This first book in the Ashen Twilight series begins February 2009.
Will it be love or death when fairy and vampire come together?
An attack on her family drives Ariya to seek protection at the Ashen Twilight House. Once there, she encounters only more danger, along with the dark rescuer who haunts her dreams.
Jace Archane is a vampire on the hunt, and distractions like Ariya are the last thing he wants or needs. But their survival might just hinge on one another when a vicious elemental creature threatens the underground world of Nightwalkers, Lycans and Shifter Elves.
Caught between a shared enemy and otherworldly love, Jace and Ariya must unite before fear can tear them apart.
~ A Kiss of Ashen Twilight Excerpt ~
Wallachia, a region within the Balkan Mountains - 1461
The smell was enough to rot the heart of the noblest man. The idea of death is never the same as laying one's eyes upon its evidence. Jacinus Aurelius Archane had heard victorious stories of his father and uncle in war. His heart swelled and his pulse raced at the elaborate narratives and near deaths in fighting the enemies that dared to take their freedom.
It was nothing like the scene that lay before him.
Massive green valleys of large mountains surrounded them, reminding him of home among the rolling hills of the Highland mountains. His heightened senses picked up the sharp taste and smell of salt water from the other side of the castle where the steep hillside led down to the Arges River. A passage led along the back end of the castle allowing them entrance under the soldiers' eyes.
The castle was situated on the steep hill of the nearest mountain filled with the piercing cries of soldiers battling and falling over the stone walls to their deaths. In the distance, metal clashed against metal in a chorus of sword battles. Vicious grunts and and various bodies falling to the ground thudded into the air soon after. It was then something else caught his eye. His gaze veered down to the display in the middle of the road; men and women impaled upon stakes erupting from the ground. The scent of blood and decay turned Jace's stomach and sent shocks of pain straight to his heart. This was how the enemies were taken care of. Those who dared to defy the prince within the city and those who sided with the enemy would suffer just one of his many forms of torture.
"Our people aren't among those poor souls," a voice said behind him.
Jace turned to face the tall, pale figure draped in blue robes. Daoine Oberon. It was upon his proposal that they came to these lands and it was his ability to shape-shift into a large eagle; allowing them right of entry from Scotland—across the Celtic and the Mediterranean seas—to the Balkans. Now Jace stood with Daoine in his human form. Jace's father and uncle stood on either side of him, dressed in full plaids and armor. Their swords remained at their sides and he didn't have to look at their faces to feel the shock at what stood before them.
"The monster that caused these atrocities," Jace said, gritting his teeth and gripping the hilt of his sword tighter. "Is he the same that holds our people? Draining them to their death?"
"Yes, Jacinus," Daoine's soft voice was calm. "It is he."
Jace focused his gaze up toward the castle surrounded by soldiers battling in chainmail armor. The prince's soldiers. The Son of the Dragon. His enhanced vision focused on the small emblems on the shiny silver armor of the Wallachian soldiers. A dragon, with its wings extended, hung on the sculpted relief of a cross. His very name meant son of the dragon, a title symbolizing the continuity of his father's legacy over their round of knights within The Order. Another war of freedom was fought as the Wallachians engaged in a war with Ottomans. The Ottoman Empire's flag, bright red with the yellow crest of a moon and star in the middle, clashed with that of Wallachia's, a yellow flag with a black raven atop a green juniper branch holding a silver and gold cross in its beak.
Jace wasn't here to choose sides. Like Daoine told them, they were here to free their own people from the prince's tortuous hold. He just hoped it wasn't too late.
"We will end this now!" The words left Jace's mouth moments before he sprinted up to the massive, steep hill of greenery toward the Wallachian castle of stone.
His father's voice trailed behind him, calling him. Time was running out for him to stop and discuss their plans.
Although he only lived 42 years—19 of which he spent as a Nightwalker—Jace still held the appearance of a man of 25 years. Jace knew the vagaries of being hunted simply because of what he was. He saw the torture devices left within the beautiful, peaceful lands of the Highlands where `other's like him were caught, torn apart, then put on display to any other immortals that walked the lands. The mortals did the same to their own suspected of being immortals. If it wasn't for Daoine, they wouldn't have known this injustice. Now that they had finally arrived, it was time to put an end to all the torture and deaths.
Instinct told Jace to jump. The powers that he obtained were many and despite the past two decades, he still hadn't gotten to know all that he was capable of. He took a breath and leaped into the air. The wind flapped against his belted plaids, armor and thin trews. He didn't wait for his uncle and father to catch up before he disappeared into the castle. He made sure to keep out of sight from the bloodshed within. With their arrival, both sides would wonder about their purpose on their grounds. He followed the side of the large castle to keep out of sight. A particular scent, copper and rotted meat, suddenly filled the air. He couldn't quite decipher what but something told him to follow.
The long brick castle stretched out through corridors and small rooms situated on the sides. Jace made sure to duck behind a wall just in case he heard oncoming footsteps. Across the back courtyard he spotted a high watchtower where the scent grew stronger. He stepped into the open area, stopping once he heard the clash of swords behind him. His father and uncle's grunts and yells filled the air amidst the sound of metal upon metal.
"Jace!" His father's coarse, deep voice filtered through the air.
He battled within himself to turn and join them but a shadowy figure flew by the watchtower window, catching his eye. Silently he promised himself he'd return and aid his family. Now the small opportunity to stop this massacre was open—but not for long.
Jace dashed for the towers, using his powers to move like the wind. Mortals would see him as only a blurred image dashing by, if they caught sight of him. It was a good ability considering the soldiers closing in on them. His body reacted to the scent of their blood, desiring to taste the sweet liquid upon his tongue. Too bad it would have to wait for later.
He ran up the flight of stairs toward the top, his sword at his side waiting to find the monster so he could run his sword through his heart. The smell of decaying skin grew stronger with each step. He reached the area as the faint sound of wheezing covered the air.
Jace stepped into the open room at the top of the tower. A fireplace crackled on the side, warming his cold skin. Bright, shiny furniture decorated the room along with an elaborate imported carpet laid out before him. There in the middle of the floor was a man; his neck was severed with a trail of blood streaming onto the small stone fountain with a goblet perched on the opposite side in front of an empty chair. He struggled to breathe as he tried to lift his head upward toward Jace. The man's pale skin was nearly white like the high glow of the moon at midnight. His open mouth revealed a set of sharp fangs.
Jace couldn't breathe from the strong stench and the sight that nearly broke him.
"Kill me." The man's jagged words sent chills right down to Jace's bones. "Please."
The words were familiar to Jace, like the distinct Romanian dialect that was one of Daoine's many languages. Although his tongue was unclear to him, the man's sorrowful gaze was all too clear.
Jace gripped his sword between both of his hands, raising it over head.
The sword cut through the air and into the bleeding Nightwalker in seconds. Jace shut his eyes from the horror although death clung to the room like fog in the night. The scent of evil was unmistakable yet distant in the air. The prince was gone. Judging from the empty chair in front of the goblet, he was preparing for another test of trying to obtain immortality from one of his prisoners. Where he fled, Jace didn't know. He hoped the Nightwalkers coming as reinforcements would stop him outside the grounds. He opened his eyes and looked to the empty golden goblet still perched atop the fountain. With a roar escaping his lips, he swung the sword and knocked the metal over with a loud clank. Tiny drops of blood stained the carpet. Nightwalker blood. What kind of monster would destroy their kind just to feed his own thirst to live forever? The same that would hunt them down for being different, stronger, better than mere mortals. He hoped this reign of terror would end. Too much blood had been spilt in the name of power. It was then Jace realized the importance in the choice he had made to become a Nightwalker. Daoine was right. They had to look out for each other now if they were to survive.
A sharp pain shot through his body like shockwaves of electricity, crippling him to his knees. The world seemed to turn upside down. Nausea threatened to consume his body. If it still produced bile, he was sure it would be creeping up into his throat this moment. Something felt wrong. Jace forced himself to stand and turn toward the stairs. As he flew down, his mind raced to figure out what was going on. Once he made it to the court, his worst fears were realized as his father lay on the ground in his uncle's arms. His neatly wrapped plaids were ripped and bloodied from the oozing stab wound his uncle tried to apply pressure against.
The sword slowly fell from Jace's hand, crashing against the ground. He couldn't believe his sight. His body grew numb, and he couldn't move his legs. He saw his uncle's mouth move, but it was as if someone turned the sound off in his mind. Nothing remained in his thoughts as he tried to comprehend what was happening before his eyes. He saw the tears flowing from his uncle's strained, angry eyes. Despite the movement, he couldn't hear anything except his father's breath, slowly dying to stillness.
Jace fell to his knees and finally let out an ear piercing cry into the azure blue sky.