Here's another excerpt--just 'cause I can!
In the Dark
Children of Night, Book 1
When you live forever, you’re bound to make a few mistakes.
1969 San Francisco. World-weary Conrad Quintano should have known better than to fall in love with a human—much less Suzanne Fischer, the barely legal, adventure-seeking hippie beauty known as Desert Rose. And the very last thing he should have agreed to do was to raise her babies and protect them with his life. But even twelve-hundred-year-old master vampires can find it hard to reject a deathbed request—especially when issues of love, guilt and blood are involved.
Present day. Raised in virtual isolation, twins Marc and Julie Fischer have always known they are vampires. But they never knew their parentage—or their unique status in the vampire world—until their “uncle” Damian comes to fetch them home. The family reunion, however, isn’t what they expect. They’re thrust into a world for which they’re totally unprepared. And the father they expected to see, Conrad, is missing.
How to find him…and whom to trust? Solving the mystery of betrayal and vampire family values will prove the Beatles had it right. All you need is love…and an occasional side of blood.
While reading this book you may experience any of the following, an increased desire to wear flowers in your hair, dress in tie-dye or nap during the day. Other symptoms may include an intolerance to sunlight, an aversion to garlic-flavored tofu and a pronounced urge to bake…or get baked.
Marc finished unpacking in the room Damian had assigned to him—one of many vacant rooms available. He’d found it odd that such a big house should be standing mostly empty, but in a night filled with oddities it had hardly seemed worth mentioning.
Apparently most of the vampires associated with the nest lived elsewhere, just as he and Julie had always done. So, maybe it wasn’t odd, after all. Maybe this sort of lifestyle choice was normal for vampires. Maybe they were solitary as well as predatory and maybe he was the strange one for thinking there was anything odd about it.
He lay back on the bed, folded his arms beneath his head and looked around. It was a nice enough room, he supposed. Large. Comfortable. A little dark for his tastes. A little heavy on the gold trim. Faultlessly decorated, but impersonal. There was nothing to indicate whether anyone had ever actually lived in it before. Maybe he would be the first. And maybe, if they stayed long enough, someday it might even begin to feel like home.
Maybe. But that could only happen if they found Conrad in time. And how in the hell are we supposed to do that? They had to though, didn’t they? Just as Damian had said. Because, if they didn’t, all bets were off, their lives would be forever changed and Conrad’s…well, for Conrad it would likely be over altogether. That thought—and the fear that went along with it—left him too anxious to rest.
He got back on his feet. A Jack-and-Jill bathroom connected his room with his sister’s. He pulled the door to it open and hurried through. “Hey, you wanna get outta here for awhile?” he asked as he emerged in Julie’s room. “Maybe go for a run or something?” Exercise was good and late at night—when no one was around to notice and maybe clock him going faster than he should have been able to go—was the only time he was really able to cut loose. If ever he’d needed to cut loose, it was now.
Julie was curled on the window seat, staring out at the night. She startled at his words and turned, almost snarling at him. “Haven’t you ever heard of knocking?”
“Sorry,” Marc answered, a little taken aback. She wasn’t usually so short tempered. “You’re not thinking about going to bed already, are you?” It was getting close to sunrise, sure, but not that close.
Julie shook her head. “No, but what’s that got to do with anything? And what’s wrong with you, anyhow? Ever since we got here you’ve been acting crazy. I thought you and Damian were going to bite each other’s heads off in the kitchen.”
Good question. He wasn’t altogether certain what was affecting his mood but, in the interest of sibling harmony, he decided not to mention that Julie’s temper seemed a little out of sorts tonight, as well. “I dunno, I think it’s this place. Pretty funny, huh? All these years we’ve been practically begging Conrad to let us come out here and now…” He shrugged. “I guess maybe there was a reason he didn’t want us here, after all.”
Julie’s expression grew clouded. “It’s not what I thought it would be like, that’s for sure. I thought I’d at least recognize or remember something.”
“Jules, we were only a couple of weeks old at the time—or maybe not even. What did you think you’d remember?”
“I don’t know,” his sister sighed. “A smell, perhaps? Or a feeling. Maybe a familiar face. There should be something.” She shook her head sadly, then leveled another scowl at him. “And I cannot believe you accused Damian of planning to kill Conrad! What is wrong with you?”
“I told you what’s wrong. It’s this place! Don’t you feel it too? Besides, you heard him. That’s exactly what it sounded like he was saying.”
“Oh, stop. It did not. Damian would no more kill Conrad than I would, and if you don’t know that…well…then…you should! He raised us, Marc. He and Conrad and us—we’re family.”
Marc nodded. “I know that. But…oh, c’mon, Jules, you gotta admit he’s acting weird. First he lies to me on the phone to get us to come out here, then he lies to that guy, Armand, about being our sire and then…cookies? Are you freakin’ kidding me? You know how Conrad got last time. There’s gonna be hell to pay when he finds out what’s been going on.”
“Oh, cookies. Yeah, that’s real heinous. That’s just exactly the same as plotting someone’s murder. And, for your information, the only one I’ve noticed acting weird tonight is you.”
The unhappy look on Julie’s face told Marc he’d scored a point, whether she was willing to admit it or not. Yeah, sure, he was acting weird too. Given the circumstances, who wouldn’t be? But that wasn’t all of it. Not by a long shot. “This whole scene is seriously screwed up. It makes me want to punch something. I hate all this stupid vampire drama.” He paused, running his hands through his hair, trying to shake the moodiness threatening to overtake him again. “It just never stops, does it?”
Julie rolled her eyes. “Here we go again. Why would it stop, Marc? We’re vampires. Always were, always gonna be. I can’t believe you’re still trying to dream up idiotic reasons not to admit that. We’re different, so what? Learn to deal with it, already. Or, you know what? Don’t. If it honestly makes you feel that much better to pretend we’re really space aliens instead, then go for it, Star-man, live long and prosper.”
Marc flushed. Not fair. He’d never pretended they were something they weren’t. He’d merely theorized on the various possibilities. And it had been years since he’d floated the idea they might have evolved from some kind of alien life form. Decades maybe. Even though anybody with brains would have to agree that a dip in the extraterrestrial gene pool was a good, solid, reasonable explanation for the way they’d all turned out. It was scientific, logical and so much better than the traditional theory—that they’d originated from demon spawn.
Aliens, by virtue of the fact they’d had to travel through space to get here, were obviously smart, technologically advanced and, in all likelihood, peaceful ambassadors from a better, brighter world. Vampires, on the other hand, were murderers. They were monsters. They were the quintessential fairy-tale villains—right up there with ogres and trolls and gorgons—the kind of creature nightmares were made of.
Who in the hell would choose to be something like that if they didn’t have to?
“You know what I think?” He grabbed one of Julie’s paperbacks from the stack by the window seat and waved it in her face. “I think you just like the idea of being a vampire ’cause you think it’s sexy. I mean, look at this crap you read.” He opened the book at random and read aloud. “…satisfaction gleamed in the prince’s dark eyes as he drew back and looked her over, still licking the last traces of blood from his lips. My blood, Celeste thought, her breasts rising and falling more quickly with the realization. It was her blood, her life force from which he’d been feeding and her body ached with the need to give him more.”
“Give it back!” Julie reached out to snatch the book from his hand.
Marc smirked. “Is that really how feeding makes you feel? Do your eyes gleam with satisfaction when you do it? Maybe, next time you eat, you could take out your mirror and check to see. Oh, but, wait a minute—” He smacked himself in the head. “Since you’re a vampire, I guess you must be invisible in mirrors too, huh?”
“Funny.” Julie gazed at him resentfully. “You know what, Marc? It’s called fiction. And, for your information, if it’s got a good story and three-dimensional characters, nobody cares if some of the facts are a little sketchy.”
“Whatever.” His anger spent, Marc dropped into an armchair facing his sister. “Think what you want.” Obviously, they could both see their reflections just fine when they looked in a mirror. They didn’t need to sleep in their native soil—thank the stars for that! Holy water didn’t do a damn thing other than get them wet. And, no matter how debilitating they found sunlight to be, they’d certainly never yet burst into flames when they’d gone out during the day.
As for the question of whether or not they should accept being labeled as vampire when they clearly didn’t fit the mythological profile—well, that was a long-dead horse. Not even. It was horse dust. And no amount of beating was ever gonna make it run.
Doesn’t any of it bother her, he wondered. Or did Julie never even think about how weird their lives were, how aimless and disconnected, how relatively empty—and, yes, damn it, how different from most other people’s.
Like he’d really needed her to point that out! Marc knew damn well they were different. He’d always known. There’d never been a time in his life when he hadn’t felt that way, even when they were kids. No, especially when they were kids. Growing up with no parents. Schooled by private tutors. Moved every four to six years to a new house, a new community, where, once again, they’d be discouraged from interacting with anyone who hadn’t been carefully screened by either their grandfather or their uncle—the only two constants in their constantly changing lives.
Then there were the admonitions, repeated over and over again, until they were second nature. We don’t feed in public. We don’t show our fangs to the other children on the playground. What’s said in this house, stays in this house. And, most important of all: You must never tell anyone who or what we really are.
The only trouble with that, Marc thought, as he ran his tongue over the small protuberances on the roof of his mouth that hid his retracted fangs, was that he really didn’t know what he was, and he wasn’t always as certain of the “who” part as he’d like to be either. Despite having grown up in their care, the twins had always known that neither Conrad nor Damian were biologically related to them—or to each other, for that matter.
Obviously, they’d had parents at some point, but no one had any idea who their father had been and, other than her name and a few bare facts about her, neither of their “father figures” seemed to know very much about their mother either. Certainly they didn’t like talking about her. Who was she, he wondered for what had to be the trillionth time. How did she die? Why were the events of their birth shrouded in such secrecy?
“Do you think she was ever here?” Julie asked suddenly.
Marc shrugged, not even a little surprised that his sister should be reading his mind. There was nothing new about that, was there? “Our mother? Probably. She and Conrad had to have met somewhere, right?”
Julie’s mouth tightened. “That’s another thing. How are we going to find Conrad? I mean, what are we, the FBI? Damian can’t seriously be expecting us to do this on our own, can he? There’s gotta be someone else he could call.”
“Ghostbusters?” Marc teased. He shook his head. “Beats me. I guess there has to be something we can do to help.”
“I dunno—things! Ask questions? Snoop around? Hell, Jules, you know Damian—I’m sure he’s got some devious plan in mind.”
Devious? Was that another dig? Julie frowned at her brother, but before she could open her mouth to call him on his choice of words, she was startled by a knock on the door that led out into the hall. “Who is it?” she called.
“It’s Armand. Just checking that you have everything you need. May I come in?”
What now? Julie’s gaze flew to Marc’s face, but he was already on his feet, silently retracing his steps across the room. “Go,” he mouthed silently. “Answer the door. Find out what he wants. Ask questions.”
Ask questions? Julie stared in consternation as her brother slipped back into the bathroom, leaving the door behind him ajar. What kind of questions? Questions about what? She stared irresolutely after Marc—not missing the point of the open door. So, he thought he could just listen in on her private conversations now, did he? She couldn’t decide whether that made her feel safe or merely spied upon. Eavesdropper.
She was tempted to close the door on him, and lock it as well, before letting Armand in. It would freak Marc out if she did something like that, and serve him right to boot. But how smart would it be? Considering Conrad was missing and Damian didn’t know who to suspect, it was probably not very smart at all. So, in the end, she left things as they were, plastered her brightest, most unconcerned expression on her face and went to answer the door.
“Hey there, Armand,” she said, pulling the door to the hallway open just as he’d raised his hand to knock again. “Whazzup?”
He looked startled for an instant. An odd half-smile flickered to life on his lips. His too-intense eyes swept her face, taking inventory of her every feature. For far too long.
“See something you like?” she inquired, when she could think of nothing else to say.
“Yes,” he replied, still staring. He colored abruptly and dropped his gaze. “Sorry. You caught me by surprise. When you answered the door just now, you sounded…so young.”
She sighed, having heard it all before. “Yeah, well, I’m not really as young as I look.” Then it was her turn to blush when his smile turned mocking.
“Ah, mais oui. That goes without saying. Who of us is, eh?”
“Right.” Julie nodded. “What was I thinking?” House full of vampires. No one’s as young as they seem. Gotta remember that. It shouldn’t be so hard, really. After all, when had she not lived in a house full of vampires? But that was different. That was Marc and Conrad and Damian. It struck her, suddenly, that the only people she’d ever been able to open her heart and explain her deepest thoughts to, were the very people who’d never needed the explanation in the first place. Because they already knew everything there was to know about her.
Now that she thought about it, it kinda sucked.
For more about the series, please check out the series page at Samhain: http://store.samhainpublishing.com/children-night-series-260.html
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