Today’s tease comes from the book Ascension, which is one of my stand alone paranormal romance novels. Read on for this Tuesday’s tease… where Lealandra, the heroine, must turn to her ex-lover, Taig for help…
â€œThey killed Charlie to weaken you.â€
Those six words sent fear into her heart, each an icy spear that froze her to her soul. She hadnâ€™t considered that they had meant to kill Charlie too.
â€œI thought theyâ€™d messed up and got the wrong person. It was dark in the apartment and the shot that killed him came through the window. They could only have seen our silhouettes where we were sitting on the couch.â€ Her hands shook for a different reason. Panic erased any desire to touch Taig. Was he right? Charlie had been far less powerful than she was and the coven had chosen him as her Counter-Balance for that reason. He had been perfect for the job. His magic had craved the strength of hers. It had absorbed some of her power, making it easier for her to keep control. Without him, she was in danger of her magic consuming her. It was building inside her, growing stronger with every passing second. Soon it would push for control and, if that happened, it would force her to seek out what it wanted most. She shuddered.
Lealandra had seen witches turn. Her own mother had lost herself to her magic. If her father hadnâ€™t been so powerful, none of them would have survived. Who would bring her back if the magic took control? No one at the coven was strong enough. Not even Gregori, the New York City covenâ€™s leader. If the magic seized her, it would take all of them to join forces in order to save her.
Her eyes wandered to Taig. Would he help her? Could he help her? She studied his handsome face, watching the flickers of his thoughts cross his pitch-black eyes. He was as beautiful as she rememberedâ€”the kind of gorgeous that could win him any girl he wanted, even her if he tried hard and turned on the charm. She wasnâ€™t strong enough to hold out against him forever. Something would give and it was likely to be her heart. He rubbed a thumb down the line of his defined jaw and then paused, his expression turning pensive.
â€œThe curtains were closed?â€ he said and she found herself savouring the sound of his deep voice. She had never forgotten how he sounded, with his mixed accent, not quite American but not quite another unknown country either, or some of the things he had husked in her ear during making love with her.
Lealandra nodded. â€œTheyâ€™re thin enough to see through when all the lights are on, but we only had the table lamp lit. They could have only seen our heads above the couch back. When they shot Charlie hisâ€”â€
The memory of seeing her partnerâ€™s head blown wide open stole her voice. Her throat closed and she struggled to breathe, clinging to the last shred of calm inside her. There had been so much blood. It had covered the apartment. It had covered her. One second Charlie had been there, the next she had been sitting beside a corpse, still talking as though nothing had happened. It had taken almost a full minute for her senses to fall into order and make her realise that he was dead.
Taigâ€™s large hand covered hers and she jumped and looked up at him through her lashes. The concern in his eyes made the tears in hers tremble on the brink of falling. She placed her other hand over his, completing the tangle, and closed her eyes. Focusing on their hands, she unleashed a fraction of her magic, giving it more rein but still keeping it under tight control, and drew strength from him. His power seeped into her hands and crept up her arms until it suffused her entire body, sending a heady rush through her.
â€œYouâ€™re hungry,â€ Taig murmured in a voice laden with sensuality.
No denial left her lips. Right now, she was more than hungry. Kissing him had been a mistake. It had given her a taste and made her remember how things had been, and how he had made her feel. Her magic had latched onto those memories and it didnâ€™t want to let go. She held his hand tighter and stole everything that she could from him in an effort to calm herself and restore the balance of power inside her. Taig had once provided her with a substitute before she had found her balance in Charlie.
His own power.
â€œItâ€™ll cost you extra,â€ Taig said and she realised she was staring at the scars on his forearm.
She took her hands away from his, unwilling to pay the price he was asking for his help, let alone the price he would place on his blood now. What he had once given to her freely would now cost her everything. He would make her pay dearly for it just to spite her, and part of her couldnâ€™t blame him for doing such a thing. She could understand why he would think that she deserved such punishment.
He gently brushed her long dark hair behind her ear, his touch comforting and speaking volumes, telling her that the desire she felt wasnâ€™t one-sided. He was still attracted to her.
â€œHe didnâ€™t look after you properly.â€
Lealandra didnâ€™t have an answer to that accusation. Charlie had neglected her need for sustenance through blood. He had thought he had been doing the right thing, when in reality it had been nothing short of torture.
â€œHe said I didnâ€™t need it,â€ she said in a small voice and then straightened and found her strength. She didnâ€™t want Taig to see her weak. It had been her decision to leave him and go with Charlie and the coven. She had to accept that and the things that had happened. She had to take responsibility and stick to her decision, even when she now felt it had been a terrible mistake. â€œYou know he didnâ€™t believe in that kind of thing. None at the coven do.â€
Taig laughed and toyed with the two empty shot glasses. â€œHe was more of a fool than I thought.â€
His laughter died in an instant when his eyes locked with hers. Their fathomless black depths sparkled with intensity. Her breath shortened and her palms sweated with anticipation. She subconsciously leaned forwards, eager to be close to him, desiring to feel his hands on her again and have him continue to look at her with such need and hunger.
â€œI should never have let him take you.â€ His expression darkened with his frown, his lips compressing into a thin line that conveyed the anger flowing from him and through her.
Lealandra got the better of herself and picked up her own shot of whisky and downed it. The fire as it slipped down into her stomach did nothing to dampen her desire or boost her courage.
â€œYou didnâ€™t have a choice.â€ She leaned back into the seat with a false smile that covered her fear and her feelings.
He shifted forward and stared into the far reaches of her soul. His eyes lightened. The black melted to reveal a red inferno that flickered and licked around the wide chasm of his pupils. She drew a deep steadying breath, refusing to let him fluster her.
â€œBelieve me,â€ Taig said on a sneer, â€œif Iâ€™d decided not to let him take you, he wouldnâ€™t have. He wouldâ€™ve died a lot sooner.â€
That was no idle threat. A sweep of pin-pricks chased across her back and down her arms, and a wave of fury swept over her, so intense that her magic retreated, bowing to Taigâ€™s superior force of nature. As powerful as she was, she was no match for him when he was angry.
Taig rarely let his demonic side come out to play and she had only witnessed the gruesome aftermath when he had, but it had given her a glimpse of the devastation of which he was capable.
Lealandra didnâ€™t need to see the true form he held locked beneath his skin for her to know that any decision he made was final and he was willing to resort to bloodshed to ensure that.
It was half the reason she had come to him.
The other half?
Lealandra looked down at her chest and the intricate mark between her breasts visible only to her. A circle within a circle about the size of her palm. Runic symbols filled the two black bands around the outside. Within the central circle were a series of patterns that marked her fate and the role specific things had to play in it. A little off centre within this circle was a mark she recognised. Her gaze drifted to Taigâ€™s shoulder. Hidden beneath his black shirt on his left shoulder blade was the same mark. It wasnâ€™t a tattoo. It was a brand of his demonic bloodline. A birthmark.
â€œSo… you lost your partner and now some demons are out to kill you but you wonâ€™t pay the price for protection. Youâ€™ve got to have a pretty good reason for hunting me down if youâ€™d already made up your mind to refuse my fee.â€ The cocky smirk was back, tugging at the dusky lips that knew her intimately, every inch of her.
Finger-length strands of his black hair criss-crossed his forehead, messy and seemingly out of control as always. The feel of the short back had been like silk beneath her fingers, bringing forth memories of raking her fingers through it, of clutching it tightly to keep his mouth fused with hers. His dark eyes narrowed on hers and his smile widened. Her heart thumped in her throat at that lookâ€”all hunger and need. He hadnâ€™t changed a bit since she had last seen him. Still so handsome that he would never have a problem catching a girl with his otherworldly masculine beauty but still a loner who refused the company women offered him. Still a negotiator gunning for the right price before he would do anything but still itching for a fight so badly he would gladly hunt demons for sheer fun.
â€œI think Iâ€™d like to know that reason now.â€
Before she had come out tonight, she had vowed to keep this hidden from him but now it might just be her trump card.
Taking hold of his hand, Lealandra ignored his raised eyebrow and moved towards him on the curved leather seat so she was within reach. She took a deep breath, held it and brushed his fingers across her chest. The mark there shimmered rich red and sparkled into life. The glow lit his face, dancing in his wide eyes.
â€œYouâ€™ve started the ascension,â€ Taig whispered with the barest glance into her eyes before his gaze fell to her chest again.
Did you enjoy today’s tease?
A witch on the verge of achieving phenomenal power, Lealandra must turn to her half-breed demon ex-lover Taig for protection from the dark force that is after her and also from her own magic.
With her Counter-Balance dead and her coven against her, Taigâ€™s blood and power is the only thing that can help her control her magic and survive the ascension and gain the strength to defeat her enemy.
Old feelings come flooding back as Taig allows her into his world and Lealandra finds herself fighting not only for survival but to win his broken heart again and heal the pain in their past. Can he forgive her for walking out on him all those years ago and will he ever believe her when she tells him that heâ€™s not a monster but the man that she loves?