QSFer Anne Barwell has a new MM paranormal urban fantasy romance out: “Shades of Sepia.”
To be soulmates they first have to survive.
A serial killer stalks the streets of Boggslake, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.
Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years, and he has never seen anything like it. Neither have the other supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans.
One meeting with Simon finds Ben Leyton falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can’t ignore the growing attraction between them. A recent arrival in Boggslake, Ben finds it very different from his native New Zealand, but something about Simon makes Ben feel as though he’s found a new home.
After a close friend falls victim to the killer, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away to avoid the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent, either, or both of them, could be the killer’s next target.
Author’s note: This story was originally released in 2014 by another publisher. This edition has been revised and re-edited with the end result being a better, stronger story.
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Muffled voices wafted through the heavy wooden door at the bottom of the stairs. Simon cocked his head for a moment, listening to snatches of conversation, his interest piqued. He removed his coat and scarf and hung them carefully on the coat stand by the front door before making his way into the kitchen they shared.
He swallowed, tasting saliva, and opened the fridge to study its contents. He’d eaten dinner before leaving the university, although he hadn’t needed to. Human food, while enjoyable, didn’t do much to satisfy him, especially when the steak was well cooked. He’d lost track of how many times he’d ordered it very rare, and doubted any comments about how the best part of it was the blood dripping onto his plate would be well received. Juliet, the teaching assistant the university insisted he needed, had for some reason decided it was part of her job description to ensure he ate properly.
It was annoying in some ways, but she meant well and stopped nagging him if he gave in, so for the most part, he made sure to eat at least some of his meals where she’d see him. He wasn’t about to tell her that “feeding him up” was not going to make him put on weight, or give him the nourishment he required.
Something flecked in a mix of gray and red stared back at him from the fridge. Simon startled for a moment before peering at it more closely. Yes, those were definitely eyes. Was that fur? No, it was mold growing underneath the plastic wrap. Not for the first time, Simon was tempted to just buy Lucas a fridge of his very own and have it delivered to the top floor. His last polite suggestion had earned a confused look from Lucas. His experiments were well wrapped and not doing anyone any harm, he’d said, and this way he’d remember to keep an eye on them and chart their progress.
“One of the joys of living with the city medical examiner,” Simon muttered under his breath. He decided to ignore what were probably bona fide leftovers on the same shelf, as they were also turning a strange green color.
The items on the next shelf down were in stark contrast to the one above. Everything was neatly packaged and well organized, and there was an assortment of different meats, vegetables, and salad foods. Two of each, but that was nothing new. Forge had been talking about doing the rounds of the sales on his way home from work.
Simon’s shelf was almost empty, apart from something that looked suspiciously like Lucas had left it there. He poked at whatever it was, then reached for the carton of milk. Eating wasn’t appealing at present, and he only really needed to satisfy his hunger. He filled a glass with milk and ice cubes retrieved from the freezer. Chicken blood today, as he’d had beef yesterday. At least this way he could honestly tell Juliet he had a balanced diet.
A quick mix with a spoon had combined the two ingredients well enough, although the ice cubes were still crunchy. One of these days he’d go to the trouble of using the blender Forge had bought, but truth be known, Simon really couldn’t be bothered. While Forge might enjoy his meals sprinkled with the frozen blood cubes and pretending they were icy croutons, Simon didn’t see the point. He preferred to eat his food without the garnish of blood and get what he needed to survive this way. The taste of blood and milk together had grown on him over the years, and despite certain other people’s rolling of eyes and expletives of disgust, it was better than what he’d had to do in the past to get his quota of animal blood in order to staunch his hunger.
He sipped his makeshift meal and headed for the basement.
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with Kaylee: a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning.
In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.
She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ.
Anne’s books have received honourable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.