Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired to write in this particular genre?
I’ve always been a huge fan of vampires. From the classics, like Dracula and Anne Rice, and the dark contemporaries, like Laurell K. Hamilton and Chloe Neil, to big blockbuster hits, like Twilight, Underworld, Blade, and Buffy, I love them all. For me, it’s not so much the temptation of forbidden love or flirting with death and the dark side—although there is that as well; it’s about discovering the truth beneath the surface of a person and realizing that behind the face of the monster is a man.
What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to write a vampire romance in which the vampires were more animal than man. In many vampire novels, the vampires are flawlessly beautiful, but considering they are “undead” and survive on a diet of blood, I wanted to emphasize their monstrous side. So I gave my vampires a “day form” in which they become hideous, gargoyle-like creatures with pointed ears, protruding foreheads, flattened nostrils, back-hinged legs and long, lethal talons until they feed. Also, they may partially or fully transform in a fit of rage or bloodlust. The ability for vampires to transform into a creature was important to me, especially while developing the theme of discovering the man behind the monster (and conversely, discovering the monster behind the man.) Although in some cases, appearances are exactly what they seem, which is why separating fact from fiction can be so difficult, especially when the person you’re trying to understand prefers to keep the facts of their existence secret.
Please tell us about your latest release.
Eternal Reign is the third book in the Night Blood series, starring Cassidy DiRocco, a crime reporter who discovers the existence of vampires living beneath New York City during a murder investigation. Dominic Lysander, Master Vampire of New York City, teams up with Cassidy on multiple occasions, first to stop the murderer terrorizing New York City and unwittingly betraying the existence of vampires (The City Beneath), and then to find Cassidy’s missing brother, Nathan DiRocco, after discovering he, too, was likely a night blood like Cassidy, a human with the rare blood type capable of transforming into a vampire (Sweet Last Drop). In Eternal Reign, the vampire who betrayed Dominic and was responsible for Nathan’s disappearance is back and challenging Dominic for his position as Master.
Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another?
One of my more difficult characters to write is Ronnie Carmichael. Of all my characters, Ronnie goes through the most transformation and growth, and plotting the nuances of her struggle, and how it affects my main characters, has been a delicate, interesting challenge.
Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others?
My favorite character to write is Bex. I love her wit and fire and most of all, I love matching her eye patch to her outrageously sexy outfits. She might use beauty to mask her pain, but what better way to make her enemies drop to their knees? Maybe I love her so much because she’s the embodiment of sexy strength I only wish I could be.
What is your favorite scene from the book? Could you share a little bit of it, without spoilers of course?
I emerged from the rooftop access staircase of my new, vampire-proofed apartment, and Dominic was lounging in my hammock.
I glared down at his reclined form and crossed my arms. “Don’t get comfortable. This is one of the few nights I have with Meredith, and I don’t want to waste it.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “You see Meredith every day. Sometimes you see her every night.”
“I work with Meredith every day. We’re hanging out tonight. There’s a difference.”
“So there is,” Dominic patted the miniscule space in the hammock next to him.
I shook my head. “I believe that would constitute getting comfortable.”
Dominic leveled his eyes on me, those otherworldly, icy blue eyes. They often looked through me, seeing my innermost fears and desires, more than they looked at me, but they looked at me now. He knew how I felt about him. He didn’t need proof of it by reading my mind when he could taste it on my skin, feel it like a wood-burning stove wafting from my thoughts, smell it in the cadence of my breath. He knew, but I’m sure the confirmation of it on Technicolor display was gratifying, too.
He grinned, confirming my suspicions. “Would getting comfortable really be so bad?”
I nodded. Dominic was my friend but that didn’t change who and what he was. “Getting comfortable could be deadly,” I said.
“Being comfortable and becoming complacent are two very different things, and I would never accuse you of complacency,” He cocked his head, smiling. “Is this a hard, fast rule of yours, remaining uncomfortable?”
I sighed, knowing from experience what was coming next. “No, it’s not a hard, fast rule. It’s more of a personal preference.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “You prefer to remain uncomfortable?”
I rolled my eyes. “Fine. A cautionary measure.”
He growled. The low rattle was deep and predatory, but it didn’t have anything to do with anger.
Involuntarily, I took a step back.
“Cassidy DiRocco,” Dominic rumbled through the growl. I could feel my mind perk at the call of my name, like how a dog cocks its ears forward to receive the next command. I envisioned a silver framed mirror protecting my mind, like he’d taught me, but I knew that it wouldn’t work against him. Not anymore.
“Come here, and lay next to me in this hammock,” he commanded.
Instantly and uncontrollably, I stepped forward. I went to him as he commanded, my actions not my own, and laid next to him in the hammock. To my credit, I laid opposite him, but that was only because he hadn’t specified the exact position I should lay.
Dominic shook his head at me from across the hammock, his lips tugging into a reluctant smirk. “Even now, you’re impossibly obstinate.”
I smiled. “Thank you.”
“Did you envision something to reflect my command? Did you try to protect your mind?”
“Of course. I didn’t just lamely await your command,” I scoffed.
His lips twitched. “Well, besides your stubbornness in refusing to lay ‘next to me,’ I didn’t sense any resistance from you. Not like I used to,” he added softly.
I sighed. “You didn’t see my mirror?”
He shook his head.
“When I spoke to Dr. Chunn, she mentioned that the female body typically takes sixteen weeks to replenish blood cells after donation. It’s possible that—”
“We don’t have sixteen weeks,” Dominic interrupted. “It’s been over a week since your blood transfusion. My Leveling is in five days, and if you haven’t regained the advantages of your night blood by now, it won’t matter if you regain them sixteen days or sixteen years from now. We need them for the Leveling.”
“I’m sorry my recovery isn’t on your schedule,” I snapped.
“Me too,” Dominic said gravely. “If you don’t have them for the Leveling, I need to consider an alternate plan to protect my position as Master.”
I crossed my arms. “It’s not my fault that this happened. I didn’t ask for a blood transfusion. I didn’t want to lose what little protection I had against you and the other vampires. I was unconscious, I was dying, and the doctors were just trying to save my life. They succeeded, if you haven’t noticed, but you’ve been less than grateful.”
“You’re damn right I’m less than grateful. If I was there I could have—”
“But you weren’t,” I interrupted. “You weren’t there, and the doctors did the best they knew how.”
Dominic looked away. “I’m just telling you what must be done.”
“And what exactly must be done?” I demanded. “What are you saying?”
He stared off into the distance, across the expanse of city lights. We couldn’t see the stars here, not like I could upstate when I visited Walker last week, but I’d missed the city. I’d missed the bustle and life and conveniences I’d taken for granted, like streetlights and taxis and the absence of wild animals. I’d especially taken for granted the protection of Dominic’s presence.
Before my visit upstate, I’d felt constricted by his visits and considered his limitless reach an unwanted invasion of my personal, physical, and mental boundaries.
Until he’d been out of reach.
I would have died upstate without Dominic, killed by my own brother when he didn’t know anything but how to kill. When I’d needed Dominic most, despite the risk and distance and my own reluctance, he came.
I stared at the scarred side of Dominic’s face as he continued studying the expanse of city below us, and I had the sudden, insane, urgent impulse to kiss those luscious, imperfect lips. In this form, his lips were the only feature that was imperfect, and I cherished that reminder of his former life, a life in which despite our age, gender, and moral differences, was very similar to my own in the fact that we were at one time both night bloods and bore the physical reminders of our mistakes.
He met my gaze, and I looked away, embarrassed by my thoughts and urges. We wanted two very different futures for ourselves and this city, but the one want we agreed upon—very recently and only sometimes, although with increasing and alarming regularity—was his lips against mine. He hadn’t kissed me since that crazy moment upstate in Erin, New York, when I’d been high on his blood, but I thought about that moment every day since. I’d relived the smell of his longing and the heat of his breath and the demand of his lips in the quiet solitude of my hammock on this very roof every night.
But I wasn’t alone tonight.
I forced myself to meet his gaze. By the intensity in his eyes, I didn’t need my night blood back to know that he thought about that moment as often and with as much longing as I did.
“I’ve never faced a situation quite like this before,” he said. When he finally spoke, his voice was coarse, like he needed to clear his throat. “A human knows of our existence, knows about me and the inner workings and location of my coven intimately, and I have allowed her memory to remain intact. If my coven knew, if the Day Reapers found out, it would ruin me.”
I frowned. “Who are you talking about?”
Dominic blinked at me. “My dear, Cassidy DiRocco, I’m talking about you.”
“Oh,” I said. I remained quiet, waiting for his next words. My gut churned; I didn’t like the direction this conversation was headed. “You’re asking me my preference?”
He knew my preference, and if he didn’t, he didn’t know me as well as I thought he did. “I’d prefer to keep my memory.” I gave him a look. “Obviously.”
“Think on it, Cassidy. Without your night blood, you have no protection against other vampires, and if I don’t survive the Leveling, Jillian will come for you. She knows where your loyalties lie. She will not tolerate you or any of my supporters, but if you no longer remember me or her or any of us, if you don’t know that vampires even exist, she may allow you to live. You might be able to carry on with your life as you did before we met. Isn’t that what you truly want?”
I shook my head. “What I truly want is for vampires to not exist at all, but they do. To pretend anything else would be a lie, and didn’t you once say that I’m in the business of exposing the truth?”
“I have no interest in living a lie, no matter how pretty that lie is. You know me better than that, or at least I thought you did.”
“I suspected you would say as much, but knowing what may become of me and also knowing what Jillian may do to you, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least offer that option.”
“Wiping my memory doesn’t ensure my safety anyway,” I argued. “If Jillian comes for me, I want to know exactly why she’s here and why I’m being killed. I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done for you or Nathan, so if Jillian wants to kill me for it, that’s her prerogative. I don’t want to forget it happened.”
Dominic reached across his body and touched my ankle. “You say that now, but you may sing a different tune when she breaks you. I couldn’t bear to witness your suffering.”
“You won’t be witness to anything. If Jillian comes for me, you’ll already be dead.”
He leveled a look on me. “I couldn’t bear the thought—”
I pulled my foot from his hand. “Save it. You watched Kaden break me. Literally limb by limb, you sat back and watched him break every bone in my body as he tortured me to get to you.”
“I intervened before he went too far,” Dominic growled.
I laughed. “Your threshold for ‘too far’ is way higher than mine.”
“We did what was necessary for the bigger picture.”
“That’s exactly what I’m asking you to do now. If you fail, Jillian won’t just come after me. New York City as we know it will be devastated. Vampires will be exposed. People will need someone who knows what the hell’s going on. I can be that person.”
Dominic was quiet for a long moment, so long that maybe he was reconsidering his stance on allowing me to keep my memory. I bit my lip.
“Letting me keep my memory is the bigger picture,” I said softly. “For humanity.” I winced inwardly. Even I could tell that was pushing it a little too far.
“Allowing you to keep your memory puts you at risk, but it also puts me and my coven at risk,” Dominic finally said.
“That’s typical!” I snapped, exasperated. “As usual, your coven comes first, even before common sense. This was never my choice at all, was it?”
“No! If you think I’m going to agree to let you wipe my memory for the benefit of the coven, you’ve lost your mind. I’m not letting you off the hook so you can feel better about mind-raping me. I’m not agreeing to this. I’m not your martyr!”
Dominic’s face tightened. “If you would shut up and listen—”
“Screw you,” I snapped.
Dominic was suddenly on top of me, his hands grasping my shoulders, his body pressing across my body, his face in my face. “I’m not going to wipe your memory!”
I blinked up at him. Squished into the hammock from his weight on top of mine, I could barely breathe, let alone think. “Oh,” I said. “But you said—”
“I said for you to shut up and listen.” His voice was a growl, and I could feel the hard proof of his anger and excitement dig into my hip. He was a vampire and he was dangerous—there was no denying the facts of his existence—but in many ways, he was still very much a man. Lately, he seemed determined to remind me of that fact, too.
I shut my mouth.
“Are you listening now?”
“Allowing you to keep your memory compromises the security of me and my coven, so I need you to promise me that you will keep our secret. Promise me that you will not expose our existence before Jillian does, that you will only acknowledge our existence after I’m gone, after she makes vampires a known threat to humanity.”
I glared at him. It was impossible to impress an advantage from my prone position beneath him, but I glared anyway. “I don’t want to expose your existence,” I denied, “but if your existence is going to be exposed anyway, I—”
He put up a hand. “You don’t want to be out-scooped. I understand, but this isn’t your career on the line. It’s your life.”
“My career is my life,” I grumbled.
“Not anymore. To survive, you need Jillian to take the fall for exposing us.”
“Why? What’s the harm in writing my article if she’s going to expose you anyway?”
“It matters because when the Day Reapers come, and believe me, they will come, they will come for her and not you.”
I closed my mouth. I hadn’t considered the Day Reapers. Dominic spoke of them like boogiemen in the shadows, reigning justice and order over our heads, but I’d never experienced their wrath. From the horror of Dominic’s own personal experiences with them, I wanted to keep it that way.
“Promise me,” he insisted.
I sighed. “I promise.”
He opened his mouth.
“I promise by the certainty of time that I will not expose the existence of vampires before Jillian,” I clarified. “I promise to keep your secret until it’s already exposed.”
“What’s another bond here and there when you’re already linked for life, right?”
“Right.” He eased his grip on my shoulders and laid next to me the way he’d intended for me to lay next to him. “Kiss me before I leave.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Is that a request or a command?”
“If I’d commanded you, your lips would already be pressed against mine instead of arguing with me, would they not?”
I pursed my lips.
“Almost, but not quite. You need more of a pucker.”
I smacked his shoulder. “And why in the world would I do that?”
“I want to say goodbye. I need to make other arrangements to secure my standing in the coven since my original plan has failed me, and I need a token of courage to give me strength.”
I placed a fist over my heart. “Ouch.”
He crooked his finger at me, beckoning me.
“That’s a reason why you should kiss me, not why I should kiss you.”
Dominic raised an eyebrow. “I should kiss you because I ache for you.” He pressed against me again, as if I wasn’t already perfectly clear on the part of his anatomy that was aching.
I nudged him away with my shoulder. “If it’s just physical satisfaction you’re looking for, I’ll pass.”
Dominic groaned and flopped back on the hammock to gaze at the sky. “You’re insufferable. What about allowing you to keep your memory is just physical satisfaction?”
I rolled my eyes. “If you’re looking for a thank you for allowing me to keep something I already have the right to keep, then fine. Thank you,” I said snottily.
“Wiping your memory was never truly an option. I just needed to ensure that you’d considered all of your options. That we were, as you say, on the same damn page.”
I couldn’t help but smile. He really did listen to me when I spoke. “And why is wiping my memory not an option? Not that I want to encourage you, but it’s the option I’d thought you’d prefer.”
“If I wiped your memory of vampires, I’d be wiping your memory of my existence. Of everything I can and can’t bear, everything I’d do for the bigger picture and for my coven, I could never do that.”
I stared at him, trying to determine the truth in his words.
He gave me a long look. “I can’t bear that you forget my name on command. I can’t imagine you forgetting me entirely.” He made a strange noise in the back of his throat that clogged my own. “It’s unthinkable.”
I touched the scar on his chin and urged his face toward mine. He looked at me, wary now that I’d pissed him off, but still willing.
“I’m sorry that I can’t help you on the Leveling. I really am. And I’m grateful that you’re allowing me to keep my memory, that you’re choosing me over your coven. I understand how big that is.”
“But you and I, whatever this is between us, is wrong. I’m human, and you’re—”
“And I’m a monster,” he interrupted bitterly.
“And you’re a vampire,” I said firmly.
“It’s just a kiss.”
I laughed. “With you, it’s never just anything.”
His focus honed on my lips, and my laugh died from the seriousness of his expression. I wanted him. God help me—vampire or not, monster or not—I wanted to kiss him.
“Tell me you don’t want to kiss me,” he demanded.
“Stop reading my thoughts,” I snapped.
“I’m not. I’m reading your expression. Say it,” he urged.
I shook my head. “I want to kiss you, damn it. But that’s not the point—”
“That’s exactly the point,” he growled. Dominic took my acknowledgement as permission, and he kissed me.
And damn me, I kissed him back.
Can you tell readers a little bit about the world building in the book/series? How does this world differ from our normal world?
In the Night Blood series, vampires live in secret in a city of their own beneath New York City, and only certain humans with night blood are capable of transforming into a vampire after being drained and given blood from a Master vampire. Should a less powerful vampire attempt to transform a night blood, the transformation results in a Damned vampire, a ravenous, mindless creature whose only instinct is to hunt, murder, and eat human hearts. In Eternal Reign, the means in which a less powerful vampire might transform a night blood into one of the Damned becomes crucial, especially as Dominic, Master Vampire of New York City, looses his power and strength during the Leveling, the one night every seven years that a new leader has the potential to rise, kill the current Master, and take his place, but when the new Master wants to reveal the existence to vampires to the world… chaos ensues.
With the book being part of a series, are there any character or story arcs, that readers jumping in somewhere other than the first book, need to be aware of? Can these books be read as stand alones?
The Night Blood series is more a serial than a series, meaning that the main characters remain the same main characters throughout each book, like Harry Potter and Twilight. You could read them out of order, as each book has it’s own individual plot and resolution, but the overall growth of the characters and their relationships spans across all four books.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
The only cure for writers block is more writing. Sometimes I’ll change where I’m writing; typically I write in my office, but if I’m having trouble, I might try writing outside or at the park or at the library. Sometimes changing how I’m writing helps; I’ll try writing by hand or on my phone. Most of the time, I’ll skip to a different scene or even write the ending. Many times if I can more clearly see where I’m going, I can more easily write what happens in between to get there. But no matter what, I never stop writing.
Do you write in different genres?
I wrote a new adult contemporary romance and an adult contemporary romance before publishing the Night Blood series. Although I never published those first two books, I learned a lot about myself and my craft by writing those manuscripts.
Do you find it difficult to write in multiple genres?
No, I find it refreshing, like going on vacation. It’s exciting to have a new world to explore with new rules to break and new people to meet. My favorite part of writing is the first few chapters, when I’m just shaping the foundation of a book.
When did you consider yourself a writer?
When I was a junior in high school I took a creative writing class with one of my favorite teachers, Miss Doyle. We had several writing prompts, kept journals, and wrote poetry, but one assignment in particular was to write a short story 5-10 pages long. Mine ended up being 50 pages. I learned a lot about writing in that class, but even more, I learn how much I could learn about myself while writing fiction. And I haven’t stopped writing ever since.
What are your guilty pleasures in life?
Without a doubt, my most guilty pleasure is food. I absolutely adore food, finding new restaurants, trying new dishes, experimenting with my cooking, and eating anything and everything that has chocolate in it.
Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life?
I love swimming. I was a competitive swimmer on a club team since I was 6 years old and continued competitive swimming through high school, at Lycoming College, and with a Masters team after graduation. My favorite events were 100 freestyle, 100 backstroke, and 200 IM.
What was the last amazing book you read?
Cottonwood by R. Lee Smith was absolutely amazing. It’s been a few months now and I’ve read several book since, but a mark of a good book is it’s ability to stick with you, to be reminded of it by a song on the radio or during a conversation with friends or while having a random thought while commuting to work. I think about the characters in that book and the struggles they experienced, how they reacted, and the very rightness of how everything tied together, and even after several months, it still moves me.
Where is your favorite place to read? Do you have a cozy corner or special reading spot?
I read everywhere—on the couch, in bed, poolside, on the beach, snuggled next to my husband—but my absolute favorite place to read is in the hammock in my back yard in the bright spring sunshine.
What can readers expect next from you?
I’m planning to stay in the paranormal genre, but I’ll be branching away from vampires. I have a story percolating about a dragon-shifter spies. Think Captain America-esque government experiment meets Bones.
The City Beneath
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Kensington Publishing/ Lyrical Press
Date of Publication: April 28, 2015
Number of pages: 256
Word Count: 91,999
Cover Artist: Kensington Publishing
As a journalist, Cassidy DiRocco thought she had seen every depraved thing New York City’s underbelly had to offer. But while covering what appears to be a vicious animal attack, she finds herself drawn into a world she never knew existed. Her exposé makes her the target of the handsome yet brutal Dominic Lysander, the Master Vampire of New York City, who has no problem silencing her to keep his coven's secrets safe…
But Dominic offers Cassidy another option: ally. He reveals she is a night blood, a being with powers of her own, including the ability to become a vampire. As the body count escalates, Cassidy is caught in the middle of a vampire rebellion. Dominic insists she can help him stop the coming war, but wary of his intentions, Cassidy enlists the help of the charming Ian Walker, a fellow night blood. As the battle between vampires takes over the city, Cassidy will have to tap into her newfound powers and decide where to place her trust...
Excerpt Book 1:
Vampires Bite in the Big Apple- notes from draft 1
Cassidy DiRocco, Reporter
I didn’t need to believe in the paranormal to believe in monsters. I reported murders, rapes, assaults, and robberies every day: men strangling wives, women stabbing lovers, children shooting children. If someone had interviewed me last week—before I was attacked and bitten and manipulated in the pursuit of everyone else’s personal and conflicting agendas—I would have said that the world darkened a little more with every sunset and turned a little more bloody and vengeful and uncaring with each passing day. But I’d also have said that after almost ten years in the business, I’m no longer surprised by anything I report.
If someone had interviewed me last week, it wouldn’t have mattered how long I’d been in the business; I’d have been dead wrong.
Humans aren’t the only murderers and rapists and thieves in this city; the real monsters—vampires and night bloods alike—have hopes and goals and desires just like the humans. But without the limitations of a fragile human body, the vampires achieve every goal and desire without consequence. Who can bring a murderer to justice if the murderer can’t be arrested or detained? Who can testify against a rapist when the victim can’t remember whether she’d been raped or mugged? Who can stop a crime spree when no one realizes crimes are even being committed?
No one, of course, except for me.
Even after everything this insane week taught me about the world, this city, and myself, I’m still breathtakingly shocked by everything I reported—and, most especially, by the one story I couldn’t.…
I nearly limped right past him, clouded by my own physical pain and the churning unease in my gut, but the rattling hiss that growled from the alley tripped my interest. I stopped walking.
The night was cool and quiet in the aftermath of sirens and flashing lights. My scalp tingled in response to the noise emanating from the alley, and I thought of all the things I should do: I should return to the main crime scene, I should finish my interviews, I should write my story and submit it to print like a good, reliable, by-the-book reporter. The hiss rattled from the alley again, but as I’d never been one to leave questions unanswered, I slipped a can of pepper spray from my brown leather, cross-body satchel and side-stepped into the alley to find the source of the noise.
What I’d found was a man, and the rattling hiss was his struggling, gurgling, uneven breaths. His entire body was ravaged by third-degree burns. Tucked into a shadowed alley between two buildings on the corner of Farragut Road and East 40th, he was crouched down as if warding off an attacker—perhaps in his case a flamethrower—and not moving. I cringed, thinking about the injury that was blocking his throat to produce such a horrible rattling. Maybe he was crying. Maybe he was just trying to breathe. I couldn’t decipher his expression because his burns were so devastating. His face wasn’t really a face anymore beyond the rough distinctions of a lump for a nose and a hole for a mouth. The unease churning in my gut all night bottomed out. I wouldn’t have imagined that someone so injured could still breathe.
Trading the pepper spray for my cell phone, I dialed for Detective Greta Wahl.
“Wahl here.” She answered on the fifth ring, just before I suspected my call would transfer to voicemail. “I already gave you a statement, DiRocco. Let the other sharks have a bite, will you?”
“I found another victim, G.” I said without preamble.
“Alive? Where?” Greta asked, snapping from friend to detective instantly.
“A block up Farragut. He’s still breathing, but he’s different than the others. No bites.” I swallowed the bile that clogged my throat like hot ash. “His entire body is burned to charcoal.”
“Is he wearing a necklace, like the ones from last week? They were gold with a wolf pendent.”
“I remember,” I said. “And no, he’s not wearing a necklace. And he’s not shot execution-style like those victims either. He’s burned. This is probably a different case all together.”
Greta sighed. “Stay with him. I’ll send a paramedic to you ASAP. It might be a few minutes, though. We’ve still got our seven victims being stabilized here.”
“Got it. We’ll be waiting.” I hesitated a fraction of a second before asking, “Any one of our victims talking yet?”
“The few that still have throats haven’t said a word. They’re all in shock. It’s not pretty down here, DiRocco.”
“I know. Keep me posted, and send Nathan to me if you can.”
“Will do,” Greta said.
I ended the call and sat gingerly on the ground next to the man to offer what comfort I could and to give my arthritic hip the rest it needed. Injuries were supposed to heal with time, but the scar build-up on mine had only increased in the five years since I’d taken a bullet. The first stakeout of my career had set a high standard for my field performance, but it had also left a permanent reminder to listen to my gut. My hip ached on a regular basis, and lately, it would click and grind when put to excess use. After an entire day on my feet, interviewing officers and tracking down witnesses, my activities had apparently escalated way past excess.
Once I settled on the pavement, I held the man’s left elbow—one of two visible patches of skin not blackened or blistered—and felt an overwhelming, humbling gratitude, no matter my past injuries or current residual pain, that none of these victims had been me.
Sweet Last Drop
Name of series and book number in series:
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Kensington Publishing/ Lyrical Press
Date of Publication: April 26, 2016
Number of pages: 322
Word Count: 131,084
Cover Artist: Kensington Publishing
Cassidy DiRocco knows the dark side intimately—as a crime reporter in New York City, she sees it every day. But since she discovered that she's a night blood, her power and potential has led the dark right to her doorway. With her brother missing and no one remembering he exists, she makes a deal with Dominic Lysander, the fascinating master vampire of New York, to find him.
Dominic needs the help of Bex, another master vampire, to keep peace in the city, so he sends Cassidy to a remote, woodsy town upstate to convince her—assuming she survives long enough. A series of vicious "animal attacks" after dark tells Cassidy there's more to Bex and her coven than anyone's saying. That goes double for fellow night blood Ian Walker, the tall, blond animal tracker who's supposed to be her ally. Walker may be hot-blooded and hard-bodied, but he's hiding something too. If Cassidy wants the truth, she'll have to squeeze it out herself… every last drop.
Excerpt Book 2:
Vampires Bite in the Big Apple- notes from draft 4
Cassidy DiRocco, Reporter
Nightmares are supposed to stay in dreams, but for the past three weeks, absolutely nothing, not even my dreams, are as they’re supposed to be. Reality is the nightmare. When murderers, rapists, thieves, and gangs were my choice topics to report, I was sickened and made unendurably angry by what people were capable of doing to other people. Now, I’m just sickened by what I’m capable of, and I can’t sleep at all.
After sunset I see vampires lurking in every shadow, pressing against every doorway, committing every murder. Reality is further from anything I could have imagined, and I feel helpless against the enormity of Dominic’s reach. What’s the point of breaking my lease when Dominic will just demand entrance into my new apartment? Whom can I confide in about my life after dark without putting them at risk?
The one question that haunts me most is ironically one that I struggled to answer long before stumbling upon Dominic’s existence. It haunted me after my parents died and I struggled with Percocet addiction—how long will I search for the answers before buckling under the unbearable truth that my efforts were futile from the start?
My brother disappeared three weeks ago. In another three months, will the agony of Nathan’s absence still drive my efforts or drive me insane? When do I draw the line between hope and insanity—in another three years? Unfortunately for me and everyone’s peace of mind, I don’t think there are lines for love. Love is already insane, so the only answer is to drive toward the truth….
The bus ride from The Big Apple to Erin, New York gradually descended from the metropolitan area to suburbs, from suburbs to woodsy small towns, and then to nothing but fields and sheds and, of course, cows. I’d never seen so many cows in my life. Considering I’d never actually seen a cow in person, I suppose that wasn’t much of a statement, but it certainly seemed like Erin had an over-abundance of them. Their mooing reminded me of Dominic’s night blood-and-hamburger metaphor when he’d described how my blood tasted. “You are a rare dish,” he’d said, and I’d been terrified by his attraction.
As a night blood, I was one of the rare humans who had the blood type necessary to complete the transformation into a vampire, but just because I had the potential to become a vampire didn’t mean I wanted to become one. That was only one of many points of contention between Dominic and me, albeit one of our more vehement disagreements.
I was still terrified of Dominic, attraction or not, but terror could only hold so much immediacy for so long, especially when the object of my terror was being relatively civil. Dominic, Master Vampire of New York City, and swiftly becoming a master pain in my ass, had visited me on numerous occasions at the hospital while I recovered from my encounter with Jillian. He visited me at home once I’d been released from the hospital. He visited me in the office when I returned to work and outside the office at every starlit opportunity.
I suppose guilt may have played a role in his consistent and regular visits, considering Jillian had been both his vampire and the second in command of his coven, and somehow, I had been the one to take the biggest hit when she’d betrayed him. But I doubt that guilt was his only motivation; when he came calling, he was always fully fed, completely gorgeous, and the ultimate gentleman.
I knew better than to believe the illusion.
In his infinite patience, I think Dominic was biding his time, and I suspected it had everything to do with this very road trip to Erin, New York, Ian Walker’s hometown, and the resting place of Walker’s abundantly powerful coven Master, Bex.
Dominic, however, wasn’t the only one biding his time, although Walker had been decidedly less patient.
“I can’t wait to see you, darlin’,” Walker had said at least once per conversation during the multiple phone calls we’d enjoyed daily for three weeks. I would have found his persistence coming from someone else nauseating, but between all the darlin’s and ma’ams, we shared an indelible bond that went beyond incorrigible flirtation.
Walker was the only other night blood I knew, the only other person who knew that vampires existed, and the only person who could relate to the danger and drama of my life. Meredith, photographer at The Sun Accord and my very best friend, didn’t know anything about vampires or night bloods because telling her anything about my life these days—or more pointedly, these nights—would only put her at risk. But she most certainly knew the look on my face when my phone rang, and Walker greeted me on the opposite end.
Meredith assured me that I owed it to myself to discover how deep my bond with Walker could grow, but I remained skeptical of both him and my feelings for him. We’d only physically known each other for one week. How well could I legitimately come to know a person in one week? But when I looked back at the week we’d shared and survived, I swallowed my doubts.
“Pu-lease, you say that to all the girls,” I said to him. My tone was deliberately sarcastic, but I was glad we were talking on the phone; he’d know by my ridiculous smile that I was just as excited to finally see him, too. “You forget that I’ve seen you in action.”
“You certainly have.” Walker’s voice deepened salaciously and I was reminded of that one night in my office. He’d lifted me onto my desk, and his strong hands had touched me in places I’d never thought I could feel again.
I swallowed. “My point is that this is a business trip. Carter finally approved my piece on city versus rural New York crime fluctuations—”
“That I encouraged you to write,” Walker interrupted.
I rolled my eyes. “—and as one of my primary sources, you and I will—”
“Be spending hours upon hours alone together.”
“For interviews on your experiences and discussions on crime rates and—”
“I have an experience I’d like to discuss: how delicious your body felt against mine.”
I sighed heavily. “You’re killing me.”
Walker laughed. “Good.”
“I really am writing this story, Walker, despite your ulterior motives for inviting me to your home.”
“You like my ulterior motives. The most grievous crime at the moment is how long it took for your boss to approve your damn story. I miss you, DiRocco.”
I swallowed again and forced myself to say the words because they were true. “I miss you, too.”
And now, after three weeks of pitching this story to Carter, avoiding Greta—my personal friend, and unfortunately, one of NYPD’s finest—and her stink-eyed interrogation, bracing against Dominic’s creeping advances, and swallowing my festering doubts about Nathan, I had finally arrived in Erin, New York earlier this afternoon for what should have been a vacation from all those demons back in the city. Less than twenty-four hours into our reunion, however, and Walker and I still weren’t putting the moves on either my career or each other. He’d barely had time to give me a proper tour of the town before we were once again staring at a body.
Her name was Lydia Bowser, and she was last seen by her grandmother, leaving the farm for a walk before dinner. According to her grandmother and Walker’s detailed notes, she left for a walk before dinner every night. She’d loved the last moments of daylight, when the sun had already dipped below the horizon but its rays still lit the sky with a dim, burning glow. I raised my eyebrows at the description, both from its nostalgia and its telling timeframe. Foul play after dark meant only one thing.
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Kensington Publishing/ Lyrical Press
Date of Publication: April 25, 2017
Number of pages: 330
Word Count: 110,974
Cover Artist: Kensington Publishing
Last week, Cassidy DiRocco had some influence over the vampires that stalk the streets of New York City. She was never completely safe, but with her newfound abilities as a night blood and her honed instincts as a crime reporter, at least she had the necessary skills to survive.
Now, thanks to the injuries she sustained while saving her brother from a fate worse than death, she’s lost her night blood status just as another crime spree hits Brooklyn. Dozens of people are being slaughtered, and each victim bears the Damned’s signature mark; a missing heart.
Cassidy will need the help of all her allies to survive the coming war, including the mysterious and charismatic Dominic Lysander, Master Vampire of New York City. But as his rival’s army threatens his coven and his own powers weaken with the approaching Leveling, even Dominic’s defenses might not be enough protection.
With nothing left to lose, can Cassidy find the power inside herself to save Dominic, his coven, their city, and survive?
Excerpt Book 3:
Dominic looked pretentious and posh, as usual, leaning against the wall in the hallway outside my apartment. Even gazing at him through the fish-eye lens of my door’s peephole—from the top of his immaculately cut and styled black hair to the bottom of his shiny Cole Haan wing-tipped dress shoes—he was a hopeful-mother’s dream, a shrewd-woman’s nightmare, and the reason I no longer bothered trying to sleep at night. Knowing the truth beneath the pretty wrapping—that he was the Master vampire of New York City—didn’t stop my heart from jumping and dropping in confused anticipation and adrenaline. After I’d nearly lost him last week, I’d come to the implausible, unwelcome conclusion that I actually preferred my life with him in it, but since I’d completely lost the protection and mental strength of my night blood, his unexpected presence also twisted my gut with pure, unadulterated fear.
I hadn’t seen Dominic in five nights, not since he’d entranced his name from my mind and confirmed our worst suspicion: I no longer had night blood.
Without night blood, I didn’t have the potential to transform into a vampire, I couldn’t reflect Dominic’s commands if he attempted to entrance me, and I no longer had any of the qualities that Dominic held in such high esteem, that he’d planned to leverage during the Leveling; the one night every seven years that he lost his strength and abilities as Master to his potential successor, allowing a new Master to rise in his stead. Without those qualities, I couldn’t help him survive the coming battle to keep control of his coven. I was nothing but another human.
I was nothing but food.
Dominic knocked a second time, this series of staccato raps on the door more insistent than the first.
“Who’s at the door?” Meredith asked. Her eyebrows rose and disappeared behind her bangs.
Of course, on the one night Dominic finally decided to confront me, I had company. I should be grateful; he was knocking on the door rather than inviting himself in through one of the third-story, living room windows. That would have been difficult to explain to Meredith. Longtime best friend and wing woman at the Sun Accord she was, but night blood she wasn’t.
“I’m hoping if I wait long enough, he’ll give up and go away.”
“He?” Meredith asked. A mischievous smiled curved her lips.
“It’s probably best to answer the door of your own will,” Nathan murmured.
I stared at my brother, surprised that he’d uttered a full, intelligible sentence beyond “We’re out of milk” or something equally inane. Inane seemed all he was capable of lately.
“He’ll make it worse for you otherwise,” he added.
I ignored Meredith and narrowed my eyes on Nathan. “How do you know who’s at the door?”
Nathan dropped his gaze to the cereal bowl in front of him and continued spooning scraps of shredded wheat and milk into his mouth without further comment.
Maybe he’d actually keep the food down this time. Then we could work on gradually introducing warm meals and protein back into his diet.
I worried the doorknob with my thumb. Nathan might have been monosyllabic and near bulimic since returning to the city, but he was right. If I didn’t open the door of my own will, Dominic would probably force me to grant him entrance into my new apartment. A tenuous spring of hope coiled in my gut. Maybe, just maybe, my efforts to create a fallout shelter here in the city had been a success; maybe I didn’t need to worry about entry, forced or otherwise.
I might have put my newly fortified apartment to the test, but with Meredith sitting at my kitchen table, a slice of sushi roll halfway to her mouth, the risk of exposing her to the danger standing on my doorstep wasn’t worth the pleasure of denying Dominic entrance.
I opened the door.
Dominic smiled, deliberately flashing his sharp, elongated fangs. “Good evening, Cassidy.”
His voice purred in a deep timbre that plucked at the taut cords in my stomach. I squelched the feelings, but after weeks of denial, I could finally admit that they existed.
“What are you doing here?” I whispered.
He raised a perfectly arched eyebrow. “No ‘Hello?’ No ‘What a pleasant surprise?’” Dominic tsked his tongue against the back of his teeth. “Where are your manners?”
“What a surprise,” I muttered, deliberately omitting “pleasant.” “You should have called before coming, Dominic.”
He inhaled sharply. The fragile hope that softened his expression shamed me.
“Don’t,” I warned, keeping my voice low in an effort to prevent Meredith from overhearing. “I didn’t remember your name on my own. Nathan reminded me. It still feels like a void, like Nathan telling me your name four days ago was the first I’d learned it.”
His face fell. “That’s unfortunate.”
I sighed. “Are you only here to antagonize me, or was there an actual purpose to this visit?”
“Antagonizing you would be purpose enough, but yes, I have a greater purpose than even that,” Dominic said, magnanimously. “Must we converse in the hallway? I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of seeing your new apartment. Won’t you invite me in?”
About the Author:
Melody Johnson is the author of the gritty, paranormal romance Night Blood series set in New York City. The first installment, The City Beneath, was a finalist in several Romance Writers of America contests, including the “Cleveland Rocks” and “Fool For Love” contests. Melody graduated magna cum laude from Lycoming College with her B.A. in creative writing and psychology, and after moving from her northeast Pennsylvania hometown for some much needed Southern sunshine, she now works as a digital media coordinator for Southeast Georgia Health System. When she isn’t working or writing, Melody can be found swimming at the beach, honing her newfound volleyball skills, and exploring her new home in southeast Georgia.