Children of Night, book 3
Home is where the heart bleeds.
Growing up, vampire-born twins Julie and Marc Fischer were taught one simple fact of life: you can choose your food, but not your family. Six months after moving to San Francisco, though, the new challenges and choices each are facing are a Gordian knot of complicated.
Marc must decide whether to stay with Conrad and Damian, the only family he’s ever known, or embrace his destiny and the unexpected family—the ferals—that comes along with it. Meanwhile, Julie is forced to deal with the unpleasant realization that the man she loves isn’t necessarily the man who’s best for her.
For Conrad and Damian, the holiday season is stirring up bittersweet memories, and neither can keep from revisiting past passion and pain.
Faced with new mysteries to solve, new alliances to forge, new secrets to keep, and old relationships to rebuild, it’s no wonder the Fischer-Quintano vampires long for the good old days—when food was food and family was all that mattered.
Product Warnings: If you’ve previously suffered from Disco Fever, this book could precipitate a relapse. Extreme care is recommended for anyone with a pronounced weakness for mistletoe, fang play, pretty young men of either species or extremely dangerous alpha-male vampire single dads. May contain trace amounts of polyester.
Here’s a modern day party excerpt. This is Marc, throwing a party at the warehouse he’s co-opted…
From his usual vantage point, on the elevated walkway that spanned one long wall in the warehouse, Marc leaned his forearms on the railing and swept the interior of the impromptu dance club with a glance. He nodded in approval. Everyone appeared to be behaving.
“It’s looking good down there tonight,” he murmured for the benefit of the guards that flanked him. “But stay alert. This is not time to get complacent.”
Just as he had on the roof earlier, he opened his senses. Not a trace of unrest stained the air tonight. Not a hint of distress. From the mass of bodies moving together on the dance floor, to the handful of couples occupying the chairs and couches in the lounge, everyone’s emotions seemed safely contained.
As always, he paid particular attention to the lounge—where most of the feeding took place. Located along the wall opposite his perch and separated from the dance floor by nothing more than a couple of steps and some velvet ropes, what the lounge lacked in privacy, it made up for in safety. Everything that occurred here tonight—or any night—took place under his watchful eye.
He had people standing by to assist him. He had emergency systems in place. But the ultimate responsibility lay with him. At the first hint of something gone wrong, he was ready to move. He was ready to instantly neutralize the danger. But nothing was going to go wrong. It was all under control.
As if seeking further proof, Marc’s eyes flicked to the view-screens set on top of the cage that housed the DJ and lighting equipment. The cameras merely confirmed what he already knew. It was a good night. The plan would work. It was already working. They were learning. Hearts, minds and base natures, he was winning them over to his way of thinking. He was molding them into model citizens, into vampires who knew how to channel their instincts, control their impulses and play nice—both with each other and their food. Soon, they’d be ready. Soon, he’d have everything he needed to win Conrad over as well.
His gaze dipped lower, sweeping the cage itself. His gut clenched as he remembered all that had occurred there. The cage was ready too, if the need arose, although that was something he saw no reason to mention. Heather had begged him to tear the chain-link monstrosity down. Nighthawk had even volunteered to do the job, with his bare hands, if necessary. But Marc had refused them both. That cage was an inescapable fact of their lives, or so he’d told them. It had been a turning point, the tragedy from which he was determined they were all going to rise.
Pretending it didn’t exist, or that the danger and pain it represented—a danger that continued to threaten them all—didn’t exist, was foolish. Besides, it amused him to see how Heather had handled her fears, and her frustration with his refusal. Using glitter and Day-Glo spray paint and pulsing lights, she’d managed to turn the once-forbidding structure into a work of industrial art. It was now both practical and pretty—in a My-Little-Pony-vomited-rainbows kind of way. Which actually suited Marc’s plan even better. Looking at it now, no one would ever guess that, if he needed to, he could have it returned to prison-cell status with little more than the snap of his fingers.
Suddenly, something in the atmosphere shifted. Marc straightened up, scanning the crowd, searching for the source of the disturbance. “Shit. What now?” And just when things were going so well too.
The men beside him stiffened in alarm. “Something wrong, boss?” Nighthawk asked cautiously.
“Yes, there’s something wrong,” Marc snapped, biting off his next remark—can’t you feel it?—when he realized they couldn’t. “There.” He pointed at a lithe, elegant figure calmly making its way through the eddying crowd, blond hair gleaming in the flashing lights. Georgia. “See that? What’s she doing here?”
Nighthawk and the other guard exchanged looks. Nighthawk grimaced. “Whatever she fucking wants to, that’s what.”
“What?” Marc blinked in surprise. Not the response he’d been expecting. He shook his head. “No. Fuck that. Not in here she doesn’t. Let’s go.” He headed for the stairs, but Nighthawk stepped in front of him, blocking his way.
“Boss, wait. You don’t want to mess with her. She’s dangerous. Don’t you know what she is?”
“Dangerous?” Marc snapped. “Really? And you think I’m not?” At the moment, he was feeling very dangerous.
“Not like her,” the other guard said from behind him. “She’s Invitus, man. They’re off-the-charts-scary. She’ll chew you up one side and down the other.”
Invitus. Like Conrad. Marc nodded. Yeah, that explained a lot, didn’t it? “Good to know. Thanks for filling me in. Now, out of my way, Hawk. I mean it.”
The glare Marc shot at Nighthawk had the big man flinching. Surprisingly, he stood his ground. Lowering his head, like a wounded bull, he whined, “C’mon, man, don’t do this. We’ve got a good thing going here. Don’t screw things up for us now. We need you.”
Marc blew out an exasperated breath. They did need him. That was exactly his point. And he needed to get downstairs. Now. He could feel fear spreading through the crowd below him like a slow, black tide, rippling outward. How long until it edged over into panic? How long before the entire club erupted in chaos?
“I don’t have time for this shit.” Turning away, Marc leaped onto the railing. He took a moment to orient himself, to catch his balance. Then he jumped. The air behind him shivered as Nighthawk rushed forward in a last-minute attempt to grab him and pull him back, but Marc was already out of reach. He hurtled through the air, landing with a loud crash on the top of the cage. Dozens of eyes turned in his direction. As they tracked his progress, he could feel each gaze like twin pinpricks of pressure, like tiny lasers scoring his skin. He ignored them. Three quick steps across the metal mesh took him to the other side of the structure where he launched himself once again into space.
This time, he landed in a crouch on the concrete floor, exactly where he wanted to be, less than a foot and a half in front of Georgia. She stiffened and snarled, blue fire flashing in her eyes. Marc felt buffeted by the force of her anger. For just an instant, an unreasoning terror ripped through him. Then it was gone, swept away on the rising tide of his own anger. These werehis people. This was his place. And she was putting everything he was working toward at risk just by coming here.
He rose to his feet and coolly met her gaze. “Hello, Georgia. What are you doing here?”
Georgia’s eyebrows rose. She seemed speechless at first, a state of affairs that, sadly, didn’t last too long. She recovered almost as fast as he had. A small smile curved her lips. “Marc. My, my. You do have a most interesting way of greeting people, don’t you? And, it’s funny, but I was about to ask you the same thing.”
“What am I doing here?” Marc shrugged. “What’s it look like? I’m throwing a party. And, I’m sorry, but you’re not invited.”
Georgia shook her head. “Such manners. I wonder what Conrad would think of this behavior?”
“I’m sure he’d be good and pissed.” That was for damned certain and maybe it should have given Marc pause. It didn’t. “So why don’t you run back to the mansion now and tell him all about it?”
Georgia’s smile grew wider. “Big words, fledgling. I shall quite enjoy watching him discipline you.”
“Yeah, I bet you would like that, wouldn’t you?” Marc ignored the fledgling gibe. If she wanted to think he was newly turned, let her. If she was fishing for information, on the other hand, he wasn’t taking her bait. “I’ll be sure to give you a heads up so you can be on hand. If it happens.” And, who knew? Maybe this time it would. He couldn’t recall any other time that he and Conrad had been so much at odds with one another—not even when he was a teenager. The breakdown in his relationship with his sire was not something of which Marc was proud. Unfortunately, his other responsibilities took priority. If Conrad couldn’t understand that…well then, Marc was just going to have to find a way to make him understand, or suffer the consequences. “On the other hand, I’m asking you nicely. If you don’t leave now, maybe I’ll be the one complaining to Conrad and you’ll be the one he disciplines.”
It had been a shot in the dark, but apparently it struck its mark. Georgia blanched slightly. “I didn’t come here looking for a fight, Marc. I merely wish to speak with you. In private. It’s in your own best interests to hear me out, you know. But, if you’d rather not…” She shrugged, her meaning clear. If he wanted a fight, that was fine with her. If he wouldn’t listen to what she had to say, that was fine too. Either way, it was his funeral.
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