Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sucking Bites (San Francisco Vampires 3) by Jessica McBrayer Excerpt

Sucking Bites (San Francisco Vampires Series #3) by Jessica McBrayer

Lily Goodwill, the vamp with a heart of gold, gets a disturbing call on the Suicide Prevention Hotline. A hysterical caller is convinced a werewolf is breaking into his house. Lily dispatches the appropriate services, convinced that “someone is off their meds.” Oh, that it were true.

Soon enough, Lily is fighting for her life against a hairy beastie. She is supported by her almost-fiancĂ©, the brooding French vampire, Sebastian, who adores the ground she walks on, and Aidan, the 5,000 year-old vampire-hunting jinni, who scarfs energy for breakfast and believes he’s waited his entire existence—for Lily.

Her best friends and housemates - vampires, a demon and a hell hound - rally to her side as the odds stack up against her. A conniving vampire Queen, a witch bent on seduction and a determined assassin with a contract on Lily’s undead life round out a season in the City by the Bay.


            “Suicide Prevention, this is Lilith. How may I help you?”
            “I just saw a freaking werewolf! It’s outside my window and I need you to call the police!”
            “Sir, you saw what?”
            “I saw a werewolf! I called the police and they hung up on me so I started going down the emergency numbers in the phone book and you were next. Please it’s trying to get into the house.” The man is frantic. His high-pitched tone makes my ears ring.
            “Are you sure there’s something out there?”
            “What’s your address, sir?”
            “1246 James Street.”
            I hear screaming, growling and glass breaking. I speed-dial 911 and report a break in. The other line goes dead. I send good thoughts out to the man who called in and wonder what he truly saw. Werewolves – yeah right. Still, I can't forget the noises I heard and shiver.
            Rack up another call fielded by Lily Goodwill, member in good standing on the side of right and light, for the San Francisco Suicide Prevention Hotline. Me in my mission control headphones at my government-issue desk that’s stocked with my favorite hand sanitizer, the kind that smells like raspberries and chocolate, which I use at this moment. It’s best not to pass on germs. You never know what you can pick up from a phone call. Yes, I have a problem.
            Most nights the phones are busy from the beginning of my shift until the end, often more busy as the night gets darker, but tonight my delusional caller, clearly in need of counseling and perhaps some heavy drugs, was one of my few calls. I stare at the big black and white wall clock willing it to turn to two a.m. so I can leave my job, so I can be with the love of my life. Normally I cherish the time I am at work. I’m only here three nights a week. I found the job on Craigslist. It was The Job - a total boon, great coffee, graveyard shift and I get to help save mankind. The only downside is that I don’t know what happens to the people who call and lately I have distractions that make quitting time hard to wait for.
            When the minute second hand creeps to twelve I grab my jacket and speed walk to the door. My boyfriend is picking me up as usual and he is always on time. Sebastian St. John is also three hundred and sixty years old, French, delicious and a vampire. His chestnut, slightly curled hair and smoldering brown eyes have tempted and teased hundreds of women through the centuries. But now the package is all mine. Did I mention I’m a vamp too? Only ninety-eight, a baby, as Sebastian, mon amour, is quick to point out. When we stand next to each other we are as different as night and day, me with my curly strawberry-blonde hair and short frame of five feet-four inches, to Sebastian’s six feet, dark hair and melted chocolate eyes, but somehow we fit. It took me a while to realize Sebastian was the love of my life, but when I did, it hit me like a brick wall. We have been living in bliss ever since. There are a few little bumps. One, my being opposed to getting married. Sebastian is ready now and I’m not. The other, my unnatural attachment to the close runner-up in the “Lily is totally adored” pageant in the form of my friend who is a djinn. If truth be told, Aidan holds a very special piece of my heart. I dream of jinnies as I push open the door.
            I walk out into the balmy night air where Bast waits with the car door open for me. San Francisco in the spring is a wonderful place to be - cherry blossoms in bloom, couples up late taking walks and the air full of good will.
Sebastian is talking on his blue tooth, which recently, has become a permanent attachment. He’s beginning to look like a cyborg. Stifling my annoyance, I give him a peck on the cheek when he bends down. I feel like a performing monkey. Raise my cheek for the nice man to kiss, now be good and get in the car without saying anything to disturb his conversation. I rebel.
Good evening, Sebastian.” I know his good manners will win out and he will have to answer me.
Just a moment, Paul.” He looks at me slightly embarrassed that he hadn’t said good evening when we first greeted each other.
Good evening, ma petite.” He gives me a chaste but apologetic kiss on the lips. I smile at my small victory. After I get in his sleek black Mercedes, he closes the door without missing a word in the discussion. The buttery leather seat molds around me, as he continues to talk. Finally he finishes his call.
            “Bast, I got an interesting call. Someone said a werewolf was trying to break into their home.”
            “Cherie, that is…” His phone rings again. He looks annoyed. “Un moment, ma petite.”
            I blow out a big breath, not easy when you don’t need to breathe. I look out at the sky and see the clouds part around a violent blue full moon. It makes me wonder. That caller could have been attacked by anything, even a rabid mother-in-law. I feel a bit guilty about not taking him seriously at first.
We arrive at the home we share with our two best friends - family really - Julian and Helena. Sebastian is still talking to the manager of his night club, who monopolizes more of Sebastian's time than any of us. Just saying, our marathon love-making sessions are a thing of the past and we're not even married yet. Guess this is bump number two.
His manager is truly incompetent. Though for some reason, Sebastian seems to be the only one who doesn't see it. Paul, the manager, roughly resembles a weasel. I tell Sebastian that having a manager is supposed to free up some of the boss’s time. The manager should be able to problem solve and hence the root of the word manager – manage - but Bast wants to keep his Zagat review so he puts up with the phone calls. Bottom line – he can’t trust Paul not to screw it up. In Bast’s defense the guy was good for the first couple of months. It’s gone downhill from there.
            Bast ends his conversation and puts his arm around me as we walk into the mansion through the beautiful carved cherry wood doors. They’ve recently been replaced after being blown apart by an insane warlock a few months ago. It took a flick of a finger – Aidan’s jinni finger - and it was good as new, another thing that Sebastian resents. The fruit trees lining the drive are in full bloom and the air is full of the scent of cherry blossoms. But the inside of the house is a demolition zone. After the attack, the mansion was a shamble so; Helena decided it was time to renovate. Half the house is torn apart with plastic drapes over the entry furniture and scaffolding up for the painters. She is also creating a deluxe suite for Sebastian and me. We share his room for now. People are getting grumpy. Particularly Andrew, our butler, because of the mess, and Julian, because he was having a difficult time concentrating.
            Sebastian pulls me tight into him as we maneuver around the scaffolding and head down the hall towards the library, our usual gathering place.
We have a no cell phone policy in there, so Sebastian’s attention should be focused. Everyone has to meet in the library if we want Julian to be present. It is his sanctuary and also takes up a third of the first floor. It is no hardship spending time there. Large windows encompass one long wall where computers lined up. Half-read books litter the tables scattered through the room or are under lights on pedestals. A beautiful mural of Greek goddesses illuminates the softly lit ceiling. I’ve always thought that the mural has something to do with Helena’s heritage but no one will confirm it. Helena is nine hundred and eighty-six and Julian is seven hundred and ninety.
A fireplace, with a roaring fire and floor to ceiling bookcases, fill the rest of the space. Wing back chairs, softly muted lamps, a chaise lounge and a long, claret-red leather couch finish the room. Sebastian’s phone rings, again. I leave him standing in the hall and go in without him.
            “Welcome home, Lily,” Helena says looking up.
            “Hello, Helena. Sebastian is on the phone.”
            “We heard,” Julian says, making a face.
            “He had just hung up. I don’t know what could be so important that it couldn’t have waited until tomorrow.”
            “It wasn’t, Cherie,” Sebastian says as he enters the room. “Some trivial things Paul should have taken care of.”
            “I had an interesting call tonight.” I give Sebastian a pointed look, daring his phone to interrupt me again. “A man claimed a werewolf was trying to break into his house. Someone was trying to break in, so I did call 911 for him. But werewolves, come on.”
            “Werewolves do exist, Lily,” Julian says.
            “Really,” I squeak.
            “Yes, though they are rare and mostly in Europe. I haven’t heard of one in the States in a hundred years or so. It would be fascinating if there was one here now. Dangerous though,” Julian says.
            I reevaluate my call. I wish I had taken it more seriously from the beginning.
            Andrew, our butler, comes in with coffee and tea.
            “Miss Helena, those workmen are making the biggest mess. When are they going to be done?” our butler-cum-friend, cum-vamp candidate asks primly.
            “Soon, Andrew, about another two weeks.”
            “I can’t wait to see our room, Helena,” I hint.
            “I think you should have to wait until we are married,” Sebastian says.
            Have I mentioned that the M-word is a sore spot with Sebastian and me? I’m still getting used to the idea of being in a relationship with someone, let alone getting engaged. If Bast had his way we would be at the judge’s office tomorrow. I postponed the race to the nuptials by agreeing to a trip to France a couple of months ago but now he’s getting itchy again. I get my hand sanitizer out and use it liberally.
            “Don’t go germ warrior on me, Lily Goodwill. This should not make you anxious,” Sebastian says raising his voice slightly.
            “Well it does make me anxious, so deal with it. I don’t see why we need to hurry. We have forever, Sebastian, what are a few more months?”
            “You should be eager to start your new life as my bride. I don’t understand your hesitation.”
            “I am eager. I’m eager for every part of it and right now that part is being your girlfriend. I just don’t want to rush into this.”
You’re still worried I’ll change my mind. I know you. But you’re wrong. You have never been more wrong. Don’t I prove that by wanting to marry you right away?” How does rushing equal long term commitment? His logic isn’t convincing.
            I sigh and get up to make my cup of coffee, extra creamer, tons of sugar. He is not going to understand my reasons. I stir my coffee vigorously, spilling some only to have Andrew whisk in and wipe it up before I can even grab a napkin. He gives me a quick smile.
Bast’s got it half right. I am afraid he’s going to change his mind. Up until Sebastian fell in love with me, he was the ultimate player. He had a different woman every night. It took me a while to trust he was serious. But it’s more than just that. It’s also about giving up my independence and freedom. Something I have fought to maintain for years and years. My father had a mistress and my mother stoically put up with it. It’s not something I’ve told my friends. It’s something I vowed would never happen to me. I would never be trapped in a loveless marriage, unable to take care of myself without a man. It’s a major thing to sell my condo and move in together, although I can’t imagine not being with him every second of the day. But more than that, I’m afraid I’ll become half a person, at least half of me will belong to Sebastian. That’s a lot to ask of a girl, an obsessive-compulsive girl. I come with a few idiosyncrasies. Thank God, Bast loves them right along with the rest of me. Someone has to pass out my handi-wipes.
            I sit back down on the overstuffed leather couch with him and sip my coffee. He toys with my hair. He lets it run through his fingers as he gently traces his hand down my neck. I love when he does this and he knows it. Before long we’ll end up going to our room.
            “Before you two go upstairs,” Helena says giving us that knowing look, “what colors do you like better, white or navy?”
            “White,” Sebastian says.
            “Navy,” I say.
            “White and navy it is. That’s all I need to know for now.”
            We take that as our cue and leave the library for the stairs. Andrew is just entering the hall.
            “Good night, Miss Lily,” he calls.
            “Good night, Andrew.”
            Sebastian carries me up the stairs to his room and puts me onto his bed. He gently lowers himself on top of me.
            “I hate it when we fight, Cherie,” he whispers in my ear.
            “Me too, let’s not fight anymore.”
            He gives me a crooked grin.
            “At least, not tonight. If we don’t fight, we can’t make up and making up is so much fun,” he says as he slips my shirt off.
            He kisses my throat and down between my breasts. I sigh as he unclasps my bra. His fangs come out. Just when I am beginning to reach a higher plane, his phone goes off.
            “If you go for that phone, I’m not talking to you for the rest of the night, Sebastian.”
            “It might be something important, Lily. It will only take a minute.”
            He gets up and answers his phone. True to my word, I get up and cross to the bathroom, finish undressing, and get into the shower. The hot water calms my nerves and temper, some. I take an extra-long time, half hoping that Sebastian will finish his call and join me, but that doesn’t happen. I finish and towel off. Even though I’ve just taken a shower, I use some hand sanitizer. I’m not that calm. I walk to our closet naked and find a silk pajama set - top and pants -to put on, no gowns with easy access for Bast tonight.
           When I climb into the high four poster bed, Sebastian is still on the phone. I have another half an hour before dawn when my body shuts down and I fall asleep no matter where I am or what I am doing. I have enough time to rant in my journal about Sebastian and his blasted phone.
Dear Diary,
Vampires in committed relationships with vampires should love and adore their significant others. They should read Bride magazine and be looking for wedding dresses. They shouldn’t be dreaming of how to ram cell phones up undignified places.
He finally hangs up and finds me scribbling away.
            “How angry are you?” he asks tentatively. I don’t answer him.
            “Lily, do not ignore me. That’s childish.”
            “Answering your phone while we’re making love is rude and inconsiderate, Sebastian. I feel like a minor detail you have to tie up.”
            “Like it or not, ma petite, I have a business to run,” he says defensively.
            “That business invades every moment of our lives.” That comes out more sharply than I intended. I take a deep breath, old habits undead, and re-evaluate what I want to say. It's time to get it all out. “If the business interrupts our most intimate moments then it’s taking up too much of your time.”
            “What am I supposed to do, Lily, let it fail?”
            “You could hire a competent manager for starters. There has to be someone out there who doesn’t have to call the owner every five minutes.”
            “I like to know what’s going on.”
            “More than you like making love to me?”
            “That’s not fair.”
            “I think it’s bang-on accurate. I also think I don’t want to sleep in here tonight. I’ll be in the guest room.”
            I pick up my pillow and leave him standing there looking pissed off. We are down to one guest room at the moment because of the renovation and I find it blessedly free of cell phones. I only have a few minutes now before dawn so I quickly climb into bed and fume about our most recent fight.
            I wake up as angry as when I went to bed, but Sebastian has had six hours to cool down. Next to my bed are two dozen pink and red roses. A bottle of Cristal chills in a silver container of ice. Sebastian sits in a winged backed chair waiting for me.
            “Good morning, Cherie.” He smiles.
            “Good morning,” I say coldly.
            “You aren’t still angry, are you?”
            “I went to bed upset and woke up in the same mood. I can’t help that you had time to process things, I didn’t.”
            “I’ve been thinking about what you said. First, you will see that I am cell phone free,” he says while holding up his hands. “Our conversation is too important for interruptions. I also should not have picked up the phone last night while we were already occupied. That was rude and inconsiderate and I apologize for that. I need boundaries between my work and home life and I will try to maintain them.”
            “You are so stealing my thunder.” He is trying. Having no cell phone is a big deal. I know it must be killing him, so he is serious about this. He’s seriously thought about what I said.
            “Say you forgive me.”
            “I forgive you.”
            “Now let me finish what I started last night,” he says with dark eyes.
            Two hours later, we lay in each other’s arms drinking the champagne, having totally destroyed the bed. Over three centuries of determined and creative lovemaking has produced one toe-tingling vampire with tricks that sweep this little vamp away. I spill some champagne on Sebastian’s chest and lick it off.
            “Hmmm, I like that,” he murmurs, dipping his head to my neck and raking the tender skin with just the slightest hint of fang.
            “That’s the idea.”
            “It’s my turn next.”
            I giggle as he pours champagne all over me and takes his time lapping it off.
            “You should be illegal,” I pant.
            He laughs richly then tops up our flutes with more champagne.
            “We’re disgusting,” I say. “We lay around in bed all day. Helena and Julian must think we’re unsavory characters.”
            Sebastian says, “Helena is the one who insisted on the champagne.”
            “You're slipping, Bast, if Helena had to remind you.” His brows rise and he shrugs in his gallant way of acknowledging his momentary lapse in the art of romantic seduction. “Andrew will talk.”
Andrew will talk.”
            “Let’s take a shower and get dressed,” I say.
            We streak down the hall to our room and get in the shower where we make love in the steam and hot water. Afterwards, Bast puts on a pair of jeans and a dress shirt he leaves open at the neck. He grabs a jacket for later. I put on a Barneys New York Print Dress in black and white, with a pair of Manolo Blahniks. Brush the fangs, some eyeliner, mascara and lipstick and I’m ready.
            We walk downstairs together and I’m surprised to see my good friend and past almost-boyfriend, Aidan. Aidan, being a jinni, is especially keen to promote mischief. All the more if that mischief is pointed at Sebastian. I get twitchy when I drive with Aidan because he likes to make car doors pop open as I drive by and traffic lights change midway through intersections. He likes to feed off my energy when I get all stirred up. He says I’m delicious.
            He’s as tall as Sebastian, at least six feet, sandy-blond, tousled hair and ocean colored eyes. His body is amazing, taut and tanned, his rich voice carries an English accent that ties the package up neatly.
            “Welcome back from Greece, Aidan,” I say as I give him a kiss and hug.
            Sebastian never lets me out of his sight when Aidan is in the room.
            “Thanks, love. It was great being in the sun and surrounded by clear blue waters. I wish Sebastian would have let me take you. You look like you could use a vacation, maybe Istanbul? I’m up for another trip.”
            “Not on your life, fire boy,” Sebastian grumbles.
            He hasn’t forgotten the way Aidan fought for me.
            “Just for a day, Bast? It would be great to get out of town,” I half tease, half beg, finding I seriously want to go.
            It would be great but I know there is no way Sebastian will go for it.
            “Not unless I come with you. If you really want to go somewhere, I will take you. It will have to be when things quiet down at the club, though.”
            Right on cue, his cell phone goes off and he leaves the room to answer it. I curse under my breath.
            “All’s not paradise on the home front?” Aidan raises an eyebrow, sounding entirely too hopeful.
            “If I could, I would stick that phone right up….” I suggest. Aidan laughs loudly.
            “I personally hate the damn things. Of course if I want to talk to someone, I pop in and talk to them directly so I only gave my number to you and Hannah. But if you wish I can be of assistance with your desire as per the phone…”
            “No, no! I’m just venting,” I say quickly - I know he is all too ready and able to carry out that particular wish. “Where are Julian and Helena?”
            “They went upstairs to talk to the workmen and should be down any minute. We heard you in the shower, uh hmm, and knew you would be down soon.”
            “Sorry about that. It’s Sebastian’s fault. Really,” I say, totally embarrassed.
            “Lilith, if I had you naked in the shower, by the gods I hope you would be screaming my name as well.”
            “Aidan, if I could blush, I’d be beet red now. What’s got into you?”
            “It must be all the fresh Greek air.”
            “You better not let Sebastian hear you talking like that,” I say.
            “Better not let me hear him talking like what?” Sebastian asks as he walks through the door, a scowl on his face.
            “That she is lovelier than the goddess Aphrodite, more intriguing than Cleopatra, spicier than…”
            “Enough! You’ve made your point! I think that’s about all I can take. Isn’t it time you pop yourself into a bottle somewhere?” Sebastian suggests.
            “Au contraire, my French friend. I come bearing news. Have you read the papers this morning? Another mysterious animal attack in the city.”
            “No, I’ve been a little busy.”
            “Yes, I heard.” Aidan’s tone is frosty. “In fact we all heard. The whole house heard, including the workmen. You’re getting quite a name for yourself.”
            “Shit!” I say.
            “Say it in any language, you two are still the talk of the manse. Did you know Helena is adding sound-proofing material to your room?”
            “Oh God,” I say rubbing the bridge of my nose.
            “Well it serves you right,” Andrew says as he walks in with coffee. “Can’t have a respectable conversation without hearing ‘Oh Sebastian, Oh Bast, Yes, Yes, Right There, Yes, Yes, Lily, Cherie….’”
            Helena and Julian come in during Andrew’s impersonation of us and Julian shakes his head.
            “Andrew, that is eerily accurate,” he says.
            “Well of course it is. It’s all we hear around here.”
            “Andrew, dear, they are in love. Be gentle with them. Vampires have insatiable appetites. We can’t help ourselves,” Helena chides, coming to our rescue.
            “I don’t hear you and Mr. Julian going on and on.”
            “That’s because our room is sound-proofed and we’ve had time to get to know each other a bit more. Five hundred years will do that to a relationship.”
            “When I become a vampire, it’s payback time. That’s all I’m saying.” As he swings out of the room.
            “Helena, we better get that sound-proofed room finished soon, or we may have to look for a new butler,” Sebastian says.
            “You may have to look for a new girlfriend too. I can’t believe it. How embarrassing,” I say.
            “Have you got cold feet completely now?” Sebastian asks icily.
            “I was just joking, Bast. No big deal,” I say with a shrug, irritated. He’s always had a sense of humor but it seems to have taken a vacation, unlike him.
            “It is a very big deal and it should be wife, not girlfriend, but for some reason you think that’s no big deal either.” He leaves. We hear the front door slam and then the car pull out.
            “Damn Frenchman, so fired up about a tiny slip of the tongue. I swear he can be an ass at times,” I seethe.
            “Well, things aren’t so perfect in paradise, after all. My essence soars. I was just teasing before,” Aidan says.
            “He’ll be fine,” I say still fuming from Sebastian’s little temper tantrum. “Now about Istanbul…” 

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