About Of the Blood:
One malicious prince. Two rival kingdoms. And an innocent girl caught in the crossfire.
Raised in a war-ravaged continent, temptation comes to Calla Caldwell in the form of a charming and mysterious stranger. Giving in to his intimate seduction, her world is forever changed by a single bite.
Calla quickly learns the handsome stranger is a vampire prince, Trystan Vladu. His bite was an attempt to claim and save her from a plot of vengeance generations in the making. However, the claws of that ancient vendetta are scraping ever closer.
Thrust into a new nightmare by the Prince of the corrupt kingdom of Morbeth, Calla is captured, tortured, and starved in the dank confines of his dungeon. While in captivity, she takes part in a séance with a witch of light where she contacts a departed relative—a Princess of Incendia—who bequeaths a gift to Calla that will tip the scales of good and evil . . . if she can learn to harness it.
With a dark tapestry of secrets, lies, and murder unraveling around her, Calla must learn to embrace the power roiling through her veins, or be snuffed out by the strangling fist of a malevolent darkness.
I pleaded for death. Prayed it would come to me swiftly and end the agonizing pain consuming my body. Yet, at the corners of my dimmed eyes, a shadowed figure remained at my bedside, whispering lies of promise that this suffering would soon end. But the misery was ever powerful, destroying all illusions of hope, enfolding me in a cocoon of flame and darkness.
Was this how my life would end? Was I going to die on my eighteenth birthday?
Six hours earlier…
“Finished,” Brynna informed. “Gods, I’m good.” Long lashes flickered over her baby-blue eyes as she regarded her work. “You have to let me make you up more often.”
With an internal sigh, I drew in a heavy breath. “No thanks. My skin prefers to breathe.”
“I’ll wager you twenty gold skrag you’ll have looks from all the guys tonight.” The glint in her eyes and widening smile caused me to smirk.
“Not interested. You can keep your skrag and your guys.”
I had to remember that Brynna was doing this for me, for my eighteenth birthday, although I’d only desired the company of my best friend and a peaceful, simple dinner. But Brynna was far from simple. She was taking full advantage of the fact our parents were overseas for the next few weeks, sailing to the country of Hale to trade and barter mined reserves at Merchant Port.
“Whatever,” she said, snickering. “But that’s why you have me. My objective in life is to snap you out of your shell, Calla Caldwell.” She straightened her back and crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m serious. Look at yourself. Go on.” Her hand signaled toward the mirror, urging me to look. “There will be boys here tonight. Very handsome and suitable boys.” She thrust her palm up, an inch from smacking my nose. “And before you protest, just remember . . . you’re eighteen now, and the only guy you’ve ever had any interest in might as well be a figure in one of your romance novels. A fabrication of your imagination.”
“He is not,” I mumbled.
“Are you kidding me?” I was afraid she’d lose her eyes as they rolled clear to the back of her head. “Your crush is nine years older than you and in the military. Your dad hired him to educate you in self-defense, when you were ten. It’s been years since you’ve seen him. Not to mention, the obsession was one-sided.” She let out a pathetic sigh. “It’s time to wake up and slip your toes into new pools, Cal.”
I bit my tongue. I wasn’t going to bicker with her. For one, she was correct. As usual. Yes, I’d had an adolescent infatuation with my self-defense mentor. And yes, I continued to use him as an excuse to evade having any committed relationship, because the truth was . . . I didn’t desire one. I’d saw the amount of effort that went into relationships—via Brynna—and I wasn’t ready to tie any part of my life to someone else. I preferred to encounter living on my own terms. At least for a bit longer.
Rising, I ran my fingertips across the birthday garment she’d purchased for me from a small boutique in town—a modest, yet exquisite, pastel pink dress with ivory roses stitched into the bodice. The bottom was flowy, settling just above my knees. She’d styled my long chestnut hair half-up and half-down, with a braided crown around a small bun.
Drawing in a heavy breath, I swiveled and peered into the mirror. Brynna had an extraordinary means of altering me from plain to almost regal. My face was glowing, cheeks dusted in pink, and lips glossed. My golden eyes looked much more pronounced outlined in kohl, and she’d even curled my lashes.
“So, what do you think?” Brynna asked.
She slipped on a floor-length, blue silk gown, which hugged her hourglass figure perfectly. Her silky blonde hair was curled over her shoulders, and her makeup made her look like a figurine, finished with ruby red lips. Around her neck, she wore a golden, heart-shaped pendant with a swan engraved on the top. The swan’s eye was a small diamond, a present given by her parents on her sixteenth birthday, and she wore it every day.
I twisted backward and wrapped her in a hug. “Thank you,” I whispered. “For everything. But seriously, you shouldn’t have.”
“Hey,” she exhaled, hugging me back. “You’ll enjoy yourself tonight. That’s an order. Your best friend threw this party for you, because she loves you.”
“I love you too,” I sighed.
The doorbell chimed, causing Brynna to squeal. “They’re here!” She clasped her fingers around my wrist and tugged me down the stairs.
About fifty guests showed up. Most I didn’t care for, and at least a dozen I didn’t know. Brynna had assured me it would be modest, but word had dispersed like wildfire. The youth in Southport were continually looking for a reason to party, especially when alcohol was involved. And most knew Brynna’s parents were affluent and had an ample supply.
A couple of visitors said hello and wished me a happy birthday, but the majority didn’t know who I was or even cared. I smiled as I deliberately maneuvered through the bodies, trying to intermingle and be cordial. But as usual, I found it cumbersome, associating with youth my age. I never felt like I fit in, and they never really felt like including me.
Although Brynna’s home was large, with plush furnishings and the finest decor, I still felt heated and claustrophobic. There were too many bodies inside. Air. I needed fresh, cool air.
A few of the boys addressed me as I made my way toward the back door, but I quickly claimed I had to meet someone outside. Lies. I just hoped Brynna wasn’t within hearing distance. If she was, I’d never hear the end of it.
Hurrying, I felt stares and heard unguarded whispers. Those who recognized me were stunned to see the bashful girl—who normally had her ordinary face buried in a book—all made up. Tonight, they were calling me pretty. But it was only a mask, courtesy of Brynna.
Brynna noticed my attempt to sneak out the back and threw me an unsettled glance. I returned her a smile and a thumbs up, letting her know I was okay. Throwing this party—or any party in general—is what made her happy. She loved entertaining guests and was damn good at it. So, as long as she was happy, I’d be too. For her. She deserved that much.
Once outside, I discovered reprieve in a shadowed corner just beyond the pool. I stood still, inhaling the balmy salt breeze, gazing up at the moon and watching its luminous light dance across the Argent Sea. I could have stood here all night, alone, with this remarkable view, and would have been content.
Peeking back at the crowd, I realized no one even cared that I’d disappeared. I spotted Brynna and smiled, watching how easily she maneuvered through the crowd, a bit envious of how comfortable her exchanges were with others.
Brynna and I had been best friends since birth and were raised together. Not only were we born two months apart—she was older—but our parents were best friends and business partners.
We lived in Southport, a modest coastal town in the country of Sartha—the largest producer of mineral reserves on the continent of Talbrinth. Our fathers owned two of the largest mines, which yielded silver, copper, and gold.
It had taken a few years, and a considerable amount of effort and assistance from the communities, to bring the mines back up and running after the Great War. But our fathers employed hundreds in Sartha during the process.
Brynna lived in a grand, two-story home on a ridge overlooking the Argent Sea. It was magnificent and lavish, the furnishings opulent. Her mother spared no expense on the decor, loving to barter and trade at Merchant Port, particularly with merchants from Baelfast who were wealthy in textiles. They’d recently built a pool made with exquisite mosaics, which is another reason why Brynna wanted to throw the party. To show it off.
My parents were much more reserved with their wealth. My father knew there were still many struggling to get back on their feet after the Great War, so we lived in a modest single-level home that didn’t attract scrutiny . . . at least from the outside. But inside, my mother exhibited tapestries, art, and furnishings that would rival any palace.
I sucked in a deep breath and let my head fall back, gazing up at the eggplant colored sky filled with sparkling stars. It never failed to amaze me how glorious and infinite the sky was, and how insignificant I felt standing beneath it.
As the party crawled on, I found a bench nearby and for the next few hours, perched alone, watching the crowd mingle for my birthday. I could tell a great deal about an individual from observing them—those who were born leaders, those who were followers, and those who’d had way too much to drink.
The party would be ending shortly anyway because of Sartha’s new curfew. Ever since Sartha’s new ruler, Lord Braddock, came into leadership, any youth under the age of nineteen captured on the roads after the bells tolled at midnight, would be thrown in a prison cell where they would spend the night on a cold, stone floor. Stories had spread that the cells were filthy, and rat infested, so very few disobeyed.
As I rose to my feet, I felt lightheaded. My limbs were suddenly weak and weighted, and my body heated. Taking a few steps backward, I leaned against the cool rock wall behind me. The air became so heavy I could barely breathe.
What the hell was wrong with me?
Something inside me, deep in my core, felt as if it was being tugged by an unseen string. A string attached to — I froze in place as my gaze settled across the pool on a pair of azure eyes affixed to the most gorgeous guy I’d ever encountered. He was tall, at least six-two, maybe in his mid-twenties. Strands of raven hair feathered across his chiseled face. He wore a crisp, black button-down shirt—a few of the top buttons left undone—and black slacks which caressed his muscular contours.
Good gods. Where did he come from? He looked as if he’d stepped right out of a dream.
Voices murmured and people pushed outside to where he was standing. It seemed everybody was trying to figure out who this handsome stranger was and where he’d come from. He was obviously out of his element, failing miserably at blending in.
My heart was racing, and a cold sweat blanketed my body. All within the time he’d arrived.
It didn’t look like he was associated with anybody here, and it made me wonder if he was from our town of Southport, or Sartha for that matter. I’d never seen him before. He had the face of someone I wouldn’t easily overlook . . . rich, no doubt, apparent from his attire and stately demeanor.
And now, he was the life of my party.
About Cameo Renae:
I was born in San Francisco, raised in Maui, Hawaii, and now reside with my husband in Las Vegas.
I am a dreamer and caffeine addict who loves to laugh and loves to read to escape reality.
One of my greatest satisfactions is creating fantasy worlds filled with adventure and romance.
It is the love and incredible support of my family and fans that keeps me going.
One day I hope to uncover my magic wardrobe and ride away on a unicorn. Until then . . . I’ll keep writing!