Enduring Instincts, Book 2 in the Instincts Series
Vampire Daniel Valente struggles to live on his own, now that his master, Titus Antonius Calidus, has found eternal love with another. Carrying mental and emotional scars, he lives in loneliness and feels as though he’s lost who he once was.
Ryunosuke Kimura has known Daniel for hundreds of years, and loved him for many of them. Even though he believes Titus is the only one Daniel wants to give his heart to, when he hears Daniel needs his support, he rushes to be with him.
With Ryu at his side, Daniel’s confidence returns, and with it, he sees the enduring love Ryu has always had for him. As they grow closer, new threats from old enemies arise, and if Daniel and Ryunosuke are to spend eternity together, they must first defeat the past.
Daniel walked beside Ryunosuke, their pace slow as they wove around the people going in and out of stores and restaurants. Though the holidays had passed, many of the decorations were still up, but the festiveness of them did nothing for Daniel’s mood. He glanced to Ryu, whose eyes scanned the crowd, his posture alert as if waiting for an attack.
Daniel extended his own senses. No vampires around that he could tell. But with Ryu being the warrior he was, Daniel knew he didn’t easily let his guard down. He wanted to say it was the reason Ryu had hardly spoken to him, why they were walking side by side but felt so far apart, but the real truth was Ryu didn’t want to be out with him. He’d made that clear with his glare when Titus suggested he go with him.
Daniel lowered his gaze to the sidewalk. How had their relationship taken this bad turn? It seemed Ryu was rejecting him even before knowing his feelings. Or maybe, Ryu did know his feelings. He knew for certain Ryu wasn’t daft enough to not have picked up on his lusting. It could be that’s what had built Ryu’s walls. Ryu didn’t want him and was trying to block him before he made a move that could embarrass them both.
Ryunosuke’s voice pulled him from his thoughts.
“I’m not sure this is the best hunting ground.”
Daniel glanced up, looking over the crowd milling about Water Tower Place. “No, it’s not. But I don’t know this city well enough to know where is. At least I’m getting to see this.” He gestured to the castle-like Chicago Water Tower. “I’ve heard about it, just never came to see it.” A long sigh left him. “It reminds me of home and all the old buildings there.”
Ryunosuke looked at him out the corner of his eye. “Are you okay?”
“Just feeling a little worn down.”
“I’m sure you are. We should probably find a prospect soon and get you fed. The night’s moving fast.”
Daniel nodded, but rather than continue walking, he moved toward a bench and sat. Not seeming bothered by his decision, Ryunosuke sat beside him. Daniel gestured toward the trees, still decorated with holiday lights. “I’ll admit, I felt a bit sad at spending the holidays alone this year. I shouldn’t have been in such a rush to leave after I was healed, but I thought it’s what would’ve been best for Titus and Andreas. And myself as well, I suppose. But at least some of the holiday spirit is lingering. The lights are lovely, aren’t they?”
Ryunosuke glanced at the trees. “I guess. I’m not really into the whole Christmas thing.”
“Well, you didn’t have it in your culture for many years.” Daniel forced a smile, giving Ryu a playful bump with his shoulder and a wink. “Whereas I, on the other hand, grew up as a good Christian boy.”
Ryunosuke chuckled softly. “I don’t ever remember you being good or a Christian.”
“Maybe good is stretching things a bit, but the rest is true. I was Catholic. Even back when I was a whore, I’d still go to Mass. Granted I wasn’t allowed inside the cathedral, I was too poor and my soul was already too lost in the eyes of the priests, but I’d still sit on the steps, trying to catch the bits and pieces of the sermon floating out. Even though I didn’t understand Latin then, there was still something comforting in the words.”
Ryunosuke’s gaze was focused on the ground. His voice left him hushed, the tone wounded. “Remember what I told you about using that word to address yourself?”
Daniel looked at him. “I’m sorry. An old habit, but I’ll work to break it.”
“And I’ll do what I can to help you, even if it’s just reminding you you’re so much better than that.”
A soft smile rose to Daniel’s lips. Ryu not only defended him against true foes, but from himself as well. It sparked hope inside him that their friendship wasn’t as broken as he thought. He felt the need for Ryu’s touch, throughout his body, over his skin. Even the smallest of touches would do. He just wanted contact from him.
Daniel offered a hand to Ryu.
Ryunosuke looked at it, then met Daniel’s gaze, giving him a gentle smile as he placed his hand in Daniel’s. He shifted closer to him, sitting so their shoulders and arms touched. “I never knew you to go to church after we met. Or maybe you did, but since it’s not a part of my life, I never paid attention.”
“I stopped going after Titus took me in. When that other bastard owned me, the things he did made me lose all faith in a greater protector, until Titus. After he rescued me, I saw no need to worship anything or anyone other than him.”
Ryunosuke took a breath as if to say something but slowly let it out in a sigh.
Heavy silence fell between them.
Daniel cleared his throat but still only managed to get his voice out in a whisper. “A lot has changed now, though. I’ve come to accept I’m not the one he was meant to be with. And maybe I’ve always known that, deep down, but I chose to ignore it. He’s found his soul-mate, his eternal partner, in Andreas. I won’t deny I still hold some hurt over it; how can I not after loving, wanting, and hoping for so long? But I’ve also come to care very much for Andreas, and even I can see the beauty of what they have together. And for all Titus has done for me, there’s a part of me that’s overjoyed at seeing him finally and truly happy.”
Ryunosuke squeezed Daniel’s hand. “He would be proud of you for saying that. You’ve grown so much.”
Daniel laughed lightly. “Yes, it’s only taken me three hundred years or so to mature.”
Ryunosuke grinned and leaned a little more into him.
Daniel pressed back. “And what about you? Are you proud of me?”
Ryunosuke tipped his head back, his gaze moving beyond the water tower to look at the stars. “I’m proud of you, too. But, I’m also happy to hear that it sounds like you’re getting closer to moving on from him.”
“I’m not getting closer to moving on. I’m ready to do so now.”
Ryunosuke turned his head to look at him. There it was, that intense look in Daniel’s soft brown eyes. Before, he only hoped he was interpreting it in the right way, wanting it to mean Daniel was attracted to him. Daniel had dropped so many hints and clues about being attracted to him, but he felt the way Daniel talked to him now with such open honesty could be trusted so much more than the flirtations.
Daniel glanced toward the tower again. He pulled his hand from Ryunosuke’s to rub both of his gloved hands together. “It feels like it’s starting to get colder.”
Ryunosuke brought his gaze forward. Or maybe he was wrong about what Daniel was feeling. His emotions and senses got so muddled around him. Normally he could read anyone. But Daniel, what he was thinking and feeling, had always been an enigma to him. It was as if Daniel could shut off his emotions at times, or he was a master at hiding them when he wanted to.
It made sense, actually. With what Daniel had gone through when he was young, it was probably a matter of survival to control his feelings and close himself off at times. But then there were other moments when Daniel’s emotions shone so clear.
Ryunosuke pushed the thoughts aside. He hadn’t figured Daniel out in countless years. He sure as hell wouldn’t be able to do it now. He stood up and half turned away from him. “I think it’s getting colder, too. We should find a place to go in for a while.”
“I agree.” Daniel grinned at him. “I could do with a warm drink.”
“I’m sure there’s a bar nearby.”
A few hushed chuckles left Daniel. “That wasn’t the kind of warm drink I was referring to.”
“I didn’t think so. I was more thinking you might be able to pick up someone who’s already drunk for a quick feeding.”
Daniel sighed and leaned forward, propping up his head up with his elbow on his knee, his chin cupped in his hand. “So much effort. It’s gets tiresome.”
Ryunosuke gazed at him, words screaming in his mind to be spoken. Should he? He wanted to. He could feel it inside him, the yearning to give himself to Daniel, to provide him with the life sustaining blood he needed. But he’d already tried to get Daniel to take his blood before, and if Daniel refused it when he was injured and so desperate for it, why would he take it now?
Still, would it hurt to offer? There was a chance Daniel could say yes, wasn’t there? Clinging to the thin hope, Ryunosuke turned toward him again. He lowered his voice. “You could always take from me.”
He saw Daniel tense and regretted letting the words have voice. His mind raced to find a way to smooth over the offer, to make light of it and ease the discomfort he caused Daniel.
Ryunosuke startled inside. Daniel didn’t…he couldn’t have…it must’ve been a trick of his mind. “What did you say?”
Daniel slowly rose to his feet. He faced Ryunosuke, standing eye to eye with him. “I said ‘okay’. If you truly mean it.”
“Of course I do. I’m surprised, that’s all. I didn’t think you’d want me.”
Daniel pulled off his glove to touch Ryunosuke’s cheek, wanting to feel Ryu’s skin beneath his fingertips. He caressed down, settling his hand on Ryu’s chest. “When it comes to trust, of everyone in the world, of everyone I’ve ever met, only you’re on equal standing with Titus and Andreas in my heart, mind, and soul.”
Daniel’s words wiped any response from Ryunosuke’s mind. He never thought he’d hear Daniel say he trusted him as much as Titus. And Daniel’s voice, sensuality overflowed from each spoken word. This wasn’t flirting. It was seduction.
Ryunosuke laid his hand over Daniel’s resting on his chest, curling his fingers around it. “I don’t know what to say. Thank you.”
“You don’t have to say even that. In the things you’ve done for me, the care and kindness you’ve given me, those say everything.”
Ryunosuke slid an arm around Daniel’s lower back, drawing him in so their bodies pressed together. His voice left him in a husky whisper. “Do you want to go back to the house?”
Daniel shook his head. “I’m too anxious. I don’t want to wait even the time to get back. I want to do it right now.”
“I guess we could do things true vampire style. Find a private place, down an alley or somewhere.”
Daniel gripped Ryunosuke’s hand and started walking. “Let’s go.”
Copyright 2011 by S.J. Frost and MLR Press