Happy Friday Everyone! And the plot thickens with part 7 of my dark paranormal story, In The Flesh. Angels and demons, gods and monsters, sex and terror; when the boundaries are not clear, the journey can be deadly. But can the price be worth the paying?
In the Flesh is a dark and sexy story that has had several incarnations in its shorter form, but never quite worked because it needed space to grow. I couldn’t think of a better place for it to grow than on my blog. In the Flesh is a blend of paranormal erotica and almost, but not quite … okay, quite possibly … horror. It’s had seven exciting weeks to unfold now, and it’s as much an adventure for me as I hope it is for my readers. I know what’s happening only slightly before you do. Episode 7 is both the most chilling and the most sexy to date. That’s the writer’s humble opinion, of course. Read it for yourself and you decide!
To read the story in its entirety up to this point, follow these links to Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 & Part 4 Part 5, Part 6
In The Flesh Part 7
“You’re an angel. The sculpture in the garden at Chapel House, it’s you, isn’t it?” The fact that the question sounded totally insane seemed irrelevant considering the way the weekend had gone so far.
He shrugged and I watched as a blush climbed his throat spread across the tightening of his jaw and up his cheeks. “I’m retired,” he replied without looking at me. Then he added quickly, “The sculpture’s old. A friend of mine did it a long time ago, taking the piss really — especially by putting it there in that particular garden.” He ran a large hand through the fall of damp hair. “It’s her way of reminding me that I’m grounded now, tied to the earth just like every other mortal. No matter what I was, at the end of the day, I’m dust, and I’ll return to dust, if I’m lucky.”
“Wait a minute, angels can retire?’
He shot me a quick glance. “Well, it’s all a matter of semantics, isn’t it?”
“Then you’re not a builder?”
“Oh I’m a builder alright, and a damn good one,’ then he added as an afterthought, “Jesus was a carpenter, after all.”
I squinted hard in the fading light studying the lines of his face, the plane and slope of his strong upper body, the slow, deep rise and fall of his chest as he took in and released each breath. But I could find no distinction, nothing that would give away the fact that he was an angel and not an ordinary man. Oh he was nice to look at, he was interesting to look at, but he wasn’t beautiful, as I thought an angel would be. Obviously the nose had been broken since the sculpture was made, and he seemed thicker through the shoulders and chest. Perhaps that was all down to hard physical labor in lieu of playing a harp and mooching his way around the pearly gates. There were several white puckered scars just below his ribs. Two looked to be puncture wounds of some kind. The other was an angry gash that surely must have all but eviscerated him. Without thinking I reached out and traced the long pale arc of scar tissue that followed the shape of his lower left rib and disappeared in the shadow under his arm. He tensed beneath my touch and the skin along the path of my finger goose fleshed. “I had to force the issue of my retirement.” His words were barely more than a whisper, and his gaze was locked on the logs in the fireplace, laid, yet unlit.
“Christ,” I whispered. “Why? I mean why the hell would you give up immortality to be one of us?’
He covered my hand with his and held it against his side. At last he raised his gaze to meet mine. “I would have done anything to get away, and at that point, I didn’t care if I lived or died. It felt like it was all the same.”
“Are you a fallen angel then?”
This time he laughed out loud. “Stupid term, fallen angel. Truth be told, gods are bastards – all of them, any religion, any mythology, they’re all arrogant, megalomaniacal bastards. They want control, and when they don’t get it, well, they’re even worse bastards. The woman who made the sculpture, she knows that at least as well as I do.”
“Is she an angel too?”
He shook his head and looked away again, the smile slipping slightly from his face. “No angel, a pawn really. At least she started out that way.” His eyes flashed bright in the fading light and the smile returned. “But sometimes even the pawns thumb their noses at the gods and get away with it. It cost her. It cost her dearly, but no one controls her now.”
“So what, she was a sculptor, and the gods didn’t like her work, was that it?”
He released my hand and knelt to light the fire. With the sun setting the chill of evening came on fast. “Oh she’s not actually a sculptor. That’s just a part of her cover. She’s a thief, stealing back things the gods have taken that don’t belong to them.”
Every question he answered raised a dozen more. That what we were discussing sounded totally nuts wasn’t lost on me either, and yet neither was the fact that it was all either very real or I was still asleep dreaming in my bed, a cherished possibility diminishing with each passing moment. We both watched as the logs caught fire from the kindling, and flame blossomed turning shadows of ordinary things into ghouls and ghosts that writhed and dance on the walls. Once he was sure of the fire, he stood to close the balcony doors. “I work for her sometimes. When she needs me. She uses me when what I do as a builder dovetails with whatever job she’s on at the moment.”
I shifted in my seat to look up at him as he returned to settle back on the chair arm. “So you’re trying to steal something from Chapel House? What is it, a flaming sword?”
He laughed. “Not anything that obvious. Chapel House and I have a long history, as you might have guessed from the sculpture.”
“Annie really did hire you to do the renovations at Chapel House?”
He nodded. “All a part of the plan.”
“It must have thrown a monkey wrench into your scheming when she fell in love with a demon, or whatever he is, and told you to bugger off.”
He shrugged, raising one well-muscled shoulder. “Doesn’t matter. I seldom let something like that stop me.” He pulled a shirt from a peg next to the door and slipped into it. “I’ve brought your things in, and I would imagine you’d like a shower. Then we’ll see what we can scrounge for dinner. If that’s alright.”
The shower was more of a wet room really, big and luxurious, clearly designed to fit the man who used it. I wondered if he’d built the house himself, planned it all exactly like he wanted it. The bed was big, the rooms I’d seen high ceilinged and spacious, all with views of the fells. The shower was built of large sandstone tiles that made me feel more like I was standing under a waterfall on a wild river in some hidden desert canyon. Ghosted fossils of fern leaves made lacy patterns on the rough dun slabs. He must have selected each slab of sandstone carefully. The shower, with its stoney artwork and it’s multiple heads, even its ledged seat that looked as though it were only a rocky outcropping in a cave, were all well thought out, beautifully designed by someone who loved and appreciated the out of doors. Yes, Jesus was a carpenter. Perhaps building and creating was a part of the psyche of divine beings. Was Michael still a divine being, or had it been necessary for him to learn his craft by practice and training, like ordinary mortals did? He’d said the sculpture of him in the garden was very old. Perhaps he’d had a long, long time to perfect his craft.
I shivered at the thought and reached for the soap. It was slightly rough like the sandstone surface and felt
good against my skin, reminding me of the gentle scritch, scritch of a lover’s fingernails over bare flesh. It had that same woody scent I woke up to in his bed, down between his sheets, though it lacked the base notes of clean perspiration and sleeping, dreaming male. I wondered if angels – retired angels, that is – did dream, and were those dreams ever the kind that brought the pungent earth and ozone scent of male lust to the forefront in that masculine olfactory cocktail. I breathed in the smell, fresh and woodsy, and moaned at the soft rough scritching against my naked skin, wondering if Michael’s hands would feel such. He was a builder after all, surely those calloused hands were rough enough to make delicious shivers up my spine, and any place else he touched me. I imagined the feel of Michael against my flesh, the feel of his large hands moving over me, cupping and exploring, the feel of his mouth tasting mine. That he had created such a sensual space, and I was now certain that he had, made my imagination wild with images of the two of us beneath the waterfall, and the smell of my own lust peaked.
At some point in my ruminations about Michael, my fertile imagination sent me seeking pleasure with my own hand, fingers moving of their own volition while I lathered my breasts with the rough scritch, scritch of the soap pebbling my nipples and making my tender heaviness tingle and ache. The realization of just how needy I was came as a surprise after the experiences of the last twenty-four hours, but then it shouldn’t have, should it? I’d practically lived the whole weekend in a state of arousal — at least when I wasn’t terrified out of my mind. And really, almost every horror film I’d ever seen coupled sex and terror, even orgasm and death, so closely that the two bled into each other. One always expected the couple’s sexy encounter in a horror film to end in gruesome bloodshed or worse. In the garden this afternoon, even as terrified as I was, I was just seconds away from orgasm. I shivered in spite of the cloud of steam rising around me. I had researched stories of the gods seducing mortals and taking them as lovers. That was certainly an archetype, but what I had failed to consider was that the monsters also sought out mortal lovers. Hadn’t Frankenstein’s monster wanted a bride? Didn’t King Kong steal away Faye Ray? Didn’t Dracula seek out his Mina? Beauty came to love the Beast. Even Psyche herself was taken to the domain of the monster she was told never to look upon for fear of certain death. The revelation that the monster was the god of love himself cost her dearly. But it was a price she was willing to pay.
At the end of the day, maybe there really wasn’t that much difference between the gods and the monsters. Even in the horror films more often than not, terror gave way to a different kind of lust, a much more deeply rooted lust, a lust as closely connected to death as it is to procreation and pleasure, a lust lost in time and well connected to monsters and demons and blood and the fear of childbirth, at the same time, all bound up with the desperate need to form the monster with two backs. Christ! The lust for the monster was as much a part of our psyche as was our terror of him! I wondered, would I have been able to hold off, would I have been able to resist the monster’s advances, if Annie hadn’t chosen that moment to use me for knife practice, if Michael hadn’t shown up when he did and whisked me away? And would I have cared if they hadn’t? Would I have been perfectly happy if I’d been left to rut against the paving stones with such a powerful being, who was maybe both monster and god? He had promised me the mind of god, the ultimate creative force that was the absolute Holy Grail for every writer. He knew exactly who I was, what I needed. I was reminded in a rush of heat that he could take me to places sexually I couldn’t even imagine. Monsters could do that, and their lovers were willing to pay any cost for the experience.
I rinsed off quickly and stepped out of the shower unsteady on my feet and still unsatisfied. As I picked up the towel to dry a wave of anguished lust clawed its way up from my center and spread like fire over my chest all the way to the crown of my head. In an instant it burned everything away but raw aching hunger, leaving an abyss that surly could never be filled. How the hell would I survive this? Surely Annie would not, could not, and I hated her for having him, even as he used her up and tossed her aside. I hated her for having what should be mine, what was mine. No one could appreciate what his affections could offer like I could; no one could translate his lust, his power like I could. He knew it, and I knew it. For a terrifying moment, I pictured myself with the butcher knife. I pictured myself sneaking into Chapel House while Annie was in a post coital stupor. It would be easy to do, and I knew he wouldn’t stop me. In fact, he would welcome me, help me do away with the body, help me escape the suspicions of the police and the investigations that would follow.
I caught my breath in a gasp, only just remembering my need for oxygen, and I relaxed the white-knuckled fist clenched painfully around the hilt of the knife I imagined using. I came back to myself standing in front of the mirror. The towel had fallen to the floor at my feet; water still pearled on my hot skin. My reflection was obscured by the steam. The image on the other side of that thin film of condensation could be anyone. I could be looking at his face, not mine, the face I’d never seen and yet, like Psyche, suddenly, desperately longed to see. I should have stayed. I shouldn’t have questioned when he wanted me. I should have taken his gift. I could have taken the knife from Annie, as weak as she was, and Michael had said himself he was just dust. The scars proved he bled just like anyone else. I could have finished it right there, and if I had, if I’d had the courage, it would be me in his arms now, me lying beneath him, letting him fill me with the wisdom of the ages, with the creative power I hungered for. I ached to know what it felt like. I longed to know who he was. I staggered, and nearly fell against the sink, and then I was myself again. With a curse that felt gut deep and a quick swipe of my hand, I cleared the mist from the mirror and yelped and nearly jumped out of my skin at the reflection of Michael standing behind me.
“You were crying,” he said, “I called out. I pounded on the door, but you didn’t answer.”
“I … I couldn’t hear you.’ The room tilted slightly, then righted itself. “Oh Christ, Michael, he was here, how can
he be here? I wanted to be with him. I wanted to do things, horrible things.”
“He wasn’t here.” He bent and picked up the towel, swaddled me in it and lifted me into his arms, which was just as well, I’d completely lost the will to move, or even to stand. With me clinging to his neck, sobbing against his shoulder, he carried me to the wing back chair, settling in it himself holding me on his lap like a child. “He wasn’t here, Susan. Trust me, he wasn’t.’ He pushed the damp tendrils of hair away from my cheek and wiped tears with a large, rough thumb. ‘But you were with him, he’s touched you, been inside your head. You’re now connected to him, and you feel the pull of his lust.’
I sat for a long time nestled against Michael’s broad chest listening to his heartbeat, like an anchor keeping me in my body, keeping me in my right mind. I wondered how an angel’s heart differed from my own. I wondered how his struggles and his desires differed from those I lived with. At last I found my voice “I feel … so empty.” I felt the tears sliding down my cheeks again, tears that I’d barely been aware of while I was in the bathroom, as though they were such a small representation of the way I felt His absence that they were barely worth my attention.
“I know. That’s exactly what he wants you to feel.”
“He said that he’d show me the mind of god, that he’d share all he knows, that he’d be my inspiration and help me write it all down.”
“He knows your deepest desire. That’s the first thing he ever finds out about those he seduces. He learns their darkest secrets, their most private longings, and their deepest fears. Anything he promised you, he’ll deliver, Susan, but what he doesn’t tell you is that once he’s has you, once you’ve been with him, everything that mattered to you before will be meaningless. You live for him, and you burn with emptiness when you’re not with him, as though you’ll die if you don’t have him.’
I wiped viciously at my eyes. “Oh god, Michael, what am I going to do? What the hell am I going to do?”
“You’re going to fight him, that’s what you’re going to do, and I’m going to help you.” His lips brushed my ear as he spoke, and involuntarily I squirmed to get closer to him, realizing with a start, that I was still horny as hell. But I couldn’t take advantage this way. I couldn’t. It was lust of such magnitude as I’d never felt before, and it was dark and horrible and terrifying and, fucking hell, I wanted to be consumed by it. But that wasn’t Michael’s problem. To drag him into it was not an option. Besides, I barely knew the man.
“I … I should get dressed,” My voice sounded breathless and distant. I tried to push my way off his lap, but he held me there, hands gentle but firm. It was then that I felt him, hard pressed with his own lust. He sat very still. I held my breath.
At last he spoke, still careful not to move, even his lips barely formed the words. “Susan, I know what you’re feeling right now. I understand it, believe me, I do.” His gaze met mine in the firelight. “I know what you need, and unless you’re completely daft, you have to know my response.” This time he shifted slightly and I caught my breath in a tight little gasp and with it inhaled the scent of his lust, lightning and ozone, dark damp earth. He slid the flat of his palm down to rest on the small of my back and the towel fell away. “If you let me,’ his breath came heavy and quick against my cheek, ‘I can make it easier for you.’ He moved a splayed calloused hand up over my ribs, and we both groaned. ‘If you let me, I can help.’