Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday's Montage Mantlepiece: Face the Music

Title: Face the Music
Authors: Brandy L Rivers, Felicia Tatum, Sarah M. Cradit
Michele Breaux-Rowley, Michelle Graves
Series: Dauntless Indies Anthologies
Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary, Romance
Release Date: January 5,2015
Cover Artist: Brandy L Rivers
One sprawling music festival
Five jaw-dropping stories

Seattle is a mecca for the music, arts, and eclectic. Every year, the Emerald City hosts the highly anticipated Bumbershoot, four days of unique bands, colorful artists, and untold memories.

What better place to find, or lose yourself, than this melting pot of culture?

Slip into the crowds as the music draws you in, but beware: not everything is as it seems. Delicious secrets and startling legends abound.

Unbound Adventures by Felicia Tatum
Red Queen by Brandy L Rivers
Trouble with Partners by Michelle Graves
Dark Blessings by Sarah M Cradit
A Case of Possession by Michele Breaux-Rowley

Author Bios:
Brandy L Rivers
I've always loved books, especially about monsters and magic, so I started writing. I'm working on a prequel and the next few books in the Others of Edenton series, and I have a head full of stories to share.

I'm a stay at home mother with a wonderful husband who lets me write and write to my hearts content.

Sarah M Cradit
Sarah is the author of the Paranormal Southern Gothic series, The House of Crimson & Clover, born of her combined passion for New Orleans, and the mysterious complexity of human nature. Her work has been described as rich, emotive, and highly dimensional.

An unabashed geek, Sarah enjoys studying obscure subjects like the Plantagenet and Ptolemaic dynasties, and settling debates on provocative Tolkien topics such as why the Great Eagles are not Gandalf's personal taxi service. Passionate about travel, Sarah has visited over twenty countries collecting sparks of inspiration (though New Orleans is where her heart rests). She's a self-professed expert at crafting original songs to sing to her very patient pets, and a seasoned professional at finding ways to humiliate herself (bonus points if it happens in public). When at home in Oregon, her husband and best friend, James, is very kind about indulging her love of fast German cars and expensive lattes.

Felicia Tatum
Felicia Tatum was born and raised in Tennessee. She always loved reading, and at the age of twelve began writing. Her passion for creating stories grew and in May 2012, she finally wrote her first novel, The White Aura.

She still lives in Tennessee with her daughter and her kitty. She loves cooking, books, and animals are some of her best friends. She watches a lot of Disney channel and often dreams up new book ideas. She's currently working on various projects. She's the author of the White Aura series, Scarred Hearts series, and Intoxicating Passion series.

Brandy L Rivers

Felicia Tatum

Sarah M Crandit

Michele Breaux-Rowley

Michelle Graves

Dauntless Indies

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Release Day Blitz: Candy Kissed-A Valentine's Day Anthology

Title: Candy Kissed
Authors: Jen Andrews, Vicki Green, Savannah Stewart
A.D. Justice, Alexis Noelle, Amber Nation
L.L. Collins, Rebecca Brooke, Natasha Preston
K.A. Robinson, Gina Whitney, Jessica Wood
Release Date: January 30, 2015

***ONLY .99 Cents - All proceeds to benefit Kylie's Hope, a children's charity dedicated to giving back to kids hospitalized with debilitating illnesses in Illinois***
12 of today’s best sellers in Romance bring you this compilation of 12 stories to inspire falling in love this Valentine’s Day. All proceeds to benefit Kylie’s Hope, a children’s charity dedicated to giving back to kids hospitalized with debilitating illnesses in Illinois.
**Note: These books may end in cliffhangers or be part of a series- purchase at your own risk**

The Reason by Jen Andrews
Zoey James is in a funk. She has been through more in her twenty-three years than most people have experienced in their entire lives. After her ex-husband tries to take everything she’s worked so hard for, she makes one rule: Never date someone she works with.
When her father’s newly hired mechanic moves into the apartment above their family-run business, Zoey’s lonely life is flipped upside down.
As a teenager, New Zealand native, Andy Tate’s family is tragically killed in an accident, and he is taken in by his aunt and uncle. Andy is pulled away from the only place he’s ever known as home, and moved halfway around the world to Northern California.
Ten years and one failed marriage later, Andy finds himself living in a new city, with a new job at James Racing, and living in an apartment next door to Zoey, his new boss’s beautiful and damaged daughter.
After an interesting chain of events over one weekend, Andy and Zoey form an unexpected bond. Even though he’s the only one who can get through to her, she will do all that she can to keep him at a distance and not break her one rule.
Will Andy be the reason for Zoey to start living her life again, or will she continue on her downward spiral, until she finally hits rock bottom?

Touched by Vicki Green
‘What your body desires
Your heart can’t have’
Jade Morley was not your average stripper. Her rules. Her way. No sex. Touching only.
D.J. Sexy Lady by day, Stripper Angel by night, her life became one with no emotions, no heart and no soul until one night he walked in.
Knox Dunway has one thing. Money. Women throw themselves at him every day and he takes what he wants, when he wants but there’s no feeling, no love and no commitment. He wants more. Growing tired of trying to find ‘the one’ he walks into a strip club one night and everything changes.
Will Jade ever give in to her heart or will her survivor instincts always win?

Jayde by Savannah Stewart
For months now Jayde Kimberland has been touring from city to city with her best friend, Arianna Moore, as The Daughters of Darkness. Living the dream most musician would kill for, they were known as the opening act for the platinum selling rock group, From Yesterday.
With Arianna battling demons of her own, Jayde found what she thought was her Prince Charming within rocker bad boy, Cash O’Brien. As the tour came to a close, the distance between them pulled like the tuning key turning to tighten one of their guitar strings. When Nate Daniels walks back into the picture, she’s faced with the possibility of having the life with the man she loved years ago or trying to hold onto a reckless Cash.
Everywhere Jayde turns she is hit with a curve ball, shattering everything she tries to build. But one person is there to help pick up the pieces no matter what. But as tragedy reveals its ugly head, she finds herself lost, lonely, and confused on what the future may hold. Will she be able to let go of the past and find happiness within her future or will she have to forever deal with the shattering effects of a love long gone?

Crazy Maybe by A.D. Justice
Andi Morgan is a strong, smart and independent woman, thanks to the help of a famous boxing trainer, Mack, and his protΓ©gΓ©, Shane, who have respectively been like a father and brother to her. But that wasn’t always the case. Andi never knew what a “normal” life was like. Having been raised in foster care from the age of six after the death of her parents, Andi became emancipated at 16 after an especially horrible incident forced her into a psychiatric hospital.
Luke Woods, the family black sheep and street-brawler, is determined to be a successful professional boxer despite his family’s protests. He needs Andi’s help to get there. The wedge between him and his family over his past relationship issues and career choices is not easily overcome. Luke must learn to face the past mistakes, fears and demons that constantly plague him.
Fireworks and passions quickly ignite between Andi and Luke in the midst of the chaos that surrounds and threatens them. She never revealed the secrets and lies that have plagued her, but when she publicly inherits her family fortune, the living, breathing past comes back to torment her and threaten all that she holds dear. For the first time in her life, Andi must learn to rely on someone else to love and protect her or risk losing the man she loves.
Sometimes love isn’t enough. Sometimes it’s all you need.

Shattered Innocence by Alexis Noelle
Growing up poor and with a set of parents who couldn’t care less about her, Jessica Evans was on her own. She knew she wanted better and was determined to make it through college. Her only problem was that she was broke, and college was expensive. That’s when she was introduced to the world of depravity and scandal that she currently resides in.
Damon Shaw has just been assigned to take over the day-to-day operations of the escort service where he’s has been working for almost five years. He immediately bumps heads with the sexy and stubborn Jessica. Damon is determined to show Jessica who is in control and make her follow his every instruction.
When the two get together, sparks begin to fly. Jessica and Damon will challenge and enrage each other at every turn. The sting of words and the temptation of seduction are ever present between them. Damon is not at all what he seems. When all hell breaks loose, will Damon and Jessica make it or will she send him packing?

Runaway Love by Amber Nation
Maggie Walker yearns for the one thing she’s never truly felt: love. After years of rejection and abandonment, the shy and timid Nurse found that running felt right and provided her with the solitude she needed to avoid the haunting memories of her past.
Keeping to her routines and having complete control of her life, made things easier, but not more exciting. When chance steps in, it throws the unexpected in her path in the form of a handsome stranger named Charlie.
Charlie Hennings lives under the pressure of expectation. When forced to follow in his father’s footsteps as an FBI Agent, he left behind part of himself and the chance to embrace his dreams, which included settling down and starting a family.
When his latest endeavor lands him in an undercover position in Brown County, he never expects to find the one person he couldn’t live without, who also ironically ends up being directly connected to his current assignment.
Throughout their journey, Charlie makes it his personal mission to help Maggie break out of her shell and convince her that she deserves all the love in the world. But when Charlie’s lies are brought to light regarding his job, will it destroy everything they’ve been working toward?
Can Maggie overlook his deceit and let herself experience these new feelings of love or will she just run away from it all?

Living Again by L.L. Collins
Kayley Carson thought she had it all…married to the love of her life, a great job, and a baby on the way. Then one day, her life changes forever when she loses her husband in a tragic accident. No longer sure how to navigate life after her enormous loss, Kayley clings to her newborn baby, her family, and her friends to keep herself living.
When she meets someone that challenges her belief that she’s better off alone, she has to decide if she is capable of letting him in after swearing she was never going to love anyone the same way again.
She’s not the only one with a painful past. He is struggling with trust issues after a previous relationship went horribly wrong. After a terrible misunderstanding brings out both of their insecurities, will the painful memories of the past keep them both from living again?

Forgiven by Rebecca Brooke
What happens when one moment changes the course of your entire life? Do you sit back and accept it, or fight to live the life you choose? Caleb Jacobs has a past that has haunted him for two years. Knowing he can never forgive himself for the events that led to his departure, Caleb chooses to live a quiet life—concentrating on school, sports, and shots. But when he is paired with Angie for a history project he realizes that no matter how much you try to hide from your past, one way or another it will find you.
Angelina Powers knows what she wants from life. Growing up with only an alcoholic father for company, Angie learned early on in life that you can only count on yourself. But that doesn’t stop her wishing for her white knight. She’s confident, happy and focused…until she meets Caleb. So how will she feel when her potential white knight turns out to be more of a black shadow?

Second Chance by Natasha Preston
Everyone deserves a second chance at happiness, and three years after Chloe Holland’s boyfriend dies in a bomb attack in London, she’s ready to move on. That is until the one person she can see herself moving forward with is the worst person she could ever imagine.
Logan Scott was the one Chloe turned to when Jace died, but she never imagined becoming close to him would leave her with the biggest dilemma she’s ever faced. He makes her question everything. She makes him a better person. They push the limit of right and wrong.
Unfortunately, Chloe and Logan are perfect for each other.

Shattered Ties by K.A. Robinson
With a former supermodel mother and a rock-and-roll legend father, Emma Preston has the best of everything. Nothing is as perfect as it seems though.
Growing up in a trailer park with his mother, Jesse is used to people looking down on him. When his mother begs him to submit an application for a scholarship to one of Santa Monica’s top private schools, he never expects to actually get it.
When Jesse shows up on the first day of school, Emma can’t help but be intrigued.
Jesse tries to hate Emma, but he discovers that he can’t resist her. Forced to hide their relationship from Emma’s mother and everyone else around them, things start to fall apart. When Jesse’s friend, Ally, decides to interfere, things go from bad to worse.

Beautiful Lies by Gina Whitney
Lust, Love, and Letting Go
Cameron Sterling has sworn off women. Enigmatic and moody, all he cares about is his career…until he meets Lilly Amsel. A honey-haired fashion model with a killer body, she knocks him right off the fast track. Their undeniable physical attraction is white hot, their desire for one another an unstoppable force of nature.
They unleash years of pent-up carnal frustration on one another, leading to some mind-blowing sex. It also brings something unexpected into their lives: love with no limitations. But can their relationship survive their past demons? Cam has been alone for so long, he’s forgotten how to open his heart. Lilly keeps memories of her abusive childhood at bay with an addiction to prescription meds.
And then there’s the big problem: Lilly is already involved with a wealthy, powerful older man who controls her emotionally and financially and has no desire to share her. When he finds out about her trysts with another man, he deploys his thugs, sending Cam and Lilly on the run, fighting for their lives—and their love.

Damian by Jessica Wood
Damian is book one is The Heartbreaker series
Meet Damian Castillo. The man, the legend, the heartbreaker. As a self-proclaimed man-whore, Damian doesn’t believe in love or commitment. In fact, he can’t remember the last time he’s had feeling for a woman that went beyond hot, no-strings-attached sex. The only things he cares about are his bar, his appearance, and his needs.
But then he meets Alexis.
Meet Alexis Blythe. A small town girl that has lost a lot of love in her life. Wanting to leave her past behind her, she moves to San Francisco looking for a big change. Yet, despite everything she’s gone through, she still believes in true love.
But then she meets Damian.
When Alexis shows up into his life, Damian’s caught by surprise. She’s different. She’s sweet, innocent, and feisty. But above all, this woman didn’t respond to his charm and piercing-blue eyes the way every other woman did. To Damian, she’s his ultimate challenge.
Could Alexis be the girl that will break through Damian’s wall of perpetual bachelorhood without getting hurt? Or will Damian remain true his ways and break Alexis’s heart and her hopes of true love?
New Adult Contemporary Romance with **Mature Content** Recommended for 17+ due to mature language and adult situations.

Author Bios:
Jen Andrews: 
Jen Andrews was raised in a small town in Northern California, and still lives in the same county where she was born. She is a self-proclaimed music and lyric addict. She grew up in a ‘car family’ so her life has been spent around old hot rods. She and her husband, Jake, even have a few of their own. In her spare time, Jen loves to travel wherever she can. She finally lived her dream of traveling to New Zealand to see her favorite rugby team, the All Blacks, play. Jen loves to do photography as a hobby and continues to write.

Vicki Green: 
Vicki Green grew up in Overland Park, Kansas and currently resides in Olathe, Kansas. Along with her husband and two teenage boys, they share their home with their fur babies. She enjoys spending time with her family.
Vicki enjoys reading Romance books which is what inspired her to begin writing. As a reader, she loves being taken away, to some other place and time, falling in love with the characters. She has always admired Author’s dedication and hard work. She had a dream that played out for over a year, came home one day after work and decided to put it on a word document to see how it read and that became ‘My Savior Forever’, the beginning of her Forever Series, her first book, and that’s where it all began.

Savannah Stewart: 
From the Most Beautiful Small Town of America & the Bourbon Capital of the World, Bardstown, Kentucky, Savannah Stewart writes Contemporary Romance, New Adult, and Romantic Suspense novels. She is very much a Leo, with one fur baby named, Jack. She’s a Book-a-holic who loves music, tattoos, photography, singing, writing, & laughing. One of her favorite quotes is “Love is the beauty of the soul.”

A.D. Justice: 
A.D. Justice’s debut novel is Wicked Games, A Steele Security Novel. It is the first of a five book series. The second book in the Steele Security Series is Wicked Ties. it continues the story exactly where Wicked Games ends. Each book is designed as a stand-alone from a character perspective, but reading from the beginning will give the reader a better sense of how the characters are connected. The premise of the series is based on a group of elite soldiers and their adventures with Steele Security. A.D.’s second series is the Crazy Series and Crazy Maybe is the first book. It is not for the faint of heart – complex, real-life issues are addressed, with several twists and turns that will keep you turning the pages until you’ve devoured the whole book! This series will also continue with more emphasis on the supporting characters. The third series is Dominic Powers. The first book, Her Dom, is now available. Her Dom gives a fresh, new, and realistic look at how a Dom/sub relationship really is, with the addition of a few twists, turns, mystery and intrigue. The second book in this series will be available in October 2014. A.D. Justice has been married for 25 years and has two wonderful sons in college. She is also an avid reader of romance novels and, to her amazement, a self-published author. A.D. enjoys reading many different types of romance books – including drama and suspense, crime and mystery, NA and YA, and contemporary and erotica.

Alexis Noelle:
I love reading romance books! I feel like being able to lose yourself in a book in one of the more exciting aspects. The books I love to read and write will be ones that make you feel for the characters. You should have an opinion on every character in a book. Whether you love them, hate them, or think they are up to something.
I live in Philadelphia Pennsylvania with my husband, two kids, and two dogs. On top of starting a writing career I am a full time student, and a full time mom. I love spending time with my kids, although I have to hide the computer from them when I am writing! I love being active and being able to do any activity outdoors.
I have always thought as an author the most important critic is your reader, so I would love to hear from you. If you read the book and loved it or hated it, tell me. As long as it is in a constructive way I will always answer and interact with you. I want fans to feel free to tell me what they want for the characters in the story and what they want to see happen.

Amber Nation: 
Amber is a stay at home mom currently residing in Southern Indiana with her husband and two beautiful daughters. If she’s not shopping, going to concerts or on road trips, or having her nose stuck in a book, you’ll often find her at the ball field watching one of the numerous sports that her girls are involved in.
She is the author of the contemporary romance Brown County Series, titles include Not Alone, Runaway Love, How To Save A Life, and Unconditionally (M/M). And Cottage Grove series, More Than A Memory.

L.L. Collins:
LL Collins is a teacher who loves spending her days in the Florida sun with her husband and boys, reading, and writing. Her love of writing has found a home in the self-publishing world. Living Again, Reaching Rachel, Guarding Hearts, and Finding Forever are available now in both eBook and paperback. LL has been writing since she was old enough to write. Always a story in her head, she finally decided to let the characters out and start writing and try to make her lifelong dreams of becoming an author come true. She has been a teacher for over ten years, a wife for 15, and a mom to two boys, 12 and 10.

Rebecca Brooke: 
Rebecca lives near the shore towns of New Jersey, with her husband and two kids. When she’s not writing she loves reading and watching SOA and TrueBlood.

Natasha Preston: 
My name is Natasha, but most people call me Tash or Tasha. I don’t mind either. I was born in England and have lived in small towns and villages out in the countryside ever since.
My husband, Joseph, is the most supportive person in my life. Without his love, help and patience I wouldn’t be where I am today. And this website wouldn’t exist! I’m a proud mummy to an amazing little boy who is my whole world.
At school I drifted through, achieving average grades. I fell into administration and receptionist jobs, thinking that I couldn’t really do anything else.
In 2010 I stumbled into writing completely by accident. I was searching the ‘app store’ and came across Wattpad, an amateur writing site. For the first few months I just read, but then decided to type some of the ideas I had floating around my head. I’m so glad I did because I absolutely love writing.
Writing gave me an escape, and Wattpad gave me the self-confidence I lacked.

K.A. Robinson:
K.A. Robinson is the NTY & USA Today bestselling author of The Torn Series, Ties Series, Breaking Alexandria, Taming Alec, Deception, and The Consequences of Sin. She is twenty-four years old and lives in West Virginia with her husband and son.

Gina Whitney: 
I grew up reading Judy Blume, and Nancy Drew books. I was raised in the town of North Valley Stream, New York(Long Island), and attended community college for fashion design. At 19 years old I opened a boutique. Recently, I published my second novel Beautiful Lies (erotica). Saving Abel (Erotic-Rock-Romance) will be my third and will be published June 30th. When I’m not writing, you can find me with friends and family. I live in Massapequa, NY with my two beautiful boys PJ and Drew, and our Mastiff Hercules. Reading has always been a passion and obsession. You can usually find me typing furiously while shouting obscenities over my latest WIP. My guilty pleasures are: a good laugh, being snarky, espresso, Pistachio ice-cream, alternative music, sunflower seeds, I.P.A’s, twizzlers, and above all steamy swooning angst filled novels. I’m pathologically obsessed with True Blood (Eric) ;), Games of Thrones, White Queen, Vampire Diaries, Resurrection, and The Originals. If you’d like to chat. Hit me up on Facebook or twitter.

Jessica Wood: 
USA Today bestselling author Jessica Wood is a hopeless romantic at heart. She currently lives in San Francisco, a city that she loves. To her, there’s something seductively romantic about the Golden Gate Bridge, the steep rolling hills of the city streets, the cable cars, and the Victorian-style architecture.
She loves traveling internationally, baking and cooking like they’re competitive sports, making ceramics, and watching tons of TV. And it goes without saying, she loves books–they’re like old and dear friends who have always been there to make her laugh and make her cry.

Jen Andrews

Vicki Green

Savannah Stewart

A.D. Justice

Alexis Noelle

Amber Nation

L.L. Collins

Rebecca Brooke

Natasha Preston

K.A. Robinson

Gina Whitney

Jessica Wood

Eye Candy Bookstore

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Release Day Blitz: Almost Human by Honoria Ravena

Title: Almost Human
Author: Honoria Ravena
Genre: Adult, Paranormal Romance
Release Date: February 16, 2015
When Alaric’s brother turns Casey, the daughter of a prominent vampire hunting family, Alaric knows they’re all in deep trouble. He’ll do anything to keep his family safe, even if it means murdering Casey’s sister before she kills them all. His sister-in-law’s family will never stop hunting them now.
Kori was given the task of hunting down her sister and the leeches that turned her. Her primary target is Alaric, the head of the family. But when she loses the fight and Alaric is unwilling to kill her, she goes against everything she’s been taught abandoning the hunt to give Alaric and his family time to escape her mother’s wrath.
Kori’s mother has other plans. If Kori won’t take care of her evil sister then her mother knows someone who will. She raises the first witch in their family line from the dead to finish the job and Kori knows she has to warn Alaric before it’s too late. However, there are other things at work far more dangerous than a zombie, and it will require cooperating with her new family to defeat them.

     “How long are you going to stalk me, vampire hunter? Am I supposed to be the monster in this story? Because you’re awfully creepy.”
     I paused in the mouth of the alley. Crap. So much for the element of surprise. How had it spotted me? Usually vampires I hunted didn’t know someone was tracking them until it was too late.
     He kept his back to me. “You’re interrupting my hunt. I haven’t fed in a long while and would appreciate it if you backed off.”
     A chilly blast of wind swept through the space. Could that be his magic? Sometimes the blood suckers were impressive. And the wind did carry a dark sense of foreboding that made me want to turn tail. If I’d been human, and not a witch, I probably would have.
     He spun around and I shrank back into the shadows behind a dumpster. Not the most pleasant place I’d ever been, but not the worst either.
     “Really? You can’t hide from me. I can feel you…taste you, even if I hadn’t spotted you two blocks back.”
     I usually only hunted for money, but as soon as I’d brushed past this vampire in the street outside the coffee shop I’d known what he was. Being raised to hunt vampires, I couldn’t resist the call to follow him and take him down before he had a chance to hurt anyone. Even if I wasn’t getting paid, sometimes there was a higher calling to consider. And seeing another Amber Alert pop up on my phone? Another body on the news? I wasn’t willing to risk that.
     Though taking on this big, blond son of a bitch without being able to surprise him hadn’t been my plan. I drew my knife. Oh well, coming out guns blazing might shock him, too. I stepped around the dumpster and faced him.
     He smirked. “Well, you certainly are prettier than most of the hunters after my ass. Can I help you with something, sweetheart?”
     “Well, if you’d like to stand still while I put this knife in your heart and then behead you, I’d appreciate it.”
     He tipped back his head and chuckled. The sound was sexy, but vaguely threatening. “Yeah, not going to happen. I’d prefer it if you came over here, tilted your head to the side and let me take a little bit of blood. Promise it won’t hurt.”
     His power beat against my skull, and I ground my teeth together. If I’d been human, I probably would have walked straight to him and done as he asked. As it was, it was almost an insult for him to try to influence me.
     “I’m a witch, idiot. You can’t use your powers on me.”
     He scowled. “Always good to give it a try. Who knows, you could have been weak, but like I said, I haven’t fed in a while. My magic isn’t up to scratch.”
     He pulled a knife from the sheath at his waist. He was so fast I almost didn’t see the movement. He was trying to intimidate me. He didn’t need that kind of speed at this time of the fight. He sighed and tossed the knife end over end before catching the handle again. “Are you sure you want to do this? I mean, I like to play with my food a little, but I’d hate to actually hurt you.”
     It was my turn to laugh. Granted, the situation wasn’t ideal, but I’d been born to kill his kind.
     My heart throbbed and I rubbed my chest with my free hand. What was that? I was in perfect condition. There was no reason for this tightness I was feeling in my ribs or my stomach to feel queasy. Something was wrong.
     He arched an eyebrow. “Problems?”
     I glared at him. Was he somehow doing this to me? I built up my psychic walls and the feeling abated a little. Either way, it was time to push through the pain.
     I rushed him, aiming my knife for his throat. He blocked hard and I lost my footing, stumbling into the wall. Thunder cracked and the sky opened up, dumping a deluge of water on us both.
     A flash of lightening illuminated his puzzled stare. “What the hell is wrong with you, hunter? As cocky as you are, I wouldn’t think you were this inept.”
     I rammed my foot toward his knee, but he sidestepped easily.
     “Slow too?”
     He was right. Something was wrong with me. Paralyzing weakness swept through me. I wasn’t even sure I could keep my feet without the wall’s help.
     In a blur of motion he was there. The back of his hand connected with my face and I tumbled to the ground. I wasn’t sure if the dizziness and inability to breathe were from his blow or whatever was happening to me. But whatever was going on was about to get me killed. I’d dropped my knife when he’d hit me.
     His boots came into my line of vision and I glanced up at him. He dropped into a crouch next to me and I flinched. He tangled his hands in my hair, yanking my head up.
     “You’re very lucky I’m not a bad guy. I could rip your throat out, huntress, and believe me a day ago I would have. I’m not going to help you, but I’m not going to kill you either. You’d best stay away from me in the future.”
     He released my hair and was gone.
     I curled into the fetal position, shaking. Each breath caused my chest to clench. I didn’t have time to consider the fact that I was damned lucky he’d left me alive. I was still worried I would die anyway.
     Suddenly, I knew what the problem was. My sister was in trouble. She was dying. The knowledge sank like a stone in my gut. I needed to get to her. I managed to gather my strength and shove myself to my feet. Using the wall as support, I made my way down the alley. My apartment was a block away. I needed to pack weapons, grab my car keys, and get moving.
     I’d never make it in time. What I was feeling couldn’t possibly be true…but if it was, I was too late. If she was in this kind of pain, there was something horribly wrong.
     It couldn’t be true. I refused to believe. I would make it to her house and she would be fine.
     The weight in my chest vanished, and my headache subsided to a dull roar. I was still unsteady, but it no longer felt like I was dragging an anvil down the street. However, the dark pit in my stomach expanded. She was dead. That was all it could mean.
     I made it to my apartment and grabbed my phone. I’d assumed I was going on a ten minute coffee run and wouldn’t need it.
     “Please, let this be a nightmare.” It was a reoccurring one of mine. I dialed my sister’s number. “Casey, damn it, pick up your phone. Please, baby sister, pick up.”
     It went to voicemail and I sank down next to the bed, resting my head on my knees. This wasn’t a dream. If something wasn’t wrong, I’d eat my shoes. I reigned in the need to throw the damned phone down the hallway and dialed my mother’s number.
     I stumbled to my feet and rushed back into the bedroom. I pulled the suitcase out from under the bed, pressed the speakerphone, and started going through drawers, throwing clothes into the suitcase while the phone continued to ring. I had to go to her now. She couldn’t be dead.
     I took a deep breath and tried to center myself. “Come on, Kori. You have a deep connection to Casey for sure, but it’s never been anything like this. You’ve seen a lot of fucked up shit lately, and you’re having a mental breakdown. This call is just going to interrupt your mother’s REM cycle and she’ll be pissed.”
     “McCormic.” My mother’s voice was sharp and cold over the line. Nothing unusual about that. Maybe everything was fine. Our line of witches hunted vampires exclusively, and attempted to deaden our emotions. Many people said my mother was the perfect hunter, but they were wrong. She felt, even if the only emotion she was capable of was anger. Constant anger.
     “Hey, Mom. It’s Kori. How is Casey? Where is she? I want to talk to her.”
     “She’s been damned.” My mother’s chilly voice didn’t change as she said it, but I knew she was close to violence.
     I froze. I had thought she was dead. Being a vampire was worse. I couldn’t have heard it right. “What?”
     “She’s damned. She’s been turned into a vampire and she hasn’t killed herself. She’s evil.”
     I shook my head even though she couldn’t see the gesture. “How do you know that? I thought I just felt her die. How do you know she was turned?”
     “I caught her with a vampire. I knew when I disowned her for not killing him, she would go running to him. I watched them fight and his love for her is stomach churning. A pitifully twisted demon refusing to kill his mortal enemy. When I felt her die, I simply assumed he hadn’t killed her.”
     Bile rose in my throat. I swallowed hard and composed myself. Either way, the sister I knew was dead. Just because her body walked the Earth didn’t mean her soul was in it. “I’m coming home.”
     “I was going to tell you to. She must be dealt with before she becomes a black mark against this family. With a fallen daughter, what will the rest of witch society think of this family? Even vampires will cease to think we’re a threat. We can’t have one of them associated with us. We would never be trusted to execute them. You would never get one of your ‘jobs’ again.”
     My family had a problem with me hunting vampires for money. They did the job because witches were meant to. We were the protectors of the humans. Personally, I felt I had a specialty, and I should be paid for providing the service. Greedy of me, but at least I could pay the bills.
     “As the eldest of the new generation you’re expected to handle something like this, Kori. But if you don’t have the stomach for it, I’ll be forced to. You’ll never be Matriarch of the line if you allow the task to fall to me, but I don’t believe you have the power to lead the witches when I’m gone anyway.”
     I narrowed my eyes at the phone. Sometimes I wanted to strangle her. Personally, I didn’t want to be Matriarch. I’d taken off to get away from duty, honor, and the responsibilities that had been pressed upon me from birth. But I also didn’t want the position torn away from me. Things inside witch society needed to change. If I became Matriarch, I would have the power to force changes.
     “I know what I’m supposed to do, Mother. I know that it’s not my sister in that body. Just give me the details and I’ll take care of it.” Even if it killed a piece of me. As long as that demon inhabited her body, my sister’s soul couldn’t move on.
     “She was turned by Misha.”
     “Misha? Like of the three brothers that decimated Europe in the middle ages? Murdered great grandmother Sherra, among others?”
     “Yes. If they’d been smart, they would have murdered her children. Celebrate their stupidity, and make the kill in the name of our ancestors. Don’t fail me, Daughter.” She hung up.
     “Well, what a wealth of information you were”. But she’d told me all I needed to know. I could find out from my sources where the infamous band of brothers lived.
     They weren’t incredibly old compared to most vampires, but they were damned skilled. The rumors about them were ridiculous, claiming they had a body count that rivaled the Black Death.
     It would be hard to kill her if they protected her. I needed to kill them all, because I planned to kill Misha, too. The brothers would definitely come after me if I even attempted that. It was best to take them all out. It wasn’t going to be an easy feat either. I would have to get them alone and surprise them.
     I changed clothes quickly before going to my weapons locker. I unlocked it and started filling my suitcase with everything from guns to swords to pocketknives. Guns weren’t terribly effective on vampires unless you got in a head shot, but they would slow one down…or really piss it off. The best way to kill a vamp was to behead it. If the thing was old enough, it could heal a dagger to the heart.
     I zipped the suitcase and collapsed across it. My sister was dead. I hadn’t been able to save her. But then, had I ever saved anyone? Our father was dead. Casey’s twin had never been found, but it was assumed that she was dead. Vampires weren’t likely to keep a sickly eight year old alive. She would be seventeen by now.
     A tear trickled down my cheek and I swiped at it angrily. The McCormic witches didn’t cry. The McCormic witches didn’t feel anything. But then, I’d never been like the rest of the family. My mother must have been proud. One dead daughter, one vampire daughter, and one weak, emotional, royal fuck up.
     I shook my head and pushed myself off the luggage. There was time for self pity and debilitating grief later. Right now I needed to load up the car and head home. Or Hell, depending on how you saw it.

Author Bio:
HONORIA RAVENA is the author of Fear of Darkness, The Devil's Trap and My Cyborg Savior. When not writing or reading romance she’s belly dancing, traveling or spending quality time with friends and family at her home in Texas. Visit her website and join her monthly newsletter to stay up to date on new releases, win prizes and enjoy tidbits of wisdom from a dancing writer’s daily life. 


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