In The Flesh Part 27: Dark Paranormal Romance in Progress. Enjoy
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:
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, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25 Part 26.
In The Flesh Chapter 27
It was the first time since I’d seen Magda Gardener looking anything but calm and relaxed and only just slightly this side of laughing at a good joke. She looked tired. She didn’t just look tired, she looked downright worried, and that scared me. Clearly it scared everyone in the room, although after what had happened on the battlement, Magda Gardener’s countenance was probably just the icing on the shit-storm cake we were all facing. That sucked, but it was Michael sitting across the room doing his best to avoid my gaze that shredded me. Alonso offered me his hand and gently guided me to the loveseat to sit next to him, the battered copy of Marcus Aralias falling to the floor with a muted thump.
Everyone settled, and then everyone waited expectantly, all eyes on Magda Gardener – all eyes but Michael’s. He only stared at the floor, looking pale and drawn. There were dark circles under his eyes that hadn’t been there before we’d all made our mad race to the battlement to save Annie. With an icy shiver I realized he was showing the same symptoms Annie showed, the result of the Guardian’s attentions. But before I could dwell on Michael’s situation, Magda spoke. “I’ve done what I can to protect Michael from another invasion, but with magic there are never any guarantees, especially not in dealing with the Guardian.”
“I don’t see that you have much choice but to return me to Chapel House,” I said, and I was surprised to find that I had no ulterior motive this time other than wanting Michael and Annie free from this horror and everyone else safe.”
“You’re right. There is no other choice,” I was surprised to find that it was Michael who replied. He lifted his gaze to me. “You’ll be returned to Chapel House and me along with you.” Before I could protest Magda cut in.
“He wants you both. Having you both is his way of proving he can do whatever he wants and we can’t stop him.” She ran a hand through her windblown hair, which settled around her like a writhing halo. “It’s a good bet that once you’ve both been returned to him he’ll see to the death of your friend and then begin working away on Alonso’s people as well It’s his way to punish us for thinking we can best him, to punish me for having done so before.”
“Jesus! You can’t let that happe — ”
“Shut up, Susan,” she cut me off. “The time for negotiation is over. I’m telling you exactly what he’ll do because he doesn’t negotiate, he has no feeling of human emotion, he has no understanding of compassion or empathy.”
“I won’t give up people under my protection, Magda. You know this,” Alonso said.
“I know you’re a fool, Alonso, driven by your heart to the bitter end, and that’s why you’ll do exactly as I say. That’s why you’ll all do exactly as I say, because your humanity is your strength. It’s the one thing he doesn’t understand. We can us that against him.”
“You have a plan then,” Talia asked.
“I do.” Magda bit her lip and squared her shoulders taking in everyone in the room with a gaze that was made all the more impressive by the dark glasses she always wore. “And if you all do exactly as I say, exactly as I say.” She emphasized the words as though our lives depended upon them, which was more than likely the truth. “Then I’ll have the Guardian safely back in his stone prison by this time tomorrow.” She raised a hand when Alonso started to speak. “There will be no negotiation, no second guessing, no questioning.” Is that clear? Susan?” I felt as though her gaze beneath the glasses was turning me to ice. I nodded mechanically. “I mean it. I’m the only one who knows how to deal with this bastard and I’ll tolerate no interference.”
“So what’s your plan then,” Reese asked, moving to sit on the arm of the loveseat next to Alonso.
“Tonight, Michael and Susan will steal a vehicle and slip away, back to Chapel House, where they’ll fervently negotiate with the Guardian to release Annie and everyone else in exchange for them.”
“Why a night escape? In case you’ve forgotten, this is a vampire lair,” Talia said. “The place will be far less vulnerable when the vampire is able to move about freely.”
“I’ve forgotten nothing,” Magda replied. “Didn’t you just hear Alonso say that he would do whatever it took to protect his own.” She nodded to Michael and me. “They’re not his own. They bring danger into his house. The Guardian will have no trouble believing that Alonso will turn a blind eye, even possibly leave the keys in the getaway car. Remember he has no concept of loyalty or compassion. He’ll believe it, trust me.”
“And then what,” I said. I hadn’t realized that I was trembling until Alonso slipped a comforting arm around me, and the look that crossed Michael’s face as he watched was raw anguish.
“And then, I invite him in,” Michael said. “That’s what he wants more than anything, to experience the sensations of being in the flesh. That’s what I can give him. He wants to experience taking you with my body.” The muscles along his jaw twitched, his lips thinned to a grim line and I could see the pulse in his temple hammering a rapid staccato. For a second, he struggled, as though the power of speech had suddenly left him, then he drew himself up to his full height and his eyes locked on mine. “I … I have to let him if we’re ever to end this.”
I nodded, for a second losing my own ability to speak, as my throat constricted and I felt as though the room were tilting around me. “I understand,” I managed. I didn’t. I never would, but I certainly had no idea how to fight this bastard, especially not when most of the time what I wanted on a visceral level was for Him to fuck my brains out. “And then what,” I finally managed.
“Once he’s in Michael, he’s vulnerable,” Madga said. “It’ll be your job to hold his attention, which shouldn’t be too difficult since you’re the object of his lust and he’ll be enjoying you physically, something he won’t be able to resist. You just need to hold his attention until I give the word.” The room was deadly silent. I would wager everyone was holding their breath. I certainly was. “And this is very important, Susan.” She turned her full attention on me again. “When I give the word, you close your eyes, you close them as tightly as you can, and you don’t open them for anything. Not for anything until I say it’s okay.”
“I don’t understand. How’s that supposed to help me or Michael? If I’m lying there helpless with my eyes closed and — ”
“Michael knows what to do,” she interrupted again, “and everything hinges on you keeping your eyes closed. I don’t care if you understand or not. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do exactly as I say, that you close your eyes and keep them closed until it’s over.”
“Susan,” Alonso gently squeezed my hand. “Please don’t argue. Do as she says. Magda knows what she’s doing, and if you do as she says, you’ll come back to us safely.”
Michael, who still held me in his laser gaze nodded his agreement with Alonso and Magda. “The plan will work, Susan. It’s the only plan that will work, and you have to trust Magda. You have to trust me.”
I nodded. But I didn’t. I didn’t trust either of them, not really. I didn’t trust anyone against the Guardian. He didn’t think like a person would, and while He might not understand human emotions, He was incredibly intuitive, and He did understand human actions. It wasn’t just that, it was the way Magda and Michael were behaving, the furtive glances, the stiff upper lips. Something wasn’t right. I wasn’t being told what would actually happen. I was being told to trust in a place where I had not seen any reason to trust – not because people didn’t have my best interest at heart, but because we were all dealing with insurmountable odds and I was being asked to go in blind. But still I nodded my agreement; I nodded my consent and the trust I didn’t feel. There was nothing else I could do at the moment.
That seemed to be enough for Magda though. She gave a decisive nod and stood. “Good, then I suggest at the moment, you get some rest. Michael will stay with me for safety sake and Alonso, if you would see to Susan’s safety, I’d appreciate it.” When the time comes, when it’s fully dark, you’ll escort Susan and Michael out in what will be seen as your effort to keep your own people safe. I’ll find my own way to Chapel House, and by the time they arrive I’ll be waiting there. Oh don’t worry,” she waved a dismissive hand at me, “I promise the Guardian will have no clue that I’m there. I’m good at hiding, and I’ve hidden from way scarier bastards than him.”
As everyone stood to leave, Michael left without so much as a backward glance, and I felt the lack of him as though someone had ripped my heart out. It was Alonso who supported me, whispering softly against my ear. “Let him go, my darling girl. Let him do what he must for Annie, for you.”
We stood while everyone filed out of the room except Talia, who came to Alonso’s side. “Cook’s waiting in your room. It’s his turn, and you need to feed.” Before he could protest, she said. “Now’s not a good time for you to be weakened Alonso, now go and feed. I’ll take care of this one,” she offered me half a smile, “and when you’re done, we’ll be in her room.”
Alonso dropped a cool kiss on my forehead and left the room with a quick backward glance.
Feeling like I’d been gutted with a spoon, I followed Talia up the stairs to my room. Neither of us spoke, and though I was completely strung out, I knew I couldn’t sleep. As she opened the door and stepped aside for me, I was just about to ask if we could go back for my computer when she shut the door and locked it. Before I knew what was happening, she took me into her arms taking my mouth with a deep, probing kiss. I gasped and tried to push her away as her power overwhelmed me. My knees gave from under me, and we half settled half fell onto the aubusson carpet.
“Listen to me, Susan Innes,” she spoke against my mouth in between urgent kisses. “We don’t have much time. Michael asked me to give something to you after everything was all over.” She covered my mouth with her hand when I tried to question. “But I made an executive decision not to wait. I don’t believe in subterfuge, and I don’t believe in keeping vital information from people. It causes more damage than it does good, and you’re the Scribe, not some silly helpless little girl. Now hold still, be quiet and let me give you what he wants you to have.”
She kissed me again, and this time I wrapped my arms around her neck and kissed her back as the floor gave way beneath me. The whole world gave way. I knew that Talia was more than just a succubus, though that would have been frightening enough, but her powers were far more formidable. Michael had called her a living flash drive, and I understood why as she took my mouth in what was so much more than just a kiss, and suddenly it was Michael I was kissing, suddenly we stood together in the hallway by the stairs, him pressing my tightly against the wall, him caressing me, him holding me. But he slapped my hands away when I tried to undo his jeans. “There’s no time for that now,” he said, “I need you to listen to me Susan, just listen. I love you. I’ve loved you since long before I ever met you. Angels have eternity stretched out before them. They can see all time is it plays out, no beginning, no end. It’s a terrifying thing to face time with no end. In order to stay sane, we choose a moment, an experience, a person, and we focus on them. They are our true north. You were mine long before my fall from grace. You were my reason for holding on and my reason for fighting my way back from the Guardian.
“Perhaps this is the reason for my whole existence, and now that I’m human, now that I am mortal, I can give it all up and let it go knowing that you’re safe, knowing that you’ll go on to become the Scribe you were intended to be. Listen to Magda. She’ll teach you. She’ll guide you, and she’ll comfort you when you feel you can’t go on. Only listen to her, and never forget that I love you. If anything of a person lives on, then let it be that, let it be my love for you.”
And once again I was lying on the floor wrapped in Talia’s arms struggling hard to get away. “He’s going to sacrifice himself. I can’t let that happen! Let me up, damn it! Get off me, Talia.”
But she didn’t. Instead she straddled me and pushed me down hard to the floor, trapping my wrists in her hands. “What I gave you,” she managed, breathing hard, “that was from Michael. What I give you now is from me, what I’ve discovered, because you need to know. You need to know what’s happening.”
This time the kiss was little more than a breath at first, and then it was as though I were standing once again on the battlement in the storm, and I was the one falling, endlessly falling from the tower. But all that disappeared with a jerk and a tremor, and I found myself standing in front of Magda Gardener’s little bothy, safely hidden behind a hawthorn thicket. Oh it wasn’t me, of course. It was Talia, but I saw it all through her eyes. I knew I shouldn’t be there, but I had to know what was going on. Someone needed to know what Magda was up to, so I hid and watched and listened as she spoke with Michael.
“You know there’s no other choice now,” Michael said. “If you turn me while the Guardian’s inside me, then he won’t be able to escape. He’ll be trapped.” His laugh was tinged with bitterness. “The bastard has inadvertently given us a way to trap him, and what church yard doesn’t benefit from one more stone angel?”
“I can’t do that, Michael. You can’t ask that of me. You can’t.” The anguish in the woman’s voice vibrated through the whole room, even through the rocks of the foundation and the menagerie of sculptures around it.
“Magda, Magda, listen to me.” He knelt in front her and took her face in his hands, careful not to disturb the glasses. “You have no choice and you know it as well as I do. He’s gotten into me. He won’t go away, and he won’t stop until he has Susan and Annie is dead and then, you’ve already said it, he’ll come after all of Alonso’s people starting with Reese just for revenge sake. And once that happens, there’ll be no one standing in his way. Magda, you know I speak the truth.”
“Not you, Michael. Not you! You don’t deserve this.” The woman was actually crying. “No one deserves this.”
“That’s right, no one does, but that’s not important, that doesn’t matter, Annie and Susan, keep them safe. That’s what matters. Susan, she is a Scribe, a true Scribe, she writes the truth of what happens, she writes the possibilities. You have to keep her safe. And besides,” he said, settling back onto a rough wooden bench, “I lover her. You know I love her.”
I could hear the soft patter of something hard and tiny like seed pearls hitting stone, but I ignored the sound as Michael continued. “Don’t you see, once he’s inside me, he’s vulnerable. We can trap him forever and it’ll all be over. Finally it’ll all be over.”
Magda Gardener laid her glasses aside and buried her face in her hands. For a long moment Michael sat silently next to her, then he reached out and took her into his arms. When she straightened, he turned and looked away while she reached for her glasses. And then she wiped her eyes with her fingers and the sound of seed pearls broke the silence. It was then that I saw it, the tears on Magda’s cheeks were wet only for a moment. I blinked and blinked again. Surely I was imagining it, but the tears were transformed to tiny stones, not much bigger than grains of sand as they slid off her cheeks and into her lap and fell onto the floor.
“Do you understand?” The voice came from a long way off. “Do you understand now, Susan?”
I glanced around me at the stone menagerie every animal, no matter how small, perfectly carved in incredible, impossible detail. Another stone angel, Michael had said. When you change me, he had said. It can’t be. It couldn’t be. ‘When I give the word,’ Magda had said, ‘you close your eyes, you close them as tightly as you can, and you don’t open them for anything. Not for anything until I say it’s okay.’ That’s what she’d said. That’s what she’d repeated. That’s what she’d stressed. She always wore the dark
glasses. She wouldn’t let me look at her when she came to me in the crypt. It all made sense now, and yet it was impossible, so totally impossible.
“It can’t be. It just can’t be. It can’t,” I came back to myself sitting on the floor leaning against the bed, my head resting on Talia’s shoulders repeating over and over again, “It can’t be. It’s impossible. It can’t be” But I knew the truth at last, in my gut I knew the truth. “Magda Gardener – she’s … She’s Medusa.”
Talia held me in her bright blue gaze. “Now you understand,” she said. “And you needed to understand because you’re the Scribe and you write the story.”