Category Archives: Release Days
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,
This is a book bundle of the Heart of a Vampire series, Books 4-6
Magicstorm, Book 4
When a mortal cop is forced to delve into the paranormal, only a Viking vampire can save her soul.
Detective Celeste Wilder knows who she is—a damn fine cop. But when the recently dubbed Cult Killings start back up, this time targeting the city prostitutes she’s sworn to protect, Celeste is thrown into a world of paranormal creatures she never believed existed. Murderous monsters out to stop her from uncovering more of their secrets.
Brandon Wulfgar knows something is off the moment he sees Celeste, valiantly fighting for her life against a group of rogue vampires. When he’s asked to work with her—stop the local murders, while keeping the woman safe—he figures no problem.
As the undeniable connection between them grows, and danger appears from every side, Celeste and Brandon will have to trust one another for more than just their lives.
Firestorm, Book 5
A Viking vampire must face his tortuous past to save the woman who holds the key to his future.
Eric Wulfgar escaped from twisted dreams, only to find insanity following him into reality. Feeling like a shell of the man he once was, his King’s orders to help a New Orleans vampire clan might require more than he can give. Duty offers him no choice but to leave the shadows, and return to the living.
Cat Bienville is frantic. Someone, or something, is stalking the vampires of New Orleans. When the missing turn up dead, with no explanation why, and her Sire disappears, she runs out of options. Left in charge of her vampire coven, Cat knows her duty is to keep her people safe. Only, she’s not prepared for help to come in the form of a chauvinistic male, with such a tattered soul.
When friends may be foes, Cat and Eric must find balance with one another, in order to unveil the evil in their midst, even as a bigger threat darkens the horizon. Yet, Cat’s past may fracture their growing bonds. How can she give Eric her heart, when her deepest secret may be more than he can ever accept?
Demonstorm, Book 6
A vampire half-breed must save the only woman who can help him heal both sides of his tattered soul.
Half-demon, half-vampire, Sean MacDougal is an outcast, considered an abomination and unwelcome by most—simply for the blood that runs in his veins. But when the Arcaine world finds out a war is brewing that will affect all paranormal creatures, Sean may be the only one able to rescue a demoness who holds desperately needed answers.
Used for centuries as the pet Seer and Prophetess of the demon who destroyed her family and home, Mayah is rescued by an intriguing half-breed who asks, rather than demands, her assistance. Unable to trust anyone, she pretends to agree, but only if he first helps rescue her brother, held prisoner deep in the frozen wilds of Alaska—even as they both know their actions will lead to a showdown with a terrifying monster, and all his dangerous creatures.
Becoming a protector fulfills an emptiness within Sean he never knew existed. Being protected makes Mayah feel safe for the first time in forever. Hunted by an entire demon army, led by the one who will do anything to get her back, Mayah and Sean must learn to trust in themselves, in one another, and in the emotions sparking between them, no matter how hard they try to resist.
Heart of a Vampire, book 7 by Amber Kallyn
Release: April 26, 2016
After centuries alone, can two vampires accept that sometimes love is worth the risk?
As a Judge, Anca Fieraru’s duty is to eliminate problems for the Magic Council. Her current assignment–find those responsible for the recent slaughters in Moss Creek, Arizona. To track a local vampire traitor and continue the hunt for the supernatural killers she must utilize the one thing guaranteed to give her a necessary edge–her Romani magic. Unfortunately her use of magic and lethal judgment sets her at odds with her new partner, a sexy, stubborn clan vampire. Their fiery clashes remind Anca there’s more to life than holding others at a cold distance.
Doctor Matt Dixon has spent centuries healing others in atonement for his own heinous crimes. Never mind they were committed while fighting the Arcaine monsters that lurk in the dark. After killing those responsible for destroying everything he ever loved, he’s finally found a place of peace in the Moss Creek clan. Until death once more found its way into his life. Ordered to work with the Magic Council’s deadly assassin, he soon realizes there’s an intriguing woman beneath Anca’s icy façade.
After spending centuries unable to trust, both vampires gave up hope long ago. But when Matt and Anca are together, whispers of love intertwine with fate. They must overcome the horrors of the past and learn to trust one another, before the present danger consumes them and all they care for.
A dark stench lay heavy on the forest air. A gray pall discolored normally vivid earth magics. Death had visited this place recently. Quite a lot of it.
And more would likely soon arrive. By her hand.
Anca Fieraru–vampire, and Judge for the Magic Council–slipped silently through the trees. Surrounded by mountains, sunset came extra early here. Evening shadows shifted through branches to camouflage the ground in black and gray patches. The immense forest welcomed Anca as one of its own, bound to nature and the earth’s spirits as she was.
Less than an hour earlier, she’d taken the highway leading out of the nearby sleepy town of Moss Creek. Parked at one of the few scenic overlooks, she snuck into the territory of the local vampire clan. Bypassing massive gates and guard stations along the only road leading to their fortress, Anca instead headed the back way.
The excessive number of guards hiding in the trees didn’t surprise her.
The warriors she silently slipped past radiated age, and power. Like Anca, the weakness brought on by the day was most likely ignorable, especially as the sun sank further toward the jagged peaks on the horizon.
Just one of the many vampire myths she remained glad–even after a handful of centuries–that fact didn’t always follow fiction. How limiting to only prowl at night.
More obstacles attempted to stop her. An inner block fence topped with spikes running through the forest, perhaps their entire property. Two ensnaring protective wards created by a very powerful witch.
The wards would stop most people.
Anca wasn’t most.
She snuck around another hidden sentry. Her senses–and the magics of the forest and the earth–pinpointed his location. A bit later, a glint of metal caught her eye. Another camera. Even a clan as old as this one used electronic security nowadays.
Anca skirted its line of sight and continued on, closer to the stone castle towering less than a mile away now. The fortress was right out of the middle ages. Quite incongruous in these Arizona mountains, but right at home in clan lands.
She stepped lightly, soundlessly.
Lines of earth magic radiated out like glittering threads of an endless spider web. The spirits of the earth danced around Anca, constant companions since her youth long, long ago.
Childlike forms of magic and light, the spirits embodied the powers of the earth. Yet, in this place, they were restless. Like the forest’s magics, a dull, almost filmy sheen of grayness darkened the spirits’ normally colorful hues–the jeweled green of spring leaves, the ruby of fall, the pure glowing white of snow, the golds and purples of a warm sunset.
The spirits brushed against Anca, their touch just a bit heavier than the air, like a warm breeze. They fluttered her dark peasant blouse, rubbed against her jeans, played with the cherished sword at her hip.
The saif, a short curved scimitar, pulsed with power. Her tată’s magic, imbued in the sword he’d forged. The power hummed along Anca’s senses. Attracted the spirit’s curiosity.
She hurried on toward her destination, her passage disturbing nothing, just as her tată had taught her long ago. Her father’s kind eyes–once always laughing before the time of trouble decimated their Romani people–came to mind.
“Romani can flit anywhere without notice.” His booming laugh was a sound she could barely remember. He’d always add with a sly wink, “The patient thief is as a tree whose root runs deep as he waits for the sweet fruit.”
Though she was no thief, Anca continued on, patient and steady until the forest thinned. The castle loomed just ahead.
Her senses tingled at the presence of so many vampires inside the place. Anca moved even more patiently, holding her tată’s words close to her heart.
With flashes in her path, the spirits guided her to a stop near a long row of hedges lining a sprawling garden. Few vampires wandered the twisted, twining flowers, and those remained distant from her path.
The spirits whirled around her and filled the air with blossoming scents from the gardens. A hint of memory tantalized her, a familiar perfume she couldn’t quite place.
A flowery scent from her childhood.
Romanian peonies? Flowers known to grow only around the mountains from her childhood home. Why would they have such rare blooms here in this place?
With light nudges on her shoulders and tugs on her hands, the spirits drew her along the hedges, closer still to the castle.
Until a calloused grip fell on her shoulder.
She stopped, slipping a hand to the hilt of her curved short sword. How had she not sensed someone’s approach?
“Hey, there. Don’t think I’ve seen you around. You part of the clan?” A youthful crack in his voice broke the last word.
Instead of drawing her saif, Anca fixed a friendly smile on her face and slowly turned.
Then had to look up, and up.
He was a least a foot taller than her own five-two. Fourteen perhaps when he’d been turned. And only a few years since that event, judging by the small flickers of vampiric crimson in his gray aura. Confirming his youthfulness, the boy’s aura also held brilliant threads of pure white. At his mortal age, he’d been damn lucky to survive the change at all.
Anca’s muscles tightened, vibrating with anger. Her thoughts spun.
She’d been assured the local vampire King was a man of fairness and decency, one who upheld the Laws of the Magic Council.
Including the ancient decree to never turn a child.
So why did he have this vampire?
The kid’s eyes flickered with hints of suspicious worry at her too-long silence. His grip on her shoulder was certainly strong. But nowhere near a threat. Not to her.
Anca widened her smile and struck an innocent pose, even going so far as to pull her long dark braid over her shoulder and twirl it around her fingers as she’d seen mortal teenage girls do.
The kid’s tension fled. He grinned back easily.
“Hello,” Anca said. “I’m here to see Jordan MacDougal.” Believe the innocent look, kid. She didn’t want to have to rough up a child. But she couldn’t risk him spreading the alarm about an intruder on clan grounds.
He let go and stepped back. “A visitor? That’s rare lately with all the extra security Jordan’s been ordering.” He glanced around, a scowl teasing his features. “Why didn’t the guards show you to the castle?”
Still playing with her hair, Anca waved at the trees. “I asked to be allowed to see your beautiful grounds.”
“Oh. I can take you to Jordan then.” He stuck out a hand and stepped closer. “I’m Robby.”
“Hello, Robby.” She ignored his outstretched hand and kept her tone soothing. “If you don’t mind, I’d really prefer to enjoy the forest a bit longer.”
“All right.” He grinned cheerily, as if he had no plans to leave.
Repressing a sigh of aggravation, she watched him watch her. Maybe her innocent act wasn’t working with this one.
“Alone,” she added.
Shadows flashed in his guileless eyes. “You afraid of the King?”
“Should I be?”
Robby shook his head. “Jordan can be scary, but he’s a good guy. Just don’t let his yelling fool you.”
Anca laughed lightly at his attempt at a joke.
He continued to grin. Still didn’t budge.
After a moment of silence, she nodded politely before walking away. Robby’s gaze burned the back of her neck for a long minute, until the trees hid her from his view.
Shaking her head, she turned her attention back to the earth spirits. They pushed her faster toward the castle.
Why hadn’t she sensed the kid’s presence? The spirits hadn’t warned her, either.
She’d slipped past all of this place’s powerful defenses. Yet this young teen had managed to not only spot her, but sneak up on her, all without triggering any of her usual warnings.
She followed the flickering spirits, her thoughts worrying over Robby, unsure what exactly to make of the boy.
Minutes later, the hedges ended at the castle walls. The last rays of the lingering sun disappeared behind the mountains, drenching everything with the dark of twilight. Between the trees and bushes crowding alongside the stone, the spirits led her to an open window on the ground floor.
A voice drifted out. “…been months, damn it.” The man’s words rang with despondence, and beneath it, anger.
Cautiously, Anca glanced inside, staying mostly hidden by shadows and the thick, old-fashioned wooden window frame.
On the other side of a very large room, a vampire paced in front of an old wooden sideboard, covered in what appeared to be dozens of miniature paintings. He was thin, almost to the point of emaciation. Sandy blonde hair and cold blue eyes enhanced narrow, Nordic features.
He spoke again. “How much longer must I bear this? Five months. Luci’s still gone.” His aura shone with bright vampire red in a smoky gray, glinting with flashes of emotion.
Someone else sighed.
In a pair of antique chairs all the way to the right, in front of a large fireplace. One of the chairs had been turned to face out at the room. And in it sat a second vampire. Blond, with a regal bearing and strong features, his elegant suit and casual pose gave off the appearance of a relaxed man. The tic in his jaw, the dark light in his blue eyes, told a different story.
The power of his aura was nearly blinding. Flecks of crimson, and a silvery-green she’d never seen before swirled in a light gray. A wash of his magic swept the room. Over her. An itchy pressure over her skin like thousands of marching ants.
This could only be the King of the castle, and Master of the local clan. Jordan MacDougal.
His reply held a strong assurance. “Leo, we will get your sister back. I swear it.”
A sister? It was rare enough for a turned vampire to rise, even more so for blood relatives to survive the change. She was finding all sorts of oddities here.
“When?” The younger vampire slowly turned, as if ancient and every movement brought agony. He looked at the King with so much despair, Anca felt his pain from where she crouched.
MacDougal stood up and crossed the room to lay a hand on Leo’s shoulder. “Soon as we can.” His voice thickened with a Scottish brogue. “I swear it, lad. No one is giving up.”
Leo started to speak, didn’t manage a sound. He cleared his throat. “One of these days, Luci’s going to be…” He choked, then mumbled, “Find her dead… Tortured. Gotta get her out,” he ended on a strained whisper.
Anca swallowed past her tight, heating throat. She knew all too well the excruciation that came when forced to face having a loved one, family, being captured by the enemy. Worse was finding them brutally tortured to death. Knowing you hadn’t been able to stop it, to save those you loved.
It was enough to crush one’s soul.
MacDougal replied, “We are searching everywhere.”
Leo started to shake his head, a flash of something in his eyes Anca couldn’t quite see. His shoulders slumped and he slowly nodded. “I can’t… I just… It’s killing me.”
“Aye. I understand. You’ll continue to be kept informed of everything we find.”
Leo nodded again, a bit more hopeful. He bowed before turning and leaving the room.
The King turned and strode back to the unlit fireplace, staring at the soot-blackened stones in deep thought. With a weary sigh, he turned his chair toward the wall like its’ match, and sat down.
His gaze never left the fireplace.
Anca continued to study him. This vampire, both a Master and clan King, seemed reasonable. Decent. Caring. All that she’d been told.
But she’d not be able to trust him at all without an answer to the question burning inside of her. She leapt up, landing catlike and quiet on the wide windowsill. Soundlessly, she stepped down to the floor, and crossed the room.
She stopped a good ten feet behind the King.
Letting a small taste of her power seep from the cloak she constantly hid it beneath, Anca pushed the magic of her position into her words. “Why do you have a child vampire?”
With a bellow, the King jerked to his feet and rushed her.
“Halt, Warrior. I was sent by Endulpias.”
The name of one of the Magic Council’s Elder vampires stopped his very large, grasping hands only inches from her throat. He straightened, looking her up and down. “You are a Judge from the Council?” he asked softly.
“I am.” Keeping her expression coldly neutral, she stated just as deceptively soft, “This will be the final time I ask. Why do you have a child vampire?”
He didn’t even hesitate. “The boy came to me that way.”
“From who?” she demanded.
Rubbing his jaw, he assessed her. “It doesn’t matter now. His old Master is dead.” His face, his eyes and voice all projected truth. More importantly, so did his strange aura. Anca relaxed the slightest bit.
As if he’d read her carefully hidden anger, and now its cooling, the tension billowing from him eased as well. He looked her up and down with a critical eye, and then laughed heartily. “The Magic Council sent me a babe. How old were you when you became a vampire?”
She’d been nearly twenty and in her time, very much an adult. Anca stood to her full height, ignoring the fact that he towered over her.
Used to being taken lightly due to her small stature and appearance, she replied, “The Council ordered a Judge sent to assist with your recent problems. Do you wish to question my abilities?” For the briefest of moments, she opened the cloak hiding her magic a little wider. Let him feel more of her power.
The King’s eyes flared crimson for an instant. Then, like a patient predator, he stepped back. A hint of a smile played at his lips as he bowed his head regally. “My apologies. I am Jordan MacDougal, local Master and clan King. Welcome to my territory. We graciously accept your assistance.” He sounded sincere but his words dripped with sarcasm.
Anca understood. Was used to it.
He needed help, but didn’t necessarily like being forced to take it. Like all the Masters she’d worked with over the centuries, he’d either accept her, or force her to prove her strength. Anca would deal with his choice when it came. And if his decision was to fight, well, she’d yet been the one to lose.
MacDougal waved her to the chairs in front of the fireplace, wordlessly offering her a seat. Tipping her head politely, she settled lightly in the one beside his.
After a long moment, he reclaimed his seat. “May I ask how you got in?” The too-casual question hung in the air.
Anca raised a brow. “I’m a Judge. I have been for quite some time. Though I may look young, my power isn’t to be trifled with.” She continued, gently but without the slightest waver. “The Magic Council has heard disturbing rumors from Arizona. Out of control problems, both here in Moss Creek, and down in Phoenix. I’m here to solve what the Council considers the larger, and more immediate threat. That would be your town. I’ve read the reports from the last year or so, but I’d prefer first hand details if you’d fill me in?”
He spoke of an unraveling truce and growing problems with the local pack of wolf shifters. An endless influx of dark Rogues. “A master vampire who utilized black magics came to Moss Creek a while back.” MacDougal’s fists clenched. The wooden arms of his chair creaked threateningly. “Best I can figure, Thomas Montgomery thought to overthrow me and take control here. While he and many of his creatures were quickly dealt with, a few remaining followers have managed to stay stubbornly hidden while continuing his work.” His expression flushed with shadows of regret and self-castigation.
Once he’d brought her up to date on the most recent murders, MacDougal fell silent, staring at the banked fireplace. Long moments passed before he met her gaze. “All the recent problems have thrown the local Arcaine into a chaos we’re still climbing out of.”
Anca calculated a few things. “So you’ve been battling on two fronts, the pack and this dark vampire’s leftovers?”
“Aye. And something tells me that there are more secrets waiting to surprise us. You know most of mine after reading the council reports.” He studied her. “I do wonder what your exact orders are?”
She hesitated, but everything so far said she could trust this man. MacDougal was a Master, true. But he didn’t seem to be one of those who’d become corrupted by power.
Instead of answering, she said, “Connor Gregory has spoken much of you and your clan. He told me you are trustworthy.” A fellow Judge, Connor was also related to the king. A cousin or something.
“Why didn’t you tell me you came with a recommendation from that old bastard?” MacDougal barked a laugh as he sat back, this time truly relaxing. He waved a hand. “Go on.”
“The Council ordered me to eliminate the remaining members of Montgomery’s clan. Connor added a secondary request.”
Anca pushed on. “He spoke of your sister’s betrayal, and how, even after she was turned over to the Council, the security here is not what it should be.”
His face could have been etched from the same granite as his home. “Does the Council know about the traitor within my clan?”
Having done as Connor asked and kept it quiet, she replied, “No.”
MacDougal breathed a sigh of relief.
Searching for additional answers, she said, “Tell me of Leo and his sister.”
“I won’t bother to ask how long you were eavesdropping.” He pinned her with a powerful look.
Though she didn’t blush easily, for some reason, heat crawled up her cheeks. She’d only been doing her job. So why did his stern stare make her feel like she had long ago, caught by her tată while trying to be sneaky?
The King replied, “Leo and Luci are rare blood relations. They’ve been with me nearly a hundred and fifty years. The Rogues took Luci late last fall, while Montgomery was still alive. She’s one of the few captured back then that we weren’t able to find, to rescue.” His shoulders slumped, the heaviness of responsibility he felt suddenly tripling in weight.
“How many of your people do they still have?”
“That we believe are alive? Three.” His tone was low, weary. “Even one is too many.”
“Why do you think they’re still alive?”
“Because they haven’t been dropped off in town, with signs of being killed in dark rituals, like the others.”
The answer chilled her to the core. Hopefully, she’d be able to ease the burden for him. For his clan and all the other local Arcaine affected by the dark magics permeating this place. She was going to find these Rogues. Put an end to their depravities.
And there was the other matter. The personal favor for Connor Gregory. She’d try her best. But in order to do that, she’d need MacDougal’s complete cooperation.
Would she get it?
Without looking away from him, she told him matter-of-factly. “If I cannot find your traitor before I leave, I will be required to report the breech to the Council.” Laws were what they were, and they had to be followed. Even if it meant the Council would be forced to interfere fully.
MacDougal shot her a calculating look. “Of course.”
Thoughts racing, she started a mental list of the many things she’d need to figure out how and where the Rogues were hiding.
And, there was one more person in town she had to speak with, sooner rather than later. “I need the statements from the recent killings. Your Keeper of the Peace should have them?”
“Shane Spencer. Also town sheriff. I’ll have someone get the reports.”
He stood. “I’ll have a room readied for your stay.”
“I won’t be staying here.” Though it was protocol to be offered, in over four centuries, she’d never once accepted.
“As you prefer,” he replied. “The town’s inn then?”
Curiosity flickered over his face. “There’s no other place to stay in town.”
“I’m not staying in town.” Whether she told him or not, he’d figure it out. He had a stubborn, must-know-everything type of vibe. “I’m camping in the forest.”
On top of the uncomfortableness being around large numbers of people brought, towns weren’t safe. Anyone could find out your location. In the forest, all Anca had to do was make certain no one followed her to the hidden camp she’d set up, complete with her own unbreakable protective wards, and she’d be quite safe.
MacDougal seemed put out with her reply, but only asked, “Do you need supplies?”
Knowing he was referring to a steady supply of fresh blood, she said, “I do.”
“Our only blood bank is located in the hospital, first floor. It’s on the south side of town. Just tell them I sent you, though as a Judge, you won’t have any problems.”
That wouldn’t work with the slowly forming plan she had in mind. “I don’t want to announce I’m a Judge.”
He paused, assessing her once more. “What?”
“It would be better if I appear as a Rogue, unaffiliated with your clan. And I’d prefer that you tell as few of your vampires–and only those you trust explicitly.”
“You’re not used to small towns, are you?”
“People gossip, is all. But I’ll do my best.”
“If there’s anything else, you can contact me at–”
MacDougal cut her off with a laugh. “If I need to contact you, I’ll find you. This is my territory, after all, lass.” His power flared.
Anca tensed, but this wasn’t the test of power she worried might come–a waste of everyone’s time and strength. Instead, it was more a friendly warning that she was here at his allowance.
She donned a neutral expression and tipped her head the slightest bit.
Acknowledging his rule here.
Just not over her.
Matt Dixon sat in his chilly office, finishing paperwork for the surgery he’d recently performed. He ignored the crowd in the room, knowing that if he didn’t pay them heed, they might go away.
Not likely. But might.
He slid another completed form neatly on the small stack at the edge of his desk. A second later, someone tapped on the wood. Matt glanced over. The papers were askew. He realigned the edges perfectly square before continuing to write up his notes.
The top sheet of paper flipped up into the air, tumbling over itself until it landed on the floor across the room, near the door.
Guess this uninvited guest refused to be ignored.
Matt looked over the handful of ghosts lounging around his office. His glare landed on the one messing with his paperwork and demanding attention. “George, your wife survived the operation. You saw her.”
The old man, dead three months from a werewolf attack, stared mournfully. His wife of forty years had been Matt’s most recent patient. Implanting her pacemaker had gone well, but now, the mortal woman needed to rest and recover.
At least with his wife in the hospital, George seemed to have decided to mostly appear as he had in life–a hearty, redheaded lumberjack of a man–rather than the usual lately, as he’d looked in death after the attack.
Most Arcaine believed seeing the dead was a powerful ability. One only a small percentage of vampires acquired.
Matt considered it a burden.
Though he could see and speak to them, there wasn’t a damn thing he could do to help. He didn’t even know why they remained. Only that he’d only ever seen a concentration of ghosts in the same area where they’d died. Like George and the others wandering the hospital.
And like all spirits, ever voiceless, George picked up the paper and slapped it against the door.
Matt shook his head. “She needs rest. She’ll wake in the morning and not beforehand. Be patient.”
George shook his head jerkily, not caring for Matt’s reasoning. The ghost flung the paper at the ceiling. It fluttered a moment before floating to the floor. George picked it up and threw it higher, again and again.
With a quiet sigh, Matt turned back to his notes. When he finished, he carefully slid the paperwork into the appropriate folder, crossed his office, and snagged the last sheet from the air in front of George.
Even though the ghosts couldn’t be felt, at least not by anyone mundane like him, Matt stepped around George out of politeness as he left his office. In the hall, he slipped the paper in its proper place, then tapped the folder to exactly align the edges.
George followed, passing through the door to join the few ghosts in the bright, sterile hospital hall. The spirits eerily floated above the floor, wandering ever aimlessly.
Matt ignored them and headed down the corridor, George at his side, staring mournfully.
Moss Creek was fairly small, but with all the Arcaine living nearby, the hospital stayed busier than it should. With the wounded, and far too many deaths.
The handful of doctors who worked in town shared two secretaries. Inside their office, Matt dropped his folder neatly into the in basket on the first desk. Back in the hallway, he found George had left. Most likely off to look after his wife while she slept.
Matt returned to his office, but when he reached for the doorknob, a growing lethargy stopped him, leaving him blankly staring at his nameplate. Exhaustion rolled through him. He rubbed his face wearily. The letters of his name blurred and doubled, then cleared, before blurring again.
He should go home.
Get some sleep.
With all the recent butchery, thanks to the Arcaine Rogues trying to hijack Moss Creek, he’d spent far too much time working, and too little time sleeping. He checked his watch, startled it was almost eight p.m.
He’d been on shift nearly sixty hours between scheduled patients and emergencies. While he didn’t need much sleep, he required at least some. He’d be no good without rest. In fact, he could be dangerous to a patient right now.
Decision made, he turned and headed for the blood bank that serviced the local vampires. He needed to stock up at home.
A few corridors from the always open bank, a sweep of power washed over Matt.
Unfamiliar vampire power.
The few ghosts in view stopped moving as if they too felt it. Almost as one, they turned in the direction of the blood bank.
He’d never seen such a reaction before.
Matt walked faster until he was nearly running.
He knew all the clan vampires.
This wasn’t one of them. And if there were visitors for his King, he’d have been told. Which meant this might be one of the Rogues. His entire clan was hunting those damned Arcaine.
The luck to have one walk in here.
He careened down the last hall and around the final corner.
Magic crashed against him like a brick wall, freezing him in midstep.
Across the wide lobby, by the blood bank’s glass doors, stood a tiny woman. Long raven hair, so black it had a glossy nearly blue shimmer, fell in a thick braid down her back. Dusty skin spoke of exotic blood.
The thick magic tightened like a noose around Matt’s throat, his chest, his limbs. Magic that he couldn’t place, other than the hint of a stranger. And vampire.
As if sensing him, the woman glanced back over her shoulder. Above a pert nose and bow-shaped lips twisted in a scowl, her eyes were a smoky blue.
Something inside Matt stirred when he met her gaze.
A hint of fear?
Perhaps, though it made no sense.
She was just a tiny thing.
In an instant the overpowering magic fled.
Straining as he had been, Matt stumbled forward a few steps.
With a soft gasp, the woman turned to face him fully. The magic must not have been coming from her. She didn’t seem all that strong. If he’d have to guess, she was maybe a decade old as a vampire, and that would be stretching it.
Exactly like reports about some of the Rogues hanging around.
Instinct rose. Matt growled harshly.
Stranger or Rogue, it didn’t matter. She had no right to be in his clan’s territory. But he’d solve that. An interrogation by his King would ferret out any secrets.
In less than a breath, he flashed across the wide lobby.
Her eyes widened imperceptibly, a ring of red bleeding around gray-blue irises.
Matt grabbed her shoulders. Slammed her back against the nearest wall. Before she could react, he shoved his power over her, a special type of sedative-like magic he’d perfected during long centuries.
The woman’s eyes slid closed. She slumped forward against his hold.
Hefting her over his shoulder, Matt spun on his heel and left the hospital.
iBooks link is now live, though they errored on my cover art. Getting that fixed now 😀
Happy Holidays from my house to yours!
This year will only be my second time cooking the turkey for Thanksgiving, we’ll see how it turns out LOL.
I’d like to introduce you to my newest Trilogy, all three parts are Out Now 😀
Meet Sundance Branigan…
Will she choose the safety of logic, or follow her shattered heart to unquenchable desire?
Ménage Me Once
Until recently my life was nearly perfect. I had a well-respected boyfriend who didn’t tangle me up in any messy emotions. A shot at showing my bosses I’m perfectly capable of handling every aspect of the job I’d worked a decade to earn.
Now I’ve been dumped, my job’s being sabotaged, and to top it all off, my sister has once again decided to set me up. This time, she gives me what she believes my heart craves, a ménage à trois. Bain Croften and Josh Jonstone are two undeniably sexy hunks. Their flirting not only reignites my hidden desires, it threatens to wake my emotions kept under lock and key.
Logic rules my waking life. These two men bring a dangerous passion to my dreams.
But love can only lead to agony, a lesson I’ve learned well. And taking a chance on Josh and Bain means ruining everything I’ve worked so hard to build.
Caught in the midst of confusion, I must choose.
Do I listen to my head, or my yearning heart?
AVAILABLE at the following e-tailers:
Ménage Me Again
…Turmoil and confusion have taken over my life. The problems at work are getting worse, and my bosses hold me responsible. With each new catastrophe, keeping my job is becoming less and less of a sure thing.
My personal life isn’t doing much better.
Josh and Bain are two provocative men I can’t get off my mind, and like an addiction, I crave more. Hot yearnings fill my dreams with intense sexual fantasies. They’ve breached my emotional walls, and refuse to let go. I’m not used to the way they force me to feel. To need.
When my safe and predictable ex-boyfriend sweeps in with a proposal that would not only solve my problems at work, but help me secure my lifelong goals, the right choice is no longer clear. Torn between a solid, secure life without troubling emotion or the sudden demands of my heart, do I turn my back on what I’ve spent a decade creating?
It’s too much to accept, knowing how love always turns into crippling, torturous pain. So why can’t I ignore my inner desires and choose my perfect ex-boyfriend?
Suddenly, logic doesn’t seem so enticing anymore…
AVAILABLE at the following e-tailers:
Ménage Me Forever
…My problems at work are a tsunami threatening to lay waste to the rest of my life. Shadows seem to watch my every move, as if someone is out to get me.
The only calm in the storm are Bain and Josh. The tenderness and passion they’ve brought into my soul. Making a choice between their offer of intense depthless love, or running fast and far before it can break me, is becoming more impossible every day.
But nothing permanent can last between us. Not just because of my strict and structured, logic-driven life. Icy terror fills me at the idea of accepting their love. Intense emotions are mere illusions, hiding a lurking devastation. I can’t survive such a fall again.
I should ignore the nightly dreams that bring indulgent fantasies of Josh and Bain. I must ignore the blossoming hope in my heart. No matter how much it leaves me aching, I will figure out a way to follow my head, and walk away from the two men who’ve managed to become my whole world.
Because if I don’t, the life I’ve worked so hard to claim will crumble, taking us all down in a tangle of broken hearts and shattered souls.
AVAILABLE at the following e-tailers:
I hope you enjoy spending time with Sunny, Josh and Bain as much as I did 😀
~ Amber Kallyn
Conquering the Gladiator, Book 1
New release sale price: $2.99
Can love truly conquer all, even for a soul-hardened immortal gladiator?
For eons he’s been alone…
Jacobus “Jace” Leonius has been running from his past, since he long ago shattered the chains binding him as a gladiator. Regret for the innocents slaughtered beneath his hand forced him to the edges of humanity. Now, he collects the lost, those needing a place to belong, at his night club. When he’s forced on a mission with his brother’s warriors, Jace comes face-to-face with the one person able to soothe his bleak loneliness. But protecting her from the assassins after them might be easier than keeping her safe from the deadlier beast locked within his soul.
A mortal running for her life…
Thrown into a bloodthirsty world of magic and mayhem she never believed existed, Skylar Scott must fight for the right to survive. With the gods and their monsters eager to steal her coming powers, Skye must do the hardest thing she’s ever done–trust another not just with her own life, but with those she holds most dear. The only man who can keep her safe is the same one threatening to destroy the walls around her closely guarded heart. For behind his roughness, Jace matches her in the most intriguing ways, and he calls to her on levels she can’t deny.
They must fight together or lose it all…
When the odds are stacked against them, can Jace and Skye overcome their fears to claim a love that’s destined by the Fates themselves?
New release sale price: $2.99
Read the first chapter HERE 😀
NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIBERS – LINK FOR YOUR SPECIAL READ IS HERE
Hope you enjoy
~ Amber Kallyn
Release Date: April 13, 2014
(Other retailers coming soon)
Amazingly Awesome cover art by Dawné Dominique
A vampire demon half-breed must save the only woman able to mend his soul.
Half-demon, half-vampire, Sean MacDougal is an outcast, unwelcome by all. When the Arcaine world finds out a war is brewing that will affect all paranormal creatures, Sean is the only one who can find the demoness who holds desperately needed answers.
Used for centuries as the pet Seer of the demon who destroyed her family, Mayah is rescued by a strange half-breed who asks, rather than demands, her assistance. Unable to trust, she pretends to agree, but only if he helps rescue her brother, held prisoner deep in the frozen wilds of Alaska.
Becoming a protector fulfills an emptiness within Sean he never knew existed. Being protected makes Mayah feel safe for the first time in centuries. Hunted by an entire demon army, led by the one who wants Mayah back, they must learn to trust in themselves, in one another and in the emotions sparking between them–no matter how hard they try to resist.
The Judgment Hall of the castle hummed as it filled with a variety of Arcaine creatures. Jordan, King of the local vampire clan, stood at the front, his arms crossed as he glowered at anybody who got too loud. A cell phone rang out–some hip-hop song–and the King’s glare turned sharp. A young vampire slid deeper into his seat, hastily fumbling to silence the noise.
The long rows of wooden benches overflowed, yet more Arcaine were still arriving.
Whispers said a war was coming. One that threatened to fracture the paranormal world.
Unfortunately, that was all they knew about the darkness drawing near.
Jordan, a newly found cousin, had invited creatures from all over Arizona and the southwest to his historical castle that was hidden from mortals. Together, they would discuss what steps to take to gather more information.
Sean MacDougal stood in the shadows against the wall at the back. Few clan vampires gave him a second glance, used to ignoring him. Outsiders though, had differing opinions on allowing a demon vampire half-breed like Sean to live, much less listen to a conversation regarding such delicate discussions.
A group of Fey, tall and unnaturally beautiful, glided into the cavernous Hall. As one, they stopped, turning their eerie gazes toward Sean. They knew what he was, by the scent of his power, as well as his strange eyes–light gray irises surrounded by a thin band of vampire red, and a second ring of the purest demon black
Sean straightened, ready for whatever was about to come.
One man, at the back of the group, drew a sword as he shouted, “Demon half-breed.” He lunged for Sean.
Pulling one of the thin but deadly katanas from the sheaths across his back, Sean met the Fey’s swing. Swords clashed, ringing out in an echo of magical metal. Blue and red sparks danced above the blades.
“You dare draw a weapon while given sanctuary?” Jordan’s yell boomed through the room, making everyone freeze. Intoned with over a thousand years of power, the man could make others quake with a mere glance, much less his reverberating voice.
Jordan’s wife, Dalia, slid between Sean and the Fey man, pushing their blades down. “Come, now. We’re here to work together.”
The Fey literally trembled with the need to continue his attack. “Abomination,” he growled. Turning to glance over the room, he added, “Everyone knows the law of the Council. Half-breeds are to be killed on sight.”
Dalia hummed lightly under her breath. Her strange Omega magic could bring the feeling of peacefulness to any Arcaine. “This one is an exception,” she replied sweetly, brushing back a lock of pink-streaked blonde hair from her face.
The Fey man’s eyes widened. “Not possible. The Council doesn’t make exceptions for his kind.”
“I can take care of this, Dalia,” Sean said exasperated, his voice laced with barely contained anger. Then his heart sank as he caught sight of the man storming toward them.
Connor Gregory stepped in front of Sean, pushing the Fey man hard enough to send him stumbling.
“I am the Council’s representative here.” Connor bowed slightly, lips turned up in a smirk. His deliberate flash of fangs contained deadly intent. “He is under my protection. Spread the word.”
The Fey’s sword arm shook as he faced a Judge.
Appointed by the Magic Council, Judges were recruited from the strongest, most powerful of all Arcaine and given the power to be not only judge and jury, but executioner as well.
Staring at the back of Connor’s head, all Sean could think about was smashing the flat of his sword against that skull. Knocking some sense into the man must surely prove he could take care of himself.
“Any questions?” Connor turned, his gaze piercing the entire room. Guests and clan vamps alike flinched, many sitting lower in their seats to avoid his glare.
When there was no answer, Connor waved his hand for the meeting to progress. After a long moment, conversations resumed. Connor leaned against the wall next to Sean.
“I could have taken care of it,” Sean mumbled, trying to ignore the fiery blaze of resentment as he shoved his fingers through his short, dark hair.
“Aye, son. Perhaps.”
The constant lack of confidence scratched at his already raw temper. So did the fearful glances from some around the room–not at the vampire Judge, but at Sean and his mixed blood. He barely contained a low growl.
It was bad enough anyone who saw him immediately realized what he was. They either ran away in fear that he must be possessed by a crazed bloodlust, or attempted to take his head per Council law. None could concentrate on the part of him that was vampire–they only saw the certain looming destruction by his demon half.
It was driving him insane to have everyone here continue to coddle him as if he wasn’t a nearly thousand years old. Soon he would be overcome by a bloodlust like they feared. Not because of his demon nature, but from his overprotective parents.
His mother, Ashlyn, swooped in, shooting glares at the group of Fey as they moved off. She patted his cheek. “Are you all right? I’ll teach those jerks to threaten you.”
Sean sighed, shaking his head at the uselessness of it all. She refused to think of him as anything more than a child, as if they hadn’t been on the run for centuries, protecting each other. He hadn’t failed her. Yet since finding their family and a home with this clan, as well as his father, she was more overprotective than ever. As if she was trying to compensate for the rough struggle of the past, or something.
Ashlyn sidled to Connor, placing a chaste kiss on his cheek. When she met his gaze, her eyes smoldered with such intense love, it nearly took Sean’s breath away.
And Connor, his father, looked at her with the same emotion.
Sean scooted away, uncomfortable.
He didn’t begrudge his mother her happiness. Didn’t even feel resentment anymore at his recently found father. He was truly happy they’d rekindled their love. His mother deserved it.
But he chafed at the chains of protection both his parents wanted to shackle him with.
A group of younger vampires sitting a few yards away laughed loudly. He caught a few whispers, glances his way.
How could he ever prove himself worthy of the clan no one ever let him?
Oh, sure. He was a master sword-fighter. Long swords, short, he was proficient with them all. His father had recently taught him the joys of using a katana. Sean now wore a matching pair of the thin, yet deadly, Japanese swords strapped across his back. Designed by an ancient sword master, the blades were not only unbreakable, but imbued with magics.
Every Arcaine was needed in this time of uncertain trouble, but even with all his skills, no one would give him a chance.
The huge doors slammed open and a short, old crone strode in. Stringy white hair fluttered around her deeply lined face.
Some in the room hushed, bowing their heads as the old woman walked by. Others seemed to freeze. The power roiling off her hit Sean. He took a half step forward, undeniably drawn to her magic.
She stopped, smiling kindly, before continuing to the front of the room.
The King and all those arguing with him fell silent as they took a few steps back, making way for the woman.
When she spoke, her voice was impossibly strong. Full of immense magic, more powerful than Sean had ever felt before. “All must leave but those who be in charge, and the few on this list.” She drew out a sheet of paper and gave it to Jordan.
“Connor, Ashlyn, stay.” The king read the rest of the list of those the woman wanted to remain, then he hesitated, sending the crone a sharp glance.
“Aye. I want the man,” she said.
“Sean,” Jordan finally stated, looking up briefly.
Ashlyn opened her mouth to speak, but Connor shushed her. Surprise coursed through Sean as he slowly made his way to the front of the room.
The other leaders began to grumble, but a quick glance from the old woman quieted them. Great. Yet another person trying to keep him “safe”.
Jordan repeated her edict to the lingering crowd, “You heard her. Out.”
Vamps and other creatures began filing out, most avoided looking Sean’s way. When everyone was gone save for the large group who had been on her list and the leaders of each type of Arcaine creatures present, the doors were closed and barred.
The woman pulled a long, black cloth from a hidden pocket and laid it over the seat of Jordan’s throne. From another pocket she drew out a silver cup. Something clattered inside as she shook it, then dumped the contents on the cloth.
Small bones tumbled over one another, only to stop prematurely, as if guided by magic rather than gravity.
The woman didn’t look at the bones, but rather the crowd around her. “Most of ye know me. Some call me Jezamine. Others call me witch, seer, prophetess. Call me what ye will, no mind to me. But I have seen the next step needed if we not be dyin’ in this comin’ darkness.”
Niki, one of Jordan’s vampires, held her husband’s hand. Shane, the local sheriff and Keeper of the Peace between the Arcaine, stared at the bones scattered over the throne as if entranced.
Dalia twirled her pink and blonde hair as she stepped closer to the throne, peering at the bones. “What do you see?” she asked.
“There be one we need.” Jezamine glanced up sharply, staring at each person. Then her gaze landed on Sean. And stayed.
He looked into the crone’s black eyes, feeling as if he was falling into endless depths.
“Demon,” she said.
He was unable to shake his head, or move in any way, as he attempted to deny her words. “Only half.”
She shrugged and with a smirk, stated, “Close enough.”
She finally looked away, leaving him feeling as if she hadn’t been looking at him, but rather into him. “It be a demoness we need. She can see the future, knows about the slimy darkness comin’ over us all.”
Jordan stood straighter. “We’ll gather our best men–”
“Nay,” the crone interrupted. “Ye’re men are no match for this task. No match for the deadly poison in demon claws. Not for her, either.”
Before Sean noticed her moving, Jezamine stood before him. She slid one long, sharp nail beneath his chin and raised his head. Once more he fell into her gaze. She blinked and glanced away before he could try to break free.
The crone stared at his mother. “You coddle this one like he be child. Do ye not see the man?”
Ashlyn opened her mouth, then closed it without a sound.
Jezamine nodded to Jordan. “This one. He be immune to such poisons, and so much more,” she stated cryptically. “He must go. Retrieve the one who can be our help. And he must go alone.”
The room erupted in anger, those not his clan shouting about his tainted blood, how a half-breed could never be trusted.
Sean caught his father’s assessing stare. There was not only a surprising confidence in Connor’s gaze, but approval as well. His mother, however, looked like she was about to cry.
Standing tall, Sean faced Jezamine. “Thank you,” he said softly.
“It not be easy,” she warned. “But ye have it in ye to succeed.” She smiled beautifully, and for a split second, he glimpsed the shadow of a much younger woman shining from her gaze. “Succeed in many ways, if ye choose,” she chortled.
“We’ll get you prepared, packed–” Connor began.
“He must leave tonight.” Jezamine pulled out a notebook, stuffed with papers and all sorts of strange items, from yet another hidden pocket and handed them to Sean. “Trust yerself. That be yer key.”
The overpowering stench of decay in the cavernous dining hall made Mayah’s stomach churn. The sight of demons and a myriad of Arcaine creatures sitting at the long rows of wooden tables and piggishly shoveling food into their maws made bile rise to burn the back of her throat. Raucous laughter filled the air, grating, making her temples throb with a headache.
Someone tossed a cup onto a table and the eighteenth fight of the six-hour long feast broke out. A dog-faced demon wrestled some sort of rock creature across the floor.
Sitting beside her, Brüs laughed as he banged his golden chalice in front of him, shouting, “More!”
Mayah rubbed the chaffed skin beneath the leather collar at her throat, careful not to prick her skin on any of the sharp spikes of specially created iron. The metal, mixed with numerous things debilitating to any demon, would send her reeling from even a small cut. Poison would seep through her blood, taking inestimable time before her body could neutralize it.
Minutes later, the rock creature lay sprawled against a wall, unconscious, bloody and ignored. The dog demon sat back down and continued eating, those around him slapping his back with hearty congratulations.
Unfortunately, that meant Brüs was no longer entertained.
As the last “dancer” was claimed by one of his guests to attend their needs, Brüs grasped the iron chain connected to Mayah’s collar.
He jerked her close enough that she nearly vomited at the rotting stink of his fetid breath.
She glanced up at Brüs, brushing back her many colored braids, ranging from white-blonde to the deep red of blood. It was hard, but she swallowed the nausea and forced all emotion from her face, giving him only a pleasant, if blank, expression.
“You. Dance,” he commanded.
Calming the quick flash of anger, she smiled sweetly. “I didn’t realize I’d been forced down here tonight to be entertainment for you and your men.”
He scowled, taking a minute to process her words, in a near-drunken haze from the demon brew he’d been gulping down by the barrel. His pitted, scarred face remained tinged by the gray that proclaimed him an Abatu demon–one who thrived on destruction and death–rather than flushed red like some of his completely drunk companions.
“You ain’t fulfilling any other duties. When’s the last time you had a prophecy for me like a good demoness?”
She bowed her head, long used to showing a submissive pose while not cutting herself on the spiked collar. Her many-colored braids fell over her face, helping to hide her raging emotions until she could control them once more. “Truly, it grieves me to be feeling so sickly of late. But if you wish me to use my last bit of health to dance for you, I shall certainly do so.”
He grumbled, but allowed the end of the chain to slip from his grasp.
Mayah leaned back, keeping her gaze down and her fisted hands hidden in her lap, out of fear this might be the time her anger escaped.
After a few calming breaths, she risked a glance up from beneath her lashes. Her blood cooled at the calculating glint in his black eyes, as if he wasn’t nearly as drunk as he made out.
“If I don’t get a prophecy soon, perhaps I’ll allow you to join the dancers. Permanently,” he stated.
She hid the shiver that oozed down her spine, knowing exactly what he implied. Only her status as Seer and Prophetess saved her from being mauled in the beds of his guests.
The thought of fulfilling that role, when even some of the pure blooded Succubi demonesses didn’t always survive the night, snapped a tight band of bleakness around her heart.
“Of course, perhaps you may still have some usefulness after all. Can’t allow some brute to take your virginity and your powers along with it.” He sat back in his throne, rubbing his chin as he added his ultimate threat. “Maybe instead, the punishment should go to your brother. I could visit my other castle and see him. Listen to his delightful screams. Think that might reawaken your Sight?”
“No, Sire,” she whispered, struggling to remain outwardly impassive, even as a hopeless, white-hot anger filled her soul. “I shall try harder to find your future. I swear.”
“Make it soon, or your precious kin will feel my wrath.”
“Good.” He turned back to his slop, but she noticed the watchful gaze he kept on the crowd.
And on her.
She picked at the fruit on her plate, not bothering to pretend to eat.
Her mind spun. If she didn’t share her recent visions, her future would become even more uncertain than it currently was as the slave of this Abatu demon. He wasn’t just a prince of their hellish realm, but one of the most powerful warriors she’d ever seen.
Lately, he’d been working for a darkness that was easily creeping over everything with a nefarious plot of its own.
Another war was brewing, like those of the long distant past.
Only this time, her visions made her fear this war might be the one to end all of the Arcaine, and all of humanity–not just on earth, but in all realms, including her home.
Not many could face Brüs and survive. But this darkness scared her more than he ever could.
Hope you enjoy 😀
Firestorm (Heart of a Vampire, Book 5)
Release Date: 11/13/2013
Coming soon to: Smashwords Kobo
A Viking vampire must face his tortuous past to save the woman who holds the key to his future.
Eric Wulfgar escapes from twisted dreams, only to find they have followed him into reality. Feeling like a shell of the man he once was, his king’s orders to help a New Orleans vampire clan might require more than he can give. But he has no choice to leave the shadows and return to the living.
Cat Bienville is frantic. Something strange is stalking the vampires of New Orleans. When the missing turn up dead with no explanation and her sire goes missing, she runs out of options. Left in charge of her coven, her duty is to keep her people safe. Only, she’s not prepared for help to come in the form of a chauvinistic male with a tattered soul.
When friends may be foes, Cat and Eric must find balance with one another in order to unveil the evil in their midst, even as a bigger threat darkens the horizon. Yet, Cat’s past may fracture their growing love. For how can she give Eric her heart, when her deepest secret may be more than he can ever accept?
Caught in the deepest recesses of his mind, Eric Wulfgar curled on an ice-cold stone floor. So very cold it seeped into his bones.
Eternal agony ate at his limbs, into his very soul.
Laughter rang out from the unending darkness, so sweet and musical it should have warmed him. Instead it chilled him to his core. Fear shuddered through him as he realized where he must be. Her dungeon.
From the nothingness, a ball of light appeared. He blinked against the brightness. As his vision focused, he stared at his nightmare come back to life. The glowing orb highlighted long crimson hair framing an angelic face. Lines of cruelty etched around her shining green eyes and laughing red lips.
He stared at the sorceress, unbelieving, uncomprehending. She had killed his family, then captured him and his twin brother long ago.
He would not give in to the whimper building in his dry throat. The memories of this place and his time here with her, had been buried, locked so deeply he’d thought them gone. He’d not been forced to face them in a millennia.
Biting his tongue, he savored the coppery tang of blood filling his mouth, but it was faint, as if none of this was truly real. As he struggled to escape, she laughed harder. It was too late. He had no strength left.
And he cursed himself for such weakness.
Shadows crawled across the floor. Invisible hands grabbed him, flipping him onto his stomach, and yanking his arms and legs out wide.
Fire whipped along his back, burning from shoulders to knees, as she used her favorite whip–blazing with magical hellfire. Flames licked across his skin, over and over, digging deeper, until he was beyond hoarse and could only scream soundlessly. He welcomed the death hovering just beyond reach.
The lashes stopped.
Senseless from pain, his mind nearly broke as he remembered what came next. The sorceress would never let him die.
Her smooth, soft hands caressed his face and arms. She kissed his neck, her flowery scent making him gag.
“My beasts are hungry,” she murmured in his ear.
He wanted to cry out, to beg her to stop. But he was a warrior. A Viking. He refused to be as weak, as broken as she wanted. He would not bend to her desires.
When he responded with nothing but silence, she hissed, “Fine.”
Clutching his hair, she wrenched his head back, then slapped him. Her nails raked furrows down his cheek. The scent of his blood spiked into the air.
And the monsters came, drawn by their endless hunger. Wolves, bears. Other creatures so grotesque and hard to look at, he couldn’t even begin to name them.
Devouring him alive.
Finally, blessed darkness took his mind. For a while, he floated, unfeeling, unthinking.
As always, she forced him to wake. Then the healing began, even more agonizing than the rest. Eric’s mind wavered and he knew he would thankfully soon be lost.
The memories dimmed.
It was a short respite. Another feminine laugh echoed around him, this one childlike yet holding a chilling hint of lunacy.
The vision of the sorceress changed, merging into another memory. Long blonde hair curled around a youthful, innocent face. Fiona’s image was comforting, the twin of his king. She skipped across the dungeon’s stone floor toward him, smiling shyly. Yet, like the sorceress, it was false, hiding pure evil.
More recent evil, he knew, not sure where the thought came from. These memories had never been locked inside that dark well. Instead, they were the force that had shattered the barrier he’d long ago erected to hide the past.
All too soon, the pain resumed. His skin burned. No whip this time. Fiona used shards of rowan wood, one of the few kinds of trees remaining with enough earth magic to hurt the vampire he’d become.
She slid the tip of a dagger beneath his skin, then shoved another sliver of rowan into the wound. She moved down the length of his body, adding long, rough scars to those he’d received millennia ago. His skin burned as if, at any moment, it would melt from the intense agony.
Uncontrollable shudders wracked him from the pain. Nausea followed. He would have vomited if there was anything in his stomach. All he could do was heave until the cramps mixed with the fiery burning from the wooden slivers.
He desperately prayed to Odin, begging to fade back into mindlessness. But release eluded him.
From the surrounding darkness, seemingly so far away he shouldn’t be able to hear, his brother shouted their family war cry.
Fear coursed through Eric as a new vision appeared before him. His brother stood in a strange, dark place. Multicolored lights flashed over Brandon’s angry face. A ball made of thousands of shards of glass dangled from a high ceiling. It spun in circles, shooting refracted light over his brother.
Magic filled the air, trapping Brandon. It stank of the sorceress. As her laughter washed over him, he realized she’d finally come to claim their souls as she’d failed to do long ago.
He had to save his brother. Save them both.
With a cry of rage, he called on his ancestors’ berserker strength. His vision blurred. Finally refocused. Blinking in the dim, flickering candlelight, he worked to sort out his memories and thoughts.
Pain no longer leeched at his body, though he still felt weak as an infant. He lay on something soft, facing a blackened, rock hewn wall that didn’t resemble the sorceress’s hellish dungeon.
“Hush, now. It will be all right,” a woman said softly from behind him.
Strangely, her voice soothed a part of his ragged heart. He cautiously turned. The woman smiled at him, breathtakingly beautiful, with an angelic face and short blonde hair.
His lungs compressed, forcing his breath to rush out. As he clenched his fists, he realized he wasn’t chained. He watched her, hiding his triumph. She would pay for that stupidity.
With a roar, he leapt up and lunged toward her.
“Eric, stop,” the woman commanded.
His body obeyed. More damned sorcery.
“You’re safe,” she said, then began to hum.
He remained locked in place. Slowly, the tune came to him. It had been his mother’s favorite melody, one she’d sung to him and Brandon as children.
His focus cleared and he realized she was neither the sorceress, nor his king’s sister. Her short blonde hair was streaked with… pink stripes? Her eyes drew him in, mesmerizing, calming his rage.
“That’s right,” she whispered. “No one will hurt you here.”
“Where’s my brother?” His voice was a hoarse croak.
“My name is Dalia. Do you remember me?”
He tried to shake his head, but still couldn’t move. An overpowering urge filled him. Not anger, as expected, but an unfounded, yet undeniable need to protect this woman.
“That’s all right. It will come in time.” She continued to hum and his tense muscles relaxed a little.
Across the room, a door opened, letting in more light. A large man stood silhouetted in shadow. Eric’s instincts screamed. Keep the woman safe at all costs. His duty.
She turned to glance at the intruder, and the magic over Eric slipped. It was all he needed to break free of her spell. He jumped between her and the doorway, crouching to a fighting stance, baring his fangs. He ignored the light-headedness, his body shaking from weakness.
He’d never win this fight.
It didn’t matter. He would do his duty until death took him. From habit, he reached over his shoulder, grasping for his battle-axe, BrynTröll. It wasn’t there.
The man stepped closer, from shadow to light, just as he’d done millennia ago.
Eric dropped one knee to the stone floor, bowing his head. “Sire.” His voice was little more than a choked whisper.
“Thank the gods you’ve returned to us,” his king said. Rough hands grabbed Eric’s arms, pulling him to his feet.
The rush of anger, the need to protect the woman, spilled from him as if he’d been drained of all energy. He slumped against the man, staring into his face. “Jordan,” he whispered.
“Don’t talk. And you shouldn’t be standing.” Jordan half-carried, half-led him back to the bed and pushed him down onto the mattress.
The woman, Dalia, poured a glass of thick, red liquid, then held it to his lips.
The scent of blood hit him and his stomach roared. When he tried to grasp the cup, his hands shook so badly he spilled the warm drink over his chin and chest.
“Let me hold it,” she said kindly.
He drank. The taste–salty, coppery, yet sweet–only inflamed his hunger. He gulped it down.
As if reading his mind, Dalia refilled the cup four times. Finally, the ravenous ache settled to a bearable level. As warmth rushed through his chilled body, his mind grew clearer. The recent past filled the gaps in his memory.
Dalia, his king’s charge. Vampires from their clan disappearing. He’d been following a lead, trying to find them, when it led to a trap.
His king’s twin sister, working with other vampires and, strangely, wolf shifters. They’d all taken pleasure in torturing him.
He fisted his hands in his lap, trying to shove the memories away before they engulfed him.
Pushed them back into the dark depths with the rest. Locked them all up tight.
Slowly, they receded, but didn’t go far. Ghostly whispers hovered at the edge of his mind, flickering like images seen from the corner of his vision.
He once more saw his brother facing evil.
“Where’s Brandon?” he asked again, this time stronger.
Jordan sighed. “We have much to discuss. But you’re with us again. Right now, that’s what matters.”
Pain lashed over Eric’s back. There, then gone. He heard laughter, the sound promising more.
Jordan and Dalia didn’t move, didn’t seem to hear anything amiss.
Eric stared at his king, realizing that while he might be awake, his sanity was lost.
Two Weeks Later
In the impossibly cold March night air, Cathrina Bienville raced through the edges of the bayou, outside her beloved city of New Orleans. Even with her vamipiric speed–the trees and miniscule glimmers of light from distant plantations flashed by–there didn’t seem to be any way she could win this race.
Behind her, the baying of the chasing wolves grew louder as they closed in.
She tripped over an exposed root and fell, splashing face first into a puddle of bitter brackish swamp. Spitting grit from her mouth, she rose. Snowy mud dripped down the front of her dark sweater and jeans. Appropriate spy attire, she’d figured earlier.
Running once more, Cat tried to breathe deep. The growing ache in her chest screamed from a deeper pain. She prayed her fall hadn’t damaged something internal.
A branch sliced across her cheek, ripped at her long red hair falling from its bun. Strands tumbled in her face, obscuring her vision. She shoved it back, leaves and twigs poking from the tangled mass.
Freezing sweat dripped down her face, stinging her cuts and scrapes. The heady scent of blood surrounded her.
The howls drew ever nearer, making her stomach lurch.
What was supposed to have been simple–checking out a deserted plantation for her missing coven members and hopefully finding her sire–had turned into a dark, breathless flight from at least six wolves.
All of them out for her blood.
Not good odds. Not in her favor anyway.
At least she’d eaten recently. Right before the alarm had sounded, she’d come across a wolf in his human form. Just as he’d swung his blade for her neck, she’d whispered her precious command. Fire rose from the ground around his feet, distracting him long enough for her to sink her fangs into his delectable throat.
The magic from the shifter’s blood, the only thing sustaining her desperate flight, was fading.
She flashed through the trees, dodging claw-like branches that seemed to surge out and try to capture her in their grip. The ground sucked at her shoes with each step.
The scent of magic drifted to her on the icy breeze. Her plantation, and the wards creating a barrier around it. Almost home, yet still seemingly so far.
Howls rent the air. They were so close now, she could hear claws scrabbling over the ground. She tried to push herself faster still.
The world became a blur, filled only by the sounds of her labored breaths, her thundering heartbeat, and the baying of the hounds at her heels. She caught the stench of wolves, wet fur mixed with decaying meat and blood.
The trembling in her legs slowed her pace.
Howls echoed as the pack sensed their prey within striking distance.
She broke through the last line of grasping branches. A few hundred yards ahead, a line of trees stood sentinel at the edge of her land, marking the boundary of the magical barrier.
A wolf snarled, slamming into her back, sending them both tumbling. It snapped its toothy muzzle at her neck. Fetid breath washed over her face.
She punched it in the throat. Clawing its fur, she shoved her last shreds of power into the command. “Incendium.”
Flames erupted from her palm, hungrily spreading over the beast. Its yelp escalated into a screeching wail of agony.
Shoving it aside, Cat rose to her knees. Not twenty feet away, the other wolves crouched. Bulky shadows glared at her with glowing, ice blue eyes.
She raised her arms, though the effort made her dizzy, and held her hands out, palms facing them.
The wolf beside her stilled. Burning hair and flesh wafted on the cold air.
The rest of the pack howled, the sound ear splitting. Then as one, they fell silent, watching her. None advanced.
Not giving them a chance to realize she had no strength left, Cat stood, trying to hide her shakiness. She walked backwards until she reached the barrier.
As she stepped through, magic swept over her skin in a tingling warmth. She lowered her hands and leaned against a tree. The pack approached the fallen wolf, their anguished howls resuming. Cat turned and stumbled over the stretching fields, towards her home.
New Orleans had never been normal, not since the long ago days when her father had claimed the area for the King of France. But lately, dark magics were running rampant through the city.
Dark enough to take out her sire, the leader of their local coven. Jacques Gervais was the most powerful vampire she’d met in her centuries of life. Not only was he missing, so was Cat’s best friend. Just a girl–it had only been a hundred years since her turning–Abby Cameron was still nearly as weak as a mortal. She didn’t know how to use her vampire powers well. If Cat didn’t find the two of them soon…
As she climbed the porch steps to her front door, her head bowed, her shoulders drooping from the heavy weight of worry, she had to admit she was lost and sinking fast. With the mystery of the missing and murdered vampires, the sudden arrival of so many wolves, and the dark magic flooding the city, she needed help.
She couldn’t solve this by herself.
Not with her life intact.
An errant thought hit her. That of a young vampire she’d once helped and befriended. Niki DeVeraux had ended up in some small town in Arizona. More importantly, she’d been taken in by a huge coven of vampires.
Cat wasn’t comfortable reaching out and explaining her problems to others–she’d been brought up to be a proper lady who kept such things to herself–but perhaps they’d be able to help. She had to do something, or her sire and best friend would certainly end up dead… and she’d end up murdered, right along with them.
Hope you enjoy 😀
Please welcome Magicstorm into the world, Heart of a Vampire, Book #4.
When a mortal cop must delve into the paranormal, only a Viking vampire can save her soul, and her heart.
Detective Celeste Wilder knows who she is, a damn fine cop. But when the recently dubbed ‘Cult Murders’ start back up, this time targeting city prostitutes she’s sworn to protect, she’s thrown into a world of paranormal creatures she never believed existed. And now, they’re out to keep her from uncovering even more secrets.
An immortal Viking vampire, Brandon Wulfgar knows something is strange the moment he sees Celeste valiantly fighting for her life against a group of rogue vampires. When he’s asked to work with her–solve the crime while keeping the mortal woman safe–he figures no problem.
But as the undeniable connection between them grows and danger appears from every side, they will have to trust one another not just for their lives, but for their very souls.
Brandon Wulfgar sat stiffly on the icy metal chair. He took a hefty gulp of his drink–a mix of blood and whiskey–never glancing away from his twin brother. Eric lay in the bed, facing the stone wall of the dungeon room. He mumbled in his dreams, the quiet mutterings occasionally punctuated by short, guttural screams. Was he reliving the painful past they’d shared, or that of Eric’s own more recent tortures?
The room stank of cold sweat, permeated by fear and agony.
Brandon’s hands clenched and the mug cracked. It crashed to the floor, shattering.
He stared at the white shards of ceramic covered in crimson. The sight mirrored how he felt, unable to help his brother pick up the pieces and leave the darkness he’d descended into.
With a sigh, he stood and headed for the hall. His king’s new wife was going to be pissed he’d broken yet another cup. He snorted, the sound lacking any amusement. Dalia would just have to deal with it.
He opened the door, then stopped short.
Dalia stood in the hall, arms crossed, tapping her foot. Her short pink-streaked blonde hair settled around her pointed chin and her green eyes flared, vampire-red circling the irises. “Again?” she demanded.
It didn’t matter he dwarfed her with his six-foot-four height, nor that he was ten times stronger. All she had to do was shoot that look of hers and even the strongest of the vampire warriors living in the castle crumbled as if facing a disappointed mother.
Brandon merely shrugged. “I’ll clean it up.”
“Yeah, right.” Her gaze softened as she looked past him to Eric. “No change?”
She straightened, rubbing her hands together. “Jordan wants to talk to you. I’ll sit with your brother. And I’ll clean up the poor cup. Again.” Shooting him an ironic look, she added, “We’re almost out of dishes.”
It wasn’t true, but she had a point. He’d gone through an awful lot of mugs lately. But it wasn’t on purpose.
As the older twin, albeit only by five minutes, he’d been raised to protect his brother. To fight the world, side-by-side. Yet he was failing miserably, unable to draw Eric from the cocoon of sleep where he’d escaped.
Dalia entered the dungeon room, and leaving the thick metal door open a bit, sat in the chair Brandon had vacated. She leaned back, hands folded in her lap and started humming. Her voice was soft and airy, a sound guaranteed to get soul-deep inside anyone listening and make them feel better.
As an Omega, she could calm people’s ragged emotions. More recently, with her magic growing, she no longer needed to look into their eyes to gain that connection. Her voice could suck anyone in when she tried.
Brandon’s shoulders tightened when her voice brought no reaction from Eric. It took most of his will to leave, but he forced himself to walk down the icy hallway, and upstairs to his king’s chamber.
Inside, Jordan reclined in a chair, facing the fireplace. The man held a glass of amber-colored liquid. A second full glass sat on the table beside him.
“Sit for a while,” Jordan stated, his Scottish brogue thicker than normal.
Brandon twitched at the tension in Jordan’s voice, and crossed the room to the waiting chair on the other side of the table.
“Any change with Eric?” Jordan lifted his drink and sipped, trying to act casual as he ran a hand through his short blond hair.
Taking his own glass, Brandon gulped it down. The smooth whiskey burned his throat, then settled warmly in his gut. “No.”
Jordan sighed, shifting to face Brandon fully.
Trepidation filled him. The man was normally direct.
“The ‘cult killings’ have started once more in the city,” Jordan said, his gaze dark with anger and confusion.
“But Connor killed the demon behind them just a few weeks ago,” Brandon protested.
“Aye. Yet, here we are.”
Brandon set his empty glass back on the table before he broke that one too. “So is Connor returning?”
“He’s busy with something else.”
“What? His refound family?”
“Nay. Something for the Magic Council.”
Considering the man was a Judge for the council, it shouldn’t be surprising. “So they’re not sending him back?”
A sinking suspicion crawled into his gut. “Then who are you sending to investigate?”
Jordan just stared at him.
Jumping to his feet, Brandon paced to the fireplace. “I can’t go. Eric needs me–”
Jordan’s voice broke through his agitation. “Needs you? He hasn’t said two words in the last month. He doesn’t respond to anything we try.” He stood, arms behind his back, as Brandon paced. “Someone has to take care of the problem. If it’s another demon, you’re the only one I can send.”
Anger turned his stomach, bile burned up his chest. “I can’t leave my brother.”
Jordan’s voice cracked like steel. “You’ll tell me no?”
Stopping short, Brandon slowly swung around and met his king’s blazing red gaze. He’d never told Jordan “no,” since the man had rescued both him and Eric from living agony. But to leave his brother…
The tension in his shoulders ached. His chest tightened and he gave his king the only answer he could. “When do I leave?”
In the lingering heat of the evening, Celeste Wilder strode from her unmarked car towards the flashing lights shining from the alley. Near the yellow police tape, cameras flashed as bystanders tried to capture anything interesting they could put online or sell to the news.
Whipping back her long black hair, she muttered under her breath, “Mierda! Gotta start keeping a damn hair tie in the car.”
One of these days, she was actually going to remember, so when she was called into a crime scene unexpectedly, she didn’t have to deal with the looks she was getting now. It was difficult enough being a female detective without flaunting her femininity. More importantly, it got in the way.
Like usual in Arizona, the weather had bypassed spring entirely. Sweat dampened her neck, making her loose curls cling uncomfortably to her skin.
“Daily, let me in,” she growled at the nearest officer blocking the alley.
He hurried to pull back one of the sawhorses. “Yes, ma’am.”
She pushed past him, taking in the scene. Phoenix PD officers guarded the sight from the lookie-loos, while the coroner hunched over a body only partly hidden behind a rusty dumpster. Overlaying the scent of rotting garbage, she caught the distinct coppery odor of fresh blood.
“Who was first on scene?” she demanded from an obvious rookie as he nervously flicked his notepad open and shut.
“Um, I was, detective, um, ma’am.”
She read his name-tag. “All right, Portensky. Details.”
He fumbled open the notebook, nearly dropping it. “The call came in at 8:02 p.m. I was dispatched, and arrived at 8:09. I didn’t see anything at first.” The kid paled, swallowed hard, then continued. “Then I smelled it.”
“Any information on the caller?” She studied how the dumpster had been pulled away from the wall. Black and red lines of wax snaked from the brick to the center of the alley.
“No, ma’am. Distorted voice, barely clear. Dispatcher said she wasn’t sure she’d even heard the address right.”
“Make sure your report is on my desk by morning.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He hustled toward the street, as if trying to put as much distance between himself and the body.
Unfazed, Celeste headed right for it.
Hovering over the body, the coroner, Frankie, glanced up. Weariness dulled her dark eyes. “Hey, girl. Rough night?”
“About to get worse.”
Frankie sighed, pushing her long bangs from her eyes with the back of her hand, then waved at the body. “No name, no ID.”
“I assume that’s why I was called in. These are my streets,” she replied.
“Sad state this last month, with all these killings.”
Shrugging, Celeste stepped closer. The woman lay mostly exposed, tattered remains of her clothing spread back from her chest. A small piece of red cloth had been draped over her face. Bleach-blonde hair spread around her head, the tips soaked with blood. The killer had taken a knife to her throat and chest.
“Time of death?”
“Her temp is still high. I’d say in the last hour.”
Considering Portensky had been dispatched less than a half-hour ago, it was possible the rumors were true. This cabrón was calling it in before his victim was dead.
Frankie pulled off her gloves. “What kind of sicko mutilates young girls? That’s what I’d like to know.”
“Aren’t they all sickos?” Celeste replied, forcing her emotions away. The victim’s wounds were ragged, as if caused by a serrated weapon. They still hadn’t figured out what the killer was using.
“We’re ready,” Frankie said.
Nodding, she replied, “Go ahead.”
Frankie lifted the red cloth from the body to seal it in an evidence bag.
Celeste’s breath caught, hitching in her tightening throat. “La madre que te parió!” she cursed.
No woman, just a girl.
Baby had been fifteen, max. She’d worked the streets, saying it was better there than at home.
Trying to get these girls into shelters was a trial. Every time Celeste got one off the streets, five more took her place. But Baby had been sweet, mostly clean, not the hardened type Celeste was used to dealing with.
And next week, there was an opening at one of the shelters Celeste worked with that Baby had agreed to enter.
Three damn days.
Swallowing hard against the dark, useless emotions trying to choke her, Celeste forced herself to move, to get on with the job. She noted the wounds and the bruises covering the girl’s face and upper arms. A broken necklace of cheap, brightly colored glass lay discarded near her left hand.
A dark smudge against Baby’s pale skin caught her eye. “What’s that?”
Frankie bent closer, snapping some photos, then gently turned the girl’s hand over.
A black mark had been drawn on her wrist. A question mark with a bar crossing the center of the straight line. Celeste drew a replica in her notebook.
“Didn’t see anything like this on the other bodies,” Frankie said as she took more pictures.
“I didn’t either. They were only left on the walls.” She continued to note the details of the crime scene as the morgue techs wheeled away the body, along with the scattered trash on the ground. They took it all. Anything could hold a clue.
As the other officers dispersed, Celeste stood back and watched. Waited for the scene to clear so she could search for clues. See if she could find more of the strange markings, some sort of runes, like at the other scenes.
As she waited, tapping her foot impatiently, her anger burned hotter.
These “Cult Murders” as the press called them, were supposed to have been solved weeks ago. They had disbanded the taskforce on her captain’s orders.
The city began to breathe easier.
Until a few nights ago, when they’d started up again.
I’ll be giving away a $5 Amazon gift card, INT, Winner to be drawn next week on May 1st.
In the comments section, please tell me which of the Hero’s from the Heart of a Vampire series is your favorite so far : ) (Shane, Jordan or Connor)
Make sure to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win.
*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 🙂
I was planning on doing a cover reveal & sneak peek a week ago, but things have been so busy.
Luckily, the book is ready to go 🙂
Release Date: July 13th, 2012
After centuries alone, can a vampire king trust the woman who’s woken his heart?
Jordan MacDougal, laird and King of his vampire clan, walks a thin line of civility between his clan and the local shifter pack. When his vampires began to disappear and the wolves accuse the intriguing woman who’s touched his heart of being evil, he discovers that the traitor in his midst may be closer than he thinks.
A newly turned vampire, Dalia Jensen wakes to an unusual and frightening new world with no memory of the past year of her life. Accused of working with the Master Vampire who held her prisoner, her inability to remember the truth leaves her reeling under the allegations of vicious past actions. Uncertain of her culpability, she’s unable to trust her own instincts as the reigning Vampire King turns her world upside down.
When the wolves call for her trial, demanding her life for those killed and tortured during that blank year, Jordan and Dalia must work together to find the truth, and save the love blooming between them.
The woman chained to the steel bed frame hadn’t stirred in days. Soon she’d wake.
Jordan MacDougal sat in the inky blackness of the basement, waiting. The darkness didn’t bother him. He could see as well at night as any mortal could in the sun.
He spun a wooden match between his fingers, turning it around and around, unable to tear his gaze from the bed. After three days, he still couldn’t figure out exactly what about Dalia Jensen had commanded his attention in the first place.
He should have let her die.
In the millennia he’d been a vampire, he’d only turned a handful of people. He regretted each and every one. Yet while watching this woman waste away in the large hospital bed, knowing she’d been put there by Thomas Montgomery, who’d been a vampire the epitome of evil, Jordan hadn’t been able to stop himself.
She was so young. Only twenty-one according to her driver’s license tucked in his back pocket. And even in a coma-like state, she exuded a vibrancy which drew him.
He forced himself to stand and stretch, to look away from the woman. His hands fisted and the match stick cracked. Sighing, he dropped the two pieces next to the candle on the table.
Like a magnet, the woman drew him once more.
Large chunks of bright pink streaked through her white-blonde hair curling to just below her pixie chin. The startling color was amazing to one as old as he.
In his time, women hadn’t painted their faces with make-up, or dyed their hair unnatural colors.
It was sometimes disconcerting to be faced with how things changed as time passed.
A thick quilt disguised the generous curves of her body. Though the dungeon rooms were kept warm, the newly turned needed the extra heat until they learned control.
Screams from a friend of his who’d been recently changed echoed through the walls, piercing the soundproofing. Jordan ran his hands through his hair, frustration snaking through him. Chase had been created by the same vampire responsible for Dalia’s near death.
And like all new vampires, Chase was crazed with his bloodlust, even three weeks after his awakening.
Staring at Dalia’s face, Jordan memorized the lines and curves. She would wake soon, only to face a huge change. Hunger would make her, like Chase, a ravenous creature needing to kill, to drink. Jordan’s powerful blood would hopefully help the new vampire calm. And his duty was to be here every night, to feed her while trying to break through to the remnants of her humanity.
If she survived the final change.
Once she became lucid, they’d have ‘the talk’, one of the duties of being clan King he despised.
Horror and disappointment would fill her eyes as he explained what she was–and how her old life was forever lost.
This time, he’d have to add how it was his fault.
A knock pounded on the cell’s thick metal door.
Jordan strode across the room and slipped out into the hall. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust from pitch black to bright light. He looked into a feminine version of his own face.
“Fionah? I’m busy,” he said cautiously, unable to read which mood she was in this hour.
His little sister grinned. “Aye, brothair. When are you not?” She swept her long, silk skirts to the side and stepped for the door at his back.
He held his arm out, blocking her. “What do you want?”
She raised one blonde eyebrow, her eyes widening. She giggled and Jordan realized today she was the child, rather than the thousand-year-old vampire.
“To see your new pet,” she replied with a smile.
He sighed. “You know well she’s not a pet.”
“What else then?” She twirled her long skirts around her ankles. “You’ve not brought over a human in hundreds of years. Why now?”
If he had an answer, he might have spoken. Instead, he merely crossed his arms over his chest and stared at his sister.
At the other end of the hall, Eric, one of his Viking guards, rushed down the steps and hurried their way. The man stopped abruptly when he caught sight of Fionah.
Jordan’s guards never knew what to make of his sister, either. She could switch from child-like to screaming fury in a blink, without cause. Her mind was a strange thing, had been since they were children growing up on clan lands in Scotland. A thousand years had only increased her strangeness.
A whisper of movement broke the silence from the room at his back. He scowled, the urge to rejoin Dalia pressing. “It there a party going on down here I wasn’t informed of?”
Eric’s eyes, usually full of laughter, were instead filled with worry. “Luci is missing.”
Jordan straightened as heat fired his veins. Not again. “Where?”
“She was on the blood run to the hospital.”
Jordan barely refrained from slamming his fist into the stone wall. Who in the hell was still taking his people? He’d thought the problem solved when the rogue vampire responsible for Dalia’s condition had been killed. “Did she make it to the hospital?”
Eric shook his head.
Fionah stepped forward, brushing long curls over her shoulder. Her eyes held intelligence and her child-like grin was gone. “How do you know she didn’t make it?”
Eric shot her a glare. “’Tis my duty.”
Jordan rubbed the hilt of the dagger at his belt. “Get some men together. We’ll–” The sound of stirring inside the cell stopped him. He glanced from Eric to the door, torn. He couldn’t leave Dalia, not during her wakening.
Eric’s eyes flashed. “I’ll get a group together. We’ll find Luci.”
Jordan nodded. “Report to me on your return.”
Eric glanced at Fionah before heading to the stairs.
She stared at Jordan, her blue eyes flushing with red. Waving at the door, she demanded, “You put this woman before the clan?”
“I turned her. It is my duty to help her.”
“Why?” She shook her head. “What’s so special about this girl?”
“I don’t know.”
Fionah studied him, then shrugged and glided down the long hall. Jordan sighed, relieved she hadn’t continued her questions. He didn’t have any answers.
He slipped back inside the room. The woman was slowly walking. It wouldn’t be long now.
She woke with a start. Agony seared through her, bringing a scream to her throat. Her heart beat a deafening rhythm and her stomach clenched with fiery hunger. She jerked upright, staring into the darkness, her thoughts scattered like petals on the wind.
She reached up to rub her pounding temples but cold metal weighed heavily on her wrists. Chains rattled.
The shadows whispered a soothing, “Hush.”
Only then did she realize she was keening sharp cries from a need she couldn’t name. She hurt. Oh how she hurt. Her body ached, her stomach roiled. And she was so damn hungry.
A match flared. Candlelight spread a flickering pool over a man sitting near the bed. His features were harsh, yet his blue eyes held kindness.
The pulse beating at his throat drew her attention. She could hear his calm heartbeat over the erratic thumping of her own. The fire consuming her flared and she lunged.
The chains yanked her back to the mattress, keeping her from reaching the man.
Sharp canines pierced her tongue. The coppery taste of blood welled in her mouth. Startled, she stopped pulling at the chains, trying to think as the sweet taste brought her a bit of clarity.
The man left the chair to crouch beside the bed. She couldn’t stop from jumping at him again, but he stayed just out of reach.
“It’s all right, Dalia. You’ll feel better soon.”
Dalia? That was her name. Yes. Her thoughts grew clearer, though the pain rushing through her body was only getting worse.
He raised his wrist to his mouth. An urgent scent of salty copper bit into the air, making her stomach clench. He lowered his arm and her gaze locked on the blood welling over his tanned skin.
“Drink.” He held his hand in front of her face.
A red haze covered her vision and she sank her teeth into his skin. Blood, warm and comforting, filled her mouth. Mindless with a hunger she couldn’t place, unable to even feel disgust at what she was doing, she drank greedily.
The fire in her belly roared and she drank more, wanting to pull him closer, to wrap her hands around his arm and hold him tight to her lips. The chains rattled loudly, still keeping her from grabbing him. She growled in frustration at the cold metal.
Slowly, the flames in her stomach dampened.
Voices, silently screaming inside her head, broke through the fog. She jerked back, pressing against the headboard, as she realized exactly what she’d just done. Her breathing sped up as panic teased at her senses.
Shadow’s filled the man’s eyes. His lips curled into a fierce frown and she shivered at the anger blazing across his face.
With a cry, she scrambled as far as she could across the small bed and pressed into the ice cold wall in the corner.
“It’s all right,” he said gently.
She shook her head, trying to straighten out her thinking. Nothing made sense and she couldn’t even remember why.
“Dalia.” His voice rumbled, his accent thickening. “Come to me.”
Heat flared in the room as his voice tugged on her. Warmth slid over her, prickling her skin, and burrowing deep inside her mind. She shook her head as the buzzing of his command grew and the urge to do as he said increased. Calling for her to go to his side, his voice echoed and repeated in her mind.
She concentrated on listening to the crazed screaming and jabbering of her own internal voice. Curling into a ball, she fisted her hands over her ears. The chains rattled but she barely heard them over his insistent call.
Release Day Giveaway
Leave me a note in the comments with which character you like the most from the excerpt 🙂
I’ll pick 2 winners by the end of the weekend to win a $5 amazon gift card!!
Good Luck and thanks for stopping by,
Cover Art by the amazingly talented Dawné Dominique
Available at Amazon 🙂
When duty forces a shaman to stop a vampire from her revenge, love doesn’t just burn… it bites.
For two hundred years, Niki DeVeraux has been tracking the monster who murdered her family and made her a vampire. She finally catches up to him only to face more than she bargained for in a too-sexy sheriff who makes her remember she’s still a woman. With duties as Keeper of the peace and Sheriff, Shane Spencer must protect humanity and stop the friction between the local Arcaine races before it turns into an all out blood war.
When wolves start turning up dead, the tension between the races grows and suspicion falls on Niki. Shane knows she’s not to blame, and it has nothing to do with the primal urges she stirs within him. Working together, they must stop the hostilities from going over the edge. Trouble is, the desires raging between them might prove more dangerous than the surrounding threats.
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Release Day Party and Giveaway
I want your opinions!
Here’s my Q4U: What do you like the best about Vampires?
I’ll be checking in all weekend, today through Sunday night. Let’s talk about vampires and what we like most about them. Make sure to come back each day, because more news & awesome prizes will be announced each day!
Every so often, through the day, I’ll be picking random winners for prize packs:
- 5 gift certificates to Ana Banana’s Bath and Body Treats
- 3 gift certificates to Amazon.com
- Amber Kallyn book bags
- Autographed Posters of the cover art
- Autographed postcards of the cover art
In addition to the above prizes, I have 20 mini-stakes to give away today and tomorrow.
They’re hand made, hand engraved, custom keychain Vampire stakes, LOL. They were so cute, I couldn’t resist. Each stake measures about 2 inches long.
As a gift, I will send these in mini-swag packs, which includes a custom stake key chain and an autographed cover of the book to the first 20 people who email me at amberkallyn (at) gmail (dot) com with an amazon reciept for purchasing Bloodstorm.
(This does not preclude you from winning one of the other prizes)
More Prizes will be announced Sunday, so check back, and join in the discussion.
Extra Entries to Friday’s prizes
I’ve never done this before, but I’m willing to try, LOL.
You can earn extra entries in the contest by doing any of the following:
- If you Tweet the following (copy & paste):
Check out @AmberKallyn ‘s Super Duper Par-tay for the release of her Bloodstorm #vampires http://wp.me/p10Tqd-en
- If you Facebook and share the link in the comments
If you comment on any of my Release Day Bash blog hosts sites:
Romancing the Darkside http://romancingthedarkside.blogspot.com/2012/04/bloodstorm-release-day-blitz-giveaway.html
Beverly @ The Wormhole http://wormyhole.blogspot.com/2012/04/release-day-blitz-bloodstorm-by-amber.html
Saph’s Book Blog saphsbookblog.blogspot.com
The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom http://www.creativelygreen.blogspot.com/2012/04/bloodstorm-release-day-blitz.html
But most of all
I want to have fun 🙂
I love vampire stories. So share what you love best about vamps, and we can debate it, LOL.
Love ya’ll very much. Thanks for stopping by and if you participate, thanks so many bunches I can’t even count them all.
*If Peter piper picked a bunch of peppers, how many pecks of pickled peppers did peter piper pick?*
Yes, I love ya’ll more than one bunch 🙂
Release date (squee!!!) is this Friday the 13th. I love those days.
Also, don’t forget to come back on Friday for my Super-Duper Release Day Par-tay 🙂
****NOW FREE at all E-tailers****
When duty forces a shaman to stop a vampire from her revenge, love doesn’t just burn… it bites.
For two hundred years, Niki DeVeraux has been tracking the monster who murdered her family and made her a vampire. She finally catches up to him in a small Arizona town, only to face more than she bargained for. Amid an imperious vampire King, a shaky truce between the local clan and shifter pack, and a too-sexy sheriff who makes her remember she’s still a woman, Niki’s single-minded purpose is threatened for the first time since her turning.
Between his duties as Keeper of the peace for the Magic Council and heir to his tribe’s shamanistic magic, Sheriff Shane Spencer’s job is to protect humanity and stop the friction between the local Arcaine races before it turns into an all out blood war. To make matters worse, there’s an irresistible rouge vampire in town enflaming his senses.
When wolves start turning up dead, the tension between the paranormal races grows and suspicion falls on Niki. Shane knows she’s not to blame, and it has nothing to do with the primal urges she stirs within him. Working together, they must find a way to stop the hostilities from going over the edge. Trouble is, the desires raging between Niki and Shane might prove more dangerous than the surrounding threats.
The pitch black tunnel, complete with crumbling dirt walls and cobwebs, didn’t frighten Nicola DeVeraux. The dark held nothing to fear. She’d seen too many real monsters in the years since her death.
Besides, her night vision was as good as any human’s in the bright light of day.
She stepped over a skeleton, then around the grisly remains of a wild boar.
At the far end of the tunnel, candlelight flared to life, as if welcoming her into the witch’s den. Her boots stirred up dust as she entered the small cave.
The walls glinted with a mix of crystalline dirt and flecked stone. The scent of a nearby spring layered heavy moisture in the air. In the center of the cavern stood a long rectangular table, covered by a black velvet cloth. Strange items, some unrecognizable at first–or even second–glance, littered the top.
Spinning at the gravelly, androgynous voice, Niki grabbed for the dagger at her waist.
The old crone cackled as she entered, her grin nearly toothless. Stringy gray hair straggled around her plump, wrinkled, face. Jezamine glided to the table. “I didn’t think ye’d answer my summons.”
“You asked me to come, old woman. I assume there’s a reason.” Though the dark tunnel hadn’t scared her, the witch did. Niki forced herself to take another step, though she kept a tense grip on the hilt of her still-sheathed dagger.
“What question do ye ask the gods?”
Ignoring the tension roiling in her stomach, she moved to the woman’s side. “They’re finally ready to answer me?”
Jezamine laughed again, the sound sending skitters down Niki’s spine. “Ye know they take their time, girl.”
“Fine. I want to know if I’ll finally find the man who murdered my family.”
The old woman reached for a silver cup etched with strange markings. She shook it three times before dumping the contents into a circle made from small, round crystals. Human finger bones clattered against one another. She bent over the table.
Jezamine had looked as ancient a hundred years ago as she did now. “Hmm. Yes. Mmm.” The old woman poked at one bone sticking above the others. “But what ‘bout…”
Niki eased onto one of the dark wooden stools at the far end of the table.
The priestess sprung upright, staring at Niki with her fathomless dark eyes. Her inky black lips stretched in a grimacing smile. “It’s yer birthday. Samhain be a good day for birthin’.”
Niki clenched her fists in her lap. “Not really.”
Halloween was a cursed day to be born. It had brought her nothing but pain, brought her family nothing but death.
The old woman poked at the bones again. “Maybe. Maybe ye be finding the monster ye seek, maybe be getting some other kind of lucky.” Jezamine’s screeching laugh echoed from the cavern walls.
Shivers inched along Niki’s spine and flooded into her legs. Thankfully she was sitting down. “What do you mean, some other kind of lucky?”
Jezamine’s dark eyes glittered. “Girl, I don’t think ye want me telling. Don’t think the Fates want me telling.”
“Then what about Thomas?” Her nails poked painfully into her palms.
“Lil’ girl. Why ye wanna spend all yer time tracking down pure evil?”
Memories flashed. The Halloween ball, celebrating not just her seventeenth birthday, but her engagement as well. The plantation in the bayou, ringing with music and laughter. At least until dawn arrived, the sun shining down on nothing but death.
Niki shook the old pain away. “Duty,” she repeated. “He owes me vengeance.”
“’Tis a fine line ye walk between revenge and justice.” Jezamine shook her head, the corners of her lips drooping in a frown. “Revenge make yer soul dark as his.”
“I don’t care.” In the far corner of the cave, wisps of white fog crept up the walls. Soon they would form into the shapes of those long dead.
She jumped to her feet, turning away. “Can you tell me anything else?”
Jezamine walked around the table to face her. “’Ware child. He who turned ye may also be the cause of yer downfall.”
Niki lifted her chin, facing down the old woman’s words, the Fates themselves. “Not until after I’ve killed him.”
As Shane Spencer finished the last of his beer, his deputy, Chase Campton, strode by, slapping him on the back.
“Another re-election year well done, Sheriff.”
The small crowd in the bar cheered and the waitress, Rae, slipped another bottle onto his corner table.
Shane tipped his cowboy hat politely and plastered on a fake smile, unable to join in the spirit. All day, something dark had been hanging over the town. Not that anyone else sensed it. He needed to go to his childhood home. On the edge of town, the house sat at the borderline of the Apache reservation and Moss Creek.
His father, head shaman and seer, would know what the signs meant. Once again, doubt crept up inside Shane. How did the Fates pass over the eldest in their family and choose him as their father’s successor? It had never before happened in their tribe’s history.
He nursed the beer, deep in thought.
The door banged open, a cold autumn breeze swirled the smoky air. A woman followed it in, stopping just inside the bar. The air vibrated with unseen power. Even the deepest shadows shivered. Everyone in the bar fell silent, turning as one to look her way.
She held her head high, long black hair curling over her shoulders like silk. Her bright green gaze scanned the tables. She passed over Shane without pause, only to snap back to him.
Magic filled the room and the hair on his forearms rose. The other people in the bar were forgotten. Only the two of them existed.
His heartbeat slowed, skipped a beat, sped up like a race horse barreling down the track.
The doorframe towered over her slight form. Yet her body was ripe, lush with curves. The tight blue jeans emphasized her hips, the narrowness of her waist. And the sleeveless white tank showed her breasts off to perfection.
He swallowed, though his mouth was dry.
Her eyes widened and even over the distance of the room, he heard her soft, feminine gasp. Palms slick, he shakily set the bottle back on the table.
His blood screamed primitive urges… demanding he drag her off to his cave.
It wasn’t like him.
Women, even the most beautiful, had never affected him this way. He’d met with the rich and beautiful, models and actresses galore during his time in the city. Gathering the remaining shreds of his willpower, he closed his eyes calling on the magic of his ancestors. The spirits of the earth responded and power surged through him. Magic raised the hairs on his arms and the back of his neck as the whispers of the spirits of the nearby forest filled him. Ignoring it to concentrate on what was here and now, he reopened his eyes. Colorful hues surrounded everyone in the bar.
Her aura struck him like a punch to the gut. A deep maroon, with flecks of black, revealed exactly what she was.
And not local.
He blinked again, letting the sight fade.
The woman finally looked away and took another step into the bar. As quickly as it had hit, the power surging through the room dissipated. People once more talked and laughed, raising their glasses in toasts.
What the hell kind of vampire was she, to cause such a raging lust?
The woman strode to the bar, her glare shouting ‘Don’t mess with me’. Though she didn’t look old enough to drink, let alone be in a bar in the first place, the bartender immediately poured her a shot of whiskey.
Shane would be talking to Henry about it later.
First, he needed to figure out what this vampire was doing in Moss Creek. Sure, the small mountain town was a hub of paranormal activity, with the local vampire clan and the shifter pack taking advantage of the surrounding nature. But rogues generally tended to stay out of places dominated by orderly clans, knowing the structure and politics were handed down by the Magic Council.
And the Council didn’t like Rogues.
Cupping the shot glass in her hands, the woman leaned towards Henry before the older man could move away.
Shane tensed in his seat. If she was looking for a meal…
Henry murmured something. The woman nodded, downed her shot and laid some money on the bar before turning and striding out.
Shane tried to relax, but he still yearned for the stranger, to touch her, smell her, nearly as badly as when she’d been staring at him, as if she could see down to his very soul.
Niki kept to the shadows of the forest as she skirted the parking lot. The only light came from a blue neon sign on the building’s roof, claiming someone called Henry owned the Spitfire bar.
She stopped near a clump of three trees opposite the bar. The center one was marked with a red X. How original. Yet this was where her contact wanted to meet, so who was she to complain?
It was nearly a half-hour later than their appointed time and she wasn’t quite sure why she was still here. Her stomach grumbled lightly. She needed to eat, the blood she’d consumed earlier hadn’t been enough. Without both food and blood her strength would wane. She couldn’t afford that, not now when she was so close to her prey.
She’d give this snitch five more minutes.
Only three passed before the air whispered through the forest at her back. Niki turned, knife in hand, holding it hidden down by her thigh.
“Looking for me?” a husky whisper drifted out of the darkness.
“You Baal?” She tried not to snort. Sometimes vampires tried on grandioseness, as if eternal life made them superman. Which, she guessed, in some ways it did.
“Maybe. Depends. You got the money?”
“Sure. If you have the information you promised.”
“Lemme see the cash first, lady.”
Niki reached slowly into her front pocket and pulled out two one-hundred dollar bills. The snitch tried to grab it, but she held tight. “Information first.”
He stepped into a bit of moonlight and grinned, eyes flushed with red. His thin lips drew back, revealing long fangs as he chuckled. “I got something else for you.”
She sighed. “Let me guess. You’re not going to give me the information, assuming a creep like you even knows anything.”
“Got that right.” Confusion twisted his pale features, as if he didn’t quite follow. Then he grinned again. “But you sure gonna give me something. Ain’t just money.”
Never trust a snitch. “Let’s get on with it then.” She tucked the bills back in her pocket.
His grin twitched, eyes flickered, following the money. He shook himself, confidence coming back.
She tightened her grip on the dagger. He lunged.
Niki used his momentum to fling him against the trunk of the tree. His head slammed in to the painted red X.
“Damn it,” he yelled, quickly recovering and charging her again.
She waited until he was close, then rammed her knee into his groin. Not even vampires were immune to that pain.
Hope you enjoyed 🙂