Read an Excerpt
Vampire MineLove at Stakes Series, #10
By Kerrelyn Sparks
HarperCollinsCopyright © 2011 Kerrelyn Sparks
All right reserved.
After four hundred and ninety-nine years of existence,
Connor Buchanan arrived at an inescapable
conclusion regarding himself. He was a coldhearted
He slowed to a walk after checking the extensive
grounds at Romatech. He'd enjoyed zipping through
the trees at vampire speed with the cool breeze whipping
at his face and filling his nostrils with the heady
scent of newly budded leaves and flowers. But then
he'd realized why he welcomed the coming of spring.
Not for the warmer temperatures. Not for the promise
of rebirth and renewal, since he would remain
the same as he'd been for centuries. No, to be brutally
honest with himself, it was the shorter nights he
was looking forward to. That meant longer days and
more death-sleep. More time spent in utter oblivion.
No thoughts. No memories. No remorse.
The main building at Romatech Industries came
into view, and he slowed his pace even more, struck
by a sudden reluctance to reenter the facility. More
and more these days, he preferred to be alone.
Why bother with companions? Was there any
conversation he hadn't already experienced a dozen or
more times? And if he even hinted at the black
despair that threatened to engulf him, he would only
receive knowing looks from other Vamps as they
doled out the usual diagnosis. He was nearing his
five hundredth birthday, and apparently, hitting
that mid-millennium marker could plunge the most
stalwart of Vamps into a mid-life crisis.
Bull crap. Roman and Angus were both older than
him, and they were content with their lives. They're
happily married. He shoved that thought aside. He
wouldn't fall prey to that form of insanity, no matter
how old he got.
No, he was fine with being a coldhearted old bastard
He was good at it. He'd been perfecting the
condition for years. He strode through a flower bed,
trampling the new blossoms underfoot.
At the side entrance, he slid his ID card through
the security console and pressed his palm against
the scanner. When his ultra sensitive hearing
detected the faint click of the lock releasing, he pushed
open the side door and trudged down the hall to the
MacKay security office.
His footsteps echoed in the empty hallway. No one
came to Romatech on Saturday night except those
who attended Mass on the far side of the facility.
He let himself into the security office and scanned
the wall of surveillance monitors. Parking lot clear.
Corridors empty. Cafeteria empty. Heart empty. He
pushed aside that errant thought and focused on the
screen showing the chapel.
Out of habit, he searched the small congregation
to make sure Roman and his family were all right.
Connor had been officially watching over Roman
for more than sixty years now as a MacKay S&I
employee, first as head of security at Romatech, and in
recent years as personal bodyguard. Since Roman
Draganesti was the inventor of synthetic blood and
the owner of Romatech where it was produced, he
presented a tempting target for the Malcontents
who considered synthetic blood an insult and threat
to their murderous way of life.
But the hatred went deeper than that. Casimir
had been the one to transform Roman back in 1491.
The Malcontent leader had thought it would be an
amusing slap at the face of God to turn a humble
monk into a bloodthirsty, homicidal vampire. But
Roman had refused to turn evil. He'd made his own
group of good Vamps, so they could fight the
Malcontents and protect humanity.
Connor was dying on a battlefield when Roman
changed him. He owed his existence to Roman. And
his sanity. Keeping Roman and his family safe gave
him a noble purpose, noble enough to almost make
him forget what a coldhearted old bastard he truly
He watched on the monitor as Father Andrew
gave his final blessing, and the congregation moved
from the chapel into the hallway. Connor's heart
squeezed at the sight of Roman's children,
Constantine and Sofia. They were as close as he'd ever
get to having children. Tino had celebrated his fifth
birthday last month in March, and Sofia would be
turning three in May. He touched the screen that
showed them prancing about the hallway. Having
to sit still during Mass must have left them with
pent-up energy that was now bursting free. He
smiled as they skipped into the nearby fellowship
hall, no doubt eager for punch and cookies. Their
mortal mother, Shanna, gave Roman a quick hug,
then chased after the children.
Connor's smile faded as he watched his Vamp
friends emerging from the chapel, nearly all of them
with a wife at his side. Most of the men had
succumbed to the silken trap of love. Poor romantic
fools. How could they remain single for centuries,
then out of the blue, one after another, plummet off
the cliff like a dazed herd of sheep? Not only had
they made themselves personally vulnerable to the
heartache and despair that came with love, but they
endangered the entire vampire world as more and
more mortal women learned of their existence.
The men seemed happy enough for now. Ignorance
was bliss, Connor supposed. They didn't see the risk.
They didn't feel the cold shadow of doom hovering
just outside their gilded cage. They had no idea how
love could drive a man to commit desperate, unthinkable
acts, destroying his own soul along the way.
He turned his head and focused instead on the
monitor that was playing the Digital Vampire Network.
A black animated bat flapped its wings while
underneath a message announced: DVN. On 24/7
because it's always nighttime somewhere.
The Nightly News came on, so Connor turned off
the mute button.
"One last item." Stone Cauffyn picked up a piece
of paper that had been pushed across his desk. "A
Vamp in Los Angeles believes he saw Casimir
several nights ago." The newscaster scanned the paper,
his face blank as usual. "I'm afraid we cannot con-
firm the report at this time."
Connor snorted. Last week, a Vamp claimed he'd
seen Casimir paddling an outrigger canoe in Bora
Bora, and the week before, someone swore he'd
spotted Casimir milking a reindeer in northern
Finland. The leader of the Malcontents had become
the bogeyman of the vampire world, spied behind
every tree and whispered about in dark rooms.
"And that concludes our broadcast for the night,"
Stone continued with his bland voice. "For all the
latest news on the vampire world, keep your televisions
tuned to DVN, the world's leading vampire
Not a stellar achievement considering it was the
world's only vampire network. Connor muted the
volume as the ending credits began to roll.
He glanced back at the monitor showing the hallway
in front of the chapel. Most of the congregation
was moving into the fellowship hall. Father Andrew
appeared to be in deep conversation with Roman,
who was solemnly nodding his head. They shook
hands, then Roman proceeded into the fellowship
hall while the priest walked toward the foyer, his
leather briefcase in hand. He was leaving earlier
Connor switched his attention back to DVN.
A commercial had started for Vampos, the after-
dinner mint guaranteed to get rid of blood breath.
A handsome male Vamp, dressed in an expensive
tuxedo, slipped one of the mints into his mouth, then
kissed his date, who, oddly enough, was dressed in
a skimpy bikini in the dark in the middle of Central
Park. On horseback. A likely scenario, Connor
thought with a wry twist of his lips, although his
gaze did linger over the woman's curvaceous body.
Bugger. How long had it been? Thirty years? Fifty?
Too damned long if he couldn't even remember. No
wonder he was a coldhearted old bastard.
Gregori, who always kept a roll of Vampos in his
coat pocket, was constantly nagging Connor to go
with him to the vampire nightclubs. Apparently, his
plaid kilt and Scottish accent would make him an
automatic "babe magnet." There was a multitude of
"hot chicks," as Gregori called them, who wanted
to relieve the boredom of immortality with a night
of screaming wild sex. Gregori claimed it was their
manly duty to keep all those Vamp women happy.
So far, Connor had declined. Attempting to cure
his loneliness with a long line of faceless, nameless,
desperate, Undead women didn't seem appealing.
Or very honorable. Hypocrite, a small voice in the
back of his mind needled him. Who are ye fooling,
pretending to be a man of honor? Ye know what ye did.
He struck the voice down and glanced back at the
surveillance monitors. Father Andrew had reached
the foyer, and he set his briefcase on the table where
Phineas had checked it earlier in the evening. As a
safety precaution, all items brought into Romatech
had to be searched.
The priest had left his overcoat on the table earlier,
but instead of putting it on and heading out the
front door, he strode across the foyer into the hall-
way on the left. Connor frowned, wondering what
the old priest was up to. The hallway was empty
"Bugger," Connor whispered as the priest marched
straight toward the MacKay security office.
He couldn't pretend he wasn't here. With a groan,
he pushed back a long strand of hair that had
escaped the leather tie at the nape of his neck while
he'd been running about the grounds.
He opened the door and stepped into the hallway.
"Can I help you, Father?"
The priest smiled. "Connor, good to see you again."
He shook hands, then peeked inside the office.
"Fascinating. I've never seen this room before. May I?"
Connor motioned for him to enter, then followed
Father Andrew pivoted, scanning the office. His
eyebrows rose at the sight of all the weapons in the
caged-off area in the back. He turned toward the
wall of surveillance monitors. "I wanted to let you
know how much we appreciate you keeping us safe
Connor inclined his head. It wasn't an idle
compliment. The Malcontents had tried bombing the
chapel before. With Roman in attendance, along
with Angus MacKay and other high-profile
members of the bottle-drinking Vamp world, they were
practically begging for an attack.
The priest gestured to the screen showing the
chapel. "So you were still able to watch the service?"
"Aye." Connor didn't admit that he'd kept the
volume turned off. "I wasna here all the time. I did
four perimeter checks."
"You're very vigilant," Father Andrew said with
the hint of a smile. The silver fringe of hair
surrounding his bald crown indicated an advanced age,
yet his clear blue eyes and smooth skin lent him an
oddly youthful and innocent appearance. "Roman
and his family are fortunate to have you."
Connor shifted his weight. "Roman is verra
The priest's smile widened. "You are all important
in the eyes of the Lord. I was wondering why you
volunteer to guard us every week. Surely you could
take turns with the other men? I haven't seen you at
Mass for months now."
Connor winced inwardly. He should have known
this was coming.
"I'm concerned about you," the priest continued.
"Perhaps it's my imagination, but I feel like you've
grown more isolated and unhappy in the last few
years. Roman agrees"
"Ye talked to Roman about me?" Connor snapped.
The priest's eyes widened, but he remained quiet
until Connor felt a twinge of guilt for raising his
"Roman tells me you're approaching your five
hundredth birthday," Father Andrew said in a
soothing tone. "I've heard that can cause feelings of
"or anger," the priest finished his sentence with
a pointed look. "In your case, I fear you're shutting
yourself off from your friends, which will result in
you feeling even more alone. What do you think,
Connor? Do you feel isolated?"
Not isolated enough since he was forced to endure
this conversation. He shoved the annoying strand of
hair behind his ear. " 'Tis no' the same anymore. All
the men are getting married."
"I heard that you disapprove of their relationships."
Connor shot him an irritated look. " 'Tis no' that
I want them to be lonely and miserable. They just
doona see the risk they're taking. There's nothing
more important to vampires than keeping our
existence a secret. That has been our top priority for
centuries, and they're foolishly flaunting it."
"They're in love."
"You don't believe in love?"
Connor grimaced as if he'd been poked with a
spear. Oh, he believed in love all right. Love was a
Father Andrew watched him closely. "There's no
need to feel alone, Connor. You could come to Mass
with your friends and take Holy Communion."
The wily priest was going for the jugular. Connor
was purposely avoiding Communion. He'd been
raised to believe he would have to go to confession
Father Andrew slipped on his reading glasses and
removed a Day-Timer from his coat pocket. "I'd like
to set up an appointment with you."
The priest ignored that remark as he thumbed
through the pages. "Roman would give you the time
"How about next Thursday evening at nine? I
could meet you here."
With his hand resting on an open page of his Day-
Timer, Father Andrew peered over the rims of his
reading glasses. "I've been a priest for over fifty
years. I can tell when a man is in need of
Connor stepped back, his jaw clenched. "I confess
Father Andrew removed his glasses and fixed his
blue eyes on Connor with a hard stare. "You won't
scare me away. I will fight for you."
A chill crept over Connor's skin. The fight had
been lost centuries ago.
The priest closed his Day-Timer with a snap and
stuffed it into his coat pocket. "I assume you fought
in the Great Vampire War of 1710? And until Roman
invented synthetic blood in 1987, you survived by
feeding off humans?"
Connor folded his arms across his chest. So in lieu
of a confession, the priest was attempting an
"I've learned a great deal about your world in the
last five years." Father Andrew slid his glasses back
into his chest pocket. "I seriously doubt there is
anything you could tell me that I haven't heard before."
He was wrong about that. Connor motioned
toward the door to indicate that the meeting was
Excerpted from Vampire Mine by Kerrelyn Sparks Copyright © 2011 by Kerrelyn Sparks. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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