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Posts Tagged ‘Medusa’s Consortium’

Going Underground: Creeping Ourselves Out for Fun and Fiction

 

What is it about tunnels and caves and mines that fascinates us so much? I for one, have loved going through tunnels
and into caves since I was a little girl. And yet the thought of caving, going into tight, dark places terrifies me. I can’t even sleep in a totally dark room. I have to have enough light so that I know I’m not trapped in a tight space. Abandoned tunnels and scary dark spaces are a recurring theme in my writing. Perhaps it is because I can put my characters into the places that terrify me and enjoy that frisson of fear without actually putting myself at risk. One of the best things about reading fiction, after all, is that ability it gives us to live vicariously.

 

I’ve been in caves and mines in Colorado, Japan, Poland, the Lake District. I’ve even been in a few that I probably shouldn’t have been in, and that little touch of fear that raises my pulse rate and makes my stomach flutter is always there. Then there was the time I was stranded on a train in the Eurostar tunnel beneath the English Channel … but you already know that tale and what it inspired.  While I may keep myself out of places that are too scary, my characters, well, I give them the full down deep and dark scare-the-bajezus-out-of-me treatment because they can handle it.

 

 

If you’ve been enjoying the Medusa’s Consortium stories, then you know that there are crypts in deconsecrated chapels, there are slate quarries and hidden tunnels. Vampires gotta have ‘em, after all. And what demon doesn’t love crypts and scary-assed abandoned churches?

 

Morlocks, Mole people, monsters – underground is the place for more than a few of our nightmares. If it’s dark and
deserted and underground, it’s a fiction writer’s wet dream. Remember the Horta from The Devil in the Dark episode of the original Star Trek series. If you’re too young to remember, check it out. While the effects may seem hokey in the age of green screens and CGI, and the plot a little corny – scary shit when I was a little girl, and definitely some serious psychological parallels in the telling. My favorite scary abandoned underground place has to be The Mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings. Two thumbs up for scary! But you get the idea. Digging too deep — DO NOT DO IT!

 

 

Fun Fact: Did you know Fleetwith Pike in the Lake District is actually a hollow mountain. It’s true. The inside is riddled
with slate mines from the extraction of the gorgeous green Honister slate. The whole Fleetwith and Honister Pass area figures prominently in my Lakeland Witches series because of those mines and quarries and the tales attached to them. I have done a bit of exploring there myself and hope to do more.

 

 

How many horror movies have subway tunnels in them? And abandon New York City tunnels and stations are a favorite. They figure prominently into Blind-Sided. Fun fact: Did you know the oldest subway tunnel in NYC is the Cobble Hill tunnel, which runs nearly the entire length of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue? It was built in 1844, but abandoned in 1861 – mostly due to some corrupt politics. Can you imagine such a thing?

 

 

Buried Pleasures, book three of Medusa’s Consortium, was inspired by the storm tunnels under Las Vegas, which have become the default shelter for Sin City’s homeless, along with the hang-out for a good bit of the scorpion population. Oh, and of course it’s been the hide-out for a dangerous criminal or two.

 

The storm tunnels in Vegas were constructed as flood control in the seventies. Vegas is built on bedrock in the center of a huge basin surrounded by mountains. A flash flood would funnel all of that water right into the Strip, the financial heart of the city. The original plan was for a thousand miles of tunnels beneath the city all draining into Lake Mead thirty miles away. The project was never finished, but there are roughly six hundred miles of channels and tunnels in the Las Vegas Valley, with several of the tunnels running right beneath the strip. While an estimated three to four hundred people live in these tunnels, they were built for flood prevention. In heavy rains the tunnels can fill up at a foot per minute with currents of up to twenty-five to thirty miles per hour. Home can be washed away in a matter of minutes.

 

These are just a few of the really fascinating underground places that have inspired me. But why they fascinate us is at least as fascinating as the places themselves. I’ll talk about that in Part II of Going Underground.

 

 

Medusa in Your Head

There are lots of reasons why Medusa is the most interesting character in mythology to me, and why she inspired my
Medusa’s Consortium series. One of the biggies for me is that Medusa gets in your head in ways no one else can.

 

For Freud, she represented the male fear of castration. You’d expect that from Freud though, wouldn’t you? According to Freud, this fear is associated with that first view of mature female genitals — back in the day when muffs really were muffs – thus the association with snakes in the hair. The turning to stone is the resulting erection. Apparently there’s no evidence in the literature surrounding Medusa that she ever turned a woman to stone.

 

Medusa is also a classic example of god-bashing or in this case goddess-bashing. A conquering people often debased the gods of the conquered lands, the assumption being that they were able to conquer because ‘our-god’s-stronger-than-your-god.’ Greek mythology often shows this through the rape or seduction of someone by one of Greek pantheon – most often Zeus. Those being raped or seduced are usually local goddesses. Poor Medusa, however, gets a double whammy. She is raped by Poseidon in the temple of Athena, where she should have been under the protection of the goddess. Then, in the classic example of victim blaming, Athena curses her for debasing her temple – thus the snakes in the hair and the face that turns anyone who looks at her to stone.

 

From a feminist point of view, Medusa represents female rage. I suppose that’s as much why I chose to tell her story my way as anything. Strangely enough, I didn’t know about the feminist viewpoint when Medusa’s Consortium was conceived. I only knew that her story made me rage, that I wanted revenge for Medusa. That being the case, like everything a writer puts to pen, the story of Medusa’s anger has to be, on some level, the story of my own anger. The way Magda Gardener works through it as a modern anti-hero in my novels is, no doubt, on some level my way of working through my own issues. That, I guess, is far more Jungian than Freudian.

 

But then not everything is about penis envy. At least, for me, and from the point of view of Magda Gardener/ Medusa, it’s not the penis that is envied so much as the power it represents. It is the desire for the power and the freedom to control one’s own destiny. It’s the lack of that control that causes the rage. Magda Gardener and her consortium give me a wonderful way to retell her story in a modern setting, in a place where her revenge is ongoing, as is her redemption. And Magda Gardener’s redemption, her need for family and connection is every bit as important as her need for revenge. Here’s a little excerpt from Blind-Sided, in which Paul Danson, a New York City police detective in way over his head, meets Magda Gardener for the first time. Enjoy.

 

Blind-Sided Blurb:

 

In New York City away from those she loves, living with the enigmatic vampire, Desiree Fielding, Susan Innes struggles to come to terms with life as a vampire whose body serves as the prison for a powerful demon. When Reese Chambers arrives unexpectedly from England, desperate for her help, she discovers that Alonso Darlington, his lover and her maker, has been taken captive and Reese has been warned to tell no one but her. Before the two can make a plan, Susan receives her own message from a man calling himself just Cyrus. He not only holds her maker prisoner, but also her lover, the angel Michael, and if she wishes to see either of them alive, she’ll come to him and not tell Magda Gardener, the woman they all work for and fear. With no help coming from Magda or her Consortium, Susan and Reese must turn to the Guardian – the terrifying demon now imprisoned in her body. He alone can help them, but how can she possibly trust him after all he’s done?

 

 

We Meet At Last — Excerpt:

 

When he saw Magda Gardener for the first time, Paul was on his way back to his desk, updating Margaret on the phone. … At the sight of her, everything around him faded to background noise and he had a rabbit in the headlights moment. The only thing he wanted more than to run away before he caught her attention was to be the center of her attention. For a moment he stood unmoving, seriously fearing that he’d forgotten how to breathe. She wore faded jeans over legs that went on for miles all the way down to the black leather ankle boots that were totally soundless as she moved across the ageing tile floor with a dancer’s ease. Even in the baggy white cable knit sweater it was not difficult to tell that there were dangerous curves beneath. She had a yard of fiery golden ringlets just like in those Pre-Raphaelite paintings his mother used to love. My God, they looked almost like they lived and breathed and moved around her shoulders in adoration of the woman they belonged to, and yet, they were simply and carelessly tied back in a black ribbon. He couldn’t imagine what the eyes of a woman with such porcelain skin and such breathtaking hair must look like, and he had to imagine, because she hid them behind a pair of tortoise shell sunglasses. He didn’t know how long he’d stood there looking at her with Margaret all but shouting in his ear, asking if he was all right. It was only when she came to him, offered a smile and extended a hand that he remembered himself.

“Margaret, I’ll call you back,” he said and disconnected nearly dropping his phone as the woman’s warm fingers closed around his. For a second, he felt the room tilt and go slightly out of focus, and then her voice pulled him back.

“Detective Danson. My name is Magda Gardener. I need to talk to you about some missing persons.” She glanced around the room. “Preferably in private.”

“Of course,” he managed, nodding down the hall toward one of the empty interrogation rooms, very aware that all eyes were on them. He mumbled something about getting her a coffee or a Coke. She thanked him but declined.

“Please leave the door open,” she said when he made to pull it shut behind them. A slight flush of pink tinged her cheeks. “Afraid I’m a bit phobic where closed doors are concerned.”

He did as she asked, then pulled the chair usually reserved for suspects around to his side of the table and she settled into it, not waiting for him to ask how he could help her. “I’ve spoken to Vince Layton, and I know that the man calling himself Cyrus Rivers, has my people.”

After a couple of fish gasps, Paul responded. “You talked to Layton?”

“I did, yes. He was happy to talk to someone else who believed him, and he told me that you were the person I needed to see. Of course Desiree Fielding told me the same, but not very willingly, I’m afraid.” She offered him a warm smile that had his heart racing. “The woman means well, but she’s sometimes way too secretive. I, on the other hand, am not, Detective. I want my people back, and I want this Cyrus and the monster who pulls his chains … neutralized.”

“Neutralized.” Paul suddenly felt light-headed, like maybe he’d helped Layton finish off the bottle of Jack. “Look, Ms. Gardener, the two of us are on the same page here, and I assume you’re talking about Darlington and Weller.”

“And Susan Innes. He also has her now, though I’m sure Desiree didn’t tell you that.”

“Jesus,” he whispered, fighting the urge to hang on to the edge of the chair, which felt strangely unstable at the moment. “No she didn’t. Why not, is what I want to know?”

“Because you’ve been accusing her and Reese and Susan of … well of all sorts of things, and if you’ve talked to Layton and gotten the same responses I have then I’m sure you must understand that the three of them would like to keep the situation secret, and frankly the lives of Alonso and Michael may well have depended on it in the beginning, though now circumstances have changed.”

“And how exactly have they changed, Ms. Gardener?”

Her glasses slipped just the tiniest bit and his whole body erupted in goose flesh. He found that he desperately wanted to look away and yet at the same time, he never wanted to look away from her again. “Cyrus and his boss have my people, and they’re counting on me coming for them.” She pushed the glasses back up the bridge of her nose.

He swallowed hard with a throat that felt like it was full of sawdust. “What, you mean like an exchange – you for them?”

“More like I’m the cherry on the cake,” she said with a quirk of a smile.

He ran a hand over his stubble and puffed out a sharp breath. “So what exactly do you want from me, Ms. Gardener – a stake-out? Because if that’s the case, then you’re going to have to tell me exactly what the hell is going on before I put you, or my men, at risk.”

“Actually,” she stood and moved to pace the room, “I want to know what you know, Detective, and if you tell me what you know, I’ll tell you what you don’t know.” He was about to say that it didn’t work that way, when she continued. “For instance, I know that you and the lovely Dr. Margaret – she is delightful by the way – are battling with the fact that there just might be vampires in the world. I’ll make it easier for you. There are, lots of them, and yes both Desiree and Susan are vampires and Reese is the lover of one – Alonso Darlington. Though I reckon you’ve probably already figured that out – I mean about the two being lovers, since you’ve been in touch with the Cumbrian authorities.”

Paul heard everything after there are vampires in the world through a loud ringing in his ears, and the woman pacing back and forth in front of him seemed suddenly out of focus. She turned and settled herself on the edge of the desk looking down at him. “If you struggle with the existence of vampires, Detective, then the rest of the story is going to be a very hard pill for you to swallow.” The smile she offered him was empathetic and, to his surprise, she reached out and took his hand. “Detective you already know the monsters are real. You encounter them every day. While Desiree was shocked that she couldn’t glamour you, she shouldn’t have been. You have the capacity to understand the darkness better than most, Paul. I know this about you. I’ve done my research. You have the capacity to look for answers that others doubt, that others don’t believe possible. That being the case, why wouldn’t you be able to figure out for yourself that there are vampires and things much, much worse in the world? She gave his hand a squeeze and settled back on the desk. Her hair swayed as though it were suddenly caught in a breeze, “much worse.” Her voice was little more than a whisper and the look on her face was one of deep sadness. Paul just sat there. How could he respond to that? How could he respond to any of it?

“What do you want from me?” He managed at last, realizing that it was the question she should be asking him.

“I want you to help me find where Cyrus is keeping my people. I want you to take me to this place where you found Mr. Layton. I may be able to pick up something from it that you missed.” When he made no answer, she raised a golden eyebrow. “Detective?”

“She really did pull that man’s head off? Susan Innes did?”

“She did, yes, and that man was no man.”

“And she …”

“She healed Reese Chambers with her own blood, yes.”

“Jesus.” About now he was seriously wishing for his own bottle of Jack. “I can’t … How can I bring in the department on this? How can I get anyone to take me seriously about what you just told me – they already think I was drunk on my ass that night and that I went home with some bimbo.”

“It’s simple, Paul, you can’t bring them in.” She waved a hand dismissively, “Believe me it’s better that way. I have my own people and they’re prepared to deal with this sort of thing.”

“This sort of thing?” he snorted. “It happens often, does it?”

“More often that you would imagine. I clued you in because you basically already know, and because you can help. But you have to believe me when I tell you that stepping in yourself or bringing anyone else in will just get someone killed. I don’t want anyone killed, and I don’t want anything making us monsters look like the bad guys.”

“Us monsters?” he managed.

She gave him a bored look. “You knew that the moment you saw me, didn’t you?” She heaved a deep sigh and
shrugged her sweater down over her hips, “Look Paul, I can take from you what I need, and unlike Desiree, you won’t be able to stop me. I’m the one Cyrus and his people want for reasons that don’t concern you, reasons you and your whole department are far better off not knowing. What does concern you is that I can help you understand what’s going on and help you end it. What does concern you is that you’ll know the truth and if I believe you can live with it, which I do, then I won’t take it away from you when everyone is safe, and warm and happy at home again.” She gave him a look that felt like a warm buzz across his body and then she added. “There aren’t many people who really want the truth, Paul, but you do, and I believe you’re capable of handling it. What I want is your help to find the place where Cyrus is holding my people. The rest I can handle, and trust me, when I say, its better that way.”

 

Canal Walk Corrections

Sometimes my characters just aren’t satisfied with the plots I’ve sorted out for them. The worst is when they’re grumping about the endings I’ve given them. This is what has happened with Blind-Sided. No one was happy about the ice cream sundae of an ending I gave them. I certainly thought they would be. Who doesn’t like a happy ending all tied up with a bow and a cherry on top? Well apparently this lot isn’t too keen on neat and tidy endings. “I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do any of that,” Susan said, as she stole a glance over my shoulder last night just before I down tools for bed. Honestly, I didn’t even know she was looking. “I’m dying of a sugar overdose,” she added, wrinkling her nose.

 

 

And out of the corner of my eye, I could just make out Desiree sticking her finger down her throat in a fake gag while Reese sniggered into his pint. Michael and Alonso just sat on the sofa shaking their heads. Gawd, this lot has no appreciation for what I go through for them. SO, in desperation, this morning I pulled out all the stops and went for a walk along the canal.

 

 

 

It was only supposed to be a shortie, just to get my head on straight, and then back to the shops to pick up some fruit and some greens before I got back to work. But Desiree assured me that with an ending like I had in mind, I’d better just plan on walking all the way to London because no one was giving me any peace until it was sorted. And here’s me thinking I’d be home in time for morning coffee break.

 

 

But then Susan joined me just as I hit the canal path and, you know how it goes when two writers get chatting — one scribe to another. Anyway didn’t she start telling me exactly how it was going to be? Now I would be the last person on the planet to argue with a proper Scribe who can wield the magic of the written word like she can. So I listened very carefully.

 

 

And just when she was sorting me out with a proper upsetting of the apple cart sort of ending, I saw the poppies and stopped to take a few quick piccies. By that time both the Guardian and Cave were whispering in my ear. Well, the Guardian was actually sort of creeping me out with some kind of prickly crawly sensation up my spine. And Cave — he texted me, since morning sunlight doesn’t do him any good. You haven’t met Derick Cave yet, but trust me, you’ll like him when you do. He’s the king of the abandon subway tunnels, and he’s not a man I want to argue with.

 

 

By the time I got side tracked by two mute swans busily feeding on the water plants, Michael, and Alonso and Reese had weighed in along with Desiree Fielding, who was complaining about Magda infringing on her territory. The texts were flying, since sunlight isn’t a big favorite with some of Magda’s peeps.

 

 

It’s a hot day here in Surrey. It was well past coffee break and my stomach was grumbling for lunch. The water in my bottle, what little was left, had gone warm as dish water. I reluctantly turned back toward home, but not before I got this shot of some canal boats. That was about the time the lady herself showed up, right at home in the sunshine, all tucked away safely behind her prescription sunglasses, even if she did make a couple of dogs along the route bristle.

 

 

Magda Gardener didn’t miss her opportunity to let me know what she thought, about my birthday cake ending, taking time out to very sweetly flipped Desiree off when she tried to force the issue with a little conference call. By the time I got to the end of the canal path, there was a limo waiting to whisk Magda away to Heathrow. She’s off to Vegas to wrap up some unfinished business with our siren, Samantha Black. Oh yes, you’ll get to know her very well in Buried Pleasures, book three of Medusa’s Consortium.

 

 

You see, part of this writer’s struggle is that while Susan, Desiree and Reese are battling it out with Cyrus and some baddies from Magda’s past, Magda is busy in Vegas helping none other than Death himself rescue a siren so she can save the day. That means I’ve been writing Buried Pleasures and Blind-Sided at the same time. SO once Bind-Sided is out, you won’t have to wait long for Buried Pleasures. If you’ve not read book one in the Medusa Consortium Series, here’s a link to In The Flesh.

 

 

 

Before she hopped in the limo, though, Magda told me a few things that she reckons the gang may not be too happy about. Seems what happened with Cyrus and the one he works for is a real game changer. But I’ve got the skinny on a few things that Magda doesn’t know. Unbeknownst to her, our little scribe, Susan, has penned an “unauthorized” story involving Magda and a certain detective you’ll meet in Blind-Sided. But I think there’ll have to be a lot more long walks before either of these two tight-lipped women divulges all the details to this writer.

 

 

Demon Love — Minus the Selfie

I’m talking demon lovers today. Sorry no selfies of me with a demon. All my demon friends are pretty camera shy. I met a woman once who really believed that god was her lover. I spent an afternoon with her while she filled me in on the details. God’s my lover … What does one say to that? The experience stuck with me and kept coming back to me. I often find myself wishing I’d asked more questions, wishing I’d listened more carefully. But of course the whole experience made me nervous. Still, how could the story possibilities now intrigue me? It was from that kernel that In The Flesh was born, teased out from the big question: What if it was true?

There’s certainly lots of evidence in mythology for seduction of mortals by gods and demons — even in the Bible. But what it it were true, here and now? What would that relationship look like, and what happens if that immortal invisible lover has a wandering eye.

 

 

 

In The Flesh Blurb:

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.

 

 

Researching God’s Lovers Excerpt:

 

By the time I finished my breakfast and was ready to go, Annie was already fast asleep, curled in her nest at the foot of
the altar. Outside, the smell of burning rubbish stung my eyes and the back of my throat.

I had little enthusiasm for the handbag sale, nor for lingering at the make-up counter. Instead I found myself in a coffee shop, laptop open researching God’s love life, which turned out to be a long history of seducing humans.

Zeus visited Danae in a shower of gold. He seduced Leda in the form of a swan. Eros came to Psyche in the dead of night forbidding her to look upon his face. Hades dragged Persephone down to the Underworld. The Virgin Mary was impregnated by the god of the Bible. In the New Testament, Christ is the bridegroom, and the church his bride. And the list went on and on. Perhaps even the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was just another way for divinity to experience flesh.

I had always loved mythology, and I’d read all these stories before. I’d just never put them together to get the whole picture. And though I was seeing an aspect of divinity that I found rather disturbing, I couldn’t help feeling there was still a piece of the puzzle missing.

I suppose I should have felt relieved. Annie wasn’t as unusual as I’d thought. God was the ultimate stalker, and he didn’t seem to be very faithful to his lovers. Just Annie’s type. I tried not to think about the implications of my experience in the bath last night. After all, it was just mythology, and I’d had a lot of wine. And there’s never any accounting for my vivid imagination. After all, I was a writer. I made my living as a teller of tales.

“What are you reading?”

I jumped at the sound of Annie’s voice and quickly minimized the page. “Didn’t expect to see you here.”

“I’m feeling better.”

“How did you know where to find me?”

She leaned down and whispered next to my ear. “My lover’s God, remember? You can’t hide from him.” I barely had time to register shock before she reached down and restored the page.

“Trying to learn a little bit more about him, are we?”  She smiled at the monitor and nodded knowingly. “None of this does him justice. He’s the Hound of Heaven. He’s always pursuing those he loves, and there’s no escaping. Once he’s set his eyes on you, he’ll do whatever it takes to make you his own.”

I suddenly felt cold.

 

 

 

Buy In the Flesh:

eBook:
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Amazon US
Amazon AU
Amazon CA
Amazon DE

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iBooks UK

iBooks US
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Print:
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Amazon US
Amazon CA
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The Book Depository

 

 

“No one writes paranormal fiction like KD Grace. In penning her tales of myths and magic, she plumbs psychological and spiritual depths that most authors don’t even realize exist. Ms. Grace ignores tropes and conventions, following the trail of her stories down the rabbit hole of her own fertile imagination. The truths she unearths amaze, arouse, terrify and delight.” Lisabet Sarai

 

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

 

Landscapes Blurb:

(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?

 

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“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

 

 
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© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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