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Payback: Channeling Morpheus 1

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Payback by Jordan Castillo Price

Series: Channeling Morpheus 1
Second Electronic Edition
Length: Novelette - 11,285 words - 38 page PDF
Cover artist: Jordan Castillo Price - see larger cover
ISBN: 978-1-935540-24-3

$2.99 - single ebook
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Summary

The hunt is on.

Pretty young men and women like Michael's best friend, Scary Mary, are disappearing from underground goth clubs all over Detroit. For over two years, Michael has been scouring the midwest for buried newspaper articles and obscure medical reports, and now he's finally pinpointed the source of the problem. Too bad he can't exactly go to the cops and tell them his friend was murdered by vampires. Since it's his duty to start wiping out the scourge, he's posing as bait—and he's got a bag of sharpened hickory stakes to do the job.

Everything should go smoothly, given the amount of preparation that Michael has put into the hunt. He's got a practiced repertoire of come-hither eyeliner looks and a full blister-pack of the date rape drug Rohypnol. But he didn't count on Wild Bill showing up.

Wild Bill is a vision in spiked hair and scuffed black leather—exactly the type of guy Michael would have fallen for…if he'd ever had the chance. Unfortunately, with a vampire in his sights, Michael has no time for an actual date. Despite his best efforts, it seems there's nothing Michael can do to shake Bill loose. Looks like they're in for a wild, wild ride.

 

Excerpt

I picked up my bag, or satchel, or whatever you want to call it, and checked it again—even though I knew everything was still there. It had to be, because it’d been pressed against my foot, and if anyone had been rifling through it, I would have felt them doing it. Mallet? Check. Wooden stake—hickory, of course? Check. Crucifix? Well, yeah. Like five of those. Rohypnol? Check. Holy water? Check. Eyeliner? Check.

Yeah, eyeliner. It looks good on me. Scary Mary used to say that. She’d sworn up and down that I was one of those guys who could pull it off.

My hand sank deep into the bag and brushed against the eyeliner. Or maybe it was a pen. I inched my fingers down the length of it and felt the tip. Damn. It was a pen. Maybe I could use it for touchup anyway if I sweated off all the eyeliner.

Or else I’d have to find the vampire and lure him out of the club before it came to that.

“Got a light?”

I jumped. I wasn’t scared, though. Just startled. It was way too early for vampires, barely an hour past sunset. But I hadn’t realized there was anyone standing practically on top of me while I was digging through my bag. Or whatever you want to call it.

“I don’t….” He was so hot he was incandescent. “I don’t smoke.”

The guy who’d wanted the light was smiling. Still standing practically on top of me, too. Staring me right in the eye.

You’d think that would be all. He asked for a light. I didn’t have one. And then he would move on. But maybe it was more than that. Maybe he’d just been looking for an excuse to talk.

He slid himself onto the barstool beside mine. I did my best to look nonchalant. He was…amazing. Tall and lean, with ripped up jeans and spiked blond hair, earrings and a snake tattoo on his neck and chipped black nail polish. And he wanted to talk to me.

Couldn’t I have run into him any other night? Like, a night that I didn’t already have a date with a vampire?

“Got a name, Mister Lung Association?” he asked me.

“Michael.”

“Michael, Michael, Motorcycle.” He tucked his cigarette behind his ear and shook my hand. Well, more like he jammed his hand toward me, and I either had to shake it or be knocked off the barstool. “Wild Bill.”

A hot guy who had the balls to call himself Wild Bill, straightfaced no less, was hitting on me in a mostly-empty bar. My mind reeled. I hadn’t been putting on my approachable vibe. I saved that for the vampires. I’d been going through my bag, minding my own business. And here he was, with a cigarette tucked behind his ear, chatting me up.

“Is your name really Bill?” I asked.

“Is yours really Michael?”

I rolled my eyes. He smiled wider, a weird, tight-lipped grin, and planted his elbow on the sticky bar top. “What’s with the purse?”

“It’s not a…look, I’m meeting somebody, okay? Don’t you have anyone else to bother?”

He shrugged and half-turned in his seat to spare a glance for the rest of the place. It’d be a cool enough club once it started to fill up, but right now there was only a scattering of people in it. A tight clique of girls in thick eyeliner and hair extensions dominated a pair of pushed-together tables beside the dance floor. A couple swayed together on the glowing tiles. They were so androgynous you could only tell the boy from the girl by the flat planes of his ass. Fog that smelled like cotton candy wafted around their platform boots. And the remainder of the early crowd hugged the perimeter of the bar, backs to the wall, drinking warily.

I pretty much looked like everyone else there. Black clothes and silver studs. Alone and staring. Except that I’d been staring into my bag instead of cruising.

“I’ll keep you company, then,” Bill offered. “Until she…or he…shows up.”

“He,” I said.

Wild Bill’s smile curled the corner of his lips.

Damn. If only there were some way, any way at all, I could ditch the vampire and take my chances with Wild Bill. But it’d taken me two whole years to track this vampire down and figure out where he’d been hunting. Two years’ worth of newspaper clippings, of Coroners’ reports photocopied by bribable janitors, of buried articles printed out from the Internet, accessed through the library’s computers, that I’d stared at until their letters slipped out of focus when my body forced me to rest my eyes.

Maybe Wild Bill would take a rain check. But I kind of doubted it. Besides, after I left a smoking corpse in my wake, I’d have to get out of town. Fast.

A thudding bass line that I almost recognized rattled my molars. I could feel it vibrating in my thighbones through the barstool, and along my ribs where I leaned against the bar.

“I love this song,” said Wild Bill, his mouth against my ear. He didn’t stink of cigarettes, which was good. He smelled like citrusy hair paste and a well-worn leather jacket. “Wanna dance?”

No. For so many reasons, no. I couldn’t lose my place at the bar. I’d come early to make sure I would have the best possible view of the front door, the back door, the dance floor and the bathrooms. And no, because I had a leather satchel with fifteen pounds of vampire hunting gear in it.

And finally, no, because it would feel too much like I had a hot boyfriend who liked to dance with me. That we went out together. Dancing. And we lived a normal life. Ideas best left alone, given my real plans for the evening.

Wild Bill backed toward the dance floor with his hands extended in my direction and his fingers waggling in invitation. His chin was tucked down, and that grin, that tight-lipped grin that crinkled the corners of his eyes, cut right through me like a sharpened hickory stake. I’d have to blow him off by pretending I wasn’t into him. What else could I do?

He backed to the edge of the light-up tiles, stared at me for a few more beats, then shrugged and twirled onto the floor. Turns out I wasn’t the only one there who thought Wild Bill would look a lot better with those shredded jeans around his ankles. Most of the Eyeliner Club decided they had the sudden urge to dance once he’d hit the floor.

A couple of guys peeled themselves off the wall to have an excuse to mingle with the Eyeliner Girls. It wasn’t a gay bar, mostly. But the goth crowd was omnivorous enough that it was anyone’s guess if the boys wanted to go home with the girls, or with each other.

Now that sparse dance floor was full, with plenty of people to keep anyone from standing out too much, but few enough that everyone had elbow room. And there was Wild Bill, somewhere in the middle. The pale spikes of his hair bobbed above the crowd. Scary Mary would’ve given him a big thumbs up.

I didn’t want to stare, but my eyes kept finding him, lighting on that flash of bleached blond. Eventually I stopped resisting. As long as I didn’t spend too long looking at him, my gaze could flick to the front door, the back door, the bathroom, and then find him again, spotting the guy I’d never have, every three seconds, after I’d scanned all the doors.

“Refill?” called the bartender. I turned to look at her, five feet tall and enough metal in her face to throw off a pacemaker. She held the soda gun like she was one of Charlie’s Angels—the brunette. I nodded and slid my glass toward her. I should be happy to get any attention at all, drinking plain seltzer. I paid her two bucks and tipped her one more. I wished I could give her a bigger tip, but any more than that would raise suspicions and make me memorable. I couldn’t afford to stand out to anyone—except my date.

The bartender turned and cranked out a couple of draft beers in plastic cups. I watched her move, and for a minute I imagined that she was Mary, underneath a few dozen facial piercings and a really weird eyebrow wax. But that was, of course, impossible, thanks to the vampires that’d fed off Mary’s lifeblood like a pack of hyenas. Hell of a way to lose your best friend.

I’d always thought we’d grow apart after high school, or at least when each of us started dating seriously, especially if she ended up bagging a closet homophobe. But no. No slow drift for us. Mary had always done everything far more spectacularly than she needed to.

But the bartender could’ve been Mary…a little thin, but Mary on a diet? Maybe. I could see Mary as a bartender, ogling boys in black lipstick and tucking tips into her purple lace bra.

“Changed your mind?”

I turned to fend off Wild Bill again. Mary might have thought he was lickable, but he just wasn’t in the cards for me. It wouldn’t take much, I figured. Another rebuff or two, and he’d move on to easier quarry. Except as I swung around to tell him to get lost, a bunch of details clicked into place: black hair, not blond, long leather duster, not a biker jacket, jeweled choker, not the snake tattoo, cynical smile, not….

Not Wild Bill. Someone else.

 

Series

Channeling Morpheus Ebook Novelettes

Payback
Vertigo
Manikin
Tainted
Rebirth
Brazen
Snare
Fluid
Swarm
Elixir

Channeling Morpheus Shorts
Heaven Sent - takes place after Manikin
Jackpot - takes place after Elixir

Channeling Morpheus Paperbacks

Channeling Morpheus for Scary Mary (Channeling Morpheus Series 1) featuring novelettes 1-5
A Bitter Taste of Sweet Oblivion (Channeling Morpheus Series 2) featuring novelettes 6-10

Channeling Morpheus for Scary Mary Paperback A Bitter Taste of Sweet Oblivion Paperback

Reviews

Channeling Morpheus: Payback is a wonderfully dark tale that is all about Michael and his need for revenge and even though Payback is not strictly a romance it does leave the door open to the possibility for it.  Especially with the surprise he got from Wild Bill and Michael’s determination to find out more. - Joyfully Reviewed

From the moment Wild Bill sidles up to Michael at the bar and casually calls him Michael, Michael, Motorcyle, this story just takes off and doesn’t let up. I remember when I read this for the first time, devouring it three times in one sitting because not only did it have the hottest m/m/m menage encounter I’d read, but also such a unique and uncomfortable one. - Brief Encounters Reviews

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