Minder by Kate Kaynak
“Sixteen-year-old Maddie Dunn is special, but she needs to figure out how to use her new abilities before somebody else gets hurt. Ganzfield is a secret training facility full of people like her, but it’s not exactly a nurturing place.
Every social interaction carries the threat of mind-control.
A stray thought can burn a building to the ground. And people’s nightmares don’t always stay in their own heads. But it’s still better than New Jersey.
Especially once she meets the man of her dreams…”
When Kate Kaynak first asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing Minder, I was intrigued with the book premise because it sounded somewhat similar to the movie PUSH. Am I ever happy that I accepted because I LOVED it!! I was totally caught up in the story and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next to Maddie, Trevor, Drew, Rachel, Hannah and the rest of the Ganzfield kids. The romance developing between Maddie & Trevor is sweet and the premise, plotting, pacing and world building were great!
Packed with interesting concepts, action, danger, romance and the fortitude and determination of a bunch of great teens with special abilities, Minder is a terrific read for both teens and adults. I liked reading how these kids have to learn to accept and deal with their various talents, both the advantages, disadvantages and difficulties of having special abilities. I can’t wait to dive into the next book in the series, Adversary, to see what happens next! And thankfully, the third book, Legacy, will be out in January, 2010 so it’s not too long of a wait. 🙂
Buy MINDER at:
Find out more about KATE KAYNAK and The Ganzfield Series at her website.
“Sara Constantine is one of the country’s most tenacious prosecuting attorneys—and she’s just secured a well-earned promotion. At first she’s thrilled. Then she finds out her new job involves prosecuting vampires and werewolves. And nothing prepares Sara for the shock she receives when she meets the first defendant she’ll be trying to put away: Lucius Dragos, the sexy stranger with whom she recently shared an explosive night of ecstasy.
When Lucius Dragos kisses the beautiful woman sitting next to him at the bar, he’s only hoping to blend into the crowd and avoid the perceptive gaze of the man he’s following…and planning to kill. But what starts as a simple kiss to secure his cover ignites into a fierce hunger that leads to an all-consuming passion. Charged with murder, Luke knows Sara will do whatever it takes to see him locked away—unless he can convince her that he’s not the monster she thinks he is. And that might mean making the greatest sacrifice a vampire can make.”
First of all, I am in love with this cover! Yes, the man is smokin, but what also works for me is the combination of colors, the crescent moon in the background, the cool glow coming from the ring, the lettering and the wisps of smoke. All together they combine to make for a really stand-out cover that really draws the eye, which is exactly what a cover should do. Mission accomplished!
Second, I could not put this book down! After having read a whole bunch of paranormal romances and urban fantasy, it’s a rare find that basically keeps me flipping pages all night, long past reasonable expectations. When Blood Calls was one of them. (Plus, Lucius Dragos is my new fictional boyfriend now, but that’s neither here nor there). I really liked the compelling characters that J.K. created and the world in which she places them. Full of plot twists and turns, romance, suspense, action and danger.
When Blood calls is the first book in J.K. Beck’s Shadow Keepers series and after reading it, I say Bring On The Shadow Keepers! I haven’t been this excited about a series since I first started Kenyon’s Dark Hunters, Phoenix’s Makers Song series or Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood. It’s a wonderful blend of both paranormal romance and urban fantasy which is in itself, intriguing because of the many layers woven into it. This book will remain on my “Keeper” shelf and this series has now become an “auto-buy” one for me.
Buy When Blood Calls at:
Find out more about J.K. Beck and what she’s working on at her website!
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
“On a day that started like any other…
Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the one decision she has left—the most important decision she’ll ever make.
Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.”
Mia is a wonderfully written main character and I was totally captivated by her story. (It’s really hard to write a review here without giving spoilers!?) Suffice it to say that I was emotionally caught up and invested in the tale and outcome. I cried like a baby, teared up more than a few times and this is one of those stories that will stay with me for a very long time.
The main characters as well as the secondary characters were all written with a depth and richness of believability, the plot was excellent, the pacing great, and as the book description says: ” Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.” It was exactly that.
If I Stay was riveting! I was drawn into the story and was completely caught up in it. I read it in one sitting because I couldn’t put the book down. Gayle Forman is a very talented story-weaver and I am definitely keeping an eye out for the next book, Where She Went, which will be out in the spring of 2011. This book delivers and I highly recommend it to everyone!
Buy If I Stay at:
Find out more about Gayle Forman at her website!
I just wanted to share this with you all seeing as how you’re all made of awesome and deserve a great free read! 🙂 Marta Acosta, author of the hilarious Casa Dracula series has written a YA Vamp story and she’s posted it online for everyone to read for free. It just doesn’t get much better than that!
“Foster teen Jane Williams survives in her gritty world by keeping to the
shadows. When she’s invited to attend the elite Birch Grove Academy for
Girls on a full-scholarship, it sounds too good to be true. She even gets
to live on her own in the old groundskeeper’s cottage in the middle of a
Birch Grove. Everyone is so Jane, especially the elegant and pale
headmistress and her gorgeous sons.
But soon an unknown enemy is threatening Jane and she begins to have
questions about the headmistress’s family…and another scholarship girl
who disappeared. What secrets are people keeping and what’s the real
reason Jane was invited to this school? What’s she willing to risk for
this once-in-a-lifetime chance?”
Read or download The Shadow Girl Of Birch Grove for free! Let me know what you think after you read it. 🙂
I’m currently reading this amazing book, Angelology! I’m supposed to have the review up today along with my interview with the author, Danielle Trussoni, but an unexpected move along with putting my back out have led to my being a bit behind with my reading. I should have my review up in a day or two, but in the mean time I’ll whet your appetites with an excerpt from the book and then the interview / giveaway post. 🙂 (I am so blown away by this awesome cover, I am actually contemplating framing it so I can gaze at it always!)
Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from Angelology by Danielle Trussoni. Copyright © 2010 by Danielle Trussoni
“Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side, New York City
Percival Grigori tapped the tip of his cane as he waited for the elevator, a rhythm of sharp metallic clicks pounding out the seconds. The oak-paneled lobby of his building—an exclusive prewar with views of Central Park—was so familiar that he hardly noticed it any longer. The Grigori family had occupied the penthouse for over half a century. Once he might have registered the deference of the doorman, the opulent arrangement of orchids in the foyer, the polished ebony and mother-of-pearl elevator casement, the fire sending a spray of light and warmth across the marble floor. But Percival Grigori noticed nothing at all except the pain crackling through his joints, the popping of his knees with each step. As the doors of the elevator slid open and he hobbled inside, he regarded his stooped image in the polished brass of the elevator car and looked quickly away.
At the thirteenth floor, he stepped into a marble vestibule and unlocked the door to the Grigori apartment. Instantly the soothing elements of his private life—part antique, part modern, part gleaming wood, part sparkling glass—filled his senses, relaxing the tension in his shoulders. He threw his keys onto a silk pillow at the bottom of a Chinese porcelain bowl, shrugged his heavy cashmere overcoat into the lap of an upholstered banister-back chair, and walked through the travertine gallery. Vast rooms opened before him—a sitting room, a library, a dining hall with a four-tiered Venetian chandelier suspended overhead. An expanse of picture windows staged the chaotic ballet of a snowstorm.
At the far end of the apartment, the curve of a grand staircase led to his mother’s suite of rooms. Peering up, Percival discerned a party of her friends gathered in the formal sitting room. Guests came to the apartment for lunch or dinner nearly every day, impromptu gatherings that allowed his mother to hold court for her favorite friends from the neighborhood. It was a ritual she had grown more and more accustomed to, primarily because of the power it gave her: She selected those people she wished to see, enclosed them in the dark-paneled lair of her private quarters, and let the rest of the world go on with its tedium and misery. For years she had left her suite only on rare occasions, when accompanied by Percival or his sister, and only at night. His mother had grown so comfortable with the arrangement, and her circle had become so regular, that she rarely complained of her confinement.
Quietly, so as not to draw attention to himself, Percival ducked into a bathroom at the end of the hallway, shut the door softly behind him, and locked it. In a succession of quick movements, he discarded a tailored wool jacket and a silk tie, dropping each piece of clothing onto the ceramic tiles. Fingers trembling, he unbuttoned six pearlescent buttons, working upward to his throat. He peeled away his shirt and stood to full height before a large mirror hung upon the wall.
Running his fingers over his chest, he felt a mélange of leather strips weaving one over the other. The device wrapped about him like an elaborate harness, creating a system of stays that, when fully fastened, had the overall appearance of a black corset. The straps were so taut they cut into his skin. Somehow, no matter how he fastened it, the leather cinched too tightly. Struggling for air, Percival loosened one strap, then the next, working the leather through small silver buckles with deliberation until, with a final tug, the device fell to the floor, the leather slapping the tiles.
His bare chest was smooth, without navel or nipples, the skin so white as to appear cut from wax. Swiveling his shoulder blades, he could see the reflection of his body in the mirror—his shoulders, his long thin arms, and the sculpted curve of his torso. Mounted at the center of his spine, matted by sweat, deformed by the severe pressure of the harness, were two tender nubs of bone. With a mixture of wonder and pain, he noted that his wings—once full and strong and bowed like golden scimitars—had all but disintegrated. The remnants of his wings were black with disease, the feathers withered, the bones atrophied. In the middle of his back, two open wounds, blue and raw from chafing, fixed the blackened bones in a gelatinous pool of congealed blood. Bandages, repeated cleanings—no amount of care helped to heal the wounds or relieve his pain. Yet he understood that the true agony would come when there was nothing left of his wings. All that had distinguished him, all that the others had envied, would be gone.
The first symptoms of the disorder had appeared ten years before, when fine tracks of mildew materialized along the inner shafts and vanes of the feathers, a phosphorescent green fungus that grew like patina on copper. He had thought it a mere infection. He’d had his wings cleaned and groomed, specifying that each feather be brushed with oils, and yet the pestilence remained. Within months his wingspan had decreased by half. The dusty golden shimmer of healthy wings faded. Once, he had been able to compress his wings with ease, folding his majestic plumage smoothly against his back. The airy mass of golden feathers had tucked into the arched grooves along his spine, a maneuver that rendered the wings completely undetectable.
Although physical in substance, the structure of healthy wings gave them the visual properties of a hologram. Like the bodies of the angels themselves, his wings had been substantial objects utterly unimpaired by the laws of matter. Percival had been able to lift his wings through thick layers of clothing as easily as if he had moved them through air.
Now he found that he could no longer retract them at all, and so they were a perpetual presence, a reminder of his diminishment. Pain overwhelmed him; he lost all capability for flight. Alarmed, his family had brought in specialists, who confirmed what the Grigori family most feared: Percival had contracted a degenerative disorder that had been spreading through their community. Doctors predicted that his wings would die, then his muscles. He would be confined to a wheelchair, and then, when his wings had withered completely and their roots had melted away, Percival would die. Years of treatments had slowed the progression of the disease but had not stopped it.
Percival turned on the faucet and splashed cool water over his face, trying to dissipate the fever that had overtaken him. The harness helped him to keep his spine erect, an increasingly difficult task as his muscles grew weak. In the months since it had become necessary to wear the harness, the pain had only grown more acute. He never quite got used to the bite of leather on his skin, the buckles as sharp as pins against his body, the burning sensation of ripped flesh. Many of their kind chose to live away from the world when they became ill. This was a fate Percival could not begin to accept.”
And there you have a sneak peek at Angelology which will be out on shelves tomorrow ( March 9th). 🙂
I’ve been a fan of Mark Henry’s books featuring the character Amanda Feral, since the first book, Happy Hour Of The Damned came out in 2008 in trade paperback. Now it’s being released in mass market on Jan 26th, so there’s no excuse not to run out and grab yourself a copy!
“Donuts are deadly. One minute you’re getting your binge on, the next, you’re slipping on the box, cracking your skull, and in the weirdest turn of events, rising as a zombie. That’s just for starters. Now, the recently deceased Amanda Feral is trying to make her way through Seattle’s undead scene with style (mortuary-grade makeup, six inch stilettos, bangin’ Balenciaga handbag) while satisfying a craving for decent vodkatinis and the occasional human flesh—Don’t judge. And no, not like chicken.
Navigating a dangerous world of cloud-doped bloodsuckers, reapers, horny and horned devils, celebrity blood donors, and PR-obsessed shapeshifters—not to mention an extremely hot bartender named Ricardo—isn’t easy. And the minute one of Amanda’s undead friends disappears after texting for “help” (the undead—so dramatic!) she knows the afterlife is about to get really ugly.
Something sinister is at hand. Someone or something is hellbent on turning Seattle’s supernatural underworld into a place of true terror. And this time, Amanda may meet a fate a lot worse than donuts…”
See my review of Happy Hour Of The Damned HERE. I’m currently reading the second book in the series, Road Trip Of The Living Dead and am laughing my head off at the hilarity that is Amanda, Wendy & Gil.
“Celebrity party girl Amanda Feral is back from the dead, and hungrier than ever for a good time. With her zombie gal pal Wendy and vampy gay sidekick Gil, this stone cold fox is dressed to kill, on the prowl, and ready to take a big juicy bite out of Seattle’s supernatural nightlife. But what’s a zombie chick to do when her “Mommie Dearest” gets sick? If you’re Amanda Feral, you can either ignore the wicked old witch—or bury the past by visiting Ethel before she kicks it. Amanda’s not thrilled about the idea of crossing three states just to be criticized. But Wendy, who’s always looking for fresh meat, is up for the adventure. And Gil, who just launched his “luxury” resurrection business, needs to disappear because a pissed-off client is out for his blood.
First, they pack their stiletto pumps and plasma into a skeevy rattrap on wheels that used to be a Winnebago. Then, with a little help from a Korean-ghost hood ornament, a masochist named Fishhook, and a slew of “moderately accurate” psychics, they hit the highway—their way. Of course, they’ll have to navigate past some neo-Nazi skinheads, a horny dust devil, a hunky werewolf cop (who could pass for an underwear model) and an unsightly horde of Kmart shoppers. But for this glamorous gang of ghouls this trip is about to take a dangerous detour that could give road kill a brand new meaning…”
The next book in the series, Battle Of The Network Zombies will be on shelves March 2nd, 2010 in Canada & Feb 23rd, 2010 in the USA! I’m lucky enough to have an ARC which I will be reading next, so be sure to look for reviews of both; Road Trip Of The Living Dead and Battle Of The Network Zombies from me soon.
“In Seattle’s undead circles, Amanda Feral is one of the beautiful zombies. Of course, when you’re socializing with werewolves, devils, and rampaging yetis, there’s not that much competition. Still, Amanda has a stylish rep to maintain, which is getting tricky now that her tanking ad agency is obliterating her finances. The fastest way to make some cash: appear on a new reality show, American Minions, hosted by lecherous wood nymph Johnny Birch. Classy? Maybe not, but a girl’s gotta eat.
With zombie gal pal Wendy posing as her bitchy agent, Amanda settles in to “Minions Mansion,” crowded with 24-7 video cameras and undead fame whores. When Johnny is found incinerated in a locked room, Amanda decides to channel her inner Miss Marple (minus the fugly cardigans) and find out who’s responsible. Was it Hairy Sue, the white trash stripper yeti? Tanesha, the glamorous trannie werewolf? Angie, the Filipino vampire with a detachable head? Unveiling the culprit in a heart-stopping finale won’t just save the show from cancellation, it might just keep Amanda alive—or as close as a ghoul can get…”
So the reason I titled this post, “Save Amanda Feral” is because, well, Mark Henry tells it best. See his website and blog posts here and here. Long story short is that the third book in the series may just be the last. That would be bad in an epic way because these characters are so unique, so uproariously funny in a gross way, and so much fun, you may just pee your pants! If you’re a fan of Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves and supernatural fiction, then run and grab yourself a copy of these books! If the book descriptions haven’t quite convinced you, then go HERE to Amanda’s page on Mark Henry’s website to laugh yourself into a zombie state while reading.
Here, I’ll even make it easy for you! 🙂
I just recieved this book today to review, so while I read, here are a few things to whet your appetite: Dracula The Un-Dead
OCEANS OF LOVE, LUCY.
The inscription was the only thing Dr. Jack Seward could focus on as
he felt the darkness overtake him. In the darkness was peace, with no
harsh light to illuminate the tattered remains of his life. For years, he
had devoted himself to fighting back the darkness. Now he simply
Only at night could Seward find peace with the memory of Lucy. In
his dreams, he still felt her warm embrace. For a fleeting moment, he
could go back to London, to a happier era, when he found meaning
through his place in the world and his research. This was the life he had
wished to share with Lucy.
The early morning din of milk wagons, fishmongers’ carts, and
other merchant vehicles rattling hurriedly across the cobblestone streets
of Paris intruded on Seward’s dream and thrust him back into the harsh
present. Seward forced his eyes open. They stung worse than fresh
iodine on an open wound. As the cracked ceiling of the stale Parisian
flophouse room he had been renting came into focus, he reflected on
how much his life had changed. It saddened him to see all the muscle
tone he had lost. His bicep sagged, resembling one of those hand-sewn
muslin tea bags after it had just been removed from a teapot. The veins
on his arm were like rivers on a tattered map. He was a shadow of his
Seward prayed that death would come quickly. He had willed his
body to science, to be used in a classroom at his alma mater. He took
comfort from the fact that in death he would help to inspire future doctors
After a time, he remembered the watch, still nestled in his left hand.
He turned it over. Half past six! For an instant, panic overtook him.
Damn it to hell. He had overslept. Seward staggered to his feet. An
empty glass syringe rolled off the table and shattered on the grimy
wooden floor. A small, smoked brown bottle of morphine was about to
follow the fate of the syringe, but he quickly caught the precious liquid,
untying the leather belt from his left bicep with a practiced movement.
Normal circulation returned as he rolled down his sleeve and returned
the silver monogrammed cuff link to his frayed dress shirt. He buttoned
up his vest and slipped on his jacket. Wallingham & Sons were the finest
tailors in London. If his suit had been made by anyone else, it would
have disintegrated ten years ago. Vanity dies hard, Seward thought to
himself with a humorless chuckle.
He had to hurry if he still wanted to make the train. Where was that
address? He had put it in a safe place. Now, when he needed it, he could
not recall where exactly that was. He overturned the straw-filled mattress,
inspected the underside of the wobbly table, and peered under the
vegetable crates that served as dining chairs. He sifted through piles of
aged newspaper clippings. Their headlines spoke of Seward’s current
preoccupation: gruesome stories of Jack the Ripper. Autopsy photos of
the five known victims. Mutilated women posed, legs open, as if waiting
to accept their deranged killer. The Ripper was deemed a butcher of
women—but a butcher is more merciful to the animals he slaughters.
Seward had reread the autopsy notes countless times. Loose pages of his
theories and ideas written on scrap paper, torn cardboard, and unfolded
matchboxes fluttered around him like windblown leaves.
The sweat flowing from Seward’s brow began to sting his bloodshot
eyes. Damn, where had he put it? The Benefactor had taken enormous risks
to get him this information. Seward could not bear the thought of disappointing
the only person who still believed in him. Everyone else—the
Harkers, the Holmwoods—all thought he had taken leave of his senses.
If they could see this room, Seward knew, they would feel justified in that
belief. He scanned the crumbling plaster walls, which bore the evidence
of his morphine-induced rants, his wild insights handwritten in ink, coal,
wine, even his own blood. No madman would be so obvious. He was
certain that these writings would one day prove his sanity.
Amidst it all, there was a page torn from a book, stabbed into the wall
with a bone-handled bowie knife whose blade was stained with old blood.
The page featured a portrait of an elegant, raven-haired beauty. Beneath
the picture, an inscription: Countess Elizabeth Bathory circa 1582.
Of course, that’s where I hid it. He laughed at himself as he pulled the
knife out of the wall, seizing the page and turning it over. In his own
barely legible handwriting, he found the address of a villa in Marseilles.
Seward removed the cross, wooden stake, and garlic wreaths that hung
next to Bathory’s picture and scooped up a silver knife from the floor.
He placed everything into a false bottom in his medical bag and covered
it all with standard medical supplies.
The train left the Gare de Lyon exactly on time. Seeing it pull away just
as he was paying for his ticket, Seward sprinted across the flood-stained
building to reach the chugging behemoth as it left the seventh bay door.
He managed to catch the last Pullman car and hoist himself on before
it had a chance to pick up speed. His heart surged with pride as he made
the daring leap. He had done this sort of thing in his youth with the
Texan Quincey P. Morris and his old friend Arthur Holmwood. Youth
was wasted on the young. Seward smiled to himself as he recalled the
reckless days of his innocence . . . and ignorance.
The doctor took a seat in the elaborate dining car as the train lumbered
southward. It wasn’t moving quickly enough. He glanced down at
his pocket watch; only five minutes had passed. Seward lamented that
he could no longer pass the time by writing in his journal, as he was
unable to afford the luxury of such a thing. They were not scheduled to
reach Marseilles for ten more hours. There, he would finally have the
evidence to prove his theories and show those who had shunned him
that he was not mad, that he had been right all along.
These were going to be the longest ten hours of Seward’s life.
“Billets, s’il vous plaît!”
Seward stared wide-eyed at the conductor standing over him with a
stern look of impatience.
“Forgive me,” Seward said. He handed the conductor his ticket,
adjusting his scarf to cover the torn breast pocket.
“You are British?” the conductor asked with a heavy French accent.
“A doctor?” The conductor nodded toward the medical bag between
Seward watched the conductor’s gray eyes catalogue the threadbare
person in front of him, the ill-fitting suit and well-worn shoes. He was
hardly the image of a respectable doctor. “I will see your bag, please.”
He handed over the bag, for it was not as if he had much choice in
the matter. The conductor methodically pulled out medical bottles, read
the labels, and dropped them back in with a clink. Seward knew what
the conductor was looking for and hoped he wouldn’t dig too deeply.
“Morphine,” announced the conductor in a voice so loud that other
passengers glanced over. He held up the brown bottle.
“I sometimes have to prescribe it as a sedative.”
“I will see your license, please.”
Seward searched his pockets. Over a month ago, the International
Opium Convention had been signed, prohibiting persons from importing,
selling, distributing, and exporting morphine without a medical
license. It took him so long to find it that by the time Seward finally
produced the license, the conductor was about to pull the cord to stop
the train. The conductor examined the paper, frowning, then turned his
steely eyes to the travel document. The United Kingdom was the first to
use photo identification on their passports. Since that picture had been
taken, Seward had lost a tremendous amount of weight. His hair was
now much grayer, his beard wild and untrimmed. The man in the train
bore little resemblance to the man in the photo.
“Why are you going to Marseilles, doctor?”
“I am treating a patient there.”
“What ails this patient?”
“He’s suffering from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”
“Qu’est-ce que c’est?”
“It is a psychological instability causing the patient to inflict predatory,
autoerotic, antisocial, and parasitic control on those around them.
As well as—”
“Merci.” The conductor cut Seward off by handing him back his
papers and ticket with a deft flick. He turned and addressed only the
men at the next table. “Billets, s’il vous plaît.”
Jack Seward sighed. Replacing his papers in his jacket, he checked
the pocket watch again, a nervous habit. It seemed as if the interrogation
had lasted hours, but only another five minutes had passed. He
rolled down the fringed window shade to shield his eyes from the daylight
and reclined into the plush, burgundy upholstered seat.
Oceans of Love, Lucy.
He held the beloved watch close to his heart and closed his eyes to
It was a quarter century ago. Seward held the same watch up to the light
the better to read the inscription: “Oceans of love, Lucy.”
She was there. Alive. “You don’t like it,” she said, and pouted.
He couldn’t break his stare away from her green eyes, soft as a summer
meadow. Lucy had an odd idiosyncrasy of watching a speaker’s
mouth as if trying to taste the next word before it passed by his lips.
She had such a lust for life. Her smile could bring warmth to the coldest
heart. As she sat on the bench in the garden that spring day, Seward
marveled at how the sunlight illuminated the loose strands of red hair
that danced in the breeze, haloing her face. The scent of fresh lilacs
mixed with the salty sea air of Whitby Harbor. In the years since,
whenever he smelled lilacs, he would remember this beautiful, bitter
“I can only conclude,” Seward said, clearing his throat before his
voice had a chance to break, “since you wrote on the gift card ‘Dearest
Friend’ rather than ‘Fiancé,’ that you have chosen not to accept my pro
posal of marriage.”
Lucy looked away, her eyes moistening. The silence spoke volumes.
“I thought it best that you hear it from me,” Lucy finally sighed. “I
have consented to wed Arthur.”
Arthur had been Jack Seward’s friend since they were lads. Seward
loved him like a brother, yet always envied how easily everything came
to Arthur. He was handsome and rich, and had never in his life known
worry or struggle. Or heartbreak.
“I see.” Seward’s voice sounded like a squeak in his ears.
“I do love you,” Lucy whispered. “But . . .”
“But not as much as much as you love Arthur.” Of course he could
not compete with the wealthy Arthur Holmwood, nor was he as dashing
as Lucy’s other suitor, the Texan Quincey P. Morris.
“Forgive me,” he went on in a softer tone, suddenly afraid he’d hurt
her. “I forgot my place.”
Lucy reached out and patted his hand, as one would a beloved pet. “I
will always be here.”
Back in the present, he stirred in his sleep. If he could just see the
beauty in Lucy’s eyes . . . The last time he had gazed into them, that
terrible night in the mausoleum, he had seen nothing but pain and torment.
The memory of Lucy’s dying screams still seared Seward’s brain.
After leaving the train, Seward walked in a torrential downpour through
Marseilles’s labyrinth of white buildings and cursed his timing. Of
course, his quest brought him to the French Riviera in March, the only
He slogged farther inland, glancing back to see Fort Saint-Jean
standing like a stone sentinel in the indigo harbor. Then he turned about
to study the Provençal city, which had been built around a 2,600-year-old
village. Artifacts of the city’s Greek and Roman founders were found
throughout the streets. Seward lamented that he was in this picturesque
haven for such a sinister purpose. Though it would not be the first time
malevolence had made its presence felt here: Over the last century, this
seaside town had been marred by plague and pirates.
Seward stopped. Looming in front of him was a typical two-story
Mediterranean villa with large wooden shutters and wrought-iron bars
on the windows. The winter moon peering through the rain clouds cast
a spectral glow on the traditional white walls. The roof was covered in
red terra-cotta tiles that reminded him of some of the old Spanish houses
he had seen when he visited Quincey P. Morris in Texas so many years
ago. It created a decidedly foreboding ambience, even unwelcoming, for
an ornate villa on the French Riviera. It appeared entirely devoid of life.
His heart sank at the thought that he might be too late. Seward looked
again at the address.
This was it.
Suddenly, he heard the thunderous approach of a horse-drawn carriage
splashing along the cobblestones. He ducked into a vineyard across
from the building. There were no grapes on the dripping, weblike
branches. A black carriage with ornate gold trim sailed up the hill,
pulled by two glistening black mares. The animals drew to a stop without
a command. Seward looked up and, to his surprise, saw there was no
driver. How was that possible?
A strapping figure emerged from the carriage. The mares nipped at
each other and squealed, necks arched. Then, again to Seward’s amazement,
they moved off, in perfect step, with no coachman to direct them.
The figure held a walking stick aloft with one black-gloved hand, and
dipped into a pocket with the other for a key, then stopped suddenly as
if becoming aware of something.
“Damn,” Seward muttered to himself.
The person at the door cocked his head, almost as if he heard Seward’s
voice through the rain, and turned slowly toward the vineyard. Seward
felt waves of panic and adrenaline wash over him but managed to hold
his breath. The gloved hand reached up to the brim of the velvet top hat
and Seward choked back a gasp as he saw the top hat removed to reveal
sensuous locks of black hair cascading onto the figure’s shoulders.
His mind reeled. It is she! The Benefactor had been right.
Countess Elizabeth Bathory stood at the doorway of the villa, looking
exactly as she had in the portrait painted over three hundred years
(Posted with permission from the publisher)
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