From Thea de Salle, author of the NOLA NIGHTS SERIES, comes a hilarious story of New Orleans after dark… and vampires seeking love? Read on for a tale that will have you laughing out loud (and may have you reaching for string of garlic to hang around your neck). THE QUEEN OF DAUPHINE STREET is now available wherever eBooks are sold!

People inevitably bring up New Orleans when they ask about my romance series, and it usually circles around to why a girl born and bred in Massachusetts, who’s lived her entire life halfway between Boston and Cape Cod, would set her love stories so far away. The easy answer—the one people get, especially if they’ve been there—is that New Orleans is a character unto itself.  It’s a sultry slice of history, and there’s nowhere else I can think of that vacillates so wildly between slow and easy bayou days and the frenetic energy of Bourbon Street. French/Spanish architecture, good music, incomparable food, and a whole lot of sometimes creepy history makes it a special place, a memorable place, and I wanted that backdrop for my books. I’ve been to New Orleans quite a few times and with quite a few different faces, and every trip bore its own special memory. Here’s a recounting of a time that I visited New Orleans with my clueless friend Lauren, who graciously allowed me to share to share her story with the interwebs.

Lauren the Vampire Slave

There’s a thriving “real vampire” population in New Orleans that live their lives as actual vampires, though their practices are different than depictions in film and books. I won’t say too much about it because I don’t know too much about it, but you do you, real vampires. Be your best selves.

Anyway, myself, Lauren, and her husband meet up with our Vampire Tour Group, and the tour guide’s name is Brett.  Brett is in tight leather pants.  Lauren and I notice because when guys that look like Brett wear leather pants, that’s what you do:  notice.  We’re appreciating the scenery–(and New Orleans is nice, too)–as he walks us through landmarks that have appeared in popular vampire fiction and film.  Behind us, three ghoulish types follow without saying much.

Now I don’t say they’re ghoulish to throw shade; they just aren’t dressed like the tourists.  The ghoul thing is part of their aesthetic.  One of them has his head shaved and is in monk-like robes. Fangs?  Oh, yeah.  Check.  One of them is in all black and gothy with dyed black hair.  He’s also sporting some impressive chompers.  And the last is a compacted version of Gary Oldman from the 90s movie version of Dracula, complete with the top hat, tiny round glasses, and the long curly hair.  Except it’s not quite right.  Oldman’s tall and lanky and elegant and this guy just sorta looks like a shrinky-dinked copycat.  He’s trying very hard to be something he’s not.

At least he got the pointy canines right.

So we walk along, hearing about this terrace where LeStat fought Louis during the fire scene, and about vampire inspired murders that have happened in the city, and then we stop at a bar.  Everyone gets a drink, and of course the house drink is called The Vampire’s Kiss.  Here’s where I mention that Lauren has a superpower.  Everyone can overlook her.  Everything, too; if she’s standing in line, people will shove past her.  If she’s waiting for the automatic faucet to spout water in a bathroom, it doesn’t notice she’s there.  She’s the most ghost-like non-ghost you’ll ever meet, and this particular “quirk” is in full effect at the bar.  She’s trying to get served, is waving money over her head, and the bartender is ignoring her.

Enter Short Gary Oldman.  He very demurely flags the bartender down for her and she gets served.  Okay, thanks Faux-Dracula!

We continue on the tour, everyone properly pickling themselves on Vampire Kisses (which is really just vodka and grenadine and some kind of juice.)  The Q&A portion of the evening starts and Lauren is our resident vampire expert; she’s able to answer everything in part because she’s a horror fan, in part because she works in publishing. I mean, the girl wrote her thesis on the female vampire.  She knows her stuff, and this VERY MUCH PLEASES Short Gary Oldman, who comes to hover around her.  It’s fine, it’s just a “real life” vampire admiring you and your dedication to the subject matter. Your husband is only standing two feet away from you, Lauren.  What could go wrong?

We end the tour after the three ghouls all talk to us about living their lives as real vampires in New Orleans.  It’s not my scene, but all the power to them if it makes them happy.  Lauren is standing there smiling because we really did have a good time, and Short Gary Oldman comes over and bows to her.  “I think you’d like my website,” he says, pulling out a business card and handing it over.

My alarm bells were quietly buzzing before, when he played Fanger Lancelot at the bar, but now they are in full throttle siren mode. Lauren’s fine; we’re there to back her up, but at the same time, there was something off about the man who, of course, calls himself Vlad and believes himself to be the reincarnation of Vlad the Impaler.  Lauren demurely tucks the business card away and we eject ourselves from the situation before it gets weird.

(Or “weirder” if we’re being honest.)

Vlad the Short Gary Oldman doesn’t really come up again that trip.  We’ve got other things to do, he was a blip on her vampire map, onward and upward.  His business card is tucked into her wallet and forgotten.  It’s not until a week later, when I’m bored at work, that he returns to our lives.  He’d been an odd fellow, and certainly had taken interest in Lauren despite Lauren not dressing the part of the vampire fan girl.  I mean, she was in a white blouse with a long brown skirt. She wore beige.  It wasn’t exactly vampire bait clothing, and yet he’d done her a solid at the bar, and he’d started lingering when she showed her vampire knowledge during the Q&A portion of the tour. To top it all off, he’d invited her to contact him later.

I was pretty sure the dude was hitting on her.  She didn’t realize it, and that’s not super surprising, especially since the guy was bold enough to hit on her with her husband there, but I wanted to be sure, so I Googled Vlad the Not-Gary-Oldman to see what I could find.  Sure enough, there’s his personal website, complete with bad gifs of flying bats and a picture of himself front and center, posing in a propped-up coffin.  Intrigued, I went further in, and that’s when I find “IT.”

“IT” being the personal ad searching for brides.  It seemed Vlad was on the hunt for intelligent women (Lauren), with fair skin and dark hair (Lauren), with an interest in vampires in art and culture (Lauren), who wanted to be his sex slave (NOT LAUREN.)  Not even, like, girlfriend or bridge partner, but sex slave, and it’s explicitly stated as such because Vlad has a wife, Victoria, and Victoria “understands my insatiable vampire desires for female flesh and blood.”

My first thought was, “Whoa, that’s gross.”

My second thought was, “AHAHAHA, THAT’S GROSS” which was quickly followed by me speed dialing Lauren at her job.

She picks up the phone, I am laughing so hard I can’t breathe.

“Are you okay?” She says, because she knows it’s me, but I don’t know if she can tell if I’m laughing or crying or being strangled.

“Vlad.  Website. Go.  Now.”

So she does, with me hanging on the line and waiting like a spider.  And I’m still laughing, and I can only laugh louder when, a minute later, she finds “IT” and says a word that might rhyme with “MOTHERTRUCKER” at her office, louder than she probably should have.

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”

I’m crying at work, can’t talk, and have to hang up the phone.  Once I’m back in control of myself, I proceed to email everyone I know to fill them in on the life-changing decision Lauren has to make: to become a vampire sex slave, or to remain happily married to a functional adult without having to compete with Victoria for a vampire lord’s affections.

I’m happy to report, she chose well.