EXCERPT FROM SECRETS AT MIDNIGHT
Vivid green eyes watched her with an unwavering focus that raised the tiny hairs on Kirby’s arms and made her stomach go tight, a strange breathlessness in her chest. She didn’t recognize the tall, muscled male with skin tanned a beautiful gold, but he had to be part of the DarkRiver leopard pack—there was something feline about the way he stood, a stealthy predator at rest. She had the insane urge to go up to him,touch him, curl naked against him, skin to skin.
The uncharacteristic nature of the forceful sensual compulsion snapped her back to her senses, and all at once, she was aware of Vera looking at her with a distinctly quizzical expression on her face. Not sure how long she’d been standing stock still staring at the stranger, Kirby held up the small white box in her arms and said, “I baked yesterday.” Her pulse thudded hard and fast, her words huskier than they should’ve been. “I thought I’d drop off half the cake for you, since I know you like black forest.”
“I like black forest, too.” A deep male voice that brushed over her senses like the most luxuriant fur, the lips that had shaped the words curved in a teasing smile, until she could almost believe she’d imagined the feral intensity of him when he’d first looked at her.
Tapping her cane on the ground, Vera looked up into that green-eyed face that had twisted Kirby’s insides into a tangled snarl. “I suppose you want some?”
“Yes, please.” Hands behind his back, expression as innocent as a five-year-old’s.
Snorting, Vera jerked her head at Kirby. “This is Bastien. Don’t let him charm you—next thing you know, you’ll be naked.”
Kirby’s face filled with heat, the rush of blood so loud in her ears that she almost missed Bastien’s protests. Ignoring them both, Vera walked toward her door at a spry pace, a grace to her movements even at this age that made it clear she was changeling.
Not able to look Bastien in the face when her own was no doubt the color of an overripe tomato, Kirby began to follow the older woman . . . and realized she’d acquired a six-foot-plus shadow.
“I feel I have to defend myself,” he murmured, the words a purr of sound against her ears.
Cat, very definitely a cat. A big, gorgeous, stalking cat.
“Really?” she managed to say, her nape prickling at his proximity, the scent of clean, fresh soap and warm-blooded male in her every breath. “You don’t like making women naked?” It was a response driven by some hereto hidden part of her that told her to show him her claws, despite the fact she was
human, didn’t have claws. No matter if it felt as if the sharply curved tips were shoving against her skin.
Kirby had the feeling she’d surprised the leopard at her side, but he recovered quickly. “Oh, I do.” His voice had dropped, acquired a rougher edge that threw her stomach into dangerous freefall. “However, and despite Vera’s refusal to believe me, I’m very particular about who I make naked now that I’m no longer a hormone-driven teenager. Of course, when I was a teenager, a naked woman would’ve ended things rather abruptly, physically speaking.”
Skin burning again when it had just settled, Kirby nonetheless refused to back down. “I hope your ability to stand . . .firm”—Was she really saying this?—“against temptation has improved with time?” She’d never flirted in such a sinfully sexual way, hadn’t known she could.
A hand on her lower back, the touch searing her through her cardigan and the camisole she wore beneath, and his breath warm against her earlobe as he bent close to say, “You have no idea, little cat.”
Fighting the shiver that threatened, she walked into Vera’s house and to the kitchen, where she placed the cake on the counter, and said, “I’ll make the coffee,” before either Bastien or Vera could make the offer themselves. The routine task gave her something to do, though if she’d thought it’d help her ignore Bastien, that proved a futile effort.
Sprawled in a chair at the kitchen table opposite Vera, he was saying something that had the older woman laughing.“Why are you dressed up so spiffy?” Vera asked once her laughter had faded, lifting her fashionable but unnecessary cane to tap Bastien’s forearm. “Was it for the girl selection?”
Bastien dropped his head in his hands, the stunning dark red of his hair catching the sunlight pouring through the kitchen windows, all of which overlooked woods filled with verdant green firs. His white shirt was pulled taut over his shoulders in this position, his strength apparent. “I thought Mom needed a few minutes help moving furniture for a book club lunch,” he growled when he raised his head. “If I’d known it was about matchmaking, I’d have worn my rattiest jeans and a stained T‑shirt.”
Ears straining to catch every snarly word, Kirby found the cups as the coffee began to perk.
“Your mother loves you.” Vera glared at Bastien. “You’re in fine form, prime of your life, you should find a girl before you get old and crinkly.”
“Gee, thanks, Vera.” A masculine mutter as he leaned back again, one arm braced lazily against the back of his chair, his big body loose limbed, very much a cat at rest. “I was hoping I had a few more years yet.”
Vera’s response was a grin bright and full of anticipation. “I’ll enjoy watching you fall, Bastien Smith. I bet she wraps you around her finger.”
A shrug, those deliciously broad shoulders catching Kirby’s attention again. “Of course she will.” Impossible as it was, it felt as if his voice was pitched to stroke over her senses. “What would be the point otherwise?”
Vera’s smile turned affectionate. “I’m glad to see you understand that.” Glancing up as Kirby brought across the tray holding the coffee, Vera’s expression softened. “And you, Kirby?” She tugged Kirby into a seat. “Have you found someone yet?”
“I’ve only been in the city two weeks,” she said, conscious of Bastien going preternaturally still for a single, taut moment, the green of his eyes no longer human, before he rose to get the cake.
“From the accent,” he said, “I’m guessing . . . Georgia?”
Kirby nodded, happy he’d changed the subject, but Vera wasn’t done.
“Two weeks, schmoo weeks. It’s never too early to start looking.” The older woman’s eyes glinted, flicking from Kirby to Bastien. “You two would make pretty cubs together.”
Kirby wanted to die. Dig a hole, jump inside, bury herself for good measure. Bastien on the other hand—now standing between her and Vera—served up the cake without missing a beat, his body
heat lapping against her like a tactile caress. “Undoubtedly,” he said, “but not if you terrify Kirby away with warnings about the likelihood of ending up naked while with me.”
Kirby responded in pure self-defense, driven by that strangeness in her that said she couldn’t permit him to overwhelm her. Not now, not ever. She might not be a dominant, but it was critical he didn’t see her as weak. The tips of her fingers stung on that fierce thought, the pain sharp, biting.
Putting down the coffee cup that was clearly hotter than she’d realized, she said, “That likelihood is getting less and less with every word you speak.”
Laughing, Vera slapped her thigh. Bastien retook his seat with a meek expression belied by the fact he’d shifted his chair so that his thigh pressed against Kirby’s own. It incited an escalation in her clawing awareness of him, her skin prickling in a way that felt as if it came from inside and out both.
Almost as if she had a leopard under her skin, too, one that was rubbing up against it in an effort to get closer to this gorgeous cat who made her nerve endings go haywire.
Shaking off the curious sensation, she focused on his conversation with Vera. Intelligent, witty, a little bit wicked, Bastien was the kind of man who’d never have trouble attracting a woman. Kirby was far from immune. If she was brutally honest, she’d never reacted to anyone as strongly as she’d done to
That violent wave of need, of want at the start, followed by an increasing desire to know more about him, know everything. . . it was profoundly unsettling. As was the tearing disappointment that had her nails digging into her palms and her eyes threatening to burn when he glanced at his watch and said, “I better get into the office. With the instability caused by the Psy political situation, I have to keep an extra-sharp eye on things.”
“All work and no play.” Vera shook her head as Kirby stared deliberately into her half-empty coffee cup in an effort to hide her disturbing reaction, her skin flushing alternately hot then cold. “Be careful you don’t become a dull boy.”
“I thought I was making women naked on a regular basis?” Rising with that quip, Bastien went around to kiss Vera on the cheek. “Can I give you a ride somewhere, Kirby?” he asked, his hand on the back of her chair.
Scared by how much she wanted to lean back, rub her cheek against his arm, tug him down to her mouth, she shook her head.
“Don’t be silly,” Vera said. “You haven’t got a car.”
Her fingers flexed, the tingling in her fingertips increasing in strength. “It’s no trouble to catch the—”
Bastien’s breath whispered hot and silken over her ear, his face a caress away from her own. “I promise I don’t bite.” It was a dare.
“For the most part, the focus was squarely on the romance, which is how I like it. Kirby was loveable and Bastien devoted to her. I enjoyed reading about them both.”– Dear Author“Bastien’s story is sweet and angst free. It was lovely to see him get his HEA and to also see glimpses of Mercy, Lucas and one of the other Smith siblings, Sage.”– Fiction Vixon“Though the storyline is short, Singh produces a rich romance and well plotted conflict that intertwines in perfect balance. Familiar lines of dialogue are present as Singh slowly builds the tension of their mating dance though our lovers are able to take, shape, and make them their own.”– Smexy Books“As always Ms. Singh blows me away with her stories. I serious am in love with everything that Ms. Singh writes. Bastien and Kirby’s story is so sweet.”– Books-n-Kisses
For the Complete Chronological Reading Order, click here.
1. Slave to Sensation
1.5a “The Cannibal Princess” – free short story
1.5b “The Shower” – deleted scene
2. Visions of Heat
3. Caressed By Ice
3.5 “Miss Leozandra’s” – deleted scene
4. Mine to Possess
4.5 “A Conversation” – free short story
5. Hostage to Pleasure
5.5a “A Gift for Kit” ~ free short story
5.5b “Movie Night” – free short story
6. Branded By Fire
7. Blaze of Memory
7.5. “Christmas in the Kitchen” – free short story
8. Bonds of Justice
9. Play of Passion
9.5a “Wolf School” – deleted scene
9.5b “Clean and Dirty” – free short story
10. Kiss of Snow
10.5 “Stalking Hawke” – free short story
11. Tangle of Need
12. Heart of Obsidian
13. Shield of Winter
14. Shards of Hope
15. Allegiance of Honor
16. The Psy/Changeling Trinity series (2017)
1. “Beat of Temptation” in An Enchanted Season
2. “Stroke of Enticement” in The Magical Christmas Cat
3. “Whisper of Sin” in Burning Up
4. Wild Invitation (featuring Beat of Temptation, Stroke of Enticement, Declaration of Courtship, and Texture of Intimacy)
5. “Secrets At Midnight” in Night Shift
6. Wild Embrace
Novella: the Psy/Changeling series
Four masters of urban fantasy and paranormal romance plunge readers into the dangerous, captivating world unearthed beyond the dark…
New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh delivers a smoldering story with Secrets at Midnight, as the scent of Bastien Smith’s elusive lover ignites a possessiveness in him that’s as feral as it is ecstatic. And now that he’s found his mate, he’ll do anything to keep her.
In #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews‘ novella, Magic Steals, when people start going missing, shapeshifting tigress Dali Harimau and jaguar shifter Jim Shrapshire must uncover the truth about the mysterious creatures responsible.
From Milla Vane—a warrior princess must tame The Beast of Blackmoor to earn a place among her people. But she quickly discovers that the beast isn’t a monster, but a barbarian warrior who intends to do some taming himself.
It’s seer Makenna Frazier’s first day on the job at Supernatural Protection and Investigations, and her first assignment is more than she bargained for when bodyguard duty for a leprechaun prince’s bachelor party goes every which way but right in national bestselling author Lisa Shearin’s Lucky Charms.
The Psy/Changeling series