Paranormal Romance, Fantasy Romance, Vampire Romance
Release Date: June 17, 2021
Book 2 of a sweeping romantic saga in a medieval Arabian Nights type setting
Held captive in the Catacombs, Alyssa struggles with coming to terms with the loss of the life she had made for herself in the palace. She also has to learn how to deal with her strange magical powers that everyone but her seems to know she has. And she has to find a way to accept her new life with the ancient vampire who insists that she is his… but doesn’t seem to know what to do with her.
Lord Damien never thought to have a human woman in his life, and this one baffles him. He doesn’t understand his own need for her, but knows only that he must have her, at any cost. He had been prepared for anger and recriminations, but Alyssa surprises him with her determination to accept her new life, as well as her unexpected compassion and humor.
*Please Note, this is a trilogy! Books 1 & 2 have cliffhangers and are not meant to be read out of order.
Chapter 9 – The Craft Hall
Some distance from the city, Damien paused, holding up one hand. “We glamour,” he stated. “Until we reach the Craft Hall.”
Gabrielle and Kayja complied, a faint shimmering disturbing the early morning desert air as all three cast the small spell that would cloak them from untrained eyes. The sun wasn’t yet above the horizon, the days already shortening with the oncoming of fall. Damien focused his attention to the East, storm clouds gathering, building at his command, delaying the effects of the sun on himself and Gabrielle. Kayja, pure demon, was unaffected by the sun’s rising. Damien, with his demon father’s blood, could tolerate the sun until it was fully above the horizon, but Gabrielle would be susceptible to the sun’s influence much more quickly.
They reached the city, moving swiftly past through the lines of those waiting to enter through the huge gates. Passing unseen, the trio headed into the heart of the lower city, Damien leading them unhesitatingly toward the Craft Hall. He knew this city, every block, every stone. He had been here when it was a walled village. Had walked the construction at night as the city was built, the palace towering above all. There was no corner, no shadow, that he did not know.
Most of the shops and stalls were closed tight still, aside from a few stalls dispensing tea and thick bitter coffee, and flat bread with beans and fried balls of ground grain and herbs to early workers. The craftsmen, however, would already be up and working in their high-ceilinged hall deep within the city.
Indeed, the wide double doors of the Craft Hall were open, workers within milling about on various tasks. Standing just within the doors, Damien and his companions shimmered into sight of those nearby. There were startled gasps, then a wave of rippling murmurs, followed by silence, spread through the hall as craftsmen, journeymen and apprentices turned toward the great doors. The tension in the suddenly quiet hall was palpable. There was stirring, shifting of a group at one side of the room, and a man emerged, approaching the trio at the entrance. He was stockily built, with graying hair framing a lined face. Sharp, intelligent eyes held a wary defiance; not outright hostility, but Damien sensed little flashes of anger from the man, who wore a Master’s badge on one shoulder.
“He knows your little human,” Kayja spoke on their private pathway. “I see her in his mind, his concern for her well-being.”
Damien gave a tiny, barely discernible inclination of his head, acknowledging her words.
The Craft Master came to a halt some few feet from them, bending at the waist in a slight bow.
“My Lord Damien.”
“Craft Master Ahmed.”
Damien suppressed his amusement as the man started in surprise. He was Lord over these lands. Of course he knew all those who rose to prominence. Craft Masters, even prominent journeymen who were rising swiftly in the ranks; he made it his business to know everything in this city.
The man made a swift recovery, schooling his face to express polite inquiry. “How may we help you, Lord?”
Again Damien sensed that flash of anger from the man, swiftly suppressed.
“We have come for furnishings,” Damien told him, his gaze drifting about the spacious circular hall, sectioned into areas… tables, chairs, beds and divans, lounges, lamps, screens. He brought his eyes back to the Craft Master. “You are acquainted with the young Scribe from the palace?”
A swift startled murmur swept the room, starting with those in earshot who passed word to those nearby. Relief crept into Master Ahmed’s face, and some of the rigidity left his stance.
“Alyssa? Indeed, I know her well. All of us do,” and he made a gesture with his right arm, indicating the room at large. “She… she is alive, Lord? She is well?”
A rush of impatience swept him. “Of course she is alive,” he retorted. “What did you think I was going to do, eat her?”
Absolute silence. His lips tightened in exasperation. Obviously, they had. Humans! His stern gaze swept them all, meeting their eyes, commanding their attention.
“Do you truly believe,” and he raised his voice so that all in the hall could hear him. “That Zahira, your Sultana, would have permitted me to carry off one of her Court… indeed, any citizen of this city… without being assured that no harm would come to her? You do your Sultana a great disservice in this. Zahira would have gone to war, rather. She insisted upon, and received, my promise that no harm of any kind would come to the girl. She was prepared to risk outright war, had I not given her my word on this.”
The silence continued as the last echoes of his voice faded, then shifting and movement as the men and women returned to their various duties. Noises began to fill the hall…. sanding, pounding, hammering. Damien turned back to the Craft Master. The man was smiling, his relief almost palpable.
“What is it you would wish to see, Lord?”
Kayja stepped forward at this point. Her tail was twitching, to the apparent bemusement of a nearby apprentice, a boy barely into his teens who’d apparently never seen a demon before, from his fascinated stare. “We need furnishings for Alyssa. A bed to start. A clothing press. Tables, chairs. These will be delivered to the Temple in the desert.”
Ahmed nodded thoughtfully, gesturing them to an area across the hall. “This way my Lord, Ladies,” he added a bit doubtfully, with a glance at Kayja’s red skin, her curved, pointed black horns and shiny black hooves.
“This is excellent,” Kayja all but purred on their private pathway. “The human’s mind is already full of what he calls extras to include with the delivery, for Alyssa’s comfort. At no additional charge.”
“I can see his thoughts for myself,” Damien reminded her in some exasperation. Kayja huffed, her horned head tossing irritably.
They stopped before a display room, set back off the main hall, filled with bedroom furnishings. There were massive, carved poster beds, and simpler lounges and chaises. Gabrielle stopped before one, a pretty, low bed with soft sheets and a light throw, topped with several pillows. She leaned down to poke experimentally at the mattress, testing its firmness.
“What about this?”
“No.” His refusal was instantaneous. Ahmed had moved off to point out to Kayja a monstrosity of a bed with heavy wooden posts carved with fantastic animals, sure to appeal to the demon. Maybe he should have brought Aleksei instead. He turned to Gabrielle, leaning close to murmur. “It’s very similar to her bed in her tower room, in the palace. I don’t want it to be a constant reminder to her.”
As he straightened, his eye was caught by a burst of colors across the way. He moved toward the bed that had caught his eye. It was a combination piece, clearly designed for multiple uses as lounge, bed or sofa. A carved wood base rested on wood legs that rose high to support a flat lattice work above, like a canopy. The mattress was low and large, covered in bright turquoise damask. Gracefully carved spindles rose from the base to a smoothly polished banister, framing the bed on three sides, a warm backdrop for an array of colorful cushions, embroidered and sequined, propped against the supporting spindles.
He was aware of his sister and Gabrielle joining him, Ahmed at a respectful distance.
Gabrielle pursed her lips thoughtfully. “It looks more suited to a patio perhaps, or a balcony, than to a cave.”
Kayja glanced her way. “He already has a stone crypt that’s perfectly suited to a cave. That’s why we’re here.”
“It’s suited to Alyssa,” Damien stated, his tone brooking no argument. “That’s what is important.”
“Indeed, my Lord, I think she would love this,” Ahmed concurred. “It would certainly brighten a… a cave,” he glanced at Kayja standing beside him. “If that is your purpose, this would do well. And Alyssa loves the jewel tones. Always, the jewel tones are what draws her. There is a chest for clothing that would go well with this. The workmen could put together a grouping to match, it would take perhaps a day or two, no more. Floor cushions, a chaise lounge. A mirror set into a mashrabiyya frame.” He warmed to his theme. “We could create an inlaid table using the same wood, the spindles, and inlay the top with hues to pick up the colors from the cushions.”
Damien nodded decisively. “Bring this bed and the chest, and whatever else you have made now, to the Temple by mid-day. Then the rest as it is completed.”
Ahmed bowed low, far different from the stiff, polite gesture he’d offered when they had first arrived. The man exuded good will.
“It shall be done, Lord.” He paused. “If you would send some of your human servants to the city, Lord, the bed will need to be disassembled to transport. We will show them how to put it back together again.”
Leaving the Craft Hall, they again assumed a glamour. Gabrielle hurried for the distant Catacombs, using the preternatural speed of the vampire to outrun the rays of the sun, rising swiftly now above the mountains to the east. Damien, his demon blood making him less susceptible, took longer in following, strolling leisurely through the streets with Kayja as they made their way to the great gates of the city and then taking flight for the longer distance to the mountains.
Entering the Catacombs, Damien made his way to the Great Hall, ringing the bell that summoned the khadam and the other human servants not immediately in service to the vampire they looked to as Liege.
His indifferent gaze scanned the humans gathered before him. “A number of pieces of furnishings are being delivered to the Temple later this morning. At least two males are needed for the heavier pieces. Also I need one of you to visit the Woodworkers Craft Hall in the city for instruction in assembling the parts.”
Instantly two men stepped forward, and several women. One, a bubbly, rounded redhead, jiggled in place, seemingly excited.
“Is it for Alyssa?” she asked, apparently flushed with excitement. “Is it a surprise?”
He turned his full gaze on her, little red lights flickering in his eyes. Fangs extending, he snarled at her. She gulped, visibly paling, and the humans closest to him fell back a step, watching him warily.
Not deigning to answer the woman, he turned on his heel, stalking away to his private chambers, where Alyssa still lay deeply asleep, faint smudges beneath her eyes. The sleep of exhaustion. He stood looking down on her. Yesterday had been difficult for her. He must remember she was mortal, and young. He reached down to stroke her hair, his fingers slipping through the short, silky strands.
A surprise. The idiot woman’s words came back to him. As if. He was no fairytale prince. And yet… an image arose in his mind’s eye. Alyssa’s eyes alight, her gasp of delight, her radiant smile as she saw the furnishings.
He straightened, turning away, dismissing the notion with a flick of his hands. He was vampire. Demon. An ancient. He had no place in his world for such human nonsense. And yet the image could not quite be dispelled, lingering in the back of his mind.
Other Books in the When Darkness Falls Trilogy
When Darkness Falls Book I: The Palace
Released: June 3, 2021
When Darkness Falls Book III: The Prophecy
Release Date: July 1, 2021
About the Author
A former career medical transcriptionist and disabled Veteran, Allie McCormack is now writing from home full-time. Allie has traveled quite a bit and lived many places all over the U.S., and also a year in Cairo, Egypt as an exchange student, and a year in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia under contract to a hospital there, plus a short stint with NATO while she was in the Army. Allie now lives in the beautiful southern California with her family and her two rescue cats.
Allie says: “A writer is who and what I am… a romance writer. I write what I know, and what I know is romance. Dozens of story lines and literally hundreds of characters live and breathe within the not-so-narrow confines of my imagination, and it is my joy and privilege to bring them to life, to share them with others by writing their stories.”
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