Saturday, February 07, 2009

Sweet Oblivion 1: Brazen by Jordan Castillo Price

Sweet Oblivion 1: Brazen
by Jordan Castillo Price

cover art by Bryan Keller
ISBN (13): 978-1-59596-202-7
Genre(s): Paranormal, Action/Adventure, Dark Fantasy
Theme(s): Vampires, The Dark Side, Gay and Lesbian
Series: Sweet Oblivion
Length: Novella

It’s a sultry July night, and Wild Bill is content. It’s deliciously warm outside, the fireworks are about to start, a whole pint of freshly-tapped blood is on the menu, and his boyfriend hasn’t murdered anyone in months.
Too bad Bill’s contentment isn’t shared by Michael, who’s tired of his own lack of experience. He hints that a new lover in their bed might broaden his horizons. Their first encounter might have been a threesome, but it certainly didn’t end well for the third participant.
Even now, Bill can’t seem to shake the memory of the hickory stake protruding from the chest of his old nemesis. Lust wars with guilt as Wild Bill tries to figure out how to bury his past, once and for all.


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A shrill scream cut through the air. Something burning. Then a sizzle, and a cascade of sparks. A rugrat no older than five with her hair in crooked blonde pigtails darted past the front of the van, waving a sparkler. It trailed a glowing zigzag pattern through the dark. The kid screeched again. Every dog within a two-mile radius pricked up its ears.
It was a warm night. Gloriously, deliciously, flagrantly warm. I’d splayed myself out on the roof of the van, basking in the heat so contentedly, you’d think I’m a lizard on a sun-baked rock. Too bad I’m not -- life would be a hell of a lot easier. But no. I’m just your common, garden-variety vamp.
In the height of summer, I’m out for the count nearly sixteen hours of the goddamn day, what with the hasty sunrise and the tardy sunset. But at least I’m warm. And so in July, in those few precious hours when I’m vertical, sometimes I can even forget about that nasty little condition of mine, and just enjoy the act of being.
I sucked in a lungful of the night air. Freshly-cut grass. Sparklers. Funnel cake. Sunblock. Pabst Blue Ribbon. And about three thousand humans, give or take, each of them with a circulatory system coursing with a mouth-watering red cell cocktail.
The thirst for blood gnawed at my guts. I had another drag of my cigarette instead. And even with the Marlboro smoke tickling my nose hairs and prickling my eyes, I knew it when Michael, my heart of hearts, entered my long-range sensors. Sure, I could smell him. But I could smell about four hundred other people nearby, too. Michael? I felt him. I was a giant tuning fork, and he was the note that had just bent up to meet my quivering harmonic.
I watched him slice through the crowd. He’s tall, and his black-on-black contrasts with the bright colors and white whites that most other Missourians rotate out of their closets in these long, steamy dog-days.
It takes brass balls to carry off a scarf at the cusp of July, especially paired with a worn-out Bauhaus T-shirt and a pair of jeans. But every time I tell myself to stop drinking from him where people can see, he looks at me with those big eyes of his and suddenly I’m nothing but a raging, mindless hard-on -- and I slice him open right on the neck, where my mouth happens to fall when I’m buried to the root in his sweet ass.
Has it occurred to him, I wonder, to give me a good smack and tell me to bite him somewhere else? Probably not. He’s so used to spurting while I feed off him that a stray breeze hitting his throat is all it takes to give him a boner these days. He wouldn’t be seen in public without his silky black scarf any more than he’d leave the van without his jeans on.
A hunger pang wrenched my stomach as Michael broke free from the pack and headed for the van. He stopped beside the driver’s side door and looked up at me. “Wild Bill,” he said -- as if there might be anyone else sitting on the roof he’d wish to address. “I found someone.”
The pang intensified. “Do tell.”
“She’s over there by the balloon-pop. But we have to be quick. She’s here with her friends, and they’ll come looking for her if we keep her much longer.”
“Never let it be said that I’ve kept a lady waiting.” I swung my legs over the side and dropped down beside Michael, soundless, other than the clack of safety pins and buttons on my leather jacket -- which I can wear in ninety-degree-plus weather without breaking a sweat. And it’s easily ninety degrees in this baseball diamond that’s halfway between Columbia, Missouri, and the middle of nowhere.
The girly-girl on the menu was a cute young gothy thing, of course. Because who else would give my eyeliner-beau the time of day? Let alone be cajoled by him into a one-night stand as a blood donor.
As we approached, she picked Mikey out of the crowd first, and I scented her when her arousal spiked. I knew the feeling. His proximity did the same thing to me. Then she saw me, in step beside him. I’m guessing she thought we wanted to double-team her. And in a manner of speaking, we did -- though not quite in the way she’d imagined.
We closed in on our Clairol-scented prey in a loose formation. I liked giving my food the option to cut and run. It usually didn’t. Girly-girl was no exception. “Rachel,” Mikey said, “this is Wild Bill.”
“The vampire.” She sized me up, and her skinny, drawn-on eyebrows knit. “Vampires smoke?”
“Why not?” I took a drag, blew smoke over her shoulder. “Lung cancer can’t take hold in me. The world is my oyster.”
Michael caught her by the shoulder -- and oh yes, scent blossomed, creamy good girl-hots. He didn’t know. Or did he? Maybe on some level, he could smell it too, since my vamp-toxins coursed through him. Maybe that’s how he picked out the soup of the day with such uncanny accuracy. “Back behind these trees,” he said.
Rachel hesitated, but I’m guessing only because it was expected of her, what with her lack of a Y-chromosome and all. The male meal tickets that Mikey scopes out for me always charge into the darkness full speed ahead. He slipped his arm around her, and she pressed into his side so they could push their way out of the crowd together.
I got a few paces ahead of them, then spun around and walked backwards. Cute couple. Too bad I wouldn’t be able to talk my boy into a three-bee, where fun would be had by all. I patted down my jacket pockets. No condoms. Well, that clinched it. No threading the needle tonight, not with Rachel in the middle, anyway.
The cluster of evergreens did more than just filter out the noise of the crowd -- and it did that admirably. Its resinous haze cloaked the pervasive, insistent scent of humanity. This little nook held Mikey, some trampled grass dotted with dandelions, the stars overhead, the pale girl with big, dark eyes, and me.
And I was starving.

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