View our feature on Patricia Briggs’s Bone Crossed.Shapeshifter Mercy Thompson hit the #1 spot on the bestseller list with Iron Kissed...
And she's planning a return trip.
Marsilia, the local vampire queen, has learned that Mercy crossed her by slaying a member of her clan. Now, she's out for blood. But since Mercy is protected from direct reprisal by the werewolf pack-and her relationship with its sexy Alpha-it's not Mercy's blood Marsilia is after...
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Patricia Briggs lives in Montana with her husband, children, and six horses.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Table of Contents
Titles by Patricia Briggs
The Mercy Thompson Novels
The Alpha and Omega Novels
ON THE PROWL
(with Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance, and Sunny)
STEAL THE DRAGON
WHEN DEMONS WALK
THE HOB’S BARGAIN
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
1. Thompson, Mercy (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Automobile mechanics—Fiction.
3. Metamorphosis—Fiction. 4. Vampires—Fiction. 5. Werewolves—Fiction. I. Title.
For Jordan, whimsical, musical friend of critters furred, scaled, and feathered
There are dozens of people who have helped in this endeavor, but I am especially grateful to those who, on a moment’s notice, went through the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb—Mike Briggs, Dave and Katharine Carson, Laurie Martin, Jean Matteaucci, Anne Peters, Kaye Roberson, and Anne Sowards. I also would like to take a moment to thank the people who’ve worked so hard to determine that, yes, you can indeed cast a silver bullet—Mike Briggs, Dr. Kevin Jaansalu, Dr. Kyle Roberson, and Tom Lenz.
I STARED AT MY REFLECTION IN THE MIRROR. I WASN’T pretty, but my hair was thick and brushed my shoulders. My skin was darker on my arms and face than it was on the rest of my body, but at least, thanks to my Blackfoot father, I’d never be pasty pale.
There were two stitches Samuel had put in the cut on my chin, and the bruise on my shoulder (not extensive damage considering I’d been fighting something that liked to eat children and had knocked out a werewolf). The dark thread looked from some angles like the legs of a shiny black spider. Aside from that slight damage, there was nothing wrong with my body. Karate and mechanicking kept me in good shape.
My soul was a lot more battered than my body, but I couldn’t see it in the mirror. Hopefully no one else could either. It was that invisible damage that left me afraid to leave the bathroom and face Adam, who waited in my bedroom. Though I knew with absolute certainty that Adam wouldn’t do anything I didn’t want him to do—and had wanted him to do for a long time.
I could ask him to leave. To give me more time. I stared at the woman in the mirror, but all she did was stare back.
I’d killed the man who’d raped me. Was I going to let him have this last victory? Let him destroy me as he’d intended?
“Mercy?” Adam didn’t have to raise his voice. He knew I could hear him.
“Careful,” I told him as I left off mirror-gazing and began pulling on clean underwear and an old T-shirt. “I have an ancient walking stick, and I know how to use it.”
“The walking stick is lying across your bed,” he said.
When I came out of the bathroom, Adam was lying across my bed, too.
He wasn’t tall, but he didn’t need height to add to the impression he made. Wide cheekbones and a full, soft mouth topping a stubborn jaw combined to give him movie-star beauty. When his eyes were open, they were a dark chocolate only a shade lighter than mine. His body was almost as pretty as his face—though I knew he didn’t think of himself that way. He kept himself in shape because he was Alpha and his body was a tool he used to keep his pack safe. He’d been a soldier before he was Changed, and the military training was still there in the way he moved and the way he took charge.
“When Samuel gets back from the hospital, he’s going to spend the rest of the night at my house,” Adam said without opening his eyes. Samuel was my roommate, a doctor, and a lone wolf. Adam’s house was behind mine, with about ten acres between them—three were mine and the rest were Adam’s. “We have time to talk.”
“You look horrible,” I said, not quite truthfully. He did look tired, with dark circles under his eyes, but nothing short of mutilation could make him look terrible. “Don’t they have beds in D.C.?”
He’d had to go to Washington (the capital—we were in the state) this weekend to clean up a little mess that was sort of my fault. Of course if he hadn’t ripped Tim’s corpse into bits on camera, and if the resultant DVD hadn’t landed on a senator’s desk, there wouldn’t have been a problem. So it was partially his fault, too.
Mostly it was Tim’s fault, and whoever had made a copy of the DVD and mailed it off. I’d taken care of Tim. Bran, the head-honcho werewolf above all of the other head-honcho werewolves, was apparently taking care of the other person. Last year, I would have expected to hear about a funeral. This year, with the werewolves barely having admitted their existence to the world, Bran would probably be more circumspect. Whatever that would mean.
Adam opened his eyes and looked at me. In the dimness of the room (he’d only turned on the small light on the little table by my bed), his eyes looked black. There was a bleakness in his face that hadn’t been there before, and I knew it was because of me. Because he hadn’t been able to keep me safe—and people like Adam take that pretty seriously.
Personally, I figured it was up to me to keep me safe. Sometimes it might mean calling in friends, but it was my responsibility. Still, he saw it as a failure.
“So have you made up your mind?” he asked.
Would I accept him as my mate, he meant. The question had been up in the air too long, and it was affecting his ability to keep his pack under control. Ironically, what happened with Tim had resolved the issue that had kept me from accepting Adam for months. I figured if I could fight back against the fairy magic potion Tim had fed me, a little Alpha mojo wasn’t going to turn me into a docile slave either.
Maybe I should have thanked him before I hit him with the tire iron.
Adam isn’t Tim, I told myself. I thought of Adam’s rage when he’d broken down the door to my garage, of his despair when he persuaded me to drink out of that damned fae goblet again. In addition to robbing me of my will, the goblet also had the power to heal—and I’d needed a lot of healing by that point. It had worked, but Adam had felt like he was betraying me, believed I’d hate him for it. But he’d done it anyway. I figured it was because he wasn’t lying when he said he loved me. When I’d hidden in shame—I put that down to the fairy brew, because I knew ... I knew I had nothing to be ashamed about—he’d pulled my coyote self out from under his bed, bitten my nose for being foolish, and held me all night long. Then he’d surrounded me with his pack and safety whether I needed it or not.
Tim was dead. And he’d always been a loser. I’d be damned if I was going to be the victim of a loser—or anyone else.
“Mercy?” Adam stayed on his back on my bed, taking the position of vulnerability.
In answer, I pulled the T-shirt over my head and dropped it on the floor.
Adam was off the bed faster than I’d ever seen him move, bringing the comforter with him. He had it wrapped around me before I could blink ... and then I was pressed tightly against him, my bare breasts resting against his chest. He’d tipped his head to the side so my face was pressed against his jaw and cheek.
“I meant to get the blanket between us,” he said tightly. His heart pounded against mine, and his arms were shaking and rock hard. “I didn’t mean you had to sleep with me right now—a simple ‘yes’ would have done.”
I knew he was aroused—even a regular person without a coyote nose would have known it. I slid my hands up from his hips to his hard belly and up his ribs and listened to his heart rate pick up even further and a light sweat broke out on his jaw under my slow caress. I could feel the muscles in his cheek move as he clenched his teeth, felt the heat that flushed his skin. I blew in his ear, and he jumped away from me as though I’d stuck him with a cattle prod.
Streaks of amber lit his eyes, and his lips were fuller, redder. I dropped the comforter on top of my shirt.
“Damn it, Mercy.” He didn’t like to swear in front of women. I always counted it a personal triumph when I could make him do it. “It hasn’t even been a week since you were raped. I’m not sleeping with you until you’ve talked to someone, a counselor, a psychologist.”
“I’m fine,” I said, though in fact, once distance had released me from the safety he brought with him, I was aware of a sick churning in my stomach.
Adam turned so he was facing the window, his back to me. “No, you’re not. Remember, you can’t lie to a wolf, love.” He let out a breath of air too forcefully to be a sigh. He rubbed his hair briskly, trying to get rid of excess energy. Obligingly, it stuck up in small curls that he usually kept too short to look anything but neat and well-groomed. “Who am I talking about?” he asked, though I didn’t think the question was directed at me. “This is Mercy. Getting you to talk about anything personal is like pulling teeth at the best of times. Getting you to talk to a stranger ...”
I hadn’t thought myself particularly closemouthed. Actually, I’d been accused of having a smart mouth. Samuel had told me more than once that I’d probably live longer if I learned to bite my tongue occasionally.
So I waited, without saying a word, for Adam to decide what he wanted to do.
The room wasn’t cold, but I was shivering a little anyway—it must be nerves. If Adam didn’t hurry up and do something, though, I was going to be throwing up in the bathroom. I’d spent too much time worshipping the porcelain goddess since Tim had made me overdose on fairy juice to view the thought with any equanimity.
He wasn’t watching me, but he didn’t need to be. Emotions have a scent. He swung back to look at me with a frown. He took in my state with one comprehensive look.
He swore and strode back to me, wrapping me in his arms. He pulled me tight against him, making low, soothing sounds in the back of his throat. He rocked me gently.
I took a deep breath of Adam-scented air and tried to think. Normally, this wouldn’t be difficult for me. But normally I wasn’t all but naked in the arms of the hottest man I knew.
I’d misunderstood what he’d wanted.
To double-check, I cleared my throat. “When you said you needed my answer to your claim today—you weren’t actually asking for sex?”
His body jerked involuntarily as he laughed, rubbing his jaw against my face. “So, you think I’m the kind of person who’d do something like that? After what happened just last week?”
“I thought that’s what it took,” I mumbled, feeling my cheeks heat up.
“How long did you spend in the Marrok’s pack?”
He knew how long. He was just making me feel stupid. “Mating wasn’t something everyone talked to me about,” I told him defensively. “Just Samuel ...”
Adam laughed again, one of his hands on my shoulder, the other moving in a light caress on my butt, which should have tickled but didn’t. “I just bet he was telling you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth right then.”
I tightened my grip on him—somehow my hands had landed on his lower back. “Probably not. So all you needed was my agreement?”
He grunted. “It won’t help with the pack, not until it’s for real. But with Samuel out of the way, I thought you’d be able to decide if you were interested or not. If you weren’t interested, I could regroup. If you agreed to be mine, I can wait until Hell freezes over for you.”
His words sounded reasonable, but his scent told me something else. It told me that my reasonable tones had soothed his worries, and his mind was now on something other than our discussion.
Fair enough. Being this close to him, feeling his heat against me, feeling his heartbeat race because he wanted me ... someone told me that knowing someone desires you is the greatest aphrodisiac. It was certainly true for me.
“Of course,” he said, still in that curiously calm voice, “waiting is much easier in abstract than reality. I need you to tell me to back off, all right?”
“Mmm,” I said. He brought a cleanness with him that washed the feel of Tim off my skin far better than the shower did—but only when he touched me.
I lowered my hands, sliding them beneath the waistline of his jeans and digging my nails lightly into his skin.
He growled something more, but neither of us was listening. He turned his head and tilted it. I expected serious and got playful as he nipped at my lower lip. The roughness of his teeth sent tingles to my fingertips, zings past my knees and down to my toes. Potent things, Adam’s teeth.
I brought my suddenly shaking han...
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