It’s time for Part 14 of In The Flesh! I’m in Scotland while you read this, gallivanting about the Highlands with my Hubby and my sister, so I expect to come back fully inspired. In the meantime, s the plot thickens and things get darker, Susan finds out that she has a few dark secrets of her own.
In the Flesh is very dark paranormal erotica. When Susan Innes comes to visit her friend, Annie Rivers, in Chapel House, the deconsecrated church that Annie is renovating into a home, she discovers her outgoing friend changed, reclusive, secretive, and completely enthralled by a mysterious lover, whose presence is always felt, but never seen, a lover whom she claims is god. As her holiday turns into a nightmare, Susan must come to grips with the fact that her friend’s lover is neither imaginary nor is he human, and even worse, he’s turned his wandering eye on Susan, and he won’t be denied his prize. If Susan is to fight an inhuman stalker intent on having her as his own, she’ll need a little inhuman help.
In The Flesh Part 14
“What do you want,” I asked again, realizing that I didn’t actually know for sure – at least not other than the fact He wanted to fuck me. But there had to be more to the story than that, didn’t there? Surely.
“I want you to come away from there before you hurt yourself, Susan. Please.” The word ‘please’ sounded like perhaps He wasn’t used to using it, wasn’t used to making polite requests. I felt a warm hand on my back. “You need to eat. Then you can have a bath, and we’ll talk. I apologize for locking you up in this horrible place. I was angry. You were right. I behaved very poorly. Come. Please.”
As I turned to make my way back I could see anemic daylight from the now open door of the crypt. “Don’t try to escape.” He spoke as though he’d read my mind. “You can’t. And I don’t want to hurt you again. I don’t like doing that to you, darling, really I don’t.”
“I don’t like it much either,” I said, standing and stretching when the crypt opened out into a space high enough to do so.
I walked stiffly through the tangle of vine and ivy, somehow sensing that I was being guided, though not being forced. This time, He didn’t take me past the sculpture of Michael. He took me round close to the aging brick of Chapel House and right to the open kitchen door. Inside, the smell of grilled meats and spices nearly overwhelmed me, and my mouth watered. I didn’t know how long it had been since I’d eaten. I didn’t know how long I’d been in Chapel House, but I was starving. There was doner kebab and pita bread and a pot of fresh brewed tea.
“Annie tells me you like kebab, and that you like your tea brewed strong. I hope it’s all right.”
“You did this?” I asked, stuffing a huge chunk of pita into my mouth and swallowing almost without chewing.
“I had her do it. She made the tea and ordered the kebab from the local shop, which delivers, a very useful service when sustenance is required, or so she tells me.” He chuckled softly. “Obviously I’m not very adept in a world designed for the enfleshed.”
“The enfleshed,” I smiled in spite myself. “That’s what we are?”
“It is yes. Awkward, but not without its elegance, flesh.”
“And it’s shortcomings,” I said, rubbing the knot on my elbow, which I had banged heartily on the wall flailing to keep from falling into the abyss in the crypt. “You said Annie prepared this.” I looked around the room anxiously. “Where is she? There’s plenty here for both of us.”
“Oh she’s not hungry,” came the reply. “She needs her rest.” Then He added quickly. “Please don’t worry about her, Susan. I’ll keep her safe. I told you I take care of my own.”
“Besides, she wants to kill me,” I said, suddenly not so hungry.
“She’s just very confused. She doesn’t understand how it is with us,” He said. “But she will with time.”
In spite of the sudden loss of appetite, I made an effort to eat. I knew that I’d need all my strength if I were to have any chance of surviving this mess, and what was happening to Annie, her slow starvation, I’d be damned if I’d let that happen to me. “Do you have a name?” I asked, around a mouthful of kebab.
“If you wish for me to have a name, then I shall have a name,” came the reply.
I took the teacup into my hand and sipped it, holding it as much for warmth as anything else. “Are you saying that your name is mine to give?”
“I’ve observed that names matter a great deal to the enfleshed, and that they matter a great deal more to one such as you, my darling scribe. They’ve long made no difference to me. But even as you sit there I can see your struggle to define me, and I must admit, I find it very exciting, this … being defined by the woman I desire.”
I felt the muscles low in my belly tighten at His words, then relax like butterflies taking flight. I squinted into the space across the breakfast bar from me, the space where I perceived Him to be. “Didn’t Annie want to know your name? I mean don’t all lovers struggle to define each other, to understand the uniqueness of the person they desire?”
He chuckled softly. “You would think so, would you not? But most people are too self-absorbed to consider the name of another or how the other defines himself except in how it pertains to them and their need to control that which they love.”
“And Annie? ”
“Oh my darling Annie was not so interested in defining me as she was in my definition of her, in my ability to … make her feel more herself.”
“By that you mean in your ability to make her come? I would think that would also have a great deal to do with her making you feel more yourself? Surely you can’t tell me that was of no interest to you?”
“I am what I am,” came the reply. This time, I felt Him standing next to me. “I am no less driven by my nature than you are yours. Now come,” I felt his hands on my shoulders and in my mind’s eye, I could almost make out the shape of his long graceful fingers, but surely it was only my imagination. “Come and have a bath,” he said. “Oh don’t worry, I won’t … attack you.” There was bitterness in His voice that I felt in my own mouth as though it were my own. I shivered and quickly downed the rest of my tea in an effort to wash it away.
True to His word, not only did he not attack me, but He left me completely alone to bathe. In spite of the stress of the situation, I felt my shoulders relax in the warm waters of the bath, as I lay back with my eyes closed. I gave up trying to plan my escape, at least for the moment, and my thoughts returned to the tunnel beyond the crypt, then to the dreams that I’d had the night after Annie first showed me Chapel House. I was surprised to find that a great deal of that time was sketchy in my memory, and with a sudden flash of insight, I realized I’d never written anything about that day, not in my journal, not in my notebook, not anyplace. I hadn’t spoken of it, dreamed of it or even thought of it until just now in the tunnel. A crypt, a deconsecrated church with a sketchy past, a great deal of drunken speculation on the story behind Chapel House, and yet I, a well established writer, who never let anything go unobserved or undocumented, had neither written about it nor thought about it, as though it had never even happened.
But I remembered now, as I sifted through my memories, that the tunnel had most definitely been barred shut and padlocked and right about where I nearly fell into the abyss. I remembered it clearly now. I remembered both of us making jokes about what was beyond the bars. I remember we did it until we scared ourselves, then we turned and left the crypt – not really running, but definitely not lingering, as though we feared perhaps those bars weren’t quite as strong as they look, and perhaps the padlock wasn’t really locked. I remember the feeling of my own flesh creeping as we laughed and joked about the release of demons from the pit of hell and about souls hungering for what He had called enfleshment, but Christ! It was just my imagination. That’s what I did! I wrote stories. I spent at least as much time in my imagination as I did in the real world – maybe more. It was Annie who had no imagination. But then she really didn’t need it. Her life already was a story. All of the things she wanted, all of the things that happened to her could have been the plot for a cheap romance novel or an episode of East Enders on steroids. She was the practical one, the one who made bags of money, which she spent on a luxurious lifestyle. She was the one who had no time for love, not real love anyway. Oh she had lovers, all right. Men queued to be with Annie. But for her it was never more than a dalliance followed by a minor drama of a break-up. There’d be a few tears shed, followed by some laughs with her girlfriends over too much wine, and then on to the next one. I was the one who would have happily lived in a cardboard box as long as I had something to write on. As for love, well my passion, the love of my heart, had always been the telling of stories. That kept me way too tunnel-visioned and in love with my own creations to notice even if a bloke did pay attention to me.
And why the hell was I thinking about all this now? Was it fear of losing my friend? Was it fear of facing my own mortality? With a shiver, I realized that the lust, which had not left me since my first night in Chapel House, had eased back to a gentle buzz low between my hipbones, and my mind was suddenly clear.
I stepped out of the tub and dried myself, still thinking about the events of that night, which seemed like an eternity ago now, and with a start, I realized that He had left me unsupervised. I could have left. My car was just outside. My bag was on the floor by the sink. I suppose he’d had Annie get it. Christ, He used her like a zombie. But then at the moment she wasn’t much more, was she? With a shiver, I recalled how He had moved me to where He wanted me to go as though I were a puppet on a string. Still, He would have let me walk away just now. I knew He would have. I don’t know how I knew, but I did. He’d left me alone on purpose – to see what I would do. So why was I standing stone still and naked staring at myself in the mirror? Why wasn’t I already long gone?
I stepped closer to my own reflection, studying Michael’s bite on my breast, darkened now to shades of midnight blue and purple. There was no evidence of the burn from His touch, no evidence of anything other than a healing love bite. Why was I still here? Did I still think I could save Annie? Oh, I wouldn’t leave without her, I knew that. I also knew that it was entirely possible neither of us would leave at all. I knew as well that sometimes you just needed to run away, to fight another day, and yet I hadn’t, had I?
This time when He approached me, there was no scent of roses, but the scent of a man, a man aroused, but in control, a man who had not come with only sex in mind, a man who had come to court me. An obsolete term, perhaps, but it seemed to fit under the circumstances. My nostrils flared to breathe Him in, and my flesh tingled at the thought of all a person could learn from the smell of a man in his prime. And yet, this was not a man standing next to me. I dared not forget that, no matter what my senses told me.
“You stayed,” He said, and I felt his fingers caress my shoulder. I didn’t flinch, but closed my eyes and leaned back against warm flesh, flesh that was not really there. My senses traced the rise and fall and shape of him, and I liked what I felt. It took me a moment to catch my breath, and even though I expected him to, he made no attempt to do more than touch my shoulder.
“I have … questions,” I said, my mind unable to ignore the fact of Him, the fact that He was as naked as I was, and it was not difficult to tell, He was well and truly ready to make love to me if I asked. And if I asked, He would show me what the gods kept secret from all humanity except for their human lovers, and I would never be the same again. Quite possibly, I wouldn’t even survive it. All I had to do was ask. He wouldn’t deny me.
But he made no further move at seduction. He stood still, while I leaned against him, supporting my weight, but little more. “Of course.” His voice was warm and humid against my neck. “Anything I am able to tell you I will.”
“In the crypt, in the back, the tunnel?”
“There were bars and there was a padlock, a big one.”
“There were, yes. But they’re gone now.” He cupped my breast, and this time His touch didn’t burn when he stroked my nipple with his thumb.
“What happened to them?’ I arched against him, like a cat being stroked. ‘Did Annie have them removed?”
“Why no, my darling little scribe. Don’t you remember? You took them out. You removed them in order to set me free.”