Kira Brady

Hearts of Shadow

Hearts of Shadow

The Deadglass Trilogy, Book 2
Kensington Zebra • May 2013
ISBN-13: 9781420124576 • ISBN-10: 1420124579

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In this brilliant new novel in the Deadglass series, a fierce young woman’s quest entangles her in an apocalyptic endgame–and unexpected desire…

Grace Mercer’s unmatched wraith-killing ability made her the unofficial defender of a city shattered by supernatural catastrophe. So there’s no way she’ll allow the new regent of Seattle’s most powerful dragon shifter clan to “protect” her from a vicious evil stalking the ruined streets–and keep her from the freedom she’s risked everything to earn. Leif’s science-honed instincts tell him Grace is the key to keeping shifters and humans safe. But helping this wary fighter channel her untapped power is burning away the dragon’s sensual self-control and putting a crucial alliance at risk. Soon the only chance Leif and Grace will have to save their world will be a dangerously fragile link that could forever unite their souls…or consume all in a storm of destruction.

 Reviews

“Brady’s masterful world-building transports the reader to a grim but compelling future, seamlessly interweaving the real and the beautifully imagined.” – Publishers Weekly

“This is a trilogy you’ll want to get lost in.” – RT Magazine

“Brady has created a fascinating world with different mythology infused together, and strong multifaceted characters that make lasting impressions.” – Short and Sweet Reviews (five stars)

“Hearts of Shadow is a moody, atmospheric, dangerous and sexy ride and I want more.” - The Book Tart

“Hearts of Shadow is a fantastic story, rich on its own with complex characters and a strong plot well suited to this fascinating world.” – Christine of The Happily Ever After

“Intense, action packed, steamy angsty, and at times dark, Hearts of Shadows is a riveting paranormal romance.” – Affair De Coeur Magazine

“HEARTS OF SHADOW, is one exciting, sensual scene after another….Well written with incredible characters.” – Romance Reviews Today

Hearts of Shadow is an excellent read that will have you on the edge of your seat.”Anna’s Book Blog

 Excerpt

from Chapter Two

A roar shook the alley. The brick behind Grace trembled. Caught off guard, the aptrgangr loosened their hold on her limbs and she twisted free. A monstrous dragon tried to squeeze into the alley from the street outside. Three times the size of a man and covered in rust-colored scales tipped in green that sparkled even in the dim light. It snapped its massive jaws at the aptrgangr, showing three rows of jagged white teeth. Smoke curled from the end of a long snout, filling the narrow passage with the scent of cinnamon and smoked meat. The green eyes—slit like a cat—glowed.

Grace’s stomach dropped out the bottom of her feet. She took advantage of the aptrgangr’s distraction and ran in the opposite direction. The wavy edges of her vision turned black. Her side burned—her rib good as broken—as if the dragon behind her had already set fire to her ailing body. All in a day’s work.

Fleeing screams and the crunch of bones, she jumped over Bert’s inert body and scrambled over a Dumpster at the end of the alley, only to be stopped by a crumble of bricks and trees. The street beneath her feet opened to expose the Underground. She couldn’t jump down there, not without canvassing an exit first.

No way out.

Grace squeezed herself between the Dumpster and the crumbled wall. Not hiding, resting, she told herself. But the blood beat in her ears, and the slow scrape of scales and claws on brick followed her down the alley. The knife in her hand trembled. She could barely raise her arm.

The dragon found her hiding spot no problem. He nosed away the Dumpster. Metal screeched across the pavement. An ancient being blocked the sky. His eyes focused on her: intelligent, powerful, curious. Scales rippled down a sinuous body. Strangely and terribly beautiful, like the sharp edge between pleasure and pain. It hurt her eyes to look at him. She wanted to stroke her hand across that long muzzle. She wanted to put her hand in the beast’s mouth.

Freya’s madness, she tempted fate. Again and again. One of these days some monster would bite her hand clean off. But that adrenaline rush drew her, lit her up like a tree at Christmas. When a girl was death’s handmaiden, sometimes all she craved was to feel shockingly alive.

She squeezed her eyes shut against the temptation. The dragon mewed and drew nearer, butting her side like some great, demonic puppy. Pain shot through her rib, and she cried out. The dragon hissed. Cinnamon filled the air. His sharp teeth snatched her by the leg and pulled her out.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she yelled. “Let me go! Let me—oof!”

The dragon set her down gently, and she leaned her cheek against the cold brick ground, breathing heavily and waiting for the world to stop spinning. She was going to have a fucking headache when she woke up. Heat and light flickered behind her closed eyelids. She braced herself. She could imagine the Turn, because she’d seen it before; the scales shattering into sprinkles of light; the giant limbs shrinking to human form; the godlike naked physique bathed in a golden glow. Curse and thank the gods.

Norgard had always waited a beat, glorifying in his nudity, aware that it made Grace uncomfortable. She couldn’t say the exact moment when her excitement and hero worship had given way to anxiety. He had known her dark secret. Her shame. She couldn’t hide her fascination with the dragon’s wicked beauty.

Most people thought the Drekar’s monster form was most dangerous, but they were wrong. When faced with a twenty-foot-tall fire-breathing dragon, survival mode kicked in. A sane person didn’t try to fight a dragon. A sane person ran and lived to fight another day.

The human Drekar form, on the other hand, was much more subtle. It specialized in cunning and deception. It was just as dangerous to her, but her primal instincts didn’t get her feet moving first thing. The Drekar’s looks made the sun stop in its orbit to get a good look. The ardor-inducing pheromones made a person want to rub up against it. It destroyed all reason.
They were gods among men; she didn’t know how anyone mistook them for humans. Beautiful, terrible, erotic. She’d been sucked in when she was just a naïve sixteen-year-old, and she hated to admit, but they still had the power to turn her knees to jelly.

“It’s a trick,” she reminded herself.

Leif Asgard was no different. She kept her eyes averted. She would not let him affect her.

“What in Tiamat’s name do you think you’re doing?” he asked, voice deep with smoke and Aether.

Irritation flittered through her brain—she didn’t want help—but reality came back as her left side throbbed around her busted rib. Steeling her face, she scrambled to a sitting position. The brick wall at her back steadied her.

He cast her a cursory glance and then bent over the fallen aptrgangr, Bert, with his angry red runes burned into his flesh. Asgard’s eyebrows lifted as he studied her marks. “Who taught you this?”

“Who do you think?”

“You need to burn the body, or it could come back.”

“Thank you, Captain Obvious.”

His glance cut through her. His eyes were emerald green. So mesmerizing, she could lose herself inside them, if the pupils weren’t currently slit in anger. It popped the illusion that he was human.

Norgard would have punished her for failing a mission like this. Not immediately. He would wait, letting the tension curl in her gut until she wanted to beg him to do it already. The wait was worse than the punishment. Nothing so simple as a beating. Psychological games were his specialty.

Asgard ticked his fingers against his thigh. A curl of smoke drifted from his nostrils. She could think of a hundred reactions he might be contemplating, but—like his brother—not one flickered across his inhumanly beautiful face.

She wanted to push him. To make him snap that perfect composure.

With a nod, he decided. He turned to the aptrgangr body. His jaw dropped—unhinged farther than any human jaw could—and breathed the magic of his kind. A burst of flame lit the alley, controlled yet chaotic, shot through with gold and amber. Her shaking limbs curled toward the heat. She hadn’t realized she was cold.

The body sizzled and the scent of burning meat filled the air. It bloomed and died in seconds. Even the bones melted, leaving a man-sized print charred into the brick.

The fire left starbursts in her eyes, and when they cleared, the Drekar Regent was leaning over her. His green eyes swept her body, cataloging her injuries, memorizing her weaknesses.

“I’m fine.” She struggled to rise, pushing against the wall behind her so that it took her weight. Somehow she found herself on the ground again. Crap.

A muscle twitched in his jaw. “I can see that.”

“Just . . . resting.”

He reached out, and she winced. His hand froze an inch from her cheek. His eyebrows rose a fraction. Damn, damn, damn. She usually had a better grip on herself. Never show weakness.

Slowly, he traced the outline of an old bruise along her jaw. His fingers trailed heat along her sensitive skin.

She couldn’t stop the shiver that took her. “Cold,” she explained.

“Hmm,” he hummed, noncommittal. His hand dropped. “Those are old bruises. You seem intelligent. How did you get in this situation?” He caught her as she made a nose dive.

Grace started to panic at his large hands on her arm and waist. Her breath clogged in the cotton of her throat. Her pulse pounded. Sweat broke along her palms. This was nothing she hadn’t survived before. She fought for calm.

“How long have you gone unhealed?” Propping her against the wall again, he crouched in front of her. He was naked. A new shiver wracked her, but not from the cold. Smooth, golden skin covered his muscled forearm. He smelled of cinnamon and something darker, like hot mulled brandy. Before she realized what she was doing, she found herself leaning in to that scent.

No, no, no. His musk was messing with her head. She would not be an easy target. “Won’t sleep with you.”

Even Norgard wouldn’t heal her in an alley. He had standards.

Asgard blinked. His shoulders shook. “Darling, I’m not desperate enough that roadkill looks remotely appealing. I doubt you’ve got enough life left in you for a good kiss, let alone a good shagging.”

“Doesn’t work if you don’t,” she mumbled. “Blood’s not enough.”

He was silent for a long moment. “You need to be healed.” He Turned one finger to claw and sliced the vein in his right elbow. She felt his strong hands pulling her from the wall.

It was so easy to fall away from the cold brick into his warm embrace, but she fought it anyway. Her lips closed on his skin, and she couldn’t help the moan that escaped her when her tongue found his hot rush of blood.

Her eyelids were too heavy to keep open. She let them close. She was going to have a killer heartache when she woke up.