Hello and Happy Friday! Today I bring you the first chapter of Blood Kiss, my upcoming M/M Vampire Mafia Romance. This is an advanced peek - which means it's not the final edited and proofed version. So if you come across a mistake or two just pretend like you didn't see it. ;-) Happy Reading!
Copyright Christa Tomlinson July 2022
"I can't believe you're doing this."
Solan grinned at his best friend. "I've always wanted to see what these auctions are like. What better way to find out than to enter one myself?"
Always the practical one, Todd shook his head. "I'm sure there were at least five different ways you could have found out the answer to that question that didn't involve putting yourself up for sale to be a vampire's blood pet."
"True. But those ways wouldn't have been as fun."
He'd been curious about the blood pet auctions for some time. When he'd heard that Club Scarlet was hosting one, he'd decided to sign up. It was an exciting idea. Something to break up the everyday boredom of his life. He'd been thrilled when he'd received his acceptance package, welcoming him into the Club Scarlet auction program. Now, he was backstage waiting for the final approval before the auction began.
"Okay, Mr. Kane. Your second round of tests all came back clear," one of the assistants said. "You are good to go."
Solan nodded. "Thank you."
He and Todd headed off to the hair and makeup area. A stylist waved at him so he went to her chair.
"I haven't worked on someone with your coloring in a while. Had to snag you before anyone else did." The stylist tied a small white bib around his neck to catch makeup spills. "Do you normally wear makeup?"
Solan shook his head. "Only the occasional lip gloss."
"Okay, then. You'll need something to define your features under the bright stage lights but I'll keep it simple so you feel like yourself."
"Sounds good," Solan said. He sat still as she brushed powder over his face and dusted a peach blush over his cheekbones. She applied a soft bronze eyeshadow, brown eye liner, and dark mascara that made the indigo blue of his eyes pop. The makeup artist finished with a sheer rosy lipstick.
"Perfect," she said. "Now for your hair."
"I want it up when I first go out but I want to be able to take it down while I'm on stage."
"Oooh, you're dramatic. I like that."
The stylist ran a brush through his long red hair that hung past his shoulders until the waves were soft and full. Then she gathered up the entire mass, twisting it into one long coil. She wrapped the coil around itself, forming a bun at the back of his head that she secured with a long silver hair pin.
Solan looked at himself in the mirror when she was done. "I love it! Thank you."
"You're welcome. Good luck out there."
He left her chair, happy with the results of his look. The last step was to change into the outfit that all the entrants wore. A black, short-sleeve shirt with a deep scooped neckline - to show off their necks obviously - and slim black pants. Once he was changed, Todd settled on a stool out of the way while Solan bounced on his toes behind the curtain, waiting his turn.
"Entrant number nine, you're next."
Solan drew in a deep breath to calm the last second nerves that tried to pop up. He slowly let it out and stepped through the curtain onto the glossy dark wood stage. The auctioneer stood behind a podium on the other side. Solan strolled to the center of the stage and faced the crowd, a light smile on his lips. He put one hand on his hip and let the other hang down loosely by his side.
"And here we have entrant number nine. He's twenty-six, a natural redhead, and he's never been bitten. This prospective blood pet enjoys evenings out as well as staying in with a good book. Number nine is type AB and he loves a good steak."
As the auctioneer read off his attributes, Solan turned in a slow circle, giving the vampires in the club a look at all his goods. He returned to his original position when the bidding began.
"Do I have fifty-thousand dollars for this luscious strawberry?"
"Fifty thousand!" someone called out.
It was hard to see faces in the audience with the bright lights above him, but Solan saw the vampire who made the first bid. He was attractive enough. Tall, broad shouldered with blond hair cut short and neatly parted to the side. Immediately after his bid, a woman's voice called out fifty-five thousand, but she was too far back for Solan to see her.
The bidding went on, but the amounts weren't high enough for Solan. Reaching up, he pulled the pin from his hair. With a slow shake of his head, the long, wavy red locks uncoiled and fell down around his shoulders to his upper back. He leaned his head to the side, letting his hair drape down one side while he bared his neck on the other.
There was a stunned hush before the bidding resumed at a frantic pace. And then a deep voice rose over the shouts of both the bidders and the rapid-fire barking of the auctioneer.
"One hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars."
Solan smiled. Now that was a good bid. He straightened, running his fingers through his hair. He couldn't see the person who'd just bid. They were too far back for him to determine anything other than a tall figure in a dark colored three-piece suit. More bids came in, flying past the one hundred seventy-five thousand dollar offer.
But then that deep voice rang out again with a bid far above any other.
"Three hundred and fifty thousand dollars."
Someone gasped. The auctioneer actually fell silent for a moment. No one offered a competing bid.
After the brief pause, the auctioneer started up again. "I have three hundred and fifty thousand going once. Going twice..."
Solan bit his lip, waiting with breathless anticipation to see if anyone would try to outbid the man in the dark suit that apparently had very deep pockets.
The gavel banged against the podium.
"Sold! Entrant number nine to Mr. Everett for three hundred and fifty thousand dollars! Congratulations, Mr. Everett."
The audience applauded. Solan bowed slightly in the direction of the man who'd just bought him for a ridiculous amount of money. He calmly left the stage, while inwardly jumping with glee at the high price he'd managed to get for himself.
* * *
EVERETT STROLLED THROUGH the club, ensuring that everything was running smoothly for tonight's auction. Cocktail servers moved throughout the room, delivering drinks. Staff members passed out the catalogue of blood pets to bidders who hadn't arrived with their own copy. The catalogue was a glossy book with head shots of the attractive humans up for sale, accompanied by a paragraph listing their attributes and blood type.
Auctions for blood pets fell under sex work in the organization he was a member of and as such were part of his domain. Although he'd only had his own pet a few times over the years, he enjoyed these auctions and the purpose they served. Both parties got what they wanted from them. The pets were paid extremely well in addition to the gifts, clothes, and housing they received from their vampire owners. And the owners had the convenience of a willing human to service their blood needs at all times. With a blood pet, there was no need to use a blood service, purchase blood bags, or troll the nightlife looking for someone to drink from. And if both parties were amenable to it, the vampire and pet could have an intimate relationship as well.
At a starting bid of fifty thousand dollars for each blood pet, only the wealthiest vampires in Dear Lake were able to enter the Club Scarlet auctions and make a purchase. And every buyer was thoroughly vetted. If there were ever any complaints from past pets - physical or emotional abuse, drinking too often, or the discovery of the ultimate crime - draining a blood pet - they were barred from entering Everett's auctions for life. And for vampires, that was a very long time.
There were fifteen humans on the auction block tonight. Everett didn't have any intention of bidding himself. That is, until entrant number nine walked through the curtain. The slim redhead strolled to the center of the stage. He was beautiful, no doubt about it. And the almost haughty expression on his face said that he knew it. From the way many vampires' heartbeats accelerated it was clear that a fierce bidding war was about to begin. The auctioneer opened with the usual starting bid of fifty thousand dollars. Immediately a paddle went up.
Everett didn't enter the bidding. He wasn't in the market for a blood pet. He was too busy. Running the sex trade arm of the Sanguis Syndicate took up a lot of his time. And he was satisfied with the blood service he used. Eric, one of their donors, came to his mansion once a week. Everett fed. Eric left. No muss no fuss. There was no reason for him to bid on this gorgeous young man.
He remained in the shadows, silently watching the process. The bidding was wild, increasing in five thousand dollar increments with such speed that the auctioneer could barely keep up. And then entrant number nine took his hair down. With it loose, Everett saw that it wasn't simply red. It was bright - the color of flames in a winter fireplace with streaks of burnished gold that sparkled under the stage lights. Number nine let those lush, wavy locks swing to the side as he bared the long, pale line of his neck. A momentary hush fell over the crowd before the bidding resumed, even more fast-paced than before. Without consciously planning to, Everett stepped forward.
"One hundred and fifty thousand dollars," he called out.
When a few of the vampires saw who'd bid, they lowered their paddles and settled back in their chairs, dropping out of the bidding war. A few remained however. A brunette woman in a silver evening gown. A blond man in a tweed jacket and cream turtleneck. And a bald vampire with a jeweled monocle tucked against his right eye. Everett was confident that he could beat them all.
He let a few bids go unchallenged before he called out his next offer. "Three hundred and fifty thousand dollars." Shocked silence followed his bid. Yes, he would pay that and more to have access to the strikingly handsome figure on stage for one year. The three who were still bidding conceded by placing their paddles face down in their laps. Everett swept his eyes across the room as the auctioneer called for the final bid. No one moved, every paddle was still.
"Three hundred and fifty thousand dollars going once. Going twice..."
The auctioneer let the anticipation hang in the air. Everett waited patiently.
The lovely redhead bowed in his direction. Everett nodded back, his eyes tracking his new pet as he left the stage. He stayed where he was. An attendant would bring him his prize soon enough.
* * *
BEHIND THE CURTAIN, an auction assistant waited for Solan. At her prompting, he held out his left hand. She clasped a red plastic bracelet labeled with Mr. Everett around his wrist.
"That might have been the highest winning bid we've ever had in the club," she said in awe.
"Really?" Now that he was out of view of the wealthy vampires, he couldn't help but bounce with excitement at the bid amount.
"Yep. And Mr. Everett is awesome. I think you'll have a good time as his blood pet. After you get changed, an assistant will take you to him."
She waved him off and Solan went to the dressing area to change back into his own clothes and return the hair pin. He thanked the stylist for her help.
"Thank you. The hair pin trick worked exactly as I hoped it would."
"You're welcome. Happy to help."
Todd stood up from his stool when he went up to him.
"Holy shit." Todd's green eyes, bright against the warm brown of his skin, were wide with amazement. "I heard how much that guy bid for you. Three hundred and fifty thousand dollars! I hope your blood tastes like Chardonnay for that amount."
Solan laughed. "Come on, it's time to go."
Another staff member waited for him at the exit. They left the back area and she escorted them to his buyer.
"Here you are, Mr. Everett," she said holding out her hand to indicate Solan. After a polite smile at them both, she returned to the back.
Now that Solan was standing directly in front of his buyer, he could see what he looked like. Solan was tall at five ten, but the vampire was a head and then some taller than him. He had dark hair, a neatly trimmed low beard, and crystal blue eyes. Like all vampires, the irises had a dim glow in the dark light of the club and his skin was smooth with a slight, almost golden sheen and not a single blemish. He looked to be about thirty-five, but there was no way to tell how long he'd actually been alive. And the way he wore that three-piece suit. It should look stuffy, but on him the style was stern yet elegant. The man gave off an air of danger, making a shiver run down Solan's spine. He wondered if it was simply because he was a vampire or if he was a criminal of some sort. Maybe it was both. Regardless, this man was gorgeous. It almost made Solan regret what he was about to do.
"Hello entrant number nine."
The vampire nodded. "Solan. Hello. Shall we sit down and discuss-."
Solan cut him off. "Actually, I came to tell you that I won't be going home with you tonight or any other night. I only entered the auction for fun."
A dark eyebrow rose.
"Yeah. I wanted to see what it was like."
"I've already paid the auction fee and I'm prepared to transfer your initial payment of the bid amount to the holding account set up for you."
"I can refund you that fee," Solan said with an unconcerned shrug. "And I don't need the money you would have paid me." He signaled to his driver to come over, who up to that point had been standing near the entrance to the club. "Isaac, make a transfer to Mr. Everett's account for the auction fee. I believe it's five percent of the winning bid so seventeen thousand five hundred dollars."
The driver pulled out his phone.
"Sir, what name and account would you like me to send the transfer to?"
"I don't want his money," Mr. Everett said in a tight voice.
Solan shrugged. If the guy didn't want a refund, he wasn't going to force him to take it. "Okay, then. Well, it was nice to meet you, Mr. Everett. Bye!" Figuring a quick exit was the best strategy, he grabbed Todd's hand and pulled him along to the club's exit. Once they were outside, he laughed as they ran to the car.
"Can you believe it?" he breathlessly asked. "Three hundred and fifty thousand dollars for a vampire to be my sugar daddy and drink my blood for a year." Solan leaned against the car door, waiting for their driver to catch up.
Todd reprimanded him but he was grinning too. "That was wild. You know that vampire is probably pissed that you backed out of your contract."
"Maybe. But it was worth it. That was the most excitement I've had in months."
* * *
EVERETT WATCHED AS the beautiful young man disappeared from his club. "Who is he?" he asked the driver. He could wait and find out the identity of the redheaded minx who'd left him high and dry from the catalogue later but he wanted to know who he was right now.
"Solan Kane," the stocky middle-aged man answered. "Younger brother of Nora Kane of the Kane family."
Everett recognized the name. "Thank you," he said with a nod.
The driver excused himself and followed after his employer.
Although Everett was angry at the stunt Solan had pulled in his club, his fangs sharpened with excitement at the thought of chasing him down. Solan didn't know it, but he'd just become his prey. And he would be fulfilling the contract to become his blood pet.
Warren, a fellow boss of the Sanguis Syndicate, came over from the bar with a drink in his hand. "What the hell just happened?"
"Apparently, I won a blood pet who had no intention of fulfilling his contract."
Warren's dark eyebrows shot up. "You're kidding."
"And you just let him go?"
Everett cast his friend a look.
"Ah, I see." Warren grinned. "Good luck on your hunt."
One of the vampires who'd been bidding against Everett for Solan - Rupert Davies, the monocle wearing one - joined them.
"I overheard what entrant number nine said. Unbelievable! Are humans allowed to enter the auctions as a lark?"
"No, they are not."
Rupert put a beringed hand to his chest, shaking his head as if he were completely scandalized. "I think I'm glad I lost out on that one. I wouldn't want the hassle of dealing with this situation. But I'm sure you'll take care of it."
Indeed, he would. He knew who Solan was. Which meant he knew where he would be. He would deal with him later. Right now, he had an auction to run.
And so it begins! What do you all think? Solan is a cheeky little thing isn't he? I hope he's ready for Everett to track him down. I'll be posting Chapter 2 next Friday and Blood Kiss releases August 9th in ebook and paperback. I hope you're looking forward to it!
My rambling and not at all edited thoughts on romance novels, writing, and pop culture.