The Vampire Oracle: Chalice by Ericka Scott - Available NOW from Cobblestone Press.
Reclusive vampire Sapphire McKenzie lives in her penthouse apartment with fortress-like security run by her AI computer, Van. She’s been hailed as the greatest armchair detective since Mycroft Holmes and has solved every case she’s ever been asked to investigate – and even some she hasn’t.
Her ex-lover, Drake Chastain, is a retired basketball star living off his fame and fortune until women he’s dated begin disappearing, then reappearing…dead.. With Drake framed for murder, Sapphire has to leave behind the safety of her home to save the man she loves…or die trying.
The Vampire Oracle: Chalice by Ericka Scott
The sex and blood revived Sapphire. Drake sat on the edge of the bed and watched her dress. It didn’t take her long to pull on a pair of pink velvet panties and a matching bra.
Her voice was muffled as she pulled a royal blue sweater dress over her head. "How did you know I was in danger?" she asked.
"Well, the doorman wouldn’t let me see you. Wouldn’t even let me call to ask you for an appointment. He was acting oddly. Then I saw the alarm panel was lit up, and I knew something was wrong."
"But wait—that doesn’t make sense." Sapphire narrowed her eyes and glared at him. "Are you sure you weren’t the one who broke in?"
"Yes. We’ve been over that, Sapphire. I’m the one who rescued you. Remember?" Drake pointed out the fast healing puncture wounds in his neck.
Sapphire pulled the chair from under the doorknob and sat on it. She expertly maneuvered her foot and leg into one stocking, and then began on the other leg.
"What is it you don’t understand?" Drake foraged around on the floor for his boxer briefs.
"Why are you here, Drake?"
"I need your help." He pulled on his slacks, and then picked up his shirt. It had been a lot more fun getting undressed, but from the flashes of temper in Sapphire’s eyes, he didn’t think he’d get many more chances to strip for her.
"Is this about the missing women?"
"Yes. Rowena’s body was found this morning."
"Oh, Drake, I’m so sorry. You really liked Rowena."
"Yes, I did." His head shot up, and he stared at Sapphire. "But how did you know?"
"I—" Sapphire seemed at a loss for words, and she had an odd, blank look on her face. Then her expression cleared. "I deduced it, of course."
"You mean, Van deduced it?"
"Van’s only a computer program," she said.
"Yeah, but sometimes I think he’s more human than you are."
She flinched as if he’d hit her, and he immediately regretted saying anything. Perhaps he should have just trusted the police with his theory. Then he remembered the way he’d been treated when the women were just missing persons, he knew he’d made the right decision. Now, he only had to convince Sapphire.
"I know you probably hate me for breaking up with you. It’s just that—"
"No," Drake shook his head. "I don’t hate you. And we don’t need to discuss this right now. I came here to see if you’ll take my case, on a professional basis. I’ll sign a contract and everything."
For a moment, she looked as if she wanted to argue with him. Instead, she closed her mouth and smiled. "Well, let’s go see what Van thinks about it. Shall we?" She stood and pulled on the door.
It didn’t open.
She looked at him. "Did you lock it?"
"No, it wouldn’t lock. That’s why I put the chair in front of it."
"Van? Van, please unlock the bedroom door." Sapphire tugged harder on the knob, and then hit the door with her open palm. "Van, can you hear me? Answer me!"
"Here." Drake pushed her aside gently. "I’ll just take it off the hinges." He pulled out a pocket knife and inserted it between the pin and the hinge.
"I can’t understand what’s happened to Van. There was a power surge, but his battery backup should have responded until the generator kicked in." While he pried on the pin, Sapphire paced over to a small panel on the wall. She keyed in a code, and a stream of numbers scrolled across the display.
"I’m checking Van’s diagnostics. He’s operational, but isn’t responding to my commands."
"Could he have been damaged in the break-in?" The first pin popped free, and he went to work on the bottom hinge.
"No." Her voice sounded odd.
Startled, Drake looked up at her. All the color had drained from her face. He left off working on the door and hurried toward her. "What is it?"
"Van’s been reprogrammed."
"What? How could that have happened?"
To his dismay, Sapphire sagged against the wall. He threw down the screwdriver and reached for her. When he took her arm, however, to lead her back to the chair or the bed, she shook him off.
"It’s because of my own stupidity."
"Someone reprogrammed Van, and it’s my own damn fault. I didn’t set a password." Sapphire laughed wryly. "I was so arrogant. The building and the apartment is secure, and most of all, I’m lazy. I didn’t want to have to keep putting in the password every time I made a minor modification to his programming." She turned back to the panel on the wall and raised her fist as if to pound on it. "Shit."
"So, now what?" Drake went cold. He’d been counting on using her to solve his case, and fast. Now it looked as if he would have to rely on the police, after all. He shuddered. Being a black athlete had gotten him out of the ‘hood, but it didn’t erase the racism he still encountered. If the police decided to pursue him as their main suspect, he would surely be convicted. And serial killers didn’t go to cushy prisons like the one where Martha Stewart had been incarcerated. He was so caught up in the nightmare of thinking about his fate, he didn’t catch what Sapphire said next.
She put her hand on his arm. "I said, don’t worry. I’ll take your case, and I’ll solve it, too."