Read Claiming Valeria Online

Authors: Rebecca Rivard

Claiming Valeria

BOOK: Claiming Valeria
6.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub















Wild Hearts Press



Prepare to be

The fada.

Shapeshifters created during Dionysus’s infamous

They’re ruthless, untamed—

and irresistible to the one person fated to be their


Welcome to the world of the fada.
Claiming Valeria
is the second in a series of three novels featuring the Rock Run river fada, a
clan of river-based shapeshifters.


Here is the series so far:

The Rock Run River Fada

Seducing the Sun Fae: A Fada Novel, Book 1
(Dion and
Cleia’s story)—out now!

Claiming Valeria:  A Fada Novel, Book 2
(Rui and
Valeria’s story)—out now!

Tempting the Dryad: A Fada Novel, Book 3
(Tiago and
Alesia’s story)—out in early 2016!


The Baltimore Earth Fada

Coming soon—Jace, Marjani and Adric’s stories!


Two Years Earlier

The night fae lord materialized in the darkest corner
of the alley.

But Rui was expecting that. The night fae were creatures of the
moon. You rarely saw one in the daylight, and even at dusk they sought the shadows.

This man could’ve been the pattern from which his people were
cut: tall and lean, with chalk-white skin, midnight hair and sharp features.
And dressed in tight black jeans and a long duster even though Baltimore was in
the middle of a heat wave.

Rui’s lip curled. He didn’t like any fae, but he especially didn’t
like the night fae. Still, a job was a job.

He inclined his head. “Lord Tyrus.”

“Do Mar?”

“That’s me. Peace to you and yours.”

Tyrus hesitated just long enough to be insulting before returning
the ritual greeting. “Peace to you and yours.”

Rui’s jaw tightened. But he hadn’t become Rock Run second by
indulging his emotions. “You wanted to hire me?”

Tyrus flicked his fingers and an image of a man appeared in Rui’s
palm. “His name is Silver. He’s in Baltimore somewhere—my people have tracked him
this far, but we can’t get a fix on him.”

Rui studied the image. The man—Silver—had dark hair and pale
skin, although it was clear he wasn’t a pureblood. His face was too broad, his eyes
a muddy brown rarely found in a fae.

“He’s a half-blood,” Tyrus said, confirming Rui’s guess. “His
mother was human.” His voice held a sneer.

“Anything I can use to scent him?”

“I have a few strands of his hair. You can use it to do whatever
it is you shifters do.” The sneer was more pronounced now. The fae looked down on
anyone who wasn’t a pureblood, but they had a special disdain for the fada with
their mix of human, fae and animal genes.

Rui ignored the scorn. Tyrus might sneer at his animal genes,
but that was why he was hiring a fada assassin. Rui wouldn’t be the hunter he was
without his animal. And although hunting a man mainly involved old-fashioned legwork—questioning
known associates, tracking him through credit cards and bank accounts—even a few
strands of hair would make things easier, allowing him to track the man through
his scent as well.

He wasn’t sure why he asked the next question. He’d already talked
it over with Dion, his alpha and best friend, and together, they’d decided to take
the job. But something made him say, “What did he do?”

The image in his hand dissolved.

“The S.O.B. ripped me off,” Tyrus snarled. “He knows what that
means. Now, do we have an agreement?”

Rui stared back at him without speaking, his face expressionless,
but he felt his eyes going night-glow gold, a sign his animal was aroused.

Tyrus took a step back.

. He might be the son of a fae prince, but he needed
to remember whom he was dealing with. As clan second, Rui was answerable only to
Dion. No one—especially some asshole pureblood from Virginia—spoke to him like that.

The night fae gave an audible swallow. When he spoke again, his
tone was more polite. “You don’t need to know what he stole. All I want you to do
is send a message—no one steals from Lord Tyrus.”

So Silver wasn’t going to be given a chance to make things right.
Rui didn’t even blink. If he’d ever been squeamish about acting as a fae hit man,
he’d long since made his peace with it. Hunger had a way of making a man hard-hearted,
especially when his women and children were suffering, too.

“All right.”

“Then we’re agreed? You’ll take the job?”

“Of course.” What did he care if the fae picked one another off?

“Good.” Tyrus’s black eyes flickered with an unholy glee that
raised the tiny hairs on Rui’s nape. Something was off here. But the night fae was
tossing him a small black pouch. “That’s the deposit. You’ll get the spell when
I confirm the kill.”

Rui opened the pouch. Inside were three small but perfect diamonds.
Purebloods loved expensive, shiny things. Frankly, he and Dion would’ve preferred
a direct deposit into the clan account.

He closed the pouch. “I’ll let you know when it’s done. We expect
the rest of the payment within the week.”

“Don’t contact me directly—go through Hunter.” Hunter was a Baltimore
earth fada who worked at the Full Moon Saloon, a bar catering to shifters.

Rui jerked his head in acknowledgment. As long as Tyrus kept
his part of the bargain, he was just as happy not to have to deal with him again,
although it went against the grain to let the Baltimore fada have anything to do
with Rock Run business.

“And, do Mar?” Tyrus stepped closer.

Rui’s nostrils flared. Night fae stunk, an acrid mix of metal
and decay. Rumor had it they made their homes in crypts, and smelling Tyrus, Rui
could believe it.


The reply was low and cold. “Don’t fuck this up—or you’re next.”

Rui’s fingers tightened on the pouch. For the amount the diamonds
would bring, he could slip a blade in Tyrus’s aristocratic chest and walk away with
the clan twenty-five thousand dollars richer. Not even a pureblood could survive
a knife to the heart.

But Rock Run desperately needed the second half of Tyrus’s payment—a
promise to renew the concealing spell that hid their base from intruders. The clan
was gripped by a mysterious malady that was slowly weakening them. And not just
the people themselves, although that was bad enough. Even their crops and river
had been affected. The grapes that produced the wine that was the clan’s main source
of income were rotting in the vineyards, and every year the fishers brought in less
fish and crabs.

If Rock Run’s troubles became generally known, they’d be easy
pickings for the Baltimore shifters, who’d long coveted the clan’s large tract of
land in northern Maryland.

And to top it off, Rui had recently met his mate, a sexy Portuguese
shifter named Valeria. Their mating celebration was in a couple of weeks, which
made him even more eager to get that concealing spell. It wasn’t just other men’s
families he was protecting now. It was his own woman and their future children.

Right now, the spell was as valuable to Rock Run—and Rui—as a
thousand diamonds.

Still, he couldn’t resist peeling back his lips to display two
sharp canines. Tyrus went whiter, if that were possible. But he was a pureblood
fae, taught from birth that all other life forms were inferior. He held his ground.

Rui gave Tyrus his back—a grave insult, implying the other man
was too weak to worry about—and stalked out of the alley.

* * *

The half-blood was damn good at hiding. It took Rui almost
a week to find him.

But Rui’s primary animal was a shark. He was calm, cold, relentless.
As a water fada, he tended to short out computers and other electronics, so he paid
a human hacker to track Silver through the digital crumbs he’d dropped. That got
him close, and then he kept at it until his questions—and his nose—led him to a
shabby little rowhouse on a street less than a mile from the alley where he’d met

Now he studied the narrow house, one of a row of twelve that
stretched from one corner to the next. So this was where Silver had gone to ground.
The house was as sad and neglected as the surrounding area—a sagging roof, a chipped
and faded Formstone exterior and a yard that was more dirt than grass.

Whatever the half-blood had stolen, he sure hadn’t cashed in
on it.

Silver roomed with a human who worked nights. Rui slipped into
the backyard and waited until the man left. One by one, the lights went out. Rui
waited another half an hour before skimming across the lawn to the back door. It
was locked, but it was a few second’s work to dig out the rotted wood around the
bolt and ease the door open. A simple warding spell halted him on the threshold.
He withdrew a pinch of precious counterspell dust from its packet, sprinkled it
on the doorjamb and stepped into the kitchen.

The air inside was hot and close, not much different than the
humid summer night outside. Rui took in his surroundings with his animal-enhanced
senses: the red plastic table with three mismatched chairs…the greasy remains of
a pizza on the counter…the smear of chocolate ice cream in a bowl in the sink. From
upstairs came the sound of a man snoring, the ragged buzz a counterpoint to the
distant hum of a window air conditioner.

He glanced down and jolted. A small face was staring up at him.
Then he realized it was a doll.

. He scrubbed a hand over his face. He wasn’t usually
so edgy.

He picked up the doll. It was a clown, its baggy satin suit tattered
from much handling. He brought it to his face and inhaled, scenting the child who
owned it: sweet, happy innocence.

He cursed under his breath. Tyrus hadn’t said anything about
a child—a girl, from the scent. Children were rare and special gifts. There was
no way in hell he’d harm one.

And how had he missed the fact that a child was here? He was
working alone, he and Dion having agreed that since Baltimore was technically earth
fada territory, the quieter they kept this the better. Still, Rui had spent the
past couple of days observing the house, studying the occupants and learning their
routine. The half-blood couldn’t have brought her in without him knowing—unless
he was working some kind of fae magic to hide her.

Rui placed the clown on the kitchen table and headed for the
stairs. With any luck, its owner was somewhere else—with her mother, perhaps.

As he reached the top of the stairs, he slipped a switchblade
from his pocket and pressed the button. The blade slid out with a soft snick.

Down the hall, the sleeper mumbled something.

Rui stilled, his back against the wall.

Five minutes ticked by, then ten. The only sound was the bedroom
air conditioner and the slow drip of a faucet in the bathroom across the hall. Rui
waited, unmoving. His Gift was tracking. With it came a predator’s patience, whether
his prey was animal—or man.

The sleeper resumed snoring. Rui palmed the knife and continued
down the hall. He passed two bedrooms, one empty save for a sagging couch. The other
must be the human’s room; it was sparsely furnished with an ancient dresser and
a mattress and box spring covered by a colorful Indian bedspread.

Rui reached the bedroom where the half-blood slept. The door
was closed, presumably to keep the cool air in. The snoring had stopped again, but
he could hear the slow, steady breath of someone in a deep sleep. Soundlessly, he
turned the knob and pushed the door open a few inches. He drew a breath, checking
for the half-blood’s unique scent: a mix of iron (from his human half) and silver
(from the fae half), along with a touch of salt.

But the girl’s sweet scent filled the air as well. The iron and
silver notes told him she was related to the half-blood, that he was almost certainly
her father.

Rui’s hand tightened on the knife handle.

Fucking fae
. Tyrus had to have known that the half-blood
had a daughter. But he apparently didn’t give a shit.

He almost said to hell with it and left. But Tyrus would make
a powerful enemy—and Dion had asked Rui to do this job for a reason. He was Rock
Run’s best assassin—and they needed that concealing spell. They’d never be able
to pay the huge amount demanded by the night fae to cast it.

No, they’d been forced to barter: a job for a job.

And in the end, an assassin didn’t judge the rightness or wrongness
of a kill. He just did what he’d been hired to do.

The door jerked open. Rui released the handle and jumped back
into the hall. A shadow barreled out of the darkness, knocking him to the floor.
He rolled, barely avoiding the other man’s clawed fingers.

Something else Tyrus had neglected to tell him
. Silver
apparently had the fae Gift of wayfaring, which included the ability to move lightning-fast.
At least Rui knew how he’d gotten the girl in without him knowing.

Silently consigning Tyrus to whatever hell would take a night
fae, Rui rolled again and with an agile twist was back on his feet, bobbing and
weaving as he tried to get a fix on the half-blood.

But the other man was impossibly swift, shifting first to one
side, then to the other.

The hairs on Rui’s nape stood straight up. He spun around to
find the half-blood behind him.

The two of them settled into a deadly dance, searching for a
weakness. The half-blood’s speed made him damn near invisible as he moved from place
to place. A human assassin would’ve been dead by now, but as a fada, Rui had a touch
of fae blood as well, so could track the other man’s movements—barely—now that he
knew what to expect.

He slashed out with the knife, slicing Silver’s arm to the bone.
The other man inhaled sharply and hugged the arm to his stomach. Blood dripped to
the floor. Rui scented a hint of decay beneath the iron-silver. So Silver had some
night fae in him.

The other man fought on for another silent, desperate minute
but his breath was rasping in and out of his chest, his movements much slower, his
injured arm pressed uselessly to his abdomen.

, whispered Rui’s animal. He feinted left, and when
the half-blood shifted to avoid him, plunged the blade beneath his breastbone and
up into his heart.

Silver fell to his knees. His good hand latched onto Rui’s wrist.
“Please.” He dragged in a breath. “Not. Mary.” His gaze flicked in the direction
of the sleeping girl.

Rui hesitated, but there was no harm in telling the man the truth.
“She’s safe. The contract didn’t include her.”

Relief softened the half-blood’s sharp features. “Thank the gods.”
His lips moved but nothing came out but a gurgle. He took a last, harsh breath,
and then his chest heaved and he released Rui and crumpled the rest of the way to
the floor.

Rui stared down at the dead man, wondering why he didn’t feel
more: remorse at having killed a man, satisfaction at a job well done, guilt about
the girl sleeping in the bedroom. But he felt—nothing, as if his heart were encased
in chill gray ice.

BOOK: Claiming Valeria
6.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

The Cost of Courage by Charles Kaiser
To Ride a Fine Horse by Mary Durack
Snowbound Mystery by Gertrude Warner
Red Rag Blues by Derek Robinson
DarkShip Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt
Dealers of Light by Nance, Lara
La princesa rana by E. D. Baker