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The Rebel and the Thief of Souls

The Rebel and the Thief of Souls
ASIN: B00J5RHENA
Publisher: Linda Gayle
Release date: March 20, 2014
© Linda Gayle

Amazon.com

Confederate captain Caleb Tanner is so vicious in battle that his own men call him the reaper. Yet something even darker shadows him. A creature he witnesses drinking the blood of the dying—and stealing their souls. In a failed attempt to kill the vampire, Caleb is bitten but survives. Now the poison of the vampire’s bite flows through his veins, cursing him with an unbreakable bond with the demon that slaughtered his troops. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Caleb vows revenge.

Left alone to run her dead brother’s ranch, Annie Monroe encounters a wounded rebel needing shelter. Caleb draws her in with the tale of the demon he hunts. Surely the vampire is mere fantasy. But when strange forces are clearly at work in the death—and undeath—of her neighbor, she starts to believe—and fall in love with the determined captain.

Death beckons even as passion flares between Annie and Caleb. Drawn into a living nightmare, they join forces to defeat an ancient enemy. But the vampire has a sinister destiny in mind for Caleb. One that may demand his immortal soul in exchange for Annie’s life.

Previously published as The Reaper’s Seduction; this title has been expanded and revised.

 

excerpt

"Sit there. You'll have to strip out of your clothes," she instructed as she fussed about the cabin looking for medical supplies. "You're bigger than Joseph was, but some of his gear might fit you." Too late she realized she'd spoken of her brother in the past tense. Hoping Caleb hadn't caught her slip, she glanced at him where he sat heavily on the edge of Joseph's bed.

Caleb shrugged out his vest then started pulling his shirt over his head, but his taut expression made it clear it hurt him to do so. She approached him. "Here, let me help you."

Gently, she drew his sweat- and dirt-encrusted shirt over his broad shoulders. His warmth clung to the cotton as she draped it over her arm. Despite the long days he'd spent on the trail, he smelled just fine to her feminine senses, like hot, earthy male.

My goodness, he was a fine piece of man, with broad shoulders and a narrow waist, not an ounce of fat on him. A handful of scars, some quite fearful looking, crossed his chest and arms. Battle wounds, no doubt. She yearned to run her fingers over the firm muscle, trace the scars with the tip of her tongue. Annie caught herself reaching to touch and made her hand drop to her side.

"Lie down now." Her voice had lowered to a whisper, but he canted back, resting his head on a folded arm behind it, his silver eyes gleaming beneath the fall of his dark hair, holding hers. They reminded her of a winter wolf's eyes -- feral and hungry. Starved, in fact. Suddenly she felt famished as well, but not for food.

Unable or unwilling to stop herself, she ran her palm over his shoulder and down his arm. His body was lean and roped with muscle, still unusually cool to the touch. His trousers had ridden down low on his hips, and the coarse hair that sprinkled his chest made a heavier V leading… Well, she could only imagine. Swallowing drily, she supposed she should be chastising herself for inviting the stranger into her house, but she couldn't seem to settle her mind enough to do so. In fact her heart felt lighter, her pulse tripping along like a sparrow.

Oh dear, she was doing it again. Her unladylike carnal appetites had caused some scandal back home. Her stepmother's scowling visage swam into her memory as she'd stepped between Annie and Daniel with sharp words of how no man would marry her were she not a virgin on her wedding night. Annie truly tried to feel ashamed, but failed. Here, in the middle of nowhere with no one about to scold her, what difference did it make?

And in any case, the man was hardly in any condition for loveplay.

The wound lay over his right hip. Though a bandage covered it, the surrounding bruise showed darker in the lantern's glow. The skin was hot there. His stomach muscles twitched as she started to lift away the makeshift plaster he'd put over it. The cloth caught in the waist of his trousers. She cleared her tight throat. "Mr. Tanner," she murmured, her voice trembling.

"Caleb," he insisted just as quietly.

"Caleb." Silly goose girl. It wasn't as if she'd never seen a man naked. Except that she hadn't. "Caleb, you'll need to pull down your trousers."

His intent gaze stayed on her while he unbuckled his belt, loosened it, and lifted his hips. He hooked his thumbs in the waist and tugged, and the fine hairs stood up all over her body in the most delicious and scandalous way. Her eyes widened as the pants slid lower and lower still until she put her hand over his and choked out, "I believe that's far enough."

The slight smile she was quickly coming to treasure ticked up one side of mouth. He wasn't laughing at her, but she sensed he enjoyed her reactions. Well, she'd be pinched if she wasn't enjoying them herself. Her breasts tingled and she felt prickly all over. She might not be a married woman, but she recognized from her trysts with Daniel that the thick bulge pressing at his trouser buttons meant he felt something too. How fascinating.

Her unruly hair fell over her shoulder while she leaned closer to peer at the wound revealed beneath the bandage. It stuck to his skin with dried blood, but no smell of infection rose to her nostrils. She finished removing the bandage and threw it into the fire. "It appears to be clean enough. It's a fresh wound, then."

"Months old," he said.

She glanced at him. "And yet not healed? That's unnatural. What caused it?"

"The enemy," he growled out. "The thing I hunt."

"Thing?"

"Yes." He hissed when she cleaned his wound with astringent horse liniment, the best sterilizer she had at hand. The spicy smell stung her nose.

"I'm sorry. This will probably hurt."

"Your hands feel good, gentle," he said, his voice low, almost drowsy, though his eyes were bright and sharp.

"Don't stop."

Unease tainted her flush of desire. The way he looked at her, so intensely. His belly muscles flexed as she dabbed the liniment around the wound's edges, yet he made no complaint and he didn't shift his gaze from her. With her head bent, her hair pooled on his shoulder. She felt a slight tug when he lifted the hand nearest her and twined the curls around his fingers.

It made her a bit nervous, but in the most intriguing way. Her insides tickled like they did just before she jumped off the high rock ledge back home. Her stepmother would scold her, tell her she'd break her neck, but Annie never could resist that rush of excitement as she launched into the air.

She let him play with her hair while she wiped at the crusted injury. "Tell me more about this individual you're after."

He hesitated long enough that she wasn't sure he would answer. Finally he said, "It's best not to speak of it."

"Caleb," she chided gently, "if this man may appear on my porch, I'd best know something about him. He must be quite dreadful if you've chased him so long."

Caleb turned his head on the pillow to stare at the fire. "You'll think I'm mad."

"I won't. I promise."

"I've told no one else the whole story," he confessed. "But…perhaps you're right. You should know, in case something happens."

"Tell me, then. It'll ease your soul."

After a pause, he began. "I first saw it during a skirmish. I was leading my remaining men to raid a small encampment. We were a small group, picking off Yankees whenever we could." He spared her a glance. "I'm sorry, ma'am, if any of your kin were in the conflict."

She shook her head. "My brother took a bullet in his knee his very first battle. He decided to try his fortune here in Kansas shortly after. I won't say I'm sympathetic to the South, but as Christians, we must forgive and move on."

"Yes," he said, though his curt tone spoke volumes.

"Pray continue."

He twined a loose curl around his finger. "We were starved. Wounded. Ill. So desperate that we attacked at night, hoping the cover of darkness would give us an advantage against the enemy guns. We went in with knives and axes, as our ammunition had long before run out."

He slipped into silence again. Annie wondered if he'd drifted off, but she saw he was lost in his memories. She straightened carefully so as not to draw her hair from his loose grasp and ripped a clean cloth for a fresh bandage.

"It was one of the enemy, then? A Yankee?"

His brows drew together, his gaze turned inward. "No. It came after the fight. And a bloody fight it was. They were just as desperate as we, and we fought to the death over a few bags of rations. My men fought like lions, but out of nine, only six remained. Two lay dead, one dying. I waded through a shallow stream to help my friend Ahab, who'd been gut shot. He'd climbed through the water and lay on the bank."

Caleb tightened his fingers in her hair. "I heard it before I saw it. A…a slurping sound, like a piglet suckling off a sow. And I heard Ahab groaning." A shudder ran visibly through him. Annie laid her hand on his chest and his heartbeat leaped against her palm. Her hand had grown as cold as his body. A spark snapped in the fireplace and outside the wind howled. She wasn't sure she wanted to hear the rest of this story, but Caleb licked dry lips and went on in his deep Southern drawl.

"The moon was near full that night, and it shone down in the long grass where Ahab lay stretched out. I saw the dark shape hunched over him. It was a man in a great coat. His hair was long, held back by a silver clip that reflected the moonlight. And Ahab… I saw Ahab's hands clutching at the man as he…"

Annie tightened her hand into a fist on his chest. "As he what? Caleb?"

He shook his head once, sharply. "As he fed. The thing was bent to Ahab's throat, and I swear it was drinking…"

"Merciful Jesus," she whispered when he trailed off. "What did you do?"

"I shouted. Threw stones. The thing looked up at me. It was a man's form, but not human, no. Its skin was white, white as the moon. And its jaws dripped with black blood."

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reviews

I absolutely loved it. The hot steaminess, the sensuality... Can I say ouch and continue to squirm around? I was positively enraptured, reading the story, that I couldn't put it down. I positively loved, and adored the sexiness of the situations the characters experienced. - Yougottareadreviews

 

4 1/2 Stars from Merrylee at Two Lips Reviews
Just when I thought authors had come up with every possible take on vampires, Linda Gayle comes along with The Reaper’s Seduction and completely blows me away with a fresh and unique new angle on vamps as villains. Ms. Gayle did a fantastic job of not only conveying the atmosphere of a Civil War battlefield, but in describing the Master’s movements as he sought out dying soldiers to drink from.

The sex between Annie and Caleb possesses enough tenderness and blistering-hot sensuality to hold the interest of — not to mention arouse — even a post-menopausal reader like moi. On page 25, I even had to fan myself after reading the hottest, most superbly written male masturbation scene I’ve come across since Linda Howard blazed onto the romance scene, completely shattering the standards of what was considered taboo. Well done, Ms. Gayle! I’ll definitely be on the lookout for what is sure to be more wonderful work from this outstanding author. —Merrylee at Two Lips Reviews

 

Reaper’s Seduction reminded me of an old Gothic vampire story, but with a twist. Annie is full of life and desperate to prove herself as an independent woman. Caleb is a man with an agenda who is trying to steer the course but Annie turns into a stubborn diversion. Annie’s innocent but provocative responses slowly chip away at Caleb’s exterior.

Linda Gayle has successfully written an intense love story about fears, the unknown, and a paranormal aspect that is an unusual setting for a western book. The characters are all captivating, leaving the reader eagerly awaiting what happens next. I found this to be a great book to enjoy over the weekend. - eCataRomance

 

Top Ten Review From Donna At A Romance Review--
The Reaper’s Seduction is one of my favorite erotic novels of the year so far. It had everything I was looking for – an interesting story, intriguing characters that are most importantly, likable. The sex sizzled. What I enjoyed was the build up of sexual tension between the characters. Ms. Gayle did a wonderful job of making me feel like I was about to explode if Caleb and Annie didn’t have sex!

Another big plus point to the book is the storyline. The vampire genre is saturated with plots that are very similar and I enjoyed the fact Ms. Gayle deviates from the usual ‘brooding vampire meets heroine and she saves his soul’ cliché. Without giving too much of the story away, Caleb’s future ‘reaper’ status was an intriguing twist, one that kept me reading.

Caleb and Annie are both memorable characters – she’s extremely feisty without being overbearing and I loved her attitude to life on the frontier. I also enjoyed the historical western setting for the novel.

Overall, The Reaper’s Seduction is sensual, dark and as seductive as hot chocolate on a frosty evening. I cannot say enough good things about it. A real keeper of a novel. - Donna, A Romance Review

 

 

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