Saturday, January 17, 2009

Breathe 1: Sanguine Shadows by Willa Okati

Breathe 1: Sanguine Shadows
by Willa Okati
Cover art by Zuri
ISBN (13): 978-1-60521-167-1
Genre(s): Paranormal, Action/Adventure
Theme(s): Vampires, Gay and Lesbian
Series: Breathe
Length: Novella


This is where everything changes.
Darce has done his best to live off the radar as one of the bloodkind, keeping himself separate from the company of other vampires and the danger they court. The cowboy might be lonely in his solitude, but he’s safe.
Raven’s come to change that. He’s come to change everything.
A newly made bloodkind, Raven’s out to shake up the old world order that oppresses their kind. He carries Darce along in his wake like a leaf on the tide, pushes and goads and tops from the bottom, inciting Darce to lust, passion and action. He makes a centuries-old cowboy feel alive again, something well worth taking risks for.
But when Raven challenges the Sanguine, the most dangerous of all vampires, has he gone too far?


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All he’d wanted was a quiet drink.
Darce swirled the drop or three of tequila left in his shot glass and raised it to the guy who tended bar in this backwoods dive. If he had a name, or if the bar did, Darce didn’t know it and he liked it that way. Tall and skinny as a pool cue, his head shaved just as bald, he didn’t talk much and took Darce’s glass with a grunt. Didn’t ask what Darce wanted. You had your choice here of PBR, Bud, Jose and JD. Like ’em or find somewhere else to drink.
Tequila suited Darce fine. Didn’t do anything for him, no, his being a dead man walking and all -- vampire, as some might say -- but he’d developed a taste for agave over the years. He held up one finger. Already had two, and three was one more than his usual.
The bartender shrugged, not giving too much of a damn. Maybe the folks around here knew what he was. Maybe they didn’t. Knew enough to keep their mouths shut, anyway.
One more drink in peace and it’d be time to walk. He had a peaceful stretch of road home, nothing but the cicadas and bullfrogs and the yellow half-moon to guide him on his way. Nothing to hinder him.
Until the stranger slid onto the bar stool next to Darce and jostled him like they were old friends, bumping his shoulder. “I’ve got this one,” he said. Sounded young. “One for me, too.”
The bartender eyed Darce’s new companion.
“I’ll pay my own way,” Darce said; that, and nothing more.
“Ouch. Not too friendly there, cowboy,” the new arrival said. He swung around to give Darce a bold once-over.
Out of his peripheral vision, Darce got a good enough look at the new kid. Pretty. Fresh-faced and young, his jaw cut firm and his grin made for promising wicked deeds in the dark. He had a dusting of freckles on his nose and cheeks that nearly tempted Darce into a snort of humor because he’d seen a lot in his time but a vampire with a scattering of pale sepia freckles was a new one on even him.
“I’m Raven,” the vamp said, offering his hand along with his unlikely name. Darce snorted quietly. Raven, Silvershadow, Witchlight, Darce had heard ’em all and believed none. This one would be newly made, then, not knowing of the rules by which their kind lived. Which were no rules at all, for the most part, except to watch your back in case someone was sneaking up to shove a silver knife in it, and most of all to keep to yourself.
“That a fact,” Darce said, not asking it. He caught the shot glass as the bartender slid it his way, amber drops spilling over the backs of his fingers.
Raven waited, then laughed under his breath. “And you’re not going to tell me your name. That’s okay. I already know who you are.”
Darce stilled. That was more than he cared to have bandied about. “You’d be wise to keep that to yourself. That and your own name. Names get you in trouble.”
“Do they really,” Raven murmured. He swallowed his drink like a man with nary a grimace nor a cough. Not new to that game, at least.
Darce shot him a sideways glare. He shook his hair back and slammed the tequila neat, no salt or lime around here. Damn hair; it’d been long, near to chin length when he’d come across, and no matter how he cut it back it’d grow out by the next new moon.
Freckles there had short hair, crisp-cut dark, some kind of gel keeping it stuck up in spikes that looked sharp enough to prick a finger on. So young he was damn near veal, and fresh meat for any who cared to take a bite. No wonder he’d been turned. Someone had wanted to keep him that young and pretty for good, was Darce’s bet.
And he’d gotten away. Darce wondered how, for a second, then discarded the question. Not his business. He backslapped his empty shot glass across the bar and licked his lips to get the last of the burning-hot taste off them.
“Now there’s a pretty sight,” Raven said, his gaze hot where it glanced over Darce’s face.
A vampire sometimes liked to pretend to breathe, to mix in all the better, and for the most part Darce did it well. He drew air in through his nose and let it out slow and smooth. “You want to watch that kind of talk around here,” he said. “Matter of fact, you want to keep your mouth tighter shut overall if you don’t want trouble.”
Raven laughed loud enough to draw a few wary looks. No one who drank in that backwater Texas dive wanted to draw attention, except this young’un. “You honestly think you’re fooling anyone?” He lazily drew his finger around the rim of his shot glass. “Look around you, old man. Pretty crowded in here tonight for a place like this. I count fifteen heads, yours and mine and Baldy’s not included, and it’s not a big bar. Yet there’s an empty space three men deep all around you. No one wants to get too close. They all know, even if they don’t say. Maybe they don’t want to admit it’s true, but somewhere inside them they all know what you are -- what I am -- and that’s why they leave you be.”
Darce ground his back teeth together. His fangs, folded up against the top of his mouth usually, rattlesnake-style, slid down and pricked his tongue as he clamped his jaw shut.
“Must be lonely.” Raven pushed his luck, shifting closer. “How long’s it been since you traded more than a handful of words with anyone else? How long have you been around, old man?”
Something cool and firm brushed the top of Darce’s thigh, tantalizingly close to his groin. He inhaled sharp and quick, and cursed it as a giveaway that Raven pounced on as sly and quick as a fox.
“If you want,” Raven said, thumbing half an inch away from Darce’s stiffening cock -- it had been a long, long time, whether he’d admit it out loud or not, “I’ll leave you be. All you have to do is say ‘go,’ and I’ll be out the door.”
“Like hell you would.”
“I think we’re gonna get along, you and me.” Raven stroked higher up and closer. “You know me already.”
“I know you’re trouble walking on two legs,” Darce said. He fought with the urge to rise into the teasing pressure. Damn, it’d been half of forever since someone, anyone, laid a hand on him not in anger or with an addict’s mindless craving. “I know I want you on your way as fast as you think you can run.”
“No, you don’t.” Raven’s palm molded over Darce’s cock, his touch firm and strong as any vampire’s, and for half a moment Darce burned with curiosity over what this kid’s story was, anyway. What’d shaped him this way? He forgot that in the next second when Raven moved fast in the way of their kind, faster than most, his lips brushing Darce’s ear, and said, “I could leave, or I could take you around back and suck your dick.” He pierced Darce’s earlobe with one of his fangs, slim and needle-sharp. “Your choice.”

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