Warlock’s Cove, a picturesque village nestled on the rocky New England coast, is a small town like no other. Founded in the seventeenth century by two families driven out of Europe for practicing witchcraft, it has developed a uniquely tolerant and unconventional culture. Warlocks, vampires, and ghosts all attempt to co-exist peacefully there while keeping their secret from the outside world. Occasionally, however, they run into trouble when overly curious humans wander into town looking for trouble…or love.
When Professor Dane Forrest accepts a teaching position at the local college, he sees it as an opportunity to learn more about the folktales and supernatural legends he has spent his career researching. What he doesn’t expect is to spend his first two nights in town rescuing a student from a vampire attack and then going on a date with the alleged vampire himself. Though he’s determined to maintain detached, unemotional outlook, he soon starts to realize why vampires are known as masters of seduction…and why they are considered as deadly as they are alluring.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, hundred-year-old vampire Simon is mourning the loss of the man he loved, who deliberately ended his existence by walking into the sunlight. Things begin to look up when Simon makes an intriguing new acquaintance down by the beach. Unfortunately, the young man in question seems to have as many secrets as Simon does. Faced with having his long-cold heart broken a second time, Simon wonders whether his best course of action might be to follow his former mate into a peaceful oblivion.
From the large bay window at the top of the boarding house, Cyril watched this year’s crop of eager young scholars step out of their frat houses and apartment buildings and stream onto the newly darkened street. The students were back for the fall semester and the days were getting shorter — a definite plus for Cyril and his fellow tenants. How he loved celebrating the opening of Hawthorn College. Though most of the locals complained about the students, especially the noise and litter and occasional crime, Cyril felt that the town only came to life when they arrived.
The Welcome Back Bash was just one example of that. Hundreds of students, including many beautiful young men, filled the sidewalks and bars to celebrate their return to campus. A good many others came, too. Some were looking for trouble. Many were looking for sex. Others, like Cyril, were looking for a little of both.
The tradition went back many years. Cyril seldom missed it — the few exceptions were when he had to leave down to avoid various unfortunate scandals. But he always came back.
He quickly pulled on an all-black jeans and t-shirt ensemble, topping it with a black leather jacket. After combing his dark golden hair one last time and arranging a curl at just the right angle on his forehead, he headed for the door.
His housemate, Simon, approached him from the hallway, looking depressed. Nothing new there.
“On your way out for the night?”
“Indeed I am.” Cyril flashed his teeth in a grin and playfully licked at the long, sharp points. “Time for a snack, I’d say. Want to come along? The minute the boys hear your accent, they’ll tumble right into your bed. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Americans fought a war to get all of you out of there, and now many prefer the English way to their own.”
Simon’s lips tugged downward and he averted his gaze. “I don’t think so. I’ll most likely just stay in and read. I have some bottled sustenance.”
“That won’t nourish you properly. And you can’t hide in this house forever.” Cyril shook his head, exasperated. Rolf, Simon’s husband since the mid-Victorian era, had recently walked into the daylight and deliberately ended his existence, sending Simon into an emotional tailspin he seemed destined never to recover from. Though the whole business had been tragic, for sure, Cyril’s sympathy extended only so far. He’d never had much patience for self-pity, in himself or others. What good did it do anyone? “At some point, you’re going to have to come out and learn to pass yourself off as one of the living again. Rolf would have expected that.”
Simon shook his head. “I’m not ready for that. I’m not ready to feed...you know, in that way. I’ll stick to the bottled stuff for a while longer.”
“You know he wanted you to move on. Just because he couldn’t face his existence anymore doesn’t mean he didn’t want you to make the most of yours.”
A tense silence stretched between them, and then Simon’s dark eyes filled with tears. “Why did he do it to me? How could he leave me like that? Of course we had our differences, and I knew he hadn’t been truly happy in a long time, but I never imagined…”
“I know.” Cyril paused to place a hand on Simon’s arm. It had to suck knowing your partner of almost two centuries had come to prefer a fiery death and oblivion to spending another night with you. A tough break for anyone, but especially a sensitive soul like Simon. He might no longer have a pulse, but he’d never lost his human heart. How the man had survived so long was a mystery to Cyril.
“He’d reached a point where he couldn’t go on. I’ve heard of similar things happening. Sometimes we just know it’s time.”
Simon nodded miserably. “I’ve thought about doing it to myself, but I lack Rolf’s courage. He always was a brave man. Did I tell you he fought in the Crimean War? He was decorated by Queen Victoria herself.”
Cyril fidgeted. “Yes. You have told me. A fascinating and inspiring tale indeed.” Such things had their place, of course, and it was natural for vampires to discuss their origins and interesting historical events they had witnessed, but he really wanted to get out onto the street. He was looking forward to tasting some fresh collegiate blood.
“Men were men in those days,” Simon said with a sigh. “We ruled the world and we were proud of that. We had our Empire, and our Queen, and Rolf and I had each other. It was enough for so long. I suppose he never really stopped missing all of that. He didn’t enjoy modern life as much as I do — or used to, at least.”
Cyril tried not to roll his eyes. He had been turned at the beginning of the twentieth century, back when he was only twenty-five himself, and considered himself extremely modern. Of course, “modern” in the Roaring Twenties and now meant different things, but he liked the concept of progressive change nonetheless. And, like many others in the 21st century, he was addicted to the Internet. For those things he made no apologies.
He affected a patient tone, as though he were talking to a fledgling newly turned. “Everyone is different. Your lot is to carry on. His was to end. We can’t ever truly know the mind of others, nor can we know what is best for them.”
“I suppose.” Simon sighed.
“Come out with me. You need to occupy your mind with other things.”
“Perhaps later.” Drifting into the kitchen, Simon took some bottled blood from the fridge and turned to the window. Cyril saw the students partying out there already, running up and down the street. Some were openly drinking, knowing that the cops tended to look the other way during the Welcome Back Bash for fear of igniting a riot. It was a fine night to lose himself in a crowd. He had a feeling he would be lucky before the dawn forced him back indoors.
“Well, have it your way. Remember what I said. Rolf would want you to move on. He said so in the letter he left. You say he was a man of courage. Well, I hope you have the courage to take his words seriously.”
“I hope so, too. I just don’t know.”
Cyril was out of patience. He left Simon standing at the window, sipping at his bottled blood.
His mood lifted when he reached the street. Most of the undergraduates were walking around in groups. Some were alone, watching the crowd. These were the ones Cyril concentrated on. He didn’t care whether they were gay or not. He had special powers of persuasion that could override any human’s professed sexual preference. Most were quite flexible when faced with the right opportunity. Their curiosity got them started, and Cyril’s hypnotic power did the rest. It didn’t hurt that humans of both genders considered him exceptionally good-looking, a fact he took great pride in. He was only interested in males, though, and these days he had no reason to hide it. The open acceptance of his preference was another thing he loved about modern society.
On his way toward the campus, he passed none other than Roman Agostino in the street. How pathetic a specimen Roman was. His ancestors, who had passed their considerable powers down to Roman, were the very men the town was nicknamed for. But Roman insisted that he preferred to serve, not rule, Warlock’s Cove. Now he was little more than a glorified night watchman, though he would no doubt have described himself differently.
Since he couldn’t avoid him, Cyril chose to be friendly. “Hello, Roman. Out for a stroll?”
“I thought it best I make myself visible,” Roman said without smiling. He looked Cyril up and down. “You’ve come to feed, I suppose. I won’t interfere as long as I have your word that you’ll be careful. I always worry you or your friends will get carried away.”
“Never. I know my limits. I also know that most people will think a dizzy and pale young man staggering down the sidewalk has simply had too much to drink. He’ll recover the next day remembering nothing but pleasure. What is so bad about that?”
Roman looked skeptical. The warlocks and the vampires had never trusted each other. Roman had always been a politically liberal type, passionate about human rights. The other prominent warlock family in town, the Hawthorns, had less compunction. Cyril liked their attitude better, though he had to admit Roman still appealed to him in a way. A rock in one’s shoe kind of way, true, but still.
“I suppose you heard about our most recent disappearance,” Roman said, watching Cyril’s face as he relayed the news. “A local young man, in his twenties. Not a student. Vanished after he walked away from his apartment alone. Or so the story goes, at least.”
“Story? Why do you say that like you’re accusing me of something? I’m not much for the water, as you well know. I surely wouldn’t go out in a boat.”
“Well, there’s no body—hence nothing to prove the condition the young man was in when he died—and most of us are presuming him dead, if you get my drift.”
“I certainly do not,” Cyril informed him with a scowl. “If you’re suggesting that someone of my proclivities attempted to cover up a…shall we say a seduction gone wrong?...you are sorely mistaken. I’ll thank you not to repeat that kind of gossip to anyone who knows me or my housemates. We prefer to keep a low profile—and I assure you we are all perfectly law-abiding citizens of Warlock’s Cove.”
“But as we all know, the law is interpreted somewhat differently around here,” Roman said with a slightly shake of his head. Cyril tried not to admire the way his dark, curly hair shimmered in the moonlight when he did that. “Anyhow, I was just mentioning it in case you hear anything. No doubt it was just an accident. Like so many others.”
Cyril ignored the last insinuation and changed the subject. “What about you? Any plans for the evening?” He waved a hand at the thickening crowd. “More than enough to go around tonight.”
Roman shook his head, his cheeks blooming. “Not my thing. I’ll leave that to you. Have fun.”
He walked on. Cyril shook his head. What was wrong with guys like Roman? He would never know the pleasure of warm blood coursing over his tongue, joining a partner to him in a way only a skilled vampire could truly experience. And Roman had stated emphatically that he had no desire to become a vampire. He’d rather grow old and die like a human, though in fairness the warlocks did love long and generally comfortable lives.
To each his own, Cyril supposed. Shrugging, he moved on.