QSFer Patricia J. Esposito has a new MM paranormal romance out: Beside the Darker Shore.
What might the ethical Governor David Gedden give up for one man’s exquisite beauty? It’s terrifying to consider when the man is a destructive blood prostitute and David is responsible for the state’s peaceful vampire community. Blood sales in Boston are up, blood taxes support a thriving new nightlife, neighborhoods have been refurbished, and deaths by vampires have plummeted. David is assured reelection.
However, the blood addict Stephen Salando has returned from exile with one unalterable plan: to turn the good governor into a vampire. Stephen is an immortal dhampir, whose beauty obliterates reason, who rouses in David a fierce desire he’s ignored his whole life. But for David to have Stephen, he must ally with an ancient vampire, the community’s seductive archnemesis. To have him, he must become a killer himself.
Will David hold on to his ethical public life? Or will he follow what he most desires, a kiss with a killer to become a vampire himself?
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As Stephen stood to put in his music, he downed his glass of wine, the orange light catching the liquid’s flow, streaking Stephen’s neck. There was no doubt he was beautiful, his slender silk neck belying the strength of tendons, of arteries that pumped eternally renewing blood. Did he think David could take that blood, could bite into this man whom he could hardly touch without ravishing as a human?
“If the intimacy of Stephen frightens you,” Arturo said, “think of the eternity I’m offering. You will have time for my villa in Potes, and I will take you there. Time for Italy and India, for Scottish moors and Arabian deserts, for Plato and Lawrence, Prokofiev and Paganini.
Arturo’s voice was lulling, his smile charming, and David couldn’t help a small smile in return.
“At night,” he continued, “we will skim our hands over Rodin’s Orpheus and Donatello’s David, stand beside de Chirico’s melancholic street and Hopper’s slanted shadows, voyeurs to each century and secrets in ourselves.”
A solitary, sad guitar strummed through the trailer, mixing with the breeze through the slatted window, and Stephen slid on the bench, next to David, while Arturo leaned back into shadows.
“This music is lonely,” he said, “rain and bare branches and twilight sky. Like Stephen.”
David’s arm was a twitch away from Stephen’s. Their legs brushed beneath the table. A drum began slowly beating alongside the guitar, propelling the night, yet holding them still. David sipped his wine, knowing it would taste like Stephen, and realized that what he wanted was entirely selfish. He wanted immunity, to taste all this, to drink only for himself.
He looked at Stephen, his dark lashes, sleek cheekbones. He wanted those soft lips parting, the taste of his breath, burgundy-rich, so near his mouth. He tasted Stephen before their tongues met.
His fingers burned on the table edge, his heart louder than the music. The breeze pushed him on. Lips on lips. But his mind flashed with that night, tearing into Stephen. “I can’t do this,” he whispered.
Stephen stroked David’s hair. “Shhh, not yet,” he said.
A zipping sound broke them apart. Arturo held the cross he wore and zipped it along its chain.
“I don’t know why I came when I’m sure you’ll kill me.”
“No,” Stephen said. “You won’t die. You’ll take his blood.”
“To become a killer? That’s what I’m choosing. Do you understand, Stephen? Do you understand this? That’s what I’m choosing. Why? Why is this necessary?”
Just as Stephen pulled back, Arturo tore the table from its hinge and threw it aside. He knelt before David, pressing him back on the bench. This was it. Stephen struck a flame and a candle sizzled alive.
Arturo ran his hand through David’s hair, down his cheek, then across his chest, those same cool marble hands now lying over his heart. “Beat hard. Let life seize your body, ignite your soul. David, you are alive. Your blood is more than warm and sweet. It is the dark pearl rain, the green hill stream, blue snow clouds, and summer’s evening blush.”
Arturo licked blood from his finger, and David glanced quickly down at himself not sure whose blood it was.
“I am not marble but flesh, and you will feel me. My heart is not monster; it is human, and it needs yours.”
Stephen released a restrained breath. This was happening. He had somehow, somewhere acquiesced. As Arturo’s mouth touched David’s neck, his eyes closed, and David closed his own.
“If I do this, does it stop? Will you leave the community?” If they had said no, it wouldn’t have mattered, but David clung to one hope against all his failures.
Stephen’s hands ran up David’s thigh, gripping him, pinning him to the seat. Then Arturo’s cold lips shivered against his throat. He bit down suddenly, ice slivers slicing his neck. David screamed out as the cold went deep.
Patricia Esposito lives by the notion one of her favorite authors once expressed: When the world is so dark and bloody, be brave enough to broadcast innocent joy. Dare to be naive. She has written edgy paranormal fiction for most of her life, but always finds beneath it a romantic heart. Her most recent fiction and poetry reflect that enduring quest for love and joy beneath the human struggle. Patricia has received honorable mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror collections, is a two-time winner of Rhino’s Reader=Writer award, and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. With a Master’s degree in English, she edits law books and textbooks for income and tries to keep up with a retired husband and enjoy time with her two adult daughters—when she’s not off exploring the intoxicating realms of the imagination and chasing muses.