The Librarian’s Vampire Assistant, book 3 EXCERPT

Chapter One

“Can you repeat that? You’re a what?” Miriam’s eyes widen as she maintains a calm façade from the comfort of her brown leather couch. We are surrounded by thousands of books, three stories high, all overlooking her spacious living room, and I cannot help feeling judged by each and every one of them. Not that books actually judge anyone, but they simply have that conceited vibe. It is what I love about them.

“I think you heard me,” I respond. “I am standing two feet away.”

“Michael,” Miriam frowns with a huff, “you can’t be serious.”

“I’m afraid I am, Miriam. I am a vampire.” I stand over her, my chin held high as I stare down at her lopsided dirty-blonde bun, which I have come to adore along with her shabby sweaters, though today she has on gray sweats and a T-shirt. Now that the cat—or shall I say bat?—is out of the cave, I’m guessing things will finally start making sense to her.

Which things? you wonder.

Given the abundance of unusual events that occur when in the presence of vampires, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Perhaps she wonders how I always manage to catch her when she falls from the ladder in her library even if I’m halfway across the room. Clumsy little thing. Or maybe she has always sensed something is a little off with the company I keep. Vampires can be quite eccentric.

I focus on Miriam’s oval face, waiting for her reaction. She is a smart, inquisitive woman and will have many questions, I’m sure.

Suddenly, her cheeks turn from a rosy pink to a pasty white.

Uh-oh. I think she is going to scream. Perhaps I have been too indelicate with the delivery of my shocking news. It is not every day that someone in your employ tells you they are a four-hundred-year-old, fanged killing machine—a fact I have somehow managed to keep from her, my boss. Of course, merely looking at me, one only sees what I show them: a twenty-year-old college student living on the budget of a part-time assistant librarian. I would also add that I am six one with dark brown eyes and hair and have been told I am a shockingly handsome man. I mean, handsome vampire.

And handsome a-hole. Dammit, you fool. Why did you have to blurt out the truth to Miriam like that? I watch in horror as her face changes colors like a mood ring, landing on a fiery red. She is either about to have a panic attack or turn into a ripe tomato.

Excellent work, you bastard. Upsetting my precious librarian is the last thing I need right now, because while the past month has been hell on Earth—my maker being murdered, me being forced to take leadership of two large territories (including this one here in hellishly sunny Arizona), and being falsely accused of running a vampire blood farm—nothing compares to the news I just received from Lula, my right hand, two minutes ago. It is the reason I decided to come clean with Miriam. I had no other choice given how impossible it will be to conceal the truth any longer. A war is coming, and I have been tapped to lead.

But how can the generals name me, of all people, the vampire king? Yes, I am a second-generation vampire, which makes me stronger than most. I am also a seasoned soldier and trained assassin who once fought to bring an end to the violent, tribal existence of my kind. But that was long, long ago, and since then I have been many different things: a hunter, an English professor, a barber, a detective, and a bioengineer, just to name a few.

And now you are an assistant librarian who may or may not be incredibly attracted to his boss. All right, yes, yes. I cannot stay away from her. I want to bed her in the worst kind of way. And my need to protect her body, mind, and soul, with all that I am, gnaws at my immortal heart, day and night, though I cannot say why.

Why her?

Many females have crossed my path over four centuries, yet she is the one I am drawn to. She is the reason I can say without shame that I am not meant to be a king. I am meant to be by her accident-prone side, playing with her delicious books.

Ah…such a tantalizing collection. I salivate at the thought of touching her first editions. Not only does Miriam have her private collection right here in her home, but she also owns a library near downtown Phoenix, twenty minutes away. A woman with so many books is too sexy for words. In short, after all that I have done for my kind, they cannot rob me of the only thing I have ever truly wanted: a librarian to call home.

I wince as she doubles over on her brown leather couch. Poor woman. Be strong. We will get through this together. I will keep her safe from not only her extreme clumsiness, but from the violence of my world.

I lean down and rest my hand on her back. “I realize this is a lot to take in, but you must know I will do everything in…” My voice fades as I note her jiggling shoulders.

What the devil? I scowl down at my blonde little librarian. “Miriam, do not laugh. This is not a joke. I’m a vampire, over four centuries old.”

She sits upright, gives me a serious look, and then falls forward again, unable to stop laughing.

I shake my head and cross my arms over my chest. I’m wearing jeans, Converse, and a Captain America T-shirt today. Ridiculous outfit. But it is vampire law that one must dress according to the age they look and according to their profession in the human world—a sort of camouflage to avoid drawing attention. However, at the moment, I feel silly trying to have a serious conversation with a superhero logo on my chest. What am I? Twelve? I am not much for shopping, but I will have to stop grabbing T-shirts from the bargain bin at Target.

“Miriam, listen to me. We have to leave here. It is no longer safe for me, which means it is perilous for you.”

Wiping the tears from the delicate skin of her cheeks, Miriam rights herself again. Her cupid-bow lips twitch with a grin. “I always knew you could make me laugh, but…” she lets out a happy sigh, “I really needed a good chuckle.” She hops to her feet, places her hands on my shoulders, and beams up at me. “Thank you.”

I cannot believe she thinks this is a joke. What we are facing could make a grown vampire weep. Not me, of course. Because I am Michael Vanderhorst. Son of Cluentius Boethius, a first-generation vampire, which makes me a sort of prince.

“Michael?” Miriam snaps her fingers in front of my face. “Are you even listening to me?”

Nope. I am too busy fuming. “Miriam, I appreciate how outlandish my confession seems, but I swear on my life that I really am a vam—”

“Bup!” She holds up a small hand. “No need to continue the comedy act.”

Everyone knows she is special to me, which means she’s about to become the target of every savage vampire around the globe. Ergo, Miriam Murphy has just become my biggest liability in winning this war. Nowhere near close to comedy.

A twitch of dread pulses deep in my stomach. Dammit, man. Stop it. You’ve fought in the Great Vampire War. You’ve slayed thousands of deadly, evil vampires. You are Michael Vanderhorst! I win at everything I do, despite the obstacles. It is what makes me a legend, feared by the masses.

I straighten my back and apply my sternest expression. “Miriam, you know I consider myself a gentleman, and gentlemen do not go around frightening women or children. We protect them.” I lean down and stare deeply into her wide brown eyes. “I am a vampire. I drink blood. Sure, I also enjoy strong coffee and vegetarian cuisine with blistering hot chili peppers because it makes me feel alive, but I still require blood to live. Just like your ex-boyfriend Jeremy.”

Miriam’s smile melts away.

Good. I’ve finally gotten through to her. Wait… Uh-oh. Maybe not?

Her plump little lips flatten, and she balls her tiny hands into tight fists. Rage shoots from her eyes. “That wasn’t funny, Michael. You know how much I miss Jeremy. How-how could you make a joke out of that?”

Oh, Jesus… Miriam’s ex and his boss got involved in the blood-farm scandal and were murdered by whoever was behind it all. They wanted to cover their tracks. Up until now, she was unaware that both men were vampires and that Jeremy was not a good man.

Someday I will tell her the entire story. “I’m sorry I mentioned Jeremy. Truly. But we have no time to play gam—”

“No!” She stands and points an angry finger in my face. “You do not get to talk about him. You do not get to use his name for a gag.”

How can she think so little of me?

“Miriam, I apologize, but you must trust me when I say he was not who you think. I am not who you think.” I begin opening my mouth to flash a bit of fang.

“Get. Out,” she barks, angrier than I’ve ever seen her.

“Miriam, I—”

“You heard me. Get out! You promised to never lie to me again. You swore the bullshit would stop, yet here you are, doing it again. You don’t understand what it’s like to lose the people you love, Michael. I lost my parents. I lost my boyfriend. I almost lost my library! So how,” she throws her hands in the air, “could you possibly think asking me to lose my sanity would make me feel better?”

I hang my head and sigh with remorse. Though she accuses me of being insensitive, it’s quite the opposite. I hear her loud and clear: One more loss, one more heartbreaking ordeal, and she will break. She still mourns the loss of her parents in an accident last year, and Jeremy is never far from her thoughts. She’s been threatened, attacked, and kidnapped more than once these past few weeks, all because of Jeremy’s illicit dealings, which she knows nothing about. Still, if I truly mean what I say about protecting her mind, body, and soul with everything I have, then I cannot push her further. Vampires and the violence to come with this war must remain in the shadows as long as possible.

I bob my head and offer my most remorseful expression—furrowed brows and puppy-dog eyes. “You’re right. I’m sorry. Sometimes I get carried away.” I smack my forehead. “Stupid college student, yanno.”

She narrows her eyes. “You need to leave.”

“Going.” I raise my palms in surrender. “But please don’t stay mad. I really was trying to make you feel better—I know how much you love those vampire romances and—”

She holds up a hand to stop me.

I nod in compliance. “See you at the library.”

I leave her house, knowing she will be safe for the moment. Her Southwestern-style mansion has a basement, a vault, and two separate wings of rare and priceless books. Her state-of-the-art security system will keep out any intruders—at least long enough for me to show up and assist her, should she call for help, which she will if she feels afraid. That is the mystery between us. I need her. She needs me. Neither understands why or is ready to confront it. Simply put, our bond is a mystery.

Speaking of…what will I do when she leaves the house? Because, despite modern myths, my kind does walk in the sun. We hate it—especially in this sunny hellhole called Arizona—but we do it. Therefore, she is in danger twenty-four seven from my enemies.

I slide into my black rental SUV and shove the key in the ignition. I’d better figure something out fast. She’ll be leaving for work in a few hours. I will have to return later and follow her to the library.

I crank the engine, and it roars to life with a knock and a sputter. That’s odd. I put it in drive and head for the gate. The moment I exit Miriam’s property, the SUV begins to chug. One block away, the thing dies.

Well, crap.

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