Cover Artist: Kensington Publishing
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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.
Cover Artist: Kensington Publishing
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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.
Cover Artist: Kensington Publishing
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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.
5 signed paperbacks of The City Beneath (US shipping only.)