House of the Rising Sun


By Kristen Painter

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Every vampire has heard rumor of the mythical place where their kind can daywalk. But what no vampire knows is that this City of Eternal Night actually exists.

And its name is New Orleans.

For centuries, the fae have protected the city from vampire infestation. But when the bloodsuckers return, the fragile peace in New Orleans begins to crumble.

Carefree playboy Augustine, and Harlow, a woman searching for answers about her absent father, are dragged into the war. The fate of the city rests on them — — and their fae blood that can no longer be denied.

Book one in the brand new, action-packed urban fantasy Crescent City series, from award winning, House of Comarre author Kristen Painter!


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New Orleans, Louisiana, 2040

Why can't we take the streetcar?" Walking home from church at night was always a little scary for Augustine, especially when they had to go past the cemetery.

"You know why," Mama answered. "Because we don't have money for things like that. Not that your shiftless father would help out. Why I expect anything from that lying, manipulative piece of…" She grunted softly and shook her head.

Augustine had never met his father, but from what Mama had told him, which wasn't much, his father didn't seem like a very nice man. Just once, though, Augustine would like to meet him to see what he looked like. Augustine figured he must look like his father, because he sure didn't look like Mama. Maybe if they met, he'd also ask his father why he never came around. Why he didn't want to be part of their family. Why Mama cried so much.

With a soft sigh, he held Mama's hand a little tighter, moving closer to her side. Unlike him, Mama only had five fingers on each hand, not six. She didn't have gray skin or horns like him, either. She didn't like his horns much. She kept them filed down so his hair hid the stumps. He jammed his free hand into his jacket pocket, the move jogging him to the side a little.

"Be careful, Augustine. You're going to make me trip."

"Sorry, Mama." The sidewalks were all torn up from the tree roots poking through them. The moon shone through those big trees with their twisty branches and clumps of moss, and cast shadows that looked like creatures reaching toward them. He shivered, almost tripping over one of the roots.

She jerked his arm. "Pay attention."

"Yes, Mama." But paying attention was what had scared him in the first place. He tried shutting his eyes, picking his feet up higher to avoid the roots.

Next thing he knew, his foot caught one of those roots and he was on his hands and knees, the skin on his palms burning from where he'd scraped them raw on the rough sidewalk. His knee throbbed with the same pain, but he wouldn't cry, because he was almost nine and he was a big boy. Old enough to know that he must also control the powers inside him that wanted to come out whenever he felt angry or hurt or excited.

"Oh, Augustine! You ripped your good pants." Mama grabbed his hand and tugged him to his feet.

"I'm sorry about my pants." He stood very still, trying not to cause any more trouble. Mama got so angry, so fast. "My knee hurts."

With a sigh, Mama crouched down, pulled a tissue from her purse, spit on it and began to dab at the blood. "It will be okay. It's just a little scrape. And you heal… quickly."

The dabbing hurt worse, but he kept quiet, biting at his cheek. He looked at his hands, opening his twelve fingers wide. Already the scrapes there were fading. It was because of his fae blood, which he wasn't supposed to talk about. He dropped his hands and stared at the tall cemetery wall next to them. On the other side of that wall were a lot of dead people. In New Orleans, no one could be buried underground because of the water table. He'd learned that in school.

The wind shook the tree above their heads, making the shadows crawl toward them. He inched closer to her and pointed at the cemetery. "Do you think there's ghosts in there, Mama?"

She stood, ignoring his pointing to brush dirt off his jacket. "Don't be silly. You know ghosts aren't real."

The cemetery gates creaked. She turned, then suddenly put him behind her. Around the side of her dress, Augustine could see a big shape almost on them, smell something sour and sweaty, and hear heavy breathing. Mama reached for Augustine, jerking them both back as the man grabbed for her.

The man missed, but Mama's heart was going thump, thump, thump. That was another fae thing Augustine wasn't supposed to talk about, being able to hear extra-quiet sounds like people's hearts beating.

"C'mere, now," the man growled. Even in the darkness, Augustine's sharp fae eyes could see the man's teeth were icky.

Mama swung her purse at him. "Leave us alone!"

"Us?" The man grunted, his gaze dropping to Augustine. Eyes widening for a second, he snorted. "Your runt's not going to ruin my fun."

"I'm not a runt," Augustine said. Fear made his voice wobble, but he darted out from behind his mother anyway, planting himself in front of her.

The man swatted Augustine away with a meaty hand.

Augustine hit the cemetery wall, cracking his head hard enough to see stars. But with the new pain came anger. And heat. The two mixed together like a storm in his belly, making him want to do… something. He tried to control it, but the man went after Mama next, grabbing her and pushing her to the ground. Then the man climbed on top of her.

She cried out and the swirling inside Augustine became a hurricane dragging him along in its winds. Without really knowing what he was doing, he leaped onto the man's back. The hard muscle and bone he expected seemed soft and squishy. He grabbed fistfuls of the man's jacket—but his hands met roots and dirt and shards of concrete instead.

Mama's eyes blinked up at him, wide and fearful. She seemed a little blurry. Was he crying? And how was he seeing her when he was on the man's back? And why had everything gone so quiet? Except for a real loud tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump, everything else sounded real far away. He pushed to his knees, expecting them to sting from his fall, but he felt nothing. And the man attacking his mother was somehow… gone.

"Don't, Augustine." She shook her head as she scrabbled backward. "Don't do this."

"Don't do what, Mama?" He reached for her but the hand that appeared before him was too big. And only had five fingers. He stuck his other hand out and saw the same thing. "What's happening to me, Mama?"

"Get out of him, Augustine." She got to her feet, one trembling hand clutching the crucifix on her necklace. "Let the man go."

He stood and suddenly he was looking down at his mother. Down. How was he doing that? He glanced at his body. But it wasn't his body, it was the man's.

"I don't understand." But he had an idea. Was this one of the powers he had? One of the things he was supposed to control? He didn't know how to get out. Was he trapped? He only wanted to protect his mother, he didn't want to be this man!

The storm inside him welled up in waves. The heat in his belly was too much. He didn't understand this new power. He wanted to be himself. He wanted to be out. Panic made bigger waves, hot swells that clogged his throat so he couldn't take deep breaths. The thumping noise got louder.

The man's hands reached up to claw at Augustine, at his own skin.

Mama backed away, her fingers in the sign of the cross. He cried out to her for help. He was too hot, too angry, too scared—

A loud, wet pop filled his ears and he fell to his hands and knees again, this time covered in sticky red ooze and smoking hunks of flesh. The thumping noise was gone. Around him was more sticky red, lumps of flesh and pieces of white bone. All he could think about was the time he and Nevil Tremain had stuffed a watermelon full of firecrackers. Except this was way worse. And blowing up the watermelon hadn't made him feel like throwing up. Or smelled like burnt metal. He sat back, wiped at his face and eyes and tried to find his mother. She was a few feet away, but coming closer.

"You killed that man." She stood over him looking more angry than afraid now. "You possessed that man like a demon." She pointed at him. "You're just like your father, just like that dirty fae-blooded liar."

Augustine shook his head. "That man was hurting you—"

"Yes, you saved me, but you took his life, Augustine." She looked around, eyes darting in all directions. "Sturka," she muttered, a fae curse word Augustine had once gotten slapped for saying.

"I didn't mean to, I was trying to help—"

"And who's next? Are you going to help me that way too someday?"

He was crying now, unable to help himself. "No, Mama, no. I would never hurt you."

She grabbed him by his shirt and yanked him to his feet. "Act human, not like a freak, do you understand? If people could see what you really looked like…" Fear clouded her eyes.

He nodded, sniffling, hating the smell of the blood he was covered in. He didn't want to be a freak. He really didn't. "I can act human. I promise."

She let go of his shirt, her lip slightly curled as she looked him over. "This was your father's blood that caused this. Not mine."

"Not yours," Augustine repeated. Mama looked human but was part smokesinger, something he knew only because he'd overheard an argument she'd had with his father on the phone once. He'd learned other things that way, too. Like that his father was something called shadeux fae. But not just part. All of him. And he'd lied to Mama about that. Used magic to make Mama think he was human. To seduce her.

"I never want to hear or see anything fae ever again or I will put you out of my house. I live as human and while you're under my roof, so will you. Am I clear?"

The thought of being without her made his chest ache. She was all he had. His world. "Yes, Mama."

But keeping his fae side hidden was impossible and five years later, put him out is exactly what she did.

Chapter One

Procrastination assassinates opportunity.

—Elektos Codex, 4.1.1

New Orleans, 2068

Augustine trailed his fingers over the silky shoulder of one of his mocha-skinned bedmates. He dare not wake her, or her sister sleeping on the other side of him, or he feared he'd never get home in time for lunch with his dear Olivia. He felt a twinge of guilt that he'd spent his first night back in New Orleans in the company of "strange" women, as Olivia would call them, but only a twinge. A man had needs, after all.

The woman sighed contentedly at his touch, causing him to do the same. Last night had been just the right amount of fun to welcome him home. He eased onto his back and folded his arms behind his head, a satisfied smile firmly in place. The Santiago sisters from Mobile, Alabama, had earned their sleep.

Outside the Hotel Monteleone, the city was just waking up. Delivery trucks rumbled through the Quarter's narrow streets, shopkeepers washed their sidewalks clean of last night's revelries and the bitter scent of chicory coffee filled the air with a seductive, smoky darkness. Day or night, there was no mistaking the magic of New Orleans. And damn, he'd missed it.

His smile widened. He wasn't much for traveling and that's all he'd done these past few months. Things had gotten hot after he'd given his estranged brother's human friend entrance to the fae plane. Ditching town was the only way to keep the Elektos off his back. The damn fae high council had never liked him much. Violating such a sacred rule as allowing a mortal access to the fae plane had shot him to the top of their blacklist.

Smile fading, he sighed. If two and a half months away wasn't enough, then he'd have to figure something else out. He didn't like being away from Livie for so long. He could imagine the size of her smile when he strolled in this afternoon. She'd been more of a mother to him than his own had, not a feat that required much effort, but Olivia had saved him from the streets. From himself.

There wasn't much he wouldn't do for her.

With that thought, he extricated himself from the bedcovers and his sleeping partners and began the hunt for his clothing. When he'd dressed, he stood before the vanity mirror and finger-combed his hair around his recently grown-out horns. They followed the curve of his skull, starting near his forehead, then arching around to end with sharp points near his cheekbones. He preferred them ground down, but growing them out had helped him blend with the rest of the fae population. Most fae also added ornate silver bands and capped the tips in filigree, but he wasn't into that.

His jeans, black T-shirt and motorcycle boots weren't much to look at, but the horns were all it took for most mortal women to go positively weak. Standard fae-wear typically included a lot of magically enhanced leather, which was perfect for a city like NOLA, where being a little theatrical was almost expected, but you had to have plastic for spendy gear like that.

Satisfied, he walked back to the women who'd been his unsuspecting welcome-home party and stood quietly at the side of the bed.

Pressing his fingertips together, he worked the magic that ran in his veins, power born of the melding of his smokesinger and shadeux fae bloodlines, power that had blossomed when he'd finally opened himself up to it. Power he'd learned to use through trial and error and the help of a good friend.

He smiled. It would be great to see Dulcinea again, too.

Slowly, he drew his fingers apart and threads of smoke spun out between them. The strands twisted and curled between his fingers until the nebulous creation took the shape of a rose.

Gentle heat built in the bones of his hands and arms, a pleasurable sensation that gave him great satisfaction.

The form solidified further, then Augustine flicked one wrist to break the connection. With that free hand, he grasped the stem. The moment he touched it, the stem went green and royal purple filled the flower's petals. He lifted it to his nose, inhaling its heady perfume. Fae magic never ceased to amaze him. He tucked the flower behind his ear and quickly spun another, then laid the blooms on the sisters' pillows.

Pleased with his work, he picked up his bag, pulled a black compact from the pocket of his jeans and flipped it open to reveal a mirror. The mirror was nothing special, just a piece of silver-backed glass, but that was all any fae needed to travel from one place to another.

"Thanks for a wonderful evening, ladies," he whispered. Focusing on his reflection, he imagined himself back at Livie's. The familiar swirl of vertigo tugged at him as the magic drew him through.

A second later, when he glanced away from his reflection, he was home.

Harlow Goodwin held paper documents so rarely that if the stark white, unrecycled stock in her hands were anything else than the death knell to her freedom, she'd be caressing it with her bare fingers, willing to risk any residual emotions left from the person who'd last touched it—it wasn't like she could read objects the way she could people or computers, but every once in a while, if the thing had been touched by someone else recently, something leaked through. In this case, she kept her gloves on. This wasn't any old paper, this was the judgment that was about to bring an abrupt and miserable end to life as she knew it.

They couldn't even have the decency to wait to deliver it until after she'd had her morning coffee. For once, she wished it had been another of her mother's missives pleading with her to come for a visit.

She read the sum again. Eight hundred fifty thousand dollars. Eight five zero zero zero zero. She'd heard it in court when the judge had pronounced her sentence, but seeing it in black-and-white, in letters that couldn't be backspaced over and deleted, made the hollowness inside her gape that much wider.

How in the hell was she going to pay off eight hundred and fifty freaking thousand dollars? Might as well have been a million. Or a hundred million. She couldn't pay it, even if she wanted to. That queasy feeling came over her again, like she might hurl the ramen noodles she'd choked down for dinner. Moments like this, not having a father cut through her more sharply than ever. She knew that if her mother had allowed him into her life, he'd be here, taking care of her. He'd know what to do, how to handle it. That's what fathers did, wasn't it?

At least that's what Harlow's father did in her fantasies. And fantasies were all she had, because Olivia Goodwin hadn't only kept that secret from the paparazzi; she'd also kept it from her daughter.

Oh, Harlow had tried to find him. She'd searched every possibility she could think of, traced her mother's path during the month of her conception, but her mother had been on tour for a movie premiere. Thirty-eight cities in twelve different countries. The number of men she could have come in contact with was staggering.

Harlow's father, whoever he was, remained a mystery.

Heart aching with the kind of loss she'd come to think of as normal, she tossed the papers onto her desk, collapsed onto her unmade bed and dropped her head into her hands. The five-monitor computer station on her desk hummed softly, a sound she generally considered soothing, but today it only served to remind her of how royally she'd been duped. Damn it.

The client who'd hired her to test his new security system and retrieve a set of files had actually given her false information. She'd ended up hacking into what she'd belatedly guessed was his rival's company and accessing their top-secret formula for a new drug protocol. Shady SOB.

She shuddered, thinking what her punishment might have been if she'd actually delivered that drug formula into her client's hands, but a sixth sense had told her to get out right after she'd accessed the file. Something in her head had tripped her internal alarms, something she'd be forever grateful for if only it had gone off sooner. She'd ditched the info and hurriedly erased her presence. Almost. Obviously not enough to prevent herself from being caught.

Times like this she cursed the "gift" she'd been born with. Well, the first one, the ability to feel people's emotions through touch, that one she always cursed. And really it was more than emotion. She saw images, heard sounds, even picked up scents from people. Which all added up to an intense overload—sometimes pleasurable but too often painful—that she preferred not to deal with. The second gift was the way she seemed to be able to read computers. She didn't know how else to describe it, but they responded to her like she could speak binary code without even trying. Finding her way into a motherboard took no more effort than opening a door. That gift had given her a career. A slightly questionable one at times. But a job was a job. Except when it brought her clients like this last one.

A client who was now in the wind, the twenty large she'd charged him not even a down payment on her fine. She should have known something was up when he'd paid in cash, his courier a shifty-eyed sort who was probably as much fae as he was something else. She shuddered. That cash, tucked away in a backpack under the bed, was the only thing the court hadn't been able to seize. Everything else was frozen solid until she paid the fine or did her time.

She flopped back on the bed and folded her arms over her eyes. She was about as screwed as a person could get.

Her eyes closed but it didn't stop her brain from filling her head with the one name she was doing her best not to think about.

The one person capable of helping her. The one person who'd been the greatest source of conflict in her life.

Olivia Goodwin.

Her mother.

Harlow hadn't really spoken to her mother in years. Not since their last big fight and Olivia's umpteenth refusal to share any information about her biological father. For Harlow, it was difficult to say what hurt worse—not knowing who her father was or her mother not understanding the gaping hole inside Harlow where her father was missing and yet her mother somehow thinking she could still make things okay between them.

The cycle usually started with Olivia barraging Harlow with pleas to move to New Orleans. Harlow ignored them until she finally believed things might be different this time and countered with a request of her own. Her father's name. Because that's all she needed. A name. With her computer skills, there was no question she'd be able to find him after that. But without a name… every clue she'd followed had led to a dead end. But that small request was all it took to shut Olivia down and destroy Harlow's hope. The next few months would pass without them talking at all.

Then Olivia would contact her again.

Harlow had made one attempt at reconciliation, but that had dissolved just like the rest of them. After that, their communication became very one-sided. Emails and calls and letters from her mother went unanswered except for an occasional response to let Olivia know she was still alive and still not interested in living in New Orleans.

She loved her mother. But the hurt Olivia had caused her was deep.

If her mother was going to help now, the money would come with strings attached. Namely Harlow agreeing to drop the topic of her father.

The thought widened the hole in her heart a little more. If she agreed to never ask about him again, she'd have to live with the same unbearable sense of not knowing she'd carried all her life. And if she didn't agree, her mother probably wouldn't give her the money, which meant Harlow was going to jail. A life lesson, her mother would call it.

A deep sigh fluttered the hair trapped between her cheeks and her forearms. Was she really going to do this? The drive from Boston to New Orleans would take a minimum of twenty-four hours, but flying meant being trapped in a closed space with strangers. It also meant putting herself on the CCU's radar, and until her fine was paid, she wasn't supposed to leave the state. At least she had a car. Her little hybrid might be a beater, but it would get her to Louisiana and there'd be no one in the car but her.

Another sigh and she pulled her arms away from her face to stare at the ceiling. If her mother refused her the money, which was a very real possibility, Harlow would be in jail in a month's time. Her security gone, her freedom gone, forced to live in a cell with another person.

She sat up abruptly. Would they let her keep her gloves in prison? What if her cell mate… touched her? That kind of looming threat made her want to do something rebellious. The kind of thing she'd only done once before at a Comic Con where her costume had given her a sense of anonymity and some protection from skin-to-skin contact.

She wanted one night of basic, bone-deep pleasure of her choosing. One night of the kind of fun that didn't include sitting in front of her monitors, leveling up one of her Realm of Zauron characters to major proportions. Not that that kind of fun wasn't epic. It was basically her life. But she needed something more, the kind of memory that would carry her through her incarceration.

One night of careful physical contact with another living, breathing male being.

The thought alone was enough to raise goose bumps on her skin. She'd do it the same way she had at Comic Con. A couple of good, stiff drinks and the alcohol would dull her senses and make being around so many people bearable. With a good buzz, she could stand being touched. Maybe even find it enjoyable, if things went well. Which was the point.

She was going to New Orleans. The city was practically built on senseless fun and cheap booze, right? If there was ever a place to have one last night of debauchery before heading to the big house, New Orleans seemed custom made for it.

On her Life Management Device, the one she could no longer afford and that would soon be turned off, she checked the weather. Unseasonably warm in New Orleans. Leaving behind the snowpocalypse of Boston wouldn't be such a hardship, but she wasn't about to ditch her long sleeves just for a little sunshine. On the rare occasions she had to leave her apartment, she liked as much skin covered as possible.

She jumped off the bed, grabbed her rolling bag and packed. Just the necessities—travel laptop with holoscreen and gaming headset, some clothes, toiletries and the cash. Not like she'd be gone long. She changed into her favorite Star Alliance T-shirt, set her security cameras, locked down her main computer and servers and grabbed her purse. She took a deep breath and one last look at her apartment. It was only for a few days. She could do this.

A few minutes later she was in the car, a jumbo energy drink in the cup holder and the nav on her LMD directing her toward Louisiana.

Augustine tucked away his traveling mirror and inhaled the comforting scent of home. The weeks of rarely staying in one spot for longer than a few nights had worn thin. He'd tried a stint in Austin, Texas, another fae Haven city, but a week there and he'd begun to feel eyes on him. Being back in New Orleans was pure happiness. This was the only ground he'd ever considered home, and this house, the estate of retired movie star Olivia Goodwin, was the only place that had ever felt like home.

Protecting Olivia and this place was why he'd run to begin with, but she knew he hadn't been the cause of the trouble. Not really. That landed squarely on the shoulders of his estranged half brother, Mortalis. They shared a father but that was about it. They'd never seen eye to eye on anything. Mortalis disapproved of Augustine's life in more ways than he could count and took every opportunity, rare as they were, to make that known.

Despite that, Augustine had helped one of Mortalis's very pretty, very persuasive female friends gain access to the fae plane, specifically the Claustrum, the max-security prison where the fae kept the worst of their kind. Livie had agreed it had been the right thing to do, but she hadn't really understood the consequences.

The sounds of female voices reached his ears. Olivia and Lally, her companion and housekeeper, were out on the back porch enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. He set his bag down and moved softly from the hall and into the kitchen. Their voices were louder now, filtering in through the screen door along with the afternoon breeze. Ice clinked in glasses and the scent of mint and bourbon followed.

He smiled. Livie loved herself a julep on the porch. He leaned in close to the screen, but left the door closed. "Miss me so much you have to drink away your sorrows, huh?"

Both women jumped in their rockers, clutching at their hearts and slopping bourbon and soda over the rims of their glasses.

Olivia shook her cane at him, her shock widening into an unstoppable grin. "Augustine Robelais, how dare you sneak up on two old women like that." She threw her head back and laughed. "Oh, Augie, you're home. Praise our lady Elizabeth Taylor. Get out here and let me hug your neck."

He pushed through the screen door and scooped Livie into his arms. She squeezed him hard, her form somehow frailer than he remembered. He whispered into her silver-white bob, "I missed you more than I have words for."

"And I, you, cher


  • "[Kristen Painter's] rich, modern storytelling lays out an intricate plot layered with plenty of action and intrigue. Exquisite characters lie at the center of this story... From the first page, House of the Rising Sun is truly a superb and exciting read."—RT Book Reviews (4.5 Stars), Top Pick!
  • "Urban fantasy fans will enjoy entering Painter's vividly drawn world."—Library Journal on City of Eternal Night
  • "I tore through Painter's new series. Best new urban fantasy out there!"—Kresley Cole, New York Times bestselling author on the Crescent City series
  • "With the Crescent City series, Painter proves herself a master of Urban Fantasy, creating a darkly gorgeous new world, richly drawn characters, and nonstop action."—Kristen Callihan

On Sale
May 13, 2014
Hachette Audio

Kristen Painter

About the Author

Kristen Painter likes to balance her obsessions with shoes and cats by making the lives of her characters miserable and surprising her readers with interesting twists. She currently writes award-winning urban fantasy for Orbit Books.

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