I’m feeling really good about this! The entire Thorns and Fangs series has been me challenging myself. Life After Humanity is no different. I’ve taken chances and written the story I wanted to write. I have second-guessed myself, worried myself, worried my editor… but now that release day is approaching I’m feeling really good about it.
On the theme of taking a chance, I’m sharing an exclusive excerpt today. It’s not user-friendly in that it probably won’t make a lot of sense if you haven’t read Thorns and Fangs (and contains major spoilers for the story), and won’t appeal to everyone–but it is a scene that has appeared in every single incarnation of this story (and there have been a few). It’s also one of my favourites. While saying you’ll either love it or hate feels like too big a claim, this one I think will leave you either really excited for Life After Humanity or faintly confused.
If the former, preorder Life After Humanity from the NineStar website now to get it on January 12th.
Ben is a recovering vampire determined to pick up the pieces of the life that came to a halt when he was murdered over a year ago—even if that means distancing himself from his few remaining friends. Nate, struggling to navigate his new identity as a Class 3 Unknown paranormal, knows it will take more than mastery of his affinity with plants to convince Ben they belong together.
When Ben’s application for human status is denied, he must fight to leave the paranormal world behind him while Nate’s generous impulses drag him into conflict with a werewolf pack with designs on ruling New Camden. As Ben’s vampire family draws closer to finding him, his vampire instinct awakens—throwing his continued existence into jeopardy. The hunt for the missing werewolf continues, and Nate and Ben become pawns in Councilor Wisner’s plans to take control of the city. Their only hope is each other—if they can see that before all is lost.
Read on for the exclusive excerpt!
As Nate approached Century, he couldn’t help a feeling of anticipation. Yeah, he was looking forward to an evening of cleaning, rather than the club’s risqué entertainment. But the sight of the club always gave him a thrill. Tonight though… Nate grinned. The thrill had nothing to do with Century’s myriad attractions and everything to do with Ben’s phone call.
He’s never offered to visit me here before. Usually, I have to twist his arm to get him to go out… and he still says no.
Century started life as an opera house way back when New Camden still had designs on respectability. The building was a baroque masterpiece, with architectural flourishes that made it a landmark, even without containing the most notorious nightclub in all of the city. Century had built a name making prostitution classy, combining elements of a regular nightclub with that of a brothel, and devoting the same amounts of lavish spending to both. The result was a venue that was respectable enough to visit while still exciting its clientele.
The main entrance already had a considerable line of people outside it. Nate ducked down the alley beside the building to the staff entrance. Like all of Century’s escorts, he wore a thin black wristband on one hand. Containing GPS, transaction functions, a light to indicate Nate’s availability and considerable security features, the wristband was developed specifically by Century to protect its staff. Today, Nate simply waved it before the door’s sensors and stepped inside. Cleaning was far from his preferred job, but beggars couldn’t be choosers, and Nate was really lucky to still be employed by the club at all.
It did not take long at all to pull the uniform jumpsuit worn by the cleaning staff over his regular clothes. Nate assembled his cleaning gear and glanced at the clock. It was still relatively early. Time to find Aki? He knocked on the dressing room door and walked in.
Century splurged on clothing and stylists for their escorts, cultivating an allure about them that justified the high prices their services commanded. For the staff this meant their pick of the latest fashions—a choice that could take fashion conscious Aki upwards of an hour.
Nate spotted Aki digging into a clothing rack. “They got the new styles in already?”
“Right? It’s like they want me to be late on the floor.” Aki blinked. “Nate? What are you doing here? It’s supposed to be your night off!”
“Don’t look so happy to see me.” Nate motioned to his uniform. “They had a cleaner call out sick. I’m filling in.”
Aki frowned. “But you hate cleaning.”
“I don’t hate it. And I like getting paid.” Nate hesitated. “Especially now we have a dog to provide for.”
Aki chewed his lip. “You sure you should be here at all? I hear dogs don’t do well if you leave them alone.”
“Um.” Of all the things Nate was expecting, concern for the dog was not it. “Are you—okay?”
“Of course I am.”
“It’s just that you seem a little—” Nate hesitated.
“You’ve thrown me off my groove showing up out of the blue.” Aki turned back to the clothing racks.
“I thought you’d be happier to see me—” And angrier about the dog. “Are you feeling okay?” Nate reached for Aki’s forehead.
Aki batted his hand away. “I’m a complex person! I’m allowed to have different opinions about things!”
A static crackle had them both glancing up at the speaker in the dressing room ceiling. “All staff to the floor in five minutes for an important staff meeting.”
“Thank god.” Aki grabbed a shirt off the rack and ducked into a changing booth. “Let’s go, Nate. Can’t miss a staff meeting.”
Nate frowned at the closed curtain. Now I know something’s wrong. No one likes staff meetings…
When they reached the dance floor before the stage, most of the staff was already there, milling around.
Tybalt smirked, nudging Javier as he spotted Aki and Nate arriving. “So, Nate. What have you got us into this time?”
Javier counted off on his fingers. “We’ve had vampires, demons … Please tell me you’re not dating the rogue werewolf.”
Nate frowned at them. “You’re not funny.”
“This has to be about the werewolf, right?” Aki looked around the club. Security was clustered around the stage. “Why else would security be here?”
“Everyone’s here.” Nate hesitated. “You think maybe they’re announcing Denise’s replacement?” He’d been the one to discover Denise’s death. The manager was murdered during the necromancer’s attempt at killing Nate. The only flaw in his plan was the fact that Nate hadn’t died.
Aki winced sympathetically, placing his hand on Nate’s arm.
“About time,” Tybalt said. “Yeah, she was murdered. Very sad. But Century needs someone in charge who knows what they’re doing. And the interim managers—” He broke off mid-sentence, eyes widening as he took in the stage.
Nothing makes Tybalt pause. Nate turned to look—and felt his breath catch. There, exactly as he’d seen her last, if you discounted being a bloodied, dead mess, was Denise.
The club went very still.
Denise smiled. “Thank you for giving me your undivided attention—and for your patience with the interim management team. I’m back now and I’m pleased to announce that things should be back to normal very soon.”
Aki’s fingers had tightened painfully around Nate’s skin.
Tybalt leaned in. “You’re sure she was dead?”
Nate could only nod. He couldn’t take his eyes off the woman on stage.
Denise wore her signature suit—or a very good copy of it. Her lipstick was her usual rich shade, and there was no mistaking the assurance in her voice—that was all Denise. But how? How is this possible?
“I am resuming full manager duties from tonight,” Denise continued. “And on that note, we have some precautionary security measures to address. Century made the news for all of the wrong reasons during the Necromancer attacks—”
“She’s talking about her death,” Aki said. “Isn’t she?”
Denise’s eyes glittered. “And we need to do serious work promoting Century as a safe place for customers.”
Although there was no way she could have heard them from her position on the stage, Nate felt she was looking right at them. He felt Aki’s nails dig into his skin as he flinched.
Denise paused a moment to nod to Century’s head of security—looking as pale as everyone else. “To that end and to ensure the safety of our employees, our security team are following the latest briefings from Department Seven and are on the look out for the rogue werewolf. We’ve also increased our defensive wards, and urge all our employees to familiarize themselves again with our emergency proceedings.”
“Emergency proceedings—like your dead manager returning to life and holding a staff meeting?” Tybalt muttered.
“I don’t know,” Nate said. “If anyone’s going to raise from the dead, I’m glad it’s Denise.”
“The last thing we need’s another supernatural in the place. We’re getting overrun—sorry Nate. But it’s true.” Javier frowned at the stage. “You think she was always this way and now she can’t hide it?”
“One way to find out.” Tybalt raised his hand.
“I hardly have to remind you all that Century takes a hard line on illegal supernaturals—yes, Tybalt?”
Tybalt sneered. “So what exactly are you—”
With every word he said, the atmosphere in the club seemed to grow colder.
Denise settled a hand on her hip and waited. Nate felt an urge to take a step back.
Tybalt swallowed, lowering his hand. “—your plans now you’re back?”
Denise smiled. “I should be back up to speed in no time. And then it’s back to the business of making sure Century remains the best club in New Camden.” She looked across silent crowd. “Any other questions, I’ll be in my office.” She gave them a crisp nod before walking off the stage, the security chief hurrying to match her pace.
Nate suddenly rediscovered breathing. “Wow.”
“Shit.” Aki’s gaze didn’t relax. “I skipped out on her funeral. You think she knows?”
“This is Denise.” Javier ran his hand over his face. “She knew everything even before she died. And now—”
“Now who knows what she can do.” Tybalt headed toward the bar. “I think we were safer with the fucking werewolf.”