Father Esteve hires Xavi to trace the true owners of the gold found in the crypt of San Pedro-by-the-Wall, but it’s an old and tangled web. Someone has an undisclosed agenda, and a rising tide of anti-vampire reaction sweeps through Barcelona, focused on Xavi and Andreas. Then Xavi meets a handsome young man who isn’t all he seems, and that’s when things begin to get even more complicated…
At some time he'd turned over while he slept, because Xavi awoke with moonlight in his eyes and the scented weight of the night draped over him. For a short while he lay in a semi-drowse, until he remembered his plans. Judging by the position of the moon, it was an hour or so to midnight. Andreas would be leaving his meeting round about now. So he should make a move.
A shower and a shave later, Xavi picked his clothes with care: deep burgundy silk shirt, cream linen jacket and slacks, cream loafers, and nothing else save the very expensive cologne and the gold around his throat. Then he combed his dark hair into his preferred style of tousled elegance. When he was satisfied with his appearance, he phoned for a cab and sat down to write the note. He didn't want to be specific; at the same time he didn't want Andreas to get the wrong impression. Genuinely angry would defeat the object of the game.READ MORE
I felt like a night on the town. Care to join me? I'll be somewhere on Las Ramblas if you think you can track me down before I get bored.
That should do it. Invitation and challenge in one.
Xavi grinned, and when the cab turned up he left the house with a jaunty swagger.
Las Ramblas at night was Xavi's place of choice. It always had been for as long as he could remember and tonight was no exception. Even without the added spice of knowing Andreas would soon be hunting him, the sights, sounds and scents of the long strip of city-life that as far as he was concerned defined Barcelona, were an invigorating benison. He was alive. He was Vampire. He was Andreas's chosen Companion. He was also the deadliest predator prowling the streets--or would be, until Andreas joined him.
A hint of unease stirred in his gut. Memories of the overwhelming scent of human blood and the madness it had brought reminded him of the need to be careful. God, yes, he would be careful. Never again would he risk that ravening insanity, because rogues were not tolerated by the vampire community across the planet. They were culled. And here in Barcelona, Warden Detective Andreas Rousakis would be the one who did the culling. It was a sobering jolt of reality. The spice of danger was one thing; courting disaster and death was a whole new ballgame and no way would he go there.
For more than an hour Xavi drifted through the crowds, visiting some of his old haunts, catching up with the back street news, touching base with friends. The rumour mill had been working overtime during the last week or so while he'd been keeping his head down, he discovered. Most of them had heard he was involved with a cop, and speculation was rife that Xavi had been an undercover plant, working with the late Sophia Matas' politician husband to trap the rotten apples in both the judiciary and the police. Which meant that, thanks to the tabloids, they also knew his cop was a vampire.
Following as it did on the heels of the Matas murder and Andreas's role in the investigation, the Treasure of San Pedro was too good a story for the press to let go, especially given the involvement of an as yet unidentified Vampire Hero. That hit a nerve, but Xavi refused to let it affect his plans. There wasn't a newspaper or magazine in Cataluña that didn't feature it in one way or another, let alone in Barcelona. Vampires were Big News. Vampires sold. He could deal.
Even without knowing he was also a vampire, all of that should have put Xavi well outside his friends' comfort zone, but it hadn't. Instead he had gained a kind of awestruck notoriety, which meant he was treated with a wild-eyed wariness that was both amusing and irritating. After a while, though, exasperation won out over amusement, and he took himself off to the Cicero. It was an up-market wine bar in the basement of the Gaudi-designed apartment block, a place where either sex could connect with the gender of their choice. Live music, a fair-sized area for dancing, reasonable wine and average food made it a popular choice among the trendy local set and tourists alike. It made the perfect hunting ground as far as Xavi was concerned.
He had given some thought to how he was going to set up the scenario, just hadn't managed to cast it yet. He'd played with the idea of picking up one of the more attractive women frequenting the place, keeping the flirtation going until Andreas turned up and caught him. Then a fortuitous survival instinct told him that involving an innocent third party would be a huge mistake. Andreas's reaction would not be good. To put it mildly.
Scratch that and think again. Xavi sighed, suddenly realizing this whole hide-and-seek game had been a bad idea from the start. He didn't need to test the boundaries, he didn't need to pick up anyone, He knew he could have any man or woman in the fucking bar if he wanted, and simply didn't want. So why go along with the charade? The one person he wanted - needed - wasn't there. Yet.
He caught the bartender's eye and ordered another whiskey, taking it to the dark corner at the far end of the bar from where he'd have a good view of the door.
And there was Andreas, strolling in with the unmistakable predator-grace that had people automatically moving out of his way. The man stood out in the crowd, his pallor, dark combed-back hair, and one-size-too-large formal suit a contrast to the gaudily dressed, suntanned throng. Their eyes met and locked across the room and as usual, that was enough to heat his blood. Xavi's pulse picked up as he smiled his welcome. Andreas's face was expressionless as usual, but there was a glitter in his leonine gaze Xavi could read with ease. Andreas was irritated. Not furious or downright homicidal. Irritated, with a side of faint amusement. Xavi's smile became a grin that revealed the length of his canine teeth.COLLAPSE
Length: 43,000 words/166 pages