teasers

More Than Coffee … teaser #1

I’ve been occupied lately by preparations for my Grandma’s 90th birthday–well done, Grandma!–but I am very glad to be able to go back to work writing. Specifically, I’m back to work on Kathleen’s wizards.

Remember my contribution of an original story to the fundraiser in aid of LGBT Chechens? This is that story! It’s been an interesting writing journey because the story and characters have all evolved unexpectedly as I’ve been writing. I have been wanting to share a snippet for ages, so here is the opening scene of the story, as it stands now. Note: there are almost certainly going to be a lot of changes in the final story!

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Actual transcript of actual conversation that took place this morning between me and roommate:

Me: I have great news!

Roommate: What?

M: Thorns and Fangs is coming out in print August 10th!

R: That’s great! [Beat.] That’s–

M: The day I arrive back in New Zealand.

R: That’s terrible news! How are I going to make you sign my book if you’re not here?


June has been a month of personal highs and global lows. Part of me feels very selfish for writing at all with so much going on but I’m realizing how much I need an escape in times of stress. As my time in Japan draws to a close, I am going to be making an effort to spend less time on social media, more time getting things done, whether preparing for the move, writing–or reading.

I decided June was going to be an all-writing month, and that I wasn’t going to read. It didn’t speed up my writing process any. In fact, I ended up getting stuck at all the usual points in the drafting process, and ended up reading anyway. Each time I read, I noticed an increase in enthusiasm and creativity. Of course, I was reading during times when I needed to pause and allow the next part of the plot to solidify, so I can’t simply credit reading for the writing boost … but it wasn’t taking away from my writing time like I’d assumed. Anyway, The Junk Mage has been burning a hole in my virtual bookshelf long enough–I’m going to treat myself and start reading.

In the meantime, I am really happy with how Uprooted is progressing! I’m going to share an excerpt under the cut: Ben spending some quality time with Nate’s brother, the elusive Ethan.

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June Goals, AotM & Pinterest Preview.

It’s the first blog post of the new month! Obviously an ideal time to share my plans for June and reflect on the business that was May. But before I get started on all that fun stuff, I have something I have to get off my chest:

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That. See that? That is my book on the front page of the M/M Romance Group! I’m one of their 5 authors of the month (not pictured in the above screencap is Ally Blue, and I have to say that her Bay City Paranormal Investigations series sounds very cool, and I intend to check them out once I am allowed to read again–more on that later)! I won’t lie, I am ridiculously pleased. This was an awesome, totally unexpected surprise.

Another totally awesome surprise?

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This screencap was taken from Morgen Curse‘s Amazon page yesterday! ( yesterday at time of me writing this post anyway). For a hot second, Morgen Curse was 57 in a category on Amazon! How cool is that?

… apologies. We authors get way, way too excited about things like that. Anyway, now that I’ve peeled myself away from my kdp dashboard, writing plans!


May Goals!

  • continue to update blog twice weekly-DONE
  • publish Mystery Project aka. Deep Magic sequel-VERY DONE
  • new outline for Uprooted-DONE
  • work on Uprooted-DONE but could do better
  • Read more M/M romance – DONE but could read more
  • stay focused by reading writing blogs and books on craft.- Kind of Done

May was very productive! Despite school throwing extra hours at me, I managed to get all of my list done. However, this came at a price! I’ve had a non-stop cold since Friday the 13th (ironic, right) that has already seen me go to the doctor twice, and may necessitate a third trip. Yeah, I’m not impressed either. With that in mind, and also because I know I have problems focusing on reading when I’m writing, I’m going to make things easier for myself in the month of June.

For a start, I’m not going to be doing any guest author interviews for June! I love doing them, and I’m always encouraged and inspired by the conversations I have with my fellow M/M authors, but I think I need to take care of myself. I’ve also got a couple of guest appearances in the works, and will continue update the blog with updates from my June project. And speaking of …

June Goals!

  • Get back into the habit of writing everyday.
  • Get at least 50% through the draft of Uprooted.

… Uprooted? What might that be? Well, here’s a pinterest board to give you an idea. And if that’s not enough, here’s a teaser from what I wrote today:

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April Goals! (and sneaky sneak-peak of new story)

This month’s stock take is coming a little later than usual, but you’ll have to forgive me — tonsillitis wasn’t on my schedule! Today is the first day since March 28th that I’ve had a temperature that was approaching normal. I am functioning and happy, but still suffering an energy deficit … Just as well I had most of the week off!

Before I get into my April goals, let’s look back at March. It was a busy month. To be honest, I was not entirely sure I would survive it, what with the WWOOFing, the room-mate moving in, the staff changes at my workplace … Actually, while intense March ended up going quite well! I’m going to be talking specifics in future blog posts, so look forward to that!

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From Hells … to Hospitals. March was an intense month!

March Goals:

– getting March and April blogs posts done in advance! Mostly done! I left for my farm adventure with only a few minor tweaks. While the tonsillitis knocked me back, I have ideas for April’s blog, and some exciting interviews on the horizon.
– reading more M/M romance. Read two M/M books thanks to interviewees for the blog! I am enjoying this, but need to do better.
– reread Thorns and Fangs. Done!
– new Uprooted (Thorns and Fangs 2) outline. Done!
– continue experiments with dictation and write up blog post. Done! Would have liked to do more, but considering that from the 19th I had very little time or space to myself, think I did okay.

I also started an unexpected writing project.

April Goals!

– continue to update blog biweekly.
– Finish mystery project.
– Start mystery project editing process.
– Submit mystery project cover request.
– Work on Uprooted.
– Read more M/M Romance.


 

And onto the sneaky excerpt! This is the second piece I’ve shared of ~mystery project~ and there have been a handful of name changes since then, and probably many other changes before I’m done with this story.

“I was not born when the humans cast us from the land,” Ieuan said, brushing his hair back from his face. “I do not remember to grieve what we lost. But you do.” He peered at the murky shadow that obscured the Cursed One’s face. “You have no reason to save this man.”

“No.” The word was almost a sigh. “None whatsoever.” There was a glint of bone white as the Cursed One smiled, and Ieuan was uneasily reminded that he was alone in a predator’s lair. “And yet …” The Cursed One spoke briskly. “The storm was sudden and unusual. It roared with powerful fury. I made up my mind to see it for myself. I was there when the boat smashed against the rock and I delighted in the wreck! I searched the surf for any survivors, thinking to drag them down into the deep, feel for myself the moment of his death. But when I saw him—” The Cursed One faltered, his voice growing uncertain. “His arm was broken, and there was no hope of rescue. Yet he clung to the wreckage of his boat like a man who very much wanted to live.” The water stirred as the Cursed One drew his hair around him, gathering it into a single rope.

What is so remarkable about that? Ieuan opened his mouth, but he caught a glimpse of the Cursed One’s face, the part of it that remained.

The right eye was downturned beneath delicate lashes, the fine brow creased as the Cursed One continued. “It is long … so long since I have felt any interest in living that I have forgotten what it feels like to want to live,” he said slowly. “Since I lack it myself, I wish to preserve it in him. I cannot kill him.” He looked up, his undamaged eye meeting Ieuan squarely. “Do you understand, Ieuan? The man must live.”

Ieuan swallowed. The weight he felt had nothing to do with their depth in the water. “What would you have me do?”

The Cursed One breathed out, releasing his rope of hair. “There is water. Fresh water — in a container of metal I took from his boat. Help him to drink.”

Ieuan nodded. “That should not be difficult.”

“Talk to him gently so that he does not agitate himself,” the Cursed One continued. “If you succeed, he may eat. I have placed what supplies I could recover within reach. If he will speak to you, ask him the extent of his injuries.”

“Injuries?” Ieuan looked to the surface above them. The man was not visible but remembering how still he lay and how slight his movements, he felt a moment’s pity. It is likely the Cursed One is wasting his time! The man will surely die.

The arm is the worst that I saw, but it is possible that he has other injuries. If he responds well, have him tell you who his friends are and how they will seek him.”

“Friends?” Ieuan tilted his head.

“Men have learned — as they should have centuries ago — to fear the sea,” the Cursed One said wryly. “He will not have ventured out alone in a vessel without telling someone of his plans. There will be someone searching—”

A pebble slid down the slope above them, speeding a scattering of loose stone before it.

“He is stirring!” Ieuan started towards the surface.

The Cursed One snatched him back by his ankle. “Ieuan, what do you know of man?”

“I know enough.” Ieuan freed himself easily.

The Cursed One followed him towards the surface. “We morgen came here in secret to live apart from man. The people of these waters are entirely ignorant of us, and we must keep it so. Ieuan, he must think you a man.”

It never changed! Whether it was the Cursed One, Howel or even Ieuan’s mothers, everyone thought they could tell him what to do! Ieuan kicked, slicing cleanly towards the surface. “But that is simplicity itself!” Men were just like morgen after all, except they drowned.

“Ieuan, I am serious—”

Ieuan broke the surface.

Hunter and the End of the Year.

Today’s post is going to be a long one but you’ll have to forgive me because — it’s my birthday! Happy birthday me!

Being a New Year’s baby has a lot of advantages, the best of which is that I never have to plan a party — there’s already one going on! The other advantage is that I, like many other people, do a yearly stock take on my birthday and December 31st is ideally timed for that.

I have a personal superstition that however I spent my birthday is emblematic of the year ahead, a belief brought about by one year in which I got food poisoning on my birthday, and proceeded to get sick three times the following year. Last year, I made a point of spending time on my birthday working on writing, specifically, Thorns and Fangs. A year later, Thorns and Fangs has been edited, proofed and is now available for preorder. So that worked out amazingly! This year, I am spending my birthday in my parents caravan in remote, coastal New Zealand — no electricity, no internet, no people, possible dolphins. It will be great!

medium-DeepMagic-2It’s been a milestone year writing-wise. My two DRitC stories, Deep Magic and The Biggest Scoop are both nominated in the 2015 M/M Romance Group’s Reader’s Choice awards (voting begins January 1st). I made new friends, Achim and Arielle. With Sam and Raevyn’s encouragement, I submitted Thorns and Fangs to NineStar Press, and was accepted. And December 14th, The Ugliest Sweater came out.

2015 was an eventful year away from the keyboard, too. I became an Aunt in May! After only seeing my super-cute niece in photos, getting to meet her at last was amazing! I had my first solo babysitting experience a few days ago, and that went fantastically. I also went to Washington DC in June for a wedding, and just last week attended a second wedding — my mother’s! After 20 years, she and my stepdad decided it was time. I couldn’t be happier. Stepdad is an amazing man, and although he has been part of our family for many, many years, it felt great to celebrate that fact and make it official at last.

In less positive news, I’ve been struggling with burn out at work. I’ve been an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan for just over ten years now, and while I still love interacting with the students, Japanese culture and my town, I think the time is right to try something new. I will be moving back to New Zealand sometime in 2016. Saying goodbye will be hard. I’ve lived in my current town longer than I have lived anywhere in my life! I am going to miss my kids something awful. On the other hand, it does feel like the time is right to be back in New Zealand, spending time with my family. My goals for 2016 include starting a garden of my own and acquiring a shelter dog, both of which I can’t do in Japan! I am also toying with dying my hair, but as I will be job-hunting, may have to hold off.

Anyway! Now that I’ve rambled, time for today’s teaser. Continuing my introduction to the Thorns and Fangs cast, today I’m giving myself the gift that is Hunter.

thornsandfangsWhat we see of Hunter in Thorns and Fangs is only the tip of the iceberg. Nate and Ben are young enough to be idealistic. Hunter has outlived not just his contemporaries, but his country. He’s lost friends, lovers, family, and enemies, and each of those experiences has shaped him, with the result that there is always more going on with him. Even as he strives to live in the moment, Hunter cannot distance himself from the weight of centuries of existence. He no longer thinks of himself as human and has no qualms about using his powers of compulsion.

One of the ways Hunter copes with his hundreds of years of life is by reinventing himself. Emeric Hunter is not his real name, or even his first adopted identity. It’s simply convenient. There’s a lot I don’t know about Hunter yet. There are glimpses in the second Thorns and Fangs book and in Aki’s story, but as of now, Hunter is still a mystery — which means that as I write, he often throws me for a loop. Here is a moment in Thorns and Fangs when Hunter went entirely off-script.


 

“Service and then some.” Hunter’s voice was startlingly loud in the dark. “Did I pick too well or not well enough?”

The crucifix Gunn had given him. Nate had been wearing it ever since, and it was now—

“Fuck.”

—on the table back in the booth. The businessman was catholic and had objected to it.

Hunter’s hand stayed put on Nate’s shoulder. He could feel the coldness of the vampire’s touch even through the shirt he wore. “It was not my intent to see this go so far.” He shrugged, stepping into the streetlamp’s light. In sharp contrast to Ben and Saltaire, he flaunted his immunity to the night air, scarf draped loosely around his shoulders and his blazer open. Hunter’s eyes, as they turned back to fix on Nate, were clear as ice. “But if it was my mistake, it’s my responsibility to fix it.”

“By wiping my memory?” Hunter’s face was impassive. Nate tried anyway. “That’s your answer to everything! It didn’t work last time, what makes you think it’ll work now?”

“This time you’re not in the vicinity of a standing rowan.”

Nate’s mouth worked soundlessly.

Hunter showed his teeth in quick amusement at Nate’s shock. “Godfrey and I worked it out together. He thinks that with proper direction, you might make a decent witch. Provided, of course, our necromancer doesn’t kill you first.”

“Godfrey said that?”

“Coming to the house was a bold move, but it seems to have won you a supporter.”

“For all the good that does me now.” Nate caught himself too late. Self-pity never looked good on anyone. He took a deep breath and tried again. “I’m not sorry it happened.”

“I hope you remain of that opinion.”

Nate glanced up, startled out of his attempt at cool. “You sound like you’re not going to wipe my memory.”

Hunter bowed to him, a theatrical gesture performed with aplomb. “Saltaire does his best to ensure that we have as much free will as we can, even as his scions. It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t do my part and occasionally rebel.”

“Scions?” Something in the emphasis he’d laid on the word—

Hunter had stepped back into the shadow. Nate couldn’t see his eyes. “Saltaire’s reluctance to use his power is great—but the power itself is greater. It was many centuries before I felt myself in his presence, longer still before I understood his choices. Ben is young. He feels his lost freedom keenly. In time those memories will fade, and he will begin to understand.”

Definitely a frost in the air. Nate wrapped his arms around himself. “There’s really no other way?”

Hunter laughed. “The only way to free oneself from the sire’s compulsion is to kill the sire—and Ben owes him too much to want to contemplate Saltaire’s second death—or feed until he consumes power equivalent to Saltaire’s centuries.”

Nate couldn’t imagine Ben choosing either of those options. “Being a vampire sucks.”

“Possibly just as well.” Hunter shrugged. “The power of compulsion is so easily abused that it is only right that attaining it should come at such a high cost.”

Says the guy who compelled two people to sign off on his party! Nate frowned at Hunter. “That didn’t stop you from using it.”

Hunter’s shrug was unrepentant. “Ben needed to see that his fear of endangering others did not need to extend to such radical self-deprivation. I think we did quite well on that front.” He leered, but Nate wasn’t distracted.

“What you say he does,” Nate finished slowly. “Is that why—”

“Any relationship where one party does not have the right of choice inevitably sours.” Hunter looked up at the night sky. “I am too fond of Ben to want to lose him.”

He doesn’the can’t mean that? “Even if it means starving him of the affection he so clearly needs?”

“In a few centuries, he will thank me for this.”

Nate felt like the weight of Saltaire’s presence pressed down on him again. “If he survives that long.”

“Speaking of survival, let’s talk about yours.”

For the second time in three nights, a vampire held Nate up by his neck.

“Ever since the party” —Hunter casually raised his voice to be heard over the sound of Nate choking— “my brother has been distracted, moody, and secretive. In short, he’s been acting more like himself than in the entire year he’s been dead.”

Nate’s lungs burned with trapped air. He struggled to pry Hunter’s icy fingers from his throat.

“Your influence seems to be good for him. Which is why I am not going to erase your memory or kill you.”

Is this a vampire handshake? Nate shut his eyes. His chest felt like it was going to burst—

“Pay attention. This concerns you after all.” With that advice, Hunter let him go.

Nate’s hand caught in the ivy, the only thing preventing him from falling. “Was that really necessary?” He rubbed his throat. “A simple ‘be careful’—”

“We’re dealing with a necromancer,” Hunter said. “Reflexes that poor are not going to save you. From now until we apprehend the necromancer, you will not leave Century unless in the company of someone you know. Understood?”

Knowing he was being compelled did not enable Nate to resist at all. “Yes.”

“Good. Now, let’s get you back inside. You’re shivering.”

Thorns and Fangs: Ben

Exciting news — Thorns and Fangs is already available for preorder from NineStar Press! There is an excerpt up on the site, along with more information about the novel.

As you might have guessed, today’s blog post is an introduction to Ben. Nate’s first impression of Ben is not positive — ‘The only interesting thing about him was his mouth, too wide for his thin face, which registered his abrupt discomfiture.’ This is, unfortunately for Ben, a recurring theme! The youngest and newest member of Saltaire’s vampire colony, Ben lacks Hunter looks and charisma and Saltaire’s sheer force of will. He’s slight with a quiet, self-contained personality. Because of this, he’s considered the weakest link in the vampire colony, a prime target for a necromancer out for revenge.

thornsandfangsThere’s much more to Ben than meets the eye. His strict self-control holds in check considerable determination and a passionate nature. The glimpse Nate gets of Ben’s concealed emotions is enough to keep him pursuing Ben, even despite the ever-increasing threats in their way. Ben resists — and for good reason. In order to preserve his self in the night world, Ben must preserve his distance. It’s his safeguard against the necromancer’s attacks, the influence of his fellow vampires and his own inner monster. But Ben’s self-control comes at a cost. Nate believes that by starving himself of the contact he craves, Ben is setting himself up for failure. Ben knows that Nate is dangerous, that he can shatter all Ben’s carefully honed defences, but is as unable to forget Nate as Nate is him.

To introduce Ben, I’ve chosen a moment where Nate finds himself confronted with the reality of Ben’s world.


 

There were three of them, a bearded man and two women with knotted hair and clawlike nails. Their ragged clothing was torn and bloodstained, and their movements were strangely jerky, as if the impulse to move came from outside and not their own movements. They made no sound at all, but they spread out as one to circle the tree.

Their mouths were too hungry, always working. They bared their teeth, licked their lips, and snarled, always creeping closer. The nearest woman smiled, but the invitation of her lips became immediately undone by the sharp edges of the teeth she revealed.

“Stay against the oak,” Ben said. “Remember they can’t cross the circle.”

Nate glanced down. The three revenants stood just before the line drawn by the salt. “It’s working?”

“Be confident in your work,” Ben squeezed Nate’s hand again. “It’s powered by your belief.”

Unbelievably, Nate—the normal one of the family—had done magic. Who knows what else I can do?

The woman stayed where she was, but her companions prowled the edge of the circle. They shot dark looks at Ben, hissing as they did. Occasionally, they made short darts toward them but always stopped at the edge of the circle.

“What are they doing?”

“Probing the circle for weak points,” Ben said. “Failing that, they’re trying to trick you into stepping out of it.”

Nate took his eyes off the staring woman to glance at him. “That a fact?”

“You forget.” Ben looked at the male revenant with a strange expression. “I’ve had practice.”

No amount of practice is going to stop Ben pitying these things. Nate took a deep breath and tried to imagine them as Ben saw them. Not monsters, but as victims of supernatural attack. His gaze followed the dark stains on the woman’s chest to the bloodied patch on the man’s back. Days ago, they’d been ordinary people. And now…

If possible, that was even more terrifying.

“How do you do it?” His voice sounded more abrupt than Nate wanted, and he pressed on, hoping that Ben wouldn’t notice. “Stay so calm, I mean.”

Ben turned a measured gaze on him. “You’ll laugh.”

“Try me.”

“I used to read a lot of comics, loved action movies, TV shows.” Ben took a deep breath, leaning against the tree. “Whenever I was in a situation like this, I imagined a voice-over narrating it for the viewer who’d just tuned in. Break down the threat, go over the stakes, round it off with a throwaway line—somehow, it made things more manageable.”

“I knew it! You’re a closet geek.”

“You asked.” Ben’s shoulders hunched. “Anyway, it’s not like I do that now.”

“You don’t?”

“Used to it.”

The thought gave Nate chills. Ben turning into Saltaire or Hunter—or worse, the creatures circling them with predatory interest—gave him chills in a way the revenants did not.

“See what I mean? Focus.”

“I got this.” The conversation had taken the edge off the circling revenants. They were still there, but a degree removed. “You know, back at the mansion, I felt like I was channeling Attenborough. Undercover, observing the vampires in their natural environment.”

Ben looked at him sharply.

“Not saying you’re anything like these monsters!” Nate waved a hand toward the revenants and then snatched it back hastily. The three creatures had immediately honed in on him.

“You were right the first time.” Ben turned away once more, back toward Nate. “Vampires aren’t anything to be happy about.” He paused. After a long moment, he added in a much quieter tone, “My friends don’t know what happened to me. As far as they know, I just vanished.”

“You’re serious?” Ben had cut himself off from any contact?

“I tell my family I see my friends occasionally, but since they don’t know what I am, I can’t invite them to the house.” Ben’s mouth flickered cynically. “With the lengths Hunter went to arranging the party, I hate to think what he’d do if he knew.”

“I can picture it now. Vampiric playdates. Truly terrifying.”

Thorns and Fangs: Nate

Today I’m introducing Nate, the main character of Thorns and Fangs, the first book in my paranormal romance series coming out in January.

Nate, host at an exclusive night club, prides himself on being ordinary. In New Camden, monster capital of the world, normal is an achievement. An unashamed hedonist, Nate likes feeling good, but he likes making others feel good even better.

thornsandfangsHis comfortable existence is threatened when Hunter seeks him out at Century, drawing Nate into the Night World inhabited by vampires and necromancers, neither of whom think twice about using their abilities to their advantage. Nate’s quickly over his head in a world he barely understands, but he can’t turn away. As Nate struggles to retain his comfortable world view he has to fight the realisation that he is not as normal as he wants to believe. Comfortable is no longer enough.

Nate’s greatest strength is his ability to empathise, even with emotionally challenged vampires. Unsurprisingly, this gets him into a world of trouble. I’ve chosen an excerpt that introduces Nate’s inability to make smart decisions.


 

A drink and a set on the dance floor later, Nate leaned back against the bar. Endorphins and alcohol mingled in his system in the best possible way. It was early enough that there were plenty of energetic partners on the floor and late enough that inhibitions were thoroughly lowered. This is the best idea I’ve had in days…

So why can’t I make myself believe it? Nate replaced his glass on the bar. Time he faced the facts. The problem wasn’t Denise. It wasn’t Aki. It wasn’t even vampires.

The problem is me.

The chill was just as surprising the second time, like someone placed an icy hand on his shoulder. Nate took a deep breath, squaring his shoulders before he turned. Last person I want to see right now is Hunter.

Ben’s blue-gray eyes were a shock. He stood at the edge of the dance floor. His eyes widened as Nate looked up, but his surprise was momentary. As Nate watched, Ben subtly adjusted his posture. Shoulders back, hands tucked in the pocket of his jacket, he could have been a club regular.

With a smirk, Nate sauntered across the floor to join him. He kept his eyes on Ben, noting with amusement the brief flicker of his tongue across his lips. Out of his element, but like hell is he gonna admit that. Nate slowed his pace. He could match Ben’s control any night.

“No one takes getting caught staring gracefully,” he said. “But I got to admit, that’s the closest attempt I’ve seen.”

Ben raised an eyebrow. “You’re that sure I was staring.”

“Gonna tell me you’re here to dance?” Nate let his gaze fall deliberately to Ben’s clothing. The casual T-shirt and jacket combination looked better on him than the stiff suit from the anniversary party but still overdressed for the dance floor. “I might call your bluff. And then where would you be?”

Ben’s mouth twitched. “Presumably on the dance floor.”

The mental image was immediate. Ben’s cool skin would contrast with the heat of the surrounding dancers, making every brush of their bodies in the pulsing light an electric shock. Unable to resist, Nate let his fingers rest on Ben’s arm, feeling the familiar thrill of contact. “Fun as that would be”—Nate tugged at Ben’s jacket sleeve—”you’ll suffocate in this. Far too hot.”

Ben blinked. Something indefinable flickered in his eyes, and his mouth twisted.

Fuck. Vampires don’t do temperatures! Nate squeezed his arm in apology. “Sorry,” he said as he withdrew his hand. “Wasn’t thinking. So, if you’re not here to dance, why are you here?” Like I don’t know. Nate had no desire to see Hunter, but given the way the two vampires felt about each other, he knew he couldn’t be far away. Better accept it. Only pleasure I’m getting tonight is vicarious.

In any other circumstance, that would be a fate worse than death. Knowing how deeply Ben felt his isolation from the world? You’d have to be a complete asshole to resent the guy getting a taste of happiness. The memory of Ben’s expression as he looked up at Hunter returned to Nate, and with it, the same tug at his insides. I want someone to look at me like thatbut Ben needs it. If Nate had facilitated the two vampires getting together? Job well done. He scanned the club for Hunter.

“I’m not—” Ben hesitated. “Looking for company.”

Nate snorted. Anyone else, that level of straitlaced unease would be irritating. Ben made it endearing. “I know. This isn’t exactly your scene.” And then as Ben blinked, expression growing fixed, Nate frowned. “You’re here alone?”

Ben’s fingers tightened on Nate’s arm. “You’re making a lot of assumptions,” he said, “for people who’ve just met.”

Nate shrugged. “You forget. We had one hell of an introduction.”

Ben didn’t share Nate’s smile. “You remember?”

“Of course. I meet a lot of people on this job, but a client like you stands out, Ben.”

How had Nate imagined Ben soft? His grip hurt. “I told you to forget.”

“You can’t tell someone to for—” Nate swallowed. His throat felt uncomfortably tight. “You compelled me?”

“We need to talk.” Ben kept his grip on Nate’s arm tight as he glanced around the club. “Somewhere private.”