In The Flesh Part 11: Free Story in Progress. Enjoy!
I’m off to Eroticon this weekend with the lovely Lily Harlem, where we’ll be teaching our Crafting Creativity workshop. I hope to see you there, but whether you’re joining us or not, I’ve left you a little snippet of my own creativity. It’s time for more In The Flesh. It’s time for Part 11, and the plot definitely thickens.
Called from the depths of disturbingly sexy dreams, will Susan survive an ill-fated rescue mission? Welcome to part 11 of my dark paranormal story, In the Flesh. Angels and demons, gods and monsters, sex and terror; when the boundaries are not clear, the journey can be deadly. But can the price be worth the paying?
In the Flesh is very dark paranormal erotica. When Susan Innes comes to visit her friend, Annie Rivers, in Chapel House, the deconsecrated church that Annie is renovating into a home, she discovers her outgoing friend changed, reclusive, secretive, and completely enthralled by a mysterious lover, whose presence is always felt, but never seen, a lover whom she claims is god. As her holiday turns into a nightmare, Susan must come to grips with the fact that her friend’s lover is neither imaginary nor is he human, and even worse, he’s turned his wandering eye on Susan, and he won’t be denied his prize. If Susan is to fight an inhuman stalker intent on having her as his own, she’ll need a little inhuman help.
Episode 11 in which there is a call for help in the middle of the night. Happy Reading!
In The Flesh: Part 11
In that space between sleep and wakefulness, in that place where you’re never really sure what’s real and what you’re dreaming, I became conscious of someone fondling my breasts, someone with large hands, someone with very warm, expressive lips, someone who was both deliciously sloppy and yet surgically precise in eliciting desire far removed from both mouth and breasts. The love bite above my left nipple ached and tingled with the stimulation, and I arched and groaned and reached out in the darkness for Michael, in whose arms I’d fallen asleep after way more ravishing than I would have thought either of us could survive considering the day we’d just had. Then the buzzing of my phone dragged me into the waking world. I rolled over and fell out onto the floor, biting my tongue and cursing under my breath trying not to wake Michael and, at the same time, surprised that he was still sound asleep. I grabbed my handbag from where it sat on the floor next to the nightstand and fumbled for the phone, slipping into the bathroom to answer.
“Susan! Thank God I got you. I’m so sorry, I’m so, so sorry, Susan. I don’t know what happened, I can’t explain it, I was asleep by the altar one minute and then the next thing I knew I had a knife and I …” Annie’s voice on the other end of the device dissolved into wracking sobs, with me stupidly trying to calm her, trying to convince her that it was nothing, that it was no big deal that my best friend had come at me with a butcher knife. At last there was silence except for her breathing and snuffling. I sat naked on the commode, shaking as though I’d been out in the cold. It was nerves, I told myself, just nerves. She couldn’t get to me on the phone. He couldn’t get to me on the phone. And then Annie dropped the bomb.
“Susan, I need you to come get me. I need your help. I’m a mess, I know that now, and I need to leave. I need to get out of Chapel House for good before it’s too late.”
“All right.” My voice sounded breathless, unsteady, like it belonged to someone else. Christ, what was I saying? What was I agreeing to? Was I nuts? “Just let me wake up Michael and we’ll be there as soon as we can.”
There was silence on the other end of the phone, and for a second, I thought she had disconnected. “No, please don’t bring that man. You mustn’t. He’s dangerous, Susan. I know he’s charming and sexy, but he’s dangerous.” Her voice was wet with tears again, rising in desperation as she spoke. “He’ll hurt you. He’ll hurt us both. He isn’t who he says he is. Please, you have to come alone. It’s the only way I can get away from here.”
“Yes you can! Take his lorry. I know you can drive it, at least as well as he can. Please! He’s got another car. He can come later and get it. Please, Susan, please! There’s no one else I can turn to.”
There was another long silence in which I could hear her crying in helpless gasps. I never could stand to hear her cry. “Look, I don’t even know where I am. I slept the whole way to Michael’s after we left Chapel House. My phone has a good GPS. I’ll set it and then let you know how soon I can be there. There shouldn’t be any traffic at this hour. Oh, and Annie, you meet me outside. I’m not going into that place again, do you understand? You meet me around by my car ready to go, or I’m not waiting. I’ll text you as soon as I’m close. OK? OK!”
“Yes! I’ll be there, I promise. Oh, Susan, thank you so much. And Susan, please hurry.” The line went dead.
I should have realized something was wrong that Michael had slept through even that much of a disturbance, but I wasn’t at my best. And when I rifled through the basket on his nightstand where he kept his keys then stumbled into my clothes and he still didn’t wake up, I should have suspected something wasn’t right. I should have. But how the hell did I know how soundly the man slept? And though I half hoped my less than quiet efforts would wake him and force the issue, when they didn’t I found myself in his lorry alone driving south on the M40 toward Manchester, Chapel House programmed into the GPS on his dashboard. I remembered when I got in that I’d seen him stash it under the passenger seat when we went to the Little Chef. Annie was right. I could drive a small lorry with no problems. I’d driven a delivery van to help put myself through Uni. I stopped long enough to get a large coffee at an all-night petrol station and then it was a straight shot in the wee hours to Chapel House.
I tried not to think about that fact too much. I planned to park the lorry a few blocks away so Michael wouldn’t be at risk when he came for it. Then I would meet Annie at my car, shove her in, rev the engine and get the hell out of Dodge. There was no contingency plan. I could barely get my head around the idea that I was going back to that horrid place at all. But I was not, under any circumstances, going back inside, or into that damn maze of a garden either. I didn’t dare. Even thinking about it made the bite above my breast tingle and my nipples harden inside my bra. Michael’s mark. Would He find Michael’s mark offensive? Would it make any difference to Him. I had no intention of finding out. I gulped coffee, burnt my tongue and drove on with the radio cranked to keep me awake and to keep me from thinking about Him, about what I would do if He came for me, about what I would do if Annie showed up with a knife. Fuck, I didn’t even have Michael’s mobile number. But he would know. He would know where I’d gone, and I would come back as soon as I’d scooped up Annie, whether she liked it or not. I wasn’t sure how much I trusted Michael, knowing that he was an ex-angel and a thief, knowing his connection to Him, but at the moment, whether Annie liked it or not, he was my only ally.
I found a quiet place two blocks from Chapel House and parked the lorry just as intimations of dawn were graying the night sky. I left the keys in the truck bed just beneath the edge of a toolbox under a tarp. It wasn’t a good sign when I called Annie and she didn’t answer. I left a message and a text that I would be at my car in two minutes. I would wait for her in the car no longer than five minutes, and then I was out of there. Best live to fight another day, I thought, shoving the phone into the pocket of my jeans and knuckling my car keys at the ready.
Chapel House was dark and silent, at least what little I could make out from beyond the overgrown garden where I’d parked my car what seemed like a hundred years ago now. I had already pulled up Annie’s number again by the time the car came into view with her nowhere in sight. “You’ve got five minutes to get your arse out here. Do you hear me? Five, starting now!” I disconnected and punched in a text with the same message. When I got to the car she still wasn’t there, and I wasn’t surprised. It took every ounce of self-control to keep from checking over my shoulder toward the garden gate. I felt certain I was being watched. I felt like my skin would crawl off of me as I got into the car and locked all the doors. Fat lot of good that would do, I was sure, but it still made me feel like I was doing something. Then I waited. Five minutes came and went then ten. Chapel House remained dark and there was no sign of my friend. I called again and texted. I had just started the engine to make my getaway and regroup when the phone rang. I yelped and jerked so hard that my neck popped like gun shot. I answered without greeting. “Annie, for fuck sake, where are you? I’m waiting. You have to come now.”
At first there was just sobbing, and I broke into goose flesh suspecting the worst. “Annie?”
She sniffled and I could hear her heavy breathing. “Susan, I’m sorry, I hurt my ankle. I can’t walk. I need you to come, please. I just want out of here, please come get me. I’m so, so sorry.”
“Sonovabitch,” I whispered beneath my breath. “What the hell did you do?”
“All right. All right! Tell me where you’re at and I’ll come get you.” If I were a praying woman, I would have been saying every prayer I knew. I was anyway, and making up a fair few as I shoved out of the car and headed into the lion’s den. She said she had left the front door unlocked. She said she was just inside. But she wasn’t. Fortunately the ambient light of the coming dawn and the fact that I’d had time to let my night vision adjust to the dark interior meant I could see all the way up the nave to the transept. There the pale glow of the setting moon shown off Annie’s hair, her frail body barely visible beneath the blankets of her pallet next to the altar. I held my breath and moved on tiptoes up the isle all the while feeling as though I were being watched from just beyond my peripheral vision. I sniffed quietly. There was no smell of burning garbage, no scent of jasmine or roses, just the smell of dust on aging stone, both overpowered by the smell of sleep and sex as I drew nearer where Annie lay.
For a terrifying moment, I thought she was dead. It was only as I knelt next to her and touched her cheek, which was unusually cold, that I saw the rise and fall of her chest beneath the duvet. Annie was sound asleep, her mobile phone clutched in one hand. I carefully pried it from her fingers and checked her calls. Sure enough, mine was the last number she’d called less than five minutes ago, I would guess, and yet she now slept like the dead, tracks of tears on her cheeks still visible in the anemic light of her mobile.
With goose bumps rippling over my arms and up my spine I leaned forward and shook her none too gently. “Annie! Annie wake up,” I whispered, “We have to go, now.” But she only moaned, rolled over and pulled the duvet tight around her. For a moment I knelt next to her wondering what the hell to do now. I couldn’t just leave her. I’d come all this way, and she was within my grasp. There didn’t seem to be any threat at the moment. Maybe there were times when He wasn’t paying attention, times when one could sneak in beneath His radar, so to speak, and if this were one of those times, I couldn’t afford not to take advantage.
“Annie!” I shook her again, harder. Still nothing. As an afterthought, I lifted the duvet and looked at her ankles beneath the light of my own mobile. Her feet were bare and dirty, ankles stick thin, but there was no bruising, no swelling, no trauma at all that I could see. I threw off the duvet entirely and saw that she wore a summer dress that fell below her knees. On the floor, she lay sprawled on a wrinkled sheet. Maybe I could drag her. She couldn’t weigh much now, and I was strong and well-muscled. I glanced behind me down the length of the nave. Surely I could make it, and then there was just pavement to the car. I could do it if I had to, and it certainly looked like I would have to.
I was just smoothing the sheet beneath her to ease my efforts when she grabbed my wrist in a vice grip and I yelped, the sound of my voice echoing across the transept. “What the hell are you doing here?” she asked. Her eyes were wide and black in the low light, as though they were empty.
Even in the dim light, I could see the confusion clouding her expressive face. “Why would I do that?” she asked, still clenching my wrist with a hold I was certain would leave bruises. Then her lips curved into a beatific smile and she chuckled softly. “Oh yes, now I remember. He asked me to call you. He said when you got here, I could rest and he would punish you for your interference, and then he promised that when I woke up, when he’d finished with you, everything would be OK again.” Without another word, she released her hold on me, rolled over and was instantly sound asleep. I was left kneeling next to her not knowing whether to try and complete my task or to run like hell. A cool breeze ruffled the plastic sheeting over the altar, catching the frail moonlight like a ghost rising from the grave. The space around me was suddenly awash in the scent of roses, and I realized I was too late to do either.