Legend has it firebirds bring both good fortune and destruction, Reen has become an expert at both...
Reen is an expert at destruction and annihilation. She's a Hunter, an elite, one of their best assassins, she's also a legendary firebird--a creature of lore. Saker, a member of the Falcon order, is her soul mate from a bloody past she desperately tries to forget, but one that haunts her every moment. The two are thrown together in a desperate search for missing women.
The Collector is a man who loves the hunt, preying on the unusual, on the special--all to keep these women for his own use. The Collector favors shifters, the rarer the better. He traps them, keeps them, and turns them into his own private collectables.
Saker doesn't want Reen to be a part of this dangerous mission, but she has other plans. Unfortunately, so does The Collector....
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October 16, 2006
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Excerpt from Talons Firebird by Jaycee Clark
Reen wiped the blood out of her eye and limped up the stone steps. She really hated this job sometimes. Her black boots rarely felt this heavy. The doors at the top of the steps opened into the grand foyer. The mansion looked like any other in Europe, except it was still a functioning castle. Not merely a museum for retirees and backpackers to tour through, this castle had a purpose. It wasn't just any castle, this one was special--a defense like castles of old.
It was headquarters for the Hunters.
The Hunters tracked supernaturals that had become problematic. In this day and age of decadence, where the supernaturals were both worshipped and ignored by mortals, they often became bored. No longer was the world their playground. Now sciences wanted them for research, men and women alike wanted them for the simple fact of novelty and other supernaturals felt merely displaced. Displaced. She snorted. Supernaturals with identity crises led rise to the new super shrinks--a new breed of psychiatrists. Whether or not she agreed with therapy for the confused supers, was irrelevant.
Cyzarine knew some people needed such help. Her? She'd rather eat her leather boots. Vamps, weres, the fae, all were trying to figure out how they fit into the new order of the world quickly outstripping itself of humanity.
Powers shifting and vying for attention left vacuums for greed, corruption and crime.
That's where the Hunters came into play. The supernaturals still needed balances, checks and in most cases, retribution.
She was a Hunter. Though more specifically, she didn't just hunt the criminals, as many Hunters did, she eliminated the problems.
She was an assassin.
She was no different than many of her kind before her--a firebird could destroy. She merely cashed in on her genetic legend.
Petrov, the guard, nodded to her as she passed him, her trench coat hiding the weapons she used.
She shoved through the waiting area, completely ignoring Valerie at the outer desk in front of Erik's office.
The doors were shut, but she also ignored the unspoken rule to wait until invited into the inner sanctum of her boss. Opening it, she saw someone stood in the shadows in the corner, smelled the spice of his cologne, gave him a quick glance, and then ignored him as well. She had only one man in her sights.
"Reen." He looked at her from behind his desk with a raised brow. "I'm busy."
"You call me in off a job, have your boys pick me up and expect me to wait prettily?" She shook her head and walked to the desk, tossing down the amulet she was supposed to have retrieved, which of course, she had. "Target is taken care of."
Erik was a vampire, ancient, as the office rumors went. She knew for a fact the whispers weren't just rumors. Though she'd never actually come out and asked the man how old he was. Some things were better left alone.
He looked at it for a moment, then turned completely from the window behind his desk to pick up the dull necklace. The stone glimmered faintly as if whispering secrets, and the gold beckoned to be polished.
Cyzarine merely waited. Erik brushed the stone and then the chain with his thumb. He was dressed as he always was. Black. Black shirt, black pants, black shoes. She often gave him a hard time. Every chance she got, she gifted him some bright tie, scarf or pair of gloves. He'd yet to wear any of them. Not that she cared either way, right now she was pissed.
"I should shove that up your ass," she said, again wiping the blood from her eye. She pressed her fingers to the wound in her scalp still trickling blood over her forehead and down her ear.
His gaze narrowed on her. "I should lock you in the infirmary."
She blew out a breath and strode to the windows, looking out on the cold winter landscape. She hated the winter. Hated the snow, and here in Grubsretep there was plenty.
"I'll be fine."
Someone cleared their throat and she was reminded of the other person in the room. Without looking at him, she turned from the window and strode towards the door, saying over her shoulder, "I get one day off, then you can give me my next assignment."
"Actually, I can't do that."
She stopped halfway to the door.
"Reen, sit down."
Her eyes narrowed on his and for the first time, since storming in, she took a deep breath and tried to read the situation.
Erik was calm, but then he generally always was. He was however, frowning, the lines around his mouth and across his forehead deeper than normal.
Something warned her she might not like what was coming.
"I want to introduce you to someone." He motioned to the other occupant of the room.
Reen waited as the man stepped from the shadows. He was tall, taller than she, but then many were as she was average in height. Where her hair was black, his was blond, almost white. Her eyes had a golden hue to them that many had often commented on. Including Erik.
This man, with his pale hair, had dark, almost black eyes. She had no idea if the color was dark brown or dark blue, they were just extremely dark. His body was long, not lean, but not overly muscular, reminding her of a runner. He had muscles, she could see them through the tight pale blue shirt he wore.
His face was altogether different. One might expect with his coloring and build that he'd have a refined face, one of beauty, of the classical statues she'd seen in Greece and Rome on her journeys there. But his jaw was too square, his brow too deep, making his eyes appear even darker. His nose was ridged, giving him a birdlike appearance almost. Bird, she almost snorted. He sure as hell wasn't a sparrow.
He merely raised a brow. Or she assumed he did, as his brows were as pale as his hair.
He offered a hand. "Saker."
Saker. It meant falcon. Falcon. A cold, hard twist rolled inside her. She took a deep breath and merely looked at the long-fingered hand, the sinews of the wrist, noted the scars on the back, across the knuckles.
Without taking it, she looked back up to his face and said, "Reen."
The man arched a brow and lowered his hand. "We worked a case together a few months back."
"Did we?" She didn't remember him, or didn't think she did.
He smiled slowly. "Yeah, we did."
She tilted her head. "Did we get the bad guy?"
"Yes, we did." His gaze stayed locked on hers.
A tingle of awareness swirled down her spine. She frowned.
Erik cleared his throat. "Now that the introductions are out of the way."
She glanced at Erik and shook her pounding head. "Luv, what have you cooked up now?"
He glared at her. Erik rarely glared at anyone. Reen wondered what she'd done to aggravate him. Then again, she normally did very little.
Without another word, Reen sat in the chair. Her head hurt, her arm throbbed where one of the target's guards had caught her with a knife toss.
She rolled her shoulder, leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Still applying pressure to the wound on the side of her scalp--thanks to the target and his sword--she merely said, "Get on with it, Erik. You obviously worry I won't like it or you'd have already spit it out, then."
She could sense it, hostility in the air. And it wasn't hers.
Still she didn't open her eyes. Instead, she shoved the pain away and thought of light. Light a pale pink, tinged in blue. Light soothed her, the colors of twilight calmed her more than anything.
With her eyes closed she could smell Saker even more, outdoors and...something dark. Saker. Now that she thought about it, maybe she did remember him. He was with the undercover team. Or was he? She had heard about him. Saker and Company did freelance work. Mercenary. He was some sort of bird shifter--falcons.
She had no use for falcons. Anger swirled through her, but she pushed it aside. Falcons--in her opinion--were very unreliable.
Erik cleared his throat again. "We've got a problem," he said finally.
"Usually do," she muttered.
He sighed. She knew the sound of Erik's sighs. The way so much emotion could be in one little sound. Anger, frustration, resignation. His was currently a mixture of all three.
"Luv, just spit it out."
"Would you stop calling him that?" the other man asked.
She slowly opened her eyes to see Saker looking at her from across the small sitting area. He did not sit. He was leaning against the chair, his arms crossed. His voice was even timbred, deeper than she would have thought.
"Why?" she asked.
He opened his mouth, then snapped it shut, and turned a look onto Erik. If she hadn't been watching, she would have missed it. But Saker's eyes turned from black to a dark green glow.
She glanced to Erik, whose eyes hadn't changed. As always he was calm, or appeared so.
"Look, we might have worked together before. But you obviously didn't leave an impression on me. I don't know who you are, but I do know that Erik and I go way back. I can call him luv, Erik or dickhead if I so choose, none of which you have any say in. And I really need to get going if that's all."
What the hell was going on?
"Sit down," Saker said, not looking at her.
She walked to him and poked him in the chest until he looked at her, her own power, so recently used, still close to the surface. She felt the heat tingle along her fingers. "I don't know who you think you are, Saker, but--"
Those glowing green eyes swung back to her and stilled.