Veronica Espinoza, shifter zoologist. I worked hard for my degree and enjoyed my job until I ran into a paranormal I couldn't place into a neat box.
In the slums of Crescent City, I studied shifters, vampires, and magicians to find the origins of TV3, a virus that turns humans into creatures of the night.
But when my partner, a lycan doctor, comes across a rare blood-borne shifter disease, I know there's only one being who can discover the truth–my ex, Jasmine, a powerful vampire heiress to the largest blood bank in town.
Once bitten, twice shy. I know I shouldn't surrender my heart again, so Jasmine can manipulate it, even if it means finding a cure. But I need her help and have craved her touch ever since the night she saved me from being turned.
There's only a matter of time before forces beyond my control command me to submit to the queen of the night. But will love or bloodlust win out during our deadly game of cat and mouse?
It was love at first bite for shifter zoologist Veronica Espinoza, stuck in a hopeless star-crossed relationship with a vampire princess. But when a mysterious disease threatens their city, will they learn to love each other again or be torn apart? Take a walk on the wild side with this dark, sexy, and wicked lesbian vampire romance. – Zelda Knight
It was love at first bite.
That's the lie that sent my life spiraling into hell. An insidious lie that led me down a path of near total destruction that's not worth treading on ever again.
At least I tell myself that, in the dead of night, so I don't run back into the arms of my greatest temptation, the beginning of my descent into darkness.
Dramatic, I know. But there's no such thing as a normal reaction when dealing with the supernatural, especially when the ex I'm reminiscing about happens to be a vampire princess.
With a heavy heart, I cruise down the highway, watching the gas meter tick down, and the speedometer tick up as night overcomes Crescent City, the only home I've known for thirty-one years.
I'm late for an important date, and for once in my life, I want to be on time. So I floor the gas, ducking and weaving through traffic, knowing I'm pissing people and paranormals off. But I can't help that most of the city's inhabitants are nocturnal. And I need to get to the club sooner rather than later.
After all, I'm about to attend a meeting with my enemy, begging for a miracle. And I need it to come fast in a world where time crawls at a snail's pace.
For humans like me, time flies when you live among immortal and damn near eternally young beings. We regular folk can barely coexist in this border town set up to prevent shifters, vampires, and other creatures of the night from crossing over onto Earth.
Yet somehow, I've been living among them for years, falling in love with the forbidden until it was too late to turn back.
"And there's really no turning back now, that's for damn sure, so cheer up and get this shit over with already. You got this, girl," I whisper, trying to give myself a little pep talk before walking straight into a trap.
I park on the side of the road, careful to avoid a mange-ridden dog lounging in the alleyway.
Werewolf or not, killing animals without a license is an automatic jail sentence out here, seeing as it's hard to tell which ones can transform and which can't when you don't belong to the Kindred, the collective term for paranormal beings.
After reapplying my makeup, I slip out of my beater and tug down my skirt, suddenly self-conscious like I'm a teen or in my early twenties or something.
Not that turning thirty magically changes you into a self-confident badass. But at the very least, I thought I would no longer feel threatened by mean girl antics. Unfortunately, I was dead wrong, shrinking into myself as I stare at the crowd of beautiful women on the other side of the road.
The skin-tight, purple, backless outfit I'm wearing is the most expensive piece of clothing I've ever owned. And the sequin silver purse, matching earrings, thick black-rimmed sunglasses, and black-heeled boots aren't far behind with their ludicrous price tags.
But even dripping from head to toe in luxury, I feel like I'm wearing a dollar store plastic bag compared to the outfits the women waiting in line are wearing, most of them now sneering in my direction.
They're literal royalty; I can tell that much from a glance. It's never hard to notice, even for ordinary humans like me. The omegas wear expensive collars worth mortgage payments, and the alphas sport clan tattoos inked with ancient magic that glow in the dark.
It's to show us they're better than us—all of us, including non-royal paranormals. And as much as I want to deny it, they intimidate me. Shit, let's get real; I'm literally quaking in my thigh-high boots!
It's been a long time since I've felt like this, like a piece of chewed gum stuck on concrete getting stepped on. This feeling is what I've been running away from for five long years. Away from a world that will never accept me. Far away from a woman who can never be mine.
And yet, I think as I rub the back of my aching neck, grazing the old puncture wounds there, five years later, almost to the day, I'm back where I started as her plaything.
With a heavy sigh, I slam my door shut and waltz into Carmilla's Coven, a local lesbian nightclub exclusively for the rich and famous.
I cut past the line wrapping around the door, ignoring even more glares and sneers, and especially the whispers of, "She's just some beta human bitch! Who does she think she is? How did she get in?"
Their insults are exhausting but to be expected since they're waiting outside while I slip in without any royal credentials to my name.
Everyone here is desperate to be chosen by their self-professed queen, so they're willing to put up with being treated like peasants for a bit. To be selected by the future queen of the night is a one-way ticket to the tippy top of high society, after all.
Little do they know she's already chosen me.
I weave through the crowd getting down on the dance floor, some listening to the latest underground sensation, Daughters of Dawn, while most try to look all prim and proper in VIP booths.
The omegas' laughter sounds like nails on a chalkboard over the thudding bass and drums. They're trying to be as cutesy as possible, little dainty ornaments hanging on their alphas' arms.
Not that I can blame them. My torrid affair with vampire royalty was a lucrative one, too. If my ex and I were still a thing, I'd probably be giggling just like them, starry-eyed and dazed.
I turn my attention away from the guests in attendance to the club itself. The interior of Carmilla's Coven is nothing short of lavish. Every piece of matching red and black furniture is designer, some imported from the human world, while most come from Kindred high fashion catalogs.
But I've never been into clubs like that, and even the uniqueness of the band's witchy set doesn't catch my eye, swiping away a smoke cloud flowing from a magical guitar.
Nothing about the opulence in the nightclub phases me at all. I'm unimpressed when I've seen grander venues than this—all thanks to her.
My eyes settle on my destination, blocked by a six-foot-tall woman in a black bunny mask acting as a bouncer, her matching ears flicking up and down, muscles bulging.
As I approach her, pulling my shoulders back, my resolve falters a bit. But I quickly reclaim my backbone and motion to my neck as she tenses.
The bouncer's eyebrows lift sky high, the only indication she can show emotion, before stepping aside to let me in.
The thing about vampires is that they leave signatures with their fangs like humans do with pencils, stamps, and pens. So the bright blue and gold tendrils radiating from my wound allows everyone to know who bit who.
I've discovered that being bitten by a vampire crown princess has several perks over the years, like exclusive access to places where I'd otherwise be killed.
"Thanks," I murmur as I walk away, catching the paw of a black rabbit sleeve tattoo on the bouncer's left arm before disappearing down a long dark corridor.
Years ago, I used to study what all the symbols in the Kindred world meant. Most establishments in Crescent City were and are gang-run, and not knowing who runs what could get you killed. It still can, depending on who you have the misfortune of pissing off.
If my memory is working correctly, Carmilla's Coven is owned and operated by the Solar Rabbit Clan, a powerful shifter syndicate. Why black rabbits represent them or why they set up the club in the first place is beyond me.
I don't know the inner workings of Kindred society that well. Remember, I'm a mere "beta human bitch."
But I tend to introduce myself as Veronica Espinoza, shifter zoologist, working in the burgeoning field of shifter epidemiology as a researcher at Fontes Pharmaceuticals.
And don't forget it, seeing as most need my help when they encounter a rare magical illness, as I specialize in the rarest of rare blood-borne pathogens.
In the slums of Crescent City, I've studied shifters, vampires, and magicians in the paranormal underworld to find the origins of TV3, a virus that turns humans into creatures of the night.
My goal was to eradicate it at first. We humans here in Crescent City are more or less trapped. Our ancestors were kidnapped or otherwise lured to the Otherside centuries ago, and most of us have never returned. So we usually try to find ways to protect ourselves from being turned.
Alas, tensions have cooled over the years, and most of us mate freely and no longer hold onto ancient grudges based on race. So now I study TV3 on a molecular level, so we non-Kindred know more about its means of transmission beyond its magical origins.
It's been my life's mission since I was little, understanding their kind, made even more critical by an incident that still makes me shudder to this day.
And as my hand lands on the brass doorknob to my final location, now more than ever, I feel out of place in a world built for the very same creatures I study. Creatures that, more often than not, want me dead.
"Come in," a sultry voice calls out as I push the door open.