Eye of the Tempest - By Nicole Peeler

CHAPTER ONE

I awoke slowly, languorously, my still-mostly-sleeping brain registering surprise when my nose smooshed into soft leather rather than sheets. For a second I nearly panicked, before I realized I was nestled into a hugely over-stuffed cushion that was part of a leather sofa. The sofa and the shabby, homemade afghan in which I was cocooned smelled deliciously of lemon polish, cardamom, and just a hint of something more masculine. I knew, then, where I was. Not least because I was soon brushing a few stray dark dog hairs off my face as I rolled over and stretched.

And where is the man himself? I wondered, sitting up to peer around Anyan’s dawn-infused living room.

It was only last night that we’d rolled into town from the Alfar Compound. For almost the past month, Anyan and I had been on a desperate hunt to find my mother’s killers and shut down their pseudo-laboratories of torture, culminating in our finally outing Jarl as the menace he truly was. As tended to happen when I visited the Alfar Compound, a huge melee ensued, and the Alfar king, Orin, had been murdered by none other than his loving wife, Morrigan. Turns out the queen had been tupping her husband’s second and brother, the even nastier than previously assumed Jarl.

During the chaos of the fight, Jarl and Morrigan escaped. So not only were the bad guys on the lam, but the Territory had been left leaderless until Anyan suggested they make like humans and vote on a new leader. Next thing I knew, my former lover, Ryu, and his favorite nemesis, Nyx, found themselves tied as interim leaders of their Territory.

Much to my delight, I also discovered that Anyan did not want to stay in the Compound. Instead, he wanted to return to Rockabill. With me.

Where I thought we would make sweaty monkey lovin’, I groused, sighing as I stretched out legs tight from the previous night’s ride back to Eastport on Anyan’s motorcycle.

Instead, all my fantasies of playing “hide the Milk-Bone” had been scuppered when, on the way home, we’d run into Blondie. The tattooed enigma had been shadowing me, saving my life quite a few times over the course of our recent shenanigans. We didn’t know who she was, or what she wanted, but last night she’d let us know she was an Original: powerful, ancient, and supposedly a myth.

“And a total cock-blocker,” I grumbled to myself as I stood, slowly and stiffly, before shuffling off to dig my toiletries bag out of my duffel.

I’d been looking forward to having Anyan alone, finally, and I’d nearly done a backflip when he suggested I spend the night at his place. His excuse was that it made sense for me to wait for the morning, as I had all of Rockabill’s supernatural community—plus Grizzie and Tracy—bunking down in my house for safety after Iris had been kidnapped. I knew, however, it was really because he wanted some patented Jane True sexorcizing. But then Blondie showed up, all nekkid and pierced and tattooed and totally foxy. After which, the conversation between Dog-Boy and me went (roughly) as follows:

DB: “OMG! Whatever could that woman want?”

JANE: “I don’t care! Let’s go to your place! NOW.”

DB: “No! I must be valorous and protect those under my care by investigating!”

JANE: “Um, why don’t you be valorous and protect those under your care AFTER we mambo horizontally. Then vertically. Then maybe to the Northwest.”

DB: “I’m sorry, what?”

JANE: “Nothing.”

So Anyan had tossed me through his front door with our luggage, telling me to “make myself at home.” I’d flipped off the shutting door, reminding it loudly that I had been planning to make myself at home on his face. At which point the door was thrown open again, and Anyan had demanded, “What?”

To which I’d replied, “Nothing.”

So not only had we not had sex, but I’d also spent the night on the sofa, as I didn’t feel comfortable invading Anyan’s man space without express permission. Not to mention, my hormones probably would have forced me to do terrible things to myself in his bed, as he owned the raunchiest, Anyan-wrought, supernatural-Sutra headboard ever.

Still grumbling, I shambled over to Anyan’s downstairs bathroom to go potty and clean myself up a little. Staring into my own eyes in the mirror as I brushed my teeth, I reminded myself that, while it sucked I had yet to molest the barghest, at least I was alive. There’d been more than a few times during the past weeks when

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