest shadow or bruise showed up beautifully, like a grease mark on a white shirt.

"You know, candle both ends." I waved my hand around vaguely. "Don't start fussing. You know I don't like it."

"Well, someone has to. Honestly, you don't take very good care of yourself."

"Hey, I do so. I've been looking after myself almost since birth. If you don't count those years when I was learning to walk and talk and all that infant stuff." I'd been abandoned at a church as a newborn. The nuns had taken me in and named me Raven on account of my head of black hair. The human government had whisked me away, given me the surname of Black because they're imaginative like that, and I'd grown up in a series of orphanages and foster homes until I ran away at fifteen, waiting out those last three years until I was eighteen and in charge of my own destiny on the streets. Carter worried about me because I had no family, no mom to fuss and tell me I looked tired. So he graciously stepped into that role, whether I asked for it or not.

"Raven," he sighed, rubbing a hand over his face.

"So, selling humans eh?" I interrupted before he started one of his lectures. It worked, he dropped his hand and logged into his computer. I stayed slumped in my chair, content to let him do the work.

"Nothing’s coming up. We need to liaise with the Redmeadows PD and get a list of their missing persons."

Pulling myself together, I sat up and shrugged out of my coat, leaving it to fall inside out over the back of my chair. Logging in, I began searching our recent cases that involved humans turning up dead. If people were being sold, then there'd have to be some planning involved, time factors for buyers to be notified. Did they target a human first and take them, or simply steal some that suited their needs and offer them up for sale? How long would that take? A couple of days? A couple of weeks?

Any cases where the person had been reported missing within twenty-four hours of their death, I ignored. Unfortunately, in my line of business, once a human was missing, if it was a supernatural who'd taken them, then they were dead. Rogue supernaturals viewed humans as food, and it was our job at the SIA to put a stop to the rogues. I'd always thought the deaths were attributed to vampires because, obviously, they drank blood. But what if the wolves were playing their own hunting games? Maybe this went a whole lot deeper than anyone realized.

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