This scene mirrors the excerpt sample I have here on my website page for Déjà Vu, retelling the first Gavin/Matthew scene from Matthew’s POV, and retelling the beginning of Victor/Bryan’s first scene from Bryan’s POV.
Chapter 1: To Walk or Not to Walk?
Matthew and Gavin pushed through the theater’s outer doors into the chilly night along with the rest of the holiday revelers. Matthew made a contented purring hum that typically earned him a quirk of a smile from his husband. A quick glance confirmed his success.
They’d come out to watch the cinema’s annual double feature of It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story. Gavin was a such a sweetheart indulging Matthew’s delight in those movies when he’d much rather watch Bad Santa. But, to be fair, Matthew never complained, either, when they went with Gavin’s preferences.
The air was brisk and fresh, but their steps were light and buoyant as if lifted by their good cheer. Beside Matthew, Gavin pulled in a deep lungful as he placed a hand lightly on Matthew’s back. Above them, the mostly full moon lay hidden behind a sky full of clouds. None but the brightest stars would have been discernable anyway due to the ambient big-city lights.
A light snow was falling. Gavin’s granny would have called it “Christmas snow,” large wet flakes drifting gently from the clouds high above. Often in the past, Matthew had seen Gavin turn his face to the sky and open his mouth to catch a flake or two on his tongue. That playfulness was of the many reasons he’d fallen for the man who otherwise seemed so solid and dependable.
Scattered flakes adorned Gavin’s short, wavy, black hair, hinting at the sexy silver fox he’d become some day in the happy future stretching out before them. No doubt snowflakes landed on his own chin-length, floppy brown hair and short, tidy beard. He wasn’t sure what the visual effect was, but Gavin had an approving glint in his eye as he took it in.
“Let’s walk home.” Matthew clasped Gavin’s hand and flashed his eyebrows.
“I don’t know.” Gavin’s hand was warm through their gloves as he gave Matthew’s hand a firm squeeze. “It’s pretty late.”
Which was true enough, but a growing number of people were hailing taxis, so most likely he and Gavin would be waiting a while if they held out for one. Besides… “It’ll be fine. I don’t want to risk a stinky cab messing up the beauty of this night.”
Gavin’s cheek twitched, and Matthew could practically see the wheel’s turning as the man’s military mind assessed the risk. “Okay.” Gavin lifted Matthew’s gloved hand to his lips for a brief kiss, and his eyes softened in the glow of the twinkling lights around the movie posters they passed. Romantic gestures like that always brought a smile to Matthew’s lips, a lesson Gavin had learned and exploited since their earliest days together.
The thud of their steady steps, sounding heavy with their solid thick-soled boots, blended with the general clamor of footsteps and cars buzzing by. A quick glance at Gavin confirmed that the man was on “high alert,” attentively listening to the noises around them as the surrounding traffic—both foot and vehicular—thinned.
Matthew shivered. Still, the cold was worth it to be able to enjoy a bracing walk with Gavin. They’d be home in their warm apartment soon enough, and he could turn on the gas fireplace to warm them. He smiled as he envisioned Gavin pulling him into his arms on the cozy sofa as they snuggled beneath the warm, homemade quilt that Gavin’s granny had given them as a wedding present.
Beside him, Gavin stiffened when a streetlamp ahead of them winked out. The alley behind it lay pitch black.
Predictably, Gavin slowed and peered over his shoulder to check traffic, then steered Matthew across the expanse of pavement. Matthew suppressed a smile. Surely Gavin understood the timing of the blown light was coincidental. Lights went out, and odds were someone would be around when it happened. Just because they were the people to see this one shine its last lumen didn’t mean there was anything nefarious looming in the alley waiting for them. They’d pass an alley on the other side of the street, too, but a functioning streetlamp cut through the darkness at that alley’s innocuous looking opening.
“You know—” Matthew’s tone was droll “—if somebody with the ability to turn off a single streetlamp at will is after us, they’re going to get us eventually anyway.”
Gavin’s jaw tightened. He knew. But with his overprotective streak, he couldn’t help himself. “I know. Just humor me, darling.” Gavin’s favorite refrain was, “Better safe than sorry.” Matthew was surprised Gavin hadn’t tacked it onto his entreaty.
Matthew blinked when that second light went dark just as they passed under it, and the words Gavin had left unsaid reverberated through Matthew’s mind as he realized it was possible to be both—doing the seemingly safe thing, but still ending up sorry.
In the fraction of a second that he had to consider their situation, the thought that Gavin hadn’t been paranoid enough passed through Matthew’s mind. But surely the idea that someone could and would turn off one streetlamp to lure them across the street before turning off the second flirted with the edges of extreme conspiracy theories. Didn’t it?
Beside him, Gavin gasped when the first light, now across the wide street, came back on, doing them only a little good at this distance. That was weird, but certainly—
Matthew’s thoughts—and breath—were cut off as an aberrantly strong hand wrapped around his neck and ripped him away from Gavin’s handhold and into the alley. Sharp fingernails dug into his neck, and he kicked and flailed, twisting as he tried to escape the iron grip. His eyes burned like they were bulging out of his head, yet he couldn’t see a thing in the pitch black surrounding them. A Dumpster echoed loudly when he managed to kick it.
His mind screamed Gavin! But whether it was for help or in warning, his oxygen deprived thoughts couldn’t decide. He was yanked away from the Dumpster, and fetid breath puffed along his neck. The body emitting that exhalation quivered much like that of a person silently laughing. But it was only when teeth—fangs!—scraped along his skin as if to taunt him, that his internal shriek was replaced by Run, Gavin, run!
His last coherent thought, as those dagger-sharp teeth bit down, was to hope that Gavin had gotten away, while at the same time knowing that Gavin would never abandon him, and was likewise doomed.
* * * *
“What on Earth?”
Victor jumped at Bryan’s words. He’d apparently been so absorbed in the gruesome scene he’d been writing that he hadn’t sensed Bryan reading over his shoulder. “Nothing.” Victor sat straighter as if that would nullify the guilty-as-hell tone oozing from that single word.
“You can’t do that!” Bryan continued to read over Victor’s shoulder. “Can you? Seriously, you’re not going to kill off Gavin and Matthew, are you? I mean, that’s your most popular series.”
Victor sighed and shrugged but didn’t give a verbal reply.
Bryan squatted, then peered up at Victor with narrowed eyes. Much as he understood Victor’s annual struggle with the holiday blues, this was…wrong. “It’s a romance, for goodness’ sake. Can you really just throw in a vampire death scene five books into a contemporary romance series? You’re not going to turn them into killer vampires, are you?”
A clatter of falling—something—came from the living room.
Bryan turned toward the sound. “Shit,” he muttered, then glanced at Victor and groaned as he stood. “Felix must be climbing the tree again. Hold that thought. I mean, they’re your characters, you can do what you want, or what your publisher will let you do, I guess, but do you really want to do this to your readers? Even if you want to end the series, is this the best way to do it?”
“Probably not.” Victor’s mutter wasn’t particularly convincing. He’d been talking about ending the series, but there had to be a better way to handle that. Victor glanced at his watch and followed docilly as Bryan rushed to the living room.
“I wonder which ornament bit the dust this time?” Bryan faced Victor, and he couldn’t stop the reflective grin as he pictured how their new kitten had probably stalked and pounced on the shiny temptations hanging on the Christmas tree as if they’d been placed there solely for his pleasure.
Funny how the destruction of yet another ornament seemed to rate less concern than Victor killing off fictional characters, but that was just the surface of the issue. It was Victor’s blues that worried Bryan. Besides, he knew darned well that Victor would rewrite that damned scene.
To be continued December 25 & 26…