'I love you' is just the beginning of the story.

Pre-order “Blood and Rain” at 25% Off!

Blood and Rain 400x600Have you been waiting to pre-order Blood and Rain? Now’s the time to snag it for 25% off the list price during Dreamspinner Press‘s Thanksgiving Sale!

Set in the present day US and in the late 1800s in France, the Blood Series features three MM couples. The main focus is on Adrien Gilbert, the youngest son of a French vampire hunter family, and Nicolas Lambert, an ancient (born a vampire, not created) vampire.

The Blood series is a romance/adventure about vampires and vampire hunters with some unusual abilities. It chronicles three MM couples and a looming war between the hunters and the hunted. An excerpt and official blurb are below. Enjoy! -Shira

******

 

Blood Series: Book 1

Blood: Book One

Adrien Gilbert has spent several lifetimes searching for the love he lost. Born in the 1800s 3621890092_4175cd8c60_zinto a clan of fabled vampire hunters, Adrien once wanted nothing more than to tend his family’s vineyard in southern France or read a good book. But Adrien’s peaceful existence ends abruptly when his older brother, François, is murdered. Bound by his hunter’s oath, Adrien sets out on a path that will forever change his life when he agrees to execute his brother’s killer, the vampire Charles Duvalier.

After months chasing the elusive Charles, Adrien reluctantly makes a bargain with Nicolas Lambert, an ancient vampire. Adrien will escort Nicolas to Paris for his marriage to a rival clanswoman, and Nicolas will help Adrien find Charles. Nicolas’s quiet strength and gentle heart soon convince Adrien that Nicolas is nothing like the vampires he has sworn to destroy. As the wedding date draws nearer, a force intent on destroying the fragile peace between the vampire clans threatens to tear apart both the vampire realm and the world of the hunters. To secure both past and future for those he loves, Adrien must find a way to stop the looming war between hunters and vampires. But first he’ll have to let Nicolas go.

Note: Books in this series must be read in order.

Coming December 15, 2014

******

Chapter One: On the Edge of Forever

Miami, Florida

Sunset wove fingers of purple and red through bands of clouds and vapor trails that crisscrossed the sky. The scent of exhaust from trucks and cars mingled with the tang of salt from the ocean. People scurried about as they returned from work, trying to finish last-minute errands before dinnertime, all oblivious to the lone figure perched atop the high-rise at the edge of the Miami River.

Adrien Gilbert gazed down at the tiny figures below, vaguely aware of their presence. For more than a century, he had seen generations of humans be born, reach adulthood, start families, grow old, and die as their loved ones watched, helpless to slow time. He had grown numb to the cycle of life—a cycle to which he was immune. He was an immortal, a hunter who had shared the soul of an ancient vampire. His beloved soul.

He closed his eyes, trying to picture that perfect face. It had grown strangely difficult to remember over the years, and yet he could still easily remember the face of his mother, who had been killed when he was just a child.

I won’t forget you… Nicolas.

It would have been far easier to give in, to erase Nicolas from his memory forever. Certainly far less painful than knowing Nicolas was out there somewhere, unable to find the way back to him. Less painful, too, than admitting he couldn’t find his way to Nicolas. He would suffer the pain of knowledge; it was a small price to pay to preserve the memory.

I’m sorry.

The irony that a hunter sworn to protect humankind would suffer the loss of a vampire so keenly was hardly lost on Adrien. He’d believed that in spite of the treaty between hunters and the hunted, vampires were not to be trusted. He’d believed his duty as a hunter was simple, straightforward: kill those who threatened humanity, tolerate those who did not. But that had been before he’d met Nicolas. Before he’d lost his heart. Before Nicolas had given him immortality.

Adrien had everything a human might wish for. The small transportation business he’d started when he moved to the United States over a hundred years ago had blossomed into an international empire with cargo ships, airplanes, trucks, and dozens of storage facilities around the globe. He owned homes in Europe, Thailand, Japan, the US, and a dozen other places he rarely visited. Despite his prosperity, the men with whom he shared his bed—human, vampire, hunter—rarely stayed long. He had seen to that, with his aloof manner and his cold heart. One man had ever touched his soul.

 

 

The evening had started, as it always did, on a far better note. Adrien had stopped by one of his favorite haunts, an upscale martini bar not far from the city center. He’d developed a penchant for gin over the past few decades, enjoying the quick work it made of his long-term memory. Three or four martinis and he could forget, even if only briefly.

The bar was small and full of people. A Sinatra song played in the background as he walked over to the stainless-steel bar, filled with men, some of whom he’d already discarded, others new faces. Eager, all of them. He sensed their eyes on him and felt the hunger they didn’t understand. He understood that hunger. The scent of his blood created it in them. The same irresistible scent that had lured many a human to fall prey to the vampires now drew them to him.

He sat down at an empty barstool and nodded to the bartender, who set to work making the driest martini possible with his most expensive gin, dropping in a tiny bit of lemon peel instead of an olive. He handed Adrien the drink without saying a word, and Adrien brought the glass to his lips.

“Nice,” a male voice said from behind him.

The man was beautiful, tall, with shoulder-length black hair and deep green eyes. He wore pair of tight-fitting jeans and a crisp button-down shirt that emphasized his muscled chest and narrow waist. Late twenties, perhaps. A new face, but a familiar presence.

“It’s not bad.” Adrien took a sip of his drink and pretended not to care. It was easy.

“I wasn’t talking about the drink.” The man lifted his drink to his full lips but watched him intently.

“I wasn’t either,” Adrien replied without missing a beat.

“I’m Cole.”

“So you are.”

They left the bar together for his apartment, where his housekeeper had already set a table for two. A bottle of Puligny-Montrachet chilled in a cooler by the table. Between them, they finished that bottle, although Adrien drank very little. Alcohol affected immortals far more than humans or vampires.

After dinner Cole stood and walked over to the railing, looking out over the river below. “You know what I am.” Cole’s voice was as smooth as the wine.

“Yes. I know what you are.” Adrien had sensed Cole was a vampire the moment he’d seen him. No self-respecting hunter would have missed the subtle electricity in the air or the scent of mingled blood. He lifted Cole’s hair off his neck, then trailed his lips over his silky skin. Cole smelled good—an earthy and primal scent that caused the bloodlust to rise in Adrien. Once, he had embraced his lust for blood.

When he’d first become an immortal, Nicolas’s blood had done far more than sustain him. They had shared their bodies, their blood, and their souls. The blood had been their bond, the bloodlust a welcome reminder of Adrien’s love for Nicolas. Now the lust for blood had nothing to do with Adrien’s heart. It was another bitter reminder that his body would not let him perish, even though he cared nothing for living.

It’s been too long.

Cole moaned. The deep, throaty sound made Adrien’s mouth water in spite of himself. Adrien despised his body’s response, but he’d long ago learned he couldn’t fight it. Once, he had gone nearly twenty years without giving in to the call. He’d been weak, pathetic, barely able to think. He’d prayed he would die. He’d lost consciousness, but he’d awoken to find himself drinking his fill. He’d come perilously close to killing the human whose blood he’d feasted on, but he’d managed to stop. However miserable his existence, Adrien would only feed on vampires—he’d not break the oath he’d taken to protect humans when he’d become a hunter.

Adrien licked the skin of Cole’s neck, feeling the blood pulse there, hearing it call to him. Cole tilted his head in anticipation, opening himself to Adrien.

Adrien buried his teeth in Cole’s skin. Blood flooded his mouth and danced on his tongue, sweet and salty. Too long. His body was far more vampire-like in its craving for blood than when he’d first been given the gift of an ancient vampire’s soul. He wondered if it was the same for other immortals.

Adrien tried to ignore the images that flashed through his mind—the sound of silvery laughter, a mother’s loving caress. Cole’s memories. Adrien despised this forced intimacy, but he’d come to see it as the price of blood. Something to be tolerated.

It hadn’t always been that way. When he’d shared Nicolas’s blood, Adrien had experienced great joy. He’d seen himself through Nicolas’s eyes and felt the depth of Nicolas’s love. Each drop of that precious liquid had opened new doors. Each taste offered insight into Nicolas’s heart and soul. A beloved memory. A mystery—the mystery of Nicolas—unfolding with every swallow.

Adrien drank his fill, then claimed Cole’s mouth. This kind of contact he could stomach. He didn’t need sex to survive, but he enjoyed the release. Cole unbuttoned Adrien’s black silk shirt and his cock swelled against Adrien’s thigh. Adrien moaned as Cole skated his fingertips over his chest.

“I have never known a hunter to crave blood,” Cole whispered in his ear. “I thought only we experienced the bloodlust.”

“You were wrong,” Adrien said as he pulled Cole’s shirt over his head and mouthed a pretty pink nipple. Sex was always better after he fed, and Adrien’s cock was already hard at the thought of fucking such a lovely ass. He drew Cole’s body against his, walked backward into the living room, and pulled Cole with him onto the rug. Soon they were naked and he was no longer a hunter or an immortal, he was simply a man, seeking release, seeking pleasure.

 

 

Adrien lay there afterward, only partially satisfied. Nothing new. Sex was like the bloodlust—it always left him wanting more. Cole brushed his fingers over Adrien’s chest, then his neck. He licked Adrien’s earlobe, then ran his tongue over Adrien’s Adam’s apple.

“May I?” he asked.

“No.” He would willingly share his blood with only one person.

“Too bad.” The vampire was clearly disappointed. “I would have liked to have known the secrets of your blood.”

Adrien watched Cole dress but said nothing.

“Perhaps another time, then.” Cole turned and smiled at him before he walked out the door.

For at least an hour after, Adrien lay on the floor and allowed the night air to caress his bare skin. He closed his eyes and dozed.

“Adrien.”

The voice awakened him. Nicolas’s voice again. Why sleep if it only served to reawaken the pain he sought to suppress?

He stood and pulled on his jeans. He walked onto the balcony in his bare feet, then climbed to the roof of the penthouse.

Pathetic.

Having reached the edge, he spread his arms. He leaned forward and fell unimpeded, riding the wind like a sigh. The glass of the building sailed by him, the breeze buffeting his face. He hit the water and sank into the cold blackness. He wished he could die.

Preorder Blood and Rain now at Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5805&cPath=1303

 

 

 

 

 

NanoWrimo 2015 Update: “Running with the Wind” (Mermen of Ea #3)

I just reached 35K on Running with the Wind (Mermen of Ea #3), my NanoWrimo 2015 project! I’m definitely not a through-writer. More like I’ve got my crayons laid out in front of me, I’ve outlined the entire picture, and now I’m “coloring in” random pieces throughout. Eventually, I’ll fill all the gaps between the colors and step back to see the big picture with no white spots left.

conceptart,sailships,art,dragon,fantasy,painting-86fec8008a5e27b29edbffff238c8e73_h

 

“Blood and Rain” Now Available for Pre-Order!

Blood and Rain 400x600Blood and Rain, the first book in the Blood Series from Dreamspinner Press is now available for preorder!  Yes, it’s about vampires (and vampire hunters). No, these vamps don’t sparkle, but they do have some unusual abilities you’ll discover as the series unfolds. Yes, it’s definitely a romance! But it’s also an adventure with plenty of action, much like my Mermen of Ea Series.

Set in the present day US and in the late 1800s in France, the Blood Series features three MM couples. The main focus is on Adrien Gilbert, the youngest son of a French vampire hunter family, and Nicolas Lambert, an ancient (born a vampire, not created) vampire.

So please join me in some fun in welcoming my sexy hunters and vampires! An excerpt and official blurb are below. Enjoy! -Shira

******

 Blood Series: Book 1

Blood: Book One

Adrien Gilbert has spent several lifetimes searching for the love he lost. Born in the 1800s 3621890092_4175cd8c60_zinto a clan of fabled vampire hunters, Adrien once wanted nothing more than to tend his family’s vineyard in southern France or read a good book. But Adrien’s peaceful existence ends abruptly when his older brother, François, is murdered. Bound by his hunter’s oath, Adrien sets out on a path that will forever change his life when he agrees to execute his brother’s killer, the vampire Charles Duvalier.

After months chasing the elusive Charles, Adrien reluctantly makes a bargain with Nicolas Lambert, an ancient vampire. Adrien will escort Nicolas to Paris for his marriage to a rival clanswoman, and Nicolas will help Adrien find Charles. Nicolas’s quiet strength and gentle heart soon convince Adrien that Nicolas is nothing like the vampires he has sworn to destroy. As the wedding date draws nearer, a force intent on destroying the fragile peace between the vampire clans threatens to tear apart both the vampire realm and the world of the hunters. To secure both past and future for those he loves, Adrien must find a way to stop the looming war between hunters and vampires. But first he’ll have to let Nicolas go.

Note:  Books in this series must be read in order.

Coming December 15, 2014

******

Chapter One: On the Edge of Forever

Miami, Florida

Sunset wove fingers of purple and red through bands of clouds and vapor trails that crisscrossed the sky. The scent of exhaust from trucks and cars mingled with the tang of salt from the ocean. People scurried about as they returned from work, trying to finish last-minute errands before dinnertime, all oblivious to the lone figure perched atop the high-rise at the edge of the Miami River.

Adrien Gilbert gazed down at the tiny figures below, vaguely aware of their presence. For more than a century, he had seen generations of humans be born, reach adulthood, start families, grow old, and die as their loved ones watched, helpless to slow time. He had grown numb to the cycle of life—a cycle to which he was immune. He was an immortal, a hunter who had shared the soul of an ancient vampire. His beloved soul.

He closed his eyes, trying to picture that perfect face. It had grown strangely difficult to remember over the years, and yet he could still easily remember the face of his mother, who had been killed when he was just a child.

I won’t forget you… Nicolas.

It would have been far easier to give in, to erase Nicolas from his memory forever. Certainly far less painful than knowing Nicolas was out there somewhere, unable to find the way back to him. Less painful, too, than admitting he couldn’t find his way to Nicolas. He would suffer the pain of knowledge; it was a small price to pay to preserve the memory.

I’m sorry.

The irony that a hunter sworn to protect humankind would suffer the loss of a vampire so keenly was hardly lost on Adrien. He’d believed that in spite of the treaty between hunters and the hunted, vampires were not to be trusted. He’d believed his duty as a hunter was simple, straightforward: kill those who threatened humanity, tolerate those who did not. But that had been before he’d met Nicolas. Before he’d lost his heart. Before Nicolas had given him immortality.

Adrien had everything a human might wish for. The small transportation business he’d started when he moved to the United States over a hundred years ago had blossomed into an international empire with cargo ships, airplanes, trucks, and dozens of storage facilities around the globe. He owned homes in Europe, Thailand, Japan, the US, and a dozen other places he rarely visited. Despite his prosperity, the men with whom he shared his bed—human, vampire, hunter—rarely stayed long. He had seen to that, with his aloof manner and his cold heart. One man had ever touched his soul.

 

 

The evening had started, as it always did, on a far better note. Adrien had stopped by one of his favorite haunts, an upscale martini bar not far from the city center. He’d developed a penchant for gin over the past few decades, enjoying the quick work it made of his long-term memory. Three or four martinis and he could forget, even if only briefly.

The bar was small and full of people. A Sinatra song played in the background as he walked over to the stainless-steel bar, filled with men, some of whom he’d already discarded, others new faces. Eager, all of them. He sensed their eyes on him and felt the hunger they didn’t understand. He understood that hunger. The scent of his blood created it in them. The same irresistible scent that had lured many a human to fall prey to the vampires now drew them to him.

He sat down at an empty barstool and nodded to the bartender, who set to work making the driest martini possible with his most expensive gin, dropping in a tiny bit of lemon peel instead of an olive. He handed Adrien the drink without saying a word, and Adrien brought the glass to his lips.

“Nice,” a male voice said from behind him.

The man was beautiful, tall, with shoulder-length black hair and deep green eyes. He wore pair of tight-fitting jeans and a crisp button-down shirt that emphasized his muscled chest and narrow waist. Late twenties, perhaps. A new face, but a familiar presence.

“It’s not bad.” Adrien took a sip of his drink and pretended not to care. It was easy.

“I wasn’t talking about the drink.” The man lifted his drink to his full lips but watched him intently.

“I wasn’t either,” Adrien replied without missing a beat.

“I’m Cole.”

“So you are.”

They left the bar together for his apartment, where his housekeeper had already set a table for two. A bottle of Puligny-Montrachet chilled in a cooler by the table. Between them, they finished that bottle, although Adrien drank very little. Alcohol affected immortals far more than humans or vampires.

After dinner Cole stood and walked over to the railing, looking out over the river below. “You know what I am.” Cole’s voice was as smooth as the wine.

“Yes. I know what you are.” Adrien had sensed Cole was a vampire the moment he’d seen him. No self-respecting hunter would have missed the subtle electricity in the air or the scent of mingled blood. He lifted Cole’s hair off his neck, then trailed his lips over his silky skin. Cole smelled good—an earthy and primal scent that caused the bloodlust to rise in Adrien. Once, he had embraced his lust for blood.

When he’d first become an immortal, Nicolas’s blood had done far more than sustain him. They had shared their bodies, their blood, and their souls. The blood had been their bond, the bloodlust a welcome reminder of Adrien’s love for Nicolas. Now the lust for blood had nothing to do with Adrien’s heart. It was another bitter reminder that his body would not let him perish, even though he cared nothing for living.

It’s been too long.

Cole moaned. The deep, throaty sound made Adrien’s mouth water in spite of himself. Adrien despised his body’s response, but he’d long ago learned he couldn’t fight it. Once, he had gone nearly twenty years without giving in to the call. He’d been weak, pathetic, barely able to think. He’d prayed he would die. He’d lost consciousness, but he’d awoken to find himself drinking his fill. He’d come perilously close to killing the human whose blood he’d feasted on, but he’d managed to stop. However miserable his existence, Adrien would only feed on vampires—he’d not break the oath he’d taken to protect humans when he’d become a hunter.

Adrien licked the skin of Cole’s neck, feeling the blood pulse there, hearing it call to him. Cole tilted his head in anticipation, opening himself to Adrien.

Adrien buried his teeth in Cole’s skin. Blood flooded his mouth and danced on his tongue, sweet and salty. Too long. His body was far more vampire-like in its craving for blood than when he’d first been given the gift of an ancient vampire’s soul. He wondered if it was the same for other immortals.

Adrien tried to ignore the images that flashed through his mind—the sound of silvery laughter, a mother’s loving caress. Cole’s memories. Adrien despised this forced intimacy, but he’d come to see it as the price of blood. Something to be tolerated.

It hadn’t always been that way. When he’d shared Nicolas’s blood, Adrien had experienced great joy. He’d seen himself through Nicolas’s eyes and felt the depth of Nicolas’s love. Each drop of that precious liquid had opened new doors. Each taste offered insight into Nicolas’s heart and soul. A beloved memory. A mystery—the mystery of Nicolas—unfolding with every swallow.

Adrien drank his fill, then claimed Cole’s mouth. This kind of contact he could stomach. He didn’t need sex to survive, but he enjoyed the release. Cole unbuttoned Adrien’s black silk shirt and his cock swelled against Adrien’s thigh. Adrien moaned as Cole skated his fingertips over his chest.

“I have never known a hunter to crave blood,” Cole whispered in his ear. “I thought only we experienced the bloodlust.”

“You were wrong,” Adrien said as he pulled Cole’s shirt over his head and mouthed a pretty pink nipple. Sex was always better after he fed, and Adrien’s cock was already hard at the thought of fucking such a lovely ass. He drew Cole’s body against his, walked backward into the living room, and pulled Cole with him onto the rug. Soon they were naked and he was no longer a hunter or an immortal, he was simply a man, seeking release, seeking pleasure.

 

 

Adrien lay there afterward, only partially satisfied. Nothing new. Sex was like the bloodlust—it always left him wanting more. Cole brushed his fingers over Adrien’s chest, then his neck. He licked Adrien’s earlobe, then ran his tongue over Adrien’s Adam’s apple.

“May I?” he asked.

“No.” He would willingly share his blood with only one person.

“Too bad.” The vampire was clearly disappointed. “I would have liked to have known the secrets of your blood.”

Adrien watched Cole dress but said nothing.

“Perhaps another time, then.” Cole turned and smiled at him before he walked out the door.

For at least an hour after, Adrien lay on the floor and allowed the night air to caress his bare skin. He closed his eyes and dozed.

“Adrien.”

The voice awakened him. Nicolas’s voice again. Why sleep if it only served to reawaken the pain he sought to suppress?

He stood and pulled on his jeans. He walked onto the balcony in his bare feet, then climbed to the roof of the penthouse.

Pathetic.

Having reached the edge, he spread his arms. He leaned forward and fell unimpeded, riding the wind like a sigh. The glass of the building sailed by him, the breeze buffeting his face. He hit the water and sank into the cold blackness. He wished he could die.

Preorder Blood and Rain now at Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5805&cPath=1303

 

 

 

You Want to Write… Vampires????

Blood and Rain 400x600I still have readers come up to me and say, “Seriously, you write mermen?” And I guess for a former opera singer who likes to write contemporary romances about classical musicians, it’s a fair question.  Since I contracted Blood and Rain, the first book in my Blood vampire trilogy, I’ve heard similar comments. And I’ve also heard, “I’m not really into vampires, but I guess if you wrote it, I’ll give it a try.”

I love hearing that. Frankly, I love hearing anyone question a trope (vamps, in this case). Because there are so many different vampire tropes out there, it’s easy to make the trope your own. And I can’t wait to hear what readers think of the universe my vampires live in, and how it does, or even doesn’t stack up to other vampire stories.

I’ll admit it up front: I’m not a huge “Twilight” fan. I did go to the movies with my daughter, and I enjoyed them. But my love of vampires doesn’t come from those books, it comes from the darker universe of Anne Rice’s vampires and supernatural beings. I recently read Rice’s The Wolf’s Gift, a book about werewolves, and I loved it. Dark and angsty, it’s more a book about exploring the meaning of life and happiness than it is about werewolves. So when I started writing the Blood series, I was thinking about those concepts. And Blood and Rain took on dimensions I hadn’t initially considered.

So why vampires? Because writing a series that brings into play not only the superhuman powers of vampires, but also the issues surrounding love and life in the context of immortality, was just too much fun to ignore! Sure, there’s adventure and cool powers at the center of the series, but there’s also what I love to write most: intriguing characters dealing with real, human, emotions.

Although the Blood series features 3 male/male pairings, at its center is the love between Nicolas Lambert, an ancient (born a vampire) vampire, and Adrien Gilbert, the youngest son of the Gilbert vampire hunter clan. Adrien never wanted to travel the world–he was happy reading his books and tending to his family’s vineyard. But when his older brother, a powerful hunter, is killed by Charles Duvalier, the Council of Hunters calls upon Adrien to execute Charles. And so begins Adrien’s adventure that will span more than a hundred years.

Adrien soon learns that things are not as he’d imagined, and he has a difficult time accepting the reality of the relationship between hunters and vampires. We follow Adrien as he becomes a man (in the spiritual sense, since he’s already come of age at the beginning of the story) in the late 1900s. We see how his eyes are opened and how he comes to terms with his feelings about the creatures who killed his mother when he was a young boy. And when Adrien is tossed into the center of a political firestorm that pits hunters against vampires and hunters against hunters, Adrien steps up to the plate and fights for what is right.

Next time, I’ll tell you a bit more about the second book in the series, Blood and Ghosts, which takes up where the first book left off in true sequel form. In it, Adrien faces a bleak future without the man (vampire?) he loves. And, since Adrien is now an immortal, that future looms an eternity before him.

I’ll leave you all with a little taste of the first book. I hope you enjoy the excerpt! -Shira

******

Blood Series: Book 1

Adrien Gilbert has spent several lifetimes searching for the love he lost. Born in the 1800s into a clan of fabled vampire hunters, Adrien once wanted nothing more than to tend his family’s vineyard in southern France or read a good book. But Adrien’s peaceful existence ends abruptly when his older brother, François, is murdered. Bound by his hunter’s oath, Adrien sets out on a path that will forever change his life when he agrees to execute his brother’s killer, the vampire Charles Duvalier.

After months chasing the elusive Charles, Adrien reluctantly makes a bargain with Nicolas Lambert, an ancient vampire. Adrien will escort Nicolas to Paris for his marriage to a rival clanswoman, and Nicolas will help Adrien find Charles. Nicolas’s quiet strength and gentle heart soon convince Adrien that Nicolas is nothing like the vampires he has sworn to destroy. As the wedding date draws nearer, a force intent on destroying the fragile peace between the vampire clans threatens to tear apart both the vampire realm and the world of the hunters. To secure both past and future for those he loves, Adrien must find a way to stop the looming war between hunters and vampires. But first he’ll have to let Nicolas go.

Note: This is the first in a series of three anticipated novels tentatively entitled Blood and Rain, Blood and Ghosts, Blood and Eternity. The series it set in France in 1895 and in the present, and features three MM pairings. Books in this series must be read in order.

Tentative Publication Date: December 15, 2014

******

Excerpt from Chapter Five:

The setup: Vampire hunter Adrien Lambert kills his first vampire after having been given his orders (the “carte”) from the Council of Hunters. It’s what he’s trained most of his life to do, but the reality of the work isn’t exactly what he expected….

His first few weeks away from the vineyard, he’d kept to himself except when making inquiries into Charles’s location. He’d spent his evenings reading the books he’d brought with him from home, and later, those he’d purchased with the earnings he hadn’t sent home to his father and sister. The third week he’d received his second carte—orders to execute a vampire who’d been discovered lingering over the body of a young woman in a confessional of a church in Bellevue-la-Montagne.

He’d met with the town’s mayor to discuss the circumstances surrounding the murder. The mayor, a balding man whose gaze flitted nervously around as he shook Adrien’s hand, ushered him quickly inside his office, as if he were uncomfortable to be seen with Adrien. Adrien had expected this—François had often told of his own experiences.

“They don’t hate us,” François had said. “Not exactly. But they fear us.” Adrien guessed this was as much a result of the secrecy surrounding the Council as it was because the Council wished to instill fear in humans as well as vampires.

“Please, monsieur,” Michel Albin said as he motioned Adrien to have a seat, “make yourself comfortable. May I get you something to drink? Something to eat?”

Adrien politely refused the mayor’s offer. The Council disapproved of any form of remuneration for its work except for monies collected in the form of annual tithes. He’d asked the mayor for details surrounding the woman’s murder and the vampire, Yves Deniel, whom Adrien learned had lived in the small town for nearly a year before the incident at the church.

“We didn’t know Deniel was… one of them,” Albin said in an undertone with a nervous glance at Adrien’s sheathed sword. “If we’d known, we’d never have permitted him to remain here.”

And whereas François might have protested and reminded the man that vampires were not forbidden from living amongst humans, Adrien remained silent. He would make no excuses for the creatures who’d taken both his mother and brother from him.

Adrien was surprised to find Yves Deniel at his home, a tumbledown farmhouse on the outskirts of town. Deniel had clearly been expecting him—another surprise.

“I know why you’re here,” Deniel said as he opened the door to let Adrien in.

Adrien rested his hand on the hilt of his sword, unsure if Deniel would attack him. He’d been taught to be vigilant, to act quickly to dispatch his target, but he hesitated, unwilling to attack without provocation even though it was his right.

“You admit you killed Mademoiselle Faucher?” Adrien asked.

Deniel would not meet his gaze, his eyes focused firmly on the floor. “I tried…,” he began after a long pause. “I thought sheep’s blood would satisfy my thirst. I hoped… I tried to stop before she….” His shoulders slumped in obvious resignation.

Adrien swallowed hard. He’d spent hours learning to fight. He knew the angle needed to dislocate a skull from a neck, the spot where his blade would meet the least resistance. He knew how to kill, but he’d never taken a life. He reached into his jacket, retrieved the carte, and tossed it at the vampire’s feet. What life? The life of a creature who kills to survive?

“Yves Deniel, you are sentenced to die by the authority of the Council of Hunters. Will you respect the Council’s will, or will you challenge me?”

“I was a farmer,” Deniel said in a soft voice that quavered slightly as he spoke. “We lived a good life here, my wife and I… before I became what I am.” He paused, glanced up at Adrien, then looked away again. “I went to the city…. We’d had a good harvest that year, and I had a few more francs to show for it. I only meant to buy a few tools… I stopped for a drink.” He shook his head. “I’m ashamed. The woman at the bar… She was so beautiful … She spoke kindly to me and told me I was handsome. But when I awoke, she had changed me. God has punished me for my infidelity. I am what I am—a beast—because of my own selfish desires.

“Kill me,” Deniel whispered. “I’m pathetic. I deserve to die for what I’ve done. I can’t stop myself. I won’t challenge you.”

Tears streamed down Deniel’s face. He gripped his sword tighter, but he didn’t draw his weapon. He’s right. He deserves to die.

“She wasn’t the first,” Deniel continued. He began to shake in earnest now, sniffling and sobbing like a child. “My wife… I thought I could transform her as I’d been transformed. I didn’t know… I didn’t realize I was too young, too weak….” He dropped to his knees and buried his head in his hands. “Please,” he begged. “End this before I kill again. You must… you’re a hunter… you must end this!”

Adrien drew his sword with a trembling hand. He would do this. Do his duty. He touched the blade to Deniel’s neck.

“Please. End it for me.”

Adrien’s eyes burned. He should feel nothing but hatred. Pity at best for having fallen prey to the female vampire who’d lured him from the bar. Why did he hesitate? Why should he care that in his weakness, this pathetic man had given in to his baser urges? And yet few humans could resist a vampire’s alluring scent.

It isn’t for you to judge. Your duty is absolute.

He gritted his teeth and inhaled long and deep. He must do this. He set his left hand over his right to steady the blade, then drew it back and swung. He did not miss.

He stood, numb and unmoving, after it was done. Something on the ground caught his eye: the carte, splattered with blood. The smell of copper permeated the air and wound its way to his nostrils, sweet and slightly nauseating. He picked up the carte. He held it between his thumb and forefinger, smearing the blood. He stared at it for a moment, then allowed it to fall from his hand. It fluttered onto the vampire’s lifeless body.

Two hours later Adrien sat in a small restaurant in the center of town, drinking absinthe and staring at the array of bottles against the mirrored backdrop of the bar. He allowed his focus to drift, and the colors of the glass blurred into an abstract rainbow.

He still smelled the blood, even though he’d washed his hands several times and changed his clothes. The mayor had praised Adrien to the point that Adrien had felt both unworthy and uncomfortable. He’d left with the man with little more than a grunted de rien, sickened that he should be praised for what he’d done.

He’d been more than pleased when one of the whores who looked for business at the bar approached him. He’d never paid to fuck before, but the woman was attractive enough. They spent several hours in his room, but even the smell of sex did nothing to erase the blood that stubbornly remained in his thoughts.

Yves Deniel was the first executions Adrien carried out, and although he never again hesitated to follow the Council’s orders, he never could forget Deniel’s pleas. And what if Charles doesn’t deserve to die? The question burned in his thoughts.

“Blood and Rain” Cover Reveal and Contest!

Blood and Rain 400x600No more teasing!!!! Here’s the gorgeous cover for my upcoming release, Blood and Rain from Dreamspinner Press cover artist Reese Dante. I absolutely love the it! Vampire hunter Adrien Gilbert in the foreground in modern dress, ancient vampire Nicolas Lambert in the background in period (1896) dress. The clock that hints at the sweeping timeframe of the story and the time travel element you’ll learn more about in the second book.

Adrien seems to have everything a man could want: money, power, sex, and immortality. The only thing Adrien really wants, though, is to find Nicolas, the vampire who stole his heart. But Nicolas is the pawn in a power play by a faction of vampire hunters who believe it’s time for a new world order. They want to get rid of the treaty between hunters and the ancient vampires who oversee the world of vampires, and their leader, Verel Pelletier, isn’t above using the vampires’ powerful blood against them.

There are three MM pairings in the Blood Series, but the main focus of the series is on Nicolas and Adrien. Adrien will chase through time to reclaim Nicolas’s freedom, and he will quite literally have to face a very personal demon. Given immortality by the vampire he loves, Adrien must learn to believe in his own strength, and he must discover the gifts of Nicolas’s blood.

December 15, 2014 is release day for Blood and Rain, the first book in the series. The second book, Blood and Ghosts will follow relatively soon afterward, so you won’t have to wait long for the continuation of the story. The Blood Series is a supernatural romance with both contemporary and historical romance elements. If you’ve enjoyed the Mermen of Ea Series, I think you’ll enjoy this sweeping romantic adventure. And speaking of mermen and book 3, Running with the Wind, I’m hoping for a Spring 2015 release, so stay tuned for more information about that.

The cover reveal contest ends tomorrow at midnight (October 11th). The Rafflecopter giveaway is here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cf0ba9496/ Or you can enter by clicking directly on the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Below is another excerpt from the story, the end of Chapter Two. This follows the excerpt I shared last week which you can read here. Have a great weekend! -Shira

******

Blood Series: Book 1

Adrien Gilbert has spent several lifetimes searching for the love he lost. Born in the 1800s into a clan of fabled vampire hunters, Adrien once wanted nothing more than to tend his family’s vineyard in southern France or read a good book. But Adrien’s peaceful existence ends abruptly when his older brother, François, is murdered. Bound by his hunter’s oath, Adrien sets out on a path that will forever change his life when he agrees to execute his brother’s killer, the vampire Charles Duvalier.

After months chasing the elusive Charles, Adrien reluctantly makes a bargain with Nicolas Lambert, an ancient vampire. Adrien will escort Nicolas to Paris for his marriage to a rival clanswoman, and Nicolas will help Adrien find Charles. Nicolas’s quiet strength and gentle heart soon convince Adrien that Nicolas is nothing like the vampires he has sworn to destroy. As the wedding date draws nearer, a force intent on destroying the fragile peace between the vampire clans threatens to tear apart both the vampire realm and the world of the hunters. To secure both past and future for those he loves, Adrien must find a way to stop the looming war between hunters and vampires. But first he’ll have to let Nicolas go.

Note: This is the first in a series of three anticipated novels tentatively entitled Blood and Rain, Blood and Ghosts, Blood and Eternity. The series it set in France in 1895 and in the present, and features three MM pairings. Books in this series must be read in order.

Tentative Publication Date: December 15, 2014

******

Excerpt from Chapter Two:

Saint-Gervais, France – 1896

 

Now, as the driving rain slowed his progress, François prayed he was not too late. He knew what Charles Duvalier was, but he found Charles intriguing, captivating. Every day since they had read Tennyson beneath the tree had been spent at Charles’s side. And with each day, each sidelong glance, each accidental touch, François’s desire for Charles had grown. He wanted to give his body to such a man, to feel the strength of Charles’s spirit. The Council looked down upon vampires’ preference for their own sex, but François had never thought it particularly strange—he’d always preferred the company of men.

But he isn’t a man.

He urged his horse onward and rounded the corner past the small church on the outskirts of town. He saw Charles, cloaked and leading his horse toward the road, his face obscured beneath his hood. He drew closer, until Charles could no longer ignore him.

Charles stopped and turned to meet François, then drew his horse next to his. “Why do you follow me?”

François heard desperation in Charles’s voice and sensed his growing hunger. How long could a vampire survive without blood? How long could the bloodlust fester before its call became too powerful to resist?

“Take me with you.” François feared Charles’s response, but he was compelled to speak the words.

“Go home. You’ll find nothing but heartache at my side.”

“Then stay here. I sense your longing. You can make this your home.” François moved his horse closer, so that his thigh brushed Charles’s. His fear warred with his desire. He felt suddenly vulnerable. Afraid.

“I don’t want to hurt you, François,” Charles warned. This time, however, his voice sounded softer, less confident.

François shivered to hear his name on Charles’s lips—the first time Charles had ever called him by his given name. A strong gust of wind blew the hood of his cloak off of François’s head, but he ignored it. “I’m not afraid,” he lied.

 

 

Charles stared at François, unable to comprehend what it was about this human—this hunter—that drew him so. He took the reins of François’s horse and put his hand to François’s cheek. He touched François’s honeyed skin, then traced his lips with his fingers and thumb. François gasped but didn’t pull away. This close, Charles caught the scent of François’s blood, full of youth and enthusiasm. Sweeter than any he’d ever encountered. Others spoke of the lure of the blood of the hunters, but he’d never experienced is as acutely as he did now. It called to him, urging him onward. How ironic, that the blood of the only humans capable of destroying him was irresistible.

“Go home!” he shouted as he pulled his hands away.

“Take me with you.” François moved closer, pushed Charles’s hood from his head, then grasped his face with his warm, graceful hands and touched his lips to Charles’s. Barely a kiss.

Charles closed his eyes at the touch. It surprised him to realize the moan was his own. What did François know of the world outside this quiet village? Had he ever known a lover’s lips? He felt François’s passion burn, knew his hunger for more.

“François.” Charles meant it as a warning, but it sounded more like a lover’s moan.

François hesitated only a moment before kissing Charles again, this time with more conviction. A tender kiss. Innocent but full of promise.

His hunger now overpowering his reason, Charles pulled François roughly against him and the last bit of his self-control evaporated. He combed his fingers through François’s wet hair, kissed his lips, his cheek, and then his neck. François’s pulse pounded against the softest part of the skin beneath his ear—the place where Charles would satisfy his hunger, where he could drink deeply. He thought of nothing but François, of tasting him, devouring him. When he could hold back no longer, he sank his teeth into the sweet flesh of his neck, the taste of blood sweet upon his lips. God, but that blood tasted sweeter than he’d imagined!

“Charles.”

For a moment time stopped. Charles no longer heard the sound of the rain. He heard only the roar of blood coursing through François’s veins.

You must stop this.

François’s heart skipped a beat, then another as Charles struggled for control. Each time he tried to withdraw, the pleasure overwhelmed him and he drank deeper. The heat of François’s blood coursed through Charles’s body like fire. He wanted François. He wanted to possess him, to feel the last drop of his life as it flowed out of his body. He had never tasted blood as sweet, as fulfilling.

Nothing existed but the two of them, their souls intermingled. Charles experienced François’s passion, his hunger, his physical need. His thoughts filled with François’s memories. He leaned over a bed and put a cool cloth to his brother’s feverish brow. He cried at his father’s side as his mother was laid to rest. He sparred against his father, their swords ringing as they touched. He saw Adrien as a boy, weak and confined to a bed. He felt François’s guilt in the knowledge that he hadn’t been there to help when his mother and Adrien were attacked. He felt François’s joy as he sat under the shade of the vines and the stories he read unfolded. He saw himself beneath the oak tree, handsome and mysterious, as François saw him.

François grew weaker. His arms dropped to his sides and his body slumped against Charles’s. Forced to release his purchase on François’s neck or risk him falling to the ground, Charles pulled him off his horse and gathered him into his arms. How light François felt, how fragile he seemed in that moment. For all its strength, François’s hunter heart weakened, its erratic beat slowing.

Do you want him to die?

“François,” he said, although his words were for himself alone, “please forgive me.”

Guest Blogger Brynn Stein: Through the Years

TTYPlease welcome fellow Dreamspinner author Brynn Stein today! Brynn is here talking about her brand new release, Through the Years. Congrats on the release, Brynn! -Shira

Thanks Shira, for hosting me today. This is the fourth stop on blog tour for Through the Years.

On my last stop, I talked about Edward. I’d like to talk about my other main character, Gene.

The story is told in first person, through Gene’s eyes. He gets a full scholarship to an Art Institute in 1967 and piles everything he owes in a beat up Chevy and heads to Maryland. He meets Edward on his first day they and they become fast friends. We follow them through their college years and are just as befuddled as Gene when Edward leaves unexpectedly, not only the area, but the entire state. Gene goes through his senior year basically on autopilot, not understanding why Edward will correspond with their mutual friend, Robbie, but not with him.

When Edward comes back to Maryland years later, he has a wife and little girl in tow. Gene knows he’s back because he sees him from time to time, but they have little else in the way of contact until tragedy strikes and Edward finally reaches out to Gene again.

Immediately Gene is back in his life. He loves Edward’s wife and becomes “Uncle Gene” to their little girl and another one when she comes along.

Gene has always had little to no sex drive. He even thinks he might be completely asexual until he meets Edward. But even with him, it’s not an all-consuming desire. He’s content to just be friends and be included in his life.

Gene is there through all the celebrations and hardships that comes along with life. He unconsciously waits for Edward for years, but finally finds another man who peaks his sexual interest. Nick is good to Gene and more importantly, doesn’t think a relationship with him is wrong, like Edward did.

Lots of other things happen, but I’ll leave it vague for now.

Have you ever been attracted to someone you can’t have? Is there a friend who has stuck by you through the years, no matter what life has thrown at you? Comment below to be entered into the raffle.

Here’s how the raffle works:

I’ve listed the tour stops below and have given either the link to the blog in general or to my post specifically. Feel free to stop by as many as you want. For each stop that you comment on, you will receive one entry to the giveaway. I’ll check all the stops numerous times throughout the tour and will draw five winners on Thanksgiving Day, so even if you come in late to the tour, you can go back through the list and comment on past stops.

I’m giving away five prizes. 1) a signed paperback copy of Through the Years; 2 and 3) electronic copies of Through the Years, 4) your choice of either a signed paperback copy or an audiobook of Living Again (the audiobook won’t be available until December), and 5) an electronic copy of Haunted.TTY2

Blog Tour Stops for Through the Years

Blog Stop Date Blog Owner Blog Address
1 October 6 Anne Barwell http://annebarwell.wordpress.com
2 October 7 Grace Duncan http://www.grace-duncan.com/
3 October 8 Jessica Skye Davies http://jessicaskyedavies.blogspot.com
4 October 9 Shira Anthony www.shiraanthony.com
5 October 10 Emma Tett http://emmy-j.blogspot.co.uk
6 October 11 Kim Fielding
7 October 12 Bike Books Reviews bikebookreviews.blogspot.com
8 October 13 Tempest O’Riley http://tempesteoriley.com
9 October 14 Sean Michael http://seanmichaelwrites.blogspot.ca/
10 October 15 Allison Cassatta Allisoncassatta.blogspot.com
11 October 16 Jana Denardo http://jana-denardo.livejournal.com/
12 October 17 Louise Lyons http://louiselyonsauthor.wordpress.com
13 October 18 PD Singer http://pdsinger.com
14 October 20 Shae Connor http://shaeconnorwrites.com
15 October 21 Suki Fleet http://sukifleet.wordpress.com
16 October 27 Charlie Cochet http://purpleroseteahouse.charliecochet.com
17 October 28 Elizabeth Noble http://www.elizabeth-noble.com/my-blog
18 October 29 Tara Lain http://taralain.com
19 October 31 Sophie Bonaste http://sophiebonaste.blogspot.com
20 November 4 Kit Moss http://kitmossreviews.blogspot.com
21 November 10 Lane Hayes lanehayes.wordpress.com
22 November 13 Mike Rupured http://rupured.com

 

Thanks again Shira, for letting me stop by today.

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5539

Blurb for Through the Years

Edward and Gene were instantly drawn to each other when they met at college in Maryland. Fast friends, they developed a “closer than brothers” relationship. But then Edward began to feel more for Gene. In 1967, those kind of feelings would not be tolerated. Not even by Edward himself.

Gene always thought he was asexual. He had never been attracted to anyone… until he met Edward. He dreamed of Edward as more than a friend throughout college, but he knew Edward would not welcome that kind of attention. So Gene wasn’t surprised when Edward reacted badly to a drunken kiss just before Edward’s graduation. He was surprised when Edward moved to Florida and had little to do with him for years afterward.

When fate finally brings them back together, Edward is married and has a little girl. Gene gladly accepts the role of “Uncle Gene,” happy to have Edward in his life in any capacity. Together, they face all the trials and tribulations life throws at them, including the death of Edward’s wife, and as each grows and matures, their life views change. The relationship they’ve secretly wanted all along is closer than ever, and if Edward can break free from his homophobic upbringing and admit his feelings for Gene, there might still be a chance for them to share their lives in the way they both desire.

A Bittersweet Dreams title: It’s an unfortunate truth: love doesn’t always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.

 TTY3

Brynn Stein has always loved to write. Fan fiction, original fiction, whatever. While Brynn wrote in numerous genres – everything from mystery, to contemporary, to supernatural – she had always tended toward strong male characters. And then she discovered ‘slash’, male/male romance, and all those strong male characters were finally allowed to express their love for one another. It seems that there are always at least two characters clamoring to tell Brynn their story.

Brynn lives in Virginia with one of her two two-legged children, and two four-legged ones. Her supportive family encourages her writing and provides a sounding board for fledgling stories. When she isn’t writing, Brynn teaches children with special needs. In free time, when such a thing exists, she reads anything she can get her hands on, and haunts bookstores. She draws and paints, and enjoys the outdoors—especially if she can get to the beach—and is always thinking about her next story.

Please feel free to contact Brynn at any of the following:

https://twitter.com/BrynnStein

http://brynnstein2.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/

or

brynnstein2@gmail.com

 

“Blood and Rain” Contest and Cover Tease!

Blood and Rain Part 3Teasing all ya’ll again… I promise this is the last one, though! You can see Adrien’s hands now, and his beloved hunter sword, “Ianus.” Next week, I’ll reveal the entire cover. But for now, just so you don’t shoot me, here’s another excerpt. The excerpts follow in order, so you can backtrack to the first cover tease post and read forward if you’d like.

I’m just about done with book two in the Blood Series, Blood and Ghosts, which will be released in early 2015. It also features Nicolas Lambert, one of the main characters in Blood and Rain, and Adrien Gilbert, the vampire hunter who falls in love with him.

The Blood Series features three MM pairings and is both a contemporary and an historical supernatural romance, spanning more than a century from 1895 to the present day.3621890092_4175cd8c60_z

The vampires and hunters in the series share a common heritage, although both like to downplay that connection. 1896 sees the first in a series of moves on the part of a faction of hunters who believe the ancient Council of Hunters should sever its ties to the vampires who helped found the institution. Led by Verel Pelletier, the separatist hunters create havoc in the Council and ultimately take over its governance. Pelletier has a plan: to use vampires’ blood to create stronger hunters and ultimately eradicate vampires completely from the world. In the midst of this turmoil, Nicolas and Adrien fight to preserve the longstanding peace between their races. It’s a fight that continues into the present day.

Each week for the past 3 weeks, I’ve been teasing you with a bit more of the gorgeous cover from Dreamspinner Press cover artist Reese Dante, as well as a long excerpt from the book. Next week, I’ll reveal the entire cover. I’m also running a cover reveal contest that will end at midnight on October 11th, midnight after the day the full cover is revealed. The Rafflecopter giveaway is here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cf0ba9496/ Or you can enter by clicking directly on the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Below is another excerpt from the story, the beginning of Chapter Two. This follows the excerpt I shared last week which you can read here. Release day is December 15th!!! Have a great weekend! -Shira

******

Blood Series: Book 1

Adrien Gilbert has spent several lifetimes searching for the love he lost. Born in the 1800s into a clan of fabled vampire hunters, Adrien once wanted nothing more than to tend his family’s vineyard in southern France or read a good book. But Adrien’s peaceful existence ends abruptly when his older brother, François, is murdered. Bound by his hunter’s oath, Adrien sets out on a path that will forever change his life when he agrees to execute his brother’s killer, the vampire Charles Duvalier.

After months chasing the elusive Charles, Adrien reluctantly makes a bargain with Nicolas Lambert, an ancient vampire. Adrien will escort Nicolas to Paris for his marriage to a rival clanswoman, and Nicolas will help Adrien find Charles. Nicolas’s quiet strength and gentle heart soon convince Adrien that Nicolas is nothing like the vampires he has sworn to destroy. As the wedding date draws nearer, a force intent on destroying the fragile peace between the vampire clans threatens to tear apart both the vampire realm and the world of the hunters. To secure both past and future for those he loves, Adrien must find a way to stop the looming war between hunters and vampires. But first he’ll have to let Nicolas go.

Note: This is the first in a series of three anticipated novels tentatively entitled Blood and Rain, Blood and Ghosts, Blood and Eternity. The series it set in France in 1895 and in the present, and features three MM pairings. Books in this series must be read in order.

Tentative Publication Date: December 2014-January, 2015

******

Chapter Two: Blood and Rain (continued)

Saint-Gervais, France, 1896

François Gilbert drew his cloak tighter around his body as the rain stung his face. The sound of the wind through the trees was like a plaintive cry, almost alive, as if the storm shared his heartbreak. His horse snorted in protest as he took off at a gallop. Time was short. It had taken him longer than expected to leave the house without being seen.

He hasn’t left yet. The thought did little to tamp down his growing despair. He urged the horse onward, pushing the animal near to its limits. He gritted his teeth against the wave of grief that wrapped its fingers around his heart as he left the vineyard behind. He imagined his sister’s sweet smile and his father’s embrace. Those things he would miss, but more than anything, he regretted the look of pain he’d seen on his brother’s face the last time they’d spoken.

“You intend to go with him, don’t you?” Adrien asked as he’d tended the vines. He didn’t look up to acknowledge François.

“It’s hardly the first time I’ll be away, Addie. You’ll take care of Isabelle while I’m gone, won’t you?”

“Of course I’ll take care of her.” Adrien frowned, still focused on the plant he held between his thumb and forefinger. “But this isn’t the same. You’re not coming back this time, are you?”

“Of course I’ll—”

“The Council won’t forgive this. All that you’ve done… all you’ve accomplished…. Is he worth the sacrifice?”

François offered Adrien what he hoped was a reassuring smile. “He doesn’t believe he is. But my heart says otherwise.”

“And what of the vineyard? Father can barely afford to pay our accounts. If you leave—”

“I’ll work,” François said, feeling the sting of guilt. “I won’t be a kept man. I can do more to help our family if I leave this town.”

“Please don’t leave.” Adrien gazed up at him, eyes brimming with tears.

“You’re strong, Adrien. Stronger than you know.” Even now, Adrien saw him as the stronger brother. How ironic, that Adrien was more powerful. More cunning. Able to see the broader picture. More introspective, but François understood this gave Adrien the advantage when it came to understanding people.

Adrien, I wish you could see yourself as I see you.

Adrien shook his head and turned back to his work.

“Be well, Adrien.”

 

François first met the man with silver hair and eyes the color of the ocean while running an errand for his father. He’d just returned from a trip to a nearby village, where farmers had discovered several dead animals. The Council had suspected wolves were to blame, but as with all such reports, they’d dispatched a hunter to investigate. With each such foray beyond the confines of the small village where he lived, François yearned to travel farther.

François had been immediately and inexplicably drawn to Charles Duvalier, the brooding nobleman who shunned the trappings of Parisian society and traveled without manservant or carriage through the French countryside. Never fearful of strangers, François had introduced himself to Charles.

“François Gilbert.” Charles’s eyes sparkled with obvious amusement as he repeated the name. “Would the Council approve of your speaking to me?”

François laughed. “I do not need the Council’s permission to speak to anyone. And should you offend my delicate sensibilities, I am more than capable of killing you.”

“You chose to speak to me, knowing what I am?” Charles asked.

“You don’t frighten me.” It wasn’t quite the truth. François was afraid. He just wasn’t sure why.

“I should frighten you.” The humor François had sensed in Charles fled in the wake of something darker. Pain. Guilt. François knew these feelings well, though he’d tried to hide them from his family and especially his brother.

Undeterred, François had approached Charles again the next day, this time as Charles sat on a stone bench under the shade of an ancient oak. The rain, which had fallen steadily for nearly a fortnight, had broken the evening before. It would rain again soon, but for now the early spring breeze was cool and the sun shone brightly through the breaks in the clouds. François didn’t wait for an invitation. Instead, he sat down next to Charles as he read a book of English poetry.

“Alfred Lord Tennyson,” François said when Charles didn’t acknowledge his presence. “And in English, no less.”

“You’ve read him?”

François did his best to hide his pleasure at Charles’s look of surprise. “Yes. Also in the original English.” When Charles raised an eyebrow, François added, “No doubt you think me uneducated because I live in such a small village.”

A smile danced on Charles’s lips. “I’m pleased your father taught you as well as he did.”

“Do you know my father?” His father had never spoken of Charles. Then again, his father rarely spoke of his life before he’d married their mother.

“We’ve met.”

François had hoped for more explanation, but he wouldn’t press Charles. Instead he smiled and asked, “Which poem is your favorite?”

“Ulysses,” Charles replied, clearly waiting for his reaction.

“An interesting choice.” François smiled and recited, “My purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset, and the baths of all the western stars, until I die. It may be that the gulfs will wash us down: it may be we shall touch the Happy Isles, and see the great Achilles, whom we knew. Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’ we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; one equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

“Impressive.”

“Is that you, monsieur? Are you Ulysses? Always wandering, always yearning for new horizons?”

“Perhaps.” In that moment François sensed Charles’s loneliness so acutely, it made his chest ache. He cursed his gift of empathy, for it made him long to free Charles from the pain. He gently touched Charles on the shoulder. Did he imagine Charles’s sigh in response?

“I would like to wander with you sometime, monsieur.”

Guest Blogger Brandon Shire: The Power of Music

Summer Symphony_600I can’t tell you how honored I am to have Brandon Shire join me here! He’s a supremely talented writer and his new release, Summer Symphony, is truly a beautiful novel. For those of you who have enjoyed the Blue Notes Series and love music as much as I do, I highly recommend this story of love, loss, and self-discovery amidst the ruins.  Bittersweet and moving, there is no easy ending here, but it’s well worth the tears.

Thank you Brandon for a gorgeous book, for the opportunity to be part of this amazing story, and for joining me today! -Shira

******

What is the most devastating thing you could envision as a parent? It’s not a quick jump to realize that most parents would consider the loss of a child to be foremost among their greatest fears.

If the child has yet to be born, what then?

And what if you are the father and your worst fear comes true? How do you grieve after holding that small precious bundle in your hands?

We don’t often consider men when it comes to grieving for a child lost to miscarriage or stillbirth. In fact, male grief is dismissed (almost uniformly) throughout the world in these situations. The physical bond between mother and child can’t be denied. But you would think that in this day and age, we would have dispensed with the antiquated notions of how grief reflects on masculinity. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Male grief is to be hidden, closeted.

Google “music and grief” and you will quickly learn that music therapy models have been found to be the most successful in treating grief and bereavement. But what happens when music is already the focus of your life? What happens when you can’t turn to the one thing that might help lift you from despair?

These are the topics I explored when I started writing Summer Symphony. Frankly, it shocked me to find such a dearth of information and support for grieving fathers. It was as if they didn’t matter. As a parent, I found this utterly absurd. My first question was: How can you support your spouse if you can’t grieve yourself? You can’t. That’s the answer. You can’t.

I won’t tell you this novel has an HEA, it doesn’t. It’s a tearjerker about music, love, romance, grief, and how a father finally learns to cope.

Very special thanks go to Shira for allowing me to pick her brain. Without her knowledge of music, I couldn’t have written this book. Thanks, Shira!

 

Book Blurb:

Martin Zoric had vivid dreams of fatherhood, of a small hand pressed to his, of pink dresses and girlish laughter. Then his wife had a stillbirth and his world fell apart.

He listened to the unwanted apologies, stood by his wife as was expected of him, and kept his façade strong and firm for the entire world to see.

But does he have the strength let go and really grieve?

When Ren Wakahisa landed in Croatia he was hoping to escape the cultural pressures put on him to conform. His family wanted him to forsake love for duty. They viewed his happiness as secondary to familial prosperity.

Does he have the courage to be who he wants to be? Or, will he yield to their wishes?

Summer Symphony is the story of how two men find their answers and what they learn about strength, and grace, and the endurance of love.

 

Summer Symphony is available for pre-order from Amazon, iTunes and Smashwords. (Other sites are coming soon.)

 

Author Bio:

Award winning writer BRANDON SHIRE is a distinct voice in contemporary fiction. Mr. Shire was chosen as a Top Read in 2011, Best in LGBTQ Fiction for 2011 & 2012, and garnered several Honorable Mentions, as well as a Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Fiction.

Connect with Brandon at BrandonShire.com or on Goodreads.

10% of the proceeds from the sale of any of Brandon’s books are donated to LGBT Youth charities combating homelessness.

 

“Blood and Rain” Contest, Excerpt, and Cover Tease #2

Blood and Rain Part 2I know I’m a tease!!! And if you want another tease, check out the next excerpt from the book below.

Meet Nicolas Lambert, one of the main characters in Blood and Rain, which will be released by Dreamspinner Press on December 15th! Nicolas is an “ancient” vampire – born a vampire, not created from a human. As the younger brother of the head of the Lambert clan, Nicolas offers himself as the price of peace between his clan and the rival Rousseau clan. He agrees to a marriage of political convenience to Rosina Rousseau, whom he’s never met. Worse still, Nicolas has fallen in love with the vampire hunter who agrees to escort him to Paris for the marriage: Adrien Gilbert.

Blood and Rain is the first of three books in the Blood Series, which features three MM pairings. It’s both a contemporary and an historical supernatural romance, spanning more than a century from 1895 to the present day.3621890092_4175cd8c60_z

Each week for the next 3 weeks, I’ll be teasing you with a bit more of the gorgeous cover from Dreamspinner Press cover artist Reese Dante, as well as a long excerpt from the book. I’m also running a cover reveal contest that will end at midnight on October 11th, midnight after the day the full cover is revealed. The Rafflecopter giveaway is here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cf0ba9496/ Or you can enter by clicking directly on the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Below is another excerpt from the story, the beginning of Chapter Two. This follows the excerpt I shared last week which you can read here. Also today, I’m sharing the official Dreamspinner Press blurb. Have a great weekend! -Shira

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Blood Series: Book 1

Adrien Gilbert has spent several lifetimes searching for the love he lost. Born in the 1800s into a clan of fabled vampire hunters, Adrien once wanted nothing more than to tend his family’s vineyard in southern France or read a good book. But Adrien’s peaceful existence ends abruptly when his older brother, François, is murdered. Bound by his hunter’s oath, Adrien sets out on a path that will forever change his life when he agrees to execute his brother’s killer, the vampire Charles Duvalier.

After months chasing the elusive Charles, Adrien reluctantly makes a bargain with Nicolas Lambert, an ancient vampire. Adrien will escort Nicolas to Paris for his marriage to a rival clanswoman, and Nicolas will help Adrien find Charles. Nicolas’s quiet strength and gentle heart soon convince Adrien that Nicolas is nothing like the vampires he has sworn to destroy. As the wedding date draws nearer, a force intent on destroying the fragile peace between the vampire clans threatens to tear apart both the vampire realm and the world of the hunters. To secure both past and future for those he loves, Adrien must find a way to stop the looming war between hunters and vampires. But first he’ll have to let Nicolas go.

Note: This is the first in a series of three anticipated novels tentatively entitled Blood and Rain, Blood and Ghosts, Blood and Eternity. The series it set in France in 1895 and in the present, and features three MM pairings. Books in this series must be read in order.

Tentative Publication Date: December 2014-January, 2015

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Chapter Two: Blood and Rain

Saint-Gervais, France, 1896

Rain fell on the dirt streets, creating rivulets of muddy water that ran unimpeded into the already clogged gutters. Small pools of water and mud had accumulated on the grass surrounding the immaculate houses. It had rained off and on for weeks, ever since Charles Duvalier had arrived in Saint-Gervais.

Charles found comfort in the overcast sky. The chill in the air was an old friend whose welcome would never wear thin. In spite of the beauty of the French countryside and the warmth of the townspeople, the hunger he despised was still there. It clawed at his soul like death come to claim an old man, waiting until he grew too weak to resist.

He would leave before the hunger overpowered him, before his humanity was consumed by the primal urge against which he could not defend. He could smell it everywhere: blood, the thing that brought him so much pleasure and yet threatened to devour all of his humanity, everything he valued, and everything he held dear.

Time to leave. He waited for the cobbler to bring his horse.

There was much about Saint-Gervais that had tempted him. Nestled between the mountains and the river, this small hillside village reminded him of the time when he was human and his heart and soul were still free to dream of a happy future, unencumbered by darkness. The longing for that time returned, unbidden. Charles pushed the memory away.

Nostalgia is for the weak.

Nostalgia alone hadn’t kept him here. Handsome, clever François was the other reason. François, the beautiful man who awakened a desire Charles thought dead forever. The oldest son of the centuries-old Gilbert clan of hunters, François had begun to earn a reputation as a fine swordsman for the Council of Hunters. Charming, powerful, and anxious to know more about the world outside the town where his family worked their hillside vineyard, François had wanted to accompany Charles when he moved on. Charles had been sorely tempted. François’s heart was brave and pure. Over the long centuries he’d wandered, hoping to exorcise the guilt, Charles had forgotten what it felt like to genuinely crave knowledge. François had reminded him. With François, Charles felt truly alive again. Happy.

Old fool! The moment you touch him, you will kill his soul. He’d long since learned that everything he touched turned black. This was no different. He clenched his jaw and tied his bags to his saddle, patting his mare for good measure and whispering in her ear. He was just about to lead her outside when a young man emerged from one of the nearby stalls.

“Monsieur Duvalier?”

“Adrien. I hadn’t expected to see you here.” Charles secured his cloak around his neck and smiled at François’s younger brother. Adrien, with his mother’s pale skin, blue eyes, and hair the color of a wheat field at sunrise, looked nothing like his brother. François had once explained that Adrien had been a sickly child and that after their mother’s death, he had nearly died of a fever that had lasted weeks. So different from François in appearance and personality. They’d been inseparable. Until Charles had come to town.

Adrien did not return Charles’s smile. “You’re leaving without speaking to him.” Not a question. Adrien judged him. Charles knew he deserved this.

Vampires and hunters were not sworn enemies, but many vampires deeply resented the hunters’ interference in their affairs. Millennia ago, the ancients asked the hunters to enforce our law, Charles’s creator had once explained to him. But there are those of our kind who do not recognize the pact between our races. They fancy themselves resistance fighters in a war of their own creation.

François and Adrien’s mother had been a victim of the heretics. And although the ancients and hunters had swiftly punished the vampires responsible, Charles guessed that Adrien had taken their mother’s death particularly hard.

Charles had known Charlotte and Jacques Gilbert well. He’d attended their wedding. He too had grieved Charlotte’s death. After she’d died, he’d seen little of Jacques, who’d been left to care for François, Adrien, and their younger sister, Isabelle. Three small children and a struggling vineyard would keep a man well occupied.

Charles repressed a sigh. “It’s better this way. Surely you know this to be true.”

Adrien narrowed his eyes. “Perhaps now he’ll see you for what you truly are. Heartless and cruel. You used him.”

Charles wouldn’t quarrel with Adrien. Better that François believe Charles had rejected him than follow him and truly be hurt.

Adrien watched as Charles tied his belongings onto his saddle. Charles led the animal onto the muddy street.

“Good-bye, Adrien. No doubt our paths will cross again.”

“Blood and Rain” Contest and Cover Tease

Blood and Rain Part 1I have a new series coming very soon! Blood and Rain will be released this winter (December or January). It’s the first in the Blood Series from Dreamspinner Press. Yes, it’s about vampires (and vampire hunters). No, these vamps don’t sparkle, but they do have some unusual abilities you’ll discover as the series unfolds.  Yes, it’s definitely a romance! But it’s also an adventure with plenty of action, much like my Mermen of Ea Series.

Each week for the next 4 weeks, I’ll be teasing you with a bit more of the gorgeous cover from Dreamspinner Press cover artist Reese Dante, as well as a long excerpt from the book. I’m also running a cover reveal contest that will end at midnight on October 11th, midnight after the day the full cover is revealed. The Rafflecopter giveaway is here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/cf0ba9496/  Or you can enter by clicking directly on the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Blood Series takes place in both the present day and in France in the late 1800s, and features three couples. The main focus is on Adrien Gilbert, the youngest son of a French vampire hunter family, and Nicolas Lambert, an ancient (born a vampire, not created) vampire.

So please join me in some fun in welcoming 3621890092_4175cd8c60_zmy sexy hunters and vampires! The first excerpt and unofficial blurb are below. Enjoy! -Shira

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Blood Series: Book 1

Adrien Gilbert is a vampire hunter sworn to avenge the murder of his brother, Francois.  When the ancient vampire, Nicolas Lambert, offers to help Adrien locate his brother’s killer in exchange for Adrien’s protection, Adrien agrees.  Nicolas has pledged to marry the daughter of a rival vampire clan for the sake of peace between their warring clans. But when Adrien begins to fall for the gentle Nicolas, Adrien’s mission becomes one of both self-discovery and heartbreak.

What Adrien and Nicolas don’t know is that there is another force at work, intent on destroying the fragile peace between vampire clans.  That same force threatens to tear apart the world of the hunters.  Adrien must put aside his feelings for Nicolas and stop a full-blown war between Hunters and vampires. He’s just not sure he’s willing to let Nicolas go forever to do it.

Note:  This is the first in a series of three anticipated novels tentatively entitled Blood and Rain, Blood and Ghosts, Blood and Eternity. The series it set in France in 1895 and in the present, and features three MM pairings. Books in this series must be read in order.

Under contract to Dreamspinner Press. Tentative Publication Date: December 2014-January, 2015

******

Chapter One: On the Edge of Forever

Miami, Florida

Sunset wove fingers of purple and red through bands of clouds and vapor trails that crisscrossed the sky. The scent of exhaust from trucks and cars mingled with the tang of salt from the ocean. People scurried about as they returned from work, trying to finish last-minute errands before dinnertime, all oblivious to the lone figure perched atop the high-rise at the edge of the Miami River.

Adrien Gilbert gazed down at the tiny figures below, vaguely aware of their presence. For more than a century, he had seen generations of humans be born, reach adulthood, start families, grow old, and die as their loved ones watched, helpless to slow time. He had grown numb to the cycle of life—a cycle to which he was immune. He was an immortal, a hunter who had shared the soul of an ancient vampire. His beloved soul.

He closed his eyes, trying to picture that perfect face. It had grown strangely difficult to remember over the years, and yet he could still easily remember the face of his mother, who had been killed when he was just a child.

I won’t forget you… Nicolas.

It would have been far easier to give in, to erase Nicolas from his memory forever. Certainly far less painful than knowing Nicolas was out there somewhere, unable to find the way back to him. Less painful, too, than admitting he couldn’t find his way to Nicolas. He would suffer the pain of knowledge; it was a small price to pay to preserve the memory.

I’m sorry.

The irony that a hunter sworn to protect humankind would suffer the loss of a vampire so keenly was hardly lost on Adrien. He’d believed that in spite of the treaty between hunters and the hunted, vampires were not to be trusted. He’d believed his duty as a hunter was simple, straightforward: kill those who threatened humanity, tolerate those who did not. But that had been before he’d met Nicolas. Before he’d lost his heart. Before Nicolas had given him immortality.

Adrien had everything a human might wish for. The small transportation business he’d started when he moved to the United States over a hundred years ago had blossomed into an international empire with cargo ships, airplanes, trucks, and dozens of storage facilities around the globe. He owned homes in Europe, Thailand, Japan, the US, and a dozen other places he rarely visited. Despite his prosperity, the men with whom he shared his bed—human, vampire, hunter—rarely stayed long. He had seen to that, with his aloof manner and his cold heart. One man had ever touched his soul.

 

 

The evening had started, as it always did, on a far better note. Adrien had stopped by one of his favorite haunts, an upscale martini bar not far from the city center. He’d developed a penchant for gin over the past few decades, enjoying the quick work it made of his long-term memory. Three or four martinis and he could forget, even if only briefly.

The bar was small and full of people. A Sinatra song played in the background as he walked over to the stainless-steel bar, filled with men, some of whom he’d already discarded, others new faces. Eager, all of them. He sensed their eyes on him and felt the hunger they didn’t understand. He understood that hunger. The scent of his blood created it in them. The same irresistible scent that had lured many a human to fall prey to the vampires now drew them to him.

He sat down at an empty barstool and nodded to the bartender, who set to work making the driest martini possible with his most expensive gin, dropping in a tiny bit of lemon peel instead of an olive. He handed Adrien the drink without saying a word, and Adrien brought the glass to his lips.

“Nice,” a male voice said from behind him.

The man was beautiful, tall, with shoulder-length black hair and deep green eyes. He wore pair of tight-fitting jeans and a crisp button-down shirt that emphasized his muscled chest and narrow waist. Late twenties, perhaps. A new face, but a familiar presence.

“It’s not bad.” Adrien took a sip of his drink and pretended not to care. It was easy.

“I wasn’t talking about the drink.” The man lifted his drink to his full lips but watched him intently.

“I wasn’t either,” Adrien replied without missing a beat.

“I’m Cole.”

“So you are.”

They left the bar together for his apartment, where his housekeeper had already set a table for two. A bottle of Puligny-Montrachet chilled in a cooler by the table. Between them, they finished that bottle, although Adrien drank very little. Alcohol affected immortals far more than humans or vampires.

After dinner Cole stood and walked over to the railing, looking out over the river below. “You know what I am.” Cole’s voice was as smooth as the wine.

“Yes. I know what you are.” Adrien had sensed Cole was a vampire the moment he’d seen him. No self-respecting hunter would have missed the subtle electricity in the air or the scent of mingled blood. He lifted Cole’s hair off his neck, then trailed his lips over his silky skin. Cole smelled good—an earthy and primal scent that caused the bloodlust to rise in Adrien. Once, he had embraced his lust for blood.

When he’d first become an immortal, Nicolas’s blood had done far more than sustain him. They had shared their bodies, their blood, and their souls. The blood had been their bond, the bloodlust a welcome reminder of Adrien’s love for Nicolas. Now the lust for blood had nothing to do with Adrien’s heart. It was another bitter reminder that his body would not let him perish, even though he cared nothing for living.

It’s been too long.

Cole moaned. The deep, throaty sound made Adrien’s mouth water in spite of himself. Adrien despised his body’s response, but he’d long ago learned he couldn’t fight it. Once, he had gone nearly twenty years without giving in to the call. He’d been weak, pathetic, barely able to think. He’d prayed he would die. He’d lost consciousness, but he’d awoken to find himself drinking his fill. He’d come perilously close to killing the human whose blood he’d feasted on, but he’d managed to stop. However miserable his existence, Adrien would only feed on vampires—he’d not break the oath he’d taken to protect humans when he’d become a hunter.

Adrien licked the skin of Cole’s neck, feeling the blood pulse there, hearing it call to him. Cole tilted his head in anticipation, opening himself to Adrien.

Adrien buried his teeth in Cole’s skin. Blood flooded his mouth and danced on his tongue, sweet and salty. Too long. His body was far more vampire-like in its craving for blood than when he’d first been given the gift of an ancient vampire’s soul. He wondered if it was the same for other immortals.

Adrien tried to ignore the images that flashed through his mind—the sound of silvery laughter, a mother’s loving caress. Cole’s memories. Adrien despised this forced intimacy, but he’d come to see it as the price of blood. Something to be tolerated.

It hadn’t always been that way. When he’d shared Nicolas’s blood, Adrien had experienced great joy. He’d seen himself through Nicolas’s eyes and felt the depth of Nicolas’s love. Each drop of that precious liquid had opened new doors. Each taste offered insight into Nicolas’s heart and soul. A beloved memory. A mystery—the mystery of Nicolas—unfolding with every swallow.

Adrien drank his fill, then claimed Cole’s mouth. This kind of contact he could stomach. He didn’t need sex to survive, but he enjoyed the release. Cole unbuttoned Adrien’s black silk shirt and his cock swelled against Adrien’s thigh. Adrien moaned as Cole skated his fingertips over his chest.

“I have never known a hunter to crave blood,” Cole whispered in his ear. “I thought only we experienced the bloodlust.”

“You were wrong,” Adrien said as he pulled Cole’s shirt over his head and mouthed a pretty pink nipple. Sex was always better after he fed, and Adrien’s cock was already hard at the thought of fucking such a lovely ass. He drew Cole’s body against his, walked backward into the living room, and pulled Cole with him onto the rug. Soon they were naked and he was no longer a hunter or an immortal, he was simply a man, seeking release, seeking pleasure.

 

 

Adrien lay there afterward, only partially satisfied. Nothing new. Sex was like the bloodlust—it always left him wanting more. Cole brushed his fingers over Adrien’s chest, then his neck. He licked Adrien’s earlobe, then ran his tongue over Adrien’s Adam’s apple.

“May I?” he asked.

“No.” He would willingly share his blood with only one person.

“Too bad.” The vampire was clearly disappointed. “I would have liked to have known the secrets of your blood.”

Adrien watched Cole dress but said nothing.

“Perhaps another time, then.” Cole turned and smiled at him before he walked out the door.

For at least an hour after, Adrien lay on the floor and allowed the night air to caress his bare skin. He closed his eyes and dozed.

“Adrien.”

The voice awakened him. Nicolas’s voice again. Why sleep if it only served to reawaken the pain he sought to suppress?

He stood and pulled on his jeans. He walked onto the balcony in his bare feet, then climbed to the roof of the penthouse.

Pathetic.

Having reached the edge, he spread his arms. He leaned forward and fell unimpeded, riding the wind like a sigh. The glass of the building sailed by him, the breeze buffeting his face. He hit the water and sank into the cold blackness. He wished he could die.

 

 

 

 

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