This month's sneak peek is a deleted scene from Quenched in Blood!
Our original draft ran a little long, and we had to cut some scenes to make room for the revisions our Dreamspinner editor requested. This scene was one of the casualties. We originally wrote it to show some bonding between Julian and Thomas and also to introduce a new character, Gus.
At that point, we were considering the possibility of playing in the Asheville Arcana sandbox in the form of one-shots for the Dreamspun Beyond line. That line has gone in a different direction, however, so we put that idea -- and Gus, unfortunately -- on the back burner.
“There are a couple of clubs that cater primarily to the paranormal community,” Julian explained as he turned the car toward the north. “The Rainbow Room has been around for quite a while under a few different names, but Gus, the owner, has always been in the same spot.” He slanted a glance at Thomas. “I’ll be very interested in what you think of Gus. He’s something of a mystery.”
Julian refused to say any more about it, claiming he didn’t want to bias Thomas’s opinion, but it wasn’t long before they were pulling up in front of a wood and stone building that looked older than Julian’s home. It wasn’t very impressive from the outside, but there were lights in the windows and several cars in the parking area despite the lateness of the hour.
The inside was as different from the exterior as day from night. The walls were painted sky blue, and rainbow was depicted in neon around the walls up near the ceiling. There was a long wooden bar lined with stools on the right, and a line of booths along the back wall. In between were clusters of tables and chairs.
“There’s a game room in the back,” Julian explained, pointing toward an archway to their left. “Pool tables, dartboards, a couple of pinball machines. Be careful challenging anyone here to a game, though. Gnomes are better at any of them than you could ever hope to be, and they like to play for high stakes.”
“Good to know,” Thomas said, taking in the atmosphere, which was cheerful and welcoming. The place had a good feel to it, and Thomas liked it already.
Julian took his arm, leading him over to the bar. There was a big, burly man standing behind it, taller and broader than either Thomas or Julian. He had a mane of blond hair, a full but neatly trimmed beard, and piercing blue eyes. He was certainly a handsome man, who radiated a sense of complete confidence that rivaled even Julian’s self-assurance.
“Gus, this is Thomas Carter,” Julian said. “Thomas, this is Gus.”
Thomas stretched out his hand across the bar, and the closer he got, the more he felt light radiating from Gus. He relaxed and unfocused his gaze as Julian had taught him to do in order to see auras, and Gus’s was far brighter than any other aura he’d seen so far, and it was tinged with gold.
“It’s nice to meet you,” he said, snapping his focus back on Gus. He had no idea what kind of supernatural Gus was, but the positive energy Gus emanated made Thomas trust him.
“Pleased to meet you, demon hunter,” Gus replied. His grip was firm, and he smiled at Thomas in welcome. “It’s good to have another hunter around. There have been problems lately.”
Julian’s eyes grew wide, and he looked between the two of them in surprise. Then he frowned, his brow lowering in a way recognized as thoughtful with a hint of displeasure. “I didn’t realize you read auras, Gus,” he said.
Gus shrugged. “You never asked, did you?”
“So, um, I just killed my first demon,” Thomas said as he stepped back from the bar and moved closer to Julian, hoping he hadn’t done anything wrong to upset Julian. “What would you suggest I have to celebrate?”
Gus smiled at Thomas, looking pleased. “Congratulations! In that case, the first round is on the house.” He pulled out three wineglasses, then turned to the array of bottles at the back of the bar. The area apparently held far more bottles than they could see, because Gus seemed to be rooting around deeper into the wall than should have been possible.
“Ah, here it is,” he said, turning around with a very oddlooking bottle. It was made of what looked to be pottery, was wider at the bottom than the top, and had a handle on each side.
“Is that an amphora?” Julian asked.
“It is,” Gus replied, giving Thomas a wink. The container didn’t have a cork at the top; instead there was what looked to be a fluted golden stopper. “What else would Nectar come in?”
“Nectar?” Thomas frowned, puzzled by Gus’s choice. “No offense, but I don’t understand why you chose that for a celebration.”
“Not plant nectar, my dear young man,” Gus replied as he pulled the stopper out of the amphora and poured a pale golden liquid into the glasses. He replaced the stopper, then handed a glass to Thomas. “Nectar of the Gods.”
Julian’s hand shot out with blinding speed, covering the top of the wineglass in Thomas’s hand. He leaned closer across the bar, his expression intense as he stared at Gus. “That’s a myth. What is it really?”
Surprisingly, Gus didn’t get angry at Julian’s rudeness. “Still as paranoid as ever, Julian?” he said, giving Julian a playful smile. “I see that you haven’t lost your edge, despite being in….” Gus trailed off as he glanced quickly at Thomas, then back at Julian. “In training again.”
Julian seemed to tense up further. “What is it, Gus?”
“Just the sweetest wine to be found anywhere on earth,” Gus replied, giving a slight shrug. “That’s how it got the name. You think I hand out immortality drinks to people? If I had that kind of magic at my disposal, what would I be doing here?”
Julian stayed rigid for another few moments, then gradually relaxed. “What, indeed?” he murmured. “Sorry. Yes, still paranoid. It’s kept my head attached to my shoulders so far.”
“So can I drink this or not?” Thomas asked, looking pointedly at Julian’s hand.
“Sorry.” Julian gave him a crooked smile and removed his hand. Then he reached for his own glass.
Gus picked up his as well, holding it up. “A toast to Thomas Carter, descendant of angels, slayer of demons, saver of vampires. May he live long and love well.”
Thomas lifted his glass, regarding Gus quizzically again. “Thanks, but… saver of vampires? Is that part of an official title?”
Julian was frowning again, and Gus winked at Thomas. “You’re saving Mr. Grumpy Fangs from wallowing in selfpity.”
“Hey!” Julian glared, then raised the glass and drained it. “I’m not grumpy.” He turned to look at Thomas. “Am I?”
Thomas didn’t want to offend Julian, but he didn’t want to lie either, so he smiled sheepishly and shrugged. “Maybe moody would be a better word?”
“Hmphf.” Julian didn’t look very pleased, but then Gus began refilling the wineglasses.
“I was only teasing, Julian,” Gus said, his tone slightly chiding. “You used to have more of a sense of humor.”
“Everyone’s a comedian,” Julian said, but he lifted the wineglass. “This really is an excellent vintage. Where can I purchase it?”
“My secret, I’m afraid,” Gus replied. Then he looked at Thomas. “And what do you think of it?”
Thomas had been so focused on Julian that he still hadn’t tasted the Nectar, so he took a sip. The amber fluid was rich and sweet, and it warmed him to the core. It also made him tingle in a way that had nothing to do with alcohol.
“It’s delicious,” he said, looking at Gus. “But there’s something strange about it.”
“Oh?” Gus looked at him approvingly. “If you had to take a guess at what that might be, what would you say?”
Thomas stared into the glass as if he could find the answer in the wine itself, and then he took another sip to see if that helped. Something about the wine was reminiscent of the way Thomas felt when he stood close to Whimsy, and he glanced at Gus uncertainly.
“This is probably silly, but… magic?”
“Got it in one.” Gus grinned at him. “Hey, Julian, he’s good. Inexperienced, but he’s got great instincts.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Julian murmured. He’d finished the second glass of wine, and his annoyance seemed to be gone. “Best student I’ve ever had.”
Julian’s praise was more potent than the wine, and Thomas couldn’t keep from beaming. “Really?”
“Yes.” Julian nodded, then smiled. “I’ve never had a demon hunter before, but I’ve trained a lot of supernaturals. You’re faster and smarter and more determined than any other student. I’m proud of you. You should be proud of yourself.”
Thomas’s cheeks grew hot, and part of him wanted to wriggle like a happy puppy at knowing Julian was proud of him. On impulse, he leaned in and kissed Julian lightly. “Thank you, Julian.”
Julian’s smile widened then he leaned in and kissed Thomas back. “You’re welcome.”
Gus was watching the two of them with undisguised interest. “Julian, are you… tipsy?”
Julian tilted his head to one side. “I think I am. Interesting. This stuff really is good.”
That made Gus laugh. “It should be. And a drunk vampire. That’s a first, even for me!” He shook his head. “Water for you, my friend. I’ll have to remember how this affects you. How about you, Thomas? Do you feel lightheaded?”
“Not too much,” Thomas said. “But I’m still on my first glass.”
“Well, water for you next too.” Gus stoppered the amphora. “You might have to drive home if Julian doesn’t sober up shortly. I admit, I like him like this. He’s mellow.”
“I’m never mellow,” Julian replied. “Well, almost never.”
Julian tended to be mellow after pounding Thomas through the mattress, but Thomas thought it was probably best not to mention that aloud. Instead, he slid his arm around Julian and finished his wine. “It’s nice, yes, but I like him no matter what kind of mood he’s in,” he said, handing the empty glass back to Gus.
“Hey, I’m right here,” Julian said, leaning against Thomas. “But I like you too. You don’t annoy me nearly as much as other people do.”
“High praise from Julian, trust me,” Gus said as he placed two glasses of water on the bar.
“You’ve never annoyed me much until today,” Julian replied, giving Gus a stern look. “Still can’t figure you out, but Thomas is offlimits. Understand me?”
Gus gave a snort. “When have you ever seen me with anyone at all, Schaden? I like to look, but I don’t touch.”
“Why not?” Thomas wasn’t usually so blunt or nosy, especially with people he didn’t know well, but maybe the Nectar had affected him more than he realized.
“Bad for business,” Gus replied with a grin. “Never mix business with pleasure, right?”
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Thomas said, glancing sidelong at Julian. Some of the best sex they’d had happened on the floor of the salle when they were both worked up from sparring.
Gus laughed. “Well, I don’t mix the two,” he said easily. “Drink the water, Julian. I bet you haven’t had a hangover since you were turned, but I doubt you’re anxious to remember what they’re like.”
“I can hold my alcohol. Always could,” Julian replied, but he picked up the glass and sipped at the water.
Gus shook his head in bemusement. “If only Arden and Whimsy could see him like this. They’d give him shit forever about it.”
“It’s a good thing they won’t find out about it, right?” Thomas stared hard at Gus. The last thing he wanted was to give those two any ammunition against Julian.
Gus raised a brow, then shook his head. “They won’t hear about it from me,” he said, and Thomas got the feeling that Gus’s word was as good as a promise. “Do you feel like you could drive? You might want to take him on home.”
“I’m fine,” Thomas said. The wine have loosened his tongue, but he didn’t feel woozy. He wasn’t even giggly the way he’d been after two glasses of Whimsy’s blackberry wine. “What do we owe you for the Nectar?”
“That was on the house.” Gus waved a hand. “I wanted to help you celebrate your first demon kill. For good luck.”
“He was amazing,” Julian said. “A natural. Better than Micah ever was. Wonder if the old man knew you’d be more than a match for him. Jealousy makes people do odd things.”
“Okay, now I know you’re drunk,” Thomas said, chuckling as he steered Julian toward the door. “Thanks, Gus,” he called over his shoulder, waving with his free hand. “I’m sure we’ll see you again soon.”
Julian straightened up and walked with great dignity. “Good evening,” he said, then leaned somewhat heavily against Thomas as they left the bar.
“It was a very good evening indeed,” Thomas said, holding out his hand for the car keys. “My first demon kill, magicinfused wine, and you admitting you’re proud of me. You’re not too liquored up for me to show how appreciative I am when we get home, are you?”
Julian smiled, then reached into his pocket for the keys. “I think I know just the way to reward you. If you want it, that is.”
“I think we’ve established that I always want it,” Thomas said as he opened the passenger side door and helped Julian get in without hitting his head on the door frame.
“Well, this is something you’ve never had before.” Julian dropped into the seat, then began fumbling with the seatbelt.
Thomas got behind the wheel and helped Julian with the seatbelt. “Then we must be thinking about different things, because the ‘it’ I’m talking about is something I’ve had a lot lately.”
Julian leaned back against the seat, turning his head to smile at Thomas. There was a glimmer of heat in his gaze. “You’ve not had me. No one has in a very, very long time. What do you think of that?”
Thomas stared at Julian, his eyes growing wide as the implication behind Julian’s words sank in. “You’re offering to let me top?” he asked, wanting confirmation that he was understanding correctly. Julian had been a strong and dominant top since they became lovers, which was fine with Thomas because he liked nothing more than to be pinned down and fucked senseless.
“Mmm-hmmm.” Julian raised a brow. “If you want to, that is. If not, I’m sure I can find something else special for you.”
Thomas gnawed on his bottom lip, debating whether he ought to accept the offer, considering how the wine had affected Julian. He might not have made the same offer if he was sober.
“Tell you what,” Thomas said, reaching over to squeeze Julian’s hand. “If you’re sobered up by the time we get home and you still want to let me top, I accept. Otherwise, maybe we should wait until you’re not under the influence of magical wine.”
“All right,” Julian seemed quite relaxed. “This is nice. But I didn’t care for Gus making eyes at you.”
Thomas leaned over and nuzzled Julian’s cheek, both pleased and amused to know Julian was jealous. “You don’t have anything to worry about. Gus can make eyes at me as much as he wants, but I’m not interested in him or any other man. Just you.”
“Good.” Julian put a hand on Thomas’s leg. “I don’t want to share you.”
“You don’t ever have to.” Thomas brushed a kiss to Julian’s cheek before sitting up straight and starting the car.
“Good,” Julian repeated. “Let’s go home, Thomas.”
Thomas backed out of the parking space and headed for the exit, not wanting to waste any more time. They had a nice drive ahead of them, and Thomas planned to take it slow to give Julian plenty of time to sober up on the way. He didn’t care who ended up topping, but he wasn’t about to end the night without at least one round of celebratory sex.