“The Nightlife San Antonio” by Travis Luedke is an excellent and gripping stand alone novel in his sensational and breath-taking Vampire series.
On this occasion we step outside the regular cast and setting and focus close up and personal on two characters only (more or less): An amnesiac sexy female Vampire and her ambulance rescuer Adrian. She has been shot and almost dies but pulls through and he takes her into his home and gives her shelter there.
Adrian is a fantastic character with a military past and a dark psychological profile of his own. His house guest has a past yet to be discovered. While we are waiting to find out more about the attack on her and the connection to the Mexican Mafia, the two of them have plenty of hot and steamy sex. I am not normally a big fan of erotica but Luedke writes with a raw and honest style that is a breath of fresh air and makes the scenes realistic and powerful. The sexual tension is made even more gripping and intense by the constant ‘playing with fire’ that accompanies the sex with a vampire: the continuous temptation in her mind to bite him and kill him for all of his blood while he fights with his awareness of the danger combined with his inability or unwillingness to play it safe.
After “The Nightlife London” this is a perfectly timed interlude to the series formula. The book focusses on the bond forming between the two, especially once the memory comes back and the action takes off on a big scale.
Spiked with great one liners, fast paced writing, filth, sex and violence this is paranormal writing at its best. In an almost saturated market of Vampire novels the series stands out easily for its perfect blend of sex and violence.
Luedke’s characters are solid and manage to walk the thin line between serious and tongue-in-cheek, throw in some un-pc views (on sexual politics and sex) and tempt you to join them in their adrenaline fuelled and exciting lives.
This is every bit as good as “True Blood”‘s first season was to me. I sadly got bored with True Blood after two seasons, but there is no sign yet of me getting bored of The Nightlife.
A must read for fans of the genre.
Excerpt 1 The Fugitive (Safe For Work)
Adrian headed for his Chevy pickup at the far corner of the parking lot, Jose’s fifty dollars tucked into his back pocket. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a pale blue fabric flitting past between two cars. In the strange pallor cast by the parking lot lights, he could’ve sworn he saw a flash of butt cheek from a woman wearing one of those open-backed hospital gowns. He changed course and headed straight for this wisp of fabric, intrigued.
He reached the shadows between two vehicles and paused, a sense of wrongness flashing in his mind. He made an about-face and headed back to his pickup truck. He had learned that it didn’t pay to stick his nose into things not his business. He had a date with a Serta Perfect Sleeper mattress in his air-conditioned apartment.
As he reached the truck, he glanced around once more and considered calling hospital security. A renegade patient was their job, not his.
Without a single sound, she was suddenly there, right next to him, her pale blood-splattered hand on his arm – the gunshot victim, the woman who damn near died in the back of his ambulance.
Her weak grip tugged at his arm. “I need your help. You have to help me.”
Her black hair hung limp, plastered to her forehead. Blood speckled her chin, neck and light blue gown. She must have coughed up blood, which would mean her lungs were not doing so good. Pneumonia, collapsed lung, punctured lung, all the possibilities slid across his mind as he stared at her, perplexed. What the hell was she doing out here? Walking around? The woman had flat-lined a couple of days ago.
“Let’s get you back to the Emergency Room. They’ll take care of everything.” At the risk of ruining his jacket with blood stains and who knew what other bodily fluids, he put his arm around her and pulled her close to hold her weight. She wasn’t wearing anything under the paper-thin gown. The contours of her naked hip fit his hand perfectly. He tried to ignore those thoughts and instead steered her back towards the hospital.
“No, wait, I can’t.” She stopped him from going any farther by turning in his grip to face him.
Shit. “Do you need me to carry you?” Please no. My back can’t take any more tonight.
“I can’t be here.”
Her face, which had held a look of pleading, turned dead serious. Dark eyes bored into his soul with a depth of intensity. “I need you. Take me with you. I must leave now.” There was something fascinating about her eyes. She never blinked even once, and he found he couldn’t look away from her. “You have to help me.”
Yes, of course. He had to help her.
He suddenly understood, and really, it was a simple request. She needed a ride. No big deal. Helping her was the right thing to do. The soldier part of his mind rapidly assessed the risks. The CCTV cameras only covered the entrance area of the hospital. Nobody would know where she went from the parking lot. He glanced around, looking for any sign of a witness to this strange moment. Then he recalled her little issue, she was a mafia target or something like that. He had no desire to become collateral damage on a botched hit job. A saner voice nagged him, get rid of her. No upside in helping her, no upside at all. She stank like old blood and medicine, that sick-hospital smell. She stood in his arms staring at him, unblinking, her dark eyes a well filled with raw, intense need.
Something stirred inside him. Even in her present condition, she was eerily compelling.
He had deliberately trained as a paramedic to help people. The bastard shrink had called him asociopath, unable to care about people. So, here he was, trying to care, trying to help, trying to be like everyone else, normal. It was his job to help people like her, more so than the police who were probably looking for her right now.
Do your job, Adrian. Prove the bastard shrink wrong.
“Okay, I’ll give you a ride. Come on.” She snuggled into his embrace with a grateful smile on her bloody lips as he pulled her back towards his truck. He reacted to her appreciation low in his groin. Obviously it had been way too long since he got laid. Messing around with patients was a major fail, quick way to get fired and prosecuted.
He helped her up into the truck – impossible not to end up with a handful of her ass in the process. She held his gaze with that creepy look, and a small grin split her lips. Adrian smiled back at her reassuringly, then shut the door and jetted around to the driver side for the packet of Clorox wet wipes on the seat. Without surgical gloves, no knowing what nasty germs he might get from touching her.
She just sat there, blood splattered, in nothing but her paper-thin gown, watching him. She looked so vulnerable, and she had put so much trust in him. He started the truck and navigated out of the parking lot with her furtively watching him all the while. She kept glancing back at the hospital entrance, as if looking for someone in pursuit.
“Shit!” She dropped flat on the truck bench seat as a police car sped past. The car screeched to a stop at the emergency entrance and two cops piled out, jogging into the hospital.
Her huge brown eyes looked up at him. She had laid her head in his lap. The girl might be afraid of the police and everyone else, but she trusted him.
He tried not to think about her face on his thigh, or the complete absurdity of the moment. He just kept on driving up to the intersection at the highway. Then it occurred to him he had no idea which direction to take.
“So, where are we headed? We’re on I-35 and I-37, on the south side.”
Still she just stared at him, head resting on his lap like he had become her personal pillow. Damn, he’d have to wash his jeans with Lysol disinfectant.
She shook her head, rubbing her lank black hair all over his jeans. “I … I don’t know.”
“Look, I understand you’re afraid. I was one of the paramedics who brought you in. Somebody tried to kill you. It’s amazing you can even walk, and you don’t need me to tell you that you need medical attention. You should be in a hospital.”
She shook her head. “I can’t go back.”
He knew she was gonna say that. “If you won’t go to a hospital, then I’ll take you home. I can check your wounds, change your bandages, but I’m not a doctor. I’m not qualified for anything else. Tell me where you live. I’ll get you there, do what I can to help, and then we’re done. We never met. You don’t know who I am, and I don’t know who you are. I could lose my job for this.”
He felt a twinge of something as her emotions flickered across her face. She was afraid. He’d seen plenty of that in Iraq. He stared at her for a minute, until a honking car behind him drew his attention to the stale green light. He took off for the north onramp to I-35. Cruising the highway, he kept glancing down at her. She had her hands over her face, like an ostrich hoping the problem would go away if they simply didn’t see it anymore.
One more exit and they would be at his apartment complex. He tried not to think of the implications. This girl needed to go somewhere, definitely not to his home. “I need a direction, an address, something.”
She uncovered her face and there were dark wet tears in her eyes. Was that blood? Fuck. Why the hell would she be bleeding from her eyes? She choked as though crying. Damn women were always crying.
Adrian hadn’t cried in years. He hadn’t felt that kind of intensity about anything, apart from a few insane moments in Iraq. How could people function when they feel so much? The only thing that got him going, beyond sex, was full-on combat, kill or be killed. The EMT calls got a bit wild once in a while, but not very often.
He reached over to the glove box to find the Kleenex tissues and handed her one. “You’re bleeding.”
She dabbed at her eyes, looked at the tissue and then back up at him. Lost, bewildered, scared, her huge dark eyes raked at him with the urgency of her plight. She choked out the words, “I don’t know where to go. I don’t know anything.”
The problem hit, and he didn’t like the way it made his stomach turn. She wasn’t local. She didn’t live in San Antonio. Where the hell could he take her?
“You don’t have anywhere to go? No friends, no house, no hotel?”
She wouldn’t speak, held her lips tight, as if to stop herself from screaming, and shook her head again.
Damn. He knew he shouldn’t have put her in his truck. No upside to this deal at all. Now, he just wanted to be rid of her. But the woman was still in his lap, looking at him like he owed her something, like he was going to be the one who saved her from … whatever.
Isn’t that why you took this job, to save people? Do your job, Adrian.
“Look, I’ll get you cleaned up, some clothes, a bus ticket, and that’s it. I can’t do anything more. Seriously.”
Huge, wet, doe eyes held his gaze while she slowly nodded acceptance. She covered her face and curled up on his seat, shivering. He turned up the heat, even though it wasn’t cold in the truck. San Antonio spring nights were never really cold. Pulling into the covered parking in front of his apartment complex, he realized he had a new problem.
“Stay here a minute, I’m going to get you a blanket. Just stay low, make sure no one sees you.”
He scooted his thigh out from under her and closed the truck door to peek in through his driver side window, ensuring she stayed down. She stared at him all the while. This was one strange chick. He found it hard to reconcile the Latin goddess who had almost died in his ambulance with this half-naked, crazy chick hiding in his truck. She had looked so beautiful, and fragile, whereas now she was this needy, pushy, intense girl who wanted to dump her whole damn life in the palms of his hands.