The Universe Chronicles Book 1
by Claire Davon
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Maya Wingfield was raised to trust no one—least of all the dueling U.S. and Russian paranormal agencies, Universe and Night Stars, who’d love to harness her mind-reading gift.
She thought Richmond a safe place to escape their influence and hide from a rising psychic malevolence that drove her out of San Diego. But when she gets yet another call to retrieve her drunken roommate, her mind shows her an amber-eyed Universe operative with an impenetrable net around his deepest secret—and a voice that sends shock waves of awareness down her nerve endings.
Maya’s curves and aquamarine eyes aren’t the only things that jolt Ian Sanderson’s mental shields, bringing sexual tension thrumming back to life. It’s a power his Universe-trained mind knows he shouldn’t trust. And a vulnerability that makes his telekinetic power burn in his palms to protect her.
But to Universe, she is just one of too many unanswered questions. A target for Whisper, a shadowy new group of paranormals with powers beyond anything Universe has ever seen. Once before, Ian failed to protect a sensitive from a brain-scrambling attack. He will not fail again . . . even if it means using his talent—or his body—to stop a bullet.
Maya felt a gathering of minds, but one in particular pulsed across her mental landscape. She’d felt that mind before in the chaos of San Diego. Then, as now, it had a seductive quality, coupled with raw energy. Its power was every bit as strong now as it was then. She wanted to turn and run, but her roommate was weaving on unsteady feet to the back of the warehouse where three men were standing in a loose semi-circle. Their minds had an expectant air. Maya focused on the men. The aura of the man in the middle glowed with a white-hot light that screamed of danger. It was the same mind signature from San Diego. The duo faded into the background compared to this man. She wanted to turn and run but found herself moving toward the men in Bobbie’s wake.
“I brought her,” Bobbie said, half slurring and stumbling forward. Maya blinked as calm settled over her, stilling her movements and bringing her to a stop.
“You did well,” the startlingly handsome man in the middle said. Maya picked up the name in her mind. Oriel. It was all going to be okay. There was nothing to worry about. She could trust this man. The soothing murmur flowed over Maya, and she relaxed into it, taking one more step forward. Bobbie lurched to a halt in front of Oriel and turned her gaze toward the man to his right, who clamped a hand on her arm and drew her back.
“Come closer,mishka.There is nothing to fear.” Of course there wasn’t. Maya raised her arms and turned her hands, palms toward the ceiling. She wanted to touch him. The man nodded in response, acknowledging her reaction as his due. Of course it was. He was Oriel, after all. Even though she didn’t know him, she did know him. He was nobody to fear.
“Randy, please take Bobbie over there. We should not be disturbed.” One of the men, a balding man of average height, showed Bobbie to the back of the warehouse. The third man stayed where he was, arms folded. Security or hired muscle, more than likely. Maya tried to read his mind and got images of guns and snarling dogs, of plunging through underbrush and gun battles. He was military of some sort. It didn’t matter. She focused on Oriel again. He was what counted. She couldn’t read his mind. He was like a piece of plastic. Every effort she made just slid off. All she got was that he was trustworthy. A distant part of her knew this wasn’t normal, but as soon as the thought flowed into her head it was gone again. His presence was as radiant as the sun. She wanted to bask in his glowing bright, royal-blue aura. She almost wanted to shield her eyes against him but instead moved toward him, her strides quickening as she got closer. The door banged open behind her, echoing loud in the cavernous room.
“She’s on the move. Hurry, Brit.” Ian raced toward the door and yanked it open without touching it. His hands glowed in the centers, his talent surging to the forefront. Ian focused, keeping his telekinetic power at the ready. Ian had only seen the dangerous Russian operative Oriel in surveillance video until now. Oriel was at the back of the warehouse, facing the door. Maya was about five feet from him, an expression of adoration on her face. It matched Bobbie’s face as well as the Night Stars operative Ian knew as Randy. Damn it.They’d been warned that Oriel was a new breed of talent called a dazzler, but he hadn’t yet made any moves on their people in Richmond. Now Ian realized that was because he was waiting for the right time. This, apparently, was that time. The right time and the right woman. Maya was moving toward Oriel, her steps plodding.
“Maya, stop,” he said, his voice a combination of fear and anger. To his relief, the sensitive paused. Maya tensed, her body wound tight on invisible strings. Bloody hell, he wished he were a sensitive at that moment. He needed to know what she was thinking and if he should get her out or take her down. He should have dealt with this back at the motel.Bollocks.
“I must go to him,” she said. Her tone suggested the words made sense.
“No, you do not,” he cried. The expression Maya turned on him was devoid of emotion. Then he saw a flicker, and her mouth twitched. Her face twisted with some internal struggle. Good. Perhaps she had the strength to fight the effects of Oriel’s dazzling. Bobbie was off to one side, with Randy behind her, holding her shoulder. Ian raised his voice and aimed it at Randy. “Still being Oriel’s dogsbody, are you?” Oriel’s chuckle rolled through the warehouse, the sound echoing off the aluminum walls and ceiling. There was something hypnotic in the laugh, and he felt an urge to let go of his concern and join the man. Oriel pierced Ian with his amber eyes and waggled a finger at him. The urge to move forward surged through Ian.
“Zared, I could use a little help,” he said into his watch. All at once there was a clap of thunder, a streak of lightning, and loud thumps on the metal roof. Hail. It was one of Zared’s specialties. Zared had remained outside, where Oriel’s dazzling couldn’t reach him. Ian wasn’t sure how long he could hold out. It had been a mistake to do this without more backup. He assessed the large room in a quick sweep and smiled. This place, which appeared to be an empty storage facility, had weapons. Focusing on a hammer, Ian shifted it slightly. Maya’s eyes went to Bobbie, and a crease formed across the ridge of her brow bone. She shook her head, Oriel’s dazzle apparently fading when the hail struck the roof.
Tracking Shadows The Universe Chronicles Book 2
Since the day Jiana Falco was forced to join the paranormal agency Night Stars, she’s been planning her escape. She uses her bodyguard’s split-second of distraction to vanish into the shadows, and burns the last bridge by saving Quillan Hardis.
But now, locked in Quillan’s muscular arms, pinned by his calculating amber gaze, his invisibility talent shielding them both, she’s in even deeper trouble. If that’s possible.
Quillan didn’t get to Universe Corps’ highest echelons by being a fool. The rare shadow manipulator in his grip is too easy a prize to be anything but a setup. A pretty lure he should send back to Night Stars. Instead, he holds on—and in changing her fate, he seals his own.
Under a secret order to unlock her untapped power—by any means necessary—Quillan takes Jiana on the run with only a precog’s vague direction, and a spark of desire that blooms into something warm and genuine. But her fear of being clawed back into Night Stars’ control could drive Jiana so deep into the shadows nothing will get her out. Not even the light of Quillan’s love.
But her fear of Night Stars could drives Jiana so deep into the shadows nothing can lead her out. Not even the light of Quillan’s love.
Quillan carried his dark mood through the rest of their time until dinner and glowered at the waiter when he was slow to seat them at the fancy dining hall within the resort. Even the sight of Jiana in a cool tropical dress of vibrant colors that gathered at her neck and fell across her body in sweeps of cloth did little to halt his oppressive mood.
Even as he escorted Jiana to her table, admiring her high breasts in the halter dress with its flowing lines, he scowled. Ren had no right to dictate where Jiana should go. Ren was just another cog in Universe’s wheel. He wasn’t any more important than Quillan.
Except they all agreed that Jiana needed more training. She was unschooled in her powers and that could be dangerous. She could use the shadows and run into a . . . rock . . . or something where she would be trapped or killed. The thought of her dead was one Quillan could not contemplate.
“You’re quiet,” she said.
He turned his attention to Jiana. Her tongue moved over her teeth inside her closed mouth in a nervous habit. He’d been focused on Universe taking the woman away from him when she was right there. She wasn’t gone yet. He needed to shut his brain down and enjoy her.
“Just thinking about what happens next,” he said. “If the others don’t already know where we went it won’t take them long to track us down. We have forty-eight hours at best. Danger is coming and we have to be prepared for it.” Then he forced a grin he didn’t feel and was gratified to see whatever she was doing with the inside of her mouth stop and her lips parted. “It’s not here yet.”
“So little time?” she asked with a groan. “Why can’t Universe buy us more? They’re the government agency and all.”
“They have their limitations, just like anything else. I’m being an ass. Let’s get some wine. What would you like?”
They ordered a white wine to go with the fish dishes the jovial waiter recommended before Quillan turned his attention back to Jiana. She was so beautiful, this shadow manipulator he had the fortune to know. He should enjoy his time with her. He was leading her into a trap. They both knew Whisper was coming. The question was when.
He focused on Jiana, her lips distracting him. His cock twitched at the flow of her curves under the dress. He wanted to cup her breasts in his hands and stroke her nipples to glorious life, and then taste them with his tongue until she was moaning under his mouth. He could almost feel her hands on his cock, stroking him. It would be delicious to do it here, at this restaurant, with tourists flowing around them and waiters speaking a combination of English and something called Bahamianese, which was English and Creole, a unique mixture found in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. He heard phrases like “Een nothing” and “what da wybe is” mixed in with the English spoken in the waiter’s tongue.
They wouldn’t be here long enough to get killed, he hoped. That slowed his wayward cock down, but just a little. Survival was the most primary instinct there was. Considering Jiana, he had a flash of her belly round with his babies, a pleasing curve that added to her appeal. He pictured them together, making a family—and memories. It was foolish.
“After dinner do you want to take in the nightclub next door?”
Jiana cocked her head at Quillan and raised an eyebrow. “Dancing, Quillan Hardis? You? I can’t picture it.”
He leaned in, enjoying the banter, and wishing this moment could stay forever.
“I’ll have you know that once upon a time I was a very good dancer.” He left out that he hadn’t done that since his university days. Once he had gotten recruited by Universe and begun working on his long-range tracker skills and his invisibility, he had forgotten about his other, more mundane, talents. The kinds that most people appreciated, like singing and dancing. Since the day he had joined Universe he had aspired to be the best. There was little time for outside activities. Now he wondered why he had let the pleasures in life go. Whatever the reason, this lovely woman, this shadow manipulator who had such a bright future ahead of her, showed him what he had been missing.
And he had to let her go. But not tonight.
She blotted her lips with her napkin, not disturbing the delightful coral lipstick she’d applied, a color that matched the colors in the dress. He longed to smear that lipstick, or see it all over his cock. Quillan shifted as his erection swelled.
“I’d like to see that,” Jiana responded with a tilt of her head and a knowing grin that left him aching.
“Then we will go dancing.”
Claire can’t remember a time when writing wasn’t part of her life. Growing up, she used to write stories with her friends. As a teenager she started out reading fantasy and science fiction, but her diet quickly changed to romance and happily-ever-after’s. A native of Massachusetts and cold weather, she left all that behind to move to the sun and fun of California, but has always lived no more than twenty miles from the ocean.
In college she studied acting with a minor in creative writing. In hindsight she should have flipped course studies. Before she was published, she sold books on eBay and discovered some of her favorite authors by sampling the goods, which was the perfect solution. Claire has many book-irons in the fire, most notably her urban fantasy series, The Elementals’ Challenge series, but writes contemporary and shifter romances as well as.
While she’s not a movie mogul or actor, she does work in the film industry with her office firmly situated in the 90210 district of Hollywood. Prone to break out into song, she is quick on feet and just as quick with snappy dialogue. In addition to writing she does animal rescue, reads, and goes to movies. She loves to hear from fans, so feel free to drop her a line.
What inspired you to write this book?
Well…once I realized that Shifting Auras was but the first in a series I had to write the others. I still don’t have the ending written, and I’m up to four books so far, but I’m getting there! This book in particular I had to write Quillan’s story. He needed his own book.
What can we expect from you in the future?
For the remainder of 2019, after Tracking Shadows comes out I am also going to be self-publishing The Mormo’s Protection, the book that was in my successful box set USA Today Bestselling run.
Then I am going to release A Whisker of Fire, which is an Elementals story set around the events of Fire Danger, but without Phoenix or Rachel in it. It was originally serialized in my newsletter but is now fully edited and ready for its close-up.
I am also working on edits for Earth Tremors, the fourth in the Elementals series, but don’t have an ETA for that yet.
I am included in a box set that is releasing in November and am currently working on a YA novella for that set. He’s a dragon shifter, she’s a dryad trapped by her family…it is great fun so far.
In addition, I wrote a book for a box set that fell apart and am contemplating when to release that. It has been edited and I have a blurb for it. I am thinking tentatively of releasing it in December, but that is TBA.
On the short story front I have a story in Fantasia Divinity’s Summer Splash anthology, which will be released in September. I also have several drabbles in their upcoming Winds of Despair anthology, also scheduled for September, and a story in their Cards of Fire anthology, but I don’t know the release date on that one.
I also have a story in Midnight in the Witch’s Kitchen, through Alban Lake Publishing, and I think that’s an October release.
As you can see, lots to look forward to! I expect 2020 will be more of the same! It will definitely include the third Universe Chronicles story, the final Elementals book (hopefully), the current serialized story in my newsletter, and likely two or three others in the hopper. No rest for Claire!
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Not that I write down necessarily but I do have an idea about who they are and where they came from. Sometimes that turns into new books altogether. Or new stories. For instance, there is a mention of Bahamut, an Arabic folkloric sea monster/whale that is supposed to hold up the world. It is a minor character, but important. I have written some short stories, mostly for myself, although I have sent them out for consideration, around Bahamut.
In other words, each character does live and breathe on its own, even if we never find out any more about them. I do have fun when I go down those roads. I am serializing an entire book in my newsletter that takes place at the same time as each one of the Elemental books, utilizing other characters/character groups. It has been very fun to retell the events around each Elementals book from a humbler character’s point of view.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Tracking Shadows?
Quillan is the head of the Richmond branch of Universe, the governmental paranormal agency first introduced in Shifting Auras. Quillan can turn invisible and is also a good long-range tracker. He is a bit formal and very focused on doing a good job. He has little time in his life for romance...until he meets Jiana Falco and all his good intentions go out the window.
Jiana is a shadow manipulator who works for Night Stars, the rival paranormal agency run by the Russians. However, she wants to defect. She is twenty-five, which we find out in the series is a key age for new talents. When she rescues Quillan from shadows only she can see, she sets into motion their inevitable clash with Night Stars. What she doesn’t know is that there is more than Universe and Night Stars at work. What she also doesn’t realize is that she is going to be attracted to the darkly handsome head of the local Universe group, more than she’s ever been attracted to anyone in her life.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins of the story?
Hijack hijack hijack! It’s part of the reason I don’t/can’t outline. (I do outline after the fact, via the synopsis, which helps me with the weak parts/saggy areas of the story) The characters take over and lead the story down unexpected paths. I just had some characters go through a portal to meet her unknown father…I had no idea that was going to happen until it did. Surprise! Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Heck yeah! When I went back to writing several years ago I had probably ten first drafts of contemporary romances (one SF/erotic) that I had written and abandoned. When I went back to writing I put two of those out and the rest are as yet unpublished. I am working on one of those to see about getting a publisher. If that moves forward, there are three others in that loosely linked world (connected characters) that would need to be polished and put out.
In addition, since I went back to writing my writing output far exceeds my ability to edit the work. I’ve probably got another eight or so that I have written that need tending but I just haven’t gotten to. I’m always writing always editing, it’s just a matter of priority and what I need to focus on in that time frame. I intend to get to all of them as I can, but there are only so many hours in a day.
What did you edit out of this book?
It’s more like what I changed about it. In the original draft the entire ending wasn’t as strong—Jiana wasn’t as strong. I added those elements because she needed to be more powerful than she was (that’s what she told me anyway).
I took out a whole character who was also a shadow manipulator and made his character into Ren, the water power at the end. Originally they were going to go to see that shadow manipulator in Miami and he got attacked and that was what propelled them down…but I realized that didn’t work. So that poor shadow manipulator in Miami never got to be part of the story. I will have to make sure to add Simon in when I tackle edits for the story set in Miami (book #4 at the moment). I also changed Ren’s character quite a bit—he’s still a bit of a jerk but he was a mega jerk in the first draft.
Is there an writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Joe Hill. Not only is he a brilliant writer he is the son of Stephen King. I can only imagine what sort of amazing stories he has to tell.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
Since this is a sequel I already had the hero. Quillan, Ian’s boss and somewhat antagonistic frenemy was a natural to be the hero in the second book.
I wanted our rival agency, Night Stars, to take more of a role in this book and so wanted the heroine to somehow be associated with that agency. I struck on the idea of her being an unwilling participant and turning to Quillan for help—while also saving his life. The concept of twenty-five year olds having something special was one of the through lines I had to keep going, and the idea that our heroine Jiana still has power lurking inside her was just too delicious to overlook.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
Quillan…that just sort of came to me. I try to go for unusual names but not so off the beaten path that people can’t pronounce it. I had to work his backstory a bit around it since he’s Spanish but Quillan is not a Spanish name. In any event, I love the name.
Jiana I struggled a bit more with. I wanted something again a bit unusual and went with Jiana. Of course that meant that I had to change a character name that I’d already established in book one since her name originally was Jia (now Yin). I wanted something that fit her Italian heritage while still being unique.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
It is so much fun to explore all the different talents. I have several sites bookmarked to come up with ideas and there are dozens and dozens to choose from. It’s very easy to go down the rabbit hole of “hey, check out this talent,” or “ooh, they can walk through walls?” It makes me wonder what I would want if I could have any superpower.
I always enjoy researching the places I send my characters to. In this case I enjoyed being a passenger on Quillan and Jiana’s headlong flight down the Florida Keys. My aunt Cindy lived in Key West for quite a few years and I always intended to visit (she moved recently) so this way I got to see the key without actually going. It will have to do, for the moment.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
Quillan believes in Universe and the structure of the organization. He is a leader and takes that job seriously—no half assing for him. He has no time for relationships and less time for fools. He likes to be trusted and relied on but also keeps himself aloof from others.
Jiana just wants to be allowed to be her own person. Under her uncle’s watchful eye, she is little more than a lackey for a group she doesn’t believe in. She wants to stretch her wings and discover who she is.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
Well…define first novel. I’m going to go with the first one I self-published, aka the first time I put myself out there.
The idea of the story was that he was a risk taker and she was most definitely not. She grows through the story and becomes a more realized person. At the same time Hunter, who was shut down emotionally, learns to love again.
Originally I simply called it “Hunter” because I didn’t know what to call it but the more I thought about it the more I wanted to focus on that theme. So the story became called “Sense of Adventure” and there is a call back to that toward the end of the book. You’d have to read it to see how!
Who designed your book covers?
For the Universe Chronicles series, it’s a gal named Ramona Lockwood, who Soul Mate Publishing hired. I love the couples she finds!
For my Elementals series and many of my other books it’s a designer named Kanaxa. She designed the cover for Fire Danger. When I first saw it it was so unexpected I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. It was evocative and symbolic and totally unique. Then I realized it was absolutely perfect. We have collaborated on many covers since then and each time her vision brings something to the cover I didn’t expect—in a good way.
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!