Sandy already has her own problems – a failing ranch, hands leaving, and a note about to be called in by the bank. But she can't leave the poor man injured and unclothed.
Will taking him home prove to be a bad decision on her part? Or could he be her answer to a prayer?
Hell Town, Wyoming
Sandy pulled back hard on the reins to keep the horses from trampling whatever, or whoever, was lying across the trail.
Ordinarily, she would have been watching the road more closely on a cloudy night like this, but she was still reeling from the sight of a comet or some other heavenly body that had gone streaking across the night sky in front of her only a few moments earlier.
And now this. She hoped it wasn’t a deer, or worse, one of her heifers.
Looping the reins around the brake, she climbed down from the wagon and walked toward the still figure, which was clearly illuminated in the glow of a bright harvest moon.
Heidi jumped out of the back of the wagon and followed her, growling softly.
Sandy pressed a hand to her heart as she drew closer. It wasn’t a calf, or a deer. It was a man. A man who was very nearly naked.
“Oh, please,” she whispered, one hand at her throat. “Please don't be dead”.
The words repeated themselves in her mind as she knelt beside him and gently rolled him onto his back.
Her first thought was that he was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. Not beautiful in the feminine sense of the word, for he was totally, blatantly male from the top of his head to the soles of his bare feet, but beautiful nonetheless. Her gaze skimmed over him - long black hair, thick sooty-colored lashes, an aristocratic nose, perfectly shaped, sensual lips, broad shoulders, a chest lightly furred with curly black hair, a washboard stomach, long muscular arms and legs. Sheer, masculine perfection, she thought again, all wrapped up in a nice healthy tan.
She frowned at the odd-looking cloth that covered his loins. It was dark green and for some peculiar reason, it reminded her of a fig leaf.
Sandy sat back on her heels. There was no sign of blood. No outward evidence of anything broken or sprained. As far as she could tell, he was breathing normally. There was something almost hypnotic about the steady rise and fall of that broad beautiful chest.
Tentatively, she placed her hand on his shoulder. His skin was warm and smooth.
“Hey.” She shook his shoulder gently. “Hey, can you hear me?”
Tail wagging, Heidi licked the man’s face.
“Here now, Heidi, stop that.” Grabbing the dog’s collar, she pulled the Collie away. “Sit, girl. Stay.”
The man stirred slightly, and then his eyelids fluttered open.
“Are you all right?” Sandy asked, unable to draw her gaze from his face. In the soft glow of the moon’s light, she could see that his eyes were a deep clear blue, like heavenly sapphires.
He blinked up at her. “Hello, Sandra Lynne Davis.”
Sandy sat back on her heels. “Who the devil are you?” she asked, startled to hear her name on a stranger’s lips “And how the heck do you know who I am?”
“My name is Rafael,” he replied, his voice deep and soft and somehow soothing. “And the devil had nothing to do with it.” He looked up at her and smiled. “I'm an angel.”
Sandy grinned. Obviously, the man had landed on his head. Hard. What would an angel be doing in Hell Tree, Wyoming?
“An angel huh?” Sandy replied. “Where are your wings?”
“Angels don't have wings.” He sat up in a single, smooth movement, his gaze intent upon her face. “Fairies have wings.”
“Really? All the angels I’ve seen have had wings.”
He looked at her, one brow arched. “Have you seen very many?”
She shook her head. “Of course not. Are you sure you're all right? Do you hurt anywhere?”
Slowly, he lifted a hand to the back of his head. “There is some discomfort here. Would that be pain?”
Reaching forward, Sandy probed the back of his head. She grunted softly when she found a lump the size of a goose egg. It proved what she had suspected all along. He had landed on his head.
“It's not bleeding,” Sandy said reassuringly. “Is your vision blurred or anything?”
“Blurred?” He squinted at her. “No, I don't think so.”
Sandy frowned, wondering what to do with him. She couldn't just leave him out here, not with that monstrous bump on his head, not when he was delusional. Certainly not when he was nearly naked.
On the other hand, taking him home didn’t seem wise. She was single, after all. But she didn’t live alone. Her housekeeper could double as her chaperone until Rafael was fit to travel.
“Come on,” she said, her decision made. “I'll take you home.”
Frowning, he glanced up at the sky. “Home? Ah, your home. Yes.”
Sandy shook her head. For all that he was the most amazingly handsome man she had ever seen, he was obviously one flake short of a bale. Rising, she offered her hand to help him to his feet.
When his fingers closed around hers, a delicious heat unlike anything she had ever known flowed through her fingers, seeped into her palm, spread all the way up her arm and settled in her heart, filling her with a remarkable warmth. He rose lithely to his feet to tower over her. She had not realized how tall he was. Tall and lean and well-muscled. And nearly naked.
Never in all her twenty-three years had she been so intrigued by a man. It was difficult not to simply stand there and stare at him. It took all her will-power to draw her gaze from his face.
“Well, come on,” she said, “let's get you home.” And dressed, she added to herself, although it almost seemed a sin to cover that Adonis-like body. Calling, “Heidi, come,” Sandy lowered the tailgate, and the Collie jumped into the back of the wagon.
Rafael followed the woman to the conveyance and vaulted up on the seat. The woman climbed up beside him, took up the reins, and clucked to the horse.
Sitting back in the seat, his arms crossed over his chest, Rafael watched the countryside go by. The earth was indeed beautiful, just as Benjamin had promised. He lifted his hand, winced when his fingertips found the lump on the back of his head. New experiences, Benjamin had said, that was why Rafael needed to go to earth. It would enable him to better understand human behavior if he spent some time living among them. He needed to experience sadness, loneliness, pain, hunger, cold, fear, anger, and depression, as well as happiness, joy and pleasure.
When he tired of looking at miles and miles of gently rolling grassland, Rafael turned his attention to the young woman sitting beside him. She was quite lovely, with fine golden brown skin and a wealth of long red hair. Her eyes, beneath thick lashes, were as deep and green as the leaves of a celestial tree. She had a generous mouth, a stubborn chin, and a tip-tilted nose that could only be described as cute.
An unfamiliar warmth pooled in his groin as his gaze drifted over her body. Definitely female - a little plump, with curves in all the right places. Her breasts filled out the blue cotton shirt; faded jeans hugged her long shapely legs. She wore a pair of scuffed brown leather cowboy boots.
He took a deep breath and his nostrils filled with a myriad of scents: earth, trees, flowers, hay, and over all, a scent he didn't recognize but realized was peculiar to the woman herself. It was a pleasant aroma, reminiscent of a spring day. Could it be perfume?
“Are you from one of the ranches around here?” Sandy asked.
Rafael hesitated a moment before replying. “Not exactly.”
“I didn't think so. You don't strike me as the cowboy type.”
“Oh? What type do you think I am?”
“I'm not sure.” She glanced at him, then shook her head. “I don't know. What kind of work do you do?”
“You know, a job?”
“Ah, my profession.”
Sandy laughed. “When you first regained consciousness, you said you were an angel, but I can't imagine there's much profit in that.”
He looked aghast at her words. “I said that?”
Sandy nodded. “I figure you must have hit your head pretty hard.”
“Indeed,” he muttered, hoping he would be forgiven for telling her such a thing.
“So, what line of work are you in?”
“You might say I'm a man of the cloth.”
“A preacher, you mean?”
“Yes, something like that.”
“How'd you wind up almost...ah…you know, in the middle of the road?”
Rafael glanced at his scanty attire and felt a rush of color flood his cheeks. Was he blushing?
“I'm not sure,” he hedged, though he knew very well what had happened. In his haste to experience earth life, he had neglected to properly clothe himself but he couldn’t tell her that. Of course, lying was a sin, but in this case, a necessary one, since he was forbidden to tell her the truth.
“Well, I'll have Nina take a look at your head when we get home. Do you have any family nearby? A wife?”
“No.” He shook his head. “No family.”
“Oh.” So, he wasn’t married. The thought pleased her more than it should have. “Perhaps you can get in touch with your boss.”
He glanced up at the vast indigo sky and grinned. “Yes, perhaps I'll do that.”
He had a wonderful smile, she thought, and almost ran them into a fence because she was watching him instead of the road.
A few minutes later she made a left turn onto the tree-lined dirt road that led to the big, ranch-style house where she had been born. It was a little run down now, but as soon as she got a little money ahead, she was going to get it fixed up. So many things that needed doing, she thought as she reined the team to a halt in front of the house. The shutters at the windows, once a deep forest green, were badly faded. The barn roof was in need of repair. The bunkhouse needed a new roof. One of the corrals out back needed a new gate. But there were good things, too. She loved the verandah that wrapped around the front of the house, and the flowers that grew in wild profusion on both sides of the front porch. The rope swing she had played on as a little girl still hung from the big old oak tree on the side of the house. Someday, the good Lord willing, her own children would play on it
“Well,” she said, setting the brake. “We're home.”
Rafael nodded. “Home,” he repeated quietly, but it was the woman he was looking at when he said it, and not the house.
(Copyright Madeline Baker 2011.)
Buy it here
Rachael at Fresh Fiction Reviews said:
"NIGHT’S MASTER by Amanda Ashley was the first book that I’ve read by this extremely talented author. I was hooked from the first page and immensely impressed with the writing. The dialogue flows brilliantly, the romance is hot, the danger is scary, and the suspense is exciting.
While I normally shy away from longer books, this one being a heavy 364 pages, I didn’t want the book to end. There were no boring spots where I yawn and yearn to skip over nonsense. NIGHT’S MASTER is perfection from the beginning to the end. Overall I adored and loved everything about this book and can’t wait to read all of Amanda Ashley’s backlist books!"
"Enjoyable Read for Urban Fantasy Lovers"
Kathy McKenna owns a quaint bookstore in the Midwestern town of Oak Hallow. She has a rare gift of spotting preternatural beings. She thought Oak Hallow would be safe away from the Vampire and Were wars, but she finds out that her town is the neutral zone, where all creatures of the night meet and discuss peace. A Were, Cagin asks her out on a date, a Vampire, Raphael (Rafe) wants to court her and a Hunter, Travis wants her for a whole different reason. She should just pack up and leave town, but then she can't stop thinking about Raphael and the way her heart beats faster when he's around.
Raphael (Rafe) Cordova and his twin brother are unique Vampires. They were not turned but became vampires when they were teens. Rafe is the leader of the North American Vampires and in charge of keeping the peace. When he walks into Kathy's bookstore, he didn't plan on courting her, but there is something about her that warms his soul. All he has to do is convince Kathy they belong together. Kathy is human and she wants to stay that way. Will her love for him be enough to make their relationship work?
While Rafe and Kathy try to work out their differences, they must also contend with the Hunters. Travis and his cohorts want to eliminate the preternatural world and they have a diabolical plan in the works to achieve the goal.
Ms. Ashley has written an intriguing Urban Fantasy with good, evil and little in-between. I liked how her characters stayed true. Kathy may love Rafe but she's very human and acts accordingly. She fears what Rafe is. She never forgets he isn't human and she hashes over all the pros and cons of having a lifetime relationship with a Vampire. Can he control his blood lust? Will he turn her without her permission? Will he tire of her when she grows old? If she became a vampire, would she hate that she couldn't go out in the day? Would she miss chocolate, coffee and all other good foods? All good questions. She may love a vampire, but it doesn't mean he's right for her.
Rafe is a strong Alpha male, who is sympathetic to Kathy's plight. I also liked that he didn't treat her as if she couldn't take care of herself. She may be human, but he knew she had a life before him. I also liked the secondary characters, Cagin and Susie. They could have a story all their own. All in all this was an enjoyable read. I believe the tale would also attract the young adult crowd. There's nothing too graphic and the sex scenes are left to the imagination.
Karen Michelle Nutt, author
SIDJE VICIOUS REVIEWS SAID:
Night’s Master was a wonderful read! It has all of my favorite elements: a great female protagonist who I can relate to, a sexy as all get-out male/vampire protagonist, romance, danger, a fun and surprising supporting cast of characters, a mystery, a great climax and it’s all rolled into one with Amanda Ashley’s usual highly gifted story-telling abilities!
This book is the third in the Night Series. The next one is Night’s Pleasure, due to be released in February 2009. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Ashley’s since her first vampire romance, Embrace The Night, and I look forward to reading many more in the future.
ROMANTIC TIMES SAID:
Continuing the story of the Cordova family from NIGHT'S TOUCH, Ashley delivers another edgy yet sensitive story. With vivid, beautiful characters, plenty of action and a mix of vampires, were-creatures and vampire hunters, it's no surprise that readers keep begging for more. Emotions come alive and sensuality reigns in this captivating new installment. Autumn Harrison
Reviewer Amanda Killgore said:
Almost immediately, Kathy McKenna and Rafe Cordova are drawn together, and not just because the lovely bookstore owner can sense paranormal beings, such as vampires, which is what Rafe is. Despite all the good common sense arguments against getting involved, the two fall in love at the worst possible time, in the midst of a war between vampires and shape shifters and just as after a lull of a quarter century, hunters are on the rise again and more sinister than ever. This time, not only are were creatures and vampires in danger from them, but so are ordinary humans whose deaths could be useful. Love is a battle when your heart belongs to the undead.
How can a book be charmingly sweet yet edgy at the same time? I don't know how, but Amanda Ashley invariably makes it happen and in a unique way that keeps me impatient for her next book. The family ties she forms that provide the foundations of her worlds make you care about them, whether it's the Cordova family, or Edward the hunter turned vampire, or any other set. Night's Master is almost impossible to put down, but is also gentle enough to be relaxing. I love how she conveys the sensual without being graphic and how Rafe respects his lady's morals. We need more of that in this world, in both reality and fiction. My hat is off to my fellow Amanda.
Reviewed by Crystal
Amanda Ashley’s book Night’s Master is just perfect. I am an avid reader and follower of Ms. Ashley’s work and with each book she continues to surpass my expectations of her. I find myself smiling, worried, and in the mindset of that one of a kind love with the picture she paints with words. Ms. Ashley skillfully pens a paranormal romance that brings your emotions right to the surface, everything is so vivid and beautiful. I am ready, Ms. Ashley, for the next book in the series, it just can’t get into my hands quick enough! If I could give a higher score than 5 hearts, I would, because she well deserves it!
The latest blood donation from Amanda Ashley is Night's Master. This addition to the DeLongpre/Cordova vampire story emerges from the crypt just in time for Halloween reading, in October 2008.
The latest tale introduces us to Kathy McKenna, a bookstore owner who moved away from the big city, in hopes of avoiding the hostilities between Vampires and Werewolves. Much to her dismay, she finds herself at ground zero for tense negotiations that will bring the war between the Supernatural groups to a halt or escalate hostilities to an all time high. Kathy is possibly the best realized, most intriguing of Ms.
Ashley's female leads in this series. Like her predecessors, she likes to follow her vampire, but she also stands up for herself, and does not always play the damsel in distress, waiting for her black knight
in gleaming midnight armor. Similar themes are addressed with Kathy, as in prior novels in the series, such as the choice between mortality, humanity and never ending love. At points, this question is
drawn out somewhat, but overall; Kathy stands out amongst the females in this series. The only exception may be Mara, the Queen of the Vampires. Mara maintains her aura of sensuality and mystery, even as
we learn a bit more about her and her place in the vampire world in this book.
Entering Kathy's bookstore after the fall of night, Rafe Cordova also stands out amongst Ms. Ashley's vampires. Our first glimpse of him sets the stage; "he was, in a word, magnificent, from the top of his
black-thatched head to the polished tip of his expensive black leather boots." As previously experienced, our author's love of her dark knights comes through yet again and makes Rafe all the more
attractive. Rafe holds the reigns of the North American Vampires. This responsibility is granted to him by Mara, as she also appoints the other members of the Cordova and DeLongpre vampire families to other
parts of the globe. The additional responsibility given to the character gives him a depth that was lacking in prior leading men; he is concerned not only with protecting and winning the fair maiden, but
providing leadership and protection to the Vampires in his area during a time of high tension.
Night's Master sets the scene 73 years or so after Night's Touch. The exposition is very straight forward in the beginning of the novel, setting the stage for a world where most disease has been cured,
technology has advanced and the world knows about vampires, werewolves and shapechangers. Kathy decides to relocate to a small Midwestern town, Oak Hollow, to escape the growing problems and dangers associated with the Vampire/Werewolf wars. Unknown to her, Oak Hollow is considered "neutral territory", so it's the first place the Vamps and 'Wolves head to, for negotiations between the factions of the war. Rafe walks into Kathy's store, changing her life, and raising her exposure to danger, significantly. They tangle with a reputedly skilled vampire slayer and confront the potential for the elimination of the vampires and the Shapechangers. They find themselves teaming with unlikely allies, and risking much more than just their personal chance at a happily ever after.
The solutions to the problems between the races and the questions about a vampire/human romance come to the reader, all in good time. While at points a little slow, the story is enjoyable. The best part
of this novel, as compared to the first two, would have to be the more unique approach to plotting and villain creation. The villains of this piece, a supernatural hunter and his relations, are much more
interesting than prior villains in this series. Their goals to annihilate the Supernatural races, combined with the entanglements associated with a human/vampire romance, make for a better paced, enjoyable read. The story has a satisfying ending, and leaves the reader looking forward to the next book, where we'll get a few answers about Rafe's estranged twin brother, Rane. This book is the best in the series, so far, and leaves the reader looking forward to more.
Reviewed by Justine
AMANDA'S VAMPIRE ROMANCES
THE CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT