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Blood Sealed Book 1

by Jet Lupin

Go to work. Come home. Repeat. Phil’s life is boring and he loves every second of it. No excitement, no boyfriends breaking up with him over cereal in his underwear. When everything’s predictable, nothing bad happens. But nothing good does, either.

One night, when his best friend forces him to step outside of his comfort zone, he meets Shige who’s too enigmatic to really be interested in him. He’s trouble, but Phil can’t help ignoring his own advice.

Decades have gone by while Shige’s kept himself locked away. He’s tired of the world, of humans and vampires. He was happy collecting dust until one day he wasn’t. On a whim, he ventures out and meets Phil, setting them on a path that’ll change them both.

Whatever this is between them, it won’t come easy. Plagued by distrust and danger from within and without, but if they survive, it just might be worth it.

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Chapter 1

Phil Torres sat in Mercer General’s basement level breakroom for the first time that shift. With a sports drink in one hand and a protein bar in the other, he worked to cram both things into his mouth. He couldn’t remember what he’d eaten last or when. Even so, he had no appetite. Other nurses came and went through the breakroom offering looks of sympathy and pity. He was on the ass end of a 16-hour shift no sane person would envy.


It had been a trial of will. He’d seen some terrible things in the three years he’d been a fully licensed nurse but during this one shift, he’d beheld some of the worst things he’d ever seen, things that would haunt his dreams and hang on during his waking hours. A savage gunshot wound, a leg so badly broken the bone slashed through the skin, a pair of asthma attacks that left the patients blue in the face, gasping. And a stomach bug so virulent, puke covered the floors of two of their closet sized exam rooms. The cleaning staff was going to love this evening’s cleaning detail, but it was just another night at Mercer General.

“What’re you still doing here?” Yolanda came into the breakroom, looking every bit as tired as Phil felt. Her sneakers, damp from the storm she’d weathered out on the floor squelched with every step as she made her way to the lockers. “Didn’t your vacation start an hour ago?”

Phil took a swallow of sports drink to help keep his meager meal down. “Jackie was running late, so I filled in for her, then Shelly needed help tapping a vein… I got trapped.”

Yolanda rolled her eyes as she shut the door to her locker. “More like you let yourself get­ trapped.”

She was right, of course.

During his time here, the older nurse had taken him under her wing, brought him into the fold. They’d become as close as cousins. It helped Phil feel at home out here on the West Coast where he had no family and few friends, but as a side effect, lying to her was now next to impossible.

Yolanda perched on the plastic chair next him. She bumped him with her shoulder. “I’ll never understand why you always drag your feet when it comes time to get out of here. You’ve got an OK place—by yourself—in a decent neighborhood. You know how many people would kill for that set up­? What’s the issue?”

Yolanda couldn’t understand it. She had a home waiting for her. A husband and kids who kept her busy. She might not admit it but they filled her life with joy. All Phil had waiting in at home was a dog bent on systematically destroying anything he could get his mouth on.

“I like keeping busy,” he said. “It’s not a crime.”

“Neither is taking time off once in a while.” Yolanda quickly wiped her sneakers down with a paper towel and threw it into the trash. “Since you got here, you’ve never taken more than three days off at a time. You need this break. You’re gonna burn out if you don’t take it easy.”

There was truth to Yolanda’s words, but to hear her tell it, Phil was a workaholic, little more than a care dispensing robot. He knew how to relax. He just didn’t enjoy it.

Work kept him too busy to worry about the areas of his life that were lacking. He liked helping people and Mercer’s shortage of staff guaranteed any offers to come in on his days off were never turned down. Without work, as rough as it could be on a good day, he’d be left alone. He didn’t know what to do with alone.

“Why can’t it be a week? Or two! I’d gladly do that much!”

Yolanda clucked her tongue in disgust. “I wish they’d let your ungrateful ass give me the two months since you so obviously don’t want it. I don’t see how you let it rack up.”

“Same,” Phil said. “Same.”

Yolanda stood, ready to go back out onto the floor, but she stopped in the doorway. She rested a small hand on Phil’s shoulder. “Your body remembers how to relax, even if you don’t. But you’ve got to get out of here first.”

Phil walked with her as far as the door to throw his trash away. Yolanda was right. If he didn’t leave now, he’d get caught again and with his lack of sleep, he was more likely to do more harm than good.

Habit won out over fear and urged him toward the clock to punch out. Yolanda stood by, an enforcer making sure he followed through.

The clock beeped. His shift had officially ended. Phil was on his own now.

Yolanda sighed. “By the end of this, you’ll be begging for more time.

“Somehow, I doubt that.”

Already nine months on this shift and Phil had never gotten used to being on a different schedule from the rest of the city. What he ate for dinner was what they had for breakfast. His day ended as theirs began.

He stopped at the coffee shop downstairs from his apartment to pick up his dinner: sausage, egg and cheese on a biscuit and a large decaf, light and sweet. Reducing the caffeine in coffee seemed pointless. Without it, you were just drinking weird smelling brown water, but he wouldn’t complain. He wasn’t the one drinking it.

As Phil mounted the stairs to the third floor, he heard a door open and the hurried breathing of an excited dog.

Right on time.

Miss Juliet stood outside her door, a thick sweater wrapped about her against the late March morning. She looked tired, but it had nothing to do with the hour. She always seemed put out and exhausted. Phil thought it might be a carefully crafted front.

Her legs were bound together by the thick rope of Hugo’s leash. The dog himself leaned his side up against her, tongue lolling out.

They exchanged coffee for leash. Hugo, in his excitement, threaded the leash through Phil’s legs. “Thanks a lot, Miss Juliet. You don’t know how much this helps. I hope he behaved for a change.”

Miss Juliet frowned, causing deep lines to rise in her forehead. “I feel so old when you call me that.” The reality was Miss Juliet was old, with more than twenty years separating them. She was old enough to be an aunt or a friend of his mother’s. Her age demanded a certain level of respect Phil couldn’t ignore.

“Anyway,” Miss Juliet went on, “Hugo was no trouble at all. You’re a good boy, ain’tcha?” She bent down and scratched the thick folds of Hugo’s neck. “I don’t mind. Meeting you out here in the mornings helps me get an early start.”

But an early start on what?

He’d never seen Miss Juliet go to work. Not once in the year he’d lived here. She left her apartment from time to time, but always at irregular hours. He suspected she worked from home, but had no clue as to what she did for money.

Miss Juliet brought her coffee to her nose and took a deep breath in. A slow smile spread across her face and just as slowly, she frowned. “Your time off starts today? I guess you won’t be needing my help then…”

Phil stepped over the leash only to have Hugo ensnare him once again in his search for pets.

“I can still get your coffee in the morning. It won’t be as early as this, though.”

Her eyes lit up behind her pink plastic frames. “You’re such a dear! You don’t have to make a special trip for me. Just pick me up a cup when you go for yourself. That’ll be enough.”

Hugo got lonely in the middle of the night when Phil was at work. In the early days, his boredom turned destructive and he tore Phil’s belongings to shreds and howled at all hours. So many pairs of shoes had met an untimely end as a casualty to his loneliness. Instead of getting annoyed and complaining to the building manager which she had every right to do, Miss Juliet offered to watch Hugo until Phil got home. All she ever asked in return was a cup of coffee. How could Phil turn her down?

“It’s the least I can do, Miss J.”

“Miss J?” Her frown turned thoughtful as she took a sip of coffee. “It’s got a nice ring to it. I think I can deal with that.”

Phil tried to keep Miss Juliet chatting in the hallway awhile longer, but she had many mysterious things to do. He had no choice but to release her and let her get to it.

He fumbled with his keys outside of his door, ignoring the siren call of his bed. He took stock of how much energy he had, comparing it to how much it would take to get to the dog park and back.

Hugo nudged his big head hard enough against Phil’s knee to make the leg buckle underneath him. He looked up at Phil expectant and pitiful. Hugo hadn’t eaten since dinner. If he admitted it to himself, Phil was hungry, too.

“Let’s get you some grub.”

Phil opened the door and Hugo pushed past him to get in.

Marcus left Phil more than a year ago yet his presence clung to the items he’d used during their time together and, mysteriously, to things he’d never laid his eyes on but would have cooed over. Sometimes it was like he’d never left. Phil had put the tiny dining table by the window the way Marcus had liked to have it at the place they’d shared together. He would have hated the record player with a passion, condemning it as too hipster, but he’d love the speaker set up Phil had cobbled together for it. Phil could see him as clear as if he was in the room with him now, blasting music so terrible and overwrought with angst it’d make the most moody, emo teenager groan.

Phil’s imagination was a real bitch when it wanted to be.

These bursts of longing tended to happen at the end of a long shift when he needed to decompress and comfort from another would be welcome. This was why he hated coming home.

He fed Hugo and then fed himself, all the while fighting the niggling dread of going into the bedroom and lying alone in that big empty bed.

He sorted his mail, cleaned up the area around Hugo’s bed in the kitchen, made a grocery list, his eyelids getting heavier as time went on. He put it off as long as he could.

He got as far as the bedroom door with Hugo at his heels. He stared at the tousled sheets from the previous day’s sleep. Marcus’ ghost thrived here. The memories and the lost potential made Phil’s loneliness more acute.

He couldn’t do it.

He backed up right onto the couch, shoved a pillow under his head, and stretched out on the cushions that were too short for his frame. He was on the fast track for a stiff neck just like any other night for the last six months.

“Let me see what you’re workin’ with!”

What the hell is that?

Phil pried his face off the damp spot on his pillow with a snort. No one was in his apartment. What the hell was he hearing?

The gruff voice again challenged him to show what he was working with too aggressively for his taste. Then the beat dropped.

His phone was ringing.

He always turned the sound on when he was off duty in case he was needed in a pinch, but that wasn’t the ringtone he’d set for the hospital. He hadn’t heard that tone in ages. He should check to see who it was.

During the day, Phil, in a zombified state, always relocated to the bed and stripped off his clothes. The phone sang out from his jeans, thrown across a chair next to the bed. He stretched, trying to snag a belt loop with his fingertips, but it was too far. Hugo lay across his legs, cutting off the blood flow to his feet as he always did.

He gave up trying to reach the phone when it stopped ringing. Whoever it was could call back, or they could wait. He rolled over and went back to sleep.

Less than an hour later, he gave up on sleep all together when Hugo covered his face in spit. Time for that walk.

They hit the street with only a few hours of daylight left. Any other day, he’d make it short, come back and check his email or watch a movie to kill time before the start of shift. Today, he was all Hugo’s. They had the whole evening ahead of them and he knew exactly how they’d spend it. They’d go back inside, he’d order some Thai food, and he’d finally drink the beer that was crowding the refrigerator door. He couldn’t plan a better evening if he’d tried.

They’d started block four of their ten block circuit when Phil’s phone rang again. He ignored the weird looks he got when the singer of his ringtone asked him to bend over. He picked up so quickly that he didn’t have time to check who was calling.

“You’re finally up!” Jerome’s booming voice made Phil’s ear ring. It was too late in the day for all that. How did he have so much energy after a full day’s work? Phil had spent his day sleeping and wasn’t half as alert. “I’ve been calling for hours.”

It made sense that Phil didn’t recognize the ring right away. They talked every day through text, but they hadn’t spoken on the phone in months, if not longer.

“Sorry,” Phil said, “long night.”

“That’s every night.” The patented Jerome eye roll was damn near audible over the phone. “But it’s over, right? You’re officially on vacation starting tonight?” Jerome was far too excited for this to mean anything good.

Phil approached the question cautiously. “Yeah…”

“Then that means you’re actually free on a Friday night.”

Was it Friday already? The days had stopped having names for Phil. There were only days on and days off.

But this had already been earmarked as a restful night in. “I was gonna take it easy tonight. If you still want to hang out, you can come over. I was gonna get some takeout.”

“Don’t even try it!” Jerome cut across him. “I know that trick. You’ll keep blowing me off until your vacation’s over. And no one in their right mind wants to eat Thai and drink cheap beer on a Friday when there’s so many better things to do.” A car horn sounded behind Jerome letting Phil pretend not to hear the disparaging remarks about his evening plans. But that was strange. Phil had heard a horn, too.

“Fine. What are you up to tonight that’s better than Thai and beer?” Phil was willing to bet nothing.

Jerome sounded winded, like he was walking fast. “A real dinner to start. Out among other people. Then I’m meeting some folks at the Blue Room. You’d come with me, of course.”

Phil stopped at a red light and groaned aloud, earning him scathing side eyes from the other pedestrians waiting to cross. “I don’t think I’m up for that tonight. I really just want to stay in.”

“Well, it’s too late for that, honey.”


Phil stared at his phone in disbelief. Hanging up was rude, even for Jerome. More than that, what did he mean it was too late?

The light turned green. Phil stepped off the curb, but didn’t get far. Someone caught a hold of his jacket and yanked him backwards. Hard. He tripped on his own feet and Hugo darting excitedly around his legs. Jerome caught him before he fell too far.

“That damn dog’s going to be the death of you.” Jerome let out an exasperated sigh.

Phil stepped away from Jerome’s supporting arms and straightened his jacket. “Yeah, because he’s the one who almost made me fall into traffic. You’re lucky I’m used to dealing with the unhinged. Anyone else would have swung on you.”

“Whatever, Nurse Phil.”

Phil hated when Jerome called him that. Hated it with a burning passion. He took pride in his job, but that teasing tone always insinuated that he shouldn’t. Phil fully admitted he was likely being defensive about it, and Jerome only did it to get a rise out of him, but with all the changes going on in the world, a man choosing to become a nurse was still seen as a sign of deficiency on his part. Even among his fellow nurses. Mercer was the first place where it seemed to matter less, due in large part to Yolanda’s influence.

Jerome’s pout when Phil didn’t take the bait and start fussing with him was more satisfying than throwing a fit could have ever been. The way Jerome smoothly moved on from that disappointment, however, was less so.

“It’s already nine and I’m willing to bet you haven’t eaten since you got home this morning. You need to eat.” He looped his arm around Phil’s, locking them together. The faux fur of his jacket’s hood tickled Phil’s neck. “I’m not asking you to drink or dance or have fun of any kind. Just hang out with me for one night. Just one. When was the last time you got out of the house anyway? And don’t say for work because it doesn’t fucking count.”

How long had it been?

They used to go out every week when Marcus was around: Phil, Marcus, Jerome and whoever Jerome was dating at the time. And it had never been some sedate activity, much to Phil’s dismay. Dinner and dancing, hiking, and road trips up the coast were all fun things, but when you were working twelve hour shifts sometimes six days a week, you were only capable of resting. “Like an old person” Marcus had said.

“I want to go out and do things. You’re tired all the time. I need someone who can keep up with me.”

He’d blindsided Phil over cold cereal. Phil had been in his boxers, totally unprepared for this. There were worse ways to be walked out on, but this was high on Phil’s list.

He hadn’t gotten more than a spoonful in his mouth before Marcus exploded.

“I only asked what you wanted to do today.”

“No matter what it is, you wouldn’t want to do it anyway! And if we did go out, we’d have to come back early so you can sleep before work.” Marcus ran a hand through his textured curls, the way he did when he was really irate. “That’s all you ever want to do anymore.”

Phil did want to sleep more, but that was because he’d picked up extra hours to pay for the apartment and the outings. Marcus had been between jobs for awhile, which was fine, but concessions had to be made.

“If you wanted to do something else, you only had to let me know. We could go away for a few days?”

Marcus gave an odd little hiccup of a laugh. “That’s not the point. That won’t fix anything.”

Phil abandoned his cereal and readied himself to stand. “Then what will?”

Marcus turned away, arms folded over his chest. “It doesn’t matter. There’s someone else.”

That knocked the air out of Phil’s chest. “What do you mean someone else?”

He wouldn’t look at Phil. “You can’t give me what I need! I need someone closer to my age, not someone who acts like an old person. I feel like I live in a nursing home.”

“I’m 31!” Phil yelled, and he never yelled at anyone for anything in his life. “You’re two years younger than me!” Couldn’t Marcus see he was being an absolute lunatic right now?

Marcus stood and Phil finally noticed that he was fully dressed. There’d been no place set in front of him. He’d just been sitting there, waiting to drop this bomb and Phil had been oblivious to all of it.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s over.”

Marcus walked out the door. He didn’t look back.

That was 18 months ago and Phil had managed to avoid running into him the entire time. He changed gyms and stopped going out altogether, abandoning Marcus’ old haunts. He hadn’t missed being social because he’d finally gotten to sleep, but now it was looking like that was all he’d done. A change was in order.

“I’ll go. But I have to finish this walk first.” Poor Hugo needed the exercise. They both needed it. Phil hadn’t been to the gym in weeks. They’d take a trip to the dog park in the morning to make up for how he’d neglected them both.

Jerome released him and stepped back. “Fine. But I’m not trying to get any sweatier. See you back at your place.”

Jerome met him at the door with whiskey, likely to soften the blow of what he’d been up to in Phil’s absence. Jerome took it upon himself to raid Phil’s closet while he waited. A dark gray blazer, a dress shirt, and a pair of slacks Phil forgot he owned were spread across the bed, waiting for Phil when he got back.

Jerome sat on the bed next to his work and smoothed a few invisible wrinkles out of the crisp blue button up.

“If there’s one good thing that can be said about that bitch, it’s that he knew clothes.”

Phil threw back his shot. “That he did. Clothes and not much else.”

Jerome fell quiet, uncharacteristic of him, but Phil had come to know this as the quiet before the storm. He fidgeted with his empty glass. “I know we haven’t really talked about it since it happened, but I needed to get it on record that had I known he was so shallow and silly, I wouldn’t have tried so hard to get you two together.”

Jerome had tried too hard to make Phil and Marcus a thing in the beginning.

He kept inviting them to the same events, sometimes under the pretense of a scheduling error. No one had been happier than him when they’d finally gotten together; no one had been more devastated when it had all fallen apart. Jerome blamed himself, but sometimes things crumbled on their own. The one closest to being at fault was Marcus.

“Don’t worry about it. As long as you didn’t tell him to cheat on me instead of talk to me—”

Jerome drew back, aghast at the accusation. “You know I wouldn’t.”

“Then you don’t have anything to apologize for.”

Jerome said nothing of his relief, but he loosened up. He went to the kitchen and poured them another round. “Anyway, I promise not to meddle in any of your relationships again.”

Phil raised his shot, grinned. “I can drink to that.”


About the Author

Stories longing to have words put to them were in Jet’s heart from an early age. Jet enjoys exploring the connections and similarities between people whether they be shifters, vampires, or aliens, rendering the unknowable very knowable indeed.

Jet’s days are spent toiling away at a keyboard, slumped over a pen and paper hunting for those words, or playing around on twitter with a partner, and two rambunctious cats for company in the temperamental North Eastern US.