Friday, October 31, 2014

Guest Blog and Giveaway Tainted Blood by Karen Greco

Talk Dirty to Me

The recent big news is I was accepted into the Romance Writers of America! What an honor to be a part of that incredible organization!  

Ironically, while I am an official RWA author, I am the most unromantic person in the world. Which is unfortunate, since my amazing husband is a downright romantic sap. 

The poor man has endured over a decade of of Valentine’s Day eye rolls, Hallmark Holiday rants, shitty cards, and even shittier presents. 

“What do you want for Valentines Day?” he asks. 

“F-you,” I respond, turning back to my computer because I am in the middle of a really good scene and someone is about to say I LOVE YOU. Geeze.

Chocolate kisses? I hate chocolate. Champagne? Gives me a migraine. “But honey, what do you want to do?” 

“Lets grab burgers with the kid and watch The Walking Dead.”

He sighs. Cause nothing says romance like the zombie apocalypse. Unless you’re Glenn and Maggie.

Don’t even get me started on the school Valentines. Writing out 24 odd Scooby Doo cards.What if I run out of cards and have to rush to the store to get more? What if they are out of Scooby Doos? Can I mix and match Scooby Doo and SpongeBob? What if they are out of the good, licensed cards and I have to get the generic Be Mines? My child will die of embarrassment! 

The stress of it all is overwhelming. And what are we teaching kids, anyway? The value of love comes wrapped up in a crappy slogan with a cheap lollipop attached. 

I know, it’s about showing the people we love that we…well, that we love them. But I want to know that 365 days a year, not one, and I don’t need chocolates and cards and all that business. I just want a hug. And I want my husband to know that I love him 365 days a year, and if I have to buy him chocolate or champagne or silly cards to show it, then I am definitely doing something wrong.  

But I am a romance writer. Admittedly, Tainted Blood is lighter on the romance than Hell’s Belle. Poor Nina needed to take a break from the boys in this one, and readers will learn why. But the next book in the series will kick back into steamy gear. 

Tainted Blood
Hell's Belle Series
Book 2
Karen Greco

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Date of Publication: Oct. 20, 2014

ISBN: ISBN-13:978-1500844448

Number of pages: 582
Word Count: 95,704

Cover Artist: Robin Ludwig Design Inc.

Book Description:

After surviving a vampire assassin (not to mention an awkward affair with a hot FBI agent that ended worse than she could have imagined), witch/vampire hybrid Nina Martinez is reunited with the full Blood Ops team in Providence, Rhode Island. Her Aunt Babe is tutoring her in all things witchcraft, and her vampire partner Frankie is enjoying the benefits of daywalking, courtesy of a demon spell.

When a segment of the Rhode Island vampire population is marked for death by a tainted blood supply, Nina and her team race to find Patient Zero before the local vampire population is wiped out. But when a demon infestation threatens to take control of the city, Nina must join forces with newly elected mayor—and closet demon— Ami Bertrand before the city falls into ruin.

Filled with fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat action, Nina and her group of supernatural misfits battle a surprising new enemy that threatens their very existence.

No wonder she still can’t get a date.

From best-selling author Karen Greco, Tainted Blood is the second book in the critically acclaimed Hell’s Belle urban fantasy series.

Download this Hell's Belle Prequel for Free at Smashwords

River Vamp

A Hell’s Belle Prequel
Short Story
Karen Greco

Book Description:

Frankie and Nina head to New York City for an early Blood Ops mission.

Guess what they fish out of the Gowanus Canal?

Free at Smashwords and BN


"Jesus Christ, Frankie," I muttered as the crowbar hit the worn marble floor with an earsplitting clatter.  So much for stealth. We should have just ripped through the doors with explosives.

We were breaking into the Superman Building. At 26 floors, it was the first skyscraper ever built in downtown Providence. It lost its last tenant three years ago, and the gorgeous art deco structure was now a towering reminder of better days, when manufacturing was booming and people had money to burn. Years of attempts to "revitalize" the area had fallen flat. This left plenty of room for the underground supernatural factions to sweep in and take over.

Frankie flashed a fangy grin at me. "What's the fun in surprising them? It's never a good time unless it all goes off the rails."

I shook my head and sighed. Ever since Frankie was charmed by a demon to walk in the sunlight, he thought he was invincible. And, sure, being a vampire helped, but he could be staked just as easy as any other vamp. His arrogance could get us both killed.

We walked swiftly through the lobby of the abandoned high rise, keeping tight to the walls. In our all-black commando outfits, we blended easily into the dark hallway.  

I stole a wistful look at the bank of elevators. The electricity was cut to the building. We'd be taking the stairs. "Want to guess what floor they're on?"

"I say top floor," Frankie said with his hand already on the door to the stairwell.

It was going to be a long-ass climb. Up the 26 stories and possibly a few extra flights to get to the tippy top of the building's airship docking station. Seriously. The very top floor of the building was built for docking blimp-like airships, so there was a pretty cool waiting area/corporate suite turned Depression-era speakeasy at the apex. Too bad we were seeing it under these circumstances.

About a week ago, a suspicious news report piqued our interest. A group of crazed individuals were caught rampaging through downtown, tossing cars with superhuman strength, punching through brick walls and causing general weird mayhem. A few witnesses described them with blood around their mouths.

Max, our newest Blood Ops member serving as double agent in the FBI, was on record as calling this a "bath salt related incident." It was simple to blame this behavior on meth-heads on a DIY bender. But we knew better. They were vampires, and they were out of control. Frankie and I were dispatched to take care of them.

We climbed the stairs quickly, Frankie almost a floor ahead of me as we ascended. My calves ached by the 17th floor, and I was dripping with sweat. The vamps would be able to smell me by floor 22 if they were paying attention.  Since I am half vampire, I can handle a fair amount of physical exertion. But a swift walk up the stairs of a high-rise carrying an extra 35 pounds of vampire-fighting gear was punishing. Pushing through the cramps in my legs, I silently vowed to increase my workouts. It was hard enough to match Frankie's speed and strength, but now that he thought he was the Man of Steel, it was damn near impossible just to catch up to him.

We hit the top, and I finally had a chance to catch my breath. Frankie smirked at my all-too-human physical stamina.

When my heart stopped racing, I double-fisted a pair of stakes and nodded at Frankie. He kicked the door open and we launched into the penthouse. Moonlight poured through the grime-coated glass ceiling.

We rushed in like hellfire, expecting to find ourselves in the middle of a melee. But the room appeared empty.

"Top floor, Frankie? Really?" I grumbled, re-sheathing my stakes. "How much you want to bet they're on two?"

Frankie raised his arm and shushed me. I shot him a dirty look, but quickly softened it when I heard the hushed groans too.

I motioned to Frankie to move towards the sounds, and we cautiously walked to the back of the room. A shape was huddled in a dark corner with two bodies laid out on the floor in front of it. I pulled a mag light out from one of my cargo pants pockets and trained it on the shadowy forms.

A female vampire inched away from the light. Blood was smeared down her face and neck, and it covered her chest. Two male vampires were on the floor, their fronts washed in red as well. The walls were covered in sticky, black-red blood. The entire room was just dripping. It looked like a blood bank exploded.

The vampires on the floor were truly dead, their pale faces cracked like antique porcelain dolls. Their appendages were just starting to decompose, but their midsections were blown out, like they swallowed a bomb and it exploded. The one still living, for lack of a better word, looked close to meeting true death herself. The emaciated vampire half-sobbed, half-moaned as she rocked back and forth.

Although they matched the descriptions of the vamps-gone-wild group, these couldn't be our marauders. They were simply too sick. They looked like junkies who overdosed. A few times.

"What do we do?" I had never seen anything like this before. I sure as hell hoped Frankie would know how to handle this mess.

Frankie walked a wide semicircle around the vampires, his shoes making sucking noises as he lifted them off the sticky, blood-soaked floor. He was worried, clearly on guard.

"What's your name?" he asked.

"Kate," she croaked out.

"Right, Kate," Frankie's voice was soothing. "How long have your friends been like this?"

"Since yesterday." Her hoarse voice was barely above a whisper. "We slept in the stairwell but they came in here last night and just...." She motioned at the carnage around her and let out a muffled sob.

"So you were able to walk back and forth to the stairwell? Can you do it now?" I asked.

She tried pulling herself up, but wasn't strong enough to handle the weight of her tiny body. So she crawled towards us, plowing over the disintegrating corpses.

"Stop, Kate! Stay right there!" Frankie visibly jumped back, his shoes making a sharp thwack as they lifted off the gummy floor. "Nina, you need to call Max and Dr. O. Max needs to get the electricity back on to this building. She's going to need to go out the elevator, and Dr. O needs to bring her down."

"Why are we taking her out of the building?" I asked. Our mission was to kill them. Two were dead, and the last one was nearly there. Mission almost complete.

"Because they are Beta-Vamps." Frankie glanced at the vamp on the floor. "Right?"

She nodded, tears streaming down her face.

"No way," I protested. "Betas don't rampage like that."

"They do if they are sick," Frankie explained calmly, his eyes still on Kate.

Beta-Vamps were like the hippies of the vampire world. They were vampires that were missing the predator genome sequence. They weren't human killers. They survived on who knows what. Maybe animal blood. Maybe blood stolen from hospitals. In some extreme cases, they ate rust for the iron content. Betas were rare, and, because of their peace-loving nature, extremely vulnerable to attack from all sorts of supernatural factions.

"So why don't we just carry her down?" I said with a shrug, stepping towards Kate, breaking my boots' suction to the floor.

Frankie was in front of me before I could take another step. My stomach rolled as Frankie dropped his guard and a wave of his panic washed over me.

A few months ago, Frankie had to bind me to him to save my life. For the most part, we're dealing with it just fine. But if he's in emo overdrive and forgets to close off our connection, I get hit with whatever he's feeling. It also works the same in the other direction.

"Don't go near her. She's been infected."

"Infected? With what? Beta-Vamps aren't vulnerable to infections."

"With..." Frankie stopped. He looked shattered. "My God, I haven't seen this since 1877."

"What is it?" I pushed.

"Opium poisoning."

"Did you just say opium?"

"Blood-born opium poison. If it gets into our bodies, we die." Frankie was visibly nervous, moving in a jittery semicircle around the woman. "We can't go near her."

"Oh. Shit. Does Dr. O know what to do?" I shrunk back. Opium. Who knew? Apparently Frankie. That explained why vampires were always told not to get their fix from heavy drug users.

"I'm not sure. That's why you need to call him. And he'll need Max since we really shouldn't stay here. Now please. She doesn't have much time."

Right. I pulled out my phone. I'd start with Max. He'd need time to power up the building anyway.

He answered on the sixth ring.

He sounded groggy. "What's up?"

"Sorry to wake you but we're at the Superman Building with two seriously dead vamps and one who is really sick. We need to turn on the power to get her out of here with the elevator. Can you get this building back on the grid?"

"Christ, can't one of you just carry her down the stairs?" His voice was muffled, like he was pressing his face into his pillow.

"Frankie and I can't touch her. She has some sort of infection, something that only vampires can contract. And it kills them."

"Really?" He jolted awake. I heard the bed sheets rustle as he got up.

"I don't know, really. I've never heard of this before. But I know Frankie is freaking out, and said we need to get her out of here. And he only freaks out if there's a damn good reason."

"You know I worked for the FBI all day, right?" he groused. I heard a closet door slam.

"Seriously? Are you going to do this right now?"

"You both were going up there to stake them anyway. So they die of something else. It's the same outcome. Why save her?"

"Because, she's not a predator vampire."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Look, I'll explain later, but we are running out of time. I need to get Dr. O here, and you need to get the electricity on at this place."

"Jesus, you people are complicated. I'll be there in 20." He hung up before I could respond.

Like Frankie, Max had made a deal with resident demon and Providence mayor Ami Bertrand. As a result, Bertrand had turned Max into a Berserker, a supernatural warrior that went extinct with the Vikings. Well, extinct up until Bertrand's curse.

Since Max had been turned into a supernatural entity, but one that was supposed to be extinct, he joined our team as a double agent with the FBI. Our team is Blood Ops, an elite government agency that deals with rogue supernatural factions. Technically, we also don't exist. To humans, anyway. Our existence — hell, the very existence of anything supernatural — was on a "need to know" basis, and even the president of the United States didn't need to know. Only a very select few Department of Defense members knew about Blood Ops. That's plausible deniability for you.

But damn, the Berserker in Max sure made him grumpy.

I hit the speed dial button for Dr. O. Dr. Lachlan O'Malley led our unit of Blood Ops. Though he mostly resembled your favorite 60-something college professor, Dr. O was a Druid priest, which made him pretty damn old. And, like the Druid priests before him, he knew absolutely everything.

"Nina, what's wrong?" Dr. O asked in his thick brogue. I could tell I woke him up.

"Sorry Doc, but we have a problem here. We have Beta-Vamps that ingested opium. Two are dead — like for real, seriously dead. One is barely hanging on."

"Opium? Are you sure?" Dr. O sounded a lot more awake suddenly.

"Frankie says he's sure. Said he hasn't seen this since 18-something or other."

"Frankie would know. Do you have her quarantined?"

"Quarantined? Frankie said not to touch her. He didn't say anything about a quarantine." This was weird.

"You are in the same room with her?"

"Where else would we be?" I asked, impatience getting the best of me.

"If any of their blood gets into your blood stream, or Frankie's, that would be very bad."

"Yeah, Frankie already explained that to me. We aren't touching her.

"Nina, I am afraid it's much more serious than that. Opium poisoning tends to make infected vampires projectile vomit out blood before they die. Then their torso explodes."

That sounded bad. And gross.

"When? When would that happen?" I gripped the phone tightly, eyeballing Kate. She whimpered in the corner near the vampire bodies with her back against the wall.

"It could happen at any time. Lock her in wherever you are, and wait until I get there. Do not wait in the room with her, neither you nor Frankie. Do you understand?" Dr. O's tone was stern.

"Yes, I got it. Okay, we are on the top floor. Max is on his way to power up the building to get her out of here. Just get here fast."

"I am on my way."

The phone went dead. I hightailed it over to Frankie, who was staring helplessly at Kate.

"Frankie, we gotta get out of here." I pulled gently on his arm.

"Please don't leave me." Kate's voice was so weak, I could barely hear her whisper.

Frankie didn't move. He just looked sadly at the sick Beta, his eyes filled with tears.

"Come on, Frankie." I nudged him again. "We can't be in here right now. Dr. O's on his way."

He hesitated. "We can't leave her like this."

"We aren't going to do her any good if we get sick, too," I reasoned.

He ignored me. I changed tactics.

"Stop being a stubborn ass," I raised my voice. He still ignored me.

Kate moaned and fell into a fetal position. She began to convulse. Frankie made a move towards her, but I grabbed him. Standing in front of him, I took him by both shoulders and stared into his eyes.

"We need to get out of here before she barfs blood all over us. Don't make me go witchy on you."

It was an idle threat. Only a few weeks before, I first learned that I am half-witch as well. My witch abilities were dormant for years — hidden by my vampire genetics — until an unfortunate encounter with a spelled knife turned on the hocus-pocus. I was working with my witch mentor, who's also my aunt, on controlling my newfound abilities. Much to Auntie Babe's frustration, I was not taking to it like a fish to water. If I tried to unleash my mojo in here, poor Kate could very well blow up, taking Frankie and me along with her.

Kate's moaning was now punctuated by high-pitched cries of pain. Clearly in agony, she writhed on the floor. Her hands formed into claws, and she scratched at the body of the seriously dead vampire closest to her. His skin tore like dried papier-mâché as she drove her nails into his corpse. As she tore at his flesh, blood bubbled out of her mouth.

"She not going to make it!" I shouted at Frankie, pushing on his lanky six-foot frame. "And neither are we if we don't get out of here!"

I shoved Frankie harder towards the door. He finally snapped out of his stupor and we fled to across the room to the stairwell door. I pushed on it, but it didn't budge. Shaking the handle, I pressed all my weight against it. Nothing. I moved aside and Frankie levered a kick at the door. He succeeded in denting the door, jamming it even harder into the frame.

"Crap, Frankie! There's no time!" I yelled over Kate's ear-piercing shrieks.

Frankie looked wildly around. "Can we break the windows?"

Everything was soaked in blood. Blood we couldn't touch. Crap. I had no choice.

"Hold on!" I closed my eyes tightly and I tried to clear my thoughts, but between Kate's shrieks and Frankie's desperation creeping into my head, not to mention my own stress, my mind was too unfocused to do this right. Oh well. Close enough was going to have to do.

I felt the air shift around me, and I latched onto this small breeze, willing it to grow to hurricane strength. My hair loosed from its ponytail and slapped across my face. The swelling wind pushed me forward. Grabbing Frankie's hand for stability, I cried out the few words of Latin I could come up with that approximated "break the damn glass." The five plate glass windows on the south side of the room shook. I repeated the words louder, putting more force behind them. The wind turned hurricane strength, pushing us across the room, dangerously closer to Kate. Finally, the windows shattered one by one, shards of glass falling 26 stories to the sidewalk.

I opened my eyes. Kate was about to explode. Blood frothed around her lips, her shrieks now muffled as the blood worked its way up her throat.

Hands still clutched, Frankie and I nodded at each other, knowing exactly what we had to do. Together, we ran straight for the windows, and leapt feet first into the star-filled sky.

Frankie's hand slipped out of mine as we both twisted our bodies and made a grasp for the ledge. I caught it, just barely, almost wrenching my shoulder out of its socket on the impact. Frankie similarly stopped short next me. We dangled 26 stories over downtown Providence. 

About the Author:

Karen Greco has spent close to twenty years in New York City, working in publicity and marketing for the entertainment industry. Originally from Rhode Island (she loves hot wieners from New York System, but can't stand coffee milk), she studied playwriting in college (and won an award or two).

After not writing plays for a long time, a life-long obsession with exorcists and Dracula drew her to urban fantasy, where she can decapitate characters with impunity.

Her first novel, Hell's Belle, was released in 2013. Tainted Blood is the second book in the best-selling Hell's Belle urban fantasy series.

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Spotlight and Giveaway In the Dark by Jen Colly

In the Dark
The Cities Below
Book 1
Jen Colly

Genre: Romance, Sci Fi &Fantasy

Publisher: Kensington Publishing/Lyrical Press

Date of Publication: November 3, 2014

ISBN: 9781616505196

Number of pages: 190
Word Count: 60,000

Cover Artist: Renee Rocco

Book Description:

Soren and Faith must find a way to survive the evil and darkness.

Faith’s spur of the moment vacation, meant to free her and boost her spirits, has left her lost on the streets of Paris. And apparently, Paris is populated with something more than just humans. Vampires, suave, seductive and oh so sexy, and one such warrior vampire has set his sights on her.

When Soren hears Faith’s terrified screams, he rushes in and saves her life without considering the consequences. Two problems: one, she’s a human and clearly aware of his vampire qualities, and two, the men who attacked her were not men at all, but demons. Their target, his beloved underground city of Balinese. He can never let Faith go home again, but can she learn to love his him?

Available at Amazon


          Faith looked up at the silhouette of a man curled over her, his head barely blocking the raindrops pelting her face. She was moving, her feet were not, and the city was sideways. The foreign world passed by her, the images coming slowly, as if she were seeing everything through someone else’s eyes.
          She was numb, her muscles from cold, her mind from shock. Her memories seemed intact, scrambled and hazy, but intact. She remembered being afraid of flying on the airplane, and the taste of the ginger gum that kept her nausea at bay. She’d been lost in the rain on the way back to her hotel. Then two men had trapped her in an alley.
          Her shoulders and ribs shuddered with chills powerful enough to make her teeth rattle.
She fought through it, lifted her head and looked down at her hands.
          “My purse.” The words didn’t come out right. Her jaw refused to open, and her lips had difficulty forming the simple words. She tried again. “Took my purse.”
          “I have it. You need to be warm and dry right now,” the man said, keeping up his pace, never once looking at her. By the sheer confidence in his husky tones, without a doubt, this was the man who had saved her. That intense look on his face was nearly the same as when he’d pulled the muggers off her, driven them into the wall. It was oddly comforting, at the moment.
          Tall buildings, probably homes, surrounded her, swaying in her field of vision as he strode along. Light peeked through several arched windows, yellow and warm.
          He entered one of the larger buildings as if he owned it and carried her past several numbered doors to the end of the hallway, where he started down a creaking set of stairs. Suddenly she feared falling down those stairs, but her shuddering muscles wouldn’t allow her to hold on tighter. She closed her eyes and trusted him not to drop her.
          After the last step had been left behind, she took a deep breath, opened her eyes, and almost wished she hadn’t. The basement hallway was musty, and each bare light bulb they passed only revealed cracks chasing each other across the ceiling.
          He stopped, pressed her against a green door as he fished for the doorknob with the hand supporting her legs.
          “Put me down,” she said, trying to help, and fully expecting him to drop her to her feet.
          He fought with the knob until it finally gave and carried her inside, then kicked the door shut behind him.

About the Author:

Jen Colly is the rare case of an author who rebelled against reading assignments throughout her school years. Now she prefers reading books in a series, which has led her to writing her first paranormal romance series The Cities Below. She will write about anything that catches her fancy, though truth be told, her weaknesses are pirates and vampires. She lives in Ohio with her supportive husband, two kids, one big fluffy dog, and four rescued cats.

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October 27 Spotlight and review
Corazones Literarios 

October 27 Interview
The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom

October 28 Spotlight
Romantic Reads and Such

October 28 Spotlight
Anya Breton Author's Blog

October 29 Spotlight
Lisa’s World of Books

October 30 Guest blog
Fang-tastic Books

October 31 Spotlight
Roxanne’s Realm

November 3 Top Ten List
Darkest Cravings

November 4 Spotlight
Houston Havens  

November 5 Interview
Pembroke Sinclair.  

November 6 Guest blog and review
Dark Side of Romance

November 6 Review
Shut Up & Read 

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ARe Cafe

November 7 Review

November 7 Spotlight/Excerpt
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November 10 Spotlight and review
Coffee Addicts' Book Reviews 

November 10 Spotlight
Share My Destiny

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Teaser and Giveaway Christmas in Transylvania By Sandra Hill

Christmas in Transylvania
A Deadly Angels Novella
By Sandra Hill

On-Sale 10/28/2014  

ISBN: 9780062117557

Book Description:

For the first time ever the leader of the Viking Vampire Angels, Vikar Sigurdsson, has been talked into celebrating a traditional Christmas! The tree has been decorated, the gifts have been wrapped and the stockings have been hung. And that’s mistletoe, not cobwebs hanging from the ceiling of the creepy castle full of vangels…really!

The icing on the vampire cookie comes when vangel Karl Mortensen rescues Faith Larson, a battered young waitress, from her abusive boyfriend and hides her in the castle amidst the Christmas chaos. But what Karl thought was a frail young teenager is actually a very tempting woman. And she thinks his fangs are sexy!

But a strange “Christmas visitor” at the castle and demon vampires up to their old tricks could threaten the budding romance between Karl and Faith. It’s an impossible match: a human and a vangel, but Christmas is a time for magic.

Karl and Faith don’t stand a chance…

Available at Amazon


Santa with fangs?…

“’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the castle, not a creature was stirring, not even a bat--”
“Very funny!”  Vikar Sigurdsson elbowed Karl Mortensen and almost knocked him off his kitchen stool.  They sat side by side at the twenty-foot island counter in the huge castle kitchen.  Karl’s halfbrained rewording of the famous yuletide story had been in response to Vikar’s telling him that Alex, Vikar’s wife, wanted them to have a traditional Christmas celebration this year, complete with holly, and decorated trees, and caroling, and feasts, and Santa Claus, and jingle bells, and gifts.  All that ho-ho-ho nonsense.
‘Twas enough to give a thousand-plus-year-old Viking vampire angel a headache!
Yes, Vikar lived in a lackwit, rundown castle (more like falling down, if you ask me, which no one ever does) in lackwit Transylvania, and, no, not Transylvania, Romania.  No, this was lackwit Transylvania, Pennsylvania (Don’t ask!).  As for bats, three years ago when he’d begun the renovation of this hundred-year-old, seventy-five room monstrosity, they’d had to first remove ten tons of guano.  (That’s bat shit, to you uninformed.)  And they still hadn’t eliminated all of the irksome creatures.  Try sleeping at night to the sound of flapping wings in the turrets.  Not that vangels (Viking vampire angels, to you uniformed, again.  Jeesh!), like himself, weren’t accustomed to the sound of flapping wings, but usually it was from St. Michael the Archangel, their heavenly mentor aka Pain In The Arse, whom they rudely referred to as Mike.  (When he was not around.)
Vikar sipped at his long-necked bottle of beer.  He and Karl were enjoying a mid-afternoon break from battle training down in the dungeons while Alex was off somewhere, probably dreaming up more of her honey-do jobs for him.  Not that I haven’t told her more than once that they are more like honey-damn-don’t chores.
This is how the conversations usually went:
“Honey, we need another bathroom on the fourth floor.”

What was it with this “we” business.  Women always used the “we” card when trying to convince men of one thing or another.
“We already have two bathrooms on the fourth floor.”

Vikar recalled a time when the only toilet facilities were wooden holes in an outdoor privy or a private spot in the woods.  It had been cold enough betimes to turn a cock into an icicle.
“I know.  That’s why we need three.  Whew!  It is so hot today.  I think I’ll go take a bubble bath.  I don’t suppose…”

Alex knew sure as Eve tempted Adam that Vikar loved taking bubble baths with her.  There was something about popping bubbles that appealed to the boy in him.  Or the man.

Face it, she pays no attention to my complaints.  All she has to do is smile in that certain way, or hint at some sexual play, and I am Norse putty in her hands.  Like this most recent, brilliant idea of hers.  Holy clouds!  She will be turning us all into ridiculous Santa Clauses.  With fangs!
He glanced over at Karl who was sipping with distaste from a bottle of Fake-O.  Vikar could have told him it was better to just chug the crap down and cleanse the palate with a bottle of beer.  Fake-O was the synthetic blood vangels drank when they’d been too long from feeding during a mission.
Karl was a quiet kind of guy, the type that didn’t feel the need to talk just to fill gaps in a conversation.  A man’s man, modern folks would say.  He did the jobs that were handed to him with competency.  No whining or complaints, like Vikar’s brother Trond was wont to do, especially if it involved anything strenuous.  Trond was a sloth if there ever was one, although he was working to reform himself from his grave sin, as they all were.

There was a sadness about Karl, too, but not like Vikar’s brother Mordr who for centuries turned his sadness into a berserk madness, killing practically everything that got in his pathway.  Mordr’s sin had of course been wrath.
Vikar liked Karl.
Breaking the companionable silence, Vikar continued with his tirade,  “It would be a sacrilege for us to celebrate such a commercial holiday, wouldn’t it?  We’re practically angels.”
“Practically?” Karl snorted.  “You didn’t look very angelic when I saw you coming out of your bedroom this morning.”

Vikar grinned in remembrance.  Three years he’d been wed, with more than a thousand years of experience in the bed arts under his belt, literally, and still his wife could surprise him.

“Besides, Vikings back in your time celebrated the holiday season, didn’t you?”
In my time? Vikar mused.  Makes me sound ancient.  Which I am.  Still, I like to think of myself as my thirty-three human years.
Karl was a Viking, too…all vangels were, by birth if not descent…but he was young for a vangel, having died only about forty years ago during the Vietnam War.
“Vikings celebrated the Yule season with great vigor.  ‘Tis true.  Yule logs and gift giving.  Feasts.  Not a religious holiday, more a commemoration of the Winter Solstice.  It was nothing like the secular extremes evident today.  Even though we did, of course, have reindeer in the Norselands.  None with a red nose, though, that I recall.”
“It could be as secular or not, as you wish,” Karl said.  “Besides, Alex is right.  Kids should experience the holiday season.  And this will be the first Christmas that yours are old enough to understand.”

The traitor! Vikar thought at Karl’s siding with his wife, but then he was probably right.  Gunnar and Gunnora, Vikar and Alex’s “adopted” twins, were three years old.  For the past four days, ever since Thanksgiving…another chaotic holiday Alex had talked him into!…Gun and Nora had been yipping and yapping about Santa this and Rudolph that and jingle belling ‘til Vikar’s head hurt.  It had all started when they’d gone to something called “Black Friggsday” at the mall.  Rather, “Black Friday.”  Betimes, he still fell into the old Norse words, like Friggsday for Friday, because, after all, despite being a vampire angel, he was a Viking at heart.  Which should be good enough reason to not have to be reminded to ever fall for that trap again.  “Honey, would you drive us to the mall?  Gun and Nora need new shoes.  It will be fun.”  Hah!  If I never hear “Alvin and the Chipmunks” again, it will be too soon!
“Did you celebrate Christmas when you were growing up?” he asked Karl.

The young man…even though Karl had forty-two vangel years on top of his twenty-two human ones, Vikar still thought of him as young…rarely spoke of his past.  His situation had been unique amongst the vampire angels since he’d left behind a young wife who lived out her human years until she died two years ago at age sixty-two.  Imagine staying the same age yourself but watching a loved one grow older and older and then perish of a wasting disease!
Karl smiled.  A sad smile, Vikar noticed.  “Yes.  I grew up on a small farm in Minnesota with a brother and two sisters.  We were poor as church mice, even though my Dad worked from dawn ‘til dusk milking cows and growing corn and hay.  Mom had a big vegetable garden and put away hundreds of Mason jars filled with different things every fall.  String beans, carrots, peas, corn, limas, beets, pickles, chow chow, peaches, pears, applesauce.  If it grew, she preserved it.
“We had a Christmas tree, of course, with strings of ancient lights that were probably a fire hazard.  And old ornaments.  Homemade ones, too.  We believed in Santa Claus, early on, anyhow.  We even believed the old tale that animals talk on Christmas Eve.  Many a night, us kids snuck out of the house to the barn to listen.  I swore I heard old Bessie say, ‘Moo-rry Christmas’ one time.”  He laughed.
And Vikar laughed with him.  It was a revelation hearing Karl talk about his background.  He hardly ever talked about himself.
“Mostly our gifts were practical ones.  Maybe a handknitted sweater or mittens or socks.  Nuts, hard candies, and some fruit that was out-of-season for us, like nectarines, would be in our stockings, which we hung without fail over the fireplace.”
There are thirty fireplaces in this friggin’ castle, Vikar mused, and had a sudden horrifying image of stockings hanging from every one of them.  Some of the younger vangels were often like children themselves and would sure as sin be wishing for gifts from the fat man in the red suit.  Images of Armod, the sixteen-year-old vangel from Iceland, immediately came to mind.  Armod fancied himself Michael Jackson reincarnated.  (You do not want to see a Viking vampire moonwalking!  Trust me!)
“Each of us only got one present,” Karl continued.

Over the holiday there could be as many as a hundred vangels in residence at the castle, especially if his brothers came with their contingents.  Knowing Alex, she’d probably already issued invitations.  Surely, he wouldn’t be expected to go gift shopping for all of them.  Would he?  Vikar shuddered with mall tremors.
His headache felt as if it were growing.  Maybe he was developing a brain tumor.  Good idea.  That might be sufficient excuse for Alex to get the Christmas bug out of her…um, head.
“One gift only, but, man, it was always something special.  I remember the year I got a BB gun.”
“And your parents didn’t worry that you would shoot your eye out?” Vikar asked, referring to the famous line from “The Christmas Story,” a movie some of his vangels loved.
“Nah!  Growing up on a farm, we were used to hunting and stuff.  I got to be a pretty good shot, too.  That’s why I was recruited to be a sniper in the Army, and--”  Karl’s words trailed off.  He never spoke of his time in Vietnam, the time of his great sin.  “Anyhow, there’s nothing for a kid like those weeks leading up to Christmas.  The smells of evergreens in the house and the baking.  Ma made a dozen different kind of cookies, and pies, even homemade fruit cake.  And the Christmas dinner was a regular feast with turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, rutabaga and corn, string bean casserole, cranberry sauce, fresh fruit salad, and rolls warm from the oven dripping with butter.”
At the mention of all that baking and food preparation, their cook’s head shot up.  Lizzie Borden had had been sitting at the far end of the counter skimming through a recipe book.  He hadn’t realized they’d been speaking so loud.  And, yes, it was that Lizzie Borden, who wielded her axe these days chopping vegetables and beef carcasses.  Lizzie was the most sour-dispositioned woman Vikar had ever met.  She exchanged a look with him that said loud and clear, “Don’t even think about it!”
Karl hadn’t noticed Lizzie’s expression.  Instead, he was still lost in childhood memories.  “The excitement, that’s what I remember most. The anticipation of Christmas was almost as special as Christmas itself.”  He shrugged as if helpless to explain it all.
Actually, he’d done a pretty good job, not of convincing Vikar that he should go all out with Christmas madness as Alex’s plan would surely be, but showing a more simple view of the holiday.  “Is the farm still there?”
Karl nodded.  “I’ve not been permitted to make myself visible to any of my family, especially while Sally was still alive.”  He bit his bottom lip for a long moment before going on.  “Mom died a long time ago, but my Dad is still alive.  Finally retired at eighty-nine.  My little brother Erik works the land now.  Quite a prosperous operation these days.”  He laughed.  “I say little, but Erik is fifty-eight now, and has not just grandchildren, but one great-granddaughter.”
Just then, Vikar heard the loud bang, bang, bang of little feet stomping down the uncarpeted back stairs.  Laughing (Was there anything sweeter than the sound of a child laughing?), excited chatter (Do children know how to talk below a shout?), shrieking “I’m first, I’m first.”
Gunnora rushed through the doorway of the servant’s staircase, shoving her brother aside with a swing of her tiny hip.  Her blonde braids were half undone and she had a dirt smudge on her freckled nose.  “Papa, look what I found in the attic.”  She was carrying a wooden soldier nutcracker almost a tall as she was.  “Gimme a nut, Lizzie,” she ordered.
“I’ll give you a nut, you little tyrant,” Lizzie muttered and went back to reading her recipe book.
Close behind Nora was her twin Gunnar who carefully held a wooden stable inside of which Vikar could see what appeared to be painted wood Nativity figures.  Gun put it on the floor and began to arrange the little statues of the Holy Family and animals.  “I need some straw,” he said to himself.  “Betcha that Amish man at the farmers’ market has some.”

And then there was Alex, his wife, who could still make his heart leap (and other body parts), despite their being married three years now.  “Honey, wait ‘til you see what I found for you,” she said, placing a dust-covered box on the counter in front of him.
Uh-oh.  There is that “honey” again.  Best I raise my shield and prepare for battle.
Gun and Nora were jumping up and down with excitement.  Open it, Papa.  Open it.”  And the gleam in Alex’s eyes was much like that of a Norseman just home from a long trip a-Viking, offering some treasure or other to a loved one.  Maybe she was not asking another favor of him, but granting one.  He would be open minded.
“Thank you, love,” he said graciously.
But then he saw what was inside and thought, Screw open-minded.
He said, “Holy shit!” before he could catch himself.  Alex did not like him to use foul language in front of the children.  But this required a “Holy shit!” if anything ever did.  Inside the box, was a moth-holed, old-fashioned Santa suit, with a black leather belt, big boots, and a ridiculous peaked cap.
Just then, Nora let out a little squeal and set aside the nutcracker.  Running over to the window facing the back courtyard, she said, “It’s snowing!  It’s snowing!”
And Gun said, “Maybe we can make a snowman, just like Frosty.”
And Alex, who was tone deaf or close to it, burst out into song, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”
And Karl said, “I’m outta here.”
“Can I come with you?” Vikar asked.
“Hell, no, Mister Scrooge!”
Once Karl was gone and the children had gone off with a grumbling Lizzie to find some coal and carrots and a cap for Frosty, he and Alex were alone.  He glanced pointedly at the open box and said, “Surely, you don’t expect me to…come on, Alex, sweetling…Santa with fangs?  Ha, ha, ha.”

She didn’t laugh.  Instead, she gave him that little secret Mona Lisa smile…and, yes, he had met the model for the Mona Lisa painting one time and knew exactly why she had been smiling.  “Honey,” Alex purred.
Beware of women who purr.  “No, no, no!” he said.  And he continued to insist, “No, no, no,”  until Alex yawned and mentioned taking a little nap. He did so enjoy afternoon “naps” with his wife.
Still, he protested, “A Viking Santa?”
Somehow Alex managed to hop up onto his lap, straddling his hips.  With arms looped around his neck, she said, “Please?”
“I will be the laughingstock of Vikings throughout this world and the other,” he said on a groan of surrender.
Oddly, he found that he no longer cared.


About the Author:

Sandra Hill is a graduate of Penn State and worked for more than 10 years as a features writer and education editor for publications in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Writing about serious issues taught her the merits of seeking the lighter side of even the darkest stories.

She is the wife of a stockbroker and the mother of four sons.

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