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A shakeup in power between rival drug lords reveals a half brother Manō didn't know he had, complicating the Alana family's plans to take over the marijuana trade on Maui. Not only that, but one wrong move could turn the sexy cop he's involved with against the family.
When a crime the Alanas fought hard to bury is exposed, their whole cartel is in danger. Now Manō's blood has him trapped between two clans: the siblings he's loved since they were kids, and the ruthless, shadowy kin he just learned he has.
Manō can either succumb to the darkness threatening to drag him under or tap in to its power and embrace his role as a cold-blooded killer.
Book 2 in Kendall Grey's 'Ohana paranormal thriller series
"Kendall Grey reminded me why I love paranormal so much! The characters, the world-building, the plot—everything about Cold-Blooded drew me in from the first page and kept me on the edge of my seat right up until that final, gasp-inducing sentence. Five stars aren't enough for this book!" —Emily Snow, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author
Release date: February 19, 2019
Publisher: Howling Mad Press, LLC
Print pages: 344
Content advisory: Graphic sex, language, and violence
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Thursday, October 2—Maui
Manō Alana toed the crumpled body at his feet. Blood from the crater in Blake Murphy’s head oozed slowly across the dry grass, staining it glossy red.
It was a pity Keahilani had to kill him, but Blake was not his victim to mourn. Manō had someone else to mourn, and this was not the time for it. This was a time for damage control.
Though his name meant “shark,” Manō had little interest in dead things. He preferred things pulsing with life. They carried power in their blood.
“I’ll take care of this,” he said to his sister Keahilani, who still held the gun that relieved Blake of the lower portion of his face. Though her fingers were clamped tight around the stock, her hand didn’t tremble. Keahilani rarely trembled at anything anymore. She found too much comfort in the dark and what it had forced her to do over the last several years.
And the shadows found comfort in her.
As she stared through blank green eyes at her dead lover, those shadows clung to her shoulders and calves like children playing hide-and-go-seek. They moved just slow enough to make a man question what his eyes registered, but not enough to drag him against his will into the realm of disbelief.
Manō wished they would leave her alone.
Too late for that.
A fleeting memory from childhood swished across his vision. He’d been four or five, at a street party shortly after their father died. A human-shaped shadow chased him into a copse of palm trees after dark. It shouldn’t have been there. By definition, shadows had a source—a person, a tree with wind tickling its leaves—something that blocked the light to make darkness. This one didn’t.
Teeth clenched, he tripped over his own clumsy feet and tumbled to the ground, shaking. Snot bubbled from his nose. Terror weighed heavily against his arms and legs, holding him down. The taunting, man-shaped monster darted this way and that among the trees, too fast to track. Whispers fell around him like black feathers. The soft, otherworldly voices seemed to chant, Blood, blood, blood.
Mustering what little courage he could find, he ran inside, so scared he couldn’t even scream. His legs burned with the burst of adrenaline powering them. Panic rippled through his chest.
Keahilani came into the apartment to check on him, her long black hair tied in braids on either side of her head. Behind her, the shadow flirted with the plaits as she bent down to talk to Manō. She didn’t notice it.
The thing had said it wanted blood. Manō thought it might try to hurt his sister. He assured her he was only thirsty and came in for a drink of water. Once she seemed satisfied he was okay, she went back outside.
He found a knife in the kitchen. He cut a line down the center of his palm and watched with pained fascination as blood rose within the skin trench. The man-sized shadow grew bigger, hungrier. Manō held out his shaking hand to it, hoping to distract it from his sister. The creature lapped at his blood slowly, its razor-sharp black tongue draining life from him. He actually felt it. Manō pissed himself in the middle of the kitchen, unable to move or even cry out. But Keahilani was safe while the monster focused on his offering. That was all that mattered.
‘Ohana is everything, their mother Mahina used to say. After Mahina’s death, Keahilani, the new matriarch of the family, transformed the expression into an Alana mantra. Manō lived and breathed it to this day.
He shook his head and jerked back to the present. When he looked up, Keahilani’s normally green eyes assumed an unnatural shroud not so different from Manō’s. The inky blackness taking her over worried him far more than any trouble the corpse lying on the grass between them might bring.
There were no new shadows.
The Alanas had become the shadows.
Their brother Kai, Keahilani’s twin, jogged up to join them, his long dreadlocks flopping with the exaggerated movement. With sea-green eyes that matched their sister’s, he assessed Blake’s unfortunate state. A note of pity turned down the corners of his lips, but it flitted away almost as fast as it landed.
“What can I do?” Kai’s words floated out on a sigh. Dirty work fell under Manō’s domain, and Kai complained whenever he got lured into helping with it. But not today.
“Let’s wrap him up and put him in the canoe. I’ll handle the rest.” Manō quickly scoped their surroundings. The family’s safe house lay far off the beaten path of nearby Kula, but that didn’t mean no one heard the gunshot.
Kai and Keahilani knew better than to ask about Manō’s plans for the corpse. The less they knew, the less likely they were to be thrown in jail if the truth ever came out. Manō was as good at evading the truth as he was at evading the light, but he wouldn’t put his ‘ohana—his family—at risk.
He slid the gun from Keahilani’s blood-spattered hand. She didn’t seem to notice. Shoulders slumped, she turned and trudged slowly to the drab two-bedroom house set against the rust-colored backdrop of the sleeping Haleakalā volcano a few miles away. Her expression was blank, distant. Manō couldn’t blame her. She’d lost both her little brother and her lover in the last twenty-four hours, and one of those deaths had been by her hand. But she’d be okay. She had to be.
Manō emptied the magazine of its remaining bullets, stuffed the gun in his back pocket, and headed over to the ramshackle shed infected with rotting boards and scarred by a broken window. He pulled out a length of tarp, spread it over the grass, and with Kai’s help, gently dragged Blake’s body onto it. Then he thoroughly wiped the gun down, careful to ensure no prints remained, and fixed it in Blake’s cooling hand. In the highly unlikely event the body was ever discovered, it would look like he committed suicide.
Kai mutely helped roll up Blake’s corpse, and the brothers lugged it to the trailer cradling a small canoe that had been passed down through at least four generations of Alanas.
His mother Mahina inherited the koa wood outrigger from her father, a powerful and well-respected kahuna—or spiritual leader—with ties to Hawaiian royalty. His father got it from his father before him, and he from his father. Family legend held that the canoe was originally a gift from King Kamehameha V himself to one of his most trusted kahunas, Great-Great Grandpa Alana. Why Mahina’s father left it to her and not her brother, Manō wasn’t sure, but he thought it was because Mahina had stronger mana, or spiritual power.
Manō doubted either his mother or the great king would approve of the way the canoe had been used in recent years. Manō had buried a lot of bodies across the ‘Alalākeiki Channel on the uninhabited island of Kaho’olawe, and traveling by boat or helicopter was the only way to get there. Sometimes you had to utilize whatever means were at your disposal for the sake of your ‘ohana, even if it meant defiling a precious family heirloom for the greater good.
Once Kai and Manō settled the body into the carved-out wood, Kai laid a hand on the tarp and bowed his head. Of the surviving Alanas, he was the most sensitive. He did what he had to for the family, but he didn’t always like it.
He lifted his sad green eyes to Manō and said, “Why do I get the feeling this is just the beginning?”
By “this” he meant the blazing turf war Keahilani had just thrown gasoline on by killing Blake. But it was so much bigger.
Manō saw things his siblings did not. They hadn’t just lost their brother Bane today. Manō feared Bane’s death had opened the floodgates for something far worse.
“Trying times lie ahead,” Manō said.
Kai nodded and returned to the house without another word.
Manō sighed heavily. It had been a brutal day that took its toll on all three of the remaining Alanas, and it wasn’t over yet.
Keahilani and Kai would make funeral arrangements for their youngest brother while Manō handled sanitation and body-disposal duties. Violence like this didn’t bother him. On the contrary, his only regret was that he hadn’t had the pleasure of pulling the trigger on Blake himself. He might sleep tonight if he had.
As it was, his demons would have to be content to feed off death’s scraps on his trip to Kaho’olawe after dark. And he’d feed himself the only way he could that didn’t involve violence: by staying awake.
Manō cast his eyes upward to check the sun’s position. Night would fall in a couple hours. Though his body craved a nap at the prospect of paddling seven miles across the channel each way, he couldn’t afford that luxury. The best he could do was eat a filling meal and rest in quiet meditation in hopes of staving off sleep and the nightmares that accompanied it.
A distant rumble and a shift in the prevailing trade winds warned of a far-off storm. Manō sniffed the air, but all he got was a sense of confusion among the thick, humid breezes, like they couldn’t agree on which way to go. The smaller winds merged into one and initiated a fist fight with the bigger.
Lightning zapped above the restless horizon. Thunder bellowed its ominous laughter. And below Manō’s feet, the earth grumbled, injecting a searing itch through his veins. He scratched the insides of his arms, but the untouchable poison within had to run its course.
Manō gritted his teeth as he trudged toward his pickup truck. He cranked the engine and backed the vehicle up to the canoe-laden trailer. Once everything was hooked up, he went inside the safe house where he found Keahilani sitting at the kitchen table, hands cleaned of blood, their mother’s journals stacked before her. Her elbows planted on the old wood, Keahilani grasped a hank of black hair and held it on top of her head while staring out the window to the truck.
She didn’t look at him. Her voice was low and threatening as she said, “We need to find Scott. He owes our ‘ohana a debt. I will take payment in full.”
The biggest drug dealer in Hawai’i, Scott Harris—or someone Scott Harris hired—had shot their youngest brother. Bane survived the shooting and made it to the hospital, but the son of a bitch had smothered him to death in the ICU. Scott sought vengeance for his wife’s death at Bane’s hands, an incident the Alanas were still trying to unravel. Bane had killed Lori Harris, but their little brother must have had good reason. Manō just hadn’t dug it up yet.
Keahilani didn’t jerk with tears. Her shoulders didn’t hunch under the unbearable weight of grief. Instead of falling apart, her resolve deepened. Under great pressure, rocks became even stronger. So was the case with his sister.
The darkness had seeped into her just as it had done to him the first time he saw the shadow and gave it a taste of his blood. Once you fed them, they always came back, usually with death in tow.
Death, death, and more death. It clung to the Alanas like a putrid perfume. First their father, then Mahina, now Bane. When would it retract its talons and leave them the hell alone?
When the secrets under Haleakalā shake loose and crawl to the surface for all to see, his mother echoed through his thoughts.
Until then, it seemed death was fully entwined with life.
Manō followed Keahilani’s gaze to the truck outside. “We’ll find Bane’s killer,” he said. “And he’ll pay.”
Keahilani laid her cheek on folded arms in front of her and closed her eyes. Manō reached over to pat her head but stopped before touching her. The only way past the cascade of tragedies she’d experienced was through it, and it was a one-way, solo trip to the other side where Manō had been standing for years. Keahilani had to work through the grief and find the light. Or the darkness, as the case may be.
“I love you, Keahilani,” he said.
She lifted her head, pressed her lips together tightly, and closed her face off from whatever emotions lurked beneath the skin with a determined nod. “Love you too, little brother,” she said coldly.
Two hours later, Manō exited his truck at a hidden ramp off Makena Beach and dragged the canoe to the water’s edge. He squatted on the sand, uttered a silent prayer, and ran his hands through the brine to cleanse the blood no one but him saw.
In the times before colonization, the Hawaiian people used salt to purify dead bodies and to keep evil spirits from haunting them. As he stared at his two great brown fists, Manō questioned the wisdom of bothering with such ceremonial niceties. It wasn’t like the spirits that had dogged him all these years were going away now. He had too much to give them. Yet, here he sat, asking the ocean for … what? Happiness? Forgiveness? Pity?
Manō just wanted peace. From the darkness constantly threatening to swallow him. From the shadows urging him to do bad things. From all the death life had dealt him.
The wind whipped up in a frenzied lash across his face. He stood, dusted off, and accepted his fate. No matter how much he wanted it, peace wouldn’t make an appearance in his life any time soon.
He laid a hand on Blake’s wrapped remains and felt a pang of jealousy tinged with a hint of sadness. “No rest for the wicked.”
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