London Loves Ch. 04bySadieRose©
© Sadie Rose Bermingham & Bellora Quinn
London Loves... a Mystery
And all of Rayne's head is a mystery, folks. Ignorance is bliss, apparently. Try telling that to Xavier!
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Rayne had found the ring, with some spare keys and other bits and pieces of tat, in his music room off the hallway on the evening after his argument with Xavier; the evening after he broke Dominic's commemorative wine glass. He had retreated there once they got back to the apartment to give Xavier some space, but also to try and find some mental peace for himself. IAs far as he could remember he had never been much of a one for sharing his private space before Xavier came along, but some of the things he had found tucked away in that little box, just inside the lid of his upright piano, seemed to contradict that. There were house keys that he could not recall using; an address book with names and numbers for the Greater Manchester area and a receipt from a magazine, presumably, for an article he had no memory of writing. The ring was the most alarming clue though. He owned plenty of jewellery, but nothing like this. It was a flat, chunky band, made from two separate circles of aluminium and white gold, fused back to back and set with nine tiny diamonds around the outer face. Apart from this the outside was unadorned. On the inside surface there was an inscription in a swirling, romantic script. RJW My heart is always yours. KMJD
When he saw it, Rayne's heart thumped once, so violently that he thought he might be sick. For the life of him, he could not remember who KMJD was, but that person had clearly believed that they meant something to him. He knew of only two men in his life that might be able to solve the mystery for him.
He wasn't inclined to discuss a potentially important part of his love life with his ex-boyfriend right now, so that meant one thing. He was going to have to eat humble pie, and plenty of it.
He turned up on Dominic Warren's doorstep the next day with a very expensive bottle of white wine and a small, colourful business card.
"The guy's based in Dulwich," he explained, handing over the latter with an apologetic grimace. "But he's got a really good rep, I promise. If you show him one of the other glasses he reckons he can reconstruct it. He isn't cheap. Trained in Murano, he says, but I'll foot the bill, he's already got my details. I don't expect you threw the bits away, did you? Least, I 'ope not. I 'ad to go south of the river for that."
Dominic contemplated the details in silence for a moment then looked up at Rayne seriously. "If you think I'm going to forgive you that easily..." he began, but he pocketed the card anyway. "I'll think about it. Is that all you wanted?"
Rayne shook his head, knowing when he was rumbled it was safest not to try and lie about it. He held out the small, black velvet bag. "I was hoping you could tell me what this is."
Dominic opened the drawstrings and decanted the simple, heavy ring into his palm. The diamonds glinted in the sunlight like tiny stars. His face fell dramatically.
"Oh damn! You really don't remember anything, do you? I'd hoped it was just..." He closed his mouth again but it was too late anyway, the look on his face told Rayne without words that he'd been acting out of character and it had already been noted.
"It's coming back in bits and pieces," the little vampire confessed as Dom relented and ushered him into the house and straight through into the kitchen where he spent most of his time. "Being with Xav helps, it's like... when I bite him, I mean, when I share with him through the bites rather than just taking, I wind up giving him something that's personal to me. And most of the time he doesn't even know he's got it. But when I bite him and drink from him I get some of it back, like it's one of his own memories."
Dominic nodded sagely at that as they settled on the sofa in his sunroom. On this warm, bright summer's day the door and the windows were open onto the garden and the place was fragrant with the scents that wafted in on the breeze.
"That makes sense, darling, Jabez and Cam both told me that they had similar experiences with human partners, where the biting went beyond feeding and became a way of sharing. I think that's in your Undead genes, Rayne. When you get close to someone and you want to give something back, to share as much of yourself as you can with them, well... maybe it happens instinctively. You're doing it without even thinking about it."
"Speaking of Jabez," Rayne said, momentarily distracted by something that had been very much on his mind since he returned to London. "Where is the grouchy old bugger? Has he been in touch with you? Because I haven't heard a peep from him, not even a fucking card to ask if I'm okay after... y'know."
He shrugged a little, still unable to speak about what had happened to him in Paris. Dominic shook his head, though he looked worried too now.
"Nothing," he confirmed. "He hasn't called, hasn't been round. He doesn't answer the phone. Mersen said he's not called in but he's in the Far East, apparently. Pot hunting, or so Mers' seems to think. Nothing life or death. He'd have taken Mersen with him if it was."
"I'd know it if anything had happened to him, right?" Rayne said warily.
"If anything serious had happened, we'd both know," Lord Warren assured him, touching the twin bite marks under his shirt collar tellingly with his forefinger.
He was still holding the ring that Rayne had given him in the other hand and now the vampire nodded towards it, his expression filled with trepidation.
"So... who gave me that?" he asked bluntly. "What happened to us? Why don't I wear it anymore? None of that was in the memories that Xav and Matthew gave back to me."
"No, I expect not," Dominic told him soberly. "Kevan happened whilst you were living in Manchester. Back before you went out to the States and met Xavier."
"Do what? I lived up north?" Rayne blinked at him. "I mean... I know I was at college up there for a while but I was just a kid then. Matt gave me that much back; I met him whilst I was up there."
"I know, my darling," Dominic was picking his words carefully now. "You... uh... you know what happened to Simon?"
Rayne's expression closed down again. He nodded his head twice. All of that had come in a rush, both from Matt and from Xavier. When he was trying to share the depth of his feelings for Xavier with the younger man, he could not do so without having Xav understand something of his former life. And so he had those bittersweet memories back now; of long, sunny, summer days spent in the close company of his best friend; of Simon's balanced wisdom, both in the recording studios and on tour, that kept him from going over the edge; and ultimately the pain that he could do nothing to heal as his precious Simon died in his arms, struggling to breathe, fighting to find the words that needed to be out of him before they were silenced forever.
He was not sure when Dominic had moved closer but suddenly the older man's arms were around him and he was holding Rayne tightly kissing his hair, all his earlier vehemence over the broken glass forgotten.
"Sweet boy, I am so sorry," he murmured tenderly. "I know how much you loved him, and he you. Xavier must truly be unlocking your heart though. I never saw you weep for him so easily before."
Rayne lifted his head, biting his lips, fighting down the huge wave of unchecked emotion that threatened to drown him.
"That was only a few years ago," he forced out now. "Is that why I went back to Manchester?"
"Mostly , I think," Dominic agreed. "You needed to be away from London, from everything that reminded you of him."
Rayne was nodding slowly as if this made sense. "So who was... is... who is Kevan?"
"You met him whilst you were living there," Dominic said, his tone becoming more cautious again. "He was a detective. You helped him initially, with a case, as I understand it. This is difficult for me to explain. You told me some of it at the time. You had your misgivings about the relationship. He wasn't gay, I remember you telling me that over lunch once. I got the impression you needed to get it off your chest at the time, as if it was troubling you. You said that you liked it because that was the way you felt about yourself."
"Well... that makes sense, I think," Rayne laughed nervously, still trying to resurrect the memories that lay dormant in him. "Why did he give me the ring if neither of us wanted to face up to our gay genes? You're..." He hesitated again, his eyes widening with sudden dread. "You're not gonna tell me that I married him, are you?"
Dom shook his head, but his face remained sober. "No, Ray. You didn't tie the knot. He had a wife and kids, I think you said. He was a married man." He handed back the ring with an apologetic wince.
"I know how to pick 'em, don't I?" Rayne's laugh was sharp and humourless. Then it died on his lips as something sank in like a cast stone dropping into a still, deep pool. " Had?"
"I beg your pardon?" Dominic blinked at him.
"You said had... he had a wife and kids. What happened to us, Dominic?"
Lord Warren drew a long breath and let it out slowly. Then he explained to Rayne Wylde the real reason why he had run away to the States as soon as he was released from the secure unit of the Liverpool research hospital where he had been incarcerated for six months, following the unexplained deaths of two young men found beside him and the dead body of his police detective lover at that man's south Manchester home one night in the height of summer, almost one year ago. For a time Rayne's ashen face held no expression as he listened to the words that made no sense to him. There was no context in his memories for this tale.
"They found me at the house. I don't understand," he ventured weakly at one point.
"Rayne, the neighbours called for a SWAT team, they'd heard screaming and gunshots. If Kevan's partner hadn't come out on the call with them, it's likely they'd have tried to shoot you dead," Dominic told him patiently, though his own heart was hammering now.
"But I don't get it, he was my boyfriend. They thought I killed him?" Rayne was shaking his head slowly, still bewildered, turning the ring in his fingers as if it held the answers.
"They had no idea what had happened in there, Ray," Dominic reiterated. "All they knew for a fact when they walked into that room was that Kevan was dead and you were holding on to him and wouldn't let go, and... others died in that place, darling. They had no idea how many others at first, but they found... remains." He stopped and swallowed the lump that was growing in his throat. "Remains of something that had once been human... plastered over every wall, over everything in that room. They locked you up, for months, Ray. It was horrible. They... well, let's say their hospitality would have been considered barbaric by animal rights activists if you were a chimpanzee. It took every last connection that Jabez and I had between us to get you released, and even then neither of us believed that you would survive. You were a very long way away from us, my darling boy. Even when you occupied the same room, you were a long way away. I worried when you decided to go to America, but Jabez said to let you go. Maybe he saw something in your future. He was right to give you your head, if you had stayed then you'd never have met Xavier. So I suppose that the Lord and Lady were looking out for you."
He was rambling now, growing nervous in the face of the vampire's continued silence. Rayne was just staring at him as he talked, not really listening, past the part about human remains, but a slow sense of nausea was creeping over him as the meaning behind those quiet, insistent words seeped in, and with them came memories; dark, terrible memories that were like something out of the worst nightmare. He stumbled to his feet and as Dominic reached to catch him he shook himself free of the older man.
"I need a cigarette. I'll be back in a while."
He needed something stronger in truth, but the nicotine fix would have to do for now and he walked blindly down into the sunken garden hidden behind the rows of elegant London townhouses, moving on autopilot. He chain-smoked his way through half the packet of Marlboros in his shirt pocket as the pieces that Dominic had given him slipped into place in his head. In their wake, fragments of recall were coming to him now, slotting into the gaps in his mind. He saw a large, awkward man with the build of a back-street bruiser and the shy smile of a little boy, looking up at him, hope and tenderness mixed in his gaze. There were more emotions than images though; humour, anger, frustration, humiliation that blazed like a dying star in his chest, concern, doubt, lust... a whole lot of lust, searing through him like a flame, and yet more anger; a blinding, senseless rage such as he could not remember feeling before Xavier came into his life and he realised that he had something worth fighting for.
He turned the ring around between his fingers again, remembering gentle, blue-grey eyes and a soulful stare that would have put a puppy to shame. In contrast, he felt the ghosts of hot needy hands on his naked body and a sexual charge that was almost beyond his control.
It was then that he could taste the memory of blood; the salt flavour of it in his mouth, the feel of it on his hands, on his skin, and the raw iron tang of it filling his nostrils until he could hardly breathe. The pieces were still jumbled up in his head, like a deserted room in the aftermath of a party, debris strewn everywhere. He had been afraid... no, not afraid but anxious, and that anxiety was mixed up with the overpowering sense of lust and need and energy that he always felt moments before reaching a blinding orgasm. He remembered trying to reach out, to make it stop, but something was holding him back. And then he saw something that would have stopped his heart in his chest if it had still been beating.
"No..." he whispered, as the memory came crashing back down on him, just as those young hooligans, fuelled up on White Lightning and foolish bravado, had come crashing into Kev's bedroom on that night... that fateful night.
He'd gone out for a smoke, he remembered it now, he wanted a ciggie before they went to bed and Kev didn't like him smoking in the house. When he came back in he'd locked the door but he hadn't put the alarm back on, partly because he couldn't remember how and partly because he secretly thought it was silly when there was obviously someone at home.
They had tumbled into one another's arms on the big, comfortable bed, the way they always did; ravenous for the press of lips against lips, flesh on flesh. He had surrendered to the cool metal of the police-issue handcuffs around his wrists, the only things that could hold him for more than a minute or so if he chose to fight them. He yielded as well to the fierce heat of Kevan's need, giving in to the other man's hunger to press inside him, to straddle and ride him, bucking like a machine as he buried that big, satisfying cock deeper. That surprised him on two counts, firstly because he was rarely submissive with his lovers, to the best of his knowledge and secondly due to the fact that he hated to be restrained. He'd picked that one up from Matty, who had always loved it.
The memories kept on spooling. At one point Rayne had thought he heard a crashing noise and implored Kev to stop, to check it out, but his lover, ever randy and ever persuasive, convinced him that it was just something outside on the estate. It was that kind of place, hence the security alarm and the barbed wire around the tops of all the back walls; he remembered that too, with a sense of shock. But Kev was unconcerned and so he let it go, like a fool.
Because Kev believed that if someone was in the house the alarm would trigger. Wouldn't it?
Consequently there was nothing to stop them, nothing to stop those little thugs, who had been sent by bigger thugs that didn't like to get their hands dirty, to warn Kev to keep his snooping copper nose out of business that didn't need to bother the Bizzies. Except, of course, they did more than just warn him in the end.
Rayne sank to his knees in the gardens as he heard it all, felt it all, happening again in slow motion, like a scene from a film reeling out in his head over and over from every angle. He heard the sound of the gunshot, although initially he didn't realise what it was because it didn't go off with a bang like a starting pistol, it made a soft, whooshing sound like an arrow being fired into a mattress, ending with a dull, wet 'thunk' as it struck its target, practically at point blank range; it was not an enormous room after all. He saw it again, the moment of shock in Kev's eyes as the bullet punched through him like he was made of liquid, which in a sense he was. He felt it hit him, it's impact slowed by his lover's body but still enough to jab into his belly just beneath his ribs, like an impatient finger and then Kev began to spurt blood over him like a ruptured oil pipe and he could not get his hands down from the cuffs to stop it.
He screamed now, as he had screamed that night, struggling to get his hands free as the teenage gunman lifted the automatic pistol again, this time aiming higher and firing the shot that extinguished the last of the light from his lover's eyes.
People came running from every direction and for a moment he was not sure where he was, though he thought he could hear Dominic's voice, quick and urgent, trying to soothe him, to bring him back out from the horror of this waking nightmare. He knew that his fangs were bared as they must have been on that night, a little under a year ago, when he finally ripped the cuffs free of the bedframe in his incredulous rage and flung himself between the body of his twitching mate and the laughing maniac who had just shot him dead. He saw the laughter in their eyes turn to disbelief, and then to terror. And it happened that quickly; because he could not remember anything else, just the screams, and the blood and the silence.
"Shhh..." Dominic was murmuring, his strong, warm hands pulling Rayne to his feet, much as Dave Ramsey, Kev's partner had finally done when he pried Rayne from Kevan's still-warm body, steering him firmly but gently away from the carnage.
Shhhh... There's nothing you can do. Leave it... Leave it... He's gone, Ray.
He did not weep until Dominic got him back to the house. Only then, in the safety of that warm, familiar kitchen did he let the barriers break and an ocean of tears flowed free of his aching eyes. Dom did nothing to try and make him stop. Rayne had not cried for Kevan at all, insofar as the older man knew. Now he was finally making up for lost time, free at last to grieve for his lost love.
Xavier rang when Rayne was quiet at last, sleeping out his grief on the sofa with a soft, green throw wrapped around his fragile looking body. The young man had panicked, able to feel that something was wrong, but unable to reach Rayne on his mobile. Dominic marvelled again that these two had found one another at such a time. Xavier was truly a sensitive, he thought. He was so finely tuned to Rayne's emotions that they did not even have to be in the same parish for him to know that his mate needed him.
Dom did something then that he hated; something he rarely did with his friends. He lied. He told Xavier that everything was fine, and that Rayne had been getting flashbacks to what happened in Paris but he was okay now.