I’m not hunting him; I’m protecting him.
At least, that’s what I tell myself.
In New York City, a beautiful creature like Tristan Clement should not be walking the streets alone, and I’m the perfect vampire to watch his back.
But what if keeping him safe isn’t enough anymore? What if I want to touch? And taste?
I need him. But I’ve never needed anyone.
In a world where paranormal creatures live amongst us and must follow certain laws, living life as a dangerous loner works for vampire Ethan. Inhabiting his gleaming apartment, wearing his designer suits, jetting around the world as a fanged killer-for-hire, Ethan does it all alone.
That is, until he literally runs into Tristan. Tristan, who is clearly trouble wrapped in skinny jeans and an oversized sweater. Tristan, with his shock of angelic blond curls. Tristan, who plays piano more beautifully than the old masters– and Ethan would know; he saw Beethoven.
Tristan is gorgeous, a little sassy, and irresistible. Also, Ethan is horrified to note, Tristan has no idea how incredibly tempting he is to things that go bump in the night.
Overcome by the urge to keep Tristan safe, Ethan begins to… well, stalk is such a strong word. What starts as an obsession quickly becomes something more, something that Ethan needs. And to his surprise, Tristan seems to need him, too…
I feel an itch on the back of my neck so glance behind me, and indeed, there he is, the blond kid from yesterday. I must have caught him staring, because as soon as I turn to look, he ducks his head and goes back to reading.
I shouldn’t approach him. Granted, he’s stunning. Most vampires would love to get their hands on his bare skin, but I’m not one for picking up humans outside of blood clubs. I’m cautious. Vampires can get in a lot of trouble for biting a human without consent. Like sentenced-to-death trouble. The humans at blood clubs know what they’re getting into. This guy? He looks like a puppy in need of a cuddle. He has no idea what a vampire could do to him.
Maybe some reconnaissance is in order. Just to, you know, make sure he’s all right after yesterday’s altercation.
I’m lying to myself. This isn’t a protective detail in Serbia, this is me away from combat too long and bored in New York.
He sits at one of the heavy wooden tables with the lid off his cup. His hair hangs halfway over his forehead, tilted down over a paperback, but I can still see his mouth, the way he chews his bottom lip, making it pinker, fuller.
I walk right up to his table. I don’t wait for him to look up. I don’t wait for an invitation. I just sit.
He startles at my arrival. His eyes widen and stare at me.
“Who are you?” I ask. I’ve always been really good at openings.
“Uhh.” His forehead wrinkles.
I drum my fingertips on the table. “I’ve never seen you in here before.”
“You saw me yesterday.” He folds the top corner of a page in his paperback: Dracula by Bram Stoker. “You saved my ass yesterday.”
“Before yesterday,” I reply.
He sighs. “A Starbuck’s bought out my favorite coffee shop, so I guess this is now my favorite coffee shop. Buy local.” He scoops his messenger bag off the floor and shoves the book inside.
The kid has one of those runway model faces—gaunt if not so beautiful, sharp and yet soft. Freckles? Zero. Wait, no, he’s got just a smattering that you would only notice close-up … or with well-trained vampiric eyes. He has no shadow of recently shaved facial hair, and that’s no surprise based on the white-blond of his hair. He must moisturize those lips because nobody’s mouth just naturally looks like the perfect mixture of velvet and silk.
He sighs again, louder. “You’re staring at me.”
No, I’m studying him—checking out his vulnerable areas, which are pretty much everywhere considering he’s so thin and fragile-looking.
As for everyone else in the coffee shop, they’re looking at the kid like they want to take him to bed. I catch a girl at the next table over gawking. A big dude with a beard stands in line to our right, his mouth hanging half open as he admires.
“Everyone is staring at you,” I respond.
His pale cheeks burn bright red as he swoops his bag onto his shoulder and stands. “No, that’s …” He shakes his head. “Ha, no.” He doesn’t say goodbye. He even leaves his coffee, half-consumed on the table. He up and abandons me without a word, but I do watch him go—as does half of Inky Grounds.
Once he disappears out into the early October morning, I turn back around and stare at his deserted coffee. Granted, I’m not smooth—I get it—but he didn’t have to run out like that. I just wanted to see that he was safe. Shit, I don’t even know his name.
*This darkly romantic tale delivers steamy passion and a happily ever after. Be advised that Handsome Death includes explicit m/m content, stalking, mentions of past abuse, and graphic violence.*
I started Handsome Death smiling and I think I stayed that way for most of the book. Sara Dobie Bauer writes a delightful vampire in Ethan. A man who does not quite know what to do when an angel falls into his lap (laugh).
I also love the humor that Tristan brings to the situation as he does not know what to do with the big brooding giant he has suddenly acquired. I love it and them. Bauer keeps the chemistry hot and then throws in drama from some unexpected sources. There was a moment or two of heart-stopping moments, but as is revealed above (I did not reveal it (laugh)) there is a happily ever after at the best time of the year. Which by the way is hilarious for an ending for an unlikely couple and aptly displays why this couple works.
Bauer gives us intense emotions, hot sex, and some more hot sex. Handsome Death is sooooo worth the read.
I received an ARC of this book and I am writing a review without prejudice and voluntarily.
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Publisher: Carnation Books, 2020
Settings: New York
Pages: 257; Sex: Rated R
Promotion materials provided by Gay Book Promotions.