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The Vampire Julian

published by ImajinnBooks, 2008


5 Star Review by Harriet Klausner

...The first Whitcombe Legacies tale stars one of the triplets who in times of catastrophe must find the respective women who will allow each to achieve their destiny. This vampiric romance is refreshing due to an original plot that uses the Katrina destruction as a horrific backdrop. Ann B. Morris leaves her audience anxiously waiting for the next two bites led by the other two triplets.



Mid-October, 2005

New Orleans French Quarter

  

         Inside the dark,airless coffin Julian Whitcombe sensed

the woman’s presence. His waning strength revived and his

heart gave an unexpected pulse. Was this really the one meant

for him? He had been disappointed so many times before. Dare

he hope now? The sensation of her presence grew stronger.

         And then the words of the Goddess Lilith, timeless as the

Goddess herself, whispered to him in the cold darkness.

When The Need is great and the time is right, she will

come to you. And if her love is strong enough, she will turn

back Asmodeus’ curse and save you.

         As his body yielded to the day’s death sleep, Julian knew

without doubt that the woman he had been waiting for since

the first beat of his heart was here.

* * * *

         Six weeks after the Great Hurricane swept away most of

New Orleans, Mike’s After Dark looked almost as it had

before the mighty storm struck. The old building, with its red-

brick façade, weathered wood sides and green shuttered

windows, had survived nature’s onslaught with nothing more

than two damaged roof tiles.

         A miracle, the residents whispered on their return to the

neighborhood after a month’s displacement in neighboring cities.

         Simone LeClerc didn’t believe in miracles.

         She did, however, believe in luck.

         What else, other than luck, could have brought her to this

street, two blocks off Esplanade Avenue, where the sign in the

window of Mike’s shouted: BARTENDER/ASST. MGR.

WANTED?

         The question immediately gave rise to another. Had she

been guided to Mike’s? Had the strange, invisible pull she’d

felt as she turned the corner to come here been more than her

imagination? She gave herself a hard mental shake. Luck. Pure

luck was all it could be.

         Was it also luck that she’d taken a mixology course at The

Bartender’s Institute three years ago? And what about those

two electives in business management she’d finished her third

year in college? She gave herself an even harder mental shake.

This was no time for ridiculous puzzle solving and second-

guessing. Whatever the reason she was here, those two

educational choices made her qualified for this job.

       With a pounding heart and her mouth dry, she crossed the

street, opened the door to Mike’s, stepped inside and waited

while her eyes adjusted to the tomb-like darkness. When they

did, she scanned the room. At the back, behind the bar, a hulk

of a man waited, as if expecting her.

       She wet her lips and swallowed quickly. Stepping further

into the darkness, she asked, “Are you Mike?”

       “Yeah.”

        “The owner?”

       “No. The owner’s name is Julian.” Mike stepped from

behind the bar. “Julian’s After Dark doesn’t have quite the

ring that Mike’s has, wouldn’t you agree?”

       As he approached, Simone could tell he was more than a

few inches over six feet. And the closer he got to her, the more

she felt overwhelmed, not only by his size but by a strange,

almost unnatural aura that surrounded him.

       He stopped a few feet from her and the dim overhead

lights accented the pearly Z-shaped scar that slashed across

his right cheek. He wasn’t unattractive, but he wouldn’t cause

any romantically fluttering hearts either.

       Coming back to his question, she agreed, “It couldn’t be

anything but Mike’s.”

       “I hope you came about the job and not for a drink. We

don’t open until dark.”

       Mike had taken a step closer while he spoke, and although

she still felt uneasy in his presence, her discomfort stopped

short of outright fear. Focusing on the job she needed, she told

him, “I’m here for the job. And I don’t drink.”

       As soon as the words were out of her mouth she wanted

to take them back. What a foolish thing to say. What kind of

bartender didn’t drink? It sounded as ridiculous as a cook not

tasting the food.

       “I saw your sign outside,” she added quickly, hoping to

take his mind off her blunder.

       Mike motioned for her to take a seat at a nearby table. He

took the chair opposite hers. It gave her an opportunity to study

him up close, not just his physical appearance, but an underlying

persona she sensed he kept hidden from public view.

       He fits in here perfectly, she thought, as she surreptitiously

scanned the room. She had the feeling it too had a secret

personality, one that didn’t seem too eager to show itself to her

at the moment.

       “You from around here?” Mike asked, breaking into her

wandering thoughts.

       The question quickly snapped her attention back to him.

“No. I was staying at the hotel down the street when the

hurricane hit. I’ve been stuck there all these weeks, like a lot

of other folks who can’t get out of the city.”

       She didn’t think it necessary to tell him she was a New

Orleanian by birth, transplanted to Mobile by a bad marriage

and an opportunity to open her own law practice. Nor did she

feel compelled to tell him she had come here on vacation to

visit her stepsister, Dottie, who was working temporarily in

New Orleans. Some vacation. She was stranded here and

Dottie was missing.

       “You planning to stay in New Orleans or move on?” She

had let her thoughts drift again, but as before, the answer to

the question came quickly and honestly.

       “It depends on a lot of things, money, mostly.”

       She started to rise, certain she’d ruined any chance of

getting the job, although she doubted he’d had many applicants.

It was no secret that the few businesses in the Quarter able to

open had difficulty finding employees, since most New

Orleanians displaced by the storm hadn’t returned yet.

       “What’s your experience?” Mike asked.

       “Truthfully, not much.” That was certainly stretching it.

“But my friends tell me I make a dynamite martini. My own

creation.”

       Mike hitched a thumb over his shoulder, looking as if he’d

like to smile but didn’t quite know how. “Make one.”

       “What?”

       “Make me one of your dynamite martinis. On the very dry

side.”

       She practically stumbled to the bar. I want this job, I need

this job. She mentally chanted the mantra as she assessed the

bar’s liquor supply.

       Grabbing what she needed, her hands flew into action. A

few minutes later she held a very dry martini out to Mike. He

downed it in a few fast gulps and nodded favorably.

       She must have done everything right, because Mike—who

didn’t own Mike’s—slapped the top of the table, stood and

looked down at her.

       “When can you start?”

       Bypassing his question, she posed one of her own about

something that had bothered her since she’d first stepped inside.

“Is it always this dark in here?”

       She didn’t consider it an impolite question. After all, it was

eight o’clock in the morning. And even though the one lone

window was of little help to the weak morning sun, there were

additional lights in the ceiling and over the bar that could be

turned on.

       Mike’s face tightened for a second, highlighting the shiny

scar, but it quickly relaxed and he succeeded this time with the

beginning of a smile. “Julian has an aversion to strong light. He

just went upstairs. He works nights.”

       Well, that was a switch. Usually, the boss took the early

shift, but considering the bar didn’t open until dark, she decided

it made sense.

       As if a thought had just come to him, Mike said, “As soon

as things return to normal, you’ll work most afternoons on

business matters and take the early shift at the bar. So, you

want the job?”

       “Yes.” Figuring the interview was over, she started to rise.

Then she remembered they hadn’t talked money yet. “About

the pay . . .”

       Mike named a salary that was much more than she

expected. And the five and a half-day workweek he mentioned

next sounded equally as good.

       “You didn’t tell me when you could begin,” Mike reminded

her.

       “As soon as I find a place to live,” she answered. “The

hotel has been very accommodating, lowering their usual rate

substantially, but I doubt they’ll house me for free and my money

is just about gone.”

       “You’re in luck.” Mike cocked his head toward the back

of the room. “There’s a one bedroom apartment upstairs if you

want it. Free rent, for as long as you’re working here.”

       A job and a place to live, all in one fell swoop? Everything

was falling into place so easily it made her wonder if Fate’s

hand was involved. An inner chill reminded her again of the

invisible pull she’d felt earlier that had led her here to Mike’s.

Maybe she should reconsider this bounty of good fortune that

had practically fallen into her lap.

       She quickly dismissed the idea. She was in no position to

turn her back on either a job or a place to live. Not after what

she’d just been through, and certainly not before she unraveled

the mystery of her stepsister’s disappearance. Where was

Dottie, and what had happened to her? Simone refused to

consider that Dottie may have been a hurricane victim. She

had to be all right. No, she was all right, Simone told herself

firmly, determined to practice positive thinking.

       Reminding herself that she now had a job and a place to

live, so she’d be able to stay here and look for Dottie, she

stood and glanced around the gloomy bar. All that remained

now was meeting the boss.

       At that thought, her spirits took a sudden dip and the chill

deepened. Julian would no doubt be the boss from Hell.

 

 

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