Shadow Fallby Erin Kellison
Custo Santovari is a fallen hero, a man who sacrificed himself for his best friend, an angel who’s earned himself a well-deserved place in Heaven. But Custo wasn’t cut out for Heaven and he’s not going to stay. Especially not when he discovers he can return to earth to continue the fight against the soul-sucking wraiths and rescue a woman even
Custo Santovari is a fallen hero, a man who sacrificed himself for his best friend, an angel who’s earned himself a well-deserved place in Heaven. But Custo wasn’t cut out for Heaven and he’s not going to stay. Especially not when he discovers he can return to earth to continue the fight against the soul-sucking wraiths and rescue a woman even more tempting than his eternal reward.
- Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.
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By Erin Kellison
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2010 Clarissa Ellison
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAnnabella stepped en pointe into a soft arabesque, arms lightly crossed over her breasts, head bowed in a ghostly whisper of submission. With her arching movement, the skirt of her long practice tutu created a silent white wedding bell in the front mirrors of the studio. The moment stretched as the ethereal strains of Giselle filled the room. The first eerie whine of the strings ... the second ...
One soft breath and she inclined her weight forward just as her partner propelled her into a seamless lift.
"Stop. Stop. Stop." Thomas Venroy hit his cane against the floor for someone to shut off the music. The artistic director communicated almost everything with that sharp rap of his cane. In spite of the hugging, humid heat of the studio, he wore dress slacks and a button-down shirt. His nearly bald head was covered by a weak gray comb-over.
Annabella relaxed out of position, chest heaving, her hands braced on her hips. The air was stale with old sweat, but no one would think of opening a window to let the chill air in to cramp their muscles.
She looked over her shoulder at her partner, Jasper Morgan. He'd taken advantage of the break to snag a towel from his bag to wipe himself down. The rest of the dancers who made up the corps lounged on the barre or sat on the floor along the back wall of the studio. They'd been at this for over five hours, but tomorrow's dress rehearsal would be more about staging and costumes than fine-tuning the movements. The time was now. She'd stay all night if she had to-this was her debut as principal. Her Giselle had to be perfect, even if the company was only doing the second act for the gala performance.
Jasper flung the towel over his shoulder and crouched on the floor. Probably to stretch his back-hers was killing her, too. When she got home, she'd swallow a bottle of ibuprofen, take a hot bath, and bawl like a baby. But not now. Not with people watching.
"Annabella," Venroy said from his stool at the front mirrors, "your shoulders are full of tension. You are supposed to be a wili. A ghost. Like a puff of smoke."
Tension. Right. She was freaking stressed out of her mind.
She squared her shoulders. "I'll do better," she said. "My concentration slipped, that's all."
"Anna." Venroy waved away her words. "You're tired. Jasper is tired. Go home and-"
"No," Annabella cut him off. She winced at her sharp tone, took a deep breath, and pleaded, "I need to get this right. I've almost got it. I can feel it. One more time."
Venroy frowned. One of the girls in the back murmured diva, but Anna didn't turn her head. What they thought of her didn't matter, not really. She'd given up her life for ballet; she didn't expect anyone to start inviting her to slumber parties now.
She glanced down at Jasper. "Please?"
Jasper groaned as he stood, but he balled his towel and threw it to the side of the room. He'd been a principal for more than two years already, and he was just as invested in this performance. At six feet, he was the ideal height to partner her. His blue-and-blond good looks always showed well onstage, not to mention that he sure knew how to fill out a pair of tights. Too bad he was gay.
Jasper's grudging support had her spirits rising. She looked back at Venroy in question.
"Oh, all right. One last time." Venroy's gaze shifted to the dancers at the back wall. "Be ready."
Annabella backed up to her starting position again and waited for the music to begin. One last chance for "perfect" before the big night.
Deep breath. Shoulders relaxed. Ready.
The soft music slid again from the CD player, and she let the ribbons of sound guide her. She glided through the intermediate steps following the pas de deux, the touch of her pointe shoes nearly silent on the floor.
She threaded the discrete movements together so that her step-step arabesque became the haunted shift of a forest sylph. She shed Annabella and let the magic of the ballet take over. Let the dance transform her into the ghost, the wili, of Giselle.
The arabesque. A breath. And Jasper's strong hands were at her waist to skim her body through the ether.
He set her gently on the forest floor, near her grave, then stepped forward to embrace her, to capture the spirit of his love. Too late, too late. The two-timing Prince Albrecht broke her weak heart and she died. Now he comes at midnight to grieve for her.
"Lightly! Don't forget your arms!" Venroy called.
Annabella corrected the angle of her port de bras so her arms were tentative, the tilt of her head mournful.
She floated back, on tiptoe, stirred by an errant breeze through the darkened trees.
"Yes! Don't let Jasper catch you!"
Jasper blurred in her vision as she took a light run upstage. If she looked at him, really looked at him, she'd lose the moment. The magical transport between here and the Otherworld. Her blood sparkled through her thrumming body, tingling at her fingertips in the sweep and twist of each extension. Darkness crowded the corners of the story, a forest of magic replacing the barrier of the studio walls.
"That's it! Beautiful, Anna!" Venroy raised his cane. "Ladies, be ready!"
The music rose and her wili sisters poured from the tree line, circling her like a cauldron of mist before forming two straight lines at the edges of the clearing, arms crossed over their breasts, heads bowed, eyes hollow and downcast as in death.
The music hesitated, and then a single violin sang, the melody rising in tempo, yet still queer in tone. She sprung into a series of backward moving leaps, feet quick, body light, then prepared for her diagonal cross-
She brought her gaze up for her pique turn.
A pair of wide-set yellow eyes peered back at her from the murk of the imaginary trees. Feral eyes.
Her breath caught. She blinked hard and shook her head. She forcibly relaxed: Shoulders down. Concentrate.
The music rose-her cue-and she began her lightning-swift, traveling turns. Her feet were busy, fast with technique, while her upper body all but floated through the air. She was the ghost of a lovelorn girl; gravity had no power over her. She was as fluid as water, as dense as atmosphere. Magic and midnight alone could claim her.
A low growl rumbled through the wood ... From the whip of her turn, her gaze found the yellow eyes again and now the hulking shadow of a wolf, crouched to spring.
Her balance shifted, faltered. Her foot slipped out from under her and ... she fell with a body slap to the studio floor.
Wolf. Heart pounding, Annabella skittered away from the now-empty corner of the room. Her gaze darted around the studio, the lights suddenly bright and harsh. The wilis dropped their positions and shuffled out of line.
Anybody see that?
Their interest was fixed on her.
Just me then.
The thing was gone, as was the dark forest, evaporating into her imagination.
She finally brought her attention to Venroy, who was pinching the bridge of his nose, eyes closed.
Embarrassed heat swept over her. Maybe it was time to go home.
Mortal. Trespasser. Woman. Bright like fire. Dancing like flame. A threat.
Her fecund scent burned in the hunter's nose. Earthy, musky, sweet. Hunger curled in his belly. His teeth sharpened for flesh.
The mortal light flickered, then doused, but the smell of her lingered. Drew him. He stalked the boundary of Twilight, his paws silently picking through the layers of Shadow to search her out. He cocked his head to sniff.
This way. The hunt was on.
"Anna, I'd like a moment," Venroy said. "The rest of you are done for the night."
Annabella pushed herself to standing. Her hip and elbow finally registered the ache of the fall. Just great. She shot a quick glance to the corps, who were leaving in twos and threes. A couple months ago, she'd been one of them. When the lineup for the new season had been announced, she'd had every expectation of being in the long line of wilis for the classical component of the schedule. Certainly not in front of them, as the lead.
And it had all started with those fateful words, "Anna, I'd like a moment."
This time she didn't think it would be good news.
Chin up. Dress rehearsal was tomorrow-she was Giselle whether they liked it or not. She strode forward. She prayed Venroy would keep his voice low. Falling on her ass was humiliating enough. Having the whole studio hear his rebuke would be too much.
Venroy's expression softened. "You are worrying me, Anna. I wonder if you were promoted too early. Too young. Your technique is strong, but others are equal, some better. You certainly work hard, but everyone else here does as well."
Her stomach turned. She didn't want to hear the rest.
"And you have talent. Undeniable talent." He shook his head. "I am not talking about aptitude. I am talking about the gift. When you dance, the story comes alive. Do you know what I mean?"
"I know how I feel when I dance." Her voice was thick.
His gaze sharpened. "How?"
"Different. Wonderful. But strange, too. Like the world loses its grip on me and I can fly. Does that sound crazy?"
"No," Venroy said. "And yes. But that is ballet." He grew serious. "We can cancel the Giselle portion of the opening gala and substitute it with something else. Serenade is ready."
Her face burned. "I swear I can do this."
"You've been pushing yourself too hard. There is no shame in saying you aren't ready. We'll simply make the change." He stood and adjusted his pant legs. "But if you choose Giselle and become distracted like that during the performance, it will be your last as principal."
The heat in Annabella's face abruptly fell away. Her heart beat hard, once, registering his criticism and sending a fresh wave of mortification though her system. Her eyes pricked with tears. The very idea of Thomas Venroy disappointed in her made her chest horribly tight. She swallowed the lump in her throat and looked down at her shoes, concentrating on the worn peach satin so she wouldn't cry. She was a grown woman, for Pete's sake.
"What's it going to be?"
There was only one answer. "Giselle."
Venroy took her chin, raised her face to him, and gave her a little shake. "Anna, please. I believe in you. You shine so bright when you dance. Try to enjoy this moment."
She was trying. She was giving this performance every scrap of talent and soul that she had. This was her dream.
Sighing, Venroy picked his folded gray-brown sport coat off the floor at his feet, gave it a dusting, and then shrugged it on. "Go home. Get a full night of sleep. Trust yourself that the performance will be wonderful. Once you are on the stage, in costume, you won't be able to help yourself. Distractions will disappear. You will be Giselle, body and spirit."
Will that wolf still be there? She bit her lip so the question wouldn't slip out. She swallowed hard again and nodded. She couldn't have Venroy thinking she was losing it.
Wrapping an arm around her waist, he led her to the studio door, and then gave her butt a pat to nudge her toward the dressing room.
Jasper was leaning on the wall outside the studio. "What you need is a good, hard screw."
Annabella stopped and gave him a halfhearted smile. The sweetie had waited to see that she was okay. His towel was wrapped around the back of his neck, and both his hands gripped the ends. The rest of his fantastic body was on display under his sweaty tights and tank. Very impressive.
He grinned back at her. "You know, the kind that obliterates your mind and makes your body weep."
She mustered a laugh. "You offering?"
"I would if I could, honey. You need it." He took her hand and gave her palm a kiss. "But I think it would confuse my boyfriend."
"Lucky guy," she said and turned for the dressing room. It was common knowledge that Jasper and his boyfriend Ricky were as good as married.
Jasper released her hand. "Go find yourself a nice boy ..."
"Ha!" she answered back, pulling open the dressing room door. A nice boy. He sounded like her mother. She had no time for nice boys. Or bad ones.
The dressing room door closed on, "... it works wonders!"
Annabella sidled by a group of dancers clogging the entry. If she hurried, she could be home in twenty minutes. The showers beyond hissed. Most of the dancers were in a rush, too, calling good-bye and squeezing past half-naked bodies. Anna dropped to the bench. She kicked off her tutu, hung it on a peg inside a locker, and then worked the knots of her shoe ribbons loose.
"Anna," Katrina called. She'd been her friend since they joined the company together a couple years ago. They hadn't spoken much since Annabella had been promoted.
"Yeah?" Annabella leaned back on the bench to see Katrina pulling a tee over her head.
"Couple of us are going out for a drink to unwind. You want to come?" While grabbing some jeans, Katrina batted away another girl-Marcia, by her slick French twist-who groaned at the extended invitation.
A drink. Some laughs. Like old times.
Politically, yes, she should go. She knew that. Katrina knew that. Judging by the slight hush, everyone in the dressing room knew that, too.
But ... her body hurt, her mind was reeling, and she really, really needed a good cry. The last thing she wanted was for her mini breakdown to be alcohol induced and public. She'd probably start babbling about wolves with yellowy eyes and ... No. Drinks were definitely not a good idea right now
Katrina read the answer on her face, gave a cold shrug, and turned away.
Annabella caught a couple of the looks shared by some of the other dancers. One mouthed the word diva-the second time today that particular label had been applied to her. The insult smarted this time.
Diva? She didn't get it. Nothing about her had changed since her promotion to principal.
Anna ripped off her shoes and threw them in her bag. She rummaged to find sweats to pull over her tights and leo. She'd shower at home.
But diva? Okay, tonight she'd requested the extra run-through, but it only cost everyone maybe ten minutes. Fifteen tops. And she couldn't help it if she was too tired to go out for drinks-she'd been the one dancing all night. Not them. The corps mostly stands in the second act of Giselle, and Venroy had let them all sit for the majority of the time.
She tucked a light scarf around her head-no way on earth was she getting sick this close to the performance season-and was ready to go.
The air outside was sharp with the smell of crisp leaves mixed with lingering exhaust, underscored by a medley of city scents-a trace of spicy food, beer, old newspaper, mellow sewer funk, and fresh laundry. She breathed deep for a hit of the city's pervasive vitality, enough to get her back to her studio apartment. The sounds of distant traffic and sirens drew her into a brisk walk. The bus stop was only a block away. The sooner she was home, the sooner she could crash. She tightened her scarf under her chin and picked up her pace.
The darkened street wasn't completely deserted. Streetlights and buildings splashed enough light to see clearly four blocks in either direction. A couple strolled ahead of her, and a group of chatty smokers-young professionals by the looks of their day-wrinkled slacks and shirts-loitered outside a lit doorway. Nothing any city girl would worry about.
The bench at the bus stop was empty. Annabella sat, crossed her legs, and looked down the street again. No bus in sight.
Her mind wandered back to rehearsal. Tense shoulders-that's what Venroy had said. She'd try harder to relax. And he'd said to watch her arms. Maybe there was something off with her upper carriage altogether.
Stop. You're obsessing again. She stood to distract herself and leaned against a lamppost.
Still, it wouldn't hurt to watch old videos. She had Natalia Makarova's Giselle. She'd seen the performance a million times, but never concentrating on shoulders and arms. Maybe-
Across the street, a dense well of shadow drew her attention. Something was moving in there. Make that prowling. A big cat, maybe. Or a dog. Or ... or ...
Excerpted from Shadow Fall by Erin Kellison Copyright © 2010 by Clarissa Ellison. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Erin Kellison is the debut author of Shadow Bound and Shadow Fall. She graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Literature and went on for a masters degree in Cultural Anthropolgie. She lives in Arizona with her daughters and husband. This is Ms. Kellison’s first novel. She is an active member of the Romance Writers of America.
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While trying to save the life of his best friend, Custo Santovari was murdered by traitorous Spencer, an apparent wraith supporter. The Shadowman brings Custo to heaven where his courage and willingness to die for his buddy makes him an angel. However, Custo's goal is to get back to America to warn his BFF Adam Thorne; besides he rationalizes he is too much a sinner to be an angel. In Manhattan Annabella the ballerina magically dances causing a rift between realms. Custo returns to earth, but also making it through is Wolf the shadow hunter. Custo knows his mission is to go to the New York Segue Institute safe house to warn Adam and to keep safe Annabella from a nightmare; but nothing goes right as Adam thinks he must be a wraith and he falls in forbidden love with the :angel" he protects. This is a fascinating urban romantic fantasy starring an obsessed lead male fleeing heaven on a quest and the woman who enables him to escape from the angels. The story line is fast-paced, as the city comes across grim and foreboding. Readers learn a little more about the wraiths since the events of Shadows Bound (Adam's romance), but Shadowman remains enigmatic. Sub-genre fans will relish the second wraith war thriller as the shadows continue to darken the earth. Harriet Klausner
The story begins with Custo in heaven. He's somehow ended up as an angel, much to his displeasure. Wanting to help and warn Adam of a betrayl, Custo tricks Shadowman into switching places with him. Lost and trying to find his way back to Segue, Custo sees a woman dancing and is drawn to her power, just as the wolf is. Wolf has been hunting Annabelle trying to find a way out of Shadow and into her world. When Custo accidentally lets him into the real world, both his and Annabelle's worlds are upturned. My favorite thing about this series is Ms. Kellison's characters. She doesn't write her characters in terms of good or bad. Each character has good and bad qualities. Custo is my favorite example of this. He's not good. And he knows it. At the same time, he's not evil. Every choice he makes is based off what he can gain. This is true of every character in literature, except that Custo is very selfish. The only times he is not selfish is with Adam and Annabelle. There are so many layers to Custo's character-I love it! Annabelle was also different from most heroines. She's a principle ballerina in her company. Having sacrificed so much and worked so hard, she starts to reap the rewards. However, after Wolf notices her hidden power when she dances, he becomes obsessed. Cue Custo. After he saves Annabelle, she is forced to accept protection from both Custo and the Segue Institute. Throughout the book, Annabelle is torn between her love of dance and her love for Custo. Her journey to find the balance between the two was interesting to read. I really liked this book, even more than Shadow Bound. I adored Custo and all of his complexities. Wolf is a creepy, perverse, and terrifying villain-which made this book all the more absorbing. This book is very well written, engaging, and so worth reading!
❈ Read as part of the Bad Boys of the Night: Eight Sizzling Paranormal Romances: Paranormal Romance Boxed Set ❈ ~ 4 Shadow Fall Stars ~ Shadow Fall is book two in the Shadow series by Erin Kellison. This series continues to impress me. It's got angels, wraiths, Fae, and Death. There is a 2 year time lapse between Shadow Bound and Shadow Fall. With the time lapse I recommend reading book one in the series first. For me it had been sometime since I read Shadow Bound that I was a little lost at the beginning, but the author did a great job with the prologue. She refreshes the readers memories and gives a clear explanation on the things that happened. All of this helped to pull me back into the plot and characters. Ms. Kellison brings the dark side of the Fae out in this series. The pace is good, maybe a bit slow at the beginning, but that has to do with the author recapping some of the happenings in Shadow Bound. This story takes place in a few days. It's twisted, complicated, and full of action. The world building is interesting and the characters are fascinating. My favorite part is the ballet. The author does such a great job bringing the dance alive through her character. Shadow Fall was an enjoyable read and I am very curious to see how it will all play out. I can't wait to read Deaths story. Reviewed by Angela @ Angel's Guilty Pleasures
This author has written a story that captures you with the first page. This is a love story that will capture you from the first. I could not put it down until I finished to see how it would end. You must read the entire series! You will fall in love with "shadows".
It's been a long time since I read the first book in this series, so I was a little concerned that I might not remember the details. Interestingly enough, I don't think that really mattered since most of this book takes place in a slightly different time frame. I honestly didn't remember Custo from the first book. But, his death was horrible. We're spared the graphic details, but you sure can imagine it. I loved the he would not accept that he made it to heaven. He was convinced there had been a mistake. He was also determined to get back to earth to warn his friends that he was willing to trick death. I also enjoyed his journey back to earth. But, really that is such a small part of the story. When he gets back to earth, he has to prove who he is, get caught up on current events (turns out he was gone quite a bit longer than he though), plus protect a women who completely enchants him. The world is on the brink of disaster, and he might be doing this on borrowed time. I also really enjoyed Annabella. I liked how ballet played a role in this whole story. Her dedication and the heart she puts into her performances opens up a gate between realms. Its what attracted the wolf to her and helped Custo cross. But, this bridge between realms is not the only problem they are facing. I really have enjoyed both books in the series. I need to get a hold of the next one sooner rather than later so I don't forget the details!
-absntly kills a few mice and finds a few herb leves that weren't eaten by the mice. She pads back to camp with her supplies-
I read this one in one plane ride! This book picks up where Shadowman left off and STILL leaves you wanting more! If you haven't read these, you are missing out! Try them!
I love this series! It's the perfect balance of fantasy, sic-fi, and romance.