I've gotten some inquiries from the Minions about the new joint series with Gabrielle Evans called, The Forgotten. Here is the general premise of this lovely new venture (I just love working with Gabrielle...I may be fangirling until it's complete) and a excerpt for your enjoyment. Thank you for being wonderful, everyone!
Who are the Forgotten?
For centuries, the Nightkins lived in secrecy and peace amongst the humans, but not all were content with their blessed life. In their arrogant, misguided hatred of the mortals, four tribes of shifter Nightkins—pumas, bears, wolves, and eagles—banded together and fought against the humans, killing and burning everything in their path.
Saddened by the savageness of their children, the great Ancestors sought to not only punish them, but to teach them compassion, tolerance, and love. Cursing the four tribes, the Ancestors decreed that no longer would the shifters have control over their beasts, but that their beasts would control them. Each member of the tribes would live as their animal counterpart, sentient, but unable to change between forms.
Every twenty-five years, on the night of the summer solstice, the shifters would be granted their human skins. During their reprieve they would seek out their mates, because only the gift of love—both given and received—could break their curse. If a Nightkin could not find his mate by midnight on the winter solstice, however, he would become a beast one more, alone and forgotten.
The curse is theirs forever, and as immortals, forever is a very long time.
His eyes zeroed in on a hulking black shape near his blue cooler. Holy shit! Whatever loud noises he’d been prepared to make died in his throat as he took in the hulking form of his new guest. It was a bear. A big one. Its head swung in his direction, golden eyes narrowing in the beam of his Mag light.
“S-shoo!” he forced out of his tightened throat. “Shoo! Go away!” He rattled his can. Don’t run. Don’t run. Don’t run.
The intelligent look that he bear gave him was enough to send his knees knocking again. The expression definitely said “make me”. Without bothering to even look ashamed of it, the grizzly opened up the lid to his cooler and pulled out a bag of organic marshmallows he’d brought along with him. Damn it. He’d forgotten to put his food up. The hotdogs were probably long gone.
“Yogi, that’s my picnic basket,” Justin said, glaring at the hulking thing and shaking his can a little harder. The thing reared up, ears flattening against its skull, and gave a noise that could only be described as a “you want a piece of me” rally cry.
Justin squeaked, dropping his can and turning on his heels. Nope. A few snacks were not worth getting eaten over.
A voice Justin never heard before sounded, causing him to trip over the can he’d just dropped. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Do you want to get shot, you big dumb lug?”
The bear made a sound of protest.
“Don’t back talk me, fuzzy butt,” the voice said. “I’m in no mood. What have I told you about taking things that don’t belong to you?”
Grumble. Grumble. Growl.
“What if that hippie tells someone a bear was harassing him, hm? The wildlife commission would not be happy.”
Justin did an awkward crabwalk backward before going still. What the hell was going on? His weak gaze tried to pierce the darkness as he swung his flashlight around. Finally he found the person behind the voice. Whoever he was, he had his back to Justin and was wearing a dark green suit jacket over blue jeans. Why anyone was wearing a suit jacket out on the parkway was beyond him. He stared.
The bear huffed.
“Don’t give me crap tonight, Bran.” The stranger reached out and thumped the bear on the nose. “Put the damn marshmallows back to where you got them. We don’t have long until—“ He cut himself off before swinging around as if he just realized that Justin was laying there holding a flashlight on him.
“Uh, that’s a bear,” Justin said stupidly. What else was there to say to a guy chastising a grizzly? “They bite.”
The guy was good looking, long dark hair, blue eyes, and was wearing four hundred dollars’ worth of designer clothes to boot. “Erm, yes, they do.” He glanced behind him at the bear. “But this one doesn’t. Bran is, erm, my animal. He’s, uh, trained.”
Justin blinked. “You’re an animal trainer?”
The relief that flashed across the other man’s face was brief but definitely present. “Yes. I’m Trigger. This is my performing bear wonder, Bran.”
“So you’re practicing?” Justin asked, skepticism warring with incredulity and no small amount of what-the-fuckery. “Bit late isn’t it?” And that bear was a bit big to be this close to people. Not that there was anyone but him up here since they'd called for nonstop rain but that was beside the point. Most of the leaf-lookers drove the parkway and stayed at the inns, leaving camping to those morons like himself when the weather got as wet as it was.
“Erm, yes,” Trigger said. “Bran is going to perform in a magic act.” The bear, whose name was apparently Bran, head butted Trigger and nearly sent him sprawling. The man straightened with a curse. “As you can see, we’re still working on it.”
“Uh huh.” Maybe he was on one of those prank reality shows. He glanced around. Nope. No cameras in sight.
“Do you want to pet him real quick?”
Justin blinked. Fuck. No. “Er, no thanks. I think I’m just gonna go.” He’d come back for his crap. No way was he trying to go back to bed in his tent with this lunatic and he pet bear running around.
“Sure thing. Sorry to have woken you up.” Trigger turned back to his pet. “Come on. Let’s go.”
Yes, sleeping in his truck seemed like the perferrable option. He just wished he’d remembered to grab a shirt before coming out here to check on things. He’d have to go get it from his tent. He glanced over at the deceptively safe nylon. In. Out. Gone. Easy, peasy.
He shivered as the frost beneath his ass melted and soaked into his jeans. He sighed. At least he hadn’t gotten eaten. As if the universe thought it had let him off too easy, the sky overhead opened up in a downpour without warning.
“Shit!” he cursed, rolling to his feet as he was instantly soaked. He ran blindly for the tent, his flashlight forgotten as his entire being screamed at him to get out of the frigid rain.
Not paying attention had never served him well in the past and now was no exception.
He slammed into a big, dark, hairy body and bounced back to land once again on his ass. He winced as his tailbone hit the hard ground and then let out a squeak as it dawned on him exactly what he’d ran into. His flashlight had rolled out of reach and he didn’t dare look away as the bear stood up on two legs, the shadowy body obscuring everything else in the world.
The sound was abruptly cut off as the bear’s muscular body contorted, startling him out of his hysteria. The black mass pulsed as the fine hairs on Justin’s arms rose with the electric energy in the air. Great. I’m going to be hit by lightening while getting attacked by a Grizzly bear in the pouring fucking rain. His life could suck it. He was waving the proverbial white flag of surrender at this point.
The bear’s body compressed, shrinking before Justin’s rain-blurred vision as something insane happened right in front of him. A few seconds later a very man-shaped object collapsed beside him in the soppy ground.
Justin was speechless. “Holy moley! You’re one of the Nightkins!” he shouted when he was able to force his vocal chords to work. “Whoa! I’ve only read about you guys in books.” Paranormals weren’t unheard of but Justin had never had the privilege of knowing one, at least one he knew for sure was a shifter.
The man on the ground groaned. “Bleeding hell, it’s chilly out here.” He pushed himself into a sitting position, his shadowy body only an impression of good fitness to Justin’s gaze. “Come on. We need to get out of the rain.”
Isn’t that supposed to be my line? “Where?”
That made sense. That was where Justin had been going. “Wait, you were stealing my marshmallows and you knew that it was wrong?” he asked as understanding dawned. While he disagreed with the principle of hating all Nightkins on sight because of some misplaced view of natural and unnatural, he could understand the annoyance of using special powers to steal from someone. “You know how expensive those marshmallows are? They’re organic.” And had been formulated, designed, and tested by himself.
Mr. Grizzly didn’t answer but instead just got to his feet like whatever Justin was babbling about was boring the hell out of him. “Do you have a vehicle near here?”
“Yes,” Justin said, pushing himself to his feet. “Do you need a ride or something?”
“I need to get away from an irritating Sentinel who is going to try and get me into a permanent relationship with someone,” Mr. Grizzly rumbled. “Why are you so talkative?”
Justin glared. The guy showed up, stole his marshmallows, scared the hell out of him, asked for a favor, and then insulted him? Hell. No. “You need to find your own ride. I’m not a taxi service.”
That seemed to give the other man pause. “What?”
“I said no. Do you not know how to speak English?” He crossed his arms over his chest. No way was he backing down from this fight. He’d taken enough abuse from the world, he didn’t need some other damn person telling him exactly what he was doing wrong with his life.
Mr. Grizzly shrugged and then ducked into his tent anyway. “Fine,” he said over his shoulder. “Guess human is on the menu in addition to marshmallows tonight.”
Justin flashed hot and then cold. “What? Are you crazy? No way would you do that. It’s against the rules. You could get into some serious trouble—“
The deep booming laugh that interrupted him shut down whatever other logical argument he was going to present next as another round of fear cut through him like a knife through whipped cream. “You’re funny, tree boy. What are they going to do? Curse me?” He seemed to think that idea was hilarious because he started laughing again. Justin didn’t think any of this was one bit funny.
Justin spun on his heels and stalked toward the parking lot. Nope. He didn’t have to put up with this. He was going to go to his truck and leave, his camping crap be-damned.
Halfway there it dawned on him that his keys were still in his tent. He looked up at the sky, cursing himself, camping, and whatever cruel deity had decided to pick on him. He turned around and stomped back to his tent. At that point he was soaking wet, annoyed, and uncaring if the Nightkin really did eat him.
He jerked the zippered entrance open and ducked inside. The Nightkin was drying himself off with Justin’s t-shirt.
“Are you always this rude to people you just meet?” Justin snapped.
“Are you always so hostile over marshmallows?” the Nightkin countered, otherwise ignoring Justin like he wasn’t there.
He couldn’t see crap in this light so he knelt beside his bag and pulled out the lantern he’d brought along and clicked the button on. The energy efficient LED light clicked on, flooding the two person tent with light. Justin put the lamp on the ground and turned to the sleeping back where he’d tossed his things earlier, putting the Nightkin square in his vision.Holy Christ on a Ritz cracker. He was gorgeous, rugged, and very naked.