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The Calling (Immortals) by Jennifer Ashley - Romance>Paranormal/HorrorAmber has never heard of the Immortals—ancient warriors come to the aid of those in trouble, summoned by the Calling spell. She only learns about them when one crashes into the deserted warehouse where she's fighting the demon who murdered her sister, and proceeds to beat back the demon and destroy every single one of Amber's protective spells.
Adrian, the oldest Immortal, is intrigued by the lone young woman trying to face an ancient demon, an Old One. He saves her life, and takes her home, wanting to know more about her, and the story of her sister's quest and death. He discovers that Amber's sister had found Adrian's brother, Tain, lost for seven hundred years, and has left clues as to where to find him.
Adrian wants to leave Amber behind, out of danger, as he searches for Tain, but Amber sticks to him, needing to know the truth about what happened to her sister. She's also drawn to this hard-edged man in the leather coat, who looks more like a biker than an ancient warrior, and finds herself falling for his dark eyes, warm voice, and incredible magic.
Together they begin their quest, traveling to Los Angeles to consult with a vampire master and a dragon, then into the wilderness to continue the search.
But they discover that their quest goes far beyond finding Tain or confronting the demon—the problem touches the edge of a far greater plan that puts the entire world in danger. Only the Immortals—all of them together—can hope to stop it.
The danger to Adrian is even greater—he has found his soul-mate in the warm-hearted Amber and he'll do anything to keep her safe.
Book One of the Immortals. Originally published in 2007, The Calling has been fully revised and reedited.
Reader Rating: 0.0 Not rated (0 Ratings)
Sensuality Rating: Not rated
Excerpt:Amber Silverthorne fell onto her back, stunned, as the man in the black leather coat crashed into the warehouse and started to beat off the demon who’d attacked her.
The candles marking Amber’s circle scattered, splattering wax across the dirty floor. The magic she’d invoked sputtered and died. Her terror changed to amazement at the sight of the tall man, who faced the demon with grim glee on his face, a huge silver sword in his hand.
He held the sword almost negligently, as though it weighed nothing. As soon as the demon came at him, he swung it, slicing the blade across the demon’s pristine suit. He laughed as the demon retreated, snarling.
The man’s black hair was bound in a tail at his nape and again halfway down his back, keeping it well out of the way of the fight. His face was nowhere near as handsome as that of the demon he fought, being more hard and square. A warrior’s face to match a warrior’s body.
The warrior and demon were evenly matched in strength, speed, and agility. Each focused tightly on the other, the demon’s black eyes sparkling with fury. The man’s eyes were black too, like wells of darkness. The warrior chopped downward with the sword and the demon spun away, black blood flying from a wound and splashing Amber’s skin like acid.
Amber scrambled to gather her crystals to her, chanting furiously to re-form her bubble of protective magic. Black-leather man and the demon fought hand-to-hand, the man’s sword swinging in wide, deadly arcs, the demon fighting back with the iron bar he’d tried to murder Amber with.
“Immortal,” the demon snarled.
The man grinned. “Good guess. What gave it away?”
“Who Called you?”
The silver sword went straight for the demon’s throat. “No one. I happened to be passing.”
Amber took her concentration from the crystals for a split second. Happened to be passing? A deserted warehouse between the tracks and docks of Seattle? With a sword?
But good thing he was. Tonight Amber had gathered her supplies and come to the scene of her sister’s murder to try to find out what had happened to Susan four weeks ago. Jack Simon, detective in charge of the case, had told her that because there were no immediate suspects the murder would be filed under “unexplained paranormal death,” and likely forgotten.
Simon was sympathetic and truly cared about solving the crime, but he’d refused Amber’s requests to let her see where her sister had died, so she’d come here now that the police were finished, without bothering to tell him. After all, she was a private citizen, allowed to drive anywhere in Seattle she wanted.
The police tape was gone, the warehouse deserted, forensics and fingerprint takers finished. It was a warehouse again, nothing to distinguish it from other rundown buildings in this area, except that Susan had died here.
The demon swerved from the warrior’s sword, moving with the deadly speed of his kind. Undeterred, the warrior shifted his weight to one foot and kicked, catching the demon high on the shoulder.
Was the man here because of Susan? A boyfriend Amber didn’t know about? Detective Simon had let her look at the notebook he’d found next to Susan—the notebook had contained words in a script Amber couldn’t read, but the writing had tingled with evil. Amber had stared at it in shock. Susan knew better than to mess with demons and death magic. The evidence indicated she had anyway, and it had likely killed her.
Alone in the warehouse, Amber had cast a circle for protection, calling on the element of Earth, to which her magic had the greatest affinity, to guard her. She’d used quartz crystals to enhance the vibrations leftover from the murder so she might scry what had happened, plus salt to outline her circle and connect with the bones of the earth beneath the warehouse.
Not three minutes into the ritual, the demon had arrived by the mundane method of walking through the front door, and he’d tried to kill Amber.
She’d fought, a futile effort since demons were stronger than any mortal. Had Susan fought, too? This demon seemed to radiate even more strength and evil than the demons who ran clubs in downtown Seattle, where foolish humans went to be seduced. He’d easily thrown down her guardian and circle, and had been ready to bash out her brains when the warrior had come crashing in.
Amber focused her energy on the crystals, trying to find her center and shut out the death match happening five feet from her. Despite his wound, the demon whirled away and now struck the warrior with the iron bar, landing a blow across the back of the warrior’s fine-fitting leather coat. The coat ripped and the bar dug into the man’s shoulders.
The warrior used the impact to bring his large fist around and catch the demon on the side of his head. While the demon staggered, the warrior shrugged off his ripped coat and continued the fight in a T-shirt that molded to every muscle in his body.
“Who are you?” the warrior demanded of the demon.
To Amber’s surprise, the demon chuckled. “That stays my secret.”
“When I cut off your head, maybe I’ll fish it out of your brain.”
“I will not die this day, Immortal.”
The man gave the demon a contemptuous look. “You sound like a reject from a bad movie. How do you know about Immortals?”
“I know you seek one.”
The declaration wiped the smile from the warrior’s face. He snarled in fury and launched himself at the demon for an all-out attack. A cloud of death magic shot from the demon’s hands, slick and foul like tar. It caught the man in the side and sent him flying up and backward until he slammed high into a brick wall.
Amber winced, fearing she’d see the warrior slide boneless to the floor, but he sprang off the wall and landed on his feet. He lifted his sword straight out in front of him and bellowed, “Go!”
The sword shifted from a blade into a five-foot snake, its mouth open, fangs gleaming. It flew through the air as though it had been shot from a bow and sank its teeth into the demon’s raised arm.
The demon tried to shake it off, but the snake clung, biting deep. It must be poisonous, but would its venom harm a demon? The demon flailed and cursed, his attempts to dislodge the snake sending him straight toward Amber and her circle. The demon slammed into the blue nimbus of magic, but Amber’s protective bubble held, the shield glowing red where the demon struck it.
The demon’s well-tailored back and shoulders pressed the bubble as he looked up to find the warrior glaring down at him. The warrior’s biceps were thick, a V of sweat plastering his shirt to his body. The warrior grabbed the snake by the tail, and the snake became a sword again, its tip pressing the demon’s chest.
The demon wrenched himself backward over the bubble, sliding down the other side. The man leapt after him, rolling across the magic shield an inch from Amber’s head. The demon went down, and the warrior stood over him, sword point once more at the demon’s chest. The man held the huge hilt in both hands, ready to shove the blade in.
“Tell me,” he commanded, voice hard.
The demon laughed. “About Tain?”
“What the hell do you know about Tain?”
“If you kill me, Immortal, you’ll never know.”
“Then I’ll flay off every inch of your hide. Tell me, and I’ll be nice and kill you quick—er.”
The demon laughed. “Wouldn’t you love to know what I mean?” He pointed at Amber. “Ask her.”
The man glanced to where Amber sat under the faintly glowing shield, her mouth open. The warrior’s face took on a look of absolute fury, and he spun back to the demon and rammed the sword through the demon’s body.
Except the demon wasn’t there. He dissolved into mist and vanished, his laughter ringing through the empty room.
The warrior stared in stunned silence at the space where the demon had lain. A few tendrils of mist lingered on the blank floor, dissipating in the cool breeze that blew through the warehouse.
Snarling, the warrior flung his sword across the floor, where it spun and threw sparks into the darkness. Face drawn with fury, he balled his fist and punched a nearby steel girder. The metal groaned under the onslaught, and the man stayed there, head bowed, arms stretched and tight. For a moment, his shoulders shook, the fists curling even harder against the post.
Amber kept her protective bubble in place as the warrior finally pushed away from the post and stormed after his sword. He’d driven off the demon, but there was nothing to say he wasn’t as dangerous.
The demon had called him Immortal, and the only immortals Amber knew about were vampires. The warrior didn’t look like a vampire, but then again he might be some kind of super-vamp she’d never seen before. When dealing with wielders of death magic, you couldn’t be too careful.
The warrior reached down and picked up his sword. His jeans fitted easily over his thighs, showing trim, tight hips and one gorgeous ass. As soon as he touched the sword’s hilt, it turned to a snake again and wrapped itself lovingly around his wrist.
The snake lifted its head and looked at Amber as the man walked back to her, its unblinking obsidian eyes fixing on her. It tested her scent with its tongue, then flattered its neck into a hood shape she recognized.
Amber choked out, “That . . . is a cobra.”
“Yes.” The man spoke a word to the snake, and it deflated and slithered up the man’s arm. The cobra coiled around his bicep and morphed into a snake-shaped silver armlet that shone softly in the moonlight.
“Is it gone?” Amber asked shakily.
“No.” The man touched the armlet, and she heard a faint metallic ring. “He’ll come when he’s called.”
“Then I’d appreciate it if you didn’t call him.”
The warrior smiled tightly, then immediately lost the grin. In the split second before he closed his expression Amber saw incredible weariness—grief and exhaustion that went beyond anything she understood. He looked fairly young, about thirty or so, but his eyes held the strain of someone who’d watched ages pass.
The man sank down on his heels to study Amber, and the breath went out of her. Strong. Big. The feeble adjectives welled up in her mind, but they kept her from blurting out, “Would you look at those thighs.” He was built like a wrestler, though not quite as bulked. His T-shirt molded to tight muscle, the neckline showing a dusting of black curls and an inviting sliver of chest, and his jeans stretched enticingly over his groin.
His hands were brown and sinewy, and had exhibited marvelous strength wielding the large sword. His face was hard and strong, cheekbones broad, his jaw square, black hair pulled back from a sharply defined brow.
His eyes arrested her. Those eyes held cool darkness, a depth beyond anything she’d ever seen. Amber had plenty of experience with otherworldly creatures—vampires with seductive eyes and werewolves with a golden gaze that trapped you before you could even think to run. But this man’s eyes were different. She sensed something in him both ancient and as new as yesterday, a wisdom mixed with insatiable curiosity.
In spite of the spatter of black demon blood on his shirt and arms, he was utterly comfortable and unaware of his delectable looks.
“You like hiding behind that thing?” he asked, peering through the shield.
“Better safe than sorry, I always say.”
The man made a snatching motion at the bubble, and it instantly dissolved, the light bleeding down into the salt outline before vanishing.
“Crap,” Amber said softly. She wouldn’t have time to charge the stones to raise another defensive barrier before he could strike. She was, as the phrase went, a sitting duck. No one should have been able to crack her shield like that.
“Your spells can’t hurt me,” the man said, resting his hands on his knees. “And I won’t hurt you, so don’t strain yourself while I ask you questions.”
Amber let fear fan her anger. “Who the hell are you?”
“More important, who you are and why are you brain-dead enough to summon a demon? Especially one of that caliber?”
“I didn’t summon him.”
He flicked his finger over her stones. “I see a circle. A chalice and knife, candles, salt, incense, stones. And when I came in, there was a demon. What, you were going to cast his horoscope?”
“If you knew anything about witchcraft, you’d see this is a circle for protection only,” Amber said hotly.
“Which you just happened to cast in a warehouse in the middle of the night in a neighborhood rampant with feral vampires,” he said in a hard voice. “Not to mention rats, snakes, rabid dogs, and humans who’d roll you for a nickel.” He leaned closer. “Why aren’t you home tucked up in bed, little witch?”
Amber hid her fear, pretending to be just as in-your-face as he was. “Why do you want to know so bad?”
A corner of his mouth moved in impatience. “Just tell me.”
“Tell me who you are, first.”
He nodded once, as though her request was fair. “You can call me Adrian.”
Amber blinked. “I can call you Adrian? Is that your name?”
“Close enough to what?”
“Close enough to my original name that humans can’t pronounce.”
She folded her arms, sitting back as though unworried. “Can you be more specific? Like what is an Immortal? Are you a vampire?”
He shook his head. “Sweetheart, I’m what vampires fear. When vamps tell each other scary stories, they’re about me.”
“I see,” Amber said skeptically. “You’re not full of yourself or anything.”
To her surprise, he laughed. His smile made his eyes crinkle, softening them into something almost human. “I’m not a being of death magic, if that’s what you’re worried about. I’m definitely about life magic, like you. Which is why I want to know why you’re messing with death magic. This whole place reeks of it—I can’t breathe without inhaling a shitload of it. Do you have a car?”
The incongruity of the question made Amber jump. “Yes. Why?”
Adrian rose to his feet with lithe grace. “I say we blow this joint and get some coffee and talk. That’s what Seattle’s known for, right? Coffee?”
“I hate coffee,” Amber said automatically. A drawback living in twenty-first century America, never mind Seattle, which pretty much had a coffeehouse on every corner. She was forever explaining she didn’t like it and earning incredulous looks from her coffee-saturated friends.
“Then I’ll buy you tea. Come on.” Adrian reached down a broad hand to help her to her feet.
Amber studied his hand, callused and strong with fighting, wondering whether to even consider trusting him. He was a fine specimen of a man, yes, but she’d learned the hard way that looks could disguise any amount of badness. He should not have been able to break her circle without wielding powerful magic himself, but he did not feel like a demon, and her coven would have heard about any witch that strong who’d come to town.
His words about Seattle’s coffee signaled that he was new in town, but why he should rush to this warehouse in the nick of time to save her was beyond her understanding. Happened to be passing, my ass. She needed to find out more about him.
“I’m a witch,” Amber said. “Aren’t you afraid I’ll turn you into a toad or something?”
Another tight grin. “I’ll risk it.”
Amber blew out her breath. “All right,” she said, taking his hand. “I think we definitely need to talk.”
The CallingBy: Jennifer Ashley