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GUEST POST with GIVEAWAY: Nocturne by Irene Preston & Liv Rancourt

Guest Post

Thanks so much to Nic & RJ for having us as guests. Today is Nocturne’s release day, and Irene and I are so excited to see this one makes its way into the world!

Actually, I’m writing this post a week before the release, so I’m still in the nervous stage. The first couple reviews have been positive, though, and we’re grateful for readers’ enthusiastic response.

So why the nerves?

Nocturne is the second book in our Hours of the Night series, but this is the first time either of us had written a sequel. Bonfire, our holiday novella, doesn’t really count. For that story, we deliberately focused on the relationship between Thaddeus and Sara, and let most of the dangling plot threads from Vespers, well, dangle.

But with Nocturne, we had to pick them back up. After we remembered what they were. (lol!) I’m going to quote Irene here…

I love being in Thad and Sara’s world, so I’m always excited to return there. In just two novels and a novella, though, it’s insane how much we already have to go back and look up.

Honestly, remembering the story arcs didn’t make us as crazy as figuring out how to balance them, so that the wrong one didn’t take over. We posed questions in Vespers that we really don’t want to answer until book 3, if then. We also struggled (hard) with figuring out how much backstory to include so that new readers could enjoy the story without boring people who’d read the earlier books.

Irene’s the detail girl, while I tend to think in terms of the bigger picture get lazy and write whatever comes to mind first. Which was a problem when, near the end of the first draft, I’d set a few scenes in a room that didn’t exist in Vespers.

Oops.

So, yeah. It took us a while, but we’re ready for release day, and I think we’re both tremendously proud of the story we created. Keep reading here for an excerpt, and be sure and enter our rafflecopter giveaway. Someone’s gonna end up with a $

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Special Release Pricing

Vespers (Book 1) – $0.99 reg. $3.99

Bonfire (Book 1.5) – $0.99 reg. $2.99

Nocturne (Book 2) – $2.99 reg. $4.99

Giveaway

Win a Gift Card!

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter

The giveaway will open be thru 10/31/17.

Blurb

It’s Mardi Gras, cher, but this year le bon temps kick off with murder…

For generations, the White Monks have treated the vampire Thaddeus Dupont as a weapon in their battle against demons. However, when a prominent matron drops dead at a party, Thaddeus and his lover Sarasija are asked to find her killer. Their investigation leads them to an old southern family with connections everywhere: Louisiana politics, big business, the Church, and an organization just as secret as the White Monks.

Meanwhile, an esoteric text containing spells for demon-summoning has disappeared, Thaddeus is losing control of le monstre, and Sara is troubled by disturbing dreams. These nightmares could be a side-effect of dating a vampire, or they could be a remnant of his brush with evil. As the nights wear on, Sara fears they are a manifestation of something darker – a secret that could destroy his relationship with Thaddeus.

Nocturne is only $2.99 (40% off) through Oct. 12.

Don’t miss Vespers and Bonfire (Hours of the Night 1 and 1.5) at the special price of $0.99 for the same period!

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About the Authors

Join Liv & Irene in their private reader group, After Hours!

About Irene Preston

Irene Preston has to write romances, after all she is living one.  As a starving college student, she met her dream man who whisked her away on a romantic honeymoon across Europe.  Today they live in the beautiful hill country outside of Austin, Texas where Dream Man is still working hard to make sure she never has to take off her rose-colored glasses.

Where to find Irene

IrenePreston.com

Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Mailing List | Goodreads | After Hours

About Liv Rancourt

I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire … or sometimes demon … I lean more towards funny than angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at work or at home. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog’s cuteness is legendary, and we share the homestead with three ferrets. Who steal things. Because they’re brats.

Where to find Liv

LivRancourt.com

Facebook | Twitter | Mailing List | Goodreads | After Hours

Excerpt

The demons did not die easily.

We’d found them spray-painting nonsense syllables on the side of an abandoned brick building, not too many blocks from the river. One went down easily. The other, a small person, put up quite a fight, leaving Nohea and me bruised and breathless. Our walk back to the car was slow, and I was shamefully grateful to sink into the leather seat of my business manager’s sports car.

“Well.” Nohea slammed her door and glanced at me sideways. “That was a barrel of fun, wasn’t it?”

The second demon whimpered right before I deanimated her, and the echo of that pathetic sound tempered my response. “I’m glad no innocents were involved.” Assuming one of the possessed women had summoned the demon in the first place. Brother George’s accusation that I’d neglected my duty still chafed. I’d never refused to do anything they’d asked me to do.

Nohea rubbed at her face with an air of exhaustion. “So, where to, boss? You still want to chase Sara down?”

Did I? I stretched my sense, seeking Sara’s sweet warmth. And found… “Merde.” I whispered the word, surprise blossoming into a sense of horror.

“What?” Unconcerned, Nohea rolled her head from side to side, stretching as much as the small space would allow.

“I cannot find him.” I whispered the words, as if saying them any louder would make them true. I sprang from the car, spinning in a circle, reaching out with everything I possessed.

Rien.

Nohea climbed out of the car, eyes wide. “Thaddeus?”

“He is…nowhere.” I refused to give credence to the most obvious reason for this circumstance.

“He’s probably at the house by now. Come on, get back in the car.”

I made another slow circle, taking in the abandoned building, the ramshackle shotgun houses, the rust, the despair.

And not one particle of Sara’s spirit.

A buzzing noise came from the car, as unimportant and irritating as a wasp. Pain crashed over me in waves, and I stood with my hands clasped on top of my head, forcing my body to breathe.

The buzzing came again, and then Nohea’s voice. “Thaddeus, come on.” She stood in front of me, holding a cell phone. “Brother Michael wants to talk to you.”

“I do not…” The words faded. I clung to her gaze, as if by the force of our wills combined, we could alter this terrible thing.

She nodded once, sharply. “I’m sorry, Brother Michael, but Thaddeus is unavailable. How ’bout I take a message for you.” She paused, catching her lower lip in her teeth. “Okay.” Her silence went on a beat too long. “He says”—she pressed the phone to her chest—“wait. Just talk to him.”

Holding the phone out like a weapon, she came closer. I found myself taking it from her, holding it against my ear, all while trapped in a miasma of distress. “Yes?”

“Thaddeus, where is your companion? Where is Sara?” Brother Michael said frantically. “Nohea wouldn’t answer me just now, but you must know.”

“I…do not.”

 

Nocturne is only $2.99 (40% off) through Oct. 12.

Don’t miss Vespers and Bonfire (Hours of the Night 1 and 1.5) at the special price of $0.99 for the same period!

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GUEST POST and EXCERPT and GIVEAWAY: Aqua Follies by Liv Rancourt

The Aqua Follies!

Hey, so, thanks for having me back as a guest on Because Two Men Are Better Than One! I very much appreciate connecting with your readers, especially today. I’m excited for everyone to finally have my new novel Aqua Follies out in the wild. Happy release day to me!

You may well be wondering, um, Aqua Follies? What exactly are the Aqua Follies? Right? Let’s talk about it. Basically, the Follies were a variety show on the water. In the days before triple-digit cable channels and Netflix & chill, people went out for their entertainment. From 1950 until about 1962, during the Seafair celebration, Seattleites could run down to Green Lake for the show.

Here’s a bit of background for those of you who aren’t from Seattle. Seafair is an annual August event that stretches out over a couple weeks. It’s still happening, so if you’re in town this summer, you can catch the Milk Carton Derby (boats made out of milk cartons race around the lake), maybe get hit on by a Seafair Pirate, or watch the grand finale, the hydroplane races on Lake Washington with the Blue Angels overhead.

It’s about as corny as can be, and pretty much unavoidable if you live here.

For the first Seafair in 1950, an open-air grandstand and stage was built at Green Lake, a lake in the northwest corner of the city with a 2.8 mile perimeter (that I once walked around in 35 minutes. Just sayin’…). The stadium sat a little over 5000 people, though it was built really fast and they had to take down about half of the seats in a rehab project in 1970.

In the ‘50s, though, Esther Williams was a huge star, who appeared in movies like “Bathing Beauty” and “Million Dollar Mermaid”. The Aqua Follies tapped into the public’s interest in water ballet, bringing a group of synchronized swimmers – the Aqua Dears – from Minneapolis to perform, along with their dancing sister-troupe, the Aqua Darlings.

The Aqua Follies also featured Olympic divers and a live band. Older friends who attended the Follies tell me that for kids, the divers were the most popular act. I’ve seen pictures of the original theater, and I’ve walked past that section of the lake uncountable times, and the water just doesn’t look deep enough for divers. They must have dug a trench or something, or else the bottom of the lake drops down past where I can see.

At any rate, the Dears and the Darlings were huge news when they got to town. The front page of the Seattle Times would feature them, with headlines like, “The Aqua Dears, Darlings Arrive for the Follies!” or “Sleepy Swimmers!”(which went along with a picture of six of the girls leaning on a bannister, grinning way too hard to be convincingly sleepy). The performers were housed in sorority houses at the nearby University of Washington, and tickets for the show ranged from $2 to $3.5 for a box seat.

All good things must come to an end, and after the Seattle Worlds Fair in 1962, the aqua theater fell out of regular use. The weather in Seattle is just too unpredictable, and frequent rain-outs made the shows cost-prohibitive to produce. In the ‘60s, promoters organized one-off events with performers like Sonny and Cher and even a rather notorious concert by Led Zeppelin, who opened for Three Dog Night. One of the final big shows was put on by the Grateful Dead in the summer of ’69. Soon after that, the stage and diving towers were dismantled.

Now the aqua theater is the home of the Green Lake Crew, and the only people in the remaining grandstands are joggers looking to add some stairs to their training. They say you should write what you know, and while I wasn’t old enough to see the Aqua Follies (or even that Led Zeppelin show, darn it) I do know the neighborhood, and it felt right to imagine the Aqua Dears’ coach, Russell, falling for the trumpet player in the band.

I hope you’ll check out Skip and Russell’s story. Keep reading for an excerpt, and please do enter the rafflecopter giveaway. My writing partner Irene Preston and I have a $25 gift card up for grabs, to celebrate Aqua Follies release!

Giveaway

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter

Prize pack includes $25 Gift Card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Blurb

The 1950s. Postwar exuberance. Conformity. Rock and roll.

Homophobia.

Russell tells himself he’ll marry Susie because it’s the right thing to do. His summer job coaching her water ballet team will give him plenty of opportunity to give her a ring. But on the team’s trip to the annual Aqua Follies, the joyful glide of a trumpet player’s solo hits Russell like a torpedo, blowing apart his carefully constructed plans.

From the orchestra pit, Skip watches Poseidon’s younger brother stalk along the pool deck. It never hurts to smile at a man, because sometimes good things can come of it. Once the last note has been played, Skip gives it a shot.

The tenuous connection forged by a simple smile leads to events that dismantle both their lives. Has the damage been done, or can they pick up the pieces together?

About the Author

About Liv Rancourt
I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire … or sometimes demon … I lean more towards funny than angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at home or at work. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog’s cuteness is legendary, and we share the homestead with three ferrets. Who steal things. Because they’re brats.

Where to find Liv

LivRancourt.com

Facebook | Twitter | Mailing List | Goodreads

Excerpt 

When Skip had crossed the line into blatant flirting, Russell blushed like a girl. Skip liked the charge that came with pushing the pedal down, and—despite Lou’s opinions—he had enough self-preservation to know when to cut the gas.

Skip followed Russell to a shadowy area in the back of the parking lot, and once they were out of sight of anyone in the club, Russell brought out the flask and handed it over. Skip took a hit, the whiskey’s smoky burn warming his chest on the way down. “I got another question for you.”

Russell took the flask and raised an eyebrow.

“How come you don’t dance?” Skip was mainly curious, but the words carried more heat than he’d intended.

Russell snorted, crossing his arms over his chest in a way that made his biceps bulge. “I just don’t.”

“Maybe you need someone to teach you.” Lou would sure scold him for this one. “Maybe you just need the right person.”

Russell’s fists clenched, and for half a second, Skip thought he might haul off and punch him. Heck, he probably deserved it. Then Russell choked out a laugh. “The right person. Sure.”

“I mean…” Since he hadn’t been served a knuckle sandwich, Skip struck a pose, hip cocked, hands in the air like they were on a partner’s shoulders. “I can do the cha-cha.” He swung his hips, fighting a laugh at Russell’s perplexed expression. “Or the swing.” He mimed a four-step pattern, then swung his hips again for good measure. Russell appeared transfixed by the motion.

A shout of laughter distracted them. A group of people spilled out the nightclub’s door, a woman’s voice rising over the hubbub. “Where are we going again?”

Russell shifted in their direction, hands on his hips. “Annette?” he said softly.

“Wait. I want to go back in and hear the band.” To Skip’s ear, the woman wasn’t laughing nearly as hard as the bunch of guys she was with.

“Come on, sugar. It’s just out here,” one of the men said. Skip didn’t like the way he laughed.

“No.”

This time there was no mistaking the distress in her voice. Russell took off running, with Skip right behind. He detoured to the door of the club, where he ran into Ryker and Susie. They were laughing, his arm around her shoulder.

“Come on, you guys,” Skip said. “It sounds like your friend Annette’s in some trouble.”

By the time they got to the other end of the parking lot, Russell was chest to chest with a drunken college boy, the kind with pale skin, a buzz cut, and a mean attitude. Skip looked around for anything he could use as a weapon if it came to a fight. There were two other fellows backing the one in front of Russell, and Annette huddled against a car, tears streaking her cheeks.

“So you’re going to take on all three of us? All by your lonesome?” The boy stuck his finger in Russell’s chest. Russell grabbed his wrist and leaned into him. The college boy was taller, but Russell was broader and bulkier.

“If I have to.”

Under different circumstances, the rock-solid certainty in Russell’s tone would have given Skip a hard-on. Saving that thought for later, he grabbed a thick branch lying between the cars.

“One against three.” Another of the college boys snickered.

Skip stepped forward, holding the branch loosely. “Looks like three against three to me.” Ryker followed his lead.

One of the arrogant fools came right up to Ryker. “Two and a half against three, I’d say.”

With a click, Ryker opened a switchblade. “Funny how this extends my reach.”

Swinging the branch, Skip took a step forward. The college boys all shifted back, even the one facing off with Russell. Skip might be slender and a little light in his boots, but anyone who grew up in Pioneer Square knew how to fight. He and Ryker moved into position on either side of Russell, and the college boys backed off.

“We were just playing anyway.” One of them laughed like it was all a joke.

“Didn’t sound like that to me,” Russell said. “I think you should apologize to my cousin.”

“Your cousin’s a slut.”

Skip wasn’t sure which one said it, but before anyone could respond, Russell took three big steps forward and put his fist into the middle guy’s belly. The boy dropped to his knees, and Russell stood over him. “Anyone else?”

The other two beat feet, which didn’t surprise Skip. These candy-ass college boys were all show and no go. Susie ran up to Annette, with Russell right behind her. “I’m going to get the car,” Skip said to Ryker. “We gotta cut out.”

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GUEST POST: Bonfire by Irene Preston & Liv Rancourt

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GUEST POST

Thanks very much for having us back, Nic & RJ! Irene and I are excited to be sharing our upcoming release, Bonfire, with your readers. For this post, we thought we’d talk about some of the behind-the-scenes thinking that led to our new story.

See, Bonfire picks up a couple months after our first book Vespers left off, and takes Thaddeus and Sarasija through the holiday season.

Yep, the holidays.

We finished Vespers, a book about a vampire, his assistant, and an assortment of evil demons, and decided to follow it up with Christmas. Because, like Irene said, “doesn’t everybody love Christmas? Even if you’re an agnotic Hindu vampire’s assistant? <grin>”

The decision isn’t as strange as it might seem. Thaddeus Dupont is a vampire, but he’s also a good Catholic boy, which obviously has all kinds of associated traditions. There are also vibrant holiday customs associated with our Louisiana bayou setting. From holiday carols to the Christmas Eve bonfires on the levee that give the story its name, we had plenty to work with.

Another reason for a holiday novella is to take two characters Irene and I have a great deal of affection for and focus on their relationship. There’s not a lot of opportunity for the warm fuzzy stuff when there are demons knocking on the door, you know? Here’s Irene again…

“The main series has a lot going on and we’re anticipating it’ll span at least three books. I liked the idea of spending some time with the guys outside of those confines. Maybe explore their “normal” life and have a light mystery that we could wrap up in a short space.”

Writing a novella gave us the chance to show Thaddeus and Sara as a couple, and setting the story during the holidays provided a way of framing their growing pains. Sara’s secular Christmas traditions are quite different that Thad’s, and the way they negotiate their distinct ways of celebrating represents how they work through other issues.

If we’d only focused on the relationship though, things could have gotten a little angsty. We didn’t want that (because holidays!), so we gave Thad and Sara a mystery to solve. There’s a definite spook-factor attached to chasing mysterious lights around the swamp at night, but there’s not nearly as much mayhem in Bonfire as there was in Vespers.

Nohea is missing, too. She was such a key part of Vespers, but she doesn’t live at Thad’s house on the river, so she’s not part of everyday life there. She’s also a little (or a lot) frustrated with her vampire-boss as a result of events in Vespers. Until they work things out – which’ll happen in book 2 – she’s making herself scarce. She’s not completely invisible in Bonfire, but she’s not on the page at all.

And yeah, I totally just talked about one of my characters as if they’re a real person. You should try being in my head sometimes. It really is that confusing.

Bonfire’s a little bit lighter than Vespers, but it carries over some important elements, namely how our two heroes relate to each other and how their beliefs influence their behavior. There’s heat, and there’s humor, and there’s eight tiny alligators pulling Santa’s sleigh.

And you know, Thaddeus and Sara might have defeated the Big Bad in book 1, but Weyer’s Praestigiis Daemonum is still out there somewhere, and depending on who gets ahold of it, all hell could very well break loose.

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Releases 15th November

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GIVEAWAY

Prize pack includes $20 Gift Card to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or AllRomanceEbooks.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter

BLURB

Silent night, holy hell.

Thaddeus and Sarasija are spending the holidays on the bayou, and while the vampire’s idea of Christmas cheer doesn’t quite match his assistant’s, they’re working on a compromise. Before they can get the tree trimmed, they’re interrupted by the appearance of the feu follet. The ghostly lights appear in the swamp at random and lead even the locals astray.

When the townsfolk link the phenomenon to the return of their most reclusive neighbor, suspicion falls on Thaddeus. These lights aren’t bringing glad tidings, and if Thad and Sara can’t find their source, the feu follet might herald a holiday tragedy for the whole town.

This holiday novella can be enjoyed alone or as book 1.5 of the Hours of the Night Series. Bonfiretakes place the December after the events in Vespers.

EXCERPT

Dorothy ran Pinky’s, a small sundries store with a restaurant in back, the only place to buy groceries within ten miles. In her day, she’d been widely acknowledged for her beauty, though I had always respected her for her intelligence and wit. If she recognized the similarities between me and the Mr. Dupont who’d lived in the River house when she was a girl, she’d never mentioned it. We had an accord, Dorothy and I, one I would be reluctant to break.

While the phone was ringing, I noticed two paper shopping bags in the corner of the room. The phone had just enough cord for me to reach the closest bag, but before I could open it, Dorothy answered.

“This is Thaddeus Dupont.”

“I guess you got my message.” Dorothy sounded annoyed, as if she’d rather I hadn’t called.

“Yes. What can I do for you?” I opened the bag and lifted out a glossy black box. Christmas lights. Surprised, I bit my lip against a sharp surge of irritation.

“Well,” she said, “those lights are back.”

Confused, I set aside the first box and lifted out another. “Lights?” More lights?

“You know what I’m talking about. The swamp lights. Back in my grandmother’s day, she’d say Old Ivey was out looking for someone who got murdered.” She paused, and he could almost hear her collecting her thoughts. “Some call ’em the feu follet, and people been following ’em to find the treasure but getting lost in the swamp instead.”

I lifted a third and then a fourth box of Christmas lights out of the bag. “And what has this to do with me?” Fueled by exasperation, my tone was sharper than normal, but what was Sara thinking? A single ornament was one thing, but I never decorated for the holidays, especially with multicolored, LED, synchronized flashers.

“Maybe nothing, Thaddeus, but after the troubles you all had last summer, I figured I better say something in case Old Ivey’s looking for someone you know.”

I carefully set down the box of lights. “I can assure you, Miss Dorothy, I have not murdered anyone and stashed their body in the swamp.”

She paused for a good long while. “No, no, I suppose you haven’t.” The stiffness left her voice, and she exhaled softly. “But something’s going on, and you know how some people get carried away.”

Sara wandered out of the kitchen, his smile brightening when he saw I’d discovered his secret. “Things will die down. They always do.” I knew that from experience. As a solitary man who kept to himself, I periodically came under scrutiny from the neighborhood. There would be talk, and the bravest would come down the river to my house and poke around. My assistant, or maybe Mayette, would allay their fears, and the next good bit of gossip would distract them.

She snorted. “Well maybe you should, I don’t know, see if you can find where those witch lights are coming from.”

Now we’d come to the root of her problem. She wanted me to investigate. Sara pulled one of the strings of lights out of its box and plugged it in, flooding the room with color. I blinked hard against the glare. “You think that will help?”

“Yep. So far, everyone who’s gone missing has turned back up, but if they didn’t, well, that’d be real bad.”

“Look!” Sara’s enthusiasm bled through his whispered comment. He pressed a button so the lights started flashing. “They work.”

I waved off Sara’s laughter. “I agree. Thank you for the information, and I’ll let you know what I find out.”

She thanked me, grudgingly, and ended the call. I hung up slowly, considering the best approach to take.

“You don’t mind, do you, Thaddeus?” Sara unplugged the string of lights and began packing them away. “I wanted to surprise you, put some lights on the porch and maybe on the banister. We don’t have to do the whole Christmasy-Christmas thing, but the lights are pretty.”

Did I mind? Yes, in theory, though when faced with the hope in his eyes, I found the idea of decorating might not be so intolerable. “We do have a bauble.” I sighed, rubbing at the tension in my neck. “I think, Sara, you could ask me to hang the Christmas star in the heavens, and I would find a way to accomplish the task.”

“You’re crazy.” He ducked, hiding behind a shield of hair.

Unable to resist the temptation, I crossed the room and wrapped my arms around him. “You may be right.”

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About the Authors

About Irene Preston

Irene Preston has to write romances, after all she is living one.  As a starving college student, she met her dream man who whisked her away on a romantic honeymoon across Europe.  Today they live in the beautiful hill country outside of Austin, Texas where Dream Man is still working hard to make sure she never has to take off her rose-colored glasses.

Where to find Irene

IrenePreston.com

Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Mailing List | Goodreads

About Liv Rancourt

I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire … or sometimes demon … I lean more towards funny than angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at home or at work. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog’s cuteness is legendary, and we share the homestead with three ferrets. Who steal things. Because they’re brats.

Where to find Liv

LivRancourt.com

Facebook | Twitter | Mailing List | Goodreads

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GUEST POST and GIVEAWAY: Vespers By Irene Preston & Liv Rancourt

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Release Date: September 13, 2016

Blurb

Thaddeus Dupont has had over eighty years to forget…

The vampire spends his nights chanting the Liturgy of the Hours and ruthlessly disciplines those unnatural urges he’s vowed never again to indulge. He is at the command of the White Monks, who summon him at will to destroy demons. In return, the monks provide for his sustenance and promise the return of his immortal soul.

Sarasija Mishra’s most compelling job qualification might be his type O blood…

The 22-year-old college grad just moved across the country to work for some recluse he can’t even find on the internet. Sounds sketchy, but the salary is awesome and he can’t afford to be picky.  On arrival he discovers a few details his contract neglected to mention, like the alligator-infested swamp, the demon attacks, and the nature of his employer’s “special diet”. A smart guy would leave, but after one look into Dupont’s mesmerizing eyes, Sarasija can’t seem to walk away. Too bad his boss expected “Sara” to be a girl.

Falling in love is hard at any age…

The vampire can’t fight his hungers forever, especially since Sara’s brought him light, laughter and a very masculine heat. After yielding to temptation, Thaddeus must make a choice.  Killing demons may save his soul, but keeping the faith will cost him his heart.

Vespers is a complete novel with no cliffhanger. It can be enjoyed as a standalone or read as the first book in the Hours of the Night series.

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Guest Post: Another New Orleans Vampire…

Thanks so much to Two Men Are Better Than One for having us as guests on the blog. Irene and I are very excited to be here and to tell you all about our upcoming release, Vespers.

Prior to Vespers, neither of us had any experience with co-writing. We started with a high-level premise, and worked out the details as a team. Basically our original idea was to rework Beauty and the Beast, except the Beast is a (male) vampire, and Beauty is a handsome Asian man named Sarasija Mishra (aka Sara).

His brother…was correct. Sara was too pretty for his own good. (Thaddeus Dupont, shortly after having been taken down a step.)

After we decided to work together on this project, I sketched out a few ideas and sent them to Irene. I had a college student with a science background, a house in the Pacific Northwest forest, and demons running amuck. She responded with something along the lines of, “that’s great, but I’m pretty sure the first scene takes place somewhere in the Bayou, so can we move to Louisiana, please?”

And thus, another New Orleans vampire was born. Well, she did say please….

For all that there have been a couple (hundred) other vampire novels set in New Orleans, I really can’t think of a better setting for the story we ended up writing. I wanted to give our vampire a twist, so instead of an uber-rich, decadent creature of the night, Thaddeus Dupont has a contract to serve the Catholic Church. He was studying to be a monk before being turned as a vampire in 1925, and that training – along with the structure provided by chanting the monastic hours – defines who he is.

There’s not many cities outside of Rome with a stronger Catholic flavor than New Orleans. Beyond the prominent festival of Mardi Gras, the Church provided a common bond for the multiple cultures who settled there. For example, Louisiana is the only state in the US divided up in parishes rather than counties – parishes formed by ecclesiastical communities rather than civic ones. Given that the Church is an intrinsic part of life there, what better place for a vampire monk to live?

He cowered against the wall of the crypt as the shadows settled around him. The twenty-first century ceased to exist, and Sara understood why the demons had lured Dupont here. The sounds of the city were strangely muted. With the thick row of wall vaults separating him from the rest of the Garden District even the cars a few yards away sounded muffled and far away. The spirits of New Orleans pressed around him. (Sara Mishra, right after breaking into the Lafayette No 1 cemetery.)

The other thing that really worked for our story was the architecture. Beyond the historic churches and the gorgeous, atmospheric cemeteries, there’s the Gothic kaleidoscope of the French Quarter and the stately elegance of the Garden District. The heat and humidity added atmosphere, and the vegetation – the cypress trees and magnolias and wisteria – added spice.

You know, there’s a reason so many vampire stories are set in this city.

In a nod to the heritage of New Orleans vampires, the street number for Thaddeus Dupont’s Garden District is right next door to Ann Rice’s – or it would be, if Mr. Dupont’s house actually existed. One of the most entertaining parts of the project was putting together the Pinterest board. Jump HERE if you want to see the images that both inspired and reflected our story. We sent the Pinterest link to Kanaxa, our cover artist, who absolutely nailed the vibe of the story with her art.

If my home had a name, it would be Dupont’s Folly. I’d acquired it in the late 1920s, the result of a game of Bourré gone awry—for my opponent, anyway. I appreciated the symmetry of the house’s structure, the simplicity of the double-gallery design. Deep porches faced the street, supported by Italianate ironwork and Doric columns. The front rooms never saw direct sunlight, allowing me to move about before nightfall. (Thaddeus Dupont, describing the house that really isn’t right next door to Ann Rice’s house.)

We could probably have come up with a decent story with a Northwest setting – and pinky-swear our vampire wouldn’t sparkle – but New Orleans just gave us so much more to work with. We hope you enjoy our addition to the lore! Keep reading for an excerpt and a link to our giveaway. Thanks again!

Vespers_teaser_Sara_blood2

Excerpt

The loss of music settled over them with the next layer of twilight. The boat slid through the water as Bren navigated through tree stumps, low-hanging branches, and occasional knolls of land. Without the radio, the sounds of the swamp took over—crickets so loud, they should have drowned out the music, the lower thrum of frogs, and the occasional screech of a bird. Apparently, he needed a better soundtrack, because Dr. John tuned in to his head where there was no Off switch.

Bren flicked a switch, and lights at both ends of the boat came on, beating back some of the gloom. Sara forced his fingers to unclench from the seat. Jesus, he’d been admiring the same cypress trees and Spanish moss out the window all day. Except down in it, the scenery seemed less romantic and more…

“What the hell?” He scrambled across the seat. “Alligator! Bren, there’s an alligator over here!”

Bren peered over the side of the boat, where dark eyes glided above darker water. “Wow, he’s a big ’un. Don’t worry, they aren’t usually aggressive. I wouldn’t do any night swimming, though. You’ll have to get used to them out here. Might be more of them than there are us.”

Bren sounded so casual, he felt like an idiot. Except, alligator. No. Sorry, he refused to feel unmanned by his fear of a six-foot predator with very large teeth.

“Maybe we should have called Mr. Dupont to let him know we’re on the way.” He needed to talk. Anything to break the mood and make things seem more normal.

“Eh, wouldn’t have done any good. He works nights. Way I hear, even if he’s up, he won’t answer his phone half the time.”

Major distraction, because now curiosity was killing him. The Deal with Dupont—works nights. What the hell did he do all night in the middle of a swamp? Sara tried to figure out some way of pumping Bren for information without coming off like a gossip and couldn’t do it. The best he could come up with was “Your grandmother knows him?”

“Well, they’ve been doing business for a while. I guess she knows him as well as anyone. He mostly keeps to himself.”

“You’ve never met him?”

“I’ve seen him over at his dock a few times.” She frowned. “You know, I could swear I’ve talked to him, but I can’t remember when or what we talked about. Or maybe I’m remembering his father. The land’s been in the same family for generations.”

“No offense, but are you sure you know where we’re going?”

She scoffed at him. “’Fraid I’ll feed your Yankee ass to the gators?”

“Crossed my mind.”

She laughed. “I’ve done plenty of deliveries out to his place. Don’t worry, I’ll get you there in one piece.”

A few minutes later, she made good on her promise as the swamp gave way to actual land. Bren guided the boat up to a long, skinny pier jutting out from a sloping lawn. In the fading light, Sara could barely make out a large structure set back among the trees. Bren steadied the boat while he clambered out onto the pier with his duffel, then peered up toward the house. “I don’t see any lights. You want me to come up with you?”

Yes. Except she had promised her grandmother she would come straight home, and he was a big boy. He didn’t need someone to hold his hand while he walked a hundred feet to meet his boss.

“He’s probably in the back.”

“I guess. You sure you don’t want me to hang out for bit, just in case?”

“I’ll be fine. He’s expecting me, and I’ll be living here. I mean, his other assistants survived, right? It’s not like he’s an axe murder.” That came out as a joke, right?

“Yeah, no. You’re right. They all seem to love the job. I just, what if he’s not home?”

“No, she said he expected me by six, so he must be in there. Get home to your grandmother.”

“Have it your way.” She pushed off from the dock. “Good luck with the new job.”

Sara watched the boat disappear into the swamp, then picked up his duffel and started across the lawn. The house wasn’t as far as he had thought. The distance was an optical illusion, because a structure that big should have seemed a lot more obvious. Instead, the trees, the wispy Spanish moss, and the hint of fog along the ground combined to deflect the eye until the house seemed to waver insubstantially in mist. Sara got an impression of a steep roof and aged wood, then he was on the long porch running the length of the house without knowing quite how he had traveled the last few yards.

God, it had been a long day.

Tall windows lined the porch, but they were shuttered, so he couldn’t see anything inside. The door was heavy wood behind a screen. There was no bell. Why was knocking so much harder?

Sara stood outside, his heart pounding in his chest, and called himself every kind of idiot. Mr. Dupont expected him. This would be his home for the next year. If it hadn’t been for a fender bender on an endless bridge, he would be inside right now. He wiped sweaty palms down his pants. Took a deep breath and tapped on the doorframe.

The long wait should have given him a chance to calm down. Instead, his reluctance to disturb the silent house grew. He counted to a hundred, slowly, and then rapped harder.

The third time, he pounded.

After that, he cursed. Quietly, under his breath, in case the door suddenly opened.

He left his bag and walked the length of the porch and through spongy earth down both sides of the house, looking for any hint of light. Nothing. No light. No sound. The utter inanimateness of the building mocked him. He went around to the front. Feeling like a total douche, he opened the screen door and tried the knob. Locked.

Well, that was just…super swell.

A cast-iron patio set occupied one end of the porch. He sank down into one of the chairs, stared out at the water, and took stock of his situation. He was in the middle of a swamp at a house that looked deserted. He had no phone. It was almost full dark. He slicked his hand through sweat-soaked hair. At least he wouldn’t freeze.

Down by the water, some of the shadows began to move, followed a second later by the sound of bodies sliding into the water. Probably more of them than us. The sounds of the crickets and bullfrogs faded behind a high-pitched whine next to his right ear. A second later, he slapped at a sharp sting against his arm, then another. He looked down to find a visible smear of blood and another mosquito settling in for lunch.

Freakin’ perfect. He mostly keeps to himself. Bren’s words from earlier snuck into the forefront of his brain. Only how the neighbors described every axe murderer ever. What kind of person advertises for a personal assistant in a town 3,000 miles away? He propped his feet up on the table and settled back in the chair, too tired to come up with any new explanations for Dupont. I don’t know, Ma.

The final bit of twilight faded, and living in the city hadn’t prepared him for the reality of night. Even straining his eyes, he couldn’t see a damn thing. He could hear plenty, though, most of it scary as shit. Yeah, man had invented fire first thing, because this kind of dark ate your soul and left your body for whatever crawled up out of the swamp.

He sat in the dark, cursing his own stupidity for not stopping earlier to buy a fifteen-dollar car charger and trying not to jump at every crackle and splash. He was so focused on the noises in front of him, he completely missed the first signs of life from the house.

He didn’t hear the door open or movement on the porch, but suddenly, every instinct screamed to high alert. Danger. Way more danger than anything the swamp had served up.

He froze and tried to focus past the sound of blood rushing behind his ears as his heart rate kicked into high gear.

Something was on the porch behind him.

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About the Authors

About Irene Preston

Irene Preston has to write romances, after all she is living one.  As a starving college student, she met her dream man who whisked her away on a romantic honeymoon across Europe.  Today they live in the beautiful hill country outside of Austin, Texas where Dream Man is still working hard to make sure she never has to take off her rose-colored glasses.

Where to find Irene

IrenePreston.com

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About Liv Rancourt
I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire … or sometimes demon … I lean more towards funny than angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at home or at work. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog’s cuteness is legendary, and we share the homestead with three ferrets. Who steal things. Because they’re brats.

Where to find Liv

LivRancourt.com

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