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Concerto: Part 4

It’s time for the 4th episode of Concerto, my WIP unfolding in serial form right here on my blog. For a burned out writer, a holiday in a remote cottage on the Isle of Sky involves a mysterious man, a little night music and a struggle to discern what’s real and what is just  imagination.

 

Concerto Part 1: A little Night Music

 

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

 

Concerto Part 3: Too Much to Bear Alone

 

 

Concerto: Chapter 4 Writing and Waiting

I scrolled down through the open doc on the computer screen, the one I didn’t remember writing. It was a detailed account of everything that had happened until the point at which I had tripped on the patio of the cottage at the end of the stable yard and, in doing so, disturbed the man at the piano. Suddenly I wanted nothing more than to make sure I documented everything that had happened the past night, or at least as best I could. I doubted I’d ever find words for the experience of sharing the man’s music, what it had done to me, what it had done to both of us. But I had to try. I didn’t want to forget what it had felt like, how it had moved me. So I wrote.

 

As is often the case when I write, the flood gates opened and what poured forth on the page was far more detailed and had much more depth than what I actually had in mind when I sat down to write. I remembered more clearly the way the music rode the waves of the storm, the way it anticipated the rage of the wind and the moments of calm. Somehow what the man had played felt like a way of making sense of everything, of the storm, the sea, of my doubts, my longings, of his need to share what he had created. That need was something I had not really thought of, certainly hadn’t understood until he settled me in my bed. Of course every artist, every writer, wants to share the end result of their efforts, but I had never really considered that just maybe that creation could not be fully experienced by its creator unless it was shared.

 

By the time I finished, the kettle had grown cold, the fire burned low and my body had become stiff from sitting so long. It had been ages since I’d gotten so lost in my work, since my work had felt like anything other than a slog through heavy mud. Rubbing my hands together, I rose and put more wood on the fire. The rain pelted the slate roof, and the wind whistled through the cracks between the windows and their ill-fitting frames. In the kitchen, I clicked on the kettle again and found the Nescafe on the tea tray, not wanting to take time to make proper coffee. While I waited, I chafed my arms and stared out the window. A heavy fog had descended and the cottage at the end of the stable yard was now not visible at all. I fantasized about taking coffee and the coveted packet of shortbread across the cobbles to my neighbor and thanking him for last night, a thing not possible in this weather. When the kettle clicked off, I held my breath and listened, frustrated by the howl of the storm, but even between heavy gusts, I heard no music wafting through the thick air. A glance at the clock on the kitchen wall told me it was just past noon. The growling of my stomach reminded me that I’d had nothing to eat since yesterday evening. I tore into a package of croissants and ate one while I made the coffee. Then I returned to the lounge, determined to let the man rest. I figured he was exhausted.

 

I’d only just settled in to write again, when I noticed what looked like a self-published paperback in pride of place on the coffee table. “Cliff Down Lodge Reclaimed.” I flipped through the pages sipping my coffee and munching on another croissant. The book was mostly photos with captions, before and after shots of how the present owners had found the place and what they had done to make the stable cottages inhabitable. There was a brief history, but not really much more detail than what my landlady had told me on the ride over. What really drew my attention was the last three pages of the book. They were full of images taken from battered daguerreotype photos. Sadly none of them were of the stables. Most were of the lodge itself perched precariously on the cliffs above the sea, with its heart stopping view. I recognized the gatehouse as one of the last piles of rubble we had passed on the rough ride into the cottages. From the look of the photos, there must have been nothing left of the main house.

 

The rest of the images were of the interior, of the entrance hall, the formal dining room, a morning room. But the photo that drew my attention was of the music room. It was not particularly large, wood floors covered in rich carpets, heavy chandelier hanging from the ceiling, walls a mix of dark wood and heavy tapestries. In one corner there was a concert harp. But it was the grand piano at the center of the space that drew my attention. Perhaps it was simply the past night’s adventure that colored my perception, but to me, it was obvious that the piano was by far the most important part of the room. But then if the lord of the manor had daughters, they more than likely would have all played, as would have his wife. Or perhaps I simply watched too many period dramas.

 

I was about to set the book aside and make more coffee when I noticed the images on the last page of the book, all of pen and ink drawings. One of those was done in the music room of a dark haired man at the piano. And though it was difficult to tell from a print of an old drawing, the pianist, who sat poised to play, looked very much like the man in the cottage at the end of the stable yard. I laughed at my active imagination. I could easily see a story coming from this, though a rather predictable one I feared. I put the book down and went to get coffee.

 

As I refilled the kettle, the music began again, and even in the pouring rain, I couldn’t resist its pull. In an instant, I was out the door. In another instant, I was drenched to the skin, a condition I didn’t notice as I strained to hear the music against the wind. I only became aware of my waterlogged state when I slipped inside the French doors without so much as a knock and stood savoring the music as I dripped on the wood floor. My pianist gave only a quirk of what might have been a smile and kept on playing. While he said nothing, somehow I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the music was an invitation especially for me.

 

Matchmaker: FREE read Part 3

Happy Boxing Day to my British friends and family. As promised, here is the final episode of Matchmaker, a little romance of the feathery kind. If you missed the first two episodes, here are the links:

Part One

Part Two

 

Enjoy!

 

Matchmaker Final Episode:

She had left the back door open. How could she have been so careless? No telling what a neurotic African grey might do if left to his own devices. And even though it was warm out in the afternoon sun, the temperature was supposed to drop tonight with even a chance of snow. She had to find the bird now.

She searched the streets in the neighbourhood on foot, the pair of binoculars she’d bought two summers ago for whale watching near Capetown bouncing from side to side around her neck as she walked. She couldn’t lose Ezekiel. Yes, he was all she had left of her friend, but he was more than that. He was a big part of what had drawn her to Ellen in the first place. While it was true, Ellen was the nutty professor who talked to birds, it was Ezekiel who had been even more astounding. Ezekiel was the erudite bird who talked back, who in spite of Ellen’s best intentions, had picked up some rather colorful slang. He was affectionate, he was astute and Mary was convinced he had a wicked sense of humor. And now he was loose on the streets in hostile territory with snow predicted. She had to find him.

She questioned all of her neighbors and called everyone she knew. Unlike the gaudy ring-necked parakeets now populating Kensington Garden and spreading across South England, Ezekiel would not stand out in his dapper grey plumage. At least the ring around his leg would identify him as hers.

The sun was setting as she made a second broader sweep of the area in her car, with still no sign of the bird. He would be roosting soon. She could only hope he found a safe and warm place for the night. Inside the house, she sat on the sofa and stared at the empty cage, eyes blurring at the thought of poor Ezekiel lost and alone in Guildford.

She was thinking of making up “lost” posters when the phone rang.

“Hello?” A velvety male voice filtered into her ear. “Did you by any chance misplace an African grey parrot?”

“Oh, God yes!” She covered her phone and choked back a sob. “Is Ezekiel all right?”
Soft laughter. “Ezekiel, is he? Looks more like Casanova to me.”

“Pardon?”

The laugh again. “He’s flirting shamelessly with Cassandra… Oh, Cassandra’s my African grey.”

Mary’s knees buckled and she dropped heavily onto the sofa. “He’s flirting? Ezekiel is flirting? You have an African grey? Female?”

“That’s why I call her Cassandra. Look, my name’s Don, Don McKenna. Do you have a pen? I’ll give you my address. I’m not sure these two know each other well enough for a sleepover yet.”

Who’d have guessed? Don McKenna lived only a few streets from Mary. Obviously he didn’t frequent the personal ads. He was tall with longish sun bleached hair and a neatly trimmed beard. He wore faded jeans and a navy polo shirt stretched across broad shoulders. His warm smile matched the laugh she’d enjoyed on the telephone. He offered her a firm, slightly calloused handshake.

“Ezekiel and Cassie are in the conservatory.” He motioned her through the small but tidy house and out to the conservatory where the two birds perched next to each other in the flicker fairy lights and evergreen bunting. Ezekiel was preening Cassandra’s neck. It was easy to tell them apart. Ezekiel was a darker shade of grey. When they heard the humans approach, Ezekiel squawked and flew to perch on Mary’s shoulder in a flurry of soft feathers.

“You crazy bird.” She blinked back tears, hoping their host wouldn’t notice how soppy she was. “You didn’t need my help to find a friend, did you?”

He nipped her ear gently then flew back to Cassandra.

Over a cup of mulled wine, she told Don of her ordeal with the no-longer-mourning Ezekiel.

He laughed. “Let me get this right. You placed a personal ad and put up with crazy people and iguanas and pythons just to find a friend for Ezekiel?”

She blushed and nodded.

“Wow! What a matchmaker.”

“What a matchmaker, indeed.”

From the perch he shared with Cassandra, Ezekiel eyed Mary as she sat next to Don on his sofa, the reflection of the
Christmas tree lights now glistening brightly in the darkened windows of the conservatory. She didn’t know whether the bird’s vocabulary included “No need to thank me,” but she was pretty sure that’s what he was thinking.

Don sighed contentedly as the two birds got about a little mutual preening. “This may well be the best Christmas present Cassie’s ever had.” Then he turned his attention back to Mary and raised his wine. “Happy Christmas, Mary.” Then he nodded back to Ezekiel and Cassie. “I have a feeling the New Year’s going to be very exciting.”

 

Matchmaker: FREE Holiday Story Part 2

Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates and to those who don’t Happy Holidays. As promised, here is the next instalment of Matchmaker, a fun little romantic romp of the feathery kind. It’s squeaky clean, which is not what you usually expect from me, but it is romantic to a fault, which you do expect from me.

If you missed the first episode of Matchmaker, just follow the link.

Whatever you celebrate, I wish you all the best. Enjoy.

 

Matchmaker Part 2

“No, I’m sorry. Yes, the parrot has to be a female. No, a female love bird won’t do.” Mary hung up and crossed another name off her list just as the doorbell rang, and her friend Tessa let herself in.

“Any luck?” Tessa set take-away Chinese and a bottle of chardonnay on the table.

Mary shook her head and began helping her friend unpack dinner. “Six males. The only female I could come up with was some kind of rare mutation. If I want to purchase her as a companion for Ezekiel, I’ll have to marry a billionaire fast. They’re so expensive, and not only that, but what if I find a female, mortgage my life and bring her back here, only to find Ezekiel doesn’t like her? Then I’m stuck with two miserable birds.”

“What about the personal ads?” Tessa spoke around a mouthful of spring roll.

“Ezekiel’s a parrot, in case you’ve forgotten.” Mary passed a grape to the unhappy bird, who had just squawked in her ear. He tossed it up into the air, let it drop, then squawked again.

“Not likely to forget that, am I? But what if you put in an ad for yourself, you know, and include Ezekiel in it?”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Why not? It’s easier than marrying a billionaire.” Tessa grabbed a pen and pad from the counter. “I’ll help you. We can put it out in all the local papers. It won’t cost much and it’ll have a wide area of coverage. Then there’s online dating. We could try there, couldn’t we?” Mary could see where this was leading. Tessa was always trying to fix her up, but even she had to admit, the idea was hare-brained enough that it just might work.

After much haggling and several glasses of wine, they came up with the ad:

 

Seeking companion – M/F. Must have female African grey parrot.

 

Tessa sighed. “Well I’m a bloke fan all the way, but I have to admit by making the ad M/F you’ll get twice the possibilities for Ezekiel, and who knows,” her smile turned wicked, “you and Ezekiel may both find a girl friend.”

“This is not about me, Tess. I’d sleep with the devil himself just for a squawk-free night’s rest. And I want Ezekiel to be happy.”

Much to Mary’s surprise, the responses flooded in. Colin from Reading was anxious to meet her and bring along his Sadie. Since she didn’t want to run the risk of nutters coming to her door, she had arranged to meet Colin at Stoke Park for their first interview. After a short wait, a middle aged man in a rumpled suit approached with a large pet carrier and sat down next to her. “Are you Mary?”

“Are you Colin?”

“I am.”

She shook his hand cautiously, eyes darting to the pet carrier. “Please tell me you didn’t bring Sadie in that?”

“Of course. She loves her walkies, don’t you, sweetheart? Who’s a good girl? Who’s daddy’s good girl?” He opened the carrier and pulled out a scary-arsed snake. “I thought someone who’s kinky enough to have a parrot fetish might just like a little variety. My girl is a ball python. She’s not quite full grown yet, are you sweetie?”

Plenty big enough to give her the shivers, Mary thought as Sadie poked her head out of the cage, that seemed to be way too full of snaky coils for Mary’s liking. “Sadie’s very affectionate,” he said, trying to coax her out. But Sadie was having none of it.

“It’s the middle of December. Are you crazy? It can’t be comfortable for her to be out here.”

“Oh she has a nice warm water bottle. Don’t worry.”

Sadie, however, had no intention of being friends with Mary, and no matter how delightful the young python might be, she was no companion for Ezekiel. Mary wished Colin and Sadie a happy Christmas and headed back home.

 

By the end of another sleepless week, Mary had learned more about the drawbacks of using personal ads to find partners for pets than she’d ever hoped to know, but she was still no closer to easing her feathered friend’s loneliness. Between her efforts to decorate her Christmas tree when she didn’t feel festive at all, she carried on a one-sided conversation with Ezekiel, offering peanuts in the shell, which he cracked open, but only let them drop uneaten to the floor. Then, with the same wood crushing beak, he affectionately preened the hair around her ear. What was she going to do? She’d been offered an iguana, a ball python, two boa constrictors, a budgie, a ferret and a cage full of zebra finches. The search through the normal channels had been no more successful.

It was clear Ezekiel was becoming more and more fond of her, and in time, she figured he’d get used to her and go on with his life. If she hadn’t gone to the pet psychologist that might have been enough, but the thought of Ezekiel never being able to speak in his own language and never being able to know the love of a good bird was fast becoming an obsession with her. She would find the parrot a companion if it was the last thing she did.

“Where’s Ellen?”

It was the first thing Ezekiel had said since he’d been with her.

Her throat tightened. “I’m sorry, Ellen’s gone, Sweetie.” She ran her index finger up the parrot’s breastbone, ruffling soft feathers. He arched his neck and gave her a gentle nip.

“I know what — let’s sit in the back garden, and I’ll read to you. It’s nice and warm and you’ll enjoy the sunshine. Later we’ll have a nice fruit salad and some nuts.”

Just as she opened the back door, the front door bell rang. It was Tessa.

“Just returning your Christmas DVDs.” Tessa glanced at her watch. “Love to hear more about Ezekiel’s personal life, but I’m having cocktails with some friends and then we’re off to Marcella’s Christmas party.” She nodded to Mary. “You should join us. Surely you could find someone to stay with Ezekiel for a few hours.”

“Have a good time,” was Mary’s only reply as she waved her friend off. She wasn’t about to leave the poor bird alone.

When she returned to the kitchen, Ezekiel was gone.

Matchmaker Part 3

 

Jackie and the Bling Stock: A Free Fairy Tale

 

 

Tis the season for fairy tales and happy endings, the season for giving and good cheer. I tend to be a grinch where all
the commercialism this time of year is concerned, but I came across a story I’d written long before there was a K D Grace and found myself smiling to think that the power of fairy tales and the power of a good dead done and a kind gentle heart truly is timeless magic.

I wrote the story for fun. It’s not erotic or sexy. In fact it was written in my pre-erotic romance days. It’s light, it’s definitely airy fairy, and it’s just the kind of thing that seemed right for a season of love and good cheer. Enjoy!  And remember, it’s an oldie, written while I was still learning my craft, so consider me kindly as you read it.

 

Jackie and the Bling Stock: A Fairy Tale Revisited

            Once upon a time, a woman called Jackie got tired of having her boss feel her bum, so she slapped him, magically transforming him into her ex-boss.

As Jackie left Prince Charming Jewelry for the last time, an old woman beckoned her to a nearby cart. “You want bling? My bling’s blingier. Cheaper too. Best bling you ever seen.”

The woman was right. Her jewelry was exquisite, unique. Jackie held up a pair of earrings similar to expensive ones in Prince Charming’s, but prettier, and only a few pounds – one last splurge before destitution, she thought, holding out a fiver.

“You work there? The woman pointed to the Jewelry store.

“Not any more. Mr. Prince fired me.”

“Disgusting man,” the old woman spat. “You work hard, he gets the dosh. You were the brains in that shop.”

“How do you know that?” Jackie asked.

“I got eyes. You got money?”

“Two hundred pounds. Why?” It was the money from her final paycheck.

“For that I’ll sell you my cart, complete with its magic bling stock. You could use some magic, no?”

It made no sense. Jackie didn’t believe in magic, and still she bought the cart.

The old woman said, “You treat people good, the cart treats you good. Them’s the rules of the bling stock.” Then she was gone.

Jackie shivered. Had the woman cast a spell on her?

Next morning, dawned cold and rainy. Jackie gave her umbrella and a bracelet to a girl in a tattered jumper. She gave a child some purple beads and an old man some earrings for his ailing wife. All day people came to Jackie’s cart, strangely avoiding Prince Charming’s. Unfortunately her generosity meant her cash box wasn’t overflowing. But when she inventoried her bling in the evening she found it mysteriously replenished. She went to sleep with no dinner and dreamed of ruby slippers and fairy godmothers.

All the following day people queued at Jackie’s cart. If they had no money, she gave them bling anyway. She couldn’t help herself. The harder she tried to be entrepreneurial, the more she gave away. Some magic cart!

“I’m in trouble.” A handsome man in an expensive suit leaned over the cart smiling sheepishly.

“Today’s Mum’s birthday party. I had my eye on a necklace at Prince Charming’s, but traffic was bad. Shop’s closed.”

Jackie showed him a silver locket set with amethysts.

“Exquisite! I’ll take it, with matching earrings.” As he paid, he lifted her hand to his lips. “Rescued by the fair maiden.”

The next day almost every woman in queue wanted a locket and earrings like the man had bought. A lady thrust the newspaper at Jackie. “It’s what Lady Valentine wears. It’s all the rage. A gift from her son Thomas.” the woman swooned. “Most eligible bachelor in London.”

Jackie stared down at the photo of her handsome customer with his smiling mother, resplendent in bling from her cart.

A week later the newspapers announced the engagement of Vanessa Valentine, Thomas’s sister. Everyone speculated on who would design the wedding gown and where the honeymoon would be, but the bride’s jewelry, no doubt, would come from Prince Charming’s.

Jackie was taking a tea break, when the Valentines arrived unexpectedly — mother, sister, and Thomas all smiling at her.

Thomas took her hand. “Mum wanted to see what lovely bling you have.” Jackie blushed. It wasn’t her bling Thomas was looking at.

She offered them tea from her flask and the last of her Jaffa Cakes. As the Valentines oohed and ahhed over Jackie’s jewelry, Mr. Prince trotted across the street in a jealous panic. “I’ve been waiting for you,” he simpered. “Surely you wouldn’t buy cheap trinkets for the wedding.”

“Don’t judge a rock by its price tag.” Thomas said.

“Indeed,” Lady Valentine spoke around a Jaffa Cake.

The man bristled. “Surely, Madam, you wouldn’t buy jewelry from this… chav.”

“It’s your fault, Mr. Prince. If your store kept decent hours for shopping, we’d have never discovered Jackie.”

“I’ll make you a wager, Mr. Prince,” Thomas said. “Choose your best wedding jewelry, and let Jackie choose hers. If Vanessa picks your jewelry, we’ll finance that second shop you want. But if she chooses Jackie’s, then you sign over Prince Charming’s to me.

“Done!” Prince glowered. “Have your lawyers draw up the documents.”

Soon everyone was talking about the big bling-down. And Alvin Prince was determined to win. He already had plans for that second shop. So the night before, very late, when only thieves and cockroaches prowl, he sneaked to Jackie’s cart with matches and the lighter fluid from his bar-B-Q. He’d lose no more customers to this cheeky mare.

Next morning, Jackie found only ashes where her magical cart had been. She fell to her knees and wept. All her work had been for nothing. But where her tears fell something glistened through the soot. With trembling fingers, she uncovered the loveliest necklace she’d ever seen, then earrings, bracelets, brooches. She scooped them up and hurried off to Valentine Hall.

Vanessa was trying on Prince’s extravagant diamonds when Jackie burst into the salon.

Thomas hurried to her side. “Where were you? I was worried.” He escorted her past a nervous Mr. Prince.

Dusting aside the last bits of ash, Jackie offered Vanessa simple pearls and garnets.

She put them on, studying her reflection in the mirror.

No one dared breathe.

Then Vanessa laughed. “Delightful!” she exclaimed.

Her ladies tried them on too.

“I feel as beautiful as a bride myself and as happy,” the maid of honor said.

All the ladies agreed.

A grumbling Alvin Prince signed over his shop to Thomas, who handed the deed to Jackie. “Prince Charming belongs to you now. You’ve earned it.”

All the Valentine’s applauded.

“You’re coming to the wedding, of course,” Vanessa said.

“She has to.” Thomas folded her arm over his. “She’s far too kind to leave the bride’s brother unescorted.”

As for Mr. Prince, well CCTV had captured his whole pyromaniac act for posterity. It gave several of his other female employees the courage to come forward to the police about his abusive behavior, and he was given a nice rent-free room in the local prison.

As for Jackie and Thomas Valentine, well I’m not a gossip columnist, but I will say that Jackie did catch the bouquet.

 

In Pursuit of Mr. Sands Part 2

Mr. Sands’ story, as I suspected, is far from finished. Last week we left Elise North at a Wetherspoon’s  keeping an eye on Daniel Sands as he kept an eye on the woman who had been his inflight meal. Elise North is a PI with something extra, and … you guessed it, she works for Magda Gardener. Can’t tell you how much fun Elise and I are having pursuing Mr. Sands in this unfolding Medusa’s Consortium tale. I hope you’re enjoying our voyeuristic encounters as well.

 

If you missed Part 1, follow the link

 

In pursuit of Mr. Sands Pt. 2

Safely tucked in my booth at Wetherspoon’s, I observed Daniel Sands observing his victim. The word victim didn’t really feel right under the circumstances. The glow in the woman’s face spoke of a well-satisfied lover rather than a victim. And if I wasn’t mistaken, Daniel Sands observed the woman with true affection and more than a little bit of pride. I knew Magda Gardener had at least one vampire on her consortium, and there was a succubus. Both could drain a life away easily and without batting an eye to satisfy their needs, but they didn’t. It was clear that neither did Mr. Sands, though I didn’t know if that were always the case or simply because it was not wise to leave a string of dead bodies on a commercial airliner. As I watched him watching her, I couldn’t help but bask – vicariously of course — in a little bit of their afterglow.

I followed him following her to the car park. Oh they didn’t notice. I have a way of going unnoticed when I want to. It’s one of the skills Magda hired me for. I watched him watching her from beside a black Audi, and I felt the exact moment when he chose to let her see him. She had just settled into her Mini  – an older version — but she didn’t start the engine, as I knew she wouldn’t. Instead she looked around her in nervous anticipation. Oh she wouldn’t have seen him if he hadn’t wanted her to. Being able to hide in plain sight was one of his survival techniques just as it was mine. At the moment when her heart rate had accelerated just so — you know that moment I’m talking about — when the serious gallop of foreplay isn’t enough any longer, when the body demands more. At that moment when her anticipation was palpable and so was his, he took from her once more. Oh it was just one little nibble. I suspected from a distance he could do little more, but that was another question to add to my growing research list. With his taking, he offered her one last little reward before he freed her completely from his thrall. It only took a raise of his hand to rest and a slight flexing of his fingers, and she came. I felt the pulsing of her orgasm deep in my chest. And him, well there was a sense of euphoria that radiated off him like heat waves. If it were even possible the glow of good health and maleness at its prime that he exuded grew even stronger. And then he just stood there watching as she drove away.

I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders and got into the car Magda’s people had provided – an apple red Merc AMG that fit me like a glove. Inside I pulled up Magda’s number on the blue tooth.

“He touched me,” I said when she picked up. “On the plane when he was making his rounds. I had to let him. I had no choice really.”

“And?”

“Why, yes, I’m fine, thanks for asking and no, he didn’t hurt me and he didn’t suspect anything.”

Her silence told me in no uncertain terms she was unimpressed with my sarcasm. “And?” She repeated.

“He’s staying at a flat in Soho. He stays here in London until he’s ready for another night flight, unless he decides to fly home.” I recited the address.

“You found all that out from touching him?”

“No. I found that out by taking a peek at his landing card in the Passport control queue.”

Her chuckle was like fur against bare skin and I couldn’t help but wonder if our fearless leader was perhaps a powerful succubus. I’d heard that she could be very charming, hypnotic, in fact. But mostly I’d heard she was flat out terrifying, and she liked it fine that way. It left no doubt as to who was in control of the Consortium. Other than that I knew little about her. I’d never met her personally. She recruited me through a friend of a friend. In the year I’d worked for her, I’d not spoken to her at all until I was assigned to tail Daniel Sands. Him, for some reason, she took a personal interest in, so I was given a phone with only her number programmed in. It was equipped with several other high tech upgrades that made me feel a bit like 007. I knew it was as much her way of tracking me as it was mine of finding her, but then I did have a subcutaneous chip for that. So, what I could glean from the situation was that Magda Gardener wanted Daniel Sands very badly, that Magda Gardener had very deep pockets – which I already knew, and that I was not nearly as expendable as she might have me believe. Listening to her voice and even knowing what I knew, I still had a hard time imagining that she could be more terrifying than some of the nightmares I’d come up against. The thing is, working for her was interesting, and the pay and the benefits were incredible.

“You’re a resourceful little shadow, aren’t you,” she all but purred in my ear. And I all but preened my response.

“I do my best.” I smiled at my reflection in the mirror above the visor as I refreshed my lippy.

“You’ll be texted the address of your flat in Soho as soon as we secure you one. It’ll be ready when you arrive.”

I was practically drooling at the thought. Magda Gardener had expensive tastes, and she treated her employees as though they did too. Having said that, she would have no qualms about making me stay in a crack house if that’s what it took to secure what she wanted, and I’d certainly stayed in worse.

I’d barely made it to the motorway before I got the text with the address of my temporary digs. I was impressed. Clearly I wasn’t the only savvy person who worked for Magda Gardener. The place was right across the street from Mr. Sands’ flat with a perfect view of his big bay window and the entrance to the building. I arrived to find the fridge was fully stocked and the closet full of clothes. We’re talking high-end designer stuff that I knew would fit me like a dream. Most of the time I’m called upon to travel at the drop of a hat. There’s seldom time to pack. I receive a passport, credit cards and cash – whatever I’ll need for my cover. Can’t count the number of gorgeous outfits and expensive jewelry I’ve had to leave behind because of time restraints and other … more pressing issues. The necessary accouterments are usually waiting for me when I arrive. As I said, Magda Gardener has expensive tastes. The place was also equipped with state of the art surveillance equipment. The bugs, I would have to find a way to get into his flat myself. But I was confident I could do that with no problems. I made a quick sandwich, drank a gallon of water and, after a quick shower, I went to work.

Pretending to be doing a customer relations survey for the airline, I telephoned the woman who had been Mr. Sands’ inflight meal. Sarah Martin was her name, and she managed a bookstore in Brixton. She had scrimped and saved for her holiday in the Big Apple, had gone with empty suite cases and came back with them crammed with bargains. Being upgraded to first class for the trip home was the cherry on the fabulous holiday cake for her. Sadly, all she remembered about her first class flight was that the food was fab and she’d slept right through most of it. Oh, and the flight attendants had been particularly helpful. Perhaps that one final orgasm had also wiped her memory of events Mr. Sands would prefer she not share with nosy people like me and Magda Gardener. None of the flight attendants who knew about Mr. Sands could be reached for comment. I was informed they’d all made quick turnarounds on other international flights, which I found rather strange since after an international flight, one would have expected at least an overnight layover to rest.

All this I did by phone, along with loads of online research of incubi in general and what information I could find, scant little that it was, on Sands specifically. We suspected he lived somewhere in the Hebrides. But no one knew exactly where, and in truth he was nearly as much of a highclass vagabond as I was. Most of the research was connected to resources Magda had given me when she gave me the assignment. I had lots of time for research and phone calls because for two days and nights Mr. Sands didn’t leave his flat. I know because I could see him moving about inside. He wasn’t secretive about his presence. He never drew the curtains, even when he was fresh from the shower or undressing for bed. Perhaps it was a part of his thrall to hide in plain sight and yet be so irresistibly visible that he was like a peacock fanning his tail and advertising for a mate. At any rate, he had my full attention.

It was the second morning that I began to suspect he knew he was being watched, that he even relished the idea. Of course he would, wouldn’t he? But I never thought for a moment that I was in danger. He was, after all, just an incubus. I’d dealt with worse.

He slipped from the bathroom in a wave of steam with nothing but a towel tucked low around his hips. I nearly spilled tea down my shirt at the exquisite view he afforded me. I watched with heart racing as he disappeared momentarily and returned with a cup of coffee and a copy of The Guardian. Okay, I’ll admit it delighted me more than it probably should have, since this was my job. But he parked himself in the wing backed chairs smack dab in front of the big bay window and, as he sipped and perused the paper, folded for an easy one-handed read, his other hand strayed to his lap. As though he were barely mindful of the act, he opened the towel and cupped himself absently. Any man might sit in the privacy of his living room on a Sunday morning and, without giving it a second thought, reach for a fondle and a caress and perhaps a little scratch of his junk. I would do the same if I were a man, if I had such an interesting, intriguing appendage there between my legs always vying for my attention. But that Mr. Sands was indulging in such an ordinary act of maleness was what made it so extraordinary. I don’t know why I expected him not to indulge in what was such a quintessentially male act, but by the time he laid the paper aside, leaned back into the chair and opened his legs for a good grope, I couldn’t have looked away if I wanted to.

He couldn’t see me. I was sure of it, and it was my job to spy on him. Still there was something so naughty about me watching while he stroked and caressed his lengthening cock, that it was all I could do not to feel guilty. And perhaps the guilt, the little niggle of shame put the edge in my own growing arousal as I adjusted to hold the binoculars in one hand and slip the other inside my panties.

His fingers were long and slender as they curled around his heft and moved up and down the length of him. His efforts became ambidextrous as he palmed and cupped his sac while fisting and stroking his erection. The shifting of his hips, the tensing of the muscles in his thighs and his flat, tight belly, the way his toes curled into the soft carpet — together they were all such human acts that it was easy to forget they were being performed by someone who was not human. With a start I realized I was mirroring his efforts, toes curling, hips thrusting, fingers darting in and out of slick depths and over rising hardness. I could hardly believe what I was seeing, nor what I was doing, and it was only as my shuddering release shook the binoculars fracturing the arching spasms of his own release, unashamedly poured out onto the floor in front of him that I raised the lenses just enough to take in his face. I expected to see a man lost in his own pleasure, not a man whose cold eyes were locked on me. I swallowed a yelp of surprise, as though he might somehow hear me and the last thing I saw before I dropped the binoculars on the floor and fled my vantage point was his mouth quirking in a wicked smile.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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