When it comes to love between a medusa and a Vampyre, it’s every man, woman, and snake for themselves.
A Novella of the Elder Races
As a coroner, medusa Seremela Telemar has always felt more comfortable chatting over a dead body than over drinks. But when her wild niece, Vetta, runs off to Devil’s Gate, a lawless town that has sprung up overnight in a modern-day gold rush, she knows she has to extricate her before the rebellious girl gets into real trouble. Though she’s confident in her head snakes’ ability to defend her against attackers, Seremela is still a bit nervous about braving this modern-day Wild West by herself.
Vampyre Duncan Turner is not about to let his new co-worker go into that chaos alone. His Vampyric power and lawyer smarts make him the perfect ally, and the fact that he already had his eye on Seremela for more…personal reasons, doesn’t hurt matters. Any romantic thoughts pull up short, however, when they arrive at Devil’s Gate and learn Vetta is set to hang by morning.
In order to save Vetta and themselves, Seremela and Duncan are going to have to fight fire with force and magic with fangs. And pray they make it out of Devil’s Gate alive.
Product WarningsContains mother effin’ snakes in planes, cars, tents, and beds. Luckily, our hot Vampyre hero doesn’t mind them one bit…
Copyright © 2012 Thea Harrison
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Seremela Telemar leaned against the frame of the open balcony doors in her high-rise apartment and looked out at the ocean view. Tropical humidity licked her skin. As soon as she had gotten home, she had opened up the balcony doors, stripped off her work clothes and put on denim shorts and a tank top.
The weather in Miami was playing the blues. Like the singer Nina Simone’s voice, it had a dark, sultry vibe with a bitter edge and an unexpected snap. Massive knots of moody clouds obscured the sun as they roiled over turbulent water, and heavy rain lashed down in vertical sheets. All that was needed was a world-weary man in a Bogart suit, fingering ivory piano keys in an abandoned hotel as he waited for a hurricane.
One of her head snakes slipped over her shoulder and rose to look at her, its jeweled gaze curious. It tasted the storm-laden air with a slender tongue. She put a forefinger underneath its jaw and nudged it gently. It slid closer and rested its tiny cheek against hers. In another mood, she might have smiled, but not this morning.
Was she really going to do this again?
Yes. Yes, she was.
She sighed, turned on her cell phone and hit speed dial. She held it up to her ear. A strained feminine voice on the other end said, “Serrie?”
“Yes,” she said to her sister, Camilla. “I’ll go get her.”
“Oh, thank the gods,” Camilla said fervently.
“I do not believe the gods are whom you should be thanking,” said Seremela.
“Of course not!” Camilla said. “Thank you, Serrie! You know how much this means to me. Vetta won’t mind me at all anymore—she never listens to anything I say, and I know what would happen if I tried to fetch her home myself. It would blow up into everything being my fault again, and the fight would drag on for hours and hours—and Vetta would make it as public as she could just to humiliate me, she knows how much I hate public altercations—”
“Camilla,” Seremela said. Her tone was sharp enough that it cut through Camilla’s babble. The other woman fell silent. She said, “I need for you to listen to me right now.”
“Of course, whatever you need,” Camilla said quickly.
“This is the last time I’m going to be able to drop everything to help fix your problems and your mistakes.”
Camilla’s tone turned cautious. “What do you mean, the last time?”
“I can’t keep putting my life on hold every time something goes wrong for you, or every time you and Vetta have an argument that you can’t resolve. I just started a new, very demanding job. My employers are wonderful people, and they’re really good to me, but there’s only so much I can ask from them. Unlimited time off at a moment’s notice is not one of those things.”
Camilla’s voice turned cold. “She’s your niece. I thought you cared about what happened to her.”
Seremela bit back her anger. Now it was time for the guilt trip, but it was always time for the guilt trip whenever she didn’t do what Camilla wanted her to do, or say what Camilla wanted to hear. Children were rare for all of the Elder Races, and ever since Camilla had managed to carry Vetta to term, she had a skewed perspective on what the world owed her for achieving such a precious miracle.
“Of course I love both of you,” she said. “And I care about what happens to you. That’s why I’m agreeing to make this trip. But she’s your daughter, and I have to agree, Vetta’s out of control. You have to figure out how to work things out with her yourself. You need to get counseling, Camilla, not only for yourself but for Vetta too.”
“I have to go,” Camilla said.
Seremela rolled her eyes. “Sure you do,” she said. She spoke too late, and a dial tone sounded in her ear. Camilla had hung up on her.
She resisted the urge to throw her iPhone. Instead she checked her work email again. Still no response from either of her new employers, Carling or Rune.
To be fair, she had only emailed them a short while ago, when she had gone into the office to ready her desk for a leave of absence. Deep regrets, family emergency, need to take time off work, will be in touch soon, blah blah blah. She had written the same kind of letter so often through the years, she could compose one in her sleep.
How many times had she sacrificed herself on the altar of Camilla’s neediness? She blew out a breath. Too many times to count.
If she expected Camilla to learn to take responsibility for her own life, Seremela had to do the same. She had chosen to enable Camilla’s behavior over the years. Now it was time to focus her energy on building a new life for herself.
After all, that’s what her move to Miami was all about: taking on a new job and doing medical research she really wanted to do, building a new life and exploring new opportunities and horizons. It was not too late for her to break out of her sheltered, academic shell.
The small, poisonous voice of her Adversary whispered, the only confidence you ever found was in the classroom or the laboratory. When you’re not lecturing over an autopsied body, you turn into a klutzy fool. You haven’t dated in years—actually decades now—and you rarely make new friends. You’re never going to have children of your own, and you’ve grown set in your ways as well. You’re starting a new life with the old you. All your old problems and old weaknesses have come with you, so how can you expect to truly change anything?
She rubbed her forehead tiredly. The medusae believed that each medusa was born with a drop of poison in their souls. The poison turned into the medusa’s Adversary, the dark voice that whispered doubts and fears in one’s own thoughts. The measure of one’s strength was determined by how well one withstood one’s internal Adversary. Seremela tried to overcome that negative voice, but her own Adversary had a lot of ammunition to use against her.
She forced herself to concentrate on the task at hand. There was no reason to procrastinate any longer by pretending that she was waiting to hear back from her bosses. Many employers were very understanding about family emergencies—at least the first time. And Carling and Rune were much better than many other employers. They had gone out of their way to show her how much they valued her.
She sighed, tossed her phone onto the coffee table and went to pack a carry-on. Seriously, when she found Vetta, she was going to wring that girl’s neck. That’d solve any potential problems with further confrontation or conflict. It wouldn’t cure Camilla of her neediness or get Seremela a life outside of work, but that was okay, it would make room for taking care of the rest. Lots and lots of lovely room.
A knock sounded on her apartment door. The nictating membrane on her eyes snapped shut in surprise, and she paused, bras clutched in one hand and undies in the other. Dropping the filmy, colorful handfuls of underwear into her open case, she hurried to the door and peered out the peephole.
A dark haired man stood on the other side of her door, looking like he had just stepped out of an issue of GQ magazine. He stood in a casual stance, hands in the pockets of a hand-stitched linen summer suit, the jacket unbuttoned. Every expensive line of the tailored clothes emphasized his lean, well shaped body. His sleek dark hair, layered in a razor cut, fell on his forehead as though he had just run his fingers through it. His eyes were just as dark as his hair and glittered with intelligence. In contrast his skin was the pale ivory of a man who never saw any sunlight.
Because if he did, he would vanish in a blaze of fire.