Saturday Excerpt: Her Werewolf Hero by Michele Hauf
Take a walk on the wild side with a new werewolf romance by Michelle Hauf! Read on for an excerpt from Her Werewolf Hero from Harlequin Nocturne below.
About Her Werewolf Hero:
A “find and seize” mission that should have been easy for Retriever Bron Everhart. Except the werewolf had no idea the object would be inside a breathing, beautiful woman. Kizzy Lewis needed the heart to live. But others—even more desperate than Bron’s employers—desired the heart at any cost.
After just one touch, Bron knew he would do anything to protect Kizzy. The only way to truly save her was to journey into Purgatory itself. And for that, he had to hope he could return before she was lost to him forever.
“Go right in, Mr. Everhart.” The pretty secretary with bright blue eyes gestured over her shoulder with a pen while typing on the keyboard with her other hand.
Bron nodded his thanks and stepped toward the scanner portal positioned before the Director of Acquisitions’ door. He paused on its springy metal threshold, felt the prick of its supernatural scanning mechanism throughout his nervous system and knew the data that showed on the director’s monitor would report he was werewolf, approximately two centuries in age, and did not wear an Acquisitions-issued tracking chip.
He refused to be chipped like a dog. If he ever went missing, then tilt a glass to him at the local pub and warn Beneath he was on his way.
A stream of green light beaming from inside the metal scanner alerted him the scan was complete. Stepping forward activated a sliding steel door, and he entered a dimly lit office. The decor featured dark woods and rusted steel ceiling beams that lent a rustic atmosphere to the room. The director was a vampire, but really? Bron knew they could go out in the sunlight for short periods, and an overcast day generally did not cause them harm.
He wouldn’t ask. He never did. He wasn’t a curious man. He simply acted. Let the shrapnel fall where it will.
Ethan Pierce had an alarmingly bright smile and a scattering of silver within the short brown hair spiking from his scalp. “Everhart! Just return from Romania?”
Bron took a seat on the ultracomfortable leather chair before the director’s desk and propped a combat-booted foot across his opposite knee. “Two days returned and eager to put my hiking boots on again.”
“Excellent. I’ve a new assignment for you.”
The director slid a piece of paper toward Bron. As with most Acquisitions’ dossiers, it featured a small photograph or drawing of the item that required retrieval, and below that were listed details. This one featured what looked like a woodcut drawing of a human heart with a faintly hand-shaped mark across the muscle.
“The Purgatory Heart,” Ethan explained. “The mission is find and seize. I’ve sent the digital file to your phone, which includes a link to a related article found online. I’m afraid that’s all the printed research we’ve had time to gather, though Archives has provided us further details. We’ve been gauging activity regarding the object for a few days. There’s chatter circulating about it, and while we can’t pin the origin of that chatter, someone or thing very powerful wants it, judging by the universal vibrations that alerted us to the item.”
Universal vibrations. Early in his career as a Retriever for Acquisitions, Bron had learned everything put out a sort of pulse or tone, whether it was animal, vegetable, mineral or man. And thanks to magic, those vibrations could be read, sometimes even tracked.
“Since we don’t have a location or ID on the thing,” Ethan continued, “it seemed right up your alley. You do like a good adventure.”
Bron had already opened the file on his phone and tapped the link. He scanned over an article detailing a small museum in Prague. It displayed items that had been touched by souls from Purgatory. An open book featured a blackened handprint burned onto the pages. A rusted tin bucket showed a few fingerprints burned into the metal. A tattered hemp skirt again brandished a burnt handprint. Nothing about a heart, though.
Of course, had the heart been at the museum, the mission would not have been assigned to him. Simply stopping by and stealing an item displayed to the public was generally assigned to newer Retrievers. Not to those who viewed risk as their very lifeblood.
“Purgatory exists?” Bron wondered as he leaned back against the chair. It wasn’t often he sat—he craved movement, always—but the cushy leather chairs in the director’s office enticed him to relax and exhale. It was a rare feeling, and it sometimes made him uncomfortable.
Just thinking about relaxing made him sit up straight.
“Yes, it’s closely related to Daemonia, the Place of All Demons,” the director explained. “Purgatory is the midpoint between good and evil. A balance, if you will. And there is a portal from Daemonia to Purgatory, but not vice versa. Though, I understand there’s not a demon that would purposely make such a trip to Purgatory.”
“No demons eager to torture mortal souls? Sounds surprising.”
“There is torture, but it is a permanent and endless job. The demons you’ll find there are prisoners themselves. They are called Toll Gatherers; they test the purgatants.” The director tapped the paper. “The heart we want to secure and keep from nefarious hands has been gripped by a purgatorial soul and scarred with a handprint. You should recognize that when you find it.”
“Most certainly. What does this purgatorial heart do?”
Most objects Bron—any Retriever—was sent to obtain were usually of a highly volatile and magical nature. If put into the wrong hands? Devastation could occur. Not to mention things like mortal deaths, plagues, zombies and even a Cereberus, if he recalled that bungled snatch correctly.
“Unlike the passage from Daemonia, the heart opens a gateway into Purgatory—that goes both ways. Should Purgatory be breached by an unknown, there is the probability of souls breaking free. The balance between good and evil will be severely tilted toward evil. It’s on the same lines as all hell breaking lose. We’ve deemed the mission Necessary.”
Necessary, but not Critical, as were the top-secret missions. And a find and seize, which was the usual Retriever assignment. Rarely was a mission labeled find and finish.
“No known location?” Bron asked. “Where do I start?”
The director opened his top drawer and pulled out a thin square piece of crystal and set it on top of the dossier. Compelled by the promise of new and interesting technology, Bron leaned forward.
“A tracker,” Ethan provided. “It’s the latest tech addition to our arsenal. Had Crafts and Hexes bespell it. Press it between your thumb and forefinger and say ‘begin.’ Once it’s activated it’ll lead you right to the heart.”
“Siri will be jealous,” Bron said as he took the small but surprisingly hefty piece of crystal. It was about the size of a one-euro piece, and he couldn’t see through it despite its clear composition. He tucked it into his shirt pocket. That’s all he needed to get going. “Just activate and follow, got it.” He stood and nodded. “Appreciate the work, Director.”
“You’re our top Retriever, Everhart. I always go to you first. You’ve never let me down.”
“I don’t intend to start.”
“One thing about the tracker. The witch who bespelled it said the heart was something different than our usual nabs. Picks up soul vibrations or some such. Once you activate the tracker? It’ll lead you to the prize. But it’ll also send out vibrations that communicate with the heart. Anything or anyone who is interested—even those who are not and just want to cause trouble—will also feel the signal.”
“So it’ll be a race,” Bron said, tapping his shirt pocket.
“Yes. Go fully armed. Can’t imagine what creatures would like to get their hands on the key to Purgatory.”
Bron nodded. “Always ready for some action. Thanks, boss.
* * *
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