Exclusive Excerpt: Bayou Born (The Foundling Series #1) by Hailey Edwards
RELEASED: October 17, 2017
GENRE: PARANORMAL, URBAN FANTASY
LENGTH: 336 pages
Her beginning may be our end... Deep in the humid swamps of the Mississippi bayou, a mysterious, half-wild child is dragged just in time from the murky waters. She has no memories, no family and is covered in strange markings, the meaning of which no one is able to decipher. Adopted by the policeman who rescued her, Luce Boudrou follows him into the force, determined to prove herself in the eyes of those who are still suspicious. However, there's more of a battle ahead than Luce could possibly imagine. She may be an orphan without a past, but no one - including Luce herself - could ever be prepared for the truth of her dark, powerful destiny...
What happened next blurred around the edges. Rixton stood to run interference. He hesitated a second to tell Sherry to stay put. I was striding toward the door, Cole on my heels, when the newcomer fisted the sleeve of my top. It was wide-neck and elastic, and his yank pulled it off one shoulder.
The neckline snapped taut and caught under my bra cup, exposing my entire left shoulder and most of my arm down to the elbow.
The shock of the violation, the stunned incomprehension that a strange man had laid his hands on me, locked my muscles until all I could do was stand there and gape. Did that just happen? Is this real? It was such a nightmare scenario for me, being exposed in public. Amnesia swept through my muscle memory, the trauma wiping away all those years of self-defense classes. One move had stripped me of my armor at the worst possible time and left me a victim. Again.
A feral growl ripped me out of my head, and I jerked up my top. The asshat had torn the fabric, so I tucked the ragged material under my bra strap. I spun at the sound of shattering glass and found Cole holding the man a foot off the ground, one of his large hands wrapped around the guy’s windpipe. The other hand had yanked the camera from his grasp, and his huge booted foot had stomped it flat. The breaking glass was courtesy of a framed picture Cole had bashed the man’s head through. Blood speckled the mat surrounding a dollar bill from Hannigan’s opening, the first one they’d earned.
For a good ol’ Southern boy, the guttural words pouring out of Cole’s mouth, pressed flush against the reporter’s ear, were not in any way comprehensible. Another language definitely. German maybe?
I crossed to him when it became obvious no one else was brave enough to get between the furious titan and the target of his wrath. Rixton had shielded Sherry, and he wasn’t budging until the situation was contained and his wife and child were safe. “Cole?”
“He touched you,” he snarled. “Exposed you.”
“Can you put him down?” I rested my hand between the slabs of muscle between his shoulders. “The cops will be here in a minute.” I had no doubt Mr. Hannigan had mashed his panic button. “Let them take care of this guy.”
Choking sounds interspersed with sobs had me lifting my gaze to the reporter. Cole caught the man looking in my direction, and the vibration in his chest deepened until the man whimpered and crushed his eyes shut. A second later, the tang of ammonia filled the air. The guy had pissed himself, and that was the only reason Cole turned him loose and took a step back. Lip curled, he glowered at the guy.
“There are parts of the swamp that have never been seen by human eyes,” he told the man. “Touch her again, and I’ll give you a guided tour.”
The guy curled in a ball, hands covering his face, and rocked until sirens blared in the distance.
Aware I was taking my life into my hands, I tugged on Cole’s shirt until he angled his body toward me. I was a country girl, and I knew all about not getting between a predator and his prey. But I needed Cole to greenlight me with his crew, and that couldn’t happen if he was in lockup. “That was an extreme reaction, don’t you think?”
“No.” Muscles fluttered in his jaw. “I don’t.” He hooked his index finger and tapped under my chin until I looked all the way up at him. “What if there hadn’t been witnesses? What if he hadn’t stopped there? What if he hadn’t come alone? Do you think his friends would have helped you? Or stopped filming? No matter how long you screamed?”
“I would have snapped out of it, okay? He surprised me. The attention has gotten rough before, but no one has ever…” I fingered the torn edges of my shirt. “I wasn’t ready for him to put his hands on me. I will be next time.”
“We need to leave.” He lowered his hand. “The cops are almost here.”
“I am a cop, remember?” I thumped my chest with my closed fist. “Plus, you kind of Hulk-smashed this place. There are repercussions for that sort of thing.”
“You expect me to hang around and answer questions.” He made it sound like I’d asked him to donate a kidney then offered to cut it out with a butter knife and no anesthesia. “I have a spotless record precisely because I avoid both those things.”
“How about this?” I walked him backward with a palm flattened against his rock-hard chest then applied slight pressure on his shoulder until he sat in the nearest chair. “I’ll stay here and hold your hand so the big, bad cops don’t scare you.”
Cole extended his arm, palm up, and waited for me to make good on my promise.
“I didn’t mean that literally.” But I put my hand in his and let the fold of his fingers swallow me up to the wrist. Lifting a concrete block one-handed might have been easier than bearing the full weight of his hand, his arm, when he relaxed into my grip. Biceps trembling, elbow joint aching, I didn’t complain. How could I when he hadn’t so much as peeked at my bare skin? He must be curious about the markings. He was in this up to his neck. Yet he had tossed aside a prime opportunity to evaluate me, to compare my banding to Jane’s, and I respected him for that. “I don’t get you, Cole, so give me some pointers. Should I thank you for defending my honor? Or would that only encourage your caveman tendencies in the future?”
Quicker than a rattler striking down a field mouse, he swung his head toward the reporter. “He put his hands on you.” His lips peeled from his teeth, and a low sound pumped through his chest that made my fingers itch to flatten my palm against his back once more. “He’s lucky I let him off with a warning.”
Well, that answered my question. Wrap his hips with animal pelts, pass the man a club, and Cole would be a Neolithic dream come true. Good thing I wasn’t sleeping much these days.
Hailey Edwards writes about questionable applications of otherwise perfectly good magic, the transformative power of love, the family you choose for yourself, and blowing stuff up. Not necessarily all at once. That could get messy. She lives in Alabama with her husband, their daughter, and a herd of dachshunds.