Title: Blood Red Roulette
Author: Jana Denardo
Publisher: DSP Publications
Release date: November 13, 2018
Cover artist: Tiferet Design
Genre: paranormal, romance
Tags: Both men are bisexual, villain out for revenge, immortals trying to live in the present day, Luc dealing with a homophobic upbringing
Pairings: It's more paranormal but there's a strong romantic subplot with Arrigo Giancarlo & Luc St. John
Length: 123,179 words
Arrigo Giancarlo’s friends think he's a rich young man with the unusual job of paranormal investigator, working with his psychic assistant in Las Vegas. In truth he’s a two-thousand-year-old vampire and member of the Chiaroscuro, a group of Supernaturals dedicated to keeping humanity safe from the more dangerous of their kind. He’s also openly bisexual… but alone.
When he spots Luc St. John in a bar, Arrigo is intrigued. What begins as an effort to repay the kindness shown to him in the past quickly turns into much deeper feelings for the suffering and displaced Cajun. For Luc’s part, he feels too poor, too uneducated, and too bound to his hateful family to ever be worthy of elegant and cultured Arrigo.
An old enemy, Eleni, blames Arrigo for murdering her true love. On the anniversary of that death, she’s back to take revenge. As Arrigo’s closest friends fall victim to savage attacks, he fears nothing will keep Luc safe. Should he break both their hearts and let Luc go, or is it too late? If Luc’s already in Eleni’s sights, Arrigo knows that like most things in Vegas, the odds are against him.
Oddly enough, Las Vegas was not the first choice for the setting of Blood Red Roulette but now I can’t imagine it being set anywhere else. This story was one that took years to finally bloom the way I wanted it to. It began when I was much younger and more naïve and very much besotted with New Orleans.
Even then, I knew it couldn’t really be set there, in spite of giving it a try. Anne Rice’s Lestat aside, there were several other vampire stories set in New Orleans. When I finally unearthed what I wanted to get out of Luc and Arrigo’s story, I knew I had to change the setting. For me, setting is important. In a way it can be almost another character in the story. That left me with the challenge of where to set it. I dismissed Los Angeles and New York City out of hand. While I worked in the latter, both cities have so many urban fantasies set there that they didn’t feel any less clichéd than New Orleans. Chicago had Harry Dresden, and I had already set two novels in my hometown of Pittsburgh.
Somehow it took me longer than it probably should have to twig onto the fact that Las Vegas is absolutely perfect for vampires. It’s a truly twenty-four hours sort of city. This would be the perfect hunting ground for the villain of the piece and be just as perfect as a home for Arrigo. As a fairly ancient vampire, he’s pretty much seen and done it all, but Vegas is such a spectacle, it would keep him entertained.
Late night clubs, all night gaming, heck even all night bowling alleys and miniature golf courses, it’s the perfect city for vampires to play in. It’s also a city I have fond feelings for, which is a rarity. I’m a country sort of person. Vegas even more than most cities has two faces. It has the glitzy beautiful face it shows its tourists: The Strip. That’s where we find Arrigo and his friends. He has wealth and he can be every bit as flashy as the Strip. It’s why he made it his home.
The other face is much darker. There is a lot of poverty and crime in Vegas, as there is in most cities but throw it up against the Strip and it seems more startling by comparison. It’s here we find Luc. He is well below the poverty line. He knows his brother and father sometimes do illegal things that he’s been excluded from, mostly because they think he’s too weak and stupid to partake. Luc feels he has no place in Arrigo’s Vegas.
Things change fast in Vegas though. It made it hard to keep up on things. Harder still, trying to capture what it was like in 2012. Bars and restaurants change quickly. Even casinos come and go. It’s one of the things that make Las Vegas feel so alive. It’s a place I enjoy playing in and every moment of researching this went on the list of things to do when I return to Sin City.
That night, after dealing with the renegade, Arrigo decided to check out the Alibi. He had wanted to know more about the family who seemed to run the place or, more specifically, the hot bartender with the wild curls, whose name he’d learned on his last visit was Luc. The gray-haired, bearded man whose appearance screamed redneck was of no interest to Arrigo other than to inspire distaste because of how he lorded over the two young men who worked the bar with him. The other man, brawnier with darker hair, bullied Luc too. Arrigo learned quickly that his name was Henri, Luc’s brother, and the gray-haired man was their father.
Their accents were Louisianan, Cajun. Arrigo recognized the bayou accent because he had lived in the Pontalba Apartments in the French Quarter several years back. Arrigo figured they had come west looking for new homes after Hurricane Katrina like many others. He knew a whole clan of vampires who gave up the New Orleans cliché and moved to Tempe, Arizona.
At that first meeting, Luc snagged his attention, sending a warm feeling due south. Rarely did someone stir up enough lust to cloud his Roman-soldier sense of duty, but Luc nearly made him lose track of his quarry that night. He hoped the ghosts of his ancient cadre and his personal lares, the guardian spirits Romans believed in back in his mortal days, hadn’t seen him slip up like that. He hadn’t fully given up his belief in the old ways.
The problem with being so ancient was the nagging feeling he’d done it all, and he’d do something wild—and potentially stupid—to prove to himself there were new things to experience. Some days time went too fast, leaving him feeling alive, almost raw with sensation. On the other hand, there were weeks when time trudged by, and then he’d remember how long he’d been alone. Out of nowhere, a laugh perked up his spirit, a flash of a lovely eye ensnared him, or the sight of a well-rounded butt cheek made his heart race. Those moments were inevitable.
The night he first saw Luc’s cherubic face, it catalyzed a reaction. Of course a night in which he’d stalked dangerous prey had been no time to try to talk to Luc. However, working at Delilah’s Diner several doors down, investigating it for his book, suited Arrigo perfectly. After stopping at Delilah’s to gather stories the day after he’d fought the renegade, he planned to drop by the Alibi to see if he could talk to Luc.
As it turned out, he hadn’t had to. Luc showed up at Delilah’s that night. Luc and Lily, the waitress who had told Arrigo all about Delilah’s ghosts, chatted the whole time Arrigo poked around. The gentleness and concern Luc displayed with her, the promise to help her take her kids fishing like their dad used to, even his agreeing to pretend to be her boyfriend to shake off a scary customer spoke volumes. Luc was either a good guy or a crafty predator. Arrigo dealt with predators often, and Luc failed to impress him as one.
The second time Arrigo returned to Delilah’s to learn more from Lily, the cook, and a couple other waitresses in the dead, late-night hours of the twenty-four-hour diner, Luc showed up again, sporting a busted lip. Arrigo helped with a towel filled with ice for Luc so Lily could wait on other patrons. Arrigo only managed to exchange a few words with him, Luc’s wary gaze never leaving his face. Luc only stayed long enough to confirm the fishing trip before stumbling to the bus stop.
Tonight he’d try again at the Alibi after stopping at Delilah’s, using the diner as his excuse for being in the area. He could only imagine the bad reactions in the biker bar if someone thought he’d shown up to see Luc.
Once he arrived at the diner, Arrigo had second thoughts about going into the Alibi. This sort of bar probably thrived on gay bashing, and he was not in the mood to get into a fight with people he’d gladly drain down to the last drop. His inner predator didn’t need that sort of challenge. He glanced up and down the street, first at Delilah’s, then the Alibi. Tabernae remained unchanged for the most part since the days of his youth. Call it what you will: taberna, tavern, pub, bar, diner even, people had always needed a place to gather, to eat and drink. In a way, the Alibi reminded him far too much of his mortal days: rough people, bad booze, and even rougher prostitutes waiting nearby. A shiver ran through him. Some things Arrigo wanted to forget forever.
While Arrigo mentally debated on doing the smart thing and going home, Luc walked around the corner of the bar with a hose in tow. That made things easier. Arrigo didn’t even have to go into the bar with its sticky floors and miserable clientele.
Even though he knew he was probably asking for trouble, Arrigo sauntered across the street. Luc attacked the gritty, broken sidewalk with the stream of water from hose, but no amount of cleaning could make the Alibi look more enticing. Luc wore torn jeans with ragged stringy hems, a plain blue T-shirt thin enough it was nearly see-through, and a worn-out pair of canvas tennis shoes with the uppers duct-taped to the soles. As he closed the distance, the booze and vomit hit his senses before the copious puddle of it came into view outside the Alibi’s door. “Bonsoir,” Arrigo said, remembering Cajuns spoke a form of French thick with slang he only half remembered. The trouble with living so long was that languages became dated and he knew so many, he struggled to keep them all straight.
Luc looked up, surprise in his expression at hearing French. His face taking on a curious expression, he stared at Arrigo, almost eye to eye. Despite how much taller humans had grown, Arrigo thought he might have an inch on Luc.
About the author:
Jana is Queen of the Geeks (her students voted her in) and her home and office are shrines to any number of comic book and manga heroes along with SF shows and movies too numerous to count. There is no coincidence the love of all things geeky has made its way into many of her stories. To this day, she’s still disappointed she hasn’t found a wardrobe to another realm, a superhero to take her flying among the clouds or a roguish star ship captain to run off to the stars with her.
Jana is giving away a $10 DSP Publications gift card with this tour. For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter: