Storm Force: An Eagle Named Robin
By Susannah Sandlin
After spending the last year writing about vampires, the winter of 2013 seemed like a good time to take on a new challenge. A high-octane paranormal thriller, for example, one that blends romance with equal doses of action. Maybe one that features a antiterrorism team of human Army Rangers and shapeshifters.
Which led to even more challenges, I realized as I set about developing what would become my Storm Force team. First, what kind of shapeshifters did I want to write about? I love wolves (waves at She-Wolf!) but if you’re going to write about wolves in this day and age, you need a new spin. What about big cats? Same thing…but I do love them. So yes, there are wolves and big cats in STORM FORCE, and they have their own twist, but they’re not the shifters I want to talk about today. (Shameless tease, I know!)
Instead, I’d like to introduce the character who became the very first member of my shapeshifter team: Robin Ashton.
Robin’s a petite little waif of a woman with a great big attitude (Omega Team leader Jack Kellison calls her “Razorblade Robin”). You underestimate Robin at your own risk. She’s got a sharp tongue, doesn’t mince words, and—oh yeah—she can shift into a Golden Eagle. She serves as the team’s tracker, with keen vision, a predator’s sensibilities, and the ability to fly. What’s not to like?
We get our first look at her in the opening scenes of STORM FORCE:
The midday sun glinted off the glossy reddish-brown wings of the golden eagle as it swooped over the smooth, murky water of the bayou. It landed with a harsh caw at the end of Kell’s dock, spurring Gator to rise to his feet and look up, asking permission to chase.
“Sorry, buddy. You don’t want to mess with that one. She can take you.” Hell, she could take both of them.
Gator sprang off the porch as the eagle strutted down the dock toward them. He approached the bird in a crouch, his growls echoing off the still water. Damn dog never did listen worth a flip. Kell leaned back in his chair to watch the show. With a screech and a blur of feathers seconds before Gator reached her, the eagle morphed into a petite, waifish brunette.
Make that a naked, waifish brunette with a snarky attitude. She arched an eyebrow as Kell’s vicious watchdog turn into a slobbering, tail-wagging fool, jumping up and down so vigorously his black-and-white spots seemed to blur. You’d think the hound saw birds turn into people every day.
If Gator went the crotch-sniffing route, Kell might have to die of pure humiliation.
I got interested in eagles through the Southeastern Raptor Center, which is located in my hometown. Other than fleeting, gross images of vultures feeding on roadkill as I sped past in a car, I’d never given birds of prey much thought before moving here. The Southeastern Raptor Center takes in injured wild raptors, rehabilitates them, and then releases them back into the habitat they originally came from if they’re capable of surviving. The ones whose injuries are too great are kept for educational purposes. I based Robin on the eagle named Nova—she had an injury that the vets felt would leave her vulnerable back in the wild, so she visits schools and does educational shows.
Raptors (not only eagles, but owls, falcons, hawks, and vultures) are birds of prey—they eat rabbits, snakes, rats, smaller birds, and even an occasional fox.
Jack Kellison (aka Kell), who’s still not convinced this whole human-shapeshifter thing is going to work out, gives his teammate Nik, also a human Army Ranger, a hard time about spending time with Robin:
Nik shrugged. “She relaxes me, and she says such outrageous stuff it makes me laugh. Plus, she goes out flying all night, so I have plenty of privacy. God only knows what she does out there.”
Kell arched a brow. “Don’t eagles hunt down rats and eat them, tail and all? I bet she has rat-ass breath.”
He better be glad Robin didn’t hear that comment!
The Golden Eagle is the largest raptor, with golden-brown feathers and an average wingspan of from 7-8 feet—sometimes much larger. They are aggressive, tenacious hunters, with sharp vision, and although their “cruising speed” is about 30 miles an hour, they can dive or spurt up to 120 mph. Faster than a hurricane!
This comes in handy when Robin has to track the environmental activist, Mori, who’s suspected in the bombing of a Houston high-rise:
The farther Mori got from the city, the more she was convinced her sanity might be in question. She could swear that as she stopped and started and stopped and started with the traffic, she’d seen the same golden eagle sitting on fences, perched on power poles, or flying overhead. Eagles were a rare sight in the concrete habitat, and the idea one might be following her was preposterous.
Finally free of the worst traffic, Mori floored it—just in case the eagle was tailing her. Who knew what Homeland Security had at its disposal? Mechanical spying eagles might not be outside the realm of possibility.
Through the centuries, various cultures have either revered the Golden Eagle for its grace and power or hunted it down because of its reputation for killing livestock and domestic animals. Yet it is the least vocal of the raptors (Robin apparently didn’t get this memo).
One more interesting thing about Golden Eagles? They are monogamous, and often mate for life. So Nik needs to be careful about courting Robin’s affections. She’s not likely to let him walk away unscathed.
Do you have a favorite bird shifter, or are you more partial to fur than feathers? Leave a comment for a $10 gift card to your online retailer of choice (international, equivalent choice of book from Book Depository).
As leader of the elite counter-terrorism team Omega Force, former army ranger Jack “Kell” Kellison is always focused on getting the job done. So when a Houston high-rise is bombed and the governor killed or missing, Kell’s mission is clear: infiltrate the group suspected of the bombing and neutralize the threat by any means necessary. But once Kell meets beautiful chief suspect Mori Chastaine, he realizes there’s more to this case than meets the eye. And more to Mori than any man—any human man—could imagine.
Mori Chastaine is running out of options. Suspected for a crime she didn’t commit, forced into a marriage she doesn’t want, she sees no escape—until Kell walks through her door. A lifetime hiding her true nature warns her Kell might not be who he seems. But he could be the only one able to help save more innocent humans from becoming pawns in an ancient paranormal power play. If Mori reveals her secret, will Kell join her fight? Or will she become his next target?
NOTE: To be released first as a Kindle Serial beginning March 19, 2013. Print and audio and full digital editions to be released on July 9, 2013.