Size: 5.00 x 8.00 in
Sam is used to being the bad guy. So when he becomes the undead, he doesn’t understand why it pisses him off. Sure guys throw themselves at him, and he’s strong enough to toss a car across a room, but he’s friends with two of the four pillars of Dominion power and mentored by one of the most powerful vampires in the world. Things that put a damper on his whole ‘scourge of darkness’ vibe.
For months he’s been letting a little red-eyed monster out to play and feeding on the dangerous instead of on the willing. If it weren’t for his endless desire to take a nibble from his sexy and tattooed roommate, Constantine, he’d still be stalking the night looking for human monsters to devour. Instead he’s taking on a cibo, a regular blood donor, in the form of Luca, a dhampir.
With Luca and his profound knowledge of undead politics in his life, Sam begins to realize he doesn’t know as much as he thought, and maybe that’s not his fault. His mentor’s sanity is slipping, the world is changing, and vampires are beginning to lose control. Will Sam fall into the darkness too, or can Luca and Con drag him back from the abyss?
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- 2 To Be Read lists
Publisher: Independently Published
Pairings: MM, MMM
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 3 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Badass Hero, Menage
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
The cold night brushed against my skin with the sharp clarity of fresh needles as I walked through the bowels of downtown. It was the coldest winter in thirty years. I should have worn a heavier jacket, but it wasn’t like I could freeze to death. One of the few benefits of being already dead.
I flagged down a cab and had it take me to the edge of downtown St. Paul. My brain running on high gear—a million things flying through my head—just needed some time away from people. The shit in my head wouldn’t bother most people, but I had to meet Gabe, my mentor, at a club later and make nice with someone I had yet to meet in person. Should probably show up for work for a few hours too. Though since Gabe was my boss he wasn’t likely to fire me if I didn’t.READ MORE
I would rather have been out stalking the night. What was the point of being a vampire if I couldn’t be all dark and brooding when I wanted to anyway? That should be number one in the vampire rule book. If there was a rule book, which there wasn’t.
I’d break all the rules anyway. It was one of the things I did best.
Not many wandered around downtown St. Paul at night, especially not in late February. There were drunks who shouted things that made no sense while they stumbled out of the bars. Homeless who hid in corners, buried in heaps of dirty clothes and praying they’d live through the frigid night air one more time. Prostitutes smiled, flirted then cursed when I ignored them. I’d grown up here. Riverside to be exact.
The multicolored high-rise towered over the Mississippi only a few miles from Gabe’s fancy condo, but a millennia away in class. Living with eight brothers and sisters and my parents in a small two bedroom apartment had been a nightmare. Then I’d met Matthew, my first boyfriend and the first extreme fuckup of my life. I thought I’d found a way out. But false promises, abuse and heartbreak killed those dreams. The stain of what he’d done to me—made me do—covered me with a film that never washed away. It was worse than remembering the way Andrew Roman had fed on me over and over again like I was some auto refilling soda pop machine. I was something to kick and beat or feed on. Not a person.
Then there had been Caleb who had used me to get to Seiran. Because of course everyone wanted Seiran. He was beautiful, powerful, and perfect. I sighed.
My track record was for shit. There had to be some giant bull’s-eye on my back that pulsed in neon red for only creeps to see. I was done with all of that. Relationships, men, sex, the whole deal. I was dead now and no matter what the world at large thought, that just wasn’t sexy. Just because I could still get off didn’t mean I needed too. What appealed to me was something much darker. And I was smart enough not to voice my desire to anyone in my life. They were all too many goody-two shoes to let me have any fun. Instead I’d taken to stalking the recesses of my old stomping grounds. Hiding my bit of play. No one got hurt. Not really.
The streets hadn’t changed much in the years that had passed since my hopeful escape. I wondered if my folks still lived in the same cramped apartment. Would they look at me and scream monster? Run away in terror? How had they ever survived in neighborhoods that ate at the weak like maggots on roadkill?
Footsteps echoed mine. I couldn’t help but smile as I fed my depression into the blood lust that plagued me from the moment I’d been reborn. They didn’t know the freak they were stalking could and would eat them for breakfast.
Literally. I hadn’t eaten yet today.
I turned down an alley I knew had no outlet and slowed my pace, letting them follow like I was unwary prey. They would think they had me cornered, and an easy target. Two, maybe three—all bigger than me by the sound of their feet crunching the icy pavement—followed me. The crunching of snow echoed in the dark cold as I closed my eyes and leaned against the building, letting them come to me.
“Hey, Chink! You’re in the wrong neighborhood.”
At least they’d gotten my heritage right. Maybe it was because they were Vietnamese themselves that they could tell. Not that it mattered. I’d eat them anyway, white, black, yellow, hell even purple. Everyone was on the menu.
“You hear me, punk?” The leader demanded. The other two shouted and joked in a language I didn’t understand, but didn’t need to since I was sure it was taunts and insults.
I heard him all right. More than he could imagine. The pulsing of the first attacker’s blood ran excitedly through his veins, quickening his heart and making me lick my lips. He was aroused by the idea of beating the shit out of me, which would make my taking of him so much sweeter. He’d be first because the gush that always came from a surprise attack was the best. The other two might run, but this one would be mine.
Gabe hunted using sex appeal. He’d taught me how to seduce others, draw them close, feed and then fill them with memories of pleasure. I preferred something a little darker. Fear tasted better than pleasure because it was real. No false hopes or dreams were smashed to put it there, even if it soured the blood sometimes.
One of them slammed a bat against the wall near my head hard enough to shake ice from the side of the building. It shuffled around us in the eerie silence of the night, sliding to the ground and crackling like shattered glass. I waited. Letting the hunger grow as they surrounded me, hearts racing, words an angry mash of sound. I didn’t need to see them to know how they moved or where they were. My own fears seeped away as I let the monster out. He was hungry and I was willing to let him go even if it were only for a few minutes. No death, I reminded my other self firmly before letting the red haze settle over my brain.
When I opened my eyes they gasped. I knew what they saw. The glowing red gaze of a true predator. Gabe had never shown me this side of himself—though I was sure he had it. All vampires did. Matthew lived in this state, which had probably driven him mad. Roman had only let the beast out in the end when rage tore away his control. I’d spent months perfecting the slip of self in secret—afraid my mentor wouldn’t approve and would cast me out. Only when I let go could I truly feel free.
I grabbed the first by the jacket, twisted the arm with the bat until a satisfying pop told me I’d broken his bone, and set my fangs to his neck all in one smooth move. With my arms wrapped around him, he didn’t even struggle against me. He just let me suck mouthful after mouthful of his hot blood. It stayed sweet a little longer, maybe because he was slow to realize his mistake or even too stupid to get that he’d just become the prey.
One of the others came at me, like he could help his friend. I kicked him away, landing a solid hit to his ribs that had him sliding back several feet then tumbling feet over head several times. Too much strength. I hope I hadn’t broken him by accident, but he shouldn’t have tried to interrupt a feeding. That was vampire intel 101. He struggled to his feet then turned to run for the entrance of the alley clutching his ribs like it hurt. Maybe I’d broken a few though I hadn’t heard the crack.
I licked the wound closed on the first and reached for the third who had yet to run. He stumbled backward, falling on his ass as he realized he should have run the second I took his friend. He reeked of fear.
Bloodlust was strong in the young. I could gorge myself on all of them and still not be satisfied. Their fear poured like honey, strong onto my tongue, a slightly bitter aftertaste telling me that I should move on to the next. But they had a lesson to learn and I was nowhere near full. I gave them memories of glowing eyes—the monster I was sure I was. This is what a vampire was meant to be. Not sex and beauty, but ugly and terrifying. Death wasn’t meant to be pretty.
The second disappeared around the corner as I let the third go and silently instructed them to head to a clinic nearby to tend any wounds. The first would need his arm set, but he wouldn’t start feeling that for a while yet. Not that it mattered to me. These three had been out looking for someone to harass. They’d made the mistake of choosing me. The third had pissed himself. At least I’d already let him go so he didn’t splash me. I hoped it froze to his dick and gave him frostbite. Maybe this little scare would make them think twice about harming someone else in the future.
I headed to the end of the alley determined to clean myself up and calm my heart before reaching the club where I was supposed to meet Gabe. He’d know I already fed. But I had to take the edge off. With my belly full I could think again. The rush of breath from my lungs formed a white mist that made me smile. For a few minutes I could almost feel normal. Perhaps that was the answer—gorge myself on blood until I felt human again. Only the lingering copper bite of pennies on my tongue reminded me that I’d just fed on the blood of a couple of thugs who six months ago would have beaten me to a pulp.
A shadow stepped into my path. Had the second come back? I almost ran into him when he didn’t move, but he was larger than any of the thugs had been. For a minute I thought he was Gabe who has somehow found me lurking in the nastiest areas of downtown. I’d never hear the end of it if he caught me roughing up ‘civilians.’
“You could use some polish, but not bad for an amateur.”
He was dark, not blond like Gabe. I looked him over, taking in the designer pants—pressed just perfectly—Burberry coat, navy in color, and chiseled face, strong chin with dark stubble. His eyes, a warm brown, were lined with thick black lashes. Dark hair, curled just slightly, fell around his ears and across his forehead. Damn but I was a sucker for tall, dark, and handsome. It was what drew me to Matthew. This guy had trouble stamped all over him.
The stranger reached out to slowly drag his thumb over the edge of my lips. In the pale light of the street lamps I saw he drew away a bit of blood. I was usually neater than that. He didn’t seem bothered, and in fact, licked his thumb then sucked on it briefly. “Thugs do have a certain vintage.”
My cock hardened making my pants too tight. It’d been a long time since that happened. Shit, who was this guy? Couldn’t be human. No human would willingly lick the blood of some random person off a stranger’s face. “Who the fuck are you?” I demanded. Gabe had introduced me to every vampire in the cities. He informed me it was so no random vampire would kill me for being rogue because they didn’t recognize me. I figured it was more so I knew who was a potential enemy. Not everyone liked the fact that Gabe was setting up a nest and calling all his old buddies home.
“You may have heard of me, Sam. I’m Maxwell Hart. Call me Max please. We never got to formally meet while you were visiting Los Angeles. Though I know you were there with your master. I would have loved to spend some time with you. See how your transition to our world is coming along.”
Right before Christmas Seiran had gone to California to learn more about his dad. Maxwell Hart had been there, introduced himself to Seiran before Gabe and I arrived. In fact, Sei said Max had been a part of the Ascendence—the ruling body of male witches—killing other witches to steal power and make more powerful male witches. Only when it came down to it, Max had handed his power over the institution to Sei asking that the earth Pillar fix the corruption of the organization. Sei still didn’t know why. He said many times that Max was scary powerful. Maybe even stronger than Gabe. I didn’t have Sei’s witch powers. I was just an amplifier. Plug me into a witch and we could make crazy trouble. But on my own I didn’t know Houdini from Cris Angel. Hell, I couldn’t recognize another vampire when I met one unless he bit into someone in front of me. Or apparently licked the blood off of me.
“Does Gabe know you’re in town?” The words sounded a bit more clipped and angry than I thought they should have since I was facing a crazy powerful vampire alone. But my survival instinct had always been for shit.
He shook his head slightly. “I have not presented myself to him formally. However,” he gestured to the darkened street around us. “Walk with me?” I nodded, whatever, and fell instep beside him. “I’ve not breached any protocols yet. I’m on the west side. He’s claimed the east. The west is yet unclaimed. Odd since it’s such a big city.”
I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting the west side as it was mostly abandoned warehouses and homeless. Gabe didn’t have enough vampires to claim the east side, but the Tri-Mega demanded he begin building a nest since he had a focus now. “So you’re planning on claiming the west side? Not much here, you know. Maybe Minneapolis would be a better option for you.”
He shrugged. “You probably know the area better than I. Though I think Gabe and I do not much run in the same circles. We are both business men, but my businesses aren’t as niceas his.”
“Bars really aren’t that nice. Lots of drunk assholes.” I followed along with him wondering if he’d sought me out to try to get something out of Gabe. Sure hurting me would piss off my mentor, but Max would be better off fearing the witch than the vampire. Sei was sort of possessive and convinced he had to be my friend no matter how many times I’d beaten the shit out of him or tried to kill him. Some people are just gluttons for punishment. “Gabe won’t let you break the law here. The Tri-Mega has sort of put him as defacto leader around here. They hold him responsible for everything.” Which was stupid and unfair, but he didn’t really have a choice. One man couldn’t control one city by himself and technically Gabe had two since Minneapolis was just as empty of vampires as the west side of St. Paul. Maybe vampires didn’t like the cold. It was a lot of layers to peel off of prey, but I didn’t mind.
“What makes you think what I’m doing is illegal?”
“The whole Ascendance killing witches thing.”
Max nodded and sighed. “I suppose that makes sense.” He checked his watch. “I’m actually headed over to look at a new business adventure. Since no humans are allowed there are a different set of rules and legalities don’t much apply to the otheramong us with the norms. Would you like to come?”
I’d been to my share of nonhuman clubs. They were a lot like watching snow—fascinating for the first few minutes—and then just more of the same. A lot went on in those places: drugs, sex and blood for sale. None of which I needed, but I was curious. I did like watching other monsters if just to prove that I wasn’t all alone. “Just for a few minutes.”
“Understood. Feel free to leave whenever you’d like. I would hope we can become friends. Maybe I can become a backup if you need help or advice of the vampire kind. Should your mentor be unavailable of course.” He pulled a card out of his pocket and handed it to me. “Call any time.”
I took it and stuffed it into my coat, wondering if he really meant it. “If you’re looking for someone to help you get at Sei or Gabe, I’m not your guy.” I told him honestly. “They’ve been good to me. Even when I’m a total shit. I won’t invite you into their house, or try to get them to meet with you, and if you don’t want the witch to turn you inside out and feed your innards to the nearest tree you’re better off leaving me in one piece.”
Max laughed, strong and hearty, throwing back his head. He stopped a moment later and shook his head at me. “No mincing words, eh? I have no use for those sorts of games, Gabe, or his focus. My plans are larger and involve only vampires.” He shrugged, “And for the moment—shifters.” He led me down an alley where a brawny man stood at a non-descript door. He nodded to Max, barely spared me a glance, and opened the door for us. “I assure you, my interest in you is purely curiosity.”
“Your power and how it’s slipped through the cracks.”
I shrugged. “Not Dominion born. So I couldn’t tell you where it comes from. No one in my family has anything like it.”
Max nodded. I followed him down a long hallway and to another door. He opened it and the noise hit me first. Cheering, shouting, and the smack of flesh hitting flesh. Not the soft slap like porn. No this was bone hitting muscle wrapped bone. The door closed behind us, blocking me in with the echoing thud of a body hitting the ground in the distance. What the fuck?
Max proceeded forward through a far doorway. As I moved closer the smell of sweat and drying blood wafted toward me strong enough to almost be visible. If there was one thing I hated about being a vampire, it was that everything smelled so awful. And this place stank.
The room was cavernous. A warehouse converted into a fighting room. Cages spread out across the open space with wire bolted to the ground and looping all the way to the ceiling over a concrete slab. Everyone moved to cluster around a new fight that seemed to just be starting in the back corner.
“Just in time for the final fight of the night,” Max said. He smiled at me. “If you ever feel the blood lust getting to you, come here and the smell with kill it fast enough. Shifters stink, though their blood tastes all right. Not as good as witch blood, but better than those punks in the alley.”
The stench made me a little queasy. I hadn’t blown blood chunks since the first night of my change and wasn’t going to do it now.
“It’s really awful,” I agreed. I didn’t think I could get past the stink to try tasting a shifter. Did they all smell that bad? Like wet, sweaty, dog piss?
No one noticed us as we stepped in close to the last cage. I moved around to the edge, away from the others in case I needed to bolt. Had to breathe slowly to filter out the smell. Not like I had to breathe, it was just habit. But, God, the smell. Gross.
Inside the wire ring something that looked like a muscled up version of a horror movie wolfman stood flexing his semi-furry arms and throwing spittle from his elongated snout. He wore nothing. His oddly bald sex hanging large and heavy between his legs, showing arousal. Maybe the fight got him off like that guy in the alley? His hands curled in a mix of human and wolf with long sharp talons and his legs hunched, bent wrong like a dog. Nothing about him was appealing. I wondered where all the romanticism with shifters came from. In comparison a witch who changed flawlessly like Seiran, Jamie, or Kelly was so much more beautiful. Perhaps it was magic that made the difference. Science could only make humanity uglier, but magic—that was a dark beauty that created some of the most heavenly and devilish things in the universe.
A man moved across the ring, yanking off his shirt and pulling on a pair of boxing gloves. I couldn’t imagine how they’d help him against the shifter. He looked scrawny compared the hulking, fur-covered monster across from him. He couldn’t be human though, since Max said this was a non-human event. Fight clubs for supes. The gambling portion of it probably made it as illegal as hell. The man in the corner with fists full of money probably worked for Max. But local law enforcement wouldn’t care. So long as none of the norms were hurt, they’d turn a blind eye.
“Who’s the human looking guy in the ring?” I asked Max. “He’s not really human, right?”
“Not hardly,” Max replied. “Almost vampire, but not quite.”
Was that even possible? The man was handsome enough, broad in the shoulders, medium brown hair, and just the slightest of red haze to his eyes. A vampire then, even if Max said no. Did any other creature have that red haze when they let the monster out? I couldn’t recall anything from all of Seiran’s lessons.
The bell ran and the fight began. I didn’t watch. The beautiful man would fight the beast. Would he live or die? Did it matter? We were all monsters here. I turned away overwhelmed by my depression again. I was just like them, wasn’t I? I may not look so scary on the outside, but the monster inside had claws just as sharp and bigger fangs.
I made my way out, sucking in the deep cold air.
“No one dies,” Max told me, having followed me out. “At least not often. Accidents do happen.”
“I don’t want to be just another monster,” I told him.
His smile was sad and somewhat self-mocking. “But we are. Aren’t we? I do a lot just to feel. You’re young. You still pulse with emotion. What you saw inside scared you, depressed you, and yet excited you. I long for all of that.”
Was that all I had to look forward to? An eternity searching for emotion? “I don’t want to be like that.” It was probably rude to say so, but the truth. “Empty.”
“Happens to all of us in time. We live so long the world kills us from the inside out.”
“Are you looking for a way to die, Max?” I had to ask. Gabe mentioned before he’d been nothing but a walking corpse before he’d met Seiran. Max probably wasn’t any younger.
“Looking for a way to live, my young friend. Call if you need me. I can show you things that Gabe would not dare.”
Because Gabe was one of the good guys and Max was just fire I’d already burnt myself with twice. “Thanks,” was all I offered as I headed back out into the night. It was getting late, and I had to get to the club before midnight. Gabe expected me to meet with the ciboI’d approved before the night was over.
I stopped at a gas station to clean up. The attendant didn’t say anything about the bottle of water and chewing gum I bought. Though he did give me the stink eye when I asked for the bathroom key. Did he think I was gonna camp out in the crapper for the night? I would rather have found a dumpster to sleep behind.
When I stepped inside the stink nearly had me hurling again. Did they ever clean this place? I went to the sink and washed my face, taking time to scrub away small bits of blood spatter. The hunger must have been bad to make me so messy. At least my shirt and jacket were still clean. I could only imagine what it would be like to go meet the cibowith some other guy’s blood on me. Sort of like paying for a second whore when the come of the first still stained the skin.
The mirror made me look so ordinary. And I’d fed so the my eyes wouldn’t turn red even if I willed them too for at least a few more hours. Though I did try. Sometimes I let the monster out and just stared at him for hours. It still shocked me when I’d fall out of a weird trance and find only myself in the mirror.
I popped a half dozen pieces of gum. The strong cinnamon of it would kill any lingering blood, it burned my tongue. The stuff was nasty, but it was the one thing that Gabe swore by that I always used.
I made my way to the club hoping that the guy I’d spoken to online a couple dozen times wasn’t some clingy jerk who wanted to be my vampire groupie. Gabe wanted me to have a regular blood source. Someone to feed on that would help me build a bond with humanity. I didn’t care either way. Humans weren’t all that great. I’d spent most of my life being one. Vampire wasn’t much of an upgrade.
The last thing I needed was someone fragile that wanted me to be his savior. I was no one’s hero dammit. No matter what Gabe and Sei tried to convince me of most days. I was okay being the bad guy. At least the role fit.COLLAPSE