Hi guys! We have E.J. Russell stopping by today with the tour for her new release Vampire With Benefits, we have a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway where you can win a $25 Riptide Publishing gift card and an ecopy of The Druid Next Door, the second title in the Fae Out of Water series, also from the Mythmatched universe, so guys check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~
Vampire With Benefits
A match between a vampire and shifter could be deadly—but this broken beaver doesn’t give a dam.
Silent film actor Casimir Moreau had imagined that life as a vampire would be freewheeling and glamorous. Instead, he’s plunged into a restrictive society whose rules he runs afoul of at every turn. To “rehabilitate” him, the vampire council orders him mated to an incubus with impeccable breeding who’ll mold Cas into the upstanding vampire he ought to be. Or else.
As an inactive beaver shifter, construction engineer Rusty Johnson has fought—and overcome—bias and disrespect his entire life. But when his longtime boyfriend leaves him for political reasons, Rusty is ready to call it a day. Next stop? Supernatural Selection and his guaranteed perfect mate, a bear shifter living far away from Rusty’s disapproving clan.
But then a spell snafu at Supernatural Selection robs both men of their intended husbands. Rusty can’t face returning to his clan, and Cas needs somebody on his arm to keep the council happy, so they agree to pretend to be married. Nobody needs to know their relationship is fake—especially since it’s starting to feel suspiciously like the real thing.
Hello and welcome to the blog tour for Vampire With Benefits! I can’t wait for you to meet Rusty and Cas, the second mismatched couple in my Supernatural Selection series (part of the Mythmatched universe). Thank you to all of you and to this blog for helping me celebrate the book release!
I thought being a vampire would be more fun.
Casimir Moreau stalked down the sidewalks in Portland’s Pearl District, hipsters to the right of him, hipsters to the left, the early-autumn darkness illuminated by streetlamps and the spill of light from restaurants and storefronts. Where’s the danger? Where’s the thrill? Where’s the terror? Well, perhaps terror wasn’t exactly what he wanted. A terrified host was very inconvenient. Half of them pissed themselves, which ruined the scent of their blood. The other half—well, the other half tried to be Jackie Chan. And failed.
He had a feeling that if he flashed a bit of fang to the passersby, nobody would bat an eye. Because this is Portland, and vampires are nearly as hip as brewpubs. Really, it was disheartening.
Before he’d taken that last irrevocable step from mediocre silent film actor to creature of the night, he’d imagined a freewheeling eternal life, flitting between candlelit parties with women dressed in sparkling gowns and men in the delicious formality of white tie and tails. A veritable smorgasbord from whom he could choose his sexual partners and blood hosts at will. The reality had been somewhat different.
Who knew that bastard Will Hays with his infernal Production Code and threadbare Midwestern morality would ruin everything?
His silk scarf fluttered in the chilly November breeze, and he tucked the ends under his cashmere overcoat. Not that he needed either the scarf or the coat—it would take far more extreme temperatures to make him uncomfortable—but fashion was one of the ways vampires blended in. To wear a tank top and shorts in November would have drawn attention, the unforgivable sin, not just for vampires but for any member of the supernatural community. Not that Cas would venture to wear a tank top and shorts—the flash of his paper-white skin would probably blind everyone within a mile, given the impossibility of him ever getting a tan.
A burst of laughter from a nearby clot of revelers made him snarl, startling the couple pushing their toddler in a stroller. He smoothed his expression to bland, to match his clothes and his grooming and his existence. It wasn’t their fault he was on his way to get married to somebody he’d never even met. It wasn’t their fault he’d made his last drastic miscalculation.
It wasn’t their fault he was dead.
No, that’s all on me. On me and that fucking bastard Henryk Skalding. If he hadn’t been convinced Henryk was plotting to undermine him with the vampire council again, if he hadn’t been so determined to expose Henryk in the most flamboyant way, stupidly failing to recognize the trap Henryk had set for him, he wouldn’t have gotten slapped with a sanction. Rules and regulations. The Secrecy Pact. Threat to our very existence.
Blah blah blah.
In Cas’s opinion, humans could use a little excitement in their lives. In fact, that was the only thing he and Henryk agreed on—that vampire society was far too stodgy and paranoid. Had the council browsed the shelves of the romance section in Powell’s lately? Had they watched Netflix? Had they caught any of those dreadful movies with the wooden-faced actors? Vampires were fashionable. Trendy. Imagine the celebrity, the influence, the fun they could have if they revealed that they were real.
They could correct some of those egregious lies about vampire nature too.
But the council was too blind to see the advantages. And they certainly didn’t appreciate Cas’s attempts to rattle their chains a bit, to free them from their restrictive lifestyle.
Although even Cas had to admit that his last caper had gone too far. He swallowed convulsively. I thought it was just another prank in our ongoing feud.If I had known what Henryk was really up to, I’d never have done it.
So now, since pointing fingers was not Cas’s way, he was about to be married. Permanently. To a supe of the council’s choosing. For your own good, and the good of the race.
He strode past a falafel restaurant and into the lobby of the building that housed Supernatural Selection, the supe matchmaking agency the council had contracted to execute Cas’s sentence. The place was run by a witches’ collective, and as far as Cas was concerned, that damned it right off the bat. Vampires and witches had never gotten along.
On the other hand, vampires didn’t get along with many supes in general. All the dueling power trips and influence one-upmanship? It wasn’t pretty.
He mounted the stairs and entered the lobby. The lighting was low, well within the most soothing spectrum for vampires, although the other occupant of the room—some kind of big, bearded supe in denim and flannel—was squinting at his magazine, brows bunched in annoyance. Cas was tempted to turn the lights out completely. He’d have no trouble in the dark—vampire sight was optimized for low light conditions—but the other guy would. It might be amusing for a few minutes to see the guy flail about.
Amusing, yes. But bad. Making the distinction between funny and poor fucking choice had been Cas’s problem since before he was Turned. In fact, it was whyhe was Turned. If he hadn’t thought it’d be a lark, he’d never have gone with his sire that night when the fellow had stepped out from behind Rudolph Valentino’s crypt, all smoldering eyes and windblown hair, like some kind of Gothic romance cover model. Not that there were Gothic romance cover models at the time.
Cas supposed being a vampire had its advantages, although at the moment he was too cross to think of any. Too bad time-surfing isn’t a real thing. I’d surf back to that cemetery and tell my sire to go fuck himself on the nearest weeping angel.
The reception desk was unoccupied, although it sported a Be Back Momentarily sign. If Cas was still breathing, he’d have sighed. Technically, he could—his lungs functioned, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to talk. But the management of breath was a conscious choice now—one it had taken him a good three years post-Turn to figure out.
He sat in one of the earth-toned chairs and folded his hands in his lap. He hadn’t brought anything to read, and the other occupant of the room was monopolizing the only material other than Supernatural Selection brochures. Cas tapped his index fingers together, wishing for his phone. Kristof Czardos, the leader of the vampire council, had confiscated it.
Confiscated his damned phone, as if he were a recalcitrant high school student. Cas scowled, tapping his foot in opposition to his fingers. Kristof had shown up at Cas’s house five minutes after sundown—and Cas would give a lot to know how the man moved so damned fast. True, he was the oldest vampire on the planet, but still.
Cas had barely woken up, and was lying in bed, scrolling through his various dating apps, when Kristof was suddenly there. He’d plucked the phone out of Cas’s hands and handed it to one of his honor guards—a couple of hulking brutes who’d probably been Vikings when they were alive. Or possibly Neanderthals.
“Casimir. You have not presented yourself at Supernatural Selection to sign your mating contract.”
Cas blinked up at him. “I’ve got time. The party isn’t until… until…” He peered at the calendar above his neglected desk. “Shit. Is that the date?”
“Yes. Your reception is tomorrow night; however, this presupposes that the wedding will have already taken place. Don’t you think it would have been polite to at least speak to your prospective mate before the ceremony?”
Cas sat up, brushing his hair out of his eyes. He didn’t have to look up too far—Kristof wasn’t especially tall. Five six or so, but then average heights in the twelfth century had been smaller. Who knew? Maybe he’d towered over his enemies back then.
Now he intimidated them by sheer force of will.
Besides, Cas wasn’t a giant himself, not like the honor guards. Five ten, and that had been tall back in his living days.
“I don’t see the point. It’s not as if I got to choose her. Him. Them.” He squinted at Kristof. “I forget. Did you tell me their name?” Maybe he should have read the wedding invitation. Presumably his prospective spouse would have been listed—in flowing Old World copperplate, no less.
“Your contracted spouse is Quentin Bertrand-Harrington, an incubus of a highly respected and influential dynastic ‘cubi family.”
An incubus. Huh. “I thought they dined on the life energies of their hosts.” He gestured to himself. “Not a lot of life energy going on here.”
Kristof’s lips flattened just a hair. “Your energies will be sufficient for him, as his blood will be sufficient for you. The council has no wish for you to suffer, Casimir, you or Mr. Bertrand-Harrington.”
“No,” Cas muttered. “Just to force us both into a permanent marriage. What if we hate each other?”
“Supernatural Selection guarantees any match of their making will be perfect.”
“‘Perfect’? According to whom? Why should I trust a bunch of witches to tell me who’s perfect for me? And why would the council trust the spell to solve its little”—Cas pointed to himself—”personnel problem? Since when do you relinquish that much control?”
“Perhaps I should clarify.” His gaze flickered away from Cas. “The match is guaranteed perfect within the parameters set by the client: commitment type, relationship longevity, social and emotional compatibility. The spell matrices are quite sophisticated. We presented our requirements—”
“Your requirements?” What about my requirements not to have a live-in watchdog of your choosing? “Then why don’t you marry him?”
Kristof’s eyelids drooped a fraction in his version of annoyance. “You are the youngest of us, Casimir, and your First Life was unlike ours. You experienced an unreasonable degree of freedom, the consequences of your actions handled by your studios, your wild and extravagant behavior rewarded by greater fame. That is why we’ve chosen a mate for you who is well versed in etiquette, who is confident in society.”
“So you think I have no manners?” Cas sounded sulky even to himself.
“It’s not your fault. Your sire should have provided better guidance, but he was foolish and irresponsible. His reckless arrogance is ultimately why the council condemned him to greet the sun.” Something like real sorrow flickered across Kristof’s pale face. The emotions swirling in Cas’s belly when he remembered his sire weren’t as straightforward—anger, regret, annoyance? It hardly mattered anymore. The man was twice dead, and had been for over half a century. “This is for your benefit as well as ours, Casimir. Trust me. You will be perfectly compatible.”
“Does this Supernatural Selection place guarantee love too?”
“Of course not. Nobody can do that. But that is hardly apropos for a vampire anyway. It is not as if we have a heart to engage, after all.”
Oh sure. He gets to make jokes, but whenever I try, I get my ass sanctioned.Unless…maybe it wasn’t a joke. Cas hadn’t felt the least twinge of fondness for anyone since his sire had met the sun—and that hadn’t been affection so much as the bond between sire and fledgling.
“Fine. I’ll go tonight.” He held out his hand. “Could I have my phone back?”
Kristof regarded him for an extremely long and awkward moment. “Not yet. I will return it to you at the reception tomorrow. Perhaps that will provide the incentive that even the threat of the sun has not.” He twitched one eyebrow. “You young people. So attached to your gadgets.”
Another fucking joke. Cas was almost one hundred and sixteen, but he’d only been a vampire for ninety-two years, making him one of the two youngest vampires on the planet. And since vampire status was tied directly to age, he’d always be on the bottom of the hierarchical ladder.
Kristof had whisked off with his troglodytes—probably to practice his stand-up routine on some other hapless captive audience—leaving Cas to brood in relative peace.
I might not be a comedian, but I’ve got passive aggression down to a science.So Cas dawdled through his grooming routine, taking at least forty-five minutes to select the right suit for marrying a stranger—wool; charcoal with a subtle herringbone; pearl-gray shirt with French cuffs. He didn’t bother with a tie, because he was just that kind of rebel.
Finally, though, he’d run out of things to do to his hair, his clothes, or his shoes, and since he’d already watched everything decent that Netflix had to offer, he’d left his house before he could be crushed by sheer boredom.
Now he was slumped in Supernatural Selection’s oh-so-comfy chair, his legs stretched out in front of him, which meant that his formal Converse were directly in the other guy’s sightline.
The guy glanced at Cas, irritation written all over his broad face. Who knew that a beard could actually look irritated? In the absence of any other entertainment—damn Kristof and his “incentives” anyway—Cas studied the guy. Not that studying him was a particular hardship, “stud” being the operative part of the word. Good lord. Under all that flannel, he must have biceps bigger than Francis X. Bushman’s.
He couldn’t be human, not in this place. He was as big as a Sidhe warrior, but with those whiskers, he obviously wasn’t fae. They were all beardless. Too ruddy to be a vampire. Cas sniffed surreptitiously. He didn’t have the telltale sulfur-and-sewer reek of poisonous shifter blood. What was he?
The guy sighed and laid his magazine in his lap. “May I help you?”
Cas offered his best no-fanged grin—which he could do without thinking now, although it had been a struggle to master in the early years of his undeath. “Just curious about you. Magazine interesting, is it?”
“It is to me. I doubt you’d like it much.”
“Oh, I don’t know. My…tastes are quite eclectic.” This time he let his fangs creep into his grin.
Bearded Guy snorted. “Vampire. Figures.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You all have issues with personal boundaries.”
“Oh nice. Why not clue me in on your nature so I can make a few snap judgments too?”
He cracked his magazine open and masked his face with it. “Not my problem.” Cas saw that the magazine was something called Journal of Light Construction. And just because it annoyed him that Bearded Guy was right about it not interesting him, Cas sat up, crossed his legs, and threw down.
“You can’t be a shifter. You don’t stink.”
Bearded Guy didn’t look up. “Thanks for that.” He turned a page. “Happens you’re wrong, though. Beaver shifter.”
“Beaver?” Cas laughed, probably forcing it a little too long. “Can you seriously say that with a straight face? Or without other people making sex jokes?”
He glared at Cas over the top of the magazine. “This is Oregon. Only assholes make rude beaver jokes here.” He lifted an eyebrow. “Well, assholes and Ducks.”
“Ducks.” Cas rolled his eyes. “Oh please. Don’t tell me you’re a beaver shifter who became an actual Beaver.”
“Yep. OSU College of Engineering.”
“Hence your fascinating reading material.”
“It’s important to keep up with current construction trends. Do you keep up with anything? What do vampires do with their time anyway?”
“Ah, that would be telling. So, did you enliven any of your frat parties by shifting into the avatar of your alma mater?”
The magazine crinkled in Bearded Guy’s grip. “Inactive. Not that it’s any of your business.”
“Inactive? You’re a shifter who can’t shift, and you’re giving me grief? If you ask me, you’re not even a supe. In fact….” Cas leaned forward, raking Bearded Guy with his patented hungry look. “I doubt you’d even qualify as refreshments. Come on.” He licked his lips. “I dare you to prove me wrong.”
Supernatural Selection series!
Are you a shifter who’s lost faith in fated mates? A vampire seeking a Second Life companion? Or perhaps you’re a demon yearning to claim a soul (mate)?
Congratulations! Your search is over!
Welcome to Supernatural Selection, where our foolproof spells guarantee your perfect match.
Until they don’t.
E.J. Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business-intelligence consultant. After her twin sons left for college and she no longer spent half her waking hours ferrying them to dance class, she returned to her childhood love of writing fiction. Now she wonders why she ever thought an empty nest meant leisure.
E.J. lives in rural Oregon with her curmudgeonly husband, the only man on the planet who cares less about sports than she does. She enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.
Connect with E.J.:
- Website: ejrussell.com
- Blog: ejrussell.com/bloggery/
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/E.J.Russell.author
- Twitter: twitter.com/ej_russell
- Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ejrussell/
To celebrate the release of Vampire With Benefits one lucky person will win a $25 Riptide Publishing gift card and an ecopy of The Druid Next Door, the second title in the Fae Out of Water series, also from the Mythmatched universe!
Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on October 27, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries