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When you live forever, you’re bound to make a few mistakes.
Children of Night, Book 1
1969 San Francisco. World-weary Conrad Quintano should have known better than to fall in love with a human—much less Suzanne Fischer, the barely legal, adventure-seeking hippie beauty known as Desert Rose. And the very last thing he should have agreed to do was to raise her babies and protect them with his life. But even twelve-hundred-year-old master vampires can find it hard to reject a deathbed request—especially when issues of love, guilt and blood are involved.
Present day. Raised in virtual isolation, twins Marc and Julie Fischer have always known they are vampires. But they never knew their parentage—or their unique status in the vampire world—until their “uncle” Damian comes to fetch them home. The family reunion, however, isn’t what they expect. They’re thrust into a world for which they’re totally unprepared. And the father they expected to see, Conrad, is missing.
How to find him…and whom to trust? Solving the mystery of betrayal and vampire family values will prove the Beatles had it right. All you need islove…and an occasional side of blood.
Conrad Quintano threw the best parties. Among the vampires who made their homes in that part of Northern California, this was widely acknowledged to be fact. And no more than any of them would have expected. He was, after all, the oldest living vampire in the area with a well established nest and all the wealth, resources and connections necessary to procure the best of everything.
For Conrad himself, it was a point of pride that his household be known always for its gracious hospitality. Outside vampires were never exactly encouraged to crash one of his weekly soirees, but it was an open secret that they were rarely, if ever, turned away. He ruled his nest with a hard fist, but never a tight one. And while he had never gone so far as to suggest to anyone that mi casa es su casa, he did insist that guests within his domain be treated with courtesy and accorded all the rights and privileges of the house. So long as they behaved themselves and abided by his rules.
Transgressors were dealt with swiftly and severely. There were rarely problems. And, when there were, they were never repeated.
Of course, this applied only to his vampire brethren. Human guests were, in general, given far less leeway. Their actions were monitored, their movements curtailed and those who came too often or stayed too long were gently dissuaded from returning.
It had long been Conrad’s habit to circulate at his parties, a word here, a touch there, the occasional guest encouraged to stay behind after the others had been dismissed, and then invited back to his rooms for the night. But only for a night–two or three at most. It had been over one hundred years since Conrad had had a permanent partner in his life. He was not looking for a replacement.
It was in this way, and at one of these parties, that he first met Desert Rose in the fall of 1968. The weather that autumn had been unseasonably warm and dry. Later, Conrad would claim that is was this which was to blame for his behavior; that it was the weather that had made him so edgy, so careless, so much hungrier than usual.
Since it was the Saturday before Halloween, almost everyone at the party had come in costume. It always amused Conrad to see the unrealistic, romantic yearnings so many people harbored for bygone days. He knew, better than most, that the past hadn’t seemed all that romantic at the time. Cowboys, pirates, sultans, knights–they were rarely the dashing figures that modern imagination made them. Witches, and those even suspected of being witches, had been burned in ages past. Gypsies were once spat upon and reviled. And Medieval Kings and Queens, for all their supposed nobility, were frequently petty and vengeful and, in his opinion, generally deserving of far worse fates than those they’d actually received.
From his vantage point, having already lived through the better part of a dozen centuries, Conrad considered that this present one had a lot to recommend it. Its more relaxed social mores and unparalleled ease of travel, had made his life immeasurably easier. As for the current mode of dress, the ever more revealing fashions were certainly hard to beat for visual stimulation.
Take that, for instance, he thought, catching sight of a rippling wave of coffee colored hair cascading over a nearly naked female back. Raven tresses had long been a favorite of his, especially in combination with a pair of wine dark eyes. Ah, yes, just like those. The unknown beauty turned suddenly in his direction, dark eyes flashing in amusement. For one heart-stopping second their gazes collided. Her lips curved upwards in a warm, sunny smile that brought an answering smile to his own lips. And then she was turning away again; coaxed back into conversation by the handsome, red-haired vampire who was Conrad’s current majordomo;leaving Conrad’s smile to fade wistfully away.
That should have been the end of it. And, nine times out of ten, it would have been. But not this time. Though Conrad was generally loath to spoil any of his children’s fun, especially one of his favorites, this was different. The girl had turned her back on him and such impertinence could not be allowed to go unchallenged.
“And what are you supposed to be dressed up as, my dear?” he inquired after closing in on the girl. He spoke the words softly, almost in her ear, delighting in the sudden flush that warmed her cheeks, the rapid patter of her heartbeat, the faint scent of patchouli that clung to her skin.
Dark eyes glanced up at him in surprise. “Why, I’m an Indian Princess, of course. What did you think?”
Conrad felt his brow furrowing as he looked her over, taking in the details of her ensemble–details he’d largely missed, due to the hair and the eyes and everything else that had heretofore captured his attention. His eyes tracked the beaded headband that circled her brow, the peacock feathers, strung on wire, that she wore in place of earrings. Her hair, as already noted, flowed unfettered down her back–except for two narrow strands on either side of her face which were plaited and tipped with more feathers–parakeet, this time, he thought, or possibly conjure. Her halter top of brown suede and matching micro mini skirt were heavily fringed, as were her knee high boots. Her neck, shoulders, arms, midriff, most of her back–also noted–and practically all of both her thighs were deliciously, accessibly bare. He’d been to India many times, in the past, yet he’d never seen anything there quite like this.
“An Indian princess?” he repeated, wondering if the loud music blaring from his stereo system could be to blame for his confusion. Perhaps he’d misheard?
“She means like Pocahontas,” Armand explained helpfully.
Conrad gazed at him doubtfully. “Vraiment?” he inquired, feeling only slightly less confused. At least the feathers were explained…in a way.
Armand’s hazel eyes glinted as they met his. “Ah, mais oui. Certainement.” His tone, one of barely suppressed amusement, left Conrad with little doubt that the French Canadian shared his opinion of the authenticity of the lady’s costume.
Genre – Paranormal Romance / Urban Fantasy (PG13)
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