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Authors: Nancy Haddock

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Last Vampire Standing

BOOK: Last Vampire Standing
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Last Vampire Standing

Nancy Haddock

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Acknowledgements

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

FIFTEEN

SIXTEEN

SEVENTEEN

EIGHTEEN

NINETEEN

TWENTY

TWENTY-ONE

TWENTY-TWO

PRAISE FOR

LA VIDA VAMPIRE

“After reading Nancy Haddock’s debut, I want to live La Vida Vampire. A quirky and fun read.”—Erin McCarthy

“Nancy Haddock had me hooked from page one with
La Vida Vampire.
The wonderfully charming heroine, sexy-as-sin hero, and fabulously engaging mystery kept me turning pages into the wee hours of the morning!”—Julie Kenner

“A sultry setting, a clever mystery, and strong, sparkling characters . . . Nancy Haddock delivers everything it takes to make a fan out of me!”—Jane Graves


La Vida Vampire
is fun, fun, fun! Nancy Haddock’s fresh and sassy new voice enlivens a well-known genre, and her heroine is

one of the most entertaining in years. Readers will enjoy the snappy dialogue, the irreverent tone, the fabulous setting, and the fascinating world. Wonderful!”—Kathleen Givens

“Vampires, shape-shifters, and wizards . . . oh my!
La Vida Vampire
has it all. A clever mystery, an engaging, undead heroine, and a make-your-fangs-drool vampire hunter.”

—Lynn Michaels,

author of
Nightwing

“Get a new lease on afterlife with
La Vida Vampire
, a fresh and original paranormal mystery, steamed up with a touch of romance. Nancy Haddock’s debut is devilishly delightful!”

—Catherine Spangler,

national bestselling author of
Touched by Fire

“I loved
La Vida Vampire
! Nancy Haddock has written a delightful blend of mystery and humor with a touch of romance. She’s done for vampires what Evanovich has done for bounty hunters: made them irresistible, entertaining, and unforgettable. Haddock has moved to the top of my must-read list.”

—Lorraine Heath

“I loved it. Distinctive, amusing characters and a brilliant mystery make this one exciting ride. Vampires, ghosts, and shape-shifters all wrapped up in one fun, sexy story. I can’t wait for more! This is one vampire chick I’d love to hang out with.”

—Candace Havens

“[A] terrific tale . . . You’ll want to be there for the sequel!”


Romantic Times

“Bright, charming, imaginative, romantic, sexy, and suspense ful.”—Joyce McLaughlin

“One bite of this sassy story and you will be hooked!”


Romance Junkies

“Funny, witty, and absolutely intriguing. I’m looking forward to reading more from this new author. A great debut!”


Fresh Fiction

“This funny, clever novel is sure to hook readers and leave them wanting more.”—
Romance Reviews Today
001

This one is for the Haddock,

Thompson, and Fossett clans.

You not only welcomed me into the family,

you always asked me

how the writing was going.

Thank you for believing!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

A kiddie television program of old invited the little studio guests to greet family and friends at the end of the show. I laughed when the children said, “I want to say hi to everyone I know.” Now I get it.

In addition to thanking everyone I know, I specifically extend these credits, kudos, and hugs. For answering my questions: John Galletta, Jr., Esq.; Sgt. Chuck Mulligan, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office; Investigator/ PIO

Jimmie Flynt, Daytona Beach Police Department; Lt. Lawrence Morgan and Steve Williams, Daytona Beach Fire Department; Mark Wolcott, Volusia County Fire Department; and Tom Donovan, Agricultural Extension Agent, and Tom Tibbitts, Zoning, both of St. Johns County. Any errors are mine.

For the caffeine and laughter, love and support: the partners of Starbucks 8484, my incredible neighbors, my dear chapter-mates, and my treasured friends.

For the feedback, from flattering to insightful: readers!

For being a joy to know and work with: Leis Pederson, my editor; Roberta Brown, my agent; and the entire Berkley Publishing

Group family.

Finally, a dancin’-on-the-beach thanks to Lynne, Julie, Jan, Sherry, and Tommy—good friends, great critique buddies, and bright lights in my life!

ONE

002

The villagers marched on Maggie O’Halloran’s house, but not at dawn while bearing torches to set us ablaze. Good thing. August in Florida is plenty hot enough.

Nope, this time they came at happy hour, neighbors and friends bearing potato salad, coleslaw, and grits. Yes, grits. We do live in the South, and this was a housewarming party. A come-one, come-all, fuzzy-feel-good housewarming. Well, for everyone except Hugh and Selma Lister next door. Oh, they’d been invited, but didn’t have the courtesy to send their regrets. Not surprising. The only thing they regretted was that we’d moved in, which they made clear at every opportunity. Right now I heard them talking outside, just over the fragrant jasmine hedge separating our properties.

“Goddamn new people,” Hugh growled. “It’s almost nine o’clock. How long is this son of a bitchin’ party gonna last?”

“Bless his holy name,” Selma said, her tone long-suffering.

“Bless whose holy name?” Hugh demanded. “What the hell did
I
say?”

“Never mind,” Selma sighed. “Come inside before the you-know-what next door hears you.”

That would be me, the you-know-what, the vampire next door.

Vamp senses can be a blessing and a curse, but when I heard the Listers’ back door click shut, I grinned. Okay, so maybe Hugh and Selma wouldn’t warm to us, but, like it or not, Maggie and I were here to stay. Yep, praise HGTV, the restoration of the Victorian home where Maggie had unearthed me almost one year ago was finally finished. Since her property spanned two lots, Maggie had sacrificed side yard space to add a two-car garage and an extra parking pad for my sweet Chevy SSR truck. Otherwise she’d simply restored the house to its original glory. In her “big house,” Maggie had furnished each room with classic period pieces. Tasteful and elegant all the way. In my carriage-house-cum-cottage in the back corner of the property, I’d gone multiple-period mad. British Colonial in my living room. Retro in the kitchen, half bath, and laundry room. Art deco in my master bath, and surf chic in my bedroom, complete with a surfboard ceiling fan.

It sounds like mishmash, but the decor all works. Really. Even the Polynesian-style bar with the carved tikis on my cobblestone front patio. And, though my front patio faces Maggie’s back patio, our very different styles don’t clash. Maybe because there is a nice, lush expanse of grass to aid the transition from my funk to her fabulous.

Any
way, to thank the neighbors for putting up with the construction and to celebrate our move, Maggie and I had decided to throw a luau.

Well, our version of one. I mean, you can’t exactly get poi and whole roasting pigs at Publix. Not in St. Augustine, anyway, home of just about the oldest everything.

Including me.

Not that I look much over twenty-five, but then I have the you-know-what, the vampire fountain of youth flowing in my veins. I’m Francesca Melisenda Alejandra Marinelli, aka Princess Vampire, born right here in St. Augustine in 1780, turned a little underdead in 1800, and buried on this very property in 1803. Maggie unearthed me during the early stages of restoring her Victorian house. Now she’s my sponsor and friend.

The Princess Vampire thing? That’s what the
St. Augustine Record
reporters and other press people insist on calling me when they write articles. I’ve made the front page twice, the last time in March when preternatural Special Investigator Deke
(pant)
Saber
(double pant)
and I solved the French Bride murder case. Saber has a few pet names for me, but everyone else calls me Cesca, which rhymes with Fresca, which is what Maggie’s now-official fiancé Neil Benson calls me. Could be worse. Neil could still call me Cesspool, but we made peace a while back—for Maggie’s sake at first, and then because we became surfing buddies.

Deke Saber and I are a whole ’nother kind of buddy.

On the other side of the jasmine hedge, the Listers’ garage door creaked, and an engine started. Good, they were leaving—for the grocery store, according to my vamp hearing. We’d be on the beach by the time they returned. I tossed an armful of dinner trash into the giant plastic cans we’d bought at Ace Hardware. Across the floodlit lawn, Saber stood with a group of men, including two detectives we’d met on the French Bride case. They were absorbed in examining the cache of fireworks we’d soon be hauling to Crescent Beach to shoot. What is it with men and things that go boom?

Whatever. Just peeking at Saber made my insides throw their own sparks. And his physique in that black polo shirt? Mama mia!

Swimmer’s shoulders, tight pecs, titanium abs. The man is a drool fest, so hot he makes my teeth sweat. My vision swam suddenly, but not from lust. Lust didn’t make my skin crawl, either. What the heck?

I pulled my energy back from Saber and paused to center myself. Then I turned in a slow circle, feeling with my vampire senses to find the source of my unease.

There. Twenty paces away, in the corner of the Listers’ yard, something hovered on the other side of the jasmine hedge. Not something. Someone.

Someone who smelled of stale blood.

Ugh, I hate the smell of blood.

Nausea and tension vise-gripped my stomach, and bile threatened to claw up my throat. The Listers, were they in danger? No. I’d just heard them leave. Besides, this blood scent was old. Sour.

So
not a complement to the sweet scent of jasmine.

I wrinkled my nose against the stench, willed myself calm, weighed my options. The intruder couldn’t be Ike, big kahuna of the Daytona Beach vampires. He was the type to make a grand and spooky entrance. Besides, I had a truce of sorts with Ike. He stays out of my town, and I stay out of his.

I focused and inhaled again. No, the lurker definitely wasn’t Ike. He traveled with his entourage, including his second-in-command, Laurel, who radiated putrid hate. This was someone else. Someone whose scent I didn’t recognize. Okay, so, options. I’d been honing my vamp powers—well, speed and strength anyway. I was supposed to come into all sorts of powers when I was no longer a virgin, or so the French Bride killer had insisted. But, hey, the guy was a sociopath, de lusional, and, according to Saber, had tapped into some way obscure, completely bogus vampire lore. When the power faerie failed to smack me with her wand, Saber insisted I practice the powers I did have. He even taught me some slick self-defense moves, which meant I could whip over the hedge and out Mr. Smelly in the flutter of an eyelash. But wait. Vamp speed spooked humans. We might not have a village uprising, but why risk our delicate relationship with the neighbors? Never mind another outburst if Hugh Lister heard a vamp had been skulking in his backyard. He’s the kind of villager who just might take a torch to my house.

BOOK: Last Vampire Standing
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