Saturday, February 17, 2018

Bewitching Exclusive Excerpt – Day Reaper By Melody Johnson

I laid Dominic on our bed in his underground bunker, safe from the sun and Jillian and her army of the Damned, but that hard-earned, newfound safety didn’t stop my heart from clenching in unadulterated fear as I watched Dominic writhe in agony.
I’d saved us from the Damned. I’d entered their minds and entranced, en masse, dozens upon dozens of ravenous, raging, psychotic creatures that hitherto couldn’t comprehend the English language or human emotion enough to understand or obey commands. I’m not sure that boded well for me, the fact that my commands were suddenly being given on a level they could comprehend. I’d survived being doused in sunlight, had, in fact, basked in its rays and perhaps blossomed into my full power as a Day Reaper. I’d accomplished more than I’d ever thought myself capable of, more than I’d thought anyone capable of, in the last eighteen hours, but even I couldn’t do anything to save Dominic. 
“You need to return for Ian Walker and B—B—Beatrix,” Dominic said roughly, his teeth chattering in shock.
His body was smoldering. I’d healed him from being a Dominic-shaped blowtorch, but now that we were ensconced underground, meters of earth and thick concrete between us and the rays of the sun, his skin was still blackened, blistering, and flaking apart. Noxious steam sizzled from his body, as if embers of sunlight were still aglow in his clothing, still burning his skin.
I tore his clothes from his body, ripping his cotton T-shirt clean down the middle from neck to hem.
“Cassidy, love,” Dominic murmured, a teasing glint lighting his gaze even through the pain, “as much as I hunger for you, this isn’t the t—t—time for—”
“Shut. Up.” I enunciated each word through gritted teeth as I stared.
My hands hovered over his chest, wanting to help but hesitating, knowing that to touch him would only cause him more pain. He was still smoldering. Somehow, even hidden from direct sunlight, without flames or even the tiniest spark of an embers, he was still physically and excruciatingly burning alive.
“You must return for Walker and Bex,” he repeated, more insistently this time.
“They’re fine,” I snapped. “Be quiet and let me think!”
“The Damned—”
“Weren’t attacking when we left,” I bit off.
“Left to their own devices, they may j—j—just kill each other,” Dominic pointed out.
“If they can’t pull their shit together enough to get out while the going is good, than they deserve each other.”
Dominic leveled a knowing look on me. “Cassidy—” he began.
“I don’t care,” I said, shocked to realize the truth in that statement as it left my lips. We may have just risked our lives to save Bex only to lose her again, but in this moment, the only person who mattered was incinerating in the bed in front of me. “I’m not leaving you like this.”
I ran to the refrigerator, swiped his emergency store of bagged blood from the door, and tore a bag open with my fangs.
Dominic narrowed his eyes. “That’s your blood.”
“There’s no time to find a willing donor, and I won’t hunt and attack an unsuspecting person for you when we have bagged blood readily available.”
“Never asked you to,” he panted. 
Gripping the back of his neck in my hand, I tipped his mouth back, and placed the opened bag of blood to his lips. “Shut up and drink.”
He caught my wrist. “No. You drink,” he growled. Had I still been human, his grip on my wrist might have fractured bone. But I wasn’t human, and he was gravely injured. His entire body trembled violently. 
“You’re going into shock,” I argued. “Stop fighting me and just—”
“You drink and heal —m—me,” he interrupted, chattering even more violently than mere minutes ago. “Your f—f—fault I’m burning. You must learn c—c—control.”
“Excuse me?” I asked, incredulous. “It’s my fault you’re burning? Was I the one who tore open the cavern? Was I the one who flooded us in sunlight with less than a second of warning?”
“We are c—c—connected metaphysically. Your wounds are my w—w—wounds. Your strength is my strength and vice v—v—versa, but when I was the stronger vampire, the one who created our bond, I controlled them. I could hide from you when I was injured and take the worst of our combined injuries into my b—b—body to heal them.” He gave me a pointed look. “But I am unable to heal this injury.”
I narrowed my eyes. “What are you saying?”
 “It would seem that since coming into your full p—p—powers, of the two of us, I am no longer the stronger vampire.” Dominic’s face pinched sourly. “You’re in control of our b—b—bond.”
“That’s ridiculous.” I scoffed.  “You’re hundreds of years older than me. How can I be stronger than—”
“I am out of sunlight, yet still b—b—burning from the inside out,” Dominic thundered. “ D—d—drink the blood to fuel your strength, determine why I’m not healing, and f—f—fix it.”
“I don’t know how,” I admitted. “I’ve never healed a metaphysical wound before. Maybe I should go back and get Bex. Maybe she can—”
“You didn’t know how to entrance me,” Dominic interrupted. “When you were a n—n—night blood and no night blood had ever in the history of my knowledge before entranced a vampire, you entranced m—m—me, the Master vampire of New York City.”
I closed my mouth, realizing that I was gaping. I felt as if I was teetering on the ledge of a very high cavern, peeking over the edge and down into the dark, unscaled depths below.
“You d—d—didn’t know how to transform your brother back from being Damned, but you did. You didn’t know how to transform into a vampire, or a Day Reaper, for that matter, but you did.” Dominic hesitated, as if he wasn’t sure of himself or whatever else he’d been about to say. Then his jaw stiffened, and he said it anyway. “You d—d—didn’t know how to trust a man with your body and heart again, but you did.”
I froze, from the hair follicles on the very top of my head to the soles of my feet rooted to the floor, and in the very next moment, heat flooded my entire body in a near, full-body blush.
“You, my dear Cassidy DiRocco, can do absolutely anything you want to, whether or not you’ve done it before or think you don’t know how.” The look in Dominic’s eyes was inscrutable as he regarded me. Even with my newfound, enhanced senses, I could only dream what the intensity in his gaze could possibly mean. “Anything.”
It felt fundamentally wrong to drink the last reserves of our bagged blood when Dominic was so injured, but looking into the depth of his eyes was very much like gazing down into the depths of that dark cavern, foreign and unknown, and by its very mystery, irresistible.
Before I could talk myself out of it, I raised the blood to my lips and drank. 
The blood was cool and thick, not as viscous as Dominic’s blood, but thicker than liquids like water, juice, and Coke—liquids I was accustomed to drinking for a lifetime. The blood chilled my esophagus all the way down to my stomach, but unlike human food and drink, the sensation didn’t stop there. It spread in an uncomfortable, electric snap sensation through my chest, arms, and legs, but where the sensation spread, my flagging strength restored. My aches disappeared, and my body, which had grown thin and cold from the overuse of my abilities, warmed. We were underground, but the blood’s chilling heat—like menthol—spread through my body, radiating health, wholeness, and well-being, not unlike the sensation of basking with my head upturned to the shining sun on a crisp, clear winter morning.
Except now, the sun came from within. 
I’d always had a strong connection with Dominic, even before he’d forged our metaphysical bonds. I remembered entrancing him that first time in the bullpen at the Sun Accord directly following our first kiss. Although I hadn’t been able to hear his exact thoughts, I had felt the very foreign nuance of his strange, kaleidoscope emotions.
Our metaphysical bonds weren’t much different now than they’d been then, but instead of just a mental connection forced by my will, our very life forces were connected now, a connection that not even death could sever. 
I followed the dozens of threads connecting us—all the promises we’d made to each other on the certainty and permanence of death between his life and mine. I stepped lightly over the tightrope of our connection until I found his body, weakened from the newfound strength in mine. With my mind’s eye, I could see the warmth and glow of the sun’s rays inside of me, protecting me from daylight and stoking my Day Reaper strength and abilities, but Dominic’s body on the opposite end of our metaphysical thread was roasting, being charred slowly but meticulously into ash by my inner sun.
The light that made me strong was incinerating Dominic from the inside out.
I inhaled sharply, understanding like dawning horror shining light on his wounds. “It is my fault you’re burning.”
“How so?” he asked. Although his body was physically inches from mine, his voice echoed as if from a great distance.
“You’re allergic to sunlight. Your skin is highly flammable to the sun’s rays.”
“We know this,” he said.
“I absorbed the sun’s rays into my body to awaken my dormant Day Reaper abilities. It’s a light inside me, protecting my body from daylight and burning yours.”
“I could hide in shadow all d—d—day and still not escape the burning of the sun now,” Dominic said, not sounding near as horrified as I felt. “What can you do about it?”
“What can I do about what?” I snapped. “I’m burning you. The light inside my own body is killing you!”
He shrugged. “So give me sunscreen,” he said, as if slathering some SPF 50 onto his skin was a viable solution.
I opened my mouth to say as much when a similar thought, but one with merit, struck and stuck in my mind: sunscreen wouldn’t help, obviously, but maybe I could erect a metaphysical screen between us.
I envisioned a mirror, similar to the one Dominic had given me to protect my mind from being entranced, but instead of reflecting his commands, I reflected my inner sun back onto myself. Without my light blazing his body like an industrial blowtorch, I could see the destructive effects my power had on his body: charred organs, boiled blood, his wise, ferocious, four-hundred-and-seventy-seven-year-old soul nearly incinerated to ash.
I’d suffered the physical effects of Dominic’s injuries through our metaphysical connection before—burned wrists when he’d been cuffed by silver restraints and a pierced heart when he’d been staked by Walker’s crossbow—but for the first time, I wasn’t victim to his injuries. I could actually envision them, and with that same enhanced inner eye that allowed me to see each burn and blister, like a half finished puzzle, I could finally see the missing pieces in my own hands: I couldn’t heal his wounds any more than I could anyone else’s without my blood or saliva as a catalyst, but through our metaphysical connection, I could take the wounds as my own.
I embraced the burns. My skin bubbled and oozed, my insides cramped, and the agony of his injuries engulfed my body until every incinerated cell was mine and mine alone, and with the nourishment of the blood I’d just consumed and the healing light of my Day Reaper abilities giving me strength, I healed myself.
I opened my eyes slowly. Doubt and fear made my heart throb as much as hope.
Dominic wasn’t smoldering anymore. He still lay on his back in our bed just as I’d placed him, his shirt split down the middle just as I’d torn it moments ago, but unlike moments ago, his skin was smooth and unblemished by burns and weeping blisters. His body was more than just something to fix; the firm planes of his chest, the symmetrical ridges of his abdomen, the cords of oblique muscles—I drank in the sculpted, healthy perfection of his body.
I’d fallen for Dominic despite his physical form, which more often than not was either a cold and malnourished creature in need of blood or a malformed monster with back-hinged legs, elongated talons, pointed fangs, and primordial facial features. In their own strange and mysterious ways, those forms were beautiful, too, like the way an anaconda is beautiful in its element and environment: a wild predator to be accorded respect and admiration from a distance. I’d lain beside all three—the creature, the monster, and the man—and was living proof that a person couldn’t embrace a predator without being bitten. Lying before me as he was now, even as a man, with every sense focused solely on me, I should have felt trapped in his crosshairs, but I wasn’t prey anymore. I wasn’t even his equal anymore. I was a wild predator, too, and as much respect and admiration I had for this man, I didn’t want any distance between us.
More dangerous than even his body, his eyes—dear God, the unscalable depths of his otherworldly eyes—blazed with a fire more devastating than the one I’d just saved him from, a fire from which I’d never willingly escape.
I cleared my throat. “How do you feel?” I asked.
Dominic wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me down on top of him on the bed.
“Ravenous,” he whispered and slanted his lips over mine.
Dominic’s kiss was a blade’s edge: sharp, honed by time and craftsmanship, and deadly when wielded with skill. He had many skills he’d perfected throughout the many centuries of his existence, and kissing was certainly one of them. 
He rolled me beneath him and caged me with his elbows on either side of my head. His legs surrounded my hips, and his chest pressed against my chest, crushing me into the bed. We didn’t have time for this; as Dominic had already inconveniently pointed out, Bex and Walker were likely killing each other if the Damned hadn’t already. Saving Dominic was a legitimate excuse for leaving them behind, but this was—
Dominic rolled my nipple between his strong, capable fingers, and my thoughts shorted out. His hand on my breast stole my reason. His mouth stole my breath. His tongue stole my protests until all that was left in the whole world was him on top of me, his lips against my lips, his body hard on my body and nothing, not even air, between us. 
His hand drifted up my arm to my wrist. He pulled first my right and then my left hand from where I’d been gouging my nails down his back and held them immobile over my head in one of his large hands. 
“Let me touch you,” I protested.
He’d explored every inch of my body with his hands and tongue the first time we’d made love, and although I’d reveled in his touch, I hadn’t had the strength at the time to fight back, to demand control over the things I’d wanted to do to him. I’d taken everything he’d had to give and seen heaven, but it was past time he saw heaven, too. 
“Make me,” he growled, the challenge in both his eyes and his smirk unmistakable. Irresistible. Undeniable.
I bucked my hips against his, rubbing the long length of his delicious body against mine. His erection was proud and unyielding between us. The skin at the curve of his neck was salty and soft as I nibbled under his ear.
I licked his lobe and whispered everything I wanted to do to his cock and everything I wanted to do it with.
Despite his power, despite his strength and hands binding my wrists, his eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he shuddered.
Taking advantage of his distraction, I alligator-rolled us and straddled him. His eyes widened, but there was something more than just surprise in his gaze as he regarded me. His speed and strength had always been inhuman and miraculous. And now, to both our astonishments and what looked to me like his pride, so was mine. 
He broke his hold on my wrists in the attempt to regain control of my body, but I reversed our hold and grabbed his wrists. I needed both hands; my fingers could just barely circle his wrists. 
I ground my hips to his, slanted my lips over his mouth, and swallowed his groan. He sat up, attempting to wrestle me back beneath him, but I pushed him down with the sheer force of my strength. His back hit the bed, the mattress rocked, and suddenly we were airborne. Dominic flipped upright and slammed me back on the bed, exactly where he’d wanted me, but that’s not where I wanted him. I used our momentum to keep flipping. We bounded completely off the bed, and I slammed him into the wall. My moves had less flair than I would have preferred, but as Bex would have pointed out, they were effective. 
Before Dominic could recover, I ripped his pants from his body—literally, they split at the seams into four, dangling rags—and fell to my knees in front of him.
“You’ve always been hell on my shirts, but even for you, this —”
I took the entire length of his erection into my mouth and sucked. Hard. 
His fists pounded twin holes into the drywall on either side of my head, and he growled. The sound was more animal than man, but it didn’t matter anymore. I couldn’t deny his animal any more than I could deny mine, and that feral, animal instinct inside me urged me to claim him. To mark him as mine in a way that not only let him know, but everyone who dared look at him know, that he was undeniably mine. 
“Mind your fangs,” he gasped between pants. 
My heart thrilled. I made the man who didn’t need to breathe breathless. I rocked his eternally cool, collected composure. The feeling might have gone to my head except for the fact that I’d long ago lost my mind when it came to this man. 
“These fangs?” Glancing up, I deliberately elongated them and ran my tongue along their length. 
Dominic bent forward in a move so fast he might have only appeared a blur with my human eyes. Now, I could see every minutia of movement—his contracting muscles, his tensed stance, the wicked intent blazing from his eyes. Yet having seen behind Oz’s curtain hadn’t disenchanted me. If anything, discovering the reality of Dominic’s existence heightened it. I could move like him, see like him, hear, smell, and hunger like him. My brain synapses fired with lightning-strike velocity, like him, and with the playing ground finally leveled, I could appreciate his restraint and patience. Months of pursuing me, attempting to convince me to trust him, first as allies and then as lovers. Months of smelling my cinnamon-spice scent and resisting my blood. Numerous kisses and embraces and physical interaction where one wrong twitch of his talons, one too enthusiastic squeeze of his powerful arms, one misplaced lethal fang could slice, snap, and break my too-easily broken body.
Now, my body was nearly unbreakable, just like his, and if I wasn’t mistaken by the gleam in his eyes, he intended to push it to its limits.
He wrapped his arms around my waist and swung me into the air, upside down. Minding my fangs like he’d reminded me, no matter my teasing, I released him, but he didn’t release me. He kissed me between my legs. 
I gasped and then smiled with this acceptable compromise; my mouth was still at the perfect height to give him as much pleasure as I was getting. I wrapped my legs around his neck, braced my arms on his hips, and licked him from base to tip before enveloping the entire length of his cock in my mouth. 
His tongue swiped against my clit, and a coiled spring of heat exploded inside me. I wriggled against his mouth, the sensations so intense they robbed me of all my many heightened senses until the world honed to nothing but this moment and this man. Not wanting to be outdone, I lavished attention on him. I sucked harder, twirled my tongue over his tip faster, pounded the length of him into the back of my throat and pulled back from him in long strokes, followed by a burst of short, hard yanks, over and over again, until he was sucking and licking and worshiping me with the same frantic frenzy he’d stoked in me. 
I pulled away first, desperate and gasping. “Now,” I panted. “I want you inside me now!”
“Thank God,” he growled, and with my mouth dislodged from his cock and my fangs a safe distance away, he threw me away from him and onto the bed. 
He lunged to join me, but I rolled aside and pinned him to the bed when he hit the sheets. His muscles tensed, about to pull the same alligator roll I’d played on him, but I angled my hips and ground him home. 
We both stilled. 
We’d only just had sex for the first time eight days ago, but so much had happened in the interim, it may as well have been eight years. I was impossibly tight, he was impossibly large, and everything about this man and my feelings for him had been so far outside the realm of possibility when we’d first met that coming together in longing and love now, even having just been here a week ago, was still a dream. My enhanced vampire senses didn’t help anchor me in reality either. I could smell sound and taste a touch. They were as confusing as they were enlightening, but in this moment with Dominic, they were transcendent.
The warmth and comfort of a hearth blazed between us and combined with the aching pleasure-pain of my body accommodating the intrusion of his. Heat pulsed through me from our center, incinerating my stomach and chest and arms until even my face and fingers tingled and my toes curled with the licking flames of our joining. I could smell the wood burning, taste the roast of pine nut and evergreen, and hear the crackling of split logs. Our union was more than just a physical and emotion expression; it felt like a presence all its own. 
“Can you feel that?” I whispered. “The flames and pulse and—”
He nodded. “Like fireworks.”
I shook my head. “Like a hearth. Something vital and comforting. Something to welcome you home.”
Dominic’s knowing gaze bore into mine, and if I hadn’t thought my body could possibly become hotter with him hard inside me, I blushed from the edge of my hairline down to my pinky toes. “Like coming home,” he said, considering. “I like that.”
“But that’s not how you feel. You just said—”
Dominic pressed a finger against my lips. “What I feel and how I feel are two very different things. Our senses, although enhanced, are deceptive. Keagan doesn’t have a bird inside his chest that changes its call depending on his mood any more than you have a hearth inside you or I have fireworks inside me. Our senses are useful and telling, but they aren’t reality. You here with me in this moment, in my arms, that is real.”
I bit my lip. “But—”
Dominic hushed me again, then stroked my cheek. “Concentrate on me. Feel what I am feeling.”
I closed my eyes and concentrated, albeit doubtfully. I traversed the tightrope between us, and when I reached his mind, or what should have been his mind, my breath hitched. Dominic’s thoughts and feelings were usually a modeled, kaleidoscope impression of feelings, not the feelings themselves, but this time, the intent in his heart blazed brighter and warmer and more constant than the sun.
I knew better than most that homes were fleeting. They could burn to the ground and take everything dear and precious along with them. I hadn’t let anyone come near my scarred heart in years—how many wounds could a heart endure and still continue beating?—but Dominic’s heart was as scarred as mine. He’d lived nearly five-hundred years longer than me, had survived five lifetimes worth of pain, heartache, and loss, but somehow, he’d found the courage to offer me the one organ he knew from experience could so easily break.
I opened my eyes. Dominic was still stroking my cheek, but he was smearing something wet across my face with his thumb now. I blinked and realized that he was wiping away tears.
“How do you do it?” I whispered. My voice was nothing but a rasp. I cleared my throat and tried again. “How do you live with the pain of love lost and still find the courage to love again?”
 “It has absolutely nothing to do with courage. The loss of my father still pains me; it lives and breathes within me everyday. Some days I can remember him fondly without being overwhelmed by grief, but most days, his loss still feels fresh and biting, even after all these years and new losses to mourn. The new losses don’t replace the old ones; they just widen old wounds.” Dominic cupped my face in both his hands. “But the thought of living without you, even knowing all the pain I’d endure with your loss, is a pain all its own.”
I raised an eyebrow. “‘Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’?”
Dominic barked out a harsh laugh. “No, my dear Cassidy DiRocco. Better to have loved and lost than let it slip away from fear of loss. Either way, my heart will bleed, but I will have you in this moment and in as many future moments we can hope to create. And if a time should come that love is lost, we will have the memory of these moments to bandage our wounds, to keep us warm in the lonely cold, and to help us survive.” His grip on me tightened nearly painfully, even for me. “Love me, Cassidy. Let’s burn our pain to the ground and scatter it to the wind along with the ashes of our lost loved ones. Let’s create a new home.”
The words spilling from his lips vibrated through my body like a tuning fork, ringing loud and true. The pain was still present, but no longer paralyzing; I moved my hips, slowly at first, savoring the friction of him inside me, letting the dual feelings of my hearth and his fireworks envelope me in sensation and need and heat. The ridges of his cock rubbed in all the right places as I withdrew from him, and when the very tip of him caressed the very edge of me, I eased him back inside, his hard length deliciously consuming. We rocked, gently in and out, in and out, and then more urgently in and lingeringly out, in and out, and then slamming home again and again, until his tip touched the very deepest part of me, and I trembled from want, needing him somehow deeper.
He bruised my backside from the inside, demanding more, being driven wild by the same inexplicable need as me, being somehow glued together even knowing all the ways life could tear us apart. I gripped his hands in mine above his head, arched back in abandon, lost in sensation, and laughed, the tears still wet on my cheeks. I willingly, eagerly, pushed him deeper and harder and more permanently inside myself than I’d thought any man, and especially this man, would ever be capable of penetrating.
My vampire senses were overwhelming, my newfound strength and speed and longevity was life-changing but new, and as with everything new, even things that change life for the good, being with Dominic was as frightening as it was exciting, if not more so. There would be drawbacks to becoming Dominic’s equal, but in that moment, with his fingers curled in mine, our bodies coming together thrust for thrust until we both shattered and he roared and I shuddered with a pleasure bordering on pain, I felt the deep grave of my past fill with joy. 

Day Reaper

Night Blood

Book Four
Melody Johnson

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Kensington/ Lyrical Press

Date of Publication: April, 2018

Number of pages: 414
Word Count: 116, 525

Tagline: A dangerous choice for the chance to live.

Book Description:

On the brink of death, Cassidy DiRocco demands that New York City’s master of the supernatural, Dominic Lysander, transform her—reporter, Night Blood, sister, human—into the very creature she’s feared and fought against for months: a vampire. The pain is brutal, she'll risk the career she’s worked so hard to achieve, and her world will never be the same. But surviving is worth any risk, especially when it means gaining the strength to fight against Jillian Allister, the sister who betrayed Dominic, attacked Cassidy, and is leading a vampire uprising that will destroy all of New York City. . .

When she awakens, however, Cassidy realizes the cost of being transformed might be more than she was willing to sacrifice. The overwhelming senses, the foreign appearance of her new body, and the lethal craving for blood are unrecognizable and unacceptable. But if Cassidy hopes to right the irrevocable wrongs that Jillian and her army of the Damned have wrought on New York City, she’ll need to not only accept her new senses, body and cravings, but wield them in her favor.

Irresistible and enigmatic as Dominic is, he no longer has command over the city or its vampires. Only Cassidy has the connections to convince the humans, Day Reapers, and the few vampires still loyal to Dominic to join forces, and maybe, if Dominic can accept her rising power over the coven he once commanded for the past several hundred years, the two of them together might forge a bond more potent than history has ever known. . .

Amazon      Kobo      Nook      Apple      Google Play

No comments: