“It’s all just cruelty, for cruelty’s sake.”
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As his rock band’s tour kickoff approaches, Raiden struggles with Gabriel’s growing resistance to his teaching methods. The ongoing battle of wills between mentor and protégé unearths dysfunctional dynamics beneath the vampires’ collaborative efforts. When an exercise in corpse disposal goes awry, their festering sexual tension comes to a head.Elsewhere, a ghost from Raiden’s past resurfaces—with an unlikely assistant in tow. Through repetitive and methodical grooming, this jovial phantom convinces his undead bride to help actualize a clever revenge concept designed for the sole purpose of initiating Raiden’s downfall.
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Crimson (MASTER, Book 1) Universal Book Link
Excerpt from Naomi
The homeless man wandered through the jungle of the junkyard, stopping every now and again to scrutinize a potential prize. Slowly, he shuffled through the graveyard of rotting vehicles, his outline bathed in moonlight.
Raiden sniffed the air for the umpteenth time, as yet detecting no other humans.
Good. This should be easy, then.
His eyes were trained on the vagrant, fixated upon his every motion, waiting for the right time to spring. Gabriel stayed close beside him, writhing fitfully, fangs fully detracted. Raiden tore his eyes away from their target, sensing his creation was practically swooning with hunger.
I know all too well how that feels.
Raiden gripped Gabriel’s shoulder to instill him with a semblance of comfort. Gabriel turned to him, famishment masking the true intent of his lingering stare. His pulse accelerated. Raiden’s bloodlust roared, raging through his veins, muting the sound of his harried heart.
“It’s almost time,” he whispered.
Those were the first words either of them had uttered since their painstaking trek to Metro Detroit’s farmlands.
During the hour-long car ride, Gabriel had remained uncharacteristically closed-mouthed; he had not posed a single question about their intended destination.
At first, Raiden welcomed the silence, since he was still trying to process that Gabriel wanted to hack it alone. Forty minutes into the drive, sick of their wordless tension, he wished for nothing more than to hear Gabriel crack a corny joke or offer some pseudo-philosophical insight about an uninteresting subject. Finally, he turned on the radio to NPR, taking comfort in the host’s soothing lecture on ornithology. Anything was better than enduring Gabriel’s muteness.
When they finally arrived within a half-mile of the junkyard, Raiden parked the car close to a remote section of woods, exited the car, and commanded Gabriel to follow him. The usually chatty actor wordlessly obliged; he did not probe Raiden to reveal the reason why they were walking in the woods or where they were going.
During their hike to the junkyard, not once did Gabriel attempt to manifest to speed their progress. In fact, he remained virtually soundless, except for the beating of his heart. Raiden started to fret. During their previous encounters, Gabriel had consistently refused to follow him with blind obedience. At the time, Raiden had desired subservience from his student, but this new lemming-like version of Gabriel alarmed him. He almost wished his creation would challenge him, if only to provide a sense of normalcy to their situation.
Despite the conclusion of their previous conversation, he could not yet adjust to the fact Gabriel would soon disappear from his life. He more often than not felt an overwhelming affection for him.
How can I not care that he’s leaving me? After all, I claimed him.
The bum moved deeper into the forest of haphazardly piled cars. He would be out of sight in another few seconds. Raiden loosened his hold on Gabriel, unable to restrain himself from lightly tracing the side of his neck.
Gabriel tensed. Raiden ceased his ministrations, not wanting him to make a fuss and alert their prey.
He adapted his for-undead-ears-only speaking volume. “Gil, listen—”
Without warning, Gabriel swooped forward, manifesting toward the bum’s retreating back. Before he could fully process the situation, the vagrant lay vanquished on the ground, unconscious and barely breathing.
“Damn.” Raiden whistled. He allowed himself a moment to reflect upon how skillfully his student had sharpened his predatory instincts. Pride bubbled in his chest, but he dared not show it. Hurriedly, he manifested beside Gabriel, savoring the scent of the bum’s alcohol-enhanced blood.
“Thanks for waiting. You know how much I like the first gush . . .” His voice swallowed itself when he took a closer look at him.
The younger vampire’s whole face was already drenched in blood. His eyes had all but disappeared, leaving two narrow slits. As he fed, coarse whimpers and blatant moans escaped his parted lips. He was so unabashedly vocal, Raiden felt like he was intruding upon something more intimate than a mere meal. Gabriel slurped his supper, too transfixed by its taste to notice Raiden’s scrutiny.
Raiden inhaled the scent of Gabriel’s kill. The copper-rich air ignited his craving to indulge. He remembered the sensation of his creation’s delicious flavor trickling down his throat, reviving his senses, awakening them.
After tonight, I might not get the chance to taste him ever again.
At that, Raiden experienced a substantial prickle of hurt. He licked his lips and bent down to open the opposite side of the bum’s neck. However, he hesitated.
Gil needs this more than I do.
Releasing the bum’s neck, Raiden grabbed one of his forearms before he could change his mind. If he only fed from the wrist, then Gabriel could continue to monopolize the majority of the feed.
Since when do I take sloppy seconds?
He was shocked by his generosity and abnormal restraint. His appetite protested.
Don’t worry about him, the sneaky, thirsting voice said. Just take care of yourself.
Raiden almost listened. Common sense told him to stop being a softie, to buck up and take as much as he could before the newb stole it all. Still, his heart would not allow himself the luxury of selfishness. As he watched Gabriel eagerly gulping the rich liquid, he decided charitable deference was the best course of action. This time, Raiden would sacrifice his egotism for his creation’s sake.
He delicately punctured the victim’s wrist, sucking small bits of blood from it. The ominous cloud of guilt hovering over him since Gabriel’s change darkened.
Well, I won’t have to worry about what happens to him in the future. After tonight, he’ll be history.
Gabriel suddenly paused. For one breathless moment, Raiden feared his feelings had become transparent.
“Raiden, stop dicking around with his arm and take some from his neck. I’m about to finish him off if you don’t hurry up and get on this.”
The older vampire’s eyebrows shot up.
He’s starting to sound more and more like me.
Secretly, he was impressed by Gabriel’s unguarded sassiness. He much preferred it to the trademark stilted speech: the use of casual slang gave his creation more appeal. On some sub-conscious level, though, Raiden could admit the actor’s usual fusty verbiage was charming—in an annoying sort of way.
“Nah, you go ahead,” he generously offered. “I ate three times this week, anyway.”
Gabriel’s glutton-glazed eyes regarded him for a long second, any emotion within them obscured by the murkiness of primordial hunger; without further ado, he returned to avidly stuffing his face. Raiden watched him out of the corner of an eye, both amused and slightly concerned.
He’s sucking that shit down like it’s his last meal.
The thought reminded him again of his creation’s impending departure.
Alone, a phantom from his past whispered to him. You’ll always be alone.
Through lowered lashes, Raiden continued to observe Gabriel’s feeding, horrified to realize he missed him already.