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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Wonder why every UF heroine has to lunge at others' throats for every slight (often while wearing black leather and stiletto heels)?

Tired of the YA love triangles and centuries-old immortals whose crushes don't creep out the naive young women they're interested in?

Meet Destiny Walker, a teenage girl who lets her classmates bully her because they aren't worth her time, who will attack an undead creature with a wooden pencil, and who will be the justification used to start World War III if she isn't careful.


$4.99 US!

(for other vendors, see the Ganxy showcase)

NEWS:
The sequel has just released! See more information about Know Thy Frienemy[/url later in this thread.

It's also just started posting [url=http://bit.ly/1b0uHwt]over on Wattpad
. Plan is for one chapter every Tuesday, until it's all up (which will be the last week of January).

Summary:

Is saving a friend worth starting a war?

Destiny Walker is an exceptional student despite her youth, sullenness, and the werewolf baby she left on a stranger's doorstep. Across the Atlantic, Kismet Baros was a rare type of Magik who was under the protection of the vampire court. Only Destiny and the judge who emancipated her know why Kismet no longer exists.

When powerful Magiks from Kismet's past show up, Destiny must decide what she is-person or property-and if she's willing to sacrifice the few friends she has.

If she isn't, she'll be the gunpowder that sparks World War III.

—--

A fast-paced dark urban fantasy novel, wherein a girl must figure out if it's worth starting a war to save her friend. Contains mature themes, some violence and gore, and a few cases of objectionable language.

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

March 31, 2009
South Carolina, United States


"Des!" Jordan's call for me cuts through the between-classes crowd.

I scan the school hallway to find her and stumble into Mike.

He shoves me into the steel lockers. I catch myself with my forearms and push myself off before the pain registers. The iron in my bangles burns me enough.

Mike's "Watch where you're going!" contains his usual vulgarity.

I want to mutter a correction about actual bitches, not that Mike would recognize a wynwolf if he saw one, unless she had one of those 'Will Change for change!' signs. But he isn't worth my time. I clutch my backpack's shoulder strap and give him a needlessly wide berth as I head over to Jordan, one of the few nice girls who doesn't mind a sullen goth kid.

There aren't many fifteen-year-old high school juniors by the time spring break looms. My youth means the snobs refuse to accept me, my sullenness makes me unwelcome in chess club, and I'm barred from the emo gang by my good grades and job.

That drops me with the few people in the weird crowd willing to see past the 'leave me alone' façade I've stuck myself behind for everyone's safety. Most of those kids are Magiks and therefore used to seeing the magical reality beneath the veneer of mundanity: the Darkworld. Jordan has the best protection in case my past comes to haunt her, so I hang with her the most.

My back hurts, so I slouch against the wall beside Jordan and let my schoolbag slide to the floor. I pick at one violet-painted nail and let the werewolf's daughter speak first. Jordan's dad is the area alpha, a widely known fact that perhaps a sixth of the city actually believes and the rest thinks a creative marketing ploy to help his merc business. When it's too tense for cops' comfort but not bad enough for SWAT, they call him. I don't think he's bothered to let a target escape him since he's gone public about his furry hide.

I rent a room from one of the pack members, but I'm not sure if that's common knowledge. I follow pack protocol anyway and let the alpha's daughter speak first. That doesn't take long.

"Hey. You okay?"

I shrug.

Jordan frowns. "Des, you look exhausted."

And I am. But that you've been stalking a pair of mated werewolves to check on the baby isn't something you confess. I shrug again. "You know Missis Gambrel. That history project is a killer."

History class itself gives me the worst trouble. History is different between Magiks and humans. Heck, even the US legal system is, thanks to the Magiks of the South not actually losing the Civil War. States have more individual sovereignty, and slavery isn't always illegal.

Okay, so it's usually legal. But knowing that is something else you don't confess. Jordan may not even know; her dad keeps his pack civilized.

Jordan scoffs at my claim that the history project has caused my fatigue. "I have the same homework you do, and I have fun on the weekends instead of moping around." She pauses. "I mean, I know you work; but that's, what, five hours a week?" More like twenty-five. "You can afford to come hang out on Fridays."

One reason not many people keep me company is that I respond with yet another shrug. Another is that I sometimes body throw whoever who taps me on the shoulder. Like now. Fionn yelps as he lands unceremoniously in the hallway in the gap habitually left by passersby.

"What the-" Jordan shoots Fionn a look, and he gulps down the curse. He collects himself and glares at me. "What is your problem?!"

I don't apologize.

Jordan speaks, instead. "Back off, Fionn. You know she does that when you startle her." At least once a week.

He plows onward. "You're, like, completely freakin' paranoid about being touched-"

"So she dislikes surprises and happens to know a bit of self-defense." Jordan's glaring at Fionn. You'd think anyone with reason to believe her about her father would avoid irking her, but Fionn always surprises me with his poor sense.

I yawn and look at my watch, my black metal bangles tinkling as they hit each other. "Spanish class in eight minutes," I comment.

That's one class where my previous life makes less work. Italian's not the same as Spanish, but I've managed to slip into the third year class readily enough. Señora Garcia lets me speak whichever I like, so long as she gets my gist. She nearly had a heart attack in her surprise when the new middle-of-the-year student (me) walked up to her and started speaking fluent Italian. Goths tend to dabble in dead languages.

The señora's ensuing confusion when I told her I'm Greek was fun to watch. I'm sure it would be even more amusing to see her reaction to learning what, exactly, taught me Italian-but I'm already suspected of being a mite unhinged and don't need to add that confession to the strikes against me. Belief in magic is on the upswing, but it still isn't chic.

"You aren't even listening to me, are you?" Fionn demands.

I glance at my watch again. Seven more minutes 'til the last class before lunch. "No."

He proceeds to curse me out until Jordan socks him in the jaw. That's a common enough sight that not even the hall monitors blink. I wouldn't be surprised if Jordan's dad was who taught her how to do that so well. She never shakes or blows on her bloodied knuckles, either.

A too-familiar tingle on my upper back keeps me from comprehending whatever Jordan says next. I quickly stop my widening eyes, but I know I've paled. I force my breathing and pulse to stay as close to normal as I can. I scan the hallway with what I hope looks like boredom and not panic.

A lot of things can trigger a bind-rune, I remind myself as magic flares along the lines of the magic-filled sigil tattooed on my upper back. An unfamiliar Magik can do it just by passing by. Fionn did, the first several times I was near him. His sealskin is probably dark brown if not black, judging from his platinum hair and pale green eyes. Selkies' eyes complement both forms, and their pelts and hair never match.

I swallow, praying that it's just an unfamiliar Magik that's awoken the bind-rune and not-

"Ah, Signorina Fuller!"

Jordan looks towards the voice calling her. I stare blankly.

An Armani-clad Ambrogino Romazzo can't be in the middle of this average US high school, walking my way, unimpeded by the teenage crowd thanks to his six feet and a few inches. He can't. I shake my head. I pinch my arm.

He's still here, unless I'm hallucinating. If he's seeking Jordan, at least he's not here for a snack. He's fond of high schoolers, claims we taste better. Cleaner than adults but riper than children. His words, not mine.

I cringe and glance at Fionn. From his frown, he can tell Signor Ambrogino is a fellow Magik; he just hasn't yet figured out that the signore's a creep even by Darkworld standards.

So Signor Ambrogino is the one making my tattoo go wonky. I didn't have it when I knew him, so it's adjusting to his magic.

Oh, merda. Does that mean his magic's noticing it, too?

I flinch as I look up to meet the gaze set a good foot above mine. I swallow uncomfortably. His kind are creeps, but he's passably friendly. I shove myself off the wall and turn away, biting my lip.

Please don't let him recognize me, God. He'll find out what's happened, track down my owner, and… Things get bad when his kind and my owner's kind get mad at each other. And Hollywood likes to think that it exaggerates.

Signor Ambrogino takes Jordan's hand. "Signorina Jordan Fuller, daughter of the pack."

Thankfully his attention stays on Jordan, so he doesn't notice my shudder at his proper phrasing to call Jordan the alpha's daughter and not merely a werewolf's daughter. That distinction tends to remain unknown to people outside of werewolf packs. Jordan doubtless finds his knowledge surprising and reassuring. I would, except I'm pretty sure Ambrogino knows what he does about werewolves because he's eaten them.

He bows over Jordan's hand. "Ciao, signorina."

"Ciao," she returns calmly, as if unknown and potentially dangerous Magiks often walk up to her in the middle of her ordinary school day for a chat. In Italian. "My friends: Fionn Dillan, Destiny Walker."

His dark caramel-colored eyes pass over us with enough of a glance to avoid being rude and to enable him to remember us until we can be forgotten for our irrelevance in a few weeks, after he's back in Rome. "Signor Dillan, Signorina Walker." He bows to each of us.

Fionn smiles and nods politely, obviously still trying to figure out which type of Magik the signore is. Funny; I would've expected the Italian to give Fionn the right idea.

I just stare blankly at the signore for a couple of seconds then look at my watch. I shove myself off the wall and slouch. "Class in four minutes."

"I'll walk you." Signor Ambrogino takes Jordan's bag and offers to take mine.

I give him another dull look.

He smiles faintly and pulls it from me. "It would be improper for a gentleman to allow you to carry your own bag, signorina," he explains politely, as if I'm a normal teenager without a trace of etiquette training.

My voice doesn't tip him off, which makes me feel better. I've wondered how helpful all this goth getup actually is. That I've messily lopped my hair off and dyed it a nearly black green probably helps the disguise. I was always neat and well-kept in Rome, in the white that labeled me as not-for-meals, and my hair an only mildly abnormal coyote-brown color.

I sense Signor Ambrogino stiffen slightly, and I risk a sidelong glance at him. I'd think his narrowed gaze hungry, except he's eyeing up my profile and not my arm. He reaches for my face, then lowers his hand. "You have an…interesting…jaw," he says quietly.

I freeze, my heart clambering up my throat. He's said that you can tell if a woman's had a baby by her jawline. He's also claimed you can often tell if a girl's had sex by how she naturally walks, so I've never put much stock in either one.

I concentrate on walking…normally…and on not calming my thundering heartbeat, since he already hears it.

He stiffens in surprise that I evidently know he meant my jaw matches a girl who's had a baby. He's said artists tend to know about that. Do I look like an artist? "Forgive me, signorina," he continues quickly. "I did not mean-that is, I meant…"

He glances at Jordan and Fionn, obviously guessing that they don't know about the baby. He just as obviously guesses from my reaction that I have good reason to be freaked out by adult male attention. "It was a compliment," he finally 'confesses', pointedly adding a bit more space between us and not looking at me directly. "I meant nothing untoward by it."

In other words, he wasn't hitting on me. I nod sharply and stiffly continue towards class, not trusting my voice. Sure, it's matured in the past few years, but he could still ID me if he considers it. And with him noticing me now as more than Jordan's inconsequential friend, I don't need him to have more ammo to figure me out.

"Des?" Jordan asks. I've never mentioned what happened to the baby she knows I had. "You okay?"

I shrug-yes, again, fancy that-and resume my feigned sullen nonchalance.

Signor Ambrogino has gotten into trouble at Court more than once for his lack of tact, so it really shouldn't surprise me when he draws a quick breath and asks, "You didn't keep the child?"

I flinch, the action an admission that keeps Fionn from flipping out at the question's implication that I fool around. "T…took after his padre," I say, then flinch again when I realize I've just used Italian.

Thankfully, it's the same word in- "Here's our class. Spanish. Thank you for the escort, signore." I grab my schoolbag from his lax grip and dart into the classroom and to my desk. It's a few seconds before Fionn and Jordan follow me, but Signor Ambrogino doesn't. He doesn't.

As the bell rings and Señora Garcia begins class, I breathe a deep sigh of relief and slouch into my chair. He didn't follow me. He doesn't recognize me.

Thank God.

[end of excerpt]​


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Misti,

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, Betsy. :)

Destiny's Kiss was rated 4.5 of 5 stars over at Sift Book Reviews by Erica!

For a fan of urban fantasy, this book has it all: vampires, werewolves, faeries, druids, and numerous others. I will warn that it's pretty dark and deals considerably with abuse; however the author balances it well with relatable, witty, humane characters. The style of writing reminds me of Kelley Armstrong; it is very snappy, quick, and keeps the reader guessing.
Read the rest here!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Destiny's Kiss has received a new cover-and in celebration, I'm hosting a giveaway! Details are over on my blog, but no purchase is necessary, and you get to pick which of my stories you want in e-format.

So, fans of urban fantasy and YA paranormals, what's to lose?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Wondering what happens after a UF heroine tries to do something and fails spectacularly?

Or maybe wondering what happens when you're stuck in a situation that gives others justifiable reason to want a friend dead?

The story of Destiny Walker continues in Know Thy Frienemy, out now!


$4.99 US!

(for other vendors, see the Ganxy showcase)

Summary:

Is freedom always worth the cost, even when it would cost you everything?

After the life-changing week she had in "Destiny's Kiss", Destiny Walker knows she's messed up, but she isn't stupid. Her magic's missing at the moment, and at least a few big-name Magiks want her dead. At least as property of the director of the vampire internal affairs agency, she has protections she wouldn't have if she were a person.

The problem with the 'property' thing is what kind she is: concubine. Her owner ignores that part of it, perhaps because he's fonder of her than is good for him. Regardless, after the abuse her previous owner put her through, she perfectly happy with the haven her new owner provides. She's not the only one he protects, and she'll do whatever she has to to keep him safe.

No matter who's behind the attempts to kill him.

---

A dark urban fantasy novel wherein a girl must figure out what she wants despite others' interference. Contains mature themes, some violence and gore, and a few cases of objectionable language.

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

April 7, 2009
South Carolina, United States


"C'mon, Des. Selene's about to cut Viktor's head off," Alexis urges me.

I'll never understand my flatmate's fascination with Hollywood's vampire movies. "Seen it."

I haven't seen my padrone's car drive by to enter the parking garage. Spring break started today, the Tuesday before Easter, but he said he'd visit after helping his younger half-sister figure out her visa paperwork, so she could stay in the US to finish high school with me. This is despite the fact that I'm not sure how similar the school systems are, between countries, and she barely speaks English.

My boss shooed me out of work today, too, saying she didn't have permission from my padrone to use me. He wouldn't mind, but she doesn't know him well enough to know that.

Which has left me stuck in my flat with nothing to do, accompanied by the the moody blond bohemian-punk flatmate whose idea of proper seating is a beanbag.

Alexis glances away from her movie to scowl at me, gray eyes narrowed beneath the fire engine red highlighting one side of her blond bangs. "Your sugar daddy will get here when he gets here. No stopping that short of killing him."

I watch back out the window, scratching my wrist under the braided black bracelet that declares me a vampire's property, with the manta ray charm that declares which one I belong to. Is that him behind the white SUV? No, that looks like a Wyrwulfs 4EVA sticker glinting on the back window. My padrone isn't old enough to care about any old-school spelling of werewolf.

"He's my owner, not my pimp." I glance at the scar burned into the crook of Alexis's collarbones, one that matches the sigil of her own former master and marks her as self-freed. Just last week, I learned the scar is trackable, making her 'ionized' in the jargon of the Darkworld of gargoyles and vampires and freaks and other types of Magiks. "He isn't going to pass me around."

"So he says," Alexis grumbles.

And in the movie, Viktor makes shocked sounds as half his head slides off.

"Ambrogino isn't like that!" I knew him back when I was still a person, too. If his mother or older sister were my padrona, I'd have cause to worry about whom they'd give me to, but he won't share me.

Alexis smashes the coffee table as she gets up from the beanbag. "Then why won't he free you?!"

Ice lands in my stomach, but she's a girl-and not a werewolf-so it's easier to gulp it away. "Because I ticked off a sadistic sorcerer last week and I'm safer from him if I'm his confiscated property?"

She turns the TV off right before her grip snaps the remote in two, though the plastic cracks. "Screw that. How the h-- are you safer stuck as property of that fangface that loves ticking off folks older and more powerful than he is?!"

That must be where I learned it from. "More repercussions if I'm harmed." It's not unheard-of for a woman to be safer as slave than she'd be as a freewoman. Case in point: the mother of my friend Jordan, who's the daughter and heiress of Dickens, the werewolf alpha who rules all the packs in the continental US.

Alexis's growl sounds like stones grinding together. "You're property, Destiny!"

Phantom pain spears my stomach, and I clutch my fists against the urge to scratch myself. "I know."

A brisk knock at the door interrupts us. Alexis turns with a snarl, but I scurry around her to get the door first.

My padrone stands there, all six-foot-something of him in a crisp gray suit that's accented by a Rolex. Perks of running the vampire internal affairs agency.

Direttore Ambrogino Romazzo tugs the cuffs of his fluffy white dress shirt. "Am I interrupting?"

"Of course not!" Alexis snaps. "Come on in. Make yourself at home. Screw your slave girl, while you're at it. Her sheets are clean. I'm going for a fly." And she jumps out the window.

Gargoyles can exit all dramatically like that. The revised lease from the new landlords even makes provision for it.

My padrone unhappily stares after Alexis. "Would you like dinner?"

I'm starting to think he avoids being alone with me on purpose. "There's lasagna in the fridge."

"Sounds delicious," he replies graciously, his expression reflecting no more than polite interest. "But I fancy something more exotic, tonight."

With my Japanese grandmother and magical wackiness, I could qualify as 'something exotic'.

Breathe, Destiny. He doesn't mean it like that. Just breathe.

He stiffens, an acknowledgement that he hears my thundering heart and smells my budding panic. "Get ready to go somewhere nice. I'll wait outside." And he steps out and shuts the door behind him.

The bind-rune on my lower back-a tattoo in the shape of my padrone's sigil, a stylized manta ray like the charm on my bracelet-buzzes, poised to compel me to obey, but my master didn't put a time limit on his order. I make myself take slow breaths and wrestle my pulse back under control.

It helps that I'm pretty much injury-free-just a few bruises, mostly, left over from the end of last week-and he's in the hallway. My little black sleeveless dress is fine for 'somewhere nice', but I go to my room to freshen up. I brush my bottle black hair, and tie it back into something reminiscent of neatness. I hacked it off myself with an old pocketknife last year, so there's only so much that can be done for it.

The buzzing on my back lets up once I'm ready to go.

The bind-rune's happy, but the mirror shows some coyote-brown at the roots of my hair. Ulgh. I'll have to get more dye-or maybe I'll bleach it, this time. That would be cheaper.

Or I could just let my padrone pay for the dye. He probably would, if I asked him rudely.

I pull on my black boots and join him in the hall outside, locking the door behind me. Doesn't look as though he's wearing an Armani, tonight, but with a puffy dress shirt like that, he doesn't need more ornamentation. "What's with the blouse?"

He blinks, reflexively straightening his cuffs. "I beg your pardon?"

I pass him and open the stairwell door for him. He catches it, and we start jogging down the stairs.

"Isn't that shirt sorta girly?" I ask.

Ambrogino Romazzo, director of the vampire equivalent of the FBI, glances at his fluffy shirt. "It's comfortable."

And a comfortable shirt is sufficient reason to look girly? "I'm sure it is."

"It's silk," he insists, darting ahead of me to catch the door to the parking garage. He gives me a pointed stare when I try to take the door from him. I roll my eyes as I pass him, and he snorts. "It is not 'girly'."

Somebody's defensive. "What, you pick it up at the secondhand shop? Maybe they put it in the wrong section."

"I doubt that." He leads the way to his car.

This is fun. "Why? People make mistakes. Maybe someone misread the tag. What side are the buttons on? Left's for women."

He flushes.

I just humiliated my owner. Merda.

"Of course, a lot of manufacturers aren't holding to the gender conventions, these days," I hear myself babble, fingertips burning in remembered pain from how vampires like punishing miscreants, though I'm too aware that I am wearing black and therefore am fair game to feed from as a blacksnack. "Maybe it was in the right section after all, just made to look like a girl shirt-"

"Kiss." He grabs my hand as he refers to my old name, the name I had legally changed last year, to help me hide from my previous owner long enough to keep his baby from him.

We stand there in the parking garage, my current owner holding my hand, for a long moment.

I gulp. "Des," I correct him, though I have no right to.

"Kiss," he gently insists. Then he manually unlocks the car, tucks his arm under mine, and escorts me to the shotgun seat. How did I miss seeing a navy blue sedan? His mother taught me better than that.

He gets in, and we head to dinner. Minutes pass, and he doesn't comment on my insulting him.

I watch the evening traffic outside the window and try not to think about how my flesh should be buzzing, right now, surrounded by all this iron. Should be.

Thanks to burning out my magic last week, it isn't. No magic, and probably not even my immunity to magic. We haven't exactly been eager to test that latter one.

We reach the restaurant, which is some weird word that I'm not even gonna try to pronounce. My English is good-essentially native, thanks to my mother-but it has its limits. "What's this?"

"This world has space for all God's creatures, beside the mashed potatoes."

Um, "What?"

Ambrogino smiles, showing fang. "This restaurant's slogan."

I take a moment to process that. "Caspita." With all the animal rights groups around, that takes some nerve. "Sounds like a guy place."

"Thank you." He studies the parking lot before bowing graciously and assisting me out of the car. There's a predatory sharpness to dark caramel-colored eyes, reminding me that however foppish he looks, he singlehandedly tracked down and ate his half-sister's rapist.

Actually, he hunted and ate my kidnapper landlord, too, this past Friday.

A lot of my life right now stems from last week.

We enter the restaurant, claim the Romazzo reservation, and are seated at a spotless table. The waiter looks as though he's done this awhile, and his black slacks and dress shirt are newer than my thrift store dress.

The waiter rattles off the introductions and today's specials.

My mind goes full stop. "You serve kangaroo?!"

His smile says my reaction's not entirely uncommon. "We do."

I look at my padrone. "I gotta try that."

Ambrogino's lips quirk. "Without inquiring what it tastes like?"

"It's meat. And it's a marsupial. Doesn't matter what it tastes like." I wonder if Jordan ever eats here. Werewolves plus wild game has to be a winning combination, even for a seventeen-year-old wynwolf who doesn't like bacon.

The waiter chuckles. "Can I get you anything to drink?"

"Tea-hot tea," I hastily correct my order. Do not want sweet tea. Rock candy should be hard, thanks. "If you have it. Coffee if you don't. Water either way." Though the coffee served by most restaurants around here isn't much better than the rock candy cold tea.

The waiter nods. "And for you, sir?"

"Water, with lime and without ice, please. A bottle of merlot. The ostrich fillet. And does this establishment recognize…?" He pulls a card out of his wallet and shows it to the man.

The waiter stiffens. "I'll have to check with my manager. One moment, please." He hurries off.

"Recognize what?" I ask.

Ambrogino pops his neck. "Magik law."

The manager reaches our table, mumbles something I can't hear well enough to make sense of.

My padrone waves him off. "Never mind. I have no desire to cause problems for you. Miss Walker can do without any merlot."

I blink. "I didn't order merlot."

He raises his eyebrows. "I did."

The manager and waiter disperse to their respective duties, and our waters arrive promptly. Ambrogino sips his. "Are you ready for finals?"

"Yes." Okay, so that answer makes me sound like a jerk, since this is my first year of formal schooling since I was twelve, but it's amazing what you can learn when you can either study schoolbooks or mull over what further torture will be coming that night.

That sadistic sorcerer I ticked off? He was my owner. And a werewolf.

Phantom knives slice my stomach from the inside.

"Kiss!"

I jerk and stare at Ambrogino towering over me. I look at my stinging arms and realize I've scratched myself. Again. "Um, oops?"

He gently takes my braceleted wrist and pulls my arm towards him across the table. He fishes a piece of ice from his glass and rubs the welts to soothe them.

My arms chill and numb, even while my cheeks burn. "I can tend myself."

He merely raises an eyebrow and repeats the process for my other arm, lifting it slightly in demonstration of what happens when I take care of myself.

I sigh. "It's not as if I nearly killed myself or anything."

"No, you generally need your magic to accomplish that," he murmurs.

Malandrino. So I've somehow fried myself with lightning. I yank my arms away from him. "I don't have any magic, right now!"

"My point precisely," he says calmly, ignoring my temper. "You need to learn to defend yourself without magic."

Yeah, because mundane methods work so well against sorcerers. "With what? A gun?"

He frowns thoughtfully as the waiter puts our orders before us. "Good idea."

Excuse me? "Che? I'm a druidess. Metal hurts me." …When my magic's working, at least.

"Making this the perfect time for you to learn things you otherwise would not be able to."

"Who would teach me? You?"

He snorts. "Hardly. They are one weapon that my mother never taught me to use." He takes a bite of his ostrich and swallows it with a sip of merlot. "Perhaps because she thinks them too obvious."

"And a knife isn't?"

Ambrogino shrugs. "Once you know how to use various types of blades, you can easily find something on site that will suffice as your knife."

I cut my own kangaroo steak and skip the obvious example. "Like a fork."

"Precisely. How is your kangaroo?"

I shrug and take a bite. Texture like pork loin, and the flavor's good. "Why's there pepper in the orange marinade?"

"The kangaroo naturally tastes peppery." His dark golden-brown eyes are unfocused. He cuts another piece of his fillet and pushes his plate towards me without looking at it. "Try my ostrich."

The bind-rune sigil buzzes on my back, warning me that I have to obey his orders, but I don't think he meant that as one. No reason to remind him of the magic thing, though. "Fine."

I take the offered bite, and he pulls his plate back and focuses on his own food. The ostrich tastes kinda like gamey lamb. Not bad, but I put a bite of my own meat on his plate before admitting, "I prefer the kangaroo."

"Mmm." Evidently his meal's delicious enough to shut him up.

…Wait. He's eating?

I stare. Yes, vampires eat. But I don't often see this vampire eat. He isn't going to gag himself in the bathroom afterwards, is he?

Ew. Is that how he stays so thin?

He pauses between sipping his wine and taking another bite of ostrich. "Yes?"

"Nothing." If he were bulimic, Calandra would know, and she would never let him get away with it. She's his younger half-sister, yes. But she hasn't survived as the bastard daughter of a Court general without being steel-willed when it counts.

We finish eating. The waiter gives him the check without asking. Ambrogino pays via plastic and leaves a good tip on the table before we return outside. A large shadow passes overhead as we step into the parking lot.

"Did you enjoy your meal?"

How many times is he gonna ask the same question before he accepts my "Yeah. Grazie"?

He mutes his smile, but he nods in obvious pleasure. "Good." He pulls the car keys out of his pocket and readies the keyless entry to unlock the car door.

Something slams into me, shoving me behind a car as something explodes like a firecracker. Fire lashes out, and metal bits rain down.

[end of excerpt]​


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