The Line

The Line

by Angel Martinez

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Overview

Rafael Schiller, vampire and sexual god without peer, believes himself the top of the food chain, until a bizarre creature feeding in an alley scares the deathless hell out of him.

Rafael Schiller’s had a long road and he’s forgotten the meaning of several human words along the way. Commitment? Relationship? Love, for all the gods’ sakes? What does a vampire need those for? He’s completely content treating his long string of one-off lovers as midnight snacks. He makes it good for them and has no reason for guilt or grief. Some nights still induce an odd, hollow ache, but he can just drown it in the next conquest. Master of his universe, he lives without a care…until he encounters a bizarre creature feeding in an alley.

It’s caught his scent, and now that it’s hunting him, Rafael remembers a word from his childhood. Krsnik—the hunters, the monsters who feed on the blood of vampires. He could run, but he’d be running forever, and that would sure as hell take the fun out of life. Time to figure out what the creature really is, what can defeat it, and why he feels so drawn to it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781781849149
Publisher: Totally Entwined Group
Publication date: 01/17/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 47
Sales rank: 742,897
File size: 215 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, (same husband for almost twenty-four years) gave birth to one amazing son, (now in college) and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.

Published since 2006, Angel's cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You'll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don't expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.

She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

"Easy," Rafael whispered, stroking soothing circles on his meal's stomach. "Deep breaths."

The young man beneath him whimpered as Rafael scraped glistening fangs over his throat. With his hands bound tight to the headboard, the human had no way to fend him off and the tang of fear sent spears of delicious desire through Rafael's core.

The meal squirmed again and Rafael hissed in exasperation. "Hold still, Denny! Do you want a chunk ripped from your throat?" He thrust hard, pegging his dinner's prostate. Denny arched and yelped in delight.

"Rafael, beautiful Rafael, please take me. Take all of me. Take what you need."

Why, oh, why do they have to get so melodramatic? With a firm hand on Denny's forehead, Rafael licked his pulse line, preparing the skin. He snapped his hips with each thrust, pleased when Denny's legs wrapped around his waist. Precision was the key. Certainly, a vamp could just stab his fangs in and suck the life out of a meal, but where was the fun in that? Life was a buffet and it was so much better to be able to come back for seconds.

Pleasure building at the base of his spine and jaw, Rafael punctured through delicate skin, leaving two surgical-caliber entrance wounds. Hot blood hit his tongue as he fastened his mouth over the holes and sucked. He moaned and bucked, losing rhythm but not enthusiasm as the blood hit his system, sending wicked pleasure through his groin and head. Denny's wail as he came could have been unpleasant, but he was only aware of it in a distant, sensually drowned way.

Rafael let his body collapse atop his lovely meal, finally still and dazed, as he released the coagulant from his feeding gland. Rule number five, always lick your plate clean and don't leave a mess behind.

"That was transcendent," Denny whispered into his hair.

Transcendent? Really? What century is this again? "Glad you enjoyed it. You were very tasty." Rafael eased his cock out of Denny's wonderfully tight ass and reached up to undo his hands. "Stay right there and go to sleep. I'll see myself out, sweets."

"You're not staying?" The disappointment in those blue eyes could have been heartbreaking if Rafael had cared.

Rafael stopped halfway through buttoning his shirt and leaned over the bed to give Denny a soft kiss. "And when the hunters break down the door? What then? You'll fight them off for me? Poor little lamb. You couldn't fight off a pair of possessed bunny slippers. Go to sleep, Denny. I'll see you again soon."

Denny murmured something sleepy and regretful but curled up under the blankets like a good boy while Rafael finished dressing and let himself out. He breathed a sigh of relief when he closed the apartment door. That one would have to go on the maybe list of potential dinners. All those hints at possessive behavior set off his nuisance alarms. The prey relationship was less messy when they were happy-to-see-you-when-you-decided-to-show-up meals.

Sated, Rafael hummed as he trotted down the stairs. Long ago, in his human life, all the lies would have cost him sleep. No, there were no hunters in Olympia. No, he was not going to burst into flames if the sunlight hit him. Sunlight caused migraines and nasty sunburn, but neither of those things had ever proven deadly. Small details. Humans were food and he left them in puddles of melted ecstasy. Why should he feel guilty?

The city's riot of scents hit him as he stepped out onto the sidewalk. He breathed deeply, taking pleasure in how many odors he could sort and identify immediately.

"Good feeding?" The purring voice behind his left shoulder made him cringe.

He turned, barely controlling the urge to roll his eyes. "Priapus."

The pudgy vamp grinning up at him was annoying at the best of times, a territory-stealing thief at the worst. Bad enough he used the Greek god of male genitalia's name as his own, the height of pretentious bad taste, but he was an obsequious bastard, too.

"Nice tidbit in there?" Priapus nodded toward Denny's apartment building.

Rafael stabbed a finger at the other vamp's chest. "That one's mine. Hands, teeth and everything else off." Never mind that he had almost decided not to see Denny again. It was the principle of the thing. Actually, time with Denny would be much improved with a simple ball gag.

"Touchy! It was just a question. Polite small talk." Priapus leaned close, breathing in deeply. "Though he smells delicious. Lucky Raf. Don't you ever shower afterward?"

"Ew. No. Not until I'm home and in my own bathroom. If I so much as smell you in that building, our truce is off, hear me?"

Priapus held up both hands in surrender, grinning wickedly. "I'm not some macho idiot, Raf. Wouldn't stand a chance against you and I like it here." His smile slipped as he glanced down the street. "Watch your back all the same."

"Is that a threat?"

"No." Priapus looked up at him again, his gaze troubled. "Raf, something's here. In our city. I don't know what ... yet. But it scares me."

Scared of his own shadow. "I'll keep an eye out."

Still, a shiver skittered through him as he watched Priapus walk away. The night and its scents suddenly crowded too close. Rafael turned on his heel and hurried home.

* * *

The moonrise woke Rafael the next evening, acting as his alarm clock. While he had no need to feed for at least a week, he wanted to visit the new club on Fourth Avenue, gay-friendly and by all reports attracting the hottest boys.

Most humans — the barber, the owner of his favorite bookstore — would never know what he was. He could tease them about being a vamp if someone made a comment about commented on his pale skin and they would laugh, certain that he was simply anemic or that he needed more sun. He chose his dinners carefully, by scent, by attitude, by certain reactions. There were those who knew, both hunters and feeders, but the rest of the world would never believe them.

A brief hunt through his walk-in closet produced a pair of leather pants, black, and a skin-tight, sleeveless T-shirt, electric blue. With the window open to catch the night breeze, Rafael lay on the bed to shimmy and squirm until he could lace up his leathers. As he sat up to reach for his five-buckle boots, he froze. A scent drifted in, faint, tantalizing and strange. A hint of cinnamon overlay something earthier, more exotic. His heart raced. He opened his mouth to pull in as much of the scent as he could and a shudder slammed through him. Predator. Not another vamp, but something big had wandered into his territory.

Cougar? Grizzly? Neither felt right, though. He had encountered big cats when he lived in India and bears in the Smoky Mountains. Species variations would have some hint of familiarity. This scent was odd ... alien.

It was probably just some new designer cologne, meant to contain pheromones or some similar nonsense. He shrugged off the feeling of dread and grabbed his leather jacket from the peg by the door, his mind already building scenarios of the upcoming evening at Clyde's. Several inches over six feet in his boots, his height and unnatural grace guaranteed both admittance and attention. As he walked down the block, he entertained lovely fantasies about grinding and gyrating in a frenzied sea of Adonises. Of all the vices from his misspent human youth — drinking, gambling, smoking opium — only dancing had survived as something he craved after the change.

Halfway down the next block, the hairs on his arms rose. The strange, threatening scent slammed into him with a shift of wind, putting every nerve in his body on high alert. A low-frequency growl vibrated in his chest, the first sign of territorial rage. Damn it. Don't go all beast-of-the-night now. Have to keep a clear head.

The scent pulled him on an invisible chain toward its source, dread pounding a counterpoint to his anger in his head. Whatever it was, it had no business in his hunting grounds. One of them would have to go and it was not going to be Rafael.

His walk became a full-out run as he raced down the street, weaving around the few frightened pedestrians in his way, unwilling to think about how crazed he probably appeared. Sounds carried to him over the pounding of his boots, an eerie snarling overshadowing a frightened wail. Not only was the invading predator in his territory, it had dared to corner prey.

He turned the corner into a dark, dead-end alley. His nocturnal eyes adapted quickly to the gloom. His quarry crouched atop a closed dumpster, something pinned to the lid. It was ...

Holy hells, what is that thing?

Roughly man-shaped, it was difficult to discern details beyond long legs, since black-feathered wings spread out on either side of its body, mantling over its prey. When it raised its head to roar at him, blood glistening like dark marsh water against its pale lips, Rafael skidded to a halt, overcome with horror. Long white hair surrounded its head in a nimbus of matted snarls. Its ears came to sharp points and its eyes glowed with terrible, cold white fire. The color should have meant it was blind, but Rafael knew better. It had him in its crosshairs and those eyes turned his bones to quivering jelly.

Its victim struggled backward in a desperate bid to escape, and Rafael caught a hint of features as the terrified person turned his head.

"Priapus!"

"Raf, get away!" Priapus whispered hoarsely. "Run!"

His terror had expanded to most of his brain and he nearly did run. Every ounce of sense told him he should. Territorial imperatives surged up, though, and trampled down sense in short order. "Beast, this is my city. I did not give you permission to hunt here."

The thing snarled, climbing down from the dumpster lid to face him.

"Priapus ... can you run?"

"I think so." Priapus dragged himself to the other side to put the dumpster between him and the monster. "Raf, you can't fight this thing. You can't."

"Worry about getting away, Pri. I'll handle this." Rafael cracked his knuckles. He was nearly a foot taller than Priapus, broader, stronger and more experienced in brawling. The stout little vamp had no chance against this thing. Rafael did.

Not that they were friends, nor did he owe the other vamp anything. Priapus lived in this city on his sufferance, but that also meant this was his territory, his fight, and they both knew it.

Rafael dropped into a crouch, weight shifted to the balls of his feet. The thing spread its wings. Maybe it had been human once. The soft, staccato snarls it made had never come from human or vampire throat, though. Hurried, limping footsteps registered in a distant way. Priapus had made his escape.

"You don't belong here," he told the monster. "I'm not sure you belong anywhere."

The thing roared and leaped at him, an impossible jump across half the length of the alleyway.

Wings. Not a fair advantage.

Rafael barely had time for the thought before the monster slammed into him. They whirled together in a horrid parody of dance. Rafael gripped the thing's wrists, preventing its claws from raking him. He set his shoulder against the wall on his right for balance and kicked out at where a rip in the jeans showed its kneecap.

Jeans? Monsters wear jeans and boots?

A satisfying crunch let him know he had connected with sufficient force, but instead of collapsing to one side or breaking off to howl in pain, the blow only enraged the monster. It yanked Rafael close, breath hot on his face, then swung them both around to slam him into the wall.

Dazed, certain something had dislocated, Rafael had a terrible moment of disorientation when his feet failed to find the ground. The monster held him a foot off the pavement, using its forearms to pin him, even though Rafael still held both its wrists. Shouldn't be able to do that. I'm so screwed.

It opened its mouth, baring sabre-tooth fangs smeared with blood.

"You really should brush between meals," Rafael said in as reasonable a tone as a shaking voice could manage. "Rude, you know, biting into your next snack with the remains of the last stuck between your teeth."

The thing hesitated, staring at him with its silver moon-disc eyes. It blinked and Rafael thought he caught a shift, from silver to a beautiful green. It had to be his terrified imagination since the silver was firmly in place again on his next panting breath. The monster roared and lunged forward, sinking its teeth into Rafael's throat.

He cried out in pain, sickening fear threatening to stop his heart. Then in the next moment, as if someone had slammed a floodgate, the fear vanished. Rafael floated on a warm lake of bliss, rocked by strong, gentle arms, caressed in soothing waves of pleasure. Was this how it felt for humans when he fed? No wonder so many of them wanted to offer their throats. It was heavenly, peaceful and so full of sensual delight ...

I'm dying. The small part of his brain still concerned with self-preservation smacked him and told him he was an idiot. The monster would not stop in a moment and tell him he was delicious. It was draining him.

Rafael kicked out, suddenly desperate for some advantage. The thing grunted and released its teeth with a snarl. Rafael snapped his head around and sank his teeth deep into the muscle of the monster's forearm. It howled and dropped him, shrieking when Rafael still hung on and the muscle tore.

Oh, it doesn't like that. Not one bit.

The thing ripped its arm free and reeled back, apparently stunned that its prey would fight back so viciously. Rafael whirled and ran with all the unnatural speed his undead body could manage.

CHAPTER 2

Even with all the locks fastened and the drapes drawn, panic clawed at Rafael. Why the thing had chosen not to pursue baffled him, but he couldn't let himself believe it had given up. For the first time, he wished he had followed the example of some of his more paranoid brethren and built a safe room in his condo.

His panting breaths sounding like broken sobs, he snatched a bag of blood from his emergency supply in the fridge and locked himself in the bathroom. The wounds on his throat had stopped bleeding. Vampire blood had better clotting agents than human blood, so it was damned hard to bleed to death. Still he'd lost too much. Even worse, the thing's blood burned Rafael's mouth and throat and the bit he had swallowed sent spikes of pain through his stomach. He dropped to his knees and did something he had not done in centuries. He hugged the porcelain and threw up.

Curled up on the bathroom rug in a miserable ball a few minutes later, he let himself start to wonder. What the hell was that thing? And why did it want vamp blood ...?

Oh. Shit.

A story surfaced in his fear-addled brain, one told by his grandmother when he was small. Krsnik, the vampire slayers. These fearful beings drank the blood of vampires to live. It had tasted him. Would it hunt him forever now? Was that part of the story?

His lone wolf life suddenly seemed less attractive. He had no one to turn to for help. Certainly, he had times when he had odd moments of loneliness, quickly silenced by burying himself balls and fangs deep in his next pretty meal, but he'd never wanted someone's help before, never needed reassurance.

Damn the monster for ruining his perfect, sybaritic existence. If he survived the night he would need more information. Every monster had weaknesses.

Instead of formulating some brilliant plan of action while he lay in a shivering heap on his bathroom floor, Rafael's traumatized brain insisted on obsessing over the incredible sensations of the monster feeding.

* * *

The beautiful vampire lived here. His scent trail had been easy to follow. So many vampires were ugly, inside and out, like the selfish one he had trapped in the alley.

This one, though, with the raven hair and the sea-gray eyes, was far from ugly. He had moved with a panther's grace and speed to save another. His hard muscles had stirred up memories better forgotten. His blood had tasted of sun-drenched meadows and shade-dappled glades. It had sung to him, soothed him.

Lan stood on the sidewalk, staring up at the windows. He could simply fly up and smash through the glass. The hesitation had to have a firm source besides confusion, but he failed to find it.

The sun would be up soon, the city stirring. He would take his time with this one, stalk him carefully. Perhaps he would untangle the strange half-formed knot lodged in his stomach.

* * *

Rafael missed having a proper library of his own. His potentially infinite lifespan forced him to relocate every few decades and hauling crates of books from city to city was not practical, especially if one had to move in a hurry. Consequently, he'd spent the last three hours in the Timberland Regional Library, settled in a quiet nook with several books on Slavic folklore and shamanistic tradition.

The internet had been little help and the library was proving no better. Sources sometimes described krsniks as dark angels and sometimes as demons, no two able to agree on a reasonable explanation. The one that said they were a special breed of avenging angel sent to slaughter vamps required a belief in God, and since Rafael had seen far too many things to disprove the existence of God, he tossed that one out as absurd. Another said they were either spirits summoned by a shaman to protect his village or the krsnik was the shaman himself, transformed through blood magic and other painful rituals.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Line"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Angel Martinez.
Excerpted by permission of Totally Entwined Group Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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