Authors: SM Johnson
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Queer Mojo (A Rebel Satori Imprint) on Kindle
Copyright © 2009 by SM Johnson
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How to be enthralled
It was eleven thirty at night and Daniel stood near the on-ramp to MacArthur Freeway in Oakland, holding a piece of cardboard lettered “SF.” He felt a little silly, and a lot like bait.
He could run into unimaginably bad people doing this.
The thought sent a shiver of anticipation through him. Obviously DeVante felt Daniel could handle himself, because he was the one who suggested it.
Go to the road and stick out your thumb. That can be exciting. You never know if you will get dinner or a date.
The shiver changed to one of pride. He could do this—he could handle being on his own, and DeVante was going to let him. Space. Freedom. Room to run and room to grow. Daniel had asked for a car so he wouldn’t be stuck out here in ever-nothing land when he’d rather be in the middle of San Francisco, but DeVante already had it all worked out.
Why yes, how about we get you a shiny Corvette? I think not. Stay in town
You are young and beautiful, and this is the most famous city in the world for young beautiful men who love men. I imagine I can hire Trina to watch over that house as well as this one.
Trina was DeVante’s housekeeper, as well as his “something else,” although Daniel wasn’t sure what the something else might be—if it was just that they liked to talk to each other, or if it was more than that.
He kind of thought DeVante would happily give him enough rope to hang himself if that’s what it took to keep him out of his hair. Daniel was supposed to be Roderick’s problem. Except Roderick had taken off for parts unknown, claiming to be wilting and dying in DeVante’s shadow. So instead of Roderick teaching him how to survive—instead of Roderick entertaining him, loving him—it was no one at all. DeVante looked upon him with disdain, spoke to him with sarcasm.
He tried to engage DeVante over and over, to be winsome and flirtatious, and even tried asking for fatherly advice, in hopes of winning DeVante over. “What are we to be, exactly?”
But DeVante was not only a Master Vampire, he was also the master of cryptic answers
. Blood-drinkers. Lovers of mortals. Measures of time. Artists. Be whatever you want to be, young Daniel, but be careful about it
He was a silly blond pain in DeVante’s ass, barely worth a moment of time and attention. Eternal boy and eternal vampire. It was clear that the rest he would have to figure out on his own.
The elder vampire provided the little things without much comment: a driver’s license that turned Daniel’s eighteen into twenty-one, a credit card that provided him access to whatever funds DeVante made available. And now a house. Yep, definitely enough rope for a normal teenager to hang himself.
He’d been losing his mind in DeVante’s silent house earlier tonight, so he’d tracked down his keeper in the darkroom—the place where DeVante thought he kept his secrets.
It cracked him up that DeVante tried to keep secrets, because the blood exchange laid bare the souls of each, and what secret could be kept in the face of that? It was ridiculous to think any of it was secret anyway—that DeVante loved and missed Emily, that he loved Roderick no matter what Roderick had done. That he desired Daniel, but would never, ever take him as a man might take a beautiful young boy. Not secrets, just reality.
If DeVante wanted secrets, he shouldn’t offer his blood to Daniel. But the scars on Daniel’s face paid tribute to the betrayal of Katarina, DeVante’s vampiress lover, and, as near as Daniel could guess, seeing them gave DeVante guilt. So the master vampire offered blood to speed their healing, and in the offering gave Daniel brief glimpses of old vampire soul. And infused him with old vampire strength. And while Daniel wasn’t terribly wise in the art of relationships, he was smart enough to never turn down DeVante’s blood. He needed all the strength he could get. Katarina had torn out Daniel’s throat and ripped her talons across his face, and she was out there somewhere. She could literally scoop him up off the street at any moment.
Daniel shook her from his brain—he was on an adventure into the city.
Several cars honked at him as they passed, and one slowed while the occupants whistled and whooped, but none stopped. A scruffy, unwashed homeless guy joined him, and started talking, but when Daniel tried to make conversation, he realized the guy was either talking to himself or to an invisible friend. California was crazy. Daniel saw more homeless people in one night than he’d seen his whole life in Minnesota.
Anyway, back to finding DeVante in the darkroom. DeVante held himself so far above the rest of them that Daniel kind of enjoyed having something to tease him about. It was a no-no to make light of anything you learned from the Blood, but Daniel figured anything he observed with his own eyes was fair game. He reviewed the conversation in his head as he stood next to the crazy guy and hoped for a ride.
“What are you up to in here?” he’d asked DeVante, and DeVante almost looked embarrassed. Which Daniel thought was curious. They all needed more than killing and blood to survive, and bringing images to life in black and white was DeVante’s measure of the world. It wasn’t anything to be weird about. Unless he didn’t want Daniel to see the images themselves.
He tried to peer past DeVante, to see the photographic images appearing in the pans of developer. Was it pornographic? He hoped it was—that would be the best. He reached to pull a print out of the fixer but DeVante blocked him. Daniel craned his neck to see. “What are you doing? Is that Emily?”
“I thought you were leaving.”
Emily. When did you see her? How long are you going to wait? And what about Trina? I thought you kind of had a thing going with Trina.”
DeVante sighed the deep exasperated sigh of an old man who had no patience for youth. The sigh that made Daniel roll his eyes and walk backward toward the doorway. And then, surprise, surprise, DeVante answered. “I see Emily when I want to see her. And I will wait the course of her lifetime. And Trina? She is our housekeeper. And a friend. There is gentle love between us, not great love. Someday you will know the difference. Now, were you not leaving?”
Ha, not while he was getting his questions answered. “But how can Emily choose to be regular and not to be one of us? She knows what we are,
and walked away
And you just let her go.”
“She wants something different than to be what we are. I had to let her go. You know that. What, shall I change her against her will? She would never have the babies she wants, and would never forgive me. If I wait, I can have her one day. If I take her now, I lose her forever.”
Yeah, DeVante loved Emily, that’s for sure. Still, it was unusual to catch the Eldest showing any weakness whatsoever, particularly pining over a mortal woman and comparing gentle love to great love. Not that Emily wasn’t worth pining over—Daniel was sad himself that she went her own way, because she was amazing—sweet and funny—and he felt like they’d become good friends, so he missed her. He thought maybe the vampires were always human to some degree, but he knew it wasn’t something DeVante would ever admit.
And then the smart-ass comment DeVante tossed over his shoulder as Daniel left the darkroom. Grrr. He seethed for a few minutes recalling the absolute condescension of it.
Daniel. Be aware of what you are. Do not share blood. When you play among mortals, keep hunting and fucking separate
As if Daniel didn’t know it. As if he had to be told. The arrogance grated Daniel’s nerves, the whole concept that he was nothing more than a tiresome aggravating brat, that Roderick leaving him here was somehow his own fault.
Daniel preferred Roderick over DeVante. He wracked his brain to figure out how to get Roderick to love him back, for real. Oh sure, Roderick was full of words, always saying that Daniel was “his boy, his heart,” professing his love. But then he’d go and do asshole things, like practically rape him. Or just plain ignore him. Or leave.
It didn’t feel like love. It felt like pain.
A couple more cars passed by, but then a new red Mustang stopped for him, the paint finished to a high sheen that glowed red even in the darkness. “Get in,” the driver said. And because the guy was utterly fucking hot, Daniel did.
For a mile or so they didn’t speak. Daniel checked him out. Thirty-something, he decided, and yes, very hot, oozing sex appeal from his casually messy haircut to the easy way his hands rested on the steering wheel. His light brown eyes occasionally flicked over Daniel with the lazy deliberateness of a predator.
“So, kind of late to be out,” the guy said, raising his eyebrows.
Daniel shrugged. “Not for me.”
“Where are you going?”
“Castro. The clubs.”
The man laughed. It was a short, disbelieving laugh. “Kind of young, aren’t you? They won’t let you in.”
“I’m twenty-one,” Daniel said, feeling his face turn red. “I have ID.”
“Yeah, fake ID. So here you are hitching a ride from a reasonably good neighborhood… a boy could get himself lost or in trouble… Daddy didn’t buy you your own car yet?”
Daniel felt himself blush again. Thought about DeVante’s sly reference to his dad’s corvette smashed beyond recognition. “I never learned to drive. My guardian’s not very interested in me.”
“That’s too bad. You’re pretty interesting.” The man’s right hand left the steering wheel and mussed the hair at Daniel’s neck.
He’s coming on to me
, Daniel realized,
this beautiful man wants me
. He hesitated for a split second, then rubbed his cheek against the man’s hand.
The hand cupped his face for a long moment, then traced Daniel’s jaw and rested again at the back of his neck. “So what are you looking for at the clubs?”
“Guys. Alcohol. Whatever.”
“Nothing better than right here,” the gorgeous man said, and his hand left the back of Daniel’s neck, returned to the steering wheel as he powered his window open to pay a toll. Daniel twisted his neck around, trying to see the bridge better. It was a hop, skip, and jump in the air from Oakland to San Francisco in Roderick’s arms. In a car it was different, but still pretty cool. They rode in silence on the upper deck of the bridge, until a line of bright red taillights slowed them to a stop.
“Looks like an accident ahead,” the utterly fucking hot guy said, and his hand crept again to the nape of Daniel’s neck. Then with one quick motion he unfastened his seat belt and pulled Daniel by the neck into a kiss. His lips were soft but insistent, tongue flicking between Daniel’s lips to tease the sensitive inside of his mouth. Daniel moaned into it, leaned in closer to suck in wet heat that made his stomach twist and clench. He tasted like cigarettes and something else, something more primal, exotic, like danger. Or life.
The man’s left hand went to Daniel’s crotch, stroked him through his jeans. “You’re hard. You like this?”