4 June 2014

New Release: Steel & Shadow (The Gifted 1)


Publisher: Sweet Cravings Publishing
Cover Artist: Dawne Dominique

Blurb: Charlene Ixeria is a half-blood born to a family of supernatural hunters tasked with protecting a city plagued by The Veil, a shadow that twists and corrupts anything it touches. 

Aside from the constant need to prove that she’s as capable as the rest of her pure-blooded kin, she’s also torn between two choices.

Charlie can’t deny her growing feelings towards Marcus, her arrogant hunting captain who’s haunted by demons of his own. She’s also confused by her conflicting attraction to Gabrielle, a hauntingly mysterious creature who only holds questions and no answers. 

Despite her personal problems, her starving city is on the verge of chaos and everything around her is dying- including the woods the hunters rely on for the city’s food supplies. All the answers may lie in The Veil. But which is more harrowing, the journey there or the secrets kept by those she love?


Buy Links: SCP | Amazon | B&N | ARe | BookStrand | Smashwords |

Click HERE to watch Steel & Shadow's book trailer. 


Excerpt
At times Marcus found it hard to tell dreams from reality. The noise in the hall and the sharp sound of steel meeting steel in the practice rooms hurt his ears. Even voices were reduced to indecipherable noises at best, voices he only wanted to block out.

People too, had become nothing but murky shadows to him, puppets that moved and talked, but had no will of their own. The images of the world around him blurred and faded, blotting out the sharp colorful edges of a watercolor canvas.

“Where are you going in the middle of the night?” That sharp voice absorbed all the mist and fog in his head.

“What?” Marcus blinked his eyes to clear his vision. His head visibly seared with pain, as if someone had slammed it repeatedly against the wall.

“I asked you where you’re going,” Charlie Ixeria demanded. She crossed her arms to glare at him.

“None of your business,” Marcus slurred.

Strange. Had he drunk that much wine during dinner? Outside the windows of the stable, the night sky told him it was late and past dinnertime. He did not remember drinking or even why he was at the stables at this hour.

“You’re to ride to me, Marcus. That’s why you’re attired in your hunting gear and have all your weapons in hand, but you don’t need those. You just need yourself,” said Lily’s voice. 

She spoke so close to his ear it nearly tickled. Charlie couldn’t even hear her! Marcus let out a nervous giggle.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” The huntress took a few threatening steps toward him.

When her small hand touched his, he jerked back as if a rabid animal bit him, but she gripped his hand firmly. Her skin was unbelievably warm against his cold hands. The world came roaring back in his ears. The smell of the horses entered his nostrils, rich and earthy. The sound their hooves made seem amplified to his ears as they clattered to and fro, restless and impatient.

“You’re so cold,” she whispered in alarm.

“Charlie…” Marcus faltered.

Despite the shame that flooded him, he spoke again. She was probably the one who would understand the difference between weakness and true strength, and simply because, for some unexplainable reason, he trusted her.

“She’s winning. You understand? If I don’t go now, I’ll drag the others with me, and this time, it won’t be just Lily’s coffin I’ll watch being lowered to the ground.”

“If that’s how you feel, then I’ll come with you.” She let go of his hand.

“Absolutely not,” Marcus said firmly, furiously almost.

Did the stupid girl not understand what he just said? Didn’t she understand he didn’t want to lose her the way he’d lost Lily? Would her lifeless body be lost to the woods like Lily’s was, weathered by soil, time, and the elements?

“Say that again and I’ll be knocking on Kon’s door even before you can reach the bottom of the Spiral Road,” she threatened, hands on her hips.

The girl was ridiculous in thinking she could stop him with mere threats like a younger sibling telling on her parents. Laughter caught itself in Marcus’ throat. Charlie would take it badly, he knew. Damn it all, he nearly felt like himself again, but an invisible hand continued to tug at him. No, he had important things to attend to.

Marcus neared his newest huntress, and her look of confidence faltered. He liked that uncertainty replaced it. Marcus found he liked that very much. Still, knowing the girl, she would not give him an inch. How stiff she was, watching him warily until they were only a few inches apart.

She reminded him of a stubborn doe he once hunted and regretting killing. Hardly aware of his hand rising he cupped her warm cheek. She sucked in a breath, and before she could open her damn mouth and say the words he would not like to hear, he kissed her.

She protested at first, but soon relaxed and melted against him. She was right. He was damnably cold. No. Freezing even, but her lips were hot and seeking. Heat spiked between them like coals abruptly woken by tongues of fire. If Marcus knew this was what it was like to kiss Charlene Ixeria, he would have done so a long time ago.

No protest met his wandering hands as they slid underneath her hunting leathers. Her incredibly warm body leaned deliciously toward him. Marcus could sense her need and his. Charlie’s skin felt smooth and right beneath his seeking fingers. She yearned for his touch just as much as he yearned to touch her.

Gods, it was tempting to forget the voice in his head. To simply indulge himself in what he had been fantasizing about for so long. One hand slipped to her back. He pulled her gently closer to him. Her heat continued to flood down his throat. His other hand remained poised on the rim of her breeches. One tug was all it took for him to jerk the laces. One tug and his eyes could feast on the lovely curve of her legs. She grinded herself against him, and he silenced their groans with his lips. Any longer and he would lose himself. He was already growing hard.

He would not forget her lips, and the way they remained half-opened in confusion as he withdrew. It took everything in him to part from her warmth. The cold was already creeping back, and he shivered. He spoke then, because he could not bear seeing her vulnerable expression turn to fury.

“I’m sorry,” Marcus said, meaning it.

Charlie barely saw the blow coming at her, didn’t even see his practiced hand rising to the vulnerable spot on her neck. Marcus easily caught the girl as she slumped in his arms.

She was so light. She weighed no more than a child.

“I’m sorry,” Marcus Ixeria repeated. He looked for as long as he could. Strings of yearning and pain stirred inside of him. “You deserve a much better man than me, Charlie.”