Release Day Fun ~ Darkstorm, Heart of a Vampire, Book 3
*Sings* Happy release day. Wow, the past few months have been a whirlwind, with kids going back to school and I don’t even know where September went. But October is here, and I’m excited to announce my newest release in the Heart of a Vampire Series.
After a millennia apart, can two vampires rekindle their love, or will the line between right and wrong keep them apart?
Hunted by the demon who imprisoned her for hundreds of years, Ashlyn MacDougal is fleeing with a secret which could destroy her soul. When she runs into her lost love, Connor Gregory, life twists upside down.
Connor has spent the last thousand years as a Judge for the Magic Council, tracking and destroying demons. Especially the abominations–those part demon, part vampire. When he discovers his long ago lover is not only alive, but protecting a half-breed, his confusion knows no bounds.
Thrown together by circumstance, they must resolve their past. With demons after them, Ashlyn and Connor come to find their love still burns. Yet, the secrets she hides, and his duty to his job, might just keep them apart for another eternity.
Connor Gregory hunted along the city’s back streets. The scent of human blood, fresh on the air, made his senses hum. Hunger roared. It had been hours since he’d drank his last pint of blood, but his responsibilities as Judge for the Magic Council spurred him on, pushing his needs back.
A human cult was striking terror into the hearts of the mortals living in the city. A cult that seemed to know an awful lot about real demon magic, which meant there was most likely a creature from the depths of hell helping them out.
Connor grinned humorlessly at the inky shadows. His job was to hunt the demon down, and kill it.
All in a productive day’s work.
He followed the blood scent through the alleys of a business district. For the southwest, the buildings towering into the sky felt out of place. They also hindered his ability to track.
Connor despised big cities like Phoenix. He’d much rather have stayed up in the mountains, in his cousin’s sleepy little town of Moss Creek. But when duty called…
He rounded a corner, freezing for a split second. At another time, it could have cost him his head–and his life. In a flash, he pressed his back to the wall, easily blending with the shadows in his dark jeans, t-shirt and black duster.
Just down the alley, in front of an oversized dumpster, a group of teenagers knelt on the asphalt. All four took the Goth look to the extreme. One boy’s shaved head glinted from piercings. Black and red swirling tattoos covered the other boy’s skin. The two girls could have been twins with their pale skin, hair obviously dyed black. Encircling their eyes, they wore black make-up that matched their lipstick. And how anyone could walk in thigh-high boots with six-inch heels covered in spikes was beyond him.
He also didn’t get anyone who would wear spike-studded collars.
The kids shifted slightly, allowing him a glimpse at the encircled pentagram on the ground. Runes of destruction and death had been drawn inside each triangle arm. The tattooed boy leaned over the last empty opening, and continued drawing the symbols for a ritual designed to rip a soul from an innocent.
Connor sniffed the air. Blood. Rotting flesh. And the distinct smoky, sulfurous odor of demon.
He reached to the back of his neck and silently withdrew his katana, Akoukirito, from the sheath on his back. A Japanese sword master had crafted both hundreds of years ago. The blade, named for its use in striking down evil, was honed to an edge that rarely dulled.
Connor was as deadly with his hands, but if one of these seemingly innocent kids was a demon, he’d need the blade.
He held Akoukirito down along his leg as he slowly approached the group. He had to stop them from completing the ritual. It was like a nice, juicy steak for demons, full of magic and power they could corrupt.
He sure as hell didn’t want to deal with a demon pumped up on soul magic.
E drew closer. The kids remained oblivious to his presence. With a sigh, he resheathed his sword. They might be working with a demon, but it wasn’t here right now.
He shot a fist at the throat of the tattooed boy drawing the runes. The kid flew back, crashing against the brick wall of the building, choking and sputtering. The chalk clattered to the ground.
The other three jumped up, circling him as if they would actually have a chance to participate in this fight.
Perhaps even win.
Chuckling, Connor crouched and spun, sweeping his foot over the ground, knocking the three on their asses. He reached for the artist, then tossed him near the others.
“Who are you working for?” he demanded, allowing anger to deepen his voice into a menacing growl.
Tattoo still clutched his throat, but glared up at Connor with a hatred only the youth could attain.
“Fuck off,” he rasped.
The other three looked at each other, then inched away from their apparent leader.
Connor strode to the kid, towering over him, staring him down.
Tattoo swallowed, looking around the alley, anywhere but at Connor. As if realizing he’d shown fear, he jerked his chin back up.
“Who are you working for?” Connor repeated.
The boy glanced at his partners, then back. “Don’t know what you mean.”
Moving so fast there was no way these mortals could follow, he grabbed the kid’s neck, picked him up and slammed him against the wall. Tattoo’s feet kicked uselessly at the brick, high above the ground.
“I won’t ask again,” Connor growled.
The boy squeaked and the smell of urine soaked into the air. His chest rose and fell rapidly as he began to hyperventilate.
One of the girls shouted, “You’re gonna kill him.”
Connor slowly turned his head, staring at her.
She and her friends gasped, crab walking backwards until they hit the wall on the other side of the alley.
He knew what they saw. His anger at the stupidity of these children had fired his blood. His fangs, extended and showing clearly through his grim smile. His eyes, a blood red, blazing with fury.
They saw the monster inside, the monster he was.
He used it to his advantage, and lied. “I’ll snap his neck before you can blink, little girl, if you don’t answer my question.”
She sniffled as the other girl started to sob. The boy beside them inched farther away, heading in the direction of the alley’s entrance.
“I-I… we don’t know his name,” she replied.
“But he calls himself…” Connor prompted.
Connor chuckled, a raspy sound that made the girl flinch. “The devil, aye? Not quite.”
He let the boy slide to the ground and told the girl, “Tell me everything.”
After she’d listed off several addresses where he might find this ‘Diablo’, Connor pulled a bag from his duster and sprinkled the special sand over the pentagram, then ground it in beneath his boot. By the time he was done, the markings had nearly disappeared.
He glared at the kids. “Play with magic again, and I’ll be back. Next time won’t be as pleasant.” He strode out of the alley, not giving any of them another glance.
Out on one of the busy main streets, he scanned each direction. Trying to track any scent beneath the fumes of exhaust and people bustling about would be difficult, if not impossible.
He’d check out the addresses, but with the ritual not taking place, the demon would know something was wrong when he didn’t receive a nice bite of power. He’d be hightailing his cowardly ass out of his preferred hangouts.
Connor headed down the street toward a bar that catered to those like him. He could get a drink, then finish the night’s frustrating hunt.
Two blocks from the bar, the air filled with the stench of sulfurous smoke. He eased along the sidewalk, searching for the demon. Across the street, a man stood in front of a closed door. His black clothes, inky dark hair and pale face pegged him as another Goth. But the red encircling the green in his eyes told Connor another story.
He inhaled deeply, letting his heightened senses sift through the scents.
The guy wasn’t pure demon. Something else, most likely vampire, filled his blood.
Connor froze, staring at the man. As a Judge, one of his jobs was to kill any half-breed he came across.
Tonight was turning into a wild ride.
And just maybe he’d get lucky enough to catch the half-breed, dispose of him without too much damage to the city.
Half-breeds were well known for being crazed with bloodlust, the monsters inside them unable to coexist easily in any human body.
Between the vampire blood and the demon soul, this had to be the one responsible for the murders throughout the city. It would explain the extent of the depraved torture the victims had suffered.
Connor moved to the street, keeping an eye on the half-breed while watching for a break in the traffic. The man left the doorway and strode down the street. Exactly the way Connor had come. Probably going to search out the teenagers and find out why the ritual hadn’t been completed.
Connor stayed on his side of the street, matching the demon’s pace. Minutes passed. Then the demon stopped, pulling a cell phone out of his pocket and answering a call.
If he’d been closer, or the traffic–human and vehicle–lighter, Connor could have listened in as he wanted. Instead, he had to resort to trying to read the demon’s lips, something he’d never quite mastered. Saying to hell with it, he watched a small opening in the traffic draw closer.
Just as he was ready to make a dash for it, he saw her.
She stood just beyond the demon, her red hair up in a chignon. Strands curled down around her heart-shaped face, like he remembered. She glanced his way, though he could tell she didn’t see him.
His heart screamed she must be Ashlyn. From her high cheekbones, small nose, and wide, startling green eyes, to the lush body he’d once known intimately, unhidden by the sleeveless blouse or the slim ankle-length skirt, she looked exactly the same.
But she couldn’t be the woman of his memories.
The sounds of the city faded, replaced by the past.
Scottish war cries echoed in the dark of the night as coming ships roused the clan. They blocked off the cliff stairs that led down a hundred feet to the beach, confident they could repel the invaders. Until they looked down, only to see red-eyed beasts scaling the rock itself.
His last glance of Ashlyn had been her fear-laden eyes, watching him as she shepherded the children through the hidden door at the base of the clan’s castle.
All had died that night, but for Connor and two of his cousins. When they woke, it was as raving beasts.
Ashlyn had not survived.
Connor shook the memories away, staring at the woman whose image, after a thousand years, still haunted his dreams every night.
The demon approached her. She held out her hand, and the hell-spawn touched her soft, creamy skin, then bent closer to say something in her ear.
Connor dodged into the street, ignoring the blaring of horns as he raced for her. Ashlyn or not, she must be saved.
At the commotion, she looked up, and met his gaze. Her eyes widened. She gasped, bringing her free hand up to cover her heart.
Her lips began to curl in the shy smile he remembered so well.
Chills raced over his skin. His lungs emptied on an explosive breath. His stomach clenched as if a car had slammed into him.
Memories jerked him in a vortex of confusion.
It couldn’t be Ashlyn… could it?
His heart skipped a beat, then drummed into a gallop. Hot emotion thrummed through him.
She glanced at the demon by her side. The smile disappeared, replaced by haunting fear.
She grabbed the demon’s arm and together they raced down the street.
Hope you enjoyed 🙂