Crimson Carousel, Book Two
While a stand-alone, A Taste of Midnight is best enjoyed when read in series order.
Brenna Skyler, Mistress Air, chooses ambition over love. To become an Elemental, the most exalted position among the Unseleighe Sidhe, Brenna has to end her scandalous affair with Phillip Noir, a vampire. Although she never stops loving him, she is resolute in her decision, until now. A vampire is preying on Dark Elf females. And it takes a vampire to track a vampire...
Phillip is thrilled when Brenna comes crawling back to him. He's not used to playing the jilted lover, yet he's never forgotten the only woman who ever really touched his heart. He doesn't mind destroying a rogue vampire--it's the right thing to do--but Brenna needs a lesson in humility. She'll pay for her callous rejection with her supple body. And they will both enjoy her punishment!
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from A Taste of Midnight by Aubrey Ross
Brenna Skyler stood on the riverbank and spread her wings. Cool evening air wafted across her body, soothing her senses and caressing her face. Her ordeal was almost over. Only five weeks remained in the required year. She had moved among mortals, overcoming every obstacle with cunning and skill.
Those who depend entirely on Sidhe magic are not worthy of the power.
The memory of her mentor's statement made Brenna smile. Thirty-five more days and she could return to the Unseleighe realm triumphant, secure in her accomplishment, ready to begin her formal training as a soul seer.
Releasing a long, steady sigh, she lifted her face and savored the silvery moonlight. Like all nocturnal beings, the Unseleighe Sidhe preferred the night with its sheltering darkness and velvet tranquility.
A scream rent the peaceful atmosphere, snatching Brenna from her revelry. Fury's acrid stench filled her nose. She shuddered as the noxious smell assailed her. Muffled voices reached her ears, but she was unable to make out their words. Desperation and fear combined with the anger until she could hardly breathe. She heard snapping branches and the unmistakable smack of flesh hitting flesh. This was no ordinary confrontation. Someone was fighting for their life.
Turning toward the scuffle, she furled her wings and ran.
"You vicious bitch!" Anguish caused the man's voice to hitch. "You will not force my hand."
A woman laughed. Brenna focused on the sound and hurried through the forest. At the edge of a small clearing she stopped, sheltering her body behind a massive tree. Two figures faced off in the clearing, one male and one female.
"Transform him, Rafael." The woman motioned toward a dark shape scarcely discernable against the leaf-strewn earth. "If you don't transform him, I will."
"No!" Rafael lunged for her, but the woman vanished, reappearing behind him like a specter. Brenna blinked, her heart hammering in her chest. Were they ghosts trapped in the moment of their death? She'd heard tales of such things.
"His heartbeat is slowing." The smug assurance in the woman's tone made Brenna want to slap her. Phantom or witch, this female was maddening. "You haven't much time."
Rafael knelt and gathered the battered body of a younger man to his chest. The second man pressed both hands to his throat as blood seeped between his fingers, soaking his tunic and coating his arms. Brenna covered her mouth with her hand, shaken and horrified. These were no ghosts. She knew the smell of blood.
Loosing abilities she'd suppressed for a year, Brenna studied the others. Rafael's soul strands pulsed with vitality. The colors were vivid, each strand richly textured. Threads of carnality and ambition were perhaps too prevalent, but his basic nature was good.
Brenna looked at the woman and shuddered. Her soul strands were frayed and thin, the intertwining threads nearly unraveled. Corrupted... Hers was an unstable soul.
Golden light gleamed from the woman's eyes. "Do it!"
"I will not force this on him." Golden light flashed from Rafael's eyes, and uncertainty tore through Brenna. They were obviously the same. Whatever this was, it had nothing to do with her. "The choice is Phillip's, not mine," Rafael insisted.
"The choice is you or me. Choose!" As the woman moved forward, her eyes burned brighter.
Phillip made a weak, strangled sound, drawing Rafael's attention. "You." He mouthed the word, his head lulling to one side.
With another infuriated roar, Rafael opened his mouth and bit into the side of Phillip's ravaged throat. Brenna staggered back. Blood drinkers! She grasped the rough tree trunk as the world spun around her. They were blood drinkers. The ancients spoke of these creatures, but none existed in the Unseleighe realm.
"That's right." The woman circled the men, moonlight revealing her cruel beauty. "Save him, transform him, make him strong." Each phrase sounded more sarcastic than the last.
Rafael raised his head, fangs bared as he growled. Brenna couldn't drag her gaze away. This wasn't something she was meant to see, but sorrow pulsed from the stranger, immobilizing her.
Rafael glared at his tormentor. "Why?" Slicing his wrist with the tip of one fang, he lowered his arm to Phillip's mouth. Phillip grabbed his forearm with both hands and Rafael cried out.
"Because you'll fail. You always fail." She crossed her arms over her chest and smirked. "He'll die in your arms as she died in mine."
"How was her death my fault?" He panted, tugging against Phillip's hold.
"Careful or he'll drain you." She laughed. "Phillip was always stronger than you. He'd never be content as my father's puppet!"
Phillip drank long and deep while Rafael mourned. His regret made Brenna weak.
Grabbing the back of Phillip's hair, Rafael pulled Phillip's mouth off the gaping wound in his wrist. "Enjoy the spectacle, Natalie. It's the last thing you'll ever see." He leapt into the air as Phillip collapsed on the ground.
Natalie lunged toward Rafael. They collided in midair. Twisting her upper body, she slammed him back against a tree. He grunted then hissed, light bursting from his eyes. She screamed and shuddered, losing her hold on his arms. He shoved her backward then kicked her in the stomach, using the tree for leverage.
Brenna shrank into the darkness. She must go, leave before they sensed her presence. Stories of blood drinkers were whispered in the night. They were powerful and dangerous. Association with such creatures was forbidden. Even seeking knowledge of them was discouraged.
A low moan drew her attention to Phillip as he writhed in the leaves. He wrapped his arms around his belly, his entire body shaking. Brenna started forward then stopped. What was she thinking? This man meant nothing to her. She had no reason to get involved. An animalistic snarl escaped Phillip. He tossed his head, long, dark hair streaming across his face.
Natalie cried out. Rafael had her pinned against the ground. She arched and drew up one knee, narrowly missing his groin. He grappled with her, capturing one wrist only to lose his hold on the other. Despite her slender body, she appeared strong and agile.
Phillip pushed to his knees and tore off his blood-soaked tunic. Brenna saw him clearly for the first time. Prominent cheekbones and a square jaw were softened by his full-lipped mouth. She swallowed hard. The wound on his neck was now a dark line, bisecting his skin from side to side. Compelling yet tragic, he fascinated her. His chest expanded with each ragged breath, his hands braced against his knees.
His soul strands came into focus, sparkling with hypnotic light. She pressed her hand over her pounding heart, captivated by the beauty--and the familiarity. She knew this pattern. The first time she'd ever seen soul strands they had formed this design. Trauma had emblazoned the image on her mind. She couldn't be mistaken, but it was impossible. Everyone with this arrangement was dead.
She tilted her head, studying the strands from different angles. This made no sense. He wasn't even Sidhe. Or was he? Had the blood drinkers captured a Dark Elf? She'd presumed he was one of them, some sort of novice.
He sank to all fours, panting harshly, his head lowered, hair streaming to the ground. Indecision tore through Brenna. A soul seer's primary purpose was reading soul strands. If the pattern was authentic, she must do everything in her power to save him. If she so egregiously misread his strands, she'd be useless as a soul seer. Either way, she must act and act now.
The blood drinkers had reversed position. Natalie straddled Rafael's chest, her knees immobilizing his arms as she swiped her long nails across his face. He bucked and twisted, avoiding the worst of her scratches, yet unable to break free.
Brenna unfurled her wings and swooped across the clearing, snatching Phillip off the ground.
"No!" Rafael's cry echoed as Brenna took to the air.