What could possibly be better than a book about a supernatural character? How about a book about two supernatural characters? Yeah, we thought so.
About The Mermaid’s Mate:
Two years ago, werewolf Timber Jax was so caught up in Marian Hartley that he never saw the seductive mermaid’s betrayal coming. Now, outcast to the rogue pack on Feralon Isle, it’s his job to keep the other shifter races away from their territory. But when he comes face-to-face with Marian, he can’t bring himself to turn her over to the pack leader. Or stop himself from falling under her spell once again…
The last time Marian’s Emperor ordered her to Were territory, she lost sight of her mission–and her heart to a wolf. With the fate of the Mer people in her hands, she won’t let that happen again–no matter how much her body longs to finish what they started….
Hand to stone, Timber Jax crouched on a jagged ledge of Were Mountain, his boots barely fitting on the narrow overhang. His muscles cramped and his bones ached, but he couldn’t move. Not yet. Not until he was certain the coast was clear. His pack mates moved below him, stealing through the thick plumes of morning mist. From his position high above, they looked more like ghosts than wolves, their bulky shadows slanting over the stone-faced mountain before disappearing around a bend to the right.
Thunder grumbled across Feralon’s sky, matching the hollow ache in Timber’s middle. He hadn’t eaten in forty-eight hours, since before they prepped for the secret mission to the southernmost edge of Were territory. He’d kill for a fat, juicy steak. Acid churned in his stomach at the thought.
They’d only be down here a little bit longer. Once Ryder found what he was looking for—damned if Timber knew what it was—they’d return to their lair.
The mere thought of his bed and a warm meal made Timber’s muscles quiver with anticipation.
Adjusting his position on the ledge, Timber searched westward, across miles and miles of towering rainforest toward dragon territory. Nothing. Zero movement and not a scent of a dragon invading from their western lands. He searched north, along the menacing peaks and ridges of Were Mountain. No werewolves from the main pack trailed them. East, down the ribbon of river that snaked toward Merfolk territory, not a single beam of color shone through the waves, signaling an approaching mermaid.
They were in the clear.
Timber’s job—his only job in the rogue pack—had been a success thus far. All he had to do was keep the other shifting races away from them. He had to keep the pack’s paths hidden, their voices silent and their presence unknown.
Easy enough for a mercenary who was trained in combat techniques and pack warfare.
Below, a scuffling caught Timber’s gaze. Trees shook as the grunt of a wolf echoed to his ears.
If he shifted into a wolf, he could communicate silently with his pack mates and hear what was going on. But he’d always been able to sense danger better in human form. Always been able to smell it coming like a bad stench on the wind.
Ryder, Delta wolf and leader of their rogue pack, emerged from the shaking tree alongside a pack mate with icy-gray fur. Holding his breath so as not to catch Ryder’s attention, Timber leaned over the ledge to get a better look. With a clip bark, the Delta wolf clawed the inferior wolf in the muzzle. Whimpering, the wolf hit the dirt, cowering from Ryder’s wrath.
Ryder was an asshole. Corrupt, with a penchant for disobedience…at least that’s what the report stated after he was disbanded from the rest of the Weres on the enchanted Isle of Feralon.
Under normal circumstances, Timber wouldn’t have been caught dead with a rogue wolf like Ryder. But nothing about their relationship—and Timber’s debt to Ryder—was normal.
Thinking about your lost pack mate won’t bring him back.
As Ryder howled softly, Timber jerked himself back to the present, though he couldn’t shake the remorse plaguing him. He couldn’t think about Rison and what happened that fateful winter night. Guilt was a damn fine distraction—one Timber couldn’t afford.
Wolves emerged from the mist below, and filed one by one along the rocky path that led back to their lair. For a split second, Timber lost sight of Ryder around a massive shrub that had somehow grown into a tiny crevice in the rock. When he emerged once more, Ryder was in his human—or Were—form, standing behind him on a nearby ledge.
Ryder was larger than Timber by a solid foot, and probably fifty pounds heavier, but his size made him slow. His eyes were beady, and his hair was razor-short and black as soot. Dark, smoke-colored markings on his neck that resembled tribal tattoos inked down his shoulder, mirroring Timber’s own—they were part of the same pack. Not brothers, but bred from the same line.
“We’re moving out,” Ryder barked, folding his arms over his chest. “If you would’ve stayed in wolf form, you would’ve heard the order.”
“I can sense things better this way.” Timber watched as the rogue pack of wolves leaped over rock and boulder, bounding their way back to the heart of the mountain. “As long as I do my job, what do you care?”
“I hate repeating myself.” Ryder exhaled, his narrowed eyes burning with hatred. “One of your brothers got the location wrong. What we’re looking for is about a half mile that way.” He nudged his chin over Timber’s shoulder, to the west.
“So we’re not blasting today, then?”
They’d moved up and down the mountain range, blasting large sections of rock to reveal the shimmering layers of stratum beneath it. They’d spent months doing the same routine: scouting, setting up, blasting, waiting for the main pack to check out the area, then scouring it themselves, before moving on.
Timber was beginning to think Ryder had completely lost his mind. Ryder wouldn’t tell anyone why he wanted to collect sacks of dirt from the blasted rock, or what he wanted to use them for.
It was damn strange.
And none of his business.
All that mattered was following orders, repaying the debt Timber owed him and getting back to the main pack.
“If you think I’m leaving the dynamite stuck into this mountain, you’re crazy,” Ryder said. “After the storm blows over, we’ll circle back and pack up shop, then take the stock back to the lair.”
Timber kicked out his legs, giving them a good stretch. “Are you blasting the new area this morning, then?”
“Not with the storm coming. By the time we set up, it’ll be too dangerous to maneuver back over the mountain. We’ve had a long night…a long, wasted night, thanks to the incompetence of your pack brothers. It’s time to head back.”
The storms that had rained down on the Isle of Feralon the last few weeks had been like nothing Timber had ever experienced in his thirty years. They had completely crippled the island. Dragons didn’t fly when lightning was a threat, and retreated to their castles. Werewolves remained in the bowels of Were Mountain—nothing stunk worse than wet dog fur. And the Merfolk dove beneath the waves of their bay on the eastern part of the isle.
Timber studied the morning sky. Menacing, dark clouds lumbered across the faded span of blue, thundering as they inched closer.
“Sounds like a plan. I’m going to stay out here another minute,” Timber said, as rain started to fall. “I’ll be on your tails in a sec.”
“You don’t have to explain to me.” Ryder jumped to another ledge, a good ten feet away. “I’m your Delta, not your fucking girlfriend.”
As Ryder bounded over the rocky edge of the mountain and disappeared, Timber mumbled, “And I’m damned glad for that.”
He checked his watch. The sun would be peaking over the horizon in a few minutes, blanketing the rain forest that stretched to the west. Timber hadn’t seen a Feralon sunrise in years. Despite the hunger carving out his stomach, he had a curious inkling to watch one again.
After easing himself down onto the overhang, Timber hung his feet over the side and let them dangle. It was hard to let his guard down, but it didn’t stop him from trying. It was hard not to listen for any tiny sound, and look for any twitch of a shrub, to discover an approaching enemy. It was nearly impossible to just…be.
Someone had once told him he needed to work on that. That he needed to relax and enjoy the moment.
Damn that mermaid. Two years ago, she’d tried to seduce him, like all mermaids did—it was in their nature, after all. But she’d succeeded when others hadn’t, made him feel something he’d never felt before, then royally screwed him over. She’d used him. Reported the location of their hidden lair to her Emperor. He’d been so caught up in her, he never saw the betrayal coming.
A tiny hint of blue light shining through the Feralon River caught Timber’s attention.
“And now I’m delirious,” he said, scrubbing his hands over his eyes. “Wonderful.”
Merely thinking about Marian had made him start seeing things. The light continued to get brighter, swirling and shimmering through the soft blue waves of the river. Mermaids could emit light from their tails that resembled the aurora borealis—mysterious, yet magnificent in its beauty. The light that flowed from Marian’s tail was long, vibrant blue and whipped like a dancing flame. It was the second most beautiful thing Timber had ever seen in his life, coming in closely behind Marian’s smoldering blue eyes.
“What the hell?” Timber leaned forward, watching as the light continued to swirl just below the surface. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
He wasn’t seeing things at all.
It was either Marian or one of her sisters. Fin colors ran in colony lines, and Timber would recognize the cerulean blue anywhere. Whoever she was, she was really far upriver.
Storms were known to flood the river, turning previously inaccessible parts of it accessible. This nosey little mermaid had to be swimming through one of those surges. Marian had always been curious by nature, and had been an explorer for her colony—she’d told Timber stories of traveling around the bay and upriver as far as her fins would let her. But was her presence here, when Ryder was setting up blasts, a coincidence or something more?
The clouds overhead grumbled, vibrating the entire mountain, shaking Timber’s entire being.
He got the skin-tingling, gut-clenching feeling that something wasn’t right. Why couldn’t he shake it? His insides crawled. Hair stood on the back of his neck. Timber scraped his hands through his razor-short hair and stared at the misty-blue light fishtailing beneath the surface of the river.
Damn it, what had she gotten herself into now?
The mermaid was close. Another few seconds and she’d be just beneath him.
The mountain trembled.
Thanks to Timber’s heightened senses, he felt the foreboding spark of ignition before the dynamite detonated. He scrambled to his feet, and splayed his hand over the face of the mountain behind him. His incompetent pack brothers must’ve forgotten to cut the fuses.
The blast sent shock waves through the rock that splintered right into his chest.
Timber leaped as the explosion split the air and rocked the mountain, but it was too late. The ledge beneath him gave way. His dominant leg had nothing to push off on, and he fell. Dropped like a stone. Scrambled for footing, a handhold, anything.
He roared as the face of the mountain crumbled into thousands of rocks, sliding into the river below. The last thing Timber saw before crashing into the shallow water below, was a vivid blue light that shot through the river like a streak of lightning.
Damn it, he’d rather drown than be saved by Marian; she’d never let him live it down.