Angels of Istanbul
By Alex Beecroft
Wallachian nobleman Radu is recently arrived in Bucharest with his vampire parents. Welcomed as an eligible bachelor, he’s introduced to the enchantress Ecaterina, whose salon is Bucharest’s centre of magical expertise.
But when Ecaterina’s brother dies of a mysterious new plague, it’s clear to Radu that his parents have not been idle. Soon Bucharest is in the grip of an undead epidemic—a less than ideal time for Ottoman Sultan Mahmud, Wallachia’s overlord, to call Bucharest’s nobility to assemble their armies in Istanbul for a holy war against Britain.
The Wallachians have long resented their Ottoman overlords, so Radu seizes the chance to eliminate them while also ridding Bucharest of the undead: he leads an army of vampires to Istanbul and sets them to feed on the Turks.
As Radu’s demons gut the city of Istanbul, their plans become horribly clear. This is only the start. With the Ottoman armies under their control, the undead are poised to suck the life out of the whole world. Radu, his lover Frank, and Ecaterina are appalled at what they’ve unleashed. But they may be too late to stop it.
Chapter OneWallachia - 1742
As Bucharest’s river Dâmbovița was not navigable even by rafts in the summer, they left the boats at Râmnicu Vâlcea and transferred luggage and demonic passengers into a wagon. Frank was impressed to find that the Văcărescus maintained a town house in this large market town, where a carriage only fifty years out of date waited in a stable block, and servants and horses alike couldn’t quite conceal how astonished they were to be called on for service.
On no occasion during the manhandling of the coffins—now nailed together and disguised as a strangely shaped wardrobe—from barge to town house to cart, did Frank think how easily they might be dropped, broken open, have their dirty secret revealed like a more supernatural version of his own disgrace. These thoughts only came to him at night, when Constantin or Alaya or both climbed effortlessly aboard the moving carriage, wiping their mouths. Then he would remember he had meant to find some way of killing them when they were in the soil and defenceless. He suspected they only allowed him to think it then because it amused them to let him know he was their puppet. But he said nothing, and Alaya smiled sweetly at him, while Radu hunched on his seat like a raptor shivering on a snowy branch and looked at no one.
They took the journey easily, stopping at the inns of post that lined the roads at regular distances. These ranged from posthouses London could be proud of—beautiful white plaster buildings with airy courtyards and polished floors—to small houses with a single dormitory and straw pallets on scuffed planks.
They would draw up to one of these just after dark, have the vehicles taken to the stables. The servants—Mirela among them still, at Radu’s command—would disappear to take clothes to rooms, prepare fires, and eat their own dinner in the kitchen. Frank and the family would gather for rough, peasant stew and mămăligă—a savoury yellow maize paste that seemed ubiquitous as bread. Then he and Radu would drink a glass of wine and talk about history and pride, politics, and regrets.
At some point in this ritual they would look up and find that the strigoi were no longer there. Then the conversation would falter a little as they both tried not to think about what that meant, who they might find dead in the morning. It was worse, Frank thought on these nights, surprised, to bring the demons to little townships that had not had three hundred years of experience with them. Here death would come with horror instead of resignation. Radu’s reluctance to take the creatures out of their native setting seemed wiser now, less like a petty child saying no just because he could.
When they could get a private room, they wedged the door shut from the inside and slept together, because Frank was a new man now and had decided that his time of mourning was behind him, and he would take what was on offer and be glad of it.
“What is there to be ashamed of in this, in comparison to the blight we carry with us in the wagon?” Radu had asked, when Frank was skittish and reluctant at first, and that was God’s own truth.
Afterwards he had continued the thought, hands behind his head, staring up at the lace of dusty cobwebs beneath the sloped roof, “Besides, just think how this must choke them.”
Frank had raised himself to his elbow and contemplated the look of suppressed laughter that he had begun to find familiar on Radu’s face. “What must? They’re getting what they want, aren’t they? Because of me.”
“Not entirely.” The smile came out of hiding, white and sharp. “I understand that the laxity of our morals has been known to distress foreigners. So perhaps you’re not aware that in Romania, even for the highest of the nobility, it is perfectly acceptable to have a son out of wedlock. If the family claims that child as its own, no one can consider him a less legitimate heir than one born into a marriage.”
“So . . .?”
“My parents find me difficult. In my true-father’s day they would have simply said, ‘I wish to go to Bucharest,’ and he would have taken them. His mind was in the palm of their hands. But me, well, they have to persuade me. They don’t like that.”
“I’m not seeing what this has to do with me.”
At the scoff, Frank grinned and pinched his bedmate in the shoulder, with a pressure that would leave a little purple mark in the morning. Frank had still many layers of fragility, felt like a flaky pastry made up of devastation and guilt, but at least one of those layers had hints of contentment in it, and with the revelation of his innocence and the ending of the threat to his life, he had begun to rediscover his own ability to laugh.
“Let me spell it out, then. Suppose I had a mistress or a concubine, or two—sooner or later I would have a child. That child could be their heir. Their future possession of their estates would be secured, and I could be conveniently disposed of. Instead what happens?” He shoved Frank back. “You arrive, and you’re beautiful, and you save me from all of that.”
What had seemed about to devolve into a mock wrestling match sobered and became distressingly sincere. “Every night I spend with you . . .” He bit his lip and went back to watching the ceiling, silent, with his mouth hard shut on secrets he couldn’t yet share.
About Alex Beecroft:
Alex Beecroft is an English author best known for historical fiction, notably Age of Sail, featuring gay characters and romantic storylines. Her novels and shorter works include paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary fiction.
Beecroft won Linden Bay Romance’s (now Samhain Publishing) Starlight Writing Competition in 2007 with her first novel, Captain’s Surrender, making it her first published book. On the subject of writing gay romance, Beecroft has appeared in the Charleston City Paper, LA Weekly, the New Haven Advocate, the Baltimore City Paper, and The Other Paper. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association of the UK and an occasional reviewer for the blog Speak Its Name, which highlights historical gay fiction.
Alex was born in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and grew up in the wild countryside of the English Peak District. She lives with her husband and two children in a little village near Cambridge and tries to avoid being mistaken for a tourist.
Alex is only intermittently present in the real world. She has led a Saxon shield wall into battle, toiled as a Georgian kitchen maid, and recently taken up an 800-year-old form of English folk dance, but she still hasn’t learned to operate a mobile phone.
She is represented by Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Literary Agency.
Connect with Alex:
- Website: alexbeecroft.com
- Blog: alexbeecroft.com/blog
- Facebook: facebook.com/AlexBeecroftAuthor
- Twitter: @Alex_Beecroft
- Goodreads: goodreads.com/Alex_Beecroft
To celebrate the release of Angels of Istanbul, one lucky winner will receive $10 Riptide credit and their choice of ebook from Alex’s backlist!
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