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Authors: Lauren Dane

At Blade's Edge

BOOK: At Blade's Edge
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At Blade’s Edge
By Lauren Dane

Goddess with a Blade

Rowan Summerwaite is no ordinary woman. Raised at the knee of The First and honed into a weapon by the Hunter Corporation, she wields ancient knowledge from the Goddess Brigid…and is newly married to a powerful Vampire scion.

Though she’d hoped the deadly events in Venice would end the threat to The Treaty she is sworn to protect, Rowan found evidence of a grander conspiracy to destroy the fragile peace that holds humans, Vampires and those with magic back from war. A war that would only hurt the weakest and destabilize the world as we know it.

It’s not so much that someone ordered her assassination that makes her angry—people try to kill her all the time—as it is the risks those she cares for, especially her new husband, now face. Clive Stewart has never tried to pen Rowan in or control her choices. He has his own fires to put out now that he’s married to the most powerful non-Vampire in their world, and Rowan knows it’s a challenge to support her the way she needs while not being too much or not enough.

The organization that gave her a purpose, a home, roots and a path when she’d run from The Keep at seventeen has betrayed her. Now, instead of on a much-anticipated honeymoon, Rowan is in London gathering her allies and the evidence necessary to drive out the rot within Hunter Corp. and expose whoever is at the top.

Rowan is a predator and this threat is prey. She’ll burn it down and salt the earth afterward. On her terms.

See how Rowan’s fight began in
Goddess with a Blade,
available now
!

74,920 words

Dear Reader,

You know what goes great with holiday cookies, long checkout lines (or queues, for those of you not in North America) and a stressful holiday season that makes you want to sneak off and steal a few seconds for yourself? Carina Press books! Buy them from your phone or iPad and read them while hiding in the closet with a batch of cookies, or while leaning against your shopping cart in line while you try to block out the incessant holiday tunes being piped in over bad speakers in the store.

Right in time for those days off over American Thanksgiving is the release of
Controlled Burn
, the second in Shannon Stacey’s Boston Fire series. The firefighters in this book are so hot, you’ll be tempted to light your turkey on fire in order to get a visit from your local firemen, but please don’t do that. And for those of you not in the US, you might not have Thanksgiving days off, but that’s okay—you’re not going to want to wait to read it anyway, so go ahead and call in sick to work! Not to worry, if you haven’t read
Heat Exchange
, the first in this trilogy, these romances stand alone so you can read
Controlled Burn
now and have another steamy hero to look forward to later.

Geek extraordinaire Lexi Carmichael is back in this newest mystery romance, and she’s a fish out of water without her beloved technology in the deadly jungle of Papua New Guinea with Chinese thugs on her tail. She’ll need to survive on wits alone…how hard could that be? Pick up
No Room for Error
by Julie Moffett this December, or go back to the beginning of this zany, romantic series in
No One Lives Twice
.

If you love Lauren Dane’s books as much as I do, you’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for a year to see Rowan kick some butt in the newest Goddess with a Blade urban fantasy,
At Blade’s Edge
. Rowan Summerwaite is no ordinary woman. Raised at the knee of The First and honed into a weapon by the Hunter Corporation, she wields ancient knowledge from the Goddess Brigid…and is newly married to a powerful Vampire scion. But instead of being on a much-anticipated honeymoon, Rowan is in London gathering her allies and the evidence necessary to drive out the rot within Hunter Corp. and expose whoever is at the top. She’ll let no one get in her way.

Kate Willoughby has another sexy, fun stand-alone contemporary romance for us in
Under the Spotlight
. Veteran NHL hockey player Joe Rutherford is accustomed to being in the spotlight, but when he falls for an actress whose career is just starting to take off, he must face the fact that his own might be ending sooner than later. And don’t miss
On the Surface
,
Across the Line
and
Out of the Game
.

We welcome Annabeth Albert to the Carina Press lineup with her new #gaymers series. In
Status Update
, a quirky video game designer is stranded, and a charming but reclusive archeologist comes to his rescue. Their sizzling attraction blooms in the middle of a snowstorm, but forging a future together means thawing out frozen hearts and unlocking closet doors.

Last this month is the trilogy end we’ve all been waiting for—book three of Caitlyn McFarland’s Dragonsworn trilogy. We fell in love with dragonlord Rhys and his dragonmate Kai in
Soul of Smoke
, we cheered and cried for them in
Shadow of Flame
, and now we finally get to experience the end of their journey, the thrilling conclusion to the battle…and the beginning of their HEA in
Truth of
Embers
.

That’s our new-release lineup for this December, because we’re taking a few weeks off from new releases over the peak of the holiday season, but never fear, we have a backlist of nearly one thousand titles for you to browse, including an incredible selection of
holiday-themed novellas
you may have missed the first time around!

Paranormal romance fans should definitely read
A Galactic Holiday
, or
Winter Wishes
with novellas by Vivian Arend, Moira Rogers and Vivi Andrews. For those who love male/male romance, take a look at
His for the Holidays
, or
Men Under the Mistletoe
, which features Josh Lanyon, K.A. Mitchell, Harper Fox and Ava March. If a little extra heat in your holiday is what gets you moving, check out erotic holiday romance anthology
Season of Seduction
,
or
Red Hot Holiday
with Anne Calhoun, Leah Braemel and K.A. Mitchell.

And if you love a good, sigh-worthy, make-your-heart-happy contemporary romance, we have quite a selection for you to choose from, including anthologies like
Romancing the Holiday
,
All I’m Asking For
,
Holiday Kisses
, and novellas by Jaci Burton, Shannon Stacey, Brighton Walsh, Kat Latham and more. And don’t miss one of my personal favorites—
Starting from Scratch
by Stacy Gail.

Whatever you read and wherever you are, the team at Carina Press thanks you for making 2015 an incredible year of publishing and wishes you the very happiest of holiday seasons, with only wonderful books to help you make it through!

And, as always, until next month here’s wishing you a wonderful month of books you love, remember and recommend.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

Dedication

This one is for Angela James

Author’s Note

The Goddess with a Blade series follows one couple over multiple books. Each book is a stand-alone story, but they’re all part of larger multi-book story arcs, as well.

Chapter One

After the sensual pace of Venice, London seemed to fit like a very well-loved jacket. At 11:00 p.m., the city still vibrated with energy. Young people congregated at doorways to pubs and clubs, laughing, fighting, crying loudly over the phone while fighting with boyfriends.

In mid-August, the heat still stuck to her skin, along with the smog. Shiny black cabs whizzed past, darting around busses and pedestrians.

Each neighborhood had its own flavor, and the one she headed to tasted coppery like new money. With hints of pretension. The perfect setting for her quarry, one sanctimonious prick named Roth Wesslyian.

The cacophony of raucous, trendy youth faded into the murmur of patrons sipping expensive cocktails that took twenty minutes and fourteen ingredients to make. They sat at tables on the sidewalk but looked at phone screens instead of one another.

That worked for her purposes. They were all so busily engaged elsewhere, they barely even glanced her way as she strolled past.

Some would instinctively avoid her. Those were most often the people who still listened to their gut feelings. She was a predator and on some level, those people knew it.

Several blocks away from the main road, she crossed a small, perfectly manicured square, dropping onto the bench nestled under a tree.

Just beyond was the three-story flat Roth and his girlfriend lived in. Rowan leaned back as she pulled a neat little pair of field glasses from her pocket so she could get a better view.

Normally she’d have made an attempt to hide what she was up to. But no one seemed to be expecting her in London, though for Goddess’ sake, they should have.

If they had no sense of preservation, she had no problem taking advantage of it.

Admittedly, it was a bit of a thrill to sit there in the open. Doing some crime. Too bad Clive wasn’t there or she’d have gone back home to bounce on him a while.

A television flickered from its place on the wall; casting blue lights against the window in what she knew was the master bedroom.

Her valet, David, had procured the plans for the house easily enough. She even knew where all the security was powered. A central hub made it so easy to take out.

And she would.

When she wanted Roth to know she was there.

For the time being she’d stalk him, terrorize him and make him nervous. Because he was human garbage and she liked to play with her food before killing it.

He was in there, that little rat-fucker. Scurrying around, probably preening anywhere near a reflective surface. The man who’d repeatedly tried to have her killed and worse, paid for the assassination attempts on David.

“I’m coming for you, motherfucker,” Rowan muttered as she watched him parade around in ridiculous pajamas.

Outrage settled in as he lived his life in his silly, excessive way and people had died because of him. More would by the time this was over. How dare he be the one enjoying every sunrise when he’d filled the world with so much shit?

Her lip curled even as she took note that David had just approached from the west. Rowan tucked the glasses back into her pocket, made her notes about Roth’s nighttime routine and by the time her valet sat next to her on the bench, she was ready to be interrupted.

* * *

“I gave your driver the rest of the night off.” David’s tone was patiently amused.


My
driver. Goddess,” she muttered.

“Clive wants to take care of you.” Her valet and her husband got along. Pretty much. But they did usually agree on things that kept Rowan safe. Saf
er
.

Safe adjacent really.

Rowan kept her gaze on the window where the light had just clicked off. “I don’t need a driver. That’s why living in London is so nice. I told him that. So tell me about the overall security. If these people are his professional protection here in London, I have some thoughts.” Like how sloppy it had been to let her sneak away so easily.

“I let them remain under the misapprehension that you were still in the ladies’ room. It took them twenty-three minutes to send someone into the bathroom.”

“Clive’s hires are usually better than that.”

David agreed with a slight nod. “My perception is they’re inexperienced when it comes to challenges like you. It didn’t strike me that it was malice on their part. Once they realized you’d gone they did a sweep of the area. I took pity on them once I was sure you’d gotten far enough away and then I called Clive. He convinced them to drive me and the bags to the house. I promised I’d be in contact with you.”

“I’m sure he’ll ask me about it.” And bitch at her for ducking out on his guards. But she needed to sneak around a bit on her own. Needed to settle in to London on her terms.

And she’d wanted to poke at Wesslyian to see what he had to defend himself with.

Not much, she didn’t think.

“I’m pleased the spell worked.”

It was easy enough—second nature really—to handle surveillance and intelligence gathering. But London was a city with a lot of cameras in a lot of places. So she’d managed to procure a very good spell that scrambled her facial features to fool security protocols.

Money well spent.

“I figured since everyone else was buying stuff on the magical black market I should get in on the action too.” She stood. “I’m hungry now. Let’s go look at Clive’s house. Is it insane? Will it make me nervous?”

David led the way, heading east a bit before cutting over a few blocks north.

“It’s a very nice home owned by an affluent, powerful man with a great deal of face to keep.”

“That sounds like a lot of words to tell me it’s fancy.”

David wisely held his tongue. Which might have been why Rowan didn’t notice the sketchy-ass barely turned Vamp who’d been following them for a few blocks until he’d gotten close enough to touch.

And when he tried to, she had his arm bent back, popping it out of the shoulder joint as she pressed his face into the brick façade of the building they stood near.

He struggled against her hold so she pushed his face harder. Making sure it abraded his skin.

“Pay attention now, or I’ll end you,” she whispered in his ear. He tried to snarl so she used her free hand to cuff his other ear. “Who do you belong to?”

All she wanted to do was have a quiet evening, but no. Of course she had to get jumped by this jittery moron.

“I’m a Vampire!” he shouted this as if it meant anything to her.


Barely
. Who made you? I can pop that shoulder out of joint for hours and hours. Every time you get it healed, I’ll start over. I’m in a crappy mood now, so that’s my idea of stress relief.”

“Perhaps you should just kill him and be done. I’m hungry,” David said from his place keeping watch.

Rowan shrugged. “Me too. Okay then, Sketch, talk or die. Time’s up apparently. He’s a growing boy.”

“I’m not a boy.” A little exasperation in his tone, but he was still patient.

“He’s getting what the kids today call hangry. Hungry and angry. It’s not cute. Don’t make me have to put him on a time out for his attitude,” Rowan told the Vampire. “You’re not eating right. That’s why you’re twitchy and not feeling well. But you can’t go trying to eat tourists. That will get you executed. And here’s such a funny coincidence! I’m a Hunter and thereby legally entitled to kill you right here and now.”

“Why do they always make you explain?” David asked.

“It’s my vain hope they listen so I can avoid getting Vampire ash all over my clothes. I just washed my hair this morning, I don’t want to have to do it again. But I’m a giver, David. I’m trying to afford this Vampire a learning opportunity.”

“You’re quite the humanitarian, Ms. Summerwaite.”

“How do you know? About eating and Vampires?” Sketch asked her.

“I’m a Hunter. It’s my job to know. Also, I grew up in a Vampire household. I know a few things about you. Like how when a human is Made, the maker needs to educate the fledgling. The Vampire who made you isn’t doing right. Who is it?”

“I don’t know. Some woman. We met at a nightclub. We went back to my flat. Had a one-night stand. She bit me. And bit me more. And then she left. I thought I was going to die. But this happened instead.”

“Are you shitting me, Sketch?” Rowan didn’t loosen her hold. She wanted to believe him, but he’d have to prove himself more before she did.

“No! I wish I was.”

Rowan sighed.

“Name’s Trevor. Not Sketch,” he mumbled.

“I’m going to make a call. If you try to run or give me any trouble, I’m going to have to kill you. You’re breaking some serious rules. You need to be taken care of so you can survive.”

She reached into her pocket and dialed Warren Farrelly, the Scion of Europe. Normally, she’d have reached out to Clive, but this was Warren’s territory and this fledgling needed some protection and right then.

“Hello there, Mrs. Stewart,” Warren answered his phone.

“Stop trying to agitate me.” She told him the story Trevor had told her.

Warren spoke to someone quickly and then got back on the phone. “One of my people is near you. She’ll be there to collect your charge shortly. I appreciate your restraint with him.”

“He’s like a puppy. A twitchy, slightly sketchy puppy. You have a Vampire not only feeding from humans without consent, but making Vampires without consent and abandoning them. You know how that’s going to be dealt with if you don’t get to your fanged lawbreaker first, right?”

A Vampire like that was a big problem. A danger to humans.

Rowan continued, “This is Susan’s territory. I’m going to tell her.” It wasn’t even mildly interesting to her to protect the Vampire Nation at the expense of Hunters and humans.

Warren sighed. “I thought you were done with Hunter Corporation. You’d be a much better Vampire. Work for me. I’ll pay you ten times whatever you make with them and you can work however you want. No questions asked. You’re wasted on humans.”

Rowan was beginning to accept that she wasn’t as done as she’d felt two weeks before. The more thinking she did, the more she realized Hunter Corp. was hers to protect and defend. Because someone, something needed to balance the power Vampires had. She couldn’t do it on her own as well as she could within a Hunter Corp. running at full capacity. The passion and skill level existed if everyone was willing to take out the trash and change things.

Clive would pop a vein if she took a job with another Vampire. As amusing as that was to envision, she had to shut that down.

“Stop stirring shit up. I’m here for another reason so if you handle this on your own, it doesn’t have to involve me at all.”

In the background Warren had been giving orders as he listened. Three minutes later he came back to her. “All right. Bonita will be arriving presently to collect him.” He paused long enough that Rowan was convinced she wasn’t going to like whatever he said next. “I have a few ideas as to who it might be. I’ll have Trevor look at some photographs when we get his statement.”

“You’ve got a rogue on the loose here in London? Is that what you’re telling me?” Rowan demanded. Vampires and their bullshit were always getting in her way. “I’m already cleaning up after the last mess you all made. I don’t have time for this.”

Warren laughed like it was funny. She wanted to kick him in the taint.

“There are always rogues so I won’t insult you by pretending otherwise. This one is a recent problem. We’ll handle it.”

“You’ll need to keep me or Susan apprised.” She hung up as a car eased to the curb and a tiny pixie of a Vampire got out.

“I’m Bonita.” She tipped her chin in Rowan’s direction. Giving her respect as she would have another Vampire of her station.

“Rowan. And this is Trevor.” She handed him over.

Bonita’s brow rose as she took him in. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Trevor? Don’t make me sorry I didn’t kill you.”

He nodded as he yammered his thanks before Warren’s pixie with teeth shoved him into the back seat.

Rowan and David continued their walk home as if they hadn’t even been interrupted.

* * *

“How long did you know I was watching you? Back at Roth’s?” David asked as he indicated the house they’d stopped in front of just three minute’s walk away.

“Not that long. You’re getting much better at surveillance. I’m being serious. You know I wouldn’t lie about something important like that.” When it came to his training she was deadly serious.

Her life—and his because he was her valet—was full of danger of the sort they just dealt with. And worse. He had to be capable of defending himself as well as holding his own on a team.

“You’re avoiding.”

Rowan took a deep breath and let herself really look at the house.

She’d have been lying to pretend she hadn’t already seen it because she’d looked it up online. But in person it was even lovelier. Stately. The kind of home she knew graced magazine spreads.

“I’m going to break something or spill something within five minutes,” she muttered. A nervous flush settled on her cheeks.

“I’m sure that’s not true. Your home in Las Vegas is full of antiques and you haven’t broken any of them.”

A white stone townhouse similar to most in the neighborhood. It didn’t scream money. It murmured class and elegance because screaming money was crass.

The black lacquer front door was bookended by large ceramic planters with the Stewart crest on them. Each one of them had a manicured shrub/bush/tree thing. It slid open silently to reveal a man in his midfifties wearing a fantastic gray suit.

He smiled before bowing low and straightening in one, graceful roll. “Ms. Summerwaite, welcome. I’m Betchamp, the house manager. Please, do come inside.”

She’d been in Clive’s penthouse in Las Vegas, an antique filled showplace with stellar views. But there was a certain glitziness about it that didn’t fit him entirely.

This
was quiet elegance. The wood floors gleamed, as did the stairs of the curved, wrought iron staircase. Rather than a tight spiral, it was a lazy curve upward two more floors.

Sensual.

“This is magnificent,” she told Betchamp.

BOOK: At Blade's Edge
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