Authors: Stephanie Tyler
I’m writing this just after having returned from Disney World. It wasn’t my first trip to Disney and it won’t be my last. Even though I’m not fond of big crowds, I get sick if I even look at a twisty ride (though I still like to ride a few) and by the end of our visit we’re all invariably cranky, I still love it there. Disney truly has created something magical.
Luckily, for those of you who don’t have a trip to Disney in your future, they’re not the only ones who can create something magical. Every month, Carina Press authors deliver us books that transport us to new times, new places and new adventures. This month is no different!
I’m pleased to introduce
New York Times
bestselling author Stephanie Tyler’s new series, launching this month. This romance, set in post-apocalypse America, centers around the survival of the fittest: the motorcycle gangs of the future. Dark, edgy and steamy,
is the first in this can’t-miss new series.
New York Times
bestselling author, Marie Force, is back with the next installment in her bestselling romantic suspense series. An error on the baseball field leads to murder in
And I’m happy to welcome Victoria Davies to Carina Press with her newest paranormal romance,
Seducing the Demon Huntress.
Joining these three is a lineup of fantastic authors returning to Carina Press. Don’t miss the latest installment of
Love Letters Volume 3:
Verbal foreplay goes a long way in these four steamy stories. From author Christine d’Abo comes
Sparks fly between two rival internet bloggers in this erotic contemporary romance.
Our last erotic offering for the month of June is the long-awaited sequel to Dana Marie Bell’s
Blood of the Maple
Throne of Oak
, dark forces are converging on Maggie’s Grove, and a horde of hunters stalk supernaturals from the shadows.
If you’re looking for more paranormal romances, Sheryl Nantus, PJ Schnyder, and Eleri Stone all have releases this month. Check out the new installments from Sheryl and Eleri respectively,
Meanwhile, join PJ on a new adventure as she kicks off her London Undead series with
. Zombies have taken over London and a werewolf finds himself protecting a woman who seems determined to put herself in harm’s way.
Still in the “other world” genres, we have two releases: Fae Sutherland’s
, a delicious male/male space opera; and the conclusion to Vivi Anna’s steampunk romance trilogy.
The League of Illusion:
wraps up with sorcerer Sebastian Davenport’s story.
If you’re a fan of
, you’ll want to make sure you’re not missing out on Julie Rowe’s War Girls books. World War I generated many heroes—only some of them were men. Check out
Enticing the Spymaster
, her newest release, and go back and catch up with
Saving the Rifleman
, the first in this series. And while you’re in the past, why not stay there? Wendy Soliman’s
Beguiling the Barrister
also transports readers to a past time in this regency romance.
Last but not least, two powerhouse authors have new releases to center you in the here and now. HelenKay Dimon explores love and lust in her return to Holloway with contemporary romance
Just What He Wanted.
Sexy Travis is the story we’ve all been waiting for!
Adrienne Giordano rounds out our month of magical releases with
In this romantic suspense, when a pharmaceutical distribution manager uncovers secret drug shipments at work, she and a savvy executive with political ties must risk everything—including their hearts—to stop the criminals and stay alive.
No matter where your reading tastes take you, whether it’s the past, the future, or an alternate world, we’ve got an extensive catalog to help give you a magical experience without ever leaving the comfort of your own house (or needing to stand in line!).
We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to
. You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.
Executive Editor, Carina Press
Many thanks to Angela James, for her enthusiasm, patience and guidance, and for the entire team at Carina who’ve been more than welcoming and helpful.
For Sarah Frantz, who gave me invaluable insights to build on from the earliest stages of the project.
As always, thanks to the usual suspects of friends and readers who keep me happy, which in turn, keeps me writing. And special thanks to CTR(SW) Matthew D. Nelson for his help with all things Navy.
Last but never least, for my family, who understands my need for both disaster prepping and disappearing into my fictional worlds.
“That’s the kind of thing that turns players into kings.
—Sons of Anarchy
From his perch on top of the Harley Fat Boy, Caspar waited Silas out as he looked toward the front gates of the Defiance Motorcycle Club’s headquarters.
The darkness had already started descending by degrees. Hard to differentiate day from night, but there were subtle differences. Lately, more differences than before, but if anyone else but him noticed, they didn’t say shit.
“How’s she look?” Silas asked finally, then let smoke drift out of his mouth before blowing it in a frustrated stream when Caspar said, “Fine.”
“Cut the shit, Cas.”
Caspar burned when Silas used that nickname; his hands itched to go around the guy’s throat but he focused instead on the rasp in Silas’s voice. “Those’ll kill you.”
Silas snorted at the running joke, threw the butt on the ground and reached for another. What with the general dearth of sunlight and food, plus the constant fucking fighting—for both fun and survival—cigarettes were the safest things in this new post-Chaos world.
When Silas lit up the next cigarette almost immediately, Caspar took pity on him. “She looks the same. Thin, though.”
Silas didn’t look the same. He looked older—worn, with deep lines around his eyes and mouth. With his long hair pulled back tight, it made his sharp cheekbones look more severe than ever. And he was way too concerned with an old girlfriend.
“She ask to come here?” Silas asked.
“Can’t talk to an unconscious woman,” Caspar offered, but they both knew Tru had been marched here cruelly by the Kill Devils MC, because she’d made a choice.
The rules had always been simple here—you lived and died by your MC. Men were in charge, women weren’t.
He didn’t know if Tru had been violated, but that’s what typically happened when a woman rejected the bond offer.
He’d wanted to kill someone when he’d heard that, but couldn’t show his hand. So he pretended he didn’t give a shit, the way he always did. The way it had to be.
Silas nodded. “Stay with her. Let her know she can hang.”
Caspar raised a brow, asked, “What’re we tellin’ her?” and Silas shrugged, said, “Tell her everything. She knows the deal. If she’s smart, she’ll finally goddamned accept it.”
Tru not accepting the bond offer had nothing to do with her being smart. Tru was smarter than most; that meant she was considered trouble. The only thing saving her up to this point had been her father’s position in the Defiance club. The man had been a sergeant at arms, an Enforcer no one fucked with. His daughter had as much respect thrown to her as a woman in this society could.
Caspar nodded. “Why can’t Roan take care of his own shit?”
“He’s on patrol. It’s all you, brother.”
That was the biggest joke of all. They all knew Caspar as the bastard brother of Silas’s clan, bastard child of Silas’s father, Lance. Caspar had been dropped off when he was ten after his mother died, and was taken in by Lance’s extended family, passed around and generally treated like dirt. At least until his long, muscled frame and proclivity for violence and other criminal pursuits got him noticed. Men in his own club wanted to fight him just to prove they could, a feat that proved harder as each year passed. When Lance sent him out into underground cage fighting matches to earn the club money, he raked in cash and respect.
Once the lights went out, his ever-expanding skill set became even more coveted. He’d been in the higher ranks of Lance’s MC ever since, although he’d never been fully accepted as part of Lance’s immediate family, never been one of them. To Caspar, that was a good thing.
On the opposite end had once sat Tru, with Silas. They’d been
couple in high school—prince and princess of Defiance when things were still normal. Whether Silas ever knew about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father, Caspar didn’t know. And when Tru disappeared without a trace three and a half years earlier, Silas had mourned for six months.
Now the man was bonded to Liv.
The MC had always used the term
over marriage, even if club members did end up going the traditional route recognized by state and church. But bonding was a whole different thing now—it was the most serious set of rules the club had, and breaking a bond wasn’t taken lightly. Lance had had the bonding ceremony written into the bylaws.
They all recognized the importance of loyalty in the MC, especially once the compound began to house almost all of the Defiance members and their families instead of just being the MC’s meeting place. Rules and order were necessary—the women chosen to be old ladies needed to be trusted.
The younger generation began referring to it simply as the bond—Caspar’s generation decided to incorporate old ladies getting tattooed to complete the bond, because they liked the idea of that kind of permanence on the woman’s skin. Because the bond was permanent, till death do you part kind of shit.
The bond was the best way for a woman to stay alive in a time where brutal violence by the MC members was the only way to get and keep your place—and gain respect—in the club.
Kids grew up fast in the MC anyway but what occurred two years ago pushed young men to their limits. The Chaos, as it was later named, was a series of environmental destructions triggered when several meteors hit the earth. Two had landed close to active volcanoes and set off a domino effect in the atmosphere as well as volcanic eruptions. Tsunamis. Earthquakes. Wild weather, all within a week’s time, all around the earth.
“We were lucky,” scientists said in the reports Defiance heard over ham radio.
lucky, but the younger generation had to step up their game, and fast. At times before the storms hit, they’d made fun of their fathers and their Doomsday preparations. Now, like young men who’d been drafted, they were shell-shocked and cocky.
Time went backward. There was still no communication highway—that infrastructure would take the longest to repair.
There were places that went virtually unscathed and places that experienced total devastation. It was luck of the draw. Lance called it the thinning of the herd. Caspar found that repulsive but couldn’t deny that it was now a world of outlaws and criminals. They were the ones who rebuilt their own societies within the structure of the government’s help.
The United States president—and most other world leaders—had survived. Caspar assumed that most of the governments had access to secured bunkers. Over the radios, he heard reports that the president had declared eminent domain on many areas of the country. The EPA and the government decided what was habitable, repairable and what was not. Port cities and major hubs got repaired first and foremost. Defiance preferred to be left alone.
The MC had put their wiring underground and kept supplies stocked in preparation for something like this. Post-Chaos, they’d grabbed several doctors from the hospitals that no longer functioned and brought them inside the compound. Kept them safe, gave them sterile supplies. And Defiance had the guns to keep intruders out. The water supply was up and running again after six months, but Defiance had ways to filter salt and river water for their own uses in case it was ever necessary again.
The isolation of their compound was both a curse and a blessing. This was the way things would be from now on. Isolation equaled survival. Preparedness equaled survival. Defiance dealt with the outside world when they made their trades, sold their goods.
The transition to the new world order had been easier for the MCs than for most. They were rough, scrappers used to fighting their way through life. They thought nothing of killing their enemies—or their friends—if need be. Bartering with the mafias, taking protection money from the civilians in the surrounding towns. The world moved at a slow grind, but people’s basic needs were always the same: food, drugs, sex. Defiance simply admitted to it long before the chaos. The MC had survived, and survived well these past few years.
Caspar had survived as well, was so close to accomplishing his own private goals. He’d lived through twelve years of goddamned hell to get to this place, and no one was getting in his way. Not even Tru.
* * *
Tru knew her father was dead the same way she knew the moon would rise in the night. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t see the moon anymore since the explosions had shattered the normal world and flung it into chaos.
In reality, everything in the world of the MCs was the same, except that her father was dead and she wouldn’t mourn him.
But her father’s death less than a month ago meant it was time for her to return to Defiance, a place she’d once considered home. Not for a service—she’d missed that already. Not to clean out his belongings—likely they’d been parceled out already. No, she’d had to come home after running away over three years ago because it was the only thing that could save her.
She might’ve stayed away forever, continued living in New Jersey along the shore, waitressing at a diner, taking classes, learning how to tattoo from a woman named Louise. But then the Chaos hit and all the lights went out, including the sun.
When the electricity came back on and people began the long process of rebuilding, she’d fought the urge to run back to Defiance. She’d remained on her own for nearly nine months after the storms before relenting and asking Padraic, the head of the Kill Devils MC, for help. That was just over a year ago, and, during that time, her father being alive had been the only thing stopping Padraic from forcing the bond. Now, she was orphaned and unclaimed, which meant Padraic would be able to claim her and she couldn’t—wouldn’t let that happen.
She’d told him so, and that was why she was back to live and die in Defiance. She hadn’t known if she’d be delivered here alive or dead, but here she was.
She opened her eyes now. Stared up at a face that she’d expected to be Silas’s but was distinctly different. The man in front of her had white-blond hair, icy blue eyes. A scar ran from the edge of his lip toward his left eye, bisecting his cheek.
It should’ve made him look ugly. Deformed. It didn’t, although there was something about him that scared the hell out of her.
There always had been, even as she’d been drawn to his violence just the same. “Caspar?”
“Yeah. How’s it goin’, Tru?”
Leave it to him to act as if their last meeting were only days ago. “I’ve been better.”
She could barely move. Padraic had drugged her, trussed up her arms behind her back to keep her securely tied to the bitch bar for most of the trip. She’d been untied and forced to walk the last two miles into Defiance next to the bikes, and then another mile to get to the clubhouse. The walking was part of the new rules when a rogue female was returned to her MC.
At the gates of the Defiance MC, Padraic had kissed her—she remembered that. He’d hit her, too, but she’d grown up with violence and had hit him back. Knocked out teeth. She realized she still held one of them in her fist, and she opened it, let the bloodied thing fall onto the floor as Caspar looked at her with a cross between anger and possibly...amusement?
“Not mine,” she said.
“Figured. I collected you from Paddy.”
Most people called Padraic
, an unassuming name for a man who was anything but.
Did he touch me?
she wanted to ask. Her body felt sore and dirty, but she didn’t remember anything after she’d hit Padraic and he’d hit her back, hard enough to knock her out.
If he hadn’t, it would only be out of respect to her father, who the MCs in the area considered one of the greatest Enforcers of any club.
“Doctor’s already been here to check you out—gave you the all clear for now. She’ll be back, though. Said you need rest. Givin’ you fluids to pump the shit Paddy gave you out of your system.” He lit a cigarette and let the smoke drift around him like a halo.
He’d laugh if I told him that.
His knuckles were scarred. He was probably covered with scars by now, and he was surely broader than he’d been. The violence that had always coiled tightly beneath his surface appeared to be unfettered now. No one had to hide what they were anymore, could wear it loud and proud, and Caspar was no exception. His big body, sheathed in black leather and worn denim, took up all the room, all the air. She shivered, an unexpected jolt of pleasure spiraling down through her belly. She wanted him to stay. “Where’s Silas?”
“Not comin’. I’m here till Roan comes.”
“Roan?” she whispered, and Caspar nodded, waited for her to catch the full meaning of what he’d said. Despite the throb on her head, she did so quickly.
“Si’s with Liv now. Almost from the beginning.”
She couldn’t absorb that, was like an old boat with leaks springing up everywhere. But strangely, she wasn’t crying.
She just felt sick at the thought of Roan.
You knew they wouldn’t let you come back here without bonding
And although she had known, she’d hoped against hope that somehow, it would be different.
“You need protection. It’s the only way,” Caspar told her, because he had to know what she was thinking. Always had.
“I won’t do it, Cas.”
“Don’t fuckin’ call me that,” he told her roughly, pinned her wrist to the bed so she couldn’t touch him, all in one smooth, quick burst of movement. “Don’t you fuckin’ call me anything. You only get one free ride from me.”
“Is that what you think?”
“No evidence to the contrary.”
“Wrong or not, you need to shut your mouth. No use you gettin’ in more trouble, hear?”
“I don’t care who hears. And I won’t do it, won’t bond with Roan,” she repeated fiercely, struggled against his grip, no matter how useless it was.
“Not a choice. Week’s time’s all Roan has to make the claim. Lance’ll be around to tell you that too.”
Silas’s father had always been a brute. She shuddered at the memory of his big hamfisted ways. He’d been best friends with her father. “I need more time.”
“You got no power here.”
That wasn’t entirely true—her father had been Lance’s most trusted confidant, his right-hand man. By all accounts, the loyalty to her father’s contributions hadn’t changed while she’d been gone, or in the month since he’d died. She’d be considered part of this clan, semi-royalty, as her father’s reputation was one whispered among the gangs—her father and Lance were more like brothers than friends, and everyone knew that Lance would retaliate if anyone hurt Tru. For Padraic, Tru would’ve been the best prize of all, would’ve risen the Kill Devils up in status since she was a legacy.