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(Extremely!) advance excerpt #1 from OCEAN LIGHT by Nalini Singh
(Subject to changes)
Blissful hot liquid poured over Bo, the thin needles stabbing deliciously into his scalp and skin. The last time he’d consciously felt the touch of water had been in that Venetian canal, cool dark closing over his head. He couldn’t actually remember hitting the water, but he remembered Lily’s frantic eyes and searching hands, remembered the starburst in his chest, remembered the water sliding into his mouth and into his lungs.
Gripping the memories in a tight fist, he raised his face deliberately to the droplets raining from the showerhead. As it sluiced away the past, running over his face and down his shoulders to his chest, his mind flashed to that semisecond when Kaia had been in touching distance, the curves of her a siren song.
His body stirred.
He shoved his hands through his hair and shook his head to dislodge the sensory impact of her. But no matter what he did, her scent continued to haunt him. Ever after he used the shampoo and soap from the dispensers on the wall, he was haunted by the warmth of cinnamon and the luscious bite of a tropical flower.
It lingered on his tongue as strongly as the echo of her wild fury.
Frowning, Bo finally shut off the water. He let himself drip dry for several minutes before he leaned forward and dragged a towel from the rail. Rubbing his hair with the towel, he considered everything Kaia had said and done. She was angry with him, this woman he’d never before met, incredibly angry, yet she’d helped bring him back to life.
His instincts stretched awake. Bo had spent his adult life unearthing secrets and unravelling enigmas. It seemed fitting that he spend what might be his final weeks attempting to solve the mystery that was Kaia.
A bunching of his muscles, his hand fisting to bone-white tightness.
And he made a decision—he wouldn’t waste the time he had and he wouldn’t consider death an inevitability. He’d live. Protect his people. Laugh with his sister and his friends. Kiss a cook with angry brown eyes and a scent that frustrated and haunted.
If Bowen Adrian Knight was to cease to exist, he’d go out on his own terms.
Advance excerpt #2 from OCEAN LIGHT
by Nalini Singh
(We haven’t yet done the final proofing, so excuse any typos. Also, this excerpt has been slightly edited to eliminate spoilers, so the final text will be just a touch different. I hope you enjoy this glimpse of Bowen and Kaia’s story.)
“I hate to point this out, but you seem to have a mouse problem.”
Kaia glanced down to see that Hex was poking his nose out of her pocket, his paws on the edge. He knew better than to jump out in the kitchen, but he clearly wanted freedom. “His name is Hex and he’s healthier and cleaner than anyone else on this station.” She put him on the counter beside Bowen, then washed her hands again and got back to work.
In front of her, Bowen and Hex seemed to be taking each other’s measure.
Catching a halting movement out of the corner of her eye, she picked up a plate she’d kept on the counter, took off the thermal cover, and walked over to thrust it into a skinny teenager’s hand. “I better see a squeaky clean plate when you’re done.”
Scott’s grin cracked his face, the starburst birthmark on his top left cheekbone crinkling with the movement. “You made my favorite.” After pressing an enthusiastic kiss to her cheek, the boy who’d recently had a run-in with a wild inhabitant of the sea—and come out worse off—grabbed a fork and began to stuff his face. His eyes, however, were on Bowen Knight.
Kaia put her hands on his bony shoulders and physically turned him around. “Go sit in the atrium.” He was sure to find a friend out there.
She was conscious of Bowen Knight watching her with security chief concentration as she returned to work, but though the tiny hairs on her body rose in warning, she ignored him to finish this set of dumplings. The other dough had rested enough by now that she could prep the second set. Her kitchen helpers could be trusted with the cooking part of the process, with her supervising.
While they did that, she’d get to work on a batch of cookies. Her last lot had been hoovered up so fast she was half-convinced certain cookie fiends were hoarding them in their rooms. Might be time to send Hex on a spy mission.
“Kid was limping.”
“Scott’s a teenager who can swim in the black.” Kaia rolled out another circle. “More sensible than most, but his brain’s still developing its danger sense.”
“What did he do? Try to wrestle a shark?”
She flicked Bowen a glance—and felt a nearly physical shock of sensation when their gazes collided. “I’m fairly certain he wasn’t looking for trouble.” Her heart thudded. “But neither did he get out of the way fast enough.”
Eyes of such a deep brown they appeared black in this light continued to hold her own, the currents arcing between them white fire she could almost see. “Kaia.”
A shiver rippled over her skin.
Forcibly breaking the eye contact, she dived back into work. But her mind was racing, spinning. Why was her body reacting to him? Why was she reacting to him? It wasn’t as if she was starved of choice should she want skin privileges. Ryūjin’s population aside, the station had visitors from the city on a regular basis.
More than one clanmate had made her an invitation. And yet . . .
“Shit.” Metal hitting china, Bowen’s fork clattering onto his plate. “Muscles are spasming.” Rising from the stool with a wince, he began to stretch with slow, intense attention to detail.
Kaia wondered if he ever did anything any other way as she kept an eye on him. Should he begin to topple over, she’d summon one of the group of clanmates who’d come in to grab coffee a couple of minutes earlier and were now lingering nonchalantly in the external part of the kitchen.
The five women were too scared of Kaia’s wrath to invade her domain, but that didn’t stop them from staring in Bowen Knight’s direction with unabashed interest. BlackSea might’ve managed to convince the rest of the world that they were mysterious and aloof loners, but everyone seemed to forget that a great number of water creatures preferred to hang about in large groups.
Forget mysterious, the oceanic flow of gossip was second only to the massive currents that formed the North Atlantic Gyre.
Her eyes narrowed as she noticed the precarious way Bowen’s jeans were hanging off his hips.
“Does your mouse eat human food?” he asked after shaking out his body like a large dog settling its skin.
The curious cats—all of whom were single females—made eyes at each other.
“Give him a hunk of that yellow cheese on your plate,” Kaia said absently as she finished accordioning the last dumpling. “I’ll be back in a moment.” She headed to the knot of watchers. “Drooling over a man just out of a coma?” She glared at them. “Shoo.”
“But Kaia,” one whispered, “he’s so . . . rough looking. That stubble, the tumbled hair.”
“Yeah. Like Malachai. He can dive with me any time.”
Kaia shook off a shudder at the image—Mal was like her brother; she did not want to visualize his love life. “Fine. Keep drooling, but do not go near him.” The instruction had nothing to do with her painfully uncomfortable response to him; Bowen needed to eat, not fend off amorous offers. “And especially no offering him tentacle sex.” She pinned the most likely offender with her gaze.
Oleanna giggled as she stole a flower from a friend’s braid to tuck it behind her right ear. “Not my fault so many humans have a fetish.”
Throwing up her hands, Kaia took the risk of leaving Bowen alone with the horde while she went to her quarters. It didn’t take her long to find the belt Edison had forgotten the last time he’d visited. The oldest of Atalina’s five younger brothers—and the cousin to whom Kaia was closest—had crashed in her room on a mattress on the floor.
He’d kept her awake half the night with hysterical stories from the city, his sense of humor so dry most people saw him as stoic and quiet. But that quiet existed, too; Edison had a deep well of silence within, an unshakable inner peace. As a heartbroken little girl, it was fifteen-year-old Edison whom Kaia had allowed to hold her, Edison whose hand she’d clutched when the clan consigned her parents’ bodies to the deep with a song of mourning that pierced her childish heart.
Returning with the belt to find Bowen unmolested but all the watchers giggling and blushing, she thrust the battered black leather at him over the counter. “Put this on before you give your fan club a strip show.” He’d obviously lost weight during the coma and his jeans were barely hanging on to his hips.
A slow smile that reached the darkness of his eyes and made her stomach clutch . . . and had certain people fanning themselves. Lifting her rolling pin, Kaia tapped it against her other palm. The fan club continued to watch, unrepentant and gleeful.
“Thanks.” He got off the stool and, lifting up his shirt, began to slip the belt through the loops on his jeans. The action revealed the still-hard plane of his belly, though it was more concave now than she guessed was normal for him. A dark line of hair arrowed down and into his jeans. It was a view available only to Kaia . . . who didn’t look away.
Dumplings all prepped for cooking, Kaia made a production out of checking her recipe organizer. “Shortbread,” she said aloud.
“Oatmeal raisin, too!” cried she-of-the-tentacles. “Please.”
“If you scat right now.”
A pause, but Bowen’s admirers finally decided they really wanted the cookies. “Bye, Bo.” They waggled their fingers in his direction.
“Ladies.” Waiting until they were alone once more, he sat back down on his stool.
Hex chose that moment to scramble down the counter and to the floor. “You want me to grab him before he makes a grand escape?”
“No. Hex knows the way home.” Her pet moved quickly out of the kitchen. She knew he’d find his way to the seaward wall and sit there watching the deep in rapturous quiet.
“Odd pet for a cook.”
Kaia could see no risk in sharing this truth with him. “My boy cousins put a mouse in my bed when I was twelve.” None of the six had played a single trick on her while she was in the black hole of grief, instead surrounding her in warmth and affection and more compassion than most people would believe of a bunch of rowdy boys.
“They thought I’d scream. I didn’t.” The miscreants had been trying ever more devious tricks since then—every so often, the younger four could still talk Edison and Mal into joining in.
“Hex doesn’t look a day over one or two.”
“His full name is Hex Luna the seventh. The mouse life span is sadly short.” Flippant words, but Kaia had mourned the death of each Hex. She would’ve never adopted Hex II if Edison hadn’t turned up with the mouse six months after the first Hex’s death.
“Love him, Kaia. He needs it.”
Her big, tough cousins kept doing that, and she kept not being able to give the new Hex back. Each one had his or her own personality, their own way of being. This Hex was mischievous and loved to explore where Hex VI had been a homebody who mostly enjoyed sleeping—with very rare excursions to run on his wheel.
And though Kaia hated death, she’d come to terms with it with the Hexes—because when they died, it was after their natural life span. And in that life span, they were pampered and protected and loved.
It was the unexpected or unnatural losses that destroyed her.
Her eyes landed on Bowen and she thought of the ticking time bomb in his head . . . and of the untested compound in his brain. If the chip imploded or the compound failed, there’d be nothing natural about it.
It would destroy Bowen Knight right in the prime of life.
“Another brilliant, though-provoking fantasy romance from a worldbuilder like no other!”– Library Journal (Starred Review)“…this book was amazing. I was sucked in right from the start and couldn’t put the book down.”– Blogger Girls“Ms. Singh has managed to create the perfect balance of action and quiet time…It was everything I was hoping it would be and more, and I can’t wait for other devoted fans of the author’s work to read it and love it as much as I did.”– All About Romance (Desert Isle Keeper)“This reviewer is continually impressed by Singh’s ability to create rich and complete worlds that leap off the page. The fact that she is just as expert in creating living, breathing characters makes her truly one of the best storytellers in the business…Another outstanding entry in this phenomenal series!”– Romantic Times (Top Pick Gold)“[Ocean Light] captivates with its intensity and liveliness…Another intricately plotted, vividly sensual love story from a romance favorite.”– Kirkus“…another thrilling love story…”– BookPage“Kaia’s struggle to be the hero of her own life and no longer a victim coupled with the love story between two people from very different backgrounds gives this tale a lot of heart…The Psy/Changeling Trinity series remains one in which I cannot wait to find out what happens next. Ms. Singh’s stories always entertain, frequently enlighten, and continue to be a great pleasure.”– Outlander Book Club“This story is full of tentative alliances, betrayal, redemption and so much more. Not only is this world complex but the characters are too…This story captured my imagination and kept my interest from beginning to end.”– Night Owl Reviews – Reviewer Top Pick“Intrigue and the tangled knots of politics are the author’s hallmarks, once again beautifully illustrated alongside a heartfelt romance between two flawed souls.”– Publishers Weekly“Ocean Light was fabulous… character driven, slow burn, swoony, sweet, heart-achingly beautiful at times and all around awesome.”– Book Twins Reviews“Singh once again annihilated all of my expectations.”– Book Riot“Every time Nalini Singh invites readers into a new part of the Psy-Changeling world, I fall in love all over again…. Romance, action, and a bright, vivid world all make Ocean Light a captivating read.”– Wit and Sin“Ocean Light is a sweet, fun, action, and swoon. This is the type of paranormal I really enjoy!”– Take Me Away To A Great Read (4.5 stars)
Psy-Changeling Trinity Series
For the Complete Chronological Reading Order, click here.Psy-Changeling Series
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