Born of Ashesby Caris Roane
Enter a hidden world of winged vampire warriors—and the women they are sworn protect. Born of Ashes is the fourth breathtaking novel in paranormal romance author Caris Roane's Guardians of Ascension series…
For years, she was kept as a human slave—one of seven unwilling "blood donors" for the death vampires who thirst for/p>/b>/i>
Enter a hidden world of winged vampire warriors—and the women they are sworn protect. Born of Ashes is the fourth breathtaking novel in paranormal romance author Caris Roane's Guardians of Ascension series…
For years, she was kept as a human slave—one of seven unwilling "blood donors" for the death vampires who thirst for absolute power. Now, Fiona is a free woman, haunted by her memories of being strapped to a gurney, drained of blood, then revived at the last moment. She lives to avenge her captors—but only one warrior can help her…
Jean-Pierre has lived and fought for over two-hundred years. He knows the triumph of slaying a death vampire, but has never known anything like the feelings that arise when he becomes Fiona's guardian. Her beauty, her pain, her passion—and her growing power—consume his senses. Now the warrior must draw his sword once more—and fight the gates of hell itself—for love.
“Roane's world building is complex and intriguing, and in addition to her compelling protagonists, she serves up a slew of secondary characters begging to be explored further. The Guardians of Ascension is a series with epic potential!” Romantic Times (4 ½ stars) on the Guardians of Ascension series by Caris Raone
“A great story with a really different take on vampires. This is one book that is sure to be a hit with readers who love paranormals. Fans of J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series are sure to love this one too.” Red Roses for Authors Blog on the Guardians of Ascension series by Caris Raone
“Ascension is like wandering in a field of a creative and colorful dream. There are many interesting, formidable, terrifying, beautiful and unique images. They surround and envelop you in a story as old as time.” Barnes and Noble's Heart to Heart Romance Blog on the Guardians of Ascension series by Caris Raone
“A super urban romantic fantasy in which the audience will believe in the vampires and the world of Ascension…fast-paced…thrilling.” Alternative Worlds on the Guardians of Ascension series by Caris Raone
“Incredibly creative, Ascension takes readers to another level as you learn about two earths, vampires, ancient warriors, and a new twist on love. I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride, climbing until I hit the very top only to come crashing down at lightning speed. Once you pick this book up, clear off your calendar because you won't be able to put it down. Best book I have read all year.” SingleTitles.com on the Guardians of Ascension series by Caris Raone
“Tightly plotted and smoking hot…a fantastic read.” Fresh Fiction on the Guardians of Ascension series by Caris Raone
Read an Excerpt
Born of Ashes
By Caris Roane
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Caris Roane
All rights reserved.
I hold him in the palm of my hand, He presses me to his chest. His heart thunders through my mind. Oh, my beloved bleeds for me, One drop, then another Until he is spent And I am satisfied.
— Collected Poems, Beatrice of Fourth
"You're standing in front of the grid, Jean-Pierre." Fiona Gaines tried to push her warrior away, her formidable Guardian of Ascension, but for all his leanness the man was a rock.
"Because you do not listen to me, chérie. And I need you to listen. I do not think you should go to the christening today."
She finally looked up at him, something she avoided as much as she could. The vampire was a pain in the ass, but if she met his gaze her mind started sinking into a pile of mush — not because of his enthrallment skills but because he was, well, Jean-Pierre.
He was tall, a beautiful six-five to her five-ten. When she wore heels, she matched him so perfectly that her lips reached his neck, so of course she avoided wearing heels. His eyes were the color of stormy seas, a gray-green-blue. He had strong cheekbones and reckless long golden-blond hair, which he held back in sculpted scraps of pastel brocades, a leftover affectation from revolutionary days in France.
But his body was one powerful thrill waiting to happen, a warrior's body so muscled, so lean, that her fingers trembled when he was close. She avoiding touching him, but sometimes in her dreams she would spend hours roving her hands over every solid inch of him. Every inch of him.
Worse, however, was that he had a scent that kept her very female body in a state of almost constant arousal, a scent that was completely ridiculous. He smelled like the best cup of coffee ever brewed on the face of two worlds, yet at the same time that coffee was laced with something so male that even standing here, looking at him, her tongue tingled.
A smile touched his lips, those full lips with the upper points that were so kissable. Damn him. He knew exactly what she was feeling, since for him she had the scent of a French patisserie. The universe could often show a surprising sense of humor. They were almost a cliché: coffee and doughnuts. Okay, so he said she smelled like light buttery croissants. Still.
"Fiona." A Militia Warrior across the grid called to her and, thank God, broke the spell.
She had to step around Jean-Pierre to actually see Eric. "What have you got?"
Her heart rate kicked up a notch. She knew Eric well because of how much time she spent at Militia Warrior Headquarters in Apache Junction Two. Three others worked the grid, at least four on deck around the clock. With satellite hookups, the grid could be moved to any set of coordinates around the globe day or night, searching for anomalies.
Central Command, attached to the ruler of Second Earth, also had a grid, but they kept theirs fixed on Metro Phoenix Two, hunting for death vampire sign.
"Something just outside Bangkok Two. Thailand."
She rounded the grid, which measured the size of a small car, to join Eric on the opposite side. She wasn't surprised when Jean-Pierre followed after her. To his credit, he let her work. She had no doubt, however, that the subject would rear its ugly head again.
After her release from blood slavery five months ago, Fiona had been a woman on a mission. She obsessed about finding Rith Do'onwa, the main instrument behind the heinous slavery system, and she obsessed about bringing home as many of her fellow slaves as possible. Out of twenty-two known facilities, they had found six, and brought home a total of forty slaves, all women.
Eric had already enhanced the grid and there it was, the signature, so hard to read but fast becoming familiar to her. She had a gift, she knew that. Eric and the other MWs could find the infinitesimal smudges that constituted an anomaly, but only she could see the hint of blue-green, the color of the inside dome of Rith's mist, that indicated they'd gotten a hit.
"Get Gideon on the com." She didn't need to ask if Gideon and his team of thirty-two warriors was ready to go. That would have been an insult to one of the Thunder God Warriors, the nickname for all Militia Warriors.
Nor did Eric ask what, when, or why. He made the call and spoke in low tones.
A minute passed.
"Ready on your mark," Eric said.
She met his gaze and smiled. "Let them fly." It was kind of a joke, vampires having wings and all. And they couldn't exactly fly through the dematerialization fold, since wings were too fragile to bear the process. But Eric smiled as he gave the order.
Eric set the communications system on loudspeaker. Colonel Seriffe, the leader of the Thunder God Warriors, wanted it that way. If there would be a battle, they'd all hear it. Seriffe was all about keeping everyone connected, informed, and aware.
Fiona glanced the length of the room. Over two dozen women staffed the communications along with MW section leaders, like Eric, like Gideon. Most turned in her direction, solemn, waiting.
Gideon's voice, low and quiet, hit the airwaves. He issued orders then said, "No DV sign here."
Fiona didn't know when she had actually backed up into Jean-Pierre, but his presence calmed her. He had a hand on her hip, and she felt his deep breaths. Her heart rate had doubled. She couldn't help it.
She knew exactly what all these women were going through, the despair after usually decades of serving as a blood donor — the polite euphemism for a process that involved taking a woman once a month through death and resurrection by defibrillator to get at the addictive dying blood. Death vampires, by the nature of their addiction, had to drink their victims to death in order to get that last euphoric substance.
A hundred and twenty-five years ago Fiona had been out shopping when two death vampires, whom only she had been able to see, had abducted her from Boston the day after her eleventh wedding anniversary. She had been the first mortal woman to be partially ascended by Darian Greaves and experimented upon. Back then the draining of her blood had involved big steel needles and rubber tubing. Greaves would drain her blood, taking her to the point of death, pump more blood back into her veins, and bring her heart back to life with what she now understood to be powerful hand-blasts from his palm.
Shortly after, Rith, who also had a great deal of preternatural power, had taken over. Fiona rarely saw Greaves after that.
Over the loudspeaker, she could hear Gideon breathing hard as well as the sound of his battle sandals pounding up a flight of stairs. She saw movement to her right. Seriffe emerged from his office, a heavy scowl on his face as he, too, listened.
Gideon's voice, too loud for the speakers, became a shout. "We've got eleven women here!"
HQ erupted in cheers and shouts.
Fiona's eyes filled with tears.
Jean-Pierre leaned down. "Congratulations, chérie." She caught his hand and held it tight. She struggled to breathe and not to cry, but tears escaped anyway.
She could hear Gideon speaking, but not what he was saying.
"Settle down, people," Seriffe called out.
Gideon relayed the information that all eleven were alive and healthy.
Fiona slipped her BlackBerry from her pants pocket, touched the screen, and connected with the rehab center. She let reception know that they'd be getting eleven new arrivals.
The woman gave a little cry. "We'll take it from here, Fiona. Well done."
Well done. She wanted to rejoice, she really did, but that meant there were still fifteen other facilities, that they knew of, and how many more women to rescue before she could really begin to celebrate.
"Take a moment, Fiona," Jean-Pierre whispered. "This is a good thing you have done."
How did he know? Could he read her mind?
She drew away from him and looked up at him. She saw the deep compassion in his stormy eyes and then she understood. He was a Warrior of the Blood. He had fought for over two hundred years, from the first year of his ascension, against the ongoing depredation of death vampires. He knew the victory that the slaying of each death vampire meant, but he also knew the persistent frustration and despair that accrued because right now there seemed to be no end in sight. The enemy, Commander Darian Greaves, encouraged the creation of death vampires, since he used them as a significant weapon in his bid to take over two worlds, Second Earth and Mortal Earth.
She nodded. She glanced at the clock on the wall. The hour was eleven at night. She would have to go home soon with Colonel Seriffe, her son-in-law, at which time Jean-Pierre would join the Warriors of the Blood as they fought at all five dimensional entry points in the Metro Phoenix area.
"Where will you be tonight?" she asked.
"Thorne likes to keep me at the downtown Borderland."
She nodded. She knew why. The downtown Borderland was the closest location to Colonel Seriffe's home, where Fiona now lived. Thorne knew that the situation for Jean-Pierre, serving as her guardian, was something of a nightmare. He looked it, too, with faint circles beneath his eyes. Even relatively immortal vampires could show signs of strain if they had to guard a woman twelve hours of the day, battle death vampires another six, then toss and turn through a restless sleep cycle.
Damn the breh-hedden, she thought. The former mythological state of vampire mate-bonding had also reared its ugly head. She was afflicted with what she thought of as an inconvenient and terrible disease, but for whatever reason, the breh-hedden really took a toll on the men, as though it put all that testosterone on high alert constantly.
Hence, even in the perfectly safe environment of Militia Warrior HQ, Jean-Pierre stuck close.
"Now, chérie, we must talk about the christening tomorrow."
She cocked her head and planted her hands on her hips. "I'm going and I don't care whether you think it's a security problem or not. Alison has been a good friend to me and bringing this baby into the world was no picnic. She's a new mom, and I remember what that was like. She needs my support and if you think that I would bail on her at this late hour, after having been a slave for over a hundred years, because of the threat of death vampires, then you don't know me at all."
* * *
Jean-Pierre Robillard, out of France in 1793, saw the familiar stubborn glint in the eye of his woman and his hopes sank that he would have the smallest chance to change her mind. She was so beautiful, her long thick chestnut hair wrapped in a twist at the back of her head, her lovely cheekbones well on display, the silver-blue of her eyes shining in the dim lights of the central grid room.
Her scent rose to drift into his nose and command his senses, a delicate bouquet of pastries and woman combined, a heady combination that tended to strip him of all rational thought.
His breath caught and held. He felt as he had from the first, that he could lose his soul in the eyes of this woman, his woman.
His woman. Mais quel cauchemar. A nightmare that would not end. The breh-hedden had done this to them both, bound them together when neither of them wanted to be bound.
"I'm going to baby Helena's christening, Jean-Pierre. And that's that. I will not discuss it further."
He could not move her. Whatever her slavery had been, her recovery had been swift. From the withdrawn, despairing woman had emerged a vampire with a dedicated mind-set intent on rescuing all the remaining blood slaves and seeing Rith Do'onwa into the grave.
He applauded her determination but the sheer stubbornness that had arisen, the willfulness, was a thorn in his side, night and day. He would not call her reckless, but certainly fearless. His job would have been so much easier if she had been a wallflower that wilted. Instead she forged ahead, ignored his opinions, and was like an Amazon to the problems in front of her.
He served as her Guardian of Ascension and had from almost the day of her rescue. He was both grateful for and hated the assignment. Grateful because he could not have tolerated any other warrior being close to her. Yet if he was to have a chance to not feel so very bound to her, only distance would answer — and distance he could not get.
Worse, she had emerging powers, which meant that the enemy would soon discover her worth, and would want her very dead. For that reason, he had tried to persuade her not to attend the christening, which he had learned just a few hours ago, and much to his horror, was to be conducted in the open air.
Seriffe commanded the room again. "We have another situation, people."
"Oh, no," Fiona whispered.
Without thinking, he moved in close behind her once more, something she allowed, and he was not surprised when she leaned against him for support. As much as neither wished to be close, a friendship had developed, and he knew that to some degree she relied on him.
Once more, he put his hand most carefully on her hip and worked at his breathing. This close, his arousal was only a thought away. But in the past five months, he had learned some new skills in tolerating the presence of his woman without constantly sporting, as the Americans liked to say, a raging hard-on.
Seriffe had a remote control in his hand. He aimed it at the large central monitor and clicked. "I recorded this a few minutes ago."
Greaves came on the screen. Jean-Pierre could not restrain a soft growl. More than any other creature on the face of the earth, he wanted this vampire dead, set on fire, burned to ashes, then cast over at least five different bodies of water.
"My fellow ascenders," Greaves began, "I have learned this very morning of a grave situation. My staff, in their ongoing efforts to better regulate a world that has fallen into massive decay under Madame Endelle's unfortunate leadership, has uncovered the existence of several blood slave facilities. We are even now in the process of searching these facilities out and ending the reprehensible activity of procuring dying blood from enslaved females.
"I am hereby offering a reward for anyone who can locate the creator and director of these facilities, an ascender by the name of Rith Do'onwa, who has built over the past ten decades an entire black market for this truly heinous commodity."
A picture appeared of Rith, and Jean-Pierre felt Fiona stiffen. He could only imagine how the sight of the vampire affected her.
Greaves continued, "The unfortunate circumstance of the highly addictive nature of dying blood is a problem that the scientific community, attached to the Coming Order, works on relentlessly day and night.
"I wish to set the record straight on one pertinent fact; many decades ago, I had a brief association with ascender Do'onwa, in which as a joint effort we attempted to create an antidote for the disease. When I saw that such efforts would prove fruitless, I ended the project as well as my association with ascender Do'onwa.
"So serious is the nature of this situation that I'm offering one million dollars to anyone who can provide information that leads to the capture of ascender Do'onwa."
He ended the press conference, refusing to take questions, and left the staging area with the flash of lightbulbs glittering off his shiny bald head.
"Fucking brilliant," Fiona muttered. "He's set Rith up as the fall guy. Bastard."
She was using one of his favorite words to describe Greaves.
Fiona continued. "But do you think the world is buying this?"
"He has great presence, and who would not believe those big, innocent, round eyes of his?"
"Yeah, he looks so sincere. I loathe him, Jean-Pierre. I never thought in the course of my life to hate anyone, but that's all I can feel for him."
"I understand," he said. And he did. He truly did.
As he glanced at the clock next to the monitor, his heart tightened. It was past eleven at night. His woman worked long hours and so did he. Fiona needed her rest and he needed to get into the field. But he did not want to leave her. As hard as it was to be around her most of the time, this was the hour he despised the most: Until he met with her again the following morning, he would be separated from her and unable to get to her if she needed him.
"You must go home now," he said, leaning close and dipping down to smell her neck. He took a long sniff and heard her swift intake of breath. "May I see you home?"
She stepped away from him as a strong roll of her delicate croissant scent struck his nostrils. Oui, they were both trapped inside the breh-hedden. He also knew she was a woman quick to experience the little death, the place of ecstasy. He did not understand the why of it, but he could bring her with just a kiss. The first time had occurred the day she was in the hospital just after her release from the New Zealand blood slavery facility.
Excerpted from Born of Ashes by Caris Roane. Copyright © 2012 Caris Roane. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Caris Roane has authored over fifty published Regency romance novels and novellas under the name Valerie King. In 2005, the Romantic Times honored her with a Career Achievement award for her Regency work. She lives in Phoenix with her two cats, one of which is named, Sebastian, after a favorite vampire. The Guardians of Ascension is her first paranormal romance series.
Caris Roane has authored over fifty published Regency romance novels and novellas under the name Valerie King. In 2005, the Romantic Times honored her with a Career Achievement award for her Regency work. She lives in Phoenix with her two cats, one of which is named, Sebastian, after a favorite vampire. The "Guardians of Ascension" is her first paranormal romance series.
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This series has been great and I do believe this one maybe my favorite so far. Fiona's plight was horrendous and Ms. Roane presented it well. Meaning, she didn't drag her situation out or rush it either, (ie. her recovery/grieving). Jean-Pierre was perfect too! Can't wait for the other warriors stories!
In the Ascension Series, Caris Roane is creating something that just gets better with each book. It astounds me that someone can take snippets of modern culture, add a bit of legend and lore and then create this wonderful world. The Ascension Series is about more than a world in the throes of change, about more a world fighting to survive. It is about about fighting evil and yet not always knowing if what you are doing is working. It’s about the bad guys looking better than the good guys, politics, corruption, bureaucrats and how far people will go to fight evil. Born of Ashes is the fourth book in this series and yes it is the best so far. It seems Ms Roane is riding a wave and it is no where near hitting the shore. I hope it has yet to peak. In Born of Ashes we return to Second Earth and the battle against Greaves, Fiona having been rescued from her status as the oldest blood slave, living or dead, is committed to finding all of Rith’s slave holdings and destroying them. She has no time for such things as the Breh-Hedden, which to her mind was just another form of enslavement. No choice, forced attraction, undeniable and unreal. The problem is she is crazy about Jean-Pierre, the Warrior who has been assigned as her guardian and who just happens to be her Breh-Hedden. Jean-Pierre, the sexiest of the Warriors (IMHO) is actually quite young in the grand scheme of things and has only been a Warrior for a couple of centuries and retains much of his first Earth Issues. Namely having been falsely betrayed by his wife, the love of his mortal life, to the French Revolution. He doesn’t trust in love and he certainly doesn’t want the Breh-Hedden. Assigned to be her guardian by the ever interesting Endelle, he has been wearing himself out fighting Death Vamps and protecting Fiona, who has been making things very difficult for him. Limited personal times by way of twice monthly torture, ok dates.. As they fight their attraction Greaves and company are beginning to play out the fight in the poll of public opinion. While Endelle is a PR nightmare, Greaves has it all figured out. Greaves, while Rith close at hand, publicly declares him public enemy Number One even going so far as to offer a reward. We also meet Casimer, a fourth ascender who has been cast out.The upper dimension like to think of the lower ones as penal colonies.. While Fiona and Jean-Pierre resolve their conflicts and learn to work together they discover that Fiona is an Obsidian Flame. As the Obsidian Flame she is part of a triad and the fight to learn her powers and gather the rest of the triad is a race. Greaves and company want to destroy any power that might help Endelle. Secret 6th level ascenders are sending vague messages that at first look to hurt Endelle’s chances. Oh and just to make things interesting. Fiona connects with a mysterious seer who plays a huge part in this story and I am sure in future ones. Revenge, mayhem, obsession, love, friendship are the main themes in this book and that is just with the good guys. It is a compelling, fascinating, intriguing and multi layered wonder of words. With each page comes a new twist, with each solution comes a new problem. People that are supposed to be serving good, those that are not considered evil, have agendas, power, control and then comes family. I like that this book really speaks on family connections. There is so much to see and read in this book it virtually surrounds the senses while all that power is being displayed and control is fought over, the delightful decadence of some of the scenes sent shivers up my spine. Sensual lovemaking scenes.where desire and need collide.Powerful individuals who maintain control of their worlds learn to let go and let love. Do I recommend this book? In case you wonder? Oh yeah Ms Roane has set her bar high.. Shauni
This story was not quite as steamy as the others, but the plot and story just flowed and I feel was very necessaryt to set the stage for the next book in the series featuring Thorne, finally. I cant wsit for Obsidian Flame to come out.
The female lead is whiny and annoying. All she does is weep. Repetive writing style. The worlds are cool though and their abilities but i found myself skipping pages. I think the author needs to concentrate more on the two characters rather than the plot. I feel like there is no fight to the relationship just quick acceptance and i really hate that.
This is a great series. However, this story of Jean-Pierre and Fiona was very difficult for me to achieve true character attachment. All the other stories you felt the connection. I'm reading Leto's and Grace's story now and it is GOOD. I only wish that Roane would have a leading lady that was truly petite...like me! There are many men that are attracted to very small ladies...not Amazons. Please don't discriminate, and put some leading ladies that are petite..we need love too!