Hello, Gentle Readers! This week I'm back with Chapter 2 of Blood Kiss - my upcoming M/M Vampire Mafia Romance. If you missed Chapter 1, scroll down to the post below this one. This is an advanced look and not the final edited and proofed copy so there may be a few mistakes. Okay, please enjoy Everett and Solan's next meeting!
Copyright Christa Tomlinson July 2022
The next evening, Everett set the wheels in motion to collect his runaway blood pet. He called Harumi, his second in command, into his office.
She came in, tablet in hand and heels rhythmically tapping on the glossy black marble floor.
"Harumi, get me Nora Kane's personal number. And what's the best time in my schedule tonight for a meeting?"
"I can reschedule the quarterly drinks and payoff meeting with the captain of the vice squad. That frees up the nine o'clock hour."
"Do it." He hated those anyway. The vice-captain only wanted to meet in person so he could brag to his fellow crooked cop cronies that he regularly met with a mob boss vampire. But keeping him happy was essential. Because although the blood pet auctions were legal, there were many other Sanguis Syndicate enterprises that were not. A happy vice-captain kept the vice squad off his back.
Harumi nodded. "Give me a minute and I'll have Ms. Kane on the line. I'll speak with the captain myself."
Barely a minute after Harumi left the room, his desktop phone beeped and his receptionist's pleasant voice came through the speaker.
"Mr. Everett, Ms. Kane is holding for you."
"Thank you, Nancy." He pushed the button to accept the call. "Hello, Ms. Kane."
"Mr. Everett. To what do I owe the pleasure of your call?"
"I believe I met your brother last night. A redhead named Solan?"
"Yes, that is my little brother. What is he up to now?"
"That's what I'd like to come by tonight and discuss."
There was a brief pause before she answered.
"Of course. What time is good for you?"
"I have an opening at nine o'clock."
"Then I'll see you at nine."
They said their goodbyes. Everett set the phone back in its cradle and leaned back in his chair. He was one step closer to claiming his pet.
Solan sat curled up in one of the home theater room's big recliners. He was dressed warmly in a hoodie and sweatpants and a fire crackled in the fireplace to ward off the chill of the Michigan winter night. He had the bracelet from the night before in his hand. Mr. Everett. Remembering Mr. Everett’s tall build and aura of danger, Solan wondered what it would have been like to actually become that vampire's blood pet.
He wasn't normally one to fantasize about vampires and being bitten. Since the veil that hid the supernatural had dropped thirty-two years ago, vampires had always been a part of the world he lived in. They, along with werewolves, and other creatures previously thought of as myth, weren't exactly full-fledged members of human society. But they were an everyday part of life.
It wasn't unusual to go through the check-out line at Wal-Mart at ten o'clock at night and have a vampire as a cashier. There were whole areas of the city run by them. While some humans loved the excitement and danger of interacting with that world, Solan usually didn't give it much thought.
But now, he couldn't stop thinking of Mr. Everett, the dark-haired vampire with an aura of unmistakable power. The man clearly had deep pockets. He'd probably bid on and won another blood pet after he realized he couldn't have Solan.
The theater room door opened and Solan looked back over his shoulder, thinking it was Todd arriving for their planned double-feature movie night. But it was his sister. Her red hair - the same color as his but straightened and cut into a sharp bob - gleamed under the lights. And even this late after the dinner hour she was still immaculately dressed in a lavender sweater and gray slacks.
"Do you want to tell me why Mr. Everett, one of the bosses from the Sanguis Syndicate is coming here in an hour to talk to me about you?" she asked as she came down the aisle.
"Oh, is that who he was?" The man's commanding vibe suddenly made sense. "No wonder he could afford that bid."
Solan sat up straight and swung his feet to the floor. "Don't get mad."
Nora crossed her arms over her chest in what he thought of as her stern big sister pose.
"I'm already mad."
"I went to a vampire club and entered one of their blood pet auctions. Mr. Everett placed the winning bid for me." He held up the red plastic bracelet to show her, twirling it around his index finger.
"You did what?" She stared at the bracelet, her eyes wide with shock.
"I just wanted to see what it was like. Todd went with me and we had fun. Plus, I set a record for the highest winning bid in the club's auction history. Not bad for the Kane genes, huh?" he asked with a grin.
"Oh my God." She unfolded her arms from their crossed pose and pressed a hand to her forehead.
"What's the big deal? I'm not really going to be some vamp's blood pet. I offered to pay the auction fee but he said no. I guess he changed his mind and he wants his money."
Nora dropped her hand from her forehead to glare at him. "Do you really think he's coming over here to collect a refund for a goddamn service charge?"
Now Solan frowned. "He can't make me be his blood pet."
"What world have you been living in all your life where the strong don't make the weak do what they want?"
She had a point. "But we're not exactly weak." His sister was the head of the Kane family, one of the top five human crime organizations in all of Michigan. That gave them no small amount of power.
"We're not. But we're also not in a position to go up against the Sanguis Syndicate. They could wipe us out over your little prank if they wanted to."
"Shit." Solan was starting to think his fun little lark might not have been the best idea. "I didn't think it would be that serious."
"You never do. You'd better hope we can figure a way out of this. And be prepared to grovel and apologize."
She spun on the heel of her chic flats and left the room.
* * *
Everett rode in the backseat of the Maybach as they drove to the Kane estate. Harumi sat next to him. They used the time to work until the car stopped at a set of steel gates embellished with a gold letter K on each side.
"We're here," Everett said to Harumi.
The driver pressed a button on a call box and spoke into the speaker. After a moment, the gates opened and their driver proceeded through them. They drove down a long, tree-lined drive until they reached the Kane home. The mansion was beautiful, fitting for a family that had been in power in Michigan for decades. And somewhere inside that mansion was the young man Everett hadn't been able to stop thinking about since he'd seen him on stage.
His driver parked the car. He came around to open the door and Everett stepped out, followed by Harumi. The two of them went up a short set of stone steps, where the door was already open and a woman stood waiting.
Everett knew immediately she was Solan's sister. They had the same titian red hair and they shared similar facial features. But while Solan's eyes were a deep indigo blue, his sister's were a clear, amber brown.
"Mr. Everett. Welcome to my home," she said with a polite smile.
"Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, Ms. Kane. I know how busy you must be."
"It was no trouble at all. And please, call me Nora."
"And call me Everett." He gestured to the petite woman by his side. "This is Harumi, my second in command."
Welcome," Nora said as the two women shook hands. "Let's talk in the library."
She led them to a large room with two walls covered by floor to ceiling bookcases filled with books. Turkish rugs in patterns of red, blue, and gold warmed the hardwood floors. And there were several arrangements of chocolate brown leather seating. She waved them to a couch and took the chair across from them.
"Can I offer either of you anything to eat or drink?"
They both declined. Nora nodded at the servant waiting by the library entrance. At her signal, the woman stepped outside the room and closed the door.
Nora settled back in her chair, legs crossed at the knee, one arm draped over the arm rest. Her posture was relaxed and confident but her gaze was sharp.
"I have a little of the story from Solan but if you don't mind, Everett, I'd like to hear all of it from you."
"Last night, Solan entered one of the blood pet auctions that I host at Club Scarlet. Blood pets agree to serve as exclusive blood donors to the vampire that purchases them for one year. Most live with their owners during that year for the convenience. I placed the winning bid for Solan. When I met with him to make arrangements for our new relationship, he informed me that he'd only entered the auction for the experience and had no intention of honoring his commitment. He left after I refused his offer to refund me the auction fee I'd already paid."
"That sounds like something Solan would do." She leaned forward and clasped her hands together atop her knee. "Perhaps he didn't understand the gravity of such a spur of the moment decision during a wild evening out with his friends."
Everett shook his head. "I'm afraid that's not the case. In order to ensure that all of our blood pets are physically and mentally healthy and not embroiled in any legal issues, we require them to apply - a process that started several weeks ago. We run blood tests, background checks, etc. Which means, he's known for some time what he was getting into. And he signed a contract well in advance of the event."
Harumi opened the leather portfolio she carried and took out a printed copy of the contract. She passed it over for Nora to read.
Nora quickly scanned the document, stopping at the bottom where her brother's signature scrawled big and bold next to his typed name. "I see." She leaned forward to the coffee table between them and pressed a button on the call box that sat there. A second later the library door opened.
"Yes, Ms. Kane?"
"Please let Solan know that I want to see him in here immediately."
When Nora looked back at Everett, her expression was still polite, but there were tight lines of restrained anger bracketing her mouth. "We'll get this taken care of," she said firmly.
They waited silently until the door opened again.
Everett's heartbeat quickened when Solan walked into the room and went to stand next to his sister's chair. The humans wouldn't notice it but Harumi surely did. She didn't react however. This young man was gorgeous. But it was more than that. Something about him called to Everett. Being in his presence set sparks of awareness dancing over his skin. If it were anyone else who'd pulled this stunt, he might have been content with letting them off by paying the auction fees and apologizing. But he wanted Solan. And he was going to have him.
"Solan. Mr. Everett has just informed me of the extensive process you completed before you entered his auction."
Solan looked wary. "I had to fill out a few forms."
"And take a blood test and get a background check. That seems like an awful lot of effort to undertake for a joke."
"I know and I'm sorry." He turned to Everett with his eyes big and imploring. "I apologize Mr. Everett. I realize now that what I did was out of line. I wasted your time and resources. I swear it won't happen again."
Everett thought Solan was cute. He stood with his hands clasped in front him, a sincere expression on his face. But the rhythm of his heartbeat was steady - not the rapid pace of someone worried or nervous. And Everett had caught a flash of defiance in his eyes before he'd hidden it. Two clues that told Everett that Solan wasn't as sorry as he outwardly appeared. Not that it mattered. He wasn't letting him off the hook with an apology.
"While I appreciate the sincerity of your apology, I don't want to set a precedent that our auctions are something for humans to come and gawk at like tourists. Or have them start entering them in bad faith as part of a fun night out on the town. We take them seriously, as they are vital to our survival. My clients need to know that when they bid on a blood pet, they will get what they pay for without any hassle. Because of that, I have to insist that Solan follow through on what he signed up for."
At Everett's insistence that he honor his commitment, Solan instantly dropped his contrite pose. That spark of defiance burned bright in his indigo eyes, no longer hidden behind pretend humility. Everett inwardly smiled. The young man clearly wasn't used to not getting his way.
"I understand your position," Nora said.
"And of course, there is the matter of someone from your house insulting the Sanguis Syndicate," Everett added smoothly.
Nora didn't outwardly react, but Everett picked up the tiny increase in her heart rate.
"I can find someone else to take my place," Solan said. "I'm sure there's lots of people out there who would love to be your blood pet. And I'll pay their salary for the year myself."
"Would that work, Mr. Everett?"
Nora had asked the question, but Everett kept his eyes on Solan when he answered. "No."
Solan's eyes narrowed and his blood started pumping faster. He was mad, without a doubt. Everett had to keep his fangs from sharpening hearing that delicious rush of hot liquid flowing through the redhead's veins.
"I won't accept a substitute. However, I can offer a compromise."
"And that is?"
He returned his attention to Nora. "Instead of the full year he signed up for I'll accept Solan as my blood pet for three months. After that, I'll consider his obligation met. He will also be banned for life from returning to Club Scarlet and from entering any Sanguis Syndicate run blood pet auctions to prevent this from happening again."
Nora leaned back in her chair, considering. It was a good offer and she knew it. The Kane family wouldn't be able to stand against him and his people if he decided to retaliate with violence. She clearly wanted to protect her brother. But if she was smart - and she had to be as the head of a large criminal organization - she wouldn't risk a war over his folly.
"I think that's a fair compromise," she said finally.
Solan however, didn't agree.
"Are you actually agreeing to this?" Solan balled up his fists, his face flushing red with anger.
Nora snapped around to face her brother, her blunt cut bob swinging with the sharp movement. "Yes! You got yourself into this, Solan. Maybe now you'll start accepting that there are consequences for your actions."
Solan scowled at her for a moment. Then, he threw Everett a furious glare before he stormed from the library.
"I'm sorry about his behavior," Nora said once he was gone. "Our parents died when he was young and I've spoiled him ever since. That's not an excuse but an explanation."
"That's understandable. We do whatever we can to protect the ones in our care. You're older than him, right?"
"Yes. By ten years." Nora looked down at the contract again. "I cannot believe he-." She cut herself off with a shake of her head and passed the contract back to Harumi. "I accept your compromise and Solan will honor it."
She held out a hand and Everett reached forward to take it, sealing the compromise with a handshake. But before she released his hand, Nora's demeanor abruptly changed. She was suddenly fierce, her posture stiff and her gaze direct and hard.
"You won't hurt him?"
Everett understood what she was asking. And in that piercing gaze, he saw the woman who'd been in charge of a large criminal organization since she was in her twenties. He knew if he didn't answer to her satisfaction, the deal was off the table.
"I will not," he solemnly promised. "I only want him to uphold his contracted agreement. And even with that, I will wait until he is comfortable."
"I appreciate that," she said. She let his hand go, her shoulders relaxing.
"Let him take tonight to pack. I'll send for him tomorrow evening."
The meeting over, all three of them rose.
"I'm going to leave someone out front," Everett said as they crossed the foyer. "I trust you to uphold our agreement. It's your brother I'm concerned about."
"That's probably for the best. He snuck out of the house on more than one occasion when he was a teenager. But don't worry. I'll make sure he's here and ready to go tomorrow evening. And again, I apologize for the trouble he's caused."
Everett didn't doubt that causing trouble was Solan's forte and that he would continue to do so once he was under Everett's roof. Lucky for him, he was actually looking forward to it.
* * *
"So, what happened?"
Todd had arrived while he and Nora were waiting for the vampire to show up. They'd blown off their movie plans in favor of going up to his bedroom to speculate on what was going to happen once he got there. Solan had left Todd sitting in the window seat when he'd gone downstairs. He was in the same spot when he returned to his room.
"He wouldn't agree to let me out of the contract. But he offered a compromise."
"I only have to be his blood pet for three months. After that time is up, he'll release me, but I'm banned from entering his club and auctions for life."
"Are you going to do it?"
Solan wanted to say no. He really did. But he nodded in answer to Todd's question. "Yeah. I don't want to make any trouble for my sister. This isn't her fault. And he made it clear he considered what I did an insult to the Sanguis Syndicate by the Kane family. So, he'll definitely retaliate in some way if I don't agree to it."
"Wow. You're going to live with a vampire and let him drink your blood every night. That's hot."
"Shut up." Solan grabbed a pillow from the bed and threw it at Todd, who laughed and caught it. "It's not hot. And it won't be every night unless he wants me to pass out from anemia."
Someone knocked on the door.
"Come in!" he called out. The door opened. Solan wasn't surprised when his sister walked in.
"I did hope to be able to negotiate your way out of that. But with your signed contract and him concerned about both his business and saving face there wasn't much I could do. You understand why I had to agree, don't you?"
"Yeah, I do. I may not act like I have a brain some of the time-."
"All of the time," Todd muttered behind him.
"But I understand how our world works. Heaven forbid a crime boss have his honor besmirched," he said rolling his eyes. "I guess I wasn't thinking beyond the fun of it. I'm sorry for potentially bringing trouble down on your head."
Solan reached out to give her a hug. He loved his big sister more than anyone. She'd raised him along with taking on the massive challenge of becoming head of the Kane family after their parents' death. Solan knew he was a brat who frequently exasperated her, but he'd never caused her this much aggravation. Thankfully, she didn't seem to be mad at him. She returned his hug, giving him a tight squeeze.
"Good. And as a crime boss myself, I'd have done the same thing if I were in his shoes." She leaned back and flicked the tip of his nose. "Troublemaker."
"Ouch." Solan grumbled and rubbed his nose.
Nora grinned. She let him go, moving to the door. "He'll be here tomorrow evening to pick you up so you need to be packed and ready to go by then."
"Don't leave the house until he arrives. He left a guard behind to watch you and I don't want there to be any issues because of a misunderstanding about where you were going."
After Solan agreed to stay put, she left the room, closing the door behind her.
Solan groaned and went to stand in front of his walk-in closet. For a rich person, he didn't own much. Recent drama with a vampire aside, his life was normally fairly simple. He preferred to stay out of organized crime society with their parties and social life that let them pretend they were some sort of aristocrats and therefore had no use for fancy clothes.
"What the hell am I supposed to take to go and live with a vampire crime boss for three months? I own club clothes, jeans, and sweats."
"Whatever you do, make sure you pack your nice underwear," Todd teased with a grin.
Solan snorted. "All my underwear are nice. But unless he's doing my laundry, Mr. Everett won't ever be blessed enough to see them."
What do you think of Chapter 2? I loved Everett calmly going after what he wanted while Solan brattily tried to get out of it. Next week, Chapter 3! Blood Kiss is available for pre-order on Amazon for a special .99 pre-order price. Or, you can get it in Kindle Unlimited on August 9th. Be sure to add Blood Kiss on Goodreads. And I would greatly appreciate it if you shelved it as a vampire romance. And last, don't forget to sign up for the Christa Tomlinson newsletter so you'll be notified when Blood Kiss is available.
Thank you for reading!
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