Forever Bound by Deanna Roy
(The Forever Series #4)
Publication date: July 28th 2015
Genres: New Adult, Romance
A new standalone romance with the characters from the USA Today bestselling Forever series, coming July 28, 2015.
You can only run from life for a little while. Eventually, it catches up.
A hitchhiking musician looking only for freedom and adventure as he sings for tips across the US spends a single night with spunky pink-haired Jenny, only to discover that sometimes, one night can be the beginning of forever.


Excerpt:
Whoa. Who was that girl?

The party was full of women, polished and perfect and snooty in how they appraised me, like they were looking for something, and I wasn't it.

But not this one.

She seemed nervous, a little lost. Her green dress was as fancy as anyone's here, but that hair. I didn't know anybody with pink dreadlocks. She couldn't be an actress expecting to get many parts, unless the hair was for something she was doing right now.

It was wicked gorgeous. I'd never seen anyone like her.

The tables were packed, and clusters of animated people talked with exaggerated gestures, like they were game show hosts. I could see from the body language that everybody had too much to say and not enough patience to hear anybody else.

I looked her way a couple more times, trying not to stare.

The guitar I was holding during the band's break felt good. I wanted to crank out a solo, something dark and brooding, but this wasn't my gig. I set it back in its stand and couldn't help myself, but took one more look into the crowd.

My heart revved up when I saw she was watching me. Then she was heading this way.
About the Author:

Deanna Roy is the five-time USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and women's fiction.

She is a passionate advocate for women who have lost babies. She has several books on the subject, including her bestseller FOREVER INNOCENT, a romance about a couple whose baby is taken off life support at seven days old.

She has run the website PregnancyLoss.Info for fifteen years, including many large spin-off support groups both online and in person.

To learn about new releases, sign up for her subscriber list at http://deannaroy.com/news. She has regular giveaways in conjunction with major pregnancy loss events.

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Good Intentions by Pembroke Sinclair
(The Road to Salvation #3)
Published by: Booktrope Publishing
Publication date: July 28th 2015
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Katie has been through Hell—literally—and discovered that it wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. In fact, she kind of enjoyed it. She got to be with Josh, found out about her past, and discovered who she wanted to be as a person. Katie didn’t care that her actions went against social norms. She was happy.
But things are changing—again. Wes has come back into her life, and that can only mean trouble. His presence threatens to unravel her new-found happiness. She can’t allow that. She won’t let him back in. Yet, Katie can’t push him away.
Thrown back into a state of confusion and uncertainty, Katie is once again forced to pick sides, and in the process, she may lose herself.
Guest Post by Pembroke Sinclair:

Unlikable Characters

Characters, like real people, have their quirks. There are parts of them readers may like, and others readers may find loathsome. Katie, my main character from the Road to Salvation series, isn’t always liked. In fact, some readers have even gone so far as to say they hate her.

My first reaction to that was that I needed to come to Katie’s defense. I felt like I needed to protect her like I would protect my own children. I would explain that she acts the way she acts because she’s a 17-year-old girl or give some other excuse, like she’s naive. I was upset that they would attack her like that.

Then, I stopped. I was talking to an author friend of mine about how not all main characters have to be likable. The point of stories is to put characters in challenging situations and see how they react to them. Not all of them come out fighting. Some are more passive and maybe a lot more self-centered. Some are unreliable. You can’t trust anything they have to say, and they often twist the truth to their own benefit. Some are sneaky. Like the real world, characters in fiction display a wide range of personality traits--not all of which are desirable.

Katie is young, naive, self-centered, needy, and whiny. She has moments of being strong, but they are fleeting and quickly devolve into self-doubt and insecurity. Katie is who she is, and she shouldn’t have to apologize for that or explain it to anyone. And neither do I. If she was any other way, it wouldn’t be the same story.


I understand that readers don’t like her, but some do. And both of those feelings are correct. Katie isn’t always my favorite either, and I know her really well. I don’t cringe anymore when reviewers write about how much they despise her. In fact, I laugh. To me, that’s an awesome compliment. I love to see that my character evokes such a strong emotional response. It means I’m doing something right.



About the Author:

Pembroke Sinclair is a literary jack of all trades, playing her hand at multiple genres. She has written an eclectic mix of fiction ranging from horror to sci-fi and even some westerns. Born in Rock Springs, Wyoming--the home of 56 nationalities--it is no wonder Pembroke ended up so creatively diverse. Her fascination with the notions of good and evil, demons and angels, and how the lines blur have inspired her writing. Pembroke lives in Laramie, Wyoming, with her husband, two spirited boys, a black lab named Ryder, and a rescue kitty named Alia, who happens to be the sweetest, most adorable kitty in the world! She cannot say no to dessert, orange soda, or cinnamon. She loves rats and tatts and rock and roll and wants to be an alien queen when she grows up.
You can learn more about Pembroke Sinclair by visiting her at http://pembrokesinclair.blogspot.com/

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A set of paperbacks of the series (The Appeal of Evil, Dealing with Devils, and Good Intentions)
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Take the FallTake the Fall # 1
By: Marquita Valentine
Releasing July 21, 2015
Loveswept
Fans of Abbi Glines and Katy Evans will adore Take the Fall, the first spinoff novel from Marquita Valentine’s New York Times bestselling Boys of the South series. In this emotional new romance, passions run hot as a rugged, brooding Marine rekindles an old flame.
As a teenager, Seth O’Connor went to jail for a crime he had nothing to do with. He took the fall to protect the girl he loved, but the cruel realities of prison hardened him. After doing his time, Seth shuts her out and enlists in the Marines—until his grandmother’s funeral forces him to come home and face Rowan Simmons once again. The woman she’s become puts all his high-school memories to shame, and Seth wants her more than ever. Can he be honest about why he denied her for so long?
After Seth pushed her away, Rowan swore that no man would ever hurt her again. But the boy who broke her heart has become a sexy Marine, capable of fulfilling her every desire—and now that he’s back in town, old feelings are simmering to a boil. Rowan wants to stay strong, even as her body surrenders to his expert touch. She only hopes that by taking him back, she can finally help heal the wounds that drove them apart

Excerpt:

Nothing but death could make Seth O’Connor come home and face the girl he left behind. He had made that completely clear with seven months of ignored letters and care packages I sent him. But that wasn’t what hurt the most—oh, no.

The deepest cut came a year and a half later, when he’d returned to the States from a deployment and arranged for his grandmother to visit him in Jacksonville, North Carolina, at Camp Lejeune instead of coming home to Forrestville. Naively, I had thought that time in the Marines would make him see what he missed; that even though he’d hurt me, I couldn’t completely cut him out of my life. I don’t think my heart ever stopped racing at news reports of fallen Marines.

But in the end, and once again, none of that mattered. When he got home from yet another mission, he finally came to town, visited his grandmother . . . and left before I knew it, like some kind of asshole ninja.

So, I let him go. Again.

Instead of pining over Seth, I forced myself to go out with a couple of guys, and although I had fun, it wasn’t special. But I’m living my life. I’ve been making a life without him.

Over the years, I convinced myself that I was over him. That I didn’t need him. That this hole in my heart could be filled with other things. It worked.

Liar, liar, a voice whispers in my head, but I ignore it.

A part of me wants to thank Seth for what he did. He reminded me of something I had forgotten, that no matter how much a man said he loved you, in the end, he would abandon you. Just like my dad. Just like my brother.

Although it’s not exactly fair to put Jase in the same category. Prison makes it impossible for my brother to have a normal relationship with anyone.

The only person I’ve ever been able to count on is Miss Myrtle, and now she’s gone, too. But now that Seth’s back, I feel as though time has stopped and rewound. I’m sixteen all over again, and in love with Seth O’Connor while hoping like hell he feels the same way about me.

I sniff, but I refuse to cry—I’m not sixteen anymore or hoping for anything from him. My heart aches like hell and it feels as though someone’s rammed me in the stomach a million times, but I refuse to let the hurt show. I can’t let him see me weak, but missing a woman like Miss Myrtle isn’t easy to hide. She was fun, caring, smart, and made her house a home for me.

I lift my eyes, and my gaze collides with Seth’s. The sight of raw pain residing in those dark depths makes me suck in a breath. He’s hurting, just like me. Maybe worse, since he wasn’t here when his grandmother passed.

He’d missed seeing her alive by seven hours. I hadn’t been at the hospital at the time, but from the gossip, Seth had nearly gone insane when he finally arrived. Then he’d left before I returned—just like always.

I allow myself a longer look. This is the first time in years I’ve seen him in person. He’s wearing black head to toe. His hair is cut short and his shoulders are broader than ever. When he left Forrestville, he hadn’t been so tall and wide shouldered. He hadn’t been so . . . manly looking.

His full lips flatten into a thin line, like he’s displeased at me staring at him.

Ha! Fat chance I’ll stop now.

Boldly, I let my gaze travel over his sexy face. At this moment, my pride and anger are overshadowing my grief, so I could give a damn what anyone would think about me checking him out at his grandmother’s funeral.

He looks older and harder than in the pictures he’d mailed Miss Myrtle. The man in the picture smiled and sometimes posed with a dog in his lap, all the while wearing a uniform and a gun strapped to his thigh. Other times, he would be playfully serious, with his battle buddy and brothers as he called them in his letters to her. But the man standing across from me looks ready to destroy anyone in his path.

Including me.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” the preacher murmurs as he closes the Bible. He glances up at the mourners, his expression serene. Calm. Just like you’d expect a pastor to be. But I don’t feel serene or calm. I’m a jittery mess inside. “The Gardner family would like to thank you for coming today.” The crowd begins to thin out, whispering condolences to Seth and me as they go.

“Do you want me to stay here with you?” my best friend asks, her hand slipping into mine. Piper Ross, the epitome of proper southern manners and my lifesaver since the day the two men who had mattered most to me were sentenced to jail. Her hand feels like it’s on fire, or, rather, mine feels like ice. Either way, I need the support right now.

“Or I can go to your house and handle visitors so you can have some time for yourself,” she adds.

The thought of dealing with anyone right now makes my stomach roil. “Thanks,” I whisper gratefully as another lump forms in my throat. I’ve known of only one other person as sweet and kind as Piper, and that’s my other best friend, Brooklyn Reeves. Morgan. She’s Brooklyn Morgan now.

As if she’s reading my mind, Piper continues talking. “Brooklyn would probably do a better job, but you’re stuck with me,” she says seriously. If we weren’t at a funeral, I’d punch her in the arm right now. We’ve been working on her self-esteem issues for years, but her mother has a way of undoing any progress Piper makes with a single withering glare.

Like she’s doing now. Mrs. Ross’s dark eyes narrow and her mouth pinches. Heck, she probably thinks we’re being rude for talking, even though the ceremony is over. Okay, so she probably thinks I’m rude for talking, and I’m corrupting Piper in the process.

Much to Mrs. Ross’s obvious displeasure, Piper and I have been best friends for years, but it’s a weird friendship. She’s quiet. I’m loud. She’s proper while I have no clue if the fork I’m using is the right one.

But I love her to death because she’s never backed down from being friends with me, even after Jase went to jail and everyone else at school looked at me like I was contagious.

I fight the urge to stick my tongue out at the woman, if only because I don’t want to embarrass Piper. And . . . I want to make Miss Myrtle proud. She attempted to teach me to be a lady. It’s the least I can do to act like one at her funeral.

“I’m never stuck with you.” Turning to Piper, I see the tears running down her cheeks. Taking a deep breath, I force myself to be strong. “Besides, pregnant women are moody as all get out. And so are their overprotective husbands who won’t let them fly clear across the country because of their stupid due date.”

Actually, I had been relieved Brooklyn’s doctor had put her on travel restrictions. As much as I love the girl, she isn’t a part of my past. She didn’t know me before everything went down. She only knows the tough woman I’ve become. The same one who’d hired her to help me manage Gardner’s.

Swallowing around that lump in my throat, I manage to say, “Could you go deal with everyone?”

Piper smiles and squeezes my hand. “Take your time.”

I don’t want to take my time. I want everything to fast-forward and be over with already. I want it to be next week. A year from now. Any length of time that would put distance between me and death . . . and Seth.

“Thanks,” I whisper before she walks away. Turning my attention back to the grave, I struggle to maintain my composure. The workers are already at graveside and pulling away the blanket of Astroturf covering the mound of dirt beside it.

The world seems to shrink. The thought of all that dirt falling in on her . . . I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and then open them again, only to find Seth’s gaze on me.

My feet start moving before I can stop them. His eyes widen slightly, and my chin goes up. I can be the bigger person. I can talk to him like it’s no big deal he’s here after being gone for so long. That it’s no big deal he cut me out of his life without a real explanation.

My hands clench into fists, and I stuff them into the pockets of my winter coat before he sees them. “I’m sorry for your loss,” I say, inwardly relieved at how controlled my voice sounds.

“Thanks,” he replies in a gruff voice I’ve never heard before. I want to cry at the sound of it. I want to slap him, too. I want to know why and what the hell’s his problem. Most of all I want his stupid, muscular arms around me while he whispers, It’s okay.

He starts to leave, but I stop him by stepping slightly in front of him. “How long are you staying?” The question comes out more sharply than I intend.

Seth gives me a look and runs the side of his thumb right under his bottom lip, just like he did when we were together. “I’m not sure.”

I cross my arms over my chest, trying to hold myself together. If I don’t, my heart is liable to fall out and onto his feet, where he can grind it into the ground once more. “What do you mean you’re not sure?”

About the Author:

Marquita Valentine is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Holland Springs and Boys of the South series, having sold more than a quarter of a million books around the world. She’s been called “one of the best new voices in romance” (Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews) and her books have been praised as “sexy, fun, and slightly addicting” (The Book Queen). When she’s not writing sexy heroes who adore their sassy heroines, she enjoys shopping, reading, and spending time with her family and friends. Married to her high-school sweetheart, Marquita Valentine lives in a seriously small town in the south with her husband, two kids, and a dog.


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  1. CLAIMED by Stacey Kennedy
  2. MY OBSESSION by Cassie Ryan
  3. DEEP AUTUMN HEAT by Elisabeth Barrett
  4. TAKE THE FALL by Marquita Valentine
  5. YOUR TO KEEP by Serena Bell
  6. SWEET THE SIN by Claire Kent
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Title: Hot Point
Author: M.L. Buchman
Series: Firehawks, #3
Pubdate: August 4th, 2015
ISBN: 9781402286940
Pulled apart by past mistakes. Driven by a passion neither could deny.

FROM WILDFIRE TO GUNFIRE

Master mechanic Denise Conroy—with a reputation for being as steel-clad as the aircraft she keeps aloft—shuns useless flyboys who don’t know one end of a wrench from the other.

Firehawk pilot Vern Taylor—known for unstoppable charm and a complete lack of mechanical skills—proves his talent for out-of-the-box thinking with every flight. He’s a survivor and a natural-born heli-aviation firefighter.

When Denise and Vern crash together in the Central American jungle with wildfire on one side and a full-fledged military coup on the other, their newly forged partnership is tested to the max. They have each other, but not even their formidable skills combined can protect Denise and Vern from the conflagration sweeping the jungle…and their hearts.

A Note From the Author: 

In my latest novel, Hot Point, Vern Taylor has one specialty, he can make a firefighting helicopter dance across the sky and hammer down even the worst wildfires. Give him a big Firehawk, a hot fire, and a muscle car to cruise to the bar afterward and he’s one happy guy.

But when he falls for Denise Conroy, the outfit’s quiet enigmatic helo mechanic, he is suddenly out of his depth. Quiet, gorgeous long hair, and barely up to his shoulder, she is a complete mystery. Vern has no idea how out of his depth he is until he climbs into Denise’s favorite toy, a 1973 Fiat Spyder two-seater convertible.

(And, except for the perfect condition of it, I once spent two months driving this exact car around the country: Seattle -> Maine -> the Southwest -> San Francisco and home. My sister and I broke down a lot—it’s a Fiat after all—but it is still one of the most fun road trips I ever made.)

Exclusive Excerpt:
The car’s black paint was a perfect gloss. The red leather bucket seats were immaculate. He’d always appreciated the image of this woman in this convertible whenever he saw it, but he’d never really noticed the condition of the car itself. It was an absolute showpiece. Restored to new condition even though it must be forty years old.

He was tall enough that, with the top down, he could simply step over the door and slide down into the seat. The leather was as comfortable as it looked, once he moved the seat back. Even the wood paneling of the dash looked freshly oiled.

“This is beautiful!”

“Thanks. Her name is Irene.” Denise pulled her hair over her shoulder as she sat down. With a dexterous flash of nimble fingers that held him mesmerized, she trapped the glorious mane in a thick French braid secured by a neon-red scrunchie—like a danger warning sign at the end of a long load—before tossing the braid back over her shoulder. A pair of dark sunglasses soon hid her green eyes and she fired off the engine. You didn’t do something as mundane as “start” an engine like this one. It rumbled and roared to life.

“Irene? Like in ‘Goodnight, Irene’?” Had he taken his life in his hands getting in this car?

Denise backed it out carefully over the gentle crunching of the heavy gravel in the parking lot.

“Irene as in Irene Adler.” She shifted it into first gear, revved the engine, and popped the clutch. With a gravel-spewing, fishtailing jolt, they shot past his bronze-colored Corvette convertible that glowered with jealousy at being left behind. The Fiat launched out of the parking lot and onto the narrow two-lane that wound down the mountain.

“Crap!” was all he managed as the car carved the turns, gripping the road at least as well as his Vette. He managed to relax his desperate grip on the wood-and-leather dashboard because hanging on made him look decidedly feeble and not the least bit calm, cool macho. Though he was sufficiently wise to retain his tight hold on the inside door handle.

She slammed into third and laid into another corner, then did a double-clutch downshift to rocket up a short but steep grade in second.

“Why her?” The one woman ever to outsmart Sherlock Holmes.

“Because Irene is tricky, but when she’s running clean, I’ll bet that even your fancy Vette can’t catch her, any more than Holmes could.”



About the Author:

M. L. Buchman has over 35 novels and an ever-expanding flock of short stories in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year,” Booklist “Top 10 of the Year,” and RT “Top 10 Romantic Suspense of the Year.” In addition to romantic suspense, he also writes contemporaries, thrillers, and fantasy and science fiction.

In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world.

He is now a full-time writer, living on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing at www.mlbuchman.com.

One winner will receive a print copy of Hot Point! 
RULES: 
To enter to win leave a comment or question for the author. Contest open to US entrants only. Winner will be chosen randomly. Contest ends on August 5th 2015 at midnight Eastern. 
Good luck and Happy Reading!
Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Heroes Are My Weakness
By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Releasing Sept 28th, 2015
Mass Market Paperback
Avon Romance
The dead of winter.
An isolated island off the coast of Maine.
A man.
A woman.
A sinister house looming over the sea ...
He's a reclusive writer whose macabre imagination creates chilling horror novels. She's a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids' puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill with his bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill with laughs.
But she's not laughing now. When she was a teenager, he terrified her. Now they're trapped together on a snowy island off the coast of Maine. Is he the villain she remembers or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes.
It's going to be a long, hot winter.

Excerpt:

The cold slapped her in the face and stole her breath. She had to force her legs out. Her beat-up brown suede city boots sank into the snow, and her jeans were no match for the weather. Ducking her head into the wind, she made her way to the rear of the car to get her heavy coat, only to see that the trunk was wedged so tightly into the hillside that she couldn’t open it. Why should she be surprised? Nothing had gone her way in so long that she’d forgotten what good fortune felt like.

She returned to the driver’s side. Her puppets should be safe in the car overnight, but what if they weren’t? She needed them. They were all she had left, and if she lost them, she might disappear altogether.

Pathetic, Leo sneered.

She wanted to rip him apart.

Babe… You need me more than I need you, he reminded her. Without me, you don’t have a show.

She shut him out. Breathing hard, she pulled the suitcases from the car, retrieved her keys, snapped off the headlights, and closed the door.

She was immediately plunged into thick, swirling darkness. Panic clawed at her chest.

I will rescue you! Peter declared.

Annie gripped the suitcase handles tighter, trying not to let her panic paralyze her.

I can’t see anything! Crumpet squealed. I hate the dark!

Annie had no handy flashlight app on her ancient cell phone, but she did have… She set a suitcase in the snow and dug in her pocket for her car keys and the small LED light attached to the ring. She hadn’t tried to use the light in months, and she didn’t know if it still worked. With her heart in her throat, she turned it on.

A sliver of bright blue light cut a tiny path through the snow, a path so narrow she could easily wander off the road.

Get a grip, Scamp ordered.

Give up, Leo sneered.

Annie took her first steps into the snow. The wind cut through her thin jacket and tore at her hair, whipping the curly strands onto her face. Snow slapped the back of her neck, and she started to cough. Pain compressed her ribs, and the suitcases banged against her legs. Much too soon, she had to set them down to rest her arms.

She hunched into her jacket collar, trying to protect her lungs from the icy air. Her fingers burned from the cold, and as she moved forward again, she called on her puppets’ imaginary voices to keep her company.

Crumpet: If you drop me and ruin my sparkly lavender dress, I’ll sue.

Peter: I’m the bravest! The strongest! I’ll help you.

Leo: (sneering) Do you know how to do anything right?

Dilly: Don’t listen to Leo. Keep moving. We’ll get there.

And Scamp, her useless alter ego: A woman carrying a suitcase walks into a bar…

Icy tears weighed down her eyelashes, blurring what vision she had. Wind caught the suitcases, threatening to snatch them away. They were too big, too heavy. Pulling her arms from their sockets. Stupid to have brought them with her. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But she couldn’t leave her puppets.
Romance Author Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Author Info:

Susan Elizabeth Phillips soars onto the New York Times bestseller list with every new publication. She’s the only four-time recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Favorite Book of the Year Award. Susan delights fans by touching hearts as well as funny bones with her wonderfully whimsical and modern fairy tales. A resident of the Chicago suburbs, she is also a wife, and mother of two grown sons.

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Curse of the Seven 70s by Sharon E. Anderson

Sometimes love proves sweeter than revenge… even for a 15th century vampire.
Heartbroken, hungry, and a little bit drunk, Cassandra soon realizes that just when you think things can’t get any worse, sometimes they can get very strange…like finding a skeleton in the basement of your newly inherited cottage. But when that skeleton suddenly becomes a hot, romantic, and business savvy vampire named Varo…sometimes things can get better. That is…until his infamous older brother shows up, and their centuries old sibling rivalry threatens her chance at true love. 
Can their love survive her conniving ex-fiancé, his vengeful brother, and the Curse of the Seven 70s?



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Bound in Black
The Vessel Trilogy
Book Three
Juliette Cross
Genre: paranormal romance
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date of Publication: July 21, 2015
ISBN: 9781619224971
ASIN: B00VNK4JJO
Number of pages: 253
Cover Artist: Kanaxa
Genevieve Drake is on a dangerous mission to find the soul collector, Lethe, and enter the deepest, darkest level of the underworld. No one has ever returned alive from the belly of a soul collector, but she will let nothing stop her from going after the precious treasure Lethe stole from her.
As she is tested against demon spawn and foul creatures of the underworld, each triumph strengthens her Vessel power—and drags her closer to a breaking point that could forever doom her to the abyss.
Meanwhile, with the full prophecy hurtling toward completion, the Dominus Daemonum strategize for the day Gen will battle Prince Bamal’s Vessel to the death, when the Great War between heaven and hell will begin.
But Bamal has a secret weapon. When he reveals it—and Thomas reveals his own hidden agenda—Gen may not have the strength to resist the temptation to fall into darkness, forsaking the fate of the world for her broken heart.
Warning: Contains malicious demons, sinister spawn, and a vengeful heroine with plans to send them all back to burning hell.

Excerpt:
Among a throng of dancers grinding to some death-metal tune was Bleed and one of the guys from his band, Gallow’s End. Bleed. What an asinine name. Perfectly fit the owner. Last time Kat and I had seen him in that demon club on Bayou Sauvage, his long, sleek hair was dyed midnight blue. He’d changed it to deep purple. Two stumbling-drunk girls were clinging to him and the tall, lanky guy I recognized as his drummer. Their eyes shimmered red in the smoky dark of the club.

That was one thing lower demons didn’t have to worry about in New Orleans. With so many freaks in the city joining artificial vampire covens, there was no need to disguise red eyes or sharpened fangs. Both of which were the distinct outward features of a lower demon inhabiting a human.

The young brunette who looked barely eighteen hung on to Bleed’s arm. He made a signal to Drummer Boy, who escorted another girl wearing a miniskirt so short I could see her ass cheek. They veered toward a back entrance, taking their fully intoxicated dates with them. Knowing Bleed was into kink and violence and certainly not above forcing his will on the weak and vulnerable, I nudged Kat.

Without a word, we were off the stools and following the four through the storage room, which indeed had a back entrance for deliveries. The door to the alley creaked closed. Bleed said something, obviously witty and wonderful because the girls giggled in unison. I reached into my boot and pulled out my sharpened stiletto. Kat pulled out a similar but thicker blade, sheathed on a vest harness covered by her jacket.

Kat cracked the door, peering outside. We heard the distant shuffling as the four moved farther off.

“Hurry,” I whispered.

We slipped through the exit and stalked after them. They rounded the corner of a darkened building. Although we were walking in the open, this part of the business district was deserted after hours. In the French Quarter, you could find crowds on every street well into the wee hours of the morning. But this area was only busy during the daytime. Perfect place to commit some heinous crime on unsuspecting, underage and intoxicated girls.

By the time we reached the next block, Bleed and Drummer Boy had lured the girls down a dark alley. Talk about cliché.

“Where issit?” slurred the brunette. The other girl’s giggle echoed off the alley walls.

“Right over here,” said Bleed. “I’m going to show you.”

I could hear the sneer in his voice. I grabbed Kat’s arm, and she looked back at me as we edged closer to the corner of the alley. Sift, I mouthed. She nodded.

Holding up my left hand, I put up one finger, then two, then three.

We sifted into the alley a yard away from them. There was no telling what Bleed had in mind, because we interrupted whatever it was he had planned. Somehow, he didn’t look surprised to see us, which put me on edge. My VS zinged to life, igniting my underlight to full throttle.

The brunette pointed at me, her hair a mess, her lipstick smeared. “Hey. You look like a fairy.”

She and her friend burst into laughter, one of them bending her knees with the weight of drunken hilarity. They’d definitely put more than alcohol in their systems. Or they’d had four too many of whatever they were drinking.

“Go,” I told the girls. “Get out of here.”

“Whu…why?” hiccupped Miniskirt.

Whispering the words to break through a cast of illusion, I slashed my dagger in the air toward Bleed, who’d not said a word. For the briefest of seconds, the outer shell of the beautiful human he hid inside vanished, revealing the fanged, bony, pasty-gray demon he truly was. Three seconds later, the veil that cloaked the demon in dark beauty hid the beast within once more.

The girls—slack-jawed and wide-eyed—simply stared in horror until Bleed hissed at them. They squealed and stumbled away toward the street, the brunette breaking a heel but not stopping.

“There now, Domina,” said Bleed, speaking to Kat, whom he favored over me. My feelings weren’t hurt, trust me. “Now that you have us all to yourself, what shall we do?”

“I think it’s time to send you back to your playpen, once and for all,” she answered with stoic grace.

The gangly one was already backing away, but not Bleed. “I would like nothing more than to bask in the tortures you have planned for me,” he said in a sultry tone, inching closer to her.

“Not this shit again,” I said, remembering how last time he’d begged her for a little S&M treatment.

He ignored me. “Word has spread, Domina, that you have certain tastes. Delicacies that align with my own desires.”

“I’m riveted,” said Kat. “Please. Do tell what demons are saying about me.”

The salacious grin that spread across Bleed’s face as his hand slipped down and cupped his crotch sent a grotesque chill over my body. “That you prefer…chains in the bedroom. I too enjoy bondage, Domina.” The asshole hadn’t noticed that Kat had gone rigid with rage, just as she always did two seconds before she was going to strike. “Perhaps we could enjoy each other—”

She sliced out with a leap, but he moved like lightning, prepared for her attack. He ended up behind her with one arm wrapped around her waist. The other hand whipped out and grabbed her wrist holding the dagger. He whispered something I couldn’t hear. Before I could even react to help her, she doubled over and flipped him on the pavement.

Drummer Boy took off running. “Kat!” I screamed, taking two steps after him.

She hovered over Bleed, who lay there, grinning like a fiend, on the ground. “Go.” She waved me off. “Get him!”

I took off. The dude didn’t look like much, but he sure as hell could run with those long-ass legs. I sprinted after him down the alley, coming out onto another well-lit but abandoned street in the business district. The frosty air filled my lungs, stinging as I sucked in each breath. His cackling laughter echoed to the right. I caught his lanky figure rounding a corner. Another alley.

As soon as I ran into the lane, a familiar signature wafted over me. Winter wind and new-fallen snow, ice castles and midnight blue—a potent seduction of ice and heat. The sight, sound, smell, color of winter emanated not from the atmosphere but from the man—the angel—standing five feet from me.

Drummer Boy was gone. In his place stood Thomas, the one I’d longed to find, to exact vengeance upon him for his betrayal, for what he’d done to Jude. For what he’d done to me. But for several seconds, all I could do was stand there and stare at him, convincing myself he was real and not another mirage.

Black hair curling at his nape like Michelangelo’s David. Sea-green eyes deeper than any ocean. Fair, flawless skin that rivaled that of Raphael’s most perfect painting. And a physique that had indeed been born of heaven. He was the embodiment of breathtaking beauty, and yet all I could do was imagine how quickly I could plunge my dagger into his heart.

About the Author:

Juliette calls lush, moss-laden Louisiana home where the landscape curls into her imagination, creating mystical settings for her stories. She has a B.A. in creative writing from Louisiana State University, a M.Ed. in gifted education, and was privileged to study under the award-winning author Ernest J. Gaines in grad school. Her love of mythology, legends, and art serve as constant inspiration for her works. From the moment she read JANE EYRE as a teenager, she fell in love with the Gothic romance--brooding characters, mysterious settings, persevering heroines, and dark, sexy heroes. Even then, she not only longed to read more novels set in Gothic worlds, she wanted to create her own.

Juliette is a multi-published author, including her Nightwing series with Kensington Publishing and The Vessel Trilogy with Samhain Publishing.

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