Embrace The Twilight (Twilight Series Book 8)

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9780778322641: Embrace The Twilight (Twilight Series Book 8)
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A creature of the night, Sarafina lives only for pleasure, but love is an emotion she has deemed forbidden. Experience has taught her that love leads only to betrayal and pain, and she wants no more of pain. She cares for no one, tolerating only the presence of those she can control utterly. With her powers, she is convinced she can break anyone.
Willem Stone cannot be broken. He is a challenge Sarafina cannot resist—a man as boldly alive as she is, a man with a will of iron, yet a mere mortal. And the only thing stronger than the clash of their wills is the power of their desire.
But when vampire hunters take Amber Lily, the only child ever born to a vampire, Sarafina and Willem must put their struggle aside and combine their strengths in a rescue attempt that could cost them their very lives. And in the process, they find the most powerful force of all: love.

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About the Author:

RITA Award winning, New York Times bestselling author Maggie Shayne has published over 50 novels, including mini-series Wings in the Night (vampires), Secrets of Shadow Falls (suspense) and The Portal (witchcraft). A Wiccan High Priestess, tarot reader, advice columnist and former soap opera writer, Maggie lives in Cortland County, NY, with soulmate Lance and their furry family.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The gorgio dropped three pieces of silver into the woman's palm. It was a beautiful palm, a beautiful hand, Will noticed as she closed it into a fist. Dark and slender, but strong, not fragile looking, as slender hands tended to be. She wore rings on every finger, and gold and silver bangles on her wrists, which made tinkling music every time she moved.

"Thank you," she told the pale-skinned man."When the predictions come true, tell your friends. And be sure they ask for Sarafina when they come."

He backed away, nodding, thanking her profusely, but never turning his back on her all the way out. As soon as his feet touched the ground outside her wagon-tent, he crossed himself and ran away.

The gorgios might deny it, Sarafina thought, but they were every bit as superstitious as the Gypsies. Will thought it was odd that he could hear what she was thinking as well as what she said aloud. It was almost as if he had retreated into her mind to escape the pain, instead of his own.

But he was distracted from the odd notion by her smile. She smiled slowly, and it transformed her face from dark and sullen and exotic to something of sheer, glowing beauty. He loved her. Everything about her, from her smooth olive-bronze skin to the masses of raven hair curling wildly over her back and shoulders. He loved her lips, how full they were, how ripe. He loved her eyes, gleaming onyx gemstones, set very wide beneath heavy brows most women would pluck down to nothing.

She tucked the coins into the heavy drawstring pouch that dangled from one of the colorful sashes at her waist. "Ten already this week," she whispered, as she leaned over the table to drop a black silk scarf over the crystal globe that held court in its center. The"table"was an upturned wooden crate covered in more silk scarves, as was the chair. The chair on the other side of the table, the one for the customers, was also a crate, but an undressed one. She wasn't about to have one of them sitting on her silk.

Andre. She was thinking of Andre now.

It gave Will a bitter pang to realize it, to feel the little leap of her heart when she thought of the man, but he stayed with her all the same, like a shadow hidden within her own. She left the tent, her strong, bare feet padding down the fold-up steps of the wagon, then pressing onto the cool brown earth as she crossed the camp.Will loved tagging along when she went outside, because the camp was such a fascinating sight; concentric circles of painted wagons and tents, and odd combinations of the two. Bells and prisms hung from most of them. At the center was a communal fire, though many smaller ones burned here and there. The center was where people met. There was often music, dancing. The women in their brightly colored skirts, with their countless scarves trailing them like comet tails as they whirled. The men with their tight-fitting trousers, and red and gold vests. The musicians with their violins and tambourines and pipes.

They were a beautiful, vibrant people, these Gypsies. He didn't know where they were. He was uncertain when they were. Not that it mattered, since they were mere figments of his imagination.

Too vivid, too detailed, to be real.

Many greeted Sarafina as she passed. The younger ones bowed respectfully, while the elders looked upon her as an equal. She was spectacular, walking with her head high and her hips swaying, proud of who she was.

She was a gifted seer, and she used that gift to bring wealth to the tribe. That earned her the honor and respect of the group, just as it did her far less worthy sister. But Will worried about the woman. Lately, she'd been feeling poorly, and her gifts of prophecy refused to tell her why.

The fire in the center of the camp jumped and danced, yellow-orange flames spreading a pool of light in the midst of the pitch-black ocean of night. The wood smoke smelled good, warm and tangy and familiar. Many of the people had gathered around the fire that night, listening as the old ones told tales. Stories of adventures and the misdeeds of their youth brought gasps and then laughter from those gathered around to hear.

Sarafina loved these people. They were her family, and family was all that mattered to her. And they loved her in return. Except, of course, for her sister. Katerina was her own blood, but she had hated her sister from the moment Sarafina had drawn her first breath. Sarafina liked to pretend the feeling was mutual.

It wasn't. Her sister's hatred ate at her like a cancer. Katerina's vardo stood on the opposite side of the camp from Sarafina's, as was always the case wherever the tribe made camp. As Sarafina approached it, leaving the light of the fire far behind, a dark form emerged from the wagon, turned and hurried away into the shadows. A man, Will thought, but he was gone before giving either of them more than a brief glance.

Sarafina stepped up and reached for the door flap, and the bells attached to it tinkled as she drew it open and stepped inside.

Her sister looked up at her with an expectant smile that turned to a grimace the moment she saw who it was. They were so different, the two of them. Katerina's black hair was long and perfectly straight. Her eyes were small, close set and round. They looked like cold pebbles. Shark's eyes.

"Did you think your lover had returned, Katerina?" Sarafina asked with an edge in her voice."So sorry to disappoint you."

"You've done nothing but disappoint me from the day our mother died giving birth to you, little sister. Why begin apologizing for it now?"

The words stung. Will could feel Sarafina's pain as acutely as she herself felt it. But her heart had toughened and formed calluses over the years, thanks to her sister's constant attacks. It didn't hurt as much as it would have once.

Smiling, Fina lifted her coin pouch in her palm, bouncing it slightly so the coins inside jangled. "Ten gorgios have come to see me this week. Ten, Katerina. Twice as many as have sought you out for divination."

Her sister shrugged. "Your wagon is nearer the road than mine."

"They ask for me by name," Sarafina countered.

"They come to me because I am the most skilled seer in this camp, and because word of my abilities has spread throughout the town. I'll have still more of them crossing my palm with silver next week. And I predict you'll have even fewer."

"Bah! By the week after that, when not one of your false predictions has come to pass, they'll see that your only talent lies in deception, and they'll begin seeking my counsel instead." Katerina tossed her hair."We both know the truth. Not only am I the more gifted diviner, I am the rightful Shuvani of this tribe, Sarafina."

Will cringed inwardly when he heard that, knowing there was not much that could make Sarafina angrier. No one got away with calling her gift into question, much less questioning her status as one of the tribe's two wise women. Most tribes had only one. There was no question that this tribe would have had only one, as well, had Sarafina been firstborn.

"Thanks to your false predictions, the whites will likely brand all Gypsies liars and cheats," Katerina went on."And we'll be forced to move on, because of you, yet again."

"My predictions are not lies! I am a far better seer than you, and you know it."

"Not so great a seer, I think. Or you would know the identity of the man who just left my vardo."

The words were a blow that knocked the very breath out of Sarafina's chest. She looked around her sister's tented wagon, even as Will whispered to her to be calm, to resist rising to her sister's bait. But he knew she couldn't hear him. She never could.

The sleeping pallet was untidy, the blankets upon it rumpled and askew. The table in the corner, not a crate like Sarafina's, but a real table that had belonged to their mother, held no crystal, no cards, but a blazing oil lamp, two tin cups and a wine jug lying, uncorked, on its side.

Katerina's soft laughter brought her sister's head around fast.

"He's far too good for you, you know. But he knows now that a real woman desires him."

"Are you saying it was Andre I saw creeping away from here as I approached?"

Will thought that if Katerina valued her life, she would deny it.

"Of course it was Andre. He's the handsomest, the strongest, the wealthiest man in the camp. I couldn't very well let you have him."

"Bi lacho bitch!" Fina shrieked the words even as she lunged forward. She brought her hand across her sister's face, nails slashing her cheek.

Katerina didn't even pause to give note to the pain. She lurched forward, eyes blazing, arms flailing. The two collided, tumbled to the floor and rolled in a tangle of skirts and scarves, ring bedecked hands and bangled arms. They hit the table, and it tipped over. The oil lamp shattered, and the oil spread in a pool of blue flame. Panic rose in Will's chest as they pummeled and bit and clawed each other, both of them shrieking.

Will tried to shout a warning. He focused everything in him on Sarafina and on shouting one word. Fire!

Sarafina shoved her sister off her in one mighty thrust, looking around as if she'd heard something. Will realized, though, that a crowd had gathered outside the tent, probably drawn by the commotion of the fight. They were shouting at her, too. He had no way of knowing which voice she had heard. It didn't matter—not now. He saw her face change as she realized the entire wagon was ablaze.

"Look what you've done!" Katerina screamed."We'll burn alive because of you!"

Sarafina looked for a way out, but the fire was licking at the sides of the tent all around them. Then, suddenly, someone plunged in through the flames. A form, swathed in blankets. He dropped his makeshift cloak. It was Andre, his dark eyes blazing.

"Wrap yourselves in blankets,"he ordered."Quickly!" Both women hastened to obey, as Andre grabbed the water vessel from near Katerina's bed and doused them with it. Then he retrieved his own blanket from the floor."Run, right through here," he said, pointing."You must run as fast as you can. If you hesitate, you will die." He gathered Katerina in his left arm, Sarafina in his right. Will braced himself, all but holding his breath.

"Now!" Andre shouted.

Sarafina closed her eyes and plunged into the wall of fire. There was searing heat on her face and on her feet, but only briefly. An instant of torture, and then she was falling to the cool earth.

She landed hard. Wrestling free of the dampened blanket, she sat up, the fire blazing behind her. Will was nearly limp with relief that she was all right.

Most of the tribe surrounded her, looking down at her and her sister, who had landed close beside her, in stark disapproval as the flames lit their soot-streaked faces. Will knew that Sarafina's dignity was deeply wounded, as was, perhaps, her standing with the tribe.

"It was all her!" Katerina shouted, scrambling to her feet. "She accused me of trying to steal her man and attacked me. By the Gods, all I have is gone!" she cried, waving a helpless arm at the leaping flames.

People gasped, muttered, shook their heads in pity as Katerina's tent and her every possession burned to cinders before their eyes.

"She lies," Sarafina said. "It was she who began this. I only finished it."

Andre bent to help her to her feet, pausing a moment to study her face, then pulling her close to him. His arms went around her, holding her intimately, tightly. Will writhed with jealousy.

"Oh, Sarafina, tell me you don't believe that I could be tempted to another. It's you I love.You I'll take as wife. No one else."

Sarafina stared at him, and she suddenly understood that her sister had lied to her. Katerina was only trying to plant seeds of doubt that would grow to destroy the love she and Andre shared, she told herself. Someone had crept away from Katerina's vardo tonight, but it hadn't been Andre.

Will shook his head slowly, whispering in his mind, in her mind, "Oh, Sarafina, don't be such a fool."

Sarafina glared at her sister in triumph, but then she went still at the look Katerina returned. It was cold, steely and deadly.

Before she could begin to understand what that look might mean, there was a horrifying scream that rent the night from somewhere beyond the camp. Everyone went stiff and still for one brief moment, as if the sound had turned them all to stone.

"No. For the love of Devel, not again,"someone whispered. Will thought it was Gervaise, the reigning chieftain of the tribe. He didn't know what Gervaise meant and wondered if he was about to find out.

But before he could learn anything further, he was shocked out of the fantasy by the sensation of his lungs slowly filling with ice water.

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9781551666686: Embrace the Twilight (MIRA)

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ISBN 10:  1551666685 ISBN 13:  9781551666686
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