An Unexpected Encounter with Alonso Darlington

I’ve been thinking a lot about Alonso Darlington recently as he waltzes back into the
Medusa stories, never being far off the written page anyway. I never imagined when I wrote the story of how he and Reese Chambers became lovers that he would figure into so much more than a simple M/M romance novella. As it turned out, Alonso and Reese’s tale was only the beginning.

 

Before I understood who he really was, who he worked for and where his tale would lead me, I was invited for a strange visit to his home in the remote part of the Lakeland fells, where he warned me to hold on to my hat. The ride was about to get wild. That being said, I decided that under the circumstances it was time to share that encounter with you again.

 

 

 

1st Entry

 

I’ve debated long and hard about posting the details of my encounter with Alonso Darlington. But ultimately the need to share, the need to bring details of this encounter to light, has overcame my fear that readers might think I’m a nutcase and the even bigger fear of what Alonso’s response to my sharing might be.

 

When I wrote the strange erotic tale of Alonso Darlington and Reese Chambers as a story to be published in the Brit Boys: On Boys Book Bundle, I had no idea what a rabbit hole it would send me down. It was just an interesting sexy story, made more so by the location and the fact that Alonso Darlington was … is a vampire.

 

This being the case, Imagine my surprise when I received an invitation from High View Manor to meet Alonso Darlington in person. I thought I had perhaps spent too much time in my own imagination. I even considered seeing my doctor. But when the first class plane ticket arrived to Manchester, I went. I maybe shouldn’t have, but since I had written Alonso’s story, it seemed that I should meet the man in person.

 

I arrived in Manchester with the sun setting in the West. The rabbit hole feel of my first encounter with the man became even more vivid when I was picked up at the airport in a black Land Rover with darkly tinted windows kitted out to compete with any limo I’d ever seen. The driver handed me a heavy winter parka and helped me into the back seat, where I found a basket containing freshly baked bread, cheese, meat, fruit, wine and bottled water. I drank the water, but was way too nervous to eat anything, and I certainly wasn’t going to meet Alonso Darlington tipsy from alcohol.

 

I couldn’t help but feel intimations of Anne Rice as the woman I know only as Talia led me through the renovated areas of High View manor house and out into the Cumbrian chill, down to the night garden Reese Chambers has been landscaping for Darlington. I knew better than to offer Talia a handshake. The woman’s a succubus and she’s a close friend to Darlington – his familiar, I believe is the term. I don’t’ know much about her, and frankly I was nervous enough without losing my wit or my virtue to a sexy succubus. Even her gaze felt way too intimate. The sooner I could get away from her, the better.

 

She led me as far as the stone steps descending into the garden, then nodded to where Alonso Darlington sat on the slate bench with his back to me. She offered me a smile that looked like she might be as likely to consider me dinner as Alonso might, then she left. For a second I stood taking in the sky awash with stars and the dark outlines of the fells all around, giving myself a chance to stop trembling. It didn’t help. It was a rare, clear night, and there was no wind, for which I was thankful because it was still damn cold that high in the Cumbrian fells. I was extremely glad for the coat the driver had given me and a bit amazed that it fit so well. I have broad shoulders, and getting a winter coat to fit is always an ordeal. With the heavy Northface jacket pulled tightly around me, I took a deep breath and descended the steps, just as Darlington stood and turned to greet me.

 

How can I explain the first time I saw him face to face? How is it possible that I wanted to freeze to the spot like the stone statuary around me, while at the same time, I wanted to rush down the steps, allow him to embrace me, and offer him my neck. How could anyone ever look at the man and think him ordinary? How could Reese Chambers have possibly resisted Alonso Darlington? I don’t remember the rest of the descent into the garden. The next thing I remembered was Darlington extending his hand to me.

 

‘Ms Grace, it’s a pleasure. Welcome to High View.’ His hand was large, and I took  it without question, feeling a little shiver at the unexpected warmth of his skin, wondering if he had fed recently, if that was the cause for the warmth that shouldn’t be there in the Cumbrian chill. That should have been a relief, but instead it served as a reminder that I was in the presence of an alpha predator, and while he loved Reese and Talia was his occasional lover, I might very well be nothing more than the midnight snack.

 

Of course he sensed my nerves. I mean really, I couldn’t hide them no matter how badly I wanted to. He leaned close to me and smiled wickedly. ‘Don’t worry. I won’t bite, unless of course you want me too.’

 

God, it’s embarrassing to say, but I might have given just the slightest bit of a yelp as I pulled my hand away, a bit quicker than I intended. Not a wise thing to do with a predator, I knew. But then I wasn’t at my best at that moment.

 

‘Thank you,’ I croaked. ‘I’ll keep that in mind.’ Then I blurted out. ‘Why did you invite me, Mr Darlington? I know you don’t take many visitors, especially not … like me.’

 

His laughter runs up my spine like the feel of soft fur on bare flesh. He nodded me to sit, then sat down next to me on the bench.  ‘Like you, Ms Grace? You mean a writer of erotic fiction? A blogger? A dreamer? A woman who lives most of her life in her head making up stories?’ He laughed again, and I shivered, but not from cold. ‘A woman who has a very … imaginative fantasy life?’

 

Before I could respond, he moved closer to me so quickly and with so little effort that, though I knew he’d done it, I didn’t know how. I only knew that it was definitely not a movement an ordinary person might make. Strangely, I was torn between scooting away, or scooting closer. ‘May I call you K D?’ he asked. ‘Certainly I would expect to be on a first name basis with anyone who knows me as well as you think you do.’ It was a damn good thing I was sitting because I was certain my knees wouldn’t have supported me if I weren’t. He continued. ‘I would say you’re probably even more of a recluse than I am, and I do apologise for the inconvenience of my invitation. I hope that the journey wasn’t too loathsome for you.’ He bowed his head to me slightly and I had the surprising urge to reach out and run my fingers over his silky dark hair. The predator image flooded my mind again and I did scoot back, just a little, and my heart sped up more than a little. Alonso’s knowing smile reminded me that he could hear the heart beating in my chest, he could sense the movement of my blood in my veins. I shiver thinking of everything about me that he might be able to sense, and then I forced my attention back to what he was saying. ‘Really, K D, why shouldn’t I be anxious to see you?’ His eyes were suddenly obsidian bright, and colder than the night air around us.  ‘After all, you’ve already told everyone who I am. What I am.’

 

Landscapesis a fictional story,’ I managed, unable to keep the trembling of my body from manifesting in my voice. ‘Mr Darlington, I –’

 

‘Alonso,’ he corrected me with a smile that was so friendly and inviting that I might have thought him just being hospitable if the circumstances had been different. ‘It’s Alonso. After all, we keep no secrets here, Do we, K D?’

 

‘I didn’t know you were real,’ I continued as quickly as I could, afraid I’d lose my courage, afraid I might actually do something stupid like try to run. ‘Believe me, everything I wrote, everything I published, it came from my head, from my imagination, from nowhere else. I would never –’

 

He leaned forward and shoved the hair away from my neck so quickly that I had no time to do more than gasp. My heart was beating way too fast and I could smell the terror rising in a cold damp sweat against my skin. He was going to take me. Right then and there, and no one would know the difference. My husband had been away in South Africa when Alonso’s invitation had come, and though I had emailed him, he had no more idea than I’d had as to where High View actually was, and he wasn’t due home for another ten days. I had told no one else because who the hell would believe me?

 

‘You wrote the story, K D,’ he whispered against my ear. ‘Surely you know I have ways of putting ideas in your head, thoughts,’ his mouth brushed my earlobe and gooseflesh rose along my nape, ‘fantasies.’

 

By that point in our encounter, things had become a bit vague. To my embarrassment, I confess it could have been fear. ‘Talia?’ I managed in a voice that sounded like it belonged to a frightened child. ‘Did you send her to me?’ I could feel panic rising. Surely not. Surely if he had, I would have remembered something.

 

He only chuckled softly, and stroked the tender spot behind my ear with the thick of his thumb. ‘Now why would I have done that, K D?’ I felt his warm lips against my throat, and I’m embarrassed to say that there was suddenly another feeling coexisting with the terror and the panic. ‘I’m not going to hurt you. But we do need to talk. We do need to come to an understanding, and I will keep you here until we do.’ And Christ! He actually ran his tongue up along that hammering pulse point where the blood runs so close to the surface, and I remember looking up and thinking I’d never seen such a beautiful sky.

 

 

The Bet: Part 5 Finale

 

While I’ve been away in China,  I’ve had the pleasure of sharing with you a five part story, never been read, never been published before, from the Medusa Consortium Series. If you’ve ever wonder how our fallen angel, Michael Weller, once lover of the Guardian, now Susan Ennis’s lover, and long time friend to and member of Magda Gardener’s consortium lost his angel hood, well wonder no more. Hope you’ve been enjoying an inside look at Michael and Magda.

Part Five is the grand finale of The Bet, but only the beginning of Michael’s story. Although he doesn’t know it at the time, Magda Gardener/AKA Medusa, has big plans for her fallen angel. I hope you enjoy this final episode.

 

 

PART FIVE

“Yes. He comes for everyone.” She smiled up at Graves. “But more than likely when it’s your time he’ll just invite you back to Buried Pleasures for one last bet before you take the boat across the river.”

“The boat across the river.”

“A bit more elegant than being shoved in a hole in the ground to rot, don’t you think?”

“And my innocence? How can I possibly give you that?”

“You already have, Michael. If you’re lucky the symptoms will come upon you gradually, but occasionally, they can all come at once and thoroughly kick you in the ass, like a really bad case of the flu, only worse.”

“I’ve never had the flu,” he said.

“Something else to look forward to then, I suppose.”

There had never been much color in Michael’s face, but what little there was leached away with each passing second. The face that had somehow seemed carved from warm alabaster now was no less beautiful, but showed signs of exhaustion, regret, understanding even, all overlaid by bone-crushing fear. No help was coming from above, of that he was certain. What he would never again be certain of was whether there would be retribution. But then that was part of the human condition as well, wasn’t it? He stared down at his hands. “I don’t feel so well. Do you think I’m getting the flu already?”

“It’s just human frailty, Michael. Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it.”

“Is it always like this?”

“I suspect so, but then I’ve never been human, so I can only guess.”

That didn’t seem to surprise him too much. “Are you like, his angel?” he asked nodding up to Graves.

She smiled. “Interesting thought, but no. I suppose you could say I’m here to collect debts.”

“ And Mr. Graves owes you?”

“Not Graves so much. His brother does, though, big time.”

“But I don’t owe anything,” he said, looking back down at his hands.

“Oh you will. Eventually you will.” She leaned forward, very close to him, the tresses of her hair slithering and writhing. For the first time, she allowed him to see her true form, but she kept the glasses pressed tightly against the bridge of her nose. With his immortality laid aside, he was now so very fragile. She didn’t want to hurt him. She was not his enemy. In fact, she was just what he would need one day. She spoke softly, a near whisper against his ear, only a breath away from the desperate hammering of his pulse setting a cadence, which she felt up through her spine. The life force there was so sweet, so finite, exposed as it had never been before. “When that time comes, when you’re wondering how you’ll ever pay those debts, you’ll be needing an ally.”

It spoke of how frightened he already was that her little reveal elicited only a raised eyebrow and a catch of breath, recognition of what shouldn’t exist. But then what shouldn’t exist could hardly be much of a challenge for an ex angel.

“So now you’ll kill me, was that the plan all along?” He asked watching her hair warily.

“Of course that’s not the plan.” She didn’t bother to tell him what the plan was, and when he didn’t ask, she figured he had enough to take in at the moment. Shock made everything else fuzzy and distant, that much she remembered very well. It offered comfort in the cataclysm of change, always the place where one longed to linger when faced with the true consequences of loss and anguish. It would depart far sooner than he’d be ready. She was happy to let him linger awhile. It wouldn’t hurt.

He sat looking like a man who was lost, which was exactly what he was. “What do I do now?” he asked at last.

She shrugged. Now wasn’t really her concern. “Go home to your lover, I suppose. It’s up to you. Do whatever you want.”

When he still didn’t move, she asked, “do you have a place to stay? Is your lover in Vegas with you?”

He looked up at her as though he’d only just realized she was there, and didn’t know what to make of her. Oh he was an impetuous lad, she thought.

“Your lover doesn’t know that you’ve done this?”

He blinked as though the light in the casino had become too much for his eyes. “No, I’m here alone. All alone.”

“But you did this with your lover in mind?”

He only nodded, still blinking as though he had something in his eye.

“What a nice surprise it’ll be then.”

When the thundering of his pulse against his throat grew to a rapid staccato, she said softly. “At least you hope it will be.”

He swallowed hard, as though he were trying not to vomit.

“Can I drop you at your hotel, maybe?” She asked.

“Hotel? I didn’t think about that. I flew here.”

“With your angel wings, yes I know, and now you can’t get back without a plane ticket or a car. I suppose you don’t drive though, do you?”

His lack of response was response enough. Shell shock didn’t begin to cover it, she was certain. Knocking over a teetering stack of chips, she reached out and stroked his arm. “Who you are now depends entirely on you and your decisions, Michael. Well, that and everything that happens to you from now on. Loss of innocence is as much about having no one who can protect you or make decisions for you as it is about being naked. It’s all up to you.” She lifted her head toward the ceiling. “No more control from upstairs.”

When his breathing became so rapid that she feared he’d hyperventilate, she shoved several stacks of chips in his direction. “Here, This’ll pay for a hotel room for a couple of nights, some clothes that halfway fit and a plane ticket back to wherever your lover is. Then you can make a plan, get used to your new life.”

When the only movement was still the jerking of his pulse, she stood and offered him her hand. “Come on, I’ll help you get settled in, help you learn the ropes.”

“Thank you. I didn’t think. I didn’t have a plan. I guess … I thought it would be different somehow.” His voice trailed off and his hand, clenched tightly around hers, was icy cold.

“It’s all right. One can hardly know what to expect at times like these.” She motioned him toward the exit. “Transitions are never easy.” As they turned to leave, she caught Jack Graves’ eye and gave him a nod, which he returned with a slight inclination of his head. “You’ve got a steep learning curve ahead of you, Michael, but you’ll be all right. Don’t worry.”

“Thank you.” His reply was slightly breathless. “I won’t forget how you helped me.”

She offered him an easy half smile and allowed the glasses to slip ever so slightly. “Of course you’ll forget. But don’t you worry, when the time comes, I’ll remind you.”

 

The Bet: Part 4 of a Grand New Medusa Consortium Story

 

While I’m away in China, I have a very special treat for you lovely lot. I’m sharing with you a five part story, never been read, never been published before, from the Medusa Consortium Series. Ever wonder how our fallen angel, Michael Weller, once lover of the Guardian, now Susan Ennis’s lover, and long time friend and member of Magda Gardener’s consortium lost his angel hood? Well wonder no more. This is a little peek into Michael’s backstory, taking place while Michael is with the Guardian and wants very much to give his lover a very special gift.

The Bet is complete in five parts, all of which will be posted here during the next two weeks. While I’m in China, I’ll have no access to my blog, nor email, nor Facebook, nor Twitter, so this is my gift for you to enjoy until I get back.

 

 

PART FOUR

He blinked, then blinked again. “What? You think because of what I am, I’m innocent?”

“Oh I know you are.”

This time, he did look away, but not before she saw the desperation drawn tight across his face. When he spoke it was little more than a whisper. Anyone else might have missed it, but Magda never missed anything. “I have a lover, and it’s … well it’s complicated.” He drew a shaky breath and struggled to meet her gaze again. “I’m … I have no innocence to bet.”

She managed not to laugh this time. She understood innocence well enough to be just a little bit empathetic, but she would allow herself only that little bit. Empathy was not her strong suit. She tried hard not to sound condescending, not when this was the moment she’d been waiting for, the moment that the true wager would happen. “You think having a lover, having sex means you’re not innocent? The leaving of Eden wasn’t predicated upon two people having sex, was it?”

When he didn’t answer, she continued. “Being naked and understanding that we really are naked and alone in our own skin, that’s what leaving Eden is all about, and you, my dear Michael, are nowhere near naked yet.”

“What about you?” He raked her with a look that was anything but sexual, and yet he blushed. “You’re not naked, are you?”

She finished the whisky in a quick gulp and ordered another with a nod of her head. “I cover myself, like all of us who were forced from Eden, hoping no one will notice just how naked I really am. Though I probably needn’t worry. Everyone else is too concerned about covering their own nakedness to notice mine.”

The fine muscles along his jaw tensed and relaxed. He clenched a fist on the top of the table. “And you want to see me naked?”

“It isn’t about me seeing you naked. It’s about you seeing yourself that way. You waltz in here out-glitzing a Vegas showgirl all clothed in your shiny immortality and the protection of your maker and expect to get what you want by just losing a few hands of poker.” When he opened his mouth to protest, she pointed to her Ray-Bans. “Oh I see a lot more than most, Michael, and the owner of this place, well if anything he sees even more than I do. Hell, you might as well have your maker’s signature stamped across your forehead. You’re not fooling anyone but yourself, and the gods, well they like it that way just fine. But if you want to play the game in Buried Pleasures, you place your bet. Otherwise, don’t waste my time.”

He sat for a long moment studying her as though she were trying to trick him. He needn’t have worried. There were no tricks at Buried Pleasures, and everyone there ended up as naked and exposed as everyone else. Well, everyone but her and Jack Graves, but they’d both paid their dues a long time ago. They both knew that the breath of eternity blowing in your face always smells of death.

“And if I lose?” His gaze darted from her to the deck of sealed cards then to Graves standing with his arms crossed looking down on them from the mezzanine.

“If you lose, you get what you came for.” She nodded up to Graves. “He’ll sort the details with your maker and then you’re all his.”

“Wait a minute.” Michael shot another glance at Graves. “He’s not …”

This time she didn’t even try not to laugh. “Of course he’s not Satan. Granted, I suppose the storm tunnels might be mistaken for hell, what with the scorpions and the rats, but it suits Graves. He’s the only one who deals in mortality, and that is what you want, isn’t it, to be finite, to have a beginning and an end, to be a real boy?”

He bit his lower lip and gave a barely perceptible nod. Then he glanced over at the dealer as though he were afraid she might rat him out to his boss. Magda couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for him.

“Then trust me, this is the only place you have any chance of that happening. You are sure that’s what you want?” She quirked her head to the dealer, who gave him a questioning look.

“More than I’ve ever wanted anything,” he whispered blinking back emotion.

“And consequences be damned?”

He nodded his response as though he had suddenly lost the power of speech. Then he motioned to the dealer. She opened the deck and shuffled. Michael carefully took each card dealt him as though he feared one of them might explode. She watched him rather than her own cards. The last few seconds of eternity was something she’d never seen on anyone’s face before. While this might have been exactly what Michael had wanted, she could almost taste his fear. Before he could turn over his last card, she placed her hand over his. “It’s not too late to change your mind. I’ll completely understand if you want to back out, and so will Mr. Graves.”

“I won’t … change my mind.” He tried to pull his hand free, but she held it. “Once it’s done, it’s done. There’s no going back. You know that?”

“I understand.” He took a deep breath and pulled free.

It only took one hand. One hand and the angel, Michael, lost spectacularly. Then Magda sat back and watched him change. Oh there were no feathers dropping to the floor from the wings that no one could see, no tinkle of a golden halo hitting the marble beside his chair. There was no crash of thunder or strike of lightening, no roaring voice from heaven and no flaming sword guarding the way back to paradise. His hands shook a little as he pushed the mountain of chips to Magda’s side of the table. He sank back into his chair in a motion that was more one of a weight settling than a weight being lifted. Magda knew the difference very well. A thin sheen of sweat broke on his high forehead and slowly his attention shifted to Graves, who only smiled down at him and lifted a glass in salute. At last he found his voice. “He’ll come for me now?”

 

Out Now—Fluffy by Julia Kent (@jkentauthor) #romance #romcom

FLUFFY

Author: Julia Kent

Release date:  April 30, 2019

Genre: Romantic Comedy, Contemporary Romance

Cover Designer:  Hang Le

Editor: Elisa Reed

Audiobook narrator: Erin Mallon

 

Description:

An all-new STANDALONE from New York Times bestselling author Julia Kent

It all started with the wrong Help Wanted ad. Of course it did.

I’m a professional fluffer. It’s NOT what you think. I stage homes for a living. Real estate agents love me, and my work stands on its own merits.

Sigh. Get your mind out of the gutter. Go ahead. Laugh. I’ll wait.

See? That’s the problem. My career has used the term “fluffer” for decades. I didn’t even know there was a more… lascivious definition of the term.

Until it was too late.

The ad for a “professional fluffer” on Craigslist seemed like divine intervention. My last unemployment check was in the bank. I was desperate. Rent was due. The ad said cash paid at the end of the day.

The perfect job!

Staging homes means showing your best angle. The same principle applies in making a certain kind of movie. Turns out a “fluffer” doesn’t arrange decorative pillows on a couch.

They arrange other soft, round-ish objects.

The job isn’t hard. Er, I mean, it is — it’s about being hard. Or, well… helping other people to be hard.

Oh, man…

And that’s the other problem. A man. No, not one of the stars on the movie set. Will Lotham – my high school crush. The owner of the house where we’re filming. Illegally. In a vacation rental.

By the time the cops show up, what I thought was just a great house staging gig turned into a nightmare involving pictures of me with an undressed naked star, Will rescuing me from an arrest, and a humiliating lesson in my own naivete.

My job turned out to be so much harder than I expected. But you know what’s easier than I ever imagined?

Having all my dreams come true.

Buy links:

AmazonUS: http://mybook.to/fluffy

AmazonUK: http://smarturl.it/fluffyAMZuk

AmazonCA: http://smarturl.it/fluffyAMZca

AmazonAU: http://smarturl.it/fluffyAMZau

Nook/BN: http://bit.ly/2CGtnBE

Apple Books: https://apple.co/2RmE159

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2BjWvxL

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2COKLmQ

Audible: https://adbl.co/2KRgFGR

Print: http://mybook.to/fluffy

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2TjDjqS

Bookbub: http://bit.ly/2ThoLrZ

*****

Excerpt:

“You’re changing the subject.”

“How do you know that’s what I’m doing?”

“Because you have this thing you do when you get nervous. You did it in high school and you’re doing it now.”

“What’s that?”

“You start cracking your knuckles. One by one.”

He halts mid-crack on his ring finger. His bare ring finger.

Will looks down. A slow smile pulls at his lips. “You’re right. I do.” Our eyes meet. “How did you know?”

“I sat behind you in nearly every honors class, Will. I’ve watched you answer countless questions from teachers. And every time you didn’t know the answer, you cracked your knuckles. One”–I crack my index finger–“by”–I crack my middle finger–“one.” My ring finger won’t snap.

He waits.

“You spent a lot of time paying attention to me, Mallory.”

“I sat behind you. It’s not like I could stare at your ass all day. I had to have something else to look at.”

“You stared at my ass?”

“It was two feet in front of me! Four classes a day!” I start to sweat. The memory of him in football uniform pants. Oh, sweet ice cream fairy, deliver me from evil.

“You okay? You look,” he says, stepping closer, “a little disturbed.”

“I’m fine.”

“Hot, even.” The rise and fall of his chest pauses after those words, as if he’s holding his breath, too.

*****

Author Bio:

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Julia Kent writes romantic comedy with an edge. From billionaires to BBWs to new adult rock stars, Julia finds a sensual, goofy joy in every contemporary romance she writes. Unlike Shannon from Shopping for a Billionaire, she did not meet her husband after dropping her phone in a men’s room toilet (and he isn’t a billionaire). She lives in New England with her husband and three sons in a household where the toilet seat is never, ever, down

Social Media Links:

Website:  http://jkentauthor.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/jkentauthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/jkentauthor

Newsletter:  http://bit.ly/2PIBi9n

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/jkentauthor/

Bookbub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/julia-kent

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3238619.Julia_Kent

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Julia-Kent/e/B00A99V268/

Release blitz organized by Writer Marketing Services.

 

The Bet: Part 3 of a Brand New Medusa Consortium Story

 

While I’m away in China, I have a very special treat for you lovely lot. I’m sharing with you a five part story, never been read, never been published before, from the Medusa Consortium Series. Ever wonder how our fallen angel, Michael Weller, once lover of the Guardian, now Susan Ennis’s lover, and long time friend and member of Magda Gardener’s consortium lost his angel hood? Well wonder no more. This is a little peek into Michael’s backstory, taking place while Michael is with the Guardian and wants very much to give his lover a very special gift.

The Bet is complete in five parts, all of which will be posted here during the next two weeks. While I’m in China, I’ll have no access to my blog, nor email, nor Facebook, nor Twitter, so this is my gift for you to enjoy until I get back.

 

PART THREE

“Look Michael,” she scooted back to her chair and examined her manicure, “what I’ve lost, it’s no big deal to me. For me this really is just a game, something I do for entertainment when I’m bored. The owner and I are old friends, so from time to time he allows me play with the guests.” She nodded to the bustle of the casino awash in the bells of slot machines and the hiss and flutter of cards all muffled in the mutter and buzz of the guests. “There are plenty of other people I could play with, some even more desperate than you are, which makes the game all the more intriguing.” She patted the back of his hand, “Or perhaps I’ll just go out and enjoy Vegas. Unlike you, I find the city fascinating. So if you want me to keep playing, you’ll have to make it worth my while.”

He licked his lips and blew out a heavy breath in a gesture she’d have expected from a desperate loser, not a winner. Then he glanced around as though he expected to find a solution to his problems in some other part of the casino he’d not yet been to. “This is all I have. I don’t own anything else.”

This time she didn’t even try to disguise the predator within. She tossed back the rest of her champagne and ignored the ribbon from her hair as it slid off onto the floor. Then she slapped down the glass, her gaze never leaving his. She had to hand it to him, he didn’t look away. He didn’t even flinch. “Oh I know you don’t own anything. But that,” she waved a hand over the pile of chips, “that’s not all you have. Come on Michael, use your imagination, entice me.”

The color rose to his pale face, and he sputtered. “What, you mean like … sex?”

She rolled her eyes, a gesture he missed what with her glasses. “I said use your imagination.” She made a point of looking him over until he squirmed and blushed just like an adolescent. Then she inhaled the hot iron scent of his nervousness, of his desperation, a scent so familiar in the plush halls of Buried Pleasures, a scent ever present in spite of all the perfume and deodorant and shower gel attempts to make the losing and the winning
more comfortable. But on Michael, the smell of desperation was mouthwatering with its added sharp edged, thunderstorm bouquet stimulated by a new experience with which he wasn’t at all comfortable. “While you are pretty easy on the eye, I have no way of knowing how good you are in bed, and frankly, I don’t have to gamble for good sex if I want it. Besides, don’t you think that’s a bit cliché?”

He blushed even harder.

“Look, you wouldn’t be in Buried Pleasures if you weren’t desperate, if you weren’t willing to risk everything, and this,” another wave at the table, “you being my sex slave, none of that has anything to do with what you came here for, or what you’ve got to lose. So come on, Michael, make it worth my while or I’ll find someone who will.”

“I’ll bet my wings.” He blurted out, and then quickly glanced around to make sure no one was listening. No one was. In Buried Pleasures, no one cared.

This time Magda laughed outright. “Your wings? Seriously.”

“Yes! My wings.” He glanced around again and then leaned far over the table speaking between barely parted lips. “I know you may not believe it, but I’m –”

She all but snorted as a cocktail waitress delivered her a whisky and one for Michael, which he hadn’t ordered. “I know what you are, and so does he.” She nodded back to the owner. “Frankly, I’m a little surprised he let you in at all. He’s a live and let live sort of guy, Mr. Graves, and he usually doesn’t poach on anyone else’s territory.”

“What? Is he afraid God will strike him dead?”

She huffed out a laugh. “The gods don’t worry him much. But still, he doesn’t like to ruffle feathers if he can avoid it. He plays the long game, you know.”

“Well then if he knows what I am, and if he has no problem with it …”

She waved a dismissive hand. “Honestly, Michael, what the hell am I going to do with your wings? Sell them on eBay?”

His face reddened again. “I was thinking more along the line of Sotheby’s.”

“Oh please! You think some trophy hunter is going to mount them on the wall? Oh you are big game, I suppose. But angels giving up their wings is at least as cliché as people betting their bodies for sex in Vegas casinos. Wings are nothing. Wings don’t make you who you are. Wings are just the cherry on the top.”

This time he buried his face in his hands and shook his head. She waited for it, waited as though she had all the time in the world. At last, he forced himself upright, sucked in a heavy breath and met her gaze, way better than most would have. She liked that about him. “All right. Then you tell me. What do you want?”

She leaned in toward those stunning blue eyes, letting the Ray-Bans slip again and the hair fall in a mad cascade all but brushing the pile of chips. She leaned forward until he squirmed in his little chair and grabbed onto the table with a crushing grip, but he didn’t look away. “Unlike Mr. Graves, I don’t mind poaching at all. What I want, Michael, is you’re innocence. If I win, it’s mine. If I lose, you go back to where you belong and accept your fate.”

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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