Werewolves of Montana Book 10
Strong-willed, curvy Ella Princeton doesn’t have time for dating or dreams of fantasy. Practical to the core, she's working three jobs to support her family. But everything changes when Ella meets a handsome naked man while searching for a lost cat. Exuding male strength and pure sex, he makes her heart race and her hormones fire. She wants to crawl all over him and lick him from head to toe. Too bad he’s crazy and talks as if he’s a shapeshifter from another world where the sharp snows of winter hold power and magick.
Kieran of the Winter Kingdom may be a tomcat when it comes to sex, but he is equally smitten with Ella, his new assignment. He must convince fiery, lovely Ella that she is a werewolf, and coax her into joining him on a quest to find a rare crystal. The hidden gem will turn her into a powerful warrior to fight the gathering darkness in the world. Only Ella can help stop a growing threat to Xavier, the Crystal Wizard, and save him and perhaps the entire human race…
Prologue, Tir na-Nog
Life was boring, and he loved it.
All hell could be breaking loose the next minute on earth, but for right now he would cherish the serenity at home. Ennui was wonderful. Xavier would take every single moment of it to snuggle with his lovely mate.
He turned over in bed and smiled at his wife. Then again, immortality with Ciara could never be boring. “Good morning, my sweet.”
“Is it morning? Hard to tell here in Paradise.” Ciara stretched and yawned.
He put a possessive hand on her growing belly. “It’s Paradise with you, and our son, wherever we are.”
“You’re so certain it’s a boy.”
Xavier arched a brow. “My love, I am the Crystal Wizard. All seeing, all knowing…”
“All arrogance.” She giggled and kissed his bearded cheek. “All right.”
Suddenly a tingle rushed down his spine. Xavier groaned. “Duty calls.”
He gave her a quick kiss, climbed out of bed and started to pull on sweatpants when a brilliant flash filled the room. Xavier dropped to his knees.
“Rise, my wizard. Greetings, Ciara. Please, my dear, remain where you are.” Danu, the goddess who ruled over them all, smiled at them. Dressed in her customary green gown, her long red hair spilling down her back, she was breathtaking.
Xavier tilted his head. “You could have given me more time to dress.”
Danu looked at his lime green sweatpants. “Knowing your sense of style, I thought it best not to.”
Was she joking? He didn’t dare smile, not knowing if she was serious. The goddess went to the large pane of glass overlooking the meadows and mountains of Tir na-Nog.
“I am sorry to disturb you, but I have a request of utmost urgency. Xavier, I need you to release your condominium in Colorado to me. I have need of it.”
He blinked, totally stunned. “You’re taking a vacation?”
A small laugh, like the tinkling of silver bells. “No, I have need of it for a stubborn shifter.”
More surprises. “Do you need my assistance?”
Danu turned, a little smile on her face. “I think not. The one destined to help her will definitely resent the intrusion.”
Xavier glanced back at the wide-eyed Ciara. “I totally get it. Never interfere between a guy and a means to get laid.”
“Xavier!” Ciara tossed a pillow at him and Danu laughed. Really laughed this time. He was glad for the sound. The goddess had been far too solemn ever since Gideon brought his mate to Tir na-Nog.
Then Danu turned pensive again. No more jokes. He felt another tingle rush down his spine, which meant her powers were surging.
The goddess only did that when she felt the need to gather all her forces.
“Thank you, Xavier. Your residence will serve quite nicely for Kieran.”
He sucked in a breath. “Kieran. Gideon’s friend. The assignment you planned for him.”
Damn. He’d hoped Kieran would get a small reprieve, a chance to adjust before the goddess intervened. From what he knew of the jaguar shifter who lived in the Winter Kingdom, Kieran hated the Skin world.
Danu nodded, her green gaze shadowed. “Yes. Your residence near the national park will give him solace, and a place to roam in his jaguar form. And it is close to where his assignment is located.”
Understanding filled him. “Ah. You want him to feel as comfortable as possible. No problem.”
But he knew Danu well, and sensed there was something she did not convey. “What’s wrong?”
A small smile. “You always were able to read me well.” The goddess glanced at Ciara. “I do not wish to trouble you.”
Ciara looked at him with such love, he found it took his breath away. He had been so miserable before her, and now he could not live without her.
“It is no trouble, my lady. We are here because of you, and together thanks to you. Let us know what we can do to help,” Ciara told her.
Danu’s gaze turned soft. “You make a good mate for Xavier, Ciara. Perhaps I can use your help–later.”
She turned to Xavier. “Kieran must find the first werewolf of the Wyld, and teach her how to use her powers.”
Interesting. He knew little of the mysterious werewolves of the Wyld, only that they were all female, and had been taken from their parents at birth. They were given to foster families across the United States to live as Skins, as OtherWorlders called humans, until the time came for them to come into their powers―powers that Danu would grant to them, making them nearly invincible and almost as strong as the wizards on the Brehon, the judges and guardians of Others.
His jaw dropped. “You mean you’re going to activate them….”
Oh, shit. Big problem. He almost wished he didn’t know. Because if Danu was calling upon these werewolves as a kind of all-female pack to fight evil, the Dark Lord was gathering his forces.
“And Kieran is going to find this werewolf?” He shook his head. “He’s a cat, she’s a wolf, and dogs and cats don’t get along well.”
Danu gave a small smile. “They will get along fine. Her name is Ella. She lives in Colorado. She is a librarian.”
Now Xavier did groan. “A librarian who has no idea she’s a werewolf? Or that she will possess the ability of telekinesis and teleporting?”
“And calling forth mystic energy,” the goddess said.
Ciara applauded. “An all-female pack of werewolves who can kick ass?! Yay!” She flushed. “Sorry, my lady.”
“No apology needed, Ciara,” Danu said gently. “Yes, the werewolves of the Wyld are indeed this ‘kick ass,’ as you put it. Once they accept their duties, they will come into their powers. The lives they presently lead must be abandoned, along with their friends and loved ones.”
“Do you need our help to find Ella? Or help her?” Ciara asked, hugging her knees.
“No.” Danu gave a delicate shrug. “Once Ella translates the ancient scrolls and accepts her destiny, she will become a mentor to assist in locating the other werewolves of the Wyld.”
He almost feared asking. “What will be their primary duties?”
Danu’s gaze remained steady. “To live among Skins and protect the weak and the frail of humanity against the growing evil in the world and destroy evil masquerading as good. There is another reason I must activate them as well. There are dark times ahead, my wizard. Your former master will seize power any way he can.”
When Xavier was still mortal, he’d apprenticed himself to Duncan, a powerful wizard. Duncan tortured Xavier to death. But Xavier had ascended to become the Crystal Wizard after he’d died in his mortal life, while Duncan had died and was banished to live in the hell for Others.
A hell Duncan now ruled over as the Dark Lord.
He stared at his hands. “I wish I had never stated that vow before Duncan. If I had killed him before I became the Crystal Wizard, he never would have become the Dark Lord.”
Ruler of the underworld. Worst bastard to ever walk the earth, a being who could reach beyond the afterworld and command Others to do his bidding.
“Your destiny lay elsewhere, Xavier, as it is Kieran’s destiny to find Ella. It is crucial he gains her trust to begin her teachings.”
“Why? What’s the rush?” he asked.
Danu did not reply, but stretched out her hands and touched the glass. Frost appeared on the panes. She began tracing runes on the icy coating. The runes turned pitch black.
Pain sliced through him like a whip striking his bare chest. Xavier doubled over, gasping from the burning. He heard Ciara cry out and held out a hand to stop her from clambering out of bed and touching him.
He did not want her hurt, and did not dare risk hurting the child she carried.
“I-I’m o-kay, hon,” he gasped. Slowly he centered his breathing and focused. The pain eased, and then dissipated.
Sympathy filled Danu’s gaze. She waved a hand and the runes vanished. “I apologize, my wizard, but I had to be certain. Those were the most powerful runes known to call forth those who serve the Dark Lord.”
And here, in the paradise of Tir na-Nog, they shouldn’t have any effect. Unless there was someone who had once pledged his loyalty and life to the mortal who had eventually become the Dark Lord …
Xavier fisted his hands. “Well, this really sucks.”
“You are not the mortal you were when Duncan killed you all those centuries ago, Xavier. You have the power to fight his influence, and that of his followers. Yet part of you will always be connected to the Dark Lord, because of the vow you made to him while he was still mortal, before he embraced evil.”
Fresh anguish filled him. His worried glance at Ciara caused her lower lip to tremble. His mate knew what torture he’d suffered at Duncan’s hand.
“Don’t worry, honey. I’m not a big fan of the Dark Lord. His taste in music is lousy. No Elvis.” But his teasing didn’t lift the shadow of worry from Ciara’s face.
“The Dark Lord could kill you, Xavier,” Ciara told him.
“Not really.” No, not death, because all the wizards were immortal. But they could turn to shadow, wandering as ghosts through the afterworld, unable to protect their charges on earth.
Danu touched the window once more and it turned cloudy. “The more powerful he becomes and the more followers he gains, the more vulnerable you become, Xavier.”
The thought rattled him, not for his own personal safety, but for Ciara. I finally found you after all these centuries, and now I might lose you? What kind of danger do you face?
Danu read his thoughts. He felt her tapping into his mind like a gentle breeze, and then calm settled over him.
“No matter what happens to you, Xavier, I will protect your mate and child,” she said aloud.
“Good to know,” he said dryly. “I guess being omnipotent and immortal isn’t enough anymore.”
“It is why I’m setting the plan into motion for the five werewolves of the Wyld, my wizard. Not merely to protect humankind.” She gave him a meaningful glance.
Good thing he’d always liked shifters. Hopefully these women would indeed be “kick ass.”
But he knew the goddess and knew what she did not say was more revealing. “What else?”
“All will be revealed in time, Xavier. I do not wish you to fret.”
Yeah, right. He began to see patterns. Five werewolves of the Wyld, and there were five wizards on the Brehon. Worry filled him as he looked at his Ciara, clutching the sheet to her breast.
“The werewolves aren’t simply to protect humans, but us, and our mates,” he said slowly.
Danu said nothing, but her pupils expanded. So that was it. He didn’t know which was more concerning – that the Brehon were vulnerable to the Dark Lord or that they needed extra defenses.
It rattled him, thinking that he and his fellow wizards weren’t as powerful as they had imagined. And now he, Tristan and Gideon, the three wizards who had mated, had their women to protect. Although the women were immortal, they too, could turn to shadow if destroyed by evil.
And their children. Xavier’s stomach clenched. He offered a smile to Ciara, not wishing to worry her. “You’ll like having a werewolf for a bodyguard, my sweet,” he told her. “They may be furry, but they’re housebroken.”
His little joke did not coax a smile to her face.
“Danu, I have a right to know what is going on, if this affects me and my family.” She put a protective hand on her belly. “What must this Ella do? Can we aid her?”
The goddess traced another rune on the glass. This one pulsed purple with power and sent soothing tendrils of magick into the air.
“Xavier, you must teach Kieran to adjust to human life, first. Only then can he convince Ella to trust him.” Danu said. Her forehead wrinkled. “You look ill, Xavier.”
The goddess went to him, touched his forehead as if taking his temperature. Knowledge rushed into him, a heady elixir, both exhilarating and terrifying. Closing his eyes, he felt himself speaking as if from a great distance.
Before I created my wizards to judge and guard OtherWorlders, I put failsafes on earth – items unique only to you that can enhance power in dark times when rotting flesh rises from the grave and terrorizes the world.
The amethyst crystal of Calmach for you. A wolf pelt for Tristan. A delicate feather from a fairy’s wing for Gideon. A dragon scale for Drust. And a lock of golden hair for Cadeyrn.
But now they must be destroyed, Xavier. I cannot risk them falling into the hands of the evil forces gathering on earth.
Xavier opened his eyes, rubbing his head, feeling drained.
“You could have simply told us,” he complained.
Danu remain motionless. “Now you have the knowledge within you, and you may share it with the other wizards of the Brehon. They need to know about their talismans.”
“What talismans?” Ciara asked.
“They are hidden and each werewolf must find them, for it is part of their journey toward strength and courage before she aligns herself with each wizard to assist you in your duties. Each werewolf of the Wyld must use the talisman in an ancient ceremony of loyalty before she destroys it.”
“Of course. It’s never simple,” he muttered.
Her gaze remained even. “If Ella does not use her powers to eliminate the crystal and she lets it remain on earth, it can be used against you, Xavier.”
Ciara grabbed her silk robe and slid it on. She stood at his side, her cold palm clutching his.
“Used to destroy Xavier?” His mate’s voice was a whisper.
“Perhaps. It would make you even more powerful, Xavier,” the goddess told him.
His immortal heart raced. Xavier knew his abilities. He could flatten an entire city with his magick, but his powers were used with discretion to dispense punishment to Others who broke the laws. He was a judge and guardian of trolls, ogres, nymphs and gnomes.
But with this talisman, he could become a weapon far deadlier than a nuclear bomb.
With the crystal of Calmach, he would be more powerful than ten nuclear bombs.
Tens of thousands of innocents could evaporate with a single thought directed at them. But he could also force his charges to toe the line without threats, giving him all the time he wanted to spend with his lovely Ciara. And their baby.
The idea of possessing that much power gave him pause. Tempting, isn’t it? You could do anything you wished. No more rules to hold you in check. If you and Ciara wanted to vacation in Bora Bora on the beach and teach the babe how to swim, you would not have to worry about overseeing a troll gone wild.
Xavier looked at Ciara, her gaze filled with worry and love. Then he went to his mate, put a possessive hand on her belly where their child grew, safe and strong. Ciara and the baby were more important than anything to him. He could become all-powerful, but with power came the risk he could accidentally hurt them. He enjoyed being equals with Ciara, who kept him grounded.
And then he suddenly realized what Danu had planned all along.
“You wanted us to find our mates, to make us remember that love is more valuable than power, should we get tempted,” he told the goddess.
Green eyes glowed with power. “Ah, my clever Xavier. You always were one step ahead. Yes, and Drust and Cadeyrn will find their mates as well. In due time.”
Ciara rested a palm over his so both of them could feel the steady, reassuring heartbeat of their child. “Danu, can the Dark Lord use this crystal to control Xavier? Like a switch you can flip on to control a light?”
Ah, the question I dared not ask and my bride does, he told Ciara, using their telepathic link.
Hush, my love. I must know, she told him.
Danu’s gaze remained steady as she regarded them both. “If one of the Dark Lord’s followers seized it and used the ancient scrolls to recite the spell to call forth its magick, the consequences would be dreadful. You would no longer be an immortal wizard protecting and judging Others, Xavier. You would be under the influence of the Dark Lord.”
A deadly weapon in the wrong hands. He shuddered.
“The Dark Lord would turn me into his minion, forcing me to do his bidding. Kill my charges, kill Skins, spread the evil and hatred.” Xavier took a deep breath. “But you would never allow that to happen, Danu.”
Danu’s gaze turned to the distant mountains and he caught the shadow crossing her lovely face. “Yes. I would be forced to destroy you first.”