The Shifter Chronicles, Book 12
Agent Poe loves being part of the Agency—an organization devoted to protecting shape-shifters—and he especially loves his mate of only a couple of months, Nordik, the nigh immortal master bear shifter. He has the best of both worlds—the man he loves and the job he loves. But when Nordik reveals he’s ready to rejoin society and accompany Poe on his missions, Poe must take the next step and make them a full partnership.
After the Agency intercepts a message from Arcas, the leader of the Knights of the Dawn—a cult bent on the annihilation of shifters—meant for his followers, their job gets a whole lot harder. The Knights don’t bother keeping their activities hidden anymore, stretching the Agency’s resources thinner than ever.
After a near-fatal mission almost costs Poe his life, Nordik insists on a break for both of them. They visit Poe’s family in Ireland and learn that true danger lies not without, but within. There’s no greater betrayal than that of a loved one.
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Word Count: 48,898
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
He really finished it. Poe grinned as he stared at the brand-new cabin Nordik must have finished building sometime during Poe’s time away. Though as he explored the interior, it was obvious Nordik hadn’t spent any time in it. That didn’t surprise him. Nordik liked caves and sleeping under trees. He’d only built the cabin because Poe insisted upon it. While Poe could rough it with the best of them, he demanded plumbing, electricity, and a real bed if he was going to live in the forest for the rest of his days.READ MORE
Poe dropped his bags on the floor before opening the windows to let in fresh air. The last mission had been harder than most. He’d been in deep cover for nearly a month, helping a small unit of the Brazilian Agency deal with their own Knight problem. The bastards were getting bolder and bred like parasites. It shouldn’t have surprised him. It had been a calculated risk to infiltrate their headquarters. The Agency honestly hadn’t known how far-reaching the Knights were until they recovered some of their internal documents. The Knights were worldwide, just like the Agency. But now their hierarchy had been damaged, and each unit was left to its own devices to carry on their murderous mission against shape-shifters. Arcas was in the wind, as was his right-hand man, Gregor.
The members of the Knights weren’t even attempting to hide their actions anymore. The war between the Agency, Knights, and shifters had been fought in the shadows for years. Even before the Knights formed, there were groups of people who saw shifters as demons and acted accordingly. It could be said the war had waged for centuries. But now the Agency was stretched thin with cleaning up not only after themselves but the lingering Knights and—sometimes shifters.
The insufficient help was one of the reasons Poe was still working as a field agent, even though he was technically now the Agency’s ambassador to the bear shifters. Perhaps it was immodest to say he was one of their best agents, but it was nonetheless the truth. He was born to be a soldier, and he was most at home on the battlefield. But that didn’t mean he never yearned for a break now and then. His chief had promised him—guaranteed him—a full week off. Seven days of being in Sanctuary, of fully committing to his newest role in life: the life-mate of the master bear shifter, Nordik.
Poe figured Nordik was somewhere close to the cabin, so he decided to take a nice jog around the area. He needed to work out some kinks and wash away his exhaustion. The last mission had been draining both physically and mentally. Even emotionally at times. He wasn’t as cold as some assumed. He just couldn’t let the horrors of what he witnessed in the course of his work affect him too deeply. It would destroy him if he let it all in. What the Knights did to shifters…. Poe shuddered and determinedly put the images out of his head.
He dressed quickly in jogging shorts, a simple cotton shirt, and a hoodie before leaving the cabin and setting off down one of the paths. He slipped in earbuds and turned on his iPod.
Since Sanctuary butted up against Haven, a town founded by shifters for shifters, the plot of land on which they’d built their cabin actually belonged to the town. Sanctuary was technically owned by the federal government, being made up of national parks, so they could hardly build a private cabin on that land. But Haven was more than happy to help out their resident master shifter. It had been pathetically easy to secure a deed and building permits. Jack, the current sheriff of Haven, acted as intermediary since Nordik wasn’t ready to rejoin society, and Poe was on a mission during that time. Poe didn’t mind that Nordik wasn’t ready to make a new identity for himself and allow himself to be seen. Personally Poe liked that Nordik was still hidden in Sanctuary. He was safer there than he ever would be in the open.
Nordik had killed Arcas’s mother years ago, and Poe wasn’t under any illusion about Arcas’s need for revenge.
The sky was a peaceful blue with a few scattered white clouds. Quickly working up a good sweat, Poe turned up his music and breathed deep of the cool, fresh air. The trees pumped it out, and he took greedy gulps. The scent of rotting bark and damp moss filled his lungs, and he grinned as he settled once again into the slower rhythm of the forest.
Sanctuary was the name shifters had given to the collected forested parks that spread from Canada through Montana and down into Colorado and Wyoming. It was considered Nordik’s domain, and he used to be the only master shifter the Agency knew by name. But recent events had been illuminating.
Poe frowned as he ducked under a low-hanging branch, then jumped over thick roots that jutted up from the dirt. The forest was better than any man-made obstacle course. He certainly wouldn’t become flabby here.
His pace never faltered or slowed as he steadily jogged down a sharp incline to a small creek bed. He leaped with confidence to the rocks that just breached the surface of the water and jumped from one to the other before landing solidly on the other side. Without pause he half jogged, half climbed up the steep incline before rejoining the trail. By now his heart was like a drum in his chest, and his lungs burned with the effort. Instead of flagging as others would, he ran faster, forcing his legs to eat up more ground.
The operatic vocals of Nightwish changed into the hard-throbbing growls of Sabaton on his playlist, and his mind turned to recent developments he was still having trouble wrapping his mind around. Two colleagues of his, Agents Pan and Jin, had stumbled upon a whole new facet to the war between Arcas and the shape-shifters—ancient scrolls and a deadly weapon of mass destruction. Poe had read their reports before returning to Sanctuary, and they made him dizzy. Knowing about amazing shifters was one thing. But magic scrolls? How was he supposed to swallow that? Four magic scrolls that were apparently keys to a cage that held a beast of rage that could infect the world. Infect the world how? Why? There were holes in the story, and Poe had no way of filling them.
Then there was the sudden appearance of Merlin, the immortal master shifter of all shapes, and suddenly Poe felt like he was in a fantasy video game. Only he didn’t know the rules of this game, nor his moves.
It wasn’t a good feeling.
Poe jogged deeper into the forest, confident in his safety. Not only were most predators asleep by now, but all the critters knew who he was. More importantly, they knew who he was attached to. Nordik ruled here. He was alpha.
And speaking of his mate….
Poe grinned, and his heart jumped as he sensed Nordik near him. He knew Nordik would smell him eventually. Poe slowed down and eventually stopped in the middle of a rough trail. Breath heaving, he looked around, sensing but not seeing Nordik. That wasn’t surprising. Despite the sheer bulk of the bear, Nordik could move silently, invisibly within the borders of his home. But since becoming Nordik’s mate, Poe realized he could sense him, a deep-in-the-bones feeling that had shocked him the first time he experienced it.
Now it thrilled him. To be so connected to someone—to such a one as Nordik—was a gift indeed. Never in his life had he ever considered becoming someone’s mate. Now he couldn’t imagine his life otherwise. He was a soldier and a mate. They weren’t mutually exclusive anymore.
Wanting to play, Poe dove off the trail, going the opposite way from where he sensed Nordik. He moved as quietly as he could, his knowledge of Sanctuary growing exponentially the longer he was there. He stopped his music and yanked out the earbuds, stuffing them into his pocket. Now he heard the rustle of the wind, the chatter of chipmunks, the squall of birds. Panting with sweat stinging his eyes, Poe hid behind an enormous tree that would’ve taken over ten people holding hands to encircle. He waited, listening.
Nordik moved like a ghost, and it was hard not to be envious. It wasn’t tough to understand why many of the native peoples had mistaken him for the mystical spirit bear of folklore.
In his bear form, Nordik was something to behold. Big as a grizzly but with snow-white fur, one would think he’d be easy to spot. He was Native American in origin and born to a tribe that no longer existed. He had been chief years before white settlers came to North America. He saw the destruction of his people, their culture and traditions, and still managed to avoid the bitterness such sorrow could bring. He’d had mates before Poe, loved each and every one of them. But it was Poe who apparently was his destined mate. It was Poe who received Nordik’s nigh immortality, his lengthened lifespan. Poe would live as long as Nordik. They could still be killed, but it would take a great, focused effort to accomplish such a feat.
The birds and chipmunks suddenly stopped talking. Poe looked up, raising an eyebrow. With his breath leveling out, Poe stealthily looked around the tree to his left. He didn’t see anything. Then he scooted over and looked around the tree to the right.
Right into the face of a large white bear. Poe jumped back with a laugh. Nordik pounced on him, taking him to the ground. Poe continued to laugh as he ruffled Nordik’s fur and kissed his large black nose.
“You crack a rib, I’m going to be pissed,” Poe said, looking into beloved eyes of soft brown.
Nordik nuzzled him, letting out a strange crooning sound that Poe, before Nordik, hadn’t known bears could make. Nordik’s immense presence was something Poe would never get used to. It was an instinctual awareness he was in the vicinity of one who had lived longer than any creature should live. Someone who had knowledge of great and mysterious things. Someone who had seen nations rise and fall, who’d had many identities. Poe supposed it was like being near a demigod. But while he would never get used to it, he had started to expect it, so it didn’t give him such a jolt each time.
Nordik pulled away and turned around. Poe knew what Nordik wanted and jumped on his back. Then Nordik was off, plowing through bushes and jumping over roots. Poe grinned and rubbed his cheek on Nordik’s neck, finally feeling like he was truly home. Poe held on to Nordik’s scruff as they veered off the trail. Poe suspected where they were headed and was more than willing to enjoy the ride.
It amused him to remember the first time he’d ridden Nordik and the terror and awe he had felt. While he still felt the awe, the terror was long gone. He had nothing to fear from his powerful mate. He certainly would never say Nordik was a teddy bear—they argued as often as they made love—but the violence in Nordik would never be directed toward him.
The sound of a waterfall met Poe’s ears, and he opened his eyes. This was their secret place. It used to be sacred to Nordik’s people, and now it was sacred to the two of them. Clear, pure water cascaded down the tall falls and poured into a large pool. This place was so peaceful, so removed from the chaos of the outside world. The chaos Poe dove headfirst into on a daily basis.
Nordik hadn’t shared much about his long-vanished tribe, yet what he had revealed, Poe cherished. They’d inhabited the more forested parts of northern Montana and parts of southern Alberta, rarely interacting with the neighboring tribes, the Blackfoot, Piikani, and Kainai. Despite sharing the Algonquian language with their neighbors, they retained their own, private language. Nordik was the only one alive to know it now. When Nordik became chief, and his immortality apparent, the tribe voted to call themselves “The Clan of the White Bear.” Poe remembered Nordik’s soft smile when he told him that. Poe found it rather sweet and evidence of their love and respect for their chief. Then the white settlers came and everything changed. Disease. Encroachment on their territories. The destruction of their neighbors. Poe wouldn’t be surprised if some of the settlers were predecessors of the Knights, determined to eradicate shifters.
That was all Nordik had told him so far. Poe wouldn’t push despite his curiosity, his desire for more details. What about the culture? The society? The relationships and political dynamics? It was an entirely different world from what Poe knew.
He knew Nordik would share when he was ready. Considering his age and the sad history of native people in the Americas and Canada, Poe wasn’t surprised that Nordik didn’t like to talk about it. Poe knew Nordik was a man who looked to the future and didn’t dwell on the past. Besides, they had their whole lives to share every bit of themselves.
Poe sighed and slipped off Nordik even as the air shimmered and his bear form disappeared. Nordik stood, a firm, fit man who looked to be in his late thirties. His hair brushed his shoulders, as pure white as the bear’s fur. His body was sleek with muscle formed from manual labor, not inside a gym. His face was broad, his skin coppery. His eyes were a deep, dark brown that knew too much.
His cock was at full mast, standing proudly among curly white hairs. Poe grinned as he eyed it.
“I take it you missed me?”
Nordik growled low and pounced. Still feeling playful, Poe dodged. Nordik swiftly changed course, his teeth bared. Poe deflected Nordik’s efforts to grab him, laughing all the way.
“Come on, master shifter. You can do better than that. I’m beginning to doubt you missed me at all.”
Nordik’s eyes glittered dangerously. “Byron.”
Poe shuddered as Nordik used his real name. His possessive tone hardened Poe’s cock.
“I will claim you again, mate,” Nordik said, backing Poe toward the pond. “You have made me wait far too long this time.”
Guilt wormed its way into Poe, and he grimaced. “Yeah, I know. I’m sorry, babe. It wasn’t supposed to last that long.”
Poe stopped when his feet touched the edge of the pool. Nordik stalked right up to him and gently cupped his face. Poe closed his eyes and leaned into the touch, pressing his head against Nordik’s chest. Poe was only five feet tall, and Nordik stood a good foot taller. Being the son of an honest-to-God Viking dwarf had something to do with Poe’s height.
“I missed you too,” Poe said softly.
Nordik said nothing as he unzipped the hoodie and tugged it down Poe’s arms. Next came Poe’s shirt, then his shorts. Poe kicked off his shoes and looked up, waiting for Nordik to kiss him. He really needed Nordik to kiss him. Nordik bent his head. Poe fluttered his eyes closed in anticipation.
Then Nordik—the asshole—shoved Poe into the water.
Poe came up sputtering and coughing, shocked and angered. “What the fuck?”
Nordik laughed heartily before diving into the water, swimming like a fish. Poe was able to watch his progression through the crystal-clear water. When Nordik popped his head up with a smug grin, Poe scowled. He splashed water into Nordik’s face.
“You fucking jerk! See if I want to have sex with you now.”
Nordik pushed forward and wrapped his hand around Poe’s obvious erection. “I believe you do, Byron.”
Poe tried hard not to laugh or give in to Nordik’s touches. Not yet. “Tell me the truth. You wanted me in the water because I stank, right?”
Nordik brushed his lips against Poe’s ear. “You always smell good to me, mate. Not a second goes by when I don’t want to devour you whole.”
Poe groaned and wrapped his arms around Nordik’s broad shoulders, anchoring himself as Nordik began to stroke him. He kissed and suckled Nordik’s shoulders and neck, making him shiver and groan. Nordik’s strokes became more demanding, and Poe thrust his hips into Nordik’s grip, needing the friction, needing the completion. He’d touched himself during his mission, thinking of Nordik, but imagination paled in comparison to the real thing. It still stunned him at times how much he loved and needed Nordik in his life. How bonded they were, how intrinsically his life was tied to Nordik’s. It should’ve scared him. It used to. Now it simply thrilled. He belonged to someone. Someone who deserved him. Someone he deserved.
Poe snapped his hips one last time and came hard. He groaned and clung to Nordik, depending on him to keep them above water. Nordik’s grip was fierce and secure. He nuzzled Poe’s neck, breathing deep.
“I love you,” Poe said.
Nordik lifted his head, and Poe’s breath hitched at the naked emotion shining in those brown depths. Then Nordik finally kissed him. Poe gripped his head and poured all his emotion and joy into the kiss. Their tongues danced together, slipping and sliding. Poe claimed Nordik’s mouth, familiarizing himself once again with his scent, his taste. The comforting feeling of his strong arms around him, the safety he found in Nordik’s presence. It was Nordik who showed him letting go sometimes didn’t make him weak. He wasn’t perfect, after all. Sometimes he needed someone else to hold him up.
The kiss was long and intense, and they never stopped moving their hands. They touched and gripped, kneaded and stroked. Finally Nordik broke the kiss, his breath uneven.
“I need, Byron. Please.”
Without delay Poe dove under the water and gripped Nordik’s cock in one hand. Then he devoured it, wondering if he could bring Nordik to orgasm before he needed air. Nordik trembled under his ministrations but managed to continue treading water. Poe wrapped his arms around Nordik’s waist to anchor himself. He sucked hard, and through the muffling of the water against his ears, he heard Nordik curse in English and what Poe assumed was Algonquian. Or maybe it was his tribe’s private language? It was always a thrill to hear the musical fluency with which he spoke.
Poe accomplished his mission in record time. Nordik came hard, his body shuddering, and Poe swallowed, relishing his taste. He then surged to the surface and sucked in air, feeling slightly lightheaded. After blinking water out of his eyes, he glanced at Nordik, whose face was flushed, his eyes glowing.
When high emotion was upon shifters, especially anger or lust, physical signs would show. Most notably their eyes would glow and/or their skin would ripple because their animal spirit wanted to take control. It was a fascinating thing to watch. Rippling skin, as if the muscles were alive with their own agenda, wasn’t something a person saw every day.
“Welcome home, Byron.”COLLAPSE
Seeing as Poe and Nordik were one of my most favorite couples in ‘The Shifters’ series, I was very excited to be reading about them again. The revelations that came about in the previous installment, which Poe is now aware of, are nothing less than wondrous, while simultaneously being horrifying. The Knights are no longer hiding their actions against shifters from humans and that has led the Agency to an almost breaking point in its resources. The discovery of four magical scrolls that lead to a creature capable of the mass destruction of shifters, and that Merlin, the master shifter of them all, the creator of shifters, has returned to begin his battle against the evil he has fought before, has left more than Poe wondering if reality has deserted them all.
“He was enthralled as Poe described the doings of Agents Jin and Pan and their encounter with knights, with Gregor—Arcas’s right-hand man—and an ancient scroll. When Poe mentioned the appearance of Merlin, Nordik sat up straighter.
“If he has once more become active, then events are dire.”
Poe’s gaze turned wary. “What do you mean by ‘dire’?”
“I’ve never heard of the scrolls, but if they are keys to a weapon, then I can only assume that weapon is from Merlin’s time. As Arcas is.”
Poe and Nordik head straight out into the fight, basically becoming bait for Knights, and then trying to glean as much information from them as possible. Two months in and Nordik is stunned that his mate has been waging this never-ending war for years, alone in the field with only other agents as his friends and family. War is never easy, for either side, and the Knights have been lied to their whole lives, made to believe that they’re doing god’s work, and being brainwashed into believing the horrible things they’ve done to shifters is good and right. All because Arcas wants to be god over everyone. Almost a year of one dangerous mission after another, but when Poe is seriously injured, his captain and his chief order him and Nordik to take a vacation. Rest, heal, come back better than ever. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite go as planned.
‘Kindred Truths’ was everything I expected from this series, the author, and Poe and Nordik. I was honestly hoping for some more forward movement against Arcas but seeing the agents on the ground, running missions, working so hard against this enemy, made me appreciate all of their efforts and sacrifices. I imagine when the grand finale occurs, I will have a much better understanding of all of the players on the board. I’m definitely looking forward to whatever comes next in this adventure that I can’t seem to get enough of.
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 book can be read as a stand-alone, it is recommended that the books be read in order. Nordik and Agent Poe first appear in "Master's Blood" (#6)