Today it is my pleasure to spotlight the release of Primal Heat by A.C. Arthur
In the savage world of shapeshifters desire can be as dangerous as nature itself….
As bodyguard to the most powerful shapeshifter in the human world, Shadow Shifter, Eli Preston has sworn to protect his leader, defend their alliance, and keep his darker instincts in check. But when a beautiful female trainee arouses his jaguar senses, there is no stopping the beast within. He must have her. Even if it jeopardizes the deadliest mission of his life…
When the heat is on-and the claws come out-the heart is the fiercest hunter…
For six years, Nivea has been waiting for Eli to take her in his arms, unleash his animal urges, and claim her as his mate. But once their passion is unleashed-in a reckless moment of pure unbridled lust-nothing can ever be the same. The battlelines are drawn: man versus animal, shapeshifter versus shapeshifter. And Eli must be prepared to fight for his life-and his love-or he will lose Nivea forever…in Primal Heat by A.C. Arthur.
Read an exclusive excerpt from Primal Heat
“So Captain Lawrence Crowe is now Public Enemy Num- ber One for the Shadow Shifters,” Nivea said, climbing into the passenger side of Eli’s Assembly-issued Jeep Wrangler.
The vehicle was silver with windows tinted so dark nothing on the inside could be seen. Each vehicle was spe- cially designed to assist guards in doing their jobs with skill and ease. They had been retrofitted with bulletproof steel. Weapons and ammunition were stored in side-door compartments that were specially lined to go undetected should the vehicles ever be searched. They even had a self- destruct mechanism that, once activated, would cause a chemical explosion that would destroy all evidence of the additions made to the vehicle as well as any other items that may have been inside.
They were pretty slick to look at too.
Nivea hadn’t been issued one of her own yet. If Eli rec- ommended her for this promotion, she would. If he didn’t she would continue to drive the older-model Jeep with minimal security features that might at some point get her killed. Pulling out of the parking spot, Eli tried not to think along those lines. His job was to train her, to observe as she completed the assignment of investigating Agent Dorian Wilson. It was not to take care of her, protect her, or any of the other bullshit that had been roaming around in his mind where she was concerned lately.
“He’s not working alone, we’re positive of that fact. Still, the sooner we find Crowe, the sooner we can kill this supersoldier project before it goes any further,” Eli told her as he turned right onto the trail that led out of the forest to the main highway.
She’d finished adjusting herself, pulling the lever at the bottom of the seat so that it was a little closer to the dash- board, snapping her seat belt into place, and pushing down the headrest. He had to admit it was too high up for any- one who wasn’t at least six feet tall. Eli watched all her movements out of the corner of his eye, unable to keep his attention 100 percent focused on something as menial as driving the damn Jeep when she was around.
“I still can’t believe he cloned a shifter. Who would ever think to do something like that, without considering the repercussions?”
The last had been spoken quietly but Eli ignored that. Denying the ability to pinpoint changes in her voice, her demeanor, her hairstyle, was all about self-preservation. It was about coming out of this assignment in one piece, without change. It was how he needed to proceed.
“Believe it,” Eli said tightly, taking the Jeep into the busy midmorning traffic on Route 193. “It took Ezra, Bas, and Jacques, three pretty damned powerful shifters, to stop that bastard from killing every shifter in the police department out West.”
In his front pocket his cell phone vibrated. Retrieving it, Eli read the message from one of his staff at the barber- shop he owned and frowned. He’d been receiving similar ones for days now and chose to ignore them all. Gritting his teeth, his fingers gripped the steering wheel as he re- focused his thoughts on the scenario his twin brother had described with the first hybrid.
Ezra had been there to save the woman who was now glued to his hip, the human named Dawn who Ezra had claimed as his mate. That was part of the reason why Ez- ra’s new relationship status irritated the hell out of Eli. For one, Eli didn’t believe in the mating concept of the shift- ers. The notion that there was one perfect female for every male was to Eli a lie, plain and simple. His past was living proof of that fact.
The other reason he wasn’t jumping with glee at Ezra and Dawn’s union was that his brother was the second highest-ranking shifter to not only reveal himself to a human, but to fall for one and bring her into the shifter fold. Sure, there’d been two younger couples—two of the three San- chez brothers that made up one of Rome’s newest elite groups of guards—that had mated with humans. The As- sembly Leader thought the relationships might go sour and cause big problems for the shifters, but Bas and Ezra were the first two to openly defy the laws of the Ètica. Rome hadn’t tried to cover up either of those relationships, in- stead he’d made Bas’s mate, Priya, the official spokesper- son for the shifters and had welcomed Dawn, the one with all the secrets, into the fold as well. Simply put, more situ- ations that put the shifters at risk and pissed Eli the hell off.
“I heard about that,” Nivea said with more enthusiasm than he wanted to hear. “They said Ezra almost ripped his head right off. I guess I can imagine how he felt know- ing this ‘thing’ was going after his mate.”
Eli spared her a glance before turning his attention back to the road. “Don’t sound so excited about someone getting his head ripped off. You’re a female, remember.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
He sighed, wanting this conversation to be over, want- ing this stupid assignment to be over, once and for all. “It means that you might want to start acting more like a female than a G.I. Jane. From the time you wake up in the morning until you close yourself off in your room after dinner, you’re either in the field looking for a fight, or in the cafeteria picking a fight, or just always looking for some way to be physical. That’s not what females do.”
And saying what he’d just said to a female such as Nivea was the dumbest thing he could have ever done. She was a great guard and he respected that. On the other hand, she was a female, one who could be hurt or even killed being a guard. His thoughts were so conflicted when it came to Nivea Cannon and Eli didn’t know why. Or rather, he didn’t want to entertain the thought of why. All he knew for certain was that there was a war going on inside him where this particular shifter was concerned. A feeling he’d never felt with any other female in his life—the ones he’d allowed to get close or the ones he’d kept away. Nivea was unlike any of them, a fact that was more than a little disconcerting for Eli.
“First of all,” she said, slapping a palm on the dashboard as she turned sideways in the seat. “I can do whatever the hell I want to do. And second, I’m as good a fighter, maybe even better, than half the guards back at Havenway. And if you don’t like how I spend my days then stop paying so much attention to what I’m doing with them.”
Eli wished like hell it could be that simple. If he could just tell himself to stop thinking about her, stop watching her whenever they were in the same room together, and even going so far as to follow her a time or two, he would have done it months ago. Unfortunately, like Nivea, he tended to do whatever it was he wanted.
“Calm down. Nobody’s saying you’re not a good guard. I’m just saying you could do other things with yourself in- stead of focusing so much on the job.”
“Oh, really? What other things would you suggest I do, Mr. Preston?”
She could slide across the seat and straddle him, the memory of her soft globes in the palm of his hand was still fresh in his mind. He’d wanted to get his hands on her tight little ass for a long time and this morning, he’d finally had the chance. He almost cursed with the urgency to repeat the action. Or, for the sake of safety since he was driv- ing, she could simply lean over, unzip his pants, and put her smart little mouth over his already engorged tip. She could suck until his release shot out of him in heavy tension-relieving jets. She could grip his length with her strong and capable hands and let him pump mercilessly into her mouth.
Beeping horns snapped him from his erogenous thoughts and Eli realized he’d swerved into the other lane while distracted by things like Nivea’s mouth. He turned the wheel in the opposite direction, jerking her across the seat until one of her hands rested on his bicep.
“Need a driving lesson?” she asked sweetly. “Surely, a male shifter would know how to handle his vehicle. Or do you need a female to drive for you instead?”
“Funny,” he replied tightly. “Just stay over there in your seat and be ready when we see Wilson. Rome thinks he might be connected to Crowe somehow, feeding him in- formation he may have gathered from looking so closely into Rome and Nick.”
“That would make sense,” she added, immediately so- bering to the business mode. “It’s like he has no other cases to work on. All he does every day is sit outside of the law firm. Then when Rome or Nick leaves, he follows them. Never says anything to them, just watches wherever they go and whoever they meet with.”
“And what’s he doing with all that information?” Eli asked her.
She stared ahead, thinking, he surmised. Nivea Cannon was definitely a thinker. Sure, she was all about action, but there was never a situation she didn’t contemplate, didn’t analyze until the very last detail. She’d been tailing Agent Wilson for two months now so he was positive she knew everything there was to know about this guy, but so far none of that knowledge had made any difference in how they dealt with the man.
“He keeps a file, one of those Redweld folders. I don’t think he trusts computers because I’ve never seen him with a laptop or a tablet or anything more technical than his cell phone. And even that’s an earlier, out-of-date model. Pen- cils are all over his car along with balled-up pieces of pa- per. He’s writing his notes longhand and the ones he keeps he puts into that Redweld.”
“Notes about shifters?”
“Notes about everything he sees that he doesn’t think is normal. I think he’s beyond looking at Rome as if he’s embezzling money or helping any drug cartel. I think he suspects something bigger.”
Eli nodded. “Something like supersoldiers.”
They’d been sitting in the truck for two hours outside of a cabin in northern Maryland where they’d followed Agent Wilson and two other agents who had exited the Bureau building with him late this afternoon. It was just after nine now, evening draped around the tree-lined ski resort with the whistle of a cool breeze outside.
Nivea answered another one of Mina’s angry texts; standing her sister up for dinner was something she would never live down. That thought was soothed by their loca- tion and the fact that Nivea loved to ski. She adored the feel of the snow slipping with icy tingles through her fingers whenever she took off her gloves. There was a freedom she enjoyed while flying down the side of a mountain, cold air cutting against the skin of her face, the exhilaration that soared through each part of her body.
Those were good memories. They were the positive thoughts she’d sworn she would have had during her time with Eli. It was imperative that she did not allow Eli, or anyone else for that matter, to dictate how she would feel or think or work. She would not be controlled or handled, not ever again.
Eli had stopped the Jeep about thirty feet to the left of the cabin Agent Wilson had entered with his two guests. He’d parked alongside two other vehicles that they figured belonged to the occupants of the second cabin, a little far- ther down the hill.
“How long do you think they’ll stay in there?” Nivea asked, already tired of sitting in the Jeep.
As much as she treasured her job as a guard, she abso- lutely despised any type of stakeout. Her legs ached from being bent in the sitting position for so long, her arms from being basically immobile. She’d never liked re- maining still, preferring to move, to function, and to live. Still, she knew this was a part of the job.
“Depends on what they’re doing,” Eli replied finally, pulling his phone out of his jacket pocket.
“Three guys in a secluded cabin, hmm. I would say poker but it would be better with a fourth. Could be a guys’ night out, but wouldn’t they at least want a female for hire?”
Eli stopped pushing buttons on his phone to look over at her.
“Naughty thoughts always run rampant through your mind when you’re on a stakeout?”
Only when I’m on a stakeout with you, she thought, but definitely did not speak.
Instead, she shrugged. “Just thinking out loud.”
There was once again silence. It seemed they’d had a lot of that for long stretches throughout today. That was weird since they could have easily talked about this morn- ing’s meeting and the priority search for Captain Crowe. They could have also talked about this morning’s hot-as- hell kiss and the way his hands had explored her body with some type of ownership. She had a feeling that was the last thing Eli wanted to discuss.
Which was all the more reason she should bring it up.
“When you’re finished letting Ezra and the others know our location for the third time since we’ve been here, maybe you can tell me why this morning. Why in all the time we’ve known each other did you decide this morn- ing was the time to make your move?”
Eli’s fingers stilled over the phone. He pressed the but- ton to lock the screen and stuffed it back into his pocket before turning to her.
“It happened. It’s over. There’s nothing more to talk about,” he stated, completely expecting her to accept and move on.
He had no idea who he was dealing with.
“It happened. It felt really good. And if we’re not going to talk about it, are we at least going to take it a step further?”
Nivea felt a small bit of triumph at being able to cause that reaction in him. Nothing ever took Eli off guard. He was always prepared for any- and everything, always had an answer, always knew what to do and when. Except for right at this very moment. He looked at her as if he didn’t know whether to formulate another cool dismissive re- mark, or to give in to the arousal that crowded them both in the cab of the SUV.
“No,” he said slowly, solemnly.
She frowned. “No, it didn’t feel good? Because I can eas- ily amend that to ‘great.’ It felt great.”
The word came immediately and a bit more forcefully this time. “No, Cannon. We are not going there. Not ever again.”
She could take his words as rejection and keep her hurt feelings and tingling nipples to herself. Or she could be the one to acknowledge that what happened this morning had been inevitable and that in the foreseeable future it would happen again. It was like taking that first tentative bite of chocolate, or sipping from that glass of champagne and feeling the bubbles fizz against your nostrils—one taste was never going to be enough.
With that thought, Nivea leapt from her seat. She moved over the console, planted her legs on either side of Eli, and lowered herself to a straddling position in about ten sec- onds flat. The shock combined with a slightly annoyed look on his face said he wasn’t impressed. That was fine because she wasn’t finished yet.
“This morning was about you, in your time, and on your terms.” She cupped his face in her palms as she spoke. “That was cool, but I’m a take-charge type of female. When I hunt I don’t settle for not catching my prey.”
He opened his mouth to speak and she dove in, taking his tongue into her mouth and sucking deeply, until she felt his hands at her lower back, going even lower to cup her ass. She loved that feeling, loved how his fingers dug right into her skin, squeezing, owning. She lifted slightly, giving him the access to move his hands deeper, so that even as he gripped her cheeks, the tips of his fingers rubbed along her center, causing her pussy to pulsate with need.
“I said,” he mumbled when she let her head fall back, absolutely loving the feel of his hands on her. “We are not doing this.”
Nivea nodded, rotating her hips over the finger he’d now moved to rub right along her clit. “Yeah, you said that,”
she whispered, wanting desperately to step out of those damned mission pants so she could feel him, skin on blessed skin.
She leaned in once again, nipping his lip before remind- ing him, “But we are.”
Her tongue found his again and Nivea felt like she was drowning. He tasted like peppermint, probably because he always kept some type of mint on him.
She moved her hands down to grip his shoulders, strong and rigid, which she’d already known from all the spar- ring they’d done in the last few weeks. Eli had a great body, all chiseled and muscled, glorious to look at and even more enticing to feel. Nivea pressed against him then, pushing her breasts into his chest, her pussy into his dick. He held her there, thrusting upward as the kiss deepened, their moans filling the interior of the truck.
Then the gunshots sounded and they both jumped.
Her face stayed poised just a couple of inches from his, her mouth still parted as she panted out her breath. His hands stayed on her ass but his gaze immediately went to the left, hers going in the opposite direction, their bodies taut. In the next second they were both out of the Jeep, weapons drawn as they made their way to the next sound of guns being discharged. Eli had yelled “shots fired” into his com link, the sound of his voice exploding in Nivea’s ear. Breaking out into a run, they stopped at the back en- trance of the second cabin, backs plastered against the wooded walls, arms up, guns in hand.
Every guard on duty would be patched in and would hear the call. They’d check with the controllers at Haven- way for the location and head this way as soon as they con- firmed. In the meantime, Eli nodded at Nivea. She took the sign and fell to her knees, coming up right beneath a back window. There was a light on so she could look inside. She held back a curse and held up two fingers indi- cating that there were two men, lying facedown on the floor, blood pooling from their heads.
They were just about to move again, possibly to gain entrance through the back door when there was noise and voices. In seconds, three others joined the party. Agent Wilson entered with his gun drawn, along with the two men that had accompanied him out here. They entered the room of the cabin where the dead bodies lay.
Nivea heard the words but still did not move.
“Now, Cannon!” Eli said louder. “This isn’t our party.” “They’re dead,” she told him as she got to her feet.
“Those men are dead and we’re just leaving them.”
Eli stopped, turning so that he was now in her face. He grabbed the front of her shirt, pulling her up on tiptoe so that his nose was practically touching hers. “They’re hu- mans. Let them take care of their own. We have to move before more of them arrive and question why we, ones that Wilson will already know are connected to Rome and
Nick, are here in the first place.”
He was right. She knew it. But those men were dead.
They’d been killed and Nivea wanted to know by whom. She wanted to know why. Mostly, after seeing the familiar tattoo on one of the dead men’s wrists, she wanted to con- firm that it had nothing to do with her father and the people he’d been working with for the last ten years.
Excerpt. ©A. C. Arthu. Posted by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.
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Meet the Author:
A.C. Arthur was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland where she currently lives with her husband and three children. An active imagination and a love for reading encouraged her to begin writing in high school and she hasn’t stopped since. Her debut novel Object of His Desire was written when a picture of an Italian villa sparked the idea of an African-American/Italian hero. Determined to bring a new edge to romance, she continues to develop intriguing plots, sensual love scenes, racy characters, and fresh dialogue–thus keeping the readers on their toes!
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