Exclusive Snippet From A Lesson In Wickedness!

Hello folks! 🙂 Did you miss me? I’ve been gone a little while due to the combination of sitting two exams for my degree’s second year, and my nana having an operation (she’s okay, and was chattering everyone’s ear off again the moment she was out of theatre!). So everything’s okay my end now, and I’m getting my head down to get A Lesson In Wickedness well and truly finished before its publication on June 30th. I’m excited to finally be doing Mika’s story because she’s normally so closed up and quiet, and I thought it was only fair to share a wee snippet with you guys to enjoy. 😉

*There are some swear words in the snippet, so I’ve done some blanking out, haha.

Break

“I’m D-Derek.” Before she could warn him not to, he glanced down to the floor, his eyes popping out of his head as his features paled. “Is that…it can’t be…” Realisation suck in, and he staggered backwards, shaking his head. “Am I dead?”

F**k this. I hate being a Reaper. The bitterness of her profession had never left Mika, and she had never adapted to believing in what she did as well as the others had. Even Ryder was more comfortable with explaining what was going to happen to those who passed on. Mika peered over at Sigrid, who was silently watching the exchange with a knowing expression on her features. Of course. I’m not the only one who’s had to go through this. Sigrid took the dead, too, and loved them as people. And for longer than I have, probably. Taking in a deep breath, Mika rested her hands on the edges of her jean pockets, giving a slow nod. “Yes, you are, Derek. I’m sorry. But don’t be afraid. I can take you somewhere safe.”

“What? This can’t be happening. It can’t be real. But…what about Becky?” Derek slid down to the floor with a haunted expression, wrapping his arms around himself and hugging his knees into his chest. Rocking himself back and forth, he looked up sharply at Mika. “What about my Becky? She’s my girlfriend.”

A lump formed in Mika’s throat at his broken tone, and she coughed to clear it, clenching her fists for a moment. “I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do, Derek. I’m just the messenger. I need to get you to where you need to go.” Turning away for a moment, not wishing the young man to see the sorrow etched on her face for him, Mika delved into her pocket and pulled out her phone. Before she tapped in the number to call down the white light to take Derek to the Hall of Rest, her eyes lighted on the flashing numbers on the screen, showing the time coldly. The Reaper snapped her head up, her grey eyes stormy as she gave Sigrid a conflicted look. “It’s only one minute from six o’ clock,” she said flatly.

The Valkyrie gave a soft shrug, hiding her obvious disappointment as she gave her trademark smile. “It’s okay, Mika. I can wait. This man cannot. Get him to safety. Besides, I can no longer feel Bifrost. They’ve moved it.”

Mika’s heart broke as she saw the frustration in Sigrid’s eyes, her mind screaming for her to go over and envelop the Valkyrie in her arms to comfort her. “I’m sorry.” Her voice came out in a cracked whisper. The words were an echo of so long ago.

As though time was listening in, against them as much as possible, the first golden fingers of daylight slid through the small windows at the top of the building. They cast long streams of sunlight into the factory, casting Sigrid’s face into shadow as she murmured back, “It’s okay, Mika. We can try again tonight.” Before Mika could say another word to her, the Valkyrie’s head fell back as she let out a strangled cry. The sound of bones snapping and breaking filled the air for a few moments as her figure twisted and reshaped itself in the half-light, Derek and Mika both looking on in horror. The clothes Sigrid had worn slid to the floor with a soft puff of air as two long, graceful white wings fanned out and shook themselves in place of her arms. The transformation complete, Mika found herself gazing back at an elegant swan where moments before the Valkyrie had stood. The only hint that it was still her were the eyes, as glacier-blue and ancient as ever.

Locking her emotion away as she had done for over a century, Mika bent her head, blinking hard against the sudden assault of prickling tears against the back of her eyes. It hurt more to hold them back, but she bit the inside of her cheek, willing her mind to settle. The horror of what Sigrid had gone through for centuries hadn’t hit her until she had seen the transformation, and anger burned through her veins at the thought of anyone—even a god—doing such a thing to their own child. It made the fiery skull tattoo on her arm, the one that all the Reapers wore to mark their trade, tingle in a way she had never felt before. And the pain she felt at failing Sigrid was too close to how she had felt over a hundred years before. A face, long thought lost in her memories, danced for a moment with a beautiful smile, before vanishing again. No. We are not going to think about Siobhan. We are not going to remember her now. Here. Sigrid’s not gone, and you haven’t failed her. Not yet.

Mika willed courage into herself as she tapped numbers busily into the phone, turning to Derek and nodding at him as kindly as she could manage while holding her hand out. The familiar stream of pure white light faded into the factory from the ceiling in response to her text message. “Come on. I’ll take you to the Hall of Rest.”

 

Copyright © Miranda Stork 2016, taken from A Lesson In Wickedness

Blog Stop For The Island (Now and Forever 2) By Tammy Dennings Maggy

That’s right everyone! Today we have a very special blog stop post for Tammy Dennings Maggy’s new book, The Island! Not only do we have an awesome excerpt (adult rated, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!) but we also have a fabulous character interview! Enjoy, everyone! 🙂

 

After losing her brother in a fatal motorcycle accident, Quinn’s life spins out of control. Shutting herself off from friends and family in Michigan, she buries herself in her work, wishing for the pain to end. In her dreams she’s finally able to find the peace her heart craves on The Island.

Driven to recklessness over a heartbreaking betrayal, Jacob races his motorcycle on a rain slick California freeway. Near death in the hospital, he’s given a choice. Stay on The Island or go back for a second chance at love.

Destined to be together, but repeatedly torn apart, these two lost and melancholy people draw the attention of the Goddess Fate. As Quinn and Jacob’s lives hang in limbo, the soul mates are given a very special gift from the Gods, and the chance to finally have their love of a lifetime.

bookcover

The Excerpt-Adults Only!!!!

His eyes found hers once again and she began to fall. She didn’t care. Thoughts of going back or staying there on The Island disappeared. All she wanted to think about, to feel, and taste was Jacob. Quinn pulled his mouth back to hers. The sweet taste of the berries, mango, and papaya dazzled her taste buds as their tongues teased and danced with each other, fighting for control one moment and surrendering to each other the next.

Jacob finally freed her tits from the laces of her bodice. Watching him tug at the strings with his teeth made her heart beat faster and she giggled before she could stop. He winked and kept up the slow pace. Quinn giggled even more. “I stand by my first assessment. You’re a tease, Jake.”

“Baby doll, you haven’t seen anything yet.” He pushed her dress down to her waist and simply stared. “I’m not the only tease here.”

“What are you talking about?” Quinn slid her fingertips up and down his arms. His muscles twitched and pulsed at her touch. She wanted those arms wrapped around her and to never let go.

“You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. You don’t flaunt it, but every move and noise you make turns me on. I wanted to take this slow, but I can’t.”

“Stop thinking so much and kiss me.” She pushed herself up to meet his mouth once again as they moved on the bed so she was now on top of him. Jacob’s hands slid up her thighs, leaving hot trails with his fingertips. Her body quaked and her pussy clenched as a rush of fluid soaked her panties completely.

Jacob hooked his thumbs in the band of her underwear, snapped them off, and tossed them onto the floor. His hands slid up her body, pulling the dress up and over her head in a flash. He sat up, holding her in his lap, nuzzling first one breast and then the other with his stubbly chin and cheeks. The roughness of his skin against her rock-hard nipples sent her rolling toward another orgasm. She clung to him as he suckled harder on her right nipple while kneading her left breast with his hand. Quinn arched her back and bit her lip before crying out. “Jake, please don’t—”

He pulled back quickly, moving his hands to cradle her face. Concern filled his eyes. “Did I hurt you?”

Her eyes glistened with tears. “No. Please don’t stop.”

 

* * * *

 

The catch in her voice nearly broke his heart. The raw passion was there. Her body given freely to him, and yet she still questioned his desire for her. He knew that pain all too well. Here with Quinn though, it all faded away. She did that for him and he wanted so badly to do the same for her. He wiped away the tears that spilled onto her flushed face. He kissed her softly and held her close. “I want you, now and for however long we can be together. I need to be with you. I won’t stop as long as you want the same.”

Quinn slid off his lap and knelt up on the bed, pulling him up with her. She held his gaze as her fingers unfastened his shorts and then slid them down over his hips. Jacob quickly took off his tank top before crushing Quinn’s chest against his. She smiled and his heart beat quickened. “I need you, too. Make love with me, Jake.”

He slid out of his shorts as Quinn eased back onto the pillows. Jacob took in her entire sun-kissed body, naked before him. God, she’s so beautiful. Quinn welcomed him into her arms as he joined her on the pillows, his mouth finding her left nipple this time as his right hand trailed down her stomach.

She arched her back and moaned as soon as his fingers found her throbbing clit. Another wave of fluid gushed out of her and over his fingers. Jacob brought them up to his mouth to taste her. “Mmmm. You taste fucking fantastic. Your sister was right. Wanna try?”

Quinn giggled and licked his fingers clean. That move sent his body over the edge. His cock was bouncing with his need for her, a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by his lover. She reached inside the nightstand for the box of condoms, spilling several over the bed. Jacob smiled as he placed one in her open palm. Quinn slid her hands down his abs to his pulsing member. She wrapped her fingers around his shaft and squeezed a little, eliciting a gasp from him. Carefully she tore open the wrapper with her teeth and quickly covered his cock with the ribbed latex sheath. He thrust his hips forward, causing her hand to slide up and down his shaft. “Oh, now who’s teasing?” Jacob moaned.

He eased Quinn all the way back onto the pillows, and slid down her body toward his prize. He wanted more than just a taste. He wanted to feast on her cunt until she begged for him to take her. He positioned himself between her thighs and looked up to see her watching him, her chest rising and falling rapidly. He winked before popping her clit into his mouth and sucking hard. Quinn nearly bucked him off but he held her hips in place, enjoying her squirming and sighs. It wasn’t long at all before he was rewarded once again with her sweet nectar.

He teased her a bit more with his tongue and then slipped one, two and then three fingers inside of her hot folds. Her pussy clenched repeatedly over his fingers and her body convulsed over and over again. Quinn’s skin flushed from her tits to her toes, because of him, because of what he was doing to her. He wanted more, so much more. He couldn’t wait any longer. He wanted to bury his cock deep inside her, go over the edge, and never come back.

 

And now the interview! Hold onto your panties, people–and some ice! O_O

 

Today, I thought I would change gears a bit and interview the villainess of Tammy’s new book. You first learned about her briefly in For the Love of Quinn. Some of you may recall the mention of Julia Santos as the cause for Jacob’s near fatal motorcycle accident. What the hell did she do to be blamed for that? We won’t get all of the story until the third book in Tammy’s Now and Forever series called The Surrender of Julia. Until then, I’ve invited the wickedly beautiful self-proclaimed villainess to join me today here so she can tell her side of the story.  Welcome, Ms. Santos.

Thank you, Lia. Please. Call me Julia.

Okay, Julia. 🙂

 

Wickedly beautiful? You are quite stunning yourself. In fact you, you remind me of another curvaceous woman in my life.

(Now I’m blushing. Sheesh! What sort of vixen blushes at the slightest compliment?  Tammy isn’t going to ever let me live this one down!) You wouldn’t happen to be talking about the love of your life, now would you?

Maybe. Just so you know, if she wasn’t in my life, I would be all over you in a heartbeat. 
(Julia licks her lips and squirms in her seat a little bit.) There is nothing like the feel of a woman’s curves under your fingertips.

Uh huh. hmmm…I bet that comes in handy when you create your sculptures. The feel of a woman’s curves I mean.

 

Definitely. You can’t create something so visual if you haven’t experienced the passion you are trying to depict. Take Rodin’s The Kiss, for example. When you look at that sculpture, you FEEL a part of it. You can feel his arms around you, his lips on yours, and your breath leaving you as you surrender completely to the moment.

That’s exactly what I felt when I saw this sculpture for the first time and some of your own pieces. I heard your model was Jacob Hartley. How did the two of you meet?

I was at a club in Los Angeles about 15 years ago with some friends. I noticed a group of people celebrating someone’s graduation. I was immediately drawn to Jacob. He looked comfortable in his own skin. I loved that. Many people act awkwardly when they are in large groups. Not Jacob. His entire demeanor exuded confidence and he was the hottest man in the place. I wanted him, even if it was just for a quickie in the bath room, I wanted to feel his hands all over my body.

 

I’ve met him. I can totally understand your animal attraction. When he walks into the room, all eyes are on him, but he doesn’t know it. In fact, if you point it out to him, he laughs it off and asks you how much you’ve had to drink.

Exactly! Jacob oozes raw sex and I wanted to capture that in my art. A few days after the night at the club, I showed up at his hotel room in nothing but my high heels and very skimpy lingerie. I convinced him he had what I wanted as my model. 

 

How did you convince him to say yes? I’m sure I can guess. If you showed up on my doorstep dressed in high heels and lingerie, I would do anything you asked.

Have you ever been with two women, Lia? The more I talk to you, the more I would like to introduce you to my girlfriend, Carmen. She’s my Mistress as well. I’m thinking she’d love to take you in hand…

Oh my…sorry. I couldn’t resist. 😉

Carmen is much more than Christian Grey could ever hope to be. Come with me after the interview. I have to pick her up at the airport. She’ll be so surprised. 

I’m not sure. I don’t want to intrude. (Now it’s my turn to squirm. It’s been my fantasy to be taken in hand, so to speak.) Why don’t we jump right to the question all of us want to know? Were you the cause of Jacob’s accident?


(Julia lowers her eyes a moment before answering.) Yes. I’m afraid I was. I mean, he did catch me in our bed with another man.

Whoa! In the bed the two of you shared? That’s pretty cold.

Yes, it was. Not that I intended for that to happen, but it did. I knew I wasn’t the one for Jake. I realized it after the first few months we were together, but I loved being with him. He brought out all of my artist instincts. I needed him to be my muse. He was that and so much more to me, but I couldn’t give him what he really wanted.

And what was that?

A happily ever after. I couldn’t give him my heart. It belonged to another.

Apparently too many others according to Tammy’s notes. You really get around there, Julia!

True. I was never what one would call a wallflower. I love sex with both men and women. Sometimes with both at the same time. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that as long as everyone involved are consenting adults.

You’ll get no argument from me on that point, but if you had Jake why did you continue to have sex with other people? Did you ever involve him in these encounters?

(A sly smile spreads slowly across her face as she sighs.) Yes I did. It was his idea actually. We had several nights with my assistant. She was always panting after him so I thought it would be fun to help fulfill a fantasy or two for her.  Jake and I both took turns pleasuring her. She was a complete vanilla if you know what I mean. Not that there’s anything wrong with being vanilla, but there are so many different flavors to taste. 😉 I have to say we taught her a few things over those days and I wanted to explore more with her. Unfortunately, she couldn’t keep her mouth shut about it.

What do you mean?

She blabbed about it to another lover of mine while he took her on top of my desk at the gallery. Apparently she felt she could sample from all of my lovers. Ha! She didn’t choose wisely if you ask me. He wasn’t one to keep a secret either. He took great pleasure informing me of their tryst. From what he told me, she couldn’t walk well for a week afterwards. In his dreams if you ask me. 

Is this the same lover that holds your heart?

Not a chance in hell, but if you hear him tell it we were engaged and planning our wedding. Ugh! What a nightmare that one was! Let’s just say it took me a while to figure out I was trying to turn Jake into this other person. Although he loved me and I cared for him deeply, I couldn’t return his love. Mine belonged to this other person from the moment we first met. 

Would you say this person is your happily ever after?

Yes. Yes, she most definitely is my happily ever after.  You still haven’t answered my question about going with me to pick her up at the airport.

 

So it’s your current girlfriend, Carmen who’s your always and forever? (Julia nods and smiles.) I’m not sure it would be a good idea for me to go with you.

 

Didn’t you say you would do anything I asked if I showed up on your doorstep in high heels and lingerie? What about if I showed up to the interview like this? Is this what you had in mind for your fantasy, mi amor? Carmen has a matching outfit all in hot pink leather…

Ohhhhhhh….you are so not playing fair! Well, that’s it for us today folks!(Julia’s deep sultry laugh makes my stomach flutter out of control.) Make sure you click on Tammy’s links to find out her next stop on the blog tour. Speaking of that, I’ve promised to help out with a few more stops along the way.

 

Maybe you should have Tammy take over the blog touring and hopping for tomorrow. I have a feeling you will be a little…tied up for the next few days. 😉

Oh my…

 

About the Author

author

 

As far back as I can remember I have had two dreams: become a veterinarian and a world-famous author. So far I achieved the first one and have enjoyed a wonderful career as a small-animal veterinarian. But something has always been missing. I’ve never stopped writing; that has never been an issue. The problem was getting up the nerve to actually finish one of my novels and submit it to a publisher. What a scary thought to send a stranger something I had poured my heart into. Would they like it? Would they see the characters the way I saw them in my head? Writing For the Love of Quinn was like giving birth to my first child. I had to let my characters go to see if they would take off, and boy have they ever!

Jacob and Quinn’s story is far from over. They’ll pop in from time to time to check in with their friends and family in the next books in the Now and Forever series. They got their happily ever after, and now it’s time for the others to find theirs, too!

Having grown up in Michigan and now living in Northern California, I have had the privilege to experience life in a small town and a big city. Everyone who I’ve met along the way has influenced my writing in one way or another. Their experiences as well as my own help make up the characters that I hold near and dear to my heart. Helping them find the loves of their lives as well as fulfilling a few fantasies along the way is just frosting on the cake!

Where to Find Tammy

Siren Bookstrand Author Page

Amazon Author Page

Behind Closed Doors Website/Blog

Not Enough Time in the Day Blog

Sassy Vixen Publishing Blog

 Goodreads Author Page

Pinterest Page

Follow Me on Twitter

Facebook Author Page

Youtube Video Book Trailers

Review and Excerpt of Life Cycle by Zoe Winters

Morning all! As part of Dark Mind Book Tours, today I have an awesome review and excerpt from Life Cycle by Zoe Winters! Enjoy 🙂

 

Immortality can be a bitch…

Tamara has lived nearly two thousand years, trapped by a spell of her own creation. Hunted by her enemy and former lover, she knows there is only one man strong enough to release her from the curse. But will Cain honor her death wish, or keep her for himself, whatever the cost?

Two ancient souls. Two weary fighters, torn between love and hate, forced to decide if the other could be worth living for.

Heat Level 3 of 5.
Some sexually explicit content and innuendo.

You can grab your copy at Amazon.com, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.

 

 

 

 

Life Cycle excerpt
Used with Permission.
Copyright 2012 Zoe Winters
Prologue

123 A.D. A hidden cavern near the waters of the Blue Grotto in Italy.

Tamar shivered with her twelve companions. They were about to attempt their most daring incantation. An opening at the top of the cavern allowed the light from the full moon to shine down on them, illuminating their secret gathering and adding its own power to the unfolding ritual.
Salt water splashed on her from a waterfall in the nearby pool. They’d searched for the water of immortality, a legend that had spread since before her birth. Far and wide, people had spoken of water that could make a person eternal and young.
But it wasn’t the water that conferred immortality. It was the creatures that lived inside the water. They were transparent and hard to see, with spongy tops and long tendrils on the bottom that could sting if you got too close. They didn’t die. Instead, they could age backward, reaching the end of their life, and then, without dying, start over again.
“We’ll freeze to death if you don’t hurry.” Tamar glared at the man in the middle of the circle. The irony of freezing to death while seeking immortality caused her to stifle a dark laugh.
“The potion must be altered with other ingredients unless you want to come back as a newborn each time. You’ll find that frustrating,” Jacob said. He was their leader and the best with potions.
Tamar made a face, but huddled closer to her sister, Naomi, for warmth. A circle of salt had been poured around them. Candles were already lit. A large stone had become a makeshift table upon which the coven leader worked. The sea creatures had been pulverized and added to an iron pot. He poured the herbal infusions into the potion.
Jacob passed a sharp knife to the person on his left. “Each of us must contribute blood to the potion or it will fail. The magic is in this creature, but they have no blood. Our blood must bond with this animal if we hope to succeed.”
“Are you sure that’s necessary?” Naomi asked. Tamar nodded her agreement. Cutting themselves and mixing their blood seemed extreme. What would be the consequences of linking together eternally?
“I am sure,” Jacob said, losing patience with their squeamishness. Magic like this had a price, and they all knew it. But the consequences always showed themselves when it was too late.
One by one they sliced the center of their palms with the ritual knife and added their blood. Jacob stirred the concoction with a wooden spoon; it smelled like death. When he was finished, he dipped a silver goblet into the brew.
“We each drink and then we chant,” he said, passing the goblet.
Tamar couldn’t help feeling pride at the chant she’d written. When they’d all drunk, they clasped hands and turned their faces up to the moonlight. The cavern echoed their words back to them. “Da immortalitatem. Renatus sine oblitus. Numquam moriens. Da immortalitatem. Renatus sine oblitus. Numquam moriens…”
And then they all died.
Tamar jolted as oxygen flooded into her body. Something felt very strange. Had the spell worked? She glanced around at her companions, each of them coming back to life one by one.
“We’re all children.”

Chapter One

Golatha Falls, Georgia. The Present.

Tam perched on the bar stool in her kitchen, still as death. Her third cup of Earl Grey tea cooled on the counter, ignored. Normally the warm brew calmed her nerves, but nothing would comfort her today.
She’d read her tarot cards, tea leaves, and scried with a bowl of water and sea salt. Everything she tried gave her the same morbid story. The death card glared back at her, mocking, and though she’d told many others—sometimes truthfully, sometimes not so much—that the death card didn’t always mean death, she knew this card said her number was up.
Jack—as Jacob was called now—was back, and he was after her. She fought to keep the tremor out of her hand as she raised the tea to her lips. He wouldn’t offer her a quick death. It would involve a cold stone slab, bleeding to death, and having vital organs removed. Ritualistic, because ritual was how you got the most effect out of stealing a fellow magic user’s power.
Tam had considered herself a cycler since the night she was reborn in that cavern nearly two thousand years ago. True to Jack’s word, each time they died, they came right back in their own younger body, looking for all the world to be about twelve years old—an inconvenience to say the least. Tam had been shuffled from orphanage to orphanage each time she began a new life cycle.
This last time she’d gotten lucky and been adopted by a well-to-do family who had taken her in and put her through a good school. The thought was nice, though pointless, given how many times she’d already suffered through school.
Cyclers kept their memories, their sense of continuity. They were effectively immortal, just like the rare breed of jellyfish they’d discovered so long ago.
Jack had only been actively hunting the other cyclers for a few centuries. He’d gone power hungry, convinced he could stop the cycle altogether and achieve true immortality by draining the power of his coven. Magic users aged differently—the more magic, the longer they could live. But it wasn’t just that. She knew him. He had an angle—something more than a personal quest for immortality.
If murder was his new hobby, his purpose for gaining all that power couldn’t be good. If he was going to get her anyway, suicide seemed the smarter option. It would free her to be reborn the normal way and keep her safe from a more brutal death at Jack’s hands.
But it wasn’t so simple. There were two ways she could die for real—and two ways only: at the hands of another cycler, or through magical means by a very old preternatural being, such as a demon or vampire at least a few thousand years old. Those were hard to come by, and their killing methods were usually too creative for Tam’s taste. She wanted to break the cycle, not be tortured.
Either way, she’d managed, through this latest cycle, to stifle the suicidal urge. Until now.
The image of the demon she’d chosen formed in her mind. Cain. The very first incubus. If he couldn’t kill her, nobody could. And he hated her. It should be simple enough to get him to agree, assuming she could find him. She’d dropped him in front of his badass pals a couple of times already with energy balls. He was probably plotting her death at this very moment.
Anna might know where to find him, since she was mated to a demon, but Tam hadn’t seen her best friend in three months. It wasn’t as if Tam had directions to the demon portals or a way to get through to their dimension even if she did. If Anna surfaced in the human dimension, Tam could do a spell to locate her, but who could say when that would happen? And would it be before Jack reached her?
Deep in her gut, she knew she was going to die—either by Cain’s hand or by Jack’s. As arrogant as the bastard was, Cain’s methods would at least be pleasurable. Bleeding out and organ removal versus orgasms. Gee, how do I decide? They both sound so glamorous and exciting.

***

Cain snarled as he passed through the portal point into Cary Town, Washington. The filmy dimensional doorway shimmered and then fizzled out of existence as he moved through the forest away from it. He couldn’t believe he’d allowed himself to be summoned by the vampire king. Half-breeds.
He’d thought his business with Anthony was finished when Cain had delivered his don’t mess with us again or there will be a war speech the last time they’d met. But now there was a bigger evil brewing, something that risked the living standards of all the factions—and possibly their lives.
Even his newly turned succubus and her werewolf mate would be at the meeting, which was going to be awkward to say the least, given that they all hated Anthony. And the feeling was mutual. How this was going to go with everybody in one room, he couldn’t say. Officially, the werewolf pack was banished from Cary Town. If someone saw them slinking through the night to Anthony’s penthouse, things would get entertaining.
The demon nodded at the guardian in the lobby of the Cary Town Luxury Apartments. This meeting was being kept on the down-low. The Preternatural Council had been shut out. Even most of the vampire king’s coven didn’t know he was fraternizing with the enemy and holding a secret meeting in his former penthouse residence. Cain stepped onto the elevator and pulled out the key he’d been given to gain access to the sixth floor.
The door at the end of the hall was answered by a vampire who looked more like a butler. “They’re on the roof by the pool, sir.”
Cain took the stairs two at a time. His presence announced itself as the metal door clanged against the brick. All eyes went to him, and he smirked.
“Well, well, looks like the gang’s all here.” And what a motley crew they were.
Anthony stood at one end of the table beside an overhead projector and portable screen that had been plugged into an outlet embedded in the brick.
At the table were several familiar faces. Beside Anthony was his human mate, Charlee. Coming around the table was Cain’s brother, Luc, and his annoying mate, Anna. Then there was Jane, the new succubus who was mated to Cole, the Cary Town werewolf pack alpha. The rest, he didn’t know.
“You’re late,” Anthony said, bristling. “We’ve been waiting, and Charlotte needs her rest. The baby takes a lot out of her.”
Cain’s eyes cut to the vampire’s mate. She was so pregnant she’d pop any day now. If this meeting was about her and her spawn, heads were going to roll. If he didn’t care about a half-breed, he sure as hell didn’t care about a quarter-breed.
“I was detained. These things happen. Lovely little school teacher. I made some third graders very happy today. Or they’ll be happy tomorrow, anyway.”
Cole growled from his seat beside Jane. “You killed a woman, you mean.”
Cain chuckled. “My god, man, what is it with you and this obsession with killing? Which one of us is the demon? Perhaps amongst your kind third graders are happy when their teacher dies. She’s… just a little spent. She’ll have to take a sick day tomorrow.”
He dropped into a chair at the end of the table where he could most easily glare at and annoy Anthony. Since Cain wasn’t killing him right now, annoying him would be the second best thing. He didn’t like that Anthony was in charge of this meeting. The vampire king was practically a child next to Cain’s eight thousand years. It should be seniority rule.
The vampire cleared his throat. “Sitting next to you is Father Hadrian who is one of mine… And over here is our resident sorcerer, Dayne, and his lovely werecat, Greta.” Anthony leered at the brunette beside the sorcerer and Greta gripped Dayne’s hand tighter.
“Therian, not werecat! You know I hate that term,” Greta hissed.
“Whether you like it or not, it’s accurate.”
“Really, Anthony?” Charlee said, an irritated expression on her face at her mate’s goading.
The vampire chuckled. “What? Is it my fault your friend is so easy to mess with?”
He took a clear plastic sheet with writing on it and placed it on the overhead projector. “I apologize for being so vague as to the purpose of this meeting. Half of you are officially enemies, but if I go to the Preternatural Council with this, my vampires will all know, and I’m not prepared for it to go public yet. We can go back to hating each other after we’ve eliminated the threat.”
Anthony flipped on the light of the projector, and an electric buzz filled the silence. “I had this letter reproduced onto a transparency for our purposes. In case the context doesn’t spell it out to you, we’ve been contacted by Jack the Ripper. He’s still alive, and he’s one of us.”
“You couldn’t just use a computer program?” the werewolf asked. Cole was the most tech-savvy of the group.
“Don’t try, it won’t get you anywhere,” Charlee said.
Dear Boss,

I’m back. You didn’t take the threat seriously last time. Shame on you. Did you not understand my joke? It wasn’t for the common people. It was for the others. Was “from Hell” not a big enough clue? It’s where we all are, after all.

When I’ve killed the other cyclers, I’ll change the world. There are 13 of us, a perfect coven. The first kill was an accident, the second an experiment. Whitechapel was only three. You were wrong. It wasn’t five. Those and others were copycats all wanting Ripper’s glory.

Since then, there have been four more, but I’ve been quiet as a mouse, giggling at my funny little games. With you in power, I thought I’d make this interesting. Only three left to kill; catch me first or Hell is mine.

Yours Truly,

The Cycler

Don’t mind the new trade name. The old one was stale, and this one will give you something new to chew on. A new mystery to solve. Do better this time. The stakes are higher now.

P.S. Have fun when the human media gets this letter. I’ll give you a head start. Tick, tock.
Cain read the letter on the projector once, twice, and then a third time. “Why did he send this to you? And addressed the same as the original letters? And what the fuck is a cycler?”
Anthony seemed annoyed by Cain’s tone, but he answered anyway. “I believe I’ve met him before. At previous points in my history, I’ve chosen to blend with the humans, exploring various ways of living to satisfy my boredom. During the Whitechapel murders, I worked for the London police department under an assumed name. But a few decades before that, I owned a small fish shop. All my other employees called me by the name I was using at that time, except one. He just called me “Boss.”
“There was something off about him. I suspected he was a magic user, but it was more than that. The way he gutted a fish… it was so clean. Surgical, almost. Even being a vampire, this guy gave me the creeps. But I never realized he knew I’d joined the London police or that the letters might be for me. He must have discovered what I was. He was playing games then; now I think he’s ready to end this. Which brings me to your other question. Does anybody besides Hadrian know what a cycler is?”
There was a consensus of head shaking.
“Father Hadrian, perhaps you could tell us about your experience.”
The priest poured a glass of wine from a bottle on the table and took a leisurely sip. “When I was turned in 1955, my first meal was a blonde witch—maybe in her twenties. Her name was Tamara. I left her corpse and went to hunt for more. When I returned to the church, there was a young girl, maybe eleven or twelve or so with the same blonde hair and the same eyes, wearing the same dress as the woman I killed. She told me she was a cycler. She was powerfully magical, much more so than I thought even a woman in her twenties should be. Magic users do age differently, so I can’t be sure of her age before I killed her.”
The hair on the back of Cain’s neck stood up. There were millions of women with that name, and probably plenty of blonde witches with it as well, but his experience with Tam had always been one of confusion over how she could take him down so easily with a flick of her wrist.
The demon glanced at Anna, wondering if she’d made the connection, but the idea that Father Hadrian was speaking about the Tam they both knew hadn’t penetrated for Luc’s mate.
“Anna, do you understand yet why this involves you?” Anthony asked.
Her eyes widened but she maintained her denial. “No… I… Why would it involve me?”
The vampire laughed and shook his head. “I forget how recently you were introduced to our world. Your friend has been keeping a monumental secret from you. Tam is the woman Father Hadrian met in the fifties.”
“That’s not possible. I mean… we grew up together. Since we were kids…”
“Since you were about twelve?”
Anna shut her mouth and looked down at her hands.
“That’s what I thought. She must have died and started a new life cycle right around that time. We’re still not sure exactly what that means.”
The vampire king turned to the sorcerer and werecat. “Dayne, Greta, did you do the research I requested?”
Dayne nodded. “I might have a theory. Since magic users are human, we’ve always been a wild card. Up until now, we’ve kept ourselves mostly secret from normal humans and considered ourselves part of the preternatural world, but if Jack gets enough power, he could sway magic users to his side. I think he wants to expose the preternaturals and fight. He’s absorbing power from his kills to make it easier.”
Greta interrupted. “I don’t think anyone considered there could be magical and ritual significance to the way Jack the Ripper was killing. The killings got more complex, but if he was experimenting with the most potent methods for power absorption, that would happen. He could become unstoppable if he kills the other cyclers.”
“He’ll also be a true immortal,” Dayne said. “The more power a magic user has, the more slowly they age. Considering the nature of what he is already, my suspicion is that he’d become unkillable. He wouldn’t have to start over in a younger human body like what Hadrian observed with Tamara.”
Cain stared at the table. He squeezed his eyes shut as images flashed in his mind of Tam being ritualistically and gruesomely murdered. He didn’t know why it pissed him off so much.
“Cain?” Anthony said.
The demon looked up, startled at being included in the discussion. He tried to maintain a bored mask, but he couldn’t stop his hands from balling into fists or the heat from the glow in his eyes. “Yes?”
“We need you to protect the witch in your dimension. It’s the only place we’re guaranteed she’ll be safe. This affects everybody. If he kills all the cyclers, and magic users come out of the closet, they’ll band together, which risks your demons as well.”
Magic users were a demon’s one weakness. Demons were exempt from death and could heal any injury—true immortals, but they could still be trapped by a curse. They could still feel the weakness and suffering of starvation. They could still be hurt.
All eyes were on him, waiting for his response. He didn’t know how he felt about the little blonde witch, but if anybody was killing her, it was going to be him, not some cheesy magical serial killer with a world domination plot, and not one of Anthony’s thugs, either.
“I’ll protect her,” Cain said, avoiding eye contact with the others. This was killing the shit out of his reputation. There were dramatic gasps and whispering, but he ignored it.
“Of course, killing her would be more expedient… if you could find a way to make her stay dead.” The vampire king’s tone was bland.
“No!” Anna said.
“Anthony!” Charlee said.
“I said I’d protect her,” the demon snarled, finally meeting the eyes of everyone at the table. He dared them to start something with him.
“We’ll also need you to get her to tell you everything about being a cycler. We still don’t understand how or why they exist or the extent of their powers,” Anthony said.
Cain growled. “Watch yourself, half-breed. I could take you out without blinking. I’m sure you want to survive to be a daddy.”
Charlee’s hand went protectively over her pregnant belly, as if the child were in danger instead of the cocky vampire standing beside the projector screen.
Anthony glared. “Don’t forget, I have magic users in my employ. I have a coven of vampires that stretches across North America and contacts with vampire leaders all over the world. Our numbers are far greater than yours. Let’s not make this personal. We’ve got a bigger enemy to fight.”
Cain was bored now. “Are we done here? I’ve got a witch to collect.” He stood, already turning toward the door.
“Cain…” It was the first word Luc had spoken since Cain had arrived. “Take Anna with you. She knows where the witch lives.”
That would make things easier.
Luc’s mate recoiled, gripping tight to his arm. “What? No! Come with me,” she said.
“I should stay for the rest of the meeting. My brother can’t harm you, remember? You can’t hold a solid form without me,” Luc said.
When she’d given her soul and became a demon’s mate, she’d had to die first. It made her existence somewhat ghostly. Only her mate could give her a full, solid form. Gradually, she would gain the same powers as Luc, but it was a lengthy process—centuries. Anna looked from Cain to Luc a couple of times. She finally sighed and let go of her mate.
Cain headed for the door. He didn’t bother waiting for her, assuming she’d follow. And if she didn’t, he’d just have to find the infuriating witch on his own.

 

Good Points

Although this was the fourth book in the series, I read it no problem. You really don’t have to have read the others in order to know what is happening, or to get sucked in from the first page. I also loved that there was a creature used in here that often gets forgotten in supernatural books-an incubus. I enjoyed how the two main protagonists, Cain and Tam, are so like chalk and cheese. This is one of those relationships where you go….”Ah, they’re going to get together-and it’s going to be good!” The storyline was original, and I thought the writing flowed very well, although it seemed a little rushed in places. The dialogue was crisp and fun, and I could hear the character’s voices ringing form the page. It kept me hooked, and I wanted to read it all the way to the end.

 

Bad  Points

Although I love the storyline, I would have liked to have seen….a bit ‘more’. From everything. A bit more heat in the sex scenes (although that might just be me) and a bit more in the threat caused by Jack. I didn’t really buy into that, and it would have been good to see a real build-up for both of these.

 

Overall

Despite the bad points mentioned above, I thought this was a brilliant book, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a new supernatural book. And now I have to read the others in the series!

I give this book….4/5 Stars!

 

 

 

 

Zoe Winters writes quirky and sometimes dark paranormal romance (and dark fantasy). Her favorite colors are rainbow and clear. For updates on new releases and opportunities for contests/giveaways sign up for the newsletter by sending a blank email to: freekept@gmail.com (As a thank you, you’ll receive a free copy of the debut novella in the Preternaturals series: Kept.)