The Shifter Chronicles, Book 11
Agent Pan has spent most of his adult life protecting shape-shifters from the Knights—an organization bent on their annihilation—and keeping the secret war in the shadows where it belongs. But the Knights are growing bolder, and a new threat has resurfaced after being buried in the ocean for decades.
An ancient scroll, a key to a devastating weapon, is now in the hands of a recalcitrant Russian hawk shifter named Viktor. As a bird shifter, he knows his duty is to protect the scroll, but he wants nothing to do with the war. He leads a quiet life and wants to keep it that way. But when agents come knocking on his door, he finds it difficult to resist the charms of Agent Pan, especially since this isn’t their first meeting.
Two years earlier they spent a passionate weekend together, neither aware of the other’s true identity. Viktor never really got over Pan. Now with sexual tension at its peak, they must learn to trust each other and work as a team to protect not only their loved ones, but every shifter in the world.
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay, Pansexual
Tropes: Fated Mates / Soul Mates
Word Count: 54,994
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Tommy called dibs on the bathroom after Pan emerged from it. It was a small hotel room, but they wouldn’t be staying long. The clerk had leered at them, but Pan gave him enough money to keep his mouth shut. Pan limped over to where Jin stood, wondering when Lila would arrive. They were finally in Portland, Oregon, and after Lila healed him, they would go find Tommy’s girlfriend, and hopefully the damn scroll.
“How do you want to play this?” Pan asked Jin as he carefully sat on the bed. His ribs were killing him.
Jin regarded him silently. Pan knew from personal experience Jin’s placid Japanese features hid a quick and deadly mind. Pan liked to tease Jin that he was a modern ninja—which seemed to fit since he always wore tight black clothing—but his partner of five years never seemed pleased by that comparison. One time he said he’d rather be a samurai.
“Know all the players,” he said simply.READ MORE
Pan nodded. “Agreed. What did Tommy say Stacey’s brother’s name was again?”
“Right. Hawk shifter.” Pan sighed. “He’s not going to give up that scroll easily, Jin. With any other shifter, we stand half a chance. But with a bird shifter? They see it as their duty, if the legends are to be believed.”
“We always believe the legends,” Jin said.
Pan smirked. “And this scroll has been lost for centuries. I really don’t know what Captain Odin expects us to do. I mean, we want shifters as allies, right? We’re fighting this war for them.”
“For the world,” Jin said softly. He didn’t often interrupt, and it always threw Pan off his stride.
“Right. The world.” Pan shook his head. A few strands of dark hair fell out of his ponytail into his brown eyes, and he absently brushed them away. “Got any ideas how to convince a bird shifter to abandon his sacred duty?”
Jin shrugged elegantly.
Pan snorted. “You’re no help.”
The mission was complicated from the start. From the moment Derek’s pack called the Agency to request assistance against the Knights, Pan felt like he’d been jumping from one foot to the other, never finding his balance. The Agency only recently found archival evidence of the existence of four ancient scrolls, but the accounts were vague and incomplete. All the information was garnered by second or thirdhand sources. No agent had ever seen one of the magical scrolls.
What information they had came from an agent’s chance encounter with a shark shifter and his human mate in the late 1970s. The pair had hunted for one of the scrolls. A scroll in the possession of Diana Knight—Arcas’s mother. The mother of the man who started this entire war. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. There were always those who feared and hated shifters, who sought their annihilation. Then there were those like Pan and Jin, people with special abilities, who always tried to stop them.
But Arcas organized those haters. Trained them. Gave them missions and purpose. And he was still out there. Plotting. It was ironic in a fucked-up way that knights and agents were descended from the same ancestors: the fae. An ancient tribe of magical creatures that eventually mated with humans, diluting their powers. While most humans had some fae DNA, only some manifested powers and could become either a knight or an agent. They were essentially family on opposite sides of the war.
Pan clenched his hands into fists. The four scrolls were said to be keys to a weapon of destruction—a weapon that would eradicate shifters from the face of the Earth. But Pan suspected it would do more than that. He doubted Arcas only wanted shifters gone. He wanted world domination. Who was to say he wouldn’t use the weapon against all those he didn’t like? Genocidal maniacs didn’t just stop, especially when they tasted power. They found new targets for their hateful rage.
That was why he and Jin were in Oregon. That was why their captain had charged them with the task of finding one of the scrolls—one Tommy and his girlfriend, Stacey, had stolen from a museum—and returning it to the Agency for safety. Arcas’s right-hand man, Gregor, was still at large, as were an unknown number of knights. For any shifter to have possession of a scroll was to paint a target on their backs.
“We could inform them of the immediacy of the danger,” Pan said. “Gregor knows what Tommy and Stacey look like. He knows who you and I are and what we can do. There’s no way the scroll can stay hidden with Viktor.”
Jin’s mouth, often immobile, twisted as though he tasted something disgusting. “Yes. Anu made sure to expose us all.”
Pan’s jaw tightened at the mere mention of their traitorous former chief. Anu had been in league with Arcas. He fed Arcas information on the Agency that had helped Arcas stay hidden and free from capture. But now the bastard Anu was imprisoned, and they had a new and better chief in charge.
Chief Hera was once captain of the women’s squad of international agents. She’d competently taken the chief’s mantle and decisively taken steps to broaden the Agency’s effectiveness and networking. Where before they worked in the shadows, even out of sight of the shifters they helped, now they were contacting large packs, clans, and herds, attempting to set up a network of allies and observers. The Knights were disbanded and their headquarters raided, yet there were still units working globally, carrying on their ugly campaign.
Pan rubbed his sore ribs in memory of the fight with Gregor. He’d nearly lost. He would have died if not for Jin. Pan was no pushover—he was at the top of his class—so the reminder of his mortality was humbling. He lifted his shirt and noted the nasty bruises over his olive skin. He couldn’t stop himself from poking them and winced at the tenderness.
“We need to be honest with Viktor,” Jin said, yanking Pan out of his troubled thoughts and from aggravating his injuries. “Chief Hera wants us to build relationships of trust and respect between the Agency and shifters. The only way we can do that is to give some trust and respect ourselves.”
That was probably one of the longest speeches Jin had made in months. He wasn’t a talker.
Pan nodded. “Cool. I’m in.”
Tommy walked out of the bathroom just then, looking a little better but still too pale, his skin whiter than its normal shade. His blue eyes also showed the strain and exhaustion they were all feeling. His shaggy black hair had stuck up everywhere when they arrived, but now he’d smoothed it back.
“Why are we waiting here again?” he asked as he approached them.
“Lila’s coming,” Jin said.
At Tommy’s confused look, Pan expanded on Jin’s explanation. “Lila is an agent who has the ability to heal most any injury. She can speed up the body’s natural healing process. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m kinda banged up here. So are you, by the careful way you’re walking. I don’t know what the next days or weeks will bring, so we need to be at the top of our game.”
Tommy’s mouth had dropped when Pan mentioned Lila’s ability. Now he snapped it shut and nodded. “Got it.”
“I know you want to see Stacey,” Pan said gently. “You will. Lila should be here any minute. Just be patient a little longer.”
Tommy nodded, this time more reluctantly. Tommy had called Stacey the day before on Pan’s cell to reassure her he was fine. But Pan cut the conversation short and made sure neither of them exposed their location. Perhaps it was being paranoid, but Pan didn’t want anything to jeopardize anyone’s safety. It relieved him to know Stacey was safe and on the way to her brother. That meant the scroll was safe.
“What can you tell me about Viktor?” Pan asked.
Tommy sighed and was silent for moment, obviously giving the question a lot of thought.
“He’s a good man. A little gruff and cynical at times. But really good. He didn’t have to take me in and care for me, you know? I, um… Well, I tried to steal from his shop. He runs a high-end antique shop, and I tried to steal a rare Roman coin. I think it was Roman. Anyway, he caught me. He could have called the cops on me, but….” Tommy shrugged.
“How old were you?” Pan asked.
Tommy scratched the back of his head. “Fifteen.”
“We’ve all been there.”
Tommy frowned at Pan, who kept his smile light, though inside memories tried to break free. He firmly stamped them down.
“So after that he made me a deal. If I worked around his shop for free—without stealing anything—he’d give me free room and board and teach me some skills to help me survive in the ‘civilized’ world. Those were his exact words. He also insisted I go back to school.” Tommy snorted. “Oh, he’s from Russia too.”
A Russian hawk named Viktor, Pan mused. Something tickled, like a faded memory, at the back of his mind, but he brushed it aside to focus on the here and now.
“Viktor’s real protective of his sister,” Tommy said emphatically. “He adores her. I think that’s why he’s so against me being with her. No one’s good enough, you know?” He grimaced. “And this whole situation is going to make it so much worse. I really don’t think he’s going to be pleased to see you guys. Especially if he thinks protecting the scroll is his duty. From the way Stacey kept going on about the connection between bird shifters and the scrolls, I have to think it’s the truth. Just a warning: he’s big, burly, and… well, Russian.”
Pan snorted a laugh. “We’ll keep that in mind.” He looked at Jin. “Why don’t you call Mac and see if he can find any info on possible units in Oregon? It’d be nice to know what we might encounter.”
Jin nodded and stepped away as he pulled out his phone.
“What do you mean?” Tommy asked.
Pan winced as he tried to find a comfortable way to sit on the bed. He wouldn’t usually answer such a question—he was sworn to secrecy regarding Agency business—but times were changing, weren’t they? And Tommy should know what they were up against. Pan wasn’t sure how much longer Tommy would be involved in this mess. None of them were out of danger yet. And he firmly believed preparation for anything and everything was the key to success. Knowledge was truly the greatest power in the world.
“A few months back, the Agency raided the Knights’ headquarters. We fractured the organization and captured a lot of knights, but even more escaped. While they destroyed a lot of their own files, we recovered about half. Since then we’ve been working around the clock, trying to organize them. Some are encrypted, and you can’t decipher a code without a key. Anyway, there might be info in one of those files that indicates if there’s a unit of Knights stationed in Oregon. If we can locate that, then we can prevent a problem before it becomes a problem. You get it?”
“A good defense is a good offense.”
Pan smiled with approval. “Exactly.”
Someone knocked at their door. Tommy grew tense, and Pan gave him a reassuring smile. Jin got off the phone and opened the door. Lila, a young woman of plain looks but keen eyes, stepped inside. She zeroed in on Pan.
“Time to play Doctor.”
Pan grinned. “My favorite game.”COLLAPSE
It has been quite a while since I lost myself in the intrigue and adventures of one of ‘The Shifters’ books. I read the first ten in the series fairly quickly and now I've had to wait to see what's going on with the Agency, the Knights, the lost scrolls, and all of my favorite characters. Having just met Agent Pan in the previous installment, I was interested to see what journey the author was going to take me on.
Imagine coming face to face with a guy you had some of the hottest sex of your life with two years before, the guy your hawk keeps insisting is your true mate even though you believe that to be nonsense and a fairy tale, and discovering he's with the Agency, an organization you believe to be no better than any secret police faction. Such is Viktor’s dilemma when he and Pan see each other. Viktor is still very Russian in his mind-set and thus he believes secrecy about anything pertaining to shifters is a must, regardless that the Agency is on the side of shifters. It was an interesting reunion, so to speak, between the two men!
YES! Now I'm finally getting somewhere with the ancient players in this game. I'm not telling, though! Let’s just say that this one individual who has been around for centuries upon centuries really does exist, and hasn't disappeared as most within the Agency believe. Oh no. He's been waiting to take this fight back to Arcas. He defeated that evil once and he'll do it again.
I thought the author might wrap this all up in this installment, but, luckily for me, there will be more to come. The great showdown with Arcas is going to be glorious and I'll be thrilled to have a ringside seat. Pan and Viktor were wonderful, sexy, and sweet. The author gave me quite the teaser for the next book and things are heating up. The Knights are going to be going after shifters, all out, and they're no longer going to be so discreet when it comes to the humans. Uh. Oh. Looking forward to it!
DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Dreamspinner Press for the purpose of a review.
Although this romance can be read as a stand-alone, it is recommended that the stories be read in order.