Conrad can be pompous, arrogant and even self-indulgent at times--in short, he can act like a real jerk. His temper is often unpredictable and he's chased most of his lovers away, at one time or another, but he has a tender side as well. And he'd move heaven and earth for any one of his loved ones. He's also very protective--as seen here, in this snippet from Old Sins, Long Shadows, when he's forced to leave a newly-turned and undefended Damian behind:
“Sleep, mi amor,” he murmured softly. “And fear nothing. I will stay with you now for as long as I’m able to; and I’ll be there to greet you when you awaken.”
And if anyone dares harm you in between, I will kill them. You have my word on that. I’ll return here with an army and make Sevilla a cursed place and not rest until I have avenged your death by filling the streets with blood and slaughtering every living soul within the city walls.
Luckily, it didn't come to that!
Conrad's a complicated man. As one reviewer put it recently: "Conrad comes across as a badass, but he's super loyal and has a big heart."
He also grovels quite deliciously.
Here's an excerpt from the first book in the series, In the Dark, which is set partially in 1968-69. In this scene, Conrad is just waking up after his first night with his new lover, a young hippie known only as "Desert Rose":
Sunday, October 27, 1968
“Wake up, sleepyhead,” a soft voice murmured in Conrad’s ear, startling him back into consciousness. His eyes shot open, only to be met with an excruciating brightness. Someone must have pulled aside the heavy drapes that hung over his windows. Brutal daylight washed the room, like a flood of daggers. His heart racing, he twisted around, his fangs lowering automatically into position. He had to force his mouth shut when he realized there was no threat to be neutralized, no enemy to be vanquished, when he remembered where he was, and with whom. His bedroom. Desert Rose. Fuck.
Swearing silently, he turned away from the girl and buried his face in the pillows He clenched his teeth, swallowing the bitter venom that filled his mouth, waiting for his pulse to slow and the kill instinct to subside. He only hoped it would be soon, or at least soon enough.
And all the while…“Con-rad,” she chanted in singsong as she walked her fingers up and down his back. “Time to get up. Wakey-wakey.”
No. It could not possibly happen soon enough. “Get away from me,” he snarled in warning.
“Well, someone’s a grumpy bear this morning, isn’t he?” Heedless of the danger she was placing herself in, Desert Rose leaned over his back to press a warm, wet, entirely too sloppy kiss on his cheek. Her hair brushed against his face setting his nerves on fire.
Conrad shrugged his shoulders in an attempt to dislodge her. It didn’t work.
“You really might wanna think about getting up, you know,” the girl said as she began to bounce up and down on the bed.
Deep breaths, Conrad thought, calm down. The scent of her filled his nostrils. Her blood called to him to take it. No. Think about something else. Like her innocence, the tears she’d almost shed for him, the sweet trust in her eyes.
“It’s getting to be almost noon here.”
“Yes.” Conrad sighed. He was almost in control again. “It does that. Same time each day. Now, stop bouncing and shut the curtains.”
“But, how come? Don’t you wanna let the sunshine in?”
His control dissolved. Who did she think she was, anyway—some new front man for The Fifth Dimension? “I said shut the damn curtains. Now!”
“Okay, well, you can stay here and sleep, if you want. I’m gonna go out and enjoy this beautiful day. So I guess I’ll say good-bye now.”
Now she had his attention. She couldn’t be serious? Half turning, he squinted and looked her over. Yes, apparently, she was. She was already dressed, right down to her boots. Her face looked hazy, but he supposed that was just an effect of the light. “Where, exactly, do you think you’re going?” he demanded in what he hoped she’d recognize as an ominous tone. Had he told her she could leave? He didn’t think he had.
His question seemed to surprise her. “Nowhere, really. I’m just, you know, going.” She shrugged. “But, um, I was thinking we could, you know, maybe see each other again sometime?”
“I don’t think so.” He briefly considered forcing her back to sleep. He could do it, of course, but it would be an effort. Besides, it was probably better if she did go. These days, he almost always slept more soundly alone.
“N-no?” The girl’s eyes widened into an expression of forlorn dismay. “B-but, I thought maybe—”
“No,” Conrad growled, annoyed at having to repeat himself. “We will not ‘maybe see each other again sometime’.” What had the girl been thinking? “I will be seeing you again, right here, next weekend. There will be no maybe about it. Is that understood?”
“Oh.” Her cheeks flushed. Half-smiling, she murmured, “Well, gee, I guess I could do that. If I’m not too busy or, you know, if I don’t forget all about you by then.”
Another angry snarl lifted Conrad’s lips. “Do you honestly think it’s a good idea to annoy me like this?” He’d never taken well to being teased—and certainly not in the morning. The morning! He couldn’t even recall the last time anyone had dared wake him at this time of day.
“Okay, okay.” She was smiling wider now. “I’ll see you next weekend. Happy now?”
“No,” he grumbled, closing his eyes again. “But shut the curtains on your way out and I might begin to be.”
“Fine, then. Be that way.” She heaved a long, exasperated sigh as she got off the bed. A moment later blessed darkness reclaimed the room. Conrad relaxed in relief. His conscience, however, was not as easily assuaged. As he heard his bedroom door begin to close, he knew he could not let her leave so soon.
“Wait,” he commanded as he threw back the covers and got out of bed.
“What now?” She paused in the doorway while he shrugged into his dressing gown and crossed to where she stood. He pulled her back into the room and shut the door. Then he pushed her against the wall and kissed her thoroughly, giving her something to remember him by and further cementing his influence over her.
“Now,” he said, eyeing her sternly as his hands caressed the curves of her waist. “No more foolishness. You will tell me exactly what I wish to hear. Where will you be next weekend?”
“I’m coming here,” she answered obediently. “To see you.”
“And you will not forget?”
Her laugh sounded a little forced, a little uncertain but she shook her head and murmured, “No. I won’t forget you. I promise.”
“And if you need anything before then, you’ll call me, yes?”
She looked surprised, which pretty much mirrored his own thoughts on the subject, especially when he found himself elaborating on his instructions. “Before you leave the house today I want you to find Armand. He should be downstairs somewhere. Wake him up, if you have to. Tell him I said he should give you my private phone number. Is that clear?”
“Armand? You mean he lives here too?”
“Yes. Make him write it down, so you don’t forget it. I’d do it myself, but I don’t have anything to write with up here.”
“I don’t get it. Does he, like, work for you, or something? I thought he was your friend?”
“He is,” he answered, not even attempting to explain the complexities of vampire relationships. “He’s my friend who works for me.” And who would likely be extremely surprised at being asked to give out Conrad’s phone number. That number was private for exactly one reason: it was never given to anyone outside of his nest. Why he was choosing to break the rule now, he couldn’t imagine. But, it was his rule, which meant it was his right to break it any time it suited him to do so. Without having to give anyone a reason for it. Not even himself.
“Okay. I’ll call if, if I need to.”
“Good.” After brushing another brief kiss across her lips he opened the door and ushered her into the hall.
He walked her to the top of the stairs then kissed her again, still toying with the idea of holding her captive a little while longer, of feeding from her again before he let her go. Frankly, he could use it. The sudden exposure to so much daylight had left him with a pounding, debilitating headache. He felt like crap. But he’d taken quite enough from her last night. Besides, perhaps leaving a faint edge on his hunger for once would be good for him. It would, at least, be an interesting experience, one that might sharpen the anticipation of seeing her again.
“Au revoir, mignonne,” he said as he let her go. She tripped lightly down the stairs and disappeared from his view. A minute later the murmur of voices reached Conrad’s ears. Good girl, he thought approvingly. Half a minute more, and Armand appeared, his face pensive as he climbed the stairs. “Ça va?” Conrad asked the younger man as he came to stand beside him on the landing. It goes well?
“Oui.” Armand nodded in grudging assent as they leaned on the rail together, side by side, both of them watching through the stained-glass window as Desert Rose made her way down the walkway. “It goes well enough, I suppose. Although I do not think our friend is very happy with me this morning.”
“Ah, mon pauvre garçon.” Conrad threw an arm around his friend’s shoulders and patted him consolingly. “Is she no longer interested in you then? Pardonnez-moi. My fault, I suppose.”
“Yes.” Armand frowned sullenly. “It certainly is.” He shot Conrad a curious glance. “She said you wanted her to have your number. I take it she’ll be back?”
“Definitely. Next weekend, in fact.”
“Really?” Speculation gleamed in Armand’s eyes. “And yet…she seems not to have realized what we are?”
“No.” Conrad could not help smiling as he thought about it. “Intriguing, is it not? The matter appears, somehow, to have escaped her attention. I’m thinking of keeping things that way for a while.”
“Is that wise?”
“I don’t know. But it’s what I want.”
Armand shrugged. “Tres bien.” He paused for a moment, then murmured hopefully, “She’s pretty, no?”
Conrad sighed. Wrapping his arms around the other man, he pulled him close, his chest to Armand’s back. He leaned into the boy’s shoulder and whispered warningly, “I would hate for you to be unclear about my wishes in this matter, Armand. She’s pretty, yes. She’s also mine. All mine. Elle est la mienne. Comprenez-vous?”
“Oui. Je comprends.”
“Good.” Conrad kissed him on the cheek. “Make sure everyone else understands that as well, would you, dear?”
Armand nodded, but his voice still sounded a trifle sulky as he muttered, “D’accord.”
Conrad sighed. “Oh. You’re disappointed.” Taking hold of Armand’s shoulders, he turned him so that they were face to face. He gazed at him thoughtfully. He was a beautiful boy, this newest of his children, but still very young in many ways. Young enough to be hurt by a pretty girl’s rejection? Perhaps. Young enough to be angered by another man’s succeeding where he had failed—or not even failed, but rather, been forced to give way? Definitely. It was, after all, only a dozen or so years since Conrad had sired him. He was still very human. “Perhaps I should make it up to you. You’d like that, yes?”
Comprehension flooded Armand’s face with color. He nodded eagerly. “I would. I’d like that a lot.”
Conrad smiled. He did so like to see that look. Almost nothing made him happier than an eager gleam in his lover’s eyes. And he was sure nothing would restore his depleted energy faster, or make him feel more like his usual self again, than the dark kiss of another vampire. “As will I, mon cher,” he murmured as he drew Armand into his embrace. “I will like it very, very much.”
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