TEMPER SANGUINE

Harvey and Gabe had way too much secrets and unsolved mysteries in the past to tie it all up in a neat package in Spirit Sanguine. The sequel takes care of most of them, along with solving a few new problems.

The beginning of the book has Harvey and Gabe in costumes again, but it's more work than play.

 

Excerpt:

Gabe crept up behind a zombie and a werewolf without them taking notice of him. Not much of a challenge, considering how drunk and busy flirting the two were. They probably wouldn’t have noticed a whole army of Van Helsings, let alone a single guy disguised as the fictional hunter lurking behind them. The third annual Chicago ParaCon was proving to be the most fun yet, according to its return participants. The organizers had especially outdone themselves with the costume ball. Dressing as Hugh Jackman from that weird movie was the most paranormal Gabe had been able to manage on such short notice, but nobody had complained.

A DJ wearing huge, purple pixie wings dominated one end of the ballroom. Throngs of creatures writhed under the black light next to his stage. All the way across the room, where Gabe loitered, the bar did brisk business as attendees exchanged their complimentary drink tickets for cocktail, wine and beer. Some—like Mr. Zombie—had already run out of the stubs and were plunking down cold, hard cash.

The dim room and the giddy crowd presented a perfect setting for a hunt. Under their fancy dress, almost all the partygoers were regular people, as far as Gabe knew. The few exceptions were vampires—Gabe’s reason for being here. From his spot, he scanned the crowd, and not only with his eyes. Gabe had been born to be a slayer, as was his father, grandfather and so on. As such, Gabe could discern the presence of vampires. It was a distinct and wholly indescribable sensation—something like sound, smell, taste and an itch under his skin all rolled together. This awareness had been there before he’d known what it meant, but it had become more acute and precise over the past year. Not only could he now tell the number of bloodsuckers in the room—five—but he could also pinpoint their locations.

The pretty blonde bartender wearing red devil horns was one. Two and three were together, dressed in elaborate outfits Gabe couldn’t quite place. They were chatting with a half-naked guy wearing furry pants and a red scarf. Gabe kept searching till he zeroed in on the vamp he was after: a muscular black man in black leather. A real vampire dressed as Wesley Snipes from Blade. Was that ironic or just lazy? Gabe couldn’t decide, but since he was a slayer disguised as a slayer, he didn’t have room to criticize. Blade stood like an impassioned rock amidst a group of young people engaged in an animated conversation.

Gabe pressed a hand to the flap of his duster, tracing the shape of the mini crossbow underneath. He missed his usual leather jacket with its hidden pockets and the slots inside specifically for holding stakes, but he’d had to leave it at home. Itching for action, he ambled around in the crowd, seemingly without a purpose but never straying far from his mark. Vamps had enhanced senses for all living things—at least at night—but fortunately for Gabe, they had no way of telling a slayer from anyone else. He needed every last bit of advantage.

At last the vamp began to move. Gabe drifted in the same general direction and watched Blade slip through a door in the corner. He counted to ten before following.

The service hallway wasn’t as nice as the rest of the hotel. Scuffmarks marred the walls and the concrete floor wore no carpet. Gabe picked up his steps, rushed past the elevator and through a swinging door, into another, narrower hallway. This one was lit only by the red exit signs and moonlight filtering through the windows. His target was out of sight, but the fact didn’t worry Gabe. At the staircase, he had to stop—vertical tracking needed a touch of extra concentration. Getting his bearings, he began the climb upward, but stopped again on the landing when he detected the presence of two more vamps above. He was heading into a trap.

Gabe made his way back down, the soft soles of his shoes making nary a sound on the steps. There was a fourth vamp within range, one who’d followed him from the ballroom. Gabe didn’t have to wait long for his shadow to catch up.

The slender figure peeled out of the darkness and stalked toward Gabe with feline grace. Dark fabric and leather held his limbs and torso in a tight embrace, accentuating every supple movement. He was a feast for the eyes, beauty and peril at once.

Gabe’s muscles tensed and his heart began to beat faster as he stood transfixed. The vamp halted only when they were almost nose to nose. Up close, Gabe could easily make out the mix of Asian and Caucasian features even in the dim light.

The vampire’s lips parted to a salacious smile, revealing a pair of razor-sharp upper incisors. “Well, well, what do we have here?” he said in a low purr. “You seem lost, my scrumptious. I’ll be delighted to show you the way—all the ways. It’ll be my pleasure.” He leaned closer and his lips moved a hairbreadth away from Gabe’s ear as he spoke those last words. His fingers brushed over the bulge in Gabe’s pants.

Goose bumps raced across Gabe’s skin, and lust blossomed deep inside, but he pulled himself together. “Harvey, be serious. We’re on an assignment.” The whisper came out raspier than he’d intended.

Harvey pulled back a few inches. His nostrils still flared, but he’d retracted his fangs. “Party pooper.” He sighed at Gabe’s reproachful glare. “Fine, Angel. Work first, play after.” He bowed his head, and the look in his eyes shifted from predatory to submissive. “So, what’s the plan…Mr. Van Helsing, sir?”

Gabe suppressed a groan. He knew his boyfriend couldn’t wear a costume without slipping into one role or another. Normally, Gabe happily went with the flow, but right now it was a distraction he didn’t need. Especially the leather corset. To match Gabe, Harvey had dressed as a male and slightly Chinese version of Kate Beckinsale’s character from the Van Helsing movie. Harvey Valerious, Anna’s younger and sluttier half brother, he’d called himself. Not that Harvey had a problem dressing as a woman, and he had, numerous times before, but to make it convincing, he’d have had to wear heels, tuck his penis away and put on a wig. None of those things were practical on a hunt.

Gabe took a deep breath and coerced his thoughts back to the job at hand. He put his all-business face on and pointed at the ceiling. “Trap. Three vamps, two floors up. Can you feel live ones?”

Harvey stood still for a second, eyes half-closed, then he shook his head. “Only you, Angel. And a few mice.”

The news took a load off Gabe’s mind—not having to worry about potential hostages made the job easier. He gestured toward the hallway. “There’s a fire escape.” He didn’t have to say any more. Harvey nodded, spun on his heels and slunk away.

Gabe watched Harvey melt back into the darkness, soundless as a ghost. If a year ago someone had told Gabe that he, the born slayer, would soon be living with a vampire, he would’ve either laughed at them or punched them in the face, depending on the speaker. Yet, here he was.

Gabe shook himself and took another deep breath. He needed to get his head back into the game. Steering his focus back to the job, he climbed the stairs until he reached a door with a DO NOT ENTER sign. He pushed it open and stepped into another dark corridor. Right away he knew why the floor was empty—it was undergoing renovation. He turned right and walked in the direction of the closest vamp, prowling past ladders and paint buckets. He readied his crossbow as he went. In the unlit corridor he was at a disadvantage, so he moved with utmost caution, focusing on his target.

The vamp swooped out of a doorway faster than any human could’ve, but Gabe had anticipated the move and was ready. When a vamp concentrated as hard as this one, he telegraphed his intended move to Gabe before twitching a muscle, giving Gabe a much needed edge.

Gabe had one good shot at the vamp’s heart, and he didn’t miss.

Copyright © 2014 Lou Harper
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. Publication