24 May, 2016

My Last Love Story by Falguni Kothari - [Book Review]


About the Book:
Perfect for fans of JojoMoyes’s, Me Before You, My Last Love Story is a heartbreakingly romantic tale about the complexities of trauma and whether love can right a wrong.

I, Simeen Desai, am tired of making lemonade with the lemons life has handed me.

Love is meant to heal wounds.
Love was meant to make my world sparkle and spin.
Love has ripped my life apart and shattered my soul. 

I love my husband, and he loves me.
But Nirvaan is dying.
I love my husband. I want to make him happy.
But he is asking for the impossible. 

I don’t want a baby.
I don’t want to make nice with Zayaan.
I don’t want another chance at another love story. 





Book Links:

My Review:
This is my second book of Falguni. The first book is a contemporary twist to mythology (Soul warrior - Review here), whereas, this book is a fiction and contemporary romance. 

This is the story of Simeen, who loses her parents in an accident at young age, but blessed with 2 dear brothers, a wonderful husband and a lifetime best friend. For an outsider, her life seems fine, but when we follow her closely through-out the story, we feel sorry for her situation. She has a wonderful husband, but he is going to die soon leaving her alone in misery. She has a close friend to whom she is attracted to but had to suppress her emotions. When she wants to escape from the situations, her husband is adamant to bring their child to this world, which she didn't like, as she cannot imagine raising the child as a single parent while she herself is in a difficult situation.

Plus:
Characterization
The Overall plot which is sensitive and touches heart

Minus:
Narration which becomes boring at some places
Low pace

I loved the way the love triangle is etched.. The author is successful in revealing the past in the middle of the current story without creating confusion to the reader. The conflicting thoughts inside Simeen, her depression, her feelings for Zayaan, the lovely character of Nirvaan etc., are written very well and connect to the audience. I felt a pinch of doubt on how the threesome enjoyed their friendship ignoring the judgments made by the society around. This concept is really different. 

Initially, it is interesting and I wanted to read fast to know what happens next. But after some time, I felt, the story is dragged a lot and I am disappointed with the slow pace.

My Rating:
3/5

PS: I have received this book for free from the author through book r3vi3w tours and this is my honest opinion on the book.
Read an Excerpt:




Dear Readers, thank you for coming along on the My Last Love Story Blog Tour. Here’s an excerpt to enjoy.

ONE

“Love is a dish best served naked.”
As a child, those oft-quoted words of my father would have me rolling my eyes and pretending to gag at what I’d imagined was my parents’ precursor to a certain physical act. 
At thirty, I’d long ago realized that getting naked wasn’t a euphemism for sex. 
Neither was love.
It wasn’t my father wording the meme just now but my husband. Nirvaan considered himself a great wit, a New Age philosopher. On the best of days, he was, much like Daddy had been. On the worst days, he was my tormentor. 
“What do you think, Dr. Archer? Interesting enough tagline for a vlog? What about ‘Baby in a Petri Dish’?” Nirvaan persisted in eliciting a response from the doctor and/or me for his ad hoc comedy, which we’d been ignoring for several minutes now.
I wanted to glare at him, beg him to shut up, or demand that he wait in the doctor’s office like he should’ve done, like a normal husband would have. Khodai knows why he’d insisted on holding my hand through this preliminary checkup. Nothing of import would happen today—if it did at all. But I couldn’t perform any such communication, not with my eyes and mouth squeezed shut while I suffered through a series of uncomfortable twinges along my nether regions. 
I lay flat on my back on a spongy clinic bed sheeted with paper already wrinkled and half torn. Legs drawn up and spread apart, my heels dug punishingly into cold iron stirrups to allow my gynecologist’s clever fingers to reach inside my womb and check if everything was A-OK in there. We’d already funneled through the Pap test and stomach and chest checks. Like them, this test, too, was going swell in light of Dr. Archer’s approving happy hums. 
“Excellent, Mrs. Desai. All parts are where they should be,” he joked only as a doctor could.
I shuddered out the breath I’d been holding, as the feeling of being stretched left my body. Nirvaan squeezed my hand and planted a smacking kiss on my forehead. I opened my eyes and focused on his beaming upside-down ones. His eyelids barely grew lashes anymore—I’d counted twenty-seven in total just last week—the effect of years of chemotherapy. For a second, my gaze blurred, my heart wavered, and I almost cried. 
What are we doing, Nirvaan? What in Khodai’s name were we starting?
Nirvaan stroked my hair, his pitch-black pupils steady and knowing and oh-so stubborn. Then, his face rose to the stark white ceiling, and all I saw was the green-and-blue mesh of his gingham shirt—the overlapping threads, the crisscross weaves, a pattern without end. 
Life is what you make it, child. It was another one of my father’s truisms.
Swallowing the questions twirling on my tongue, I refocused my mind on why we were here. I’d promised Nirvaan we’d try for a baby if he agreed to another round of cancer-blasting treatments. I’d bartered for a few more months of my husband’s life. He’d bartered for immortality through our child.
Dr. Archer rolled away from between my legs to the computer station. He snapped off and disposed of the latex gloves. Then, he began typing notes in near-soundless staccato clicks. Though the examination was finished, I knew better than to sit up until he gave me leave. I’d been here before, done this before—two years ago when Nirvaan had been in remission and the idea of having a baby had wormed its way into his head. We’d tried the most basic procedures then, whatever our medical coverage had allowed. We hadn’t been desperate yet to use our own money, which we shouldn’t be touching even now. We needed every penny we had for emergencies and alternative treatments, but try budging my husband once he’d made up his mind.
“I’m a businessman, Simi. I only pour money into a sure thing,” he rebuked when I argued.
I brought my legs together, manufacturing what poise and modesty I could, and pulled the sea-green hospital gown bunched beneath my bottom across my half-naked body. I refused to look at my husband as I wriggled about, positive his expression would be pregnant with irony, if not fully smirking. And kudos to him for not jumping in to help me like I would have. 
The tables had turned on us today. For the past five years, it’d been Nirvaan thrashing about on hospital beds, trying in vain to find relief and comfort, modesty or release. Nirvaan had been poked, prodded, sliced, and bled as he battled aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I’d been the stoic spectator, the supportive wife, the incompetent nurse, the ineffectual lover. 
And now? What role would I play now?
As always, thinking about our life left me feeling even more naked than I was in the open-fronted robe. I turned my face to the wall, my eyes stinging, as fear and frustration bubbled to the surface. Flesh-toned posters of laughing babies, pregnant mothers, and love-struck fathers hung from the bluish walls. Side by side were the more educative ones of human anatomy, vivisected and whole. The test-tube-like exam room of Monterey Bay Fertility Clinic was decorated in true California beach colors—sea-foam walls, sandy floors, pearl-pink curtains, and furniture—bringing the outdoors in. If the decor was meant to be homey, it wasn’t having such an effect on me. This room, like this town and even this country, was not my natural habitat, and I felt out of my element in it. 
I’d lived in California for seven years now, ever since my marriage, and I still didn’t think of it as home, not like Nirvaan did. Home for me was India. And no matter the dark memories it held, home would always be Surat.
“All done.” Dr. Archer pushed the computer trolley away and stood up. “You can get dressed, Mrs. Desai. Take your time. Use whatever supplies you need. We’ll wait for you in my office,” he said, smiling. 
Finally, I can cover myself, I thought. Gooseflesh had erupted across my skin due to the near frigid clinic temperatures doctors tortured their patients with—like a patient didn’t have enough to suffer already. Medical facilities maintained cool indoor temperatures to deter inveterate germs from contaminating the premises and so its vast flotilla of equipment didn’t fry. I knew that. But knowing it still didn’t inspire any warm feelings in me for the “throng of professional sadists with a god complex.” I quoted my husband there. 
Nirvaan captured my attention with a pat on my head. “See you soon, baby,” he said, following the doctor out of the room. 
I scooted off the bed as soon as the door shut behind them. My hair tumbled down my face and shoulders at my jerky movements. I smoothed it back with shaking hands. Long, wavy, and a deep chestnut shade, my hair was my crowning glory, my one and only feature that was lush and arresting. Nirvaan loved my hair. I wasn’t to cut it or even braid it in his presence, and so it often got hopelessly knotted. 
I shrugged off the clinic gown, balled it up, and placed it on the bed. I wiped myself again and again with antiseptic wipes, baby wipes, and paper towels until the tissues came away stain-free. I didn’t feel light-headed. I didn’t allow myself to freak. I concentrated on the flow of my breaths and the pounding of my heart until they both slowed to normal. 
It was okay. I was not walking out with a gift-wrapped baby in tow. Not today. No reason to freak out.
I reached for my clothes and slipped on my underwear. They were beige with tiny white hearts on them—Victoria’s Secret lingerie Nirvaan had leered and whistled at this morning. 
Such a silly man. Typical Nirvaan, I corrected, twisting my lips. 
Even after dressing in red-wash jeans and a full-sleeved sweater, I shivered. My womb still felt invaded and odd. As I stepped into my red patent leather pumps, an unused Petri dish sitting on the workstation countertop caught my eye. 
The trigger for Nirvaan’s impromptu comedy, perhaps? 
Despite major misgivings about the Hitleresque direction my life had taken, humor got the better of me, and I grinned. 
Silly, silly Nirvaan. Baby in a Petri dish, indeed.


About the Author:


Falguni Kothari is an internationally bestselling hybrid author and an amateur Latin and Ballroom dance silver medalist with a background in Indian Classical dance. She writes in a variety of genres sewn together by the colorful threads of her South Asian heritage and expat experiences. When not writing or dancing, she fools around on all manner of social media, and loves to connect with her readers. My Last Love Story is her fourth novel.








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23 May, 2016

Her Heart's Desire by Allison Merritt - Cover Reveal & Give Away


Historical Romance (Viking)
Date Published: 5/24/2016


One woman's desire will unite enemies and raise heroes.
Weary of battle and loss, Idunna Fundinsdottir has two desires--peace and to hold a child of her own. As a war widow, her one chance at happiness rests in the hands of Eoghann Kentigern, a man who was once her enemy. Despite their differences, she saves the mysterious Saxon from the noose and binds herself to him in marriage. She longs for a child, but the fair Saxon tempts her heart as well.

In a moment of clarity, Eoghann killed his brother in battle to save his long-lost sister, then vowed his fealty to a Norse king. When a plot to murder the king and his family comes to light, to repay his debts, Eoghann takes his family's life in his hands and flees for safety. Forced to return to Suibhne, his childhood home, he faces the choice of becoming the man he wished to be, or remaining the coward who stood in his brother's shadow for too long. To keep Idunna safe and his vows to his king, he must stand and fight or lose everything.

EXCERPT 

 “If you hurt her, I will gut you.”
Eoghann Kentigern swallowed, but held the iron hard stare with his brother-in-law, King Hella Ingvasson. To break it would show cowardice and he didn't mean to reveal his underbelly to the most powerful man in the settlement.
Hella's threat was unnecessary. Hurt Idunna, the woman who had saved his life when she had every reason to hate him?
“You have my word, Your Grace.” His voice wasn't as strong as he would have liked, but even weak, it was better than having no voice at all. Without Idunna's intervention, his head would be rotting on a pike somewhere.
Hella narrowed his eyes and jerked his chin at the curtain separating Idunna Fundinsdottir's room from the hallway. Eoghann's room now too since he'd vowed to protect and honor her a few hours earlier.
He sucked in a breath and pushed the curtain aside. On legs stiff as aged wood, he crossed the floor. Idunna waited for him blank-faced and rigid in a bed piled high with blankets and a shaggy gray wolf pelt. She didn't meet his gaze when he lifted the bridal crown of woven vines. It tangled in her seal brown hair and she flinched as he gave a little tug.
“Forgive me,” he murmured. He didn't need Hella, the king's faithful brothers, nephew, and the other two men tagging along as witnesses to this charade believing he'd harmed her on purpose.
She said nothing as she folded her hands together.
He carried the crown to Hella, then held it out. The king took it with another sharp look, then allowed the curtain to swing into place.
Eoghann's shoulders slumped as the sound of footsteps retreated from the doorway. Norsemen seldom invented an excuse not to attend a celebration. Apparently the queen's traitor brother's wedding claimed the exception as an event few of them could stomach. Aside from Hella, Ealasaid, Erik, Bjorn, their wives and children, the turn out had been abysmal. The shame of marrying a woman only to save his life almost caused Eoghann to flee. Might have, if Hella hadn't been guarding him all day.
He faced Idunna, but his feet froze and dread weighed him down.
They were alone for the first time since he'd come to Solstad. Alone with a woman who couldn't possibly love him because of the slaughter he'd helped bring to the neighboring village of Freysteinn. One of the warriors he'd marched with to slay the vikingrs had killed her first husband. Only a mad man would pretend Idunna could ever forgive him.
In Norse custom, they were supposed to consummate their marriage, which would tie them together as one in the community. The rituals of cleansing steams and baths before the wedding were meant to help them cast off their old lives. No amount of scrubbing or herbs would fix him. Not after what he'd done. He was the reason her first husband—the one she loved—was in the ground. 

About the Author






A love of reading inspired Allison Merritt to pursue her dream of becoming an author who writes historical, paranormal, contemporary, and fantasy romances, often combining the sub-genres. She lives in a small town in the Ozark Mountains with her husband and dogs. It's not unusual to find her lurking in graveyards, wandering historical sites, or listening to ghost stories.

Allison graduated from College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri with a B.A. in mass communications that's gathering dust after it was determined that she's better at writing fluff than hard news.

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19 May, 2016

The Florentine Deception by Carey Nachenberg - Book Spot Light


Book Description:

A seemingly mundane computer clean-up leads to an electrifying quest for an enigmatic—and deadly—treasure in this gripping techno-thriller.

After selling his dorm-room startup for millions and effectively retiring at the age of twenty-five, Alex Fife is eager for a new challenge. When he agrees to clean up an old PC as a favor, he never expects to find the adventure of a lifetime waiting for him inside the machine. But as he rummages through old emails, Alex stumbles upon a startling discovery: The previous owner, a shady antiques smuggler, had been trying to unload a mysterious object known as the Florentine on the black market. And with the dealer’s untimely passing, the Florentine is now unaccounted for and ripe for the taking. Alex dives headfirst into a hunt for the priceless object.

​What starts out as a seemingly innocuous pursuit quickly devolves into a nightmare when Alex discovers the true technological nature of the Florentine. Not just a lost treasure, it’s something far more insidious: a weapon that could bring the developed world to its knees. Alex races through subterranean grottos, freezing morgues, and hidden cellars in the dark underbelly of Los Angeles, desperate to find the Florentine before it falls into the wrong hands. Because if nefarious forces find it first, there’ll be nothing Alex—or anyone else—can do to prevent a catastrophic attack.

The author is donating all of his proceeds from sales of The Florentine Deception to charities to help underprivileged and low-income students.

1,620 books sold,  $8,173.00 donated as of December 31st (with $182 pending)!

Let's help him reach his goal of selling 2,000 books and donating $10,000!
Visit http://florentinedeception.weebly.com/charities.html to see the list of charities.

​Buy the audiobook:  Amazon  ~  Audible
Buy the book:   Amazon  ~  Barnes & Noble


Author's Bio:

Carey Nachenberg is Symantec Corporation's Chief Engineer and is considered one of the inventors of Norton AntiVirus. As Chief Engineer, Carey drives the technical strategy for all of Symantec's core security technologies and security content. He has led the design and development of Symantec's core antivirus, intrusion prevention and reputation-based security technologies; his work in these areas have garnered over eighty-five United States patents.

In addition to his work in the cyber-security field, Carey has also recently published his first novel, a cyber-security thriller entitled “The Florentine Deception,” and is donating all proceeds from sales of the novel to charities supporting underserved students and veterans. Carey holds BS and MS degrees in Computer Science and Engineering from University of California at Los Angeles, where he continues to serve as Adjunct Professor of Computer Science.

Connect with the author:   Website   Twitter   Facebook



Book Trailer:



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17 May, 2016

Paradise Passion Murder - Book Spot Light

I love short stories! Here is an anthology of 10 mysterious tales.




Murder Anthology
Date Published: January 2016

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Support Literacy in Hawai‘i

From the Big Island to Kauai, the far side of Maui to the bustling streets of Honolulu, experience paradise in all its glory...and darkness. This collection of ten stories brings out the beauty of the islands, the passion of the tropics, and, yes, murder. Join ten writers who love the islands and want you to savor the tropics while benefiting literacy in Hawaii.

Read Aloud America, a Hawai‘i 501.c.3 organization dedicated to promoting literacy in Hawai‘i, is proud to be the beneficiary of all proceeds from the sales of “Paradise, Passion, Murder.”

We hope you’ll join these ten writers who love the islands and want you to savor the tropics while benefiting literacy in Hawai‘i. Join Terry Ambrose, JoAnn Bassett, Gail Baugniet, Frankie Bow, Lorna Collins (editor), Kay Hadashi, Laurie Hanan, Jill Marie Landis, AJ Llewellyn, Toby Neal, and CW Schutter for Paradise, Passion, Murder.

This collection includes short stories from some of bestselling Hawai‘i mastery series, including JoAnn Bassett’s Islands of Aloha mysteries, Jill Marie Landis’s Tiki Goddess series, and Toby Neal’s Lei Crime series.

The stories travel the islands from Kaua‘i to O‘ahu and range from laugh-out-loud funny to heart wrenching. Join us today and help benefit literacy in Hawai‘i.



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16 May, 2016

Kaitlin's Tales by Christine Amsden - Book Spot Light

Today's Spot light is on a paranormal romance. Creepy..






Paranormal  Romance
Date Published: May 16, 2016

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Kaitlin Mayer is on the run from the father of her baby – a vampire who wants her to join him in deadly eternity. Terrified for her young son, she seeks sanctuary with the Hunters Guild. Yet they have their own plans for her son, and her hopes of safety are soon shattered.
When she runs into Matthew Blair, an old nemesis with an agenda of his own, she dares to hope for a new escape. But Matthew is a telepath, and Kaitlin's past is full of dark secrets she never intended to reveal.

*Companion to the Cassie Scot Series


Excerpt

Chapter 1

To: Cassie.Scot@gmail.com

From: Kaitlin.Meyer12@gmail.com

Re: Jason is Dead

Jason is dead.

Go ahead. Say “I told you so.” You never do, but just this once could you stoop down to the level of us mere mortals long enough to sneer like a ten-year-old? Put a little hip wiggle into it and wrinkle your nose. Roll your eyes at me like I’m the biggest moron on the planet.

After all you did, in fact, tell me so.

And when you’re finished, I need you to do me the biggest favor I’ve ever asked in my life. In all likelihood, the last favor I’ll ever ask. I need you to take Jay. I need you to keep him safe, because you and Evan are probably the only two people who can. I hope that one day you can find it in your heart to love him like you love your own daughter.

Your Friend,

Kaitlin

Kaitlin closed her eyes as she hit send, praying that Cassie still was her friend. Praying that nothing went wrong over the next two days. And just… praying.

* * *

“It’s time, Kaitlin.”

Kaitlin rocked her one-year-old son back and forth, trying to convince him to go down for a nap, but Jay wasn’t having it. He was teething, and it seemed to hurt him worse when he lay in a horizontal position. He was so tired that Kaitlin swore she’d hold him upright for eight hours if he’d just fall asleep, but he seemed, paradoxically, too tired to sleep.

Jason’s intrusion wasn’t helping. Jay turned his head and reached his arms out for his father – or the vampire who had once been his father – instinctively begging for the love that should have been his by right. But Jason had never taken an interest in his son; he could barely stand to look at him. In fact, if anything had finally convinced Kaitlin that Jason was dead, it was the fact that the real Jason had died for his son. This thing now inhabiting his body didn’t even seem to care.

“Did you hear me?” Jason asked, his voice unusually sharp.

Jay cried harder. Kaitlin shushed him and rocked more furiously, pretending she hadn’t heard. Pretending she could delay the inevitable a few more days. But she’d known this day was coming for a while now. Had sensed it would be soon. It was why she had e-mailed her best friend in the world two days ago, begging for help, prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of her son. But Cassie had not responded, and Sara, the nanny who had agreed to transport Jay, had disappeared.

“Answer me, Kaitlin,” Jason said in a voice that at one time would have compelled obedience. It no longer did, even though Jason continued to feed from her daily, simultaneously injecting her body with a venom that should have kept her in thrall. She wasn’t sure why the thrall had gradually dissipated over the past few months, but her new clarity of mind had bigger problems to work out – like the fact that Jason wanted to make her just like him.

Jason took another step into the nursery, his form now illuminated by the soft glow of the night light. He looked the same as he had in life – tall, broad, muscular and very, very large. He rarely ventured inside these hallowed walls, but Kaitlin had spent more and more time there of late, requiring him to come inside if he wanted her.

“Can’t you make him shut up?” Jason asked.

“I’m trying! Can’t we talk about this later?”

“Can we? You never leave this room.”

And he never came in. Would Kaitlin come in after she turned? Or would she forget Jay’s existence, the way Jason had? Her nightmare was that of Jay screaming for his mother, but she never came. Eventually, he would stop crying. Then after a few days, when no one came to feed him, he would stop doing everything else.

“Please, just let me get Jay down for his nap. Then we can talk.”

“There’s no need to wait.” Another man came to stand just inside the doorway, a man who made Kaitlin’s blood turn to ice whenever she saw him. Xavier looked so deceptively ordinary; it was part of his power. Brown hair, brown eyes, medium build, medium height… But she had seen him rip the throat out of men and face an entire heptade of vampire hunters without breaking a sweat.

He wasn’t superhuman,; he was inhuman. She couldn’t fathom his purpose, but she suspected his goal was to create an entire new race of vampires under his control. At least, that’s what she assumed happened to the dozens of people who came into their lives for varying lengths of time, most of them nearly catatonic from the vampire’s thrall. She was not permitted to speak to them, and when they left, she never saw them again.

Xavier was over two hundred years old, but he didn’t look at Kaitlin as though she were a child. He looked at her as though she were food. Kaitlin had long sensed that he was no longer human, that he was somehow alien. She had sensed it in him before the thrall had worn off, though she hadn’t cared. The realization had taken much longer with Jason. Perhaps that sense of other increased over time.

Even Jay could sense the evil in Xavier. The boy started bucking and twisting, his tiny face turning red. He might have had his supernatural strength bound so he didn’t accidentally hurt someone, but even without it he was a marvel of physical strength. He had crawled at about two weeks old. Now, at a year old, he could run like a ten-year-old. According to stories Jason’s mom had told her, Jason had grown up the same way. Jason the vampire never talked about his childhood.

“Please, leave us alone!” Kaitlin cried, trying with all her might to cling to the wriggling child.

“Sara can take him,” Xavier said.

He stepped to the side and Kaitlin’s heart leaped. Oh thank God! Not that she wanted to give up her son. It was the hardest thing she would ever do in her life, but she had gone over it and over it in her mind. She had no choice. Jason would not take no for an answer any longer. He would turn her into a vampire tonight and when he did, Jay would need protection. Even from her.

The thirty-something woman who had helped Kaitlin with Jay over the past year strode into the room as if she hadn’t just disappeared without a word for two days. Kaitlin didn’t need a nanny; as she’d told both Jason and Xavier a hundred times, she could handle Jay on her own. But Sara had provided some companionship and comfort to her, especially in the months since the thrall had worn off. Sara always had a friendly smile on her face, was infinitely patient with Jay (something Kaitlin definitely wasn’t), and despite their age difference, they had a lot in common. They read the same books, liked the same movies, and both feared the men who haunted this house alongside them.

Kaitlin smiled at Sara despite the churning of butterflies in her stomach. Sara knew what to do. She’d pretend to take Jay for a quick drive to the store, but she wouldn’t stop for diapers. She’d keep going, leaving their two-story house in Virginia and not stopping until she reached Eagle Rock, Missouri.

“Let me try getting him to sleep,” Sara said, striding over.

“It’s no good,” Kaitlin said. “Maybe you could take him for a drive.”

When Sara reached the rocking chair, Kaitlin kissed Jay on the head, surreptitiously saying good-bye. Then she handed Jay to the nanny.

The baby cried harder still, his wails threatening to shake the house down. What was the matter with him? Jay was often quiet for Sara when he refused to settle for Kaitlin.

That’s when Kaitlin recalled the coldness of the woman’s arms as she’d passed Jay into them. The pallor of her skin. The slight yellow tinge to her eyes.

“No!” Kaitlin screamed, trying to get Jay back.

Jason got between the two women, using his superior strength to stop Kaitlin from moving at all. He had her arms pinned to her sides and then, inexorably, he pushed her out the door.

“I’m sorry,” Sara said, her voice flat, maybe even lifeless.

“No!” Kaitlin tried to dig her heels into the thick blue carpeting, knowing it was useless. Knowing Jason and Xavier had the strength to make her do anything. Knowing she was as dead as Jason. Knowing, but not yet accepting. “No! Not now! It can’t happen now!”
Jason picked her up easily with one arm and clamped his other hand over her mouth. She fought. She kicked and strained with all her might, but to an outside observer she probably looked as docile as a kitten.

Xavier followed in their wake as Jason made his way down the elegant, hardwood stairs to the sparsely furnished living room. Xavier was rich. Filthy rich after centuries of whatever he did. But he kept few creature comforts. When it came to houses he preferred quantity to quality – he had safe houses all over the world. In the past year, Kaitlin had lived in four of them.

Jason set Kaitlin down on the beige couch then sat beside her, pinning her there with his size and weight. She had already stopped struggling, however; it did her no good. She would have to think of something else, but what? She had been prepared to die to get her son to safety, but now it seemed that she was the only one who could save him.

With that thought steeling her resolve, Kaitlin calmed down. She might be the biggest moron on the planet for agreeing to run away with a vampire in the first place, but she was smart enough to know that if she had any hope of getting out of this, it was through words and cunning. She had no physical strength to pit against a vampire, one of the strongest creatures on the planet. Also, one of the fastest.

Jason placed a heavy hand on her pajama-clad thigh, squeezing slightly through the silky material. Kaitlin felt nothing but cold dead fingers, but she pushed away her revulsion the way she’d been pushing it away for the past few months. Closing her eyes, she melted against him, emitting a soft sigh of surrender.

“There, that’s better,” Jason said as he continued running his cold hand up and down her thigh. “Xavier, I don’t think you need to be here for this.”

“You’ve never watched anyone turn,” Xavier said smoothly. “And you’ve always been a bit of an idiot where that girl was concerned.”

Jason growled and Kaitlin tensed once again, not sure which of the two vampires she feared more.

“She’s mine.” Jason tightened the possessive hand squeezing her thigh; she struggled to keep from crying out in pain. “That’s what we agreed before you ever turned me.”

“She doesn’t want to turn and she’s immune to thrall.”

Immune? Did he know why? She dared to look at him; Xavier smiled, fangs bared, eyes yellow with bloodlust. He had looked at her just that way so many times she had lost count, but still she shivered.

“I can handle her,” Jason said. “But not with you here. She doesn’t trust you.”

“Have it your way.” Xavier supplied a mock bow to Jason, shot Kaitlin another malicious look, then backed out of the living room by way of the kitchen. Since vampires didn’t eat food, she was sure he meant to go through it to the garage and indeed, a few seconds later, she heard the garage door open.

“Sorry about him,” Jason said. “Now where were we?”

Kaitlin drew in a deep, shaky breath and forced herself to relax as he moved his hand away from her thigh, running it up her hips, around her waist, and then with an almighty tug, he pulled her forward so she sat atop his lap.

“We can’t do this now,” Kaitlin said, keeping her voice gentle and sweet. “I’m weak. You forgot to give me that blood replenishment potion yesterday.”

“I didn’t forget,” Jason said. “It’s time, Kaitlin. Time for you to join me for real, the way you promised you would when you left Eagle Rock last year.”

“I will. Of course I will! But you know how important it was for me to nurse Jay. I want only the best for our son, like you do.” She held her breath, wondering if the lie would continue to hold one last time. She hadn’t actually nursed Jay in at least six months. Apparently, exsanguination wasn’t good for a woman’s milk supply, even with regular blood replenishment potions.

Jason frowned, but she forced herself to remain outwardly calm. He might not have seen through the lie; he often got that look on his face when they discussed the baby. If he’d paid any attention to Jay at all he would have noticed the feeding change months ago.

“How stupid do I look?” Jason asked, finally. Then he shook his head. “Why don’t you want to turn?”

“Don’t be silly.” Kaitlin ran a finger across his smooth, pale jaw, remembering how it had sported a five o’clock shadow the first time she’d seen him. The first time they’d made love. The night they’d unintentionally made Jay – not that she’d change that part now. Only what came later. “Of course I want to live forever. You know me. I live for ‘happily ever after.'”

“I had to drag you down the stairs,” Jason said. “You’ve been distant since the thrall wore off. Don’t think I haven’t noticed.”

Kaitlin’s mind raced. What were the right words? What would put off the inevitable? She had no idea, so she ended up blurting, “Why did the thrall wear off?”

“Something Xavier did,” Jason said dismissively. “He says it will make you a stronger vampire.”

Will it make me stronger now, when I really need it? Kaitlin wondered, but did not ask.

“Now answer my question” Jason continued. “Why don’t you want to turn? You weren’t in thrall when you first ran away with me.”

“I’m nervous. Weren’t you nervous before you turned? Xavier said it took months to convince you.”

“I was a hunter, brought up within my order to believe vampires are soulless monsters.”

Are you? Kaitlin wanted to ask. Even now, she wasn’t sure “soulless” was the right word. Something lurked behind Jason’s eyes – and even Xavier’s. She just wasn’t sure it was anything she wanted to be a part of.

“Well, I may know better,” Kaitlin began, “but I’m still not sure… I mean…” She cast about wildly for an idea. Something to delay the inevitable. Anything. And finally, she settled on the truth. Or part of it. “You’ve changed. I don’t pretend to understand how. I didn’t know you well before I ran off with you; we only had the one night together. Mostly, I knew you from stories your cousin Cassie told.”

“You know me now,” Jason said, sliding a finger down her slender throat. “You’ve known me for a year. Haven’t I treated you well?”

“Of course you have,” Kaitlin said. “You know I love you.” She leaned forward, letting the top of her button-down silk shirt part slightly, though Jason didn’t seem as taken with cleavage as normal men. His favorite parts of her were the throat, wrists, and inner thighs.

“I haven’t cheated on you,” Jason said. “I haven’t hit you. I haven’t even asked you to get a job. I take care of you.”

“And Jay?” Kaitlin asked, because what he said was sort of true. It wasn’t a high standard, but she’d chosen some real losers in her time who had done all those things – cheated on her, hit her, and sponged off her hard work.

Perhaps if she’d known Jason better in life she could be more certain now that he wasn’t the same man. After all, aside from the bloodsucking thing there wasn’t anything she could specifically put her finger on that was any different from regular imperfect mortals. Some men ignored their children. Some men were up at all hours of the night and slept all day. Some men only seemed to notice her when they needed something from her – blood or sex, it was all the same.

But it all came down to the one thing she knew for sure about Jason: He had loved his son. He had cared so much that he had died to protect the baby from his own father, who had planned to body-hop into Jason, then again into Jay when he was old enough. Jason even turned into a vampire – a being he’d been trained to hate – so he would still be able to guard his son in death. And maybe the vampire Jason would protect Jay if ever put to the test, but Kaitlin wasn’t sure how he would even know the baby was in danger.

The vampire almost didn’t seem wholly connected to this world. He didn’t see it the same way humans saw it. There was something alien in his eyes and cold in his touch – and it wasn’t just the fact that no blood ran through his veins. Maybe the vampire hunters had it wrong, maybe he wasn’t entirely evil (though she wouldn’t say the same about Xavier), but she didn’t trust the vampire sitting beneath her. He wanted to seduce her into turning for reasons she could not possibly fathom, like trying to understand the will of God.

“Who will take care of Jay after I turn?” Kaitlin asked.

“You will.”

“What if I don’t want to?”

“Sara will. Or we’ll hire someone else. What does it matter?”

Indeed. “Just give me a few days. I told you I need to wean the baby. I can do it quickly. We’ll drop one feeding per day so that will be…” Kaitlin tried to think. How many times per day did a one-year-old nurse? Well, she’d go with the number of bottles she gave him a day and figure it was close enough. Jason wouldn’t know the difference. “… four days.”

Jason snorted. “And in four days you’re going to want to turn?” He gave her a piercing look, and she suddenly knew – just knew – that he didn’t believe her. “I want you to want this, Kaitlin. Xavier says it goes better when they want it.”

“I do want it. Of course I want it.” She placed soft kisses on his cheeks, his forehead, his ear. He lifted his face to give her better access, making her think she had convinced him. Lulling him into a false sense of security.

“Liar!” He shoved her off his lap, not onto the couch, but onto the ground. Kaitlin, not expecting the movement, fell heavily to the hardwood floor and yelped when her bottom connected with the unyielding surface.

“Jason?”

He stood, towering over her, and she scooted backwards on hands and knees, getting tangled in her long blonde hair.

“Xavier intercepted that e-mail you sent to Cassie the other day,” Jason said, stalking her as she scuttled across the floor.

“What?” Oh no. But that did explain Sara. And why Cassie hadn’t replied.

“You were going to give away the baby.”

“Why not?” Kaitlin asked. “You don’t want him! You said it didn’t matter who raised him.”

“This host wants him, and so do I.”

Kaitlin’s eyes widened. This was the first time Jason had ever let slip a hint that he was not the same person he had been before he’d turned.

“You can’t run from this fate,” Jason said.

Kaitlin’s scrambling hands had found the edge of the stone fireplace and she stopped, able to move no further. Jason knelt to loom over her, cupping her face in his hands. From anyone else, it might have been a caress.

“Cassie and Evan can’t protect you or the boy, you know,” Jason said. “Evan’s strong, but he’s never been much use against a vampire. I should know. I saved his life once.”

“You did? Or your host?”

Jason scowled. “There’s no place you can run. No one to protect you. Give up. Give in. Come gracefully.”

He still wanted her to agree to this, Kaitlin realized. He still wanted her willing cooperation. She had no idea why, but she’d take any opening she could get. “Three days. Give me three days.”

“We have your blood,” Jason said.

“So?”

“Didn’t you learn anything about magic from Cassie? I haven’t just eaten from you. I have your blood, and I’m a sorcerer as well as a vampire. I can use it to find you anywhere on this planet, so unless you can get to Mars, you can’t hide from me.”

“Oh.” Kaitlin was shaking now. She wished she’d thought to start a fire in the fireplace behind her, though she doubted the warmth would have penetrated.

“Tomorrow night,” Jason said. “That’s as much time as I’ll give you to prepare.”

A reprieve. She had no idea how, but she had a reprieve. Twenty-four hours wasn’t much, but it was more than she’d had a few minutes ago.

“Tell me you understand,” Jason said. “Tell me you’ll come to me tomorrow. Tell me like you mean it.”

“I understand,” Kaitlin said.

And then she wound her arms around Jason, kissing him for all she was worth. She explored his mouth with teeth and tongue, tracing the outline of his fangs. He bit her lip, stinging her for a moment before the pain-numbing property of the vampire venom set in. After a minute, he drew his head back, traced the column of her neck with his index finger, and sank his teeth in with such force that for a moment she thought he’d snapped her neck.

“Oh!” she cried, trying to make it sound like a moan. It didn’t hurt, but it didn’t feel as good as it once had, especially now that she worried Jason wasn’t planning to wait another night after all. What if he took every last drop? What if he drained her dry? He had never pulled from her so hard or drunk so long.

“Jason!” Kaitlin finally cried. “Please. You said tomorrow.”

He pulled back, fangs and lips stained red with her blood. The venom coagulated the wound so she wouldn’t bleed out, but she felt so lightheaded she wondered if she’d lost too much blood anyway.

Jason ran his thumb across his lips. “Yes, tomorrow night.”

“Blood replenishment potion?”

“No.” Jason rose to his feet, taking several deliberate steps away from her. “I don’t think I want you strong enough to escape.”

“You said there was no escape.”

Jason didn’t answer, he just turned and walked away, leaving Kaitlin on the floor, her head spinning, her breath coming in shallow gasps, her pulse weak and thready. But she wasn’t dead yet, and as long as she wasn’t dead, there remained hope.





About the Author






Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.
At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, which scars the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. In addition to being a writer, she's a freelance editor, mom, and foster mom.

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The Cassie Scot Series

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Cassie Scot #1)


Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2)


Mind Games (Cassie Scot #3)


Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4)


Madison's Song (a Cassie Scot Companion)

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