History isn’t always what it seems.
With the battle of Egypt behind them, Alec and Cronin are enjoying the thrill of new love. Though fate doesn’t wait long before throwing them back into the world of weird.
They know Alec’s blood is special, though its true purpose still eludes them. And given Alec’s inability to be changed into a vampire, Cronin is free to drink from him at will. But the ramifications of drinking such powerful blood starts a ripple effect.
With the help of Jorge, a disturbing vampire-child with the gift of foresight, Alec and Cronin face a new kind of war. This time their investigations lead them to the borders of China and Mongolia—but it’s not what lies in the pits beneath that worries Alec.
It’s the creator behind it all.
In the underground depths of China, amidst a war with the Terracotta Army, they will find out just what the Key is, and what Alec means to the vampire world.
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Alec sat on the sofa with his feet on the coffee table reading the New York Times on an iPad. He’d look up every so often at the apartment, at Cronin’s walls of memorabilia, smiling at the antiques shelved there, then at the vampire beside him.
“What’s so funny?” Cronin asked. He didn’t even look up from the Chinese newspaper he was reading, though a smile played at his lips.
“I was just looking over all your relics,” Alec explained. Cronin had told him about most of the artifacts he’d collected, and despite their conversations starting with good intentions, they usually ended up in the bedroom. Or on the sofa, or on the floor, or over the dining table. “I mean, those antiques are pretty cool, but you’re my favorite.”
Cronin looked up at Alec then. “Your favorite antique?”
“Well.” Alec’s grin widened. “You are a 744 vintage. I think you qualify.”
Cronin smiled, amused. “And you’re a what?”
Alec imitated the guy from Antiques Roadshow. “A contemporary piece, 1980s Americana. Perfect condition, well-endowed.”
Cronin laughed at that. “You’re bored.”
“Ugh.” Alec groaned and let his head fall back on the sofa. “So bored.”
He’d spent the last eight weeks holed up in Cronin’s lavish New York City apartment. His days, which were now fully nighttime hours, consisted of a workout regime—Cronin had installed gym equipment in the cinema room to curb Alec’s boredom—hours of foreplay and sex, the occasional movie on Netflix, and reading and researching vampire histories. He rarely left the apartment.
The view was spectacular, and if he wanted something—anything—he could simply order it, pay for it with Cronin’s black credit card, and have it delivered. But he was still confined to quarters. Meaning he was still wanted by NYPD, his former colleagues no less, though the hype had died down.
The fact that his and Cronin’s disappearing acts, which had been caught on CCTV—once in his department’s office area and once in the department’s stores facility—had been leaked on YouTube, meant Alec’s relatively quiet and unnoticed disappearance had gone global.
The footage went viral, making news headlines around the world and him an internet sensation. Some called it a hoax and disregarded what was just too impossible to understand, and others called it what it was.
Cronin’s ability to appear anywhere in the world—or leaping as they called it—was, in Alec’s opinion, the best talent a vampire could have. And it was awesome. Not that they really went anywhere these last eight weeks.
It still wasn’t a great idea for Alec to be seen in public, and Cronin couldn’t go out in the sunlight. That limited their outings to faraway places, wherever it was night.
Alec sighed and went over to the shelves lined with Cronin’s memorabilia. He had wanted to know about all the items Cronin thought important enough to collect over the last twelve hundred years. As a vampire, Cronin had seen things Alec couldn’t begin to imagine, and he wanted to know as much as he could. He’d asked about most of them, but went to one display that held three items he’d not gotten to yet. Alec put his hand out, almost touching the artifact. “Can I touch it?”
Cronin now stood beside him. “Of course,” he answered with a smile.
Alec carefully picked up the small, crudely glazed bottle, admiring it as he turned it in his hands. It was whitish-brown and looked like a child had made it in school art class “What about this one?”
“That is a Mayan poison bottle.”
Alec blinked. “Oh.” He changed how he was holding it, as though it would now bite.
Cronin smiled. “The year was 821. Jodis and I went there and were ill-received. Can’t imagine why.”
Alec laughed and rolled his eyes. “No, I can’t imagine why either.”
“A witch-doctor offered us a drink,” Cronin said, nodding toward the bottle. “Courteous fellow.”
“Well, it would have been rude to refuse,” Alec added sarcastically.
“Yes, quite.” Cronin said, amused. “In the end, he drank it himself rather than see his end with one of us.”
“And this one?” Alec picked up what looked like a bone knife.
“Ah, that’s a Peruvian weaver’s bone wand.”
“Of course it is.”
Cronin chuckled. “It’s from 1288. An old woman stabbed me with it.”
Alec’s mouth fell open. “She what?”
“She stabbed me, only barely.” Cronin was still smiling. “Eiji and Jodis thought it funny that an elderly human woman could do such a thing. She was no taller than four foot.”
“I hope you killed her.”
Cronin barked out a laugh. “Uh, no. Her heart gave out before I had the chance.”
Alec turned back to the shelves and picked up a long metal pin with a jeweled end. It looked expensive. “And this?”
“That is a seventeenth century French shawl pin,” Cronin said, almost wistfully. “A man tried to stab me with it. I believe it belonged to his wife.”
“What is it with you and being stabbed?”
Cronin sniffed indignantly. “It must be my charming personality.”
Alec snorted. “If by charming personality you mean vampire about to kill them, then yes, I think so too.” But the truth was, Alec knew from years of police work that stabbing was an intimate crime; the offender was well within the other person’s personal space. He frowned. “I don’t like the idea of you being close enough to bite someone else. Or that you have your mouth on their skin… or your teeth.”
Cronin took the shawl pin from Alec and put it back on the shelf. “It doesn’t bother you that I kill people, only that I have my lips on them when I bite them?”
Alec looked to the floor and nodded. “You get close, you touch them, you put your lips on them,” he said. He knew he was pouting, but he couldn’t seem to stop. “It’s not fair.”
Cronin put his finger under Alec’s chin and lifted his face so he could see his eyes. “It is not the same.”
“I know,” Alec said petulantly. He knew he was being unreasonable. He craned his neck, exposing it to Cronin. Alec knew there were vampire puncture wounds marking his skin, and he loved them. He wore them with pride. “I like it when your lips are on my neck, when you bite me. When you drink from me.”
Cronin leaned in and ran his nose along the bite wounds. “Do I not take enough from you?”
“Never,” Alec whispered.
Cronin licked the two bruised hole marks, making Alec shiver. “Do I not bite you enough?”
“Never.” Alec was getting dizzy with want. He had to remind himself to breathe. He leaned against Cronin, feeling the strength and warmth of him from his thighs to his neck. He was already getting hard. “It will never be enough.”
Cronin kissed Alec’s neck once more but pulled away. “I can’t keep feeding from you. It can’t be good for you.”
Alec chuckled. “It is really good for me.”
This time Cronin laughed, a purr rumbled through his chest. “You test my restraint, yet again. Please know, Alec, I’m not opposed to such a notion. Though the hours spent in bed this morning may suggest you need a rest. Just because I can bite you without changing you, doesn’t mean you are unaffected.”
Alec groaned. They’d found out after the battle in Egypt that Cronin could bite Alec and not change him into a vampire. It opened a whole world of questions, but more than that, it meant they could have sex while Alec was human. And yes, as much as he wanted Cronin to take him, fuck him, and bite him, his human body needed recuperation. The intense sexual pleasure and slight blood loss took its toll when it was for hours at a time. So as much as he didn’t like it, he knew Cronin was right.
But Cronin also had a warped sense of time. Living for twelve hundred years would do that, Alec conceded. So while Cronin was patient and content to sit and read or research for hours upon hours, Alec was restless for something else beyond that, some sense of normalcy. He was used to police work, and now he sat around doing a whole lot of nothing. Even though he’d left normal behind the day he’d met Cronin, the vampire he was fated to, he was still a twenty-nine-year-old man. He needed to do something human. He grinned at Cronin. “Come on, let’s go out.”
Cronin quirked an eyebrow. “Where to?”
“A club somewhere.”
“I meant in which city.”
“Oh.” Alec was thinking some nightclub in the Meatpacking District would do. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to being able to leap to any country he chose. He grinned. “Well, it’s night time in Europe. I’ve always wanted to go to London.”
Cronin smiled. “I know just the place.”