Someone peered over his shoulder.
A black clawed finger landed on the piece of paper in front of him, close to his. “Here.”
Grey jumped and growled at the male beside him. The warlock. Wizard. Whatever the hell he wanted to be called. He reeked of magic and death.
Even the succubus backed off, her usual bright smile and sultry air turning cold and dark. She said something, and the male said something back at her, a bite in his tone.
“You speak English?” Grey didn’t want to talk to the male, but he wasn’t going to get anywhere speaking with the bartender or anyone else in the joint.
The male didn’t nod.
Not a good sign.
“This is here?” He pointed to the name on the piece of paper again.
The male nodded and looked around. “Here.”
It was a start.
“You speak her tongue?” Grey pointed towards the bartender. “Speak. Her.”
The male frowned, his icy green eyes darkening a shade, and looked at the female, and then back at him. “Yes.”
But the male didn’t really understand him. He couldn’t ask complicated questions and have him relay them to the bartender for her to answer, and the male wouldn’t know the answer to them himself since he was clearly just passing through and using the village as a rest stop.
He needed to boil it down into something the male might understand.
“Mortals. Humans.” It was worth a shot. He pointed to himself. “I’m looking for mortals.”
The male’s eyes lit up. He pointed east. “Mortals.”
Grey looked in that direction. East. The dragon realm and the Devil’s lands were east of here. He slid his blue gaze back to the male, his hackles rising and his animal side growing restless, prowling beneath his skin.
Was the male telling him the truth?
“Mortals?” Grey pointed east, along the length of the bar.
The male nodded and attempted a smile. It came off twisted and disturbing rather than reassuring.
“Definitely?” Because he was starting to get the feeling that the male was trying to get him killed. “Because dragons are that way.”
The male shook his head. “No dragons. Mortals.”
Grey pulled the map out of his trouser pocket, spread it across the bar top and jammed a finger against the area Sable had labelled as ‘here be dragons’ and had drawn what he imagined was meant to be a dragon, but it looked more like a snake fighting a spider.
“Dragons.” He tapped the paper.
The warlock shook his head again, his eyes darkening another shade and his thin lips flattening. He jabbed a black claw against a spot west of the dragons, and east of their current location.
Was it possible?
“Here?” Grey pointed to the map.
The male looked as if he was going to kill him if he asked again, an inky sort of darkness growing around his pupils to devour the pale green of his irises.
“Okay. Here it is. Got it. Thanks.” Grey bundled up his papers and his backpack in his arms and left before the male could even think about muttering a spell to flay his fur off his body.
He breathed deep as he hit the village square again, shaking off his nerves and the sensation that the male was trying to get him killed. He just smelled of death, that was all it was. It had put Grey on edge.
He looked back at the tavern. Even the succubi had avoided the male. He turned away from the village and headed east, glancing at the male’s tent as he passed it. It was set up a good distance from the rest of the tents and from the huts, placed right against the perimeter wall of the village.
That struck a chord in him.
The warlock had come to the village, but had separated himself from them, was keeping his distance even though he obviously wanted to be around others.
The male had been helpful, but because he had looked different to the others, Grey had found it difficult to trust him. He had judged him on his appearance, and had believed he wanted to kill him because of that. He was no better than the others.
He should have been.
Experience should have taught him something, should have made him react differently to the male, but he had treated him with suspicion, just like the rest.
Just like his pride had treated him.
All because he was different to them.
Gods, he was no better than them.
He hated that.
It weighed him down as he trekked east, following the lead the male had given him.
It took him across the valley basin to the foot of a low mountain range.
He looked along it in both directions, and then at his map. By his calculations, the quickest route would be over the mountains, because the range stretched in both directions for miles. If he tried to go around, it would take him at least another day to reach the destination the warlock had marked for him.
By then, Archangel might have moved on.
He adjusted his pack on his shoulders, huffed and started forwards, picking a path up the gently sloping side of the mountain. He crossed a trail around two hundred metres up and followed it as it wound through the sharp towering rocks and up through tall crevasses that sliced into the black mountain. The trail grew narrow near the top, heading towards a sweeping curve between two peaks.
He brought his pack around to his front and pressed his back against the black rock as he edged sideways along the path, his eyes on the steep drop to jagged rocks below and his heart hammering against his ribs. No damn way he was going to fall. He breathed through the fear, refusing to let it get to him, and looked to his right, focusing on the path instead.
It opened up a short distance ahead.
Relief was quick to sweep through him when his boots hit the wider path and the trail led away from the edge, over the ridge.
Gods, he was tired.
He pulled a cloth from his back pocket and wiped the sweat from his brow, and ran his other hand over his silver hair. He would rest on the other side. This high up the mountain, he was unlikely to run into any wild beasts. He could spare a few minutes to catch his breath and rest his legs. He unhooked the canteen from his pack, took a swig of the tepid water, and capped it and put it back again. He was getting low.
Thorne had warned him not to trust the water in Hell.
Apparently, some of it wasn’t water at all.
Grey didn’t want to know what that meant.
He figured it wouldn’t end well for him and that was enough to have him steering clear of hitting any stream he saw for a refill of his canteen.
He reached the top of the mountain.
His breath caught.
It was as if he could see the entire world.
Or at least all of Hell.
Beyond the valley far below him, steeper mountains rose, forming ridge after ridge into the distance, where the sky glowed bright gold. The Devil’s domain.
Hell was bleak, grim, but had a strange sort of beauty to it from up here.
He started down the mountain, his eyes leaping back to the view whenever they could, drinking it in. It was incredible. How big was Hell? He should have looked back in the other direction at the ridge to see if he could figure it out. Maybe he would stop there and drink it all in if he came back this way.
He picked out a spot to rest as he scouted the route ahead of him, a nice flat space just a little over halfway down the mountain and only accessible from one side, giving him some protection.
He was close to it when lights in the valley caught his eye.
He slowed his steps and tracked them as they flickered and danced, a row of flaming gold spots crossing the darkness, heading to his left, deeper into the valley.
He looked in the direction they were heading, and frowned. More lights glowed there. Another village? Or a base of operations for a mortal hunter organisation up to no good?
Thoughts of resting scattered and he marched down the mountain, intent on reaching the valley floor before the people walking towards the settlement reached it. He needed to find out if they were Archangel soldiers, and he needed to do it before they joined up with the others. He could handle a few hunters, but not an entire base of operations.
His boots skidded on the loose black shale as he hurried down the mountain, and he fought for balance more than once, attempting a controlled slide that would get him down into the valley quicker than using the paths.
When he hit the valley floor, he paused for breath, his eyes scanning the dimly lit world around him. He spotted the torches off to his left, about five hundred metres out from his current position. He drew down a deep breath, held it in his lungs to steady his heart and centre himself and exhaled slowly. His senses sharpened, his animal side rising to the fore, allowing him to see into the darkness ahead of him.
Allowing him to see the people crossing the valley.
Every inch of him stilled.
And then a slow burn started in his blood.
It wasn’t Archangel.
He growled low in his throat at the sight of the large male figures, at the thick chains they gripped, and the captives they dragged along behind them.
It was slave traders.
He caught a flash of the two tiger shifter females he had found huddled naked and terrified in their cages, held against their will by Pyotr, the male Maya had been promised to as a cub.
That burn grew hotter, fiercer, blazing white hot, and he curled his hands into fists, his emerging claws digging into his palms as his tiger side raged, battered his control and pushed him to react, to obey his instincts.
No one deserved to be treated that way. No one deserved to be abused, mistreated, held captive and condemned to a life of fear.
He snarled through his fangs.
Dumped his backpack and stripped off his t-shirt.
These bastards were going to pay for what they were doing.
About Felicity Heaton
Felicity Heaton is a New York Times and USA Today international best-selling author writing passionate paranormal romance books. In her books, she creates detailed worlds, twisting plots, mind-blowing action, intense emotion and heart-stopping romances with leading men that vary from dark deadly vampires to sexy shape-shifters and wicked werewolves, to sinful angels and hot demons! If you're a fan of paranormal romance authors Lara Adrian, J R Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Gena Showalter and Christine Feehan then you will enjoy her books too.
If you love your angels a little dark and wicked, the best-selling Her Angel series is for you. If you like strong, powerful, and dark vampires then try the Vampires Realm series or any of her stand-alone vampire romance books. If you’re looking for vampire romances that are sinful, passionate and erotic then try the best-selling Vampire Erotic Theatre series. Or if you prefer huge detailed worlds filled with hot-blooded alpha males in every species, from elves to demons to dragons to shifters and angels, then take a look at the new Eternal Mates series.
If you want to know more about Felicity, or want to get in touch, you can find her at the following places:
Despised by his tiger shifter pride as an abomination, Grey has ventured far from home, deep into the bowels of Hell in search of answers about the machinations of Archangel, the mortal hunter organisation who held his twin captive. With no knowledge of the realm, and little skill with the local languages, he quickly finds himself at a dead end—until he crosses paths with a beautiful hellcat female who rouses his darkest most dangerous instincts.
Lyra has been a fool, falling for the charms of a male whose only desire was to make a fast buck by selling her. Shackled and collared, her strength muted by magic, she awaits her time on the stage at a black-market auction, but before it can come, all hell breaks loose and she seizes a chance to escape—and runs straight into a majestic warrior who steals her breath away and tempts her like no other as he battles alone to free everyone.
When Lyra offers her services as a translator to repay Grey for saving her, will he be strong enough to resist the needs she awakens in him and spare himself the pain of her inevitable rejection when she discovers the truth about him? And when the powerful male in charge of the slave ring starts a bloody hunt for Lyra, can she escape another collar and find the courage to trust the tiger who is capturing her heart?
The special sneak preview for Treasured by a Tiger begins on September 3rd, exclusive to Felicity’s mailing list. Every subscriber is entered into the giveaway to win a signed personalised paperback copy of Treasured by a Tiger, with a chance to win a copy in each of the three exclusive sneak peek chapters being sent out on September 3rd, 5th and 7th.
Not only will joining her mailing list ensure you’re in with a chance of winning one of the signed copies of Treasured by a Tiger, it means you’ll start receiving her newsletters, where she gives away 2 x $25 Amazon Gift Cards in each issue, and rewards subscribers with exclusive excerpts, teasers, flash fiction and cover reveals, and plenty of fun! Plus, you’ll receive FOUR FREE EBOOKS in her Series Starter Library just for signing up!