Feb 212011

From SHADES OF GRAY by Joleene Naylor, Book 1 in the Amaranthine series:

Where vampires live in the shadows and don’t sparkle.

Hunted by a coven of vampires, Katelina has only one person she can trust: Jorick. But what happens when her knight in shining armor turns out to be one of the monsters? Katelina will have to examine not only her feelings for those close to her but her perceptions of good and evil if she wants to survive.

(Jorick and Katelina are attacked by a pair of vampires while staying in a motel room. Jorick defeats the vampires just as his friend shows up to give them a ride…)

The men returned to the car and Jorick slid into the front passenger seat. As the door banged shut, he glanced over his shoulder to offer Katelina a tight but reassuring smile.

She wanted to ask him what was going on but figured it was pointless. Besides, she wasn’t sure she really wanted to know at the moment. She did, however, want away from the horrible place; away from the pink motel and the ugly carpet and hideous orange drapes and bloody footprints.

The driver climbed in and asked Jorick quietly, “Are we ready?”

Jorick nodded and dropped back into the seat. He closed his eyes wearily as the car shuddered into gear and they pulled out of the parking lot.

“I take it they found you?” The driver glanced sideways for a moment and Katelina could see his perfect profile. His strange eyes and golden brown hair made him look like a lion. It wasn’t just his appearance, though. There was something very feline about him, the feeling of controlled power lurking beneath a peaceful exterior, like a cat coiled and ready to spring on its prey.

“Yes.” Jorick opened his dark eyes. The street lights flashed past them and splashed dark, twisted shadows across his weary face. “They found us.”

With this pronouncement the car fell silent except for the sound of the motor and the wheels on the pavement. They soon left the small town of Dunwick behind them. As it shrunk in the darkness, Katelina began to relax. Though, she longed for a cigarette to sooth her nerves. She knew that it wouldn’t really make things better. How many times had Sarah lectured her about that, after all? But somehow things would seem saner if she had one. She wanted a cigarette and her own bed and her telephone. She wanted to curl up under the covers and call Sarah and tell her about this horrible nightmare she’d had, and then she wanted to call her mother and make arrangements for Grave Day like usual. She just wanted reality.

But, her reality wasn’t pretty. She’d just been attacked by two vampires and the two packs of cigarettes she’d bought had been abandoned in the motel room with the food; her last twenty dollars gone for nothing, after all. Somehow this was a deeply disheartening thought.

She leaned her face against the cool glass and stared out into the night flying past them, the trees illuminated and ghostly in the harsh brightness of the headlights. The rhythm of the tires on the pavement droned in her ears. She closed her eyes and tried to relax to the vibrations of the car. She hadn’t been awake for very long, but she was already as exhausted as Jorick looked. Her muscles were taut, and her left shoulder was aching again.

The driver’s voice interrupted her thoughts, his tones low enough that he probably thought she couldn’t hear him.

“So this is the… erm… her?”

“Yes, this is Katelina,” Jorick answered.

“What are you planning to do with her?”

The question hung in the air and Katelina felt herself wanting to know what he’d say, her ears tensing for the sound of his answer. Finally, after what felt like uncountable minutes, Jorick cleared his throat. “I don’t know,” his voice was sad. “I admit I didn’t expect things to happen this way.”

“I told you it was a bad idea, Jorick.” His tone was flat, as though they’d discussed it too many times already.

“I know, I know.” Jorick said quietly. He seemed resigned to this fact. “I just hated to leave her hanging, never knowing what really happened to him. Besides, who’s to say that Claudius wouldn’t have gone after her sooner or later? She is a reasonable suspect, you know. Would it be better for it to come as a complete shock?”

“And I suppose you broke it to her gently?” The driver snorted. “I understand your reasoning, Jorick, your true reasoning, but I still stand by my original opinion.”

“I’m sure you do, Oren. I’m sure it wouldn’t have haunted your dreams, but we’re different.”

“We didn’t used to be, not before….” Oren trailed off.

“Yes, I know. I’ll bet you don’t even dream anymore, do you?”

There was silence and then very quietly he said, “No, Jorick. I don’t.”

Buy the book: Amazon (paperback) Amazon US (kindle) Barnes&Noble Smashwords

Find out more about Joleene and her books at her website.

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Jan 072011

Today’s excerpt is from SHADES OF GRAY by Joleene Naylor, Book 1 in the Amaranthine series: Where vampires live in the shadows and don’t sparkle.

Joleene’s been writing and drawing since she was a child, with a leaning towards fantasy, horror and paranormal. In her spare time she’s a freelance artist and photographer.  Joleene does freelance book cover art, maintains blogs full of odd ramblings, illustrates a webcomic and hopes to win the lottery.  However, unless she starts buying tickets she may never actually win anything.

The sun was dropping rapidly and soon Katelina would be lost in darkness. She shivered, whether from chill or anxiety, and Sarah’s words played through her mind, “That’s how people get killed!”  The night was getting nearer and those words seemed wiser and wiser with each second. She should have just called the police and stayed home; safe and secure in her contented shoe box of plasterboard and wood.

Something crunched and her head snapped up in response. A lone figure walked slowly towards her from around the house. His hair and clothing were all black, as if he were a part of the night. He was like a shadow wraith formed from her fears, with only his pale face to give him the illusion of reality.

He came to a stop in front of her and gazed down. He was tall and broad shouldered with a slim waist. His long hair fell down his back and seemed to blend into the long sleeved pullover. His mouth remained a tight–lipped line, though his eyes, dark and warm, seemed to be smiling at her.

She scrambled to her feet and brushed uselessly at her clothes.  Her eyes hurried to meet his and assure him she was as much in control as he was, though she felt anything but.

When he spoke, it was the same voice she’d heard over the phone, deep and lyrical. “So you came?”

“Yes.” Her tone was weak despite her efforts at dominance. “I came.”

“I trust you are alone?” He stared her full in the face as if expecting to find the truth there rather than their surroundings.

“Yes, I’m alone,” she answered reluctantly. She wadded her hands into useless fists to try and release her tension.  A vision swam before her eyes of black garbage bags in a ditch, filled with her own dismembered body parts and she wondered if it was too late to go home. “I’m alone, like you said.”

“Good.” His voice was low and his mouth barely moved, as if he feared someone might overhear him. “Follow me.” He turned his back to her and walked towards the house.

Katelina didn’t move. She stared at the old house and the blank windows stared back at her. She knew that following him wasn’t a good idea. He’d just ascertained that she was alone and now he wanted her to go with him into an empty house that might have anyone or anything hiding inside – waiting, as she had been waiting? No.

He paused at the porch and turned back. “You think I’ll hurt you?” He was smiling very slightly, though the dusky light made it hard to tell whether the expression looked sinister or appealing.

“You might,” she said quietly, part of her afraid to verbally acknowledge the possibility. “I don’t know you – I don’t even know your name.”

“It’s Jorick. Does that make you feel better?” His tight smile stayed firmly in place and his dark eyes shone.

She could sense his amusement and waited for him to laugh, but when he didn’t she answered truthfully, “Not really.” His smile was almost a smirk, and in another desperate attempt to control the situation she added quickly, “People know I’m here.”  Her heart hammered as she realized that truthfully no one did. She hadn’t even told Sarah the location of the proposed meeting.

Jorick raised his eyebrows in mock surprise and the smile deepened at the corners of his mouth. “Good.  I’d hate to think you take such chances, Katelina.”

She could feel him studying her through the gloom, silently dissecting her and it was time that he was dissected. “How do you know my name?”

His smile faded. “Enough of this. If you want to know who killed your lover, you’ll have to follow me inside. If you don’t, then you can leave.” He shrugged as though it was of no consequence to him either way, then he opened the doors. He paused and looked over his shoulder at her. “It’s your choice.” With those words, he stepped over the threshold and disappeared inside.

Katelina bit her lip and kicked the foundation, for good measure, cursing silently. She was sure that she’d end up dead before the night was over, thanks to her stupidity. Why hadn’t she stayed home? And why didn’t she just leave now?

She took a deep breath and forced herself to walk onto the porch. Her mind echoed a question, “Are you willing to die for this?” but she ignored it.

Jorick appeared in the doorway holding a candle. The light reflected strangely on his skin and fully illuminated his impassive face. “Are you coming in or not?”

Her heart pounded and a thought, unbidden, appeared in her mind: he was beautiful. His eyes were the color of dark wood, fringed in heavy lashes and framed by thick, dramatic eyebrows that arched ever so slightly. His lips were full and his skin was flawless and pale, like chiseled marble.

Katelina could never explain what happened next. One minute she was standing on the porch, her mind tumbling in confusion. The next, she was inside the sad house with the door closing behind her.  The sound of the chirping crickets broke through her uncertainty and slowly the world came into focus. The room was small. Water–stained wallpaper sagged from the walls, a non–descript color. A mass of footprints marked the dust covered floor.  There was no furniture, only two grimy windows and a yawning doorway

“This way.” He beckoned to her and ducked through the low doorframe – an elegant shadow cutting through the gloom.

And she followed.

Buy the book: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (kindle), Smashwords

Find out more about Joleene and her books at her website.