Jeff Holloway is a twenty-five-year-old skater with a killer smile and lots of free time on his hands. He’s also a vampire who prowls the dark corners of San Francisco looking for entertainment and his next meal. Lately, he’s been spending lots of time watching a tattoo parlor in the Mission District, where someone tall, artistic, and handsome has caught his eye.
Santiago Alvarez, the forty-three-year-old owner of Iron & Ink has a huge secret. He lives a quiet life, finding joy in his career and his friends, but it’s caused him to shut himself off from dating and getting close to anyone romantically. When he bumps into Jeff on the sidewalk near his shop, he’s intrigued but hesitant to let anyone get close.
An unexpected event one night will change everything for both men, and neither of their futures will ever be the same.
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Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: Ageless/Immortal
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Tropes: Hurt / Comfort, Interracial Relationship, Second Chances
Word Count: 15000
Setting: United States, California, San Francisco
Languages Available: English
Despite his earlier thoughts about exploring other parts of the city, midnight once again found Jeff in the Mission, moving among the crowds toward a block on Valencia Street. There, a tattoo shop called Iron & Ink sat between a Pilates studio and a hair salon. The shop’s decor was streamlined and elegant, all white walls and black leather furniture, with oddities of every sort hung on its walls alongside hundreds of framed sketches of artists’ designs.
Not that Jeff had ever been inside the shop. Everything he knew about Iron & Ink he’d learned by watching while nestled high on the roof of an ugly three-story apartment building on the other side of the street. Jeff climbed the building’s fire escapes so he could watch the shop, just as he did now, paying particular attention to the tattoo artists who put needle to skin from noon ’til two a.m. six nights a week. He watched Santiago Alvarez closest of all.
Santiago owned Iron & Ink and worked most nights from ten until close. He was highly skilled and in great demand, and he was exceptionally good with the customers. Jeff suspected his handsome face had a great deal to do with that, even half-hidden behind a well-groomed beard. Santiago towered over most of his clients too, but his tall, angular frame moved with grace under the long black apron he and the other artists wore over their clothes.
Jeff loved watching Santiago work. The bright lights of the studio gleamed against his black-framed glasses and his intent gaze behind them, and he pursed his lips softly as he moved the tattoo machine, inscribing designs into skin. Santiago smiled often and appeared well loved by both clients and employees. He didn’t always look happy, though, and from what Jeff could see, that was the case tonight. Santiago’s forehead creased in a frown when he took a break and walked down the street to The Grindhouse, a 24/7 café, to buy coffee and tea for his staff.
“Obsessed much?” Jeff muttered to himself. He rolled onto his back with a grunt and studied the starry sky overhead.
He was obsessed. Jeff came here every night the shop was open, and if Santiago had the night off, his interest in staying tapered off. When Santiago worked, Jeff waited while he closed up shop and locked the steel gates and kept watch until he was safely in his black Audi and pulling out of the parking lot beside the shop. Only after the car had driven out of sight would Jeff give up his spot on the roof and head home, too.
So, go talk to him.
Jeff blinked. Why not? He’d watched Santiago for weeks—what harm could come from actually having a conversation?
Quickly, Jeff got himself back down to street level and jogged across the street just in time to catch Santiago exiting the café. Santiago’s focus was on the tray of cups in his hands, and he turned left toward Iron & Ink, narrowly missing Jeff.
“Oh, shit, I am so sorry,” he said. The surprise that blazed in his slate blue eyes made Jeff grin.
“What for?” Jeff asked. He glanced from the tray of cups in Santiago’s hand back to himself and shrugged. “No harm, no foul. And I was in your way, so it’s my bad.”
Santiago uttered a raspy chuckle that curled around Jeff like a living thing.
“Nonsense,” Santiago said. “I should have been paying attention to where I was walking. It could have ended badly for both of us.” An accent Jeff suspected was Hispanic sharpened Santiago’s consonants beautifully. He smiled at Jeff. “Of course, I am wearing an apron, so by both of us, I really mean you.”
“Crisis averted,” Jeff replied. “Can I help you with this?” he asked and waved at the tray of cups.
“Oh, no, I can manage.”
Santiago’s cheeks flushed a gorgeous shade of pink, and Jeff bit his lip against a groan. This beautiful man was actually blushing.
“I am not going far, you see, only going to the end of the block,” Santiago said. His eyes went wide at Jeff’s big grin.
“Then allow me to be your escort.”COLLAPSE
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