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Cover Art © George Cotronis

Editor: Angela Brown

Melancholia

MASTER, Book 5

A growing boy needs an iron-rich diet.

Reeling from grief, closeted vampire Gabriel Colin bites the hand that feeds. After a heart-wrenching tragedy, he goes on the warpath, leaving Raiden, his costar and maker, to lick his wounds solo.

Eager to enact the next phase of his Raiden-centric revenge, OG big bad Justus makes it his mission to seduce Gabriel. As Justus welcomes the bloodsucking newb into the fold, his spouse-cum-Stockholm-Syndrome-sufferer Naomi covertly flexes her mental muscles, testing the strength of her growing resistance to her husband’s tyranny.

All the while, Raiden takes greater public risks to fill the void of his sorrow—and unwittingly enters the crosshairs of Gabriel’s blooming wrath.

***

Warning: this book series is intended for adults only. It contains graphic violence and gore, explicit sexual situations, including rape and sexual assault, strong language, and other material readers may find objectionable. Reader discretion is advised.

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Read an Excerpt

As a Burberry-clad Gabriel sauntered across the black-rocked beach, his lengthy strides sending seagulls scattering in every direction, Raiden ascertained distinctively foreign odors emanating from his skin. He took a deeper whiff: something about the scent’s undertone was unnervingly familiar. Female prey. Someone or something else—two others? He clenched his fists. Since leaving him for dead (or at least seriously injured) in the parking lot, Gabriel had not communicated with him. Though they would both stay in San Francisco for the remainder of filming, today they would shoot their final scene together.

“Gabe!” Fagan, rocking a Pepto-pink baby-doll tee with the slogan “My Pen Is Bigger” paired with iridescent wide-legged trousers, bounded over to him, dragging her bare toes in the sand. “Where’ve you been marooned?”

“I took a sabbatical” was his vague reply.

“Speaking of which, I heard Joe quit. Sorry you lost your hired muscle. He was, like, a total gentle giant.”

Raiden watched Gabriel flinch at her clueless insensitivity.

“Don’t be silly!” the actor chided in a too-chirpy tone. “I would never abandon Luna.”

“Yeah, but you’ve been laying low the last couple of days. I was beginning to think you’d gone back to Canada.” She air-kissed him. “Damn, son. You look amazing! New esthetician?

“I accredit my glow to the iron-rich diet recommended by my nutritionist,” Gabriel replied.

“Aha! You begged the red meat to take you back.” Fagan clasped her hands in front of her chest. “‘Please, sir, may I have some more?’” she said in an affected English accent.

 Gabriel slicked back his hair. “I’m aware veganism works wonders for you, but my body seems to require flesh to thrive.”

“Ew!” Fagan wrinkled her nose. “Eating Bambi’s bad for the planet.”

He gave a dismissive wave. “When Earth gives up, we’ll migrate to outer space. Survival of the richest.”

“That’s a shitty attitude.”

Gabriel shrugged. “It’s true. People like us will be the first ones blasting off to Mars.”

“All that animal carcass has gone to your head.” Fagan made a disgusted face. “Or you’re on some wacky new ’scripts.”

Gabriel put his fingers to his lips and made a “zip it” motion.

“Let’s catch up when you come back to Earth.” Fagan saluted him. “Gemma! Wait up!” She sprinted across the sand and caught hold of the producer’s arm. “You are not going to believe the hookup I scored for the wrap party swag …”

Raiden played with his prop lighter. Although he had no intention of approaching Gabriel, crossing paths with him was inevitable. The actor gave him zero acknowledgment, making it even more obvious he was purposefully ignoring Raiden. Ouch.

Covertly he surveyed Gabriel making the rounds, flitting between groups of people like the social butterfly he was, complimenting the bigwigs, paying special attention to the crewmembers he relied on for hair and makeup. Everyone seemed charmed by him and basked in the attention he bestowed.

Raiden turned inward, shriveling. Souring. Fuck this.

He strode over to where Gabriel stood chatting with Baza. “Gil.”

Gabriel’s fake grin faltered. “Raiden. I trust you’ve been well.”

“I’ve been working. We all have.” He dipped his head in Baza’s direction. “When are we doing the gun scene?”

“Anxious to put a silver bullet in my head?” Gabriel muttered.

“Not as anxious as you are to drive a stake through my heart.”

“Boys, boys.” Baza clapped. “Work out your issues before we start. Call’s in thirty minutes. Go get ready. Vite, vite!” He waddled away.

Raiden crossed his arms. “Why haven’t you gotten in touch with me? I left at least ten messages on your cell.”

“Do you really wonder?”

“I told you I didn’t—”

“Don’t mention his name.” Vampire low, Gabriel said, “I had to incinerate my own bodyguard. My friend. Do you have any idea how fucking painful that was? His family must not realize he’s missing yet, because I haven’t heard from them. But any day now, they’ll start asking questions.” Gabriel gripped his forearm. “What the fuck am I supposed to tell them?”

“I don’t know. But Gil, I didn’t hurt him.” With his free hand, Raiden touched Gabriel’s cheek. “I swear.”

Tears stood at the corners of Gabriel’s eyes. “When you say it like that, I almost believe you. But I know you’re a liar. And an even better actor than I thought you’d be.” He let go of Raiden’s arm and took a few steps backward.

“Who’ve you been hanging out with?” Raiden demanded.

“What do you mean?”

Raiden inhaled. “I smell strangers on you.”

Gabriel avoided making eye contact. “I’m around strangers all the time.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Let it go, Raiden.” Gabriel walked away. Under his breath, he added, “After we’re done with this movie, I won’t see you again.”

“You’ll change your mind once I prove I’m innocent,” Raiden whispered. With his script, he shielded his face from the cast and crew’s curious eyes. They may not have heard the content of our conversation, but they’d have to be idiots not to notice Gabriel’s on the verge of a meltdown and I’m on the verge of a breakdown.

***

Raiden picked up the gun. “It’s come to this.”

“It’s come to this,” Gabriel repeated.

“I never thought—”

“You took my wife. Murdered my kin.”

Raiden cocked the trigger. “I did what I had to do.”

Gabriel pointed at his head. “If I could go back, I’d make sure she never laid eyes on you.”

“Do you think things would’ve ended differently?” Raiden smiled bitterly. “We’ve always been at odds.”

“I loved you, Akemi.” Gabriel fell to his knees. “You were like a brother!”

Raiden’s hand trembled on the trigger. “I felt the same.”

“Cut!” Baza yelled. “Merde! This long take is ridiculous. We need to break it down into sections.”

While he consulted with the cameramen about which angle to shoot next, Raiden put the gun on the prop table.

“You must be one of the only dudes I’ve ever met who doesn’t seem to enjoy holding one of these.” Fagan pointed to the weapon.

He shrugged. “It’s not really my thing.”

“You’ve been so low lately. What gives?”

“Issues.”

“With Gabriel?”

“Obviously.”

She slung an arm around his neck. “Come hang out with me after work. I’ll give you something to smile about.”

“What’s that?”

She dropped her arm and cupped her hands around his ear. “It rhymes with ‘hot.’”

“Ah.” Raiden managed a ghost of grin. “Haven’t had ‘hot’ in a while.”

“I knew you’d be game.” She gave him a side hug. “I’ll ask Gabriel too.”

Raiden’s face fell. “Don’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“It won’t help.”

“Are you questioning my people skills?”

“No. I’m saying the issues we have are not, um … We can’t just smoke them away.”

“You can try. Seeing y’all mope around is a total drag. We’ll be done with the shoot soon. It’d suck to end it on a bitter note, ya know?”

“It’s not bitter between you and me.”

“Yeah, but can’t we all just get a bong?” She batted her lashes at him.

Raiden shook his head.

Fagan pouted. “I’ll ask Gabriel and see what he says.”

“I wish you wouldn’t.”

“I don’t give a hoot! I’ll do what I want.”

“If you must.”

As she skipped over to Gabriel, Raiden felt the anchor dragging down his spirit grow heavier, especially as he lip-read his creation’s response: “Not a chance in hell.”