How perfect is this? It's New Year's Eve and I'm releasing a story titled Light Up the Night? Anyway, I'm super excited to have this book out in the world! You can get it right now as part of the Shadows and Chaos anthology, check it out!!
Shadows and Chaos
LIGHT UP THE NIGHT
Her love will light up his night. If they can both survive that long.
Heather is having the worst Christmas ever! Or, at least, the worst Christmas since she was forced to become a vampire. Her sire's distracted, her nestmates have forgotten her, weirdos have taken over the lair. The only bright spot in her life right now is Drew--who didn't even used to like her! She knows he's coming around, but that's not good enough. She wants more. She wants everything. She wants him. And she's not giving up.
Drew Geiger gave up on love a long time ago. Such tender emotions have no place in a vampire's heart. But, somehow, the girl he once described as a "feral kitten" has got her claws in him, and she's not letting go. That would be fine, if only someone didn't want her dead--and if her sire didn't recall that it was Drew who once suggested that maybe she'd be better off that way.
And here's an excerpt for you!
“What’s your pleasure, my girl?” Drew asked, flashing a smile at the young woman who was seated at his bar. It was a foolish question. Pointless, really, since he knew her answer would never be the one he longed to hear—you. And that she was not now, nor ever would be, his.
“Nothing, thanks,” Heather answered, before adding a hesitant, “If that’s okay? I just thought I’d sit here for a while.”
“ course,” Drew replied automatically. “You're free to do whatever you want here. Mi casa es su casa.” The smile Heather flashed him in return caused his heart to clench, and his conscience to pain him because, merciful heavens, he was spouting nothing but lies tonight!
She was certainly not free to do as she wished, no more than he was. Vampires weren’t, in general, and neither of them were exceptions to that rule. Nor was this a house, for that matter. It was a bar, a nightclub if he were feeling sufficiently grandiose, a place where those of their kind might congregate safely, where they could feed in comfort, dance and entertain themselves, and harmlessly while away yet another endless night. And even though Drew had been given free rein in the managing of it, ultimately Akeldama was not his at all. It belonged to his sire, Conrad Quintano, at whose pleasure Drew served.
Luckily, since Conrad was neither especially capricious nor unusually cruel, Drew felt reasonably secure in his position. Still, the fact remained: he could be replaced at any time, and on nothing more than a whim.
“Not hungry tonight?” he asked, for no particular reason—except that it was the kind of thing a friend might do, the type of question a bartender might ask. And, like it or not, those two things were all he could ever be to her.
She shook her head. “Not really. I grabbed a bite earlier, on my way here.”
“Hmph.” While Drew generally refrained from eating while on duty, Heather was not similarly constrained. She was young, beautiful, vibrant. She should be out on the dance floor enjoying herself or enticing some lucky human into one of the curtained alcoves for a quick snack. She should not be sitting here, alone at the bar, wasting her time talking to him, of all people. For that matter, if dancing or feeding—or even just a place to sit, and someone to talk to—was all she was after, she could just as well have stayed home.
The warehouse where Heather lived with the rest of her clan also doubled as a vampire nightclub, albeit a part-time, and largely illegal one. And yet it hadn’t escaped Drew’s attention that over the past few weeks Heather had been hanging out in here more and more often. “So, what’s going on with you these days?” he asked, as he busied himself behind the bar, putting together a drink he hoped she might like. “You’ve been in here a lot lately. No parties at home?”
Heather heaved a gusty sigh. “Other way around. There’s been nothing but parties. Every damn night. It’s too noisy, too crowded; and that’s all down to these new ferals Marc dragged home with him last month. They’re constantly underfoot, always bugging me about something or other. They’re just…ugh! They make me nuts.”
Drew had to set his jaw to keep his fangs from emerging. “Are you saying someone’s been bothering you? Does Marc know?” Marc was Heather’s sire, and Drew’s friend. It wasn’t Drew’s place to interfere, but all the same, “You have to tell him. If someone’s trying to take advantage of you, he needs to know about it.”
“What? Oh! No.” Heather shook her head. “No, it’s nothing like that. They’re not doing anything wrong, exactly. They’re just there. You know? Like, all the time. And there are so many of them. And I’m just... God, I’m so over it.”
Drew suspected the opposite was true, that what was really bothering her was something she wasn’t over—her girlish, and entirely understandable crush on her sire. But one thing she’d said—or, more specifically, one word she’d used—still struck him as being odd. Feral. Feral was one of the words their kind used to describe an orphaned vampire, someone who’d lost their sire and had no one to care for them. It was a pejorative, as ferals were generally viewed as being unbalanced, irredeemable, a threat to society. Not so long ago, Heather herself had been deemed feral.
“But, surely, they’re not feral any longer, are they? I mean, now that Marc’s adopted them?”
Heather shot him a dark, inscrutable look. “Is that how it works, now? I thought it was still, once a feral, always a feral. Isn’t that what everyone thinks? That there’s something fundamentally wrong with us, something that can never be made right? That we’d all be better off dead?”
Drew nodded gravely, acknowledging the truth of what she'd said, even while he went back to constructing her drink. “That’s certainly what everyone used to think up until very recently. And I suppose there are those who still do. But the world is changing. So, I’m sure that won’t always be the case.”
“Change isn’t necessarily a good thing,” Heather muttered quietly.
“Very true. But in this case, I believe it is. After all, I used to be one of those people, myself. But now I know better. And, frankly, I would have thought you did too.”
Inexplicably, that brought a smile to her lips. “Yeah, you’re right. Sorry. I know I’m being bitchy. They’re just so damn thirsty—you know? For food and attention. They take up alllll Marc’s time, and... I know it’s silly, but I guess I feel left out.”
“It’s not silly at all, actually. As a vampire, you’re still very young. You’re still finding your feet. It’s natural for you to crave your sire’s attention—in fact, you really can’t help doing so.”
Heather shrugged. “I guess. And I mean, I’m still Marc’s only legit spawn, you know? I feel like that should count for something. But instead, I feel like roadkill, sometimes.”
“Roadkill?” Drew repeated skeptically.
“You know, something that’s been run over and left behind.”
Drew shot her a look, but rather than commenting he slid a glass across the bar to her. “Here. Try this. See what you think.”
“What is it?”
“Taste it and see.”
Heather’s eyes narrowed. Sizing me up, Drew thought. Trying to decide whether to trust me. And while, in theory, he approved of her being cautious—caution and luck were the only reasons some vampires continued to stay alive—in practice he was disappointed. “It’s not a trick—you have my word. I’m not trying to drug you, or poison you, or whatever else you might be wondering.” Which is exactly what someone would say if they did mean her harm.
“That’s not what I was wondering!”
“You’re safe here. Always.”
“Good. Then drink up.”
“Why won’t you tell me what it is?”
“Because I’m not sure if I made it correctly. And I don’t want to influence your opinion.”
Heather rolled her eyes. Drew held his breath as she lifted the glass to her lips and took a small sip. Her eyes flew wide. “No way.”
His heart plunged. “Not right?”
“Drew…you made me an egg cream?”
“I think so? Is that what it tastes like? Is it all right?”
“Well, yeah!” She took another, longer sip, then asked. “Do you even know how long it’s been since I’ve had one of these?”
“Not that long, I’d imagine.”
“Ha! That shows how much you know. It’s been ages!”
“That would be impossible.” If Heather had hit her very first quarter-century mark, Drew would be amazed. He, on the other hand, was currently feeling every one of his three hundred and fifty-four years. “So, it’s really all right?”
“It’s perfect.” She sipped again and sighed happily. Then her expression shifted back to wary. “Hey, wait a minute. This isn’t some sneaky way of saying you think I’m acting like a kid, is it?” Drew shook his head.
“No, it’s my sneaky way of saying life is always going to change. And not always for the better. So, it’s important to take as much pleasure as you can from the ordinary things in life.”
“Like egg creams?”
He returned her smile. “Exactly.” Then he turned serious. “Look, to be honest, I suspect most have us have been through something not so different from what you’re experiencing. One day we’re loved, cherished, the object of someone’s deepest desires, the next—our world is upended, and we find ourselves lost, unloved, unwanted. And that’s if we’re lucky.”
Heather ducked her head. “I know.” Her downcast expression tore at his heart.
“But remember what I told you,” he said as he reached across the bar to squeeze her hand. “You always have a place here. If you need someone to talk to, or if you just want to sit here and not talk, or…whatever you need. Anything. You need only ask.”
Heather studied their joined hands for a moment. When she lifted her gaze to his face, he saw she was smiling faintly. “Thanks, Drew.”
Drew gave her hand a final squeeze then let her go. “You’re most welcome. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s getting late. I have to see about closing up.”
“Oh!” She glanced at the clock over the bar. “Shit. I’m sorry. I should go. I didn’t realize it was so late.” “No, you’re fine,” he said, putting out a hand to stop her. “Please stay. Relax. Finish your drink. In fact, give me just a few minutes, and I’ll walk you home. All right?” “Okay, sure.”