Jana Denardo has a new bi paranormal book out with a romantic arc: Blood Red Roulette.
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.
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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.
For years, I’ve been drawn to the characters with the tragic backstory. I can’t say why with any certainty. It’s not my life story growing up hard, that I can say and yet these characters resonate with me. However, I haven’t written about being raised by an abusive homophobe before.
Luc allowed me to explore some of the darkness children unfortunate enough to be born into such a family are exposed to. The damage that happens is real, and that was something I wanted to capture with Luc. I didn’t want him to be immediately ‘better’ the moment he starts a relationship with Arrigo. That would be fairly unrealistic. Luc is fundamentally broken by his upbringing. It will take time to heal.
Luc’s father is abusive to both his sons but in different ways. Henri, Luc’s elder brother, took this harshness and made it part of himself, growing into something even more insidious than their father. Luc learned to keep his head down, to go along to get along. He tried to make himself small, unnoticeable, and in the process lost himself.
In spite of his Catholic upbringing being important to him, Luc found no allies there growing up in the deeply conservative South. By the time his path crosses Arrigo’s, he’s so shy and full of doubt and fear, he’s unable to believe Arrigo would be so willing to help a stranger. Even though he understands he’s bisexual, he’s only explored it a handful of times. He’s not had a significant relationship with either sex out of fear of what his family might do to a partner.
Luc doesn’t know how to reach out for help. He’s distrustful when help is offered. He expects it to be a trap. He can’t see himself as someone worthy of being loved. He considers himself as stupid rather than uneducated, though the latter is true. He can’t even begin to imagine what Arrigo could see in him as a friend, let alone a lover. He spends the beginning of the relationship utterly flummoxed and only slowly opens himself to the possibilities.
Luc’s healing journey was one of the hardest parts of the novel to balance. His fears and pessimism could easily make him a character hard to sympathize with. Psychologically people with Luc’s issues can be difficult, but on the other hand I didn’t want him to make a huge personality change the moment love finds him. It’s a process and I hope it’s one the readers will connect to.
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.
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