The Warlock King

“He was not only a warlock, he was a decidedly powerful warlock, a practiced and capable warlock, and a terribly smart warlock. If that wasn’t enough, he was the goddamned Warlock King. Warlocks were a dark breed. And Chloe was running from nothing short of the devil.” – The Warlock King by Heather Killough-Walden

This Valentine’s Day, look for book three in the Big Bad Wolf spinoff series, The Kings – the continuation of the story of the 13 Kings, their desperate search for their fated queens, and the indomitable enemies who will stop at nothing to find them first.

The Warlock King

Jason Alberich wears the crown of the sovereign of the warlocks, a dark breed that uses darker magic. He wears it well, skillfully wielding a power that would corrupt others. Yet he has paid the price for his control, bearing the scars of a time when his power had control over him. He is haunted by the regrets of a shady past and now lives each day and night with an isolated soul.

Chloe Septeran is an Akyri like no other. A member of a race that must depend upon warlocks for sustenance in exchange for servitude, Chloe runs from the dark magic users, choosing instead to live free of their hold. She has existed empty and “hungry,” but stubbornly free of the warlock’s dark embrace. However now, the fates have chosen to bring her running to a halt, as the 13 Kings each discover their queens – and the Warlock King discovers his.

A mighty power is awakening, wreaking havoc on the supernatural world. The 13 Kings, their queens, the werewolf nation, and the witch covens with their high leader, Lalura Chantelle, must band together and stand strong in the face of a dawning nightmare that threatens the very fabric of all they hold dear… and from which none may escape.

“Chloe knew the exact moment that she had taken him to his breaking point. The atmosphere in the room changed. A faint wind seemed to pick up out of nowhere. The fire in the hearth shifted into a host of black and blue flames that sparkled like magic dust and crackled like mad. She looked up to meet Jason’s gaze. One heartbeat, one tiny, single pulse between them told her everything. And it was all the time he gave her.” – The Warlock King, by Heather Killough-Walden

Coming Valentine’s Day, February 14th 2013

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A Big Bad World Valentine’s Day Story

“Wings in the Attic,” a Big Bad World Valentine’s Day story by Heather Killough-Walden

February 14th, 2013….

Lalura stopped in the open attic doorway, her small bent frame and surrounding dust motes outlined by the hall light behind her. She stood still for several long moments and gazed into the darkness. The stark blue of her eyes was hidden in shadow, just as were the remnants that waited in the corners and piles of the rickety shelter. It smelled of cedar and memories up here.

Cedar and dust and memories.

“Hmph.”

Lalura’s intelligent gaze narrowed on the darkness of the neglected room. It seemed a challenge, almost. There were whispers inside, from old friends and enemies; they pushed at one another for a chance at her ear. There were flashes of things she’d tried a thousand times to forget, like bits of torn movie reel flung before a projector light. There were old songs in there, and even now she could make out their faint notes, piano keys and violin strokes from long, long ago.

Lalura lifted her chin. She took a slow breath, filling her ancient lungs with both dust and courage before releasing her breath into the past once more. Then she spoke a harsh, magic word, and extended an arm.

An old-fashioned gas lantern appeared in her gnarled grip. Its yellow, flickering flame cast dancing shapes across the long floor boards in front of her. She stood there in the under-used doorway for several more long moments, and then took the first step past the threshold that she’d taken in seventy years.

At once, the atmosphere of the room changed. The dust lifted away, the darkness turned to light, and the past greeted her with the jubilance of an old friend. She moved through the attic, leaving behind her a trail of dancing couples and bridesmaids in a line and little girls learning to ride their bicycles. Winters, springs, summers and falls blossomed to life, froze to silence, and fell by the wayside with every one of the witch’s slow, steady steps.

She moved with resolution, her blue eyes trained on the end of the attic, where a man stood at the windows that looked out over a snow-covered world. She didn’t see him, though. She saw past him, she saw through him, her far-away gaze trained on yesteryears and bygones, her heart trapped in what might have been.

But he saw her. His handsome face was clean shaven, his tall form was draped in uniform, and in his hands he held the hat of an air force colonel. His blue eyes matched the blue of his station; he was tall and regal, and the very air about him spoke of good deeds done. He was a hero. He was her hero.

Once upon a time.

Lalura smiled now as she remembered.

You’re a fool, she’d told him. Such a romantic. A proposal on Valentine’s Day of all days. Only you would brave the crowds, Conrad. Only you.

Is that a yes?

She could hear the nervous tremor in his deep voice. She’d held her breath and tried not to giggle. It wasn’t like a witch of her growing stature to fall to giggling. But her heart had grown wings – wings like the ones on his chest.

“Yes,” she whispered now, echoing her response of long ago.

Beneath the dusty window with its cobwebs and peeling paint sat a music box. Lalura made her way to it as the echoes died down and the memories settled and the world became still once more.

He watched her in his ghostly silence as she stopped before it and reached for its latch with gnarled, weathered fingers. It slid back and away as if it had not been seven decades since she had opened it last. A spell kept it safe. Dusty, but safe.

“I love you, Lana,” he told her now, his long-dead voice reaching into the empty spaces of the attic to grace them with remnants of another time.

Lalura closed her eyes as if she’d heard him – this ghost of the man she’d once promised herself to.

A moment later, she opened her eyes once more, and then opened the box. She gazed down at the small collection on the single velvet pouch that sat within it. The music of the box began to play, its crisp, lilting notes filling the air with bitter sweet harmony.

On the pillow sat a pair of wedding rings, as shining and smooth as the day she’d slipped them inside. Neither of them had ever been worn.

Beside the empty rings rested a set of metal dog tags and a single sterling silver pin. Lalura picked up the pin with trembling fingers and gazed longingly, rememberingly, at the small propeller and set of angel-like wings. “I love you too, Conrad,” she whispered. Snow swirled and curled outside. The wind rustled the branches of a nearby tree and brushed the wind chimes hanging from the porch rafters. Somewhere, violins joined the music box notes, and a symphony soothed Lalura’s tired soul.

The handsome soldier looked on. He always had and always would.

Lalura, or Lana as her fiancé had once called her, closed her eyes and held the pin to her heart. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

 

Lalura Chantelle is the high witch of Heather Killough-Walden’s Big Bad Wolf spinoff series, The Kings. Look for book three in The Kings series: The Warlock King, coming for Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2013.

 

 

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It’s HERE

Death’s Angel is now available – and is currently in the top 10 in vampires on Amazon!! Read it and see why!!!

http://www.amazon.com/Deaths-Angel-Novel-Angels-ebook/dp/B00A3IV93G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356998057&sr=8-1&keywords=death%27s+angel

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Mayan Reality Check

Reality Check.

Please consider this. We ourselves have calendars that end. If five thousand years from now, someone found one of ours, they might be convinced that we felt the world would end on December 31st, (insert any year at all) because we have yearly calendars. Other cultures have five year calendars, twenty year calendars, and five hundred year calendars. They are meant to be cycled and used over, and of course there is NEVER any mention of an “end of the world.” Such a concept is pure hyped-up fantasy.

” ‘The Maya recorded time in a series of cycles, including 400-year chunks called baktuns. It’s these baktuns that have led to rumors of an end-of-the-world catastrophe on Dec. 21, 2012 — on that date, a cycle of 13 baktuns will be complete. But the idea that this means the end of the world is a misconception,’ Stuart said. ‘In fact, Maya experts have known for a long time that the calendar doesn’t end after the 13th baktun. It simply begins a new cycle. And the calendar encompasses much larger units than the baktun.’ ”

The Mayan calendar apparently actually continues for millions – billions – trillions (and larger numbers) of years. So long, in fact, that we would have a hard time envisioning this length of time.

Read this rather informing article for more information (so that if you knew nothing of the truth before and were running around mad as if the world really were going to end tomorrow – you can finally rest easy).

http://www.livescience.com/20218-apocalypse-oldest-mayan-calendar.html

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Teaser Tuesday – Death’s Angel

Azrael stood still in the men’s restroom of the portable guest- and bathhouse that had been erected outside of Slains Castle for his brother’s wedding. He was alone, and the air was filled with the hollow sound of foreboding. There was a storm brewing. It was a hurricane, hot and windy and destructive, and it was ripping through Azrael’s insides, begging to be released. He exhaled a shaky breath and pressed his forehead to the mirror in front of him, glancing up at his reflection as he did so.
Another human myth gone horribly awry. Vampires did indeed have reflections. It was the wraiths that didn’t. Azrael bared his teeth and laughed a cold, hard laugh at the thought. The most asinine things were going through his head at that moment. The thoughts were like fireflies on a pitch-black night, chaotic and useless and utterly distracting.
Sophie’s whispered thoughts echoed through his mind, taunting him. I would do anything. She’d been thinking about Juliette’s wings and wishing she could fly. If she’d had any idea how dangerously tempting her thoughts were . . . To say nothing of her reaction to the image he had so carelessly planted in her mind of the wedding ring sliding onto her finger. He hadn’t even meant to do it; he’d simply imagined it. However, he’d been in her head at the time, thoroughly rapt in all that she was, and she’d caught the impression clear as a bell.
Her heart had skipped, her cheeks had flushed, and her lips had actually grown fuller as blood rushed into them. Her eyes had become glassy and unfocused. Her breath had hitched. And Azrael lost a little of his sanity then and there at his brother’s wedding.
He’d never felt like this before. Not in his two thousand years on Earth—nor in the thousands upon thousands of years before that in the realm of angels. Never had he lost focus in this manner. He felt like he had the flu. But vampires didn’t get the flu. Archangels didn’t get the flu. The Angel of Death most certainly did not get the flu.
Azrael swore under his breath—and the mirror in front of him cracked beneath his palm, slicing into the skin of his hand. He blinked and slowly pulled away, straightening as he turned his hand over and gazed down at the welling red line across his palm. Even as he watched, it began to heal.
Azrael looked back up at the mirror and glared at the evidence of his rage. Lightning had indeed carved itself across the glass, a reflection of the storm that raged within him and was now breaking free. Get control, he told himself sternly. He was the most powerful vampire on Earth. If he couldn’t control his emotions, they would leak out in an incredibly destructive manner. Broken mirrors would be only the beginning.
He needed to think. He needed to plan. But Sophie Bryce was two hundred yards away, a walking, talking piece of the sun, and Azrael was losing it.
The lights in the men’s restroom began to flicker, and the shadows in the corners grew longer. The temperature in the room seemed to drop. Thunder rolled in the distance. Again Azrael swore. He was fighting a losing battle. The image in the broken mirror reflected a tall, broad-shouldered man draped in stygian black, his sable hair framing a strikingly handsome face that was entirely too pale. Eyes that were entirely too bright.
And fangs that were entirely too long.
With a great amount of effort, Azrael forced his fangs to recede. He couldn’t get rid of them completely; his incisors would always be noticeably sharp and a touch longer than human canines. But with a good deal of concentration, he was able to make them look passable. This was a learned vampire ability; new vampires had to practice at it, and it could sometimes take years.
Azrael would know. When he had left his realm and traveled to Earth with his brothers two thousand years ago, something had happened to him. Michael’s theory was that what Azrael had done up until then as the Angel of Death somehow negatively influenced his material form on Earth. Unlike his brothers, Az had been transformed into some kind of supernatural monster.
At the time there was no name for what he was. The fangs, the nearly unquenchable hunger for blood, the new and horrid deadly aversion to the sun—these symptoms had never existed in a being until Azrael came along. He was the first vampire. He gave himself the name because it sounded right.
It took him months to learn to control the hunger inside. It had been a very painful period of time, and in the years since then, he had never forgotten the way it tore him up inside, shredding his soul like tissue paper. Now, every night as he awoke with the stars, he thanked fate that he no longer suffered. He still had to feed. It was necessary for the survival of a vampire that he ingest human blood every night. But his need had become a simple understanding of his physiology—and an acceptance of the same. He considered himself immensely fortunate and never took for granted the fact that he no longer craved and hungered the way he had in those horrid moments of vampiric inception.
But tonight . . .
Now, as Azrael stood in the men’s restroom outside of the castle, he was gripped by acidic, mind-numbing fear. Because he felt it again. It was the same driving kind of need—one that shoved every other thought or desire or inclination ruthlessly out of the way and threatened absolute subjugation. Only this time, it was focused. Directed.
He hungered. He craved like a madman. But what he craved and hungered for was Sophie Bryce.
His archess.

From Death’s Angel, by Heather Killough-Walden
Coming December, 2012

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Something Good

The coolest thing happened yesterday here in Lubbock. This homeless and crippled man with a cane was holding up a sign on the street corner on a service road just south of 289. I was on my way to an appointment. I hadn’t noticed him at first because of cars between us. He was three lanes over and by the time I spotted him, I was worried about the stoplight changing, but traffic in the other direction seemed to be coming pretty quick and steady, so I figured I had time. I ripped open my purse and took out everything I had, maybe a ten, some fives, and a bunch of ones. I honked my horn to draw his attention and waved him over. He hobbled over to me as quickly as he could, took my money, and thanked me. Suddenly the car beside me was doing the same thing, honking its horn and waving him over. And then the car behind me did the same. And then the one in front of me. It was this awesome, incredible cascade of kindness. The light changed, but the cars stayed put, handing out money to this homeless man.
It touched me so deeply.

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My Thanksgiving Story

Normally when this day rolls around every year, I sort of roll my eyes. I mean, shouldn’t we be thankful for what we have EVERY day? And only in the US could we have a day made JUST for being thankful for what we already have – right before we race to shove each other out of line the next day in order to buy things we DON’T already have. It’s just another day.

But this time… well, this time it’s different. And if you can spare a few minutes, I’ll tell you why.

My mother graduated from Saint Mary of the Woods College in Indiana. Her graduation ring always fascinated me. It had a black face, onyx or obsidian – I didn’t know which – and into that large rectangle was carved the letters, “SMW.” I loved that ring. I would see it on her and just identify it as a part of her. That ring WAS my mother. I told her – some day – I wanted it.

She would shake her head and say, “This is mine. You’ll have to pry it off of my dead finger.”

Fast-forward thirty years.
My parents, now in their fifties, began to get sick. They were running a dry cleaning business in New Mexico, working seventy hours a week, barely bringing in enough to pay the bills. My father’s back, which looks like a calcified map of the Grand Canyon, became so bad he was in agony twenty-four-seven. He also has a muscle disease that acts like arthritis and means chronic pain as well.

My mother, the physical rock in our family, broke her leg. She tried to work anyway; they pushed and pushed, ever honest, good people who wanted to earn a living and pay their way. It wasn’t until my mother finally began fainting from exhaustion at work and my father landed in the hospital with a heart attack that they realized (even though their kids had told them much, much earlier) that they had no choice. They had to sell the business.

Fast forward two loooong years. Every attempt at selling the business had failed. Every deal made with the bank, every concession they’d granted, every single bow and scrape they had performed had mattered not at all. They’d only managed to sell half of the dry cleaner’s, and they had a decision to make. Work until the ambulance dragged their carcasses out of the cleaner’s one night – or declare bankruptcy.

They decided on choice “b.” But they did so only under the promise by the bank that they would not lose their home.

Fast-forward several very stressful months. The bank lied. They are going to lose their home. My father became more ill, my sister began to go through horrible problems of her own, I began to help them pay bills, and my mother became depressed enough that she started giving away everything she had. She didn’t have much, mind you, but what little she possessed, she suddenly wanted her children to own. When questioned, she would just say, “Well I don’t need it anymore.” As if she were waiting to die.

This was depressing…. But I had to ask. “What about the ring?”
“Oh….” she said. “I gave it to Holly.”

Holly is my sister. I was devastated. My mother had honestly forgotten that I wanted the ring. You know – thirty years, four children, stressful job after stressful job, and a brain tumor will do that to a woman. She was so sorry that she’d forgotten, and I forgave her. But I was crushed.

Not long after that, my mother – for some unknown reason to us all – began to, of all things, substitute teach.

Now this really threw us. We figured she just wanted to feel useful. She used to be a teacher, after all, way back in the day. She was such a good teacher, she won an award for being one of the best teachers in New Mexico. NASA had her come up to their holy-secret-never-breathe-a-word offices in California and gave her top priority access to things the rest of us could only dream of – all so that she could share the wonder of science with her students. She’s that kind of woman. So, we finally shrugged and let her do the substitute teaching even though she was making an absolute pittance and she was so, so tired.

Fast forward to this week.
A few days ago, I opened the front door of the house to find a note from Fed Ex. I’d missed a package delivery that required a signature at the door. A few hours later, I got a call from my mother. She told me that I needed to be at the house in the afternoon the following day. She seemed very adamant, so I agreed despite the fact that I’m busier than f@#k. I stayed at the house all day and worked on editing A Sinister Game, which was almost due to release.

The next morning, I found out my mother was in the hospital. She’d suffered equilibrium, nausea, vomiting, and a massive headache. These were things that meant “migraine” to me, but because she’d had a brain tumor in the past, they wanted to be certain. So they did some scans…. More money, but at least we knew she was okay.
The migraine persisted. I gave her advice: caffeine, Tylenol and aspirin combined, no lights or sounds, etc.

The next day, I had a shot in my back that went awry and was bed ridden. Somewhere in that mess, the Fed Ex guy came and apparently didn’t knock loud enough – I don’t know. I missed the package again.
My mother calls me up. “You have to be there tomorrow. I’ve called them. I’ve told them to knock until their hand falls off. I told them to ring the doorbell until its battery dies. You have to have that package.” I asked her where it was coming from – but she wouldn’t tell me. She had sworn everyone to secrecy on the threat of death.

Fast-forward to today. In fact, a few hours ago.
Jarred by the sound of a man knocking as if there were no tomorrow and ringing the doorbell as if someone in China needed to hear it, I ran to the front door. The Fed Ex guy gave me this wide-eyed look, held out a tiny little package, and said, “Thank God.”

I signed his little mechanical device and took the padded envelope from him. It had what felt like a box inside. Small. I looked up in the top left-hand corner to see where it had come from: “Saint Mary of the Woods.”

My heart skipped a beat. I stared at it for half a second longer before suddenly ripping the envelope in half and allowing the box to tumble out into my hand. It was a ring box. I said, “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. She couldn’t have!”

But she did. I opened the box to reveal a replica of my mother’s ring – down to every last detail. The date was the same, the design was the same, it was heavy and wonderful and instantly reminded me of her face, her smile, her rolling eyes as she would tease, “You’ll have to pry it off of my dead finger.”

I called her up, crying, laughing. I couldn’t believe it. And then she finally – finally – told me everything. She’d taken the substitute teaching job so that she could save every last penny she earned to buy me this ring. She’d felt so horrible about giving hers to my sister; she just wanted to make up for it. She just… wanted me to have this ring. Every time the Fed Ex man failed to put the package in my hands, it killed her a little more. That was where the migraine came from. She was stressed to her limits.

Then she said, “Look inside of the ring. Do you see the inscription?”

I didn’t want to take it off – it fit perfectly. But I slipped it off and turned it over and read aloud, “PGK-HKW.”

Pilar Gonzelez de Killough to Heather Killough-Walden.

Everything in my world turned around in that moment. My life, my troubles, my worries, our hardships, our fears – they all flipped over onto their heads. I saw the stars. I could have been in that NASA office myself just then and I would have known more about the heavens than any of the geeks sitting at those super high-tech consoles. I’d touched heaven personally. It was there – in the silver and black ring that rested in the palm of my hand.

Today, this year on Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my mother. I am thankful for my mother like you wouldn’t believe. And then some.

And I just wanted you to know.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Love,
– Heather

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“A Sinister Game” Release Date

Release date for A Sinister Game, by Heather Killough-Walden:

November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving! 🙂

In a world ruled by Game Leaders, a dark and dangerous man proposes a wager….

 “If you can escape me for seven rounds, Victoria – if you can keep from being taken off of the board for that long, I will admit defeat and step down as Gray leader. But if I find you,” he let the words sink in. “And if I capture you….” His voice trailed off just as his gaze trailed over her lips, her throat, her breasts.

His green eyes locked on hers again and she felt she would die right there at that table.

“Then you’ll join me. You’ll give yourself to me for one night.” His smile was the devil’s promise. “This is the wager.”

 But this is a game far more complicated and far more deadly than either of them anticipated. As the real world unfolds around them, what they thought they knew becomes obsolete, and the rules are ruthlessly changed… in this SINister game.

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Tantrum

As I was reading the news this morning, I had this sudden “vision:”

Fifty big kids were on a playground. They’d divided themselves into two teams. The ball went back and forth and the rules were basically followed. One team lost a few times in a row and pouted a bit, but again the rules were rules and fair was fair. And the game continued.
Then the other team lost a few times. Rules were rules and fair was fair, but this second team didn’t really seem to care. Someone in the team began a bluster. Others followed suit.
Finally, one of kids on the second team bent down, stole the ball, and shouted, “I’m going home!”
The other team watched, mystified, as half of the players left the field in a huff. They looked at each other, shrugging. The teams had been dissolved and playtime was ruined.
A once happy place of growth and civility was filled with the hollow echoes of the wins and losses of the past.

Some kids never grow up.

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A Fanged Friday Fantastic Sneak Peek at Death’s Angel

Azrael smiled, flashing perfect white teeth that sported incisors slightly longer than the norm. Some people naturally looked like that, he knew, but on him it looked different enough that he didn’t smile often. On him, it seemed to fit too perfectly and only served to reinforce the otherworldly impressions people often had when looking at him.

He was a starkly charismatic individual. He was taller than anyone he knew, save perhaps Samael. His voice could literally mesmerize. He was also uncommonly, almost painfully handsome. He wasn’t certain why the Old Man had seen fit to bother with such a thing while simultaneously making him a vampire. It was like the curse of Beethoven, who created the most beautiful music in the world and couldn’t hear it. What good was a beautiful face when placed on a monster?

But Sophie didn’t seem to mind the hint of fang he exposed. In fact, as he brushed her mind, unable to help himself from drawing nearer to her in any way possible, he was surprised to find that she found it attractive. My God, she thought. He really does look like a vampire.

This was the second time she had thought such a thing. If he’d been capable of choking, he would have done so the first time her mind had muttered the impression. Hearing it now had nearly as strong an effect on Azrael. Sophie wasn’t repulsed by vampires. And the idea that he resembled one was appealing to her.

Of course, Azrael was no fool. A lot of girls believed they would enjoy the company of a vampire – if vampires existed. In reality, he knew they would cower or scream or run, or most likely all three. Still… he found himself hoping.

“Sophie Bryce, right? The maid of honor?” he asked, his smile utterly disarming. He’d had millennia to practice.

Sophie blinked and he read her thoughts. She was desperately trying to find her head in the wake of his sudden presence. She’d been torturing herself over the last few days, and he knew it. He’d watched her every night. Listened to her. He knew damn well that she was drawn to him – and that she hated herself for it.

He sensed it when a slight pain twinged up her arm and Sophie realized that her friend was holding her tight. Taylor’s fingers curled into Sophie’s forearm in utter distraction, her hazel eyes glued to Azrael. He knew she couldn’t help it and wasn’t aware of what she was doing, but the fact that she’d brought his archess even the slightest discomfort was difficult for Az to ignore. It upset him.

And with practiced control, he tamped down the anger.

Sophie, on the other hand, appeared to be glad for the pain. It shot through the dazed fog that Az’s appearance had caused. It also cleared her senses enough to allow her to pull her arm out of Taylor’s grip, clear her throat, and say, “Yes.” He tried not to smile when her voice cracked halfway through the single syllable. She cleared her throat some more and forced a smile to her lips. “That’s me.” She was so fucking cute with half of her glorious golden locks tucked up underneath that Penguins cap. Wisps of it fell about her face, framing it and caressing it the way he wanted to.

He chuckled softly, watching her carefully to gauge the effect his laugh had on her.

Sophie’s gold eyes brightened, her lips parted, and her cheeks flushed ever so slightly. Az’s monster reared its head and he felt his vision begin to heat up. If he wasn’t careful, his eyes would begin to glow. “We never got the chance to actually meet the other night,” he told her, forcing himself to continue with the charade.

“No,” she agreed, relieved that she was finally finding her voice. “We didn’t.”

He cocked his head to one side and slid his gaze from hers to regard her friends. He needed to look away – just for a moment. Long enough to get himself under control once more. His gold eyes slowly scanned the faces of her companions – and then stopped on the pair of men who sat behind them.

A quick scan of their minds told him they were recent graduates from Carnegie Mellon University. The one on the right was the son of a wealthy factory owner here in the city. His name was Richard. And he’d been thinking all sorts of biblical things about Sophie that night.

Azrael grew very still and something dark flickered across his face. He knew it was there; he knew he was failing to hide his sudden fury. But he barely cared.

Richard fell back into the curve of his seat and swallowed hard as the blood drained from his face. Below him, Sophie cleared her throat, at once drawing Azrael’s attention. Sophie slowly stood and turned to face him. “Az, these are my friends, Taylor and Emily.” She gestured toward them and they smiled nervously, but politely, nodding in his direction.
Emily and Taylor’s eyes were still a little glazed over at his presence, so, Az allowed some of his vampiric influence to snake around and through the girls, easing them into a more comfortable state of relaxation.

It worked like a charm. Within seconds, Taylor was smiling easily and standing to greet him properly. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she said, extending her hand.

“Likewise,” Az agreed, and with a slight bow, accepted the offered hands of both Taylor and then Emily, who quickly followed suit.

While he shook hands, Sophie’s thoughts echoed through Az’s mind. She couldn’t believe that her friends weren’t guessing he was the Masked One. It seemed so obvious to her now that she knew his secret. Everything about him screamed of the kind of rock star charisma that it took to hold millions of fans in sway.

Meanwhile, Sophie’s gaze traveled over Azrael’s form, and he tried not to visibly crow with the triumph he felt when she shamelessly took in the way the black button-up shirt under his sports coat stretched taut across the muscles of his chest. She was particularly fond of the curve of his neck where it met his shoulder.

Azrael released Emily’s hand, straightened again, and heard Sophie’s heart rate speed up.

He looked up to see that her sunshine eyes were glassy with unabashed desire. And, as if it would hide the way her mouth watered for him, she had pressed her bottom lip between two perfect, white teeth. Azrael’s gaze locked on the plump lip. He quickly slipped his hands into the pockets of his trench coat as they tightened into fists at his sides, and his nails began to cut into his palms. He imagined her pressing hard enough with her teeth to draw blood.

If she did… it would all be over.

“Juliette mentioned you live in Pittsburgh,” he said, trying to break through not only his tension, but hers. “I’d forgotten.” His tone was gentle, personal. He knew that to her, it was as if they were the only two in the arena.

“For now,” she told him flat-out. She didn’t want to bore him with the fact that she would only be there for two more days, but he was well aware. “But what are you doing here?” she asked, honestly curious. It was quite a coincidence to her that she had never seen him before in her life – and then, suddenly, she’d seen him twice in the space of a week. She wasn’t stupid; she was wary.

That was okay with him. He had a story and he would use it, but even this lie was too much of a secret for him to share with her friends. Az glanced at Taylor and Emily and smiled an easy, even somewhat shy smile. “It’s a personal matter actually,” he said. “However…” he paused, turned, and glanced up toward the private booths up above them.

His band awaited him in one of them; they had a bird’s eye view of the entire arena from their vantage point. He knew because he’d been watching Sophie from it all night.

He also knew that Sophie had never been in one of those suites herself, and he was hoping she’d be tempted enough by what he was about to offer that he could pull her away from her companions at least for a little while. “Second period will begin in a few minutes,” he said, looking back down at her and scorching her once more with stark eyes. “And there is plenty of room in our suite for another guest.” He chanced another glance at the men seated behind Sophie – especially Richard – and was smugly satisfied when the young man looked as though he wanted to piss himself. “Perhaps you would care to join me?” he asked, turning his gaze back on his archess.

He could hear her blood rushing through her veins. He was scaring her and thrilling her at the same time. She was finding it hard to think.

He wasn’t opposed to working with that; he had no desire to stand here and play the good guy much longer anyway.

A gentle push of his power, and it surrounded Sophie. In a few moments, she not only found it difficult to think, she found it impossible. Seconds ago, she’d had a thousand reasons why she should keep away from Azrael. And the fact that he belonged to – was destined to be with – another, was the most powerful.
But just then, every reason she’d had, and in fact, reason itself, fled from her consciousness and she found herself saying, “Yes.”

She’d barely whispered it, but it was enough.

Azrael’s smile broadened.

– Death’s Angel, by Heather Killough-Walden (coming Dec. 31st)

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