Review/Spotlight: Spellbound (A Limited Edition Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Collection Bleeding Hearts), by Ash Krafton 1

3 out of 5 Stars

Cover Artist: Rebecca Frank

Available For Purchase On:

Pre-Order Sale Only .99

Amazon      Kobo      BN      Apple

Review:

This review is for Bleeding Hearts by Ash Krafton

At least the first half I found to be pretty slow.  The second half picks up and gets a bit more interesting.  I had trouble connecting with Marek and it might have been the author trying to give you the mysterious romantic interest.  Sophie is a young lady who has been holding her own and is successful, yet with Marek in the picture she now acts much different.  This story has a good plot idea, there just felt to be that little something that was missing.  This is not your typical vampire story for sure.

Reviewed by Fawnzy

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Box Set Description:

The Spellbound Boxed Set is a compilation of 20+ Full-Length Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance reads!

Readers of all ages will be swept away by this fascinating mix of existing titles and brand new content, full of pages brimming with faeries, witches, vampires, shifters, psychics, Greek gods, angels, demons, and even ghosts!

With over a million words of fiction, this is your one stop shop for urban fantasy, epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, shifter romance, vampire romance, elemental magic, time travel, and MORE from today’s New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling authors!

Although some of these reads may be gritty and dark, this is a collection of clean reads that anyone will enjoy!

The collection includes titles from…

International bestselling author Jade Kerrion

NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Joanne Wadsworth

International bestselling author Nicole Zoltack

International bestselling author Rachel E. Carter

International bestselling author Andrea Pearson

International bestselling author Alicia Rades

International bestselling author Sophie Davis

USA TODAY bestselling author Michael J Ploof

International bestselling author Megan Crewe

International bestselling author C.E. Wilson

International bestselling author Kelly Carrero

International bestselling author Jess Haines

International bestselling author E. Blix

International bestselling author Alexis Kade

International bestselling author GP Ching

International bestselling author Gaja J. Kos & Boris Kos

International bestselling author Dara Fraser

International bestselling author Ash Krafton

International bestselling author Jim Johnson

NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Tom Shutt

International bestselling author Emily Martha Sorensen

International bestselling author S McPherson

Book Description Bleeding Hearts by Ash Krafton

Sophie Galen is an advice columnist whose work leaves her neck-deep in other people’s problems. Thanks to her compassion, her gut instinct, and her magnetic charm, Sophie really knows how to attract little black clouds.

Marek Thurzo is no little black cloud; he’s a maelstrom. Marek is Demivampire, a race with the potential to evolve into vampire. A warrior who’s taken his share of spiritual damage, he hovers dangerously close to destruction.

He seeks salvation. She’s driven to save him. But what if he can’t be saved?

Sympathy for his plight becomes true empathy as Sophie’s hidden nature is revealed. Marek suspects she may be one of the Sophia, oracle and redemption of the damned Demivampire. She alone can turn back the evolutionary clock.

All she needs is the courage to face her fears. Can she save him from Falling?

The following is an excerpt from BLEEDING HEARTS Demimonde Book 1 by Ash Krafton

In the great hall housing the Egyptian exhibitions, I immediately noted the change in the atmosphere. The room was cool and dry, its climate controlled to mimic the conditions in which the relics had existed in their native land.

The entire room had been designed to resemble an Old Kingdom temple. The main lights were dimmed while strategically-placed spotlights emphasized massive columns and magnificent wall carvings like sunbeams through temple windows.

I scanned the room. No other tourists. Even better. I meandered, enjoying the rare opportunity to linger.

Craning my neck, I ran my gaze up each of the columns, reading the images, admiring the palm leaves carved at the tops like great stone trees. Eyes toward the ceilings, I turned slowly around, admiring the handiwork of the ancient artists.

What was it like to live in those lands and those times? Could an ancient version of my spirit have been there, stepping barefoot and silently through a sandy temple like this one?

Lost in contemplation, I was completely unprepared for the shock of smacking into someone, bumping him hard enough to lose my balance. I’d have fallen had he not caught my arm. Wide-eyed with consternation, I stammered an apology to the handsome but serious-faced gentleman.

“You are not hurt, I hope?” His voice, deep and smooth, sent shivers marching down my neck, between my shoulders, down my spine.

“I’m okay.” I shook my head, too shy to make direct eye contact, wishing I’d checked my hair and lipstick before coming in. “I’m far too adept at being inept.”

He flashed a grin and I caught a glimpse of nice white teeth. “Temples are places for spiritual reflection. It is forgivable if your vision was turned inward, rather than toward where you were walking.”

His expression softened by amusement, he tilted his head toward the pillars. “Majestic, aren’t they?”

I stole another glance at him—black hair smoothed back into a discreet tail, clear light skin framed by long sideburns, strong jaw culminating in a square, cleft chin. Like the other items in the museum, something about him made me want to look closer, inspect each detail.

A subtle flush warmed my cheeks and ears so I quickly turned back to the heights of the exhibition. Murmuring a sound of agreement, I circled the column, stepping a few feet away so I could see both him and the stone. “Do you visit this museum often?”

Furtive glances allowed me to take in more of his appearance a tiny section at a time. Clothing dark as his hair. Long blazer, something in between a suit coat and an overcoat. In one hand he carried a bound book and fountain pen, as if he’d been making notes.

His gaze was calm and steady and entirely on me. Taking a deep breath I permitted the contact of the direct look. My boldness was well-rewarded. His Paul Newman lips brought to mind the sculptured busts on display in the Greco-Roman Quarters and he wore a stern expression that cast a veil of hardness upon his features, enhancing the impression he’d been carved from marble.

Except for his eyes. The Roman busts bore eyes that were blank and white but this man’s eyes were alive with bright green color. Like gemstones, they glittered and drew my gaze.

“No, actually,” he said. “My first time here. Although, I admit, I’m drawn to places like this.” His voice made music of the words—deep bass notes and soothing rhythm.

“Ah!” I said. “A man after my own heart.” His left eyebrow arched so sharply I thought it might disappear into his hairline and I hurriedly continued. “Are you a professor?”

“No, nothing like that. I do studying of my own, it’s not a living. It’s more of a hobby. Personal research, of sorts.”

“Studying past times is one of my pastimes. It’s my preferred form of entertainment.”

“Mmm.” Eyebrow cocked again, he cast a disapproving look at me and swept his hand around the contrived temple. “Would the gods be pleased to know they are reduced to the level of entertainment?”

“I hope so.” I kept my tone light. Considering the seriousness of his expression, I didn’t want to accidentally insult him. “Otherwise, they’d have to be content with staying dead, right?”

His gaze swept over me and I shivered again as if the touch had been tangible, a brush of fingertips against my cheek.

“Well, I’ll leave you to your worship. I mean, your wanderings.” He gave me a conspirator’s wink. “Unless…”

He hesitated, with a quiet clearing of throat as he tucked his notebook and pen into an inside pocket. “You wouldn’t mind a companion? Sometimes one sees things differently when seeing through another’s eyes. I would appreciate a new perspective.”

I mulled it over, listening to the rain spattering the windows and distant voices echoing faintly from other rooms. Although I’d looked forward to a quiet afternoon, it might be nice to spend it with someone who seemed to share my interests. He certainly was attractive, and his pleasant voice intrigued me.

I realized I’d become used to living inside a shell. This man made me want to step outside for once.

“I’d like that.” I smiled at his pleased expression. “I’m Sophie, by the way.” I stuck out my hand in introduction.

Instead of shaking my hand, he bent his head over it and pressed polite lips to the backs of my fingers. The quaint gesture would have seemed strange and out of place had we been elsewhere. “I am Marek. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Fingers tingling from the unexpected kiss, I fought the urge to curtsy. “Well, Marek. Lead me into the past.”

His almost-smile sent a thrill down the back of my neck. “That’s exactly the sort of thing I’d hoped you say. Shall we?”

He turned on his heel and swept out a hand with a slight bow, indicating the archway to another exhibit. For the first time since I’d been coming to this museum, I wondered what I’d see on the other side, and was surprised to realize I wasn’t afraid to find out.

The first chapters of books by each featured author are also available in the Spellbound Sampler, available on Wattpad

About the Author:

A speculative fiction girl through and through, Ash writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels as well as poetry and short fiction. She also writes for New Adult audiences under the name AJ Krafton. Her work has won a bunch of awards and was even nominated for a Pushcart Prize. When she’s not writing, she’s practicing Tai Chi, listening to loud rock and metal, or crushing on supervillains.

Most recently, she’s re-released her urban fantasy trilogy THE BOOKS OF THE DEMIMONDE because she never really left the world of Sophie and her Demivamps. She’s also working on the next installment of her Demon Whisperer series.

Find out more when you visit www.ashkrafton.com

Blog: http://ash-krafton.blogspot.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ashkrafton

Facebook: http://facebook.com/ashkraftonauthor

Goodreads: http://goodreads.com/Ash_Krafton

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/demimondeash

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/ash_krafton

Website: http://www.ashkrafton.com/

Newsletter: http://www.subscribepage.com/b1w9p1

Tour Giveaway:

$25.00 Amazon gift card

Rafflecopter Link:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ba112ffc1574/

Bonus Giveaway

Enter the Giveaway HERE

Review: The Unlikeable Demon Hunter (Nava Katz Book One), by Deborah Wilde 2

5 out of 5 Stars

Available For Purchase On:

Amazon

Review:

What a blast! This enchanting novel had me hooked from the very first page. I fell hard for Nava, the star of this tale. She’s a seriously amazing girl who, in the most unlikely of circumstances, becomes a Rasha, or a Jewish Demon Hunter. The story is a rollicking roller coaster of ups and downs, which kept me laughing the entire time. I will definitely be reading more of the tales of Nava Katz.

Reviewed by Deviant Diamond

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

Bridesmaids meets Buffy with a dash of the seven deadly sins.

The age-old story of what happens when a foul-mouthed, romance impaired heroine with no edit button and a predilection for hot sex is faced with her worst nightmare–a purpose

Ari Katz is intelligent, driven, and will make an excellent demon hunter once initiated into the Brotherhood of David. However, this book is about his twin Nava: a smart-ass, self-cultivated hot mess, who is thrilled her brother is stuck with all the chosen one crap.

When Nava half-drunkenly interrupts Ari’s induction ceremony, she expects to be chastised. What she doesn’t expect is to take her brother’s place among the–until now–all-male demon hunters. Even worse? Her infuriating leader is former rock star Rohan Mitra.

Too bad Rohan’s exactly what Nava’s always wanted: the perfect bad boy fling with no strings attached, because he may also be the one to bring down her carefully erected emotional shields. That’s as dangerous as all the evil fiends vying for the bragging rights of killing the only female ever chosen for Demon Club.

Odds of survival: eh.

Odds of having a very good time with Rohan before she bites it: much better.

Excerpt:

Mornings after sucked.

Walks of shame were a necessary evil, but that didn’t mean I enjoyed shimmying back into the same trollop togs twice. I picked glitter out of my hair, then straightened my sequined top. I was officially decommissioning it. Multiple washings never quite managed to remove the lingering aura of bad decisions I made while wearing party clothes. My philosophy? Cross my fingers and hope for the most bang for the bucks spent later on new outfits.

The surly cabbie evil-eyed me to hurry up.

I complied, rooting around in my clutch for some crumpled bills before handing them over and stumbling out of the taxi onto the sidewalk.

Fresh air was a godsend after the stale bitter coffee smell I’d been trapped with during the ride. I pressed a finger to my temple, a persistent dull throb stabbing me behind my eyeballs. My residual feel good haze clashed big-time with the glaring sun screaming at me to wake up, and the buzz of a neighbor’s lawnmower cutting through the Sunday morning quiet didn’t help matters. Best get inside.

Smoothing out my mini skirt, I readied myself for my tame-my-happy-slut-self-to-boring-PG-rating body check when a wave of dizziness crashed through me. Whoa. I brought my gaze back to horizon level, swallowing hard. That sea-sickness technique was doing dick-all so I rummaged in my bag for my ginger chews.

No puking in the bushes, I chided myself, letting the spicy smooth and sweet candy fight my nausea. My mother would toss my bubble ass out if I defiled her precious rhodos.

Again.

The rise and fall of my chest as I took a few deep breaths spotlit a slight problem. My spangly blouse was missing two buttons. And I was missing a bra. Hook-up Dude had been worth the loss of a pair of socks, maybe a bargain bin thong. But the latest in purple push-up technology? No. I allowed myself a second to mourn. It had been a good and loyal bra.

The sex, on the other hand? Total crap. The girls, who were normally perky C cups, seemed a bit subdued. I couldn’t blame them. What’s-his-name had started out with all the promise of a wild stallion gallop, but he’d ended up more of a gentle trot. I didn’t know if the fault lay with the jockey or the ride, but it had been a long time since I’d seen a finish line.

Since I couldn’t keep examining my tits on the front walk with Mrs. Jepson side-eyeing me from behind her living room curtains, I thrust my chin up and clacked a staccato rhythm toward my front door on those mini torture chambers that had seemed such a good idea yesterday.

Every step made our precisely manicured lawn undulate. I clamped my lips shut, willing the ginger chews to kick in while fumbling my key into the lock. Dad had screwed up the measurements on our striking cedar and stained glass front door and, being a touch too big for the frame, it needed to be shouldered open.

I crashed into the door like a linebacker. Once I’d extricated myself and my keys from the lock, I brushed myself off, and stepped inside. Our house itself was comfortably upper middle class but not huge, since my parents preferred to spend money on trips and books instead of the overpriced real estate found in here in Vancouver. A quick glance to my left showed that the TV room was empty. I crossed my fingers that Mom and Dad were out at their squash game, my main reason for picking this specific time to sneak back in.

Really, a twenty-year-old shouldn’t have had to sneak. But then again, a twenty-year-old probably should have kept her last menial job for longer than two weeks, so I wasn’t in a position to argue rights.

I kicked off my shoes, sighing in delight at the feel of cool tile under my bare feet as I padded through the house to our homey kitchen. No one was in there either. Someone, probably Mom, had tacked the envelope with my final–and only–pay stub from the call center that I’d left lying around onto our small “miscellaneous” cork board. The gleaming quartz counters were now free of their usual clutter of papers, books, and latest gourmet food find. That meant company. Come to think of it, I did hear someone in the living room.

A study in tasteful shades of white, the large formal room was off-limits unless we had special guests. Mom had set that rule when my twin brother Ari and I were little tornados running around the place and while there was no longer a baby gate baring our way, conditioning and several memorable scoldings kept us out.

Hmmm. Could Ari be entertaining an actual human boy? Le gasp.

I beelined for the back of the house, past the row of identically framed family photos hanging in a neat grid, my head cocked. Listening for more voices, but all was quiet. Maybe I’d been wrong? I hoped not. Both finding my brother with a crush–blackmail dirt–and helping myself to the liquor cabinet were positive prospects. What better way to lose that hangover headache than get drunk again? Oh, the joys of being Canadian with socialized health care and legal drinking age of nineteen. After a year (officially) honing that skill, I imbibed at an Olympic level.

The red wine on the modular coffee table gleamed in a shaft of sunlight like its position had been ordained by the gods. I snatched up the crystal decanter, sloshing the liquid into the glass conveniently placed next to it. Once in a while, a girl could actually catch a break.

I fanned myself with one hand. The myriad of lit candles seemed a bit much for Ari’s romantic encounter, but wine drinking trumped curiosity so I chugged the booze back. My entire body cheered as the cloyingly-sweet alcohol hit my system, though I hoped it wasn’t Manischewitz because hangovers on that were a bitch. I’d slugged back half the contents when I saw my mom on the far side of the room clutch her throat, eyes wide with horror. Not her usual, “you need an intervention” horror. No, her expression indicated I’d reached a whole new level of fuck-up.

“Nava Liron Katz,” she gasped in full name outrage.

My cheeks still bulging with wine, I properly scoped out the room. Mom? Check. Dad? Check. Ari? Check? Rabbi Abrams, here to perform the ceremony to induct my brother as the latest member in the Brotherhood of David, the chosen demon hunters?

Check.

I spit the wine back into what I now realized was a silver chalice and handed it to the elderly bearded rabbi. “Carry on,” I told him. Then I threw up on his shoes.

About The Author:

A global wanderer, hopeless romantic, and total cynic with a broken edit button, Deborah writes adult urban fantasy to satisfy her love of smexy romances and tales of chicks who kick ass. She is all about the happily-ever-after, with a huge dose of hilarity along the way. “It takes a bad girl to fight evil. Go Wilde.”

Website: www.deborahwilde.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/wildeauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deborah.wilde1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16189297.Deborah_Wilde

Tour giveaway:

1 signed paperback copy The Unlikeable Demon Hunter

Rafflecopter Link:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ba112ffc1572/

Spotlight: Out of the Shadows (Shadowlands Book One), by Ashlee Nicole Bye 1

Available For Purchase On:

Amazon      Amazon AU      Amazon UK

Tagline: Nobody ever said death would be easy

Description:

From the streets of Melbourne to the bowels of Westminster, the delicate balance between life and death that is so painstakingly maintained by the Reapers of The Order of Dark and Light is being tested by the return of an ancient threat. Tensions are rising within the hidden world of The Shadowlands and if this threat is not contained war will be inevitable. And the destruction of the human world is bound to follow in its wake.

Amidst this tension, eighteen year-old Sachi Manning is struggling to cope with the grief and guilt that has plagued her ever since her best friend was murdered six months earlier—that is, until she spots him seemingly alive and well and being held at scythe point by a hooded figure who looks more like a GQ model than the Grim Reaper.

Sachi shouldn’t be able to see through the glamours that shield Shadowlanders from the human world, so the Reaper in question wants some answers. And so begins the craziest couple of weeks of Sachi’s life as she is drawn into a world of mysteries, magic, monsters, and mayhem, encountering dragons, Faeries, soul-sucking Demons, not-so-grim Reapers, and even the Horseman of Death.

With a mix of heart, humour and hair-raising action, Out of the Shadows is the adventure of an after-lifetime, perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare and Kresley Cole.

Excerpt:

As Julian studied the mangled remains of the boy who had once been Campbell Locke, it was easy to see how the humans could have mistaken the death for a homicide. The latest in a string of vicious murders by the now infamous “Melbourne Slasher”, who had plagued the streets of this city for near on three months now—or so the papers said.

The teenager’s throat had been slashed with what, to human eyes, looked like a knife. But Julian knew better—that wound was the result of an incredibly sharp claw.

Julian had positioned himself on a first floor window ledge not ten metres away from the crime scene. It was the perfect vantage point, or would have been had his legs not been cramping from the awkward crouching position he’d been forced to assume in order to balance his tall frame on the narrow ledge. The preternatural eyesight bestowed upon him almost a century and a half ago allowed Julian to make out every detail of the narrow alleyway: the ground a peculiar patchwork of cobbles, concrete, and bitumen; walls the brick exterior of low rise buildings whose original colour could not be determined through the layers of graffiti—some of which, Julian had to admit, was quite remarkable. There was a blue industrial rubbish bin set up against the wall of the nightclub that backed on to the alley, overflowing with black bags and glass bottles. Julian could feel the vibration of the heavy bass from the club’s music thrumming through the walls around him. The song was something modern, with a powerful female voice interweaving through a thumping dance beat. He couldn’t say what it was called—it all sounded so similar to him.

At the mouth of the alley, a row of uniformed police officers stood guard over the crime scene, sending any curious onlookers on their way. Julian was tempted to move closer. To walk right up to the crime scene and stand amongst the mingling investigators. After all, with his invisibility glamour in place no one would be able to see him.

But it was a risk he could not afford. He was well aware of how far crime scene technology had progressed since his time amongst humans. They had something called “forensics” now, where scientists could track a killer using the smallest piece of evidence: a drop of blood, a strand of hair, even the tread of dirt from a foreign location. Julian frowned as he glanced at his boots, the soles of which were crusted with the remains of the Faery he’d disposed of three hours earlier. These humans would be baffled enough as it were with the lack of evidence to be found at this scene, he didn’t think it wise to confuse them further with the presence of an otherworldly substance. Not to mention that the invisibility glamour was somehow affected by flash photography—he was not in the mood to explain to Lord Mortem why there had been a “ghost” sighting at the most recent “murder” scene.  

An awareness brushed across Julian’s mind and he immediately looked up, scanning the rooftop opposite. It didn’t take long to spot Moss; he had his hood down and even without Julian’s superior vision, it would have been difficult for him to miss that mop of bleached dreadlocks contrasting starkly against the midnight sky.

Julian swept his gaze over the crime scene one last time before letting the ledge fall away from him. It was a split second of dark emptiness as he passed through the shadows, and then he was standing on the roof next to Moss.

‘Crazy night, dude,’ Moss said in his Floridian surfer drawl.

Julian ran his eyes over his friend. They had gone their separate ways tonight, and it was clear by the smears of blood over Moss’s face and the tear in his sleeve he’d had almost as interesting a night as Julian. Moss always looked slightly rumpled, though; unlike Julian, who, even after killing the Banshee that had been about to take centre stage in front of twenty thousand humans under the guise of a popular musician, a passionate kiss of gratitude from said musician (whose memory Julian had, most unfortunately, been obligated to alter moments later), and crouching on the window ledge for a good two hours, was still as tidy and well-pressed as usual, not a hair out of place.

‘You could say that,’ Julian said. Though a hundred and forty years had passed, he still spoke with the same accent and manner he had cultivated during his life as the son of an English peer. He would have liked to believe there was little else from that life that remained, though he knew this was not the case.

‘So, this one makes three.’ An uncharacteristically sombre expression crossed Moss’s face. ‘Any ideas?’

Julian shook his head. ‘Something with claws—which narrows it down to at least a thousand Shadowlanders.’

‘It’s hot.’ Moss emphasised the statement by rubbing the back of his forearm over his sweat-streaked brow. It was indeed. The Australian summer was only a week away, and Melbourne had been hit with a blast of the kind of humidity usually reserved for the northern parts of the country. ‘That should rule out an Infernal creature, yeah?’  

Julian frowned. ‘I think it would be foolish to rule anything out at this stage.’

About The Author:

Ashlee Nicole Bye is a self-confessed bibliophile, sports fan and music lover. She also writes sometimes—when she’s not busy mastering the art of procrastination, that is. She writes mainly Fantasy, mainly Young Adult, although some of her current works in progress have seen her step firmly outside her comfort zone.

Her first novel is OUT OF THE SHADOWS, a mature young adult contemporary fantasy set in her beloved home town of Melbourne. It is the first installment in the five-book series, SHADOWLANDS, and will be released on Kindle on April 11, with paperback to follow shortly after.

Website: https://ashleenicolebye.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ashnicolebye

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ashleenicolebye/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ashleenicolebye

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16469357.Ashlee_Nicole_Bye

Tour Giveaway:

(4) $5 Amazon Gift Cards
(3) ebook copies of Out of the Shadows
Rafflecopter Link:

New Release: Paid In Full: A Jax Rhoades Novel (The Jax Rhoades Series Book 2), by Rachel Rawlings Reply

Available For Purchase On:

Amazon     BN    Kobo

Description:

Demon hunter, Jax is back battling the beasts of Hell in Baltimore’s underbelly. Dealing with the Devil is as dangerous as ever, especially when your immortal soul is on the line.

But that’s nothing compared to the Angels.

Charged with finding the one relic that can end her life, Jax puts her faith in the only man she can trust – the Sin Eater.

Dane swore to protect her, but can he save her from herself and her personal demons?

Caught between Heaven and Hell, Jax’s next move might just be her last.

About the Author:

Rachel Rawlings was born and raised in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. Her family, originally from Rhode Island, spent summers in New England sparking her fascination with Salem, MA. She has been writing fictional stories and poems since middle school, but it wasn’t until 2009 that she found the inspiration to create her heroine Maurin Kincaide and complete her first full length novel, The Morrigna.

When she isn’t writing, Rachel can often be found with her nose buried in a good book. An avid reader of Paranormal/Urban Fantasy, Horror and Steampunk herself, Rachel founded Hallowread- an interactive convention for both authors and fans of those genres.

More information on Hallowread, its schedule of events and participating authors can be found at www.hallowread.blogspot.com  and www.facebook.com/Hallowread .

She still lives in Maryland with her husband and three children.

www.rachelrawlings.com

www.authorrachelrawlings.com

www.twitter.com/@rachelsbooks

www.facebook.com/themaurinkincaideseries

www.facebook.com/hallowread

www.hallowread.com   

Goodreads Author Page http://goo.gl/FZW0RN

Amazon Author Page http://goo.gl/Q6Ubn1

 

Review: Alphas in the Wild Books 1-4, by Ann Gimpel Reply

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5 out of 5 Stars

Available For Purchase On:

Amazon: http://a.co/66cltHf

The books are also available individually.

Dark. Daunting. Unforgettable.

Survival adds a demanding edge to love in the wilds.

Tumble into second-chance love, where magics collide, mountain gods are out for blood, and aliens invade Earth.

Review:

Quick and to the point. A couple sweet and hot sexy scenes in the first story.

In the second story Craig and Tina act as if they have never been apart. Tina had caught the attention of a God who was willing to break the rules to get what he wanted.  Craig knows he won’t let Tina get away again. 
Sara and Jared have a sci-fi sort of story.  Very interesting read as they find each other out in the middle of no where.

Three very different stories with drama, excitement, and survival.

Reviewed by Fawnzy

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Hello Darkness, Alphas in the Wild Book One

Earth magics collide, forcing Moira Shaughnessy to take a chance on a man who hurt her so badly she never forgave him.

A ranger for the U.S. Park Service, Moira is in serious trouble. Fleeing from Ryan, her cheating husband, who’s also a Native American shaman, she stumbles into the arms of a man she never thought she’d see again. He hurt her once by choosing his magic over her. Would she be a fool to take a chance on him now?

Tim hasn’t seen Moira in ten years. When her name shows up on his patient roster in the rural clinic where he’s a doctor, he can’t believe his luck. Deeply held secrets forced him from her side, but he’s never forgotten her. Never stopped loving her. This time, he’s determined to make different choices, even if it costs him his birthright as the next Arch Druid.

Pursuing very different motives, Tim and Ryan follow Moira deep into the backcountry, catching her in a crossfire between Celtic and Native American magic. A freak blizzard compounds her problems, taxing her survival skills to the max. Against the specter of almost-certain death, Moira has some hard choices to make.

Click here for information and buy links.

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Alpine Attraction, Alphas in the Wild Book Two
Tina made a pact with the devil seven years ago. It’s time to pay the piper—or die.

Independent to the nth degree, Tina meets everything in her life head-on—except love. When an almost-forgotten pact with the devil returns to haunt her, Tina throws a trip to the Andes together to face her nemesis. Better to die on her feet than wait for him to make good on his threats.

Craig never understood why Tina walked out of his life years before. He’s never loved anyone like he loved her. His mountain guide service takes up all his time, but he’s never forgotten her. When his back’s been up against the wall, he’s invited her to fill in as expedition doctor, but beyond that, he’s kept his distance. Having his heart stomped on once was quite enough.

Caught between misgivings and need, Tina signs on as team doctor for one of Craig’s climbing trips to the Andes. Though he was the love of her life, she pushed him away years before to keep him safe. Even if he doesn’t love her anymore, there’s still no one she’d rather have by her side in the mountains. And if she’s going to die, she wants to make things right between them.

Click here for information and buy links.

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A Run For Her Money, Alphas in the Wild Book Three

Sara’s day begins like any other. A routine extraction in tandem with a local Search and Rescue team. Routine crashes to a halt when she ends up trapped in a hut, high atop Muir Pass in the Sierras. Four days later, running out of food for herself and her dog, she makes a bold dash for safety.

Jared’s walking the Muir Trail when all hell breaks loose. After hunkering beneath a boulder pile for days, he dares a difficult cross-country route, hoping it’ll put him into position to approach a backcountry ranger station. Surely one of the rangers will know what happened, because he sure as hell doesn’t. Jared locates the cabin, but it’s locked tight. He’s getting ready to leave the next morning when a helicopter lands, with Sara at the helm. There’s no time to trade war stories. It takes a leap of faith, but they throw in their lot together. Can they face the impossible and come out the other side unscathed?

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4 out of 5 Stars

Fire Moon, Alphas in the Wild Book Four

Available For Purchase On:

Amazon: http://a.co/hpWwI4k

Review:

Cara and John find romance all while fighting off dragons…yup, angry dragons.  This is a very descriptive story of climbing and surviving through a raging wild fire.  These two learn that believing in each other, even in some unrealistic circumstances, is the only way they will survive.  Dragons, magic, and spirit guides, all lead to a dramatic story.

Reviewed by Fawnzy

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

Cara, a mountain guide with a hard luck past and John, a doctor running as hard as he can from his own demons, become unlikely allies. Fire raging through the Sierras forces them away from their planned route and makes escape a dicey proposition.

Cara struggles to outwit the inferno before it’s too late. John’s long-denied psychic side escapes its bonds, refusing to be ignored any longer. He recognizes the fire for what it is: magical creatures bearing the worst news of all. Fire dragons want Earth for themselves, and they’ll stop at nothing to make it theirs. Protecting Cara from the destiny that’s finally hunted him down turns into John’s top priority, but spirit guides shanghai him, forcing his hand.

He never wanted a woman in his life. Too many complications—but something about Cara touches his heart.

She was burned out on men and vowed she’d spend the rest of her life in the mountains, guiding clients—but something about John sings to her soul.

If they can survive the dragons that set the earth ablaze, a different kind of heat just might bind them to each other.

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Excerpt from Hello Darkness:

Hello darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.

Paul Simon, Sounds of Silence

Chapter One

Moira Shaughnessy’s booted feet hit the ground in front of the Family Medicine Clinic. Slamming the door of the dusty white Park Service pickup, she considered ignoring her boss’s orders, peeling out of the parking lot, and heading for the Baxter Pass trailhead. She had a crew to oversee, goddammit. A work project to complete. But her boss, John, had been painstakingly clear, both yesterday at Park Headquarters in Three Rivers, and a mere ten minutes ago on the sat phone. Granted, he’d been far more pointed on the phone.

“It’s not a suggestion, Moira,” he’d growled. “This is a directive—from me. I want to hear from someone with MD after his name before I authorize you to head up that work detail. Do not set one foot on the trail before you receive my orders, e-sign them, and e-mail them back to me.”

“But that’s usually a formality—”

“Not this time. No buts. I made you an appointment at the clinic in Bishop that clears some of our crews. They’re open until six. I already lost two rangers this summer in the Pinecrest fire. That was two too many in my book, so get your butt into that clinic.”

Moira gritted her teeth. She’d thought she could avoid dealing with the whole mess by leaving the office early yesterday and taking one of the northern passes over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but John tracked her down.

Phooey. I ran, but guess I couldn’t hide…

It was downright annoying that her boss needed a doctor to reassure him she wouldn’t collapse—or something—in the backcountry. For the briefest of moments, she felt like pounding her fist into the nearest tree, but then she pulled herself together. Nothing was wrong with her, except her slimy, cheating husband. Sure, she’d lost a few pounds since she left him, but she hadn’t been all that hungry.

Problem was, John remembered similar struggles from years ago when she first started working as a park ranger. She hadn’t eaten enough then, either, and grew far too thin. Just her luck, he’d been overseeing a backcountry work detail when she got woozy and fell off one of the mules.

Understanding surfaced; embarrassment followed. Her boss cared about her. That wasn’t a bad thing. Anger bled out of her with a whoosh.

“May as well get this over with,” she muttered.

Moira walked briskly to the clinic, pushed the door open, and headed for the counter. The antiseptic smell common to all medical offices hit her like a wall as she strode across the scrubbed linoleum floor.

“Yes?” A young woman with dyed red hair looked up from her computer screen with eyes so green she had to be wearing colored contact lenses.

“Moira Shaughnessy. I think you’re expecting me. My boss called from Kings Canyon-Sequoia Park Headquarters.”

The receptionist clicked a few keys. “Your insurance card, please.”

Moira blew out a frazzled breath and dug through her fanny pack for her wallet. Once she found it, she extracted the plasticized Blue Cross card, handing it over. “I’m really in a bit of a hurry—”

“Here’s your card back.” The clerk gestured at the nearly full waiting room. “The doctor will be with you as soon as he can. He had a full schedule before he agreed to work you in.”

“Is it okay if I go outside for a few minutes? I need to lock my truck. I, uh, didn’t think I’d be in here for very long.”

“Sure. So long as we know where to find you.” The phone trilled, and the receptionist picked it up, Moira obviously forgotten. “Family Medicine, how may I help you?”

Moira let herself back outside. Too restless to return to the overcrowded waiting room, she paced up and down the parking lot. Fall had turned the aspen trees lining Bishop’s streets to shades of red and gold that were quite striking, but all she could think about were the minutes ticking by. It was twelve miles from the trailhead to the top of the pass, and a couple more to where her trail crew was. Leaving today would be foolhardy at this point. She’d never even make the pass before night fell.

“Damn it!” She glanced at her watch. How long was this going to take anyway?

“Ms. Shaughnessy?” A man’s voice sounded from behind her.

She spun, surprised out of her funk.

And stopped dead.

“Tim?”

Moira stared at the tall, rangy man with long, white-blond hair and ice-blue eyes. He was dressed in teal scrubs and sandals with a stethoscope draped around his neck. A broad grin split the clean planes of his face. She’d forgotten how heartbreakingly beautiful he was.

“I saw the name and hoped it was you.” He held out a hand, but she remained frozen in place. “After all, how many Moira Shaughnessys could there be?”

She stood there, flabbergasted. What were the odds? She hadn’t seen Tim O’Malley since they’d both graduated from U.C. Davis. When she realized her mouth was hanging open, she shut it with a snap.

“Is that any way to greet an old friend?” One corner of his mouth turned down in an expression she remembered all too well.

“It’s just… I mean I never expected…” She felt warmth rise from the open neck of her buff-colored uniform shirt. Heat suffused her face until she was certain every freckle was outlined in bright, living color.

“Hey, mo ghrá. I know we didn’t split up under the best of circumstances…”

“No shit. And you can skip the beloved part.” A familiar anger stirred, but she batted it aside.

“Moira, I’m sorry. I was sorry then, and I still am.” He sounded so sincere, it tugged at her heartstrings. Part of her wanted to believe him, and part of her was afraid to.

“Grannie told me some of it—about the Arch Druid stuff. And you having to be celibate or something.”

He creased his brow, the smile fading. “I’m glad she did. I was sworn to silence about Druid affairs.” He cleared his throat. “In truth, I still am.”

“What she told me didn’t make it any easier. I tried to call you—a bunch of times.”

“I know.”

“Christ, Tim, it’s been close to ten years.”

He looked chagrined. “I suppose I know that too.”

Her heart, already damaged from her sham of a marriage, squeezed painfully in her chest. She’d loved Tim once. And thought he loved her. They’d known one another since they were children growing up in the same sprawling Irish immigrant community.

“So what happened?” She eyed him, struggling for equanimity. “It’s a long way from Druid to doctor. Or are you a nurse here?”

“Nope, I’m the doc. My training took up eight of the ten years since—”

The clinic door flew open. A harried-looking, overweight woman in white scrubs rolled her eyes. Her short brown hair stood up in spikes, and her muddy green gaze shot darts. “There you are. Dr. O’Malley, you have patients.”

He waved her to silence. “Fine, Bridgette. I’ll be in soon.”

“But—”

He made shooing motions with both hands. “I said I’ll be in soon.”

Bridgette screwed her face into a disapproving frown. “Whatever,” she snapped and banged the door shut.

Tim closed the few feet between them and laid his hands on Moira’s shoulders. “Can I buy you dinner? Or maybe just a cup of coffee, if you’re still mad at me and not willing to risk an entire meal.”

“I’d like that, but I’m on my way to work. See…”

She took a big breath, and an annotated version of her story tumbled out. She mentioned her divorce and her lack of appetite, but skipped the low points about her marriage, figuring it wasn’t really any of Tim’s affair.

“Last time I wasn’t very hungry was right after you and I broke up. I’d just started working for the Park Service. Unfortunately, John—that’s my boss—has a long memory.”

Tim listened until she was done talking, and then placed his stethoscope in his ears. “Take a deep breath.” He moved the bell to several locations on her chest, and then had her turn around and positioned it on her back. “Your heart sounds healthy to me.” He gripped her wrist, taking her pulse as he ran his gaze over her body in a familiar way that tightened her throat and made her belly clench with heat.

“What do you weigh?” He eyed her again. “Maybe one thirty?”

Moira nodded. No point in lying since he could drag her inside and plunk her on a scale. “One twenty-two.”

“It could be worse. Have you had issues with anorexia since—” color blotched his cheeks “—well, since us?”

Moira shook her head. “I’ve maybe lost ten pounds this time round.” She looked away. “The problem was a whole lot worse ten years ago.”

“Moira.” His voice cracked with emotion. “I’m sorry. Scarcely a day goes by—”

“Don’t.” The word tore out of her. “Just don’t. I have to get to work. I’d never have stopped, except John insisted.”

He stepped back a pace and nodded. “You should be fine, so long as you start eating again. What is it your boss needs?”

“A phone call, I think.”

“Not a fitness for duty statement?”

She shook her head. “No. Nothing so formal.”

Not yet anyway.

“Good, because that would require a real physical and some labs. Jot his number down for me.” He pulled a small notebook out of a pocket and handed it to her, along with a pen.

As she gave it back, he caught her hand in his. “I’ve thought about you so many times over the years. I guess I always believed—” The color in his face deepened. “When will you be back through Bishop so we can talk? Or better yet, I’ve got a few days off after today’s clinic. I could backpack with you. Meet you wherever you’re—”

“Uh-uh.” She shook her head. “It’s against regulations to bring civilians, other than the trail crew, on Park Service work projects.”

His blue eyes twinkled. She’d forgotten how intense they were, like a multihued ocean. “You told me you were heading over Baxter Pass.”

“Yeah.” She smiled back because she couldn’t help herself. “So I did. I’m also telling you not to follow me.”

He bent his head, and brushed his lips over hers. The kiss was so sweet and so fleeting, memories flooded her, and she pulled away, her heart doing flip-flops.

“If it won’t be different this time, don’t start.” Her voice held a thin, strained note.

“Things will be different. I would’ve called you. Almost did a hundred times, but I felt so rotten about—”

“Dr. O’Malley.” Bridgette clumped across the yard and grabbed his arm. “You have patients.”

He shook her off. “When have you ever known me to leave before I’ve seen each and every one of them?”

“Never.” She sounded sullen.

“And it won’t happen today, either. Get back inside, and hold down the fort. If you could take vitals on everyone it would be a big help.”

Bridgette’s gaze moved from Tim to Moira. Pursing her lips in an unpleasant expression, she stalked back into the clinic.

Tim turned to Moira. “It was wonderful to see you again. Here.” He scribbled something on one of the tiny sheets of notebook paper, tore it off, and handed it to her. “My cell. Call anytime.”

“I just may take you up on that.”

* * * *

Tim wasn’t ready to go back into the clinic. His emotions were too close to the surface. He watched Moira’s truck drive out of the parking lot heading south. The last time he’d seen her ate at him like an out-of-control cancer. They’d spent hours in his apartment arguing. Though he’d dissected it a hundred times, trying to figure out what he could’ve done differently, he’d never come up with anything useful.

He made a strong effort to stuff the memory into its subterranean hidey-hole, but it wouldn’t cooperate. Since the professional objectivity he’d need to face a waiting room full of patients had just scattered like so much dust, he set off at a brisk pace intending to circle the block. He knew from experience that once that particular memory surfaced, he had to let it play itself out.

Bridgette and the clinic would just have to give him a few minutes more.

“I tell you I’m done. Not just done. Fucking done.”

Tears streamed down Moira’s swollen, blotchy face.

“I’ve waited for you since I was sixteen years old, Tim O’Malley. That’s six years in case you can’t count. I didn’t expect much back then, but we’re nearly done with college. You won’t do any more than kiss me. You won’t live with me. You won’t talk about getting married. Fuck! Why am I even bothering?”

She jumped to her feet and ran to a window, gripping the sill hard enough to whiten her knuckles.

He grabbed her arm. “I—I do love you, Moira. I’ve told you I want to save sex until after we’re married.”

“Well I don’t. Besides, you never asked me to marry you.”

“You’re not being fair. There are things I can’t tell you.”

She whirled, her golden eyes on fire. “Fine. Keep your fucking secrets. And keep your fucking virginity. I talked with Father O’Brannigan—”

A chill marched down his spine. “You what?”

“You heard me. I had to talk to someone. Even he said it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we had sex. He said God would forgive me so long as we got married. What’s the problem? Do you like boys? Jesus, even the clerk at the corner store is hotter for me than you are.”

Mo ghrá—”

“Don’t ‘mo ghrá’ me.” She twisted out of his grasp. “Get out of here. Don’t worry. I’ll be gone by the time you get back.”

“Moira—”

“For the love of Christ, just leave. If you ever loved me—” Her face crumpled and she sobbed helplessly, turning away from him.

Feeling like he was being torn in two, Tim stormed out of his apartment. The minute he got to the bottom of his steps, he began to run. He loved Moira. Loved her with every fiber of his being. But he understood his duty to his Druid heritage too. Slated to be the next Arch Druid, he was forbidden physical congress with women. His magic needed to be honed to the highest possible level.

Sex would interfere.

Tim ran until sweat streamed down his sides, despite the chill of an unseasonably cool June in California. A full moon hung low, clinging to the horizon. It was a lover’s moon. He cursed, drowning in irony. A lover’s moon, but not for him.

He wasn’t surprised when he ended up ten miles north of Davis at the Druids’ priory. Despite it being three in the morning, he pulled the bell chain. Its somber chime matched his mood.

The intercom next to the carved oak door crackled. “What business brings you here?” It was a standard Druid greeting, though the speaker sounded half-asleep.

“I must see Liam. Now.”

“Tim O’Malley. Is that you?”

Tim blew out a ragged breath. “Yes. Let me in, goddammit.”

A tone sounded, and the door swung open soundlessly on well-oiled hinges. A man he didn’t recognize hustled up the long hallway. “Master.” He inclined his head.

“I’m no one’s master. Go back to sleep. I know the way.”

Liam McAllister’s quarters were on the third floor of the rambling stone structure that had once been a Catholic monastery. Tim pounded up the stairs, his stomach so tight he wondered if he’d vomit. He’d just raised a fist to hammer on Liam’s door when it opened, and the Arch Druid stood before him. If the older man had been asleep, it didn’t show.

“Welcome, son.” Liam held out his arms, but Tim shook his head. Without waiting for an invitation, he stomped into the spacious quarters lined with leaded glass windows on two walls. The moon mocked him, front and center in those windows.

“You have to release me from my vows.”

Liam drew his thick eyebrows together. “You must know I cannot do that. You didn’t take vows. You were born to your calling.”

Tim spun to face the man who’d been like a father to him. Long, white hair framed his bearded face. Bright blue eyes radiated concern. The Arch Druid was tall—of a height with Tim—and wraith-thin. Black robes flowed around him.

“But it’s not like I’m the Dalai Lama.” He took a breath to steady himself. “You don’t understand. I love Moira. It’s tearing me up that I can’t have her. Christ! I can’t even tell her why I can’t make love to her—or marry her.”

Liam nodded slowly. He reached a kindly hand toward Tim. “Actually, you are a lot like the Dalai Lama. ’Tis the goddess who picks our progression. Would you care to sit, son? I believe a spot of spirits might calm you.”

“Irish whiskey won’t solve this.”

Liam made a snorting noise. “A dram of good Irish whiskey will solve practically anything. Or at least soften it till it feels more manageable.”

He pulled a decanter close and poured amber liquid into two cut-crystal shot glasses, pushing one toward Tim. “You will be able to wed once your training is complete, and you sit in my place.”

Battling frustration, Tim drained his glass. The whiskey burned going down. It matched the fire in his soul.

He trained his gaze on Liam. “You don’t understand. That may have worked hundreds of years ago. Not anymore. Look at you. Goddess willing, you’ll live another twenty or thirty years. Maybe more. By then Moira will be long since married to another. Hell, she could be a grandmother.” He banged a fist on one of the tables scattered about the room. A lamp rattled ominously, and he reached to steady it.

“Please,” Tim begged. “At least let me tell her why I can’t wed her.”

Liam shook his head. “I cannot do that. The workings of our society have always been secret. ’Tis how we’ve shielded ourselves from the machinations of the Church.”

“The Church isn’t still out to get us. Not actively, anyway.”

Liam turned on him, blue eyes ablaze. “Thinking like that will land you in trouble. Have you not followed their exorcisms? Or their dogma? And ’tis not just the Catholics I’m talking of here. What do you believe clerics think of those like us who call magic, engage in astral travel, and commune with gods, spirits, and the dead?”

Tim’s shoulders sagged. He felt like a sail with the wind knocked out of it, attached to a ship that would never find port. “That we were evil.”

Liam nodded. “Organized religion’s raison d’être is to rid the Earth of wickedness. Moira is Catholic. She goes to confession. I tell you, son, we cannot risk it. ’Tisn’t been so very long since they killed one of us. Surely you recall Sean Newbry. ’Twas scarcely an accidental drowning. His astral self came to me whilst he was dying.”

“And?”

“The parish priest caught him in the midst of a blood offering ceremony, talking with Earth spirits. Sean was certain the cleric followed him since he’d taken care to go deep into the Sierra foothills.”

Tim fought a sinking feeling. “You said drowning.”

“Are you certain you want the grisly details?”

“Yes.”

“Four priests waylaid him late one night, bound him, gagged him, tied a heavy weight about his waist—”

“Enough.” Tim sat heavily. He dropped his head into his hands and remembered what Moira told him about talking with Father O’Brannigan. What a fucked up mess this had turned into. He still cared about Druidry, but did he care enough to give up Moira for the rest of his life?

“Tim?” Liam asked after a long silence.

He looked up. “No matter how I slice and dice this, I don’t want to live without her. Hell, I don’t know if I can.”

“I understand.” A considered intake of breath and Liam continued. “I gave you permission to attend medical school. That was a concession as I’d rather you were here by my side. Then you came up with that idea about a public health degree.

“Mayhap it would be best if you didn’t see Moira—or even call her—at least for a while. Try to immerse yourself in your studies. Believe me, son, when I tell you the goddess takes care of her own.”

A sob rose from the depths of his soul. Mortified, Tim tried to swallow the next one down. He stuffed a knuckle in his mouth and bit down hard.

“’Tis all right. Life does not give us easy choices.” Liam got to his feed, walked around the table, and patted Tim’s back. “There is no shame in tears.”

Forcing himself to return to the present, Tim took a deep breath, and then another. He wasn’t twenty-two anymore. He could stand up to Liam if it came down to it. He pulled open the side door to the clinic and went to the tiny staff room, where he knew he’d find the afternoon’s schedule posted. Despite reliving painful memories, he felt more alive than he had in years.

The goddess had brought Moira back into his life. Things would be different this time. He’d see to it, even if it meant confronting Liam and walking away from Druidry forever.

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About The Author:

I’m basically a mountaineer at heart. I remember many hours at my desk where my body may have been stuck inside four walls, but my soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry.

Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), I finagled a move to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. Stories always ran around in my head on backcountry trips, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made me fear for my life, sometimes for company.

Eventually, the inevitable happened. I returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. It wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. I learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel, and I’ve been writing ever since.

In addition to turning out books, I enjoy wilderness photography. A standing joke is that over ten percent of my pack weight is camera gear, which means my very tolerant husband has to carry the food — and everything else too.

Links:

www.anngimpel.com

http://anngimpel.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/author/anngimpel

http://www.facebook.com/anngimpel.author

@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)

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Spotlight/Review: Steele City Blues (Hell’s Belle Series Book 3), by Karen Greco Reply

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4 out of 5 Stars

Available For Purchase On:

Amazon: http://a.co/eWxyyZ6

Review:

I was hooked because the heroine is witch and vampire plus she kick ass as a special ops or blood ops operative. Damn that’s a cool title in my book. This was action pact, full of twists and turns, mayhem, and betrayal. Along with great family drama, I will say mom and grandpa stole this story. Fans will have humor and and will not forget her mom is no joke.

Reviewed by Romantic Renay

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Description:

Blood Ops leader Dr. O is chained in the bowels of Steele City, the state’s maximum security prison, and the clock is ticking for Nina and Frankie to bust him out.

Now that supernatural creatures are out of the closet, Providence is descending into an Apocalyptic wasteland. With the abrupt shut down Blood Ops, Nina and Frankie are on their own to save Dr. O and the other supernatural prisoners from certain death. Not knowing where Demon Mayor Bertrand’s loyalties lie, they are forced to rely on some questionable allies to battle Leila, a powerful vampire/witch hybrid hell bent on creating an indestructible supernatural army. She also happens to be Nina’s mom.

Alliances are tested and relationships fractured as Nina and her band of supernatural crime fighting misfits are pushed to the breaking point.

Other Books In This Series:

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Available For Purchase On:

Amazon: http://a.co/7rSU4lZ

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Available For Purchase On:

Amazon: http://a.co/fjb0IT3

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About the Author:

Karen Greco is originally from Rhode Island and loves hot wieners from New York System, but can’t stand coffee milk. She studied playwriting in college (and won an award or two). After not writing plays for a long time, a life-long obsession with exorcists and Dracula drew her to urban fantasy, where she decapitates characters with impunity. Steele City Blues is the third book in the Hell’s Belle series, after Hell’s Belle (the first) and Tainted Blood (number two). She writes contemporary romance for a small press under the pen-name Jillian Sterling, and has a day job in entertainment publicity.

http://www.karengrecoauthor.com/

http://karengreco.blogspot.com/

https://twitter.com/karenThegreco

https://www.facebook.com/hellsbellebykarengreco

https://www.goodreads.com/karengreco

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Tour giveaway:

10 copies of the book in Kindle or Epub format.

Rafflecopter Link:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ba112ffc1535/

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Spotlight/Review: Hunger (Goddesses of Delphi Book 4), by Gemma Brocato 3

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4.5 out of 5 Stars

Available For Purchase On:

Review:

I love this book! It’s a new and inviting tale of the Muses of mythology. This book can be read as part of the series, but it’s a great stand alone read. I haven’t read the first three books, but I had no trouble delving right into the story. I was captured by the beautifully written story and I plan to get the rest of the series soon. I highly recommend this series to anyone and especially those readers who are looking for a great series.

Reviewed by Angel

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

Lia Thanos, Muse of Comedy, has joked her way through hundreds of lifetimes. But the past few months have been no laughing matter. She and her sisters have been locked in a battle to save Olympus from a hostile takeover. Now, the god challenging them has upped his game and personally selected the mortal man destined to help Lia win.

Botanist Ben Jordan has his hands full; running a farmer’s market, helping his hearing-impaired sister, and trying to figure out why crops around the world are failing. If the trend can’t be reversed, humans will starve and chaos will destroy the world. The only good news is the long-time famine he’s faced in his love life came to an end when he met Lia.

Despite the fact that Ben finds it hard to believe immortal gods exist, he accepts the challenge to help Lia, a woman he yearns to spend the rest of his life with. But Pierus and his daughter, Hunger, will stop at nothing to keep the two apart.

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Excerpt:

“Will you please tell me what’s going on?” Ben’s earlier calm evaporated as Mnemosyne chanted in a language he didn’t understand.

“I will. I know we only just met, but Pierus has deemed you my partner in this challenge. It’s going to require you to suspend disbelief and trust me.”

“A lady just materialized out of thin air and I haven’t even once considered myself crazy.”

“There is that. Will you come with me?” Lia moved toward a door to the left of the stage.

With one last look at his statue-like friends, Ben followed.

Lia’s hips swung side-to-side as she preceded him down a hallway lit by florescent lights. Even as fucked up as reality seemed at the moment, he still noticed the seductive sway. Barely curbing the urge to increase his speed so he could grab her ass, he shook his head.

Maybe he was certifiable.

She opened a door on the right side of the corridor and slipped inside.

He followed, closed the door, and then leaned against it. “I’m waiting.”

“You already know my name is Thalia. What you don’t know is that I’m immortal. I’m the Muse of Comedy and Agriculture. And mortals—the entire human race—are under siege. You just don’t know it yet.”

“Bullshit!” he scoffed.

“Wish I could say it was. That it’s just a huge prank that is part of the comedy club’s regularly scheduled entertainment.” She took up a position behind her desk, resting her palms on the dark wood. “But this is deadly serious. My sisters are Muses as well and we are in a supernatural fight for the safety of all mortal kind.”

As she sat in the chair behind her, the look on her face was earnest, brows raised, eyes wide. She believed her own psychosis. He searched his memory for anything he might have read about how to deal with delusional behavior. He had nothing other than recollected warnings about not encouraging that kind of behavior, and maintaining a distance in case of possible violent outbursts.

He took a step toward the desk, and then another, shaking his head as he did. This was no way to establish distance between them. He took another step and closed the gap, until the only thing between them was a block of wood. Not a very good barrier, considering the way she’d leaped over the bar when Paul had been going schizoid.

“I suppose next you’ll tell me Zeus is real and is your dad.”

She nodded solemnly. “And Gaia is my mother. Although she isn’t a god. She’s a primordial deity.”

He didn’t bother to restrain his snort. He had to be dreaming.

“I’m happy to pinch you if you think it would help. But I get to pick where I pinch.” Lia dropped her gaze to his ass, then lifted her eyes and offered with a bright smile. She gestured to a straight-backed chair.

Ben sat down hard enough to bite his tongue. Thanks to the pain he experienced, he knew he wasn’t dreaming. “Okay, I’m willing to go on a little faith here. Maybe you should start at the top.”

“In my first or second incarnation, a deity named Pierus challenged Zeus, claiming his nine daughters were superior to the Muses. While my sisters and I inspire the world to good things, Pierus and his offspring represent all the bad juju out in the world. His bitches come with names like Greed, Strife, Doom, Disease…you get the idea. It appears my challenge might be with Hunger.” She stood to pace behind her desk. “Zeus got pissed at Pierus, and transformed his children into magpies for all eternity. But the evil bastard still manages to rise up every thousand years or so to challenge us.”

Thousands of years? “How old are you?”

“Twenty-four.” She moved around the desk and leaned her hip on the edge. “In this lifetime. If you counted up the entire number of years I’ve been alive, my age is closer to six-thousand and twenty-four. No wait. Is it eight-thousand? I’ve sucked at math in every lifetime.”

Okay, that little fact freaked him the fuck out. Unable to deal with it, he filed the detail for exploration later. “Tell me more about this challenge.”

“Okay, but you have to know, until recently, no mortals in this millennia ever knew of our existence. Only three other men even have a clue at this point. You’re kind of a rare breed.”

She propped a hand on her hip, pulling her T-shirt taut over her breasts. Ben dropped his gaze to the luscious display and swallowed hard to move past the need to cup his palms around them.

Lia cleared her throat. “Um, just for now, eyes up. But this attraction you feel might be part of the challenge.”

“Don’t you feel it?”

“The connection? Yeah. When you touched my wrist, I had a premonition that we are meant to be together.”

“You too? I saw us in a darkened room with…I don’t know, maybe crows flying around us.”

She tipped her head to the side and pressed a finger to her lips. “That’s new. I’ve never shared foresight with anyone before. One more nail in your coffin.” She winked at him, followed the motion with a chuckle.

Her quiet laugh swirled through him, twisting like an auger along his body. Everything from his waist down drew tight, went hard. However, his brain heard coffin. “I’m not going to die thanks to this challenge, am I?”

“You won’t. Not if we beat Pierus. Unfortunately, we have to play to win.” Lia hopped up on the desk, swinging her legs. She held up her hand, closed her eyes and lifted her face. Almost like she was speaking to someone in her mind.

Ben studied her casual posture, her easy confidence. For a six-or-eight-thousand and something year-old, she was dead sexy. Oh, Lord. What was he thinking? Or better, which head was he thinking with? Even if his attraction to her was a result of his unknowing involvement in this challenge, he didn’t mind giving in to it.

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About The Author:

Gemma’s favorite desk accessories for many years were a circular wooden token, better known as a ’round tuit,’ and a slip of paper from a fortune cookie proclaiming her a lover of words; some day she’d write a book. All it took was a transfer to the United Kingdom, the lovely English springtime, and a huge dose of homesickness to write her first novel. Once it was completed and sent off with a kiss, even the rejections addressed to ‘Dear Author’ were gratifying.

After returning to America, she spent a number of years as a copywriter, dedicating her skills to making insurance and the agents who sell them sound sexy.

Eventually, her full-time job as a writer interfered with her desire to be a writer full-time and she left the world of financial products behind to pursue a career as a romance author.

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Review: Rebirth (Tattooed Angels Trilogy Book 1), by Valerie Willis 2

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5 out of 5 Stars

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Review:

This is the beginning of a great series if this book is any indicator. I could not believe all of the people that were the same as Hotan was and he had no idea. I think the author has left opening in this first book that she could go so many story lines!! I can’t wait to see what happens next while they are all changing and seeing where this leads.

Reviewed by Brave One

Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Description:

High school life is almost over, but Hotan’s life as an immortal has only just started…

Already struggling with a mountain of hardships, Hotan is just trying to get his diploma as his mother had always insisted. Friends know if he’s not at home or at the club playing in his band, you can always find him thinking at the old broken down church. Basking in the moonlight, Hotan finds himself under attack by an immortal named Geliah, the element of Fear. Talib, the element of Judgment, interrupts the fight, furious that Geliah would force Hotan to awaken his own abilities and immortality. Normally when pulled out of the reincarnation spell, an immortal would remember whom and what they were, but he is not the Hotan from the Past. Walk beside him as he struggles to keep his chaotic life in order as he tries to break the secrets of his own element, Rebirth.

Coming Soon….

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Judgement

Tattooed Angels Trilogy Book 2

By Valerie Willis

About the Book

Talib and Hotan find themselves facing off with the element of Death, Iapetos. Failing to take him out, Talib’s life starts flashing before him. As he experiences thousands of years, things that were once forgotten begin to emerge. Will he find the answer in his past in time to aid Hotan?

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About The Author:

Valerie Willis, a sixth generation Floridian, launched her first book, Cedric the Demonic Knight, at the start of 2014 on Amazon.com. Since then, she has launched the second book to The Cedric Series, Romasanta: Father of Werewolves (2015), with several installments to come in this high rated Fantasy Romance Series. She pulls in a melting pot of mythology, folklores, history and more into her work with a remarkable amount of foreshadowing that makes reading her books a second time exciting. Also she recently published Rebirth the first book in her Teen Urban Fantasy, the Tattooed Angels Trilogy. Currently on the table to be completed is book two for the Tattooed Angels Trilogy, Judgment and book three in The Cedric Series, The Oracle.

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Review: Demon Assassins Series, by Ann Gimpel Reply

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3.5 out of 5 Stars

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Review:

 Colleen, Roz and Jenna are the last 3 witches who have the power to kill demons and escort them to the ninth level of hell. I absolutely loved this trilogy and want more! The characters are extremely well written and the story captures your attention. Each book adds another layer to the characters and you want more. Of the three books, Witch’s Bounty, the first book, is my favorite. The introduction of the series and the characters draws you in and doesn’t let you go. There are scenes that made me laugh and cry. This series was one of the few that I was happy that I could binge read, since I didn’t want to stop reading it.
   There are a few authors that are my “go to” and Ms. Gimpel was just added to this list.
Reviewed by Angel
Our Blog was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Description:

One of three remaining demon assassin witches, Colleen is almost the last of her kind. Along with her familiar, a changeling spirit, she was hoping for a few months of quiet, running a small magicians’ supply store in Fairbanks, Alaska. Peace isn’t in the cards, though. Demons are raising hell in Seattle. She’s on her way to kick some serious demon ass, when a Sidhe shows up and demands she accompany him to England to quell a demon uprising.

Gutsy, opinionated, and outspoken, Colleen refuses to come. Witches need her help, and they trump everything else. Despite breaking a prime Sidhe precept concerning non-interference in mortals’ affairs, Duncan offers his assistance. Colleen fascinates him, and he wants to discover more about her. Lots more.

The Sidhe might be the best-looking man Colleen’s ever stumbled over, but she doesn’t have time for him—or much of anything else. She, Jenna, and Roz are Earth’s only hedge against being overrun by Hell’s minions. Even with help from a powerful magic wielder like Duncan, the odds aren’t good and the demons know it.

Sensing victory is within their grasp, they close in for the kill.

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Excerpt:

Rain worsened from a steady drizzle to a pounding, punishing deluge of icy sleet. Colleen Kelly strengthened the spell around herself. It sizzled where it ran up against the droplets. At least she wasn’t quite as wet as she would have been without its protection. Pavement glistened wetly in the last of the day’s light. It was just past three in the afternoon, but December days were short in the northern latitudes and Fairbanks was pretty far north.

“At least it’s not snowing,” she muttered as she pushed through a nearby glass-fronted door into the magicians’ supply store she owned with two other witches in the older part of downtown. Bells hanging around the door pealed discordantly. She sent a small jolt of magic to silence them.

“I heard that. Not the bells, but you. It’s supposed to snow this time of year. How could you possibly be pleased the weather patterns have gone to hell?”

Jenna Neil stalked over to the coatrack where Colleen stood. Blonde hair, hacked off at shoulder level, framed a gamine’s face and shrewd, hazel eyes. Jenna towered over Colleen’s six foot height by a good four inches, and her broad shoulders would’ve made most men jealous. Between her trademark high-heeled boots and a scruffy embroidered red cloak tossed over skintight blue jeans, she looked as exotic as the anti-hex hoop earrings dangling from each ear.

Colleen rolled her eyes, shook out her coat, and hung it on the rack. “Spare me your lecture about global warming, okay? It’s cold enough to snow. It just isn’t, for some reason.”

“Mmph.” The line of Jenna’s jaw tensed.

Indian spices wafted through the air, mingling with the scents of herbs, dried flowers, and desiccated body parts from small animals. Colleen’s stomach growled. Breakfast had been at six that morning—a long time ago. Pretty bad when even dried newt smelled like food.

“Did you cook something?” she asked. “And if you did, is there any left?”

A terse nod. Jenna turned away, walking fast. Colleen lengthened her normal stride to catch up. “Hey, sweetie. What happened? You can’t be in this big a snit over the weather.”

Jenna kept walking, heading for the small kitchen at the back of the store. “A lot of things. I was just having a cup of tea. Shop’s been dead today.” She disappeared behind a curtain.

Colleen glanced over one shoulder at the empty store. The phalanx of bells around the door would alert them if anyone stopped in. The minute she tugged the heavy, upholstery fabric that served as a kitchen door aside, the pungent tang of Irish whiskey made her eyes water. “You said tea.”

“Yeah, well I spiked it.”

Colleen grunted. “Smells like you took a bath in booze. What the fuck happened?” She grabbed the larger woman and spun her so they faced one another.

“We got another pay-your-tithe-or-die e-mail from our Coven.” Jenna’s nostrils flared in annoyance.

“So? That’s like the tenth one.” There were new policies none of them agreed with, so they’d joined with about twenty other witches and stopped paying the monthly stipend that supported their Coven’s hierarchy.

“It’s not what’s bothering me.” Jenna pulled free from Colleen, tipped her cup, and took a slug of what smelled like mostly liquor.

Colleen fought a desire to swat her. Getting to the point quickly had never been one of Jenna’s talents. She clamped her jaws together. “What is?”

“Roz called with…problems.” Jenna turned and started toward the steep staircase ladder leading to her bedroom above the shop.

“You can’t just drop that bomb and leave.” Colleen made another grab for Jenna to keep her in the kitchen. Worry for their friend ate at her. Of the three of them, Roz was by far the most volatile. “What happened? I thought she was in Missouri, or maybe it was Oklahoma, visiting that dishy dude she met online.”

“Didn’t work out.” The corners of Jenna’s mouth twisted downward.

Colleen quirked a brow, urging her friend to say more.

Jenna plowed on. “He only wanted her for her magic. Turned out he preferred men.”

“Aw, shit.” Colleen blew out a breath. “She must’ve been disappointed.”

Half a snorting laugh bubbled past Jenna’s lips. “Maybe now she is. At the time, furious would’ve been closer to the mark.”

Colleen’s throat tightened. “Crap! What’d she do? She didn’t hurt him, did she?”

“Not directly. She turned him over to the local Coven.”

“Thank God!” Colleen let go of Jenna and laid a hand over her heart. Roxanne Lantry was more than capable of killing anyone who pissed her off. It was how she ended up in Alaska. Roz hadn’t exactly been caught when her cheating husband and his two girlfriends went missing, but she hadn’t stuck around to encourage the authorities to question her, either.

Colleen and Jenna had already left Seattle when that little incident went down. Roz repressed her antipathy for Alaska’s legendary foul weather and joined them. Magically, she was strong as an ox, and she had a hell of a temper.

Colleen’s stomach growled again. Louder this time. It didn’t give a good goddamn about anything other than its empty state. She pushed past Jenna to the stove, lifted a lid, and peered into a battered aluminum pot. Curry blasted her. The spicy odor stung her eyes and made her nose run.

“Whew. Potent. Mind if I help myself?”

“Go ahead.” Jenna sat heavily in one of two chairs with a rickety wooden table between them. She picked up her mug and took another long swallow.

Dish in hand, Colleen slapped it on the table in front of the other chair and went in search of a mug of her own. There weren’t any clean ones, so she plucked one out of the sink and rinsed it. Back at the stove, she tipped the teakettle. Thick, amber liquid spilled from its stubby snout into her waiting mug. Jenna waggled the whiskey bottle in her direction.

“Nah.” Colleen settled at the table. “It would go right to my head. Maybe after I get some food on board.” She tucked in. After the first few mouthfuls, when the curry powder nearly annihilated her taste buds, the pea, potato, and ham mixture wasn’t half-bad.

Jenna drank steadily, not offering anything by way of conversation.

When Colleen’s dish was empty, she refilled her mug with tea, filched a couple of biscuits from the cupboard, and sat back down. “Are you going to talk to me?”

“I suppose so.” Jenna’s words slurred slightly.

Colleen cocked her head to one side. “I suggest you start now, before you forget how.”

“Oh, please.” Jenna blew out a breath, showering the small space with whiskey fumes. Colleen waited. The other witch could be stubborn. Wheedling, cajoling, or urging wouldn’t work until she was good and ready to talk.

Finally, after so long Colleen had nearly chewed a hole in her cheek, Jenna finally muttered, “Roz called.”

Colleen ground her teeth together. “You already said that. It’s how you knew what happened with the guy.”

Jenna nodded. “There’s more.” She picked up the whiskey, started to pour it into her mug, then apparently changed her mind and drank right from the bottle. “She’s in Seattle. Checked in with Witches’ Northwest, just to say hello, and because she wanted to touch base with people she’s known for a long time.”

Another long pause. Colleen batted back a compulsion spell. It wasn’t nice to use those on your friends. She shoved her hands under her bottom to reduce the temptation.

Jenna lowered her voice until Colleen had to strain to hear. “The Irichna demons are back.”

“But our last confrontation wasn’t all that long ago. Only a few months. Sometimes when we best them, they’ve stayed gone for years.”

Colleen shook her head. Even the sound of the word, Irichna, crackled against her ears, making them tingle unpleasantly. Irichna demons were the worst. Hands down, no contest. They worked for Abbadon, Demon of the Abyss. Evil didn’t get much worse than that. No wonder Jenna was drinking. Colleen held her hand out for the bottle—suddenly a drink seemed like a most excellent idea—and picked her words with care. “Did Roz actually sight one?”

“Yeah. She also asked if we could come and help. More than asked. She came as close to begging as I’ve ever heard her.”

“Erk. They have a whole Coven there. Several if you count all the ones in western Washington. Why do they need us?” Colleen belted back a stiff mouthful of whiskey. It burned a track all the way to her stomach where it did battle with all the curry she’d eaten.

Jenna just shot her a look. “You know why.”

Colleen swallowed again, hoping for oblivion, except it couldn’t come quick enough. She knew exactly why, but the answer stuck in her craw and threatened to choke her. The three of them were the last of a long line of demon assassins, witches with specialized powers, able to lure demons, immobilize them, and send them packing to the netherworld.

When things worked right.

They often didn’t, though, which was what killed off the other demon assassin witches. It didn’t help that demons as a group had been gathering power these last fifty years or so. Witches lived for a long time, but they were far from immortal, and demon assassin ability was genetic. She, Jenna, or Roz would have to produce children or that strain of magic would die out. So far, none of them had come anywhere close to identifying a guy who looked like husband material…

Colleen looked at her hands. Even absent a husband, none of them had a shred of domesticity. Certainly not enough to saddle themselves with offspring.

“What’s the matter?” Jenna grinned wickedly, clearly more than a little drunk. “Cat got your tongue too?”

As if on cue, a blood-curdling meow rose from a shadowed corner of the kitchen and Bubba, Colleen’s resident familiar, padded forward. When he was halfway to them, he gathered his haunches beneath him and sprang to the table. It rocked alarmingly, and Jenna made a grab for her cup. The large black cat skinned his lips back from his upper teeth, bared his incisors, and hissed.

“Oh, all right.” Colleen clamped her jaws tight and summoned the magic to shift Bubba to his primary form, a gnarled three-foot changeling.

The air shimmered around him. Before it cleared, he swiped the liquor out of her hand and drained the bottle.

“Would’ve been a good reason to leave you a cat,” Jenna mumbled.

He stood on the table and glared at both of them, elbows akimbo, bottle still dangling from his oversized fingers. “If you’re going to fight demons, you have to take me with you.”

“No, we don’t,” Colleen countered.

“You don’t follow directions well,” Jenna said pointedly.

“Isn’t that the truth?” Colleen rotated her head from side to side, starting to feel the whiskey. At least once when they’d humored the changeling, he’d almost gotten all of them killed. Problem was she couldn’t predict when he’d follow her orders, and when he’d decide on a different tack altogether. Then there were the times his fearlessness had saved them all.

Bubba might be a wildcard, but he was her wildcard.

“You forgot when I welcomed your spirit into my body—and kept it alive—while the healers worked on you.” Bubba eyed Colleen, sounding smug.

“If you hadn’t decided to play hero, and needed to be rescued, the demons wouldn’t have injured me.” Colleen winced at the sour undertone in her voice. That incident had happened five years before. Maybe it was time she got over it.

“Nevertheless.” He tossed his shaggy head, thick with hair as black as the cat’s. “When you conjured me from the barrows of Ireland, and bound me, we became a unit. You can’t go off and leave me here. It would be like leaving a part of yourself behind.” His dark eyes glittered with challenge.

“I hate to admit it—” Jenna sounded a little less drunk “—but he’s right.”

“See.” Bubba leered at them, jumped off the table, and waddled over to the stove with his bowlegged gait. Once there, he opened the oven, climbed onto its door, and peeked into the pot. He started to stick a hand inside.

“Hold it right there, bud.” Colleen got to her feet, covered the distance to the stove, and dished him up some of the curry mixture. “Get some clothes on and you can have this.”

He clambered down from his perch and over to several colorful canisters scattered around the house where she stashed outfits for him. Keeping Bubba clothed had been a huge problem until she’d hatched up a plan, and sewn him several pant and shirt combos with Velcro closures, since he didn’t like buttons or zippers.

The changeling dressed quickly and took the bowl from her. “I could’ve gotten my own food.”

“Better for the rest of us if you keep your paws out of the cook pot.” Jenna stood a bit unsteadily. “I’ll be right back.”

Bubba stuffed food into his mouth with his fingers. “Where’s she going?” His words came out garbled as he chewed open-mouthed.

Colleen looked away. “Probably to pee. Maybe to throw up. Um, look, Bubba, it might be wiser if we took a quick side trip to Ireland and released you.”

She glanced sidelong at the changeling spirit she’d summoned during a major demon war forty years before. He’d been truly helpful then, especially after he’d mastered English, which hadn’t taken him all that long. In the intervening time, he’d mostly clung to his feline form, eating and keeping their shop free of mice and rats. They’d lived in Seattle the first ten years or so after he joined them, relocating to Alaska to conceal their longevity. She dragged the heels of her hands down her face, feeling tired. It was getting close to time to move again, but she didn’t want to think about it.

Bubba shook his head emphatically. Food flew from the sides of his mouth. He scooped a glob off the floor and ate it anyway. “I have to agree to being released. I don’t want to go back to my barrow. I like it much better here.”

Colleen sucked in a hollow breath, blew it out, and did it again. Bubba was right. Rules were rules. He’d had a choice at the front end. He could’ve refused her. Witches respected all living creatures. The ones on the good side of the road, anyway. No forced servitude for their familiars, despite rumors to the contrary.

Jenna lurched back into the kitchen looking a little green. “You okay?” Colleen asked.

“Yeah. I drank too much, that’s all.” She rinsed her mug at the sink, refilled it with tap water, and sat back down. “Did you two come up with a plan?”

“I’m going.” Bubba left his dish on the floor and vaulted back onto the table.

Jenna rolled red-rimmed eyes. “That was the discussion when I left.”

“Your point?” Colleen swallowed irritation.

“Nothing.” The other witch sounded sullen, but maybe she just didn’t feel well.

“I offered to free him—” Colleen began.

“I refused,” Bubba cut in. He shook his head. “No recognition for all my years of loyal service. Tsk. You should be—”

“Stuff it.” Jenna glared at him. “We have bigger problems than your wounded ego.”

He stuck out his lower lip, looking injured as only a changeling spirit could, but he didn’t say anything else.

“I suppose we have to go to Seattle,” Colleen muttered, half to herself.

“Don’t see any way around it.” Jenna worried her lower lip between her teeth.

“What exactly did Roz say?”

“We didn’t talk long. Her cellphone battery was almost dead.” A muscle twitched beneath Jenna’s eye. “She’d just stopped in at Coven Headquarters and the group mobbed her. Said we had to come. They’ve already lost about twenty witches to stealth demon attacks.”

Colleen’s heart skipped a few beats. Twenty witches was a lot. Maybe a quarter of the Witches’ Northwest Coven. “Crap. When did the attacks start?”

“Only a few days ago. They’d planned to call us, but saw it as goddess intervention when Roz showed up.”

“Damn that Oklahoma cowboy.” Colleen pounded a fist into her open palm. “If his Coven doesn’t flatten him, I will.”

“He wasn’t a cowboy.” Jenna’s voice held a flat, dead sound. “He was supposed to be a witch. You know, like us.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Do you want to close things up here, or should I try to get someone from our Coven to fill in at the shop?” Jenna looked pale, but the tipsy aspect had left her face.

Colleen shook her head. “We haven’t sold enough in the last few weeks to make it worthwhile to pay someone to clerk for us.”

“Okay.” Jenna’s hazel eyes clouded with worry. “When do you want to leave?”

“If you asked Witches’ Northwest, we probably should’ve left three days ago.”

“How are we getting there?” Bubba squared his hunched shoulders as much as he could and eyed Colleen.

“Excellent question.” Jenna looked at Colleen too.

She raised her hands in front of her face, palms out. “Stop it, you two. I can’t deal with the pressure.” Colleen clamped her jaws together and considered their options. Roz already had a car in Seattle. It didn’t make sense to drive their other one down, plus it would take too long. Flying with Bubba was impossible. He looked too odd in his gnome form and his cat form didn’t do well with the pressure changes. They had to teleport, which would seriously deplete their magic and mean they couldn’t fight so much as a disembodied spirit for at least twenty-four hours after they arrived.

Jenna screwed her face into an apologetic scowl, apparently having come to the same conclusion. “Look, I’m sorry I’m not more help. There’s something about that particular mix of earth, fire, and air that I always bungle.”

Air whistled through Colleen’s teeth. It had been so long since they’d teleported anywhere, she’d almost forgotten Jenna’s ineptitude with the requisite spell. “How about this? You go down to the basement and practice. I’ll get a few things together…”

“What do you want me to do?” Bubba asked.

“You can help me,” Jenna said. “I’ll do better if I have an object to practice with.”

The changeling scrunched his low forehead into a mass of wrinkles. “Just don’t get me lost.”

“Even if she does, I’ll be able to find you.” Colleen tried to sound reassuring. She was fond of her familiar. In many ways, he was very childlike.

Heh! Maybe that’s why I’ve been so reluctant to have a kid. I already have one who’ll never grow up.

The bells around the shop door clanged a discordant riot of notes. “Crap!” Jenna shot to her feet. “First customer in two days. I should’ve locked the damn door.”

“Back to cat form.” Colleen flicked her fingers at Bubba, who shrank obligingly and slithered out of clothing, which puddled around him. She snatched up his shirt and pants and dropped them back into the canister.

“I say,” a strongly accented male voice called out. “Is anyone here?”

“I’ll take care of the Brit,” Colleen mouthed. “Take Bubba to the basement and practice.”

She got to her feet and stepped past the curtain. “Yes?” She gazed around the dimly lit store for their customer.

A tall, powerfully built man, wearing dark slacks and a dark turtleneck, strode toward her, a woolen greatcoat slung over one arm. His white-blond hair was drawn back into a queue. Arresting facial bones—sculpted cheeks, strong jaw, high forehead—captured her attention and stole her breath. He was quite possibly the most gorgeous man she’d ever laid eyes on. Discerning green eyes zeroed in on her face, caught her gaze, and held it. Magic danced around him in a numinous shroud. Strong magic.

What was he?

And then she knew. Daoine Sidhe. The man had to be Sidhe royalty. No wonder he was so stunning it almost hurt to look at him.

Colleen held her ground. She placed her feet shoulder width apart and crossed her arms over her chest. “What can I help you with?”

“Colleen Kelly?”

Okay, so he knows who I am. Doesn’t mean a thing. He’s Sidhe. Could’ve plucked my name right out of my head.

“That would be me. How can I help you?” she repeated, burying a desire to lick nervously at her lips.

“Time is short. I’ve been hunting you for a while now. Come closer, witch. We need to talk.”

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Description:

Last of the demon assassin witches, Roz, Jenna, and Colleen have escaped disaster so far, but their luck is running low. Demons strike in the midst of Colleen’s wedding, and Roz launches desperate measures. As she shape-shifts to keep one step ahead of evil, at least it takes her mind off her other problems. Personal ones. She burned through a couple of marriages and hooked up with a string of loser men before, after, and in between. Though she wants to be happy for Colleen, the jealousy bug bit deep and hasn’t let go.

In Roz’s secret heart, she’s attracted to Ronin, one of the Daoine Sidhe. He’s so profanely beautiful she can barely breathe around him, but he’s also headstrong and arrogant. Not good partner material—unless she wants to end up dusting her heart off one more time.

Ronin set his sights on Roz the day he met her, and he can’t get her out of his mind. Unfortunately, she’s so prickly getting close to her requires scheming. He casts an enchantment to lure her at Colleen’s wedding, but she senses the spell and calls him on it. Demons swarm out of the ether before he can come up with another strategy. Killing them trumps everything.

Roz is used to calling the shots. So is Ronin. Sparks fly. Tempers run hot, right along with an attraction too heady to ignore.

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Excerpt:

Roxanne Lantry—Roz to everyone who knew her—paced up and down the sodden lawn outside the huge old Victorian that housed the Witches’ Northwest Coven headquarters in Seattle. Rain pelted her from beneath a gunmetal sky, but it was better out here than inside. She fought an unfamiliar thickening at the back of her throat and balled her hands into fists.

“I will not cry,” she muttered to an inquisitive ground squirrel that ran across her boot tops, but telling herself and controlling her emotions were two different things.

One of her two best friends, Colleen Kelly, would be getting married in less than half an hour. Roz had been inside, in the midst of all the bride-craziness, but seeing Colleen swathed in cream-colored lace sent her into a tailspin.

What the fuck is wrong with me?

She kicked at a hummock of grass and yelped when it didn’t move, but the pain from her stubbed toes helped her focus. If she was honest, not an easy task when men were involved, she knew exactly what was bothering her.

“Yeah,” she mouthed the words, lecturing herself. “Two failed marriages and a whole bunch of loser dudes before, after, and in between. I’m jealous and I need a good, swift boot in the backside. Just because Colleen finally stumbled across Mr. Right doesn’t lower my odds of ever finding someone who’s gorgeous and magical and worships me.”

Now if I could only believe that…

Roz was happy for Colleen and Duncan, the Daoine Sidhe she was marrying. They made a great couple, but surely there was enough connubial bliss in the universe to sprinkle a little her way too. Her last go-round with a strikingly handsome Oklahoman she’d met online had ended in fireworks when he’d admitted all he really wanted was to tap into her magical ability. When the rubber met the road, he didn’t even like women. Her stomach churned. She hated being made a fool of. She’d turned the guy in to his Coven for false advertising and laying a trap to delude a fellow magic wielder, but she doubted they’d done much to censure him.

Water dripped off her nose. She stuck out her lower lip and blew upward, but the rain kept on dripping. Roz shook her fist at the low-hanging clouds, recognizing it for displacement activity. What she really wanted to do was pound her fist through the Oklahoman’s nice, straight nose.

Enough of this. Give it a rest. That happened months ago.

For Christ’s sake, I need to get moving, go inside, and trade my jeans and serape for fancy duds.

Roz took a few deep breaths to settle her angst. She couldn’t show her tear-stained face to the world. She’d never live it down. When she closed her eyes, the Oklahoma asshole formed behind her lids, taunting her. Roz clenched her jaw and summoned a calming spell. It seemed like cheating, but time was short. As the wispy edges of magic caught her up, they soothed her frazzled nerves and she turned hard right and headed for the house at a brisk trot.

She, Colleen, and Jenna Neil were the last of a long line of demon assassins. Witches with specialized powers, they lured Irichna demons, immobilized them, and sent them packing to the netherworld. When things worked right, she and her sister witches—along with Colleen’s familiar—shanghaied the demons and locked them behind the gate guarding the Ninth Circle of Hell.

The demons didn’t go without a fight, though, which was what had killed off the other demon assassin witches. It didn’t help that demons as a group had been gathering power these last fifty years or so. Witches lived a long time, but they were far from immortal, and demon assassination ability was genetic. She, Jenna, or Colleen would have to produce children or that strain of magic would die out. None of them had a shred of domesticity, so no one had signed up for motherhood. At least not yet.

I can’t put two weeks together without a major demon battle these days. How the hell could I take time off to raise a kid?

Rain ran down her neck and Roz shivered. Thinking about demons chilled her bones. Realizing she’d stopped walking, she plodded toward the house again and forced her thoughts to the magicians’ supply store she owned with Colleen and Jenna in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The other two witches had moved there months ahead of her. She hated the idea of all that snow and cold and winter nights that lasted twenty hours, but she’d boxed herself into a dicey situation and hadn’t had much choice. Her temper, never very controllable on a good day, had gotten the better of her, and she made short work of her cheating husband and his two—yup, count ’em—girlfriends. After that, she’d packed up and headed her aging Subaru north. Next stop, Fairbanks…

That had happened a few years ago. So many, it was almost time to move on before anyone noticed she and the other witches didn’t seem to grow any older.

Roz shook her head, not wanting to go there, either. She forced her mind back to the special skill she shared with Colleen and Jenna. She hated to admit it, but demons held the high cards these days, and she had no idea how to even the odds.

Aren’t I just the queen of cheerful?

She gave herself a mental shake with instructions to snap out of her funk.

Roz made it to the huge house and tugged on one of the ground level doors. When it didn’t open, she hit it with a jolt of magic, and the deadbolt snicked aside. She stopped long enough to shake water off her and then loped down a long corridor with a concrete floor toward one of the old mansion’s many stairwells. Fluorescent lights, recessed into the ceiling, gave off a sickly yellow gleam that matched her sour mood.

She’d just begun climbing upward when a rush of footsteps sounded from the hallway below.

“There you are,” Bubba, Colleen’s familiar, cried out and leapt up the stairs after her.

Roz glanced over a shoulder and saw he was in his normal form: a three-foot-tall changeling with oversized feet, long arms, and a bow-legged gait. His shaggy, black hair had been brushed until it shone, and his dark eyes glittered mischievously. Colleen had a hell of a time keeping him dressed, but today he sported black pants and a black jacket over a white shirt.

“Yes,” Roz countered, still feeling out of sorts. “Here I am. The question is why aren’t you upstairs with everyone else?”

“Colleen got worried. She sent me to hunt you down.” Bubba crossed his arms over his chest, looking pleased with himself.

Roz rolled her eyes. “Bubba, look—”

“Uh-uh.” He uncrossed his arms and waggled a finger at her. “Niall. Remember, you all promised to use my real name from now on.”

“So we did. Crap! I don’t have time for this.” She unkinked her neck and trudged upward.

“No kidding,” he agreed. “Everyone’s here, and you’re not even dressed yet.”

Rather than focus on her shortcomings, Roz changed the subject. “You’re looking pretty spiffy, bud.”

“Do you like it?”

“What I saw of it. It’s sort of like a black tuxedo, but with Velcro instead of buttons.”

“I hate buttons.”

Roz grinned in spite of herself. “I know you do, sweetie.”

She came to the third floor landing and pushed the stairwell door open, holding it for the changeling. “Run and tell Colleen I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes.” Without waiting for an answer, she walked briskly halfway down the long hall and let herself into her bedroom. Locking the door behind her, she unlaced her wet boots and toed them off. Next she shucked her sodden clothes, ducked into the bathroom, and gathered strands of coal black hair, pulling it into a ponytail with both hands. Once she had her hair together, she wrapped her head in a towel. She didn’t believe in hair dryers, so once she’d soaked as much water as she could into the towel, she grabbed her comb, made several sections, and plaited her knee-length, straight-as-a-stick hair, weaving it into a pseudo-French braid.

Before she left the bathroom, she inspected her face in the mirror. She never wore makeup because it made her look like a clown. Her bronzed skin and stark bone structure declared her Native American blood more clearly than words could have. She smoothed her eyebrows with a few drops of water and considered which of two outfits to wear. Colleen had said it didn’t matter to her, so long as Roz didn’t show up in her usual tattered blue jeans and combat boots.

With a snort of amusement, she padded back into the bedroom and pulled a long, beaded black buckskin skirt off a hanger. She stepped into it and laced the side fastening. Next came a turquoise deerskin top, also beaded, that clung to her like a second skin. In addition to not bothering with makeup, she also didn’t care for underthings, so the outline of her breasts was clearly visible through the soft leather. She slipped a heavy silver and turquoise necklace over her head, arranging her braid on top of it, and grabbed a matching ring off the dresser.

The only thing left was her moccasins. Roz wriggled her feet into them, enjoying the way the deerskin warmed and hugged her feet. Jenna always wore high heels, but Roz had never understood how she could tolerate them. They’d had a few heated discussions years ago before Roz finally gave up.

“To each her own,” she told the mirror. Satisfied she looked presentable, she focused the threads of her calming spell, strengthened it a bit to make certain she’d last through the ceremony without breaking down and bawling like an idiot, and let herself into the hallway.

The buzz of a crowd reached her from the main floor. She glanced toward the stairs and then the other way, wondering if Colleen was still up here. Figuring it couldn’t hurt to find out, she walked two doors down and knocked. The door flew open almost immediately and she looked into an accusing set of pale blue eyes.

“It’s about fucking time,” Colleen exclaimed. Auburn hair with lily of the valley woven into it swirled around her, falling to waist level. At six feet, Colleen was normally a good four inches shorter than Roz, but today she wore heels and they were of a height.

“Huh?” Roz murmured, confused. “I almost went downstairs. I had no idea you were waiting for me.”

“We’d planned to all go down together.” Colleen sounded sullen. “You know, like a proper wedding party.”

“If we were all that proper,” Roz said, “Jenna and I would be wearing matching—”

Jenna made chopping motions with both hands and unfolded her well-rounded frame from off the bed. Blonde hair, hacked off at shoulder level, framed a gamine’s face with shrewd, hazel eyes. Rather than her standard, thrift store couture, today she wore a short beige silk skirt, a lacy blouse, and her trademark high-heeled boots. Huge, golden hoops graced her ears.

She walked to Roz’s side and looped an arm through hers. “Don’t think anything of it. The bride—” she waved an airy hand Colleen’s way “—has been antsy as a scalded cat all day.”

Colleen closed her teeth together with an audible clack. “Maybe I’m making a mistake.”

Roz and Jenna turned to stare at her. “What?” Jenna asked, incredulous.

“Hey, if you don’t want him—” Roz began.

“No shit,” Jenna interrupted. “Tall, blond, drop dead gorgeous. Those green eyes are to die for and those shoulders.” She made panting noises. “The couple of times I saw him without a shirt, I almost came just watching his muscles rustle beneath his skin when he walked.”

Colleen rolled her eyes. “You two are impossible. Can’t a bride have a case of jitters without her two closest friends turning into vultures?”

“No.” Roz looked down her nose at Colleen. “Considering how long and hard I’ve hunted for decent partner material…” She let her words trail off before the extent of her jealousy leaked out.

The door blew inward and Bubba marched in, hands on his hips. “Come on. Everyone’s ready.” He lowered his voice, but not by much. “I think Duncan’s worried that you—” he pointed at Colleen “—got cold feet.”

“She nearly did,” Jenna muttered.

“Aw, crap. Guess I need to go tell everyone the wedding’s off.” Bubba did an about face, but before he could sprint through the open door, Colleen snatched him up.

“You’ll do no such thing.” She swallowed audibly. “I’m ready. I guess.”

“Let go of me.” Bubba writhed in her grasp.

“Not before you promise to keep your mouth shut.”

Roz smirked. Circumspection was not exactly the changeling’s long suit. She walked to Bubba’s other side. “I’ll take him.” She held out her arms.

“I can walk,” the changeling said with a great deal of dignity, “as soon as Colleen lets go of me.”

“You haven’t promised,” Colleen said. “Please, sweetie. It’s important to me. A girl needs to have some things stay private.”

He blew out an annoyed sounding breath. “All right. I promise.” Colleen relaxed her grip. Shaking himself like a dog might have, the gnome-like changeling chuckled. “Too bad. Something like that’s a prime piece of gossip.”

Colleen broke into a broad grin. “Right up your alley, eh?”

Roz made shooing motions. “Let’s get going. You don’t want all that food the Sidhe catered to get cold do you?”

“I don’t care about food,” Colleen mumbled. “I’m so nervous I probably won’t be able to eat a thing.”

“Well I do,” Jenna said. “I’m with Roz. Let’s get this show on the road.”

“Have a couple belts of whiskey,” Roz suggested. “It’ll do wonders for your nerves.”

The hallway air brightened and shimmered. When it cleared, Titania, Queen of Faerie, shook floor-length silvery hair out of her ice blue eyes and pushed it over her shoulders. A diaphanous gown, more jewels than fabric, floated around her tall, thin frame. “Is there some problem?” she inquired with asperity, and her gaze zeroed in on Colleen.

Colleen half curtseyed.

Roz considered it, but didn’t because Titania wasn’t her queen.

“No problem at all.” Colleen inclined her head. “We were just on our way.”

The Queen of Faerie’s severe expression softened. “Thank the goddess. For a minute there, I was afraid you were going to break Duncan’s heart.” She strode forward and thumped Colleen’s chest with a bony forefinger. “If you ever hurt that boy, I’ll hunt you down and make you very sorry.”

“That boy—” Colleen held the queen’s gaze “—is a thousand-year-old man.”

Titania furled her perfect silver brows. “Details. Besides, it’s rude to contradict me. Privilege of age and rank and all that. Let’s go. I haven’t performed a marriage in centuries. I’m quite looking forward to it.”

Colleen’s eyes widened. “I thought Naomi, the leader of this Coven, was going to join Duncan and me.”

“We both have roles to play.” Titania’s mouth twitched. “Surely you didn’t think I’d let one of my own be bound in marriage without my magic involved.”

“I have no idea what I thought,” Colleen managed, but she looked ready to throttle the queen.

Before things got any tenser and Colleen started in about it being her wedding, Roz herded them out the door and down the hallway. Colleen stopped for a moment at the head of the stairway, tension rolling off her in waves.

Roz wrapped an arm around her. “It will be fine,” she whispered. “Just fine.” After a quick hug, she let go.

As if those six words did the trick—or maybe it was the hug—Colleen swept down the long, curved staircase, looking regal. Roz, Jenna, and Titania jostled one another as they made their way down the twenty-five steps. Bubba made an end run around them and fell in behind Colleen, where he picked up her lace train.

They marched through the dining area where caterers and witches bustled about laying out a spread of food that smelled delicious, into a large, luxurious room that took up much of the bottom floor of the old Victorian. At one point, they’d talked about having the ceremony outside, but the weather put the kibosh on that idea. Roz wondered why they’d wasted their breath even considering an out-of-doors event. It was the winter solstice in Seattle. She bet there’d never been one when it wasn’t raining like crazy—or snowing.

Chairs lined the wood-paneled great room, and a fire burned merrily in a huge stone fireplace that took up one end of the sumptuous space. Old-fashioned chandeliers were festooned with hundreds of blazing candles. Witches sat on one side of a center aisle, Daoine Sidhe on the other. Roz guessed between three and four hundred people were in attendance—more Sidhe than witches. Everyone turned in their seats to stare at Colleen, and a collective aaaaah surged through the room.

Roz clamped down on a grin. Colleen really did make a lovely bride, with her Irish complexion and red tresses. The creamy lace dress was perfect. White would have made her look washed out. Titania strode around all of them and took her place at the head of the room. Roz noted with amusement that Naomi held her ground when Titania tried to push her to one side.

Before she and Jenna left Colleen to find their seats, her gaze landed on Duncan—Lord Regis—and her heart nearly stopped. All Sidhe had an ethereal beauty, but Duncan practically glowed. Dressed in a black tuxedo with a crimson cummerbund and diamond studs, he cut an impressive figure with his high forehead, sculpted cheekbones, and strong jaw. Longish blond hair had been braided in tight rows, but the severe style suited him and make him look like an ancient warrior.

Roz averted her gaze, afraid he’d catch her staring, but he only had eyes for his bride. She said a quick prayer asking the goddess’s blessing on their union and turned toward the witches’ side of the room.

Because Ronin came up from her other side, she didn’t notice the Sidhe leader until he wove an arm around her shoulders. “I saved you a chair next to me.”

Her heart slammed into double-time rhythm. She’d met Ronin two weeks before at his castle in northern England, and they’d shared several spirited conversations over meals. Something magical and electric had sparked between them, but she’d chalked it up to everyone’s emotions running full tilt. She’d just escaped demons by the skin of her teeth, and he was dealing with shame or guilt—or whatever he felt—about forcing witches into being demon assassins two centuries before. While his attentiveness had been welcome—and more than a little flattering—she’d been more focused on her relief at being alive than anything else. Besides, after the Oklahoman, she’d sworn off men—forever.

Ronin smiled, not looking anything but glad to see her, and her heart did a funny little flip-flop, in addition to beating much too fast. Dark hair hung loose to his shoulders, and his blue eyes twinkled warmly. Every bit as handsome as Duncan, he was dressed in formal clothing, black with a blue cummerbund, and what might have been ruby studs.

“I can’t,” she whispered. “I’m supposed to sit over there.” She gestured in the general direction of the witches’ side of the room.

“No one will notice,” he assured her and hooked his hand beneath her arm.

Roz didn’t fully understand why she let him guide her to a padded straight-backed chair near the front of the room and help her into it, but there was something irresistible about his energy. Too late, she recognized a mild compulsion spell. Anger spiked, but now wasn’t the place to give in to it. With every shred of self-discipline at her disposal, she forced her attention to Duncan and Colleen reciting their vows, and to Naomi, who’d muscled her way in before Titania could get rolling.

When Ronin draped an arm around her shoulders, she shot him a harsh look that made him move it damned fast. Good, she thought. It’s about time the Sidhe realize their days of pushing witches around are over. Yes, he was gorgeous, and he seemed interested in her, but the last thing she needed was some overbearing mage mucking things up. She still wasn’t quite certain how Colleen’s marriage to Duncan would impact her and Jenna. They’d always been kind of like The Three Musketeers, demon style. The permanent addition of a Sidhe was bound to have some effect. Exactly what was hard to gauge.

Who am I kidding? We didn’t just get Duncan. We’re stuck with his kinfolk now too. All of them.

She bit back a sigh. If the series of meetings a couple of weeks before in the U.K. was any indication, she, Jenna, and Colleen would have to fight to be recognized as anything remotely close to equal.

Roz snuck a glance at Ronin. He sat straight in his seat, his profile heartbreakingly beautiful. His long-fingered hands were clasped together in his lap. She couldn’t stop herself from wondering what they’d feel like stroking her body. Warm. Electric. Compelling.

Maybe I should give him a chance, a tiny, inner voice piped up.

Bosh.

Roz tried for a stern note, but the other part of her brain wouldn’t shut up.

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Description:

Jenna’s a special witch, sort of, when her magic works, which it often doesn’t. One of three remaining demon assassins, she and her sister witches, Roz and Colleen, are Earth’s only hedge against being overrun by Hell’s minions. On the heels of Roz’s and Colleen’s weddings, Jenna is headed for the U.K. when a demon confronts her. Any other witch could teleport out of the plane, but not her.

Frustration about her limited power eats at her. It would be pathetic to get killed for lack of skills a teenager could master.

Tristan is a Sidhe warrior, but his primary gift is attunement to others’ emotions. He fell hard for Jenna, but hasn’t had an opportunity to act on their attraction beyond a few kisses because she returned to Alaska, and he’s been in the field fighting demons.

As seer for the Sidhe, Kiernan is haunted by visions, particularly an apocalyptic sending that seems to be coming true. A confirmed bachelor, he doesn’t understand his attraction to Jenna, but it’s so strong he can’t fight it. After a while, he doesn’t even try, despite recognizing Tristan’s claim to her.

Startling truths surface about Jenna’s magic, and then there’s the problem that she’s falling in love with two very different men. At first she believes she has to pick one of them, but her spirit refuses to walk away from either. It’s impossible to choose between a seer with dreams in his eyes and a beautiful man who intuits her every need. Standing on the verge of Earth’s destruction, will she defy convention and follow the song in her heart?

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Excerpt:

Jenna Neil sank heavily onto her airplane seat and kicked off her high heels, shoving them beneath the seat in front of her. With a small sigh of relief, she rotated her ankles to take the pressure off her aching arches. She’d always loved heels—the higher the better—and insisted on wearing them, never mind they definitely lacked a comfort factor. Once she’d shot past six feet, she figured it didn’t matter if she added a few inches to her already overbearing height.

A flight attendant leaned over to hand her a pillow and blanket. Jenna tucked the pillow behind her head as she listened to the safety briefing and estimates of their arrival time in London.

She closed her eyes, but it didn’t ease how tired and gritty they felt, and smoothed her too-short denim skirt down her thighs. A red wool sweater and matching denim jacket finished off her outfit. She’d been so excited about getting out of Alaska and away from the layers she was forced to wear through the winter, she’d probably underdressed for the current jaunt. Less trendy clothes were tucked in her checked luggage, but they weren’t exactly accessible.

The last few days hadn’t offered much opportunity for rest. She, Colleen Kelly-Regis, and Roxanne Lantry-Redstone—Roz to everyone who knew her well—were the last of the demon assassin witches. Having escaped Irichna demons by a ridiculously narrow margin—again—the three of them were on their way to the U.K. where they could do it all over again.

Jenna grinned ruefully. Demons running amok through the British countryside had thrown witches and the Daoine Sidhe together after two hundred years of enmity. It had also netted impossibly hunky husbands for her sister witches, but that was beside the point. Staying alive was a much more front and center problem.

Because Irichna demons had become so much more aggressive, everyone but her thought it would be best to travel separately. She hadn’t agreed, but she’d been the one dissenting vote. As far as Jenna was concerned, there was always strength in numbers, but the others were convinced their current strategy would confuse the demons long enough for everyone to regroup on the eastern side of the Atlantic. Colleen and Roz were teleporting with their husbands. Niall, Colleen’s Irish changeling familiar, was making his own way back home along with two Scottish changelings, Llyr and Krae. Jenna had never been much good at teleporting, so she’d opted to fly commercial. It would place her arrival at least twelve hours after everyone else, but she could live with that. At least the first leg of her journey, from Fairbanks to Seattle, and thence to New York, had been uneventful.

Thinking about Irichna made her shiver, so she unfolded her blanket and draped it around her shoulders. Demons didn’t get much worse than Irichna. As Abbadon’s chosen henchmen, they played for keeps, and Abbadon was the biggest and baddest of Hell’s denizens, so nothing was off limits. Demon assassin witches had been a craw in his throat for a long time, and lately he’d upped the ante to get rid of them—permanently.

Them means me, and I’d do well not to forget that.

Jenna blew out a weary breath. One of her not-so-distant ancestors had been forced into demon containment two hundred years ago by the Sidhe, breaking every rule that bound magic-wielders, but the Sidhe hadn’t cared. In the intervening years, demons had managed to kill every single witch with demon-assassin ability—except for her, Roz, and Colleen. The Sidhe were primed to take back some responsibility for ferrying Irichna to the Ninth Circle of Hell where the gatekeeper locked them away, but that hadn’t exactly happened yet.

She gritted her teeth and unclenched hands she’d balled into fists around the edge of the thin airline blanket. The aircraft backed out of its slip and headed for one of the many runways at JFK Airport. While it would be lovely to have help with the demons, working with the Sidhe held its own set of problems. For one thing, most of them were insufferably autocratic, which was how Jenna’s great-grandmother had ended up being suckered into picking up the demon banner in the first place.

Even though Titania, Queen of Faerie, appeared marginally tolerant of Colleen’s and Roz’s marriages to Sidhe now, she’d given Duncan quite a bit of grief over his proposed marriage to Colleen at the front end of things. By the time Ronin, the de facto Sidhe leader, made it clear he’d set his sights on Roz, Titania had backed down a few notches, probably because they were beset by Irichna.

Jenna thinned her lips into a hard line. Hundreds of years before, Ronin’s human partner had died in childbirth, and the child along with her. Apparently, both the Queen and King of Faerie made it clear Ronin had sunk himself by choosing to marry someone outside his race. In the face of their indifference, Ronin had carried his grief alone.

It’s just like it is with humans. Everybody’s got to have somebody to look down on…

Jenna tamped back a cynical grin. The Sidhe had made strides accepting other races, but they had a way to go before they moved beyond their intolerant past.

Jenna pictured her friends’ husbands, and a small sigh escaped. Like all the Daoine Sidhe, Duncan Regis and Ronin Redstone were heartbreakingly stunning. Duncan’s blond good looks and green eyes provided a counterpart for Ronin’s dark hair and deep blue gaze. When Jenna scratched the surface and did a little soul-searching, she had to admit she’d never expected to find a permanent partner. Girls like her—well rounded and obscenely tall—weren’t exactly in demand. Colleen was beautiful with her waist length auburn hair and pale blue eyes, and Roz was unusual and striking. Her Native American heritage and long, lean frame turned heads whenever she passed by.

Guess I’m the odd witch out these days…

Jenna pressed her lips together. It remained to be seen how her friends’ marriages would impact their lives. Some things would have to change because she couldn’t quite envision Duncan and Ronin simply moving in to her Fairbanks, Alaska, home along with their new wives. For one thing, all the Sidhe maintained amazing abodes in the U.K. Places that resembled castles more than houses.

Jenna reined in her thoughts. There were a lot of unknowns, but the main problem would be surviving the next few weeks. Once they got the Irichna on the run—if that were even possible—then she could figure out more prosaic things, like if she’d be the only one still living in Fairbanks and running their magicians’ supply shop. Before the thought even finished forming, she knew that arrangement wouldn’t work. She, Roz, and Colleen had to stay together, and if the others insisted on remaining in the U.K., well then she wouldn’t have much choice in the matter. If she returned to Alaska by herself, she’d be a sitting duck for Irichna to swoop down and overpower her.

She shivered again and considered asking for a second blanket.

In an attempt to divert herself and maybe unwind, though it seemed unlikely, Jenna started to push her seat back and then remembered she wasn’t supposed to quite yet. The plane’s engines were revving, but they hadn’t left the ground. She heard the captain instruct the flight attendants to prepare the cabin for takeoff and tried to relax in her plush first-class seat. If the goddess was good to her, maybe she’d catch a few hours of sleep before the plane landed.

A flurry of supernatural energy caught the edges of her attention, and Jenna’s gut twisted into a sour knot. She sat up straight and craned her neck to scan the cabin, defensive magic at the ready. Her eyes widened in disbelief as Krae’s unmistakable form shimmered into being, and the changeling bounded into the empty seat next to Jenna. Her long, bright red hair hung loose, and her eyes shone like emeralds. Krae’s stocky body was draped in wide-bottomed green silk pants and an embroidered black tunic. As was usual with changelings, her feet were bare. The creatures drew their power from the earth, and Jenna assumed they didn’t want layers of leather or rubber or neoprene between themselves and their magical well. With their three-foot height, broad shoulders, and longish arms, they looked like a missing link between humans and the great apes.

“What are you doing here?” Jenna kept her voice low.

“Don’t worry,” Krae replied, not exactly answering Jenna’s question. “No one can see me except you.”

“Where are Niall and Llyr?”

“Niall joined Colleen and Duncan, and Llyr is with Roz and Ronin.”

Of course, why didn’t I think of that?

Jenna cleared her throat. “Why did you make different plans?”

Krae cocked her head to one side and crinkled her gnome-like face, making her look even more outlandish. “We discussed it and decided you might need help.” A corner of her mouth curved into a frown. “Personally, I thought it was a bit overdrawn, but Niall was most insistent about remaining with Colleen.”

“Can he join her teleport spell after it’s already set in motion?” Jenna was curious, but if Krae could teleport into this aircraft, maybe the other two could tap into a spell she’d always considered sacrosanct.

“Not directly, but he communicated with Colleen telepathically, and she altered her destination to pick him up. Llyr did the same with Roz and Ronin.” Krae dusted her palms together and grinned. “Nothing easier.” The changeling swept her agate-green gaze around the first-class cabin. “When will they feed us?”

“As soon as we pass through ten thousand feet, which won’t be long since we just took off.” Jenna paused for a beat. “If you weren’t thrilled about the plans to get to the U.K., why didn’t you speak up back in Alaska?”

“We did. No one listened to us. Roz and Ronin were so wrapped up in lust and pawing at each other, all they wanted to do was get to his manor house as fast as they could.”

“Well, they did just get married,” Jenna pointed out in defense of her friend. “And I don’t recall anyone but me voicing concerns about splitting up to travel.”

“That’s because you weren’t paying attention, either. Look, sweetie, if the Irichna win, no one will be tupping anyone.” Despite being much shorter than Jenna, the changeling managed to send a withering glance her way.

“Point taken.” Jenna shot an equally scathing glance back. “Next time, if you feel strongly about something and no one’s paying attention, talk louder.”

“Rehashing the past is a waste of time.” Krae bounced up and down in her seat. Jenna considered telling her to fasten her seatbelt, but if no one could see her, there wasn’t much point. “Be sure to take everything they offer foodwise,” the changeling instructed. “I’m hungry.”

“Shouldn’t be a problem since I’m not.” Jenna lapsed into silence.

“Why so glum, witchy girl?” Krae trained her ancient eyes, which probably didn’t miss a trick, on Jenna.

“Oh, no particular reason.” Jenna stifled a snort and rolled her eyes. “I find facing death several times a day downright exhilarating.”

A bell sounded, and the fasten seat belt icon winked out. Moments later, the first-class cabin flight attendant leaned close. “Are you all right?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Jenna snapped and then winced at how surly she sounded.

“I heard you talking and thought maybe you needed something.” The flight attendant smiled encouragingly. Airlines had moved past using Barbie clones long since, and this woman was middle-aged with streaks of gray in her dark, shoulder-length hair, the beginnings of wrinkles around her blue eyes, and a kind expression.

“Food,” Krae prodded, not bothering with telepathic speech.

“Thanks for being concerned.” Jenna managed a genuine smile for the cabin attendant. “I am hungry, so snacks would be appreciated whenever you get around to serving.”

“Of course.” The woman smiled back. “I’m Suzanne.” She tapped the nametag hanging around her neck. “Just press your call button if you need anything. Other than that, relax and enjoy your flight.”

“You could’ve been a bit more assertive about our dinner,” Krae complained.

“I’m guessing they can’t hear you, either.” Jenna switched to telepathic speech.

“Of course they can’t.” Krae blew out an annoyed-sounding breath. “Look, witchy-girl, draw a spot of magic and shield your speech. That way no one will bother us, and we can talk.”

Feeling like an idiot because she hadn’t come up with the idea herself, Jenna drew the requisite spell before she spoke again. “I was actually hoping to sleep.”

“You can do that after we eat and talk.”

Jenna turned to face the changeling and raised a quizzical brow. “This is starting to sound bigger than you. Whose idea was it for the three of you to split up, and for you to join me?”

Krae’s generous mouth twitched into a grin, and she jabbed a finger in the air between them. “Smart witch.”

“You didn’t exactly answer me.”

“No. I didn’t.”

Jenna pressed her tongue against her teeth to manage her annoyance. The last thing she needed was a rousing game of twenty questions, so she trained what she hoped was a non-confrontational gaze on Krae and shrugged. “We have seven hours, feel free to take your time.”

The changeling’s green eyes sparkled with mischief. “You’re burning up with curiosity. I can smell it.”

Jenna didn’t bother to point out she was so trashed from the past few weeks that she doubted she had enough energy to burn up with anything. Suzanne handed her a bottle of water and a tray with an assortment of appetizers. The flight attendant had no sooner moved on to the next passenger than Krae bent over the tray and dug in.

The changeling looked up after inhaling half the finger sandwiches and most of the nuts. “Sure you don’t want any of this?”

“Help yourself.” Jenna adjusted her seat so it tilted backward, twisted the cap off the water, and drank deeply.

“Beer, wine, or a cocktail, miss?” a masculine voice asked.

Jenna glanced up at a cabin attendant she hadn’t seen before. He was tall and rangy with very blue eyes, white-blond hair, and a gold band on the third finger of his left hand. She swallowed a smile. With looks like his, he might have begun wearing the ring in self-defense, to slow the tide of women throwing themselves at his feet. He arched a brow and gestured toward the drink cart.

“Um, maybe a cup of coffee with a side of Irish whiskey.”

“Excellent choice.” He beamed at her, displaying very white, very even teeth. He may have winked, but she wasn’t quite certain. “Would you care for cream or sugar?”

“Both.”

Once he handed her drink over, she uncapped the small bottle of spirits and dumped a little into her cup. She’d traveled through so many time zones already, it scarcely mattered whether it was evening yet, and the liquor might have a salutary effect. The steward’s gaze traveled up her body in frank appraisal before he moved to the passenger across the aisle. Jenna’s face warmed a few degrees. What the hell? Was he sizing her up for a quickie in one of the plane’s johns?

Krae twisted her head and stared at the man. The air glistened wetly where the changeling deployed magic. She wasn’t particularly subtle, and the man’s spine stiffened, but he didn’t turn around.

“He felt that.” Jenna pitched her mind voice just for Krae and shielded it to boot.

“Indeed he did.” Krae narrowed her eyes. “Do you know what he is?” Jenna shook her head. “Pity,” the changeling went on, “neither do I.”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to send more magic his way,” Jenna murmured. “As it is, what you did tipped him off. How did you know something was wrong?”

“How else?” Krae shrugged. “I almost missed it, but something…odd drew my attention when he looked at you. If he’d been human, his gaze would have held more heat. Instead there was an…unnatural hunger.” She hesitated. “More like he was relieved he’d found you rather than wanting sex.”

A shudder iced Jenna’s blood. Unlike Roz and Colleen, she couldn’t simply teleport off the airplane. Her heartbeat sped up. “Maybe you should leave,” she told Krae. “No point in both of us being trapped.”

“Uh-uh. We hold our ground for now. It’s possible his presence has nothing to do with you.”

“Not very fucking likely.”

Krae picked up another small sandwich and stuffed it into her mouth. Jenna snuck a peek at the steward just in time to see him disappear through the curtain separating first class from the remainder of the aircraft. Because she was desperate for information, she sent a tendril of magic snaking outward and yanked it back as soon as she determined the man wasn’t an Irichna disguised as human. Duncan had run up against one masquerading as a priest near the Witches’ Northwest Coven headquarters in Seattle. It had lured two female teenagers and would have drained them of life if Duncan hadn’t intervened. As it was, he wasn’t certain either had survived because he’d left them at a hospital and hadn’t hung around long enough to find out.

Jenna ran options through her mind, not liking any of them. She didn’t want to end up in a pitched battle inside the aircraft. Hell, they’d probably lock her away as a terrorist the minute the plane landed, and Irichna would pick her off from her cell.

“I was serious,” Krae’s out loud voice intruded. “There’s at least a small possibility he’s simply some sort of mage. He might have gotten a magical hit off your aura and was curious.”

“What did you want to talk about earlier?” Jenna changed the subject because she could speculate about the mystery steward from now until he made a move against her, and it wouldn’t change the outcome, other than making her more aware to watch out for him.

“How much do you know about my race?” Krae countered, answering Jenna by asking a question of her own.

“Mostly what I’ve gleaned from living with Niall for forty years. Why?”

Krae popped the last sandwich into her mouth, chewed, and swallowed. “We’ve always known we would have a key role to play in major battles against the Irichna. It’s written in our histories, and we’ve prepared as best we could.”

Jenna drew her brows together. “Niall never mentioned it.”

“It’s quite possible he didn’t know. We’ve done our damnedest to keep that particular bit of knowledge quiet, so the Irichna wouldn’t target us before the time came to play our part. Not that we didn’t inform our people—and try to coach them—but Niall’s been gone for a good many years.”

Jenna rolled her shoulders to offset the iron bar of tension sitting between them. “You sound like a preacher threatening the latter days are nearly upon us.”

“They are.” Krae’s expression turned deadly serious.

“More whiskey, miss?”

Jenna started at the sound of the steward’s voice. He’d returned to the cabin so quietly, she hadn’t heard him. “Um, no.” She resisted the temptation to look at him. It would give her more information, but that was a two-way street.

“As you will, miss.” He pushed the drink cart past her. It made quite a bit of noise, which led her to suspect he’d used magic to muffle his presence earlier.

How long had he studied her without her knowing?

Why hadn’t Krae sensed him?

Worse, he’d apparently made his way back to the front of the plane, pushed the rattling cart past her, and served other passengers without alerting her to his presence. Not good. Jenna shielded her mind—just in case—and clamped her jaws together when he sashayed into the curtained galley alcove between first class and the cockpit. Her heart thudded against her ribcage, and her throat was dry. It was looking like she’d need to do something, but what would attract the least attention?

Krae uttered a muted expletive in Gaelic, bolted from her seat, and whisked after the steward. Jenna stared after the changeling with her mouth hanging open. She pushed upright, remembered her seatbelt, and fumbled with the clasp. By the time she was free of it, a flash of multicolored light practically blinded her, flaring above, below, and through the curtain. Heedless of the other first class passengers, who couldn’t sense expended magic anyway, she threw her power wide open.

Jenna didn’t realize she’d been holding her breath until it whistled from between her clenched teeth. She drew her lips back, hissing in satisfaction once she realized the blast of power had come from Krae, not the man. Balancing on the balls of her stocking-clad feet, Jenna strode forward and pushed past the curtain.

The steward was shaking his head back and forth, his face screwed into a mask of pain. Power flashed from the changeling’s hands. “No more,” he rasped, tottering from foot to foot. “I won’t hurt either of you.”

Jenna dragged an invisibility spell over all of them, layered a don’t look here spell over that, and prayed to the goddess no one would enter the small, enclosed space for the next few minutes.

“What are you?” She shoved the question hard into his mind.

“I already figured that out,” Krae said sourly. “He’s a minor demon sent to keep an eye on you and report back.”

“I already told you I hadn’t,” he whined. “And I won’t. You can bind me with magic.”

“That’s not good enough,” Jenna growled. “Demons lie.”

“So do changelings and witches.” He shot her a venomous look that belied his promises of non-interference.

“We’re wasting time,” Krae said and settled into a low chant.

A look of horror twisted the steward’s handsome face into something unrecognizable. He tried to walk past them but clearly couldn’t move. The air thickened, took on a blackish tinge, and stank of ozone just before smoke rose from the creature and he vanished.

Jenna drew back, impressed. Whatever Krae had done was magic well beyond her own abilities. Footsteps sounded on the far side of the curtain. Suzanne. Jenna recognized her energy and ducked into a passenger restroom. If Krae was powerful enough to banish the demon, shielding herself from the flight attendant should prove trivial. Kicking herself for being sloppy, Jenna pulled the magic from her spells to make the cramped galley appear as normal as possible.

“Paul,” Suzanne’s voice was pitched low, “your drink cart’s here. Where are you?”

Jenna flushed the toilet and splashed cold water on her overheated face. She took her time drying off and settled her features into a bland expression before stepping out of the john. With a nod and a smile at Suzanne, she pushed the curtain aside and returned to her seat. Krae was already there, doing her best to mask a self-satisfied grin.

“Okay, I give up.” Jenna eyed the changeling. “What did you do?”

“Teleported him outside the plane. Nature took care of the rest.”

Jenna thought about it. “While it’s good he’s gone, how will we know he didn’t report in somehow?”

“We won’t,” Krae said shortly. “Which means we’ll have to be very careful not to lead the enemy right to wherever we’re staying after we land.”

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About The Author:

Ann Gimpel is a national bestselling author. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Her longer books run the gamut from urban fantasy to paranormal romance. Once upon a time, she nurtured clients, now she nurtures dark, gritty fantasy stories that push hard against reality. When she’s not writing, she’s in the backcountry getting down and dirty with her camera. She’s published over 30 books to date, with several more planned for 2016 and beyond. A husband, grown children, grandchildren and wolf hybrids round out her family.

www.anngimpel.com

http://anngimpel.blogspot.com

http://www.amazon.com/author/anngimpel

http://www.facebook.com/anngimpel.author

@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)

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Spotlight: Demimonde Series, by Ash Krafton 2

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Cover Artist: Red Fist Fiction

Available For Purchase On:

Amazon

Description:

Sophie Galen is an advice columnist whose work leaves her neck-deep in other people’s problems. Thanks to her compassion, her gut instinct, and her magnetic charm, Sophie really knows how to attract little black clouds.

Marek Thurzo is no little black cloud; he’s a maelstrom. Marek is Demivampire, a race with the potential to evolve into vampire. A warrior who’s taken his share of spiritual damage, he hovers dangerously close to destruction.

He seeks salvation. She’s driven to save him. But what if he can’t be saved?

Sympathy for his plight becomes true empathy as Sophie’s hidden nature is revealed. Marek suspects she may be one of the Sophia, oracle and redemption of the damned Demivampire. She alone can turn back the evolutionary clock.

All she needs is the courage to face her fears. Can she save him from Falling?

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Excerpt:

“Well, Sophie, you’ve been busy.” My editor placed the typed sheets on her desk and pushed her reading glasses to the top of her head, smiling in a way that suggested she wasn’t simply commenting on my productivity.

Barbara Evans was definitely fiftyish but her exact age remained a secret closely guarded by her mother and the clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles. No gray, no dye. No kidding. The wrinkles around her eyes were laugh lines; gravity had yet to wage war on the softer parts of her body.

I made a noncommittal noise as I fooled around at the coffee station in her office at The Mag. I swore I kept this job just so I could drink her coffee. An invitation to Barbara’s office for coffee was like receiving royal honors.

“Unfortunately, I felt really inspired this week.” I took a shallow sip of the coffee so I didn’t scald my tongue. Carrying the mug over to her desk, I flopped into the big red leather chair across from her.

“I’ll say. These letters make, what…” She shuffled through the perpetual piles on her desk until she found what she wanted. Barbara was old school, preferring paper to electronic files. “Seven. You made the regular issue as well as the summer bonus. I’m impressed.”

Nodding, I reached for my cup. The summer bonus was a pain, if anyone asked me. However, I got paid to do it. Money was nice, so I kept my opinion to myself. I had yet to master a passable poker face and Barbara was a champion player.

“But you don’t look like someone who’s free and clear until next issue,” she said. “You look more like you expect someone to jump out at you.”

“I just… eh, it’s nothing.” I tried to downplay it but her assessment was dead-on, hopefully no pun intended. Her slight frown insisted she wanted a better answer and I grimaced, knowing she wouldn’t like the answer. “I’ve been thinking about Patrick.”

“Him again?” She clucked her tongue and walked around the desk. Perching on the edge, she softened her firm tone with a sympathetic look. “He needed professional help and you told him so. You did what you could.”

“I don’t feel like I did.”

“Enough. You’re not a psychiatrist. Let it go.”

Barbara was right. I was an advice columnist. People sought me out because they wanted my help. Didn’t help matters that, before joining The Mag, I’d spent more than a decade in nursing. I was driven to help, to care, to make things all better.

Didn’t I have an obligation to help them? “But—”

“But nothing,” she said. “I know you like to dwell. At least dwell on something cheerful. Think about those you help.”

I scowled into my cup. She was right—I did get too hung up on people and their problems. It was just the way I was wired.

“What brought him up, anyway?”

“I got a letter from him yesterday,” I said.

She gave me a careful look as if she were determining whether or not our friendship would survive a phone call to Crisis Intervention. “You mean from someone who sounds like him.”

“No, him. His handwriting, his signature.”

“I thought you said—”

“I did.” I scooted on the slippery cushion so I could look up at her. “You saw the obituary.”

“Dead is dead, Sophie.” Barbara flipped through the stack in her inbox before selecting several pages from the middle. She tugged a paperclip free and dropped it into a tray as she reclaimed her seat. “They don’t come back. Maybe he sent it before he—you know.”

I cradled the cup, feeling the sting of heat through the ceramic. The warmth failed to travel past my palms and I tucked my arms to my chest. “It was postmarked this week.”

“Do you want the column mail screened?”

“Wouldn’t help. It was mailed to my apartment.”

Now I had her attention.

She sat back in her chair, papers forgotten. “How could anyone have gotten your home address?”

“Beats me. The column mail comes here and I use a post office box for freelance subs.”

“Anything else? Phone calls? Hang ups?”

“No. Just the letter.” After a brief deliberation, I added more. Might as well spill all the beans and not just the ones she’d believe. “And the feeling someone’s… waiting for me.”

Barbara’s expression said Okay, I think you finally cracked but her mouth issued more diplomatic words. “Seriously? Maybe you’re being stalked.”

“No, I don’t think so. Just a vague feeling, like someone’s waiting for me to… I don’t know, open my eyes. See them.” I didn’t ask if she ever had that feeling. Most people didn’t get impressions the way I did. I’d stopped asking that question a long time ago.

However, this was the first time a simple impression worried me. It was a solid, hovering kind of expectancy that killed my concentration and made me look over my shoulder wherever I went.

“That’s probably because the letter came to your apartment.” The phone rang and Barbara poked the voice mail button. “You feel vulnerable. Keep your eyes open and try to ignore it.”

I half-agreed with her, raising the cup and hiding my mouth behind it. I couldn’t shake the distinct feeling something awful loomed. The sense of foreboding was like wearing a turtleneck—a constant, constricting pressure. “Maybe I’ll take self-defense classes.”

“Never a bad idea for a woman living alone in the city. Then again, you might not need them. Your witticisms are sharp enough to draw blood.”

I grinned. “Eh, it’s a defense mechanism I developed from working with Donna. I used to be such a nice person.”

“Speaking of her, she’s looking for you.”

I slid down in my chair so my head wasn’t visible from the door. “Maybe I’ll just stay in here while I finish my coffee. Wouldn’t do to be caught out in the open.”

Barbara removed her glasses and tossed them onto her desk. “What did you do now?”

“Nothing,” I protested. “Just–that Expo thing. She’s in charge.”

She pressed her lips into a stern line. “Haven’t you signed up yet?”

“Heck, no. I have stuff to do. Me stuff.”

“Your job is me stuff.”

“Easy for you to say. You’re salaried. Saturday is my day off.”

“Well, I won’t blow your cover.” She glanced over my head toward the door before she waved her pen warningly. “But she’ll get her claws into you. One way or another.”

I scowled and took a double mouthful of coffee so I wouldn’t have to respond. Claws, Expo, anything Donna—they all topped the list of Things I Wanted Least.

I stayed long enough to complete my hedonistic coffee experience before slinking back to my desk. This was work, after all; I wouldn’t remain a staff writer if I didn’t act like one.

I lived in Balaton, a harbor-dependent city halfway between Philadelphia and Wilmington. Halfway was an apt description in more ways than one. Big enough for a downtown but lacking the sprawl of a mega-city. Too small for a subway but wide enough for several bus routes. Taxes weren’t as high as Philly but we didn’t get a free ride on sales tax like glorious Delaware, either.

We weren’t a major tourist destination, just another city people passed through on the way to somewhere else. I guessed that was why I never left. Balaton was midway between point A and point B—just like me.

This job was the closest fit I’d felt in a long time, even if the inseam wasn’t quite right. I had a leg up in the game, at least. My inner voice. My gut instinct. My compassion.

The job was easy. All I had to do was tell people what they probably already knew. Nine times out of ten it was what they wanted to hear anyway, but they didn’t trust themselves enough to follow their own advice. If people were brave enough to listen to the spark of wisdom that lived in each of us, I’d be out of a job.

Thank God for that one out of ten who actually needed my advice; they went a long way to validate me. Only problem was, they were the ones who kept me awake at night.

I sighed and plucked my mail from the basket hanging outside my cubicle before dropping into my chair. My position at The Mag was a haven for me. At least, it had been until Patrick’s needy letters arrived. Damn those depressed men who get attached to the first sympathetic person they encounter. Damn the way they kill themselves and leave the rest of us to feel like it was our failure, not theirs.

Damn them for coming back.

I knew it couldn’t be him. I knew dead was dead. Plenty of dead had happened around me in the past and never once had it been undone. Patrick could be no exception.

Question was: Who? Who now? Who was going to yank my heartstrings, get me completely tied up in their emotional plight, and bail on me at the end? Who would be the death of me?

I didn’t want to find out.

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Cover Artist: Red Fist Fiction

Available For Purchase On:

Amazon

Description:

Sophie doesn’t believe in happily ever after. These days, she’d settle for alive after sunrise.

Advice columnist and newly-appointed oracle to the demivampire, Sophie Galen has more issues than a Cosmo collection: a new mentor with a mean streak, a werewolf stalker she can’t shake, and a relationship with her ex’s family that redefines the term complicated. And then there’s her ex himself, who is more interested in playing leader of the vampire pack than in his own salvation.

Becoming a better oracle is tough enough, but when Sophie encounters a deadly enemy – one she never dreamed of facing – it will take everything she’s ever learned in order to survive.

Excerpt:

I don’t believe in happily ever after. These days, I’d settle for alive until sunrise.

I never thought I’d become a nine-to-fiver. Certainly never thought I’d be too preoccupied to make fun of myself for being one. Sometimes the irony was too great to appreciate.

While I waited for the elevator to arrive at The Mag‘s foyer, I smoothed my scarf along the back of my neck and hefted my tote bag a little higher on my shoulder. Every chime increased my trepidation, tightening the fist of anxiety in my chest and the sensation of bees swarming in the top of my stomach. I hated quitting time.

More underappreciated irony. Why not?

People chatted around me but I fidgeted with my zipper, keeping my gaze lowered and my mouth closed. Leaving at five in the afternoon meant more than crammed elevators and crowded buses; it meant the light would fade soon and with it my peace of mind. The autumn wasn’t a happy golden foliage time of year for me anymore.

Although it was only early October, already the longer nights and shorter days made me feel nervous and brittle. Bad enough I didn’t have a sweetheart to share the long nights but even worse now that I knew what came out when the sun went down. Although I hadn’t had any problems with vampires over the last year, the threat never left my mind.

Vampires were out there. It was just a matter of time until I had to deal with them again.

Halfway during our descent, I felt a vibe. It was a mild one but, over the past year, my empathy had become sensitive to the point of being squirrelly. The thin thread of power wound its way around each of the passengers as the Demivampire who owned it checked out who else was in the car. When it reached me, it felt like a poke on the arm. I glanced over my shoulder, catching the eyes of an older dark-eyed woman near the back. She sent a tiny pulse of apology-laden power and lowered her eyes.

I smiled politely and concentrated on tugging my scarf loose. The DV didn’t approach me in public where any old human could see. We kept our dealings distant and private. That was the way I preferred.

The door opened and I flowed out with the crowd, sunglasses on and scarf over my hair. I hoped everyone would more or less continue on together today so I could hide in the crowd a bit longer.

Without turning my head, I saw a rail-thin guy, his scruffy head and jeans out of place amongst the exiting office employees. He leaned against the wall, scanning the people emerging from the other elevators. Seemed to have missed me—good. Taking shelter behind a taller woman and her chatty companion, I hustled out the front doors.

Outside, my luck ran out. My camouflaging crowd of co-workers suddenly scattered like roaches when the kitchen light is turned on. I hesitated, taking too long to pick a direction.

It was all he needed to spot me. I looked back through the glass into the foyer of The Mag‘s building. He was on the move, eyes locked onto me.

I bolted.

Startled faces blurred past as I hurried through the five o’clock exodus, bumping into one man, dodging another, and rounding the corner at a speed unfitting for heeled pumps. Steve Madden would be horrified if he knew what I did in his shoes.

Well, Steve could kill me later. Right now, I was facing a much more immediate threat.

At the corner, a bus was loading and at this point I didn’t care if it was mine or not. An elderly lady with a big shopping bag struggled on the steps and I danced behind her like a first grader with a full bladder. Once she cleared the last step I leapt up, slamming my token into the fare box.

The door closed behind me just as my pursuer caught up. For once I was glad for the driver’s rude efficiency. The bus leveled and lurched forward. I grabbed the bar, almost swinging into the laps of the front seat passengers. As we pulled away from the curb, I met the man’s stare through the grimy glass of the door.

Rusted-orange eyes with wide pupils.

Non-people eyes.

Werewolf eyes.

I sank onto an empty seat, heart thumping, gradually slowing. Glancing up at the sign over the driver’s seat, I realized I’d ended up on the round-about route. Close enough for me. I tugged my necklace out of my shirt and kissed the pendant, my good luck charm, and offered a silent thankful thought to whatever divine powers had saved my behind, yet again.

Reaching into my bag, I pulled out a book of poetry and readied for a long ride home. Ironically, when I’d flipped to a random page, I opened to one of Dylan Thomas’s poems.

Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I had no energy left for rage. All I could muster was a thankful thought because at least today’s escape had gone better than most.

A beast of a different sort met me at the door once I got home, but I was prepared for this one. Since moving to my current apartment, Euphrates had become a one-hundred-percent-indoors cat and poor kitty was not coping well.

I squeezed through the narrowly-opened door and blocked his escape with my tote bag. He’d made it out into the hall twice since moving here, which could have caused major fallout. The other apartment on this floor was occupied by a No Pets Allowed vigilante who seemed intent on catching me with the furry goods. Mrs. Petterson already suspected Euphrates wasn’t a television and frequently warned me something dire would happen should I dare bring in a dog.

As if. I definitely didn’t swing that way.

Luckily, Euphrates wasn’t up to any cat acrobatics so my bag was enough to contain him. He accused me with a heavy-lidded glare and a toothy wail that made me pity his near-solitary confinement.

Scooping him up, I dropped my bag on the couch and glanced around with dismay. Stacks of cardboard boxes exaggerated the tight fit of the room. I’d begun to unpack when I moved in three months ago but quickly grew disheartened by the lack of space. If I’d had time when I was planning the move, I could have picked an apartment that was at least big enough to fit the couch. Instead, it sat at a strange angle across one corner of the room. Either that or block the doorway.

I would have gotten a place that allowed pets, too, but I just didn’t have the luxury of time to browse through rental listings. Once that Were had discovered my last apartment, I was out of there in four days flat.

What was the point of unpacking when it didn’t feel like home?

Life hadn’t been exactly all new-pumps-and-Oreos since my soul mate Marek and I split more than a year ago. Well, more precisely, he split. Demivamps pushed to the brink of evolution tended to do that, since their own society generally wants nothing more to do with them. Evolution is a one-way street, more or less. Nothing can bring a brinking DV back from that terrible edge.

Nothing, except maybe for me. Still, it didn’t make me immune to being dumped. Marek had made it crystal clear he didn’t want to see me anymore when I tracked him down after the Crap That Almost Killed Me. I was an old fashioned girl, you know? If a guy made love to you one night then tore out your throat and exsanguinated you the next, he should at least call you in the morning.

I sighed and pulled out a stack of mail I’d brought home from the office. Before meeting Marek and the rest of the DV, writing my column was barely enough to justify my gainful employment at The Mag; I usually contributed to other features in order to claim a regular paycheck and benefits. (It shames me to admit the lengths to which I’d go for health insurance.)

Unfortunately, being Sophia for the American Demi-vampire also made writing my advice column a full-time job, since the DV decided it was the perfect way to petition me. Every once in a while, a letter would contain an emotional signature so strong it evoked the Sophia. I couldn’t risk having my eyes change color in front of the mail clerk again.

It was almost like face-on petitioning, really. I could simply sort the petitions from the human letters and get on a roll. Once the Sophia responded, the answers flowed smoothly. First drafts were last drafts and, when I included select petitions for print in the column, they were the ones that impressed my editor most. I would then mail the remaining responses off to their respective petitioners.

Sometimes the petition was doubled with a pushy compulsion, a “read mine first” or some other obnoxious request. That sort of thing really bunched up my boy shorts. Of course, I couldn’t complain about it at work because no one knew about the Demivampire, much less that I was their spiritual guardian. Hence, all the off-the-clock work.

Give Until It Hurts Sophie, that’s me.

Flipping through the mail, I breathed a tiny sigh of relief. None of the envelopes triggered a compulsion so I figured there was probably nothing I couldn’t handle today.

I sliced open the envelopes and began to sort the letters into piles.

Column, column, petition.

The petitions were easy to spot even to someone who couldn’t sense DV power; each was addressed Dear Sophia and signed with a real name, not a witty pseudonym. I had a growing number of regulars who made me think I ought to start charging them.

Column, petition, column, Rodrian.

I blinked, trying to focus my eyes and dispel my surprise, recognizing the handwriting on the envelope at once. Rodrian Thurzo preferred writing to typing and he had a real thing for fountain pens.

Yep, that Rodrian. Marek’s brother.

When I pulled out the letter, the power signature tripped a switch in my brain, triggering my Sophia. My eyes changed so fast I swore I could feel them flow from brown to oracular blue. I had to sit down before I fell over and felt behind me for an afghan to wrap around my shoulders. The chills were so intense I thought my teeth would chatter.

Damn that Rodrian.

Once my Sophia settled, I unfolded the letter and read it. The letter contained a brief request to meet him at his Tenth Street office. Some sort of business proposition. I couldn’t imagine what business he could possibly have with me.

I especially couldn’t imagine what was so important that he’d send enough power to turn my intestines into balloon animals. I came this close to throwing up on Fraidy. I’m sure the cat would have loved that.

So. Business with Rodrian. Now the question remained: would I go?

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Cover Artist: Red Fist Fiction

Available For Purchase On:

Amazon

Description:

Since becoming oracle to the demivampire two years ago, advice columnist Sophie has battled werewolves and survived a vampire attack (or two). However, not only was she powerless to save her lover Marek when he slipped to the brink of evolution, she also witnessed his transformation into a falcon, the symbol of Horus United.

Sophie’s quest to save Marek is further complicated when rock star Dierk Adeluf – who also happens to be the king of the Werekind – invites her backstage after a concert. Just when it seems she will find respite from heartache, Sophie is bitten by a werewolf and Dierk decides she is destined to be his queen.

Sophie is caught between the demivamps she loves and the Were who commands her to love him. Throw in his jealous wanna-be girlfriend—a true bitch if ever there was one—and an ambush by witches, and there you have the big mess that Sophie calls her life. And, hello? Her soul mate is still a bird.

Excerpt:

The man sitting across from me absolutely hated himself.

I didn’t need to unzip my barriers to make that assessment. The way his shoulders crept up his neck, the curve of his back that left his face parallel to his thighs, the way he avoided looking at me or anyone else—body language said it all. And when he did finally raise his too-heavy head to look at me, his eyes were stony and hollow, too dead to even care what anyone saw in them.

He wore his self-loathing the way I wished I wore Jimmy Choos—right out there for the whole world to see. Difference was, he didn’t care who looked.

I glanced at the Demivamp who hovered behind him like a first-year teacher. She toyed with the end of her braid and looked ready to throw herself onto him if need be. Maybe he was a flight risk. Maybe he was a danger to himself.

Maybe he was a danger to me. In that case, the other DV wasn’t necessary. I didn’t worry so much about myself anymore. I’d learned a thing or two about staying alive.

Not to mention, I had an entire courtroom full of DV that perched on the semi-circles of benches, elbow to elbow, each waiting their turn with the Sophia. I knew full well every single one of them would fling themselves between me and whatever peril might arise here.

I was well-guarded. Perks of being a national treasure.

I flicked my gaze up to the DV who stood behind my client, dismissing her. Once she took her place in the audience, I sank into my Sophia sight. Finding my center, I called up my barriers, peeling away the outermost layer and expanding it until it encompassed us both in an invisible but completely soundproof bubble.

A nifty little trick I’d learned since Dorcas removed the last remaining obstacles between me and my power. She hadn’t been much of a dresser and had a weird thing for vampires, not to mention acting like the scariest damned thing I’d ever seen, but I had to hand it to her. She’d done me a solid.

When the barrier went up around us, there was a little ear-pop of sensation. He seemed to notice me then. His eyes took up a pale light, gleaming like the teeth he hid behind the disdainful curl of his lips. His power seethed out like the odor of a hot dumpster—the feel of it decayed and ugly and absolutely desperate.

I smiled, grim and hard. This guy might be the farthest gone DV I’d ever meet. He was going to be a challenge.

Good.

I decided to start the same way I always did, knowing this one might not end the same way. “What’s your name?”

He stared me down for several moments. “You want my current name or the one that’s waiting for me?”

Obviously, he was referring to the name change that happened when a DV Fell. Vampires never kept their DV names. All part of the whole born-again (dead-again?) persona of a newly-minted vamp.

“You have one name,” I said, my voice like tungsten. “And you’re going to keep it.”

“Like you can stop me.”

I smiled again, glad I had chosen to wear lip gloss because my mouth was so dry, my lips would have split without it. “I can. And I will.”

“Look, lady.” He leaned forward, elbows on his knees. The pale light in his dark eyes looked like an early hard frost on a green lawn. Untimely end of a sweet season. “I know who you are, and I know what you do. Sometimes, you just gotta let nature take its course.”

“This isn’t nature. This is self-punishment.”

He smiled, open-mouthed to show all his teeth. Sharp, elongated, a mouth full of knives. A vamp’s mouth. “And I earned every single minute of it.”

Okay. Tough guy. Proud of the shitty things he’s done. That was part of the thrill of being so close to Falling. Kind of like passing over the event horizon into a black hole, when one part of you accelerates faster than the rest. His soul was a ragged plastic bag caught on a tree branch, waiting for the last big wind to come along.

His heart had already flown loose. In his heart, he was a vampire.

Well, his body was still here, and his soul was still here, and I was still here. He was in for a surprise.

I surveyed his power, using Sophia-sight to visualize it. It was dark, like cooling lava, black and cracked and sullen red showing through the seams. The black crust was his resignation. He’d stopped fighting. But maybe he just needed the right sparring partner.

How did you get rid of hard, black cooling lava? Why, you heat it up, of course. Nothing got a man hotter than his temper.

Well, that wasn’t exactly true. There were other things, but that wasn’t my brand of therapy.

I pushed through his brittle ugly shell into the lava beneath, then through the lava to his inner core. It was tiny, but it was cool, and green, and still had the essence of who he used to be. His feelings were still packed away inside and I latched onto it, expanded it, examined it. Family. He had kids. A job. He’d been a lawyer, and a good one. He was proud of what he’d done—in the beginning.

Ah. That’s where it started to turn. I sifted along the line of those memories and found the point when he started fighting for the bad guys.

“A dirty lawyer?” I snorted and rolled my eyes. “There’s a shock. Your parents must be so proud.”

He growled and dug his fingers into his thighs. “Shut up.”

“No wonder you turned into this.” I waved my fingers at him as if I were calling out a Coach bag knock-off at a street vendor. “I thought you were going to say you ate babies or something but a corrupt lawyer? That’s sick.”

Rage filled him like a burning warehouse, the fury consuming his power. If it weren’t for my personal shields, I’d have been incinerated. The fire of his anger melted the hard shell of his former apathy and he became a miniature sun of murderous intent.

He wanted to end me, wanted nothing more than to get his hands on me.

I beat him to it.

With the flick of a mental finger, I opened the door in my mind where all the bad stuff went. It was like a vacuum in there and once it was open, it just sucked at his power, the ugly, the hate, and the agony he’d surrounded himself with. I pulled.

It hurt. It hurt me, it was like sandpaper on the eyes and it hurt him. He howled as I ripped away all the fury of his self-loathing and hate.

Normally, I did this in steps, gently, kind of a leeching away. Not this guy. I had to over-power him because at this stage, he could just grow it all back. Vampires were infinite wells of hate and evil and this guy was so damned close.

His howl became a roar and he made a lunge for me. I slid a ramrod of my shields at him and held him at a mental arm’s length. He struggled to reach me, his clawed hands inches from my eyes and if he got to me, if he reached me, he’d tear my throat out.

No, he wouldn’t. I was stronger than that. I bit down on my lips and tasted the tang of blood and continued to strip his agony away.

This little man wasn’t big enough to break me. I continued to pull away the damage of his soul, and sent a simultaneous stream of the Sophia into him, a cool mist against the acrid hate. His soul had been dried and withered and it soaked up the Sophia’s healing rain, swelling and anchoring itself once more.

The fight was going out of him. He dropped his hands, fighting to breathe. Part of my brain screamed to stop, this was too much, too fast. But a part of my heart was intent on pushing the limits, almost wishing to break because maybe then—just maybe—I’d break past whatever unknown obstacle had been holding me back. Desperation drove me just as surely as it had driven him.

So I was relentless. I continued the pull and the push and I found myself standing over his slumped body. He’d slid down in his chair, head dropped against the back of the cushion, his eyes darkening into a deep green, like spring grass. And I didn’t stop.

I didn’t stop until he’d fallen to his knees before me, forehead pressed to my feet, crying and repeating words I couldn’t hear because the Sophia was too much in control. My ears didn’t work right when she was filling my head. I kind of got used to it.

When it was all gone, all the damage and the negativity and the self-hate, the Sophia pulled itself back, sealing the drain. Sound returned, and I could hear his labored breathing, his murmured chanting. My insides still felt raw. That would take a day or two to settle down.

I was aware the outer barrier was still up and I dispelled it. Another ear-pop and we were both submerged in a cacophony of applause and happy shouting. Several people rushed forward to embrace him, hugs for him, awkward hugs for me. I backed away from the jostling and let his family and friends bear him back to the seats. He beamed at me, incredulous joy and gratitude on his face.

And it didn’t touch me at all.

I only had two thoughts. The first was: I had just gotten inside him, battled his demons, saved his soul, but I never learned his name. Maybe it was better that way. There were so many DV. I couldn’t remember all their names and keep my sanity.

The second was: it hadn’t been enough. He was, by far, the worst I’d encountered and it still wasn’t enough. There had been no revelation, clue, no hint how to fix the one problem I needed to fix.

I’d come no closer to solving Marek’s problem.

A terrible panic tried to grip me but I squashed it down. I swallowed hard and pinched myself and turned to the crowd. The entire group fell silent, hanging on my words.

“Another,” I called. “Please. I need another.”

And I continued to heal, and I continued to need, and I continued to fight the growing fear that in the end, I might save a million DV and still stand to lose the one I truly loved.

Another stepped forward, and after him another, and it was pushing dawn before I realized none of it had given me what I needed to save Marek.

I stared bleakly at the sea of hopeful faces. So many saves, so many solutions, all of it dwarfed in the shadow of my heart’s crushing failure. All my exhaustion, all my despair, all of the raw edges inside me, seething with the scalds of so much negative energy, and all I could think was that I had to do this all again for the next envoy in three days’ time.

Einstein’s Definition of Insanity Sophie, that’s me.

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About The Author:

Ash Krafton writes because if she doesn’t, her kids will…and NOBODY wants that. A speculative fiction girl through and through, Ash writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels as well as poetry and short fiction. Her work has won a bunch of awards and was even nominated for a Pushcart Prize. When she’s not writing, she’s practicing Tai Chi, listening to loud rock and metal, or crushing on supervillains.

Most recently, she’s re-released her urban fantasy trilogy THE BOOKS OF THE DEMIMONDE because she never really left the world of Sophie and her Demivamps.

Find out more when you visit www.ashkrafton.com  

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Tour Giveaway:

$25 Amazon gift card and eCopy of Bleeding Hearts (Demimonde #1) in winner’s choice of format (Kindle, Paperback, or Audiobook)

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