Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday's Safe Word Shelf: With a Kiss by Kim Dare

When Liam Bates volunteered to visit lonely patients at his local hospital, he expected them to be able to talk back when he chatted to them. But, when he’s assigned to visit a comatose man, he soon finds himself spilling out his whole life story in an effort to fill the silence. It’s not long before the peace and comfort he finds in the man’s hospital room becomes Liam’s refuge from an increasingly hostile world.

Vampire Marcus Corrigan has been trapped inside his paralysed body for over three years, unable to communicate with anyone. The chatty young man who visits Marcus quickly captivates him, and Liam’s softly spoken words soon have him determined to rescue the boy from his current life, but, unable to move a muscle, all Marcus can actually do is lay there and listen.

There’s only one thing that can wake up Marcus. There’s only one thing that can save Liam’s sanity. Everything is about to change for them both, and it will change with a kiss.

Please note: This story centres around a relationship that incorporates elements of BDSM. It also includes references to an entirely separate relationship which contains violent and abusive behaviour, perpetrated by a secondary character.

Liam didn’t stop running as he reached the edge of the pavement. Stumbling off the curb he raced on, headlong into the road.

Car horns blared. Headlights blazed around him. Holding up one hand to shield his eyes, Liam spun around, frantically searching for any way to escape the New Year’s Eve chaos. He barely heard the angry shouts from the drivers as more and more cars squealed to a stop on the busy road.

Squeezing between two car bumpers, Liam scrambled toward the opposite pavement. A dense crowd of people immediately closed in around him. The New Year’s celebrations had brought everyone onto the streets. It was impossible to run. All he could do was keep pushing forward, clawing his way a little closer to the hospital with each step he took.

Rain pelted down, soaking into Liam’s jeans and plastering his thin white t-shirt to his skin. None of New Year’s revelers seemed to care about the downpour as they swarmed toward the firework display due to start on the other side of town. A dozen men cheerfully forced their way through the crowd. They swarmed around Liam. He flinched away from raised fists and beer bottles as drunken hand gestures swung wildly toward him.

A terrified attempt to back away from one man sent him crashing into another. Twisting around, Liam held up his hands, desperate to pacify. “I’m sorry,” he babbled, stumbling away from them all as quickly as he could. “I’m so sorry, I…”

He looked frantically over his shoulder. The crowd behind him thinned out just enough for him to make his escape. Spinning away from the gang of men, Liam took his chance, turned tail and ran.

The wind whipped at his face as he dodged between the laughing groups of men and women, all of them ready to celebrate and all of them heading in the opposite direction to him. Lifting a hand, Liam swiped at the raindrops running down his face and into his eyes, but he didn’t dare stop.

He couldn’t stop. He couldn’t turn around and calmly follow the crowd toward the firework display.

The hospital and Marcus—those were the only two things he could think about now—the only things that offered him any chance of keeping his sanity through the New Year’s Eve celebrations and on into January the first.

Finally, the huge gray building came into view on the opposite side of the road. Liam raced toward it, forcing his shaking legs to keep moving when they threatened to collapse.

Brakes squealed once more, another set of drivers cursed. Liam didn’t even look over his shoulder. His trainers pounded against the tarmac as he threw himself toward the hospital entrance with every scrap of energy he had left.

A security guard stood just to the left of the door. He straightened up and reached for his radio when he caught sight of a mad man hurtling toward him, but Liam had too much momentum to come to a sudden stop. Arms flailing, shoes skidding through the puddles, he finally brought himself to a halt just a few feet from the guard.

The older man’s eyes narrowed slightly, bushy gray eyebrows almost meeting beneath his water-proof cap. A moment passed, and a slight smile touched the older man’s lips. He pressed the button on his radio once more. “Scratch that, Tony. False alarm.”

Another man’s voice crackled through the radio, too low for Liam to be able to make out the words.

“You’re eager tonight, Liam,” Mr. Clark said, slipping back into his usual jovial manner as easily as another man might flip a switch.

Liam tried to force a smile. The taste of blood flooded his mouth. He automatically lifted his fingers to his split lip, as he saw the guard’s smile die and his frown return.

“Ran faster than my feet could keep up with, Mr. Clark,” Liam mumbled.

The other man nodded, but he didn’t put any noticeable effort into pretending he really believed that.

Liam dropped his gaze. Edging around the guard, he backed into the hospital. Hunching his shoulders and keeping his head down, he rushed along the deserted hospital corridors, following the path that had become second nature to him over the last few months.

Water pooled around his feet as an elevator carried him up to the third floor. Closing his eyes, Liam wrapped his arms around his torso. The cold was sinking into him now that he stood still. A shiver danced along his spine as he prayed for the lift to travel faster.

He was just about able to keep on forcing air into his lungs, but he couldn’t make his breaths follow anything like a steady rhythm. Panic clawed through his insides, sending more and more adrenaline pumping through his veins until he trembled with it.

Finally, the elevator chimed its arrival at his destination. The doors slid slowly open. There was barely enough room for Liam to squeeze through the gap between them before he exited the lift and hurried along the corridor.

Sister Pritchard’s head jerked up as Liam’s sodden trainers squeaked against dull gray flooring. A frown flitted across her forehead as she glanced at the watch pinned to her uniform.

Reaching the nurses’ station set halfway down the corridor, Liam looked from Sister Pritchard to the door leading into the private room at the end of the hall and back again.

“Please?” he whispered.

The matronly lady ran her gaze over Liam, taking in every detail as she silently debated the fate of a visitor who seemed completely incapable of abiding by proper visiting hours. Liam held his breath. His grip on his own arms turning white knuckled as his fingers dug into his biceps.

Finally, the sister nodded. Relief swept through Liam, damn near washing away the last tiny bit of strength he had left. Somehow he managed to take a few steps forward.

Reaching out, he wrapped numb fingers around the door handle. In that moment, it was almost impossible for him not to think back to the first time he’d visited that room.

* * * * *

Six months earlier…

“I just talk to him?” Liam looked from the woman behind him, to the sleeping form in the hospital bed and back again.

“That’s the general idea,” she said, lifting her attention from her clipboard for a moment and glaring at him as if he’d just made a very improper suggestion toward her. “It is what you volunteered for after all!”

Liam turned back to the slumbering man. “I know, I just…” Well, for one thing, he’d assumed that when he agreed to spend one afternoon a week visiting lonely hospital patients, he’d be talking to someone who was able to talk back.

“If there’s a problem,” the administrator began, each word more clipped and impatient than the last.

Liam shook his head. “No, it’s fine.”

One curt nod and the woman strode away, pulling the door to the private room closed behind her.

For several long seconds, Liam stood in the middle of the highly polished floor without the least idea what to do with himself. Pushing his hands deeper into his pockets, he rocked back on his heels and studied the comatose patient.

“Just talk to him,” Liam murmured. The words sounded far too loud in the otherwise hushed room. The only noise that broke the silence was the beep of a heart monitor.

Taking a deep breath, Liam took a step forward, determined to make the best of the situation. “Hi. My name’s Liam Bates. I’m a volunteer visitor with the hospital. Do you mind if I sit down?”

To Liam’s complete lack of surprise, the coma patient made no response. Pulling up a chair, Liam perched uncomfortably on the edge of the bright red plastic. Hell, he didn’t even know what to call the guy. Standing up, Liam peeked out through the small glass aperture in the door. The nurses’ station he’d walked past a few minutes before was deserted.

Liam turned back to the room’s other occupant. His attention fell on a wire container hanging from the footboard of the hospital bed, then on the paperwork within it. “I’m…um…just going to look in your records for your name,” he said as he crept forward and picked up the file. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to read any of the confidential stuff or anything. I just want to know what to call you.”

The file was well over two inches thick. Liam frowned as he carefully flicked open the cover to examine the first page.

“Marcus Corrigan,” he read aloud, before dutifully closing the bulging file and returning it to its proper place without snooping any further.

“It’s um…it’s a nice name,” Liam hazarded as he sat down again. “It suits you.” It might have been a bloody stupid thing to say, but at least it was true. A handsome name for a very handsome man…

Against all logic, the guy didn’t actually appear ill. It looked like he was simply sleeping, as if he might open his eyes at any moment. Pushing that idea away, Liam took the opportunity to study the man’s features without any fear that he might be caught.

Long black hair framed his face, standing out in stark contrast to the crisp white hospital pillowcase, but someone had obviously shaved him recently. There wasn’t the slightest hint of stubble along his jaw. High cheek bones and an aquiline nose gave Marcus an almost aristocratic appearance, but his lips were pink and full, just begging to be kissed.

Liam cleared his throat, a slight blush rising to his cheeks. He was checking out the coma patient. That was just wrong—on so many levels.

“So, um…I guess I’d best tell you a bit about myself, since it seems like we’re going to be spending quite a bit of time together.” He leaned back in his chair, trying to look casual, confident and completely at ease, but quickly leaned forward again, resting his elbows on his knees as he knotted his fingers together.

For a full minute, Liam stared down at his intertwined knuckles. “I guess there’s not really much to say. I’m kind of boring.”

He glanced up at the other man through his lashes. Marcus…Mr. Corrigan…No, Liam finally decided, he’d call him Marcus. Marcus didn’t look bored. There was no expression whatsoever on his face.

Liam chuckled slightly to himself. “Well, at least I don’t have to worry about you falling asleep on me.” He took another deep breath. “Okay, let’s try this again. I’m Liam Bates. Twenty-eight years old. I used to work just across the road from here. I waited tables in the cafe opposite the hospital for about three years, but now that we’ve moved in together, Ralph doesn’t like me to…”

Liam’s eyes opened very wide as he mentally cursed himself. The last thing he needed in his life right then was some homophobic jerk who…

His thoughts slowly faded away as he blinked at Marcus’ sleeping form.

There wasn’t going to be any visible reaction to anything he said. Liam looked over his shoulder. No one else was in earshot.

“I guess it really doesn’t matter if you know I’m gay, does it? It’s not like you’re going to make a complaint or ask for a different visitor.” Liam pushed a hand through his hair, disordering the mousey blond strands. “You know, it’s lucky you probably can’t even hear a word I say, because I’m making a complete balls-up of this visitor thing, aren’t I?”

Rising from the chair again, Liam strode across to the window that practically filled the wall on the opposite side of the room from waist height all the way up to the ceiling. It looked down over the gardens surrounding the hospital and would have been a nice view if the patient were in any condition to see it.

“Anyway, like I was saying, Ralph asked me to hand in my notice at the cafe. He’s got a good job. And he’s right, there’s no need for me to wait tables for a pittance. I just…”

Liam frowned through the window. Turning his back on the view, he leaned against the window sill and put all those silly thoughts out of his head. “I should be counting my blessings, right?” he said. “A rich boyfriend who wants to spoil me is a good thing!” Liam forced a smile, but maintaining it for even a few seconds made his face ache.

Marcus made no comment.

“And he’s a good guy too,” Liam pressed on. “He doesn’t screw around on me or anything like that. And he’s working on his temper, so—” His hand froze halfway to his right cheek as the door swung open.

A young red-headed nurse backed into the room, pulling a trolley full of medications and dressings along after her.


The nurse twirled around, knocking over several of the medicine bottles on her trolley as she backed away. Her eyes went to Marcus for a moment, before swinging wildly toward Liam. “Bloody hell—for a moment I thought he’d actually woken up!” Leaning back against the bland cream paintwork next to the door, she patted her chest as if trying to still a racing heart.

“Sorry, I’m one of the volunteer visitors,” Liam began to explain.

The nurse waved him into silence. “Not your fault. Our Mr. Corrigan here has always given me the heebeegeebees. There’s something about vampires that just makes me want to cover my neck whenever I’m around them,” she added, the Irish note in her accent softening as she pulled herself together.

“Vampires…?” Liam echoed.

The nurse finally seemed to recover enough to step away from the wall without fainting. “They didn’t tell you? Well now, isn’t that typical? They’re supposed to, you know?” she added, as she turned the trolley around and pushed it closer to Marcus’ bed.

The routine was obviously well established. While her hands moved on automatic, the nurse’s words continued to flow without hesitation. “Regulations state that everyone who has any contact with a patient has to be informed of their species, unless the patient is human of course—no one minds humans.”

“He’s a…” Liam stared at Marcus as if he was seeing him for the first time.

Of course he knew all about vampires, who didn’t? And, yes, he had always been aware in a very general sort of way that he probably spoke to a dozen people who needed to drink blood every day, but that wasn’t the same as actually knowing the man he stood next to had fangs.

Liam watched in silence as the nurse—Sophie Roberts, according to the hospital ID clipped to her uniform—fussed around, taking down the empty IV hanging from the metal stand next to Marcus’ bed and replacing it with a bag of blood.

A bag of…

“Is that blood?” Liam took a step back, pressing his backside against the window ledge, as if the stuff might leap out of the bag and attack him at any moment.

The nurse looked over her shoulder. “It is indeed. Animal blood rather than human, of course—bovine to be exact.”


“Can’t let the poor little parasite starve to death while he’s too ill to be any danger to anyone, can we?” Nurse Roberts asked. She picked up a metal bowl from the trolley and placed it on Marcus’ bed.

Lurking uncertainly on the other side of the room, Liam watched her deftly remove a bandage from the vampire’s hand and toss it in the bowl. Blood stained that part of the fabric that had been wrapped around the top most part of Marcus’ index finger.

Quickly cleaning the wound, the nurse replaced the dressing. Her every movement made it clear she wanted to have as little physical contact with Marcus as possible.

Within a minute, she’d bustled back out of the room, once more leaving Liam on his own with the sleeping man…with the sleeping vampire. Stepping forward, Liam took great care to make no sound, to keep all his movements calm and controlled, as if he might rouse the other man to attack if he weren’t very careful.

He lowered himself into his chair with the same intense attention to detail, not quite able to drag his eyes away from the bag of blood hanging above him. Animal blood, he reminded himself. It was nothing to be scared of. But at the same time it became almost impossible to stop his eyes following the intravenous line down to where the needle disappeared into Marcus’ arm.

Liam glanced at Marcus’ face for a moment, then back to the blood supply draining steadily into his vein. Heat rushed to his cheeks.

“Sorry. I…” Liam cleared his throat. “I guess I didn’t handle that very well, did I? I’m not usually so… I mean, I don’t have any problem with vampires. You’re just like us, you just need to drink blood occasionally, right?”

Marcus said nothing.

Liam ran his hand down his face. Damn, but it was a good thing the other man was completely oblivious to his presence. Any conscious guy would have probably given him one hell of a back hander ages ago. Liam’s hand automatically strayed toward his cheek. The bruise was gone now. It had barely even been worth mentioning from the start, but now it had completely faded away and…

“The nurse made it sound like you’ve been here a while,” Liam blurted out, desperate for any topic of conversation that would distract him from a day he’d much rather forget. “Is this something that often happens to vampires?” He frowned slightly. “No. Stupid thing to say. That’s like people thinking any time a gay man is ill, it has to be HIV. Although—”

Liam cleared his throat, only just keeping back a really bad joke about fang shaped condoms and safe biting. He shook his head at himself, but at the same time, his lips quirked into a small smile. “I have a really bad sense of humor,” he confessed, dropping his voice to a whisper, as if sharing a secret with a good friend.

His expression faltered as it occurred to him that he was probably speaking to the one and only person on the planet who really could be trusted to keep any and all secrets someone shared with him.

Marcus Corrigan wasn’t going to rush off to Ralph, carrying tales. Liam was safe there.

“So, um, where was I?” he tried again, finally able to relax into his chair a little. “I was going to tell you about me, right?”

* * * * *

Liam closed the door leading into the private room behind him and leaned back against it. He thought about shutting his eyes in an effort to hide a little bit more thoroughly from the world, but the sight before him was far too beautiful to waste.

Marcus lay exactly as he always did, right in the center of his hospital bed, long black hair trailing over his pillow.

Liam took one more deep breath and let it out very slowly. There was something amazingly reassuring about entering a room and knowing exactly how the man in there was going to react to his presence, something gloriously safe about knowing that the man in front of him would never lash out in his direction, no matter how badly he screwed up.

“Hi, Marcus.” Liam whispered the words so quietly he could barely even hear it himself. Clearing his throat, he looked up at the bright florescent lights set into the ceiling and tried to summon up the will to make another attempt at it.

It was no use. Speaking wasn’t in him right then. He wasn’t sure he even had the strength to take another breath. Adrenaline ebbed away rapidly, allowing Liam’s pain to flow back into his body and make itself felt in every joint and sinew.

His frantic dash across the city had inflicted its own blows, apparently aimed at all those places where Ralph’s fists hadn’t landed that night. Very slowly, Liam bent his knees and let himself slide down the door, until he sat, curled into a tight ball on the hard tile floor.

Folding his arms on top of his drawn up knees, he rested his forehead against his damp forearms. For a long time, he just sat. Unable to think, unable to move, Liam merely existed.

Time passed. Liam had no idea how long he remained on the floor just inside Marcus’ door, but, eventually, some tiny part of his mind that was a little more ready to face the world than the rest of his psyche, began to focus on the steady beeping emanating from one of the machines by Marcus’ bed.

Liam slowly lifted his head. For a few seconds, everything remained a blur. Blinking his eyes, Liam swiped at the drops of rain lingering on his lashes with the back of his hand.

The beeps continued, one every second, one for every beat of Marcus’ heart, just as they had ever since Liam first met the other man. The News Year’s Eve festivities hadn’t made any difference to Marcus. The vampire hadn’t gone out drinking with friends from work, he hadn’t come home spoiling for a fight.

Liam swallowed rapidly. There was something incredibly pathetic about sitting alongside a man in a coma and being jealous of the other guy’s life. Pulling himself to his feet, Liam slowly crossed the room until he stood right next to Marcus’ bed.

“Have you had a good day?” he asked the slumbering man.

No answer was forthcoming, but Liam was already used to filling in the other man’s side of their chats.

“Sarah was on duty today, wasn’t she? Did she tell you her plans for tonight?” Liam managed a small smile for the picture that formed in his head. “I bet they were wild!” He couldn’t imagine the stunning blonde doing anything that wasn’t wild.

Gradually, even that mild trace of a cheerful expression faded from Liam’s face.

“You’ve probably guessed that my plans didn’t exactly go the way I hoped.” he mumbled, his fingers fidgeting with the edge of Marcus’ bed sheet.

Whoever had washed Marcus’ hair that day had left one dark lock trailing across his forehead. Liam reached out and stroked it back from the vampire’s face without even thinking about the gesture.

Marcus wasn’t the type of man who would want to look anything other than his best at all times. Sighing quietly to himself, Liam stepped away from the bed and paced over to the window. “It’s stopped raining,” he said, before glancing at his watch. “And it’s three minutes to twelve. The weather men were right for once. It’s cleared up just in time for the firework display. That’s good…”

Rubbing at his bare arms, trying to warm them up, Liam couldn’t help but wonder if Ralph had gone to one of the displays on his own, after Liam had run out on the older man. A shiver traced its way down his spine. He’d have hell to pay for that when he went home.

Crossing the room, Liam peeked through the little window in the door leading out into the corridor. No one was within view. Ralph hadn’t guessed where he’d run to and come after him.

Liam ran his hand down his face. Blood from his cut lip smeared on his fingers. Liam absentmindedly wiped it on his wet jeans. He was just being stupid now. Ralph hadn’t followed him to the hospital in all the time they’d been together. He wasn’t going to start now.

Liam glanced at his watch again. Pinning a smile to his lips, he made his way back to Marcus’ bed and picked up the ear phones attached to the hospital radio system. Putting one ear bud in Marcus’ ear, he slipped its companion into his own ear.

They were only just in time. The chimes on Big Ben were already counting down the last moments of the year. Under his breath, Liam counted down the seconds along with them, his eyes never leaving the sleeping vampire’s face. “Three…Two…One…”

Marcus didn’t join in. He didn’t smile, or wish Liam a happy New Year as noisy celebrations were relayed to them over the radio. He didn’t turn his head when the first firework whistled into the air not far away and pretty colors exploded in the night sky outside the window either.

“Happy New Year, Marcus.”

Liam’s brain, pounded by both fists and panic, packed its bags and slipped away for an impromptu holiday.

It was good luck to welcome the New Year in with a kiss, and God knew that Liam needed all the luck he could get. Unable to think of a single reason why it was a bad idea to do so, Liam leaned down and pressed his lips very chastely against Marcus’ mouth.

A frown spread across Liam’s forehead as he straightened up. Against all logic, he was almost sure he’d felt the other man’s tongue brush against the cut on his lower lip as they kissed.

Author Bio:
Kim is a thirty year old bisexual submissive from Wales (UK). First published in 2008, she has since released almost 100 BDSM erotic romance titles ranging from short stories to full length novels. Having worked with a host of fantastic e-publishers, she has just moved into self publishing.

While she has occasionally ventured towards other pairings, Kim's first love is still, and probably always will be, Male/Male stories. But, no matter what the pairing, from paranormal to contemporary, and from the sweet to the intense, everything she writes will always feature three things - Kink, Love and a Happy Ending.


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