Rowan Summerwaite is back—and more than a little pissed off—in Wrath of the Goddess, the fifth installment in New York Times bestselling author Lauren Dane’s Goddess with a Blade series.
You can’t keep a vengeful woman down for long.
Rowan Summerwaite, elite hunter and human vessel to the goddess Brigid, has returned home to Las Vegas—and she’s mad as hell. It seems someone thought they could eliminate Rowan and everyone she holds dear.
That someone was dead wrong.
With tensions between paranormal factions at an all-time high, Rowan and her crew, along with her sexy Vampire Scion husband, Clive Stewart, have their work cut out for them. The Vampire Nation has at least one traitor in their midst, leaving them extremely vulnerable…but if it’s a war they want, Rowan’s prepared to bring the pain like never before.
Rowan knows her duty is to those she’s sworn to protect, but it seems the harder she fights, the more barriers she hits…and the more friends she loses.
With even her closest alliances in question, Rowan will have to accept that sometimes the path toward the greater good means making heartrending sacrifices along the way…
One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!
And see how Rowan’s fight began in Goddess with a Blade, Blade to the Keep, Blade on the Hunt and At Blade’s Edge, available now!
This book is approximately 82,000 words
About the Author
Lauren Dane is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over fifty novels and novellas across several genres. She lives in the Northwest with her patient husband and three wild children.Visit Lauren on the web at www.laurendane.comE-mail firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @laurendaneYou can write to her at: PO BOX 45175, Seattle, WA 98145
Read an Excerpt
Rowan hadn't taken the pill and the oblivion it promised. Even though she knew the pain she had to face over the helpless nearly ten hours as they flew back to Las Vegas.
Carey didn't have the luxury of forgetting. Her employee, assistant and very good friend was dead. Murdered by those who used him to get at Rowan. She'd seen it on her computer screen, the moment he'd been killed, the gore and violence of it indelibly burned into her memory.
She hadn't protected him. He was her family. Someone she was supposed to protect and she couldn't.
Clive shooed her into the bed of the plane's light tight cabin as it began to taxi, getting underway on the trip back to the United States from Germany.
"You can't do everything. You can't be everything to everyone. There are bad people in the world who wish to do you and yours harm if for no other reason than you do good for the world."
Which she knew. In her head. Her heart was another matter.
"What if it's David next? Or Alice?" Those questions battered her brain on a loop.
"Both of them know what they signed on for." He kept his voice calm but Rowan heard the fear there. Understood he worried for his people too.
Suddenly she snapped. That whatever it was that'd been holding her together was gone. How could she ever ask anyone else to help her? Put them in this sort of danger?
Rowan clapped her hands over her ears as she began to cry. "I don't think I can say that and believe it anymore."
Clive made a sound, as if her pain was his and she supposed due to their recent blood bond — and the fact that he knew her better than anyone — he probably did pick it up from her emotions.
"But it's true. Everyone takes chances on some level. But you? And those like you? You take life and death chances all the time. I wish it were different! Do you think I like the very real possibility that it could be you? You made this choice and you make it anew every day. Just like Carey did. Just like David and Alice do."
Clive wrapped himself around her and she let him. Let him soak up as much of her anxiety as was possible. Let herself need him. Knew he needed her, which made it easier to trust, to lean on him.
In Rowan's belly, She stirred. The goddess Brigid shared Rowan's body and consciousness. Rowan was the first Vessel to Her in modern history. Clive and Brigid had a complicated relationship, but She approved of Rowan trusting her husband enough to rely on him.
It let some of her anxiety fade so the anger could settle. Anger, Rowan could deal with. Rowan and anger had a long and important history. It had gotten her through when everything else had run dry.
Now it was wrath that would guide her.
Brigid approved, banking a low, steady heat within. "I'm going to hunt them down and kill them so hard they'll wish they never even thought about me."
"Yes, you are. I'm going to help you. Carey deserves that."
It was the last bit and the fact that she knew he meant it, that made the biggest difference. She wasn't alone. "Thank you. For being there. For letting me fall apart."
"I'll hold your broken pieces if you promise to do the same for me when I need it."
She burrowed in closer, knowing her warmth soaked into him the way his comfort soaked into her.
"Rowan, you're of no use to anyone if you don't get some rest," he said softly, his lips against her temple. "Please. For me will you at least try to sleep?"
"Until you go under. I'll stay until you go under." Rowan knew she wouldn't be able to sleep. But she had no plans to give up the haven his arms provided.
She remained with him holding her close as she wept. Cried so much it gave her a headache. Even her bones hurt, as if the grief had begun to eat her alive from the inside.
He said little, only stroking a slow hand up and down her spine. Every once in a while he'd murmur something in French, which managed to break her heart even as it made her better.
Once the plane approached daylight, he pulled away, knowing her discomfort with how cold and still he got as he rested.
"I love you, Rowan. It'll be dark when we land so I'll be awake. If you won't sleep or stay in here, take care of yourself out there. David will be extra protective. Let him."
She frowned at him and he laughed. It was a tired sound, but genuine enough. "I know you're going to be all right when your natural state returns."
"Natural state?" she asked, one brow up.
"Harpy, of course."
Satisfied things had eased a little back from the edge, she waited until he was out fully before she made to leave. She tucked the blankets around him carefully. He would cool drastically as he rested and doing it made her feel as if she was doing something. She'd just deny it if he asked her about it later.
Out in the main cabin, as Clive had guessed, David sat, wrapped in a blanket as he tapped away on his laptop. He looked up as she entered. Before he could rush over to fawn or ask if she was all right, she waved a hand to forestall it.
He sighed. "Fine. Tea?"
She nodded, appreciating his restraint.
Though the flight attendant could have done it, Rowan knew David found some measure of comfort in taking care of her. She felt much the same way about Theo. Sometimes.
He brought her a cup of tea and a sandwich. "In case you're hungry. Or remember that even if you're not hungry, you have a goddess living inside you and you're going to need the calories."
"That was excellent guilting right there, David. Gold star."
He sniffed and settled back where he'd been in his nest of blankets. She ignored the sandwich but managed to drink the tea as she gathered herself and her wits.
Finally, she spoke. "What's the status when we land?"
"We're on track to arrive in Las Vegas in four hours. I've been in contact with Alice to make sure we have a place to stay until the house you and Clive purchased is ready."
They sure as hell couldn't stay in her old place. The apartment she'd just begun to truly make home with Clive. An apartment she'd thought was impenetrable until Carey was murdered there. Rowan wasn't sure she even wanted to see the flat again. She'd have to, because she was going to investigate who was responsible and she needed to see the murder scene. But, she didn't want to ever live there again with the ghost of her friend's memory in so many things.
"I don't want to stay at Vampire Central. I'll end up killing someone. Or multiple someones and then Clive would be mad."
David rolled his eyes. "Naturally. I've made that clear to Alice, though certainly she knows that already."
As Rowan ran through ideas about places to live temporarily, she had to reject all the Hunter Corp. safe houses, not knowing if they'd been compromised by the traitors she'd only recently rooted out.
"I have a bolt-hole I never told Hunter Corp. about. That will do for the time being until our house gets finished up."
"Is there room for me?"
She snorted. "Of course there is. Like I'd go anywhere there wasn't room for you. It's not light tight though so we'll need to coordinate with Alice and Clive to make sure he's safe when he's at daylight rest." He could stay at his place at Die Mitte but Rowan knew her husband well enough to understand he wouldn't be anywhere she wasn't.
There were details like all their equipment being located to the house. She'd taken on leadership of the Hunters in the United States so she'd have to set a Motherhouse up.
Ugh. One problem at a time and since she had so many, the list of things she had to deal with next was as long as her arm and made her feel totally inept.
Clive's eyes snapped open as soon as they'd flown far enough West to hit darkness. Normally he liked to wake slow. Let the consciousness unspool through him before he got out of bed, but there wasn't time for normally.
He tested their bond, knew she was awake and while not happy she wasn't distraught. Which was a great deal better than what she'd been like back in Germany after her friend and employee got his head blown off as she watched on video.
In all the time he'd known her she'd never been as ripped to shreds. Through their bond he understood she held herself responsible. He wouldn't have needed the bond for that. Rowan would always hold herself responsible to take care of those more vulnerable. And those she loved.
The times ahead were going to be dark. He could feel it like a building storm in his gut. And they'd be at the center of it, he understood that too. Which put his wife in danger. His woman.
So he'd do whatever he had to to keep her as safe as he could. Which meant the Vampire Nation as one of her allies. As his wife, this attack on her staff was a declaration of war against the Nation. The natural response would be to declare a fucking war right back. Her father, The First, had already thrown his support behind her, which helped his case immeasurably.
Out in the main cabin he found her drinking a cup of tea as she paced back and forth, back and forth.
She looked to him and he noted how fragile she was. Something he wasn't very accustomed to. Rowan was a mountain. An immovable force of nature.
Placing her teacup down, she headed to him, let him embrace her. He gave David a look over her head and he nodded.
"We're going to be landing in about forty-five minutes," she mumbled into his shirtfront before stepping back.
"All right. Status?"
She smirked and then the predator within showed. Clive gave her a haughty look, one he knew she secretly loved but pretended to hate. Her sneer was a declaration of adoration.
"I'm going to put together an army. And we're going to wipe this planet clean of every last motherfucker who is part of this little cabal."
"Ah. Who's in our army then?" He took the cup of tea David held out with a nodded thanks before he settled on one of the chairs. She was in planning mode and in full bloodlust. A good sign.
"Our army?" she asked.
"Naturally. North America will be with you on this. If for no other reason than you're my wife. Such an insult has to be answered. You're also the daughter of The First and he just held you out as such at our joining ceremony."
"I'm going to imagine there are some Scions who will want to hang back to see how this shakes out rather than play their hand and take a side."
"Do you think your father will tolerate anything other than backing you? It isn't as if the Scions are unaware of The First's feelings about recalcitrance to comply with his wishes." Their leader wasn't much for dissension in the ranks.
She waved a hand. "You don't know him very well if you think he would put me before Nation well-being. He'll expect me to do this myself."
He barely held back his disdain for that. Two years before he probably wouldn't have felt The First should have done anything else. But Clive loved Rowan powerfully and deeply and he knew her father did too. In his own way. It was, therefore, unacceptable that her father not step up and bring the fires of hell to rain down upon those responsible for this.
Instead he said, "Be that as it may, this is in the Nation's best interest. If he's seen as a leader who can't keep his people safe that weakens him. Through me you are protected. Through your father you are protected." That was the absolute truth. If Vampires couldn't keep their protected populations safe how could humans commit to serve? It was one of their oldest laws: the exchange of service and allegiance by those who worked for Vampires for the safety and security they provided those considered protected.
Rowan sucked in a deep breath before speaking. "Theo will do what he wants to do. Always. I am not too proud to accept his help, or even to seek it, but I learned long ago to plan my own response without expecting him to step in." She was quiet a moment. "Anyway. I'll happily take your Vampires even if they won't like it. Once Genevieve gets stateside, I'll talk with her more specifically about her aid. She's offered already and I have no reason not to accept. I'm going to seek a meeting with the Dust Devils."
Clive blinked at her, using every bit of his control not to give face to the wariness that declaration filled him with.
"We can discuss this at length later. Maybe you won't need them." He said the words knowing she was going to do it anyway.
"Of course I'm going to need them. Look, there's a bunch of fuckery in play here. If I could do this on my own I would. You know my opinion about making decisions via committee. Or talking to people at all. But this is bigger than me. Or Hunter Corp. Or humans, or any one group. This is big picture, end of the world stuff and the Devils have very old and powerful magic. This group I'm hunting is run by something that's proven to be hard to find. That alone takes a great deal of strength. Smart enough to build layers upon layers between it and me. I have zero doubt whatever and whoever it is will be hard to kill. Every single weapon I can manage is going to be necessary."
Clive bit back his worry and let his admiration take over. Rowan was who she was. A warrior. All the concern in the universe wouldn't stop her from doing what needed to be done.
As the man who loved her, Clive had to repeatedly find a way to respect the very essence of Rowan's identity even as he hated the long list of beings who wanted to end her.
"You're wearing that face that says I'm pretending to listen to you but really I'm having an entire conversation in my head," Rowan said as she poked him in the side.
"You know me so well."
She gave him a hard side-eye before speaking again. "So. Yes, I'll be meeting with the Devils because I'll need them to win this war. I need to grind every last one of these dickbags into dickbag dust which I'll then light on fire before leaving it under a bunch of chickens that will shit all over the crispy leavings of all that dickbag ash. Perhaps after that I'll line a camp toilet at a middle school summer camp with the dickbag ash. The possibilities are endless." Rowan looked pleased about that.CHAPTER 2
"I still don't know why we can't just stay in my flat at Die Mitte," Clive muttered under his breath.
"Because it brings heat to your Vampires and it's your job to keep them all safe. Because I don't like a bunch of nosy parker Vamps knowing my every move. Because I want to skulk around and plot some murder and it's easier if I'm not annoyed past my breaking point by having to be nice and not stake someone."
"You are aware that you just said you didn't want to murder anyone while plotting murder."
She glared his way. "Rage murdering of a Vampire who is up in my snoot is not the same as the cold, calculated bloodbath I will bring down on these magic users." She chafed at not being able to just locate who was at fault and use her fists. Fought the tumult of her anxiety and grief at not being able to do something immediately to make the pain of Carey's death a little more bearable.
It seemed absolutely insulting to his memory that whoever murdered him was still alive. Felt way too much like failure.
"Just so," he said with some extra snootiness that felt like a hug right when she really needed it.
"I told you I'd be fine with you staying at your old place until our new house is ready. Then you can have your billion thread count sheets and heated marble floors and therefore won't have the need to complain." She smiled brightly at him.
He just rolled his eyes and growled a little. "However, I am not fine with living away from you. Which we've gone over repeatedly. It's quite tedious at this point. Where will I be sleeping?"
Rowan tugged his hand and led him down a flight of stairs to the basement, through the staged television room and reading nook. "This is really cool and I want it at our new house," she told him as she slid open a hidden control panel that had an optical reader and a code she used to unlock the space beyond.
Here lay a control center behind walls that could survive a fairly serious assault. "Carey designed this whole setup," Rowan told Clive. "All the data from our systems at my old apartment will also be duplicated here. He had some sort of process. I don't even know what it was. Goddess. I'll have to figure it out. Or maybe David knows." She shrugged a shoulder, trying to ignore the ache of her friend's death that seemed to throb like a toothache.
Clive slid his arm around her shoulders for a brief squeeze and stepped away.
"I told him all the security here, all the redundancies and hack proof data storage was a nice overreaction. I thought it was overkill. More bells and whistles than we'd needed but Carey was so into it, so certain it was necessary that I just gave him free rein."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Wrath of the Goddess"
Copyright © 2019 Lauren Dane.
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