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. and Landscapes is his first public appearance and, one — as you’ll see from the tale I began to share with you last week, he isn’t overly happy about. I felt with the release of Landscapes as a stand-alone novella coming up very shortly, it might serve as a warning to all of you who choose to delve into the private life of a vampire. I’m risking Alonso’s displeasure again by sharing the tale, which I began last week. I’ll share the last entry just before the release of Landscapes, the novella, on May 24.
Read and be warned
An Unexpected Encounter with Alonso Darlington: 2nd Entry
I remember only one time in my life when I woke up with no memory of what had happened to me, and that was in the recovery room following a major surgery. This time, I woke battling a heavy duvet and found myself in a … tent? It was winter. Why would I possibly be in a tent? By then I’d regained enough of my wits that I realized I was in a bed, a heavy antique bed with velvet curtains pulled around it to shut out the light, and the tight little space around me smelled of strange spices laced with a musky outdoorsy scent I couldn’t quite place. A peek outside the curtain revealed sharply-angled sunlight falling anemically across stone floors and Turkish carpets. The heavy wardrobe and bureau in the room matched the dark wood of the bed. I appeared to be alone.
It was then that the memories flooded back to me, and my heart battered my ribs as I grabbed for my throat, cursing in spastic breathless whispers. With trembling fingers, I examined the place where Alonso Darlington’s lips had been, where his tongue had been, but there were no bite marks I could feel. Christ! Surely he wouldn’t bite me. Why the hell would he bite me? The Alonso Darlington I knew – well the one I’d written about at least – would not have brought me to his own home and bit me against my will. But then until last night, I thought Darlington nothing but a character I’d dreamed up for a story.
I stumbled from the bed, caught my foot in the duvet and fell on my arse. A frantic look around showed an open door through which I could see the dark blue tiles of a bathroom. When I couldn’t find my clothes, I wrapped myself in the duvet and stumbled to the sink. A close inspection in the mirror showed no evidence of bite marks. Then I remembered that the neck wasn’t the only place that Alonso bit people. I dropped the duvet, then twisting and turning like a contortionist, I checked every part of me I could see in the mirror. Then I plopped down on the edge of the claw foot tub to check my legs and groin.
‘Don’t worry, K D, he didn’t bite you.’
I yelped and nearly upended myself in the tub as I looked up to find Talia standing in the door dressed in a red cashmere sweater and black jeans. I quickly grabbed for the duvet to cover myself.
She shook her head and offered me a wicked smile. ‘If he had bitten you, he’d have wanted you to know in detail exactly what it felt like.’ She leaned closer and the smile became dangerous. ‘He’d have wanted you to enjoy the experience completely.’
She looked me up and down. ‘Me, I wouldn’t have cared if you’d known what I was doing to you, but just for your peace of mind,’ she leaned closer still, and once again I nearly fell into the tub trying to avoid her touch, ‘I was otherwise occupied last night.’
I stood up clutching the duvet tightly around me. ‘Then what happened?’ I managed to sound almost calm. ‘Because I don’t remember anything after he …’
Her lips quirked into something that wasn’t a smile exactly, and I felt a chill snake down my spine. ‘You’ll have to ask Alonso.’ She nodded back to the room. ‘Cook has made breakfast,’ she chuckled, ‘though you’ve slept half the day away. You’ll find your bag has been unpacked and your clothes hung in the wardrobe. I’ll take you to Alonso when you’re ready. In the meantime make yourself at home.’ She turned and left.
I ate like a starving woman, like someone who had been … kept up all night. But surely I would have remembered if that had been the case. After a quick shower, I discovered that my make-up bag and toiletries were on the dressing table near the big window but my shoulder bag and my mobile were nowhere to be found. That left me with an uneasy feeling. Though Raymond had known I was coming to Cumbria, he would be worried if he didn’t hear from me.
Once dressed, I was surprised to find the door to the room not locked. I thought about making a run for it, but one look out the window at the frozen landscape with the heavy cloudbank rolling in over the fells, and the fact that I also couldn’t find the heavy coat from last night made me reconsider. On top of that, I was reminded again that I had no idea where I was, nor had I recognized the route by which I’d arrived last night. I thought I’d recognized the hulking shape of Scafell Pike from the window, but even that was lost behind the cloudbank. I was completely turned around.
There was no time for a Plan B. Talia shoved open the door without a knock, inspected me with a gaze that made my knees weak, then she smiled. ‘Come on. Alonso’s waiting for you.’ What choice did I have? I followed her into an unadorned stone corridor that smelled dusty and muddy with the scent of heavy renovations in progress rather than the scent of age. She led me down a steep stone staircase claustrophobic in its tight twists and turns, and treacherous in its smoothly warn steps. The deeper the stairs descended, the closer the walls became. I’m not fond of tight places, and by the time the space opened out into a pleasant well-renovated sub-basement, I was having a bit of trouble breathing.
‘It’s several hours till dusk,’ Talia said, noticing my distress. ‘That being the case, this is where you’ll have to meet Alonso.’ She offered a throaty giggle. ‘You were right in your written accounts, hon, no coffins, not for Alonso at least.’ Without preamble, she opened a heavy wooden door that screeched against the stone floor, stepped back and nodded me in. I stumbled and nearly ran into Reese who was leaving in a hurry. He didn’t seem pleased.
He grabbed me by the shoulders to keep me from stumbling. ‘I’m very sorry about this, Ms Grace,’ he offered Alonso a hard glare, ‘but he’s a pigheaded prick at times.’ Then he glared at Talia and shoved his way past. I could hear the clumping of his heavy boots receding as he ascended the stairs. Then I turned to see Alonso fighting back a smile.
‘I’m afraid Reese is right, K D,’ he said, giving me the same once-over Talia had only minutes before. ‘I am a pigheaded prick at times, and until I get to the bottom of how you uncovered even my existence let alone such a … vivid view into my private life, I shall continue to be so.’ He nodded to a wingback leather chairs in front of the huge desk behind which he now sat. I settled reluctantly, more than happy for the comforting expanse of the desk between us.
For a long moment, he studied me without speaking, then he leaned over his desk and offered a genuine smile. ‘Did you sleep well, K D?’
Strangely enough I realized I had slept very well, or at least I certainly felt very well rested. Before I could answer, he shot Talia a quick glance and continued. ‘Did you have … pleasant dreams.’
The skin on my arms rippled with gooseflesh. I shivered in spite the warmth of the room, which looked more like the library of a wealthy English manor house than a room in the sub basement of a crumbling ruin. ‘I don’t remember dreaming at all,’ I said, glancing over my shoulder as Talia came forward and settled into the chair next to mine.
Alonso made no response, and neither did Talia, but I could feel all eyes on me. I forced myself to sit perfectly still as though I wasn’t bothered by the gaze of two alpha predators who could, and might have already, done anything they wanted to me, who now were staring at me like I was lunch. Of course I couldn’t do anything about my galloping heart nor my sweaty palms.
At last Alonso heaved a sigh, and I found myself wondering if vampires breathed. I’d read conflicting stories, and in all honesty, I couldn’t remember if the Alonso in my account breathed or not. Christ, if I’d had any idea I’d be meeting him in person I’d have paid more attention. My thoughts were quickly refocused completely on his person when I realized he had somehow, in a heartbeat, come from behind the desk to lean over me, and I definitely felt his breath on my face, warm and sort of spicy, a scent that brought with it intimations of wild remote places. I froze. It wasn’t like I could have done anything else. He mantled me as though he were a bird of prey and I was a fresh kill.
‘You’re telling the truth,’ he said, smoothing my hair behind my ears and cupping my face so I had no choice but to meet his gaze, an act which in and of itself felt like falling off a cliff on the high fells. ‘You honestly believe the story you’ve written about Reese and me is just that, just a work of fiction.’
I fought for breath. ‘I would never violate anyone by putting their private life into my stories. Ever.’ There was no keeping my voice steady. In truth, there was no keeping my body steady. I was shaking like a leaf.
‘No. Of course you wouldn’t,’ he said, his thumb gently raking across my bottom lip, which did nothing to ease my breathing. His dark eyes flashed over to Talia. ‘Which brings us back to the question at hand. How could you have possibly known the truth of what you wrote?’
Talia only shrugged and held his gaze. ‘Interrogate me if you want. I told you it wasn’t me. If I’d visited her bed and shared with her, I’d have taken a great deal of pleasure in sharing it with you, Alonso.’
What happened next I still can’t believe, and it’s not easy for me to write about. I’m used to writing sex and violence in fiction because I’m always safely removed from those acts that evolve in my imagination. But this … this was an encounter in which I found myself the accidental voyeur, way more up close and personal than I ever hope to be again.
In a heartbeat, Alonso pulled Talia up from her chair. I heard her breath catch, heard the bones in her neck pop in the violence of his efforts. Then with a single tug of his fist, he ripped open the front of her sweater and shoved it aside. I think I might have yelped. Not that anyone noticed. Talia gasped, but in that gasp I heard no surprise. She was naked beneath the torn cashmere, and in less than a heartbeat, Alonso pulled her into a back-breaking embrace, cupped her right breast and … brought his mouth down onto the swell of it high above her heavy nipple.
One of them, maybe both of them growled, and as he jerked her closer, I could see the garnet welling up of her blood just before his tongue slid over it, just before his mouth closed around it in a sound that was not unlike a lover’s passionate kiss. And then, I swear, the color of her eyes changed just before she closed them and fisted one well-manicured hand into his hair effectively holding him to her in an act no less intimate and no less violent than his own. Her other hand snaked around his waist and burrowed beneath his tailored black shirt and up his spine.
His response to her touch on his bare flesh was a quick, but violent convulsing of muscles until I feared he’d break bones. Then he groaned and shivered. I remember wondering at that moment if her touch had made him orgasm. I remember thinking I should look away, that I should leave them to whatever strange disturbing intimacy this was, but I couldn’t look away. I knew at that moment that to do so was physically impossibly. Then, to my horror, I felt as though I were the third party in the joining. No, that’s not really a good explanation. I felt as though I wasn’t there at all. I felt as though one second I was Talia being bled by Alonso’s powerful predatory kiss, being nursed upon by his warm lips; and the next I was Alonso being touched, in far deeper places than his bare flesh, being taken over by the succubus. And when I was sure I would pass out from that strange sense of terror and arousal that I couldn’t quite imagine existing in the same instant, Alonso pulled away, stumbled backward against his desk, his eyes still locked on the succubus, and Talia fell back into the chair with a little sigh.
Wiping his mouth and bracing himself on the edge of the desk, he moved back to his own chair. Talia sat straight and square shouldered next to me catching her breath. She made no effort to cover herself and I could see the bite marks bruised blue and bright red above her nipple. ‘Are you satisfied now?’ she asked, sounding as though she’d just been out fell running.
He scrubbed a hand over his face, then looked from her to me and back again. ‘If not you, then who, Talia? How the hell did she know?’
‘Don’t be daft, Alonso. You know how. You just don’t want to admit it.’ Then she stood and exited the room with way more dignity than someone who had had her shirt ripped off by a vampire should have been able to manage. It was only with the door screaking closed across the stone floor that I suddenly remembered, I was alone with Alonso Darlington.
Preorder Landscapes now
Available for download 24th May