Dark Solace, available now from Noble Romance. I love the cover and can't wait to get my copy!
Here's the blurb and excerpt to whet your appetite...
Three hundred years can change many things, but love is not among them.
Forbidden to claim the woman he loves as his mate, Gabriel established a yearly meet with Jael to satisfy their hunger for one another. Time has not weathered their need, or made the pain of every other day more bearable. Christmas Eve together might not be much, but pretending for one night that they can belong together is the only way either knows how to survive.
Except this Christmas, Gabriel can't go on pretending. Living for one night is no way to live, and he is determined that he and Jael will see the new day together. The only question is, after all this time, is she prepared for the consequences of saying yes?
It was almost a testament to time how much the same tavern could flash a thousand different faces over the course of three hundred years. While the drunken barflies never seemed to leave, the atmosphere itself was on a nonstop course to full evolution. It had been a pub for half a century before it was bought and turned into a diner. There was a six month stint in which it was a ladies hat store, but the lingering scent of alcohol could not help but reemerge every three years or so.
Despite whatever facelift the tavern undertook, it was the place Jael visited every December. Every December since 1697.
Here she would wait, as she did every year on the night known commonly as Christmas Eve. She would wait until he came in, and her year met fruition.
Even in the life prior to her nocturnal rebirth, Jael could not fathom living without the thrill of the winter season pushing her through the common, twelve-month cycle of every insufferable year. Gabriel met her here every December 24, just as the old grandfather clock that had somehow survived the years struck the hour of midnight. They would spend the holiday in each other's arms, and wake up in separate beds in the morning.
As walkers of the night, they could chance nothing more. Such was the way of things between all vampire lovers. One night of the year, maybe two. No connection beyond that. Nothing that anyone in their dark existence, or the other world bathed in sunlight, would ever call a relationship.
Vampires couldn't have relationships. It was as simple as that.
Gabriel was her maker. He had been in her corner from the very beginning. Her protector since childhood. In the absence of vampiric relations, most vampires turned to humans to satisfy carnal desires. Claiming humans as mates for eternity was not taboo, not like turning to other vampires. Human mates would live for eternity, tied to the lifeline of their mate. Even still, the connection did not run as deeply. When a human female was sad, her vampire mate did not cry. When a human male was cut, his vampire mate did not bleed. They were different. Separate. One could die and the other would live.
It was not like that among connections made between walkers of the night.
Among vampires, those tied together beyond the blood of sires felt everything. Shared everything. Their fate was the same. Always the same.
Every society had their great tragedies. Romeo and Juliet. Napoleon and Josephine. Vampires had a tragedy, as well. Well known to them, a well-kept secret among the humans they protected. Unlike the tale of Dracula, the one among them that had gone bad and henceforth established the grizzly stereotype of their kind, the story of Lazarus and Anna remained shrouded from the world of humans. Remained shrouded, and a cautionary tale that kept all those who belonged to the night in line. For the sake of a species. For the sake of an entire way of life.
As with many cautionary tales, Lazarus and Anna's story had several assumed points of origin. In some tellings, they lived in Ancient Rome. Others had their first meeting documented in Greece. Jerusalem, India, even parts of North and Central America all claimed to being the homeland of vampire kind's most infamous lovers, as well as the most boasted tragedians of a culture. In any regard, wherever Lazarus and Anna had first met remained unimportant compared to their impact on their kind. The story told of a passionate love affair, during which, overcome with zeal, Lazarus and Anna sealed their lifelines together in blood. Once mated, they had but a few weeks together before angry villagers fingered Anna for the death of a beloved elderly man in their village. This was, of course, back in the day when vampires and humans lived side-by-side, when vampires were accepted as the guardians of the human race. In that time, vampires were more likely to feed from cattle to acquire what they needed, and they did so while humans rested. When the monstrosity of their dependence on blood could be hidden in the shadow of night.
They were careful, but ultimately, accidents did happen. One cow would die. Then another, then another. Respect for the Nightly Ones turned into fear. Fear turned into blame. And when the elderly man died of anemia, fear manifested fully into violence. Anna was seized from Lazarus's loving arms, imprisoned in a local church, and tortured.
At night, she was beaten for information. On occasion, she was bled and burned, and every time her skin was marred, inhuman howls ripped through the ground, shattering the quiet of night as her mate endured the agony of her pain.
Some said he died crawling in the sunlight to reach his beloved, others said the pain he suffered was too much, and he drew his last breath the second the villagers burned Anna at the stake. Others said his moniker of Lazarus guaranteed that he would return, and those who still lived in the village swore he haunted the grounds he died upon.
Granted, the tale had suffered severe revisions over the last several centuries.
The tragedy of Lazarus and Anna had established the law. Never could vampires mate. Never could vampires claim each other, if only to become subject to that sort of torment. If vampires mated, they became liabilities, even to each other. Such had been the law for centuries. Such was the reason Jael came to the same tavern every year and waited for Gabriel to arrive. Tonight was the only night they had, because they were both vampires, and that was simply the way of things.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Her death had been sudden, at a time when her town was overwhelmed by an epidemic of scarlet fever. She and Gabriel had been planning to mate for two years when she became ill, and as he sobbed over her on what she was sure would have been her last day, she had begged him to turn her.
He had. Through his tears, he had given her new life.
She hadn't known becoming what he was meant that she couldn't have the life they'd planned together. She hadn't known until she breathed life for the first time as something other than human.
Jael shuddered, her eyes falling shut. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't repress the memory of the night she had clawed to freedom. The first night she had opened her eyes and swimming in the soft glow of starlight.
Gabriel was waiting for her, his eyes heavy with sorrow, his skin bathed in the scent of tears. His soft blue eyes had found hers, and he had taken her into his arms, murmured his love, and begged her forgiveness.
Then he had told her the story. The reason vampires couldn't be together, even as casual lovers. The urge to claim one another, he said, would grow unbearable. There were several who succumbed to the temptation, and they were expelled from the vampire Order. And expulsion wasn't as nice as it sounded.
Expulsion pretty much guaranteed a death certificate. The Order would track down dissenters and destroy them. They tolerated no weakness among their kind—the survival of the race came above earthly concerns or desires. Above love altogether.
Gabriel had taught her everything about being a vampire before setting her loose into the world. They had attempted to stop seeing each other all together, but that proved disastrous. If she didn't follow him, he followed her. They would meet in a tearful passion and make love until the sun came up.
Ultimately, Gabriel suggested that this place—this tavern—would mark their reunion every Christmas Eve. They could be together the one night of the year that the world had decided loved ones should spend with each other.
One night, though. Only one.
An erotic paranormal romance
Available Monday, December 20 from Noble Romance Publishing.
I haven't posted in over a month, but I've had good reasons! I've been knee-deep in edits on two upcoming releases: Reveal Me, hopefully coming in early 2011 to Ellora's Cave, and Insatiable, coming to Loose Id in early 2011 as well. Both are contemporary erotic m/f. Reveal Me's short, barely 15K, while Insatiable is 60K after first round edits. First round edits are out the door on both stories so I'm hoping to have more info on release dates, etc. soon.
I've also finished a ms since I posted last. Provoke Me ended up close to 90K, but thanks to my awesome CPs' help, has already been whittled down a bit closer to 80K. I'm still polishing this one for submission to Ellora's Cave.
AND I'm working on a new story, tentatively titled Watch Me (Reveal Me, Provoke Me, and Watch Me are all part of one series which will ultimately include one more story, tentatively titled Need Me, and a free read. Or at least that's the plan right now.)
I love working on new stories. Love it! That first rush of anticipation, the possibilities, getting to know new characters, making up playlists...it's just awesome. Good thing I'm so excited about the initial stages because my process slows down hugely at the end. That's my mulling time to make sure the story hangs together and I tend to mull a LOT.
In other news, we got almost 4 feet of snow here in my section of NY in under 4 days time. So it's definitely going to be a white Christmas.
One of my many goals for 2011 is to blog at least once a week. So I'm going to try to make that happen.
And did you notice my spiffy new blog design? The awesome Natalie Dae redesigned it for me...and I adore it! I went back to my original tagline "What's More Dangerous Than Falling In Love?" which makes sense as I branch out, hopefully, into new genres. Now I just need to update my website.
Happy holidays...and do what I love to do most on a cold day, go read a good book!