paranormal vampire romance book
genre: paranormal vampire romance book
length: 106112 words / long novel
released: November 2008
Book 7 in the series
Born with powers similar to a vampire’s, Lilith has spent her life hunting demons for Section Seven. On the same night as she watches a vampire kill her best friend, she is faced with her worst nightmare—a client who is not only attractive but a vampire.
Lincoln is a powerful pureblood with a problem. He’s caught up in a prophecy and has little time left to unravel the mystery of the contract between his lord and the Devil before he dies. When witches foretell that a vampire hunter will save his life, he’s prepared to work with his most hated enemy, but he isn’t prepared for the forbidden desire he feels when he meets her.
Their mutual attraction becomes difficult to deny as they work together but when Lincoln reveals the truth about her powers, will Lilith find the strength to embrace a side of herself that she wished didn’t exist? And when they discover Lilith’s role in the prophecy, how far will Lincoln go to save her?
Dark, sensual and fast-paced, Seventh Circle is a story of forbidden love so strong that it will save the world.
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Lincoln stared at the ceiling. Sleep evaded him, chased away by the thousand screaming heartbeats in his head. He clapped a hand over his eyes, wishing to shut the world out. The blood of every human in the building still called to him.
None more than Lilith’s.
He focused on it as it beckoned him, a strong steady melody in his ears, a siren song. His eyes slipped shut behind his hand and a smile teased his lips as he reached out with sharpened senses and listened to her moving around the small apartment. She was muttering to herself about the heat. It was hot in the building. Everyone’s blood was rushing close to the surface, their hearts working overtime to cool their bodies down. It only made them more alluring.
Shifting his focus, he listened to the clanging of metal on metal far below him. Someone was trying to fix the boiler. Its malfunction was obviously the cause of the temporary heat wave.
Lilith cursed again from the other room, loud enough this time that he would’ve heard it if he’d been human.
Her heart thumped rhythmically, pounding in his blood and telling him to go to her. Neither of them could sleep. Perhaps they could begin researching, although it would probably be unwise to disturb her now. When her superior had told her to share her apartment with him, and that his safety was maximum priority, she’d looked as though she’d been chewing a wasp. Her superior had been right. She did despise his kind, as did everyone here. Common sense told him to leave before someone got it into their head to attempt to kill him, and not just make idle threats. His heart said that he had to stay. He had to know if she really was the one.
Sitting up, Lincoln stared at the closed door of his room. On the other side was Lilith. She was moving around the kitchen of the small two bedroom apartment. The modernity of this area of the mansion was a strange contrast to the more in-keeping look of the area he’d first arrived in, with its large rooms filled with antique furniture and old paintings. This wing seemed to act like a dormitory for the hunters. Were all the apartments like Lilith’s or was hers special? Perhaps hunters shared them. Had she shared this apartment with her dead friend or her sister? His focus shifted back to Lilith as she moved again. He could sense her fatigue. It gave out a call to his instincts, telling him she’d be easy prey in her current state. It was hard to ignore such instincts even when he had to.
It had been near impossible to stop himself from killing those hunters this morning.
Lincoln frowned when Lilith stopped dead and sniffed. Her change in emotions was abrupt and would’ve been unreadable had he not known her recent history. The death of her friend was upsetting her—a death that he was responsible for. Under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t have bothered him. His kind had to feed, and had to protect themselves. A vampire hunter was the perfect target for sport and a good meal, and it meant there was one less in the world when you were done. Yet it bothered him now. He didn’t want to consider the reason why.
Getting up, he walked to the door and opened it. Lilith was in the kitchen side of the living room now, busying herself in some vain attempt to pretend he wasn’t here, that he hadn’t heard her crying, and by the looks of things making tea. He studied her, amused by the way the oversized grey t-shirt swamped her and the loose black jogging bottoms trailed on the floor. She’d tied her golden hair back into a high ponytail. The tips of it brushed her neck. He dragged his eyes away from it and raised them to her face. She looked tired, her face drawn and pale.
He glanced at the coffee table and saw it spread with books. She must have gone out to get them during the short hours of sleep that he’d snatched. Now the sun was growing close to setting and its sway over him was less. Soon night would fall and it would be almost impossible to ignore the lure of the cacophony of heartbeats.
Aware that he was dressed only in his black jeans, he walked with head held high into the kitchen area and leaned against the counter near her.
Her eyes darted to him and then away again. They didn’t make it as far as his face. They’d only reached his chest. He smiled internally at this small victory over her. Since their meeting this morning, she’d been a hellion, refusing to work with him and making sure that he knew how much she hated him. She wanted to make things difficult for him and he was more than willing to show her what a pain in the backside he could be to her. Besides, it was interesting to see a human’s, a hunter’s no less, reaction to a vampire, especially when they couldn’t kill them. The temptation to push her to breaking point just to see what she’d do was overwhelming and a wonderful way of alleviating his boredom.
“You can’t walk around my place like that or I will lock that door just like I threatened.” She frowned at him, her eyes managing to make it to his this time.
“Why not?” He challenged her, leaning back a little and planting his palms against the counter so his muscles tensed. She did a good job of resisting a look. He could see that she was curious.
“It’s...” She swallowed, pensive and still frowning beautifully.
“Distracting?” he suggested with a smirk.
“Off putting,” she said, deadpan and glaring.
She moved to the sink and filled the kettle before putting it on. Lincoln watched her, silent and motionless. The way she moved around was entrancing. Strength laced her natural grace. It spoke of it to him, telling him that she believed herself a force to be reckoned with. Maybe she was in human terms.
“Shouldn’t you be asleep?” she said.
“I could not sleep.” He moved closer to her, leaning against the tall cupboard next to where she now stood waiting for the kettle to boil.
“Vampires have sleepless days?” There was a playful note in her voice that he hadn’t expected. She seemed surprisingly relaxed around him now. The trace of fear he’d detected in her this morning was gone.
“More often than you think when we are hungry,” he whispered, his eyes caressing her throat.
“Never going to happen,” she said without even looking at him.
Her senses were acute if she’d detected his intent without having to see it with her own two eyes. There was something different about her. Perhaps she’d been modified like some of the other hunters he’d encountered recently. Since the Law Keepers’ report that humans had been playing god, they’d met more genetically altered hunters. They’d killed every one.
She filled her mug, removed the tea bag and went to move past him towards the lounge area. Her eyes strayed to his torso again.
He tensed his muscles for her and she quickly looked away. Either she was a prude, or it was because he was a vampire that she didn’t want to look at him. He hoped it was the latter. It would be fun to prove to her just how curious she was about his kind. Her eyes strayed again and he waited to see what she’d do this time. She stood there, gaze furtively taking in his body. A dull ache settled in his chest, followed by another in his gut. Temptation whispered to push her now while he had the chance.
“Have you ever been curious? Come now, you must have been curious to know sometimes.” Lincoln held her gaze when it darted to meet his. She looked wonderfully innocent and clueless. It didn’t fool him. She understood what he was saying. He stepped away from the cupboard and towards her. “What we feel like, what it feels like.”
“Never!” There was such defiance in her voice, such vehement denial. He might have believed it if she’d managed to keep better control of herself. Her eyes betrayed her. They strayed to his chest for a split second.
He grinned, enjoying this game. It was time to up the ante.
He trailed his fingers across his bare chest.
“I know you want to feel it.” His senses locked onto her heart, revelling in the staccato rhythm it had adopted. A rush of adrenaline entered her blood, sending the scent of it into the air through her overheating flesh. She was either embarrassed, or his words held some truth and she wanted to touch him. Another push. “Just reach out and touch. I can see the questions in your eyes, Lilith. Is it cool, hard? Would you feel a heartbeat? Would I feel your touch, feel pain if you scraped your nails down it... feel pleasure?”
Her cheeks blazed and her eyes widened. She went to turn away. He was beside her before she could move, his hand tight around her wrist. He couldn’t let her get away when it was just getting interesting.
Taking the mug from her other hand, he placed it down on the counter away from them, his movements slow so he didn’t draw her attention away from his eyes. He drew her towards him. Her fingers shook in his. Her breath trembled uneasily, quivering with her racing heart. Her dark eyes fell to his chest and she slowly wet her lips with the bare tip of her soft pink tongue. He stared at her mouth, mesmerised by the motion of her tongue against her lips, and then snapped himself out of it.
This game was turning dangerous for them both. It didn’t matter. He couldn’t stop now.
He had to see what would happen.
“Surrender to it,” he whispered, voice smooth and convincing.
Her fingertips barely grazed his skin and he was on fire. His eyes half closed as he absorbed the sensation of her warm caress heating his body. He hadn’t expected this. He clawed back a modicum of control, telling himself this was just a game to annoy her, to make her feel weak. It shouldn’t make him feel this way.
Her eyes were wide, her pupils dilated as she stared at her fingers where they traced patterns on his chest. She was lost. He could smell the hint of arousal, the alluring pheromones coming off her.
He breathed in a voice of temptation, “Imagine what it is like to kiss me.”
Her gaze burned him, trailing fire over his body as it rose to his mouth. He stared at hers, imagining the silky glide of her lips against his and the brush of her tongue, the warmth of her.
“Imagine what it is like to be kissed by me.” He smiled to reveal his extended fangs.
She jerked her hand away and then shoved him hard in the chest. He laughed. She stormed off into her room. A small cream table lamp took the brunt of her anger. It hit the wall not five feet from him and smashed into pieces, raining down on the kitchen counter. He’d expected her aim to be more accurate.
Lincoln forced his teeth to recede and listened to her tramping around her room. What was she doing? Was she looking for something else to throw at him? He didn’t know why she was angry with him. All he’d done was play a vicious game as she had been. Only his game was different. Instead of being designed to show her how much he hated her kind as hers was, it was designed to show her how curious she was about them and how tempting they were to her.
She walked back out of the bedroom.
He froze and stared at her.
The only trouble was she was becoming tempting herself.
The rose-coloured camisole hugged her upper body to the point where imagination wasn’t necessary. It emphasised her breasts. They swayed as she moved towards him, free of a bra to restrain them. Dark blue jeans were moulded to her legs, revealing their slender shapely form. Her small feet were bare, her toes painted a sultry black.
She neared him and he raked his eyes back up her. They didn’t make it to her face. She made sure of that. Her fingers skimmed across her chest, gathering the sheen of sweat there until it beaded against her skin. He swallowed. She stopped close to him, not three feet away. He couldn’t take his eyes off what she was doing. The sensuality of it only heightened his desire for her, his want to take her and her blood for his own. He curled his hands into tight fists of restraint. It didn’t stop his desire from rising. It was no use. He was captivated. She had turned his game against him and triggered thoughts that he shouldn’t be entertaining. What they spoke of was forbidden. It was a sin to want a human.
He licked his lips and stepped towards her, still mesmerised by the motion of her fingers on her chest. A single drop of moisture slid down over the arc of her breast and into her cleavage. His lips parted in fascination and he looked at her. She smiled, all innocence laced with seduction. This was a cruel game to play with a man.
She moved before he had time to react, reaching into her back pocket and pulling something out.
His eyes flicked to it.
He leapt backwards.
She didn’t attack.
His own weakness hit him with tremendous force. She’d lured him in and had drawn her stake before he’d even known what was happening. If she’d been serious about staking him, there was no telling what might have happened, but there was every possibility she would have hit her mark.
“Next time you try something, I will be armed, and I will kill you,” she said, voice dark and lethal.
He raised his hands, in control again. “Touché.”
She slipped the stake into her back pocket and walked towards him. His eyes followed her and he turned as she passed him, unwilling to show her his back. She grabbed the waste bin and pushed all the pieces of the lamp into it.
“And you owe me a new lamp.”
Lincoln stared at Lilith’s back, cocking his head to one side. Just below her neck and between her shoulder blades was a black tattoo. He stepped closer to see it better as she picked up her mug of tea. It was a sun surrounded by pointed rays and inside the circle of it was a crescent moon.
She turned to face him and sipped her drink. It had to be cold by now.
His little game would have seen to that.
In the end, he wasn’t sure who the victor had been. She’d touched him and he’d seen in her eyes that she was curious. It didn’t seem to go beyond that. Her scent had only shown a tiny sign of desire. If she’d been a vampire, she would have easily noticed the change in his own scent. He’d wanted her. Looking at her now, he still wanted her. The moment he’d laid eyes on her, he’d admitted to himself that she was attractive for a human. She called to him on some base level where he wasn’t master.
There was no way he could act on the attraction he felt though. The law was there to prevent such trysts between vampires and humans, unless he intended to kill or turn her. He had to uphold the law regardless of his situation. If he survived this, he would face trial for conspiracy against his bloodline. He didn’t need to add any more sins to his list or he would lessen his chances of making the Law Keepers release him rather than execute him.
“Are you even listening to me?” she said with such an air of irritation that he realised their game still had her flustered.
He wondered if she felt as flustered as he did. Did the hunters have laws to prevent such relationships too? He doubted it. Humans seemed a lawless race.
“From the look on your face, I’m guessing no.” She placed her mug down on the counter and glared at him. “I think we need a few ground rules, or I’m going to end up killing you before this assignment is complete.”
He denied his urge to laugh at what she’d said. Laughing at her when she was already angry with him was going to get him nowhere, no matter how ridiculous her idea of being able to kill him was.
“First, no walking around my apartment naked.”
Lincoln looked down at himself. “I fail to see that I am nude. Half nude perhaps, but not nude.”
Lilith frowned and narrowed her eyes into a look that might have killed him if he’d been close enough. “Second, I need a reason not to lock you in your room during the day.”
“Other than the fact I could just pull the door off the hinges or kick it down?” Another sour look met his question. “Are you afraid I am going to attempt to kill you?”
“I’m afraid you’re getting ideas above your station, demon.”
He raised an eyebrow at her tone. Snide and derisive. It sounded familiar. She sounded like he used to.
“Speak to me in that way again, and I will show you who is inferior.” His eyes switched to red for a moment, enough to give her a reminder of just what she was dealing with. There was only one reason he hadn’t killed her yet, and that was because she might be key to his own survival. If she hadn’t been, he would’ve turned her into a delicious meal the first time she’d insulted him by grabbing him in her superior’s office.
She walked past him, evidently choosing to ignore his warning.
“I mean it. You’re surrounded by humans and they’re unlikely to ignore you. It’s our calling to kill creatures like you. The treatment the men gave you this morning was just a taster. What’s to stop you from killing them next time?”
The only thing stopping him from killing them was himself. He realised any other demands she might have were just padding to draw his attention away from how important this one was to her. She was worried about her friends and with good reason. He wouldn’t think twice about killing any of them, anyone but her, unless it meant that she would take her services away and leave him vulnerable.
Could he honestly say what she wanted him to say? If pushed, he would push back. Instinct and years of training made him see her kind as below him, as nothing more than fodder for his species. She was asking something of him that he didn’t know if he could do. He could only try.
He swallowed his pride and the bitter taste of his thoughts. To promise her this would be to lower himself, and that was something he wasn’t used to. His heart rebelled against the idea.
“I will make a pact with you,” he said in a clear voice full of conviction even as his instinct told him to kill them all, to revel in their deaths and force her to help him.
“Your terms?” She seemed so confident and calm. There was a sparkle of victory in her eyes.
She had taken him down, kicked out his legs, bound his hands and forced him to submit to her, and all it had taken was the idea that she would turn her back on him and leave him to face his terrible fate alone.
“You will protect me... and in exchange, I will give you my word not to kill any member of this compound.” Those words were easier to say than he’d thought they would be.
A smile bowed her dusky lips. “Agreed.”
He frowned and watched her moving around the apartment, gathering a black shirt from where it lay draped over the back of the dark brown couch and then checking a crossbow that sat on the coffee table beside the books.
She’d agreed incredibly quickly. He’d thought she’d protest to the idea of having to protect him. She’d accepted his terms without a moment’s pause. He only wished he could accept hers so easily. This feeling of weakness and his reliance on a human sickened him. He needed to feel strong again.
“Where are you going?” he said when she put the crossbow down, checked her stake was in her back pocket and then started putting her boots on.
She looked over at him, dark eyes still sparkling with diamonds and her smile.
“To hunt,” she said.
No wonder she sounded so happy. He stared into the distance as he remembered what it felt like to hunt—the rush, the thrill, and the beauty of violence. He’d always been happy when he’d been going out to hunt. A vampire hunter had to feel something similar.
“I would be interested to see you hunt.” He moved to block her path to the door.
Her wide eyes spoke of shock. It soon gave way to something else. She held her head high and looked him over, assessing him. What was going through her mind?
“Get dressed then,” she said with a half smile. “And I’ll show you just what hunters are made of.”
* * * *
Lilith’s muscles screamed in protest as she tried to push herself that bit harder. It was too much to ask of her tiring body. There was no way she could keep running at this pace. It was too fast.
Lincoln was edging away from her, taking the lead now.
She’d valiantly kept up with him, wanting to catch the demon before he did for the sake of her pride as a hunter. It was impossible. He was relentless and showed no sign of stopping or slowing.
The dark clouds above surrendered to the pressure of their load and heavy rain fell, drenching the pavement and road, and turning the grass embankment slippery in an instant. She ran onto the path and pushed on, not wanting to admit that she was beginning to slow down. She could continue. She could keep up with him. It wasn’t about the demon anymore. It was about Lincoln being better than her.
She hated that.
Even with her gift and her natural strength, even though she could outrun any hunter in Section Seven, she couldn’t beat him.
He had to be tiring now, surely? They’d chased the demon across the city and no one, not even a vampire, could keep running forever.
Stopping dead, she keeled over and grasped her knees.
A vampire hunter definitely couldn’t.
She breathed hard through burning lungs as her body shut down, shrieking with pain. It was useless. She couldn’t go on.
Closing her eyes, she fought to level out her breathing. Her throat was sore and tight, her chest wheezing with each lungful of air she dragged in and exhaled.
“The demon is getting away.” Lincoln didn’t sound as though he was mocking her. Her heart said that he was. The matter of fact tone he’d adopted didn’t hide his underlying thoughts behind those words. He knew he’d won. He’d bested her when she’d brought him out on a hunt with her to prove her strength and superior skills.
“Let it,” she rasped through a sticky throat and dry mouth, dying a little more.
It took all the energy she had left just to raise her head and look at him.
He towered above her, black hair slicked by the rain and forming spikes against his forehead. Droplets raced down his cheeks to his chin and fell to his chest. His clothes were soaked, sticking the black t-shirt to his chest and making her think of this evening.
She couldn’t believe that she’d touched him. Worse than that, she’d wanted to. His words had been so convincing, making the temptation rise in her until she’d no longer wanted to resist it. She’d wanted to feel him and know all those things he’d whispered.
“I could go on alone,” he said and again there wasn’t a trace of malice in his voice.
He seemed to be enjoying the hunt, and it didn’t seem to bother him what he was hunting. She’d dispatched a weakling vampire with all the grace, speed and skill she’d wanted to show him. The fight had been short, but not as short as his one against another weakling.
He’d killed it with one blow.
It had taken seconds.
Then the demon had shown up and she’d seen her chance to show him that she was better than him.
Only he’d beaten her that time too.
He’d outrun her and he didn’t even look as though he’d broken a sweat. Did vampires sweat? They probably didn’t.
Straightening, she peered into his dark eyes. The light was bad, sickly yellow sodium that did nothing to illuminate his face. She didn’t see any sign of fatigue though.
“Aren’t you tired?” she said and then wondered when she’d fallen onto such easy terms with him. A part of her said to rebel and treat him as she had when she’d first met him. She was too tired to go through with it. Maybe tomorrow she’d give him hell again.
She hadn’t realised how close he was to her until he shifted slightly. He was barely three feet away. It compounded the strange notion she’d come up with earlier in the night. He was always close to her. Was it his need for protection driving him to stay so near, or something else? His desire for her blood? He hadn’t hidden that back at her apartment. He’d bite her if she let him, of that she was sure. This was different though. It was as though he couldn’t leave her side, as though they were one and the same. She didn’t like that thought. It made her stomach turn and made conflict ring in her head.
Her gaze fell to his hand. The angle of their bodies made it close to hers. There was strength in those large hands and long fingers. She’d felt it when he’d held her wrist and seen it when he’d killed the weakling.
Her hand shifted to her pocket where she kept her stake, and she went rigid and alert as a noise broke the silence. Down the road, a man crossed over to the other side. She slumped back into a more relaxed position and lowered her hand. Lincoln moved a step closer and her attention was with him again. He looked thoughtful and then shrugged.
“I am certain that I will need a good stretch come tomorrow night.” He laughed and she noticed his extended fangs. They glistened in the streetlight, capturing her attention until she was staring at his mouth. Would it hurt?
That thought shocked her and she backed away a step, distancing herself from him as though that would rid her of the things going around her head.
“I know what you are thinking,” he said.
Her heart hammered at the idea he might, that any cocky comment he was about to make might actually be true.
“You do?” Her voice shook.
“They take a while to get used to when talking,” he said and relief filled her, swift and calming. “There is a lot of bloodied tongue at first... not that that is a bad thing.”
The idea of that should have repulsed her. She knew that. For some reason it didn’t sicken her to the extent she’d thought it would. She frowned and rubbed her temples. This was all getting horribly complicated and she was beginning to lose perspective.
He was a vampire.
She killed vampires.
That’s all there was to it.
She hated his kind. He used hers as food or for amusement and then food.
Her heart whispered a reminder that he wasn’t just a demon now, not to her. He’d somehow made himself almost human. She was beginning to forget what he truly was. He was starting to become something other than an enemy.
Her eyes fell to his mouth again and the sight of it stirred thoughts she’d been trying to repress all night—his teeth, his lips, his kiss.
His fangs receded, shifting back into normal teeth, and he flashed a winsome smile.
“The demon?” he said in a voice that sounded distant to her ears.
“Let it go.”
What was happening to her?
She was still staring at his mouth when her senses screamed of danger. Her instinct kicked in, her training taking over. Her hand shot to her stake. She turned to face their attacker.
The man that had crossed the road changed in front of her eyes. In the space of a heartbeat, he’d sprouted a curling pair of horns and tattered leathery wings that beat the air. Razor-sharp teeth cut across his widening mouth and scales erupted over his body. The demon unleashed an ear-splitting shriek that had her desperate to cover her ears.
Another heartbeat and it flew upwards, out of her reach, heading into the darkness.
It had taken Lincoln with it.
"Seventh Circle was the first book of Heatonís that I have read, I went in not knowing what to expect and came out finding a great new author. This story moved quickly and never had a slow moment to place the bookmark. Lilith had a hard time separating the man from the vampire when it came to Lincoln. Lincoln sees being attracted to Lilith as just one more sin to add to his ever growing list. You have so many elements in one book. Looking past appearances and seeing the real person inside. Finding out that you are stronger than you think you are and that love is worth sacrificing for. It is a Romeo and Juliet story with fangs and stakes."
-- Megan, Bitten by Books -- 5 out of 5 (read the whole review)
"Seventh Circle is a fabulous read. Once you start you'll find yourself sneaking time in when you should be doing other things to read that next scene, then the next chapter. The interaction between the two characters is strong and well defined. Lilith is a fabulous character who goes through emotional torture in order to save the man she loves. And Lincoln, well, let's just say he's every woman's idea of a dark, super sexy vampire. I will most certainly be awaiting the next Vampires Realm novel."
-- Alyson J, We Write Romance -- 4 out of 4 (read the whole review)
"Lincoln and Lilith have great chemistry as they are thrust into battle after battle, saving each other's lives while each fight the compelling attraction between them. I won't give away the plot, but I will tell you that it's chock full of demons, hell-bound contracts, angels, even Cerberus, with Lincoln's marked soul the suitable exchange for the contract to be fulfilled. The action is fast-paced, the romance tender, and the characters' personalities sharp. You'll be glad you read this one."
-- Clover Autrey, ParaNormal Romance -- December 08 Reviewer's Pick (read the whole review)
"Seventh Circle is a fast moving read, full of action and powerful drama. I love the strong trait that transcends in Lilith. She is vibrant and feisty, able to stand on her own next to Lincoln. I could practically see her expressions when she told him to clean up after himself, and not to get blood on her sheets or couch. Lincoln is an enigma whose charisma swoons through the pages. When you put the two in the same room, it is like an electric current when they connect. F.E. Heaton gives her readers a spellbound of a story that pulls the reader into the pages like a magnet. She instills a well-developed cast that delivers a splendid tale."
-- Cherokee, Coffee Time Romance -- 4 out of 5 (read the whole review)