I first shared my little encounter with Alonso Darlington when the novella, Landscapes was published as a part of the wonderful m/m Brit Boys: On Boys boxed set. For those of you who’ve read my online serial, In The Flesh, Alonso is a familiar character, but his story starts long before In The Flesh. Though Landscapes is his first public appearance and, one — as you’ll see from the tale I’m about to share with you again, he isn’t overly happy about, his story is a part of a much larger story told in The Medusa Consortium novels. (You’ll be hearing more about those soon.) I felt with the release of Landscapes as a stand-alone novella coming up very shortly, this little encounter might serve as a warning to all of you who choose to delve into the private life of a vampire. I’ll be risking Alonso’s displeasure again by sharing the tale over the next three weeks until the release of Landscapes, the novella, on May 24.
Read and be warned.
An Unexpected Encounter with Alonso Darlington: 1st Entry
I’ve debated long and hard about posting the details of my encounter with Alonso Darlington. But ultimately the need to share, the need to bring details of this encounter to light, has overcame my fear that readers might think I’m a nutcase and the even bigger fear of what Alonso’s response to my sharing might be.
When I wrote the strange erotic tale of Alonso Darlington and Reese Chambers as a story to be published in the Brit Boys: On Boys Book Bundle, and now to be published as the stand-alone novella, Landscapes, I had no idea what a rabbit hole it would send me down. It was just an interesting sexy story, made more so by its location in the English Lakes and the fact that Alonso Darlington is a vampire.
This being the case, Imagine my surprise when I received an invitation from High View Manor to meet Alonso Darlington in person. I thought I had perhaps spent too much time in my own imagination. I even considered seeing my doctor. But when the first class plane ticket arrived to Manchester, I went. I maybe shouldn’t have, but since I had written Alonso’s story, it seemed that I should meet the man in person. Looking back on the situation now, I wonder if he, or maybe his succubus friend, Talia, somehow compelled me, if you know what I mean.
I arrived in Manchester with the sun setting in the West. The rabbit hole feel of my first encounter with the man became even more vivid when I was picked up at the airport in a black Land Rover with darkly tinted windows kitted out to compete with any limo I’d ever seen. The driver handed me a heavy winter parka and helped me into the back seat, where I found a basket containing freshly baked bread, cheese, meat, fruit, wine and bottled water. I drank the water, but was way too nervous to eat anything, and I certainly wasn’t going to meet Alonso Darlington tipsy from alcohol.
I couldn’t help but feel intimations of Anne Rice as the woman I know only as Talia led me through the renovated areas of High View manor house and out into the Cumbrian chill, down to the night garden Reese Chambers has been landscaping for Darlington. I knew better than to offer Talia a handshake. The woman’s a succubus and she’s a close friend to Darlington – his familiar, I believe is the term. I don’t’ know much about her, and frankly I was nervous enough without losing my wit or my virtue to a sexy succubus. Even her gaze felt way too intimate. The sooner I could get away from her, the better.
She led me as far as the stone steps descending into the garden, then nodded to where Alonso Darlington sat on the slate bench with his back to me. She offered me a smile that looked like she might be as likely to consider me dinner as Alonso, then she left. For a second I stood taking in the sky awash with stars and the dark outlines of the fells all around, giving myself a chance to stop trembling. It didn’t help. It was a rare, clear night, and there was no wind, for which I was thankful because it was still damn cold that high in the Cumbrian fells. I was extremely glad for the coat the driver had given me and a bit amazed that it fit so well. I have broad shoulders, and getting a winter coat to fit is always an ordeal. With the heavy North Face jacket pulled tightly around me, I took a deep breath and descended the steps, just as Darlington stood and turned to greet me.
How can I explain the first time I saw him face to face? How is it possible that I wanted to freeze to the spot like the stone statuary around me, while at the same time, I wanted to rush down the steps, allow him to embrace me, and offer him my neck. How could anyone ever look at the man and think him ordinary? How could Reese Chambers have possibly resisted Alonso Darlington? I don’t remember the rest of the descent into the garden. The next thing I remembered was Darlington extending his hand to me.
‘Ms Grace, it’s a pleasure. Welcome to High View.’ His hand was large, and I took it without question, feeling a little shiver at the unexpected warmth of his skin, wondering if he had fed recently, if that was the cause for the warmth that shouldn’t be there in the Cumbrian chill. That should have been a relief, but instead it served as a reminder that I was in the presence of an alpha predator, and while he loved Reese and Talia was his occasional lover, I might very well be nothing more than the midnight snack.
Of course he sensed my nerves. I mean really, I couldn’t hide them no matter how badly I wanted to. He leaned close to me and smiled wickedly. ‘Don’t worry. I won’t bite, unless of course you want me too.’
God, it’s embarrassing to say, but I might have given just the slightest bit of a yelp as I pulled my hand away, a bit quicker than I intended. Not a wise thing to do with a predator, I knew. But then I wasn’t at my best at that moment.
‘Thank you,’ I croaked. ‘I’ll keep that in mind.’ Then I blurted out. ‘Why did you invite me, Mr. Darlington? I know you don’t take many visitors, especially not … like me.’
His laughter ran up my spine like the feel of soft fur on bare flesh. He nodded me to sit, then sat down next to me on the bench. ‘Like you, Ms Grace? You mean a writer of erotic fiction? A blogger? A dreamer? A woman who lives most of her life in her head making up stories?’ He laughed again, and I shivered, but not from cold. ‘A woman who has a very … imaginative fantasy life?’
Before I could respond, he moved closer to me so quickly and with so little effort that, though I knew he’d done it, I didn’t know how. I only knew that it was definitely not a movement an ordinary person might make. Strangely, I was torn between scooting away or scooting closer. ‘May I call you K D?’ he asked. ‘Certainly I would expect to be on a first name basis with anyone who knows me as well as you think you do.’ It was a damn good thing I was sitting because I was certain my knees wouldn’t have supported me if I weren’t. He continued. ‘I would say you’re probably even more of a recluse than I am, and I do apologise for the inconvenience of my invitation. I hope that the journey wasn’t too loathsome for you.’ He bowed his head to me slightly and I had the surprising urge to reach out and run my fingers over his silky dark hair. The predator image flooded my mind again and I did scoot back, just a little, and my heart sped up more than a little. Alonso’s knowing smile reminded me that he could hear the heart beating in my chest, he could sense the movement of my blood in my veins. I shiver thinking of everything about me that he might be able to sense, and then I forced my attention back to what he was saying. ‘Really, K D, why shouldn’t I be anxious to see you?’ His eyes were suddenly obsidian bright, and colder than the night air around us. ‘After all, you’ve already told everyone who I am. What I am.’
‘Landscapes is a fictional story,’ I managed, unable to keep the trembling of my body from manifesting in my voice. ‘Mr Darlington, I –’
‘Alonso,’ he corrected me with a smile that was so friendly and inviting that I might have thought him just being hospitable if the circumstances had been different. ‘It’s Alonso. After all, we keep no secrets here, Do we, K D?’
‘I didn’t know you were real,’ I continued as quickly as I could, afraid I’d lose my courage, afraid I might actually do something stupid like try to run. ‘Believe me, everything I wrote, everything I published, it came from my head, from my imagination, from nowhere else. I would never –’
He leaned forward and shoved the hair away from my neck so quickly that I had no time to do more than gasp. My heart was beating way too fast and I could smell the terror rising in a cold damp sweat against my skin. He was going to take me. Right then and there, and no one would know the difference. My husband had been away in South Africa when Alonso’s invitation had come, and though I had emailed him, he had no more idea than I’d had as to where High View actually was, and he wasn’t due home for another ten days. I had told no one else because who the hell would believe me?
‘You wrote the story, K D,’ he whispered against my ear. ‘Surely you know I have ways of putting ideas in your head, thoughts,’ his mouth brushed my earlobe and gooseflesh rose along my nape, ‘fantasies.’
By that point in our encounter, things had become a bit vague. To my embarrassment, I confess it could have been fear. ‘Talia?’ I managed in a voice that sounded like it belonged to a frightened child. ‘Did you send her to me?’ I could feel panic rising. Surely not. Surely if he had, I would have remembered something.
He only chuckled softly, and stroked the tender spot behind my ear with the thick of his thumb. ‘Now why would I have done that, K D?’ I felt his warm lips against my throat, and I’m embarrassed to say that there was suddenly another feeling coexisting with the terror and the panic. ‘I’m not going to hurt you. But we do need to talk. We do need to come to an understanding, and I will keep you here until we do.’ And Christ! He actually ran his tongue up along that hammering pulse point where the blood runs so close to the surface, and I remember looking up and thinking I’d never seen such a beautiful sky.