Elena Murphy is left devastated when her fated mate rejects their union. She believes Gabriel is embarrassed to be paired with a weak, half-breed vampire from Earth. But when two human children under her care are abducted by alien Slavers, Elena will do anything to get them back, even swallow her pride to beg Gabriel for help to rescue them.
Gabriel, an ancient Hunter from the planet Laizahlia, has spent thousands of years searching for his fated mate, his eillelé, the one who carries half his soul. He finally finds her in Elena, but she is also half human. If he claims her, his Council will force him to convert her fully to vampire, and he knows she might not survive with her mind intact. Rather than risk her life or sanity, he chooses to walk away . . . until two children under her care are taken by Slavers.
Gabriel’s Council and Slavers won’t be the only dangers they face in their quest to find the missing children. When Gabriel learns Djinn are involved, he knows their odds for success will be extremely low.
“Heart of a Warrior is a gripping and thrilling fantasy book. The vampire theme and twist in the story are exciting and held my interest. The author is able to engineer some creative scenes that make the unique character both charming and scary at the same time. Following the part about the missing children was scary and fascinating given they had potential threats like the Council and Slavers. Gabriel is a great character whom every reader will, eventually, empathize with. Heart of a Warrior is action-packed, with events that are unbelievable, but you don’t care, and characters who were perfect for their roles.
“Every character had some sort of superpower which felt balanced and not overused. They were able to face their obstacles and even confuse the enemies for a while. I appreciated the odd, but well constructed, love story in this book. This novel combines a bittersweet love, a vampire story, and some fantastic characters that really carry this story. This is the fourth book in the ‘Immortal Warriors’ series but I didn’t feel lost and I think anyone can jump into the series from here. You will love the conversations between characters as they are witty and humorous. The plot was epic and the entire story entertaining.” — Literary Titan
” I don’t want to write any spoilers, so let me say from here on is a desperate and urgent journey across the universes, to strange planets with wonderful live forms, some more weird and dangerous than others. We also meet werewolves and shape-shifters.
“Denna Holm has imagined these worlds and their inhabitants so fully that I slipped into them as if I were really there.
“I also loved the romance and UST (unresolved sexual tension) between Elena and Gabriel.
“I highly recommend this book to young adult (the older side of young adult as there are some detailed sexual scenes) and adult readers who love sci-fi, fantasy, vampires and a great love story. There’s plenty of action and excitement to please everyone.” — Ellen Read, Goodreads
Elena Murphy’s chills weren’t all caused by the approaching storm. Thunder rumbled in the background as she stood on the deck of her house and watched the heavy dark clouds drop over the distant mountain peaks.
“Gabriel,” she whispered, shivering, aware the dark-haired Hunter stood somewhere nearby, watching her. She searched the land in vain for some trace of the man, feeling his presence deep in her soul.
No, not a man, an ancient vampire, she reminded herself. A Laizahlian Hunter from another world.
She grunted, irritated. Not likely she’d find him, not if he didn’t want to be found. Why did he continue to torture her so? He watched over her, protected her, but only from a distance. Sometimes she hated him. Stubborn man. What was he so afraid of? Her? His people?
Elena sighed, doubting Gabriel feared much of anything, the man far too powerful for his own good. He was afraid for her, not of her. Before he left the last time, he’d told her he didn’t want to disrupt the life she’d built for herself by forcing her to move to an alien world. His world. He feared she’d learn to hate him. Idiot man hadn’t bothered to ask what she wanted.
Elena pinched the bridge of her nose as she caught sight of a black Ford pickup headed up the long drive to her house. Cami and Ryan Benton were going to spend the weekend with her. She might have called and canceled when she first sensed Gabriel’s presence, but Elena knew the children enjoyed spending time at her ranch, their own home life extremely stressful. Their parents were divorced, as happened so often these days, and they both worked long hours, leaving their kids to fend for themselves.
Cami, at sixteen, was old enough to watch over her eight-year-old brother, but Elena knew they both still needed their absent parents. She’d seen it many times over her long life—kids left alone too much became lonely, bored, felt abandoned. Without a healthy outlet, this path often led to trouble. She tried to give them a place to go, a place to just be a kid.
Elena taught dressage, focusing mostly on kids. Over the past few years she’d become especially close to Cami and Ryan, enjoying the extra time they spent with her. They were also a great help around the ranch.
As the sound of the diesel truck drew closer, Elena opened the screen door of her ranch-style home and slipped her fleece jacket off the hook on the wall. Cami and Ryan were out of the truck by the time she stepped back outside. Martin, their father, was busy unlatching the tailgate, the children slipping their bags free once he lowered it.
“Hi, Lani,” Ryan yelled, running over to give her a big hug, his face pressed tight against her belly. “Thought we’d never get here.”
Elena smiled, returning the hug. “Hey there, kiddo, glad you could make it.” She patted the top of his messy blond hair and turned to face Ryan’s father. “Hi, Martin, how are you this evening?”
“Not bad, Lani, not bad at all. You have a good week?” He didn’t bother to wait for her to answer. “I’m still waitin’ to take you to dinner. I promised the kids, you know. Pay you back for watchin’ the little brats for me. Don’t know how you take all the noise, tell you the truth. Lil’ bastards drive me crazy.”
Elena fought not to grimace as she stared into his bloodshot blue eyes, bothered as much by the alcohol fumes floating her way as the crude remarks about his children. Martin could be a decent father when he wasn’t drinking which, unfortunately, wasn’t often. It’s why he and his wife had ended up divorced. “I love having them over. It gets lonely out here.”
Martin glanced around, his bloodshot eyes lingering on the horses across the fence. “You’re a good-lookin’ woman, Lani. Ain’t no reason for you to be alone out here. Plenty of guys would love to keep you company.” He winked. “I know ‘cause I’m one of ‘em. A strong man could help you out around here.”
“Dad!” Cami cried out, shoulders stiff, face red with embarrassment. “Stop that!” She glanced over at Elena. “I’m so sorry. He’s been drinking . . . again.”
“Oh, hey now,” Martin said, his already red face turning almost purple. “Lani knows I’m just foolin’ around. Kid’s too damned serious for her own good. Besides, I’ve only had a couple beers. Can’t hardly call that drinking.”
“It’s okay,” Elena said, hoping to avoid an argument between Cami and her father, the tension between them palpable. “Why don’t you two go put your bags in the house and then we can run down to the barn. A storm’s headed our way and we need to get the horses inside and fed.”
Ryan whooped for joy and took off running, his bag pulled along behind him. Cami glared at her father before she picked up her own duffle to follow her brother. The teenager had inherited her father’s blonde hair and blue eyes, but she’d gained her mother’s features: wide mouth and full lips that she had yet to grow into, high cheekbones, slightly pointed chin, and a delicate nose. Cami wore her long hair in a high ponytail, the tip swaying as she walked in anger toward the house.
“Damn kids,” Martin said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He hadn’t shaved this morning, a heavy stubble marking his chin and neck. “Hate to do it, but probably need to backhand that smart mouth of hers. Gets too big for her britches.” Martin stared at Elena’s chest, one arm resting over his slight paunch. He didn’t bother to look up when she spoke.
“They’re good kids, Martin. You and Lucy are lucky to have them. Cami is growing up, you know, just trying to spread her wings.”
“Yeah, well, maybe she needs to get em clipped for a bit.” He stepped closer to Elena, and she tried to hold her breath, catching the faint hint of body odor behind the alcohol. “You know, Lani, I wasn’t kidding about dinner. You and I need to hook up. Kids would love it.”
“Um, I’m just so busy out here with the horses and lessons. It’s hard to get away.”
“You need to eat, don’t ya? What do ya say? With the kids here to watch the place, maybe I could take you out tonight. Cami and Ryan can take care of your horses. They’re out here enough, so they oughta know how.”
“I can’t, I’m sorry. There’s a storm headed this way and I need to get the horses in the barn.” Martin had probably been a handsome man in his prime, but he’d let himself go, his muscles leaning toward flab, his blond hair thinning over his crown. Excess drinking had caused premature aging, his blue eyes pale and rheumy, his nose red and puffy. He’d also developed a paunch, his belly tending to lead his shoulders when he walked. But if Elena was honest with herself, she knew it wouldn’t matter if Martin cleaned himself up and quit drinking. She’d never find another man attractive, Gabriel already holding her heart.
She sighed, glancing toward the mountains, and wished the kids’ dad would leave. Distracted by thoughts of Gabriel, Elena gasped when Martin reached out and snagged her sleeve, pulling her in tight against him.
“You know how long I been waitin’ to kiss you, Lani? I dream about you at night.” He cupped the back of her head, pushing his crotch into Elena’s hip as he leaned toward her mouth. “You’re the most beautiful woman I ever seen, you know that, don’t you? I love your eyes, such a pretty shade of brown, and you got these cool gold flecks around your pupils.” He ignored Elena when she tried to push him away, his fingers fisting lightly in her short dark hair.
“Don’t, Martin, the kids will see.” She reached up to cover his mouth before he could kiss her. “Stop it!”
He laughed, his ball cap slipping to the ground as he tried to push past her hand, his fist still in her hair. “Kids don’t give a damn, Lani. Hell, they’d love if you and I hooked up.”
But she wouldn’t.
“Martin, stop!” she hissed when his other hand slipped beneath her sweatshirt. “I mean it!” She didn’t want to have to hurt him.
“One kiss and I’ll let you go.”
“You will release her now unless you wish to lose both your hands.”
Elena sucked in a noisy breath, the sound of Gabriel’s deep, cold voice sending shivers down her spine. Where had he come from? She hadn’t noticed him walking up on them. But then again, she’d had her hands a little full holding off Martin’s unwanted advances.
“Who the hell are you?” Martin said, turning to face Gabriel. He jerked back, releasing Elena. Martin wiped at his mouth, expression shocked, bloodshot eyes open far too wide as he took in the intimidating man before him. “Uh, hey man, sorry. Lani never said she already had a fella. Name’s Martin.” He rubbed his hand on stained jeans, then held it out, but Gabriel ignored him, his lips pressed into a hard line. “Well, guess I better go then.” He turned back to Elena, refusing to meet her eyes as he snatched his ball cap off the ground. “Me or their mom will pick the kids up on Sunday night. Okay?”
“That’ll be fine, thank you.” Elena hid a smile behind her hand as Martin jumped in his truck. She hoped he went straight home, but knew he’d probably head for the nearest bar to try to drink his fear away.
Her stomach knotted as she watched the truck move a little too fast down her drive. When she finally turned to face Gabriel, she found his black eyes locked hard on her face. No wonder Martin almost wet his pants trying to get away. At five-foot-ten, Elena rarely had to look up at a man, but Gabriel stood at least six-three or four. His long black hair had been pulled back from a ruggedly handsome face, high forehead, aquiline nose and strong jawline. Hard muscles were easily visible beneath the tight black leather he always wore. Not even the long coat, a duster type, could hide much from her appreciative eyes.
Elena knew Gabriel wore the clothing of a Laizahlian Hunter, a man who hunted rogue vampires and werewolves from the planet Laizahlia. Just looking at him made her heart stutter. “Gabriel,” she said, embarrassed by the breathless quality to her voice. “It’s really good to see you again. I thought you might be somewhere around.”
He tipped his head, jaws clenched as a flash of anger sparked through his dark, dark eyes. Black eyes that could see straight into her soul. Elena fidgeted, having rarely seen any sign of emotion in the man. “Why would you allow that pitiful human male to paw at your body?” he growled.
“Allow?” she said. So he cared after all. He tried so hard to come across aloof around her. “It’s really none of your business,” she replied, keeping her face carefully blank. “You left me, remember?”
Before he could answer, the screen door of her house slammed, and Elena flinched, trying to prepare a reasonable explanation for the Hunter’s presence to the children.
Ryan ran up first, not seeing Gabriel until he almost bumped into the big man. “Whoa,” he said, sliding to a stop, his head tipped way back to see Gabriel’s face. “Who are you? Where’s my dad?”
His accent heavy, the Hunter said, “I’m Gabriel.” He offered Ryan a shallow bow, a hint of a smile forming on his wide mouth. “What is your name, child?”
Ryan scowled. “Name’s Ryan, and I’m not a child. I’m almost eight years old now.”
“Of course you’re not. How thoughtless of me.” Gabriel offered a deeper bow, his smile widening. “Will you forgive my ill manners?”
“No problemo.” Ryan turned to Elena. “Where’d my dad go? He didn’t even say goodbye.”
“He had to leave. Said he forgot about a meeting he had to go to.”
Ryan’s face fell. He didn’t believe her. “Fine.” Their dad had let both children down a lot, especially after he and Lucy divorced. He tried to drown his sorrow and depression in the bottle, the children getting the short end of the stick.
Elena rested her hand on Ryan’s narrow shoulder. “Gabriel is an old friend of mine. He knows my granddaughter, Kimi. You remember Kimi, don’t you?”
“Oh, yeah, of course. I like Kimi. She’s nice.” Ryan glanced toward the barn, obviously in a hurry to leave. “Is Dandy still in the field?”
“Yes, but you can start getting his stall ready. I’ll be down in a few seconds.” Dandy was a Welsh pony Elena used for lessons. Ryan took off without answering as Elena turned back to Gabriel. “How is Kimi? Happy, I hope.” Her granddaughter lived on Laizahlia, his world, with her mate. Kimi had been there for nearly four years now and Elena missed her terribly.
“Kimberly and Neyvarre are both well, but I think she misses her family. She would like to see you, but the Council will never allow her to return to Earth.”
Elena looked up, searching his closed face. Gabriel could take her to see Kimi, though she knew he wouldn’t. If they found out, and they would, his Council would never allow her to return home. Maybe he didn’t want to be saddled with her for the rest of his life. “Does she know you approached me?”
“No, but she speaks of you often when I see them.”
She struggled to hide her pain, wondering if he was embarrassed about having a half-breed mate? She sighed, growing tired of arguing with Gabriel about this. Maybe it would be better for them both if he just stayed away. These brief visits every year or so were killing her.
The door to her house closed again, much softer this time, and Elena faced Cami as the teenager walked up. She had changed into dark gray riding tights and boots. Thunder rolled over the mountains, closer than it had been a few minutes ago. They might have to put off Cami’s lesson until after the storm passed over, the horses nervous in bad weather.
Cami stopped halfway to them, her eyes open far too wide as she stared at Gabriel.
“It’s okay,” Elena said. “Gabriel is a good friend of mine. He won’t hurt you.”
Cami didn’t smile as she walked closer, her gaze never leaving the Hunter’s face. “Uh, hi, I’m Cami,” she said timidly, holding out her hand.
“Gabriel,” he replied, his touch gentle as he took her fingers in his. He offered a slight bow, far too formal for greeting human children. Was Gabriel nervous too?
Elena bit at her bottom lip. “Uh, Cami, why don’t you run down to the barn and help your brother get the stalls ready. Gabriel can help us get the horses in before the weather hits. Can we put your lesson off until tomorrow?”
“Yeah, it’s okay. I kinda figured when it started thundering. Maybe I could ride twice tomorrow, help you exercise another one, or maybe we can go on a trail ride.”
“That sounds fun. Maybe we’ll all go out. Ryan would like that too.” The boy wasn’t interested in formal riding, preferring to play cowboy. She glanced at Gabriel but couldn’t read his face, his expression empty. No big surprise there.
“I should be leaving,” Gabriel said. “I can see you’re busy.”
“Don’t be silly,” Elena said reaching out for his arm. Her eyes widened slightly at the power she felt thrumming beneath her fingers. “Come help us, Gabriel. I’d like to show you my horses. I’m sure Kimi must have talked to you about them.” So stupid, she thought. I should just let him leave. I’ll only end up hurting myself more.
Gabriel frowned, making Elena wonder if he’d picked up her thoughts.
“Um, I guess I’ll see you in the barn,” Cami said, offering a timid smile before she turned to leave.
A strike of lightning brightened the sky and Elena flinched. “Can you help? I really do need to get the horses in. I don’t want the kids out in this.”
He gave one sharp nod, glancing up at the sky. “I can’t stay long,” he said.
“I know,” Elena whispered back, taking hold of his arm as the first drops of rain hit her face. “You never do.”