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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 😀
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 😀
Writers write. Right?
Ask just about anyone what the number one rule of writing is, and you’ll hear this.
From Ray Bradbury, to my inspiration Stephen King, authors who get many books written tell you the same thing.
The key to writing, as Red Dwarf recently mentioned, is BICHOK (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard).
But sometimes, life can become so complicated, stressful, engrossing and time consuming that writing falls by the wayside.
Even for those who have been writing for years, publishing books. Even for those who’s writing is their stress relief and they’d never imagine not writing because it’s not only just so important to them, writing is part of that person.
Then what happens?
A writer isn’t writing 😦
The all-knowing “They” say it takes about a month for a habit, good or bad, to form in your life.
Writing, starting or getting back to it, is at the core a habit. BICHOK doesn’t happen all on it’s own.
So, after too much time away, I’m getting back in the saddle.
Even though I love writing, getting back to it on a daily basis is a struggle. I’m having to deliberately sit down with the intention to write a minimum word count.
When writing my last book (Magicstorm HoaV #4), I could easily do my daily word count of a few thousand words a day. The words weren’t always easy, but the dedicated time and using it every day was just part of my habits.
Now, I’ve realized that I need to be more reasonable with myself. I’m asking me and my muse for a minimum of 1 hour a day, and 1000 words. Once I can attain that easily (and in a few weeks, the kids will be back in school so the time at least will be easier to find) then I can increase it and work on getting back to my pre-life/stress/suckage that I used to have.
How about you? Do you BICHOK every day? How do you make sure writing every (or most every) day is one of your habits?
Over at The 7 Evil Dwarves, Dreamer and Red Dwarf have talked about the “ideal” writer’s life.
I read their posts and had to laugh.
Sure, I’d love to wake up at my preferred time (noon-ish), schlup around the house while drinking at least two pots of coffee, then gently ease into a comfy chair and write for hours, only broken by eating and refilling the coffee pot.
HA! I say.
Instead, here I am, in the dog days of summer.
Between the weather and wrangling my kids all day, I’m lucky to squeeze in an hour of writing at night, after the required hours of summer time tug-o-war to get them to bed 😉
It’s also hard to jump back in the saddle of both writing and blogging after the past
few many months when life has interfered so much I’ve barely been writing at all.
So, what is your “perfect” writing day, or for readers, your perfect reading day, like?
I’m a plotter, I can admit that fully. I like my little road map laid out before I begin writing, even though I know full well that at the end, the book probably won’t look much like my initial outline.
That’s because as I write, my characters take on their own personalities and decide from there on out where they’re damn well going to go.
But being a plotter, I still need to know quite a bit about my characters before I can start that initial outline.
I recently sat down to plot book 5 in my Heart of a Vampire series. I wrote two pages of outline before my heart sank and I showed it to Wicked.
My characters were wimps and the story was going nowhere.
Which is when I finally realized I didn’t know nearly enough about my characters to even begin plotting.
So, my Q4U: Writers – how well do you need to know your characters before you begin to write?
Readers – Are you drawn to books with more action oriented plots, or by great characters (or both)?
Please help me welcome L. VanHorn to the keep today. She’s got a new book out, and let me tell ya, it sounds delicious!!
Release Date: 2/22/2013
After the murder of her father, Kyra’s heart is consumed by the need for revenge. The hunt is all that matters. But a chance crossing of paths with the alluring and mysterious Grim threatens to derail her focus and her quest. Something about him draws her in, melts her walls, and speeds her heart. Like her, he is half Alfhiem, but it’s more than that. He’s funny, considerate, and treats her as an equal even in battle, something most of the Vikings of her native homeland would never do.
Steamy nights is one thing, but Kyra can’t allow her heart to become wrapped up with anyone, not until she finds and kills the man who murdered her father. Traveling across the countryside with Grim, though, challenges her resolve in more ways than she thought possible. She still hungers for the hunt but that hunger begins to dim in comparison to the one that grows inside her for Grim.
Creatures that could only be from the legendary land of Midgard interrupt their hunt again and again, creatures that shouldn’t exist in this realm. Soon it becomes unclear whether or not Kyra and Grim are the hunters, or the hunted. But who would hunt them, and why?
So tell us about yourself.
What is a typical day for you like writing-wise?
Wake up, start writing where I left off the day before, and write until the sun sets. Sometimes I might take a break to eat. 😉
What hobby do you enjoy when not writing?
Horseback riding is one of my favorites, but pretty much anything outdoors.
What would you do with $1 million dollars (tax-free, of course)?
Build a bigger house so I could host writer’s retreats at home.
Ooh, will we be invited? 😉
If you could be any animal, what would it be (real or magical)? Why?
If I had to choose, I’d say a dragon, because, how fantastic would that be?!
What is your favorite book? Why?
Currently, An Unexpected Return by Jessica E. Subject. Great characters, great plot, and what’s not to love about a pleasure planet?
What is your favorite movie? Why?
Currently, The Lord of the Rings saga. It was my first favorite book and seeing it come to life like that was amazing.
If you could time-travel, where would you go and why?
To the future, to see if our species survives.
Interesting question, and one I’d like to know 🙂
Why are manhole covers round?
I have no idea but now I’m totally going to Google it.
Do you have any upcoming news you’d like to share?
I do! Valkyrie Slumbering just released and the sequel, Valkyrie Awakening will be releasing this winter.
And the Fast Five:
Coffee or Chocolate?
I’m right there with ya 🙂
Jewelry: Precious gems or gold?
I’m not much for either. I like semi-precious stones.
Beach or Mountains?
Yes, but beach if I must choose.
Early Morning or Late Night?
Fruit or Veggies?
Fruits, then vegies.
And last, but not least, where can we find you on the internet:
BIO: With all the alluring creatures available in the fantasy genre, there is no end to the inspiration that keeps my muse up at night. My recipe: Start with choice characters, marinate in fantasy (any of the delicious sub-genres will do) add a heavy dash of romance, and mix in a generous portion of hot and heavy throughout the cooking cycle.