We’ve seen this series before (and loved every minute of it) … I can’t wait to see what comes next! Luckily Sieders gives us a little peek 🙂
The Adventure Continues in Southern Elemental Guardians Series Book 4
We left younger Rhinemaiden Gwen in a very bad place at the end of Crosscurrents. After betraying her sister, she was captured and tortured by mortal monster hunters and has been struggling to recover and find her place in the strange waters of the new world ever since. Lost, angry, and alone, she soon encounters a strange man who is more than he seems. But with her understandable trust issues, she’s both intrigued and wary of the handsome and clearly powerful stranger.
Kwame Johnson is a bit of an enigma. He’s an ex-cop turned private investigator. His specialty? Weird cases with a touch of the paranormal. He’s uniquely suited for the job. His sixth sense, the oogun inherited from his grandmother, helps him locate missing persons. So when the granddaughter of a missing cryptid hunter comes to him with evidence of the so-called mythical mermaid responsible for his disappearance, Kwame takes the case. He figures it’s another hoax, but is surprised—and more than a little wary—when he meets Gwen in her fearsome water dragon form.
My mermaid heroine Gwen was such a tough nut to crack, especially since she made her debut in as one of the villains. Fortunately, she had a change of heart and has proven herself to be one of the most noble, captivating heroines in the series. And Kwame? He’s smart, tough, and HOTTER than July – the perfect hero for a River Guardian with a surprising backstory that introduces African Elemental Guardians into the series.
Southern Elemental Guardians Book 4
by D.B. Sieders
Fantasy Romance – Griffyn Ink
Cover Design – Julie Schroeder Designs
She’s out for vengeance. He’s seeking justice.
Exiled and alone in a strange land, Rhinemaiden Gwen is still traumatized from her capture and torture by mortal monster hunters. To exorcise her demons, she doles out vigilante justice on mortal criminals—until former cop turned private investigator, Kwame Johnson, stops her in her tracks.
Captivating and enigmatic, Kwame is more than another mere mortal, and he’s just beginning to understand the nature of the special sense that helps him track down missing persons. Gwen can help him reach his full potential, but can she trust a man who was hired by the monster hunters to track her down?
He recovered from her Siren call quickly, as she’d expected from such a powerful elemental entity. Rising slowly to a sitting position, his gaze darted in all directions as he took in his surroundings, hands scrambling on the ground and over his body—probably searching for his gun.
Ridiculous mortals and their little weapons. It would have been comical under different circumstances. He jolted at the sound of distant sirens, the mortal version that alerted humans to the presence of emergency vehicles, and then at last turned his attention to her.
The scrutiny was unnerving, but she didn’t dare flinch, look away, or show any outward signs of weakness. If he’d apprehended her for violating the elemental law of secrecy, the less she said or did, the better. And he’d violated secrecy law, too, so he hardly had the moral standing to reprimand her. Not that it mattered. He already had her at his mercy. The powerful magic he wielded had bound her to him. That was his most effective weapon.
She could not leave his presence.
“Where are we?” he asked, almost absently. He ran a hand over his shapely skull, oddly devoid of hair.
“Away from danger and detection,” she answered, fascinated by his long, elegant fingers and lean, muscular body. He was a well-formed male, and studying his form proved…pleasant. Not that it mattered. She had no time to indulge in any romantic entanglements, nor did she possess the skills to do so had she wished it.
Strange that the realization came with a twinge of regret.
He shook his head and did a double take. Then his gaze flew wide. He leaned in closer and she got her land legs under her before remembering that she couldn’t run away.
“It’s you,” he said, his tone full of shock. “You’re real.”
“Of course I’m real,” she said, annoyed. “And I do not believe we’ve met.”
“Name’s Kwame,” he said. “Kwame Johnson.” He shook his head, and that strange, dazed expression remained painted across his fine features. Perhaps her call had been more potent than she’d intended. At a loss for what to do next, she settled on a formal introduction.
“I am Gwen, guardian of the earth’s waterways, daughter of Melusina, former Queen of the Rhine,” she said, pausing. Perhaps mentioning Mother was unwise. After all, Melusina had been banished from the New World not long ago, straining relations between elemental guardians in both the Old and New World. Gwen’s elder sisters’ names carried more weight in these waters, but she wasn’t prepared to claim the bonds and benefits of kinship that likely no longer existed.
She’d found herself in a rather awkward situation, it seemed. Caught in another elemental guardian’s territory with shaky credentials and nothing to offer as a token of respect, she had no choice but to use the only bargaining chip she possessed to gain her freedom.
“I have no formal tribute to offer you, but I saved you from exposure to mortals. That should suffice. Please release me.”
He appeared even more confused. “Guardian? Tribute? Exposure? What the hell are you talking about? I’m just out here working a missing-persons case.”
“Missing persons? For whom are you searching?”
“You,” he said, reaching into his jacket pocket to pull out a folded sheet of paper.
He held it out to her with a shaking hand. She hesitated, but he seemed as wary as she was. Throwing caution to the four winds, she accepted the proffered paper and unfolded it, looking at the black-and-white image it bore.
Shaking like a leaf cast about in a rapid current, she dropped the page, stood up, and bolted.
Then she stopped and collapsed on the ground, pulled back by whatever invisible tie that bound her to the strange elemental guardian when he’d cast his cursed spell. She wanted to run away to the river. She wanted her fins so she could swim as far as the currents could carry her until she forgot the nightmare that had trapped her. She wanted to cry to the gods and lash out, but the guardian who held her captive had also stopped her from exorcising her rage by robbing her of targets.
“Let me go!” she screamed.
“What are you talking about?” he yelled, sounding confused. “I’m not even holding you.”
“Yes, you are,” she sobbed, lifting the clothing she’d conjured to reveal his mark. He knelt beside her and peered at the amber line running down her flank. It curled at its end, forming a shape that bore a suspicious resemblance to a hook.
“I did that?” he asked. “How?”
Gods, was he feeble, or was he taunting her? She stood, grateful her outrage kept panic and horror at bay. “What do you mean, how? First you cast the spell that immobilized me while I was in the middle of saving you. Then you cast marking spells that kept me from killing the worthless mortals who attacked you, and then you used a binding spell to keep me from running away!”
She moved to face him, angry that he dwarfed her height in this form, and shoved hard against his chest. “And then you show me that,” she said, pointing at the crumpled paper on the ground before she shoved him again. “Where in the name of the gods did you get it? Are you working for them? The monster hunters who did that to me?”
“Easy,” he said, stepping back as she moved in for another shove. He held out his palms to ward her off, or perhaps to offer more reassurance of his innocence—or more lies.
She stopped her attack, reining in her rage and giving him a chance to speak.
“I don’t know exactly what happened back there. I thought I’d been shot, but I must’ve gotten knocked out. When I woke up it was like…like something took over. I remember something big, scary, and invisible throwing trucks and boats around, and I remember it stood in the way when I did whatever I did to Rick and Clyde. I touched it, then I sent out something to mark it—”
He froze, looking from her face to the mark and back, gaze growing wider as alarm rolled off him in waves. Had he just realized? Perhaps he was feeble, or simply damaged from her Siren call. Or, perhaps, he was something else entirely…
“What are you?” he whispered, fear and awe choking his voice.
She stared back, fear creeping up her spine. “I could ask you the same thing,” she whispered back. “But since you asked first, I’ll show you.”
Bracing herself against the pain and stress of a second transformation, she unleashed the dragon. Looming over him in this form, a fearsome, beastly form that dwarfed him physically filled her with satisfaction. Pity she couldn’t risk exposure by roaring or releasing a breath of fire. But she could always let him feel the sting of her bite.
Bringing her great head down to his level, she snarled and lashed out—only to find herself frozen with her jaws open wide. She struggled to close her mouth and at least snap at him, but she couldn’t. Great gods, his magic had apparently made it impossible for her to harm him.
And, judging from the look on his face, he’d come to the same conclusion. He took a tentative step toward her, reaching out a trembling hand to touch her enlarged jaw.
Running his fingers along her scales and down to her flank, he traced the line of his mark as her great body rumbled.
He jerked his hand back and muttered, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
She growled and then conjured camouflage so that she could shift back into her land form without his scrutiny. He was her captor, and she, once again, was a helpless prisoner. Panic threatened to overtake her as she returned to the smaller form. She breathed deeply and summoned what mental strength she had left. Dropping the camouflage, she faced him once more.
“Are you okay?” he asked, squinting in her direction. At least she could hide from him.
“Yes,” she said, grudgingly adding, “that…tickled.”
He smiled. Her jailer and tormentor had the audacity to smile at her. “And they thought they’d caught a mermaid. Damn, girl, you could have eaten them all alive.”
Amusement bled from his features, replaced by a troubled look. “Wait, did you eat them?”
“No,” she said, her voice sharper than she intended.
“And I am a mermaid. It’s my true form, and one of many that I can assume. The dragon form is new for me. I had not come into my full powers at the time of my abduction. They deprived me of my element. I was at the mercy of those…men. They were just mortals, the men who took me, but they had all of the power.”
She dropped her gaze, unwilling to recall her darkest hours and relive the nightmare. A hand tentatively landed on her shoulder and gave her a gentle squeeze.
“I’m sorry,” he said in a low, soothing voice. Part of her wanted to fall into that voice and accept the comfort she so desperately craved. But she couldn’t. She would never trust any man, mortal, elemental, or hybrid. Whoever this Kwame Johnson was, he couldn’t help her. There was only one thing she needed from him.
She met his gaze, as warm and inviting as his voice, and said, “Please, let me go.”
He sighed but didn’t look away. “I can’t. I don’t know how.”
D.B. Sieders was born and raised in East Tennessee and spent her childhood hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, wading barefoot in creeks, and chasing salamanders, fish, and frogs. She and her family loved to tell stories while sitting around the campfire.
Those days of frog chasing sparked an interest in biology. She is a working scientist by day, but never lost her love of telling stories. Now, she’s a purveyor of unconventional fantasy romance featuring strong heroines and the heroes who strive to match them. Her heroes and heroines face a healthy dose of angst as they strive for redemption and a happily ever after, which everyone deserves.
D.B. Sieders lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, two children, three cats, and her very active imagination.
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