Good evening one and all. My name is Shiela Stewart and I write an eclectic array of romance including my favorite, Paranormal. I currently have six novels published, two of which are part of the Darkness series. I thought I would give you all a taste of my latest vampire release, book one in the Darkness series, Seducing the Darkness.
It's been getting wonderful reviews and was on Fictionwise's Dark Fantasy top ten list for nearly two weeks straight.
Cast out by her kind, Trinity Ford has learned to live on her own…not an easy thing to do when you’re a vampire.
Trinity was once a fragile girl. Being taken by a powerful vampire prince changed her. Discovering him in the arms of another woman changed destiny. Alone, she’s learned fast how to be tough, how to survive, and how to protect the people in her city from the evil that lurks in the dark. She was managing just fine, until Basil walked back into her life.
Basil Hawthorn has been the reigning prince of vampires since banishing his father to the Realm of Dark Mystics decades earlier. When a prophetic dream makes him realize Trinity’s life is at risk, he decides the only way to save her is to push her away. Doing so is not easy. Trinity is the only woman he has ever loved, ever will love, and he can’t seem to let her go.
When rumors arise of a plan to raise the King and blot out the sun, both Trinity and Basil know they must do everything to stop it. Even if it means working together. Despite the betrayal and the threat, they find themselves drawn to each other. Love has no boundaries, especially in the face of danger. But will they be able to stop the ritual before it’s too late?
Or will the darkness capture them both?
That damn itch she’d been having lately was back, and it was driving her nuts. Rolling her shoulders, she watched two redheads staggering from the bar’s exit and towards a dimly lit street.
Here we go again, She kept to the shadows as she followed after them. Uneventfully, they made it to their car and drove off. She hoped the cops were out tonight and those two were hauled in to sleep off their drunk.
Turning back to the club, she waited and watched for the next two hours and was glad nothing had happened. So far. But the night was still young.
“Can you smell it?”
She didn’t jump, but slowly looked over at Basil who appeared next to her. She hated when he just appeared out of thin air, but she knew he loved that entrance the best. “Your stink? Always.”
He didn’t sneer at her but slowly lifted his hand and lit the cigarette between his fingers. “The blood of a human. Does it still draw you in, make you hunger, make you want?”
“I’ve got a strong will.” Deliberately, she shifted away from him. It wasn’t only the smoke that bothered her—and always had—but his scent. It pissed her off that he could still make her ache.
She waved the smoke away annoyingly and shifted just a bit farther away. “Why are you skulking, Basil? Because if you’re following me, I am going to so kick your ass.”
“I was in the neighborhood.”
She glared at him and growled her response. “If you’re here to drink, let me warn you now that I won’t allow it.”
“Who am I supposed to drink from now that I no longer am nourished by your blood?”
She chose not to answer that. “Why does it seem that you’re always around, lurking in the dark, around places that aren’t your usual hangouts? Unless….there’s a reason?” The thought stabbed into her, and though she didn’t want to believe it, she had to ask. “Are you trying to take more females of your own? Are you the one abducting young girls?”
With one quick and easy flick, he tossed the cigarette into the darkness. The red tip glowed as it flew through the air before landing on the gravel to bounce and spit out a cloud of red sparkling fireworks. “I will not even dignify that with an answer.”
“It’s so obvious, now that I think about it. I was young when you took me, made me yours. Is that what you’re doing, Basil, making another mate?”
His icy blue eyes narrowed dangerously as he stepped closer. “I have a mate and to think you would even have such a thought sickens me.”
“You don’t have me, Basil.” Her voice grew dangerous. “If I’m so wrong, then do explain to me why you’re always out in the darkness, skulking near all these young girls?”
“The very same reason you are, my dear.” He ran a finger along her face, making her scowl.
She snorted, stepping away from him before he decided to do something stupid, like kiss her. “Please, I hardly think you’re out here looking to find the person or persons responsible for taking four innocent girls.”
Leaning against the building behind them, Basil looked off into the direction of the bar and the people waiting in line to be allowed inside. “You think so little of me and that’s a shame. But I suppose I’ve done it to myself. Yes, Trinity, I am looking to find out who took those young girls, as you are. And why you might ask?” He shifted towards her, sliding in nice and close and making her pulse speed up. He laid his fingers on her cheek, then slowly slid them along her face. “Because I have a feeling I am connected to the reason they’ve been taken.”
She had all but a moment to open her mouth to respond when he closed it with a mind numbing kiss, then pulling away, turned into a dog and scampered away.
Now what the hell did he mean by that?
Blogs: Book Cover Lovers: http://bookcoverlovers.blogspot.com/
Romance with Shiela: http://romancewithshielastewart.blogspot.com/
Good evening one and all. My name is Shiela Stewart and I write an eclectic array of romance including my favorite, Paranormal. I currently have six novels published, two of which are part of the Darkness series. I thought I would give you all a taste of my latest vampire release, book one in the Darkness series, Seducing the Darkness.
Hi everyone : )
Welcome to Friday! It's been a long week, and I'm so glad the weekend is finally here. TG for Labor Day...we get a nice long weekend before some of us head back to school. Yep, that dreaded word, lol...school.
In honor of Labor Day, I'm sharing an excerpt from my latest romance release, Cosmic Hearts. Enjoy.
In order to save his planet’s people, Chance must gain the help of Vestalumbria’s princess. He proposes an offer she can’t refuse—a chance to unite with a king. But refuse she does. Valeen wants to help Chance, but she has her own problems—she must find out the truth—why males are forbidden on her planet.
As Valeen learns the secrets hidden from her by her dictator of a mother, she has to rely on the handsome king to aid her, especially when she’s abducted by planetary pirates. Her heart begins falling for handsome king, but she’s not sure their people can live together in harmony.
Can the two of them co-exist and unite their Cosmic Hearts?
“Our planet is going to explode.” Chance tried to keep the panic from his tone, but failed. He stood and began pacing as the news sank into his brain.
In all the text-volumes he’d read, he’d never heard of anything like this happening. But he wasn’t much into astronomy. Planets died and beings had to evacuate to others, but he had never heard of galaxies colliding. Save Our Planetary Systems’ sole purpose was to help those who had to move from an unsafe planet. He would have to make an appointment with their council immediately.
“Our planet has a few solar-years, Sire, but we should begin our planning now. We should have realized this when Planet Shipten’s moon appeared in our orbit.”
“Explain to me again what the frogs have to do with this, Patricia.” Chance’s insides felt as though they’d dropped out of him. The news was more ominous than he could have ever imagined.
“Amphibians breathe through their skin and are affected by drastic changes in the atmosphere. I’m guessing, by now many of our beings are beginning to have breathing problems as well. I should contact the Department of Restorative Services.”
“The DRS is going to panic the people. We cannot contact them yet. Will the inhabitants die?”
“We don’t know that for certain, my king, but the frogs are dead, which means the atmosphere is greatly affected.” The general looked to Patricia.
She closed the immense packet of data and looked from the general to Chance.
“They’re not in danger of dying imminently, but they’ll worsen as time progresses. When the atmosphere becomes so thin that it’s difficult to breathe, most will take to the underground, but then the collision will destroy the entire planet. If our inhabitants survive the thinning atmosphere, they’ll surely die from the impact of other planets.”
“We should find another planet to occupy as soon as possible. Moving our people will take months, if not longer. I will begin handling the details of our evacuation.”
“Very well, General. I will contact SOPS and begin looking for another planet. Keep me informed of this situation,” Chance said.
The scientist and the general left his office, and Chance immediately pressed his communicator; he needed to contact Save Our Planetary Systems and beg for their aid. The only problem was Kion wasn’t part of its interplanetary league.
After an unsuccessful conversation with SOPS, he disconnected his communicator and stood by the viewer of his office. He looked out at the mountains that surrounded his home, at the lush, beautiful, doomed planet of Kion. He had to save all its inhabitants before the destruction began.
Only one planet was close enough to consider evacuating to: Vestalumbria. There was only one problem with that—it was a planet ruled by females, and they never allowed males to enter their orbit. From what he knew about the planet, the queen wasn’t influenced by outsiders, but she had a daughter who was. From the universe’s tabloids he’d learned about Princess Valeen and had found out a little of her personality.
He would have his agents investigate the planet, and then he’d make the daughter an offer she couldn’t refuse.
Cosmic Hearts is now available at Aspen Mountain Press & Fictionwise. Note: book contains graphic love scenes and is rated sensual.
My Autumn Newsletter is now available. If you're not a member, join today and get exclusive giveaways and stories. I'm giving away a sweet prize in honor of my cosmic series this month, and you don't want to miss the mini-interview with Lizzie T. Leaf and Marie Treanor!
For an in depth look into the cosmic series coming to Aspen Mountain Press, check out my blog: http://getcosmic.blogspot.com/
Have a great weekend, and be romantic!
GET COSMIC at Aspen Mountain Press.com
Far-out Futuristic Fun!
Tension drained from his pores replaced with a sense of belonging that was strong and complete. Two people, their auras mingling together as one. Amy was healing him with her touch. She moved back to the great muscles that bunched in his shoulders, kneading gently and working at the knots of tension. A little at a time she worked down his back to the waistband of his shorts slipping her fingers beneath the band, she felt him stiffen and she stopped.
“Am I hurting you, or something?” Her honeyed tone drifted into his ear and, hell of angels, it sure was the ‘something’. Of that, he was sure. His senses told him she was subtly bating him and it felt like the heady sweetness of seduction.
“Where’d you learn to manipulate your fingers like that,” he said, and wasn’t surprised at the huskiness creeping into his voice.
“Just sort of comes natural,” she purred in that same smoky voice and he couldn't help but feel the pulse of desire as it began its slow definitive throb generating heat in his loins. The quickening change taking place was marking out the reason for the ‘something’. God in His heaven…how he ached to have her fingers grip his heating arousal but this was hardly the place or the time.
“That should be enough,” he grunted, trying to sound calm.
Available at http://www.champagnebooks.com/
Would surrender to one night of passion in a younger man’s arms be enough?
Or would it unleash what she didn’t dare hope for – LOVE.
Dangerously sexy and his eyes full of sinful promise, Jamie, the leather-clad, tattooed young biker is fascinated by his evening-class student—the sophisticated and elegant career-woman.
Amy, in search of a little diversion, has taken up the study of Creative Writing little expecting her teacher to be a woman’s ultimate fantasy.
But now, Amy faces the challenge of her life—what they have between them is too hot for mere friendship, colliding with the knowledge that she is seven years his senior and entangled in a long-soured marriage to boot.
Would surrender to the intoxication of one night of passion in a younger man’s arms be enough? Or would it unleash what she didn’t dare hope for – LOVE.
Available Champagne Books www.champagnebooks.com
Author website www.thewaterfront.net.au/romona
Carrie Armstrong joined the Air Force seeking education, experience and travel. What she didn't expect to find was the one thing military rules clearly state she can't have, Staff Sergeant Beau Adams.
Throughout the 14 years of his life that Beau has dedicated to the Marine Corps, he's never had reason to regret his decision to make the military his career, until now, when loving Carrie, the only woman he can picture growing old with, could cost him his future.
As the tension between them increases to the breaking point, their ability to resist temptation weakens. Forced to make a choice, will they willingly risk everything they’ve worked so hard to gain by Crossing The Line?
“Staff Sergeant Adams.”
Beau welcomed the interruption as he looked up from the growing stack of paperwork on his desk to respond to the officer in charge. “Yes, sir.”
Lieutenant Li closed the office door behind him and plopped down into the chair opposite Beau’s. “There’s a new SatCom operator on base. Just transferred in. I want you to show this Airman the ropes during the training tomorrow afternoon.”
With a stifled sigh, Beau glanced at the door his OIC had opened, listening to him welcome whoever stood there just out of his sightline.
One of Annie's patients is found dead in her office. And now the killer is after her. Marshall is a sexy detective who makes it his mission to protect her, and he's not afraid to break the rules. Drawn together by close proximity, it isn't long before they're facing a different kind of danger.
She tripped and fell to the floor, letting out a startled cry as she went down, the flashlight flying from her hand to roll beneath her desk. For a second she lay there stunned, watching the beam of light bounce off the walls as it twirled around and around on the floor until finally coming to a stop.
At least she was alone in her office. That alone should have calmed her fears but didn't change the fact that someone had vandalized the place. She crawled to her desk and reached under it for the light, and that's when she saw the body. The ray of light shone directly on his lifeless form.
It was Martin Strong.
She clamped her hand across her mouth to stifle the scream that rose in her throat. He had to be dead, just sitting against the wall with that open-eyed stare. His frozen expression reminding her of the figures she'd seen in a wax museum once, as a school girl on a field trip, only he wasn't wearing a sign on his chest telling her what historic character he represented. Instead he had a hole in his chest the size of a marble.
She had to get out of there and call the police. Grabbing the flashlight, she jumped to her feet and ran to the outer door. She opened it and came face to face with a tall, dark form. She screamed, trying to slam the door in his face, but with one shove the man sent it flying back against the wall and Annie with it.
He was upon her in a flash. Screaming, she raised her flashlight to use as a club. It was chopped viciously from her hand, flew across the room, and slammed against the wall. Annie turned, heading for the exit door at the back of the building, but realized she was trapped. He blocked her only avenue of escape.
She heard the man's breathing close behind her and knew he was upon her an instant before his hand closed on her shoulder. Twisting free, she released a string of ear piercing screams to scare him away, grabbing things off nearby desks to use as weapons. But he was much too big and strong and the items she threw recklessly at him bounced off his body with little effect. He grabbed her and swung her around.
"No!" she shrieked, trying to break away. The classes she'd taken in self-defense came rushing back, and she raised her arm to deliver a chop to his throat. He expertly intercepted it, causing her hand to bounce harmlessly off hard biceps. Swearing, she raised her knee, aiming for his groin.
The man twisted the lower half of his body, letting out a vicious curse when her knee came in jarring contact with the inside of his muscular thigh, just missing vital parts. His hands were everywhere in an attempt to subdue her. Adrenaline pumped through Annie and a mixture of fear and anger gave her unusual strength. She knew she could very well be fighting with the murderer and didn't stop to consider what she was doing when she picked up a letter opener.
She raised it threateningly."Oh, no you don't!" his deep voice rasped, full of anger and slightly out of breath. His fingers curled around her wrist and for a brief second they struggled together until the weapon was wrenched out of her hand and tossed aside.
She heard it hit the floor. "Damn it!" This time she was the one doing the swearing. With super-human strength she broke away from him, changing tactics and running for the open front door. She barely took two steps when she was tackled from behind. Losing her balance, she landed with a frustrated shriek, hitting the floor hard. And even though the breath had been knocked out of her, she found the strength to turn on her backside and raise her legs, kicking out at him in the hope of catching him with the pointed tips of her heels.
His grunt of pain gave her little satisfaction. The man threw himself on top of Annie, pinning her down with his superior weight. She screamed, tangling her fingers in his hair and trying to hurt him any way she could.
"Damn it, stop!" his voice boomed above her.
She ignored him, raking her nails down the side of his face instead. The sound of something ripping split the air, spurring her on all the more. Was he going to rape her first and then kill her? God help her! She couldn't fend him off much longer; her strength was sapped. Before she had a chance to draw another breath, she found her wrists seized and slammed against the floor above her head, his body crushing hers against the unyielding floor.
"Please don't hurt me!" Annie knew she was begging, but under the circumstances figured she had nothing to lose. Especially if he'd killed Martin Strong.
She could barely breathe and the man pinning her down seemed to be having the same problem. His warm breath slapped her in the face, his heaving chest was smashing her breasts. At least his hands weren't roaming."Please..." She decided to try again. "I'll give you whatever you want!" Well, not quite everything but she figured at a time like this it was okay to lie.
"You don't have anything I want," he rasped. He hauled Annie roughly to her feet, dragging her arms behind her back where he locked her wrists together with one of his much larger hands."But if you keep fighting me, I'm not making any promises about not hurting you." He pulled her with him to where the flashlight had landed and while holding her against him, bent and snatched it from the floor. "I just want to know what the hell is going on around here." He started to shine the beam of light around the room, searching for God knows what.
It began to dawn on Annie that maybe he wasn't the killer after all. Perhaps he was with the Security Company that took care of the building complex. Or, worst case scenario, he'd just been driving by and noticed a strange light flashing around the office and stopped to investigate, sticking his nose in something that was none of his business. Maybe he was an off duty police officer...
"Are you going to answer me?" the man growled.
"I have nothing..."
He snorted, dragging her around the room with him. "Nothing? You sure put up one hell of a fight over nothing."
"You frightened me," she said, her eyes darting to her office door and praying he didn't insist on checking it out. She tried to will her body under control but her heart was pounding like a jackhammer inside her chest. "Are you with security?"
"You might say that."Annie started to drag her feet when he headed straight for her office. If he noticed, he didn't say anything, but continued pushing her ahead of him in that direction. When they reached the threshold, she actually leaned against him in an unconscious effort to keep him from entering the room.
"Please..." She couldn't get the words out. The thought of Martin Strong on the floor on the other side of her desk made her stomach churn. "I can't go back in there!" She struggled to break the hold he had on her wrist. He was too big and strong to win against in a struggle, but if she could manage to pull away speed might be on her side.
"Why not?" He pushed her further into the room. "What are you hiding?"
He gave a dissatisfied grunt. "Let me be the judge of that. Something's going on and I intend to find out what it is.
"Helplessly, Annie watched as he shined the flashlight around the small office until the beam landed on a pair of shoes. Her heart sank. The more he pushed her into the room the more she strained against his unyielding form. He halted when they were close enough to see Martin's body slumped against the wall, the beam of light zeroing in on the nice neat bullet hole in his chest.
"Damn..." he whispered against her ear as they stood above Martin.
Unbelievably Annie felt his hold around her wrist begin to relax. She took advantage of his momentary lapse and slammed her heel down on top of his foot. He swore a blue streak when she pulled away from him. She heard the flashlight drop to the floor, and it was over before it began. He caught up to her at her office doorway. She let out a blood-curdling scream when his hand tangled in her hair, before she was hauled back into his arms.
He slammed her against the wall and pinned her there with his body. Breathing hard, he took a moment to catch his breath. "No wonder you were in a such hurry to get out of here," he rasped, close to her face. "Who's the stiff, honey?"
"You don't understand!" Annie cried out desperately. She strained against his hold. "I was going for the police." She had to make him understand.
"Yeah right, and I'm Santa Clause. That's why you were running away..."
"You scared me! I thought you were the killer!" She arched her body in a pitiful attempt to push him off her. He grabbed her arms and pinned them to the wall above her head, his movements rough enough to reveal he was growing tired of her persistent struggles. She felt every sinew of his powerful body against her. He was built like a mountain, everything about him hard as granite."You're hurting me!" she gasped in outrage, raising her knee in an attempt to hurt him any way she could.
He transferred both her wrists to one hand and his other dropped down to her thigh to hold it in place. "I wouldn't advise it! That's twice you've aimed for that particular spot, and I'm getting damned tired of having to worry about it."
"Then I suggest you let me go!" Annie ignored the anger in his voice. If she was going to die it wouldn't be without a fight.
"Who the hell are you, lady?" He gave her a little shake. "That's a stiff over there and until I get to the bottom of this you aren't going anywhere."
Annie began to tremble violently as reaction to her predicament finally set in. Her weak struggles were useless. He didn't hesitate using his body and hands in whatever manner it took to subdue her. There was nothing sexual about anything he was doing to her though she couldn't help but be aware of the sculptured muscles crushing her breasts, and his masculine scent.
Something spicy yet mild, blending well with his body chemistry.
Stirring her senses.
She accepted the fact she couldn't win against him, but the awareness zinging through her was betrayal of the worst kind. "This is my office." The silence that followed was unnerving. Annie wondered if he believed her.
"And you are?" His hard voice was laced with mistrust.
"Doctor Annie McCall," she said quietly, relaxing against him. What else could she do?
The lights flickered on and for the first time their eyes met. She caught her breath, meeting the fierce glare in his dark, sensual eyes. He made her think of as wild animal, lying in wait for his prey. No, his mate. She felt her heart beat flutter wildly in her throat.
A strong premonition washed over Annie that her life was about to change.
Only a few shorts months left to be able to purchase this ebook through New Concepts Publishing.http://www.newconceptspublishing.com/dawallace.htm
Hi, I'm Ericka Scott and I write seductive suspense...I'm a brand new Tease author with a hot-off-the-presses release!
It's for the Temperance Card and is titled Twilight's Embrace (click title to buy at All Romance E-books!).
Maxine Twilight’s life didn't change significantly after her death. She manages Temperance, a historic Chicago tavern. She and her brother, Jimmy, have turned it into the hottest fetish club in the Midwest, a place where the rich and famous come to play with vampires. When her employees begin turning to ash, Maxine doesn't know where to turn. She can’t call the police, for they refuse to recognize the rights of the undead. She’s emotionally unprepared to deal with the disaster, especially when she suspects the target of the next wooden stake might just be her!
Zachary Fox is a slayer with scruples. He only kills rogue vampires. In his opinion, if a vampire has found a way to make an honest living and eat an honest meal, his motto is to live and let live. But not all slayers live by the same rules. When someone kills a few vampires at a midtown Chicago nightclub, he really want to be involved. But he owes his dead ex-wife, Tessa, a big favor—so he agrees to help stop the slayer. What he didn't count on was his attraction for the classy and curvaceous Maxine. When it looks like Maxine is the intended target of the next wooden stake, he's forced to put his life, and love, on the line.
“Welcome to Temperance.”
Victoria watched as Friday night regular, Mitchell Consuelo, guided his date into the brightly lit foyer of the club. For once, Mitch didn’t seem to be in a hurry to drag his date inside. Instead, he hovered at the woman’s elbow as they checked their coats and wandered around the reception area looking at the period artwork on the walls.
It had been a long time since Victoria had browsed through the lobby. She’d almost forgotten what a novelty the pictures were. Mixed in with the history of Temperance were historical pictures of the vampires who worked in the club. Hell, if anyone ever looked close enough at the picture of the grand opening in 1899, they’d recognize her standing right in front, her face shadowed by a huge calico bonnet.
Mitch’s appearance at the podium with his curvaceous date interrupted her reverie.
Victoria tipped her head so that her blond pageboy haircut swung forward. Then she smiled knowing her fangs sparkled in the light from the overhead chandelier. “Will you be dining with us this evening?” she asked.
The woman looked up at Mitch, her eyes wide, and then she giggled.
“Come on, it’ll be fun,” Mitch encouraged her. To Victoria’s knowledge, he’d only had one date flee before he’d gotten her inside. This luscious brunette looked too curious to flee.
Victoria dragged her eyes away from the man’s date; Mitch, however, was still ogling the woman’s breasts.
Okay, enough already. “Membership card please,” Victoria prompted.
Mitch jumped and fumbled in the pocket of his suit coat. He pulled out the stiff card and started to hand it to her.
“Oh, what’s that? It’s really pretty,” Mitch’s date asked.
“That’s our membership card,” Victoria informed her, handing her the card. “As you might know, Temperance was a Speakeasy during prohibition. The tradition of using the tarot card for admittance began, as the owner’s wife, Jezebel Twilight, was a well-known psychic. While she gave readings in the dining room, drinks and hors d’ouvres would be served in the private rooms away from prying eyes and the surveillance of the police.”
“How interesting.” The woman handed the card back over. “But I didn’t realize this was a membership club.” She turned to Mitch, and her voice held a suspicious edge to it. “You told me you hadn’t ever been here before.”
While Mitch reassured his date with some stammering excuse, Victoria resisted the urge to roll her eyes. The man was such a lying bastard. Hell, he was here every Friday night with a different woman. While the couple bickered, Victoria lounged against the podium. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a flash of movement. Odd.
Turning, she saw nothing suspicious and only heard a quiet murmur of voices coming from the bar. From where she was standing, she could see her business partner, Maxine Twilight, mingling with customers. The petite redhead was all curves and class, and Victoria had lusted after her for years. Unfortunately, Maxine was straight. What a waste.
Dragging her attention back to the clientele, she conjured up a sexy smile for Mitch and his date. Reaching under the podium, she handed a heavy leather folder across the podium to the woman. “Would you like to examine the menu?”
Still giggling, the woman took the proffered folder and opened it. The first picture she’d see was the ‘Boris Karloff’ head shot followed by a tasty array of half nude body shots.
“Oh.” The woman made an appreciative sound and her eyes widened. She flipped the page. The ‘Vincent Price’ page showed the headshot of an all-American blond-haired god. His body shots were good enough to eat right off the paper. The facing page was the Van Helsing page, six hunky men for when a ménage a trois just wasn’t tempting enough.
The woman looked up at Victoria. “Which would you recommend?”
Victoria opened her mouth to reply but instead heard a funny whistling sound. Just as the meaning of what she was hearing sunk in, she was struck in the back.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, Zachary Fox counted the cash in the envelope. A mere five thousand dollars. It didn’t come close to matching his usual price for a hit. However, it was clear there would be no more money forthcoming. This was all the cash the city of Poduncksville, Ohio, had in their pest control budget.
Pests? He shook his head. He’d had a bad feeling about taking this job, but had felt sorry for the town mayor who had been unable to find any other slayer willing to take on the job for that amount. The situation was dire. Rogue vampires had taken and turned two young girls. Then, the vampires had used the children to lure in family members for the vampires to feed upon.
After Zach performed his duty, disposing of all four vampires, he’d hoped they’d come up with a bit more cash, especially in light of the bruises, the black eye, and the cracked tailbone he’d suffered. However, this was it.
Damn, at this rate, he’d have to work three or four more jobs before he could retire. The colorful brochure propped open on top of his suitcase spelled it all out. Alaska, the land of the midnight sun. Even better, according to the advertisement, a land free of vampires. Zach wasn’t such a sucker that he believed everything he read. For in the winter, the darkness was unbroken for just as many hours. Darkness that would be a haven for the undead.
Hell, maybe he’d just go there anyway. Just for a change. He was tired. Real tired of nursing bruises and broken bones, late night trips to the hospital for stitches. Staying in cheap hotel rooms smelling of stale cigarette smoke and sex had become boring. He was especially tired of secretive meetings with petrified town council members and public citizens. Until society acknowledged vampires existence and held the undead accountable to the same laws as the living, nothing would change.
Along with the proliferation of the undead, there was now a whole new crop of slayers. Young, buff guys who healed faster. Zach grimaced. The scar on his arm, a parting gift from one of those young slayers turned vampire, ached. It was a ragged wound that had never healed properly, and he hoped it wasn’t infected. If it was, he had pain pills and antibiotics galore from his many trips to the emergency room. When he got home, he’d just pop a few milligrams of penicillin to be on the safe side.
With one last look around the gaudily decorated room, where even the large black rotary telephone was chained to the wall, he tucked the brochure in his back pocket, picked up his suitcase in one hand and his slayer equipment bag with the other. At that moment, he noticed a white envelope slid half under the door.
Well, this was the first time he’d ever stayed in a cheap hotel that provided a bill for checkout before he’d even notified management of his impending departure.
He put everything down and bent over to pick up the envelope. Then jumped when the phone on the wall rang. Should he answer it or not? No one knew he was here. Even the men who had hired him didn’t know where he was staying or even what his real name was. Hoping it was either the hotel management or a wrong number, Zach let the phone ring. When it finally fell silent, he looked down at the envelope in his hand.
What the hell? It was addressed to him. There was no return address, just a postmark from Chicago. There was only one person he’d known in Chicago, and she wasn’t in any position to be sending him anything anymore. That left the conclusion that this was about another job. He pulled his pocket knife out and slit the envelope open and pulled out a tarot card. Temperance. He flipped it over and back. It was pretty, but didn’t mean anything to him.
With a shrug, he tucked the envelope in his back pocket where it made intimate contact with the brochure from Alaska. Looked like he might just be heading for The Windy City.
He picked up his bags again. Then, as if to torment him, the phone rang again. Thinking it might have something to do with the tarot card; he put everything back down and picked up the receiver.
The voice that answered him was hollow and echoed eerily as if traveling from the other side of the grave. “Zach?”
Shit. He cloaked his travels in secrecy, used a fake name, and she still found him.
“Hello Tessa,” he grimaced, waiting for the tirade to start.
“How are you?”
“Cut the bullshit. What do you want?” Zach sighed and looked at his watch. He’d had high hopes that once Tessa was dead, he would no longer have to deal with her, especially as she was no longer eligible to collect alimony.
“I need a favor Zach.”
When Zach didn’t answer, there was an odd silence. He’d just begun to think they’d been disconnected, and he could escape this conversation. He’d just begun to think about hanging up when he heard an odd sound.
A sniff? Then, Tessa’s voice came back on the line. “You owe me this, Zach. I need you to come to Chicago.”
So, this was about the tarot card after all. Zach still hesitated. It was true he did owe Tessa. However, she’d always assured him it was a debt she’d never collect.
“I thought this was water under the bridge, and you were happy with the way it turned out. You said you’d forgiven me.”
“I did; I do. But I still need this favor. Please.” Tessa’s voice sounded odd. It almost sounded as if she was crying.
Did the undead cry?
* * * * *
Maxine heard a stifled scream and turned toward the sound. At the front desk, a couple stood staring at the spot where Victoria had been just moments ago. Then the man looked up, took a deep breath, and screamed like a girl.
What a nightmare.
In her mind, Maxine had prepared for this eventuality. She’d envisioned herself closing and locking the doors, calmly instructing the staff to conduct a swift and quiet search for the slayer, then she, personally, would dispose of the slayer, and the party would continue, so to speak.
Well, things didn’t exactly go as planned.
First off, Mitch’s caterwauling at the sight of the pile of ashes attracted everyone’s attention. Then, more people began screaming as they realized what had occurred. Vampires fled into the dark recesses of Temperance, and living patrons fled for the street. Thank the gods no one had been trampled in the pandemonium. Unfortunately, it looked like the slayer, whoever he or she was, had escaped.
Sorrow welled up inside her when she thought about Victoria, but she bit her bottom lip and carried on.
“I’ve called the police.” Jimmy, her brother, walked up behind her.
“And?” Maxine asked, although she knew full well what the answer would be.
“They pretty much said ‘good riddance’.” Jimmy replied.
“No, I guess not.” Jimmy shrugged and picked up a rag. “I had just hoped that since Temperance was a Chicago landmark that someone would be concerned.”
“The undead have no rights, Jimmy. But believe me, if one of the living patrons had been murdered here tonight, the place would be crawling with cops.”
“Maxine?” A tall, thin brunette woman interrupted.
Maxine looked up. It was Tessa, one of her newly hired employees. “Everything is under control Tessa. No need to be worried.”
Tessa shot her an impatient look.
“Could I speak to you…alone?”
“Sure,” Maxine gave her brother an apologetic look, but he just smiled and sauntered away in the direction of his apartment in the back. She turned her attention to Tessa and silently prayed the pretty vampire wasn’t going to turn in her resignation.
“I’m so sorry, we’ve never had a slayer invade Temperance, and I can assure you—”
Tessa held up a hand to interrupt her.
“I’m the one who needs to tell you I’m sorry. I made a call tonight after Vickie’s death.”
Maxine stayed silent, waiting for the other wooden stake to fall.
“I called my, well, ex-husband.”
Maxine was running out of patience while Tessa babbled on. Would the woman just come to the point?
“Zachary Fox. I phoned him this evening and called in a favor he owes me. He’ll be arriving sometime tomorrow.”
“Zachary Fox, the slayer?” Maxine shuddered. Was Tessa insane? Did she not think they had enough trouble with a rogue slayer in the club tonight? What was the woman thinking, inviting a professional killer into their midst? If the others found out, the club would be empty of vampires by nightfall, and Temperance would be closed for the first time in over 100 years.
“It’s not what you think. I know slayers, good ones and bad ones, hell, you probably didn’t know it, but I was one once. There was something off about the hit tonight. I have a really bad feeling. I think someone was sending you a message.”
“Tessa, I get hate mail and threats on a daily basis. If it isn’t the public shouting for me to close down, it’s the mob trying to hone in on the business. I don’t think Victoria’s destruction was anything more than a rogue slayer trying to make a name for himself.”
“Maybe,” Tessa said, but her voice sounded anything but convinced. “But I think we need a professional to investigate. Especially since the police have pretty much washed their hands of all of us. Damn them anyway.”
Maxine looked around her at the gleaming oak tables, colorful Tiffany lamps, and the huge bar her great-grandfather had carved by hand. Temperance was her life. Her mother had inherited it after her grandfather’s death ten years ago. It should have come to Maxine. However, she’d lost it all when she died. Thank goodness, Jimmy had no interest in running the bar. After a brief period of ‘remodeling’, she had reopened it as a fetish club and struck it rich. She couldn’t bear to lose it. If the living patrons didn’t come, the vampires would have no other way to support their blood habit but by…
No, she wasn’t going to let that happen.
“We’ll just have to be more careful tomorrow night when we reopen.”
“Careful? How? A metal detector isn’t going to do jack shit against a wooden stake.” Tessa argued. “Or are you going to have someone frisk everyone at the front door?” She looked around. “Whoever killed Vickie was no amateur slayer, and if we don’t’ stop them, he or she will kill again.”
“And a professional slayer will do what? Help him kill us all?” Maxine shook her head. “No, we’ll handle the situation ourselves.”
Before Tessa could argue further, Maxine strode off. Her heart was beating fast with a fear she hadn’t felt in years. Was Tessa right? Could someone be targeting her and her club?
It had to be the mob. When she’d first opened, they’d sent a few muscle-bound ‘gentlemen’ around to talk to her. Threatened her that if she didn’t pay protection money, that ‘bad’ things were bound to happen.
She had sent the goons back to their boss with a few broken bones for their trouble. The mob had left her alone to some extent. She still got the occasional visit and letter from Mr. Poulos himself. But nothing like this.
Making her last rounds, Maxine paused at the front door. For the first time in six years, she locked the doors to Temperance before dawn. The clatter of the deadbolt left her with the uneasy feeling that she would never open the doors again.
No, she’d been killed, had fought the city for a liquor license, and had been threatened by the toughest man in Chicago. One measly murder was not going to force her to turn tail and run.
Striding down the hall on her way to her office, she passed a small cluster of employees. They looked up at her, and she stopped to talk, hoping to allay their fears. Even as she reassured them, she could see their doubts clearly in their eyes and expressions. If she didn’t do something and do it fast, they would leave. When they did, they would be easy game for anyone with a wooden stake and a Buffy-the-vampire-slayer complex. Here at Temperance, they were safe, they could earn a living, and with luck and Congressional lobbying, perhaps they could finally earn status as citizens again.
“So, what are we going to do, Miss Maxine?” a petite blonde vampire asked, her lips trembling with fear.
“Did you call the police?” Vincent Price, their headliner who’s name really was Vincent, put his hand on her shoulder.
Maxine could almost smell his fear, and she hoped her outwardly calm demeanor would give him some comfort. It was hard enough to have died once and been forced to give up friends and family, many of whom recoiled from vampires in fear and loathing. To die again, soulless, was a terrifying possibility. One that she had every intention of preventing.
Maxine chewed on her lip. She could lie, but they deserved to know the truth. “Yes the police were called, but they refused to help us.”
“So what are we going to do? I don’t have anywhere else to go. Temperance is my home.” Vincent’s friend and sometime lover, Marcus, known to his fans as Van Helsing, had tears in his eyes.
“We’re not going to panic, for one. And I’m not going to close the club. But we are going to take some precautions.” Maxine looked around at their worried faces and grasped at the only straw she had. “I’ve called in an, um, consultant. He’ll be here tomorrow to investigate.”
The relief in her employees’ faces was clear. Marcus even smiled.
Damn it all, a consultant? The man was nothing but a cold-blooded killer, a slayer. Instead of relief, Maxine felt a surge of fear. Hopefully she hadn’t invited the wolf right into the fold.