Bleeding Hearts, #1
Blood Rush, #2
Wolf’s Bane, #3
by Ash Krafton
Date of Publication: October 13th 2016
Publisher: Ash Krafton
Cover Artist: Red Fist Fiction
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Sophie Galen is an advice columnist whose work leaves her neck-deep in other people's problems. Thanks to her compassion, her gut instinct, and her magnetic charm, Sophie really knows how to attract little black clouds.
Marek Thurzo is no little black cloud; he's a maelstrom. Marek is Demivampire, a race with the potential to evolve into vampire. A warrior who's taken his share of spiritual damage, he hovers dangerously close to destruction.
He seeks salvation. She's driven to save him. But what if he can't be saved?
Sympathy for his plight becomes true empathy as Sophie's hidden nature is revealed. Marek suspects she may be one of the Sophia, oracle and redemption of the damned Demivampire. She alone can turn back the evolutionary clock.
All she needs is the courage to face her fears. Can she save him from Falling?
Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde
"Well, Sophie, you've been busy." My editor placed the typed sheets on her desk and pushed her reading glasses to the top of her head, smiling in a way that suggested she wasn't simply commenting on my productivity.
Barbara Evans was definitely fiftyish but her exact age remained a secret closely guarded by her mother and the clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles. No gray, no dye. No kidding. The wrinkles around her eyes were laugh lines; gravity had yet to wage war on the softer parts of her body.
I made a noncommittal noise as I fooled around at the coffee station in her office at The Mag. I swore I kept this job just so I could drink her coffee. An invitation to Barbara's office for coffee was like receiving royal honors.
"Unfortunately, I felt really inspired this week." I took a shallow sip of the coffee so I didn't scald my tongue. Carrying the mug over to her desk, I flopped into the big red leather chair across from her.
"I'll say. These letters make, what..." She shuffled through the perpetual piles on her desk until she found what she wanted. Barbara was old school, preferring paper to electronic files. "Seven. You made the regular issue as well as the summer bonus. I'm impressed."
Nodding, I reached for my cup. The summer bonus was a pain, if anyone asked me. However, I got paid to do it. Money was nice, so I kept my opinion to myself. I had yet to master a passable poker face and Barbara was a champion player.
"But you don't look like someone who's free and clear until next issue," she said. "You look more like you expect someone to jump out at you."
"I just... eh, it's nothing." I tried to downplay it but her assessment was dead-on, hopefully no pun intended. Her slight frown insisted she wanted a better answer and I grimaced, knowing she wouldn't like the answer. "I've been thinking about Patrick."
"Him again?" She clucked her tongue and walked around the desk. Perching on the edge, she softened her firm tone with a sympathetic look. "He needed professional help and you told him so. You did what you could."
"I don't feel like I did."
"Enough. You're not a psychiatrist. Let it go."
Barbara was right. I was an advice columnist. People sought me out because they wanted my help. Didn't help matters that, before joining The Mag, I'd spent more than a decade in nursing. I was driven to help, to care, to make things all better.
Didn't I have an obligation to help them? "But—"
"But nothing," she said. "I know you like to dwell. At least dwell on something cheerful. Think about those you help."
I scowled into my cup. She was right—I did get too hung up on people and their problems. It was just the way I was wired.
"What brought him up, anyway?"
"I got a letter from him yesterday," I said.
She gave me a careful look as if she were determining whether or not our friendship would survive a phone call to Crisis Intervention. "You mean from someone who sounds like him."
"No, him. His handwriting, his signature."
"I thought you said—"
"I did." I scooted on the slippery cushion so I could look up at her. "You saw the obituary."
"Dead is dead, Sophie." Barbara flipped through the stack in her inbox before selecting several pages from the middle. She tugged a paperclip free and dropped it into a tray as she reclaimed her seat. "They don't come back. Maybe he sent it before he—you know."
I cradled the cup, feeling the sting of heat through the ceramic. The warmth failed to travel past my palms and I tucked my arms to my chest. "It was postmarked this week."
"Do you want the column mail screened?"
"Wouldn't help. It was mailed to my apartment."
Now I had her attention.
She sat back in her chair, papers forgotten. "How could anyone have gotten your home address?"
"Beats me. The column mail comes here and I use a post office box for freelance subs."
"Anything else? Phone calls? Hang ups?"
"No. Just the letter." After a brief deliberation, I added more. Might as well spill all the beans and not just the ones she'd believe. "And the feeling someone's... waiting for me."
Barbara's expression said Okay, I think you finally cracked but her mouth issued more diplomatic words. "Seriously? Maybe you're being stalked."
"No, I don't think so. Just a vague feeling, like someone's waiting for me to... I don't know, open my eyes. See them." I didn't ask if she ever had that feeling. Most people didn't get impressions the way I did. I'd stopped asking that question a long time ago.
However, this was the first time a simple impression worried me. It was a solid, hovering kind of expectancy that killed my concentration and made me look over my shoulder wherever I went.
"That's probably because the letter came to your apartment." The phone rang and Barbara poked the voice mail button. "You feel vulnerable. Keep your eyes open and try to ignore it."
I half-agreed with her, raising the cup and hiding my mouth behind it. I couldn't shake the distinct feeling something awful loomed. The sense of foreboding was like wearing a turtleneck—a constant, constricting pressure. "Maybe I'll take self-defense classes."
"Never a bad idea for a woman living alone in the city. Then again, you might not need them. Your witticisms are sharp enough to draw blood."
I grinned. "Eh, it's a defense mechanism I developed from working with Donna. I used to be such a nice person."
"Speaking of her, she's looking for you."
I slid down in my chair so my head wasn't visible from the door. "Maybe I'll just stay in here while I finish my coffee. Wouldn't do to be caught out in the open."
Barbara removed her glasses and tossed them onto her desk. "What did you do now?"
"Nothing," I protested. "Just--that Expo thing. She's in charge."
She pressed her lips into a stern line. "Haven't you signed up yet?"
"Heck, no. I have stuff to do. Me stuff."
"Your job is me stuff."
"Easy for you to say. You're salaried. Saturday is my day off."
"Well, I won't blow your cover." She glanced over my head toward the door before she waved her pen warningly. "But she'll get her claws into you. One way or another."
I scowled and took a double mouthful of coffee so I wouldn't have to respond. Claws, Expo, anything Donna—they all topped the list of Things I Wanted Least.
I stayed long enough to complete my hedonistic coffee experience before slinking back to my desk. This was work, after all; I wouldn't remain a staff writer if I didn't act like one.
I lived in Balaton, a harbor-dependent city halfway between Philadelphia and Wilmington. Halfway was an apt description in more ways than one. Big enough for a downtown but lacking the sprawl of a mega-city. Too small for a subway but wide enough for several bus routes. Taxes weren't as high as Philly but we didn't get a free ride on sales tax like glorious Delaware, either.
We weren't a major tourist destination, just another city people passed through on the way to somewhere else. I guessed that was why I never left. Balaton was midway between point A and point B—just like me.
This job was the closest fit I'd felt in a long time, even if the inseam wasn't quite right. I had a leg up in the game, at least. My inner voice. My gut instinct. My compassion.
The job was easy. All I had to do was tell people what they probably already knew. Nine times out of ten it was what they wanted to hear anyway, but they didn't trust themselves enough to follow their own advice. If people were brave enough to listen to the spark of wisdom that lived in each of us, I'd be out of a job.
Thank God for that one out of ten who actually needed my advice; they went a long way to validate me. Only problem was, they were the ones who kept me awake at night.
I sighed and plucked my mail from the basket hanging outside my cubicle before dropping into my chair. My position at The Mag was a haven for me. At least, it had been until Patrick's needy letters arrived. Damn those depressed men who get attached to the first sympathetic person they encounter. Damn the way they kill themselves and leave the rest of us to feel like it was our failure, not theirs.
Damn them for coming back.
I knew it couldn't be him. I knew dead was dead. Plenty of dead had happened around me in the past and never once had it been undone. Patrick could be no exception.
Question was: Who? Who now? Who was going to yank my heartstrings, get me completely tied up in their emotional plight, and bail on me at the end? Who would be the death of me?
I didn't want to find out.
Sophie doesn't believe in happily ever after. These days, she'd settle for alive after sunrise.
Advice columnist and newly-appointed oracle to the demivampire, Sophie Galen has more issues than a Cosmo collection: a new mentor with a mean streak, a werewolf stalker she can't shake, and a relationship with her ex's family that redefines the term complicated. And then there's her ex himself, who is more interested in playing leader of the vampire pack than in his own salvation.
Becoming a better oracle is tough enough, but when Sophie encounters a deadly enemy - one she never dreamed of facing - it will take everything she's ever learned in order to survive.
Since becoming oracle to the demivampire two years ago, advice columnist Sophie has battled werewolves and survived a vampire attack (or two). However, not only was she powerless to save her lover Marek when he slipped to the brink of evolution, she also witnessed his transformation into a falcon, the symbol of Horus United.
Sophie’s quest to save Marek is further complicated when rock star Dierk Adeluf – who also happens to be the king of the Werekind – invites her backstage after a concert. Just when it seems she will find respite from heartache, Sophie is bitten by a werewolf and Dierk decides she is destined to be his queen.
Sophie is caught between the demivamps she loves and the Were who commands her to love him. Throw in his jealous wanna-be girlfriend—a true bitch if ever there was one—and an ambush by witches, and there you have the big mess that Sophie calls her life. And, hello? Her soul mate is still a bird.
Ash Krafton writes because if she doesn't, her kids will…and NOBODY wants that. A speculative fiction girl through and through, Ash writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels as well as poetry and short fiction. Her work has won a bunch of awards and was even nominated for a Pushcart Prize. When she's not writing, she's practicing Tai Chi, listening to loud rock and metal, or crushing on supervillains.
Most recently, she's re-released her urban fantasy trilogy THE BOOKS OF THE DEMIMONDE because she never really left the world of Sophie and her Demivamps.