Authors: Keri Arthur
“Keri Arthur's imagination and energy infuse everything she writes with zest.”
“Keri Arthur skillfully mixes her suspenseful plot with heady romance in her thoroughly enjoyable alternate reality Melbourne. Sexy vampires, randy werewolves, and unabashed, unapologetic, joyful sexâyou've gotta love it. Smart, sexy, and well-conceived.”
Full Moon Rising
is unabashedly and joyfully sexual in its portrayal of werewolves in heatâ¦Arthur never fails to deliver, keeping the fires stoked, the cliffs high, and the emotions dancing on a razor's edge in this edgy, hormone-filled mysteryâ¦A shocking and sensual read, so keep the ice handy.”
“Keri Arthur is one of the best supernatural romance writers in the world.”
“Strong, smart and capable, Riley will remind many of Anita Blake, Laurell K. Hamilton's kick-ass vampire hunterâ¦Fans of Anita Blake and Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse vampire series will be rewarded.”
“Unbridled lust and kick-ass action are the hallmarks of this first novel in a brand-new paranormal seriesâ¦âSizzling' is the only word to describe this heated, action-filled, suspenseful romantic drama.”
Curled Up with a Good Book
“Desert island keeperâ¦Grade: Aâ¦I wanted to read this book in one sitting, and was terribly offended that the real world intruded on my reading time!â¦Inevitable comparisons can be made to Anita Blake, Kim Harrison, and Kelley Armstrong's books, but I think Ms.Â Arthur has a clear voice of her own and her characters speak for themselvesâ¦.I am hooked!”
All About Romance
“The second book in this paranormal guardian series is just as phenomenal as the firstâ¦I am addicted!!”
“Arthur's world building skills are absolutely superb and I recommend this story to any reader who enjoys tales of the paranormal.”
Coffee Time Romance and More
“Fast paced and filled with deliciously sexy charactersâ¦readers will find
a fantastic urban fantasy with a hot serving of romance that continues to sizzle long after the last page is read.”
“Keri Arthur's unique characters and the imaginative world she's created will make this series one that readers won't want to miss.”
A Romance Review
“Riley Jenson is kick-assâ¦genuinely tough and strong, but still vulnerable enough to make her interestingâ¦.Arthur is not derivative of early [LaurellÂ K.] Hamiltonâfar from itâbut the intensity of her writing and the complexity of her heroine and her stories is reminiscent.”
All About Romance
“This paranormal romance series gets better and better with each new bookâ¦.An exciting adventure that delivers all you need for a fabulous readâsexy shapeshifters, hot vampires, wild uncontrollable sex and the slightest hint of a love that's meant to be forever.”
“Pure sexy action adventureâ¦I found the world vividly realized and fascinatingâ¦.So, if you like your erotic scenes hot, fast, and frequent, your heroine sassy, sexy, and tough, and your stories packed with hard-hitting action in a vividly realized fantasy world, then
and its companion novels could be just what you're looking for.”
“Keri Arthur's Riley Jenson series just keeps getting better and better and is sure to call to fans of other authors with kick-ass heroines such as Christine Feehan and Laurell K. Hamilton. I have become a steadfast fan of this marvelous series and I am greatly looking forward to finding out what is next in store for this fascinating and strong character.”
A Romance Review
“One of the best books I have ever readâ¦.The storyline is so exciting I did not realize I was literally sitting on the edge of my chairâ¦.Arthur has a real winner on her hands. Five cups.”
Coffee Time Romance and More
“The depths of emotion, the tense plot, and the conflict of powerful driving forces inside the heroine made for [an] absorbing read.”
“This series is phenomenal!
is an incredibly original and devastatingly sexy story. It keeps you spellbound and mesmerized on every page. Absolutely perfect!!”
“Arthur is positively one of the best urban fantasy authors in print today. The characters have been well-drawn from the start and the mysteries just keep getting better. A creative, sexy and adventure filled world that readers will just love escaping to.”
“Arthur's storytelling is getting better and better with each book.
Embraced by Darkness
has suspense, interesting concepts, terrific main and secondary characters, well developed story arcs, and the world-building is highly entertainingâ¦.I think this series is worth the time and emotional investment to read.”
“Once again, Keri Arthur has created a perfect, exciting and thrilling read with intensity that kept me vigilantly turning each page, hoping it would never end.”
“Reminiscent of Laurell K. Hamilton back when her books had mysteries to solve, Arthur's characters inhabit a dark sexy world of the paranormal.”
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel
“I love this series.”
All About Romance
“The paranormal Australia that Arthur concocts works perfectly, and the plot speeds along at a breakneck pace. Riley fans won't be disappointed.”
“The Riley Jenson Guardian series ROCKS! Riley is one bad-ass heroine with a heart of gold. Keri Arthur never disappoints and always leaves me eagerly anticipating the next book. A classic, fabulous read!”
“Huge kudos to Arthur for giving readers an impressive series they won't soon forget! 4Â½ stars, top pick!”
RT Book Reviews
“The superb final Guardian urban fantasy saga ends with quite a bang that will please the fans of the series. Riley is terrific as she goes through a myriad of emotions with no time to mourn her lossesâ¦.Readers will enjoy Riley's rousing last stand.”
Midwest Book Review
“A thrilling ride.”
“Arthur ratchets up the intrigueâ¦in this powerful sequel.”
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
2014 Dell Mass Market Edition
Copyright Â© 2005, 2014 by Keri Arthur
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Dell, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York.
and the H
colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.
Originally published in different form in paperback in the United States by ImaJinn Books, Hickory Corners, MI, in 2005.
Cover design: Lynn Andreozzi
Cover illustration: Â© Juliana Kolesova
YAN PLACED HER HANDS
on the front of her boss's desk and said, “I want a transfer, not more of your damn excuses.”
She knew that speaking to Stephan in such a manner wasn't the best idea, especially when he was the man in charge of both the Special Investigations Unit and the more secretive Federationâa man who'd ruthlessly do whatever it took to get the answers he needed or the job done. She knew
from firsthand experience; she'd suffered through his interrogation without the medical help she'd required after she'd been shot while trying to stop the shapeshifter imitating her partnerâa man who also happened to be his brother.
Not that she thought he intended her any sort of harm right now. He had as much interest in finding out who and what she was as she did. But he certainly
make her life hellâthough how much worse it would be than her current hell was debatable.
She leaned across the desk and added,
a touch sarcastically.
Stephan Stern raised one blond eyebrow, as if mildly surprised by her outburst. An outburst he'd
was coming for months. “You know I don't want to do that.”
“I don't honestly care what you want. This is about what
want.” She pushed away from the desk, unable to stand still any longer. Damn it, she'd spent more than half her life with her head in the sand, cruising through life rather than participating, and she'd had more than enough. The time had come to get greedyâto think about
desires, for a change. And what she wanted right now was not only a more active personal life, but a working life that involved something better than a broom closet. “Transfer me back to State, let me resign or find me another partner. As I said, I don't care. Just get me out of my current situation.”
Her angry strides carried her the length of the beige-colored office in no time and she turned to face Stephan. His expression was as remote as ever, but she'd learned very early on that Stephan was a master at hiding his emotionsâand that his dead face was just as likely to mean fury as calm.
“I prefer to leave you with Gabriel, as I still believe you two will make a formidable team.”
Sam snorted softly. “That has never been an option, and I think we both realize that now.”
It wasn't as if she hadn't tried, for God's sake. But her partner was still going out of his way to exclude her from everything from investigations to chitchat. Access to the SIU's vast computer system just wasn't worth this frustration and unhappiness.
Especially since she was getting jack shit in the way of information about the past she couldn't remember. Hell, her dreams were providing more information than the SIU's system. The only trouble was, how much could she actually trust the dreams?
And how much could she trust the man who constantly walked through them?
She didn't know, nor did she have anyone she could talk to about itâand that was perhaps the most frustrating thing about this entire situation. She
to get a life. Friends. People she could trust and talk to. Hell, even a pet would be better than going home alone to a soulless hotel room every night.
“I prefer to give the situation more time.” Stephan crossed his arms and leaned forward. “However, I do have another option that might suit us both.”
Sam met his gaze. His blue eyes were sharp, full of cunning and intelligence. Stephan was a shark by natureâand this was the reason he, rather than his twin, Gabriel, ruled the SIU and the Federation.
Of course, that also meant she was beating her head against a brick wall where Gabriel was concerned, because Stephan was always going to look after his twin's interests first. Even if said twin didn't appreciate his efforts any more than Sam did.
She came to a stop in front of his desk and couldn't help feeling like a fish about to be hooked. “What might that be?”
“You remember Dan Wetherton?”
She nodded. “Last I heard, no one was sure if the body Gabriel found was the real Wetherton or a clone.”
“Well, as it happens, it was the original.”
Sam snagged the nearest chair and sat down, interested despite her wariness. “Gabriel and I theorized about the possibility of whole brain transplants making clones a viable replacement option, but officiallyâas far as I'm awareâit's still considered impossible to create a clone that exactly duplicates the mannerisms and thoughts of the original person. They may be genetically identical, but they are nevertheless different.” She hesitated, frowning. “Besides, I read the in-house reports and tests done on the living Wetherton. He was declared human in all scientific results.”
“And a clone isn't?”
She grimaced. Clones were human, no doubt about that. But whether that actually granted them
was a point of contention between the scientists and the theologians. “Having only met one clone, who was trying to kill me at the time, I don't feel qualified to answer that particular question.”
Amusement touched the corners of Stephan's thin lips. “As it happens, the test results were altered by a party or parties unknown long before we got them.” He picked up a folder from his desk and offered it to her. “These are the originals. Have a look.”
From past experience she knew that it was pointless to ask how he'd gotten hold of the original papers. Stephan worked on a need-to-know basisâand generally, that meant the less everyone knew, the better. She doubted even Gabriel was privy to all his secrets.
Not that Gabriel himself was particularly open. Not with
She leafed through the information inside the folder. It included the genetic tests on both Wetherton and the clone, the coroner's report and Wetherton's medical history.
“Wetherton had cancer,” she said, looking up. “Incurable.”
“Which the current version no longer has.”
She threw the folder back on the desk. “If you know he's not the original, why not simply kill him?”
“Because we wanted to know why he was cloned. And where.”
“But not who had cloned him?” Did that mean they suspected the mysterious Sethanon was behind it all?
“As I said, we don't know the where and the why. But there is only one suspect for the who.”
“But the military is experimenting with genetics. There's no reason why Wetherton can't be their boy.”
“No, there's not.”
His tone seemed to dismiss her speculation, and yet she had a vague notion that she'd hit upon the very issue that was troubling Stephan. Only, for some weird reason, he didn't want to acknowledge it. “And what about the replacement parts industry? Have you checked to see if they have started developing fully formed beings, or is that just too obvious?”
His expression became briefly annoyed. “We never overlook the obvious.”
Of course not. She smiled slightly. Irritating Stephan might be akin to prodding a lion with a very short stick, but when she got even the slightest reaction, it was oddly satisfying.
“The black-market trade in cloned parts is booming,” she said. Of course, it was fueled mainly by humanity's desperation to cheat death. An incredible number of people seemed willing to pay exorbitant prices to grow new body parts, so why not take it a step further, and attempt a cloning miracle? Not just a replacement heart or liver or whatever other part had failed, but a whole new body?
But humanity was more than just a brain; it was also a heart and soul. Medical science might be able to transfer flesh and brain matter, but how could anyone transfer a soul? Even if they could pin down what a soul actually was?
Not that rules ever stopped anyoneâespecially when there was huge money to be made.
And somewhere along the line, someone had succeeded in achieving at least part of the impossibleâfully fleshed, viable clones who looked and acted like the original. Wetherton, and her ex-partner, Jack Kazdan, were proof of that. Although something
gone wrong with Jack's clone; it might have looked like him, but it had had serious problems speaking. But then, it had been given a shitload of growth accelerant, so it wasn't truly a surprise that it couldn't speak well. It had never really had the time to learn.
“His source is not black market. We're sure of that.”
She studied him for a moment, then changed tactics. “Wetherton's just been made Minister for Science and Technology, hasn't he?”
Stephan nodded. “Two years ago he was trying to shut down many of the science programs, stating that the money could be better spent on the health care system. Now he's in charge of the lot.”
“Why hasn't anyone questioned this sudden change of heart? Surely the press has noted it?”
“Noted a political backflip?” Amusement touched his lips again. “You're kidding, right?”
Point made. Flip-flopping politicians were such a fact of life that even the press had gotten tired of them. And the public at large simply ignored them, except when the flops directly affected their bottom line.
“What advantage would having a clone in such a position be for someone like Sethanon?”
“Sadly, we don't know the answer to that one yet.”
Not until they caught Sethanon, anyway. And
had proven as elusive as a ghost.
“So you've had Wetherton watched?”
“We've had an agent in his office for the last two months, but she can't get close enough. Wetherton plays his cards very close to his chest.”
If the man was a clone, he'd have to. One mistake and the truth would be out.
“What does all this have to do with my wanting a transfer?”
He smiledâall teeth and no sincerity. “The minister has recently received several death threats. He was given police protection, but the would-be killer has slipped past them on a number of occasions and left notes. The minister has now requested the SIU's help.”
She regarded him steadily. “So who did you use to drop the notes? A vampire or a shapeshifter?”
Amusement flickered briefly through his eyes. “The original threats were real enough.”
There was just a little too much sincerity in his voice for her to believe that. “Am I the only agent being sent in?”
“No. You'll handle the night shiftâit suits your growing abilities better. Jenna Morwood will do the days.”
Morwood wasn't someone she'd met. “What's her specialty?”
“Morwood's an empath and telekinetic.”
So she'd be able to see an attack coming by simply reading the emotions swirling around herâa good choice for this sort of work. “Are we the only two going in?”
“Yes.” He hesitated. “Wetherton has requested that the night watch stay at his apartment when he's there at night. Since the first two threats were hand-delivered, I've agreed to his request. I want you to observe everyone he meets. Become his shadow and learn his secrets.”
A huge task. “And the reason you're sending two female agents?”
Once again, that insincere smile flashed. “Wetherton appears less guarded around females.”
“Meaning what? That he's likely to hit on us?”
“It's a distinct possibility. And before it's mentioned, no, I do not expect or want you to sleep with the man.”
“Good, because I wouldn't.” She hesitated, frowning. “Wetherton's made much of his caring, family-man image over the last few years. That doesn't quite jell with him hitting on anything with breasts.”
“He and his wife separated not long after the original's death. Since then, he's bought a nice apartment on Collins Street and now spends most of his nights there. He's also been seen with an endless stream of beauties on his arms.”
She frowned. Wetherton wasn't exactly a lookerâthough that in itself didn't mean anything. Some of the ugliest spuds in the world had immense success with the ladies simply because of the wealth they controlled, or their sheer magnetic power. But from what she remembered of Wetherton, neither of these was a factor.