From paranormal romance author Caris Roane comes the fifth book in the "Guardians of Ascension" series.
For a hundred years, Marguerite has been imprisoned and used for her powerful psychic abilities. Her only relief comes from her regular visits with Thorne, her vampire lover. His every touch leaves her hungry for more..and aching for their next encounter. When Marguerite is finally set free, she returns to Mortal Earth to begin a new life for herself. She dyes her hair white-blonde, paints her nails blood-red, and seduces a sexy-hot stranger. Why can't she stop thinking about Thorne?
Now that Marguerite is gone, Thorne craves her more than ever..and follows her to Mortal Earth. Unfortunately, he is not the only vampire who wants her. As one of three powerful women with obsidian flame abilities, Marguerite is a valuable treasure--and a dangerous weapon. For Thorne, she is a soulmate he must protect at any cost...even his own life.
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St. Martin's Paperbacks
April 24, 2012
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Excerpt from Obsidian Flame by Caris Roane
Thorne, out of ancient Britain in AD 11, stood outside a vile-smelling dive, a real shithole, somewhere in El Paso One, Mortal Earth. He took deep breaths trying to calm the hell down so that he didn't draw his sword, go back inside, and impale a beefy-looking mortal who was more innocent than guilty in this little flirtation drama.
He whipped his Droid Ascender from the pocket of his jeans, a sweet interdimensional piece of technology that allowed him to call home. He all but punched the screen. Shit, his hand trembled. He had so much adrenaline and testosterone flooding his system that, yeah, he was shaking like a drunk off a bender.
The phone rang several times. "Pick up, pick up, pick up."
Finally, Alison's voice came on the line. "Sorry. Had to get out of Endelle's office before I answered."
"Okay, good." In the past three weeks since he'd left Second Earth, he'd grown dependent on Alison for a couple of reasons. She helped him keep his head screwed on straight, and she kept him informed on that little detail called the war against Commander Greaves.
He was about to launch into his current dilemma, as in what to do about his woman who was making moves on another man, when Alison cut him off. "Thorne, there's something you've got to know right away, and it's bad."
His body stilled. Alison wasn't given to drama of any kind. From the day of her ascension over a year ago, she'd been an equalizing force among the Warriors of the Blood and especially with Endelle, serving as she did as the scorpion queen's executive assistant.
His hearing became focused, laser-like, on exactly what Alison would say next. He took another deep breath. "Let me have it."
"It's been all over the news for the past hour. In three days, Greaves is conducting a spectacle-grade military review that will last four, maybe six hours. Rumors are that he's marching an army of two hundred thousand troops, his 'Ascender Liberation Army,' down the Moscow Two avenue."
Thorne's lips parted because he needed to keep breathing, but he wasn't sure his lungs were working.
Greaves had just upped the stakes at the same moment that Thorne had gone AWOL to chase after a woman who wanted nothing to do with him.
"Are you there?" Alison asked.
"Thorne, did you hear what I said?"
"Yes. Processing. Shit." He shook his head--like Alison could see that. "This is a completely illegal maneuver. COPASS can't let this slide, not this time. 'No entity shall engage in a public display of military prowess.' The rules are clear."
"Marcus has been on the phone nonstop to the international COPASS HQ in Prague. Every answer he's been given goes something like, The committee has the Commander's request for permits under review. But we all know what that means."
"Exactly. I hate to ask this, but can you come home? This news has all of the High Administrators still aligned with Endelle jumpy. Three shifted their alliance to Greaves just because of the announcement. Three."
He turned back to face the run-down building, which blared some lively Mexican music: trumpets, guitars, and a quick beat.
Marguerite, his woman, his vampire bond-mate, was in there, getting one huge motherfucker of a Mexican all worked up with her long, blood-red nails and short platinum hair.
He'd followed her to Mortal Earth because he'd had no choice in the matter. Much to his surprise the goddamn breh-hedden had hit him flush in the jaw and torn all his good sense from its usual strong footings. All the warriors had thought the breh-hedden was a myth; then Alison had shown up and knocked Kerrick on his ass--Kerrick, the one who had vowed never to marry again. Three other warriors had followed, like dominoes: Marcus, Medichi, and just a few weeks ago Jean-Pierre.
Now it was his turn.
And Greaves had decided this was the hour to let the world know that he'd built an army worthy of victory, and was getting ready to launch his takeover bid of both Second Earth and Mortal Earth.
He turned again, to once more face away from the bar. He felt the call of his world, of Second Earth, and of something more, something vast that had begun pulsing in the center of his brain. He lived with two aches now, the heavy pounding in his head and the stiff pulsing in his groin.
He was a man torn, now more than ever, because of the implied threat of a spectacle-based military review. Damn, there'd be fireworks and massive orchestral music as well as hundreds of DNA-altered swans and geese. Second Earth lived for spectacle and Greaves knew it. The damn thing was genius.
He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to think. Alison, thank God, had fallen silent, giving him space, the usual. She'd been a counselor before she ascended. She knew how to let a moment breathe.
Finally, he said, "I'm going to do everything I can to move things along here. But I can't leave Marguerite right now and it isn't just because of the breh-hedden. Because she's obsidian flame, Greaves wants her dead. She's unprotected if I just take off. You know Endelle was counting on her emerging power to make a difference in the war. At the very least, I need to bring her home with me."
"You're right," Alison said, some of the tension leaving her voice. "I'd gotten so wrapped up in this review, I'd forgotten about Marguerite's power. Don't worry. I'll talk it over with Marcus. He'll understand. More than anyone, he'll understand." Marcus was four thousand years old and had only recently returned to Second Earth and to the Warriors of the Blood after a two-hundred-year absence, his own form of desertion.
Yeah, if anyone would understand all the dilemmas facing Thorne, Marcus would.
"I'd better go," he said.
"I almost forgot, what did you call for?"
"Nothing. I mean, I'll work it out." He laughed as he pushed a hand through his hair and all but dislodged his cadroen. "I may be calling you later. I've got a situation in El Paso Two."
Alison's voice dropped. "Oh, shit, Endelle just walked into my office. Gotta go."
The line went dead.
A military spectacle review. Jesus H. Christ.
He returned his phone to his jeans. He lowered his chin and went back into the bar. He sure could use a drink right about now, but for this ride he'd stopped with the Ketel One. Everything was coming to a head fast and he needed to see things just as they were, not through a vodka haze. Still, it sure didn't help that Marguerite was flashing a smile at that goddamn good-looking Mexican.
He drew his mist in tight. He was good at creating the preternatural disguise that kept him invisible to anyone around him, especially here on Mortal Earth. Anyone, of course, except Marguerite. She could see him even though she'd been ignoring him all night. By now she was used to his hovering presence--he'd been dogging her heels from the first night he'd touched down on Mortal Earth.
They'd argued plenty, but this was the worst she'd been, sitting as close as she was to her current prey on a tall stool. It looked as though she'd made up her mind that tonight was the night.
He took up his former station, leaning against the wall, close to the door. He crossed his arms over his chest. His biceps flexed involuntarily. His nostrils flared. His breathing was still pretty uneven, especially since even at this distance he could smell her rose scent, rich red roses. It was the one sure sign that this woman was meant for him.
Yet he had no real claim on Marguerite, even though they'd been lovers for over a century. She'd broken with him, needing to go her own way, because she'd been locked up in a convent for the last hundred years. Her parents had consigned her to the Convent in Prescott Two in hopes of getting her to conform to their fanatical religious beliefs. She'd survived the ordeal by sustaining the hope that one day she'd be free to live however she wanted to live. So as soon as he'd liberated her, she'd hopped down to Mortal Earth and started a new life away from Second, away from the war, away from him.
The problem was that she'd ended their relationship at the exact moment the breh-hedden had kicked in.
What a nightmare the breh-hedden had proved to be. Marguerite was his breh, his bond-mate, the woman meant for him. She even carried a decadent rose scent that only he could detect. The urge to be near her, to protect her, to be joined to her in every way possible had overruled his common sense and even his duty as the leader of the Warriors of the Blood. That she also carried the red variety of obsidian flame power was just one more reason he'd felt compelled to follow her to Mortal Earth. Somehow he had to convince her to return with him to Second. So here he was, his back pinned to a goddamn wall in a stinking bar, and without a single clue as to how to convince her to come back with him.
He stared at the new Marguerite. She was as beautiful as ever, an almost perfectly oval face, strong arched brows, and large brown eyes, eyes he'd looked into ten thousand times while making love to her. She used to have really long straight brown hair that he would hold wrapped around his forearm when he took her from behind. Now she had short platinum-blond hair, white-blond, and blood-red fingernails about an inch long.
She sipped a very crimson cosmo, her current favorite drink, the same color as the lights flashing in his head. She had her elbow on the bar, her long nails flicking the feathered spikes of her hair.
The bastard next to her had his left knee about a millimeter away from hers. His eyelids lazed low.
Shit. Thorne knew exactly what that look meant: that the only thought running through the bastard's head would be just how soon he could get this woman on her back, or settled on his hips and riding him hard. He shuddered through a few more deep breaths.
He wasn't entirely to blame. The breh-hedden had him hooked in deep, forcing him to look at Marguerite not just as a woman but as his mate, his fucking mate. His mind swirled with a variety of impulses that kept shouting things like Use your fists and beat the shit out of that asshole or worse, Use your sword and take the smile off his face permanently.
This particular mortal wasn't half bad looking if you liked a scruff of a beard, a scar on the right cheek, thick black hair combed back straight, and tats on the neck, shoulders, and forearms. He was big, too. Warrior-big.
This was so not going to end well.
Even through the stench of beer, smoke, and male bodies, all he could really process was that light floral scent that kept his dick in an uproar.
The bastard made his move. He reached out and grazed Marguerite's elbow with the tips of two fingers, then moved away, a smooth, quick testing of the waters.
Marguerite smiled. She leaned in toward him and reached out with her hand to stroke his bicep.
Stroke his bicep.
Stroke his bicep.
The red strobes in his head spun faster. His fists balled. Creator help him. His palm itched for his sword. He spread his fingers wide, ready to catch some steel.
For a split second he almost completed the mental sequence that would have brought his sword into his hand. He saw the carnage as plain as day: one asshole with his head split wide, one woman caught up under his arm and hauled out of this hellhole kicking and screaming.
He was so close.
His fingers trembled.
He wanted his sword in his hand.
He wanted the bastard dead.
He didn't so much as have the thought as act because in the next split second he dematerialized out of the smoke and re-formed in the deep night shadows, well beyond the bar, well away from temptation. He bent over. He shook. He came within an inch of puking his guts out.
Shit. He'd almost killed an innocent man. Thorne, Warrior of the Blood, protector of the innocent, preserver of life, keeper of the peace, and he'd almost killed an innocent man. Creator help him.
So here he was, almost losing the Buffalo wings he'd gorged on, tortured because his woman, who was not his woman, was pursuing her favorite hunting-sport: men.
There was only one real question to answer: How the hell was he supposed to keep from killing this man if she succeeded in taking him into her bed?
* * *
Marguerite Dresner's fingertips tingled as she played over the tatted barbed wire on the stranger's bare, thick, muscled bicep. Her quarry's smell rose up around her. He wore a heavy cologne, heavy like his muscles, like the male scent she was getting from him. She flared her nostrils and sucked in more of what he was giving.
Unfortunately, another scent crowded the space.
Dammit, cherry tobacco. Again. For the thousandth time.
Despite the fact that she knew the real source, she asked, "Do you smoke a pipe?"
He shook his head, leaning into her a little. "Nope. I'm a cigar man. You like cigars?"
She liked the shape well enough. Who didn't? But she didn't care for the aroma. She did like pipe tobacco, though, which was one reason the cherry aroma bugged the shit out of her.
"Now, why are you frowning?" he asked. "What's made you unhappy?" He had a slight accent and a deep voice, fitting for all that body he carried around. Her gaze fell in a free fall to his snug jeans. This man knew how to display, and when his knee shifted just a little, the bulge moved.
She felt light-headed. She had waited so long for this, to explore the world again, to cruise the Mortal Earth bars and know a lot of men.
Men different from the only one she'd known for the past century.
Aw, shit, why did she have to think of Thorne right now. He hadn't wanted her to leave Second Earth, but she'd left anyway. She'd had to leave. She had a life to live and men to devour. One hundred years in that godforsaken Convent, the one with canings, and strappings, and beatings, had left her needing so much more of life than what Second Earth could offer right now.
Why couldn't Thorne get that? Why couldn't he just leave her alone?
She saw from her peripheral vision that he was done with holding up the wall. Huh, so maybe he'd finally taken the hint. He'd glowered and looked so hot in jeans and a wife-beater shirt that it was all she could do to keep from going over there and attacking him.
But she needed him to get the message. She couldn't go back to him and she sure as hell couldn't go back to Second Earth. As much as she knew this would kill him, she'd been putting off the inevitable for three weeks now. She'd spent some time getting her bearings, learning to drive, then driving through state after state and back again. It was late March and most of the lower states were a piece of heaven.
But tonight she was crossing over, ending her connection to the past. She was beginning the real adventure, the fantasy that had kept her sane during her hundred years in that Convent.
She forced memories of Thorne down deep.
She lifted her gaze to the dark brown eyes in front of her, the man flirting with her, casting out signals. His gaze was slung low on her chest, as it should be. She'd hardly covered her girls up at all, and even though the bar was a little steamy her nipples were firm and probably nicely puckered, pushing against the dark blue silk.
He leaned in close, his hand sliding up her leg and squeezing her bare thigh. The man had a nice firm, possessive touch. He whispered against her ear, "Let's get out of here. I've got a place close by."
Shivers chased down her shoulders and sides from all that breath over her neck. Her heart set up a racket in her chest.
She didn't answer him. She just slid off the stool, took his big hand, and headed for the door. This is what she remembered it being like, the excitement, meeting some stranger, getting worked up after a couple of drinks, wondering how good he'd be in bed.
She had a knack for picking men who knew how to work it. This man had good lay written all over him. God, what a body, almost as big as Thorne.
Thorne again! Dammit!
She reached the cool clean desert air and drank in a big gulp, hoping to clear her head. But there it was again, cherry tobacco, stronger now that she was outside. She looked to her left and could see him in the shadows but lifted her chin and moved on. She needed him to get a clue: He could glower all he wanted, but this was the life she wanted, the life she'd chosen. Hell, this was the life she'd earned after so many decades locked up.
But when she got a few feet down the sidewalk, suddenly he was just there, all misted up so her new man couldn't see him. He didn't try to touch her but she couldn't help looking straight at him. Oh ... God.
Don't do this, his mind sent straight into hers. Please.
His hands had dropped to his sides and were balled into fists. She could tell he was holding on by a thread.
She dropped her gaze to his chest. She couldn't bear looking into his eyes. How could she explain the why of all this? But then explaining wasn't necessary. This was what killed her about Thorne: He got her, he understood her, he knew she had to do this, had to leave, had to move on. In his way, he was letting her go. He sure as hell could have just thrown her over his shoulder, and maybe that's what she wished he would do so that she didn't have to choose.
But she had chosen.
Thanks for not making a scene, she sent.
Fuck, he responded, probably not meaning to.
Let me go, Thorne. Please.
Another quiet Fuck left his mouth, but he dematerialized.
Her new man leaned down. "We good?"
She looked back up at him. "We're good." She still had hold of his hand so she gave it a squeeze.
But something deep inside her trembled. She felt an overwhelming need to get back to Thorne.
Would this torture never end?
Would she ever truly be free of Second Earth?
She forced the trembling to stop.
Forget all that.
She had a life to live.
She ran a hand through her short blond locks.
He put his hands on her waist. "What's your name?" He dipped his head low and kissed her cheek.
"That's a beautiful name. Marguerite." He said it slow, like he was practicing, like he intended to say it a lot and at exactly the right time.
"What's yours?" she asked. He shifted her beside him and set them both moving slowly in the direction of a big Chevy Silverado, the kind with four wheels on the back. A big man needed a big truck.
She needed a big man.
"Jos?. My name's Jos?."
"S?." The word popped out like a whip. "Mexican okay with you?"
"You mean, do I discriminate?"
"S?." Again, like a whip.
She put her hand on his hip and moved lower, sliding her fingers so that she rested over the entire beautiful length of his erect cock, the jeans rough against her fingers. "Oh, I discriminate. Right here, Jos?. Is that okay with you?"
He hissed. "Yeah, it's okay."
She smiled. "Let's go, Jos?, before I change my mind."
This time he smiled. He had a wonderful smile full of big teeth. She wanted those teeth on her.
Thorne had big teeth, too. He'd use them nipping, pulling, biting, plucking. He'd done it for a hundred years and knew exactly how to work her up.
Dammit, Thorne again.
* * *
Thorne stood in the shadows of the building. He didn't know what to do. Her scent was heavy in the air.
He watched them get into the truck.
He created more mist. He lost his shirt and mounted his wings. He shot into the air high overhead and followed the truck.
The red strobes still flashed through his brain but at least some part of his mind was functioning because his rational side had begun to calculate, to figure this damn thing out. The man, Jos?, would die tonight unless Thorne got his shit together and connected some dots.
He could engage in fist-to-fist, a battle he would win. So at the very least, yeah, he was doing that. He'd leave the bastard unconscious so that he'd live, but Marguerite would be pissed. She didn't have the gentlest temperament, an understatement that made him smile. She was his wildcat, game for anything, and he loved that about her.
But in this situation, her fighting spirit limited his options.
So what the hell was he supposed to do now?
He could call the cops, create a little diversion, cause some chaos. But again ... woman ... pissed. The one thing he'd learned from being Endelle's second-in-command was a little diplomacy, a sense of timing, a sense of when not to go all shock-and-awe, when something less splashy was called for. Not that he'd learned strategic thinking from her; rather, he'd learned because of her scorpion temperament and her recklessness. Thorne wasn't reckless, which was one reason his current predicament was a total shitfest.
He'd like to let loose. God knew he would. He'd like to let loose, use every power in his arsenal, and fix this thing right now. But that was warrior thinking: Shoot now ... don't even think about asking questions later.
No, this fucking conundrum required finesse.
The truck pulled in front of a house that was much nicer than expected given the man's tats and the overall sleazy nature of the bar. The rock landscaping out front didn't even have weeds. Huh. The bastard might actually be a fairly decent bastard. Thorne even liked the truck. He knew the score. A big man needed something that fit the size of his shoulders.
As the bastard left the driver's side and went around to Marguerite's door, Thorne touched down at least fifty yards away, keeping his mist tight. He drew in his wings. He knew that if Marguerite looked around she'd see him, but when Jos? opened the door she pushed off the running board and leaped into his arms.
He caught her and wasted no time jamming his tongue down her throat. His woman ate it up.
Thorne watched both sets of jaws working like mad.
Before he realized he'd thought the thought, he pushed his mind against Jos?'s and slipped through the back door of the bastard's head. He was inside the man's mind.