Today I’m featuring a new release from fellow author and online friend Jana Denardo! Make certain to read to the bottom for an exclusive post from Jana, one that particularly interested me since I deal with magic in both my own writing and private life.
Title: Blod Red Roulette
Publisher: DSP Publications
Novel: 123,179 words
Cover Artist: Tiferet Design
Genres: paranormal, romance, MM – it’s more paranormal but there’s a strong romantic subplot with Arrigo Giancarlo & Luc St. John
CW: Luc’s family is homophobic and violent. There is violence in the book from the villain, Eleni as well
Arrigo Giancarlo’s friends think he’s a rich young man with the unusual job of paranormal investigator, working with his psychic assistant in Las Vegas. In truth he’s a two-thousand-year-old vampire and member of the Chiaroscuro, a group of Supernaturals dedicated to keeping humanity safe from the more dangerous of their kind. He’s also openly bisexual… but alone.
When he spots Luc St. John in a bar, Arrigo is intrigued. What begins as an effort to repay the kindness shown to him in the past quickly turns into much deeper feelings for the suffering and displaced Cajun. For Luc’s part, he feels too poor, too uneducated, and too bound to his hateful family to ever be worthy of elegant and cultured Arrigo.
An old enemy, Eleni, blames Arrigo for murdering her true love. On the anniversary of that death, she’s back to take revenge. As Arrigo’s closest friends fall victim to savage attacks, he fears nothing will keep Luc safe. Should he break both their hearts and let Luc go, or is it too late? If Luc’s already in Eleni’s sights, Arrigo knows that like most things in Vegas, the odds are against him.
Book Excerpt (non-exclusive):
That night, after dealing with the renegade, Arrigo decided to check out the Alibi. He had wanted to know more about the family who seemed to run the place or, more specifically, the hot bartender with the wild curls, whose name he’d learned on his last visit was Luc. The gray-haired, bearded man whose appearance screamed redneck was of no interest to Arrigo other than to inspire distaste because of how he lorded over the two young men who worked the bar with him. The other man, brawnier with darker hair, bullied Luc too. Arrigo learned quickly that his name was Henri, Luc’s brother, and the gray-haired man was their father.
Their accents were Louisianan, Cajun. Arrigo recognized the bayou accent because he had lived in the Pontalba Apartments in the French Quarter several years back. Arrigo figured they had come west looking for new homes after Hurricane Katrina like many others. He knew a whole clan of vampires who gave up the New Orleans cliché and moved to Tempe, Arizona.
At that first meeting, Luc snagged his attention, sending a warm feeling due south. Rarely did someone stir up enough lust to cloud his Roman-soldier sense of duty, but Luc nearly made him lose track of his quarry that night. He hoped the ghosts of his ancient cadre and his personal lares, the guardian spirits Romans believed in back in his mortal days, hadn’t seen him slip up like that. He hadn’t fully given up his belief in the old ways.
The problem with being so ancient was the nagging feeling he’d done it all, and he’d do something wild—and potentially stupid—to prove to himself there were new things to experience. Some days time went too fast, leaving him feeling alive, almost raw with sensation. On the other hand, there were weeks when time trudged by, and then he’d remember how long he’d been alone. Out of nowhere, a laugh perked up his spirit, a flash of a lovely eye ensnared him, or the sight of a well-rounded butt cheek made his heart race. Those moments were inevitable.
The night he first saw Luc’s cherubic face, it catalyzed a reaction. Of course a night in which he’d stalked dangerous prey had been no time to try to talk to Luc. However, working at Delilah’s Diner several doors down, investigating it for his book, suited Arrigo perfectly. After stopping at Delilah’s to gather stories the day after he’d fought the renegade, he planned to drop by the Alibi to see if he could talk to Luc.
As it turned out, he hadn’t had to. Luc showed up at Delilah’s that night. Luc and Lily, the waitress who had told Arrigo all about Delilah’s ghosts, chatted the whole time Arrigo poked around. The gentleness and concern Luc displayed with her, the promise to help her take her kids fishing like their dad used to, even his agreeing to pretend to be her boyfriend to shake off a scary customer spoke volumes. Luc was either a good guy or a crafty predator. Arrigo dealt with predators often, and Luc failed to impress him as one.
The second time Arrigo returned to Delilah’s to learn more from Lily, the cook, and a couple other waitresses in the dead, late-night hours of the twenty-four-hour diner, Luc showed up again, sporting a busted lip. Arrigo helped with a towel filled with ice for Luc so Lily could wait on other patrons. Arrigo only managed to exchange a few words with him, Luc’s wary gaze never leaving his face. Luc only stayed long enough to confirm the fishing trip before stumbling to the bus stop.
Tonight he’d try again at the Alibi after stopping at Delilah’s, using the diner as his excuse for being in the area. He could only imagine the bad reactions in the biker bar if someone thought he’d shown up to see Luc.
Once he arrived at the diner, Arrigo had second thoughts about going into the Alibi. This sort of bar probably thrived on gay bashing, and he was not in the mood to get into a fight with people he’d gladly drain down to the last drop. His inner predator didn’t need that sort of challenge. He glanced up and down the street, first at Delilah’s, then the Alibi. Tabernae remained unchanged for the most part since the days of his youth. Call it what you will: taberna, tavern, pub, bar, diner even, people had always needed a place to gather, to eat and drink. In a way, the Alibi reminded him far too much of his mortal days: rough people, bad booze, and even rougher prostitutes waiting nearby. A shiver ran through him. Some things Arrigo wanted to forget forever.
While Arrigo mentally debated on doing the smart thing and going home, Luc walked around the corner of the bar with a hose in tow. That made things easier. Arrigo didn’t even have to go into the bar with its sticky floors and miserable clientele.
Even though he knew he was probably asking for trouble, Arrigo sauntered across the street. Luc attacked the gritty, broken sidewalk with the stream of water from the hose, but no amount of cleaning could make the Alibi look more enticing. Luc wore torn jeans with ragged stringy hems, a plain blue T-shirt thin enough it was nearly see-through, and a worn-out pair of canvas tennis shoes with the uppers duct-taped to the soles. As he closed the distance, the booze and vomit hit his senses before the copious puddle of it came into view outside the Alibi’s door. “Bonsoir,” Arrigo said, remembering Cajuns spoke a form of French thick with slang he only half remembered. The trouble with living so long was that languages became dated and he knew so many, he struggled to keep them all straight.
Luc looked up, surprise in his expression at hearing French. His face taking on a curious expression, he stared at Arrigo, almost eye to eye. Despite how much taller humans had grown, Arrigo thought he might have an inch on Luc.
Exclusive Post (I’m excited about this!)
The Chiaroscuro was interesting to craft. The secret group of supernatural creatures and mages who police their own kind and keep humanity safe. I’ve long had an interest in clandestine organizations, especially if they’re of a supernatural bent. The Watchers, the Talamasca, the Black Order, they’ve made a lasting impression on me. The Chiaroscuro is not the first secret group I’ve created but they were one of the first as Arrigo and Luc’s tale was originally started in the mid-90s.
In Arrigo’s world, humanity doesn’t know that supernatural beings and magic really exists. It would be easy for the powerful supernaturals to take advantage or harm the Normals as they call the non-magical humans. The Chiaroscuro stands on the shoulders of older organizations, having come into existence in the Renaissance. The name refers to the sharp contrast between light and dark an art term that early members for the group were amused by given some of their members being confined to the dark.
Any supernatural can be a member. In the novel, we meet only a fraction of the types of supernaturals, a few mages, a werewolf and, of course, vampires. They are worldwide with regents as head of the territories to help keep their areas safe. Their rules are simple; do what you do but no harming the humans. Vampires are allowed to feed but since they can survive on a few ounces of blood a day there’s no need to kill. Werewolf can’t hunt humans and so on. Most members of the supernatural community have no problem with the rules because being turned into a vampire or being born a werewolf doesn’t equate to becoming evil.
Of course, human nature being what it is, there is always someone willing to use their powers to better their cause at the expense of others. It’s tempting to set up your own fiefdom using magic or revel in the hunt and kill. It as for that reason the Chiaroscuro was formed.
They also function a repository of arcane knowledge. Much of it has been digitized now as the group tends to be early adopters of technology (the mages and werewolves more than some of the immortal types who often get lost in their long pasts). They try to be proactive in fighting supernatural crime but like any bureaucratic organization they can get hamstrung by in fighting and petty jealousies. Mired in those is where Arrigo finds himself in Blood Red Roulette. He knows he’s being stalked. He’s been an enforcer for centuries. He understands all too well that Las Vegas is too large for the two investigators their regent sent to help him. Worse, one of which has her magic hampered by the desert conditions. It’s times like this his own mind fantasizes about finding the regent and going a toe into a dark.
Mostly he likes being part of the Chiaroscuro, but Arrigo stays out of the politics. He prefers being an enforcer. It’s dangerous work, hunting down rogue supernaturals but the predator in him enjoys the challenge, a little less so when his friends are in the crosshairs. His long time – as in nearly two thousand years – friend, Siobhan, is an enforcer with him. Fadil, the ancient Egyptian who created him is highly placed in the organization. Fadil desperately wanted to make an appearance in the novel but the storyline just didn’t allow for it. It would be fun to revisit the Chiaroscuro’s world and bring him into the picture. There will always be another supernatural battle to fight.