A fledgling vampire needs a seasoned mentor to help him hone his homicidal instincts. The scent of blood is both an incentive for murder, and a potent aphrodisiac…opposites attract.
In the present, rock star Raiden and his reluctant sidekick, celebrity actor Gabriel Colin, encounter various challenges while attempting to conceal their criminal activities. Their shared proclivities provide fodder for the potential formation of a bond beyond necessity.
Stalking humans to satisfy Raiden’s need for blood is a means to an end—but who provided the blueprint for his methodology? Snapshots of the singer’s past reveal further details of his transformation; and once again bring him face to face with Justus, the master vampire who orchestrated his fiancée’s demise.
Amid two timelines, the tension between maker and creation intensifies, exploding into degenerate violence—and surprising passion.
“Baby boy wants the bottle.”
Justus took a nip from the flask to emphasize his point. “He’s supplementing his thirst with cocaine. Deadly combo.” He nodded at his traveling companion. “You know what cocaine does to the brain once it’s in the bloodstream? Especially to a bloodsucker’s brain? I won’t be surprised if he thinks he can prey on the whole city.” He took another swallow of Scotch. “If you wonder why I’m bothering to tell you this, it’s because you won’t remember. You’ll have another one of your fogs, and we’ll carry on as usual—no.” He held up a hand in protest. “Don’t speak. Just sit tight. I’d ask you to wait up, but there’s little point in that. You’ll be fast asleep before I leave. Come now.” He clucked his tongue. “Don’t take piss out of me. Just drowse, darling. Drowse.”
* * *
As the girl made a left turn out of the corner store, Raiden caught the hale fragrance of her windblown titian hair, and halted in his tracks. The gaijin’s love of life was evident in her ebullient step, as if she had just exited the early-morning train from some Midwestern countryside and set foot on city streets for the first time in her adult life. She hummed—sweet, reedy, a music box’s tune within a hollow painted crane. He recognized the tune: “The Last Remaining Light” by Incubus. One of his favorite songs.
His recently repurposed heart allowed itself a few extra beats. The wavy-tressed goddess flitted about the shop fronts, using all her senses to bring her closer to the moment she inhabited. She licked her lips at the sugared confectionaries in the corner bakery famous for its chocolate-filled breads and turtle-shaped steamed buns. She admired the elaborate hair pieces advertised in the accessory store. She paused at a takoyaki stand to observe the process of creating the perfect octet of fried octopus.
She’s never been more alive. That’s why you must take her now, the disembodied voice of his maker chanted inside his skull. A vampire’s blood craving is best satisfied when his chosen victim has the most to lose from death.
The sluggish pulse in Raiden’s throat was the only evidence Justus’ phantom suggestion had not affected him. Despite having done three lines of cocaine before he left the onsen, his heart rate barely blipped the radar—his pulse had already spiked during the first few seconds of consuming the drug, and there was insufficient blood in his veins to rev up his heartbeat without a refill. With each lackluster hit, his trial taste for cocaine was decreasing. The wilderness inside him, however, came howling into the foreground of his consciousness.
She’s escaping into the crowd. You can catch her if you hurry.
A missing foreigner in Japan would attract unwanted attention. It was difficult enough to escape notice on his own—his face was known, beloved to hundreds of thousands of fans. Over the years since Scent had come to fame, he had learned how to disguise himself: a carefully crafted wig, in an unassuming shade of black, bowl-cut to hide his plaited tresses; an oversized pair of sunglasses, not so large as to appear freakish; a convincing faux mustache and patchy beard, applied with spirit gum; a generic track suit, in black or subdued dark tones; a pair of non-neon Nike trainers.
Knowing the risks of recognition did not deter him from stalking. The petite beauty reminded Raiden of Naomi—sufficient temptation to impede his ability to rationalize. He could no longer hear the human canary’s song, but his mouth watered in anticipation of committing sacrilege. Flesh and blood: two motivators to quicken the pace.
You are a growing boy, Justus reminded him. The twinkle in his phantom voice shone like steel-tipped bullets. Itadakismasu. Let’s eat.
“You don’t have to tell me twice,” he muttered to the empty air around him. He peered at his watch. 19:07, almost dusk. Forty-six hours was too long to go without proper nourishment.
Too easily, he stepped outside of his human skin and donned his full-fanged grin.
* * *
Mistakenly, Raiden assumed he had escaped the notice of any passersby. Busy planning his ambush, the young vampire did not sense the piercing amber eyes boring through the back of his skull, reading his uncontained stream of consciousness like the front page of a tabloid.
“Careful, love.” Justus tsked from his perch at an adjacent ramen stall. “We wouldn’t want you to sully your pretty new dress shoes.”
This time, he would not forget to make a mold of Raiden’s shoe print before his pupil could clean up after himself. A double purpose: curriculum and blackmail. He slurped a spoonful of noodles from the man next to him and spit them back into the bowl before the unlucky customer noticed.
“Mm. Oishiiiiiiiii,” he drawled—over-enunciating, exaggerating, mocking. “Delicious, no?”
The man next to him nodded his head in cheerful, fervent assent, and continued munching where Justus had left off. If he noticed the noodles were a bit colder than before, he did not have the gall to complain.
Justus threw some money on the counter. His recent acquisition was about to claim another victim—he would not forgo his front row seat.
* * *
Until the moment he took her, Raiden had not decided whether to stage a sneak attack, or to attempt seduction. The element of surprise seemed the best way to handle the situation, however . . . perversely, he found himself wanting to engage with her—learn something about her. Then you won’t want to kill her, Justus griped within him. “Rude to kill an acquaintance,” you’ll rationalize. Moralizing is the trademark of a yellow-belly.
Only a few paces away, Raiden willed her to turn around. Look at me. I’m right behind you. Save yourself. He repeated the command in his head, over Justus’ counter-command. (Don’t look at me, there’s no one behind you, give yourself to me.) He wished the voice of his killer—of Naomi’s rapist—would disappear. But these days, it was a constant companion: penance, perhaps, for his crime.
The girl stumbled, dropping her grocery sack. A few items rolled out into the path of other passersby. No one helped her. A woman chatting on her cell phone smashed her high heel onto of the onigiri that had tumbled from the gaijin’s bag and kept walking. Raiden smelled the flavor—sour plum. In his human life, that had been one of his favorites. Naomi’s, too.
He swooped down beside the gaijin and helped pick up the loose items. “Are you okay?” he asked in English.
“I’m fine,” she replied in American-accented Japanese. “Just clumsy.”
She smiled at him, and his choice was made.