Blood Rights


By Kristen Painter

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Gothic fantasy meets vampire fiction in this debut novel from Kristen Painter — full of politics, intrigue, and blood.

Born into a life of secrets and service, Chrysabelle’s body bears the telltale marks of a comarré — a special race of humans bred to feed vampire nobility. When her patron is murdered, she becomes the prime suspect, which sends her running into the mortal world. . .and into the arms of Malkolm, an outcast vampire cursed to kill every being from whom he drinks.

Now, Chrysabelle and Malkolm must work together to stop a plot to merge the mortal and supernatural worlds. If they fail, a chaos unlike anything anyone has ever seen will threaten to reign.


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Table of Contents


Copyright Page

Chapter One

Paradise City, New Florida, 2067

The cheap lace and single-sewn seams pressed into Chrysabelle's flesh, weighed down by the uncomfortable tapestry jacket that finished her disguise. Her training kept her from fidgeting with the shirt's tag even as it bit into her skin. She studied those around her. How curious that the kine perceived her world this way. No, this was her world, not the one she'd left behind. And she had to stop thinking of humans as kine. She was one of them now. Free. Independent. Owned by no one.

She forced a weak smile as the club's heavy electronic beat ricocheted through her bones. Lights flickered and strobed, casting shadows and angles that paid no compliments to the faces around her. She cringed as a few bodies collided with her in the surrounding crush. Nothing in her years of training had prepared her for immersion in a crowd of mortals. She recognized the warm, earthy smell of them from the human servants her patron and the other nobles had kept, but acclimating to their noise and their boisterous behavior was going to take time. Perhaps humans lived so hard because they had so little of that very thing.

Something she was coming to understand.

The names on the slip of paper in her pocket were memorized, but she pulled it out and read them again. Jonas Sweets, and beneath it, Nyssa, both written in her aunt's flowery script. Just the sight of the handwriting calmed her a little. She folded the note and tucked it away. If Aunt Maris said Jonas could connect her with help, Chrysabelle would trust that he could, even though the idea of trusting a kine—no, a human—seemed untenable.

She pushed through to the bar, failing in her attempt to avoid more contact but happy at how little attention she attracted. The foundation Maris had applied to her hands, face and neck, the only skin left visible by her clothing, covered her signum perfectly. No longer did the multitude of gold markings she bore identify her as an object to be possessed. She was her own person now, passing easily as human.

The feat split her in two. While part of her thrilled to be free of the stifling propriety that governed her every move and rejoiced that she was no longer property, another part of her felt wholly unprepared for this existence. There was no denying life in Algernon's manor had been one of shelter and privilege.

Enough wallowing. She hadn't the time and there was no going back, even if she could. Which she wouldn't. And it wasn't as if Aunt Maris hadn't provided for her and wouldn't continue to do so, if Chrysabelle could just take care of this one small problem. Finding a space between two bodies, she squeezed in and waited for the bartender's attention.

He nodded at her. "What can I get you?"

She slid the first plastic fifty across the bar as Maris had instructed. "I need to find Jonas Sweets."

He took the bill, smiling enough to display canines capped into points. Ridiculous. "Haven't seen him in a few days, but he'll show up eventually."

Eventually was too late. She added a second bill. "What time does he usually come in?"

The bartender removed the empty glasses in front of her, snatched up the money, and leaned in. "Midnight. Sometimes sooner. Sometimes later."

It was nearly 1 a.m. now. "How about his assistant, Nyssa? The mute girl?

"She won't show without him." He tapped the bar with damp fingers. "I can give Jonas a message for you, if he turns up. What's your name?"

She shook her head. No names. No clues. No trail. The bartender shrugged and hustled away. She slumped against the bar and rested her hand over her eyes. At least she could get out of here now. Or maybe she should stay. The Nothos wouldn't attempt anything in so public a place, would they?

A bitter laugh stalled in her throat. She knew better. The hellhounds could kill her in a single pass, without a noise or a struggle or her even knowing what had happened until the pain lit every nerve in her body or her heart shuddered to a stop. She'd never seen one of the horrible creatures, but she didn't need to in order to understand what one was capable of.

They could walk among this crowd without detection, hidden by the covenant that protected humans from the othernaturals, the vampires, varcolai, fae, and such that coexisted with them. She would be the only one to see them coming.

The certainty of her death echoed in her marrow. She shoved the thought away and lifted her head, scanning the crowd, inhaling the earthy human aroma in search of the signature reek of brimstone. Were they already here? Had they tracked her this far, this fast? She wouldn't go back to her aunt's if they had. Couldn't risk bringing that danger to her only family. Maris was not the strong young woman she'd once been.

Her gaze skipped from face to face. So many powdered cheeks and blood red lips. Mouths full of false fangs. Cultivated widow's peaks. All in an attempt to what? Replicate the very beings who would drain the lifeblood from their mortal bodies before they could utter a single word of sycophantic praise? Poor, misguided fools. She felt sorry for them, really. They worshipped their own deaths, lulled into thinking beauty and perfection were just a bite away. She would never think that. Never fall under the spell of those manufactured lies. No matter how long or how short her new life was.

She knew too much.

Malkolm hated Puncture with every undead fiber of his being. If it weren't for the bloodlust crazing his brain—which kicked the ever-present voices into a frenzy—he'd be home, sipping the single malt he could no longer afford, maybe listening to Fauré or Tchaikovsky while searching his books for a way to empty his head of all thoughts but his own.

Damn Jonas for disappearing without setting up another reliable source. Mal cracked his knuckles, thinking about the beating that idiot was in for when he showed up again. It wasn't like the local Quik-E-Mart carried pints of fresh, clean, human blood. Unfortunately.

The warm, delicious scent of the very thing he craved hit full force as he pushed through the heavy velvet drapes curtaining the VIP section. In here, his real face, the face of the monster he'd been turned into, made him the very best of their pretenders and got him access to any area of the nightclub he wanted. Ironic, considering how showing his real face anywhere else would probably get him locked up as a mental patient. He shuddered and inhaled without thinking. His body tensed with the seductive aroma of thriving, vibrating life. The voices went mad, pounding against his skull. A multitude of heartbeats filled his ears, pulses around him calling out like siren songs. Bite me, drink me, swallow me whole.

Damn Sweets.

A petite redhead with a jeweled cross dangling between her breasts stopped dead in front of him. Like an actual vampire could ever tolerate the touch of that sacred symbol. Dumb git. But then how was she to know the origins of creatures she only hoped were real? She appraised him from head to toe, running her tongue over a set of resin fangs. "You're new here, huh? I love your look. Are those contacts? I haven't seen any metallic ones like that. Kinda different, but totally hot."

She reached out to touch the hard ridge of his cheekbone and he snapped back, baring his teeth and growling softly. Eat her. She scowled. "Chill, dude." Pouting, she skulked away, muttering "freak" under her breath.

Fine. Let her think what she wanted. A human's touch might push him over the edge. No, he reassured himself, it wouldn't. Yes. He wouldn't let it. Do. He wouldn't get that far gone. Go. But in truth, he balanced on the edge. Fall. He needed to feed. To kill. To shut the voices up.

With that thought he shoved his way to the bar, disgusted things had gotten this dire. He got the bartender's attention, then pushed some persuasion into his voice. "Hey." It was one of the few powers that hadn't blinked out on him yet. Good old family genes.

His head turned in Mal's direction, eyes slightly glazed. Mal eased off. Humans were so suggestible. "What'll it be?"

"Give me a Vlad." Inwardly, he died a little. Metaphorically speaking. The whole idea of doing this here, in full view of a human audience, made him sick. But not as sick as going without. How fortunate that humans wanted to mimic his kind to the full extent.

"A shot?"

"A pint."

The bartender's brows lifted. "Looking to get laid, huh? A pint should keep you busy all night. These chicks get seriously damp over that action. Not that anyone's managed to drink the pint and keep it down." He hesitated. "You gotta puke, you head for the john, you got me?"

"Not going to happen."

"Yeah, right." The bartender opened a small black fridge and took out a plastic bag fat with red liquid.

Mal swallowed the saliva coating his tongue, unable to focus his gaze elsewhere, despite the fact he preferred his sustenance body temperature and not chilled. A few of the voices wept softly. "That's human, right? And fresh?"

The bartender laughed. "Chickening out?"

"No. Just making sure."

"Yeah, it's fresh and it's human. That's why it's $250 a pop." He squirted the liquid into a pilsner. It oozed down the glass thick and viscous, sending a bittersweet aroma into the air. Even here in the VIP lounge, heads turned. Several women and at least one man radiated hard lust in his direction. The scent of human desire was like dying roses, and right now, Puncture's VIP lounge smelled like a funeral parlor. He hadn't anticipated such a rapt audience, but the ache in his gut stuck up a big middle finger to caring what the humans around him thought. At least there weren't any fringe vamps here tonight. Despite his status as an outcast anathema, the lesser-class vampires only saw him as nobility. He wasn't in the mood to be sucked up to. Ever.

The bartender slid the glass his way. "There you go. Will that be cash?"

"Start a tab."

"I don't think so, buddy."

Mal refocused his power. "I've already paid you."

The man's jaw loosened and the tension lines in his forehead disappeared. "You've already paid."

"That's a good little human," Mal muttered. He grabbed the pilsner and walked toward an empty stretch of railing for a little privacy. The air behind him heated up. He glanced over his shoulder. A set of twins with blue-black hair, jet lips, and matching leather corsets stood waiting.

"Hi," they said in unison.

Eat them. Drain them.

"No." He filled his voice with power, hoping that would be enough.

They stepped forward. Behind them, the bartender watched with obvious interest.

Damn Sweets.

The blood warmed in his grasp, its tang filling his nose, but feeding would have to wait a moment longer. Using charm this time, he spoke. "I am not the one you seek. Pleasure awaits you elsewhere. Leave me now."

They nodded sleepily and moved away.

The effort exhausted him. He was too weak to use so much power in such a short span of time. He gripped the railing, waiting for the dizziness in his head to abate. He stared into the crowd below. Scanned for Nyssa, but he knew better. She only left Sweets' side when she had a delivery. The moving bodies blurred until they were an undulating mass, each one undistinguishable from the next until a muted flash of gold stopped his gaze. His entire being froze. Not here. Couldn't be.

He blinked, then stared harder. The flickering glow remained. It reminded him of a dying firefly. Instinct kicked in. Sparks of need exploded in his gut. His gums ached, causing him to pop his jaw. The small hairs on the back of his neck lifted and the voices went oddly quiet, save an occasional whimper. His world converged down to the soft light emanating from the crowd near the downstairs bar.

He had to find the source, see if it really was what he thought. If it was, he had to get to it before anyone else did. The urge drove him inexplicably forward.

All traces of exhaustion disappeared. The glass in his hand fell to the floor, splattering blood that no longer called to him. He vaulted over the railing and dropped effortlessly to the dance floor below. The crush parted to let him through as he strode toward the gentle beacon.

She stood at the bar, her back to him. The generous fall of sunlight-blonde hair stopped him, but the fabled luminescence brought him back to reality. So beautiful this close. He rubbed at his aching jaw. You'll scare her like this, you fool. You're all fang and hunger. Show some respect.

He assumed his human face, then approached. "Looking for someone?"

She tensed, going statue still. Even with the heavy bass, he felt her heartbeat shoot up a notch. He moved closer and leaned forward to speak without human ears hearing. Bad move. Her scent plunged into him dagger sharp, its honeyed perfume nearly doubling him with hunger pains. The whimpering in his head increased. Catching himself, he staggered for the bar behind her and reached out for support.

His hand closed over her wrist. Her pulse thrummed beneath his fingertips. Welcoming heat blazed up his arm. A chorus of fearful voices sang out in his head. Get away, get away, get away…

She spun, eyes fear-wide, heart thudding. "You're…" She hesitated then mouthed the words "not human."

Beneath his grip, she trembled. He pulled his hand away and stared. Had he been wrong? No marks adorned her face or hands. Maybe… but no. She had the blonde hair, the glow, the carmine lips. She hid the marks somehow. He wasn't wrong. He knew enough of the history, the lore, the traditions. Besides, he'd seen her kind before. Just the once, but it wasn't something you ever forgot no matter how long you lived. Only one thing caused that glow.

She bent her head. "Master," she whispered.

"Don't. Don't call me that. It's not necessary." She thought him nobility? Why not assume he was fringe? Or worse, anathema? But she'd addressed him with the respect due her better. A noble with all rights and privileges. Which he wasn't. And she'd surely guessed he was here to feed. Which he was.

She nodded. "As you wish, mast—" Visibly flustered, she cut herself off. "As you wish."

He gestured toward the exit. "Outside. You don't belong here." Anyone could get to her here. Like Preacher. It wasn't safe. How she'd ended up here, he couldn't fathom. Finding a live rabbit in a den of lions would have been less surprising.

"I'm sure my patron will be back in just a—"

"We both know I'm the only real vampire here." For now. "Let's go."

Her gaze wandered to the surrounding crowd, then past him. She sucked her lower lip between her teeth and twisted her hands together. Hesitantly, she brushed past, painting a line of hunger across his chest with the curve of her shoulder. Get away, get away, get away…

She was not for him. He knew that, and not just because of the voices, but getting his body to agree was a different matter. Her scent numbed him like good whiskey. Made him feel needy. Reckless. Finding some shred of control, he shadowed her out of the club, away from the mob awaiting entrance, and herded her deep into the alley. He scanned in both directions. Nothing. They hadn't been followed. He could get her somewhere safe. Not that he knew where that might be.

"No one saw us leave."

She backed away, hugging herself beneath her coat. Her chest rose and fell as though she'd run a marathon. Fear soured her sweet perfume. She had to be in some kind of trouble. Why else would she be here without an escort? Without her patron?

"Trust me, we're completely alone." He reached awkwardly to put his arm around her, the first attempt at comfort he'd made in years.

Quicker than a human eye could track, her arm snapped from under the coat, something dark and slim clutched in her hand. The side of her fist slammed into his chest. Whatever she held pierced him, missing his heart by inches. The voices shrieked, deafening him. Corrosive pain erupted where she made contact.

He froze, immobilized by hellfire scorching his insides. He fell to his knees and collapsed against the damp pavement. Foul water soaked his clothing as he lay there, her fading footfalls drowned out by the howling in his head.

Chapter Two

A few hours until sunset and Tatiana had yet to succumb to daysleep, but she would give in to its siren call upon completion of this last chore. Through the smoked, helioglazed glass of her Bentley, she watched her driver speak to the headmistress of the Primoris Domus, the house of the renegade comarré. Madame Rennata looked past the driver at the car, then nodded.

With gloved hands, Tatiana pulled the deep hood of her floor-length cape over her head and adjusted her dark sunglasses. Her driver extended a wide black umbrella before opening her door and escorting her to the portico. The strip of shade it offered was far too narrow for her comfort.

"That will be all," Tatiana dismissed him.

She extended one hand and spoke in the most pleasant tone she could manage when dealing with lesser beings. "Madame Rennata, so good of you to take my call."

Rennata eyed her warily and kept her own lace-gloved fingers wrapped securely around the crook of her ivory cane. "Rather an unusual visit, Mistress Tatiana. I do hope all is well with Damien."

Tatiana dropped her hand to her side. "With whom?"

Rennata tilted her face to one side, causing the delicate gold signum curling across her brow and cheekbones to glint. "Damien? Your comar?"

"Ah, yes. He's fine. I'm not good with names." Not when it came to servants anyway.

"What can I do for you, then?"

Tatiana glanced at the line of approaching sunlight. "Perhaps we could go inside?"

Rennata's spine stiffened as rigidly as the elaborate coif confining her pale blonde hair. "You know our rules don't allow for random visits. As you've already purchased your comar, you've no need to be here."

Tatiana suppressed the desire to tear the woman's throat from her neck. How dare this glorified whore tell a noble what she could and could not do? Tatiana chose her words carefully, steadying her voice to hide the distaste on her tongue. "This is an unusual situation."

"Indeed, it must be to bring you here."

"Please." Was there a more bitter word? How she longed for a draught of blood to rinse it from her mouth.

Rennata unpursed her lips. "You may enter the foyer and great hall, as those are common areas. You will not be invited farther."

"Of course." She followed the woman over the threshold, pulling off her shades and pushing back her hood. She'd not been here in many years, not since coming to purchase her own comar with Lord Ivan, but the aroma was the same. Dark, seductive, sweet… it sank into the vein like a velvet needle. Her mouth watered, and her head spun. She swallowed, blinked hard.

"Does the light bother your eyes, mistress?"

"No, I… yes, it is a little too bright."

Rennata gestured and white-robed comarré dimmed the lamps in the great hall, then vanished. She moved toward a pair of tapestry chairs near a crackling fire. "Sit, won't you?"

Tatiana took the chair farthest from the flames. Fire was not a vampire's friend.

"Now then. What brings you here?"

Right to it. Good enough. Tatiana had no desire for small talk either. "I'm looking for Algernon's comarré."

"She's not here. I imagine she's with her patron."

"Ah, then you haven't heard. Algernon's dead and the girl is gone."

To Rennata's credit, her face showed no reaction, good or bad. "That is unfortunate, but technically she would be considered released."

"Technically, yes. But at the moment she's considered the prime suspect in his murder."

"You think a comarré capable of such an act? We are hardly our patrons' equals, mistress."

"Comarré are trained in swords, are they not?"

Rennata shrugged and a wisp of a smile played on her lips. "All for ceremony and show. Our skills lie in other, more delicate areas." She turned her face toward the hearth and the firelight brought her signum to life like bright, golden vines unfurling across her skin. "Was there blood on her sword?"

"I don't know." Damnation. She hadn't asked the servants to check that. Tatiana leaned back and sighed. "I would like to see her room."

"That access is not mine to grant."

"I merely wish to see if I can cross the threshold. If so, I will not disturb anything within." This charade of politeness wearied her. For all her power, she was bound by an age-old pact with these creatures. Had the comarré forgotten they were, at heart, still kine? If not for the vampires, they would be ordinary mortals. Ripe for plucking, like the rest of the kine. If not for that ridiculous covenant.

"You want to know if the girl lives."


"Let me confer with the others and I shall return with an answer." Rennata pushed to her feet, leaning heavily on her cane.

As soon as she left the room, Tatiana closed her eyes and concentrated, listening, sensing, trying to eavesdrop as best her abilities would allow. The house was strangely quiet. At any given time there might be several hundred comarré here, and yet she heard nothing. No voices, no movement, no breathing. Not even a heartbeat. Still, she could sense she was not alone. She opened her eyes and studied the room's opulent appointments. Crystal and silk, gilding and exotic woods, rare paintings and priceless sculptures. Comarré were well compensated for their services, that much was plain. Granted, blood from this house had been proven to be the best of the best and so these comarré demanded the highest price of all, but still the grandness of it gnawed at her cold heart.

For the donation of blood, they lived like nobility. Was what beat in their veins that special? Unfortunately, it was. The purity was unmatched. The power it gave was remarkable. The taste—her cheeks ached—was richer than the finest wine, more succulent than any ordinary mortal could ever be. And merely owning a comarré indicated a vampire's wealth and status. She eased her grip on the chair and tried to remain calm. She was almost done here. Then she could return home. To her own comar. What had Rennata called him? David? Daniel?

"Mistress Tatiana, we will grant you access this once."

She stood and nodded. "Very kind of you."

Rennata's eyes flashed. "If you would follow me."

The halls they traveled were dim, the adjoining doors closed. Occasionally, Tatiana picked up what might have been a heartbeat or distant pulse, but for the most part silence shrouded the house.

At last, they stopped before a simply carved door, no different from the multitude of others they'd passed.

Rennata unlocked it with a long, ornate key, then stepped out of the way. Tatiana twisted the knob and pushed the door open. It swung slowly, revealing a narrow cell, austerely furnished. The crest of Algernon's house hung over the bed and a pair of diamond-crusted slippers sat beneath it, the only two indicators that the occupant had some means. She looked at Rennata. "This is typical?"

"Yes. While a comarré's true home remains in their house of origin, most of their possessions are kept in the quarters provided by their patrons. Where they spend the most time."

Tatiana turned back to the room. Only if the girl were dead would no invitation be necessary to enter her room. If the girl was alive, Tatiana would be knocked back. Entering would not be impossible, but the consequences would be horrific. Fatal, if endured long enough. She straightened, stepped forward, and crossed the threshold with ease.

Rennata swallowed and exhaled a shuddering breath.

An angry mix of satisfaction and disappointment welled inside Tatiana as she twisted to face the madam. "The girl is dead then."

"So it appears." Rennata rubbed a knuckle against the corner of her eye.

The need for sleep pulled at the edges of Tatiana's consciousness. Time to wrap this up before she went comatose where she stood. "Does the girl have any living family?"

"We are all her family. No comarré knows her birth parents."

Tatiana's brow wrinkled as she fought the creeping fog of daysleep. "I am certain there was someone. A sister… or an aunt, perhaps…"

"Every comar and comarré of her age is a sibling. Every older comarré her aunt, every older comar her uncle."

Tatiana's frustration grew. "There was one. No longer with you."

"Not that we remember."

"Ah, yes, I forgot you have your own sort of anathema. Those who leave are never spoken of again, isn't that right?" She waved her hand through the air. "Stricken from all records, that sort of thing? While I completely understand the need to remove the weaker members of your family, this is vital information. I'm sure the council will find a way to get it out of you."

Rennata's jaw tightened for a split second. "There was an aunt. All record of her has been destroyed."

Tatiana couldn't help but smile at how easy that had been. "Very well. Lead me out. I'm ready to go." She'd have to send word to the Nothos, redirect them to search for the ring. They might balk at being used as a lost-and-found service, but not for long if they valued their undead lives.

When they reached the great hall, Tatiana strode past Rennata, stopping only at the front door. She stabbed a warning finger toward the woman. "Don't touch that room. The council will undoubtedly wish to inspect it as well. Her death doesn't make her innocent, only dead."

Rennata bowed her head. "Yes, mistress."

Tatiana pulled up her hood and slid her sunglasses into place before charging out and slamming the door. She skidded to a halt on the shaded side of the portico. Her driver was already out and rushing toward her, umbrella at the ready to shield her from the sun's killing rays.

"Home, mistress?" He lifted the broad stretch of silk above her as she stepped off the portico toward the car.

Secure in a wide circle of shadow, she nodded, too exhausted to say anything. Staying awake this long had been draining but very worthwhile. Her hand found the locket around her neck, her fingers smoothing across the single ruby on the locket's front. The original was gone, this one the closest replica she'd been able to find.

Painful memories kept her focused. She kissed the locket and tucked it away. Things were going to be much easier once the ring was hers.

That fool girl. Rennata slumped onto one of the window-front settees, peering through the sheers until Tatiana's car wheeled away from the house and down the tree-lined drive. Finally. She stood, shoved her cane into the umbrella stand, and strode back to the great room. She clapped her hands. A trio of comarré came forth out of the shadows.

"Put a few of Chrysabelle's oldest robes in the closet of that spare room, perhaps add a few insignificant personal items to the dresser drawers, a book, a drawing, that sort of thing. If the council comes, they will inspect more thoroughly. The crest and slippers alone will not convince them."

Saraphina nodded. "What of her suite?"

"Leave it be. No one but us can touch it anyway."

"Yes, Madame." Saraphina and the other two bowed and headed off to the work at hand.


The girl stopped. "Yes, Madame?"

"Fetch me paper and pen and find me a messenger going to the Americas." Times like this she wished the comarré ignored the nobility's edict that banned modern technology. She had to get word to Maris immediately. Tatiana's history in dealing with those who crossed her was dark and bloody. Maris would understand. Chrysabelle could not be allowed to damage everything they'd worked so hard to establish. Maris had done the right thing once. Certainly she could be counted on to do it again.


  • "Gripping, gritty, and imaginative. If you love dangerous males, kick-ass females, and unexpected twists, this is the series for you! Kristen Painter's engaging voice, smart writing, and bold, explosive plot blew me away. Prepare to lose some sleep!"—Larissa Ione, New York Times bestselling author
  • "Kristen Painter brings a sultry new voice to the vampire genre, one that beckons with quiet passion and intrigue."—L.A. Banks, New York Times bestselling author of The Vampire Huntress Legends series
  • "Painter scores with this one. Passion and murder, vampires and courtesans -- original and un-put-downable. Do yourself a favor and read this one."—Patricia Briggs, New York Times bestselling author
  • "Kristen Painter's Blood Rights is dark and rich with layer after delicious layer. This spellbinding series will have you begging for more!"—Gena Showalter, New York Times bestselling author
  • "A world full of rich potential. Excellent!"—P.C. Cast, New York Times bestselling author

On Sale
Oct 1, 2011
Page Count
432 pages

Kristen Painter

About the Author

Kristen Painter likes to balance her obsessions with shoes and cats by making the lives of her characters miserable and surprising her readers with interesting twists. She currently writes award-winning urban fantasy for Orbit Books.

Learn more about this author