Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Cronin's Key by NR Walker

Cronin's Key #1
NYPD Detective Alec MacAidan has always been good with weird. After all, his life has been a string of the unexplainable. But when an injured man gives him cryptic clues, then turns to dust in front of him, Alec's view on weird is changed forever.

Cronin, a vampire Elder, has spent the last thousand years waiting for Alec. He'd been told his fated one would be a man wielding a shield, but he didn't expect him to be human, and he certainly didn't expect that shield to be a police badge.

Both men, strong-willed and stubborn, are still learning how to cope with the push and pull of being fated, when fate throws them another curveball.

Rumors have spread quickly of turmoil in Egypt. Covens are fleeing with news of a vampire who has a talent like no other, hell-bent on unleashing the wrath of Death.

Alec and Cronin are thrown into a world of weird Alec cannot imagine. What he learned in school of ancient pharaohs and Egyptian gods was far from the truth. Instead, he finds out firsthand that history isn't always what it seems.

Cronin's Key #2
History isn’t always what it seems.

With the battle of Egypt behind them, Alec and Cronin are enjoying the thrill of new love. Though fate doesn’t wait long before throwing them back into the world of weird.

They know Alec’s blood is special, though its true purpose still eludes them. And given Alec’s inability to be changed into a vampire, Cronin is free to drink from him at will. But the ramifications of drinking such powerful blood starts a ripple effect.

With the help of Jorge, a disturbing vampire-child with the gift of foresight, Alec and Cronin face a new kind of war. This time their investigations lead them to the borders of China and Mongolia—but it’s not what lies in the pits beneath that worries Alec.

It’s the creator behind it all.

In the underground depths of China, amidst a war with the Terracotta Army, they will find out just what the Key is, and what Alec means to the vampire world.

Cronin's Key #3
History isn’t always what it seems…

Twelve months after his change, Alec MacAidan is still getting used to his many vampire talents. While most vampires would give anything to have more than one supernatural power, Alec craves nothing more than peace and time alone with Cronin. But when Alec meets entities from outside this realm, he’s left powerless in their presence.

Zoan are half-lycan, half-dragon creatures that have slipped through time and reality, seemingly undetected by man and vampire. Or have they? They bear an uncanny resemblance to gargoyles, leaving Alec’s view on all things weird to get a whole lot weirder.

This new quest leads Alec, Cronin, and their band of friends to Paris, Rome, and Moscow, where they learn that gargoyles aren’t simply statues on walls. In the underground pits beneath churches all over the world, Alec discovers the Key’s true destiny. Facing the Zoan might take every talent he has. And he may need help from the dead to get them all out alive.

I'm going to start off by saying this is an overall series review because in my honest opinion there is no way you can read just one, once you start book one you won't want to stop till you reach the final page of book three.  Alec and Cronin are perfect together and even though they are the center of the series, the secondary characters will burrow their way into the spotlight and the reader's heart.  Eiji brings some much needed comic relief at times and others he always has his friends' back and fully devoted to his mate Jodis.  I don't often read vampire tales but I have loved every one of them and Cronin's Key is no exception, as a matter of fact it has quickly moved to the top of the list.  NR Walker has created a world that reminds me of a sexy Twilight meets Indiana Jones, the best of paranormal, history, and romance.


Cronin's Key #1
Detective Alec MacAidan ran through the dark, wet back streets of New York City. The rain gave a silver-scape to the buildings, dulling the stench of garbage-littered alleys, and added an eeriness to what had been an already weird night. Shadows seemed to move and follow him as he ran, making the hairs on the back of his neck prickle, but he never quit running. Chasing.

He was one of the fittest guys in his department, and at only twenty-nine, he was younger than most. His jeans were wet to his knees, and water streamed down from his soaked brown hair to his coat. His senses alert, the only sounds he could hear were his own heart pounding in his ears and his boots striking the pavement.

He’d chased down ice addicts before, and this one was no different. Unnatural strength and speed, ashen faces and wide eyes, and manic highs and lows made these people unpredictable and dangerous. But as he navigated his way, chasing the guy through the back alleyways, around corners, over fences, barely catching glimpses of the guy’s dark coat before it disappeared again, the shadows got closer. Alec had the creeping realization he wasn’t chasing someone at all.

He was being chased.

Followed. Hunted.

Despite the burn in his lungs and legs, he pushed himself harder, faster. As he rounded the corner of a building, the guy he was chasing approached the eight-foot brick wall that fenced the back of the alley.

The assailant didn’t stop; he didn’t even balk. He simply used the alley wall to his right to launch himself up onto the top of the brick fence, where he paused for just a second, long enough to stop, turn, and look at Alec. And he smiled before disappearing onto the other side.

Two things flashed through Alec’s mind: speed and teeth.

Neither of them human.

Alec did as the assailant had done. He ran to the dead end, then stepped onto the alley wall and used it to propel himself up enough to get his arms up on top of the brick fence, pulling himself over it.

He swung his legs over and jumped down into another shorter alley that met a main road just a hundred yards away. Cars passed and Alec thought for sure he’d lost the chase, but a lone figure stood in the alley. Alec thought for a moment that the man had simply given up running, but something flashed near the street—a coat, Alec realized—before disappearing around the corner.

The lone man just stood there. All Alec could see was a silhouette, lit only from a streetlight behind him at the end of the alley, the man was completely shrouded in shadow. Alec pulled his gun and aimed it at him. “NYPD,” he huffed, out of breath. “Hands where I can see ’em.”

The man fell to his knees, then slumped to his side on the wet
pavement. Alec ran to him, and when he was close enough, he could see a dark pool of blood seeping through the man’s shirt. Alec hadn’t heard any shots fired, nor any confrontation. Was he shot? Stabbed?

Alec pressed his hand against the man’s chest with one hand and radioed for backup with his other. “This is MacAidan. I need a paramedic.”

It was only now that he was close enough that Alec could see the man’s face. He was pale with dark eyes, but he was smiling. He was oddly beautiful and serene despite having what looked like a bullet wound in his chest.

“What’s your name?” Alec asked him.

The man laughed. “He missed my heart.”

“We’ll get you to the hospital,” Alec said. “Just hang on.”

“No.” He shook his head slowly, still smiling. “It’s you. It really is you.”

Alec was sure the man was seeing someone that wasn’t there, as most people taking their last breaths often did. “What’s your name?”

“He will come for you. Tell him it’s started, they’re coming.” His voice was wispy, fading. “It’s not one, it’s both.”

The man was making no sense. “Tell who?”

The man on the ground reached up and put his hand to Alec’s chest. He smiled again, his eyes glazed over with something akin to wonder. “I touched the key.”

“Detective MacAidan.” Alec’s radio cracked to life, startling him. He didn’t know how long the operator had been calling his name. “State your location.”

“The key to what?”

The dying man laughed. “You must tell Cronin what I said. He’ll find you, Ailig.”

Alec’s blood ran cold. Ailig? How the hell did he know…? Then the man on the ground took his last breath, and crumbled to dust.

Cronin's Key #2
Alec sat on the sofa with his feet on the coffee table reading the New York Times on an iPad. He’d look up every so often at the apartment, at Cronin’s walls of memorabilia, smiling at the antiques shelved there, then at the vampire beside him.

“What’s so funny?” Cronin asked. He didn’t even look up from the Chinese newspaper he was reading, though a smile played at his lips.

“I was just looking over all your relics,” Alec explained. Cronin had told him about most of the artifacts he’d collected, and despite their conversations starting with good intentions, they usually ended up in the bedroom. Or on the sofa, or on the floor, or over the dining table. “I mean, those antiques are pretty cool, but you’re my favorite.”

Cronin looked up at Alec then. “Your favorite antique?”

“Well.” Alec’s grin widened. “You are a 744 vintage. I think you qualify.”

Cronin smiled, amused. “And you’re a what?”

Alec imitated the guy from Antiques Roadshow. “A contemporary piece, 1980s Americana. Perfect condition, well-endowed.”

Cronin laughed at that. “You’re bored.”

“Ugh.” Alec groaned and let his head fall back on the sofa. “So bored.”

He’d spent the last eight weeks holed up in Cronin’s lavish New York City apartment. His days, which were now fully nighttime hours, consisted of a workout regime—Cronin had installed gym equipment in the cinema room to curb Alec’s boredom—hours of foreplay and sex, the occasional movie on Netflix, and reading and researching vampire histories. He rarely left the apartment.

The view was spectacular, and if he wanted something—anything—he could simply order it, pay for it with Cronin’s black credit card, and have it delivered. But he was still confined to quarters. Meaning he was still wanted by NYPD, his former colleagues no less, though the hype had died down.

The fact that his and Cronin’s disappearing acts, which had been caught on CCTV—once in his department’s office area and once in the department’s stores facility—had been leaked on YouTube, meant Alec’s relatively quiet and unnoticed disappearance had gone global.

The footage went viral, making news headlines around the world and him an internet sensation. Some called it a hoax and disregarded what was just too impossible to understand, and others called it what it was.

Quantum leaping.

Cronin’s ability to appear anywhere in the world—or leaping as they called it—was, in Alec’s opinion, the best talent a vampire could have. And it was awesome. Not that they really went anywhere these last eight weeks.

It still wasn’t a great idea for Alec to be seen in public, and Cronin couldn’t go out in the sunlight. That limited their outings to faraway places, wherever it was night.

Alec sighed and went over to the shelves lined with Cronin’s memorabilia. He had wanted to know about all the items Cronin thought important enough to collect over the last twelve hundred years. As a vampire, Cronin had seen things Alec couldn’t begin to imagine, and he wanted to know as much as he could. He’d asked about most of them, but went to one display that held three items he’d not gotten to yet. Alec put his hand out, almost touching the artifact. “Can I touch it?”

Cronin now stood beside him. “Of course,” he answered with a smile.

Alec carefully picked up the small, crudely glazed bottle, admiring it as he turned it in his hands. It was whitish-brown and looked like a child had made it in school art class “What about this one?”

“That is a Mayan poison bottle.”

Alec blinked. “Oh.” He changed how he was holding it, as though it would now bite.

Cronin smiled. “The year was 821. Jodis and I went there and were ill-received. Can’t imagine why.”

Alec laughed and rolled his eyes. “No, I can’t imagine why either.”

“A witch-doctor offered us a drink,” Cronin said, nodding toward the bottle. “Courteous fellow.”

“Well, it would have been rude to refuse,” Alec added sarcastically.

“Yes, quite.” Cronin said, amused. “In the end, he drank it himself rather than see his end with one of us.”

“And this one?” Alec picked up what looked like a bone knife.

“Ah, that’s a Peruvian weaver’s bone wand.”

“Of course it is.”

Cronin chuckled. “It’s from 1288. An old woman stabbed me with it.”

Alec’s mouth fell open. “She what?”

“She stabbed me, only barely.” Cronin was still smiling. “Eiji and Jodis thought it funny that an elderly human woman could do such a thing. She was no taller than four foot.”

“I hope you killed her.”

Cronin barked out a laugh. “Uh, no. Her heart gave out before I had the chance.”

Alec turned back to the shelves and picked up a long metal pin with a jeweled end. It looked expensive. “And this?”

“That is a seventeenth century French shawl pin,” Cronin said, almost wistfully. “A man tried to stab me with it. I believe it belonged to his wife.”

“What is it with you and being stabbed?”

Cronin sniffed indignantly. “It must be my charming personality.”
Alec snorted. “If by charming personality you mean vampire about to kill them, then yes, I think so too.” But the truth was, Alec knew from years of police work that stabbing was an intimate crime; the offender was well within the other person’s personal space. He frowned. “I don’t like the idea of you being close enough to bite someone else. Or that you have your mouth on their skin… or your teeth.”

Cronin took the shawl pin from Alec and put it back on the shelf. “It doesn’t bother you that I kill people, only that I have my lips on them when I bite them?”

Alec looked to the floor and nodded. “You get close, you touch them, you put your lips on them,” he said. He knew he was pouting, but he couldn’t seem to stop. “It’s not fair.”

Cronin put his finger under Alec’s chin and lifted his face so he could see his eyes. “It is not the same.”

“I know,” Alec said petulantly. He knew he was being unreasonable. He craned his neck, exposing it to Cronin. Alec knew there were vampire puncture wounds marking his skin, and he loved them. He wore them with pride. “I like it when your lips are on my neck, when you bite me. When you drink from me.”

Cronin leaned in and ran his nose along the bite wounds. “Do I not take enough from you?”

“Never,” Alec whispered.

Cronin licked the two bruised hole marks, making Alec shiver. “Do I not bite you enough?”

“Never.” Alec was getting dizzy with want. He had to remind himself to breathe. He leaned against Cronin, feeling the strength and warmth of him from his thighs to his neck. He was already getting hard. “It will never be enough.”

Cronin kissed Alec’s neck once more but pulled away. “I can’t keep feeding from you. It can’t be good for you.”

Alec chuckled. “It is really good for me.”

This time Cronin laughed, a purr rumbled through his chest. “You test my restraint, yet again. Please know, Alec, I’m not opposed to such a notion. Though the hours spent in bed this morning may suggest you need a rest. Just because I can bite you without changing you, doesn’t mean you are unaffected.”

Alec groaned. They’d found out after the battle in Egypt that Cronin could bite Alec and not change him into a vampire. It opened a whole world of questions, but more than that, it meant they could have sex while Alec was human. And yes, as much as he wanted Cronin to take him, fuck him, and bite him, his human body needed recuperation. The intense sexual pleasure and slight blood loss took its toll when it was for hours at a time. So as much as he didn’t like it, he knew Cronin was right.

But Cronin also had a warped sense of time. Living for twelve hundred years would do that, Alec conceded. So while Cronin was patient and content to sit and read or research for hours upon hours, Alec was restless for something else beyond that, some sense of normalcy. He was used to police work, and now he sat around doing a whole lot of nothing. Even though he’d left normal behind the day he’d met Cronin, the vampire he was fated to, he was still a twenty-nine-year-old man. He needed to do something human. He grinned at Cronin. “Come on, let’s go out.”

Cronin quirked an eyebrow. “Where to?”

“A club somewhere.”

“I meant in which city.”

“Oh.” Alec was thinking some nightclub in the Meatpacking District would do. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to being able to leap to any country he chose. He grinned. “Well, it’s night time in Europe. I’ve always wanted to go to London.”

Cronin smiled. “I know just the place.”

Cronin's Key #3
Alec sat back in the chair and held in a sigh, feeling every bit the lab rat he’d become. Since he’d changed into a vampire a year ago, he’d been put through test after test, so each and every one of his unending list of talents could be explored and documented.
He’d agreed to this, and he knew it was the right thing to do, but in that very moment, he wished to be doing anything else.

And with talents for making errant thoughts an instant reality—like setting fire to sofas and making Xbox controllers explode in Eiji’s hand because he’d somehow won—it wasn’t a good frame of mind to be in.

He loved Jodis. He really did. She had become one of his best friends. But she’d also taken it upon herself to document his talents, and he’d just about had enough for one day. If replicating wasn’t a talent so frowned upon in the vampire world, he’d make a copy of himself to endure Jodis’ tests while he and Cronin hid out in their bedroom. He’d replicated himself a few times, experimentally of course, and found it too taxing on himself anyway.

“Can you do it again?” she asked, notepad and pen in hand.
Alec had found a certain talent he’d dubbed the chameleon, for obvious reasons, because he could make things change color. It was absurd, really, and probably of no better use than a party trick. But he could, if he concentrated, turn a red pen blue or a white shirt black. The talent could only manifest by touch, and it lasted only a few minutes before returning to its original color, but Jodis was rather intrigued.

Alec, on the other hand, had passed bored like it was standing still and was well on his way to irate. “Jodis, I’ve kinda had enough of this today.”

“Last one, I promise.”

For Alec, it wasn’t so much as reining in a temper anymore, where the most damage done was a cutting remark. Now it was keeping a lid on a few dozen talents that reacted poorly to anger. He only had to get really pissed off and a rage would barrel out of him like nuclear fallout, literally knocking humans and vampires off their feet. Or he could burst eardrums with a furious roar, or maybe he could turn them to stone, or dust. Or maybe, just maybe, he could rip an earthquake through the apartment so he didn’t have to do any more of these stupid fucking tests.

“Alec,” Eleanor cautioned from the next room.

“I wasn’t actually going to do that,” he replied petulantly. He knew Eleanor, with the gift of foresight, saw possible outcomes of decisions made, and that did nothing to quell his frustration. “Jesus, now my thoughts aren’t even my own.” Standing up, he snatched the purple notebook off the desk, holding it for half a second and slamming it back down. It was now black, as was every page inside it, and it was smoldering as though it almost caught fire.

Cronin was suddenly in front of him, a hand cupped to his face. “He’s had enough,” he said to Jodis, and they disappeared.

* * * * *

As soon as Alec’s feet hit the soft earth, he took a deep breath of fresh air and reveled in the silence.

His life hadn’t exactly been quiet in the last twelve months.

He felt the warmth of Cronin’s hand in his, smelled the sweet aromas of heath and moss from both the vampire beside him and the cool air of the long-abandoned battlefield, and Alec exhaled loudly.

Cronin had somehow learned to quiet his mind a little and it gave Alec the silence he so desperately needed. In the last twelve months, Cronin had taken Alec on more time-outs than he could count. Knowing when he’d had enough and was reaching his breaking point, Cronin would simply remove Alec from the situation, leaping him somewhere quiet where his mind could have some much needed solitude. But with a gentle squeeze of his hand, Cronin reassured him he was there.

“I’m sorry,” Alec said.

“Don’t apologize,” Cronin said adamantly. “I can’t begin to imagine your frustrations.”

“Jodis is only trying to help. I behaved badly.” He could very well speak words directly into Jodis’ mind and tell her privately that he was sorry. But he’d prefer not to invade the thoughts of others, preferring to apologize in person.

“She understands,” Cronin said, trying to pacify him.
Alec sighed loudly and allowed the quiet to envelop him. “I love it here,” he said eventually.

The field at Dunadd, Scotland, had become a sanctuary for Alec. No voices in his head, no city of millions with flurrying thoughts rushing unbidden through his mind, no politics of vampire councils, no meetings, no one hovering.

Just Cronin.

“It affords you a great privacy,” Cronin said. His Scottish accent and formal tone still made Alec smile. “Your talents as a vampire are a burdensome gift.”

Alec had learned very early on to block out the voices and thoughts of those around him, but living in such a large city made it a constant effort, and his display of anger at Jodis just minutes ago bothered him. “These talents are a pain in my ass.”

Cronin laughed quietly. “Your control over them still astounds us all.”

“The control you keep talking about is a talent in itself. It’s like casting a net over a thousand different fish.” Alec sighed loudly. “I’ve told you that before.”

“I know. Though it amazes me still.” Cronin squeezed Alec’s hand again and looked out across the field of long grass to the line of trees that fronted the river. “Lie down with me.”

Cronin simply lay flat on his back in the middle of the field and when Alec lay down next to him, Cronin snatched up Alec’s hand again. And together in the mind-clearing silence, they watched the blanket of stars glide across the sky.

It was a clear autumn night in Scotland, cold and dark. Neither of those things impeded a vampire of course, and Alec would never tire of the simple changes he’d gone through when he became a vampire. It was the complex changes he was beginning to struggle with. The talents he’d been given made him unique: the only vampire ever to have all vampire talents, some he was still discovering a year after his change. It was these talents that made his life hectic, his obligations as the key to the vampire world that gave him a great responsibility, and as Cronin had said, it was becoming a great burden.

Alec loved that Cronin would leap them to the very field where his human life had ended. The old battlefield in Scotland was also where they’d first made love, where they came to talk, to be by themselves. Like now.

“Thank you for bringing me here,” Alec whispered, his anger and frustration from before almost gone. “I feel like I can breathe here.”

“Is that not what husbands do?” Cronin asked with a smile. “Save the other from the myriad of madness?”

“Husbands,” Alec said, bringing Cronin’s knuckles up to his lips and kissing them softly. “Now that is something I’ll never tire of. And that place you call a myriad of madness is our home.” Since their wedding just six months prior, they’d barely had more than a few hours to themselves. Their apartment was never empty. Alec sighed, still looking at the night sky. “Do you think we could buy this place? That little farmhouse by the hillfort could be our private sanctuary. Just for us.”

“Do you wish to?”

Alec snorted quietly. “I was just kidding.”

“I will look into it. I rather like that idea myself.”

“I wasn’t being serious. It was just a random thought. I’m pretty sure husbands don’t just go and buy the other one every single thing he thinks of.”

Cronin leaned up on his elbow and leaned in so he could kiss Alec softly. “Don’t think it would be just for you,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “A quiet place where I could have you all to myself is more for my selfish reasons than your romantic whim.”

Alec laughed and rolled on top of Cronin. “So when I want a place for us to have some privacy, it’s romantic, but when you want some privacy to have your way with me, it’s what?”


Alec grinned down at him. “I happen to like wicked.”

“And maybe I could bed you in a place of our own without an audience three rooms away,” Cronin added. “And not in some random hotel or muddy field.”

Alec brushed his fingers through Cronin’s hair. “Random hotels are fun, but going back to the apartment full of people when we’re both covered in mud is the most fun of all.”

Cronin’s eyes crinkled when he smiled. “They were certainly surprised. Though it didn’t help that, when asked what on earth we got up to, you showed everyone the mental images.”

Alec laughed at the memory. Being able to show other people images in their minds was a talent with some benefits. And just because he could, he ran a reel of images through Cronin’s mind, snippets of them making love: flushed skin, hands gripping, thighs open, being joined, heads thrown back in ecstasy. And then, to prove a point, Alec surged out a cloud of what it felt like when they fucked. Empathic transference, allowing Cronin to feel what he was feeling, was one of Alec’s favorite talents.

Cronin bucked his hips instantly and growled out, “Alec.”

Alec pulled back the images and the lust, leaving Cronin breathless. His black eyes were swimming, swirling with want. He took a hold of Alec’s face and brought their mouths together in a searing kiss.

Cronin moved his arms down Alec’s back and held him tighter. He rolled his hips up and kissed him deeper until Alec was lost in him.

Then it happened.

Images. Visions flashed through Alec’s mind, visions he did not put there. Alec had learned to protect his mind, another of his talents was to shield his own thoughts from others. Yet someone or something had penetrated through.

“Alec, what is it?” Cronin asked.

When Alec looked down at a concerned Cronin, Alec realized he’d zoned out, their make-out session long-forgotten. “We need to leave,” Alec said, jumping to his feet. He pulled Cronin up by the hand, and before Cronin could ask why, Alec pulled him close, and they leapt.

Author Bio:
N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance.

She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn't have it any other way.

She is many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don't let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.

She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things...but likes it even more when they fall in love.

She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.

She's been writing ever since...


Cronin's Key #1
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

Cronin's Key #2
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

Cronin's Key #3
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

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