October 22, 2023

Following on sale for 99¢ Oct-22 + free scene!

Following Love’s Hunger
, Book 1 of the Illicit Seattle series, will be on sale for 99¢ on Sunday, Oct. 22, through Sunday, Oct-29. See below for a free scene! And meet the main character, Kat, over here. Please tell your friends!

Hidden in the Seattle underground, a clan of Vampires sells sex, power and information. Kat just wants to be free to live her own life and find love. But the Vampire clan has other plans for her. When Kat loses her job, she starts a desperate search for a way to keep from being forced into sex work at the Clan brothel. She meets a mysterious coworker named Henry who works as a spy for the Clan. As their love blossoms, they must find ways to defy the clan, explore who they truly are, and dare to trust their love against the Second Circle.

It was a quick drive back across the water to Seattle and he had soon parked in front of the nightclub called Greta’s Place. It was in the Pioneer Square area of Seattle. They were not normally open for club business this early. The parking lot was empty. He went around to the side door and went in. There was an elevator hidden by the back offices. He took the elevator down.

The red neon sign on the wall said Second Circle. He found himself in a large room with a wood bar along one side, red leather trimmed bar stools, red leather sofa, and a reception desk. No matter what time of day or night, there was always someone at the reception area. The receptionist was wearing a tight low-cut black dress and looked like a super model. She had black hair, green eyes, and ruby-red lipstick, which contrasted with her pale skin. 

“Hello, Jon. She is waiting for you in her office.”

Henry used the alias Jonathan Gray when doing business here. “Hello, Onyx. I should not keep her waiting. I know the way.”

He walked around the right side of the desk to the door and went in. The room was maybe fifteen feet square and had a large ebony desk. The desk was devoid of the normal clutter you might see. Behind the desk was a redheaded woman who seemed to be in her mid-thirties, who had a classical beauty look and added an air of command to it. The room had two red leather guest chairs in it. 

“Please take a seat.”

Henry sat and sank a little bit into the red leather chair. He wondered how often she had sex on that sparse desk.

She smiled, as she seemed to be able to read his mind. “Often. Now let’s get down to business. I want to thank you for the information you’ve been feeding us on Thorn Technologies. We were able to make a lot of money shorting their stock before the feds came in and closed them down.”

“Last night’s report included the final status on the research you had me watching before Thorn was shutdown.” 

“The Marshals found all of your bugs in Councilmember Prescott’s office. It simply will not do. I expected better from you.”

“Actually, Ms. Burke, they did not find any of mine. All they found was the sloppy work from people who should not be in the business to start with. I went by and pulled all mine out once I learned of her death. There was nothing there to connect back to you when they looked.”

“Jonathan, I asked you to call me Greta. It gets confusing in a family business when everybody has the same last name. You can pick up your money for both jobs from Onyx when you leave.”

“Thank you, Greta. Is there anything else you need from me?”

“I want you to continue keeping an eye on Kathy, or Kat as I guess she likes to be called. With her losing her job at Thorn, I hope I can persuade her to give up her childish endeavors and come back to work in one of the family businesses. Her abilities are wasted, shilling corporate products.”

“I know it’s none of my business, but what sort of businesses do you have? I obviously know of the night club and brothel. Is there something else she would be more suited to?”

“I have my hands in many adult entertainment companies. I also do some work like yours in gathering information, which sometimes includes blackmail. We also have some legitimate companies including a law firm. I am surprised you did not take the time to fully check us out before coming to work for me.”

“You came highly recommended by some of my former clients. I don’t make it a habit of knowing too much about my clients. Some people might find me a bit too dangerous to leave living, if I did so. It is such a pain to clean up the bodies of the people who try to have me killed. I don’t care for messes.”

“I would have thought you would be hard to find if someone was stupid enough to put out a contract on you. Your ability to change and blend in was what got you this job in the first place. I have never heard of anybody saying anything bad about your work.”

“You’re right, I am a master at blending in. My abilities tend to keep me alive.”

“You could make a lot of money as an assassin if you wanted to.”

Henry frowned. “I could, but I am not like that. I am willing to kill to protect myself, but murder for hire is not my thing. Please don’t ask me to kill or you will no longer be one of my clients.”

“I was only talking. I find it useful to know what I can get from people. I make a lot of money that way. Now back to the topic of Kathy. Keep close to her. I don’t need to know her every move. I will ask when I want a report. I might need you to bring her to me if she will not listen to reason.”

“You should know I also don’t do abductions. At times, I do perform rescue missions. Remember I sell information, not people.”

“We will deal with that if it comes to it. Can I interest you in some time in the club? I should be able to find you a woman to take care of any needs you might have before you leave. It would be on the house.”

Henry stood. “No, I think I am fine. It’s not that your offer is not tempting, but I have things I need to take care of.”

Greta sighed. “You are always busy. Maybe you should come by sometime when you are not working.” She stood and patted the top of the desk. “I could show you a good time on this desk like you were thinking about, if it’s more your thing.”

Henry blushed. Could she read his surface thoughts? Maybe it was common for men to think about that when they come into her office.  “Some other time maybe.” He turned and carefully walked out the door. Greta had a lot more power to influence him than a young Vampire like Kat did. It must be something that developed as a Vampire aged. No matter how tempting Greta was, his thoughts went back to Kat. She had gotten under his skin and the kiss had been amazing. As he walked to the counter, Onyx pulled a leather backpack from behind the counter.

“Here you go. You sure I can’t book you into one of the rooms before you go? I can get someone to cover for me and join you if you like, or bring up a selection for you to select from. It would be my pleasure.” She licked her lips as if enjoying a sweet taste lingering on them. 

Henry’s heart beat faster as he looked down and lifted the heavy backpack up to his shoulder. “Sorry Onyx, I have to run. Maybe next time.”

She pouted and a cloudy look came over her face. “It’s always maybe next time with you. A girl has needs!”

It was hard to be professional in a Vampire brothel, but he could not let his guard down. He might lose the illusions he put up for his safety. Normally it would not be a problem, but Vampire magic was not to be underestimated.     

When he got back to his car, he looked in the bag. It looked to be about twelve stacks of $100 bills. It would end up around $300,000. Most people would take years to gross this much money. For Henry, it was a few months of work. Greta must have made a lot of money off his information. But having a cash-only business had its drawbacks. It took him a long time to set up all of the shell companies needed to launder the money. It had been easier for him since he could create the documents and company officials out of thin air. Being able to create illusions had its plus points. When he was a block away, he let the illusion on the SUV’s license plate drop. 

He decided to drive to his house in Kirkland. It would be easier to keep an eye on Kat that way. He was not lying when he told Kat he was in the area. Henry owned places under different names in Seattle and Renton as well. He took the 520 bridge across to the East side and got off on Lake Washington Boulevard so he could drive along the lake to his house. It was a nice night out tonight, not as nice as watching the sunset with Kat, but still nice. He turned on 7th avenue South and arrived at his small two-bedroom home. It was an older house built in the late 1940s. The living areas were on top of the two-car garage. It was nice having a large garage. It gave him space to have a work area if he ever wanted one.

Henry opened up a secret panel in the garage wall and stacked up the money inside. He would create the paper trail for the money later. He walked up the stairs to the front door and went inside. He moved over to a hidden alarm control panel and disabled the alarm. It showed no one had entered since the last time he was here. The system was setup silently to record, monitor, and report, but not to notify the police. It was more important to see what someone had done, than to let the world know of a break-in. His house looked like it was right out of an IKEA catalog. He could afford anything he wanted, but he seemed to always fall back on the generic furnishings he would have had in his first apartment after he graduated college. He walked over to the fireplace and lit a fire. It was a nice evening to sit and read by the fire. On a whim, he walked out onto his balcony. It went the full width of the house and had some Adirondack cedar chairs to sit on. He looked out onto the night and wondered if he could see Kat’s condo from here. It was only a three-minute walk from his house and he would pass by her place on the way to The Wild Rover if he was walking there. His house faced the right direction, but he could not make out Kat’s place.  It was a bit too cold to be outside tonight so he headed back inside and got a bottle of whiskey from the kitchen and a glass and took them back to the living room.  He set the bottle and glass on the coffee table and sat in his leather rocking chair. He gazed off into the fire and let his mind go. 

He thought back over his day. He always felt a bit slimy when he left the Second Circle. It might be a bit hypocritical for someone who spied and stole information for a living, but he was selling his skills. They were making people into sex addicts for money and power. One thing they both had in common: it was lonely work. Nobody at Second Circle would ever have anybody who cared about them for who they were, and he could never let anybody too close without risking everything he had. When Kat asked if he had ever had a steady relationship, it drove home the reality of his situation. He had dated some, but those women only saw the illusion and never the man. 

He considered retirement. He had a billion dollars spread out across all his holdings, but it was not easy to access. If he retired, he had no idea what he would do to keep busy. Henry was not the type to sit back and enjoy himself. He loved the thrill of creating the right persona and conditions to hunt down exactly the right information in the least amount of time. Sometimes it was easy. He would hack into some servers. Other times it took a more personal touch. That was when he shined. His specialty was social engineering. He could be just the right person to get people to tell him whatever he wanted to know without them knowing they did it. Between his Ph.D. in Psychology and his illusions, few people could keep things from him. If he retired as a corporate spy, he could become a Psychology professor. Henry shook his head. No, it would be hard to hold back teaching students too much. What he did could be easily used for evil in the wrong hands. It was like not taking on jobs to kill people. He turned down all jobs where people would get hurt. Leaking information to keep the playing field level between companies, or allowing for others to profit from a company’s illegal acts coming to light was different. 

He decided he would not take money to stay close to Kat. When Greta first added watching over Kat to his job, she said it was to protect her. Now it seemed more like she only wanted to make Kat submit to her will. Henry needed to protect Kat from Greta. He would need to set up his standard surveillance package on her house and car in order to make sure she was safe. He would also have to be careful what he told Greta. If he told her nothing, she would hire someone else to spy on Kat or have her abducted. He was not going to let that happen.

Henry sighed as he wondered what Kat was doing tonight.

Get your copy today! Following Love’s Hunger, Book 1 of the Illicit Seattle series, will be on sale for 99¢. Tell your friends!

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Jeff Ellis’s bookshelf: written-by-me

Following Love’s Hunger
tagged: currently-reading and written-by-me