CHAPTER 14

 

Xavier looked around the ritual room with casual curiosity, taking everything in. Candles were spaced all around in niches along the walls and tall holders, enough to light the room with a soft glow without aid from electric lights. In the center of the room lay a large circular black rug with silver scroll work all around the edges, shot through with more silver leaf and scrolling thread in the shape of a pentacle. Around the edge of the rug, drawn directly on the floor, was another circle marked in white chalk. Near the upper point of the star stood a low altar table holding a variety of paraphernalia, including an incense burner from which curled lightly scented smoke that perfumed the air with the scent of jasmine. He also noted a fairly long double edged knife that caused him a bit of worry. Xav didn’t want to dwell too much on what that was used for.

Rayne had actually stretched out a finger towards it when from the shadows between two candle niches Lord Warren intoned; “No!”

The vampire actually jumped; Dom had managed to make himself so still he had  not even realised that the older man was in the room,. Quickly covering his shock he wailed; “Awrrr!”

“Leave my athame alone or I’ll put a hex on your perfect arse that won’t let you sit down for a week,” Dom warned seriously.

Xavier was not sure which shocked him more, that Rayne hadn’t noticed Dominic at first, or that he actually listened to him when he said don’t touch!Maybe it was just the authoritative air Dom had gathered around him right now. Their host was certainly dressed for the part of High Priest.

He was wearing a long, loose-fitting robe in pale, corn-coloured silk, with little white and blue-topaz diamond patterns embroidered delicately along the deep ‘V’ of the neckline and the long, dagged sleeves. A pale blue, silk cord was wrapped three times around his slim waist and tied loosely there and a fine gold chain hung around his neck supporting a delicate gold pentacle with tiny diamonds in each of the five points of the star. It twinkled prettily in the candlelight.

His feet were bare and from the way the silk moved against his body it was fairly apparent that he was similarly unclad beneath the robe. Rayne tugged on the collar of his green voile shirt and murmured; “I feel under-dressed.”

“You can get undressed if that would be preferable,” Dom teased gently. “There are hooks on the door for robes and shelves in the cabinet beside it. The room will be warm enough once we’re ready to get started. Speaking of which, where has that useless guard dog of mine got to?”

“He went up to have a shower after he finished with the dishes.” Xavier answered, letting Dominic not only know where Gabe was, but that he hadn’t gotten out of doing the washing up.

Xavier drifted over toward the hooks Dominic had indicated and pulled off his shirt. He figured he might as well get naked now, and fortunately he wasn’t shy about it.

“Well, at least Xavier’s getting into the spirit of things,” Dominic purred contentedly.

He caught Rayne’s shirt collar lightly in both hands and pulled the shimmery gauze aside, baring the paleness of the vampire’s breast. There were two layers of scar tissue now, the older marks from Paris were a pale, cobweb of shimmering threads over his alabaster skin. The marks that Gabriel had put in his flesh the other night though were more stark. Dominic traced them tentatively until Rayne’s hand moved to stop him.

“No.” Rayne said, more quietly, but with no less authority. “Don’t.”

“But they are a part of you, darling,” Dominic told him, his tone soothing now. He did not try to touch Rayne again, but knelt down in front of him and opened his shirt enough that he could kiss the softness of the vampire’s exposed belly, then took Rayne’s hands and turned them to touch his lips to the insides of his slim, bony wrists.

He looked up at Rayne now like a penitent in a renaissance painting, kneeling before the vision of an angel. The vampire’s slender hands moved to his silver and gold curls, caressing them in an act of benevolent forgiveness.

“You mental old mare!” he exhaled raggedly.

Then his eyes lifted to the golden vision of his disrobed lover, watching them from the doorway with eyes like a summer sky. Rayne shook his head in silent disbelief that he could be so blessed. He was throbbing already against the three silver buttons of his fly. Dominic bent his head and touched his lips to the swell of the vampire’s denim sheathed groin, nuzzling him appreciatively before deftly unfastening the buttons one by one.

“You are so beautiful,” Rayne whispered, unable to take his eyes off Xavier, even as he was freed from the constriction of his body-hugging black jeans.

Xavier had heard Rayne say he was beautiful plenty of times, but it was usually while they were naked and entwined and he’d always just taken it as pillow talk. Ray seemed so sincere just now though, as he watched him moving across the room toward them, that it made him blush, a small smile that was almost shy curling his lips.

He didn’t know his expression only made him all the more alluring, along with the soft glow of healthy aura around him that practically pulsed with energy. Naked and gliding across the room he truly did look angelic, but if he was a golden angel of light, Rayne was his dark angel of pale moonbeams and shadows.

He came around behind Rayne, his hands settling lightly on his hips as he touched his lips to the nape of Rayne’s neck. He lifted his hands slowly up his mate’s slender torso, traversing the same scars Dominic had but in such a way that it made it like they weren’t even there.

“And you are gorgeous,” he breathed over his ear and he slid the shirt down and off his arms like a caress.

Rayne shook his dark hair back from his face as Xavier’s lips and fingers explored him tenderly. He barely felt them strip the clothes from his body. He was engrossed in the enticing fragrance of his mate, hungry to feel soft skin against his lips. His hands stroked through Xavier’s hair and pulled the sweet warmth of the younger man’s mouth onto his own.

Everything felt right when they were together like this. All his worries subsided at once with Xav in his embrace, or his lover’s arms tightly wrapped around him. He was conscious of Gabriel entering the room but undisturbed by the were’s expansive presence.

“They started without us?” Gabe asked his lover as Dominic rose from folding Rayne’s clothing into the cabinet and slid his arms around Gabriel’s powerful neck to bestow a welcoming kiss on him.

“Ssshhh… it’s sweet,” Dominic whispered into his mouth.

Sweet yes, and also getting a bit steamy. Xavier could never resist for long when Rayne touched him and kissed him. The passion rose up around them like climbing vines as Xavier lipped and nuzzled at the smooth column of Rayne’s throat and stroked his hands in slow caresses up and down his back.

“Hey, slow down,” Gabriel chuckled, running a finger down Xavier’s spine as he rubbed up eagerly against his lover. “We’ve not even got us a proper circle yet.”

Xavier lifted his lips from Rayne, smiling a bit sheepishly, but he didn’t move away or even take his arms from around him. It felt too good to just hold him. That was ridiculous of course, but he didn’t care, he felt almost giddy. He cleared his throat, trying to ground a bit and focus.

“Where do you want us to stand, Dom?”

Dominic was sliding out of his robe and he passed it to Gabe, who hung it on the back of the door without comment as if he was quite used to being expected to fetch and carry when his lover was in High Priest mode. Lord Warren kept the blue silk cord though, which went back around his waist even though there was nothing for it to secure.

“Come,” he said imperiously, beckoning Xavier towards his little altar, now laden with all kinds of curious goodies. There were two tall candles, one silver and one gold, along with the double-edged knife Rayne had been so keen to play with earlier. It had a chased silver handle inlaid with mother of pearl and little moonstones, definitely decorative rather than a functional toy, though the silver blade looked sharp enough to do damage. A sheath that matched the silver and pearl of the handle lay beside it. Then there was a small, round, pewter bowl with a deep bottom, covered with elaborate engravings. Around it were two smaller dishes containing water and something that looked like salt, a gothic iron sconce with a white candle set in it, unlit, and a long white feather that looked like it had come from a large goose or a swan’s wing.

The oils he had been selecting earlier were now poured into nine little cups without handles, all made of smoked glass and all a slightly different colour. They were each about the size of Xavier’s cupped palm. Under Dominic’s guidance, he helped to set them out on the rug in a straight line that almost bisected the white circle woven into the soft dark pile. The cup at one end was a golden colour and at the other it was a silvery hue. In between them the remainder spread like a watercolour rainbow from red to a soft violet. The oils contained in each were a fragrant concoction of different, delicious aromas.

Almost instinctively the four men each moved into a quarter of the circle, even though the rug was easily large enough to seat more than ten people in a ring. Dominic held up a hand for quiet and in a smooth, nearly hypnotic tone he proclaimed; “When we undertake any form of ritual work, be it a simple spell or a major incantation, it is proper and right that we begin by thanking the Goddess and the God, and acknowledging the four quarters, by whose elemental force we all exist. We also create and empower a sacred space in which we can safely explore our magical limits without fearing harm from outside influences or being worried about the effects our conjuring will have on others. This space we call our circle and we will create it today by walking, each of us, three times around the sacred space in a deosil or sunwise path…”

“Sunwise?” Rayne echoed with a little frown.

“Clockwise,” Gabriel whispered to him, stirring his finger like he was holding an invisible teaspoon.

Dominic frowned at them both, clearly not accustomed to interruptions when he was in full flow. He cleared his throat slightly.

“So that’s three times around the circle, sunwise and we greet the Lord and Lady and each of the primary elementals in our turn as we go.”

Rayne and Xavier were facing one another on either side of the line of bowls and the vampire’s eyes rolled slightly as he caught his lover’s gaze. He was trying not to grin, without much success. It was kind of difficult to be serious when you were standing naked in someone else’s house, knowing that before long you would be fucking, and already more than a little bit hard for it.

Xavier felt more than a little giggly and horny himself, although he was unsure if it was the situation or the pot they’d smoked earlier or some combination of both. He managed to contain it though, out of sheer terror of what Dom might do to him if he screwed something up.

They began to traverse the circle, starting at the northern point where Dominic called on the aid of the element of earth and then, at the east, the element of air, in the south, fire and the west, water. By the time they’d walked the first circle Xavier had sobered a bit, his skin tingling with prickles of power. At the completion of the second circle Dominic invoked the God, whom he called the Horned One, God of Forests, Lord of the Sun.

Xavier had never been a religious type. In his private thoughts he believed it was all just stuff people made up to comfort themselves at best, to control other people at worst. He never much felt anything about god one way or the other. He felt something though, when Dominic spoke. The air felt thicker, and warmer. His case of giggles was gone by they time they were making the third circuit.

He listened as Dominic invoked the Goddess, something that was even more foreign to Xavier than the concept of a male deity. Dominic’s words were simple as he called upon the Lady of the Moon to join them, but his simple words were so heartfelt and eloquent they seemed to reach inside and kindle something there. Xavier felt it like a pulse beat, a thrum of power that closed the circle around them and made it feel like the safest place in the world. He was absolutely touched by the simple elegance of the casting ceremony in a way he’d never even considered before.

Even Rayne sobered a little when they were drawn in to help call the Elements. Dominic walked the circle with the bowl of salt and scattered it sparingly as he invoked the powers of earth. Gabriel took the white feather and put it in Rayne’s hand, nudging him to set the vampire off around the circle as Dominic called on the Element of Air. Rayne waved the feather vaguely as Lord Warren’s solemn voice sent shivers down his spine.

Gabe lit the candle then and gave it to Xavier whose role was to welcome the Element of Fire. Somehow the shimmer of the small golden flame focussed him and he was more sombre by the time he had made his round and settled in place on the opposite side of the circle to the altar.

Gabriel himself concluded the opening of the circle by walking it with the bowl of water and even managed to refrain from snickering as he flicked some of it casually over Rayne in passing. The vampire bristled and pointed the feather at him in a silent warning but that earned them both a look from their High Priest who put special emphasis on the fact that they had entered the circle of their own will in “perfect love and perfect trust” (and his eyes were narrowed on Rayne as he said that last part).

“Within our Rede all are welcome,” he said now, holding out his hands to either side. “And if at any point one of you feels anxious or needs to leave the circle they may. I ask only that when you do so you respect the power that binds our magic here and that you create a door by which you may exit and re-enter. The door must always be closed behind you. It is not perceived wisdom to walk blindly through a circle of power. I cannot vouch for the effects this will have on the one that breaks the circle, or the ones he leaves behind.”

That sounded a little ominous to Xav, but he had no intention of leaving so he thought it would be okay.

Each of them then placed the items representing the elements at their respective compass points and Dominic beckoned them to come forward into the centre of the circle. He smiled benevolently at Rayne and Xavier and had them sit either side of the row of cups containing the oils. Dom and Gabriel both knelt, Dom beside Rayne and Gabe beside Xavier.

“These,” Dominic indicated the oils as he picked up the first cup, “will ease the opening and alignment all of the chakras and help the energy flow.” He dipped his finger into the cup and then touched the bottoms of Rayne’s feet. “This one is to help keep you grounded,” he said, and handed the cup to Gabriel, who repeated his movements, dipping a fingertip into the oil and tracing over the soles of Xavier’s feet.

Xavier’s giggles came back as he applied the golden hued oil in ticklish little circles.

Rayne stretched out on the rug, he loved to have his feet touched and Dominic happily obliged him there, before stroking his hands smoothly up the vampire’s slim, white thighs.

“This one,” he said, dipping his fingers into the ruby-hued cup, “is Attar, or rose oil. It has a warming and relaxing effect when applied to the base chakra. Which is just… here.”

His hand slid between Rayne’s thighs and his undead communicant caught his lower lip between small, perfect, white teeth and moaned low in his throat.

“All our earth energies rise from the base chakra,” Dom murmured in a seductive tone. “It is our connection to the earth, our source of eternal renewal.”

At the same time, Gabriel circled two oily smooth fingers between Xavier’s ass cheeks and caressed his little rosebud promisingly.

“Don’t be shy about gettin’ turned on by the annointin’,” Gabe told him with a grin. “The Lady loves to see us get pleasured.”

“That’s our source of power, huh?” Xav said, a small giggle slipping out.

Gabriel drew his fingers back some, applying firm gentle pressure into the smooth stretch of skin just behind Xavier’s balls. “More like about here…” he said, his grin widening a bit as Xav’s giggle caught in his throat and turned into an involuntary sigh.

The next vessel was a smoky orange colour and Dominic explained that the second chakra was located in the pelvis, it was connected to the element of water and was related to movement, patterns and rhythms, and sexuality.

The scent of something slightly citrus and a hint of spice rose up as Dominic and Gabriel dipped into the oil. Gabe’s hands settled for a moment low on Xavier’s belly, below his navel. His fingers traced lightly down the whisper of a treasure trail. Even though he wasn’t on stage every weekend anymore, he was still waxed smooth except for a hint of close trimmed blond curls around the base of his cock, because he liked it that way, and so did Rayne. It certainly felt good as Gabe’s oiled hands glided over his satiny smooth skin from hip to hip and into the well of his groin. A fact that did not go unnoticed by the were as he drew a fingertip up Xav’s stiffening sex.

Rayne was lying with his head turned towards Xavier as Dominic firmly and skilfully massaged his lower abdomen, drawing little purring sounds from the vampire as he sprawled underneath his friend, blissfully unconcerned by the peculiarity of their circumstances now.

“You can do that all fuckin’ day,” he sighed contentedly, reaching out across the line of little bowls to run his fingers up and down Xavier’s outflung arm. When Dominic did not tell him to stop, he drew them down to Xavier’s palm and circled the tips gently there, loving the way that he could feel Xavier’s growing pleasure augmenting his own.

Xavier’s fingers curled slightly, brushing into Rayne’s palm. He smiled over at him, equally relaxed. The burgeoning arousal continued to tingle along his skin as Gabriel moved up his body, anointing each chakra point. Dominic seemed to spend a little extra time over Rayne’s heart chakra, and Gabriel apparently thought Xav needed to speak what was on his mind more as he hovered over his throat chakra.

As Dom slowly drew an elaborate glyph on his chest in the same spicy scented oil that he had used to tease Rayne’s eager cock, the vampire arched his back and wriggled delightedly under him. He felt a steadily swelling heat beneath his ribs as Lord Warren’s gentle fingers moved around in a slow spiral on his upper body. The warmth that flowed through him melted tension in muscles that he had not even realised were tense. Initially he felt as if he was floating, and then, when he looked across at Xavier again the feelings that chased through him were beyond comprehension.

His fingers twined through Xav’s fingers and suddenly they were lying side by side, holding hands like teenagers, just looking at one another in wordless awe. Rayne’s chest rose and fell violently, then did it again and again. He fought the tears successfully but a massive cloud of emotion was threatening to burst over him at any minute and all he could do was lie still and stare at the impossible angel whose hand was tangled with his own.

Xavier lifted his arm slowly, bringing Rayne’s hand up to his lips and brushing a sweet kiss over the back. He felt his own throat tighten with an inexplicable lump, feeling the almost overwhelming emotions welling up in his love. He smiled at him reassuringly, squeezing his hand to let him know he was there, no matter what.

Rayne’s lips curled in a barely perceptible smile, so brief that if you did not know him you’d hardly even call it a smile. But it reached his eyes, filling them with light and pleasure as he returned the squeeze of Xavier’s fingers.

And then Dominic was murmuring something about his brow and seeing more clearly and spiritual enlightenment, which sounded like plenty of things he’d spent a lifetime avoiding. The oil tingled slightly against the cool skin of his forehead, trickling slowly into his hair like fairy fingertips. He shivered at the sensations it awoke in him. The other chakra points had seemed to awaken a heat within him but this one was different. It was like sinking into a light sleep, where he was distantly aware of what was around him… no, scratch that! He was hyper aware of his surroundings but, with the exception of Xavier’s warm hand in his own, they did not seem important.

He had always expected the reality of enlightenment to be a disappointment, but this was something so subtle and gentle as to be almost background music. When Dom softly asked him how he felt, he murmured; “I feel real. Is that weird? Everything else feels a little bit detached and I feel relaxed, but I feel more real than I ever did. It’s like I’m conscious of everything all at the same time, but some things are more… solid.”

“That’s not an unusual reaction,” Dom chuckled, but his tone suggested that perhaps he had not expected it to be Rayne’s.

Xavier was still looking over at Rayne, so absorbed in his mate’s sensations and reactions that his own seemed secondary. Gabriel completed the last chakra point at the crown by sliding his fingers into Xav’s hair, massaging along his scalp in a way that made Xav’s eyes slide closed and brought a sigh of pleasure to his lips.

Without any further instruction Xav automatically felt the energy rise, climbing up each of those points of power in his body from root to crown and sliding back down from somewhere above his head like he was a lightening rod between above and below. His energy had glowed brightly to begin with, especially after his work with Dominic earlier, but now he positively pulsed with it like a bright little star against the plush dark pile under him.

It felt amazing and his fingers tightened again around Rayne’s. He wanted to pull his lover close now, eager to feel his lips and his body on his own. His sex rose with his desire and he wriggled slightly, his breath coming a little quicker.

Gabriel’s strong hands moved down to cup his face and Xavier opened his eyes, already drowning dark with desire.

“And how do you feel?” Gabriel asked him.

“I feel okay,” Xavier answered automatically, his voice sounding small and a little tight.

“Just okay, huh?” Gabriel prodded gently, still cupping his face and not letting him look away.

Xavier swallowed, blinking slowly. He was so used to censoring his emotions or burying them entirely. Talking about your feelings left you open to be hurt, even letting on that you hadfeelings made you vulnerable. Xavier was, as Dom put it, a sensitive. He felt things other people did not usually pick up on. It had made him doubly vulnerable growing up in a hostile environment where most people were prey or predators. Hiding what he was and what he felt had been vital to survival.

Gabriel’s thumb brushed gently over his cheek. “No one will hurt you here, Xavier. In this space you are absolutely safe.”

Xavier drew in a breath as if he wasn’t quite getting enough air. He swallowed hard again, his fingers almost painfully tight around Rayne’s hand now. The swell of emotions that wanted to come up scared him, not to feel them but to say it out loud. His lips parted slightly and for a second nothing came out, he cleared his throat softly.

“Happy,” he said, only a little above a whisper. The lump in his throat was so painful it was just about choking him. “Content…” He blinked and a tear escaped from each corner of his eyes to trickle back into his temples. “Loved.”

It was Rayne’s turn to draw Xavier’s hand to his lips and he let them linger on his lover’s trembling palm for quite a length of time as those words sank in. The thing was, he had no desire to argue. Right now he wanted to do a whole lot more than just kiss his lover’s hand, but the way that Dom was smiling as he massaged his scalp through the sleek fronds of the vampire’s hair said plainly that he didn’t have to talk. The truth must have been sitting there in the middle of his face.

Now Lord Warren murmured; “It is not news to us that Xavier is loved, but we are glad that he allows himself to feel happy with his lot. It makes his task this afternoon so much the easier.”

“I’m sure,” Rayne said a little sarcastically.

“Shush!” Dom sat back, astride his hips and tapped him on the nose with one finger. “Do you feel the energy riding you, Rayne Wylde?”

“I feel a camp old queen riding me,” Rayne teased but when he closed his eyes he could feel it, a slow ripple of power that shivered through his veins like hot, fresh blood. When he concentrated on it the tremors of energy swirled through his body, channelling up from his loins and hips to his belly and out again to embrace his ribs, then back in, surging through his heart and making it beat so much faster, then spreading to his shoulders and back up the line of his neck, spilling into his adam’s apple before exploding like fireworks behind his eyes and cascading down over the dome of his skull, making his scalp tingle furiously.

He felt the power slide across his skin like electricity and his cock, which had relaxed as Dominic chanted and drew all over him in oil, now quickened again. He was throbbing with an urgent need which almost had nothing to do with the physical intimacy of the older man’s body straddling his.

“Yeah,” he whispered now. “I feel it, Dom. Fuck… it feels amazing.”

“Are you ready for the next phase?” Dominic asked, beaming at him delightedly.

“Oh yeah!” Rayne answered with an emphatic nod of his head. “Am I!”

Gabriel now grinned at Xavier and his hands slid down the blond boy’s neck to his shoulders and caressed his upper body slowly.

“How about you, babe? You wanna take this to another level?” he asked in a richly suggestive tone.

Xavier licked his lips, but it wasn’t exactly a nervous gesture. The energy coursing through him felt almost too much to contain. He nodded his head. “Yeah…”

Gabriel reached back now and produced a long skein of scarlet silk from the little pile of accessories which Dominic had prepared earlier. He ran it through his fingers so that Xavier could see it then touched it to his lips and murmured; “Sometimes this helps. Do you trust me?”

Xavier’s eyes perceptibly darkened, the pupils dilating with arousal. He bit one corner of his plush bottom lip as he watched Gabriel pull the silk through his hands and nodded.

The handsome Roma did not reach for his hands as expected though. He slid his fingers down the insides of Xavier’s thighs, opening him wider and stroked the silken cord gently over the younger man’s plump, hairless balls, slowly rubbing a length between his nuts and sliding it back and forth. As Xavier wriggled under him, Gabriel slowly wound the heavy thread around his sac, working it between his testes in a figure of eight and pulling gently on the ends to separate those luscious orbs.

“Tell me if it hurts,” he said huskily. “I’ll let it run looser. Pain’s not the point of it.”

Xavier nodded his head again, his lush bottom lip still caught between his teeth. He wasn’t sure if he was even capable of speech at the moment. It didn’t hurt exactly…but it did feel strange. He had to blink rapidly a few times as his balls were manipulated and separated. He could feel it all the way up in his throat.

Gabe bent over him so that the long, loose tendrils of his black and white hair brushed seductively over Xavier’s belly and groin. He blew gently on Xav’s twitching cock as he looped the cord ends up around the base of his shaft then back down beneath his nuts again, tying them firmly but not too tightly there.

Then he knelt back and pulled the long, trailing ends of the cord back between his own thighs, binding his cock and ball-sac more securely. He groaned a little at the feel of the silken restraint around his massively tumescent dick and rubbed the swollen purple head steadily between his thumb and forefinger, teasing a little jewel of precum out in spite of the makeshift restraint.

Xavier’s mouth watered at the sight and he couldn’t resist reaching out to run a fingertip up the underside of Gabe’s impressive shaft, catching that small clear jewel at the tip and bringing it to his lips for a taste. He licked the tip of his finger seductively, a little hum of pleasure in his throat.

Beside him, Rayne stretched out on the rug, watching Dominic’s hands explore his lean body seductively. The older man smiled at him like a wanton angel and whispered; “Do you need some help, a cock ring perhaps? Or a wand? I have toys if you’d like to play.”

“It’s been a long time since anyone asked me to hold it,” the vampire admitted warily. He glanced across at Xavier. “I was hardly as old as him.”

“Well then, you’ve been spoiled. You need all the help you can get.” Dominic bent over him, kissing his mouth softly, then sitting back and reaching for a little, black, wooden box that rattled when he moved it. He wrapped his thumb and forefinger around the base of Rayne’s cock and balls, measuring him deftly, then opened the box and produced a thick, silvery band of metal, the edges milled smooth so that it was perfectly curved from all angles.

Rayne shivered restlessly under him, but lay back and let him slide the ring over his shaft, which in the spirit of cooperation had lost some of it’s rigidity as Dominic talked of restraining it, and work it down over his well-oiled balls. It felt cold against the skin of his groin and he gasped a little as it settled in place, pulling his nuts up tight against the base of his cock. He felt his erection swell again at the alien sensation of the cool ring laying on his shaved mound, hard up behind his balls.

Beside him now he could hear Xavier purring with pleasure as Gabriel began to get more intimate. He was not sure if the emotion he was feeling was envy or anxiety.

Xavier slid a hand down his own chest, caressing over the cock bondage and getting used to the feel. His other hand moved lightly over Gabriel’s lower belly and around his pelvis, his fingers stroking through the fur there.

Gabe moved against him with a happy little growl, rubbing himself against Xav’s hand and letting the younger man explore him. They had shared Rayne last night but the wolf was conscious of the fact that it was Xavier’s first time with a were and did not want to rush him.

Xav sat up and shifted one leg so it was bent under him in what looked like it ought to be an uncomfortable position, though it didn’t bother him at all. He let both his hands glide slowly up Gabe’s powerful chest to his shoulders and neck, his body following the sinuous trail until they knelt facing each other and he pulled him in for a kiss.

“Yummy,” Gabriel murmured as he let his lips dance against Xavier’s mouth. Their bodies glided together smoothly in this new position, bound together by the silken umbilical cord. “You are bendy as a piece of ‘lastic. That could be a lot of fun.”

Beside them, Rayne was slumped over the cushions, loose of limb and very conscious of every move that Gabe and Xavier made. He had moaned a little as Dom slid the cock ring on and he bucked his hips now, testing the tug of the heavy, metal restraint around his shaft and pulling on his balls. It was odd but not unpleasant. He stayed hard but that was more than just a little bit to do with his awareness of Xavier’s arousal.

“This is mental!” he whispered in a shivery voice.

“Are you alright, darling?” Dominic asked, cupping his face in the fingers of one hand.

Rayne rubbed against it like a cat, seeking comfort. “Yeah… it’s just a bit… weird! That’s all.”

“It can seem strange the first time,” his mentor assured him. “Don’t be afraid. If you feel uneasy, just say so. We can stop. It’s not a matter of life and death.”

Xav was also very conscious of Rayne, although the vampire seemed to be keeping a rather tight lid on what he was feeling at the moment. He made to turn his head toward him but Gabriel caught his lips again, coming in for a deeper taste of his mouth and sliding his fingers over Xav’s narrow hips. The firm globes of Xavier’s arse fitted nicely into his strong hands, and the wolf pulled him up a bit tighter to his own hips.

Xav’s blood surged and pulsed in him. A small worry at the back of his head nagged him, not knowing if Rayne was okay with this… but Rayne hadn’t said anything, he hadn’t called a stop, and he knew his lover liked to watch him with other men. More than once it had turned him on like mad, so… he relaxed some, letting the kiss grow in heat and feeling the way Gabe squeezed his cheeks and rubbed up against him. The tall Roma eased him back down onto the cushions, sprawled and supine, admiring him with a lusty grin.

“That’s it, babe,” the were rumbled appreciatively into his mouth. His tongue followed the words and for a little while they just frenched lazily on the soft cushions strewn over the rug. Gabe reached beneath him though, gently rubbing the oily wetness around Xavier’s tight pucker and easing a long finger in slowly.

On the other side of the rug, Dominic was writhing eagerly against Rayne, humping and bucking his way up the vampire’s belly and chest, stroking himself against the younger man with little gasps of pleasure. Rayne’s hand caressed between his thighs and played delicately with Dom’s shaved balls. At the same time Lord Warren was lightly slapping his prick against Rayne’s pretty face, clearly very aroused by the game. He knelt up a little higher to guide his leaking cock head to Rayne’s lips now, glossing them with pre-cum and watching the beautiful little creature lick it off and swallow it.

Rayne’s fingers reluctantly released Xavier’s hand now as he stroked his way up Dominic’s lean thighs to his hips and sculpted backside.

“Let me suck you,” he groaned hungrily. “I wanna suck you off.”

Dom pressed the engorged head of his long, slender wand to the vampire’s soft lips and felt them part around it with a small, eager sigh. Straight away the beautiful, black-haired man began to suck his dick greedily, nodding so that those plush lips glided up and down the sensitive column of his engorged flesh.

“No semen, though,” he warned. “Not yet, darling. Just a few drops of precum. Just enough to get us both feeling randy.”

Xavier moaned huskily as Gabe pushed a second finger inside him. His head tipped back and Gabriel kissed the side of his throat warmly, thrusting his searching fingers deeper and faster.

“Uuh…yeah…” he breathed, rocking his hips on Gabe’s probing digits. He was starting to get warmed up now, tension unwinding as he became more and more aroused. Sliding one hand back down Gabe’s body he wrapped his fingers around the thick heavy prick jutting from the were’s loins. He let his hand glide down in a gentle but firm stroke, the soft silken skin moving with his hand over a very, very hard member that sent a quiver of hot desire through him.

“Mmmm… that feels good. Pour a little more oil over him, babe. He’s ready for the oven,” Gabriel chuckled huskily.

Xavier reached down without looking, selecting one of the little cups and dipping into it to slick over Gabe’s rigid pole. There was a weird sort of excitement in him, part intimidation laced through with a large dose of pure lust. He had a fantastic big cock on him, that was for sure.

That long, curving shaft twitched and pulsed restlessly in his slippery hand as Xavier stroked his curled fingers up and down its long shank, then cupped and slicked the swollen, reddish-brown dome of the glans making his companion growl again, low in his throat.

Gabriel moved over him like a shadow, dipping low to rub against Xavier’s body once more, his mouth a hot, wet caress on the younger man’s neck and throat.

“Mmmm… that feels so sweet,” he rumbled eagerly in Xavier’s ear. “Show me how you want it, babe. I want this to feel good for you too.”

Xav knew just what he wanted right now, and he kissed Gabriel once more with toe curling heat before he turned in the circle of his arms – a complex manoeuvre, given the silken cord that connected their balls, and only executed thanks to Xavier’s incredible flexibility – fitting his backside up to Gabe snugly. He wriggled against him seductively, moving languidly to some inner rhythm. He normally wasn’t a real big fan of a lot of fur, but Gabe’s was straight and rough against his skin, like rubbing up against a big warm rug, adding another layer of sensation.

This way around also gave him a good view of Rayne and Dominic and his eyes practically smouldered over the two of them as Rayne skilfully sucked the High Priest’s erect cock.

In this position, the cord connecting their balls pulled a little between his legs. Although it was a distraction it was not painful and more than offset by the caresses of Gabe’s lush, hairy chest and groin against his back and buttocks. But hair was not the only thing pressing against him now. The were’s long dick pulsed smoothly between Xavier’s cheeks as they spooned together on the cushions, pressing intermittently against his nicely oiled rosebud.

Rayne was now slowly throating the full length of Dominic’s deliciously hard prick, nodding his head in a steady rhythm with the rocking of the older man’s lean hips. He bucked his own, smooth, pale crotch against Lord Warren’s leg whilst performing fellatio on him that made Dom moan with astounded desire.

“Oh Ray… oh, you precious boy!” he exhaled in a husky groan. “That is almost too good!”

The vampire looked up at him with huge, dark-pupilled eyes that said without words how much he was loving it too. Xavier knew how powerfully addicted Rayne was to the act of giving head and how hard it would be for Dom to hold back from coming in his mouth with Rayne sucking on him like that.

His horny thoughts were almost a distraction from what Gabriel was doing to him, until he felt him shift his angle of incidence slightly, going from sliding between his cheeks to probing more insistently at his opening. The plump head pressed firmly on the tightness of his ring and he swore he could almost hear Gabe gritting his teeth as he struggled not to simply ram that big bone home. Xav was hot for him though, he wanted it and he pushed back on him encouragingly, sucking in a hard breath when the head finally popped into him.

“Oohhh, yeah! F-fuuuck! mmm…” he moaned, rolling his hips and feeling the stimulating tug on his bound dick and throbbing nuts.

“Uuuhhhh… yeah!” Gabe grunted enthusiastically, rolling him forward slightly to lean over Xavier’s slender body, one hand on the rug in front of his torso and the other stroking the boy’s undulating back as he bucked himself in rapidly. “That’s beautiful, babe. So hot and tight!”

Gabriel felt very firm and almost rigid inside him, like a high quality dildo. Xavier began to believe that Rayne had not been joking about him having a dick bone like a dog. The prick moving inside him felt like no part of a man he’d ever had in him before.

It was not the time to ask. Rayne was rubbing his face against Dominic’s exposed belly, making little gulping sounds as his enthusiastic companion leaned over him, easing him down onto the rug on his back so that he could straddle Rayne’s shoulders and fuck his mouth and throat urgently. Rayne’s fingers were pulsing between Dom’s exposed buttocks, shoving into him and frigging him hard. The rough finger fucking was making Dominic whine like a hungry puppy as he rose and fell over Rayne’s face and shoulders. Cock ring or not, he looked and sounded for all the world like a man about to blow his load in a big way.

Xav’s face scrunched a bit as Gabe sunk deeper inside and he lowered his shoulders more, lifting his ass higher and pushing back onto him. That long cock was pressing into places that few objects had ever reached and the sensations were both alien and impossibly sweet.

“Oh yeah, that’s so good…” he purred breathlessly. He couldn’t resist taking his own dick in hand, stroking his straining sex as Gabe relentlessly fucked that massive bone into him.

As Gabriel covered Xav with his long, trim, powerful body, driving into him hard and fast, his tall, handsome, elderly lover eased up on Rayne, stroking the vampire’s dark, silken hair and shaking his head a little.

“Woah,” he exhaled, eyes glittering with excitement. “Give me a minute, Ray. That is truly edging me up too close for comfort.”

Rayne grinned up at him and licked his balls playfully, then Dominic moved down on him, dipping his head to kiss that soft, wet mouth gratefully. The vampire’s slim, scarred arms came up around him and he let his legs part so that Dom was straddling one of his thighs, his right knee coming up between the older man’s legs gently. They surged against one another like that for several minutes.

Rayne’s face turned constantly from Dominic to the sight of his gorgeous mate being ridden hard now by Gabriel and stroking himself eagerly as he moaned with desire. He was amazed to find it such a turn on watching his lover get screwed by another man, but he knew from personal experience how good Gabe Arden’s long shaft felt thrusting inside him. And he also understood how hot it was for Xavier, being entered and totally dominated by a strong, skilful sex mate. Rayne had expected to feel jealous but instead all he felt was a fierce, burning desire to help Gabe fuck his gorgeous lover.

Xav’s face was still turned toward Rayne, one cheek and his shoulder pressed to the soft carpet. Gabe had one arm around him now and his other hand circled around Xavier’s forearm as he drove himself deeper. Xav made small huffs of pleasure every time Gabriel bucked into him, his panting coming harder and more rapid as the urge to come started to build. Gabe slowed down slightly but Xav was getting close anyway, his hips dancing between Gabe’s hard cock and his stroking fist.

“Slow down,” Gabe murmured along the back of his neck, making Xav shudder and moan under him.

Xav tried to breathe slower, back himself down a little and then Gabriel slid both his hands down his arms, pulling them back so he rested completely on his shoulders. He held Xavier’s wrists, using the leverage to tug him back as he drove his hips forward. Xav knew that Gabe probably figured if he took away the use of his hands and controlled the pace this way Xav would have to cool down a few notches, but Gabe didn’t know Xav that well. The added restraint shoved him right up to the brink and his whole body quivered like a plucked string.

“Uuuhhhh!! Uhhhh!! N-nnuh, stop! You’re gonna make me come!” he got out in a breathless desperate rush.

“Let go of him,” Rayne urged in a low tone. Not a warning, but the darkness of his eyes told of how aroused he was. Xavier’s need rode him like a ghost and he was deadly earnest now. “Let go of his arms, Gabe. Kneel up and let him sit back down on you. Let him control the pace for a few minutes or we’re both gonna blow.”

Dominic had been rubbing up against him gently but now he too eased off, kneeling astride Rayne’s hips as his young friend recovered. Gabriel had let go of Xav’s wrists the moment Rayne began to explain and stroked his hands slowly up to his mate’s slim shoulders, drawing him back against his body as he knelt up too.

“Sorry babe,” he whispered against the shell of Xavier’s ear. “Didn’t realise you were so hot for being held down. I’ll remember that!”

He chuckled huskily, still pulsing quietly inside Xav.

Xavier leaned back on Gabriel, his head nodding against his shoulder and his throat working as he swallowed. He had been so close his limbs were quivering with the sudden drawing back, his engorged dick so hard he was almost painfully aroused, which added it’s own spice.

He let himself cool down a few degrees, his body undulating slowly on the pulsing shaft buried inside him. When he got it under control again he opened his eyes, immediately catching Rayne’s incendiary stare. Xavier’s lips curled in a positively wicked little grin as he looked back seductively at his lover.

Rayne’s lips curved around a deliciously sexy smile and as Dominic reached down to adjust the angle of the vampire’s rampant cock and lowered himself slowly onto it, he breathed; “You are so hot, Xavier! I wanna suck you off while he fucks you, gorgeous!”

Xavier nearly melted with Rayne’s words, a surge going through him at just the thought of how good his lover’s lips around his cock would feel right now. He bit his bottom lip though, stifling the groan the rose up in him. “I dunno if I can hold back if you do that.”

“The point isn’t to hold back.” Dominic reminded him, his own voice rather breathy as he sank down on Rayne.

A small shift of position brought them all closer together and Xavier reached down to stroke his fingers into Ray’s hair and caress his face as the vampire licked his tightly held ball sac and lovely curved shaft. As soon as they touched it was like someone turned up the dial on the amperage of the energy flowing.

“Uuhh! Yeah!” Xav gasped, bouncing a little harder on Gabe’s shaft. Gabe stroked into him with a series of short hard thrusts that had Xav catching his breath in no time.

“The point,” Dom recapped for them, barely able to speak beyond a gasp, “is to achieve a controlled orgasm; to come without soaking Ray’s pretty face in your juice. Not that it wouldn’t be a delicious sight.”

Gabriel slowed his pulsing with a little groan. “DW, that’s not ‘elpful at all!”

Rayne did not seem to mind though. He was in heaven, sprawled on the softness of the deep pile rug and silky cushions, his head between his lover’s thighs as Dominic rocked and rolled like a rodeo rider on his throbbing erection. The cool touch of the cock ring was keeping him focussed on the job in hand… or in mouth as it also currently was. But his fingers slid down between Dom’s legs now and he began to tease the older man gently, playing that slender hand up and down his shaft.

There was nothing to this task, he decided with infinite satisfaction. It was definitely the best few minutes’ work he had done in ages.

Gabe’s hands stroked up Xav’s inner thighs and fanned out over his hips before moving down and repeating the action, tugging him up and back a little on each upstroke and forward thrust of the huge cock that was pulsing into him. Rayne’s soft cool lips caressed over his highly stimulated erection, licking and sucking at him, making his head spin.

Xav reached up one hand around to the back of Gabriel’s neck, holding on as he moved fluidly between him and Rayne. Xav’s breath came in short gasps now, his beautifully toned body glowing with a hint of perspiration and dewy from the oils.

“Yeah, oh yeah…that’s…uhhh…!” he breathed, huffing slightly with each inward thrust Gabe gave him. His drooling cock slid back and forth across Rayne’s lips and his lover opened for him, taking in the head of his cock. “Ohhh, ohhh, god, ‘m gonna come.”

“Turn in inward, Xavier.” Dom said, his voice still breathless but somehow firm. Not a tone to argue with, or disobey.

Xav still didn’t know if he could… the urge was to let go, to burst! At the last moment he squeezed down on that urge. He thought it would probably stop the orgasm, but he was too close, those rippling contractions had him. The taut stretch of muscle between his balls and his filled ass spasmed uncontrollably, pulsing in delicious waves, but he had such a tight squeeze on it the pulses tapered and stopped before he actually shot his load and he realised he had done it after all.

At the moment he was so turned on he couldn’t even be elated, he just kept going, like his body knew it had got the pleasure but missed the delivery and wanted more of that. He got it too, within moments he felt like he was ready again. His lean body arched, fingers tightening on the back of Gabriel’s neck and his cock pulsing deeper in Rayne’s sweet mouth as another spine tingling dry orgasm rippled over him and pulled a cry from his lips.

The energy flowing now was approaching something sublime. The heat and swirl of it around all of their bodies was building like a pressure cooker.

Rayne was huffing rapidly into his groin as he nodded down on Xavier’s delicious dick. He felt it tense and lurch and was prepared for the bursting of the dam, and felt slightly cheated when it did not come. But he shared that gut clenching pleasure through his tight link to his gorgeous mate. It turned his limbs to water and he flopped back down onto the cushions for a moment, catching his breath, even though it wasn’t necessary for him. He had come close but the peak was all Xav’s, he only rode the echoes of it and his own climax subsided as he lay still beneath Dominic, moaning softly.

When Xav came back up again he was almost caught off guard.

“Jesus! That was quick!”

Dom cuffed him lightly across the shoulder. “Do you mind not profaning my sacred space with deities you don’t actually believe in!” he warned tersely and the look on his face said he was having a hard time controlling himself too.

“Sorry.” Rayne managed not to look very contrite, though he didlook incredibly horny.

Xav was still writhing energetically on Gabe’s prick. It was the oddest thing, he’d just come twice in rapid succession, but it felt like he could go again, and maybe again, and his dick hadn’t flagged at all. He definitely saw some serious benefits to this Tantra thing.

Except for his rigid cock, he was nearly limp in Gabe’s arms, undulating in a relaxed sensual way.

“Lay him down Gabriel.” Dominic instructed softly, rising rather reluctantly off of Rayne.

Xav didn’t even question, he was feeling too good for questions. He just let Gabriel manoeuvre him down onto his back and groaned a little as he untied the silk cord from his cock and balls.

Dominic had meanwhile pulled a small container from the supplies he had readied and opened it, dipping his finger into it and coming out with what looked like a blue-ish green goo.

Xavier lay passive as Dominic began to draw a symbol on his chest with the cool paste. “You’ve done nicely raising the energy, can you feel it?”

“Like an amazing whole body buzz.” Xav answered.

“Yes, and now we raise it even more. When it’s at it peak we need to direct it to the spell, to the barrier that’s going to protect you.” Dom said, finishing off the sigil he was drawing. “Not just your energy, all our energy. It might be a little…overwhelming, but it won’t hurt, I promise. It will feel really, really good.”

Xav nodded, smiling a little as Dominic moved back into Gabriel’s arms and he found himself reaching for Rayne.

His lover was still sprawled on the cushions beside him and stretched out a lazy hand. His big green eyes widened in awe even before he touched Xavier.

“Woah! That’s fuckin’ astounding. Can youfeel that, or is it just us that can feel you?” he exclaimed, rolling onto his side to hold his hand out, palm facing down, about two inches above his mate’s chest. “It’s… it’s like it’s pushing me back but trying to suck me in as well.”

He took his hand away and flexed it as if it tingled. Gabriel laughed breathlessly. He had wasted no time pulling Dom into his warm embrace and was now thrusting into his own mate eagerly. Dominic whimpered with pleasure at the feel of Gabriel’s driving penis inside him, so it was the wolf who chuckled; “Sit back from him a bit. You’re too close to see what he’s doing.”

Rayne was reluctant to move away, given the sultry look on Xavier’s face right now, let alone the sexiness of his firm, golden body. He inched back slowly though and as he neared the edge of the cushions he suddenly realised what Gabriel meant.

“Je…” He swallowed the blasphemous utterance seconds before Dominic narrowed his best ‘High Priest’ glare on him. “Fuck me! Xav… it’s feeding into your aura. He’s lit up like a fuckin’ Xmas tree!”

Xavier didn’t really care at the moment about the energy he was drawing from them, or how it looked. All he knew was he was fabulously horny and he wanted Rayne. He turned, coming up on all fours and glided over to the nude vampire like a sleek tawny cat stalking his prey. He licked over Rayne’s bottom lip, nipping it lightly before he eased into his lap, wrapping arms and legs around him. Xav’s hands slid warmly up Rayne’s back and he kissed him hungrily.

“Mmmm…I want you so much,” he whispered against his lover’s lips.

The pleasure in Rayne’s eyes was hot enough to light a fire. When Xavier prowled over him he let his hands sink into the curious ripple of energy that coursed through his lover’s body, caressing his naked back and shoulders then stroking down to his firm and fabulous arse.

“Mmmm… this feels amazing!” he purred happily, sinking into the passionate press of Xavier’s soft, warm lips on his own and kissing him back with a heat that almost matched the energy Xav was creating.

The two of them twined around each other, drawing together like a pair of magnets. The energy was like static electricity in the air as they kissed and stroked and rubbed up against one another. Rayne’s fingers cupped his cheeks and his lips found the side of throat, dragging his wet tongue over the twin points his fangs had left there making Xavier arch his back and moan.

“Uuuhhhhh, baby, you make me so hot for you!” Xav murmured, longing heavy in his tone. He rolled his hips suggestively, their hard cocks rubbing alongside each other.

“Mmmm… show me, sweetheart,” Rayne growled hungrily, between deep, hard kisses to Xavier’s mouth and his ear and his slender neck. His fingers played a slow trickle of pressure points down his lover’s spine and between his cheeks, feeling how wet and slippery-hot he was back there. “Oh yeah… he’s warmed you up nice for me, sweet-cheeks. Show me how fuckin’ hot you can be. I wanna feel it. Wanna feel that fuckin’ hot spot riding me hard.”

Xav was only too eager to show him. He bent his knees up a bit, putting his feet flat on the floor so he could move freely and lift up enough to settle back down on Rayne’s fabulously hard dick. They both groaned as he slid easily inside that snug passage. With his arms still wrapped around Rayne’s neck he kissed him deep, flexing the muscles of his thighs to bounce his sexy little bum up and down on the plump rod filling him up now.

“Mmm-rah! That feels fantastic!” Xav enthused breathlessly

“Uhhh… fuck! Ohhhh!” Rayne agreed with him, leaning back so that Xav could get a good long drop on him each time he bounced. Dominic had already taken him close to the edge once this afternoon and now he was sliding up slowly once again.

Xav quickly found his stride, his muscles inside squeezing and milking Rayne skillfully as each thrust of Rayne’s dick pushed up against his hot spot. His own hard prick bobbed on his belly looking delicious as he worked them both toward orgasm.

“Ohh, I love the way you feel babe,” Xav panted.

“Mmmmhhh… you are gonna drive me crazy… but in a totally good way!” Rayne huffed in response to the vigorous stimulation of his throbbing cock. He felt it stiffen and swell again as Xavier began to hump his stunningly gorgeous body up and down eagerly on it. The pressure of the snug fitting ring that still rested behind his balls was just the right side of painful now. Whether it was tight enough to hold him when Xav rode him over the lip of the sexual precipice… well, he would find out soon enough.

The rush was beginning in his loins; a dark, lustful swirl of need that was turning harder and faster inside him as Xavier bucked on him. He was not the only one to sense it. Dominic, who was on his knees beside them, riding his own whirlwind, now reached over and began to fist Xavier’s cock rhythmically.

“It will work best if we… huhhh…if we can… ohhhh…. ohhhhhh!” he panted as Xav thrust into his hand and Gabriel pounded him energetically from behind.

“What ‘er Ladyship is sayin’…” Gabe huffed with an enthusiastic grin, “is how we wanna try an’ come off together.”

“Mmmhhhh!” Dominic nodded, his eyes very wide and dark from the stimulus. “Absolutely! We’ve done it… uhhhh… done it with just the two of us. Never with four. Should be… ahhhhyyyyyaaaahhhhhyaahhhh… amazing!”

The heat in the circle was growing along with the energy they were building. A trickle of sweat rolled down Xavier’s spine. The climb was like the edgy pressure of impending orgasm, and yet somehow bigger than that. Xav’s whole body buzzed and tingled with it and amazingly he wasn’t sure how much longer he could ride that edge before he burst again. Dominic’s hand pumped his slippery cock vigorously while Rayne bucked just as fast and hard from below. His head tipped back now, a soft whine building into little gasps in his throat.

“Uh! Uh! Uhhhhh! I’m gonna gonna gonna gonna co-o-o-ome!”

The whirlwind pulled him in and he could feel it sucking the rest of them in as well, like his own throbbing pulse joined and merged with them and he could feel their pleasure echoing his own.

Rayne felt him gripping urgently inside as they took him up towards his peak. He was rising with Xavier, almost channelling the flood of energy that made his beautiful lover appear to be lost in an angelic haze to his eyes. The vampire cried out hoarsely, his fangs extended and forcing his mouth open so that his gasping breaths were short and ragged, torn from his throat by the ferocity of their sex. He was vibrating with the force that Xavier had already generated, so close that he knew Xav must be able to feel it inside him. His cock shaft lurched and began to swell with need.

“Ohhh Xav… ohhh god, Xavier!” he groaned, “dunno if I can hold it.”

He arched his spine, leaning back, with both hands braced on the rug behind him. At the same time, Dominic went down on Xavier and began to suck and lick him hungrily. Gabriel was still driving into him hard from behind and he growled with pleasure at the sight, leaning forward and running his hand down Rayne’s heaving belly, caressing the smoothness of his bucking crotch, tickled by Dom’s soft, silver-gold curls. His fingers and thumb slid around the base of Rayne’s pulsating shaft and pinched gently but firmly, keeping him in check as he started to peak inside Xavier.

“Uuuuhhhhh… Jeez!” Rayne’s teeth clenched, drawing blood from his lower jaw as his whole body started to jerk spasmodically. Their circular lovemaking had taken him up and down but he had not reached climax thus far. He did now, and it lashed up through his naked body like a dragon, breathing fire through his veins. He thought he screamed but could not be sure. He was no longer sure of anything but the racing, thrashing heat that built within him, robbing his limbs of strength.

The world was losing it’s solidity. Xavier couldn’t really feel the floor under his hands and feet anymore. The only thing he could feel was the pulsing throb of Rayne under and in him and the hot wetness of Dominic’s mouth swallowing him, and the energy. Oh. God. The energy. Xavier had experienced many mind shattering orgasms in his life, those pulsing seconds of absolute bliss that made the body hum and melt with warmth. He had always thought nothing could really feel better. This was better. This was… indescribable.

He understood then what was really happening. It wasn’t just a matter of stopping ejaculation. It was catching the sensation of it, the energy of it, and not letting it end. He felt it, and Rayne felt it, and Dom and Gabriel felt it, although he wasn’t as intimately plugged into to them. He was the centre though, the focus, the spark that set off their fuse like a brand of fire. The energy felt molten, flowing in and pounding through him. He knew when Dominic started to come and pulled Gabe over with him, and he knew when Rayne’s shuddering, thrashing, explosion rolled right into a second intense dry orgasm. Xavier’s never stopped, it just rolled past those first few moments of expected spasms and kept riding him until he couldn’t take anymore.

The light around him grew and grew, blocking out everything else until he couldn’t even feel Rayne anymore. He had the sensation of falling, but not a panicked gut wrenching drop, more like the lazy swirling of a feather floating down. The room was gone, everything was gone except this amazing warmth and light. The shield sigil Dominic had inscribed onto him started to burn like someone had touched hot iron to his chest, but oddly he didn’t feel any pain, just heat and light, if one could be said to feellight.

The brightness of the white out began to fade little by little, softening to a shimmering gold, and then pale yellow, although the sigil itself still glowed almost blue-white in intensity. Like someone held a beacon light behind his skin that only showed through the lines drawn there. Slowly the world became real again.

He could feel the softness of the pile carpet beneath his back, and smell the delicious aromas of candles and incense and oils and the musk of fantastic sex. He could hear soft murmurs over him, Rayne sounding worried and Dominic soothingly reassuring. Finally he blinked his eyes open and the first thing that swam into focus was his lover’s anxious face. He smiled up at him, blinking a few more times because there seemed to be this odd halo of light shimmering around Rayne.

Xavier had also experienced several kinds of high in his life, and right now he knew he was high, but not like on anything he’d ever felt before. He felt absolutely happy and secure, but his head was clear and he was calm inside. He had no memory of slipping off of Rayne or being laid down or even how long he had been laying there but he guessed that he must have passed out or something, and it couldn’t have been that long because everyone was still naked and damp.

For some reason that struck him as funny and his smile turned into a grin that turned into a laugh.

“Holy shit! That was fuckin’ amazing!

Gabriel’s belly laugh told him that the were was both amused and relieved to hear this pronouncement. Dominic’s chuckle was warm and mellow like a sunlit stream and somehow, now, when Xavier looked at him he saw the colours of a sunny woodland glade, silver-gold and dappled, mossy greens that shimmered around him. He squinted at Gabe and saw a halo of rich, coppery gold shot through with deep blues and purples. In contrast to the pair of them, Rayne was like ice in the sun. Sometimes he thought he caught a hint of colour but it was gone so quickly that he never identified it.

Through that shimmering aurora his lover leaned over him and planted a slow, lingering kiss on his lips that almost made him hard again, in spite of his absolute exhaustion. That press of the lips was so full of warmth and contentment that Xavier was quite happy to let it go on for as long as Rayne wanted to kiss him.

Eventually Rayne did lift his mouth from Xavier’s, although by then Xav had twined his arms around his neck and they snuggled together like lovebirds.

Dominic and Gabriel were likewise sitting, wrapped lightly around each other, the pair of them looking very pleased and satiated.

“How do you feel?” Dominic asked Xavier.

Xav opened his mouth automatically to say he felt alright and stopped on an indrawn breath. Truthfully, he didn’t know how he felt.

“Like I just woke up from the best night’s sleep I ever had,” he finally answered. “But I could probably close my eyes and sleep around the clock too.”

He noticed something then when he looked down at himself. All trace of the shimmery blue-green design was gone.

“What happened to the the thing you drew on me?”

Dominic gave him a coy look. “Don’t worry about it. What else do you feel? Can you pick up anything from Gabriel or myself?”

Xav glanced at them, almost hesitantly. “Yeah. You feel like…like all sunshine and buttercups and unicorns. Syrupy sweet.”

He rolled his eyes. Gabe chuckled and Dominic smiled at him benevolently.

“Alright, now I want you to try notfeeling anything from us. Can you block it out?”

Xavier’s forehead crinkled for a moment and then slowly smoothed. He wasn’t sure what he had expected. Something like the wall, where everything was deflected and he felt nothing. He expected there to be some effort involved, like he had to protect himself… but it didn’t feel like that at all. He could still feel them, just by looking at them he could feel a range of emotions;contentment, love, curiosity, hints of anxiety… but he wasn’t taking it into himself. His emotions didn’t shift into theirs. The empathy was still there, but he had complete control over it, and it felt blissfully effortless and normal.

His smile could have rivaled the sun coming out on a cloudy day. It was like something inside was better now; totally healed. His link with Rayne was still a cool presence deep inside and twined comfortably with his own sense of self. He took a huge relieved breath and it came out just slightly shaky.

“I think it worked, Dom,” he said, still grinning. “But…something’s weird with my eyes. Did you spike that stuff you put on me with acid? I’m like, seeing trails or somethin’.”

Dominic leaned back in the comfortable circle of Gabriel’s arms and smiled benevolently. He said; “in order to truly see we must know what it is to be blind. It’s the same thing with the shield. In order to separate yourself effectively from others you first have to be able to truly know what they are.”

When Xav looked back at him like that made no sense, Gabriel added; “Say for ‘xample… you look at himself,” and he nodded at Rayne, “and you see a vampire and you think bad thing so you shut yourself away from him but in doin’ that you also shut yourself away from how happy the skinny, dead fucker makes you. That’s not productive is it?”

“Thanks for that,” Rayne commented lazily, flicking him the bird.

“Uh-huh, and what’s that got to do with my seeing sparkly shit?” Xavier said, at that moment discovering that he could see the glowy stuff around himself as well and wiggling his fingers in front of his face like he was tripping. His own glow looked mostly silvery white with hints of blue and green.

Rayne was trying not to smirk and Gabriel was laughing at him. Dominic shushed him before telling Xavier, “You’re seeing what’s really there, Darling. The aura fields are around everything, but most people don’t see what’s right in front of them.”

Xav stopped playing and looked at Dominic seriously for a second.

“It’ll go away, won’t it?”

“It will probably lessen once we are out of the circle,” Dominic said, not all together reassuringly.

“Probably?” Xavier did not look totally at ease with this.

“Don’t worry about it. Now you know what the rest of us see all the time,” Rayne teased, kissing his shoulder fondly. He wrapped his arms around his mate, looking back up at Dominic as he said; “So that’s it?”

“Pretty much,” Lord Warren conceded. “See, I told you it was easy.”

“I don’t know if that’s the word I would use, but it was fun,” the vampire grinned at him. “Uhh… can we top it up if we need to?”

“Of course,” his friend laughed, with a shake of his head. “In fact, I’d recommend it.”

Xavier turned his head to give Rayne a knowing look, but he was fine with any excuse to do this again… and again… and again.

LONDON

Clinton Radley had no idea how long it had been since the maniac in the leather coat abducted him but it was getting dark outside when Mr Freakoid finally bundled him, with his hands tied behind him, out of the warehouse and into a crappy little car that he had to hotwire, so it was probably stolen as well.

Great! Just freaking great!Clint thought dismally as the engine coughed into life and he struggled with the washing line wrapped in a multiple figure of eight around his red-raw wrists. At least the weirdo had let him put something on that didn’t stink of his own piss. He guessed that must what his grandpa always called one of the small mercies, the ones he was supposed to be thankful for.

He was, in a grim sort of way. Just not very.

About thirty minutes later, they pulled up in the darkness outside a familiar row of whitewashed villas in West London. Clint’s heart sank. He had watched Mr Freakoid pack that rucksack on the front seat full of enough dangerous looking hardware to give the SAS wet dreams for weeks, and he knew pretty well what the mad cunt was planning to do with those nasty little toys.

Privately he wondered what the hell it was that Rayne had done to get him so riled up. More than once the Freak had muttered darkly under his breath, as he groped Clint and roughly had his way; about the Undead plague, and how he had fucked up last time, but he was going to do the job right this time around. The young boy lying on the back seat just felt sick. On the one hand he was pretty glad that he wasn’t a vampire, but on the other, he had no real reason to trust that Mr Freak would keep his word and let him go once he was in the house.

He wasn’t sure whether he hoped that Rayne would be there or not. Maybe if he was they stood a chance, they could outnumber the weirdo and get him disabled before he hurt anyone. But a part of him just felt cold at the thought that this sick fuck was gunning for the man he had always been told was his dad. So, they had a pretty dysfunctional relationship. Didn’t a lot of families? The baseline was, beyond his elderly grandparents, Rayne was really all he had and he wasn’t ready to lose that just yet. Besides, Xavier would be upset if anything happened to Rayne, and Clint really, really didn’t want to make Xavier unhappy again.

Matthew Greening was a different matter. That skinny twat had stood between him and his father so many times that Clint was losing count. He could almost believe that Rayne might even one day acknowledge him properly as his kid if it wasn’t for Greening whispering in his ear. Clint would happily stand by and let Mr Freakoid give that one a good kicking. He might even help.

The Freak dragged him out of the car once the pavement was deserted and shoved him up towards the steps leading to the front door. He slipped the cord binding Clint’s wrists behind his back but reminded him with the point of something cold and sharp at his back that if he tried anything stupid it would be the last thing he tried. And then they were at the front door and suddenly Clint’s heart was hammering at his gullet and his mouth was too dry.

“Ring the fucking bell, boy,” Mr Freakoid hissed in his ear. “You know what to do. Just get the fucking door open, I’ll do the rest.”

“And then I can go, right?” Clint looked at him anxiously. “I let you do everything you wanted. I’ve kept my side of the bargain. I promise not to tell anyone.”

“Just shut your mouth and do as you’re told, and we’ll see,” The Freak snapped, glaring at him.

Clint swallowed his tongue nervously. He’d seen that look on the faces of too many serial winos and drug addicts. Totally no-one home! Shit!

“Get the monster to the door, make sure he invites us in,” Mr Freak demanded. “Or you’re not going anywhere. Not on your own, anyway.”

His hand shook as he reached for the bell beside the little card that read J. Raymonde; Wylde’s alter ego, his little subterfuge that fooled nobody, not even the maniac huddled in the shadows beside the doorway, watching Clint’s every move. Closing his eyes he pushed on it and waited.

~*~

Matt Greening was officially wired. These days it took a lot to upset his mojo but he was currently so worked up that he couldn’t think in a straight line. The police had been absolutely zero use. With hindsight he wondered why he even bothered. Whipsnade had always had an uneasy truce with the boys in blue, who never turned up when they were needed and could be relied on to pile in on the scene when they weren’t. (Usually when drugs and teen groupies were involved and the music was just a little bit louder than the neighbourhood liked it.) Given Clint’s track record with his biological father, they maybe couldn’t be faulted too much for thinking it was a prank. But Matty was beginning to question it himself and now he didn’t know what to do for the best.

Rayne was incommunicado, which once upon a time would have meant the aforementioned drugs and groupies, in a big way. Now… he doubted it.

“Turn your phone on, fucker! Come on! Talk to me… please!” he cajoled the slender mobile in his hand, moments before the too smug voice of the operator told him that the number he was calling was unavailable and diverted him to voicemail. Again!

“Rayne. Please just come home. I’m getting worried,” he said in a numbed tone, and hung up.

The doorbell rang and he almost jumped out of his skin. Normally, Matty sensed anyone coming up to the house before they got there. He’d always been pretty alert, even when he was a mere mortal. Now that finely honed intuition was off the scale. And it saved his life.

It might have been anything; Parcelforce; the police coming back to have another snigger; but he just got that feeling, the one that said it was something different. His finger was resting on the button, the one that buzzed people through from the doorstep into the foyer. And he pushed the videocom button, because he didn’t like surprises.

Clint’s pale face stared up at him via the grainy little screen, grimy and tear-streaked. Matt hadn’t realised he was holding his breath until he let it go. He felt relief, that at least the kid wasn’t dead; then a little annoyance at him for rolling up here like a bad penny once the cops were out of sight.

“Where the fuck have you been?” he barked, letting a little edge slide into his voice, that was mostly the anxiety of the past 24 hours finding a vent.

“Matt, please let me in,” Clint whimpered at him. “I’ve had a really bad day. Please let me in, I promise not to lift anything. I just wanna see him.”

“He’s not here,” Matty said. “He’s gone away. Why don’t you just piss off and leave him alone? Don’t you realise you’ve had us frantic the last fucking day, worrying that you might actually have been kidnapped. You scheming little cunt!”

Clint seemed to hesitate and he looked fearfully to his left, as if seeking guidance from someone just out of shot. Great!Matty thought irritably. If it wasn’t bad enough that the bastard was squatting on Rayne’s front step, now he was encouraging his dosser friends to hang out there too.

“I’m going to call the cops if you don’t fuck off, right now,” he said testily.

A dark shape moved into view behind Clint and even via the crappy picture on the videocom he saw something flash as it was pushed up against the youngster’s throat. Clint yelped, then was silent as the man behind him, whose face was just out of shot, snarled; “Open the fucking door, you undead vermin. Open it this minute or the boy dies right here.”

Matt took a step back from the com but kept his finger on the button. His free hand located his phone in one pocket of his jeans and he dialled 999 without even looking down. Instinct told him to just say; good! and turn off the com, but he was not that hard.

Taking a deep breath, he said; “Okay… just calm down. Calm down. Don’t hurt him, yeah? I’m opening the door into the lobby, so just let him go and come through and we can talk about this, okay?”

He buzzed the maniac into the foyer and took his finger off the com.

“Yeah… I need the police, at Chepstow Villas, like, five minutes ago!” he whispered into his phone.

As he hung up on the call to the emergency services, Matty pressed the videocom button again to keep tabs on the situation in the foyer. At the same time he was silently praying that no one else in the building decided to pop out and walk the fucking dog right now.

His uninvited guest was prowling the hallway, surveying the access and egress points. Matt nodded as he watched; the guy was covering his arse, which only made sense. Clint was cowering in a corner nearest to the door into the apartment. His head clicked into gear right away.

The door leading from the lobby into the hallway of Rayne’s flat was solid. There was a spy hole but it was solid wood. No give away shadow. Matty knew that he could slide the deadbolt on the door so softly no one but a vamp would hear it. He kept one eye on the little screen as he gently eased the lock off and turned the door handle, ever so slow, timing his move for the moment that the intruder was prowling the other side of the little hallway outside.

The stranger might not have heard it but Clint did. Or if he didn’t hear he certainly felt something. His head turned sharply and he stared at the door with a hunger in his eyes that did not leave Matty feeling any easier. But he could not leave the child out there with that crazy fucker, it went against all his instincts. So, when the bastard was as far from the door as possible, he yanked it open and whispered; “get in!”

Clint scrambled for the little gap on his hands and knees. At the same time the man with the knife turned and saw him. He yelled something incomprehensible and ran at them. Matty took the situation into his own hands and grabbed Clint by the neck of his scruffy sweatshirt, hauling him physically into the apartment and slamming the door, even as their intruder threw himself against it. The guy was all muscle but Matty Greening was a vampire, and even a young vampire could hold his own against a mortal. He levered the door shut with the whole of his long, slender body and banged the lock back into place.

It shuddered repeatedly as the man threw himself at it, swearing in German the whole time about how he was going to burn the Undead. Matt just blinked at the quivering door and shook his head slowly. Then he turned to look at Clint, who was quivering a bit himself.

“Okay…” he said slowly. “The cops are coming, I hope. The apartment is warded, that will hopefully keep him out for a while, but I think I want an explanation.”

Clint was still sitting with his back to the wall, staring at the vibrating door with naked terror on his face. He was shaking, and not entirely from the cold. Matt bent and gently pulled him to his feet, walking him away from the door and into the warmth of the living room.

“Come on,” he said, more quietly now. “He’ll get bored soon, once he realises he can’t get in. Where did you find that one, eh?”

The boy looked up at him anxiously, shaking his head. “You’re sure he can’t get in?” he said in a quavering voice.

“Not unless he’s got a rocket launcher in that rucksack of his,” Matty laughed, trying not to let the kid see how nervous he was.

They could both still hear the dull thump of Clint’s abductor throwing himself at the door and shouting at them. Matt rose to his feet decisively and went to the window, looking out for the police. Then he went back to the hallway and switched on the intercom again. It had suddenly gone quiet outside and he didn’t like not knowing what was going on.

There was no sign of the man in the foyer now. The front door was standing open and he switched to the view from the outside camera, but saw nothing out there either.

“Fan-fucking-tastic!” he muttered under his breath. “The coppers are gonna think I’m fantasising all this when they finally turn up.”

He shut off the video link and contemplated going out to close the door but his instincts warned against it and he turned back towards the lounge. An alarming crash from somewhere deep inside the building sent him running. Clint was screaming and he knew it was bad even before he kicked the living room door open and slid in with his back to the wall.

The bastard had broken in through the kitchen window; he must have shimmied up the fire escape out back and snuck along the drainpipe, which meant he was more agile than he looked and pretty fucking determined to boot. Matt shook his head and reached for one of Rayne’s tall, slender cat bronzes, holding it around the neck like a club. It was nicely solid and heavy with a few sharp edges. A good enough weapon under the circumstances.

“Leave the kid alone,” he warned now. “You’ve done enough, you cunt. Now get the fuck out of here before I make you regret it.”

“I can’t do that, bloodsucker.” The intruder turned to face him now, he was shorter than Matty’s six foot plus but about twice as broad. His face was scarlet with the effort of climbing up through the window though. With a bit of luck his heart would fail before Matt had to do him any physical damage. “I must be here when Wylde returns. He and I have unfinished business.”

“You think so, huh?” Matt retorted. “Well his business is my business so you can talk to me.”

The guy put a hand into the open breast of his long coat and Clint shrieked a warning as he pulled out a weapon that looked suspiciously like a mini crossbow. Matty swore incredulously even as the first of the sharp little ebony bolts hit him in the chest, making his arms go numb. He dropped the bronze cat with a thud and then his knees buckled and he felt himself fall.

“Fuck! No!” he gasped, shaking his head as he crumpled to the bare wooden floor, his ears ringing to the sound of Clint’s hysterical shrieks.

THE EDGE

Rayne was all sleepy-headed affection in the shower once they were alone again. Xavier could feel the buzz of pleasure he was still emitting, some twenty minutes after the ritual ended and they collapsed in a happy pile in the middle of the circle. In fact the vibe of the whole house was one of happiness and contentment. It was a good place to be right now.

That feeling of satisfaction and security lasted for probably another ten minutes, right up until the point when Rayne flopped down on the bed, still damp and naked, and switched on his phone. At some point before he departed for the States, Matty had decided that it would be amusing to download Star Wars ringtones onto his brand new mobile. Sixteen querulous ewok message tones later, the vampire’s face was a picture of concern, descending slowly into disbelief.

“Fuck!” he exhaled vehemently. “I can’t turn my back on them for five minutes!”

Xavier was just stepping out of the bathroom as Rayne was expressing his frustration. He had taken a few extra minutes to dry his hair and was looking decidedly delicious as he walked naked across the room.

Still no answer?” he guessed, the dreamy well-sated look on his face becoming more serious.

The dozy mare’s left more than a dozen messages saying I need to call her. Something is going on with Clint.” Rayne said.

And now Matt won’t answer,” Xav said, not making it a question.

Rayne sighed and shook his head. “She’s either engaged or the call goes straight to voicemail. If this is a wind up I’m gonna strangle somebody.”

We should go back, it could be something serious,” Xav suggested, rather more earnestly.

His lover gave him that look he was coming to dread. “We?”

“I’m not letting you go on your own, not after what happened last time I let you out of my sight,” Xavier teased but there was still an edge of seriousness in his voice.

Xavier, please… I’d prefer it if you stayed here.” Rayne managed not to get angsty about it or make it an order but the look on his face still brooked no arguments.

Xav smiled at him. “I know you would, but I’m not going to, so let’s not argue about it.”

Rayne fired an incredulous look his way. “Listen, I don’t even know what’s happening there. I don’t want to risk taking you into a dangerous situation. If anything happened to you…”

Ray, you are letting those dreams I had get you all wound up,” Xavier argued. “I should have kept quiet, they’re nothing, they don’t mean anything. Do you really expect me to sit out here and hide when someone’s potentially causing trouble? I’m supposed to let Dom and Gabe babysit me because of some mysterious drama being stirred up? I don’t think so.”

“And if we get back there and some serious shit has hit the fan?” Rayne contested, rolling off the bed and reaching for his jeans. “What then? Can you promise me you’ll do as I ask and try to stay out of the line of fire? Matty’s pulled schemes to get my attention before and, yeah, this might just be another one but…”

His words trailed off as he wriggled into his tight pants and pulled on a tee-shirt and a loose, dark shirt over the top of it. The look on his face was unreadable

Xavier started to get dressed as well, pulling on the first items that came to hand. “How about a compromise? When we get back to your place I’ll stay in the cab. If there’s any real trouble I’ll take off. Okay?”

Rayne licked his lips slowly. It was fairly obvious from his body language that he didn’t like it, but it was a compromise and he had promised himself that he would try to meet Xavier halfway and not just stomp all over him the way he generally did with relationships.

“Okay,” he said reluctantly. “But don’t just run blind. Call Dom and get help, find someone who’ll make sure you stay okay. Don’t make me worry about you, all right?”

He tried to smile, to lighten this last instruction but knew it would prey on his mind if something bad did happen. Xavier rewarded his new found attempt to be reasonable with a beaming smile and came over to him to slip his arms around his waist and kiss him.

“See, that wasn’t so hard,” he teased lightly, kissing him again. “And, I will be very careful. I promise. Honest Rayne, I don’t have some kind of hero complex, I’m not trying to be reckless or prove I can hang with the big boys…but I won’t live my life afraid of shadows either.”

“That sounds like a reasonable philosophy,” Dominic remarked from the doorway. He was snuggled up in a knee-length gown with a huge, mint green towel wrapped around his hair, fresh from the shower. His tone grew more serious now. “What’s to be afraid of, darling?”

Grimly, Rayne appraised him of the situation and his friend looked suitably appalled but made all the right calls nonetheless. “I think Xavier is right, you definitely have to go. Matty might be a touch overbearing but he’s a shrewd cookie too, I’d trust his judgement over plenty more sober candidates. Be careful though,” he advised solemnly. “I don’t want to read some gossip column exposure about your secret love children all over the breakfast papers. And you two look after one another, yes?”

Pointedly, he did not ask Rayne to Look after Xavier.The emphasis on mutual concern was very strong.

Xavier at least appreciated that and the smile he gave Dominic said so. Trust Dom to understand. Xavier had been patient with Rayne’s concern because he knew first hand that the danger Rayne worried about could be very bad indeed, and also he was not insensitive to Rayne’s fear of losing him. However, even though Xav wasn’t some macho tough guy with something to prove he was still a man, and Rayne treating him like he was totally helpless had been eating at his pride.

He left Rayne’s side to give Dominic an enthusiastic hug and kiss. “I feel bad leaving right away like this… thank you for everything Dom.”

“For you, my darling, any time,” Lord Warren responded, kissing him affectionately on the cheek and returning the hug with unexpected strength. In Xavier’s ear he whispered; “You have been so good for him. I am eternally in your debt. As is he!”

“Let’s just call it even then,” Xav said. “Without you I’d be going slowly crazy, and without me he’d be driving you slowly crazy!” He chuckled. “If you ask me I think my deal will work out better.”

As he and Xavier moved apart, Dominic smiled at Rayne with a kind of paternal pride. He did not say anything but the vampire took his hand and pressed it quickly and firmly between both of his own.

“I’ll ring through to the airport and confirm your flight,” Dom said softly. “I know you want to get a move on. I will ask the Lady to look out for him. For both of them, and for you two as well.”

“Thanks sweetheart,” Rayne murmured, pulling him into a quick, fierce, unexpected hug. “I’ll not forget this.”

“Yes you will,” Dom chuckled, pushing him away playfully. “You always do.”

And that was that. Less than an hour later Rayne and Xavier were back at Ringway, checking in for their flight back to London. Within two hours they were once more in the capital and heading for home in the back of a black cab. They had both been quiet for much of the return trip, but as they drew nearer to the flat a silence settled over them that became increasingly grim. A few blocks away Xavier suddenly broke the silence.

“Something is wrong,” he said in a low murmur, shaking his head.

Rayne glanced at him. Of course something was wrong, that was why they were here instead of still at Dominic’s but Xavier said it like his suspicion had just become something solid. As they pulled closer he leaned forward.

“Don’t slow down, just keep going,” he told the driver. “Go round the block.”

The cabbie looked in the rear view at them, then returned his eyes to the road. With a small shrug he kept going without slowing. Both Rayne and Xavier looked at the building as they passed.

“Front door’s open,” Rayne frowned, shaking his head slightly. “No one ever leaves it open if there’s nothing being moved in or out.”

Rayne had the driver circle the block once more. Everything looked just as it should. There wasn’t anyone hanging about. Xavier stayed quiet beside him while Rayne seemed to be turning something over in his head. The plan had been to leave Xav in the cab while he went up first, then to call him and let him know if it was okay to come up but was that really the safest tactic?

He’d hoped to leave Xavier where he knew he’d be okay, but now that they were here would leaving him out on the street, even in a cab, the best thing to do? If someone was hiding somewhere out here, unseen, and he left him alone…

“Alright, pull up,” Rayne finally said to the driver. “Change of plan sweetheart, come in with me. I don’t want to leave you out here.”

Xavier was agreeable enough to that. The eerie, prickly feeling that something was badly wrong hadn’t left him and he thought it was safer not to fuck around out here either.

“Problem, mate?” the cabbie asked as Rayne fished for his wallet and unfurled a couple of larger denomination notes into his hand through the sliding panel between his seat and their own, telling him to keep the change.

“Dunno,” the vampire answered distractedly. “Could be.”

“Want me to wait?” Their driver was obviously impressed with the size of his passenger’s tip.

Rayne considered the offer. He nodded at last.

“Yeah… just for a minute or two. If I send Xav back to the door, call the cops.” He paused, assessing the look of surprise on the driver’s face. “We’ve had problems with break-ins over the past few weeks,” he improvised. “Never know who might be in there.”

“Always thought this was such a nice area,” the driver sighed. “It’s all going to the dogs, mate!”

“Right!” Rayne shook his head a little, then took a quick breath and opened the cab door. “Come on, sweetheart. Let’s see what’s what.”

The cabbie was saved the trouble of hanging around however. Rayne and Xavier had barely set foot on the first step when a black saloon car pulled up in the middle of the road outside the house and the passenger window rolled smoothly down. Plain-clothed policemen look the same the world over and Xavier knew that was what the man in the car must be, even before he opened his mouth. His slightly receding hair was brushed tidily back from a side parting and he wore a charcoal crombie overcoat with a two-piece narrow pinstripe suit beneath it. The tie was fastened immaculately under his chin and matched his wine-red shirt. The colour did nothing for his slightly florid features.

“Wylde! You’re back! Is everything okay?” he called, giving Xavier his second surprise. The cop clearly knew his lover by sight. Though, given his level of notoriety, maybe that wasn’t so odd. That he knew there was a potential problem… well that was a different matter.

“Halliday?” Rayne exclaimed, blinking as he acknowledged the presence of the police car. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Friend or foe?” Xavier asked, his voice registering barely above a whisper as the cop climbed out of the car and came towards them.

Rayne’s lips parted but before he could answer one way or another his body gave a little jerk, as if he’d just been badly startled.

Xav felt it a second after Rayne. His head swivelled toward the open door. The detective looked up, following his gaze, too well trained to let it slide.

“Fuck!” Xavier gasped, his eyes wide. Rayne’s hand landed on his arm in a vice like grip before he even twitched in that direction though.

“No! Stay here!” the little vampire ordered, and this time there was no compromise in his tone.

Xav didn’t argue. He had promised after all to try and stay out of his way.

“What’s going on, Ray?” the cop demanded, catching Rayne Wylde’s free arm as the vampire turned back towards his house. “We’ve been inundated with phone calls from your boyfriend all morning claiming everything from kidnap and extortion to breaking and entering with violent intent.”

“I dunno, I’ve been away,” Rayne told him evasively. Halliday was a good copper but it was dangerous to give him too much information. Sometimes he put two and two together and it made five, or even six on a good day. “And Matty’s not my boyfriend anymore.”

“So you do know he’s been the one making the calls,” Halliday persisted, keeping pace with him as he trotted up the steps.

“Jamie, I don’t know,” the vampire retorted testily. “But I’ll tell you what I do know. Something just hurt him, and… and not a lot does that. It hurt him bad enough that I felt it like a knife in my chest. That is not a good thing!”

A serious mask came down over the detective’s customarily cheery facade and he reached into the holster under his jacket for a gun. The pistol that he pulled was a non-standard Glock and certainly not police issue. Rayne cast a scathing look at it then stepped into the hallway, finding it empty and no sign of trouble except for the damage to the paintwork on his front door.

“Looks like someone tried to smash his way in here,” Halliday observed as he fished for his keys.

“The lock’s not bust though,” Rayne whispered, turning the key very softly and easing the door open, ready for anything. His apartment was warded against other vampires and there were general protections on it but he was already getting the vibe that they were not dealing with fellow Undead here.

Then they both heard the scream from inside the building and a torrent of verbal abuse. Something heavy was being smashed against the wall between themselves and the lounge.

Xavier heard the scream outside, now that the door was open. He knew without question that it was Clint screaming, and he knew something else too. The man in his nightmare, the one he’d been so afraid of in his dreams, he was up there with him. His skin prickled and the fine hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Indecision gripped him like an icy hand. He wanted Rayne to trust him, wanted to show that Rayne could depend on him when he needed him to do something… but every instinct he had was screaming at him to get his ass up those steps. He was going to be needed.

Okay… compromise; he ran up the steps to the lobby but stayed just outside the open door of the flat for the moment. The internal door, the one leading into Rayne’s apartment was open and there was no sign of either Rayne Wylde or Detective Halliday. The other cop, the one who had been driving, appeared at his shoulder, a pistol in his hand. He was skinny and scruffier than Halliday and about a half head taller than Xav.

“Did your friend not tell you to stay outside?” he said now, with a snarky look.

It had all gone disturbingly quiet in the house now. Too quiet.

Xavier glared back at the other cop. “I stopped at the door, didn’t I?”

Clint’s high pitched shrill broke the moment of quiet inside. “Shoot him! Shoot him!”

Xavier’s face paled.

~*~

When Matty went down on the living room floor and began to twitch spasmodically as if someone were electrocuting him, Clint screamed without even thinking. The fear rose up in his throat like a living thing, trying to choke him and the scream was the only vent, the only thing that let it out; let him function. The maniac was standing over Matt Greening now, loading another ebony bolt into the hand-held crossbow. He kept his eyes on Matty’s terrified face the whole time.

“Shut up, boy. I will deal with you in a moment,” he said coldly. “Killing vampires always gives me a nice big hard-on.”

“Leave him alone,” Matty hissed, his voice rattling in his punctured chest as he thrashed in pain on the ground.

The intruder’s cold, dead eyes focused on his face as he measured his aim, taking his time.

“So I missed the heart, did I? I will not miss a second time,” he promised, pulling back the firing mechanism and levelling the weapon at the shuddering vampire on the ground. “This time, you will go to your maker for real.”

Clint felt sick. He could not look away but at the same time, whether he liked Matt Greening or not, he could not stand and watch this bastard put him down like a wounded animal. He reached blindly along the windowsill behind him and his fingers found a round, heavy, obsidian rock, some sculpture thing that Rayne had presumably collected from somewhere on his travels. He hoped briefly that it wasn’t valuable, then he hefted it in one hand and pitched it hard at Mr Freakoid’s head. Track and field had never been his forte, but the rock hit home on his abductor’s left shoulder, sending him spinning sideways, even as he fired the bolt.

He swore furiously as the sharp wooden spike slammed into the floor, piercing the boards by a good centimeter and a half, and turned towards Clint with murder in his little, dark, piggy eyes. The boy backed away from him, feeling his breath come in raw, hoarse, terrified gulps.

“Do not think that I won’t fuck your cold, dead body once he is dust, boy,” his abductor threatened, teeth clenched hard around the pain in his shoulder. The rock had done some damage at least.

Clint tried to sidle out of his reach but the bigger man backed him slowly into a corner and then reached out for him with his uninjured hand spread wide. The boy ducked and lashed out with his heel, aiming for the balls, but caught his assailant just above the knee instead. The man’s hand dropped on his ankle and twisted, throwing him off balance, and Clint crashed to the ground with a shriek of mingled rage and terror. He kept fighting and screaming as the man’s hands groped for him roughly.

“Stupid little bitch! You think that it matters to me if you live or die?” the maniac grunted now, reaching down to pull Clint to his feet and slam him back hard against the wall. His teeth clicked together so hard that he thought one of them broke.

“The bastard son of a stupid whore and a blood drinking parasite!” the freak growled, his face completely deranged with the blood lust. “He will watch the light die behind your eyes as I strap him down on this bed and cut out his faithless heart. Then he can observe as I fuck the last breath out of his own flesh and blood. The last thing he will see in this mortal world.”

There was a silence, broken by the metallic, double click of an automatic weapon being primed somewhere in the room. Then a cold, emotionless, familiar voice intoned; “I don’t think so, Carlsen. Not thistime.”

~*~

When Rayne and Halliday moved into the lounge, backs to the wall, flanking either side of the doorway, the first thing that met their eyes was the contorted body of Matt Greening, still jerking and twitching painfully on the floor, trying to pull the crossbow bolt out of his chest. He was not the one screaming though. There was a strained and purposeful look on his face as he fought with the dark wooden spike protruding between his ribs.

“Jesus!” Rayne exhaled, shaking his head as his gaze found the shockingly familiar figure of the man who had staked him and left him for dead in Paris. Until that moment he had not recalled Carlsen’s face or his name. The man had been a darkness in his memory, but it all came rushing back now like a flood of bitter bile; the morning after the night before.

He remembered lying limp and bleeding, his nostrils full of the tang of his own blood; body raw and gaping where Szarbo, the werebear SM master of La Griffe had ripped and raped him, to order. The memory was of a moment of stillness, the peace that followed the carnage, an enhanced version of the way that he felt when he cut himself. And then Carlsen’s boot was in his chest, kicking him over to lie on his back. He had thought the mortal was here to clean up after them. Carlsen’s idea of cleaning up had been somewhat darker.

Rayne froze for a second as the memory paralysed his limbs. He remembered lying on his back, looking up, joking with the man, then realising with a cold water shock that Carlsen was not having a laugh with him. He was deadly serious. And then the long metal spike in his hand came plummeting down like a javelin and he was still too weak and shaken to stop it. He saw it in slow motion, happening again, the spike coming for his heart; heard the sound of it punching into his breast, puncturing his lung, driving into the pulsing muscle that powered all life and stilling it in an instant.

He gasped, as he had in that awful moment of realisation. The moment he knew it was all over; knew he was a dead man. And understood that he wanted to live more than anything. He had known in that moment that he could not go to his grave without making his peace with Xavier and holding him one last time. As the darkness covered his eyes he saw his lover’s bright, hopeful, beautiful face and the tears had spilled down his pale cheeks unchecked.

“Put the boy down!” Halliday yelled, breaking the spell that held him immobile.

The detective was glaring down the barrel of his semi-automatic pistol at Carlsen, pointing it with a steady hand at the solid intruder. At the same time, Carlsen turned and pulled Clint in front of him, holding him by the throat so that his feet kicked clear of the ground.

“Come any closer and I will break his neck like a chicken,” he threatened, gripping a handful of Clint’s tangled, dyed-black hair. “I know how to do it, andmake the death a slow and lingering thing.”

“Shoot him!” Clint screamed, kicking and fighting in the man’s powerful grip. “Shoothim! Please!”

Halliday managed a sideways glance at Rayne, who still looked stunned and shaken. He was not used to seeing emotion from the vampire, let alone genuine tears.

“Wylde?” he whispered urgently.

“Do it,” Rayne said atonally. “Shoot the fucker.”

“I don’t wanna hit the kid,” Halliday hissed back at him. “He’s thrashing about too much for me to get a clear shot.”

“He’s not playing with us, Jamie. He’ll kill Clint, then he’ll come for us,” Rayne told him vehemently. “If you let him murder my son, I’ll rip your throat out myself.”

“Your…?” Halliday blinked at him. “You have a son?”

“I thought you were keeping tabs on me, Jamie,” Rayne said with a little huff of humourless sarcasm. “Clint’s my baby boy. You should’a known that, if you’re a halfway decent snoop. Now stop fucking about and shoot that cunt before I lose my temper and make a fucking mess of my nice house.”

Clint was staring at the vampire too now, his pale eyes beginning to glaze slightly. The young man was not sure, over the roaring in his ears but he thought that Rayne had just told the man with the gun that he was his son. In living memory he had never once heard Rayne Wylde acknowledge that simple little fact. Clint closed his eyes and let the darkness come rushing up around him, but not before a single tear slid down his pale, grimy cheek.

He thought he heard a bang and more shouting and screaming but none of it mattered. As he surrendered his consciousness, he did not even feel the hard wooden floor coming up to meet him, or the Freak’s muscular body dropping down on him like a properly dead weight.

Xavier jumped about six inches off the ground at the sound of the shot and it seemed that was the impetus he needed to forget all promises and caution. He ran for the door, but he only made it two steps into the hall foyer before the big cop grabbed him and unceremoniously pinned him up against the hallway wall with an elbow to his back.

Rayne!” He had to know if he was alright and he was too panicked to reason that if Rayne was notalright he would already have felt it.

“Wait!” the cop warned him, giving Xav another little shove before slipping past him and edging into the room, crouched and ready to fire at anything that moved too quick.

“Perp is down!” Halliday said as he sensed the arrival of his partner. “Cover me whilst I make sure he’s disabled.”

“If he’s not, I’llfuckin’ disable him,” Rayne snarled under his breath, already heading for Carlsen. He froze at the feel of Halliday’s weapon pressing up against the back of his skull.

“Stay away from the perpetrator, Wylde,” the detective said in a cold voice. “I’ll only tell you the once. Touch him and I’ll shoot you too.”

Rayne lifted his hands in automatic surrender but he murmured; “Just get Clint away from him, Jamie. Please.”

On the ground, by the doorway, Matty stopped wrestling with the small, black stake in his chest and let out a long, shuddering sigh. His skinny body fell limp on the wooden floor and he closed his eyes. Rayne was still staring grimly at Carlsen’s bulky frame as Halliday pushed him onto his side with his foot, still holding the gun trained on him. The bullet had hit him in the forehead, quite squarely. His eyes were open but there was no one home.

“Nice shot,” the little vampire remarked. “Can I help my kid now?”

Everything was moving along so quickly. Xavier listened to the cop no more than he’d listened to Rayne. He followed in almost on his heels, and then stopped cold in the doorway taking in the scene. His chest felt constricted, he couldn’t seem to get in air in his lungs, but seeing Rayne moving, apparently unharmed, over to where Clint sprawled on the floor was keeping him level and thinking straight now.

Rayne was okay. Bad guy looked dead. Cops were not shooting. Rayne had Clint. Xavier went to Matt, who looked quite dead, although he was sure he wasn’t. Not yet anyway. He was covered in blood, both the rust coloured dust he’d already spilled and more yet slowly oozing from around the shaft of the bolt sticking from his chest.

That had to come out, and very soon. The thought of pulling it out himself made him a little queasy, but he knew it had to be done. Xav knew well enough how fast vampires healed, if it was left in there much longer flesh and bone were going to start to mend around the damn thing and it would be like making the wound all over again pulling it out. Not to mention, the longer Matt bled the more dangerous he’d be when he woke up.

Xav knelt beside Matt Greening and reached for the shaft of the arrow and the cop that had told him to stay out twice now barked at him.

“Don’t touch that!”

Xavier hesitated. It wasn’t really a good thing to ignore instructions from armed men, but in this case he knew if he didn’t Matty was going to suffer a hell of a lot more than he already had.

“I have to,” Xavier said, and gave a sharp tug that pulled the bolt free before the cop could argue any more.

He never would have done such a thing with a regular human, but Matt wasn’t human. The vampire’s long, lean body jerked violently as the bolt turned and came free of his flesh. He gasped for air, then did so again, struggling to sit as his normally chocolate dark eyes opened, the colour of huge, old rubies. His lips curled back from an impressive set of fangs for such a young and inexperienced vamp.

Rayne, who was bent over Clint’s unconscious body, murmuring to him quietly, now buckled until his forehead was resting on the boy’s chest. He groaned low in his throat, sharing the sudden pain that his fledgling was experiencing. Clint’s thin, cold fingers moved shakily to his dark hair, stroking it with quick, light movements as his lashes flickered.

Xavier sent a silent heartfelt thank you to Dominic Warren for fixing his problem before he’d come back to this mess. He was not anywhere near as intimately linked to Matty or Clint as he was to Rayne, but he still felt them. He still felt the echo of Matt’s pain through Rayne, but with his newly acquired shielding it didn’t touch him. He was aware of it without experiencing it himself. That was an enormous relief.

What was not a relief was the look on Matt’s face. Xavier froze stock still, not taking his eyes off the vampire.

“Is someone going to explain what the hell is going on here?” Halliday wanted to know.

“I think its pretty obvious.” Xavier answered, since he seemed to be the only one capable of answering at the moment. He did not however take his eyes off of Matt Greening. “Matt…? Say something, would you?”

Matt’s dry lips parted around the gleam of his fangs and he gasped; “…need!”

“He’s hungry,” Rayne said, without looking up from the supine body of his quivering son.

“Wylde, are you gonna answer the question or not?” DI Halliday demanded, refusing to put his gun away until he knew the situation had been calmed. He was suddenly knee deep in vampires and the knowledge did not lie easy with him.

Rayne sat back slowly on his heels and Clint’s hands tried to come up with him but fell back down into his lap like they were boneless. He whimpered softly and the vampire shushed him in gentle tones.

“The dead guy’s name was Carlsen. He used to work at an SM club in Paris called la Griffe. He came here to kill me,” he said huskily. “He didn’t like vampires much.”

“That kind of showed,” the other cop remarked caustically.

“Why didn’t your friend tell us all that when he called it in?” Halliday asked.

“He didn’t know,” Rayne said, looking up at him, wearily. “Jamie, can we talk about this later. I really need this dead bastard out of my apartment, ASAP.” He turned his head now to look at Xavier, who was still trying his best to soothe Matty. “You okay, sweetheart?” he asked with a wan smile.

Xavier nodded, “Yeah, ‘m okay.”

Xav was still on his knees with the quarrel in his hand and he was afraid to move or take his eyes off Matt yet. His energy was creeping along his skin and he was pretty sure the only thing keeping Matt in check right now was the pain and weakness.

He still remembered very well how Rayne had looked when Elian had locked him in the bedroom with Xavier after he’d been beaten and starved. Matty had that same hungry junkie stare right now. Xav had trusted Rayne’s control then (even when Rayne himself hadn’t) but he was far less certain of Matt.

What was he going to do though? There were two cops standing over them with guns and a dead guy on the floor. It suddenly hit him then, what Rayne had just said about the guy, and all caution went out the window.

“That’s the fucker that tried to kill you?!” He glared at the dead man with impotent rage. He almost wished he was still alive, he hadn’t deserved a nice quick clean death.

Rayne nodded slowly. He still looked slightly dazed as if what had happened somehow robbed him of coherence. The contact he had with Clint seemed to be helping them both though. His son’s presence was keeping him still and whenever he touched the boy, Clint stopped whimpering and settled against him.

“I knew as soon as I saw him,” he said at last. “Before I walked in the room I couldn’t have described his face to you but when he turned around to look at me I knew it was him. I remembered Xav. I remembered everything.”

The emphasis he put on the final word said it all. He was still in shock. Before today his brush with death had been something third hand, learned about from other people but something he had no clear memories of. Now it was there in his head, the final hurdle. And he had no idea how to deal with it.

So he handled it the way he handled all difficult situations, by sidelining it neatly.

“Jamie,” he said distractedly to inspector Halliday. “You know active feeders in the area, yeah? Find someone to feed Matthew, will you? He’s going to eat one of you in a minute, and I’d rather it wasn’t Xavier. Okay?”

Xavier looked from Rayne to the cop he called Jamie and then seemed to take in the whole scene at a glance. “Rayne, there’s a dead man on your floor. Do you really think it’s a good idea to invite strangers over? Won’t other cops be on the way? Is there even time to get someone here before they start showing up?”

“I’m not letting you feed him,” Rayne said adamantly, seeming decisive about this if nothing else. “He’s losing it and I’ve already taken from you too much over the past couple of days. We need to get him into my room and cuff him. That way if he gets over excited at least he’s under control.”

Xavier looked at him incredulously. “You’re not thinking this through. There is a dead guy in your living room,” he repeated. “There is about to be a horde of cops here taking pictures and asking questions about what happened. What if one of them goes into the bedroom and sees a half crazed vampire chained to the bed? Matt needs to be fed now, before they get here.” He looked at the two cops. “I don’t suppose one of you would mind…?”

Rayne rolled his eyes at that. He looked at Jamie Halliday sceptically. The guy was fascinated by vamps but in so far as he knew, had never fed one. Fucked a few, yeah… but never gone all the way. His partner was staring at them, particularly at Matt and Xavier, as if they were a new and slightly freaky exotic species.

And as he was doing that, Matt took the situation into his own hands. He grabbed Xavier’s shoulders and pulled himself into the blond’s embrace, burrowing into the hollow of his neck and shoulder. The shock of getting a bolt fired into his chest had weakened him but hunger and desperation drove him. The smell of hot, fresh blood, so close was the only other impetus he needed.

Xavier automatically brought his hands up as Matt pulled him in but the Vampire was so fast he was already being crushed to Matt’s chest. Matt bit him so fast and hard it was like a snake striking it’s prey and Xav couldn’t help the sharp gasp and cry of pain that was forced from him. Even as his body jerked and his eyes went wide with panic he still maintained enough coherent thought to shout, “NO! Don’t shoot him, don’t shoot him!” at the two cops who had both raised their guns.

Rayne scrambled between them, still trying to keep a hold of Clint, although the younger man was sitting up now, his face pale but composed.

“Matt… Matthew, listen to me!” Rayne said in a firm, insistent tone, as if he was talking to a dog. “Let him go… let go of him, Matty, please. He’s not up to feeding you. I’ve got a better idea, something that will work ten times better.”

Matty’s fangs withdrew from Xavier’s neck and he looked at his sire with huge, ruby-dark eyes, still filled with hunger. His pierced tongue still lapped greedily at Xavier’s skin though. Matt was impervious to the policemen or their guns. He only had eyes for Rayne.

“I didn’t think you were comin’,” he exhaled. “I was so scared. I didn’t know what to do.”

“It’s all right, babe,” Rayne reassured him, his voice sliding back to it’s lazy east coast drawl now that Matt was zoning in on him. “I’m here now. I’ll take care of things.”

He looked up at Halliday with a grim little smile. “Xav’s got a point, Jamie. Can you call off the Plod and get us an ambulance here? I’m sure you can come up with a decent excuse for there being a dead bloke in my lounge, since you put him there!”

“It’s not ‘Life on Mars’, Wylde,” Halliday told him with a little frown. “There’s enquiries into everything, these days. SOCO will want to have a look at him and there’ll be a board of enquiry. We can’t just shoot people, even if they’re asking for it.”

“You can do it quietly though, can’t you. We don’t have to have the street crawling with uniforms, know what I mean?” the little vampire winked at him. “I’ve got a friend who can help with the blue tape, if that’s what’s worrying you.”

Halliday sighed and reached for his radio, calling through that he and his partner had responded to the 999 call and asking for the ambulance. Rayne tuned out of the ensuing conversation, returning his attention to Matty and Xavier.

“Baby,” he coaxed Matt gently. “Come over here. Let Xav go, sweetheart. He’s tired and he can’t give you what you need. But Clint can.”

The boy looked at Rayne, eyes suddenly wide and a little sceptical. “I can?”

Matt was still holding Xavier, though he had eased up slightly. His lips grazed over the still weeping puncture wounds, as if deciding if he really wanted to give him up. Xav did not push or struggle, knowing instinctively that it would only make Matt’s control even less.

Xav lifted his eyes, his pupils very wide and dark as he looked at Clint. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to, Clint.”

For a second the boy seemed to hesitate, then he looked from Rayne to Xavier and his expression softened a little.

“No… it’s okay, I guess.” He touched his neck a little self consciously, then his eyes moved to Rayne’s face. “I’ll do it.”

“He doesn’t need to take as much from you,” Rayne Wylde said, reaching out to touch his cheek with a quick, grateful smile. “It’s something to do with you being the son of a vampire. Your blood is… richer somehow. It’s something Jabez told me, and it’s like one of the reasons you were drawn to look for me.”

Clint sat back from him, for a second he stiffened and his face shut down, closing out every emotion. He stared at Rayne for a moment longer, his quick brain doing the maths.

“You… I thought you came for me because you…” He stopped, unable to say the words in his head. “But it was just because of this, wasn’t it? Because I’m a… a power-snack!”

The tall, skinny cop made a little snorting sound that was half laugh and half disbelief. Halliday scowled at him and he put a hand over his mouth instinctively.

Rayne was shaking his head already. “No! Clint… no, that’s not why.”

The boy pushed himself up onto his shaky legs, swaying slightly, so that he could stand over Rayne. He was crying again, and angry… angry with himself more than anything.

“I thought… I thought you actually… maybe you actually cared about me!” he said, and the last word came out a sob that he couldn’t hold back.

“Oh my god. You are so fucking much alike it’s ridiculous!” Xavier said, trying to get Matty to stop licking him. “Don’t look for hidden reasons that aren’t there Clint. If he just wanted to use you he would have done it long before now. He came back here as fast as we could because he thought you might need his help. Don’t fuckin’ blow it or I’ll be pissed.”

Rayne was on his feet too now and came to Matty’s side, stroking his fingers through the younger vamp’s excitable dreadlocks as he nodded emphatically. He turned a look on Xavier that was both grateful and relieved.

“He’s telling the truth. The only reason I didn’t get here sooner was cos I didn’t have my bloody phone on,” he told the boy sincerely now. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this past few weeks Clint. And I’ve reached a kind of decision, I think. We’ve got to sort this situation out.” He looked at Xavier again almost as if seeking his strength. “I’ve already made myself a promise to be a better partner to Xav. Now I guess I need to be a better dad to you as well. It’s never been the right time before. And I realised just recently that, given the way I was thinking and behaving, it was never going to be the right time.”

Clint was still staring at him, biting his lips in aggrieved silence. He shook his head a little when Rayne fell quiet.

“I’m not sure,” he said in a low voice, finally rediscovering his tongue. “And next week, when you’ve got what you want and everything goes back to normal?”

“We sit down and we work something out,” Rayne said determinedly. “Something that works for all of us, not just one or the other. I’m not sure that I’m cut out to be the world’s greatest dad. But we can give it a try. Maybe you’ll just find out I’m a pain in the arse and go back to your grandparents. But we’ll have tried.”

“I’m not ever going back there,” Clint told him in a defiant mood.

Clint was not the only one surprised by Rayne’s words, although Xav was much less sceptical of his motives or of some type of resolution being reached.

“Okay, great…Matt, can you get off me now?”

Matty Greening, who had been watching this exchange with growing interest, now obediently released Xavier from his clutches. His eyes were very bright as he stared at Clint and for the first time the boy looked more than a little nervous.

“It’s okay,” Rayne whispered in his ear. “I won’t let him do you any harm. It might hurt a bit at first. His control’s not good when he’s hungry. But he’ll settle down. I promise not to let him drain you.”

“You can stop him?” Clint whispered back, still not willing to take his eyes off Matt. “I think he’s still pissed off with me for letting that freak into your apartment.”

“That wasn’t your fault,” Rayne said adamantly.

Clint said nothing. Matty raised a multi-pierced eyebrow, but curiously he also remained silent. He crooked an imperious finger at Clint though and licked his lips.

“Now he’s taking the piss,” the boy objected, but he moved a little closer and he and Matt sat down on the edge of the futon together. Clint shook his head though, pointing at the corpse still sprawled on the livingroom floor. “I can’t do this with him lying there!”

Rayne turned to Inspector Halliday with a questioning glance. “Is it okay if we go to my bedroom, Jamie? It’s only down that hallway.” He waved a hand towards the doorway in the kitchenette.

Halliday nodded his head wearily. “I’ll wait for SOCO. Just… promise me no one else is going to die in here this evening.”

“The only stone-cold body here’s all yours, Jamie,” the little vampire teased him, sliding one arm comfortably through Xavier’s to hold him up. He turned to kiss his lover’s blond curls now. “Come on, sweetheart. Let’s get you a bit more comfortable. You look dead on your feet.”

Clint seemed to remember something as the four of them trudged down the hall. He looked at Xav again with a startled expression. “You look better then you did a week ago. I can’t even tell you got jumped!”

Xavier looked a little uncomfortable at this observation. “Yeah, I heal fast I guess.”

Clint fired a look at his father who managed an evasive shrug.

“Is this about blood again?”

Rayne half smiled: “You don’t think I’d go out of my way to date anyone ordinary do you?”

“You turned him?” Clint asked, though it was clear from his eyes that he didn’t believe that.

“You’d know it if I had,” Rayne said quietly, without giving him a direct answer. He pulled Xavier a little closer to him as he spoke though.

“We can have a Q and A later, alright?” Xav said so Clint would know he wasn’t just being brushed off. “And I want to know what the fuck happened here too, but let’s get Matt fed first.”

Matt Greening certainly seemed happy with that pronouncement and practically dragged Clint into the bedroom with him.

“Hey! Cut that out!” the boy snapped, sounding very much like his father as he tried to shake the eager vampire off. “I am not some walking vamp-shake! All right?”

Matt looked down on him like a repentant puppy. A very tall, repentant puppy. One bred with a giraffe perhaps!

“Just take your jacket off,” Xavier said. “He can take from your arm as well as your neck,” he suggested, guessing that maybe it was the intimacy that was worrying the kid more than being bit.

Clint unzipped the hooded sweatshirt slowly and slipped it off but before Matt got to him Xav made a small sound at the sight of Clint’s wrists. They were deeply bruised and abraded raw in places from where the rope had dug in. Xav’s expression hardened. “I sooo wish that stupid cunt wasn’t already dead.”

“I don’t.” Clint shuddered, a shadow clouding his fierce, bright, topaz stare for a moment. He looked grimly at the marks on his wrists, then held out his arm like an offering to Matty Greening. “Just get on with it!”

To their surprise, Matt did not pounce on his arm like a dog on a steak. He too was examining the raw circles around Clint’s wrists and his expression was almost human as he whispered; “I’m sorry. I didn’t take it seriously at first. I thought you were winding us up again. Maybe if I’d called the police sooner…”

“And did they know where he’d taken me?” Clint asked him, without lifting his gaze from his wrists. “Cos I didn’t. And I was there!”

“I’m still sorry,” Matt said unhappily. He touched his lips to one of the raw, bloody stripes and Clint flinched.

“Owww! That fuckin’ hurts!”

“I’m…”

“Yeah! I know! You’re sorry! Just do it, all right?” Clint was glaring at him now.

“Well… we know whose kid he is, for sure now,” Xavier murmured under his breath. The boy had his father’s short fuse, undeniably.

“He’s trying to help,” Rayne said atonally. He took the other wrist and before Clint could stop him, he licked it gently.

The youngster tried to struggle free but Rayne held him tight and carried on running the flat of his tongue very slowly and gently over the rope burns. At first it made no difference but gradually the spot where he was licking Clint began to look less raw, the bleeding stopped and the skin beneath was pinker and healthier.

“What the…?” Clint was staring at him now, somewhat incredulously. “Is this to do with me having your blood in me again? That’s not… it’s healing. How are you…?”

Rayne looked up at him for a second, a little smile curving his lips. There were fangs behind it and Clint sat back sharply.

“D’you wanna ask me a proper question or are you just gonna throw words at me all night?” he enquired mischievously as Matty started to lick the other wrist, stroking his tongue around it carefully. There was a little silver spike through the tip and he was wary of hurting Clint even more by getting it caught in one of the boy’s abrasions.

Clint just looked helplessly at Xavier, seeking some moral support from the only other human being in the room. He was scared, but not so freaked out that he was ready to fight it. From the look in his eyes, it also felt pretty good and that was also churning up his emotions badly.

Xavier gave Matt a hard, narrow look before he brought his eyes back to Clint and they softened.

“Just think of it like you’re donating to a blood bank. There doesn’t have to be anything… personal about it.” Xavier wasn’t sure why but for some reason he was feeling awfully protective of Clint right now. Matt could just bite him, it wouldn’t be pleasant, but it might be better than putting anything sensual into it right now.

He moved closer to Clint, although if he really did need protecting from Matty there wasn’t much Xav could do about it, but still, he and Clint had gotten to know each other a bit and he thought the boy might feel better with him close at hand.

“It… it’s not just that.” Clint hesitated then looked back more boldly at Matty, who was still worrying gently at his wrist. “I should say sorry as well. I knew he was hunting vampires. I hoped he would hurt you. I was mad at you for not taking me seriously and trying to stop Rayne seeing me. I thought if I brought him to the house whilst Rayne wasn’t here…”

He broke off because both vampires were suddenly looking at him quite differently. Rayne was visibly astounded; Matty just shocked, and possibly a little bit injured too.

“Clint, he was a maniac. Matt could have been killed if he’d been a better shot,” Rayne chided, a slight tremor to his voice.

“I couldn’t let him do it!” the boy protested. “When he got in… when he shot at Matt I tried to stop him. I couldn’t let him do it, I swear.”

“He’s telling the truth. Clint tried to distract the bastard. He was standing right over me and Clint tried to draw him off,” Matt said atonally. He still looked a little bit stunned though.

Xavier put his arm lightly over Clint’s shoulders, a gesture meant to be soothing and also a little protective. He was looking back at Rayne and Matt defensively.

“And if a freak like that had you tied up and scared shitless, what would you do to get away? I’m sure you both would stay utterly loyal to someone who had treated you like nothing but a problem to be gotten shot of, yeah? You’d protect someone that couldn’t stand the sight of you to the bitter end, right? And, everything you wanted to do when you were fifteen, you made sure you thought of every consequence before you acted, huh?”

Matty looked sidelong at Rayne, who just shrugged casually; the universal gesture for ‘It’s your problem mate, you sort it out!’ They had both let go of the young man when Xavier started his tirade and now Matty protested; “He didn’t exactly make life easy for us, Xav. There’s two sides to the argument. He tried to burn Rayne’s old place down. We had to move out. It’s not like I didn’t have my reasons.”

Clint bit his lip. “I just wanted to get warm,” he explained, turning to look at Xavier imploringly. “There was no one in, so I kind of let myself in.”

“He climbed up the drainpipe and broke the kitchen window. Which is why it was so bloody cold!” Matty interrupted.

“And I put the heater on but I didn’t realise that you weren’t supposed to put things over it. My jacket was wet and I left it on there, but I fell asleep and it… it kind of caught fire,” Clint said, his expression caught between penitence and mischief.

“By the time the fire brigade got there, the place was gutted,” Matt said tartly.

“Fortunately for him, he’d woken up in time and he scarpered the way he came in,” Rayne added with a shake of his head. “We only knew it was him cos he left stuff behind.”

This track of reasoning did not have the desired effect on Xavier that Matt and Rayne had hoped for, in fact if anything it got his back up even more.

“The fire was an accident?” he exclaimed, with the briefest glance at Clint for confirmation before he rounded on Matty again. “You made it sound like he did it on purpose when you told me before. Like he doused the place in gas and tossed in a match. And you wonder why the kid’s pissed at you?”

Matt opened his mouth again but Xav stepped between him and Clint and held up an imperious finger.

“Don’t!” he snapped at the tall vamp. “Don’t do it. He’s a kid, you’re an adult, don’t put all the blame on him.”

“I didn’t know it was a fucking accident!” Matt yelped back at him, shaking his head. “The little toe rag had been stalking us for months. He was driving us crazy. The police kept taking him back to his sodding grandparents and he just kept coming back like a stray fucking cat. All we knew was he’d been in the flat and it burned down. What the hell were we meant to think?”

“Okay… okay, cool it, both of you.” Rayne had been watching this exchange and he intervened now to try and diffuse it. “I don’t care about the fire.”

“It cost us a fortune. The 8 tracks for the second album were in that flat!” Matt argued vehemently.

“It doesn’t matter now. It’s done.” His Sire gave him a hard look designed to remind him who he was talking to. It had the desired effect. Matt bit his tongue and shut up. He wasn’t happy about it though.

Not entirely to his credit, Clint did not even try not to look smug about it.

Xav still looked quarrelsome but he subsided too. He did not believe for a minute that Matt Greening was as innocent as he played it though. Matt was used to looking after Rayne’s affairs and cleaning up his messes. That did not mean that Matt had always looked out for Rayne’s best interests. Xavier was more than a little sure that Matty took care of his own needs first, and the situation between Rayne and Clint had not been helped by that.

Ignoring the dirty looks he was getting, Matt nudged Xavier out of the way and sat down next to Clint, taking hold of his hand and stretching his arm out so that he could bite in the crook of the boy’s elbow. He sank his fangs in rapidly, without warning and Clint swore at him huskily, but did not pull his hand away. He watched with a kind of grim fascination as the hungry vampire sucked greedily on him. With the other hand he kept a tight hold on Xav’s arm though, his fingers digging in fiercely to stop himself shuddering.

“That’s pretty gross, really,” he said at last, feigning cool detachment.

“You’re telling me,” Matty muttered with his mouth full. “Could have done with a wash before dinner, but blood’s blood!”

He did not seem to take much more than a few mouthfuls before Rayne tapped his shoulder and murmured; “That’s enough.”

“A bit more…” Matty whined like a cranky child. “He tastes good.”

“It’s enough,” his Sire said more sternly. “Any more and you’ll be like a five year old on a sugar rush for the next three days. Seal him up.”

Matt stuck out his gory tongue but he did bend his head over the wound in Clint’s arm and gently lick at it until it healed. The boy was still watching in amazement.

“How do you do that?” he wanted to know. “How does it heal up so quickly?”

Rayne shrugged his shoulders evasively. “Magic.”

“I’m not a little kid,” Clint said derisively. “Magic doesn’t exist.”

Rayne just looked past him at Xavier and managed a small, knowing smile. “Suit yourself.”

Clint was scowling now, thinking he was being made fun of and he looked toward Xavier as well.

Xav just gave him a level look. “How many of your friends are gonna believe you if you go running around telling them vampires are real? They don’t exist either, right?”

Clint still looked sceptical, but he was wavering over whether to trust them or not.

Xavier shrugged. “How do you think I’m all healed up instead of in the hospital right now? I wouldn’t have believed it either, except it actually works.” Xav’s expression was pleased and a little smug as he glanced at Matty again. Even given the unexpectedness of Matt biting him he knew the tall blond vampire had not seen into his head this time.

And now that Matt Greening’s mind was not on his belly, it was clearly starting to entertain similar thoughts. He had seen first hand how badly hurt Xavier was just a few days ago. To look at Xav you’d never think it though. Yet he was neither Vampire nor a vampire’s get. It took a particularly strong willed mortal to keep a vampire out of his thoughts but Xavier could do it. And Xavier knew, from the sharp look he fired Matt’s way, that the younger vampire had tried it.

“I’m gonna go and check on those cops, make sure they don’t trash your lounge, lover,” the younger vamp said airily, giving Rayne a quick kiss on the cheek.

“You okay?” Rayne asked him in a low tone and he nodded his head.

“You were right, babe. He’s nutritious and delicious. Maybe I’ll let you keep him after all.” He winked at Clint on the way out.

“What is that lanky fucker’s problem?” the kid asked drily.

“I think that list might take awhile. Why don’t you tell us what happened first, from the beginning,” Xavier suggested gently.

Clint closed up, just like his father. He glanced towards the bathroom door now, murmuring; “He was right. I guess I do need to have a bath, or something. I feel disgusting. And I wanna get out of this gear. He got them for me. I look like some kind of fuckin’ twelve year old chav! Can I borrow something?”

He fixed Rayne with a puppy dog stare. The vampire looked back at him levelly for a moment then nodded. “I suppose so.”

Xavier’s eyes followed Clint until he closed the door to the bathroom and he was frustrated all over again. He shook his head, trying to let go of the useless anger but he couldn’t seem to get rid of it. The fucking bastard was dead already, he couldn’t even go in there and kick him.

Rayne was watching him and Xavier let out his breath in a hiss as they heard the water from the shower come on behind the closed door. “That fucking bastard! Bad enough what he did to you, then he tries to hunt you down and hurt Clint…”

Rayne’s eyes slid away from his now and there was darkness behind them again, the way he had briefly been in the other room when Carlsen turned to face him and he remembered. And suddenly Xavier understood it; he realised with a start that Rayne had somehow blocked it out, refusing to remember completely what had been done to him until that moment. Seeing his killer so unexpectedly, in his own apartment, had brought the memories home with a bang. Rayne sat back against the pillows and touched his chest as if it hurt where that round, white scar lay between his bottom two ribs.

“I’m glad he’s dead,” he said quietly. “Before he showed up I’d never have thought he’d actually hunt me down or try to hurt the people I loved to get to me, but now that I do… I’m glad he can’t. Am I making sense?”

He looked up again, biting his lip anxiously.

Xavier slid up next Rayne, his anger suddenly melting as he slipped his arms around his lover and kissed his cheek. “Yes. Perfect sense. One less thing to worry about now.”

Rayne looked at him now, really, seriously looked into his eyes and there was such a sense of contentment in that solemn stare that it seemed odd on his normally cynical face. The darkness was not quite gone but it dissipated a little in the face of Xavier’s determined agreement.

He returned the embrace, sliding into it easily and touching his lips to the younger man’s mouth with a sigh that was almost relieved. Gently now he drew Xavier down onto the pillows with him, kissing him more passionately, taking advantage of the little window of tranquility offered by Matty’s departure and Clint’s shower.

“This isn’t going to be easy,” he said quietly as their lips parted and he could gaze deep into Xavier’s clear blue eyes again. “Either me or Clint. I’m not going to pretend any more, Xav. It was a shock, seeing him; seeing the man who killed me. For a moment I felt like I died again. But when Jamie put that bullet in his head all I felt was relief that it was over. I didn’t have time to be angry. Maybe I’ll get angry later. I suppose it’s only fair to warn you.”

He caressed his lover’s cheek tenderly with the backs of his long fingers.

Xavier lifted his hand to Rayne’s cheek and looked unflinchingly back into those green depths. “Oh, well, if it’s not going to be easy I guess I’ll hit the road now,” he said, the smallest grin touching his lips. Then his expression grew serious once more and he brushed a kiss over Rayne’s lips. “I’ll be here for you. Whatever comes, we’ll deal with it.”

Rayne pulled him close and buried his face in the sweet softness of Xavier’s hair. He wanted to sink into the heat of that vital young body and never let it go.

“We’ll deal with it,” he whispered, over and over like a mantra. “I like that.”

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