Shane and Maya’s story will hit shelves and e-readers everywhere in just 18 days! Instead of making you wait for the whole thing, I’m going to give you a little bit every day until we reach the release day on July 1st! Today you get Chapter 1 and tomorrow I’ll post Chapter 2. Then on Monday we’re starting a pre-pub excerpt tour with a few of my blogger buddies around the net. You’ll get part of Chapter 3 every day and then before you know it–BOOM! It’ll be release day!
The air around him was void of the normally incessant sound of fluttering human heartbeats or the typical noises of New York City nightlife. No honking horns. No inane human conversation. Nothing.
For a split second Shane thought he’d awakened somewhere other than his apartment within the Presidium’s New York facility. Standing ramrod straight, fangs bared and senses sharp, he surveyed the empty, hauntingly quiet Manhattan street.
Shane Quesada hadn’t been blanketed by silence like this in over four hundred years, not since that fateful summer night so long ago. Though it had been decades, he still recalled that hot August evening with vivid clarity. The mysterious woman visiting his village seduced him, turned him and then after toying with Shane for a century, Selena left the way she’d found him. Broken and alone.
That man, the one who wept for the woman who abandoned him, no longer existed and Shane knew this particular moment was certainly not the time to revisit that period of weakness. Shutting down the unpleasant memory with the cold, calculating demeanor of a vampire sentry, he focused on figuring out where in the hell he was.
Struggling to understand what was happening, Shane’s hands balled into fists and his jaw clenched. He could see he was standing outside The Coven, the club owned by the new Czar of the North Eastern Territory, Olivia Hollingsworth. It was a place he frequented most nights over the past several months and it certainly wasn’t for the ear shattering music, the stench of sweating humans or the undrinkable swill that was served.
It was the blonde, youngling vampire bartender who captured Shane’s interest and drew him there night after night. Most evenings he wouldn’t stay long, only a few minutes before or after his sweeps of the city but he’d discovered that skipping even just one night made him surprisingly agitated. Even if it was only a moment or two, he simply had to have a glimpse of her. Maya Robertson, the flirtatious beauty who had a penchant for toying with human men, had become both the bane of his existence and the object of his long dormant desire.
It had been years since he actually wanted a woman for more than her blood. However, the moment Shane encountered the curvaceous beauty with the compelling blue eyes, lust gnawed at him. The sudden and instant attraction to the beautiful little vampire was highly unsettling. The nagging, pulsing need for her clawed relentlessly, deep in his gut and even though he wanted nothing more than to claim her, Shane resisted.
He had no time for an emotional entanglement, let alone with one of the czar’s progeny. Emotions were dangerous and distracting. He was known as one of the finest and most focused sentries within the Presidium’s ranks and he had no interest in losing his position or getting sloppy.
Aside from the fact that Maya was a youngling, only turned five years ago, she was reckless and if there was one thing Shane couldn’t abide, it was recklessness. Maya had a fondness for human men and from what he could tell she’d taken many of them to her bed. His jaw clenched and anger fired through him at the mere thought of her with another man.
Shaking his head, his mouth set in a tight line and he fought to remove the image of her gorgeous oval-shaped face from his mind. Her skin was fair with not a freckle on it and the only thing more alluring than her hourglass figure were her enormous blue eyes. They were almost lavender and she seemed fully aware of their hypnotic power. Maya may not be able to glamour Shane, or any other vampire, the way she could a human, but she certainly seemed to have him under her spell.
The woman had become a distraction and in his line of work it was things like that, which got a vampire dusted. Shane sharpened his focus and tried to concentrate on the matter at hand, like where the fuck he was and why the city had suddenly fallen silent.
What Shane found even more perplexing than the unsettling quiet, was that the world around him was painted in black and white. Normally, with the night vision of a vampire, he would see the colorful world in varying shades of sepia tones but not now. He blinked and turned slowly, surveying the familiar neighborhood but things remained colorless and mute, as though he’d stepped into a silent film. There wasn’t a flicker of color anywhere and the only sound was from his bare feet when he moved along the sidewalk.
He looked down to find that he wasn’t wearing his sentry uniform– only a thin pair of cotton pajama pants. The same ones he’d put on before going to sleep for the day. He held his arms out and looked disapprovingly at his outright state of undress.
What the hell was going on? He would never in his right mind leave his apartment in only his pajamas. A sentry, and well-known soldier for the Presidium, he had made far too many enemies over the years to leave his home unarmed—let alone half naked.
Shane stilled when the realization of where he was washed over him.
He was walking in the dreamscape for the first time in almost four hundred years. A smile cracked his face and he ran both hands through his dark, thick hair while looking around in pure awe. The absence of dreams was something he’d grown accustomed to and hadn’t particularly missed. When he finally stopped dreaming, about ten years after being turned, it was the last step to letting go of his human life.
His smile faded when the gravity of what this might mean settled over him. Was he ill? Had he been bewitched in some way? Why now, after all this time, would he suddenly begin to dream again?
With unanswered questions rattling through his mind, two humans rounded the corner ahead of him. Shane stepped back into the shadows as they approached but he kept his sights on them. The man had his arm wrapped tightly around the blonde woman who stumbled and was behaving as though she were highly intoxicated. Her hair fell over her face and she was shaking her head, trying to push the man away.
Shane stilled, uncertain of what to do. Could they see him? Were they merely a part of his dream or were they sentient dreamwalkers like he was? It soon became abundantly clear that neither of them saw him when the human male tugged the young woman against him and started kissing her. She pushed him away, telling her aggressor to stop but it fell on deaf ears.
She struggled harder but it only served to infuriate the man. I bought you dinner and fed you drinks all fucking night. We both know where that leads.
The brute spun the blonde around and tried to kiss her again but she continued to refuse.
No. Shane heard her whimper. I want to go home.
I don’t think so. The man looked around, certain no one was in sight and started dragging her into the alley next to the club. I own your ass.
Fury shot up Shane’s back at the increasingly violent scene and any restraint he felt shattered when he got a glimpse of the woman’s face. A pair of terrified and familiar lavender blue eyes locked with his just before she was dragged into the alley. ? Maya.
Rage consumed him as Maya’s desperate pleas from the darkest corners of the city filled his head. Shane bellowed ferociously and flew out of the shadows toward the tortured cries for help. He tore ahead, expecting to find Maya with her attacker but the tunnel of darkness seemed to go on forever.
Shane flew faster, extended his sonar-like senses in search of Maya and her whimpering calls but all he found was a limitless void. The tunnel of darkness went on forever, with no end in sight. No sign of Maya, the city or the bastard who attacked her. Nothing except screams in the dark.
Shane woke with a start and leapt from his bed with Maya’s name on his lips. Body tense, senses alert and eyes wild, he stood motionless in the sparsely furnished but familiar bedroom attempting to regain his bearings. He was no longer flying through darkness surrounded by Maya’s pain but standing alone in his studio apartment and very much awake.
Razor sharp fangs retracted when he sensed the slow descent of the sun and the impending arrival of darkness. He’d been correct about one thing. He had walked in the dreamscape after centuries of slumbering in the dreamless, leaden sleep of a vampire. However, it wasn’t his dream. Truth be told, it wasn’t a dream at all. It was more like a nightmare. More to the point, it was Maya’s nightmare and somehow, he had been pulled into it.
Shane went to the bathroom and switched on the shower, waiting for it to be almost painfully hot. Standing with his fingers under the steaming streams of water, anger flared at the memory of what he witnessed. Doug, Olivia’s mate and the other Czar of New York, told Shane that Maya had been brutalized on the last night of her human life but nothing could have prepared him for what he saw.
Knowing about it was one thing. Witnessing it and not being able to stop it—well, that was entirely another.
The empty glass bottle skittered across the mahogany bar and the smooth, wet beer slipped easily into Maya’s hand. She winked at the handsome, young human male when he slapped down a twenty-dollar bill with black painted fingernails and a cocky smirk. Maya made quick work of getting him a fresh drink while giving him the coquettish looks she knew he wanted.
The music thrummed through the nightclub with the usual thundering noise but she could still hear the fluttering human heartbeats as they milled and danced around the club. Though the crowd was smaller than usual, it remained a target rich environment. She’d had her eye on this one from the second he’d arrived. Yes, indeed. Young Spike was just her type.
Tonight’s boy-toy was big, studly, arrogant, horny and not the sharpest tool in the shed. Just the way she liked them. Maya tended to the two other customers at her end of the bar but didn’t miss the scolding look from Trixie, the other bartender.
Lay off, would ya? Trixie’s voice touched Maya’s mind with the familiar ease of a fellow coven member. Her co-worker glanced over her shoulder and nodded toward Olivia, who was the head of their coven, their maker and owner of the nightclub. Olivia was making her rounds before closing and like always, she kept one eye on Maya.
You know how much Olivia hates it when you mess with the customers. Trixie’s voice, edged with irritation, filled Maya’s head.
Jeez, I’m not a child, Trixie. Maya’s voice touched Trixie’s mind on an exasperated sigh and she rolled her eyes. Leave me alone and mind your own business.
Yeah? Then you leave him alone. Trixie kept their telepathic conversation moving, all while tending the three customers at the other end of the bar. Come on, girl. Olivia is gonna fucking flip out if you try and feed on this guy. No more live feeds from any customers at The Coven, remember? Like it or lump it. That’s the new rule and it’s not that new. It’s been almost six months, so I don’t know why you’re looking to break it and catch a world of shit.
Yeah? Maya flipped her long blonde hair over a bare shoulder and shot Trixie a narrow eyed look. Well, maybe I’m sick of the rules and having everyone in my business.
Maya slammed her mind shut, preventing any further communication, which clearly annoyed Trixie. She flipped Maya the bird with a ring-studded hand and shook her head disapprovingly. Maya was so aggravated she wanted to fly over there and yank her pink, spiked hair right out of her head. For a girl who looked like a punk rock rebel, Trixie was sure stuck on following the rules—and unfortunately even in the world of vampires there were rules and limitations.
Can’t go in the sun or risk turning to dust.
No more sterling silver jewelry because it burns like a bitch.
No feeding on customers from the club.
Blah blah blah.
Maya was getting sick and tired of other vampires telling her what to do at every turn and it was starting to make her crazy. So what if she liked to play with human men? She fed on them and teased them a little. She took them right up to the brink of sex and then denied them the one thing they wanted– but she never hurt them. Hell, after she glamoured them, they never even remembered being with her.
Like all live feeds, Maya absorbed blood memories of her prey and every time her suspicions about what kind of men they were–were confirmed. She had a knack for picking out the boys who liked to hurt girls and their blood memories always proved what her gut instinct told her. Most of the men she fed on thrived on dominating women in and out of the bedroom.
In her experience, all men wanted sex and most were driven by lust and desire. The majority of the guys Maya toyed with had used violence at some point in their lives to get sexual gratification. Sex and sexual power were all they wanted and Maya swore she would never give it to another man again.
Nor would she let anyone take it.
Maya didn’t want to kill these men or even hurt them. She simply wanted to know she had control and possessed the power she never had as a human woman. None of the men she dallied with had any real memories of their time with her—but Maya did– and it was the only thing that helped quiet the nightmares.
After Olivia turned Maya, she said that within the first ten years of being changed, all vampires stopped dreaming. Maya couldn’t wait for that particular part of being a vamp to kick in because she was still having dreams.
Well, not dreams exactly. They were more like nightmares.
She let out short laugh and punched buttons on the touch screen of the register. Dreams? Far from it. The dreams she had as a human would have been a welcome respite from the dark, frightening memory that haunted her sleep more days than she cared to count.
Maya’s final mortal night, the last terrifying minutes before she died, replayed when she slept. No matter what she did, regardless of how she much begged and pleaded—her attacker didn’t stop. In fact, her cries seemed to excite him more. No one heard her screams for help or her whimpering pleas from the alley, at least not until it was too late.
That’s where Olivia found her five years ago. Raped, beaten and a heartbeat away from death in the alley behind the club. Left there like garbage by a man who treated her like less than nothing. He was like so many other men who passed through this club night after night, looking for a woman to use and abuse with no second thoughts, no remorse.
The first few days after Maya had been turned, she didn’t remember what happened. In fact, most of her human life was a fuzzy blur, but about a week after she became a vamp the nightmares started and horrifying terror came with it. She never felt safe but more than anything else, she loathed feeling like a victim.
Before Maya moved into her own apartment beneath the club, she’d stayed in the guest room of Olivia’s place. Some nights Maya’s cries woke her maker and she would come running. Olivia would always ask Maya about it but she’d pretend that she couldn’t remember and insist it was nothing.
To speak of it with anyone would only feed the fear. The only thing that helped ease Maya’s anxiety and gave her some semblance of control was to dominate the human boys who attempted to seduce her. Sometimes, it would even keep the nightmare away for a sleep or two but eventually the dark memory always came back.
Maya closed out Spike’s tab and slid his receipt to him with one pink manicured nail. She smiled, knowing how easily his human mind could be manipulated by the glamour of a vampire. Male or female, no human was a match for her kind, which meant Maya could play all she wanted. There was never any question about who would come out on top and that was just how she liked it.
Spike was babbling on and on to her about his motorcycle and how hot she would think it was to ride on it. Maya smiled and fiddled with the teardrop shaped emerald in her gold necklace, playing up the dumb blonde bit, pretending to be impressed by his blathering.
The cool smooth stone whispered beneath her fingers and she fiddled with the ropy gold chain. Though she wore the necklace every day, there was something soothing about holding the heirloom in her hands but she had no idea why. Her foggy, jumbled memories of her human life were like puzzle pieces scattered over the floor.
However, she suspected the necklace had been in her human family for generations. When she concentrated and really focused, Maya could picture a smiling, elderly lady wearing the necklace. Her gut instinct told her it was her grandmother and most of the disjointed memories she had included this woman.
The sad truth was that she had no clue who her family had been or who she had been. When Olivia found Maya, she had no identification and in the days following the incident, there were no missing persons reports on the news with her picture. Olivia even did an extensive search online but nothing showed up. Even Maya’s blood memories were limited to the night she was killed and the only other piece of information Olivia was able to get was Maya’s name.
It was as though Maya never existed until the night she became a vampire.
Tears pricked the back of her eyes at the reality of what that meant. It was heartbreaking to realize that no one was looking for her. What kind of person had she been? Apparently, she wasn’t one worth finding.
“So, you wanna take a ride?” Spike asked, bringing Maya from her thoughts.
Maya let out a sigh and nestled the stone safely in her ample cleavage. No point in dwelling on things or people that no longer made any difference. Her human life was behind her and the powerful existence of a vampire was the only world that mattered. The gnawing hunger tugged at her gut while she smiled at the human. She was itching for closing time and running out of patience. Thankfully the place had almost totally emptied out and she wouldn’t have to wait much longer.
“Sure, baby. I’d love to take a ride with you.” Maya ran one manicured nail over his fingers that clutched the beer. “Just gotta take care of a few things and then I’m all yours.”
Maya glanced past her would be suitor and caught a glimpse of Olivia’s long, curly red hair as she ushered out the stragglers. She shot Maya a disapproving look and pointed at her while mouthing—stay there.
Maya suppressed a satisfied smile. Normally, vampires could telepath with their makers, siblings or progeny. However, ever since Olivia found her Bloodmate, Doug, more than a few changes had taken place. There was one side effect of Olivia and Doug’s unique mating that impacted the rest of the coven, at least aside from her mood swings. Olivia was no longer able to telepath with the rest of the coven. Ever since she mated with Doug, Olivia could only telepath with him.
To complicate matters for the coven even further, Olivia and Doug were now the czars of New York City, and both of them had become Daywalkers. But the real kicker, the cherry on top, was Olivia’s pregnancy.
Jeez, and she thought Olivia was cranky before she got pregnant.
It had been unsettling at first, not to have that comforting connection with her maker, but at moments like this it was a blessing. At least the scolding would be limited to verbal lashings.
“Last call, sweetie.” Maya winked a long-lashed eye at him and leaned on the bar, a move she knew would accentuate her ample cleavage.
The black leather bustier did a fine job all on its own but a little extra pop couldn’t hurt. She noted that his lascivious gaze flicked to the sizable emerald in her necklace. With any luck, he’d try to steal it and give her an excuse to kick his ass. Maya never hurt the men she toyed with not only because it would cause trouble for the coven. Violence like that just wasn’t in her nature.
Being violent was almost as frightening as being victimized by it.
“Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Sure,” Spike said with a lopsided grin. He took a long pull off his beer and leered at her over the bottle. “Come with me after you get out of here and I’ll get you off about ten minutes after that.”
Maya suppressed an eye roll but kept a smile plastered on her face and just when she was about to tell Spike she’d meet him outside, a dark shadow loomed large next to the young man and a powerful wave of energy wafted over her.
Maya flicked her gaze to the hulking form that appeared out of nowhere and though he wasn’t looking at her, and his energy was tuned into the human, she was transfixed.
Shane Quesada was one of the sentry soldiers for the Presidium here in New York, and was easily the best-looking specimen of a man she’d ever laid eyes on. Maya was only five foot five and he loomed over her at well past six feet. He had gorgeous olive toned skin, a thick muscular build and a head of wavy, chestnut brown hair that looked silky soft.
The man was a feast for the eyes and the only thing hotter than how he looked was how he sounded. Something about the deep, rich baritone of his voice made her weak with desire but after meeting him a few months ago, she quickly discovered that Shane was about as much fun as a nun at a keg party.
He was totally uptight, all about following the rules and she was pretty sure he left his sense of humor in another century. Not only that, he moved like a ghost, and had developed a nasty habit of messing up her dates like it was part of his freaking job.
“It’s time for you to go.” Shane’s voice, quiet and powerful, captured Spike’s attention.
Spike held the bottle in mid-air and stared straight ahead, wavering slightly when the glamour effect took hold. Watching the scene unfold, it dawned on her that Shane wasn’t making eye contact with the kid and was glamouring the human with only the sound of his voice. Maya swallowed and took an involuntary step back, unnerved by the scope of Shane’s power.
The combination of Shane’s inescapable presence and the unsettling attraction she felt for him created an overall feeling of unease. It made Maya feel out of control and vulnerable—two things she loathed. Since becoming a vampire, the only other time she felt that way was when she relived the attack in her dreams.
“You did not enjoy yourself here and therefore, you won’t return.” Shane leaned closer, his voice dropping to almost inaudible tones before he flicked his dark, piercing gaze to Maya and whispered, “Never again.”
Maya’s stomach fluttered and when his eyes locked with hers and an odd sense of recognition crept into her mind. From the deep corners of her memory, an image of that dark, piercing stare ran through her mind and in a rush of panic…she remembered.
Shane had been in her nightmare.
Those deep brown eyes, intense, laser sharp and full of fury had been in her nightmare yesterday. Her brow furrowed. Shane had been there, lurking in the shadows of her nightmare. Watching. Maya’s body tensed and shook with confusion as the gravity of this revelation settled over her.
Shane’s eyes narrowed and he stared back at her but his hulking form didn’t flinch. Was it really possible or was she imagining it? Could Shane have been in the dreamscape? Was he so powerful a vampire that he’d found a way to infiltrate the dreams of a youngling vampire like her?
Maya’s jaw set. The how wasn’t important but the why. Why would he spy on her and watch her be attacked but do nothing to help? What kind of sick, evil son of a bitch gets off on watching that? Not only that but who the hell gave him permission to spy on her in the dreamscape or right here in the bar?
Anger and confusion flashing, she shoved herself away from the bar and glared at him. Shane didn’t retreat but simply held her stare with his usual calm arrogance. Was it arrogance or was it something else…distaste? Did he think she was a whore for flirting with this human and others like him? Did Shane think she deserved what happened to her that night?
Maya bit back tears, refusing to cry in front of him even though the accusing voice of shame kept rolling around her head. The truth was, it wasn’t Shane saying those things, it was her. She had been drunk that fateful night and flirted with her date from minute one.
Maybe she had asked for it.
“This place sucks.” The boy blinked and put his beer down while giving Maya a wary look. He took cash out of his back pocket and tossed it on the bar before mumbling something inaudible and walking away. “I’m outta here.”
“Good riddance,” Shane murmured as he watched the boy leave.
“You’re a killjoy,” Maya said, scooping up the money, turning her back on Shane and closing out the sale. “What’s your deal, anyway? Do you get off by ruining my fun?”
Maya slammed the register drawer shut, grabbed a wet rag from the sink and started wiping down the bar. She had to create busy work for herself and get out from under the weight of Shane’s accusing gaze. She was remarkably unsettled by that flashing memory of his eyes in her nightmare but was determined to shake it off. Maya refused to allow this stodgy, old vampire to steal the tiny bit of sanity she clung to.
Maya swallowed the urge to scream and rubbed at the bar faster. She glanced at Shane. He was walking slowly along the opposite side of the bar, keeping his eyes on her with his hands at his side.
It was ridiculous. How could Shane have been in her dream…unless?
What if he had actually been there that night five years ago? What if he was there, outside that alley, and witnessed what happened but did nothing to help her? Maybe she’d repressed that part of the memory until now.
Panic, fear, and shame filled her but she refused to cry.
“That human was beneath you,” Shane said quietly. He stood in front of her with his large, dark eyes tracking her every move. His long leather coat, undoubtedly lined with various sentry weapons, hung over his massive frame with almost regal perfection. “You should know that.”
“Exactly,” Maya said with forced sweetness. She refused to let Shane know how unsettled he’d made her. “That was kind of the point.”
“Why do you insist on wasting time with these human men?” He cocked his head to one side, the sharp angles of his masculine face and the chin covered by a perpetual five o’clock shadow, was revealed in flickers by the strobe lights of the club. “It’s not simply for their blood is it?”
“I’ll tell you what it is. It’s none of your business.” Maya paused mid-swipe and puffed a long, blonde strand of hair off her face, wrestling with her waning patience. “Why is everyone so damn concerned with what I’m doing?”
“It may not be my business.” Shane stepped closer, so the buckle of the belt on his leather pants clinked against the edge of the bar. He rested both hands on the bar and leaned in, that mesmerizing gaze latched firmly with hers. “But I’m asking anyway.”
She needed to create some distance between herself and the powerful vampire. He unnerved her. Not because she thought he was going to hurt her but simply due to the power he possessed and the way her body reacted to his.
Every time those glittering eyes locked onto hers, it was like a light switch went off inside her but she willed away the sensation. What was the point of entertaining feelings like that when she had no intention of acting on them again?
However, he was unavoidable and night after night for the past few months, he’d been coming to the club, staring her down but saying little. His mere presence was unsettling. Shane was centuries older than she was and radiated raw, unadulterated strength.
She’d heard stories about his skills in battle and the other girls in the coven, speculated about his skills in the bedroom. Trixie and Sadie took bets to see who could bed him first but he seemed oblivious to their advances. He was a warrior. A sentry with hundreds of years of experience and by all accounts, the man was death incarnate.
Shane moved in between shadows like a phantom. Even for a vampire he was fast.
“Tell me, Maya.” His voice seemed to surround her and pulled her from her thoughts. Her belly quivered as he leaned closer. “Why?”