Literary Nymphs Interview
Author: Rhi EtzweilerTitle: Blacker Than Black
Publisher: Riptide Books
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 23 January 2012
What inspired the story?
Pure and simple, “Blacker Than Black” is a genderfuck urban fantasy. It’s an engaging exploration of labels, roles, and the individual’s perception when forced to set these aside. It began as a challenge to step outside my comfort zones as a writer – it’s written in first person, present tense – and evolved into a journey that challenged me to redefine my comfort zones on a number of different levels.
[If you haven’t read it yet, the previous excerpt is over here at It’s Raining Men (http://rainingmenamen.blogspot.com).]
Chapter Nine, continued:
I grimace, rooted to my spot on the marble floor for the space of a heartbeat. For some reason I can’t quite define, I’m disappointed Garthelle maintained such an excessive distance from me. Disappointed, and grateful. Relieved I don’t have to struggle with the warring responses of lust and fear. I’m not in the mood for a tug-of-war this evening.
It’s my sister’s turn to grab hold and drag me in her wake. “I know this is rather disconcerting for you,” she mutters over her shoulder, “considering how he gorged on you just two days ago. But please, Black . . . please try to be professional, for all our sakes.”
Fuck. I hadn’t even thought of that. Two days, and the vamp’s chi is still thrumming in my veins like a sugar high. The edge is gone, but . . . In the past, with any other john, I’d be back on the boulevard, back to good. Maybe still feeling a faint tug, a tenuous awareness, but not anything of this caliber. Garthelle owns me, though. I’ve no choice in the matter.
“You’re scaring me, Red.” I pull on her to snare her attention.
The vampire is far enough ahead; if he can hear us, he’s playing ignorant. I don’t think he can. I watch him, looking for any shift or tensing in his unconscious body language. There’s nothing. He keeps walking down the corridor even when Jhez stops and turns to face me. Track lighting along the floor throws strange shadows over the contours of her face, makes the masonry walls resemble abstract art.
She offers a dim smile at my use of the impromptu nickname. Her gaze flicks over my face and tense shoulders, and she reaches up to cup my cheeks. Her forehead rests against mine as she stares into my eyes. “They can sense fear, remember?” I swallow, my mouth parched, and nod. “Center yourself. Garthelle gains nothing from endangering you, or me, under his own roof. And he’s definitely looking to get something out of this.” A grimace twists at one corner of her mouth, gone just as quickly. Jhez isn’t so certain of her attempt to reassure me. “Suck it up, bucko.”
Just as she releases me, Garthelle clears his throat nearby. As focused as I am, the sound nearly makes me jump out of my skin. “It is easy to become lost in this place.”
I close my eyes and breathe deeply, turning my attention inward. Pooling energy into my center. Jhez takes me by the elbow and guides me down the hall after Garthelle. Even with my eyes closed, I know precisely where he is. It takes effort to force the awareness away and focus on gathering myself.
“Is he well?” Garthelle’s neutral tone makes my senses perk up. I imagine she’s taking the opportunity to glare at him.
“He’ll be fine.” Her grip tightens a fraction, fingertips digging into my biceps. The desire to laugh surges, and I shove it back down into my stomach along with the rest of the energy I’m siphoning from my extremities.
Silence reigns, thankfully, only disturbed by the tattoo of our footsteps until Jhez stops me with a slight tug. I open my eyes, exhale slowly. Dark mahogany doors loom before us.
“Here we are.” Garthelle’s shoulders tense, and a tingle of discomfort slides over my aura from his general direction. “Stay close to me and don’t wander off for any reason.” He looks back over his shoulder, gaze jagging over each of us. “Follow my directions to the letter and you’ll be fine.”
He pushes one of the doors inward, walking through and standing aside to hold it open. Jhez’s reassuring touch falls away as she follows.
Garthelle studies me, rather intently, as I walk through the door and step aside. He moves closer, pushing the door closed, but his gaze doesn’t waver. The piercing quality I’ve grown accustomed to isn’t present. With him so close, his aura tangles with mine along the fringes. It feels colored with the same concern I’m reading in his expression.
His lips part slightly, as though to say something. But he doesn’t. A trill of laughter from somewhere within the room breaks his focus, and he shifts away. With his gaze no longer trapping me, I turn to take in his party. Tensing involuntarily, pulling my aura tight and close. Barely resisting the urge to fold my arms over my stomach as another defensive barrier between the congregated lyche and my tightly pooled energy.
I’d expected vampires waiting to pounce on us the moment we stepped inside. Instead, they’re scattered in small groups through the space and appear generally preoccupied.
Strategically placed ottomans, benches, and couches partition the large room—and the crowd of guests—into more intimate groups. Nothing gaudy or glaring here; subtle flashes of muted color snag attention amongst the dark tones of mahogany, navy, umber, and forest. Walls of polished wood paneling glow in the generous caress of firelight. Spanning halfway to the ceiling, the hearth roars with an impressively hungry blaze. The air is only pleasantly warm, not stifling as I would have expected from such a massive heat source.
And there are people everywhere. Cozily situated on furniture, loitering in groups, even lounging on the deep shag rug in front of the hearth. I’d envisioned a simple, intimate gathering of a dozen vampires. This isn’t it. More like thirty, without bothering to attempt a headcount.
Taking in the ambiance of the room, the quality of the decor, the lethargy of the vampires, I smile. “Now this is more like it.”
Garthelle leads us to the far corner of the room along a winding path through various gaggles of conversation. A small gathering of six is scattered over a private grouping of couches. The corner tables are crowded with a collection of empty and half-full glasses, and one person lies sprawled on the floor in their midst.
A vampire in energy thrall, from the looks of it. Or a very stoned Nightwalker, which I wouldn’t immediately discount; I’m not close enough to sense the difference. Some of them like to feed from us when we’re in that semi-lucid state of influence. I guess it would make for an . . . attractive experience, under the right circumstances. Or, it could.
Garthelle watches me study the individual on the floor, who’s staring at some distant point on the high ceiling with a heavy-lidded gaze. I wonder what they see. He steps closer to me, motions Jhez toward an unoccupied couch.
“Have you ever done that before?” His curiosity is too strong to resist, judging by the sensation tingling in my veins. The energy I took from him resonates through me like the hum of his car—the purr of a kitten vibrating the hand that strokes it.
“Depends.” I admire the honey blonde hair fanned out across the black shag.
“On the substance.”
He glances down. “Meth, most likely.”
One of his black brows arches up his forehead. “What do you use?”
“More naturally-occurring substances.” I flash a smile at him.
“We’ve plenty to choose from. Would it help you relax?”
I roll my shoulders, not certain if the movement is a shrug or a dismissive gesture. “Yes, it would. But it won’t help me do my job.” I walk over and settle onto the couch next to Jhez, who rolls her eyes and jerks her head in the direction of the couch opposite us.
Two vampires, sharing a nibble. Each time they draw a tendril of energy from the young man between them, his body twitches involuntarily. I twist around, stretching out on the couch to rest my head in my sister’s lap. There’s something about watching them feed that unsettles me. Especially when their victim has no clue how to manage the torrential level of sensations coursing through his body. Immature. Amateur. Grotesque, after so many years.
Don’t forget to leave a comment with your email address to enter the drawings! Look for the next excerpt that picks up where this one leaves off, tomorrow on Louisia Bacio’s blog (http://louisabacio.blogspot.com). Or, if you can’t wait, get your own copy of “Blacker Than Black” over here at Riptide.
For more info on Rhi’s writings:
Email address: RhiAnon.Etzweiler@gmail.com
Facebook Profile: here
Goodreads Profile: here
Amazon Author Page: here
Google+ Profile: here
Get “Dark Edge of Honor” here