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The Sleepless City is a contemporary urban fantasy series which is a joint project between Anne Barwell and Elizabeth Noble. It is set in the fictional city of Flint, Ohio.
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Book 1: Shades of Sepia by Anne Barwell
A serial killer stalks the streets of Flint, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.
Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years, and he has never seen anything like it. Neither have the other supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans.
One meeting with Simon finds Ben Leyton falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can’t ignore the growing attraction between them. A recent arrival in Flint, Ben finds it very different from his native New Zealand, but something about Simon makes Ben feel as though he’s found a new home.
After a close friend falls victim to the killer, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away to avoid the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent, either, or both of them, could be the killer’s next target.
“Cool. I knew you guys were like the Justice League or something.”
Lucas laughed. “I was going more for the Legion of Super Heroes, actually.”
“Yeah, but the League has Batman in it,” Blair began, “and the Legion is—” Luckily, whatever he was going to say was interrupted by the sound of a telephone ringing. Once he and Lucas started on one of their comics conversations, they’d go for what seemed forever.
“Aren’t you going to answer that?” Forge asked Simon.
“What?” Simon glanced around for the source of the ringing. He didn’t get telephone calls and had presumed the noise was coming from wherever Blair was.
“You’re the only one around here who insists on that horrible ringtone,” Forge pointed out, “so it’s obviously your phone.” He’d complained about it ever since Simon had explained—quite logically he’d thought—that if he was to carry a telephone, it made sense for it to at least sound like one.
“Try your pockets?” said Lucas helpfully.
“Oh, right.” Simon fished his telephone out of his pocket. Its screen was flashing with the name of the caller. Simon stared at it.
“You’re supposed to answer it, not stare at it,” Forge said. “Or have you forgotten how to again?”
“I know how to answer it.” Simon poked at the appropriate button, then held the telephone up to his ear. “Simon speaking. How can I help you?”
Forge snickered. Simon glared at him, thought for a moment about retreating to somewhere more private, then realized it would be a waste of time. Damn vampire hearing. Not that werewolves and ghosts were much better.
“Hey, Simon. It’s Ben.”
Perhaps he was calling to say he’d thought twice about meeting for coffee. But why would he take the time to do that? Surely if that were the case, he’d just not contact Simon again at all?
“Hello, Ben.” Simon took a couple of steps toward the door, half turning his back on the other occupants of the room.
“I rang to apologize,” Ben said, his words tumbling out over each other.
“Apologize?” Simon frowned. “Why?” If anyone should be apologizing for the way in which their conversation had ended, it should be him.
“I obviously upset you, and I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t,” Simon reassured him. “I overreacted. I do that sometimes.” He reached for his glass of milk and took a long drink. Feeling a little calmer, he collected his thoughts before breaking the silence. “Would you still like to meet for coffee?”
Lucas and Forge high fiving was something best ignored, as was the smug expression on both their faces.
“Yeah, sure, that would be great,” Ben answered very quickly. “When and where? I’m working a long shift tomorrow so that won’t work, but I don’t start until eleven on Thursday.”
After mentally consulting his calendar, Simon nodded. “That would be fine. I don’t have lectures on Thursday mornings. Do you know Hunter’s on West Thirteenth Street? We could meet there at nine.”
“I haven’t been there, but I’ll find it,” Ben said. “See you at nine then on Thursday?”
“Yes. Good-bye, Ben.”
“Bye, Ben,” called out Lucas.
“Bye….” Ben trailed off. “Hey, who is that?” His voice took on a rather suspicious tone. “Simon, is there someone listening in on us?”
“Unfortunately, yes,” Simon said. “I share my… building… with some friends who don’t understand the concept of privacy. That was Lucas. I’ll explain on Thursday.”
“Good-bye,” Simon said again, this time to a darkened telephone. He shoved it back in his pocket.
“He sounds cute,” said Lucas. “I like the accent.” He grinned. “Can I come too? I want to hear how you explain me.”
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Book 2: Electric Candle by Elizabeth Noble
When a vampire finds his soul mate, the bond is forever. It’s love at first sight. Or is it?
Flint, Ohio Homicide Detective Jonas Forge has been a vampire for nearly two hundred years. He’s fought wars, seen life go from the simple but hard colonial days to the modern high tech world. He’s evolved with the times, adapting with each new era, blending into each new life. The one constant is his best friend and lover, Declan.
Until Forge’s soul mate tumbles, literally, into his life.
Even though they’re not fated to be together forever, Forge and Declan are perfectly happy. Despite the pheromone attracting him to his soul mate, Forge isn’t thrilled with the guy, and the feeling seems mutual. While trying to adjust to his clumsy soul mate and equally awkward feelings, Forge is on the hunt for the serial killer who’s leaving a trail of bodies, and who witnesses can’t identify. But Forge better watch out. When his work collides with his love life, things really heat up.
No one was there, yet Forge couldn’t shake the feeling he wasn’t alone. He wandered down the beach a few yards. Water splashing against the shore and spraying up made him go closer for a better look. The lake’s edge here wasn’t gently sloping sand but a sharp lip of concrete. Hunkering on the ledge, Forge leaned over for a look.
The wall ran a good half mile in either direction. He could see large spots that were darker than the surrounding area. Forge had read about the secret rooms constructed all along Lake Erie during Prohibition. Illegal booze and guns were stashed in them. One could only access the rooms by going under water. At high tide, many of the outer parts of the rooms were completely submerged. He’d never been in one.
More than likely he’d have to get wet to justify the expense of divers. Forge was still contemplated getting a dive team in when he heard shouting.
The voice sounded familiar, but Forge couldn’t place it. That always made him nuts. Turning, he looked up at the top of the stairs. Then he squinted and shook his head. Who belonged to the voice made him stare in a type of horrified wonder, like one looked at a train wreck.
The fact his cock picked then to persistently remind him of its presence and give a few twitches and throbs didn’t help.
It was a man, though the horror Forge was feeling might have been less if it’d been a woman. He wore what appeared to be homemade steampunk goggles with dark lenses, a long sleeved black shirt, and black jeans.
“Sweet mother of God, is that a cape?” Forge muttered and took a few steps forward. “No, stop, don’t—”
It was too late. The oddly dressed man began to run down the steps—the slippery, wet steps, waving his arms. He’d gone about three steps when his feet slid out from under him and his rear hit the stone stairs. The man yelped, and Forge’s cock gave another twitch. He had the fleeting thought of how disturbing on several levels that was.
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Book 3: Family and Reflection by Anne Barwell
As long as Lucas Coate can remember, werewolves have been taught to mistrust vampires. Lucas is an exception—he has two close friends who are vampires, friends whom he trusts with his life, just as they trust him with theirs. The werewolf pack in Flint—and their leader, Jacob Coate—have made it clear that Lucas’s friendship with vampires is something that is barely tolerated, and another transgression will be his last.
When Lucas finds out about the plague of werewolf deaths in the area, he wants to help. Can he discover a cure before it’s too late and his pack’s future is ripped away? Or is his own life already in danger?
Declan has been away from Flint for ten years, but isn’t surprised upon his return to learn that the internal politics of the Supernatural Council haven’t changed for the better. When a series of burglaries hit close to home soon after he arrives, Declan—a professional thief—is their prime suspect, although for once, he isn’t responsible.
With the council keeping secrets, no one is safe. Time is running out and for both Lucas and Declan everything is about to change.
Declan turned the page of his book, read the first paragraph and then shook his head. He wasn’t sure why he’d bothered as he couldn’t for the life of him remember what had happened on the previous page, let along the last few chapters. He closed it with a thump, got up from the table, went over to the fridge and opened it.
He wasn’t hungry, but if he had been, the mould covered plate on one of the shelves would have put him off whatever else had taken his fancy. Someone really needed to have a word with Lucas about leaving his science experiments to breed. Declan lifted the plate somewhat cautiously and sniffed it, then wished he hadn’t. City coroner or not, this wasn’t… normal. Normal people cleaned out their leftovers before they got the chance to become strange new life forms.
Even if, this case, his definition of normal was a werewolf.
But, despite his reaction, Declan couldn’t bring himself to throw the— whatever it was— away. To him it might be disgusting, but to Lucas it might be some new discovery crucial to whatever he was currently working on. And Declan didn’t want to upset Lucas. In the short time they’d know each other, he’d become quite fond of Lucas, and enjoyed the time they spent together.
Declan sighed. He returned the offending thing to its previous resting place, ignoring the visions of reanimated zombie leftovers creeping up the stairs to attack him in the middle of the night, and instead got a wine glass out of the cupboard. He poured himself a decent sized glass of his favourite red beverage and settled back down on the chair he’d recently vacated. As much as he enjoyed a good vintage wine, there were times when one had to quench one’s other thirsts. He sniffed the glass and savoured the aroma before swallowing.
Hmm, not bad. It was amazing the standard of blood that was available to purchase through the right sources. It made it so much easier to feed than it used to be, and less messy too.
He heard the light step on the stairs and the human heartbeat long before Ben reached the kitchen and stood awkwardly in the doorway. “Hello, Ben,” Declan said. “Don’t worry, you’re not disturbing me.”
“If you’re sure?” Ben Leyton ran one hand through his thick dark hair. He looked tired. “I couldn’t sleep so I thought I’d make a milo and see if that helped.”
“I heard Simon’s nightmare earlier.” Declan got up and filled the kettle. “He never did sleep well on anniversaries.” He’d known Simon Hawthorne a long time; Forge had introduced them shortly after Simon had been turned. Declan had also helped Simon through a dark part of his life which had been triggered by the events he suspected had prompted this particular nightmare, given the time of year. “I also don’t mind if you turn the light on.”
Although Declan didn’t need much light with which to see, especially with the full moon casting its glow into the room, Ben was human and would appreciate rather more illumination.
“Yeah well, they’re the worst times for most people, I guess.” Ben flicked on the light switch before walking across the kitchen. He reached into the cupboard and brought down a green can. “Do you want some? It’s a chocolate drink.”
“Thank you but no.” Declan indicated the glass in front of him.
The loud howl made him jump, the sound of it sending a shiver through him. He almost jumped, only years of practised self-control stopping him from doing so. Even so, Declan’s hairs stood on end on the back of his neck.
Lucas howled again. Frustration, anger and loss all rolled into one note of sound that was pure wolf.
Declan knocked his glass, spilling its contents. Without thinking he moved at vampire speed, catching what was left of the in his palm and drinking deeply.
The glass fell to the floor, smashing into tiny pieces. He ignored it, and finished the blood, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth. A low growl escaped his lips. He knew his eyes were completely green. They tended to do that when his fangs extended.
When he looked up Ben was staring at him, his eyes wide. “I’ll clean up the mess, shall I?” he said hurriedly, already heading for where they kept the broom.
“Don’t worry,” Declan said. “I’ll do it. Make your chocolate drink, mon ami. It’s my mess so my responsibility, yes?”
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Book 4: Checkmate by Elizabeth Noble
Chaos reigns in The Sleepless City and it’s really beginning to piss Detective Jonas Forge off. He’s got inner demons to joust and a life to build with his new soul mate. Nothing is going right and he already feels the universe is conspiring against him when a turn of events he never saw coming flips his world upside down.
While he and Declan confront horrors from their shared past, Simon learns a terrible truth about his kind, the vampire, he never knew or could even imagine.
Forge chuckled and Blair gifted him with another eye roll as they took up their place in the cafeteria line. He put his most charming smile on his face when a girl picked up a tray and joined the line right behind them. “Hello.”
Minor irritation skimmed the surface of Blair’s emotions, and Forge felt it plainly. The girl cocked her head to one side and flipped her hair. “Are you new here?” She asked and brushed her hand over Forge’s.
“I’m visiting.” They moved along the line and he picked up a few dishes.
“She’s a student,” Blair whispered.
Forge leaned closer to Blair, dropped his voice an octave and said, “I don’t work here.” He used what Lucas liked to refer to as ‘Forge’s fuck me’ voice.
“Oh,” the girl said. “Even better.”
Forge basked in the tidal wave of heat, desire and jealousy that swirled away from Blair to surround him.
Blair grabbed one of the dishes from Forge’s tray and put it back. “Don’t eat the mystery green stuff, it’s not broccoli.” He leaned around Forge, forcing him back a step and spoke to the girl. “You’re really barking up the wrong tree. He’s gay. He’s mine. And it’s spectacular.”
Forge shrugged and picked up his tray. “Good luck with school.”
“Table. Over there,” Blair growled.
Trailing behind him, Forge feigned innocence. “I distinctly remember you telling me to be nice to the students.”
Blair dropped his tray onto a table. “Yeah, be nice. Not use that tone and your—badge—in the way that makes them want to undress.”
“You love me for it.” Forge sat down and surveyed his food. “We could go to the new pizza place.”
Blair’s chin dropped to his chest for a second. When he looked up his eyes twinkled and he smiled. “You are a very lucky man. I don’t have time to go for pizza. It may be orgasm inducing but they’re slow. Dinner there? Just you and me?”
“Oh, now you want a date.” Forge returned the mischievous and warm smile Blair wore. “And some of this spectacular stuff.” He waved one hand down his chest and laughed when Blair kicked him under the table.
The school food was possibly some of the worst Forge had ever had, but he decided this had to be a regular thing. He liked meeting Blair for lunch. Being Blair’s soul mate ensured their love, it was liking each other they had to work at.
Their meal finished Forge walked Blair back to his office. Blair unlocked the door and at the same time Forge was doused in another wave of lust and something he could only describe as partnership. Most vampires experienced this sort of bond and empathy for one another during their initial mating. He’d understood with the majority the ability to feel each other so strongly diminished after one of them was marked. For them it only seemed to increase. Forge knew he was indeed a very lucky man.
Blair used his hand on Forge’s chest to shove him through the door and shut it softly. One of Blair’s hands cupped the back of Forge’s neck. Blair pulled them together, kissing Forge slowly, his tongue slipping into Forge’s mouth and his fangs nipping his lip. Blair wasn’t usually the aggressor, and Forge liked when he was.
He put one hand on Blair’s ass and held them close, kneading the firm flesh of Blair’s buttock slowly. All too soon Blair broke their kiss. They leaned against one another, panting. Blair trembled against Forge. “I have a late class,” Blair whispered. “Will seven be okay?”
Forge pulled in a deep breath, kissed Blair’s forehead and nodded. “I will be there.” One more sweet kiss to Blair’s lips and Forge added, “I’ll call you later.” He dipped his head at the door and at the same time cupped Blair’s face, running his thumb lightly over his cheek. “Keep them in line. I’d better get back to work.”
“Bye,” Blair said quietly and Forge thought he sounded a bit wistful.
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.
In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.
She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.
Dreamspinner page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_426
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Elizabeth Noble started telling stories before she actually knew how to write, and her family was very happy when she learned to put words on a page. Those words turned into fan fiction that turned into a genuine love of M/M romance fiction. Being able to share her works with Dreamspinner is really a dream come true. She has a real love for all things sci-fi, futuristic, and supernatural and a bit of an unnatural interest in a super-volcano in Wyoming.
Elizabeth has three grown children and is now happily owned by an adorable mixed breed canine princess named Rosie, and two cats, Murphy and Yeti. She lives in her native northeast Ohio, the perfect place for gardening, winter and summer sports (go Tribe!). When she’s not writing she’s working as a veterinary nurse, so don’t be surprised to see her men with a pet or three who are a very big part of their lives.
Dreamspinner page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_423
Google+ pages: https://plus.google.com/110207268360224371489/posts