Everyone has a breaking point.
Her hundred-year penance lifted, Shadow Bearer Brenna Baudouin returns to the Earthly plane with her partner, Gray Warlow, to keep the peace between humans and supernatural creatures—and to prevent another apocalyptic war from happening.
The attraction between them is nearing a critical point, but their checkered history has left Brenna unable to trust either her heart or her instincts.
It’s chaotic business as usual until humans begin turning to statues of dust. There is no explanation, no sign of magical foul play or a biological toxin. The humans are convinced it’s the work of a deviant supernatural faction, twisting the knife in the already tense relationship between their species. Brenna and Gray agree—the deaths have a former comrade-turned-rogue stamped all over them.
In a race against time, they enlist the help of both friend and foe to save the human race and stop the impending civil war. Along the way, they are forced to come to terms with their past and decide, once and for all, whether they will come together or fall apart.
Warning: Contains a heroine who knows her weapons but not her own heart, an outbreak of supernatural proportions, copious bloodletting, and a race to save an endangered species—humans. All tied up in a tight bow of sexual tension.
Thank you, Mrs.Dennis
The Goodreads shelves are mixed: from mystery, dystopia to urban fantasy. Can you, please, tell us to what genre(s) the Shadow Born series belongs?
Great question. I noticed the same thing myself. And, honestly, I would say the series fits in “all of the above.” It is definitely an Urban Fantasy, but the urban setting is post-apocalyptic Denver, so it’s has some dystopian aspects as well. There is an overarching conflict that spreads over the entire series, but each books has its own separate “who done it” plot, so there is a lot of mystery tangled in. And don’t forget the romance. The relationship between Brenna and Gray plays a huge role in all of the books.
Lately urban fantasy genre tends to be taken over by the eroticism. What makes a good urban fantasy story and what its mandatory characteristic should be?
One of the things I love about urban fantasy books is that they generally have strong characters, fast pacing, and lots of conflict. To me a good urban fantasy sucks you into this dark, gritty, alternate reality from the very beginning and doesn’t let you go until the end. It should be a roller-coaster ride from start to finish.
As a woman writer, what are your objectives regarding the battle scenes?
To make sure that my female characters are every bit as tough as the men, and, sometimes, tougher.
It’s obvious that Brenna is a kick ass heroine. But is she just that? What makes a great fantasy heroine?
Brenna is a tortured soul. She’s been through a lot in her life, and there’s nothing she wants more than peace. Unfortunately, peace continues to allude her, and she finds herself forced to constantly fight to keep both herself, and those she loves safe.
I think a great fantasy heroine is multi-faceted. She has to be able to kick some ass, but she also has to be vulnerable. If she doesn’t have both, it’s very hard to connect with her as a reader.
It seems that the books of the Shadow Born series have clear endings. What do you think about cliffhangers (when, how, why should they be used)?
Wow. That’s a really tough question. As a reader, I hate cliffhangers (mainly because I don’t want to wait for the next book to find out what happens). However, as a writer, I think they work, particularly when writing a series. But I think if you write a cliffhanger, you have to make sure you give the reader some type of payout at the end of the book, make sure they leave the last page with a feeling of satisfaction and anticipation, not frustration.
Darkness embraced Brenna like a thick wool blanket. It wrapped around her, blocking the dim lamplight as she walked toward the seedy bar. Glass residue from the riots crunched beneath her leather boots. Mixed with snow, the bits of broken beer bottles and smashed windows glittered like an army of broken icicles. She breathed deeply, inhaling the cool night air. It smelled of sour beer and clove cigarettes and left a bitter taste on her tongue.
Shadows embraced the sides of the stone structure that housed the Dirty Ruby, one of the few multi-species bars in Denver proper. They stalked across the snow and mixed with the night to merge into a black mass. From its midst stepped a man. Well over six feet, he moved with grace in contrast to his size. The moonlight played across his face, highlighting his chiseled features.
Brenna’s pulse quickened and she took an involuntary step forward. Self-conscious, she ran a hand through her copper curls, freeing them from the careless bun. The thick strands streamed down her back like fire as she moved, her breath coming in quick harsh bursts. She slipped off her black leather duster and draped it across her arm. Without it the tight black corset left her taut belly and back exposed, but she didn’t feel the cold. She never did around Gray.
“Four demons. Thirty humans. Keep the casualties to a minimum.” Brenna brushed past him, tossing him her coat. “I’ll bring them out. You send them back to hell.”
“Hell?” Gray grinned. His teeth gleamed in the moonlight. “You speak human now?”
She shrugged. “When in Rome.”
Her back to him, she turned toward the freshly white-washed door. But before she could move, he had her shoulder in a vise grip. His fingers twined in the hair at the base of her skull. His breath hot against her cheek. “I know your other partners let you boss them around.” He turned her to face him. “I’m not them.”
He stepped forward, forcing her back. They moved in an awkward dance until her ass hit the stone wall. Trapped, she stared at him, wary. A shadow fell across his face hiding all but his piercing violet eyes.
“We enter together. Once they’re dead, we leave.” He stepped back, loosening his hold.
“Won’t remember a thing.” He crushed his lips to hers even as he slid the duster across her shoulders. “And I’m not your coat rack.” Releasing her, he stepped back.
Brenna rubbed the back of her hand against her bruised lips. Gray would be the death of her.
If she didn’t kill him first.
She leaned against the wall to regain her bearings as he stepped into the light. He moved like a jungle cat. Ropes of strong muscles slid beneath his bronzed skin as his wild untapped power stirred beneath the surface. Akin to a force of nature, he would never go unnoticed. Even incognito, only a fool wouldn’t recognize Gray was dangerous. He was a beautiful, powerful thing to behold. And he was hers.
If she wanted him.
His black hair shimmered in the pale lamplight. It was tied with the usual brown leather strap, but a few pieces had slipped free. They curled around his face, softening his features. The sight of him stirred memories of what they had been to each other. Memories she had struggled for a nearly a hundred years to repress. But she still wanted him with a fervor that was both frightening and exhilarating.
A sigh slipped from her lips as she pushed off the wall to follow him into the bar. Wooden planks creaked beneath their feet as they stepped inside. The room was crammed wall-to-wall with sweaty bodies. Humans surged on the dance floor, moving in chaotic abandon. Brenna stripped off her duster. The heat from the wood stoves was overpowering. Sweat beaded on her forehead. It dribbled down her face, sliding across her bare skin to pool between her breasts.
She threw the duster on the seat of a red plastic booth then slid in beside it. Her leather pants moved across the slick fabric like silk as she took a quick inventory of the room. Humans clanked beer bottles together, their shouts drowning out the death metal band screeching in the far corner. She closed her eyes to focus and searched for her prey. It took several minutes, but she found what she was looking for. The stench of rotten flesh and brimstone. It was subtle, but unmistakable. The demon was here, but he wasn’t alone.
Her seat shifted as Gray slid into the booth beside her. “This is new. They don’t usually hunt together.” He tossed a muscular arm across her shoulders.
Brenna leaned into his body. Her head against his chest, she breathed him in. He smelled of sage and wood smoke. “I doubt they’re aware of each other. Demons are territorial. They don’t play nice, and they’re not that bright.”
Gray shrugged. “There’s a first time for everything.”
He brushed a stray curl from her face. Unable to resist, she closed her eyes and enjoyed the simple touch.
“You take the males. I’ve got the females.” His breath was hot against her skin.
Her body tightened. She pulled back, a false smile playing on her lips. Beneath it she cursed her inability to keep him at a distance, even on a job. With a quick nod, she tossed back the shot of whiskey he shoved across the table. She leaned into him, her hands pressed against his chest. “We’ll meet at the van.”
“Agreed.” Gray kissed her lips. “Sam knows the drill.”
She could still taste him as he walked away, and that treacherous part inside her yearned for more. The best way to blend in was to act like a couple, but they needed another option. She was already sexually frustrated, and the night had barely begun. But there was nothing more cathartic than a good hunt.
Brenna glanced at the demon. It lounged on a barstool, deep inside a human man around thirty. With a bored look, he watched as a young woman, her shirt in tatters on the dirty floor, straddled him. Her skirt hiked to her crotch, her body trembled as he drained her life force. A second woman stood behind him. Clad in tiny purple panties and a lace bra, she swayed to the music. Glassy eyed, breasts heaving, she waited her turn. It was disgusting.
It had been a human war that had ripped through the Veil between the planes of reality, and the humans had paid the price. Supernatural creatures, the humans now called deviants, had poured onto the Earthly plane, only to be trapped once the Veil had healed. The humans had managed to survive the onslaught by allying themselves with sympathetic deviants, but they had gotten too comfortable. And the demons were taking full advantage.
Brenna slammed the shot glass on the table. Time to play human.
It wasn’t hard to attract the demon’s attention. As she strutted to the bar, her hips swaying, she let loose a strand of magic. Unseen it moved across the room to twine around him. She leaned against the bar, put on her best ditsy smile, thrust out her breasts, and waited. The demon dropped his lap candy and started toward her.
Brenna leaned toward the bartender and blew him a kiss. Another shot slid across the splintered wooden counter and into her outstretched hand. With a tilt of her head, her breasts nearly spilling from the too-tight corset, she drained the glass. By the time she lowered the drink, the demon was in front of her.
“Where’s your boyfriend?” Magic surged around them. Disease ridden, it left a slimy residue in its wake.
She widened her eyes in false fascination, pretending his compulsion spell had worked. “He doesn’t mind.” She glanced at the women he had abandoned. “What about them? Do they share?”
His green eyes glowed with anticipation. “It’s a requirement,” he said as he moved closer. His rancid breath tickled her face, and she somehow managed not to gag. He slammed his hand on the bar and ordered more shots.
With a giggle, she tossed back three. Her body chemistry wouldn’t allow her to get drunk. She imbibed solely for the taste and reassuring burn of the whiskey. As the sting faded, she moved from the bar and grabbed the demon by his thin white t-shirt. “What’s your name?” she murmured, trailing a finger down his chest.
Brenna almost laughed. It was so normal. His kind generally chose dramatic over common. “Well, Sean, let’s party.”
She pulled him into the crowd of people, her attention focused on the other demon. As the crowd parted, she found him.
This one was old. It’d been here a while. The man he wore showed extreme signs of use. Once handsome, he was now a frail husk. A ball cap had been shoved over his head. The bill was pulled down to hide his gaunt face.
Now in plain view of the older demon, Brenna leaned into the younger. She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Let’s dance,” she murmured. It was difficult to drown out the blaring music, but she used her imagination to replace it with something that had a beat. Her body swayed and gyrated to a rhythm only she could hear. As she settled into the movement, she released her own compulsion spell. It encircled the demons, rousing their hunger.
It wasn’t long before the older demon joined them on the dance floor. Brenna grinned, letting amusement show in her eyes. “Come to join us?”
His lips pursed in a smirk. “I don’t share.” A growl spilled from his mouth as he stared down the demon at her back.
She stepped from between them. These two were bottom feeders. She could take them both without much effort. But, if they wanted to save her the trouble, so be it.
The elder demon prowled the space around them. “Outside.” He flicked his head toward the entrance. “Don’t want to scare the pretty humans.” Scales rippled beneath his yellowing skin. His eyes flickered blue, then black.
Sean bared his teeth and lunged at the other man’s throat. Brenna was pooling her magic, debating whether to intervene, when a high-pitched scream tore through the room.
The dance floor erupted in chaos. Brenna and the demons stood on the sidelines like spectators in a macabre play. Men and women clung together. They skirted the boundaries of the room, their horrified gazes fixed on the spectacle in the center.
Three women stood on the dance floor. Arms stretched above their heads, hips thrusting to one side, they had been dancing when it happened. Nearly unrecognizable, their skin had fallen away or been transformed, Brenna wasn’t sure which. The once-human women were now statues of what looked like ash. They smiled at the crowd, their features drawn in kohl as if by a skilled artist. Soon their bodies would crumble. Even now, tiny gray particles rolled down their faces.
Stunned, she searched the room for Gray. He was standing at the far corner, a demon on each arm. The three of them were embroiled in a heated conversation, but their words were indecipherable over the roar of the crowd. After a few moments, Gray released them and they fled through the open door.
Brenna glanced at the creatures at her side. She couldn’t exorcise them in a crowded bar, and she couldn’t leave. A curse slipped from her lips. She had to let them go. But she had their scent now. They wouldn’t get far.
“Go,” she ordered. Their eyes widened as she dropped her glamour. “You owe me.”
Sean hissed, his skin rippling. “Your kind don’t belong here.”
“Neither does yours.”
They were at an impasse. Brenna sighed. She didn’t have time for this. “Go or I’ll escort you. Your choice.”
They only hesitated for a moment.
As she turned to find Gray, the door of the unisex bathroom squeaked open. It was a few feet behind Brenna, so she had an unimpeded view of the small blond woman who stepped into the room. So drunk she could barely stand, she stumbled toward the women, oblivious to the startled crowd. Confusion colored her features.
She took a long swig of her beer. “I was only gone a sec.” She lost her balance and toppled forward, reaching for one of the women to keep from falling. A scream tore through the room as she fell, her friends disintegrating, one after another, beneath her touch. Her beer bottle hit the ground beside her, shattering on the hard wooden floor. It was the final straw for the previously contained crowd. They lunged for the exit, emptying the bar.
Brenna stood alone on the edge of the dance floor. Her skin burned from the ash like residue coating her face and bare upper body. The dust smelled like a mixture of vinegar and smoke. She pulled a black handkerchief from the pocket of her pants to wipe it away, but it clung like oil. Every human in the bar had been coated in the women’s remains. Nothing solid was left of the dancers, not even a dry husk.
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Angela Dennis lives outside Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband, son and a sheltie with a hero complex. When she is not at her computer crafting stories, she can be found feeding her coffee addiction, playing peek-a-boo, or teaching her son about the great adventures found only in books.
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Looks like a great read! thank you for the chance to win.
thank you for the giveaway!
Looks interesting!! ^_^ Nicely done!
How can you not like supernatural creatures and apocalyptic world of chaos? Awesome read! by the way thanks for the giveaway.
I love books like this, this one sounds amazing, I can never get enough so looking forward to reading it. thank you for the giveaway
I love gift cards! I see on Good Reads it says you live outside Cincinnati. I live in Toledo.
Love the interview and the excerpt, sounds like a great book!
Thank you all SO much. I really hope you enjoy Fading Light. Good luck with the contest!
I love urban fantasy, and am excited to add this to my series of books!
Thanks for the giveaway. I need to read this book, it looks amazing. :))
Sounds really good!
Intriguing excerpt - I can't wait to read it.
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