I have been on journey with my new novel, drafting it faster than I’ve ever completed one before—five months from start to finish. A totally mind-blowing feat for me.
Add to this, the culmination of rebranding over the last few years has sent me to a cover artist to create new covers for the series. We started with book four, this book—BLOOD PHOENIX: INFERNO—and I am so SO happy to share it.
Big thanks to Christian from Covers by Christian. Not only was he patient with my pickiness, he churned out a cover that fits the book so well.
The wear from breaking my main character, Ria.
Okay, let me reign myself in. If I get myself too excited, I’m going to reveal too much, but I do want backdrop the cover a little bit with one small detail.
Those marks on her back are the catalyst to her next stage in the paranormal evolution, shoving her into a transformation that will take hold before the end of book five (the final chapter of Ria’s story).
All right, no more belaboring the point of this post. Here’s the book’s official blurb and the cover!
Drawing the Scarlet Queen to central New York’s training grounds, Ria’s remarkable blood triggers negotiations between two kingdoms.
Ria questions her own humanity when she finds herself aligned with Phea, the vampire queen—a woman who’s tortured her and her friends for months.
As all of her secrets unravel around her, Ria is forced to conform or sacrifice the people she loves.
If she doesn’t find a way to break their alliance, the balance of the universe will plunge deeper into chaos, and no one will be safe.
With a sprinkling of Twilight, a bite of Anita Blake, and a smattering of satirical Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you won’t want to miss this dark and witty vampire series.
Now, I can’t help myself! Here’s the first two chapters of the new installment, coming this November. And I’ll be linking the official book trailer below.
Gene burst into my room and jarred me upright in my bed. Nausea burrowed into my gut, finding its old nesting hole to roll around in. Oh god. I was going to be sick again.
“Get dressed. We’re expected in the clearing.” He pulled the sheets back to hurry me along.
“What’s going on?”
The shift to get out of bed set off warning bells, and my head sank between my knees.
My esophagus shrank.
I bolted to the bathroom, kicking the door closed as I bent over the toilet and puked. This has been my routine for the last few weeks. Gene was unhappy to admit that it might contribute to my lack of faerie blood, but he gladly filled in the gaps in my needs as he could.
“We do not have time—”
I wiped my mouth on the back of my hand. “Pull out something for me to wear. I won’t be long.”
Another wave trampled me.
My stomach churned out more bile.
I rinsed and waited.
Twice was my pattern, but some days…so I lingered.
Five deep breaths, and I opened the door to a dress.
“Come on. Are you kidding me?”
“We do not have time.”
Ugh. I snatched it and threw it over my head, snagging the heels that would sink into the grass in the clearing. Gene both ushered and supported me as I slipped into the shoes on our way out of the apartment door.
“I didn’t know James was looking for anyone.” Fidgeting with the dress top, the line didn’t match the sports bra I wore beneath it.
“He’s not the only one with the job.”
We stood around the semi-circle as Phea strode across the lawn, waiting in her usual spot across from the pathway onto the grounds, dressed like the true queen she was. Powerful. Elegant. Elevated.
She took up the entire clearing with her presence.
Not that long ago, I tramped through that foliage to face the queen of the vampires and ended the evening with a stake beside my heart, dying, and claimed by a man I didn’t know—the one I’d grown reliant on, connected to, comfortable with. I suppressed the urge to reach for his hand now.
The brush rustled, and Vincent stepped through—all doom and danger—then Julia appeared.
That couldn’t be.
Julia was dead.
The blonde hair shimmered, and Julia vanished. In her place stood the small blonde woman I’d seen in Vincent’s memories. A patch of hair buzzed around her ear, a gold piece holding her hair in place to expose it, and her rainbow eyes glowed with the kind of power that seemed regal.
Not what I expected out of a renegade.
Nor was the corset covering her abundant dress.
Phea’s surprise shifted her unnaturally, like when a cat tilted its head on its side but not nearly as dramatic. Scarlet stood from her dais on the porch behind our queen—a queen of her own. Bloody, they said. The Scarlet Queen.
“May I present Nani, Maka Nani, noble faerie of the underwater mound.” Vincent presented her in the same way James, my maker, presented me to Phea. An offering.
And that’s exactly what she was.
“Oh, Commander, how naughty you’ve been.”
His bow held an intimacy that came from a reformed renegade. One that made her third in command so loyal to her. Nani, the new vampire, fell into a graceful and practiced curtsy without buckling under fear.
Certainly not a normal renegade.
Scarlet’s obvious interest countered her usual demeanor, wicked and cold—colder than Phea, and it seemed to spark a challenge between the two, given the recent trend of sacrifices they paraded through the grounds.
“She is my claim, Your Majesty.”
“General.” Phea’s demand hung in the air, and James dragged a bent over T that once chained him in place to punish him for my vampirism. Now, he thrust the sharpened end into the ground as Vincent stepped forward to take it. “We have a punishment to dole out, and if your fae wants to be tested as yours, she will have to watch and wait through it before she undergoes her own trials.”
“She’s strong enough.”
Nani shifted behind him, but Vincent kept his gaze on our queen as he efficiently disrobed and braced himself within the metal cuffs at the ends of the T-top.
It was more than I wanted to see of him, looking over James instead in his suit and newly shortened hair. He stood as her soldier with a large, wooden box in hand.
Phea flicked her wrist, and the shackles snapped around Vincent’s.
James presented her whip.
She touched the scar on his chin before taking the weapon and slashing it across the grass, a snake promising to strike.
Feet jarred from under him, Vincent took the weight in his shoulders, but instead of the devoted bliss he often aimed at our queen, he seemed to find solace in his new claim.
Nani’s hands clenched the puffy fabric of her skirt, but she maintained her decorum. Like a princess.
Man, I really didn’t want to witness this again. I barely endured it when she’d done this to James. Well, if you could call it that. Felix taunted me right in the middle of this group while she split James’s skin open. Vincent held me as Felix and Gene fought. I hadn’t seen so much of the act.
Felix, our queen’s pet, was gone now, too.
Did Phea think he was out on a renegade hunt? That the new vampires I’d killed and sent off with the Assetatomerely ran off or got themselves killed? She had to suspect me.
I’d stabbed him in the heart after all. Like they’d forced me to do to Harris.
Too many deaths under my belt in too few weeks.
The whip struck flesh, breaking the sound barrier and bringing me back from the neurotic melancholy I’d grown too used to sulking in.
The musky scent of his blood tapped my heartbeat in my fangs and curdled my insides.
Each strike uncovered the madness in Phea’s eyes—one I didn’t see when she’d done this to James—then, I hadn’t exactly been watching her.
Her whip slid around her, leaving traces of blood across her dark clothes.
And they referred to Scarlet the bloody queen?
I traced the lines of Gene’s jacket with my gaze, the way his hands folded together in front of him, the clean press along the creases, the swoop of his dark hair styled in almond oil. The scent calmed me from here. My attention must have burned his skin because his shoulders rolled, and he tipped his face my way to spare a glance.
I forced a smile to say I was okay. Just trying to not really pay attention over here.
I flinched, working on my breath. It didn’t help, funneling more of Vincent’s musky blood into my sinuses. I could practically taste him.
James shifted on the other side of the circle, far enough to keep clear of the gore. With his expensive taste, I understood why.
The new persona he’d taken on after he changed me and brought me here didn’t fit him like his suit did. Standing at ease, clasped arms behind him exaggerated his shoulders’ width.
He met my gaze between the full-fledged vampires I stood behind. The planes of his face were blank, but amusement twinkled in the blackness of his eyes; beyond the gruesome display he found humor in my rushed attire. At least, that’s what the trajectory of his examination suggested.
I tugged at the clingy fabric, the static twisting it between my thighs.
Did a corner of his mouth quirk?
I jerked and shifted again, aware of someone else watching me.
Torture consumed Phea, Nani, and most of those gathered, but not Scarlet. No, I seemed to fascinate her. As much as the thought wormed its way down my spine and made me squirm, it had been this way since Tahe and I returned from the attack at the mall. For a while, I assumed she sensed Boden on me in some way, but I didn’t know if fae possessed that kind of discernment.
Wishful thinking kept me from examining this too closely.
Maybe she got wind of my more-than-inflated reputation.
It’s not like I held a candle to either queen.
But those too-round eyes, that demeanor, those gloved hands…all unsettled me.
Might be the stories and gossip Tahe whispered in my ear when we went into town to feed.
Scarlet smiled at me, manipulative and sweet.
Had this been a few weeks ago, I might have reached for Gene’s hand to stabilize my emotions and my abilities, but my mentor has put in the work with me, gotten me to put in the work, too, and I had control. At least in times like this.
Put me against her directly, however, and I’d likely be singing a different story.
Scarlet paced on the dais behind the performance, giving her an excellent view of the gory bits—something she enjoyed—but her head tilted, remaining privy to my every move.
Shaking my head, I tuned her out and rubbed the scar on my chest. It didn’t dull the burning reminder of how the wood felt as it slammed between my ribs.
Damned glad this wasn’t my problem.
Gene escorted me to his apartment in the Victorian house. I sank into his comfy, leather couch, holding my middle and urging my body to settle while he swept the living room, partial kitchen, and bedroom before settling in front of me.
“Coffee or blood?”
“What?” Queasiness curdled deeper.
“For your stomach, which would you prefer, coffee or blood?”
My choices warred with each other, simultaneously appetizing and revolting. I couldn’t decide, so I leaned into his shoulder instead.
Warmth engulfed my sides and back as his hand generated circles.
One of our cycles. Me queasy or puking. Him unsure what to do for me. We’d already discussed the possibilities of needing fae blood, and as sick as I was of being ill, I didn’t want to bring up that discussion again. There was no point to it.
The vanilla, honey, and almond scent of him took the edge off, so we spent a lot of time in close proximity, especially in the mornings when it was worst.
That meant a lot of sleepovers and cuddling.
Intimacy bloomed between us, and I struggled with it.
It sent us in another routine of warm, cold, hot, too hot, cold, and around again.
Demanding and pronounced taps struck his front door, pulling us apart.
Visitors made a habit of separating us. Unannounced and dangerous.
Gene paused to brush my bangs from my face and drop a kiss on my mouth before he helped me upright. Whoever showed up probably meant to gain something from me—an upper hand, information, fear. Being tired and aware of it didn’t keep it from happening.
I braced myself behind him, peeking from behind his shoulders.
He opened the door to Scarlet.
That prickling I used to get when Felix’s power crawled over my skin returned, but the threat was far more perilous.
A tug at her gloves and a brief touch to her pearls, Scarlet nodded to acknowledge us both. “Do I get the offer of coffee or blood? I almost always take blood, whether offered or not. Almost.”
The quirk of her mouth disturbed me.
Gene’s shoulders tightened under his suit jacket.
“I find it strange. You two have retired here five of seven nights this week.”
“I do not see how our nightly routine or where we retire is of interest to you or how it is any of your business.”
A shift in her stance read offense. “I heard you were one to follow rules and protocol, and here I am still standing in the hallway like some kind of beggar.”
Scarlet didn’t force her way in the way Felix or Vincent might. Instead, she smoothed down the fabric of her bodice and sighed. “You think just because I lost the ability to flay someone with my bare hands keeps me from enjoying the use of a blade? That I don’t have any other abilities? It was easy enough to gain power with it, but keeping influence and position brought new challenges. Different attention. More subtly. I have a new way of dealing with obstacles now.”
“How’s that?” Gene moved to block me once more.
“Why, I deal in secrets. And you’re teeming in them.” Her gaze found me anyways. “The both of you are.”
Gene and I exchanged a look, clearly dismissing me from the room. I didn’t want to leave him there alone with her, but I’d learned to trust him.
“I didn’t say she could leave.”
“You’re not our queen, and etiquette says you’ll deal with me as our hierarchy dictates.”
“It may be in your best interests not to send me after her when you’re not present, especially since she enjoys spending so much time with that pack of humans. Hierarchy would not serve her well then.”
I met her gaze fully. A challenge to her authority.
Even though I am not the highest amongst them, depending on who was present, they were powerless against her, and she’d force me to break protocol anyways.
My hand braced Gene’s elbow. He broke his protective barrier between us.
“So, what do you want from me? The more specific you can be, the better,” I said.
Her lips and brows quirked. “I see why you tend to conduct the meetings, but I am not surprised. Her attitude proceeds her. Generating a mythos of her own, spreading wide, and once it’s penetrated too far, you’ll not be able to contain or control it.”
I fought not to roll my eyes. Didn’t I say to be specific?
“Ria.” Gene gave me a shot of magick to chide me.
I crossed my arms and waited.
Scarlet met my challenge with a practiced ease. “Your secrets, renegade. I want your secrets.”
A deep breath jangled her pearls, and she wiped her hands down her bodice once more.
My fingers tightened around my biceps. She’d have to wait in line.
“Not right this moment, mind you, my reputation doesn’t include my sense of patience, but I know when to utilize it if I must.” A few curious blinks, and she acknowledged us both individually before turning from the door. “Not forever, though.”
Adrenaline shook my hands and shoulders, so I gripped myself harder as Gene closed the door.
“You shouldn’t goad her. She might not be our queen, but she has enough power to slaughter scores of her own people and ours.”
“It’s like you have a death wish.”
“Why do you challenge her then?”
“Because she’s the epitome of authority, and you know how I am with that.”
Gene mimicked my stance, arms folding across his chest. “Quite intimately, but I do not find that to be an adequate answer.”
A tilt of my head shifted his weight in response. His tendency to lecture me came from a good place, so I sighed.
“How about because I’m sick of every other creature looking at me like an anomaly, like my secrets are the answer to whatever power struggle they’re entangled in, like I’m some prize to cash in on. I am a person. Not property—”
Gene cleared his throat, reminding me that I wasn’t quite right. He didn’t need to, but that didn’t mean I agreed with how this society pinned me as such.
“—to be used as some type of magickal talisman. I just want to be left alone.”
“I do not disagree with you, but you will have to give up the pipedream. Reality is ruthless, and the sooner you understand that, the safer I can keep you.”
Another dose of adrenaline sucker punched me right where I was sensitive. My arms unfolded, and I cradled myself for the jog to the bathroom.
I cursed life as an immortal the entire time. How could I be this sick as a vampire?
I missed how easily Boden’s touch tended to soothe this pain.
Gene came in after, a glass of water at the ready.
Thanking him, I swished and spat before I flushed.
“Coffee or blood?”
Exasperated, I couldn’t refrain from the eye roll. “Coffee.”
And the trailer! I’m so excited for this book, y’all.