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The Big U-Turn

Yes, I admit it openly! I’m an HEA sort of girl. I feel like I’ve been cheated if I don’t get that happy ever afteror at least a happy for nowat the end of a novel or a series. Yes, I expect losses, and yes I expect a journey that is fraught with chaos and nail-biting setbacks, but I do expect a pay-off for sticking with the author to the end.

 

If there isn’t an HEA, well I can live with that as long as the tale is redemptive. But take away the characters’ hard-earned HEA and their redemption arc and I will throw the book in the trash, or delete it from my kindle and never read that author again. Totally not acceptable in my sight!

 

While I get that sometimes the cost of the tale being told is way too high for a proper HEA, while I get that people suffer and die and things go tits up and pear shaped, I cannot, CANNOT except a tale that ends with no intimation of redemption. Perhaps it makes me a sappy git, but I believe redemption is essential to the human condition. If that were not the case, I figure the human race would have died out a long time ago from the total lack of hope.

 

I often find myself thinking about the redemptive arcs in my own stories. Not only are they there in every single tale, but they are absolutely essential for the HEA to happen. While a redemption story does not necessarily involve an HEA, in my opinion for an HEA to be worth the read, a redemptive arc leading up to it is crucial. Without it, the story is flat and, worst of all, it becomes something with which people in the real world cannot identify.

 

The sharing of stories is quite possibly the best form of escapism ever created, with reading fiction the ultimate refinement of that great escape. We read, and write stories to experience vicariously the journeys we can never make on our own, nor would we even want to if we could. And while that is true, the one thing that we do want to believe in, need to believe in, the one thing that we want to take for ourselves from each story is a sense of hope, without which there’s very little reason to journey farther.

 

Through the stories I’ve written, my characters have taught me several valuable lessons about redemption.

 

First of all, redemption doesn’t mean forgiveness. Some things cannot be forgiven, nor can they be undone. That means one of the very fist steps to redemption is letting go of the past those characters can’t change and moving forward to the future they can.

 

Secondly that moving forward instead of being stuck in the past and its hopelessness is often the opening of ones eyes to see things differently, a different view of what has been and how it affects the present makes for a much different view of the future and the possibilities awaiting the character.

 

Thirdly while the literal definition of redemption is the buying back of a thing, in fiction the currency is character struggle. What is purchased at a very high price is hope bought back from hopelessness. It’s not so much the hope that one might be made new again nor is it the pipe dream that what has happened can be undone, because certainly it can’t. But redemption is the moving forward on a different path that leads away from despair and toward hope, no matter how distant that hope may seem. It’s the understanding that while one can’t undo what has been done, one can move forward in hope and impact the world in a positive way, or at least not a negative one.

 

Fourthly, once the U-turn into hope is made, the journey is only just beginning. The characters’ flaws don’t magically vanish, the brokenness is not suddenly mended and the journey is more than likely going to be one helluva a ride. But it’s a ride worth the effort. It’s a ride worth waking up for every morning. That sense of value, or at least that sense of not being worthless, that sense of moving toward something that matters is a key ingredient in the redemption of a character.

 

Finally, sex in a story can play a major role in that redemptive arc. Sex can work as the drug that keeps hopelessness at bay and keeps a character numb or in denial. It may be nothing more than a distraction from the pain of that hopelessness, but in story it’s a powerful distraction and one that can convey to the reader the depth of the character’s hopelessness in a way that’s raw and honest, even in its dishonesty.

 

But sex in the redemptive arc can also lay a character bare, render a character open and vulnerable to that U-turning, to that possibility that hope might not just be something for other people. That sense of union and oneness that can happen with sex can be a part of the guiding force that brings a character back to himself, that reconnects him with all that matters, all that has been lost.

 

While we might all seek an escape from our own ordinary lives through the stories we read, while we might all live vicariously through the trials and tribulations of the characters, the need for redemption, for hope, is something not so vicarious, something we all need and long to share.

 

 

 

Some Added Summer Heat with Sexy Poetry

It’s time for a little summer doggerel, just because. These two poems were first
published in the too hot to handle volume, Coming Together in Verse, edited by the fabulous Ashley Lister. I don’t do much poetry, because I find it really intimidating and downright scary at times. Fiction is much easier. But I happened to be inspired for this anthology … though some of you may question my inspiration as you read. But everyone is entitled to a little filthy silliness at times. The first poem, Stalking Your Scent is more serious, though far sexier, I think, being fascinated by the world of scent as I am.  The second is just inspired by the joys of riding dodgy busses. Enjoy!

 

Stalking Your Scent

I stalk your scent, the wolf at midnight, mouth open to enticing aromas as you writhe beneath me in the dark, as you kiss me and embrace me at your rising from tangled sheets and carelessly tossed clothing unaware that I sniff, that I breathe, that I test you like my unsuspecting next meal.

 

I stalk your scent day in, day out, my own scent driven by obsession, heightened by lust. I eat from you, sneak from you, steal from you what makes me want inside, need inside, burn inside.

 

I stalk your scent and mark you with mine, your throat, your heart, your cock. I possess you in the blending of spice and earth, of tide pool and storm, until I recognize myself only in the context of you, until I am contained only by the boundaries of your redolence.

 

I stalk your scent in the sleepless hours, riding you to exhaustion, thieving the perfume of your lust, to wear in secret, to flaunt in public. I crave your smell each time I touch you, each time I fuck you, each time I eat you, ruthlessly eat you, tasting and sniffing and lifting my hips to tease you.

 

I stalk your scent through the years, taking you in like the breath I breathe, no longer remembering a time when the smell of you didn’t move me, arouse me, quicken me.

 

I stalk your scent on the written page, olfactory after-images elusive and defiant, words lacking bouquet and base note for the depth of my obsession, for the heart of my need for the smell of you against my skin, you in my embrace, you replete in the sweat of sleep and the ozone of dreams and the promise of waking to take me again.

 

The Dodgy Bus

I always ride the dodgy bus no matter my destination.

Though the windows rattle and the floorboards shake,

I ride without hesitation.

 

Ignoring the stench of the oil and grease, I ride with enthusiasm,

Cuz it’s only on the dodgy bus I get the best orgasm.

 

Once onboard, I head for the back, as always is my habit,

Where the seats vibrate and shiver and shake like a really Rampant Rabbit.

 

My man-spread’s quite unladylike, but I open my legs real wide,

Ignoring the stares and the dirty looks. I’m only along for the ride.

 

While others get quite anxious, their stops anticipating,

No one ever guesses I’m just here masturbating.

 

The lack of good shocks makes my tits shake, the vibrations, they tickle my clit.

I’m an expert at finding the sweet spot on the naugahyde seat where I sit.

 

I don’t care if it’s cheap or it’s pricy, don’t mind if it costs a good sum.

Though I may not get where I’m going, I always have a good cum.

 

Grace Lowrie Launches IN YOUR SILENCE with a Blog Tour

 

 

In Your Silence Blurb:

Still reeling from a sudden and very one-sided break-up, Liam throws himself into his work and gets commissioned to restore the neglected grounds of a mansion, Wildham Hall, for its owner Gregory Sinclair.

It is there that Liam meets Melody, who is mute.

Liam has always suppressed the darkest side of himself, but as his clandestine liaison with Melody develops, she tests him and his deepest desires are dragged to the surface.

 

 

In Your Silence Excerpt:

‘Do you trust me?’ his voice was unusually husky.

I nodded and he moved his hands up beneath my dress to my hips, braced himself, leaned forwards, and placed a soft kiss on the birthmark on the inside of my thigh. The seemingly innocuous gesture was as welcome as it was unexpected, giving me goosebumps, while his eyes roamed across my face assessing my reaction. Encouraged by whatever he saw there he proceeded to press a long, lingering kiss to the damp cotton between my thighs and my whole body thrilled and ached with delight. Liam began to ease my knickers down and I shifted up off my bottom to make it easier for him. He sat back on his heels to gently unhook them from my feet and I flushed with heat as he gazed at me there; my most intimate parts spread open and exposed. But the sober expression on his face and the hungry look in his eyes made my insides clench with excitement.

Rising back up onto his knees, he gripped my hips and brought his face in towards me, and I closed my eyes. Pressing his mouth to my sensitive flesh he began to tease me with his tongue and I was overwhelmed by a rush of emotion. Was there ever a sensation naughtier or more heavenly? Trembling all over and fighting for breath, I clutched at his hair, near-delirious, as he quickly worked me up to a dizzying peak; my pelvis flexing back and forth with a drive of its own and my muscles tensing all over in anticipation.

Because this time I understood what was happening to me; I’d longed for another orgasm for weeks. My sheer desperation left no room for embarrassment as I greedily rubbed against him…

And then he made a sound; a low moan similar to the noise he made when enjoying good food, and the vibration tipped me over the edge into that incredible shattering sensation I so craved; my body shuddering in great waves from head to toe; my lungs gasping; my blood pounding in my ears and the roof of my mouth.

 

 

 

Buy In Your Silence Here:

Ebook: https://amzn.to/2GHVRNU

Paperback: https://amzn.to/2UDqKqs

 

 

 

About Grace

With a background in art, prop-making and garden design, Grace has always been
creative – but she is a romantic at heart and writing was, and is, her first love. An avid reader of fiction she prefers coffee and a sinister undercurrent over tea and chick lit, and has a soft spot for grumpy ginger tomcats.

When not making prop costumes or hanging out with her favourite nephews, she continues to write women’s fiction and romance novels from her Hertfordshire home.

 

Find Grace Here:

Blog: www.gracelowrie.com/blog

Facebook: www.facebook.com/GraceLowrieWriter

Twitter: www.twitter.com/gracelowrie1

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/grace_lowrie

Instagram: www.instagram.com/grace_lowrie/

 

An Unexpected Encounter with Alonso Darlington: Final Entry

This is the final journal entry of my unusual visit with Alonso Darlington. Two weeks I told you that 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.

 

 

 

 

3rd Entry

 

The room was as silent as a tomb after Talia left. God, I didn’t want to think of that analogy, but there it was, popping up in my head, and me alone with the vampire I thought I’d created, but wasn’t at all sure I could trust. Ha! Me being Alonso’s maker! The humour was almost, but not quiet lost on me.

 

I could feel his gaze rather than see it. But then Alonso’s gaze was nearly as physical as his touch. When it moved over me, I felt as though every part of me had not only been touched, but completely left naked and exposed. I kept my eyes focused on my hands folded in my lap as though I were offering up a white-knuckled prayer. Maybe I was. I honestly don’t know.  I do know that I was scared witless. I had absolutely no clue what was going on or what was the significance of the conversation that had passed between Talia and Alonso. I was still struggling to get my head round what had happened and the fact that something so brutal could have been arousing as well as terrifying.

 

After what seemed like ages, Alonso released a heavy breath and came around the desk. He leaned back on it looking down at me where I sat, still avoiding his gaze. ‘Are you a fan of mythology?’

 

His question startled me, and I looked up. ‘Yes, why?’

 

In a move so fast I missed it until I felt the electricity of his touch shoot down my spine, he knelt in front of me and took my face in his hands so that I couldn’t look away.  ‘You often write … stories that involve mythology, witches, demons, things that can’t be easily explained.’

 

I struggled to catch my breath enough to reply. ‘I write all sorts of things. I have an active imagination, like you said.’

 

He made a sound at the back of his throat that was enough like a growl to make the hair on my neck rise. ‘Your active imagination conjures a lot of very dangerous people.’

 

My laugh sounded high pitched and thin, bouncing off the stone walls. ‘You make me sound like a witch or something.’

 

He didn’t smile. ‘Not a witch. Not exactly.’

 

I couldn’t hold back a shiver, but I caught myself quickly. ‘I write fiction. That’s all.’

 

He said nothing, only studied me until I closed my eyes to get away from his intense gaze. It was the warmth of his lips on mine that caused me to start, his electric touch playing over me like ripples on a pond. The room suddenly seemed tight, airless. I tried to get away from him, but he held me tight. ‘Perhaps she’llallow you to believe that, but I doubt it.’

 

 

Before I could either panic or throw myself into his arms and offer up my neck, he stood and moved back behind the desk. ‘You’re free to go, K D. Talia will take you back to your room, and you have free run of the house for now.’ He gave a huff of a laugh. ‘There isn’t much you’ve not already seen, I suppose.’

 

He was right. It was an intuitive experience, finding my way around High View Manor. And it was uncanny that I should know the place so well, that it was the place I had created in my imagination for a story I’d written, and yet my creation was stone and wood all around me. I wandered the grounds when I felt claustrophobic inside the stone walls designed to keep a vampire safe from the northern sun – anemic in the winter and tireless in the summer. I wandered the grounds wrapped in the heavy jacket, which I found returned and hanging next to the wardrobe in my room, as if by magic.

 

I felt as though I’d fallen off the edge of the earth and ‘here be monsters.’ This was the Lake District! I loved the Lake District. My heart felt like it was home the first time I came here. But Lakeland is also a place full of magic and mystery. That the creations of my imagination should take shape in the reality of the waking world made me feel wrong-footed and not quite at home in my own skin. It was unsettling enough to see the world I had created in my head solid and stable all around me, but it was much more so to feel threatened by the flesh and blood people that until now I thought to be only characters in my imagination.

 

The sun was setting and I had just returned from a wander in Alonso’s garden, shivering from the cold wind that had gotten up some time in the afternoon, and had just been joined by gravy-thick mist. I heard voices in the day room, heard the mention of my name, and stopped short to listen.

 

‘If Talia didn’t put the story of our relationship in Ms Grace’s head then who the hell did?’ I recognized Reese’s voice and stepped closer on tiptoes.

 

‘It’s better that you don’t know,’ came Alonso’s reply. ‘Our cat’s out of the bag, so to speak. That means sheshould have no further interest in us.’ Then he added as an afterthought. ‘Though I honestly don’t know why she would want our story shared in the first place. I’ve kept my distance from her, respected her boundaries, kept her secrets – what few I know of them. I’m no threat to her.’

 

‘You’re recently returned to Lakeland,’ Talia said. ‘Granted High View and the surrounding fells is all your land, and you keep a low profile, but you’re here, and she’ll want to know exactly why you’re here and what your plans are.’

 

‘If she’s told my story to the writer, then she already knows my motives and that I’m no threat to her.’

 

No threat to who? Who the hell was he talking about? I felt like little ant feet were crawling up my spine. Christ! If there were someone out there who Alonso feared, someone whose attention he wanted to avoid, what the hell would they want with me? I was scared enough of him. Whoever shewas, I was pretty damned sure I wanted nothing do to with her. I was so lost in my thoughts that I nearly missed Alonso’s next statement with all its implications.

 

‘Anyone else who she brings to Ms Grace’s attention, well that’s not our problem, is it? And the less we know the better.’

 

Anyone she brings to my attention? They thought this she, whoever she was, had made me write Alonso’s story? I was beginning to get seriously creeped out.

 

‘She was in Vegas last spring, our dear Ms Grace. You know that, right?’ It was Talia’s voice I heard now, and I inched still closer to the open door holding my breath. ‘More jet-lagged than usual from what I understand. I wasn’t so concerned when she was there the year before. But last spring, Mr. Graves had … company.’

 

‘It’s not our concern, Talia.’ Alonso’s voice was tight and irritable. ‘Mr. Graves has nothing to do with us, and if the woman writes his story, if that’s why she was so jet lagged, then better Graves than us. And he can certainly take care of himself.’

 

‘That’s easy for you to say.’ Talia’s voice, though low and controlled, made gooseflesh prickle up my arm. ‘But Ms Grace is here in the Lakes often, and you’re not the only one who has secrets, Alonso.’

 

‘What do you want me to do, Talia? Hmm?’ If she’s chosen Ms Grace to write the stories then there’s nothing any of us can do about it, and though Mr Graves might be angry, he won’t take her on, not directly anyway. There’s too much between them.’

 

‘Who’s she? Who the hell are you talking about?’ Reese asked, his voice raised in exasperation.

 

Alonso’s reply was curt, sharp edged with warning. ‘We’ll discuss this later, after our guest leaves.’

 

Talia spoke over a loud clearing of her throat. ‘And just how long do you plan to keep our guest listening at the door, Alonso?’

 

Before I could turn to flee, Alonso was at my side and with speed matched only by grace, he slid an arm around me and guided me into the day room where I was suddenly the center of attention.

 

‘I’m sorry. I was just coming in and I heard my name and … well what you were saying was …’

 

‘Frightening?’ Talia came to my side and smoothed the wind-blown hair away from my face, and the feather touch of her fingers sent the feeling of champagne bubbles bursting all over my body. ‘You have good reason to be frightened, scribe.’  Before I could step away from her, she pulled me into her arms and kissed me.

 

From somewhere a long way off I could hear Alonso and Reese, voices raised in alarm, but after that everything happened so quickly, I can only guess at events. They came to me like scenes lit by a strobe light, fast, frantic, and disjointed. There was a woman. I can’t recall how she looked, and yet I know if I ever see her, I’ll know instantly who she is. She was achingly beautiful and yet something about that beauty terrified me. I tried to run from her, through an overgrown garden, dark and wild and more alive than it should have been. And there were stones, all around me stones some sculpted, some grotesque, some worn away until I couldn’t tell if they were ever more than just the rock on the fells.

 

Then someone carrying a flaming torch walked inside me like I were the garden, ignoring all the places that I chose to share with the world and seeking out the darkness in me, the shame in me, the places I never visited myself, let alone invited company in for a look. I cried out, I screamed, I tried to chase the torch bearer away, but the more I tried, the more my darkness was illuminated.

 

And then I was falling down underground, at first into the ruins of a slate quarry, and then there were bright lights above me, but I walked in caves, through endless tunnels and caverns, and I walked among the dead, all the while knowing that the bright lights were above me and that above me people celebrated, people danced and drank and partied. Yet they were oblivious to the dead just below them, the dead I walked among as I followed the torchbearer through the darkness. I followed until we came to the edge of an abyss, and there, the torchbearer turned to me and spoke against my ear. ‘Write it. Write what I tell you.’  Then with the flat of her hand in the middle of my back, she gave a gentle push, and I fell over the edge.

 

I woke with a start, gasping for breath. I’m embarrassed to say that I might have actually been screaming. It was Reese who held me, and soothed me back into the waking world.

 

‘Goddamn it, Talia!’ Alonso was saying. ‘Why the hell did you do that?’

 

I was lying flat out on the leather sofa with Reese kneeling at my side. But Talia was kneeling next to him.

 

As I fought to sit up, Talia glided across the floor to Alonso, took his face in her hands and kissed him hard. He gasped as though she had gut-punched him, grabbed at her as though to keep from falling and then stopped trying as his legs gave and he dropped onto the love seat across from me where he sat breathing like he’d just ran a marathon.

 

Talia pulled herself up to her full height, squared her shoulders and spoke in a quiet voice. ‘Now you know. Now we all know. And there’s nothing we can do about it.’ Then she turned and walked out of the room.

 

‘Do about what? What did she just do? What did she see?’ Reese sounded as though he wasn’t all that far from the panic I felt in knowing that whatever had happened inside me, Talia had just conveyed to Alonso, and I was pretty sure they both understood it a helluva lot better than I did.

 

If Alonso wasn’t already dead, I’d have said he looked like death warmed over, and his gaze was locked on me as though I’d just sprouted horns and a tail. Then he pulled his cell phone from his jacket pocket still holding me in a cast-iron gaze. ‘Stephen, see that Ms Grace’s clothes are packed and the car is brought around for her. She’ll be leaving immediately. Oh, and see that the jet is prepped to fly her to Heathrow.’

 

It was full dark when Alonso walked me to the waiting SUV. Up until that time no one had spoken to me, though I had been well-fed, which was good because after whatever had happened to me in the day room, I was ravenous. The driver got out to take my bag and Alonso took my hands in his.

 

‘It isn’t over, K D.’ Before I could ask, he raised his hand to stop me. ‘I wish that I could tell you more, wish that I could help you, but I can’t. I know little more than to tell you that you need to be careful, and you need to be prepared because mine won’t be the last story you’ll be compelled to write.’ He shrugged. ‘I’m overstepping my boundaries by even telling you that, but perhaps she’llforgive me. Perhaps not. Still you should be warned. You should be ready for what’ll be asked of you. At least as ready as it’s possible to be. I am sorry, K D. Truly I am.’ He kissed me on the cheek, then nodded to the driver.

 

Under the circumstances I would have never thought it possible, but I slept most of the way home, dreaming of things too disturbing and too erotic for me to share outright with you. Most of them involving Alonso and Talia, but during those dreams, I always knew that shewas watching. There were moments when I could almost figure out who she was, but then like most dreams, what I struggled to hold on to vanished into mist before I woke up.

 

I arrived home feeling groggy and raw. In spite of my fears, in spite on that prickly feeling that someone was always just behind me just out of my field of vision, I fell into my own bed without even undressing and slept a deep, dream-filled sleep, often feeling as though Alonso or Talia, sometimes both, were there in the bed with me, and always she watched just beyond the edge of my consciousness. I woke half-convinced that I’d dreamed the whole experience, but for the still-packed bag sitting on the floor in the hall. Even then, I thought perhaps I could have packed it in my sleep. Denial is a powerful thing. It was only after I’d gotten out of the shower and was drying myself that I noticed two tiny puncture wounds above my left breast. But even that I tried to justify as some sort of skin irritation or maybe an insect bite.

 

As I unpacked, I discovered the series of email exchanges on my iPhone, the iPhone that had been kept from me the whole time I was at High View, between myself and my husband. I had not written any of them, but they were conversational, so typically my own voice that my husband would have just assumed that the visit to High View was nothing out of the ordinary, though surely whoever had written them knew I’d tell him the whole tale when he returned home. But then again, when I did tell him, it wouldn’t make any difference, would it?

 

In the days that followed, I developed no aversion to sunlight, no desire to drink blood, no powerful urge to return to Alonso. Neither did Talia visit my dreams again. In the days that followed, I constantly questioned myself, tested myself, trying to discover exactly what it was about me that had changed. Something had, and yet I still can’t put my finger on what it was or why or how, but something is different.

 

Alonso’s parting conversation keeps coming back to me, and I wonder just what I aught to be prepared for, and who the hell sheis. I keep trying to make sense out of whatever it was that happened between Talia and me, whatever it was that happened in my head, or in my imagination, or wherever it was. There’s no sense to be made of it, not really. But what I do feel is a sense of heightened expectation, as though something important, something that I need to do or know, is about to happen.  But then again, perhaps it is nothing more than my overactive imagination exerting itself a little more than usual.

 

An Unexpected Encounter with Alonso Darlington

Last week I told you that 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. Enjoy the second entry in my encounter with Alonso Darlington.

 

 

2nd Entry

 

I remember only one time in my life when I woke up with no memory of what had happened to me, and that was in the recovery room following a major surgery. This time, I woke battling a heavy duvet and found myself in a … tent? It was winter. Why would I possibly be in a tent? By then I’d regained enough of my wits that I realized I was in a bed, a heavy antique bed with velvet curtains pulled around it to shut out the light, and the tight little space around me smelled of strange spices laced with a musky outdoorsy scent I couldn’t quite place. A peek outside the curtain revealed sharply-angled sunlight falling anemically across stone floors and Turkish carpets. The heavy wardrobe and bureau in the room matched the dark wood of the bed. I appeared to be alone.

 

It was then that the memories flooded back to me, and my heart battered my ribs as I grabbed for my throat, cursing in spastic breathless whispers. With trembling fingers, I examined the place where Alonso Darlington’s lips had been, where his tongue had been, but there were no bite marks I could feel. Christ! Surely he wouldn’t bite me. Why the hell would he bite me? The Alonso Darlington I knew – well the one I’d written about at least – would not have brought me to his own home and bit me against my will. But then until last night, I thought Darlington nothing but a character I’d dreamed up for a story.

 

I stumbled from the bed, caught my foot in the duvet and fell on my arse. A frantic look around showed an open door through which I could see the dark blue tiles of a bathroom. When I couldn’t find my clothes, I wrapped myself in the duvet and stumbled to the sink. A close inspection in the mirror showed no evidence of bite marks. Then I remembered that the neck wasn’t the only place that Alonso bite people. I dropped the duvet, then twisting and turning like a contortionist, I checked every part of me I could see in the mirror. Then I plopped down on the edge of the claw foot tub to check my legs and groin.

 

‘Don’t worry, K D, he didn’t bite you.’

 

I yelped and nearly upended myself in the tub as I looked up to find Talia standing in the door dressed in a red cashmere sweater and black jeans. I quickly grabbed for the duvet to cover myself.

 

She shook her head and offered me a wicked smile. ‘If he had bitten you, he’d have wanted you to know in detail exactly what it felt like.’ She leaned closer and the smile became dangerous. ‘He’d have wanted you to enjoy the experience completely.’

 

She looked me up and down. ‘Me, I wouldn’t have cared if you’d known what I was doing to you, but just for your peace of mind,’ she leaned closer still, and once again I nearly fell into the tub trying to avoid her touch, ‘I was otherwise occupied last night.’

 

I stood up clutching the duvet tightly around me. ‘Then what happened?’ I managed to sound almost calm. ‘Because I don’t remember anything after he …’

 

Her lips quirked into something that wasn’t a smile exactly, and I felt a chill snake down my spine. ‘You’ll have to ask Alonso.’ She nodded back to the room. ‘Cook has made breakfast,’ she chuckled, ‘though you’ve slept half the day away. You’ll find your bag has been unpacked and your clothes hung in the wardrobe. I’ll take you to Alonso when you’re ready. In the meantime make yourself at home.’ She turned and left.

 

I ate like a starving woman, like someone who had been … kept up all night. But surely I would have remembered if that had been the case.  After a quick shower, I discovered that my make-up bag and toiletries were on the dressing table near the big window but my shoulder bag and my mobile were nowhere to be found. That left me with an uneasy feeling. Though Raymond had known I was coming to Cumbria, he would be worried if he didn’t hear from me.

 

Once dressed, I was surprised to find the door to the room not locked. I thought about making a run for it, but one look out the window at the frozen landscape with the heavy cloudbank rolling in over the fells, and the fact that I also couldn’t find the heavy coat from last night made me reconsider.  On top of that, I was reminded again that I had no idea where I was, nor had I recognized the route by which I’d arrived last night. I thought I’d recognized the hulking shape of Scafell Pike from the window, but even that was lost behind the cloudbank. I was completely turned around.

 

There was no time for a Plan B. Talia shoved open the door without a knock, inspected me with a gaze that made my knees weak, then she smiled. ‘Come on. Alonso’s waiting for you.’ What choice did I have? I followed her into an unadorned stone corridor that smelled dusty and muddy with the scent of heavy renovations in progress rather than the scent of age. She led me down a steep stone staircase claustrophobic in its tight twists and turns, and treacherous in its smoothly warm steps. The deeper the stairs descended, the closer the walls became. I’m not fond of tight places, and by the time the space opened out into a pleasant well-renovated sub-basement, I was having a bit of trouble breathing.

 

‘It’s several hours till dusk,’ Talia said, noticing my distress. ‘That being the case, this is where you’ll have to meet Alonso.’ She offered a throaty giggle. ‘You were right in your written accounts, hon, no coffins, not for Alonso at least.’ Without preamble, she opened a heavy wooden door that screeched against the stone floor, stepped back and nodded me in. I stumbled and nearly ran into Reese who was leaving in a hurry. He didn’t seem pleased.

 

He grabbed me by the shoulders to keep me from stumbling. ‘I’m very sorry about this, Ms Grace,’ he offered Alonso a hard glare, ‘but he’s a pigheaded prick at times.’ Then he glared at Talia and shoved his way past. I could hear the clumping of his heavy boots receding as he ascended the stairs. Then I turned to see Alonso fighting back a smile.

 

‘I’m afraid Reese is right, K D,’ he said, giving me the same once-over Talia had only minutes before. ‘I am a pigheaded prick at times, and until I get to the bottom of how you uncovered even my existence let alone such a … vivid view into my private life, I shall continue to be so.’ He nodded to a wingback leather chairs in front of the huge desk behind which he now sat. I settled reluctantly, more than happy for the comforting expanse of the desk between us.

 

For a long moment, he studied me without speaking, then he leaned over his desk and offered a genuine smile. ‘Did you sleep well, K D?’

 

Strangely enough I realized I had slept very well, or at least I certainly felt very well rested. Before I could answer, he shot Talia a quick glance and continued. ‘Did you have … pleasant dreams.’

 

The skin on my arms rippled with gooseflesh. I shivered in spite the warmth of the room, which looked more like the library of a wealthy English manor house than a room in the sub basement of a crumbling ruin. ‘I don’t remember dreaming at all,’ I said, glancing over my shoulder as Talia came forward and settled into the chair next to mine.

 

Alonso made no response, and neither did Talia, but I could feel all eyes on me. I forced myself to sit perfectly still as though I wasn’t bothered by the gaze of two alpha predators who could, and might have already, done anything they wanted to me, who now were staring at me like I was lunch. Of course I couldn’t do anything about my galloping heart nor my sweaty palms.

 

At last Alonso heaved a sigh, and I found myself wondering if vampires breathed. I’d read conflicting stories, and in all honesty, I couldn’t remember if the Alonso in my account breathed or not. Christ, if I’d had any idea I’d be meeting him in person I’d have paid more attention. My thoughts were quickly refocused completely on his person when I realized he had somehow, in a heartbeat, come from behind the desk to lean over me, and I definitely felt his breath on my face, warm and sort of spicy, a scent that brought with it intimations of wild remote places. I froze. It wasn’t like I could have done anything else. He mantled me as though he were a bird of prey and I was a fresh kill.

 

‘You’re telling the truth,’ he said, smoothing my hair behind my ears and cupping my face so I had no choice but to meet his gaze, an act which in and of itself felt like falling off a cliff on the high fells. ‘You honestly believe the story you’ve written about Reese and me is just that, just a work of fiction.’

 

I fought for breath. ‘I would never violate anyone by putting their private life into my stories. Ever.’ There was no keeping my voice steady. In truth, there was no keeping my body steady. I was shaking like a leaf.

 

‘No. Of course you wouldn’t,’ he said, his thumb gently raking across my bottom lip, which did nothing to ease my breathing. His dark eyes flashed over to Talia. ‘Which brings us back to the question at hand. How could you have possibly known the truth of what you wrote?’

 

Talia only shrugged and held his gaze. ‘Interrogate me if you want. I told you it wasn’t me. If I’d visited her bed and shared with her, I’d have taken a great deal of pleasure in sharing it with you, Alonso.’

 

What happened next I still can’t believe, and it’s not easy for me to write about. I’m used to writing sex and violence in fiction because I’m always safely removed from those acts that evolve in my imagination. But this … this was an encounter in which I found myself the accidental voyeur, way more up close and personal than I ever hope to be again.

 

In a heartbeat, Alonso pulled Talia up from her chair. I heard her breath catch, heard the bones in her neck pop in the violence of his efforts. Then with a single tug of his fist, he ripped open the front of her sweater and shoved it aside. I think I might have yelped. Not that anyone noticed. Talia gasped, but in that gasp I heard no surprise. She was naked beneath the torn cashmere, and in less than a heartbeat, Alonso pulled her into a back-breaking embrace, cupped her right breast and … brought his mouth down onto the swell of it high above her heavy nipple.

 

One of them, maybe both of them growled, and as he jerked her closer, I could see the garnet welling up of her blood just before his tongue slid over it, just before his mouth closed around it in a sound that was not unlike a lover’s passionate kiss. And then, I swear, the color of her eyes changed just before she closed them and fisted one well-manicured hand into his hair effectively holding him to her in an act no less intimate and no less violent than his own. Her other hand snaked around his waist and burrowed beneath his tailored black shirt and up his spine.

 

His response to her touch on his bare flesh was a quick, but violent convulsing of muscles until I feared he’d break bones. Then he groaned and shivered. I remember wondering at that moment if her touch had made him orgasm. I remember thinking I should look away, that I should leave them to whatever strange disturbing intimacy this was, but I couldn’t look away. I knew at that moment that to do so was physically impossibly. Then, to my horror, I felt as though I were the third party in the joining. No, that’s not really a good explanation. I felt as though I wasn’t there at all. I felt as though one second I was Talia being bled by Alonso’s powerful predatory kiss, being nursed upon by his warm lips; and the next I was Alonso being touched, in far deeper places than his bare flesh, being taken over by the succubus. And when I was sure I would pass out from that strange sense of terror and arousal that I couldn’t quite imagine existing in the same instant, Alonso pulled away, stumbled backward against his desk, his eyes still locked on the succubus,  and Talia fell back into the chair with a little sigh.

 

Wiping his mouth and bracing himself on the edge of the desk, he moved back to his own chair. Talia sat straight and square shouldered next to me catching her breath. She made no effort to cover herself and I could see the bite marks bruised blue and bright red above her nipple. ‘Are you satisfied now?’ she asked, sounding as though she’d just been out fell running.

 

He scrubbed a hand over his face, then looked from her to me and back again. ‘If not you, then who, Talia? How the hell did she know?’

‘Don’t be daft, Alonso. You know how. You just don’t want to admit it.’ Then she stood and exited the room with way more dignity that someone who had had her shirt ripped off by a vampire should have been able to manage. It was only with the door screaking closed across the stone floor that I suddenly remembered, I was alone with Alonso Darlington.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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