This weekend, Amber Quill released their vampire pax, and we had two of the slots. First up is the prequel to Master of Obsidian, At the Advent of Dusk. This is the story of how Gideon met Mary.
1962. Chicago. Gideon Keel is the most feared vampire in the city. Nobody dares to stand up to him – until somebody does.
When his path crosses that of the charismatic civil rights activist’s, Gideon faces the first person in over sixty years to threaten his existence and live to tell the tale. Mary Straughn is beautiful, driven, and most of all, determined not to let anyone – even a vampire – hurt the people she is trying to lead into a better life.
He knows he should kill her. Yet, when she needs help finding the vampires responsible for murdering two children, he finds himself agreeing to search the city for them. And all he asks in return is for one night alone with her.EXCERPT
...Gideon barely noticed the other man scurrying away. As captivating as the woman in front was, he was here for a very specific reason. There were other things to take account of, instead of her gorgeous legs. Like how many people were scattered throughout the room. Where the other exits were located. Who might try to play the hero and who would be the first to scream.
Silently, he pulled the door shut behind him. He couldn’t lock it, but it would slow down anybody who might run. There was another at the side of the altar that would lead to the clergy’s private offices, but only a fool would attempt to pass Gideon to try and reach it.
The energy shifted in the room, harder, more intense. The woman’s voice rose, her voice passionate, and everybody leaned forward in their seats, drawn to her. It wouldn’t be long until a cloud, that peculiar blend of excitement, and anticipation, and lust, and love, and hunger, and everything that made their blood so delicious, began to permeate the small space. He could already taste it on the back of his tongue.
He was poised to wait there until he felt that cusp when something this Mary Straughn said distracted him from savoring the anticipation any longer.
“Wait a minute.” He said it loud enough so that his voice carried easily up the center aisle, cutting her off in mid-sentence. “Preaching to the choir is one thing. But you don’t honestly believe any of this actually makes any kind of difference in the long run, do you?”
“It will make a difference.” She didn’t miss a beat, her dark eyes narrowing on him. “Every person in this room has already made a difference.”
“Because you…what? Pat each other on the back and commiserate on what a mean, awful world this is?” With a derisive snort, he pushed off the jamb and sauntered toward her, long strides slow and confident. “Nothing changes. And when it does, it doesn’t happen because of words. It happens because someone, somewhere, spilled a little too much blood, and somebody else got scared and made a change. That’s all.”
“Somehow I’m not surprised that it’s a white man coming into my church, uninvited, and telling us everything we’re doing wrong. So what do you suggest? We declare war?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t go that far. Well, I would if I got a front row seat.”
“If bloodshed is what you’re after, then you’ve come to the wrong place. That’s not what we’re about here.”
Gideon reached the front of the church but didn’t stop, climbing the two short steps onto the pulpit. Mary didn’t flinch, even when he circled her once, deliberately looking her over. Distance had not done her justice.
“That’s why you’ll lose, then. Because the people you’re trying to convince aren’t in here to hear you.”
“Then we’ll go out to them.” Her voice didn’t waver as he moved closer, invading her personal space. Nobody in the church made a sound, not even the annoying and over-eager assistant pastor. “And we’ll find them and we’ll make them listen to us until they can’t ignore us anymore. Our brothers and sisters in Alabama and Georgia have already proven you wrong.”
Gideon halted in front of her, his back to the congregation, and tilted his head as his gaze raked over her. She was nearly as tall as he was, her scent overpowering that of all the others in the room. This one, he was going to leave for last. She was going to be absolutely delicious.
“I’m not wrong. But I’d be willing to let you try and convince me in private, if you want.”
Mary took a step toward him, erasing more of the space between them. She dropped her voice to an intimate level. “Don’t let my preference for passive resistance fool you, mister. If you don’t leave now, you’ll get a taste of that bloodshed you’re so keen on.”
“You know what?” He leaned toward her until their noses were almost touching. “That’s kind of what I’m counting on.”
Without otherwise moving, his hand shot out and grasped the throat of the young man who’d tried approaching him from behind. Gideon smirked at Mary before turning toward the congregation, letting his fangs descend at the same time. A collective gasp of horror rippled through the group.
“You’re all idiots.” Ignoring the hands clawing at his, he dangled the man in front of them, shaking him for good measure. “You think a few pretty words mean anything? The world doesn’t care. The world’s laughing at you, because while you’re sitting in here singing your songs and trying to coax God out of retirement, it’s moving along, and it’s going to leave you behind.”
“You’re right.” Mary’s voice drifted from behind him, still calm despite the rich wave of fear coming from her followers. “Talk is cheap. And you’ve already done too much.”
Gideon heard her take a step, felt the heat from her skin as she moved closer to him. The man he was holding kicked out, the toe of his boot connecting hard enough to sting a little. Gideon shifted his weight to his other foot, just as a burning pain radiated through his back. Startled, he looked down to see the tip of a crucifix sticking out of his chest...
The second story is one of mine. I'd had this idea floating around for awhile, and when another planned novel kind of fell through, I cannibalized the basic plot and situation, and came up with a whole new scenario, complete with a cowboy vampire hero. The result was Ruby Red Rebels.
Walking into the bar to retrieve the bracelet she needs to save her father’s skin – and her own – is the most dangerous thing she’s ever done. She doesn’t need or want a vampire’s help. Not even if that vampire is peacemaker Max Markow, there at Ruby Red with his own grudge to settle.
When an unexpected bar fight gets them locked away in a cellar to die, Serena and Max are forced to work together in order to escape. In such cramped quarters, passions flare. All they have is each other, but only time will tell if that’s enough to survive.
...The sound of the girl’s angry voice made Max want to turn around and shake her. Getting more involved than she already was, was the surest way to get herself killed.
Ruby tilted her head to the side in order to see around Max’s shoulder. Hunger sparked in her eyes, and her nipples visibly tightened. “Now if this tasty treat is meant to be a peace offering, Max, I might be inclined to just forget about this little fracas.”
He felt the girl’s intake of breath in preparation to speak and shot a hand back to grab her slim wrist. Her pained cry cut off any further retort she might have shared, giving him the chance to say, “This one’ll get stuck in your teeth. I’ll just get her out of here, and the rest of you can go on about your business.”
When he turned to lead her out of the bar, however, he ran smack into Will’s broad chest.
“Oh, for crying out loud…” With a roll of his eyes, Max turned back to Ruby. “Look. You and me got problems. I get that. This girl…” He hooked his free thumb back at her, ignoring her annoyed, “Hey!” “…is just getting in the way of you and me settling our differences, once and for all. Let me get her out of here, and I’ll just mosey on back inside so we can have ourselves a nice chat, okay?” Not looking away from her, he nodded toward Will. “I’ll even let Lurch here escort me in and out. We got a deal?”
Ruby’s eyes narrowed, and the tip of her tongue appeared as she ran it over the edge of her teeth. “I’m thinking…not.”
The girl squeaked as she was torn out of Max’s grasp, and for as fast as he was on the draw, there was something to be said about having a room full of vampires out to get you. They might have all been slower than him, but when a football team worth of pissed off vamps launched themselves at your every available limb, it was next to impossible to come out on top.
Max came out on the bottom. Pinned to the sticky floor by three hulks and Ruby’s boot on his groin. And his hat knocked clear across the room.
“Don’t do this,” he warned. “You think I’d really come out here without somebody knowing where I am?”
Her gaze grew contemplative. Thank the devil, Ruby was not a stupid vampire.
“Take him down to the cellar,” she ordered. “We’ll lock him up until I figure out whether or not it’s safe to get rid of him.”
It felt like his shoulders were pulled out of their sockets when they hauled him to his feet. Before they’d taken a step, though, Will grunted. Max glanced back to see him pulling the girl more tightly against his broad body and her heels banging against his shins.
“Toss the girl in there, too.” Heads whipped around to stare at Ruby, and a round of protests rumbled from the crowd. She silenced them with one glare that reverted to a smirk when she turned back to Max. “When the hunger gets too bad and our dear Detective Markow has to kill her in order to survive, we’ll have the perfect excuse to get rid of him. All that wonderful technology that’s been fucking with us can prove they’re his fang marks in her dead body, and we’ll be off the hook.”
“You can’t do that!”
Ruby smiled at the girl. “Really? I think I just did.”