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A lone student dashed under the covered walkway of Haggard Hall and slipped off a heavy backpack. It hit the bricks with a splatter.
In the shadows behind her, a dark figure watched her movements with interest. He didn't bother stepping deeper into the doorway—the darkness rendered him invisible to humans.
Alfonso Serrano sniffed the air and let his pupils dilate with hunger.
Don't they tell students, especially the female ones, not to walk alone at night?
Fortunately, there were always a few who didn't follow directions.
Breathing hard, the student brushed off her rain-sodden hood and swiped her nose with the back of her hand.
Alfonso moved a step closer and reached for her.
But when she grabbed a cell phone from her pocket, he hesitated and dropped his outstretched arm. If she made a call, he'd wait. If she texted, he'd continue.
She brought the phone to her ear, and he retreated into the seldom-used doorway, careful not to disturb the waterlogged pile of leaves in the corner. Stuffing his hands deep in his pockets, he clenched them into fists to stop the tremors. Her call had better be quick, otherwise he was likely to drain her dry when he struck. Four weeks between feedings was way too long.
She yelled into the phone and he bristled at her harsh tone. Fighting the urge to plug his ears, he rethought his decision to wait. He didn't know how long he could listen to this.
As she carried on her heated conversation, a blast of wind swirled around him, blowing his chin-length hair into his eyes. He pulled out a knit skullcap, stretched it over his head and tucked the hair beneath it.
But when the damp wind changed direction, it brought with it an odd smell. A sickeningly sweet odor, like that of rotting meat, and he froze.
He scanned the darkness and unzipped his coat with quiet precision. From a leather sheath strapped to his chest, he eased out two silver kunai and held them by their rope-twined grips. The custom-made weapons, small but deadly, were designed to be thrown. They fit perfectly in his hands, like the contours of a lover.
What were Darkbloods doing in Bellingham? The Alliance didn't normally set up cells in small northern towns like this. There weren't enough people and, given the low ultraviolet index, the residual energy level in the indigenous population was too low to make it worth their trouble.
Christ, that was why he'd moved here. To be far away from them.
Staying in the shadows, Alfonso crept to the next doorway, trying to pinpoint their location. The scent came from the far side of the square, but he didn't have a visual yet.
It shouldn't have surprised him they were here. Logic said they'd move in eventually. Expanding the DB power base among law-abiding vampires was one of the Alliance's primary objectives. However, it wasn't as if Bellingham was a hotbed of activity. Of the vampires who lived in the region, most were concentrated near Seattle and Vancouver. Not in small college towns.
And then another possibility dawned on him.
The smell might not be from an ordinary Darkblood.
It could be his blood assassin.
A glacial calm filled his veins as he fingered the handles of the identical knives and looked out into the night again. Puddles of standing water rippled in the howling wind, reflecting the light of the streetlamps scattered around the drained fountain. A paper coffee cup tumbled toward him and lodged behind his heavy work boots.
What a fool he'd been to think he was out of the Alliance's reach. You couldn't do what he did and expect to get away with it. But, Jesus, he thought he'd been so careful moving to this remote town.
The sound of the girl's voice drew his attention once more.
"Listen, Ryan, I'm not putting up with this bullshit much longer. Either you tell her or I will." Oblivious to the fact that she was surrounded by those with deadly intentions, she stepped away from the leading edge of the rain and slumped against the building. She popped a piece of gum into her mouth and let the wind carry away the wrapper.
Could she be the target, not him? Her blood type was relatively uncommon in this part of the country, he reasoned. He'd covered his tracks well and it wasn't as if this was a planned visit to the campus anyway. No one knew he was here.
Movement in the overhang of Old Main on the other side of Red Square caught his eye.
Two figures—darker than the shadows—hugged the ivy-covered brick. Like marionettes on the same wire, their arms and legs moved in unison. To a casual observer, they looked like well-coordinated Goths, but to a fellow vampire, they were remorseless killers who profited from the death of humans.
Alfonso relaxed. Blood assassins worked alone. They must be after the girl.
Adjusting the rope grips in his palms, he cursed silently. His fingers felt so weak. Hell, his whole body did. If it hadn't been so long since he'd taken the blood of a human, he'd be stronger right now. He couldn't confront them like this.
Besides, since he was marked for elimination, the average DB wouldn't hesitate to finish him off if they learned his identity. It wasn't like he wanted to rub shoulders with them on purpose.
He tucked the blades away and melted into the shadows.
As soon as he rounded the far side of the building, his steel-toed boots began to feel like lead, each step more difficult than the last, and he stopped. The hollow pit in his stomach became too hard to ignore.
He had planned to take only a small amount of the girl's blood, leaving her tired and a little dazed, yet alive. But if he left, she'd be dead within minutes, her body completely drained of its life energy, her blood portioned out and sold in vials to the highest bidders. A perfect example of how supply and demand worked on the black market of the vampire underworld.
He didn't need much from her to regain his strength. was there enough time to—?
Nope, too late now. He'd have to let them have her. Better her than him, he thought as he turned up his collar and took off again toward the empty parking lot across the street. The sound of his boot heels striking the pavement echoed loudly between the buildings. Each step seemed to be saying, "Loser, loser."
A Guardian would never stand by while a Darkblood took a human.
I'm not a Guardian, he wanted to remind his conscience. It's not my job to protect humans from vampires. But he hesitated anyway.
The Darkblood Alliance believed their kind belonged at the top of the food chain—they had no regard for human life. They didn't want to blend in; they wanted to dominate. These predators would either discard the body here to be discovered by the authorities, or they'd take her back to their den and drain her there. Regardless of what they did with her, every kill, every disappearance, risked exposing their secret to the human population.
That backward attitude may have been tolerated in the Middle Ages, but it wasn't acceptable today.
Even in his weakened condition, he realized he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he didn't at least try to prevent the inevitable. Goddamn guilty conscience.
He made his way back along the edge of Haggard Hall. when he got to the corner, he glanced quickly around. Driving rain fell at a severe angle, but he could still make out the Darkbloods moving on the other side of Red Square.
He sprinted across the narrow walkway over to Miller Hall, thankful the weather was so crappy. Chances were, even though vampires' senses were more acute than humans', the DBs couldn't hear him above the sound of the wind and rain. As he flattened himself against the brick facade, he formed a plan. He'd jump them when they got closer and hope to God he had the strength to pull it off. Retrieving the blades, he waited.
Within heartbeats, the two figures emerged like liquid darkness from the corner of Old Main and stopped on the far end of the same walkway, but they didn't advance farther.
Damn. Had they seen him? He doubted they smelled him. Not only was he downwind, but their all-blood diet dulled their sense of smell.
Although he couldn't make out exactly what they were saying, the wind carried snippets of their hushed whispers. They were trying to figure out what to do next.
Shit, they had seen him.
With his lack of strength, the element of surprise had been his only ally. He couldn't hope to fight them like this and win. His only hope now was for the girl to leave. Then he'd split.
For chrissake, he wanted to yell at her. Would you get the hell out of here? Your voice is like a goddamn dinner bell.
Unsure what to do next, he considered his options. Maybe he could stall the bastards.
Switching both blades to his left hand, he tucked them against his forearm to keep them hidden. He stepped from the shadows and ambled toward the end of the walkway in his best non-confrontational manner, a skill he'd honed to perfection as a double agent.
Side by side, with their hands on their hips, they waited for him. The tall, gangly one, a female with stringy blond hair whipping across her face like Medusa, fidgeted the heel of her boot.
A newbie maybe? Seasoned DBs were usually more stoic and controlled. Perfect.
The other one, a stocky male, stood silent beside her. Both wore matching ankle-length black coats, but because neither one had on the wraparound sunglasses common among DB pairs, he could see their coal-black irises and the lifeless gray of their whites. Along with that rotten meat smell, it was another characteristic of their all-blood diet.
"What's going on?" Alfonso asked as he got closer. He touched two fingers to his lips in a fang-slang greeting and dropped his hand. "Darkbloods, right?"
Wordlessly, they looked at each other, something passing silently between them before they relaxed their stances and returned the gesture.
Great. Just great. The female couldn't be as new as he'd first thought—the pair operated in tandem like most longtime DB partners who fed from the same hosts night after night.
The male cocked his head in the direction of the coed. "You taking her tonight?"
Relieved that it definitely was the girl they were after, not him, he flashed an apologetic grin, hoping they'd buy his discomfort. "Was thinking about it."
"Is she an A-poz or B-poz? We couldn't tell from over there."
"B-positive, I think." He tried to convey uncertainty, although he knew for sure that she was. "Why?"
"Excellente," the male said with a faux accent. "We're building up our stock and are short on a few of the less common varieties. More people are B-poz up in Vancouver than down here. Didn't want to head up there just for that, so this is perfect." He flipped open his coat and displayed his wares. His partner did the same. The inside was like a goddamn pharmacy with vials full of blood, syringes, a few nasty-ass knives and God knew what else.
"You a revert?" the woman asked, as she fastened her coat and scrutinized him. "Or just slipping." One of her eyeballs canted slightly off center, not quite moving in conjunction with the other one.
Glass eye or lazy eye?
He noted the whites of both her eyes had the same dull gray tint.
Better assume lazy and be pleasantly surprised if I'm wrong.
"Am I reverting back to the Old Way? Yeah, I guess you could say I've moved beyond the occasional slip-up."
"Well, good for you," the male said. "Got any kills under your belt?"
Alfonso shrugged. More than you'll ever know.
"You're in luck," the male continued. "Me and Sigred—" he indicated his partner with a jerk of his chin "—are settin' up shop here in Bellingham. We can save you the trouble of having to come out on a night like this looking for a little substinex."
The blonde leaned toward her partner. "Sustenance," she whispered.
"Don't go fucking college on me," he said through clenched teeth. "I know what I'm talking about. As I was saying, we're gonna save reverts such as yourself a lot of time and offer a delivery service of sorts. You call us, place your order, and we'll figure out where to meet. No more embracing the elements, if you know what I'm saying."
Sigred produced a plain white card with a single phone number printed in black. "As far as I know, no other Darkblood cells are offering this special service. Not even those fancy big-city ones. In Seattle or Vancouver, you go to them. You traipse through the clubs and alleys looking for a seller if you're in the mood for a little sub-stinex. That, or take it off the hoof. We know most reverts aren't comfortable doing it old-school, at least when they're starting out. But here, we come to you."
Forcing another smile, Alfonso took the card and tucked it into his pocket, where he crushed it into a tiny ball. "You know what they say—you get better customer service in a small town." That got a hearty laugh from both of them.
"Since you found her first, how about we'll do her to save you the trouble and give you a couple of freebies." The male pulled out an empty syringe and displayed it with his pinkie lifted as if he had class. "Sound like a plan?"
Alfonso rubbed his forehead under his cap to make them think he was considering their offer. Maybe if he stalled them a little longer, the girl would leave and they'd all go home empty-handed. He glanced over, but she was still there on the far side of the square. Jesus, how long was she going to fight with her boyfriend anyway?
"I don't know if you've done it much," the male was saying, "but feeding off the hoof is a little tricky, although you did choose an excellent locale—dark, private—and your subject is alone. But the instant you strike and you taste the rush of fear in the blood, it can freak a guy out if you're not expecting it. If you're not good at mind manips, you feel what the human feels the entire time their life energy is waning. Not sure if you'd be into that or not."
Did he look like a youthling fresh out of puberty? Most of their kind did feed from live donors, just not as often as these losers did. Suggesting an alternate memory of events during a feeding was one of the first things a youthling beginning his Time of Change was taught. This is perfect. They think I'm younger and less experienced than they are.
He tried to keep the satisfaction from showing on his face, flashing them a nervous smile instead. "I wasn't planning to drain her dry."
"Old habits are hard to break." Sigred patted his arm. Although his first instinct was to jerk away, he didn't flinch, instead rubbing the pad of his thumb on the rope grip to control the impulse.
Posted April 22, 2013
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Posted May 1, 2012
Embraced by Blood is the second full length novel in the Sweetblood series by the fantastic Laurie London. Embraced is a book about reunited lovers. It's about eternal love and embracing it with open arms. It's also about redemption. Though it can be read as a stand alone book I suggest that you read the first book in the series, Bonded by Blood, to fully understand the relationships and situations within the book.
Alfonso Serrano is a shell of a man. For years he had worked as a double agent for the Guardian's. A position that he had attained after he had started a relationship with the Darkbloods. A relationship that had resulted in the death of his parents, and hatred from his brother. When Alfonso finally managed to get clean of his Sweet addiction he started to work for the Guardians from deep within the Darkblood Alliance.
Lily DeGraff was a tracker for the Guardians. She was the best at what she did. She also had been assigned as Alfonso's handler when he came to work for the Guardians. They had gotten extremely close over the years and she had fallen in love with him. She was absolutely devastated when he broke it off with her but she managed to move on. When he showed up back in her life she wanted nothing to do with him. Unfortunately, she was ordered once again to work with him.
We first learn about Alfonso through his brother Dom's eyes in Bonded by Blood. Obviously that viewpoint painted a very negative picture of him. When at the end of Bonded we find out Alfonso's real role in the DB alliance, we see just how incorrect that picture was. We learn that Alfonso is truly a hero in the making.
Because Embraced is Alfonso's story we see things from his eyes. In it we see his remorse over his long ago actions as well as his more recent ones. We also find out that his addiction to Sweet was forced upon him. The reason why he broke things off with Lily becomes clear as well and let me tell you people, it was a good one.
Though Alfonso broke things off with Lily, they both clearly still longed for each other. Alfonso never stopped loving her and though she had moved on she still found herself attracted to him. Watching them both succumb to their desire to each other as well as the regrowth of trust was beautiful. It was also a treat to see the way that the DB's "recruited" their members. Learning about Alfonso's past only strengthened his bond with Lily IMO.
There was only one thing that didn't really thrill me about the book. As expected, Laurie London put a descent amount of action in the book. I had a hard time fully enjoying it though and I'm not sure why. Maybe it was my mood because the storyline was sound. The whole rave scene seemed short lived and somewhat sterile however.
The absolutely best thing about this is the HEA. It was extremely heartwarming. I loved how it wrapped up everything perfectly.
Make sure you don't miss this Sweetblood book. If you do you'll really be missing out!
Posted April 1, 2012
Posted August 26, 2011
There's so much I want to say but I can't be giving you guys spoilers! For everyone who has read BONDED BY BLOOD, you know that Alfonso had turned to the Dark Side centuries ago and this upset his brother, Dominic. For a long time, he did horrible, unspeakable things. He even caused the death of his parents, of which his brother wouldn't forgive him. Only spoiler I'll give you (for those who haven't read the first book) is: Alfonso was a double agent. He helped take down the Overlord and everyone believed he died in the fight.
This book picks up a year later. He has decided to atone for his mistakes, starting with recreating the villa in which his family lived in Spain. He still has a thing for Lily and surprise! Lily feels the same.
I am a sucker for second chance stories. They say third times that charm, but second chances are worth the wait and the road to HEA is paved with redemption and forgiveness.
I really enjoyed this second book in the Sweetblood's series. I cannot wait to see what Ms. London has in store for us readers. I'm looking forward to how Jackson gets his HEA and if Santiago finally finds someone who can reign in his temper and potty mouth. This is a laugh out loud, heart tugging, unputdownable read. For the past 2 days, it became my Sangre Dulce. It called to me, wanting me to dive in and see if old friends from BONDED BY BLOOD surfaced, and if Alfonso receives his much deserved road to redemption with a HEA. Ms. London did NOT disappoint. Oh, and be on the lookout for the gasp worthy moment or two at the end of the book. Got your attention, haven't I? Seriously. You need to get your copy today.
Posted August 12, 2011
This isn't your mother's vampire story.
First off: good news to folks who pick this story up without reading the first book in the series (like me!) - it's good as a stand alone book. I had absolutely no problems following relationships between the characters or missing any back plot. Good news for those who have read the first book - this book leaves you wanting to continue the saga. There isn't a "cliff-hanging" ending, so it the reader gets their "happy for now", but the characters are complex and likeable and the prospect of reading the third book in the series is a pleasurable one.
I found it disconcerting, then refreshing, then intriguing the way Ms. London treats the "vampire heritage", the most notable difference being the presence of "born vampires". This is the first time I have come across a novel (romance or otherwise) that has the possibility of a child being born into a vampire family. It is also the first time I have read of vampire marriages. While changing of a mortal to vampire is still practiced in this story, the majority of this story's characters are "born" to vampire families and experience the vampire "change".
The complex social structure and different sects of vampires gives this story a very modern twist. In many ways, the social and governing structure described in this story resembles current American society. This is also quite clear in the dealings of sweetbloods or "sweet" as it is commonly referred to. Within the context of this story, this blood type has an addictive quality to vampires and causes behavior much the same as heroin or cocaine use might be expected to cause in a human. Therein lies the basic premise of good versus evil . . . using sweet to coerce vampires to commit acts they would not normally engage in.
However, we don't pick up a romance novel to draw parallels between contemporary society and the fictional situations described. We also don't find the romance enticing because of the morality of the plot. We read it for the sizzle. And sizzle this book has in abundance!
Due to the vampire characterization, most of the interactions have a touch of violence to them - the ultimate act of vampire intimacy is sharing their blood. So - in addition to the carnal acts that we are familiar with, there is the description of blood lust and fang-bearing and some blood drinking.
Having said that: I am not a fan of violent or "gory" stories, yet truly did not have a problem with any of the intimate scenes, including the ones that involved blood sharing.
There is a sexual undercurrent throughout the book, given the sensual nature of the vampire society. During their attempt to find a missing tracker, Lil and Alfonso visit a sex club and arrange to use a viewing room. Using the room will allow them to look for their colleague, but also requires them to have sex in front of an entire club of vampires and humans. While the outcome of that encounter is unexpected, it is certainly an interesting read!
Lil and Alfonso have a common novelized romance - complete with misunderstanding that drives them apart for many years and creates an atmosphere of longing and distrust. It also creates some amazing moments when they give in to their cravings. Please make sure you enjoy the hospital scene!
The plot twists and turns kept me turning the pages and the sizzle made the page turning worthwhile! Grab your copy today!
Originally posted at the Long and Short of It Romance Reviews
Posted July 21, 2011
This is the second book in Laurie London's Sweetblood series, and I have not yet read the first novel. However, this book easily stands on its own with just enough back story to pique my interest and whet my appetite for the first book so that I can find out the whole story of Alfonso's older brother and enticing details of the events which caused the rift between them.
I genuinely liked Alfonso and found myself immensely sympathetic to his character. His protective instincts, especially where Lily and little Zoe are concerned, were occasionally somewhat caveman-ish, but still, caused my heart to do little flips, because he always considered their safety above his own needs and desires.
Lily and he are positively a perfect, romantic match. Each of them is made better by the love of the other.and isn't that the way true love matches should be?
I loved the world-building that the author has crafted. I fell into her alternate reality and remained there; experiencing the same heart-ache, doubts, desires, travails and triumphs of the various, assorted characters as their stories were played out through the pages of the novel. This book was exciting and fun to read. I am looking forward to the next book, as well, which will feature Jackson, a rather jaded, lonely soul, who loves frosted brownies, and whom we caught fleeting glimpses of in this book. Laurie London's vampires are strong and sexy, with cool powers. They inhabit a covertly dangerous world with unsuspecting humans where some blood types are particularly sweet. Are you an unsuspecting sweetblood?
Thank you, Harlequin and Netgalley for providing this book to me in return for my honest review.
Reviewed by Laurie-J
Posted June 23, 2011
Embraced by Blood is the 2nd book in the Sweetblood series. I hadn't read the first book in the series, and while I don't think that it is necessary to, I just had this feeling that I was missing out when characters from the previous book were brought up. Alfonso and Lily are the leading characters in this particular book. They were a couple once upon a time, but Alfonso left Lily because he thought he was protecting her. He didn't want her to know the real reason he left, so he told her that he didn't love her any more.
After hearing that Lily could be in danger, Alfonso comes back - to be a bodyguard of sorts. Not surprisingly, Lily is not a happy camper to see Alfonso again. He is determined to make this strictly platonic - he doesn't want to get involved with her again. He doesn't think that he is the type of man that she should be with, but he wants to protect her while she is searching for her missing partner. After spending so much time together, the old flames heat up again and it's almost impossible for them to resist each other.
This is a great paranormal vampire romance. Many times in vampire romance novels, one person in the relationship is a vampire while the other is not. Basically, everyone in this book is a vampire which makes it different than a lot of books out there that I've read. There is plenty of danger, suspense, and action in this book.
My favorite aspects, however, were sexual tension, heated passion, and sweet romance. Alfonso is such a great guy, and it is sad to see how he doesn't think that he is deserving of anything of worth in his life because of what he has done in his past. Lily, is a sweet and loving person (and a kick ass heroine) that can only see the best qualities in Alfonso. They love each other deeply, even though they try to deny it to one another (and themselves) for half the book. I would recommend this book to any vampire lover who isn't afraid of a little bloodshed added to the mix. Because of the sizzling sex scenes, I would say that it is definitely for adults.
Posted June 20, 2011
Former undercover Guardian Alfonso Serrano the vampire went undercover to help the agency prevent the deadly Darkbloods from trafficking in human Sweetbloods. However, the Enforcer and his brother Alfonso killed the Darkblood overlord Pavlos (see Bonded by Blood).
Alfonso is now trying to regain his life that he placed on hold. An assassin wants him and anyone he cares about dead. While he is unaware of his stalker, Alfonso wants a second chance with the love of his life Tracker Lily DeGraff. She, on the other hand, is concerned with what his return means to heart as he previously broke hers; additionally something is not right with her abilities. Meanwhile the Darkbloods announce their intent when they abduct one of Lily's students.
The second Sweetblood urban fantasy is an entertaining thriller as the various subplots contain suspense, intrigue and romance in the dark London world where two known Vampire factions are at war over the humans. The story line is fast-paced when the Guardian and Tracker are in the field; the novel slows down somewhat when the subplot focuses on Alfonso's second chance quest too frequently rejected by fearful Lily. Still readers will enjoy this overall fun tale as Bellingham in the Pacific Northwest has become a hotbed of biting vampiric activity.
Posted June 15, 2011
Embraced by Blood begins a year following Bonded by Blood where we found out that Dom's brother, Alfonso Serrano, was not the evil Darkblood we thought but a double agent working undercover and having a secret affair with his agent contact, Lily DeGraff, which was broken off at the end of the book. But what they didn't realize was that they were blood bonded, and there is no turning back from that.
London continues the unique and exciting world of the Sweetbloods with this second installment. The story flowed smoothly with captivating characters and an interesting plot that dealt with many different points; Lily & Alfonso re-discovering each other, the latest plot by the Darkbloods of capturing top Trackers, the riff between Alfonso and his brother Dom, Lily and her family, including her ex Steven, and some snippets of earlier characters that we are sure to see more of in the continuation of this series.
Being a paranormal romance, the main characters relationship is the main factor of the story. Lily and Alfonso are both protective of each other which sometimes works against them, and they are both unsure in their ability to be loved and this is the crux in their relationship development. It did move slowly at times and I guessed the big twist right away so that wasn't a surprise for me, but there was a heap of action and drama with plenty of sexy scenes to keep smutty gals like me happy. For me, the side character of Jackson really stole the show and I am really looking forward to his story.
Embraced by Blood is dark & gritty with a heavy dose of romance and a dash of humor. A must read for sure!
Posted May 23, 2011
The Sweetblood series is awesome! It's full of steamy romance, fantastic action, and has an amazing story plot centered around the Guardian Vampire agents and the Darkblood Alliance. In Bonded by Blood, I got just a glance of Alfonso Serrano and I definitely wanted more of this gorgeous bad boy, but I got my fix in Embraced by Blood. The Darkbloods discover that Alfonso has been a double agent really working with Lily for the Guardians, so now the Darkbloods has sent Rejavik an assassin after him. The Romance between Alfonso and Lily is so breath-taking. Their off-again-on-again relationship will have you rooting for them to get it together. I love the Sweetblood series by Laurie London. Its packed with action, delicious romance, and hilarious moments, and Embraced by Blood definitely gave me more of what I came to love with the characters and awesome story plot. I highly recommend Embraced by Blood, the second book in the Sweetblood series. It's totally Fantasist! The third book will be 'Tempted by Blood' which will be good-time-loving Jackson's story. Waiting impatiently for this book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 13, 2012
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