While I’m away in China, I have a very special treat for you lovely lot. I’m sharing with you a five part story, never been read, never been published before, from the Medusa Consortium Series. Ever wonder how our fallen angel, Michael Weller, once lover of the Guardian, now Susan Ennis’s lover, and long time friend and member of Magda Gardener’s consortium lost his angel hood? Well wonder no more. This is a little peek into Michael’s backstory, taking place while Michael is with the Guardian and wants very much to give his lover a very special gift.
The Bet is complete in five parts, all of which will be posted here during the next two weeks. While I’m in China, I’ll have no access to my blog, nor email, nor Facebook, nor Twitter, so this is my gift for you to enjoy until I get back.
He blinked, then blinked again. “What? You think because of what I am, I’m innocent?”
“Oh I know you are.”
This time, he did look away, but not before she saw the desperation drawn tight across his face. When he spoke it was little more than a whisper. Anyone else might have missed it, but Magda never missed anything. “I have a lover, and it’s … well it’s complicated.” He drew a shaky breath and struggled to meet her gaze again. “I’m … I have no innocence to bet.”
She managed not to laugh this time. She understood innocence well enough to be just a little bit empathetic, but she would allow herself only that little bit. Empathy was not her strong suit. She tried hard not to sound condescending, not when this was the moment she’d been waiting for, the moment that the true wager would happen. “You think having a lover, having sex means you’re not innocent? The leaving of Eden wasn’t predicated upon two people having sex, was it?”
When he didn’t answer, she continued. “Being naked and understanding that we really are naked and alone in our own skin, that’s what leaving Eden is all about, and you, my dear Michael, are nowhere near naked yet.”
“What about you?” He raked her with a look that was anything but sexual, and yet he blushed. “You’re not naked, are you?”
She finished the whisky in a quick gulp and ordered another with a nod of her head. “I cover myself, like all of us who were forced from Eden, hoping no one will notice just how naked I really am. Though I probably needn’t worry. Everyone else is too concerned about covering their own nakedness to notice mine.”
The fine muscles along his jaw tensed and relaxed. He clenched a fist on the top of the table. “And you want to see me naked?”
“It isn’t about me seeing you naked. It’s about you seeing yourself that way. You waltz in here out-glitzing a Vegas showgirl all clothed in your shiny immortality and the protection of your maker and expect to get what you want by just losing a few hands of poker.” When he opened his mouth to protest, she pointed to her Ray-Bans. “Oh I see a lot more than most, Michael, and the owner of this place, well if anything he sees even more than I do. Hell, you might as well have your maker’s signature stamped across your forehead. You’re not fooling anyone but yourself, and the gods, well they like it that way just fine. But if you want to play the game in Buried Pleasures, you place your bet. Otherwise, don’t waste my time.”
He sat for a long moment studying her as though she were trying to trick him. He needn’t have worried. There were no tricks at Buried Pleasures, and everyone there ended up as naked and exposed as everyone else. Well, everyone but her and Jack Graves, but they’d both paid their dues a long time ago. They both knew that the breath of eternity blowing in your face always smells of death.
“And if I lose?” His gaze darted from her to the deck of sealed cards then to Graves standing with his arms crossed looking down on them from the mezzanine.
“If you lose, you get what you came for.” She nodded up to Graves. “He’ll sort the details with your maker and then you’re all his.”
“Wait a minute.” Michael shot another glance at Graves. “He’s not …”
This time she didn’t even try not to laugh. “Of course he’s not Satan. Granted, I suppose the storm tunnels might be mistaken for hell, what with the scorpions and the rats, but it suits Graves. He’s the only one who deals in mortality, and that is what you want, isn’t it, to be finite, to have a beginning and an end, to be a real boy?”
He bit his lower lip and gave a barely perceptible nod. Then he glanced over at the dealer as though he were afraid she might rat him out to his boss. Magda couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for him.
“Then trust me, this is the only place you have any chance of that happening. You are sure that’s what you want?” She quirked her head to the dealer, who gave him a questioning look.
“More than I’ve ever wanted anything,” he whispered blinking back emotion.
“And consequences be damned?”
He nodded his response as though he had suddenly lost the power of speech. Then he motioned to the dealer. She opened the deck and shuffled. Michael carefully took each card dealt him as though he feared one of them might explode. She watched him rather than her own cards. The last few seconds of eternity was something she’d never seen on anyone’s face before. While this might have been exactly what Michael had wanted, she could almost taste his fear. Before he could turn over his last card, she placed her hand over his. “It’s not too late to change your mind. I’ll completely understand if you want to back out, and so will Mr. Graves.”
“I won’t … change my mind.” He tried to pull his hand free, but she held it. “Once it’s done, it’s done. There’s no going back. You know that?”
“I understand.” He took a deep breath and pulled free.
It only took one hand. One hand and the angel, Michael, lost spectacularly. Then Magda sat back and watched him change. Oh there were no feathers dropping to the floor from the wings that no one could see, no tinkle of a golden halo hitting the marble beside his chair. There was no crash of thunder or strike of lightening, no roaring voice from heaven and no flaming sword guarding the way back to paradise. His hands shook a little as he pushed the mountain of chips to Magda’s side of the table. He sank back into his chair in a motion that was more one of a weight settling than a weight being lifted. Magda knew the difference very well. A thin sheen of sweat broke on his high forehead and slowly his attention shifted to Graves, who only smiled down at him and lifted a glass in salute. At last he found his voice. “He’ll come for me now?”