This is probably one of the longest blogs I’ve ever posted. But after reading Cover Him With Darkness, there’s so much I want to say and so much left unsaid because my mind is blown and I can’t find the words. The pages I just finished are that awesome. I LOVED this book! It had no clichéd good, oops-it-was-an-accident/misunderstanding fallen angel who fell in love with an earthly good girl and had to choose if he wanted to go back to heaven or find “heaven on earth.” Ashbless’s originality is such a relief from the same old Barbie-Ken fallen angel cutouts. Cover Him With Darkness is very dark and incredibly sexy. It’s thought-provoking with characters that are both good and bad, living in that spooky unknown shade of gray where both humanity and what lurks in the dark really call home. And you’ll never guess the ending.
This is the perfect book for early sunsets and cold nights buried under a thick, warm comforter. The next part of the trilogy can’t come out fast enough.
Her bio reads:
Janine Ashbless is a writer of fantasy erotica and steamy romantic adventure – and that’s “fantasy” in the sense of swords ‘n’ sandals, contemporary paranormal, fairytale, and stories based on mythology and folklore. She likes to write about magic and mystery, dangerous power dynamics, borderline terror, and the not-quite-human.
Janine has been seeing her books in print ever since 2000, and her novels and single-author collections now run into double figures. She’s also had numerous short stories published by Black Lace, Nexus, Cleis Press, Ravenous Romance, Harlequin Spice, Storm Moon, Xcite, Mischief Books, and Ellora’s Cave among others. She is co-editor of the nerd erotica anthology Geek Love.
Her work has been described as: “hardcore and literate” (Madeline Moore) and “vivid and tempestuous and dangerous, and bursting with sacrifice, death and love.” (Portia Da Costa)
But you know I’m too nosey not to try to get a personal interview — the secrets from the artist herself….
1) I love your unique take on the fallen angel tale and read the short story that inspired Cover Him with Darkness in 2011’s Red Velvet and Absinthe anthology. It was Wow! even in condensed form. What inspired the original short story?
That’s really kind of you to say, Martha!
The call went out for “gothic” tales. Most of my stories start with a visual image. This one started with the idea of a man chained up in a stone cell, being looked at by a young woman who felt desperately upset by the sight. I started by wondering who he was and what he’d been imprisoned for, and then I somehow transferred those questions to the girl’s head – and suddenly I had the idea of an immortal who’d been bound in darkness for so many centuries that even his jailors didn’t know what his crime was. The rest was back-engineering from existing mythology.
And then Cleis contacted me and asked What Happened Next…
2. You are one of the pioneering authors in the new Tempted Romance line. How does that feel?
It’s a massive honour, and a responsibility too. Cleis have invested a lot in this imprint and this book. I hope it pays off for them – not least because I then get to write the sequels to Cover Him with Darkness.
3. I ask this of every author I interview because the answer always fascinates. If you could make out with any pop culture icon, who would it be and where?
Mystique, from the X-Men movies. Think of the possibilities!
4. What can your fans expect next from you?
I’m hoping to write the next in the CHWD trilogy soon – it’s to be called The Valleys of the Earth. I’m also currently writing a quartet for Ellora’s Cave called Lovers’ Wheel, which is contemporary magical erotica. AND I’ve got a brand new collection of short stores, Fierce Enchantments, out now in e-format – the paperback will be published by the end of 2014. Everything happens at once!
“Are you scared of me, Milja?” he asked softly.
I didn’t answer. Under those silver eyes I was like a deer transfixed by truck headlamps.
“Why are you scared?” He reached out and touched my cheek, and I flinched.
“What do you want?”
“Huh. Isn’t that obvious?” His caress was gentle; incongruously so, after the uninhibited roughness of his attentions on the mountainside.
“No!” I said, as his fingertips grazed my throat and breastbone and then circled my nipple. He was so close that I could smell his skin—earth and sweat no longer, but a peppery warmth that was far from unpleasant. “Go away! Please!”
For a moment he looked taken aback. Then he shook his head. “Are you trying to tease? Your desire is like a beacon on a hilltop, Milja. I can see you burning.”
Maybe he could. What did I know of his perceptions? I tried to shrink from his grasp but he cupped my breast, hefting its softness. “I don’t want you!” I cried.
He laughed. “Don’t lie to me.” His hand seemed to kindle a fire in my flesh. He stooped and brushed his lips across my averted cheek, his breath warm. I shuddered from head to toe.
“I’m not lying,” I said desperately: “you’re not listening. Please.”
“I can hear your pulse,” he growled, his teeth tickling my ear. “I can smell your need.”
Desire ran through me like melted wax, pouring through my breasts and belly and pooling in my swollen sex. It took my breath away, and my dignity, and my caution.
“You piece of shit!” I sobbed.
Well, that worked. I guess not many girls had ever spoken to him like that. He stepped back—and as all the lights in the room shrank to tiny glows, the darkness grew and thickened, crowding in around him. His white sweater seemed to glow with phosphorescence. There was no amusement in his face anymore, just red pinpoints where his pupils should be.
“All right,” he said softly. “I’m listening now.”
I wet my dry lips. “You left me on the mountain. You fucked me and you left me on the mountain in the night. I could have broken a leg. I could have died out there. I had to crawl home in the dark. You fucked me and you dumped me and you’re a goddamn demon—” I broke off suddenly in panic, covering my face with my hands.
He looked away. I heard the fierce intake of his breath and then a long exhalation before he could bring himself to answer. Slowly the room lights reasserted themselves. “It was not done well,” he growled. “I…I was overwhelmed. My mind was full of old thoughts awoken.” He straightened his shoulders. “I will apologize. You will forgive me.”
If he’d been human I would have laughed. Hysterically. “Forgive you?”
I repeated, in a whisper.
“Yes.” He put his open palm between my breasts to feel my pounding heart. “I forget sometimes how fragile you are.”
He meant it. He really meant it.
“You’re a rebel angel. Like in the Book of Enoch. Like in the Bible. It’s real, isn’t it? All of it?” My face was doing strange things, muscles twisting all awry. “Heaven and Hell and the Garden of Eden and Noah’s Ark and Jonah’s whale and all that? It’s all real? The Last Judgment? Eternal damnation? All of it?”
Azazel opened his mouth as if to reply, and then hesitated. Something shifted in his quicksilver eyes. “So you believe everything you read, then?” he asked.
“I believe…in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth,” I started, the words of the Creed rising to my lips with easy familiarity even though I hadn’t given my actual faith much thought in years; “and of all things, visible and invisible—”
“Shh.” Azazel put a finger on my mouth to still it, shaking his head gently. “Don’t be like that. I’m not going to hurt you. You believe in angels and demons, don’t you?”
“I do now!”
“And what is it that you think we do?”
“Drag me to Hell?”
He shook his head, the merest twitch. The little smile was back, battered and a bit uncertain now, but back. “Not right now. I’ve no interest in your”—he laughed under his breath—“immortal soul.”
“This.” He caught my chin and bent to kiss me—not the full-blooded kiss of a movie hero, but a soft, slow brush of his lips across mine. It was like being touched by a burning ember: it set me on fire. For a moment I couldn’t breathe. “This,” he repeated, his hands moving over my breasts, circling my waist. “This,” he whispered, cupping the curve of my ass and pushing his long fingers down into places of shivering, shameful delight.
I couldn’t help it—I quivered against him and let slip a moan, half fear and half something else altogether. And yet somehow I managed to writhe out of his kiss. He looked into my eyes from inches away.
“You said you were fallen,” I whispered.
A tilt of his eyes acknowledged that, even as his hands slid over my hips. “We did not fall: we leaped.”
“Has God forgiven you?”
He curled his lip. “That seems most unlikely.”
“So you’re damned.” It was taking all my strength not to yield to the ache and the need in my own flesh.
Azazel breathed out a humorless laugh. “Oh yes.”
“In league with Satan.”
That seemed to rankle. “Leave him out of it. I am one of the Egrigoroi.” The word sounded Greek, but the press of his body was a sharp reminder that theology wasn’t his only concern, and that another matter was growing more urgent.
“You’re pure evil.”
“So you say.” He was working my blouse open now.
I pushed his face away. “Please. I can’t do this. I can’t do this with you.”
“It’s what you’ve wanted all your life.” Azazel sounded breathless. I couldn’t contradict his words, not directly. They were all true.
“It’s what you ache for.”
“It’s against the will of God!”
“Fuck Him!” Azazel snarled, catching my hair and pulling my head back so sharply that I saw stars. “Five thousand years of torture—do you think I’ll crawl back to the foot of the Throne now?”
Tears sprang up in my eyes, a physical reaction to the hair-pulling as much as anything. “But He’s my God,” I cried.
He had me pinned. His face loomed over mine. There was mutinous rage in it, but he kept his voice low. “No, He’s not,” he whispered. “You belong to me now.”