Recommended Reads Saturday: Beloved Vampire by Joey W. Hill
I am recommending this book because some books you read and you’re done. Others become a part of you in such a way they feel like a memory. Beloved Vampire is a stunning, compelling novel that deserves to be a part of vampire lore as well as a staple of the required reading list for any fan of erotic fiction. The book was my first erotic novel and a breath if fresh air at a time when Bella/Edward were all the rage. Bad things happen to characters, sex is used as a weapon and to heal, and for every page of the novel, you believe. You believe vampires like this could exist, you believe a woman’s spirit could persevere beyond all seeming endurance, you believe a human body – with all it’s flaws and scars, could be capable of nearly poetic sensuality. Hill creates a world that is logical, well-ordered, and rich without being overly complex. And while the male Dom occasionally seems one-note in his speech and actions, Hill establish he deserves it as a result of his age and history.
The following is an excerpt from Beloved Vampire posted with the approval of Joey W. Hill
Clarifications for this excerpt: After Lord Mason rescued Jessica from the tomb of his previous lover and servant, Farida, he brought her to his South American estate. This is one of her first nights there. Though Farida has been dead for centuries, Jessica has a special connection to her through a journal, such that at times her thoughts wander and merge with those of the woman he once loved. Jessica does that to cope with the terrible memories she has of her former vampire master, Raithe.
Mason has marked Jessica so he can speak in her mind.
When Jessica rose abruptly and nodded her goodnights to Amara and Enrique, she was conscious of their scrutiny as she left the room. What would they say about her after she left? Why would she care? She had to quell an urge to bolt into a run in the hallway, escape the shadows at her heels.
In the horror movies, it was always the one who left the campfire first who got attacked by the monster. She firmed her chin. The stairwell was lit, and she remembered her way well enough to take only one wrong turn before she reached the hallway with her room. When she slid into her room, the dim night lamp was on. Then she froze.
The French doors were open, letting in the sea breeze, as they’d been this morning to let in sunlight. Her rational mind told her that. Still, there was a big black hole of night yawning in the corner of her room like a vortex, and the darkness that had dogged her heels closed in. She pressed her back against the door and told her heart to calm its pounding. This was stupid. She could walk over there, close the doors, and the night would not reach in with grasping fingers. The shadows in the corners would not coalesce and grab her, blind her and hold her, come at her with pain and wicked whispers, sly laughter. Raithe was dead. He was gone.
She slid down the door, wrapping her arms around her knees. Had it come to this? Needing someone in her room with her like she was a child? She’d managed fine all those months when sick. Yes, because she’d had something worse to fear, and because she’d been careful to ensure she was in a well-lit room by the time night fell. She’d been here less than a few days and her guard was already slipping.
No, she was fine. She was going to get up, walk across the room and close those doors any minute now. Leaving them open wasn’t an option. She couldn’t possibly go to sleep with that dark eye staring, unblinking, at her. In the distance, there was a dotting of landscaping lights in the garden, a couple sconces on the verandah, but not nearly enough. She tried to listen to the ocean and be soothed by it, but instead all she heard were sibilant whispers.
Trying to get a grip, she looked over at the bed. It had been turned down, the sheet dusted with flower petals. Then she noticed the basket on the nightstand and, more importantly, the aroma that came from it. Keeping one eye fixed toward the opening to the night, she rose and sidled closer to the basket to fold back the cloth napkin.
Chocolate chip cookies. Warm from the oven, a full dozen of them. Of all the choices of comfort food, it ranked as king, particularly to an Ohio girl so far from home. It didn’t matter that she’d had three small meals today, that her shrunken stomach was still full from dinner. Pulling the blanket off the bed, she backed to the far side of the night table. Wrapping herself up, she slid back to the floor, wedging in the corner, putting the table as a block between her and the open doors.
She slid the basket over to her with a finger hooked inside the edge. Cradling it in her lap inside the nest of the blanket, she withdrew a cookie and took her first bite. As she did, she fixed her eyes on the darkness outside the French doors and tried to see past it to the moonlight, the clouds shifting in the sky. Tried to calm herself with the smell of tropical flowers and quiet rush of the ocean, devoid of whispers.
Grudgingly, she had to admit Mason was right about one thing. He could heal her body, but her mind needed a lot of work. Okay, one step at a time. Tonight, being here in the corner was as brave as she was going to get. She ate another cookie, positioned her head on the wall and kept silent watch, bolstered by chocolate. Maybe she’d fall asleep in this position and wake when safe, fierce sunlight was bathing the room.
Jessica, you’re not in your bed.
His voice, a soft murmur in her mind, didn’t frighten her as she might have expected it to do. “Amara didn’t tell me you imposed bedtimes. I’m not six.” Even if she was camped on the floor with chocolate chip cookies and a fear of the boogeyman.
Get in your bed, habiba. You will be more comfortable there. And I am here. Nothing will hurt you.
“After I finish my cookies.”
Now. Or I come tuck you in personally.
Muttering, she rose, holding the cover around her, but swayed, staring at the door. “I can’t.” God, I’m pathetic.
Here. I’ll fix it. Don’t be afraid. The doors slowly swung shut, and she heard a latch close. An automated shade rolled down, completely shutting off the outside view.
“How did you—” But of course it made sense for a vampire to have controls that could remotely seal off every door and window with the push of a button. In daylight, she might perversely find that frightening, because it kept her shut in. Now, it brought some comfort.
Into bed, habiba.
She slid under the covers, putting the cookie basket close to hand on the pillow beside her, re-covering it with the napkin. There were several pillows, and she drew one close to her body, holding on to it as she adjusted her head on the pillow above it. She lay facing the door, but brought the cover up so she could tuck her chin down and not see it. She was six, if she was pretending that hiding under the covers would keep her safe.
That might not keep you safe, but I will, Jessica. Anything that wishes you harm will have to come through me.
“Even your own kind? When will you tell them about me? Turn me over to them? I know that’s why you’re keeping me. You’ve probably already told them I’m here.”
I will not be turning you over to the Council, Jessica. We will talk more of it later, but the only reason I am keeping you here is to keep you safe, until I can figure out how to let you live your life without being a fugitive from my kind. You may leave when I’m certain you will be safe.
She dug her fingers into the pillowcase, and for some reason the crisp, white fabric reminded her again of the bloodstained front of his shirt. She’d touched it, she remembered, felt the warmth of his body beneath it. It was a myth, that vampires were cold. Raithe, her old master, had had an insidious heat that emanated from his pores. Like Satan. Heat and brimstone pouring from his skin, lips stretched back from fangs, a venomous hiss heralding fetid breath, even as he turned everything inside of her cold.
Jessica, stop that.
She snapped out of it, to find that she’d dug her nails into her arm, deep enough to draw blood.
“I can’t believe you, Mason. I know you want me to. But I can’t.”
All I ask you to do right now is believe one thing. That you will sleep tonight without fear. I will not let anything happen to you for the next eight hours. Can you do that? I am with you.
She felt it again, then, that warm touch on her mind that spread through her body and settled over her like a cloak. “How do you do that?”
“Right.” She tried for a snort, got a yawn. Burrowing deeper into the blankets, she stretched out her fingertips to touch the basket. She should thank Amara for the cookies tomorrow. It was a nice touch, even for a vampire’s servant whose motives she mistrusted. “What are you doing, anyway?” she mumbled. “Other than being a Peeping Tom.”
If that was my intention, it appears you’re sleeping in your clothes. And your shoes. Very disappointing. I’m sorting through contractor invoices.
Her lips curved in a sleepy smile, but she worked her toes under her sandal straps, let them slide off and fall out from under the covers to the floor, then curled her feet back under the comforter. Her mind drifted. “You’re sitting at a desk somewhere in this opulent palace, doing paperwork?”
Unfortunately, my magic does not extend to having checks write themselves. Or handling contractors trying to take advantage of my abundant wealth.
“How did you get so rich?”
Strip dancing in Vegas.
She achieved the snort this time, then she sobered, her eyes drooping further. “Those gifts, the ones in Farida’s tomb. They were beautiful.”
A silence this time, but it was almost as if she could hear him breathing. With her eyes closed, she imagined him beside Farida. Beside her. His breath stirring her brow, his hand stroking. He’d worn a heavy signet ring then, something amber, she remembered. The cool metal of it had touched her sometimes when he’d caressed her.
Sleep, my love. I’m here. His arms wrapped around her body, her head tucked under his. She’d never been happier than when he did this, held her so close, their legs tangled so one of his was between her thighs, one of hers wrapped around his hip as they slumbered, as if even then they tried to be as closely connected as possible. Sometimes her last prayer of the day was to the old gods and goddesses, the ones she still believed moved in the shifting sandstorms or hid in the cool waters of the oasis, living under Allah’s indulgence.
Great Beings, thank you for this perfect moment, which shall make all other moments bearable. Let me always do your Will, in gratitude for this great happiness you give me. To be his. To have his love.
She drifted to sleep, imagining herself with long dark hair that spilled over his arms as he held her. The sound of the desert wind rose outside, fluttering against the tent sides.
On the other side of his estate, Mason had his eyes closed as well, elbows braced on the desk as he drifted in that dream with her, felt the touch of long, black tresses mixed with the image of short, brown curls. Trusting dark eyes against wary gray ones, a lush curved body giving way to a lean, small-breasted torso. It had been difficult not to go to her, especially when she’d started to hurt herself, her mind floundering. But she’d managed it—by immersing herself in her fantasy. It had been so powerful, she’d taken him right with her.
Amara was right. Jessica Tyson wasn’t like the others. He just wasn’t sure what that made her to him yet.