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       Air Bound, p.1

         Part #3 of Sea Haven series by Christine Feehan
Air Bound


  Praise for Christine Feehan's Sea Haven novels

  "A new cast of characters as heartwarmingly interesting as those in her Drake Sisters novels and as steamy as those in her Dark novels."

  --Fresh Fiction

  "The Queen of Paranormal Romance."

  --USA Today

  "Ms. Feehan is at the top of her game with this magical romance."

  --The Romance Readers Connection

  "Suspenseful, engaging--fraught with magic, action and romance . . . I HAVE to read the next one in the series."

  --Smexy Books

  "A fan of Christine Feehan's Drake Sisters series will love this . . . The story drew me in and would not let me go until it was finished and then I just want more. Waiting with bated breath for the next book."

  --Night Owl Reviews

  "An action-packed and romantic tale. Awesome as always!"

  --RT Book Reviews

  "Avid readers of Ms. Feehan's work should dive in."

  --Fiction Vixen

  "Once again, Christine Feehan brings a sizzling story of seduction and sorcery to her readers. Fans of previous Feehan novels, particularly the Drake Sisters series, will be enchanted by her new series."

  --Examiner.com

  "Stunning, vivid, lushly visual . . . It's the perfect way to escape."

  --Romance Books Forum

  "A wonderful love story . . . Truly original."

  --Penelope's Romance Reviews

  Titles by Christine Feehan

  SAMURAI GAME

  RUTHLESS GAME

  STREET GAME

  MURDER GAME

  PREDATORY GAME

  DEADLY GAME

  CONSPIRACY GAME

  NIGHT GAME

  MIND GAME

  SHADOW GAME

  HIDDEN CURRENTS

  TURBULENT SEA SAFE HARBOR

  DANGEROUS TIDES

  OCEANS OF FIRE

  LEOPARD'S PREY

  SAVAGE NATURE

  WILD FIRE

  BURNING WILD

  WILD RAIN

  AIR BOUND

  SPIRIT BOUND

  WATER BOUND

  DARK WOLF

  DARK LYCAN

  DARK STORM

  DARK PREDATOR

  DARK PERIL

  DARK SLAYER

  DARK CURSE

  DARK HUNGER

  DARK POSSESSION

  DARK CELEBRATION

  DARK DEMON

  DARK SECRET

  DARK DESTINY

  DARK MELODY

  DARK SYMPHONY

  DARK GUARDIAN

  DARK LEGEND

  DARK FIRE

  DARK CHALLENGE

  DARK MAGIC

  DARK GOLD

  DARK DESIRE

  DARK PRINCE

  ANTHOLOGIES

  DARKEST AT DAWN

  (INCLUDES Dark Hunger AND Dark Secret)

  SEA STORM

  (INCLUDES Magic in the Wind AND Oceans of Fire)

  FEVER

  (INCLUDES The Awakening AND Wild Rain)

  FANTASY

  (WITH EMMA HOLLY, SABRINA JEFFRIES, AND ELDA MINGER)

  LOVER BEWARE

  (WITH FIONA BRAND, KATHERINE SUTCLIFFE, AND EILEEN WILKS)

  HOT BLOODED

  (WITH MAGGIE SHAYNE, EMMA HOLLY, AND ANGELA KNIGHT)

  SPECIALS

  DARK HUNGER

  MAGIC IN THE WIND

  THE AWAKENING

  THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) LLC

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

  USA Canada UK Ireland Australia New Zealand India South Africa China penguin.com

  A Penguin Random House Company

  AIR BOUND

  A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author Copyright (c) 2014 by Christine Feehan.

  Excerpt from Dark Blood copyright (c) 2014 by Christine Feehan.

  Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

  Jove Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

  JOVE(r) is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

  The "J" design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

  For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  ISBN: 978-0-69813694-6

  PUBLISHING HISTORY

  Jove mass-market edition / June 2014

  Cover illustration by Dan O'Leary. Cover design by George Long. Cover handlettering by Ron Zinn. Stepback illustration by Dan O'Leary.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."

  Version_1

  For my niece, Samantha Goodacre . . . with love

  FOR MY READERS

  Be sure to go to christinefeehan.com/members/ to sign up for my PRIVATE book announcement list and download the FREE eBook of Dark Desserts. Join my community and get firsthand news, enter the book discussions, ask your questions and chat with me. Please feel free to e-mail me at Christine@christinefeehan.com; I would love to hear from you.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  As always, I have many people to thank. Domini Stottsberry, for keeping up with me, and Brian Feehan, for always being there when I need to talk fight scenes. My writing group, for calling me at seven A.M. to get me going. Andrew Mowery is owed a huge debt of gratitude for his immediate help on disabling a helicopter. If there are any mistakes or errors, they are solely mine, and not that of my expert! Thanks so much, Andrew.

  Contents

  Praise for Christine Feehan's Sea Haven novels

  Titles by Christine Feehan

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  For My Readers

  Acknowledgments

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Excerpt from Dark Blood

  1

  THE taxi dropped Airi off just one house over from her own, something she always did just to allow herself a little time to prepare for going home. Five days out of the week she lived in a dorm--well, a small apartment--and going home took some adjustment. Sometimes it was absolutely wonderful and other times it was awful.

  She walked slowly, counting her steps. Breathing. In and out. She was able to quiet her mind and not look at the patterns around her. Counting was obnoxious, but she had to give her mind something to occupy it or chaos reigned.

  Wind teased her face. Once. Twice. Like the feeling of fingers brushing lightly but persistently over her skin to get her attention. She promised herself she wouldn't look, but she couldn't stop the compulsion. She glanced up at the clouds above her head. They swirled around, seemingly at random, but her mind pieced those puzzles together. Click. Click. The patterns fell into place and left her gasping. Sick. She pressed a hand to her stomach and shook her head, refusing to believe what she saw.

  She was normal. Not at all like her mother. She wasn't being eaten alive from the inside, her mind slowly turning in on itself. She refused to believe that could happen. Patterns in the clouds, or a lake or even on the walls of their home were figments of her imagination and nothing else. She wanted to believe that, but her body didn't, and it took effort to force one foot in front of the other to proceed up the walkway to her home.

  Music blared. Sounds poured out of the windows and through every crack. Loud, brass, a cacophony of noise that shook the panes and filled her mind until she was afraid it would bleed. Her footsteps slowed. Music that loud meant bad things. Very bad things. Her mother's mind, like hers, refused to quiet sometimes and when counting or any of the other tricks didn't work, she resorted to drinking to self-medicate. And when Marina was drinking . . .

  Letting out her breath, Airiana reluctantly opened the front door. The music blasted her in the face, nearly pushing her back out of the house.

  "For God's sake, Airi, make your mom turn that off. It's been going on for hours now," Wanda, their neighbor, called. "I pounded on the door but she didn't answer--as usual." She paused, her expression turning compassionate. "Come over later if you want. I'll have dinner. You can take some to your mother."

  Even the neighbors knew about Marina's drinking. How could they not? The music was atrocious, and more often than not, Airi slept outside where it was safe. Sometimes, when her mother's drinking was really bad, she had to take knives away from her to prevent her from doing harm to herself. Those were the worst times. She was careful never to tell anyone, especially where she lived and went to school. They would take her away from her mother if they knew just how bad it had gotten at home.

  "Thanks, Wanda. I'll probably take you up on that." She liked Wanda. The woman didn't have a mean bone in her body and she was particularly good to Airi and Marina. Although nearly seventeen, Airi still looked twelve. Her young looks might have contributed to Wanda's compassion, but whatever the reason, Airi was glad Wanda was close by. She had moved into the neighborhood about four years earlier and Airi was grateful she had. She was a friend when times were particularly bad--one she could confide in when things were really awful and she needed someone safe to talk to.

  Taking a deep breath, her stomach lurching, Airi walked into the living room. In spite of the music, the feel of the house was still and ominous, as if she'd just walked onto a horror set. She had taken four steps inside when the odor hit. Blood. Lots of it.

  "Mom," she whispered softly, her hand going to her throat. Her blood roared a warning in her ears. She didn't want to move, wanted to stay frozen in time right there, no going back and no going forward. Just not move and nothing would be wrong. Her mother had threatened to kill herself many times, when she was drunk, but Airiana hadn't believed she'd really do it.

  The house creaked. The music blared. Her heart slammed a terrible rhythm of dread in her chest. She tried not to breathe in the coppery scent. She absently waved a hand toward the player, and the music abruptly ceased. Air circulated, but it didn't relieve that appalling, frightening odor.

  Pressing her lips together, she forced herself to walk into the kitchen. Dark coffee swirled in another pattern across the cheerful blue and white tiles, looking like a river of mud. Broken pieces of her mother's favorite mug lay scattered like white islands through the dark spill. A drawer, wide open, tipped precariously downward and a chair lay overturned beside the kitchen table. Her mother was a neat freak. She would never, under any circumstances, have left such a disaster behind, not even if she was very drunk--or suicidal. Airi's heart pounded harder than ever.

  "Mom," she called again, this time a little louder. Pain edged her voice. Fear. It was a child's voice seeking reassurance, when lately she'd often had to be the adult.

  There was no answer. She shook her head and forced her feet to move one step at a time down the hallway toward her mother's bedroom. She pushed open the door slowly. It was empty and as perfectly pristine as her mother always kept it. The duvet was white lace, along with the abundance of pillows and shams. Marina loved white, that pure background that soothed her mind and allowed her to rest.

  Airi leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. The scent of blood was overpowering now. Much stronger in the hallway. When she turned her head just slightly, she could see a thin line of red leaking out from under the door of her bedroom. Her body, of its own volition, turned away from the sight, a full flight response, but her feet remained frozen in place. She couldn't move. She couldn't leave.

  If her mother was alive in that room, she needed help. There had been no bottles of alcohol out on the sink in a single line in the way her mother liked to arrange them. There was no blender plugged in to make the drinks her mother chose to inhale by the gallon when her mind was too chaotic and she needed a respite. There had been coffee--coffee--on the floor.

  Airi bit her lip so hard blood welled up. She had to check. She couldn't run like a coward to her neighbor's house and beg her to look first. Holding her breath, she made it down the hall to her bedroom door. It was slightly ajar, but she couldn't see inside. Very slowly, using her fingertips, she pushed the door open so she could look into her room.

  She screamed. And screamed. And screamed. Her throat was raw and she felt blood vessels break, but she screamed on and on because nothing was going to save her mother--or what was left of her.

  She knew it was her mother only by the dress she wore, her favorite dress. The one she wore when she wanted to do something fun with Airi. When she tried to make up for the times she had a bad time. When she was sober and determined to start all over again and this time, stay sober.

  "Airiana. Airiana." Hands shook her shoulders. Gentle hands.

  "They killed her. They tortured her, and they killed her." Airiana Ridell covered her face with her hands, sobbing like that teenager.

  "I know, honey. I'm here. You're safe. She's in a place where they can't hurt her anymore."

  The calm, soothing voice broke through the web of her nightmare. The memories in such vivid detail were horrifying, as if it had just happened, as if she had just entered her bedroom and found her mother. She could still smell the blood. She would never get the odor out of her mind. Her stomach cramped and heaved and her throat hurt so bad she could barely swallow.

  "Lissa," she gasped, pushing herself into a sitting position. "I'm sorry. Did I scream again?"

  Lissa Pinar sat on the side of the bed, pushing back the heavy fall of hair from Airiana's forehead. Tiny beads of perspiration dotted Airiana's brow, and her thin sweats were damp as well. Lissa looked her sister of the heart over. Airiana was short, with a slender, almost boyish figure. Everything about her was fragile. A good wind might blow her over. Her eyes were deep blue, almost cobalt, fringed with golden lashes, and her hair--damp at the moment--was a true platinum blond. Natural streaks of silver and gold ran through the thick pelt of platinum hair, which, to Lissa, lent Airiana the ethereal appearance of a fairy. Right now there were dark circles under her eyes and she looked more fragile than ever.

  Lissa nodded in answer to Airiana's question. "You've screamed two nights in a row now. What's bringing these nightmares back? You haven't had them in quite a while." Lissa's five acres bordered Airiana's within the large acreage of the farm, so it wasn't as if their homes were close, yet the wind had carried Airiana's cries to her.

  Airiana glanced toward her windows. They were open as usual. She never closed them, not even in the rain.

  Lissa might not be a blood relative, but she was family to Airiana, a sister, every bit as loved as one born to her mother.

  "I don't know why the nightmares are coming back so strong," Airiana admitted, but there was a nagging feeling in the back of her mind, one that told her the nightmares were heralding of disaster.

  Each of her chosen sisters had gone through something similar in their pasts--having a loved one murdered and feeling responsible--so she knew Lissa would understand exactly how she felt.

  Airiana pressed her palm to her mouth, feeling sick. "I'm beginning to see patterns in everything, like I'm losing control again." That frightened her. The thought that she'd go down the same path of madness as her mother was terrifying.

  "Maybe we should call Debra Jems. I could go with you to Monterey for a consult," Lissa offered immediately. "There's nothing terribly pressing that I can't put off at work."

  Debra had been the amazing counselor who had brought six women together in group therapy. Each of them was a victim of a violent past, and each believed she was responsible for the murder of a family member she loved. All had been at the very end of their ability to survive when they had gone, as a last resort, to Debra, in the hopes that she could help them.

  "Do you ever wonder why or how we were each drawn to Debra's group?" Airiana asked. "Each of us has a gift, we're bound to an element, and somehow we found one another just when each of us wanted to give up."

  The six women had formed a bond so strong they had decided they were better off together and had pooled their money to buy a large farm. Eventually they were able to build a separate home for each of them. Although each had a designated space of five acres, they ran a communal farm and donated a portion of their outside businesses to the running, care and expansion of the farm.

  "That's the part that has amazed me," Lissa agreed. "That we all came with special gifts and didn't even realize it. It's no wonder Sea Haven called to us. I think there's magic in our little village and we just responded to it."

  "Do you know what's really bad?" Airiana blinked away the tears on her lashes and sent Lissa a small scowl, deliberately changing the subject to give herself a little respite. "Ilya Prakenskii married Joley Drake and settled here. Levi is really Lev Prakenskii. That's two of the brothers here in Sea Haven. And then who comes along to marry our Judith? Another bossy Prakenskii--Stefan."

  Lissa nodded. "He can call himself Thomas Vincent, or anything else he wants, but he's a Prakenskii all the way with his domineering attitude."

 
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