“A nurse is the Lord’s fiercest angel.”
—Sorcha Alden, New York 1935
–Still true, New Jersey 2020
chicory, humidity, decadence
A lone soldier on night watch. A single bullet through the heart. Every light in Paris flickers—the city’s thundering silent scream.
When Commander Raimond Banitierre was assassinated, French Revolutionaries lost their gallant leader. After a villain’s offer of eternal life condemned him to slavery, Raimond rebelled again, driving his vampire comrades to freedom.
Raimond escapes to Savannah, Georgia where his dream of becoming a doctor comes true. During his trial-by-fire residency on the Civil War’s battlefields, he discovers his true calling—the power to preserve memories and dignity in the face of death. His chance meeting with a beguiling mortal nurse ignites passionate nights and a long overdue crack in the door to paradise.
Vicious flames and an unholy miscalculation deliver Raimond back to the depths of hell. Being arrested for treason makes him wish for death and the arrival of Prince Draven Norman appears to be the final nail in Raimond’s coffin. Will the prince’s eccentric judgement grant Raimond a true reprieve? Is Draven’s invitation to join New Orleans mystical royalty an extension of his own treachery, or the next step in Raimond’s miraculous journey?
Has the legendary Crescent City found a spirit noble enough to protect her future?
Driven by tragedy to honor her family name, Sorcha embarks on a journey that takes her from the bleak but familiar streets of New York, through the sultry and seductive city of New Orleans, and into the brutal jungles of Nepal. Forging friendships and carrying on her mother’s mission of healing was her dream. Plunging into a love affair with the mysterious Dr. Ashayle, could have been a fairytale.
Being murdered and waking up as a blood-thirsty monster—became her living nightmare.
Torn away from a life that had just begun, Sorcha returns to New Orleans as a newborn vampire, forced to start over in a cutthroat underworld of devilry and decadence. Complicated politics, bitter rivals and jealous ancestors stand between her and the promises she’s still determined to keep.
In a realm where the boundary between good and evil is as murky as the Mississippi River and immortal does not mean invincible, will Sorcha ever risk her shattered heart and love again? Can the magical harmony of the Crescent City give her enough courage to fulfill her eternal destiny?
Sorcha’s final word will make your jaw drop!
June 17, 1970
On the Eve of Graduation…
Thunderclouds raced east, leaving the Augusta air sparkling and ready for the biggest weekend of the year. Clear horizons sparked the campus bustle back to life as the noise of saws and hammers bounced off stately columns and rang past ancient oaks.
In a cluttered dormitory room a mile away, Stori shoved moving boxes around enough to find the corner of a mirror to check the hemline of her brightly flowered dress. “Stellar.”
“Too short.” A voice squawked from the corner.
Stori yanked the fabric lower. “It’s fine.”
“Nope, nope. Too short.”
“Jett, zip your beak.” Stori waved him off. “Tomorrow will be all high heels and graduation gowns, but tonight is the senior class party.”
“Shush, the storms are over.” She rummaged through a pile of paperwork on the nightstand. “I hope.”
“Need coffee.” Jett flapped his bright blue wings. “Storytime!”
“I have to deliver this stuff to the office before they close. Are you going to be quiet?”
“No, hell, no.”
Stori’s shoulders slumped. “Then get in the cage.” She opened a miniature bamboo door. “Now, bird.”
Stori held papers in her teeth and hauled Jett’s bulky cage to the car.
“I’m in jail.”
“You deserve it.” She wrestled the antique into the passenger seat and climbed in next to it. Ten minutes of majestic curves on gravels roads brought them to a rolling stop under the shade of a massive tree. “I wish you wouldn’t yell bonjour at every person you see.”
“Perfect manners.” Jett preened himself in the side view mirror. “Junky car.”
“It was a gift from my uncle.”
“Stuffy in here.”
“Quit complaining.” Stori gathered up her documents and jumped out. “I’ll be right back.”
“You little demon.” Stori pointed at Jett’s beak. “Who taught you to say that? Never mind.” She crossed her arms. “I’ll take it up with Uncle Steven tomorrow night. Why couldn’t he teach you to sing like all the other birds?”
“Parakeet, pretty please.” Jett leaned back and screeched. “Ha, ha!”
Stori walked backward and held up two fingers in the shape of a V.
“No peace. Ha, ha!”
She spun, drew a cleansing breath and smoothed her skirt before stepping into the oldest building on campus.
The receptionist peered over her glasses and broke into a wide grin. “Miss Stori, is your ear-piercing bird in the parking lot?”
“Unfortunately,” She rubbed her forehead. “That’s Jett, howling like he’s escaped from an asylum.”
“With the door shut, I almost can’t hear him and I do believe congratulations are in order. I always knew you’d graduate…but at the top of your class?”
“Sister Gilda, four years ago, you didn’t think I’d last a week.”
“Well, you were just so young even for a legacy student, but I didn’t mean…”
“No, no.” Stori waved both hands in front of her face. “You were right. I was so young, wasn’t I?”
“We all were, once upon a time.” Gilda sighed and pointed to the papers. “Are those for me?”
“My name change.” Stori tried to flatten the documents and gave up. “All legal and finalized.”
“And you’re positive about giving up your father’s name?”
“I am. His side of the family is in ashes…he started the fire.” Stori swiped a tear with the back of her hand. “But my mother and grandfather will be at the ceremony. They’re both Aldens and they’ll be thrilled, so I want to make sure it’s correct—”
“Don’t you worry, dear. Tomorrow night, the Medical College of Georgia’s president will announce you as Doctor Stori B Alden.”
“And then I walk across the stage?”
“That’s how it works, dear. Give me a moment to put this in order.”
Stori pressed her trembling hands into her skirt and wandered to the soaring wall of pictures. She read the name of each honored alumni, from the most recent years on lowest row, all the way to the top. She tipped her head back to read the plaque below the highest centered photograph and waved at a familiar face in the ornate silver frame.
“Wish I’d had the chance to meet him.”
Stori jumped and grabbed her chest. “I’m sorry, my nerves.”
“I’ll say.” Gilda shook her head and pointed to the picture. “I just meant, a very distinguished gentleman.”
“He’s my legacy connection here. The B in my name is in his honor.”
“Wait.” Gilda craned her neck to look in Stori’s face. “You’re related to him…the legendary battlefield surgeon?”
Stori nodded. “Raimond Baniterre.”
“Honestly, I don’t say this often. Or ever.” Gilda flopped on a bench in front of the pictures. “You’ve knocked me off my feet.”
Stori settled down next to her. “I’ve never said it out loud.”
“The secret is safe with me.” Gilda tapped her chin. “The residency you accepted? That’s the busiest Emergency Room in the country.”
“It’s New Orleans, so…probably destiny. This time next week, I’ll be in St. Louis Cathedral, lighting candles for the all the souls we’ve lost.”
“That’s your dream job…Emergency Medicine?”
“I’ll tell you another secret. My true passion has become defeating Alzheimer’s Disease. I won’t be a bystander while an invisible monster steals life and dignity from my patients.”
“Chasing the cruelest enemy.” Gilda smiled and stared at Dr. Banitierre’s picture. “You’ll make him and all of us proud.”
Minutes passed in heavy silence until Jett’s distant voice broke the trance.
“I hear bonjour and coffee.” Gilda covered her mouth to hide a laugh. “What else is he saying?”
“Storytime.” Stori tossed her hands up. “What am I going to do with that fool during graduation?”
“Drop him off in my office. He’ll be safe and far enough away that nobody will hear him—much.”
“Thank you, for everything.”
“Give the poor bird credit though, he’s got a stroke of genius.” Gilda squeezed her hand. “It’s Stori time.”
Doctor Raimond Banitierre, thank you for joining us today. Might you tell us a little bit about your story?
Bonjour Holly, it’s a pleasure to meet you…and please, just call me Raimond.
Not Commander Banitierre?
I see you’ve done some impressive research! Yes, I held that title once…in a different lifetime. But, it’s much too formal for today.
Is there anything you would want changed if your Author asked you?
I wish Anne Marie wouldn’t tell people about all my slip-ups. I admit, I ripped people’s heads off and put them back on the wrong bodies…one time, in a moment of regrettable revenge. I may have been born in the 1700’s, but even I’ve heard of accident forgiveness.
How would you describe Anne Marie?
Private, quietly emotional and passionate about the dignity of elderly people and their treasure trove of memories. We have that in common.
Do you feel like she portrayed you correctly?
Most vampires don’t aspire to be doctors…there are much easier choices of profession. Anne Marie gives me credit for that sacrifice every chance she gets, though calling me a saint in spite of all my missteps may be…more than I deserve.
How about others in the story. Do you feel she did well with them?
Anne Marie portrayed my heiress Julia, and my children Lily and Steven perfectly…especially Steven. He’s like the son I never had, with talents far beyond what outsiders see.
If we’re being totally honest though, she needs to reveal my friend Prince Draven Norman as a more compassionate man, vampire…whatever. He may act like an arrogant and flawed jerk…often…but underneath all of that is an incredible soul.
Oh, and one more person—Ivori Journé has taken her knack for blending into the background and elevated it to an art form. The truth is, she’s a New Orleans voodoo starlet and powerhouse in the making. Never underestimate her. Never
You might be wondering why I’m wearing this scarf so tight. It’s not that I don’t trust you…
No worries, I’m on my best gentleman’s behavior today.
Okay, I feel better now. So, in the saga of Monsters & Angels, who created you?
The villain Faison, as a slave to bring him victims.
Are you still connected?
I killed him. So, hell no.
Was there a reason for your creation?
It was a trick and power grab. Faison wanted to rule Paris. It backfired on him, badly.
Where are you from initially?
I was born in the French Alps. I’ve since discovered that I’m descended from one of the few gladiators to earn Roman citizenship.
Were you happy or angry about the transition from human to bloodsuc—I mean vampire?
I was furious for decades. Finally, I fought back and won independence for myself and my family. But freedom is rarely free. It was a bitter lesson in reality.
I like to think I’ve made the most of my second chance at…existence.
Favorite blood type?
AB-negative, but when I’m hungry, I’m not picky.
Favorite place to dine? Just in case some of us might want to avoid any late-night forays there in the future.
In New Orleans, the Rex Room at Antoine’s Restaurant. But please, don’t skip Antoine’s on my account…it’s a New Orleans must-visit. Especially if you enjoy Oysters Rockefeller.
Have you seen any more stories in the recesses of Anne Marie’s mind?
That girl has way too many stories in her head. A murder mystery at the Jersey Shore, a tale set in a mysterious Rhode Island mansion and a few more books in the Monsters & Angels Series.
Do you get to play a part in any of them?
I’ve never been to New Jersey…not yet anyway. But in Monsters & Angels, of course. I’m as much a part of New Orleans as the city is a part of me.
You’re no stranger to darkness, but what’s Anne Marie’s darkest secret?
She shows a very tough exterior, downright icy and intimidating at times…that is, until you get to know her. Don’t get me wrong, Anne Marie is no wimp, but she’s much more sensitive that she reveals.
If she makes you mad, you could just bite her when she’s sleeping, you know.
What makes you think I haven’t? Besides, she may be a bit annoyed with me for spilling that particular secret. I’d better text her before this goes to print.
I’ve heard that you go all-out celebrating the holidays.
Christmas is my favorite season, but tonight’s festival is incredibly special too—the longest night of the year. You’re welcome to join our celebration of night’s glory. I’m sure Anne Marie would love to meet you. Who knows, you could be the inspiration for her next main character.
Thank you so much for your time, Doctor Raimond, and I think I’ll take you up on that offer!
Bienvenue, Mademoiselle Holly.
Read the original interview at JB’s Bookworms with Brandy Mulder! A special thank you to JB’s for inspiring these questions/answers and for participating in Raimond’s blog tour!