SPIRIT SANGUINE

I really didn't mean to jump on the vampire bandwagon, especially since I clearly saw it leaving the station. Bloodsuckers are everywhere; you can't walk down a dark alley without a couple of them jumping at and accost you with their dark and broody eyes. They do that a lot--mope, and sulk. That's what got to me, all the melodrama. I mean, they are practically immortal, don't get sick, grow old, don't need to watch their weight or work out. What the hell do they have to bellyache about?

I thought it could be fun to write vamps with a sense of humor, appetite for life, and oh, who knows, maybe a couple of sexual kinks. Something short, a novelette or novella. Naturally, the story swelled over 70,000 words. I blame my protagonists.

Harvey, the unconventional vamp was a lot of fun to sketch out, but he turned out to have all sort of secrets in his past, some unknown even to him. And of course, who could be a better romantic foil for a vampire than a slayer? Gabe came with his own quirks and mysteries. The two of them together proved to be a handful.

Halfway through what ended up being the first story I realized there was no way I could tell everything I needed in it. So as soon as I wrapped it up, I started on the next, and then yet another.

Spirit Sanguine is made up of three stories, each with its own mystery and suspense, but they are all connected, and information revealed in one plays role in the other. The romance progresses through all three. This is the first book I wrote in this form, although another one, Dead In L.A. saw publication first.

Writing Spirit Sanguine I realized how much I enjoy the paranormal. Dead Man and the Restless spirits takes place in the same place, picking up the story of one of the supporting characters. My plan is to write one more book with Harvey and Gabe, where I'd wrap up the lose ends and shed light on the remaining mysteries.

Excerpt:

It was Gabe’s thirteenth straight perfect summer night in Chicago since he’d arrived back from Budapest. He left his cheap hotel in Rogers Park and headed downtown. The air was as smooth as fine red wine, and the moon hung in the sky like a fat lump of Camembert. It felt strange being back home after all those years. The city was essentially the same as he’d left it, but he’d changed and no longer fit in. The odd sensation of being a stranger in his hometown made him restless.

As it was Friday night, the streets of River North were teeming with tourists and locals. Gabe popped in and out of bars, not staying long anywhere. He had a few beers, but it would’ve taken something stronger than alcohol to fill the void inside him. He stalked the streets at night because he didn’t know what else to do. Coming home had been a logical and necessary step, but he had no idea what came next. To make things worse, he hadn’t gotten laid for far too long. Not that there was a shortage of willing bodies. Gabe knew he didn’t stand out in a crowd, but he had no problem attracting guys, especially ones who liked a bit of rough trade. Dark-haired and sturdy, he had the physique and air of a man who could give that to them. So there were plenty of interested men, just none of them “lit his fire”. Truth be told, he was in the granddaddy of all funks.

Gabe would never in a million years have expected to find someone to answer all his yearnings at once. The young man who bumped into him in the crowded bar murmured hasty apologies and walked away. As collisions went, it seemed as innocuous as the first contact between the Titanic and the errant iceberg, yet at the moment of contact, Gabe’s heart hurled itself at his rib cage, sensing the impending disaster. As they parted, he stared after the other figure: short, slender, dark-haired and undead. A killer combo. It was unfair; the most fuckable ass he’d come across in who knew how long, and it belonged to a vampire.

Gabe had a sixth sense for these things, quite literally. In the proximity of a vampire, his skin prickled and the short hairs on the back of his neck stood at attention. At the same time, an invisible compass in his brain zeroed in on the creature. Oddly, in this instance the sensation was as faint as the brush of a spider web, yet still unmistakable. To clinch it, Mr. Killer Buns was several degrees too cool to the touch.

Finding and slaying vampires was Gabe’s special skill, one might even say calling, although he’d been having second thoughts about that as of late. The current situation was most disturbing; thoughts of sex and vampires had never before occupied his brain at the same time. The undead he and his uncle had been hunting across Europe for the past several years hadn’t inspired such notions. They’d been a revolting bunch that without fail had tried to rip out his throat. Not one of them had worn tight jeans showing off shapely buttocks.

“The only good vampire is a dead vampire,” Uncle Miklos used to say. So Gabe sent the carnal thoughts packing and concentrated on the task ahead. It had to be done. Pity.

When his mark left the bar, Gabe followed at a prudent distance all the way to the El station. Since he saw no trains coming, Gabe waited a minute before walking up to the platform. He spotted his target at the far end, so he stayed back. It wasn’t yet time to make his move. He was going to follow the vamp back to its nest where there might be more of its kind. Minutes ticked by. Gabe took a few casual glances at the creature. It seemed oblivious, chatting on a cell phone. Gabe wondered who was on the other end of the line. The bloodsuckers he’d had experience with were neither particularly social nor technologically savvy.

The train finally arrived, and they got on. A good twenty minutes later when the vampire got off, Gabe followed, waiting till the last minute to jump off. The vamp had already walked down the stairs and out of sight, but Gabe could still feel its presence. He tracked it on deserted, dimly lit streets. He tugged down the zipper of his leather jacket and slipped his hand inside. Three wooden stakes sat on each side in their custom-designed holders. Old habits died hard.

Gabe caught a movement in the shadows from the corner of his eye, but it didn’t alarm him much—the only undead in the area was half a block ahead. The sudden sharp sting in his posterior took him completely by surprise. After a moment of confusion, he yanked the dart out and stared at it. Why would somebody shoot him with a dart? As his knees turned to jelly and the world faded away, he understood he’d probably made the last mistake of his life.

 

Gabe came to in an empty, windowless room, lit by a bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. The mold-stained walls amplified the low-budget-horror-flick ambiance. The one thing out of synch was the bloodsucker crouched in front of him—it looked at him with concern morphing into relief as Gabe clawed his way back to consciousness. Now that he got a closer look at it, the vampire proved to be even more intriguing; its features were an appealing fusion of Asian and Caucasian. The eyes staring at Gabe were brown around the iris, blending into green. It was, without question, the most attractive vampire Gabe had ever seen. But that wasn’t saying much.

Gabe knelt on the cold concrete floor, propped against the wall in an uncomfortable position, but when he tried to move, he realized he was expertly bound—ankles together, hands behind his back, and all tied together, so he couldn’t even stand up.

“You’re a slayer, right?” the vampire asked, more curious than accusatory.

Gabe had no intention of giving in that easy. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was walking home when you kidnapped me. It’s a federal crime, you know.”

“And you simply happened to have six very sharp wooden sticks on you. Or were you just happy to see me?”

For the first time ever, Gabe witnessed a vampire smirk. It perturbed him more than a vicious scowl would’ve. Looking down, he also became aware of not wearing his jacket anymore. Well, the gig was up. Still, he wasn’t going to make this any easier for the bastard; he clamped his jaws together and said nothing.

The vampire sighed. “Don’t be a grumpy pants. Let’s say we agree you’re a slayer.”

“And you’re a soulless bloodsucker.” Gabe produced a scowl appropriate for the circumstances, but he started to get a strange feeling that they weren’t working from the same script.

The vampire wasn’t bothered. “Sticks and stones. Tell me, where did you come from? You’re new here, right? We haven’t had a slayer around here in ages. What brought you here now?” It looked at Gabe as if he were the Easter Bunny.

Gabe figured it made no difference, but he might as well make up some pretty lies. “Fine, you got me. My buddies and I are new in town. I was supposed to meet them. They’re probably looking for me.”

The vampire cocked its head sideways and studied him for a second. “Nah. You’re lying.”

Gabe shrugged as much as the ropes allowed. “Maybe. Or maybe not.”

The vampire chewed on its fingernails while studying Gabe silently some more. “You’re a pain in the ass,” it said.

Gabe stared back in his best Bruce Willis impression, but inside he felt flummoxed. He’d been insulted by vampires before but never so benignly. Threats of getting ripped from limb to limb were more along the line of what he’d been expecting. This was a strange fucking night.

The vampire leaned forward and put a hand over Gabe’s heart. Its eyelids drifted closed, and its curvy lips parted slightly, as if in a trance, creating a positively sensuous picture. It almost made Gabe regret what he was about to do. Almost. Putting all his strength and weight into it, he launch himself forward and head-butted the vampire. Having been knocked back on its pretty ass, it looked startled for a nanosecond, but then in a flash it was in Gabe’s face, fangs bared, eyes burning with amber fury. It put a hand around Gabe’s throat and squeezed while sliding its other hand under Gabe’s shirt, fingers digging into naked skin.

“Give me a good reason why I shouldn’t disembowel you?” the vampire hissed.

Copyright © 2013 Lou Harper
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. Publication