Release Date: July 28, 2009
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publisher Link: http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/hemovore
Blurb: Can art imitate death? Oh no, girlfriend. Don’t even go there… Ten years ago, the Human Hemovore Virus blazed through the world, and left the few victims who survived unable to eat, allergic to sunlight and craving the taste of blood. Mark Jensen used to think V-positives were incredibly sexy with their pale, flawless skin and taut, lean bodies. Not anymore. Not since he’s been stuck procuring under-the-counter feline blood for his control-freak boss, Jonathan Varga. Why cat blood? Mark has never dared to ask. It’s not as if he’s usually at a loss for words. He can dish an insult and follow it with a snap as quick as you can say “Miss Thang”. But one look at Jonathan’s black-as-sin gypsy eyes, and Mark’s objections drain away. So he endures their strange, endless routine: Jonathan hiding in his studio, painting solid black canvases. Mark hurling insults as he buffs the office to a shine with antiviral wipes and maps out the mysterious “routes” he’s required to drive. Then a blurb in Art in America unleashes a chain of events neither of them saw coming. As secrets of Jonathan’s past come to light, it becomes clear all his precautions weren’t nearly enough.
Synthetic blood is the margarine of the vampire world. Back when I first met him, when I still bothered asking questions, Jonathan told me-haltingly, and without meeting my eyes-that drinking the blood of a prey animal makes you slow and stupid. I wondered if cow blood was responsible for the general ennui of the lowest echelon of vampire society, or if those unfortunate V-positives would have been salesclerks, coat checks and DMV window tellers regardless of which type of blood they imbibed.
Synthetic blood was what the actual, local person I´d met on Craigslist had slipped me, at a thousand-percent markup of what I would have paid if I´d bought it from the convenience store on the corner.
I didn´t think it was worth barging into Jonathan´s studio and telling him that maybe he should be thankful that we´d been duped into buying synthetic blood instead of something a hell of a lot more dangerous. That maybe it should serve as a warning for him to find someone else to hook him up with blood dealers-someone whose connections were a little more reliable than Craigslist. I didn´t say a word. The Gates of Hell were shut tight, and it was late, and there was just no arguing with him, anyway. I really didn´t want to see synthetic blood making a reappearance, either.
It was long past quitting time. I made the walk of shame down to my car, the silver Corolla that had once seemed so shiny and new, but looked like the ugly stepsister next to Jonathan´s sleek, black Audi coupe. I could have driven straight home since I was off the clock, but really, when was I ever off the clock anymore? I executed a stunning all-left turn pattern that I never would have dreamt of trying at anytime other than the middle of the night, and headed to Boystown, where I have a hack-job of an apartment that used to be a quarter of a lovely old Victorian. As I circled for parking, I watched the young men filter from the bars, some heading home, some stopping off for coffee at the all-night diner that was lit up bright and cheerful as daytime.
I could go inside. Have a cup of coffee. Or maybe hot chocolate, since chocolate makes everything better...at least until the flavor fades from your tongue and leaves you there, still alone, and on top of that, with filmy teeth. Of course, I didn´t. I´d spent the evening touching things a V-positive had touched. I needed my nightly power shower.
"Hi, honey, I´m home," I called out to my empty apartment, which appreciated my wittiness at least as much as Jonathan did. My mailbox was full of junk mail, which I should probably sort for recycling-but who has the time? I turned on all the lights, plus the stereo and the TV. Then I remembered that my cable got cut off because I forgot to pay the bill three months in a row, so I shut the set off.
I had my nightly disinfecting ritual down to a routine. First the suit. It went into a bag hooked up to a fumigator that bombarded it with antimicrobials. The contraption looked a lot like a hairdryer that my cousin Nancy had back in the early seventies, but on a much larger scale. I went around in my underwear with a wipe and swabbed down the door and the handle on my trash compactor. My washables, shirt, shorts and socks, went into a regular laundry bag. And then I took a long, steamy shower, careful to scrub anything that had been exposed, especially my hands, with the latest and greatest in disinfectant soap.
I slipped into some pajama bottoms and wondered if I still had any Häagen-Dazs. Had I touched the freezer door and forgotten to disinfect it? I grabbed a swab from the pop-up container and wiped it down just to be safe. It turned out there was nothing in the freezer but a bag of frozen peas.
The usual "did I contaminate this?" mantra played through my head as I turned down my covers, but I reassured myself that I would not do anything so foolish as to climb into bed before I had scrubbed away all traces of the virus. Then I thought back, just to be safe...and determined that I was right. Probably.
On the bedside table, there´s a second remote that I only use after I´ve showered. I picked it up, turned on the TV, and remembered yet again that my cable was out.
I was bone-tired anyway, and needed to be back at Varga Studio in a mere seven hours to do all the various tasks that I was supposed to have done tonight, while instead I was wasting my time, spending a big stack of twenties on a piddly little bottle of store-bought blood. I juggled remotes and turned on my stereo instead. It had a 20-CD changer, but there was only one disc loaded. And it always put me to sleep without fail.
The smooth baritone voice of the language instructor washed over me in strange, musical Hungarian tones. It was nice to hear it. Familiar. Routine.
"Could you please write that down?
I mouthed the words. Some of them were growing recognizable, but I´d never dared to speak them in front of Jonathan. I didn´t want to come off as a stalker.
"Could you please write that down?