Echoes of Angels
Keepers of Eternity Book 1
by Devyn Quinn
Genre: Paranormal Romance
“This is an exciting, atmospheric story. . . . A dark fantasy with tortured characters and dramatic events, Echoes of Angels is a very promising start to a new series. 4½ stars.” --Romantic Times
With her life in shambles and nowhere to turn, Julienne Blackthorne has no choice but to accept her grandmother’s offer to return to her ancestral home—a home Julienne’s mother fled in fear more than twenty years ago. What she finds there is a world so macabre it haunts her senses and fills her with dread. And the darkly compelling Morgan Saint-Evanston, whose mysterious pull haunts her in more sensual ways.
Morgan was once the most feared mercenary in a sinister realm and was destined to become the leader of his people—a duty he abandoned when his tormented soul drove him to seek exile in the mortal world. Tortured by his betrayal and the knowledge that those who dwell on the dark side will one day have their vengeance, he turns to the beautiful Julienne for one last moment of solace. Because the veils separating the worlds are about to open, and Morgan knows he must take the fight to the enemy before the forces of darkness unleash their unholy hell on mankind.
As Julienne surrenders to the undeniable passion that flares between them and Morgan prepares to confront a fate he cannot ignore, both will be plunged into a realm where human souls are open barter and even the power of love may not be enough to save them.
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“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be landing in five minutes. Please make sure your seats and tray tables are in the upright and locked position and your seatbelts are fastened.” The voice on the intercom was cold and lifeless, an impassionate end to an uneventful trip.
Arranging her belongings, Julienne returned to her seat. Despite her success at disguising her flaws, she was still a bundle of raw nerves. Strands of her copper hair clung to her perspiring face and neck. She simply couldn’t relax. How could she? In a matter of minutes, she was due to meet the family her mother had left behind over twenty years ago.
“I have to believe it will be all right,” she murmured. It had to be. She had no other place to go.
When it was time to deplane, she took a deep breath. She wanted to be calm. Disciplined. She drew her purse onto her shoulder. The butterflies in her stomach wouldn’t cease fluttering as she walked down the canopied ramp.
Entering the terminal, she surveyed the unfamiliar area. Other travelers milled past her, forcing her to follow their migration. Friends and families around her met and greeted, chattering in animated conversation.
Doubling her pace, she passed passengers hurrying to board outgoing flights. Weaving her way around jostling bodies, she realized she didn’t know who was supposed to meet her. She thought about buying a ticket back to California. What would it hurt? If she wanted to leave, her exit would be assured.
She dug her billfold out of her purse. Opening it, she was dismayed to discover thirty-two dollars and fifty-eight cents.
“Shit.” Her hands quivered a little, and it took a moment for her to fight off the crushing sense of helplessness. She had credit cards, but they were over limit. Her cell phone, unpaid for months, was useless. She was dead broke, part of the reason she’d agreed to return to Virginia.
That, and the fact that her soon-to-be ex-husband had tried to kill her.
Julienne winced, remembering the assault. Two days after she’d asked for a divorce, James Hunter had accosted her outside a popular Miami hot spot. Using a box cutter, he’d carved deep gashes into her face before horrified onlookers could stop him.
Though the disjointed memories were blurred, she’d never forget the searing pain of the razor. When she’d separated from James, she hadn’t thought he’d follow through with his threats to get even with her.
Looking back, she knew their marriage had been a damned union from the beginning. They met when she was seventeen and waiting tables in LA. She was looking for her big break in Hollywood. A minor agent, representing D-list clients, he’d promised to make her a star.
James had also introduced her to crack cocaine in a Singapore nightclub. He was already an addict; her modeling jobs supported his habit. She’d tried it to please him, believing she wouldn’t get hooked if she used it sparingly. She was wrong. The drug turned her into a junkie, too. The night James slashed her face had been her second trip to the hospital in less than two months. Both times she’d nearly died, and both times she’d been fueled on the drug.
Bitter recriminations ricocheted through her mind. She always made bad decisions. James. The drugs. After years of struggling, her brief brush with fame was over.
As though reaching for a talisman, she slipped her hand back into her purse, brushing the tips of her fingers across a sheaf of letters she’d carried for months. The cloying scent of vanilla still clung to the pages.
Grandmother Anlese. Thank God for her letters. If nothing else, they proved someone in her family cared whether she lived or died.
The Blackthorne family had stepped back into her life after the attack. They had money, and the way they operated was like a well-oiled machine. Overnight, a cadre of attorneys appeared, sucking her back into the world of wealth and privilege her mother had fought so hard to escape.
A stint in rehab had followed her hospitalization.
Since admitting her own addiction, her life hadn’t been pleasant or easy. Withdrawal meant rules. Rules meant structure. Structure meant recovery. Recovery meant continuation. Not an easy battle when she was utterly bankrupted by scandal and a pending divorce. Surviving hadn’t ended the conflict over her weakened spirit. It would take time to regain a healthy balance.
But she wasn’t scot-free. Her family’s generosity had come with a price. Julienne had to pay them back by coming home.
She supposed she owed them. Not only had they covered all her medical expenses, her grandmother had also paid a hefty sum to purchase the sex tapes James was desperate to release. Currently behind bars for the attack, he needed cash for his own defense.
Her skin, so warm only moments ago, grew chilled. Those DVDs we made would’ve gotten a tidy sum from any porno producer. It embarrassed her she was a willing participant in their creation. But jobs in front of the camera were drying up as their drug use spiraled out of control. No one wanted to hire a crackhead for an expensive shoot. And no reputable actor wanted one as an agent. There was easy money to be made, peddling sex on the Internet.
Sadness washed over her like the consuming waves of an angry ocean. Oftentimes, it felt as if she didn’t belong in this world. Through her twenty-four years, she’d always felt different, isolated and alone. Was it because something had always been missing in her life? A sane mother? A stable home? She’d had neither. Her mother had been mentally ill. What had frightened Cassandra Blckthorne away from her family might have been nothing more than her own schizophrenic mania in action.
Julienne reached for the cross hanging at her throat. She wasn’t particularly religious, but the crucifix offered a bit of solace. She wished things could be different, but she couldn’t dwell on that now. In Virginia was a new life, a fresh start. Whether she’d be able to reclaim her place in the Blackthorne clan was yet to be determined. Her mother was years into her grave. Surely, the bitter past had died with her.
“I belong here,” she murmured to no one.
Lost in a sea of travelers, she noticed a small group of people coming together, pointing her way. She tensed when an elderly woman broke away and approached her. The smile on her face was warm and welcoming.
“Hello, dear. My name is Edith Danridge, and you look lost.” She was beautifully dressed; her soft Southern accent one of education and refinement.
“I am.” Hiding the disappointment in her eyes, Julienne returned a grateful smile. The woman was trying to be kind. The least she could do as a stranger was to greet the locals. She was grateful no one had recognized her. She was just another anonymous nobody in the crowd.
“Then perhaps you need the comfort of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Julienne glanced down at the literature. Hope sank like a stone in water. The Path to Salvation, it read. Disappointed, she shook her head in a polite decline of the material. “Thanks, nice of you to offer.”
“Is someone coming to meet you?” Edith asked, trying to engage her in conversation. “You seem so alone.”
“My grandmother, I think. Perhaps you know her. Anlese Blackthorne.”
Edith Danridge drew back a bit upon hearing her answer, her lips forming an O of silent surprise. A shadow of uncertainty flashed across her features. “Yes, I know your family.” Her body language became defensive, as if she was afraid of being attacked. Her voice was strained.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her.” Julienne was puzzled by the abrupt change in attitude. It was as if a chill wind had blown without warning through the terminal. “My mother’s name was Cassandra. Did you know her?”
“I remember Cassandra. She didn’t have a chance”—Edith Danridge unexpectedly glanced over her shoulder toward her group, who were also handing out church literature, as if afraid they would hear her—“belonging to them. You don’t, not yet.” She raised a hand and curled her fingers around the gold cross hanging from Julienne’s neck. “Keep faith, and don’t let them destroy you the way they did her.”
Julienne drew back, sucking in a startled breath. The nearness of this strange woman made her extremely uncomfortable. The thin chain around her neck snapped, the ends dangling from the stranger’s hand. “I—I don’t understand.”
Edith Danridge ignored her. As if in a daze, she stared at the broken necklace. “Too late.” The chain slid from her fingers, falling to the floor at her feet. “You belong to the devil.” Giving Julienne a frightened glance, she turned and scurried away, murmuring, “God help us all.”
Julienne stood motionless until jostled into action by passersby. She’s nuts, she told herself. She tried not to let the woman’s words affect her. Nevertheless, such strange pronouncements were unnerving. A fanatic. She knelt to retrieve her jewelry. Spends too much time in that church of hers.
“There’s Miss Julienne.” A man’s voice wafted through the airport and caught her ear.
Julienne turned, looking for the person who’d spoken her name. Her gaze located a young black man standing on the periphery of the departing passengers, at an angle where he could survey the entire room in a single glance. He wore crisp new jeans and a matching shirt, and held a well-worn felt hat in his hands.
She watched him lean slightly to his left and speak to a figure concealed behind an outspread newspaper. The paper came down immediately. Folding it with four crisp movements of precise economy, the second man dropped it into the nearby wastebasket.
Julienne felt the fine hairs on the back of her neck rise. Surely it wasn’t . . . No. Not Morgan Saint-Evanston. God, why him?
As the two men approached, Julienne felt as if someone had led her to the top of a cliff and then, without warning, pushed her off. Somehow, she’d managed to catch the edge, but she was still left to dangle helplessly high above the ground.
She couldn’t help but notice people were falling back to make room for him. A current of apprehension rippled through the masses as he advanced, as if some silent command demanded none should cross his path. Even his companion followed a courteous distance behind.
He stopped within a few feet of her.
“Morgan?” she asked, hoping she was mistaken about his identity.
He nodded in acknowledgment. “Ce’as mile fa’ilte, leanabh.”
Julienne blinked, uncomprehending, puzzled. The odd words jarred, seeming to carry the whisper of familiarity, much like the strains of a long-forgotten tune. One could hum a few notes but never entirely capture the haunting melody. “What did you say?”
“A hundred thousand welcomes,” he repeated, this time in English.
Her face flushed with self-consciousness. “Oh. Sorry, I didn’t understand.” Her brow wrinkled in question. “You expected me to?”
“When you were small, I used to speak Gaelic, the Irish language, to you.” His earnest gaze raked over her, measuring every inch. “But you are not so little now.”
She looked back, evaluating him as closely as he assessed her. His complexion was cream-colored, his eyes almost black. His black, collar-length hair was layered and unruly, threaded with silver at his temples and bangs. At a glance, he appeared to be about thirty. But a closer look revealed crow’s-feet etched at the outer corners of his eyes. Around his mouth were a few deeper character lines and small scars. He was admirably muscled, his posture regal, as if he was always in command despite what fate might otherwise dictate.
He cut an impressive figure, elegantly dressed in a charcoal-gray suit, coat tailored, trousers sharply creased, silk vest worn over a crisp white shirt open at the neck, no tie. A gold watch chain bridged the pockets of his vest. With the heel of a boot under him he almost made it to six feet. All in all, his finery was immaculately tailored and smartly worn.
She’d expected him to look a lot older, and meaner.
But, no. He was absolutely striking. In every way.
Frustrated, and a little confused, she replied, “N—no, sorry. I don’t remember much about my childhood.” She immediately noticed that he didn’t offer his hand or any other physical contact. Despite his salutation, his behavior was guarded, his penetrating stare intense and aggressive, displaying no emotion.
“Why not?” he asked. “Were we so forgettable?” His words were tinged with an Irish brogue, precisely spoken as if to avoid mangling the English language. His voice had a pleasing timbre, even in cadence and tone, in intimacy and confidence. She surmised he could manipulate it with ease to make anyone believe he was sincere, even when he was not.
Julienne swallowed the lump rising in the back of her throat. “It’s been a long time since I was a toddler.”
Now that she’d come face-to-face with him, Julienne wasn’t sure what to make of the man. Morgan was the reason her mother had left town. Cassandra was terrified of him, and she’d run away from him until the effort had killed her.
She’d always suspected Saint-Evanston might be her father. Cassandra never would tell her the truth.
She looked at him again, searching for a connection—an acknowledgment of kinship—in his gaze. There was none. She wasn’t even sure how he fit into the family bloodline. All she knew for sure was he controlled the Blackthorne legacy, and the money that went with it.
And he ruled with an iron fist.
Descent of Demons
Keepers of Eternity Book 2
Left for dead in a hellish corner of the dark realm, Julienne Blackthorne refused to surrender, and through her own force of will and her love for one man she managed to survive and escape. But survival brings its own new hell when she makes a horrific discovery. A demonic sorcerer has begun a search for the forbidden Scrolls of Cachaen, ancient texts that will restore his waning magic and give him the power to take his final revenge on the man Julienne loves, Morgan Saint-Evanston.
In a desperate quest to save Morgan and stop the diabolical sorcerer from gaining control of the scrolls, Julienne will be forced to confront the most sinister powers of this dark world. And in a race against time that will determine the fate of all mankind, Julienne and Morgan will find themselves in a perilous battle against evil that will either condemn them to eternal misery . . . or grant them everlasting love.
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A slew of images ravaged her feverish brain as she mentally relived an actual terrifying experience. Through a veil of kaleidoscopic memories, she observed a glowing red pit. A being she believed to be Satan himself walked leisurely around it. He was a looming figure clothed head-to-foot in crimson robes. He seemed to be coming for her, his hands bearing down into her vision. His fingers, twisted into a claw, latched into her forehead with a viselike grip, digging sharp fingernails into her skin. A thousand splintering facets of agony spread through her as he ripped asunder the soft flesh of her face. Her blood flowed in rivulets, mingling with the sweat of her fear, stinging her eyes. She struggled to breathe, gasping as coppery slime assaulted her lips and she tasted her own blood. Fighting for air, she gagged when a crushing weight pounded into her chest. Like a giant spider’s victim paralyzed by the bite, she felt she’d been pierced and seeded with a strange alien life form, a thing that would eat her up from the inside.
Suddenly, her nightmare shattered.
But the pain remained.
* * *
The fire in the pit had burned out, and the dungeon was very cold and still. Cracking open swollen eyes, Julienne weakly shifted her head, trying to make out her surroundings. Torches cast eerie shadows, and the dungeon lay deserted beneath their hazed light. The thick sooty smoke they exuded hung like vapor around the stone walls and floor.
The atmosphere of the immense chamber was flat, tranquil and quiet, as though separated from all reality. The lingering scent of burnt flesh and congealed blood mingled, creating an odor that made it difficult to breathe. The nauseating stench singed the fragile lining of her nostrils; she began to pant heavily through her open mouth. Her guts heaved and she swallowed hard, resisting the urge to vomit.
She gagged, feeling a strange writhing sensation between her lungs. A thin film of sweat coated her skin. She was chilled despite the fever raging through her. And though she’d been badly wounded, there was a curious numbness in her body, as if she were anesthetized.
A grimace crossed her face; the movement of the muscles hurt. Without her willing them, her hands rose. She felt the wounds, tracing each with her fingers. She winced when her touch brought pain.
Her face was savagely disfigured, marked with raw cuts. All at once the memories resurrected themselves, chilling the blood in her veins. Details of the night she’d crossed into Sclyd solidified. Morgan…the temple of light…being captured by the Jansi warriors…being tortured…
In a spasm of terror, she wrenched her head to one side, begging the visions in her mind to go away, to leave her alone. There were so many, she wasn’t sure if they were real or part of a strange fantasy. But one memory was stark, for it accompanied an unspeakable agony.
A mad giggle escaped her throat. No other voices chimed in to comfort her. Silence all around.
She moved her mouth, but for a moment no human sound came forth.
“My face!” she keened in a hoarse whisper. She refused to cry. This place would extract no tears from her. Her body hurt; and when she remembered why, her ache went deeper, past the physical and into her soul. She didn’t want to remember or think. She wanted to close her eyes and forget this place, sink into the oblivion that was death so she wouldn’t hurt anymore.
Sclyd. I’ve come into another world now.
She stared dizzily about, the hopeless futility of her plight stabbing at her heart. Half-mad with the realization her horrible nightmare was no dream, her mind teetered on the brink between sanity and insanity, acceptance and denial warring inside her.
“Morgan,” she moaned softly, his name a sob on her lips. Her indistinct voice echoed in the vastness around her, repeated a thousand times over, as if the broken silence took glee in mocking her. Fear was beginning to loosen her hold on reason.
Still too weak to rise, she turned her head in the only other direction her neck would allow. Now holding only ashes, the great stone pit of her nightmares had gone cold hours ago. Instruments of torture stood silent, mute testimony to the many victims who had found their deaths in this unholy place. The sorcerer and his minions were gone.
How long have I been unconscious? She had no way of knowing.
The battle was over. The casualties had been counted, the dead claimed. Had her lover survived, or had he perished? She recalled very little of how she came to be unconscious. She only knew that she seemed to have been left behind, completely and utterly abandoned. If Morgan had not died, had he left her deliberately? She hadn’t forgotten his threat that he would leave her if she became a burden. Had she become a liability—expendable, disposable— because she was only a mortal?
Surely, he didn’t…surely he wouldn’t…
Did he leave me? Her heart pounded frantically, her thoughts becoming a weird babble as the last bit of composure deserted her. Unwelcome tears stung her eyes. Morgan was crafty, and she knew it. Morgan manipulated people, and she knew that, too.
Had he manipulated her, played her for a fool? He hadn’t wanted her to cross over into his world. Had he chosen to walk away, deciding to free himself of their bond in the only way possible? The fear, the doubt, began to gnaw at her mind, pushing her deeper into the mire of madness that shimmered like a dark pool in the depths of her soul.
You wanted to deny being mated to me. Is this your way of paying me back for defying you? Leaving me here to die?
Morgan, she knew, could be obdurate, detached, irresponsible and above all, much given to contradiction, but she’d never had reason to believe he truly wished to hurt her, or that he took the slightest pleasure in doing so. Though seemingly self-absorbed, he missed little. He was introspective, but his antennae were attuned to those around him. If he had survived and departed without her it was because he had to, not because he wanted to. She had to believe that.
She didn’t regret the decision she’d made to follow him, but she knew she’d acted rashly and the consequence dismayed her. She’d trusted him to protect her. Through the deep tide of confusion, she realized he wasn’t able to. But he wasn’t completely to blame. He’d warned her of the dangers. And she’d made her choice, choosing to let her heart rule her head. She had to accept the responsibility that she’d done this to herself. Realization, however, didn’t lessen her sense of hopeless abandonment.
Keepers of Eternity Book 3
Morgan knows that safeguarding the scrolls is his only hope for protecting Julienne and all of mankind, but the powerful and mystical scrolls are taking a debilitating toll on him, even as very mortal enemies scheme to control him for their own purposes. As he is stripped of the strength he needs to wage an epic war against the beast hell-bent on their destruction, he realizes he will have to turn to a dark magick for their salvation—one that may consume his soul.
And as Morgan and Julienne struggle to defend themselves and the hard-fought love that fires them both, they will come face-to-face with a cruel fate that would turn their one hope for survival into the very thing that could lead to their ultimate destruction.
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The scrolls of Cachaen.
Separately, they were seven pages of animal skin parchment, covered top to bottom in the script of an obscure language lost for eight millennia. To those who didn’t know the dialect, the pages were useless, curiosities of a civilization long extinct. However, to those who were knowledgeable in the cultic arts, those seven pages were the keys to godhood…
The blood of an enemy stained her hands, and the act of desecration weighed heavily on her conscience. The soul she’d tried so desperately to hold on to when she’d chosen to become a creature of the occult was gradually slipping through her fingers.
Perhaps it’s the price I’m to pay for selling my soul.
Her gaze shifted, skimming over the fragile pages and moving in an upward arc. Heart skipping a beat, her pulse quickened at the sight of the man across the table.
A silent figure, he stood unmoving, as if composed of granite. Dressed in charcoal gray, his slacks were creased sharply. A matching silk vest covered his crisp white shirt, a single button open at the neck. His sole ornament was the gold watch chain bridging the pockets of his vest. His skin was pale, as fine as ivory; his hair gloriously thick, ebony laced with a liberal helping of silver. His strident expression was guarded, revealing no emotion.
All in all, the sight of him was devastating. Under such close scrutiny, Julienne trembled. Suddenly, her throat felt closed, blocked by the intense pounding of her heart. Her grip tightened around the neck of the lamp she held. Filled to the brim with oil, no chimney protected the wavering flame.
Dark. Seductive. Immortal.
Getting tangled up in his web was probably the worst mistake she’d ever made. The man—and was he really that at all? —wasn’t sane, stable or even remotely human. He was, first and foremost, an assassin. Cold, calculating and utterly ruthless, he’d long ago mastered the art of delivering death. He’d stop at nothing to best an enemy. The casualties left in his wake were piled high.
Still, she was no innocent. Aware of the darkness he’d mantled himself in, she’d nevertheless chosen to walk at his side. He’d promised her immortality. Now it looked like he might possibly be able to hand her eternity. The power to accomplish that was within his reach.
Would he, she wondered, fall to the temptations of forbidden knowledge?
She dared not contemplate the answer.
Minute after long minute ticked by, stretching the silence to unbearable levels.
“Do you think you have the nerve to do it?” His question shattered the impasse brewing between them. His obsidian gaze was frozen, daring her to make the next move.
Julienne wavered. If only her blood didn’t feel so hot and her skin as cold as ice. Her body temperature plunged from fire to arctic to searing again. Perspiration broke out on her skin and her clothes clung uncomfortably to her body. The scent of her own fear curdled in her nostrils. Since their return from Sclyd, a strange heaviness had settled into the atmosphere. Everyone in the household felt it.
And everyone was just as scared as she was.
“They’ve got to go.” Her voice sounded hollow, strained. “Destroy those things, and we’re off the hook. They never existed, and we never saw them.”
“No.” Morgan tossed his head, sending a tumble of black hair into his eyes. “Lying will not help evade the penalty. Assassinating Xavier and plundering the Cachaen tomb are both offenses punishable by death.”
Releasing a snort of agitation, he pushed away from the table. As an outlaw with a price on his head, the justices dispensing cultic law had already sentenced him to execution once before. With a little luck and cunning, he’d managed to dodge the judgment for centuries. But he couldn’t keep running forever. Sooner or later his past was going to catch up, and when that happened, there’d be hell to pay.
Lowering her makeshift weapon, Julienne extinguished its flame. She heaved a fortifying breath. He was right, of course. Trying to conceal the crime wasn’t the answer. Only guilty people tried to cover their tracks. “I’m not going to let you stand up to the Sclydian council alone. We were both there. I—” The next word caught in her throat, giving her confession pause. “M-murdered Xavier.” She refused to allow the sorcerer’s image to invade her mind. The memories were still too painful to explore.
Lips temporarily pressing into a tight line, he visually impaled her through narrowed eyes. “Nobody is going to know that. As far as history is concerned, I killed him and I took the writings.” He flagged a dismissive hand. “As far as they are aware, you are not even involved.”
Swallowing past the thickness growing in her throat, Julienne shook her head. Claiming all the blame and the consequences for himself was unacceptable. If he was going to face execution, she supposed her own punishment would be no less fatal. The idea didn’t exactly thrill her, but she didn’t suppose she had a choice in the matter.
She brushed aside bangs damp with perspiration. Her skin still felt tight. Suffocating. “You just said lying wouldn’t help us. So stepping up to take the bullet for me is just you being your stupid, suicidal self.” She drew in a calming breath. “I’m a big girl now, and I’ll take the punishment when it comes.”
A shrug rolled off his shoulders. “I suppose you can if you want to.” The slightest hint of a wicked smile turned up one corner of his fine mouth. “However, my intention is not to stand before the witches’ council at all.”
Julienne regarded him with suspicion. Trying to reason with him was like talking to a stone wall. The fact that most everyone wanted his head on a silver platter didn’t seem to ruffle Morgan one bit. “Tell me what you’re planning.”
Dipping a hand into the inner pocket of his vest, Morgan retrieved a slender case. Flicking it open, he selected a cigarette. He tapped the end against the lid to pack the tobacco. “I am going to hold these pages hostage.”
It wasn’t in his nature to kid. He appeared absolutely serious. “What?”
Morgan calmly planted the cigarette between his lips. “Although I am sure word of Xavier’s death has gotten around the cults by now, at this point no one is absolutely certain if they exist. Or not, as the case may be.”
“And that means?” she asked, not quite following his logic.
“Many will seek, but there will be nothing to find. I have control of them, and I intend to keep it that way.” Gaze narrowing, he raised his hand toward his face and snapped his fingers. The tip of his cigarette briefly flared into flame. He inhaled, a halo of clove scented smoke enveloping him.
Julienne inwardly winced. His talent for manipulating psi-kinetic energy was downright scary. With just a look and the will to carry out the action, he could reduce a person to cinders. Her threat to burn the pages was meaningless. Empty. She didn’t have a chance of success, and he knew it.
He is, she thought, a very scary man.
Morgan smiled with grim humor. “So they say.”
Her face flushed with self-consciousness. “So you’re a mind reader now?”
Snagging his cigarette between two fingers, his nostrils flared as he released a stream of smoke. “I cannot read your mind, but I can interpret physical vibrations given off by intense emotions.” Shoving his hands in his pockets, he rocked back on his heels. “You have never trusted my motives, and I do not think you ever will.”
“I’m sorry.” A sigh slipped through her lips. “Sometimes I think I’ll never get used to the madness that surrounds you.”
A dull ache began to creep through her body. He wasn’t the only one who hadn’t had a day’s rest in months. She couldn’t recall the last time she’d laid her head against a pillow.
His shrewd expression softened. Without saying a word, he unexpectedly closed the distance, leaving a few feet between them. She could tell by his rigid stance that their current problems weighed heavily on his mind.
Julienne’s heart rose up into her throat. She swallowed against the dryness in her mouth. Now that he’d come closer, she recognized fatigue etched around his eyes. His near brush with death in the Cachaen tomb had profoundly changed him; physically and psychologically. His manner, already aloof, had grown even more unsociable. He welcomed no company save his own, and interruptions were met with cold silences and icy, clipped replies. Conversation, when possible, appeared to burden him, as though he had nothing to invest. He refused to talk about what he’d experienced when he’d fallen into the abyss Xavier had opened into the astral realm. The encumbrance he carried was a heavy one, and he’d clearly passed exhaustion weeks ago. The only thing keeping him on his feet was pure adrenaline.
He unexpectedly reached out to touch her. His gaze sought and found hers. “I promised I would always take care of you,” he said, speaking in a low, intimate tone. “Just have faith that I will use them wisely.”
She closed her eyes as warmth spread though her veins. The caress of his strong hand against her cheek felt delicious on her needy skin. The heat in her inner core rose, bringing with it a need she fought to suppress. An erotic pulse of sheer bliss hummed through her. His touch rarely failed to entice her, and this time was no different. “I wish we could forget the whole terrible thing.”
As quickly as the moment began, it was over. Morgan’s hand abruptly fell away, leaving a cold spot in its wake. “You should leave. I have work to do.”
Their brief intimacy shattered, she reluctantly opened her eyes. Once again he’d turned his back on her. Ashes from his cigarette fell in his wake as he walked away, but he didn’t notice nor care. Although the shift was subtle, the energy around him was beginning to change. The gears in his mind were shifting toward Machiavellian contemplations.
She stared in his wake, the silence between them again growing tense and awkward. The fact he’d at least tried to soothe her, if only for a few minutes, spoke volumes. A strange, aching hollowness spread through her. He’d opened his emotional door a crack, only to slam it shut in her face again. “Anything I can do to help?”
His mask of indifference back in place, he stared at her through an unreadable expression. “Go away, Julienne.” Taking a final drag on his cigarette, he flicked the remainder of the butt in the direction of the hearth. Usually he missed. This time his aim was dead on. Hungry flames devoured the remains of the tobacco.
Julienne swallowed back a fresh rise of panic. Anxiety wrapped icy tentacles around her heart, but she refused to budge. “No,” she said, inwardly forcing strength into her trembling limbs. Whatever he planned to do, he wasn’t going through with it unsupervised. On his own, Morgan had a tendency to make dicey choices that weren’t exactly beneficial to his health.
“Fine.” Without glancing down, he unbuttoned one of his cuffs, rolling up his sleeve to three-quarter length and revealing several long scars marring his inner wrist. “But I am warning you now, what you will see will not be pleasant.”
Rise of the Beast
Keepers of Eternity Book 4
Julienne Blackthorne is bonded to Morgan by blood, but the emotional and erotic ties that bind them are fraying as his lost humanity sends him spiraling downward to the furthest extremes of darkness and depravity. As Julienne struggles to save the man she loves from utter and eternal ruin, she must delve into her own dark powers at the risk of forsaking her sanity.
As Morgan and Julienne steel themselves to do battle with his greatest inner demons and those who would deny him his legacy, they must confront the very real threat that his fragmented psyche will lead him to the edge of self-destruction—and the destruction of all they hold dear, both in this world and in their hearts.
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The hunt for Xavier D’Shagre’s demon had gone dreadfully wrong. The damages inflicted were bad. The exposure, even worse. He was well aware the peace enveloping Blackthorne would not last much longer. Unless he took drastic action, the place he called sanctuary would soon be swarming with the law. A fugitive from human justice, he could not bribe or murder his way out of this bit of trouble.
As always, witchcraft offered an easy solution. The brief blink of an eye, between dusk and dawn were the most optimal hours to rewrite timelines, erasing the truth and implanting a lie. Whether his strategy would work or not remained to be tested. Some of his brighter ideas had a tendency to backfire in the most spectacular fashion.
Passing through the empty foyer and into the library, he headed for his den. By now, Julienne’s weight was a burden, but he could not leave her unconscious and exposed. He had to take her with him.
Fourteen steps exactly brought him to the wall that harbored an entrance leading to a secret set of chambers beneath the manor. The door slid aside as he approached, bringing a gust of icy air into the den. Candles burning on the table behind him wavered, throwing wild shadows onto the walls.
Without hesitation, he plunged into the tunnel, a flurry of concerns teeming in his mind. As he passed under the threshold guarding the underground refuge, he knew exactly what to do— and how to make it happen. It wasn’t the most desirable choice, but at this point he didn’t really have one. The consequences might be costly, but he was ready to pay the price.
Below the ground lay the original cellars. Block after block of carefully hewn fieldstones were arranged in a precise layout that would create the purest lines and clearest harmony for the casting of spells. Rectangular, the spacious dwelling was arranged in a deceptively simple layout. The furthest wall held a series of niches. Inside were the grimoires he’d guarded through the ages.
Directly to the right of and left of him, were two deep, wide hearths. These walls also harbored deep recesses crammed with the implements necessary for ritual witchcraft. Though the hearths had long ago gone cold, ever-burning candles propped in scones provided adequate illumination.
At the fourth wall stood a solid block of rough grey stone. Cold and inert, the porous stone was darkly stained, a splattering from the blood he’d spilled in sacrifice to bring his vision of his earth-side sanctuary to successful fruition. Over four centuries had passed since his resettlement in the mortal world, an exile from Sclyd. Even though he had come and gone through the ages, Blackthorne had always offered safety and protection from the outside world.
Crossing to the altar, he placed Julienne atop it. A soft moan emanated from her lips, but she didn’t open her eyes.
Morgan paused, brushing his palm across her brow, soothing her uneasy rest. “You are safe here,” he murmured. “I will not let anything hurt you now.”
Drawing a quick breath, he stepped back and cast a quick glance around the shadowy chamber. He had neither the concentration, nor the energy, to set things right on his own. He’d have to call in some help.
Slipping out of his long duster, he tossed it aside and rolled up his sleeves. He didn’t need much for a summoning. Just a piece of charcoal, a little blood and a willingness to make a deal.
Digging through the cold ashes for a piece of charred wood, he bypassed the altar and knelt on the stone floor. With quick, precise movements, he drew a pentagram, circling it inside and out with the symbols that would enclose the entity he intended to summon. Unbroken, the three circles were an emblem of protection, perfection, and infinity.
When the conjurer’s circle was completed to his satisfaction, he reached for the blade sheathed at his side, and cut a slice in his right palm. Tipping his hand so that his blood would drip in the exact center, he began the litany of a summoning. “Ego voco audite, meus dico thee Djinn.”
Before the final words left his lips, the small crimson pool morphed into animation, taking on a strange otherworldly radiance. A series of smokeless flames set to forming, growing higher and brighter with each passing moment. No heat emanated from the blaze.
Throwing up a hand to shade his eyes from the brilliant radiance, Morgan backed away from the writhing mass. Peering between parted fingers he caught sight of an undulating figure gliding through the inferno. As quickly as it had appeared, the fire winked out.
The woman standing in the conjurer’s circle was naked, but she was by no means unadorned. From the top of her head to the tip of her toes, her pale skin was tattooed; shades of blue, black, red, green and yellow all came together to form an elaborate design that only enhanced her exotic features. A fall of metallic purple hair cascaded over her shoulders, spilling a swirl of tresses down her back. Amber irises glowed with the intensity of the sun. Standing close to six feet tall, she was a brilliant beauty to behold.
Lowering his hand, Morgan eyed the familiar figure. “Yadira.”
Hearing her name, the woman inside the conjurer’s circle raised her eyes. At first her face was blank. It took a minute for recognition to spread across her features. “How dare you call upon me, you son of a three-legged hound.”
Morgan winced. Judging by the depth of her frown, he was still on her shit list. She probably had a few curses to throw his way, but revisiting the past would have to wait. “Can you hate me later?”
The Djinn’s stare, unblinking and direct, burned through him. “You are a sight for these eyes, and not a good one.”
Running a hand across one bloodstained cheek, he glanced down. His clothes were a mess—he’d taken a scrape of claws across the abdomen. A few inches deeper and Xavier’s demon would have succeeded in disemboweling him.
No time to beat around the bush. “I need help.”
A smirk immediately turned up her crimson lips. “You must be at the end of your tether to call me.”
He nodded. The Djinn were a predatory species, and humans were their natural prey; they had a touch that allowed them to implant reality-altering hallucinations in the minds of their victims. “More than you know. I need to erase a few mistakes in the mortal realm.”
Intrigue lit her gaze. “And that is something a Djinn is expert at.”
Yadira impaled him with a frown. “You have a lot of nerve summoning me out of nowhere. It’s been almost thirty years since we last spoke.”
He spread his hands. “I got caught up in other things.” That was no lie.
She planted her hands on her slender hips. “I shouldn’t even be speaking to you, especially since you left me in limbo when you walked away from the Triad. We were a damn good team, and you simply vanished without a word.”
Morgan cut her off. He wasn’t in the mood to try and sweet talk her. “I have no time to explain except to say I am back as an Enforcer, and I am in trouble.”
“Because some humans saw you?” Flagging a hand, she rolled her eyes. “The same old shit I’ve pulled you out of a thousand times before.”
That wasn’t fair at all. “It was always the exception, and not the rule,” he said in his own defense. “But you always did cover my ass when I needed it.”
Yadira’s tawny gaze sparked. “I always coveted your ass, too.”
Morgan drew a breath, forcing himself to calm. Djinn were notoriously sexual creatures. Insatiable. She’d damn near sucked him dry in past times. “Do not get ahead of yourself. I need your expertise—and I am willing to bargain.”
Yadira folded her arms. “Is that so?” Although some would associate them with genies, the Djinn were not the sort to grant wishes. They were deceivers and could twist a person’s darkest desires around in ways that would often seem pleasurable, but were not. If they were so inclined, they would swap a favor. But they didn’t work for free.
He didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”
A wily look sidled across her face. “I’ll do whatever you ask. You know that.” Poking out one bare foot, she toed the charcoal lines etched into the stone floor. “But you have to let me out of here.”
He graced her with a chary look. “What will it cost?”
Yadira looked around, catching sight of the altar, and its occupant. “I see you came prepared to pay.”
Morgan navigated around the circle, cutting off her view of Julienne. “She is not part of our bargain.”
The Djinn frowned. “Too bad. She looks—” She licked her lips. “Tasty.”
“You are not to touch her.” He lifted a single finger in warning. “I mean it.”
Yadira eyed him. “Somehow I don’t think you’re in any position to be making any threats.” Her gaze narrowed with devious intent. “You wouldn’t have beckoned me unless your back was against the wall.”
Patience thinning, Morgan forced himself to remain calm. The Djinn loved to toy with their victims, wearing them down the way a cat would a mouse. “I will offer myself.”
“That’s even better.” Grinning, Yadira briefly cupped her full breasts before gliding her palms down the smooth plane of her belly, toward her hairless mound. “I’m willing to take it out in trade.”
Morgan couldn’t help but look over every inch of her luscious body. Djinn women were wonderfully enticing. Yadira was no exception. Her breasts were small but pert, her belly as flat and hard as iron, and her rear had just enough meat to give a man something to grab on to. Taking a Djinn was a pleasure to be savored, and he’d indulged his carnal appetites more than a single time with her.
Mouth going bone dry, he reluctantly shook his head. “No sex.” Just saying the words delivered a kick to his libido.
Yadira sniffed with disgust. “What’s the matter? Celeste still yanking your leash?”
He winced. That was low. “Right now, my concentration and my energy are shot all to hell. You would be disappointed, to say the least.”
A hint of irony twisted her mouth. “Something must really be wrong if you’re turning down sex.”
His patience thinned, and then snapped. “Ask anything else of me and I will give it. Willingly.”
Yadira eyed him. “You’re serious?”
“I am desperate.” Each precious second that ticked away brought him one step closer to disaster. He needed an answer, and he needed it now. Otherwise he would send her away and fall back on plan B. He’d burn Blackthorne down and disappear until time passed and memories faded. He’d done it, twice before. Hardly the most desirable option, it would be better than being exposed as an entity in the human would.
Yadira stuck out her bottom lip in a pout. “I want something you never use.” She pretended to think. “How about, hmm, your humanity.”
Morgan’s brows rose. “My what?”
“Your humanity.” She offered a grin through clenched teeth. “You know, those emotions you always said you have no use for. Give me that piece of your soul, and I’ll grant anything you want.”
He didn’t hesitate. “All right.”
Having published through traditional channels, Devyn got fed up with the antiquated New York system & decided to head into indy publishing with Beyond the Page. Beginning in 2017, she will be releasing new work. She is also planning to reissue her former NY titles with fresh material & smoking hot cover art. More exciting is the forthcoming "Ocean Deep" mermaid series, which will tell more tales of the Mer. The Kith & Kynn, Eternity, and Wildcat series' will also be continued with new books.
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A: I run a ferret rescue and currently have almost 40 ferrets.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
A: Nothing really interesting happens in my life. You can set your clock ny my schedule. It rarely changes.
What are some of your pet peeves?
A: Large crowds of people.
Where were you born/grew up at?
A: I grew up in the high plains desert of Texas. A whole lot of nothing going nowhere.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
A: Riding my Ninja.
Who is your hero and why?
A: Heroes don’t exist. And if they did, I wouldn’t be one of them (Sherlock)
What kind of world ruler would you be?
A: A dark, vengeful god.
What are you passionate about these days?
A: Animal rights. We must defend those who can’t defend themselves.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
A: I ride one of my motorcycles, preferably a fast one.
How to find time to write as a parent?
A: I am not a parent, so don’t have that issue.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
A: Grumpy, old, cranky, creative, Grinch.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
A: I started thinking that I would grow up and be a writer around age 7 or 8. Unfortunately it took me many years to be able to sit down and achieve that goal.
Do you have a favorite movie?
A: Ordinary People
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
A: The Eternity series would make a wonderful mini-series!
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
A: Not a single one.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A: Grumpy Cat
What inspired you to write this book?
A: The Eternity series was inspired when my favorite soap opera character died. I wanted to find a way to resurrect his character. Suddenly I had an idea for a whole Southern Gothic type saga.
What can we expect from you in the future?
A: Many, many books. I have recently begun writing after a 5 year hiatus to care for a dying relative, so I have a lot to catch up on.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in the Eternity Series?
A: The main character in the Eternity books is Morgan Saint-Evanston. On the outside he appears to be a cranky bi-polar alcoholic with nothing better do to than chase women and spend money. However, he hides a secret, as an immortal in exile. He’s also much, much more powerful than he appears to be, even though he denies it.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
A: Once Morgan appeared in my mind, he kind of wrote his own story. The one thing I like to focus on is that my characters have real world issues: mental illness, bad decision making, etc…that I believe allows reader to root for them when they are down and cheer when they overcome adversity.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
A: I have no idea. They just show up.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
A: The Eternity books are blood, sweat and tears for me. Every time I walk away from the series, it pulls me back. It has been off-again, on again for almost 30 years.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
A: Morgan is a 1200 year old Irish assassin, and direct descendant of the goddess Cerredwen. He is also a demi-god, though he skirts around the responsibilities of such and refuses to accept his full power. He doesn’t believe he was rightly chosen to carry the legacy and that is should have gone to his twin sister, Megwyn. Morgan does everything he can to dodge the knowledge that he can’t hide from the power growing inside him, and that one day he will have to face it—even though it will probably destroy him in the end.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
A: I actually stole the title from a song lyric from a Vertical Horizon song. After that, the theme for the rest of the books came naturally.
Who designed your book covers?
A: The model for Morgan Saint-Evnaston is actor/model Dmitry Korikov. His look was designed by VM Hawthorne, who added his crazy hair. I have to admit, she nailed the look of how I envision perfectly.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
A: No! I love it!
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
A: That every time I think there isn’t enough plot to fill the pages, I end up with too much plot and have to start another book.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
A: Tom Hiddleston is Morgan Saint-Evanston
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
A: You really need to catch up, for book 5 is coming!
How did you come up with name of this book?
A: Rise of the Beast begins Morgan’s transformation from immortal into a full fledged god. It isn’t going to be pretty, or easy.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
A: The Djinn Yadira and her accidental release of Morgan’s true identity.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
A: I’d spend the day with Yadira. Being a Djinn handing in opium dens seducing humans while meddling with the minds would be great fun!
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
A: They are all imagination.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
A: My characters always take over. My mind is their stage and they have control.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
A: Because not only do you have a crazy-sauce Irish assassin and his oft-gone-wrong witchcraft, you have his vampire girlfriend, his witchy ex-wife, the cop turned Berserker, and a naked purple Djinn with a love of spanking!
Have you written any other books that are not published?
A: Yes, the second book in my Vampire Armageddon series for NAL. The contract negotiations over money fell apart, and I withdrew the book and had the contract cancelled.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
A: Sandalwood and cinnamon.
What did you edit out of this book?
A: Not a damn thing!
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
A: I have been so busy with life and work that I rarely get a chance to read anymore. When I do read, it is always biography or non-fiction. I rarely read fiction because I write it.
What book do you think everyone should read?
A: Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes
How long have you been writing?
A; Off and on for almost 30 years.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
A: Many come as I write, and a series develops.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
I am all over the internet making sure the details are as correct as I can make them, even though I might be creating a fictional world.
Do you see writing as a career?
A: Yes, I do. It was a career that paid my bills until a family member became ill with cancer. A long illness drains your creative juices, and I left the business to deal with the process of seeing a person die. Now that a few years have passed, I find my creativity returning and I can think about writing new books. I would love to sell to New York again and make a living.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
A: It’s changing, and what is hot in a genre one day might be dead tomorrow. I do get tired of the glut of same/same titles that seem identical.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
A: I love biography!
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
A: Depends on where I am at. I usually have silence, though sometimes I need music to capture a certain emotion for a scene, so I will pop on something from my playlists and hit repeat.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
A: I usually have several proposals going at a time, but once I decide which one needs development, that is the one I will work on until it is done.
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
A: Something iconic, like to Kill a Mockingbird or In Cold Blood.
Pen or type writer or computer?
A: I actually use all 3. I takes notes with pen and paper, then I might jot on my iPad and then put it all in the computer when I am ready to compile it into coherence.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
A: I love, love Carl Kolchack from the Night Stalker series of books by Jeff Rice.
What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?
A: I wanted to write since I was a kid and learned to read. Was it the right decision? I am not sure. There have been so many highs—and lows—that it can make a writer insane. I have learned to balance things a little better, though, and realize that I might never have that massive bestseller. It doesn’t mean what I write is any less valuable, though.
A day in the life of the author?
A: Same old thing, every day. Work, family, sneaking in some time to write if possible.
Advice they would give new authors?
A: Don’t quit your day job.
Describe your writing style.
A: Quirky, a bit on the long side.
What makes a good story?
A: A beginning, a middle and an end.
What is your writing process? For instance, do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
A: First, a notion. Then notes, then maybe a brief chapter. Once I have an idea of that, I will do and outline from beginning to end to see what works, and what does not.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
A: Describing every little detail. Leave some things that are common, like chairs and curtains and clothing vague and let readers image it.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
A: My depression and bad reviews.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
A: I tried being original and sold almost no books. Then I decided to write to formula, and sold books. So, I guess you could say I give readers what they expect.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
A: Study harder
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
A: Making sure the POV and actions are consistent with the sex of the character. For instance, a man will not think in flowery terms the way a female world.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
A: 3 months for a full-length novel, if I can write consistently. Otherwise, it has taken me as long as 3-4 years to do a book.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
A: Yes. I suffer it badly, and often.
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