Out of all the Highland Sorcery novels this one has given me the most grief to write and I'm really not sure why. It's just been a bear. It's also a little different than the rest so maybe that's it.
First, it's less action and more relationship building than how I tend to write. I love action. About 90 percent of this book takes place in the same building. The Same Building!
I also go into religion more in this one. I couldn't help it. In the previous book Highland Son where Lance was first introduced, he is the son of a religious fanatic who preaches that anything with magic is as evil as the monsters running around eating people. Well guess what, Dad? Lance has magic. He can cast illusions, the same illusions that have been saving your butt. So dad tries to kill him. Try coming out of that with an intact love of God and religion. I don't think so.
So who does he become attracted to? A Christian vampire. Yup.
Anyway, it's written, it's off to edits. Want to read an excerpt?
New York City
Lance stared up at the octagonal tower at the top of St. Michael’s Chapel. The moonlight slashed down upon it, creating intricate shadows across the ancient building. The chapel had survived more than three hundred years, withstanding the great fire, the fall of the two towers, and also the air strikes the navy threw at the city in their attempt to slaughter all the monsters that had flocked to the once densely populated island.
It was almost fitting that the oldest enclave of vampires in America had taken up shelter there.
To say he was nervous to walk inside, even with Deverell vouching for him, was a chasm of an understatement. They’d driven in the old jeep for days, abandoning it when it finally gave out, and then kept to the shadows and traveled mostly at dusk and night to stay out of the sunlight on Rell’s behalf. The sun’s rays wouldn’t outright kill vampires, but rather acted as radiation poisoning to their sensitive flesh, a terminal effect just the same.
Once they had the vampires onboard, their numbers and swiftness of attack in getting the anti-rift serum into the Sifts’ population would give their world—their future—the advantage they desperately needed.
“Are they in there?” he asked around the growing lump swelling his throat.
“Oui.” Deverell’s gaze scanned the roofline and then the columns supporting the portico. “They are all around us, dozens of my brethren. I sense their presence.” Which meant they also knew about them being on the street just outside, unprotected, yet what human really had protection around a colony of vampires? Would the old treaties between mankind and vampires still be honored? Or were they long ago forgotten, a casualty of the Sifts’ uprising.
Taking a wary step forward, Lance squared his shoulders, trying to look confident, knowing the vamps inside would detect the frantic racing of his heart. “Well, let’s get this thing done.”
“Hello. You inside.” Deverell spread his arms wide, showing he held no weapons. “We come in peace.” His long coat fluttered beneath his outstretched arms.
Lance crooked a half grin and copied the vampire’s pose, stretching his arms wide. “We come in peace?”
Deverell shrugged. “It seemed fitting.”
“Fitting and ridiculous.” An amused voice spoke right behind Lance’s shoulder, causing him to flinch. Damn, vampires moved fast. He hadn’t felt or heard the approach from behind. He twisted his head to look at a rangy vampire grinning at him, two long eye-teeth pressing against his lower lip. “And you brought lunch.” His nostrils flared, sniffing Lance as though he was meat rotating on a spit.
A hiss of irritation bristled off Deverell. “He’s my friend, August. Under my protection.”
August leaned back, disappointment quieting the eagerness of his breathing and dismissed Lance from his attention to focus fully upon Deverell. “Why have you come then?”
“To help you,” Deverell stated blandly. “To help us all. We’ve a means to rid ourselves of the Trogs once and for all.”
August’s eyes narrowed. He smoothed his hair back from his distinguishable widow’s peak. “You don’t say.” Shrugging, he turned on his heel toward the old church’s entrance. “Come along then. And bring your pet. Don’t want it left unattended out here all alone.” He grinned at Lance. “There are predators about.”
Trogs? Lance mouthed behind August’s back. The humans had first labeled them as Sifts but Trogs was as apt a name for the horrible carnivorous beasts as any.
Deverell shrugged, eyeing the vampires slinking in the shadows around them.
“I thought they’d show a little more enthusiasm at a chance to be rid of the Sifts,” Lance admitted.
“I as well.” Deverell frowned. “They must not believe us.”
“You did say they’d be hard to convince.” They passed through the doors into the muted interior of the church. Light from a dozen tall candles rubbed a low shine upon the large chapel, throwing dozens of marble angels scattered about in shadow and light. Sculptured faces seemed to follow their progress through the considerable space. Most of the pews were gone, the few left were pushed back against the wall or arranged in clusters for sleeping or conversing, rather than in neat rows facing the pulpit and large cross for worship.
Lance blinked, stumbling a step at a flash of memory pushing behind his eyes. Kneeling between two long pews, no, not kneeling, hiding, his small body curled over his knees, his sister pushed up against him, trembling, their mother whispering, “Be still, be silent,” as she dragged them into a church for refuge as though church walls could keep out hungry salivating monsters.
“Deverell,” a feminine voice, brimming with welcome pulled Lance back to the here and now. She glided toward them with the sinuous grace of a cat. Satiny black hair fell to her hips as straight and still as glass. She took Deverell by the forearms and kissed his cheek. “You’ve returned to us after all.” Violet eyes tilted. “I admit I believed you perished beneath the teeth of the troglodyte beasts as so many of our brothers and sisters have.”
The dozen or so vampires within the chapel were gathering closer, fluid of movement, detaching from the walls like fog rolling in from the sea.
Grinning, Deverell ran his hands down the female’s arms until he was clasping her wrists. “Lost to the monsters, Oriana? You know me better than that.”
She smiled demurely.
Standing beside her, August watched them steadily. “Deverell claims he has the means to rid of us the Trogs.” He shared a meaningful look with Oriana.
“Oh?” A sleek brow lifted. “That is…interesting. And unnecessary. We’ve come upon means of our own to rid us of the foul beasts.”
“Means of your own?” Deverell tilted his head, dipping his long dark hair along his shoulder. “And what would those means be?”
“A discussion for another time.” Oriana glanced pointedly at Lance. The vampires obviously didn’t want to discuss anything in front of him, an unimportant human. “For now, you will be our guests. August, be a lovely and show them where they can refresh themselves.”
It took every ounce of Lance’s restraint to remain quiet and let Deverell take the lead. Sometimes playing unassuming was the best course. They hadn’t traveled all this way to be summarily dismissed. They had a way to stop the Sifts and the vampires would listen.
The signs of his frustration must have showed through the rhythm of his pulse or the flash of heat beneath his skin for every gaze turned on him curiously. Deverell’s grimace warned him to get it under control. He couldn’t forget that he was in the midst of predators every bit as dangerous as the Sifts, old treaties with humankind remembered or not.
“This way.” August indicated they go ahead of him through the adjoining door to their right into a narrow corridor.
Coming from the other end of the hallway, a female stormed toward them. Head down, every muscle of her lithe body was tight. Fists clenched, she wasn’t paying any heed to her steps until she was nearly upon them, stopping short before crashing into Lance.
Mere inches shorter than he, her face snapped up to almost the same level. Shiny dark eyes took him in, a flash of scrutiny before they slid away to focus on August.
Lance wasn’t as eager to cease his own scrutiny of her. It would take a lifetime of practice to be able to manifest an illusion as captivating as the reality before him or the expressive qualities of the downturn of her lips.
“What is it now, Celestine?” August asked with the tint of annoyance.
Celestine. Lance stared at the slight blink of inky lashes against dusky skin.
As though feeling his perusal, her gaze fell back to him, and damn if his pulse didn’t set off to win a speed record. The quirk of her brow proved she detected the change in rhythm and understood the cause of it.
Caught, he decided to roll with it and gave her his cheekiest full-of-himself grin.
Amusement curled her lip and she leaned in close, her breath a whisper at his neck and glories help him, if his fate was to be devoured by a monster, let it be her.
“Petit chat.” Indulgence purred through her husky voice and then she was pushing past him and Deverell, tossing back to August, “I need to speak with Oriana.” She paused, cautious. “We haven’t enough. It’s too soon to…” She shook her head, setting soft black curls to swaying about her shoulders, then clamping her lips shut, she strode off.
“Problems within the ranks?” Deverell arched a brow at August. “Come on, August, whatever it is you’re planning, you really need to hear us out first. What we have to say may be of a benefit to whatever it is you have cooking. You know me, you know my history. I would never come here if it wasn’t important.”
August stopped, lips flattened, and indicated they go through one of the doors near the end of the hallway. “Yeah I know you. That’s why we’re going to have you wait right in here until Balius returns.”
“Balius is back with the colony?”
Standing outside the room, August’s grin turned predatory. “Back. And in charge.” He swung the door closed in their faces.
Deverell turned to Lance as the bolt locked into place. “Balius. That is unfortunate.”