Amber Kallyn’s New Release
Release: May 4, 2020
She’s running scared, afraid to open her heart. He won’t give up until he proves to her that love can heal.
As an empath, Shana Wilder keeps most people at a distance. Last year, when she learned the paranormal actually exists, she lost friends, and nearly her own life. Now, more vampires and other creatures are wreaking havoc on Phoenix’s city streets. More of Shana’s friends are dying. And the only person she can turn to is a man who makes her yearn for things she long ago decided could never be for her.
Sebastian Lucerne never wanted to be a vampire Master, with all the headaches that come with the job. But when Phoenix needed to band together, to stop evil’s spread, he took control. Unfortunately, dark magics are spreading through his city, once again. Nor can he deny that one of his top concerns remains the stubborn, sexy, and far too distant Shana, who refuses to let him further into her heart.
Sebastian swears to keep her safe, along with the rest of his city. He’ll stamp out the murderous Rogues, and then, will somehow find a way to reach Shana. Assuming their enemies don’t take them down first.
Shana Wilder usually loved nightclubs.
The glitzy glimmer.
The loud music thumping through the air.
Not necessarily the overwhelming emotions—primarily joy, but also hints of love, or lust—that always sank into her, when she was around large crowds like this.
But with this many people surrounding her, Shana could, mostly, block the rush of others’ feelings and emotions. Stop the overwhelming flood, and change it into nothing more than a small trickle.
Tonight, however, she enjoyed nothing about Black Dawn.
Shana shoved through the huge, converted warehouse. Past the numerous tables, staggered around the edges of the large, wooden dance floor.
She ignored the pounding rock music. Refused the urge to tap her foot.
Continued to stride towards the bar.
Halfway there, some guy slung an arm around her waist. Jerked Shana to his side. “Heya, baby doll. Dance with me.”
Alcohol, heavy on his breath, made her nose wrinkle.
Shana despised the fact that her body’s first instinct was to freeze. A near silent, pitiful cry of panic escaped, from a dark corner deep inside of her.
Then, the split-second passed.
She found the control she’d worked hard to gain this past year.
The man’s emotions flooded her, but were nothing more than a blur of drunkenness. He couldn’t overwhelm her.
More importantly, his touch didn’t set off anything else inside of her, either.
“No, thanks,” she replied, and tried to pull away.
His grip tightened. “Aw, baby. Don’t be like that.” He swept his gaze over her outfit—a paint-stained tank top, and equally used, ratty and stained, jeans. Her long, white-streaked, black hair was pulled up into a messy knot.
Then the drunkard shrugged. “Let’s dance.” He again jerked her arm, trying to pull her out onto the dance floor.
“Let me go,” Shana demanded.
He weaved around people, ignoring her except to yank her a few more feet further.
She informed him, “Last chance, asshole.”
He merely jerked on her arm again.
Done with it all, she slammed a boot on his instep. Threw an elbow into his gut.
Doubling over, and breathing heavily, the guy shouted, “What the fuck was that for, you bitch?”
“Your refusal to understand the word No.”
He reached to grab her again, his expression reddening in anger.
So Shana shot a knee into his groin.
He doubled over again, this time nearly falling to his knees. Wheezed, “Fucking bitch. You’ll pay for that.”
Before Shana could respond, they were both surrounded by tall, muscled bouncers, all demanding to know what had happened.
In short order, the bouncers assessed the situation.
Then they hauled the guy out—probably to have a long chat with him regarding appropriate behavior while inside of Black Dawn.
The owner of this club didn’t allow assholes like that in here, for long.
Shana finally reached the bar. Slapping one hand on the carved wood, she caught the nearest bartender’s attention. “Is he here?”
Grace, tall and thin, nodded. Her blonde hair, pulled back in a ponytail, bounced happily, when her gaze flicked to the wall, on the far right of the warehouse, that split the club area from where the back offices and storage rooms lay.
The bartender replied softly, “He’ll be out in a minute. Anything you want to drink? It’s on him, like usual.”
After the confrontation with the drunken guy, and her adrenaline starting to fade, what Shana really wanted was a nice, stiff, double-shot of something hard.
But she needed a clear mind for what was coming.
One of the other big changes in her life this past year.
Shana no longer used the mind-numbing relief of alcohol and drunkenness as a crutch, a way to ignore the emotions she always got from others.
And, the rest of what she sometimes felt.
Shaking those thoughts from her head, Shana only told Grace, “No, thank you,”
Then she sat down on one of the stools, her back to the bar. She watched the large place, unsurprised at how many people were here. A glance down at her paint splotched clothes, and she sighed.
It wasn’t exactly the type of outfit for a packed club on a Saturday night.
Not that she’d planned on coming here.
An hour ago, Shana had been in the middle of a new painting, when her apartment’s doorbell rang. Dragged from her art, she’d opened the door.
Only to find a special delivery courier with a few very large packages.
Five minutes later, she’d stared down into the open boxes—all full of expensive oil paints, stacks of sketchpads, brand new, top-of-the-line brushes, and other costly accessories, always in short supply for her.
Shana hadn’t needed to look at the note to know who’d sent them.
Sure enough, the card had read only, Sebastian.
Before she knew it, her temper had spiked beyond control. She’d left her apartment. Had driven, hell-bent, to his nightclub.
If the security guys at the door didn’t know her, she’d never have gotten inside—especially not bypassing the entire wait line while she was at it.
A humming frission itched along the back of her neck. Shana’s gaze swept the crowd.
And landed on one guy, sitting on a nearby bar stool, staring at her with a fierce, dark, scowl.
Shana looked him over uninterestedly.
He wasn’t why she’d come here.
Still, if he lost the anger tightening his expression, he’d probably be handsome, with his sandy blond hair and blue-green eyes. He could stand to lose some of the cowboy look, too.
The t-shirt and boots were fine, but the western hat was over the top.
Not that she had a lot of room to talk, while wearing her paint-stained work clothes.
He continued to stare at her intensely.
Shana scowled back. “Got a problem, buddy?”
His voice was gravel, harsh and deep. “You look… well… you look like someone really familiar.”
“Bad pickup line. Heard it before.” Her sarcasm flowed, heavy and thick. “I’m not here to find a date. And even though Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy might be a catchy song, I’m not about to saddle up.”
The cowboy’s eyes widened.
His tumultuous, overpowered emotions blasted her.
Unprepared, Shana clenched the edges of her barstool, feeling the full effect of his shock—swiftly followed by a rush of his embarrassment.
Trying to pick her up was the furthest thing from his mind.
Shana finally managed to shove out his emotions. Return to the dimmer echo of the happy clubbers.
The cowboy downed his drink. Scrubbed one hand over his face. He stared down into the empty glass he clenched tight, between his hands.
Her curiosity stirred. She turned sideways on her stool, to face him fully. “So then, who is it that you think I look like?”
For a long moment, he didn’t respond.
Finally, he met her gaze once again.
Shana gasped and involuntarily leaned away from the guy.
His eyes had changed. Crimson ringed his pupils. Streaked through blue-green.
His expression hardened even more, etched with nothing but an angry misery. “I don’t know. I can’t remember,” he growled. “And that’s the hell of it.”
He jumped off his stool, and hurried off.
Goosebumps prickled Shana’s neck. She silently watched him disappear into the crowd.
Until his scent—musky male and expensive cologne—hit her. Wrapped tightly around her senses.
Her heartbeat thumped.
Her mouth dried.
Heat rose in her belly. Caressed her veins.
Large, warm hands settled on her bare, upper arms. His tall, muscled body pressed deliciously against her back.
Electric impulses sparked any and everywhere he touched her. Lust zinged straight to her core. Shivers slipped down her spine.
But, along with the usual heat, also came the usual, creeping fear.
Shana hated her own weaknesses.
She especially hated this one.
Sebastian Lucerne bent closer to whisper at her ear, “Good evening, darling. A welcome surprise to see you here tonight.”
Shana jerked away from his stupidly-enticing touch. His compelling scent. She spun around on her stool.
And glared up at the nightclub’s owner.
Sebastian was a good half-foot taller than her own five-seven. Since she was sitting, Shana was forced to tilt her head back.
It was a struggle to ignore his annoying handsomeness.
“Lucerne,” she replied.
His dark hair fell soft and loose to brush just past his shoulders. The color was a mix of varied shades, blacks and browns. Even free around his face, it didn’t hide his sharply masculine features.
Or the scar on the right side of his face. Starting between his temple, and the corner of his eye, a wide, jagged line curved down, to his jaw.
It made him appear fierce.
And very, very dangerous.
Sebastian’s usual slickly tailored suit, and tonight’s blue silk tie, couldn’t hide the sense of contained power always emanating from the man.
He leaned back a little, enjoying her attention. A hint of a grin played over his wide, nibbleable mouth.
Looked away—before he caught her in his mesmerizing, always changing, always captivating, hazel gaze. Right now, his eyes happened to be more blue than green-brown.
The husky undertones in his deep voice were hard to ignore when he asked, “How are you tonight, darling?”
Shana managed to shove back the rising heat, the sweeping lust, he always, instantly made her feel.
Getting to the reason she’d come—which sure the hell wasn’t seduction—Shana agitatedly replied, “I’m just fine. But what do you think you’re doing?”
His mesmerizing gaze twinkled. “Grace. A white zinfandel, please.”
The bartender handed over a ready, chilled glass of blush wine, already having anticipated the request.
It was the same song and dance, every time she came here.
Not that she ended up here all that often. Especially lately. Still, it was far too often for her peace of mind.
“No, thank you,” she only replied.
Both Sebastian and Grace looked crestfallen.
Shana grabbed the damned glass. “Whatever. Fine. Thanks.” Then, she poked a finger at the silken trappings covering Sebastian’s wide, muscled chest. “We need to talk.”
His grin bloomed into a full, warm and welcoming smile. “You’re going to yell at me some more? Well, it’s better than being avoided and ignored, I suppose. I take it my package arrived?”
Sebastian took her free hand, courtly placed it on his forearm, and tucked her close against his side.
She didn’t resist him, leading her along the bar and toward the side door that led to the back offices.
She concentrated on ignoring the heat, rushing in her blood.
Drawing closer, Sebastian whispered near her ear, “Enjoy your wine.”
She hastily took a small sip. Blamed her sudden spike in temperature on the crowded club.
While Sebastian’s touch might affect her—that was hard to completely deny—it didn’t send her reeling away from reality, as most people’s did.
He was one of the few people she’d met who didn’t give off a roar of emotion. One of the few completely silent to her.
A small oasis of calm, in a vast—endless—overwhelming noise.
Unfortunately, that meant everything he stirred within her could only be her own growing feelings for the man.
Shana remained quiet, unresisting, while Sebastian courtly led her across the club’s main room. Finally, they slipped into the much quieter back hallway.
The moment he shut the door behind them, Shana jumped onto the topic of the business at hand. “You can’t keep paying for things for me, or trying to give me presents, or—”
Sebastian cut her off once again.
This time by pressing his hot mouth to hers.
His tongue caressed, swept between her lips, in a dance of hungry need. He deliciously tasted of brandy, and lust, and male.
Flames rose hotter, higher.
Desire flooded her senses.
She swayed toward him. Nearly lost her wineglass.
Before she could try to think, or to jerk away, Sebastian pulled back.
His eyes were lit with crimson, bleeding over hazel flecks of blues, greens and browns. “I’ve missed you.” This time, the husky undertones in his voice sent Shana’s heartbeat drumming. “Why do you insist on trying to avoid me, lately?”
She stepped further away from him, pretending he didn’t always, near-instantly, make her body hum.
Make her want.
Make her terrified of the hunger, the heat, spreading through her from head to feet.
Worse, were the emotions, growing, throbbing in her chest.
Always feeling so very off-kilter, Shana never knew how to respond when he nudged her about this kind of thing.
So she went with her usual.
Avoided it. “I’m serious. You can’t keep sending me gifts—”
“This one wasn’t a gift, exactly.” Sebastian took her arm again, continuing along the wide hallway.
Confusion streaked through her. Hesitant, she asked, “What do you mean, not a gift?”
He only crooked one dark brow.
Silently led the way.
They passed a few open doorways. One revealed a large, kitchen-type, break room. Another showed a stretching rec room, with sparring mats to one side, weights and other gym equipment scattered through the rest.
Just one small reason all the employees here looked to be in as good of shape as their boss.
When they reached Sebastian’s office, he waved her inside.
A wooden desk, with a couple cushiony visitor chairs, took up the right side of the room. Behind the desk stood cupboards and shelves, overflowing with books, business ledgers, and trays of paperwork.
On the left was a less formal sitting area, with a small coffee table, circled by oversized, plush recliners, and two sofas, all inviting a person to sit.
Get comfortable and relax.
One day, Shana might actually ask Sebastian if he ever did business on the left side of his office—or if it was merely a front, for naptimes.
Beyond the furniture, nearly every inch of the walls were dominated by flashing blades. From swords that made Shana itch to touch, to arrays of throwing knives, and just about everything in between.
She’d seen Sebastian demonstrate his throwing skills once—and had been blown away.
He could peg a target at over a hundred feet with some of the blades he routinely carried, hidden beneath his expensive suits and colorful, silken ties.
A love of sharp, shiny things was one they shared.
Still confused, and a bit uneasy, Shana perched on the edge of his neat, ordered desk.
Reading her well—like he usually could—Sebastian gave her some distance, and sat on one of the large, fluffy recliners. His suit tightened across his wide shoulders. His thick arms.
Shana took a hefty swallow of her wine.
Ignored the spiking, spearing heat inside of her.
Again trying to return to the reason she’d come, she demanded, “If the painting supplies you sent me aren’t a gift, then, what are they for?”
Sebastian sighed, a low, frustrated sound. The crimson streaks in his eyes brightened. His wide mouth tightened.
Tension rose. Prickled the hairs at the back of Shana’s neck.
He closed his eyes, then straightened. His tone turned business-like. “Black Dawn would like to commission you.”
She stared at him for a long minute in shock and surprise.
Along with growing confusion.
The man was certainly good at making her feel unbalanced and unsettled. Voice low, she demanded, “You’d like to do what?”
“Commission you. You’re an artist of great talent. I sent the supplies as a down payment, if you take the job.”
For a long moment, all sorts of things raced through her mind, but none of the thoughts would actually click together. “What job?”
“I wish you to design, and paint, four murals. One for each of the main walls of the nightclub.”
The club was huge.
All four walls?
She slowly moved to one of the chairs in front of his desk.
Sank onto it, with her back to him. “Commission me? But I’m not that well known. And no one’s hired me for such a large job, before. Certainly not commercial—”
“I don’t care about well-known or extensive experience. I care about talent, which you have in spades.” Sebastian strode around and behind his desk.
He sat in his chair, and stared at her, with a collected, almost disinterested, expression.
His usual calm coolness pricked at her temper.
Despite the grinding in her gut, over too many warring thoughts—the exposure something like this would bring, the experience, the pay would be nice, too—the loudest was the idea that her talent must surely still be a far cry from what would be needed, and for such large pieces of art.
Finally, Shana quietly replied, “But… I just barely started apprenticing under a master painter. A measly handful of months ago—”
“You take your work to the local art shows, and such, every couple of weeks. Tell me the last time you didn’t completely sell out?”
Shana’s wild speculation, of possibly taking on such a job, ground to a loud, screeching halt.
She eyed him warily. Suspicious. “And just how do you know that?”
“I pay attention to that which I deem important.” Sebastian’s gaze burned with intensity. Crimson bled further over his irises.
A warm shiver traced down Shana’s back.
He continued, a bit gruff, “There’s also the added bonus that you know me. You understand my style—because it meshes so well with your own.”
She ignored the flutters in her belly that he kept causing.
Hurriedly asked, “What type of murals, exactly?”
With a wicked, too-enticing grin, Sebastian leaned forward. Settled his elbows on the desk, steepling his hands. “Four walls. Four elements.”
“Earth, air, water, fire.”
“Exactly. I want each wall to represent one of the elements.”
“That’s up to you. But I want mystical. Paranormal. This is Black Dawn, after all, darling.” His words held such an assured, and aristocratic, tone, Shana barely caught herself from grinning back at him.
The club was widely rumored to be owned by someone…
More than human.
Not that people actually believed it.
But, just like a haunted house near Halloween, they enjoyed the thrills and chills and spirit of it all.
The fact that the club stayed open from dusk ’til dawn, as their slogan put it, only enhanced the image.
And the revenue.
Which meant the murals would be seen by so many people, Shana could hardly even imagine it.
The artist inside her waffled back and forth, between worry, and confidence.
Sebastian softly stated, “Of course, I’ll pay you handsomely. I spoke with a few people, master painters and such. They all agreed on what a fair commission would be for such a large undertaking.”
He slid a file folder out of one of his desk drawers. Passed it over.
Shana absently flipped open the cover. Found a list with names, and numbers, that didn’t quite make sense.
He added, “I’ll also, of course, provide all the supplies you need.”
She kept reading until she reached the bottom of the first page, and a number circled in blue pen.
So many zeros couldn’t be right.
Shana looked up.
Met Sebastian’s gaze.
He didn’t blink.
She stared at the paper again. It was more than she made in a couple years, with her current jobs.
Constantly picking up other people’s emotions made it a little hard to find work outside the house. Luckily for her, technology let her work full time from her apartment.
And she seemed to be good at it.
Between that, and selling her artwork, she made ends meet.
With this much money from a commission, she could devote more time to painting than she’d ever been able to before.
Her thoughts swung back to the many reasons she should say no.
Mainly, her mind focused on the biggest reason of all. Which happened to be the man sitting across from her, dangling this golden carrot.
She’d been avoiding Sebastian for nearly a month.
She’d barely even thought of him.
Taking this job would mean no more hiding. A nervous tingle raced along her nerves. Her stomach quivered.
Doubts about the whole idea tumbled faster.
Sebastian tensed, his gaze flaring bright crimson. He hastily told her, “Don’t answer now. Take a few days. Think about it. Whatever you need. Talk it over with your teacher, if you wish.”
Shana’s mentor, a master painter from Europe, would be a great person to talk to, she figured.
Even if waiting left the possibility—of her agreeing to this—open.
She looked Sebastian over for a long moment. “Fine. I’ll think about it. But no promises.”
His eyes lit with a near glow.
Crimson faded back to greens and blues and browns. “Bring me any of your ideas, whenever you’re ready.”
“If I decide to take the job.” She had to fight back a sudden giddiness. Her imagination was already exploding with fantastical ideas for the project.
“Of course, darling. If you take it.” Sebastian smiled, slow and easy, his tension fading. He returned to the calm peacefulness that radiated from him when he was relaxed.
Sometimes, Shana enjoyed it.
Usually, with the turmoil he always stirred inside of her, it was irritating.
She stood up abruptly. Set her mostly untouched wine glass on the top of his desk. “I’ll be in touch. Either way.”
Sebastian, he of old-fashioned manners, immediately stood up along with her. “Allow me to see you out.”
Waving him off, Shana headed to his office door. “It’s a straight shot down the hallway. I’ll be just fine.”
She closed his door softly behind her. Then leaned against the wall, taking deep gulping breaths.
Was she seriously considering saying yes?
It would stretch her abilities to the limits.
While part of her continued to shout that she was ready for this, another part kept insisting she was not. But, it wasn’t the art that scared her the most.
She shoved away from the wall.
Hurried down the hall.
Tomorrow was her usual Sunday afternoon tea with her mentor. Lady Diana would let Shana talk everything through, pointing out both sides of the issue. Help her come to a decision.
And if she did decide to take the job?
Well, she’d just keep ignoring and avoiding Sebastian Lucerne.
She’d been doing fine so far.
Hope you enjoy,