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By bringing vampires back to their roots while still maintaining a modern twist, Adrienne Monson has effectively "revamped" the vampire novel. Paranormal fans will be relieved to see such an exhilarating and engaging book that doesn't come with sparkles.
Fists are pumping, bodies gyrating, sweat dripping—booming music drowns out all other noise in the dark club. Leisha, dressed in skimpy, revealing clothes, eyes her victim. As soon as he sets eyes on her, she knows he's hers. He becomes excited as despicable thoughts of murder run through his mind, all readable by Leisha's abnormal senses. After a bit of small talk, they are soon both out the door, Leisha pushed against the wall. The man pulls out a knife, ready to cut up this beautiful woman. Leisha smiles as she deflects the knife and bites into his neck, sucking every ounce of life from this abominable man.
It wasn't always this way.
Leisha was once a loving mother with an ideal family. Though this was over two thousand years ago, Leisha still holds that time dear to her heart. But for now, she must focus on trying to escape the eternal and bloody war between her kind—the Vampires—and the Immortals, an undying race sworn to destroy her people. Soon, Leisha finds herself captured by the government only to be saved by a young and mysterious human girl. What entails is the beginning of a long and torturous journey as Leisha and her newfound friend run for their lives while searching for the one thing that can end it all—the prophecy child.
Trade Paperback ($16.99):
ADULT / PARANORMAL / URBAN FANTASY
346 PAGES, 6" x 9"
PRAISES FOR DISSENSION
"Monson manages, with some dramatic escapes, bloody superhuman battles and cleverly placed plot twists, to keep even the most skeptical of readers thinking, 'I wonder what happens next?'"
". . . A fun, easy read, full of adventure and daring . . . I look forward to reading more from this author."
—Alice Anderson, editor, BellaOnline
"I will be picking up the next book in the series . . ."
". . . Dissension will make you forget about every other vampire book as you lose yourself in its pages."
—Alicia Cunningham, Blogging on Books
"From the first paragraph of this book, Leisha drew me into her world . . . once you pick this book up you will not want to put it down . . . I cannot wait to read more."
—Jody Joy, Jody's Book Reviews
"From the very first pages of this novel I was drawn into the world Adrienne Monson created. I wanted to keep reading until the end . . . I for one cannot wait until the second book comes out."
—Rebekah Grow, RKG The Author
"Wow! Really enjoyed this one."
—Annabelle Lovell, Sparkles-and-Lightning
" I couldn't help but compare Dissension to Stephanie Meyer's take on vampires, and I've decided that Dissension is a better read for five reasons:
#1: Leisha could beat up Bella any day. And probably Edward, too. . .
#2: A rich, fascinating vampire history . . .
#3: Immortals vs. Vampires . . .
#4: Dissension has better action . . .
#5: The underlying theme of Dissension is more meaningful . . . Dissension has more of the human story in its themes of sacrifice and betrayal. It is the heart-wrenching, down-to-earth and gritty tale of a woman who fights for what she believes is right—even if it means fighting against herself."
—Rebecca Rode, RodeWayOfLife
READ AN EXCERPT
The floor was filled to capacity. Hundreds of sweaty, young bodies pumped and gyrated rhythmically to the beat of the music blaring from oversized speakers placed throughout the room. There was no talking; no one could be heard even if she were to scream at the top of her lungs. Of course, none of them had come to talk; they were here to get drunk and rub up against each other. They came to get laid.
The bar overflowed with women wearing tops that left little to the imagination, and men openly ogled those assets to the point of drooling onto these women's cleavage—it was impossible not to bump into each other as they danced, and no one seemed to mind the invasion of personal space.
Kyle used that excuse to get as close as possible to the beautiful woman he was dancing with. They had only been dancing for fifteen minutes, and it was all he could do to resist from twisting his hands into her long, blond hair, and wrapping it around him. He couldn't wait to caress her plump lips with his own and make her scream like she'd never screamed before.
He wanted to see terror in her eyes—those emerald green eyes.
He had to have her. Tonight. Right this minute. Kyle took a deep breath to fortify himself, but it was ruined by the scent of roses emanating from her delicate skin.
The tension in what little air that separated them was palpable. That meant she must want him just as badly as he wanted her. The knowledge gave him reason to smile. He knew women couldn't resist his smile. He always got the girls he wanted.
His eyes nearly rolled back in his head when she returned his smile with an equally seductive one of her own. She was far too pretty—exotically so—and he had to do something about it very soon.
Kyle pressed his body even closer and stroked his hands down her back. She had a small waist that spanned into the most perfectly curved hips he had ever felt. She reciprocated by snuggling her face into the crook of his neck and creeping toward his jaw with provocative little kisses. He groaned and moved his hands lower, stroking every curve on his way to her thighs. She stayed relaxed in his arms, moving against him.
That was it. He couldn't last any longer.
Kyle pulled back and gestured to the backdoor with his head. She arched her brow in interest and nodded. He grabbed her hand and led her outside.
They both took deep breaths of fresh air as soon as they walked out and smiled to the bouncer as they passed him. The large bouncer kept his beefy arms folded, barely glancing at them as he watched a couple just a few feet in front of him. The woman, wearing a skirt short enough to see that she'd foregone underwear, was frantically kissing her date, pinning him to a sticky wall that smelled of urine and alcohol.
Kyle felt himself losing control as they walked down the alley. He had planned to take this lush piece back to his apartment for a long night of forbidden pleasures, but he wasn't sure if he could last that long.
The knife was with him, strapped inside his pants at his hip. He never went anywhere without his trusty bit of silver. It was named Sylvia, after the first girl he'd had.
With his weapon handy he could have her right now in the alley. His heart sped up at the thought of taking her on the filthy ground, making her dirty, making her his with so many people nearby. No one would hear her screams, and even if they did, nobody would come to investigate in this part of the city.
With his decision made, he paused to look around. They were in the darker part of the alley where the wall curved and no one was in sight. It was perfect.
Kyle turned to his date and pulled her in by the hair for a hard, urgent kiss. She tasted so sweet—he couldn't wait to taste more of her. And to see her blood strewn all over the ground—to look into her eyes and see her fear—he would be her master.
Becoming unhinged, he broke the kiss, pulling back just a little, giving her an intent look. He pushed her back into the cement wall behind her, making her glorious hair stick to its dirt. She'd make a lovely picture by the time he was finished with her. He licked his lips as he eased his hand up to his hip. Slowly, he unsheathed Sylvia as his eyes perused her body. He usually liked to start at the stomach and move out from there, but maybe tonight he would start with her flawless face. Yes, he wanted to see this angel's skin pouring red.
He raised his hand high for the first slice, the gleaming silver of the knife barely reflecting in the dim streetlight. He brought the blade down slowly, watching her eyes intently, anticipating the fright he would see there. But to his surprise, she smiled at him.
Before he could register her rapacious look, her hand struck out in a blur, squeezing his wrist and forcing him to drop the knife as his bones made a distinct grinding noise. He screamed. Her arm moved at that same unimaginable speed and impacted with his neck, crushing his windpipe.
Kyle struggled as she pulled his head down toward her. His feeble attempts to strike out at her were no match for the steel grip she had on him. When she could reach his neck with her mouth, she bit down and sucked.
There wasn't much pain from her bite; he tried to scream past his broken throat, but nothing came out. He was helpless. There was nothing he could do while this woman, half his size, sucked the life right out of him.
He felt himself grow weaker and tried once again to struggle, but it was no use.
Memories of his life flooded his vision, and suddenly, he was a little boy, leaving gutted rats under his sister's pillow. He grew older and saw his first kill with that whore, Sylvia. It had been unplanned. She had led him on and teased him, but wouldn't put out. It had enraged him so much that he had forced himself on her and then sliced her pretty face and delicate neck until she was unrecognizable. Then, he was a man of twenty-eight, experienced in his kills, thinking of himself as a master hunter. His last kill had been so beautifully brutal. He had managed to drag it out for the entire day, just slicing her up here and there to make her wondrous screams last as long as possible. It was one of the most fulfilling days of his life . . .
Holding his neck to her mouth,Leisha was in her own mind again, the screams of his latest victim echoing in her head. The poor man was nearing his death and she was able to control the visions emanating from him and focus on the ambrosia of liquid pouring down her throat. She couldn't think beyond the rapture as his blood slid into her stomach, settling it. She gulped without spilling a drop.
Within just a few seconds, her body was already feeling energized. The aching in her head subsided and she felt elated. She closed her eyes in relief as The Hunger retreated from her mind, leaving her to herself again. She adjusted her hold on her victim and continued feeding on him—there was still a little more blood left in his body.
Feeling more than satisfied, Leisha opened her eyes and looked directly into a pair of silvery-blue eyes framed by an ebony face. She knew those eyes well; she had stared into their depths in endless fascination in a time long past.
The rapture of her feast vanished quickly as she stood frozen by his penetrating gaze—her temporary paralysis vanished with the thought of why Tafari was here. She let go of her victim, allowing the still-warm body to slide down her legs onto the filthy ground.
Leisha crouched in a defensive position, wishing she had worn pants instead of her sleazy skirt. Her black heels would make fighting a little more difficult, but she had done it before. She stayed where she was, allowing Tafari to make the first move.
She'd wanted to avoid this moment, and had successfully done so for well over a thousand years. But now it seemed Tafari had finally sought her out. They would be evenly matched in combat, and Leisha truly had no desire to kill him. Of course, she did not want to be killed by him either; she would do what she must to survive.
"Hello, Leisha," he said, his voice hollow. That was his whole demeanor; his expression was flat, withdrawn. His arms were folded over his expansive chest with a leg cocked to give a pretense of being casual. But being of large stature and still able to carry himself with lethal grace, he was never simply casual.
He glanced down at the body lying on the ground by her feet. "I see you have not changed much." Then he smiled, cold.
Showing no reaction to the insult, she kept herself steeled both physically and mentally for the altercation she knew would ensue. "Tafari," she said, surprised at the sound of her affection. She quickly cleared her throat and attempted to sound more nonchalant. "So what do we do now? Fight each other to the death? Seems so cliché, don't you think?"
"I did not come here to fight you."
That was not what Leisha was expecting to hear. She studied him for a moment, trying to decide whether or not he was toying with her.
His firm, square jaw was freshly shaved, and a sudden memory of brushing her cheek against his smooth skin intruded her mind. She shook her head to keep those thoughts at bay, but Tafari had always had that effect on her. She could never think straight around him, and after two thousand years of being separated, she would have expected her emotions to have dried up.
She straightened and schooled her expression into one of indifference. It was offset by the fact that she was having a hard time looking directly at him. She didn't want to be distracted by those captivating eyes; she focused on his chest instead. "So, why are you here?"
He took several steps forward and cupped her face, his fingers digging into her cheeks, forcing her to meet his gaze.
"I will tell you that I certainly did not come here so you could avoid looking at me as if I were beneath you," he said firmly, a British accent lightly threading his tone. His voice was flat, but it seemed to have a little quiver to it.
Her breath caught at his touch. It felt electric and made her feel alive in a way she hadn't felt since she was human. She had not even bothered to defend herself from his outstretched hand, a realization that jolted her.
At five-foot-six, her neck was at an awkward angle compared to his six-foot stature. He let his hand drop but didn't take any steps back, apparently oblivious to the corpse at their feet.
They were close enough to kiss, the energy that flowed between their bodies was of a charged violence with an undertone of undeniable chemistry. They stared into each other's eyes.
"That is better," Tafari said after a few minutes.
Leisha blinked, then scoffed, and would have taken a step back if the wall had not been directly behind her. "Oh, please, Tafari. You say I'm acting like you're beneath me? I think that's the pot calling the kettle black."
Tafari crossed his arms and smirked. "Seeing as how I am black, would you call me the pot or the kettle?"
She rolled her eyes, but she could feel herself relaxing a little.
"I think I should be allowed one paltry pun considering that is the second cliché you have used thus far," he said.
Leisha's lips twitched.
Tafari cleared his throat. "I have not seen you make any reports to Ptah for some time. Is it possible that he has allowed you to go out on your own?"
Whatever warmth she had felt quickly shriveled within her. "How would you know that? You've been following me? Watching me?" She was agitated with herself as much as with him—not having had the slightest inkling that someone had been following her. She didn't like the thought of Tafari being near without her knowing.
"I needed to talk to you," he said, "but I did not want to walk into an ambush of twenty bloody vampires just to do that. I did what I had to do to protect myself." He stared hard. "It is likely you have forgotten I serve a higher purpose than most people could fathom."
Leisha felt like sputtering. "Right. A higher purpose? So, murdering me is a higher purpose." He opened his mouth, but Leisha kept on. "I didn't realize your duty was so glorified. Should I bow down to you now, or after you've elevated yourself in my presence? It would certainly make it easier for you to cut my head off!"
"There will be no need for that. I am sure there will be plenty of time to kill you later. I did come to speak with you. So, either you can be civil with me as I am attempting to be with you, or we can just end the conversation now."
She studied him. "Tell me what it is you came to say so we can both be on our way. That is, if you really meant it when you said you weren't here to kill me."
With an edge to his voice he explained, "I came here to warn you."
"You came here to warn me? About your superiority or your higher purpose in life?"
Tafari's eyes flashed violence, then he took a deep, calming breath. "The planets are beginning to align as it has been foretold." Leisha felt a chill run down her spine. "The prophecy child is coming."
"Thanks for the information," she said. "But that still doesn't answer the question of why you're telling me."
For a second, Tafari looked as confused as she felt, but then his face went back to its passive state so quickly that Leisha thought she must have imagined it. "I have come to inform you so that I might make a request of you in return."
"What could you possibly want from me?"
"I know Ptah is going to seek you out to rejoin him for the war that may be approaching. I ask that you stay away from the other vampires until this is all over."
Leisha's brain was trying to process several things, especially why Tafari would want her to stay away from the vampires, but she focused on the important one. "Who says there's going to be a war? There's nothing in the prophecies about any war."
"You know the prophecies as well as anyone else. Both immortals and vampires have prophesied of his coming. Most believe that he will have the ability to control both of our kinds; he is connected to us all in some way, yet none of us know exactly what he is supposed to do."
Comprehension trickled in. "If he can control us, then both the immortals and vampires would want to find him and exploit his powers to gain the upper hand. They will go to war with each other over the child."
Leisha folded her arms beneath her breasts. "Doesn't anyone remember that we tried that five hundred years ago? It didn't work. Both of our people had almost the same losses. This is a foolish idea, especially since neither side has found this prophecy child yet. The prophecies about him are too vague to make any kind of plans. What makes you think we can control him?"
Tafari actually grinned, and it looked genuine. "If only you were an immortal." His smile faded into sadness as he spoke.
Leisha mirrored his sorrow and bowed her head. "I can't tell you how many times I have wished that."
Tafari didn't bother to hide his confusion, and maybe there was some curiosity in his face as well. "Are you still the same Leisha that I married? Why else would you wish to be an immortal instead of the monster that you are?"
Leisha took a deep breath. This was not going to be a pleasant conversation, but if she could only get him to understand what had happened to her. She lifted her face. "I'm the same. My soul hasn't left me; it is only my body that is different."
Tafari shook his head and took a step back. "No, it cannot be. The Leisha I married would never have become a vampire. I know that a person has to agree to become a vampire or the metamorphosis will not work. And I saw"—his voice broke—"I saw what you did."
How could Leisha explain the truth? How could she make him understand? The memory of her first kill flooded her mind. She had fought off The Hunger long enough to run away from her daughter and father so they would not fall victim to her. But she'd had nowhere to run—
Leisha fell to her knees, panting more from mental strain than physical exertion. She didn't know what to do or where to go. The thought of going back to Ptah made her stomach reel even more.
She began to sway. The Hunger was crippling.
She couldn't begin to describe or understand the pain it caused. Her head was splitting to the point that she could hardly think. She was shaking and weak. Too weak.
Her stomach rumbled, but she couldn't hear it. She only felt the pain; her core was acid, and a demon was clawing at her brain.
Then she heard a heartbeat. There were footsteps approaching and her nostrils filled with the scent of sweet, young flesh. Musky with male spice and a hint of saltiness. She salivated uncontrollably.
"Are you all right?"
She couldn't answer, couldn't think past that appetizing blood flowing through his veins. She wanted so much to fight, but there was no more energy. She had no strength to run away and could not escape from this temptation that was leaning over her.
He gently touched her arm, and that was all it took. She didn't remember much of what happened next; just that primal creature taking over. It was as if she had blacked out and some vile instinct had taken control over her body.
When Leisha became aware of herself, she was sitting in the middle of the scattered remains of bones and viscera. It was such a gruesome sight, one could hardly tell if they were of a human.
Leisha didn't feel sick at all anymore. In fact, she felt great. All the pain that she had experienced only moments before was a distant memory.
Yet, even the euphoria of how she felt could not shield her mind from the crushing guilt of what she had just done. Not only had Leisha killed a man, she had torn him to shreds and devoured him. She hadn't even seen what he looked like, didn't know his name. It seemed so . . . cold.
Then another thought dawned. Ptah had known The Hunger would take over. That was why he let her bid one last goodbye to her daughter and her father. He was setting her up to kill her family.
She said a small prayer of thanks to the gods—she'd managed to control herself long enough to spare them.
But what should she do now? She stood and looked around. Leisha froze when she saw the last person in the world she'd wanted to see at that moment.
Tafari wasn't moving; he just stood down the path and stared at the sight before him. His face was a mixture of grief and revulsion. Yet, his eyes were glazed as if he couldn't quite understand the scene before him.
"Tafari." Voice shaking, she reached a bloody hand toward him.
"You are one of them," he whispered through tears that were threatening to come.
Her tears flowed down her face, leaving red streaks on her cheeks. "Yes," she whispered back. "I am sorry, my love. I truly did not want this."
He doubled over as if in great pain. "I have to kill you, then." It was barely a whisper—she wouldn't have heard it if it hadn't been for her heightened senses.
She stepped forward with her hand still reaching for him. "Please, you do not understa—"
"You are one of them!" he screamed. The sorrow had left his face, but the rage remained.
The torment in his expression seared into her brain. "I am sorry," Leisha said again.
Taking one step toward her, Tafari pulled a machete from its sheath on his back. Leisha didn't wait to see what he would do. Instead, she ran away as fast as she could to the only place she would be accepted. To the one being she loathed more than anything else. She had made her choice, and now she would have to find some way to live with it . . . even if it meant becoming the monster that she feared.
The memory had resurfaced,and talking about it was almost too painful. But she had to try. "Tafari, it's still me." She paused to search for the right words. "You don't understand what it is like when The Hunger takes over. I have no control. What you saw . . ." She stopped when she saw his jaw clench. "I'm different now." Leisha wanted to shoot herself for her lack of eloquence. She'd had this conversation in her head dozens of times, but she couldn't seem to grasp any of what she'd wanted to say.
Tafari scoffed. "Different?" He gestured to the dead man lying at her feet. "Just because you are not tearing up the bodies when you eat them does not make it any better."
"This man," she said heatedly, "was planning to rape and murder me. He's a serial killer! I did humanity a favor by killing him, and you have no right to judge!"
Tafari narrowed his eyes. "How could you know that about him? From what I saw, you just met him inside the club thirty minutes ago."
"I have the ability to read minds."
A black eyebrow arched. "That ability is a myth. None of the immortals can do it, and both sides have developed the same psychic abilities over the years."
Leisha kept her gaze level. "It's not a myth. I can do it."
"Really?" he mocked. "What am I thinking right now?"
Leisha shook her head. "It wouldn't work on you. It's a limited power and doesn't work on the strong-willed unless they're drunk or somehow impaired."
As if he had been expecting that explanation, he nodded smugly.
"Look," Leisha's tolerance was thinning considerably, "you came and sought me out. So don't try to criticize me for how I live my life."
"Life? You call this a life? Look at yourself, Leisha. You justify killing because they are murderers themselves? Who are you to play God, deciding who lives and dies?"
Leisha leaned forward slightly. "Are you really so much better? I once saw an immortal shoot a human so that a vampire would not be able to drink their blood and restore the vampire's energy."
Tafari nodded wearily. "Sometimes we have to sacrifice for the greater good." It sounded forced though, detracting a bit from her anger. "Besides, I have never taken a human life."
Her spine straightened. "And that would somehow make it all right for you to judge me for it? You don't know anything about me, Tafari."
It would be pointless to tell him about how she was barely surviving by merely snacking, about how she would go to the clubs and dance with men, and when they thought she was kissing them roughly, she was really sneaking a couple swallows of blood. But it wasn't enough to sustain her, and every so often she had to make a kill. She decided if she tried to explain, she would only sound more pathetic.
"That is for the better, Leisha. The more I know of you, the more repulsed I become."Leisha ground her teeth. "Thank you for the warning, Tafari. As for your request, I see no reason to grant it to you. I suggest you rejoin your own kind before you say something that will really piss me off."
Leisha didn't wait for a response. She turned and leaped onto the rooftop of the dance club, running and bounding from one building to another until she was on the same block as her car, all the while denying her pain, trying not to feel the hurt from Tafari's words.
Text © 2013 Adrienne Monson. All rights reserved.