by Shae Wynters
Published March 24th 2012 by Liquid Silver Books
Lexia Torrance is a young woman with the gift of second sight. Her ability allows the Phoenix Police Department to solve crimes based on the gift of touch. Her latest case leads her to the body of a local man left with the killers’ calling card—an emblem burned on the victim’s chest in the shape of a sun. She soon finds herself facing five men looking for the necklace with the same emblem…and they are determined to find her as well…
Galen Cortes knows the immense ability deep inside Lexia as well as her destiny to take the throne as Skinwalker Chieftess to the southwest tribe. As a guard of the tribe, Galen has sworn to protect Lexia and teach her the truth about her powers. Despite what his heart feels, he knows a guard isn’t supposed to get too close to a betrothed Chieftess. But his fiery passion may soon override his rational thought.
With a murderous Lycan tribe on their tail and only a few hours to spare once Lexia learns her birthright, Galen will only have a day to teach her what those before her learned in a lifetime. Before their time is over, passion will erupt between the guard and his ruler, a fateful battle will dawn between two tribes and a new Chieftess will arise within the nocturnal hours…
~ Goodreads Blurb
About the Author:
Shae Wynters is the pen name of an award winning, best selling author who has been writing for more than twenty years and has been professionally published for eleven years. A bonafide vampire, fantasy, sensual romance and speculative fiction lover, Shae sometimes meshes all these elements together for a rip roaring story to entertain her spectrum of readers.
“Lexia Torrance didn’t know when the soft classical music streaming from her television disappeared into the silence of her mind. Her conscious thought transitioned into the hushed, wistful nature of her dream state. She was like a cinematographer, now standing back and watching herself buried under the covers.
She was somewhere else.
The shadows creeping around the rooms told her it was nighttime. A warm glow of red, yellow and orange flickered from around the corner. She felt herself floating toward that room and as she turned the corner, she saw a tall figure.
The tall man wore a red flannel coat and blue jeans. His long, dark hair fell down his back. He was large, a mixture of both muscle and body fat beneath his bronze skin. He turned around with a gasp and his expression quickly turned to anger. A strong handsome face stared back at her. The prominent bone structure told her of his Navajo ancestry. Perhaps he was from the same local tribe as her grandmother. He wore a colorful beaded necklace that reminded her of the one with the same design that her father had given her.
She couldn’t turn to see who he was looking at, but she felt them. Thick tension, bitter and black as ink filled the air like a dark shadow. Something felt familiar about their presence but she couldn’t quite figure it out. She watched the man before her stand to attention. His face, a shade of golden brown with strong cheekbones and a lined jaw was tense. His dark brown eyes focused ahead with a veil of hardness that was a visible defense.
“Where is it?” the man asked, gritting his teeth.
The man before her shook his head. “You have no right to be here. Leave now and I won’t tell the council what you came for or what you’re doing.”
“You know who you’re speaking to, Micah?”
“A deranged power hungry prince, that’s whom. I won’t help you on your sick quest for power. Not over the tribe or her.”
Laughter filled the air, making her shiver from the ominous edge. “You have some moxie. I see why they gave it to you. But now it’s time to give up the necklace before I really get pissed.”
The man folded his arms and stood tall. “No one but the next Chieftess is to have possession of it. I’ve seen the way you look at it at the ceremonies. Like a power hungry lion waiting to catch its prey. Something is wrong with you and I’ll see that the Chieftess knows about it before she makes a mistake.”
The man named Micah made an attempt to move but was stopped by two other men in dark suits.
“Now, now Micah. You can’t stop what is already in motion. Either you’re a part of it or you’re a victim. I’ve given you one chance for the former. Now here is your second. I want the trinket I came for and since you’re so enamored with being the good warrior, I want the girl as well. Where is she? I know she lives in town.”
“She isn’t ready yet. She needs training.”
“You know the fate of the one who stands between a Skinwalker and his mate?”
“You mean a predator and his prey.”
That eerie laughter pierced the air again. “Whichever you choose. The end result will still be the same.”
Micah’s gaze darted from each man. Lexia wished she could keep up the count of how many were in the room. Even more, she wished she could turn to see the man speaking. Something told her she had to know and remember.
“I suppose you know where she is then?”
The man’s face grew blank before he shook his head. “You won’t find her.”
The scene flashed and two men held Micah down on the ground. His shirt was open, baring his thick chest, while a smoking hand clutching an unseen item branded a mark on his heart. His screams echoed throughout her dreams. She had to wake up. Why couldn’t she wake up?
She moved back to get a look at the man’s torturer. But as he moved into her line of vision, a loud ringing filled her ears.
Lexia’s eyes shot open into the darkness of the bedroom. The wireless phone blared to life on the table next to her bed. She looked outside the window where the night still claimed the city of Phoenix. The clear sky gave a view of a half-moon amidst the tall trees aligning her backyard. It took her a moment to realize that whoever was calling this late wouldn’t give up until she answered.
She pushed herself off the bed with a sigh and yanked the phone off the cradle.
“Yeah? Torrance here,” she said. Her voice was still heavy with sleep, and her mind still hummed with the loud, ear-piercing scream. Heat crept in her face as if she felt the man’s skin burning away before her eyes. It felt so real. But it wasn’t…was it?
“Sorry to wake you, kid,” the familiar voice of her boss, Rudy, echoed over the receiver. “I tried your office first but when you weren’t there, I figured you already crashed for the night. I would’ve let you sleep this one out but we’re going to need your expertise. Dead body here looks like a ritual killing by a cult or gang. I’m running some tests to see if it fits any initiation MO’s and we should have the results by morning. The vic’s place looks like a robbery but there aren’t any prints or signs that anyone was here besides the victim. No forced entry and only one room looks like a hurricane flew through it. Obviously they were looking for something and had an idea where it was.”
Lexia wiped her eyes. “You think they knew each other?”
“It’s possible but only speculation at this point.”
“Sounds like you guys ran tests already.” Lexia tried to focus on what little information she could deduce from Rudy’s description despite her mind replaying pieces of the dream.
“What little we could but it would sure help if you could feel the place out for us. Tell us what they were looking for and when they hit. Things like that. I estimate it happened an hour ago so they couldn’t have gotten too far.”
“All right,” Lexia leaned over to look at the digital clock on her nightstand. The red numbers blurred but she blinked a few times to clear her vision. Twelve forty-five. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
She waited until Rudy finished giving her the vic’s address before she bid goodbye and hung up. Her mind was still on cloud nine as she tossed the covers off the bed and swung her feet onto the carpet.
The room had somehow grown warmer since she fell asleep as if a fire was burning nearby. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in Allegretto played from the digital music channel on the television. The light from the set illuminated her entire bedroom, cascading everything in a flicker of light against the darkness.
What just happened?
That was the first time she dreamed something so real. Normally when she fell into one of those dream states so quickly, it was when she was getting a feeling at a crime scene.
Lexia pulled her hairband out and shook her silky strands free around her shoulders. As she combed her fingers through her hair, she tried to coax herself back to the present. This was no time to have her head in the clouds over some crazy dream. She needed all her senses working tonight if she was going to be of any help to Rudy and his team.
Clearing her mind, Lexia immediately replaced any traces of the dream with the preparation for her investigation. First, she had to find something comfortable to wear. She had a feeling this was going to be a long night.
* * * *
Lexia pushed past the crowd of police officers on the dimly lit porch and stepped into the bright living room. She made sure to keep her ID card handy after she flashed it to the cops at the front of the house. Onlookers and neighbors had already gathered outside. Despite the amount of robberies in the city, it was always a circus whenever a crime took place. Unfortunately, this was another that ended with a person losing their life.
Once the cops recognized her, she ducked under the yellow tape lining that stretched across the front yard and headed straight for the busy home. It was a nice one-story modern, Spanish-style house situated on the outskirts of Paradise Valley and Phoenix. Pretty nifty place not too far away from her own home. For that, she was thankful for the short drive on half a night’s sleep.
“Welcome to the party, Lex.” Detective Rudolpho “Rudy” Marra smiled widely as he spotted her. He ran a meaty hand over the smooth bare patch in the middle of his thinning gray head of hair. His smile was warm, accentuating a large round face, rosy cheeks and a dark neatly combed mustache. He often joked about his round frame, attributing it to his love of donuts, sweets and his wife’s Italian home cooking.
Lex had to give it to him there. His wife’s cooking was worth risking a heart attack. “What do we have here that couldn’t wait until morning?” she asked, gazing at her surroundings.
“Vic’s name is Micah Cozel. Forty-eight year old single male. American Indian descent. Lived a quiet life and kept mostly to himself.”
Lexia barely heard the rest of Rudy’s list after he mentioned the name. Yes, it was a long shot that it was the same Micah from her dream, no matter how close the description sounded, but a coincidence…she didn’t think so.
It took her a moment to realize Rudy was looking right at her.
“Ahh,” she cleared her throat. “Where’d he work?”
Rudy shrugged. “Volunteered at the local reservation and worked as an engineer.”
“Does it say which one?”
Rudy pulled out a notepad from his pocket and checked it before shaking his head. “Doesn’t mention which one but there’s a settlement outside of Avondale. Apparently, he goes there for volunteer work but nothing beyond that. Anyway, from what we could gather on short notice, he hadn’t been to work in the past day or so.”
Lexia exhaled. “Okay. I’ll do my best to see if I can dig up anything. Where’s the body?”
Rudy turned his head toward the back of the home. “Down the hall. Just follow the party. Everything is still as is. Just be careful to—”
“I know, I know. Watch where I step.”
He grinned, puffing out his already swollen cheeks. “Sorry to wake you so early, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like this.”
Lexia’s stomach turned. Once again, her overactive mind imagined the worst before her eyes had a chance to confirm the situation. She nodded slowly and told herself to suck it up before heading in. “I’ll take a look.”
She stepped forward, ready to enter the bright spacious family room when a loud voice broke through the hall.
“Marra, what are you doing letting a civvie in here? This is a confidential investigation,” a deep voice boomed behind her.
Lexia looked over her shoulder and met the bright blue gaze of a middle-aged man with thin, dark hair with silver at his temples. His eyes narrowed as he surveyed her from head to toe before he continued his tirade.
“She doesn’t look like an officer so I think you better talk fast.”
“Easy, Jerry,” Rudy turned to her, rolling his eyes. “He’s new. I’ll explain to him and you go on in ahead.”
Jerry continued to stutter as Rudy eased him back into the hall.
Lexia shook her head. The same thing happened with the last partner Rudy had to bring up-to-date. Right about now she suspected he’d be explaining how she could sense things. She was often called out of her office to sniff things out, so to speak, and assist the local police on criminal investigations. She wasn’t psychic or anything but her intuition and keen senses helped the police figure out the how’s and why’s of cases.
Their voices disappeared the moment she saw the body and his placement in front of a fireplace. It couldn’t be. Right away, she recognized the dead man, Micah, lying amidst the rubble of books, furniture and debris. His long dark hair was splayed across the wood floor. With charred ashes in the fireplace behind him, she could tell it had been in use recently. She walked closer, careful not to step on any bit of the debris lining the floor.
The female cop crouching over him peered up at her with a thin, neatly manicured, raised eyebrow.
“It’s okay,” Lexia said, holding her hands up. “I’m Lexia Torrance, special assistant to Detective Rudy Marra. I’m just taking a survey of things to see if anything pops up that can give you guys a start.”
“Well, have fun,” the cop responded, rising to her feet with a sigh. She snapped her latex gloves off. “Looks as if his body burned from the inside out. His skin is almost completely scorched. There’s a strange intricate design on his chest there. Never seen anything like it before. I suspect it’s something to do with the occult. Maybe an underground cult in town doing some kind of weird initiation for its members.” She shrugged. “In any event, we probably won’t find anything conclusive until the M.E. can take a look at him. See if you can find anything to give us a lead, huh?”
Before Lex could answer, the woman turned toward the hallway. “All right gentlemen, let’s give the psychic some room to do her work.”
Lexia suppressed a cringe. She forced a smile toward the female cop who patted her on the shoulder before taking her leave. She was not a psychic. She couldn’t see the future, only the past and the scenes came in waves of emotion. If anything, she would be an empath but even that couldn’t describe the intuition she had come to rely on. That and the heavy burden of extensive emotion that came with her ability. If she didn’t keep it under wraps the physical results would be disastrous.
She pushed that alternative thought out of her mind and leaned down. Sure enough, he was the man from her dream. Looking up, she deduced this was the place she’d dreamed about. Did she dream it the very moment it happened? It couldn’t be. Her ability only worked when she touched the scene. Never before had it happened just like that. Things were getting weirder than usual.
Lexia moved closer to the body and kneeled beside him. His bronze skin, indeed charred, revealing the bones and muscles and dried blood beneath. She took a few breaths to calm down and focus as she opened her senses to receive anything left behind from his encounter with the perps. What was once a strong spirit with a name, an identity and a life, was now an empty void with only memories left of what happened in the late hours. She held her open palm out over his chest and closed her eyes, allowing the past few hours to wash over her.
Nighttime. Four broad-shouldered men in dark suits stood in the room around Micah, their faces still drenched in shadow. A fifth man reached into the fireplace, his hand hovering over the blazing fire.
“Where is she?”
“Be careful what you wish for. If she learns of your true nature, you will not have a prayer in ruling the tribe.”
“The Torrance girl is in this city. You didn’t think we were that stupid not to find her, did you?”
The Torrance girl? Lexia felt the images slipping away as fear sluiced through her veins. There had to be at least a dozen Torrances in the neighborhood. They couldn’t be after her, could they?
“Focus, Lex,” she softly whispered to herself. “There are more important things at hand right now.” Closing her eyes, she tried to push her cognitive mind aside and let her emotions release her powers. All she saw was black emptiness…until it appeared again.
The man balled his fist at his side and puffed out his chest. “You won’t find her! She’ll be kept safe, I promise you that.”
Lexia shuddered as the scenery quickly changed in her mind.
The four men held the victim down as he screamed and writhed to free his body from their grasp.
“Where is the necklace?” one of them demanded.
The man smiled then spat in his questioner’s face. The fifth man balled his fists and launched a series of hard blows across Micah’s face.
“Answer the nice guy, Micah.”
Micah spit blood into his abuser’s face. “You’d have to kill me first.”
“That can be arranged.” Another kick in the gut stole Micah’s breath. The unseen man punched him across the face again. Again. And again.
“Come on, Micah. Where’s this heroism getting you?”
Micah fell over in the men’s grasps, his tired weight ready to give into gravity.
“Tell ‘em where she is and where you’re hiding the necklace.”
Micah smiled, a row of white tainted with spots of deep, thick red blood. “You’ll never know. My honor and loyalty is to my Skinwalker Chieftess only. Nothing will break me. Soon she’ll know the truth and then finish you for breaking the code.”
“Lay him down,” the unseen man said through gritted teeth. The shuffle of bodies moving echoed against the walls. Micah’s body slammed down with a grunt before he struggled to escape their grasp.
The man in the suit cocked his head to the side and shrugged, curling his lips into a smile. “This is such a shame, Micah. You know the only thing I hate more than a person who sticks his nose where it doesn’t belong, is an insubordinate who believes he’s higher than his station allows. May your passing take with you pain and suffering into life after death because your Skinwalker Chieftess cannot help you now.” He raised his hand then slammed it on Micah’s chest, causing him to shake violently as smoke rose from his burning body.
Lexia opened her eyes and looked down. The scene happened exactly as in her dream only this time she had seen it all. Still she couldn’t see the other four men amidst the dark shadows. It was as if the darkness surrounded them, purposefully blocking her view.
Her heart raced, pumping wildly at the images echoed in her memory. Were they looking for her?
If not, what did all that mean? And why were they after this man? What was this Skinwalker Chieftess? A shapeshifter legend?
Lexia looked up around the bedroom, feeling another presence in the air. Something called to her, wanted her here, seemed intent on making her stay put. A cool wind caressed her arms, raising the hairs on her skin.
She peered down again at the man’s face. His half-buttoned shirt revealed a scar on his chest. This had to be the emblem the man was clutching in his hand. She couldn’t see it but something told her it was the very same.
Lexia looked over her shoulder, thankful to see the female police officer nearby. “Hey, do you have any spare gloves?”
“Thanks.” Lexia flashed the woman a smile as she took the gloves offered to her and slipped them on. She waited until the room was empty before continuing. Who was this man and why did he feel so familiar to her?
She gently pulled back the plaid shirt to bare his chest fully. It was just as the cop told her. Among the dark, thin patch of hair was a clear indentation of the necklace burned on him like a brand. She nearly froze as she made out the mark—flames emitting from a round face with eyes in the shape of howling wolves. The image from her dream! But how? What was the connection here?
With a sigh, she stood, feeling like her senses had overloaded. Her mind raced to find questions. Another flash invaded her mind. The necklace, a beautiful gold embroidered rope tied to the sun-like mark. Deep in the midst of the wolves were eyes made of red jewels. Was that what they were after?
Then she felt it.
The necklace is still here.
Perhaps that was why this was the only room in shambles. They must have known. Lexia slowly surveyed the room, feeling the invisible energy guide her. A white bookcase sat on the opposite end lined with various old hardbacks thrown about. The unknown behind those walls drew her near. Raising her hand, she willed the books to move. She narrowed her eyes and imagined them falling off the shelf to the floor to reveal what she needed to see.
But nothing happened.
Lexia chuckled. Looking around, she hoped no one saw her failing mishap. Who did she think she was? Some kind of telekinetic warrior? She had the ability to see things, but the idea of moving things with her will sounded absurd even to her.
She turned at the sound of oncoming footsteps in the hall.
Rudy poked his head through the door as she gingerly stepped toward the hall.
“Definite signs of foul play on his body,” she said, placing her hands on her hips. “He was attacked, beaten and branded like an animal.”
“Did you see the perps?”
“Unfortunately, no. Too many shadows hid their profiles. I just noticed they were all dressed in suits.”
“I counted five.”
Rudy cursed softly. “Any sign of what caused the mark?”
Lexia shook her head. “Not a clue. I did notice—”
A loud thump caught her attention. They exchanged glances and from the widening of Rudy’s eyes, she could tell he’d heard it too. She carefully turned around and headed back in the room.
There in one of the corners, books lay on the ground. The empty space they left made way for a large opening within the wall. Lexia immediately spotted the shiny gold sun talisman attached to a long braided chain. The same design branded on the dead man’s chest. “
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