Full length paranormal romance with shifters and gypsies and demons–and an HEA.
Long before Germany rounded up Romani and sent them to prison camps, the Netherlands declared them undesirables. Yara’s caravan disbanded when she was fifteen to avoid being driven out of the country. Ten years have passed, and she’s been alone for most of that time hiding in caves and abandoned buildings. It’s been a lonely life, but at least she still has one.
Stewart conceals his true identity for the best of reasons. He’s not actually Romani, even though he’s been a caravan leader for many years. In a bold and desperate move, he joins a small band of shifters and Rom to fight the Reich’s chokehold on Europe. When they’re crossing the border into the Netherlands, vampires attack.
Yara senses Romani near her cave. The stench of vampire comes through loud and clear too, along with shifters. While not nearly as bad as vampires, her people have always steered clear of them. Another type of magic plucks at her. She can’t identify it, but it draws her from her hiding place. That decision tilts her world on its axis when she comes face to face with Stewart’s raw masculinity and savage presence. She could still turn tail and run. If she stays, it doesn’t require magical ability to recognize her life will change forever.
Stewart Macleod paced in a rough circle, skirting the collection of shifters and Romani gathered in small groups. He’d declared a rest break, but everyone was too keyed up to sleep. A few of the shifters were combing the forest for food for the rest of them. The shriek of a vulture on the hunt told him Meara wasn’t far away. It had been drizzling all day, and now fog was moving in. He encouraged it with a bit of magic. Anything that would shield their presence might help.
They’d avoided Hannover and Osnabrück as they transited the northern portion of Germany, selecting backroads that had stressed their truck’s ability. There’d been a few places where they’d all had to get out, but luck had been with them. They hadn’t broken an axle or even had so much as a punctured tire.
The Netherlands border wasn’t far. Crossing it would push one problem—Nazis—to a backseat. Vampires would still plague them, but he hadn’t sensed any since they’d passed Hannover. Was it because the Reich was using every single one of the fell creatures they could get their hands on?
The more he thought about it, the likelier it seemed. Vampires reveled in blood and death. Sex ran a hot second. The Nazi prison camps provided lush opportunities for both feeding and fucking, a resource far too rich to be ignored. Vampires might disparage the Reich, but they weren’t above using them to meet their needs.
A corner of Stewart’s mouth twisted downward into a grimace. Hitler and his henchmen believed they had vampires under their thumbs, but they’d be in for a rude awakening someday.
Och aye, and we can only hope ’twill come sooner rather than later.
For once no one was bothering him. No questions. No “Hey, Stewart, come here for a moment,” requests.
It gave him a much-needed opportunity to flesh out his plan for getting the group across the border and examine it for holes. Critical elements he might have missed. They’d be abandoning the large transport truck soon—not much choice, even though not having it created other problems. Every road had border crossing guards, and they prowled the terrain near their stations. The Nazis knew good and well that once someone moved into the Netherlands, they were home free.
The safest way across was on foot for the Rom and in shifted form for everyone else. He ticked off names of the principal players. Tairin, Elliott, Jamal, Ilona, Meara, and Gregor were shifters. All wolves except for Meara, whose other form was a vulture. Nivkh and two other bear shifters traveled with them as well. That left himself, Michael, Cadr, Vreis, and Aron, along with three other Rom from Michael’s caravan.
He thought about his own caravan hidden behind a magical barrier a short distance outside Munich. It was hundreds of miles away, and he hoped to hell they’d be safe. He hadn’t always been a caravan leader. In truth, he’d only adopted the Romani mantle a mere century before. Or perhaps it had been two. Regardless, he’d pulled off the deception swimmingly—until a few days ago. Jamal was sharp. He’d asked pointblank what Stewart was, having intuited his magic didn’t match Romani energy patterns.
Fortunately, Jamal had the good sense not to keep nagging once Stewart told him that topic was off-limits. He swallowed a snort. Romani magic had dwindled until only a very few had much left. But Jamal was a shifter, and an old, canny one at that. Leave it to a shifter to call him out on his long-running deception.
Before the Nazi problem heated up, he’d toyed with the idea of translocating his entire caravan to Scotland, but he’d waited too long. He hadn’t understood how the Reich solidified its powerbase so quickly—until he discovered their mass hypnotism was fueled by vampire coercion.
A squawk from Meara’s vulture was followed by a flash of light as she shifted midair and somersaulted to his side, landing lightly. Silver-gray hair fell to the ground, providing both cover and warmth. Her shrewd amber eyes still held an avian cast, and she looked more raptor than human as she regarded him.
“Mind if I join you?” She quirked a brow.
He met her gaze, not fooled by her words. She was one of the first shifters and always had a motive. “Ye’re not asking a question. Not really,” he countered. “State what’s on your mind.”
The prickly jab of magic pierced him as she surrounded them with warding. Along with it came the odor of clay baked under a sun far hotter than it ever got in Germany—or the British Isles. Rosemary and fresh cut hay joined the clay scent, the combination the scent of many of her castings. Whatever she had to say, she apparently wasn’t interested in being overheard.
“Everyone’s too worried to pay us much heed,” he said, keeping his tone neutral. The vulture shifter could be touchy and had a short fuse.
She shot a pointed look his way. “Do you want them to listen in when I inquire whether now is the time to reveal what you are?” Without waiting for him to respond, she went on, “Laying that aside for a moment, we must firm up the details of how we shall tackle the border. The shifters will take their animal forms. Crossing the border unnoticed should go smoothly for them—”
“Unless a vampire notices,” he cut in.
“Unless a vampire notices and chooses to act on the knowledge,” she corrected him. “Shifters are immune to vampire mind control. They’ve pretty much left us alone because of that, preferring to focus on more tractable prey.”
Stewart waited. Meara clearly had a plan of her own for spiriting them across the border into the Netherlands. One she was about to share. Perhaps it was less risky than his.
“You’re quiet,” she observed.
“Ye’re far from done. If I interrupt every few seconds, ye’ll never finish.”
The corners of her mouth twitched, but didn’t quite form a smile. “True enough. All right then. By my count, eight of us are stuck in human bodies. Seven if we take you out of the equation, but bear with me.”
He made come along motions with one hand, ignoring her gambit about taking himself out of the equation. She sensed he was different, much as Jamal had, but he’d been evasive in the face of her earlier probing. Was she hunting for information?
“What is your true name?”
Stewart started, not expecting the question. He shook his head. “’Tisn’t important. I havena used it for centuries, and no one remembers who I was.”
Meara frowned, drawing her gray eyebrows into a single line. “Surely your gods would. Shifters don’t have such things, but the Celts had them in droves.”
“Aye, true enough. If any recall who I was, none have chosen to speak with me for a verra long time.”
He cut the flow of his words. Part of his plan hinged on those same gods, who’d discounted him for hundreds of years, still being tethered to Earth and capable of responding to a summons for aid. It was one of the biggest unknowns in his strategy, and one he hadn’t spent much time worrying about. They had to get to Scotland first—a place that would strengthen his magic sufficiently the gods might take notice of him once again.
The way things were going, Scotland was far from a given.
About the Author:
Ann Gimpel is a mountaineer at heart. Recently retired from a long career as a psychologist, she remembers many hours at her desk where her body may have been stuck inside four walls, but her soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry. Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), she managed to finagle moving to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. It was during long backcountry treks that Ann’s writing evolved. Unlike some who see the backcountry as an excuse to drag friends and relatives along, Ann prefers solitude. Stories always ran around in her head on those journeys, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made her fear for her life, sometimes for company. Eventually, she returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. Oh, it wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. And, she learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel.
Around that time, a friend of hers suggested she try her hand at short stories. It didn’t take long before that first story found its way into print and they’ve been accepted pretty regularly since then. One of Ann’s passions has always been ecology, so her tales often have a green twist.
In addition to writing, Ann enjoys wilderness photography. She lugs pounds of camera equipment in her backpack to distant locales every year. A standing joke is that over ten percent of her pack weight is camera gear which means someone else has to carry the food! That someone is her husband. They’ve shared a life together for a very long time. Children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out their family.
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