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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.
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, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18.
IN THE FLESH Chapter 19
I wasn’t alone in the dark. I knew that the first time I entered the crypt at Chapel House. I could feel a presence there, almost as though someone stood just behind me about to reach out and touch me, and the shiver over my skin was not so much from fear, though certainly there was an element of fear, as it was from longing, bone-deep longing. I could barely breathe for it, I could barely stand under the weight of it, and I couldn’t imagine how such an ache, such a hunger could exist inside my flesh and not tear me apart. I was astonished that Annie seemed completely unaware of anything out of the ordinary, and to be quite honest, I wasn’t anxious to share it with her.
She continued to chatter on about her plans to make Chapel House over with a state of the art kitchen – she who didn’t cook, and a master suite that would rival the finest hotels in London. Strange that I could listen with one part of my brain and comment on her ideas for an open plan living space, for a library in the choir loft, for a wet room in the sacristy, while with another part of my brain I felt like every cell of my body was responding to whatever it was, whoever it was that I was certain waited there in the darkness, just beyond the beam of Annie’s Mag Light.
I must have groaned, or made some disparaging sound, or maybe she just sensed my utter mortification as I recalled what I’d written next, but Magda paused and looked up at me. ‘I’m not trying to embarrass you, Susan, but words have power. They’re your words. If you read them, they have more power. At the moment we don’t want to do anything that might empower him further. My reading them, being who I am, will significantly diminish that power so that, hopefully we might all understand what has happened and learn what to do.’
I nodded, face still burning from hearing words read out loud that I’d never meant to be shared with anyone. ‘I told Annie this story. I remember now. I told her over dinner,’ I said, feeling as though I owed everyone an explanation, feeling on some level as though I had betrayed them all. ‘Only when I told her, I changed us around so that it was her discovery, the Guardian in the crypt, her experiencing Him in the darkness rather than me.’ I recalled how it rankled, even then, even for the sake of keeping my secret, the thought of Annie feeling what I’d felt, the thought of Annie being so caressed in the crypt. I added quickly. ‘Annie likes … well she likes a good nasty story.’ I fought back the urge to say that Annie liked being the center of attention, that Annie wanted everything to be about her. None of that was actually true, all of that was simply my own jealousy. Christ, I hated that it was so, but it was. As though Magda understood, she laid a hand on my arm, and the jealousy dissipated.
Before she could continue reading, a sharp hiss of breath erupted into the tight energy of the room followed by a whispered curse. I turned to see Alonso clasping his hand to his chest as Talia made a mad dash for the window, slamming the shutters tight against the anemic rays of first light, leaving only the backlit screen of my computer and the lamp on the bedside table to keep the room from total darkness. ‘You bloody fool!’ She snapped at Alonso. ‘How useful do you expect to be if you end up toast? Pay attention!’ By the time she returned to his side, Reese was already examining Alonso’s hand, which looked to be badly burned.
‘No need,’ Alonso looked up at me with a blush. ‘I heal fast.’ Sure enough, even as he spoke the blisters that had looked to be 2nd degree burns, easily, were healing and disappearing in front of my eyes.
‘He’s a vampire,’ Talia said before I could do more than gasp at the sight. Alonso shot her an acid glance. ‘Well you are, you overly-sensitive bastard.’ She nodded to me. ‘Hell, she’s got a demonic parasite, you think she gives a fuck if you’re the goddamned undead?’
‘A vampire? Right.’ It said something about the incredible depth of the rabbit hole I’d tumbled down that I was barely phased by this delightful new tidbit of information.
‘Oh don’t worry,’ Talia continued just in case I might — worry. ‘You’re safe. Alonso’s well fed at the moment,’ she gave Reese a playful glance. ‘Besides, he never bites his guests, unless they ask him to.’
Reese sniggered. Alonso growled. Then he took in the room around us with a quick glance. ‘As you’ve all just witnessed, this is not the most comfortable suite for our little … undertaking. Certainly not for one such as me.’ He nodded to his hand, which was now completely healed. ‘Perhaps I may exercise my prerogative as host of this little soirée and invite everyone to adjourn to my study, which, though very well lit, indeed, has far fewer windows. ‘For those present for whom neither Reese nor Talia can provide nourishment, I’ll have Cook bring breakfast. Second breakfast for you, Ms. Innes,’ he said smiling at me. ‘And we can continue once I am not the only one who is well fed.’
When breakfast was over, we all arranged ourselves comfortably in Alonso’s high-tech basement study, complete with huge monitors disguised nicely as windows, which Reese informed me, were linked to cameras that gave Alonso the same gorgeous view of the high fells he would see from the windows in some of the brighter rooms on the upper floors. I perched on a sofa between Magda, who sat with my Mac in her lap and Michael, who held my hand nearly tight enough to crush bone. Magda downed the last of her coffee from a delicate china cup and continued the story out loud, me following along as she read.
The departmentalizing of Annie’s plans and the feel of the presence in the darkness became much more difficult when I felt the press of a warm, hard body against my back and the humid nip of a kiss against the nape of my neck. I explained away my little gasp of surprise to Annie by saying I’d almost lost my footing. I should have been frightened. I should have been terrified, and believe me, I was. But by the time I felt a large hand splayed low against my belly, by the time I was certain of the maleness pressed hard and low against my back, I was far more intrigued than I was frightened. Even if terror had won out, I don’t think I could have forced myself to move as the hand in the darkness migrated to cup my breasts and thumb my nipples, first one, then the other, and the press against my back became a slow insistent undulation.
‘The roses, they smell lovely.’ I managed a breathless response to Annie’s ramblings about plans for the overgrown mess of a garden. ‘You might want to consider a scent garden.’
She laughed. ‘I can’t smell anything, but then you were always the one with the sensitive nose. Of course I’ll make sure there are lots of roses.’ She knew they were my favorite, but I couldn’t imagine her not smelling them, the scent was nearly overwhelming in the tight space of the crypt. To my surprise, as she rambled on about a patio with a Jacuzzi, the smell of roses was subsumed in my own scent and the humid, piquant scent of a man well aroused. The hand on my breast began a slow torturous descent, and I wanted nothing more than for Annie to keep talking, keep planning, anything to keep her from dragging me away from this place, at least for a few more minutes.
I asked about the Jacuzzi, hoping that would give me another minute. By the time she got started about the sites she’d looked up online and the builders she’d talked to, I was rocking back against the hardness, craning my neck to yield as much bare skin as possible to teeth and tongue and lips all soft and warm and wet and sharp and hard and demanding. Oh I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible, but looking back, I wonder how the hell Annie couldn’t see? How could she have missed it? But she rattled on and on about some builder just up the road near Keswick who was supposed to be really good, some guy named Michael. Like I gave a fuck.
The study suddenly felt stuffy and overheated, and Michael’s grip on my hand convulsed. His jaw tightened, but he didn’t look at me. Magda paid little attention to either my discomfort or Michael’s. She just kept on reading.
He was cute, Annie said. That led to observations about this Michael’s broad shoulders and nice arse and speculation as to whether or not he would be any good in bed, and was it wise to seduce him before he put in her Jacuzzi or wait till after and seduce him in it. All the while I nodded and pretended to be interested.
I was thankful for the extra time, but Christ, how could she not notice me standing there legs a part, rocking back and forth and shifting from foot to foot like I had ants in my knickers. In truth, what I wanted in my knickers surely couldn’t actually be there, and yet I felt it, fucking hell, how I felt it! I swear, I could feel muscle and sinew, hell, I could feel the actual shape of an erection as though we were both naked, as though all he need do, this dark being who surely was just my imagination, all he need do was bend me over and open me, me struggling to keep my breathing quiet, me struggling to focus enough attention on my friend that she wouldn’t suspect I was about to come. Oh yes, I was terrified. I would have, should have run if I hadn’t been so intrigued, so turned on. I just wanted one more second, and then another and another. In desperation that shocks me even now as I write this in the dark silence of Annie’s flat, I grabbed onto a wrist that I swear was as solid and warm as my own and guided the caress, the tease the fondling of fingers and palm down my belly toward where I really needed it to be.
Annie yammered on about this Michael, all the things she’d heard about him, all the things she wanted to do to him — at least I think she did. My God, my whole body felt alive, every cell, every molecule. I could damn near feel the coursing of my own blood through my veins. You have no idea what an exhilarating combination fear and arousal make. I lost track of what Annie was saying, and the air was filled with the scent of sex. I could smell him, actually smell this phantom man, who was as near release as I was, and I was sure, as my knees gave beneath me, I felt the warm wet of his orgasm against my lower back. And then for an instant everything around me was velvet and darkness, so perfect, so ecstatic. But just beyond that warm tight space. I knew. I knew as well as I know my own breath, I was terrified, and what I felt was like no terror I’d ever known before and, holy God in heaven, I want to feel it again.
And then I was shivering on my knees against the stone floor in the crypt at Chapel House.
‘Susan? Susan, you’re scaring me?’ Annie’s worried face invaded my field of vision before she half-blinded me with her Mag Light, ‘Are you all right? What the hell happened?’
‘Sorry, I got a little light headed there. Probably just blood sugar. I missed lunch,’ I lied, stumbling quickly to my feet, making a quick swipe at the back of my skirt, surprised to find it was dry and pristine. Glancing over my shoulder into the narrow beam of the Mag Light I saw only the empty darkness of the crypt and the tunnel that lead back to the rusted barred door. But I was certain someone was there, someone I hungered for way more than I hungered for food. And I was equally certain that I would have him.
I don’t know what happened. I was too lost in the words Magda read to notice anything else in the room until suddenly there was a groan, little more than a heavy breath released in desperation, and Michael came to his feet with all the dignity I suppose one could expect from an angel. He tugged at the collar of his t-shirt as though it were choking him, and then he turned on his heels and walked quickly out of the study, shutting the door behind him.
Before I could go after him, Magda grabbed my wrist and settled me back onto the sofa. ‘Let him go. This is no easier for him to take than it is for you and, I’m sorry to say, it’ll get harder before it gets better.’