Human Enough

Human Enough

by E. S. Yu

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Overview

When Noah Lau joined the Vampire Hunters Association, seeking justice for his parents’ deaths, he didn’t anticipate ending up imprisoned in the house of the vampire he was supposed to kill—and he definitely didn’t anticipate falling for that vampire’s lover.

Six months later, Noah’s life has gotten significantly more complicated. On top of being autistic in a world that doesn’t try to understand him, he still hunts vampires for a living…while dating a vampire himself. Awkward.

When one of Jordan’s vampire friends goes missing and Noah’s new boss at the VHA becomes suspicious about some of his recent cases, what starts off as a routine paperwork check soon leads Noah to a sinister conspiracy. As he investigates, he and Jordan get sucked into a deadly web of intrigue that will test the limits of their relationship.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781951057510
Publisher: Ninestar Press, LLC
Publication date: 10/07/2019
Pages: 226
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.52(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

As a vampire hunter, Noah was used to his plans going south in the worst possible ways. This op, however, was currently vying for one of the worst — by annoying him out of his goddamned mind.

On paper, it had sounded simple: a vampire had been responsible for some blood-drained corpses, probably a newly turned one based on how messy the crime scenes were, and Noah's squad had been assigned to take care of the problem. They were in the unusual situation of being down one member while waiting for their new squad leader to arrive, but the op should've been easily doable for a three-person team. According to their intel, the vampire always left his suburban house after sunset to feed. Except Noah was still sitting in a backyard tree five hours after sunset, watching the vampire's immobile heat signature through the second-floor window. His fingers were going numb in the cold autumn night, the colors from his infrared binoculars had practically been seared into his retinas, and he swore he was going to become part of the tree if he sat there for much longer.

He finally got Casey O'Donnell to cover for him — which Casey only agreed to after making some snide comments — while he texted Jordan.

Sorry, can't make it to the movie tonight. Hunt taking longer than expected.

And, after debating with himself as to whether a smiley face was too much, he finally added, ?.

Jordan texted back quickly: No worries. Be safe!!

It was the third time he had to cancel plans with Jordan in two weeks, and it was making him cranky.

"Who were you texting?" Casey asked, again, from his perch on the opposite side of the tree.

"Someone," said Noah for the third time.

Casey was eyeing him in a way that made Noah uncomfortable. "That's the third time you've texted during a stakeout."

Jesus, he's keeping track? Noah put his phone away. "What, like you've never played Candy Crush on your phone during a stakeout?"

Casey raised an eyebrow. "I thought not breaking rules was your thing. Along with not being able to lie and stuff."

And there it is. Noah suppressed the urge to snort. Casey was half right …but he was also half wrong, as usual. While Noah generally preferred not to stir up trouble, he was perfectly capable of breaking rules and lying through his teeth if he thought it was for the "greater good," however he defined that. Which, in this case, meant passing on status updates so Jordan wouldn't be up all night worrying.

Noah raised the infrared binoculars to his eyes, turning the night back into neon colors, and scanned the second-floor bedroom again. Still no movement. He turned his comm back on. "Guys, the vamp might as well be asleep. We should move."

"No can do, Lau," said Ava Lopez through the comm. She was currently keeping watch at the front of the house. "He might use the human as a hostage if he smells us."

That was the problem, the reason why they'd been stuck out there for hours, waiting for the vampire to leave. Through his infrared binoculars, Noah could clearly see the human's heat signature in the same room as the vampire's dimmer one. There were any number of reasons why a human might be living with a vampire, but standard hunter protocol was to assume that a vampire valued human lives less than their own.

But what if that might not be true? an annoying voice asked in the back of Noah's mind.

His jaw tightened. He couldn't say that for sure, and human safety always had to come first, he reminded himself. Besides, the vampire had already crossed the line by killing people.

"Well, intel has clearly been faulty so far, so how much longer are we going to wait out here?" he groused. He hated faulty intel. At best, it scrambled their carefully created plans and forced them to improvise; at worst, it cost lives. Also, right now it was ruining the romantic movie night he'd planned.

There was silence at the other end as Ava thought. At least, Noah hoped she was thinking of a plan and not a rebuttal as to why they should sit and wait for another five hours.

"Okay," she finally said. "I'm thinking doorbell strategy. Anyone have any objections?"

"No, ma'am," Casey drawled.

The doorbell strategy was slightly risky for a three-person team. If they flushed the vampire out, they'd usually need someone to cover every side of the house. Noah couldn't think of any other feasible, safe alternative, though.

"All right," Ava said. "Move out."

Noah continued watching the window through the infrared binoculars. After a few minutes, the human heat signature left his view.

"The human's answering the door," Noah said over the comm.

"Copy that," said Casey. His boots scraped against bark as he climbed down from the tree. "What's the status on the vamp?" "He hasn't moved," Noah observed.

The muted sounds of Ava's conversation with the house's human inhabitant sounded over the comm. Then, Ava said, "I'm going inside to flush him out. Be prepared."

Noah put his binoculars away and clambered down from the tree. "I'm at the south window," he said. Although the bedroom was on the second floor, vampires could survive jumping to the ground from that height with no problem.

"Got the west window covered," Casey added.

Noah readied his rifle. One minute passed. Then, another. Ava shouted at the vampire, her voice carrying through the comm a split second before gunshots followed.

Ava swore. "Missed him!"

Noah heard the sound of a window shattering — at the unguarded front of the house.

"He's escaping through the front!" he yelled. He ditched his rifle and drew his handgun from its holster as he bolted around the side of the house, toward the sound of breaking glass.

He raised his gun and shot as the vampire fell, but the vampire hit the ground, rolled to his feet, and immediately grabbed the human woman who'd been standing in the front yard, yanking her against him. She hadn't moved away from the house the way Ava had instructed her to. Noah's heart sank.

Oh, crap.

This was not the "easy, quick hunt and then go home" he'd been hoping for.

Casey came around the other side of the house behind the vampire. "Don't shoot," Noah said into the comm. "There's a hostage in front of him."

"Make one move, and the human goes!" the vampire shouted, keeping the woman in front of him as he turned to face Noah. The woman's eyes were wide with fear.

Noah hesitated, his finger perched on the trigger. His marksmanship was solid, but he still didn't want to risk shooting the woman. Ava was still in the house, judging by the way the vampire glanced through the open doorway, but her options were also limited.

"You don't have to do this," Noah said, and then nearly cringed when he realized he was reciting a line from basically every action movie ever.

The vampire bared his fangs next to the woman's neck. "I wouldn't have to if you hunters just left me alone!"

Noah's grip tightened on his gun. "You know what the punishment is for killing humans. You brought this on yourself."

The vampire's eyes narrowed. "You'd never under —"

He suddenly cried out, crumpling to his knees. The woman scrambled away from him, and Noah took the shot, nailing him in the chest. He crept closer, making sure to shoot the vampire in the heart several more times. The vampire didn't move after that.

"Death confirmed," Noah said into the comm. He glanced through the doorway into the house, to where Ava had knelt in the front hall to shoot the vampire in the knees. "Thanks."

Ava nodded at him as she got up. "No problem."

Casey came over to join them and whistled. "Shooting out his kneecaps? Impressive."

"Thanks, O'Donnell," said Ava.

"And nice job for finishing him off and keeping him distracted, Lau," said Casey. "But you know there's no point in reasoning with vampires, right?"

Noah didn't reply to that except to shrug. He went to grab the body bag from their van.

He and Casey stuffed the corpse into the bag — while Casey moaned and groaned about being on cleanup duty, as always — while Ava made sure the woman was okay. She reported back to them that the woman was in shock, so after Noah and Casey lugged the bag and the rest of their gear back to the van, they dropped the woman off at a hospital. Noah hoped she would be okay.

"Whew," said Ava, once they'd dumped off the body for disposal and driven back to headquarters. "I don't know about you guys, but I could really use a drink. Anyone else up for a bar crawl?"

"Can't," Noah said immediately. "Sorry. It's pretty late, and I have to get back home. Maybe next time, though," he added, to be polite.

"What's the matter, Lau?" Ava teased. "Got a hot date?"

Before Noah could answer, Casey beat him to the punch. "It's his mysterious girlfriend he won't let anyone meet. What's her name again?"

"Jordan. And for the last time, she's shy and private and faints at the mention of blood," said Noah, the practiced lies rolling smoothly off his tongue. "Can't anyone keep their work life and private life separate anymore?"

"Aw, c'mon!" Casey nudged him. "Can't you at least show us a picture?"

Noah rolled his eyes. "I wouldn't want to give you any ideas, O'Donnell."

He said goodbye to his squad mates before they could ask him any more questions and drove back to his apartment. Damn, it was late. Wearily, he trudged up to his unit, unlocked his door, and slipped inside.

He made his way into the bathroom, stripped his clothes off, and stepped into the shower, sighing as the warm water hit his tired muscles. He closed his eyes, trying to let his mind drift away from work. A few minutes later, the shower curtain slid aside with a rustle and cool arms circled his waist.

"Long day at the office?" a soft, low voice murmured against his ear.

Noah smiled and leaned back. "Very long. Glad to be home at last."

"Me too."

Noah turned around to look at the hazel-eyed man with golden-brown hair and pale skin — a touch too pale — behind him.

"Hey, Jordan," he said, before leaning forward and kissing his boyfriend under the shower spray.

Noah always felt somewhat bad for lying about his "girlfriend" to his coworkers. It wasn't that he was afraid of people knowing he was dating a guy; he just didn't want anyone getting too interested in his dating life and finding out he was dating a vampire.

CHAPTER 2

SIX MONTHS EARLIER

"Rookie!" a gruff voice yelled, pulling Noah out of his thoughts. "Stop daydreaming and get your head in the game!"

Noah scowled. "I do have my head in the game. Sir."

"Then fucking look like it!" squad leader Eddie Jespersen bellowed from the opposite side of the van, his voice ringing in the confined space. "This is an elite hunt! You've gotta do more than sleepwalk and pop off a blood-drunk vamp flunkie this time!"

Noah resisted the urge to tell him that he'd been going over the details of the plan in his head, not "daydreaming." Elite hunts were rare, as vampires who were a hundred years or older typically got that way by being low-key and clever enough to avoid drawing the attention of the Vampire Hunters Association. Making it to an elite hunt had been his dream since he'd started working as a hunter a year ago; putting up with an obnoxious squad leader was, unfortunately, the price he had to pay.

Noah slouched back in his van seat with his rifle and closed his eyes, going over the plan again. Even though this wasn't his first vampire hunt by a long shot, he felt as jittery as a first-time hunter. He'd never faced a vampire that was older than a few years before, and this one was supposedly over one hundred years old.

Maybe it was the vampire that had killed his parents.

Probably not — even if no one knew how many vampires there were in the world, he doubted the statistics were in his favor.

Still, the possibility — as infinitesimal as it was — got adrenaline pumping through his veins before he reminded himself not to get cocky, because a cocky hunter was a dead hunter, as Rob always said. And if he died during a hunt, his sister would personally march into the afterlife and kill him again.

"Lau," Jespersen said again, his voice slightly quieter — which still put him at above average talking volume.

What now? Noah cracked his eyes open. "Sir?"

Jespersen was frowning at him. "Look," he said, "don't think I don't know you only got this gig because you're old friends with the director."

Noah's blood slowly began to boil in his veins at the mention of his connection with Rob. "Sir, I trained and fought for this position just like every other hunter." Sure, he was probably the youngest person on this team at twenty-five years old, but there were even younger hunter trainees.

Jespersen's expression didn't change. "I know you have autism."

Noah froze. He was hyper-aware of the six other hunters in the van, listening to the conversation, and helpless outrage at the blatant invasion of his privacy welled up in his throat, making him want to scream. He forced himself to breathe, slowly.

You might as well add that I'm pansexual while you're at it, he thought bitterly.

"I'm not going to coddle you like the director does, is all I'm saying," Jespersen went on. "If you screw this op up, it's your ass I'm going to nail to the wall. Clear?"

Not that Noah had ever asked for, nor expected, "coddling"; he'd only asked for reasonable accommodations when he'd had a desk job, like being exempted from taking phone calls and being allowed to wear earbuds while he worked, since he found it difficult to read and write up reports in a crowded office environment unless he could drown out the conversations with music or stimmy sounds. But that was the double bind with autism: people expected you to be either "too disabled" to do the job at all, or so "mildly disabled" that you should be held to the exact same standards as allistic — non-autistic — employees.

And the fact that Jespersen had not only publicly brought up Noah's diagnosis without his consent, but also accused him of being underqualified because he was neurodivergent and only getting the job through favoritism (as if there weren't allistic VHA employees who were hired through personal connections, Noah thought scornfully) made him want to punch somebody in the face. He swallowed the thought down, though. Going to jail for assaulting a fellow human was not one of his life goals, even if the human in question was an ableist dickwad.

Also, he didn't "have autism"; that made it sound like a contagious disease, like the flu. He was autistic. He doubted Jespersen was open to discussing semantics, though.

"Clear, sir," he gritted out.

Jespersen glanced out the window as the van slowed, parking off the road. "Okay team, we've arrived. Fan out!"

Noah gripped his rifle tightly as he got out of the van. He had a lot riding on this hunt, and he was determined not to screw it up.

He sucked at a lot of things — having a social life, keeping a romantic relationship — but he refused to suck at his job.

The vampire lived in Sudbury, a small town outside of Boston. The anonymous phone tip the VHA had received hadn't provided his address, but it had informed them which route the vampire would take when he returned from Boston late in the afternoon, and it had also told them what kind of car the vampire would drive, down to the license plate number. Said number had been registered to a "John Smith," which was the most obvious fake name Noah had ever heard. (No offense to the people who were actually named John Smith.)

The tip had given them the vampire's real name, though: Julius Saint Laurent.

Noah preferred to just call him "the vampire." His name didn't matter; he'd be dead soon enough.

The squad left the van and split up, half to cover each side of the road. The road they'd chosen was fairly rural, surrounded by trees — perfect for an ambush. Two hunters peeled away from the rest to take point, and Noah settled down on the south side of the road with Jespersen (unfortunately) and two other hunters behind the trees to wait for the vampire.

Breathe in, breathe out. Stay calm. If things went well, Noah might not have to lift a finger; elite vampires required combined mega-squads only in case something went wrong. Still, waiting was the most nerve-wracking part. It could easily dull the senses with boredom or suck him into a death spiral of anxiety.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Human Enough"
by .
Copyright © 2019 E.S. Yu.
Excerpted by permission of NineStar Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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