QSFer E.J. Russell has a new MM paranormal book out, Supernatural Selection #2: Vampire With Benefits.
A match between a vampire and shifter could be deadly—but one broken beaver doesn’t give a dam.
Silent film actor Casimir Moreau had imagined that life as a vampire would be freewheeling and glamorous. Instead, he’s plunged into a restrictive society whose rules he runs afoul of at every turn. To “rehabilitate” him, the vampire council orders him mated to an incubus with impeccable breeding who’ll mold Cas into the upstanding vampire he ought to be. Or else.
As an inactive beaver shifter, construction engineer Rusty Johnson has fought—and overcome—bias and disrespect his entire life. But when his longtime boyfriend leaves him for political reasons, Rusty is ready to call it a day. Next stop? Supernatural Selection and his guaranteed perfect mate, a bear shifter living far away from Rusty’s disapproving clan.
But then a spell snafu at Supernatural Selection robs both men of their intended husbands. Rusty can’t face returning to his clan, and Cas needs somebody on his arm to keep the council happy, so they agree to pretend to be married. Nobody needs to know their relationship is fake—especially since it’s starting to feel suspiciously like the real thing.
“So I take it that you’re not desperately in love with your Supernatural Selection match.”
Rusty gave him a slightly off-kilter get-real-dude look. “Hard to be in love with a guy I’ve never met.”
“Really? You’ve never met your fiancé either?” Cas held up his fist for a bump, but when Rusty held up his, with its rather grimy and spotted gauze . . . “Never mind.”
“He seems like a nice guy though. And the agency guarantees a perfect match.”
“In that case, why didn’t he go through with the wedding?” For that matter, why had Cas’s incubus bailed on him too?
Rusty squinted up at the lights. “There’s something . . . Oh. It’s only temporary. There was some kind of clerical error that caused a spell snafu, but Ted and your guy are going through some ritual at the full moon to get divorced, so everything’ll be back on track. Assuming they don’t leave us at the altar again. Third time’s the charm, right?” He squinted at his drink. “Or is it bad things always come in threes? People who come up with shit like that should make up their fucking minds.”
A pit opened in Cas’s belly. “Wait. So we’re not off the hook? We’ll still have to go through with it?”
“Sure. Why wouldn’t we? I mean that’s why we were there, right? They emailed me a reminder for my calendar. You probably got one too. Check your phone.”
“I can’t. The council chief confiscated it.”
“Why not get another one?”
“For one day? Too much of a pain in the ass to set up. Besides . . .” Cas sniffed. “It’s the principle of the thing.”
“Oh. Principles. Right Those’re important. I guess.” Rusty’s sigh caught on a faint hiccup. “You know, I really wanted to have a husband and a new home by the time of the wedding.” He glanced sidelong at Cas. “Don’t want to keep living down there and have to face them every day.”
Cas drummed his fingers on the table. The full moon was only a couple of weeks away. Would that be enough time for his alleged fledgling to regain consciousness and exonerate him? That was the only way for Cas to avoid getting shackled for life to somebody not of his own choosing.
Besides, the reception in honor of his own marriage was tomorrow night, with all the vampire glitterati in attendance. The top flight of the council would look down their ancient, supercilious, perfectly preserved noses to verify that Cas was suitably hobbled, and if he didn’t show up married, they could vote on an alternative—and possibly more permanent and even less palatable—punishment for him.
Granted, his mating was intended to be permanent, but he’d still exist. The other alternatives Kristof had threatened him with were rather more . . . terminal.
Rusty hunched over his bourbon, staring morosely into the (very reduced) depths. “I shouldn’t have put it off. Ted wanted to tie the knot a week ago, but there was a job I had to finish.” He snorted. “Yeah, and that turned out so well.”
“I put it off too, although not for the same reason. The difference is you seem to want to get married. I don’t.”
“You don’t? Why not? Don’t you want somebody to spend your life with?”
“My life, your life, every supe’s life, provided we’re not fucking idiots, will last longer than any relationship possibly could.”
“You don’t believe in love, then?”
“Oh I believe in love. I just believe it’s finite. Enjoy it while it’s green and lovely, but don’t be afraid to move on when it turns zombie on you.” He poked the melting ice in his glass with the cocktail straw. “It’s the permanence that they’re forcing on me that’s the problem. I mean, I could face a temporary relationship with anyone. I could even stand you as long as I had an end in sight. A very imminent end.”
Rusty chortled into his glass. “That’d make our councils shit a whole pallet of bricks.”
Cas stared at him, a smile tugging at his lips as a wonderful, terrible, audacious idea bloomed in his mind. “They would. And damn it, why shouldn’t they?”
Rusty blinked at him. “Why shouldn’t they what?”
“Shit bricks. Because, my fine inactive beaver, you and I are getting married.”
E.J. Russell—grace, mother of three, recovering actor—holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business intelligence consultant (as one does). She’s recently abandoned data wrangling, however, and spends her days wrestling words. Her paranormal romantic comedy, The Druid Next Door, was a 2018 RITA® finalist and the winner of the 2017 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Fantasy Romance.
E.J. is married to Curmudgeonly Husband, a man who cares even less about sports than she does. Luckily, CH loves to cook, or all three of their children (Lovely Daughter and Darling Sons A and B) would have survived on nothing but Cheerios, beef jerky, and satsuma mandarins (the extent of E.J.’s culinary skill set).
E.J. lives in rural Oregon, enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.
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