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Some happily-ever-afters take more effort than others…
The strong alpha heroes in our anthology are determined to claim their mates—but their women are anything but submissive. They’ll have to work twice as hard to get what they want. It’ll be a power struggle as the alphas and their women learn that the volatile energy between them is the beginning of something wonderful.
These nine hand-picked stories are hot enough to curl your toes. Get ready to fall in love with an alpha.
Merlin’s Cave, Tintagel, England
Saengdao ‘Cammi’ Willows picked a path along the wall of the cavern, listening to the echoing voices being carried along with the gentle gusts of wind. The scent of the sea air should have been invigorating.
Instead, all that rushed through her veins was burning annoyance.
Impatience had her drumming her fingers along the stone.
Trembling with anticipation, she circled the little space again, trying to look natural. Like just another random visitor to the mythical location.
The place where Merlin legendarily brought Arthur up as a child. While others might have been entranced by the beauty of the landscape or the ruined remains of the castle, Cammi was focused on the cave.
The past decade of her life had led to this.
It had taken countless hours of plotting and literal blood, sweat, tears, getting around mind-boggling traps and deciphering incomprehensible clues and decayed maps. All to bring her here.
Surrounded by people soaking up the hype, pretending to feel the history there when they had no idea just how close they were to real magic.
How crazy would they go if they ever found out that everything so many of them dreamed of and feared lived among them all this time?
The thrum of magic through her veins always got worse around areas of power and at the moment, it didn’t help the excitement and anxiety already pinging around her system. And she was only half-human. Cammi couldn’t imagine what she’d be like if she’d been a full-blooded fae.
The magic here was so thick she could taste it.
This had to be it. The end of the long winding trail she’d followed that had been rife with dead ends, traps, and near-death experiences.
This had to be the place.
Cammi scratched the skin being rubbed by the coarse rope circling her neck. As if her Seeker nature wasn’t bad enough, she had this damned thing to deal with.
Just had to get involved with a sorceress.
Not that she’d had much choice. Lavinia had shown up one day and before Cammi knew it, gold had crossed palms, an actual noose was around her neck, and she was stuck. The witch hadn’t believed that her impulse to seek and find would be enough to make her follow through with the quest and thought a proper motivator would help.
With the way it had been tightening lately, Cammi knew the spell caster’s patience was growing thin.
Because it was just that easy to go about searching out a dragon’s hoard and then breaking into it.
It wasn’t that she never had before. Three times before, four if one counted the instance she’d been lucky enough to practically fall into one. Based on her reputation as a relentless treasure hunter,
Lavinia had darkened Cammi’s door.
She walked the same circle around the cave. What she had to do next had been planned to the minutest detail and she itched to just get it over with. Who would have thought there would still be so many people milling around late in the day?
Needing to break up the monotony and trying to keep her gaze from locking on the points she’d have to concentrate on as soon as it could be afforded, she took a deep breath and shuffled along behind an elderly couple.
Cammi nearly tripped on a rock when a deep, melodious voice echoed around her. The chamber nearly pulsated with the low tones. Softly at first. The notes were comforting, almost cajoling. The tune carried on in words she didn’t understand but wanted to hear more of.
Who was singing?
She knew humans liked to sing and play instruments within the stone walls as an experiment, perhaps? It seemed odd to her but there were some among them that were sensitive to magic and this place would certainly draw them in. Tease them with a taste. Inspire them to reach out. Taunt them to try to find it.
But this, this was different.
The voice wasn’t mortal. It couldn’t be.
Cammi, and everyone else, stopped in place to simply listen. Or was it more than that?
Looking at the humans, she saw they seemed to be frozen. Mid-smile, part way through a comment, breath stilled in their lungs, it was as if time had simply stopped. At least, for them. Mimicking their inertness, she searched for the source and found it to be coming from the other entrance to the cave.
With the blinding sun behind him, she couldn’t see much more than a misshapen silhouette. But she could discern enough to know he was tall and broad besides having the most incredible voice she’d ever heard.
Curious that another non-human should be there…
Unless they knew this was the only time the hoard could be opened. Without the right tools, however, they would never be able to get in. But if word had gotten out that she was prepared, they could hope to usurp her prize. An irritating possibility that had happened to her before.
Even without the sorceress’s noose around her neck, she couldn’t allow it. Couldn’t afford to. Her integrity as a Seeker demanded successful retrieval. As did her sanity.
But did any of that really matter with her life on the line?
Cammi slowed her breathing and kept her eyes focused on the silhouette while doing her utmost to seem petrified like the rest. Thank goodness for the charms she carried around with her. In her line of work, it never hurt to have a little extra protection.
Especially when dealing with the tasks and beings she encountered daily.
Rings bearing stones etched with warding runes, bracelets of unicorn hair, even tattoos of dragon blood. Cammi possessed them all, making her a walking good luck charm if there ever was one.
But why was she thinking about them now?
Her gaze darted to a slight figure on the other side of the cave. Training her eyes on the ‘tourist,’ she watched. Her vigil didn’t take long to warrant success. Even if he hadn’t fidgeted, who carried a Discman in this day and age? It did make her laugh when they tried so hard to figure out the culture of the human world and just got it so very wrong. It was what made half-bloods like her invaluable for moving between worlds.
And this one wanted to know what she had.
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Stay out of my head.”
His eyes widened before lifting his eyebrow just enough for her to notice. “Try and stop me.”
Cammi wasn’t going to play games with him. Not when a dragon’s hoard was waiting for her.
She could deal with him when she had to. At the moment, she had other things to focus on.
Like whoever was singing everyone into a trance. Or Lavinia and the stranglehold she had on her. Or getting past the wards that were sure to be up to keep everyone and everything away from the treasure.
Thank goodness dragons were extinct or that would be another colossal hurdle to leap.
Sweat trickled down her forehead, inching ever closer to her eyes. Cammi willed it to stop before it started to inhibit her vision.
Chances were if these two were here, there were more. And since she couldn’t detect them immediately, they were likely to be more dangerous than the joker with the Discman.
It was the upcoming Cull. It was driving everyone crazy looking for any advantage to escape obliteration.
The cycle of destruction and rebirth was elegant, in its way. Eons could pass without a Cull. There would be tension between the different races and clans, but for the most part, there would be peace. But then, when populations grew large and power built too high, a sensation would start to niggle at the gut. Instinct would whisper at the back of the mind to look for ways of surviving, be it by collecting artifacts and therefore power or by making alliances. The urge grew daily until either oblivion or the impulse faded. With the power held by their kind and long lives, it was the only way to keep the balance.
For beings like her, slipping through the cracks came quite easy. Like gravitated toward like. Witches and warlocks built covens of mind-boggling might. Vampires, werewolves, and others like them banded together before hurling themselves into war in the hopes of a few surviving.
It didn’t always work. The extinction of the most powerful—dragons—had proven that.
But for halflings, who belonged on neither side of the veil, things were less defined. For her part, Cammi stayed out of politics and alliances and just did what she could to survive.
Which meant doing the odd job for unsavory types to bring in the gold just to eke out a living.
And, unsurprisingly, a Seeker wasn’t exactly in demand unless it was for something like this.
It was an all-or-nothing kind of life.
And these … frauds … thought they would just jump in at the last second of a decade-long search and steal the prize?
Not while she still breathed.
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