Sweet Vengeance
Aliya DalRae

Jessica Sweet is an orphan –Again… At 26, the term may not truly apply, but having been abandoned by her birth parents at an early age, the death of her adoptive parents is like déjà vu all over again. Now she finds herself alone, facing a future that should be unsure; however, the visions she’s been plagued with since childhood are about to descend upon her, pulling her into a supernatural world where her deepest fantasies and most harrowing nightmares will soon come true.

A monster, even by Vampire Standards… …Raven has spent the better part of his five hundred seventy plus years fighting the evil within. His capture by an ancient breed of Sorcerers, just surfacing in the Legion’s base town of Fallen Cross, Ohio, leaves him beaten and starving. Escape leads him to an old farmhouse, the single heartbeat within promising life. What he couldn’t know is that the blood he now seeks will sustain him in ways he could never imagine… 

Chapter Two

He ran naked through the woods, blood dripping from the numerous wounds on his vast body. It was dark, several hours before dawn, but he had excellent night vision. His breath caught in his lungs, and he ran on, faster than humanly possible, but not sure if it was fast enough to escape his pursuers. If they tranqued him again, he was done.

The trees gave way to a large pasture, hills undulating throughout. He leaned against a towering oak, taking a risk in stopping, but knowing he needed to weigh his options, and quickly. The ones chasing him weren’t human, he was sure of it, in spite of their human forms. Mere humans would never have been able to capture him, let alone torture him the way these had. He was free only by the carelessness of his guard, whom he had surprised by feigning unconsciousness, and when the moron had turned his back on him, he had wrapped his chains around the creature’s neck, breaking it before the bastard could call for aid.

After a very quick search of the dead creature’s pockets, he had found the keys to the shackles on his wrists and ankles. They had kept him starving and weak, else he would have been able to break the iron fetters like twigs. Having shed his restraints, he had run, the dying flora around the clearing giving way to healthier trees and underbrush that slapped and stung his bare skin.Now, as he searched the terrain, he saw in the distance a group of buildings. His strength was fading, his blood loss great, and he knew he needed to get below ground quickly so he could heal, but where to go? If he stayed in the woods, his captors were likely to track him. But if he could reach a house, the benefits could be lifesaving. If there were people, he could feed, regain some strength and leave the humans none the wiser.

There would also be transportation, a car he could borrow to get him home, where his people could be informed of the danger lurking in their territory. The Legion must be warned!He broke out of the woods, and ran as fast as his tortured body could bear, cursing his legs for not carrying him at his usual lightning quick speed. When he reached the first building, a large, ancient barn, he leaned against the wooden planks, red paint flaking off in his fingers as he struggled for purchase. Inside, the animals stirred, a cow stamping a restless hoof, a pig grunting nervously. Keeping to the shadows, he stole around to the front of the barn. The livestock awakened, acknowledging his intrusion, but seemed not to be bothered by his presence. Animals could sense if there were a threat present, and though they knew him for the predator he was, they also knew they weren’t on the menu.

Such was the way with his people.

Scanning the property, his keen eyesight took in the remaining out buildings, then the farmhouse located at the south side of the property. The old home was shadowed in a copse of weeping willows, white paint peeling from what was once a grand residence, with verandas edging the front and sides, both upstairs and down.

He reached out with his mind and sensed the presence of three humans inside, simultaneously taking stock of the automobiles in the graveled drive. An old pickup truck, probably ran but maybe not reliable, a newer looking sedan, and a tricked out Ford Super Duty, black with black interior and running lights on the cab roof. It would be a little conspicuous, but probably the best choice for his getaway. Plus it was an awesome ride.

As he started toward the house, the hair on the back of his neck stood on end, his skin tingling as though lightning had struck nearby. He spun around to find two of the humanoid creatures behind him, tall and pale, white blond hair floating about their heads with more life than the evening’s light breeze merited.He felt the beast rising within him, alarming him nearly as much as the thought of being recaptured, so he focused his energy, mentally leashing his feral side, and lunged at the creature nearest him, fangs bared, controlled fury carrying him into a collision with more speed than he thought himself capable of in his current condition.

He and the creature flew several feet in the air before crashing to the stony ground. Then with control that came only from decades of training, he tamped down his other cravings and gave the beast its head, gave it leave to kill, and in seconds his teeth were at his opponent’s throat, ripping, tearing, shredding, until all that remained was a ruined carcass bleeding in the gravel.

He spun again, his dark hair flying, normally sapphire eyes sparking amethyst with the passion of the kill, and faster than light his attentions were focused on the other creature. This one was smaller, though tall nonetheless, and apparently younger, because it hesitated, tranq gun in hand, mumbling under its breath and stabbing the gun in his direction as though the threat alone would stop him.

He was a cyclone, now, energy surging through him from the earth and the sky. A poisonous dart flew toward him, missing by a mile as he whirled behind the creature, grabbed its head in his powerful grip and twisted sharply. The crack of the creature’s vertebrae echoed in the dark, sent shivers of satisfaction through his own spine, and a scarcely controlled howl of victory to his throat.

The sound of animals in full panic brought him back to the moment, helping him to rein in the beast. He reached out to them with his mind to try and calm their terror, but they were too far gone. Whatever these now-deceased creatures were, they weren’t friendly to animals of any kind, and the livestock were as aware of this as he was.

With the beast tempered, his damaged body was failing him again, the encounter with the creatures taking the last of his already depleted strength, borrowed energy from the universe sinking back into the earth. He looked down at the creature he still held in his hands and realized it was changing, melting into a pile of bloody gore, which he flung to the ground, stepping back to avoid the mess. A glance over his shoulder told him its partner had already disintegrated, a puddle of red liquid all that remained.

His head whipped around as lights snapped on in the house, first upstairs and then down. There wasn’t time for a proper clean-up, and by the sounds inside, the humans were afraid for their animals. He could stay and try to alter their minds, but there were two coming out now, screen door banging behind them, and he wasn’t sure he had the energy to take care of them before he passed out.

The only choice now was a quick departure. With the last of his strength, he willed his body to the end of the driveway, a good quarter mile north of the commotion around the barns.

The next thing he knew he was flat on the road, the smell of tar strong in his nose. He lifted his head, a saltbox farmhouse coming into focus only twenty yards on the other side of the pavement, a strong heartbeat echoing between its walls. Dawn was coming quickly, maybe an hour and a half away, and he had to find shelter soon. These old houses usually had cellars. He would be safe there through the day. And that heartbeat was calling to him.

Born and raised in a farming community in rural Southwest Ohio, Aliya DalRae grew up a middle child, with an older and younger brother. Surrounded by corn and cows, it was not unusual for Aliya to immerse herself in books, her way of escaping the humdrum small town life to visit fantastic lands full of mystery, myth and legend. And of course, romance.Born and raised in a farming community in rural Southwest Ohio, Aliya DalRae grew up a middle child, with an older and younger brother. Surrounded by corn and cows, it was not unusual for Aliya to immerse herself in books, her way of escaping the humdrum small town life to visit fantastic lands full of mystery, myth and legend. And of course, romance. Aliya’s first love was musical theater, and as a teenager she dreamed of one day performing on Broadway. Those dreams were put on hold, as life intervened (as life often does), and she moved on with other pursuits.After graduation, and a brief time living in England, Aliya returned to her home town, where she worked mainly in administrative positions, but her love for books never waned. In 1992, Aliya met her immortal beloved, and they have been inseparable ever since. When not weaving romantic tales, she can be found working side by side with her husband in their furniture restoration business, where she weaves caned chairs instead. Aliya is the author of the Jessica Sweet Trilogy. Her debut novel, “Sweet Vengeance,” was published in February 2016, and was honored as a Golden Quill Awards Reader’s Choice Finalist in 2017. Her second novel, “Sweet Discovery,” is a Top Three Winner in the 2017 Virtual Fantasy Con Awards, as well as a 2017 SIBA Awards Nominee. Her short story, “Bittersweet,” also received a 2017 SIBA nomination.

Uncaged Review: A first book in a trilogy, Sweet Vengeance is a fast-paced paranormal romance that hits the ground running. High action, mixed with some humor – and some of my favorite humorous interactions was between Raven and King Cat. Jessica Sweet is unique in that she has visions, and she’s learned to trust her visions and when one vision of a naked man ending up on her porch comes true, everything will change. Raven, a pureblood Vampire and the naked man on the porch, has escaped from his captors and by the time Jessica finds him, he is close to death. Raven is part of the Legion, a group of Vampires that keep a lid on their existence by controlling any Vampires that are out of control. When Raven can’t erase Jessica’s mind of him like he usually can and a group known as the Sorcerers try to kill them both in Jessica’s driveway, Raven takes Jessica back to the Legion for safety.

There is a lot of action in the book, and there are other supernaturals you’ll meet and touch on. I wasn’t as connected to the characters as I would have liked, and I would like to know more about the others in the Legion. Raven has such a horrible past, that it’s hard to see past it for the reader and I think it might have been better to draw that out of Jessica a bit more instead of her being so accepting so quickly. I’m looking forward to reading book two, and I know there has to be something more with Jessica than meets the eye in this book. Reviewed by Cyrene

4 Stars