Silhouette Nocturne #74
Now you can follow Raphael, hero of IMMORTAL WOLF, on Twitter. Go to http://twitter.com/ImmortalWolf.
An immortal, Harley-riding Cajun werewolf faces his greatest challenge when he races against time to save a woman from being sacrificed to spare the Draicon werewolf race from her "death touch."
Exiled to a life of extreme loneliness because everyone she touches dies, Emily Burke has every reason to distrust Raphael Robichaux. The immortal werewolf possesses immense power and has been summoned by her pack to end her life. And yet, from the moment she lays eyes on the powerful rebel, he awakens all the longings she's kept bottled inside...and gives her hope. When Raphael meets Emily, he knows something enormous is at stake. For not only does he see that her blood can restore life--but she is his destined mate.
Trust doesn't come easily to Emily. But somehow Raphael must convince her to put her life in his hands. Only then will an ancient prophecy be fulfilled and a terrible evil destroyed....
"This was my very first introduction to Ms. Vanak’s werewolf world, and just as in her Egyptian Historical series, she held me spellbound with this new world of shapeshifting wolves, and morphs, and magical beings with both good and evil intents. This new world Ms. Vanak built was truly amazing and the traits she gives her new creations are pretty remarkable. One of the things I truly admire when reading a book out of sequence from a series is that when you delve into it, you don’t feel as though you’re missing anything and Vanak proves this out in IMMORTAL WOLF making this a true stand-alone. In building this supernatural world of Gods, and Goddesses; Draicons, and Morphs, Ms. Vanak comes out with a series that will entrance both old and new fans of the paranormal genre." —Marilyn Rondeau for CK2S Kwips and Kritiques
"Emily is a fascinating lead protagonist who believes she needs to die as her future is that of a hermit unable to touch anyone; the audience will think of Rogue of the X-Men. The urban romantic fantasy story line is fast-paced from the moment the executioner arrives and twists immediately as he knows he must kill his life mate, which will kill him too. Ironically she had been the bringer of life and he the destroyer, but now she apparently is the destroyer and he brings the hope of life. Fans will believe in the supernatural world of Bonnie Vanak as eastern Tennessee is home to the Burke Draicon clan."
—Harriet Klausner, Genre Go Round Reviews
4 Stars! "Vanak's action-packed story has a compelling mythology to explain the paranormal." —Pat Cooper, RT Book Reviews
Copyright 2009 by Bonnie Vanak
Raphael Robichaux sped toward Bourbon Street on his Harley toward his favorite bar for one last prowl through his turf in New Orleans. Miles away, a female awaited him to deliver her to death. A quick, nearly painless death, but death nonetheless.
The big bike purred as wind whipped his ragged shoulder length hair. Riding the Harley gave him the only true freedom he knew. But as Raphael neared Bourbon, a voice called out in pained insistence.
Kallan. Kallan. I have need of you.
Raphael turned the bike around, toward the weak, hopeful sigh. In a shadowed alleyway littered with paper bags and the stench of old vomit, a male sat against the exposed brick wall. Even as he slid off the Harley, Raphael knew it was an elder Draicon in great pain.
Yellowed, sharp fangs flashed in the alley. Morphs. Former Draicon who turned evil by killing a relative, they could shapeshift into any life form. The pair licked the blood streaming down the elder’s temples. Tasting death and the Draicon’s fear to gain energy.
One swiped at the helpless male, swiping bloody furrows across his chest. The elder gasped.
Raphael stood at the alley’s entrance. “Go pick on someone able to fight back.” Challenge rang out in his voice.
Growls greeted him as they backed away from their prey. The Morphs straightened. Energized by the elder’s terror, they shifted into rats. They cloned themselves into a writhing mass of rats, large as small felines. Falling on the elder, they chewed his arms and hands.
The elder screamed.
Absolute calmness came over Raphael. He never lost sight of the original two, their markings, their movements. He lifted his hands. A veil of protection, much like an electronic fence, draped the elder. Shocked by the pure magick, the rats squealed and dropped off. Denied their prey, they turned on Raphael.
He was ready. Waving his hands, he divested himself of clothing, shifted into wolf.
Focusing on the original pair, he sprang forward to attack. They squealed and shifted into their true form. As they did, their clones vanished, denied the energy necessary to maintaining them.
Just as quickly Raphael shifted back into his human form, clothed himself. Daggers materialized in his hands. He twirled, punched, acted. The two Morphs gave low howls, dropped to the ground. In a minute, they vanished into ashes.
Raphael went to the elder, who was holding his stomach as if trying to keep his guts stuffed inside. His mouth went dry as he scanned the Draicon’s injuries.
“Please, help me end this. I can’t… cross.” The elder, at least 1,500 years, wheezed. Pain radiated from him in great waves. “Just let me go.”
Raphael hedged, torn between wanting to give the honored elder solace and the agonizing decision to end it for him. But the male’s burning plea nudged him forward. It was time.
Closing his eyes, Raphael laid his hand on the other’s shoulder. Concentrated, pulling back to the Other Realm of peace and no pain. He uttered words in the ancient tongue.
His eyes flew open as he removed a short, golden dagger strapped always to his waist. The blade had a magick anesthetic. With a low murmur of sacred words, he stabbed the elder in the heart.
Death was swift, merciful and painless. Light faded from the Draicon’s gaze. But a small, serene smile rested on his thin lips. With reverence, Raphael closed the elder’s eyes. He wiped blood off his sacred Scian with a small cloth tucked into his back pocket. Then he replaced the dagger, fished out his cell phone and made a call.
Five minutes later, four of his former pack arrived. They wrapped the body in a long length of oriental carpet and discreetly carried it to the waiting truck to take the elder to the honored burial he deserved.
Raphael closed his eyes, wishing he didn’t feel so damn alone right now. As much of a rush killing the Morphs gave him, dispatching one of his own into the peace of the Other Realm made him feel empty. Dark inside.
He was the Destroyer, the bringer of death.
Bringing the solace of crossing over to the Other Realm was an honored vocation. A hint of darkness tinged his spirit, necessary for dispatching his duty. He was the Kallan, the only one who could terminate the life of a fellow Draicon without consequence. And too many Draicon suffering from the slow, torturous wounds inflicted by their enemies needed his assistance to cross into the Other Realm.
Minutes later, he parked the bike in front of the Full Moon bar. Music poured down the street in an acoustic tidal wave; soft, cool jazz and hard, pounding rock. A few women lounging on the sidewalk and sipping hurricanes gave him the twice over. Wind teased the pure white streak of hair at his temple, played with the gold dagger earring dangling from his left ear.
A collective female sigh, soft as a Mississippi River breeze, drifted toward him. He angled his famous half smile at the staring threesome. “Evening ladies,” he drawled.
Three in one night. Nothing new. Hard, fast female company, the bliss of quick, anonymous sex and the energy it brought pushed back the loneliness a little. The tallest had a lush figure, with enough flesh on all the right places he loved to caress. He adored females. Even human women who were too frail to absorb the rough sex Draicon males sometimes relished.
But sex with anonymous strangers never touched the empty space inside him. Raphael gave the women a charming smile and walked away. Behind him, their murmurs of disappointment buzzed like mosquitoes in the bayou.
He headed toward the scratched wood bar and a last mug of beer before his ritual purification necessary to committing trasna.
Male and female Draicon nursing drinks stared. “That’s him,” he heard one female whisper. “The Kallan. They say he was appointed because he killed 80 Morphs in one day when they were about to slay a pack in California.”
As he neared, the males bowed their heads. The females gave him speculative sexual looks. The heavy weight of their awed stares fell on him as he passed.
Too often he felt as if he were dancing atop a paper pedestal erected by his people. When would he fall off because his blood wasn’t pure enough? Only his family treated him normally.
He snorted. Normal? He was immortal. Normal wasn’t part of the package.
Being a Kallan required strength, physical prowess but most of all, emotional detachment tempered with compassion and spiritual purity. A Kallan did not relish dispatching his own people. He saw his role as a guide to the Other Realm, who prepared them for crossing over. Those transitions, even if they committed crimes against their own kind, were treated with dignity and compassion.
He had never dispatched a female before. Raphael hoped he’d have the strength and emotional detachment to execute the cursed Draicon. It could be worse, he thought grimly. She could be someone I know, even love.
Two of his brothers shouted a hearty hello. He was crossing the distance between them when a voice spoke in his head.
“Amant? Are you there?”
The whisper made him halt. It was her, the one he revered above all others. Raphael held up a hand in greeting to his brothers. He retreated to a solitary table.
“Erin. I’m here.” He reassured her.
Her voice sounded shaky, as if she tried disguising her fear. But something deeply worried her.
“I thought I’d lost you. You haven’t spoken to me since yesterday.”
“Hush, little one,” he soothed. “I’m right here, as I have been. What troubles you, chere?”
“I just missed you, that’s all.”
“I missed you too,” he admitted, pulling out a chair and propping one booted foot upon it.
One month ago, he had been preparing crayfish for the family barbecue when he’d heard her. His draicara, his destined mate, seeking him out. Raphael had gone still at the sweet purity of her voice, the low melodic tones. He felt bathed in serenity and yet sharpened by sexual need.
It was the most erotic thing he’d ever experienced, and yet she’d spoken but one sentence.
Since then, they’d talked nearly each day. He wisely did not press her, and allowed her to seek him out. He’d given her the nickname bestowed on him by his brothers. Amant, the French word for lover. He didn’t want to frighten her or have her overcome with awe at the legendary Raphael, the most feared and respected Draicon.
“Where are you now? What are you doing?” Erin asked.
“In a bar. Talking to you.”
“Oh. There must be many pretty women there.”
He leaned forward, placing both feet on the floor. “What’s wrong, Erin? You sound sad. Are you alone?”
A tiny sigh went through him like an arrow. “Where I am, I am always alone.”
Where was her pack? Her alpha?
“I must go. It isn’t safe here. I have to go to someplace safe.”
He picked up her anxiety, like little hairs brushing against the nape of his neck. Raphael frowned, wishing he could see her. “Your people, are they near? Do you feel threatened?”
“It’s just some males from my pack walking nearby. I can’t let them see me.”
His hackles rose at the suggestion of someone daring to touch his draicara. Automatically, he flexed his muscles, his protective instincts rising. “If they try anything with you, they will pay.”
“Don’t worry. They won’t come near me.”
“They’d better not. You’re mine and mine alone.” He couldn’t help rumbling.
She gave a light laugh, as sweet and airy as a songbird. “I can take care of myself. Trust me. I have for a while now.”
“It’s my job to take care of you.”
Her voice deepened. “You’re so good to me, even if you aren’t here. I cherish our times together these past weeks. When can I see you?”
Raphael blocked away thoughts of the task awaiting him. “Soon. I have an assignment, then I will come to you.”
“Promise?” Despair punctuated her voice.
Troubled, he sent her waves of reassurance, soothing images of forest and glen, the deep quiet of the green woods. He felt her tension ease.
“How I wish you could kiss me now. Kiss me and tell me all is well.”
Her admission sent waves of erotic heat through him. He would kiss her, inch by sweet inch. His body tightened with need. He wondered what she looked like and wished she would allow him to see her reflection in a mirror.
“I am eager for us to meet. I can’t wait to touch you,” he admitted in a husky, sensual whisper.