Shameless Selfie: Landscapes
It’s Shameless Selfie time, and because I’m very busy with the final rewrite of Blind-Sided, in which both Reese Chambers and Alonso Darlington from In The Flesh and before that, Landscapes, are very much main players in that tale, I decided to share a little snippet from Landscapes, which is the story of how Alonso and Reese met. And since their tale is a tale of Lakeland at it’s loveliest and High View, Alonso’s home, is set in the Lakeland fells, this little selfie from the Lake District seemed appropriate. Enjoy their little garden encounter.
Sometimes love is the most dangerous choice
(A Medusa’s Consortium story)
Alonso Darlington has a disturbing method of keeping landscaper, Reese Chambers, both safe from and oblivious to his dangerous lust for the man. But Reese isn’t easy to keep secrets from, and Alonso wants way more than to admire the man from afar. Can he risk a real relationship without risking Reese’s life?
Note: Landscapes has been previously released as part of the Brit Boys: On Boys boxed set.
Landscapes — Encounter in an Overgrown Garden — Landscapes:
Before dinner Reese decided to take another wander through the ruins of the gardens he’d be restoring. He anticipated working long hours, or at least as long as he could manage with the days closing in. Tomorrow was the first of October, a strange time to begin such a restoration, but that was why Alonso Darlington was paying him so well. It was unusually warm for October, but Reese knew, especially in the Lake District, the weather could turn in a matter of minutes, and High View was definitely just that. If the weather were bad down below, it would be worse up here. He could understand exactly why Darlington wanted to restore the manor house, but God the man must have bags of money because it was costing a bomb just to have the gardens done. He could only imagine the cost of restoring a manor house that was barely more than a ruin. Talia had informed him the wiring and plumbing to make it livable for Darlington and his small staff had been sorted, and it was warm and comfortable in spite of the way it looked. It was fit for winter, but the actual restorations wouldn’t begin until spring. Yet Darlington was adamant about the garden. It was to be a night garden – something Reese had never done before, something that would be even more of a challenge since many of the plants common in night gardens were not native to the harsh climate of the fells. Talia had explained that Alonso Darlington had a medical condition that made him extremely sensitive to sunlight, but the man loved to be outside and especially to wander his gardens. Reese got the impression the man had lots of gardens on lots of estates. At the moment all that mattered to him was scraping by enough to keep a roof over his head until he could get established in Keswick, and the money he would get working for Darlington would go a long way toward that goal.
As he walked through the overgrown tangle of a space that had little left but a tumble of dry stone wall to indicate it had ever been a garden, he noticed the natural terracing of the land, the lovely view, which, at night would have very little light pollution. He could imagine Alonso Darlington, bundled against the Cumbrian chill, watching the moon hanging weightlessly above the beck. He’d not actually met the man. He wondered if he were fit enough to make the descent from the house to the garden and back. It was steep, and if he had a medical condition, not at all ideal. It seemed a strange place for an invalid to settle. Reese bent to pull a handful of weeds away from some piece of stone statuary to discover that it was a sleeping griffin.
As was often the case, he found himself pulled into his efforts. In no time, he had cleared the thick tangle of growth enough to reveal a low stone bench next to the griffin. The day was unusually calm. The angle of the late afternoon sun bore down on him until trickles of sweat ran over his ribs from beneath his arms. He shoved out of his shirt and let it fall onto the bench, and his pulse kicked up with inspiration as he contemplated the stone bench flanked by the sleeping griffin and the lazy arch of the sun across the sky. His heart kicked up another notch as the pale face of a heavy moon rose like a giant balloon over the opposite end of the valley and hung as though it were balanced by the blazing disk opposite it. The terrace, stones now buried beneath several centuries of earth and growth, had been flat, a small space gouged out of the high flank of the fell by forces much older, but if he wasn’t mistaken, the fell-side garden and the angle of the valley far below provided something far greater than a place for Mr. Darlington to sniff night-blooming jasmine. It provided a place to observe the passage of the sun and moon and the movement of the constellations along the ecliptic in the dark dome of the sky as the seasons came and went.
He paced off the space, and cleared a small patch at each corner for a visual, all the while scribbling notes and simple line drawings on the small pad he’d brought for the purpose. He worked quickly as ideas formed in his head, barely noticing the darkening of the sky to shades of mauve and melon and then to the clear blue black of approaching night. It was only when he could see to sketch no longer, that he tossed the pad on the bench and looked up to see Venus on the horizon. The fells hunkered like sleeping giants above the moon glow on the silver thread of the beck below. The shapes of sky and earth rested against each other like lovers in an embrace, and he stood there in the middle, his eyes focused on Venus, feeling as though it all revolved around him, as though he held it all in balance. As a child, he had stood and watched the earth rotate. His father had taught him to mark that rotation by use the single standing stone that dominated the meadow behind their house. If he waited patiently, he could see the earth slide past the arc of the rising sun. Breathlessly, he stood, frozen, watching long enough that Venus appeared to move above the serpentine path of the beck.
‘Dinner’s getting cold, Mr. Chambers.’
Before Reese could do more than jump and swallow back a curse, a man materialized out of the shadow of the fell in a sudden wave of spice and sandalwood.
‘Though I can hardly blame you lingering for such a view.’ The voice was a velvety baritone that Reese could almost feel in his own chest. ‘Thanks to the diligent work of the electricians, the microwave runs just fine, and though cook is excellent at what he does, some things are worth waiting dinner on. Venus?’ He nodded to the sky.
‘Yes,’ Reese replied, trying to catch glimpses of his host in his peripheral vision. ‘And you’re Mr. Darlington, I presume?’
‘Alonso, please. I think working with our hands in the earth, as we will be, is good reason to dispense with formalities.’ He offered his hand.
‘Reese.’ The instant skin touched skin it was as though lightning bolted through him. He stumbled backward, swallowing a startled cry as images flashed behind his eyes, Alonso’s mouth on his neck, on his belly, Alonso’s tongue snaking a path over his arse, Alonso kneeling over him, cock in hand. And him yielding. It was only Alonso Darlington pulling him close that kept him from falling. When he came back to himself, he was settled him onto the bench and it was a good thing. The erection that threatened to unload in his jeans would have made walking difficult.
‘I’m sorry,’ he managed, when the fell stopped spinning beneath him. ‘Not sure what happened. Too much staring at the moon maybe.’ He could feel Alonso’s gaze, almost like a caress, and he felt shy, as though somehow the man knew that he had nearly come in his jeans. Fuck if his touch hadn’t felt almost like … foreplay.
‘Perhaps you’re hungrier than you think, and though it’s nearly October, it’s still quite warm for exerting oneself in the sun.’
Reese forced an embarrassed smile. ‘I’m used to working in the hot sun.’
‘Then you’re a lucky man,’ Alonso stood and handed him his shirt from where he had dropped it on the end of the bench. ‘Come, you’re chilled. See there, you’ve broken out in goose bumps. Put on your shirt and I’ll take you back to the house and feed you.’
Somehow the idea of letting the man feed him made him blush.
‘I’m sweaty. I’ve been pulling weeds. I need a shower.’
‘Nonsense,’ once again he could feel the man’s eyes raking his body like the touch of a palm. ‘We’re not formal in this heap. We just barely have electricity. You’re welcome as you are, and my home will be the happier for the spirit of the outdoors you bring.’
Reese chuckled. ‘I just hope that spirit is not too strong for pleasant company.’
Again, there was the feel of being caressed. ‘I assure you, Reese, your spirit is just the thing for pleasant company.’ Then he turned and headed up to the house.
Alonso’s pace was vigorous and, even in full darkness, it was not hard to tell he was slender and fit, but Reese knew that as surely as if he had seen the man naked, as surely as if he had explored the rise and fall and slope and valley of those firm muscles with his own hands. He couldn’t know. He couldn’t! Christ, he needed to think of something other than Alonso Darlington’s naked body before he thoroughly embarrassed himself.
Reese was surprised to find that several rooms of the big house were cozy and well decorated. Alonso offered a shrug as he looked around. ‘A man has to have a little space that’s livable. The wash room is down the hall.’
When Reese returned from his hasty ablutions, he found Darlington speaking quietly with Talia, who wore a silky red dress and heels that made her almost tall enough to look Alonso in the eyes. Talia pressed a kiss to Alonso’s cheek, and Reese’ belly burned as the man’s hand slid over her shoulder to rest in the small of her back. With the burn came the startling realization; it wasn’t that he wanted his hand on Talia, but rather he wanted Alonso’s hand on him. Christ, he really had had too much sun.
‘You two have a good evening.’ Talia said. Then she planted a kiss on Reese’ cheek, and his skin prickled with the feel of Alonso’s lips, with the feel of Alonso’s hand coming to rest on his hip. ‘I’m off to meet friends in Penrith,’she was saying, when he could get his mind off the idea of Alonso’s mouth on his. ‘I’ll see you in the morning.’
‘Talia’s one of my oldest and dearest friends,’ Alonso said, as they watched her leave. ‘She’s my eyes in the daylight and often the source of wisdom I lack.’ Was it possible that he sensed Reese’ jealousy, even before he had?
“Landscapes is, quite simply, one of the best pieces of paranormal erotica I’ve read in a very long time. Ms. Grace’s eloquent, sensual prose weaves a spell that pulls you into the shadowy world of vampire Alonso Darlington and turns his desperate, reluctant, indirect pursuit of landscaper Reese Chambers into a pulse-pounding, breath-stealing fever dream.” Lisabet Sarai