The book is out! It’s been nearly 20 years since I wrote this book. Originally it was just called “Circle of Seven” and was the first in a series. But, I dragged my feet and someone else came up with that title and is calling her series by that name.
I’m not sweating it. It was easy enough to add “The Immortal King” to it. Made sense too since this first book is about Rohan the Immortal King who was banished when he let down his people but has come back when the Immortal Sword was stolen.
Next is The Gemini Keys. It doesn’t need as much work as Circle of Seven did. But, I do have to change the last 3-4 chapters. I had resolved the issue of who Tory/Jade would choose when the keys were found and I realized later on that I shouldn’t have given that away until the very end. So…re-write time.
It does feel good to have this book out. Finally. And it opens the door for The Gemini Keys and The Vampire King!
I’d love to share with you the first three chapters of CIRCLE OF SEVEN: THE IMMORTAL KING
The night hadn’t gone as planned. Being kidnapped, drugged, shot and waking up in a vampire’s bed was never on the agenda. At least I’d escaped; the bullet hadn’t hit anything vital, and the vampire was gorgeous. One girl’s nightmare is another’s good luck.
I ignored the intense throb in my head for the stabbing fire of pain in my shoulder. Waking to pain heightened one’s sense of self-preservation.
The large canopy bed was soft and slick with black satin sheets; warmth from a nearby fireplace wasn’t making me any warmer, it was dark, and I was nude. Pulling the sheets with me, I pushed my back up against the cold headboard while scanning the room. The faint firelight cast dancing shadows on three doors. One had to be an exit. An armoire stood across from me, directly in front of the bed, and two chairs faced the front of the fireplace. Someone sat in the chair to the left staring toward the fire. Daniel Forester sitting still as a statue. At least he was trying to warm that cold, vampire body of his with the fireplace and not me. A vague memory itched in my brain and scratching it brought about the memory of his body next to mine. Various levels of consciousness had left reality at the mercy of untrustworthy dreams.
“Raven Peterson,” the voice softer than the sheets, “You’ve been out for two days.” A slow turn of his head and a sweeping gaze made me bristle. Mentally, I prepared myself to fight off any compulsion, but it never came.
“Two days?” That rolled around in my mind for a minute. Where was my stuff? Where was I? And most importantly, where was my 9 mm semi-automatic?
The flicker of light in shadow returned my attention to Daniel. He hadn’t made a sound. I hate that.
He stood next to the bed half in shadow, half in the firelight. His silence, unnerving. Was I supposed to do something?
“Where are my weapons?” My eyes wanted to look anywhere but his.
His feet made no sound on the carpet as he walked to the armoire and pulled something off the top of it.
He handed me my Derringer, my 9 mm, and a four-inch stainless steel blade that fit in a sheath on my thigh. He set them next to the bed on a side table. The drugs, compliments of my kidnappers, were still affecting my abilities.
The weapons were within reach, and that made me more comfortable. Would it be considered rude to put the Derringer under my pillow while he stood there?
“We escaped. You took a bullet in your shoulder and hit your head when you fell. Now you are in my home.” He paused and added, “You’ve healed surprisingly fast.”
Curious about my ability to heal, but unwilling to ask about it outright, Daniel left the last as a statement. The comment hung in the air unanswered. It’s good to keep someone guessing, especially if you are naked and they are not.
Shaking my head to clear the cobwebs had not been a good idea. The shadow of a memory faded in and out; enough to know there was something I should remember, but not enough to actually remember it. The figure of a tall man, dark and muscular, came to me. His eyes were gray and unusual. Daniel moved and the memory shattered.
“Did someone help us escape?” I felt him in my memory. “Where is he now?”
“I saw no one,” Daniel replied. Something in his voice said “lie”, but it was buried deep beneath a layer of seduction. “The only man we should be concerned with now is Gabriel Kearney.”
That bastard Gabriel did this. But why? Why hire me to look at an ancient sword and then kidnap me? This was supposed to be a sweetheart gig. Research, authenticate, ensure the thing wasn’t cursed, and prep it for a safe journey to the highest bidder. The money was great and desperately needed. Too good to be true…always gets Raven in trouble.
My gaze drifted about the room as memories came in waves. Mr. Forester had been much kinder to me than I had been to him. Dungeon etiquette always escaped me. But Mr. Forester apparently knew all kinds of etiquette. Immaculate room for an unexpected guest, no hanky-panky with the unconscious girl, and weapons at the bedside. Great guy. He seemed trustworthy, but was entirely too gorgeous with that long blonde hair and perfect body. It would be a shame to have to kill him.
“I know why I was at Kearney’s place.” I let the statement hang in the air.
“I had planned on stealing the sword,” he said without a hint of remorse. “It is very valuable. Unfortunately, I was captured”
“Well, I was an invited guest,” I wondered if Daniel’s choice to remain where he was had to do with wanting the heat from the fire or not wanting to spook me. He was being careful. He wanted something. I needed to get out of here.
“Looks like my clothes are missing.”
“Yes, I fear your shirt was ruined.” An elaborate gesture of his hand indicated there was nothing he could have done. He walked to the armoire and retrieved a shirt. “Blood can always be cleaned, but bullet holes are forever.”
The material of the large, soft shirt felt cool when my fingers caressed it. As I wondered what it would feel like on my skin, I took inventory of my body.
Someone had cleaned me up, and only a small scar remained where the bullet hole had been. That would be gone in a few days too. Healing quickly was nothing to a vampire, but for a human it was impressive. So, we knew a little something about each other now. He knew I healed quickly and I knew, from our great escape, he was a vampire. We were even and that seemed fair to me. One rule I had; okay I had a few rules, but this one was a big one; you never let someone know what your powers are. I couldn’t hide the healing, but there were far more interesting things Mr. Forester would not get to know.
“You were invited?” Daniel encouraged me to continue with a dip of his head, nearly a bow.
“I was hired to authenticate the sword. Easy gig. Big money,” I told him.
“Easy and big money didn’t tip you off? What kind of detective are you?”
“I didn’t say I was a detective.” Of course, he would’ve gone through my wallet.
“I know who you are, Raven. I just don’t know what you are.”
Daniel hadn’t moved. He stared at me, waiting for something. For an instant, I had a wild thought about how soft his hair looked. Compulsion? Effects of the drugs? The hit on the head?
He wore jeans and a black, long-sleeved, satin button up shirt. It was tucked in, and a black belt was hooked through the loops in his jeans. The first two buttons of his shirt were undone revealing a hairless chest. He had no jewelry, and his hair was tied back. A couple of strands had come loose and hung in his face. They were long with a slight curl, falling beneath a strong jaw line. My gaze followed the curl up as far as his eyes, but the blue was unnatural and brought me back to my senses. My mind drifted between real and fantasy, survival and desire.
“I will pay you whatever Gabriel Kearney promised if you find that sword. Twice that amount if you bring it to me. Are you interested?” A polite request and the patience of a predator.
“I don’t work for vampires.”
“Easy to guess. Yes, I am a vampire.” He was straight forward and I could respect that. “And what are you?”
After years of owning a paranormal detective agency, you saw enough to know when even a vampire was hiding something.
“Raven,” he stepped closer, and his voice dropped an octave. “Gabriel Kearney is a very evil man. A dangerous man. Clearly, I cannot do this alone. But we worked very well together to escape him. To outsmart him.” When I said nothing, he continued. “Vampire status notwithstanding, I am honest, and I can pay half up front.” His smile showed unearthly white teeth. The tone of his voice had the cadence of a lullaby. My body began to feel warm and sleepy. Looking at him was a mistake. Eyes as blue as sapphires sparkled with intensity.
The myth was that a vampire didn’t cast a reflection. I knew that to be wrong. That fact had saved my life once. Mirrors weren’t holy objects or supernatural. Maybe the myth about vampires casting no reflection came from that saying, “the eyes are the mirrors of the soul.” In that case, it is true. Vampires often cast no reflection of themselves there at all.
“You’re a beautiful woman, Raven,” he said as he took another step closer to the bed. “Your eyes are like mine. Sapphires.”
Panic flowed through my veins. Could he read minds? I wanted to blank my mind out just in case. But it only helped create that sense of dizzying surrender to the need for peaceful rest…or sex.
Was this place far from San Francisco? How long would it take to get home? Would Aden and Tory be looking for me? Now I needed to fill my mind with anything but the thought of Daniel’s hard body.
There had been no bells and whistles. Compulsion usually had a signature feel to it. There had been no indication with Gabriel Kearney either.
There hadn’t been a lot of information on Kearney, but the story he gave checked out when we researched it. Tory O’Malley, a psychic on staff and a damned good detective, wanted me to have back up and weapons since we barely knew Gabriel Kearney. She said it wasn’t a premonition just her normal paranoia. I should’ve listened to her.
Aden Tascher, another detective, researched the alleged curse. Aden happened to be a witch, something that came in handy with my chosen clientele. That was as normal as it got at my agency.
A limo ride, a long wait, a proper English butler. That should have tipped me off. All too perfect. The drugs had to be in the ice cubes. The drugs were potent enough to cause my vision to blur less than a minute after the first drink. Less than two minutes, nothing but darkness.
That’s when I woke to find myself slick with dungeon goop and the knowledge that someone was none too gentle when throwing me into the cell. Perhaps they thought my cellmate would save them the trouble of killing me, but instead we joined forces and busted out. The only missing piece to this was the man in the shadows who helped us. The one Daniel denied was there.
The movement of the bed drew me out of my own thoughts. Daniel was climbing into bed, naked.
“Tell me what you know of the sword,” he whispered like a lover. The sound caressed my body, holding me still.
“I was asked to authenticate it. And there was the small matter of a curse that had to be checked out.” My body began to warm, though his was cooling now that he was away from the fireplace.
“How did you plan on authenticating a curse?”
“I was authenticating the time period of the sword and its origin.”
“Was it cursed?”
“No.” My body betrayed me as he placed a fingertip on my lips and began trailing it downward. Gooseflesh covered my skin.
“How can you be so sure?”
“I have a witch on staff.” My gut feeling was that the sword wasn’t cursed, but Aden’s instincts and power were foolproof. Aden had seen the sword a day before me, yet he had been allowed to walk away unharmed.
“What did they want with you?” Daniel moved closer, pressing the front of his body to the side of mine.
“That’s the million-dollar question,” I said, watching him, trying to read the truth from lies. “The other million-dollar question is- what did they want with you? Why not just kill you outright?” I was dizzy for just a moment then warmth and sex were filling my mind.
“Don’t try anything Daniel,” I warned, “You won’t live to regret it.”
His smile was pure masculinity. No woman turned him down. No woman told him ‘no’. That smile could make one of us dead.
“How does one win your trust?” Velvet tones. Warm sheets. “How does one win you?”
My heart skipped along double-time as the scent of cinnamon and musk wafted up from his perfect skin. My need and my growing anger were interrupted by soft lips on mine.
A cloak of warmth, sex, and power covered me. A vampire’s kiss full of passion and need; the promise was far more effective than simple compulsion. His lips seduced mine. Something had to be done. My hands fell softly to his bare chest. Power. My power. As intimate as sex and as effective as a vampire’s kiss. The push wasn’t physical it was emotional; it was fear and a weapon.
Fear pushed into him, stalling him, stopping him. The power was a surge of heat, alive and warm and at home. Emotions leaked into his body causing him to go perfectly still. Just a short blast of emotion, nothing strong or lasting, but his vampirism made me doubt my effectiveness, and I readied myself for another push. Before I could release it, he moved so quickly I was caught off guard. With my hair in his fist he thrust his face so close to mine, I thought he might try to kiss me again. He was angry, and he was searching my face.
“Don’t do that again,” he warned. There was foreboding in that voice, and for the first time, I could feel the tension in his body. Only his upper body was on top of me, and he didn’t move. He continued to search my face for something. “What are you?” he demanded.
“I can’t tell you that.”
It was the truth; I didn’t really know. My parents were killed when I was a small child. Whoever they were was a mystery. Whatever they were was an even bigger mystery. But he wasn’t buying it. He pulled my hair back to put my throat near his lips. My breath came faster as options evaded me. A calming emotion might work, or it could make things worse if he realized I was trying to control him.
He brought his nose to my skin to search me by scent. He smelled my face, my hair, and my neck. His tongue darted out to taste my skin. It wasn’t sexual as much as experimental. As his lips hovered over my neck near my jugular, he slipped the rest of his body on top of me. The shirt hung low enough that my important parts were covered for the moment, but that did nothing to disguise his obvious need. My fear rose as he took his free hand and pulled the shirt, so it rode up higher, exposing me. He was breathing harder as he struggled with his decision. He nuzzled my neck, kissed it slowly. His right leg came down between my own and parted them with little force. He was strong. There was no question he could do as he wished with little effort. Things were going to go very badly for me unless something stopped him.
Sorrow. A familiar emotion I knew intimately. The coolness of it lasted only a moment then it turned hot and hurtful. Sorrow and loneliness were my best weapons. Years of being unloved and feared, years of being told I was unworthy. I had these emotions down to a fine art, and I let him have the best I had to give on the subjects. It entered him, and I felt the oneness of it as it hit its mark. He went still above me, his lips frozen against my neck.
“I thought I was immune to that,” he said. “I hope it has nothing to do with me personally,” he whispered to me as his body moved off mine.
Neither of us could breathe normally. His body still screamed for release, but his mind was clearly in control. He rolled onto his back. He was quiet for so long that my anger with him passed and I felt a little ashamed of hitting him so hard with that emotion. If I hadn’t been so physically weak, none of this would’ve happened. His compulsion could have been deflected.
He looked up at the ceiling, unblinking, and tears ran quietly down the side of his face. That beautiful, pained face caused my heart to ache. I should have just said stop. He should have had the chance to stop on his own. Looking at him, I had an overwhelming inclination to hold him.
Leaning forward on my elbow my hand moved slowly toward him. His gaze followed as though enthralled. My finger caught the tear on the far side of his face. We looked at the wetness on my finger. His eyes met mine and held me there with their sorrow.
“I am sorry Daniel. I shouldn’t have done that. I panicked. I should have just asked you to stop.” Looking into those lost eyes, I wished this had never happened. We stared at each other in mute wonder and horror. This man helped save my life. He’d used his compulsion, but couldn’t have known what the consequences would be. The after effect was slipping away as it always did. It was emotional residue. As the emotion slipped away, I expected it to be replaced by anger, but it wasn’t. He was thoughtful as his gaze turned to me in wonder. He was in awe of me, and I wasn’t prepared for that. His hand came up, making me flinch.
Damn! Years of abuse and inventive punishment will do that to you. The last time I had flinched was when my ex-boyfriend lost his temper and broke my nose and my heart. I broke his arm and busted a testicle; I figure that made us even.
Daniel stopped his hand. He seemed unsure then began to move his hand again slowly until it rested gently on my cheek. He rubbed my cheek with his thumb, the motion hypnotic as he moved back and forth.
Daniel whispered to me, “Do not fear me, I will not hurt you.” His breath was warm against my cheek.
Compulsion was as natural as breathing for some vampires. Like the sarcasm I often offered up to protect myself, his compulsion happened with little thought or regard. But now I knew what it felt like. There would be more control for me, less for him. Daniel was all about sex and passion, something I wasn’t as familiar with…something I’d always longed for.
“Let me kiss you. I will do no more, but give me that,” he whispered, and it seemed to slide down my body. His lips touched mine then drew back slowly. It was satin soft and tentative at first. The second one was soft but grew hard and urgent until my body responded with heat. His moan vibrated through me. He tasted of spearmint and longing.
He drew back and whispered, “What are you feeling now?” as he searched my face. “Tell me. Make me feel it.”
The passion, the longing, and the heat overcame me.
“Feel this, Daniel.”
The power was mine to command; to give, to take, to control. It heated my skin, Daniel’s skin. There was power in taking away his sorrow. Power in replacing it with something more potent. He absorbed it as his arm came around and brought my body onto his. His back arched, bringing him closer as if he couldn’t get enough of me.
His sorrow had passed, and passion filled him. He wanted to fill me, and that wasn’t something we should allow, so I broke the bond. He still felt the after effects. It was a drug to him.
“I know you want me, Raven. I can feel your desire for me,” he whispered in my ear. His hand slipped down my back, over my naked bottom, and down further to the slickness on my inner thighs. “Please,” he begged. It wasn’t easy to deny him.
“Daniel, I can’t.” I pleaded. “This could complicate things.” My words said no, but I made no move to stop him. I hoped he would find the willpower to stop.
“I need this Raven. I need to feel…something…anything.” His forehead touched mine. “You couldn’t possibly understand. Your power is amazing.”
“No,” was the last thing I could manage to say. It would be enough, or it wouldn’t.
“For now,” he whispered to himself. “For now.”
The bed moved, and Daniel was resting on his side staring at me.
“That shouldn’t have happened.” I looked at him from the corner of my eye, not yet able to fully face him.
“I’m going to take a shower and sleep elsewhere.” His voice held no anger. That made me like him even more. He got out of bed and walked in all his naked glory to the bathroom.
“Tory, it’s me.” There was only silence at first then breathing. “Tory?” I squeezed the phone receiver reflexively.
“Are you all right?” Guarded worry. She was the closest thing I had to a best friend, and it pleased me to know she worried about me. How very selfish.
“I was drugged, shot, and unconscious for a while, but I’m okay.” Again silence. The receiver grew warm as my hand flexed and released again and again.
“Do you need me to come get you?” The words were professional, but the tone caused my heart to ache. After what I’d put them all through recently they had every right to leave me. But instead, she wanted to come and get me.
I got out of bed and made my way to the only window in the room. The curtains were heavy and thick, so I had to put some muscle into moving them. Pushing them aside I could see a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.
I told her what had happened. All that I could recall.
“You were right about Gabriel Kearney, I admitted. “But now we have a new client. One that wants that sword.”
“Let this one go, Raven. It isn’t worth it.”
“Without that money, I lose everything.” My heart recognized my grief just as Tory did.
“I know you think that, but it isn’t true. Aden and I would never leave.”
Susan. She left out Susan. Susan had given her notice. The woman who had been like a mother to me over the last three years had endured all she could. The fear of what I had become was too much for her. It was too much for me. Without money, for a thorough investigation, I’d never know what I was. And one by one, they would leave.
“Gabriel Kearney has been calling for you.” Tory changed the subject. Business worked like a balm to the soul. “He said he was worried when you didn’t show up.”
“The bastard. He knows he’s going to have to watch his back. And we know we have to watch ours.”
Kearney had a sword, and I knew about swords. There was no other connection. This time they wouldn’t be the clients, they would be the bad guys
“Be careful. Don’t trust anyone. Let the vampire find his own damn sword.” Her psychic power didn’t work all the time, but when it did, it was right on the money.
“It’s business, Tory. I need it. And I’ll need you and Aden to help me.”
“We’ll be here.” There was nothing else to say.
The window was cool as I rested my forehead against it. The eternal grey ocean was vast. A sigh steamed the glass and faded away like a ghost.
Tory. It had taken time for us to warm up to each other, but we had this unspoken bond that meant so much to me. I never told anyone how much, not even her. I had never been close to anyone other than my foster parents, the Petersons.
Wandering downstairs and finding Daniel’s study, I went to the window to open the blinds. There were outside shutters that helped entomb the house. The windows had been nailed shut, so the only hope for sunshine was to go outside, and I wasn’t quite up to that yet. No, a nice comfy chair was what was needed now.
A book on vampirism by an author I had never heard of caught my interest. It might give me some insight since I had found it in a vampire’s library. He could have it there for comic relief for all I knew. Sitting comfortably on a large settee I read.
Daniel’s presence had a signature feel to it. Low key compulsion, like glamour to the fey, was constantly present.
“Hello Daniel.” My right hand tensed; a reflex to the dark energy that filled the air around me.
“Shall we begin working this evening?”
“We can talk on the way to my office.”
* * *
Daniel found his way to the office with little help from me, and we pulled up in front around 8 p.m. It was dark. The lights that usually illuminated the office door were out. I scanned the shadows for movement. I saw nothing, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t anything there. Daniel did the same. His muscles flexed, and it made me scan the area again.
“I work for the High Council, are you familiar with them?” His gaze remained looking toward the shadows. Somehow, he still saw me nod.
“Vampire government, right?” He nodded.
“The sword was in their care when it was stolen. I need to return it,” he then shifted his gaze to me, “at all costs.”
A man walked out of the darkness. He was taller than Daniel, and a little wider in the shoulders. His hair was dark, and the slight wind picked it up in small wisps before it settled back down to the tops of his shoulders. He was dressed darkly, as though to blend in with the shadows, and I thought he was hiding or watching, attempting to go undetected like a lie. He offered neither violence nor explanation. He was looking directly at Daniel, and I had the feeling this was some testosterone showdown. They were locked in a staring contest, and I didn’t have time for it. I was tired, I needed a change of clothes, and if Hercules in the shadows wanted a piece of Daniel there was nothing I could do about it.
“I don’t know what’s going on here, but I am cold, tired, and bitchy, so knock it off or get it over with,” I told them, moving my hand toward my gun. Daniel had his back to me, so I couldn’t see his reaction, but even in the darkness, I could see the flash of the other man’s smile. He smiled at me, but his eyes never left Daniel.
“Rohan of Semper. How long have you been following us?” Daniel was still tense and took a step back from the larger man.
“Hello, Daniel. I suspect you know why I’m here,” He said. He made no move toward Daniel.
He looked directly at me; a dark gaze, indefinable power, and raw sexuality. What manner of creature was this man? I had no idea, but my power grew warm, responding to him. My body responded to him. Our gazes locked, connected, time stuttered, and something shifted inside me.
Find out more about Sheila English at SheilaEnglish.com