Sunday, August 6, 2017

Good to the Last Drop, Chapter 1: A Little B&E Between Friends

We're here. At long last. The grand finale to Love at First Bite.

If you're wondering "Why are you stopping here?" the answer is simple: Because this is as far as my main villain will take me. Any longer, and the threat is just going to become ridiculous. Unless I don't hit it here. Because trust me, these odds are ... bleak.

I try to change things up in every book. And this villain is built upon everything I've done before. Minions? We've got minions. Vampires? We have vampires.

Demons? That would be telling.

Anyway, preorder the book here, and get ready for things to get strange.

Okay, stranger.

Chapter 1: A Little B&E Between Friends

December 15th, New York City

Merle Kraft’s midnight-blue eyes took in the office with a simple glance. The room was neat and orderly. The desk faced the door, and behind it were the large windows that made up the outside wall, giving a perfect view of Turtle Bay and the borough across the water—Brooklyn.
Ah, the memories… Wait, what am I thinking? I haven’t even been on this case a year. Where the hell did the time go? To Hell, almost literally.
Merle shook his head and turned his thoughts back to the situation at hand. After all, he was standing in the offices of the United Nations Secretary General. It was quite a view from a flat and uninteresting office, overlooking the East river, and looking at the next borough. The view was better looking than the bare bones office—chairs and desk, but thousand dollar desks and hundred dollar chairs. Who knew you could be so bland, yet spare no expense?
Unfortunately, despite his facility with B&E, Merle didn’t even know where to start looking. The files he desired weren’t to be left in a file cabinet, or even in plain sight. Assuming, of course, that he kept files on that sort of thing. The smart thing would be to just disappear everything.
And run. I would run. But then, I wouldn’t have made deals with demons and vampires in the first place, so who knows what they were thinking.
Merle moved through the room with his usual efficiency and grace. People often wondered just how he got through locked doors as though they weren’t there and find things that no one else knew how to. If anyone else knew the secret, they didn’t talk.
Thankfully, Merle also didn’t work with anyone, otherwise they would be making fun of his B&E costume: a blue windbreaker that matched his eyes, and blue jeans. His idea of undercover attire was wearing a windbreaker without FBI emblazoned on it.
Having fun with your search, brother?”
Merle leaped from the middle of searching the desk and spun to meet the gaze of his half-brother Dalf. The darker Kraft brother was swathed in black, as usual, complete with his wolf’s head silver-topped cane. The wolf’s head on the cane had eyes of rubies. The cape swirled around Dalf like he was Batman, and Merle once again examined the Boston Kraft brother for vampire fangs.
Dalf smiled, just to show that his bright white teeth were perfectly normal, blunt human teeth. Merled never seen them bloodstained, but it didnt hurt to check. Nope, not a fleck. Check.
The Eurasian ignored his Black Irish half-brother, turning away with a sigh. “I’m busy, Dalf.”
He nodded, taking in the room with a sweep of his eyes. “I see. Having an enjoyable evening of it? Or have you been frustrated in your endeavors?”
Merle gave him an eye-roll. Dalf wouldn’t go away until he played along. “What do you want?”
Dalf flowed along the room, but not moving closer, most likely just to keep his brother uncomfortable. Then again, he always did like manipulating me… and everyone else.
How have your investigations been going?”
Circular. Why?”
I hear that the government has been using wire taps on the United Nations.”
Blink. No one was supposed to have heard about that. Not even the New York Times had leaked it yet. “Indeed?”
Yes, I suspect this case has been bugging you, lately.”
Merle didn’t even react. Did my brother just suggest I bug the secretary general’s office? “You’re being helpful again, Dalf; why?”
The Boston Kraft brother narrowed his eyes, and gave Merle a smile that reminded him a little of Marco Catalano. “Because I can’t be the one to kill you if a vampire drains you first.”
* * * *
December 17th, New York City

Amanda Colt, vampire, sat on her couch, nose buried in the pages of a book on modern politics. It wasn’t so much that she needed the distance to read—in fact, she could read it from the other end of the room. It helped her forget that she was alone, in her apartment … especially when she would rather be in San Francisco, with Marco.
At his bedside, in the hospital.
But no, Jennifer Bosley wanted to see her, and had to see her “as soon as possible.”
Then she was told to wait.
She wanted to scream. But screaming would give the neighbors the wrong idea. What a shame.
Amanda and Marco had finally made it. He loved her. Shed told him that she felt the same about him. Shed even told him her real name … assuming the pain killers hadn’t totally knocked him out.
Frustrated” didn’t really even begin to encompass it.
So she read. Since she left San Francisco, she had read twenty books. A day. And went to Mass each night. It was good enough for saints and monks, it would have to be good enough for her.
Have you gotten to the queen of the damned, yet?
Amanda started, leaping out of her chair and halfway across the apartment before she realized who had broken into her place—the only person who had ever done so without being eaten.
The red-golden-haired vampyre smiled gently. “Hello, Merle. How are you?”
The San Francisco Kraft brother nodded, and walked towards her. His hands stayed in his dark blue windbreaker. “I’m well. I’ll be damned if I can figure out exactly what’s going on over at the UN right now, but I’m working on it.”
Amanda reached back and gently put the bookmark back in the book. “Have you considered bugging the UN offices?”
He raised a brow and smiled slightly. “Funny you should say that, someone else just suggested it tonight as well. What do you think about the matter?”
The vampyre shrugged. “I have not been thinking about it. It has been…odd lately, that is all.” She sighed. “Have you had any success using Marco as bait yet?”
Merle blinked, surprised that she would even need to ask him about it one way or another. “He hasn’t told you?”
She sat down and picked up her book again. “We have not talked since I left. Cell phones and hospitals do not mix.”
Merle shrugged and moved to the nearest chair, wrapping the toe of his shoe around the chair and pulling it into position so he could sit. “First time I met you two, I figured you were at least dating, if not exchanging bodily fluids… then I discovered you were, just not the ones I had in mind. You were inseparable, and not to mention that neither one of you gave a damn about personal space.”
She allowed a corner of her mouth to curl into something like a wry smile. “Vampires generally do not acknowledge personal space. It makes it easier to eat their date.”
He rolled his eyes and sighed. Deflection was something he didn’t have time for, and as far as he was concerned, neither did she. “Give me a break, Amanda, I know you better than that, and so does Marco.”
Amanda’s eyes snapped up to meet his and the book slammed shut with what sounded like a rifle shot. “Really? You think so? Do you know how many people I’ve killed?”
Merle’s brows arched. “Do you know how little I care?”
She completely ignored the jibe. “I terrorized half the Red Army during the Revolution. I was used as propaganda against the Whites—a whisper about a demon working against the progress of Revolution. I did not even think for months, killing people to feed my hunger, feeding off Lenin’s army. I am a predator who had to retrain herself to be a human being.”
He scoffed. “Do you know how little Marco cares?
She continued without regard for his comment. “Most vampires are incontinent—sometimes they are merely lesser evils because they are like a lot of humans. They do not think, they just act. Only the thinking ones can be true evil or good.”
Merle nodded slowly, seeing that he would have to give in to the situation and actually address her concerns. “And you’re afraid that one of these days, your instincts will take over?”
Amanda could feel her blood pressure go up without her trying to make it do so. The last person who had gotten her this mad was Marco. The little wizard wasn’t going to leave her alone on this, was he? “What part of ‘I want to kill something’ don’t you get?” she snapped.
He inclined his head. “You want to tell me that in English this time.”
She blinked, not realizing that she had shouted at him in Russian.
Merle continued. “It at least explains a few things about you.” He smiled. “I always wondered why you were so much weaker than every major creature we’ve come up against. Nuala damn near killed all of us without even blinking. We won’t even go into Mister Day.”
She shrugged. “So what? I am not virtuous. I am, at best, Continent. I know what the good is, want it, and do it. Most of the time. But is it enough? Is it the right thing?
He shook his head. “No, you’re not just anything. Rory is continent, and he flinches at crosses if he doesn’t brace himself. But you pray, you wear crosses. But I know why you don’t have a power level commensurate with your level of virtue. You’ve been scared out of your mind by the level of power you might access. The nuns called it fortitude.
Merle’s eyes narrowed and he leaned forward. “You never asked what more you could do, never tested yourself to see how far you could go. Never tried to see if you could reach beyond what powers you’ve displayed thus far. You’re scared of your instincts, terrified of yourself and what you can do if you actually let yourself go deeper. Maybe you’re scared of your power, what you’ll become if you tap into it. As C.S. Lewis noted, if you don’t want it, it’s usually a good sign that you’re probably the right person to have it.
Merle stood and smoothed out his windbreaker. He gave her a look that brooked no dissent. “I don’t give a good God-damn what your supposed instincts are saying. You’ve spent decades at least on the side of right. Since you enjoy citing Aristotle so often, remember that thing about habits. It’s unlikely that you’re going to make a sudden and drastic U-turn and become another Nuala.
Perhaps you should ask yourself how you were able to so easily turn to mist and use it as a tactical weapon last week. I think you could figure it out if you put your mind to it.

As far as your boyfriend, not only is Marco a big boy, he can probably kick your undead ass should you step out of line.” He sharply tugged at the bottom of his windbreaker. “Like it or not, you’re in love with him, and I can only assume that, what I can read from a creature like Marco, is that he may even love you, too. Get over it.”

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