Hi, Everyone! Welcome to Wings of Fire, book #3 of my Guardians of Ascension Series. I’ve included the entire first chapter below.
Experience the danger and desire of a secret race of vampire warriors—and the powerful women they are sworn to protect…
About Wings of Fire
IN THE HEAT OF BATTLE
By night, the winged warrior Antony Medichi fights the death vampires who threaten his world. By day, he hunts the rogue vampires who invade Mortal Earth. But deep in his heart rages the fiercest battle of all—his soul-searing passion for the one mortal he is sworn to protect…the one woman he is doomed to love.
ON THE WINGS OF FIRE
Parisa Lovejoy is so beautiful, and so powerful, that Antony cannot fight the feelings she arouses. But his unexpected love only intensifies his strength as her Guardian—a strength that is put to the ultimate test when Parisa is abducted. Her captor, Commander Greaves, enslaves mortal women for their blood. If Parisa hopes to survive—and ascend—she must forge an even deeper bond with Antony…in the flames of eternity.
Chapter One of Wings of Fire
In the twilight I think of him
He sees me in the wonder of his eye
I allow the air to breathe
He does not move with swift feet
His thoughts turn to me imagined
I wait beyond the faint boundary of time
He does not rush
My steps are measured
I have known his love from the beginning
I perceive his beauty angled, firm
He is earnest in his movements
Love rises on wings of fire
~ Maria Medichi, 707AD – 732AD
Translated by her husband, Antony, 1845
In the last three months, since the abduction of his woman, Antony Medichi, out of Italy in the late Roman era, had become a killing machine. He had steel for bones and molten iron for blood. He rarely slept. He battled death vampires at night sending to perdition any who crossed his sword. But during the day, when most of the pretty-boys were asleep, Antony bled his wrists on his altar and hunted rogue vampires on Mortal Earth searching for the woman he’d lost three months ago.
Those hunts also ended in death. Not his.
He stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon, Mortal Earth, looking down, tracking a death vampire flying in the shadows. Even though he was far from the touristy areas, he still cloaked his presence with a heavy concentration of mist, a preternatural creation designed to confuse the average human mind. For most mortals, he simply couldn’t be seen and right now he didn’t want to be seen.
Antony stared into the abyss. The profound silence across the canyon formed a strange juxtaposition to the visual feast. The Grand Canyon was all for the eyes, not for the ears. But he hadn’t come to admire the view or to embrace the quiet.
His predatory gaze followed the death vampire flying below, legs straight back, glossy black wings glinting in the early morning sunshine. He’d been hunting this particular bastard for weeks now. All clues had led here. This pretty-boy had known both Eldon Crace and Rith Do’onwa, two sons of bitches who had harmed women belonging to the Warriors of the Blood. Both vampires deserved death. Crace had already gotten what he deserved and within the depth of Medichi’s mind, Rith Do’onwa, the fiend who had kidnapped his woman three months, was a death waiting to happen, nothing more.
Three months ago, Medichi had served as Parisa Lovejoy’s Guardian of Ascension. She’d entered his world as an anomaly, a mortal with wings, a woman of extraordinary preternatural power in need of protection from the enemy. No one, except the first ascender, had mounted wings on mortal earth. But Parisa had. She’d also arrived with the ability to voyeur, a power that allowed her to focus on an individual or a place and to see what was happening in real time, to watch events unfold in an entirely separate location, even a different dimension.
So much power, and beauty, and a strong analytical mind.
But for all these immense gifts and abilities, they paled in comparison to the call of the breh-hedden, the myth of vampire mate-bonding, that had proved as real as the air he breathed. She was his breh, his mate, the one destiny had selected for him, the one he craved.
He hadn’t asked for a mate. He hadn’t wanted one and he sure as hell didn’t deserve one, but she’d come, he’d served as her guardian, and she’d been abducted on his watch.
So here he was, a wrecked, shell of a warrior, struggling to find his way back to her.
When Rith had abducted Parisa, Rith had not only blocked his trace, which indicated an enormous amount of preternatural power, but he’d deceived Medichi with a hologram of Parisa that lasted for at least half a minute. Medichi didn’t know anyone, not even any of his warrior brothers, the powerful Warriors of the Blood, who could create a hologram. So, yeah, Rith had power, which made him a clever, dangerous opponent.
But the death vampire working the airstreams of the Grand Canyon had known Rith. He had answers and Medichi meant to have them. Right now. This morning.
His heart pumped hard in his chest.
The death vampire flew close to the canyon walls as though trying to hide in the shadows. Medichi smiled the hard smile that tended to work his jaw at the same time. Did the death vamp actually think to hide in a place this size?
Medichi bound his hair, not in the ritual cadroen as he was supposed to but with a narrow leather strap over his forehead, tied at the back of his head so that his long warrior hair flowed free. He was uncivilized now, a wild beast hunting for what was his by right, for what had been taken from him.
He had his wings at close-mount, tight to his body since any breeze would send him off the canyon’s edge otherwise. But now it was time to take care of business. With the practice of thirteen centuries, he spread his wings to full-mount, adjusting with infinitesimal shifts to balance the air currents, then launched into the empty air space over the canyon.
A rush of pure adrenaline shot through his heart then sent dizzying endorphins into his head. There was nothing like flight, nothing like falling off a cliff and knowing that spreading his wings to their farthest span would catch, hold, then carry him where he wanted to go.
With a slight adjustment, the barest drawing back of his wings, his body shifted at an angle that meant down, and down he started to fly. Down and down, into the varying degrees of cool shadow and warm light as the canyon walls jutted and receded.
He was close now, his quarry an eighth of a mile away, less, less, a hundred yards now.
The bastard looked up. Shit. Maybe Medichi’s shadow had crossed him.
Panic seized the pretty-boy’s eye and he banked left then drew his wings into close mount. He threw his arms forward as though diving, his body now aimed in the direction of the Colorado River.
Medichi didn’t hesitate. He folded his wings close to his body and instead of flying in long pulls through the air, he became a missile as well and headed with fierce intent after his prey.
The bastard was good and he was old, which meant he had power, speed, and lots of fucking skill.
But then so did Medichi. He had never mounted his wings during battle, but he flew, a lot. He practiced, a lot. And now he smiled, his jaw twitching.
The mile deep canyon walls sped past him, the striated layers of rock blending into an orange-beige fusion as he jetted toward the blue and white ribbon below. Closer.
He could almost touch the bastard’s foot.
If he could wrap a hand around his ankle.
The waters rose up and up.
The death vamp leveled off just three feet above the water but Medichi took a huge risk, kept his missile shape for a split-second longer and just as the death vamp started to plow air, Medichi caught his ankle and jerked him down, straight into the frothy rapids of the river below. At the same time, with the steel of his bones, the molten iron of his blood, and a swift mental command, he snagged his levitation ability and threw his wings into parachute mount, cupped at the top, to keep from plunging into the frigid water.
The death vamp wasn’t so lucky. His wings went under and he surfaced screaming because the water had trashed his wings. The mesh superstructure that held the feathers in place was fairly fragile and the smallest injury hurt like a bitch. This tumbling in wild waters would be a form of torture. As the current dragged him in a heap, tossing him over and over, the death vamp screamed each time his head breached the water. He landed back first against an enormous rock. Medichi heard the crack as well as another shriek.
Medichi flew after him and when the pretty-boy would have slid into the heavy currents that swirled at the base of the rock, Medichi grabbed him by his long, dark hair and hauled him out of the water. He threw him face down on the rock. How many mortals had this motherfucker drunk to death? How many ascenders? Death vamps didn’t differentiate when it came to dying blood. Any human, ascended or not, would do.
Medichi wafted his wings slowly to keep his balance against the air currents that streamed through the canyon.
God, the bastard’s wings were a mess. The vamp shook hard, maybe from the icy water but probably from shock and a mountain of pain.
“Where’s Rith?” he asked. Time to keep the questions simple.
The death vampire shifted slightly to cast one dark beautiful eye up at Medichi. Calling death vampires ‘pretty-boys’ was more than accurate. He was exquisite, chiseled features shaped by the effects of dying blood, porcelain skin with a faint bluish cast, enhanced no doubt by the freezing water. Medichi felt the pull of attraction, an allure that created a swelling of ease within his chest. Fuck. Even shaking with pain and approaching death, the bastard was trying to enthrall him.
Medichi punched back with a shot of mental power that acted like a blow, pushing the death vamp’s face into the rock.
“Even at this hour,” Medichi shouted, “when you face death, you’d try to enthrall me?”
A smile curved the side of the pretty-boy’s mouth. Blood dribbled from his lips onto the wet black rock beneath his face. “Fuck you,” he whispered.
The death vampire just smiled. Yeah, questions would be futile but he always gave them a chance because what he intended to do next would hurt like hell.
He retracted his wings then dropped to his knees beside the death vamp. A bone jutted from the bastard’s thigh, shiny and white. Blood ran in a rivulet down his ruptured skin, but the water, still shedding from the nearest feathers of his broken wings, kept washing it away.
“You sure you don’t want to just tell me?” Medichi asked. One last chance.
The same reply returned, this time in a much stronger, “Fuck you.”
“Fine,” Medichi said. “We’ll do it the hard way.” He put his hand on the vamp’s forehead.
The struggle began as the pretty-boy’s mind bucked against Medichi’s touch as though trying to cast him out of his head. He put up a good fight, too, but more than just Medichi’s body had grown tougher over the past three months of forced separation from Parisa. He’d been working his mental powers as well, trying to find his woman telepathically. In doing so he’d gotten stronger.
He shoved hard and the vampire’s mind gave way. The death vamp screamed but Medichi ignored his cries and began the real hunt.
He cast aside memories like batting at flies until Rith’s strange face emerged, the Asian cast to his features, the broad forehead and wide nose. He focused on those memories and gained a portrait of the man as a powerful servant of Commander Greaves but then what else would he be? Greaves was the acknowledged enemy of all that Medichi held dear on Second Earth, in this beautiful dimensional world. Darian Greaves had ambitions to rule both Second Earth and Mortal Earth and was creating a powerful army of death vamps to back up his efforts. Rith was a favored servant.
Within the death vampire’s mind, he saw Rith’s lairs, sometimes in great caverns, sometimes in tents, sometimes in suburban homes, but all in various geographical locales. He kept picking through them, trying to feel the presence of his woman. All the while the death vamp screamed at the invasion.
Medichi came across the memory of one of Rith’s properties that was shrouded in a mental shield. What the fuck was that? This death vampire didn’t have enough power to create a deep mental shield like this, which meant that Rith had done it himself.
He tried punching through the shroud but couldn’t and then the preternatural sensation stole over him, of simply knowing. He knew. He could feel that this was where Rith held Parisa captive, cloaked even from Central’s advanced high-tech grid system that could locate anything on two earths.
Sweet Jesus. He felt light-headed. He struggled to breathe.
At last. He’d found a connection to her at last. He focused on breathing for a moment. He had to get command of himself if he had any hope of extracting the information he needed.
When he was calmer and while he was still inside the pretty-boy’s mind, he moved around the shrouded entity as though walking a mental circle. The death vampire sobbed now but Medichi didn’t give a rat’s ass. He’d witnessed too many of the bastard’s memories, those that involved securing dying blood, and the women he’d victimized to get to it, always women because they were easily subdued physically, all the women he’d killed.
So, yeah, let the bastard feel some pain. Let him feel a lot of pain because it wouldn’t be even a fraction of the devastation he’d created in the women he’d killed and the families left behind to deal with all those losses.
He focused once more on the shrouded dwelling and from deep, deep within the death vampire’s mind a location at last came forth, Burma, Second Earth.
Medichi couldn’t quite grasp the sensation that plowed through him but it popped a firework in his mind until glitter rained in his head. Relief flowed, pure exhilarating relief that after three long horrible months of hunting, he had just limited his search to a single country, located on only one of two dimensional earths.
His entire body sagged and his throat tightened. He had a chance now of finding her, of finding his woman.
Parisa on Second Earth and in Burma.
Even so, it would still take a few days given Rith’s level of preternatural power, to find the lair that held her captive. With Rith’s ability to create shields, no doubt the dwelling in which Parisa was kept was under some crazy-ass mist. The grid would have to search for an anomaly; something non-specific and unidentifiable, in other words something vague that didn’t belong.
But what were a few days after searching for three long months and finding nothing? Yeah, he could wait a few days for the grid to uncover an anomaly.
He closed his eyes. He took a long, long moment to offer thanks to the Creator, lifting his face to the heavens, his heart almost floating in a chest that had been constricted from the moment, three months ago, when the hologram of Parisa had disintegrated in front of his eyes.
He felt the pretty-boy’s life fading. He drew from his mind and the death vamp vomited blood, a lot of it.
Medichi sat down beside the creature that had once been a proper vampire youth. He put his hand on his shoulder, and kept it there. His touch calmed the shaking.
Medichi lowered his head to his knees. He despised what the death vamp had done, but he’d also seen that as a young ascender, a Twoling born on Second Earth, he’d tried dying blood on a dare, offered not from a body but from a goblet at a party. He’d been promised no ill-effects, just pleasure. Well, pleasure he’d gotten but he’d also gotten about three centuries of addiction, killing, despair and no way back from a stupid teenage mistake. He hated all this shit, the treachery of Greaves and his forces, the resulting mortal victims, but he remained close to the vampire, as much a victim as those he’d killed, until he felt the final breath.
Stillness overcame the broken body. Medichi looked up. How far away the rim of the canyon seemed. The rush of water was loud in his ears and dominated his impression of the space. Above, complete silence. Below, all this rushing noise.
With his hand still on the death vampire, he spoke words that had been his ritual for centuries. He was a man of faith if not a believer in structured religion, so in certain situations, like this one, he did what he thought was right, even necessary.
He looked at the now empty shell beside him and spoke against the hurtling water, “May the Great Spirit help you atone for these your terrible sins. May you be forgiven and may you find peace in the arms of the Creator. Amen.”
He released a heavy sigh.
So much death in their ascended dimension when it wasn’t necessary. Vampires were essentially immortal, or had the potential for immortality, to live forever. But the terrible nature of dying blood, which seduced every death vampire who partook of the addictive substance, made it necessary to kill mortals and ascenders alike in order to reach the infamous dying blood.
In turn, Commander Greaves, bent on the domination of two worlds, used dying blood as one of his weapons. He not only encouraged the creation of death vampires, but he built armies made up of them. There were even rumors he provided the blood not just to his armies but to those High Administrators around the globe that he’d persuaded to join his faction.
Medichi had no qualms about being the sword of justice.
He left forgiveness to God.
Still sitting, he pulled his phone from the pocket of his black leather battle kilt and drew it to his ear. He thumbed it. The phone was the size of a credit card and was a direct line to Central. For all other calls, he had a Blackberry.
“Hey, Warrior Medichi,” Carla said. “Did you get him?”
“I got him.”
He heard a whoop and a shout and then Medichi smiled. Thank God for the women at Central. They were chosen for their calm tempers and positive outlooks even in the face of nightly death. They also did clean-up through a sophisticated inter-dimensional process that was more technology than preternatural power.
“Has Jeannie gone home for the day?” Carla and Jeannie overlapped their schedules. Carla had the day shift, while her best friend, Jeannie had the night shift. The women were gold and served seven days-and-nights-a-week just like the Warriors of the Blood.
“Yeah,” Carla said. “I kicked her out an hour ago. She has a brunch this morning with a Militia Warrior.”
He bristled. As a Warrior of the Blood, his protective instincts were always in overdrive, even where Jeannie and Carla were concerned. The Militia Warriors, though less powerful than the elite Warriors of the Blood, were still strong hombres and carried a shitload of testosterone in their own right. “Is he treating her good?” he growled.
“He’d better if he wants to stay alive,” Carla responded, but she was chuckling. “Hey, don’t worry. Not only can Jeannie handle herself after this many centuries as a vampire, but our Militia boys aren’t stupid. They know the Warriors of the Blood would be all over their asses if either of us got hurt.”
“Damn straight,” he cried, but more softly, he added, “You still dating your man?”
She giggled then sighed.
“I take that as a yes.”
“He’s gorgeous,” she cooed. “Almost as pretty as you.”
Medichi found himself smiling all over again even though he was exhausted and had a torn-up and really dead pretty-boy beside him. Yeah, this was his life, finding small measures of comfort while sitting next to a corpse.
“I need a little clean-up action,” he said.
“I see him. What a mess. Oh, God, look at those wings.” In recent months, satellite imaging had enhanced the grid’s capacity as well. Medichi wondered if Carla could see the scars laced down his back although right now his long warrior hair hung almost to his waist. Well, if she’d seen his scars anytime in the last three months she hadn’t said anything, one more reason to love her. “Close your peepers.”
Medichi let his eyelids fall. Damn he was tired because it felt good to shut down like this, on a wet rock in the middle of the Colorado River. “Ready,” he murmured into his phone.
He saw the flash of light behind his lids. He felt the air move beside him. He opened his eyes. The death vamp was gone as well as any traces of blood, bone, or other feathered debris. “Clean as a whistle as usual, Carla. Thanks.”
“I know you’ve been after this death vamp for weeks. Please tell me you have some news for me? Anything I can use to find our girl?”
Our girl. That’s why he loved the Central staff. They made everything feel like a team effort, that no matter what you went through, you had back-up.
That earlier feeling of relief flowed through him again, like a cool breeze on a hot day. “Actually, I have the best news.” He explained getting inside the pretty-boy’s head and finding the shrouded dwelling.
Carla squealed several times in the telling. He could hear her tapping on her keyboard. “I’m reconfiguring the grid to Burma, Second Earth even as we speak. If I find so much as a fly speck out of place I’ll call you. Just remember that this will probably take two or three days. Jesus, this country is so frigging big. Did you know it’s the size of Texas?”
“Do what you can do,” he said.
“If we were looking for a power signature it would be different, but we’ve already searched both worlds and didn’t find one, so expect some near-misses.”
“Hey. Trust me. I know the drill.”
“I know you do but oh, how I want this to go fast and it just can’t but holy shit—” and Carla rarely used profanity, “Burma, Second Earth. This is fantastic news. Have a limoncello on me. Now head home, Warrior, and for the Creator’s sake, get some sleep. You’ve earned it.”
Aw, hell. Carla was such a sweetheart. “Can’t. Not yet. I’m heading over to the Cave. Some of the brothers might still be there having their morning bullshit session and I’ll want to talk to Thorne. I’ll let him know about the shift in grid coordinates.” Thorne was in charge of the Warriors of the Blood including all communications with Central. But once the warriors had checked in from a night of battling, searching for Parisa took priority.
Medichi wasn’t alone in his despair. All the warriors had been wrecked by the disappearance of one who had been lost on their watch. If it could happen to Medichi, it could happen to any of them.
Carla’s voice dropped to a whisper. “And you’ll let us know about…well, you know.”
“Good. Now give me a second to reconfigure the grid.” The tapping started.
He sighed and his heart pulled into a hard knot.
Every twenty-four hours he had contact with Parisa and everyone knew it. What they didn’t know was the personal way in which it happened and like hell he’d ever reveal that truth because it was like having phone sex, but without the phone. Once a day, and always in the morning after he’d battled all night, he’d go home, shower up, sit on the side of his bed and that’s when he’d hear Parisa’s voice in his head, only once, ‘Antony’; a sweet telepathic whisper that fired his heart and kept hope alive.
That was the only form of communication he had with her. She wasn’t even ascended, so not all of her powers were developed. And for whatever reason, even though she was a mortal with wings, she couldn’t communicate with her mind, at least not yet.
Despite this critical lack, she had another preternatural power that was considered a Third Earth or third dimension ability—she could open a voyeur’s window and see events unfold in real time. If she was indeed in Burma then this meant she was halfway around the globe when she sent her single telepathic communication of, Antony. It would be night to his day.
Sweet Jesus if that were true, then she had enormous telepathic capacity, she just hadn’t learned how to use it yet.
It still meant that in a half hour or so, he would go home, get ready for bed, and discover whether his woman was still alive.
His heart tightened a little more. He both dreaded and longed for the experience because honest-to-God he didn’t know what he would do if he didn’t hear her say his name today within the depths of his mind. If he thought for even a minute that she might be dead, he’d go mad.
Carla’s voice came back on the line. “The grid’s on Burma, Warrior, and you’re in my prayers.”
His eyes burned. “Thanks,” he said, but his voice sounded hoarse. “Later.”
He thumbed his phone and with a thought, folded to his villa to change out of his kilt and weapons harness. He still hadn’t revealed his scars to his brothers. Only Marcus knew that his back was covered in a basket-weave of silver scar tissue, and he’d promised his silence. There was no way he was going to the Cave to meet with the brothers while wearing only a kilt and a weapons harness. The latter, though broad enough in the front to support two daggers, had only a heavy narrow strip of black leather running down his spine.
Shit. He knew the time had come to reveal this hard truth about his mortal life, what had happened to him and to his family thirteen centuries ago, just before his ascension. But he dreaded speaking about the why of his scars, of letting anyone get that close to him.
Well, he wasn’t ready to talk just yet.
He changed into his usual; a black tee, black cargos and steel-toed boots. He thought the thought and headed to the Cave.
~ ~ ~
Parisa Lovejoy had run out of time.
She didn’t know the how or why of it, but something in Rith Do’onwa’s demeanor toward her had changed, had darkened. When she was around him now, shivers chased down her neck and shoulders.
She stood outside on the lawn, barefoot, a few feet away from the enormous tamarind tree in Rith’s large side yard. She stared up at the double dome of mist and as usual, was amazed.
She could see both layers. The exterior dome was the usual fine crochet-like composite, but the interior swirled in beautiful colors of aquamarine, sea green, blue and gray…magnificent. The mist kept the master’s home invisible to Central’s electronic surveillance grid. She had learned at least that much in the three months she’d been held captive, that the Warriors of the Blood couldn’t find her because Rith had concealed her location between not one but two powerful domes of mist.
Two exquisite domes that meant she couldn’t count on a rescue.
Yesterday, Rith had treated her with his usual indifference, but when she had awakened this morning and met him over the breakfast table, displeasure, perhaps even hatred, had rolled from him, a living writhing thing. And just like that she knew she had run out of time. Whatever mantle of grace that had kept her safe in his home these past three months had just been obliterated.
The why of it didn’t matter. She’d been kept in the dark for months as it was.
But now she had to escape, she just didn’t know how to get the job done.
She had struggled with the question all day and now night had fallen and she had a decision to make. Should she take flight and bust through the double dome of mist that protected the Burma property, or should she take her chances and stay put? She knew that the nature of mist would allow her to easily reach the sky beyond, but her flight skills were untested. It was one thing to practice in the gentle environment of the garden protected by the mist, but another to be in the open air where unpredictable wind sheers could turn her upside down.
She truly didn’t know what to do but just in case inspiration struck at the last moment, she had begged for one last flight before bed.
She hadn’t expected Rith to allow it since he kept a very strict schedule for her throughout any given day. To her surprise, however, he’d agreed to her request and yet given his attitude toward her, she’d found his acquiescence suspect.
Of course, as she stared up into the inner of the two domes that swirled with a pattern of blue-green mist, her heart hammered in her chest. Should she take her chances and fly through both domes, right here, right now?
Even as the thought entered her mind, she felt tendrils reaching toward her, whispering for her to do it, to go, to leave, to break through.
She looked around. Was she hearing Antony at long last? Had he found her at last? Was he encouraging her to leave? Did he wait for her beyond the mist?
She trembled. She wanted to leave. Oh, how she wanted to leave. More than anything in the world, she longed to see Warrior Medichi.
Again, the whispers drifted over her; go, leave, run away, now.
Antony, she sent from her mind but nothing returned to her.
Was it truly possible he had found a way to reach her telepathically?
She wore a long haltered gown of beautiful amethyst silk, the same color as her eyes. From the beginning, Rith had kept her in beautiful clothes. But in this case, the halter meant that her back was bare and she could mount her wings. She knew that if she took to the skies she might get her legs tangled up in the skirting but from the beginning she had believed that Rith had wanted her hampered. Rith always had a reason for every action. He was the most careful man, or rather vampire, she had ever known.
She stepped farther away from the enormous tamarind tree, away from Rith, away from his three Burmese slaves who had come to watch the show. The women loved to watch her fly. As far as she knew, none of them had wings yet they’d been ascended for centuries. She found their absence of wings very strange for second dimension vampires unless of course Rith had found a way to prevent them from gaining normal flight capability.
Rith was a monster, a quiet, dedicated, harmless-looking monster. He had ways of hurting her, and probably his slaves, that left no marks since his torture skills involved the piercing of the mind with his superior mental power. If she escaped his home tonight and he caught her, at the very least she would be guaranteed that he would fill her mind with the equivalent of whirling knives. At the most, he would find an excuse to take her life.
So, what was she to do? Take her chances and attempt to escape the mist or remain and risk staying one more night in the power of a man who now radiated a desire to kill her.
Her arms trembled as she prepared to mount her wings. She closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath, forcing herself to relax, an exercise that required a full minute of firm concentration.
She took a final deep cleansing breath, leaned forward slightly with her hands on her waist then released her wings. She couldn’t hold back the moan of pleasure. Her nipples drew into hard beads. For whatever reason, mounting her wings had always been for her an experience akin to sexual release.
The feathers flew in perfect balance through the small weeping apertures in her back and at the exact same moment, joined with the mesh superstructure that also emerged and held the incomprehensible mass together. She would never understand how her body produced the glory that was her wings, but then how could she open the windows of her preternatural voyeurism and see what others were doing? How could the ascended vampire dematerialize? How did Rith create the extraordinary mist that appeared in seeable domes over his home? Power then more power.
These were the mysteries of her world, her new world, the world of ascension.
She moved in a slow circle wafting her wings up and down, practicing the combined movements of her back, her arms and her wings. She was new to flight, having flown for the first time three months ago, though she’d had her wings over a year before that. Her friend, Havily, an ascended vampire, had been teaching her to fly before the abduction. In the early days, Parisa had almost gotten herself killed by launching into the air without enough training, but Havily had pulled on her feet and brought her out of a deadly forward roll.
Because she was alone here in her garden prison, all her practice had been done with great care. She feared falling and breaking her wings more than anything. She wasn’t ascended and didn’t heal at lightning speed like normal vampires did, which was part of the reason she feared attempting an unsupported escape. One huge gust of wind would probably throw her into an uncontrolled spin or roll and she could easily fall to the ground. In her mortal state, she didn’t want to think what that would feel like or the profound possibility that she could end up paralyzed or even dead.
Yeah, this really wasn’t a simple decision.
She looked up into the dome of swirling blues and greens, and drew her wings back. She launched into the air, brought her wings forward, caught air and began to fly. A collective gasp came from the three women on the porch. She flapped her wings and smiled. She understood their delight. She had seen Havily fly and it was a sight to behold.
She had seen all the Warriors of the Blood in flight at one time or another, all except Antony, of course. She knew the reason why he didn’t mount his wings. She had voyeured him for over a year so she had seen the secret he kept hidden from those closest to him. What she didn’t know was the why of it.
Now she was here, struggling to find a way to escape. The truth was, once she did escape she still didn’t know which path she would choose; stay on Mortal Earth or ascend.
She tilted her wings slightly to the left and began a turn. She made small movements or she would start a rolling maneuver from which she would have a hard, maybe impossible time recovering from.
Her heart pounded as she approached the upper reaches of the mist. She flew in an arc and raised her arm straight over her head, carefully controlling the shape of her right wing as she dragged her fingers through the blue-green mist. A wonderful ripple of power flowed up her arm. The women below applauded since the dome reacted to these movements by swirling in enormous patterns to reconfigure over and over again, an oversized kaleidoscope.
Parisa dove toward the ground. Yes, her skills had improved. The women gasped again but at the last moment, she fluffed her wings into parachute position, brought her feet up and floated to earth. She touched her toes to the grass, bent her knees, drew her wings close to her body, then once more launched upward.
The whispering grew louder, from deep within her mind, Yes, leave now. Make your escape.
Antony? she sent, hoping. Was her guardian warrior communicating with her? Did he want her to leave, to escape? Was this his voice in her head? The whispers were so faint, she couldn’t tell.
But nothing returned.
She drew close to the top of the tamarind tree and once more assumed the parachute position. This time she stared down at Rith. He had moved to the edge of the porch, his fists clenched at his sides, his eyes dark and glittering as he stared up at her. She wafted her wings slowly to maintain altitude.
She met his gaze.
Fly through the mist. Hurry. Escape now!
Then she knew and her heart plummeted. She wasn’t hearing Antony’s whispers at all. Rith was in her mind. These were his words, his commands, and he had but one purpose–he wanted her to make a run for it and if she did, she knew she would die.
She understood now that though Rith wanted her dead, he couldn’t kill her outright. He must be under orders to keep her alive which meant he’d have to make her death look like an accident. His master, Commander Greaves, was the one truly in charge of her. Rith was just her keeper.
But what better way to create an accident than to hurt her high in the air, beyond the mist, and send her into a deadly spin?
Yet what exactly had changed for Rith that he now wished for her death?
Her heart sank further, a rock dropping into a pond. She turned slowly and wafted her wings, gliding down to the lawn below. She didn’t look at him or the women. Once she felt the grass beneath her feet, she closed her eyes and retracted her wings.
She ignored Rith as she made her way onto the porch then into the house. The female servants followed her.
Time for bed.
She showered and slid on a soft white cotton nightgown trimmed with lavender lace. Yes, everything of the finest quality had been provided for her since the first day of her captivity.
The women put her to bed because that was one of their duties, even though she was perfectly capable of pulling back the patchwork silk coverlet and sliding between the sheets all by herself. Ridiculous. But Rith insisted that they tuck her in, like a child, every night, which was of course more about control than kindness. Shortly after her arrival she’d become aware that the women were as much captives as she was. To her knowledge, they never left the house and they were forced to sleep on mats in the hall outside Parisa’s bedroom. It sickened her.
Once she was alone in her bed, and she could hear the women rustling on their mats outside her room, she glanced at the clock on her bedside table. The hour was too early for her to voyeur Warrior Medichi. He would not come to her for at least a half hour, perhaps more.
Over the course of three months, he had developed a routine of hunting down rogue death vampires on Mortal Earth but not until after dawn. He did this searching for information about Rith and following leads to places she might be held captive. But he couldn’t engage in these solo hunts until after a night of battling death vampires at one of the Mortal Earth Borderlands.
Yes, her man, her guardian warrior, was utterly exhausted and the only contact she had with him occurred when he’d completed his final runs to Mortal Earth in pursuit of whatever leads he’d garnered the previous afternoon. He rarely slept, just a four or five hour block that crossed the noon hour. The afternoons prior to his night’s usual work were spent pursuing rumors of rogue vampire lairs on Mortal Earth.
She turned on her side and stared at the slim brass Buddha on the table near the door to her private bathroom. She sighed heavily. She opened her voyeur’s window, then thought of Antony. When she saw that he was in conference with Warrior Thorne, she closed the window quickly. She had set certain rules for herself in order to preserve her sanity. She didn’t voyeur anyone but Antony and only when she could be with him in the privacy of his bedroom.
So she would wait and in increments of fifteen minutes, she would continue to open her window until she saw him at last showered, naked, and sitting on the side of his bed, waiting for her.
Antony had been her Guardian of Ascension, assigned to protect her during her rite of ascension to Second Earth. Not everyone who began a rite of ascension needed a guardian, but she had because she had been a mortal-with-wings, something that had apparently happened only once before on Mortal Earth.
Though she had been voyeuring him the entire year preceding her rite and knew what he looked like, meeting him for the first time had been an extraordinary experience. She had been standing next to his soapstone island in the kitchen of his villa, on the sink side near the refrigerator, chatting with Havily. He had appeared in the doorway, like a God, dripping wet from the shower, his muscled chest on display, and only a black towel around his hips.
The towel had been completely inadequate to disguise that he’d had been in a full state of arousal. His scent, a beautiful, musky, sage scent, had already been heavy in the house but at that moment, with the warrior standing in the doorway, clouds of sage had billowed toward her. As always, that scent had teased every tender place of her body to a ripeness she’d never experienced before. Through her voyeurs, she had been completely attracted to him, but standing in the same room, that attraction had turned into an inferno of pure sexual need and desire.
Then he had done the unthinkable; he’d dropped the towel. Her gaze had wasted no time in sliding down his chest, down and down, until her eyes found what she needed. She remembered putting her fingers to her neck and stroking her vein. Because she had voyeured him the entire prior year, she had seen him take women into the booths at the Blood and Bite, the club the Warriors used for R and R. She’d been just voyeur enough to stay and watch as well, which meant she’d seen him take blood.
She had wanted nothing more, standing there in that kitchen, than to take Antony somewhere private and give him what he needed.
Havily, bless her, had rescued the situation. Marcus as well, since he’d arrived and punched Antony in the jaw and sent him to the planked wood floor with a solid right hook. Parisa had wanted to go to him, but Havily had taken her outside so that she could calm down and think things through.
She’d done a lot of thinking over the next few days, while death vampires were after her. She’d also seen the war up close and it had frightened her. The whole experience, however, had led her to believe that despite her insane attraction to Antony, despite the tender feelings he aroused in her, she didn’t want to complete her ascension. She wanted to return to her Mortal Earth world, to her cloistered job as a librarian, to her solitary life, to peace and serenity.
She knew Antony would be sad, even angry that she would choose against ascension, but her choice was made. She’d just been about to tell him, when Rith intervened and changed everything.
She couldn’t help the tears that leaked from her eyes, slid over the bridge of her nose, joined with more tears, and splashed into her hair on the side of her head. At least she would be with him again soon, but she couldn’t even share with him that when it was morning for him it was evening for her, which meant she was halfway around the world from him. Surely, he could have found her by now if he’d had that one scrap of information.
And right now, she wished more than anything that she could tell him of her present danger, ask for his advice, his help, anything.
Oh, God, would she even be alive by morning?
But the rest of her tears were a frustration that no matter how hard she tried to create a telepathic link with Antony, she simply couldn’t. Only at the point of release, when she would touch herself and experience an orgasm, could she whisper his name in her mind and he would hear her.
She had tried countless ways to talk to Antony short of standing on her head. She had attempted to scream his name inside her head, scream it aloud and in her head at the same time, whisper his name, cry out his name when she was having an orgasm all by herself, but nothing worked. Only in this one special moment, when they connected through her voyeur’s window, could he hear her and then only once. Everything else had failed.
She hated that she was so weak in this way. She hated that she was a prisoner. She hated that she still knew so little about ascended life and her powers. The only thing she had accomplished in her three months was that she’d learned to fly better and better.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I hope you enjoyed Chapter One from WINGS OF FIRE. Let the Guardians of Ascension series become a new journey for you.
Enter a hidden world of winged vampire warriors— bound by duty to protect humankind, and sworn to fight for the women they love….
~ ~ ~
And now, have a wonderful day and an even better night! For more information about my books, keep scrolling! Live the fang!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Do you enjoy free books!?! All year, I’ll be giving away copies of my e-books through my newsletter. I also run subscriber-exclusive giveaways, so be sure to sign up on my home page in the right hand column where it says: Subscribe to Our Mailing List! Once you do, you’ll receive a welcome letter with a link to your free e-book! Enjoy and hugs, Caris Roane!
Be sure to look for your welcome letter which has the link to your free e-book!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Most Recent Releases:
A VAMPIRE’S SOFT EMBRACE
Taking the vampire into the past, changed the future…
The man held her heart in his hand.
He had for the past five years.
Did he even have the smallest clue?
~ A Vampire’s Soft Embrace
~ ~ ~
REVEALED: Rapture’s Edge 3, A Guardians of Ascension Novel #11
He’s a warrior deep in his bones, but all she ever wanted was peace…
As Duncan battles the dangerous death vampires at night, during the day he fights an even greater monster: He can’t believe he’s worthy of the woman he loves.
~ ~ ~
Mastyr Vampire Stone wants to bond with Aralynn, his battle partner, until he learns she lives a double life as a woman he despises…
For hundreds of years, Stone has lived a solitary life, serving Tannisford Realm as he battles the deadly Invictus wraith-pairs with his Vampire Guard.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
More about Caris Roane and her books!!!
THE FLAME SERIES
Vampire Officer Connor of the Crescent Border Patrol tries to suppress his desire for Iris, a powerful witch. Because the woman possesses the ability to kill him with the tips of her fingers, how can he possibly fall in love with her? When a double homicide throws them together, he soon finds his deepest fantasies fulfilled as Iris succumbs to his seductions.
~ ~ ~
Vampire Officer Vaughn of the Crescent Border Patrol gets called to a triple homicide in a deadly place called the Graveyard. When he finds that Emma Delacey has been summoned to the same crime scene, warning bells sound. He’s tried to suppress his desire for the beautiful witch knowing nothing good can come of a relationship in the alter world of Five Bridges.
~ ~ ~
Brannick works with Juliet Tunney to help several human women escape the nightmare of Five Bridges. But something isn’t right. Juliet acts as though she knows him really well, yet he’s only met her once. Unless…the dreams he’s been having about her aren’t dreams at all.
~ ~ ~
AMBER FLAME, Book #4 of the Flame Series
Fergus has been without an alpha-mate for three years, from the time his wife was murdered. He’s failed repeatedly to bond with the female wolves of the Gordion Pack. When he rescues a fae woman from a sex club, his need to bond with her goes into overdrive.
~ ~ ~
On Christmas Eve, vampire Officer Kyle Drake has finally persuaded the shy wolf shifter, Verena, to go on a first date. His plans include a little mistletoe and a lot of seduction.
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~
THE GUARDIANS OF ASCENSION SERIES
(After Ascension, Burning Skies, Wings of Fire, Born of Ashes, Obsidian Flame and Gates of Rapture)
Includes Sub-Series: Dawn of Ascension and the Rapture’s Edge Saga
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~
For the last few weeks, since Warrior Duncan professed his intention ‘to try’ to make his relationship with Rachel work, he’s failed on all fronts. But how can he explain that a serpent lives in his gut, poisoning him against her?
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~
For decades, Warrior Duncan has had an on-again, off-again relationship with a woman opposed to his warrior lifestyle. When Rachel shows up in his life again, he wants to keep his distance, but the infamous breh-hedden, the myth-that-isn’t-a myth, bears down on him keeping him in a perpetual caveman-like state.
~ ~ ~
THE BLOOD ROSE SERIES – SHORT WORKS
The Blood Rose Tales, are much shorter stories than the “Embrace” books of the Blood Rose Series. Each ‘tale’ highlights one particular aspect of the world of the Nine Realms as well as a mastyr vampire in pursuit of his Blood Rose.
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~
Zephyr can’t keep away from Alesia and feels obligated to keep her safe. They’d broken up, unable to reconcile painfully opposing views on what should be done to the evil Invictus pairs. But when several wraith-pairs attack her diner, he flies her to safety, taking her home where they’re trapped together for the entire day.
~ ~ ~
Yolen keeps his love life and his work life separate with one goal in mind – to protect Brianna. After seeing his best friend slaughtered by the enemy, he will do whatever it takes to ensure Brianna’s safety even if it means holding her at a distance.
~ ~ ~
For weeks, Mastyr Willem, agent for the Realm Investigative Unit, has been tracking Charlotte Vail, a human college student at the local Grochaire University. He’s had a thing for Charlotte that he doesn’t quite understand.
~ ~ ~
THE BLOOD ROSE SERIES – THE BOOKS
Enter a world of blood-starved mastyr vampires and the rare women who can satisfy their deepest needs…
How can he resist his blood rose…
Gerrod, mastyr vampire of the Merhaine Realm, never thought to have his blood-needs satisfied by a mere human. But Abigail is no ordinary woman.
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~
Ethan, mastyr vampire of the Bergisson Realm, never thought to find his blood rose, the one woman who could ease the blood-starvation he’s endured for decades. But Samantha carries a surprising level of power as her newly discovered fae heritage emerges..
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~
Quinlan must keep Grochaire Realm safe from the enemy at all costs. As ruler of his realm, a woman has no permanent place in his day-to-day existence. But when his lust takes him to Batya’s bedroom, he soon discovers he’s deep into a powerful experience that threatens to blow his life apart.
~ ~ ~
Seth, Mastyr Vampire of Walvashorr Realm, craves Lorelei, his new bodyguard, but he has a hands-off policy with those under his command. However, the sexy glint in her eye, as well as her wolf-shifter ways, keeps him in a fevered state.
~ ~ ~
Mastyr Vampire Jude has kept his distance from all women because he lost his wife and daughter to an enemy attack a hundred years ago. He won’t go through that kind of loss again. And he won’t jeopardize another woman’s life while the deadly Invictus wraith-pairs still pose a threat in the Nine Realms.
~ ~ ~
Mastyr Vampire Malik has only one goal: to serve the realm he loves. Battling both the dreaded Invictus wraith-pairs and an element in Ashleaf Realm that wants all innocent wraiths dead, Malik can’t afford to get distracted. But Willow has already become an obsession as he lusts for the powerful fae whose blood he craves.
~ ~ ~
Mastyr Vampire Zane didn’t want another woman in his life not after the dreaded Invictus killed his wife five years ago. He serves Swanicott Realm, the land he rules, and doesn’t want anything to interfere with his war against the enemy.
~ ~ ~
Mastyr Vampire Ian never wanted to see Regan again. He blamed her for the massacre at Raven’s Overlook, an attack that killed his sister and her children. He’s convinced Regan enthralled him, using her extensive fae powers to keep him by her side. If he’d been in his realm that night, he could have saved 200 people.
~ ~ ~
Mastyr Vampire Griffin hates his enslavement in Margetta’s fortress. He sought death a thousand times because of it, but was denied when the Ancient Fae brought him back repeatedly, forcing him to train her evil army. When a beautiful fae-slave, Sandra, tells him to live, he begins to believe his life could have more meaning…
Caris Roane is the New York Times bestselling author of forty paranormal romance books. Writing as Valerie King, she has published fifty novels and novellas in Regency Romance. Caris lives in Phoenix, Arizona, loves gardening, enjoys the birds and lizards in her yard, but encourages the scorpions to inhabit elsewhere! Her motto: Live the Fang!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~