London Loves Ch. 01bySadieRose©
© Sadie Rose Bermingham & Bellora Quinn
Ladies and Gentlefolk, it's been a long time coming and for this we apologise most profoundly. My life has been up in the air so many times over the past three years and it's been difficult to sit down and write. My thanks go out as ever to the lovely Bellora Quinn without whose constant input and enthusiasm I would probably have barely set fingers to keys in earnest these last eighteen months. She and Xavier have kept this story alive and it would not be here today without her.
Blessed be, hunny.
But we have delayed enough, so without further ado, we are delighted to present to you, the long awaited sequel to Reach Out For The Sunrise and Dark Paths. We hope that you find some enjoyment to be had from its deliverance. As usual, there are unbridled scenes of M/M love and lust within this tale, so if you don't care for that kind of thing, please move on, there is nothing to see here for you. It will probably help your understanding of the story if you have already read the aforementioned tales, although we have done our best to recap for those without the time or inclination.
We ask only that you respect these, our words and do not take or reproduce them elsewhere without our permission.
CHAPTER 1 - THE JOURNEY HOME
It was hard for Xavier Gavrilov to imagine that just a few weeks had passed since he was dancing to Whipsnade's song Dark Paths on the stage in Switchbacks, in San Francisco and he had never even met their notoriously enigmatic singer, Rayne Wylde. So much had happened to him in that short window of time. He had been seduced and fucked deliciously hard more times than he could count by the beautiful singer; then abducted and attacked by vampires, discovered that Rayne was also a vampire, fallen head over heels for him anyway and become embroiled in subsequent running battles with the Undead. He had also been befriended, in fact practically adopted, by a notorious American Irish porn director, Patrick McNamara, and his glamorous entourage and obtained a passport under the auspices of being related to an English nobleman named Dominic Warren, a friend of Rayne's. Using that passport, he had flown out to Italy with his new friends and spent several bewilderingly busy weeks living it up at the mountain villa of an ex-porn star, now a famous European racing driver, named Aldo.
There he had learned that Aldo and his lover, Rayne had a long and turbulent history and that the handsome older Italian man was still in love with Rayne. He'd also had to deal with the -- not entirely unwanted- amorous attentions of Paddy McNamara's travelling chef and P.A., Valentino Chavez and more disturbingly those of a famously demanding fashion photographer who spent a week taking Xavier's picture at his Neapolitan studio and also at his flat. He had also been stalked and courted by a very sweet, young French vampire named Nicholas whom he might have fallen for under different circumstances.
Whilst in Italy he thought that he had lost Rayne completely when, following on from a violent row, the beautiful vampire had stormed out on him, intending to return to London with Lord Warren. Xav had been tormented by nightmares after losing Rayne, the first he had endured since leaving the USA, which came to a head when he woke, screaming, from a horrific dream in which he had felt a metal stake pierce the body of his lover, killing him almost instantly. That had been the catalyst for a sequence of unbelievable events that ultimately saw Rayne return to him in Naples, though the gorgeous English vampire was a very different creature when he fell back into Xavier's arms.
They had been inseparable ever since but it had only been a matter of time before his new mate felt the desire to return home. Xavier had known it was coming but dreaded it all the same, so it had been a shock and an amazing relief when Rayne asked him to come along.
It had been a turbulent couple of months for Xavier, all things considered. Consequently he had spent a good portion of the rail journey back to Rayne's home sleeping, with Rayne's protective arms around him. Now, looking out through the huge picture window, on a train that was hurling him across central Europe - two more first time experiences to add to the list; the wonderful, two deck train and the flying tour of a continent he'd only ever seen in magazines and on TV - he was beginning to wonder if this wasn't all a dream after all and someone would soon pinch him and wake him up.
Rayne was on the move, he got restless in confined spaces, even when they were as comfortable as those on the TGV. And Dominic had ordered lunch, which was currently spread out across the table top between them; three courses, salmon and sweet cakes and a cheese board and champagne. Xavier didn't know where to start eating first, which was also a novelty for him.
His undead lover liked to watch him eat but he also got a little bit jealous, only able to look at people who could still enjoy food putting it away. He'd gone off for a cigarette when they stopped in Nimes and now Xav was just a shade anxious that he had, for whatever reason, not got back on the train before it went on its way. Rayne had already run out on him once since they got to Europe and that episode almost had disastrous consequences. Now he worried when they were apart. And he also worried that this was wrong, in all kinds of ways.
Xavier had never been a dependent before. He wasn't inclined to be clingy and normally, if someone started to give him the signs that they needed space, he was the first to walk. But Rayne affected him like no one he'd ever known. It wasn't just the bites Rayne had given him, he was almost sure of it.
And that was another thing. His lover was a vampire; Undead; indestructible, even... maybe? For a little while when Rayne went missing, Xavier had panicked, convinced that he felt his soul-mate die. Dominic Warren, the English vampire expert who was Rayne's good friend, had told him that he believed it. Rayne had died, just for a few hours; and then something brought him back. By Rayne's account, that something had been the link he had to Xavier through the bites on his neck and the blood they had shared; his into Rayne and Rayne's into him.
That was just a little bit too freaky for Xavier to think about, even now. Rayne had walked out on him, but as he lay helpless, dying, in Paris, he had reached out to Xavier, hundreds of miles away in Italy and somehow their connection had given him something to hold on to. It still made no sense.
Other things were bugging Xavier's ass too. He was feeling things, sensing things that he had no right to know. And he could see vampires. That couldn't be right, could it? Of course, everyone could see them, but not everyone knew what it was that they were seeing. Xavier did; which was how he came to be having the conversation that he had with Dominic over lunch. Lord Warren, amongst his other talents, was High Priest of a Witches' coven back in England and like Xavier he had the gift of seeing vampires and the supernatural for what they really were. He also had a reputation among the Undead as a vampire hunter of some renown.
"As soon as I set eyes on him, on Nicholas, I knew it," Xav declared, still chewing a mouthful of something so delicious that he hardly knew whether to talk or just eat. "I knew he was... he was one of them, a vampire. I could just feel it, like a finger down my back. I could feel that he was... not alive. Like with Rayne. Except that I've been so close to Rayne that it almost feels normal now. I know other people don't give me that... shiver. But I'm not sleeping with most of them. I just thought it was that... and then I realised, when I saw him, Nicholas, I mean... I realised that it was because he was a vampire."
"You sensed it with Elian in Frisco too," Lord Warren reminded him calmly, sipping his champagne between bites of his smoked salmon fritters. "I knew even before then that you were a Sensitive."
"Not the same!" Xavier chewed and swallowed then reached for his tall, elegant glass and washed down the mouthful. "I knew that Elian was a vampire before I met him."
Dominic tilted the champagne flute towards him in acknowledgement. "Yes, but you were still able to shut him out of your mind with very little training. Do you realise how long it takes some people to master such a skill? Even I was practising for years before I could do it without having to meditate first."
"You think I'm some kind of natural psychic?" Xav blinked at him.
"I think that you had latent abilities," Lord Warren corrected him. "But I also think that the vampire marks Rayne gave to you enhanced those gifts. When my friend, Cameron marked me in my twenties it made a massive difference to my arcane abilities."
Xavier pulled a face at that. He wasn't sure if it was better that the gifts were his own or something that Rayne could give, and maybe just as easily take away. Dominic seemed to almost read his mind because he added; "You know, the skills Cameron Eldridge gave to me are still mine. They didn't stop when he... passed."
He hesitated and took a sip from the glass, looking out of the window at the vast river that was rolling alongside the railway tracks. When he looked back at Xavier it was with a rueful little smile. Dom was a handsome man despite the fact that he had to be in his sixties, at least, given some of his tales. His loose, thick ,silver curls still had the sheen of golden blond in them that was quite natural and though there were plenty of little laughter lines around his moss-green eyes and his generous mouth he did not have the seamed and wizened features of a man old enough to be Xavier's grandfather.
"He died?" the blond youth queried awkwardly. "I thought he was a vampire?"
"It doesn't make one immune, darling." Dominic's smile faded and he set down his glass with a little sigh. "It was a long time ago. We move on."
Xavier wasn't sure if he should say any more, or maybe try to change the subject. It obviously still hurt Dominic to think of him. Even without the sad, slightly wistful expression on his face Xavier could sense, like a tingle in the back of his head, how Dominic felt right now.
"What happened...?" he asked, biting the bullet, and then quickly added, "If you don't want to talk about it though, it's okay."
"As I said, it was a long time ago," Dominic's smile did not quite reach his eyes. "He killed himself, Xavier. Rayne asks me at least once a year how the hell he managed to do it. I still haven't been able to explain in a way that makes sense to him. But he used magic. He was a powerful mage, much better than I am."
He shook his head slowly. "Yes, I still miss him," he added in answer to the question that wasn't asked.
Xavier was acutely uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation now. Not because he didn't understand suicide or death, or because he empathised with Dominic, but because he didn't want to think about Rayne trying to get that information out of him. A few long moments went by, then Xavier gently brought the conversation back around to the present.
"So...I'm stuck like this then?" he said grimly and then, thinking of something else; "Why do you think the shielding stopped working for me? I mean, I was doing all right and then all of a sudden I was getting all this emotional stuff from everyone whether I wanted it or not."
And in the back of his head he was worried that it would happen again. He had believed he was going crazy when his head began to get over-run with the random thoughts and emotions of his companions. Without Dominic's support and Rayne's return he believed that he would have gone completely mad by now.
"It got harder to deal with whilst Rayne was in Paris, didn't it?" Dominic mused, whilst Xavier nodded gravely.
"Does that mean every time he leaves me alone my head will be full of other people's shit and I can't do anything about it?" he wanted to know.
The older man shook his head gravely. "It shouldn't work like that, Xavier. I think that the situation was worse for you when he was away because you were actually reaching out for him. You were open to anything and everything at that time, just in case he tried to reach you. And after he got back you just weren't shutting them out properly." He gestured in Xavier's direction with his fork then speared a piece of asparagus casually. "We can teach you how to handle that. Rayne was just as bad, when he was first Turned. In fact, sod that, he was a lot worse!"
He laughed quietly, lightening the mood a touch.
Xavier's expression said he wasn't convinced. Part of that was because he wasn't a vampire, so he didn't know what made Dominic think he could be as strong as one, and the other was that he had just had his normally unshakeable confidence badly rattled.
"What if I can't, Dom?" he asked in a plaintive tone, idly playing with the piece of bread he wasn't eating. Dominic looked at him thoughtfully for a moment, his expression softening.
"Xavier, when we were in San Francisco I sat you down on a bench, touched your forehead and told you to concentrate. I didn't really expect anything, but in five seconds you shut out all the background noise around us." He shook his head slightly. "For some, that little trick takes months of practice and intent focus, and some never are able to do that.
"Then, I told you to practice before we went to meet Yannis, but I only thought to keep you occupied with something to distract you because you were so worried. I never once thought that within a single day you would be able to successfully block a centuries old vampire from your mind for hours on end. I don't think you grasp how impressive that was. In a matter of weeks, with only haphazard practice, you were able to feel Rayne's emotional state, though he was hundreds of miles away," Dominic continued. "You have natural ability and you have strength, Xavier, you only lack training and discipline. You can do this."
Xavier still looked slightly doubtful, but he picked up a piece of cheese and ate it with the bread and shrugged, which Dominic took as a sign that he was at least willing to try.
"There is something else I need to tell you, before he comes back." Dominic glanced up nervously towards the end of the carriage where Rayne had last been sighted, vanishing in search of a nicotine fix. "He mentioned visiting Manchester to sort out some business. He... ah... he may be a little out of sorts when he comes home."
Xavier felt a hint of dread touch him unexpectedly. Of course, he had to ask; "Why?"
Again, Dominic glanced towards the corridor at the head of the stairwell. He put down his fork and leaned forward, studying Xavier's face intently.
"When Rayne initially left for the States I believed that he had no intention of returning to England," the older man said in a low tone. "It came as some surprise to me that he chose to return with you voluntarily. His last relationship here ended rather... tragically. I did offer to wind up his affairs in Manchester for him but he wanted matters left as they were. I believe that he is not yet fully resigned to the situation."
He sat back, shaking his head as if the memory left a dark shadow on him too.
Xavier looked back at Dominic for a few silent moments. Questions were piling up behind his deep blue eyes, but instead of asking them he looked down and then out of the window at the countryside flickering by. Topmost in his head was to wonder what had happened in this relationship that had gone so badly that Rayne would rather have left permanently than deal with it and secondly, what had changed that he thought he could take care of whatever needed taking care of now?
He wanted very badly to scratch those little mental itches and ask Dom, but he held back. Through the connection he had with Rayne, there had been a lot of little glimpses into each other's heads and pasts. On a couple of occasions, with effort and blood, Rayne had been able to push some actual thoughts and words into his head, very briefly. But their link wasn't telepathy, they couldn't read each other's minds. There were probably a lot of things Rayne hadn't told him and kept him shielded from. He knew that Rayne was much older than him, though he did not look more than twenty five. Of course it was only to be expected that his lover had been with others before him.
Xavier didn't feel slighted, and he didn't push Dominic for answers either. Some might have seen this as submissive acceptance, but in truth it was a respect for boundaries. That respect extended to not getting into his partner's business without him knowing about it. If he wanted to know, he should ask Rayne, not Dominic, and if Rayne didn't want to tell him... well, then he didn't want to tell him.
He cleared his throat slightly.
"All right?" Dominic rolled the words around in his mouth for a moment, then nodded again. About a hundred different responses had scrolled through his head when he decided to tell Xavier the truth but passive acceptance had not been one of them. He was beginning to wonder just how much Rayne had shared with Xavier already. "Well then... if you're okay with that, I just... well, you know that I know... so if you..."
He stopped and cleared his throat, then smiled awkwardly. "Well... you know where I am, is what I'm saying, I suppose."
Xavier was looking back at him now with solemn eyes, but the corners of his lips were curled just slightly, giving him a mischievous look.
"That I do," he agreed, popping another morsel into his mouth. He hadn't meant to flummox Dominic, but it was kind of a revelation that the usually suave-talking Lord Warren could occasionally be set off balance enough to stumble around for what to say. "And Dom, thanks... for the warning."
Their confidential chat was disrupted in any case by the return of the prodigal vamp, who looked much happier for his nicotine fix. He bent to give Xavier a quick kiss as he slid back into his seat.
"Jesus, are you two still feeding your fuckin' faces?" he laughed with mock disgust.
"I was hungry." Xav said, unconsciously drawing the last word out a bit, and completely unrepentant at the accusation of gluttony. Xavier's love of eating well and often was a firmly established fact. Part of that stemmed from leaner times; points in his past when he really had been starving, as was his favourite exclamation whenever his belly was empty. But mostly it was just a healthy appetite and a natural tendency to expend a lot of energy; despite having spent several weeks mostly lounging poolside and with a wonderful chef in the house that liked to keep him stuffed he was still sleek and toned. His lean body tended to run to thin if he didn't keep his calorie intake up.
Xavier was finished with the meal anyway; he had been picking at morsels these last few minutes just to keep Dominic company while they talked. He brightened in Rayne's presence, some of the unacknowledged worry in him draining away. Leaning towards the beautiful, dark-haired vampire he brushed his lips over the soft skin just below his ear, pressing warmly there for a moment. "I'm done now though."
"Mmmm... good..." Rayne purred against the lobe of his ear, making him shiver. "Because I'm fuckin' ravenous."
He licked Xavier's neck rather more than just affectionately. Dominic cleared his throat and unfurled a copy of the Times pretending to read it avidly.
Xavier's low, silky little chuckle was like pure, warm honey, and it let Rayne know he was up for whatever his lover wanted, whether here or elsewhere. Usually when Rayne fed from him it was while they were writhing naked somewhere, either as a trigger to a spectacular climax or the icing on one. It could also be a prelude though, a teasing appetiser, and they both enjoyed the thrilling risk of intimate acts performed surreptitiously in public places.