A cat, a demon, and a bear. Oh my.
Jericho Dark Walker is a Bear, a creature born to assume the form of man or animal. He’s second in command to the mixed group of shifters living in the Great Forest. For years it’s been his dream to see his clan reintroduced to the land of their ancestors. But now that he’s back he finds himself restless, unable to find joy in even the simplest back scratch or hive of honey. The female shifters offer little challenge to the Great Clan’s beta, and with everyone getting along, there’s nothing more strenuous to do than break up the rare fight.
When an opportunity arrives to represent the clan to oust an evil plaguing the outer edge of the Great Forest, he gratefully volunteers to work with the athmae-demons. The alpha’s brother has mated with an incubus, so Jericho thinks he knows what to expect. But athmae assigned to work with him is a male demon as large as Jericho, and just as deadly. No sex demon, but a hunter with the instincts of a true predator. So why is Jericho so taken with the male when he has only ever felt desire for a female?
And why, when they rescue an annoying, sexy cat shifter from certain death, do his instincts scream to claim both the feline and the demon as his own? Bears don’t mate outside their species, yet everything inside Jericho pushes him to do just that.
A cat, a demon, and a bear. Oh my.
As if Anson’s athmae didn’t make him feel uncomfortable enough with the touching and talking in tongues he didn’t understand, they’d brought more friends with them to escort Jericho to their castle. In friggin’ Germany.
Talk about a world away. One minute he’d been standing in Alaska in the Great Forest, the next, dizzy and weak, he stumbled into Bavaria.
He felt a jolt of relief when he recognised Liam—Anson’s mate and the athmae prince.
“Ah, Jericho.” That the man was only half demon didn’t soothe his need to get far, far away.
The sexual vibes emanating from the pointy-eared athmae put Jericho on the defensive.
Arousal had always been his to control, and Jericho prized being in possession of all his faculties. He pushed away this need to move closer to the demons and sent Liam a warning glare to stand back.
Jericho had come upon them at night. And damn if the athmae weren’t some strange-looking bastards, even though he knew them to be quite harmless, at least to shifters.
According to Fenris, they only raided human dreams. Their skin was dark at night and pale during daylight. Definitely on the other side of normal.
“Impressive,” Liam’s largest guard noted with a lingering glance down Jericho’s frame.
“Most impressive. A bear, you say?”
“I’m here to find a killer,” Jericho said through gritted teeth. Damn athmae. More interested in fucking than finding out how to defeat the enemy.
“Easy, Jericho.” Liam’s lips twitched. “It’s just that we haven’t been around many bears. My wolf, though large, isn’t nearly as big as you.” By wolf, he meant Anson, Fenris’s twin brother.
“Where is he, by the way?”
Liam sighed. “Getting your partner, who’s just as irritable as you are, I’m sorry to say.”
“Partner?” Jericho had assumed he’d join a hunting party to take down their enemy, provided the athmae could shed some light on who—or what—had been killing shifters.
“Ah, there he is,” another dark-skinned demon said. “Danger walking on two legs.”
Anson walked beside a male surprisingly as large and brawny as Jericho. He had the same night-dark skin as the other athmae, as well as their long white hair and red eyes. The tips of his ears were pointed, and when he spoke to Anson, Jericho caught the flash of sharp fangs. Yet his build appeared more bear-like than demon.
The athmae around him were tall and lean, strong, but not so muscular. Not like this guy.
“Lord Seino.” Liam grinned. His smile widened when the dour-faced demon sighed at him.
“Masterson.” Lord Seino wore a black vest and dark trousers, making him seem almost naked since the colour blended into his skin. Cinched to his waist was a demon bone sword, a weapon that could cleave just about anything in two.
Jericho wondered if Lord Seino ever considered he wore a piece of his brethren’s bone, then wondered if the demon would care. Though Liam’s group seemed to have more than sexual feelings for one another, this creature looked positively malevolent.
Jericho released an involuntary growl, and the male shifted his gaze to him. Pure power enveloped the gathering, and he noticed a few of the other athmae move closer to Liam and Anson.
“Who is this?” The deep voice sent shockwaves through him. An intimidating warrior who shouldered contempt for everyone around him, if Jericho read his frown correctly.
Liam shared a glance with Anson before replying, “Your partner, Jericho. He’s the liaison from the Great Clan Anson was telling you about—”
“Partner? This is intended as amusement?” His disdain made Jericho want to bite him. “A Protector hunts alone. What Kin warrior of any worth needs help from a human?”
“Try bear, asshole.” Calling Jericho a human was as bad as calling a raptor a chicken. Not done. Not if one wanted to live.
“His name is Jericho Dark Walker,” Liam said softly.
The male opened his mouth to reply but paused. “Dark Walker?”
“Who the fuck are you?” Jericho was done playing nice with a demon with no manners.
Anson and the other athmae grinned.
The stranger scowled. “I am Lord Seino, Protector of the Seventh Kingdom.”
“Yeah, great. I’m Jericho. Now let’s get moving. We have dead bodies piling up in our forest, Lord Annoying. So if you could take the stick out of your ass, we have an enemy to kill.”
“Oh, well said.” Liam chuckled. When Seino glared at him, he quickly coughed and amended, “About the enemy to kill, of course. We’ll leave you two to get acquainted. Sorry, but the Harvest Festival is in full swing. We have our work to get back to, and you have yours. Lord Seino, Mother sends regards to Master Fel.”
Seino nodded stiffly. “I shall give him your respects.”
Anson waved to Jericho. “Good luck. You’re going to need it.” His glance at Seino spoke volumes.
The prince and his group left as one, disappearing into the night as if they’d never been. The moon chose that moment to rise overhead, illuminating Jericho’s companion. Good night, but this male had power. Jericho could smell it on him. Unlike the sexual vibes he’d sensed from the males accompanying Liam, this demon felt cold, controlling, demanding.
Another growl eddied in his breast. A need to show the demon his place rose up out of nowhere.
“Hmm.” Seino circled him, inspecting him like a prized stallion.
“Look, I’m not exactly crazy about partnering up with you either. I’m here to find out how to kill something that needs killing. We don’t have to be friends to do it.”
“Friends? An interesting concept.”
Ignoring the male’s feigned interest, Jericho snapped, “So are we starting in your neck of the woods or mine?” The lure of tranquillity in the Great Forest sounded like heaven the more time he spent around Lord Seino. No fighting, dull sex with she-bears or she-wolves, and more of the same everyday awaiting his beck and call.
Or he could spend time with Lord Attitude.
He paid no attention to his racing heart and the excitement in his breast, and told himself he reacted to the thrill of the hunt. Not some obnoxious demon with arrogance issues.
“Should I assume you are the best your shifters have to offer?”
“Assume whatever the hell you want. I’m going to track down this monster and kill it. With or without your help.” Jericho marched into Seino’s personal space and met him nose to nose.
Seino didn’t blink. But something changed between them. A subtle sense of acceptance, maybe? In any case, Seino gave him a nod but didn’t back away. So Jericho did, trying not to feel as if he’d lost ground by doing so.
“We should go to my land, so you can see what we’re dealing with there.” Seino blinked at him, his red eyes like ruby pools of promise.
Of promise? What the hell?
“Shall we go?” Seino held out a hand.
“Grab my hand and hold on. Our portal to the Seventh Kingdom is difficult to traverse. But you need to see what we’re up against, Dark Walker.”
Jericho reluctantly put his hand in the large palm of the demon’s. It was cool to the touch…at first. But as he stared into Seino’s eyes, the demon gripped him tighter. Heat blossomed and travelled throughout his body, centring embarrassingly in his crotch. He didn’t have the nerve to see if Seino was similarly affected.
“Hold on, Dark Walker, and prepare to travel.”
The world changed in the blink of an eye.