October Releases

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Stolen Dreams Blog Tour - Spotlight + Excerpt + $100 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway: Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4) by Christine Amsden

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Author: Christine Amsden
Series: Cassie Scot
Number in Series:  4
Release Date: October 15, 2014
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Genre: Mystery/New Adult/Paranormal/Urban Fantasy

Synopsis from Christine Amsden
Edward Scot and Victor Blackwood have despised one another for nearly a quarter of a century, but now their simmering hatred is about to erupt. 
When Cassie Scot returns home from her sojourn in Pennsylvania, she finds that her family has taken a hostage. Desperate to end the fighting before someone dies, Cassie seeks help from local seer Abigail Hastings, Evan Blackwood's grandmother. But Abigail has seen her own death, and when it comes at the hand of Cassie's father, Victor Blackwood kills Edward Scot. 
But things may not be precisely as they appear. 
Evan persuades Cassie to help him learn the truth, teaming them up once again in their darkest hour. New revelations about Evan and his family make it difficult for Cassie to cling to a shield of anger, but can Evan and Cassie stop a feud that has taken on a life of its own? Conclusion to the Cassie Scot series.

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From Chapter 3

When I arrived that Friday, it was to an empty store; Aunt Sherry had gone out for more paint so we could finish that stage of the operation. Since she had given me a spare key, I let myself in, heading for the back room to change into an old sweat suit I used for painting. I had come straight from Abigail’s home, so I still wore my stonewashed jeans and pale pink sweater. The outfit had looked cute when I had bought it a few years earlier, but I had to admit the potion belt riding low on my hips was cramping my sense of style.
It’s worth it, I silently reaffirmed when I pushed open the door to the back room, fumbling for the light switch. The single bulb didn’t provide much illumination in that unloved space, but it clearly showed that the room contained a squatter.
I didn’t recognize him at first, curled up in a corner of the room inside an old sleeping bag. In fact, it took me a minute or so to even realize what I was looking at. It’s not like Eagle Rock has a homeless population. Then, slowly, the form shifted and a head, supported by broad shoulders, rose from the tattered bundle.
He was filthy, ragged, and he stank, but underneath all that I did recognize my cousin Jason, vampire-hunter turned vampire. Letting out a tiny squeak of surprise, I stepped backward, wondering why I hadn’t decided to wear a cross as part of my new powerhouse style. Or at least decided to add a vial of holy water to my belt.
I didn’t make it out the door before hitting a brick wall of resistance. Jason, thanks to his supernatural speed, had gotten behind me. I felt the wind in the split second before I smacked against him.
My heart began pounding, but I did everything in my power to remain outwardly calm. Show no fear. It had been my motto for some time now, and had been particularly useful against the attempts to manipulate me into marrying a slew of troglodytes. It might not be so useful here, but I knew that cool reason always prevailed over panic. He hadn’t killed me yet, that was something. He could easily have snapped my neck as he sped behind me. The thought wasn’t even close to comforting, but it did help me to keep a clear head.
He pushed me, hard, into the room. I stumbled, just saving myself from the fall. I let the graceless tumble cover my next movement–my hand going for the water gun at my right side. It was the electric shock potion, which I imagined would work about as well as the fire potion against a vampire. That is to say, not at all.
I spun and fired in the same motion, but Jason moved too quickly and the potion splashed harmlessly against the door frame. The next thing I knew, he was wrenching the gun from my hand, nearly twisting my wrist off in the process.
“Keep still,” Jason said. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
He didn’t? “What are you doing here?”
“From who?”
“Everyone.” He let go of my wrist and pushed me away. This time I didn’t fall, and didn’t go for my remaining water gun.
“Does your mom know you’re here?” I dared a look into his eyes, which weren’t the feral yellow of a vampire on the hunt. They were blue, the same color they had been in life. They were his mother’s eyes. My mother’s eyes. My eyes. Looking into them made me want to believe he hadn’t turned into a monster, but I couldn’t afford such dangerous thoughts.
“No. I overslept. Meant to be out before anyone came by.”
He didn’t seem to be threatening me in any way. I didn’t want to trust that impression; but at the same time, as my mind eased away from the initial shock of discovering him here, I began to notice some serious problems with his being anywhere near Eagle Rock. It wasn’t just about him being in his mother’s shop–that might have been the safest place in the area for him because vamp or no, his mom wouldn’t turn him in. He had to know that. Her loyalty toward her son was the big reason Kaitlin hadn’t taken to her, despite Aunt Sherry’s many friendly overtures toward the mother of her first–and probably only–grandchild.
No, the big question was what he was doing in Eagle Rock at all. A known community of sorcerers didn’t make a good hiding place for a vampire. Frank Lloyd might have done it for years before he was caught, but no one had known about him, and he had managed to keep the secret until Belinda had gotten in the way. Everyone knew Jason was a vampire. Unless he went around in disguise, he would get caught here. He would die.
I started to ask what he was doing there once again, when I recalled his answer. He was hiding... from everyone. Rumors had him in the company of a two-centuries-old vampire named Xavier, the most wanted bloodsucker in the United States. I had made it a point to study Xavier’s wanted poster when rumors about Jason first surfaced. On a superficial level, the old vampire looked like anyone else, well capable of blending in with a crowd–brown hair, brown eyes, a round, almost cherubic face, and a moderate build. But beneath all that, he was a hunter. A killer. And so powerful that he had taken out seven linked vampire hunters working together against him. Jason had been a part of that group. Had he turned traitor, as everyone supposed, or been overcome? Many wanted to believe the former, because to believe the latter would put Xavier in a danger class all his own.
“Are you going to tell anyone you saw me?” Jason asked.
“Is that a trick question?” I mean, of course I was, but maybe he was offering me my life if I promised not to mention him to anyone. I’d make the promise in a heartbeat, but he and I both knew I wouldn’t keep it, making the question moot.
“Please, don’t tell anyone.”
It was the please that struck me, I think. Why beg? Why not simply rip my throat out and be done with it? Not that I wanted to die, of course, but he shouldn’t care if I died or not.
“Are you a vampire?” I found myself asking.
He shuddered. “Don’t you dare trust me.”
“That didn’t really answer the question, did it?”
“No, it didn’t.”
“Where’s that vampire you were supposed to be with.... Xavier? Or are you hiding from him, too?”
“Didn’t I say, 'everyone'?”
Something was very, very wrong. I could sense it, and I longed to help, but I also sensed that Jason would bolt in a second if spooked. I had my doubts about whether or not he was a vampire, but at the moment, it was beside the point.
“If you’re in trouble,” I began, “I can help. My family can help.”
He laughed, a hollow sound followed closely by a series of coughs. He wasn’t in good health.
Vampires didn’t have health.
“Don’t you think I tried?” Jason asked. “Uncle Edward nearly killed me before I had a chance to ask, and then....”
“And then?” I prompted.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“It matters to me.”
“You won’t convince your father to help me,” Jason said. “He’ll just believe I hypnotized you or thralled you.”
That was true enough, but I didn’t have to go to my father for help. “I can help you.”
This time when he laughed, it was with unflattering disdain.
“You obviously want something from me,” I said, “or you wouldn’t still be here. What’s wrong? What’s going on with you? Are you a vampire, and if not, why does everyone think you are?”
“It’s safer that way,” Jason said. “Xavier....”
“What about Xavier?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Nothing. It’s not about him anyway.”
“Who’s it about?”
“My father.”
“Your father?” The last time he had mentioned his father, the man had just been some nameless, faceless sperm donor to me and, I imagined, to him too. Now I knew the man had destroyed both of our mothers–killing their sister, stealing their magic, selling my mother as breeding stock, and raping his. I sucked in a breath at that last thought, and the implications.
“You know,” Jason said.
I nodded.
“I shouldn’t even exist,” he said.
“No!” I took a step forward, reaching out a hand, perhaps to comfort him, but he danced away.
“You have no idea. My father’s a bigger monster than anyone knows. If he thought I wasn’t dead already–”
The bell over the door at the front of the store jingled, bringing us both up short. Jason stood frozen for half a heartbeat, and then in a blur of movement he was gone, taking his ratty sleeping bag with him.
“Jason, wait!” I started after him even though I knew it was hopeless. I had to know what else he was going to say. I had to find a way to help him. He was no vampire, but something in our conversation made me want to add a yet to the end of that sentiment. He was in terrible trouble, the kind that made my own concerns pale in comparison.
With that in mind I started to run out of the shop; but for the second time in less than fifteen minutes, I saw something to stop my heart before sending it racing again: Evan Blackwood.

He stood there, framed in the doorway of Aunt Sherry’s shop, blocking both the exit and, it seemed, all the sunlight. Of course someone had opened the door, sounding the bell and keeping Jason from saying whatever he had been about to say. I had only assumed it was Aunt Sherry.
He looked terrible, which isn’t the same thing as saying he was unattractive. I could never think of him that way, though I wished I could. Looking at him, with hollow eyes, two day’s growth of stubble on his chin, and his once luxurious hair shorn off into a sort of military buzz cut, I shouldn’t have felt the tiniest twinge of attraction. But I did.
He wore a long black trench coat during the winter months, making him look a bit like a washed-out cliché. I tried to focus on that fact as he strode toward me, instead of the palpable thrum of magic in the air around him.
I had imagined this moment for months, trying to figure out what I would say or do when I came face to face with Evan again. It had to happen sooner or later, unless one of us left town, which wasn’t likely. Now here he was, and I couldn’t remember any of it. I just stood there like an idiot, hands dangling at my side, watching and waiting for him to make the first move.
He’s the enemy, said a small voice at the back of my mind. How many curses had flown back and forth between his family and mine during a chance meeting like this? None had been aimed my way, and if that was strange, it hadn’t occurred to me until the moment Evan strode toward me, his face a perfect, impenetrable mask. His eyes never wavered from mine. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought he was hypnotizing me.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
I blinked. First, a known vampire had begged me to keep his secret, and in such a way that had me seriously doubting his bloodsucker status. And now, the man leading the war against my family wanted to know if I was all right?
When I continued to look confused he added, “Something just ran past me.”
“What are you doing here?”
He took two steps closer, bringing him within easy touching distance. “We need to talk.”
They were the same words he had used in voicemail messages, text messages, and e-mails last fall. Never an apology, simply “We need to talk.” In some of the e-mails, he had gone on to say that he knew I still loved him deep down inside, that my actions at the conclave had proved it. I hadn’t responded to a single message, nor bothered trying to explain myself. If his arrogance blinded him to the truth, that was his problem.
His attempts to contact me had stopped abruptly before Thanksgiving, right around the time he–or someone in his family–had blown up Robert’s car.
“We have nothing to say to one another. You’d better go before Aunt Sherry gets back.”
“Or what? She doesn’t have any magic.”
I took a step backward. Evan wasn’t usually so insensitive, but who knew how he had changed in the months since I had last seen him?
“I’m sorry,” Evan said. “That didn’t come out the way I meant it.”
“Didn’t it?” There he stood, full of inflated pride that was largely the result of having far more than his fair share of magical talent. It had been that way ever since middle school, when he decided to go from taking it to dishing it out.
“Your aunt was tied up at the hardware store when I passed by. It’s why I came over. I knew you’d be here, and would be alone for a while.”
“How did you know I’d be here?” I asked. “Are you spying on me?”
It had been some time since I’d been faced with his disconcerting honesty. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I just stood there, opening and closing my mouth like an idiot.
He took another step closer. Now we were practically touching. His familiar scent surrounded me, intoxicating me, almost enough to make me forget he was the enemy.
“Haven’t you done enough to me and my family?” I asked, stepping backward out of reach.
“I haven’t done anything to you or your family. Some of my relatives have, but only when provoked.”
“You’re suggesting we started this?”
“I’m suggesting that we need to put an end to it.” Evan stepped closer, and again I stepped back. He paused, his mask still set, his expression unfathomable. “Are you afraid of me?”
“Under the circumstances, wouldn’t you be?”
“No. I would never hurt you. No matter what.”
“You have a funny way of showing it.”
“Your family put a price on my head. A million dollar price. Do you have any idea what that’s done to me?”
“The reward wasn’t my idea,” I said. “I’m sorry you had to become a killer.”
“It wasn’t the first time.”
That did surprise me. “It wasn’t?”
“It doesn’t matter, but no, it wasn’t.”
I wanted to ask him more. When? Where? Why? And most especially: How do you feel about it? I refrained.
“That’s not what I’m here about, though,” Evan said. “Things are escalating, and if we don’t find a way to stop this, someone else is going to die. Someone close to one of us.”
“I know.” It was why I had gone to Abigail, although so far, that hadn’t amounted to much. She had told me to talk to Evan, and now here he was.
He took another step closer, but this time, I couldn’t step back. I was against a wall, and he was close. Way. Too. Close.
“I just have to ask you one thing,” he said. “Why did you agree to marry him? Was it because of me?”
Torn between outrage that he would think I’d get engaged to spite him and incredulity that he still believed the ridiculous rumors, I just stood there, not able to say anything at all.
“Well?” he demanded.
“You’re too close.” What a stupid thing to say. Now he’d know how he was affecting me.
“Am I?” He leaned in closer, until we were almost nose to nose. His lips were right there, slightly parted, inviting me to partake of temptation.
I lifted my hands against his chest, intending to push him away, but I let them linger there for a second too long. It was, apparently, all the invitation Evan needed to seal his lips over mine.
I had been hit with innumerable lust and love spells over the past few months, both from Matthew and his successors. Some were potent, some were subtle, some tried to be both, but none of them could compare to the simple, primal joy of Evan’s kiss. It had been my first lust spell, and it still hit me the hardest, invading my senses in a fierce, targeted strike.
Reason fled. Only Evan existed for me–him and the things I wanted to do to him, with him.
I moaned into his mouth before breaking the kiss and trailing my mouth along his stubbly jawline to his ear. I sucked the lobe into my mouth, feeling a surge of pride and power at his sharp intake of breath. Before I could move to the other side, however, he took control, kissing a path down my neck and into the V of my low-cut sweater. His hands dove beneath and he was about to lift it over my head when he suddenly stopped himself, taking an abrupt step backward.
“Evan!” I launched myself at him, but it was his turn to dance backward.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”


About Christine Amsden

Christine Amsden has been writing science fiction and fantasy for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone. 

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt's Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams. (You can learn more here.) 

In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work. 

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children. 

Her latest book is Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective




1 comment:

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