Excerpt: The Visitor


Happy Monday!

I’ve been going through some old drafts of things I started and then put aside, trying to decide what writing project to work on next and what excerpt I could post on the blog. Some were too R-rated (lol), another I felt was potentially too dark, but this one seemed just right. 🙂 It’s really just backstory, so I don’t know if it will ever make its way into a book, but I wrote it when I was thinking about Carly’s bad ass grandma, and about who her biological father is (the one who left their mother when they were young). Sounds scumbag-ish, but like always in the Reborn world, nothing is as it first appears…..

This is some Carly family backstory, related to events that happened in Reclaim (Reborn Book #3). (I recommend *not* reading it if you haven’t read Reclaim and are planning to, because it will spoil parts of it.) And please keep in mind this was mostly for my notes so it’s very rough, but I thought readers of the series would enjoy it. Happy reading!

*****

Image result for someone knocking on a doorUpstate New York, eleven years ago

Darlene Vignovich was just beginning to doze off when there was a loud, urgent knocking at the front door.

She gave a shudder, paper-thin eyelids flying open, and sat straight up in her chair. Placing a gnarled, wrinkled hand on either chair arm, she hoisted herself to standing, then, grabbing her cane from where it was propped up against the end table, propelled herself toward the door. Three more loud, demanding knocks sounded on the other side. She thought about alerting her husband, who was out back tending to his rose bushes (as always), deciding against it a moment later. From the sudden, inexplicable drop in temperature in the room, and the way the breath left her lips in small, white puffs, she already knew who stood on the other side of that door.

She knew she could handle him.

“You,” she said after unlatching and pulling the door open. She kept the screen door locked, meeting the pair of bright, blue eyes on the other side of it with a steely resolve. They belonged to a very tall man with a strong-looking but slim body, a head of salt-and-pepper hair and beard to match, and those keen blue eyes peering out of a tan face lined with age. He looked to be about fifty, but each time Darlene had seen him over her long life he had looked the same. The first time their paths had crossed she had been eighteen and a freshman in college, and she had thought him an old man, albeit a distinguished one. Now that she was an old woman, he looked younger and more appealing than ever.

“Where do you get off, dropping by here unexpectedly,” Darlene snapped, jabbing her cane in his direction. “You should have called first.”

“Darlene.” He said her name patiently, imploringly, and spread his arms in an apologetic manner, palms out to face her. “You’re the one that invited me here.”

“I know that,” she spat, spittle flying through the air, collecting on the glass pane of the door in tiny round droplets. “I’m not senile, just old.” Although sometimes she wondered about that, herself. Sometimes she got confused. Usually, it was small things. Calling one of her granddaughters by her daughter’s name. Looking in the fridge for the sugar, and in the cupboard for the milk. But sometimes it was bigger things. The two worlds, two realities she had forced apart her entire life had, at some point, floated back together and now bled into each other, like squirts of blue and green dye mixing in a bowl of water.

“Darlene. Open the door,” the visitor beseeched her calmly.

After a moment’s stubborn pause, Darlene obliged, unlocking and opening the screen door.

One shiny black dress shoe, then the other, crossed the threshold, clapping over the hardwood floor. His dark suit was snug and well-tailored, the outline of muscle much too prominent for someone his age visible underneath the expensive material. Underneath, he wore a crisp white shirt and a purple tie.

“You should have called,” Darlene scolded him again, shuffling over to perch on the edge of a couch cushion. He sat down in the arm chair she had vacated moments ago, reclining it back slightly, making himself at home. “Hannah and the girls will be here soon. If they see you…”

“They won’t,” he assured her, drumming long, elegant fingers on his thigh. “They’ll never know I was here, will go on believing I left their mother, abandoned them.”

“You did,” she reminded him.

“Only because you demanded it of me.”

“You would have left eventually, anyway. That’s what your kind do. Spread your seed on this world and then bolt.”

“My kind?” The corner of his mouth ticked upward. Despite herself, Darlene always thought the man had a nice mouth. There was a sensuous curve to his lips, and they were a nice, smooth pale pink, like the peonies that grew in her garden. “It’s your kind too, Darlene. Our blood runs through your veins.”

Even though she already knew this—he had told her and her sorority sisters this sixty years ago—Darlene still shivered, the hairs on her forearms pricking. “Yes. Demon blood does run through them. But so does human blood. And that is where I derive my strength from.”

“Demon blood.” The visitor rolled those too-blue eyes. “We’re not demons. We are not evil. We are simply more…advanced. If anything, we’re angels. Gods.”

Darlene’s head of tight, white curls sliced to the right, then the left. “God has nothing to do with the likes of you. Living so long, being so beautiful, so…alluring…that can’t be God’s work. It is Satan’s. It is an abomination.”

“Is that what you would call your granddaughters?” He leaned forward in the chair, eyes deepening to an icier shade of blue. The temperature in the room took a nosedive, and Darlene felt little tendrils of frost collecting in her nose, on her eyelashes. “Abominations? Your ‘tainted’ blood flows through their veins. So does mine.”

“Carly and Diane will never know of this world,” she insisted, embracing herself. She didn’t want her daughter’s ex-husband to catch her shivering, but she couldn’t help it. His easily sparked temper had thrown them into a freezer. “I have made sure of that.”

“You won’t be around to protect them forever.” His reminder chilled her even further. “They’ll be out in the world, on their own. Just like you, they will gravitate toward the sisterhood. They will discover their heritage. Their destiny.”

“No.” She shook her head again. “I won’t let that happen.”

All at once, the temperature in the room rose again, the frost clinging to her eyelids and nostrils melting. The visitor sat back in the chair again, raking a hand through his salt-and-pepper hair. “You don’t have to leave them,” he continued in a calmer, kinder tone. “You know that. I can give you more ambrosia. It will awaken the rest of your…demon”—he sneered the word—“blood, give you practically eternal life. But you won’t have to leave Hannah, or your granddaughters.”

Darlene extended a hand to the top of her cane, feeling the grooves in the wood with her fingers. “I don’t want to leave them. But, one day, I’ll have to. That is the natural order of things. The circle of life. I won’t destroy my soul, even for eternal life.”

He sighed. “That’s my Darlene, always so damn moral.”

Darlene nodded once, stiffly. “That’s right. So, did you bring it? Do you have what I requested?” He’d better not have come empty handed.

Nodding and reaching into his suit jacket, her former son-in-law pulled out a black velvet, drawstring bag, seeming to weigh it in his hand before handing it to her. Darlene accepted it, resting the bag on her lap and opening it up, peering inside.

“This is it?” she asked, still unable to believe it. To trust him. “This will seal the rift that’s on the outskirts of my property?”

“That, and this.” He reached back into his jacket, this time emerging with a piece of yellowed parchment. “This is the ritual that will close the tear. Permanently.”

“Good.” Accepting the parchment from him, Darlene gingerly folded it in half and tucked it inside her robe. She pulled on the drawstrings, closing the black velvet pouch. “I’m not sure what’s out there, but there’s something on the other side of that rift. I can hear them sometimes, crying. Screaming.” More demons, she assumed, but she wasn’t about to bring that up in front of him again. There was no point. The rift would be repaired soon, and everything would be back to normal. “What do you think could cause such a thing?” she asked, almost as an afterthought. “I thought the walls the guardians erected long ago were supposed to be full-proof.”

“They are quite sturdy,” he agreed, “but can occasionally weaken and fail from natural wear and tear. But it’s nothing to worry about. That should do the trick.” He nodded toward the bag still sitting in her lap. Darlene wasn’t sure she believed that the anomaly was “nothing to worry about,” but she didn’t pursue that either. Hannah and the girls would be there soon. It was time for him to go.

He seemed to understand this, bringing the recliner forward again and getting to his feet, adjusting his tie as he strode toward the door. “Don’t bother getting up, Darlene.” He waved a hand in her direction just as she was making to push up onto her feet with her cane. “I can see myself out.”

But before he left, he turned again, one hand on the door, the other fisted at his side. “My daughters do not have evil inside of them. They have my people’s magic. Power. You don’t want me to be a part of their lives? Fine. I’ll stay away. But do not shelter them. Don’t deny them their heritage. Like you, like Hannah—though she doesn’t know it—they are guardians. And they are so much more. If you don’t tell them, they will find out some other way. I guarantee it. The Fates will guide them to their destiny. But it’s better that you prepare them. Think about it.”

With that, he pushed through the screen door, pulling it closed behind him much too hard, causing the glass pane to shudder and rattle. Heaving a sigh, Darlene set the black velvet pouch containing the object capable of mending the walls-between-worlds on the couch before getting up to close and lock the heavy oak door. Feeling suddenly breathless, she turned, leaning her back against the cool wood of the door, closing her eyes. He was right about one thing. Maybe she should tell Carly and Diane. Everything.

A moment later, she shook her head, going back over to the couch to retrieve the bag. She would need time to learn how to use the object inside properly and to practice the ritual. Until then, she would hide it away from her granddaughters’ inquisitive eyes. No, she decided, shuffling up the stairs. It was best Carly and Diane only knew the world they were used to. One that was safe. Normal. No demons, no parallel worlds, no magic. They would never know about the guardians, nor who their father really was.

She would make sure of it.

 

Excerpt: Scarefest


An early Thanksgiving “gift” for all of you, my lovely readers: the first full chapter of Reclaim!

No one has read this yet (so…feel special? lol), and this is of course before the final copy edit. And I guess it could still change a little bit between now and January, but probably not drastically since it’s mainly set up and reminding you about things that went down in Relapse. (And, if you haven’t read the first two books, spoilers abound.) In any case, hope you enjoy!

(You can read another excerpt here.)

*****

“Lower your elbow,” Alec says. Placing one hand on my waist, he gently coaxes my elbow down with the other. I stiffen under the intimate contact, and he pulls away quickly, taking a step to the side. “You were never going to hit any with your arm sticking out like that.”

Smiling, I glance at him out of the corner of my eye. “It’s just balloon darts, Alec.”

He sighs, crossing his arms. “I know. Sorry. I have a bit of a competitive streak, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“I haven’t.” Returning my gaze to the wall of brightly colored balloons, I align the tip of the dart with a red one in the upper right corner. With a flick of my wrist, I send the dart whizzing toward my target—and straight into the empty patch of corkboard next to it. The next two meet the same fate.

“Fudge,” I say, throwing my arms up in defeat. “There goes my career as a professional darts player. Your turn.”

Alec scoops up three additional darts from the counter and assumes a wide-legged stance, expertly lining up the first dart with the board. He pulls his arm back and snaps it forward again, the dart a silver and black blur as it flies through the air. It bounces off the board, dropping to the ground.

“I may have used a little too much force,” he admits.

I nod in agreement. “Just a little.”

His second dart doesn’t fare much better, getting lodged in the corkboard like all three of mine did. “Maybe you should just stick to football,” I tell him.

As if to prove me wrong, the third successfully punctures a blue balloon with a loud pop that makes me jump, even though I saw it coming.

Alec pumps his fist. “Score!”

Rolling his eyes, the attendant turns to check the tag  underneath the shriveled remains of the balloon. After rummaging underneath the counter, he tosses a neon orange bouncy ball in Alec’s direction. Alec catches it in one hand, promptly dropping it into mine. “I was hoping to win you a giant stuffed animal, but I guess this will have to do.”

“I will cherish it always,” I say, stuffing it into my pocket.

“Another round?” the attendant asks us, looking hopeful as he holds up three more darts. Alec and I glance at each other, then back at the attendant, shaking our heads politely. Heaving a sigh, he turns his back to us, moving to replace the broken balloon.

“Let’s go on some rides,” Alec says to me as we walk away from the game booth.

I shake my head. “Not tonight. I should probably get going,” I realize, checking the time on my cell phone.

“Come on. One ride. How about the Iron Demon?”

“I hate roller coasters…in case you’ve forgotten,” I add with a smirk.

He gives an apologetic shrug. “I kind of did. The haunted house, then,” he suggests, pointing behind me.

“No way. It’s too creepy,” I tell him, shivering at the mere thought of it. The haunted house consists of five or so dark, eerie rooms where an assortment of hideous characters lurk in the shadows, waiting to jump out and scare you. From the outside, it looks like an old, black clapboard house where an evil witch might live. I picture her inside, hunched over a large cauldron filled with a bubbling green potion. She kicks back her head and cackles, and I can almost hear the maniacal sound of it spilling from the windows, echoing in the empty alley beyond.

Alec sounds exasperated when he says, “It’s meant to scare little kids. Not us.”

“There’s a room full of clowns, Alec. Clowns. I’m not going in there.”

“Never mind. Sorry I mentioned it.” I catch him rolling his eyes before he turns away from me. “So, no roller coasters, and no haunted houses. Then how about the…”

His words become background noise as I stare into the alley next to the house—looking for what, I don’t know. The lights from the rides don’t seem to reach this corner of the park, where shadows gather like a thick, dark fog. But if I look hard enough, I can almost see the faint silhouettes of two people through the haze. Another shiver runs down my spine, but this time it’s not from fear, or even the cold autumn air. Anticipation coursing through me, I take a reflexive step toward the alley.

“Carly?” Alec puts a hand on my shoulder. “You okay?” His concerned voice breaks the trance. Shaking myself, I look up at him, smiling.

“I’m fine,” I insist. “It’s getting late. Let’s just go.” As we walk away, I take one last look at the alley, but the figures I thought I saw in the shadows are gone. Feeling strangely disappointed, I turn back around.

“I’m sorry about before. At the dart game,” Alec says. I assume he’s talking about that brief, awkward moment when he tried to adjust my throwing arm. “It was habit. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“It’s okay,” I assure him. “I can understand that. It hasn’t been that long since…” I trail off, watching our shoes hit the pavement in sync as we walk through the amusement park. Waves of patrons stream past us in the opposite direction, talking and laughing loudly, cotton candy in hand.

“No, it hasn’t,” he agrees. “Carly, I…” When I look over at him, he’s avoiding my gaze, kicking a chunk of gravel along as we walk.

“Alec.” I stop in the middle of the street, forcing a couple of kids to go around us. “Why did you ask me here tonight?”

Alec pauses and holds my gaze steady. “I…I guess I just thought that maybe…” He takes a step closer to me. “I still care about you, Carly. I want to get back together. I—I thought you might want the same thing.”

At first, I’m too stunned to speak. I shake my head slowly, sounding apologetic but firm when I finally say, “No. I’m sorry, Alec, but I don’t.”

“No,” he echoes sadly. “Well, I guess I sort of expected that. But I have to ask—why?”

Why?” Feeling flustered, I try to remember why I even agreed to meet Alec at Playland in the first place. I should have realized when he “wanted to talk,” it was about getting back together. Instead of thinking it through, I had jumped at the opportunity to get out of the sorority house, which I hadn’t left in days. Hot, angry tears sting the backs of my eyes, ready to burn their way down my cheeks. “You can’t be serious. You dumped me in front of the entire Greek Quad—then had the nerve to ask for your lavalier back.”

“Carly, I was trying to—”

“And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, your fraternity sacrificed me to bring one of your brothers back!” I didn’t know it at the time—didn’t know why the Sigma Iota brothers lured me to their basement and forced me through the portal that took me to Pandora, the space between universes. It wasn’t until later that I found out it was an exchange, a way to bring one of their leaders back from Olympus while maintaining the balance between our worlds.

“Yes, my fraternity! Not me!” He takes a step closer to me. I remember a time not so long ago when he would come up to me and scoop me into his arms, and I would rest my head on one of his broad shoulders. Now, he leaves a sliver of space between us, a few feet that feel like a mile. His golden skin looks paler than usual, pulled tightly across angular cheekbones. He lifts his hands as though to reach for mine, then brings them back to his sides. His dark eyes fill with tears. “I tried to stop them, Carly.”

“What about afterwards? You didn’t come after me or even try to get help. You weren’t at the ritual when the others came to rescue me—”

“I had no idea they were going after you—”

“Stop it!” I shriek. A few of the people standing in line at the rubber duck game look over at us curiously. “Stop making excuses,” I say, lowering my voice. “There’s nothing you can say to make this better.”

Alec nods, seeming to accept this. “I get it. I do, and I’m…sorry. I really am sorry.”

“Me, too.” I shudder as a biting wind blows through the park, cutting through my denim jacket. It whips a lock of Alec’s black hair across his forehead. I dig my hands into my pockets, resisting the impulse to smooth it back.

“I shouldn’t have asked you out tonight,” he continues. “I should have known…plus, if my brothers find out…” He glances over his shoulder as though expecting one of his Sigma Iota brothers to appear behind him.

“I won’t tell if you won’t. Well, I guess I’ll see you around,” I say, turning to go.

“Just tell me,” Alec says, and I turn back around to face him, “there isn’t someone else.”

I roll my eyes. “Because the only possible reason I could have of not getting back together with you is that I met someone.”

He sighs in frustration. “That’s not what I meant.”

I open my mouth, entertaining, for a moment, the idea of telling him everything about my time in Pandora—about the other prisoner, my only companion in that dark, never-ending abyss. Then, the final words he spoke to me resurface, piercing through me all over again like a flurry of tiny darts.

“I’m a liar, Carly. You said so yourself. And you were right all along…I tricked you. I wanted to play with you a little while longer. And you let me…”

I shake my head. “No. There’s no one else.”

Alec looks relieved. “There’s no one else in my life, either.”

“I hope you find someone, Alec,” I tell him, my voice small. “I hope one day you find her—the woman of your dreams.”

“I hope you find the woman of your dreams, too,” Alec says in a half-hearted attempt to lighten the mood.

I laugh despite myself. “And I hope one day we can be friends. You know, when our houses stop this whole mortal enemies thing.”

He nods. “No matter what happens, I consider you a friend, Carly.”

“Goodbye, Alec.” Unsure of what else to say, I leave him standing next to the booth with the rubber duck game, feeling his eyes on me as I walk away.

I head back toward the park entrance, passing other game booths and rides along the way. Lights flash all around me, brightening the night sky in brief bursts of color. The late night crowd at Playland is mostly composed of people on dates and cliques of rowdy teenagers. Like the group currently loitering off to one side of the arched entryway. The boys are wearing shirts with band or beer logos on the front, pants hanging loose over their boxers. The girls have on shiny tops that don’t come down quite far enough over their form-fitting leggings. None of them are wearing jackets, preferring to look cool over appropriately dressed for the middle of October.

I feel wistful as I watch them talking and laughing, passing a large bag of kettle corn back and forth. I missed out on those carefree years, my adolescence filled with secrets and silence instead of friendships and laughter. Back then, I felt older than my sixteen years, already jaded. Now, watching this group of teenagers, I realize just how young I really was.

“BOO!” a voice bellows in my ear. I jump, letting out a scream to rival those coming from the Iron Demon, and spin around to find a figure in a black, hooded cloak looking just as startled as I am.

“Someone’s a little jumpy,” a muffled male voice says from behind the hood. Shaking his head, he walks away to join the zombie smoking a cigarette over by the ticket booth. The teens with the kettle corn are pointing at me, laughing. Heat rises to my cheeks, and I look away from them. I had forgotten Playland was in the midst of Scarefest, its month-long Halloween event. The zombie and the grim reaper must work at the haunted house.

Glancing around for an escape route, I spot a dark purple tent across the way, the signpost outside of it advertising:

Madam Moira

World-renowned fortuneteller

Divines your future for a $10 donation

I crack a smile at the word “donation.” Nevertheless, I hurry in that direction, avoiding the amused glances and mocking laughter still being thrown my way. For ten bucks, I’m not sure Madam Moira could tell me all that much, but maybe she could at least tell me if I’m going to ace the Concepts of Math midterm I haven’t studied for.

I slip inside the tent to find a hunched figure, draped in a midnight blue cloak, sitting at a foldout table littered with flickering black candles. Directly in front of her is a crystal ball mounted on an iron stand, seeming to emanate a light of its own.

“Who dares to disturb the meditation of Madam Moira?” a dramatic voice says from beneath the cloak. A hand rises to knock back the hood, revealing a tumble of black curls and two dark brown eyes set in an olive-toned face. Madam Moira gestures for me to sit, her large gold hoop earrings swaying from the movement. I take the other chair quickly.

“Ten dollars for a basic reading,” Moira says, holding her hand out expectantly. Her nails are fake, painted a glittery black with a clear gem adorning each tip. I get some money out of my purse, laying the bills in her outstretched palm. Her fingers close immediately over them, cramming them into the velvet pouch on her lap.

“What is your name, child?” she asks me, full, red lips curving into a tranquil smile. I try to hide my amusement at the question. Some psychic she is.

“Carly.” I shift uncomfortably in the chair. The seat is covered with a lumpy gold cushion that makes me feel like I’m sitting on a Jell-O mold.

“Carly,” she repeats thoughtfully. “Daughter of the true gods.” I go still at the words, forgetting the cushion situation. “Tell me, Carly. What has brought you to seek the guidance of Madam Moira?”

Carly,” I begin, mocking her use of the third person, “would like to know what the future holds.”

Moira nods knowingly. “Before we proceed, I must warn you: I do not sugarcoat my readings,” she says, arching a thick, well-shaped eyebrow. She has a faint, unfamiliar accent—must be another part of her act. “Many think they want to know what the future holds. But you may not like what you find there. Would you still like to proceed?”

Of course—I just paid you ten dollars, I think to myself, but all I do is nod, encouraging her to continue.

“Very well.” Moira’s piercing eyes shift to the crystal ball. She stirs the air above it with a flourish of her hands. “You have recently returned from a perilous journey,” she continues, glancing up at me. I give her another nod. “Journey” is pretty vague, even a perilous one. That could mean anything. It could refer to my trip to the grocery store this morning and the truck that almost backed into my car in the parking lot.

Creases burrow across her forehead as she peers into the ball. “I see a field. An endless field with tall, green grass. A great wall surrounding a city. An elderly man, standing guard.” Madam Moira pauses for effect. My heart starts to pound, the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.

“I also see a…forest.” I don’t know if I’m imagining it or not, but it looks like the light inside the glass ball is starting to swirl. “And a creature—a gorgeous creature with a shining mane and a glittering”—she squints as though even she doesn’t quite believe what she’s seeing—“horn. A great, gaping pit of fire, mountains looming in the distance.” Moira blinks a few times, wavering in her chair. “I’m sorry. I’m only getting snapshots—everything is so jumbled and disjointed. Now, there’s a room—a dark room with stone walls and an iron throne—”

“That’s enough,” I say, standing up so quickly I almost knock the chair over. Concentration broken, Moira shifts her gaze to me, looking taken aback. “I mean…that’s okay. None of that matters, anyway. It’s in my past…not my future.” I turn to go, unable to listen to this a moment longer—to her abbreviated version of everything that happened in Pandora, an adventure that turned out to be nothing more than a fancy trick.

I wasn’t alone in Pandora, although I didn’t know my prison had a name at first. I thought I was trapped in an eerie, dark palace, held captive by a mercurial, white-haired prince. He sent me on what turned out to be a pointless quest to win my freedom. On my journey, I was tested three times. A test of the mind to enter the city. One of strength to get across a burning chasm. A final test of the heart to choose my own freedom and getting home to my sorority sisters over an imposter Alec. As it turned out, the entire journey had been a distraction created by the prince, who wasn’t a prince or my captor at all, but a fellow prisoner.

“I see a boy.” Moira’s lilting voice brings me back to the present. “A boy with two faces.”

“Who told you all of this?” I ask, sitting down again. “Was my roommate here? This isn’t funny, Victoria!” I say loudly, just in case she’s hiding somewhere, watching me make a fool of myself.

“You care about him,” Moira says, eyes sad.

A tear escapes down my cheek. I wipe it quickly away. “It doesn’t matter. He’s gone. He left me.” I’m not really being fair to Dolos, Moira’s boy with two faces. One, the face of the blonde prince holding me captive—the other green-eyed and dark-haired. The real Dolos, the god of trickery and deceit. When we were rescued from Pandora, I returned home, and so did he, as I found out later. Even though I had already suspected as much, it had taken me awhile to truly digest it—to accept I would never see him again.

“He is not gone,” Moira assures me. “He’s just in hiding.”

I shake my head. “But that would mean—”

“You have known so much loss in such little time,” Moira interrupts me, shaking her head gravely. “A sister in jeopardy. Trapped.”

“Yes!” I cry out, nodding eagerly for her to continue, despite the abrupt change of topic. “Siobhan. Is she okay? Is she alive?”  My sorority sister, Siobhan, was the one who braved Pandora to rescue us. Once I was safely out, she never came back through the portal, and Victoria and the others ran out of time, forced to close it behind her.

“She is hanging on.”

“Do we save her?” I lean forward into the table. “We have to get her out of there. She’s important.”

Moira’s eyes take on a sudden intensity when she replies, “You’re both important.”

I shake my head. “You don’t understand. She saved me, and I think she’s going to save all of us—the whole world, even. We need her.”

“Siobhan is the sword. You are the shield.”

Her cryptic words do nothing to reassure me. “What the heck is that supposed to mean?”

Instead of answering me, she says, “You need to save the others, first. They are trapped in a different way. Transformed.”

As Victoria updated me upon my return, Hera had spied on our sorority, deeming us unfit to perform our duties as guardians of the wall between universes. As punishment, she turned my sisters into doves.

“Will we be able to save them, too? Change them back?” Moira nods. “How?” I press her.

“Before the day is done, go to the place where three become one.”

“I don’t need another riddle.” I had my fill of them in Pandora. “You’re going to have to give me more than that.”

“You will embark on a dangerous quest.” Moira points a long, manicured fingernail at me. “Sacrifices will be made. Prices will be paid.”

“I think we’ve had to make plenty of sacrifices already,” I say, anger suddenly surging through me.

“You will have to choose.”

“Choose? Choose what?”

“Your sisters or your lover.”

“I think I’ve heard enough.” This time when I stand up, I send the chair clattering to the ground. I was right in the first place. Madam Moira is nothing but an actress. And a mediocre one at that. She got lucky with her guesses. Although I’m not a complete nonbeliever—some people probably are psychic, have “the sight,” whatever you want to call it–but certainly not some ten dollar fortuneteller at an amusement park.

“I warned you,” Madam Moira calls out behind me. “The future isn’t always an easy thing to hear.”

“Neither are your lies,” I tell her without looking back.

“The beast is coming.”

The words stop me in my tracks. Not just the words—Moira’s voice has changed. It’s deep and distorted, like someone or something else is speaking through her. I should bolt from the tent, but fear keeps my feet nailed to the ground. I twist my head slowly to look back over my shoulder, afraid of what I will find when I do, but overcome with an unshakable curiosity.

Moira’s eyes have rolled into the back of her head, leaving only the whites and a spider’s web of red lines. “It rises again,” she bellows. “It returns for the hunt. To devour its prey.”

“What beast?” I ask her, voice quivering. Forcing myself into motion, I back away slowly, unable to take my eyes off of her.

“The beast is alive. It is close. So close.”

“Where is it?” Suddenly, my back hits the wall of the tent, stopping me from going any further. The material gives way as I sink further and further into it. “What does it want?”

Moira fixes her white gaze on me. “You.”

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Excerpt: Toga Party


Felt like sharing a little excerpt from what I’ve been editing today. Probably not great to share something that’s not really finished, but it’s happening anyway. This is a scene from Chapter 5 of Reclaim, in which Carly and Victoria pay a visit to an old friend who might be able to help them find the antidote for the curse Hera placed on Carly’s sorority sisters. He’s one of the few brand new characters I introduce in Reclaim (most of the others have already appeared in prior books) and the president of a fraternity at a different university. It’s supposed to be a rather silly scene, a bit of comic relief.

***

“Is it this one?” I ask Victoria as we cruise slowly down Applewood Lane, known to Shadesburg University students as Greek Row. I have to admit I’m a little jealous their fraternities and sororities live off-campus in spacious, colonial-style homes. They line either side of the road, uniform and perfect, each with the same white siding, dark blue shutters, and wrap-around porch surrounded by columns. The lawns are also large and well-maintained, the gardens orange and gold with fall-blooming flowers. In comparison, the Gamma Lambda Phi house looks like a shack. The neighborhood is quiet for the most part, the thump of dance music in the distance the only sign of life.

I see Victoria shake her head out of the corner of my eye. “Keep going.”

“What about that one?” I say hopefully as we pass a house with colorful, stained glass Greek letters in the window and a porch filled with autumn-themed decorations. There’s even a pie cooling on the porch table.

“Nope,” Victoria says, sighing as though she wished it were. She points a few houses down. “It’s the house on the end.”

“The one where the music’s coming from?”

She nods. “There’s a space. Pull up over here.” I park in front of a house with a few broken windows, peeling paint, and wicker porch furniture that has definitely seen better days. The Greek letters “ΔΙΚ” are scrawled in magic marker on a piece of paper taped to one of the windows.

“Delta Iota Kappa,” I read out loud as we get out of the car. I give their initials some further thought. “Wait a minute. So they’re…”

“DIK,” Victoria finishes for me, rolling her eyes.

“But they don’t actually call themselves that. Right?” Victoria doesn’t answer me as we walk up to the house.

The music is coming from their second story balcony, where some of the fraternity brothers are stretched out on lawn chairs, having beers. More people are congregated on the front lawn, wearing white sheets like togas and drinking out of red Solo cups. Some of them are simply standing around, talking, others are dancing, still others are engaged in extreme public displays of affection. Someone has even set up a lopsided net for a drunken game of volleyball.

“Talk about playing hard,” I mutter, feeling out of place as we make our way to the house. “It’s Monday night.”

Victoria shrugs. “It’s a party school.” We take our time ascending the crumbling porch stairs, which creak ominously with every step. Almost as soon as we’ve cleared them, a tall, wiry young man jumps in front of us, barring our way to the door.

“Halt!” he says, thrusting his hand, palm out, toward us. “Who seeks entry into the sacred house of Delta Iota Kappa?”

My roommate crosses her arms, an amused lift to her eyebrows. “Victoria and Carly,” she says, humoring him, “of the esteemed house of Gamma Lambda Phi.” At the mention of our sorority’s name, his eyes grow wide, face as white as the bed sheet draped over his slender frame. “Now, let us in.”

He flattens himself against the door, shaking his head vigorously. “I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.”

“Oh, come on,” Victoria groans. “You’re having a party. What’s a few more guests?”

“I can’t let you in without the…” He trails off, racking his brain for a reasonable excuse. “Proper attire?” he finishes, voice going up slightly at the end almost like it’s a question.

“Too bad I left my toga at home,” Victoria says with a rueful snap of her fingers. Thinking he’s successfully turned us away, the guard relaxes a bit, crying out a moment later when Victoria picks him up by the shoulders. Setting him aside, she pulls open the door, gesturing for me to go in first.

“Hey! You can’t just go in there,” he says, panic in his voice. He runs past us, shouting into the house, “Dion! Dion! We have trespassers!” A couple devouring each other on the couch look up at the commotion, regarding us curiously before returning to their make out session.

“We’re not trespassing,” my roommate insists, sounding fed up. “Your president and I go way back. Now, where is your fearless leader?” she asks no one in particular, eyes scanning the living room. She walks up to a second couple making out on a recliner, trying to see the guy’s face. “Dionysus?”

“Nike?” A man’s deep voice calls her Olympian name from the next room. “Is that your sweet, lilting voice I hear? Pledges. Up!” The order is followed by the sounds of furniture scraping against the hardwood floor and a chorus of male grunts. Four skinny freshmen come hobbling through the doorway, lugging a gold-framed chair with scarlet cushions. Lounging in it is a mass of long, well-muscled limbs attached to a man with curly blonde hair and a complexion like a bronze statue.

“Pledges, down!” he bellows, and the four boys gladly drop the chair directly in front of us before crawling away, trying to catch their breath. The man I presume is Dionysus stands up, opening his arms to give Victoria a hug.

“Nike! It’s so good to see you. You look…pissed off,” he realizes, taking a step back, arms falling. Like his brothers, he’s wearing a makeshift toga, only his is pulled tightly across a broad chest, exposing the corded muscle of his abdomen.

She gives him an exasperated look. “Of course I am. You’re hazing your pledges!”

“You call it ‘hazing,’” he says, making air quotes, “I call it building character. Besides, they like helping out around the house.”

“If that were true, there are a lot of other things they could be helping out with.” As she says it, Victoria stoops to pick up an empty beer can from the floor and sets it on the table next to a takeout container that looks like it’s been sitting out for a few days. “This place is a mess. But in any case, they’re not supposed to be catering to your every whim. They’re your new members, not your servants.”

“Hey, you don’t get to come over here, uninvited, and insult our way of doing things,” Dionysus tells her, crossing his arms. He doesn’t sound truly angry, just mildly annoyed. “Sure, we could clean up a bit, but the house is fine.”

Victoria’s eyebrows go up. “It’s literally falling apart. But I suppose you’ve been too busy partying to notice.”

“We’re fine,” he insists. “Everything’s fine! And the pledges couldn’t be happier.” A quick glance at the four who carried him in here, still panting and glaring at their president, tells me this probably isn’t the case. “They live to serve me—I mean, the house,” he corrects himself when Victoria’s jaw twitches angrily. He gives a nervous chuckle before turning to me instead. “I see you have a new toy.”

“What? No,” Victoria says quickly, realizing he’s talking about me. “This is Carly. She’s one of the Gamma Lambda Phi sisters.”

“Ohhhh.” Eyes the color of gold rum look me up and down as he nods his approval. “Can I play with her, then?” After a moment’s pause, he bursts out laughing, slapping his leg. “I’m just kidding! You should see the looks on your faces. Priceless! It’s nice to meet you, Carly,” he adds, sticking out a hand. “Welcome to Delta Iota Kappa.”

I hesitate, then give his hand a brief shake. “Thanks.”

“So,” he continues, re-crossing his arms, “tell me a little bit about yourself, Carly.”

“Well, I…go to Thurston. I’m a math major. I’m in Gamma Lambda Phi…but Victoria just told you that,” I recall, feeling myself blush. “That’s pretty much it.”

His face spasms like he’s trying to hold back a yawn. “Fascinating. Anyone want a drink?” he asks abruptly, picking up a bottle of vodka from the table. He notices it’s empty and frowns. “I think I need a drink.”

“We didn’t come here to party,” Victoria says, taking the bottle from him and putting it back. “We need some information. Is there somewhere we can go that’s more private?”

He forces a smile. “Of course. Follow me.”

Character Profile: Carly


Note to future self: Don’t set a book release date for right after a holiday, if only because it’s not very conducive to marketing. I was either in a food coma or shopping over the weekend. (I don’t shop on Black Friday, though. The crowds just aren’t worth it to me. Actually, watching the Black Friday brawls on TV makes me kind of sad for humanity, lol…) Anyway, I had a wonderful long weekend with my family. And to all of my friends in the US: I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, too! 🙂

Relapse releases on Tuesday, so here’s the last character profile I wanted to post. You can add Relapse on Goodreads here and pre-order it for Kindle here.

You may remember Carly as one of Siobhan’s sorority sisters in Gamma Lambda Phi. She’s a secondary narrator in Relapse, so you’ll get more of a glimpse into her own adventures and the dark secrets she’s kept from her sisters. Here’s her profile, followed by a short excerpt. 😉

*****

Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Carly Dragonjac

Age: Early 20s

Occupation: Student at fictional college Thurston University in Shadesburg, PA

Major: Math

Physical Description: Caramel-colored, curly hair; baby blue eyes; white, dove-like wings

Species: Demigod

Relationship Status: In a relationship with Alec, one of the Sigma Iota brothers

Other relationships:

  • Victoria’s roommate
  • Gamma Lambda Phi sisters Siobhan and Tanya

Goals: In Relapse, Carly finds herself trapped on another world, as the captive of an attractive but capricious dark prince. Her primary goal is to escape.

Obstacles:

The prince won’t let her leave unless she can complete the three tasks he’s given her. Also, he’s crazy hot. (Carly may have a slight case of Stockholm Syndrome…..)

Strengths:

  • Intelligent
  • Loyal
  • Doesn’t give up easily

Weaknesses:

  • Gullible/naïve
  • Tends to go along with what her friends do/say
  • Avoids confrontation

Hobbies:

  • House Manager for Gamma Lambda Phi

Superpower: One of Nike’s guardians of the walls between universes

*****

The next thing I remember is waking up on this floor.

I put a hand to my forehead. The throbbing has stopped. So has the dripping sound. I lost count, anyway. I slowly start to sit up again, and this time I’m able to straighten up completely without getting dizzy.

“Oh, good! You’re not dead!”

The voice prickles my skin like a winter breeze. I stop breathing.

Forgetting to be careful, I look around frantically for the source of the relieved, if slightly mocking, voice. A wave of nausea surges through me. My head spins.

“You had me scared for a minute there. I’d be pretty pissed if my gift had kicked the bucket before I got a chance to play with her. Corpses aren’t really my thing. I prefer my women…alive.”

“Glad I live up to such high standards,” I mutter, swallowing the retort along with the bile rising in the back of my throat.

“My disciples have done well,” he continues. “It has been a long time, but the ritual has finally been honored again. A virgin sacrifice has been sent to me.”

“I’m not a virgin,” I mutter defensively. I’ve been sitting cross-legged in my pink mini-dress and quickly tuck my legs to the side. I can see him now under the dim light from the candelabras lining the wall. The shadows of their flames flicker across his face like black serpent tongues. He lounges on the other side of the room in an enormous, ancient-looking throne with an iron frame and black satin cushions. His head is tilted to the side, supported by one finger as he considers me.

“Where are we?” I ask him. Dang it, my voice is quivering.

He holds his arms above his head as if to embrace the ceiling, spreading hands encased in finger-cut leather gloves. “You are in the realm of the gods.” He jumps down to his feet. Muscles bunch underneath snug, black leather pants as he prowls toward me. Decorative silver chains hang from an open vest, crisscrossing chiseled abs as hard as the marble floor I’m sitting on. His gait is predatory and agile, like a panther patrolling his jungle. Or getting ready to pounce on his lunch. Which is me.

I gulp.

As he comes closer, the shadows leave his face. His skin shimmers a faint gold under the candlelight. He has high cheekbones, a strong, square jaw and brilliant green eyes. His short, white blonde hair sticks up every which way on his head like thousands of needle-thin icicles. He looks about my age, but if he’s an Olympian, he could have been born before humankind even existed.

“You think I’m sexy,” he teases. “And I must say, I am not disappointed, either.” He’s suddenly inches away from me, his mesmerizing green eyes holding mine steady. Those eyes…there’s something familiar about them, even though I know I’ve never seen him before in my life. Stooping, he takes two fingers and traces my cheek. I flinch and shiver. Even his touch is cold. “You are exquisite, Carly.”

I’ve heard cute. Hot, on occasion. But exquisite? Give me a break. “Who are you?”

He drops his hand and straightens up, towering over me. “I am the spawn of darkness, and night’s son; I am anything and anyone.”

“And I’m a little teapot,” I snap. I try to keep my voice steady even as my insides are churning. I can almost hear the voices of the Sigma Iotas chanting: O Master of darkness, blood and carnage…“Tell me your name.”

There it is!” he barks in triumph. He doubles over, shaking with laughter. “I knew she’d be feisty! I knew it! I knew it!”

While his hysterical laughter ricochets off the walls and ceiling, I sigh and get shakily to my feet. The heel of one of my shoes is broken. I take them off. “Just give me something to call you.”

He smiles wickedly and puts his hands on his hips. “Master.”

I guess I set myself up for that one. “I’m not calling you that.” I glance around at the walls without moving my head, looking for a way out, but all I see is charcoal gray rock.

“I am master of this place, and you are mine. Kneel before your master, human scum!”

“I’m not exactly human.” And I’m not scum.

“Ah, I see it now.” I feel naked as he studies me. His eyes pierce straight through to the place where my soul used to be. “You’re a demigoddess. One of Nike’s descendants. Now, kneel, halfling.”

I keep my bare feet planted firmly on the floor. “No.”

He pouts. “Kneel…please?”

“This is ridiculous.” I turn and walk up to the wall behind me. I press my palms to it and feel around for cracks in its cold, bumpy surface. There has to be a way out of here.

Suddenly, he presses his body into me, shoving me up against the wall. His hands smack the rock on either side of me. The metal clasps and chains of his vest bite into my back. Something hard brushes up against my tailbone. His chilly breath tickles my ear. He smells like—well, I’m not exactly sure. The scent reminds me of being outside after it’s just snowed—fresh, sharp and slightly bitter. It’s not unpleasant.

“Kneel,” he whispers in a voice that, for a moment, makes me want to sink obediently to my knees.

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Relapse: Chapter One


Here’s a teaser for your Tuesday: Chapter One of Relapse, the sequel to Reborn! The release date is exactly a week from now, Tuesday December 2. It’s coming up so fast, yikes!!!

I’ve also posted the prologue, which you can read here.

*****

I’m standing in the middle of a congested ballroom, surrounded by an endless swirl of color and laughter.

This place tugs at the far reaches of my mind. I pause to get my bearings, but the movement of dancing couples jostles me continuously forward. Above us, a chandelier hangs from a domed glass ceiling, dripping diamonds. Beyond it, the sky is midnight blue and littered with stars.

I peer into the crowd and spy a dark head making its way toward me. Without even glancing in his direction, the revelers part to give him room, quickly sidestepping to avoid the brush of his broad, feathery white wings. Muscle ripples down his chest and abdomen until it meets the white loincloth tied around his hips. His skin shimmers a faint gold, his eyes the dark blue of the sky above us. Those eyes meet mine, and a warm smile spreads on his face.

“I thought you were gone,” I tell him once he’s within earshot. My feet are poised to carry me into his arms, but something holds me back.

The corners of his mouth waver slightly. “I was. I am. You know that, Psyche.”

“But you’re here now. Just like I remember.” This time I extend tentative fingers and trail them down his chest. “White and golden. Like an angel. My Eros.”

He gently catches my wrist, lowering my hand. “I’m gone for good this time. You have to let me go.”

“I don’t want to.” I reach for him again, my hands grasping nothing but air even though he hasn’t moved. “I miss you.”

“That wasn’t me,” he insists. “That was the darkest version of me, with everything good and noble stripped away. I died with you, Psyche. You have to let me go.”

Tears sting my eyes. “I can’t—”

“Yes, you can. You’re the strongest person I know.” His smile is gone, in its place a fiercely determined frown. “You must.”

“But I…” I falter as everything starts to melt away—the ballroom, the dancers, the light, the colors, and my sweet, golden prince—

Two arms envelop me from behind, drawing me against a wall of muscle and heat. I crane my neck and glimpse the sheen of pale skin and the shadowy fringe of black feathers in the suddenly dark room. His hands slide possessively up my legs and hips, and I give an involuntary gasp and shudder, my heart racing in excitement even as a chill rakes my spine.

His breath is hot on my ear. “I don’t want you to forget me. I won’t let you—”

 

I jolt awake, panting, and bring my hand to my forehead to wipe away the perspiration beading there. Sweat soaks the underarms of my pajama shirt. I scramble to sit up and look over to Tanya’s side of the room. Her bed is empty, the sheets rumpled, the pillow gone.

As I make my bed, I try to salvage the fading images of the dream. All I can recall is a twisted mixture of memory and nightmare, and two faces of the same man—one pale, one faintly golden. And hands—his hands—and the pain and pleasure of those hands as they claimed me—

Diving into the bathroom, I turn on the shower and stick my face under the ice cold water.

Shivering but fully awake, I slip on a pair of skinny jeans, a stretchy red tank top and a zip-up hoodie, then go downstairs. The floorboards protest underneath my feet, their groans magnified in our quiet sorority house. At first, I think the living room is empty, until I see the platinum blonde ponytail peeking out from beneath a dark blue blanket on the couch. The blanket stirs, and my roommate Tanya emerges, stretching her arms over her head.

“Good morning, Twin,” she yawns when she sees me. Not only are Tanya and I roommates, but we have the same big sister, so in sorority lingo we’re “twins.” Our big sister, Victoria, is our chapter president—and also just happens to be the goddess of victory.

“You slept down here,” I realize, sitting down at the kitchen table.

Tanya nods. “You were talking in your sleep.”

My hand flies to my mouth. “Oh, my God. I’m so sorry. What…what did I say?”

“It was nothing. Don’t worry about it.” Throwing the blanket to the side, she gets up and paces toward the stairs, avoiding my gaze.

“It couldn’t have been nothing,” I persist. “What did I say?”

Tanya pauses at the foot of the stairs. “It was mostly gibberish. But a few times you called out for…for him.

I open my mouth to reply, but all I can manage is an almost soundless, “Oh.”

“What were you dreaming about?”

“I don’t know,” I say quickly, my face burning. “I mean, I don’t remember it.”

Tanya shrugs. “Well, I’m going to take a shower.” Her brown eyes narrow at me. “Are you alright?” She glances at the clock on the entertainment console, and a light bulb goes off in her head. “It’s Wednesday. You have Eric’s class. I thought you were dropping it.”

“I decided to tough it out,” I tell her. Tanya raises her eyebrows. “Okay, Victoria practically begged me to stay in it. To keep an eye on Dr. Mars for her.”

“That’s a little risky. He can’t be too happy with us for—”

“For deporting his son to Olympus? Yeah, probably not.” I sigh, shaking my head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you. This is our first class since the ritual. Dr. Mars canceled Monday’s class. He was probably too busy plotting his revenge to play everyone’s favorite history professor.”

“Don’t go if you really don’t want to,” Tanya says. “I’m sure Victoria will understand.”

“I’ll be fine. It’s not like he’s going to do anything to me in front of an auditorium full of people, anyway. I hope,” I add under my breath.

“If you say so. Just be careful.” She turns and runs upstairs. I fold my arms on the table and lay my head down on top of them. I hate keeping things from Tanya, but I’d rather her think the only thing bothering me is having to face Dr. Mars in World Myths and Legends.

A couple of days ago, a few drops of ambrosia in my coffee brought back an onslaught of repressed memories from my past life as Psyche: a young woman so beautiful she captured the heart of Eros, the Ancient Greek’s paragon of love and desire, and sparked the ire of his mother, Aphrodite. Psyche’s memories transport me back to a time long before I was born, to a place I swear I’ve never been—yet remember just as vividly as my childhood home in Laurel. Closing my eyes, I can almost feel Eros’s rock hard chest trapping me against the warm sands of an alien beach. (An almost embarrassingly large quantity of the memories are of us having sex.) Her memories were once only able to break through in my dreams, but now they are always a part of me. And the dreams themselves are as intense as ever.

I haven’t told anyone that I got the memories back. No one in my sorority knows. Not even Anna knows, and she was sitting right there when it happened. I spent the rest of our coffee date trying to convince her to stay away from Eric. She got mad at me and stormed off. The opportunity to tell her hasn’t come up again.

Lifting my head, I force myself to get up and go into the kitchen to grab some breakfast. After a bowl of cereal, I head out into a cool but sunny morning. Even though I trudge as slowly as possible across the Greek Quadrangle to campus, I still enter Frasier Hall with five minutes to spare. Taking a deep breath, I push through the double doors of the lecture hall.

The first person I see when I step inside is Jasper.

He’s sitting in the third row with his black dress shoes kicked up on the back of the seat in front of him. I squeeze my eyes shut. It’s like the first day of class all over again, when I saw Jasper for the first time in six years. Thumping heart. Sweating palms. Short, gasping breaths. The only difference is, now that I’ve taken enough ambrosia to fully awaken my Olympian heritage, I don’t have to wrestle with wings threatening to tear out of my back at any moment. I’m in control of them. I’m in control. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Like when I thought I saw him coming out of the library while I was waiting for Anna. He’s not even here. I let a breath I hadn’t even realized I was holding whistle out slowly and open my eyes.

Sure enough, the seat is empty.

I walk up the center aisle and sit in the back.

At the front of the room, Dr. Mars opens a black leather briefcase, his thick hands emerging with a text book and a slim folder. His charcoal black hair looks like he just combed his fingers through it a few times before coming in today. The beard framing his deep frown is fuller and wilder than the last time I saw him. He’s less like a calendar lumberjack and even more like the rough, rugged kind you might find hurling an axe into a tree. The look makes me think of pine trees, log cabins and flannel shirts, although if he lets that beard grow any longer, he’s going to look like those guys on Duck Dynasty.

His dark eyes swallow all the light from the room as they sweep it. “We’re starting,” he booms, and the buzz of voices around me fades. He clears his throat before continuing, his lips a flat, pale line. “Before we dive into today’s lecture, I’d like to introduce Pat. She’s the teaching assistant for one of my other classes and will be taking over the TA duties for this class as well.”

As though she just stepped out of thin air, Apate is suddenly standing next to Dr. Mars. She’s all milky white skin, obsidian hair, fishnet stockings and black leather—like a vampire hooker. Confused whispers and a few feminine gasps of dismay go up around the room. Several of the guys move forward in their seats, eyes glued to the front of the room with renewed interest. Apate absently plays with the gold chain at her neck. From this distance, I can’t be sure, but I think it’s the same shield necklace she wore that night in Jasper’s office.

“I hold office hours Wednesdays and Fridays, six to seven, at the library.” She gives a coy tug of her lower lip with her teeth. “Or by…appointment.” Smirking, she takes a seat in the front row.

“Thanks, Pat. Let’s move on.” Dr. Mars takes his place behind the podium. “As those of you who have actually done the reading know, today’s lecture topic is: evil.” An ironic smile flickers at the corners of his mouth. “Or, rather, the various myths that sought to explain why there is evil in the world. They are stories about giving into temptation. About the allure of doing what you’re told not to do. Of men and women defying their god.” He pauses to glance down at his notes, turning the page.

“To many Christians, the story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis explains the origin of sin,” he continues. “Most of you may already be familiar with this one. God creates the first man and woman. He drops them in the Garden of Eden and forbids them to eat the fruit of a particular tree. So, naturally, Eve takes the word of a talking snake and eats the forbidden fruit anyway.” Dr. Mars’s smile cracks wider, and a few people snicker. “She offers some to Adam, and they realize, ‘Oh, shit, we’re naked,’ and cover up their naughty parts with fig leaves.” More laughter. “Then they hear God walking around the garden and hide from Him because they’re ashamed. God knows they have sinned and, as punishment, banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.”

Dr. Mars tilts his head to the side, his forehead creased as though he’s deep in thought. “Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s the gist of the story,” he decides with a smile and a wink. “I may have left out a detail or two, like the serpent telling Eve that eating the forbidden fruit would open her eyes and make her as wise as God. Again, it’s a story of rebellion—of doing what you’re not supposed to do—and a story about lust. In this case, Eve’s lust for knowledge, to know what her God knows.

“The Greek myth also shares this theme of insatiable curiosity and temptation. I’m sure you’re already sick of hearing me prattle on, so I’ll let Pat tell this one. Pat?” Dr. Mars says. He nods at Apate, and she gets up hesitantly, turning to face the auditorium again. Her smug grin is gone. Instead, her incisors dig into her lower lip as her feline green eyes dart from face to face. She balls her hands into fists at her sides.

Clearing her throat, Apate says, “I guess the Greek story really begins with Prometheus, an immortal who loved humans and sometimes served as a mediator between them and his fellow gods. In one instance, he was asked to divide up a sacrificial bull between men—and at this point, they were all men,” she adds with an eye roll, “—and the gods. Prometheus tricked the gods into taking a bag of the bull’s bones while the men got the best cut of meat. Zeus was…pretty pissed. He punished them by withholding the gift of fire, but Prometheus stole fire from Mount Olympus and smuggled it to Earth.

“At this point, Zeus was livid. He tortured Prometheus and cursed him and his descendants. To punish mankind, he had an evil, irresistible gift in mind. He had his son, the craftsman Hephaestus, create the first woman in the image of the goddesses. The Olympians gave Pandora many gifts—everything from beautiful clothes and jewelry to grace, charm and feminine wiles. As a final gift, the gods gave her…” The word catches in Apate’s throat, and she has to clear it again. She shuts her eyes for a moment and takes a deep, calming breath. Reopening them, she continues, “They gave her a jar to take to mankind. Inside the jar, the goddess Nyx had locked away the spirits of evil: deceit, suffering, doom, old age, strife, retribution, blame and violent death.

“You can see where this is going. It’s always a woman’s fault.” Apate recovers her nerve and scowls, giving another roll of her eyes. The snide remark makes me like her for a full two seconds. “Pandora arrived on Earth, her curiosity over the contents of the jar growing and growing until she couldn’t take it anymore and opened it. The spirits escaped, bringing evil, pain and suffering to humankind.” Apate straightens her shoulders, looking pleased with herself. “The end.”

“Thanks again, Pat,” Dr. Mars tells her, and she slips back into her seat. “I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase ‘Pandora’s box’ before. When you ‘open Pandora’s box,’ you do something that seems insignificant, but turns out to have severe and far-reaching consequences.

“Well, that’s enough of story time. Let’s talk about this paper that’s due next week.”

At the end of class, I rush out of the door without so much as a glance at Dr. Mars or Apate, letting the crowd of students filling up the hall absorb me. Up ahead, I glimpse black and gold plaid as a familiar tall, slender figure walks against the current of students. Her glossy brown hair ripples around her face when her hazel eyes flicker to my face. She quickly turns on her heel and starts walking away.

“Anna. Anna!” I shout, stopping in the middle of the hall. I hear a few annoyed grumbles as people skirt around me.

Anna jumps and whirls back around. “Siobhan. Hey!” she calls out, closing the gap between us in a few long strides. “I didn’t see you there!”

“Right,” I mutter. “Going to class?”

“No, actually I was on my way to…see Eric,” she falters, pointing down the hall at the room I just ran out of. “Never mind.” She whips past me and walks up to the double doors, catching one just before it swings completely shut.

“Don’t go in there!” I hiss, coming up beside her. “Let’s go somewhere and talk. Hear me out.” Anna opens her mouth to protest

That was mean!” Apate’s voice shrieks from inside the auditorium. Anna and I freeze.

Eric’s responding chuckle is cool, amused. “But well-deserved.”

“I’m still paying for that?”

“You double-crossed me—”

“And I’ve more than made up for it! I think you owe me now.”

“You want something, Apate? Out with it.” The sound of Dr. Mars’s thunderous voice reverberates through my chest. I look up and down the hall, but it’s emptied out.

“You know what I want,” Apate insists in a quieter tone, the words quivering slightly. “Don’t make me beg. I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to. Please. Let Dolos go.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I’ll do anything you say. I promise. Just let my brother go. He’s suffering. Just please let him—” The sound of metal slicing through wood chokes off the rest of Apate’s plea.

“What part of you are mine don’t you understand?” Dr. Mars growls. His words are punctuated by the soft, shuddering sobs of Apate biting back tears. “Until I decide your services are no longer required, you, are, mine.”

Apate gives a sharp cry of pain. “I am not yours or anybody else’s. I look out for myself and my brother. Screw you.” Boot heels smack the floor inside, growing louder as they approach the door. Anna releases the handle in panic, and the door closes with a loud click. We stumble away from it and take off for the nearest exit.

*****

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Character Profile: Anna Wallace


With only three weeks left (!!!!!) until Relapse releases on Tuesday, December 2, let’s get reacquainted with some of the characters. I’ve already posted character profiles for Siobhan, Jasper, Apate, and Peter. Tonight, the spotlight is on:

freedigitalphotos.netAnna Wallace

Age: Early 20s

Hometown: Laurel, Pennsylvania

Occupation: Student at fictional college Thurston University in Shadesburg, PA

Major: Music education

Physical Description: Very tall; slim; tan skin; long, dark brown hair; hazel eyes

Species: Demigod

Love interest: World Myths and Legends professor Dr. Eric Mars

Other relationships:

Motivation:

In Reborn, Anna wanted to learn to trust Siobhan so they could be friends again. They still have problems trusting each other in the upcoming sequel, especially since Anna started dating Eric. In Relapse, Anna finds the addictive pull of the Olympian world harder and harder to resist.

Strengths:

Cautious, practical, shrewd, loyal

Weaknesses:

Naive and impressionable

Hobbies: Music is her life.

Superpower: You’ll see…..

Who would play her in a movie: My pick is Gossip Girl alumna Leighton Meester

Anna on her feelings for Eric:

“I love him. I know you think I’m crazy, but I love him…..he warned me not to try to change him because I won’t be able to. And to be honest, I wouldn’t want to change him. I’ve never met anyone like him. He’s sexy as hell. He’s intelligent, ambitious, spontaneous—and the sex. Oh, my God. The sex.” 😉

Relapse: Prologue


As a special Halloween week treat, I’ve decided to release the prologue of Relapse!!! Please keep in mind that this is the version before the final copy-edit, although I don’t think there are any egregious errors.

You’ll quickly pick up on the fact that this isn’t written from Siobhan’s POV, but most of the book is from her POV, so don’t fret. 😉 You may remember Apate as one of Eric’s minions and the goddess of trickery. I posted a character profile for her awhile back. She’s kind of becoming a demanding character…I’m pretty sure she wants a bigger part in the next book, or maybe even her own book. (Oh, look, I’m starting to talk about my characters like they’re real people now.)

Anyway, without further ado, the prologue of Relapse:

*****

I throw open the door to The End, thunder crashing behind me as I duck inside. Closing my black umbrella sends a shower of water droplets onto the gunmetal gray tiles. I stride up to the bar through a haze of dim lighting and cigarette smoke.

As I perch on the black leather cushion of one of the bar stools, I catch a glimpse of myself in the horizontal mirror lining the back wall. A black mini dress clings to me like a second skin, its plunging neckline dipping even further as I sit down. Silky hair falls in an obsidian curtain around my pale face, cascading down my shoulders to brush the swells of my breasts. My green eyes shine as brilliant as emeralds even in this dull light.

I look hot.

“Apate.”

At the sound of my name, I abandon my reflection and look over at the pair of sunglasses glowering at me from behind the bar.

“Hey, Lou,” I say, curving my lips into a wicked smile. “That is what you’re going by these days?”

Lou raises an eyebrow. “I thought I told you and lover boy to stay out of my bar.” He furiously wipes out a shot glass with a white rag.

I let my grin fall into an exaggerated pout. “That hurts my fweelings.” As I cross my legs, the hem of my dress rides up, revealing a few more inches of fishnet stockings and thigh. “A Dark and Stormy, please.”

Lou slams the shot glass down so hard I’m surprised it doesn’t shatter. He makes a point of dropping the damp rag in front of me before turning to mix the drink. His thick, curly dark brown hair bristles as he shakes his head slowly back and forth, muttering to himself. The muscles of his arms twitch underneath his black t-shirt as he pours and stirs. Tight jeans hug his hips and taut buttocks. Light from a single naked bulb dangling from the ceiling glints off the silver, winged-shaped spurs on the backs of his black leather cowboy boots.

“Nice ass,” I call over to him.

He spins around, picks up the rag and plants my drink down in its place, ice cubes clinking against the glass. “You get one drink. Then I want you out. Eros, too—if he’s here.” Lou’s head scans the crowded room.

“He’s not. That’s why I’m here.” I scoot in closer to the bar and lower my voice. “He’s on the other side. I need you to send a message to him.”

Lou’s head had started shaking before I could even finish the sentence. “No can do.”

I suck up some of the cocktail through the stirrer, the ginger beer prickling my throat as it slides down. “You can, and you will. It’s only kind of your job.”

Lou chuckles. “I don’t work for you, honey. And even if I did, I can’t risk it. The membrane between the universes is thinning. All of the traffic back and forth over the last six years has made it unstable. Any more—even the slightest disturbance—and it may break down completely. All thanks to you and your…friends.”

“Anytime.” I finish the drink in two more gulps, and then shove the empty glass toward him, a stamp of wine red lipstick on the rim. “Thanks for the drink.” I set a one dollar bill on the counter.

“That drink is seven bucks.”

“Give me a break, Lou,” I plead. “You know I’m a poor grad student.”

Lou purses his lips, jaw trembling. He takes the bill and shoves it in his pocket.

“Oh, and thanks for your help,” I add as I pop off the stool.

There’s a hesitant pause before he says, “I didn’t help you.”

“You’ve helped me more than you know.” I wink, and Lou shudders as though I’ve just slapped him. “’Bye, Lou.”

“Good riddance,” he grumbles behind me.

My eyes dart from table to table as I search for a glimpse of bright red hair. I catch a few of the patrons considering me over their drinks, bloodshot eyes climbing up my body. Only one pair of wandering eyes actually makes me pause and look over. They belong to a boy leaning against the wall, balancing a guitar against his hip.

Once his hazel eyes reach my face, I catch his gaze and welcome him with a smile. His Adam’s apple bobs as he gulps, the defiant frown on his face deepening. Now I remember: He’s the lead singer of that band that always plays here—Psycho’s friend. Eros hates him. I think he’s kind of cute. He might be a fun new toy to play with, but I can’t let myself get distracted. I need to find Sam. Reluctantly, I break eye contact with him and continue to weave my way between tables.

Barking laughter coming from a corner booth pricks my ears. Sam and five of his Sigma Iota brothers are crammed into it, guffawing over mugs of beer and slapping each other hi-fives across the table. The one called Alec sees me first, his laughter dying in his throat with a choking noise. He rakes his black hair out of his dark, almond-shaped eyes and sits up a little straighter.

“Pat,” Alec says loudly. The others stop laughing and turn to watch me pull up a chair on the end, next to Sam.

“Hello, boys.” I give them a sheepish, toothless smile and a small wave. “Please, don’t mind lil’ old me—Sam and I just have some business to discuss.”

They hesitate for a moment, exchanging uncertain glances. Alec blinks rapidly a few times and shakes his head before continuing with whatever conversation I interrupted. “So, anyway, Carly and I are in the basement, right—”

“Did you guys do it yet?” one of the brothers cuts him off.

“No, this isn’t—”

“Of course they didn’t,” another puts in. He’s stuffed in the booth between Alec and the wall, his belly peeking out from beneath his polo shirt, straining against the button of his jeans. “She’s a frigid bitch.”

Alec’s mouth falls open in disgust. “Bro, that’s my girl you’re talking about. Have some respect.”

“I thought the Gammas were supposed to be sluts. Their social chair is fucking, like, three guys right now—” The last word dies on the fat one’s lips. He opens his mouth to say more, but no words come out. The brothers look on in panic as he clutches his throat, his lips flapping futilely.

“What the hell, Pat!” Alec cries.

I roll my eyes. “Relax, bro.”

“Fix him! Give him his voice back!”

“He’s fine,” I insist. “He just thinks he’s lost his voice.”

“Well, whatever it is you’re doing—stop!” Alec pleads.

“Just a second,” I promise. Keeping the noose of my illusion slung tightly around the boy’s throat, I lean into Sam. “I found a way to get Eros back,” I whisper, letting my lips brush against Sam’s ear. He shivers as my fingers graze the back of his carrot red hair.

“You did?” His breath hitches in his throat.

I put two fingers under his chin and lift his freckled face up to meet mine. “I’m up here, sweetie.” Without looking away, I reach into my black sequined purse and pull out a folded up piece of yellowed paper. “A ritual. An ancient ritual that will allow us to open up a portal from this side to wherever Eros is.”  Sam’s hand clutches the edge of the table. I pry it off and gently place the note in his palm, closing his fingers around it. “There’s just one, tiny caveat.”

Sam’s blue eyes glance down at his fist, then back up at me. “What’s that?”

“The ritual will require…a sacrifice.”

*****

Relapse releases December 2, 2014!!!

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Excerpt for Valentine’s Day: Eros and Psyche’s Wedding


I wanted to post a special romantic excerpt for Valentine’s Day, so here’s one from my current WIP Relapse. (Keep in mind this is from the first draft, and I don’t know if it will even end up in the final version.) It’s a flashback Siobhan has of Psyche’s/her wedding day. I hope to do some more research into actual Greek wedding customs, haha. But anyway it’s cute, and I hope you enjoy it! 

****

I study myself in a full-length, gold framed mirror. I’ve grown used to the face staring back at me in these memories—Psyche’s face. The large, deep violet eyes are the same, but she has higher cheekbones and a slightly upturned nose. Hair falls like a white-blonde waterfall down her back. She smooths out pretend wrinkles in her one shoulder, white silk dress and adjusts the gold cord tied at the waist beneath her breasts. Her wings emerge through slits in the back of the dress. The bronze wings of a butterfly-shaped necklace spread across the delicate, pale skin of her chest.

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Copyright imagerymajestic

In the mirror, I see an auburn head peek around the door behind me. Nike comes in, a white tunic draped over her tall, thin frame. Her hair is long and plaited into a thick braid down her back.

“You look beautiful,” she says, giving me a quick hug. “It is time to go down.”

Nodding, I follow her out into the corridor, our white slippers whispering over the marble floor.

The next thing I remember is standing on the pale sands of the beach, just out of reach from where the ocean waves slither up the coast. My fingers are curled around a bouquet of unfamiliar white flowers. Nike and, to my surprise, Aphrodite stand on either side of me. Aphrodite, like always, is willowy and golden, her beauty almost as painful to look at as the blinding sun above us.

People stand on either side of a strip of sand leading to my soon-to-be husband. I have a vague memory of what Psyche’s parents looked like, but I don’t see them among the onlookers. Two women with braided blonde hair and hooked noses lurk toward the back of the crowd, scowling at me: Psyche’s biological sisters. Sunlight glints off of Hephaestus’s smooth head somewhere closer to the front. I don’t see Ares.

Aphrodite and Nike walk with me up the aisle. I see a few more faces that look familiar, but I can’t think of their names. One is a tall woman with copper skin, an athletic build and a proud demeanor. Her almond-shaped eyes are as dark as the shiny black hair flowing freely to her waist. As I pass her, she smiles warmly. On the other side of the path is a short but sinewy man with curly dark hair. His pupils are black slits rimmed with reddish irises. Gold wings decorate the backs of his sandals. Beside him stands a girl with bouncing brown curls and watery blue eyes. Her small, pale hands clap excitedly as I walk by. When our eyes meet, her lips pull back into something between a smile and a grimace as she fights to hold back more tears. I return it with a hesitant smile of my own. I look away from the crowd and realize I’m almost at the end. Leaving Aphrodite and Nike behind me, I pick up the skirt of my dress and run the last few feet.

Almost immediately, Eros takes my free hand into his. A breeze ruffles his dark hair away from his golden face. His lips twitch upwards only slightly, but his body is tensed with barely contained excitement. He’s not wearing much except for what looks like a sheet wrapped around his waist, tied with a yellow cord. I resist the sudden urge to run my fingers up and down the rippling muscles of his chest and abdomen.

I hand the bouquet off to Nike and step closer into Eros’s arms, his wings enveloping us in a feathery white curtain. He slides a ring made of an iridescent white metal onto my finger.

“With this ring, I am bound to you, always and forever,” he recites, his breath fresh and sweet against my face.

I slide a similar ring onto his finger and repeat, “With this ring, I am bound to you, always and forever.”

Reborn Releases November 5!!!


Reborn FINALI announced this on the Facebook page and Twitter last week, so this is the official blog announcement: My debut novel Reborn releases Tuesday, November 5, 2013!!!!! (Speaking of the Facebook page…I’m two away from 40 likes…a nice round number. So scroll down a bit and give it a like if you haven’t!) I’m super excited to share my baby (my baby being the book, of course) with my family, friends, and strangers on the Internet!!! I started this blog a little over a year ago to get back into creative writing, and I’m proud of myself for actually sticking with it and following through with a project! This post has a lot of exclamation points!!!

The Amazon Kindle edition of Reborn will be FREE on release day. The Smashwords and print versions will be released on dates TBD. For now, I leave you with the “back cover” book synopsis, updated book trailer, and Heidi Sieverding’s beautiful cover art. Like what you see? You can read an excerpt from Chapter One here.

***

Back in high school, Siobhan Elliot’s life was simple: Cheerleading, friends, and parties. But that all changed the night she and her friends investigated a mysterious light in the woods. There they found an injured man –an irresistible man with hypnotic blue eyes and magnificent black wings. A man Siobhan recognized.

He was the handsome dark angel from her dreams.

And with one touch of his hand, he left her with a special gift: A set of mythical wings that would change her life forever. Then he disappeared without a trace. Siobhan thought she would never see him again.

Now, six years later, her dark angel reappears –this time as a teaching assistant at her college. He calls himself Jasper. He challenges everything Siobhan thought she knew about herself and her world. And he’s come back for only one thing:

Her.

Or so he says. Siobhan is about to find out that nothing is what it seems in this strange, new world.

***

Checking back in with H. N. Sieverding


HN SieverdingBack in April of this year, I posted my first ever author interview with H. N. Sieverding. Well, a lot of exciting things have happened since that interview, so I thought it was about time to check back in with her! Now a Secret Cravings author, Ms. Sieverding has published the first two books in her delectable Christina’s Kisses series, Initiation and Seed of the Master. (Follow the links to purchase them on  the publisher’s web site. You can also find them on Amazon, Bookstrand, All Romance ebooks, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.) They were bestsellers on Bookstrand and the publisher’s web site. I’m also especially excited for the release of her paranormal romance The Bloodlust Prince. I was a beta reader for it and loved it! The ebook comes out in December, the print version in June 2014.

Ms. Sieverding’s stories have strong themes of dark fantasy, paranormal romance and sexy horror. Right now she’s jumping between edits for her upcoming releases and working on Black Hawke, a Paranormal Romance about a photographer and her secret bad boy boyfriend.  (Throughout the book she is trying to figure out his real identity…or if he’s married…) She’s also one of the hosts of Freshly Booked.

Check out our interview below, followed by an excerpt from Initiation and a list of all of her upcoming releases!

Her blog: Inside the Mind of a Fantasy Writer

You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

***

“What you produce as a writer is art.  A voice that opens a vein and leaves the reader lapping at the blood that’s been drawn.”  

-H. N. Sieverding

***

christain_header_quote6SL: When did you first start writing stories?

HN: When I was in grade school, I used to write about a family of alligators that I named the Ellers. I wrote my first novel, Alexandria, my junior year of high school. I decided to write a novel and I sat down on the desktop in our crowded kitchen (I come from a family of seven) and did just that. I was so proud of it (though now it makes me cringe to read through it) and to me that was a huge feat that most people would never accomplish. From that day on it was my dream to become a published author and now I am.

SL: Who or what most inspires your writing?

HN: I get inspired by things around me but it’s not always people or stories. It might be a line I heard someone say or facial expression that sparks a character/story idea. I find the most inspiration when I’m alone listening to music or during a nice drive in the countryside.

SL: Do you listen to music while you write, or do you need peace and quiet?

HN: I write in front of the TV or while cuddling with my son and his ipad, so I can write anywhere. My ideal writing place is sitting on the bed donning a pair of earphones without any distractions. Whenever I get a moment to myself where I can do that, I will take it. Music drowns out the world and helps me concentrate better, giving me that escape I need to write. I’m a big fan of hard rock so on my playlist is Darkest Days, Hollywood Undead, Disturbed and Saliva. The song in my head right now-Levitate (damn it’s catchy).

SL: Which of your stories is your favorite?

HN: Ooo…hard question. If I absolutely had to choose, I’d say The Bloodlust Prince. I could read that story a million times and never get bored. I’m also a big cat person and I love that they are both Cat Demons (more like anime Cat Demons/vampires than real cats) and have lots of cat-like qualities that make their courting both unique and super cute.

Coming in second would be Nero, even though most people ignore that one. I think the whole description of the ‘zombie army’ throws people off. It’s actually a love story about Nero coming to terms with the tragic death of his love (who isn’t really dead-sshhh) and his father’s insanity. My favorite thing about it-the character of Nero. He’s by far my greatest creation-I love em 😀

SL: Who is your favorite author?

HN: Myself. I write all the stories I would love to read. Beyond editing and reading others writing on blogs, I don’t read (unless some asks me to read something of theirs). The last book I read was Paula’s, Queen of Ages, which was pretty sexy by the way. I could say Reverend Wilbert Awdry is my favorite author but not many people would get that reference 😉

SL: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

HN: If you’re serious about becoming published, make sure you have a thick skin and can take bad reviews. Know in advance you will most likely be met with A LOT of disappointment-whether it be having no fans/readers, bad reviews, no reviews and having your awesome novel be ignored and blend into the woodwork. Remember that writing is something you do because you love it, not to get rich or popular. Most authors don’t make much money (if any), so don’t expect to get rich off this career path.

Below is a sexy excerpt from Christian’s Kisses Book 1, Initiation. Happy reading!

***

Her eyes wandered over to the table where the elites sat near the back of the room. She tried to avoid eye contact with them but soon Inititiation_MEDfound herself trapped by a pair of curious eyes. Her brow rose when her eyes grew wider, her baby blues reflecting the innocent fear of child as she returned Christian’s relentless gaze.

Although she knew how dangerous this man was, she couldn’t break the stare, her dazed expression showing her intense fear of him. She watched him take a slow drink from his glass, a devilish smile gracing his lips as he took in this angel that would soon meet the fate he would create for her.

He was drinking what appeared to be blood, the rings on his tanned fingers sparkling under the lights. He was surrounded by beautiful women, all of them fighting to sit next to him and get as close as possible. Addison took a few steps backward, the intensity and promise of sin in Christian’s gaze terrifying her. Even though the sight of her pleased him, he didn’t appear to be in a good mood, his mind seeming distracted.

Swallowing the lump building in her throat, Addison decided she should leave instead of seeing what more could come from this silent staring contest with Christian. She quickly turned around and started toward the large double doors. She wanted to get out of the room as fast as she could, her lower lip quivering as fear overtook her body. Then, someone grabbed her hand, making her turn around and halting her retreat.

One of the elite vampires, Samson, was holding her fingers, his large fangs kissing his bottom lip as he smiled at her. “Come join us.”

Addison nodded, her fear of him silencing her voice. Samson put a loose arm around her shoulders, leading her over to their table.

Samson laughed when he felt Addison tremble under his hands. He ignored her uneasiness and maneuvered her through the crowd gathered around the table. She kept her head down as she passed people so she didn’t see Christian motioning to the girls around him to leave.

Samson placed her next to Christian, and Addison slowly sank down in the chair. She tried not to look over at all the women that were staring at her angrily, but she could still feel their eyes on her.

Christian sat up a little straighter, pushing a glass of champagne in front of her, “What’s your name?”

“Addison.” She forced a smile, glancing up at him briefly then back down at the drink in front of her.

Addison knew who Christian was, her nervousness about being around such an important person wearing thick on her gentle features. She had seen him a few times at swanky functions held for museum fundraisers and auctions, but their only interactions had been a small smile or a wave in passing.

She worked in the preservation department at the CartwrightMuseum, one of the largest in the country. As a member of the staff, she was allowed to attend the events, but mostly as another body to fill the room. The museum employees weren’t allowed to converse with the donors, like Christian, unless they had reason or were approached by them.

He eyed her curiously, licking his lips as he set down his half-empty cup. Addison studied the contents, noticing it wasn’t blood, but some kind of unidentifiable brownish red drink. Her shaky hands picked up the glass in front of her, and she purposefully took a sip, her long fingers wrapping tightly around the stem.

“Are you enjoying my club?” Like a cat, Christian’s eyes scanned the room quickly, watching a few people that walked by their table.

Addison’s voice was soft and inaudible over the voices of the crowd around them, “Yes. It’s great.”

“What?” Even though he had heard her, Christian pretended like he hadn’t. “I cannot hear you over the music.” He scooted his chair closer to her, his hips banging against hers and making her jump a little. A sly smile appeared on his face as he caught her in his gaze. He knew he was making her nervous.

Addison laughed, her light blue eyes darting all over Christian’s handsome face, “I said it’s great.”

Christian picked up his drink again and took an unhurried swallow, the shifting of his stare smooth as he once again scanned the crowd in front of them. Christian’s poise was unfailing. He was extremely attractive, his firm build and striking eyes enough to cause Addison’s heart to race and make her slightly dizzy.

Even though she knew he was a killer, being in his presence was intoxicating. His good looks were a sin against nature, and sitting next to someone so inhumanly flawless carried an indescribable feeling. This was the lure of the devil that made any woman bow to his every whim.

A beautiful girl with platinum blonde hair and perfect breasts sat down next to Christian, rubbing his shoulder and making him turn to her. However, his attention didn’t stay on her and quickly switched back to Addison. He placed his hand on Addison’s knee for a few seconds before letting it slide up her dress. Then, he rubbed her inner thigh, his touch soft and light. Addison jumped at his action, a fearful expression on her face as she choked a little on the champagne she was drinking.

He looked over at her and chuckled, his devilish eyes settling on hers before he spoke softly into her ear, “Relax sweetheart.” He moved her hair behind her shoulder, gazing at her neck for a few seconds. Leaning even closer, Christian continued to brush his fingers up and down the inside of her leg. “I am not going to bite.”

Christian felt her body shake a little at his comment, which ignited a small chuckle from his lips, “Yet.”

*****

Upcoming release dates (the links take you to the book trailers):

  • Initiation (Christian’s Kisses Book 1) releases in print January 2014.
  • Seed of the Master (Christian’s Kisses Book 2) releases in print May 2014.
  • Secret Scarlet releases in ebook September/October 2013 and in print April 2014.
  • Blood Kisses (Nightwalkers Book 1) releases in ebook November 2013 and in print May 2014.
  • The Bloodlust Prince releases in ebook December 2013 and in print June 2014.
  • Forever Black (Nightwalkers Book 2) releases in ebook January 2014 and in print July 2014.
  • Blood War (Nightwalkers Book 3) releases in ebook March 2014 and in print September 2014.
  • Forever Mine releases in ebook May 2014 and in print November 2014.