Is it better to risk it all… or never know what could have been?
After surviving an abusive childhood, Vulcan remade himself upon arriving in Los Angeles, California. He became a blacksmith for the paranormal community and strives to earn the respect of the vampire covens and werewolf packs that call LA home. He also prevents the pain of loss by keeping everyone at arm’s length.
But he never planned on meeting a former Roman soldier by the name of Marcus Cassius Vespillo. Something sparks between them and turns into a friendship he never considered possible. He can’t deny his intense attraction to the intelligent, courteous, ancient vampire. And it scares him.
Though Vulcan is wary of seeking more with Cassius, an attack leaves him at death’s door and forces him to reexamine his priorities. But Cassius has his own secret, one that promises tragedy and loss. And if that wasn’t enough, a slayer arrives in the States, one with a bloody connection to Cassius... and Vulcan himself.
Second Edition with revised and expanded text.
- 3 To Be Read lists
Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: Ageless/Immortal
Tropes: Badass Hero, Forbidden Love, Friends to Lovers, Slow Burning Love
Word Count: 71951
Setting: Los Angeles, California
Languages Available: English
She sent me a smile as sharp as a blade before turning and leading me into the ballroom, where the most important vamps mingled. The ornate balcony doors stood wide open, letting in the night breeze. The moon rode high in the sky, and a few stars twinkled in the blackness. At home I could see all the stars, the lights from LA dim enough to allow such beauty to shine.
“Your favorite managed to join us,” Her Grace said as she handed me a flute of champagne. Vampires were on strict liquid diets, and while they needed blood to survive, they could also drink other things. A vamp could also get drunk even easier than a human could. Their internal systems were set up in such a way that whatever they consumed went right into their bloodstreams.
“Did he?” I said before taking a sip. She gestured, and I smiled.
“I will find you later,” she said, gently touching my arm. “I have some gems I would like you to forge into jewelry.”READ MORE
“My skills are always at your service,” I said, meaning it. I really liked her, and despite Dain’s warnings, I couldn’t be as detached as he’d apparently been. She’d earned more of my trust the night Dain died. But I never allowed myself to get any closer. We had to remain professional.
By God, I wanted revenge. For me, for Dain. The pain might not leave, but at least it would be fed if I had that bastard’s blood on my hands.
“Oh yes,” she said softly. “I have missed you dreadfully.” She kissed my cheeks, her soft lips cool and moist. Then she was gone, gliding over to a small group of other vampires.
I blew out a breath and took a larger sip of champagne. I was gay, and yet her allure was palpable. It was the best way for vamps to attract their prey—by being attractive, sensual, irresistible. She hadn’t even been using the whammy, as I called it.
Shaking myself, I walked over to General Cornelius Conrad, who once served during the Civil War. He smiled as I approached. He’d been a tough man in his late thirties when he was changed on the battlefield at Gettysburg. He hadn’t lost his ruggedness, and appeared more human, even with the alluring aura and extreme paleness, than most vamps.
“Well, there he is,” Corny said.
I grinned and shook his hand. “How are things, General?”
“World’s going to hell in a handbasket,” he said cheerfully. “And that’s saying something coming from the likes of me.”
“Will humans ever learn?”
“No evidence of it so far.”
I chuckled. “Maybe you vamps should put more effort into your manipulations of the government.”
He sniffed as if insulted, and his hazel eyes gleamed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, my good sir!”
I laughed outright at that. “Right, my mistake.”
The couple of vamps Corny had been conversing with moved off as he and I fell into comfortable conversation about the weapons and tactics of the Civil War. I was also fascinated by the culture of that time, the idiosyncrasies and customs. In the scheme of things, it wasn’t so far removed from our current time, and yet in other ways, they were like two different worlds.
Every now and then he’d glance away, keeping track of his mate. I couldn’t stop myself from following his gaze each time. His mate was a Voodoo priestess out of New Orleans, and I always found it amusing and rather sweet that Corny had fallen in love with a black woman. He’d fought on the side of the Confederacy and had admitted to me that he’d been a hardcore racist. Then Madame Marie Dupont had come into his life and the rest was history.
Whenever their eyes would meet, she’d raise a glass to him and he’d grin stupidly.
After about an hour, we lapsed into silence, and then amusement entered the general’s eyes.
“Well, Vulcan, since you enjoy antiques like myself and Her Grace, I wonder what you’ll make of our newest guest.”
“Who?” I immediately glanced around the ballroom.
Corny nodded toward the balcony doors farthest from us. “He’s right over there.”
I turned and looked. Froze. It was saying something that as I stood in a room full of dark, sensual predators with sex and danger oozing from their pores, this vampire made them all pale in comparison. He was taller than me, than Corny, his rangy body clothed all in black except for a buttoned shirt of navy blue. He stood straight and tall, reminding me of a soldier, like Corny. His hair was the color of honey, long enough to brush his shoulders. His pale face would have had perfect chiseled symmetry if not for the fact his nose had obviously been broken in the past. It added character to his expression. I knew the breaks had happened before his rebirth as a vampire since vamps healed perfectly without scars or anything to show they’d been injured in the first place.
As I continued to stare—and yeah, drool—it was apparent he was mentally somewhere else. His eyes were unfocused, and he didn’t appear to notice anyone. He held a glass of blood in his hand and didn’t seem interested by it.
I swallowed hard, my mouth suddenly dry. I almost took a sip from my empty glass. I knew Corny could probably smell my arousal, yet he was too much of a gentleman to say anything.
“Who is he?” I said, my tone reverent, my voice hushed as if I were in church.
“He has a lot of names. Can’t remember them all. I just call him Cassius. He was a Roman soldier, if I remember correctly.”
My jaw dropped, and I finally tore my gaze away to stare at Corny.
“Like the Rome? Ancient Rome?”
Corny smirked at me. “Yes, indeed. Why don’t I introduce you?”
Excitement bubbled in my gut as we walked toward the truly ancient vampire. I’d never met one so old. Come to think of it, I’d never even heard of one as old as him. Her Grace was the oldest I knew of, having been alive in the 1700s. Then there was Corny and Madame Marie. There were maybe one or two bopping around who’d been turned in the 1600s, but I couldn’t be sure. I never knew the exact reason for that, but Dain had once said something about how even vampires weren’t immune to the ravages of time. Nothing was truly immortal. While they couldn’t be easily killed, they seemed to suffer from the effects of old age.
As we came closer to Cassius, I hazarded a guess that he was around six feet tall. Wow. He must have been considered a giant by his people since humans were generally shorter in ancient times.
“Pardon me, Cassius, if you have a moment,” Corny said as we approached.
Cassius’s eyes snapped into focus, and he turned his head to regard us. His bright blue eyes were at once inquisitive and intelligent, and he quirked his mouth slightly in a hint of a smile at seeing Corny. Then his gaze landed on me. I didn’t meet his eyes for survival reasons—easier to put the whammy on a victim with eye contact—and instead focused on his nose. I couldn’t read his expression, though I suspected he was curious as to my presence.
“Cassius, this is Vulcan, our resident craftsman and blacksmith. Vulcan, Cassius.”
Cassius tilted his head slightly. “So this is who the duchess wanted me to meet.”
I raised an eyebrow at that and smiled. I detected a faint accent on a few words. “She wanted us to meet?”
“Apparently she thought we might find each other interesting.”
“Hmmm. As I’m sure you know, she’s never wrong about such things.”
He chuckled. It was a nice sound.
Since I didn’t believe in wasting time—nor could I stop myself—I said, “I have to ask: which Rome? Pagan or Christian?”
He took a sip of blood before answering, apparently unfazed by my question. “Pagan.”
“Before or after Caesar?”
“Funny. The first one.”
I crossed my arms over my chest and noticed Corny sidle off, leaving us together. I didn’t mind. I liked Cassius’s voice—it was deep and smooth—and I didn’t get “deranged bloodsucker” from the guy. I’d been around vamps long enough to sense such things. There were some in the coven I gave a wide berth, but his, well, aura, for a lack of a better word, was… steady and nonthreatening.
“What did you think of Christianity?”
He smirked. “Honestly? I thought it was a phase.”
I snorted a laugh. I couldn’t help it. “Must have been a rude wake-up call when Rome converted.”
“To say the least. Yet it was the politically sound thing to do.”
“I always thought that believing in one god always sounded boring.”
“My thoughts exactly.”
“You still pagan?”
“Aren’t you full of questions?”
“Dude, when is the next time I’m going to encounter someone who literally defines the word ancient? Can’t blame me for being fascinated.” Then I shrugged, struck with a sudden horrible sense of self-consciousness. I swallowed the rest of my ravenous curiosity, my face heating. “But I don’t want to be rude and monopolize your time, so….”
I nearly ducked my head and took a step as if to move away, but he subtly shifted his body, keeping me in place. What?
“I don’t mind,” he said casually. “I’ve been in Italy for the past fifty years, mostly alone. My only conversations have been with my own kind. They can be rather self-absorbed, as I’m sure you know. It is nice to meet someone interested in the past.”
I suspected he was flattered by my attention. Whatever worked.
“I’d say fascinated would be more accurate,” I said. “Especially when it comes to weapons and architecture, and the Romans excelled in both.”
He smiled fully at that. It was a good smile and softened his face. I strenuously tried to keep my arousal hidden and ignored, yet the longer I was with him, the harder it became. But I couldn’t make myself leave. I had a freaking ancient vampire standing in front of me, and I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity.
“Rome never had an original idea in her head,” he said. “But she perfected what she stole.”
I snorted a laugh. “Is that right?”
“Mm-hm. She was a genius at persuading people that being Roman was the best thing ever. The propaganda was well done.”
“So being Roman wasn’t what it was cracked up to be?”
He tilted his head from side to side. “It was and it wasn’t.” He sipped from his glass.
After a short pause, I asked, “What brought you to the States?”
“The duchess. She decided to drag me along, claiming I needed a change in scenery.”
“Well, the US offers that much, I can promise. Whether the scenery is worth viewing is left to the individual.”
He chuckled softly. “I’d say that so far I like what I see.”
He stared directly at me when he said it. My heart jumped even as I called myself an idiot. I wasn’t even close to attractive. I didn’t consider myself ugly but certainly not up to his standards. Of course, he could just be craving my blood, and that had nothing to do with sexual needs. Well, he wasn’t getting that. No vamp was. Ever.COLLAPSE
Vulcan is a man who’s made a good life for himself after being raised in the worst of circumstances. The last thing he needs is to get caught up with a vampire. Or maybe it’s exactly what he needs. He tries to fight his growing attraction the Cassius, but something about the man won’t let him go.
Cassius might be looking for something too. He’s lived a long time and life doesn’t interest him as much as it used to, but being with Vulcan let’s him see it through fresh eyes. He’s never been one for letting something he wants slip away and Vulcan won’t be the exception if he can help it.
This is an excellent story that takes place in a richly crafted world. From the elite circles that the vampires and werewolves run in to the cold city streets that Vulcan grew up in, the author paints a picture with their words that lets the reader’s imagination take flight.
Watching Cassius woo Vulcan is as heart wrenching as it is heartwarming. Vulcan is so tired of getting hurt that protecting his heart is his priority but in doing so, he’s hurting both Cassius and himself.
I enjoyed the turns and twists the story took. I loved how the characters circled each other, both of them so determined that the other see things from their points of view. Both men have faced a lot of adversity in different ways and have fought to make good lives for themselves, and they are mostly successful…until they are not.
This is not my first go around with this author and they have a particular gift with the supernatural stories they write. I always find their tales compelling, commanding me to read them at one go, and this one is no different. I couldn’t put it down, as I was so wrapped up in what was happening that I couldn’t stand to wait a moment longer than I had to find out how they were gonna work things out.
If you’re looking for a paranormal story with well-rounded characters and above average plot lines then I highly recommend this book to you.
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