The Elementals’ Challenge series is one I’m passionate about. Fire Danger is the first in the series. Before I tell you about my new release, I thought I’d give you an excerpt from the first book in the series.
All her life, a faint memory of her parents and fire has glowed at the back of Rachel Quinn’s mind. With her parents long dead, there is no one to clarify what it means.
When a gorgeous winged man rescues her from a pack of werewolves, something flares to life inside Rachel. Suddenly she can see the paranormal world around her, a world unseen by mortals. And far more complicated.
When Phoenix’s massive orange-and-red wings erupt from his back, he knows his Challenge-an age-old battle against his Demonos counterpart-is upon him. Heeding Rachel’s cry for help adds a layer of complexity never seen in any previous Challenge.
Rachel, they discover, isn’t entirely human. Like Phoenix, she commands fire. Fire calls to fire, and soon they are succumbing to a fierce attraction. As the Challenge bears down on them, though, Phoenix must discover what the Demonos has in store for mankind. If he doesn’t succeed, the entire world will be swallowed up in darkness-and Rachel along with it.
A mental lance of hate and anger flowed inside Rachel’s head, piercing it. On instinct she turned to Phoenix, who was standing impassively beside her as they waited for their turn. “Aleric?”
“Char and burn. I feel it.”
His head came up, and he scanned the café they were in. His eyes narrowed, only his head moving. His shoulders flexed instinctively, shifting as if the wings were there.
Loathing. Deep loathing emanated from somewhere. The kind of rolling hate that was so profound there were no words for it.
The host called another patron and they moved up in line. Phoenix’s head turned, and she followed his gaze to the outside as he continued to scan the crowd. She didn’t know what he was looking for.
Flesh rending, a hail of bullets ripping through skin, neat puncture holes on entry, exploding wounds, blood and sinew on exit. Blood spurting from a severed carotid artery, the knife wound jagged.
The images were horrific, and Rachel squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block them out. Her fingers heated and darkness flowed through her. She focused. The images clawed at her, making her wince.
“Shield,” Phoenix commanded.
She had a low-level crude shield in place at the moment to dim the human noise, but this rolling emotion pierced right through that. Three blind mice, see how they run…
The images slowed as she blocked them with stronger white noise, but didn’t stop.
She also observed the crowd, trying to find the person or people sending these images.
The host called them, and Phoenix slipped a hand under her arm to guide her. She wondered if it was also to keep her close in case of trouble. They walked to their small inside table, Phoenix continuing to scan the area as they did so.
They sat at the table, Phoenix awkwardly, his long legs and huge frame settling like a pretzel in the space.
The images were still gruesome—limbs being torn off, faces being bloodied—but her shielding helped.
He waited until the host had left.
Phoenix was beginning to focus in on one area, narrowing to the café across the street, scanning, searching…
Then, as suddenly as they started, the images stopped, winking out as if cut off by a knife.
“Damn,” Phoenix said softly. “He’s got a blocker.”
She cocked her head, studying him.
“There are devices—both sides have them but we rarely use them—that can stop the flow of thoughts. It’s as if a barrier goes up, blocking all thoughts of both the wearer and the world around him. They can’t hear us and we can’t hear them. Haures must have given her minion one. Unusual.”
“Do you…did you…want to go out and look for him?”
Phoenix shrugged, flicking open the menu. “With the blocker, he could be anyone. He is an underling, one of many the Demonos will lure into service before this is over. There are many like him. He is of little importance.”
His casual dismissal of the man rankled, and Rachel stiffened. He met her eyes, understanding flaring in their brown depths. For a few, intense moments there was nothing but the two of them, the hunger plain in his eyes.
“I am unused to humans,” he said after a long pause. “I am afraid I’m a bit out of practice dealing with mortals. Especially half-Ifrit ones.”
As an apology, it would have to do.
She concentrated but couldn’t hear the angry thoughts. Other feelings, from happy to murderous, beat at her until Rachel put up her shield. She breathed out a sigh of relief when the mind noise faded.
Try as she might, Rachel couldn’t get past the thoughts that drummed in her head, left there by the angry whoever-it-was. They ate quickly, and Rachel paid little attention to the unimpressive fare. After lunch Rachel found she had lost her taste for tourist attractions. Instead, she told him she wanted to be at his house, where it was safe. Their walk back to his car was in companionable, albeit watchful, silence. He had taken her hand without asking, and laced their fingers together. Their joined palms swung between them. She liked the warmth of his skin and his powerful body near her. It made her tingle and want to curve closer to him and feel his skin under hers.
Behind them the noise of the wharf faded as they moved into the hills of the city on their way to the parking space.
To their left, in a small alley near their car, there was a sound. That was the only warning.
“Phoenix,” the voice said.
Phoenix swiveled toward the alley and his wings appeared. He barely staggered when their weight and feathers manifested on his body, poking through the expensive blue shirt. He swung her behind him, under the orange-and-red wings, gripping her hips with his hands. His shirt had slits, like panels, clearly designed to accommodate his intermittent wings. In a moment his wings had closed over her shoulders, draping down her back to right below her butt, covering her in feathers and tendons.
She had never thought wings would be warm, but these were. She wanted to stroke the tendons and feel the feathers to see if they were as soft as they looked, or if they were spiky and sharp like the points that went into the ligaments.
The alley, similar to the one Phoenix had found her in a few days ago, was darker than the dimming street around them. She strained to see the being in front of them, but the faint light as well as his wings surrounding her made details impossible.
“Haures,” he acknowledged. His body was tense against hers. His wings quivered slightly. “What do you want?”
What kind of shifters are your favorites? Other than werewolves, and big cats, what other kind of shifters have you read?