Summary: Valerie Pendleton Hardaine has survived the death of his brother Kiernan and the loss of everything he has ever known before, even himself. And even though he tells himself that finding love with Justyn and Daeniel is more than worth the cost he’s paid, it is still a battle for him to adapt to his new life as a vampire.
Then, when he thinks that he has finally found his place in the world, the human race is viciously attacked by aliens bent on genocide. The only choice is the exposure of a secret that has been kept for as long as there have been humans–the existence of vampires, lycanthropes, and Others.
Set between “Visions of Blood & Shadow” and “Tears of Blood & Glory,” this bridging novel can stand on its own, covering decades of Valerie’s new life. From flighty young man to soldier that will do anything, this is what shaped him in-between.
The night was beautiful this time of year, cold and so clear the stars were like laser beams and the moon was a silver fire. For those on the ground, streetlights, buildings and the hustle and bustle of cars and pedestrians blocked out the complete wonder of the night sky. But flying high above, everything was clear and perfect with the stars shining through the cloudless dark as a million points of light.
“The only bad thing about flying is trying to find whatever place you’re trying to get to,” Valerie said, squinting downward.
Dalyn laughed and bumped shoulders with him “You’re not supposed to see where you’re going; you smell it.”
Valerie gave him a disbelieving look, but obligingly took a deep sniff. “I got nothing,” he said.
“Weirdo,” Dalyn said, snickering. “Don’t smell with your nose, use you mind. Just send your mind out a bit and try and Feel the scent.”
Valerie’s lip twisted. “How the hell am I supposed to do that? Everyone tells me what to do, but no one tells me how. It completely sucks.”
There was a few seconds of silence, then a laugh. “You’ve got no patience. There’s no way you would make a good autodidact. You want all the answers and none of the real work of figuring it out for yourself.”
Valerie sighed. “Yes, I am a card-carrying member of the instant gratification generation. So come on, just tell me how to figure out where I’m going before I go completely ape-shit.”
“Gee, that’s real classy.” At Valerie’s glare, Dalyn relented. “It’s easy. Just reach out with your mind for the Vampire Club. If you really think about it, you’ll be able to feel the place in your mind. Just focus on the Vampire Club and you’ll feel a kind of tug telling you what direction you’re supposed to go.”
Valerie rolled his eyes. The idea of just knowing where he was supposed to go seemed a bit ridiculous, but he had seen a lot of weird shit lately. He figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it, and who cared how dumb it made him feel. It wasn’t like there was a bunch of people hanging around to act as witnesses to his embarrassment.
He twisted his thoughts around and tried to feel where the Club was. He felt utterly ridiculous, but he did it.
As he focused, it felt like something shifted in his brain. He couldn’t really explain it, but there was the sense that doors were opening behind his eyes and untold wonders were appearing just for him. It was the strangest, most miraculous thing, as close to magic as anything could get. A thrill went through him, making him want to crow his victory to the whole world.
“There,” he pointed. “The Vampire Club’s over there.” He looked at Dalyn for approval, and the other grinned.
“Good job, got it in one. Someday you’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
“Yeah right.” Valerie blushed furiously. He had never been too great with praise when it mattered.
Dalyn socked him in the shoulder. “You chose the direction, so let’s go.”
They flowed across the night, so far in the sky that Valerie felt as if he could reach up and cup the stars in his hands like snowballs of pure light. He could feel the energy of the moon as she suckled her children, and it was a beautiful thing.
Here and now he didn’t feel like a deathless vampire. He was real life living his old flying dream. He felt again like he was ten years old and the whole world was his. He could do anything and be anything and had more control over his fate than anyone else could ever hope to have.
Following the tugging direction inside him, Valerie made his way southward toward the shining brightness of the Vampire Club. He felt proud of himself that he knew exactly where to go.
“Race you,” he called backward, grabbing a fast moving current of air to put on more speed.
Dalyn laughed and chased after.
They went zipping across the night sky, their clothes rippling with the speed of their passage. The cool air touched their skin and found no leverage against them. They were impervious to the cold and pressure and everything else merely human.
“Beat you!” Valerie crowed when he came thumping down on both feet in the alleyway next to the Vampire Club. He slapped a few wisps of smoke from his shirt and pants then began strolling coolly off with Dalyn, both of them pretending the flight had never happened.
“You cheated,” Dalyn whispered into his ear. “You had a head start and it wasn’t a fair race.”
Valerie rolled his eyes. “You’re just a sore loser, that’s all. I won fair and square. It’s not my fault you’re slow.”
“Sure, whatever. As though anyone’s going to believe an eleven month old vampire beat somebody Made nine years ago without cheating. Sure.”
They came out of the alley and made their way straight to the double doors, ignoring the line as though it wasn’t even there. The bouncers didn’t blink, just let them through, knowing they belonged.
As they passed through the doors, Valerie said out of the corner of his mouth, “Loser.” He didn’t give Dalyn a chance to retaliate, just went striding off into the crowds of people, heading straight for the bar and the drinks waiting for him there.
The bartender was one he recognized from before, Marcus Whitterby. A handsome brown-haired guy with a bit of a lisp when he asked, “What’ll you have?”
“Can I have a lager, normal?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
Marcus’ lips twisted in amusement. “Trying to fit in with the locals, I see.” He shrugged. “Oh well, it’s your body you’re abusing, not mine.”
Valerie leaned against the bar until his face was close to Marcus’, so close that someone bumping him would have made them kiss. “It could be your body,” he husked, half-lowering his lids over his eyes, playing at the game of seduction.
They stayed that way for a timeless moment, then they both laughed and stepped away. There was nothing in them that would fit together so perfectly as to create a lasting relationship. They could be friends, but they were never meant as lovers. They both knew and accepted the fact and were glad to at least share a friendship. It was enough.
“Don’t try to flirt with me,” Marcus said, turning to get the drink. “It won’t get you free alcohol.”
Valerie made a sad face. “Aw man. It’s just that I’m a poor boy and I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
“Sure. Here’s your drink. Go dance with someone that’ll buy into your bullshit.” Marcus slid the glass of dark brew across the counter at him.
Valerie took it and sighed heavily before taking a sip. “You’re cruel to me, Marcus, cruel, cruel, cruel. It’s pure torment that such a pantasmic guy works the bar here, but never gives anything away for free.”
Marcus smirked. “Oh, I always give it away for free. Just not to you.”
Valerie clutched his chest. “Ah, you strike me to the quick. Can you see the blood? You vicious brute you.”
“Take your drink and go find yourself a lovely young morsel,” Marcus commanded, making a shooing gesture. “I’ve got a lot of work to do now, and I don’t need the distraction of your luscious self to drive me from the task at hand.”
The boy pouted a little, but moved off. Once he was on his way through the crowd, his expression metamorphosed into the one he used when hunting–sleepy eyes and sulky lips, his whole body speaking of unfulfilled sexual urges and a willingness to take on anyone. It was his “fuckable goth” look, a vulnerable wanton looking for a little action but nothing too serious.
His eyes behind his brainless look were scanning the faces that passed by, looking for the perfect plaything to lure out of the Club for a quickie. He had Fed, but he was already getting Hungry again, that ravenous “thirst” that made him feel as though his guts were grinding together inside and he would be nothing but dust by the time the night was through.
A warm, stroking hand fell on his shoulder, sliding down his back to caress his ass. He turned, not too quickly, to see who it was, a playful smile drifting across his lips, his eyes brightening with a kind of welcome.
“Hey,” he said, husky-voiced, his body swaying a little to the music, his hands lifting as if from their own accord to brush against the man’s face.
The guy was about forty or fifty, his hair mostly steel gray with a few streaks of leftover black. He wasn’t exactly handsome, but he had an interesting face with a lot of personality shining through. And from the moistness of his lips and the gleam to his eye, he was a ripe fruit ready to be plucked by someone like Valerie.
“You’re fantabulously pantasmic,” the guy said. From the stresses he put on the slang terms, it was obvious he wasn’t used to using the new decade vernacular. He was trying too hard to be appealing and that only made Valerie more sure that this man was the perfect mark. The only reason he would try to be so pleasing was if he wanted to be noticed by Valerie. He was a willing victim.
“I know I am,” Valerie said without a trace of ego in his voice, then laughed. He grabbed the man’s arm, making it seem as though he was trying to cop a feel of the guy’s biceps. “Instead of wasting time getting to know each other, why don’t we go somewhere else and have some fun?”
“But… You don’t even know my name,” the man spluttered. It was obvious he wanted to go and get his world rocked by a wild young thing, but little voices were whispering doubts in his brain. The real world was always trying to get in the way of nothing-pleasures.
Valerie smiled his most seductive smile, the one that had been known to fry brain cells and leaned into the guy. “My name is Valerie,” he said, “what’s yours?”
“Uh, uh, Eric.”
“Well then, now it seems we know each other, doesn’t it?” Valerie cocked his head a bit to one side and let a sly little smirk twist his lips. “Since we’re now such great friends–being on a first name basis and all–don’t you think we should go and have some fun before the night’s over and the offer’s off the table? I’m horny and you’re available. I’m not going to wait for second thoughts.”
Indecision flittered across the guy’s face, but one look directly into Valerie’s eyes knocked all other thoughts out. “Sure, sure, let’s go have some fun.”
Valerie hooked elbows with the man and began leading him toward the door and destiny.