CHAPTER 3

Xavier felt himself relax again with Matt’s departure and slid down on the bed next to Rayne snuggling up close in the crook of his arm as the vampire called Lord Warren to arrange the retrieval of their luggage. The phone rang out exactly once before it was answered. Xavier licked lightly over Rayne’s right nipple as his lover greeted Dominic. He sucked it into his mouth with a mischievous glint in his eyes as pleasantries were exchanged. Rayne was chewing restlessly on his lower lip whilst Dominic chattered away, none the wiser, on the other end of the line and Xavier teased his ultra-responsive peaks some more, with little flicks of his tongue. His sexy mate wriggled contentedly on the bed and when he spoke his voice was just a little higher and huskier than normal.

“Are you coming here? Or do you want us to come over later?” he exhaled, then caught a quick breath as Xavier’s teeth pinched one of his stiff little buds playfully.

Xavier’s eyes twinkled and he made a sound suspiciously like a giggle.

Dominic was still engaged in the process of inviting them over while Xavier was ever so lightly circling the edge of Rayne’s bellybutton with the tip of his tongue in a very suggestive manner. His lover, who had not bothered to dress, was responding very eagerly to Xavier’s oral ministrations. He was reduced to making small, affirmative noises now to whatever Dominic was suggesting.

“No… no…” Rayne ventured at last, in a fragile tone. “I’m fine… abso-fucking-lutely fine. No worries.” He sucked in a long breath as Xav’s tongue began a course of action that certainly wasn’t conducive to polite conversation, or even rational thought.

Xavier had slipped down between Rayne’s slim thighs, spreading his slender legs wider, and was kissing and lipping at the tender skin of his sac, his tongue wiggling lower to stroke along the smooth skin behind his nuts and tease into his crevice. Rayne drew his knees up and let his thighs fall apart loosely as Xavier’s deft tongue explored him. He lifted one foot and stroked it slowly up and down the blond youth’s golden skinned shoulder.

“Yeah…!” he gasped softly into the slender black phone that was pressed to his left ear, but whether that affirmation was meant for Lord Warren or Xavier (or both) was entirely uncertain.

“Mmmm-uh…” Xavier moaned softly, pressing deeper, forgetting all about the fact that he’d only started out to tease Rayne as he got swept up in a heated rush. His tongue circled around the edge of Rayne’s tight little pucker and then delved in while his hand reached up to stroke gently along his cock.

Rayne shuddered with pleasure. After the exertion of the past few days he had not even considered that they might make out again once Matt had gone. Now he was happy to surrender to Xavier’s renewed vigour.

“Mmm-hmmm…” he said vaguely into the phone. “Uhh-huh, yeah… ohhhh yeah!”

Xavier snaked his hands around Rayne’s hips and pulled him up from the mattress, tilting his perfect backside skyward, and only when he glanced up along the undulating line of his lover’s naked body did he realise that Ray hadn’t hung up yet. Xav’s husky little chuckle reverberated against Rayne’s sensitive hole while he ate him out hungrily. He hadn’t been meaning to turn this into anything other than a bit of teasing fun, but he just couldn’t seem to get enough of his beautiful dark haired boyfriend. He applied his tongue with vigour to Rayne’s ass and didn’t care if he was on the phone still or not.

“That took you long enough!” Rayne laughed huskily as Dominic finally twigged what was going at their end of the line. His free hand slid down to stroke through Xavier’s soft curls. He bit his lips again, still smiling as his lover’s tongue fluttered and probed in his clenching ring. “Mmmhhh…” he groaned, arching his back and pressing down with the foot on Xavier’s shoulder as his slim hips bucked fiercely. “Jesus Dom!” he was panting as he switched the phone over to speaker mode so that Xav could hear the effect he was having; “Most people would have the fuckin’ decency to ring back later, you know!”

Dominic’s little chuckle sounded completely unrepentant. “You called me, Darling!” he said, and they could both hear the grin in his voice. “What’s the little minx doing to you?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know, you dirty-minded old fucker!” Rayne’s answer dissolved into a husky moan and his breathing quickened automatically as Xavier took the teasing to another level.

Xavier had hastily unzipped his jeans and shoved them down his hips, shucking his clothes yet again. He was beginning to think he should just leave them off entirely when Rayne was around! He stroked the smooth firm head of his cock between Rayne’s pert cheeks, rubbing seductively over his spit soaked anus.

“Want some, sweetheart?” he purred.

“Oh yes!” Dom’s little voice enthused over the phone before Rayne could summon the will to speak.

Rayne stroked his bare feet slowly over the firm globes of his lover’s arse and nodded his head, eyes very wide and eager. His hand had moved down to caress Xavier’s lower belly and his thumb was rubbing in slow circles at the base of his sexy mate’s beautiful, rock-hard cock.

“He’s not talking to you, you old queen!” he chuckled wickedly at Dominic, cutting the speaker again and lifting the phone back to his ear. Then his fangs extended slightly. “No, I am not gonna take fuckin’ pictures of it! I’m gonna hang up now!”

Rayne arched his back again, pressing himself urgently against Xavier’s cock head, feeling the hot, sleek, spunk-wet dome stretch and breach his tongue-fucked ring. He made no attempt to press the disconnect button and Xavier began to get the distinct impression that his lover was enjoying this voyeuristic conversation, big time. Rayne’s lush, milky coffee-coloured prick was curved up over his belly, standing proud of his navel and dripping little pearls onto his smooth skin as he teased Lord Warren verbally.

“Aaaahh, fuuuck!” Xavier groaned, tipping his head back as he sunk into the tight wet tunnel gripping him. “Uh, fuck, Ray…that’s so good,” he crooned, completely ignoring the phone in Rayne’s hand. He didn’t care if Dominic listened, and if it got his lover hot, all the better. His hands moved in soft caresses up and down Rayne’s hips and thighs as he worked himself deeper, bucking harder.

Rayne was fluid and complicit beneath him, his slim legs twined tightly around Xavier’s hips and thighs as he rode each thrust with short, breathless cries of pleasure. He lifted the phone away from his ear now, reaching up to hold it to Xavier’s cheek. On the other end of the line he could hear the rapid panting of a man perilously close to orgasm. It seemed Rayne was not the only one enjoying their little interchange on the phone.

“Uhhh… that’s it, darling. Ride him hard!” their eager friend exhorted in a husky voice. “Sweet Lord and Lady you two are so delicious!”

Xav gave a breathless little laugh that turned into a sweet groan as he did just as Dominic suggested and fucked Rayne like he wanted to drive him into the mattress, while panting in Dominic’s ear. One of his hands gripped Rayne’s hip and the other circled around his shaft, fisting his cock in rapid strokes with each hard thrust of his own bucking body.

He watched the tiny, tell-tale changes in Rayne, the expression on his face, the way he tightened his thighs around him and Xav whimpered with pleasure. “Ohhh, yeah…fu-uck, mmm-uh. I wanna make you cum baby.”

Rayne undulated fiercely against him, his pale eyes gone almost black with lust; small, white teeth clenched hard, the lower jaw drawn back slightly so that his extended fangs overlay the lower canines, pricking into his bottom lip and drawing blood. His head turned restlessly from side to side and his hands moved over the bedcovers like wandering ghosts. He gripped the heavy cloth from time to time as the surge of sexual energy stoked up by Xavier’s thrusting body became almost overwhelming. When that happened a little whine of longing escaped his throat and his whole body tightened for a moment around his lover’s shaft, then released him, leaving Rayne limp and pliant again.

“So close…” he whimpered in a shuddering voice. “Oh Xav! Fuck me! Wank me hard! So fuckin’ close…”

Another tremor rippled fiercely through him and his fingers released the telephone, wherein Dominic Warren was making similar entreaties as he fisted himself to the urgent, breathless sounds of their coupling. It fell to the duvet unheeded as Rayne gripped the cover again, pulling himself eagerly onto Xavier’s surging erection; bucking his own tumescent rod into his lover’s hot, sticky hand as he rode Xav harder.

“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Jesus fuckin’ Christ, Xavier!” he yelped, becoming frantic with need as he felt the hot spike of arousal plunging deep into his loins again. Powerful rectal muscles pulled tight around his lover’s deliciously hot cock and his own horny member lurched and throbbed in the blond’s pumping hand. “Omifuckin’god… that’s it… wank me harder… fuck, yes… like that… Jesus, yes!Yes! Gonna… Gonna… Fuckmeeeeeeeeyesssssss!”

Rayne slammed back down into the bedclothes, practically screaming as Xavier’s breathtakingly beautiful prick pulsed inside him. The semen rose from his balls and jetted from the weeping eye of his own super-sensitive rod. Cum spattered like a warm, driving sleet on his heaving chest. He felt the climax surge through his loins with the swell and thrust of Xavier’s hot cock in his belly, spilling heat into every nerve and muscle until he could hardly move at all. His blood was on fire and his heartbeat was practically tribal.

Xavier’s body moved like a well-oiled machine, flowing in pounding rhythm with Rayne’s frantic beat. He was caught up in the stunning, shuddering maelstrom of Rayne’s pleasure, holding back his own just long enough to stroke and thrust every last drop of trembling orgasm from his lover.

He released Rayne’s cock then and gripped his narrow hips hard, powering into him with a few more deep strokes before he got caught in the undertow of Rayne’s passion and was pulled down. He gave one more deep frantic thrust, buried as far as he could possibly go and the buzzing pressure behind his pelvis released in a spasmodic gush.

“Uhhh…uuuhhh…ohh god, Ray, ohgodohgod.” Black spots danced behind his closed eyes and he collapsed over Rayne’s panting body as the last of the violent tremors coursed through him.

His head dropped on Rayne’s shoulder and Xavier whimpered nonsensically as his hot breath huffed over Rayne’s throat and stirred his hair, his arms locking around him tightly. Rayne curled around him, purring like a contented tiger, his mouth seeking and finding Xavier’s trembling lips and kissing them long and hard. From the rumpled bedclothes beside them, his mobile phone buzzed for a little while with the tiny, tinny, excited voice of Lord Warren, expressing his admiration and gratitude ad infinitum. Or at least it might have been but Rayne reached for it without opening his eyes and turned it off.

Xavier kissed him back with languid movements of his lips and loving strokes of his tongue. He didn’t think he was capable of anything more strenuous at the moment. He didn’t even notice Rayne shut the phone down because he was lost in a hazy drowse, the most amazing body buzz. The feel of Rayne’s hands stroking soothingly up and down his dewy back was hypnotic, it felt so sensual.

“Mmm…bite me Ray, just a little?” he pleaded sweetly, his voice sounding almost drunk. His lover kissed the lobe of his right ear and licked him there playfully.

“We are supposed to be trying to restrain ourselves, aren’t we? Her Ladyship said I bite you too much for your own good, and I do worry that the old Queen’s probably right. Bu-ut…” He sighed contentedly and kissed Xavier’s neck, precisely over the twin dimple points of his previous bites. “Matthew was right, that you are very, very, fuckin’ tasty.”

The reminder of Matt pulled Xavier back to reality a bit. He didn’t move but he had to ask.

“Who is he to you?” Xavier had tried for a mild tone but was falling a little short. “I was trying to be nice, Rayne, I really was, but he had attitude the second he set eyes on me.”

Rayne shrugged a little. “Matty’s like that with everyone I shag. He’s just jealous, still thinks he’s got a piece of me.” He tried for a look of innocence when Xavier just stared incredulously at him. “Okay,” he muttered at last, almost unwillingly. “We were an item for a while. A long while; but we’ve not been together for ages now.”

“How long?” Xavier asked, not entirely surprised by this but still a little bit stung at the idea of Rayne still seeing his ex-boyfriend.

“A while.” Rayne hunched his shoulders again. “We should get cleaned up. Dom’s going to make you some dinner.”

The evasion bothered Xavier more than finding Rayne in bed with another man or knowing Matt was Rayne’s ‘ex’. His brows drew together slightly.

“I’m not pissed, Ray. I just…wanted to know. It would be kinda stupid to think you didn’t have a life before I came along, right?” He gave Rayne a look that was hard to read. Xavier had already guessed that Matthew was the one that Rayne had called last night. The first person he called. Before he even got his foot in the door. He wasn’t jealous precisely but…a warning would have been nice. At the very least Rayne could have told Matt about him, that might have made his morning a little less unpleasant. “Are you really surprised he still thinks he’s got a piece of you? He runs a big part of your life, you’re still fucking him, he’s got a key to your place, and it’s perfectly okay for him to come over and throw your tricks out in the morning.”

“He threw you out?” Rayne asked, his eyes darkening.

Xavier’s mouth twisted slightly. “Not exactly. He suggested, pretty heavy, that I should get back to work. I could of just ignored it but I didn’t know how long you’d be gone and I didn’t know how much more mouth I could take.” He snorted softly and gave a rueful shake of his head and then he went still suddenly as something else clicked into place, several somethings actually.

He’d known straight off that Matt Greening was a vampire, had felt it before he even got close to him, just like he’d known what Nicolas was. He thought about his conversation with Dominic on the train, about how Nicolas felt, and Dominic had pointed out that he’d known Elian was a vampire too, but Xav had said it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t just that he’d known beforehand what Elian was either. He’d felt different. He felt like Jabez. And both of them felt different to Rayne, and Rayne felt different to Nicolas or Matt Greening…because both Nico and Matt hadn’t been vampires that long. He didn’t know how he knew that, but he did. If Matt hadn’t been a vampire that long, Xav guessed that he and Rayne were an ‘item’ before Matt was Turned and from there it wasn’t much of a leap to guess the rest.

“You Turned Matt,” he said softly, not at all sure how he felt about that.

“Fuck!” Rayne shook his head, a cynical half-smile pulling lazily at his lips. He threw his hands up. “I don’t have to explain, but I will. You’ve met him now, you’ve listened to him – till your ears bled, I guess. He’s a very, very hard person to say no to. And no, before you even ask it, I wasn’t his boyfriend when I gave him my blood. It was all a bit… It was a professional arrangement, all right? And he had no fuckin’ right to speak to you like that, but yeah… I guess that was partly my fault. I should have warned him.” He looked at his hands with a little shrug. “Sorry. I didn’t think.”

The corners of Xavier’s mouth tugged up the slightest bit. Rayne looked so fuckin’ adorable like that; his expression halfway between annoyed and contrite. The apology, however grudgingly admitted, was enough to assuage Xavier, for now. His hands slid gently up Rayne’s smooth chest and Xav’s warm lips pressed searchingly to his.

“Okay,” was all he said further on it, before he kissed Rayne again, longer and slower. He rolled, pulling the lean, nude vampire over on top of him, his fingers creeping up into his mussed hair. The kiss started to get more heated and Xavier finally broke off with a little laugh and a smile for Rayne. “Didn’t you say Dominic’s making dinner?”

Rayne’s expression acknowledged a flash of surprise before shutting down again, giving way to the slightly reserved veneer. He did return the smile though.

“Okay? That’s it? You’re not gonna give me the nth degree?” He narrowed his pale, pretty eyes suspiciously.

“Do you want me to?” Xav teased, and then after a little pause said, “I told you, I’m not pissed off, I’m not gonna start playing the jealous bitch, I just needed to know what the deal was. I don’t think you’re lying so…there ain’t much point getting bent outta shape about the past.”

Rayne was still looking at him suspiciously and Xavier laughed. “Seriously, what do you expect me to do? You want me to flip out over it? Believe me, if you piss me off I’ll let you know. I don’t play games, Ray. I’m not pretending… anything, okay?”

The look Rayne was narrowing on him mellowed and he shook his head.

“No, I don’t want that. I just… I kind of expect it. Whenever I try and predict what you’re gonna do you always manage to turn it around on me. I guess I’m not used to people surprising me like that,” he said carefully, pulling Xavier to him and planting a kiss on his forehead. “It’s a bit weird, that’s all. But I’m not pissed off, either. And I believe you’re wanting to eat? I’m sure Her Ladyship will be happy to oblige after this afternoon’s little game.”

He kissed Xavier more tenderly, finding his lips this time and holding him close. The feel of that warm, affectionate body in his arms sent a little quiver of pleasure through him that was nothing at all to do with sex. Not that the sex wasn’t utterly fabulous.

They headed out to Dominic’s place after a good shower and a change of clothing. Xav had borrowed some jeans and a mesh tee from Rayne’s wardrobe, finding both a decent enough fit on him in spite of his lover’s slightly shorter, leaner build. Xavier was just about to ask if Rayne remembered the route but his mate was leading the way confidently enough that he kept his mouth shut. Maybe being back in London and slipping into old, familiar routines was helping his memory. Xavier wanted to ride on the tube and Dominic’s place was technically only one stop away but Rayne talked him into going overland instead, since they would apparently have to walk just as far to get to the tube station, then come back again, which seemed very strange to Xav. It was not an unpleasant stroll though, Dominic lived in a very affluent looking neighbourhood which was only a handful of blocks from Chepstow Villas and the bustling Portobello Road. As they crossed the street beyond the pretty little church of St. John’s, Notting Hill, which looked as if it had been transported from some country village into the middle of London, they found themselves facing a stately crescent of imposing, Georgian terraced mansions, with perfectly pointed mink coloured brickwork to the upper storeys and white painted plasterwork on the ground and lower floors, Xav glanced at Rayne, wondering if he’d forgotten the location after all. He looked briefly uncertain. These houses were even more impressive than the ones at Chepstow Villas. Then he suddenly strode up to one of the doorsteps, more decisively.
“This is it. It’s not the house I remember. This is his baby.” He extended a hand towards the immaculate, black, soft-top, convertible parked at the kerb outside, almost as if he would pat it like a dog. He did not lower his hand to touch the car though. An almost Freudian reaction stopped his fingers millimetres short of the gleaming bodywork. “He loves cars, but he loves this one the best,” he said with a feral grin, retracting his fingers. “Fuck knows why!”

He bounced up the steps towards the front door with indecent energy for someone who had spent almost the whole of the past 24 hours fucking, and on very little in the way of sustenance.

Xavier seemed none the worse for wear either as he slipped up the steps behind Rayne, smiling contentedly.

Standing at the door of this very nice looking three storey house, he had a spell of disorientation. All the days seemed to rush by him quickly since the moment he’d stepped sinuously out onto a stage to the pulsing beat of Dark Paths and danced to the voice oozing from the speakers into the crowd and then the owner of that smoky voice met him backstage with a feral grin and a hard on in his pants. His life had certainly taken some strange turns. It didn’t hit him too often, but every once in a while he looked around and wondered how he had got where he was, as if it was just too much to have happened by chance and everything was speeding along far too fast. He reached for Rayne’s hand automatically, feeling anchored at once by that gentle touch.

His lover turned to look at him almost mischievously as he felt Xavier’s fingers curl into his and the sound of the doorbell chimed the refrain of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Spinning Around’ somewhere deep within the house.

“He’s a fabulous cook, I promise,” Rayne said with a husky chuckle, the magic words that made everything else fall into place.

Xavier smiled again and took the opportunity to kiss Rayne while they waited.

They were still joined at the lips when the door opened and Lord Warren leaned in the doorway with a little smile pulling on his own expressive mouth. He was simply clad in pale jeans that fitted his tall, slender frame like a second skin and a silk shirt in a soft green that accentuated his gaze. He went barefoot in the house and his silver and gold curls flopped down loosely, almost into his eyes giving him a boyish look that was completely at odds with his age and status.

“Goddess!” he sighed, “Just my luck! They’re still at it!”

Xav broke the kiss with a little laugh and turned a sunny smile on Dominic, his bright blue eyes set to stun with happiness shining from them. “Hi Dom… Rayne said you actually have food here?”

Dominic swept an arm around him and kissed him fondly on the cheek as he welcomed Xavier into the house.

“You smell good,” he said, with a grin. “As does dinner. I hope you like Indian food, I’m in a spicy mood and I can do Mizz Wylde a veggie side plate, but I make Butter Chicken to die for. You do look hungry.”

He ushered the younger man down a cool, mint-green hallway into a light and spacious dining kitchen which did indeed smell mouth-wateringly good. The maple kitchen units and black granite worktops occupied a deep, U-shaped alcove on the far side of the room. The near side, which was furnished half and half with light wooden bookcases and a long table in polished oak with six matching chairs, extended into a glass-roofed sun room out the back of the house with a view of the tree-lined gardens beyond. The floors were dark-grey slate with a strip of cream silk rug in the dining area, under the table, and there were plants of every description on the windowsills and shelves. A pair of tall, chunky, ivory candles set on ornate glass dishes decorated the table. Out in the conservatory there were a couple of plump, two seater sofas upholstered in lush, dark green velvet and a low, glass-topped table supported on a frame of burnished metal, wrought into the shapes of criss-crossing branches and vine leaves.

“Go through and make yourself comfortable whilst I check on dinner,” Dom chuckled, patting Xavier’s arse companionably. If he was at all uncomfortable about listening in on them this afternoon, it didn’t show. “Ray, be a sweetheart and pour us all some wine.”

Xavier was quietly observing his surroundings as he followed Rayne, taking in the house, the furnishings, and everything. He had a few immediate impressions. One was that the place suited their host well, it felt like Dominic, very refined and yet very comfortable. The other thing that struck him was the sense of wealth, it was a very, very nice house indeed. He supposed Rayne’s apartment cost a pretty penny too, but the clean minimal lines didn’t make you automatically think ‘stinking rich’. This place did, yet it didn’t seem ostentatious at all. The money had all gone into the fabric of the place; everything was immaculately constructed and fit beautifully. There was nothing here that seemed garish or out of place but from the floor tiles to the discreet white ceiling fan in the conservatory it was all top dollar.

Xav curled himself into one corner of the comfortable sofa and tried not to let his stomach rumble at the heavenly scents that drifted around him like a tease. In the meantime, Dominic moved back towards the kitchen alcove and poked things in pans whilst Rayne located a bottle of wine from an ornate iron rack in the conservatory and wrestled the cork out of it deftly. There were three tall, green-stemmed vessels on the dining table which were more like goblets than ordinary wine glasses. He poured the wine into them until there was none left in the bottle then passed one to their host.

Dom kissed his cheek again and returned to the stove though he kept up a sing-song chatter about food and the weather, inconsequential things, as the vampire returned to Xavier’s sofa and handed him one of the remaining glasses.

“Cheers,” Rayne said softly, chinking his glass against the one he had just passed over and taking a careful sip as he came to sit beside Xav. “What d’you think? Nice place, innit?”

“Uh-huh.” Xav agreed, taking a more generous gulp than Rayne had. His eyes widened a bit and he looked at the glass as he swallowed. He had never really liked wine, but he’d gotten used to drinking it in Italy, largely because Aldo enjoyed it and wine was sometimes as cheap as Dr. Pepper out there. Still, getting used to it and actually liking it were two different things. What he’d just tasted though he liked, a lot. It was just the right amount of tart and sweet with nothing bitter in it. If he had to drink wine this would be what he would choose.

“That’s really good!” he said as he took another good swig.

“I should hope so!” Dominic chirped from the kitchen. He came back to lean in the archway between the dining area and the little sun room, his own glass balanced lightly in the cradle of his long fingers. “You know, you two really ought to look a hell of a lot more tired after the wickedness you got up this afternoon.”

“We were just faking to get you off, and you know it!” Rayne said with a lazy smile. One corner of Xavier’s mouth curled in a grin to match Rayne’s.

“You are such a good actor!” he chuckled softly, taking another long sip of wine.

Rayne smirked and rolled the large bowl of his wineglass back and forth between his hands. “So are you sweetheart. We really had him going there!”

Dominic looked from one mischievous face to the other and smiled knowingly. “Well it earned you dinner, anyway. I can’t imagine Rayne’s done anything so domesticated as buying food, Xavier. So you’re probably starving by now, hot sex or not!”

“Well, I was starting to think I might have to beg to get a bite.” Xavier, pushed himself to his feet and headed back towards Dominic, studiously not looking at Rayne for fear of laughing. “And that smells really, really good. I haven’t eaten anything since we got off the train!” he said, with his best pathetic waif expression.

“Come and sit down, darling. Let me load your plate,” Lord Warren said with a little smile. “You need to keep your strength up whilst you’re here.”

“What would we do without you?” Rayne asked from the comfort of the plush green sofa where he was sprawled easily now, looking very alluring indeed in tight black hipsters and a shirt that was an even deeper green silk than the couch beneath him.

“You’d both be very hungry, I guess,” Lord Warren chirped, ladling golden butter chicken onto Xavier’s plate and letting the thick sauces run into the heaped rice and snippets of spring onion and coriander he had already put on there.

Xavier was eager enough to sit down and eat, although he was a little cautious with the first bite or two. It looked delicious, it smelled fantastic, but that didn’t always correlate to tasting just as good. He needn’t have worried though, somewhat surprisingly Dominic turned out to be the excellent chef that Rayne had promised. Xavier was instantly transported to culinary nirvana. Of course, being half starved added its own seasoning but in this case it wouldn’t have mattered if they’d already eaten, everything was amazing. His expression showed his pleasure, along with the occasional sighs and “mmm’s” of appreciation and the way he licked his lips. He didn’t do it consciously but even eating turned into a sensual experience with Xav around.

“Dom, this is fantastic! I wanna marry you!” he enthused between bites.

“Darling, let me check my diary and we can set a date,” Lord Warren beamed across the table at him and tucked in, clearly accustomed to wooing visitors with his culinary expertise.

Rayne pushed himself up from the sofa and came to join them. The table was set for three but Dom had clearly left it to his friend to decide what he wanted or did not want to eat. It spoke of a familiarity with vampires and their ways that came as something of a surprise to Xavier. His lover now reached across from his seat at the head of the table and dipped a finger into Xav’s sauce, sampling it tentatively and pulling a face.

“That is rich,” he murmured softly.

“I turned some greens in a pepper sauce for you if you’re hungry,” Dom said with a questioning glance at him.

Rayne shook his head. “I’m sure it’s fabulous, but… I’m not hungry for vegetables DW.”

The older man reached across and patted his hand briefly. His smile was more paternal than predatory though.

Xavier looked over at Rayne with half closed sultry eyes, one knee crossed over the other and bouncing lightly under the table as he licked the sauce off his spoon. He didn’t need to say anything, his look alone held a very suggestive offer. Rayne smiled at him in a way that said he wasn’t entirely opposed to accepting either but then he stunned his mate with his next question, which was aimed at Dominic rather than him.

“Do you mind if Xav stays here tonight?”

Lord Warren glanced rapidly from Rayne’s solemn face to Xavier’s and back before shaking his head. “Of course not, he’s welcome. You both are, you know that.” The look on his face said that he wanted to ask why but knew better.

This was clearly news to Xavier though, and he didn’t have any qualms about asking. “What? Why?”

Rayne snared the fingers that were not still wielding a piece of cutlery and drew them to his lips softly. “Because I need to go out and you’re tired and I don’t want you to be lonely,” he said in a soothing tone.

Xavier just looked at him in surprise for a moment, still a little confused, then his expression slowly cleared as he realised Rayne had been planning to leave him here tonight all along. Irritation pricked along his skin but he managed to bite back the first thing that came to his tongue, and he even managed a calm tone.

“You could have just told me earlier you wanted to go out without me, Rayne. Don’t treat me like a kid, okay?”

Dominic’s fork hesitated halfway to his mouth and he glanced from Rayne to Xavier then back again a little more warily. “He has a point darling,” he said in a placating tone, at last, looking back at the vampire with a small frown. “I presumed you’d at least talked about it.”

“We didn’t have time to talk about it,” Rayne said testily, slumping behind his wineglass with a scowl. “Besides, what’s to talk about? You both know the score by now. I can’t exactly take him hunting with me, can I? I just thought it might be more fun for him staying here than being stuck in on his own. So shoot me!”

Xavier was probably one of the most easy-going people around, but he had a limit, and if he was shoved too hard he’d shove back.

“That is bullshit!” he snorted. “You gotta feed. I get that. You don’t wanna feed off me. I get that too. What I don’t get is why you think I can’t handle it if you tell me even the simplest fuckin’ thing! You knew you had to go out tonight, you could have just said so instead of acting like I’m a puppy that you need to arrange to drop off for the night!”

“I’m telling you now.” Pale green eyes stared balefully back across the table at him, warning him without words that a fuss was not what Rayne wanted or needed right at that moment.

Dominic put down his fork with a little hiss of indrawn breath, a better reader of aura and body language than either of his young guests. Xavier was about a breath away from an all-out explosion.

“Ray…” Dominic warned sharply.

Xav already hadn’t had the easiest of days, mostly because of Rayne. His lover clearly hadn’t bothered to tell his ex about Xavier – or Xav about his ex – before they’d had their run in this morning. Xav had been willing to let that lack of consideration go because he understood how sometimes you just didn’t think about things, and Rayne had said he was sorry, and that had been good enough for Xavier. This, however, was manipulation, flat out.

Xav wasn’t stupid. Rayne hadn’t told him what his plans were because he wasn’t sure how Xav would react, and he didn’t want to deal with it. So instead he sprung it on him at the last minute then tried to make it seem like he was just watching out for him when Xav got mad, and now that he’d finally pushed him to the point of a blow up he shut down and acted like Xav was being the unreasonable one. There was nothing Xavier hated more than being lied to or manipulated. It was like Rayne was purposely trying to see how much Xav would take, how far he could push him.

The seething anger in Xav hovered there on the brink for a moment and then as he realised Rayne had done this on purpose the energy suddenly seemed to drain out of Xavier. Instead of letting loose the fabulous temper tantrum that was brewing he slumped back in his own seat and sighed, running a weary hand through his soft blond curls.

“Fine! You’re telling me now,” he said woodenly, refusing to look at his lover. “Have a good night then.”

Dominic was giving Rayne a ‘look’ which said very clearly that he did not appreciate this dispute taking place whilst they were still eating. Rayne returned the glare with interest then pushed himself to his feet and sighed.

“Fine! That’s…” He threw his hands up in a gesture of defeat. “Just fine!” Tossing back the contents of his wineglass he set it down hard on the edge of the table and the stem broke in his hand.

Dominic yelped; “No!” like someone had shot one of his precious dogs in front of him and even the vampire looked momentarily stunned. The blood on his hand turned quickly to pale dust but the cut took a little while to heal. He put it to his mouth, running his tongue over the rent whilst Dominic retrieved shards of glass from under the table, his expression utterly mortified.

“Sorry…” he said at last, in a small voice.

Dominic rose from beneath the table with a face like thunder, still cupping slivers of fragile, scalpel fine, green glass in one hand.

“Get out!” he barked, pointing towards the sun room and the garden which provided the closest point of egress. “Just go! And try not destroy anything else on your way!”

Xavier sat petrified, his eyes just about as wide as they could get. He’d never seen Dominic lose his cool, or even raise his voice. He doubted a single broken glass was really something he would get worked up over so the glass must have been pretty special.

Rayne took off in the direction he was pointed and didn’t even look at Xavier, who refused to acknowledge how much that hurt. Hadn’t he just told Rayne not to treat him like a kid? Then he shouldn’t sulk like one.

Dom got up and went for a dustpan and brush and Xavier stood too, meeting him on the other side of the table when he returned.

“Dominic, I’m so sorry…” he said, trying to help gather pieces. He was sorry too, about more than just the glass. If he’d just kept his mouth shut maybe Rayne wouldn’t have gotten pissed and set it down too hard. It was his fault, he had to spoil everything.

“You’ve nothing to apologise for, darling,” Dom sat back on his heels as if reading his mind and managed a weak, fraught smile for him. “I get so angry with him sometimes, Xavier. He just can’t help himself. He has to be a spoilt brat and he just expects the world to move with him. Once upon a time I thought I could control that but I guess I know better now.”

He lowered his head for a moment, turning a shard of the broken wineglass in his fingers sadly.

“They were a gift,” he said at last. “From Venice, hand-made glass. A gift from someone I held in the highest regard.” A little sigh escaped him. “Mea Culpa, Xavier. I should have put them away somewhere safe but I can’t resist the chance to use beautiful things. Forgive me.”

Impulsively Xav leaned over and kissed Dominic’s cheek, a tender gesture meant to comfort. He sighed deeply.

“Today hasn’t been the greatest. I shouldn’t have let him push my buttons, I don’t think he meant anything bad. I guess it’s just spill over from him not giving me a warning about Matt Greening.”

Dom looked interested. “Matty’s been round?” he queried lightly. “Um… you do know…?”

“That he’s a major pain in the ass? Yeah, I know.” Xav said, sounding only slightly disgruntled. He relented at the look Dominic gave him. “And that he’s a vampire of course, and Rayne’s ex, and that he made him. Not that I was told any of that before I had the pleasure of meeting him this morning.”

Dominic’s roll of the eyes told him that this was a disappointment yet not unexpected. He swept up the last shattered shards and removed them to the counter but did not bin them.

“Matthew’s a sweet boy, when you get past his prickles,” he said, turning back to smile at Xavier. “He knows that Rayne doesn’t want him, and it hurts. But he’ll never show anyone that. So he gets his revenge in other ways. Which you’ve probably figured out already.” He drummed his long fingers restlessly on the kitchen worktop either side of his hips. “If they’d been closer he would never have Turned Matt,” he said thoughtfully. “That was the ultimate cruelty. Neither of them seems to see it yet, but it’s true.”

Xavier saw it, that was for sure. Matt had a very long unlife now to wish he was something more to the man he loved. It almost made him feel a little more forgiving toward him. Almost! Xav gave a little shrug. “At least I don’t think he’s gonna want to bite me again anytime soon.”

Dom’s eyes widened; “He bit you? Sweet Lady! Are you all right?”

“Um, yeah.” Xav said, not sure what the big deal was. “I don’t think he liked the way I tasted though,” he added, and that reminded him about the problem he was having. “Dom, when can you help me with this shielding thing?”

“Ahh…” Lord Warren nodded gravely, as if something made sense to him. “Not so much the taste of you, I think, rather the stream of consciousness he downloaded with your blood. Well, that will teach him not to snack on another vampire’s Chosen. You’re quite right though. It will be to your benefit as well as theirs if you learn to contain your thoughts and emotions.”
He opened another bottle of wine and topped up Xavier’s glass, then produced a rather magnificent looking chocolate-cake concoction from the chrome-fronted refrigerator and carried it through like a lure to the sun room, now shrouded in twilight.

“Bring a couple of forks and a pair of little plates through, darling,” he chuckled, amused by the mesmerised expression on Xavier’s face.

IN DARKNESS:

Rayne had to fight the urge not to slam the door behind him as he stalked out into the gardens. Only the thought of what Dominic might do to him if he broke the conservatory stayed his heavy hand. Lord Warren might look like an ancient club-bunny in his casuals but he was still a Vampire Slayer of considerable renown. Once outside, he slumped down on the bench in the terraced garden for a few minutes, composing his frustration until it became more manageable. It would not do to go out on the streets with the blood lust on him and a temper still percolating. The damage he could do under those circumstances did not bear thinking about.

His brief taste of Clint earlier today had taken the edge off his hunger but he had not fed properly since bleeding the guy on the train, two days ago, and even then he had been careful not to take too much. And the sex with Xavier, though it fed him emotionally, also pulled on him in other ways. He was physically tired, which was unusual since his Turning. They had been fucking almost constantly since returning home though, which probably had something to do with it.

Rayne almost smiled at that, but not quite. He would have some explaining to do when he got back, if Xavier was still around. And he could hardly blame the boy for being angry with him. His outburst had been harsh, and Xavier had a point, he hadn’t been consulted about tonight. Rayne had just figured that it would be more fun for him to be with a friend than alone. He hadn’t asked though. In truth he was not in the habit of asking.

Little wonder that so few of his lovers lasted no more than a handful of days with him.

He fished in a pocket of his jeans for his ciggies and lit up with a little sigh, blowing smoke into the pocket of quiet down here among the plane trees and poplars. There were so many of these little green squares tucked away off the London streets. They were tranquil places to come, if you had the fortune to be a key-holder or friendly with someone who was.

Rayne wondered how long his friendship with Dominic could last under pressures like tonight’s. He was way past the stage of seeing Lord Warren as a genial old flake. They had been through too much for him to be so dismissive of the older man. But Dom was mortal when all was said and done. He had the bites of two different Ancients on him, which offered some protection, even though one of those Vampires was now dust. And he was a powerful white witch to boot, which Rayne had learned pretty quickly not to mock. Dominic Warren knew his way around spells that could literally curl your hair. The image of affable old bugger was a bushel he cultivated to hide his light under, because he knew as well as any vampire how dangerous it was to be different in a world where the paranormal was feared and bland, homogeneous traits were the acceptable norm. He’d had excellent teachers, a white witch called Constance Harper and her lover, the vampire Cameron Eldridge, who had been his mentors and then his peers for some forty years until Connie was killed in a road incident that Dom swore was no accident. Eldridge did not survive her passing by more than a few months. Vampire or not, his heart and spirit were broken and Dominic grieved for them more than for the passing of his own blood parents.

A lesser man would be dead many times over. Lord Warren had fought vampires and spirits, warlocks and weres in his sixty plus years, and amazingly he looked very well on it. Even more amazingly, none of it had ever graced the gossip columns or featured on the front of the tabloids, with the exception of a rather embarrassing incident generated to try and discredit him by an opposing Black Coven in London a few years ago. That had been just before he and Rayne first met, and Warren assured him that his own Coven had averted Armageddon by triumphing over their antagonists. Rayne knew better than to scoff by now, but he’d laughed his arse off at the time. It just seemed funny. Dominic was more like his granny than some kind of Terminator figure.

And he’d broken one of the glasses, the special set of thirteen, made in Venice with a twist of Cam and Connie’s ashes in the delicate green stems. How insensitive was that? And how the hell could he make amends for it?

More so, how was he going to apologise to Xavier for treating him so shabbily? The one person who had brought light and warmth to his cold days, and he had talked Xav down like he was a child, or a servant. He rested his forehead against the heel of his free hand and closed his eyes for a moment.

Brian used to talk to him like that all the time; as if his thoughts and feelings were of no consequence. His uncle Brian always knew what was best for him. And usually what Brian thought was best for him was to shut his mouth and open his legs.

Was that how he was treating Xavier?

Matt had once told him that he didn’t have a soul, even before Jabez bit him. That had been one hell of an argument. Matty didn’t argue with him often, preferring to be subtler in his manipulations but they fought like wolves that night. They fought until Matt Greening was so badly hurt that Turning him was his only option. It was that or let the boy bleed to death in his arms and he could not. Angry to the point of blindness with Matt he still could not let him go. Even in that, Rayne had been deftly manipulated by his ex-lover.

He wanted to go back in and just take Xavier in his arms and hold him and tell him how sorry he was; sorry that he was useless; sorry that he could be cruel without even knowing it; and more sorry than anything that he did not know how to change the way he was. But again the time was past and he knew he would not be welcome in that warm and friendly house right now.

Snuffing out the cigarette, more calm and also a little sadder, he pushed himself to his feet and walked on through the gardens and out onto the darkening streets. Soon the night would shroud him and he could shrug off his conscience and hunt. That was some small comfort, but not much.

CONVIVIALITY:

Xavier brought the items he was told to fetch and followed Dominic readily into the little conservatory. “Keep them from reading me, yeah…but also keep me from picking up everybody else’s shit. This morning when Rayne wasn’t around, it was like the dimmer he put on me wasn’t so strong. When I was walking around I couldn’t get too close to anyone or I was feeling whatever they were feeling.”

“Hmmm…” Dominic frowned slightly and cut his young guest a more than generous slice of cake, levering it onto the plate he was holding out. “That is a little disturbing. Maybe he is right to hold off biting you, and maybe that accounts for some of his behaviour tonight. Though not all of it, I think. There is a line of reason in Vampire Lore that suggests it is not wise to take blood from the same vein under the same moon, and this is not merely out of fear of weakening the Feeder. It is believed to actually weaken the vampire feeding from him. I’m not aware of any studies done on the Feeders themselves to show how it affects them but I’ve never heard of anyone becoming increasingly sensitive just because a vampire feeds from them more intensely.”

He cut a second slice of cake for himself, adding; “I hope you like this, I haven’t tried the recipe before but it looked absolutely delicious!”

Xavier’s brows drew together slightly in a tiny frown. “Hey, Dom… can you not call me a Feeder?” he asked in a tone that suggested he was feeling a little insecure as it was without being referred to like a vampire flank steak.

“Sorry, darling,” Lord Warren conceded with a little smile. “I get lost in the technicalities sometimes. Nothing personal!”

Xav took a bite of the cake then and his expression melted back to something more agreeable. “Oh, man…” he said as the buttery, chocolaty confection just about make him weak in the knees. “I think I might actually get fat hanging around you!” He grinned. Then he thought of something.

“Wait, they’ve done studies on vampires? Who’s they? And what kind of studies?”

Dominic sat back with a little smile, still munching on a mouthful of cake with a look of bliss on his face. Amazingly, there was no way you could describe Lord Warren as fat, or even slightly rounded. He gestured towards Xavier with his fork as he swallowed the first mouthful.

“One of the earliest modern Institutes for the study of Parapsychology was in your own country, at the University of Virginia, no less,” he said with a grin. “The practice has spread to us across the pond. UCL students are doing PHd research into blood abnormalities and the ‘myth’ of the werecreature and I believe that Birmingham have a fairly robust centre for the study of psychic phenomena. And Simons Harrington in Liverpool have been doing solid research into vampirism for about a year now.”

He did not add that some of this Liverpool research was due to them having Rayne as a somewhat unwilling guest of the Institute for about six months, prior to his trip to America. It had taken all of Dominic’s resources as a mediator to get Wylde freed. Right now he was wondering if it had been worth it.

Xavier chewed on that while he worked on the slice of cake. Interesting, actually; of course, he was finding more and more that there were things in the world he’d never even guessed at. With a sigh he set the plate aside and licked the sweetness from his lips. He was quiet for a few moments, thinking, and he admitted to himself that he was worried Rayne wasn’t coming back. That was it, Rayne had already decided it wasn’t going to work and if he came back at all it would only be to tell Xav he was putting him on a plane home or something. Trying not to think on it he made himself focus on the here and now.

“So, you don’t know why this is going on with me?” he said. “What can I do though? The ‘brick wall’ thing isn’t working.”

“The ‘brick wall’ is a psychological exercise, pretty much like the flame technique that is used in meditation,” Dominic explained, licking his fingers as he surveyed Xavier contemplatively. “It’s effective because, done well, it can make people who are susceptible to energies and vibrations, such as vampires, for example, believe that there is nothing beyond the wall. To guard against a creature that can see through such trickery and sleight of mind, you need a proper spell.”

Xav looked at him for a long moment or two, those big blue eyes blinking slowly once. “Dom, I’ve got no fuckin’ idea what you’re talking about,” he finally admitted.

Dominic chewed on his lips throughfully for a moment. Whereas many people would probably have thrown up their hands in defeat he liked to view general ignorance as a bit of a challenge.

“Did you ever tell a white lie as a child to get out of doing something?” he asked at last.

“You mean like faking sick to stay home from school? Yeah, everybody does that.”

Dominic nodded; “Mmm… sort of like that. The ‘brick wall’ is like that, it’s something you put out there, like a smoke screen, to hide what you’re really about. But it’s not a real, tangible object. It’s just a ruse. A serious Sensitive will see right through it. And when a vampire bites, they get memories with the blood that they take. Now a gifted person could actually create a barrier, a realpsychic barrier that would keep thoughts in and also keep things out. There’s a bit of a knack to it and it takes practice but it can be done.” He paused to smile at Xavier. “Am I making any sense to you yet?”

“Can’t you just tell me what I have to do?” Xavier asked. He was at heart a practical person, and the impatience of youth was not currently on his side. He didn’t expect the solution to just be handed to him, he was willing to work and practice, whatever it took, but he wanted to be doing something now.

“Yes, I could, but no, I won’t.”

Xavier gave him a baleful glare but Dominic was unfazed. “If someone that’s never danced before asked you to teach them, would you just rattle off where to put their feet without showing them or going through it at all? You’ve got to learn each of the steps first before you put the whole thing together.”

Now that he was speaking a language Xavier could understand he settled down a bit. That was something he could relate to. “Okay…so how about showing me the first step then?”

“I will Xavier, I promise, but not tonight. For one thing you just ate enough to keep you grounded for a least a few hours, and for another Rayne was right about one thing, you are tired.” He smiled to take any sting out of the words. “Get a good night’s sleep, and then we can start when you’re fresh.”

Xav couldn’t quite stifle the sigh of disappointment, but he nodded his head.

After talking a little while longer Dominic showed him up to one of the guest rooms on the second floor, which he was pleased to find also had a light, airy en-suite bathroom. Xav was also happy to find his luggage there since a change of clothes was a bit overdue… not that he’d really been wearing his clothes all that often! As much as he didn’t want to admit it, both Rayne and Dominic were right, he was exhausted and not just in a physical way. It was still early by his standards but he decided he’d take a shower and head off to bed before he fell asleep on the sofa or something.

Just as he’d finished up in the bathroom and came out wrapped in a towel he heard Dominic tap lightly on the door and he came in holding a small china cup, like the kind used in Chinese restaurants only this one seemed thin and looked especially delicate. A curl of steam rose from the surface as Dominic held it out to him.

“Drink this, it will help you sleep.”

Xavier took the cup and sniffed at it warily. “What’s in it?”

“Nothing that will hurt you, I assure you. It’s just herbal tea.”

Xavier still looked dubious, but he didn’t really think Dom would give him anything bad and it smelled okay, kind of like summer flowers. He drank the hot liquid in one, as if he was doing a shot, and handed the cup back to Dominic, who took that and his damp towel as he slid between the crisp white sheets on the bed.

“Sweet dreams, darling,” Dominic whispered as he bent and kissed his forehead and Xavier murmured a sleepy good night as he watched Dom retreat and close the door behind him.

He did not sleep right away though. As soon as he was alone he thought of Rayne and again a small part of him wondered if he would even come back. He shouldn’t have gotten so worked up, he shouldn’t have snapped at him, Rayne hadn’t meant anything bad, he was just trying to look out for him. It had just felt… it had felt like the way Josh used to treat him. Like the times they’d go out somewhere and when they got there Josh would tell him he had to fuck some guy and he didn’t give Xav any choice about it. The situation wasn’t the same at all, but it had just struck a nerve with him.

Xav closed his eyes and reached out tentatively along the psychic thread between them. Coolness and a hint of satisfaction came back and he tried something he hadn’t really consciously tried before, he sent a feeling of comfort, like a soft caress down the thread. He didn’t know if Rayne would feel anything or not, but he didn’t have any more time to wonder. Sleep was pulling him down and he couldn’t seem to struggle against it. He drifted off at last, still thinking of Rayne.

WALKING IT OFF:

As a boy, Rayne’s favoured method for dealing with a problem was to walk it off. He had always been a fairly healthy child and lack of finances meant that generally if he wanted to get from A to B he would have to walk there, or cadge a lift. As he got older he also learned to jump trains and hitchhike, but on the whole, if the distance was reasonable he still liked to walk. A steady hike of nine or ten miles was nothing to him if he had a tune working itself out in his head or a thorny situation to resolve. And in London that was easy enough to do.

Having set out from Dominic’s place with no clear destination in his mind he followed his feet whilst the problem of what to do about Xavier nagged at him unremittingly. Many people considered the city at night to be a no go zone, and there were areas of the city that could be. Rayne had no such considerations to worry him. The vampire could be your best friend or your worst nightmare. He had been the target for unsuspecting muggers who certainly never raised a hand to anyone again. On a couple of occasions he had been bundled into alleyways by would-be assailants who did not live to regret doing so. Rayne had no qualms about his ruthless approach towards those who violated his personal space. He didn’t always kill them, it wasn’t generally necessary. But he was capable of putting the fear, if not of God, then at least of the Unknown, into much larger and less disciplined attackers, without resorting to cold-blooded murder.

So his feet carried him north at first under the Westway and up towards the edge of Kensal Town. When he had been mortal and only marginally famous, one of his Dealer friends had lived up here, in a flat that cowered in the shadow of the Trellick Tower. Rayne often walked up and met him in Meanwhile Gardens on the bank of the Grand Union Canal. It was far from the most salubrious area of London but he felt comfortable here nonetheless. Most of West London’s narcotics dealers knew Rayne Wylde by sight, even though he was no longer a regular customer. Generally he was still viewed as one of their own.

His cousin Lewis still lived in Kilburn to the north but they had not spoken in years, not since Rayne fucked Lewis’s boyfriend whilst living with the couple when he first came to London as a teenager. It was all water under the metaphorical bridge to him now. He had done things that he felt bad about but he could no more change the past than he could predict the future. Rayne swung west tonight, crossing the upper end of Ladbroke Grove and heading for the cemetery at Kensal Green.

In the early years of the new century he had disappeared for nearly three years, lost in a mess of drugs and psychological chaos that he still preferred to shut away behind closed doors. A body was found in Spitalfields and identified as ‘Rayne Wylde’. He had actually been ‘cremated’ at Kensal Green, or someone that fitted his general description had been anyway, and the Faithful and the Press came out in their hundreds to gawk. Of course things were a little hard to explain when he turned up again just a few years later but hardly anyone remembered the furore these days.

Rayne had denied all knowledge of the funeral and declared theatrically that rumours of his death must have been greatly exaggerated. The body of the man presumed to be Rayne Wylde was long since reduced to dust and ashes so an autopsy could hardly be called now. Since no one could actually establish that Rayne had anything to do with the mix up he walked away from the incident with little more than a rap on the knuckles for wasting police time. His sister still had not forgiven him though for letting the family believe he was dead. He regretted that some days.

There were a lot of things to regret; looking back. A lot of water gone under the bridge, never to return.

He stood on the bank of the canal near to the gas risers at Kensal Green and stared into the dark water below, lost in thought. It would serve him right if he lost Xavier over this. In truth he had never deserved the beautiful dancer. Maybe nature was just setting things back on their path again. Bringing him here had been the wrong thing to do. In America or even Europe he could hide behind an image but this was home, in so much as he had a home these days. Here his past would gradually creep out of the woodwork like so many maggots wriggling out of a corpse. And there was nothing he could do to protect Xavier from it.
Rayne wandered back into the quiet darkness of the cemetery and sat down on the steps of a half-ruined mausoleum. He looked up at the stars and wondered how Jabez had been able to stand this for over three thousand years. There were days when he thought he might go crazy and he was barely more than a decade and a half Turned.

And then he felt it, like a slow trickle of something warm and sweet, deep in his chest. He was so used to feeling that little thread connecting him to Xavier pulling gently from his solar plexus that he almost took it for granted. When Xav was turned on, he was turned on. When his lover was happy he felt it like a miniature sunburst in his breast. And now, tonight, his dark humour had been augmented by the sense of Xavier having closed the door on him. He could still feel the boy but as if they were in separate rooms, shut off deliberately from each other.

When the door opened he felt it like a cool draught of air pouring into his lungs. And then he sensed that little coil of heat, the searching vine of Xavier’s aura, reaching out to him. He pulled it in at once; a drowning man clinging to a lifeline. His anger melted and he felt a gentle surge of peaceful contentment roll through Xavier in return. For all that he was thoughtless and hopeless, Xavier just wanted to be with him and was unhappy when they were apart. That knowledge left him feeling a little warmer, but also it gave him an edge of fear once more. What if he could not be all that Xavier needed? What would happen to them both then?

In the end he walked for miles, circling around the cemetery and zigzagging back and forth across the common at Wormwood Scrubs then back down Wood Lane and past the citadel that was the BBC television centre, a place he’d been chauffeured into, and escorted out of, so many times that he could not count them. He’d also walked by here days without measure, dreaming of fame, dreaming of Top of the Pops. And now he was back on the perimeter again, looking in and not entirely unhappy about the situation. Strange, how things went around like that.

Wood Lane took him down to Shepherd’s Bush. Shepherd’s Bush Road guided his feet back to the edges of Hammersmith where Whipsnade had once played five nights at the Apollo in their heyday. The screams from four thousand teenage throats still echoed distantly in his head.

He walked to the river and by then it was midnight dark as he slid over Hammersmith Bridge and down the south bank. People passed him by, groups or couples and he let them be. He could take his time now. The pulse was steady in his throat. Xavier was sleeping, he could feel that his lover was resting easier now their souls had touched and he wanted to be back there in Xavier’s arms.

But first he needed blood. He strode on across the causeway, past the waterworks at Barn Elms and ambled over the greens behind the old Putney Hospital site. Cranes still towered up towards the sky here, beyond the athletics track. Down in the park behind the sports centre a young couple tangled in a hungry, half-clad embrace and he sat on the wall and breathed in their passion as they sank to the ground and fucked, in blissful ignorance of his presence. It would have been easy to mesmerise and bleed them both but they were so young and so wrapped up in one another.

After a little while he rose and walked on, hungry and aroused, following the southern embankment to Putney Bridge and back across those low, lazy arches to the North side of the river. It was a walk of a little over a mile from there to World’s End on the old Kings Road where he once spent a passionate, drug-addled night with an old flame, just a little while after he was Turned.

As a boy he had come here as often as he could, addicted to the punk rock history of the area; the echoes of Sex and Seditionaries, the punk clothing stores run by Viv Westwood and Malcolm McClaren, which was called World’s End by the time he reached his teens. He remembered being fascinated by the huge clock face with its hands spinning backwards on the front of the little, slate-faced shop and the beautiful, otherworldly garments arrayed around the crooked shopfloor within. The shop was still there but the area was so different today, all pharmacies and pizza restaurants. It felt too clean, too sanitised.

“Allo,” a male voice murmured as he stood, looking up at the clock, lost in his thoughts.

Rayne took a step back and half turned to find a tall, dark-haired, unshaven stranger looking him up and down speculatively from the doorway of the nearby Oxfam shop. He was wearing a dark two piece suit that had seen better days and battered looking Doctor Marten boots. For a second Rayne did a double take because the man looked so very much like John Moon, a rancorous Yorkshire bastard who had pimped him for nearly two years of his life, back in his early twenties.

His heart was still ticking over double speed even as he calculated that the man in the doorway was young enough to be Moon’s grandson and probably half Greek or even Israeli to boot.

“Did I scare you?” the stranger asked, coming forward apologetically. “I’m sorry. You looked beautiful, just standing there in the light off the windows. I wanted to get a closer look. Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” Rayne breathed, nodding his head slowly. “It’s so quiet tonight, I didn’t hear you coming though.”

“I was in the doorway, half asleep. I heard you stop.” The man moved closer. “You are alone? You want some company, maybe?”

“You’re sleeping rough?” Rayne asked him, blinking.

“No, I came for a night out with friends, missed the last train. I will catch the first one home tomorrow. I have to work.” He reached out, touching Rayne’s cheek. “You are cold. Have you been walking around all night?”

“For a while,” the vampire nodded again.

“You want to let me warm you, maybe?” the man whispered, resting his hand in the open neck of Rayne’s dark green shirt, against the cold skin of his torso. He was not too warm himself but Rayne could feel the body heat from his palm as a questing finger entered his shirt and stroked over one of his nipples. “My name is Ari, I will be gentle if you wish it but I like to fuck.”

“Okay,” Rayne agreed with a wary smile, hunger overcoming his reservation. “Here?”

“Come…” The man was smiling too now, it made his face a shade more handsome and Rayne relaxed as his hand was taken and he let himself be led around the corner and across the street into the shadows of a recessed gateway behind a closed and silent pizzeria. The alcove was overgrown with trees and vines from the front garden of the next house along. “What is your name?” Ari asked huskily.

Rayne told him and Ari pushed him against the wall there and pressed his lips to Rayne’s cold, soft mouth. His hand slid up the vampire’s shirt and groped his belly then shoved its way roughly down his tight pants. Rayne moaned hungrily as he was groped and then wanked, a hot, wet mouth exploring his neck as he reciprocated willingly. His fingers released the zipper on the other man’s pants and he slid a hand inside, finding the horny stranger’s erect prick at once. He pumped it and felt the slick of hot juice on his palm right away. Ari was randy for him and would probably shoot quickly.

“Uhh… so good,” the man grunted. “You are beautiful, my little friend. So good with your hands. Tell me, do you like a man on your back?”

“Yeah,” Rayne panted, feeling his fangs extend. He sucked lightly on Ari’s hot, sweat-salted neck as the slightly taller man unbuttoned his pants and shoved them down his thighs. Rayne wanted to bite him then and there but Ari turned him roughly and leaned out to glance up and down the empty street before dropping to a crouch and applying his tongue to Rayne’s arse crack. He licked up and down the hairless cleft and moaned his approval, spitting on the vampire’s soft, pink pucker then shoving two fingers into the sexy young man as he rose to his feet, with another nervous glance along the street.

Rayne bit down on his lips as he enjoyed the rough penetration of the stranger’s thrusting fingers inside him. Ari lined up his rod then and spat on the head a couple of times before pushing it firmly into him. There was no talk now, just quick, rough sex. Rayne exhaled a little groan as he felt Ari’s long, hard, circumcised penis sink deep inside him, thankful that he’d let Xavier stoke him hard this afternoon. He was still wet and receptive as Ari bucked into him and the man began to grunt softly with approval as he fucked the moist, snug cleft in front of him.

When Rayne cried out urgently Ari’s hand slid up to his mouth keeping him quiet. Which was what the little vampire wanted.

Ari grunted with surprise when Rayne bit his wrist but he did not pull away, just kept his arm across the vampire’s mouth, pulling Rayne’s head back to his shoulder as he drove his cock deeper. As the vampire had suspected it took him just a few minutes to come, but he kept his tool sheathed in Rayne until his balls stopped lurching then gripped his mate’s hard prick and held onto it as he started to thrust again, not losing his erection for a moment.

Rayne licked his skin, feeling the heat of Ari’s blood like a magical potion in his mouth and throat. It soothed the hunger and frustration in him so sweetly that he was willing to let Ari reload up his arse as many times as he liked so long as he got to suck on the soft flesh of his wrist.

Following on from another vigorous fuck, he got to suck on Ari’s cock as well, nodding down low on him, taking it throat deep and gulping down the thick flood as the handsome, horny middle-eastern male erupted between his lips. When he rose to his feet, they kissed and rubbed against one another in the darkness, not bothering to pull their pants up. Rayne bit Ari’s neck and the man hardly seemed to care. He was fingering the little vampire again, whispering hungrily about how he wanted to get Rayne naked and screw him on his back somewhere very public.

Rayne fed his primary hunger and let Ari pull him through a private gateway into the small front garden of the house next door. Under the tree, behind the garden wall he laid Rayne down and yanked his pants off, shoving himself in hard between the vampire’s slim thighs and bucking fiercely on top of his near-naked partner. Rayne tuned it out, closing his eyes. He was warm and sated, very content, and he just wanted Ari to get this over with so that he could go home and get himself cleaned up then seek out Xavier and take advantage of the chance to renew his energy. He could fuck all night but he wanted to be with his lover now, not some faceless stranger.

It was nearing four in the morning by the time he had walked back to his apartment, taken a long, refreshing shower and changed his grubby clothing, then wandered back over to Dominic’s. Lord Warren was asleep on the sofa in the sun room, a book still open on his chest, when Rayne slipped in through the unlocked door. He found a throw and put it gently over the older man, careful not to wake him, then moved softly up the stairs and found Xavier sprawled like an angel across the bed in his friend’s guest room.

Rayne shrugged his clothes off easily and wriggled onto the mattress beside his naked lover, curling around him and pulling Xavier close. He smelled so good, and felt even better, his skin warm and moist from the heat of the room, fragrant from the shower. Rayne kissed the back of his neck and snuggled up close to him, with a sense of relief and contentment that was almost overwhelming.

Xavier murmured sleepily, stirring only slightly as Rayne curled close around him, and then his presence must have registered deeper as he stilled and turned his head to look over his shoulder.

“Rayne?” His voice was soft and a little thick with sleep, the valerian and linden flower concoction Dominic had given him making him fuzzy still. He didn’t really need his lover to answer though, he already knew it was him and he turned to face him, his arms sliding around him at once and he pressed close, emanating relief as he nuzzled into the side of Rayne throat.

“I’m sorry…” he whispered huskily. “I didn’t mean to snap at you.”

Rayne kissed his blond curls tenderly, cuddling up to the warmth of his lover’s body. Xavier smelled so good, so sweet and fresh and he was generating enough heat to cook on.

“Shhhh…” the vampire breathed. “I should have warned you that I’d have to bugger off at some point. I guess I’ve just got so used to you knowing what’s going on in my head that I took it for granted.”

He cupped Xavier’s face, drawing his lips up for a slow kiss.

Xavier’s responsive kiss was tender and sweet, melting softly against Rayne’s lips, all forgiven on both sides in that one gentle kiss. He wasn’t sure if Rayne wanted anything more than that…or just wanted to fall asleep with him, so he didn’t take it any further than the slow sweet kisses, yet the way he moved slightly against the vampire’s body suggested he would be receptive to more if that was what Rayne wanted.

His lover seemed content to curl around him and rest though. The last little frisson of tension melted out of him as he snuggled into Xavier’s arms. A brief warmth that flushed his skin with rare colour was the only testimony to how he had spent his evening. It was not exhaustion that unmanned him however, just a simple desire to wrap himself around Xavier and rest beside him.

It had been a long time since he felt so safe and so content in someone else’s arms.

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