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Concerto Part 8: Into the Storm

It’s time for another instalment of my online serial, Concerto. Once again the Muse has broadsided me with events I had not foreseen. I LOVE writing! Enjoy Into the Storm, and if you’ve missed any of the previous episodes or if you’d just like to start at the beginning, follow the links below this instalment to the the story so far.

 

 

Concerto Part 8 Into the Storm

I paced the cottage a couple more times, running my fingers along the keyboard, stroking the pianist’s clothes on the chez lounge, looking over my shoulder as I did so, half expecting him to walk in on me. When he didn’t, I settled onto the seat and pulled the white shirt to my face, to my nose, breathing in the scent of the storm, of the man, of his passion and feeling the anxious flight of butterflies in my stomach along with the heavy ache of desire below.

While the rain didn’t lessened, the wind had picked up enough to clear the mist. Dawn faded to anemic daylight, and the viewpoint above the sea became visible. My landlady had told me the manor house once stood there. Now little remained but the foundations and a bit of tumbled down wall — only the few stones that were left after the rest were, no doubt, plundered over time and taken for other more practical dwellings. The broad stone chimney still stood in stark relief against the cast iron sky, a silent reminder of what had been, a keeper of secrets and stories lost in the past.

And then I saw him. It had to be him. There was no one else here but the two of us, and the storm was the perfect deterrent to any lost tourists who might wander in by accident. I was sure the cow-path of a road was completely impassable in this weather without an off-road vehicle. A great gust of wind made my heart stop as he was driven to his knees too close to the edge of the cliff for my comfort. I yelled out for him to be careful, even knowing full well that he couldn’t hear me.

The thought of the lone chimney, the ruined manor house, the overwhelming sense of isolation the storm had brought with, made me suddenly desperate for his company, desperate to not be alone, and above all desperate to have him safely back in the cottage. I all but ran to the French doors, slipping into my worse-for-wear sandals and, as an afterthought, grabbing up one of the throws for a little extra protection from the wind and rain. They were wool, after all.

Seeing the storm through the windows of the cottage and flinging myself into it were two very different things. The wind howled in my face taking my breath away and making my eyes stream. The horizontal rain was icy and needle-like against my face. I put my head down and trudged, all but bent double, toward the viewpoint, only looking up long enough to make sure I was going the right way. I hadn’t gone far before the slip and slide of the wet ground and the pressure of my body snapped the strap on one sandal. My foot slipped sideways and I went sprawling onto the slick rock to keep from twisting my ankle. It was a sure sign that I should turn around and go back, that I should wait for the pianist in the cottage. But there was something in the way he shoved his way back to his feet, fists clenched, back stiff, shoulders rigid; there was something in the way he gazed out at the empty sea that pushed me on. I took only a few more steps before I gave up and just ditched the sandals entirely. By that time I was walking on rock, and what short grass the thin, nutrient-poor soil could support.

Twice I called out to him, but the wind only blew my words back in my face. It was as I reached the foundation of the manor house and all but fell against the chimney that I realized he was naked. “What are you doing? You’ll die of exposure.” I yelled, lunging toward him, only too late realizing just how close to the edge of the cliff he stood. With a twist of his torso he scooped me up, redirected my momentum, and sent us both tumbling to the ground in the shadow of the chimney, both grunting hard from the impact.

“Do you have any idea how dangerous that was,” I spoke between desperate gasps for breath, “what a risk you took? What the hell were you thinking?”

“It’s not your business what I was thinking, nor is it your business to follow me.” Even in the storm, his voice was cold, distant. I went still beneath him, and the tremor that passed up my spine had little to do with the in climate weather. He searched my face with hard, dark eyes. His expression was one I could not define, and yet one that made me ache in a different way, as though I were once again isolated, once again the only one on this lonely stretch of coast. Then he all but collapsed on top of me and bundled me to him. With a startled sense of shock, I realized he wasn’t shuddering from the cold, his body was racked with sobs, the kind of sobs that accompany deep, hopeless loss. I could do little but hold him to me and stroke his back as the rain came down in sheets and the mist descended again.

Alarmed by the returning fog, and not knowing what else to do, I drew him close and all but yelled to be heard above the roar of the waves. “You can’t be out here like this. You’ll get hypothermia. Come back to the cottage, I’ll build a fire, you can take a hot bath.” He didn’t fight me as I wriggled out from under him and offered him my hand. As he stumbled to his feet, I draped the wool tartan around his shoulders, for all the good it would do, but it made me feel better.

As I turned back toward the cottages, I suddenly realized just how dire our situation was. I could see nothing. The landscape had been swallowed in a blanket of grey. Then the wind went deadly still. Mist swirled heavy and smothering around us. There was no trail visible on the bare rock and thin grass. “I don’t know if I can find the way back,” I said, turning toward  him.

And then the world fell away. I’m not exactly sure what happened. Even to this day when I think back on the occasion, I can never be sure what was real and what was from the fall. I must have stepped in a hole. I yelped and went tumbling backward, but not before I glimpsed the manor house, towering up behind us, lights gleaming golden through the many windows, smoke wafting from the enormous chimney, and in the calm, I heard piano music wafting from an open window.

 

If you’ve missed an episode of Concerto, here are the links.

Concerto Part 1: A little Night Music

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

Concerto Part 3: Too Much to Bear Alone

Concerto Part 4: Writing and Waiting

Concerto Part 5: A Duet in a Storm

Concerto Part 6: Remember How it Feels

Concerto Part 7: Unsettled

 

Concerto Chapter 7

It’s time for Part 7 of my online serial, Concerto. Some of you may remember a few years ago I blogged about a wonderful trip Mr. Grace and I made into the Scottish Highlands and onto the Isle of Skye with my sister. The remote place we stayed at while we were on Skye was an inspiration, the place was as mysterious as it was wild – itself a work in progress being built from the ruins of the stables of a long-gone manor house. This story is inspired by that place and by my love for classical piano, or piano music of any type for that matter.

 

I’m not sure how long the story will be, but I’m happy to share the first two instalments with you lovelies. Be sure to check in for further instalments as they unfold. Remember it is a work in progress, so please be gentle with me. I hope you enjoy.

 

If you’ve missed any of the previous instalments of Concerto, just follow the links below.

Concerto Part 1: A little Night Music

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

Concerto Part 3: Too Much to Bear Alone

Concerto Part 4: Writing and Waiting

Concerto Part 5: A Duet in a Storm

Concerto Part 6: Remember How it Feels

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7 Unsettled

I couldn’t have imagined how intimately connected his music had rendered us until we made love. Nor had I any idea how truly ravenous we both were for a connection, even if it were nothing more than a touch from something outside ourselves. Though I had thought isolation and solitude was exactly what I needed to get my head in the right place, I realized, as he took me again on the Aubusson carpet by the piano, that isolation was, instead, my problem. It was contact I needed, it was interaction, passion, something to make my pulse race rather than make me feel more deadened inside. And making my pulse race was exactly what my pianist excelled at, as he poured himself into me again. When we finished shuddering out our release, he gently rolled me on my stomach and kissed and caressed the rug burns across my stinging bottom and hips.

 

Like a large cat, he licked and nuzzled the red marks, kissing and cupping and gently palming me open to make sure he hadn’t missed any of my wounds. By that time I was well on my way to a new set of rug burns on my knees and elbows, as I writhed and moaned and lifted my bum closer to his face … not unlike a cat in my own efforts. Without missing a lick, he reached, with a long powerful arm, to pull a couple of pillows from the sofa, which he then arranged under my belly, raising my hips so that his hands were free to touch and tweak and open each fold, each wet swell of me, now in far more need than my rug-burnt arse. In the meantime, he tongued, and suckled and licked until my mind was nothing but a heated haze of pleasure. I forgot my own name. I forgot my very existence except for how it related to his touch, his mouth, his fingertips finding in me my need as easily as he found a melody on the keyboard.

He was ready for me again, in no time, positioning himself with care for my tender bottom. I was far less concerned about my butt than I was about getting him back inside me. The ache and the urge that came from lingering so close to the boundary between soaring bliss and heart-stopping, free falling orgasm had bloomed to near desperation. His teasing thrust and withdraw, thrust and withdraw had me white knuckling the edge of the carpet, and mewling like a hungry kitten as he mantled me. He fisted my hair around strong fingers, holding me immobile while he wriggled a free hand down to thumb and stroke my nipples. And when they had gone pebble hard to his touch, he slid his hand over my belly and between my thighs to where my clit mirrored that hardness in pleasure very near pain.

 

“Please … Please, just do it,” I begged in a breathless voice. “Just finish it!”

 

“Oh my dear,” there was a growl of a laugh at the back of his throat. He brushed my ear with parted lips and nipped my earlobe. “I can’t finish it. It’s only just beginning.” Then he pushed up in me so hard that I screamed, at least I think I screamed. Agony or ecstasy, I didn’t know which, and it didn’t matter. One thrust, two, then three and the world exploded in shards of red and gold and bruised dark purple behind my closed eyes. He circled my waist tightly with both arms and roared out his conquest, opening the deepest parts of my emptiness to flood them with excruciating, delicious release and still more hunger, so very much hunger. And then I was plummeting, endlessly plummeting into the trough of the wave, as without breaking the connection, he rolled onto his side and pulled me into a spoon position. “Just the beginning,” he gasped. “Just the beginning.” Those were the last words I heard as I lost consciousness.

 

I awoke to the banging of the open French doors, in danger of shattering their windows in the wind. I was naked and bundled on the sofa in several of the tartan throws. I shoved to my feet and pulled one of them around me toga style as I stumbled to the patio to wrestle the doors shut, losing the tartan in my struggle. When at last I’d managed the doors, I was drenched and shivering. The fire in the hearth had burned to embers, and the cottage was deathly silent, in spite of the storm that still raged outside. The ticking of an ancient clock on the mantle was disturbingly loud, and I realized I’d never heard the sound of silence in this room. This space had always been awash in music or the emotions it elicited, or in the sounds of sex. Silence felt strangely out of place.

 

“Hello?” I called into the quiet, painfully aware once again, that I didn’t even know the pianist’s name. What had seemed irrelevant in the thrall of the music, and in the heat of our passion, seemed essential now.

 

The towel from last night still lay where I’d thrown it across the back of the chair. I dried myself with it, then gently cleaned the remains of our lovemaking from between my trembling thighs, the enthusiasm of our passion having made me sore in places that had not been exercised for a long while. My sweats were spread across two ladder-back chairs in front of the hearth. I slipped quickly in them, noting that they were still warm from the last of the fire. Then I tiptoed barefoot down the hall. The bathroom was tiled in jade green. The antique claw foot tub made me think perhaps this cottage was the landlady’s nod to a honeymoon suite before the money ran out. The room was empty and silent except for the drip, drip of the Fawcett in the sink.

 

The door to the master suite stood open showcasing a room much larger than the one in my own cottage. The large four-poster bed, which only added to the feel of a honeymoon suite, had not been slept in. A lushly upholstered chez lounge stood in one corner by the window looking out onto the sea – or would have been, if the mist hadn’t obscured the view. It was carelessly strewn with the clothing the pianist had been wearing.

Outside there was just enough light in the still-raging storm to confirm that dawn was breaking grey and thick. “Hello?” I called again, to no response. I discovered the kitchen dusty and unfinished. There were paint cans and throws strewn on the floor. A single burner camp stove sat on a makeshift table of plywood across two saw-horses. There was an enamel coffee pot and a hodgepodge of plastic plates and cups and cutlery. The unfinished pantry was stuffed with power tools and carpentry supplies.

 

I made another slow pass through the cottage wondering if I’d miss something, but feeling more and more unsettled with each step. I squinted out each window scanning the horizon as best I could in the storm, but there was no one. The place was silent. I was alone, and pianist was nowhere to be seen.

 

Concerto: Part 5

 

As promised, here is part 5 of Concerto, in which our pianist’s efforts become a bit more dangerous, and our writer is forced into a dark place. Enjoy! And please remember, this is a WIP, so be gentle.

 

If you’v missed the rest of the story, follow the link.

 

 

 

 

Concerto Part 5: A Duet in the Storm

 

As I refilled the kettle, the music began again, and even in the pouring rain, I couldn’t resist its pull. In an instant, I was out the door. In another instant, I was drenched to the skin, a condition I didn’t notice as I strained to hear the music against the wind. I only became aware of my waterlogged state when I slipped inside the French doors without so much as a knock and stood savoring the music as I dripped on the wood floor. My pianist gave only a quirk of what might have been a smile and kept on playing. While he said nothing, somehow I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the music was an invitation especially for me.

 

Without saying a word, he looked me up and down and then nodded to the overstuffed chair next to the sofa. A towel and a navy silk robe lay draped over the back. While the clothing I wore was not nearly as revealing as what I’d been in last night, it was soaked and heavy from the rain. His gaze caught mine and held only for a second before he returned his full attention to the piano, but something in that look, something in the undulating, intimate suggestiveness of the melody he now played made me giddy and a little reckless.

 

I didn’t seek out a private place to change, and he didn’t offer. I couldn’t imagine he would ever experience me more stripped bare than he had last night. So I undressed. It didn’t take long. I hadn’t bothered with underwear that morning in my rush to check if the occupant of the cottage at the end of the stable yard was stirring. He didn’t look up from his efforts while I toweled myself dry, and yet I felt as though he watched me, studied me, caressed me vicariously, with every phrase, every note of his music. I could almost imagine his fingers moving over me as they did the keys, and I found myself lingering in my task as though it were him I touched and fondled and toweled. When I was finished, I reluctantly slipped into the robe that was far too big for me, his storm and ozone scent pressed deep into its folds. I felt a flood of relief at the realization that the robe must surely be his and not that of another woman. It startled me, such possessiveness of a man I’d not known until last night, of a man who, even still, I only knew through his music, and yet I felt I knew him intimately in ways I’d never known another. I tied the sash around my waist and looked up to find him studying me.

 

Yet still, he didn’t speak. He only nodded his approval, and I knelt to crawl once again beneath the piano, where I found a tartan throw and a pillow waiting for me. I settled in a soft swish of silk and wool as the melody encircled me in a tight-fitting embrace. If I had expected that musical caress to be a gentle one, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was barely settled before the music crescendoed, changed key three times in rapid succession and became the wild ride of a leaf tossed about on the storm. The edge of the arpeggios sliced me like a scalpel, the blunt chords tore at me like a rusty knife, and I knew immediately this would not be a clean cut. And then, when I was sliced, torn and battered open wide enough, the music migrated and became the still wilder, far more devastating, storm raging in me. For almost a year now the dead calm of my life had been the threat of sameness never ending, oppressive and hopeless. That empty monochrome day-in-day-out had been there so long I’d barely noticed until now, until the calm vanished with the key change. As the force of the chords broke over me, I realized as I ached and raged, that I was not the leaf tossed on the storm, I wasthe storm, and there was no protecting me from myself.

 

The music became discordant and disconnected, an overwhelming pounding in my head, in my body. It matched my angry cries and snarls and rants, which I only became aware of when they ceased and the rawness in my throat reminded me that my voice had been the piano’s accompaniment.

 

I don’t know how long it went on, this tempest inside me, but outside, darkness had fallen when I calmed, when the music calmed. Strange that through all my raging and mourning, the pianist had made no effort to stop me, nor to comfort me. He had only accompanied me, mirroring my emotions on the keyboard. When I came back to myself, the music no longer raged. But I felt the melody of it like a thread in my belly pulling me, coaxing, me, inviting me to a different kind of participation in the ritual being created on the keyboard.

 

It was an effort to crawl from beneath the piano. I scrabbled up to my knees and then climbed my feet, legs trembling,
shoulders tight. This time I found the man’s gaze focused completely on me, even as he played. I stood for what felt like an age under his scrutiny, almost as though he were inspecting me for storm damage. There was no sympathy, which was just as well, I wanted none, but there was satisfaction, as though for a job well done. Then with an abruptness that startled me, he shoved back the bench. At first I feared he’d stop playing, a thing I realized I wasn’t yet ready for. But he continued to play with his left hand, beckoning to me with the right. He invited me, not onto the bench next to him, but onto his lap.

 

Concerto: Part 4

It’s time for the 4th episode of Concerto, my WIP unfolding in serial form right here on my blog. For a burned out writer, a holiday in a remote cottage on the Isle of Sky involves a mysterious man, a little night music and a struggle to discern what’s real and what is just  imagination.

 

Concerto Part 1: A little Night Music

 

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

 

Concerto Part 3: Too Much to Bear Alone

 

 

Concerto: Chapter 4 Writing and Waiting

I scrolled down through the open doc on the computer screen, the one I didn’t remember writing. It was a detailed account of everything that had happened until the point at which I had tripped on the patio of the cottage at the end of the stable yard and, in doing so, disturbed the man at the piano. Suddenly I wanted nothing more than to make sure I documented everything that had happened the past night, or at least as best I could. I doubted I’d ever find words for the experience of sharing the man’s music, what it had done to me, what it had done to both of us. But I had to try. I didn’t want to forget what it had felt like, how it had moved me. So I wrote.

 

As is often the case when I write, the flood gates opened and what poured forth on the page was far more detailed and had much more depth than what I actually had in mind when I sat down to write. I remembered more clearly the way the music rode the waves of the storm, the way it anticipated the rage of the wind and the moments of calm. Somehow what the man had played felt like a way of making sense of everything, of the storm, the sea, of my doubts, my longings, of his need to share what he had created. That need was something I had not really thought of, certainly hadn’t understood until he settled me in my bed. Of course every artist, every writer, wants to share the end result of their efforts, but I had never really considered that just maybe that creation could not be fully experienced by its creator unless it was shared.

 

By the time I finished, the kettle had grown cold, the fire burned low and my body had become stiff from sitting so long. It had been ages since I’d gotten so lost in my work, since my work had felt like anything other than a slog through heavy mud. Rubbing my hands together, I rose and put more wood on the fire. The rain pelted the slate roof, and the wind whistled through the cracks between the windows and their ill-fitting frames. In the kitchen, I clicked on the kettle again and found the Nescafe on the tea tray, not wanting to take time to make proper coffee. While I waited, I chafed my arms and stared out the window. A heavy fog had descended and the cottage at the end of the stable yard was now not visible at all. I fantasized about taking coffee and the coveted packet of shortbread across the cobbles to my neighbor and thanking him for last night, a thing not possible in this weather. When the kettle clicked off, I held my breath and listened, frustrated by the howl of the storm, but even between heavy gusts, I heard no music wafting through the thick air. A glance at the clock on the kitchen wall told me it was just past noon. The growling of my stomach reminded me that I’d had nothing to eat since yesterday evening. I tore into a package of croissants and ate one while I made the coffee. Then I returned to the lounge, determined to let the man rest. I figured he was exhausted.

 

I’d only just settled in to write again, when I noticed what looked like a self-published paperback in pride of place on the coffee table. “Cliff Down Lodge Reclaimed.” I flipped through the pages sipping my coffee and munching on another croissant. The book was mostly photos with captions, before and after shots of how the present owners had found the place and what they had done to make the stable cottages inhabitable. There was a brief history, but not really much more detail than what my landlady had told me on the ride over. What really drew my attention was the last three pages of the book. They were full of images taken from battered daguerreotype photos. Sadly none of them were of the stables. Most were of the lodge itself perched precariously on the cliffs above the sea, with its heart stopping view. I recognized the gatehouse as one of the last piles of rubble we had passed on the rough ride into the cottages. From the look of the photos, there must have been nothing left of the main house.

 

The rest of the images were of the interior, of the entrance hall, the formal dining room, a morning room. But the photo that drew my attention was of the music room. It was not particularly large, wood floors covered in rich carpets, heavy chandelier hanging from the ceiling, walls a mix of dark wood and heavy tapestries. In one corner there was a concert harp. But it was the grand piano at the center of the space that drew my attention. Perhaps it was simply the past night’s adventure that colored my perception, but to me, it was obvious that the piano was by far the most important part of the room. But then if the lord of the manor had daughters, they more than likely would have all played, as would have his wife. Or perhaps I simply watched too many period dramas.

 

I was about to set the book aside and make more coffee when I noticed the images on the last page of the book, all of pen and ink drawings. One of those was done in the music room of a dark haired man at the piano. And though it was difficult to tell from a print of an old drawing, the pianist, who sat poised to play, looked very much like the man in the cottage at the end of the stable yard. I laughed at my active imagination. I could easily see a story coming from this, though a rather predictable one I feared. I put the book down and went to get coffee.

 

As I refilled the kettle, the music began again, and even in the pouring rain, I couldn’t resist its pull. In an instant, I was out the door. In another instant, I was drenched to the skin, a condition I didn’t notice as I strained to hear the music against the wind. I only became aware of my waterlogged state when I slipped inside the French doors without so much as a knock and stood savoring the music as I dripped on the wood floor. My pianist gave only a quirk of what might have been a smile and kept on playing. While he said nothing, somehow I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the music was an invitation especially for me.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
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