Kathi S. Barton Author
#darkfantasy #erotica #romance #pharnormal #comingsoon #samuelpride #endofseries #preorder #sept21st
Awnia is a Sun Goddess, cursed by her mother, Temptress, to never find a mate. She was cast down to Earth to make her way among humans, and always hiding from her mother’s wrath. Awnia is trapped by a man she calls Hatter, a sadistic creep, whose intent is to kill her once and for all−Temptress promised to pay him well. The wave of magic that hits Awnia hurts her bad this time, and if she doesn’t get away she will die. The only thing she knows to do is to call out to her old friend Vinnie. His fire is the only thing that will heal her wounds.
Russel Hawkmen, Hawk to his friends, receives a message from Samuel that Vinnie needs his help to rescue an old friend. Vinnie’s dragon and his mate are already on the way to find Awnia, but he can’t communicate with her while in his dragon form. He needs Hawk’s special skills to find her.
From the moment Hawk’s lips take Awnia’s he knows she’s his mate. A mate he never thought to find. But Awnia isn’t so sure and she doesn’t want to find out. She likes the shape shifter, and if he isn’t her true mate, the test will destroy him….
Legend says that with a mate she will be strong enough to defeat Temptress. But she can’t take that chance−she loves him too much…. Will Temptress win after all? Find out in the final installment of Samuel’s Pride−Hawk.
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Awnia moved among the crowds of people without raising her head. She watched feet as they hurried to get around her and to wherever they were going. Everyone was always in such a hurry any more. Avoiding everyone, especially their touch, had always been a priority to her, and today was no different. So when someone touched her elbow and jerked her around, she knew everything about the man in just that instant…more than likely a great deal more than he knew about himself. “Take this.” She backed away from the blue zippered bag that he’d shoved at her. “Here is your part, take it.” “I don’t know you.” Which in truth was a lie, but she took another step back. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. And I don’t want whatever that is.” It was full of money…several thousand dollars’ worth. Awnia had no use for such things, and wondered why, of all the people around her, he’d told her. She couldn’t find any other reason for it in his head other than it had to be her he gave the bag to. “Yes you do. You told me to get it. Now here. Take it.” She took another step back when he hit her in the chest with it. She knew he thought she’d pick it up when it hit the sidewalk between them, but she only stared at him. “Pick it up and take it. Now. I don’t have a lot of time for this.” Awnia started to turn and walk away. There was no reason for her to do as he was demanding, and if she stood there much longer, the police were going to come and take them both away. And Awnia had no desire to be caught up in things like that. But as soon as she turned away, he grabbed her by the arm again, and the connection between them was complete. “You need to let me go.” He didn’t, of course, and she tried to jerk from his grasp. “I’m not going to tell you again to let me go. I don’t know you or what you’re about. But if you don’t release me, I am going to hurt you.” “Take the fucking money. It’s all you fucking have to do.” Shaking her head, she let a little of herself go and he jerked back from her. “What the fuck?” The burn to his hand was minor when compared to what she might have done to him. But he picked up the blue bag now and tried to shove it at her once more. Again she backed away, and watched as he reached into the front of his pants and pulled out a gun. “You can’t shoot me.” The man grinned at her as he pointed it at her. “If you shoot me, it’s going to cause problems with the man you’re working for. He said no violence, and if you were caught by the police, he said that he’d leave you there to rot. I think this is what he meant.” “What the fuck do you know? They said if I didn’t give it to you as soon as you came outta that building, I was taking the fall for everything. And, sister, I am not taking the fall for you being a bitch.” He pointed the gun to her head, and the people around them did nothing but give them a wider berth. “Take the damned money so I can get on with my life.”
Awnia didn’t want to hurt him, but it was quickly becoming clear that there was no reasoning with him. Putting out her finger, she touched his hand that held the gun. His screams cut through her head like a spike. Before she could move away from him, however, someone grabbed her from behind and told her to stand down. This time when the cool feel of the weapon the person held touched her, she knew it would hurt her. “I don’t know him.” The police officer in front of her only nodded as he put cuffs on the man with the gun. The one behind her was careful not to touch her, she noticed, so she was unable to find out what was going on. “I don’t have any idea why he picked me, but I don’t know him.” The man behind her laughed as he cuffed her as well. The thick touch of his gloves was the first clue she was in bigger trouble than she had first thought. The touch, when he brushed against her with his arm, was so brief she nearly missed it. Now she was afraid. This was not just a routine arrest. This man was no better than the one who had tried to shoot her…maybe even a little worse. “Sure you don’t, honey. We already have things all worked out for the two of you. Just as soon as we get you downtown. We’re just gonna write this one up as you pretended this shit to get away. Well, you aren’t going anywhere. Not until we take care of a little business here. You might say we’re working for the wrong side of the lawman today.” His laughter made her think of braying donkeys. And when he lifted her up, none too gently, she had a feeling that he might be related to them as well. The man was a real ass. She was shoved into a cruiser a few minutes later. Awnia never said another word after that, not even when they asked her what her full name was. There were others out there that would like that information as well, but as far as she knew, no one but her knew it. The ride to wherever they were going was made mostly with the two officers in the front complaining about someone named Pittsburg, and how he had the attitude of a badger. She tuned them out in favor of contacting her friend, her only friend. I am in trouble. He asked her when she wasn’t. I’ve been taken into custody by two men that are police officers, and am currently being taken to the station for a crime I have no idea about. There is a man that came to me about a fictitious crime, and now they are taking me away from anything I know. Vinnie laughed again. You should have zapped them all and been done with it. I know that you have these rules and all, but when you’re being taken against your will, it’s best to deal with it as quickly as possible. Will you come for me? She waited for him to answer her as the car came to a stop. Vinnie, this is not a station house. I’m at a warehouse. I think I might be in serious trouble here. Where? All humor was gone from his voice. Tell me what you see. Are there any landmarks for you to give me? Damn it all to hell, Awnia, I told you that you had to stop getting into trouble. I love you too much to have you get hurt by some human. Or that asshole. Ignoring his comment, she told him what she could see. A green roof with brick. Many abandoned houses surrounding us, and the building they are in front of has a name faded on the
front. Machete something. I’m not sure. He told her to close her eyes and he’d find her. There is nothing for you to search with. Other than our ability to speak, we have nothing left. When you mated, we lost our connection. I’m sorry. But I’m very scared right now. His cursing made her smile. The dragon could string them together like no one she’d ever met. But when he spoke to her again, she knew that he was going to try his best to find her. Or he’d die trying. My mate and I are coming to you. Are you still where you were? The same city? She told him no, she was in Erie County, New York. I’m coming, love. We’ll be there soon. I do hope so. As she was pulled out of the back of the car, she fell. The officers didn’t lift her up or help her to stand, but continued to pull her with them by the cuffs. Hurry, Vinnie. I think they might know what I am. Neither of them has touched me at all but for a brush, which gave me little information other than the fact that he isn’t pleased with having to bring me here. Christ, baby, I’m coming. As Awnia was pulled into the building by her hair now, she said nothing. The cuffs at her wrists prevented her from touching the men, and she thought they knew that as well. As soon as she was tossed into a cage, she had a feeling that no matter how quickly he got there, Vinnie was going to be too late. Closing her eyes, she tried to calm herself before she hurt her captors and herself trying to get away. “Hello, goddess.” The voice behind her had her opening her eyes. She knew it. And him. He was someone from her past that she’d hoped to never encounter again. The Mad Hatter had hurt her badly before. “So you’ve been working with my friend, Steven, I see.” The young man who had accosted her on the street was jerked in front of her. He grinned at her as he pulled the money from the blue envelope. Steven was stuffing it into his pocket after kissing it when he was shot in the head. Awnia didn’t even feel badly for the man. He’d made his bed, and now he was going to be buried in it. “You know that I did not have a thing to do with him. He is your pawn—your dead pawn—and we both know it.” She didn’t turn toward the man but tried to think how to get out of the bonds at her wrist. “You are supposed to be dead. I think the last time we were together, you pissed me off and I hurt you.” “And thanks to you, I was nearly killed.” He stepped in front of her, and she could only stare. “You did a bang-up job on making sure that no one would come near me, though, didn’t you? Do you have any idea how long it took me to even look like this? You ruined me when you touched me that day. And now, my dear goddess, you’re going to make me a very wealthy man.” “I should have killed you.” The cuff on her right wrist opened when she heated it up. It was only steel, and the melting point was a good deal less than she could heat up to. Then the other. When she stood up, Hatter, as she had always called him, scrambled back quickly. “This will not happen again, Hatter. I will not help you in any way. I won’t let her kill me, and I certainly won’t let you take me easily. Not ever. Do you hear me?”
“Oh yes, I can hear you. And so you say about not helping me. I’ve got you right now, and you’re going to do as I say for a change.” The blast hit her in the back. It wasn’t a bullet but something powerful, like magic…cold, hard magic. The second time it hit her, she fell forward and put her hands on the bars. They started to heat from her fear and pain. Hatter tried to shove her back by using a piece of wood, of all things, and it caught fire almost immediately. Stupid man didn’t know you didn’t bring a weapon of wood to a fire fight? The heat in her hands burned through the bars, and as they melted, her body took its true shape. Hot and molten, she looked at Hatter through the haze of heat. As people screamed, she knew that Hatter had gotten away, but it was too late for her to go for him now. As she soared to the sky, her body in no shape to heal itself, she hoped that Vinnie would find her soon. ~~~ “Come on, baby, talk to me.” Hawk ran his hands over the hood of the car and purred to it again. “You know I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me.” The voice sputtered to life, and he had to smile. The thing was English-made and the voice that told him where she hurt was very British. Hawk knew that soon he’d be able to repair the damage done to this vintage machine, and more than likely add her to his collection. Hawk loved all things old, especially older cars. Someone just about burned me up. I needed some lubricant under my boot, yet they ignored it for the pleasure of a woman. He knew that there was heat to the engine just before it had been injured. The person who had owned it before Hawk picked it up at an auction house had been horrific to the beautiful thing. The old car would be running again soon, he hoped. He wanted to see this thing out on the open road again. “Where else do you hurt, baby?” Hawk heard someone say his name, but he for the most part ignored it. He was busy and was pretty sure that whoever it was knew it. The sign on the door would have stopped most people when they read Stay The Fuck Out. But then, Samuel wasn’t most people. “Hawk, Vinnie needs you.” Hawk turned to look at Samuel. There was fear there, and he took his hands off the car with an apology to it. Hawk was wiping down his hands as Samuel continued. “He was contacted by a friend of his, and she’s in major trouble. He needs you to be his ground crew. They both—he and Abbie—are in the sky looking over the city now.” “Where?” Hawk was already moving toward his car when Samuel spoke again. He turned slowly. “Where did you say?” “Erie County, New York. He said that you had a history there.” That was an understatement if there ever was one. “That’s why he sent me to find you and not just contact you. I’m supposed to give you this.” Hawk knew what it was as soon as Samuel put out his hand. He wasn’t sure he wanted to touch it, but knew that in order to help his friend, he’d need it. Hawk looked at Samuel, not touching the beautifully-carved gold stone that lay in his hand. The chain alone was worth more than he had in his bank right now.
“She’s not human.” Samuel nodded. “I’ve never met her, but I know a great deal about what she is. Did he tell you anything about her?” “All he told me was that you could find her when no one else could, and that it was important to everyone that you did.” Hawk nodded. “What is she?” “A sun goddess.” Hawk said the name with reverence. A goddess of any kind was something that frightened him to no end, but this woman, this goddess, was scary all on her own. “She is said to be able to heat the world to nothing. To be able to kill a man with just a look. She is, in a word, scary. Anyone fucking with her has to have some major balls. Or a brain the size of a pea. More than likely both. A goddess of the sun is no one to fuck with.” “A goddess?” Hawk nodded and shut the door to his car as soon as he opened it. If Vinnie needed him to help find the goddess, his car would do him no good. “I must shift and take to the skies. Will you see to my baby here? Cover her up and store her for me?” “Yes. You know that I will.” Hawk nodded and looked at the medallion still in Samuel’s hand. “Will you take it? I know that you’ll have a connection to it, but there’s no hope for it, Vinnie said. She means a great deal to him, apparently.” “I have no choice.” As he reached for it, he had a thought that Samuel too would have her connection, and wondered what the big lion would be able to do now. The touch of the stone, her stone, had been the downfall of many. Samuel, he knew, would not be touched by the madness. Vinnie had told him a great deal about his friend…not her name of course—Hawk didn’t do well with names—but everything else about her. The touch was cold at first. Hawk took it into his hand and felt it warm up. As soon as the stone heated his hand to the point of pain, he had what he needed, but still he held it. Closing his eyes, he saw her even as he shifted to soar above the trees. She is injured. By…magic that is not hers. Hawk moved closer to her in his mind and saw that she’d been not just hurt, but nearly killed. Her fire burned to repair her, but she was much too close to water to heal properly. It was cooling her faster than she could heal herself. I can see her near a body of water, a large one by the looks of it. There is a forest that will soon burn if no one comes for her. Her breathing is slow, but I’m not sure if it’s more to do with the fact that she’s hurt or that she’s slowing her body down to heal. Can you tell me if she’s being followed or not? There might be a man. He’d have a scar on most of the left side of his face. There will be magic around him, not white but black. As black as you can think of. He told Vinnie she was near shutting down to conserve energy. Abbie wants to know if you’re coming. No, I can’t go that far as my hawk. I’ve been working in the garage and that takes a lot out of us both. But there is someone. A man is coming for her. I can’t see him, Vinnie. I can feel his hatred of her, but can’t see him because of the aura that surrounds him. He focused on the man’s face, trying hard to make it out, but all he could see was the scar. He has been burned by her before, that much I can see. His face wears the marks of her touch. I’m telling Abbie now. When Vinnie came back to him, he’d been laughing, and that made Hawk smile. Vinnie was one of his best friends, and he loved the man’s sense of
humor. She said that you should come to us now. That if she tears into this guy, she might need you to pick her teeth clean. Hawk nodded and moved in the direction of where the dragons were. He had lied to his friend about being able to fly that far, and he was pretty sure that Vinnie knew it. There were too many memories of his hometown that he just didn’t want to bring up again. Erie County was a place that had never held any good things for him. As he spread his wings and moved east, he wondered if things were going to be any different, and knew that they wouldn’t be. His parents still lived there. Maybe he’d be lucky and they’d be gone, and he could have a nice visit with the household cook and butler…the people who had made his survival easier as a kid. Hawk had been an only child. Which, he supposed, was lucky for any other siblings that might have been born before or after him. His parents, Frederick and Bambi Hawkmen, had never wanted anyone to mar their perfect life. But a child, he’d heard someone say about his parents, had made them a much softer couple. Whatever the hell that meant, since all he’d ever felt from them was stone cold hatred. And he had been a blot on their life since the first time he had showed them what he could do. A recessive gene, they’d been told when he’d been taken to the doctors to have his magic taken from him. And when the man said it was more than likely from the mother’s side, he’d been fired, his license revoked, and his entire family put up for ridicule. No one put his parents in a slot with others. They were as perfect as the word implied. Nothing would ever dare mar their lives. His parents did not want to hear that they were at fault for his deformities. As he grew older, from toddler to teenager, his abilities were harder and harder for them to hide, so they hid him instead. It had gotten so bad at one point that his mother, his dear sainted mother, had hired a man to kill him while he was playing on the ball field. And had Hawk not moved when he had, the bullet meant to take his head off would have ended her misery once and for all. But it did make cutting his ties with them so much easier a few days later. So at sixteen he’d left them arguing with the hit man about payment. Hawk, are you still with us? Hawk had to shake his body to rid himself of the terror of his thoughts to answer Vinnie. There are two bodies of water here, and neither of them seem to be hot. I know we’re close, but I don’t want to land to search for her if we don’t have to. Her body lies with a crest of waterways. You should…do you see the two lakes? Where they are the closest they can be without touching? Vinnie told him he did. At the tip of Lake Erie you will see a stand of trees. She is beneath them. The water is keeping her cooled. I think it is why she cannot heal herself. She can’t heal herself, I’m thinking, but I can help her…there are the lakes. Okay, I see it now. Vinnie laughed. You are good, my man. I see her body now. I will carry her to somewhere safe. I have spoken to Samuel. He has agreed for us to take her there, to the large barn at the back of his property. Are you using it? I am, but you must take her there. The man who follows her path is on his way. He’s following her heat. Vinnie asked if he was taking care of him. I will detain him, but not kill him. I know that she’s your friend, but he’s done nothing to me. I cannot harm him in any way.
I understand. I just appreciate any help you can give us with this. This guy means harm to someone that is dear to me. We’ll see you back at the house then. Hawk told him he would. I know how hard it was for you to think of this place again. You’re coming here, I can tell. Are you going to go and see them? No. I will not if I can avoid it. But he knew that he would. It was something that he did when he was feeling lost…go and see his parents, or at least where they lived. And to visit with his friends there. He never spoke to his parents, only watched them from afar. I will see you soon. The car that was going for the girl was easy to deal with. When it stopped with his passengers at a light, Hawk asked the car, a big SUV, to help him along. The car asked in return that Hawk find him a part that he so needed, and Hawk assured him that he would. When the car sputtered and stopped running, Hawk thanked him again and left for the house he’d grown up in. Landing in a big tree at the end of the property, Hawk watched the house. It had changed very little in the years, but it did look different. The pool was a new addition, he noticed. The trees surrounding the house were much bigger, and one of them—the one he’d used to climb out of his room when he needed freedom—was gone. Moving closer to the house, Hawk made his way to the one place where he knew he could enter the home, and slipped into the small broken brick as a mouse. As soon as he was inside, he shifted back to human and moved to the stairs. He was one of the few shifters he knew that could keep his clothing when he went from animal to human again. Touching the rail, he knew that his mother had been down here recently. Hawk did wonder why…there was nothing of fashion down here. She’d never do her own wash, and storing things was not her job. Hawk moved up the stairs to the door to the kitchen. As he moved up the stairs, he knew why she’d ventured down here. She’d been hiding a gift for his father…a watch that he’d wanted for a long time. Like he needed another one. With a touch to the lock, he opened the door and moved inside. There was no one in the big kitchen. The memories of this room, all of them good, made him smile. On the large table in the middle were several loaves of homemade bread, still steaming from the oven. It must be Wednesday, he thought with a smile. Her baking day. As he stood wondering if he should slice him a piece, Margo, the old cook, walked into the room. She didn’t even pause in her movements to the counter with her beans from her garden. But as soon as she put them in the sink, she turned to him. “Master Hawk.” He was pulled to her ample bosom in a bear like hug, which was always surprising to him, knowing what she was as a shifter. Hawk had always loved this old woman, and hugged her as tightly as she did him. When she pulled back from him, he could see the tears. “I have missed you too.” She waved him off as she moved to the counter. When she turned, the large knife in her hand made him sit down at the table. It was her bread slicing knife, and he knew he was going to get an unexpected treat. “If you tell me this is for some party and I can’t have any, I’m going to cry like I used to when you teased me with such a lie.”
“No parties here for a few more days, and we’ll not be working it, I think. But you and I, we’ll have some ripe jam too. And before you wonder, they’re gone. The two of them ran off just this morning.” He nodded and watched as she sliced thick slices of the hot bread for them both and then handed him the tub of butter. “Make sure you put enough on them to soak them. You know how I love it.” He put enough butter on her slice to have her arteries clogging. When the door opened, the one that came from the garage, Hawk knew that Deacon, Margo’s husband, had come to join them. His slice of bread wasn’t buttered, but smeared with apple butter he had set on the table before washing his hands. He gave Hawk a hardy handshake and a good pat on the back. Hawk had missed this from the two of them. “You well, boy?” Hawk nodded, and he took a healthy bite of the bread. “Heard tell you’d been killed some time back. It was in all the papers. We figured that your parents done had that done. No cause for that as far as we could see. You never bothered them no more.” “I read it too.” He ate his slice even as Margo sliced several more for them. “Do you know if I had a nice funeral? Did any of my friends show up?” He didn’t have any friends and they all knew it. At least none that lived around here. Deacon smiled and nodded. He told him of the huge crowd that had come by after the graveside services, and that he and his missus had had to clean up after them when they’d come back here to have their social hour. “You really are doing well? No mate yet?” Hawk shook his head. Deacon and Margo had known what he was from birth. Both of them were shifters too, but not like him. He was what had been referred to as an elite shifter. Hawk could shift into anything. “No one. Vinnie and I are still together. He has himself a mate now. You’d like her. She’s a golden dragon.” Both of them were impressed and sent their love to the big dragon and his family. “I have a pride now. Not really mine, but a man that I admire and respect. His name is Samuel. Samuel Payne. His pack has a rag-tag group of different species, but he is fair.” “Good man, you say? Treats the people who are under him with understanding then?” Hawk nodded as he devoured his fourth piece of bread. “We’re looking. Me and the missus, we’re looking for a place to call home. These people your parents are turning away, tossing out of their ‘pack,’ they’ll come your way in the next few months, we figure. Your parents don’t think we know it yet, but we heard they were looking for replacements.” Hawk felt his anger surge forward. It was one thing to turn him out, but these people had made his stay here, his life here as a younger man, bearable. He wondered if his parents had any idea what this couple did for them daily. He doubted that they even knew their names, and they’d worked for his parents for at least the thirty years of his life. “I’ll talk to Samuel. I’m sure he won’t have a problem with it. His mate, Kennedy, is Irish, and her grandmother, Lady Dani, is a hoot. You’ll love them.” Deacon thanked
him and asked him how long before he knew. “You think they plan to move you out that quickly?” “I do.” Deacon looked at his mate before continuing. “Last week we were told that we’d no longer be living in the little house. Me and the missus had ten days to find us somewhere else to live. We had to move into a hotel.” “You’ll come stay with me. I have a place. It’s really too big for me alone, and I’d love to have you there.” Deacon stood up, and Hawk could feel his sorrow. “You’ll go now and be there in a couple of days, all right?” “We’ll leave today. There’s nothing here to keep us. We’d only been…we was kinda hoping you’d come to see us once more before we got gone.” Hawk nodded and wrote down his address. Deacon said they’d leave within the hour, when the house was locked up. He figured that they’d be there in a couple of days at the very least. As Hawk took to the skies again, this time with a much lighter heart, he made his way to his house rather than back to the garage where Samuel let him store the cars and such. As soon as he landed in the yard, he looked around. This would be good for Deacon and Margo. He thought they’d like it much better than his parents’ house. They might even be able to get that tangle of a garden under control. “Anyone would like it much better.” He moved to the door and pressed his hand against the wood. No one could enter his home without his permission. And that was what had kept him safe wherever he went. Hawk was nothing if not cautious.