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Family Matters

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Family Matters

Harborview Immortals #1

By Emma Peterson

Copyright 2015 by Emma Peterson

Cover art by G. Raven

This story is a work of fiction. References to real people, places, or historical events are used fictitiously. All other characters, names, events, places, and so on are strictly products of the author’s crazed imagination. Any resemblance to actual places, events, or persons—living, dead, or zombie—is completely coincidental.

This story contains some adult content.

 

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CHAPTER 1

Jacob felt like a stalker. He glanced at the dashboard clock as his fingers tapped against the steering wheel to the tune of Freddie Mercury’s powerful voice. It was just past two in the morning and although it felt like longer, he had only been sitting there, two houses down from Xan’s new place, for about ten minutes. Surely it would take another twenty or more to achieve official stalker status.

It was time to get on with what he had arrived unannounced to do before the good citizens of that quaint Harborview, Pennsylvania neighborhood—the ones who were still awake at that hour—questioned why some random man was sitting in some random car in the middle of the night. That the car was a sleek black Audi instead of some souped-up monstrosity was likely the only reason he had not yet been accosted by nosy folks and cops alike.

Jacob removed the key from the ignition and flipped down the sun visor, examining his reflection in the lighted mirror. He smiled as he thought about one of the many myths that pertained to those like him. Outrageous theories derived from fiction, as Dominic often said. The face that stared back at him wasn’t half bad for someone with over two centuries under his belt. He still looked every bit the twenty-five-year-old man he was back in 1804.

He ran his fingers through the chocolate brown locks that ended at his shoulders and were always on the verge of haphazardness, not quite wild but far from tame. Unlike his hair, his eyes and skin were lighter shades of brown. Being biracial wasn’t as big a deal in 2014 as it was during his early years, back when there was a fine line between master and slave, and crossing that line brought about serious consequences. His father had crossed that line. For that, he died before Jacob was born, though his body was never found. Not all of it.

Confirming that everything was in order—or as much as could be in the case of his hair—Jacob got out of the vehicle and pocketed his key, then retrieved something else for later. He looked up at a full moon suspended in a starless sky and lamented the absence of the specks of dancing, twinkling light he had relished since he was a child. When he got home, he would curl up on one of the rear deck chairs and spend the rest of the night gazing at all the vast blackness. He hadn’t done that in a while, but tonight it seemed like a marvelous idea.

First, he had to see Xan. He needed to see Xan. Four days without seeing the young man’s face was three days more than he could stand, and he refused to wait any longer.

There were no signs of movement in the first house he passed, a white two-story with a matching mailbox. But Jacob’s hearing was sharp, and while he didn’t care to know that the inhabitants of that abode were going at it like dogs in heat, it was hard for him not to hear the ruckus. The second house was more obvious about its inner activities. Even if not for the five cars crammed into the driveway, the low thump of bass, sounding more like the erratic heartbeat of a giant than anything remotely pertaining to music, was enough to indicate to anyone within earshot that a good time was being had by all.

Jacob headed up the walkway that led to Xan’s front door. His house was one of the few single-story homes on Norman Street, beige in color and modest in style. Given the needs of the previous owner, an older Irish gentleman with a severe aversion to sunlight, simplicity was essential. It would not do for an outsider to discover what was in the basement and, more importantly, why it was there. That Xan had wanted the house specifically to have such a thing readily available when he entertained guests with the same aversion was not something Jacob cared to contemplate.

He could hear him griping about what should go where and punctuating his statements with creative profanity. Jacob rang the bell and soon sensed Xan staring at him through the peephole. He waved at the tiny lens, feeling stupid and elated, and seconds later, the door opened to reveal the one human being whom Jacob loved more than any other.

“Hello there, stranger,” he said.

A flash of guilt passed over Xan’s face but was instantly replaced by the smile that Jacob knew well. It was the same one Xan used when he needed to crank up the charm and talk his way out of a sticky situation. Or into someone’s pants. Jacob chose not to think about that, either.

Xan smoothed a hand over his spiked golden blond hair in an effort to subdue it. It didn’t work. He was wearing a plain white T-shirt that showed off the intricate network of tribal tattoos that covered both of his arms. Jacob didn’t like them or all the piercings at first, but over time they grew on him.

“Hey. What are you doing here?” Xan took a step back, granting him entrance. “Not that I’m not happy to see you.”

Jacob teasingly ruffled Xan’s hair as he stepped past him. “I thought I would stop by and say hi, make sure you weren’t dead, that kind of thing.”

“You haven’t been to the club this week,” Xan responded, closing the door.

“Neither have you, from what I hear.”

“I was there Monday. And part of Tuesday.”

“And what about Wednesday and Thursday?”

Another do-no-wrong smile. Xan was laying it on thick tonight. “I needed a couple of nights off.”

“Funny how that happens every week. Lucky for you the owners like you.”

“I don’t think they have much of a choice.”

Jacob smirked as he surveyed the living room. It was as unremarkable as the house’s exterior with its off-white walls and tan carpet. Numerous boxes were strewn about, each of them labeled with black marker in Xan’s jittery handwriting. Many of them were filled with books, both regular and comic. One of the boxes marked as manga was currently being used as a makeshift desk and temporary home to a laptop. There were also video game consoles with their respective games, tons of Blu-rays, and other forms of recreation treasured by most men in their early twenties. The high definition television with a screen large enough to rival some movie theaters was overkill, but it was necessary for optimal gaming. Or so Xan claimed.

“I’m going to do some remodeling later,” Xan said, noticing Jacob’s silent appraisal. “I want to put in a new carpet and slap some color on the walls. I guess interior decorating wasn’t the Old Man’s thing.”

Jacob cleared his throat.

“Mr. O’Malley,” Xan amended.

“That’s better.”

“Dominic gets to call him Old Man. Even though he’s like, what? Two hundred years older?”

“Closer to three. Two… eighty… something. It’s all a blur after a while.” Jacob took a step closer to Xan. “I’ve missed you,” he said, cupping his left cheek.

Xan turned away, but not before Jacob spotted another flash of a shame-filled countenance. “It’s only been a few days.”

Four days. That’s a long time when I’m used to seeing you almost every single day.” Jacob’s fingers danced over the platinum hoops and cuffs that lined Xan’s ear. Feigning astonishment, he pulled his hand back and presented a shiny quarter lodged between his thumb and forefinger, the same quarter he snagged from his pocket when he put away his key. “Well, well, well. Look what I found. What else are you hiding in there?”

With a groan and an eye roll, Xan dutifully offered his upturned hand and accepted the coin that Jacob dropped onto his palm. His expression softened, and he stared thoughtfully at the vampire. “I’m not a kid anymore, Dad. If you’re going to keep pulling this old trick, start using paper money.”

“Twenty-five cents was a king’s ransom when you were little.”

“Yeah, well, inflation’s a bitch.” Xan shoved the quarter into his pocket. “Sit down and stay awhile.”

“Don’t mind if I do.” Jacob pushed a big brown box labeled PORN out of the way—the boy had no shame—and sat down on a plush hunter green sofa. “Four days,” he reiterated while looking fixedly at his son. “Care to explain?”

* * *

Alexander Dawson, known to most as Xan (or Xanadu because his best friend loved to torment him), took a seat in the chair next to the sofa where his father sat. He was surprised that the vampire hadn’t contacted him sooner. This was doubtless his other father’s doing, as Dominic wasn’t quite as overprotective as Jacob.

He knew that he wasn’t in any real trouble, but Jacob sometimes had a knack for making him feel bad. Like right now. “I lost track of time,” he began, trying not to squirm. “I’ve been really busy between working and trying to get everything unpacked.”

And that was the truth… for the most part. But when Jacob saw the item that was tucked between the cushions beside him, Xan knew that his excuse wasn’t going to sound nearly as sincere.

“Among other things, I see.” Jacob blinked at Xan over the red boxer briefs that were pinched gingerly between his fingers. “What is this? A housewarming gift?”

Xan was tempted to tell him that the underwear was a leftover of the real housewarming gift, and what a gift it had been. The owner of the briefs—Danny or Denny or Donnie or some other D name—had a mouth so talented that it should have been against the law. The experience was one of Xan’s more memorable hook-ups as of late. If only every trip to the grocery store ended with orgasms.

He snatched the briefs from Jacob and tossed them into a nearby open box of comics. “Sorry about that,” he said, biting his lip and trying not to laugh.

Jacob didn’t fare so well. “I don’t know which I find more disturbing,” he said, unable to stop himself from grinning. “The fact that I’m sitting on a sofa where you exchanged bodily fluids with someone else, or that you sent some poor bastard home without any drawers.”

“Well, he was in a hurry so…” Xan shrugged off the rest of the sentence, to which Jacob could only shake his head in response. “He wasn’t a vampire, if that’s any consolation.”

“It is.”

Jacob loathed the idea of Xan being intimate with vampires. Living in a world where one was viewed chiefly as a food source was not without risks, and Xan knew how much his parents had worried about him over the years because of it. But he was twenty-two now. His own man. One who enjoyed sex very much, even if it happened to be with someone who wanted his blood as much as his body. Fortunately, Jacob respected Xan enough to keep his opinions to himself. Usually.

“Do you want a drink?” Xan asked. “Or some blood?”

“No, thank you. Please tell me you don’t keep that stuff in plain view for your human guests to find.”

“There’s an old blood bank fridge down in the basement,” Xan explained. “Old Man—I mean Mr. O’Malley had it installed for me before he moved out.”

“A refrigerator and a coffin? You’re all set for your vampire booty calls.”

“Dad…”

“I’m kidding.” Jacob rose to his feet. “Let’s have the grand tour.”

“It won’t be all that grand since there are boxes all over the damn place,” Xan warned. “I never realized how much crap I owned.”

“Dominic did spoil you rotten.”

Xan quirked a brow at the statement. “Really?”

“I didn’t say that I didn’t contribute. Now hush and show me around.”

Xan smiled warmly at his father, who was a good three inches shorter. The young man wasn’t as tall as Dominic, who was an imposing six feet four inches, but he was close. Sometimes he couldn’t believe that the day had ever come when he was no longer craning his neck to look at both of them. Jacob and Dominic had once been as big as the world to the boy they had taken in to raise as their own. While they were still formidable in many ways, stature was no longer primary among them in Xan’s adult eyes.

They started in the kitchen. Xan could tell that Jacob was struggling to hold his tongue when he spotted the stockpile of ramen noodles in a cupboard next to the fridge, eager to reprimand him for not eating properly. It was a good thing that he had taken out the garbage bag stuffed with pizza boxes and other carryout containers earlier that evening. Just past the kitchen door was the garage that also doubled as a laundry room where Xan’s grey ’77 BMW, a hand-me-down from Dominic, was parked next to his crotch rocket, another on the list of Jacob’s not-so-favorite things when it came to Xan’s safety.

After that, they moved down the hallway, past the guest bathroom and into a spare bedroom where most of Xan’s video game consoles would go, along with all of his books and figures once the shelving was in place. From there they went into the master bedroom. Matching black dressers lined one of the walls and another flat screen television sat on a black stand in the corner. Xan had only used his new king-size bed for sleeping so far, and he was anxious to test it out in other ways. In his mad rush to get down Danny-Denny-Donnie’s pants, they never made it past the living room.

“Very nice,” Jacob said.

“Thanks.”

Xan took a seat on the edge of the bed as Jacob checked out the connecting bathroom.

“I’ve always been amazed by the amount of product required to make it look like you crawled out of bed without any concern whatsoever for your hair.”

“Not all of us are blessed with naturally sexy bedhead.” Xan tugged at a lock of hair. “Some of us have to work for it.”

“I had no idea that unkempt hair was so desirable.” Jacob stepped around a box of extra bedding and stood at the foot of the bed. “Are you saying that I’m sexy?” he asked cheekily.

“Don’t be gross.”

“Why is it gross for me to be sexy?”

“Because you’re my dad and… just… ew.” Xan shuddered. Like most people’s children, he had zero desire to think of his father as a sexual being. “And how do you even know what ‘booty call’ means? Update your files, by the way, because no one says that anymore.”

“Really? But I like saying it. Booty call.”

“Dad.”

“Booty call, booty call, booty call.”

“Oh my God.”

“Okay, I’m done,” Jacob said with a devilish grin. “Anyway, I may be old but I know things. You wouldn’t believe some of the things I know.”

“Let’s just leave it at that. Come on, before you scar me for life.”

They returned to the living room. Xan guessed that Jacob wouldn’t care to see the basement given its purpose. When the vampire made no mention of it, he knew that he had presumed correctly.

“So what do you think?” he wanted to know.

“It’s a good house, son,” Jacob replied with an affirming nod.

Xan released the breath that he had been holding. Although he wasn’t the type to base any of his decisions on either parent’s approval, having it still made him feel better.

“I’ll have a housewarming party once I get everything sorted. It’ll be small. Just you and Dominic, Becky, Luca, and Uncle Demetrio.” He noticed the uncertainty on Jacob’s face after mentioning his uncle’s name. “Do they still hate each other?”

“Who knows? One day they do, the next day they don’t. When it comes to your father and your uncle, I’ve learned to stay as far away from the blast radius as possible.” Jacob fished his key out of his pocket. “Okay, I’ll leave you to it. Are you coming over for dinner? You may not live with us anymore but it’s still tradition.”

“Like you’d ever let me hear the end of it if I didn’t.”

“You know me well.”

The vampire patted Xan on the cheek and left. Xan locked the door and went to the jumble of boxes. He stared at the boxer briefs that had clung to their owner in all the right places. With an impish gleam in his baby blue eyes, he pulled out his phone and scrolled through the contact list until he found the name he was looking for. The initial, rather.  He was still unsure of the name.

I’m pretty sure it was Danny, he thought as he pressed D? and called the number attached to it. Definitely maybe.

“Hey, guess what I found… No, it’s not too late. Come on over.”

Unpacking could wait.

It wasn’t until Xan was bent over the back of the sofa that he learned his guest’s name was David. Once again, they didn’t make it past the living room, but at least this time David remembered to take his underwear with him.

* * *

After Jacob arrived home, he went into the kitchen. On the black marble countertop sat an assortment of pots and pans and other items Dominic used to prepare a variety of Italian dishes. The Friday night dinners had started when Xan was a child because Jacob and Dominic both felt it was important to embrace the ritual of a family meal. Even though they were unable to eat the food themselves, they wanted Xan to have fond memories of their times together.

He set out all of the makings for coffee for Luca, the muscular mountain of a man who kept an eye on the house while Jacob and Dominic slept. He began working for them when they brought Xan home and realized soon after that babies did not strictly adhere to a vampire’s up all night/sleep all day schedule. Luca was now pushing forty, but he was the only human the couple would ever trust for daytime protection.

With the coffee ready to go, Jacob flipped off the lights and left the kitchen, then walked through the dining room and entered the living room, all of which were modernly decorated in black and white. The house, in all of its architectural glory, was a far cry from the dilapidated shack in which Jacob had spent the first fourteen years of his human life. If the decision had been solely up to him, he would have gone with something a little less… much. But Dominic loved the house and Jacob loved him, therefore it was home.

He moved past the staircase which ascended to an upper level that was no longer in use now that Xan was gone, through the exit that led to an expansive rear deck that overlooked Lake Erie. The moon hung over the water, breathtaking and picturesque, a lone sphere of brilliance amidst the nothing. Even without the stars, Jacob was transfixed. No matter how much the world changed, and it had changed plenty over the years, he would never tire of witnessing the beauty of nighttime.

“There you are.”

Dominic’s voice was quiet but crystal clear in the wind that emanated from the lake, as smooth and deep now as it was the night when their paths aligned, though bearing no trace of the thick Italian accent that had taken him decades to eliminate. He was sitting on a loveseat that was flanked by two chairs and staring out at the lake as if it held the answers to all of life’s secrets, his long black hair flowing over his shoulders save for the strands that had fallen victim to the breeze.

Jacob took a seat beside him. He didn’t bother asking how the vampire knew that this was what he had planned to do. They didn’t have the telepathic bond that some vampires shared, but after more than two centuries together, sometimes one just knew what the other needed without having to say anything. 

With fingers intertwined, the lovers sat in silence and watched the moon’s reflection waver hypnotically on the surface of the water. Jacob followed the light to its source and beheld the moon in all its splendor, thinking back to the time when he would sneak out to a ramshackle porch to stare at a starry Georgia sky and try to forget that he was a slave child of taboo destined to live a life of servitude. At the time, he thought it was as close to freedom as he was ever going to get.

“How is Alexander doing at his new house?” Dominic asked after a while.

“He’s got a lot of work ahead of him. Of course that hasn’t stopped him from ‘breaking in’ his new furniture.”

“That child…”

“He’s your son.”

Dominic turned his piercing green eyes on his partner. “Why is he my son when he does something that displeases you?”

“Because I said so.”

“I can’t argue with that.”

“You could try but it won’t do you any good.”

Dominic’s smile was a beautiful thing. Very few outside of his family ever had the privilege of seeing it.

“I know he’s a grown man now, but I’m still worried,” Jacob continued. “How are we going to watch over him if he’s not living at home anymore?”

“We’ll do what we can.” Dominic brought Jacob’s hand onto his lap and covered it with his own, his fingers absentmindedly toying with the ring he had given Jacob shortly after they met. “He’s made it this far without incident. Most vampires aren’t senseless enough to think of hurting him… and I’m not the reason for that.”

“I’m not that bad,” Jacob insisted.

“You’re even worse.”

Jacob considered defending himself until he remembered the many instances that supported Dominic’s claim. “I can’t help it. He’s our boy.”

Dominic squeezed his hand. “That he is.”

“Twenty-two years...”

It seemed like just yesterday when they first heard the heartbreaking cry of an abandoned infant left to die. Had it been any other person under any other circumstance, they would have kept on moving, maintaining their distance from all things human. But forever was far too long for Jacob to live with the remorse of ignoring that desperate plea for help, especially since he knew all about maternal rejection himself. When he picked up that emaciated body for the first time, he knew in an instant that he never wanted to let him go.

Dominic’s arm moved around him, coaxing him closer. “He has many years left, Jacob.”

“I know that. I’m still going to worry.”

“And I know that.”

Leaning into Dominic’s side, Jacob sighed contentedly. They had about an hour to go before the sun made its unwelcome appearance. Until then, he just wanted to sit there in the waning darkness and lose himself to the tranquil serenade of the wind and water, side by side with the one he loved.

* * *

At 5:30 a.m., the vampires went inside. After a daycap of warm brandy and blood, they retired to the lowest level of the house, a windowless basement-turned-bedroom designed specifically for the daylight-challenged. There was a four poster canopy bed against the wall farthest from the basement entrance, one that was far more comfortable than any coffin they had ever used. Jacob sat down on it and kicked off his shoes.

“How did your meeting go last night?”

“Frustratingly unproductive,” Dominic answered, sitting down beside him. “Tomah and CCL have their hands out for even more blood than we’re currently providing them. I never thought I would say this but I miss the days of Prohibition. Alcohol was so much easier than this.”

“They’re just trying to save lives, Dominic.”

“So am I.”

Jacob knew that Dominic was justified in his frustration. More vampires placated by a ready supply of blood meant fewer people being injured or killed for it. But unlike alcohol, which they had been able to obtain and move with ease during the 1920s, the trafficking of blood had special limitations—human limitations—that resulted in the demand being greater than the supply.

“We’ll figure it out,” Jacob reassured him. “Or run it by Elliot and let him work his magic.”

With an outstretched hand, he swept back Dominic’s hair and moved down along his cheek, gliding over alabaster skin.  Dominic closed his eyes and angled his head, seeking more of his touch. Jacob kissed him tenderly, and that alone ignited a desire within him that hadn’t diminished in the slightest during their time together. He pushed through with his tongue, delving into the wetness of Dominic’s mouth and tasting brandy and blood as his fingers slid through the vampire’s hair, mussing it in his grasp.

“You’re eager today,” Dominic murmured.

Jacob felt his way along his partner’s shoulders and over the chest that looked entirely too appealing beneath a form-fitting black shirt. “It’s been too long since we’ve done this.”

“It’s been a week, Jacob.”

“Almost a lifetime.”

Dominic chuckled and wrapped his arms around Jacob. His hands trailed up his lover’s back and over the outline of scars from the past, a permanent reminder of the cruelness inflicted upon Jacob’s once human body. He rid Jacob of his shirt and pushed him down to the bed, then crawled on top of him, pressing their bodies together and gazing at him with eyes like emeralds.

Jacob trembled as Dominic unfastened his belt… moaned while he unzipped his pants… and cursed when his phone started ringing.

Since Dominic was already in the vicinity, he reached into Jacob’s pocket and grabbed the phone. After checking the display, he swiped the screen to accept the call. He raised the phone to his ear with one hand while playfully tugging at the waistband of Jacob’s underwear with the other.

“Good morning, Alexander.”

Jacob could tell by the sound of Xan’s voice that he wasn’t in the throes of a crisis. Knowing this, he was able to relax while Dominic talked to him.

“Yes, Luca is staying for dinner… I think he would like that very much… Jacob couldn’t answer because I’m on top of him… Why is that gross?”

Jacob snickered as he listened to them debate the alleged grossness of the couple’s sex life.

“Stop being so dramatic, Alexander,” Dominic continued. “I highly doubt that your brain is broken. Now get some sleep while I make love to your father.” He ended the call, abruptly cutting off Xan’s anguished wail.

“That was so mean,” Jacob said between bursts of laughter. “But after all the years we had to hear what was going on in his bedroom, I don’t feel nearly as bad as I should.”

“Neither do I.” Dominic placed the phone on the nightstand and returned his attention to Jacob, his hand sliding over the vampire’s flat stomach and lower. “Where were we?”

* * *

It was a good thing that David had already come (two times) and gone before Xan called to ask about bringing over the imported beer for Luca. Had he called before the festivities, there wouldn’t have been any because of Dominic’s mind-rupturing admission. Nothing ruined a hard-on faster than learning that your dads were about to get it on, too.

“So gross.”

Xan covered his head with a pillow while trying to unthink the unthinkable. He loved his parents, but there were some things about them that he didn’t need to know.

* * *

After they were finished doing all of the things that Xan didn’t need to know, Dominic fell asleep, his arms curled around Jacob and his face hidden away in a nest of hair. Jacob was still awake, and he peered into the darkness while mulling over the upcoming gathering and the family and friends who would be attending.

Luca was moving quietly around the kitchen, or as much as he could due to his size. It was sweet of Xan to bring over something special just for him. Then again, Luca was basically a godfather to him so the gesture was understandable.

And then there was Becky. The British vampire was like an annoying little sister to Jacob and Dominic and an annoying big sister to Xan. The dinners never lacked for entertainment when she was there being her usual boisterous self.

Speaking of boisterous, Jacob hoped that Dominic’s brother would do his part to keep the peace for one night. Demetrio was often turbulent where Dominic was serene, and he tended to act on impulse while Dominic exercised restraint. Their opposing natures were even evident in their outward appearances, with Demetrio’s short hair and laid-back dress versus Dominic’s long hair and tailored clothing. With all of their differences, it was hard for most, even Jacob, to believe that they were only separated by ten minutes as opposed to ten years. There was no way to predict what might happen when the siblings were in the same room together.

As Jacob’s eyelids grew heavier, his thoughts returned to the hard-fought journey between back then and right now. With a tired smile, he closed his eyes, thankful for his family and basking in the perfection of a life that was once unimaginable.

A perfection that would begin to unravel later that night.

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CHAPTER 2

“Xanadu!”

Xan barely managed to get one foot through the door before being crushed in a bear hug by Rebecca Hardwick, his dearest friend and occasional worst enemy.

“Jeez, Becky,” he grunted. “Let me get inside the house before you attack me.” He tried to pull away from the two humongous breasts pressed against him and added, “I see that your cups runneth over as usual.”

“What can I say? They have a mind of their own.” Becky released him and adjusted her assets before they spilled out of her blue low-cut dress. “Most men wouldn’t mind having my tits shoved in their faces. Neither would most women.”

“Then go suffocate one of them,” Xan responded while closing the door. “Just keep those things away from me. Or grow a dick and then we’ll talk.”

“I can’t grow one but I have some toys that might suffice.”

“And there goes my appetite.”

“Don’t be a shit,” Becky said, her English accent jokingly stern. “Never be a shit to someone who used to change your nappy.”

“Can we not do this, please?  I’ve already been traumatized enough for one day.”

“So I heard.”

Becky recounted Jacob’s version of Xan’s early morning conversation with Dominic. She took much joy in the young man’s shock over learning that not only did his fathers have penises but actually used them from time to time.

“Shut up,” Xan grouched as they walked through the foyer toward the living room. “I know what they do. I just don’t need to know when it’s happening.”

“Isn’t that a bit hypocritical?” she asked, linking their arms. “Remind me again how much sex you’ve had in this house?”

“That’s different.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m young and I’m supposed to fuck anything that moves. But my parents—”

“Should act old and decrepit and have nonworking genitalia.” Jacob looked up from his book as they entered the room. “Does that sound about right?”

“It does if you care about my sanity.”

“I do care about your sanity,” Jacob said. “I care about it so much that I won’t even go into explicit detail about everything I’m going to let Dominic do to me tomorrow morning.”

Becky sat down beside Jacob and cackled at Xan’s horrified expression. Xan glared at the two vampires, his poor mind once again trying to vanquish the mental image of his fathers doing the nasty.

“That’s not nice, Dad.”

“But it’s funny.”

“Leave him alone, Jacob.” Luca Melani came into the living room with a tray of bruschetta with assorted toppings. “He doesn’t want to know what you and Dominic do in bed.”

“I want to know,” Becky said.

“Pervert,” Xan mumbled.

“Slag,” Becky shot back.

“Play nicely,” Jacob ordered them both.

“That’ll be the day.” Luca went to Xan, eclipsing him with his massive frame. “How’s the house? Have you turned it into a proper bachelor pad yet?”

“I’m working on it. It might take some time.”

“If it’s anything like I remember on the inside, good luck.”

Jacob once told Xan that Luca had lived with Mr. O’Malley for a brief period before he started working for them. Xan had never inquired about the living arrangement, but he determined that nothing untoward was afoot since the old vampire remained a close family friend throughout the years. If his parents knew the secrets that lurked within that wall of muscle and how they pertained to an Irish vampire hundreds of years Luca’s senior, they never spoke of it in Xan’s presence.

“This is for you.” He gave Luca a bottle of dark lager made by an Italian brewery that catered to an exclusive—and mostly undead—clientele. Luckily, it was unharmed during Becky’s attempted murder by mammaries. “I’ll go put the rest in the fridge.”

Luca smiled gratefully. “You’re too good to me.”

Xan was swept into another heartfelt and oxygen-depriving hug. The smell of Luca’s cologne filled his nostrils and brought to mind numerous occasions from his youth when the two of them would venture out into the sunlight. Trips to the park, the mall, the movies, and the lake, where Luca once screamed like a girl when a walleye bumped into his leg and Xan laughed so hard that he cried.

Becky pouted as the two men embraced. “Why is he allowed to smother you but I’m not?”

“Because Luca doesn’t have boobs,” Jacob replied as he turned a page and continued reading.

After prying loose from Luca’s beefy arms, Xan helped himself to an appetizer, smacked Becky on the head, and darted into the kitchen, ignoring all accusations of being a wanker.

“You missed your calling, Dominic,” he said while munching away on a piece of bruschetta topped with tomatoes and basil. “Screw the underworld stuff. You should’ve been a chef.”

“I can’t imagine people lining up to eat food prepared by a corpse.” Dominic stirred a pot of bubbling sauce with a wooden spoon. His hair was pulled back into a ponytail, same as always when he was at the stove. The gaudy floral print apron was new.

“What the hell are you wearing?”

“A gift from Jacob.” Dominic added a pinch of chopped garlic to the pot, thus disproving another vampire myth. “It pleases him when I look like a fool.”

Xan placed the beer in the refrigerator. “The things you do for love.”

“You never know, Alexander. Perhaps the day will come when you meet someone who inspires you to don frighteningly patterned attire.”

“I doubt it.”

Dominic took a tray of prosciutto-wrapped asparagus from the oven and instructed Xan to transfer them to a platter. The young man did as he was told, devouring a number of the spears in the process. “I refuse to take sides when Luca fights you for the rest of those,” the vampire warned him.

“I gave him beer so he won’t complain too much.” Xan claimed another spear for himself but decided to share the rest.

Dominic placed a lid on the pot. He went to the counter and started carving into a freshly baked loaf of Italian bread. “Are you working tonight or will you be doing more… unpacking?”

Xan knew exactly what the vampire was getting at. “I can only do so much unpacking at one time.”

“True. I would hate to see you wear yourself out.”

“It’s all about pacing.” Xan grinned and rinsed off his hands. “I’ll be at work,” he promised. “Are you guys going to stop by the bar and see me?”

“I think we’ll stay in the office,” Dominic answered. “We wouldn’t dream of interrupting you while you service the patrons.”

“It sounds dirty the way you say it.”

“Isn’t it?”

“Sometimes,” Xan admitted.

“I trust you still use protection?”

Protection in this case meaning the foot-long solid silver stake that Xan kept with him at all times while tending bar at his fathers’ club, the Rising Sun. Dominic was never fully convinced of his ability to use it should the need arise as panic had a way of overshadowing reason in life-threatening situations, but it was Jacob’s one stipulation when he realized that he was unable to talk his son out of seeking employment at the club.

“Dad would kill me himself if I didn’t.”

“He probably would.”

Dominic selected a thick slice of bread. He slathered one side with butter and handed it to Xan.

“Thank you, Domi.”

Green eyes narrowed suspiciously. “You said you were too old to call me that.”

“I am, but I guess it wouldn’t be the end of the world if it slips out every now and then.”

“No, I guess not.”

Xan shoved the bread between his lips, then grabbed the platter and rejoined the others in the living room. He didn’t see Dominic return to the stove and continue stirring the sauce or the look of affection on his face while doing so.

* * *

When dinner was ready, everyone took a seat at the dining room table. The fine china was laid out for Xan and Luca, and the fine goblets were reserved for those lacking a pulse.

The seat across from Jacob was empty. “Are we going to wait for Demetrio?” he asked.

“No,” Dominic stated firmly. “I refuse to accommodate his lack of regard for punctuality.”

Jacob said no more. Long gone were the days when he attempted to be the voice of reason between the brothers.

The food was served and the blood and wine were poured. Talk was simple and pleasant, most of it revolving around Xan’s new house and the raven tattoo he planned to get.

“Where?” Becky wanted to know.

“Somewhere you’ll never see.”

“You’re acting like I’ve never seen you naked before.”

“I was a baby,” Xan pointed out.

“I bet you still are in some places.”

Children.” Jacob refilled his goblet. “Can we get through one dinner without the two of you bad-mouthing each other?”

“No,” Dominic and Luca answered.

Becky relented and changed the subject, which was the least she could do after implying that Xan had the penis of an infant. “Guess what I found out?”

“That it spits when you pet it?” Xan suggested through a mouthful of spaghetti.

Unfazed, the vampire twirled a brunette lock around her fingers. “You would know.”

“You’re just jealous because I get more dick than you.”

“Alexander, please.” Dominic turned to Becky. “What did you find out, Rebecca?”

“Niccolo Alessandrini is going to tour the States. I’ve never had the chance to see him in person.”

“I’ll bet he’s no Freddie Mercury,” Jacob huffed.

Dominic smirked into his wine glass. “You are aware that music existed long before Queen, aren’t you?”

“Even you would like Alessandrini, Jacob,” Becky said.

“Oh, I love Niccolo Alessandrini!”

All eyes looked to the dining room doorway. There was Demetrio Castigliane, beaming at his family and friends.

“I saw him perform a few times in the 1600s, back when it was still socially acceptable to sever a boy’s bits and pieces for the sake of song.” After pausing to kiss Xan’s cheek, Demetrio took a seat and poured himself a generous serving of blood. “He was such a pretty thing, and he had the loveliest voice. Heavenly, it was. I always wondered what he looked like down there but sadly I never had a chance to see for myself.”

Xan frowned. “Wait. You’re saying that this guy doesn’t have any balls?”

“Or a cock,” Demetrio said. “Possibly. That’s what I was dying to find out.”

“He’s a castrato, Xan,” Becky explained.

“What’s that?” Xan asked.

“A singing eunuch,” Luca clarified.

Demetrio nodded. “He has the face of a goddess, the voice of an angel… and most likely the crotch of a doll.”

“Here we go,” Jacob muttered.

“What? It’s true. I think.”

“Man, forever’s a long time to live without your junk,” Xan said.

“Yes it is,” Luca agreed, grating a block of Parmesan cheese over his pasta. “I sure as hell couldn’t do it.”

“From what I understand, he volunteered to be cut when he was a child,” Becky informed them.

“He did,” Demetrio confirmed. “Isn’t that nuts?”

The bad joke prompted a chorus of groans. When the noise died down, Dominic spoke up, his voice as cold as ice.

“Thank you, Demetrio. I’m so glad that I can count on you to bring just the right amount of tastelessness to the dinner table.” The vampire excused himself and went into the kitchen, leaving the others to silently watch his retreat.

“I’m sorry,” Becky whispered. “I shouldn’t have brought him up in the first place.”

Jacob pressed his fingers against his temples. “There’s no reason for you to apologize. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

He glanced at the one who did do something wrong.

“Fine,” Demetrio sighed, rising to his feet.

* * *

Dominic was slicing more bread when his brother stepped into the kitchen.

“Are you going to use that on me?” Demetrio asked, pointing at the knife in Dominic’s grip.

“I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet.”

Demetrio smiled at the petulant demeanor of a little brother scorned. This was a side of Dominic that no one else knew, not even his own partner.

“Okay, Domenico. Let me have it.”

“All right.” Dominic set down the knife with more force than necessary and pushed the cutting board aside. “One thing, Demetrio. All I have ever asked of you is one thing. Come over for dinner once a week. That’s it. I’m not even asking for myself. I’m asking for my son because he happens to love you.”

“I love him, too. You know I do.”

“Then stop treating him like an afterthought and be here. We may have all the time in the world, but Alexander doesn’t. I want these dinners to be special to him, even if all we ever talk about are eunuchs you want to fuck.”

Demetrio was taken aback by Dominic’s bluntness. He hadn’t heard his brother curse in years. Rarer still was the mention of Xan’s limited lifespan. Demetrio knew that it pained his twin to even think about the young man’s inevitable demise. It wouldn’t be the first time that Dominic lost a loved one to the affliction known as humanity.

“You’re right. I’m sorry.”

Their eyes met across the counter. Dominic’s hard gaze eventually softened.

“You are insufferable.”

“I do my best.”

Dominic’s lips twitched, revealing his reluctant amusement. He grabbed a metal bread basket from one of the cupboards and started filling it with the newly sliced loaf. “What’s your excuse today? Some woman? Some man? One of each?”

“I was talking to Father.”

Dominic paused, his hand hovering over the basket. After a moment, he continued neatly arranging the bread. “Being our maker doesn’t make him our father, Demetrio. How many times have I told you that?”

“As many times as I’ve told you that I disagree.”

“That’s why you’re his favorite.”

“I’m his favorite because I don’t shun him.” Demetrio sniffed a piece of bread, having long since forgotten the taste. “And I don’t deny his name.”

Dominic snatched the bread from him and returned it to the basket. “The Castigliane name means nothing to me.”

“Yet you wouldn’t be where you are without it. You can refuse to use it or hide behind all the aliases you want, Dominic. That doesn’t change who you are.”

As the sound of laughter wafted in from the dining room, Demetrio fiddled with the edge of the basket. There was so much more that he wanted to say about the rift between his father and brother, but he knew Dominic would refuse to listen.

“He called just as I was leaving to come here,” the vampire continued. “That’s why I was late. I wanted to wait until after dinner to tell you this, but your theatrical exit forced my hand.”

“What did he want?”

“The same thing he always wants. To see you. And this time he’s not going to take no for an answer.”

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