Death has transformed former ballerina Anya Truss into a vila--an alluring wind nymph--but her need for revenge has kept her trapped on the riverbank where she was drowned. Now, after fifty years of waiting, she finally has a chance to break free by getting even with her cruel dance instructor, the man who betrayed her and broke her heart. But for her plan to work, she must place her trust in a handsome but unlikely ally.
Straight-laced police investigator Sergey Yuchenko has spent years searching for the father he never knew, and he finally has a solid lead. Problem is, that lead comes in the form of a ghost--a gorgeous but stubborn vila with destructive powers she can't control. Anya's graceful beauty awakens a desire in Sergey like he's never felt before. But when past secrets are brought to light, the lovers will have to face an evil that could tear them apart forever.
About the Author
Amber is an Episcopal Priest and student of religion. She believes stories are the best way to explore human truths. Some people think it's strange for a minister to write romance, but it is perfectly natural to Amber, because she believes the human desire for love is at the heart of every romance novel and God made people with that desire. She writes paranormal, historical, and contemporary romance in every spare moment, and she lives with her family in San Francisco. To hear about Amber's new releases, sign up for her newsletter at http://eepurl.com/WF3j5. You can also find Amber online at www.amberbelldene.com, www.facebook.com/amberbelldene and twitter.com/AmberBelldene.
Read an Excerpt
The Siren's Dance
A Siren Romance
By Amber Belldene
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Amber Belldene
All rights reserved.
Anya twirled among the trees, weightless, her ghostly feet floating just above the forest floor. With no other way to pass the endless time, ballet was her only solace. But her choreography was frenzied, a blurring blend of every part she'd ever learned in her many years of training, a dance of deep despair and bottomless anger. The all-consuming emotions turned her movements brisk and ungainly, and without a body to grow tired, her grand pas never ended.
She neared the far of her tether, the mysterious force that leashed her to her moldering ballet shoe, trapping her within a fifteen-meter radius of the slipper that had lodged under a rock on the riverbank where she'd died.
Just before the supernatural leash would yank her, she turned, halted, and stared.
A black car had pulled up alongside the water, and a young couple emerged with a stooping old man. Odd. She'd rarely spied anyone at this remote spot. But they were probably just bringing their didus on a scenic tour. They would be no help to her, would never even see her.
She was alone. Stuck, forever, it seemed.
Only one man could bring her what she desired--eternal rest, or short of that, the company of the other vilas. To her detriment, that man was utterly beyond her grasp.
She flung her body into the dance again, but as she circled around, the three visitors approached the water, and the young woman came into focus through a gap in the trees.
Anya froze on a pinpoint, the sight hitting her like a heavy blow, as if she still had a body to feel impact. The woman looked nearly identical to her sister, Sonya, but the resemblance had to be a coincidence. Sonya had been shot on the bank of this very river and had floated up to the surface dead, her face pallid and blood staining her nightgown pink against the dark river, just moments before Anya herself had drowned. And that had been forty-eight years ago.
Grief dragged at her vaporous form. Poor Sonya. If only Anya had spared a single word of gratitude for her sister that night before they'd been killed, instead of biting out bitter replies to her every kindness. But in Sonya's shadow, graciousness had never come easily to Anya.
"Unless she was carried away, she has to be here, where she died." The woman's hopeful tones rippled through Anya in a voice identical to her sister's. Up close, she looked even more like her. Impossible, and yet something very much like hope flitted through Anya too.
"Do you see anything?" the woman asked, just as the threesome cleared the trees.
The gaunt, aged man looked straight at Anya. "I'll be damned. She is there."
Anya hovered, motionless and astonished. He could see her. Besides her fellow vilas, this man was the first to set eyes on her since she'd died.
Nothing about their arrival here made a drop of sense. How could Sonya be alive, and why was this man, of all the strangers who'd passed by in all her years here, able to see Anya?
Behind a cloudy veil of age and pain, his sharp eyes held her fast. In a rush of recognition, the answer came. She'd seen those steely gray irises before, on the other side of a gun aimed at her. He'd chased her into the river, called out to her to stop running, begged her not to jump. And now, he could see her--this man who'd caused her death and been an accomplice to Sonya, Mama, and Papa's murders.
Anger poured off Anya, raising up a hot gust of air over the water, even though the autumn morning was brisk. Summoning the wind ranked among the best perks of being a vila, one of the few she was able to enjoy.
The third visitor was a sturdy man who took lookalike-Sonya's hand. Thanks to Anya's gale, the woman got a mouthful of hair and raked it off her face. "What's she saying?"
If she really was Anya's sister, what was she doing here with one of the men who'd murdered them? And why hadn't she aged since their deaths half a century ago? Confusion kept her fluttering hope just out of her reach, and far too risky to boot. A girl who got her hopes up was asking to be hurt. But this woman looked so very much like Sonya ...
"She's not talking, just ... glaring at me." His Adam's apple bobbed with a forceful swallow. "Miss Truss, I've come to beg your forgiveness."
He had to be joking. Her parents' screams were still fresh in her mind. "You can go straight to hell."
He blanched, nodding. With the help of a silver-tipped cane, he took a hobbling step closer. "It's what I deserve, and will likely come to pass any day now. But you should know, if you forgive me, you'll live again."
"How convenient for you," she replied, and immediately wished she could take it back. He could see her, which meant he could help her after all. Snide comments had never been a good negotiating tactic with her parents, and yet they'd always slid so easily from her mouth. A second on the lips, a lifetime doing extra chores.
"You don't believe me, even after seeing Sonya?"
Unseeing, the woman took her cue from the old man and stared in Anya's general direction. "Anushka, it's me, Sonyusha."
The familiar forms of their names prodded inside Anya's incorporeal self. If she'd still had a heart, it might have felt a bit squeezed. "Sonya is dead," she told the emotions stirring inside her.
But instead of the feelings, the old man answered. "Not anymore. And you don't have to be either."
Another impossibility. Anya knew her options, and life was not one of them. Still, this man was her ticket to achieving the best possible outcome--freedom.
She strove for a compliant tone. "All right, I will consider forgiving you, but first, you must help me."
"I'll do anything."
"Take me to Stas Demyan."
The old man turned back to the couple. "She wants to see someone named Stas Demyan."
So-called Sonya smacked her forehead, still looking in Anya's direction with an unfocused gaze. "No. She doesn't. Not really."
The woman's earnest expression was too much. Her sister had always been just as naively sincere. And that you-don't-really-mean-it was classic Sonya. Funny how easy it had been to forget all that bossy older sister stuff when Anya was guiltily mourning her. Because this woman was most certainly her murdered sister, alive again.
The dam of emotions Anya was trying to shore up cracked. She sniffed, as if her nose could actually run, and her eyes could truly shed tears. Sonya lived. Anya had a million questions for her sister, and she would ask them all if the old man would let her. But first came the matter of her freedom. "I want Demyan."
He repeated the message with the shake of his head.
"Stas Demyan, she said?" The younger man scratched his hard-lined jaw, a crease deepening between his black brows. His pensive expression surfaced a strong family resemblance to the sickly fellow.
"Just let the past go, come home with us," Sonya said. "You only have to forgive Gregor right now, and you can live again, like me."
Her sister's dismissal only heightened Anya's determination. No one in her family had understood what she'd suffered, what Stas had done to her.
And what was this nonsense about living again? Jerisavlja, queen of the wind nymphs, had been clear that the best Anya could hope for was peace in the afterlife. Second best, and more likely, she might gain her freedom from the ballet shoe that shackled her alone on the riverbank. Vilas did not come back to life.
"No forgiveness until I see Stas." He was the key to her freedom.
"She insists, Sonya, and so we will comply." Gregor spoke like a perfect gentleman, instead of the man who'd helped to murder her family.
The younger man shrugged and pulled a small rectangular box from his pocket. "I'll call Yuchenko. He can unearth anybody. And I've got a feeling this case will interest him."
"Oh, Anushka, I miss you," Sonya said.
Sobs, dry and silent, shook Anya. She'd missed her sister too, every day since her death, even if Sonya was an insufferable goody-two-shoes. Thank God she couldn't see Anya's tearful display.
* * *
Junior Inspector Sergey Yuchenko of the Kiev politsiya unscrewed the cap on his bottle of wheatgrass juice and shot the whole thing in one bitter glug.
Sergey had taken the call from Dmitri Lisko more than two hours ago, and still his blood pounded in his ears. Out the window of the police station, the Kiev skyline looked as crisp as after a rainstorm, like his eyes had gone into hyper-focus.
Demyan was the name his mother muttered in the throes of her most frightening delusions but refused to speak aloud if she was in her right mind. He'd pressed her during those hallucinations, and every single time she'd said the same thing--Stas Demyan was his father.
It sounded like a common enough name. If he hadn't already searched for it in every database he had access to, he might believe it was a coincidence. But he'd turned up zilch on the man, aside from one stint at the National Ballet before Sergey's ballerina mother was even born.
At the desk opposite him, his partner, Pavel, glanced up and cringed at Sergey's bottle of bright green liquid. "God, how do you drink that stuff? It looks like something oozing out of the ruins of Chernobyl."
Sergey took a lot of shit from his fellow cops for his clean living--no coffee, no hard drinking, no smoking. But he was a nice enough guy not to point out he was the only investigator without a beer paunch or a ruddy vodka nose, so he shrugged. "I like it."
He glanced at his computer screen where he'd run a search on Demyan's name. Zero results, just like all the other times he'd tried to find his father.
It must have been during one of those attempts that he'd scrawled the name on a notepad and left it out for Dmitri to see. Which had proved to be good luck, since the younger Lisko had called with this new lead. Of course, Sergey had told him Demyan was just a name that had surfaced on the fringes of an old case, no need to reveal the personal nature of that investigation.
The cursor on the screen blinked as if in mockery. O results match your search. Still no trace of the guy in the national databases. Tension ratcheted up Sergey's shoulders--all the old frustration and fears coming back to him. If his father was a good man, he wouldn't be impossible to find.
"Yuchenko," Pavel said, tilting his head toward the door.
The Liskos stood just inside, along with a pretty girl he'd never seen before, who cradled a shoebox to her chest as carefully as if it had a newborn inside.
Gregor stepped out from behind Dmitri, leaning severely on a cane. God, the man looked bad--years older in the months since Sergey had last seen him. Bruises ringing his eyes, the skin of his face shriveled like a tired balloon. Pity softened Sergey toward the guy. The elder Lisko more or less ran Ukraine behind the scenes, but to his credit, he did it better than a lot of men could.
Sergey showed them down the hall into one of the empty interrogation rooms.
When the door closed, Dmitri extended his hand. "Thanks for this, Yuchenko." He angled toward the woman. "Meet my wife, Sonya."
Sonya? Strange. That had been the name of one of the girls in the Truss family. Sergey had pulled the case file on their murders for Dmitri last month.
"Nice to meet you." He offered his hand, and she shook it eagerly in a warm grasp.
"You too." She had an amiable smile, and Sergey liked her immediately, maybe because of how Dmitri's sharp edges felt duller and less dangerous with her at his side. She returned her hand to its place hugging the shoebox. "And I want to thank you personally. This is important to all of us."
"Have a seat," Sergey said, indicating a table dented by handcuffs and stained by water rings. Sonya put the shoebox on it ever so gently, but no baby whimpered. Of course not. No one carried a baby in a shoebox, but the way she handled the thing sure had him thinking it was precious cargo.
He cut to the chase. "I'm afraid this is hopeless. Aside from a brief stint at the National Ballet, there is no record of Stas Demyan anywhere."
Gregor turned toward the empty corner of the room and raised his palm toward the blank wall. "Shh. We will find him."
Sergey sat back in his chair, transfixed. He'd never seen the oligarch at less than full-blown intimidating, and now he was talking to the wall? The guy had to be on some serious meds.
"So, what's this lead you mentioned?" he asked.
Sonya and Dmitri looked at each other, exchanging one of those wordless communications lovers seem to manage, but that Sergey had never once experienced.
A gust of warm air billowed through the room, as if the heat had just kicked on and blown through the vents. But the building didn't have a central furnace, just radiators.
Sergey turned toward the door to see if someone had opened it while Gregor angled to the corner again and said, "Hush."
Shit. He was seriously hallucinating.
Sergey braved a stare right at high-as-a-kite Lisko. "Why are you looking for this guy?"
His gaze flicked toward that empty corner again. "It's an unresolved matter between Demyan and a woman of my acquaintance, to whom I owe a debt."
"Okay. So when can I talk to her?"
Another knowing look passed between Dmitri and Sonya.
Gregor jumped in. "She's anxious to talk to you, and would sincerely like to offer her assistance until the son of a bitch--her words--is found."
"Great. Then where is she? Can she come down to the station?"
"She's right here." Gregor waved toward the corner where he'd been so focused.
Sergey looked to the couple for a clue just in time to catch Sonya's wince.
"Brace yourself, bro," Dmitri said.
Right. Were they all nuts? Having a little party on Gregor's meds?
And then Gregor seemed to take hold of something, and ... Hell, a woman appeared out of nowhere.
Sergey held statue-still as his skin tightened and his heart hammered against his sternum. This could not be happening. Shit like this didn't happen.
The petite woman coughed and spluttered, retching like she had lungfuls of water. The cop in him was chomping at the bit to go to her aid. His inner child trembled like he'd just woken from a nightmare. But he would force reason to prevail. He gripped the seat of his chair with both hands and waited until he had a better grasp on the situation.
When her heaves stopped, Sergey could see the woman was drenched and almost naked. She had to be--what--a ghost? There was no other explanation. But that was no kind of explanation. Ghosts inhabited children's books with witches, fairies, and demons, not the real world, and sure as hell not his interrogation room.
He tried to blink the vision away. No dice.
Fear formed a ball in his throat, threatening to break free as a scream. He swallowed it and reached for the pistol holstered at his hip. "Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to put your hands up."
"Put that away, Yuchenko," the ailing Lisko scoffed. "She's harmless."
Dmitri crossed his arms over his chest. "I wouldn't say harmless. She's been whispering violent fantasies into Gregor's ear since we found the little harpy--"
Sonya silenced him with an elbow to his ribs. "That's my sister you're talking about."
Sister. She couldn't mean ...?
Dmitri shuddered. "The things she said. Enough to turn a guy off his lunch."
The younger Lisko was a former heavyweight boxer who'd done his uncle's wet work. Sergey didn't want to know what would ruin the guy's appetite. Still, he holstered his gun. There wasn't a single place she could hide a weapon in that skimpy get-up anyway.
The ghost stared at her hand, flexed her fingers, then touched her face. Her mouth fell open, astonished. So small and fragile and pretty. Sergey's fear bled away, and in its wake came fascination. He couldn't look away from the ghost.
"Oh, Anya, you're wearing the pink nightie," Sonya said.
Anya looked down at herself for a long, tense moment, then rose to her full height. "So what." She put her hands on her hips, though the ailing Lisko kept his own wrapped around one of her wrists.
"Inspector Yuchenko, meet my sister, Anya."
Anya and Sonya Truss. The girls murdered in 1968. Impossible.
The ghost's wet nightgown was almost entirely see-through, a rosy pink just one shade darker than her skin, which showed her nipples and her belly button almost as clearly as cling-wrap would. If it weren't for the thick hem of black lace stretched high and taut over her lean, muscular thighs, he'd have seen a lot more. Smooth alabaster flesh, or would there be a shadowy triangle there, as dark as her almost-black hair, slicked back with water? Hell, a puddle was forming at her feet, drops falling from her nightie and splashing into a growing pool.
Excerpted from The Siren's Dance by Amber Belldene. Copyright © 2015 Amber Belldene. 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An unusual setting (Ukraine) and unusual ghost (vila) made for one enjoyable read. Oh, and there's some sexy parts, too! You don't have to have read the first book to enjoy (or get) this one.
The Siren's Dance is a paranormal romance, unique in its setting and premise. It's about a ballerina, murdered with her family in the Ukraine in 1968, who seeks revenge for her death from the men responsible and from her cruel and demanding ballet master who broke her spirit. With the aid of Sergey, a policeman recently intrigued by a friend's interest in the case of the Truss family murder, Anya sets out to avenge her death. Along the way, there are some surprising revelations, and a sexy romance too when Anya is able to inhabit her body once again. It's a combination of suspense, mystery, and a sexy story as Anya and Sergey find themselves caught up in their own attraction. I really enjoyed everything about the story and it's a great companion to the first in the series, The Siren's Touch.