What would you do if a 300 year old vampire decided that you would make the perfect Van Helsing for his own twisted game?
A series of bizzare kidnappings leads detective Mitch Grogan to the home of the wealthy and eccentric Darius Hawthorne. What he discovers there unleashes a chain of events that not only threatens his life, but also his sanity. Grogan finds himself caught up in a deadly game with a three hundred year old vampire looking for a worthy adversary. But how can a burnt-out cop with a crumbling marriage compete against a centuries’ old immortal with unlimited resources and supernatural powers?
More than boredom drives the cunning Hawthorne, however. His attempts to push Grogan to the breaking point are more than cruel entertainment. They also serve as a test to see whether or not the mortal is ready to help him hunt an even more deadly foe: one that would see the whole world burn to remove the vampiric corruption from it.
Prologue from A Game of Blood
Vampyre Night at Club Decadence was hardly worth the three weeks’ allowance Rachel spent for the fake ID. Hell, maybe if she had realized half the club would be filled with other students, they could have made a group purchase and gotten a better rate. The other half of the club was taken up by goddamn larpers; those drama club rejects that roleplayed being vampires. The female larpers were all squeezed into fake velvet medieval-style corsets, red and black of course, that not only pushed up their boobs but also enhances every fat roll on their oversized stomachs. And the male larpers all had that long, greasy hair and bad skin made to look worse by excessive caking on of white face powder.
Maybe they really were vampires, mused Rachel. Maybe they had no reflection and didn’t realize how stupid they looked in their Interview-With-The-Vampire-Wannabe flea market costumes. She chuckled to herself and finished her drink.
Rachel turned to leave the club when she saw the man staring at her. He seemed to immediately realize that she saw him, because he took a quick, startled breath and looked away. How had I missed him, she wondered. And why were ten other girls not all over him? His hair was short and dark, and he had a manicured goatee that added a bit of edge to his otherwise soft facial features. He seemed to take a drink from his glass, but Rachel noticed him looking in her direction out of the corner of his eye.
Rachel slowly walked over to his table. He seemed surprised by her approach. He looked up at her and she finally got a good look at his eyes. They were wide and dark, and the way his brow twitched reflected a bit of insecurity. He held a hand up to her apologetically.
“I am so sorry,” he began. “I didn’t mean to stare. If I made you uncomfortable…”
“Oh, no. Don’t apologize,” replied Rachel. She squared her shoulders to convey confidence, but she was shaking inside. Oh my god he is so gorgeous, she screamed internally. “You don’t come to a club to not get noticed. I’m Rachel.”
“Darius,” he said as he wrapped his arms around himself lightly. “Nice to meet you. Oh, um, please have a seat. Let me buy you a drink.”
“Are you OK?” she asked as she sat across from him.
He looked up at her and smiled, his arms still folded around him for security. “Yes, well, it’s…nevermind. I’m sorry. You’ll think I’m crazy.”
“No, go ahead,” she encouraged him. “Really, you can’t be any worse than those guys.” She pointed to the larpers. Darius smiled and nodded in agreement.
“Well, it’s just that, when I saw you…you’re sort of how I always imagined Bella.”
“Um, from the Twilight novels.” Darius took another drink from his glass to avoid eye contact.
They spent the next two hours talking. Darius was a business consultant. He had recently moved to the area when several of his larger clients relocated. He didn’t know anyone in the area, and when he saw the posters for Vampyre Night he had thought it might be a way of meeting some people with similar interests.
“In my circles, you don’t admit to those sort of interests,” he explained. “People don’t understand, you know? They think just because you have an interest in vampires, you spend your nights cutting and listening to goth music.”
Darius invited her back to his house for coffee, and she said yes before realizing how late is was. But it didn’t matter. She would happily take the grounding for this one. He was even an environmentalist. As they drove to his house in his Toyota Prius, they talked about the impact of global warming and how he was getting solar panels installed to help offset his carbon footprint.
The house was in a still in development, gated community. The front yard of the house was immaculately maintained, but the side yard was only sod. Darius explained that when he moved in there had been a problem with the plumbing, and the builder had to dig up the yard to get to the source of the issue. He pulled into the driveway, but put the car in park before driving into the garage. A sudden look of concern spread across his delicate face. Rachel put her hand over his. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I…I haven’t been completely honest with you,” he stated.
“You’re married?” she asked, dejected.
“No, NO. No, nothing so simple as that.”
“You’re gay? Or…bi?”
He turned to her and smiled. “Did this become twenty questions?” Rachel giggled nervously. “No, I’m not gay. I very much enjoy the companionship of women. I’m…I’m a vampire.”
Darius took her hand and moved it over his wrist. She couldn’t find his pulse. She reached for his neck, and couldn’t find a pulse there either.
“Holy shit,” she whispered. She stared at him blankly.
“I shouldn’t have told you. I put myself in danger if people discover what I am. Between the vampire freaks that beg me to turn them and the religious nuts that want to stake me, I have to keep it a secret.”
“Why tell me, then?” asked Rachel as she checked for a pulse a third time.
“After a few centuries, you just know when a person is special. I wanted to be honest with you. You need to know the truth so you can make the right decision, if you want to move forward with…whatever happens next.”
Rachel fell back in her seat. “Darius, I don’t know what to say to this. Um, I haven’t been really honest with you, either. I’m, well, I’m not twenty-one.”
“How old are you?” he asked.
“Oh,” he said as he leaned back in his seat. “So you’re 283 years younger than me, as opposed to 279.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t really see that as a problem.”
Rachel’s face lit up. “I don’t, either.”
“So, would you still like to come in? I’ve finished unpacking, and I’d love to show you some of the antiques I’ve acquired over the centuries.”
Rachel nodded vigorously. Darius moved the Prius into the garage and closed the garage door. As they entered the house, a voice down the hall said, “Welcome home, Master Darius.”
“James, I have company and do not wish to be disturbed,” replied Darius. His voice sounded a bit harsher that it had a moment ago.
“Oh course, sir,” said the voice. Rachel detected a hint of annoyance.
“My seneschal,” explained Darius. Rachel looked at him confused. “My assistant. He handles my affairs during the day.”
“No, James is mortal. His family has served me for many generations. But enough about him. Come. Let me show you something.” He took Rachel by the hand, and they went down into the basement. There was what looked like a narrow closet door on the other side of the basement. Darius pulls out his keys and unlocked the door. He pushed it open without effort, but the door creaked on the hinges as if it was heavier than it looked. He waved for Rachel to step inside.
“It must be hard for you,” she said as she walked passed him. “I mean, the whole vampire sub-culture thing, like the freaks you mentioned before. It must make it really hard for you.”
“On the contrary,” he said as he turned on the light. “It actually makes acquiring my meals much easier. Not to mention so much more entertaining.”
Rachel looked around the room at the various cages and torture devices. She remained frozen in place as the door slammed shut behind them.
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