War of Hearts: A True Immortality Novel
"An excellently written paranormal, engrossing and addicting."Rachel Van Dyken
#1 New York Times Bestselling Author
"War of Hearts has everything I love about paranormal romance -- sexy alpha hero, strong heroine, and a fast paced plot, fraught with tension and emotion. I could not put it down!"Kristen Callihan
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author
"Conall and Thea are my new obsession! War of Hearts is my top read of 2019!"Tillie Cole
USA Today Bestselling Author
Thea Quinn has no idea what she is. All she knows is that her abilities have been a plague upon her life since she was a child. After years of suffering at the hands of a megalomaniac, Thea escaped and has been on the run ever since.
The leadership and protection of his pack are of the utmost importance to Conall MacLennan, Alpha and Chief of Clan MacLennan, the last werewolf pack in Scotland. Which is why watching his sister slowly die of a lycanthropic disease is emotional torture. When Conall is approached by a businessman who offers a cure for his sister in exchange for the use of Conall’s rare tracking ability, Conall forges an unbreakable contract with him. He has to find and retrieve the key to the cure: dangerous murderer, Thea Quinn.
Thea’s attempts to evade the ruthless werewolf are not only thwarted by the Alpha, but by outside dangers. With no choice but to rely on one another for survival, truths are revealed, intensifying a passionate connection they both fight to resist. At war with themselves and each other, Conall and Thea’s journey to Scotland forces them to face a heartrending choice between love and betrayal.
Release date: October 1, 2019
Publisher: Samantha Young
Print pages: 433
Content advisory: fantasy violence; sexual content; explicit language.
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War of Hearts: A True Immortality Novel
The city held no danger for Thea as she strolled down the nearly deserted street on the outskirts of the eighth district. In the dark, the seedy neighborhood in an otherwise beautiful Budapest, could almost pass for a nicer area of the metropolis. Graffiti tags covered the walls, marring its beauty. The only reason she’d chosen the street, almost an hour’s walk from the Danube and the stunning historical buildings in the clean tourist districts, was because she could afford the flea-ridden room her creepy landlady had the audacity to call an apartment.
During daylight the tree-lined street was almost pretty, if you ignored the stench of dog waste and the sight of homeless people pressed up against the graffitied buildings and sprawled on the sidewalk. In the dark, the tall, slender oaks seemed to bow over Thea, a shadowy protection as she walked to the twenty-four-hour convenience store. She’d always felt a strange affinity with nature, her soul yearning for a quiet place in the woods somewhere. Would they find her in some far-off forest?
But let’s be real, she thought, I’d die within the month.
Her survival skills were strictly urban, and she couldn’t afford to stop anywhere for too long. She’d been in Hungary for almost three months, liked it more than most places she’d been, but already she felt that itch to run. However, waitressing did not pay a lot and half the tourists who came through the café she worked at in the Palace District didn’t seem to realize you could tip above 8 percent. She would get a job working for the last café in Budapest to add a mandatory service charge.
Grumbling to herself, Thea strode a little faster past the young homeless guy who looked prepared to grab her around the ankle to stop her. She hardened her heart against the visual of him, scrawny, filthy, and cold in the chilly April night. She was saving every penny she had for train fare. Thea had to run at a moment’s notice and right now her savings wouldn’t get her very far.
The young man yelled something down the street to her and although Thea only understood a little Hungarian, she’d heard her boss use a certain word enough to know the homeless guy had just told her to do something pretty nasty to herself. Thea curled her lip in a mixture of guilt and irritation.
Shrugging it off, she pushed open the door to the late-night convenience store and ignored the look of rebuke the owner gave her. He was an older Hungarian man. Thea put him in his late sixties and again she couldn’t understand the actual words, but every time she came into his shop in the middle of the night, he forced her to endure a lecture she technically didn’t understand.
But she understood him all right.
He did not like a young woman wandering the streets alone at night.
Thea appreciated his concern. However, he had nothing to worry about. Still, she liked the old guy. Few strangers gave a shit what other strangers got up to, especially beyond spending money in their establishment. She gave him a nod, trying to hide her small smile at the fatherly glower he sent her way, and wandered deeper into the store. Thea liked the occasional glass of wine on nights she couldn’t sleep, and the shop sold a red she could kind of just about afford. Plus, there were these European potato chips that were addictive. She couldn’t get enough of them. Paprika flavor.
Thea’s belly rumbled.
Just as she was reaching for the large family-size pack, the hairs all over her body stood on end and her heart raced.
Her head whipped to the left up the aisle and the bell above the shop door tinkled as someone else walked in. Pulse thrumming hard, Thea pulled her hand back from the chips. All her life, she’d experienced a feeling akin to walking through an electrically charged space when something not good was about to happen.
Had they found her?
Looking up in the far-right corner of the shop where the owner had an old TV mounted to the wall, Thea watched the live footage of the front of the store. There was a man standing at the main counter talking to the owner.
Thea heard the old guy’s voice rise just as the new arrival pulled a handgun out of his pocket.
She knew what she should do, and that was everything it took to not draw attention to herself. Thea was good at being quiet. She could creep up the aisle and make a quick dash for the door and be out of there before the guy with the gun could even blink.
Do it, Thea, the survivor in her urged.
Masking her steps with the otherworldly ability she’d had for as long as she could remember, Thea was almost at the end of the aisle. Ready to make a run for it. Get out of there. Save her own skin.
Not get involved.
Yet, Thea knew that the electrical charge she’d felt earlier didn’t happen just because a guy came into a store to rob it. That feeling was like a sixth sense. Something bad was going to happen here.
It wasn’t her business.
But the shopkeeper’s concerned expressions of admonishment filled Thea’s head.
She couldn’t leave him here to get hurt.
Taking a deep breath, Thea listened as the argument between the shop owner and robber grew more heated. It sounded like her stubborn shopkeeper didn’t want to hand over his money. Really? Is it worth your life?
With a heavy exhalation, her stomach churning, Thea stepped out from behind the aisle and the shopkeeper’s eyes widened in concerned horror. The gunman had his back to her.
“I think maybe we should all—”
A crack ripped through the air, followed by a sharp sting of pain in her shoulder. She didn’t even get to finish her sentence because the gunman had whirled around in fright and shot her!
Thea glowered down at her shoulder and then up at the gunman whose eyes had widened. His hand trembled.
“Was that necessary?” Thea took an angry step toward him.
He fired again; the bullet ripped through her just inches from the last. She flinched at the burn.
Okay, now she was pissed.
The air crackled around her as she touched the bloody holes in the only jacket she owned. Feeling a little murderous, it must have shown on her face as she looked up because the gunman wasn’t the only one freaking out.
The shopkeeper was no longer looking at her like a concerned father. His face was pale with terror. He yelled something and if Thea had to guess, it was probably along the lines of “What are you?” or “Demon!” or “Monster!”
And then he scrambled out from behind the counter, slipping on the tiled floor, before throwing open the shop door to tear out of there, crying out at the top of his lungs.
Disappointment flooded Thea. “Nice,” she mumbled. She stepped into help, got shot twice, and that’s how he thanked her. When would she learn?
She cut a look at the gunman. His tawny skin was pale, his hand shaking hard as he backed into the counter, muttering what sounded like a plea under his breath.
Thea knew how she appeared. When someone pissed her off, her eyes transformed from brown to a gold so bright, no one could ever mistake her as human. Plus, she’d been shot, and she’d barely flinched. They knew she wasn’t just a woman. She was something else entirely.
And it looked like this guy would shoot her again for it.
Just because the bullets couldn’t kill her didn’t mean they didn’t pinch like a bitch. Thea didn’t much like the idea of another one. Plus, she could feel that while the first shot was through and through, the second wasn’t. There was a bullet inside her shoulder; she’d have to dig it out, and that would only slow her down. She didn’t fancy digging out two.
Just as the robber’s finger trembled on the trigger, Thea bridged the distance between them in less time than it took a human to blink. She grabbed the wrist of his gun hand and twisted it with such force, his high-pitched scream of agony followed the sound of it breaking. The gun clattered to the floor and Thea kicked it out of range.
Tears streamed down the robber’s face and he begged in a language that wasn’t Hungarian as he cradled his wrist and tried to get up. He scrambled to his feet and backed away from her as if she were the devil.
Shaking her head, Thea watched the guy run out of the store. Dread immediately weighed in her gut.
That little stunt was like sending up a flare to any supernatural after her. Or worse … him. Now she had to get out of Hungary, and she hadn’t saved enough money to get a train out of the country. She automatically zoomed in on the cash register. Guilt niggled her at the mere thought.
But he did run out of here, leaving you to possibly die.
That was true.
Thea rounded the counter. People always disappointed in the end. Why should she be any better? Before committing the crime, Thea opened the cupboard behind the counter and found the old-fashioned VHS security. She pulled the tape, wincing at the flare of pain that spiked up her neck from her wound. She could feel hot blood sliding down her chest and back, soaking into her shirt and jacket. She needed to move fast.
The register was locked so Thea tore it open with a brute strength that belied her five foot eight, for-the-most-part-slender build. Remorse pressed down on her shoulders as she took what she needed plus a little extra from the register. However, she reminded herself she had to do what she needed to do to survive. And she’d just saved this guy’s life. It wasn’t unreasonable to ask for monetary compensation for the two goddamn bullet wounds in her shoulder.
Sirens wailed in the distance, shooting a jolt of renewed adrenaline through her. Walking calmly out of the shop, Thea strolled down the street, toward her apartment, with her head held high.
Then she felt blood trickle off the fingertips of her right hand and cursed. She’d leave a trail that led right to her apartment. Curling her hand into a fist and lifting the arm to rest against her chest, Thea winced against the pain. Then she saw the young homeless man from earlier staring intently at her.
He’d probably seen the gunman and the shopkeeper run out of the shop.
But she’d counted on that.
Digging into her pocket with her good hand, she found the “extra” she’d taken from the cash register and stopped by the homeless man. She held it out to him.
He smirked as he took the money from her. “Ha kérdezik, sosem láttalak.”
Deducing he understood the payment was for his silence, Thea nodded and took off. She moved faster, the shadows of the trees seeming to envelop her, turning her into shade as she returned to her apartment. The sirens had gotten louder, giving her less time to get the hell out of there. But first things first.
The old building smelled of urine and mustiness. The plaster had fallen away from the walls not only in the stairwell but in Thea’s apartment too. The space was just big enough for a bed, a small counter with a sink, burner, and microwave, and a tiny room off the side where they’d squeezed in a toilet and shower. The apartment was dark because the only window in it looked down into a courtyard typical of the architecture in Budapest. Drawing her threadbare curtains closed in case any of her neighbors got nosy, Thea tore off her ruined jacket and shirt, growling in pain. It wasn’t agony, like it would be for the average person, but it still wasn’t fun.
It also, unfortunately, wasn’t the first time someone had shot her.
Moving around the small space like a gale, Thea pulled out the backpack she kept packed so she could run at a moment’s notice. She rummaged through it to find the first aid kit. Stumbling into the bathroom, she stared into the cracked mirror above the sink and saw her olive skin was pale with blood loss. Her eyes zeroed in on the bullet holes. The through-and-through was almost healed over completely. The other was fighting the foreign object inside her.
Picking up her tweezers, Thea gritted her teeth and plunged them into the hole. A wave of nausea swept over her, but she fought through it and moved the tweezers deeper toward where she felt the bullet residing in all its foreignness.
Widening the tweezers to catch hold of it caused a flare of hot, sharp pain down her arm. Grunting, clenching her teeth, Thea yanked with all her might and out came the bloody squashed bullet. When it hit the sink, it tinkled, almost merrily.
“I hate guns,” Thea sneered at the blood-spattered sink.
There was something so dishonorable about using a gun in a fight.
Then again, it was easy for her to say that. She could handle herself.
The skin around the bullet hole tingled and Thea watched as it began to close over, good as new.
Cleaning off the blood, she watched her skin return to its natural golden tan. Good. The last thing she needed to look like was a girl recovering from two bullet wounds. Thea layered up with a T-shirt and sweater since her jacket was ruined, bundled all her bloody stuff into a trash bag, and swept the apartment for any remnants of herself.
Pissed to be leaving somewhere new so soon, she took it out on her landlord by not leaving what she owed in rent. The hag charged a small fortune for the shithole and there had been more than once she’d used her key to come into the apartment unannounced. Just last week Thea had watched the landlady evict a single mother and her two young kids for missing rent by a week. Thea had listened to the woman beg, asking for more time, while the landlady beat at her with a broom, shoving her down the stairs while her kids tripped at her feet.
It had taken a lot not to intervene.
Thea had given the woman money afterward, which she’d tearfully accepted. Hence why Thea hadn’t saved nearly enough to get out of Budapest.
She needed the money more than the landlady. Maybe it was smarter to leave the money so if the police did somehow come knocking, she’d cover for Thea. But Thea knew no amount of money would buy that woman’s loyalty.
Hurrying out of the apartment, Thea swiftly departed the building. The train station was in the north of the eighth district where the streets were busier with bar-goers at this time of night. She took a detour into the southwest, using the shadows to obscure her journey. Finally, she found an apartment block with a broken front door and dumped the trash bag in their communal garbage. Hopefully, the police wouldn’t find it. But if they did, it didn’t matter. Her DNA wasn’t human. She did, however, worry he might find her through the bloody clothes. He had the means. He’d definitely recognize her DNA. Which was exactly why she had to get as far away from Budapest as possible.
As she made the normally forty-minute walk to the train station in just under twenty-five, Thea didn’t bother covering her hair. The station was an international depot, so it was busy, even in the early hours. There were police patrolling it, yet if they stopped her upon description, there were no bullet wounds to be found. Thea wasn’t worried.
Nah, she looked like a perfectly normal human woman.
Instead of what she was.
As for what that “what” was … that was something not even Thea knew.
The blue skies reflected in Upper Loch Torridon was a stunning sight from the rocky beach Conall stood upon. The Torridon Hills surrounded the glen, beinns with peaks that reached over three thousand feet high. They stood over the small villages along the coastline of Loch Torridon with such exaggerated summits and valleys, they gave the appearance of a vast, rugged castle. Forestry sprouted across some parts of the mountainous landscape, a wolf’s dream playground.
Conall took a deep breath, smelling the light scent of the loch, the fresh, crisp air of the Scottish Highlands. There was no place more beautiful in Scotland than Loch Torridon, with its serene lochs and awe-inspiring glens created by the magnificent beinns—hills—that cloistered them in this haven and kept them safe from human intrusion.
His werewolf pack lived in every village that surrounded the banks of the loch. Torridon had the occasional human visitor as not even the narrow, single-track roads into this part of the northwest could keep every human away. But wolves en masse emitted an energy that deterred the average human from venturing too far into their vicinity. He’d been told it was akin to dread. As if they sensed they would no longer be top of the food chain if they drove into Torridon.
Not that any of his pack members would dare harm a human.
“Are you going to stand there all day procrastinating?”
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