Cover & Excerpt
Shiftless Book One
He'll never let her fall.
Too bad she already has.
Amoy Tenir is no longer a prince among tigers, because the Hunters have claimed his lands.
He is a rebel with a single cause, until, on the precipice of a covert strike, his rag-tag group of Shifters rescues a woman he'd thought dead.
She's none other than Neera Spring, a human who, even as a ghost, ruled his heart. A forbidden lover who believed he sold her to slavers. The mother of his only son.
The world has changed; they could be together. But do they dare reconcile their savaged past with a hopeful future, when a common foe stands ready for war?
Genre: SciFi Paranormal RomancePurchase link(s): Amazon ARe iTunes Gumroad Kobo B&N
Content/Theme(s): Shifters, Steampunk, Fantasy
Release Date: August 10, 2015
Publisher: Man and a Muse Ventures
Excerpt & More
The world map lay stabbed full of twigs under Amoy Tenir's fingers. Each stick was the mark of another Tower. Another stronghold of mages–Hunters–that must be felled.
Amoy stared up through the canopy of the Droage Forest, at the spire gleaming an innocuous silver in the distance. Thousands of the same mage-constructs pulsed with energy that blanketed the world, a power strong enough to contain the beast within each and every Shifter.
Two weeks, and Shifter-kind would strike. A fortnight until the little pocket of rebellion he presently led of three other warriors, a healer, and his sister–who was both–would see the Tower ground to dust. Together with a global army of similar strike teams they'd deliver the world back to his people.
The cat sealed within his core closed its eyes, pleased with the knowledge that pain and rage finally had focus. Purpose.
They had nothing left to lose.
"Your Highness," came a barely audible address from the only northerner of the group, his unsettlingly pale skin splotched silvery gray and black.
"I believe we've dispensed with formalities, have we not, Taad?" Amoy tipped him an easy smile.
"Amoy," the younger man corrected, but still bobbed his head. Old habits. "The panda's back."
"It's 'Pan'. Call her by her beast and you'll be roasting over the spit for dinner. She's oddly bloodthirsty, for a healer." He waited for the slits in Taad's yellow-green eyes to contract to tiny, mortified pin-pricks. "Ah, but you are far too easy to fluster, leopard."
"It'd help if you had a tell." The younger man huffed softly, and crossed his arms.
"Oh, I do."
"Opening your mouth is not a tell."
Amoy grinned. So he could play. Good to know.
"They found someone. Injured. And," Taad paused, sending a look of concern his way, "they're moving her in with us."
His smile vanished. Amoy felt one rust-red eyebrow pop upward before he could school his expression, and it steadfastly refused to come down. The ladies were both healers. If they'd found someone on their sweep they would have worked in the field then directed the foundlings another way, not back to the makeshift encampment their cluster of rebels called home. "One of ours, then?"
"She's Forsaken." Taad jammed a hand through a thick fall of hair speckled silver and brown.
Amoy's other eyebrow joined the first. Definitely not Shifter. Unlike his kind, Forsaken often had a single shade of skin, lacking spots and stripes entirely. Though they were all technically human, inside a Forsaken there was no animal clamoring to be set free, no connection to a spirit that could see them more rapidly through injury or illness, and no use for Shifter healers and mystics beyond what herbs and poultices could provide. Prized by his people at one time for their expendability–cheap labor, cheap sport, and cheap . . . other entertainments–now they stayed in demand by slavers simply for their rarity.
Their people weren't affected by the Towers, but the Hunters had begun their crusade toward world dominance by being very, very good at tracking Forsaken energy. And then at crippling Shifter cities through wholesale extermination of the slave populace.
Amoy bared his teeth, the low rumble of a snarl thrumming in his chest. He bore no ill against their kind, but a Forsaken in their midst was akin to sending up a smoke signal to the enemy.
A feminine chuckle sounded overhead. "I take it you don't approve."
"I do not."
"If it helps, we left her tech behind."
He turned a grim look toward the branches.
"It was broken anyway." Yanna hopped lithely to the forest floor, rust-red locks settling over her moss green cloak.
Amoy didn't miss the swift intake of Taad's breath–nor the way the leopard took in the full length of her, right down to the bare, painted toenails. War had turned the pampered Tenir princess into a warrior queen, traded her gowns for tunics and shaped her leaner, harder, more wicked . . . and more wanted; that is, if the flush of actual color in Taad's cheeks was any indication.
The look she laid on the poor lad in return was anything but discouraging.
He nearly groaned. A northerner. Seven Skies, but Mother would be rolling in the family crypt.
Her scent was . . . tired. And there was something else, something . . .. Blood. Not hers. A deeper breath brought him a layer of pain and persimmons. No, this scent wasn't Pan's either. A familiar scent, but not Shifter.
Amoy shook his head to clear the strange sense of recognition. He met his sister's serious gaze and then looked her over with care. The rugged brown tunic and leggings looked clean and intact enough. Her amber eyes held a weariness that belied the earlier humor in her voice.
"Taad," Amoy ordered without taking his gaze from her, "get blankets to the healer and set a pot on the coals."
"Blankets, yes. Shelter Four. And thank you." Yanna nodded. When the other man was out of view, she stepped to the log Amoy had made a table and braced her palms on it. Rust-colored flecks stained her fingertips.
"I trust you have a plan to keep the Hunters off our backs while we play nursemaid." Assumptions were dangerous in this game, but his sister–the whole team–knew what was at stake.
"Pan is blocking her energy." The straight fall of her hair cascaded around her face, hiding–from the hollow sound of her alto voice–an expression of horror.
"There were spiders." A fine shudder shook her cloak. "They had her pinned. Unconscious. Were gnawing–" Her words ended on a gurgle.
Big spiders, then. He closed his palms over her shoulders and squeezed. After a moment, he rolled his grip over muscle bunched tight with old terrors. "Will they be a problem?"
"Probably." Even so, the hitch in her posture eased under his thumbs.
"Then we'll have to go back out."
"Have to anyway," Yanna said, digging into the tree bark with fingertips that two years prior would've bristled with claws and left gouges in their wake. "Seems she wasn't alone, and they carried off the other one. From what we could gather, anyway."
Amoy released her at this, leaning a hip against the fallen log. "It is not our mission to rescue wayward travelers. We need to clear out a nest so they don't cut off an escape route, fine. But the plan–everyone's plan–is to sneak closer, lay low until the time is right, and then to strike. We can't do that with refugees in tow."
Her head came up sharply. "I took an oath, brother."
"Yes, yes. Do no harm. To Shifter-kin."
Amber irises lit like fire. "To those in need."
"And you would put this oath before your kingdom? Jeopardize its future?" It was a challenge. She had never been meant for the crown; if she wished to be both ruler and protector she had to think from both perspectives. And then learn balance.
Her shoulders slumped. "You weren't there. You didn't hear the . . . "
She couldn't even finish the sentence. He wouldn't argue with her nightmares, things worse than Hunters to an untrained cub. None of their line would forget the twin she'd lost, the breath-rending screams, the small, bleached bones that were all that were left of their brother's body.
Another fine shudder of her cloak as she stretched her fingers outward and straightened. Then an imperious look was aimed his way.
A lesser breed of Shifter would have bent the knee in an instant.
Amoy just sighed.
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Be on the lookout for Cera Daniels' future release(s): Vigilante's Dare coming December 2015
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