Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: A Bite's Tale by Veronica Blade

by Veronica Blade
Release Date: February 9, 2012
2012 Crush Publishing
Ebook Edition; 166 Pages
ASIN: B006U0DCO0
ISBN: 978-0-979-88696-6
Genre: Young Adult / Paranormal
Source: Review Copy from Bewitching Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
A Cinderella who spends her nights as a wolf. A prince with a taste for blood.

Seventeen year old Cydney struggles against her werewolf nature, trying to keep everyone around her safe. No way will she risk exposing the beast at the prince’s ball, no matter how her two cousins try to persuade her. Even as she attempts to get on with her life, Cydney can’t forget the boy she loved three summers ago — or what she did to him after losing control.

Turned into a vampire to save his life, the prince refuses to live up to his royal duties. He just wants to find the girl he loved and lost...the werewolf girl who bit him. But his father, the king, commands him to attend a ball where he must choose a wife. Can he find his Cinderella before he's forced to marry another? He doesn’t even have her real name, much less a glass slipper.

My Thoughts
A Bite's Tale was an intriguing novella about 160 pages in length, an inventive supernatural re-telling of the Cinderella fairytale.  After reading Something Witchy This Way Comes by this author, I had no problem tackling this novella as I was extremely curious to see what she would do with one of my favourite fairy tales and I was definitely not disappointed.  If anything, I thought the story was a bit too short.

The story began with a sweet and nostalgic story between two teenagers who had been secretly meeting for three years and were using the alternative names "Cinderella" and "Jack" in order to keep their identities a secret.  When things between them became more serious, Cydney's werewolf nature suddenly decided to morph and unfortunately for her, she had to leave the area immediately.  But she had spent the past three years living with regrets and recriminations and felt that the time has come to face her fears and her previous actions and return to the place where it all began.  I adored Cydney's personality and character and thought how sad it was she had to go through life always being looked at and feared because of her wolf personality.  Even her Aunt, representing the evil stepmother but who was not really evil, displayed her fear of her on more than one occasion through her actions and her words.  I couldn't imagine going through life always having those you love being fearful of you and how you might react.

Prince Remy is also a favourite as we read about the lengths to which he goes to find Cydney after the events three years before.  It's actually pretty sweet to see that someone can carry that kind of loyalty, despite the weight and responsibility he shoulders, and the determination to follow through on what his heart is telling him.  I think it is nice to see teenage characters who are mature and are not always in the midst of some kind of angst, for a change.

Verdict
A Bite's Tale was a fascinating and fun re-telling of the Cinderella fairytale with plenty of intrigue, action, and character development despite its short length.   There is quite a bit of potential in the world of Cydney and Remy however, and it will be interesting to see if there will be a more fleshed-out novel following this novella as the only real complaint I had was that it was much too short.  For a clever, witty, and fun read, I would highly recommend A Bite's Tale to anyone who loves those fairytale twists.


About the Author:
Veronica Blade lives in Southern California with her husband and whichever of their kids — or someone else’s kid — decides to drop in. By day she runs the family business, but each night she slips away to spin her tales. She writes stories about young adults to relive her own childhood and to live vicariously through her characters. Except her heroes and heroines lead far more interesting lives — and they are always way hotter.

You can visit Veronica Blade on FaceBook, check out her website at www.VeronicaBlade.com or follow her on Twitter @VeronicaBlade. She loves hearing from readers!

Twitter: @VeronicaBlade
Website: VeronicaBlade.com


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Review: Twice Cursed by Jacqueline Paige

by Jacqueline Paige
Release Date: February 15, 2011
2011 Whiskey Creek Press LLC
Ebook Edition; 226 Pages
ASIN: B004SCRMR0
Genre: Fiction / Paranormal
Source: Review Copy from Bewitching Book Tours

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
Maddy is the oldest witchling to ever attend the Hidden Cove Academy, having been cursed as a teen; she’s forced to have a solitary life outside of her own magical community. With her magic so dangerously unpredictable, she rarely takes the chance on mixing with the general public.

From one harmless trip to a museum she finds herself spellbound yet again by an invisible boundary, caused by a three hundred year old curse, dictating that Maddy must stay close to the stunningly sexy Colin.

Being stuck with a tall, dark, incredibly lick-able stranger can’t be all that bad, right? Until they discover if they get too close the spirits bound with the curse will take over their bodies ... at the same time if they’re too far from one another the curse will kill them both.

Will the curse's secrets be unravelled in time or does certain death await them both?


My Thoughts
Twice Cursed was a nice, light paranormal read that I greatly enjoyed.  The characters were fun and interesting, and although I really liked the concept of the story, I really felt like it didn't live up to its full potential and was somewhat slow at times.

Maddy has been under a curse for over twelve years of her life and not even the most experienced and powerful witches have been able to reverse it.  What is so frustrating for Maddy is that what used to be normal and easy is not difficult and dangerous and she is rarely seen in public as a result.  Furthermore, she is still classified as a 'witchling' at 27 years old and is still not considered a full member of the 'witch' society. This aspect of the story required some effort on my part not to be too sarcastic and skeptical as I could see where this was going the minute I met the character involved in the so-called curse.  I personally thought it was somewhat unbelievable, especially at how easily it was solved in the end, and felt let down at the solution as there was this big build up but no real blow-up over it that was satisfactory.  The potential for there to be so much more was definitely there but it didn't really go anywhere and I was somewhat disappointed by this.

As Maddy entered her second curse, this time involving Colin, a man descended from a long line of witches himself, but having no power of his own, the relationship between the two was sweet and considerate and I enjoyed it a lot.  The attraction and intensity between them was very well written and the resulting steamy love scenes were definitely interesting, especially as they kept being interrupted by the objects of their curse who kept trying to possess them.  Again, I felt like there was so much potential here that didn't really develop and while I was happy with the result between Colin and Maddy, I would definitely have liked to have seen a bit more in the way of action.  The curse never really played out in any way that was serious for them and I would have liked to have seen something more along those lines.

Verdict
Twice Cursed had plenty of charm and was pleasurable to read.  While I would have liked there to be more action as far as the curses went, Colin and Maddy were interesting and intriguing characters, although we learned very little about Colin's background.  If you enjoy light paranormal reading, with a touch of romance and mystery, then you will enjoy Twice Cursed.  
Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Author Interview & Giveaway: Bryan Healey

I am pleased to have Bryan Healey today on Curling Up by the Fire.  Bryan is here to discuss the release of his new novel, The Void (releases April 30th, 2012), as well as to share some of the research and inspiration that went into it and to share some future projects on which he is currently at work.  Here is a brief synopsis of The Void:

She believes I am all but dead.
But I can hear her...

I've been still for many years now, my eyes closed, my body sunken, my muscles wilted, a soft, seductive beep-beep-beep of life-sustaining machinery just behind my head. I don't know why they keep me here, or why they bother to keep me alive; and yet they do. And they come and go, night and day and night, men, women, children, even an occasional pet; nurses, doctors, family, friends, strangers; they talk to me rarely, sometimes to themselves, and frequently to each other, or to no one. And they have very much to say, I have found.

They don't know that I can hear them...
But I can.

Interview with Bryan Healey


1) To start off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?  How did you become interested in writing?
I have held a passion for storytelling for so long that I can't remember exactly what got it started, or when. I wrote short stories when I was barely old enough to walk, poetry when I was a pre-teen, and attempted my first novel at age fourteen. None of that early stuff was much good, of course (as expected), but the passion was there and it has never really waned. However, when choosing college programs at Northeastern University (my alma mater), I decided to go with Computer Science (a competing passion) and have worked as an engineer ever since, writing on the side all along.

2) Can you tell us a little about your novel, The Void?
"The Void" is the bookend of a series of three works touching on the theme of death and consequences. It tells the story of a man named Max who has been trapped in a coma for a number of years, unable to move or feel, but inexplicably able to hear. He listens to his wife visit and talk with him, the nurses grumble about their commute and their lives, and to the doctor discuss his condition. For years he remains this way until his family decides to remove him from life support and allow him to die naturally; this prompts Max to recall his life of addiction and violence as he awaits the inevitable end of life.

3) What inspired you to write Void?  How much research was involved in the writing?
I have always been fascinated with the human perspective on death and consequences, and the various ways in which we cope (or choose not to cope) with our fears surrounding this mystery. "The Void" was a progression of that fascination by asking myself how I might react if I knew death was imminent but was powerless to stop it, or even say a proper goodbye to my loved ones. What would I think? What would I regret? How would I reflect on my life?

Because of the opinionated nature of this kind of piece, there was little research. There were some elements involving military rank and procedure that required verification, however.

4) What was your greatest challenge while writing this novel? 
Whenever writing a tragedy, the biggest challenge is avoiding a spiral into melodrama. I don't want to exaggerate anything; I just want to represent exactly how I imagine someone might react given a specific situation. To this end, I tried hard to write dialogue that was realistic, even if it meant omitting some description that might have been otherwise worthwhile to include.

5) Shaping characters is often a difficult task.  Who was the most fun to write about?  Which character presented the biggest challenge?
The most fun was shaping the character of Brian, the main protagonist's son. I intended to write him much like how I imagined I might react if my father were Max; thus, I was able to infuse the most of myself into his character, which can always be fun and, at times, illuminating.

The biggest challenge was Jenny, the main protagonist's wife. Having thankfully never gone through the loss of a significant other, it was difficult to imagine the roller-coaster of emotions, the tense, confused speech and the compulsion to apply significance to your loved one.

6) What are 3 things that are 'must haves' when you write? Do you have any writing rituals?
I don't really have any writing rituals. Because my writing is essentially a hobby, I do it whenever I have free time, often during lunch or early in the morning. But any free time will do; I never pass on an opportunity to create!

Three essentials for writing are: 1) Green tea, 2) Oranges, and 3) Quiet.

7) Can you share with us any projects that you are currently working on or plans for the future? What can fans expect next from you?  Are there other genres in which you are interested but haven't yet explored?
My next book is actually a significant departure from my usual work, and it has been a blast to work on thus far (approximately 75% complete with the first draft)! It is to be a multi-book fantasy epic, with the first book being titled "Kingdom of Ash." The series chronicles a future Earth, roughly 900 years following a monumental cataclysm of unknown origins that nearly annihilated humanity. In the intervening years since the disaster, humanity has slowly begun to rebuild, and by the time the story begins, small societies have sprung up, and politics, religion and culture is starting to meld. The struggle between these formations, however, threatens to induce a lot of infighting, as groups of people coalesce into cities and provinces.

I will be released a short story entitled "Alestha" in the coming weeks to kick-off the project, and the first book should be released something this fall or early winter.

8) Favourite authors? Role models?
Michael Crichton was my first author (and "Jurassic Park" was my first novel), and thus will probably always hold a very special place in my heart. I also always enjoy the techno-thrillers of Tom Clancy. However, I don't really have a "role model," by traditional definition. I feel I can learn of the craft from any writer worth reading.

My favorite book is absolutely "Brave New World." From my first read many years ago, the story captivated my attention, and still represents to me the gold standard for writing quality fantasy and dystopian drama. And recently, I have delved into the Harry Potter franchise (I am always years behind the times) and have developed a significant love for Rowling's writing style.

9) Do you have a pivotal point in your life, a point when you knew you would be a writer?  How did it develop?
As said elsewhere, I have nearly always wanted to write, so there was no point in history when I can say: "That's when I decided I wanted to be an author." I'm sure there was a time, in my early adolescence, when I wasn't certain that I needed to write, but I can't remember that time today.

10) What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your ultimate luxury?
Travel. I have a personal goal of visiting all the countries of Europe before I'm 40. This passion is also my ultimate luxury, because it is unfortunately expensive. 

11) Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?
I am always craving feedback! If you read any of my works, and have any comments you feel like sharing, please do not hesitate! This includes criticism, however scathing; it is often a challenge to get real, honest input, and I've heard many readers express reluctance in contacting an author. But I say: Contact the author! The unbiased reader is the most valuable source of real growth.
 
Thank you so much Bryan for taking the time to answer these questions!!
 
Now the giveaway!! 
Because I haven't yet figured out quite how Rafflecopter works (due to a lack of time and an extremely busy work schedule), my amazing readers and guests will just have to fill out the entry form the old-fashioned way.  Sorry, folks!
 
RULES:  One lucky reader will win one (1) e-copy of The Void, your choice of formatting.
1)  In order to enter, please leave a comment and your email address below.
2) Contest is open internationally.
3) Contest ends 08 May 2012.
 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Review: Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould

by Sasha Gould
Release Date: March 13th, 2012
2012 Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Ebook Edition; 262 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-385-74150-7
ASIN: B00570A1IY (Delacorte Books for Young Readers - Sold by Random House Digital, Inc.)
Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Venice, 1585. When 16-year-old Laura della Scala learns that her older sister, Beatrice, has drowned, she is given no time to grieve. Instead, Laura's father removes her from the convent where he forcibly sent her years earlier and orders her to marry Beatrice's fiancĂ©, a repulsive old merchant named Vincenzo. Panicked, Laura betrays a powerful man to earn her way into the Segreta, a shadowy society of women who deal in only one currency—secrets. The Segreta seems like the answer to Laura's prayers. The day after she joins their ranks, Vincenzo is publicly humiliated and conveniently exiled. Soon, however, Laura begins to suspect that her sister's death was not a tragic accident but a cold-blooded murder—one that might involve the Segreta and the women she has come to trust.

My Thoughts
Cross My Heart is a very interesting mix a historical fiction and mystery and I thought it was very well done for the reading audience for which it was intended.  I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and as an adult, while I may prefer something quite convoluted and intense, I know my 12-year-old son is not quite ready for the kinds of historical fiction that I prefer, simply because he does not have my education or knowledge base as of yet.  Therefore, I felt that Ms. Gould achieved the perfect balance between historical fact and mystery that was quite enjoyable and yet was not too far above the intended reading audience.

The descriptions of Venice during this time period were very well done, and the atmosphere of Venice came through the pages quite well.  I took a lot of pleasure in immersing myself in the time period and in her descriptions of the clothing and behaviours of the people and even in what they ate.  The author is very knowledgeable and it is very evident that meticulous research went into her writing.  The story is considered to be suspense, and the atmosphere definitely does justice to that as the tension slowly builds throughout the novel.  There were moments when I flipped through the scenes quite rapidly as I could feel the tension building and wanted to find out what was going to happen, yet there were also moments that seemed to slip away and the wonderful suspense just abated, which was too bad.  And I did figure out quite early the mystery to the story although that didn't take away too much from my reading pleasure.

I enjoyed many of the characters in this novel, but unfortunately, the main character Laura was not one of my favourites.  Laura had just been released from the convent after the mysterious death of her sister and was supposed to marry her sister's fiance in order to win back some of the glory her family had lost due to her father's poor political decisions in the past.  A wizened, frightening man, Laura did not wish to marry this man, and as a last resort, Laura was summoned to a secret society who would be willing to help for a price; Laura had to reveal a dangerous secret to them, a secret that could affect the life of someone else.  Desperate, Laura became entangled in the world of the Segreta, and as their web became tighter and tighter, Laura had to figure out how to become untangled from their snares.  For an adult novel, I wouldn't have felt like there was enough use of the Segreta as the potential for disaster the is unlimited, but from the point of view of a young adult novel, it felt just fine.  My largest issue I had with the novel didn't stem from the plot or the atmosphere and I thought the novel was beautifully written, but I had a difficult time connecting with Laura and thought she was just a ho-hum personality.  I also didn't feel like her romance had a lot of depth to it; I mean the painter and Laura met three times before they declared themselves in love - this is something that I never bought into and still don't as far as romances go and it kind of turned me off.

Verdict
Cross My Heart is a beautifully written atmospheric historical novel that is perfect for the 12 and up age group in that the material is easy to grasp and not written too far above their age level.  I did have a difficult time connecting with the main character Laura and thought her romance with the painter was somewhat far-fetched, but I have never bought into the love at first-sight business anyways.  Overall, I think this a fun book that many people will enjoy, and I believe readers will enjoy the many descriptions of Venice itself.  For me, I am looking forward to reading Heart of Glass when if releases later this year. 
Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

by Elizabeth Norris
Release Date: April 24, 2012
2012 Balzer & Bray (Sold by HarperCollins)
Ebook Edition; 464 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062103734
ASIN: B00655KLXU
Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Urban Fantasy
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
Two days before the start of her junior year, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a pickup truck and killed. Except the next thing she knows, she's opening her eyes to find Ben Michaels, a loner from her high school whom Janelle has never talked to, leaning over her. And even though it isn't possible, she knows—with every fiber of her being—that Ben has somehow brought her back to life.

But her revival, and Ben's possible role in it, is only the first of the puzzles that Janelle must solve. While snooping in her FBI agent father's files for clues about her accident, she uncovers a clock that seems to be counting down to something—but to what? And when someone close to Janelle is killed, she can no longer deny what's right in front of her: Everything that's happened—the accident, the murder, the countdown clock, Ben's sudden appearance in her life—points to the end of life as she knows it. And as the clock ticks down, she realizes that if she wants to put a stop to the end of the world, she's going to need to uncover Ben's secrets—and keep from falling in love with him in the process.

  
My Thoughts
Unraveling is one of those books that was more plot-driven rather than character-driven.  And I can honestly say that this is one those rare moments when reading a novel that character development and character analysis really did not matter one whit to me as I was completely absorbed by the plot, trying to figure it all out.  

I have read a lot of young adult fiction over the years and while I enjoyed Unraveling tremendously, it also had a formulaic and calculated feel to its plot, almost as if it was created solely with the intention of deluging the reader with so many circumstances he/she will overlook some of the character weaknesses that exist.  And it almost worked.  But when you throw too many elements at the reader, it gets overwhelming and exhausting and I did wish at some point that Ms. Norris had kept the plot somewhat simpler.  I felt like the author couldn't decide between writing a young adult novel or a science-fiction novel, and while I realize you can do both, it just felt like there was a wavering between the two throughout the story.  Don't get me wrong though.  I enjoyed many elements in Unraveling and as a HUGE science-fiction fan, those were the elements that drew me in the most.  Like ghosts and witches, end-of-the-world stories can also draw me in like a 'moth to a flame'.  And really enjoyed the ending, hoping that there will be a sequel.  What I did really enjoy was the fact that some of the events caught me off guard and I like a novel that has twists and turns that are fun and surprising.


As anyone who has read my blog will know, I have never been a fan of the insta-love romances and the spark between Janelle and Ben quickly developed into one of those.  Because I was more interested in the plot itself rather than the characters, I could actually overlook it here as it wasn't central to the story.  (Thank goodness!!)  And I really liked the characters, even the so-called antagonists, who actually turned out to be something quite different.  I have to admire Janelle as she was responsible for much in her life; her brother, her mentally ill mom, her workaholic dad, and she even took care of other federal agents who spent time there.  There were times when it grew too much and she reacted as a normal teenager would, but it was refreshing to see that aspect of her personality.  She was headstrong, determined, and definitely did not take anything from anybody.  One of my favourite scenes is when she got mad at something that happened in the past and told off that person at a party, with help from a beer bottle. That seems like a lame comment but I don't want to spoil the scene if you haven't yet read the book.  I don't really feel like I got to know Ben as well as I wanted to, but I am really hoping there is a sequel and that will be remedied in the future.

Verdict
Unraveling was a fun-filled novel that is full of twists and turns, and while somewhat formulaic and predictable at times, still manages to deliver a punch.  I enjoyed the variety of characters and while I didn't feel like I got to know all of them nor did I feel like there was a lot of character development, they were still fun and intriguing.  Fans who enjoy science-fiction, mystery, suspense, romance, and action will certainly enjoy this novel.  I have to admit the action begins right from the beginning and really does not let up until the final page and regardless of how the pieces fit together and the fact that some events feel thrown in, it is still one heck of a ride.  And PLEASE let there be a sequel!!
Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Book Reveal: Taste by Kate Evangelista

I am excited to be included in the reveal of Taste by Kate Evangelista as this is another one of those academy novels that I am simply drawn to reading simply because they are so pleasurable to read.  And the premise is very intriguing.  Take a look!!!


Taste Blurb:
At Barinkoff Academy, there's only one rule: no students on campus after curfew. Phoenix McKay soon finds out why when she is left behind at sunset. A group calling themselves night students threaten to taste her flesh until she is saved by a mysterious, alluring boy. With his pale skin, dark eyes, and mesmerizing voice, Demitri is both irresistible and impenetrable. He warns her to stay away from his dangerous world of flesh eaters. Unfortunately, the gorgeous and playful Luka has other plans.

When Phoenix is caught between her physical and her emotional attraction, she becomes the keeper of a deadly secret that will rock the foundations of an ancient civilization living beneath Barinkoff Academy. Phoenix doesn’t realize until it is too late that the closer she gets to both Demitri and Luka the more she is plunging them all into a centuries old feud.

Author Bio:
When Kate Evangelista was told she had a knack for writing stories, she did the next best thing: entered medical school. After realizing she wasn't going to be the next Doogie Howser, M.D., Kate wandered into the Literature department of her university and never looked back. Today, she is in possession of a piece of paper that says to the world she owns a Literature degree. To make matters worse, she took Master's courses in creative writing. In the end, she realized to be a writer, none of what she had mattered. What really mattered? Writing. Plain and simple, honest to God, sitting in front of her computer, writing. Today, she has four completed Young Adult novels.

Author Website: www.kateevangelista.com
Twitter: @KateEvangelista
Crescent Moon Press page for Taste: http://crescentmoonpress.com/books/Taste.html






Excerpt:

  I sat up and followed Calixta’s gaze upward. I rubbed my eyes. I didn’t know what I was seeing at first. A statue? ¬My brain refused to snap together coherent thoughts.  I didn’t realize I’d fallen so close to one of the garden benches until I stared up at the boy that sat on one. He was strikingly beautiful. His tumble of blonde hair curled just above his sculpted cheekbones. He wore a silk shirt and a loosened cravat, like he’d become bored while dressing and decided to leave himself in disarray. His ivory skin and frozen position was what had me mistaking him for something carved from marble by Michelangelo. Then he sighed—a lonely, breathy proof of life. If I had to imagine what Lucifer looked like before he fell from heaven, the boy on the bench would certainly fulfill that image. My brain told me I had to look away, but I couldn’t.
  “Luka,” Calixta said again, her voice unsure, almost nervous. It no longer contained the steel and bite she had threatened me with, which made me wonder who the boy was.
He leaned on his hands and crossed his legs, all the while keeping his eyes fixed on the night sky. His movements spoke of elegance and control. I’d encountered many people with breeding before, but his took on the air of arrogance and self-assuredness of someone used to getting what he wanted when he wanted it.
   I only realized I’d been holding my breath when my lungs protested. I exhaled. My heart sputtered and restarted with a vengeance. Luka tore his gaze away from the stars and settled it on me. I’d expected pitch-black irises, like the other Night Students, but blue ice stared back at me.
   “Human,” he whispered.
   He reached out, and with a finger, followed an invisible trail down my cheek. I stiffened. His touch, cooler than Demitri’s, caused warm sparks to blossom on my face. He lifted his finger to his lips and licked its tip. He might as well have licked me from the way my body shivered.
Luka’s curious gaze held mine. “Leave us,” he said, but not to me.
   “But—” Calixta protested like a spoiled child.
   He spoke in a language I hadn’t heard before, remaining calm yet firm. The words had a rolling cadence I couldn’t quite follow, like rumbling thunder in the distance. They contained a harsh sensuality. The consonants were hard and the vowels were long and lilting.
   Footsteps retreated behind me.
   Luka reached out again.
   It took me a minute to realize he wanted to help me up. I hesitated. He smiled. I smiled back timidly and took his hand, completely dazzled. Even with my uniform soaked from melted snow, I didn’t feel cold—all my attention was on him and the way his callused hand felt on mine. Without moving much from his seated position, he helped me stand.
   “What’s your name?” he asked. He had a voice like a familiar lullaby. It filled my heart to the brim with comfort.
   I swallowed and tried to stop gawking. “Phoenix.”
   “The bird that rose from the ashes.” Luka bent his head and kissed the back of my hand. “It’s a pleasure meeting you.”
   My cheeks warmed. My head reeled, not knowing what to think. I couldn’t understand why I felt drawn to him. And the strange connection frightened me.
   From behind, someone gripped my arms and yanked me away before I could sort out the feelings Luka inspired in me. I found myself behind a towering figure yet again. Recognizing the blue-black silk for hair tied at the nape, relief washed over me. Calixta hadn’t come back to finish me off.
Demitri’s large hand wrapped around my wrist. Unlike the night before, no calm existed in his demeanor. He trembled like a junky in need of a fix. The coiled power in his tense muscles vibrated into me.
   “What are you doing here?” Demitri asked.
   I didn’t know he’d spoken to me until I saw his expressionless profile. I sighed.
   “Phoenix.”
   I flinched. The ruthless way he said my name punched all the air out of me. “You owe me answers,” I said with as much bravado as I could muster.
   “I owe you nothing.” He glared. “In fact, you owe me your life.”
   “I don’t think so.”
   Ignoring my indignation, he faced Luka, who’d remained seated on the bench during my exchange with Demitri. “Why is she with you, Luka?”
   “I wasn’t going to taste her, if that’s what you’re implying,” Luka said. “Although, she is simply delicious. I wouldn’t mind if you left us alone.”
   There it was again. Taste. The word that kept coming up between these Night Students and I was connected to it in an increasingly uncomfortable way. To taste meant to sample, but what? My flesh?    They had to be joking because the alternative wasn’t funny.
   “The sins of the father …” Demitri left his sentence unfinished.
   Luka’s smile shifted into a snarl. “Obey my command.” His chin lifted. “Kneel.”
   Demitri’s stance went rigid. His grip tightened around my wrist.
   Okay, weird just got weirder. Why would Luka want Demitri to kneel before him? I thought back to Eli and the others bowing to Demitri when he questioned them, but they didn’t kneel. Seriously? Were they all living on a different planet or something?
  “Kneel.” Luka’s detestable smirk made his features sinister rather than angelic. The real Lucifer: a fallen angel.
   Without letting go of my wrist, Demitri knelt down on one knee and bowed his head, his free hand flat at the center of his chest. “Your command has been obeyed,” he said formally.
Luka nodded once.
   Demitri stood up and pulled me toward the school without telling me where we were going. Not having the time to thank Luka for saving me from Calixta, I risked a glance back. Luka smiled at me. His smile spoke of whispers, secrets, and promises to be shared on a later date.