female lead
slow burn

After moving into a new place for a fresh start, recently graduated nurse, Maria, begins to notice something odd about her neighbor.

Sure, he may work the night shift like her—that would explain his shades being drawn during the day. But his pale skin, sneaky demeanor—oh, and ability to transform into a bat and fly off into the sky… all kind of screams vampire to Maria!

Yet, unlike any bloodsucker she's seen on TV, Maria's neighbor, Alessandro, is more gentle and loving than she thinks her heart can handle. However, Alessandro's past is far from simple, and Maria came to Sedona for a fresh start, not to fall in love with a vampire. Will she be able to handle the dark secrets of his past, or will their relationship fizzle away before it even had a chance to blossom?

The Vampire Next Door is created by Hannah Altagracia, an eGlobal Creative Publishing signed author.

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Chapter 1: New Roots
"Home sweet home." Maria plopped down the last box she'd carried in from her truck, wishing she had a couch to plop herself on but settling for the nearest counter instead. Her long black curls stuck to the beads of sweat forming on the back of her neck and she was grateful to be done. There hadn't been many boxes, only the twelve or so she's been able to fit in her second-hand 2009 Ford pickup truck. But now, stacked in her new 500 square foot home, it seemed plenty. Maria was able to take in the entirety of her new place in one glance. Currently, she stood in the living/dining/cooking/soon-to-be Plant Daycare. Calling it a Plant Daycare made Maria feel like her plant obsession was a little less manic and more socially acceptable. After all, if it was a Daycare; she was technically only babysitting twenty different species of succulents, not compulsively buying them. She'd left the majority of her plant collection back at her ex's apartment. Their poor soil probably had been watered more by her tears than anything else. But crying into her plants late at night was something she would never have to succumb to again. She was here now in sunny Sedona, Arizona, instead of backward-minded Texas. Sedona was a fresh start. But most importantly, it was her only opportunity to see a UFO because that was hashtag priorities when she'd considered where her first adult place on her own would be. An exaggerated yawn escaped Maria's mouth, her long athletic arms beginning to feel limp. It wasn't even 10 am yet, but the all-night drive had exhausted her. The warm sun coming through the windows set the mood for a cat nap. Though with no furniture, it looked like a more realistic cat nap might have to take place than Maria would have preferred. Her only option seemed to be to pile up some of the blankets she'd packed on the floor. That or sleeping in her truck, and the very thought of getting back in that vehicle after a fifteen-hour drive literally made her body recoil. She'd have to acquire a bed ASAP. But maybe, for now, she could enjoy this lovely day and simply nap in the backyard. After all, with her working night shift at the hospital, how many of these stunning Sedona days was she going to get to enjoy in the sunlight? Her stomach gave a small lurch at the thought of her new job. Her Abuela had once told her that anxiety and excitement gave the body the same physical reaction. So she hoped the butterflies that had taken flight inside of her were a positive sign. She was grateful for this opportunity that allowed her to move out from a toxic situation with her ex and have the fresh start she craved. However, thinking of walking into the hospital as the new nurse in town gave her all the “first day of school" jitters she thought she'd never have to relive after high school ended seven years ago. However, she had seventy-two hours to enjoy work-free and she planned to enjoy every minute of those days. Maria slid open the glass door leading out to her cozy backyard. Cozy being the most appropriate term to describe a yard big enough only for one lawn chair, two trees, and--thank her lucky stars--a hammock! The tie dye hammock looked well-weathered but sturdy. Any reserves she'd had about an afternoon nap outside immediately disappeared as she made herself comfortable in the well-loved hammock. This was more picture-perfect than she could have envisioned. The drive, the expenses...and the soon to be more expenses, now all seemed worth it for this sort of freedom. A lightness fluttered in her chest that Maria hadn't felt in a long while. She rested her head back, taking in the view of the red rocks surrounding her. The hill to get up here was steep. Still, the seclusion was unbeatable. Unless a passerby caught sight of the narrow turn off the main road, no one would guess that she was up here tucked away behind the sycamore trees. Well, except for maybe the someone who lived in the house ten feet away from her. It was the only house in sight, and the others were at least ten minutes back down the hill. However, she suspected there wouldn't be any trouble with this neighbor from the way the curtains were pulled shut at that house. Their curtains were thick, black pieces of cloth tightly drawn as if they were fighting to keep even a ray of sunlight from entering their home. She almost couldn't imagine shutting her curtains (well, when she got curtains) in a city like this where the whole point of living here was for the views and the weather. But alas, she remembered, her tiny adobe-style home came with a cost, and that price was night shift nurse duties. Her neighbor may very well have the same schedule, and sun blocking curtains were a trick of the trade she would have to pick up on. Maybe one of these evenings, they'd run into each other and talk smack about their jobs. Her gut rumbled with something more as she stared at the house that was essentially an identical twin to hers. Her skin prickled as intuitively she knew that she and her neighbor wouldn't be sharing small talk about their jobs. What was this? Doubt? Fear? Insecurity? This was finally a fresh start, a new outlook on life. Nothing could stop the vibe she was feeling right now. Whatever her body was trying to warn her against, clearly it was getting mixed signals over nothing. Maria closed her eyes, snuggling her caramel-toned body into the warm cloth of the hammock. Her stupid intuition could suck it! *** POV ALESSANDRO It was too risky to open the curtains, but Alessandro had heard the truck pull up on a gravel driveway. And two days ago, the "For Sale" sign had been pulled up from the yard. The house beside him had been vacant for years. There weren't many people who wanted to live this far from all the action in town. Alessandro had felt he'd hit the holy grail of places when the nearest house had been at least three miles away--well, except for, of course, this house. The house he'd told himself that he should also buy to ensure that no one else would ever move in. He'd managed to convince himself that homebuyers would never stumble across it, but, boy, had he dropped the ball on that. His pale hand twitched once again to pull back the drapes and observe the situation more closely. The woman in the truck must have bought it blindly. The only time he'd see a realtor around here was when they'd come to remove the "For Sale" sign that had been there since he arrived three years ago. It was going to be okay. At least that's what Alessandro reassured himself as he shook out his shoulder length black hair and stared inexpressibly across the dimly lit room. He'd lived around people before. He simply had to be more careful, move with swiftness...and ensure she never suspected that a vampire was living next door.

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