Publisher: Rebecca J. Vickery Publishing
Print: $10.98 Ebook: $2.99
#10 ISBN-1522743715 #13ISBN-9781522743712
#ASIN- B019AX5BA6 #SW ISBN-9781310060397
Heat index: sensual to stimulating (2 flames) Pages: (about 67k)
Cover Artist: Karen Michelle Nutt (Gillian's Book Covers)
About the Book:
Stake and Dust, (Stake and Dust series, Book I)
A Lamia, a sea creature worthy of John Keats' prose, teams up with a vampire with serial tendencies. When young promising artists are found dead, the Preternatural Bureau sends Cassandra Hayes to the Hamptons to help a fellow hunter track down this lethal duo. She's only spoken to Mr. Green once on the phone and when she meets him in person, he is not what she expects. His hunting skills are spot on, but there is something the man is hiding, and she's determined to find out what it is despite the attraction developing between them.
Tremayne Graystone, a vampire from one of the oldest septs, is not pleased when he finds a dead hunter left on the doorstep of his pub. He should have never answered the hunter's phone, but someone is trying to frame him and he wants answers. Surely he can masquerade as Mr. Green, the hunter Cassandra is supposed to meet, before she figures out his true identity and stakes him. She's a Hayes, from a long line of vampire hunters, and fraternizing with the enemy is simply not done, but as they work together and follow the clues, the lines become blurred when he falls for the hunter's charms.
"I got this, Georgina," Tremayne Graystone said as he caught sight of his employee dragging the garbage bags toward the back door of his pub. "Jaysus, these are heavier than you," he said with a chuckle.
"Thanks, boss," he heard Georgina say as he stepped outside into the cool air.
Once he successfully deposited the bags inside the trash bins, he turned to go back inside, but a rancid stench caught his attention, and it had nothing to do with garbage. This scent could only mean something had died.
He glanced around the bin and spotted what had offended his senses. If it hadn't been for the smell, and the way the man was sprawled in an awkward pose, he might have believed the guy had one too many drinks and decided to sleep it off.
He crouched down on his haunches for a closer look and wrinkled his nose in disgust. The man faced the wall with one arm pinned behind him and his legs bent at the knees. He wore a peacoat, dark dress shirt and jeans. His tennis shoes didn't look as if they'd been broken in with their white accents in pristine condition.
Tremayne's ears could pick up the slightest beat of a heart and this guy's ticker no longer functioned, but he went through the motions and pressed two fingers to the bloke's carotid artery. Of course, one glance at the man's profile – ashen gray skin, bluish-white lips – only confirmed the I-am-dead conclusion he'd come to know as the truth.
His frown deepened as he thought of the implications of finding a corpse on the back steps of his pub, Eternal Bliss. "This won't bode well for business," he murmured under his breath. Not to mention he'd been on the top of the GOJ's crapola list for the last year, and all because one of his patrons happened to be on the most wanted list. Something to do with selling souls with some dirt bag in Boston—a Grim Sith gone rogue. He didn't know either of the blokes personally, only chatted up the guy who had purchased the souls. He had no idea of his illegal activities. Their talks had been about books. The guy should have kept to the classics and his dream about opening up a used bookstore.
"I really don't need the flying monkeys breathing down my back again," he said to the corpse. The monkeys he referred to were the Nephilim, and they not only ran the GOJ, but now they opened up a new organization, the Warriors for the Light or WFTL, and they were taking in new recruits, not just Nephilim, but Fae, werewolves, vamps, you name it. "No thank you, bob." Their high and mighty attitudes of doling out justice really pried on his nerves when they were running the show all by themselves, and now they wanted to suck – no pun intended – the vamps into the mix. He was an Oiche Sith, a vampire, and his sept knew how to govern territories. They were one of the oldest septs in Ireland, and they got on just fine. They didn’t need guidance from the Fallen Angels' get.
For the last decade, Tremayne had governed the Hamptons and it was his duty to keep the supernatural elements in line, but lately it had proven a challenge. If he didn't contain the problem, the GOJ or the WFTL would step in and he'd be looking for a new job.
He glanced at the corpse at his feet and pursed his lips. In the last six months, a number of missing persons had been noted with not only the police but with the GOJ as well. He had a hunch the missing weren't trying out for the magician of the year award for the best disappearing act. He especially didn't like where the clues ended up, which was back to his pub. The missing persons reports actually stated they were last seen at Eternal Bliss.
For the life of him, he couldn't think of who would want to frame him, but leaving a dead body on his back step like a demented gift basket, pretty much proved his suspicions. Someone wanted him to take the fall, but why?
There was no blood trail or splatters on the wall, so he could only assume the bloke had been killed somewhere else unless he'd simply succumbed to a heart attack or a drug overdose. He really hoped it was something that simple.
He rolled the dead guy over onto his back to get a better look at his face and found the reason breathing had become difficult. A gaping hole where his throat should have been would be the official cause of death. "Bloody hell," he cursed. Why couldn't it have been an old fashion drug deal gone wrong? No, couldn't be that easy. A missing jugular pretty much screamed preternatural being or wild animal. Unfortunately, in this area, women carrying ankle biters in their purses and passing them off as dogs, didn't qualify as 'wild animals', though if anyone bothered to ask him, Chihuahuas were vicious little creatures.
"Let's find out who you are, shall we?" he murmured to the corpse. He lifted the man's wallet from the pocket of his pants and flipped it open. He pulled out the driver's license. "Gerard Green." He glanced at the man. "Well Gerard, I do wish I could say it was nice to meet you, but you've put me in a right bind. I can't leave you here to rot, now can I? Besides, your stench would prove bad for business. Sorry bloke, but it's the ugly truth."
Rifling through the rest of the wallet, he found fifty-four dollars. Clearly not a robbery gone wrong, but he'd pretty much already ruled that out when he'd seen the throat removal. There were no photos of a family, but there was a business card for his pub, Eternal Bliss. He flipped the card over, revealing a handwritten message. "Meeting 3 AM." He returned the contents to the wallet and flipped it closed. Couldn't have been 3 AM this morning. It was now six-thirty in the evening. Mr. Green had been dead at least a day, maybe two – if the ripe scent wafting off of him could lend him a clue to the time of death.
Next he fished out the guy's mobile phone. He had quite a few numbers with prefixes he recognized as listings for the UK and Ireland, making him believe he hailed from there or at the very least had close ties with those countries. Perhaps Mr. Green was a tourist and no one would be looking for him any time soon. One could only hope.
As he checked the history of calls made, his ears picked up the sound of a boat engine starting up at the marina. His pub sat on the boardwalk, with shops on either side of his place, a coffee shop farther down, and a flower shop on the other end.
Mr. Green's last phone call had been to Cassandra Hayes at four a.m. two days ago, a mobile number most likely and one here in the States. "Hayes?" He frowned as he gazed at the man in a new light.
The Hayes family was a well-known hunter family and he didn't mean deer hunters. This family took hunting preternatural beings to a new limit. They staked and dusted his kind before breakfast then headed out to behead a few werewolves before nightfall.
"So you're either a hunter, Mr. Green or you were asking for a hunter's help." Neither proved a great prospect. "Just what were you hunting?" He might guess vampire, but a missing throat was a bit dramatic even for his kind, but it could possibly be a newly made vamp or a vamp trying to throw off the GOJ. Funny, he couldn't detect a distinct scent to indicate which preternatural being had killed the bloke. Someone went to great lengths to cover it up.
He stared at the phone. If Green had been in direct contact with Cassandra Hayes, she would come sniffing around if they were working together on a case.
As if Cassandra Hayes possessed some kind of witchy powers to go along with her hunting skills, the phone buzzed and her number and name flashed on the screen. He stared at the phone willing it to stop. No such luck.
He shouldn't answer it. Really, he shouldn't. He slid his thumb over 'accept', and said, "Hello." Aye, he was an eejit. He never did listen to his voice of reason.
"Mr. Green?" Deep sultry overtones laced the woman's words. Too bad he knew it was connected to a lethal killer of his kind. She called him Mr. Green, which meant she wasn't on a first name basis with the guy lying at his feet. Maybe she didn't know Mr. Green personally.
"Yes," he answered her. He'd keep it short and sweet with the answers and perhaps she wouldn't pick up on his accent, assuming Mr. Green didn't have an Irish lilt. No matter how long he'd been living in the states—and it had been over a century now—he didn't quite lose the accent. Words crept into his conversations like a red flag confirming where he once hailed. Besides, why try to change it when the lasses fancied the accent?
"When I didn't hear back from you," she said, "I believed the worse. It's been two days."
Bly me, the woman's voice did things to him. Sure she was reprimanding him…well, reprimanding Mr. Green anyway, but the throaty resonance of her voice was a mix of I want to kill you, but only after I hug you. Kind of turned him on, and he couldn't help but wonder what this lass looked like.
He'd met hunters from the Hayes clan, some friendly, and a few not so much. They all seemed to possess likeable features, some bordering on beautiful. Even the males of the clan had a certain rugged beauty—if you were into that kind of thing. The Hayes clan always seemed to have those green cat-like eyes that missed nothing. He had a hunch this sultry-voice temptress possessed such an attribute, too.
"Did you catch the prey responsible for the kidnappings?" she asked. "And just to let you know, I didn't appreciate you going at this alone. You were supposed to wait for me." When he didn't answer she spoke again, "Mr. Green, are you still there?"
"Then please, tell me you caught the vamp."
So, Cassandra and Gerard are after the same preternatural being I want to find, Tremayne thought to himself. However, she probably wouldn't warm to the idea they work together.
"Well…" he hedged. Obviously, Mr. Green hadn't hired Cassandra Hayes. They were a team or at least were supposed to be. What should he say? If he went with 'no', she might want to meet up with him, but if he said, 'yes' and the prey they hunted remained on the loose, well... she'd know soon enough if another young man went missing, or if the real Mr. Green's body ended up at the morgue.
He glanced at Mr. Green and his missing throat. Whatever being did this had no qualms taking another life. This was not its first kill and most likely would not be its last. He wanted to know what they were hunting and why it was out to pin the crime on him. "Not yet," he finally said.
"Not yet?" Her voice hitched, revealing her impatience with Mr. Green. He could relate to her frustration with the guy. "You texted me that you had the vamp in your sights."
"Mr. Green, you either had him in your sights or you did not. In your message, you also told me you had it handled."
He squeezed his eyes shut, wishing he hadn't answered the phone. The last thing he needed at Eternal Bliss was to have a Hayes snooping around his pub. He catered to humans, but he also had quite a few preternatural beings that frequented his place. A hunter was bad for business, far worse than finding a dead guy in the alleyway at his backdoor.
She remained silent for a long measured few seconds, but he knew she remained on the line, probably still debating if she should meet-up with him after all. "Where are you?" she finally asked the dreaded question. "We need to talk – in person."
And there it was. He closed his eyes and silently cursed. "That won't be necessary," he informed her.
"You told me where you first spotted the vamp, so Eternal Bliss tonight at eight," she countered.
He removed the mobile from his ear and stared at it, hoping he hadn't heard her rattle off his pub as a meeting place to discuss preternatural business. "What the—" He mouthed, but didn't finish the thought. He placed the phone back to his ear. "Why at Eternal Bliss?"
"We have to start somewhere, Mr. Green. Our informant said the vamp frequents the bar."
Lovely. How was she to meet Mr. Green in his condition? He glanced at the body again. Mr. Green's mouth hung open as if he had a few words he'd like to add on the subject. Yeah, stand in line, boyo.
Mr. Green in life had been an average height male with light hair and hazel eyes – according to his driver's license, and from what he could tell the hair color was at least spot on. No dye job here. He could never hope to pass as the man's twin with him being over six foot, and possessing blue eyes and dark hair.
"What do you look like?" Cassandra asked in the next breath.
"What?" Had he heard her correctly? He did like a lass who didn't keep him guessing.
"We've never met, Mr. Green. How am I to know who you are? A description would be nice."
His lips curved. "You can't miss me. I'll be the bloke manning the bar at Eternal Bliss." He could do this. He'd keep it simple and stay as close to the truth as possible. He'd meet with her, and convince her he could handle this case alone.
"What do you mean you'll be manning the bar?"
"I'm undercover, remember?"
"Oh…" There was a long pause and he held his breath. "Yes, of course," she finally said, and he breathed a sigh of relief.
"I answer to the name Tremayne Greer," he added and hoped he hadn't pushed his luck. He'd been given the name Tremayne of Graystone at birth. He'd used the name Graystone as a sir name through the centuries now and again, but in the 21st century and in the Hamptons, he went by Tremayne Greer, to those who didn't know him personally. Living centuries, he had to reinvent himself every so often. Most preternatural beings had to do the same thing. It was no big deal. The GOJ handled all the necessary paper work.
"All right," she said. "I'll see you at eight, Mr. Greer." She ended the call, which proved a relief.
He decided he'd keep Mr. Green's phone for a while and slipped it into his pocket. He then focused on the real Mr. Green. He needed more information about the bloke and pronto. He'd give his cousin a call, but first things first. He had to dispose of the body before any of his employees came out back looking for him, and especially before Cassandra Hayes showed up for their date with destiny.