Are blind dates supposed to be this bloody?
A Secret McQueen story
They say it's impossible to find a man in New York City. Secret McQueen needs to find two in one night. Of course, it'll mean pulling off the impossible--find and kill a displaced rogue vampire without disrupting the first promising date she's had in ages. As a werewolf hybrid used to walking a fine line of survival in the vampire world, though, Secret eats impossible for breakfast.
Somewhere between hello and the first round of drinks, Secret makes her move. Her target, Hollywood's biggest star, shouldn't be hard to spot. Just look for swarms of fans. Except every time her vampire liaison, Holden, helps keep her mission on track, her date runs further off the rails.
Either Holden has a hidden agenda, or he knows more than he's letting on about her quarry. One way or another, Secret is determined to get her man, and meet Mr. Right. Or die trying.
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July 18, 2011
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Excerpt from The Secret Guide to Dating Monsters by Sierra Dean
As a general rule, people don't like to date monsters.
I don't mean in a my ex-boyfriend was such an asshole, he was a total monster to my friends or that girl was a monster bitch kind of way. What I mean is, ask your average New Yorker if they'd like to have a girlfriend whose primary source of food was human blood, and most of them will say no.
At less than five and a half feet tall with bouncy blonde, curly hair and big doe-brown eyes, I didn't really look like an evil creature. But don't they say it's what's inside that counts? Inside I was a mixed-blood nightmare--half werewolf on my mother's side and half vampire thanks to my father. Which isn't to say I inherited the latter part naturally. My mother had been seven months pregnant when my human father was turned. He attacked her, then fed her his blood to keep her alive afterwards.
Talk about a guilty conscience.
As a result, my human cells were attacked and infected with the vampire disease. The trauma activated the werewolf genes already dormant within me, and voila--cute, perky and totally bloodthirsty.
I'd been raised by my grandmere, my mother's mother, and she named me Secret, which is probably what my mother hoped I would stay. Instead I ended up in New York City as the employee of the vampire council, where my job title is bounty hunter but my real job is more assassin than retriever.
Not really something you can use as an opening line when introducing yourself to guys. Unless of course they have a weird Buffy the Vampire Slayer fetish, but I try to avoid that comparison whenever possible.
Then there was always the pesky problem of how none of it--vampires, werewolves or vampire slayers--was supposed to exist. Humans don't like to think their bedtime stories are based in reality. Yet those tales, be they scary or fairy, from vampires to the grimmer of the Grimm, are rooted in truth. But no one before me has been afflicted with two kinds of monster curse in the same body.
Aren't I lucky?
Due to my habit of sleeping like the dead throughout the daylight hours, and my own misgivings about what I am, I don't get out much. The only men I saw on a regular basis were my business partner, Keaty, and my liaison with the council, Holden Chancery.
Keaty, pushing forty and every inch the cold-blooded killer, was not a dream match romantically. He was the best partner I could ask for, and handsome in an ex-CIA sort of way, but I would never be able to picture him as anything other than a f**ked-up father figure. And that's saying something considering how f**ked-up my real father was.
Holden, on the other hand, wasn't exactly hard on the eyes, being a tall, lean, handsome brunet with beautiful dark eyes and a killer sense of style. No, I didn't mind looking at him. The problem with Holden was he was a vampire, and not only that, he was sort of my caseworker. I don't know how the council felt about dating among the ranks, and I had never asked. It wasn't the kind of question you brought up when meeting with a thousand-plus-year-old Finnish master vampire named Sig who was asking you to kill people while looking at you like he wanted to taste you.
So I was left with few options and no real desire to seek out alternatives. I may have been a twenty-one-year-old woman, single in the city, but I couldn't wrap my head around getting into the dating scene.
It wasn't like I was worried about eating my boyfriend or anything.
Well, most of the time. Every girl has her days.
During my time in New York I'd had two semi-serious relationships, and one of the men had lived with me until my peculiar sleeping habits got too weird for him. For over a year there had been no one in my life, and I'd gotten pretty content being unattached.
And that's when my best and only human girlfriend decided to put her nose into my business. Mercedes Castilla was a detective with the NYPD and in her third go-round of being twenty-nine. Also perennially single, she seemed to have given up on her own love life and had taken over mine instead.
That was how, on a Saturday night in August, I found myself scrutinizing my rear end in a mirror and was less than thrilled with the results. Maybe vampire hunting didn't give me an excuse to avoid the gym after all.
"Explain to me again why I have to do this?" I asked into the phone crammed between my shoulder and ear.
"You want me to tell you why you're going out to dinner with a handsome, unmarried, well-educated detective?" Mercedes was sarcastic at the best of times, but tonight it was honed razor sharp. I gathered she was getting annoyed with my hesitations.
"Yes?" I replied, not entirely sure I wanted her to respond. I pulled on my favorite jeans and rechecked my butt. A slight improvement. Sighing with a little too much drama, I put my hands on my hips, arching my shoulders back to see if my cleavage had grown since the last time I looked. Was it wrong to cancel a date because of too much ass and too little boob?
"Secret." Now her voice did nothing to hide her irritation. "You have cancelled on two different guys I've tried to set you up with. One of them was my cousin."
"He could only meet me at five," I grumbled.
"You know my schedule." Yeah, my not-burning-into-a-cloud-of-ash schedule. It was pretty strict.
"And you couldn't have moved things around for an early dinner? I don't think Keats is that much of a hardass."
I gave up on my reflection--yes, half-vampires and all vampires for that matter have reflections--and flopped backwards onto my bed. Staring up at my water-stained ceiling, I prayed it might collapse on me before nine o'clock.
"Okay, tell me one more time what's so great about this guy?" I wound my loose curls around my fingers and then let them unfurl on their own.
"I mentioned handsome and unmarried, didn't I?"
"I suppose, given your apparent opinion of me, I should be happy your criteria was aimed somewhere higher than breathing, shouldn't I?"
"Not breathing is a deal breaker." The humor was gone, and her tone was dead serious. Mercedes hated vampires. That she was human and believed they existed was impressive enough, so I had opted not to tell her about my undead half. "Plus, he likes dogs."
A short, loud gasp of shocked laughter escaped my mouth. She might not know about the vampire half, but she certainly knew about the werewolf one. "You're hi-lar-ious."
It was at about that moment I realized I was no longer alone in my itty-bitty apartment. It began with a shift of atmosphere, which gave me the sense someone else was taking up space belonging to me. There was no noise to confirm my suspicions, but there didn't need to be.
Vampires don't tend to announce themselves politely.
"Cedes, I need to go." Sitting up on the bed, I looked into the evening gloom of my living room. I may be able to see in the pitch black, but you need to have a target willing to be seen in order for that to work. Even darkness has its shadows.
"You better not be pretending to be sick."
"I don't get sick," I replied. I wanted her off the phone, but I didn't need her to worry. She was a detective after all, and she would know if I sounded uneasy, so I kept my tone playful and even. My eyes, however, were in full-on predator mode.
"Nine o'clock, Secret. I've told Tyler to call me at nine-oh-five if you haven't shown up, and so help me God, girl, if you aren't there, you will have some serious explaining to do."
"Okay." I hung up on her without further argument, which would probably worry her more than if I'd started screaming, oh my God, there's a vampire in my apartment!
The vampire in question now stood in the doorway, looking far too pleased with himself. He leaned against the doorframe, all five feet ten inches of lithe, catlike grace and two centuries of practice at acting casual. Holden Chancery wasn't the kind of man most girls would refuse entry into their bedroom.
I wasn't most girls.
"I gave you a key so you would stop breaking in, not so you could come and go as you please."
Holden's hair was cut a shade too long but was perfectly groomed. He tossed it out of his eyes and fixed me with a miffed stare only a vampire could manage. His eyes were a rich chocolate brown tonight, so I knew he'd fed. All the same, his gaze traveled from mine down to my throat. I may have been half vampire, but I still had a pulse, and it made me incredibly interesting to the full-bloods I worked with.
"You said I could use the key if there was business," he said, only half listening.
"Business?" My interest perked up. Perhaps there would be a valid excuse to get out of my date with Detective Tyler after all. I clapped my hands together twice to get his attention off my neck and back to my face.
Girls who think boobs are their most distracting assets haven't been watched by a vampire.
Holden shook out of his trance and refocused on me.
"Am I interrupting something?" he asked with a smirk, which was unusual for him. He often appeared quietly content, like a fat cat after a visit from the milkman, but never looked outright happy. Vamps have a bad habit of only showing in-between emotions--pensive, annoyed, thoughtful, wistful and, of course, brooding. You'd be more likely to provoke the undead to anger than make them bust a gut laughing.
Of course this vampire had heard the entire latter half of my conversation with Mercedes.
"Tell me about the business." I grabbed a plain black V-neck T-shirt off the floor and pulled it on over my head. It was rumpled but still smelled clean. I didn't wear perfume because my nose was sensitive at the best of times, so the shirt held only the faint scent of laundry detergent. I liked it.
"Are you going to wear that on your date?" He sounded offended.
I looked down at the shirt. It fit, it didn't stink and the wrinkling was minimal. What was his problem? "Well, better this than no shirt at all, right?"
He made a noise of disgust, and before I'd seen him move, he was in my closet.
"Hey." I was up and off the bed, following him to my disorganized mess of clothes.
There was a stream of grumbles and sighs from inside the closet as he shoved back hanger after hanger, shaking his head each time. "What exactly do you do with the money we give you?"
"Rent and shoes?"
Holden took a blue, flowing, peasant-style top off the rack, held it up to me and grimaced, then released it into my arms.
"This?" I inspected it, questioning his judgment.
"That is getting thrown out." He snatched up another hanger, this one holding a slinky black cocktail dress I'd used once to bait a vampire at the Russian Tea Room. He handed the garment to me, his eyes alight with a triumphant glow. "This is what you're going to wear."
"My Russian prostitute dress?" I was incredulous. He couldn't be serious. It was skin-tight satin cut three inches above the knee and tried its hardest to make it seem like I had boobs. But wasn't it more suitable for a first date where the guy was paying for something other than the meal?
"You can't wear jeans on a first date, Secret. Not if you want there to be a second."
I would have liked to dispute what he was saying, but for the better part of the eighties Holden had been an editor-at-large for GQ. How do you argue with someone who made a living knowing what defined style, even if it had been in the eighties?
Begrudgingly, I admitted defeat.
"I'll wear this...as long as you tell me about the business once I'm in it."