Phantom Warriors 3: Talon
Digital • Dec. 6, 2011
Phantom Warriors 3
Barnes & Noble
Lynn Regis wasn’t looking for anything but her newly released condors, when she hiked into the Grand Canyon National Park. The last thing the plus-sized beauty expected to find was a sexy as sin man, with eyes as sharp as a hawk, bent on seducing her.
Talon knew Lynn was mate material the moment he laid eyes on her. With only three days to convince that they’re meant for each other, this determined raptor will have to use every strategy in his well-stocked, sensual arsenal. Good thing Phantom Warriors always come prepared.
***WARNING: This book contains sexy shape-shifters and smoking hot love scenes that may offend some readers. Fire retardant underwear required.
BACCHUS (Phantom Warriors 1) | SABER-TOOTH (Phantom Warriors 2) | ARCTOS (Phantom Warriors 4) | LINX (Phantom Warriors 5)| RIOT (Phantom Warriors 6)|THE DARK KING (Phantom Warriors 7/Atlantean’s Quest 5)|HAWK’S SLAVE | PIT FIGHTER: CAGE
Read an Excerpt
Note for Readers: This excerpt contains adult content intended for individuals 18 years of age or older.
A shadow passed overhead momentarily blotting out the warm sun. Lynn Regis shivered as something primal inside of her urged her to run. She ducked instead, then planted her feet on the craggy rocks and tilted her head, squinting against the sunlight. Like debris caught in a whirlpool, two enormous raptors circled above her on a sea of blue, dropping lower and lower until she could see the white ‘V’ of their feathers clearly beneath their wings. Relief flooded her and tears of joy misted her vision.
Her condors were alive—and safe. After a day and a half of hiking in the Grand Canyon, searching the skies, she’d finally found them.
Even from this distance the birds looked huge. Throwbacks from another age when man lived in caves and feared anything larger than himself. The raise and release program had gone better than expected. Her pair of condors looked to have bonded, which meant her job here was almost done.
Lynn watched them climb, using thermal updrafts. One soared toward what looked to be a small cave in the ridge of the cliff and disappeared. At least she thought it was a cave, but from this distance it could very well be an indented ledge, since condors could roost in relatively small spaces, despite their large size.
The only way Lynn could be sure the spot they’d picked would be safe for any future hatchlings was to climb up there and check it out. She stared at the side of the canyon wall, craning her neck to see the top of the ridge. From this depth and angle, she couldn’t immediately spot it.
She glanced at her watch, then checked the angle of the sun. There was no way she’d start the climb in the afternoon. It would take her hours just to reach a spot safe enough to ascend. Hours that would eat the last remaining rays of sunlight. Shadows already clamored along the burnt orange and beige canyon walls and it was barely past two. Soon Lynn wouldn’t be able to see her hand in front of her face, much less two black raptors.
The terrain in the canyon’s belly was dangerous in the daylight. At night it could be lethal. Several people had disappeared in the Grand Canyon National Park never to be seen again. So many so, that there was actually a book detailing their deaths and disappearances. Fascinating reading, but hardly comforting when she was trekking on her own.
Lynn pulled her backpack off and dropped it onto the rocks. She had enough provisions to last for several days, along with a sturdy tent, small cook stove, solar lanterns and a sleeping bag. She could afford to wait until the morning to find a safe place to climb. The condors weren’t going anywhere. Not tonight anyway.
She stared at the bird’s nine-foot wingspan and grinned as it followed its mate into their new roost. With the help of conservationists and ornithologists like her, this proud species of raptor just might have a chance at survival. Lynn took out her journal and noted the location of the small cave in the distance, then prepared for the coming darkness.
An hour later, she’d erected the tent and set up camp. A land of extremes, the desert could be scorching hot in the daytime and freezing at night, depending on the time of year and the location. If a person wasn’t prepared, they could easily die of exposure and dehydration.
Sweat dripped from Lynn’s forehead and ran along her jaw. She gazed longingly at the Colorado River flowing thirty feet away. She hadn’t thought to bring a swimsuit, since she had not anticipated it taking so long to find the condors.
The idea of submerging herself in the greenish-brown waters nearly had her salivating. It might not be ideal, but at least it would be cool. And would certainly do until tomorrow, when she’d reach her favorite campsite in the heart of wild country.
Lynn flicked her gaze up river and didn’t immediately spot any rafters floating down. It was late and they should’ve all set up camp by now, but there could always be stragglers. She bit her lower lip. Could she risk stripping down long enough to wash the sweat off?
She glanced down at her dust-covered clothes. Lynn wasn’t ashamed of her body. Far from it. So what if it didn’t exactly conform to what was considered ideal beauty these days. How many women could truly say their bodies did? Confidence aside, that didn’t mean Lynn wanted strangers stumbling upon her naked size sixteen backside, when she bent over to wet her hair. She did have a modicum of modesty after all.
Despite reservations, she walked forward and trailed her fingers through the current. Ribbons of cool water feathered in their wake. Lynn checked one last time to ensure her privacy, then quickly stripped out of her hiking clothes and plunged into river before she could change her mind.
She yelped as the brisk flow licked over her ample curves, crinkling her nipples and stroking her generous thighs. God, it felt so good. She could stay here for hours, floating in the shallows. Lynn closed her eyes and quietly bobbed on the surface, letting the sun kiss her upturned face.
A breeze whipped through the Canyon, sending a chill through her, making her teeth chatter. Maybe the water was colder than she’d initially thought. Gooseflesh rose on her skin. With it came an unexpected surge of awareness.
Lynn sat up and looked around, suddenly painfully aware of her nudity and isolation. There wasn’t another human in sight. So why was her heart racing?
She shook off the feeling of being watched and ducked her head below the surface. Lynn knew she was alone. She’d checked twice. It was only paranoia…or perhaps wishful thinking on her part. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to share your life with someone, she told herself. Of course, the chances of them wandering into the Canyon to say, ‘Here I am’ were pretty slim to none. Stuff like that only happened in books and movies, never in real life. And certainly never to her.
Lynn held her breath for as long as she could, watching bubbles float to the surface, then came up sputtering. Her long brown hair clung to her back and lovingly curled around her large breasts, accentuating her pale skin.
The feeling of being watched had dissipated somewhat, but hadn’t completely gone away. As much as she wanted to stay in the water, Lynn couldn’t ignore her instincts any longer. She rose, paying no heed to the sensual caress of rivulets trickling over her bare flesh.
Lynn resisted the urge to brush the droplets away. She was afraid if she touched herself at that moment it would only make the ache inside her worse, since it had been months since she’d had a lover.
How many times had she promised to work less and make more of an effort to date? Too many to count.
“This time I really mean it,” she muttered, knowing that in all likelihood the promise would fall by the wayside much like her New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. It wasn’t like she had time to worry about such things now anyhow. Lynn had come here to do a job. The sooner she focused on finishing it, the better.
She waited a few more seconds, allowing the air to dry her, since she didn’t have a towel. The gentle juniper-scented breeze brushed through her wet hair, causing her skin to prickle. Lynn spread her arms and slowly turned in a circle, soaking in the sunshine.
The feeling of being watched returned.
Lynn’s body tensed. She opened her eyes, half expecting to see someone standing in front of her. The sensation of being observed was stronger this time, sweeping over her skin, leaving scorch marks behind.
Her gaze darted up and down the river, but she still couldn’t spot anyone. In the Grand Canyon, that didn’t really mean anything. Someone could be watching her with binoculars from up on the ridge. Talk about an unfair advantage. Lynn rushed forward and dove into her tent to get dressed.
* * * * *
Talon stared out the bridge viewport at the blue-green planet below. The ship would continue to orbit Earth, while teams of Phantom Warriors were dispatched to the surface to find mates. Nerves tightened his stomach, twisting his gut into a Zaronian stew. Soon it would be his turn to venture onto the planet.
Already several Phantom Warriors had returned empty-handed. Talon forced his mind away from the possibility that he, too would return mateless and focused instead on having a successful hunt like Bacchus and Kegar.
Those two warriors had already returned to Zaron with their new mates in tow. The men had received a hero’s welcome for bringing hope to the Phantom people. Although hesitant, the women had done their best to settle into Phantom society. Their acclimation and acceptance had been helped by the fact that both warriors had successfully passed their genetics onto the women.
Even the most cynical of the Phantoms had been unable to deny the truth of Bacchus’ and Kegar’s claims, when their mates had shifted form into their respective clans.
Seeing the women change had given the other Phantom warriors hope for their future. Talon took that newfound hope and turned it into determination the likes of which he’d never experienced before. He wasn’t about to blow his allotted three days on Earth and come back alone. If his commanding officers could find mates in a matter of days, then so could he.
He glanced at the map of the world and his two hearts sank. Though smaller than Zaron, Earth was still substantial in size. Talon had no idea where to begin his hunt for a mate.
Being part of the Wing Clan meant he’d need a lot of space to roam. He needed to test the thermals in the alien atmosphere before narrowing down his hunting grounds. Talon didn’t want people in the cities spotting him, when in his other form. At least not at first. That meant he had to go somewhere remote. But where?
He pressed a button on the bridge and the map of the planet grew larger and more detailed. It may take several trips to cover it all. Perhaps he was being a little overoptimistic about finding his mate the first time around. It might take several trips to the planet to succeed.
No! He shook his head. He couldn’t think that way. He would find a mate. And not just any mate. Talon was determined to find his true mate. He might be desperate, but he wasn’t so desperate that he’d attach himself to just any female. He was looking for something different, someone different.
He scanned the map, staring at the illuminated sections that indicated dense populations. There were so many places that had been conquered on this planet, leaving very few wild spaces untouched.
Talon pressed another button and the heavily populated areas disappeared. That elimination should help narrow his search some, but not enough. He glared at the map. He needed a place where he wouldn’t readily stand out. Talon walked to a console and hit a separate screen. With a few deft strokes, he brought up the list he’d been searching for.
There were several species of raptor on Earth. None near his size in his other form, but a few like the wandering albatross and the Andean Condor were close enough…if viewed from far away. Despite their low numbers, Talon chose to go with the condor, since they were closer in coloring to his other form. He hit a few more buttons and the locations of these giant birds appeared. There weren’t nearly as many as there should be, but several held the remoteness he needed.
Now all he had to do was choose.
Such a simple task for something that posed such great personal risk. Not that Talon feared for his safety. He was a Phantom Warrior after all, but he couldn’t exactly convince a woman to mate with him if she was terrified of him. He sent out probes to take images of the areas. It would only take a few seconds to receive the information he needed.
When the first images appeared, Talon quickly ruled out the California locations. The state was far too heavily populated for his needs. He moved onto the pictures of Baja, which seemed promising, before finally settling on the Vermilion Cliffs in Arizona. The vast expanse called to something deep inside of him. The cliffs were located near a place known as the Grand Canyon.
Intrigued, Talon pressed a point on the map and the probe zoomed in, sending back even more images. His breath caught in his lungs as the craggy geography came into view.
The area was beautiful. Perfect for soaring on thermals and testing the atmosphere. He touched the map again and it took him into the depths of the canyon down to the swirling water below. He scanned the canyon for condors and found two, making lazy circles above a pale object on the ground.
Perhaps they’d spotted their next meal? Seemed likely since condors were expert scavengers. He wondered what had the birds so fascinated.
Talon hit another button and the probe zoomed in on the image. That’s when he saw her. Naked. Wet. And mouthwateringly lush. Rising like a goddess from the abyss. Every muscle in his body shot to attention. Talon’s breathing deepened as he gazed at her long brown hair and full figure. He couldn’t seem to swallow as his flight suit suddenly constricted, choking off his air supply.
The skin on Talon’s neck and shoulders tightened as the change threatened to overpower him. It was a good thing he couldn’t smell her or he’d probably end up embarrassing himself in front of the other warriors, wandering the nearby corridors.
They’d never let him live a slip up like that down. Only a child couldn’t control the change and he was far from being a child. Talon glanced around to make sure he was alone. It had been years since a woman had forced a change upon his body. So long in fact, that he couldn’t recall the last time—if ever it had occurred.
He reached out and touched the viewer screen, stroking a finger down the woman’s tempting image. Talon watched her pale nipples pucker and firm, as if she’d truly felt his touch. Was it a sign from the Goddess?
His gaze traveled longingly over her luscious curves. The hair between her thighs matched the color on her head. He wondered if they’d be of equal softness. His mouth watered at the thought of tasting her, running his tongue along her moist seam.
Talon couldn’t stop himself from touching her image again. The woman glanced around and shivered, then rushed forward into some kind of dwelling. He jerked as hundreds of years of instincts urged him to take chase.
“Mine,” he growled.
The flap of the dwelling closed behind her, concealing her gorgeous form. Disappointment flooded him, along with a stronger, more dominant emotion. The woman might be able to hide for now, but she wouldn’t be able to hide from him for long. Talon marked the spot on the map, then shut down the image, his purpose clear.
He now knew exactly where he needed to go and what he was looking for. He’d find her with or without the map. Once Talon did, there would be no place she could run where he wouldn’t follow. His cock hardened at the thought. It was only a matter of time before he claimed what was rightfully his.
Someone cleared their throat behind him. “Commander?”
Talon stiffened at the sound of the deep voice and slowly turned. He hid his embarrassment behind a mask of open hostility. Given his raging emotions, it was easy enough to do. He’d been so wrapped up in the woman that Talon hadn’t heard the young warrior approach.
“How long have you been standing there, Arctos?” he asked, his voice deadly still. Talon didn’t care that the question gave away the fact that he’d let his guard down. He was operating on pure instinct now.
The junior officer flushed, then lowered his head, sending silvery white hair into his face. His flight suit barely contained his broad shoulders and massive bulk. “Not long,” he murmured.
The lie hung between them, adding mass to the silence. The urge to gouge out the young warrior’s eyes with his talons was strong. If he didn’t know for a fact that Arctos was from the Claw-Clan, Talon would’ve acted upon those urges. But Arctos was, which meant that the man could shift into a creature that bore both the characteristics of a bear and a wolf, becoming much more than the nightmarish creation human legend spoke of.
Talon glanced at Arctos’ hands. Deadly claws had already sprung from his fingertips. It wasn’t so much a direct challenge as an indication that Arctos had difficulty controlling his emotions. Talon was pretty sure he could take the young recruit in combat, but it wouldn’t be an easy victory or a painless one.
The last thing he wanted was to appear bloodied and tattered when he presented himself to his potential mate. It was for that reason, and that reason only, that Talon dismissed Arctos’ imprudence.
“I suggest you retract your claws…unless you plan to use them. Now what is it?” Talon barked. “You know I’m scheduled to depart shortly. I don’t have time to settle another dispute.”
If that were why he was here, then Arctos would make the third warrior today to present a case of misconduct. Mating always brought out the aggressive side of Phantom Warriors. Talon had broken up more fights since they’d arrived on Earth than he had in the entire previous year on Zaron.
As time past, the aggression only got worse. If it continued at this rate, there’d be no choice, but to send some of the men back. Talon didn’t want to be the one who gave that order or chose who got to stay and who had to go.
Sensing the danger, Arctos dropped into a quick bow. “Forgive me for the intrusion. I come with news that I am to accompany you on your journey to the planet. My name was chosen.”
Talon stilled. He wasn’t prepared to take a traveling companion. If anything, that would make his hunt for a mate more difficult. Phantom Warriors were territorial by nature. If they remained in the same area around an available female, blood would spill. Deaths, though rare, were known to happen.
“I think there’s been a mistake,” Talon said quietly.
Arctos’ red gaze met his. “No mistake, sir. Orders have come down from Commander Bacchus.”
“I cannot allow you near the female that I have chosen to…investigate.” Talon’s muscles tensed as his body prepared for battle.
Arctos’ lips twitched. “I believe you misunderstand me. I am to travel with you down to the Earth’s surface. From there, I will head north to a place called Alaska. I believe one of the women said it was a state. Whatever that means. I have located the land mass on the map.” He pressed a button on the console and a snowy image popped onto the screen.
“I see,” Talon said.
“It is too warm for me to exist comfortably in anything above fifty degrees,” Arctos added quickly.
Talon kept his expression blank. He knew the young officer had told him the latter to reassure him. What Arctos didn’t know was that Talon didn’t need reassurance. He would fight any man to the death, be they Phantom Warrior, Atlantean, or human, until he could discern whether this woman would turn out to be his match in every way. Deep down in his gut, Talon knew she was already. He’d seen how her body reacted and he hadn’t even touched her yet.
He let a fraction of his power rise to the surface until he felt his eyes glow, too. The skin along Talon’s shoulders, neck and back began to burn as his wings pushed to be released.
Arctos took a step back, his claws lengthening as he did so. “I meant no disrespect, Commander.”
Talon took a deep soothing breath and forced his muscles to relax. If he attacked an underling, then he was no better than the rest of his squabbling men. His jaw clenched and his body shook as he fought for control. “I will see you in the departure bay,” he gritted out between clenched teeth. “Dismissed.”
Arctos nodded, but didn’t turn around to leave. Instead, he backed out of the room.
Smart warrior, Talon thought. He shook off the last of his power, forcing it once more inside his body. The appearance of the female was already messing with his rigid self-control. What would it be like when he finally stood before her? A shiver of anticipation trickled along his spine and Talon grinned in anticipation. He couldn’t wait to find out.
* * * * *