The Librarian’s Vampire Assistant EXCERPT

Chapter One

“Oh! I’m so sorry!” says a blonde at the front of the coffee line, forcing my attention away from the phone in my hand. She’s wearing a rather unattractive red coat and has apparently rammed into a UPS guy carrying a hot cup of tea.

“Serves him right. Only weak men drink tea,” I growl under my breath and return to my screen.

My name is Michael Vanderhorst, and I am not usually this grouchy or this close to doing something terribly unwise—throats torn, heads lopped, appendages removed. Unwise. However, today is quite possibly the worst day of my life, and a silent rage is brewing inside me.

But let us not start off on the wrong foot. I am actually a nice guy. Some might say I’m a classic gentleman, and they don’t mean I know which fork to use, though I do. They mean gentleman in the true, old-fashioned sense. I open doors for ladies and stand when they rise from the table. I keep my word, pay my debts, and believe in being polite to others, even when they don’t deserve it.

Do not get the wrong impression. I am no pushover either. I get my hands dirty when the situation warrants, but generally I am an agreeable man.

Or I used to be.

A man.

Now I’m a vampire, and like most of my kind, the journey hasn’t been an easy one.

No, this is not the reason I’m in a foul mood. Neither is the fact that I’ve been in line for over ten minutes, waiting to order coffee.

Oh, yes—pause of deep appreciation—coffee.

“Oh, dear me! I’m so sorry!” I look up again, and the same blonde woman, who I see only from the back, has just knocked over a towering pile of coffee cup lids onto the floor.

The employees rush to pick up the mess, and when she bends over to help, she hits her forehead on the counter. “Ouch!”

I am about to step forward to assist, but she seems all right, rubbing her head and apologizing to the entire world.

I hope she doesn’t stab herself with a straw or spontaneously combust. Then I’ll never get my coffee. I cannot start my day without it.

Do not be shocked. There are many things people don’t know about my kind. For example, we don’t live exclusively on blood. In fact, I prefer spicy vegan dishes. Indian food is delicious.

Another myth? Vampires cannot go in the sun. Also untrue. We are merely averse to it. Right now, it’s a cool spring morning in downtown Phoenix, and while I am sweating through my Italian suit and can’t get home to Cincinnati fast enough, the sunny sky outside is merely an annoyance.

So now you’re wondering just why I’m so angry. It is something so ghastly, I can hardly say the words. Two days ago, someone killed the most upstanding person ever to walk the planet. Clive was a give-you-the-shirt-off-his-back sort of man, which is the likely reason his detective agency wasn’t making money. I once worked for Clive—also a vampire—but his generosity toward his clients, giving away his services, got to a point where he could no longer employ me.

So I went back to school, obtained yet another degree, and started my eighth profession, this time in biotech research. When you’ve lived as long as I have, you get bored. I find changing occupations every fifty years keeps a man on his toes, and if you’ve guessed that would make me over four hundred years old, you would be correct.

“It’s your turn, dude,” says the pink-haired man behind me.

“About time. Thank you.” I step up to the counter, where I order my usual—a nonfat latte with an extra shot of espresso. “No make that two extra shots,” I say to the barista and pop five dollars into the tip jar.

“Coming right up.” The young redhead attending to me smiles, but it’s the sort of smile that says she wants to bed me. Little does she know that while I am a handsome man—six feet one, deep brown eyes, and a very charming smile—she can’t help herself. Yes, that myth is actually true. Humans find us irresistible.

I offer the barista a polite nod and step aside to await my coffee, but something outside catches my eye through the plate-glass window. It’s that same blonde woman with a paper cup in her hand, playing Frogger with oncoming traffic.

Oh! Watch out. Dear woman, what are you doing! She’s nearly run over by three separate cars. I’m about to run after her, but she makes it across to the other side of the street.

What the devil was she thinking?

My cell vibrates in my hand, and I sigh with relief. “Finally.” It’s a text from the local society granting me a meeting at one o’clock. Society is the modern term for coven, which is made up of a collection of families. Each territory has a different society and, since vampires are very territorial, I cannot stay longer than a day without a visa—not that I plan to since I’m not permitted to have anything to do with investigating Clive’s death.

Sadly, I am here to collect Clive’s ashes and take the good man home to his final resting place.

Regardless, whoever hurt him must pay. Not death, but entombment, which is far worse and the only outcome I’m expecting to hear at today’s meeting with the society’s head. “We’ve caught the bastard. He’s been sentenced to life.” Anything shy of these exact words will cause trouble. From me.

My order is called at the counter, and I grab my hot coffee, immediately going in for that first delicious sip. “Ow!” It burns my tongue. Why do I always do that? I’m far too eager when it comes to caffeine. Especially in the morning.

I take a seat at the counter along the window that faces the street. Immediately, my reflection catches my eye. My brown hair is a mess, and I apparently forgot to shave this morning at the hotel. My tie is also crooked.

I straighten myself out and glance at my watch, a fine antique Clive gave me on my birthday over a hundred years ago.

Clive… I feel the red-hot rage build again. He was my best friend, my brother, my father, and my maker.

Nobody touches my family, I snarl on the inside. My strong hand squeezes my coffee cup, threatening to send the piping hot liquid up in the air.

Dammit all to hell. I need a distraction, something to keep me calm until one o’clock. Otherwise, I won’t stand a chance of keeping a level head when I walk in to meet whoever runs this sunny, pleasant dump of a town.

My eyes gravitate back outside. I remember passing a library one block down. I’m sure I can find a quiet place there to get some work done on my laptop, which will keep me out of the sun and occupied for the next few hours.

With coffee in one hand, I grab my things and head to the library.

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