Read Motor City Mage Online

Authors: Cindy Spencer Pape

Motor City Mage

Motor City Mage

By Cindy Spencer Pape

As a cop who keeps paranormals in line, Des has a hard time trusting them. So why does he want the beautiful werewolf Lana more than his next breath? She’s mouthy, flamboyant and distractingly sexy—not the type of woman for a reserved mage like him. Lana admires Des, but she can’t be with someone who won’t take her seriously, no matter how much she’d love to rip off his dress shirt.

When a dangerous new drug shows up in Detroit, Des must locate the source, and Lana is determined to help. But their plan goes awry, trapping them in a demon dimension. To return home, Lana and Des must flee through a series of unpredictable alternate realities, fighting enemies while trying to shut down the drug trade. But if they’re going to survive, they’ll have to rely on each other, even though getting closer will add fuel to a fire that’s already burning out of control…

68,000 words

Dear Reader,

It’s hard to get excited about the month of March. The weather in this part of the world isn’t quite spring, and if it’s still cold, can make a long winter feel even longer. There are no fun holidays to look forward to except the green beer, corned beef and cabbage of St. Patrick’s Day, and the school season is at a point where the kids are starting to whine about having to wake up in the morning and go.

That’s why I’m excited about our 2012 March releases at Carina Press. The variety and excellence of the stories give us a reason to anticipate and enjoy the month of March! The rich diversity of these books promises a fantastic reading month at Carina.

Kicking off the month is mystery author Shirley Wells, returning with her popular Dylan Scott Mystery series. Joining her book
Silent Witness
at the beginning of March is BDSM erotic romance
Forbidden Fantasies
by Jodie Griffin; Christine Danse’s paranormal romance
Beauty in the Beast;
and a romantic steampunk gothic horror that’s like no steampunk you’ve ever read,
Heart of Perdition
by Selah March.

Later in the month, fans of Cindy Spencer Pape will be glad to see her return with another paranormal romance installment,
Motor City Mage,
while Janis Susan May returns with another creepy gothic mystery,
Inheritance of Shadows.
Historical romance lovers will be more than pleased with
A Kiss in the Wind,
Jennifer Bray-Weber’s inaugural Carina Press release.

I expect new Carina Press authors Joan Kilby, Gillian Archer and Nicole Luiken will gain faithful followings with their books:
Gentlemen Prefer Nerds,
an entertaining contemporary romance;
Wicked Weekend,
a sexy and sweet BDSM erotic romance; and
Gate to Kandrith,
the first of a fantasy duology that features wonderful world-building. Meanwhile, returning Carina authors Robert Appleton and Carol Stephenson do what they do best: continue to capture readers’ imaginations. Grab a copy of science-fiction space opera
Alien Velocity
and hot romantic suspense
Her Dark Protector.

Rounding out the month, we have an entire week of releases from some of today’s hottest authors in m/m romance, as well as some newcomers to the genre. Ava March kicks off her entertaining and hot m/m historical romance trilogy with
Brook Street: Thief
. Look for the other two books in the trilogy,
Brook Street: Fortune Hunter
and
Brook Street: Rogue,
in April and May 2012. Erastes, who can always be counted on to deliver a compelling, well-researched historical, gives us m/m paranormal historical romance
A Brush with Darkness,
and science-fiction author Kim Knox makes her debut in the m/m genre with her sci-fi romance
Bitter Harvest.
KC Burn gives us the stunning m/m contemporary romance
First Time, Forever.
Joining them are new Carina Press authors Dev Bentham, with a sweet, heartfelt m/m romance,
Moving in Rhythm,
and Larry Benjamin with his terrific debut novel, m/m romance
What Binds Us.

As you can see, March comes in like a lion but will not go out like a lamb. All month long we offer powerful stories from our talented authors. I hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to [email protected] You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James

Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com

www.twitter.com/carinapress

www.facebook.com/carinapress

Dedication

To the newest members of my family, Samantha and Jancy, who oddly enough have more than one Great-Aunt Cindy. I like to think I’m the eccentric one.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to everyone at Carina Press, particularly my editor, Melissa, for helping to make this series a reality. Also thank you to all the readers and reviewers out there who read the books, talk about them, and have supported romance in general and me in particular during this rapidly changing time in the world of publishing. Without readers, books are lonely things. Thanks for becoming part of my world.

Chapter One

“Nielsen just captured another Vatsu demon. It suicided under questioning.”

“Not again.” Desmond Sutton winced at the fury in his boss’s tone. “We still have no idea how to get them back to their home plane?”

“Not unless we find that portal.” James Brewer, director of the Detroit branch of the
Wyndewin
League, grumbled.

“I’m working on it.” Des had been, with the help of a few friends.

“You’re not hanging out with those bloody elves or wolves again, are you? Any information we gather from those sources can’t possibly be trusted.”

Des paused to lean against a bus-stop bench and rubbed his eyes. “Since one of the elves is my brother-in-law, it’s kind of hard not to see him. But no, I’m working this on my own.” It was a lie, but Des was tired of being chewed out for consorting with other species.

“I’m warning you again, Sutton. Steer clear. You’ve had one major screw up in your career. Make sure you don’t have another.”

Well, isn’t that just great?
He was supposed to avoid his sister now?
Not happening.

Shoving his phone in his pocket, Des looked around him at the young, carefree students rushing to and fro on campus. They were all blissfully unaware that their city was full of demons, not to mention elves, wizards, witches and werewolves.

Des wished he was so lucky, but Fate could be a vicious goddess sometimes. Knowing things that other people didn’t was supposed to be a gift. For the most part it was Des’s personal curse. People always said, “Knowledge is power.”
No
. It was more like a rash—something itchy and uncomfortable one couldn’t quite ignore, no matter how hard one tried. There was a reason so many of the world’s great minds had been alcoholic, depressive, heroin addicts or suicidal. While normal people got to trip through their lives in blissful ignorance, others, like Des, were excruciatingly aware of exactly how screwed up the world really was. Seeing too much, knowing too much might have been far more tolerable through a haze of anesthesia.

Reality, such as it was, stank. His city was in crisis, his world might well be on the brink of disaster. And his personal life? What personal life? He hadn’t had so much as a date in over a year, as his sister constantly reminded him.

He glared down at the sidewalk, absently booting a crushed coffee cup out of his way, before his conscience kicked in and he picked up the offending garbage, depositing it in a trash can half a block down the street. He pulled the collar of his trench coat tighter around his neck, warding off the cold November breeze and the light flurry of snow. For about the hundredth time that week, he considered the possibility of chucking it all and taking off to some island in the Caribbean. He could spend the rest of his days reading Tarot cards for tourists, soak his liver with rum and fry his skin with all-natural ultraviolet radiation.

It was tempting. Could he pull it off? For another few hundred yards, he pondered.

Not a chance
. No matter how hard he tried to talk himself into it, quitting still wasn’t going to work. His superiors and his own intuition agreed that both his duty and his destiny lay here in Detroit. The demon troubles were far from over.

Despite the widespread belief that demons had something to do with religion, the truth was, they were just beings from different planes of existence. Some were helpless, others benign. Some though, came through to Earth to cause trouble with a capital
T.
As a
Wyndewin
wizard, Des was destined to be caught squarely in the middle of whatever disaster went down.

“Oh, get over yourself, Sutton.” The sound of high heeled boots clattering on the sidewalk should have tipped him off sooner to the woman—and he used that term loosely as she wasn’t exactly human—who’d walked up beside him and now kept pace with her easy long-legged stride. “Whatever has your knickers in such a twist, let it go. Life’s a bitch and then you die. Might as well enjoy as much as you can along the way.”

“What do
you
want?” He looked over at Lana Novak, the curvaceous brunette werewolf who now strolled beside him, and his body responded with a quickened heartbeat and shallower breathing. There was something about her that grabbed him by the gut, even while she irritated him beyond belief. No, that wasn’t right. What she grabbed him by was significantly lower.

“Well, I sure don’t want to invite you to your sister’s bridal shower. If you showed up glowering like that, the female guests would all run screaming.” She glared at him with amber-brown eyes and shook her glossy dark hair—a rich walnut, streaked with russet and gold. It was missing the purple stripe she’d had the last time he’d seen her. “However my cousins
do
insist on inviting you to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow at their new house. Elise and Aidan will be there, along with Meagan and Ric.”

More mingling. Exactly what he’d been told not to do.

They walked in silence for a minute, and then her voice softened as she added, “It would mean a lot to Greg and Fee if you came. You haven’t shown your face at the club in a while. For some bizarre reason, Fee likes you, and she’s really emotional these days. Make her cry and Greg will come hurt you.”

Des grunted and managed a nod. That was just what he needed—to upset a pregnant woman married to the Prime alpha werewolf for all of southern Michigan. He’d gotten Greg Novak’s half-dozen messages, but hadn’t yet come up with a way to gracefully decline, so he hadn’t responded at all.

The
Wyndewin
were insular, to say the least. Paranoid was probably more accurate. Rarely even trusting humans outside the league, they were traditionally at odds with both Fae and shifters, as well as demons of all varieties. Des had been subjected to more than one lecture from his boss for simply working with other races on an occasional basis. If he got too close, he could lose his job. He had to admit, though, the Novak family, along with a handful of elves, had proven themselves to be good, loyal friends to his sister Elise. She was even marrying an elven lord on New Year’s Eve, and Des liked his future brother-in-law despite a rocky start. They’d also all risked their lives to save Elise’s daughter when she’d been kidnapped.

Regardless of his personal or professional hang-ups with non-humans, he was beginning to trust this bunch, and maybe even call them friends, if not in front of his boss. The only one who still got under his skin was Lana. She irritated him with her flip, irreverent humor and pushy self-assurance almost as much as she turned him on. Now she walked alongside him in a short leather coat, her backside, in painted-on jeans, swaying like the breeze. Ergo, he took out his frustration on her.

“I get that her first holiday in their new house is a big deal to Fee, but it seems kind of dramatic for you to follow me around Detroit for an answer.” Des knew Lana didn’t have much use for him. If she was talking to him, she had to be up to something. “Or are you stalking me just for fun?” Her apartment, above the bar she ran with her cousins, was only a mile or so away from the Wayne State University campus, but that was far enough to make him wonder about her presence.

When she was around, he had a hard time focusing on anything but her big brown eyes or voluptuous bum, and had to constantly remind himself to back down. Then she’d mouth off to him, and all he felt was furious. Nobody in his life had ever given him mood swings like Lana.

She whirled around and snarled at him, hands on her hips. At perhaps five-eight without her absurd spike heels, she had to look up at him, but only a touch. She narrowed her eyes and poked him in the chest with one finger. “Did it ever occur to you that I’m more than just a waitress and bass player? I’m on campus because I’m finishing up my master’s program, you jackass. The better question is what are
you
doing here?”

“Sorry. I assumed managing a bar, playing in a band and helping your cousin with pack matters already took up more than twenty-four hours a day.” Though he hated to admit it, she was smart as well as gorgeous and annoying, and probably could juggle multiple jobs. By way of apology, he actually explained himself. “I had a meeting with one of the administrators about the new designer drugs cropping up around campus. We’re pretty sure they’re an updated version of Nightshade’s demon chemistry, this time targeting humans.”

“Why would they meet with a
Wyndewin
, rather than one of the local authorities?” She fell back into step beside him.

“Because we go way back. His dad was a
Wyndewin
, my mentor when I first came to Detroit. Although Tim doesn’t have much power himself, we stayed friends, so he gave me the same information they gave the police.” Des shoved his hands into his pockets before he did something stupid like taking her hand in his.

“The others need to know about this,” she said. “I’m headed back to the club—you could come with me and grab something to eat before the rush begins. We’ll give the others a call, see if they can meet us somewhere.”

“They don’t need to get involved.” He kept walking toward his car, wondering if she’d continue to follow. “Now that Nightshade’s probably dead, and his shifter and Fae connections have been eliminated, there’s no point in any of them getting mixed up in this. They have other things to worry about—like weddings and babies.”

Lana’s laugh was deep, throaty and pure, raw sex. “Like I said before, get over yourself. We’ve all been in this thing from the beginning. It’s only reasonable to keep us in the loop. Besides, you know your sister will chew a new hole in your ass if you don’t.”

“Yes, she probably would.” Elise was little, taking after their Chinese mother a lot more than he did, but she packed quite a punch, and her fiancé, Aidan Greene, was wicked with a cutlass. Des looked up at the heavens and sighed. “Fine. I’ll explain everything tomorrow at Thanksgiving dinner. Now where are you parked? I’ll walk you to your car.”

“I walked from home—parking permits are too damn expensive for a waitress.”

Des ignored that. He knew she had family money and made a good bit as part owner of the club. She probably walked just to be contrary to her cousins, who’d want her protected. As an older brother himself, he considered scolding her about the idiocy of a young, attractive woman walking alone in Detroit, especially since dusk was falling rapidly. The city was a dangerous one due to unemployment and bad race relations, even before adding in the trouble caused by rogue demons and other supernatural beings. Lana should know better. Then he remembered this particular damsel could grow fangs and claws if she needed them and kept his mouth shut.

“I wouldn’t say no to a lift though, if you’re parked nearby. It’s gotten colder since I left home this morning.”

“Of course.” His parents had raised him to be a gentleman. He continued toward the lot where he’d parked. “So,” he said, just to keep his mind off her…assets. “What are you studying?”

“Computer engineering.” She climbed into the passenger side of his car without waiting for him to open her door. When he got in beside her, she snorted. “Why look so shocked? Were you expecting me to say animal behavior? Woof.”

He shrugged. “How on earth was I supposed to know?”

“Good point. Not like you’ve ever paid any attention to our lives. We’re all just possible suspects to you, aren’t we, Des?” The anger in her voice held another note. Was it…hurt? That was something he’d never meant to do. He’d always assumed she was far too confident and thick-skinned for it to be possible.

Des stuck the key in the ignition and ignored it, turning to face Lana instead. He schooled his expression to one of neutral friendliness. “I pay a lot more attention than you think I do. The problem is, most of the times we’ve met have been about saving the world, or at least somebody’s life. We haven’t exactly had the chance to talk about our hopes and dreams for the future.” He let a small smile twitch at his lips. “Besides, I’m a—let me get it right—grumpy, antisocial asshole. Just ask my sister.”

Lana laughed again. “All right, I’ll give you that.” Her voice softened and she gave him a tiny half-smile, wrinkling her classic, patrician nose. “But you’ve come through for my family when we needed you. You’re a good friend, despite your best attempts not to be.”

“Well, don’t tell anyone. My reputation will be ruined.”

She made an
X
across her chest. “Promise.” She studied his face before reaching up to flick a finger across his cheek. Her demeanor changed, and suddenly, the aggressive, in-your-face she-wolf was gone, replaced by the caring woman he’d always pretended not to see. “Damn, you really have been running yourself ragged. This demon thing—it’s a lot more serious than you’ve let on, isn’t it?”

He shrugged, wishing he hadn’t noticed the softness of her hand in that miniscule touch. Just a flick of one turquoise-painted fingertip made his spine tingle in a way no one else ever had—not in his whole thirty-nine years. He didn’t have the faintest idea how to respond.

“Tell me.” Her hand fluttered down to rest on his knee. Even through his heavy wool slacks, her touch all but seared his skin, he was that tuned in to her.

This was bad. Why was he responding to her so much more strongly today than usual? And why was she being so kind and—well—tactile? He bit his lip as it occurred to him this was the first time they’d had any kind of conversation alone, rather than as part of a larger group. He couldn’t ignore her, pretending she was just one of the crowd. And werewolves were into touch. Which is why he’d typically stayed at the far end of a room from her. Now though, in the small space of the car, the dynamic between them was changing so fast he couldn’t catch his breath. “What was it you wanted to know?” He’d been so tangled up he hadn’t heard her question.

“Last we heard, Nightshade was presumed dead and random species of demons were trickling into the city. I assume the
Wyndewin
have been busy rounding them up and trying to ship them home.”

“Pretty much. Some of them put up a fight and end up dead, others suicide when they’re captured.” Like the one today from Vatsu—a plane so dry and arid the creatures came here just because of the water that abounded on Earth. They didn’t usually hurt anyone, but because they had scaly green skin and hooves and couldn’t shape-shift, they couldn’t be allowed to roam around freely. “Until we find the gate, there’s no way to send them home.”

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