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They found him in a no-name bar in a no-name town, playing pool and getting hustled by a human. Tanner spared a moment to determine he would rather continue to be hustled out of his hard earned cash than to talk with the two shifters who stood at the other end of the pool table.
He bent at the waist to take his shot, brushing an errant lock of hair out of his face as he did so. The redheaded woman in the pink shirt and blue jean mini that barely covered her ass noticed the gesture. He wondered how fast he could get rid of the two reminders of a life he’d left behind ten years ago, so he could make a move on the human.
Tanner took his time taking his shot, partially as an excuse to size up the intruders on his shifter-less life. Finnegan Hennigan, coppery hair, pale blue eyes, same age as Tanner, arguably the best tracker in Tanner’s former pack—if not the country. Not surprising they’d found him, with Finn assigned to the task.
The other one was Mickey Rollins, dark hair, dark eyes, a young punk who couldn’t be more than twenty, was probably more like seventeen or eighteen. Tanner remembered him as one of the many in the pack who idolized the pack leader and everything he stood for.
“Your father sent us,” Mickey said when Tanner made no move to acknowledge their presence.
Tanner did not take his eyes off the pool table. “There’s a shadow on the table,” he commented in a gravelly voice that was rough as sandpaper from lack of use. Tanner didn’t talk much. He didn’t have anyone in his life worth talking to.
Mickey scowled, but obligingly shuffled to the side. Finn smirked. Tanner took his shot, a sloppy one that nonetheless landed in the corner pocket. His human opponent nodded his approval and offered a word of advice for the next time he had the same opportunity. Mickey looked enraged that the human was even speaking to Tanner, let alone offering him advice on playing pool.
“He wants to see you, Tanner.” Mickey tried again to pull Tanner’s attention.
“I don’t give a fuck what that bastard wants.” He took another shot and succeeded in pocketing the cue ball.
“He captured a lightbearer.”
Tanner didn’t even lift an eyebrow. “Again? You know, Wyoming doesn’t have a very large human population to begin with. At the rate my father is going, he’s going to wipe them out.”
“It’s for real this time,” Mickey assured him. He glanced at the human pool player, who appeared oblivious to their conversation as he proceeded to run the table.
It’s always “for real this time.”
“Quentin Lyons rules the most powerful shifter pack in the country. He has everything a shifter would want. Why the fuck does he keep wasting his time chasing myths?”
He even had women, any and all the women he could possibly want, Tanner thought ruefully as he eyed the redhead again. Unlike Quentin, Tanner sometimes had to work to attract a warm, willing body into his bed. At a young age, Tanner had become aware that Quentin made a habit of sleeping around, despite having been mated to Tanner’s mother for nearly forty years. Shifters may mate for life, but in Quentin’s world, that didn’t mean they had to stay faithful for life.
Another reason to despise the man.
“It’s not a myth,” Mickey insisted. His eyes darted to Tanner’s human opponent. Discussing business associated with the magical world was strictly off-limits in front of humans, and Tanner knew it was making Mickey nervous that he didn’t seem concerned that the human had overheard any part of their conversation.
“No one can inherit magic from anyone,” Tanner replied, deliberately speaking at a normal level. The human could hear their conversation, Tanner well knew. The thing about humans, he’d learned, was that they only heard what they wanted to hear.
“Quentin says it’s true,” Mickey stubbornly pressed on.
“So that makes it true?” Tanner said with sour amusement in his voice.
“Yes.” Mickey insisted, absolutely convinced.
Finn stood with his back against the wall, arms crossed over his chest, observing the interaction but offering no opinion. Tanner wondered if he even had an opinion on the subject, or if he followed blindly like all the rest in Quentin’s pack.
“Tell him I’m not interested in his stupid obsession,” Tanner suggested without looking at the messengers. He didn’t want them to see the guilt in his eyes. All three knew that if Tanner didn’t go back to the pack with Mickey and Finn, Quentin would take out his wrath on the messengers. It had happened plenty of times over the course of the last ten years. Every time they found him.
Time to move again.
Mickey shoved his hand into the front pocket of his jeans and pulled out a scrap of material. It was white with silver and gold thread woven into the material. He thrust the scrap at Tanner. “It’s true,” he insisted. “Feel this. You can still feel her magic.”
The human won the game and Tanner pulled two twenties out of his wallet. “Why don’t you go get us all a round?” he suggested. He wasn’t surprised when the human nodded his head and did Tanner’s bidding. Whether he wanted to acknowledge it or not, he was a natural born leader. Future pack master.
No. I made my choice. I chose to live by my own rules, not his.
He noticed that the redhead lost interest and moved away from the pool table, probably because none of the men in the pool area were paying her any attention. Not all my choices are my own, he thought with disappointment, as her swinging ass disappeared around the corner.
Tanner pulled his eyes away from the sight and studied the scrap of material. In truth, he could feel ... somethingwithout even touching the stuff. But it had to be a trick of some sort. There were plenty of other magical beings in the universe. Not many that lived in the human world, though. Only the shifters claimed that right. Everybody else hadtheir own worlds in which to live.
“Descendants of the fae,” Mickey said in an excited voice, reciting what they’d all learned as younglings, crouched around Quentin’s knee as he expounded about his obsession. “They moved to our world to get away from the fae, who were so obsessed with them that they wanted to enslave the entire race.”
“I sense a theme here,” Tanner drawled.
Mickey flushed and angrily pressed on. “Their magic is renewable. Everybody knows it.”
“Yeah, I get that they got their magic from the sun,” Tanner acknowledged. He eyed the scrap of material in Mickey’s hand. “But no one has seen a trace of lightbearers in over five hundred years. Somebody wiped them out. Probably our kind, trying to inherit their magic.”
“Probably our kind eating them for dinner,” Finn contributed to the conversation for the first time. “Back then we were slightly more primal.”
“Slightly,” Tanner remarked tongue-in-cheek. Finn smirked. Tanner recalled how they used to hang out together as kids. They’d shifted for the first time together. Now, Finn was Quentin’s best tracker and Tanner was doing his best to avoid getting sucked back into the pack.Time and change and all that.
“If a shifter kills a lightbearer, he’ll inherit its magic.” Mickey refused to give up on Quentin’s obsession.
Considering the only magic a shifter possessed was the ability to change forms at will, it was a heady idea to be able to steal another creature’s magic. Especially for one who considered himself to be the top of the food chain, even without much magic.
“Touch it,” Mickey demanded as he waved the bit of material in Tanner’s face.
Tanner batted at the material, if only to push it away. His fingers skimmed the surface. A jolt shot through his system, so raw and potent that his entire body reacted as if he’d been electrocuted.
“Told ya,” Mickey said triumphantly.
“Give me that,” Tanner said as he snatched the torn bit of material out of Mickey’s hand. He held it, reveling in the feel of magic there. It felt ... intoxicating. “Where did you get this?” he breathed as he stared at the gold and silver thread that wove a pattern through the white material.
“The lightbearer. Your father figured you wouldn’t come, unless you had proof.”
Tanner continued to stare at the material. It wasn’t true—was it? Tanner—and a great many other shifters—believed they didn’t really exist. His father had never let go of the belief that they were simply hiding, and all he had to do was find one of them. Just one.
Was his father right all along?
Fates be damned, but Tanner certainly hoped not. He’d spent the better part of his life desperately hating the man for what he represented, for how he ruled his pack, for the way he treated Tanner’s mother and every other woman in his pack. Most of all, he’d hated the man for his obsession over a race of magical creatures that Tanner had been certain no longer existed.
Tanner didn’t understand his father’s obsession. The man was already pack master over one of the largest and most respected—or at least feared—packs in the country. He didn’t need magic to gain prestige and power. He already had it all.
“Come on, Tanner,” Mickey begged. “He won’t let none of us see her until you come back to the pack. He says you get the first honor. Come on.”
Tanner continued to stare at the scrap of material for a few more moments, pondering his decision. Finally, he tossed the pool stick onto the table. “Damn it to hell,” he muttered as he turned and strode from the pool area, out of the bar and into the cool summer evening air.
Damn the man for luring him back like this.
* * * *
“Holy fuck. It’s true.”
Tanner stared at the evidence curled up against the far wall of one of the cells built into the basement of his father’s oversized manor home. Only Quentin Lyons would think to build underground cells when he was having his home custom built, some thirty years ago.
Tanner still couldn’t believe the man was right to keep searching, to keep obsessing. Yet there she was, a petite, fragile looking thing, sitting on the floor with her knees pulled up to her chest, glaring at him through iron bars that were obviously strong enough to dampen her magic at least somewhat. Otherwise, Tanner assumed she would have tried to escape by now.
She had long blonde hair that was tangled and matted and looked as if she hadn’t been captured easily. Which made sense, because otherwise, Quentin would have found one before now, right?
Her eyes were bright, bright blue, the opposite end of the spectrum from Tanner and many other shifters, who tended to have pale blue eyes. They were large in her small, heart-shaped face. Her torn dress was white with gold and silver designs sewn into it. The dress clung to a body that was slight, with small breasts, narrow hips, and thin legs.
What was most intriguing, however, was the faint shimmer of magic that danced around her body like a thousand tiny sparks. He could see it, even in this dimly lit basement.
“Yeah, can you believe it?”
Tanner turned his head to the left and studied the shifter who had been awarded the privilege of bringing him down to the basement. The kid stared at the caged lightbearer, panting slightly, a fox studying its prey in the hen house. Tanner subtly stepped to the right, bodily putting himself between the young shifter and the caged lightbearer.
“Aren’t you the asshole who killed four humans in cold blood just recently?”
The kid affected a defensive look. “I thought they were lightbearers.”
Tanner waved at the woman crouched in the cell. “Did they look like this? Remotely? Did magic spark off their skin?”
The defensive look turned mulish.
“I thought you were in the human jail?”
The kid shrugged. “I just waited until no one was around and then I shifted into the form of a rat and snuck away,” he boasted.
Tanner felt disgusted. Four lives, wasted, just because Quentin’s poison had seeped into the entire damn pack. Sometimes he felt like the only shifter who did not support his father’s evil ways. And he was blood related to the man. If anyone should feel obligated to believe in him, it should be Tanner. Yet he was the only one willing to defy the pack master. He’d moved away from the pack ten years ago and only came back on the rare occasion that Quentin pulled some stunt like this to lure him back.
Not that he’d ever managed to quite pull this stunt before.
“Get out of here,” Tanner snapped. He was relieved when the kid slunk away with only minimal protest. Technically, Tanner had no pull within this pack, not since he left and walked away from his birthright. But shifters were a hardwired lot, and it would be difficult for any of them to defy him, despite his standing—or lack thereof.
Once he was alone in the basement with the silently observing lightbearer, Tanner walked closer to the cell and leaned against the iron bars. Iron did not affect shifters the way it affected the fae—and lightbearers, apparently. He was pretty certain the petite woman shrank away from the iron more so than him.
She was attractive, he decided, despite the tangled hair and torn dress. But not his usual type. When he looked at the shimmering magical creature, the words elegant andrefined came to mind. Not words that would describe his lifestyle—or the women in it.
Tanner liked women who had only one expectation and understood that they were not invited to stay for breakfast. Women who looked like this lightbearer were not the sortwho understood the rules of that particular game. She was the type of woman Tanner would admire from a purely masculine standpoint and then walk away from—as he headed to the nearest nightclub.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
She didn’t answer.
“Are you really a lightbearer?”
She still refused to answer.
He stood there for a while, studying her, as she studied him back. She looked defiant, determined not to give him anything, especially answers.
“I’m not like the rest of them,” he said. “I don’t believe all that crap about killing lightbearers to gain their magic.”
He did not imagine the look of cautious relief in her eyes. So she knew the legends as well.
“Are you worried it’s true?” he asked.
“I am more worried that you’ll try to find out.” Her voice was soft, with an accent that was part Midwest, part something else, something ... magical.
He cocked his head. “Do you live here in this world?” he asked curiously. A magical creature with a Midwesternaccent?
Her chin lifted a notch and she refused to answer, but that was answer enough. Tanner whistled.
“Hot damn, not only was my father right about your continued existence, but he was right about you living in this world. Where do you live?”
Not surprisingly, she did not answer.
“I’ll find out from the ones who captured you, so you might as well tell me,” he pointed out.
“Vegas,” she finally ground out. She wrapped her arms more tightly around her legs and rested her chin on her knees as she continued to watch him with those overlarge eyes.
“You live in Vegas?” He was surprised by this information. Vegas did not seem very far from where his father’s pack lived, considering how far and wide he’d sent scouts to search for her species.
Although, in reality, Vegas made perfect sense. It was sunny nearly all the time, and eclectic enough that even magical creatures would be able to blend in fairly easily. He wondered how many of them lived in Vegas, and how his father had finally figured this out.
She shook her head. “That is where they caught me.”
“And what were you doing in Vegas?”
“Gambling. Playing. Enjoying myself. At least, I was until your stupid guard dogs figured out what I was,” she spat.
So she didn’t live in Vegas. “Not my guard dogs,” Tanner reminded her. “I’m not pack master here. Trust me, you’ll know him when you meet him.”
“I already have.” She shivered. Yep, she knew Quentin.
“Are there others in Vegas?”
She paused and then shook her head.
“Are there others in this world?”
“If you think I’m going to give up the location of the coterie, you are sadly mistaken. Even if I wanted to or was coerced to do so, I could not. We are all under the influence of a very powerful spell. It does not allow us to disclose the location, even under duress. You would simply have to kill me.”
“I’m not going to kill you,” Tanner spat irritably, and then he frowned. “What’s a coterie?”
“Where we live. A secret place that no one has discovered for five hundred years.” Her voice was slightly boastful.
“But it’s not in Vegas. So why were you in Vegas? Presumably alone?”
She hesitated again, and then apparently decided she had nothing to lose. “The coterie is like a tiny village. We are self-sustaining, all inclusive. We live our lives exactly as the king instructs us. It can become terribly oppressive.”
She complained like a petulant child. Tanner couldn’t help smiling. “And you prefer to have fun, regardless of the potential danger.”
“There hasn’t been a shifter attack in centuries,” she pointed out.
“You just said your coterie is so well hidden no one has found it in five hundred years.”
The woman frowned and said nothing.
“My name is Tanner Lyons. What’s yours?”
“Why do you care? You’re only going to kill me.” The shimmer of magic surrounding her body brightened for a moment. Tanner’s eyes flared briefly as he felt the impact as if she’d touched him, instead of simply glared at him.
He shook his head and made an exasperated sound. “I told you I’m not going to kill you.”
“I don’t think like the pack master. I didn’t even believe you all existed, let alone that you can share your magic.”And it would be a damn shame to kill someone so pretty.
“Then set me free,” she challenged.
“Shh,” he said as he cocked his head to listen to a sound only he could hear, thanks to his intensified shifter hearing. “Someone’s coming.”
The lightbearer shrank into herself, curling her body into a tighter ball as she watched the basement stairs with growing trepidation. Quentin had obviously made quite an impression on her.
Then he was there, the man himself. Tanner’s sire, not that he was particularly pleased or honored by that fact. Long, pitch-black hair, a well-groomed beard shot with silver and muscles to rival any twenty-year old, Quentin Lyons was without a doubt a force with which to be reckoned. If not for the silver in his beard and the fact that his eyes were black, whereas Tanner’s were a pale blue, the two men could be twins.
Tanner knew the only reason he’d been able to defy the pack master ten years ago was because he was Quentin’s only legitimate offspring, and his father was under the delusion that he would step up and take over the pack someday.
“Ah, the prodigal son returns,” Quentin drawled, his dark eyes sweeping over Tanner, as if searching for an indication that he’d decided to change his ways since the last time the two men met.
Tanner fought, as always, to remain passive in front of the dominant shifter. Do not let him know he gets to you.
“Mickey made it difficult to say no this time.”
Quentin chuckled. “As I knew he would. I told him it was his life or you. I am pleased he chose you. How did he do it?” At least he didn’t pretend Tanner wanted to be there.
“Produced a bit of fabric from the woman’s dress,” Tanner said as he thrust his thumb over his shoulder to indicate the lightbearer in the cage behind him.
Quentin nodded thoughtfully. “The boy is smarter than I gave him credit for. Perhaps it is time for a shift in the ranks.”
Tanner hoped not. A shift in the ranks was meant to be an honor, but to get there, Mickey would have to fight one of Quentin’s strongest guards in a dogfight that would probably kill one of them. Tanner’s money, unfortunately, would not be on Mickey to survive.
Quentin’s eyes shifted to the lightbearer. “I did it,” he murmured, sounding reverent. “I was right.”
“You were right that lightbearers still exist,” Tanner said carefully. Be that as it may, Tanner still could not accept the idea of killing this woman in cold blood, just on the off-chance that Quentin might inherit her magic.
“Can you see the magic, son?” Quentin’s eyes had begun to glow, a steady, dim light that was indicative of his level of excitement.
“It’s her magic,” Tanner said. “If you kill her, you kill the magic as well.”
“You don’t know that.”
“You don’t know that you will inherit it, either.”
“The legends were right about their existence,” Quentin pointed out. “Why would you think they wouldn’t be right about the magic?”
Tanner shook his head. “It doesn’t make sense. No magical beings have ever had the ability to share magic.Ever, in the history of magic. Leave her be. Let her go.”
Quentin’s eyes shifted to focus on Tanner. “You aren’t leading this pack yet,” he growled.
Tanner bit back his own growl. Telling his old man that he had no intention of ever ruling his pack would send the man into a rage, as Tanner well knew from past experience. And if his father flew into a rage, the petite lightbearer was most certainly as good as dead.
“You won’t inherit her magic if you kill her,” he tried again.
“You’re right,” Quentin surprised him by saying. “You will.”
What does Allison know about running an ice cream parlor? Nothing, but she's determined to figure it out. She doesn't have a choice. She quit her job as Carter's office manager, and if she sells the ice cream parlor, she won't have a place to live.
As if that isn't enough drama, hot detective Dan McIntyre has decided he's tired of waiting to make his move. Allison and Carter aren't together, so why not? Unfortunately, the discovery that somebody is selling drugs out of the ice cream parlor makes it easy for Dan to keep close tabs on Allison, and then when her apartment is shot up and Carter is out of town, well, the only thing that makes sense is for Dan to pack her up and move her into his house.
Allison has a lot of decisions to make, and the most important is Carter or Dan? Get ready for a breathtaking and hilarious trip down the Messenger River to -- hopefully -- Allison's happily ever after.
Meet nurse Kennedy St. George, a divorcee whose ex-husband stole everything she had to her name. She swears she'll never trust a man again. When she meets Jack, he convinces her that it's okay to have an affair -- no trust necessary.
While Jack is working undercover as a male stripper, he and Kennedy begin a heated affair that grows almost too hot to handle. Especially when Jack's case hits too close to home and Kennedy's life is in danger. Can Jack admit his feelings for Kennedy -- before it's too late?
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Tami spent her younger years living in Mid-Michigan before moving to northwest Louisiana as a teen, where she stayed, blissfully winter-free, for 11 years.
She graduated from Centenary College of Louisiana with a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies, which is not unlike a liberal arts degree -- well-rounded but with no real focus.
When she was 25, she met her own knight in shining armor, transplanting him from Michigan to live with her in Louisiana … which lasted just long enough for him to discover a bone-deep hatred of all things summer. Less than two years later, they packed up shop and relocated back to Michigan, causing Tami to discover a long-suppressed and much surprising love of winter. They have been in Michigan ever since, vacationing in beautiful places that eventually helped to create the backdrop for The Resort series.
Tami has been writing, well, forever, it seems. In reality, she has notebooks of “novels” she wrote while in junior high and high school, but then she took a fairly long break from writing when she discovered partying while attending college. That pastime carried her through until she was married, which naturally led to birthing a couple of babies, and it wasn’t until she was laid off from her “real” job in 2009 that she finally put pen to, er, fingers to keyboard again and let those bottled up creative juices flow.
Tami continues to write during every spare moment. She has self-published seven e-books and also has e-books published by Crimson Romance and Liquid Silver Books, all of which can be purchased through her website, www.tamilund.com.