Summer is here and so is the new Harlequin Nocturne anthology Vacation with a Vampire with novellas by Michele Hauf, Kendra Leigh Castle and Lisa Childs. We’re celebrating its release all week here on Harlequin’s Paranormal Romance blog!
Today, you can read the first chapter excerpt of Kendra Leigh Castle’s story “Vivi and the Vampire”. Keep reading (and if you’re on the blog homepage, click “Click “Read More”) for the sneak peek!
About Vacation with a Vampire:
Everyone needs a break sometimes, especially during the summer. After all, what’s more relaxing, and more romantic, than a midnight stroll through Paris? Or the way the moon reflects off the ocean? And if your mesmerizing, sexy date happens to be ready to nibble your neck, who would want to say no?
Vacations are a perfect time to indulge, so why not spend a little quality time with these immortal hunks in three luscious tales of hot getaways. Treat yourself to a little bit of summer moonlight with these tales brought to you by Michele Hauf, Kendra Leigh Castle and Lisa Childs.
Excerpt: “Vivi and the Vampire” by Kendra Leigh Castle
Justin glared over the top of the itinerary that his sister appeared to be trying to shove up his nose. Dru, as stubborn as always, simply tipped her chin down and tried to stare him into submission. He didn’t miss the determined glint in her eyes, either. It was never a good sign.
“Dru.” Justin sighed, shoving one hand through his short crop of ebony hair. I don’t have time for a vacation. I don’t need a vacation. Your heart is in the right place, and I appreciate that—mostly—but this is out of the question.”
She rolled her eyes, removed the printed itinerary from beneath his nose, and perched on the edge of the massive mahogany desk she often accused him of hiding behind. Which was ridiculous, of course. It was piled high with work because he had an insane amount of responsibility as the king of the underground city of Terra Noctem, a magically protected enclave that had existed in various places for thousands of years to house members of the night races who wished to live free among their own kind. He also sat at the head of the Necromancium, the governing council of all the world’s night creatures. Between mediating interspecies disputes, keeping his people hidden from humankind while also making an obscene amount of money off of them, and lately, fending off demon attacks, he was a busy man.
As he had been since the early days of the Roman Empire.
It was a long time to have your sister nagging at you, but the vampire who’d turned them both had said very complimentary things about the particular flavor of his family’s blood. And he was glad to have a sibling to go through eternity with. Usually. When she wasn’t trying to send him off on some pointless vacation.
“Damn it, Justin, have you taken a look in a mirror lately? You look tired. Vampires aren’t supposed to look tired. And you’re really walking the line between pale and pasty these days.”
He glared balefully up at her. “You want me to turn myself into a stain on someone’s tanning bed? That’s cruel, Dru. I thought you loved me.”
His attempt at humor fell predictably flat.
Dru growled and slapped the itinerary down onto the desk in front of him. It had a cover sheet emblazoned with the words The Most Excellent Summer Vacation of Septimus Junius Iustinianus and a picture of a buff lifeguard with Justin’s head photoshopped onto the body. “Justin,” Dru said, leaning down directly into his face. “I do love you. That’s why I went and worked this all out ahead of time. You know very well I can handle things for a week. I’m a phone call away if you need a monarchy fix. You’ll be fine.” Her eyes softened as they searched his face, and he knew she saw more than anyone did. Especially the things he didn’t want anyone to see.
“You need this,” she said. “Working yourself into a second death isn’t going to help anyone.”
Justin blew out a breath and leaned back in his chair while Dru crossed her arms over her chest and looked at him the way a parent looked at a particularly beloved and frustrating child. Part of him, a large part, knew she was right. It had been ages since he’d done anything just for himself. And he was tired, though it was the sort of soul-deep weariness that no amount of sleep would fix.
“I know what you’re doing, Dru. And it’s very sweet. But a week isn’t long enough for me to find the sort of woman who’d put up with me and all of this, even if I was inclined to go looking. Which I’m not.”
“Which is insane,” she replied, not unkindly. “You’re lonely, little brother. You’ve been lonely way too long. I know you won’t look…. But if you get out of the city for a while, the right woman might just find you on her own.” Then she grinned, the smile lighting up what was already a breathtakingly beautiful face. “If nothing else, getting laid should do you a world of good. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.”
Justin huffed out a laugh, too accustomed to Dru’s bluntness to be offended. He didn’t miss the chance to tweak her, though. She wasn’t the only one who paid attention to her sibling’s personal life…or lack thereof.
“Oh? So if I agree to this, does this mean you won’t argue when I send you and that ill-tempered fallen angel off on a trip so you can finally jump one another instead of the usual heated glaring?”
She wrinkled her nose at him and pushed a long lock of pale blond hair out of her face. Everyone knew about the tension between Dru and Meresin, one of a small band of Fallen who’d rejoined the Necromancium after deserting Hell. One of them, Raum, had actually become one of Justin’s most trusted advisors…. And it didn’t hurt that Raum’s mate, Ember, was a favorite of anyone who met her. Meresin, on the other hand, was angry, uncommunicative and generally unpleasant. A typical fallen angel.
Justin supposed it could work, if neither of them killed the other first.
“Low blow. No. Meresin is…” Dru waved her hand, as though looking to pluck the right descriptor out of the air, and then finally just shook her head, frowning. “No.”
That he’d finally flustered her made Justin smile. And, when she fixed him with the most pathetically woebegone expression she could muster, he knew he was going to have to take pity on her. He looked at the ridiculous picture on the cover of her “gift,” looked at Dru’s pleading expression, and heaved another sigh. Immediately, his sister leaped to her feet and squealed.
“You’ll go!” She clapped her hands together like an excited child, which was at considerable odds with the crimson corset and tight black pants she was wearing. She got the strangest kick out of dressing like a Goth vampire wannabe.
“Yes, well, since you’ll never let me hear the end of it if I don’t. And it was sweet of you. In an annoying, bossy sort of way.”
Dru laughed, grabbed his face between her hands, and planted a noisy kiss in the middle of his forehead.
“You just wait! You’ll be begging me to be your vacation planner every year. I’ve got so much great stuff planned.” As she chattered at him happily, Justin’s thoughts drifted to what Dru had said earlier. About him being lonely. He wasn’t lonely. He was just…focused. Driven. Busy.
Anyway, if he had never found a woman who suited him in all these centuries, vampire or otherwise, then it was never going to happen. And certainly not on some silly weeklong vacation to a place he was pretty sure was generally vampire-free.
He wasn’t lonely, damn it.
But he would go, for Dru. And then maybe she’d realize that not everyone needed a mate to be happy. That some mythical perfect woman wasn’t lurking out there just waiting to pounce on an overworked two-thousand-year-old vampire.
That he was just fine on his own.