Table of Contents

Book Cover
Trigger Warnings:
Alzheimers/dementia, cult behavior

Book Info

Author:
Series:

Sundowners

Series Type:
Interlinked
Number In Series:
1
Cover Artist:
Publisher:
Celie Bay Publications LLC
Published:
13 September 2022
Formats
Book Type
Words:
80,000
Pages:
313

Synopsis

Vampire Creed Lowell drifts from town to town working with the elderly as a night nurse and looking to avenge his harrowing past. His youth and vitality make him a favorite of his patients and his gifts bring them peace. At long last he’s arrived in the place where he hopes to find the truth about those who betrayed him…but first he finds an unexpected love with a man who might understand him—or end him.

Grad student Roman San Angelo is struggling to handle his courses, teaching schedule, and research for his dissertation on an obscure cult. He spends every spare moment with his beloved yet demanding grandmother Frances who’s recently moved to an assisted living facility—and he’s fascinated by her night nurse, who is able to bring out the inner light which had faded during her battle with dementia. Something about Creed doesn’t add up, however, Roman finds himself fighting an undeniable attraction. His concerns multiply when Roman discovers a connection between Creed and a bizarre series of vampire-wannabe assaults in the area. A moment of weakness leads to a night of passion between them, and the promise of something more, and yet Roman can’t shake his concern that Creed is not what he seems.

Creed knows better than to bring a mortal into his world, even one who could help him find the link between the pack of violent vampires preying on the people of Santa Cruz and Creed’s past. When he discovers Creed’s secret, Roman is ready to step outside his comfort zone and accept everything a life with a vampire entails, and when Creed disappears, Roman will go to the ends of the earth to find the man who brought the light back to his grandmother and the warmth back to his own heart.

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Meet the heroes of Sundowners BY R.L. Merrill

 

You know you’re in love with your characters when you know one book isn’t enough. Creed and Roman have such a thick and juicy story, the world has so much to offer, and I’m an indie author so BOOM. I can do what I want!

 

Let me tell you about Roman and Creed, an unlikely pair brought together in what feels like a predestination scenario.

 

At first glance, Creed Lowell appears to be an attractive, charming, and skilled nurse working with elderly patients at Puesta Del Sol in Santa Cruz, California. The truth is way more complicated. In actuality, he’s seventy-five years old, a former hippie, and a current practitioner of an ancient form of healing using energy exchanges…and blood. For all intents and purposes, let’s call him a vampire. He’s been a nomad for fifty-plus years, searching for the beings who destroyed his fellow practitioners, and killed his best friend.

Treating the elderly with the techniques he learned in a compound back in the late 60s/early 70s, and when he lands in Santa Cruz, all the signs tell him he’s found what he was looking for.

Enter Roman San Angelo: Ph.D. candidate, beloved grandson, and potentially an obstacle for Creed’s plans. But Creed is drawn to the energy cocktail that Roman presents. He’s angry, skeptical, but strongest of all his emotions is pain. Sorrow. Creed meets Roman and his tito, a patrol officer with SCPD, just as he’s returned from his overseas research trip to find that his tita and tito have helped Roman’s lola move into Puesta Del Sol’s memory care program. She’s been Roman’s rock since his parents were killed in his teens during a home invasion scenario.

Here is their first meeting from Creed’s POV:

“We got a new gal in twenty-six while you were off. Frances Josephine San Angelo. Age seventy-two, diabetic, mild COPD, mild dementia. Sisters are Stella De Leon and Phyllis Jackson. I was here to check her in and she’s hysterically funny.”

I pulled up my new patient’s chart and read through the notes.

“Says her emergency contacts are her nephew Reynaldo Cabral, niece Vanessa Cabral, and her grandson Roman San Angelo.” I frowned. “Occupation for Reynaldo…police officer. Interesting.” Interesting, indeed. An officer of the law could be dangerous. I’d have to proceed with caution. I planned on staying here for several more years, if all went according to plan.

“Yes, and Roman is a grad student up the hill. He’s cute,” Lexi said with feeling. She placed a hand in the middle of my back as she passed by. “It will be nice to have a cop around. Maybe we’ll stop having so many break-ins in the area.”

I turned to face her. “Break-ins?”

“Yeah, they got Jamal’s truck two days ago, and Lisa’s car last week. The police said it was probably a displaced person, but I don’t know. They haven’t been staying around here lately.”

“Well, maybe we can talk to management about security. I know we have Old Moe and a few cameras. We can have him look at the footage. I’d hate to see anyone get hurt.” And I was very curious to see who was poking around.

Lexi made a face. “I really hope they catch who’s doing it.” She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. I pulled her into a hug.

“Don’t worry. I won’t let anything happen to you. I’ll walk you to your car after your shift, okay?”

Lexi nodded and covered her mouth as she yawned.

“Looks like someone needs some more coffee.” I tugged on the end of her long braid.

“You’re probably right. I’m going to grab some.” Her gaze was inviting. “You want anything?”

I smiled at her. Nothing from you, dear. “I’m fine. I think I’m going to go meet Frances.”

Lexi gave me a finger wave. “Say hello to Officer Cabral for me,” she said with a wink before turning and walking down the hall.

Lexi and I had become close, and she frequently hinted she was interested in more than friendship, but she wasn’t quite the flavor I preferred. It wasn’t just a sexual thing. I preferred the taste of men. In and out of bed. Their blood had a different kick to it. Hard to describe. Not that I was partaking of anyone lately, nor did I need that in my life after all these years…

Which sounded pathetic, even to me.

I used my key card to log out of the patient information system and went down the hall toward my new patient’s room. I heard laughter as I approached the open door.

“Roman, you need your rest, you’re getting grumpy. Go get some sleep. You have to teach tomorrow.”

“Not until the afternoon. Now, do you have everything? Can I bring you anything when I come back?”

I turned the corner—and stopped in my tracks.

A flustered young man stood with his back to the door, reeking of stress and…pain.

“I hear we have a new neighbor?” I said as I leaned in the doorway with a smile. “May I come in, Mrs. San Angelo?”

The man turned, and I noticed the UC Santa Cruz logo on the front of his shirt. Stretched across a well-sculpted chest, no less. Roman, I presumed. He was a tad shorter than me, and while I may have outweighed him by twenty or so pounds, he definitely had an athletic physique. With toned arms like his, and smooth, tanned forearms lined with thick veins, I imagined he was into weightlifting. How nice.

I gave him a polite nod and somehow managed to pry my gaze away and turn my full attention to the lovely lady before me.

“Yes, come in, please,” she gestured with her hands. “I remember you from bingo nights with my sisters. How do you do?”

“Very well, thank you. Welcome to Puesta Del Sol. I apologize for not being here to greet you when you moved in, but they make me take nights off sometimes, can you believe it?”

Frances gave a girlish chuckle. “You kids all work so hard. In fact, can you tell my grandson I am fine? That he should go home?”

Frances was sitting in the wingback chair at the foot of her bed. The room, which was minimally furnished, looked lived-in already. There were framed pictures on the walls, a handmade quilt on the bed that was littered with pillows—which weren’t regulation but I’d let them slide.

“Your grandson probably wouldn’t take orders from a lowly night nurse like myself. You, on the other hand…are you going to give me trouble?”

Frances batted her eyes as I approached and took her hand. I bent and kissed the back of it like the southern gentleman I was. Or had been.

Her grandson scoffed. “Probably she will be trouble. Especially when she gets together with her pack.”

I winked at Frances and then turned to shake hands with—

“Roman.”

I would remember the moment our skin brushed for the rest of my existence.

Soft skin with the hint of calluses, strong, thick fingers. The scent of the ocean breeze clinging to him. And the pain that emanated from his soul flooded me.

Want more? Pick up Sundowners in eBook or print and make sure to get comfortable. You’re in for a wild ride.

 

R.L. Merrill writes contemporary, paranormal, and supernatural tales to make you swoon and/or shiver. You can find her on social media, advocating for America’s youth, writing music reviews for HorrorAddicts.net, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned…

Excerpt

Chapter One

Creed

 

January

 

“Well, Mr. Lowell, I think we have everything we need. Your references all check out, and you passed your background check. Can you start on Friday?”

What a relief! I smiled and leaned against the wall of my dingy hotel room. Thank goodness for excellent references. I inhaled the combination mildew/chlorine smell caused by the permanent dampness from the ocean and the indoor swimming pool below my room, glad . This was the break I needed, or my current accommodations would soon go from bad to worse.

“Thank you, yes. What time does the evening shift start?” I kept my fingers crossed while I waited for the answer.

“Six o’clock. Just come to the front desk and our evening supervisor will get you set up. Lexi’s great. She’ll show you the ropes.”

“Wonderful. Thank you for this opportunity.”

“We should be thanking you, Mr. Lowell. You’re overqualified for the position, and we’ve had a difficult time keeping our evening staff. I hope this works out for the both of us.”

I thanked Yvonne, the Human Resources director, once more before disconnecting. Then the victory dance commenced.

“Did you hear that, Rhonda? We’re in!”

My red Doberman rested her jaw on her paws and made an old lady noise, indicating that she’d rather be napping than dancing.

I would not be thwarted, however. I danced a West Side Story routine across the room to the kitchenette and reached into the fridge with panache. There was one last bag of A-positive that I’d been sipping on since arriving in Santa Cruz, and now I could finish it off since I’d have a steady supply in just two days’ time. Not that I needed much—especially not when I was working—but it was important to never let my energy stores deplete. It affected my judgement and my ability to do the work that was so desperately needed.

I did a spin and a box step before kicking my leg out, and throwing my arms back in a layout. Hopefully I’d find a patient who knew the old dances at Puesta Del Sol, my new place of employment. They were the most fun to work with.

I reached into my lone duffel bag, which contained seven sets of scrubs, a suit, three white t-shirts, a pair of jeans, a Harvard hoodie, two pairs of shoes, and a small photo album that contained cherished pictures of my parents and younger siblings. The rest of my belongings and resources were hidden in pre-paid storage facilities around the country for when I got desperate…or had to run.

My family was all gone now. My little sister was the last, and she’d passed away four months ago according to the hometown newspaper in Macon County, Georgia. I read every copy that I could get ahold of through the local libraries. The internet had been such a great invention. Even though I hadn’t been home in nearly forty years, I’d managed to keep tabs on everyone. They’d all lived mostly happy, satisfying lives and died of natural causes at advanced ages, which was the best I could have hoped for.

But now that I had no worry of repercussions for my family, I could finally seek out the truth.

Puesta Del Sol was hopefully the end of the line. The last assisted-living home where I’d worked in Albuquerque had led me here, to Santa Cruz, California. “Go west, young man,” turned out to be the advice I’d needed all along.

I was determined to find those responsible for sending me on this decades-long exile. It wouldn’t be long now. It was time to set things straight, and it seemed fitting to be back near where it all started.

 

March 2019

 

Two months later, the trail of promising leads had gone cold. Still, I loved my new life in California. I was surrounded by a competent and diverse staff at Puesta Del Sol that knew how to run a place of healing and hope with patients who were happy and well cared for. And I loved Santa Cruz. It was almost enough to make me consider letting go of the past.

What a great place for a guy like me. It was easy to fit into the college town that was also a magnet for transients, tourists, and folks who were followers of alternative lifestyles. Not only were there practitioners of Eastern religions and schools of thought, but also those who claimed to be creatures of the night, a holdover from the vampire craze that swept the area after a hit movie in the ’80s made them cool. I occasionally even found folks who didn’t mind a little role play.

My love of music meant I was a frequent guest of The Catalyst, a large music venue, bar, and eatery located downtown that drew fans from all over the Bay Area. One night they’d feature punk, the next rap, and sometimes even classic rock bands made their way to the club.

Tonight was a perfect opportunity to blend in as a lineup of alternative bands from the eighties was playing. I’d worn my black suit, skinny tie, and black Dr. Martens. I’d even slicked my dark auburn hair back and donned black eyeliner for the hell of it, the makeup highlighting my eyes, so blue they made people stop and stare. Of course, the rest of the package could also be to blame for that. My pale, freckled skin fit the role of a night walker perfectly to round out the look.

I made my way through the crowd to the bar and ordered a beer. A willing playmate soon appeared, and the game was on.

The young man, dressed in a velvet waistcoat and ruffled poet’s shirt, saw me approach the bar and immediately perked up. I took a swig of my beer and nodded at the Goth. When I moved away from the bar, I felt him at my back as I headed to a dark corner. Once there, I leaned against the wall and waited.

The young man approached with a sly smile, and I took it as an invitation. I reached for his shoulder, turned him around slowly, and pulled him back against my chest, enjoying the way his body fit against mine.

“I have your permission?” I whispered in the young man’s ear. “I promise you’ll enjoy it.”

The young man turned to face me and his eyes widened in surprise. “Here?”

I smiled at him and ran a finger down his neck, enjoying the way he shivered. The energy from his excitement would have been enough to nourish me, but I was feeling greedy tonight.

“Yeah, just um, be safe about it.”

I bathed him in a wave of calm. The manipulation of energy was effortless for me now.  “You’re in good hands, my friend.” I turned him around and stopped him when he went to loosen his belt. “Relax, I’ve got you.”

I slid his long curly blond hair to the side. I had ways of making the experience pleasurable, so I poured energy into giving this guy one helluva good time, one he’d remember for years to come. He just wouldn’t remember that a vampire sank his teeth gently into his neck and took sustenance from his body.

Give unto them what they require.

Take only what you need to survive.

I would never forget what I’d been taught.

“Blessed be.”

After a few sips, I felt my playmate shudder against me and let out a satisfied moan. A few more pulls and his body tensed, gasped, and shuddered once more. It was nice to know I hadn’t lost my touch.

It had been a long time since I’d chanced feeding in public, but I felt safe here. Santa Cruz had welcomed me with open arms, and I wanted to stay.

The young man raised his arm and cupped the back of my head. He pressed his ass back against me, and I knew it was time to end this tryst.

“Thank you,” I whispered against his ear, and then pressed a kiss to his neck.

“I should be thanking you,” the guy said. “What’s your name?”

I disappeared into the crowd before the young man turned to look, and I was out of the club before he could wonder what happened.

I rarely drank blood—it was an infrequent need to maintain my existence as long as I had plenty of human energy to manipulate—and I always made sure my partner enjoyed it. But the act often left me feeling…empty. I worked hard to help others live a more satisfying life, and after all this time, I sometimes resented that I couldn’t pursue happiness of my own. I would have loved to take that young man home and enjoy more than just an Exchange. Someday I would find…someone. But not until it was safe. Not until I’d done what I came here to do.

 

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Giveaway

R.L. is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour:

Biography

“With a strong plot, an expertly crafted cast of supporting characters, and deep empathy, Merrill’s novel will keep readers hooked.” —Publishers Weekly review of Typhoon Toby.
Whether she’s writing contemporary romance featuring quirky and relatable characters or diving deep into the paranormal and supernatural to give readers a shiver, R.L. Merrill loves creating compelling stories that will stay with readers long after. Winner of the Kathryn Hayes “When Sparks Fly” Best Contemporary award for Hurricane Reese, and a Foreword INDIES finalist for Summer of Hush, Ro spends every spare moment improving her writing craft and striving to find that perfect balance between real-life and happily ever after. She writes diverse and inclusive romance, contributes paranormal hilarity to Robyn Peterman’s Magic and Mayhem Universe, and pens horror-inspired music reviews for HorrorAddicts.net. You can find her connecting with readers on social media, advocating for America’s youth, raising two brilliant kids, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more…

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