The release of the final book in the Shadow Sentinels series is looming close. Reign releases on the 31st of July. Obviously, the more people who read the first three books in this paranormal urban romance, the more excited readers will be for the release of Reign. To give readers a chance to explore this wonderful and exciting world, I am reducing the full-length prequel to 0.99 for 5 days.
It’s a limited-time offer, so if you think any family or friends would enjoy it, it’s a fabulous opportunity to grab a copy to own, rather than downloading through Kindle Unlimited and having to return it!
I’ll share a snippet from Beginnings below.
Chapter one (extract) © Karen Tomlinson 2020
“Hit harder!” Authority laced Rawson’s deep voice. His intense eyes narrowed, assessing how far he could push me.
Grunting, I breathed heavily through my nose, needing to stop and catch my breath, but I nodded, not willing to show any weakness to him—or anyone.
Cain Rawson was in his mid-thirties, lean, fit, and one tough son of a bitch alpha. He was the one who pulled me off the streets and offered me a safe place to stay. Yeah, he was officially my saviour—my married saviour. And that was cool with me. I mean, sure, he was hot; six feet three inches of ripped muscles, confidence, and—when he wasn’t being tough and bossy—kindness. But “hot” wasn’t how I saw him. He was my lifeline, along with Lyss, his wife, one of the sweetest and most beautiful people, both inside and out, that I’d ever met.
“Now!” His grey eyes flashed.
I jumped, my heart banging in my chest. I gave him a dark scowl, but he just raised his brows. My arms shook, and my chest heaved, but I took a deep breath, curling my fingers inside the training gloves. Then, as instructed, I twisted my body and dropped my shoulder exactly as he had taught me and smashed my fist into the pad.
“Now front jab!”
Noisy breaths escaped from my mouth and nose, and sweat dripped down my face and neck, soaking my cropped sports top. I was no stranger to fighting or hard physical workouts. I loved them. But the training regimen Rawson had me doing, after my classes at the Supernatural Bureau of Investigation’s academy ended, was exhausting. Not that I’d tell him. I would never tell a soul if I was struggling. No matter your age, if you showed weakness, you became prey. The vipers of this world struck when they thought you were weak and vulnerable, and I had vowed, years ago, I would never be vulnerable again.
“Now, kick! Roundhouse. Go!”
The pain of my past drove me just as it always did. It kept me going every single day. It gave me purpose; to be the strongest, fastest and most vicious version of me that I could possibly be. Lifting my chin, I adjusted my body weight and turned on my standing foot. Lifting my knee high, I swung my leg. Slam! My instep connected with the pad. The force rocked Rawson’s big arm sideways, even if it was only a couple of inches. Before I could even snap my strike back, he was ordering me into my next move.
“Spin. Back kick. Now, Ember!”
Sweet Jesus, he was relentless.
My kick landed, and I spun my head around, bringing my body and the other leg with it. Using the momentum, I smashed my heel into the pad with a solid whack, a grunt exploding from my lungs with the effort.
“Well, look at you. A regular firecracker now, aren’t you?” drawled a deep voice from behind me.
My whole body instantly stiffened, going on full alert. Gods, but I loved and hated that deep, smooth voice. I whirled around, my heart thumping even harder in my chest. Connor, another one of Rawson’s strays, stood there grinning at me. He lounged against the training room door frame, looking sexy as sin. His bright blue eyes twinkled, wrinkling slightly at the corners. He was too near Rawson’s age to be considered a foster son; still, Rawson had pulled him off the streets and given him a home and a purpose—one that I’d heard he was good at; really, really good at, to the point he now ran his own squad of agents. The fact he was a total asshat while he worked at being a top notch, undercover SBI agent didn’t matter to me—not anymore. Even so, my stomach lurched at the sight of him, and I was glad my cheeks were already flushed and sweaty. At least I had an excuse when they heated further under his way too intense gaze.
Connor might be beautiful and tie me in knots, but as soon as he opened his mouth, my hackles went up. He’d moved out of Rawson’s a few years ago, and on the rare occasions I had seen him since, it was as if he always found me amusing in some way; like he found all my efforts to be independent and strong a joke.
“Arsehole,” I mumbled under my breath. And he was. I had been an idiot to trust him—to rely on him in any way in the past. I had learned my lesson though…
“Hey! Language! No swearing in my house.” Rawson tapped my temple with the focus pad.
I glared at him. “That wasn’t swearing, that was name calling. Anyway, you let him swear.” And I pointed at Connor with my gloved fist.
Both men laughed and exchanged a look. I just rolled my eyes at that typical show of male solidarity.
“Yeah, but only because I can’t stop him opening that big mouth.” Rawson flashed his perfect white teeth in a wide grin. “And once he does, which is a given, considering how much he likes the sound of his own voice, it means I can kick him out on his arse.”
Connor’s brows raised and his chin dipped. “Really. I’d like to see you try, old man.”
“Bro’ there’d be no trying, and you’d be out fast enough to make even your thick head spin. Besides, I’m not old. I’m only thirty three, you shit.”
I tried not to smile at Rawson’s obvious disgruntlement, but just barely succeeded.
Connor just shook his head. He grinned, but kept quiet. It was true, it would be one hell of a fight, and I wasn’t really sure who would win if it came to it. Rawson wasn’t just any old alpha shifter; he was one of the SBI’s top agents—and had at least twelve years experience to Connor’s seven.
I suppose, technically, Connor was my foster brother. Rawson had been in his early twenties when he and Lyss had convinced Connor it would be safer to live with them than to live in London’s back alleys and doorways. Like me, he had shadows in his past, one’s that had shaped who he was now.
We were really close once…or so I’d thought.
It was hard for me to tear my attention away from him, even though he wasn’t really a part of my life anymore, and I promised myself I wouldn’t pine after him any longer. Connor was always good looking, but now he was a full grown man with broad shoulders, a slim waist and arms that made the girls in my training programme drool. Yep, he was hot as hell.
As a young girl, my hormones had gone into overdrive every time he was near. He was the first boy I’d ever spent time with, and I’d secretly worshipped the ground he walked on. I’d trained my skinny, undernourished body so hard, not just to keep up with him, but more to try and impress him. I’d even fooled myself into thinking I mattered to him. He used to come into my room when I screamed through my nightmares, my body burning up from the inside. He’d wake me, and even hold me until I stopped shaking.
I snarled at the memory and went back to hitting the pad. One, two. One, one, two. One, one, two—kick…
For years Connor had been my rock. I’d even been his when I’d sat with him as he whimpered in the darkness of the night. Neither of us discussed what demons haunted us, and by unspoken agreement, neither of us asked. We simply took care of each other. That’s why it had hurt so much when I realised I’d become insignificant. The stronger and more gorgeous he became, the more popular he was; and the less time he had for me.
Eventually, I just learned to deal with my own nightmares.
Distancing myself from Connor was necessary for my own sanity. I was still a loner, just as I had always been. Girls at the academy drooled over Connor all of the time, getting close to me to get close to him, so there was no way I could trust that any of them truly wanted my friendship. Letting Connor back into my life, let alone my heart, would be a mistake.
The whack of the pad upside my head threw me right back into the training room.
“Fuck!” I hissed, shaking my head.
“Well, concentrate then! And don’t swear…”
“Yeah, swearing is very unattractive in girls,” Connor said, his shoulders shaking as he chuckled.
I tried not to notice just how wide and toned those shoulders were under his form fitting black tee shirt.
“You still here, jackass? And I’m not a girl.”
Connor ignored me. Instead, he crossed his large arms over his impressive pecs and clasped his chin between his forefinger and thumb, raising one brow. “Right, well, seems to me, girls, or women, or females, or whatever, have far more important uses for their mouths than swearing.” He smirked and winked.
I rolled my eyes. “You’re disgusting.”
“Oh, I don’t know. They don’t seem to think so.” He waggled his brows even more.
“Oh my gods, you are such an arrogant shit!” I snarled, then spun, smashing a punch into the pad Rawson still held.
Rawson lowered the pad. “Okay, that’s enough for today.” He pulled at the velcro on my gloves, undid them, and yanked them off. The stink of old sweat drifted up from the glove lining. “And I agree, he is an arrogant shit.” He winked at me, and I smirked. “So? You gonna tell me why you’re really here?” Rawson glanced at Connor, his eyes sharp and focused.
I looked back over my shoulder. Connor stared at Rawson, his face dark, his eyes missing the sparkle that had been there a moment ago. This wasn’t a social call then, and he didn’t want an audience.
I smiled sweetly, though it hurt to know he didn’t trust me enough to talk in front of me. “If you ask me nicely, maybe I’ll leave you two to whisper sweet nothings in each other’s ears. Otherwise, I’m staying right here.” And I crossed my arms over my chest and raised my chin. Being defiant to Connor was ingrained in my blood.
Rawson chuckled at the same time as Connor. Connor’s face cleared and his azure eyes glinted, his mouth curling up at the corner.
“Someone’s sure gonna have their hands full when you’re ready to use that mouth for something other than swearing, Firecracker.”
“Yeah? Well, it won’t be you.” For some reason I was really pissed off at his words. Does he really still see me as an innocent little girl? Not that I care. But, still… “And what makes you think I haven’t already?” I smirked and batted my eyelashes, crossing my arms over my chest just under my boobs.
For a moment, there was silence. Connor’s jaw tightened, and darkness seeped into his eyes.
I swallowed, hard. I’d never seen Connor’s wolf, but I’d heard about it. An ebony creature, with the sort of power that could bring even the biggest wolves to their knees. And, damned if that’s not what was glaring out at me from his eyes right now.
Thick, powerful waves of…something…washed over me. I feel like I should kneel… My wolf cowered down, trying to pull me with her…
Oh, no you don’t!
I knew Connor was powerful, but I never realised he was a Prime! Though it made perfect sense that he would be an alpha that had other alphas bowing to him.
He uncrossed his arms from his chest, his biceps rippling with cut muscle as he inhaled deeply, his nostrils flaring. My heart skipped a few beats, and my stomach clenched. He was scent reading me. Shit! The blue from his eyes was swallowed whole by an obsidian gaze that burrowed into me, seeing my lie. “Because, Firecracker, I know you, and I can scent that you haven’t touched another male, with your mouth or any other part of your body.”
If I thought my face was hot before, it was blazing now. I was speechless. He might sense I was far more innocent than I pretended, but that didn’t mean I was some shrinking violet, or that he knew me as well as he thought anymore. I didn’t cower from anyone or anything—especially him. I survived from age seven on the streets of London until Rawson took me in at twelve. And I did that by being smart, learning how to fight, and yeah, I’ve killed more than once, too. I also learned very early on never to show fear or the human and supernatural predators that lurked in the shadows would pounce. And Connor was a predator; a top-of-the-food-chain predator. So, instead of cowering as he called me out, I straightened my spine, tilted my chin up, curled my upper lip and held his eyes.
The air pulsed around me, causing goosebumps to burst all over my bare skin. A wonderful spicy scent drifted up my nose and I inhaled, deeply. Gods, what was that? My heart raced and my belly clenched. A sudden wave of warmth, pooled at the apex of my thighs. For just a moment, as my wolf strained to break free, I forgot we weren’t alone.
Connor tilted his head, and his eyes narrowed, his fingers tightening into fists as he swallowed hard.
A loud cough from behind made me jump, breaking the spell between us. I blinked rapidly. What the hell had just happened? At eighteen years old, I knew I was near what everyone else thought was my first shift—my Primis—but in truth, my first shift had come soon after my parents had been killed. I had done it alone, in the dark, screaming—and no matter how much my wolf wanted freedom, I sure as hell wasn’t letting her out. Not again. At least, not yet.
Connor’s muscles were tense as he watched me, the veins in his neck popping despite his relaxed posture against the door frame. Rawson coughed again, muttering something under his breath. All I could concentrate on was the darkness in Connor’s eyes as it faded into a sea of blue until only obsidian flecks remained. Even when his eyes were that beautiful azure colour again, Connor’s face remained dark, his jaw clenched.
The air between us burned with—something. I dropped my gaze, confusion halting my smart mouth. I had no idea what had just passed between us. For a few seconds, I just gathered my composure, feeling his gaze burning into me. Taking a breath, I plastered a scowl on my face, looked up—and did a double take.
Connor’s full lips were pulled back in a grin, that self-assurance and cockiness back in place. “Like I said, Firecracker, a handful.”
Emotions tumbled through me. Part of me wanted to deck him, part wanted to kiss him. Although, if he kept on laughing at me, I was going to kick him squarely in his junk. My gaze dropped to that part of his anatomy of their own accord. My body heated, like someone had lit a fire in my blood. What would it be like to touch him; to have him touch me, his fingers stroking… My cheeks flamed. Oh, Christ! I shouldn’t be thinking about Connor like this! He was way out of my league, and way too experienced to bother with someone like me. Besides, I knew better than to trust him. He’d left me once, he’d leave me again.
His gaze met mine, and his pupils darkened again like someone had dropped ink into them. His intense, burning attention travelled down my sweat coated body, right over my cropped top and gym leggings which didn’t hide much of my skinny frame. A low growl came from his throat. My blood heated at the pure desire in that sound. It set my mind ablaze, leaving my body achy and shaking, and my throat parched. I need to touch him. He’s the only one who can stop this thirst, this ache… I swayed towards him, until a large, firm hand on my shoulder stopped me.
“Connor, that’s enough!” Rawson snarled viciously, glaring at Connor. Connor stopped that deep resonant growl, and forced his attention away from me. He inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly, and then shrugged like it was no big deal.
Rawson shook his head, his hand dropping from my shoulder. With a grim look, he turned and stalked over to the training room cupboard, stuffing the fighting pads in a canvas sack so they could be stored away.
“Em! Hit the shower!” he yelled, his voice muffled from inside the cupboard. “I need to talk to Connor, alone.”
I shrugged in acknowledgement. “Fine by me.” I was still unsettled by the heady scent that lingered in my nostrils. I barged past Connor, heat from his arm searing my skin. My breath caught in my throat. That spicy scent hit me again and the urge to stop and touch him, to run my fingers over those arms, to see if they felt as good as they looked, was almost overwhelming. My wolf whined, sniffing the air and pushing against my skin. Hands fisted, I clenched my jaw, then deliberately turned my head away and walked past him.
I paused on the stairs to try and regain some steadiness in my legs. “What the fuck was that?” I overheard Rawson snap just as the training room door slammed shut.