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Author: J. F. Lewis
Publisher: Pocket Books, 2011
Series: Void City: Book 3

1. Staked
2. ReVamped
3. Crossed
4. Burned

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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In spite of his continuing hot-blooded affair with his soon-to-be sister-in-law Rachel, Eric's plan is simple: Give his vampire girlfriend Tabitha the fancy wedding she's always wanted, then head off to Paris for their honeymoon in the hopes of tracking down his sire, the Empress vampire Lisette. The City of Love proves anything but romantic when the True Immortal rulers of Europe try to block Eric from entering the Continent--and subject Tabitha to a series of challenges to prove her vampire worth. Back home in Void City, Eric's volatile daughter Greta is getting lonely and bored--and that's not good news for anyone. And when, like a bat out of hell, Lisette descends upon Void City to wipe Eric and his brood off the face of the earth--forever--this much is clear: the honeymoon is over.





I shouldn't have been doing what I was doing, but I was. I was supposed to be getting dressed, following the plan: slip into the monkey suit, get married, and fly away to Paris for the honeymoon.

Instead I was fucking the maid of honor, which while usually the objective for a single guy at a wedding, is less appropriate for the groom, even if he happens to be a vampire, like me. I could've blamed Rachel, the maid of honor in question, but it wasn't her fault. I already knew she had no morals. She'd demonstrated that in all sorts of ways, ranging from helping a demon try to steal my soul last Christmas to blowing up my strip club and setting my movie theater on fire--all to get herself out of a demonic deal that really hadn't been all that terrible in the first place. She was only the maid of honor because she was the bride's sister, and that was the picture Tabitha, my vampiric bride-to-be, had stuck in her head about the way her wedding day ought to unfold.

In a way, I'd spent my entire engagement to Tabitha waiting for the newness of sex with her little sister to wear off, but it didn't seem likely. As a tantric witch, if there was one thing in the world Rachel was good at, sex was it.

Sex between a human and a vampire is multilayered. For humans, it's about danger, the dark thrill of being with one of the undead, the idea that at any moment your lover will sink his teeth into you and you may or may not see the light of day again. For vampires, it's about getting to feel warm, being allowed to play with our food. It satisfies the primal urge to dominate the living I think we all have.

Sex with Tabitha wasn't bad, since she was a Living Doll--a vampire with the ability to turn her bodily functions back on--so she could feel warm and wonderful like a human, but sex with Rachel was on another level. Every time I slipped inside her, Rachel used her tantric magic to make me feel alive, literally, and each encounter was better than the one before, another heartbeat, or another true breath, not the stuff we do just to push air out so we can talk.

Then again, it wasn't just that either. I've always had a weakness for women in fancy dresses, their lipstick just right, all decked out to the nines... the way some of them still manage to look surprised that you noticed. In short, I was trying to stay faithful to Tabitha, but I was... less than successful.

I moved atop Rachel, her back pressed against the dresser, my eyes locked with hers. The butterfly tattoo on her left cheek caught my eye, a visible reminder of her thralldom. Any vampire more powerful than a Drone can make a thrall, but the amount of control and the strength of abilities passed on to the human participant is a variable, largely based on the power level of the vampire. Through me, Rachel was immortal--well, okay, ageless--but she was also bound to me. I could force her to obey commands.

"Are you sure you don't want me to release you?" I asked. "I still don't really believe in having thralls." I was such a hypocrite. Counting Rachel, I had six thralls, including a mage named Magbidion, a few ladies I'd rescued from a pimp down by the Bitemore Hotel, and Beatrice, a young woman who'd once been enthralled by another vampire named Lady Gabriella.

Rachel smirked and shook her head. "I'll keep the eternal youth, thanks."

I nipped at her neck, playfully, without the fangs.

"You already ate," she chided.

My eyes closed as I built toward climax, my fingers closing on her breasts, the metal rings in her nipples hard beneath my pressing thumbs. "So?" My breath blew cold against her neck, raising chill bumps.

"I want to try something." Rachel pushed me out of her body, taking me in her hand before I could protest. It wasn't how I wanted to finish. Rachel's lips blurred. Words that humans aren't meant to know or hear hissed at my ears. Rachel had lost her full mystic might when we'd killed the demon who'd given her magic, but the tantric side of her abilities had flourished. There are points on the body that funnel energy, or at least people who believe in that sort of thing think they do. They're called chakras, and just then all of mine got hot.

"What are you doing?"

Her eyes told me she didn't have time to answer, that for what she was doing the timing was vital. The pleasure built, a need to explode and then release, but with the release came something new, or perhaps old.

When you become a vampire, all of your bodily fluids are replaced with blood: tears, saliva, everything. Of course, an undead heart doesn't beat, but mine was beating. A vampire's blood doesn't flow, but mine was flowing. Taste buds become specialized, sensitive only to blood, but my mouth tasted like cinnamon; it was all I could smell too, a side effect of Rachel's twisted evil (and okay, awesome) magic. She held a single drop of the new side effect on the tip of her index finger.

"It worked," she howled triumphantly.

I counted heartbeats, felt the core warmth creeping back into my bones. While my fiancée can turn her body back on like that, make herself seem alive, and that's great and all... it isn't much better than average human warmth. Like most vampires, I crave true warmth, a sensation the living take for granted. Is it any wonder I kept sleeping with the one woman in the world who made me feel that way, despite the fact that she had almost gotten me and several people I care about killed to save her own neck?

The telltale cinnamon odor of her magic faded, overpowered by the scents of sex and sweat. My tux had a wet spot.


Vampires have an excellent sense of smell, vampire fiancées included. Tabitha might not smell it while in her Living Doll state, because doing so dulls her vampiric abilities and senses. But she wasn't going to be the only vampire in attendance. I couldn't walk down the aisle smelling like Rachel, that was for damn sure. If I did, it would get back to Tabitha eventually--I was sure of it.

My "best individual" (apparently it isn't politically correct to say "best man" or even "best person" at a supernatural wedding), a Mouser named Talbot who'd been with me for several decades, ever since a particularly bad week or two in El Segundo, knocked on the door. "Eric? It's time." He opened the door a crack, looking dapper as hell, the custom-made tux perfectly fitting his massive muscular frame. Light from the hallway gleamed off his bald head and dark black skin. His kind can look human, but they're far from it. A cough preceded his next sentence. "And Rachel, your sister is wondering where her maid of honor has run off to."

"Do you want to see if it can get me pregnant? Want to be a daddy for real?" Rachel asked, beaming, ignoring Talbot completely. She'd put pink and blue streaks in her hair for the occasion--the wedding, not the sex--and that, combined with the current request, the twinkle in her bright green eyes, told me she'd given this much more thought than she wanted to let on. "You're up all night already so it isn't like you'll lose any sleep."

I gave Talbot a look that screamed "help," but he did not come to my rescue.

"I'll stall," he said before slipping back down the corridor into the chapel. Coward. As I thought the word, I recalled the image of Talbot in his furred-out super-cat combat form, eyes and mane glowing as I hurled him through the air after a demon that had been getting away. Killing demons are what Mousers do best and...

Rachel was still looking at me expectantly, still awaiting my answer. I looked at her finger and remembered the question she'd just asked me.

Double shit!

"Are you crazy?" I asked her, panicked. "No!"

Rachel laughed, licking the fluid in question from her finger, but she sounded hurt. "It's okay this time, but if you want to be really sure, maybe you should invest in some condoms, Master."

"Don't call me Master," I growled. "Think of something! I can't go out there like this."

"So don't go out there." Rachel slipped back into her pink dress. "Dominate her, or... hell, she's your creation. Tell her to get stuffed; leave her at the altar. You don't need her for anything unless you want to fulfill the whole 'ménage à trois with sisters fantasy,' and even then, I can find you a pair of live sisters to do that. Fuck, baby, I'll find you twins."

Rachel is an enabler.

When I was human, I'd nearly gotten married. Instead of taking my vows and undergoing the big ring exchange, I'd gotten murdered by the man Marilyn, my then-fiancée, had been having an affair with... my best friend Whatshisname. It started with an R, I think. Ronald, maybe? Anyway, the important thing is that I rose as a vampire and also as a revenant, simultaneously, but I didn't rise remembering what had happened. My memory still sucks.

Old Whatshisname and I had both become vampires, and we were friends for decades after we died. It had been only a year or so since I'd figured it all out. Then, I trapped him in a little soul-prison that looks like a marble (a fate he'd intended for me) and gave him to Lord Phillip, the ranking local high society vamp who wound up sticking the Stone of Aeternum in my chest as a reward. The Stone can be used to raise the dead and other funky crap, but in my case it's supposed to make me a True Immortal (the living breathing kind) if I'm ever cured of my vampirism, not that I'm going out of my way to try.

Rising as two kinds of undead at once is supposedly what made me an Emperor-level vampire. Vampires are supposed to come in four different flavors: Drones, Soldiers, Masters, and Vlads. If they were beverages, Drones would be milk (no power to speak of and not worth crying over), Soldiers would be tea (a little bit of kick, but nothing that will keep you awake nights), Masters might be coffee (avoid before bedtime), and Vlads would be a concoction from Starbucks with an extra shot of espresso. But Emperors wouldn't even be a beverage--we'd be something like whole chocolate-covered dark espresso beans. Every now and then, the universe cuts you a break. Speaking of which...

Guests had been arriving at the wedding in transportation modes of varying impressiveness. Usually this meant some type of limousine with windows that had been thoroughly blacked out. I'd hoped that by holding the wedding during the day we'd get tons of polite regrets. Instead the vampiric elite had all taken it as a challenge to find a way to be awake and attend. I think most of them did it just to chap my ass.

Out in the vestibule, I heard Talbot greeting Lord Phillip, but beyond that, rapidly approaching, I heard motorcycle engines--not just one, but maybe a dozen. Needless to say, no one on the guest list would be showing up on a motorcycle. Then I smelled wet fur. Werewolves. The first thought that went through my head was: I'm the luckiest motherfucker on the planet!

"Attention, undead filth!" a voice rang out with the crackle and pop of an outdated bullhorn. "Marriage is for the living, not the dead! Till death do us part, not in death do we start! Now burn!"

"Get cleaned up," I ordered Rachel. Given her druthers, she'd have disobeyed, but that's the great thing about thralls. They can argue with you until you make it an order, but then they have to obey.

My vampiric speed kicked in and I ran out of the dressing room still zipping up my fly. My adopted daughter Greta, a six-foot blonde, met me at the chapel door. She was dressed as a flower girl in white, a basket of rose petals in her hand. I'd rescued Greta from a truly bad situation and adopted her as my own. She'd been human, only nine or ten years old, and though I'd turned her on her twenty-first birthday, sometimes when I look at her I still see that little girl, feel that need to protect her. Whatever was coming, it was not going to hurt my daughter. "I've never seen werewolves like this before, Dad," she said.

A Molotov cocktail burst through a stained-glass window, only to be deftly caught and flung out again by Ebon Winter, one of my guests. Imagine the most handsome man possible in all creation and you'll be picturing Ebon Winter. He has that effect on people. Winter is a gambler and an artist. He sings, he owns a really upscale club called the Artiste Unknown, he designs his own clothes, and he's one heck of an interior decorator. He's high society, and his pathological need to bet on damn near everything, up to and including social interactions and how long it'll take me to lose my temper, makes him a bit dangerous to hang out with, but otherwise not bad. I'd invited him even though he had told me he was betting against me in Paris... whatever the hell that meant.

"Phil," Winter called over his shoulder, "a little cloud cover for our combustible groom?"

Lord Phillip effectively runs Void City, the slice of urban America I call home, along with who knows how much of the rest of the country. He's short, fat, and balding, but he's also the only vampire spell caster the Mage Guild hasn't destroyed. He's also in charge of the Veil of Scrythax, the magic what's-it that helps conceal the existence of the supernatural from Void City's more mundane inhabitants. Phil is rarely seen outside of the Highland Towers, preferring not to risk his unlife away from the ironclad protection of his mystic wards. My wedding was an exception.

"If you insist." He smiled and began to open an umbrella. "Tut, tut," he quoted, like a grown-up Christopher Robin gone horribly wrong, "it looks like rain," and suddenly, it did.

Phillip's clouds, black and rain-filled, rolled in so fast I scarcely made it out of the church in time to catch the last rays of vanishing sunlight and set myself on fire. Charbroiled and still sizzling, there was no way I'd have even a whiff of Rachel clinging to me. Not a drop of rain had fallen yet, but the werewolves were soaking wet, completely doused in water so holy I could smell the altar boys. They must have soaked themselves before the fight. Lovely.

The rain arrived right on cue, extinguishing my flaming carcass, and I laughed out of habit as the water washed over me, leaving me just as wet as the werewolves.

Werewolves usually look silly to me, but, even soaked to the skin, these guys were something special. Intricate patterns had been shaved into their fur like Celtic knotwork or henna tattoos. The flesh beneath had been inked in solid colors: black, blue, green, and red. I could tell which was the Alpha. I'd tangled with an Alpha werewolf not long before, the first truly impressive lycanthrope I'd ever seen, and the leader of these guys gave off the same vibe he had. I can take on normal werewolves in groups, but I'd never actually had to fight an Alpha, since the local Alpha, William, and I had worked out our differences at gunpoint. First time for everything.

Most of these wolves had crosses etched or painted on their claws. The Alpha smiled at me with a mouth full of fangs that showed the same kind of detailing. His fur was black as midnight and he stared at me through angry eyes, one blue and one brown. I was still happy he'd showed up.

Copyright © 2011 by J. F. Lewis


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