Carden, Roy, Thiago and Dennis have survived the carnage of the Vampire/Human war. Carden is destined to battle his uncle for the title of King of the Vampires, whilst struggling with his own urge to drink human blood. He must make desperate choices—but the war is not over and an unexpected new enemy emerges from the fire.
Rory fights for his life and his soul mate. With a new world order emerging from blood and ashes, he's convinced he and Carden can be together. Thiago and Dennis have their problems, too. Dennis is dying from his injuries sustained in his abduction. Will any of them survive the Apocalypse, and emerge from it, together?
“I feel like Mad Max.”
“Who?” Carden asked.
Rory sighed. “You’re such a Neanderthal.”
Carden scratched his scalp. They all itched. It was the most maddening sensation. Midges, tiny sand fleas, had invaded the desert. They all felt like they were on fire.
They kept walking, Thiago and Dennis lagging behind them.
“Should I be jealous?” Carden quipped.
Rory stopped and ran his hand across the back of his neck. His skin felt gritty and weird. Red sand with sweat seemed to go in and out of his pores, making the damned bugs stick to his skin.
He slapped his arm again. “Jealous? Of what?”
“Whom, baby. This Max guy.”
In spite of every fiber in his being screaming in agony, Rory laughed.
“He’s a movie character, sweetheart. The only thing you should be jealous of is my shocking absorption of three decades of pop culture.”
Carden glanced at him, grinning.
Rory shrugged. “I know. The wages of a misspent youth.”
They’d walked for a day and a half from the house in the woods, back through the desert. In the middle of the night, like thieves, they’d had to run. They were thirsty, hungry, tired. Exhausted. Sometimes, Rory wanted to curl up on the ground and sleep. They all did. They took turns encouraging each other not to give up. Sometimes, images of what he and Dennis went through in the cave before Carden and Thiago had found them, filtered into his mind.
Sometimes, Rory remembered the sounds of people surrounding the house, anxious to burn it down. The smell of smoke was still in their clothes. Each time, as if reading his thoughts, Carden would touch Rory’s arm or his face and a blinding white light in his brain zapped away the ugly images.
Carden had called it. He said they would be in danger. Carden, being the King of the Vampires, was a king in exile, hunted. But they would survive.
I just never thought the very people who started out helping us would turn on us. Carden said vampires and those who loved them were in grave danger. Well…there’s no turning back now.
He saw the lure of buildings shimmering in the distance at the exact same moment Dennis did.
Dennis broke between Carden and Rory. “You were right, Carden, there it is.”
“I’m always right.”
“It’s beautiful.” Dennis sounded breathless.
“It isn’t Camelot,” Rory responded. “It’s only the MGM.”
“To me, it looks like Camelot,” Thiago said. “Lookit. Neon signs. I bet they have running water.”
Rory grinned. “Yeah, and food.”
“Pizza,” Dennis said. “For some reason, I crave pizza.”
Rory bent down and slapped his ankles. The goddamned bugs loved his feet.
“It figures that just about every other frickin’ thing gets destroyed, but the bugs are multiplying.”
“It’s how it’s always been.” Carden’s voice was quiet. They all stared a moment longer at the Las Vegas strip’s former casino, now a rumored blood bank.
Music blared from the hotel.
“I don’t see people anywhere,” Thiago said. “That’s spooky, huh?”
“It’s a blood bank, remember? This won’t be easy,” Carden said. “Let me go in first. You stay here and wait for me.”
Rory put his hand on Carden’s arm. “We don’t need another hero, Max. We’re all in this together.”
Carden glanced at Thiago. “Oh, but—”
“No.” This time Dennis asserted himself, even though of all of them, he was nursing the worst injuries. “There’s no you and us anymore. We’re all in this together.”
“You’re not getting any arguments from me,” Thiago said. “I’ll even shower with my honey, you know, to save a bit of water.”
“Are you okay?” Thiago asked him.
“Peachy. I’m ready for that shower now.”
They stood on the southern curb of Las Vegas Boulevard and they all peered up and down the strip. It was weird not to see cars jamming the street. A few were parked to the sides of Las Vegas Boulevard, right next to No Parking Anytime signs.
Not a good sign.
Traffic lights blinked red and up ahead toward Flamingo Avenue, Roy thought he saw a man crossing the street. He blinked again. Tumbleweed.
It’s like a post-apocalyptic movie. He didn’t voice the opinion. Things were weird enough as it was.
“You know, this is like that movie…the one where the guy wakes up in an animal lab and finds himself all alone,” Dennis piped up. “He’s like the only person in London. What was it called again?”
“Twenty-eight Days Later,” Rory muttered.
Carden cocked a brow at him. “Twenty-eight Days Later?”
“Boy,” Rory said. “Before me, you sure didn’t get out much, did you?”
“Before you, I had no life at all.” Carden’s gaze was intense but his voice, soft. “Let’s cross.” He took Rory’s arm. Rory felt the slight pressure from his lover’s hand and he gave him a sidelong glance. He’d seen the best and worst of Carden and loved him for all his many shades.
The music coming out of the hotel was trance music. It thumped and pumped its hypnotic, yet irritating beat making Rory’s pituitary gland react in a violent way. He swayed, Carden holding him up.
At the entrance to the hotel, they saw a bank of taxis out front. Not a single vehicle held a driver. Suitcases lined the sidewalk, but the concierge’s stand stood empty.
“Hmmph,” Carden said.
“This is supposed to be a blood bank?” Thiago asked. The automatic sliding doors remained closed as they stood in front of them. The revolving door remained locked as they tried to enter the casino.
“There are other places.” Rory gestured up the boulevard.
“No. We’re here now,” Carden said. “Dennis can’t go much further without water.”
He leaned forward and smacked the palm-sized metal plate for handicapped patrons and the sliding doors opened, emitting a fetid air that almost gagged them.
“Holy shit,” Dennis said. “Did someone die in here?”
They walked in together, huddled.