Dead Heat: An Alpha and Omega Novel

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9780356501628: Dead Heat: An Alpha and Omega Novel

The new Charles and Anna novel

Praised as “the perfect blend of action, romance, suspense and paranormal" (Rex Robot Reviews), the Alpha and Omega novels transport readers into the realm of the werewolf, where Charles Cornick and Anna Latham embody opposite sides of the shifter personality. Now, a pleasure trip drops the couple into the middle of some bad supernatural business....

For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles’s role as his father’s enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal, as Charles plans to buy Anna a horse for her birthday. Or at least it starts out that way....

Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae’s cold war with humanity is about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire.

"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

About the Author:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs lives in Washington State with her husband, children, and a small herd of horses.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

PROLOGUE

 

DECEMBER

The fae lord stalked back and forth in his cell of gray stone. Three steps, turn, four steps, turn, three steps. He could do it all day. Had, in fact, done it for two weeks.

His boots were soft and he made no sound as he paced. Sound distracted him unduly from his purpose—which was to bore himself to the point where he no longer thought about anything.

His clothes, like his boots, were practical, but still representative of his position as High Court Lord—though he no longer remembered much about that part of his life. Even so, his long red hair was confined in a complicated series of braids that trailed on the floor behind him, a court fashion of at least a millennium ago. Doubtless if there were still courts, still High Courts, he would be considered out of fashion entirely.

He’d worn High Court dress for the first week he was here, but there was no one to impress, so he’d left them off and exchanged them for the more comfortable clothing. He could have put on jeans, he supposed, but he was losing that long-ago lord a day at a time, and the clothes served as a reminder of what he had once been—though some days, some years, he could not remember why it was that remembering what he had once been was so important.

There was a knock on his door, and he hissed in irritation because he’d nearly succeeded in numbing himself to the imprisonment. Immortality was a curse because no matter how powerful you were, there was always someone more powerful. Someone to obey. Someone who stole what was yours and left you with the dregs of what you once had. Then they took that, too, and here he was in this prison while his gut ached with need and his body missed magic like meat missed salt. Without magic, he had no savor.

The knock sounded again. He’d pissed off whoever it was because his whole prison shook with a noise that hurt his ears and his heart. Wonderful. One of the Powers had come to call upon him. He almost didn’t answer—what more could they do to him than they had already done?

He stopped in the middle of the room, because, of course, there was always something worse they could do. It didn’t do any good to speculate upon what. He said, “Come in, then.”

The woman who stepped in was neat and small. She almost stirred that beast inside him. But then she spoke and the illusion was gone.

She was the spiritual archetype of the evil queen in the fairy tales, partially because she’d participated in quite a few of the actual events that had spawned the tales. She adored causing misery and pain to the short-lived humans. All those centuries of power lived in her voice, even if she liked to hold the appearance of helplessness.

“Underhill will become anything for you,” she said, her lip curling as she looked around his current home, “and you chose a prison.”

He straightened warily. “Yes, lady.”

She shook her head. “And they want you?”

She didn’t say who “they” were, or what they wanted him for. He didn’t ask because he still had some sense of self-preservation.

She walked around the small room. “They say you have imagination.”

She folded her arms as she walked, twisting her torso first so as to see the ceiling stones and then turning until she got the proper angle to see the subtle bend in the wall that made his hiding place less noticeable. She loosened the granite block, the only one without mortar. “They say you know how to hide from humans, from fae, from other creatures who might hunt you because your glamour is so very good.”

He wanted to stop her, to keep her from finding his treasure. He wanted to destroy her. But they had taken away his power and he was left with nothing. But that was vanity speaking; he knew that even if he’d had his power, it would have done him no good against one of the Gray Lords.

He watched as she pulled out the block and found the cubby it hid. She took out the doll he kept there and straightened the pretty yellow skirts, her fingers lingering on the faded tearstains.

A child cries with her whole heart, keeping nothing back. A child lives in the present, and that gives her pain an endless quality. Magic-shorn as he was, he could taste the power of those tearstains from here.

She put the doll back and replaced the block thoughtfully. Then she looked at him. “They tell me you were a skilled magician, subtle and powerful. Once the flower of a powerful High Court—later the bane of it, the first dark root of destruction. Able to hide from the best trackers.”

“I don’t know who they are or what they say,” he told her truthfully, trying to hide his temper.

She smiled. “But you don’t argue with the sentiment.” She walked toward him and touched his face with her left hand.

His glamour fell away, the illusion that truly represented the lord he had once been. But as his magic had twisted and fouled, so had his true form twisted and fouled over the years. He waited for her to recoil; he was not good to look upon, but she smiled. “I have a gift for you. A gift and a task.”

“What task is that?” he asked warily.

“Don’t worry,” she said, putting her right hand on the side of his neck. “You’ll enjoy the job, I promise.”

And his magic came back to him, flooding his body like the heat of the dead. He screamed, dropped to the floor, and writhed as the beautiful agony enveloped him.

She bent down and whispered in his ear, “But there are rules.”

CHAPTER

1

“Okay,” said Charles Cornick, younger son of the Marrok who ruled the werewolves in North America and also, Anna had come to believe, the rest of the world. De facto if not officially. If Bran Cornick said, “Sit up and go there,” there was not a werewolf in the world, Alpha or not, who wouldn’t obey.

Charles had inherited a lot of the dirty work that allowed his father to keep their people, their werewolves, safe. The fallout when a good man was forced to commit heinous and necessary acts was that Charles’s emotions could be mysterious even to himself.

For instance, he’d just said “Okay” when Anna could tell he was anything but okay with the topic at hand. She knew that from the way her husband got up abruptly from the stool where he’d been playing and put his battered old guitar up on the wall hook. Restless, he wandered across the hardwood floor to the big window and looked out at the February snow falling down. There was a lot of it: it was winter in the mountains of Montana.

If he had been a little less self-disciplined, she was pretty sure he would have hunched his shoulders.

“You said I should look into it,” Anna told him, feeling her way. She knew Charles better than anyone, and still he was sometimes impossible to read, this wonderful and complex man of hers. “So I did, starting with your brother. Samuel tells me he’s been working on the problem of werewolf babies for a long time, though not quite from our angle. Children apparently were something of an obsession of his before he found Ariana again. Did you know that werewolf DNA is just like human DNA? You can’t tell the difference unless the sample is taken when we are in our werewolf form—then it’s different.”

“I did, yes,” said Charles, apparently happy to talk about something, anything, else. “Samuel told me when he figured it out a couple of decades ago. Not the first time having a doctor in the family has been useful. I think that a human scientist published that data last month in an obscure journal; doubtless it’ll make the newspapers sooner or later.”

The alternative subject allowed him to relax enough to give her a wry smile over his shoulder before looking back out at the snow. “My da was overjoyed. Because of that, there is no way to use a blood test to see if someone is a werewolf or not—unless you’re testing the actual wolf, in which case the point is moot. I’m not sure he’d have ever brought us out into the open if it were so easy to identify us.”

“Okay.” Anna nodded. “It’s a good thing. Mostly. Except that there’s no way to tell if an embryo is human, genetically, or werewolf, if we want to go with a surrogate.”

“A surrogate,” he said.

She had hopes for the surrogate card. Charles’s mother had died giving birth to him. She knew that part of his objection, maybe his whole objection to having children, was the risk to her.

“If I can’t carry a baby to term because I have to change every full moon, then a surrogate is the obvious option. No one has done it before—so far as we know, anyway.”

He didn’t say anything, so she continued, laying out the issues for him. “Because there’s apparently no way to tell which embryo is werewolf, human, or some combination of the two, there’s still a good chance of spontaneous abortion, the same problem human mates of werewolves have. And then there’s the issue of what happens to a human woman who carries a werewolf baby for nine months. Will she become a werewolf? Samuel said we ought to consider a surrogate who wants to be a werewolf. That would eliminate the risk of catching . . . um . . . being infected . . .”

He said, very dryly, “Feeling diseased, Anna?”

No. But she wasn’t going to let him distract her.

“It would eliminate problems if such a pregnancy does make her Change, if our child is a werewolf instead of human,” she said with dignity. This wasn’t going at all well. “We don’t know if carrying a werewolf baby and giving birth would infect the mother—or if so, when. No one but your mother has ever carried a werewolf baby to term. If the surrogate wanted to Change in the first place, that would eliminate one part of that problem. The other being if the surrogate is Changed before the baby is viable.”

His back was now all the way toward her. “It sounds like we are offering a bribe. Carry our baby and we’ll let you Change. With the implied corollary—whatever we say or deny—that if you don’t carry our baby we won’t allow you to Change. And there is also the truth that most people die during the Change, and fewer women survive than men.”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “It sounds ugly when you put it like that. But there are a lot of surrogate births every year—and normal pregnancy is a life-and-death risk, too. If the surrogate goes into it knowing what might happen, and she’s still willing to make that deal in exchange for money and/or the chance to be Changed, I don’t have a problem. It’s still a risk, but it is an honest risk.”

“So we can risk someone else for this, can we?” he said, the hint of a savage growl in his voice. “Because they know as much as we know about what might happen to them, though we really don’t know anything.”

She opened her mouth to tell him about the things in the thick file Samuel had sent her, but she reconsidered. Maybe if she went at the problem from a different direction she’d get better results.

“Alternatively,” she said, “because science is having trouble with magic, I thought maybe someone who dealt with magic would have some ideas. I called Moira—”

He turned back to her, and some chance of light brought out the bones of his face and outlined his shoulders. He was so beautiful to her. His Salish heritage gave him bronze skin and rich, almost-black hair and eyes. Hard work and running as a wolf gave him the muscles that defined the contours of his warm skin. But it was the core of integrity and . . . Charlesness that really made her heart beat faster, that swamped her with knee-weakening desire.

Not just lust—though who wouldn’t lust after Charles? She savored the whole of him and thought again, Who wouldn’t lust after Charles? But she was consumed with the desire to claim him, to wrap herself in his essence.

Charles allowed her to understand the line in the marriage vows about “these two shall become one flesh.” That sentence had annoyed her immensely when she was nine or ten. Why should she give up who she was for some dumb boy? She’d taken her objections to her father, who had finally said, “When and if ‘some dumb boy’ loses his mind and agrees to marry you, then doubtless he’ll also be happy to take that phrase out.”

Anna had taken out the “obey” part when they married. She didn’t want to lie. Listen to, yes—obey, no. She’d had enough of obeying for ten lifetimes. She had, however, left in the part about “one flesh.”

With Charles she didn’t lose herself, she gained Charles. They were a united front against “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” He was her warm safe place in the storm of the world, and she . . . she thought that she was his home.

She wanted his children.

“Absolutely not,” he said, and for a moment she thought he was reading her mind because she had lost track of the conversation. But then he said, “No witchcraft.”

She wasn’t stupid. He was throwing out any obstacle he could find. She would have backed off except for the deep belief, born of the mating bond they shared, that he wanted a child even more than she did.

“Don’t fret,” she told him. “I won’t do it the way your mother did.” Unless there are no other options. “I actually thought that Moira might have some insights for Samuel. I thought it only fair to call and warn her that I’ve sent him after her . . . he sounded quite intense about the whole thing.”

He raised his head like a panicked horse. “Ah. I misunderstood. Good.”

Charles liked children. She knew he liked children. Why did he panic over the thought of their child? She considered asking him. But she’d tried variants of that; he’d given her a series of answers that were true as far as they went. She was pretty sure that he didn’t know the real answer. So it would be up to her to discover it.

Once she figured it out she would be able to see if there was a way around it. The panic she could work around—and if he honestly didn’t want children, well, she’d deal with that, too. But it was the sadness that lingered behind the panic, the sadness and longing her wolf knew was there, that made her dig in and fight. Anna style.

“Okay,” she said brightly. She who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day. “I just thought I’d give you an update.” She picked up her bundle of information and tucked it under her arm.

She walked over to the window and looked at the falling snow that had frosted the deep green trees and coated the not-so-distant mountains, making the world seem clean and new. Also cold.

“Have you decided what you’re getting me for my birthday yet?” she asked.

He liked giving presents. Sometimes it was a flower he’d picked for her—other times expensive jewelry. He’d gradually learned that really expensive gifts, which he liked best, freaked her out. He now left those for important occasions.

He put his arm around her, his body relaxed against her. “Not yet. But I expect I’ll figure something out.”

•   •   •

CHARLES COULDN’T KEEP his mind on the numbers, so he closed down his computer. Money was power, and in the long run it could keep his people safer than his fangs and claws. After a hiatus, pack finances were his to protect again.

His gaze fell on the yellow sticky he’d put on the top of his monitor—Anna’s birthday, her twenty-sixth. He needed to find her a present. His preference was for jewelry—which, as his da pointed out, was sort of marking his territory for the other males in the vicinity.

My mate, the ring on her finger told them. And when she ventured to wear any of the neck...

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Descripción Little, Brown Book Group. Paperback. Estado de conservación: new. BRAND NEW, Dead Heat: An Alpha and Omega Novel, Patricia Briggs, The Alpha and Omega novels transport readers into the realm of the werewolf, where Charles Cornick and Anna Latham embody opposite sides of the shifter personality. Now, a pleasure trip drops the couple into the middle of some bad supernatural business .For once, mated werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles's role as his father's enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal - or at least it starts out that way .Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous Fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The Fae's cold war with humanity is about to heat up - and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire. DISCOVER THE NEW CHARLES AND ANNA NOVEL - FROM THE NO. 1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLING PATRICIA BRIGGS. The Alpha and Omega novels: Cry Wolf Hunting Ground Fair Game Dead Heat. Nº de ref. de la librería B9780356501628

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