Series: Shadow Born #2
Author: Angela Dennis
Published: September 23rd, 2014
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Word Count: 72,000
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Content Warning: Sexual Material and Violence
Age Recommendation: 18+
Synopsis: Everyone has a breaking point.
Her hundred-year penance lifted, Shadow Bearer Brenna Baudouin returns to the Earthly plane with her partner, Gray Warlow, to keep the peace between humans and supernatural creatures—and to prevent another apocalyptic war from happening.
The attraction between them is nearing a critical point, but their checkered history has left Brenna unable to trust either her heart or her instincts.
It’s chaotic business as usual until humans begin turning to statues of dust. There is no explanation, no sign of magical foul play or a biological toxin. The humans are convinced it’s the work of a deviant supernatural faction, twisting the knife in the already tense relationship between their species. Brenna and Gray agree—the deaths have a former comrade-turned-rogue stamped all over them.
In a race against time, they enlist the help of both friend and foe to save the human race and stop the impending civil war. Along the way, they are forced to come to terms with their past and decide, once and for all, whether they will come together or fall apart.
Warning: Contains a heroine who knows her weapons but not her own heart, an outbreak of supernatural proportions, copious bloodletting, and a race to save an endangered species—humans. All tied up in a tight bow of sexual tension.
Darkness embraced Brenna like a thick wool blanket. It wrapped around her, blocking the dim lamplight as she walked toward the seedy bar. Glass residue from the riots crunched beneath her leather boots. Mixed with snow, the bits of broken beer bottles and smashed windows glittered like an army of broken icicles. She breathed deeply, inhaling the cool night air. It smelled of sour beer and clove cigarettes and left a bitter taste on her tongue.
Shadows embraced the sides of the stone structure that housed the Dirty Ruby, one of the few multi-species bars in Denver proper. They stalked across the snow and mixed with the night to merge into a black mass. From its midst stepped a man. Well over six feet, he moved with grace in contrast to his size. The moonlight played across his face, highlighting his chiseled features.
Brenna’s pulse quickened and she took an involuntary step forward. Self-conscious, she ran a hand through her copper curls, freeing them from the careless bun. The thick strands streamed down her back like fire as she moved, her breath coming in quick harsh bursts. She slipped off her black leather duster and draped it across her arm. Without it the tight black corset left her taut belly and back exposed, but she didn’t feel the cold. She never did around Gray.
“Four demons. Thirty humans. Keep the casualties to a minimum.” Brenna brushed past him, tossing him her coat. “I’ll bring them out. You send them back to hell.”
“Hell?” Gray grinned. His teeth gleamed in the moonlight. “You speak human now?”
She shrugged. “When in Rome.”
Her back to him, she turned toward the freshly white-washed door. But before she could move, he had her shoulder in a vise grip. His fingers twined in the hair at the base of her skull. His breath hot against her cheek. “I know your other partners let you boss them around.” He turned her to face him. “I’m not them.”
He stepped forward, forcing her back. They moved in an awkward dance until her ass hit the stone wall. Trapped, she stared at him, wary. A shadow fell across his face hiding all but his piercing violet eyes.
“We enter together. Once they’re dead, we leave.” He stepped back, loosening his hold.
“Won’t remember a thing.” He crushed his lips to hers even as he slid the duster across her shoulders. “And I’m not your coat rack.” Releasing her, he stepped back.
Brenna rubbed the back of her hand against her bruised lips. Gray would be the death of her.
If she didn’t kill him first.
She leaned against the wall to regain her bearings as he stepped into the light. He moved like a jungle cat. Ropes of strong muscles slid beneath his bronzed skin as his wild untapped power stirred beneath the surface. Akin to a force of nature, he would never go unnoticed. Even incognito, only a fool wouldn’t recognize Gray was dangerous. He was a beautiful, powerful thing to behold. And he was hers.
If she wanted him.
His black hair shimmered in the pale lamplight. It was tied with the usual brown leather strap, but a few pieces had slipped free. They curled around his face, softening his features. The sight of him stirred memories of what they had been to each other. Memories she had struggled for a nearly a hundred years to repress. But she still wanted him with a fervor that was both frightening and exhilarating.
A sigh slipped from her lips as she pushed off the wall to follow him into the bar. Wooden planks creaked beneath their feet as they stepped inside. The room was crammed wall-to-wall with sweaty bodies. Humans surged on the dance floor, moving in chaotic abandon. Brenna stripped off her duster. The heat from the wood stoves was overpowering. Sweat beaded on her forehead. It dribbled down her face, sliding across her bare skin to pool between her breasts.
She threw the duster on the seat of a red plastic booth then slid in beside it. Her leather pants moved across the slick fabric like silk as she took a quick inventory of the room. Humans clanked beer bottles together, their shouts drowning out the death metal band screeching in the far corner. She closed her eyes to focus and searched for her prey. It took several minutes, but she found what she was looking for. The stench of rotten flesh and brimstone. It was subtle, but unmistakable. The demon was here, but he wasn’t alone.
Her seat shifted as Gray slid into the booth beside her. “This is new. They don’t usually hunt together.” He tossed a muscular arm across her shoulders.
Brenna leaned into his body. Her head against his chest, she breathed him in. He smelled of sage and wood smoke. “I doubt they’re aware of each other. Demons are territorial. They don’t play nice, and they’re not that bright.”
Gray shrugged. “There’s a first time for everything.”
He brushed a stray curl from her face. Unable to resist, she closed her eyes and enjoyed the simple touch.
“You take the males. I’ve got the females.” His breath was hot against her skin.
Her body tightened. She pulled back, a false smile playing on her lips. Beneath it she cursed her inability to keep him at a distance, even on a job. With a quick nod, she tossed back the shot of whiskey he shoved across the table. She leaned into him, her hands pressed against his chest. “We’ll meet at the van.”
“Agreed.” Gray kissed her lips. “Sam knows the drill.”
She could still taste him as he walked away, and that treacherous part inside her yearned for more. The best way to blend in was to act like a couple, but they needed another option. She was already sexually frustrated, and the night had barely begun. But there was nothing more cathartic than a good hunt.
Brenna glanced at the demon. It lounged on a barstool, deep inside a human man around thirty. With a bored look, he watched as a young woman, her shirt in tatters on the dirty floor, straddled him. Her skirt hiked to her crotch, her body trembled as he drained her life force. A second woman stood behind him. Clad in tiny purple panties and a lace bra, she swayed to the music. Glassy eyed, breasts heaving, she waited her turn. It was disgusting.
It had been a human war that had ripped through the Veil between the planes of reality, and the humans had paid the price. Supernatural creatures, the humans now called deviants, had poured onto the Earthly plane, only to be trapped once the Veil had healed. The humans had managed to survive the onslaught by allying themselves with sympathetic deviants, but they had gotten too comfortable. And the demons were taking full advantage.
Brenna slammed the shot glass on the table. Time to play human.
It wasn’t hard to attract the demon’s attention. As she strutted to the bar, her hips swaying, she let loose a strand of magic. Unseen it moved across the room to twine around him. She leaned against the bar, put on her best ditsy smile, thrust out her breasts, and waited. The demon dropped his lap candy and started toward her.
Brenna leaned toward the bartender and blew him a kiss. Another shot slid across the splintered wooden counter and into her outstretched hand. With a tilt of her head, her breasts nearly spilling from the too-tight corset, she drained the glass. By the time she lowered the drink, the demon was in front of her.
“Where’s your boyfriend?” Magic surged around them. Disease ridden, it left a slimy residue in its wake.
She widened her eyes in false fascination, pretending his compulsion spell had worked. “He doesn’t mind.” She glanced at the women he had abandoned. “What about them? Do they share?”
His green eyes glowed with anticipation. “It’s a requirement,” he said as he moved closer. His rancid breath tickled her face, and she somehow managed not to gag. He slammed his hand on the bar and ordered more shots.
With a giggle, she tossed back three. Her body chemistry wouldn’t allow her to get drunk. She imbibed solely for the taste and reassuring burn of the whiskey. As the sting faded, she moved from the bar and grabbed the demon by his thin white t-shirt. “What’s your name?” she murmured, trailing a finger down his chest.
Brenna almost laughed. It was so normal. His kind generally chose dramatic over common. “Well, Sean, let’s party.”
She pulled him into the crowd of people, her attention focused on the other demon. As the crowd parted, she found him.
This one was old. It’d been here a while. The man he wore showed extreme signs of use. Once handsome, he was now a frail husk. A ball cap had been shoved over his head. The bill was pulled down to hide his gaunt face.
Now in plain view of the older demon, Brenna leaned into the younger. She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Let’s dance,” she murmured. It was difficult to drown out the blaring music, but she used her imagination to replace it with something that had a beat. Her body swayed and gyrated to a rhythm only she could hear. As she settled into the movement, she released her own compulsion spell. It encircled the demons, rousing their hunger.
It wasn’t long before the older demon joined them on the dance floor. Brenna grinned, letting amusement show in her eyes. “Come to join us?”
His lips pursed in a smirk. “I don’t share.” A growl spilled from his mouth as he stared down the demon at her back.
She stepped from between them. These two were bottom feeders. She could take them both without much effort. But, if they wanted to save her the trouble, so be it.
The elder demon prowled the space around them. “Outside.” He flicked his head toward the entrance. “Don’t want to scare the pretty humans.” Scales rippled beneath his yellowing skin. His eyes flickered blue, then black.
Sean bared his teeth and lunged at the other man’s throat. Brenna was pooling her magic, debating whether to intervene, when a high-pitched scream tore through the room.
The dance floor erupted in chaos. Brenna and the demons stood on the sidelines like spectators in a macabre play. Men and women clung together. They skirted the boundaries of the room, their horrified gazes fixed on the spectacle in the center.
Three women stood on the dance floor. Arms stretched above their heads, hips thrusting to one side, they had been dancing when it happened. Nearly unrecognizable, their skin had fallen away or been transformed, Brenna wasn’t sure which. The once-human women were now statues of what looked like ash. They smiled at the crowd, their features drawn in kohl as if by a skilled artist. Soon their bodies would crumble. Even now, tiny gray particles rolled down their faces.
Stunned, she searched the room for Gray. He was standing at the far corner, a demon on each arm. The three of them were embroiled in a heated conversation, but their words were indecipherable over the roar of the crowd. After a few moments, Gray released them and they fled through the open door.
Brenna glanced at the creatures at her side. She couldn’t exorcise them in a crowded bar, and she couldn’t leave. A curse slipped from her lips. She had to let them go. But she had their scent now. They wouldn’t get far.
“Go,” she ordered. Their eyes widened as she dropped her glamour. “You owe me.”
Sean hissed, his skin rippling. “Your kind don’t belong here.”
“Neither does yours.”
They were at an impasse. Brenna sighed. She didn’t have time for this. “Go or I’ll escort you. Your choice.”
They only hesitated for a moment.
As she turned to find Gray, the door of the unisex bathroom squeaked open. It was a few feet behind Brenna, so she had an unimpeded view of the small blond woman who stepped into the room. So drunk she could barely stand, she stumbled toward the women, oblivious to the startled crowd. Confusion colored her features.
She took a long swig of her beer. “I was only gone a sec.” She lost her balance and toppled forward, reaching for one of the women to keep from falling. A scream tore through the room as she fell, her friends disintegrating, one after another, beneath her touch. Her beer bottle hit the ground beside her, shattering on the hard wooden floor. It was the final straw for the previously contained crowd. They lunged for the exit, emptying the bar.
Brenna stood alone on the edge of the dance floor. Her skin burned from the ash like residue coating her face and bare upper body. The dust smelled like a mixture of vinegar and smoke. She pulled a black handkerchief from the pocket of her pants to wipe it away, but it clung like oil. Every human in the bar had been coated in the women’s remains. Nothing solid was left of the dancers, not even a dry husk.
About the Author
Angela Dennis lives outside Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband, son and a sheltie with a hero complex. When she is not at her computer crafting stories, she can be found feeding her coffee addiction, playing peek-a-boo, or teaching her son about the great adventures found only in books.
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The best advice I was given was pretty simple. Don’t give up. Write every day. Keep writing, no matter how discouraged you get on the road to publication.
Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. My mom still has the short stories and poems I wrote in grade school. By the time I progressed to middle school, I was already writing short novels. Writing has always been a part of who I am. It helps me deal with the stress of life.
Writing makes me happy, it fulfills me. We only get one shot at this life, so I want to fill it with things that mean something, that are important to me. Life’s too short not to do what you love.
All the time. I love days when the words flow like a water, and everything you put on the page is exactly as you intended. Unfortunately, for me, those days aren’t the norm.
I can’t not write. It’s a compulsion. There are too many stories I need to tell.
I don’t really get writer’s block. I just keeping writing, even if it’s nonsensical. Eventually, once the words start to flow, I’ll find myself back on track. If I’m still stuck, it’s usually because there’s a huge plot hole, so I’ll go back, revise, and rip out the plot bunnies.
I allow myself to have about a fifteen minute pity party, then I try to find something constructive that will help me become a better writer. As a writer you have to have thick skin, because there are always going to be people who don’t like your work. It’s the nature of the beast.
It is very hard for me to find a large chunk of time to write, so I tend to be really focused. When I’m on social media, I’m usually multi-tasking. If I’m talking about food, I’m probably making dinner.
More than anything, I love spending time with my family. My husband is my best friend, and my son is amazing. I’m really blessed that way. Music has always been a huge part of my life as well. I started playing piano and singing when I was a toddler, so it’s a big part of who I am.
Wow. I’m a pretty upfront person, so this is always hard for me to answer. I tend to put it all out there for the world to see I would say most people would be surprised to know I’m a painfully shy semi-extrovert. Yeah. It’s an oxymoron, and it’s weird. I embrace that.
I have actually rewritten a whole book because one of the characters refused to cooperate. The book was finished, but I couldn’t make myself submit it to my editor because the ending wasn’t authentic enough. So I rewrote the ending, which changed the plot, which led to more rewrites, etc. etc. There months later I submitted it, but it was a completely different book.
I am horrible at coming up with titles. It takes me weeks. The title to my latest book in the Shadow Born series went through about twelve different variations before I settled on Fading Light. My husband suggested it, but it still took me a few days to fall in love with it.
I always hoped. It was always my dream.
Piercing the Darkness
-Date of Release
-Where did you get the idea for it?
It is a Shadow Born novella, featuring one of my favorite secondary characters.
-When is the cover reveal?
Not sure yet, but it will be in early 2015.
Definitely. In the Shadow Born series, Brenna’s father was a very difficult character to write. He shows up at the end of the first book, but he gets a lot of page time in the third book. His relationship with Brenna has been very difficult for me to write.
I love Brenna and Gray, but the character I have the most fun writing is Keegan. I’m hoping one day he’ll have a book of his own.
Shadows of Fate
Shadows of Fate means a lot to me. It always will, on a lot of different levels. I wrote Shadows while my son was in the hospital as a means to cope with my stress. It was a very dark time for me, and I think that comes across in the book. Fading Light is still dark, but there’s definitely more humor and levity.
Everyone asks me that, and I never know what to say. It seems so trite to say they just come to me. But they do. Sometimes my ideas come to me through dreams, or are sparked by a random thought. I just write them down and flesh them out.
There is a scene in Shadows of Fate where Brenna reveals herself to Gray. She’s basically ripping away all of her masks and baring her soul. I probably rewrote that scene ten times trying to get it just right. I’m pretty sure I can attribute at least a few gray hairs to it.
I love to write urban fantasy, but I also love paranormal romance. My muse tends to lead me that direction. However, I’m open to writing in other genres. There aren’t any I would rule out.
Right now I’m loving e-books, just because my kindle and I are joined at the hip.
I’m rereading Kim Harrison’s Hollows series. I want to read them straight through so I can savor the final one. I’m so sad it’s ending. Rachel, Jinks, and Ivy will always have a place on my bookshelf.
Wow. This is such an unfair question, so I’m going to cheat. In terms of Urban Fantasy, I love Kim Harrison’s Hollows series, but I also love Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series.
Absolutely. I’m always up for unusual characters. Who knows, one may show up in a Shadow Born book before the end of the series.