Hotter After Midnight

By: Cynthia Eden


Chapter 1

 


The vampire on her couch had a serious blood phobia.

Dr. Emily Drake tapped a ballpoint pen against her lower lip as she listened to the vamp describe his little problem.

“I just…can’t drink it. I tried taking the blood straight from a source.” He glanced over at her, his brown eyes wide. “Ya know, like from someone’s neck.”

Emily nodded. Yeah, she had a pretty good idea. She scribbled a quick note on her pad. Scared to take directly.

“But the minute my teeth actually touch someone’s skin—” He broke off, and a shudder worked the length of his too-thin body. “I feel like I’m gonna be sick.”

Hmmm. Emily could only imagine how the guy’s “source” had to feel. “Tell me, Marvin, have you tried going to a blood bank?” In her experience, some vampires just couldn’t take drinking warm blood from a human’s veins. They needed the blood cold, ice cold, and bagged—like some gruesome monster takeout.

He nodded and closed his eyes. “Been there, done that, Doctor. It just doesn’t work for me.” He exhaled heavily, and Emily had to fight to control the curve of her lips. Vampires didn’t breathe, didn’t need any air, didn’t need anything but blood to live. But some habits were sure hard to break.

Even for the dead.

“I’m going to die.” A pause. His eyes opened, gazed at her office ceiling. “Again.” His hands lifted in the air, began to gesture furiously as he announced, in a slightly shrill tone, “I’ve been a vampire for six days—six days! And I’m going to starve to death. I’ll be the first vampire in history to starve because he’s afraid of blood! I’m going to wither away, dwindle to nothing. There will be no bones left, no ashes. Just—”

Oh jeez, this guy was quite the drama queen. Emily leaned forward. Vamps were all alike. Always with the I–I talk. You’d think they were the only supernatural creatures who had any problems.

Not being able to drink blood was a pretty serious problem for a vampire. And that was why Marvin Scamps had come to see her. She had a reputation for being able to help creatures like him.

Emily pulled off her glasses, rubbed the bridge of her nose as she thought a moment, then said, “Have you tried mixing the blood with something else?”

He shot off the couch, began to pace the room, his skeletal body tight, his hands knotted into fists. “It’s blood! I can’t drink blood! I can’t—”

Emily took a deep breath and lowered the shield she’d erected in her mind. Slowly, carefully, she opened her thoughts up to the creature before her.

Blood. Horrible, red, sticky blood. Dripping down my throat. Gagging me. Oh, the taste. Weak, stale. I hate it, hate it—

Oh yeah, the guy had a bad blood issue.

Emily probed deeper into Marvin’s mind, pushing past the fear, the disgust. There had to be more to Marvin’s phobia. There always was. If she could just find a memory to show her…

Emily’s special gift in this world was her ability to touch the minds of others. She could peek inside their thoughts, feel the sting of their emotions, and that extrasensory ability made her the best damn psychologist in the state of Georgia. But, well, not everyone got to benefit from her little “bonus” power. Her gift only worked with supernatural beings—the Other—and that was why Emily was known as the Monster Doctor.

Of course, that wasn’t her technical title. Couldn’t very well post that in gold lettering on her door.

“I can’t live this way!” Marvin’s voice was a full scream now. He stood in front of her window, gazing down at the street below. His shaggy blond hair brushed against the windowpane.

She refrained from pointing out that, technically, Marvin wasn’t living. Damn. She wondered who’d been the brilliant guy to transform him. Marvin really didn’t seem to be cut out for being undead.

But it was her job to help him.

And she was very, very good at her job.

“Come here, Marvin.” She didn’t like the way he was eyeing the street below. There was no way he’d survive a jump from twenty-three stories. Only a level-nine demon or one very strong shifter could survive a fall like that.

His palms pressed against the glass. “If I can’t drink the blood, I’ll die.”

Eventually. “You have a month,” she told him, pitching her voice low, trying to soothe him. “A vampire needs to feed only once every full moon.” And when he’d been transformed, he’d taken blood then. That gave him about three weeks before his next feeding.

Emily opened her desk drawer and pulled out her Rolodex. She took out a gray business card and held it up. “Take this.”

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