The St. Louis Shadow Wolves Series:
a Why Choose paranormal romance series
Preorder Book 1: Shadowed Radiance from Amazon. Also available in Kindle Unlimited.
They murdered my sister and her husband in front of me, forcing an impossible choice with the lives of my nieces at stake. My family’s enemies thought this would break me and ruin my power-hungry grandmother’s plans for the future.
They only got that half right.
Too bad for them I’m used to being the family outcast. After everything I’ve endured, nothing—and no one—will ever break me.
Now I’m united with three of the world’s strongest (and sexiest) Shadow Wolves, and St. Louis is our city to save. Those enemies are about to learn what I’ve tried to hide from the world, and even myself, for so long.
When it comes to magic, I am my grandmother’s namesake, and now I’ll use this Shadowed Radiance to bring my sister’s killers to justice. Someone’s about to break, all right—but it won’t be me. Or the Shadow Wolves I’m growing to love…
Few things in life satisfied me as much as a job well done, whether something so exhilarating as crushing an enemy or so mundane as launching a successful marketing campaign. Fortunately enough, my exile from the family headquarters in Boston allowed me to enjoy both. Being 1200 miles away from my power-hungry grandmother and her obsession with me following in her magical footsteps was just a bonus.
All I had to do was pretend that my sister’s penchant to lecture in Grandmother’s stead didn’t get on my last ever-loving nerve.
A skill I employed yet again when Kayleigh frowned at the laptop currently displaying the success of our recent PR blitz. Numbers didn’t lie, and my campaign was kicking ass in calming the public’s fears after years of turmoil plaguing the city Kayleigh and her Shadow Wolf husband Maxim ruled in all but name.
I couldn’t blame the public for their uneasiness. The past few years had been a shit-show.
Though to be fair, that trouble couldn’t be laid at the feet of my sister or brother-in-law. They’d inherited a terrible situation when Maxim’s mother died defending her status as Packleader to an enemy challenger. Fortunately, she had dealt fatal blows to the other Shadow shifter before succumbing to her own wounds. Unfortunately, that shifter planted the seeds for a War of Succession that claimed the lives of Kayleigh’s male predecessor as St. Louis Beacon and Maxim’s sister, whose time as Packleader had been tragically brief.
Leaving only Maxim and three cousins—brothers with rapier wits and six-pack abs who haunted my dirty dreams more than I cared to confess—with sufficient strength to lead this city’s Shadow Wolves. There’d been rumblings that Maxim himself had orchestrated the entire affair, ridiculous given how much he’d idolized his mother and sister. And now it was my job to prove that in the court of public opinion.
Oh, and to pretend that drunken orgy with his cousins had never happened.
I managed not to roll my eyes when Kayleigh pursed perfect crimson lips and tapped matching manicured nails against the modern black conference table. Despite what everyone around me assumed, serving in my baby sister’s shadow since I’d been unofficially exiled had never bothered me the way Grandmother hoped. Kayleigh’s incessant perfectionism that rivaled our family matriarch’s, on the other hand? That was an absolute pain in my ass.
“What’s wrong? You approved all of the images, clips, and copy. And the analytics are clear: People are responding positively to all three.”
Kayleigh pushed back in her chair and made a blandly disapproving face that had her so resembling Grandmother, I did a double-take.
“I’m just not sure how wise it is to focus so much on Maxim’s cousins and not on him. On how hard he’s worked to rebuild this Pack and St. Louis’s economy.”
I forced every ounce of irritation that we’d already been over all this raging through my veins deep beneath the surface. “Which is exactly why we’re focusing on his current successors in this campaign. Your own children are far too young to even think about succeeding just yet. We’re not even sure which Affinity they’ll show. In light of all the turmoil over the past five years, it’s critical that the public develop faith in the future stability of this Pack.”
Kayleigh sighed and gave a reluctant nod. “I know you’re right, Ava. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
I wanted to roll my eyes and drawl, “Welcome to my world of endless disappointment, Baby Sis.”
But someone like her would never understand. As much as I loved her, she enjoyed the power and prestige that came from being a Beacon. Magical triple threats who could harness Shadow shifter energy tied to the moon, Solar shifter energy tied to the sun, and harness the powerful Radiant energy blending both. Spellbinders with only one magical Affinity sacrificed their shapeshifting abilities to access that blended energy. They deeply resented that we Beacons commanded so much magical power without any such sacrifice.
But that power did come with a catch. Multiple catches, actually, but the one that ensured I’d remain the family outcast as long as possible was being forced to live, work, and even marry as the Circle of Dawn and Dusk—guided by the iron fist of my grandmother—chose. A complete loss of freedom to determine our own futures. Something Spellbinders always seemed to conveniently overlook.
I’d almost rather die to the magical supernova that devoured all untethered Radiants who defied the Circle too long.
Which was how I’d come to be banished to magical obscurity in St. Louis, serving as my sister’s Understudy and glorified assistant. That the Circle thought this would bend me to their will was laughable. I liked St. Louis. Kayleigh, our other siblings, and I had spent every summer growing up here in our father’s hometown. Visiting his much less pretentious and more likable relatives.
And I liked the Shadow Wolves, especially Maxim, as much as I tried to forget that foolish fling with his infuriatingly sexy cousins.
I even liked the busy work Kayleigh assigned me, since it utilized my Marketing and Communications degree I’d earned after Grandmother tried to force me to major in Political Science. Kayleigh, on the other hand, had taken to that major like a duck to water. Why Grandmother couldn’t have tapped Kayleigh to inherit the Boston Beaconship was beyond me.
My lips twisted when honesty forced me to admit, at least to myself, You know damned well she knows something that you don’t. Grandmother never does anything without a calculated purpose.
No wonder my own mother sacrificed her Solar shapeshifting abilities to become a Spellbinder when she’d failed to inherit the family Radiant abilities. She’d also chosen to put as many miles between her mother and herself as possible.
A pity I couldn’t permanently follow in her footsteps.
Kayleigh misinterpreted the reason for my lip twist. “Well, no use in either of us focusing on the past when we need to be pushing toward the future. Grandmother wants us to clean up this little mess and restore St. Louis to its former glory. So restore it we shall.”
I somehow managed to keep a neutral expression rather than gag.
My sister glanced at her smartwatch and sighed. “Speaking of Maxim’s cousins, they’re due to arrive at the airport in two hours. I have a few more…things…to prepare before tonight’s reception in their honor.”
I stiffened as her voice took on a wheedling tone.
“Rory and Sorsha are positively thrilled at the thought of meeting their favorite cousins at the airport. And I obviously can’t send them alone with just their bodyguards and the driver. Would you pretty please be a dear and…”
Her voice trailed off expectantly, and I fought the urge to scream. We both knew she could make this seeming request an order if I refused it. And she knew I loved my nieces too much to disappoint them even if I’d been willing to defy her. No matter how much the thought of being stuck in a limo with those three maddening wolves made me nauseous.
“Kayleigh…I still need to dress for the reception myself.”
She rolled her eyes. “Please. You’ll throw on a gown with too little fabric to deserve the name, finger-comb that gorgeous blonde mane, and apply a minimal amount of makeup. And you’ll look absolutely stunning. Meanwhile I’m not nearly so naturally blessed.”
That was one area in which my sister was insecure. She believed I was the family beauty, failing to see her own incandescence that had nothing to do with being a Beacon. Still, she really should have learned by now that flattery didn’t work on me.
She smiled ruefully and went in for the kill. “Besides. Do me this favor and I will simply look the other way when you sneak out of the reception early to go bury your nose in a book.”
That had me perk right up. Escaping the presence of Maxim’s cousins before too many drinks could be had and too many mistakes could be repeated (mostly by me) would be my number one mission tonight.
Hate fuck me once? Shame on you. Hate fuck me twice? No way was I taking that walk of shame a second time.
Kayleigh’s lips curved, and her face lit with true pleasure, proving herself a liar for saying she was any less naturally stunning than me. Grandmother had just convinced her she needed all that pomp and cosmetic-stance to live up to the Sheridan name.
For a moment, I could imagine us back in our parents’ home in a simpler time, before we manifested Radiant abilities and our Grandmother’s machinations began driving a wedge between us. Back when I’d been the big sister she imitated and she’d been the baby sister I adored. Much like Rory and Sorsha. I fervently hoped they would take after their Shadow Shifter father. They deserved all the freedom and continued closeness Kayleigh and I would never know…
“Fine,” I finally huffed out. “I’ll go pick up Maxim’s oversized cousins and drop them back off at the McMansion.”
She pursed her lips sardonically at my dig on her home, where tonight’s reception would be held, but let the comment slide. “Thank you, Ava.”
Ironically, I had only myself to blame for the evening’s pesky black tie affair. It’d been my own idea as part of the PR blitz. I waved off her thanks and jumped to my feet, surprised when she stood and placed a hand on my arm. My brows raised, but I waited for her to speak.
To my shock, she leaned forward to kiss me on the cheek. Something she hadn’t done in…I couldn’t remember how long. An emotion that suspiciously resembled regret flashed across her face, and she pressed an envelope into my hand. I opened my mouth, but she shook her head and urgently tapped the heavy vellum material. Drawing my attention to the Circle of Dawn and Dusk embossed upon it in both wax and magic.
My eyes widened, and I hissed out a breath. The last time someone had passed me an envelope like this, all hell had broken loose. For Kayleigh to hand this to me now meant trouble must be brewing…Again.
I flipped the envelope over and stared at the words etched in her ridiculously pretty handwriting, “Open at the airport under a Radiant Seal. Tell no one.”
A buzz of Radiant energy pulsed from the envelope as it recognized my magical signature. No one but me would be able to open this sealed order that Beacons only issued to other Radiants in their direct line of command.
I swallowed dryly and covered her hand with my free one. “You’re welcome, Baby Sis.” A name I hadn’t called her out loud in quite some time. “The girls and I will see you before the reception, I assume?”
She gave a shaky smile that held far more gratitude than my agreeing to fulfill a simple favor should inspire. Dread coated my stomach as I wondered what potential disaster would meet my eyes when I opened the envelope in my hand.
“Of course. I’ll tuck them in like always, and then they’ll watch the two of us run off like two Cinderellas to the Prince’s Ball.”
Gooseflesh broke out along my skin as she referenced the fairy tale that had once been our favorite. For some reason, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was some significance to her referencing that story now. Before I could puzzle out any hidden meaning, however, she kissed my other cheek and strolled out of the room. The last look my sister sent my way revealed one more emotion that shook me to my core: stark, raving terror.
And Kayleigh, much like our Iron Dragon of a grandmother, did not scare easily…