For six years the Exiled hybrids have lived in peace with humans, happily integrated and intermarrying, sharing education, technology, and culture. Despite his youth, Free’s youngest son, Charming, reluctantly stepped into the role of leader and proved formidable, commanding the respect of both hybrids and humans while uniting them in a single vision.
All was manageable until a string of human murders point to a hybrid killer. While Charming is in the middle of trying to keep the peace and maintain hard-won goodwill between species, Rosie shows up unexpectedly and leaves a young human female who is, apparently, on the run.
When Rosie disappears before Charming can find out how to get ahold of her, he finds himself with a city in crisis, the threat of a race war, and an unruly ward sporting lots of attitude. And a fetching body.
“So are you going to tell me why you’re here?” He looked at the large rolling bag parked by the front door. “Does it have anything to do with that?”
“Well, I do need a favor.”
“You’re moving in.”
“No. Not me.”
“Okay. What is it?” He sat down on a couch.
“Can I sit?”
He made a gesture indicating that she could sit where she wanted. She sat on a large upholstered chair near where he’d parked himself on one of his sofas.
“There’s a girl who needs to disappear from Loti Dimension. She needs a place to stay.”
Charming nodded, waiting for her to go on. Then her meaning dawned on him.
“You mean with me!?! You want to leave some strange girl with me the way Kellareal left you with my family?”
“Yes. Exactly. Including the part that you may find her strange.”
“You can’t say no.”
“I sure as hell can say no. Let me reiterate. No!”
“You have room for a guest.”
“That’s my business.”
“I know. But it has to be you.”
“Because I trust you.” She could see that his adamant position weakened with that declaration. “And you have a spare room, what with being the grand poobah and all.”
She waved her hand in the air as if to indicate that he was overlord of the entire dimension.
“I know I’m going to be sorry I asked this, but what’s a grand poobah?”
“It’s the MAN, the big kahuna, the big giant head, yada yada.”
“Was that supposed to convey information or make you sound unhinged?”
“Look. I have a distressed damsel in tow. She needs a place to be so as to avoid death and dismemberment, not necessarily in that order. You have a place for her to hide out. So what’s the problem?”
“What did she do?”
“She’s taking the Fifth.”
He shook his head. “Rosie…”
“That means don’t ask, don’t tell. If she’s guilty of something, you don’t need to know. If she’s not, what difference does it make?”
“What diff…? You’re not taking ‘no’ for an answer, are you?” Rosie cheered in direct proportion to Charming’s posture of defeat and resignation.
“Okay. New subject. Where have you been? Why did you disappear? Why is it that the first time you’ve spoken to me since my brother died is to ask for a favor?”
“When you put it that way it sounds rude and inconsiderate.”
“That’s because it is rude and inconsiderate. My family loved you, felt close to you. How could you just forget all about us?”
“I didn’t forget all about you.”
“Could have fooled me.”
“I’m sorry. I knew that facing you, and your family, would be painful. I guess I was thinking mostly about me.”
“But now you’re not.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, now you’re thinking about the needs of some stray human you picked up on the street in another world, right? Somebody you know nothing about. Am I right?”
“Yes. Right on all counts. She was terrified. You should have seen her. I didn’t care what she’d done. I just wanted to help her.”
“Well, that’s laudable. How have you been, by the way?”
“I got married. That’s the other reason why I haven’t been back. I didn’t know how you’d take it… my moving on. He’s the one I was taking a break from when I came here.”
“I wandered around for five years. Then we got back together.”
“So you’re happy?”
“Yes. How about you?”
“I’m… busy. I guess that’s the same thing as happy.”
“I don’t think busy is the same thing as happy, but if you’re not feeling unhappy, that’s good.”
“I missed you.”
“Missed you, too.” After a minute of silence, Rosie said, “So. Will you take her in?”
Charming sighed. “For how long?”
“Until you find another place for her to stay?”
His eyes widened. “You mean you’re leaving her with us permanently?”
“If she goes back, she’s dead. So, yeah.”
“Rosie, that’s not really a plan. Dumping somebody who doesn’t belong here. Do you really not see any problems with that?”
“None that you can’t solve. You’re Charming!” She grinned. “You made me feel welcome and right at home from the very beginning. That’s why I know you’re the perfect solution.”
“But that was you! It was easy to make you feel welcome because you’re you!”
“I think that’s a compliment. So thank you.”
He huffed. “I’m trying to say that, asking me to room with some strange human… Well, you know how I feel about you, but it’s a lot to ask.”
“Okay. Let’s negotiate. What’s it going to take?”
“Everything in life is a deal, Charming. What do you need in return for this favor in order to feel like you weren’t taken advantage of?”
New York Times bestselling author of thirteen romances. Victoria's Knights of Black Swan series won BEST PARANORMAL ROMANCE SERIES for the past THREE YEARS IN A ROW. Reviewers Choice Awards, The Paranormal Romance Guild.
Her paranormal romances come with uniquely fresh perspectives on "imaginary" creatures, characters, and themes. She adds a dash of scifi, a flourish of fantasy, enough humor to make you laugh out loud, and, occasionally, enough steam to make you squirm in your chair. Her heroines are independent femmes with flaws and minds of their own whether they are aliens, witches, demonologists, werewolves, hybrids, psychics, or past life therapists. Her heroes are hot and hunky, but they also have brains, character, and good manners... usually.
The rich characterizations come from being a lifelong student of behavior, casually, and a serious student of behavior academically. She also studied comparative religion, myths, and Dark Ages history.
Victoria lives in The Woodlands, Texas with her husband and a very smart, mostly black German Shepherd dog.