About the book
When an ancient artifact enslaves every werewolf on earth, humanity’s only hope is a thief…
Zoey Donovan should be happy. Her love life couldn’t be better, her demonic nemesis is on the run, business is booming, and no one has tried to kill her in seven whole months. But without her best friend to share it with, it all seems a little hollow. Neil, her fabulous furry wingman, is missing and two grumpy werewolf bodyguards have taken his place.
Undaunted by her humorless babysitters, she intends to track Neil down even if it means risking her newfound romantic bliss. But someone else has plans for Zoey, and he doesn’t intend to play nice. Lucas Halfer is desperate for revenge, and he knows just how to get it.
An ancient Roman legend tells of an artifact that will grant its possessor the power to control all wolves. No one, including Daniel and Dev, believes the Strong Arm of Remus is real but Zoey thinks Halfer might have already located it. With every werewolf pack in North America gathering in Colorado, the demon could enslave an unstoppable army.
To save the day, and possibly the world, Zoey will have to find a way to steal the Strong Arm of Remus from one of the most powerful demons in existence. Then again, impossible is kind of her specialty.
It isn’t the easiest thing in the world to ditch one bodyguard, much less two. The task is made infinitely harder when said bodyguards are also werewolves. They don’t tend to fall for the whole pointing one way as you run the other way “made you look” ruse. Even if you manage to arrange a small diversion, say a minor pixie invasion, once they handle the problem, they’re right on your ass again. A werewolf bodyguard will track you through a crowded club, across an enormous mall, and they’ll follow you into the ladies room if you take too long.
If, and I give this just as an example, you manage to dodge them long enough to catch a bus, at least one of those suckers will race after you. When you get off the bus you thought was your ticket to freedom, you get to face a wolf who’s had to hang on for dear life more than twenty city blocks. He’s breathed in enough exhaust fumes to make him one truly angry puppy, and you can kiss any goodwill you previously earned bye-bye.
When saddled with two men dedicated to curtailing your fun and freedom, you have to get creative. They don’t understand your need for alone time. Your privacy is not their concern.
Unfortunately, I really needed a little privacy.
I grinned at Zack Owens. Zack was my main tormentor, er, bodyguard. His brother, Lee, preferred to take whichever duty allowed him to prowl around in search of a threat. He claimed to have attention deficit disorder and an extreme dislike for staying put. Zack had drawn the short straw and got to be my main baby-sitter. From his constant taciturn expression, I don’t think he liked his job much. He looked at me across the table we were sitting at in Ether, my boyfriend’s nightclub, and got that “shit, what are you up to” look.
“Zoey, I swear to god, I have exactly one hour left on my shift.” Zack pointed an accusatory finger at me. I’d seen that well-manicured finger turn into a really dangerous claw on more than one occasion. “If you try to run off somewhere, I’ll lock you up for a week. I’ll write a report that will terrify Quinn and Donovan so much they’ll put another two guards on you.”
“That’s mean.” He wasn’t above doing just that. He would write a gleeful fiction, and the truth was it would probably be believed without question. I crossed my arms defensively. “And should you really be talking to your employer that way?”
Zack rolled his chocolate brown eyes. “You’re not my employer, Zoey. You’re my trial. You’re my tribulation. You’re my fucking headache at least eight hours a day. Your husband is my master. Your boyfriend is my boss. For some reason, they don’t want you dead, although I swear to god after that trick you pulled with the bus, I just might be the one who does you in.”
Maybe it was a little more than an example, but I stand by the attempt. Zack was more tenacious than I could have dreamed.
I’d met young Zack the previous year in Las Vegas when Danny, Dev, and I attended a vampire convention. It had been awful and wonderful. I died and met Hell’s big boss. That part had been crappy. The wonderful part had been finally sorting out my relationships. I’m that insane woman who’s madly in love with two men. I’m that insanely lucky woman who gets to keep them both. After Vegas, the boys decided to try alternative lifestyles. Given the boys in question were an earthbound faery prince and a vampire king, alternative is fitting.
I married Daniel Donovan through a sacred ceremony that ties a vampire to his companion. I’m his nightly meal, his best friend, and his true love, though lately I was replaced in the best friend role by my boyfriend, the other tip to our triangle.
Devinshea Quinn is the second in line for the Daoine Sidhe throne, not that he would last long on it. He’s mortal, a fact his people couldn’t accept. He left his home to make his way in the human world after he got sick of his mother’s manipulations. His twin brother was the heir, and I’d already promised his family a good thrashing if I ever had the chance to meet them.
Dev met me on a blind date, found he had an appetite for my personal brand of destruction, and our little triangle was formed. It was hard at first. There’d been jealousy and guilty tears and lots of heavy objects tossed about, but in the end, we settled into our happy ménage à trois. At least the boys seemed happy. I was fine with everything except their adamantly united front concerning the bodyguards.
“But Zack, it’s my birthday.” I was twenty-seven years old, but if I kept taking Daniel’s blood, I would be forever twenty-six. My husband is way better than Botox.
Zack shook his head and softened slightly. Despite his rough talk, I knew he had a certain fondness for me. It had been my friendliness that convinced him vampire kind wasn’t all bad. “I know it is, Zoey. Mr. Quinn has been running himself ragged trying to get your present. He’s taking it seriously.”
It didn’t surprise me that Dev was making a big deal out of the occasion. He’s the kind of man who enjoys the mundane rituals of everyday life. Dev is more than happy to follow convention because it gives him a sense of belonging. We might be an odd family, but we’re his family. “How about Danny?”
Zack’s face finally broke into a small smile. “I think he went to the comic book store yesterday.”
And that sounded like my Danny. Danny is the one who swoops in and saves me from all the evils of the world. I need saving more often than I liked to admit. Danny is the guy who can sweep me off my feet when he wants to. I mean that literally because he can fly. He’s also the guy who would buy my birthday present at a comic book store.
“So you aren’t patrolling my dad’s house during the party tonight?” I glanced around the club looking for tonight’s desperate plot to walk in the room. I had a meeting that I didn’t need prying werewolf ears to listen in on. It wasn’t really the listening part that bothered me. It was Zack’s propensity for tattling that made me insane. He just loved to file reports on me.
“Lee and I have the night off. The big guy can handle one little party.”
I waved as Sarah Day and her husband, Felix, entered the club. Sarah’s electric blue hair made her stand out in the crowd, but one really couldn’t help but look at Felix, too. His serene masculine beauty turned many a head as the couple made their way to the bar area. Felix looked like he might have been painted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Radiance just rolled off him. It’s possible he’d been the actual inspiration for that bit of art. Felix Day is a fallen angel. He’d found himself deeply in love with his former charge, Sarah, and decided to experience life on the Earth plane.
“Hey!” Sarah greeted me with a big hug.
“Hello, little cousin,” Felix said, smiling indulgently. “I understand it’s your birthday. Congratulations.”
“Thanks, Felix.” I noticed my distraction for the evening had just walked through Ether’s double doors. It was time to get rid of my bodyguard. “Zack, Sarah and I want Cosmos.”
“I’ll have the bartender bring you some,” Zack said, getting ready to motion a waitress over.
I shook my head and made a sour face. “It’s Tom tonight. Tom always puts too much Triple Sec in. It tastes too orangey.”
Sarah picked up my cues. “That’s right. His Cosmos are awful.”
“Zack’s are like heaven,” I told Sarah and then we both turned on the werewolf with feminine sighs and big doe eyes.
“I’m not a bartender anymore,” Zack groused.
“With talent like yours, Zack, you’ll always be my bartender.” Before Zack signed on for the hazardous duty of protecting me, he’d been a bartender in one of Dev’s clubs. He was a genius when it came to vodka. I still manage to talk him into making me drinks from time to time.
Zack sighed. “Fine, but only because it’s your birthday. I’m going to teach Tom how to make them. But Zoey, if you aren’t sitting here when I get back, I’m writing that report. You have no idea how creative I can get. I lie awake at night thinking of all the ways you could be killed.”
Sarah slapped the table as he walked away. “He’s very unfriendly. You should talk to Dev about that.”
She didn’t mention talking to Daniel. Dev was the one who might be moved by tears and feminine cajoling. Daniel was that rock someone shoved against a hard place. Unfortunately, unlike many things I could talk Devinshea into, he was in complete agreement with Danny on this one. It was getting harder and harder to get my way. The longer we all lived together, the more they realized to survive me they had to stand together. It was a lesson I wish they’d never learned.
“Won’t work,” I replied. “The boys love Zack and Lee. They never let me do anything.”
“Until Daniel hunts down Lucas Halfer, I doubt you’re going to get anywhere on that front,” Felix pointed out.
Lucas Halfer was the dumbass demon who’d gotten the jump on me six months ago and managed to pretty much kill me. He’d also killed Dev, but we’d been surrounded by vampires, and their blood brought us back. I’d gotten Halfer tossed out of Hell, and apparently he was holding a grudge.
“Watch this,” I said in a whisper as a lovely young woman walked past our table with a wink in my direction. She was dressed to kill in a halter top and jeans that made her golden skin shine and showed off her toned body. I kept my voice as low as possible. The music was thumping all around me and there was the loud chatter of the crowd, so if I kept it down, even Zack’s super hearing wouldn’t be able to make out what I was saying.
“Who is she?” Sarah didn’t take her eyes off the woman as she made her way toward the bar.
Zack was working the cocktail shaker when he caught her scent. One minute he was pouring out pink Cosmos and the next he was spilling said drink all over the place. I smiled as he lost his perfect control.
“She’s Lisa Hernandez.” I answered Sarah’s question with great satisfaction. “She’s Angelina’s older sister. You remember Justin’s girlfriend?”
“Yes.” Sarah had become well acquainted with Daniel’s vamps.
There were six of them, not including Chad, who we’d sent to spy on the Council. The Council didn’t know the rest of them even existed. Daniel found them and turned them. They were loyal to Daniel instead of the all-powerful Vampire Council. Angelina was a werewolf who’d come to Daniel for protection last year when her pack leader tried to force her to mate with someone she didn’t even like. Daniel had matched Justin and Angelina, and now they were happily living in my house since I’d agreed to move into Ether with Dev and Daniel. They shared my house in the country with a vampire/shapeshifter couple.
When I’d needed this particular favor, Lisa had been more than happy to oblige. “She’s a wolf, of course, and she’s also…in season.”
Sarah’s mouth dropped open. “That is so mean and evil and kind of brilliant.”
“I think Zack is going to drool,” Felix pointed out. “Yes, he is.”
The well-dressed wolf fumbled to dry off his sleeves and tried to straighten his jacket. Though Zack had taken a blood oath to my husband and was his official animal servant, he modeled himself after Dev. Daniel might be all strength and power and brooding intensity, but Dev is silky and smooth. He was always immaculately dressed and polished. You wouldn’t catch Devinshea Quinn wearing a wrinkled Spiderman T-shirt and jeans that might or might not have seen a washing machine lately. That was Danny’s territory.
A few weeks into his gig, I noticed that Zack started to emulate his boss. He’d traded his flannel shirts for silk and the jeans became cashmere slacks. He started a meticulous grooming routine and even joined my weekly mani-pedis. He claimed it was all part of his job, but he didn’t join me for the waxing portion of my spa day. All this had transformed the former bartender into a total big city hottie. Unfortunately, the nature of his job left him with little time for the ladies. I was just giving him an opportunity.
I watched as Zack smiled. It wasn’t quite that intimate, sexy smile of Dev’s that always set my heart racing, but he was trying. It isn’t easy emulating a man who would have been worshipped as an actual sex god in the olden days, but the werewolf gave it a go. Lisa smiled up at him, and I thought I saw Zack skip a couple of breaths. He looked down at his watch and his face fell a little when he realized how much of his last hour was left. He re-poured our drinks and added a third for that vixen Lisa, who accepted it with a sultry smile. Zack moved quickly to bring Sarah and me our orders.
“Here you go, girls.” He left a shaker on the table. “This is full so just pour some more if you need it.” Zack gave Felix a manly handshake. “Felix, since you’re here, I thought I’d just go hang out at the bar. I don’t want to get in the way of all the girl talk, you understand.”
“Absolutely,” Felix replied smoothly. “I’m sure I can handle the women.”
He couldn’t, but I wasn’t about to say that. Felix was absolutely the least scary thing at that table. Sarah and I were way scarier than Felix ever thought of being. Felix was a freaking pacifist. I liked guns and blowing things up. Sarah was a witch who had a way with dark magic. But if it made Zack feel safe leaving us in Felix’s incapable hands, I was willing to go with it.
Zack practically tripped over his expensive loafers trying to get back to the luscious Lisa.
“Poor Zack,” Sarah said with sympathy as she took a sip of her drink. “Damn, he’s good. He missed his true calling. Oh, well, when Lisa dumps him later, he can mix his own drinks.”
“I’m not that cruel. Lisa has no intention of dumping him. She’s had her eye on him for a month. She just hasn’t been able to get too close because he’s always working. I think our horny little wolf is going to be satisfied with tonight’s outcome. See, I’m nice. It’s just too bad I can’t use it more to my advantage.”
Sarah glanced around. “Where is she?”
I gave her a “don’t give up the game” look and she settled back down. Sarah’s recent sojourn on the Hell plane may have netted her one hot husband, but it had done nothing to keep her subterfuge skills sharp. “She’ll be here. When she walks up to us, we need to pretend she’s an old friend.”
Shaking his golden curls, Felix sighed. “Do I need to point out how upset the boys are going to be when they inevitably discover this plot of yours?”
I didn’t need that lecture. “They aren’t going to find out. Why do you think I went to so much trouble playing wolf pimpette? Daniel and Dev both told me they don’t want to talk about this particular problem. I’m just following orders. Besides, they’re so busy getting ready for this big werewolf meeting they don’t have time to follow my little plots.”
“And you aren’t going to say anything,” Sarah warned him.
Felix held up his hands in complete surrender. “I just thought I would point out the obvious. The relationship Zoey finds herself in is dependent on trust between the three of them. I wouldn’t want her to screw everything up just because she wants to avoid a fight.”
But I really, really wanted to avoid this particular fight. They were completely unreasonable, and I wasn’t going to let their male pride and bravado get in the way of doing what was right. They should have known me well enough to figure out I wouldn’t let the subject drop. If they weren’t going to help me, I would find someone who would.
“Here she comes,” I whispered out the side of my mouth as Jane Nichols walked off the dance floor in her mini skirt and tank top. She looked super cute and young. On the surface, she looked like the girl you went to college with and wished you still saw on a regular basis because she was so much fun. She didn’t look like a badass werewolf private detective.
“Oh, my god, Zoey Wharton!” She practically squealed my name. She jumped up and down and pulled me into the girliest hug ever. I glanced back and saw Zack was comfortable the Legally Blonde reject wasn’t a threat. Even in the werewolf world, a female like Jane is considered soft and sweet right up to the point when she takes your head off. Her blonde Barbie look is one of her greatest assets.
“Jane, it’s been so long,” I said with a sorority sister sincerity. It hadn’t been that long. I’d been talking to her almost daily on my cell.
Jane seated herself and we chatted lightly, as though we were catching up. When I was satisfied that Zack was paying attention to Lisa and nothing else, I looked at Jane and asked the question I’d been asking every single day for the last six months.
“So where is Neil?”
Copyright Lexi Blake 2014