Thursday, 6 October 2016

Throw Back Thursday

The Lines of Marsden 2
Living in Shadows

Publisher: MLRPress
Released: March 2014

"By dying I will not fail, within my linage three will come together, and you will know them by the colour of their eyes."
Michael Marsden learns he's not alone. There are other Marsdens out there...with an agenda that's all their own. Faced with his past for the first time, Christian Risely-Kincaid learns there's more to him than meets the eye.
Benj Marsden's grateful Christian was rescued from Elsewhere, but he's not going to allow Michael to keep what's his—Christian belongs to him.

Chapter One
Understanding... And then some.
Six months!
Six goddamn crazy, lonely, filled-with-fear months, and still Christian hadn't woken up. Only by chance had Michael worked out a way to stop Christian's body from withering away. Sebastian had once again let something slip he shouldn't have. To save his lover's life, he needed to help Christian take in nourishment. Feeding him was easy, but how Michael had to do it felt as though he was violating the man he loved. On the other hand, Christian only appeared to be able to feed while Michael was making love to him--if you could even call it that. To Michael it was more like impersonal fucking because the act was so one-sided. The process had taken a lot of trial and error. The whole thing was a pure accident of need on Michael's part in figuring out the truth. In his heart, he knew Christian wouldn't have minded the way he went about everything, especially knowing this was giving Michael enough time to figure out how to bring him back completely.
God, he missed Christian so damn much.
As Michael lay in bed, staring up at the darkened ceiling, he wondered if Sebastian actually was as dumb as he appeared to be. Did Sebastian even realise how often he was giving Michael the answers he needed? Though the last time he'd listened in on Sebastian's thoughts, the man was torturing Christian with memories of his past. The name Benjamin kept coming up, and every time the word passed Sebastian's lips Christian would sob in what sounded like pain and misery. But the question remained, who was Benjamin and what did he mean to Christian?
Michael's fingertips slowly caressed Christian's cool skin to comfort him. In the background, he could hear the rest of the family downstairs moving around as though nothing had ever happened. Somehow, it seemed so wrong when one of their own was incapacitated.
From somewhere in the house Michael heard his sister laughing at something Doyle was saying and it flooded him with guilt, remorse, and a whole lot of other emotions, which ate away at him. Michael fretted constantly over the way he'd acted toward everyone since the night his world collapsed in on itself. Firstly, he'd lost Christian to Elsewhere, to suffer at the hands of a sadistic bastard—who Michael wanted to kill more than anyone else in the world—and secondly, he'd lost his parents to a fire, destroying any chance of him ever having the normal family he wanted. The pain, combined with the devastation filling him, was too much for Michael to bear. He'd since taken to exiting and returning to the house in a manner where he wouldn't have to run into the others—especially Gypsy and Doyle.
Seeing the hurt in their eyes would kill him.
Michael felt guilty twice over with Gypsy, because he hadn't been there when she'd needed him the most. Strangely, with Doyle it was because every time Michael saw him lately he wanted to be held in the man's arms so he could feel a sense of normalcy and comfort. Yet, something so innocent somehow felt as if he were cheating, even if he didn't intend it to be that way. So it was better if he avoided everyone all together, especially Doyle. Also, Michael was pretty sure Doyle was straight, so he'd more than likely be uncomfortable with Michael clinging to him. Sighing deeply, Michael debated whether to go out to feed as his lover's body would be requiring nourishment soon just to maintain his current state of health.
Voices were drifting up from the corridor below. He could now hear Gypsy softly arguing with Doyle over something. He was almost positive they were heading in the direction of the room he shared with Christian. Michael didn't need this right now. Rolling out of bed, he went to the window which was thankfully open. Escape was at hand--thank God for small mercies. The moment he heard the first footfall on the steps leading up to the attic, Michael stepped out of the window, dropping down two stories to land agilely on the ground below his window. Stepping back into the shadows, he listened as his sister cursed. A smile came to his lips when he realised she was calling him all the swear names she'd used in their younger, more normal days. No matter what, there was no changing the personality of who his sister was. He had always liked that about her.
He'd make it up to her one day. As soon as he brought Christian back he'd make it up to everyone for the way he'd been treating them all. Yes, he knew he was acting like a total arse-wipe most of the time, but sometimes he didn't have the energy to be able to pretend everything was still all right. In those times, he knew if he were around the others he'd only bring them all down to the level of hell he found himself existing in. Taking his cigarettes out of his pocket, he lit one while he waited for Gypsy and Doyle to leave his room. He heard Doyle at the window and held his breath. He sensed Doyle must have somehow known he was there because he tried to get Gypsy to calm down and leave. Michael smiled as Doyle did what he always did: made peace as best he could. There was something about the man that made everyone want to listen.
As soon as they were gone, Michael started the slow walk into town. At times like this, he wished they had a car so he could keep driving into the night and lose himself for just a little while. Maybe he could find out what had happened to his parents' car. Had it also been destroyed in the fire? But in reality, people would be freaking out if they suddenly saw an empty car driving down the road during the daylight hours. Maybe if the car had tinted windows they could get away with driving during the day, but a car would definitely be great for night-time when they were mostly active anyway. Michael shook his head in frustration at the stupidity of why he was even thinking about owning a car. Even though he knew how to drive he still didn't have a licence. Gypsy did though, and maybe he could con her into playing chauffeur.
His mind was filled with so much crazy crap he needed time to think and sort through it, so he started to jog slowly toward his favourite place to meditate when he was a boy—a little cave on the back end of what used to be his grandfather's farm. The cave was a secret spot his grandfather had shown him when he was much younger. Since his grandfather's death, Michael wasn't sure who the farm rightfully belonged to now. If it still belonged to the family he sure fricken hoped it wasn't his cousin Geoffrey, because he hated that son of a bitch more than he hated anyone else in the world. Actually, he hated and feared him all at the same time because his cousin was evil personified. Michael had often thought he was spawned by some demon. Now that he knew vampires were real, who's to say demons weren't also real, because if they were it would explain a lot where his cousin was concerned.
As soon as he was away from humanity, his jog turned into a full out sprint which was well-beyond-the-normal fast. This was one side effect of vampirism Michael genuinely enjoyed; the feel of the wind rushing past him and knowing no one would even know he'd run by them at all. This was a freedom he absolutely loved.
The cave was exactly as he remembered, except maybe a little smaller. The place he'd actually love to be was Haven—the huge tree which grew in the paddock next to his grandfather's old, ramshackle house. A chuckle fell from his lips. He didn't think the new owners would appreciate a complete stranger sitting in their tree. He wondered if the tree was even still there or whether the new owners destroyed a thing of such beauty. Grandpa Jack had taught Michael how to climb to the very top of the tree. They'd spent hours together exploring all the branches. His grandfather had carved dates and names in the bark while they were there. The funny thing was, his grandfather used to tell him his destiny was written in the branches of Haven. He also told Michael how his life was forever interwoven with the tree itself. Back then, he had loved the way his grandfather talked. Nowadays he had to wonder if maybe his grandfather had been a touch on the crazy side.
Man, he missed that tree almost as much as he missed his grandfather.
The sounds of the night filled the air as Michael dropped to his hands and knees and crawled into the cave far enough to lie on the slab of rock at the very back. These days he had to scrunch his legs up so he'd fit. A little awkward maybe, but strangely comforting at the same time. He could recall when he barely filled half of the rock shelf. Was he ever actually small enough to fit here stretched out as he remembered? The whole thing seemed like a lifetime ago, which got him pondering about what his Grandpa Jack would think about the man/creature Michael had become. Would he be disappointed? Disgusted? Or would he have accepted what had been done to Michael without a second thought?
In his heart Michael was hoping for the latter.
His thoughts drifted all over his youth and back again as he lay there staring at the rock ceiling. Remembering the things that happened in his childhood years was safer than having to reflect on the last six months. Yet, think about the last six months he would, because what else could he do? His hatred of Sebastian had only grown, and if his dreams were telling the truth, Sebastian was responsible for the fire that took away Michael's parents. For that, Michael was going to make him pay. One way or another, Sebastian was going to die because of what he'd done. There wasn't room in this world for both he and Sebastian to exist. Why he'd chosen to hurt Michael this way was anyone's guess, though Sebastian more than likely blamed him for stealing Christian away from him. Was it even his fault if Christian had dumped Sebastian's weird arse? The more Michael learned about Sebastian, the stranger the man became. Christian was sexy as fuck, but there were times Michael had to wonder if even Christian knew who he himself was.
Michael wondered if his new friend would come visit him tonight. He always appeared to know when Michael was in need of comfort of some kind, almost as if he were guarding Michael, keeping him safe from harm. It was reassuring. A few times he thought he'd seen the dog in the backyard of the house where he now lived. He thought he'd seen him even as a child—well, maybe not this exact animal, but one of the same breed with extremely similar markings. But that wasn't possible, right? No sooner had the thought come to mind, when the… 'I'm here' whine let Michael know he was no longer alone.
"Come on, Blake. Here, boy." Why he called the dog Blake he didn't know. The name simply came to his mind when he remembered what he'd called the dog from his youth. Funnily enough, Blake didn't seem to mind being called by the name. "How are you doing, mister?"
His new friend limped toward him, and then laid his head on Michael's hand. A long, mournful sound reverberated through Blake's large chest. Blake was talking to him. Michael wished he could understand what was actually being said.
"You're hurt, boy." Moving enough so he could run his hands over the animal's body, Michael sensed the hind leg on the right side was bothering Blake. "How did it happen?" Flickers of something flashed through Michael's mind. He could see men beating on Blake with pipes, chains and pieces of wood. Michael flinched away in pain, his touch leaving Blake's body as the assault of images disappeared as quickly as they'd begun.
"Whoa! What the fuck was that?"
Blake looked up at him with big soulful blue eyes which had always seemed odd on the dog, making him look more like a wolf. He slowly slunk closer to Michael, once again making contact with Michael's skin. With slightly shaking hands, Michael sank his fingers into the course fur. The pictures in his mind were a lot slower this time, and they didn't hurt as much. What he was seeing couldn't be real because he shouldn't be able to see whatever it was Blake was showing him. He hoped desperately that it—whatever this was—was merely another new vampiric ability. Michael realised had been getting a few new ones lately. First the speed thing, then he learnt he could climb absolutely anything without fear of falling. Gypsy's earlier theory of them all being superheroes was looking more and more realistic, and in all honesty it was starting to scare the crap out of him.
"What're you doing, dumbarse?" Laughter bubbled out of Michael when Blake, as huge as he was, pushed Michael further back onto the ledge until they were squished as they both lay there. "You sure you've got enough room there? I could move over a little more if you'd like?" he said sarcastically as Blake huffed noisily.
Michael lost it; tears rolled down his cheeks as he howled in laughter. "I suppose it could be worse. You could have farted."
A lone woof was his only reply.
When Blake began to snore beside him, Michael's mind began to drift as he tried to work out how he was going to bring Christian back. His fingers carded through Blake's fur, and again images flooded his mind, but this time they were of him. The images showed Michael feeding Christian, and at the same time, another image overlaid it, showing Michael in Elsewhere with Christian. He could see himself kissing Christian as they stood there wrapped around each other. The vision of Elsewhere faded, leaving only the one where they were making love. Michael knew then what he had to do. It was so simple, yet had the potential for utter and dismal failure. But at least he had a starting point now.
As Blake scrambled to his feet, Michael knew his friend was leaving to go home--wherever home was for the big brute. Michael heaved himself up as well, getting ready to do the same thing, but first he needed to feed. He needed to be fully prepared for what he was about to attempt.
Failure was not an option.
The walk back into town helped him clear his head as he came to terms with what he was about to do. He was debating whether or not he should feed twice just to make sure he was strong enough to pull his idea off. Someone in the family would need to be told what he was going to try, solely in case he screwed things up too badly and managed to trap himself in Elsewhere right alongside Christian. That wouldn't be good at all. The hard part was working out whom to trust, because the person he chose would need to be there for Gypsy if he didn't make it back to this life. In his mind's eye, he could already see Doyle's face forming, but Michael wasn't sure he wanted Doyle to witness how he fed Christian in case his friend found his actions sickening.
Michael stopped walking and slowly turned as the coppery scent of blood drifted over him, wrapping him up in a fragrant cocoon. His gaze drifted to the row of units standing in front of him. He knew this place. He'd been here before. His footsteps echoed loudly as he walked to a front door. He found the front door unlocked, which to him was exceedingly strange. Michael knew from his past visit that Rhys was a stickler for locking up, too easy for someone to gain access and rob him blind or worse. For the door to be open now had Michael on edge. The scent of blood pulled him toward the bathroom where he found Rhys propped up in a tub full of warm water. There was too much blood for it to mean anything good. Sadness washed over Michael as he realised exactly how close to death this man was. What could have pushed him over the edge to end his life this way? Michael entered the room and knelt beside the tub full of crimson water. Rhys had his head back, resting against the edge of the bath, his eyes were closed.
"I knew you would come," Rhys whispered, startling him. "It seems only right that you, who were the beginning of my downfall, should be here at the end." As his eyes fluttered open his gaze locked onto Michael's face.
Michael couldn't bring himself to speak. Flashes of memory from the last time he'd been here flew through Michael's head in an endless stream. The soft yet demanding caress of Rhys's lips on his as they lay entangled on the bed came to the forefront of his mind. The way the man's hands had danced across his skin in want had Michael's body heating up. Michael recalled how after he had fed from Rhys, he'd lingered and explored the beautiful man's body. It was Rhys who had convinced Michael that being gay wasn't as bad as he thought it would be. Even though they hadn't made it as far as having actual sex, the intimacy had still been there. What had happened since then to make Rhys think this was his only option?
"I couldn't live with the fact of what I am. For so long I tried, but my family couldn't understand why I was this way. They didn't want me anymore. They told me I'd be better off dead instead of causing the family shame. I didn't want to hurt them anymore. At least with this I will be the dutiful son—heeding his father's words." Rhys slid his bleeding wrist along the edge of the tub toward Michael. His hand shook with the effort of doing so. "It's okay; I know what you are… Please."
It was all becoming clearer. Michael was so glad his own family hadn't rejected him after they discovered he was gay. Though he'd had a moment of trouble when his mother had found out he was actually a vampire as well, but in the end she still loved him no matter what.
Family love was meant to be unconditional.
In reality, sometimes family fucking sucked.
The precious gift he was being offered tore at Michael's heart, his body was pounding with the knowledge he'd partly been to blame for driving this beautiful young man to suicide. Tears filled his eyes as he lowered his lips and drank. This wasn't meant to happen, but something inside Michael told him Rhys wasn't long for this life. Michael knew he shouldn't waste what was being freely offered.
Rhys's next words broke his heart. "I could have loved you," his eyes fluttered open once more, and Michael held their gaze, "but it would have never been enough. You would have always loved him more." He smiled sadly, his words barely above a whisper, "Looks like my family's going to get their wish."
It hurt that even in his dying breath, Rhys had known the truth. Michael would always need and want Christian more than anyone. He gently placed Rhys's wrist beneath the water as his last breath fell away from him. Michael knelt there for a moment to grieve over the death of a man he barely knew. Had he gotten here earlier he might have been able to save him instead of hastening him along. Leaning forward, he placed a soft kiss against Rhys's cold lips before rising and walking away. The thought of Rhys lying there alone had Michael stopping at a pay phone. He dialed triple zero, needing to inform someone of what he found. Rhys deserved to be dealt with quickly, not left for days until someone discovered him. Michael wondered if Rhys's family would even be saddened by the loss of their son. These thoughts kept him occupied as he walked home. He silently and repeatedly thanked Rhys, as his last gift would help bring Christian back to him. Michael wasn't ashamed of the tears which still flowed down his face for the loss of the man he'd known for only a few brief encounters. He only wished Rhys could have been happy with who he was. Everyone deserved to be happy.
So caught up was he in his own sadness Michael wasn't even thinking as he entered through the kitchen door and came face to face with Doyle. Maybe this was a sign?
"Michael!" His name was startled out of Doyle, who'd been making himself a cuppa. His friend was doing something so normal it made Michael want to scream at the unjustness of it all. But this wasn't Doyle's fault.
As he stood there, Michael bit his lip, staring at Doyle for the longest time before he could bring himself to speak. He took a deep breath as he worked out what to say to the man in front of him. Doyle appeared a tad apprehensive and it didn't sit right with Michael. "I need your help, Sweetness."
Doyle sat his coffee on the counter as he gave his full attention to Michael. "What do you need?" There wasn't even any hesitation in Doyle's answer and for that Michael was grateful.
"I'm going to bring Chris back tonight. I'm going into Elsewhere, and I'm going to shatter it so completely Sebastian can never use it against any of us again. I need you to be able to bring me back if I get stuck. If you can't bring me back, I need you to take care of Gypsy for me." There. He had said it, and now he waited for Doyle's reaction.
"H-how? I mean how do I bring you back?" The look of fear on Doyle's face was almost enough for Michael to tell his friend to forget about it, but he knew he was going to need his help, even if it was simply having him nearby; someone to anchor him to this world.
"To be totally honest, I'm not exactly sure." He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes, hoping the slight pressure would open up his mind enough to let the answers come to him. "I only know what I have to do to get there." He fell silent trying to work everything out in his head.
"I guess there are some things you'll need to know about how I feed Chris. Also, I'll have to explain how I'll be getting to Elsewhere." Michael picked up Doyle's cup before taking a hold of Doyle with his free hand. He led him through the house to where Christian lay upon their bed. After getting Doyle to sit in the chair, he placed his cup on the dresser beside them before he explained in great detail what he was about to do. When he was finished, Doyle only nodded.
Resolved within himself, Michael undressed before he climbed into bed. While Doyle watched, Michael tenderly prepared Christian's body for what he needed to do. After he'd finished, Michael manoeuvred himself so the moment when Christian finally opened his eyes, Michael's face would be the first thing he saw. In everything he did, he tried desperately to forget there was another man in the room with them; a man who already had Michael confused within himself.
He really hoped Doyle didn't judge him too harshly for his actions.
Tonight Michael didn't bite his own wrist, he held it gently against Christian's mouth as he slowly and carefully entered his body. Being this way with the man he loved almost made him think his heart was thudding against his ribcage in an erratic rhythm. The pace he set was deliberately slow as he concentrated on how to reach Christian's soul.
"Please, God! Let this work."
The moment he detected Christian bite into his skin, Michael lowered his mouth to kiss the spot over Christian's heart where it would have beaten if it were able, and then bit Christian deeply on the throat. He sensed his mind shift as Christian's warmth flowed into him and he followed the strands of confusion and pain in the hope it would lead him to his lover.
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