Authors: Tami Lund
Lightbearer, Book 3
Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © Published 2015, Tami Lund. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Liquid Silver Books
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
In the third installment of the Lightbearer series, we are introduced to lightbearer Carley Santiago and shifter Reid Hennigan.
Carley was once the premier chef for the King of the Lightbearers. But when her mate pushes her over a cliff and she miraculously survives, she flees the coterie, knowing he will want to finish the job. She figures hiding in the human world is the best way to ensure her safety.
While working as a chef at one of Chicago’s top restaurants, she meets Reid Hennigan, a lone shifter running from his own past. Carley tries to push him away—she wants nothing to do with anyone from the magical community, even a persistent shifter who insists he only wants to show her pleasure.
Reid Hennigan is another reject from Quentin Lyons’ defunct pack. When he received word his pack master was dead, Reid ran away, having no interest in being forced to be subservient to another abusive pack master. Unfortunately for Reid, shifters are hardwired to be part of a pack, and soon he is wandering aimlessly through life, with no clear idea of what to do next. When he stumbles upon the shy lightbearer working at a restaurant in Chicago, he discovers a new lease on life.
Passion turns to love, and Reid figures his life is pretty damn perfect, despite no longer belonging to a pack. But Carley has secrets of her own, and her secrets could be fatal—to both of them.
To my beta readers. Sheri, Kay, and Misti. Thank you. As always.
Words cannot express my appreciation of the team at Liquid Silver Books, although since I’m a writer, I suppose I could try. Thank you for helping shape the Lightbearer series into something worthy of publication. The covers are fabulous, the support is wonderful, the friendship with other LSB authors, irreplaceable. This group is truly a family, and I am honored to be a member.
Carley’s entire body ached.
As she lay in the snow, at the bottom of the stone steps leading up the side of the steep cliff, she reflected upon her life and concluded that it was sadly lacking. She knew her way around a kitchen, could concoct a delicious meal from the most meager of ingredients…That was about it. She could not think of a single other aspect of her life of which she could feel proud or accomplished.
Except the babe in her belly.
She tried to lift her arm to flatten her palm on her abdomen, as she’d done a hundred times already that day, but her arm would not move.
. Everything in her body was broken. Was the babe broken as well? Tears welled in her eyes and spilled over, sliding down her cheeks to pool in her ears, blocking out the sounds of the waves crashing against the shore a few hundred feet away.
She’d fallen from the top of the stone steps leading from the village at the lake’s edge to the beach house at the top of the cliff, where the king of the lightbearers lived.
, she corrected herself. Not fallen. Pushed. She had been pushed down the stairs and left for dead. Her intention had been to warn the king and his family of impending danger, and instead she had become a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs, and she was pretty certain she was dying.
As ever, she had failed.
The only thing she had ever been good at was cooking, and the fact that she was good enough to cook for kings was what inevitably put her into her current situation. If she had not worked at the beach house, no one would ever have wondered if she overheard things she was not supposed to hear. There would not have been a need to push her down a flight of stairs.
Would he have done it if he had known about the babe in her belly? She had not told anyone yet, except for Alexa, the healer who had confirmed her pregnancy just the day before. Carley had even been afraid to tell Alexa, but the healer was as wise and good as her reputation, and she guessed on her own. Carley had blown out a breath of relief and admitted that yes, it was true.
The healer’s quick magical exam confirmed her suspicions, and even as she’d assured Carley that everything was perfectly fine, she promised not to breathe a word to anyone, until Carley was ready.
Such a nice healer. If only she was here now
“Oh, my lights—who is that?”
Carley could not even turn her head to look at the source of the exclamation. Nothing on her body would work the way it should. Nothing wanted to work at all, save her lungs and her heart, and even those organs hurt so badly that she suspected her end was drawing near. She vaguely wondered if the babe was still alive, and would they die together?
“It’s one of the chefs from the king’s home,” a male voice commented, from the same vicinity as the female exclamation.
“Carley? Oh, my lights—Carley!”
Carley recognized the voice. Alexa. Had her prayers truly been answered? She opened her mouth and croaked—it was the best she could do.
“I think she fell down the stairs,” the male voice said.
Carley felt movement near her head, and comprehended that someone was crouching next to her. Alexa, no doubt. Warm hands cupped her head, and Carley would have sighed in bliss if she’d been able to, as soothing magic pushed into her head.
But it left as quickly as it started, and Carley made a noise of protest as the hands pulled away from her head.
“She’s grievously injured,” Alexa said. “Dangerously so. I’m not sure I can heal her alone, not at this time of night.”
“What do you want me to do?” the man asked.
“Pick her up. Let’s take her back to my home. Then go find another healer. Maybe even two. I—I think she might have fallen from the top.” Carley heard a sharp intake of breath at that statement.
, she wanted to say.
I’m not that much of a klutz
. But no words would come out.
A noise of distress managed to escape when the man lifted her into his arms. “I’m so sorry, Carley,” Alexa said as she walked beside the man who carried her. “We need to get you to someplace warm. And I’m afraid to touch you until we are there. Your injuries are going to sap all of my magic. But we’ll get you fixed up. I promise.”
. She tried to say the word, but only a croak came out.
She blacked out as they walked, and was jolted awake again as she was being placed on a soft mattress. “Go,” she heard Alexa command. “Find another healer. Quickly. I’m going to get started, but I won’t last long. But I’m afraid to wait any longer.”
“I’ll find someone,” the man promised, and then he left, and Alexa knelt on the bed next to Carley’s hip.
“Who would do such a thing?” Alexa whispered as she took a deep breath and cupped Carley’s face with her palms again.
Carley’s last coherent thought was,
She knows it wasn’t an accident
Human women were high maintenance.
Reid Hennigan really just wanted to get laid, to find a decent-looking, warm feminine body with which to spend a few hours of the night. To chase away the shadows. To satisfy his libido, nothing more, nothing less.
Unfortunately, his dining companion was making the process damned difficult, and despite the fact that he was pretty certain the signs were there, he wasn’t entirely sure he had enough patience to see it through to the end.
She was attractive, in a human Goth sort of way. She had an earring in her nose and another in her tongue. It was the one in the tongue that had prompted him to invite her out to dinner. What would that feeling like laving at his—
He’d taken her to a steak house, recommended by one of the human neighbors who lived in the apartment building he’d recently moved into. And then he’d discovered she was a vegetarian.
Being a shape-shifter, a predator, a natural-born killer, Reid did not quite comprehend the point of vegetarianism. For an appetizer, he ordered an expensive bottle of red wine. She ordered a plate of fancy, colorful…vegetables.
When the waitress returned and asked if they were ready to order their entrées, Reid asked for the largest, best cut of steak they served. Rare. His date made a face and ordered vegetarian lasagna. Before she left to turn in their orders, the server gave him the sort of glance that told him she fully appreciated his menu choice and wondered what the hell he was doing with the woman sitting across the table.
Reid wondered the same damn thing. Maybe he’d ditch the date and return at the end of the waitress’ shift.
“You aren’t even listening to me, Reid,” his date complained. The bottle was empty, and he was still working on his first glass. He wasn’t a fan of losing control of his senses, unlike his date, it would seem. Such a shame, because it was damn fine wine, and he’d just wasted it on this woman.
“No,” he said. “I’m really not.”
Reid was not one to mince words. Nor was he one to be particularly nice on any given occasion. There hadn’t been very much
in his world, after all. Why should he put forth the effort to be nice to others?
The date pouted and drank more wine. Reid twirled the stem of his glass and let his gaze wander around the restaurant. The decor was warm, with lots of wood paneling and wrought-iron latticework in the doorways of the various dining rooms. The lighting was recessed and muted, and pin lights highlighted the fresh flower centerpieces on the white cloth-draped tables.
Most tables held groups of two or four human guests, chattering happily, drinking and eating with enthusiasm. He’d had to bully his way in tonight, intimidating the maître d’ until he stammered that he forgot Mr. Hennigan had a reservation after all. Apparently, the chef here was a recently discovered phenomenon. All of Chicago clamored to try her fare. Reid idly wondered if she’d live up to her reputation. He had high expectations of the steak that was about to be delivered to his table.
He caught the scent of a unique blend of herbs and smoky, charred cow flesh, and he turned from admiring the scenery to focusing on the waitress who was walking toward their table. She faltered under the intensity of his gaze, so he shifted it to his date. He knew he had that effect on other beings—humans weren’t the only ones. He was too intense by far. It was part of his species. It was part of his makeup, born from a lifetime of living under the reign of an insane pack master.
But that didn’t mean he had to intimidate the waitress and cause her to inadvertently drop his dinner on the ground.
“Ohh, I can’t wait.” His date chortled as she clapped her hands together like a three-year-old.
Reid scowled. “You ordered lasagna without meat. How can you possibly be this enthusiastic?”
Like the three-year-old she apparently was, she stuck out her tongue. Reid was not a man with a great deal of patience. He was half tempted to stand up and walk away. Even if this woman did decide to spread her legs for him tonight, he was no longer sure that he wanted her to.
But that steak smelled far too good to pass up. Without even taking the first bite, he wondered if there was something to the rumors about this chef after all.
The server placed their plates on the table with a flourish. Reid ordered another glass of wine for himself and water for his companion—despite her pout of disapproval—and then he lifted his fork and knife and prepared to be impressed.
As he sliced a bite of meat from the giant steak, his knuckles brushed the side of the plate and then his fork and knife clattered to the table. His date gave him a peculiar look, but he ignored her. Instead, he hesitantly reached out and touched the plate. And felt it again.
It tingled on his fingertips, shooting off magical sparks like a sparkler from the Fourth of July holiday. He lifted his fingers and stared at them. And then he leaped out of his chair and strode away, leaving his date calling after him in a frustrated voice that he only peripherally heard. He was far too focused on determining the source of the magic he’d felt on that plate.
Ignoring the servers and busboys who gave him incredulous looks and even the one who made a pitiful attempt to stop him, Reid pushed through the swinging doors that separated the kitchen from the restaurant proper.
He was greeted with a nearly blinding light, so bright he actually lifted his hand to shield his face until his pupils shrank sufficiently to allow him to see properly. When he was finally able to blink his vision into focus, what he saw was a fairly standard—although ridiculously bright and rather impressively clean—kitchen. It was huge, as would be expected for a restaurant on a main drag in Chicago, and there were humans bustling every which way.