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The Librarian’s Vampire Assistant, Book 4 Excerpt

THE LIBRARIAN’S VAMPIRE ASSISTANT, Book Four. A Cozy Mystery by New York Times bestseller Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Chapter One

“Michael, please come home,” Lula whimpers through the other end of my cell phone. “I’m begging you. It’s been over a year. This. Has. To. End.”

Why the hell is she telling me this? I know. I goddamned well know! I am the one who is dirty, tired, underfed, and at the end of my rope.

“I’m sorry, Lula,” I say, gazing out across the turquoise blue waters of the Marmara Sea from my suite in Istanbul, “but nothing has changed. I will never stop looking for Miriam.” I’ve traveled to the caves of Borneo, searched every oasis along the Sahara Desert, and combed through every major city, remote island, and five-star resort. I have flipped over thousands of rocks and followed hundreds of leads from vampires who’ve interacted with the legendary, ruthless, and one-lightbulb-shy-of-a-functioning-table-lamp vampire, Mr. Nice.

Wherever he’s taken my librarian, it’s somewhere off the grid. My heart sinks into my dirty leather boots. I miss Miriam more than words can say. I cannot breathe without her.

Lula sighs remorsefully. “You’re my brother, Michael—but in a non-creepy way since we aren’t actually related and did sleep together once. What I mean to say is that you mean more to me than just a best friend or sharing the same maker, which is why you give me no choice. I have to put my foot down and tell you the truth: You’re never going to find Miriam, and it’s time you face it. She’s gone.”

I turn away from the sherbet orange sunset melting into the deep blue ocean, the sound of crashing waves to my back and the cool December wind whipping through my dark unkempt hair. It is a surprise this hotel gave me a room because I look like I rolled out of a dumpster. Or clawed my way from a vegetable garden. I think they did not want to upset me. I carry an ominous vibe these days.

“Lula, she is not gone. Miriam is hidden. By a very powerful, delusional vampire. I could no more cease looking for her than I would for you if you were taken.”

“You say that, but at some point you have to accept reality and throw in the towel.”

“Never.” I am over four hundred years old, and Miriam is the only woman who’s ever managed to pierce my cold heart with love’s arrow. She made me see what life could be like if I faced my demons and let down my guard. Now that I have had a taste, I cannot go back to the hollow, emotionless vampire I once was. I need her in my life. Her, and her first-edition books. So. Many…

“Michael!” Lula barks. “I’m sorry, but I’ve been holding down the fort for over a year—running your Ohio and Arizona territories, taking care of Miriam’s precious library, fending off the council, who happens to be wondering when the hell you’re going to return since you’re technically still our king and haven’t shown up to even one meeting. Meanwhile, your people need you because we’re all still dealing with the fallout from Clive’s attempted coup. Enough’s enough!”

I understand what she is saying. Our people have been through a lot. Our maker, Clive, was a powerful first-generation vampire. When I met him, he dreamed of a world where vampires protected innocent humans and were no longer predatory savages. That dream would lead us to the Great War, and after we won, our kind gained a new purpose: to quietly cull the criminally insane, the violent, and the irredeemable from the human population. Us vampires would blend in and hide in plain sight, disguising our societies (aka covens) as legitimate businesses and organizations. We came out of our hovels and caves to build global enterprises, trading in the old ruthless ways in favor of councils and guards to enforce our laws. We became civilized.

But hundreds of years after our civil war, Clive had buyer’s remorse and saw our side’s victory as a death sentence for our planet. While vampires worried about protecting innocent lives, humans became destructive—polluting our world with their factories, plastics, and toxic waste. Clive began plotting to undo centuries of work so that vampires could take over again. And not the nice ones. The ones who’d sooner eat a baby for breakfast than lift a finger for a friend. We stopped Clive, of course, for good. But his attempt left our societies shaken and our government in shambles. It also left me in charge as the interim ruler. Oh. Yippy.

“I am sorry, Lula,” I say, “but you can tell the council that I will not return. Not until I find Miriam. They can elect another king.”

“OMG! That’s what I’ve been trying to get through your thick man-skull for months. Some of the council members want to brand you a traitor. They want your head, Michael. You’ve turned your back on everyone, and I’m the last person standing in your corner. If I try one more time, if I say one more thing about how they should all be loyal and patient, they’re going to hang me alongside you.”

I bow my head and pinch the bridge of my nose. I knew the councils would not be happy about my lack of presence, but I never imagined they would want to hurt Lula for it.

Vampires are so damned touchy. “Very well, I will return. But only long enough to face the council and officially resign the throne.”

“No! You can’t, Michael! Too many territory leaders are pissed at you. If you give up power now, they’ll vote to have us executed. You have to come back and stay back. At least until this blows over and you’re able to pass the kingly baton to an ally.”

I do not understand any of this. Vampires have not had a king since before Team No-Eat-People-For-Fun took over. I only stepped in because Clive kidnapped all one hundred and forty-four council members during his attempted revolution last year. Our side needed someone to lead and, like Lula, I am a descendant of Clive—better known as Cluentius Boethius, an original vampire. Unlike Lula, I was a soldier and an assassin in the Great War. I have killed thousands of vampires in the name of a peaceful coexistence with humans. But the man they want as their king, once known as the Executioner, no longer exists. He was ruthless. All right, and a nice dresser. Yes, yes, and handsome, too—six two, piercing dark eyes, and refined facial features, but that is beside the point. I do not want to be the vampire king. Nevertheless, I am stuck between a vampire rock and a vampire hard place.

“Please, Michael. I’m begging you. I’ll look for Miriam myself, but you have to come home.”

I do not trust Lula like I used to. She has lied one too many times in the name of “just trying to help.” In fact, she is partly to blame for Miriam’s abduction, which has destroyed our friendship. A friendship I greatly miss but will never confess to her. I relied on Lula. She was my trusty sidekick. And now, more than ever, I feel the loss of her in my life. Almost as much as I feel the loss of Miriam. Nevertheless, even if I do not see how things could ever be repaired between me and Lula, I would never turn my back on her, and she knows it. That is the thing about vampires, we are loyal to our own detriment.

“I will be home tomorrow. Let the council know that heads will roll. Anyone who has threatened you or spoken out against me will be dusted.” Dusted is vampire lingo for killed. We turn into a fine cloud of particles when we die.

“Booya! There’s the Michael I know!” Lula howls.

No. That man is dead. Four times over. First, when I was made by Clive. Second, when I was made into the Executioner. Third, when I lost my librarian. And fourth, when I lost my best friend. Now I’m not sure who I am.

You, Michael, are Miriam’s motherfucking assistant librarian. Don’t ever forget it.

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