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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Marked by an Assassin (Eternal Mates #8) by Felicity Heaton


MATURE READERS 18+

A snow leopard shifter exiled from his pride twenty years ago, Harbin treads the dark path of life as an assassin, driven by a hunger for vengeance, mercilessly hunting the Archangel members who attacked his kin, murdering his mother and sister.

When a new contract comes in and the mark is a snow leopard shifter, he can’t resist venturing into the mortal world on a personal mission to find out why one from a normally peaceful species now has a price on their head. What he finds in a rundown nightclub isn’t quite what he expects—a beautiful snow leopard female that awakens a fierce hunger inside him.

Aya has spent seventeen years living in London, immersed in the underbelly of the fae world, keeping her head down and her tail out of trouble. But when trouble walks right into her life in the form of a sinfully handsome, dangerous assassin, she is pulled into a whirlwind of events that stir up the nightmares of her past but might just give her a shot at putting those ghosts to rest—if she can resist the dark allure of a male she knows is her fated mate.

Can Harbin and Aya resist the passionate fire that blazes between them as they chase the vengeance they both crave? Or will they surrender to their deepest desires?



EXCERPT FROM MARKED BY AN ASSASSIN



His leather boots were loud on the polished black stone floor that reflected warm torchlight up at him, a clunk and a scrape as he trudged along the broad arched corridor of the main entrance of the guild, heading towards the first reception room. He adjusted his grip on the black pack slung over his good shoulder and stifled another grimace as he dragged his injured left leg in line with his right and braved another step. Fiery pain bolted up the limb from a point just above his ankle, shooting through his entire body.

Harbin growled under his breath, grinding his teeth together as he bore the pain and forced himself to keep moving. He could rest soon. He could sleep for days and forget his injuries and the fight that had brought him dancing too close to death.

Again.

But, fuck, it had been a good fight. It had been worth it. The pain. The taste of blood on his tongue. The sharp crack of bones breaking beneath his fists and the metallic tang flooding the air as his claws rendered flesh. A judder went through him, a brief flare of pleasure that wracked his tired and battered body. It had been worth it, for that momentary and elusive sense of calm and belonging, of retribution and release, and the one thing he craved above all others. The one thing that fuelled him, drove him to keep striding forwards, stopping him from looking back, and that he did his best to pretend didn’t exist inside him like an eternal bloody flame.

Penance.

Penitence.

Harbin pushed away from those two words. They had no place inside him. They were impossible for him to achieve, the one thing beyond his grasp, forever just out of reach. His sins were too great. Atonement was nothing more than a dream.

Or maybe a nightmare.

One that haunted him despite his best efforts to escape it.

Voices rang along the black walled corridor towards him and he ignored them, not interested in the idle banter of the rest of the guild males as they took a welcomed breather from their profession in the safety of their home. He was only interested in taking a breather himself. A long one. Maybe those days might roll into a week of sleep.

He sighed at the thought.

His broken body probably needed that much rest in order to recuperate swiftly, and gods knew his mind needed that amount of time to pull itself back together. Unlike some members of the guild, he didn’t have the advantage of being able to accelerate his healing process. The elves were lucky sons of bitches.

Although, you couldn’t pay Harbin enough to make him switch places with Fuery. The male’s eyes were verging on black now, only a sliver of violet remaining around his pupils like a dying corona of the light in him. How long before Fuery lost himself to the darkness?

Hartt, the chief and founder of their guild, often wore a look when he was watching Fuery, one that told Harbin that the elf knew their comrade was circling the drain and it was only a matter of time before the darkness consumed the last of him and transformed him into something straight out of a nightmare.

Harbin dragged his bad leg up and managed another step, quickly shifting his right before his fractured tibia gave out under his weight. It was times like these, when he was fresh from what had felt like more of a war than a fight, but had emerged the victor against all odds, that he couldn’t help wondering just what colour his eyes would be if the darkness that lived within him could show in them just as it could with the elves.

Would they be darker than midnight?

Was he as close to falling into the abyss as Fuery was?

On days like today, he felt as if he was. Every inch of him hurt now as it sank in that he was home and his mission was done, but it wasn’t a physical pain. He could no longer feel the hot burn of his wounds. He could only feel the cold burn of the hollow inside of him, the scraped out chasm where his heart used to be.
Harbin idly rubbed his chest with his free hand, not feeling the pain as his left shoulder blazed, his healing skin rupturing again beneath his tight black t-shirt. Warm wetness bloomed there, soaking into the cloth before trickling down his biceps.

“You look like hell,” someone muttered as they passed him, heading towards the doors.

Harbin ignored them and kept moving forwards, determined to reach the sanctuary of his quarters and lock himself away for a week of uninterrupted sleep.

He finally stepped into the first reception room, an equally black affair that had always looked as cold and imposing to him as he supposed it was meant to be. Hartt had done a good job of creating the perfect image for their guild, building a black fortress in the middle of what had once been little more than a wasteland in the free realm of Hell. An entire town had sprung up around the guild, catering to those who were drawn to it, either as a client.

Or an assassin.

Harbin had visited other assassin guilds in Hell and none had the nightmarish quality of their home. He put half of their business down to pure aesthetics. People saw the guild and it matched the image in their head of what an assassin’s home should look like—cold, dark and dangerous—and they gave it their business. Hartt had been a clever son of a bitch when he had started the guild all those centuries ago. The elf certainly had a head for business.

One that matched his head for killing.

“Hartt’s seeing people about it now.”

Harbin glanced across at two young males where they lounged in the horseshoe of black velvet couches near the unlit monstrosity of a marble fireplace to his left. They were both new recruits as far as the other guild members were concerned, having only completed a few easy jobs for little pay.

The blond raked his fingers through his short hair and cracked a wide grin. “I might go for it.”

Harbin snorted at that at the same time as the young wolf male reclining near the blond.

“I’d pay double to see you go up against a shifter… and a cat no less. At least that Harbin guy isn’t around to hear about it.”

That stopped Harbin in his tracks and he frowned across at the two males, studying the brunet wolf to see if he was speaking the truth. A cat shifter?

He had turned towards them before he had even contemplated moving and was at the back of the couch where the wolf shifter lounged before he had even realised he had moved. He stared down at the pup and the male slowly lifted golden eyes to him, his expression falling slack and lips parting as he took him in.
Harbin couldn’t blame the kid for looking shocked at the sight of him. He rarely interacted with the other assassins, definitely never with the rookies, and he probably looked as if he had been dragged through the darkest reaches of Hell.

Which he had.

“Cat shifter?” he said and the male nodded dumbly. “Hartt has a job requiring the elimination of a cat shifter?”

The wolf gathered his wits and shot him a cocky smile, one that irritated Harbin because it said what the wolf wouldn’t. It asked whether he was hard of hearing or just plain crazy. He hadn’t lost his mind. Not yet anyway. He just wanted to be sure that he had heard things right, because in the close to twenty years that he had worked with Hartt as an assassin, there had never been a job involving a cat shifter.

The blond kid got off the other couch and quickly crossed to his friend, hunkering down beside him and bringing his mouth close to the wolf’s ear.

“What the hell are you doing? That’s Harbin… Hartt said not to mention it around him,” the blond whispered so low he practically mouthed the words, but Harbin’s sensitive ears picked them up.

Harbin narrowed his silver eyes on both males, his lips compressing into a thin line as he contemplated the only reason why Hartt would want to hand out the job before Harbin could hear about it.

The cat shifter was a snow leopard.

He growled, flashing short fangs at the males, and shoved away from the couches, limping quickly across the black floor towards the door in the corner of the room to his left that would lead him to Hartt’s office. He shoved it open, the slam of it hitting the black wall on the other side echoing around the room at his back and the corridor in front of him, and snarled as he picked up his pace. His left leg trembled under the strain but he gritted his teeth and pushed onwards, the fire burning up his blood keeping him going.

Someone had put a contract on a snow leopard shifter, one of his kind, and he wanted the details.

He wanted to know why Hartt wouldn’t give the job to him.

Silvery fur rippled over his forearms before he could stop it, a brief flash of his other form brought out by his agitation. He sucked down a breath and controlled it, his skin cooling as the fur disappeared.

It wasn’t as if he held any allegiance to his kin anymore. He had burned that bridge twenty years ago and there was no way in Hell of reconstructing the charred remains of it. The thought that Hartt believed he was incapable of dealing with a snow leopard shifter mark was insulting. He could be as methodical and removed from the situation as he always was. The rage that had consumed him in the aftermath of the event that had driven him from his pride had made sure of that. It had killed all of his softer emotions and only a hunger for bloodshed and death remained.

He passed several doors to other offices, his own included, his gaze locked on the black door at the end of the corridor ahead of him. If Hartt was in an interview, the assassin in question was about to get a rude interruption and shown the door in a not too friendly fashion.

Harbin slammed the flat of his left palm into the door and it flew open.

Hartt was instantly on his feet behind the broad ebony desk directly in front of Harbin, an obsidian blade clutched in his left hand and his skin-tight black armour sweeping over his body as his clothes evaporated. His violet eyes pinned on Harbin and his pointed ears flared back as he bared his fangs on a hiss.

The second recognition dawned in his gaze, he huffed and the blade disappeared, leaving his hand free so he could plough his fingers through his blue-black hair, pulling the longer lengths back from his face.

“It isn’t wise to barge in uninvited where elves are concerned.” Hartt slumped into his tall-backed black leather chair and blew out his breath as he dragged his hand over his face.

Harbin knew that, but he also didn’t care. His blood was burning too hot, running too fast. He wanted answers and he was going to get them.

“A snow leopard?” He grabbed the door and slammed it shut behind him.

Hartt slowly lifted his violet gaze to him and raised an eyebrow.

He also didn’t care that his chief didn’t approve of his aggressive behaviour. If they came to blows, it wouldn’t be the first time. Hell, it wouldn’t be the hundredth time. He had lost count of how many times he and Hartt had fought over something. Hartt was as hot-headed and hot-blooded as Harbin. Sometimes they just needed to blow off steam and the most trivial thing became something to fight over.

Nothing like a good brawl to release some tension.

“I’m not giving you the job.” Hartt held his gaze and then slowly raked his eyes down the length of him. 

“Have you looked in the mirror? You’re in no state to take on another mission right now.”

Harbin knew that, and he also didn’t give a damn.

A hot twinge rocketed up his left leg from his fractured tibia, as if his body was trying to emphasize Hartt’s point. Son of a bitch. He gritted his teeth and schooled his features, trying to hide the pain from Hartt. The elf merely sighed again.

“You need to rest and recuperate. Sit this one out.” Hartt straightened in his chair and began shifting papers around on his desk, a clear ‘you can leave now’ that Harbin chose to ignore.

This conversation wasn’t done.

It didn’t matter that he had just rolled back into the guild after tracking and eliminating multiple targets in a mission that had been demanding to say the least. There wasn’t another assassin in the guild who had the patience or balls to tackle such a job, one where they had to take out an entire party of demon mercenaries without alerting the others to the deaths of their comrades.

He had spent three weeks orchestrating it, slowly intervening to adjust the movements of each member of the group to his favor so he could separate them and deal with them individually but swiftly.

None in the guild had the strength to take down five demons of the Fourth Realm in one battle. Attempting to take them down one by one had been dangerous enough and difficult to say the very least. If they had grouped together, they would have easily overpowered him and sent him back to the guild in a box with their regards.

“You know you need your best tracker on this.” Harbin dropped his pack on the floor and eased down into the chair opposite Hartt, making it clear he wasn’t going to just leave quietly and forget this mission as his boss wanted.

Hartt’s violet eyes remained locked on what had to be a particularly interesting paper based on how much attention he was giving it.

“You don’t have an assassin here who can track like I can… and I know snow leopards. I’ll get the scent of the mark long before one of the others could find them without using their nose.”

“I don’t want you on this job. You have your orders, Harbin. Rest and recuperate.” Hartt deigned him with a quick glance, his sharp gaze pinning Harbin with a look that warned him to let it go.

It wasn’t going to happen.

“I’m taking this job.” Harbin settled both hands behind his head, masking his grimace as his left shoulder blazed in protest, and cupped his neck as he stared at Hartt. “And if you try to give it to someone else, I’ll hear about it and I’ll track them down and kill them.”

Hartt’s black eyebrows pinched in a frown. Harbin knew he was pushing his luck by threatening other members of the guild, but he needed to be back out there. He needed it.

Why?

He hadn’t crossed paths with a snow leopard in a long time. He had avoided them as best he could, spending most of his time in Hell and sticking to cities when he had to visit the mortal realm. He even avoided fae towns because they often had a small population of shifters residing in them.

Why was he so eager to place himself on a collision course with one now?

Hartt’s questioning look asked him the same thing, and he didn’t have an answer for the elf. It was just a need that burned inside him, a quiet voice that urged him to take the mission and discover why a snow leopard, one from a normally peaceful species, was the target.

That same quiet voice supplied that it was because he feared.

Harbin snorted at that.

He feared nothing.

No one.

Not anymore.

It was curiosity driving him. Plain and simple. He was curious to see what a snow leopard had done to make themselves the target of an assassination.

“Fine,” Hartt said, jolting Harbin back to the room. Before he could open his mouth to speak or move a muscle to leave the chair, Hartt’s expression turned flat and cold, silencing him and freezing him to the spot.

“You get the job on the basis that it will be done as a team.”

Harbin growled. “I don’t need a fucking babysitter.”

Hartt flashed fangs at him. “You have one or you don’t get the job. Fuery is due to return. You’ll track the mark and we’ll meet you in five days, tracking you via your implant.”

Harbin stared across the black desk at the elf male. He had been on the verge of refusing to work with Fuery, a psychotic son of a bitch on the best of days, when Hartt had mentioned the royal ‘we’. Hartt was taking the job with him.

The bastard was coddling him.

He wanted to growl again at that but held it locked inside where his animal form shifted violently in response to his aggravation, wanting to tear into the male opposite him for daring to doubt him.

He drew in a deep breath to settle himself and blew it out slowly, finding a sliver of calm that he could cling to and that allowed him to see the reason for Hartt’s coddling in his purple eyes.

He was concerned and reluctant, and Harbin could understand that.

It had nothing to do with his current condition. Hartt knew his history. The elf had crossed paths with him at the darkest point in his life and Harbin owed him more than he had ever been able to put into words to tell him. Hartt had been the one to pick him up, give him a new place to call home, and a new purpose.

He had given him a new life when his old one had crumbled around him.

Harbin had spent two decades as an assassin, but he had also spent two decades devoted to tracking down and killing the people who had attacked his pride.

Archangel.

During those twenty years, he had slowly shifted from spending most of his time hunting Archangel members to spending most of his time carrying out assassination contracts on other targets. Hartt had been the one to guide him on that path, helping him track Archangel at first and then helping him let go of his past as best he could and move forward with his life.

Now, Harbin no longer lived to make Archangel pay. He lived to kill and he didn’t care who was a victim of his blades. He only cared about feeding his hunger. He craved the emotionless state that came before a kill. He had embraced the cold and methodical part of himself that allowed him to do his job without feeling a damned thing.

Without remembering the horrors of his past and that it was all his fault.

Harbin closed his eyes and ground his teeth, shunning the memories that tried to surface by focusing on his next mission. Forever looking forwards and never looking back at the ghosts that chased on his heels, the spectres of a time he didn’t want to remember. All that mattered was chasing the high of feeling nothing. Feeding the beast inside him. There was always a next mission. Another mark to put to the blade.

He slowly opened his silver eyes and fixed them on Hartt, the cold filling him as he shut down all of his feelings in preparation for the mission ahead.

The snow leopard was a mark and nothing more.

He would track them as Hartt requested, using his knowledge of his kind to his advantage.

And then he would kill them.

I'm a New York Times, USA Today and international best-selling British author writing passionate paranormal romance books. In my books I create detailed worlds, twisting plots, mind-blowing action, intense emotion and heart-stopping romances with leading men that vary from dark deadly vampires to sexy shape-shifters and wicked werewolves, to sinful angels and hot demons!

If you're a fan of paranormal romance authors Lara Adrian, Larissa Ione, J R Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Gena Showalter and Christine Feehan then you will enjoy my books too.

If you love your angels a little dark and wicked, the best-selling Her Angel series is for you. If you like strong, powerful, and dark vampires then try the Vampires Realm series or any of my stand-alone vampire romance books. If you’re looking for vampire romances that are sinful, passionate and erotic then try the best-selling Vampire Erotic Theatre series. Or if you prefer huge detailed worlds filled with hot-blooded alpha males in every species, from elves to demons to dragons to shifters and angels, then take a look at the new Eternal Mates series.

My books have received Must Read / Top Pick awards from Night Owl Reviews, GraveTells, The Romance Reviews and other review websites, and have received nominations at The Romance Reviews and Epic Ebook Awards. As an author, I have received the GraveTells Author of the Year Award.

Many of my books have reached the best seller lists on Fictionwise, Amazon, Kobo Books and Apple iBookstore/iTunes, with several of them hitting the number 1 or top 10 places in paranormal romance and fantasy romance, and several of my books have reached the top 100 in the overall store rankings at Amazon.


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