BARNES AND NOBLE
Finally free to follow his own path, 17 year old Charlie Cuvier and his best friend Jay, a grizzly shapeshifter, discover their California journey could be throwing them in the path of some seriously dangerous characters. When they reach LA, they help out a girl in trouble, attracting the attention of an ancient creature with an alarming agenda all his own.
Spoiler Alert: The lead character in this book, Charlie, is someone you meet for the first time in book 5 of the Rogues Shifter Series. If you haven't read that series first, then he's kind of a spoiler unto himself. You can definitely still enjoy this book without ever reading the other series, but if you decide to read the other after this one, then....oops. Well, anyway, you have been warned.
Breaking Out: Triad Series Book One
"Jay, we're on."
"Cool. See ya in sixty."
I pulled the sleeping bag and fully loaded backpack off the floor of my closet and yanked my leather jacket off the hook. This was it and I was ready.
For six months--six months—we'd been preparing for this journey, reading backpacker blogs and studying maps of the Sierras and the California coastline. Jay and I’d spent dozens of late-night hours in the back booths of the Gasquet Deli, eating burgers and fries and arguing over details.
Once a week I’d sneak out of my house at midnight, Jay urging me to wear black and act “normal”—whatever that was for a total freak-of-nature like me. He’d arrive on his bike, a sweet machine rebuilt by a local leopard Jay met at a motorcycle show in Oakland. He’d hide it a quarter mile from the deli so the people in town wouldn’t be disturbed at 1:00 am by the loud engine. Then he’d jog the rest of the way.
I’d usually show up a couple of minutes early via the ley lines, kind of like teleporting, only you were moving through magical energy to get where you wanted to go, not quantum energy like in the movies. It was a mode of travel only available to supernaturals with demon or fae blood. Lucky me—I had both. Throw in some shapeshifter and you got my version of normal.
All this time we thought we’d been keepin’ our game plans under the radar, 007-style. ‘Course there we were, a couple of young guys hanging out in a well-lit, all-night coffee shop in a territory where supernaturals had settled by the thousands. Even with hats and hoods we must’ve been easy to pin out—it was a pretty small town—and the random shifter or werewolf in the next booth could’ve overheard our sometimes-heated discussions. I’d mentioned that fact to Jay, suggesting more secluded locales, but he shrugged it off. I think he wasn’t willing to give up his midnight snack: a heaping plate of his favorite burgers. Typical bear.
So far no one knew how I was able to sneak out of my house to get to these meetings, not even Jay, and I was planning on keeping my secret.
I re-read my dad’s note, smiling as I stuck it in one of my pack’s zippered compartments. Yep, we’d been busted big time by not only my dad, but also Jay’s. To be honest, I was relieved I’d gotten the okay from at least one of my parents, although I'd much rather have been up front about the whole thing. In the note, it was clear Dad trusted me to be smart enough to keep my head and not get into trouble.
My brows collided as I pulled a sweatshirt off the floor, gave it a quick sniff and stuffed it roughly into the backpack. Mom was another story. She expected me to stick close to home, even now that I was an adult. She'd managed to forget the fact that at the same age she’d been mated to Dad and putting herself in dangerous situations on a weekly basis. She'd even fought a duel with a three hundred year old vampire, turning him to ash in front of his even older and scarier maker.
Now I was seventeen and ready to do my part, but that fact didn’t seem to make a dent in her obsession with my safety. If I’d told her my plans to leave, she would’ve done everything in her power to keep me right here, including calling in Lord Caelen or his son, Aedus, the newest Cascade Fae Elder. Either of them could’ve tossed my ass into Faerie where they’d have a lot more control over what I did and where I went. Dad might have spoken up for me, but it would’ve caused an all-out family battle and in the end he would’ve backed Mom.
I didn’t have the stomach for that kind of scene.
Lucky for me, Mom and Dad were spending a few nights in San Francisco. They hardly ever took time off to be alone, so when he’d asked, Mom jumped at the chance. Man, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes when she finds out I’ve gone and he knew about it. I hope he doesn’t tell her until they get back home, ‘cause he’ll probably be sleeping in a guest room for the next month.
Besides my parents being out of town, I also lucked out because of the huge fiasco at the Faerie Court with Lord Kennet and King Finvarra. For once in my life I wasn't being guarded, since all my regular watchers were needed at court. As Isaiah would say, an unexpected opportunity should never be wasted.
As I strapped the sleeping bag to the backpack, I grunted in frustration. Cutting out in this sneaky way meant I wouldn't have a chance to say goodbye to my friends. I imagined that Linn, a fae princess I’d known my entire life, would be sad—then furious. She was my best friend in Faerie, although she’d always seemed to want more than friendship. Grady, my quarter-fae cousin would be happy for me, but also disappointed he hadn’t had a chance to ask me to interview any fae I might happen to run into during my trip. He’d taken a consuming interest in the history of the fae and more recently, the demonic races.
I sent out a silent message to the gods that I would not run into any fae or demons while we were on the move. Last thing I wanted was to find myself in a dangerous situation with everyone at home acting smug about how foolish I’d been to leave home.
Liam, Grady’s dad, and Sasha and Rick, two vampires in my dad’s nest, would probably want to hang me up by my balls for hurting Mom. I winced at the visual, deciding to discuss extending our trip a little longer than I’d planned, just so they’d have a chance to calm down.
If Isaiah, my demonic great-uncle and sometimes trainer, were here, he’d probably punch me in the shoulder and wish me luck. My shoulder would hurt for a week, but it was his way of showing he was proud of me.
And Mom, well, she’ll be hurt and angry, but that was nothing new where I was concerned. We’d argued a lot over the last year, mostly over me having a life.
I pushed the hair out of my face, staring at myself in the mirror. I looked like him, Lord Kennet, my birth father, especially now that I was full-grown. Same light hair. Same eyes. My mouth and nose were more like Mom’s, but there was enough of a resemblance that people commented on it. It hurt to think I was a constant reminder of the fae who’d raped and beaten her and gotten her pregnant.
I took care of a few things in the bathroom, splashing water on my face to get my thoughts back in gear. This time when I looked at my reflection, I saw a determined male staring back. My decision had been made. Continuing to live my life in this comfortable prison was no longer an option for me.
Using a magical skill I’d learned from Isaiah, I morphed my blonde hair to auburn and my purple eyes to dark blue. Checking my profile, I lengthened my nose, forming a small bump as if it’d been broken in a fight, and squaring off my jaw. To top things off I switched my scent from cheetah to leopard, making me seem like one of the most common breeds of shapeshifter.
I nodded at my work, inspecting each element one more time to be sure. Jay was good-looking in that all-American kind of way that a lot of girls went for, and easy going around most guys, never seeming threatening despite his size. No one would be noticing me and that was just the way I wanted it.
Huffing out an excited burst of air, I adjusted the straps on the pack, threading them over my shoulders to recheck the balance. So this was it. I was officially done with this whole "Savior of the Supernatural World" cloud I'd lived under for seventeen years. I grinned for the first time today.
Whining noises had me walking to my door and opening it. “That you, boy?” Our Rottweiler trotted in, sniffed around and licked my hand. “Hey, Samson. You know I’m going, right? I’m sorry, I can’t take you with me, boy.”
I almost fell on the floor in shock when he growled at me. Samson had been my best bud my whole life. He’d never growled at me, not once. What was up? Was he sick or something?
I sensed her even before I smelled her familiar floral scent. It usually made me smile to see her, but today? Not so much. "I was wondering when you'd show up, Sinlae.” There was no way she’d allow me to sneak away without saying goodbye.
She didn’t waste time before dishing out orders. “You must take Samson. He is your cu sith.” The dog in question began furiously wagging his tail, his growling having stopped the minute he saw the tiny pixie materialize over my dresser.
“No, he’s my mom’s.” A cu sith was a faerie dog who protected a particular person. They lived longer than a normal canine and were magically gifted with better fighting skills and more acute senses. He’d saved my mom’s life a couple of times and had been a part of the Wild Hunt that went after Lord Kennet.
“He is yours now, I am certain. Your mother no longer has need of him now that Lord Snakeskin is gone. Both of your parents will feel more confident about your journey if you are protected.”
I almost laughed out loud, deciding at the last second to zip my trap. Sinlae would scold me if she thought I wasn’t taking her advice seriously, even though her nickname for Kennet always cracked me up.
Lifting my chin, I drew myself up to my full height. When a guy does battle with a pixie it’s best to show a lot of confidence. They’re tougher and deadlier than most full-grown werewolves and more stubborn than a bear shifter. “I can take care of myself and you know that’s the truth.” My combo of powers gave me a huge advantage over most supes and it wasn’t too likely that Jay or I would have a run in with any of the more dangerous magical creatures.
The little schemer’s eyes narrowed in thought. “Samson would protect Jason as well.”
Oh, she knew how to dig in the knife, all right. Jay’s safety was my primary concern. Yeah, he was 6’4” in human form, and shifted into a six hundred and fifty pound grizzly bear, but besides the small amount of power all shifters were born with, he had no magic.
He also had no agenda other than to have a cool adventure with me out on the road. He didn’t expect me to chose sides between the fae and demon camps or hone my skills in preparation for the prophesized war and he especially didn’t want to talk politics. Nope, Jay was the perfect travel buddy: fun to hang with, good in an emergency, and completely loyal. There’d be no bullshit between us. I was plenty sick of all the intrigue I’d grown up around.
Samson nudged against my knee, reminding me that we were discussing him. “What would I do with the big mutt? Not every territory is pet friendly.” Samson licked my hand, not taking offence at being called a mutt.
“Charles, you know as well as I that he adapts with ease, sleeping anywhere, even in the pouring rain. He can walk for miles, travel with you through the lines, and run much faster than you might imagine. He is also able to hunt his own food, although he is also pleased to consume whatever you are eating.”
“Yeah, he’s a regular food bandit.” There’d been many a time when I’d turned my back for a second and one of my steaks had disappeared. He always left me at least one, but I’d taken to making extras.
After a few seconds spent thinking it over, I noticed her smiling smugly. She knew she had me with the “protecting Jay” comment. “Fine. I’ll take him. But if he doesn’t work out, I’m bringing him back and dumping him in your favorite flower bed with orders to dig it up.” Over the years I’d found it was unwise to disregard her advice, because when I did, I'd usually end up in some kind of trouble. Trouble on the road, just Jay and me alone, was nothing to take lightly.
“And if you dare to do such a thing to my perfect gardens you and Samson will be sleeping with a bed full of ticks and fleas for the next month.” Her face had pinked up in outrage, but when she saw my smile, she sighed. “You were such a sweet young child, laughing all the time, always so polite.” After having spoken the prophecy that everyone made such a big deal over, Sinlae had watched over my family and me with great care from the moment I entered the world.
“I can pull out manners when they suit me, Lady Sinlae.” I nodded with deep respect and smiled.
“It doesn’t suit you often enough, these days.”
“And why aren’t you sounding the alarm? The villa vamps could be here in a flash."
The tiny pixie buzzed around my head. "Perhaps I should, but I have seen that you benefit from this journey in a way you cannot imagine. So I will leave you to wallow in your self-righteous anger with two small bits of advice. Trust your true instincts and stay in communication so all know you are safe. If I were you, I would not wish to be dragged back here by Kaera or Aedus. They would not be gentle with you or Jay."
I had to agree. Those two warriors would kick my butt. "They won't find us."
"They will." She crossed her arms and pouted.
“I have tricks up my sleeve even you don’t know about.”
“How can one so young be so blasted cheeky?”
“I learned from the best.”
She giggled in her musical way. "You will call your lady mother on a regular basis.”
"They’ll know where I am." I pointed out. Phone records weren’t that hard to get.
"You will call each moon cycle or I will come myself to drag you back." This time I laughed out loud. “I have tricks up my sleeve even you know nothing about,” she snapped.
"Fine. I’ll call. But not from my cell." I scowled at her, angry at the thought of living within boundaries, different but still restrictive. I was on my way to freedom, a place where the rules I’d lived by no longer applied to me.
"You will swear this?"
She fluttered by my nose, her wings bringing up a steady breeze, her hands on her hips. "Yes, on my blood. You're impossible to argue with."
"My males all say the same," she smirked, spinning around in the air and landing gracefully on the dresser.
"Are you going to tell them about our training sessions?" I asked. She’d taught me how to mask my scent, a skill that would be coming in handy during our trip. Even though I’d switched my scent to leopard, there were some creatures I’d rather thought I was a human and not a supe at all.
Sinlae buzzed in front of my mirror smoothing back her hair and checking to see that her gown was presentable. "No. I will say nothing because I do not wish to be sent back to Faerie where I will be forced to pull weeds. Here my garden is a work of art, and my males are kept busy day and night." She teased me with a wink and a mischievous smile.
“They are fortunate to have such a lovely mate.” Female pixies loved compliments.
“Indeed.” Her expression grew serious. "Your lady mother will suffer. No matter how angry you are with her, you must leave her a loving note. I insist on this."
I glanced at the floor, embarrassed that I hadn’t thought to write one myself. I was pissed off, but I wouldn’t be cruel. "Yes, sure. Thanks Sinlae...for everything." I bowed with my hand on my heart in the fae manner, showing her great respect.
She smiled back coquettishly. "Good journey to you, Charles Liam William Cuvier, Seelie Fae Warrior, Cheetahkin and Demonspawn. I will see you again at journey's end." She disappeared, and a few minutes later, so did I.
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