Magic Never Lies – First Chapter Freebie!

Gay Romance, Erotic Romance, Paranormal, Contemporary
Word Count: 64,200
Heat Level: 3
Published By: Evernight Publishing

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Blake Gerritt has been done with music and fame for years. He’s happy with his anonymous life in an ordinary town in the middle of nowhere. He raised his sister after their parents died, and he’s no longer looking for more. Even the simmering magic in his blood has faded and he’s cool with that—he’s too old for falling in love anyway.

Aaron Wade is young and rich and miserable, even though millions love his songs. He knows he should be happy, especially since his bigoted jerk of a father is finally dead, but he can’t focus anymore. He can’t sleep. A small town in the middle of rural America is just the cure he needs to get back on track with his life, alone. Or so he thinks…

What happens when love comes out of nowhere? Do you let yourself fall or do you refuse the magic that could change everything?

Chapter One:

Grandma told me it would happen exactly like this, Blake Gerritt thought, staring fixedly at the man in the doorway. His fingers tingled as he flexed them against the package he held, and he realized that he’d forgotten to breathe for the last few minutes. She said I’d know when it happened, but she never told me I would feel as if someone had just whacked me upside the head with a two-by-four.

“Yes?” The man tilted his head slightly, and Blake knew that if he could see behind the guy’s mirrored sunglasses, he’d probably recognize puzzlement.

Because what kind of mailman knocks on a door and then just stands there like a moron? Blake asked himself. He inhaled deeply, trying to gather his wits. If someone asked him about this moment in the future, he’d swear on his grandma’s grave that for a split second the Earth had stopped spinning. When his heart abruptly woke up and clattered a harsh staccato against his ribcage, he blinked. Time rushed back into place.

“Can I help you?” the man asked, a little more harshly, as if he knew exactly what was happening and didn’t like it. His face was closed down. Unapproachable.

Hot as hell.

Blake swallowed, not surprised to find that his mouth had gone completely dry. His hands shook. In the next second, arousal hit him hard—shocking and weird in the middle of what was supposed to be an ordinary workday. He swallowed again, knowing that the man who’d opened the door was going to lose patience any moment now.

****

“Uh,” he managed, then coughed when his voice cracked. He cleared his throat. “Sorry. Allergies.” He managed a weak smile. Energy swirled around him like a fly buzzing in his ear. His family had magic, sure, but that mostly meant that his garden bloomed frantically during the summer months because the extra energy that followed him around had to go somewhere. He also had an amusing knack for making people happy and he wasn’t a half-bad singer, but all in all, it didn’t really impact his life much—at least not anymore. He’d left most of his magic behind years ago to take care of his sister. So, he hadn’t really expected the old family gift to kick him in the nuts on some random June day. Isn’t that just how life happens, though?

“You have something for me?” the man asked, more patient than Blake expected after the earlier harsh tone. Brilliant blue eyes peered out at him over the mirrored sunglasses. The man wore a battered baseball cap pulled low over short brown hair and a scruffy beard. Slouchy jeans and a red concert t-shirt that had seen better days completed the outfit. Behind Blake, music from the radio he kept in his mail truck played accompaniment to the summer birdsong, and he couldn’t help feeling as if he’d just stepped into an old romantic comedy movie.

If Lynn were here, she’d laugh herself sick, Blake mused, thinking of his little sister.

“Hello?” The guy tilted his head again, almost, but not quite, cracking a smile. He lifted an eyebrow. “Anyone home?”

Blake swallowed again, reminding himself that he had a job to do here, and he couldn’t gape at the guy destined to be his true love all damned day. “Uh, yeah. Sorry. I don’t know what’s going on with me.” He fumbled with the package in his hands, then smiled wryly. “I have to hand deliver this one. Needs a signature.” He glanced down, then angled his handheld scanner the right way to read the barcode on the side of the cardboard box. He held out the box.

The man scowled at the box for a moment before slowly taking it from Blake. He didn’t look like he was happy to receive a delivery.

“I was just trying to remember the last time I delivered to this house. It’s been at least eight years, I think, since old Mrs. Caramella passed away,” Blake said, trying to dispel the sudden awkwardness. “Please sign here, Mr. Peace.” The name on his device didn’t seem to match the man, but Blake pasted on a professional smile anyway. His magic told him that the name was fake, but it wasn’t his business, right? Even if the guy was his soul mate. He’d find out the truth soon enough, if the energy tickling the base of his spine was any indicator. Just because he hadn’t actively used his power in years didn’t mean he didn’t remember how.

“Call me Jon,” the guy said in a low voice. “And yeah. I got the place cheap.” He shifted the package under his right arm and signed Blake’s pad. “My agent told me that the seller seemed desperate.” He gestured at the house around him. “Needs work, though.” He didn’t seem at all concerned about the paint peeling in long strips from his porch steps.

“Yes, that would be Mrs. Caramella’s two sons. They moved away years ago and have been trying to sell this place ever since. It’s a pity they didn’t keep up with the maintenance.” Blake grimaced. He hated painting. He’d done enough of it in his past that he was grateful to be delivering mail now. “I know a guy who could help you out with that,” he said, thinking of his sister’s husband, Ken, who owned a handyman business. Given that they had another kid on the way, Ken could use the work. And Blake could use him as a connection to see Jon again.

Jon pursed his lips. “Local?”

Blake nodded. “My brother-in-law has a handyman business. He’s young, but he’s good at painting.” He should be. Blake had taught him everything he knew. “And he’s reliable.”

“Sounds good.” Jon reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell. “Phone number?”

Blake blinked. The guy wanted his phone number? Was it really going to be this easy? His heart sped up.

Jon laughed. “You’re not having a good day, are you?” He lifted his phone and tipped it back and forth. “Can I have the phone number of your brother-in-law? And his name?”

Oh. That phone number. Blake shook his head, embarrassed. “Sorry, yeah. I’m really distracted today.”

“Hot date tonight?” Jon asked, amusement clear in his tone.

“Um, no.” Blake flushed, thinking of what he’d like to do later, and it involved his newly discovered true love and a bed. And a serious lack of clothing. “I wish,” he muttered, fumbling with his own phone. “His name is Ken Devine.” He looked up the number and rattled it off, then paused as some demon took hold of his body. “Let me give you my number in case you can’t reach him,” he said, looking Jon up and down again.

Jon finished typing, and looked up.

He sure is pretty, Blake thought. He’d given up fighting his erection and instead just held his scanner over his crotch strategically while he tried to figure out how not to make a fool of himself.

Jon quirked an eyebrow, then pursed his lips. “Sure.” He waited politely, even as his face told Blake that he thought the number thing was weird.

Blake inhaled, and then summoned up a grin. He was a grown man of thirty-five. He knew how to flirt, for God’s sake, and he was good with people, even if he’d never attempted to hit on a man before. It had to be the same as with a woman, right? I just need to be subtle. Don’t be creepy about it, he told himself.

“Your number?” Jon prompted.

“I helped Ken get his business up and running, so I’m still his backup guy when he needs help,” Blake explained, deliberately moving his scanner away from his junk. His hard-on pressed against his slacks just enough to advertise his package without being obscene. Thank God for sturdy uniform pants, he thought, still a whole lot turned on. He didn’t know if the guy in front of him swung gay, but if Fake-Name-Jon was Blake’s destined love, he had to be at least open to the idea, right?

Jon’s expression eased. “Oh. That makes sense.” His gaze flicked down Blake’s body, snagging for a split second on his groin before drifting upwards again.

Bingo. I guess I’ve still got it. Pleased, Blake gave Jon his number, then slid his cell phone back into his pocket. He licked his lips. Time to go, he told himself. His magic tingled, telling him to ease off. Now that he knew Jon was interested, he was anxious to deepen the connection, but he also knew that it was time to walk away before he came off as a weirdo instead of an intriguing stranger. “Give Ken a call. You won’t be disappointed in his work,” he said, tipping an imaginary hat. “Gotta run.” He waved at his mail truck parked at the curb. The tree-lined block looked like something out of a romance novel. Blake grinned again. He loved his home, even if it was a little quiet at times, especially compared to his previous life. “It may not be snowing or raining, but the mail still has to get delivered.” He almost winked, but then he caught himself. Too much, too soon, dude. “Have a good day, Ron Peace.” The sound of the name on his lips felt wrong. I hope I find out his real name soon.

“Oh, yeah. You, too,” the man said, shifting uncomfortably as he stepped back.

We both know you’re lying about who you are, but that’s okay. I’ll figure you out sooner than you expect, Blake thought, once again resisting the urge to wink at the guy. That would be both obvious and creepy. Instead, he pivoted and walked back down the sidewalk, whistling his favorite Aaron Wade song. It was jaunty and sexy at the same time, and he’d been humming it under his breath since it hit the charts over a year ago. It kept him from obsessing over his own music. He’d let that business go years ago, and there was nothing in this world that could ever persuade him to go back to it. Not now. Not when he was too damn old to play the game.

And not when I’ve finally met my soul mate.

****
Jon Peace, aka Aaron Wade in full-blown hiding-out, incognito mode, stared after the mailman. “He’s whistling my song,” he muttered, shaking his head. “There is no way he didn’t recognize me.” He closed and locked the front door, and then leaned back on it. “Shit.” His left hand shook as he adjusted his jeans to ease up a bit against the unexpected hard-on he sported. The uncharacteristic arousal that had hit him as soon as he’d answered the door still simmered along his bones, and he wasn’t sure if he was happy or pissed about it. He’d been so fucking burned out from touring and dealing with the fucking label and contracts and everything else that went into being a world-famous pop star that he hadn’t had the energy for anything but two-minute sex in years, a fact about which his ex had bitched more than once. An unexpected and unwanted attraction to some random mailman wasn’t on his agenda right now.

“Jesus. Get a grip, dude. It’s nothing. Stop overreacting.” He took a deep breath and then pushed off, wandering through the front room to the kitchen. He plopped the package he didn’t want down on the table, glaring at it. He knew exactly what it contained. It didn’t disappear in a puff of smoke, to his disappointment.

He stared at it for a minute longer, then cursed as another headache started creeping up his neck. “Fuck.” He tore open the box, not surprised when his father’s bible fell out, splattering memories all over the table. “You’re a sick fuck, Dad,” he said when he saw the passages that were marked with sticky notes and marker. “You couldn’t hate me enough in life. You had to make sure I knew you still hated me now that you’re dead.”

He shoved the bible away with one finger as if it could infect him even if he didn’t open it up, then sighed. His father had sucked in his last, bitter breath last week. Aaron hadn’t gone to visit the man in hospice or attended the funeral. There would’ve been no point. He hadn’t seen his father in six years, not since the old man had literally thrown him out of the house. And too, he didn’t need the media frenzy that would’ve swirled around him if he’d gone back home.

“No, don’t call it home,” he said frowning. “It hasn’t been home in years.” He walked to the back door and stared out at the jungle that passed for a yard. As soon as his cousin had phoned him to let him know the old bastard had died, Aaron had canceled his last two show dates and checked out of life. He’d picked the first small town he’d seen on the map, in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania, cut his distinctive long hair, and fled. He didn’t know if it was grief, or a nervous breakdown, or what. His manager, Darlene, had helped him find somewhere to live, thank God, but he knew her patience with him only went so far. She knew he’d been just barely hanging on, and she knew about his fucked-up past, but she had no idea how angry he was, still, over the shit his father had done.

“No. It’s not grief I’m feeling right now,” he muttered decisively, pushing open the door and wading out into the weeds. He pulled a few out, then sat down on the creaky old bench the house’s previous owner had left near the stoop. “Fuck.” He put his face in his hands and breathed. In and out. In and out. It didn’t help.

Fucking asshole, sending me his fucking bible, he thought bitterly. Who did that? Who hated their kid so much that they planned how to send evil to them after their death? “My father, that’s who.” Aaron felt his throat close up and clenched his fists as he struggled to get oxygen into his body. He stared at the crushed dandelions under his bare feet, focusing on the air moving in and out of his lungs. What else could he do?

It seemed like a thousand years later before he got himself back under control. “Don’t worry about it now,” he said, getting back to his feet. “You’ve got time. You took time. You deserve time. The music and the fans and the touring and the work will be waiting for you when you’re done here.” He’d been telling himself variations on this particular theme for days. “You’re allowed to take a fucking break. You have money. You’re not going to starve to death.” It wasn’t like it used to be, a mere few years ago when he’d had to scrape by on his own, underage and homeless. “And it’ll never be like that again.” He’d made sure of that. He had enough money to live out his life without ever being that desperate again.

Aaron wandered around the yard, pulling at the weeds here and there, and then cursing when a cloud of gnats flew up into his face. He pulled some more greenery out, tossing the stalks aside haphazardly, and then he stopped in the middle of the yard and laughed like a maniac. He was free. Finally and irrevocably free of the misery and spite that had characterized his childhood the minute he’d realized he was gay.

“Free,” he said, trying out the word. His voice barely worked, and that was a hell of a thing for a singer. The sun warmed his shoulders. The yard was quiet. There was nothing and no one demanding his attention right now. “You’re free,” he said again, after coughing up some junk and taking another deep breath.

It was funny how being alone didn’t feel like freedom.

Bitter Bite #FirstChapterFreebie!

Yes, it’s that time again. Time for a freebie! Read the first chapter of BITTER BITE!

Bitter Bite is a horror novel. And a menage where two guys fall in love with each other because they can’t imagine it any other way. And it’s a story about a girl and her former teacher finally letting go. It’s also a story about forgiveness and loyalty.

buy links: Evernight (25% off) – AmazonAReBookstrand – Smashwords

 

Menage (MMF), Erotic Romance, Vampires, May/Dec, Romantic Suspense, Paranormal
Word Count: 46,700
Heat Level: 4
Published By: Evernight Publishing

Alaric Normand is a solitary predator, so when he meets a man who kindles long-dormant emotions, he dismisses the attraction. What does he need with a lover? A consort bond spells nothing but vulnerability for a vampire who’s been alone for five centuries.

Ex-priest Gideon Keegan has lost his faith, so when he witnesses a supernatural killing, how does he accept the reality of evil? And why does he feel attraction for such a violent individual, especially when he’s already in love with someone else?

Everyone thinks Hannah Ward is an innocent, but she knows the truth: she’s done terrible things, and so she hides her affection for Gideon. She isn’t worthy of love, yet when a handsome stranger kisses her she falls hard, despite her sense that something is wrong. How can she have feelings for two men at once? Must she choose between the dark and the light?

 

First Chapter Freebie:

Alaric Normand pinched the matchstick’s flame into darkness and leaned over the newly lit candle. The wax smelled of dust and neglect because very few people came to this alcove to pray for their dead loved ones these days. The wick sputtered for a moment, and then caught fire, illuminating the red votive glass with a flickering light that never failed to soothe him.

“In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen,” he murmured. The words didn’t mean much to him anymore, but they were familiar. They helped him remember his mother’s face. He smiled as he recalled the way she used to curse under her breath when her hair wouldn’t lay right over her left temple. They were always late to church because she couldn’t bear to look less than her best.

“Rest in peace, mother,” he said, smiling over his clasped hands. It’d been so long since she’d died that her memory no longer upset him.

“I haven’t seen you here before.”

Alaric looked up, then inhaled instinctively. Brown hair. Hazel eyes. Mid-thirties and healthy, his senses told him.

The man nodded in greeting, and Alaric realized that whoever he was, he wasn’t particularly happy to be here. His friendliness didn’t reach his eyes.

“Most people don’t smile at this alcove,” the stranger said as he bowed his head, breaking eye contact.

“My mother’s been gone for many years now,” Alaric offered, lifting a shoulder. “Her memory is sweet, not sad.” The man didn’t move so much as a muscle, but Alaric could tell he’d suddenly gone tense.

“My mother died over two years ago.” The man took one of the long matches and lit the tip using Alaric’s chosen votive to kindle his flame. “That doesn’t mean the grief is any less sharp.” He held the match to the wick of a candle and frowned when it ignited. The fire danced until the wax heated enough to settle the conflagration.

There’s a miniature hell, right there, Alaric thought, amused. He glanced at the man kneeling next to him. “I’m sorry for your loss,” he murmured, standing up.

The stranger looked up. His hazel eyes glowed green in the candlelight. “Likewise.”

Pretty man, Alaric thought, nodding goodbye. He smiled again, then pivoted and headed out of the church. He had more important things to do tonight than make friends with a human. He’d been alone for centuries. Solitude no longer bothered him.

* * * *

Gideon Keegan watched the stranger walk away. He felt tense, but he didn’t know why. He’d come here to light a candle for his mother, talk to one of his oldest friends, and pray for a little while before heading to work. Instead, he found himself sitting on his heels and staring after a man he didn’t know, for no reason he could fathom.

“He hasn’t come here in a long, long time. Years, actually,” John said, settling down next to Gideon. “This is only the second time I’ve seen him.”

Gideon startled, then shook his head as his oldest friend plucked a matchstick from the glass container and twirled it like a miniature drumstick. Typical. Always sneaking up on me. The flames danced in the votives just beyond their fingers as though nothing were wrong.  “Father Howard, what a surprise to find you here,” he said dryly. He eyed the whirling match and then snatched it out of the priest’s hands, mid-toss. “You’re getting better at the ninja-stealth thing, but isn’t playing with fire a little undignified for someone in your lofty position?”

His friend rolled his eyes and took back the stick. “Really, Gideon. You calling me Father? Not amusing.” He gently set the matchstick back into the holder.

Gideon grinned, relieved as the tension he’d been feeling slid away. “You’re a priest. That’s what I’m supposed to call you,” he said, as if that was the end of the discussion.

“You were a priest, too, so stop being ridiculous, Gideon. You know how silly this is, right?”

Gideon’s smile faded. “I’m not a priest anymore.”

John sighed. “Look, I know things haven’t been great for you lately—”

Gideon snorted. Understatement of the year. He thought of Hannah and shook his head, trying not to dwell on someone he could never have. She had been his student, years ago, and she was still way too young for him. And she was an innocent. Gideon was not going to mess up her life just because he felt lonely.

“But that doesn’t mean you need to keep up this morose, moody thing all the time. Kick back and enjoy yourself. Live a little.” John poked him in the arm. “Glaring at everyone who gets near you isn’t very attractive, you know. Why don’t you wear something festive for a change? Like, oh, I don’t know … a color other than dark grey?”

“That’s rich, coming from you.” Gideon tugged on his friend’s shirt sleeve. John wore unrelieved black from head to toe. “You look like you’re going to a funeral.” He smiled tightly.

“You’re being deliberately difficult,” John said, ignoring Gideon’s attempts at humor. “You’re a layman now. Go on a date, for God’s sake. Ask that girl you’ve been moping over for the past three years out to dinner.” He lifted an eyebrow. “Hell, ask a random guy out. I know you swing both ways.”

“You’re not supposed to condone a sinful lifestyle.” Gideon frowned at his friend.

“Give me a break. The church may be stuck in the thirteen hundreds, but I’m not,” John said sourly. “It’s been two years now since your mom passed away and you hung up your cross. It’s time to stop mourning and get on with life.”

“I don’t want to talk about my departure from the church,” Gideon said shortly.

“We aren’t talking about that, Gideon.” His friend sighed. “You aren’t happy. I thought you would be happier if you left the priesthood, but you’re not. I worry about you.”

“Who was that man that was just here?” Gideon asked, changing the subject. He recognized the mulish look on his friend’s face and wanted to head off any more unsolicited advice. He wasn’t in the mood for yet another lecture about moving on. He’d moved on. He’d quit the priesthood and landed a job as a bouncer at a gay bar. That was more than enough moving on for now, in his opinion. I haven’t locked myself up in my apartment, much as I’d like to.

John shook his head and let it go, to Gideon’s relief. “I don’t know his name, but he has a key to the church. He’s been coming here since before I was assigned to this parish.” John shrugged and adjusted one of the votives until the flame threw patterns on the alcove wall. The mural of Saint Frances seemed to glare at them when shadows danced across his face.

Gideon frowned, forcing his gaze away from the back wall. “He has a key? Really?”

“Yes. Really.” John picked up another matchstick and began lighting candles. “Old Father Brozeni told me to let it go when I asked him about it the next day. He said some people couldn’t be kept out, whatever that meant.”

Gideon laughed uncomfortably. He could be talking about me. “That’s weird.” He glanced at the vestibule. The dark wood doors were closed tight and the man hadn’t made a sound as he’d left the building. Very creepy.

“Yeah. Weird is right. I tried to ask the guy how long he’d be so I’d know when to come back and deal with the votives, and the next thing I knew, I was in the sacristy staring at the wall.”

Gideon blinked. “Have you been smoking weed?”

John laughed. “I wish, but no. No illegal substances for me. Which is a damn shame, frankly. I could use a little help when the senior choir comes by to practice their music.” He shuddered dramatically. “Hitting a single note all together is too much to ask for, I know that, but it would be nice if they could at least try.”

Gideon grinned at his friend’s antics. “Well, he’s gone now and the choir doesn’t practice until Tuesday. So, are we still on for Sunday night?”

“Sure. Six o’clock? Your place? We can watch the latest horror flick and kick back with a few beers. I need a break from all the fire and brimstone.” John stood up and glanced around. “Gotta lock up in here in a moment. It’s almost eleven.” He leaned over and began blowing out all the flames he’d just lit.

Gideon looked away. When he was a kid, the candles had been left to burn until all the wax ran out, but modern fire ordinances meant no votives could be left unattended inside the building overnight. “Yeah. Bring pizza. We’ll play cards after the movie until your curfew.”

John sighed irritably. “It’s not a curfew and you know it. Father Brozeni gets worried when I stay out too late and I don’t like to upset him. He’s a kind old man. The least I can do is show him some respect.”

Gideon smirked. “You’re such a good little altar boy.”

“Shut up, you creepy asshole. Brozeni’s one of the good guys and you know it.”

“Such language, and in a church no less.” Gideon mock-clutched his chest until his friend laughed. Score one for a successful diversion from my love life.

“Get out of here. I know you have to work tonight.” John stood up and smoothed the wrinkles from his pants.

Gideon sighed and zipped up his jacket, not looking forward to heading to the bar. Friday nights were usually insane. “I do.” He checked his phone and frowned at the time. “And I’m going to be late if I don’t hurry.” He slapped his friend on the shoulder and started walking to the side door. “Take care, John. See you soon.”

“Sunday night,” John replied.

Gideon waved and pushed open the heavy door, wincing as a blast of cold air shoved against his face. “I can’t wait until spring gets here,” he muttered, hunching his shoulders into his jacket. He walked down the sidewalk and ducked into the alley out of the wind. It was a brisk, ten-minute walk to the club where he worked, and he had no time to dawdle. He headed toward the dumpsters pushed against the wall, then froze when he saw that he wasn’t alone. At the far end of the alley stood two men in a confrontational pose.

Huh. That’s the mysterious guy from the church. He recognized the man’s long, dark hair. The breadth of the man’s shoulders had his prick twitching in interest. Gideon frowned, wondering how old he had to be before his damned libido stopped tormenting him. It was bad enough he was hung up on Hannah. He didn’t need to add a strange man to his fantasies, too. The smaller man gestured and the man Gideon had spoken to made as if to walk away, but the other one surged forward angrily.

This isn’t going to end well, is it? I’m better off not getting involved. Gideon rubbed his face and decided to take the long way to work when he saw the man from the church reach out and grab the smaller one by the neck. Shit. He tensed, about to go help, but then the two of them twisted around, somehow, and the shorter man fell back against the brick wall of the apartment building. His face turned into the light and his eyes gleamed unnaturally for a moment before he slumped down farther.

Damn it. There goes being on time. Eric is going to make me pay for not relieving him at the door. Gideon reached into his pocket for his phone, convinced he was witnessing a drug deal gone bad. When the man from the church seized the other one’s shoulder and pushed him up so his feet dangled, Gideon stared, phone forgotten. No one was that strong. He would know. He worked out, a lot. He needed to be in shape for his job, and also, what else did he have to do? He had so much free time he’d go insane if he couldn’t lose himself at the gym.

He frowned, thinking about strength and leverage. Before he could do anything, the man from the church grabbed the other one’s jaw and wrenched, hard. The smaller man’s neck made a horrible cracking sound, and the next thing Gideon knew, the head came off, spraying blood everywhere. The survivor grunted and stepped back, looking down. Anger twisted his features, but strangely, the harsh emotion didn’t make him look one bit less attractive.

Gideon pressed himself against the wall out of sight, throat tight with horror. This can’t be real. He swallowed. It didn’t help. He swallowed again, forcing down bile. What he’d just seen was impossible. Heads simply didn’t come off that way, no matter how strong you were. Jesus. He had to look. He had to know what happened. He eased out from behind the dumpster and saw … nothing. Nothing at all. No men. No body. No blood. What the hell? Dear God, what did I just see?

* * * *

Alaric stepped away as the body turned to ash. He hated these little encounters. They never ended well for the young ones. At a little over five-hundred years old, Alaric was stronger, faster, and more deadly than most vampires he encountered. He preferred to avoid conflict, but for some reason, the younger vamps always wanted to pick fights with him.

Residual rage over being turned, probably, he mused, grateful once again that he’d resisted the urge to create more monsters like himself. He’d been turned by a bitter, young female vampire who’d managed to get herself ashed by the time he’d figured out what had happened and learned to control the blood-rage. He’d been mostly alone ever since. He sighed, and let his anger dissipate. He needed to get moving if he wanted to accomplish all of his tasks before dawn. And I still haven’t found anything to eat. That must be rectified as soon as possible. Controlling his need for blood became more difficult the hungrier he became. The young ones always forgot that most basic lesson.

He smoothed his jacket and headed out of the alley. He’d go to the bar a few blocks away. There were always a few people willing to bare their necks for him in a club. He rolled his shoulders and altered his walk so he’d seem younger, then ducked into the flow of pedestrian traffic on the main street. Friday nights were usually crowded in any city, and this one was no exception. He passed closed shops and dodged a few tipsy twenty-somethings before he finally reached the door to the club he’d noted earlier.

“Is it busy tonight?” he asked the bouncer as he showed his driver’s license.

The man shrugged. “Same as usual for a Friday night.” The silver rings in his ears gleamed beneath the flashing neon sign on the door. He shone a light on Alaric’s ID then grunted. “That’ll be ten bucks.”

Alaric’s eyebrows rose at the price, but he silently handed the man two fives, then tucked his wallet back into his jeans. “A bit expensive, hmm?”

“It’s a Friday night. What’d you expect?” The bouncer looked past him as the cluster of drunk partiers Alaric had dodged earlier staggered up to the front of the line. “Fucking figures this would be the one night Gideon is late,” he muttered under his breath.

“Gideon?” Alaric asked.

“My replacement,” the bouncer said.

“Ah.” Alaric smiled perfunctorily. “Hope he shows up soon.”

“He’d better, or I’ll kick his ass.” The bouncer reached past Alaric for the next person’s ID. “You can go on in.”

Alaric nodded and pushed open the heavy door. Loud music and strobing lights greeted him, and he realized he’d managed to land himself in a gay dance club. Not that it matters. I like hot men as much as I like sweet women. Shrugging indifferently, he shoved through a mob of young, sweaty bodies and waded onto the dance floor. Finding dinner wouldn’t be difficult at all. Male or female, they all tasted the same: delicious.