Today I am so pleased to welcome Robert Winter to Joyfully Jay. Robert has come to talk to share a written and audio excerpt from his latest release, Vampire Claus. He has also brought along a tour wide giveaway. Please join me in giving Robert a big welcome!
Thanks for hosting me today. I’m excited about the release of my Christmas novella Vampire Claus. I thought I’d do something a little different for Joyfully Jay. I’m providing an exclusive excerpt from the novella, and also including an audio file of me reading the same segment. I hope you enjoy it!
Taviano returned to their would-be victim, studying him as he approached. Paul was a handsome young man, probably in his early twenties. His blond hair was overly long and needed a cut. The red sweater, frayed at one sleeve, stretched over a well-shaped chest and broad shoulders. His shoes were quite scuffed, and the fabric of his red pants showed wear. A smell of grease, hamburgers and scorched coffee rose from his clothes, overlaying a delicate personal smell. Taviano inhaled deeply. His senses filtered out the mundane traces of life so he could savor the essence of the man beneath.
Rosemary and lemons and the wind through a grove of olive trees.
He knew he should fix Paul’s memories and just go, but he found he was intensely curious. About the bags of presents, and why Paul walked dark streets alone. Why he had no coat, and why he smelled so nice. Since a good hour would vanish anyway, what could it hurt to spend a few minutes talking? It had been a long time since he’d had an actual conversation; he wondered if he still knew how.
Paul kept his blue eyes fixed on Taviano’s as he mastered his fear. His heartbeat remained fast but his sweat carried a tinge of relief and, oddly, excitement.
“Thank you,” he said fervently as Taviano approached. “I don’t know what happened except that you saved my life.” He laughed and shook his head. “Wow, that sounded self-important. Okay, you saved the presents and you stopped my ass from getting kicked.” He stuck out the hand not clapped over his shoulder as he said, “I’m Paul. Merry Christmas.”
Taviano felt a grin stretch his lips. When had someone last offered him a hand in greeting? Amused, he shook with Paul, whose grip was warm and smooth. Life pulsed strong and steady in the palm against his, and in the fingers wrapped around his cold extremities.
“Yes, I heard you give your name. My name is Taviano.” After a moment, he added awkwardly, “Merry Christmas to you as well.”
“Italian, huh?” Paul said as the shake ended. “I figured. You have the look and I hear a little accent. Probably Southern, right? With that black hair and your dark eyes.”
Taviano nodded, then belatedly said, “I’m from Naples. Originally.”
“Oh, that’s cool. My family mostly came from the north of Italy way back. But your name. It’s lit up! We have three Octavios around the neighborhood that I know of but I don’t remember a Taviano before.”
“It was unusual even where I come from. My mother picked it from a list of names written in the front of our family Bible.”
“Awesome-sauce.” Paul blinked a few times and cleared his throat. “So, Taviano, can you tell me what happened here or would you have to kill me? I really don’t want that so if it’s better that you don’t tell me that’s great too. Just say so. Dying on Christmas. That would totally suck.” He chuckled self-consciously. “Sorry I’m running off at the mouth here. I’m kinda scared and that makes me talk a lot.”
Taviano had little interaction with anyone other than his victims. It took him a few moments to decipher what Paul had said, and what he might need. With what he hoped was a reassuring smile, lips together to cover his fangs, he said, “Don’t worry, please. I won’t hurt you. But it’s probably best if we…forget about how we met.”
Paul rocked on his heels and exhaled heavily. “That’s cool with me. Great. No killing then.”
Taviano was relieved he’d made Paul feel better. Like he’d passed a test. The rich scent of fresh blood drifted to his nostrils. “Your shoulder is bleeding. It isn’t deep but you should see to that.”
Paul frowned as if he’d forgotten, but when he peeled away the covering hand he shuddered. The knife had sliced through his sweater, the cotton T-shirt underneath and, Taviano judged, an eighth-inch of skin. A fair amount of blood coated Paul’s palm and shoulder and seeped into the fabrics, but the wound was easily treated. He wouldn’t even need stitches.
“Ah shit,” Paul muttered. “This is my favorite sweater.” He looked blankly at his bloody palm. “That’s so gross, man.”
His demon sharpened its focus on the blood. Taviano prepared for a battle, but to his surprise, it made no effort to get at Paul. Instead it quieted down and drifted in his belly.
He frowned. Did he put Paul at risk just by standing near? That lack of interest from his bloodbeast was all but unprecedented, and he remained alert for some trick.
Something was different in its reaction, though. It could be as simple as having fed twice that night already. Or… might it have grown to accept his code of sparing innocents while feeding only from the worst wretches? Taviano had been around so few good people in recent decades he’d never had occasion to notice.
Every instinct told him that Paul was just as earnest and innocent as he’d seemed from the rooftop. The unusual pleasure of talking to Paul, combined with his demon’s apparent tolerance, heartened Taviano. He granted himself more time to talk, while remaining vigilant against any surprise attack by the bloodbeast.
“Can I take you someplace to attend to your shoulder? Perhaps a nearby pharmacy?”
“I might as well go back to my apartment and clean it there. I’ve gotta change anyway now.” Paul winced as he rotated his shoulder. “It doesn’t hurt too bad but that’s a lot of blood.” He looked at Taviano and asked seriously, “Do you think I should go to a hospital or something? I don’t have any insurance but they’d probably still see me at an ER.” He muttered, “I hope.”
“It isn’t necessary,” Taviano said confidently. “Put a bandage on it, keep it clean, and I suspect you won’t scar.”
Paul’s eyes widened and he smiled hugely. “I didn’t even think about a scar. That would be gangsta! A real war wound, right?”
Taviano had to grin back. “You’re remarkably calm for someone who was mugged tonight and cut with a knife.”
“No, I got this, bruh. I told myself that I can have ten minutes to scream and freak out later tonight, so I just, like, put it off till then. Believe me, I’ll be a fucking mess.”
Unlikely. When Taviano altered his memories, he’d take away the mugging with all the rest. He didn’t want a dark cloud from the attack to ruin Paul’s obvious enjoyment of the season. He should do it soon.
Well, when the conversation runs its course.
Taviano might as well do something useful while they talked. It was almost a shame, since Paul seemed excited about his potential scar. Ah, but he won’t remember the wound anyway.
“May I?” he asked with a small gesture to Paul’s shoulder. “I can stop the bleeding, though you’re on your own with mending the sweater.”
Paul nodded curiously, and Taviano sliced his sharp thumbnail over his index finger. He smeared a little ichor on the cut, and it began to close. Paul’s eyes were like saucers as they turned from the shrinking wound to his healer. Shocking himself, Taviano winked at him. He actually winked. “Sorry, Paul, but no scar.”
Taviano hadn’t stepped back, but neither had Paul. They were almost the same height, though Paul was more slender of build. His big blue eyes had flecks of green and gold around the iris. That close, his heady essence made Taviano’s mouth water.
The response puzzled him immensely. It wasn’t hunger for Paul’s blood; that much was clear from his demon’s apathy. So what was it Taviano wanted to do about that wonderful smell?
Run my fingers through Paul’s hair to see if that’s where it’s coming from. Listen to the sound the silky strands make as they fall back into a glorious mess.
Oh no, that was ridiculous. He hadn’t touched a man for any reason but to feed in decades. He was just caught by the novelty of talking to a sweet young man on Christmas Eve. It would end with a missing hour for Paul and a pleasant memory for himself. He opened his mouth to announce it was time to forget everything, but what came out was, “Your eyes are quite beautiful.”
And here is an audio version of that same excerpt:
’Twas the night before Christmas, but what’s stirring is a little more dangerous than a mouse.
Taviano is nearly two hundred years old and never wakes in the same place twice. Weary and jaded, the vampire still indulges in memories of childhood Christmases in Naples. He lingers in shadow, spying on mortals as they enjoy the holiday.
When Taviano spots a handsome young man in Boston loaded down with presents and about to be mugged, he can’t help but intervene. Soon he’s talking to joyous, naïve, strong-willed and funny Paul, a short-order cook who raised funds to buy Christmas presents for LGBTQ children. Before he knows what’s happened, Taviano is wrapped up in Paul’s arms and then in his schemes to get the presents delivered by Christmas morning.
A vampire turned into a Christmas elf… What could go wrong?
Vampire Claus is a 30,000-word standalone gay romance about a lonely vampire and a fearless mortal with no instinct for self-preservation. A heartwarming ending, no cliffhanger, and a young man who discovers he has a thing for fangs. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
Robert Winter lives and writes in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He is a recovering lawyer who prefers writing about hot men in love much more than drafting a legal brief. He left behind the (allegedly) glamorous world of an international law firm to sit in his home office and dream up ways to torment his characters until they realize they are perfect for each other. When he isn’t writing, Robert likes to cook Indian food and explore new restaurants. He splits his attention between Andy, his partner of sixteen years, and Ling the Adventure Cat, who likes to fly in airplanes and explore the backyard jungle as long as the temperature and humidity are just right.
- Website: http://www.robertwinterauthor.com/
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