Texas Hold 'Em

Chance Lee can't catch a break.

The former vampire slayer has retired from the monster slaying business and settled into a normal life -- or what passes for it when you're dating both a vampire and a werewolf. But soon he receives an alarming phone call.

The same thousand-year-old vampire who killed Chance's friends and burned down his house now has kidnapped his mother. Chance has no choice but to jump back into the game and race to Texas to save what's left of his family.

The stakes are high and the odds are against him, but when Chance plays his hand, he just might have an ace or two in the hole.

A Sample from Chapter 1...

I was trapped in my apartment with a vampire, the same type of creature that had killed my friends and burned down my house.

Vampires are efficient killers. They’re supernaturally strong, with amazing regenerative powers, lightning-fast reflexes, and preternatural senses. In close quarters the chances of surviving an encounter with one are next to nothing, and these were definitely close quarters.

My pulse quickened. I knew I should do something, but I couldn’t bring myself to act. Normally I was unaffected by the mind control vampires possessed. That anomaly helped me in my vocation: until last week, I was a vampire hunter.

This one held me captive, frozen in its gaze. Her name was Megan, and she stood in my kitchen, hip cocked, watching me with raised brows. In one hand she held a bottle of French red wine; from the other dangled a potted fern.

But Megan happened to be a really cute vampire, and the hammering in my chest had less to do with being confronted by a monster than with being very close to an overdressed, vertically challenged, blue-eyed brunette who had just cleared her throat for what might have been the second time.

I shouldn’t be nervous. After all, I had invited her in knowing full well there would be repercussions. Now here we were, alone together, and it was a little late to be having second thoughts.

A week ago my state of apprehension would have been the result of an entirely different range of emotions. But I was still hunting vampires then. They were creatures I killed with little thought and no remorse. That changed with my last job. I had been living in Austin, putting myself through school and moonlighting as a vampire hunter. But then the beasts killed my friends, assaulted my family, and turned their attention to me. So I fled here to Northern California, under the pretense of taking what I thought was an easy job. I hoped to lie low until things cooled off.

As it turned out, the work was anything but easy, and I most certainly did not escape vampires. But this time it was different: they were on my side. Mostly. And the one currently wearing a slinky black dress and a mischievous grin had actually saved my life.

My eyes drifted downwards, roving from the criminally pretty face to the sinful lines of her flawless body. Now I was anticipating an entirely different type of encounter with the creature in front of me.

I gulped at the thought, and then frowned as my gaze found a silver chain around her neck. It was new, or at least something I hadn’t seen her wear before. A small cross hung from it. I wasn’t sure if she believed, or just wore it for the irony. We had entered a church recently to exorcise a host of demons. It was the first time she’d been in one in decades. Maybe it affected her.

“Well?” Megan asked, stopping a foot in front of me. She raised each hand an inch and wiggled them a bit to emphasize the housewarming gifts she had been holding since she came in.

“Huh?” My eyes snapped back to hers.

“Never mind!” Exasperated, she turned and put the plant down next to the full grocery bags that had been sitting on the counter since I got back from the store a couple of hours ago.

Still holding the bottle of wine, Megan started searching through the apartment’s kitchen. She muttered as she opened cupboard after cupboard to find them all bare. My brother Bryan and I had moved into the place that afternoon, and it still lacked the basic necessities.

Bryan expected to be staying in California for the foreseeable future. As for me, now that my vampire hunting days were finished, I planned on switching to a career that wouldn’t guarantee me an untimely death. So I decided to concentrate on completing school. I was scheduled to start my senior year at the University of Texas in a couple of days.

Granted, I was majoring in physical education, so the eventual outcome was only slightly less bleak than vampire hunting, but I hoped that the degree would at least land me something better than my current part-time job as assistant manager at Game Shack. Heck, maybe with a degree and a little perseverance I could make full manager someday.

Vampire hunting didn’t exactly pay the bills; it was more of a hobby born out of the need for revenge. Strangely, I found the need was gone now, and I was anxious to fill the void it left. The Texas vampires were still out there—the ones that killed my team. But I was hoping their issues with me had ended when they killed my mentor Robert. After all, he’d been the one they were after. The rest of us had been collateral damage. Maybe I would be the one they let get away.

I knew it was unlikely. Vampires, particularly the ones who had their sights on me, seemed to have memories as long as their lives. At some point I would have to deal with them. But until then, maybe I could move on with a nice normal life and forget about vampires and the assorted other things that go bump in the night.

At least, I could as soon as I figured out what to do with the one rummaging through my kitchen. Considering I had invited her into my place, it would be bad manners for me to stake her. Besides, that certainly wasn’t what I wanted to do with her. But I was anxious. Up until recently, all I had done was kill vampires. I wasn’t used to the idea of having a relationship with one.

I watched as she gave up on the cupboards and began rifling through the grocery bags on the counter.

Bryan and I had picked up a few essentials earlier in the day, then Megan’s roommate Lacey had called as we walked in the door. She needed help cleaning up their house. I didn’t mind. It was kind of my fault their place got trashed in the first place.

Besides, Bryan had a thing for her, despite the fact that she was way out of his league. My brother was out the door before he had hung up the phone. The timing of the call made me wonder, though. Lacey would have known Megan was coming over, and certainly wasn’t above a little ruse to clear Bryan out of the apartment and give Megan and me some alone time.

“How long have these been sitting here?” Megan asked, setting the bottle of wine down and taking some perishables out of the bags to put them in the small apartment fridge.

“Um, a few hours?” I had been so preoccupied thinking about the events of the past week and what was going to happen between Megan and me tonight that I had completely forgotten about them.

“You’re as bad as Lacey. That girl never puts anything away, unless you count dumping everything in a pile on the kitchen table, which I don’t. I wouldn’t mind as much if I actually ate any of it,” she said over her shoulder as she organized the items in the fridge.

I wondered if she’d eaten yet. I hoped so, because—as she’d pointed out—she couldn’t exactly eat any of the groceries in the house, which pretty much left just me.

“Bryan’s the same way. I don’t think anyone has actually seen the floor of his room in years.”

Megan laughed, then quickly turned her head to look at me, her brows drawn in a small frown. She had a tendency toward dramatic switches in focus.

“Nervous?” she asked, in a tone that made it obvious she knew the answer.

“Why would I be?” I shifted my weight to the other foot and tried to play it cool. I don’t think I succeeded.

“I have no idea,” Megan said in mock surprise, abandoning the groceries to walk up to me. “I can hear your heartbeat, you know.”

“You can?” I resisted the urge to take a step back. Instead, I held steady as she got right up in my personal space. She was only five feet tall, and even wearing four-inch heels, she was still a half-foot shorter than I was.

“When I’m this close, yes.” She reached out and placed a gentle hand on my chest as she came closer, slowly closing the gap until her hand was all that was between us. “It’s beating fast.”

“Huh, weird.” I cleared my throat, the croak in my voice betraying my attempt to sound nonchalant.

“You know what they say...” Her hand moved to undo the top button of my shirt. When her fingers brushed against my skin they were soft and cool. “...when you’re nervous, all you have to do is imagine your audience naked.”

I took her advice as she undid the next button, but it didn’t help at all.

“Well, that didn’t seem to work,” she said, coming to the same conclusion. She gave a mock pout while she undid another button. “Maybe that’s only for speeches? Or it could be you’re not trying hard enough. Here, this might help.” She took a step back, reached behind her and unzipped her dress. Next, she hooked a shoulder strap with each thumb and pulled outward, releasing them to let the dress slide down her body and drop to the floor.

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Texas Hold 'Em by Patrick Kampman

Texas Hold 'Em

by Patrick Kampman

Giveaway ends October 16, 2012.

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