Reclaiming The Magic

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Brides of Prophecy, Book 7

Vampire society knows him as the Thirteenth Elder first vampire in creation, the mages know him as an immortal high sorcerer and the Keeper of the Prophecy.

Delgarias Dullahan only cares about the woman who knew him simply as "Del." Two thousand years ago, he gambled his soul for the power to marry Nikkita Leonine...and lost. Now he is finally on her trail.

But Del is not the only one searching for the missing luminite princess, and whoever finds her first will have the upper hand in the battle against the greatest evil ever known.

Excerpt:

Chapter One

 

Delgarias Dullahan, faelin high sorcerer, and the first vampire in creation, entered the heart of the motherhouse in Amsterdam, where the Elders convened. As the Thirteenth Elder, he had final say over the rulings of the Council of the Twelve.

Ten of the dozen vampires tasked with governing all the vampires on Earth were seated at the circular table in the meeting chamber. Ian, the Lord Vampire of London, sat perfectly composed, his hands folded on the table, only the furrowing of his brow and an agitated glimmer in his silver eyes revealing his concern with the situation at hand.

Marcus, the Lord of Rome, didn’t bother hiding his agitation, he tapped his pen across the polished marble table in an irritating staccato, garnering glares from the Lords of Tokyo and New York.

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After taking his seat at ornately carved chair at the head of the table, Delgarias surveyed the other six Elders. Lord Vampires from Lima, Munich, Perth, and Ulsan regarded him with expectant expressions. The Lords of Bejing and Calgary had already sent their apologies, unable to make it as such notice.

Mixed impatience and worry roiled through Delgarias’s being as he waited to learn why they’d requested his presence this night. The Elders feared him, so they rarely called upon him to participate in their affairs. Del prayed the matter didn’t involve their creator, Mephistopheles, who had once more surfaced and attacked Wurrakia only three months ago. And on Earth, the would-be god was now reaching out to his once-banished creations, luring them to join his infernal army.

Yes, news of Mephistopheles would be very bad. They weren’t ready for him. Pieces of the Prophecy had yet to fall in place.

Delgarias cleared his throat and addressed the Elders. “What need have you of me, my brothers and sisters?”

Jodie, the Lord of Perth scrunched up her nose. “More prisoners were delivered to us from the vigilante rogue.”

Delgarias allowed a sigh of vexation to escape. “Please tell me they didn’t take more cult members.”

The Order of Eternal Night worshipped Mephistopheles and were experiencing a resurgence of the likes none had ever seen, with the Evil One’s recruiting. Delgarias had tasked some of his most trusted vampires to infiltrate the cult and gain knowledge of their enemy’s movements.

If this rogue persisted in arresting cultists, all of Delgarias’s plans could be upended.

“I’m afraid so,” Jodie said.

Ian cut in, “At least they were dangerous criminals, and better off being eliminated from our world.”

Marcus waved a dismissive hand. “They’re always criminals, Ian. But that does not give this rogue the right to take the law into her own hands. The Lord Vampire of El Paso should be the one to handle these things.”

“But he didn’t,” Neko, the Lord of Tokyo said softly.

Carlos, the Lord of Lima curled his knuckles beneath his chin and leaned forward. “Interesting that though the rogue now seems to be targeting the Order of Eternal Night, she still holds to her pattern of apprehending cultists who have violated our most sacred laws. These ones were kidnapping children and selling them to human sex traffickers.”

Delgarias shuddered with revulsion before a realization struck him. “Wait, did you say these cultists were taken from El Paso?”

“Yes.”

“How in the hell did the rogue manage to haul three vampires all the way here?”

Ian ran a hand through his long black hair. “I have no idea, but one has to admit that it is an impressive feat.”

“The portals.” Delgarias blurted, feeling foolish that the answer hadn’t come to him immediately. It was the only way the feat could be accomplished. “We need to interview every Lord Vampire about the portals, find out who is not being discreet.”

Earth held many stationary portals that would take one to the world of Aisthanesthai. The world where Delgarias had been born. The world that he’d also been working hard to keep safe. Vampires were slowly being integrated into some of Aisthanesthai’s countries, allies who’d fight Mephistopheles and his dark horde at the sides of sorcerers, Kanuri priestesses, Wurrak knights, and Tolonquan warriors.

The adjustment was precarious, to say the least. And this Annarkie was endangering that fragile integration by bringing evil vampires through Aisthanesthai, using the magical world as a shortcut. If one of them escaped? Alliances that so many had worked so carefully to forge would be undone by a reckless vigilante.

He had to find the rogue vampire who called herself Annarkie before a sorcerer or knight learned there were uninvited intruders.

Damn her.

She’d been plaguing him on and off for centuries. In the early days, he admired her boldness and even appreciated her capturing dangerous vampires, but after countless failed searches to identify her and recruit her in a formal position, her meddling had grown irksome. Back then, Delgarias and his fellow Elders didn’t know anything about the vigilante, not a name, not a sex, only that they must be a vampire to have such knowledge about their kind and their numerous laws.

Eventually, the deliveries of maimed, wicked vampires would stop, and they would assume that the rogue had gotten his or herself killed by their dangerous pursuits. But a few decades later, a bound vampire would be dropped on the Elders’ doorstep, often missing a limb or two. How the rogue kept the prisoners alive long enough to be delivered to their inevitable execution, Delgarias had no idea.

Also fascinating was the question as to why the prisoners were always delivered alive. The vampires had always been guilty of crimes meriting a death sentence, and yet, the rogue never executed them herself. To do so would have kept her under the radar for longer.

He’d long concluded that she wanted the Elders to be aware of her. Perhaps wanted Delgarias in particular to know of her.

Indeed, this desire for attention was how Delgarias had learned that she was a she, and later on, her name. She always sent notes with her catches, albeit tied up with a messenger. Two hundred years ago, she’d slipped and touched one of the missives, allowing him to cast a divination spell to get a name and the shadowy scent and figure of a woman. It was only a matter of time before—

Ian broke through his ponderings. “Do you wish to see these prisoners, Your Eminence?”

“Yes,” Delgarias rose from the table. “And if they are guilty of the crimes they’ve been charged with, I will execute them myself.”

“They are always guilty,” Hans, the Lord of Munich echoed Marcus’s words.

They went down to the dungeons and approached the cell where the three wicked vampires were held. As usual, all three were missing their tongues, the stubs expertly cauterized. One was missing both feet, bandages soaking crimson. One missed an arm, another his eyes. All three had been castrated, as was Annarkie’s usual tradition for any crimes of a sexual nature.

Jodie made a disgusted sound under her breath. “Every time a batch of these arrives, I think I’m prepared for the sight, but no. It never does get easier, even knowing what they’ve done.”

“How does she keep them alive?” Neko wondered aloud.

“A mystery to be solved another time.” Delgarias tried to conceal his impatience to probe the prisoners. “I’m just thankful they do indeed live so I may try to ferret her out.”

Marcus snorted. “Good luck. She is very thorough at wiping their memories of her voice and visage.”

“She’s made mistakes before,” Delgarias said before lunging toward the eyeless prisoner and sinking his fangs into the other vampire’s throat.

Maybe the fates wished to prove Marcus wrong, or perhaps it was the truth-seeking spell Delgarias had recently cast, but at last he got something from the prisoner’s memories.

Though all he saw was darkness, he heard voices.

“Mistress,” a male voice quavered faintly, as if blocked by a wall or door, “the cell in La Grande is larger than any we’ve come across. I think it will be too dangerous.”

A reply came, but it was distorted, as if coming through electric interference.

The male voice replied, muddied, but discernable. “Still, Pendleton is a mere hour away…. ten of them? You cannot be serious.”

All went black as the blood ceased flowing into Delgarias’s mouth. Triumph surging in his chest, he seized the next prisoner and drained them even quicker, then he moved to the next. No information was to be gleaned from those two, aside from flashes of terrified children and whimpers of pain, but he had what he needed.

“I, Delgarias, Thirteenth Elder, sentence you three worms to death,” he growled, disgusted with what they’d done to over thirty innocents.

Even though the vampires were unconscious from losing what little blood they had left, Delgarias didn’t have the patience to drag them to the execution chamber. Instead, he gathered his power and reached towards the prisoners with both hands.

Arcs of lightning shot out from his fingertips, striking the child traffickers. They jolted like puppets on a string, then flopped on the stone floor like fish hauled from the water. Smoke curled out from their mouths, nostrils, and melting eye-sockets. The reek of burning hair permeated the area before Delgarias stopped frying them.

When he turned around, he saw that the other Elders had stepped backward about twelve feet, staring at him in naked horror.

He watched their eyes scan his almost luminescent hair, with its bi-layered strands, his overly long fingers with their extra knuckles, his pointed ears, and lightning-shot eyes, wondering always what he was before he’d become the first blood drinker. Sure, they’d recently learned that he was faelin, but only Ian had visited Aisthanesthai and had just the slightest comprehension as to what the faelin were.

Tonight, the Elders’ fear didn’t bother him. Not when he was flush with victory. Soon, he would close in on the rogue who’d evaded him for the past three hundred years. It took all of his centuries of self-discipline and sense of duty not to immediately begin pursuit.

Because first, he needed to look in on his other people. And perhaps gain news of someone who’d evaded him for far much longer.

He weighed the pros and cons of telling the Elders that he knew where Annarkie was going to be and decided to hold his silence for now. Between desire to maintain his credibility and the matter of her knowledge of the portals, it was best to wait until he had the rogue in his custody before acting. Besides, there were so many questions he had for her that were best asked in private.

Delgarias cleared his throat. “I must leave for Aisthanesthai now and see if Mephistopheles has made any new moves there.”

Marcus sneered. “I wonder at your devotion to a world that views our kind so poorly. And at the wisdom of looking to you when you play for both sides.”

“There is only one side, Marcus. We all stand against the evil one. I was his first creation, the first of many that he’d enslaved. I will not have you or any of my people enslaved again.”

Before Delgarias teleported outside, he saw that rather than his words reassuring Marcus, the hostility on the ancient Roman’s face seemed to increase.

That one would have to be watched.

When he was certain that no witnesses or drones were near, Delgarias took to the air. The closest portal was outside of Haarlem, thankfully in a shielded copse of trees at the edge of a meadow. He hadn’t told the Elders about this portal. Not until he was certain all could be trusted.

Once through the portal, Delgarias approached the castle in Niji, where the King and Queen of Aisthanesthai had moved their seat for as long as the war lasted.

After he was admitted entry into the receiving room, the queen ran to him and exclaimed with delight before throwing her arms around his waist. “Uncle Del!”

Uncle Del. His throat tightened at the name as he returned the embrace. Xochitl had called him that ever since she could form words, never knowing how the double blow those two words impacted his heart.

Before Kerainne Leonine’s daughter came into the world, only one person had called him Del. And he would have given anything for the chance to wed her, which would have made him Xochitl’s uncle in truth.

Nikkita, his mind whispered. He touched the pendant that remained against his chest, concealed beneath his robes.

The rest of the universe knew him by other names. To the mages of Aisthanesthai, he was the Keeper of the Prophecy and addressed as “revered one.” To his faelin kin in Shellandria, he was “the outcast” or “the abomination.” To the vampires of Earth, he was The Thirteenth Elder. In both worlds he was feared and obeyed.

For over two millennia, Delgarias had trekked back and forth between Earth and Aisthanesthai, never fully belonging to either, never living for himself, but for his seemingly endless quest at redemption. His pride had cost him his love and brought undeserved power to his enemy and thus cost his world.

He may have been Mephistopheles’s first vampire, but Delgarias had quickly learned the error of his ways and had since made it his life’s mission to destroy the would-be god.

And to stop anyone who would interfere.

The King cleared his throat, making Xochitl step back. “We are honored with your visit, Revered One.” Delgarias blinked in surprise that Zareth had reverted back to the old title. After discovering that Delgarias was a vampire, the King had begun addressing him by his name only. “What news do you bring us?”

“Very little, I’m afraid. Cells of the Order of Eternal Night are sprouting up like mushrooms after a rain, but the ones we’ve infiltrated thus far haven’t seen any sign of Mephistopheles. Instead, I’ve come to inform you that I will be occupied on Earth with a rogue who is taking the law into her own hands. She’s been plaguing me on and off for centuries, but I’m closing in on her trail at last.”

“She must be very clever to elude you for so long.”

Delgarias shrugged. “Not really. Her mischief has honestly aided the Elders more than hindered, and her meddling has been sporadic enough to make her a low priority. Until now.”

“Oh?” Zareth prodded lightly.

“The rogue is planning another attack on a very large cell of the Order of Eternal Night. A cell who we believe is in direct contact with Mephistopheles. I need that cult alive and infiltrated, but if this Annarkie and her band of rogues has their way, a bevy of mutilated cultists would be dropped on the doorstop of the Motherhouse instead.”

“Badass!” Xochitl grinned up at him. “An assassin named Annarkie?”

“A misguided vigilante.” Delgarias corrected, not admitting that up until recently, he’d assumed said vigilante to be male and the spelling of his alias to be “Anarchy.” To discover that it had been a female tweaking his nose this whole time had been humbling. “And though the vampires she’s killed were all guilty of their crimes, she is still violating our laws by denying those she kills their rights to a fair trial.”

Zareth nodded. “And if you do not stop her, you could risk the stability of law and order amongst your people.”

“It’s a shame.” Delgarias didn’t mention the risk Annarkie also presented to the vampire integration efforts in Aisthanesthai. “Had she presented herself the first time she’d killed a wrongdoer, she could have become one of our most valued assets, earning a high position as a spy or enforcer for the Elders. Hell, maybe even the third time. But it is too late for her. She’s flouted the law long enough.” To his surprise, regret tugged his chest at the thought of the rogue’s impending capture and execution. “Enough about my vigilante, what news have you of Aisthanesthai?”

“Things are too quiet. I don’t like it.”

“Mephistopheles’s attacks have always been sporadic and far apart,” Delgarias reminded him.

“Yes, but now he knows about Xochitl.” Worry shone in Zareth’s eyes. “I’d think that he’ll want to move faster now that the one foretold to defeat him is here.”

“The Prophecy doesn’t say if she defeats him.” Delgarias reminded the king. “Only that she will battle him.”

Zareth’s clenched fists took on a fine tremble.

Xochitl took her husband’s hand and gazed up at him. “But I will destroy him. I vow it. That fucker raped my mom and destroyed millions of lives.”

Delgarias winced at the blunt reminder of the desecration of a woman who he’d regarded as a sister. But since he could not change the past, he returned the topic to the present. “Zareth is right in that Mephistopheles will likely move faster now that he has seen his daughter.”

“But we’re not ready.” Xochitl echoed Delgarias’s earlier worries. “We haven’t even found all seven nightwalkers with their brides. As far as I’ve counted, there’s Silas and Akasha, Jayden and Razvan, Radu and Lillian, and Aurora and Tony. That’s only four. Three more need to join us. Have you determined any special names for the next Bride?”

Delgarias shook his head. “They come to me when I see them, or soon after.”

Akasha was the general, Jayden, the seeress, Lillian the engineer, Aurora the directrix, who would lead the war march to the beat of her war drum, both literally and metaphorically. What special talent would the next Bride contribute?

“Well, maybe it’s good that you’re going back to Earth and dealing with vampire business,” Xochitl gave him an encouraging smile. Never had she looked upon him with fear, and not only because she was half luminite. “Then you can find the next Bride.”

Although that was the most important person he had to locate, Delgarias was more concerned with finding the rogue and finding Nikkita.

Speaking of…

“If you’ll excuse me, my queen, I’d like to talk to your mother before I take my leave.”

Xochitl’s amber eyes glittered with smug knowledge. “She’s out back.”

He found Kerainne in the rear garden, her waist-length blonde hair covering her in a cloak that gleamed gold in the light of the two moons. Instead of tending to the flowers or reading a book, the luminite princess—no, queen, as she’d recently claimed the title—stared out past the gates at a large vacant lot behind the castle.

The site where Zareth’s half-brother, Stefan, had built a tower wrought of human sacrifice and dark blood magic during his attempt to take the throne and Xochitl. If Stefan had won the throne, Mephistopheles would have triumphed by now. In fact, Stefan would have probably delivered the entire world of Aisthanesthai to the evil one on a silver platter.

“Have you found any clues as to where my sister is?” Kerainne asked without turning around.

“No.” He’d been about to ask her the same question. “But that seeking spell you helped me with led me to the vigilante rogue vampire I’ve been pursuing for centuries.”

“I am happy I was able to help with something.” Kerainne said. “And I do hope that your capture of the vigilante is quick and your dealings with her are and humane.”

“They’ll be as humane as she’ll allow them to be.” Delgarias told her plainly. “But she has knowledge of the portals and has knowledge of the portals and has been using them to deliver the vampires she arrests. And who knows for what else. This is dangerous and—”

Kerainne turned around, making him fall silent as the sight of her beauty and resemblance to her sister made his heart constrict with agony. “You don’t have to justify your decisions to me, Del. Although it is in my nature to guide others to the path of mercy, I’m selfishly concerned with the expediency of this mission. I want my sister found. You’re not the only one hurting from her absence.”

Only last year had he learned that Nikkita had been missing from Medicia for over a thousand years. And a few months ago, Kerainne had told him part of the reason why. She was hiding from an arranged betrothal.

A small, petty part of him rejoiced at the fact that Nik didn’t want to marry another man, but the possessive glee was subdued since she clearly didn’t want to marry him either.

But… a voice whispered.

No, he silenced that usual reminder before it could resurface. That didn’t count.

As it was, Delgarias was still reeling from the revelation that Nikkita had been closer to his reach than he’d believed all this time.

And still she hadn’t sought him out.

Maybe it would be better to give her up again, as he had before. His chest tightened at the thought.

No. He needed answers. At first, he’d thought she avoided him because she was repulsed at what he’d become. But Kerainne had forgiven him and understood what had driven him down his dark path.

Surely Nik could forgive him too? And even if she couldn’t, surely, he could convince her to at least allow him to explain himself.

But now that Kerainne had confessed to giving Nik a blood vow to keep some secret, Delgarias knew the betrothal wasn’t Nik’s only reason for spending centuries in hiding. The secret had to be catastrophic as well, for Nik wouldn’t be the type to subject her own sister to risk of becoming cursed if the truth were forced from her lips.

Curiosity burned almost as deeply as his worry. Whatever it was that kept Nik in hiding, even from her own family, for over a millennium, Delgarias would do what he could to help her.

He just needed to persuade her to let him.

If only he didn’t have to waste valuable time chasing down Annarkie. Then he could focus more of his taxed time to finding the woman who still held his heart in her palm.

COLLAPSE

Her Haunted Heart

Off
Brooklyn Ann

B Mine, Book 2

Book Cover: Her Haunted Heart
Part of the B Mine series:

Keynote:

When an aspiring artist inherits a haunted house, it will take the help of the cute nerd next door, the crazy recluse down the street, and a cat named DeLorean to drive the evil out.

Tagline: When things go bump in the night…

Copy:

When Zelda Shaye inherits the infamous Sazerac House, she immediately senses that something’s not right about the ancient mansion. Strange noises interrupt her sleep, the garbage disposal has it out for her father, and things move on their own.

Zelda’s hot neighbor, Tobe Friedkin, confirms her suspicions when he tells her that the house is known by everyone to be haunted and that members of the Sazerac family suffered mysterious deaths until they were wiped out, leaving Zelda left as the last female descendent to inherit the legacy…and the family curse.

Zelda’s parents won’t believe her, so it’s up to her and Tobe, with the help of the crazy cat lady down the street, to lay the unquiet spirit to rest before it’s too late.

Excerpt:

Chapter One

Amteep, Idaho, I981

He dreamed about the house again.

Even though the Greek Revival-Victorian-Italianate-hybrid mansion on the corner of Sazerac Street and Bourbon Court was next door to the simpler split-level ranch house Tobe lived in, the Sazerac House always gave him the impression that it was in another world entirely.

The sense of otherworldliness remained whenever he looked at the house, whether awake or dreaming. A forbidding energy emanated from the light blue-gray wood siding and darker blue-gray trim. The tall leaded glass dormer windows gleamed with a sentient light. Long, graceful columns, painted the same dark blue-gray as the trim, propped up a covered porch that spanned the entire front of the house. Three levels high, with slate-shingled mansard rooftops and four chimneys, the house dwarfed every other property on the street.

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As he stood on the wide flagstone walkway leading up to the elaborately carved oak front door, Tobe only knew this was a dream because Cecile Sazerac, the matriarch and last member of the doomed family, sat in her dead brother’s rocker outside, watching him through milky, bluish cataracts. Cecile had died of old age two weeks ago. In real life, the house stood empty, locked tight as a fortress.

Cecile lived on in his dreams, beckoning him as surely as the house did.

“That house is cursed,” old Mrs. Waters from around the corner had told Tobe one hot summer day last year after he had mowed her lawn.

As always, the eccentric cat lady had beckoned him to the shade of her gazebo, where a pitcher of ice-cold lemonade and a plate of snickerdoodles waited. The envelope with Tobe’s pay sat on the edge of the Formica table, not to be handed over until he chatted with the old woman for at least ten minutes. At first, he’d been annoyed that she did that to him. After finishing his hired task, he’d wanted to take the promised money and run home to get ready to spend it on books, music, or a night at the movies. Being held hostage by a chattering granny with six cats milling around his ankles had not been his idea of an afternoon well spent.

But he quickly discovered two things that changed his mind: The first was that Edith Waters was painfully lonely. She didn’t have any children and her husband had died ten years ago. No one ever came to visit her, so Tobe was the closest thing she had to a friend, aside from her six cats. Guilt tore at him when he’d come to that realization. If eating her delicious cookies and sitting with her for ten measly minutes gave her such joy, he vowed that the least he could do was try to stay longer.

The second thing he discovered, when he actually started listening to the stories Edith Waters told him, was that the old woman was an interesting person. And she knew things. A lot of things. Like what times Officer Higgins around the block did his nightly patrol through the neighborhood before he returned home to sleep the day away. Useful information when you were a teenage boy sneaking out at night long past curfew, and still useful when you were an adult with other plans. Mrs. Waters also told him that the Hurleys were swingers, the Bawdens were potheads, and that Mr. Arenson had terrible insomnia.

And she knew about The House.

“What do you mean, cursed?” Tobe had asked, trying to conceal his excitement.

Mrs. Waters had scooped Kirk, a brown and gray marbled tabby with a white belly and mismatched socks, onto her lap and scratched him behind his ears. “I mean exactly that. The ground it was built upon was drenched in blood, and people have died since the day the first nail was hammered. The Sazeracs used to be a large and prosperous family. Ten members of the clan lived in that house at one time. The house picked them off one by one. And now Cecile is the last.”

Tobe had listened as Mrs. Waters painted a macabre history of the family who built the place. The Sazeracs, who doubled their fortunes from bootlegging during prohibition, seemed to be doomed to misery. Mysterious deaths claimed some, others disappeared, and at least two went insane, imprisoned in their own minds. Edith claimed that the house had at least four ghosts, and probably more.

His new friend’s stories had doubled his fascination with the Sazerac House. So much that he went to the library and dug up every bit of information on the family and house that he could find. By the time his senior year at Amteep High School had started, Tobe had become an expert on the house next door. And by Christmas break, he’d become obsessed.

The drive to get inside the Sazerac House consumed him. His first few attempts failed. An offer to mow the lawn was declined despite the overgrown grass and tangled garden, and Tobe’s offer at selling candy for a school fundraiser resulted in the elaborate oak front door slamming shut in his face.

But two months ago, Tobe achieved successful entry with honesty. He told the old woman that he’d fallen in love with her house and would love to see the inside, even if it was only the foyer.

Cecile Sazerac squinted at Tobe for a moment before nodding. Her cataracts had gotten so thick that she didn’t seem to recognize him. “Very well, young man. I haven’t had living company since my dear brother shuffled off his mortal coil, so I may as well share a cup of tea with you.”

For a moment, Tobe gaped at her, disbelieving that she would allow him inside and blinking at her odd phrasing. Living company? Did that mean that Edith was right and the house was haunted?

“Shut your mouth before you catch a fly,” Cecile had said drily. “Follow me.”

Tobe passed through the doorway into the shadowed foyer and a shiver darted down the back of his neck. Cobwebs wove through the arms of the wrought-iron coat tree, and the black and burgundy fleur de lis patterned rug beneath his feet was faded and worn. He followed Cecile into a large open room that was illuminated by a brass and crystal chandelier, and full of sheet-covered furniture that resembled Halloween ghosts. Paintings of dour ancestors from the previous century hung on the wall beside a huge stone fireplace.

The dining room was in a similar state of disuse, with sheets on the chairs, cobwebs strewn through another chandelier, and a vast dust-covered table that could seat thirty people. He wished he could peek to see what kind of chairs they were. Chippendales? American Victorians? The big cabbage roses on the late-nineteenth-century wallpaper resembled staring faces.

“Come along.” Cecile’s cane had thumped on the heart pine hardwood floor. “You may join me in the parlor for tea and then you may leave.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Tobe hurriedly obeyed, not wanting to risk her changing her mind and having that big butler/handyman muscle him away. Or worse, for her to call the police, as she’d threatened one of the previous times he’d tried to get inside the house.

The parlor was spotless, with gleaming hardwood floors, plush antique rugs, and fancy objets d’art in an elaborately carved hutch. Instead of dour Sazerac ancestors scowling on the walls, paintings of landscapes and nature added to the room’s welcoming comfort. With the afternoon sunlight streaming in the large bay windows, Tobe saw how old and frail Cecile had become. All those years seeing her watering her azaelas every morning had made his subconscious believe that she was ageless.

But sitting across from her in a velvet wingback chair allowed him to see the truth. Ms. Sazerac’s time was running out. Wrinkled skin, thin as tissue paper, revealed blue veins beneath, her hollowed cheeks were framed with bones that looked sharp enough to cut, and her gossamer white hair with pink scalp showing beneath overwhelmed the faint streaks of red.

“I suppose you’ll ask me if I killed Louis.” Cecile’s words disrupted Tobe’s perusal of her features.

Tobe blinked at the abrupt turn in conversation. “No, ma’am.”

He remembered Louis, the catatonic old man who’d sat outside in the rocking chair on the wide covered porch, staring blankly out at the street. Children would sometimes try to taunt him, but quickly gave up when they got no reaction. A maid came out every twenty minutes to wipe the drool from his chin. Tobe had timed the routine once.

Edith had told Tobe that Louis had once been a wild, rebellious man and a notorious drug dealer, but after multiple times being committed to asylums and several shock treatments, he became a vegetable for the last two decades of his life. He’d died in the winter of 1976.

The old woman pulled him back into the present and continued as if Tobe hadn’t objected to the idea of her committing fratricide. “It doesn’t matter one way or another, since I’ll be dead before the lilacs bloom, but I didn’t kill my brother or my niece. The house took one, the demon took the other.”

“The demon?” Tobe echoed. Edith had mentioned a curse, but not a demon.

For a moment, Cecile stared through Tobe, as if trying to find someone inside him. Then she shook her head and made a shooing motion with one wrinkled hand covered in rings. “Go wash your hands. Dolores is about to bring in the tea and cakes. The bathroom is down the corridor, the second door on the right.”

As he’d made his way down the corridor to the bathroom, every bone in Tobe’s body itched with the need to race up one of the curved staircases to explore the bedrooms of the dead Sazeracs whose stories he’d read in the library.

But as his feet began to stray from the path he’d been directed to take, an icy gust of wind rifled through his hair. Goosebumps prickled his flesh. Was he going to see a ghost? A door across from him creaked open. Tobe sucked in a breath.

A woman in a starched uniform stared at him with narrowed eyes and a suspicious stare. She wasn’t as ancient as Cecile, but she was still old. Her white hair was twisted in a tight bun. She must be Dolores. “The bathroom is through that door. Best hurry. The mistress does not like to be kept waiting.”

Tobe nodded and obeyed, taking minimal time to admire the bathtub and the fixtures on the antique sink before hurrying back to the parlor.

The same old woman served Tobe and Cecile with a tray of tea and cookies. With some of the disturbing history he’d read, Tobe didn’t drink from his cup until Cecile had sipped from hers.

The old woman noticed, giving Tobe a wry smile. “The last poisoning to occur in this house was back in 1931. Besides, I wish you no harm, young man. In fact, I am hopeful that you may be useful in the future.”

“You mean to mow your lawn or to help with repairs?” The cornices over most of the bay and dormer windows were crumbling and the roof was in dire need of new shingles.

Cecile cackled, a dry reedy sound. “Oh, things are too far gone here to bother trying to improve. Leave that to the next one to bear this millstone.”

Tobe felt a twinge of sadness to hear her talk about this beautiful house in this way. How much tragedy and suffering had really occurred under this roof? He remained silent, watching the dust motes swirl lazily in the air, hoping Cecile would continue.

He was rewarded after an endless silence. She leaned forward and seized his hands with wrinkled, bejeweled fingers. “The curse must be broken and the demon must be imprisoned in iron.”

Wow. That was not what Tobe expected “The demon?”

“Iron,” Cecile repeated calmly, as if she were asking Tobe to rake the leaves from her yard. “That’s what they told me.”

Tobe’s arms had prickled with goosebumps at her words. “Who are they?”

Cecile shook her head and blinked rapidly, an unnerving sight, with those filmy cataracted eyes darting around blindly. “Dolores,” she cried out in a shrill voice. “Help me to my bed.”

The maid had rushed into the parlor and glared at Tobe as if he’d been responsible for the old woman’s sudden distress. “You had best leave.”

Tobe had never left a place faster.

***

It was that day Tobe dreamed about. Only this time, he went further.

The wood had creaked below his shoes as he’d ascended the west staircase, the one that led to Belinda Sazerac’s attic room. The one who’d famously gone mad, and been imprisoned for years before throwing herself from the window and falling to her death.

Suddenly, the whole house seemed to spin around him. Tobe clung to the bannister and closed his eyes, overcome with dizziness. When he opened his eyes, he stood before the attic room.

The door swung open before he could reach for the tarnished knob.

A woman in a white lace-trimmed nightgown stood in front of one of the large octagonal bay windows. She swayed back and forth, humming softly. The melody was haunting and somehow familiar.

Tobe held his breath and willed himself not to move. He knew on some primal level that if he saw the woman’s face, he’d lose his mind. Don’t turn around, his mind cried out. Please, for the sake of my sanity, don’t turn around.

The woman turned.

Her face was a corpse’s ruin, cheek and jawbones protruding through paper-thin flaps of desiccated flesh. Insects crawled through the tattered, yellow lace of her nightgown. Her eyes were covered with a rheumy film.

She grinned at Tobe, her brown teeth seeming to be too large for her cavernous face.

“I’ve been waiting for you, young scholar, future kin.” The words emerged in a dry rustle, wind through a tomb. “Help the bearer of the legacy. The demon must be contained.”

She reached for him and—

Tobe jerked awake, drenched in sweat despite the air conditioning blowing from the vent above his bed. He trembled as he rolled out of his queen-size bed and dug his clothes from the pile of clean laundry his mom had set on top of his dresser.

The dream was so intense that Tobe couldn’t stop reliving it, occasionally shivering despite the early June heat. After showering and eating breakfast, he rushed outside, eager to head over to Edith’s house to tell her about the dream. She was the only one who appreciated his obsession with the Sazerac House. His parents thought he needed to see a shrink.

As Tobe’s feet sank into the lush lawn, he froze when two cars parked in the driveway of The House. “Breaking the Law” from the latest Judas Priest album, British Steel, blared from the open windows of the second car, a shiny blue Datsun wagon. The new owners had arrived.

Edith had told Tobe about the family only last week, the day before he graduated high school. He’d been at school, cleaning out his locker, when two men had shown up at the house to look it over. Edith had used her granny-skills to get the story. The Sazerac family hadn’t been wiped out after all. Some distant relatives had been found, but Edith wasn’t told whether the family would be moving into the house. Tobe hoped they did. Especially since one of them clearly liked good music.

His wish had come true. Not caring if he was caught staring, he watched the driver’s side door of the Datsun wagon open and a pair of pale glorious legs step out onto the cobblestone driveway.

Tobe’s jaw dropped when he saw the rest of her. Tall and lean, with dark red hair tumbling over her shoulders, she was the most beautiful girl Tobe had ever seen. Black cutoff shorts hugged her slim hips; threads of denim caressed her shapely thighs. A black AC/DC shirt with the sleeves ripped off revealed slim arms and sculpted shoulders. Her vibrant stance and aura of open energy was the antithesis of the previous owner’s stooped posture and guarded air.

“I think I’m in love,” Tobe breathed.

As Tobe watched her walk to the back of her car and take a cat carrier from the wagon’s cargo area, the house behind her seemed to awaken from its uneasy hibernation.

As if sensing his staring, the beautiful redhead halted and spun on her heel to look at him. When her blue eyes met his, Tobe’s mouth went dry. An electric spark, teeming with stories of the future, jolted between them.

They would do great things together. They would—

Abruptly, she turned her back on him and headed up the walkway to the house. If her reaction to him was any indicator, his hopes of getting inside were crushed.

COLLAPSE

Melding Souls

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Brides of Prophecy, Book 6

ISBN: 978-1090140944

They’re from two different worlds….

 

For months, Beau Thompson, bass player of Rage of Angels and novice mage, has been fighting a secret crush on Artavian Calla, healer sorcerer, and apprentice to the King of Aisthanesthai.

But with a big war coming and a tenuous alliance between sorcerers and vampires to be negotiated, there’s little time to pursue love. Or maybe Beau’s just scared, since he’s only had brief flings.

Yet each completes the other.

As magic returns to Earth and Rage of Angels are recruiting vampires to fight an evil would-be god, the sorcerer and the rock star spend more time exploring their attraction. And together, Beau and Artavian might have the power to save their friends, and maybe both of their worlds, from a returning enemy.

 

Excerpt:

Chapter One

 

Beau Thompson, bassist of Rage of Angels and novice mage, hissed in pain as the bullet was removed from his shoulder. He tried to remain still, but he couldn’t stop shaking. In the last forty-eight hours, he’d endured a road chase involving men trying to murder him and his friends, breaking into the old courthouse to cross a portal to another world, recruiting a mixed army of mages and vampires to join him and his friends in a shootout with a vampire mafia, where he’d acquired said bullet.

Despite all that, Beau couldn’t be happier. Here he was, sitting bare-chested in front of the man he’d been crushing on for months. And his crush was touching him! Okay, only because he was a healer and it was his duty, but still.

READ MORE

A thousand flirtatious remarks bubbled on Beau’s tongue, but he couldn’t bring himself to voice them. Because even after all these months of covertly drooling over the guy, Beau still hadn’t built up the nerve to ask which way he swung.

Why was he still torturing himself with the question? Every time before, if a man caught Beau’s eye, he’d find a discreet way to determine whether the hottie was possible to pursue as quickly as possible.

But when it came to Artavian Calla, all of Beau’s usual seduction strategies had been thrown out the window. At first, because the day Beau had met him was right after Xochitl had killed Artavian’s former master and collapsed in a coma.

Nightmares of that cataclysmic day continued to haunt Beau. With him, Aurora, and Sylvis joining Xochitl in playing one of their favorite songs, Xoch’ had banished a cloud of despair from the magical world of Aisthanesthai and brought back a sun that had been obscured for four years. At first, the cost seemed too high, with the prospect of losing one of his best friends and being stranded in an alien world.

When Artavian had joined Beau and his bandmates, along with Zareth, Xochitl’s husband, Beau hadn’t paid much attention to the blue-robed mage because he was more focused on whether or not Xochitl was going to live or die. But once they’d returned to Zareth’s tower and Xochitl’s condition had stabilized, Beau’s breath halted when he noticed Artavian’s otherworldly beauty. With waist-length hair the color of mahogany, elfin, delicate features, and glittering blue eyes, Artavian was so pretty that it hurt to look at him for too long. But Beau didn’t even consider feeling the guy out to see if the attraction was mutual. Not when his best friend was in a coma and Artavian was split between efforts to heal Xochitl and establish his role as Zareth’s new apprentice and seneschal. It wasn’t anywhere near the ideal one-night stand situation. And as for something long term? Even less ideal if Beau was looking for that sort of thing—and he most certainly was not. The only long-term commitments he needed was that of his friends, the only ones who’d been there for him when his own family had not.

At first Beau had wondered if it was a wise idea to take in someone who’d served the enemy, but after talking with Artavian, Beau learned that the mage had been traded off to Stefan against his will. Chattel for an alliance.

As far as Beau could tell, Artavian was human, not one of the myriad other magical creatures that inhabited Aisthanesthai. On Aisthanesthai, everyone was magical to some degree. Beau had only recently learned that not only did he possess a spark of magic, he also shared some ancestry with the most powerful creatures known to exist. The luminites. Winged beings that were like a cross between angels and Greek muses, the luminites had reigned in all of the known worlds for thousands of years. They were incapable of fear and truly immortal. Their only weakness? Luminites could only create. They could not destroy. Xochitl was half luminite and yet she’d killed Stefan.

Artavian had been the one to explain these important details to Beau and his bandmates while Zareth was beside himself with grief and worry for his new wife. Art had done enough hand-wringing himself during Xochitl’s coma. “I’ve studied luminites since I learned to read. I’ve studied healing nearly as long, at the risk of my father’s wrath. But I can’t figure out how to awaken the Queen.”

The guy had been so distraught that Beau had pulled him aside, for once not to try to get laid, but to offer comfort.

“Look, man. You’re doing the best you can. And Xoch’ is gonna make it. I feel it deep down.” To his surprise, he did. “Don’t be too hard on yourself.” Beau had led Artavian to one of the comfortable couches in the solar, a sort of living room area in Zareth’s tower. “Tell me more about yourself. Why didn’t your father want you to study healing?”

“Because in Wurrakia, only the women are supposed to use magic and only to heal.” A bitter sneer had curled Artavian’s lips.

Beau had sat frozen in fascination as the mage described a patriarchal culture of knights and maidens and conquest that could have been inspired by tales of King Arthur. But despite the fantastical story, he found common threads of his own childhood with Artavian’s. Expectations thrust upon him that went against his heart and soul.

Zareth had interrupted that first conversation to assign various duties to Artavian, but Beau sought the guy out whenever he had the chance. At first it was simply the pleasure of spending time in the company of a beautiful man that motivated Beau, as well as to determine whether or not it would be safe to flirt with him. But before Beau realized what was happening, he found himself growing close to him, becoming his friend.

And that was the next impediment from pursuing Artavian sexually. Beau hadn’t had a close male friend since middle school. He’d forgotten how wonderful such camaraderie could be. No way in hell did he want Art to turn away from him with revulsion like his last friend. So instead he tried to control his attraction to the gorgeous mage and appreciate the long conversations and exciting exchanges of knowledge between their two different worlds.

Then, Xochitl’s mother, Kerainne Leonine, had walked into Zareth’s tower, back from the dead, because it turned out that luminites didn’t really die. After a terse explanation as to where she’d been for the last four years, Kerainne revived Xochitl from her coma.

Things got crazy after that. Delgarias, a faeling high sorcerer who was Keeper of the Prophecy, alternated between enigmatic smiles as he checked in on them and furtive, frantic whispers with Xochitls’s mom. Zareth decided that it was time to start training Beau, Aurora, and Sylvis in using their magic. Sometimes Artavian and Xochitl got to join the lessons, since they were both Zareth’s apprentices, but not often since they were light years ahead of Beau and the others in training and talent.

With Xochitl recovering, Aurora had noticed Beau’s interest in Artavian and teased him mercilessly.

“I can’t believe you haven’t made a move on him yet!” Aurora had elbowed him before rolling a joint with weed from Zareth’s kingdom. “You’ve never hesitated before.”

“Things are different.” Beau had pointed at the two moons in the sky and then down at Xochitl, who was learning to fly with her newly sprouted wings. “Really different.”

Aurora had shrugged before lighting the joint and taking a hit. “Point. But still, maybe you could at least try a little flirting, see if he responds.”

But Beau didn’t get the chance because Xochitl had figured out how to open portals and had abruptly driven through one with Aurora jumping in after. Zareth had taken Beau and Sylvis back to Coeur d’Alene in pursuit, where they’d discovered that all of their closest friends in their hometown had been vampires all along. While adjusting to that mind-fuck, Rage of Angels also had to deal with a lawsuit for breach of contract for their disappearance which had led to the mafia war.

The fact that there was going to be an even bigger war—with an even more powerful enemy—was not something Beau wanted to dwell on.

Especially when he was finally back in Artavian’s presence. They’d reunited the night before the battle, but Beau hadn’t had a moment alone with his friend until now. Art had been a legend during the fight, running fearlessly into the stream of endless bullets, throwing up shields and carrying the wounded out of the line of fire. Beau had been a mess, dizzy at the onslaught of chaos and bloodshed, trying to focus on shooting the enemy and trying not to rush to Art when the bullets came too close. Ultimately, a bullet had found Beau.

To his surprise, it didn’t hurt right away. His shoulder seemed to collapse, numb in some places, burning in others. Then Artavian had swooped in like Batman, his blue robes flowing in the wind like a cape. He’d lifted Beau carefully, with an effortless strength that Beau hadn’t expected from such a lean guy. Beau’s dizziness increased, but whether it was from the shock of being shot or from the sensation of being carried in Art’s arms, he didn’t know. He could only rest his cheek against the warm velvet and inhale Art’s scent of sweat and herbs. Despite the growing pain in his shoulder, Beau had to fight off a fresh surge of arousal.

Art had muttered some words in the language of magic, and everything had gone black. When Beau had awakened, the battle was won, the surviving mafia vampires had knelt before Xochitl and acknowledged her as their queen, and they were on a bus back to Central Park to go through the portal back to Aisthanesthai.

Now Beau was seated on a cot in the room Zareth had given Artavian to study and practice his magic. The room was cozy, with a warm fire crackling in the hearth, the scent of dried herbs and candle wax permeating the room. Birds chirped outside the window and Beau caught frequent glimpses of them, robins and finches, hopping on the sill as if interested in the proceedings inside.

Another spike of pain drilled into his bone as Art worked the bullet.

“It’s almost out,” Art’s accented voice soothed Beau. “You’re doing very well.”

Instead of surgical pliers, Art was extracting the bullet with some sort of magnetic wand. The energy of the thing hummed in Beau’s teeth and raised the hair on his forearms. But that wasn’t nearly as unnerving as the sensation of the bullet squirming against his muscles and tendons. Beau didn’t risk looking down at the procedure. Instead he focused on the face that haunted his dreams and thoughts for months. The potion Art had given him helped too, giving him a haze of euphoria and a floaty distance from the gory operation.

At last the bullet popped out, accompanied by a gush of wet heat from the wound. The metallic clang into the tray that Art held below Beau’s arm echoed in his ears like Aurora’s cymbals.

Beau almost tipped over on his side, but Art grasped him by his good shoulder, steadying him before he went to work on the wound, cleaning it with a bubbling, stinging solution that reminded Beau of hydrogen peroxide, only this stuff was blue and hurt a little less.

“I’m going to seal the wound now,” Art’s voice went low and hypnotic. “I need you to remain still and quiet. It may feel strange.” His eyes met Beau’s, crystalline in their intensity before darting away. “Ah, you may hold my hand if it gives you comfort.”

“Fuck, I hate stitches,” Beau tried to keep his voice light. But hell yes, he’d hold Art’s hand. It could be the only chance he got.

“I’m not going to be stitching you,” Art said, his voice suddenly husky. “I’m going to do something else.”

COLLAPSE

Wynter’s Bite

Scandals With Bite, Book 5

ISBN: 978-1542715249

She was thrown into an insane asylum for believing in vampires...

Now one has come to rescue her.

Eight years ago, vampire Justus de Wynter fell in love with bluestocking, Bethany Mead, and suffered the consequences. He was sentenced to exile as a rogue vampire, and she was imprisoned in an insane asylum.

After years of searching, and dodging patrolling vampires, Justus has finally found his love. But even after he breaks Bethany out of the asylum, the dangers that face them have only begun. For Justus is still a rogue, with no territory to grant them safety, and Bethany is a fugitive.

As they flee across the English countryside in search of refuge, Bethany and Justus must overcome the challenges of their past and find out if love is possible on the run.

Excerpt:

Chapter One

Morningside Asylum for Lunatics

Manchester, England, May 1825

 

Bethany Mead cringed against the stone wall of her cell. Greeves was guarding the female ward this night. She hated Greeves. The way he looked at her, like he could see through her shift, and the way he held her too long when guiding her back to her cell, both filled her entire being with sick dread. She’d been in this hell long enough to know what unscrupulous guards did to female— and sometimes male— patients.

“I’ve got most delightful news, love,” Greeves spat through the bars. The man was incapable of speaking without emitting a shower of spittle. “The good doctor will be taking a holiday at week’s end. That means we’ll have more time in private to get to know each other better, you and I.”

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Bethany made a small, choking sound, but knew better than to scream. That would only get her thrown in the quiet room for at least two days. Doctor Keene wouldn’t believe her. Greeves acted like a kindly Samaritan in the physician’s presence. At least the doctor may have thus far kept her safe from being violated from his frequent unexpected checking in on her, but his prescribed treatments for her hysteria were agonizing. She was rarely allowed outside, never allowed to look at a newspaper, and could only read novels that the doctor had perused and decided they would not “overstimulate” her. She wasn’t even allowed to read the bible, for Keene thought that the demons and bloody violence were too extreme for a lady of her condition. That resulted in very insipid reading material. The most passion she’d read was a kiss on a gloved hand. The most intimate touch, the hero lifting the heroine from her horse.

Never could she read of heated embraces that lingered in her memory. Never could she read of kisses that inflamed her dreams.

So Bethany often pushed the dull romantic novels to the side and accepted the equally dismal literary novels offered to her, full of bland musings, but no story. Though every once in a while, Eleanor, another patient, would smuggle gothic novels and stories to her. Bethany’s favorites had been written by Alan Winthrop, who was reputed to really be the Duchess of Burnrath. The tales of ghosts and witches tickled her fancy. John Polidori’s short story, The Vampyre, had also captivated her and she had been distraught when Dr. Keene caught her poring over its pages and tossed her back in the quiet room.

For Bethany was absolutely forbidden from speaking, hearing, or reading anything about the supernatural, especially vampires.

Never vampires.

That was what had landed her in this prison in the first place.

Greeves’s sibilant voice pierced her musings. “That’s what I like about you. Yer so quiet. I wager you’ll be quiet when I have ye as well. But I’ll try to get some noise out of ye.”

Nausea roiled through her belly at the thought of Greeves’s filthy hands on her body. She’d once planned on giving her maidenhood to a dashing, crimson-haired viscount whom she’d believed had loved her, a man of secrets and dark magic beyond her most fervent imaginings. Now, after eight years of hell, her virtue would go to this wretched lout.

Eight years. The words scratched her mind like a fork on slate. Had she really been here that long? The first four years hadn’t been so bad, as her parents sent money to ensure she had a decent room and meals, and her mother came to visit from time to time. But as she increased her pleas for her parents to take her home, her mother’s visits dwindled. And once Lord and Lady Wickshire had the son they always wanted, both the money and visits stopped completely. She hadn’t even received a letter in over three years. And without funding, Bethany had been moved to the pauper’s wing, subject to rougher patients and lecherous guards. Doctor Keene also refused her requests to free her and threw her in the quiet room when she’d vowed to find a lawyer. The one time she’d tried to escape, running off when the patients were herded to the chapel, the guards had run her down and she’d spent a week in the quiet room, so intoxicated from Keene’s tonic that she couldn’t tell up from down. After that, she’d not been allowed outdoors for two months.

Bethany cringed as Greeves leered at her. More than ever she longed to leave this place. Every day in captivity increased her fear of going mad in truth.

Tears burned hot on her cheeks and a strangled sob tore from her throat.

“Oh yes.” Greeves clasped his hands together. “I like it when you—”

He halted abruptly when Doctor Keene came round the hall. “How is Miss Mead this evening?”

Greeves cast her a smirk before turning to face the doctor. “Overwrought, it seems. I tried to comfort her, but she won’t have it.”

“Oh?” Keene lowered his spectacles and peered at Bethany. “I’ll see to her then. You run along and make sure the doors are locked before you return to your station.”

“Very good, Sir,” Greeves replied before tipping Bethany a wink on his way out.

Dr. Keene opened her cell door and approached her, brows drawn together with concern. “What ails you, Miss Mead?”

Bethany bit her lip. Keene had already dismissed her complaints about Greeves, and if he thought she was having hysterics, he’d lock her up in the quiet room for a day or two. She hated the quiet room, a small, coffin-like chamber that isolated her from all light and sound.

“Very little, Doctor.” She forced herself to smile. “I am only missing my mother.” She wiped the tears from her eyes. “I feel better already.”

Dr. Keene regarded her with a skeptical frown as he patted her on the shoulder. “Are you certain? Your hands are shaking. Perhaps you should spend some time in the quiet room.”

Bethany shook her head vigorously. She’d experienced inexplicable tremors and aches for the past year. This time, her shakes were justified, but Keene refused to believe her. “I only need some rest. I will go to bed now.”

Keene smiled and reached into his pocket. “Yes, rest is the cure for many things. A dram of my soothing tonic will help you sleep.”

She bit back a grimace. Keene’s tonic was anything but soothing, making her feel off kilter and sometimes bringing her hallucinations and vivid nightmares if he felt a higher dose was necessary. But the doctor had neatly manipulated her into making a choice: the tonic, or the quiet room.

“Whatever you think is best, Doctor,” she said as demurely as possible.

Thankfully, he only gave her one teaspoon of the bitter potion instead of two. One time he’d given her three, and Bethany had spent countless hours trapped in a barrage of bad dreams, unable to wake.

“I will look in on you tomorrow morning, Miss Mead,” Keene said as he strode out of her chamber. “If you are calm, perhaps you may take a turn through the gardens with the other ladies. Won’t that be nice? Until then, sleep well.”

The door shut with a clang that reverberated through her ears with undulating waves. Already, the tonic was taking over her senses. At least Keene had the mercy to slide the privacy panel closed on the door so Greeves couldn’t peek in at her. Bethany stumbled to the small straw-stuffed cot and sat down hard on the prickly mattress, rubbing her arms as a draft swept in through the small barred window. She’d forgotten to shutter it. But the sight of the full moon in the sky gave her comfort, reminding her that there was a world outside, a world she had faint hopes of rejoining.

Wrapping her thin wool blanket around her shoulders, Bethany twisted her fingers in her lap to distract herself from the dizzy sensations the tonic wrought. Counting back from when the patients had last went to chapel, it was Tuesday. Four days until Doctor Keene went on his holiday. That left her little time to come up with a plan to save her from Greeves.

She wished she knew how long Keene would be gone. If it were only for a few days, she could muster the courage to get herself thrown in the quiet room for that time. Only Nurse Bronson was trusted with those keys, so Greeves wouldn’t be able to get to her there.

But a sennight, a fortnight? She shuddered, unable to fathom torment of that duration. Such a long time in the dark might break her. Yet what Greeves had in store may also drive her truly mad.

But her family had abandoned her, she had no funds for herself, and he never came for her like she thought he would. Justus, Lord de Wynter. Although she’d finally come to understand that he wasn’t a vampire. Somehow she had imagined that part, but now it seemed she had invented Justus’s ardent love for her too. From the moment she’d been committed to the asylum, she’d believed he’d come to rescue her, to marry her as they had planned beneath the boughs of the apple tree in her family’s orchard. Even when Dr. Keene convinced her that Justus couldn’t have been a vampire, Bethany still thought Justus cared for her.

But as days turned into weeks, then months, then years, Bethany’s hope for Justus to rescue her gradually dried up like the last pool of water in an arid desert. He wasn’t coming. He never cared for her. He’d just been a rake like her parents had insisted.

And Bethany had paid the ultimate price for falling in love with him. Her family had thrown her in the asylum and abandoned her. If only she’d obeyed them and kept her distance from the man who’d fascinated her from their first fateful encounter.

Swallowing a lump in her throat, Bethany pulled the scratchy blanket tighter around her body. She needed to bring her tormented thoughts under control before the tonic turned them into nightmares.

But the moment she closed her eyes, they came anyway.

Greeves grasping at her, the guards locking her in a tiny box, screaming, struggling to get out. The lid opening only to see Justus standing over her, laughing with blood-drenched fangs before closing the box, shutting her in darkness.

Bethany jerked awake and took several deep breaths, trying to think of Chaucer, of Camelot, of a book she’d read long ago about a Fairy Queen.

Just as her eyes began to close, a voice echoed in her cell.

“Bethany…”

At first she thought Greeves had returned, but then she heard the voice again, rich as marzipan, and achingly familiar.

“Bethany!”

The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. It couldn’t be!

She then heard a soft rapping on the bars of her window. Bethany turned and gasped as she saw a face peering in at her. Her heart clenched like a fist at the sight of crimson hair, pearl-white skin, and glittering green eyes.

A strangled cry trickled from her throat. She was dreaming of him again. “You’re not real.”

More than ever did she loathe Keene’s horrid tonic. What kind of evil substance was it to inspire such heartbreaking hallucinations?

The vision made a noise that sounded like a cross between a laugh and a sob. “Of course I’m real.” Arched lips curved in a small smile. “Look at me. Touch me.”

Long pale fingers reached through the bars toward her. Bethany cringed back against the wall. How long would this drug delirium last? “Not real,” she whispered again.

“Then take my hand and feel for yourself.” The vision crooked his finger, beckoning her, daring her. “Come on now, I never before knew you for a coward.”

That old, not quite mocking, slightly daring tone held the same compulsion as it had in real life. Without thinking, Bethany swung her legs over her cot and slowly shuffled towards the window. The bare stone floor felt cold beneath her feet. Moonlight reflected on his skin, turning it luminescent and casting an angel’s nimbus over his fiery locks. If he was a hallucination, it was the most vivid one she’d ever experienced. Had Keene changed the recipe of his tonic?

With trembling hands, she reached out to touch his fingers outstretched towards her. Warm and firm, they slid across her skin with solid tangibility. Frissons of heat sparked at his touch, just as when they’d first met that fateful night long ago.

Once more, she dared to meet his eyes and study the face that had haunted her dreams. As if transported back in time, she saw the same love, longing, and touch of melancholy in his gaze that had lingered in those green depths the night he asked for her hand.

“Justus?” she whispered.

“Yes, Bethany.” His lips curved in a broad grin. White fangs gleamed in the moonlight. “I’ve come to take you out of here.”

Blood roared through her ears before the world went black as pitch.

COLLAPSE

Media Kit

[pdf-embedder url="http://www.brooklynannauthor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Wynters-Bite-Media-Kit1-1.pdf" title="Wynter's Bite Media Kit1"]

To download the PDF with clickable links, go HERE.

Conjuring Destiny

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Brides of Prophecy, Book 3

ISBN: 978-0692552698

 

There’s more than a prophecy holding them together …
Famous rock star, Xochitl Leonine, has dreamt of a world with two moons where a black cloaked man beckons her. One Halloween night, she meets the mysterious stranger of her dreams… literally... and their shared dance becomes a rendezvous in a place of endless night.

Zareth Amotken has no idea how important Xochitl’s heavy metal band is to her. As an immortal sorcerer, he doesn’t care. He has one goal: to find the prophesied savior of his world. Her voice holds the power to bring back his world’s vanished sun.

Xochitl’s compassion urges her to help in any way she can. Yet learning the mysteries of her past causes conflict with her future in music. Her destiny in his world and her obligations to her band pull her in opposite directions. How can she long for one while the other is so dire?

As Zareth introduces her to his people and teaches her to control her powers, she aches for his enchanting kiss. Zareth tries to resist, for their passion will unleash serious consequences, both political and magical.

As the time to fulfill her destiny draws closer, she must choose between her heart, her duty, and her friends. The wrong choice could ruin everything.

 

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Zareth Amotken, high sorcerer of Aisthanesthai, wove through the crowd of jabbering mortals, his lip curled in scorn at their lack of magic. With such tepid fare, his hydra would starve if he remained too long in this desolate world. He could already feel his power dwindling. Disdain faded to unease at that prospect. Zareth quashed the debilitating emotion. He would secure Xochitl and be back in his own world tonight.

The mortals stepped warily to the side as he passed, either intimidated by his height or because they sensed that he was other. He wore a hooded cloak to conceal his luminescent hair, even though unnatural colored tresses swarmed his vision, he likely didn’t need to worry about anything except for his hands, which he kept in his pockets.

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Delgarias had been right. Locating Xochitl Leonine had been simple.

“She shines like a beacon,” the Keeper of the Prophecy had told him. “And she’ll smell like a banquet to your hydra. Even if she didn’t, she’d be easy to find.”

“Why is that?”

“She’s the lead singer of a world famous heavy metal band. They call themselves Rage of Angels.”

Zareth had gaped at the faelin sorcerer in disbelief. “She’s a troubadour? The bastard daughter of Mephistopheles and the princess of Medicia, the one who will save our world, is naught but a minstrel?”

“Think about it, Zareth. What else would she be given the words of the Prophecy?”

“‘With her triumphant roar...’” His eyes widened at the implication. “You can’t be serious.”

“Has the prophecy ever lied?”

Now, here he stood, in a raucous earth realm tavern on the Spirit Feast—what the people here called Halloween—to at last lay eyes on the woman he’d been dream-summoning for the last four years.

As he wove through the costumed masses, he detected several non-human presences. One could be Xochitl, though it was doubtful as the stage remained empty. Strengthening his shields, Zareth surveyed the crowd. His breath caught when he glimpsed two dark-haired men. They were Mephistopheles’s fallen monsters.

Two millennia ago, the would-be god had created some metaphysical mutation, which morphed humans into blood drinking monsters with unnatural strength. They’d acted as his foot soldiers until they’d displeased him, forever banished to Earth, punished to live in a world free of magic.

Zareth couldn’t think of a worse punishment.

Eyeing the creatures, who the people here called vampires,he wondered if they had a connection with Xochitl. After all, she was Mephistopheles’s daughter. Zareth prayed they were only here for the music. He had no wish to interact with those abominations. The lights dimmed and all went still as a vampire appeared on the stage. His fangs gleamed in the stage lights. The humans grinned in admiration, assuming the teeth were part of his costume.

“Welcome to the annual Mortuary Halloween bash!” the vampire shouted.“As many of you know, tonight’s honored guests got their start in my club. Some of you even saw them doing covers of Megadeth, Iron Maiden, and my personal favorite, Metal Church.”

The creature owned this establishment. Zareth ground his teeth in disgust.

“Despite landing a major record deal and recording two platinum albums, they’ve never forgotten us. Every Halloween, they perform a concert and all the proceeds go to a charitable cause. This year your cover charge and drinks will help homeless veterans.” The vampire spread his arms wide. “Without further ado, I present to you, Rage of Angels!”

Zareth felt her before she emerged. Once again, Delgarias had been correct in his assertions. Xochitl’s radiant presence and effervescent power washed over him like a force that made his knuckles tighten.

He cursed her inwardly. Foolish creature. Hadn’t her mother taught her to shield properly?

His hydra, a non-corporeal demon that gave him immortality, roiled with hunger for her essence.

The audience erupted into a cacophony as Rage of Angels came into view. His breath caught at his first sight of the savior of his world. Delicate and ethereal as any luminite, her fine-boned features and pearlescent skin made the humans around her seem coarse by comparison.

Her black and purple waist-length hair gleamed under the stage lights. Unbidden, his gaze swept across her firm, lush breasts and exquisitely curved hips, drinking in the sight of her like a man starved.

Lust, hot and immediate, surged through him in a relentless wave. Zareth clenched his fists and took a deep breath. That wasn’t what he was here for. She was an imperative means to a crucial end. Still, the intensity of his unexpected desire caught him off guard. He’d been too busy with his studies to crave female companionship often.

He shook his head. Maybe it had been too long since he’d shared pleasure with a woman?

So captivated with her beauty, he hadn’t taken notice of her costume. The full-skirted black taffeta dress at first resembled a ball gown, but the lace veil on her head clarified its true purpose. Many of his people also wore such veils for the same occasion.

It was a wedding gown. The realization gave him a twinge of unease. Could her garb be an omen?

The foreboding dissolved into fury when she hugged the vampire. Zareth’s fists clenched in effort not to charge forward and tear her from the monster’s embrace.

A red haze obscured his vision even after the vampire left the stage and Xochitl addressed her audience. Outrage kept him from hearing her words. What did she think she was doing, consorting with their sort? Protective rage coursed through him, making his shadow spell waver.

His hydra roared in protest. No! She is mine!

A memory froze him. He’d uttered those words in a dream-summoning mere years ago. Something had intruded upon Xochitl’s dream. Had it been a vampire?

Every fiber of his being longed to incinerate every blood drinker in sight. Only the dangers of revealing himself stayed his hand.

The other vampires congregated at the base of the stage, scanning the crowd with narrowed, watchful eyes. They’d positioned guards.

Have they sensed me?

Zareth held his breath, poised to fight if necessary. So they meant to protect Xochitl and the others. A slight measure of his hostility waned, though his distrust remained. Then music filled the air and banished all thoughts of the loathsome creatures.

Heavy metal was an explosion on the senses. The wailing guitars, throbbing bass, staccato drums, and the vocalist’s enraged screams evoked a primal life force within its listeners.

A force that had them thrashing and jumping with exhilaration... a force that woke his hydra. It spread its invisible form outward, opened its mouths, and fed. Zareth closed his eyes in pleasure,rejuvenated from his exhausting effort of coming through the portal to this world.

Zareth had heard electric guitars before, but never had he heard the instruments distorted and played in such a blistering style. Leaning forward in fascination, he tried to decide whether or not he liked this music. Either way, it had power.

An impossibly fast drum beat pounded through his consciousness. Whipping his attention to the source of the sound, Zareth studied the striking dark skinned girl playing the drums. This one held a glimmer of magic. Humans of that ilk were rare on Earth, descending from the time when mages, faelin and luminites dwelled here until they were persecuted by non-magical humans. However, he was unsurprised that Xochitl and this woman had become friends. They must have sensed their kinship, as Zareth could.

Guitars joined the rhythm and he shifted his scrutiny to the other minstrels. The bass player also held power... and so did the guitarist. They all did.

“How in the realms?” he whispered, staring in shock.

For two of them to meet was probable, but four?

His speculation broke off as Xochitl’s voice permeated his consciousness. Rich and operatic, punctuated by bone chilling screams of rage, it was more than pleasing to his ears. Her voice was thick with power which imbued its listeners with pure, unadulterated emotion.

Zareth closed his eyes and pictured the people of Aisthanesthai hearing this voice, their passions renewed, their magic rejuvenated enough to bring forth the dawn of their salvation.

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His Ruthless Bite

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Scandals With Bite: Book 4

ISBN: 978-0692638118

The Lord Vampire of Rochester doesn’t do a favor without a price. And now it’s time to collect.

Gavin Drake, Baron of Darkwood is being pestered by nosy neighbors and matchmaking mothers of the mortal nobility. To escape their scrutiny, he concludes that it’s time to take a wife. After witnessing the young vampire Lenore’s loyalty to the Lord of London, he decides she is sufficient for the role.

After surviving abuse from rogue vampires, Lenore Graves wants to help other women recover from their inner wounds. She befriends mesmerist John Elliotson and uses her vampire powers to aid him with his patients. When the Lord of London declares that Lenore is the price the Lord of Rochester demands for aiding him in battle, she is terrified. Will all of her hard work be destroyed by Ruthless Rochester? Yet she can’t suppress stirrings of desire at the memory of their potent encounter.

After Gavin assures her that the marriage will be in name only, Lenore reluctantly accepts Gavin’s proposal. Determined to continue her work, she invites John Elliotson to Rochester. As they help women recover from traumas, Lenore explores her own inner turmoil and examines her attraction to her husband.

Gavin realizes his marriage is a mistake. His new baroness’s involvement with the mesmerist is dangerous. He knows he should put a stop to Lenore’s antics— yet her tender heart is warming his own and tempting him to make her his bride in truth.

As Lenore and Gavin’s relationship blossoms, the leader of a gang of rogue vampires embarks on a quest for vengeance against Gavin… using Lenore as his key.

 

Excerpt:

London, 1824

The vellum note shook in Lenore’s trembling fingers, blurring the letters.

Not that it mattered, as she’d read the missive twice. Rafael Villar, the interim Lord Vampire of London, requested her presence.

When his carriage arrived to fetch her, it took every vestige of her will to leave the comfortable townhouse Lord Villar had leased for her, and accept his driver’s aid into the ornate conveyance.

Her shivering increased as the carriage rolled down the cobblestone street, despite the warmth of her fur-lined cloak. She tried to remind herself that Lord Villar had always been kind to her, even more so since she’d saved his reign— and likely his life— by reporting his former second in command’s treachery to the Elders.

Yet the prospect of facing the stern, surly Spaniard whose authority held supreme power over her fate turned her blood to ice.

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The shivers turned to full-fledged tremors when the carriage drew to a stop in front of the gargantuan Elizabethan manor.

“It will be all right,” the driver said as he opened the door and beheld her pallor. “You’ve done His Lordship a great service. His summons can only mean he wishes to reward you further.”

She ran a nervous tongue across her fangs and nodded as he helped her alight.

The last time she’d been to Burnrath House was when Lord Villar had held a party in her honor for aiding him. He’d presented her with a deed to a cozy townhouse so she no longer had to spend her days sleeping in the crypts.

She suspected this visit would be less festive. Villar was not a man given to social niceties or casual meetings. Since he’d already expressed his gratitude, he’d only call her to him to issue a command or a reprimand.

Her breath constricted in her lungs as her heart began to pound. The tremble in her hands spread throughout her limbs. Another attack threatened. Lenore closed her eyes and focused on breathing slow and deep while she focused on things that made her happy. Hot tea… a warm fireplace… a kitten’s purr. By the time the butler took her cloak, Lenore had a tenuous grasp of control.

The interim Lord Vampire of London awaited her in his study, his scarred face grave. His newly Changed wife leaned against the desk beside him, offering Lenore a reassuring smile.

“Thank you for answering my summons so promptly, Lenore.” Lord Villar’s voice was rife with forced gentleness. “How are you this evening?”

“Uneasy,” she answered honestly.

His scars pulled taut as he smiled, though his amber eyes remained dark with… pity? “I understand.” Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew his cigar case.

Lenore watched with rapt awe as he lit the cigar with a hand that had once been so crippled from burns that his entire left arm had been paralyzed. But then Cassandra, formerly his mortal prisoner and now his bride, had performed a miracle and repaired it. She was now the first vampire physician in London.

“I’ve received a letter from the Lord of Rochester.” Rafael gave her an expectant look, as if she should know what this had to do with her.

Lenore’s attention snapped from Rafael’s hand, her eyes darting up to meet his face, though her mind conjured the image of another, more potent, visage.

Only last autumn, Rochester had found her stumbling within the boundaries of his territory, broken from multiple assaults, starved, and so weak she had collapsed before him. He’d revived her with his own blood and aided her in making the most important journey of her life.

She’d thanked Rochester profusely for his kindness.

He’d laughed coldly.

“Oh, I would not say I am helping you out of kindness. You will owe me a favor for this, Lenore, as will Lord Villar. And I always collect my debts.”

Lenore’s breath left her body as those past words slammed her back into the present.

“He has called in the debt I owe him,” she whispered.

Rafael blinked in surprise. “Actually, he is asking for what I owe him for his aid in my battle against Clayton. I hadn’t known that you owed him a price as well.” Blowing out a cloud of blue smoke, he shrugged. “Though now the price he is asking of me makes more sense.”

“What does he want?” Lenore asked through numb lips.

Villar’s low answer was like a thunderclap. “You.”

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Woman in victorian dress imprisoned in a dungeon ** Note: Soft Focus at 100%, best at smaller sizes

Bite At First Sight

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Scandals With Bite: Book 3

ISBN: 076-0789239502

When Rafael Villar, Lord Vampire of London, stumbles upon a woman in the cemetery, he believes he’s found a vampire hunter—not the beautiful, intelligent stranger she proves to be.

Cassandra Burton is enthralled by the scarred, disfigured vampire who took her prisoner. The aspiring physician was robbing graves to pursue her studies—and he might turn out to be her greatest subject yet. So they form a bargain: one kiss for every experiment. As their passion grows and Rafe begins to heal, only one question remains: can Cassandra see the man beyond the monster?

Excerpt:

28 September 1823

St. Pancras Cemetery, London

“If one desires a task accomplished correctly, one must do it herself.” Cassandra Burton, Dowager Countess of Rosslyn, repeated the litany as she pulled the rickety little wagon through the moonlit aisle of tombstones.

She shivered under her velvet cloak. Her fingers had long since gone numb with the effort of navigating the dratted conveyance over uneven ground and across slippery, damp grass. Shovels and pry bars clanked across the wagon’s worn pine boards. The winch rattled on its frame.

Something flickered across the corner of her vision.

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Cassandra jumped. She stopped and rubbed her gloved hands together for warmth, surveying the graveyard. The area was still and silent as…well, a tomb. Yet the chill in her spine refused to abate. A scornful frown turned her lips at such irrational behavior. Ghosts were an illogical figment of uneducated imaginations, and no one could possibly have business out here at this hour…except herself.

“Worthless curs,” Cassandra whispered in as haughty a tone as she could manage.

If only the men to whom she’d offered a more-than-generous sum to perform this troublesome task had done their duty, rather than disappearing. She shook her head. If not for their unreasonable negligence, she would now be comfortably ensconced in her laboratory unraveling the secrets of the human body…not out in this cold, dreary place, jumping at shadows.

Surveying the newest graves, she read the dates to decide which would be the best specimen. The mysterious disappearance of her hired hands nagged at her. Could a murderer be on the loose? She shook her head and pulled the folds of her cloak tighter. No, by now the authorities would have found their bodies and the news would be sensationalized in The Times.

They were cowards, but she was not. To prove her lack of fear, Cassandra halted her wagon and fetched out a shovel. Her hands trembled nervously as she grasped the wooden handle.

Removing the dead from their graves was illegal. If a constable caught her, she’d be sent directly to Fleet Prison. A fresh surge of trepidation curled in her belly.

Exhuming a corpse was quite a different matter from having one ready on her operating table. As objective as she tried to be, the prospect of removing the body from its carefully arranged resting place by winching it out of the ground and loading it onto her cart was undeniably gruesome. However, gruesome or not, Cassandra needed a specimen to continue her work. And she would acquire it, no matter how much her nerves protested.

Despite being barred from official education as a physician because of her sex, Cassandra was determined to learn the skills required to become a doctor. That included studying human anatomy, and for that, she required cadavers.

Returning to the graves, she made her selection. Alfred Lumley, born September first, 1801; died September twenty-sixth, 1823. Two days ago Alfred had been a living twenty-two-year-old man, three years younger than herself. Whether or not he’d been healthy, she would soon determine. A pang of sorrow struck her heart. His soul is in heaven, she reminded herself. A mere shell remains. A shell that will help me to aid the living.

She raised the shovel, ready to plunge it into the soft soil. “I am not afraid. I am not.”

“You should be.” A sinister, accented voice pierced her consciousness.

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One Bite Per Night

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Scandals With Bite: Book 2

ISBN: 076-0789239496

He wanted her off his hands... Now he'll do anything to hold on to her ...Forever.

Vincent Tremayne, the reclusive "Devil Earl," has been manipulated into taking rambunctious Lydia Price as his ward. As Lord Vampire of Cornwall, Vincent has better things to do than bring out an unruly debutante.
American-born Lydia Price doesn't care for the stuffy strictures of the ton, and is unimpressed with her foppish suitors. She dreams of studying with the talented but scandalous British portrait painter, Sir Thomas Lawrence. But just when it seems her dreams will come true, Lydia is plunged into Vincent's dark world and finds herself caught between the life she's known and a future she never could have imagined.
Excerpt:

“Good evening, Lydia,” Deveril called as he crested the hill. “How is the painting?”

A shiver ran down her body. He only said her name when they were alone… as if they shared an intimate secret. Lydia set down her palette and brush and pulled the folds of her cloak tighter. “It is going as well as it could be, with so few hours to capture the dusk. What is your Christian name?” she blurted as she removed the canvas from the easel. “I’ve known you for a week and I feel I am at a disadvantage.”

“It is Vincent,” he replied in an odd tone. “I didn’t realize you were unaware.”

“Vincent.” She tasted the word. Now she knew what name to invoke in her dreams. “That is quite a name for a devil. Do you truly steal milk from cows at night and change into a sea monster during the full moon, devouring hapless fishermen along the way?”

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Deveril stiffened and his eyes turned glacial. “Emma has been carrying tales, I see.” Rage deepened his voice to a feral growl. “How dare she try to frighten you after I gave her shelter and employment when your grandmother sacked her? By God, I shall—”

“It was not Emma, my lord. It was her sister who said these things.” Her face burned with guilt as she confessed her indiscretion. “I was in the passage, eavesdropping… Emma then assured her sister that you are not a monster.” Although she believes you aresomewhat cracked.

Then, his words struck her. He’d employed Emma after Lady Morley dismissed her. Lydia’s heart warmed at his kind gesture.

Vincent continued to glower. “Perhaps I shall have to find a new scullery maid.”

Lydia shook her head. “I do not think so, for you would only encounter the same problem with the next one. I understand the rumors are wide-spread.” She attempted to make light of it as she packed away her painting supplies. “You should be flattered to be such a part of local lore. Perhaps one day ‘The Devil Earl’ will be as popular as ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’”

“I do not believe I’ve heard that one before.” The hostility left his countenance and he leaned against the great oak tree. “Would you tell it to me?”

“Of course.” Relief washed over her. She had not caused Emma or Beth to lose their employment.

Taking a deep breath, she recited the tale. Lydia took extra care to insert appropriate drama when the giant arrived. “Fee, Fie, Foe, Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman.” She stomped toward Vincent. “Be he live or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread!”

When she finished, Vincent applauded. “Now I must add storytelling to your list of accomplishments. We should return to the castle and meet the dressmakers.”

“Not yet, my lord.” Lydia stopped him, unwilling to relinquish the evening’s beauty and his company. “Now you must tell me a story.”

He sighed and nodded. “Very well.” Vincent stepped away from the tree and began. “A young girl was told to bring a basket of food and herbs to her grandmother, who was ill.”

Lydia had heard this tale, yet the way Vincent told it with his melodious voice and sinister narrative had her listening with anticipation. She watched entranced as he adopted the persona of the wolf, stalking around the tree like a sleek predator.

As Vincent neared the end of the story, he stepped closer to her. “‘What big eyes you have,’ said the girl. ‘The better to see you with,’ the wolf replied.”

Lydia sucked in a breath as he circled her, eyes glittering with savage hunger. She could almost believe he was the wolf. Her knees trembled as he continued.

“‘What big teeth you have,’ the girl said next. To which the wolf answered, ‘the better to eat you with.’” Vincent snarled and seized her shoulders.

Heat flared low in her body at his touch. Lydia shivered as she looked up at him. A trick of the moonlight made his teeth appear sharp and deadly. A gasp tore from her throat as he lunged forward. For a moment it seemed he was going to bite her.

She wanted him to.

Instead his lips caressed her neck as he whispered, “Then the wolf swallowed her whole.”

Liquid tremors wracked her form. She reached up to cling to his shoulders, to beg for more. Vincent stepped back, leaving her to grasp at the air.

Shielding her embarrassment at her reaction, she managed a small giggle. He’d only been telling a story, after all. “In the version my mother told me, the girl got away.”

“Yes, that would be best.” His voice sounded rough. “She should get away.”

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Reviews:Donna C on Lit Bites wrote:

While my taste for sexy times in books is growing, the more traditional bodice rippers have really never done it for me. I like historical fiction and I like sex but that particular time period just isn’t my forte. Worlds of the ancients, yes. Regency era propriety? No. I’m not big on the traditional romance coming out of that time either, like Austen or the Bronte sisters so really, no surprise. It’s all a yawnfest for me, despite the sex.
Until Laura found a hidden gem on NetGalley that I was in no position to deny. Regency-era bodice ripper. WITH VAMPIRES. Yes. Immediately, yes. Because vampires make ANYTHING better. The sexytimes escalate, the bodices get even more ripped. NOTHING BAD COULD COME OF THIS. I knew it in my heart of hearts.
Now this is my first Regency-era bodice ripper. I have nothing to compare it to. But I know my writings and I know my plots and I know what works for me and what doesn’t so lets go from there, shall we?
The second the book started I was reading it with an accent in my head that kind of sounded like Shelby Foote, well to-do person from the upper echelons of the south that have a more cultured drawl about them. That was the tone of the book for me. And it fit oh so well. The over the top level of propriety and gasp and SCANDAL was just ungodly amusing to me as I sat there reading it, squealing in delight at the moments of SHAME and FLUTTER and QUIVERING THIGHS. Clutch the pearls, ladies. It’s wonderful.
It was very much over the top in terms of writing style but it fit. The story was over the top, the situation was over the top, the gasping and lack of propriety was over the top but you know what? I couldn’t get over the top enough. The sexual tension between Lydia and Vincent was extravagant and I just wanted to scream DO IT ALREADY. I’m imagining this is indicative of writing within the confines of this era because that tension was drawn OUT until no one involved, including this reader, could take it anymore. FINALLY it happened and oh steamy thigh quivering it was phenomenal.
Although I have to say when I think of things springing out I think of maybe a Jack in the Box or snakes in a can. Not an erection. When those start springing out I start thinking boi-oi-oi-oi-oi-oi-ing and then the mood is momentarily ruined. There were a couple of other instances were body parts were getting a little too technically described and it kind of ebbed the hotness of the situation but certainly not enough for me to stop reading. Never that.
I was engrossed in the scandal of the familially spurned Lydia, rejected pariah of the Morley family getting shunted on this Devil Earl and becoming a pawn in a competitive game of marriage. I was hooked by Vincent’s rather emo-Louis plight of being a vampire and the night world he lived in with Angelica and Ian, two rather incredibly awesome vampires that I need to read more about in book one of this series immediately. I wanted more sneakiness from some of the characters that would otherwise prove to be as straight-laced as they come. Oh the surprises!
I do wish there was a bit more focus on the vampire actions, though. That seems to be very much skirted over and left to the imagination. I don’t necessarily mind in this instance because I was so incredibly entertained otherwise but I usually like to see more vampireness where vampires are concerned. Although Vincent’s vampire powers were used quite often when he needed them.
I have found a new love in ONE BITE PER NIGHT and Brooklyn Ann’s work. I can’t wait to get my greedy little hands on more of it.
4 1/2

Publisher's Weekly on Publisher's Weekly wrote:

Lydia Price, the American-born daughter of the disowned Earl of Morely, is shipped off to her English relatives when her father dies in 1822. Unfortunately, the dowager countess has never forgiven Lydia’s father for marrying a commoner, and wants nothing to do with her. Vincent Tremayne, the Earl of Deveril, is none too happy when an old marker gets called in and he becomes Lydia’s guardian.

Originally intending to quickly find her a good match to get her off his hands and spite her mean-spirited grandmother, Vincent soon finds he would rather keep Lydia for himself. She’s clearly attracted to him, too, but how would she feel if she knew he was actually the Lord Vampire of Cornwall?

Following her promising debut (Bite Me, Your Grace), Ann hits her stride with solid writing, a tasty dash of originality, and realistic relationships that zing with sexual energy. A strong sense of fun mixed with a little feminism keeps things lively and light, while the well-developed story keeps eyes on the page.


Brooklyn Ann