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
Please help me welcome the lovely Allison Merritt to the blog today. She was not only gracious enough to answer some questions, but she’s sharing her HOT! upcoming release, and giving away some goodies.
Peeps! We have a HOT DEMON SHERIFF 😀 Read on to find out more.
If Wystan became a movie, I’d love to see Henry Cavill play him. Man, does he have the jawline and the muscles for being a badass demon-slaying hottie sheriff? Yes, yes, he does. And for Rhia, I’d like to pick Anne Hathaway. She’s so talented, and I think she’d really capture Rhia’s personality.
I’ll just say YUM! at Henry Cavill and we can move on 😉
What hobby do you enjoy when not writing?
I got a late start on watching Game of Thrones, seriously, I’m just now on season two, but I’m so into this. It makes me want to write fantasy romance. I love movies. It’s not unusual for me to bring home a different DVD ever couple of days to watch. When I’m not on my bum, I like to walk and take photographs of nature.
It has a great storyline, love the angst, LOL.
What’s your favorite comfort food?
Lemon meringue pie. I call it solid sunshine, because that’s what sunshine would taste like if you could get a mouthful—you know, if it was a thing you could taste and not get horribly burned when you ate it.
What’s your favorite color? Do you decorate your space and/or dress in this color often?
It’s blue. I have more blue shirts and a couple of dresses than normal. I told my husband not to let me buy any more blue clothes, but it just keeps happening somehow. It’s not my fault cute clothes come in blue. We should complain to the manufacturers.
Yay for blue! the best color ever.
If you could time-travel, where would you go and why?
I have an awful hankering to meet Nikola Tesla. You know the guy invented a way to get electricity without using all that crap Edison did? I curse Edison every time I get an electric bill. Tesla seems like he was a really interesting man. Little is really known about him, but I’d sure like to talk to him.
Why are manhole covers round?
They were inspired by stroopwafels. Have you ever had one of those? They’re an amazing thin wafer cookie filled with caramel syrup. They’re fantastic with ice cream.
Do you have any upcoming news you’d like to share?
Just a couple of months ago, I submitted Eban (The Heckmasters, Book #2) to my editor and I’m pleased to announce it’s coming out in April 2015. I just got the cover. I promise, between that and the story, everyone will be blown away.
Coffee or Chocolate? Chocolate
Jewelry: Precious gems or gold? Gems
Beach or Mountains? Beach
Early Morning or Late Night? Late night
Fruit or Veggies? Fruit
About the Book:
Length: 228 pages
Pubisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication date: October 21, 2014
Her search for safety lands her in a totally new kind of danger.
The Heckmasters, Book 1
Certain that an ad for a job in a small New Mexico Territory town is the answer to her prayers, Nebraska schoolteacher Rhia Duke packs her sister into a rickety wagon and heads west.
Except when they reach the near-deserted town, she learns the truth. There is no job, no future, and no welcome in the bleak blue eyes of the handsome sheriff.
The minute Rhia’s runaway team thunders into town, Wystan Heckmaster feels the change in the air. One of three sons of a demon who dared love a human, he keeps watch over a Pit guarded by seven seals, and slays any Hellbound demon that attempts to free the master imprisoned within.
With a gut full of regret and a forgotten town filled with reformed demons, Wystan is certain of one thing: he can’t be the man Rhia needs. But when the truth behind Rhia’s flight from Nebraska comes to light, Wystan must open his soul—and pray there’s enough love between them to overcome the darkness rising from the Pit.
Warning: Contains a take-no-prisoners sheriff, a woman who can’t outrun her supernatural secrets, and a dusty town where hope is as thin as dust in the wind. Author recommends keeping a glass of cool spring water at your elbow while reading.
Something changed in the air the moment the wagon crossed the town’s border. Too early to be a supply train, and there was no way in hell it was visitors. Berner didn’t host town fairs, theatre troupes, peddlers, or bible thumpers.
Wystan Heckmaster slapped his battered Stetson on his head, collected the keys to the jail, then stepped out the door. The first thing he saw was a pretty woman with hair the color of maple sugar—a rich brownish-blonde. The frown on her face spoke volumes, and the air around her pronounced trouble. She made a straight path for him.
“Mr. Heckmaster. Or should I call you Sheriff? Or Mayor? I need to discuss the ad in the Lancaster County Republican with you. Someone placed an ad, but your brother tells me there is no school here. I’m sure there has to be a mistake. There’s only one Berner in New Mexico Territory. I’m very capable at reading maps. If I wasn’t, I would be ashamed to call myself a teacher.”
He doubted she had taken more than two or three breaths during the speech. If she made talking in rambling paragraphs a habit, no wonder she looked so peaked.
“Teacher?” He glanced along the street, but it was deserted as usual. “Lady, we don’t have a school here. Certainly no need of a teacher.”
Her hands balled into fists that settled on her hips. The dress she wore was patched—the egg yolk yellow faded into something even more disgusting. It had little flowers dotting the material, but they looked as worn as her scuffed black boots.
“Then what was the purpose of placing an ad in the Lancaster County Republican?”
She spoke with the fierceness of a mama bear warning predators away from her cubs.
Wystan reached into his shirt pocket and drew out a toothpick. “I didn’t place any ad in any Lancaster County anything.” He looked past her, expecting Eban to saunter up the street. Eban had to be the brother she’d referred to since Tell was still on the trail.
“Someone did,” she insisted. She fished a crumpled and much-folded piece of newsprint out of the pocket hidden by the folds of her skirt. “See? Right here it says, ‘School teacher wanted for spring term at Berner Schoolhouse. Wages paid based on experience. Room and board provided. Apply in person at City Hall, Berner, New Mexico Territory.’ I’m sure my eyes don’t deceive me.”
Wystan stared at the clipping, then back at the woman. A galaxy of freckles spattered across her nose and cheekbones, making her look younger than her eyes said she was. Full figured and sure as shittin’ a grown woman. The wariness and worry darkening her hazel eyes gave her away as one with a lot of trouble on her plate.
“I can read.”
She pulled the ad away from his face, folded it, and returned it to her pocket. “Where would you suggest I look for an explanation, Mr. Heckmaster?”
Fussy little thing. “I assure you that no one in this town did. There’s been a mistake. Sorry to inconvenience you, Miss Schoolteacher. Now turn around and head home.”
A flush colored her cheeks. “I can’t head home! I have no home to return to. My little sister and my friend are waiting at the doctor’s office for me to straighten this mess out. The ad says that room and board will be provided. I’d expected to move into a room, sir.”
“You left them with Eban?” That explained his absence.
“Beryl is ill, Sheriff. This is the first town we’ve seen in days and it was past time for her to get some attention.” Despair crept into her voice.
Wystan shifted his weight and transferred the toothpick to the other side of his mouth. “Eban’s not exactly trained in human medicine.”
The woman’s mouth opened into an O. She shook her head and seemed to regain her senses. “He’s a veterinarian? He seemed certain he could help Beryl.”
Wystan cleared his throat. “Sure, animal doctor. I’m sorry for your misfortune, lady, but as you can see, Berner’s about run into the ground. There’s nothing here for you or your friend. Might be best to move along.”
She seemed to deflate. “Move along.” Her lips moved, softly forming the words, but it was as though she didn’t comprehend them. “We’ll move along, right down the trail into the next town where there won’t be any teaching jobs either. Sylvie, Beryl, and I will starve to death on the side of the road with no one in the world to care.”
Click on the link for the Giveaway
About the Author:
A love of reading inspired Allison Merritt to pursue her dream of becoming an author who writes historical, paranormal and fantasy romances, often combining the sub-genres. She lives in a small town in the Ozark Mountains with her husband and dogs. When she’s not writing or reading, she hikes in national parks and conservation areas.
Allison graduated from College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri with a B.A. in mass communications that’s gathering dust after it was determined that she’s better at writing fluff than hard news.
Social media links:
Facebook – http://facebook.com/allisonmwrites
Twitter – http://twitter.com/allison_merritt
Goodreads – http://goodreads.com/AllisonMWrites
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/allisonmwrites/
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 😀
I’ve written everything from urban fantasy, to paranormal, to erotic romance, and I’ve enjoyed each story.
Recently, the whole 50 shades of you know what, has plopped erotic and BDSM stories in the news seemingly all over the place.
I think that’s awesome for authors, because in my mind, it’s just one more thing getting headlines and therefore getting people thinking about books and reading.
Okay, so I may be a bit optimistic, but I’m okay with that 😉
It also helped me to take the plunge and publish the first of a short story series I’ve had in mind for a couple years, based on Red Riding Hood… adult style, LOL.
Most know of me, or at least have heard my tale.
Certainly you would recognize my crimson cloak, perhaps you have even been regaled by tales of my battles against the wolves.
And other News
Take care and hope your weather is turning into fall. Ours is not ~ we’ve still been in the 110 range, with high humidity. *Steps outside and literally melts*
Dragos 4: Inflamed comes out in just a couple of weeks on May 20th.
And, I’ve ordered my fourth set of trading cards, so all the winners and everyone who’s emailed me about them ~ they should come in just a week or two and then I’ll be mailing the sets out.
Doesn’t Isabelle look so sexy? My succubus rocks. And, she’s about to find that sometimes, a demon can have a happily ever after 🙂
Sometimes Mondays suck. Big time. Sometimes, not so much. (It can’t possibly be as bad as last Tuesday, which due to the holiday, got its limelight as a temporary Monday and dished out crap for all it was worth… But that’s another story 🙂
This week, I’m pretty much too busy to even realize it’s a Monday.
My critique group, 7 Evil Dwarves, has begun a new game. We’re pledging to write every single day. Each person picked how they wanted to track their work (time, page count or word count). The average choice is 1 hour a day. It doesn’t have to be in one sitting, just overall through the day. Every Monday, I’ll be listing our stats, per person.
Feel free to Join the fun. In the comments, tell us your daily goal. Then on Mondays, check in and let everyone know if you met it all 7 days, or not.
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Also this week:
I’m a Featured Author at Whipped Cream 🙂 Squee. Blogs and interviews abound.
Prizes: Grand Winner, a copy of my new release Dragos 2: Scorched coming 1/28/11
Three winners to receive their choice of the following:
Amber Kallyn Ball cap
Amber Kallyn book bag
Small Poster (14×18) of Dragos Scorched cover
International winners will receive an emailed gift.
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Today, 1/24, I’m at The Romance Studio blogging
Tuesday, I’ll be at Castles and Guns, discussing the myserious, sexy Alpha Male
Thursday is PARTY TIME! At the Romance Studio. Come read great excerpts, and win great prizes during my Release Party 🙂
And, this Friday for ya’ll who’ve asked, Dragos 2: Scorched comes out.
A rare Argentinean dragon shifter, Cynthianna “Anna” Hernandez has never known trust, peace or safety, not even by fleeing to the deepest wilds of Canada. When bounty hunter Garreth Dragos shows up during a blizzard, things get complicated as their inner dragons decide they’re perfect for each other. Things get worse when the dark mage hunting Anna finds them, sending his creatures to return her to his evil clutches. He’s willing to sacrifice anything and anybody to further his quest for power. Together, Anna and Garreth must trust in each other or all will be lost to evil.
Read an Excerpt