Excerpt from “Dorian,” part of the WILD EMBRACE Anthology
Author’s Note: As we celebrate the release day of WILD EMBRACE, here’s an excerpt from “Dorian” – it is the shortest novella in the collection, but I think it’s exactly the length it needs to be. In this novella, we get a glimpse of Dorian’s life all way through to the present day. This excerpt comes from his teenage years, when he was still growing into his skills.
Falling into the quiet space where he could hear his pulse as a soft echo in his ears, slow and easy, he didn’t look. No, he just was. And when his body wanted to turn in a hard motion and his finger wanted to squeeze the trigger, he did it before his conscious mind realized Vaughn had doubled back on him.
Vaughn didn’t swear like the others. He just snarled. “Next night hunt, Blondie,” he said. “Your ass is toast.”
Dorian allowed his body to relax now that the exercise was complete. Jumping down after Mercy and Lucas, he grinned at the jaguar. “Bet you ten bucks I can hit you at night.” He enjoyed giving himself a challenge, enjoyed pushing himself.
“Like taking money from a cub.” Shoving a hand through the thick amber of his hair, Vaughn looked at Lucas and Mercy. “Who do you put your money on?”
“Lucas.” Mercy placed her hands on her hips, her tone snarky. “He’s a black panther, you idiots. You think you’re going to see him?”
That, Dorian admitted, was an excellent point. So far, he’d never managed to take Lucas down on a night hunt, but neither had he managed to hit Vaughn. The two of them were really good at night. Just like Mercy was really, really good at dawn. She was a ghost.
He was still considering that when Nate appeared out of the trees with an unfamiliar male by his side. The guy looked like he was around Luc’s or Vaughn’s age; his green eyes were a little wild in his dark-skinned face, as if his leopard was just waiting to explode out of his skin.
Excerpt from “Echo of Silence,” part of the WILD EMBRACE Anthology
Author’s Note: This scene takes place on the deep-sea station Alaris.
Next mail drop, Tazia ensured she was fixing a hydraulic lift on the lowest floor of the station, where no one would come looking for her and where she didn’t have to hear the excited cries and see the beaming smiles of her colleagues as they received care packages or unexpected gifts, or letters that made them shed tears of joy.
“Great,” she muttered when the relay tube turned out to have a hole in it.
Her back stiffening where she crouched in front of the exposed inner machinery of the lift, she glanced up at Stefan. “Can’t you wear a bell or something?”
Of course he didn’t have a sense of humor. Psy never did. She still couldn’t get her mind around the fact that two powerful cardinal Psy, including a gifted foreseer, had recently defected into a changeling pack. How could that possibly work? Changelings were as primal as Psy were cerebral. Like Stefan with his remote gaze and cool words.
“The tube is busted,” she told him. “I missed the last equipment request, so we’ll have to wait till next month.”
“Is it urgent?”
She considered it, aware Stefan was a teleport-capable telekinetic. He could bring in emergency equipment in the space of mere minutes if not seconds, his mind reaching across vast distances in a way she could barely comprehend, but the unspoken rule was that the rest of the station personnel didn’t ask him for anything that wasn’t critical. Everyone knew that if Alaris sprang a fatal pressure leak, they’d need every last ounce of Stefan’s abilities to get them to the surface.
“The other lift is still functional,” she said, hooking her spanner into her tool belt and tapping in the code that meant the computer would bypass this lift until she recorded it as being back online. “We can survive a month.”
He nodded, his dark brown hair military short. Since he wasn’t part of the Psy race’s armed forces, she thought it was because he had curls; Psy hated anything that was out of control. When he continued to loom over her, she rubbed her hands on her thighs and stood up. That didn’t exactly even things out since he was so much taller, but it made her feel better.
He reached out and gripped a lock of hair that had escaped her ponytail. “Grease.”
Rolling her eyes, she pulled it out of his grasp. “Was there anything else you wanted?”
“It appears I made a mistake last month in telling you no letter or package would come.”
Pain in her heart, her throat. “No, I needed to hear that.”
“However, instead of having you snap at everyone for two days a month, you’re now so quiet that people are becoming concerned.”
Tazia remembered how Andres had been poking at her this morning, trying to make her smile with those silly jokes of his. But he was her friend. Stefan was nothing. “I’m not Psy,” she said point-blank. “I can’t ignore hurt or forget that my family hates me.”
He didn’t flinch. “You knew that before. What changed?”
“You took away my hope.”
There was a small silence that seemed to reverberate with a thousand unspoken things. For a single instant captured in time, she thought she saw a fracture in his icy composure, a hint of something unexpected in those eyes she’d always thought were beautiful despite their coldness.
Then a tool fell off Tazia’s belt and she bent to grab it off the floor. By the time she rose, Stefan was gone. Just as well, she thought, though there was a strange hollowness in her stomach. She wasn’t some bug under a microscope for him to study. She was a flesh-and-blood human being with hopes and dreams and emotions. Maybe those emotions made her heart heavy with sorrow and her soul hurt, but she would never choose to erase them in the way of Stefan’s people.
What use was it to have such power if you saw no beauty in a child’s smile or in the sea’s turbulent moods? If you didn’t understand friendship or laughter? No, she’d rather feel, even if it hurt so much she could hardly breathe through it at times.
Excerpt from “Partners in Persuasion,” part of the WILD EMBRACE Anthology
Author’s Note: This is the first story I’ve ever written that features a dominant predatory changeling woman with a submissive predatory changeling man. I hope you enjoy this glimpse of Dezi and Felix’s story. I adore them both!
A week after she’d agreed to be his friend and nothing more, Felix watched Desiree joke with a fellow DarkRiver soldier as all the adults who’d been helping with the planting that day gathered for an impromptu party. The soldiers had worked out a watch rotation that meant everyone could join in, and Felix had done a run up to the den in the truck to sneak out food and drinks.
Now they sat among the trees to the left of the denuded section, the dark gold of sunset turning the entire area into an oil painting. Felix, seated with his back against a pine, a beer in his left hand, should’ve been relaxed, content. He was ahead of schedule, the mood of the pack lifting with each new square of greenery. The seedlings were taking well, and he had every hope that by this time next year, the denuded area would be covered thickly enough that the pack no longer saw it as a vulnerability.
Instead of being happy, however, he was irritable and aggravated, and it wasn’t difficult to figure out why. His body hadn’t let him get much sleep since the day Desiree stepped out of the trees and sauntered over to him on those stunning legs currently encased in sleek black jeans. He dreamed about the lemon spice and wild cat scent of her, woke up aroused and hungry. Meanwhile, she was leaning against the big male leopard, shoulder to shoulder, the two of them so easy with skin privileges they’d probably end up in bed tonight.
Squeezing his beer bottle tight to the point that he was in danger of fracturing it, he got up and decided to walk off his mood. He left the bottle on a crate the others were using as a table and, hands in the pockets of his jeans, began to stride toward a stream about a ten-minute walk away—hopefully, his head would be in the right space by the time he made the round trip.
Lemon spice in the air.
Freezing at the sound of that husky voice, he hesitated only a split second before carrying on.
She came after him, her long legs matching his stride, though he was a solid five inches taller. “You’re mad at me.”
He gritted his jaw. “No.”
“You’ve been scowling at me since the party started. What did I do?”
“Nothing.” No, she’d been . . . friendly. No more dazzling smile, no more flirting, no more sense of invitation in her voice. It was exactly what he’d asked for, and it infuriated him.
Not leaving, she kept walking with him until they were far enough away from the party that Felix could no longer hear the others. Then she cut in front of him. Bringing himself to a halt, he stared past her gray-T-shirt-clad shoulder, though having her this close to his neck deeply discomforted his wolf. A single move and she could rip out his jugular, sever his carotid.
“I’m stubborn, Felix.” Her voice held the edge of a growl. “Tell me what I did to offend you.”
He knew he was tangling with a stronger predator, his wolf clawing at him to back off, but he couldn’t. Not today. “I want to go for a walk. Do I need to ask your permission?”
Flinching, she unfolded her arms. “Fine.” She stalked past him, back toward the party. “Do what you want.”
Fuck. He stared after her, knowing he should let her go. “Dezi.” If she didn’t stop, he couldn’t make her. That was the thing. He couldn’t ever make her do anything she didn’t want to do, would always have to trust that she’d never break his faith if they . . .
She stopped, turned on her heel. “Yes?”
Shoulders tight at the edgy response, he looked at the ground, back at her. “You can come with, if you want.”
A glare, but she fell in beside him again, and they walked in silence all the way to the stream. Sunset was fading into evening by the time they arrived to take a seat on a fallen log beside the water; Felix’s vision had adapted automatically to the fading light and he knew hers would’ve done the same.
Hand fisting and unfisting by his side, he finally blurted it out. “Are you going home with him?”
“Who?” She angled her body slightly toward him. “Barker?” It was an incredulous question.
Felix stared out at the trees on the other side of the stream, his skin flushing from the force of her gaze. “Why do you sound like that? He’s a strong dominant. The females in my pack find him very attractive.”
“We trained together,” Desiree said dryly. “I’ve put him flat on his back in a fight multiple times—that doesn’t make me want to jump his bones.”
He was the one who flinched this time. Because should it ever come to a physical fight between the two of them, Desiree would eviscerate him. He didn’t have the killer instinct of a dominant, didn’t want it.
Groaning, she leaned her head against his shoulder. “Why do I always say the wrong things around you?”
It startled him, the uncertainty in her tone. Chancing a glance at her, the weight of her head against his shoulder something that gave him pleasure, he said, “I don’t know what to say to you, either.”
“That’s not true.” Her braids moved against him as she shook her head. “We have perfectly great conversations when other people are around.”
She was right. He now knew that she loved climbing, that her mom was overprotective and made her check in after a night shift even though she’d moved out years ago, and that, same as him, she had a younger sister she adored. “I like talking to you,” he admitted.
It was worth the admission of vulnerability to see her lips curve in that smile, the dazzling one she hadn’t given him for a week. “Ditto.” A frown and she shifted to straddle the fallen trunk so she was facing his profile. “What if we’re wrong, Felix?”
He hated losing her touch, even if it had only been through his shirt. “What?”
“Us.” The single word fell between them, bringing silence in its wake. “We’re both just assuming we can’t make it—what if we could?”
Felix forced himself to breathe. “Your cat—”
“Wants to bite you, lick you, claw you a little.” Her voice dropped. “Just enough for it to feel good.”
His body pounded, his blood hot. Digging his nails into the palm of his hand, he made himself say it. “Skin privileges aren’t enough.”
“They’re a start.” Shifting closer, she still didn’t touch him. “Don’t you think if you’re getting grumpy about me being near another man, you should reassess your friends-only rule?”
He swallowed, considered how he’d feel if she did go home with another man. His wolf raged, clawing and slashing inside his mind. And he knew he was about to make what could well be the biggest mistake of his life.
Excerpt from “Flirtation of Fate,” part of the WILD EMBRACE Anthology
Author’s Note: This excerpt is from the prologue and takes place at Hawke and Sienna’s mating ceremony, when Kenji ended up with a black eye. Here’s how. 😉
Garnet was enjoying the brilliantly clear mountain night and trying not to think about a certain man and how damn good he’d felt against her during their dance, when she caught the scent of oak and fire and something intensely masculine. A scent that had surrounded her a half hour before, when Kenji broke into her dance with another SnowDancer lieutenant. She’d caught it on her skin afterward, a silent, aggravating taunt.
Her wolf rising to the surface of her skin on the memory, she growled low in her throat. “Go away, Kenji.” There was no need to raise her voice—his hearing was as good as her own, and he was close. He must’ve stayed upwind to sneak up on her.
“Why do you have to be like that?” he said, prowling out of the trees to fall into step beside her, tall and graceful and with the handsome features of a Japanese pop star. All clean angles and dramatic bones. That his slightly overlong hair was dyed a rich purple and sprayed with tiny golden stars only added to the effect.
She’d have thought it an affectation, except that he’d been doing things like that since he was a kid too young to think about being cool. As a seven-year-old, he’d once drawn “tattoos” on himself with permanent marker.
Then there was the time he’d painted his hair with house paint. She could still remember his shaved head afterward—it had been the only way his parents could be sure to strip off every bit of the toxic paint, as shifting might’ve redistributed the paint all through his wolf fur. They’d been more distressed than Kenji. He’d asked the barber to cut zigzag patterns into the resulting stubble.
She liked the way he wore it now, how it was just long enough to hint at rebellion, the strands thick and silky.
“Going to the lake?” he asked, green eyes locked on her.
Putting a half meter of distance between them because she knew it wasn’t a good idea to be alone with gorgeous, teasing Kenji Tanaka when she’d had a drink or three and her inhibitions were lowered, she said, “Going to the lake—to be alone.”
He closed the distance that separated them. His boots touched her bare toes, he was so close—and neither part of her changeling nature would allow her to give way now that he’d pushed. Not moving her feet an inch, she tipped back her head to look him in the eyes.
He frowned, stepped back. “Sorry. I keep forgetting you’re shorter than me.”
She couldn’t figure out if that was a compliment or an insult. “I’m leaving now. Don’t follow me.”
“You sure can hold on to a mad, Garnet,” he said when she would’ve turned away. “Like an elephant holds on to its memories.” His voice was playful, light, as they’d been with each other for so long now.
“Go away,” she said again, a staggering sense of loss echoing inside her. No, she ordered herself, you do not go there. Kenji’s and her time had come and gone. No second chances, not when Kenji had shown her exactly how badly he could hurt her if she opened her heart to him.
And not when the man he’d become was nothing like the smart, laughing boy with whom she’d once fallen in love. Kenji was a great lieutenant, a packmate she could rely on in a crunch and one who made her roll her eyes with his outrageous flirting, but he didn’t know the meaning of commitment when it came to women.
“Shoo,” she said when he stuck stubbornly close. “I want to be alone.”
“One of those times, huh?” Sliding his hands into the pockets of his jeans, his black shirt sitting easily on wide shoulders, he continued to walk beside her. “You never minded me going with you before.”
“I was twelve.” And thought he hung the moon.
Reaching out, he tugged on a tendril of her hair. “We used to be friends.”
She stopped, faced him. “It was a long time ago.” More precisely, seven years and two months ago—otherwise known as the night of her twenty-first birthday. But she wasn’t about to bring up that night, a night that had devastated her tender and hopeful heart.
What she had to remember was that it had also saved her.
It would’ve been far worse had she ended up with Kenji only for him to walk away a short time later when another woman caught his eye. Because, unlike him, she’d been weaving dreams of a permanent relationship, perhaps even a mating if they were lucky. “How’s Britney?” she said instead of dwelling on the lost dreams of the girl she’d been.
“Britney?” Dull confusion in the green eyes that were a throwback to his paternal great-grandmother. Then a light sparked. “Britney Matthews?”
Claws pricking at her palms, she smiled sweetly. “You know any other Britneys you banged like a drum?”
A hot red burn on the high planes of his cheekbones. “That was a lifetime ago. I was eighteen! You’re mad about that?” He shook his head, eyebrows drawing together. “I thought you—”
Garnet cut him off before he could mention the night they’d never spoken about, never would speak about; there wasn’t anything to say. Kenji had led her on, stolen her heart, then kicked her to the curb, the end. But they did have other things to discuss, because now that she’d brought up Britney, she was mad. Maybe it was the alcohol talking, but she had things to say to Kenji “Casanova” Tanaka about his taste in women.
“You knew how awful she was to me, how she made my life a living hell, and you not only took her to prom, you dated her for a year!”
A befuddled expression on his face. “I know you two didn’t like each other, but I thought it was, you know, girl stuff.”
“Girl stuff?” Was he really that clueless? “She tried to make my nickname Runt.” The only reason it hadn’t caught on was that pretty much all her friends and packmates already called her Jem, and she had enough dominance even at sixteen to scare most people into shutting the hell up before they used anything else.
Kenji had always called her Garnet. He’d just liked it.
As she’d liked hearing her given name on his lips.
“I thought she was just messing with you when she said that.” He scowled. “You never minded when I called you Short Stuff.”
That was because he’d been her friend, who she knew didn’t mean anything by it. The same way she’d affectionately called him Beanpole when he first got his height. By eighteen, the muscle had caught up with the height and he’d been gorgeous. “Jesus, Kenji, Britney was a first-class bitch.” Garnet wasn’t about to pull her punches. “She got her kicks from picking on younger girls.”
“It’s not like you couldn’t handle her.”
She’d still been a teenage girl with the attendant fragile ego . . . and she’d been carrying around a truck-sized crush on her older brother’s best friend. The same friend who was standing in front of her right now. “Whatever. I lost all respect for you the day you hooked up with her.”
His mouth fell open. “I was a teenage boy!” he reiterated. “She had boobs out to here and legs up to there and she thought I was the best thing since sliced bread!”
Garnet had apple-sized breasts, if she was being generous, and, given her height, her legs were never going to be a supermodel’s. Baring her teeth and folding her arms across her chest, she smirked. “All. Respect. Lost.” She leaned toward him. “Poof.”
“Yeah?” Suddenly belligerent, he got in her face. “What about you? Dating No-Brains Bacon?”
Seeing red, she pushed at his chest. “His name was Barton, and he was a nice guy!”
“Who had a lot of space inside his skull. Must’ve been all the knocks he took on the football field.”
Garnet refused to admit that sweet Barton had, in fact, been a little intellectually challenged. “At least he knew how to handle a real woman.”
Kenji’s growl made her own chest rumble in challenge. “You were fucking fifteen when he moved on you,” he gritted out. “I should’ve done more than punch out his lights.”
Garnet’s eyes went wolf. “That was you?” Barton had broken things off with her without warning, after turning up with a black eye he’d shrugged off as a training injury.
Kenji’s muscles bunched. “He was a fucking senior and you were—”
Garnet plowed her fist into Kenji’s face, slamming his head sideways.
He jerked, one hand going to his jaw. “What the fuck, Garnet?”
“That was for Barton,” she said, her breath ragged. “And for me. Thanks to you, I had to go stag to the junior dance.”
His eye already looking like it might blacken, causing a twinge of remorse in her gut, Kenji said, “Better than you being taken advantage of by a guy who should’ve known better.”
Furious heat flooded her face, wiping out all traces of remorse. “I knew what I was doing.”
“Fifteen!” Kenji said again, his voice more growl than sound. “And you still looked like a kid. He was a fucking deviant.”
“I had boobs!” She shoved her hands under those boobs. “Just because you go for balloon-sized tits doesn’t mean anyone who dates me is a deviant!”
Eyes flicking up from her breasts, Kenji growled low in his throat. “That’s not what I said.”
“Yeah? Sure sounded like it.”
“God damn it, Garnet, I—” No warning, just his strong, beautiful hands thrusting into her hair and his mouth slamming down on hers.
“This is a banner year for Singh fans. Not only did they receive the wonderful addition to the Psy/Changeling series, Allegiance of Honor, but Singh also delivers an amazing anthology to readers…A major reason why readers adore Singh’s stories is the layered realism of her unforgettable characters!”
– Romantic Times Top Pick
“…I’ve always loved Nalini Singh’s work. I knew I was in for a treat when I grabbed this book for review, and it didn’t disappoint. The balance of having both Psy and Changeling stories within one collection was perfect, and I really can’t wait for the next installment in the series!”
– All About Romance
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
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Novella: the Psy/Changeling series
The Psy/Changeling series