Born of a human mother and vampire father, Ashley Hunt saw her mother ripped to shreds by a rogue vampire. She vowed then and there to become just like her mother, a rogue hunter, only she was faster, stronger, more lethal than her mother ever had been. Like a vampire, she steered clear of daylight and needed blood to live, but she bought her blood from a source at the hospital. When she wasn't waiting tables at a 24-7 greasy spoon, she spent her evenings hunting and killing rogues. She'd killed seven of the drooling, disgusting flesh-eating monsters. Yet she was no match for Victor, leader of Chicago's vampire community. Victor had put his intended claim on her when she was sixteen. Now, with vampire females a scarcity, he wanted to complete the claiming, before another vampire male could take her from him. And before her new human boyfriend could bed her.
A strong telepath who used his gift to find kidnapped children and escaped felons, Will Connor had his own demons to fight, usually in dreams that kept him from sleep and sent him out for coffee in the middle of the night. The waitress who served him his latest “nightcap” wasn't like anyone he'd ever known. He couldn't read Ashley. She was a blank slate to him. A curiosity. Until the night she had no choice but to drink from him if she wanted to live. Ashley knew then that there was no future for them. Drinking cold blood from a plastic bag was the one concession she made to retain a modicum of her humanity. Will's warm blood had tasted too good, too sweet, making him too big a temptation. Ashley knew she was a danger to him, so she sent him packing.
Little did she know that their paths would cross again, leaving her no choice but to partner with him to track down another telepath, a serial killer so evil and powerful it would take all their combined talents to track him down and end his bloody killing spree. And then there was Victor. When he left Will no choice but to accept a duel to the death for Ashley, she knew Will had no chance to defeat such a powerful vampire. Ashley knew she had to turn Victor to dust before he could kill the man she was coming to love, even if it meant relinquishing her life in the process.
Unclaimed is Amanda Steiger's best book yet! Her writing has come a long way since I read the first incarnation of her first book Barbarian in 2003. I was immediately sucked into this story by the first two sentences:
“Ashley stared at a splotch of blood on the pavement. She crouched, dipped two fingers into the sticky puddle and licked them clean.”
Right away, I knew this woman had chutzpa and a good deal of determination. Ashley is more than just the heroine of this story. Will may be the hero, but Ashley carries the story through the simple strength of her character, her beliefs, and gut-deep courage. She isn't afraid to take control of a situation even if she has to be a tad calculating and underhanded in bringing it about.
Ashley, however, underestimated Will from the day she met him. She liked his quiet strength, yet didn't realize the true depth of that strength. He was willing to sacrifice his life for Ashley. When it came time to facing both a deranged telepath and then a powerful, vengeful vampire, he displayed absolute and extraordinary courage in saving Ashley's life and winning her freedom. We find out later in the book that he carries around just as much, if not more, emotional baggage and guilt than Ashley, which I think is why, when he saw her dark side, it didn’t scare him away. I really enjoyed Will and Ashley’s story. In fact, I hope Ms. Steiger sees fit to create a continuing series around these two characters and the CPRI (Center for Paranormal Research and Investigation) for which Will works. If I don't miss my guess, Ashley has a job waiting for her there, too.