Shades Below, #2.5
by L.J.K. Oliva
Cover Artist: L.J.K. Oliva
Genre: Paranormal romance
Sometimes, your life begins the day you die…
Asher Evans is a man haunted by history. Turned vampire in the concentration camp that claimed his family, he has never recovered from the loss of his humanity. Removed from the mundane world and resigned to facing eternity alone, he’s completely unprepared when the unthinkable happens: he meets a girl.
As the youngest daughter of San Francisco’s most prestigious psychic family, Grace Alan has always known about the things that go bump in the night. She especially knows about monsters…including the fact that she is one. Grace has spent her entire life trying to be normal, and finally, things seem to be looking up. There’s only one problem.
She’s just been murdered.
When Asher stumbles upon a dying Grace, he knows he should leave her to her fate. But in a world that looks at him and sees only a monster, Grace reminds him what it feels like to be human. He can’t bring himself to let her die.
Unfortunately, rescuing her has consequences. Female vampires have been illegal for centuries. In saving Grace, Asher may have condemned them both.
Can be read as a standalone
Traffic was scant on The Embarcadero. Even going at a light pace, it didn't take long to reach Fisherman's Wharf. A stiff wind was blowing in off the Bay, and the crowds of tourists had long since departed in favor of warmer retreats. Seagulls feasted on the scraps of sourdough bread bowls sticky with clam chowder left in their wake.
A lone street musician remained on the empty sidewalk. He was seated on a small, rusty stool, a battered guitar perched on his knees. He sang in a haunting tenor, his voice crisp and clear in the stillness. The words of the song echoed off the surrounding buildings.
Someone to watch over me...
Asher stopped. "This song was written the year I was born."
Grace didn't answer. Asher was about to look down when her hand slipped into his.
Perhaps it was the cold. Perhaps he was still high from the streetcar ride or the race down Market Street. Either way, he clearly wasn't in his right mind, because instead of pushing her away, he spun her around so she was squarely in his arms.
Her eyes widened. "What...?"
"Dance with me." He couldn't believe himself. Asher took a deep breath. "I mean, unless you don't—"
Grace coiled her fingers through his, lifted her other hand and rested it on his shoulder. She met his eyes. Asher wasn't sure what she saw there. A blush stole across her cheeks, but she didn't look away. "You'll have to show me how."
Asher released the breath. He hadn't been aware he was holding it. Gently, he reached up and adjusted her hand on his shoulder. Then he set his hand to her waist. "It's easy. Just move with me."
He heard her breath stutter, and her hand trembled a little in his. For some inexplicable reason, that pleased him. He firmed his other hand against her back, and started to move. It was nothing complicated, just a simple two-step he'd seen his parents do. Asher closed his eyes. For a moment, he could almost remember a time when things had been normal. A time when he'd been happy.
A time when he'd been human.
He jerked his eyes open again. His throat ached. He swallowed ruthlessly, tried to lock down the place inside him that felt poised to crack wide open. He started to pull back.
Grace's fingers tightened around his, and she rested her cheek against his chest. Her hand slid from his shoulder and curled around the back of his neck.
Asher wasn't sure he remembered how to breathe. "Grace," he whispered. The emptiness inside him expanded. "I can't..."
"It's easy." He felt her voice in every fiber of his being. "Just move with me."
Asher stared down at her. The emptiness receded a little. The vise around his chest loosened. He closed his eyes again and let Grace hold him, let the scent of patchouli leak into his senses and anchor him firmly in the present moment.
They danced until the song ended, and the street musician finally packed away his guitar.
L.J.K Oliva writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance, with a heavy dash of suspense. She likes her whiskey strong, her chocolate dark, and her steak bloody. L.J.K. likes monsters… and knows the darkest ones don’t live in closets.
MY INTERVIEW WITH L.J.K OLIVIA
Approachable, dark, funny.
What are some of your writing/publishing goals for this year?
My biggest goal is to have a production schedule that allows me to release books at a reasonable rate, while also having a life. I believe it's doable, and I'm excited to make it happen!
Do you feel that writing is an ingrained process or just something that flows naturally for you?
For me, it's a bit of both. Telling stories comes naturally to me- I've been doing that since I was a kid. Getting those stories down in a sane, consistent way has taken a bit more practice. I'm always experimenting with new ways of plotting, drafting, editing, etc. in the interest of fine-tuning my "process". I don't think I'll ever be done- after all, life is about constantly getting better!
Do you have a character that you have been working on for a long time that still isn't quite ready, but fills you with excitement to work on the story?
Oh, yeah. His name is Seneca Lynch, and he is the vampire Constable of San Francisco. He's not quite ready for his own story yet, but by the time he is, I hope people will be as excited for it as I am!
If you could spend one-week with 5 fictional characters, who would they be?
Jace Wayland from The Mortal Instruments, Jericho Barrons from The Fever Series, Dutch and Juma from Madhuri Pavamani's Keeper Series, and Dimitrius from Sarah Blair's novel Darkness Shifting. It would be a long, luxurious week, and none of us would get any sleep ;-)
Where would you spend one full year, if you could go ANYWhere? What would you do with this time?
I would love to spend a year in Italy. During that time, I would probably eat myself to death.
Can you share you next creative project(s)? If yes, can you give a few details?
Absolutely! I have immediate plans to finish the next Shades Below Short, Thicker Than Water. The Shorts are an m/m novella series written as companions for the main Shades Below books. After that, I'll be cracking into the next Shades Below book, which will follow Lena and MacMillian as they deal with the repercussions of what happened in If You Were My Vampire.