Friday, February 20, 2009

Empire: After the Fall by Cat Marsters

Empire: After the Fall
by Cat Marsters

cover art by Bryan Keller
ISBN (13): 978-1-60521-190-9
Genre(s): Paranormal, Action/Adventure
Theme(s): Ménage, Vampires, Shapeshifters
Series: Empire
Length: Novella


"No one hides from the Empire. They see everything, they know everything."
After the Fall, one superpower emerged to rule the whole world. The Empire knows everything about everyone, and no one can hide from it. No one except a psychotic vampire mercenary known as Carver, who has fought both for the Empire and against it.
On the edge of the Empire, a wave of Neo Puritanism has stifled Nalina, a fiesty shape-changer, into a passionless marriage. But when rebellion strikes and the terrifying, corrupt Emperor stakes his claim on Nalina, it's Carver she turns to for help.
But she's underestimated the rough soldier of fortune. Far from being a heartless bloodsucker, he's a passionate, loyal man with a dark and painful past. Escaping the all-knowing Empire for the drowned cities of the old world, Nalina's about to learn that passion can be found in the most surprising places.

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The necklace of rubies lay heavy against my collarbone, its probes already digging into my flesh. I stared at my reflection in the black window, the stones seeming to leech all the blood from my skin until I stood stark and white, angry and afraid.
At my feet lay the Emperor’s dead concubine, her blood staining my hand. In the doorway were three dead Imperial soldiers.
And behind me stood John Carver, his sword still dripping.
“Well,” he said, “now you’ve done it.”
“They can’t transmit from here,” I said, my heart thumping. A piece of plastic slithered loose from the cracked monitor on the wall and pattered on the floor. “The EMP --”
The house shook with the force of another mortar blast, cracking the window in half. The electromagnetic pulse had killed anything with an electric circuit within a few miles, but the necklace hadn’t been within that radius at the time. As soon as it went near a functioning transmitter, the Empire would know.
“Aye, well, then you can stay here out of the Emperor’s grasp, and die, or you can flee, and live.”
The rubies glowed in the dim light of the broken screens. I looked like a corpse standing in the wreck of my house, blue light flickering over white skin and darkening the blood on my clothes.
“He’ll find me, Carver. As soon as the necklace starts transmitting, he’ll find me.” I glanced down at the dead woman, claw marks livid against her skin.
“You could have stopped her before she locked it around your neck,” Carver said, tensing as the building shook again. He grabbed a fold of the concubine’s clothing and wiped off his sword.
But I stared back at my own dark eyes, feeling tears gather. To my right was a scorched spot on the wall that I couldn’t even explain to Carver. Not yet. “No. The necklace knew me, Carver. He sent it for me.”
The house shook, and dust fell from the ceiling. Cracks shimmered into life on the walls, and Carver grabbed my arm and yanked me away from the window before it split open and shattered inward, toward me.
“The necklace couldn’t know you,” he said, dragging me toward the door. “It’s never sampled your DNA before.”
But I was shaking my head, tears dripping down my face as we sidestepped the rubble and ventured for the stairs. Carver didn’t turn to look at me until we’d reached the bottom, and then I saw the realization come into his eyes.
“You’ve worn it before,” he said.
The walls shook and danced, and shards of stone clattering against my back.
“I didn’t realize,” I whispered. “I said I’d be his if I wasn’t married.” And the Emperor had laughed. “Carver, I was nineteen. I thought he was joking.”
Carver shook his head, eyes narrowed in disgust. The metal of his arm glinted in the moonlight. The scar across his eye twisted his face into something horrible. Carver the mercenary, Carver the taker of unwilling women, Carver the killer.
“You stupid girl,” he said, but as the house shuddered and groaned, he wrapped an arm around me and sheltered me from the rubble. “Let’s go.”

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