Phantom Warriors: Riot
Veterinarian Nina Whitetail’s world is falling apart. Her beloved grandfather is dying, her best-friend is getting married and plans to move away, and someone is hunting bears out of season.
Nina can’t do anything about the first two problems, but she’s determined to stop the poachers. The encounter doesn’t go well and she has to run for her life. In the confusion, Nina stumbles upon the Great Bear from Cherokee mythology…or so she thinks.
Nina knows there’s more than magic happening, when the bear speaks and shape-shifts into an alarmingly large man bent on seducing her. Suddenly Nina is torn between love, loyalty, and a future amongst the stars.
Riot has always been different from his Phantom Warrior brethren. His size and strength make finding a mate nearly impossible, especially when they all scream and run away. Nina is the exception. She thinks he’s the Great Bear. Riot doesn’t have the heart to correct her, until she asks him to save her grandfather. By then, it’s too late. Riot’s in love. Even with all their power and strength, a Phantom Warrior cannot cheat death. If he admits the truth, it will shatter their fragile bond and he’ll lose his only chance at happiness. If Riot doesn’t tell her, he’ll lose her trust and her love. Either way, he loses.
Read an Unedited Excerpt
Riot clenched the summons in his hand and glared at it. In all his years as a Phantom Warrior, he’d never been summoned before the Atlantean King until this week. Nor had he been summoned before any other king for that matter. He scowled at the missive. This made the third one in a matter of days, since he’d returned from Earth. His mind flashed to his brethren, Phantom Warrior Linx. It was that damn cat’s fault that he was in this mess.
He should’ve never allowed Linx to talk him into smuggling Taylor Shelley onto the ship. Riot had only done so because the woman would’ve been killed had she stayed on Earth. In his mind, the threat of death superseded the actual ‘rules’ put in place by the Atlantean people for gathering fertile females. Not that he expected the King to see it that way.
The fact that the Taylor’s sister was Linx’s mate…well, that simply complicated matters.
Riot stared at the giant rock slab doors that guarded the Throne Room and took a deep breath. Deceiving the King was wrong. He knew it. But for him, honor and friendship trumped fealty. Riot had no doubt that the King would disagree. He made a mental note to beat some sense into Linx the next time he saw him, then growled under his breath and threw open the doors. He stepped into the Great Hall and scanned the long aisle that led to the crystal throne. This might be his third visit, but he didn’t like it any better than the first two.
Long tables fanned out on both sides of the aisle, separated by only a few feet in order to accommodate large crowds. Today, they were empty. Perhaps this would be a private meeting. The thought had barely had time to settle in Riot’s mind, when he spotted a small group of people orbiting the throne. So much for a private meeting. Riot’s massive shoulders tensed a notch. He didn’t want an audience, but if there were others here, maybe he’d been summoned for a routine reason—not because of the mistakes and bloodshed that had occurred on his last mission to Earth. He glommed onto that remote chance, minor though it may be.
Linx, that lazy good for nothing cat, still hadn’t bothered to petition the Atlantean King for permanent residence for their stowaway. Instead, he’d dumped the helpless woman on Hades, the Dark King, knowing she wouldn’t be discovered.
Hades only ruled a small part of Planet Zaron, but the Dark King was formidable. No one crossed him and lived. Fortunately, Riot hadn’t had to deal with the Dark King…yet. King Eros was bad enough.
As Riot approached the people hovering around the throne parted, revealing a large, blond-haired man dressed in a loincloth. His chest was bare and softened hide enclosed his feet. Perched upon the glowing green and blue crystal throne, the man leaned forward, as if in anticipation of his arrival. One look at the Atlantean King and Riot’s tension skyrocketed, twisting his muscles into tight knots.
King Eros’ gaze appeared lazy, which belied his intense scrutiny.
Riot dropped to one knee and bowed his head. “You summoned me, your Highness?” The question was a formality. They both knew that he wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t been summoned. Riot glanced up and met the King’s eyes. His thoughts immediately turned to food, though he was not hungry.
The King might look soft with his long hair and pretty features, but he was a powerful Atlantean. And like all Atlanteans, he could read thoughts.
Eros’ blue eyes brightened with amusement. “Are you hungry, Phantom Warrior Riot?”
“Yes,” Riot said, automatically thinking of platters filled with roasted meats.
Eros’ eyes glittered and his mouth pressed together as if to seal off laughter. “It’s strange that you’re always in need of nourishment when I call for you.”
“Yes, your Highness. Truly odd coincidence.” Riot purposely kept his expression blank as to give nothing away.
The amusement vanished from Eros’ handsome face. “Do you know why you’re here?”
Riot slowly shook his head and pictured an apple pie. “No, your Highness.”
Eros shifted, his thick muscles flexing and tightening as he moved forward on the throne. “I read your incident report about the violence that occurred during your last mission.”
Riot remained silent and thought about the hamburgers he’d had on Earth. He’d especially loved the ones covered in ketchup and extra pickles.
Eros’ brow furrowed. “You really should eat before you come here.” His gaze flicked to Riot’s stomach, then back to his face. “As I was saying, I wanted to speak with you about the deaths that occurred. You said in your report that they were unavoidable.”
They’d gone over this multiple times. So many in fact, that Riot wondered if the King expected him to change his story. That wasn’t going to happen. Riot rose from his kneeling position. “My Phantom brother, Linx was fighting for his life and the life of his mate when I arrived. He was outnumbered. The humans were armed with weapons made of steel. They fired metal rounds that were meant to lodge within the body.”
Eros’ mouth tightened. “I am familiar with guns,” he said. “What I can’t figure out is why a gun would have been a problem for a Phantom Warrior.”
“It wouldn’t have been, if not for the safety of the women—woman,” Riot corrected.
Eros rose from the throne. “Women? Your report stated that there was only one woman.”
Riot thought about french fries smothered in gravy and his stomach growled. Several of the Atlanteans present took a step back as if they expected him to shift into his bear form and eat them. Riot nearly snorted. None here were to his liking. Besides, they’d be far too tough.
The King’s lips twitched and Riot stiffened. His last thought must’ve gotten through. He immediately went back to thinking about ice cream shakes and toasted buns with thick burgers wedged in the middle.
“I misspoke, your Highness. There was only one woman that I can recall,” he said. “Phantom Warrior Linx later claimed her in order to save her life. Had I not arrived to help, we might have lost her.”
Eros’ muscles tensed and his nostrils flared. Anger radiated from his pores. Like Riot, the King wanted to kill the men all over again for what they’d done to Linx’s mate, Tabitha. “I trust there will be no further incidents,” Eros said.
“Definitely not, your Highness.”
Eros nodded. “Good,” he said. “You’re dismissed. I expect you to be on the next transport back to Earth.”
“But, your Majesty, I just returned. Shouldn’t a few of the other warriors have a chance before I’m sent back out?” This was punishment for omitting information. Riot knew it, but he couldn’t exactly call the King on it without implicating himself.
“Are you questioning a direct order?” Eros asked.
Riot felt his face pale. “No, Sire.” He turned to leave. Eros’ next words stopped him short.
“I trust if any new details of the event jar your memory that you will let me know immediately,” he said. There it was, the suspicion that had been lurking under the surface the whole time.
Riot looked back over his shoulder. “Of course.”
“Oh, and Riot,” Eros said.
He swiveled to face the King once more. “Yes, your Highness.”
“Do get something to eat. Your hunger is mentally…distracting.” The King’s lips twitched.
He knew. There was no doubt in Riot’s mind, but somehow he managed to keep his composure. “Yes, your Highness. Right away.”
Before Riot made it three steps, the stone doors flew open and a small brown-haired woman swept into the room. “There you are.” Her gaze bypassed Riot to settle on the King. A golden-haired boy, the future king of Zaron, and a beautiful chestnut-haired girl, whose curls hung halfway down her back were hot on her heels.
The little girl saw King Eros sitting on his throne and squealed, “Daddy!” As she raced forward, arms outstretched.
Her brother watched Riot closely as he passed, his green eyes as off-putting as his father’s aqua blue ones.
Riot bowed. “My Queen,” he said.
Rachel smiled at him. “I swear I will never get used to people calling me that.” She shook her head and glanced at her husband. “We’ve been looking all over the palace for you.”
The second the King’s gaze landed on his wife, his blue eyes began to glow. People may have questioned his return after so many years away, but there was no denying the love he felt for the human woman, standing before him.
Something in the vicinity of Riot’s hearts throbbed. He hadn’t experienced any kind of connection with the women on Earth. Certainly nothing like the kind he saw between the royal couple. Oh, he’d tried. His body had been more than willing to ‘test the waters’, but his size seemed to intimidate the females of the species. Riot couldn’t really blame them. Even among the Phantom people, he was considered large and rather intimidating—not that anyone would be able to tell that from the King’s reaction to him. But Riot had heard his Phantom brothers joking about him on the ship. The harsh words would’ve hurt, if there hadn’t been a thread of worry laced with the humor. They hid their concern with laughter, while Riot hid his pain with silence. He stopped at the stone doors and glanced one final time at the King and Queen. They appeared to be so happy. Riot was under no illusion that he’d find the same happiness.