Reach Out For The Sunrise Ch. 09bySadieRose©
(c) Sadie Rose Bermingham & Bellora Quinn 2010
CHAPTER NINE – THE DARKEST HOUR
At long last, here is chapter nine. Apologies for the hiatus but too often the real world interferes in my writing schedule and I don't get any work done for ages. As a reward for your infinite patience we'll post a couple of chapters very close together. This one ties up the loose ends of Xav and Rayne's separation. It's a fairly unsexual chapter with a fairly gruesome medical sequence, so anyone wanting to read this for a bit of titillation might be better off waiting for chapter ten. Wouldn't wanna bore anyone. **grin**
For those who want to know how we're gonna get them out of this mess... read on. Thanks again for your patience. We love you all, really. xxx S&B
NAPLES - XAVIER:
Rather than pick one of the restaurants within a few blocks of Marco's, Palo said he knew a place that was much better, just a little further away. Xavier didn't really care, at the moment he just wanted to stuff his face with as much grilled, breaded or sauced goodness as he could get. Having Palo laughing and teasing him about his ill temper when he was hungry was not winning the Italian model any points. By the time they actually arrived at the restaurant Xav was ready not only to eat the bread but the basket it came in.
Palo shook his head at the forthright way Xavier attacked his food as soon as the plate was set in front of him. He also raised a brow at the amount his companion could put away, muttering; "You better not eat like that all the time or you'll never make it as a model."
"Who said I want to be a model?" Xavier fired back dismissively between bites.
"Then why are you working for Marco?" Palo asked.
Xavier shrugged. "It's money."
"You could make more money working for PJ McNamara," Palo pointed out.
Xavier looked at him over the top of the glass of wine he'd just gulped downed like it was water. "PJ's never asked me to work for him."
Palo looked surprised. "He seemed to like you. If you wanted to be in his movies he would give you work, I'm sure."
Xavier shook his head ruefully. "I'm sure he would."
"So, you don't want to be in porn movies?"
Xavier stabbed a few more pieces of pasta to put in his mouth, muttering; "Brilliant deduction!"
"Why not, though? I think you would be good."
Apparently Palo was not the brightest crayon in the box. Xav had already figured that, but he was rapidly lowering his estimated IQ points by the sentence as this conversation went on. "Because... I don't want to."
"You take your clothes off for money, so you are not shy. Why not get paid ten times more for making movies? I have heard that McNamara pays his boys top dollar."
"I get paid to dance and strip, not to get fucked by strangers while someone films it." Not any more, anyway, Xav added silently. "There's a difference."
"You didn't know me and you let me fuck you." Palo said reasonably. "What's the difference if someone gives you money for it?"
Xavier just stared at him incredulously. This Italian pretty-boy seriously was a dimbulb, he decided. But he wasn't completely stupid, and antagonising Xavier clearly wasn't part of his plans tonight. Palo changed the subject quickly, asking him randomly about San Francisco and how he'd met PJ McNamara, and why he was in Italy, and how long he was staying.
Xavier was getting exhausted just figuring out ways not to answer his questions. Usually it was easy, he just turned the direction of the conversation to the other person, but it was harder to do when he didn't give a good god-damn and really wasn't interested in talking at all.
Palo didn't seem to mind Xavier's reticence nor did he seem to notice his avoidance of answering any questions about himself. He talked enough for both of them. When dinner was done and they were back in his car he tried to persuade Xav into going on to a bar or two. Xavier would rather have gone back to Marco's to catch some sleep. He'd been up since dawn and it had been a hell of a long day. He checked his phone automatically though.
Still no calls or messages from PJ, and with a sigh he agreed to go for a few drinks.
Palo took him to a place where he was obviously well known, which was a mixed blessing. It meant Palo had more people to occupy his attention but also meant they would probably stay longer than Xav wanted. Thanks to the language barrier he also hadn't a clue what most of the conversation was about. He was bored, and tired, and upset that he still didn't know what had happened to Rayne. That was a really bad combination of things to be for Xavier, especially when he was pouring alcohol on top of it.
To add to the matter of his irritability he knew he was being talked about. He heard the word Americano more than once and Palo was just having a grand time showing him off like Xavier was a prize he'd won in a cereal box. Xav was getting tired of it, and he was getting more tired of Palo, really fast. The handsome model always made sure he was in contact with Xavier somehow. A hand on his shoulder or hip, an arm around him, a couple times he tried to hold his hand. Xavier had noticed that in general everyone here seemed more touchy-feely then he was used to, but Palo was going beyond that, and he wasn't fooling Xavier for a minute. It wasn't affection or even trying to get him into bed, he was making a statement of possession, and Xavier was getting pissed about it.
Long past the time Xav was ready to leave Palo finally suggested they go, only when he did he made it pretty plain that they were going back to his place, and he had clearly invited some friends along. He worked his hand under the back of Xavier's shirt, caressing the base of his spine and kissing him sloppily. Xavier pulled away, taking a look at Palo's friends, and their anticipatory expressions. Like a pack of slobbering dogs!
"Tell you what, sweetheart..." he smiled cynically at Palo. "...you take your friends home and fuck them, because I'm not going to, and I don't give a shit what you told them."
He got up and started toward the door. Palo called after him and when Xav didn't stop he went after him. "Hey! Xavier, wait..."
"Where you going? Hey, don't leave," Palo pleaded with him as they reached the exit, standing on the step down into the darkened street. "I thought you might want to go have some fun, that's all. You're still too uptight about your boyfriend walking out, I understand. But you can't sit around alone, feeling sad forever."
That was just about a jibe too far and Xav snapped at him; "I told you, you can go fuck them if you want to. I'm not sad and I'm not fuckin' lonely. I'm just tired and pissed off and I'm going back to Marco's."
Palo grabbed Xavier's shoulder and pulled him to a stop, turning him around. "Come back to my place, I'll tell my friends 'not tonight'. Just come back with me, babe," he said in a placating tone, sliding his arms around Xavier's waist and pulling him close, bending to nuzzle under his ear. "You are so beautiful, I want to take you home...please?"
Xavier shrugged out of his grasp. "Just go home Palo, I'm not interested."
Palo wouldn't let him go and pulled him back. "You were interested the other night with Bocaccio. You let us both fuck you good then."
"Yeah, a mistake I'm not going to repeat." Xavier pushed his arms away more firmly.
Palo grabbed his wrist and yanked him back. "A mistake? I don't think so, you were hard for me, baby." He brought his mouth down over Xavier's in a hot wet kiss, hoping he could force the fickle little dancer to drop the hard-to-get routine.
Xav had endured enough though. He shoved an elbow into Palo's stomach and twisted out of his grasp, shoving him away more deliberately.
"Would you just fuck off already!"
Palo let go of his wrist and Xavier staggered a step or two. Before he even knew what was happening those dark brown eyes lit with fury and Palo hauled him back and slapped him hard enough to jerk his head around and make his ears ring. Xav stumbled another stunned step.
"Bitch!" A string of angry Italian followed and Xavier had to clamp down on his own fury. If he got in a fight here it could only end badly for him. Palo's friends were still watching from the bar with hungry eyes. He glared venomously at the other model, refusing to lift a hand to his burning cheek and then he turned around to storm away.
Palo was after him like a shot, his mood swinging around again, back to cajoling. "Xavier, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that."
"Get the fuck away from me!" Xav growled and kept on walking.
Palo grabbed his shoulder and spun him back around and that was the last straw for Xavier. He swung at the bigger man and probably the only reason his fist connected was that Palo was already pretty drunk. It also meant Palo didn't feel the blow as much and in the next instant his hands were on Xavier shoving him so hard he was thrown against the wall of the building beside them.
Before Xavier could do more than gasp a stunned breath Palo had grabbed him again and pushed him toward the dark, garbage-strewn side street. Immediately Xavier struggled to get out of Palo's grasp and stop him from shoving him down that alley. He already knew that nothing good could possibly happen to him there.
"Let go of me you fuckin' cunt!" Xav yelled at him as they scuffled. Palo was a lot bigger though and he was in the grip of a violent, egotistical rage. He was acting quickly and without thought.
He let Xavier go but it was only to spin him around and slam him chest first against the gritty bricks. He pressed himself up behind Xavier, holding him tight there and getting a grip on his arms so he couldn't get free.
"You wanna play games huh? You like to play rough?" Palo breathed heavily in his ear. His other hand came up quickly and clamped over Xavier's mouth when he felt his lungs expand for a shout.
Xavier felt a ripple of fear thread through him, displacing some of the anger. He struggled even harder but Palo had his arm twisted behind him and he pushed it up between his shoulder blades now, making Xavier cry out in muffled pain behind the hand clasped around his jaws.
Palo began kissing him wetly on the side of his throat, and ground his pelvis against Xavier's backside, letting him know how excited this was making him. Xav just felt sick. He'd actually fucked this guy willingly the other night. The hand holding his arm let go for a moment and Xavier renewed his struggles but Palo's body had him pinned tight to the wall. His jeans were fumbled open and yanked down his narrow hips.
Xavier felt Palo's fingers tighten painfully where he clasped his hand over his mouth and the hot hard feel of him pressing along the valley of his bared cheeks when Palo undid his own zipper and tugged his pants open.
"Mmmhhhhff!" Xavier's muffled curses tried to find away out as he flailed with his free arm and tried to kick back. His efforts got him pulled backward and slammed into the wall again, jarring him into stillness for a few moments. Long enough for Palo to get lined up, nudging the smooth head of his cock up between his clenching cheeks. Xavier knew if he just relaxed it wouldn't hurt as much but he was too pissed off to settle himself. His back arched and his eyes squeezed tight as Palo breached his defences.
"Nnnnhhhhh!!" This time his muffled cry was one of pain. He was smashed up tight against the bricks and impaled, Palo's hot breath panting in his ear as he pushed into him rough and fast.
Then, all of a sudden, Palo's hand was gone from his mouth and he was off him as if torn away. Xavier staggered against the wall, turning and automatically reaching to yank up his jeans. A slim young man with at tumble of dark, wavy hair held Palo by the throat, at arms length, nearly off the ground. Xavier's panicked eyes widened even further as he felt a prickle of energy along his skin, a flare of some psychic instinct that told him his rescuer was not human. For less than a second he allowed himself to hope but one look at the creature's face told him it was in vain. He was a vampire, but he was not Rayne Wylde.
Xav didn't think, didn't question it, he just turned and ran.
Several blocks later he realised he did not have the smallest inclination of where he was, or at least he didn't know how to get back to Marco's, and there wasn't a cab in sight. Gulping for air he slowed down at last to take in his surroundings, as if that would help. A car came suddenly careening down the street and swerved into a pile of roadside garbage. It looked like a heap of rotted produce and other debris but apparently buried inside were some heavy crates, or something more solid, and the resulting smash was quite spectacular, doing a number on the car as well as sending shit flying everywhere. Xavier looked on incredulously as the guy driving came to a stop and got out quickly, cursing a blue streak while he inspected the damage. The whole front of the car looked caved in. Then the guy started laughing his ass off, got back in, reversed the complaining wreck out of the garbage heap and drove away.
"Jesus...people here are fucking nuts!" Xav shook his head.
He wandered for a bit longer, hoping to spot a familiar street name or building but nothing looked quite right. After a little while he pulled his cell phone from his pocket and looked at the time. It was close to midnight. He didn't have Marco's number so he called PJ instead. The older man sounded a little sleep-addled but he didn't tear a strip off Xavier for ringing so late.
"Are you okay?" he wanted to know.
"Kind of..." Xav mumbled, suddenly embarrassed to admit that he'd screwed things up tonight and now he was hopelessly lost in the middle of one of Europe's most notorious criminal hotspots. "Has Dom called? Did they find anything yet?"
PJ hesitated briefly, but again it could have just been that he was half-awake. "I promised you that you'd be the first to hear if I knew anything. I meant that, Xav. Go to bed, baby."
"Ok..." Xav said, trying not to sound disappointed or impatient. "Um, could you put Aldo on for a minute?"
"Sure, honey." He waited while PJ went in search of their genial host and had to smile at the genuine pleasure he heard in Aldo's voice when the Italian greeted him. Xavier realised then that he had come to think of the guys as true friends. They made small talk for a minute or two and then finally got to what he needed. "Aldo, do you know where..." he squinted up at the name on the street sign and repeated it hesitatingly. "Do you know where that is?"
"Yes," Aldo said after a little intake of breath. "You don't want to go there, caro. That's not a good neighbourhood, if you know what I mean."
"Yeah, tell me about it," Xavier said. "Can you tell me how to get to Marco's from here?"
"You're there now?" Aldo demanded, a note of alarm creeping into his voice. "At this time of night? By yourself?"
Xavier rolled his eyes. "Yes mum, now can you tell me how to find Marco's from here?"
He could hear Aldo cussing softly in Italian. "What the living hell you doing down there, Xav. You taken leave of your senses?"
Xavier sighed softly. "I ditched Palo at a bar, ok? Now, can you please give me directions? Like, before I get mugged or something?"
There was some more breathless swearing on the other end but Aldo finally relented and relayed directions for how to get back to where he wanted to be. He made Xavier repeat them back to him twice.
"Call me back when you get to Marco's." Aldo admonished him.
Xavier grinned. "Alright, thanks," he said before he hung up. It was kind of weird having people worried about him. He was used to being on his own.
Aldo's directions took him the shortest rout on foot, but still he was farther away than he'd realised. It took him a half-hour to get back to the block Marco's building was on. Even at this time of night there were people walking down the street here. The address was a much more busy, tourist area. He was about to pull out his cell and call Aldo to let him know he'd made it back okay when he felt that familiar prickle down the back of his neck.
Xavier slowed but didn't stop. There was a small group of people walking toward him, two couples it looked like. A fifth followed them, just a few paces behind. Close enough that he could be with them, or far enough that he might not be. Xav caught his breath and tried to pretend he hadn't seen him. It was the vampire from the alley.
The couples, laughing and having a good time, passed him, then the guy behind... Xavier turned his head as he passed and it felt like time slowed, like a slow-motion movie reel. Xavier's head came up as he turned it and the guy was looking back at him as well. Curious dark eyes pinning him and for a moment Xavier couldn't look away.
The guy was good looking, at least he had a nice face, but he was wearing loose nondescript dark clothing and other than his height it was hard to really make out his built. Unbound dark brown hair curled around his pale cheeks and Xavier caught his slight smile just before they both turned to look forward again.
Xavier's heart was beating in his chest hard enough that he could feel it against his ribs. Christ! Had he gone from the frying pan into the fire? The vampire had pulled Palo off of him, and Xavier didn't know what he might have done to him after he ran, and truthfully at that moment he didn't care, but then why was the vamp now following him?
Xavier turned his head to look over his shoulder again. He couldn't help it, he had to look. The two couples walked on, almost a block away now. The vampire that had been following them was gone.
He faced front again, trying to hurry and not look like he was hurrying. Silly really. If the vampire wanted to catch him it wouldn't matter if he ran flat out, and even if he did make it to Marco's there was no safety there. Hurrying helped channel some of the adrenaline though. He could see Marco's building now and he had to put effort into not running the last few yards. He jogged up the steps even so, and reached for the buzzer with a sense of relief spilling into him.
A cold white hand closed over his wrist just before he hit the button and Xavier nearly jumped out of his skin. Dark, chocolate brown eyes regarded him with that same curious expression he'd seen when he had turned to look at vampire on the street. Those soft loose curls around his face moved restlessly with the breeze as if stroked by a lover's hand. He was only a little taller then Xavier, though this close he had a heavier build. He could feel the strength in that cool, smooth hand; strength that could snap his wrist like a winter-dry twig.
"Ho visto che lei mi guardando."
"Um..." Xavier replied intelligently.
"Parlez-vous du français?" The vampire asked, apparently seeing the lack of comprehension in Xavier's expression.
Xavier shook his head. "I speak English, and a little bit of Spanish. Enough to tell you to fuck off, anyway!"
The vampire sighed, not in a melodramatic fashion but weary, as if this was a game he was already tired of playing.
"You do not sound English." His own softly lilting accent was more French-sounding than Italian.
The vampire tilted his head to one side regarding him and Xavier had to block the pictured of a cute cocker spaniel puppy from coming to mind. This guy was definitely not like most of the vampires he'd already met. Then he did something rather more vampiric, he caught Xav's eyes and did that thing where it felt like he was trying to see inside his head.
Xavier gave him 'the wall' easily enough. The vampire's expression shifted at once, somewhere between surprised and amused, and Xav's heart pounded a little harder at the memory of Elian Iannopoulos looking at him with nearly an identical expression. It had been cute, right up until Elian had savagely bitten him and mercilessly ripped what he wanted out of his head. Xavier had much more practice keeping unwanted mind probes out now though. He had gone to Dominic on only their second day in Italy and asked the old wizard to teach him all he could about "that shielding thing", and although Dominic despaired of his lack of discipline on anything else, that was the one thing Xavier practised with nearly obsessive zeal.