After Jonas came to relieve him, Dmitri finally went inside the house. As he pulled on the cold iron doorknob, he had to use extra force to pull open the heavy door. Upon entry into the main hall, he went to a closed door on the right wall and opened it. Inside the closet an overhead light came on, and a wall of beige drawers was illuminated, each drawer bearing fingerprint locks. Dmitri pressed his index finger on a locked drawer directly ahead of himself, about halfway up the wall. The lock beeped, and the beige drawer slowly slid open. He took off his gun, a Sig Sauer P365X and put it with his extra mag in the drawer. Pushing it shut, he heard the drawer lock again, then turned and exited the closet, shutting the door behind himself.
Dmitri crossed the main hall and headed to the stairs. Taking them two at a time, he went up to the second floor and down the hall on the right, all the way to the end. Opening his walnut bedroom door, he immediately turned the lights on and surveyed his spartan-style room.
Cressida had made a random visit before, but only once. Ever since, he had remained on guard, even in his own room. He reached to the side and pulled the door shut behind himself, then proceeded to head to his private bathroom. The inside of it was stark white, completely done up in pure white tiles; it was easier to see blood that way. Dmitri walked over to the shower and rotated the handles, calling forth steaming hot water from the pipes.
Stripping out of his all black uniform, he took a glance at himself in the mirror. Despite being a vampire, the scars of his former life were still there, raised and ugly. He traced them along his strong, wide pecs and muscular abdomen: a stab wound from a bayonet, a gunshot from a rifle, a curved scar from the slice of a knife. The Siege of Sevastopol certainly had left its marks on him.
Cressida had found him near death on the battlefield during her first global tour, and she chose that moment to sire him. It was 1855, and he was one of her first progeny, having been made specifically to be her right hand. It was in him she divulged valuable secrets, plans and strategies. Dmitri was meant to be her highest personal guard, and he had originally been more than pleased to have the title. His devotion to Cressida went unmarred for years…
…until he met Sebastian.
Sebastian had been a spectacular social navigator and spirited human man, and he had caught Cressida’s eye when she visited London. She was intrigued and began courting him, following him across the British society scene. When he was shipped off to Egypt as part of the British Army, Dmitri was sent off as well. She wanted to sire him and entrusted him to Dmitri’s keeping, commanding him to keep a close watchful eye on Sebastian.
And Dmitri always did what he was told.
It was during the Battle of Tel El Kebir in Egypt. The Lieutenant General Garnet Wolseley engaged Dmitri’s services as a mercenary. Fighting side by side against the Egyptians in Cairo, the two men spent all manner of time together, eventually forming a bond that became stronger and more personal than either of them had expected. Months of days spent together turned into nights. Before long, they had become lovers, taking refuge in desert tents and outposts, hiding their affair from the world just outside.
Yet, Cressida found out somehow.
As was her way, she punished Dmitri by slaying Sebastian. If she couldn’t have him, no one would, and that ‘no one’ included her right hand. She traveled to Cairo just to perform the killing right in front of him, too, knowing full well that he could do nothing to stop it. When it was all over, she even had the audacity and ferocity to make Dmitri clean up the ‘mess she had made’.
Again, Dmitri did as he was told. However, his loyalty to Cressida had cracked. It was no longer whole and unyielding. She had seen to it personally that her right hand was no longer by her side. His faith in her was now frayed and unraveling.
Many years later, Francois entered Dmitri’s life. Despite an obvious attraction from the start, the two of them had only recently begun seeing each other behind closed doors, away from the world Cressida had created. The time they spent together in public was strictly professional, except for the occasional stolen moment like earlier today. Dmitri smiled at the thought, then frowned as he thought about what would happen if they were caught. If Cressida ever found out…
Anger overcame him. Dmitri brought his arm back and launched his fist at the mirror, fracturing it into multiple pieces, several of them falling into his sink. He pulled his fist back and watched as the tears and gashes in his knuckles slowly healed over. If only heartbreak could heal just as easily.
He couldn’t bear the thought of Cressida hurting Francois, but he hated hiding their relationship, too. It was unfair to have to hide their love from her. Their bond with her prevented them from leaving her side, so they couldn’t run away together, either.
As long as she was alive, they could never be free to be together.
Dmitri retrieved a dust bin and swept the shards of glass into a waste bucket. Then he climbed into the hot shower and lathered up his bar of soap, wiping glinting bubbles across his pale white skin. Sliding his hands across his body, it wasn’t long before he was caught up in thoughts of Francois. He took advantage of the moment and took his shaft in his hand, letting the water cascade on top of him and using the soap to run his slick hand up and down his length. He pictured Francois and imagined it was his hands touching his body, stroking him, wrapping his fingers around him. Within moments, he was gasping as he erupted in the shower, bracing himself with one hand against the tile wall in front of him. His head angled down, he took a moment to catch his breath, letting the water beat down; Francois always did that to him.
After a minute, Dmitri reached forward and turned the shower handles to shut off the water. He grabbed his black towel from the towel rod and dried himself off, enjoying the feel of the fluffy cotton against his still sensitive shaft. Stepping out, he went to his closet and selected a pair of black trousers and a black button-down shirt. He slipped them on, sans under garments, and folded up his sleeves to his elbows.
After combing back his black hair, he picked up his necklace: a Russian ruble dated to 1831 hanging from a sterling silver chain. It was the only thing he had left of his former life and had been gifted to him by his otets (father). He put it on and then walked over to his bed. He sat down and bent forward to slip on his socks and black lace-up dress shoes, tying them up tightly. Then he stood and gave himself a once-over in the bedroom mirror. His pale blue eyes were a welcome stark contrast to his all black attire.
Exiting his room, Dmitri headed towards Francois’ room. When he arrived, he straightened his shirt and then gently knocked. Francois answered quickly, and both men smiled at each other. Dmitri stepped back as Francois came out of his room, dressed similarly but in navy blue, the color making his eyes pop. He turned around to shut his bedroom door and all Dmitri wanted to do was usher him back inside and ravage him. Instead, he waited patiently and smiled again as Francois turned to face him. Then the two men headed downstairs, side by side.
Upon reaching the garage and letting the door close behind them, Francois stole a quick peck on Dmitri’s cheek, then they each climbed into a silver SUV. Dmitri drove this time, as Francois was always the driver for their sire. He started the vehicle and put it in drive, pulling straight forward out of the garage and onto the driveway. Neither of them said anything or even looked at each other until they had reached the main road. Dmitri checked both directions and then pulled out to the left, heading east toward the coffeehouse.
Once they had traveled a couple miles, Francois reached over and slipped Dmitri’s right hand into his own. Dmitri didn’t even look over, he simply grinned and kept driving. Francois sighed and chuckled, amused and relaxed now that they were away. He always seemed to find it entertaining after they made it safely out together, as if he never expected it to happen in such a boring fashion.
After a time, Francois spoke. “Mon amour…?” (My love.)
“Mmm…ce n’est rien.” (It is nothing.)
“No. Tell me.”
“It is just… Will we ever truly escape?”
Dmitri glanced at Francois long enough to meet his eyes. “I believe we will.”
“Say it again, mon coeur.” (My heart.)
“Da. We will escape.”
Francois squeezed Dmitri’s hand and lifted it to his lips, kissing the back of it. They continued to drive on towards the coffeehouse together. No matter what should happen, they at least had each other.