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

Pleading Rapture

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Brides of Prophecy, Book 5

ISBN: 978-1548284794

Infamous metal band, Rage of Angels have returned at last, and it’s not just their fans who have been waiting for them.

Aurora Lee is in triple trouble as she has to face a lawsuit against her band, cope with excruciating attraction to their hot vampire lawyer, Tony Salazar, and recruit an army to fight an impending war.

She’s off-limits to him. But she makes him an offer he can’t refuse

Tony Salazar’s peaceful life as Silas McNaught’s lawyer is upended when he’s asked to represent Rage of Angels. Aurora, the drummer, tempts him beyond reason, even as he is thrusted into a world of magic and an ominous prophecy. To make matters worse, Tony’s old enemies lurk in the shadows, threatening everyone he holds dear.

 

Excerpt:

(Not quite the beginning of the book, but I thought I'd start where Aurora's action does.)

Soft grass cushioned Aurora’s fall. She struggled to sit up, but her head spun from passing through the portal. Closing her eyes, she counted to ten. When the dizziness passed, she sat up and looked around. Xochitl’s car was nowhere to be seen, but the light from the moon and lamp posts made her realize that she knew where she was, the Fort Sherman Park. The wooden fencing and little playground brought back memories climbing the fort and going down the slide at night with her friends, when there were no kids around to point out that they were too big for that. No one was too old for a slide.

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She peered around and saw no sign of Xochitl or her Datsun. Had it gone off toward the lake or to the parking lot? She didn’t see any tire marks on the grass. Maybe she’d dropped from the portal in a different part of town since she and Xochitl weren’t connected when she jumped in after her. Hell, she didn’t even know if Xochitl had seen her running behind the Datsun.

Aurora scrambled to her feet and stretched, groaning as her back popped. At least she knew where Xoch’ would go. With no family here, Silas and Akasha were all she had. Well, she could possibly go to Sylvis’s parents’ place, or even to Aurora’s family, but that was doubtful. No one tolerated Xochitl’s weirdness more than Silas and ’Kash. That’s why they all had practically lived with Silas and Akasha until the band moved to Seattle.

Music and laughter from a distance reached her ears. Aurora turned around and saw a glimpse of light from the beach ahead. Was there some sort of party going on over there? She perked up. Maybe someone had a phone she could use. Hopefully Akasha hadn’t changed her number in the last six months.

As Aurora crossed the park and came to the sidewalk and short concrete wall that separated the park from the beach, she had to do a double take. Instead of bikinis, shorts, and tank tops, the people on the sand were decked out in tuxedos and fancy gowns. Tables were set out on the edges with fancy glasses and plates with slices of a big white cake. Now it made sense. This was a wedding party. She wondered if they’d needed a permit, or if you could just head out to the beach and do it. Maybe that was why it was going on at night, so they didn’t have sunbathers and kids and swimmers in their way.

Oh well. Someone would have a phone. And maybe they’d let her have a piece of cake and a glass of champagne. The munchies and cotton mouth were kicking in from that doobie she’d smoked with Beau. She hefted her leg over the short concrete barrier and hopped onto the sand. As she neared the party, a man split off from the group and approached her.

Aurora sucked in a breath as he passed under the lights strung up around the area. He wore a tailored suit that clearly did not come off the rack and hugged a fit frame that she knew would be a work of art beneath the cloth. His hair was almost shoulder length, black and wavy, framing a face that could have been stamped on a Roman coin. Eyes the color of coffee bored into hers.

When he spoke, her knees went weak at the rich timbre of his voice. “What brings you out to the beach at this hour?”

“I… um…” Aurora swallowed, trying to find sensible words. Not only was it impossible to say that she’d been dumped in the park by a portal, it was hard to speak at all to a man as luscious as this. And then came the old wariness as she remembered where she was. A town that was ninety-eight percent white… a town where at least ten percent of those people hated her race. She peered back up at him, looking for that telltale gleam of scorn or disgust at seeing a Black person. All she saw was mild curiosity and something else that made heat flood to her belly. He wasn’t exactly checking her out, but there was some sort of interest there. She recovered her voice. “Um, you didn’t happen to see a blue Datsun station wagon come by here, have you?”

His inky black brows drew together at the odd question. “No. I haven’t seen a Datsun wagon in years. A few Zs and pickups, though, but not tonight.” He had a trace of an accent that she couldn’t quite place. Somewhere back East, definitely. The hot guy stepped a bit closer, his features growing even more gorgeous as he came more into view. “Are you all right? You look a little disoriented.”

She nodded in agreement. “I suppose I am. Would you happen to have a phone? I need to call a friend and see if they can pick me up.”

“Not on me, I’m afraid. It ruins the lines.” He smoothed his hands down his suit.

“And what fine lines they are,” she blurted. Heat rushed to her cheeks. “I’m so sorry. I couldn’t help myself.”

He chuckled, a low, velvety sound that should be rated for mature audiences only. “Forget about it. I am flattered.”

Another wave of dizziness made her knees buckle for a second. Clearly interdimensional travel and being high didn’t mix.

The man grasped her shoulder with a firm, but gentle hand. “Hey, are you okay?”

She nodded. “Yeah, just had a dizzy spell. I forgot to have dinner.” No way was she revealing to this classy, hunk of sexy that she was kinda baked. Not to mention the whole dropping through a portal into the park.

“Well, why don’t you sit down for a moment and I’ll bring you some cake. Would you like some champagne as well?”

“That would be wonderful.” Her mouth felt like Death Valley. “And could you…” she trailed off as he jogged back to the party before she could ask him to see if someone had a phone she could use. Everyone here probably had seven-hundred-dollar iPhones. Gone were the days of the cheap but sturdy Nokias.

Mr. Hottie McHotstuff returned with a large slice of cake and a delicate flute of champagne. Aurora thanked him and had to use every bit of her will not to gorge the cake like a heathen. But damn, that was good cake, white and fluffy, with custard filling and cream cheese frosting. Even then, she was subconscious of every crumb that stuck to her lips.

“Are you feeling better?” The man took the plate and handed her the champagne, which she tried to sip as ladylike as possible when she was more accustomed to chugging beers and downing shots.

“Much better, thanks.” Aurora looked back at the party that was about thirty feet off. The people were laughing and talking and only casting her occasional curious glances. “So, is this a private party?”

He nodded. “A double wedding. I do not want to offend, but I’d rather not interrupt it.”

“Don’t worry, I understand,” she quickly assured him. “My mom is a dragon when it comes to outsiders at family gatherings. My brother wasn’t even allowed to bring girlfriends over until Mom was absolutely certain things were serious.” A lump in her throat formed as she realized just how much she missed her family. She took a sip of champagne and closed her eyes, savoring the taste. This was definitely a top shelf brand. “I should probably head over to the resort and find a phone. My friends are wondering where I am.”

“I have one in my car,” the man said with a tempting half smile. “We could head there and you could use it.”

She shook her head. “I know better than to get in a car with a stranger.”

“My name’s Tony.” His smile radiated warmth as he extended his hand. “Now we’re not strangers.” His eyes narrowed as he peered at her with an intensity that made her shiver despite the warm summer night air. “In fact, I’m not sure we are strangers. I swear I’ve seen you before.”

He probably had seen her on TV or in the papers. The news would have ran stories on her band’s disappearance. But he clearly wasn’t a metalhead, or he would have recognized her immediately. And she wasn’t about to tell him she was a missing person. Not before she was reunited with her friends and they announced their return together.

“I’m Aurora,” she replied and shook his hand. His grasp was warm and vibrated with barely suppressed strength. “And I know we’ve never met. You don’t seem like the kind of man I’d easily forget.” She instilled a flirtatious tone that sounded unfamiliar to her. Damn, why did this man have to affect her so intently? He seemed to be everything a girl could dream of: handsome, kind, wealthy. But now was not the time for her to try dating again. Not with all that crazy prophecy stuff going on and her career on the line.

That rich and sinful laugh once more emerged from Tony’s lips. “Again, such charming words. Are you a writer?”

She smirked. “Sometimes.” She wrote the lyrics to at least half the songs on every Rage of Angels album.

He looked back at the wedding party and then back at her. “I hate to insult this lovely gathering, but you are far more interesting company. I don’t suppose you’d want to go for a walk with me during your quest for a phone? And again, my offer still stands to use mine.” He pointed at a sleek black sports car in the parking lot under the streetlight. “As you can see, it’s near the street and in the light, so you’re perfectly safe. Or, we can go to the resort and have a drink, and maybe some dinner, since you mentioned that you missed it. I would very much enjoy getting to know you better.” The heat in his eyes promised that if he had things his way, they’d do more than talk.

Damn, a drink sounded nice. A drink and a few minutes not worrying about the chaos of her life. Not to mention the prospect of fun naked times with what was possibly the hottest man she’d ever seen. But she needed to find Xochitl and… You know what? Xochitl had her car. She was probably at Akasha and Silas’s place by now. Who said Aurora couldn’t relax and have a drink with a hot guy for a few minutes? A few minutes of blissful normality after months of weirdness. Then she could just call Akasha and they’d pick her up. Or, if she decided to take Tony up on his unspoken offer, he could just give her a ride.

“Well,” she began.

“Aurora!” Beau shouted from beneath one of the huge pines in the park. Sylvis stood beside him, eyeing the wedding party quizzically.

Her eyes widened. Zareth must have brought them over. She glanced back at Tony. “I have to go. My friends found me.”

Tony inclined his head in an old-fashioned way. “While I’m glad that your situation has been resolved, I do regret that our talk has been cut short.”

“Me too.” She grinned and lifted herself up on her toes and kissed him on the cheek. He smelled like an entrancing combination of vanilla beans and expensive, old-fashioned tobacco. For a moment, she was tempted to wrap herself around him and explore him further.

She turned and hefted herself over the concrete barrier and jogged back to the park before she could gauge his reaction to her stolen kiss. Though it didn’t really matter one way or another. She’d never see him again.

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Unleashing Desire

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Brides of Prophecy, Book 4

ISBN: 978-1535551083

A setup so perfect… it might just be fate.

Radu Nicolae has spent centuries in a guilt-induced hibernation beneath the ruins of his family castle. The only time he awakens is to feast on the occasional vampire hunter. When Lillian Holmes invades his lair, trying to kill him for a crime he did not commit, he decides it is time to rejoin the world. As he feeds on the inept, but delectable hunter and sees her memories, he realizes that he is being used as a weapon to murder her. Radu does not like being used.

Agent Lillian Holmes, of the Abnormal Investigation Unit, is sent on a mission to kill the vampire who murdered her father. But when she tries to stake Radu, he awakens. When his fangs sink into her throat, she thinks she’s a goner. To her surprise, she wakes up a prisoner. Furthermore, Radu did not kill her father. The AIU killed Joe Holmes and sent Lillian to Radu to die.

Together, they strike a bargain: Lillian will help Radu travel to the United States to reunite with his long lost twin brother. In return, he will help her take down the men who killed her father. As their relationship deepens on their journey, so does the danger. Not only must they keep government agents from finding out that Lillian is alive, but she also has a secret that will rock the foundations of the vampire world.

 

Excerpt:

 

It was a lovely morning for vengeance.

The rising sun shed its light upon the Romanian countryside, gleaming on emerald grass and dew covered wildflowers. However, the picturesque view only merited a cursory glance.

Lillian cursed as she stumbled up the hill. She dug the heels of her boots into the damp earth in an effort to keep her footing. With a firm grip on a finely carved oak stake, she approached the ruins of Castle Nicolae.

Even amidst the pinkish glow of the early dawn and the cheery melody of birdsong, the pile of gray rubble looked ominous. Lillian gulped a deep breath of morning air and suppressed a shiver as she pulled the castle schematic out of the pocket of her light summer jacket. According to the diagram, the chasm leading inside was right in front of her.

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Her target lay below, in the bowels of the ancient fortress.

Shoving the schematic back in her pocket, she pulled out her phone and texted the AIU headquarters. I’m going in.

Her phone vibrated a reply: Invalid number.

Huh? Double checking to make certain she texted the correct number, she tried again and received the same error message.

Mouth dry, Lillian eyed the castle. Was he somehow doing it? She shook her head. That would be ridiculous. It was probably the rural location. He shouldn’t be able to mess with her if he was asleep.

By all reports, the vampire had been comatose for centuries, only waking once a year to feed. Last month, he’d killed the wrong person.

Thumb stroking the stake, Lillian hissed through clenched teeth, “Your murderer will not go unpunished, Dad. Radu Nicolae will die today.” Fierce gratitude flowed through her when the AIU director permitted her to take this assignment, despite her lack of experience. He must have understood that this was personal.

With grim determination, she groped along the cracked stone until she found the entrance, a narrow fissure in the rock.

Shadows closed over her as if encasing her body in ice. She pulled out her Mag Light, illuminating the treacherous tunnel with a bluish LED glow.

Though she tried to walk as quietly as possible, rocks and debris underfoot marked her progress with skitters and crunches. Darkness chased away the meager rays of sunlight as she descended further into the heart of the ruins.

After contorting her way down through the twisting passage, crumbled rock gave way to smooth stone steps coated in a fine layer of charcoal. There had been a fire here long ago.

Heart pounding in her throat, Lillian made her way down the stairs and found a clean chamber.

No ashy residue or cobwebs remained. A row of backpacks, ranging from new to old, lined one wall. An ancient prison cell dominated the other. She swallowed at the sight of the rusted iron bars. This must have been the castle dungeon. There was even a fireplace with a stack of wood beside it. A closer look revealed that most of the firewood was made up of sharp stakes.

Lillian shuddered, palm sweating around her own stake. How many people had tried to kill him, only to die in this place? Choking vines of doubt wrapped around her lungs. If all of them had failed, what chances did she have of surviving? Rage singed the edges of the vines. So many deaths. She had to stop him.

At last, Radu Nicolae’s slumbering form came into view. Lillian’s lip curled with scorn. This was the big scary monster? The creature seemed already dead. It lay still, pale, and emaciated. Its cheekbones gleamed in sharp relief above a dark scraggly beard.

Her fingers trembled as she shone the light on the vampire’s face. A gasp caught in her throat as she saw his hair. A shade of darkest chocolate, it lay like a silken waterfall in rich waves on the stone slab, incongruously beautiful compared to the rest of him. Without thinking, she reached out to touch those tresses, to see if they were soft as they appeared.

The sight of the stake in her fist made her snatch her hand back. Her stomach churned in revulsion at her insane impulse. What was she thinking? This monster killed her father. She was here to destroy it, not pet it.

Maybe it was another mind trick of his. Some sort of preternatural defense mechanism.

Gritting her teeth, Lillian set the flashlight on the slab so the beam pointed over the vampire’s supine form. She removed the mallet from her pack and positioned the stake above his heart.

Shoulders vibrating with tension, she raised the mallet and paused to savor her vengeance.

She brought the mallet down.

Instead of crunching bone, her scream rent the air as those lashes lifted to reveal glowing black eyes. The vampire bolted upright.

Fangs gleamed in the darkness and Lillian was yanked into the monster’s embrace. The stake and mallet fell from her numb fingers.

COLLAPSE

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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Conjuring Destiny Soundtrack:

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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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Brooklyn Ann