The Soul Reader Series #2
This publication is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organisations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.
Copyright © 2011 by Tasha D-Drake
Cover art by Natasha Duncan-Drake
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favourite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Thank you to Soph and Rob for all their help and support.
The phone was staring at him and laughing, he was sure. It had been since Michael had handed it to him twenty minutes previously and it wasn't stopping. Even the obnoxiously green sofa he was sitting on could not distract him.
He'd been with Michael three weeks, but it felt more like he'd been there three months. He was more comfortable around the vampire than he had been round anyone for a very long time. The power that lived inside of him and with which he had killed more of Michael's kind than he cared to remember, seemed calmer and more under his control since he had judged Michael. In moments where he allowed himself flights of fancy he almost believed he and Michael were somehow destined to be together. Shortly thereafter he tended to laugh at himself for being a sentimental idiot; his previous employers had believed he was a tool of destiny, himself, not so much.
So far, agreeing to stay with Michael had been mostly personal stuff, shopping, trying out Michael's recipes (some were truly hideous) and lots of sex. John was very much in favour of the last part. Michael had also come through on other fronts as well; the fictitious past his lover had promised to arrange to explain his disappearance was sorted and so things were about to become a lot more complicated. There was a very faint trail that people could follow for John Elly, the name Michael's contact had made up for him, which made it time to start coming out of the shadows.
Of course the people he had to start with were his family. He did not intend to lie to those closest to him and he could have rung them as soon as he had agreed to stay, but he had put it off. He had justified it to himself that it was just in case someone took notice who wasn't supposed to before everything was ready, but, if he was honest, it wasn't just that. Now that his false identity was ready there was no reason for him not to call except the real reason: cold, hard fear.
"It won't dial itself," Michael's voice pulled him out of the staring match he was having with the phone.
"I know," he said, but didn't reach for it.
Michael had left him to it at his request, but now his lover walked over and sat down next to him on the sofa. He found himself pulled against Michael's chest as the vampire leant back against the cushions.
"You don't have to do it today," Michael told him, stroking fingers gently through his hair.
It would have been easy just to relax and agree, but John knew himself better than that.
"Then I'll just be more afraid tomorrow," he admitted quietly.
Michael kissed the side of his head and held him a little bit tighter.
It was painfully ridiculous, but the idea of contacting his family was infinitely more terrifying than any of the dangerous situations he had been in while killing vampires. Over the past couple of weeks he had been allowing himself to rekindle parts of his personality that had been long buried. These atrophied pieces, along with the fact that the situation was so personal, had him all mixed up.
"You have nothing to be afraid of," Michael assured him.
"I'm a whore and an addict," he said, trying to pull out of his lover's arms as all his fears welled up at once.
Michael refused to let him go, petting his hair and kissing the top of his head, trying to soothe him.
"You're not a whore and your addiction is not your fault," Michael said, tone gentle and understanding. "Your family love you, they have never given up hope, not for nearly six years. They want you back."
John laughed then, a derisive, hard sound.
"They have no idea what they'll be getting."
"All they'll care about is that it's you."
He tried to believe that, he really did, but there were so many doubts in his head. There was a loud voice at the back of his mind telling him that he could stay hidden, stay anonymous and just be Michael's boy toy. It would be so much easier.
"It took me precisely ten minutes to fall in love with you," Michael said and brought his world to a grinding halt.
When he tried to sit up this time, Michael let him and he turned to look at his lover. They had been living together for nineteen days and John knew Michael cared about him, he could even admit he cared for Michael, but no one had mentioned the L word. John didn't think he was overly loveable and in his screwed up world love was a very abstract concept.
"You ... but ..."
Michael placed a hand on each side of John's face and then urged John towards him so they were only millimetres apart.
"I am a writer, I'm supposed to be intense and emotional," Michael said, kissing him on the nose, "and the only reason I didn't tell you before is I didn't want to frighten you away. The moment I set eyes on you I knew I was in trouble and then in the shower, the way you spoke to me. After that I was already planning on snatching you from the agency or something equally as ridiculous and then you turned out to be even more extraordinary."
"I nearly killed you," he pointed out.
"But you didn't," Michael told him, smiling at him, "and I have never been happier than with you here."
John did not know how to reply. Love was not something that had played a part in his life for so long he had almost forgotten it.
"I," he said, not sure what Michael expected of him, "I don't know ..."
Michael silenced him with a kiss.
"All I want is for you to be happy," Michael said, pulling back just slightly, "you don't have to worry about anything else."
There was a warm feeling in John's chest then. He didn't really know what it was, but he knew he liked it and he leant forward, resting his forehead against Michael's.
"I think," he said in little more than a whisper, "I could love you too, if I remembered what it meant."
"I'll help you," Michael replied.
A vampire teaching a human to love; it would have been ridiculous if it hadn't been quite so tragic.
John let himself be pulled back into Michael's embrace and then the vampire manoeuvred them both so they were lying on the sofa rather than sitting on it. The phone was still laughing at him, but John let himself relax for a little bit, enjoying the way Michael seemed to love to touch him. He let his mind drift as his lover petted his hair and ran a hand over his back and his arms, until finally he made his decision. It had taken him over half an hour, but finally his took his choice.
Sitting up, he leaned over Michael and picked up the handset, dialling the number before he could chicken out. Michael sat up as well, placing a hand on his leg when he settled back in a kneeling position on the sofa. They waited in silence as the phone rang.
"Hello," a cheerful voice greeted from the other end, "what can I do you for?"
He tried to say something, but his mouth refused to move.
It was as if his tongue was glued in place.
"Graham, is that you?"
"What's he want this time?" came from somewhere in the background.
"Idiot's gone and dialled me from his pocket again," the first voice replied. "Last chance," she said, speaking back into the phone.
"Mum," John finally managed to force the word out from his uncooperative throat.
There was silence from the other end of the call for several seconds.
"Johnny," his mum's voice finally came back, "is that you?"
She sounded so hopeful and so scared at the same time, as if she thought he might not be real.
"Yeah," he said as steadily as he could manage, "it's me."
There was a thud and then nothing from the other end of the line.
"Mum?" he said when nothing came back. "Mum?" he tried louder. "Mum?" he finally shouted down the line.
"Oh my word," he heard someone say near the handset at the other end.
Then there was nothing but movement sounds for several seconds.
"Hello," another familiar female voice finally said, "who is this? I'm sorry, Yvonne seems to have fainted. She'll have to call you back."
"Nan?" John said, which probably didn't help matters.
"Johnny?" his grandmother sounded as shocked as his mother had.
There were only four people in the world that could get away with calling him Johnny and that was his mother, his grandmother, his grandfather and his sister. Hearing it again made his stomach twist into knots.
"Is Mum alright?" he asked, totally at a loss as to what else to say.
"Arthur's looking after her," his Nan replied, "it must be the shock."
There was no reprimand in the tone, but John felt guilt reach up to overwhelm him.
"I'm sorry," he said, realising he had done more harm than good, "I shouldn't have called, I'll just go ..."
"If you put that phone down, my boy," his Nan came back at him, voice very stern, "I'm taking you off my Christmas list."
It was a threat she had always used with him and his sister when they were kids and something that she had carried on into adulthood as a kind of joke. The words were so out of left field that they made him laugh, but then the laugh dissolved into a sob.
"Nan, I'm sorry," he said, not really sure exactly what he was apologising for, maybe everything.
"Oh Johnny," his Nan said, voice as full of tears as his, "it's so good to hear your voice again. We never gave up hope."
"I know," he replied as the tears started to run down his face.
Michael shifted beside him, slipping an arm round his waist and pulling him into a sitting position.
"Are you safe?" was the rather surprising and indirect question that came next.
"Yes," he said, eye flicking to his lover, "I am now. I ... I haven't been. Nan, I wanted to come home ... I knew ... I couldn't."
"Ssh, Love," his grandmother's soft words came back, "it's alright. We just want you to be safe and happy."
Another sob was pulled from his reluctant chest and tears began pouring down his face in earnest. Michael had told him, tried to make him understand that his family would not throw recriminations at him, but he hadn't believed.
"Nan," he said before the crying took his voice away completely, "can I come home?"
"Oh, Love, of course you can," was the surprised and happy reply, although he could hear tears as well. "Where are you? Do you want us to come and pick you up?"
He could hear the relief in the questions and he realised they were what his Nan had wanted to ask straight away. It made him cry all the harder as he realised she had been afraid of scaring him away. He could not get anymore words out and he passed the phone to Michael as he dissolved in his lover's arms.
"Hello, Mrs ... Ivy," Michael said, pulling him close and taking over, "this is Michael, I'm ... I'm a friend of John's."
John couldn't hear the other side of the conversation, not like he was sure Michael had been able to.
"We're in London," Michael said after a moment, "if it's alright with you I'll drive John up tonight. I'll have him with you by tomorrow morning."
The whole idea that he was going home scared him and thrilled him so much that it made him hiccup through his next sob.
"Yes, thank you, of course," Michael said politely. "Until tomorrow, Ivy."
After putting the phone down Michael gathered him into a proper embrace and began to rock him gently, rubbing his back as if he was nothing but a child. His lover let him cry until he was all cried out and then continued holding him until he drifted into a light doze.
It was strange how just a few words had exhausted him mentally and physically and it was coming on to evening by the time he woke up. He was still on the sofa, but he was curled up with his head on Michael's lap and there was a blanket over his body. Clearly the doze had become full on sleep, because he hadn't even realised he had been moved.
"Welcome back," Michael said, putting down the book he was reading.
"Ugh, I feel gross," John replied, pushing himself into a sitting position.
There was definitely more than dried tears on his face and his throat felt like it had been sandblasted.
"Crying will do that to you," Michael told him with a gentle smile. "Why don't you head upstairs and take a shower while I cook us some super before we start out?"
The confirmation that he was going home hit him like a brick in the face and he had to take a deep breath as his heart rate suddenly doubled.
"Breathe, Lover," Michael said, touching him softly and grounding him, "you're okay."
He refused to give in to the panic that threatened and focused on Michael's voice to calm himself down. He had been through far more perilous situations than this and yet it felt harder than all of them.
"Shower sounds good," he said, giving Michael a small smile of thanks.
He would have kissed his lover as well, but he really did feel gross and so he climbed to his feet and squeezed Michael's hand as he stood up.
"Thank you," he said and left before Michael could reply.
An hour and a half later it was dark and they were on the road. Michael drove a very flashy sports car that John could not name because he had never been into cars even when he had had a chance to own one. He could drive, but it wasn't something he had had to do often, so he didn't even offer to try as Michael took the wheel. A little over seven hours later, which had resulted in several rather fitful naps for him and constant driving for Michael, they reached Glasgow.
Of all things John suddenly felt completely over dressed. He was only wearing an outfit of jeans and a shirt, but both were hideously expensive designer labels. Michael had insisted on buying him things, lots of things, since he had had nothing and no way of buying anything himself until he could officially reclaim his bank accounts. Given that Michael was loaded, shopping had been interesting.
In his old life, John might have been up and coming in the acting world, but he hadn't graduated into expensive designer labels, at least not unless he was on the red carpet, and he had come from perfectly ordinary beginnings. He just knew that he was going to stick out like the outsider he did not want to be.
"Stop thinking so hard," Michael told him while following the sat nav directions into the suburbs.
"I can't help it," he replied, sitting up straighter and doing his best not to worry.
It was still dark and ridiculously early, but he was already managing to work himself up.
"Look," Michael said, favouring him with a smile, "let's park up somewhere and then we can get some proper sleep and be bright as buttons for the morning."
John lifted an eyebrow.
"Bright as buttons?"
"I had a very eccentric maiden aunt when I was a boy," was Michael's only excuse, but it did make John smile.
They found what looked like a quiet road not too far from where his family lived and then parked up. Michael was apparently prepared for everything and produced two blankets from the boot, giving one to John and pulling one over himself. The posh leather seats weren't exactly designed for sleeping in and, without the movement of the car, John had to shift around a bit to get comfortable, but he eventually dropped off. His dreams were bizarre and bordering on nightmarish, but he slept on.
John woke to a tap, tap, tap on the window next to his head and opened his eyes to find himself looking at a uniform. Blinking up he realised it was daylight and there was a police constable knocking on the window of the car. Reaching over, he tapped Michael on the arm and sat up, trying to work a kink out of his back.
"Company," he said when Michael groaned and peered out from under the blanket the vampire was using to make sure he didn't get too much sun.
"Oh," was the semi-coherent response and Michael turned on the car's electrics so John could wind down the window.
"Good morning, Constable," he said, hoping he didn't sound too out of it.
"Good morning, sir," the officer replied, "may I ask why you two gentlemen are parked here?"
"Oh we're ..." and then he stopped because his brain remembered what he was supposed to be panicking about.
"We're here for a family reunion," Michael took over, giving the constable a charming grin, "but we over estimated how long the drive would take. We were just taking a nap rather than barging in too early. We're sorry if we have done anything wrong."
John totally bought the bemused visitor act.
"Nothing wrong, sir," the constable said, apparently buying it as well, "it's just this area gets very busy in the morning, what with the school at the end of the road, and you might cause a blockage."
"So sorry," Michael said, all charming Irishman, "we'll move of course."
The constable finally smiled, although it wasn't overly enthusiastic and looked like more of a grimace.
"Thank you, sir," the man said, "I'll let you be on your way."
It was not even remotely John's closest brush with the law, but one he was very glad was over as the constable went to turn away.
"Constable," he was surprised when Michael called the man back, "sorry to be a bother, but you wouldn't know any good places locally to get breakfast would you? My ma, always said if you want to know the best places anywhere, ask a policeman."
John held his breath, wondering if Michael had just managed to piss off the local constabulary, but then the police officer smiled, properly this time.
"Go to the end of the road, turn right then second left then right again and you'll find Jackie's Cafe," the constable said. "Best breakfast this side of the Clyde."
"Thank you, Constable, you're a god send," Michael replied and started the car.
They waved to the police officer as they drove away and then John slumped in his seat.
"Are you serious about eating?" he asked. "I think if I look at food I might throw up."
Michael patted him on the knee.
"Greasy spoons also have the best tea on the planet," Michael told him and he knew there was no escape.
As it turned out his stomach was less rebellious than he thought. He had toast and an admittedly very fine cup of tea you could stand a spoon up in, while Michael tucked into a full Scottish breakfast. He even managed to chat, telling Michael about some of his childhood in the area, but as they left the cafe and drove towards his mother's home he couldn't keep it up.
"I can drop you here or come in with you, whatever you would like," Michael said as soon as they stopped.
At the word 'drop' John had begun to panic all over again, but Michael immediately reached out for his hand.
"I'll take that as you want me to come in," Michael said and he nodded mutely.
He was more scared of getting out of the car than he ever had been walking into a nest of vampires and as soon as they were both out, he grabbed for Michael's hand. It belatedly occurred to him that that was probably not something seen all that often in his childhood neighbourhood, but he was sure curtains were already twitching so it was too late. Two guys getting out of a very expensive car and then holding hands would be around the whole road in about half an hour, he was sure.
"Ready?" Michael asked and pulled him a little closer.
He couldn't see through the aviators that Michael was wearing, but he knew his lover's eyes would be seeking out his own.
"Not really," he replied, but took a deep breath anyway. "Shall we go?"
Stroking the palm of his hand with a thumb, Michael smiled at him and let him lead off. The front door of the house opened six feet before they reached it and suddenly he was looking at his mother. She looked older than he remembered, there were more worry lines on her face and he realised he had caused those. He kind of froze and they just stared at each other for what seemed like forever.
"Holy mother, it is you," his mum said and then she was all but falling out of the door.
There was lots of hugging and crying after that and it wasn't until he was inside the house that John realised, throughout it all he had never let go of Michael's hand. His fingers were still entwined with his lover's as they were gently herded into sitting on the sofa, while the rest of the family found seats elsewhere. His Nan had disappeared into the kitchen to make tea and coffee for all those present and everyone else seemed determined to not let him get away. John was doing his best to keep his emotions under control and wipe the current tear stains off his face with a tissue Michael had handed him.
His mum, his sister, his grandfather and his aunt and uncle were all gathered in the small sitting room. Everyone lived in the area, being a tight knit family, so it wasn't really a surprise they were all there, but it was a bit daunting.
"So," his granddad said before an awkward silence could settle on the room, "you're looking well, how are you keeping?"
It was almost as awkward as the silence, but it was better than nothing.
"Good," he replied, doing his best to smile, "just lately really good."
He didn't have to be all that observant to see everyone's eyes flick to Michael and then back to him. His family were not in the least bit stupid.
"Good guess," he said without trying to hide the fact he had noticed.
That earned him a smile from his sister and some embarrassed shuffling from the other members of the family. It probably wasn't really a great idea to introduce them to the idea that he was bisexual, what with everything else, but he was done with hiding.
"Michael isn't it?" his mum asked, looking at his lover.
"What is it you do?"
"I'm a writer," Michael replied, smiling that disarming smile of his. "I'm in the early stages of putting on a play in London. Been living in Dublin for the last few years before that."
"Is that how you met, because of the play?" Of course his sister had to ask the pertinent question so early on.
"No," John said, but didn't elaborate, because he really wasn't sure what to say.
'He thought I was hired to donate blood and he fucked me senseless first,' wasn't exactly what he could described as a good opening line.
"John helped me out of a rather difficult situation," Michael said, "and so I offered to help him out in return. Things have gone from there."
John's Nan chose then to return with the tray of mugs and began handing them round. It was a welcome respite and John took the time to gather his thoughts while placing his mug on the nearest table. How was he supposed to explain vampires? He had no idea.
"What happened, Love?" his Nan asked him quite straightforwardly after his uncle had moved to let her sit down. "Your place was a complete mess when they found it."
Thank you very much for reading this sample. If you enjoyed it, you can find the full book at many of the major eBook retailers. Please click the link for more information:
Also Available Now
Forgotten Soul (Soul Reader #1)
John knows that at best he can be described as a male escort and at worst as a whore, but it's what he does and he's good at it. He sells his body and his clients come with fangs so it's more about blood than sex. Hiding behind a false smile and his acting skills is the only way he survives, but when he meets one of his latest clients, Michael, his professional detachment is severely threatened, leading him into very dangerous territory.
Fortunate Soul (Soul Reader #3)
With a lot of help from Michael, John is recovering slowly from his kidnapping ordeal at the hands of his previous employers. However, John has noticed changes in Michael's behaviour towards him now that he has been marked by the organisation's captive vampires. He's worried his scars will be too much for their fledgling relationship.
Also from Wittegen Press
About Wittegen Press:
Wittegen Press is a small independent publisher of eBooks based in the UK. We publish on many eBook sites. To see our whole catalogue please visit our website.
Tasha was born and raised in rural Kent, England where she still lives with her husband Rob, just down the road from her twin sister and sometimes writing partner Sophie. Tasha has been writing since she was a pre-teen and chose to take it up as a full time career when her company downsized and made the whole software engineering department redundant. After setting up Wittegen Press with her sister as a brand for their books she has not looked back, publishing novels, novellas and short stories in a wide range of genres.
Before taking up writing professionally she was very active in the world of fanfiction and still believes it is a wonderful creative outlet, even though she doesn't have very much time to play anymore. She likes to maintain a lively presence online and welcomes new friends, readers and writers alike.
For more information about Tasha's books and where to find her at places like Twitter, please check out her profile at Wittegen Press, linked below.