For The Bite Of It by Viki Lyn and Vina Grey
Blurb: Vincent Esposito is an exiled vampire running a cupcake bakery in Arizona. When a car with a dead driver crashes through the wall of his shop, it also brings All-American, closeted cop, John Reeder into his life. Smitten the instant he sees John, Vincent must battle his attraction to the sexy detective. Bound to silence by the Vampire Council, he can never reveal his true self to John.
John Reeder cannot control his attraction to the sexy Italian baker. But as addictive as the sex is, can John overcome his fear of rejection for being gay and open his heart to a man with so many secrets?
The front half of a silver sedan decorated his bakery, its nose nudging the counter, glass shards peppering the floor like confetti.
Except Vincent Esposito wasn’t celebrating.
As he stepped around the vehicle, glass crunched under his clogs despite his walking-on-hot-coals strut. The car had nose-dived into his store about an hour ago. His landlord, Mr. Sala, sat slumped between his seat and air bag, dead. The situation had all the makings of a B-grade movie you watched at three in the morning to cure insomnia.
“Sir, you can’t come into the crime scene,” stated a tech in blue overalls.
The entire bakery was a crime scene now? That was fine for them but he wasn’t leaving his shop.
He pressed his thumbs to his eyes. All these humans made him nervous as a caged bird with a cat tapping on the bars. A sure sign that he should have fed by now. It had been a long three weeks without blood.
“Sir, you need to step back.” Another uniformed policeman held out his hand to stop Vince. The place was crawling with them.
Vince took a deep, calming breath and turned to the male cop who appeared to be in charge, the one with the gravelly deep voice and sleek dark pants that molded an ass begging to be stroked.
This is what came of abstinence. Lusting after just anyone.
“We’d like to ask you some questions.”
Vince glanced at the detective’s female partner. Too bad. He would have liked to have been interrogated by two men.
“Sure. Er…where do you want me?”
I could you take you anywhere. Anytime.
Ouch, there he went again, thinking flippant remarks, his trademark when dealing with stress. It had been way too long since an attractive man entered his life.
This All-American cop was unexpected, enticing. He brought back memories of the thrill of the chase, that enticing two-step when attraction first hit.
“Let’s go outside. It’s a mess in here.” The man with the begging-to-be-held ass narrowed his eyes. “Unless you want to come back to the station.”
He was not leaving his shop in this mess. “Outside is fine.” Who knew when he’d been forced to own a cupcake bakery he would become so proprietary? Sometimes you couldn’t predict life’s twists and turns.
He followed them out to the square patch of cement with its cast-iron café seating. Thank God, it was still shaded from the near-scorching Arizona sun because sweat already trickled down Vince’s back. It added to that scratchy feeling all over his body that usually came with the abstinence from blood. His experiment of trying rare meat and avoiding sinking his fangs into a person wasn’t going all that well.
“I’m Detective Reeder, this is Detective Norman.” The cop indicated his partner with a flip of his hand.
Vince sat on a hard metal chair.
J. Reeder, read the detective’s badge. What did the J stand for? Something all-American to go with the guy’s clean-cut looks—Jake, John, Joe?
“I would offer you coffee and a cupcake, but…” Vince shrugged.
Detective Norman grinned at him. “Glad you can’t…diet, you see.”
Ah, the eternal quest for the perfect body. Not that she had much body fat, more stocky and muscular than flabby. Both detectives were in decent shape and didn’t look like they spent time at the local donut shop.
Especially Detective J. Reeder.
Why hadn’t they sent a portly policeman with a beer-gut and bad hair? This cop had started to give Vince a serious itch in his nether regions.
“Tell us your account of what happened this morning.” Detective Reeder was all brisk business, his notebook at the ready.
Vince almost expected him to lick his pencil nib. “I was in the kitchen when I heard the crash. I ran into the front of the bakery and saw that.” He jerked his thumb toward the shattered plate glass window.
“Then what did you do?”
“Do? Like any bloody civic-minded citizen, I went to help Mr. Sala. But he didn’t respond. I then called 911.”
“So you know the driver?”
“Dio, yes. He’s my landlord.”
Detective Reeder scratched furiously in his notebook at the mention of his landlord. Fascinated Vince eyed the numerous yellow sticky notes and the pages in imminent danger of falling out. “Was he coming here to meet you?”
He forced his gaze back to Reeder’s face. “Not that I was aware of, although he stopped in occasionally for a cup of coffee.”
“Could he have been meeting someone else here? Was the store open?” Detective Norman queried.
Vince shook his head. “Too early. I was the only one in the shop.”
J. Reeder looked up from his notebook and stabbed him with a piercing blue gaze. “Are you usually here this early?
Why did they have to be blue? Vince had a weakness for baby-blues in a man’s face. If he believed his friend Angelo, a sexual distraction was exactly what he needed at the moment. A good fuck.
Whoa…when had he gone from nice eyes to fucking?
Vince cleared his throat and his mind of dirty thoughts. “Yes, this is what I do. Every day.”
He gave them a brief version of his morning routine. Open the kitchen at four in the morning, bake cupcakes till about eight, then start on the special orders which were picked up after twelve. The bakery was closed to walk-in business at two but customers could collect their cupcakes until four. Then prep for the next day. In between those tasks, he tried not to think about needing blood, his home and family or all that he had lost in the last year.
Santo dio, was that his life he was talking about? As boring as watching dough rise. Well, he did fantasize about finding a mate. A man who could take him, baggage and all.
“So this morning was no different?” J. Reeder’s record seemed to be on stuck.
He ran an interested gaze over the cop. He was not his usual type—too clean-cut, too…athletic. So why did his balls tighten, his hands itch to reach out? Something about the man’s wide-set eyes with its direct gaze, guileless almost, and his full lower lip, had parts of Vincent dancing to attention. And his shoulders bordered a half-mile stretch of prime male chest between them.
Vince commanded himself to focus. Did he or did he not want these humans out of his shop? Besides, nothing about the cop said he would welcome another man’s attention.
“This morning was no different,” Vince agreed. Then prompted by the little devil on his shoulder activating his sex drive, he asked. “What’s your name, by the way? Your first name?”
The detective stiffened, his body pressing back into the black rail of the café chair. His instinctive withdrawal may not be apparent to the casual onlooker, but to a gay man, the message came across loud and clear. Back off, I’m straight and people like you make me want to vomit.
Cazzo, he could certainly pick them.
Reeder’s brows shot up his forehead. “That’s Detective Reeder to you.”
“Okay, Detective Reeder.” Vince drawled out his title and caught the flash of irritation in those eyes, quick as a bee-sting. “It’s like I told you. I didn’t see the crash happen. Just the aftermath.”
Thank goodness there had been no blood or it would have been difficult to call the police. Because he hadn’t fed in weeks, a pool of blood would have been like waving raw meat at a tiger.
"Some aftermath,” Detective Norman remarked. “By the way, you can call me Free.” Her eyes crinkled at the corners in that I’m-amused-but-won’t-laugh.
“Interesting name. What’s it short for?”
“Oh no, we’re not going there. May I call you Vincent?”
“Vince, Vincent. Either is fine. ” He smiled at her, and her answering grin gave her rather ordinary face a gamine charm.
However, it did nothing for him sexually. He was simply being himself. His siblings said flirting was hard-wired into his DNA.
J. Reeder scowled. “Okay, Mr. Esposito. Let’s get back to this morning.”
Cazzo. He tugged his attention back to the cop with the one-track mind. Fine. He just had to convince them he had nothing to do with the accident. The sooner Mr. Detective took his sexy ass back to his station the better for Vince.
“Did you hear anything?” Reeder demanded, irritation giving his tone a sharp edge.
Was he serious?
“Of course I heard something. A car going through a window isn’t exactly silent.”
Free let out a small sound that turned into a cough.
Detective Reeder’s eyes flashed with annoyance. “I meant before the crash.”
“Ah, I see. Squealing of brakes perhaps? No, the morning was unremarkably quiet.” But then again he did have his head stuck in the oven as he took out a tray of cupcakes. In fact, he hadn’t even sensed anything. Faint as his powers were these days, he should have still felt a premonition. He’d have to talk to Angelo about that. Damn the rules under which he was forced to live. Exile was all well and good but did they have to take away most of his powers, leaving him a shell of himself?
The detective flexed his shoulders back and his pecs moved under the grey polo shirt in a way that made Vince want to test their firmness. He curled his hands into his pink, icing-spattered apron and realized he hadn’t removed it. What a great picture he must present.
“Look here, Esposito—”
“Call me Vince.” He may as well enjoy baiting Reeder if he couldn’t get rid of him. Or fuck him.
“I need your cooperation or I’m taking you to the station. Got that?”
What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Suddenly, Vince wanted them all gone. He wanted a long, cold shower to wash away his attraction to Detective Clean-Cut Reeder. Maybe some soap and a firm hand would alleviate some of the pressure. He wondered if the detective had a firm grip.