Teaseday – Love Immortal – vampire romance novel

This week my Teaseday post is brought to you by Love Immortal, my epic vampire romance novel. Love Immortal has it all in spades – drama, action, emotion, passion, and twists that will knock your socks off. Oh, and keep a hanky handy too!

Here’s the book blurb and your tease chapter…

Felicity Heaton
Rescued from werewolves by the most breathtaking man she’s ever seen, Lauren is dragged into the fight of her life and a dark world she never knew existed. There, she discovers that she’s the latest reincarnation of a goddess and must drink the blood of her immortal protector, Julian, in order to reawaken and continue her three thousand year old mission to defeat Lycaon, the original werewolf.

With the help of Julian and an organisation of people with supernatural abilities, Lauren fights for her life, their future and the fate of mankind against Lycaon and his deadly army, but can she succeed when Lycaon has killed all of her predecessors?

Can she crack the armour around Julian’s heart and seize her happily forever after with him? And can Julian bring himself to trust Lauren with the fragments of his heart after everything he’s been through?

ebook price: $3.99
paperback price: $12.99
genre: paranormal vampire romance
length: 157000 words
rating: sultry
released: January 2011

Available in e-book from:
Author’s website: http://www.felicityheaton.com/ebooks.php?title=Love%20Immortal
Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004HYHHME/
Amazon Kindle UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004HYHHME/
Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Love-Immortal/Felicity-Heaton/e/2940011179648/
All Romance eBooks: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-loveimmortal-613574-139.html
Sony Reader Store: http://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/felicity-heaton/love-immortal/_/R-400000000000000340123
Kobo Books: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Love-Immortal/book-OyQ9CMW5Jkaf0K_UwfVfGw/page1.html
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/36609
Amazon Kindle Germany: http://www.amazon.de/dp/B004HYHHME/
Amazon Kindle France: http://www.amazon.fr/dp/B004HYHHME/

Available in paperback from:
Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1456487884/
Amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1456487884/
Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Love-Immortal/Felicity-Heaton/e/9781456487881/


Protection and answers.

They were the most prominent reasons why Lauren was going with this man and the ones that she was going to stick with until everything started making sense. There were other reasons floating around her mind but she ignored those. So what if she felt attracted to Julian? She was only going with him because he could protect her from the monsters that were out to kill her.

Lauren adjusted the straps of her backpack and walked in silence beside Julian through the centre of London. He hadn’t said much since they had left her house other than telling the taxi driver to drop them off at Piccadilly Circus.

They passed through several side streets, heading deeper into the heart of the city, and entered a square with tall Georgian townhouses on all sides. Their pale stone, uniform black iron fences and black doors made them mirror images of each other. A fine layer of frost covered the fancy cars parked on the road outside them. A tall iron fence enclosed a wooded park in the middle of the square, the gates closed. The trees were bare, silhouetted against the sky. Where was Julian taking her, and why couldn’t they have continued in the taxi?

He’d said something back at her house about them going to see some people who were special like her. An organisation called Ghost.

The mention of that name had piqued her interest but Julian had told her to get ready. He’d said it with such insistence that she’d fallen silent and done what he’d asked. She’d changed out of her wet things, mulling over everything he’d told her about her past lives, her apparent mission, their opponent, and himself. She hadn’t said a word since then.

She didn’t have a problem with reincarnation. Belief in that was common enough and it was comforting to think that there was something beyond death.

The thing she found hard to swallow was the fact that ancient Greek gods were involved, and Julian and the werewolf named Lycaon were thousands of years old. Immortal. That was the stuff of movies and fairytales.

But so were monsters, and they were real.

Julian hadn’t told her what would happen if she chose not to ‘awaken’ on her birthday, which left her wondering if she really had a choice at all. Would something bad happen to her or the world if she didn’t? What if one of Illia’s reincarnations said no? Did it all just end?

No. Lauren knew the answer to that. Lycaon was after revenge, something she could empathize with since learning who had ordered her parents’ deaths. If she chose not to carry out Illia’s, her, duty then Lycaon might just get his wish. She wasn’t sure how it worked but Julian had made it sound as though her role was a necessary one and she was important.

She’d never been important before.

It was a nice, if daunting, feeling.

She wrapped her arms around herself in an effort to keep warm. The night sky was clear, leaving the world frosty and far colder than her clothing could protect against. Her warmest jacket had been wet so she’d had to dress in her thinner brown combat jacket. Even when combined with the black jumper and camisole it wasn’t warm enough to keep the chill off her skin. She looked up at the heavens. It would be dawn in only a couple of hours. Darkness had already started to give way to a strange kind of twilight that made it easier to see her surroundings but more difficult to make out any detail.

Lauren looked at Julian. He stared straight ahead, eyes intent on the distance and the tall collar of his coat masking the lower half of his face. He didn’t even blink when the wintry wind blew the black strands of his hair across his brow. She kept her gaze fixed on him as much as possible, taking him all in. He moved the black carry case he had borrowed from her to conceal his sword to his right shoulder and straightened. He was much taller than her, enough that she barely reached his shoulders, but she liked it and the fact that he radiated strength and confidence. She wished he would speak more to her though. The sound of his voice soothed her. It was warm and calming, adding to the way she felt when she was around him. She didn’t feel as though she was in danger. She was safe with him. Even though she knew that she shouldn’t feel that way, she did. She couldn’t help it.

He blinked slowly, shuttering his beautiful blue eyes. She had never imagined that such pale eyes could have such intensity. They sent a tremor through her whenever he looked into hers, a spark that gave her a warm feeling in the pit of her stomach. When he looked at her with silver eyes, she felt mesmerised.

She moved ahead of him a little and looked back. He glanced away from her, towards the park in the middle of the square.

His behaviour was starting to give her the impression that he was avoiding looking at her. What reason did he have to do that though?

Julian stopped, scrutinised the pavement, and then walked a few steps and crouched down. Lauren leaned forwards to see what he was doing. When he held his hand above the paving slab, something flared into existence. The flash of green light faded to reveal an intricate glowing symbol just beneath Julian’s palm on the pavement. He stood and the symbol disappeared.

“What was that?” Lauren said. Shiny glyphs didn’t just appear out of nowhere and they certainly didn’t disappear without a trace.

“A marker,” he said and the sound of his deep accented voice made her want to close her eyes.

“And it does what?” Lauren crouched and waved her hand over the pavement. Nothing happened.

“It responds only to me.” Julian knelt on one knee beside her. He held his hand out and the marker appeared again, glowing brilliant green and lighting his hand and the pavement. The swirling pattern shifted beneath his fingers. Twin circular bands edged the central symbol. The smaller glyphs inside them moved in opposite directions. The ones in the outside ring turned clockwise and those in the inside one anti-clockwise. “It tells us which way to go.”

“How does it know where we want to go?” She reached out and touched the marker. It was freezing cold. An unsettled feeling grew in her. Julian took hold of her hand and moved it away.

“They do not just appear of their own accord. Duke placed it here to guide us. I came ahead of the others and do not know the location of the Ghost office here in London.” Julian stood and brushed off his knee before offering his hand to her. She took it and pulled herself back up.

“And who is Duke?” Everything Julian said left her with more questions and she wanted answers.

“You will meet him soon enough.” Julian held his arm out to one side, indicating the way forward.

She could sense he wanted her to be silent again so he could concentrate. One more question first.

“How do you find the markers?”

Julian paused mid-stride and looked over his shoulder at her. The funnel neck of his coat shifted and she caught a glimpse of the rest of his nose. It was perfectly straight. She wished that she could see all of his face. Perhaps when they reached Duke and the Ghosts he would remove his coat. She wanted to know what Julian looked like.

“I can sense them.”

“Can you sense me too?”

He nodded. “Come, we must not keep them waiting.”

Lauren followed him again, feeling somewhat like a small child just told off by their father. Julian was old enough to be her great-times-one-hundred-grandfather. Lauren couldn’t imagine living for that long. He would have seen the world change, for better and for worse. More questions came to her but she kept them to herself this time.

Julian led her down a side street and then an empty pedestrian street. He stopped and placed his hand against the redbrick and cream sandstone wall of an old factory building to her left. Another symbol appeared between two large white-framed arched windows. Pale blue this time. It matched Julian’s eyes.

Lauren frowned at the comparison.

When had she become so interested in him? He’d been on her mind since she’d met him. He’d told her so much about herself and Lycaon, but he’d barely mentioned himself. The fact that he kept half of his face hidden only increased his aura of mystery and when she combined that mystery with his incredible sword skills and need to protect her, she found herself desiring him.

He took the black carry case from his shoulder, pulled out his katana and slid it back into place under his coat. He handed her the case and she put it into her backpack. Had they arrived?

Julian stepped back, looked up at the building and then at the similar one opposite.

Before Lauren could ask what the symbol had said this time, one of his arms was around her waist and the other went behind her knees. He lifted her effortlessly. Her eyebrows almost touched her hairline and she looped her arms around his neck. Her feet crossed. No man had ever picked her up before. She stared at his face, right into his eyes, able to see every tiny fleck of darker blue against ice. This close to him, she couldn’t deny her attraction to Julian. Her heart jigged in her chest and heat scorched her where his hands pressed into her body.

“Hold on tight,” Julian whispered and Lauren nodded, captivated by the dark ring that encircled his irises and the wide black abyss of his pupils. His eyes were so beautiful. “Do not look down.”
Lauren frowned. She wasn’t that high off the ground. Come to think of it, why was he holding her anyway? Did he intend to carry her across the threshold like newlyweds? That thought brought an odd warmth with it but it quickly dissipated. Immortals probably didn’t marry and she barely knew him. If her friends were here they would think she had either gone crazy or was finally seizing the day just as she’d said she would.

She blinked and then frowned again, remembering that she’d left her bag in the alley. The body of the man had disappeared but her things were still there, covered in blood. What if the police could link them to her somehow? They could contact her friends and then they would think that she had been murdered or kidnapped.

Well, they would be right about one of those things.

Julian had practically abducted her and he’d told her things that she still didn’t fully believe. The people at Ghost were like her. How much like her? Were they like Julian, or were they different?

He turned with her and jumped, pushing all thought from her head. Her arms tightened around his neck. She expected him to go a few feet and then hit the pavement. He didn’t. He soared upwards towards the building opposite at incredible speed.

He was going to jump to the roof. That was impossible. No one could jump that far. Could Julian?

The second storey windows of the building came at them fast.

They were going to hit it.

Lauren leaned into Julian’s neck and braced for impact. His arms tightened around her in a delicious way and just as they were going to hit the wall, his foot came out. He pushed off from the second redbrick warehouse, pivoted, and they were sailing upwards again.

Her heart pounded as they sped towards the roof of the building that bore the symbol.

Julian landed silently on a low wall that edged the flat roof and then stepped down, still holding her. She stared up at him, mouth working silently as she tried to speak. He gently lowered her until her feet hit the gravel. Her legs wobbled beneath her and her arms refused to come unlocked. Strong hands firmly gripped her waist, steadying her, warming her until she burned inside. She stared into silver eyes. Her reflection shimmered in them.

“Are you well?” Julian said, his low voice making her quiver with delight.

She swallowed and then nodded. “That was incredible.”

His eyes narrowed as though he was smiling behind the funnel neck of his coat and he reached around behind his head, took hold of her hands, and removed them. Lauren looked down at their joined hands when he kept hold of one of them. It felt nice. What made it feel even better was the fact that the hand holding hers was his left, the opposite of the one he used to draw his sword. He was still protecting her. If something happened, he would be able to defend her in a heartbeat.

Did his heart beat?

“Stay close.” He started walking.

Lauren followed in a daze. If Julian had wanted to make her believe that all this was real, he’d found the perfect way by leaping up to the roof. Now she couldn’t deny that he was different and she couldn’t help wondering if she would be able to do that too when she awakened. Jump building to building. Soar over the gaps between them. Fight like him.

She frowned and tracked back through her thoughts. When she awakened? Shouldn’t that have been ‘if’? She was on the verge of agreeing to something before she had all the facts. There were definitely things that Julian had skirted around during their conversation, or had omitted completely. There was more to this than he was telling her, just as there was more to him.

They stopped in front of a small square structure with a dark metal door and Julian held his free hand out to it. A red symbol appeared this time. The markings matched the green one that had been on the pavement. The door clicked. Julian opened it and walked in, his grip on her hand increasing.

Lights flickered into life above them, dull and tinted green. They barely lit the steep concrete steps that led down into the building. Lauren clung to Julian’s hand and looked back at the door. No one was there and her footsteps on the stairs were so loud that she would have heard someone walking down them if they had opened the door and then left. Who had unlocked the door and turned on the lights?

A red dot on the sloped ceiling caught her attention. A small black security camera pointed at her and the door. She stared into the dark lens, wondering who was looking back at her.

They turned right down the corridor at the end of the steps. The industrial lighting stole all warmth from the cream walls. She hunched up, feeling cold as she walked through the eerily silent building.

They passed several dark doors. Some of them were open, revealing modern and spacious offices. No one was in them. She wasn’t surprised considering that it was nearing dawn now. Everyone had probably gone home for the evening. That was, if Ghost operatives went home.

Julian’s boots were loud on the beech wood floor, echoing along the hall ahead of them. She looked down as they passed a staircase on her left. A brown carpet stair-runner led her eye downward and she frowned when she heard noises coming from the floor below. There were still people in the building, and they were awake.

Julian’s grip on her hand tightened and his pace slowed. They were nearing the end of the corridor now. Only two doors lay ahead of them, both closed. Was his contact behind one of them? She looked at Julian. His increasing grip on her hand and his hesitation gave her the impression that whomever they were meeting, he didn’t fully trust them.

At least not with her.

That thought made her heart thump hard against her chest. Julian stopped and looked back at her.

“Is something the matter?” He frowned.

Lauren could only draw one conclusion.

He could hear her heart beating.

She hadn’t tensed, gasped, or made any move or sound that might have alerted him to the sudden spike in her emotions caused by the thought that he wanted to protect her. Had he sensed it? Was this another of his abilities? Super hearing.

“Nothing,” she whispered and then stepped towards him. “What… what gave you the impression something was wrong?”

He looked down at her chest. His blue eyes showed a flicker of hunger. She liked the way he looked at her. Fire, passion, desire. No man had looked at her like that before.

“Your heart.” He turned away. “It sounds frightened.”

It was galloping in her chest, racing over the way he’d looked at her rather than the revelation that he could hear it or anything like fear. After witnessing firsthand that he could leap up buildings, she was sure that nothing about Julian could shock her.

“I’m not frightened.” When she said that, he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye.

He walked to a dark wooden door and knocked.

Without waiting for an invitation from within, Julian opened the door and held it for her. She hesitated, uncertain about going in first, and then took a deep breath and laughed internally at how ridiculous she was being. Fear had lived too long in her heart, making her play it safe when everyone else was taking chances. It was time that she changed that. If she could accept everything that Julian had told her, then she could face whatever was in this room.

Head held high, Lauren walked into the large office. There was nothing more than a man sitting at a grand mahogany desk working on a laptop. Papers were scattered across it. A mug sat in one corner under a green glass and brass lamp. Three tall arched windows behind the man revealed a panorama of London rooftops. The sky was starting to grow brighter.

The man looked up at her. Short dark tangled waves touched with silver framed his tanned handsome face. He looked no more than ten years her senior. Deep intense brown eyes met hers with confidence and a sparkle of amusement. He smiled, adopting an almost seductive expression, and then with quintessential Italian charm, he stood, walked around the desk to her and took hold of her hand, bringing it to his lips and pressing a kiss to the back of it.

“Lauren, I presume?” he said in a husky voice and glanced up into her eyes.

She nodded, stunned by his greeting. His thumb brushed the back of her hand. Was he flirting with her?

The sleeve of his silver-grey suit fell back, revealing a tattoo on his forearm and his palm. Black outlined roses and stems wound their way up his arm, spread out as they disappeared under his shirt but grouped closer together on his palm. The flowers close to his shirt cuff were empty but some of the ones on his wrist were coloured in, as were all of the ones that she could see on his palm. They varied from crimson through to a red so deep that it was almost black.

He waved a hand towards two dark red leather armchairs in front of his desk. She shook her head. She didn’t want to sit down. She would only start fidgeting and showing her nerves.

“I thought Julian said not to frighten her?” The female voice caught her off guard and Lauren turned on a pinhead to face the owner of it. The woman was stunning, wearing a tight long black dress that revealed an hourglass figure, abundance of cleavage and legs that Lauren would kill for. Red heart-shaped lips, near-black eyes, and glossy straight black hair that reached mid-way down her back topped off the vision of perfection.

This woman was sin personified.

The man let go of her hand, smiling all the while, and leaned against the large mahogany desk. He placed his right foot up onto the seat of one of the leather armchairs. Shiny expensive leather shoes. He seemed accustomed to luxury. His office was a lot different to the others she had seen down the hall. It was larger and more grandly furnished, superior, and it showed signs of life, albeit ones that unnerved her. She hadn’t failed to notice that the wall to her left was painted dark red when all the others were cream, and that a huge wooden glass-fronted cabinet full of guns took up most of it. One of the doors was open behind the other. None of the guns it contained were automatic or modern weapons. They all looked antique, and there were a couple missing.

“I would think that sort of greeting would be more frightening than mine. You made the poor girl jump.” The man folded his arms across his chest.

Lauren looked from him, to the woman where she stood framed against the strip of cream wall between two massive mahogany bookcases, to Julian. His pale blue eyes were narrowed, his eyebrows drawn tight together. If she had to guess at his feelings, she would say that he wasn’t happy. Had it been the man’s flirtatious greeting or the fact the woman had scared her?

Lauren stepped back towards him, distancing herself from the two new people. The closer she moved to Julian, the calmer and safer she felt. He moved forwards until he stood beside her, so near to her that their hands were almost touching.

“Perhaps we should introduce ourselves more formally?” the man said.

Julian nodded and his expression lightened.

“My name is Duke.” With a flourish, the man motioned towards the woman. “And this is Astra.”

Duke and Astra. Only two of them? When Julian had told her they were going to meet some people, she’d imagined more than two. But they had powers. Maybe they only needed two of them to help.

“Ghost,” Lauren said and Duke nodded, a smile winding its way across his face again. She glanced at Julian, wondering what his smile would look like. He still showed no sign of removing his coat.

“The organisation that we work for is called Ghost. It formed around a century ago to deal with maintaining a balance between the human and the demon worlds. Ghost is made up of small teams of five, each with their own mission. Normally that mission is to eradicate any species thought to threaten human existence or thought to be in danger of revealing the existence of demons.”

“Like some sort of paranormal investigation company,” Lauren said and the man laughed.

“Not quite, but close enough. I have led several missions with Ghost. Demons, portals, magic, we deal with anything and almost everything. My team’s current mission is to assist Julian in finding you.”

“But that mission seems to have concluded.” Astra leaned back against the patch of cream wall between the two crammed bookcases, distant from all of them.

Astra crossed her arms, pushing her breasts up even higher. Lauren snuck a glance down at her own meagre offering. Her gaze shifted to Julian and she was relieved when she found him looking at her, not at Astra. She wondered why either man was paying attention to her when a goddess was in the same room. Most men she knew would have been fawning over Astra by now.

“So are we included on the second part or not?” Duke’s smile held.

“It is up to Lauren.” Julian moved away and a cold feeling stole through her.

She moved closer to him again. Astra smiled across the room at her. There was a hint of malice to it.

Lauren realised that everyone was looking at her. She stared at the intricate Chinese rug that covered most of the floor in the office, her gaze following the flowing forms of dragons and arched bridges and pretty buildings. The room was silent and filled with an air of expectation. If they thought she was going to announce her decision right now, they had another thing coming. She wasn’t going to decide either way until she had all the facts. She knew nothing about her so-called ‘awakening’ or these people. At least she could remedy that. She looked up at Duke.

“Julian says you’re both special, like me. You have powers.”

Duke grinned and leaned back, raking his gaze over her. “You are definitely special.”

“We have different abilities to yours.” Astra came away from the wall to stand near to Julian. She turned her dark eyes on him, her smile becoming seductive. “Yours are like Julian’s.”

Julian looked at Astra. Jealousy hissed in Lauren’s mind. In a competition of looks, Astra would win hands down, but Lauren wasn’t about to just throw in the towel.

When Julian’s gaze moved back to her, Lauren turned her attention to Duke. Determined to ignore Astra’s attempts to make her jealous, she gave Duke her best smile.

“Show me what you’ve got,” she said and couldn’t quite believe those words had left her lips. For a brief moment, she’d considered adding ‘big boy’ to the end of her sentence and was glad that she hadn’t. Things were crazy enough without her falling into a flirt-off with a woman that had twice her talents and then some, for a man who she wasn’t even sure of her feelings for.

In the blink of an eye, Duke had disappeared and then reappeared right by her elbow. He hadn’t moved like the werewolves and Julian, quicker than her eyes could keep up with. He had literally disappeared. Teleported. He raised his hand, showing her that it was empty save the tattoos that marked it, and then produced a red translucent ball of something that morphed into the shape of a heart.

Not a cartoon heart.

A human one that was beating rapidly.

Lauren’s eyes widened. It matched her heartbeat.

That wasn’t some cheap parlour trick magic.

Her stomach turned and she backed away from Duke, bumping into something. Turning, she found herself staring up at Julian. His pale blue eyes were fixed on Duke in a scowl but dropped to her in a heartbeat. When had he moved so close to her? Astra laughed but there was only anger in her eyes.

Lauren looked back at Duke. The heart was gone and he was toying with something. A gun. It looked like an old six-shooter, like the large collection in the glass cabinet on the wall to her left, but there were more rounds in the chamber than that. She’d never seen such an elaborate gun before. The metal was golden and intricately carved with roses, and the grip was mahogany.

“A wizard?” Lauren said, unsure whether it was the right word to use.

“Of sorts.” Duke spun the chamber of the gun. “Although I rarely use magic to fight with nowadays. I rely more on man-made weaponry, albeit with an edge.”

He opened the chamber, removed a bullet and tossed it over to her. Lauren caught and stared at it. Strange symbols similar to those on the markers covered the silver casing. She looked at Duke for an answer to her silent question.

“It is an incantation. It will kill any demon that it penetrates.”

“Not all demons,” Astra said and Lauren’s attention was immediately with her. “Some of us are immune, aren’t we, Julian?”

Lauren frowned at her and then Julian. “A demon?”

He shook his head. “Astra is the only demon in this room.”

Astra laughed, high and tinkling, her hand delicately covering her mouth. When she opened her eyes again, they were glowing bright blue, flickering as though they had turned to flame.

“I am the only demon, vampire?”

Vampire? Lauren’s gaze shot back to Julian.

Julian’s eyes flashed silver. “I am no vampire!”

“You drink blood to live… a vampire drinks blood to live. Tell me the difference. We are not so different.” Astra’s eyes narrowed.

“Astra!” Duke stepped between them. Lauren moved behind Julian. His hand was on his sword. “Stand down. Julian is not a vampire or a demon, and neither are you, not for a long time.”

Astra turned away and walked to the last of the three tall arched windows. When she reached it, she looked back at Lauren, her eyes still vivid blue, as bright as a summer’s sky at noon.

“I apologise, Julian… but do not expect me to pander to your little girl’s desire to know of my ‘power’.”

Lauren stood her ground, unflinching under Astra’s eerie stare. Whatever power the woman had, it was strong and Lauren got the feeling that it was dangerous.

“She’s been grouchy all day. If she was mortal, I would say it was her special time.” Duke shrugged and Astra turned her back on them. Lauren watched her for a few seconds more and then shook off her bad feeling and faced the two men.

Her eyes sought Julian’s. They were pale blue again, unreadable. Any emotion he was feeling was well-masked, hidden beneath layers of ice that made her feel cold. He’d shut her out. Until now, she hadn’t even realised that he’d let her in but she felt the loss keenly. Whatever barrier he’d brought up, she wanted to break it down. She wanted back in.

“Is she right about you?” Lauren’s voice quivered the tiniest amount. She clenched her fists to steel her nerves and settle them. So what if he drank blood? She was growing accustomed to people being different to her.

Or not so different. If she chose to awaken, she would become like Julian. When Julian had shown her the scars on his forearm, she had reacted to the sight of them. The thought of taking his blood had frightened her, but she’d felt a compulsion to bite him, to taste the strength in his veins. The desire had been almost irresistible, and completely confusing. Now, it made a hideous kind of sense. In the same way that she instinctively remembered Julian, she’d remembered her need to feed.

“Normal sustenance is no longer possible for me, just as it was never possible for you. It was your blood which brought me over and I have inherited my abilities from you—my immortality, my speed and strength, and my need for blood,” he said.

A very eloquent if unnerving reply. She didn’t like the way he spoke about her and Illia as though they were the same, and she didn’t like the fact that she was beginning to think that way too.

“I am not like a normal vampire.”

Her eyebrows rose. “But you drink blood.”

And she would too when she awakened.

Julian nodded. Duke glanced towards Astra. Lauren looked there too.

“What does she drink?” Lauren uncurled her fingers and then clenched her fists again. Her insides trembled. She was glad that Astra remained facing away from them. If Astra had been looking her way, Lauren would have lost her nerve. “She said that you weren’t so different, Julian… if you drink blood… is she a vamp—”

“Dare call me that filthy word and I will—” Astra stopped mid-stride as Julian drew his sword and stepped into her path.

Lauren’s heart jumped. She hadn’t realised that calling someone a vampire would cause so much trouble.

“What are you then?” Lauren found her bravery now that Julian was between them and showed no sign of backing down.

“We have no name.” Astra settled back onto her heels. “But I am not a vampire. I do not feed on blood.” Her eyes fixed on Lauren’s, sending a chill through her. “I need souls to survive.”

Lauren stepped back, her hand coming up to her chest.

Duke laughed. It did nothing to ease the tension in the room.

“It has been a long time since Astra has devoured a human soul. She has acquired a taste for demon souls,” he said but the knowledge that Astra had changed her tastes didn’t comfort Lauren in the slightest. Astra had implied that she wasn’t the only one of her kind out there.

Lauren added soul-eating demons to her list of things to avoid.

“Julian?” She ventured a step towards him.

He turned, sheathing his sword at the same time. His eyes were still cold. Even when provoked into defending her, he’d been emotionless.

Seeing that he wasn’t going to ask her what was wrong this time, she gave a brief small smile and then said, “How do I regain my powers? You never really told me what happens during my awakening.”

A flicker of hesitation crossed his eyes and then disappeared as though he’d erased it.

“Lycaon was already spreading his curse to others by the time I fell. You were confident that you could do something similar by passing your blood to me. As I lay dying, you fed me your blood and asked Zeus to save me. He did because I carried your blood and promised to protect you. He charged me with finding you and reawakening your power each time you are reincarnated.”

He’d told her as much already, although he’d been vaguer about it. She nodded, wanting him to continue so she could finally learn more about what was happening to her.

“During the awakening, I will give your blood back to you, and bring you over,” he said.

“Bring me over?” Several pieces fell into place in her head and she didn’t like the connotations one bit. Julian had mentioned something about Zeus bringing him over. He’d also mentioned that he’d died in order to meet Zeus. “As in, die?”

“You will die either way, so what’s the difference? One way you’ll come back.” Duke’s bright air tailed off when she turned and stared at him.

Her mind raced.

“Wait… I’m going to die?” She didn’t know who to look to for an answer. Julian danced around his answers and Duke said things straight—both of them knew what was going on when she didn’t.

Duke winced and looked at Julian. “I thought you would have told her.”

Julian’s eyes were still cold and empty, even when he took hold of her hand.

The sound of raucous laughter filled the silence and a moment later the door burst open.

A young dark haired woman stood on the other side, grinning over her shoulder at something behind her. She almost tripped over her feet as she walked in and two young men followed. The two men were identical in every way, right down to their alternative clothes, broad builds and dark spiked hair that was tinted red at the tips. Their smiles fell off their faces when they noticed her. The girl smiled again in her direction and then at Duke.

“You called?” she said, her voice light in the heavy atmosphere of the room.

Duke nodded. “I wanted to introduce you all to Lauren. Julian found her.”

There was a babble of incoherent noise as they all spoke at once and Lauren just smiled. She was sure they must have introduced themselves at some point in the mess of voices but she hadn’t caught any of their names.

“Lauren is tired. We should retire. It has been a long day.” Julian’s hand tightened against hers.

She looked up at him, thought about it and realised that she was tired.

Had Julian sensed it in her?

Uncomfortable with the feeling that he was controlling her, she said, “I’m fine, really.”

Julian gave her a knowing look.

“We were about to retire ourselves,” Duke said and there was a murmur of agreement from the others. Lauren looked at them all in turn and then at the windows. The sky was lightening fast now.

“It’s almost dawn.” It seemed strange that they had all been awake during the night. Horror movie clichés came to her in droves. She glanced at Julian, wanting to ask whether he was going to be dead to the world when the sun rose, just like a vampire.

Pale skin, blood drinking, immortality, and superior abilities. They were all the hallmarks of a vampire. Only why would he react so violently to that word if he were one?

“We work at night,” Duke said with a broad disarming smile. Another murmur from the group.

“We have arranged rooms close together for you.” Astra’s smile was as wide and charming as Duke’s. It reminded Lauren of a snake, giving her the feeling that any moment now Astra would strike and suck the soul from her body. “I can take you to them.”

“Not necessary. I will take care of Lauren.” Julian’s hand was firm against Lauren’s lower back, pressed just below her backpack. Close enough to her bottom that she blushed.

“Fine. Next floor down. Your room is the second door on the right. Hers is two doors further down on the left, at the end of the corridor.” Astra turned to face her. “Sweet dreams, princess.”

Julian led Lauren towards the door. Lauren looked back at the five Ghosts. They all stared at her so closely that she wondered what they found interesting and whether they were going to talk about her when she was gone from the room.

“‘Night,” she said with a feeble wave and then Julian had escorted her out of the room and they were walking down the pale corridor.

Her gaze shifted to him. Was he going to explain about the awakening and the fact that she was going to die? It was definitely the catch that she’d felt. No wonder he hadn’t wanted to tell her. If the younger Ghosts hadn’t come bursting in and distracted her, she would have given him a piece of her mind. Better late than never. She wasn’t about to leave anything up to chance now. If she didn’t mention it, he might not either.

“So I’m going to die?” Her tone was as breezy as she could make it, as though she was talking about the weather or something inconsequential. “On my birthday I’ll die if I don’t go through with the awakening.”

Julian led her down the stairs they had passed on their way to Duke’s office. When they reached the bottom, his hand left her back. He adjusted his coat. He was thinking of what to say.

“Just say yes if I’ll die.”

“Yes,” he said. Never had that word sounded so menacing and cold.

“Will I die if I go through with it?”

She was too damn young to die. It wasn’t possible that she’d found her purpose in life, her reason for being on Earth, and now she was going to die. It wasn’t going to happen.

“Duke is correct. It is part of Illia’s curse. You will die either way, but one way you will come back.”

“And be like you… a vampire?”

He turned on her, his eyes dark and full of deadly intent. Lauren backed away and bumped into the cream wall. She raised her hands and cringed.

“What are you then? You drink blood… live forever… clearly eternal youth is on your side… and then there’s those amazing abilities of yours.”

“I am not a vampire.” That same black tone of voice he’d used on Astra. Lauren made a mental note not to call him a vampire again. “Vampires are filth.”

She noted that too. Vampires, werewolves and soul-eating demons—three species she was definitely going to avoid as much as possible.

“Then what are you?” Lauren risked a step towards him, relieved when his expression altered and all sign of his anger melted away. “Tell me so I can understand. There’s so much I still can’t get straight in my head. Please?”

When his look softened, concern touching his pale eyes, her heart warmed and she took another step forwards, wanting to be closer to him. Her fingers itched with the temptation to reach up and pull the funnel neck of his coat down so she could see his face. She wanted to see if he was as handsome as she was picturing. She needed to see him.

“Yours,” he whispered and her heart leapt. A wave of warm tingles spread through her. He looked away from her and then back again. All affection was gone from his eyes. His tone was empty. “Your Arcadian. Your protector.”

He moved past her, leaving her rooted to the spot and staring at his back. He still hadn’t answered her question. In fact, he’d only left her more confused. He flitted between cold and warm so rapidly that she couldn’t keep up.

“And the awakening? Do I really have a choice?”

“Yes,” he said, still walking away from her.

He stopped in front of a dark door just past a junction in the corridor and turned to face her.

“Have I ever said no?”

A shake of his head. He opened the door.

None of Illia’s previous reincarnations had said no. She could understand that. When faced with death or the chance to live, she would have to choose living. If she went through with the awakening, she would change, become different like Julian. She wasn’t sure if it would be such a bad thing. Her eyes met his and she walked towards him. Would it be wrong to do it purely to remain alive and with him?

She shook her head to clear it of such ridiculous thoughts. Living was reason enough. Death didn’t bear thinking about.

Lauren walked into the room and looked around. It was large and the pale blue walls made it appear cold but the furniture looked comfortable. A dark wood double bed stood to her right against the same wall as the door, flanked by two small cupboards. Three tall rectangular windows lined the wall opposite her. Drawn white muslin curtains blocked out the world, framed by open long Wedgewood blue ones. She walked to the window nearest her and pulled the muslin curtains open a crack. The office building opposite was dark. She looked up. The sky was pale blue now, the scattered clouds touched with pink and gold. Turning back into the room, she let the curtain fall closed and looked to her left, past the bed. There was a white armchair and wooden side table in the corner against the same wall as the windows, and another door on the adjoining wall to her left. It was open, revealing a white tiled bathroom.

Lauren sat down on the bed and removed her backpack, dumping it down on the blue bedspread.

“Is something the matter?” Julian frowned.

“I’m not sure,” she whispered and dropped her gaze to her feet. One moment she wanted to go along with it all and the next she thought she was crazy and wanted to go home. Her mind was going in so many directions that she feared it was going to fall apart completely. The only thing that felt solid and real right now, that felt safe, was Julian.

“Would you like me to stay?” he said and her eyes widened at the thought. “I can stay if it will make you feel better.”

Lauren stared at Julian. He stood by the door, tall and straight, his eyes fixed on her. There was such fire in them, a promise of passion that she knew she had to be imagining. He hadn’t really given her a reason to believe that he found her attractive, but right now, she could easily fool herself into thinking that he did.

With that hunger shining in his eyes, she didn’t doubt that he could make her feel better, better than any of her lousy ex-boyfriends ever did. And while some part of her said to reach out and take what she wanted, to live life to the full just as her friends did and lose herself in the moment, the greater part said that it wasn’t going to happen. She’d learnt from experience that men like Julian, strong, undoubtedly handsome and sexy, were so far out of her league that they were in another galaxy.

She lowered her eyes again, tracing the grain of the wooden floor, and shook her head, letting the moment slip through her fingers as she had done a million times in her life. She might have told her friends she was going to seize the day from now on but she wasn’t quite ready to after all. “I need some time alone.”

It wasn’t a lie. She needed a little space in order to gain perspective. With Julian around, it was so easy to go along with things.

“My room is just down the hall should you need me,” he said in a low voice that made her want to look at him again. “Goodnight, Lauren.”

“‘Night,” she whispered. The door closed and she continued to stare at the floor, taking it all in.

Unzipping her backpack, she removed the picture of her parents with her in the park. Werewolves had killed them. Because of her. Whoever Lycaon was, he had a sadistic streak. Her fists clenched. She would make him pay for their deaths. But how?

She remembered the way Julian fought, his incredible abilities, and what he’d told her about her destiny and duty.

The thought of dying filled her with cold dread but the choice she had to make was easy when she thought about the alternative and what Julian had said.

She was born to die and rise again to fight the man who had killed her parents.

She just didn’t think that she was strong enough to go through with it.

Available in e-book from:
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About Felicity Heaton

I'm a NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY best-selling author writing passionate paranormal romance books as Felicity Heaton and F E Heaton. In my books I create detailed worlds, twisting plots, mind-blowing action, intense emotion and heart-stopping romances with leading men that vary from dark deadly vampires to sexy shape-shifters and wicked werewolves, to sinful angels and hot demons! If you're a fan of paranormal romance authors Lara Adrian, Larissa Ione, Kresley Cole, J R Ward, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Gena Showalter and Christine Feehan then you will love my books too.

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