In Pursuit of Mr. Sands Part 7: A KDG Consortium Story

Mondays are always happier when they start with a cheeky little read, and nobody is cheekier than Mr. Sands. Unless it’s Elise North.  Today is the seventh instalment of In Pursuit of Mr. Sands.  As I said,  I’ve been in pursuit of Mr. Sands for quite some time now, and somehow he always manages to elude me. And surprise me. Just recently he made another titillating appearance, only to lead me on a merry chase. I lost him in North Africa somewhere and ended up recovering in Delphi, where I met up with some unexpected acquaintances. (More on that to come. )Never mind. There are worse places to end up, and I’m sure Mr. Sands will raise his oh so fascinating head again when I least expect him.

But for now, Elise finds Mr. Sands hanging out in Soho, not doing what she expected him to do.

If you missed the last instalment of Mr. Sandscatch up with this link.

 

In Pursuit of Mr. Sands Part 7: The Note

It was the sun streaming through the bedroom window that woke me up the next morning, or rather it was early afternoon. I opened my eyes and looked around me, stretching and yawning. For the first time in a long time I actually felt rested. There had been no dreams, no night terrors, there had been no waking in the night wondering where the hell I was. I knew exactly where I was, and I knew that I had not dreamed what had happened last night – none of it.

I woke clear-headed, as I had trained myself to do years ago when I realized that my gift could either be used to my benefit, or it could get me killed. There had been plenty of times when it could have easily gone either way. But the worst, by far, had been when Dru had been possessed by the demon. I barely survived the experience, and Dru did not. Since then, I had lived a cautious half-life, not really sure if I even wanted to live, but very certain I did not want to die at the hands of a demon or anything else that went bump in the night. And I certainly had no desire to end it myself. So I had carried on. Losing myself in my work seemed to be the only thing that kept me from my own dark thoughts. And then Mr. Sands had come along, Mr. Sands, who was no longer in my bed.

I threw back the duvet to find that I was still fully dressed. But we’d not needed to lose our clothes last night, had we? My heart raced as I recalled our encounter, as I recalled Dru’s visit, Dru saying that Mr. Sands had actually sent him. I was out of bed and racing to the lounge, where everything was pretty much exactly as I had left it before I let Mr. Sands in, empty pizza box, multiple coffee cups and a half-eaten bagel. That is everything, but the fact that I knew I was alone.  I wasn’t just alone in the flat, I no longer had a neighbor I was tailing. Mr. Sands was gone. I could feel it, as I always felt the absence of magic that was somehow like ambient noise in my life. I had learned to ignore the tiny little bit that barely buzzed in all humans, but someone like Mr. Sands, well his magic felt a bit like the neighbor who always had his music up just a little too loud. Only in Sand’s case, it was nice music, music I wanted to hum along to, and this morning it was gone.

I stood for a long time staring out the window across to his flat where I could see the cleaners at work. I won’t deny that I was disappointed to find him gone, to have lost the man I was supposed to be tailing, but then again, he had been my job, and I had crossed the line last night in a way I never did, never had before. I knew myself well enough to know that if he’d stayed, it wouldn’t have gotten any easier to keep my distance. Still going over in my head all that had happened last night and wondering how to best edit it in my report to Magda Gardener, I made myself a cup of coffee and turn to find a note on the kitchen table.

Dearest Ms. North,

While it saddens me deeply and makes me feel rather cowardly to bolt in the middle of the night after our delicious, and meaningful encounter, I fear that to remain would do neither of us any good. I believe we have both lived our lives with a great deal of control, and that control has kept us both safe. Last night we both lost that control, and while I do not, nor could I ever, regret our time together, I am not so naïve as to believe either of us would benefit from pursuing it further.

I have hidden nothing from you, dear woman, and I am well aware that your job is to find out all you can about me. I have certainly revealed far more of myself than I have to any other equal in my long existence. In fact, I have delighted in revealing myself to you, and I will take a great deal of pleasure in fantasizing about you sharing what you’ve learned from our encounter. I wish you well, Ms. North, dear Elise, and I would ask that you make no attempt to follow me. While you, if anyone, might be able to trail me, I do not think it would be advisable for either of our good. Let me just say, that I have made the Redeye flight from New York to London many times, but never has that journey ended with such delights as this one has. Thank you, dear Elise. May you find what you have lost.

With deepest respect,

Daniel Sands

I toasted a bagel and sat at the kitchen table while I read over Mr. Sands’ note again and thought about what to tell Magda Gardener. I had a feeling the woman would be delighted with what had happened last night. I would have felt offended at her tossing me into this little experiment without my know it if I hadn’t enjoyed it so much, if I hadn’t been well rewarded for the experience. And yet, it was personal. While I suspected she knew about what had happened with Dru and the demon, which in itself made me nervous that she knew so much about me, I still didn’t want to have a girlie chat about last night’s encounter with a woman who I’d never met and wasn’t really sure I wanted to. Without giving myself time to think, I picked up the phone and pulled up Magda Gardener’s number. She answered on the first ring.

“I lost him,” I said without even a greeting.

“I wondered how long it would take.” She spoke as though it didn’t surprise her in the least. “What happened?”

When I didn’t immediately reply, she waited a moment longer, almost long enough for me to think the connection had been broken before she replied. “Ah. You had sex.”

“No! No, we didn’t. Not exactly.”

“Semantics.” She sounded neither surprised of angry. “Tell me, Elise, did you not suspect it might happen?”

“I’ll give you a full analysis in my report.” I managed.

“I’m asking you now, did you suspect it? Hope for it?”

And then I twigged. “It doesn’t matter if I did. You did, didn’t you?”

“When you’ve been around as long as I have, gaming situations out is as automatic as breathing. I couldn’t imagine either of you not being far too curious to at least see what would happen.” Then she added quickly. “Oh don’t worry about your job. I’d already told you that a part of your job was to see what happened when an incubus was confronted with someone he could not affect, when you could encounter someone as powerful as an incubus without ending up his lunch.”

“I’m not a specimen to be observed, Ms. Gardener,” I bristled.

“No, you’re not, but you are the only person in the world I know of who can observe from the outside and walk away unscathed.”

I laughed. “I don’t walk away unscathed, Ms. Gardener, not even close.”

There was another long pause. “No, you don’t do you?” There was another pause. “The flat is yours until the end of the week. Finish up your report, tie up any loose ends you need to. Don’t leave out anything no matter how uncomfortable.”

I forced a laugh. “What, you want a blow by blow?”

“I do, Ms. North. That’s what I’m paying you for, and no, I don’t get off on your sex life, but right now, you can’t easily imagine how important those details might be down the road.”

Down the road. I didn’t quite know why those word sent a chill down my spine, but I shuddered.

Thank you, Elise, for another job well done. Oh, and do take some time to enjoy London. It would be a pity to missed out on such a lovely city.” She disconnected, leaving me sitting there staring at the phone.

 

In Pursuit of Mr. Sands Part 6: A KDG Consortium Story

Mondays are always happier when they start with a cheeky little read, and nobody is cheekier than Mr. Sands. Unless it’s Elise North.  Today is the sixth instalment of In Pursuit of Mr. Sands,  and Elise learns that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.  As I said,  I’ve been in pursuit of Mr. Sands for quite some time now, and somehow he always manages to elude me. And surprise me. Just recently he made another titillating appearance, only to lead me on a merry chase. I lost him in North Africa somewhere and ended up recovering in Delphi, where I met up with some unexpected acquaintances. (More on that to come. )Never mind. There are worse places to end up, and I’m sure Mr. Sands will raise his oh so fascinating head again when I least expect him.

But for now, Elise finds Mr. Sands hanging out in Soho, not doing what she expected him to do.

If you missed the last instalment of Mr. Sands, catch up with this link.

In Pursuit of Mr. Sands Part 6: Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

For several hours, I slept in blessed oblivion until a soft knock on the door woke me. I would have thought I’d imagined it and went back to sleep, but it came again. I forced myself to my feet. My head ached and my eyes were swollen and gritty. I wiped them on the backs of my hands, wondering, as I stumbled down the hall, if Magda Gardener had sent someone to check on me. “Ms. North,” came the voice that I immediately recognized. “May I come in.”

For a moment, I stood silent, my heart trying to hammer its way out of my chest, and then I gathered myself. “Mr. Sands, it’s the middle of the night.” I leaned my throbbing head against the door.

“It is, yes, and we’ve already established that you are safe from me, though I am not so sure I am safe from you.”

That shook me a bit, and not in a bad way, as I recalled my conversation with Dru. “I’m working.” The words came out sounding more like a question than anything that remotely resembled authority.

“It’s the middle of the night.” His chortle was more of a purr.

I couldn’t force back the twitch of a smile at the corner of my mouth as I squared my shoulders and opened the door, stepping aside for the man who now wore sweatpants and a hoodie unzipped just enough to show that he wore nothing under it.

“Why are you here?”

He inspected me with a touch of satisfaction in those sea storm eyes, and I realized I might well be the only person in the world who could enjoy those eyes for their sheer beauty without being enthralled by his magic. Then my visit from Dru came back to me in full force, reminding me what an absolute mess I must be with eyes swollen and nose bright red, hair no doubt standing on end. But Mr. Sands wasn’t my date, and I didn’t need to impress him at two in the morning when most respectable people were in their beds asleep.

His mouth curled into a hint of a smile. “You look better.” Those were the last words I expected to hear.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I folded my arms across my chest and stepped back, but he moved in closer, his gaze locked on me.

“Only that I was worried about you. You have been an exhilarating adversary, dear woman, and imagine my sadness when I found your own exhilaration at trailing me dampened by your brokenness.”

“My … brokenness.” I tried to bring all the neutrality I was used to bringing into a case that I was working, but somehow, I couldn’t quite manage.

He stepped still closer until his nutmeg and coffee breath feathered the hair around my ear. I should have pushed him away when I found myself up against the wall with him standing near enough that I could feel the heat radiating from him. I should have told him to leave. But it was almost as though he had read my thoughts “I will go if you wish.”

I couldn’t answer. All I could do was stand there and breathe him in as his fingers pushed the damp hair away from my forehead and moved to trace the shell of my ear sending a shiver down my back. The look in his sea storm eyes a question, one I waited just long enough for both of us to be uncomfortable, for that question to be answered with disappointment in those eyes, for him to pull away.

And then I did the unthinkable, the totally unprofessional, I fisted the front of his hoodie and pulled him down until I could devour his mouth, and I realized as I slid my hands inside the open zipper across the tensed muscles of his chest that tonight I wanted him to feed me.

I’m not a large woman, and Mr. Sands was tall with an athletic build, nearly engulfing me in his dark embrace. His sigh against my lips rattled me for just a second, and then I reminded myself, he was simply responding like any man would to such a desperately needy kiss. I reminded myself again that sex is its own powerful magic?  “Sometimes,” he whispered as his tongue traced my lips and teased me to open, “things are just what they seem, and a cigar is just a cigar.” He bit my lip and his tongue darted in as I offered up my own little gasp and pulled him still closer until I was pressed up tight against the wall, until my breasts pressed hard against his chest where the hoodie had fallen open to reveal dark nipples peaked and stippled. Without stopping his delicious homage to my lips, he ran his hands up under my t-shirt and down to slide into the elastic of my workout shorts. With a little groan, he cupped my arse cheeks and hoisted me up until I was forced to wrap my legs around his waist, feeling the weight of the erection tenting his sweatpants as he positioned me so that the weight of him pressed and slid up against the crotch of my shorts. I gave in to the irresistible urge to rock and shift against him, which created a wave of heat and friction I had every intention of riding out. His own shifting became thrusting, delicious dry humping that made me feel that naughty, sneaky rush of arousal of two teenagers having a grope as we ground and raked and strained with one conclusion in mind, one end suddenly the focus of every rasping breath. A dozen desperate grinding strokes, still fully clothed was all it took. We both came, growling and panting into each other’s mouths as though we were joined at the lips while the aftershocks rolled over us, amazed at the speed and the intensity of the release, or at least I was. Finally when the shock of it wore off enough that we could breathe again, that we could move, with me still wrapped around him like a sleeping child, he carried me into my room, laid me down on my bed and lay down next to me. For a long time we said nothing. I was certainly at a loss for words, a thing that never happens. I had just had sex with the man I’d been tailing, the incubus I’s been trailing. I was shocked by the sheer brazenness of what we’d done. But I wasn’t sorry. That was a bit of a shock in itself.

Mr. Sands finally raised up on one elbow and I found myself locked in his stormy gaze, the centre of his attention, which I liked very much, it turned out. He traced the shape of my ear and stroked my hair. “A practical cut for a practical woman,” he said.

“Not very practical at all, it turns out.” I reached up to return the favor.

“I could lose myself in the softness of it, the color. Cream and honey. Have you ever considered letting it grow long?”

“Not since a troll nearly broke my neck by grabbing my ponytail.” I cringed at the words. Wasn’t I just rocking the pillow talk thing?

“Then I’m glad you cut it for the sake of your lovely neck, Ms. North.” He bent to give said neck a kiss and a little nibble and I tensed. His sigh was warm against my neck, as he captured my gaze once again. “There’s more to my life than feeding Ms. North, and there should be more to yours than working and mourning.” The last word he spoke into my mouth before his tongue swept in to play with mine. When he finally pulled away, both of us breathing hard again, he said. “What is ahead of you, you cannot face when your heart is still in the past.”

“So you’re a psychic too then?” I whispered with one last flick of my tongue.

“Just very intuitive to what people are in need of. Your job is very dangerous, dear woman, and you are lucky to have survived this long when such a large part of you would prefer to commune with the dead. But,” he pulled me closer until I lay my head on his chest. “A heart belongs in the present where the living are, where the pleasure is.” He kissed me again, a kiss that ended in a little nip of my lower lip as I cuddled in next to him. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, Ms. North. But joy, pleasure, well that there is never enough of either.” He brushed a finger over my lips. “Take it, darling woman. Take all the moment gives you,” he whispered against my ear, pulling me close. I had a million questions, and none of them mattered at that moment because sleep overcame me, sleep that had nothing to do with magic.

 

In Pursuit of Mr. Sands Part 5: A KDG Consortium Story

Mondays are always happier when they start with a cheeky little read, and nobody is cheekier than Mr. Sands. Unless it’s Elise North.  Today is the fifth instalment of In Pursuit of Mr. Sands,  and Elise gets an unexpected visitor.  As I said,  I’ve been in pursuit of Mr. Sands for quite some time now, and somehow he always manages to elude me. And surprise me. Just recently he made another titillating appearance, only to lead me on a merry chase. I lost him in North Africa somewhere and ended up recovering in Delphi, where I met up with some unexpected acquaintances. (More on that to come. )Never mind. There are worse places to end up, and I’m sure Mr. Sands will raise his oh so fascinating head again when I least expect him.

But for now, Elise finds Mr. Sands hanging out in Soho, not doing what she expected him to do.

If you missed the last instalment of Mr. Sands, catch up with this link.

In Pursuit of Mr. Sands Part 5: An Unexpected Visitor

Mr. Sands read. And he read and he read. He didn’t get up, he didn’t move, he didn’t even look up at me. And I waited and waited. I lost track of the coffee I’d drank, the junk food I’d chomped, I’d even finished a very large pizza as the day wore into the night. While he might have been refreshed and reenergized by his inflight meal, I was jetlagged and flagging. Sleep deprivation was something I could do really well, banking a nap here and there as I needed, but even I had my limits and sometime after midnight, I fell asleep.

I woke up with a jerk that made my neck pop and sent my heart racing with that 6th sense of knowing I wasn’t alone in the room that now felt chilled. The sheer curtains in front of the bay window wafted in a phantom breeze. The windows had not been opened. Mr. Sands still sat in his chair reading his book, the clock on the mantle, which I had not noticed until just now ticked the seconds loudly into the silence. The only other sound was deep, even breathing right behind her. I froze, quieting my own breath so I could hear. Without moving my head, I glanced around for a weapon.

“You don’t need a weapon, El, not for me.”

That voice was the soft-spoken baritone rumble I’d come to love so dearly. There was only one person who had ever called one El, but I killed him. My body went stiff, my heart went into free-fall, I tried to convince myself it was only a dream just like I always did when the nightmares began, but just like always, it didn’t matter that I knew it, I could never wake myself up until I relived every brutal, violent detail, until I stood with the bloody knife in my hand shouting the blinding spell with a voice that broke like glass shattering on concrete. Then I woke up tangled in my clammy sheets sweating and trembling and crying like a baby feeling as though it had been my own soul, I’d ripped out that night. Even so, every time it came upon me, I began the same useless mantra, “it’s a dream, it’s a dream, it’s only a dream.”

“It’s not a dream, El. You know it’s not.” Dru’s voice was feather soft next to my ear. “You don’t need to be afraid this time, El. El, look at me.”

In the window, I could see the reflection of the man I had loved and lived with for three years standing just to the left of my chair, his hand resting on the winged back. The curtains blew as if the window had been left open and a sudden storm had blown in. “Dru?” My voice was thin and breathless.

He came and knelt in front of me laying icy, insubstantial hands on mine. “You know magic well enough to know that it’s me, that I’m here, I’m real.” He chortles softly. “I remember you even working for a couple of grumpy ghosts at one point. They nearly drove you to drink, as I recall.”

“In my line of work, they didn’t have to drive me very far.” My forced laugh came out a little hiccup of air as I blinked back a tear, and when they just spilled over anyway, I stopped trying. All this time I had hoped, prayed, even begged that Dru’s ghost would visit me, would offer me the forgiveness I so badly needed, the forgiveness that no amount of therapy ever convinced me I deserved. And yet in the next breath, I would pray and beg that his ghost would stay away, for fear there would be no forgiveness, only cold, endless condemnation hounding me for the rest of my life. And in my most desolate moments, I was sure I deserved that condemnation. I was sure that somehow if I’d only waited just a little longer, fought just a little harder, I might have found another way. But there was no condemnation in those blue-grey eyes, no hate, only concern, and beyond that was it even possible, love?

“Don’t cry, darling. Please don’t. I can’t stay long, but he thought maybe you could use a visit.” He nodded over his shoulder to where Mr. Sands still sat with his nose in his novel.

“I’m so, so sorry, Dru. I would, I wish. I … If I would have waited just a little longer, then–”

He stopped my words with a cool kiss no more substantial than the weight of the thin curtains against my lips. “Sh. Sh, darling. If you’d waited any longer, I would have killed you. I can’t imagine how you held out as long as you did. You were so badly beaten, so broken, so…” He shook his head and shivered. “El, you saved me, that’s what you did. Don’t you think I know that? Don’t you think I would have begged you to end it all if I could have spoken. I would have done anything to stop hurting you, anything. I was so terrified that I would kill you, so terrified. Death was welcome compared to living with what I had done to you, what I might have done.”

“It wasn’t you, who hurt me, Dru. It was the demon. It was the fucking demon.” This time I didn’t just cry, I broke down and sobbed and howled and keened, and for a brief moment, he somehow managed to pull me into his arms, and they felt almost warm, almost real. But he was right. I knew what a ghost felt like.

“When my spirit left my body, I didn’t leave immediately, El, I wanted to help. I didn’t quite understand what had happened, but then I saw, El. I saw what you did to him. He’ll never hurt anyone again, my love. I’ve never loved anyone as much as I loved you right at that moment, that moment when I understood what you’d done, what it had cost you. El, El listen to me, my suffering was over the second you released me.”

“I killed you!” I spoke in broken, wet hiccups, struggling for breath. “Christ, Dru, I took a knife, and I stabbed you in the heart.” I dissolved into blubbering again.

“After what I did to you, I deserved no better, and yet you never once blamed me for that.”

“It was the demon, not you, Dru. Never you.” I reached up and stroked his cheek nearly warm now, nearly solid beneath my fingers, gone icy. “I was arrogant. I should have never believed such a demon could be so easily bound. I was arrogant, and it cost me you.”

“No El, no. You asked me to stay away, and I didn’t. I didn’t trust you to handle that monster on your own. I was arrogant to think I could do anything to help. You did everything right, El. Everything. I was free from my suffering the minute that blessed blade entered my heart, but you,” he nodded over to Mr. Sands, who still read as though totally oblivious to my distress. “You’re still suffering.” He took my face in his hands, but even as he did so I could feel the chill, feel him fading. “I’m free. I’m dead. You’re not, El, you’re alive. You’re alive, and you’ve forgotten that, what it means, how much it matters. “That man,” he nodded to Sands. “That man, he gave you a gift. Take it. Let me go, let yourself go. What we had was good, it was wonderful, but I’m gone. You’re still alive, my beautiful El. Your whole life is ahead of you, and you’re far too young not to love again. Oh not him, I understand that, but take the joy he offers. He kissed me again, lingering just long enough until I felt nothing but the chill of the ghost he was. “Nothing would make me happier than to see you happy again, my darling, to see you laugh, to see you love, to see you live. I’m dead. You’re not. Stop acting like you are.” And just like that he vanished. The cool breeze in the room vanished, and I slid out of the chair, curled up onto the floor in front of it and sobbed myself back to sleep.”

In Pursuit of Mr. Sands: Part 4 of a KDG Consortium Story

Mondays are always happier when they start with a cheeky little read, and nobody is cheekier than Mr. Sands. Unless it’s Elise North.  Today is the fourth instalment of In Pursuit of Mr. Sands,  and Elise gets the distinct feeling that Mr. Sands is watching her watch him.  As I said,  I’ve been in pursuit of Mr. Sands for quite some time now, and somehow he always manages to elude me. And surprise me. Just recently he made another titillating appearance, only to lead me on a merry chase. I lost him in North Africa somewhere and ended up recovering in Delphi, where I met up with some unexpected acquaintances. (More on that to come. )Never mind. There are worse places to end up, and I’m sure Mr. Sands will raise his oh so fascinating head again when I least expect him.

But for now, Elise finds Mr. Sands hanging out in Soho, not doing what she expected him to do.

If you missed the last instalment of Mr. Sands, catch up with this link.

 

 

In Pursuit of Mr. Sands Part 4: Watching Me Watch Him

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 top of her holiday cake.

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. Still it was easy enough for me to find their details. I left each of them a message to get in touch when they could.

All this I did by phone. What information I could find on Sands specifically wasn’t much other than he was clearly a regular on the JFK to Heathrow redeye. Magda Gardener suspected he lived somewhere in the Hebrides, but no one knew exactly where. In truth he seemed to be even more of a high class vagabond than I was. Most of the research I did on the flat’s souped up iMac, a lot of it from resources and leads Magda had given me when I took the job. But I had a few good sources of my own. It was my job, after all. Still it seemed that Mr. Sands was a very private, off the grid sort of guy. I had lots of time for research and phone calls because for twenty-four hours, Mr. Sands didn’t leave his flat. Was he ill? Was he like a snake, sleeping for days while he digested his meal. That wasn’t a very sexy thought, was it? There was no other exit from his flat. A. Rivers had given me the floor plans for Sands’ apartment when she’d given me details to my own. Magda definitely had savvy help. But even if there had been some sort of fire escape or back stairs, it was obvious he hadn’t used it. I could see him moving about inside, see the periodic digital light of the telly, or maybe a laptop. 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. At any rate, he had my full attention, and my PI sense was telling me he knew it.

I was surprised when Magda called me for an update. Every other job I’d ever done for her she had been a totally hands off, ‘my people will get with your people’ sort of client. “Well?” Her voice filtered into my ear as I sat at the big bay window drinking my morning coffee getting bagel crumbs on the floor. I had slept very little. From the looks of it, neither had Mr. Sands, and yet he’d stayed put. Kibosh the snake theory then.

“I’m sure he knows I’m here. He’s just playing with me.”

For a moment there was silence as the woman took a sip of something of her own. “Does that surprise you after your inflight entertainment?”

“I expected as much, and I have the feeling that’s exactly why you put the flat right across from him.”

I took her silence as an affirmative. “What is it you want from me? I don’t need the money you know?” I spoke around a mouthful of bagel.

“Of course you don’t. That means you have no agenda of your own, Ms. North.” Before I could respond to that, she said, “you like the flat?

“The flat’s great, yes, but I don’t like making myself a sitting target to anyone I’m tailing.”

Her chuckle was whisky and honey smooth. “Not even someone as enticing as a handsome incubus.”

“Leaving myself exposed has cost me often enough that I’ve learned when to walk away, Ms. Gardener.”

“Yes I know the cost, Ms. North, it even ended you in the hospital a few of those times, if I’m not mistaken.” The woman clearly had more complete information on me than I had on her, but I was doing what I could to even the odds in that department. There wasn’t much else to do except watch and wait until Mr. Sands gave me another little peek.

“Look, Ms. North, I’m interested to see how our Mr. Sands responds to you. Don’t you think he’s as intrigued by the woman his magic can’t affect as she is by him? I certainly am. There’s a great deal to be learned about our Mr. Sands from more than just his eating habits.”

“Of course I’m intrigued, but being intrigued could cost me a lot more than even you can afford to pay.”

“I understand, Ms. North, but if you could just hold tight for a couple more days, watch him watch you, as it were. If at any time you feel you’re in danger, then by all means leave. You’re too valuable to risk, and I think no one is more ideally suited to learn about Mr. Sands than you are.”

By the second morning I was battling with lack of sleep that even caffeine wasn’t helping, and I was certain he knew he was being watched. Of course he would, wouldn’t he? I was betting he’d even feed on that exhibitionism. He’d get no nourishment from me, but as I said sex is its own magic, and no one is immune. His interaction was playful, teasing. 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 only a towel tucked low around his hips. I nearly spilled coffee 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 of his own and a copy of The Guardian. Then 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 an adjustment of his junk, perhaps a fondle, maybe a caress. Something about Mr. Sands indulging in such an ordinary act of maleness made it extraordinary. And very arousing. I certainly wasn’t about to tell Magda Gardener that in my report though. By the time he laid the paper aside, I couldn’t have looked away if I wanted to. And then he did the unthinkable. He simply stood and walked away, leaving the towel behind, but as he did, he glanced over his shoulder and blew me a kiss.

He couldn’t see me. I was sure of it, and yet he had known. Still fighting off my own arousal, which now left me feeling like an embarrassed teenager, but the implications of what I was feeling were huge. Damn, I had been in therapy so long that I had become self-analyzing. I took a couple of deep breaths and made myself a strong coffee with the very expensive coffee maker, all the while keeping one eye on his flat.

It wasn’t long before I saw movement in his flat. He returned to sit in front of the window with a book in hand, a detective novel. He was fully clothed this time, in jeans and a loose-fitting blue shirt that somehow made me only more aware of what was underneath. This was a man truly comfortable in his skin. But then he wasn’t just a man, was he?

 

In Pursuit of Mr. Sands: Part 3 of a KDG Consortium Story

Mondays are always happier when they start with a cheeky little read, and nobody is cheekier than Mr. Sands. Unless it’s Elise North.  Today is the third instalment of In Pursuit of Mr. Sands,  and Elise finds herself in the perfect set-up to keep an eye on our Mr. Sands.  As I said,  I’ve been in pursuit of Mr. Sands for quite some time now, and somehow he always manages to elude me. And surprise me. Just recently he made another titillating appearance, only to lead me on a merry chase. I lost him in North Africa somewhere and ended up recovering in Delphi, where I met up with some unexpected acquaintances. (More on that to come. )Never mind. There are worse places to end up, and I’m sure Mr. Sands will raise his oh so fascinating head again when I least expect him.

But for now, Elise finds Mr. Sands hanging out in Soho, not doing what she expected him to do.

If you missed the last instalment of Mr. Sands, catch up with this link.

 

 

In Pursuit of Mr. Sands Part 3: Nice Digs

Safely tucked into my booth in the first class lounge, 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 hunger, but they didn’t. Clearly Mr. Sands didn’t either, though I didn’t know if that was always the case or simply because it was not wise to leave a string of dead bodies on a commercial airliner, not when he obviously had a good thing going. As I watched him watching her, I couldn’t help but bask vicariously in a little bit of their afterglow, of the strange afterglow he’d left me with at the shock of finding myself feeling alive inside again after all this time. On the one hand it felt as though the very idea was a betrayal of Dru, on the other it felt like the sun had just come out. I didn’t know what to feel.

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, but she didn’t start the engine as I knew she wouldn’t. Instead, she looked around her in nervous anticipation. She wouldn’t have seen him either 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. It was just one little nibble. I suspected from a distance he could do no 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. He raised his hand to rest on his chest, and with a slight flexing of his fingers, she came. As his magic swirled around her, 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 got into the Audi and drove off.

I picked up the car Magda’s people had arranged – 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. Obviously, he knew something was up when I couldn’t offer him even a little nibble.”

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.” I recited the address I’d got found by taking a peek at his landing card in the Passport control queue.

Her chuckle was like fur against bare skin, her magic oozing through my device as though she stood right next to me. It was not the mink and whisky feel of Mr. Sands’ magic, but something far more wild and dangerous, it was a warm kissed with just a hint of arctic ice. 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 her consortium. Other than that I knew little about her but what my research had come up with, which I figured out pretty quickly was only what she wanted me to know. I’d never met her personally. I don’t know how she got my details, since my business is strictly word of mouth, though I have speculated on which of my clients told her about me. In the few times 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 had a very serious interest in Daniel Sands, 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. Besides working for her was always interesting, and the pay and the benefits were great.

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

“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 me as though I did too. Having said that, I was sure 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 from one of Magda Gardener’s PAs, an A. Rivers, 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, and it was equipped with all the right surveillance equipment to enhance that perfect view. 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. Often 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 needed for my cover. Can’t count the number of gorgeous outfits and expensive jewellery I’ve had to leave behind because of time restraints and other … more pressing issues. The necessary accoutrements are usually waiting for me when I arrive. As I said, Magda Gardener has expensive tastes. I made a quick sandwich, drank a gallon of water and, after a hot shower, I went to work.