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Concerto Part 3: Too Much to Bear Alone

 

Sometimes a story takes a little while to unfold, and sometimes the path I thought something would take when I began
it isn’t the one that the story insists I go down. That’s when the fun begins. From that point, I honestly don’t know where the characters will take me with the tale they have to tell. With part 3 of Concerto, I’ve reached that point. That’s why this episode is a little longer. This was the episode that dragged me in, and I needed to ride it out to its full conclusion. And now I’m getting excited about this little ditty. I hope you are too. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve missed the earlier instalments, catch up here:

 

Concerto Part 1: A little Night Music

 

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

 

 

 

 

 

Part 3 Concerto: Too Much to Bear Alone

 

A writer expresses herself through words. They’re the tools she uses, not just to tell a story, but to make people feel, really feel, the life blood that flows through her tale, the very heart beat of each character, each setting, each layer of meaning. I’ve always thought that those results were better achieved with words than with any other artistic methods. Words are concrete in ways that visual arts and aural arts can never be, but I was wrong. That night as the storm outside snarled and rampaged around us, the music this strange man created became the pounding of my heart, the racing of my blood. It became my death and resurrection, my creation and destruction. It became the ache of every secret longing, every burning desire I’d ever had, all of it laid bare at his feet. And it truly was at his feet because I couldn’t stay on the sofa. It was too far away from the center of what he created, too far away from the tapestry he wove and too far away, it felt, from my own soul. In desperation to be nearer, I had, at some point, crawled beneath the piano, where I lay writhing and drowning in the wild sea of music, and wanting nothing more than to never surface again.

 

Then when he held me totally bound by his magic, when his music had somehow uncovered the very building blocks of my own story, he broke me apart. Bone and sinew, blood and tears — he broke me apart. Molecule by molecule, he tore me down until I floated away from myself, all boundaries dissolved, no sense remaining of where I left off and the music began. My essence spread thinner and thinner until I joined with each note, rode each phrase out into the night and let the storm blow over me.

 

And when I was gone, nothing remaining of me that he hadn’t played, that he hadn’t destroyed and recreated and destroyed again, he gathered me back to myself. It was in that gathering, just before the music stopped, that I became aware of the tears on my cheeks. Then, when silence filled the room as though it were itself a part of the music, accompanied by the storm that now seemed far away, he slid off the bench under the piano next to me and drew me to his body, cool against my fevered skin, his bare chest pressed tightly to my back. In my scramble to get to him, to his music, the tartan had fallen away. He reached for it and pulled it over us, then encircled me completely in the solid muscle of his arms. His breath came in heavy gulps, as though he had been running. Mine came in convulsive sobs. He didn’t speak. I couldn’t have spoken if I’d wanted to, and I found that I didn’t. It was only when my own shudders eased a little that I noticed he too was trembling. I hadn’t thought how the music he created might affect him. I had only assumed that he controlled it, created it, made it do his will. It had angered me, at first, that with the world of sound he created, he could so completely manipulate me. But then it didn’t matter any more. Nothing mattered but that he kept playing. I hadn’t known. I hadn’t understood that perhaps, he was as much in the thrall of his music as I was. Perhaps the power of what he created around us was not entirely of his own making.

 

The storm must have eased again at some point. At some point I must have slept the exhausted sleep that catharsis brings. I vaguely remember him lifting me into his arms, followed by the chill of the night air on my face. In protest, I remember burying my face in the heat of his chest, listening to the steady thud, thud of his heart, a different kind of music, as he carried me back to my cottage and eased me down into my bed. He pulled the duvet up around me, and I reached up and touched his stubbled cheek. “Is it always like this?” I managed, my words slurring with the threat of sleep.

 

He caught my hand and pulled it to his lips. His eyes darkened as though the storm from outside had come into them, and the succession of emotions that crossed his face were too fast for me to decipher. “Sometimes …” The muscled of his throat rose and fell and, with an effort, he cleared his throat. When he spoke, the words were tight and strained. “Sometimes it’s just too much to bear alone.” Then he tucked my hand under the duvet against my chest. I wanted to ask him to stay, I wanted to hold him close, to ask him all about his music, himself, the two of which I was certain were very closely entwined with a story of their own to tell. I wanted to hold on to the moment just a little longer, but as he turned to go, I was already riding too close to the edge of sleep. The last thing I noticed before I lost consciousness completely was his bare feet treading silently over the wood floor.

 

When I awoke to the subdued morning light of mist and drizzle, the whole night had a dreamlike quality to it, and as it all came rushing back to me, I stumbled from the bed and looked out the window. The cottage at the end of the stable yard was silent and dark, barely visible in the mist. If the man played all night, he surly must sleep late into the day. Every artist has their own best time to create. I was an early morning person, usually falling into bed just after ten and rising at six. Though lately I hadn’t been sleeping well, and the nights had been an endless desert of self-doubt and struggle to hold back the encroaching panic of a life I feared I’d wasted, of success I dreaded and yet was terrified of losing. For the first morning in a long time, I felt refreshed. I would tell him that when I saw him later today, and I would make a point to see him. I didn’t even know his name, and yet I couldn’t remember ever sharing such intimacy with anyone.

 

I quickly dressed in my heavy tracksuit and fuzzy slippers against the chill and fumbled with the radiators, remembering vaguely that the landlady had explained to me how to work the ancient storage heaters. In the kitchen, I
plugged in the kettle, happy to see the electricity was back, then I built a fire in the hearth to warm the lounge where I would work … or not work, as the case might well be. Once the fire was crackling merrily in the grate and in the kitchen I could hear the kettle starting to bubble, I stood, wiping my hands on my trousers. It was then that I noticed my laptop
sitting open on the desk near the window.

 

For a long moment, I stood staring at it. I didn’t remember opening it. I didn’t even remember unpacking it. With a clap of thunder, that made me jump, the rain began in earnest again. A gust of wind rattled the window as though it were keen on getting my attention, and I moved to the computer. The kettle clicked off with a loud pop and lightning flashed as I bent over and scrolled to the top of a word doc simply called “concerto.” The first sentence of what was clearly a multi-page document read: I started awake from disturbing dreams that I couldn’t quite remember.

 

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

 

Happy Holiday Easter for those of you who celebrate. Happy April Fools Day for those of you who like a good joke, and happy damp spring weekend for everyone else.

Today, as promised, I’m sharing the second instalment of my new WIP, Concerto — which may, as the story evolves end up being called Sonata. Beautiful music and those who create it and mysterious isolated places have always intrigued me. Both have inspired this story. I hope you enjoy the second instalment. Once again, I remind you to be gentle with the author. It is, after all, a work in progress.

 

The music stopped with a brutal glissando, and the only sound that broke the breathless silence following was a cold baritone voice. “You’re trespassing.”

I would have answered but the fall had stunned me and knocked the air out of my lungs, which was more distressing than the wet cold stone of the patio, but less so than the chill in the pianist’s voice.

“What in hell do you mean coming outside in this weather half naked?” He was up from the piano and kneeling to throw a blanket around me before I could catch enough breath to respond. What I did manage was another undignified yelp as he lifted me into his arms as though I weighed nothing, turned on bare feet and carried me in to the lounge where he plopped me unceremoniously onto a sofa covered in richly woven tartan throws. “You’ll catch your death, and it would serve you right spying on me, trying to seduce me dressed like that. Who sent you?”

“Are you serious?” I forced my way upright on the couch shoving the blanket aside, not wanting to be flat on my back and vulnerable to meet my accuser. “No one sent me. I woke up and heard your music. It was a bit of a surprise since the landlady told me there was no one here but me.”

“So, my playing disturbed your sleep, did it?”

“No. It’s just I woke up, and the storm had passed. I heard music and …”

“And?” He studied me with a raised brow. His dark hair was mussed and slightly damp, as though he too might have just come in from the out of doors.

“I wondered where it was coming from, that’s all.”

 

 

“Well now you know.” He nodded me toward the open French doors.

But in the few minutes we’d been talking, the rain had started again and a gusting wind flung the lace curtains about as though they were nothing more than wisps of fog.

“Fine, you don’t have to be so rude.” I shoved off the couch with as much dignity as I could manage and stormed toward the patio. “You might have considered that flinging your doors open in the wee hours of the morning and playing music like that, someone would want to listen.” I braced myself for the slog back to my cottage as another gust of wind flung a cold spray in my face.

“Wait.” He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me back, then with some effort against the growing gale, slammed the doors. “You can’t go out in that.”

For a long moment, he studied me where I now stood shivering, freshly chilled and wet. At last he gave a hard put upon sigh and, before I knew what was happening, he stripped out of his shirt and handed it to me. “You’re … not decent.” The muscles along his high cheekbones tensed at his words. “And you’re wet and cold.” He gave a quick nod to the front of my nightshirt. I hadn’t noticed until now that the fall and the rain had rendered it transparent. “Besides, you’re a distraction. I can’t play with you … like that.” He turned his back, and I found myself blushing furiously as I stripped and slid into his white shirt, still warm with the heat of his body. He was not a small man, and the shirt fell to my knees. It smelled of the night chill and the lightning heat of the storm, though I suspected the disturbingly arousing scent was more his own than that of the storm.

When I finished fumbling with the buttons, he once again stood facing me, holding one of the throws. He wrapped the tartan around me, moving close enough that I could feel the heat radiating off his stripped torso, and I was struck again by his size. I don’t know why I had thought a pianist must be a tall, thin wraith of a man, who lived on the music and little else. He was robust and well muscled, with a peppering of scars low across his belly.

I couldn’t help myself. Maybe it was the fact that the whole incident seemed like a dream that I half expected to wake up from at any minute, one of those that I would long to go back to once it vanished in the daylight. “And you don’t think this will distract me from the music?” I rested my palm against his chest, and he drew a tight breath between his teeth, trapped my hand with his own, then lifted it away, with more of an effort than the act should have demanded.

“Trust me,” he said holding my gaze with milk chocolate eyes, “when I play, you won’t be distracted by anything.” He curled a finger under my chin and lifted my face until my heart accelerated and my mouth watered at full lips slightly parted, so close to mine. Those lips curled in a smile and he pulled away. “That is what you came for, isn’t it? To listen.”

And just like that he turned like a man with a purpose and seated himself once again at the piano, nodding me to back to the sofa.

 

Concerto: A New KDG Story Part 1

I wanted to write something special for this holiday weekend, something new. 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 remote. 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 instalment today, and to ask that you be gentle with me as you read it. Remember it is a work in progress. I hope you enjoy.

 

Concerto: Part 1 A Little Night Music

I started awake from disturbing dreams that I couldn’t quite remember. In the tight-fitting darkness, it took me a minute to remember where I was. Isle of Skye, a small tatty cottage so remote that the landlady had to deliver me there in a battered Land Rover. To say I was off the grid was an understatement. No phone, no Wi-fi, no transportation until the woman came back for me on Monday morning. There was only me the hills and the sea with storms predicted – a typical bank holiday weekend in the UK. In my whole life I’d never been so isolated. The thought of being alone was a writer’s dream of solitude and inspiration come true, wasn’t it? I’d had neither solitude nor inspiration for a while now, and I was doing it up right. I didn’t care about the rain. I had no plans but to sleep and possibly read. I was exhausted and as empty as the landscape beyond my cottage. Upon arrival, I’d made myself a sandwich, drank half a bottle of Malbec and went to bed.

Sometime while I slept, the storm had passed. Even the sound of the sea seemed muted in the muffled dark of the room. I assumed it was the sea I could hear. It was dark and the storm was already raging when we arrived. The landlady seemed unperturbed by the return journey she faced, as though the storm were nothing. She showed me around the place that had been well stocked for my arrival, since I would be going nowhere for the next three days. She wished me well at the door and left me alone.

And now here I was wide awake with three days of nothing but my own company stretching before me. I was considering watching a movie and grazing through the package of shortbread left on the counter near the tea service. The landlady assured me the ancient DVD player in the lounge worked, and there was a fair sized library of movies. That was when I heard what I couldn’t possibly have heard. There was piano music coming from somewhere close by. I slid from my bed holding my breath as the melody built to a pounding crescendo that reminded me of the storm. The landlady had told me I was the only guest in the converted stone stables that now housed three cottages. There was room for three more, but the money had run out. The stables were all that was left of a summer home owned by some wealthy lord now long dead. The house was in its prime when the Victorians found the Highlands and anything Scottish all the rage. But the place was just too remote and its maintenance too expensive, or so the landlady said. Now what remained other than the stables and a collapsed stone barn was just a rubble heap. Though I could see none of that in the dark and driving rain.

But it wasn’t raining now, and I definitely heard piano music. Holding my breath not wanting to miss a single note, I slipped from the bed and switched on the lamp to find no electricity. The landlady had warned me that it sometimes went out during the storms. There were torches stashed strategically in each room, but my eyes were accustom to the dark, so I moved through the cottage on tiptoes listening to the music that had become more plaintive, full of longing that made me ache in places that hadn’t felt much of anything in a long while.

A peek out the kitchen window left me gaping at the thick blanket of stars where Milky Way spilled across the clear sky. The sky, the music, the feel of the night so close around me made the emptiness inside suddenly more companionable. Without thinking, I threw open the kitchen door and stepped, barefoot, out into the soft chill, barely feeling the wet cobbles beneath my feet. There was no breeze, a calm that I knew wouldn’t last. A glance around revealed the hulk of the collapsed barn and, beyond that, less pronounced heaps of stone and rubble, the remains of what had once been an impressive estate. Once again the music crescendoed and I turned to find the source. Candle light flickered from the cottage at the end of the stable yard and something in the music that drifted from an open window filled the night with the very ache I felt.

I don’t remember moving to the patio of the place by the French doors, the only nod to elegance any of these cottages had, but I will never forget my first sight of the source. The doors were flung open to the night, curtains barely stirring. A baby grand piano filled the space beyond and as the music softened and then crescendoed again, my gaze came to
rest on the creator of such exquisite sounds, a man tall and straight. His eyes were closed, his hands moved over the keyboard as though the instrument were a lover, and the sounds he coaxed from it were very much the sounds of love and all the pain and lust and joy and sorrow that come with.

I couldn’t help myself. I moved forward as though I were in a trance, lost in the music, lost in the intimate weave of sound and silence and human connection. And then, full attention focused on the man and the music, I didn’t see the empty stone planter in front of me until I was doing an inelegant swan dive over the top to belly flop on the paving stones with a breathless yelp.

 

Matchmaker: A FREE Holiday Story Part 1

I love to indulge in a little sappy silly, romantic fun this time of year, and that being the case starting today through Boxing Day, I will be sharing a little seasonal story with you called Matchmaker. While it’s squeaky clean as far as content goes, it’s fun and quirky and hopefully something you’ll all enjoy. I certainly enjoyed writing it. It’s main character happens to be a bird. Those of you who know my love for our feathered friends won’t be surprised at all. Happy Holidays, my Darlings! Enjoy the story!

 

Matchmaker Part 1

“What am I going to do?” Mary asked the vet. “Ezekiel’s inconsolable. He squawks all night, which means neither of us sleeps, and I have to work and leave him alone, and that only makes matters worse.”

The vet stroked his stethoscope, an act that seemed incongruent with the bright red Santa Clause cap sitting precariously on the top of his balding head. He looked the parrot up and down and, and then stated the obvious. “He’s mourning.”

“I know he’s mourning. What I don’t know is how to cheer him up.”

The vet shook his head. “Mourning has to run its course, with animals just like with humans.”

She rubbed gritty eyes. “What do I do in the meantime? How can I help him? Can you sedate him?”

“Wouldn’t advise it. I can recommend a pet psychologist, though.”

“Will it help?”

“Can’t hurt. Dr. Thompson is also a vet, so she won’t steer you wrong, none of this airy-fairy faffing about.”

 

It was full dark when Mary arrived in Woking. The fairy lights sparkled on the houses and in the shop windows, and the unseasonable warmth had not dampened the holiday spirit of the Christmas shoppers scurrying up and down High Street. Ezekiel was the last appointment of the day, and the waiting room was empty when Mary stepped inside with Ezekiel’s cage in tow. Christmas music that was a little less obnoxious and a little more subdued than what blared in the local shops played quietly over the sound system. Almost immediately, Mary and Ezekial were ushered in to Dr. Susan Thompson’s office.

“Oh, he is lovely,” the woman cooed in a nasal Welsh accent. “I’ve never treated an African grey before. I have counseled a couple of cockatoos, and a lovebird. What seems to be the problem?”

Mary heaved a sigh. “Two months ago my friend Ellen died.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.” Dr. Thompson nudged a box of tissues in Mary’s direction.

“Thank you. Ellen was a linguist who studied the rudiments of language in other species.”

The psychologist brightened. “Of course! I’ve heard about the research on African grey parrots. Even smarter than primates, I read.”

“Ellen worked with Ezekiel almost fifteen years. He has a huge vocabulary, and his comprehension is off the chart. Because parrots are long-lived, Ellen had made arrangements for him to live with me on the off chance that something should happen, if she should …” She swallowed around the growing tightness in her throat and took a deep breath. “Anyway, there was a car accident and …”

“Ezekiel came to live with you,” the doctor finished for her gently.

Mary nodded and blinked hard. “Since her death, Ezekiel refuses to talk. He just squawks. He won’t eat, and I’m afraid he’ll start pulling out his own feathers. Stressed birds sometimes do that. I can’t stand to see him suffer so. Ezekiel is, well, he’s special.”

“Ezekiel’s mourning the loss of his mate.”

“What?”

“You see,” Dr. Thompson scooted to the edge of her seat, “parrots are social animals. In their natural environment, you seldom see a lone parrot. When parrots are kept in captivity, they can only be taught to talk if they’re kept away from their own kind.”

“So when they have no one to speak to in their own language, they’re forced to learn ours?” The tightness in Mary’s throat returned with a vengeance.

“Ezekiel will probably bond with you in time. But you’re not a parrot, and even with his huge vocabulary, imagine what it would be like never to speak your own language again.”

This time no amount of blinking could hold back the tears, and Mary reached for the offered tissue box. She’d always been a soft touch, and Ezekiel’s sad story coupled with the recent loss of her friend was just too much. Dr. Thompson
offered quiet verbal support, and Mary was pretty sure that in most cases the pet psychologist found the animals less
neurotic than their humans. She blew her nose and forced a smile. “Well, I’ll just have to find him a mate then, won’t I?”

Easier said than done, Mary soon discovered.

Continue with Matchmaker part 2

 

Dry Canyon Dreams

I’ve been living in the world of mythology and the paranormal for the past few weeks while I’ve been busy with the final rewrites and check-throughs of Blind-Sided and Buried Pleasures, the second and third novels of the Medusa’s Consortium Series. They’ll be coming out right on the heals of each other, since they are happening in the timeline at the same time. That has meant it has taken me a little longer to get them ready. But I promise you they’ll be worth waiting for. You’ll be hearing news next week about release dates. So hold on to your hats. With paranormal being the name of the game, I thought I’d share this little short with you from the Archives. A FREE read. Dry Canyon Dreams is a complete story with plenty of desert heat and a little bit of chill thrown in for good measure. Enjoy!

AAAAND! Don’t forget the Super Summer Reads Giveaway going on right now at Book Hub until the 15th of August. Three lucky winners will walk away with a HUGE bundle of books. This is a a multi-genre giveaway with chances to win other fab reads as well as the chance at the book bundle. I’m very proud to announce that my novel, In The Flesh, the first book in the Medusa’s Consortium Series, is included in that massive bundle.

 

Dry Canyon Dreams

From the archives: a free story complete in this post

The night of that first encounter I was restless, and my imagination had been running wild ever since I’d landed in the States two nights before. I had been having dreams, crazy dreams, lust-filled sexy dreams that had driven me from sleep to find myself in sweat soaked sheets aching and wanting and needing … something. ‘Be present,’ I kept telling myself. I needed be present. I needed to learn to be in the moment. That’s a part of what this holiday was all about. Being in the moment was something of a struggle for me with one tight deadline bleeding into another and then another. The insane pace had been going on for over four years and now, for the first time in a long time I had given myself space between projects, space to breathe, space to rest, space to regroup. The problem was; now that I had the time and the space, I didn’t know what the hell to do with it. I’m a writer. That’s not just my job, it’s my vocation, and my identity is tied up in it – very possibly more so than I had imagined.

It had been the dreams that had driven me to the dry canyon in the middle of the night. In my dreams someone I never saw, someone holding me in a close, sensual embrace, someone nuzzling and cupping and caressing, kept whispering in my ear that I needed to write the story, that I needed to get it all down, but they would never tell me what story I was to write, and when I burst into wakefulness restless and uncomfortable in my own skin, the feeling of being stretched and expanded and then shoved back into myself was overlaid with a shimmering patina of arousal. Feeling like I’d suffocate if I didn’t get some air, I’d dressed quickly and left the house, leaving a note on the kitchen table for my sister just in case she should wake and find me missing.

In ten minutes I was in the dry canyon alone in the middle of the night wondering why I wasn’t at least a little bit nervous about my choice of how to spend my time in the wee hours. My sister said that in spite of the fact that the canyon ran through the center of the town with five miles of paved walking path from one end to the other as well as other footpaths meandering along the canyon’s edges, in spite of the fact that the canyon was almost never deserted, occasionally there was a mountain lion spotting, occasionally warnings were posted. There had never been an attack, never been even a threat, but it wasn’t all that uncommon in areas where human habitat encroached on puma territory for the two to come in contact with each other. But not now, I told myself. In my visits to my sister’s I’d seen deer in the canyon, myriad birds, rock chucks and other wildlife, but never a mountain lion. And if I were being completely honest, I found the shiver up my spine at the thought of seeing one of the beautiful cats at least as exciting as it was frightening. The full moon hung heavily just over my head, almost like I could reach out and touch it. It gave off enough silver light that I could see in exquisite monochrome layers, juniper and sage and the rise of the steep volcanic cliffs of the canyon walls.

IMG_5578The dry canyon splits the town of Redmond, Oregon right down the middle and until recently the only way to get around it was to drive to the end. Now there’s a huge bridge that spans it joining the two sides, the architects and builders having taken particular care that the bridge should blend in with the canyon and the high desert’s natural beauty. The bridge glistened pale in the moonlight, giant concrete arches rising like the bones of some graceful prehistoric monster whose death throes had spanned the canyon in rib-boned arches. It’s the landmark I always walk toward. And that night, when I got there, I drank deeply from the water fountain placed strategically in the shade for passing bikers, runners and walkers. There’s even a fountain for dogs next to it. Then I settled on the lone picnic table beneath the bridge, lie down on my back and look up at the shadowed underbelly of sinuous concrete.

I heard the runner before I saw him. I heard his heavy breathing, I heard the scuff, scuff of his feet against the ground, and I stayed still, listening, not wanting to startle him. I knew I should make good my getaway, or at least make my presence known, but I didn’t. For some reason I just lay there and watched as he drew near. The moonlight glistened on his bare chest, and I didn’t even pretend not to look. He was light footed, slender of build, long and well muscled. His hair was tawny pale and unkempt, clinging in wet curls around his ears and onto his shoulders. At the fountain, he drank long and deep, then tossed several cupped handfuls of water onto his head, down the back of his neck and onto his face. His nipples beaded, and goose flesh bloomed and spread across the rise and fall of his pecs where the water dripped onto his chest and over his taut belly. It was then that his gaze lit on me and the little breath of his surprise sounded like a soft growl in the muted night.

“Strange dreams,” I said in response to his unasked question as to my presence. I made no attempt not to stare at him, which didn’t seem too impolite, since he stared right back at me. ‘I needed some fresh air.’ Frankly I was surprised I could speak at all, let alone that I can be so brazen about it.

He bent for another drink, and I noticed he was barefoot. My insides quivered at just how little clothing the man really had on. The running shorts were thin and rode low on his hips revealing his navel and the slender path of soft hair disappearing into his waistband, a path I found myself wanting to follow with the stroke of a palm.

I was surprised when he moved to the table next to me, and settled a large hand in my hair, fisting it and stoking it until I sighed softly and moved against his palm. I was even more surprised when he stepped back, stretched his arms high above his head, yawned deeply, and then lay down beside me, settling himself around me in a spoon position. The dry desert air had dried the sweat from his flesh almost entirely. He was surprisingly warm and he smelled of desert heat, juniper and sagebrush. For a second I panicked as his strong arm snaked around my waist and pulled me back tight against him. Then I felt his mouth on the back of my neck, first parted lips, then tongue, then a slight nip of teeth. I found myself inexplicably calming under his touch, calming to the low rumble of satisfaction deep in his chest, to the steady hard pumping of his heart as he pressed his chest tight against me.

Once he was certain I wouldn’t run, his hold on me relaxed and his palm, flat against my belly, slid beneath my tank top and up to cup my breasts. I caught my breath in a startled moan as he thumbed my nipples alternately until they rose stiff and sensitive against calloused skin. I’d not bothered with a bra when I left my sister’s house. I never expected to meet anyone in the canyon. Easy access for anyone’s hands other than my own had not been my plan. While he cupped and kneaded and pinched, his mouth went back to work on my neck. He raised himself on one elbow to tongue and nip the hollow of my throat and I could feel the shape of him, hard and urgent, beneath the thin fabric of his shorts.

I barely had time to think about the hard rub and shift of him pressing against the back of my sweat bottoms before his hand migrated back down my belly and eased under my waistband with me shifting forward into the cup of his palm as he fingered and worked his way down. My legs parted and shifted and moved of their own volition to allow him access, and the shiver down my spine was not from the cool of the night as he stroked and fondled, all the while nipping and tonguing the back of my neck and the lobe of my ear, an effort leaving me weak and trembling with need that felt bone deep.

I don’t know how his hands could be everywhere, but they were. He slid my sweats down over my hips and, for a split second, I felt the cool night air against my bare bottom. Then I felt him bare and hard and anxious against me. The biting of my neck became more urgent and, God, I wanted him to bite me hard, I wanted to bite him back. I was only half conscious of the sounds he was making, animal grunts and groans, growls deep in his chest, sighs that I felt hot and moist against my skin. Then the nipping and the suckling and the caressing migrated down the length of my spine, and strong arms lifted me onto my hands and knees until my bottom was raised high in the moonlight and, before I could even think to protest, he continued his explorations, spreading me and kneading me with strong hands until his tongue found what he was looking for — me wet and restless and needing. I don’t remember much beyond that point except intense desperate pleasure, except his breath hot and fast against the swell of me, except him tasting me in hungry, lapping mouthfuls. And when I was boneless and weak from his efforts he pulled away, rose up and bit me on the shoulder, bit me hard enough to make me cry out, then he plunged into me, crushing me to him, holding my hips tight against his body, wrapping his arms around my waist, burying his face in my neck. I remember rearing back against him with each thrust, matching him growl for growl, holding my breath, bracing for impact, anticipating the breaking and shattering and falling apart as we came together and collapsed in desperate gasps back onto the table. Then he curled around me and we slept.

I remember waking alone on the picnic with the moon setting and dawn just beginning to gray the rim of the canyon, or at least I think I remember. I was barely aware of the walk back to my sister’s house, and the stripping off of my clothes and the falling into bed and into unconsciousness. In fact when I woke later in the morning snuggled down in the bed with the cool desert breeze blowing the curtains at the open window next to my bed, I figured I’d probably dreamed the whole experience. I mean the whole experience of dressing and walking in a dark canyon in the middle of the night alone, of sharing my body with a man I didn’t know, a man who never spoke, it wasn’t me at all. Surely it wasn’t the kind of thing I’d do. It was my imagination, I was sure. Jet lag often makes for powerful dreams, though it was strange the way my body felt that morning, I woke to the achy tenderness that follows rough sex, that follows a ravenous encounter too wild to really be just fucking, and yet just tame enough not to scare me into running away in fear of being completely devoured.

After breakfast my sister and I walked the canyon – her anticipating a good bit of morning exercise and me wanting to see if just maybe something would jog my memory, if just maybe something would bring the vividness of the encounter back to me. The dry canyon has been one of my favorite parts of where my sister lives for a long time. Walking it together has been a major part of our visits. We’d just descended the side road into the canyon and I was admiring how the bridge shown in the morning sun, thinking about my dream encounter, when my sister drew my attention to a sign on the notice board.

mountain_lion_petroglyph_photo_print-r1c1d777189c04e63a2426808aab6f0e1_wyy_8byvr_512Caution: Mountain Lion Sighting.

 

The breeze that had been warm felt suddenly chilled and the hairs on my arms rose.

‘There hasn’t been one in awhile,” she was saying when I finally managed to turn my attention back to her. “Usually people see them at dawn or at dusk, people out for a late or an early run. They’re nocturnal, you know?”

“Yes, I know.” I said, remembering with a shiver low in my belly the nip of teeth on the back of my neck and the rough push and shove of flesh against flesh.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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