“Strap in for a cliffhanger of fairly cataclysmic proportions…good for fans of manga and webtoons with teeth.” – Jennifer deBie, Reedsy Discovery
“There are heart-gripping moments, this is so well written, I just get totally sucked in…I’m always dying for the next one!” – Babiblz
He dropped pretenses like fake smiles and bared his fangs.
The scent of fresh death fills LA’s streets as celebrity bloodsuckers Raiden and Gabriel begin production on Luna Sunset, Gabriel’s cinematic labor of love (and lust).
At the same time, Raiden’s estranged maker Justus and his wife/prisoner Naomi covertly track the costars’ location. Unaware of their imperiled state, Raiden and Gabriel explore their altered alliance against the backdrop of palm trees and plentiful prey. A shocking discovery deepens the duo’s blood bond, their resistance crumbling as their desire crystallizes: Raiden and Gabriel abandon their defenses—and tragedy strikes.
Gabriel was unwell, his ailment burrowing inside him like a tapeworm. The bone-chilling effects of his illness had moved beyond the realm of “indisposed.” He could no longer fake his image-defining good cheer. Feeding off the dead is failing to nourish me. Since mid-July, a putrid flavor had taken his mouth hostage. I’m leprous, he grimly decided. Absolutely falling apart. His decision to survive without Raiden’s guidance had proved unwise. What would he say if I suggested we resume the mentorship?
In his latest method of self-soothing, Gabriel filled his mind with fast-forwarded images of their feeds, feuds, and miscellaneous encounters. He hit his mental pause button; reversed a few frames as he relived their June quasi-hookup in the driveway of the summerhouse. Raiden had given him the sickest pleasure he had ever known. He thought about letting it happen again. Asking for it. Begging.
He tried to hock up a ball of spit, but his salivary glands were on the fritz. The air was dank, rife with the terminal perfume of a dying season. Summer was fading into the background, reluctantly acquiescing to fall’s demands. In a few short days, he would return to California, far from the horror and mystery he had discovered in Michigan. Homesickness washed over him with nauseating immediacy. He quivered. Tremors turned to tears. Unrestrainedly he wept.
This is no time to go soft. Raiden’s voice came into his mind, startling him with its abrupt intrusion. Do what you have to do. Ask for me for help.
He sniffled. Please, Raiden. I need you.
Bet your ass you do.
The vampire swept his maker’s voice to the sidelines. After a few impromptu sun salutations, he wiped away the evidence of his despair and prepared to leave the rental house. It was thirty-three minutes past the hastily scheduled afternoon scene reading between himself and Raiden. He ignored the flurry of panicked “Where are you?” texts from Baza and called his bodyguard.
“Meet me in the lobby, Joe. Have the driver bring around my car.”
“Five minutes ago.”
“You got it. I’ll ask Leroy to take the shortcuts too.”
“Don’t ask, Joe. Tell.”
After all, the film team was waiting for Gabriel Colin—the creator and star of Luna Sunset—to grace them with his presence.
He was sweating the instant he entered the stifling conference room. The air was muggy and un-air-conditioned. He licked his lips and dropped his gaze to the floor. Stay cool. As multiple pairs of eyes peered at him, he did his best to ignore their scrutiny. Muttering a greeting, he slid into the nearest chair, which happened to directly face Raiden. He avoided eye contact as the overhead lights flickered. There was a charged silence.
Baza cleared his throat and pointedly raised his eyebrows. “Gabriel? Qu’est-ce qu’il y a?”
“Rien du tout.” Gabriel forced a smile. “Everything’s fine. Please continue.”
“How kind of you. Alors, where were we? Ah, yes, the rehearsal schedule. I’ve had conversations with Sal about the full-cast read-through, but nothing’s finalized. We need to cast our leading lady first.”
Gabriel tuned him out. The overwhelming amount of vein throbbing in the confined space tantalized him. But no one smells as tasty as … He tracked the rich scent of the sanguineous sustenance flowing wantonly through the veins of … Joe, who stood three feet behind him.
Gasping in horror, Gabriel bit his bottom lip. Not him! Though they had traveled together to the meeting, Gabriel had ordered Leroy to keep the windows open, and the whipping wind had offered a temporary distraction from temptation.
“Gabriel, are you listening to me?” Baza queried. His sizable paunch quivered in his expectation of offense.
The actor massaged his temples. “I’m making an effort.”
Joe stepped forward and placed a hand on his shoulder. “You okay, boss?”
Get away from me! I can’t control it! His fangs suddenly extended. Luckily he had enough sense to place a hand over his mouth the split second before it occurred, so his canines were hidden from view.
Joe bent forward to whisper in his ear, unaware of the provocativeness of his action. “What you need—”
“Is a breather,” Raiden finished. The authoritative boom in his voice left no room for protest.
Gabriel hummed in relief, but his fangs did not retract. He sealed his lips together, tightening them over his teeth, caching his monstrosity.
“I’ll go with him.” Raiden mimed puffing a cigarette. “Smoke break.”
Baza let out a stream of French obscenities as a few meeting attendees exchanged annoyed looks. Joe folded his arms and fixed his gun-barrel stare on Raiden.
“You want backup, boss?”
Gabriel waved him away and shook his head.
Raiden flicked Joe the peace sign. “I’ll return him good as new. Swear.” He sauntered to the exit and opened the door. “C’mon, Gil.”
As Gabriel staggered to his feet, he was torn between gratitude and resentment. Rather than risk showing his sharpened teeth, he nodded a farewell and forced himself not to bolt for the door.
The sunlight seeping into the hallway was too bright. Agonizing. Gabriel swayed on his feet, dizzy from the powerful beams searing his eyes and pores. He groped for the wall, blinded by the blast of ultraviolet rays. Though daylight had provided greater irritation since his turning, he never before had felt this overpowered by the sun’s sizzle. His vision blurred and he bent over, choking on hot air and salty tears from his watering eyes. Just when he thought he would pass out, Raiden’s cool hands seized his shoulders and pushed him upright.
Still half blinded, he felt Raiden drag him down the hallway; before he could protest, the singer had pushed him into the men’s restroom and flicked off the lights. Gabriel heard the sound of a leaky water faucet and felt the blessed darkness descend upon him. Quickly he regained his vision. The sink outlines sharpened; the stall silhouettes loomed; the wall tiles gleamed.
Raiden stroked his cheek, his eyes brimming with parental concern. “You need to eat.”
With a quick motion, he shoved Gabriel into the nearest stall then followed him in and locked the door. Gabriel lost his balance and nearly fell into the toilet.
“Listen to me.” Raiden gripped his wrists. “You won’t be able to stop yourself from attacking the nearest human in that conference room if you don’t have a drink now.”
“I’ll be fi—”
“Cut the crap. I’ve been around you long enough to see when you’re about to lose it.”
Raiden began unbuttoning his shirt. He faced away from Gabriel and pulled the garment over his shoulders, exposing his bare skin. Gabriel gawped at the cross tattoo on Raiden’s upper back; its vibrant colors seemed to pulse.
His hunger itched. “What are you doing?”
Raiden turned and reached for him. Gabriel tried to swat his hand away, but the older vampire was determined.
“Hurry up.” He tugged on Gabriel’s wrist. “Kochi-koi. Get over here.”
“What are you doing?” Gabriel repeated in a whisper. His body went rigid with anticipation.
One-handed, Raiden pulled the younger vampire to his chest. Tilting his head to the side, he used the index finger of his free hand to open a vein near his collarbone. “Feeding you.”
The oozing crimson laceration contrasted with Raiden’s caramel-dusted complexion. Gabriel abandoned his pride and did what his body commanded. It had been a while since he had fed from his maker. Even secondhand, the blood was luscious. He gripped Raiden’s bare shoulders and kept his fangs fastened to his neck, gulping his meal like a famished infant. Blood dribbled down his chin.
“You taste good,” he murmured between sucks.
“You don’t say.” Gabriel licked his wound. “You’re starting to take after me.”
“Hardly. I’m joking. It was a middle-aged used-car salesman,” Raiden hissed. “Ease up a little.”
The air inside the stall was starting to scorch. Gabriel inhaled Raiden’s scent, that unique mixture of sweet musk, cigarette smoke, and muted decay. Slowly he moved his hand down Raiden’s chest. The erratic beating of his heart quickened Gabriel’s own pulse. Raiden allowed more access to the bite as Gabriel sank his teeth in deeper than intended—but instead of pulling away, Raiden moved closer.
“Are you gonna return the favor you owe me?” he insinuated.
Gabriel disengaged from feeding and grabbed Raiden’s face. “Among other things.”
Quietly moaning, Raiden pushed his forehead into Gabriel’s. They locked eyes and shared a breath. Kissing him would be too intimate. Ruinous. Although he knew he should not allow himself to flirt with his willpower’s point of no return, he struggled to quell his desire. Maybe I don’t have to control myself anymore.
“I can’t hide it.” Gabriel caressed Raiden’s tantalizing contours of muscle and bone as he moved to unbuckle his belt. “And neither can you.”
Raiden licked his lips. “Gil, I—”
The bathroom door swung open.