ANNOUNCEMENT/GIVEAWAY: Subside, by J. Hali Steele

Subside

QSFer J. Hali Steele has a new MM Paranormal vampire tale out: Subside.

A soul hangs in the balance!

The only one of his kind, Deacon recalls thousands of years existing yet he has no memory of why. He can’t profess to living in seclusion because he greedily pursues pleasure in arms of so many men, he never lacks companionship. All those arms, lips, and asses, none feed his true desire. Deacon yearns for someone to make in his own image by introducing them to a hunger so vile, they will detest him forever.

Father Merck Hallowell stands at a crossroad of conscience and faith. His convictions, no longer satisfying, leave him searching for reasons to persevere. Befriending a handsome but strange parishioner opens a doorway Merck longs to enter and explore. Discovering Deacon’s secret, he realizes not only his life hangs in balance—so does his soul!

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Giveaway

J. Hali is giving away eBook copies of two of her books with this post:

WHITE BLOOD – When bitten, blood runs in one color. In a society full of deadly vampires, discrimination of any sort should have no place. Yet intolerance continues to haunt Cayson Covett who returns to his hometown a changed man. He is a powerful creature who yearns to rekindle his romance with the black man he can’t forget. An Interracial M/M Vampire Romance

THE GIFT – Rad and Crayton— the same yet different. They meet as often as possible throughout the year to be together. Christmastime is particularly special; it’s when they celebrate their bonding. Mermen, one born in the south Caribbean Sea, the other from frozen waters surrounding Iceland. Neither can exist for long in the other’s climate. MM Paranormal Romance

Comment on the post below for a chance to win.


Excerpt

Shadows caused by clouds scuttling across the moon played over stained glass presenting faces of heavenly creatures which magically came to life as silhouettes waxed and waned.

Deacon wasn’t there to observe this—he came for Father Merck Hallowell.

Having watched the holy man circumvent alleyways and side streets nightly in an effort to recapture something he’d lost and would never find again, Deacon decided, by sharing his affliction, Merck was the only person capable of subsisting with him.

Deacon sustained his life on the blood of others. He decided whether they lived or died during the process of draining them of their most prized passion. Frankly, he didn’t care which way it ended.

Some deserved to die instantly but he made them suffer more by showing a kaleidoscope of deviousness they’d lived with but hid deep in scarred psyches. He let them see a thousand-year-old visage of bone with peeling gray, shriveled skin. Those not so bad, he left to bleed out on their own or, if they were lucky, some derelict would happen along and save them.

He’d viewed that scenario often where the person finding them rolled the individual taking everything of value including their shoes. Enduring on these mean streets was hard. Before absconding with everything scavenged, they’d call out loud enough to attract attention to the dying before scurrying away in the dark to gloat over new prizes.

Many more were nothing but sustenance and they remained none the wiser as not even a tell-tale mark indicated why they felt slightly fatigued. Perhaps this group didn’t deserve to know Deacon at all but they did. Recently, no feeling other than being satiated before they were drained saved their lives.

These reminded him of a verse he’d read, reread, and memorized wishing to find something he, himself, lost millennia ago—Deacons must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to wine nor greedy for dishonest gain. They will hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Let them also be tested first then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless.

The rest of the verse didn’t mean much as Deacon never appreciated lying with women so he’d surely never be the husband of one wife nor did he wish to bring children into his world. Neither did he recollect serving anyone well but himself.

Deacon desired remembering why he wasat all, why he’d lost his graciousness and faith. Discovering that was more important than possessing ability to grant immortality, bring rain, or stir wind.

Could one as defeated as the priest help Deacon find what he, himself, had lost?

Not very late in the evening, Father Hallowell, whom Deacon observed for enough months to know his schedule inside out, would be in residence.

Having enjoyed a leisurely meal of rare prime rib at a swanky restaurant not far away, Deacon waited outside the cathedral to see the moon begin its slide into the sky, to watch cloud play on glass and illuminate the cross stretching skyward.

He entered the church and moved quietly down the aisle to take a seat in the row second from the front. Big mistake. The woman in the first pew, who still believed in covering her head in God’s presence, left her neck bare where a frantic pulse beckoned him as if a bright light flashed off and on beneath her skin with each beat of her heart.

The door beside a thick pillar squeaked open and voices preceded Father Hallowell and another, much older, priest. Deacon spotted the elder man arrive two days ago, knew he’d be in town for at least four days as he helped out until a new priest could be assigned to the parish.

I should have taken your blood. Had he ingested a tiny bit, he’d know more about Merck and what machinations went on in his mind even though the mystery intrigued him. What he was able to glean came from a slight brush of hands between both men at a nearby market.

That momentous day sealed Father Hallowell’s fate.

Had he been a pure holy man, Deacon would not have given him a moment’s thought. An indecipherable note of sadness pervaded the priest’s soul along with a puzzling desire to be touched. He wanted to be held, coveted by another man. Father Hallowell had shoved his desire so deep, he barely gave it thought.

Both men were unaware Deacon heard every word they whispered.

“We all have crises of faith, Merck. It is expected especially in a parish such as yours.”

“You mean one without enough funds to carry out needed programs?”

“You can’t save them all.”

“Why? They swim in wealth at surrounding parishes. Can they not share their abundance?”

The older man stopped to scrutinize Merck. “You feel the more you save the more it will appease your own soul.” Twisting away, he continued. “Faith should be something we carry daily and not be measured by how many we rescue from their quagmire of…”

“Of hunger? Of too little housing and not nearly enough public services to assist them? Rescuing them from knowledge they’ll be poor and destitute until the day they die?”

“We pray for their souls. You also have sisters helping with your shelter which provides housing and meals for the more unfortunate.”

Merck no longer attempted to modify his voice. “Jesus Christ, you speak of no more than twenty when there are hundreds who go hungry with no roof over their head daily!”

“Father Hallowell!”

“Rest well, Father Sharpe, I must see to confession.”

“Are you not going to change?”

“No, I’m not.” A labored sigh rattled from his throat. “See yourself out in the morning as I’ll be tired from scouring streets tonight in hopes of bringing in those who suffer most.” Hands jammed in his pockets, Merck watched the man walk away.

Turning, he touched his throat, made sure his stiff collar remained straight in his black dress shirt. When he faced pews, Deacon noticed something about the man he’d not paid attention to before. Sans vestments he wore every Sunday and for midweek service, not wearing the jacket he donned at night, Merck’s body appeared athletically fit in a pair of well-worn black jeans. All those nights walking.

Dark lashes fluttered up and down over light brown eyes which didn’t seem to take note of three parishioners, including the woman in front of Deacon, walk out. Merck ran a hand through waves of chocolate brown hair before he stroked it over a day’s growth covering cheeks and chin giving accent to a thin mustache he always wore.

Shit! Broodingly handsome.

Why did I not see you clearly? It was as if the house of worship illuminated his beauty.

Left alone with Father Hallowell, Deacon stood, brushed down the front of his black pinstriped jacket, he straightened his fashionable tie, and pinched razor-sharp creases in perfectly fitting trousers. He left the pew and headed to the confessional.

Church bells tolled overhead.

Tonight, Deacon planned to open Father Hallowell’s eyes.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been seven hundred and thirty years since my last confession.”

“I’m sorry, my son, I believe I misunderstood.”

“You didn’t.”

Silence stretched out for almost a minute. “This is not something to trifle with.”

“Father, if I wanted to play with anyone or anything, I wouldn’t be wasting my time here.”

“Stop, just stop.” Breathing escalated. “There are people starving and sleeping in the streets. They truly want help.”

“No, they don’t. They desire a full belly and a warm bed. Nothing more.”

His duty was to remain in the confessional and help the man who had issues but Merck doubted they were with the church. After his explosion against Father Sharpe, it hadn’t gone unnoticed by Merck that all but one very well-dressed young man quickly exited the cathedral. The way he stood and fussed with his clothing garnered Merck’s attention. “Do the words pride before the fall mean anything to you?”

“You did notice. Good. One should endeavor to always appear at their best even before their dream is truly achieved. Demonstrating pride upon accomplishing the feat is no sin.”

“Ahh, your philosophy is one must look the part of success. Might I assume you’ve obtained your dream?”

“I have yet to attain my dream. Nevertheless, I do take pride in myself and am quite happy with turning out more magnificently every time I set foot outside my home.”

He recalled short, severely styled dark hair. Before allocating wealth to benefit his struggling parish, Merck recollected dressing fashionably and, therefore, he didn’t miss the fact the man’s outfit reeked of money. Almost as tall as Merck and extremely good looking with a powerful build, the man wouldn’t go unnoticed anywhere.

His eyes were pale though Merck, if pressed, couldn’t say they were green or blue but he’d be able to recite that he had skin the color of soft, burnished gold. “I believe you’re more interested in yourself than comfort I or the church might offer.”

“God, yes, I am.” Soft laughter emanated through the screen. “And before you talk about using his name in vain, remember your outburst minutes ago.”

Touché. Merck didn’t have time for this but neither did he want to leave and, for the life of him, he couldn’t say why. Actually, he could. Audacity, impudence, and disdain sitting on the other side of the screen reflected much of what he felt himself nowadays. If only he could express it.

“I promise, Father, I’ll listen another time. By the way, my eyes are blue when I’m not hungry. Yours, I’d describe as warm cognac with a chaser of sadness.”

“How did you know I…”

“You must see to your parishioners.”

The curtain swished on the other side of the confessional but Merck heard only one or two footfalls. Rising, he stepped out the door and stared into eyes that seared his soul. The man had said blue yet what he looked into flared red with hellfire. “God in Heaven!” Grabbing the edge of the door with his right hand to steady himself, Merck felt a splinter rip through his thumb. “Ow!”

The stranger reached for his hand and tugged it to his mouth. Merck should stop him but before he could soft, cool lips covered the appendage. As he sucked, pain diminished immediately. He practically felt skin knit together. Releasing Merck, he asked, “Better?”

He glanced down and couldn’t find any sign of having been injured. Peering back in the man’s eyes, he saw they were, indeed, blue. “Your kind is not welcome here.”

“Mykind? So that you’re not guessing, let me clarify for you. Tonight, before arriving here, I took life sustaining substance from an unsuspecting human. The idea of talking with you rushed me so no one succumbed to death at my hands.” He stared at Merck. “I still thirst.”

“Leave this holy place now and never return!”

“Then how shall we continue our conversation? I expected we’d have many talks.”

“I don’t know what you are but I pray Hesees to your destruction.”

“Prayer never worked before but I hear miracles do exist.” He bowed deeply. “My name is Deacon and I’m at your service Father Hallowell.” He pivoted and slowly walked down the aisle but before disappearing into the vestibule, he looked over his shoulder and said, “We shall meet again.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What with the woman sitting in front of him smelling of fresh blood, and Merck’s injured thumb, Deacon longed to find someone to slake his thirst. Having now had a small taste of Father Hallowell’s blood, he could find him anywhere and ascertained quickly that he would come upon him again tonight if patient. Merck had already taken to the streets looking to provide some measure of comfort to his flock. His mind slipped occasionally to Deacon but he kept moving as if activity would erase what transpired.

“He didn’t fear me.” Deacon felt no surprise at that as he often tagged behind him into west Philly’s most dangerous areas. He’d watched Merck talk criminals down yet had never witnessed him hit one even as he wrestled a few to the ground when necessary and stripped them of weapons. Fearless. He didn’t seek death, he sought escaping his unspeakable secret.

“No,” Deacon whispered. “You’re mine now.”


Author Bio

J. Hali SteeleJ. Hali Steele wishes she could grow fur, wings, or fangs, so she can stay warm, fly, or just plain bite the crap out of… Well, she can’t do those things but she wishes she could!

Multi-published author of Romance including Contemporary, LGBTQ, Paranormal, and ReligErotica stories where humans, vampyres, shapeshifters, and angels often collide. When J. Hali’s not writing or reading she can be found snuggled in front of the TV with a cat in her lap, and a cup of coffee.

My quotes:

Growl and roar—it’s okay to let the beast out. – J. Hali Steele

Death is overrated as punishment. – J. Hali Steele (from The Descendants)

Life is complicated, it’s loud, death arrives silently. – J. Hali Steele (from Twice the Burn)

AUTHOR LINKS:

Visit: www.jhalisteele.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jhalisteele

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/sovereignkind

Twitter: www.twitter.com/JHaliSteele

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A Sovereign Spot: www.sovereignkind.blogspot.com

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