Reviewing and Reading books that were free or are free. You see, I finally caved and bought an eReader. Now I find I can't stop reading all the free books offered on the online market. Despite whether or not the book is a good read or not. In this blog I will weed through all books, whether it was amazing or a grammatically sad excuse for a book, because the point in the end is . . . HEY, IT WAS FREE!
The sequel to Forget You Not, this full-length novel continues the story of Michaela and Xandru—because finding someone means you can lose them again.
With her past memories mostly restored, Michaela Petran begins to pick up the pieces and resettle into life in Havenwood Falls. But resuming where she left off with the man she loves and the plans they’d made is no simple matter. As sudden head of the family and leader of the moroi vampires, she faces an onslaught of unexpected obligations, making her feel like she has no choices in her own life. And even if she could have everything she wants, she can’t help but fear it’ll all be ripped away from her once again.
For five years, Xandru Roca ached for Michaela to return, but never believed it would actually happen. Now that he has a second chance with her, he’s afraid he’ll blow it by hanging on too tightly. But if he’s not careful, she might again vanish from his life.
As they try to bridge the chasm between them, family matters demand their attention, pulling them apart. After all, there’s still a strigoi curse, dictates of the supernatural Court, and dark magic wreaking havoc on their siblings. Family and love always come first, but while they try to save one, they risk losing the other.
“Badass vampire. I’m a badass vampire. I can do this.”
Chanting the words out loud, I followed a horrendous stink down the third-floor hallway of Whisper Falls Inn, built by my father in 1854 and inherited by his twenty-four-year-old daughter, yours truly. Armored in elbow-length rubber gloves, an old hoodie, sweatpants, and shit-kicker boots, I pulled a scarf up over my nose and mouth, then held the broom upside down, ready to swing. I stopped at the end of the hall, in front of one of our two suites, this one in the uppermost turret of the Victorian mansion. Nobody had seen the guest since dusk last night, but the room key showed up on the front desk early this morning, and by noon, this odor had permeated all the way downstairs to the lobby. I had no idea what the guy had done in there, but judging by the putrid smell, it couldn’t be good.
This was what my life had become.
“I swear to all, if there’s a dead body in there, I’m going to be fucking pissed.” I rolled my shoulders, then yelled, because I didn’t know where in the building she was, “Mammie, I’m going in!”
Before I could lose my nerve, I slammed the door open and jumped back, just in case something pounced.
“Oh. My. God!” I screeched, bile rising into my mouth. I threw my arm across my face. “Oh god, oh god, oh god.”
The only thing that pounced was the smell, a gazillion times worse now. My eyes watered, and my chest heaved as I fought the urge to puke. I tightened my grip on the broom handle and slowly made my way into the suite, my gaze sweeping the circular room. Blinking against the tears, I saw nothing out of the ordinary. The sitting area looked untouched. The bed was rumpled, obviously slept in last night—before the jerk took off without checking out—but nothing gross stained the bedding, despite the stench. Like feces. Or vomit. Or other bodily fluids.
The odor wafted strongest from the bathroom. Of course. I gave myself another pep talk as I inched my way there, which gave Madame Luiza, aka Mammie, plenty of time to find me and glide into the room.
“Oh, dear,” she said. And considering she was a ghost, if she could smell it, it was bad. “Be careful, Michaela.”
With her Romanian accent, my aunt said my name with its original pronunciation—Me-hay-la—rather than with the hard k everyone else gave it. Of course, everyone else tended to give me a nickname: Kaela, Kales, even Kaekae.
Because that was totally badass.
“How bad can it be?” I squared my shoulders and lifted my chin.
“I’ll go in first,” Mammie said. “Nothing can make me deader than I already am.”
Before I could protest, she disappeared into the bathroom and returned only a heartbeat later. If ghosts could be green, she would have been. Her purple ball gown, in which she was perpetually dressed, appeared to be no worse for the wear, but that didn’t really mean much, considering. Her cheeks puffed out, as though she fought a gag, and she clamped her hands over her mouth. She couldn’t actually puke, but with that kind of reaction, whatever that bathroom harbored was way worse than I thought.
“Badass vampire,” I repeated in a firm whisper before forcing myself through the bathroom doorway. And then I froze, staring at the scene in front of me. “What the fuck?”
“Language, dear,” Mammie admonished, her voice muffled behind her hands.
“Really, Mammie? There’s absolutely nothing else to say!”
A pinkish gelatinous goo stuck to nearly every surface, as though a giant troll had sneezed, spraying pink snot everywhere. It was splattered all over the faded and stained wallpaper, clung to the chipped porcelain sink and old-fashioned tub, and slid slimy trails down the warped mirror. Something large and plasma-y filled the toilet, pouring over the edge and slopping onto the yellowed tile floor.
I spun the broom and jabbed at it with the stick end. It shook like jelly. I lifted it with the broom handle, and my stomach lurched.
“He molted?” I shrieked. “That son of a bitch molted in my inn? And what the hell molts like this?”
The substance was not at all like a reptile skin. Not papery and dry. More like a big, bloodless placenta.
But mammals didn’t molt.
“Skinwalker,” Mammie whispered. “It must be. I knew he was no regular shifter.”
“Skinwalker?” I echoed.
“They shed their skin to take on another—a whole different appearance. Sometimes a whole different life. They’re very rare. I’ve only ever met one before, back in the 1920s.”
“So what’s all over the walls and everything else? Do these skinwalkers explode, too?”
Mammie patted her silver bun as she glanced around, then shrugged. “Maybe if their new body is larger than their old skin?”
“Ew! Gross.” I shuddered at the image while trying to hold back the vomit that kept making its way up the back of my throat.
Groaning, I poked and prodded the gunk, working it out of the toilet, because it obviously was not going to flush through the pipes. Finally, the end of it flopped out of the bowl and onto the floor, splashing at my feet and sending Mammie out into the bedroom part of the suite. I tried pushing it out of the way with the broom handle. At first it jiggled, but barely moved. So I gave it a harder shove, and the handle slipped right through the substance like a knife through warm butter and drove into the wall. Little black things—and some not so little—poured out of the hole and scurried over the wall.
I ran out of the bathroom screaming, with Mammie right on my heels, shrieking even louder. We flew through the hall, down the steps, rounding the flights, not stopping until we hit the lobby three floors down. I fell to my knees, panting and heaving, my whole body trembling as my hands pressed into my chest, as if they could slow my heart.
“Spiders,” I choked out. “Fucking spiders.”
Mammie burst out laughing.
Lifting my head, I glared at her with narrowed eyes.
She tried to rein herself in. “I’m sorry, dear. If you could have only seen your face. Are you sure you’re moroi?”
“Hey!” I waggled a finger at her. “You were running and screaming, too.”
“I was not running,” she denied, but a smile twitched at her lips. “I can’t run, dear. Ghosts fly.”
And for some reason, that statement broke through my fear, and laughter consumed me until I was crying. Once I was able to compose myself, I pushed up to my feet.
“We’re burning the whole place down,” I declared as the front door opened.
A teen and a tween, both dark-haired, entered, the smell of an early summer evening carried in with them—pine, freshly mown grass, and wildflowers.
“You’re what?” Gabe, my twelve-year-old brother, asked, his eyes wide in his thin face. They were still brown because he was still human, meaning his moroi gene hadn’t been triggered. That usually happened at around twenty years old.
“Gabe decided he didn’t want to hang out with Cody after all, so I brought him home,” Aurelia, our sixteen-year-old sister, also still human, whined as she followed behind him, both of their slender bodies clad in shorts and tanks.
What they called summer here in the mountains was a lot closer to the winters I’d grown used to during my five years in Atlanta. So while everyone else already wore summer attire, I was still comfortable in hoodies and jeans. And technically, summer didn’t start until next week. Maybe by the end of July, I’d dare a pair of shorts.
“He could have walked,” Aurelia continued. “It’s not like it’s all that far, but noooo, whiny baby insisted on a ride. Oh, well. Lena didn’t want to do anything, and Laurel was being a snot anyway.” Her nose wrinkled as she finally got over herself and noticed her surroundings. “What died?” Her eyes flew wide open, and she had the decency to throw a hand over her mouth in embarrassment as she looked at Mammie. “I didn’t . . . I mean . . . what stinks?”
“Spiders. And gross stuff. You don’t want to know,” I answered.
“Spiders?” she and Gabe said at the same time. Except Aurelia sounded as freaked out as I was, while excitement colored Gabe’s tone.
“Hey, don’t you have a hot date tonight?” Aurelia asked me as her chocolate eyes gave me a once-over, her nose scrunching even more.
“As a matter of fact, I do,” said a deep voice, preceding its owner from the front vestibule.
His tall, muscular frame emerged into the lobby, clothed in a dress shirt and black pants, rather than his usual T-shirt and jeans. The lavender color of his shirt, along with his dark hair and beard stubble, brought out the brightness of his gray-green eyes—the eyes that always got me. The eyes that had been the one aspect of Havenwood Falls I’d never been able to forget, even when the Luna Coven witches magically wiped my memory and replaced it with a false past. Something deep inside hadn’t allowed me to completely forget Xandru Roca.
Like always, my heart went all trippy and my breath caught when I saw him.
The look he gave me in return was not quite as enamored. I glanced down at myself.
Oh, shit. “Is it that time already?”
“Rough day?” he asked.
“You could say that.” I glanced upward, as though I could see through two floors to the third one. “We have a problem.”
He gave me a small smile. “You go get cleaned up. I’ll check it out.”
“No, don’t. You’re all dressed up. You really don’t want to deal with that.” I turned to my brother. “Gabe, since you skipped out on your chores this morning, you get to take care of room 313. It’s totally your kind of thing.”
As I headed through the large dining room for one of the several pairs of French doors in the back, I heard footsteps ascending the grand staircase off the lobby—two pairs, one much heavier than the other—and Xandru saying, “No worries. I got your back.”
Well, at least we’d both stink on our date tonight.
The sky was just beginning to darken as I strode across the rear lawn of the inn to the two-bedroom cottage the kids and I shared until we figured out . . . well, until we figured out life. We’d all been through a lot in the last several years and still weren’t sure about our new normal.
Three months ago, I’d been tending bar at a club in downtown Atlanta and serving breakfast to drunks in the middle of the night, thinking I was some mutant form of vampire with a depressing past and no family. My true memories of growing up in Havenwood Falls, Colorado, population five thousand-ish, with a family who loved me and friends who still did, had mostly returned by now, although I still experienced some blank moments. But they were still just memories, not the life I’d stepped into when I came back. This new life was . . . I didn’t know what it was yet.
Like I said, we were still figuring it all out.
Like what we wanted to do with the family estate. The mansion in Havenwood Heights provided a lot more space than the cottage at the inn, but without Mom, Dad, and Mammie, we all agreed it felt like too much room. Yet, at the same time, the memories there of when our family was whole made the walls feel like they closed in on us. I couldn’t be there for more than an hour before the emotions became too much to bear—mostly sadness, but also a lot of anger.
Maybe not facing it all was a form of denial, but we chose to cram into the small cottage, the largest of the five that lined the back of the inn’s property.
When they were even there, Aurelia usually slept in my bed and Gabe in the smaller bedroom, but they often took a room in the main house with Mammie to watch over them or spent the night with friends. Because of the nightmares, I tried not to sleep much at all, but when I did, it was rarely at night. The tattoo I received as my registry with the Court of the Sun and the Moon, a requirement for all supernaturals in Havenwood Falls, was infused with magic that allowed me to be outside in the sun, but after the novelty wore off, my biological clock reverted to my vampire ways. I favored the late afternoons and nights. I’d always been a night owl anyway, even before I’d been turned. So the arrangement was working for us. Sort of.
Considering everything, I felt like we were managing life quite well.
Just as I pushed the cottage’s front door open, a loud splintering of wood followed by a scream came from behind me. I spun around just in time to see two bodies falling from a hole in the third-story turret and crashing through the glass ceiling of the conservatory just below it.
Screaming, I sprinted across the lawn and tried to open the outside door to the conservatory, but it was jammed. Much of the large, glass room’s framework was made of copper piping, which they pumped steam through back in the day to heat the space, along with other metals for the fancy scroll work on the trim. Patina and tarnish had started to cover the metal, and rust had eaten some of it away, causing places to bend and deform, including around the door. Focusing my mind on the metal, I bent it out of the way, allowing the door to swing open. When Xandru’s brother Tase had triggered my moroi gene by giving me his blood, he’d passed on to me the Rocas’ ability to control metal. It came in handy sometimes.
“Are you okay?” Xandru’s voice came from the shadows.
I followed the sound, weaving around boxes, junk, and covered furniture stored in the conservatory to find him setting my little brother on his feet. They both stood in a broken hole in the wooden floor, next to a full-size replica of a knight holding his sword pointy end up—they’d missed it by mere inches.
“Yeah, I think so,” Gabe said, his voice shaky.
“You’re bleeding!” Pulling my hoodie off, I hurried over to him and pressed it to the gash in his head.
“Is everyone okay?” Aurelia asked from the doorway to the inn.
“Call an ambulance,” I ordered.
“I said I’m okay,” Gabe argued.
“You have blood gushing from your head!”
Unfortunately, neither Xandru nor I could give him our blood to heal him. Because we were both mature (turned) moroi, doing so would trigger Gabe’s gene, and he was way too young for that. Thankfully, his blood didn’t incite any kind of thirst from Xandru or me. We had control over that part of us. Now, if Tase were here, it might have been a whole different story—he’d cursed himself to excruciating bloodlust when he triggered my gene.
If I had any say, though, Atanase “Tase” Roca would never be around my brother or sister.
“It doesn’t hurt.” Gabe shrugged. “Xandru caught me. It was really cool! I can’t wait until I’m turned.”
I visually inspected the rest of his small-for-his-age body, but only found a couple of scratches. “I’d rather be safe than sorry.” I looked up at Xandru to find his pants and shirt splattered with wet marks. “Are you okay?”
He shook his arms, pink gunk flying off his sleeve. “Besides whatever the hell this is? Yeah, I’m fine. I always land on my feet.”
I ignored his cocky grin and grabbed Gabe by the shoulders, walking him over to sit on the step that led inside to the inn. “What happened?”
He held his fist up and opened it to reveal a beaded bracelet. “I was trying to get this. It was inside the wall you put a hole in upstairs. But the wall broke more, and the next thing I knew, I was falling through it and down to the ground. Then Xandru was there, catching me right before we hit the ground. He’s right. We landed on our feet!” He looked over at the hole in the floor. “Sort of.”
“I hate to say it, Ms. Petran, but your inn needs some repairs,” Xandru said, as he inspected what were obviously rotted floorboards.
“You think?” I squatted next to Gabe, re-inspecting him even as he pulled away. He was more interested in his newly found treasure than any injury.
He held the bracelet up in the waning light. “Do you think it’s valuable?”
“Not as valuable as your life,” I muttered.
A few moments later, the ambulance arrived. An EMT named Jordan took Gabe inside the truck to clean him up and do an evaluation. The wound wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d thought it was.
“Heads bleed a lot,” Jordan explained as he hopped off the end of the ambulance. My vampire senses picked up on his scent with a tinge similar to Mike McCabe’s—mountain lion shifter. Mike was the local building contractor and had fixed the inn’s roof last month. I supposed I’d need to call him again. “He should be fine. He’s not showing any signs of a concussion, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep an eye on him throughout the night and tomorrow.”
“Oh, thank god.” I blew out a sigh of relief.
Gabe was fine. Thanks to Xandru. But what if he hadn’t been there to catch him? What if it had been worse? This inn was a danger zone. Worse than I had believed.
Not long after the ambulance left, another visitor arrived.
“I called the Court,” Xandru explained, wiping at a spot on his shirt. “So they could get a sample of this. Mammie told me it’s from a skinwalker, but I’m sure they’ll want to know more.”
“I know I want to know more. Too bad it’s not Addie,” I said before we walked in to greet the male witch the Luna Coven had sent. “She would tell me everything.”
The Luna Coven did all of the Court of the Sun and the Moon’s magical bidding. At least, that’s what many of the supes in town believed. Mammie, who’d sat on the Court for a short time, had let it slip once that there were some tasks the Luna Coven couldn’t dirty their hands with. Not when their High Council leaders also sat on the Court, which ruled the supernaturals in Havenwood Falls, protecting the humans and our secret. The more unappealing tasks were passed on to other, lesser covens in town.
The middle-aged man was thorough in his inspection and collection of goo, which he stored in vials and dropped into his satchel, asking me questions I mostly didn’t have answers for. I didn’t think it possible for him to move any slower, but at least when he was done, he helped Xandru patch the hole in the turret with a flick of his wrist and a few chanted words.
“We’ll test the samples and see what we can find out about this mystery person,” he said as we finally headed back downstairs. “If anything, maybe there are traces of Adelaide’s ink, which she can use to identify them. You all have a good evening now.”
Yeah, right. I looked outside at the dark streets, and then at Xandru, and frowned.
“It must be past midnight if the twinkle lights in the square are off.”
He pulled his phone out of his pants pocket. “Twelve-oh-four, to be exact.”
“Another date ruined,” I murmured as I scratched at a patch of dried skinwalker gunk on the back of my hand. I really needed a shower. We both did. “I’m so very sorry.”
Giving me a smile, he shrugged. “Well, at least we were able to spend some time together, even if it wasn’t the perfect date.”
“Do you think we’ll ever have a real second date?”
He stepped in front of me and brushed his thumb over my cheek. “That I promise you, Michaela Petran.” He leaned down and brushed his full lips over mine. “But we don’t have to call it a night yet . . .”
His mouth lingered on mine in a luscious kiss that I eventually had to pull away from before I collapsed from a lack of oxygen.
“I’m gross,” I reminded him, taking a step back.
He moved forward, closing the space I’d just put between us. “Me, too. We could clean up together.”
“Hmm . . . that is tempting.”
His fingers skimmed over my cheek and down my neck, producing a shiver. “But? I hear a but coming.”
“But Gabe is in the cottage. There’s no privacy.”
His hand cupped my chin, and I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was thinking what I was—there were plenty of other places we could have gone. Upstairs, in a guest room, for instance, since we had several vacancies. Or any of the other open cottages. But he didn’t say it, and neither did I. We hadn’t reached that place yet.
I’d begun to wonder if we ever would.
Instead, he kissed my forehead. “Try again tomorrow?”
I gave him a smile, which I didn’t quite feel on the inside. “Yeah. Sure. Tomorrow.”
But tomorrow didn’t come. At least, not in that sense.
As had been the case for the last three months, every day brought new obstacles that kept us from having a real date . . . or any kind of relationship at all.
**Author Kristie Cook has posted Chapters 2 & 3 on her website:Click Here