When a fortune-teller shows bridesmaid Lauren Crow an omen of her gruesome death, she and her friends laugh it off as cheesy theatrics--until women begin disappearing in the night.
Even as the streets become more dangerous, Lauren finds herself lusting after a man who is himself dangerous--and quite possibly crazy. Mark Davidson prowls the city by night armed with crosses and holy water, in search of vampires, whose existence, he insists, is real. He is as irresistibly drawn to Lauren as she is to him, and not only because she's the image of his murdered fiancee. But Mark's frightening obsession with finding his lover's killer merely hides a bitter vendetta that cuts deeper than grief over a lost love.
As Lauren wrestles with desire and disbelief, sinister shadows lengthen over New Orleans, threatening her friends and foretelling a battle that may spell the end of the city's uneasy truce between the living and the undead.
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June 26, 2007
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Excerpt from Blood Red by Heather Graham
Mark Davidson watched the couple at the bar, who seemed to be like any couple at any bar.
The man leaned toward the woman. She was pretty, in a tube top that displayed sculpted abs and a short skirt that afforded a long look at longer legs. She batted her lashes now and then, lowering her head, offering a shy, even rueful, smile to the man at her side. He was tall, and dark. Despite his apparent ease with her flirtation, there seemed to be a tenseness in him, a leashed energy that, to Mark, at least, suggested something wasn't quite right.
The couple laughed together, teased each other. evening; he'd definitely been set on action.
"Another drink, sir?" Momentarily, he was distracted by the waitress, an attractive but older woman with large eyes and a nice figure. Her voice was polite but also weary, he thought. Maybe it hadn't been easy for her over the last few years.
"Um..." He wasn't sure why she was asking. He'd barely touched the beer he'd ordered earlier. Then again, they needed to make money here, so maybe it was just a hint.
"Sorry, I guess you don't," she said with a little sigh. He had a feeling she was a native. Her accent was richly Southern. Not that New Orleans was a city where only natives could be found. It was the kind of place people simply fell in love with, as if it had a personality all its own. Of course, some people loathed the city's free and easy spirit, and, he had to admit, the vomit in the streets after a particularly wild night during Mardi Gras wasn't exactly a selling point. None of that mattered to him. He loved the place, the narrow streets, the old buildings and the mixture of cultures. He loved everything about the place.
Oh, yeah. He loved everything about the place, except for...
The waitress was blocking his view, he realized. He had chosen a back table, in the shadows. He was away from the jazz band playing to the far left of the bar, near the entrance. The group was great; Mark would have happily come here just to listen to them. That was one of the things he loved most about New Orleans; some of the best music in the world could be heard here, often just by walking along the streets. Young talent, fine talent, often began their careers playing in Jackson Square or right on any street corner, performing in the hope that the passersby would be tossed their dollars in a guitar case or a hat.
There was so much to love about New Orleans. Like the many times he had come here with Katie...
He took a long swallow of the beer in front of him, lukewarm now, and gritted his teeth. He wasn't here to walk down memory lane.
"Sure, yeah, another beer. Cold, please," he said, trying to look around the waitress. But when she moved, he saw that the couple at the bar had gone.
He leapt to his feet and dug into his pocket for a bill. He handed it to her.
"Never mind," he said, heading for the door.
"Sir, your change," she protested, staring at the fifty he'd handed her.
"Keep it," he murmured, his eyes already riveted on the door to the street.
Out there the world was bright, alive with neon, laughter and the dueling beats of jazz and rock, as the music from the bars and clubs lining the sidewalks spilled into the humid air. Flashing lights advertised all manner of drinks and entertainment; old buildings seemed to peer at the rush of people with a haunting, even if decayed, elegance, despite their cloaks of commercialism.
Men and women, groups, duos, even singles, meandered down the street, some slowly, slightly inebriated, bumping into one another as they walked. Others moved with purpose.
He didn't see the couple from the bar, and he swore bitterly to himself.
Where the hell would the man have taken the girl? It wasn't as if he had to commit murder in a darkened cemetery; he could have rented a room anywhere. Hell, he might even have a place of his own here. Where? Alone, he might have moved as quickly as the wind. But he had the woman with him, slowing him down.
He turned. The waitress had followed him.
"I said to keep the change," he said gently.
She smiled. "The bartender said the couple you were watching went left. The guy talked her into a late night cemetery visit." She shrugged, a soft and thankful glow in her eyes. "Lots of assholes trying to pick up women convince them to slip into the cemeteries at night. Risky business. Drug dealers hang out there--and worse. You take care."
"Thanks," he told her. "Thank you." Now that he had a direction, he started running down the street. So much for thinking the guy might just opt for a hotel room or the courtyard of some nice bed and breakfast.