When Bette Dautry comes to him, seeking his protection, Guardian Rollin Casteel suspects the mysterious beauty has an ulterior motive. Unable to resist her seductive charms, he soon hungers to mark her as his. Only Bette disappears before he can sink his teeth into her tender flesh, leaving Rollin with one mission: to find her—and to claim her. . . .
Bette seduces Rollin intent on conceiving his child, believing the mother-child bond to be the only kind of love she can sustain—the only kind of love that can keep her alive. But she never expects to feel so much for her strong and silent lover. Then she discovers Rollin is none other than the heir to the Balinese throne—a man too noble—too dear—to play a role in her dark scheme. A man she would willingly die for, if only he would set her free. . . .
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Tarmon grinned, a flash of self-satisfaction he quickly masked as he wove through the outer rim of a gathered group of men. Lifting his chin a notch, he breathed the cool night air deeply as a breeze swept through the courtyard, ruffling his hair. Damn, but it felt good to walk above ground.
There were no hands to shake, no small talk to share as he headed for his favorite spot at these fights. Few would be willing to tear their focuses away from the men in the center, now facing off, and that suited him just fine.
He leaned back against the protruding stone wall and crossed his arms over his chest, watching the organized bedlam from the corner of his eye. Tarmon had no interest in barbaric fistfights and first-blood tournaments, and as a general rule, he never participated. Two types of men typically attended these clashes, and Tarmon fit into neither category. He had nothing to prove, and was never drunk enough to be goaded into doing something stupid. These savage, beastly men were beneath him, but often a necessary evil.
Tarmon stretched his neck from side to side, easing the tension building in his shoulders. This had already been a long night, and it was far from over. He'd worked a shift on the sixth level with Osric, or as he preferred to call him, the silent ogre. Osric seemed capable only of grunting, stomping, and sapping his energy.
A man brushed past him, wandering into the mix. His short, swaggering stride was easy to recognize. That distinct gait wasn't the only thing that set him apart. He scanned the crowd in a continuous sweep from left to right, then back again. Gian looked at the world differently than most men here, not predatory as Guardians tended to evolve, but vigilant. This was a man who'd been backed into a corner and beaten more than a few times in his life. No one seemed to notice Gian's bruised eye, or the sneer on his busted lip. Face tilted down, his hair fell forward, concealing all but his eyes as he intently searched for someone.
Across the courtyard, Jovan Nicolen caught sight of Gian and headed straight for him. This was what Tarmon had waited for, the distraction he'd counted on.
Jovan walked directly through the center of the loosely formed ring, uninterested in the fact that a fight was still in progress. Shoulders back, Jovan had the naturally cocky, lazy walk of a man who feared nothing. He knew the reason Gian joined these fights without fail, whether he showed up already bruised or not, as did Tarmon. The difference was, Jovan did something about it. Bully for him.
Without bothering to remove the cigarette from between his lips, Jovan walked right up to Gian and busted him across the face with a nasty right hook. Quite the show of versatility as Jovan was left handed.
"Damn it, Jovan!" Cutler bellowed. The appointed referee took several steps toward them, but never came close enough to appear confrontational. "You're not up yet."
Tarmon grinned again. He liked Cutler. The man was fearless when it came to heading out to a call or patching up a damaged body, but amusingly hesitant to risk becoming Jovan's next unscheduled target. Cutler couldn't have stopped the hothead anyway, not when Gian was just as determined to see this tiff through to its natural end.
Gian recovered from the blow and charged his assailant, sending them both tumbling into the center of the crowd. The two who had occupied the center scattered quickly, backing away from the scuffling pair. All that rolling around, the flying arms and legs, would be enough of a distraction to persuade anyone that the damage to Gian's face had only recently occurred. Not that these men were who Gian needed to fool.
Matched in size, and both from aristocratic families, the two men had all eyes intently fixed. With no weapons, they made good use of their fists. Jovan took several punches, allowing his friend to burn off some anger, and when Gian cracked him in the chin with his elbow, the crowd roared in unison.
Tarmon shook his head. The common man was so easily distracted. Taking a single step around the jutting wall, he slipped from sight and embraced his Spirit. Invisible to the eye, nothing more than a cool patch of air on the night breeze, he sped along the outlying buildings connected to the chateau.
The outer wall surrounding the entire chateau was the only true barrier, but in Spirit the thick fortification wouldn't hinder his progress. A touch of nausea rolled over him as he passed directly through the stones, as did a deafening whoosh that was less of a sound, and more like a rattling of the soul. As quickly as the sensation hit him, it dissipated, his Spirit passing easily through the wall.
Releasing his Spirit, Tarmon appeared outside the chateau on the south side, spearing his fingers through his hair. He shook his head, attempting to brush off the residual effects of traveling through the wall. Though he was fully capable of the action, it left a lingering buzz inside his chest that he'd never cared for, like a jolt of adrenaline refusing to fade. He did, however, enjoy the heightened surge of awareness flooding his senses.
A slight rustle of leaves nearby drew his focus. The wind might be swirling around inside the walls of the courtyard, but it was calm here on the south side of the chateau.
Hand on his sword, he addressed the general area of the sound. "Show yourself."
Within seconds a dark-haired man stepped from the thick underbrush that clung to the outer walls of the chateau, his hands up as he stepped over a thickbed of irises.
"Are you the one? Can you get me inside?"
"Inside what?" Tarmon asked with an easy shrug, glancing around. "What is it you think you've found here?"
"Balinese rests below my feet," the man said with certainty.
"Does it, now?" Tarmon narrowed his eyes on the man.
"Yes," he reaffirmed.
"Can you take Spirit?"
With a sharp nod, the man answered, "Yes."
"Then get in yourself," Tarmon said, turning his back on him.
"I can't." His panicked voice came out in a higher pitch.
"But the city is just beneath your feet," Tarmon mocked, facing him once more.
Off in the distance a ruckus of cheers rose from the fight, and the man standing before him flinched, searching the darkness for approaching danger.
"I need to avoid the Guardians," he said, the admission softly spoken.
"Why? Afraid Balinese is not as peaceful and forgiving as rumors claim?"
"I know it is not. Not for me."
"So why risk your life to enter?"
"Jericho," he said simply. "Please. I need to find them. She can tell me where they are."
Tarmon shook his head. "She won't tell you."
"I have to try," the man whispered.
Reaching out, Tarmon grabbed the man's shoulder in a vise-like grip, his words low and lethal, "Harm her, and I will end you."
The man's eyes flashed red, the brilliant and glowing color flooding his irises, but the color quickly faded away, back under control. "I didn't come to hurt anyone. I only want answers."
"Then follow me," Tarmon said cheerfully, slapping the demon on the shoulder in a friendly gesture. The demon seemed stunned, stuttering to find the right words, but quickly snapped his mouth shut, pulled himself together, and followed.
Tarmon had several tricks up his sleeve, which made sneaking a demon inside a simple feat. The only catch being the entire process hinged on the demon's ability to take Spirit, which had yet to be an issue. Demons seemed born to slip in and out of that invisible form, the efforts rarely having any lasting effects.
To this day, vampires functioned under the belief that few creatures in this world were capable of taking Spirit for any amount of time, focusing their security on the gate. Two Guardians were posted at the gate within the chateau, day and night, their assumption that any who wished to enter the city would only take a direct path. With all outer doors barred and sealed, and no other way inside blatantly visible, the vampires of Balinese had great confidence in themselves.
Tarmon had his fair share of confidence too, though in himself. He knew this structure by heart. Every room. Every stone. Each vivid tapestry and each dark corner was familiar. The lack of light had never hindered him as a child, and it mattered even less now after walking these halls and rooms for decades. No one lived within the chateau, therefore nothing ever changed. He could navigate this vast space with his eyes closed.
Pausing behind the grand staircase, he pressed a single finger to his lips, motioning the demon to keep quiet. The gatekeepers were rarely inside the chateau, but it never hurt to be cautious. Tarmon pointed to an adjacent room, then vanished, his Spirit moving directly through the tall mahogany door. Reappearing within the secluded room, he waited only seconds for the demon to appear beside him. He looked puzzled.
Tarmon never asked why these demons wanted inside, whether it was sanctuary or revenge, it really didn't matter. He let them all in. But there was something about this man that seemed desperate.
An old tapestry hung over a majority of the east side of the room, and as Tarmon stepped up to the woven fabric, it rippled stiffly against the wall. The demon joined him, no doubt more confused than before.
Tilting his head toward the demon, Tarmon whispered, "Take Spirit. Drop straight down. Wait for me there."
The demon sent him a shaky nod. "I can do that."
"Wait!" His harsh whisper filled the room. Tarmon gripped the demon's shoulder and moved him away from the fox in the forefront of the tapestry and to the right, to stand before the tree. "Okay, now you're good."
Disbelief flashed over the demon's face, but his determination remained. The man must have nothing to lose, because he took Spirit without hesitation. Once he'd vanished, Tarmon slipped back into his own Spirit. It took a few moments for him to check the perimeter corridor, as well as the first few corridors of the city, for any activity that might hinder the demon's entrance.
These areas tended to have a calm feel, and with the commotion above it would be even quieter. Still, it didn't hurt to be thorough. Tarmon didn't release his Spirit until he entered the cellar, appearing where the demon waited for him behind a large wine barrel.
"All clear," Tarmon announced.
The demon stepped from his hiding spot and followed him through the heavy wooden door nestled between wine barrels stacked along the walls, and together they slipped inside Balinese.
It didn't take much to imagine how lost the demon felt. The man gaped at the barren corridor to the left, then a mirror image of emptiness to the right. No doors were visible with the naked eye. They were there, of course, but being inset, the corridor presented a distinct illusion of cold nothing. The torches spaced evenly along the walls added to the feeling of the corridors being endless.
"You with me?" Tarmon snapped his fingers in front of the demon's face to catch his attention.
Wide-eyed, the demon nodded.
"Follow in Spirit," Tarmon whispered, then headed left down the corridor, never looking back to see if the demon complied. He followed the long, straight corridor to its end, and when it turned, and once he was certain they were alone, Tarmon continued to the fourth torch. Pausing directly before that torch, he said to the now-invisible demon, "Straight down. Eight levels."
This was the part Tarmon hated. Tipping his head to the side and cracking his neck, he sucked in a steadying breath, took Spirit, and dropped eight levels. When he appeared, his body back in solid form, Tarmon shook out his shoulders. Ghosting through a door or a wall here and there made him twitchy enough, but sinking through multiple floors absolutely made his skin crawl.
Glancing around the empty room, Tarmon said, "Let it go."
The demon appeared before him then, looking around nervously. "What is this place?"
"Abandoned," Tarmon said simply.
He nodded, still uneasy. "Thank you. I'm in your debt."
"No, man, you're on your own," Tarmon said, completely serious. "Meaning if I catch a glimpse of you being all demony, I'll kill you myself."
The man nodded. "I understand."
"Great." Tarmon grinned and turned to leave, but then reached into his inside pocket. He pulled out the folded paper and slapped it against the demon's chest, leaving him to catch it or let it fall. "Almost forgot ... city map. Courtesy of the visitor's bureau."
His jaw dropped open, glancing in disbelief from the map back up to Tarmon.
Tarmon, giving him a hearty smack on the arm, said, "I'm kidding."
The demon clutched the map, clearly not quite certain how to react. Poor misguided fool. Jericho again. Only a demon could manage to lose an entire demon city.
"You didn't see me, and I didn't see you," Tarmon said, and the demon gave a jerking nod in complete agreement.
Slipping back into Spirit, Tarmon left the demon and made his way back above ground, to bloodied fists and cheering men. He became visible in the same spot he'd inhabited minutes ago. A different pair of men faced off now, moments away from colliding in the center.
Off to the side, their fight over, Gian and Jovan nursed bruised bodies and egos. It took a great deal of courage for Gian to trust his friend to beat him enough to cover the domestic abuse, and one hell of a lot of compassion for Jovan to check his strength. It almost made Tarmon wish he had a friend or two in this world. Almost.
Babette Dautry's mother was famous for her elegant teatime gatherings. The well-to-do women of the city would gather here, have intimate conversations and share their lives. In this very room was where they'd begun calling her Bette, as if the familiar name had somehow initiated her, made her one of them.
Bette set down the tray, laden with four cups and saucers and an elegantly tall teapot, in the center of the table, which itself sat in the center of the octagon tearoom. She stepped back to eye the table. The tray was crooked. She adjusted it, pushing the golden edge of the tray clockwise, but only slightly. Stepping back, she checked the placement. Perfect.
Her mother's tea set was lovely. Bette lightly touched the pink rose gracing the side of the tall and narrow Limoge teapot.
"You were her favorite," she whispered to the teapot. Glancing down at the taller-than-average teacups, she smiled. "Yes, you're lovely, too."
A few minutes until teatime. She carefully lifted each cup and saucer, placing all four around the table. Then, cupping her hands around the teapot, she waited for a few seconds until the heat from the tea warmed her fingers. "See now, that's why you're the favorite. Well done."
Standing tall, she hurried from the comforting blue paneled walls of the cozy tearoom and out into the great room. Mother had allowed her father to choose the décor of this room, and this room alone. His fondness for the stone architecture of old castles scattered across Europe was prevalent. He'd brought a bit of above-ground architecture down here to her.
Bette abruptly stopped in her tracks, eyes fixed on the old woven carpet beneath her feet. Her father no longer lived. Both her parents were just ... gone.
Her vision became instantly distorted. Details blurred. The room shifted out of focus. Blinking helped, but not enough. Slowly, she carefully made her way to the large mirror near the entry. Peering into the carved mahogany-looking glass, she tried to discern the problem, but she was out of focus too.
What she could see was the deep mauve shade of her gown, but none of the expensive details. Bette brushed her fingers over her shoulders, relieved to touch the thick, lace cap sleeves on her shoulders. The lace bodice flared over her hips, and the skirt? Layered tulle. It floated as she walked, brushing the floor with each step. Lovely. At least that's what her gown should look like, and she could feel the materials, but why couldn't she see it?
She leaned forward, looking at her reflection more closely. There was the problem. Tears again. "Oh, must you? I only came in here for ... Why did I come in here? The door!"
Bette hurried to the door, methodically checking the locks. Top to bottom. She unlocked the small slide bolt at the top of the door, then slid it carefully back into place. The deadbolt. Unlock. Lock. The solid slide bolt in the center of the door came next, the routine the same, and lastly the small bolt connecting the door to the floor. Her home was secure.
Her mind now at ease, Bette retuned to the tearoom with her head high and sat, adjusting her skirt to drape evenly over the sides of the chair. Patiently, she sat with her hands folded in her lap, smiling as she glanced around the table.
Excerpted from "Sheltered"
Copyright © 2018 Jen Colly.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3,5 stars My feelings went back and forth on this one for a variety of reasons. The world of The Cities Below is still just as fascinating as it has been throughout this series, but this one felt more laid back on the action side of things. Rollin and Bette both have secrets and there is plenty of romantic tension, but after so much intrigue and action in the series, I was a little disappointed at the lack of it here. The story is still good and if you've followed the series, we get more of so many beloved characters. There are still some unanswered questions and the epilogue raises a few more. I'll be interested to see where this series goes from here.
When you think of vampires you think of strong, capable beings having the ability to do amazing things. But in Jen Colly’s new novel Sheltered the fourth book in The Cities Below, published under the Lyrical Press brand and sold by Penguin Random House Publisher, you find that this is not always true and that there are just some vampires needing to be sheltered. Though this story was easy to put down, just as quickly you wanted to pick it up to enjoy the rest of the story. I started Sheltered not realizing this story was part of a series, I had no trouble following the plot. Sheltered follows the story of Bette Dautry a long vampire who feels the sun calling to her. If she doesn’t find something to bind her to this world, she just might take that final step into the sun. So, she decides to take a trip to the mystery city below, where she find Rollin a Guardian to the city. But unknown to Bette, Rollin is not just any Guardian, he is one of the heirs to the Balinese throne. What I totally adored about Sheltered was the name spin of how the story will go and end. All through this story, Rollin had to shelter and protect Bette and that was totally okay with me. Which made this story very unique and pleasurable; I come to love the characters and the secondary characters.
Only love can save her from certain death. Too bad, she doesn’t believe in love... When Bette Dautry comes to him, seeking his protection, Guardian Rollin Casteel suspects the mysterious beauty has an ulterior motive. Unable to resist her seductive charms, he soon hungers to mark her as his. Only Bette disappears before he can sink his teeth into her tender flesh, leaving Rollin with one mission: to find her—and to claim her. . . . Bette seduces Rollin intent on conceiving his child, believing the mother-child bond to be the only kind of love she can sustain—the only kind of love that can keep her alive. But she never expects to feel so much for her strong and silent lover. Then she discovers Rollin is none other than the heir to the Balinese throne—a man too noble—too dear—to play a role in her dark scheme. A man she would willingly die for, if only he would set her free. . . . Review: This is book number 4 in the continuing story of the saga of vampires and demons. It is a unique series as it gives a different take on these two warring parties. This specifically is Bette and Rollin's story. I really liked them both and liked the idea of Bette escaping her city in the hopes to have a child and turn the feeling of needing to die. Rollin is super sweet and alpha, and just an all around good character. There are sweet and sexy together. I liked the story, but I kept waiting for something exciting to happen. Someone to come after Bette or there to be a battle over her or even some real conflict or pregnancy between Bette and Rollin to add some tension. It just was not there. For me it just lacked that excitement to make it an even better story. I will keep on reading the series because I like the storyline, this is just not my favorite of the series. 3.5Stars *I voluntarily read an advance reader copy of this book provided by the publisher.*