High Stakes is probably one of my most unusual twists, in fiction. An Urban Fantasy style series with a few unique twists, the series is set both in our world and in a parallel world where all the beings and creatures considered little more than myths in our world were banished to at various points throughout history. Their society in the world known as the Strata has developed to blend both the magic our world has largely lost, and the modern technology we’ve embraced in its place.
Geoff Grayson is a perfect example of this. As a Thorolfkind – a lupine shape-shifter, not to be confused with a werewolf – he is part of a mythic race driven out of our world centuries ago. As a skald he is trained to use an ancient form of magic only master storytellers can summon. But he is also a man quite interested in our world and its technology, and makes good use of the technology he can.
Kyna Ravensfall is his opposite in many ways – a form of vampire unseen in our world in a thousand years, she has insulated herself in the world of the Strata and made no attempt to ever leave its comforting familiarity. But they share many things in common, as well, and those things they share in common have bound them together, despite the differences and defenses ripping them apart.
“Ghost of YesterYule” – Excerpt from SKALDED (High Stakes, Book 2)
Kyna sighed as she sank onto a bench beside the hearth, letting its warmth seep through her chilled soul, even as the sounds of students laughing and singing drifted to her.
There was once a time she loved Yule. As a girl, she waited all year for the bright festivities, waited anxiously through the solemn ceremony of the Holly King and Queen, until they could all retire to the main Hall, where the scents and sounds of the season would wrap around her, and the laughter would begin.
That girl was gone, and Kyna mourned her difficult passing. Even as she gazed out over her students, innocent in their joyous laughter as they exchanged baubles and quips, and sang festive, jolly songs, Kyna felt the prick of pain to her heart, the wound re-opened. It was at Yule that her life tore apart, so many years ago. Now, she wanted to run to her students, to break up their festivities and warn them not to laugh so much, or sing so cheerfully. Laughter was fleeting, and love died a long, agonizing death. She wanted to spare them her heartache, by showing them the truth…
“You shouldn’t sit alone under the mistletoe. Someone might think you were looking for company.” The gravelly, husky whisper danced along her nerve endings, the voice of Yules past, and Kyna’s hand shook so violently wine sloshed from her goblet and over her hand.
A low, humming noise filled her ears, and she found the vessel gone, her hand clasped in a large, strong hand she knew oh-so-very-well. A gasp flew from her as his tongue smoothed over her skin, cleaning away the wine.
“Wine?” He looked stunned. A ghost of a smile flirted with her lips. Did he truly expect that she found their separation any easier than he did? She’d been slowly dying for a decade, unable to feed properly.
“Yes.” It was all she could force past her constricted throat.
He groaned, the sound a low growl that reverberated through her body, setting loose wards she’d crafted so painstakingly over the years. As his mouth returned to her skin, her eyes closed as a tiny moan escaped her. She didn’t want to see him, to know the reality of what she contemplated. She was too vulnerable, too hungry.
“Shh.” The admonishment growled from him, even as he raised her to her feet and tugged her lightly into his embrace. “No talking.”
She melted against him, her eyes closed and her mind shut against what she was about to offer – about to beg for.
“Take me. Please.”
She heard his intake of breath, felt him hesitate. Geoff was an Alpha. Alphas didn’t hesitate. Her eyes snapped open, and she knew instantly — ten years wasn’t long enough to wipe her heart clean. A century wouldn’t be near long enough.