Blood Promise is available for your e-reader!
Its prequel—Death Dealer—is a 2014 Romcon Reader’s Crown Finalist,
a 2013 Paranormal Romance Guild Viewers Choice Awards Finalist, and a Honorable Mentions for the Top Books of 2013 by A Girl And Her Kindle Blog!
If you haven’t read Death Dealer, then get your copy here now!
Here’s a Chapter One Sneak Peek of Blood Promise:
A vast hilly terrain, devoid of color, spread out before Deacon through a layer of transparent fog. He stood between two paths lined by dead trees with branches that stuck out like withered bones. Rock formations of various sizes rose from the ground on both sides, curving around the giant foothills that ascended and descended out of sight. Taking in a deep breath, the dank air was crisp and stuck to his throat. He stifled a cough. Many times he’d been here—the spirit realm—so many that he’d lost count through the years, and yet the path he was about to take was one he always dreaded. Automatically knowing the right way to go, he took the first step. His boot crunched against gravel, and not surprising to him was the tight pull of resistance at his waist.
“No…please, wait…I can’t go down there…not there…please…,” came the pleading voice in a southern lilt of the diaphanous woman floating behind him, secured by iron transport cuffs hooked on his belt.
Without hesitation, he kept moving. “I’m sorry, I really am.” He glimpsed over his shoulder to see the hazy black soul of a woman appearing to be in her thirties. Waves of hair bounced atop her shoulders, and the only reason he knew it was red when she’d still been alive was the fact he’d seen her human corpse. She wore a dress that billowed in the subtle wind, her body nothing more than a dark shroud of regret…and sadness.
The ground shook and a thunderous howl sounded around them. Throwing an arm out to steady himself, Deacon broke into a jog and kept trekking forward. He ignored Lucinda Jones—the identity of the blackened soul at his back—freaking out behind him as he opened his advanced senses to the gray world around him. With the way the earth was trembling, he’d assumed a censar demon—a gigantic sea snake that lived underground instead of in water—wasn’t too far off, but the reverberating sound it made gave him doubt. After a long minute he confirmed he’d been right. It wasn’t a censar at all, but a bukaret. Deacon grimaced as he slowed, spying a large boulder straight ahead, and thankfully not that far. A censar he could’ve perhaps outrun, but there was no chance in hell he could escape the speed of a bukaret.
Another roar, this one much closer and coming from directly behind.
“…What is that? What the hell is going on? Please…answer me. I can’t be here, I’ll do anything, I swear it, and I’ll…”
Coming to a stop, Deacon crouched low to the ground, then leapt up on top of the boulder. “Lucinda, I need you to shut the hell up.” He grabbed the bow strapped on his back, which had been invisible until his need for it. “If the Dark Gate sounded bad to you, I can assure you if this bukaret steals you from me, it’ll be worse.”
“Bukaret? Gonna steal me from you?” Panic evident in the soul’s shaky southern voice.
Deacon stole a glance behind him and saw the widened ghostly eyes that were welling with apparent tears. “I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but it’s important that you keep quiet so I can kill this thing.”
Lucinda’s gaze widened as it locked on his bow. “W-here’d t-that…come from?”
“Death Dealers’ weapons are only visible when they are in use.” As if that was going to keep her from asking more questions, since he’d never mentioned exactly what he was before now. He’d given the brief soul-guide explanation after she detached from her human shell, and then he’d cuffed and secured her moments later. When it came to black souls, he never risked it. Most of them wouldn’t willingly go to the Dark Gate. It always scared the shit out of them—hell, it scared the shit out of him too—and he couldn’t blame Lucinda for not wanting to go. By containing her right from the start, he’d prevented her from fleeing, and a soul had only eluded him once since he’d signed his life away in blood, binding him to collecting the souls of the dead and taking them to their proper gate. Nocking an arrow to his bow, he set his sight on the approaching threat, which was just coming into view. “Lucinda”—his voice a loud whisper—“be quiet…please.”
She must have seen the demon at the top of the trail because her mumbling stopped. Resembling an oversized cheetah, actually about three times bigger than one, there were similar spotted markings dashing its orangey furred body and its ears looked more like horns with spiked, razor-sharp points. Its flaming red eyes were narrowed as it prowled liquidly with its head low to the ground. Even though it was still a good bit of distance out, Deacon could see through the thinning fog the puffs of black smoke coming out of its nose as it scented its prey—the damned soul he was transporting to the Dark Gate. Digging deep inside himself to that special place of power tucked in the depths of his mind, he kept reaching, concentrating, pushing, until he was there, engulfed inside his own raw energy that he’d spent years honing and mastering. And now he wrapped all thought around it as he took aim. There was no room for error…not with how fast those demons could move. He had one good shot before the monster cat would be on him, and an up-close attack wasn’t at the top of his “To Do” list. Even though he was an elite Death Dealer, which meant he was stronger and more skilled than the other Dealers and a very likely candidate to someday become a Death Angel himself, which still didn’t guarantee he couldn’t be injured…or even killed.
Stealing a small breath, he pulled the bowstring tight.
As if sensing the approaching attack, the bukaret leapt sideways, but the UV-tipped arrow curved with the cat’s movement, bending space and time through Deacon’s ability. Then there was a burst of white light a split-second before it jetted from between the beast’s eyes.
“Oh my goodness, I ain’t seen anything like that before,” Lucinda gasped as Deacon leapt down from his perch and rushed toward the demon. “Wait, where are you going? Why are we headed toward it?”
“Because the only way to know it’s really dead is by beheading the damn thing” was his automatic response, though he had to admit he was pissed the UV explosion hadn’t ruptured its neck like it usually did when he struck a demon.
He reached for another arrow, but before he loosed it, the bukaret lunged up and landed its massive paws on Deacon’s chest and rode him to the ground. The crash was softer than it should’ve been, as if something had broken his fall, but that analysis was quickly forgotten when claws protruded below his collarbone, tearing into his flesh. He let out a painful grunt as he curled his knees to his waist and used all his strength to kick his combat boots into the beast’s gut. The force was enough to knock it off, but it corrected itself quickly and sprung back at him. Moving faster than the demon, Deacon grabbed the dagger strapped at his left boot and rammed it deep in the monster cat’s neck as it landed. With a firm jab of the blade, bone and cartilage severed, and one final thrust was all it took to see the giant head flop to the ground and roll a good foot away. The demon’s body crashed down next, black blood oozing from where its head had been.
“Oh my god, that was crazy,” Lucinda told him as he rose.
He chuckled. After wiping the blade across his pants and getting most of the nasty blood off, he knelt down and put it back in the sheath at his ankle. “I guess I should thank you for cushioning my fall.” Not that the soul had had a choice being secured to his back, but truth be told he could’ve easily broken his tailbone with the force of that impact if Lucinda hadn’t been there.
“A great way to thank me would be to let me go. I promise—”
“If I let you go you’ll only end up in the Abyss where that”—he waved a thumb at the demon’s head—“would be like a friendly kitty. Trust me, the Dark Gate sounds bad, and I’m not saying it isn’t, but it’s definitely better than the Abyss. Your time to make good and repent was over the second you died. I’m sorry. I really am.”
The soul compressed her thin ghostly lips and after a few seconds of staring at him, she reluctantly nodded.
Long minutes passed in silence, but they at least covered a good bit of distance. Fortunately not running into any other demons—yet. When the Dark Gate finally came into view, she broke the silence with a gasp. The grayness faded to depths of black, from the eerie fog and the gravelly ground that had become more jagged and chunky as he neared the gate, to the solid black stone pillars that towered into the night-like sky and were swallowed up by the inky fog that grew so dense he couldn’t see their tops, even with his advanced senses. Looming between the columns was the gate, so overgrown with dark vines that to this day he’d never seen beneath them. Knowing he could only go so much further because of the vortex that invisibly surrounded the gate a good thirty feet out, remorse twisted in his gut for the soul of a woman he’d only just met. This was part of the job that he never enjoyed, not that there weren’t souls he’d smiled at when watching them get sucked into the gate’s magnetic pull. But Lucinda hadn’t said another word during the rest of their journey, and the silence at last had gotten to him.
“This is it.” He took one last step and reached for the weapons belt at his waist to unlatch the cuffs.
A few sniffles. “I cannot go in there.”
The fear Deacon glimpsed in her phantom eyes chilled him to the bone. Now if he had to use his abilities to throw her into the vortex, he would do it ever so reluctantly. “There are no more choices. If you don’t float toward the gate, I’ll be forced to make you. And believe me, it’s not very pleasant.”
More sniffles, then in a very soft southern voice she said, “But I’m scared.”
“I know.” The cuffs clicked open, but he kept a tight hold on her wrist once they fell and became invisible with the rest of his weapons. He didn’t think she’d try to get away, but still he couldn’t afford to take any chances. “Just start floating toward the gate…its energy will do the rest.”
Still she didn’t move. Just stared into the Dark with terrified eyes. “My daughter, Tiffany. Is there any way to warn her about this? Any way to save her before she dies?”
Deacon grimaced and shook his head. “I wish there was.” And he really did. The Dark Gate was unnerving just looking at it from his safe distance. But he’d read Lucinda’s file before he’d been there to bag her soul when she died. She’d made a ton of bad choices including attempted murder on her husband. Twice. How ironic that her third attempt was thwarted because of the head-on collision while in pursuit of him. And what was even more ironic was how nice she’d been. Black souls destined for the Dark were typically a bit more hostile. He’d always hated Mia—his fellow Death Dealer and girlfriend—working with black souls before, and now that they were together he despised it with every ounce of his being. Never before had he ever loved anyone like he did her. She’d stolen his heart completely. Admittedly, his desire to get back to her was why he refused to prolong the inevitable with Lucinda. When she still hadn’t made any attempt at moving, he ground his teeth and focused his energy on mentally guiding her.
He slowly entered into her essence, taking control of her motions—but not her mind. She was aware of his intrusion, yet there was nothing she could do about it. Her ghostly body jerked and twitched as if she were being electrocuted. He could feel her fighting back, feel her lips compressing to speak. There was really nothing she could say, nothing he wanted to hear because he hated feeling bad about what he did. What he had to do. Lucinda continued to convulse as her spectral body floated toward the gate. Her throat was tight with tears, her chest compressed with dread. Deacon could feel that through the connection he now had with her. And yes, it did make him feel bad—remorseful even. Then he felt an inner jolt in his mind and he quickly released his hold on her. She was now gripped by the gate’s vortex, and he watched as she picked up speed drifting closer and closer to it. A scream tore from her throat and she kept wailing as the Darkness pulled her closer. Not wanting to watch, he turned away.
With the thought that a demon could be lurking nearby, since he’d never known one to resist the torturous sounds of the Dark, he chanted the words to open the portal back to earth. A doorway appeared that resembled a rippling mirror but without any reflection. At the same moment an odd sensation that reminded him of vertigo struck, the lethargic disorienting feeling overwhelming him, and he pressed his fingers to his temples trying to ease the wobbling sensation. Clearly he’d let his emotions get the better of him with that poor soul and the effects of connecting to her essence were to blame for this strange feeling. At least that’s what he assumed since he’d never felt anything like that since becoming elite. He shrugged his shoulders and rotated his neck until it popped, thankful some of the discomforting tension eased a little. Then another terrifying scream sounded behind him, followed by a rapid burst of spasms in his head. He ground his teeth, which seemed to help the convulsions to be somewhat tolerable so he could get the hell out of the spirit realm altogether. With another lingering shriek from Lucinda, he took a step forward. Just as something wrapped around his ankle and pulled him back.