UPDATE: The winners are…PansyRose Parsons and Debra Guyette!
Before I wrote bounty hunters, I wrote about vampires…
Knight in Transition
A member of an elite police unit sworn to hunt vampires, Joe Garcia’s life is turned upside down when he’s transformed into one. On a quest for a cure, Joe’s search brings him to New Orleans in a last-ditch effort to recover his humanity.
Professor Lily Carlson, a renowned expert in vampire lore, has a condition of her own. Her sexual libido has been in hyper-drive for months. Her only defense is to hide behind her glasses and tweed suits and stay as far away from men as possible. However, she’s thrilled to discover vampires really do exist when Joe shows up on her balcony.
Although Joe deflects her attempts to make him a case study and confirm a few vampire statistics, he is drawn by her powerful allure. When werewolves join the chase and track her through New Orleans, Joe’s cop instincts tell him there’s a mystery to solve. Intent on protecting her, he must seek help from the last vampire on Earth he wants to ask.
While his hopes for deliverance from his fate dwindle, Lily’s life is forever altered by an unexpected inheritance.
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How it begins…
The small sign in the café window read: Welcome Vampires and Sanguinarians! (No blood products provided—none permitted on premises! The Management).
Joe Garcia snorted. Every human in the place was a walking, breathing blood product — a portable soda fountain for the Fanged Ones.
He pushed through the glass door and tried to dampen the hope that rose in his chest, causing his heart to beat faster and his hands to sweat. Thusfar, he’d met only disappointment in his long search. This might be just another dead end-the last one he could afford before his cash ran out and his credit card was maxed.
Professor Carlson was his last hope.
Inside the cafe, enticing aromas assailed him. The smell of roasted coffee beans, which had been his life’s blood in another existence, was overlaid with the tangy scent of the real thing-the warm, viscous red stuff. The latter reminded him he hadn’t fed this evening, and hunger gnawed at his belly, making him edgy and irritable.
And something else enticed him. Something dark and sensual perfumed by a female musk with a tincture so unique it immediately sent a curl of heat to his groin.
He walked past the coffee bar without acknowledging the barrista’s greeting and wound his way through the tables, ignoring the human appetizers. His gaze was fixed on a menu board at the entrance of a roped-off area in the back, that read, “Vampire Survey Here”. An arrow pointed down to a table laden with a stack of pamphlets.
He brushed past the table, searching the back of the restaurant for his quarry.
“Sir, are you here ’bout da survey Professor Carlson is conductin’?”
Joe turned toward the voice flavored with a deep Louisianan accent. A pleasant-faced girl with black corkscrew curls all around her head sat at a table near the cordoned entrance.
He bit back the rude retort that immediately came to mind and answered, “Yes. I need to speak with her.”
“Well, you’ll have to complete a screenin’ survey first,” she said pleasantly but firmly, holding up a stapled document.
Joe sighed and accepted the papers. What the hell? Five more minutes wouldn’t kill him.
“Do you have a pencil?” she asked. When he shook his head, she gave him a superior smile and extended a short, sharpened pencil.
Joe didn’t like her attitude one bit, so he reached for her hand, running his fingers over her palm before taking it.
Her smile slipped and Joe could well imagine her thoughts. Another vampire wannabe was hitting on her. He smiled and let her see his teeth.
Her eyes narrowed and a single brow rose. She wasn’t impressed.
That actually gave Joe hope he was in the right place after all. His sharp fangs hadn’t fazed her.
“You can take a seat with the other guy,” she said, indicating the first booth along the back wall.
Joe walked over and slid across the vinyl seat opposite a young man dressed in black leather and sporting no less than five facial piercings. The piercings glittered like tinsel in the dim light and Joe wondered how the kid could stand leather in May-New Orleans was already sweltering, even at night.
Turning over the top page of his survey, Joe quickly scanned the questions. He hoped like hell they were only meant to screen out the weirdoes and pretenders. Otherwise, he was screwed.
He wet the tip of his pencil on his tongue and read the first question.
“Do you consider yourself a Vampire or a Sanguinarian?”
Since he had no clue what a Sanguinarian was, he checked, “Vampire.”
“If you checked ‘Vampire’, skip to question 6.”
Maybe this wouldn’t take so long after all.
In the middle of the page, he found 6. “How often do you have the urge to drink blood?”
He checked the block beside, “More than three times a day.” Three times a night would be more accurate.
“How often do you drink blood?”
“Once a day.”
“Do you drink your own blood?”
“What would be the point?” he muttered, and checked “No.”
When he reached the question, “Do you drink blood during sexual encounters?”, he’d had enough.
He tossed the survey to the table and started to rise.
“She won’t see you unless you finish the survey,” Metal Boy said, without looking up from his form.
“She’ll see me.”
The young man’s mouth twisted into a sneer. “You’ll have to wait your turn. I was here first.”
Joe lifted his lips and showed him his fangs.
Metal Boy smirked and then lifted his lips, displaying a whole row of sharpened teeth.
Joe took a quick glance around the café to make sure no one was near, and then leaned over the table and shook his head. He let the change come over him, reveling for once in the wildness that surged in his veins as the bones in his forehead and brow shifted, and his skin stretched tightly.
The boy’s eyes widened until the whites symmetrically framed his irises. “I-I’ve just thought of somewhere else I need to be,” he said, and quickly scooted off the seat and ran for the exit.
Satisfied that vamping was good for at least scaring the shit out of punks, Joe took a deep breath and relaxed, feeling his face reform to his human mask. Then he headed back to the girl with the wild hair.
“I’ll see her now,” Joe said, not even trying to conceal his impatience.
“Have you finished dat survey?” she asked, her nose buried in her Cosmo magazine.
When he didn’t respond, she raised her eyes.
Something in his expression made her hesitate. “I’ll see if she’s free.”
Joe smiled grimly. “You do that.”
She was back in a moment. “Professor Carlson’ll see you now. You left your survey on the table, but I gave it to her.”
He followed her to the farthest corner of the café, toward another booth. A green lamp suspended over the table lent the corner a warm glow. When he drew alongside the green vinyl seat, the girl indicated he should sit and promptly left. Joe turned his gaze to the figure seated on the opposite bench.
His research had told him the professor was considered an expert in vampire lore. She’d written papers, magazine articles, and books, and even been consulted by more than one movie producer. When he’d typed “vampire expert” in the Internet search engine, her name had popped up everywhere.
All his research told him she might hold the answer, but it hadn’t said anything about how young or drinkable she was. Her hair was neither blonde nor brown, but the warm color of whiskey. Her eyes, hidden behind a pair of wire-framed glasses, glinted cognac. Her lips were a pale rosé.
The hunter within him woke.
Realizing he’d been staring, he cleared his throat. “You’re Professor Lily Carlson? The author of ‘Vampires: Myth and Reality’?”
Her gaze swept over him. An action so swift, he thought he might have imagined it. “And you are?” she asked, leaning over the table to extend her hand.
Joe froze. That indefinable scent was all over her. He had the urge to rub on her like a kitten in catnip. He eyed her small hand, afraid to touch it and feel the blood humming below the surface of her creamy, white skin. He was that close to jumping her. “I thought the survey was anonymous.”
“Oh, it is,” she replied quickly, withdrawing her hand. “You’re responding to the ad, then?” At his nod, she looked vaguely disappointed. “Well, I suppose I should review your answers. Please have a seat,” she said, waving him toward the bench seat opposite hers. “Thank you for taking the time to help me with my research.”
Bemused, Joe slid onto the seat. He knew he should get straight to the point, but he stalled. For just a few minutes, he wanted to be with a woman while she looked at him as if he was just like any other man. Well, perhaps like he was a man with a serious mental disorder. But at least, she wasn’t recoiling in horror or inspecting him like the Bearded Lady at a freak show.
Not that she was a great beauty, nor even as strong and fierce as his ex-partner Darcy. Dressed in a boring-beige suit, her whiskey-colored hair piled in a loose knot on top of her head, and her glasses sliding down her shiny nose, she looked like the schoolmarm she was. But while all the beige and brown should have made her look muddy, she glowed golden in the lamplight. And her scent—richly textured with something wild and animalistic—was extraordinary.
The woman opened his survey and glanced at his answers, then flipped the page. Her lips pursed for a moment, drawing his gaze to her full lower lip. “There are a few more questions I need answered. Do you mind if I learn a little more about you?” she asked, glancing up at him from beneath her gold-tipped lashes.
The surge of heat that centered in his groin was way out of proportion to her innocent question. Afraid he’d stutter over a tongue that suddenly felt too large for his mouth, he merely nodded.
“You understand the questions I’m about to ask you are part of a sociological study I’m conducting about our vampire subculture?”
Again, he nodded.
“All information you provide,” she recited as if from rote, “will be completely confidential. I hope you will answer me honestly,” she gave him a doubtful stare, “or to the best of your ability.”
She looked expectantly at him, so he nodded again.
Her gaze returned to his survey, and she cleared her throat. “You…are a vampire?”
“Yes.” This was the first time he’d admitted that fact out loud, and he knew how ridiculous it sounded.
“So, are you a Psy or a Sang?”
“There’s more than one kind?” Joe asked.
“A Psychic vampire feeds on a human’s energy; a Sanguinarian is a blood-drinker.”
“I guess I’m a Sang.”
“You drink blood once a day?” she asked, her head still bent over the paper.
He shrugged, hoping she’d glance up at him again so he could see whether her eyes really were a warm, golden-brown. “More or less.”
She scribbled something in the margin of his survey. “Well, which is it?”
“Do you drink human blood?”
Joe wished she’d end this line of questioning, or he’d be drooling shortly. Her scent had every appetite revving into high gear. “Yes.”
She glanced up from the survey. “How long have you had the urge to drink blood?”
“Since I woke up, tonight.”
She blinked. “No, I meant…since ever.”
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