Never Tempt Fate
It's been a hell of a day for Abby Barlow. In just a few hours, she's survived an explosion, watched her employer die, had a startling dream, and now she finds herself in a seedy Chicago hotel with the sexy, unearthly Dante, a man she both desires and fears.
For 341 years, Dante has stood as guardian to The Chalice, a mortal woman chosen to hold back the darkness. A terrible twist of fate has now made Abby that woman. Three hours ago, Dante would have used all his charms to seduce her. Now she is his to protect. And he will do so until his very death.
A terrifying plan has been set in motion, one that will plunge Dante and Abby into an epic battle between good and eviland a desperate race to save their love. . .
"A sizzling paranormal romance. . .an affair so hot it burns up the page." Savannah Russe, USA Today bestselling author of Beyond the Pale
"Alexandra Ivy is already in a league of her own." Lynn Viehl, author of Dark Need
About the Author
Alexandra Ivy is the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of romantic suspense, paranormal and erotic romance. She has also written Regency historicals under the name Deborah Raleigh. A five-time RT Book Award Finalist, Ivy has received much acclaim for her Guardians of Eternity, ARES Security, Immortal Rogues and Sentinels series. She lives with her family in Missouri and can be found online at www.AlexandraIvy.com.
Read an Excerpt
When Darkness Comes
By Alexandra Ivy
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2006 Debbie Raleigh
All rights reserved.
"Oh God, Abby. Don't panic. Just ... don't ... panic."
Sucking in a deep breath, Abby Barlow pressed her hands to her heaving stomach and studied the shards of pottery that lay splintered across the floor.
Okay, so she broke a vase. Well, perhaps more than broke it. It was more like she shattered, decimated, and annihilated the vase, she grudgingly conceded. Big deal. It was not the end of the world.
A vase was a vase. Wasn't it?
She abruptly grimaced. No, a vase was not just a vase. Not when it was a very rare vase. A priceless vase. One that should no doubt have been in a museum. One that was the dream of any collector and ...
Panic once again reared its ugly head.
She had destroyed a priceless Ming vase.
What if she lost her job? Granted, it wasn't much of a job. Hell, she felt as if she were stepping into the Twilight Zone each time she entered the elegant mansion on the outskirts of Chicago. But her position as companion to Selena LaSalle was hardly demanding. And the pay was considerably better than slinging hash in some sleazy dive.
The last thing she needed was to be back in the long lines at the unemployment office.
Or worse ... dear God, what if she was expected to pay for the blasted vase?
Even if there was such a thing as a half-price sale at the local Ming outlet shop, she would have to work ten lifetimes to make such a sum. Always supposing that it was not one of a kind.
Panic was no longer merely rearing. It was thundering through her at full throttle.
There was only one thing to be done, she realized. The mature, responsible, adult thing to do.
Hide the evidence.
Covertly glancing about the vast foyer, Abby ensured that she was alone before lowering herself to her knees and gathering the numerous shards that littered the smooth marble.
It was not as if anyone would notice the vase was missing, she tried to reassure herself. Selena had always been a recluse, but in the past two weeks, she had all but disappeared. If it wasn't for her occasional cameo appearances to demand that Abby prepare that disgusting herb concoction she guzzled with seeming pleasure, Abby might have thought that the woman had done a flit.
Certainly Selena didn't roam the house taking inventory of her various knickknacks.
All Abby needed to do was ensure that she didn't leave any trace of her crime and surely all would be well.
No one would ever know.
"My, my, I never thought to see you on your hands and knees, lover. A most intriguing position that leads to all sorts of delicious possibilities," a mocking voice drawled from the entrance to the drawing room.
Abby closed her eyes and heaved in a deep breath. She was cursed. That had to be it. What else could possibly explain her unending run of bad luck?
For a moment she kept her back turned, futilely hoping Selena's houseguest, the utterly annoying Dante, would disappear. It could happen. There was always spontaneous combustion, or black holes, or earthquakes.
Unfortunately, the ground didn't open up to swallow him, nor did the smoke detectors set off a warning. Even worse, she could actually feel his dark, amused gaze leisurely meandering over her stiff form.
Gathering her battered pride, Abby forced herself to slowly turn, and keeping the broken vase hidden behind her as she regarded the current bane of her existence.
He didn't look like a bane. God's truth, he looked like a delicious, dangerously wicked pirate.
Still kneeling upon the floor, Abby allowed her gaze to travel over the black biker boots and long, powerful legs encased in faded denims. Ever higher she skimmed over the black silk shirt that hung loosely upon his torso. Loose, but not loose enough, she acknowledged with a renegade shiver. Much to her embarrassment, she had caught herself sneaking peeks at the play of rippling muscles beneath those silky shirts during the past three months.
All right, maybe she had indulged in more than mere peeks. Maybe she had been staring. Gawking. Ogling. Occasionally drooling.
What woman wouldn't?
Gritting her teeth, she forced her gaze up to the alabaster face with its perfectly chiseled features. A wide brow, a narrow aristocratic nose, sharply defined cheekbones and lushly carved lips. They all came together with a fierce elegance.
It was the face of a noble warrior. A chieftain.
Until one noticed those pale, silver eyes.
There was nothing noble in those disturbing eyes. They were piercing, wicked, and shimmering with a mocking amusement toward the world. They were eyes that branded him a "badass" as easily as the long raven hair that carelessly tumbled well past his shoulders and the golden hoops he wore in his ears.
He was sex on legs. A predator. The sort that chewed up and spat out women like her with pathetic ease.
That was, when they bothered to notice women like her in the first place. Which was not very damn often.
"Dante. Do you have to skulk about like that?" she demanded, desperately aware of the priceless clutter just behind her.
He made a show of considering her question before offering a faint shrug.
"No, I don't suppose I have to skulk about," he murmured in his husky midnight voice. "I simply enjoy doing so."
"Well, it's a very vulgar habit."
His lips twitched with amusement as he prowled ever closer. "Oh, I possess far more vulgar habits, sweet Abby. Several that I don't doubt you would enjoy fully if only you would allow me to demonstrate."
God, she just bet he did. Those slender, devilish hands would no doubt make a woman scream in pleasure. And those lips ...
Abruptly she was squashing the renegade fantasy and stirring up the annoyance she most certainly should be feeling.
"Ack. You're revolting."
"Vulgar and revolting?" His smile widened to reveal startling white teeth. "My sweet, you are in a very precarious position to be tossing about such insults."
Precarious? She battled the urge to glance down and discover if any shards of her crime were visible.
"I don't know what you mean."
With a flowing elegance, Dante was on his knees before her, those disturbing fingers lifting to lightly stroke her cheek. His touch was cool, almost cold, but it sent a startling flare of heat searing through her.
"Oh, I think you do. I seem to recall a rather precious Ming vase that used to sit upon that table. Tell me, lover, did you hock it or break it?"
Damn. He knew. She desperately attempted to think of some feasible lie to explain the missing vase. Or for that matter, any lie, feasible or not. Unfortunately, she had never been particularly skilled at prevarication.
And it didn't much help that his lingering touch was turning her brain to mush.
"Don't call me that," she at last lamely muttered.
"What?" His brows lifted.
"For the obvious fact that I'm not your lover."
"Tsk, tsk." Dante clicked his tongue as his fingers moved to boldly outline her lips. "Has no one ever warned you that it is dangerous to dare fate? It has a tendency to come back and bite you." His gaze drifted over her pale countenance and the soft curve of her neck. "Sometimes quite literally."
"Not in a million years."
"I can wait," he husked.
She gritted her teeth as those skillful fingers traveled down the arch of her throat and along the neckline of her plain cotton shirt. He was merely toying with her. Hell, the man would flirt with any woman who possessed a pulse. And maybe a few who didn't.
"That finger moves any lower and your stay in the world is going to be considerably shorter."
He gave a soft chuckle as he reluctantly allowed his hand to drop. "Do you know, Abby, someday you're going to forget to say no. And on that day, I intend to make you scream with pleasure."
"My God, how do you possibly carry that ego around?"
His smile was purely wicked. "Do you think I don't notice? All those covert glances when you think I'm not looking? The way you shiver when I brush past you? The dreams that haunt your nights?"
Conceited, puffed-up toad.
She should laugh. Or pooh-pooh. Or even slap his arrogant face. Instead she stiffened as if he had hit a nerve that she didn't even know she possessed.
"Don't you have somewhere you need to be?" she gritted. "The kitchen? The sewers? The fires of hell?"
Surprisingly the pirate features hardened as his lips twisted into a sardonic smile.
"Nice try, my sweet, but I don't need you to condemn me to the fires of hell. That was accomplished a long time ago. Why else would I be here?"
Abby gave a lift of her brows, intrigued in spite of herself by his hint of bitterness. For God's sake, what more could he want? He possessed the sort of cushy life that most oversexed playboys could only dream of. A glamorous home. Expensive clothes. A silver Porsche. And a sugar mommy who was not only young, but beautiful enough to make any male hot and bothered. His life was hardly in the gutter.
Unlike her own.
"Oh yes, you must really suffer," she retorted, her gaze flicking over the silk shirt that cost more than her entire wardrobe. "My heart simply breaks for you."
The silver eyes flashed with a startling heat as the fierce power that always smoldered about him prickled through the air.
"Do not presume to speak of things you know nothing about, lover," he warned.
Just let it be, Abby, she sternly warned herself. Whatever his easy charm, the man was dangerous. A genuine bad boy. Only fools deliberately toyed with fire.
Of course, when it came to men, she might as well have the word idiot tattooed on her forehead.
"If you dislike being here, then why don't you leave?"
He regarded her in unnerving silence before his eyes slowly narrowed. "Why don't you?"
"I'm not the only one suffering here, am I? Every day you seem to fade a bit more. As if your frustration and sadness has taken another piece of your soul."
Abby nearly tumbled backward at his sharp perception. She had never dreamed that anyone could possibly have noted her desperation at her tedious existence, nor the budding fear that she would soon be too old and tired to care that she was going nowhere.
Certainly not this man.
"You don't know anything."
"I know a prison when I see one," he murmured. "Why do you remain behind the bars when you could so easily slip away?"
She gave a short, humorless laugh. Easily? Obviously he was not nearly so perceptive as she had given him credit for.
"Because I need this job. Unlike you, I don't have a generous lover to pay my bills and keep me in style. Some of us have to earn our pay with actual work."
If she thought to insult him, she was far off the mark. In fact, her sharp words merely returned that mocking humor she found so damn annoying.
"You believe me to be Selena's whore?"
He lifted a broad shoulder. "Our ... relationship is a bit more complex than that."
"Oh yes, no doubt being a boy toy to a rich, glamorous woman is astonishingly complex."
"Is that why you try to keep me at a distance? Because you believe I share Selena's bed?"
"I keep you at a distance because I don't like you." He leaned forward, until his lips were nearly touching her own. "You may not like me, sweetness, but that doesn't keep you from wanting me."
Her heart forgot to beat as she struggled not to close that shallow distance and put herself out of her misery. A kiss. Just one kiss. The tingling need was nearly unbearable.
No, no, no. Did she really want to be a poor joke to relieve his boredom? Hadn't she played that humiliating game before?
"Do you know, Dante, I've met my share of jackasses in my time, but you —"
The rather tidy insult was brought to a stunning halt. In the air there was a sudden, crackling heat. As electrifying as a strike of lightning.
Unnerved by the prickling sensation, she turned her head toward the stairs just as a thundering concussion ripped through the house. Caught off guard, she tumbled backward, her breath knocked from her body.
Just for a moment she lay perfectly still. She half-expected the ceiling to come crumbling down upon her. Or the ground to open up and swallow her.
What the blazes had happened? An earthquake? A gas explosion?
The end of the world?
Whatever it was, it had been enough to tumble the pictures from the walls and knock over tables. Suddenly the Ming vase she had broken matched every other priceless object.
Giving a shake of her head to clear the ringing in her ears, Abby sucked in a deep breath. Well, at least she seemed to be alive, she told herself. And while she was certain to be sporting a few bruises, she didn't think anything vital was actually missing or punctured.
Lying flat on her back, she barely heard the low feral growl, but it still managed to make the hair upon her nape stand upright. Dear Lord, now what?
Struggling to push herself upright, she glanced about the littered foyer. Astonishingly it was empty. No wild animal. No approaching madman.
And no Dante.
With a frown, Abby ignored her wobbly knees and forced herself toward the nearby stairs. Where had Dante gone? Had he been hit by the explosion? Or thrown from the foyer?
Had he simply disappeared in a puff of smoke?
No, no, of course not. She pressed a hand to her aching head. She was thinking crazy. She must have been knocked unconscious for a moment. That would explain it. No doubt he had gone to check on the damage. Or to call for assistance.
Her job was surely to ensure that Selena was not injured.
Concentrating upon placing one foot in front of the other, a startlingly difficult task, she managed to climb the sweeping marble stairs and awkwardly make her way down the hallway. At the end of the long east wing, the door to Selena's chambers was already open and Abby stepped over the threshold.
She got no farther.
A gasp was wrenched from her throat as her wide gaze swept over the demolished room. Like downstairs, the pictures and various objects had been tumbled to the ground, most of them smashed beyond recognition. But here the general mayhem had left the walls blackened and in places crumbled to dust. Even the windows had been blasted from their frames.
Her gaze flew to the large bed that was tumbled onto its side and at last to the center of the room where Dante was kneeling beside a limp, battered form.
"Oh my God." Holding her hands to her mouth, Abby stumbled forward, her heart firmly lodged in her throat. "Selena."
Noticing her presence for the first time, Dante jerked his head up to regard her with a frown. Almost absently, Abby noted the even sharper pallor of his skin and the oddly hectic glitter in his silver eyes.
Obviously he was as shaken as she was.
"Get out of here," he growled.
She ignored his warning as she fell to her knees beside the burned body. Whatever her secret dislike for the beautiful, coldhearted woman, it was forgotten as tears streamed down her cheeks.
"Is she ... dead?" she croaked.
"Abby, I said to leave. Now. Get out of this room. Out of this house ..."
The dark, furious words continued, but Abby was no longer listening. Instead she watched in fascinated horror as one of the charred hands twitched upon the carpet. Holy freaking hell. Could the poor woman still be alive? Or was it some horrible trick of her imagination?
Frozen in shock, Abby stared at the fingers that continued to jerk and spasm ever closer. It was like something out of a nightmare. A sensation that only deepened when the hand snapped upward and grasped her wrist in a painful grasp.
Opening her mouth to scream, Abby discovered her breath wrenched from her body. A coldness was spreading from the fingers that dug into her flesh. A coldness that crawled through her blood with a searing, ruthless agony. With a groan, she desperately attempted to tug herself free of the brutal grip.
She was going to die, she realized in stunned disbelief. The pain was clawing at her heart, slowing its beat until it was doomed to halt. She was going to die, and she hadn't even bothered to start living yet.
What an idiot she was.
Raising her head, she met Dante's shimmering metallic gaze. His beautiful, wicked features appeared grim in the dim light. Grim and edged with something that might have been fury, or regret, or ... desperation.
She tried to speak, but a bright flare of light burst through her mind, and with a strangled scream she plunged headfirst into the welcoming darkness.
Excerpted from When Darkness Comes by Alexandra Ivy. Copyright © 2006 Debbie Raleigh. 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
When Darkness Comes is the first book in a new paranormal romance series called the Guardians of Eternity by author Alexandra Ivy. When Darkness Comes is set in Chicago and includes demons, evil wizards, witches, and vampires. This story is about Abby, who inherits the power of Phoenix (a good creation keeping the Prince of Darkness at bay), when her employer dies. Dante, the protector (or beast as referred to in the story), is a vampire and magically chained to that power to protect the Phoenix, also call The Chalice. For most of the story it centers around the growing attraction between Abby and Dante and conflicts to include the dangers that Abby and Dante face in the form of zombies, demons and the acolytes of evil while trying to find the witches and have the Phoenix removed from Abby. I again, was looking for a new paranormal series and found that this definitely fit the bill for it. I feel as though Alexandra Ivy did a phenomenal job at making the characters likeable and the plot entertaining, not to mention the hilarious back-and-forth between Dante and Abby with her stubborn ways and his arrogance attitude. When Darkness Comes is a hugely enjoyable read and a strong start to the Guardians of Eternity series, it has everything a vampire romance fan could ask for - sexy vampires and hot romance. I am looking forward to the next book in the series, Embrace the Darkness, which hopefully is the story of the cunningly wicked Viper.
I read an excerpt in the back of another book for the second book in the series. I got the book from the library. 10 min after finishing the book I had ordered all six of them from B&N ( the 6th I pre-ordered as it's not out yet). I really enjoyed all of them. If you like Linsay Sands, Pamela Palmer or Laurell K Hamilton you should like these also.
Dante's story is absolutely wonderful. New characters are already intriguing. Can't wait to read the next book. Nice plot and story that flies.
I was pleasantly surprised reading this story. I didn't expect much with all the vampire romance series out there, but the first few pages intrigued me enough to check it out. The banter between Abby and Dante is fun and refreshing, more like two people on the first few dates rather than ancient warrior and unwilling heroine. That's what I enjoyed most about the book: the characters. I'll continue to read the series for that alone. Ivy's Guardians are fun and tantalizing enough to make you go back for more. I loved this book and recommend anyone who likes this type of tale to not miss it. This author has a surprisingly light and intriqing instinct for this type of literature. She is going to be around for a long time.
THIS IS MY FIRST BOOK BY ALEXANDRA IVY. MY HUSBAND BOUGHT IT FOR ME AND I AM GLAD HE DID I READ THIS BOOK IN ONE DAY COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. LOVE THE DARK VAMPIRE WHO EVEN THOUGH IS DEAD HAS A HEART FOR ONE WOMEN AND WANTS TO MATE HER. THE ONLY THING I WISH IS THAT IN THIS BOOK THE SEX WAS MORE DETAILED I MEAN DON'T GET ME WRONG IT WAS OK BUT NOT MIND BLOWING OFF THE PAGES I LIKE THE SEX IN BOOKS TO BE HOT. BUT OVER ALL THE BOOK WAS WELL WRITTEN AND I AM STARTING ON THE SECOND BOOK TO THIS SERIES. I LIKED THE DARKNESS AND THE CHASE THAT DANTE AND ABBY INDURED. CAN'T WAIT TO SEE IF VIPER, DANTE VAMPIRE FRIEND HAS A HAPPY ENDING. ALEXANDRA VERY WELL WRITTEN WILL LOOK FOR MORE OF YOUR WORK.
Quite possibly the least entertaining book I've ever read. I forced myself to read almost to the end, but I can only take so much abuse before my body goes on strike and my eyes refuse to scan another over-used word. How many times do we need to hear about his "raven brows"? Can't you just say his eyebrows, for god's sake? And exactly how many times will he "pull her against his hard body" before she's bruised and battered and calling the cops? And the sex scenes? Uninspired, vanilla, and not in the least bit sexy. Come on, Ms. Ivy. . . at least TRY to make this palatable! This book was so predictable and poorly-written I'm ashamed to have even bought it. No twists, no surprises, very cut and dry. I guessed every move, every word. The dialogue was forced and dry. The "confrontations" were pathetic and unrealistic. The dynamic between the two main characters was beyond ridiculous and it was impossible to become immersed in this story because of it! I realize this is supposed to be a fantasy, smut (which is used in a good way, not a derogatory one--I refer to all these books as smut and I do so with a smile) but well-written smut can still have a good story and realistic characters while at the same time titillating the reader. There was absolutely ZERO titillation going on in my house when this book was open. I purchased this because it came recommended by the B&N website based on my previous purchases of Larissa Ione's series. WOW, was Barnes and Noble WAY off. Do yourselves a favor and skip this piece of refuse and go read Larissa Ione's Demonica series instead.
Ok Ladies if you dream of being swept off your feet then this is the book for you. First in a series of 6 books each building on the other. Great read not to much "Hot and Heavy" just enough. Good story and easy to read. I like how she gets you to keep interested in the next books by putting a chapter of the next at the end. If you like fantasy with a good story then this is only the begining for you. I recommend you read all in the series. You will enjoy each one. As you read you will enjoy the characters as they are introduced and built upon. Almost able to imagine them right before you. Excelent read for in front of the fireplace!
I love when a storyline introduces new types of "demons" into the mix, and Alexandra Ivy has done a bang up job with this series! I've bought the entire series and loved every minute reading them!
Dante and Abby are a great couple. I am looking forward to continuing this series.
I have all 4 books and they are great.
This story really was great reading. Believable characters, great adult love scenes ( but not rated X ), interesting twist and last but not least a wonderful happy-ever-after ending! Thank you Alexandra Ivy for your time and hard work.
I really wanted to like this book and it's okay, but very repetitive. The author's phrasing and descriptions kept it annoying enough to decide not to continue this series.
This was a good book. strong characters and plenty of action and romance. A definite read for sure
Ivy combines all different aspects of the paranormal world into this series! Great series!
Can't wait to read the rest of the series. If your into paranormal romance, mystery, and a little comedy, you are gonna really enjoy this one.
Abby seems to have trouble following her. Growing up she had nothing to look forward to. He father was a abusive drunk. Her mother was useless and un-motherly. So when she started a menial job she didn't think her life was getting much better. Her life changed after a huge explosion occurred knocking her down. After gathering herself she ran to see her employer Selena dead while Dante trying to save her. Selena grabbed hold of Abby transferring the Phoenix and making her the Chalice. Making this short Dante and Abby fell in love they had to battle witches, demons and wizards. While fighting to stay alive they were trying to find a way to remove the Phoenix from Abby and removing the spell from Dante, which tied him to the phoenix as a protector. As much as I hate to give a negative review, The characters were underdeveloped. If Dante remarked "Bloody hell" one more time I probably would have screamed. I didn't understand the relationship between Dante and Abby. At times they seemed a perfect pair and then you realized how the characters didn't seem to have much personality. Abby may have talked about her childhood but it wasn't heartfelt. I had no connection with her. This book took me a week to get through because I just couldn't get into it. The writing lagged, it was slow paced even during the drama and fighting scenes. The one character I wanted to know about really wasn't in the book as much. Viper was Dante's brotherly/fatherly figured who demanded attention that wasn't given. I have found out that the second in the series is Vipers story. As of now I would not read the rest of the series. I still have a bad taste in my mouth maybe I will give it another shot in a month or so.
I was looking forward to reading this book after reading the synopsis. The writing style lacks flow and congruency. The characters seem corny and predictable at times.... 3 out of 10 for this book..... Not worth my time or money.
Whoaw, I really enjoy this author writing skills and the book overall. Dante and Abby story was wonderful, the characters were well developped, good introduction of Viper. Do not let small reviews fool you THESE ARE EXCELLENT SERIES and very well written.
Let's just say i'm glad I rented this book from the libary. The first few chapters was good and pulled me in, then after that the story was just slow and boring. It did have it's high points and funny parts of the story but other than that ick.. it was hard to finish this book, but I am looking forward to reading viper's story. I hope it don't share the same pattern as the first story.
I love this book and went ahead and got the whole collection which are wickedly romantic. I cant wait for the next one.
Ivy does it again! She has an interesting world so full of paranormals that you expect to get lost in the mix. However, she pulls it off. The gargoyle is hilarious. Viper was a little more sappy than I expected him to be, but I guess someone as old as he is can fall hard when they fall for the right demon. Great plot twist!
Well written and fast paced, I enjoyed every minute of this story. The characters are believable and the love story behind it keeps you reading to find out what they will do next. I recommend this book to the romantics and paranormal lovers amid book lovers.
vfjx fj.; bx. . irf #ncm # dj
Very good start to series. Bought next three after reading. No cliffhanger, but has threads with background characters that carry on into next in series.