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In The Flesh Part 20: Dark Paranormal Romance in Progress. Enjoy!

In the Flesh 11880534_1463650103936599_545702979581425574_n

 

It’s that time of the week again! Time for the next instalment of In The Flesh. In episode 20 of In The Flesh, Susan visits a friend and plots a dangerous path to save Annie.

 

In the Flesh  is very dark paranormal erotica. When Susan Innes comes to visit her friend, Annie Rivers, in Chapel House, the deconsecrated church that Annie is renovating into a home, she discovers her outgoing friend changed, reclusive, secretive, and completely enthralled by a mysterious lover, whose presence is always felt, but never seen, a lover whom she claims is god. As her holiday turns into a nightmare, Susan must come to grips with the fact that her friend’s lover is neither imaginary nor is he human, and even worse, he’s turned his wandering eye on Susan, and he won’t be denied his prize. If Susan is to fight an inhuman stalker intent on having her as his own, she’ll need a little inhuman help.

 

 

 

To read the story in its entirety up to this point, follow these links to:

 Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4 Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13Part 14Part 15Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19.

 

In The Flesh Chapter 20

We had all needed a little break from the reading, and after Michael stormed out of the room, Magda had set aside the computer and suggested we take some time. Everyone was strung out and on edge, especially at the idea that somehow the Guardian had managed to breach the defenses of a paranoid vampire and his dangerous entourage. It didn’t help that, thanks to the reading, they were all clearly laying the blame at my feet. Magda said the last thing we needed was to tackle the rest of what I’d written in a less than calm state. Seriously? Did the woman really think any of us were going to be calm again until this situation was resolved? I certainly wasn’t likely to find a few minutes respite anywhere near enough of a distraction to calm my frayed nerves. But then, other than Michael, I was the only one who really understood just what we were up against and how badly He could make us want Him before we even realize He had touched us.

It seemed to me that a little break was the perfect time for me to check in on Annie, whom I had Bernini Hades and Persephone close uptumblr_lg4h59T3z31qe2nvuo1_500not seen since our strange arrival at High View. But when I had asked again to see her, Magda had insisted that I wait. ‘Seeing her like she is now will only make matters more difficult,’ she explained. ‘You’re connected to her. She’s another way the Guardian can get to you, can get to both of you, and through you everyone else here at High View. In fact, it’s not even wise to keep the two of you under the same roof, but it was the only choice I had at the time. I’ve taken every precaution I can, but that means the only way I can keep the Guardian away from her and keep her unaware of your presence or that she’s no longer with him, is to keep her … asleep.’

When I asked how she had managed that, she said it was very old magic. Though how could that surprise me, when I was in the home of a vampire who had a succubus for a confidante, and I was in said vampire’s ruined palatial estate with an angel who was out of sorts because of what I’d written while under the influence of some entity similar to a demon? Before I could argue with her about seeing Annie, Magda promptly reminded me that my best friend had come at me with a butcher knife.

The woman hadn’t waited for my response. I was quite clearly dismissed. She had left the room only minutes after Michael. For a moment we all sat staring at each other, then Alonso once again assumed his role as gracious host and sent for fresh coffee and pastries while everyone took a short breather. I was no more able to sit still and make pleasant conversation than Michael or Magda had been, so I had excused myself hoping to take a quick shower. I’d been wandering down a half-restored passageway trying to find my way back to my room when Cook saw me and assumed I was looking for Annie. It turned out her room was at the opposite end of the corridor and Cook had only just been there.

Once Cook disappeared down the hallway with an untouched tray from Annie’s room and, after checking both directions to make sure no one was watching, I knocked softly and let myself in. It took my eyes a few seconds to adjust to the darkened space and, at my first sight of her lying there in the bed, frail and unmoving, I was sure she was dead. I rushed to her side and grabbed up her icy hand, fisted around one of the rungs on the brass headboard. But the moment I touched her, she grabbed onto me with reflexes surprisingly fast and a grip terrifyingly strong. I half expected her to pull a butcher knife from under the duvet and come after me again. But then she moaned softly, completely undisturbed by my startled yelp, and her hand went limp in mine. Within a heartbeat she had relaxed and settled back into the thick bedding as though nothing at all had happened, the rise and fall of her chest returning to the slow, even breathing of deep sleep.

Her skin was waxen and grey, her face, even in repose, ravaged with the exhaustion the Guardian’s heavy demands had wrought upon her. In spite of the shock of seeing her so, I fought back my jealousy of the attention He had lavished on her, unable to keep my thoughts from straying to what He must have done to her, what they must have done together, how He must have pleasured her. Even as the unwelcome thoughts filled my head, I hated myself for them, but I hated her more for having Him all this time while I didn’t.

I recalled my dream with the Succubus, if that’s what it was; my secret planning with the dark moon image_xl_6338206Guardian for Him to take Annie as His lover until I could return and take my place next to Him. He had promised me that by His side was where I belonged, and I had believed Him without even the tiniest doubt. And then he had taken the memory of that night from me to keep our secret, He said. He promised all of what we shared that night would come back to me once we were together, but for now, it was best I didn’t remember. That would make it easier for me to function without Him until I could join Him forever. That was what He told me, and I believed Him without question. Dear God, could I have really betrayed my friend to such a fate? But even as I recalled that night, that experience, our scheming, I burned with jealousy at the plan He instigated, the plan He said would ultimately be best for the two of us, would ultimately guarantee we would be together. Annie meant nothing to Him, He had promised me, but He would do what He had to, whatever it took for us to be together. Perhaps He took those memories from me because He know I couldn’t have endured the jealousy, I would have driven myself insane thinking about her taking my place with Him, her naked on her mattress next to the altar inviting Him in again and again, and Him taking her over and over, instead of me. It should have been me. I should have stayed. I remember thinking that just before He took my memories.

And when He took them, in the taking, He had touched me, and His touch had been like a promise, one so sweet and so ecstatic that the very anticipation of its fulfillment was only a step away from orgasm, only a heartbeat away from pleasure I could barely imagine.

Then shame rushed back on me like a tidal wave followed in short order by denial. How could I have done this – any of this — to my best friend? Surely it couldn’t have been me. Surely it had only been a bad dream, just as I had been hoping all this time. She was the one with the demon lover after all, not me. She was the one who had come after me with a butcher knife. She was the one who caused all this pain and horror… surely she was.

Carefully, as though I feared waking her, or perhaps that my touch would hurt her, I settled onto the edge of the bed next to her still holding her hand, lightly stroking the back of it with my thumb. ‘Annie, I don’t know what to do,’ I whispered. ‘I’m so, so sorry that I dragged you into this mess. I … You have to believe me, I’d never have hurt you deliberately. I didn’t know. I swear to you, didn’t know. Perhaps I should go back to Chapel House.’

The words were out of my mouth almost of their own volition and, to my horror, I found myself rationalizing my need to return to the place, and to Him. After all, it was the only way I could save Annie, right? I could surely convince Him to let her go, to guarantee her safety in exchange for me. ‘If I go back, Annie, and you stay here with Magda and Michael and … well there’s just so much magic in this house. I think if anyone could make you better, Magda Gardener could. There’s something about her. I don’t know what it is, but she could make you better. I know she could.’

It seemed the most logical thing in the world to me, as I spoke. I would go back. I would be the
sacrifice to save Annie. And Michael too, right? He still had a hold on Michael, but it was me He wanted. I knew that it was. I had always known that, hadn’t I? I was the only one who could be to Him what He needed. All the others he’d ever been with down through the ages, all the lovers he had ever taken, all of them had only been His deep longing, His timeless search to find me. The more I thought about it, the more certain I was of the truth of it. The excitement at the thought of returning to Him grew tight and full beneath my breastbone, and in the dark places at the back of my mind, I was already planning my escape from High View and back to Him. It wouldn’t be easy sneaking away at night, not from a Vampire’s lair, but I felt certain in myself that He would help me, whether I fled to him in broad daylight or in the darkness of night. He would protect me from them and aid my escape. And then once I was safe away, safely back with Him, I would send word of my sacrifice and all would be well. I knew it would. He would free Annie and Michael and we would be together, just like He’d always wanted, like we’d both always wanted.

‘Oh, Annie,’ I said, squeezing her hand, ‘It’s the right thing to do. It just has to be. I mean what else can I do?’ I raised her hand to my lips and kissed it fervently. ‘I just … I just want you to be okay, Annie. I just want you to be okay that’s all I want. That’s all I ever wanted.’raindrops 2

‘It’s not all you want.’

I nearly jumped out of my skin as I turned to find Michael leaning against the frame of the door, hair sparkling with droplets of the light rain that has started outside during the reading of the account of my little encounter. I had no idea how long he’d been standing there, but as I shook myself back to reality, I knew it had probably been long enough for him to understand exactly what was going on. Long enough to realize the dangerous precipice upon which I now teetered.

 

In The Flesh Part 19: Dark Paranormal Romance in Progress. Enjoy!

In The Flesh 2 12006311_1476805985954344_6570546160088833292_nIn episode 19 of In The Flesh, the truth about what happened that first time in the crypt at Chapel House is slowly and painfully being told in Susan’s own words.

 

 

Read! Enjoy! Spread the word!

 

In the Flesh  is very dark paranormal erotica. When Susan Innes comes to visit her friend, Annie Rivers, in Chapel House, the deconsecrated church that Annie is renovating into a home, she discovers her outgoing friend changed, reclusive, secretive, and completely enthralled by a mysterious lover, whose presence is always felt, but never seen, a lover whom she claims is god. As her holiday turns into a nightmare, Susan must come to grips with the fact that her friend’s lover is neither imaginary nor is he human, and even worse, he’s turned his wandering eye on Susan, and he won’t be denied his prize. If Susan is to fight an inhuman stalker intent on having her as his own, she’ll need a little inhuman help.

 

 

To read the story in its entirety up to this point, follow these links to  Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4 Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13Part 14Part 15Part 16, Part 17, Part 18.

 

IN THE FLESH Chapter 19

I wasn’t alone in the dark. I knew that the first time I entered the crypt at Chapel House. I could feel a presence there, almost as though someone stood just behind me about to reach out and touch me, and the shiver over my skin was not so much from fear, though certainly there was an element of fear, as it was from longing, bone-deep longing. I could barely breathe for it, I could barely stand under the weight of it, and I couldn’t imagine how such an ache, such a hunger could exist inside my flesh and not tear me apart. I was astonished that Annie seemed completely unaware of anything out of the ordinary, and to be quite honest, I wasn’t anxious to share it with her.

               She continued to chatter on about her plans to make Chapel House over with a state of the art dark moon image_xl_6338206kitchen – she who didn’t cook, and a master suite that would rival the finest hotels in London. Strange that I could listen with one part of my brain and comment on her ideas for an open plan living space, for a library in the choir loft, for a wet room in the sacristy, while with another part of my brain I felt like every cell of my body was responding to whatever it was, whoever it was that I was certain waited there in the darkness, just beyond the beam of Annie’s Mag Light.

 

I must have groaned, or made some disparaging sound, or maybe she just sensed my utter mortification as I recalled what I’d written next, but Magda paused and looked up at me. ‘I’m not trying to embarrass you, Susan, but words have power. They’re your words. If you read them, they have more power. At the moment we don’t want to do anything that might empower him further. My reading them, being who I am, will significantly diminish that power so that, hopefully we might all understand what has happened and learn what to do.’

I nodded, face still burning from hearing words read out loud that I’d never meant to be shared with anyone. ‘I told Annie this story. I remember now. I told her over dinner,’ I said, feeling as though I owed everyone an explanation, feeling on some level as though I had betrayed them all. ‘Only when I told her, I changed us around so that it was her discovery, the Guardian in the crypt, her experiencing Him in the darkness rather than me.’ I recalled how it rankled, even then, even for the sake of keeping my secret, the thought of Annie feeling what I’d felt, the thought of Annie being so caressed in the crypt. I added quickly. ‘Annie likes … well she likes a good nasty story.’ I fought back the urge to say that Annie liked being the center of attention, that Annie wanted everything to be about her. None of that was actually true, all of that was simply my own jealousy. Christ, I hated that it was so, but it was. As though Magda understood, she laid a hand on my arm, and the jealousy dissipated.

Before she could continue reading, a sharp hiss of breath erupted into the tight energy of the room followed by a whispered curse. I turned to see Alonso clasping his hand to his chest as Talia made a mad dash for the window, slamming the shutters tight against the anemic rays of first light, leaving only the backlit screen of my computer and the lamp on the bedside table to keep the room from total darkness. ‘You bloody fool!’ She snapped at Alonso. ‘How useful do you expect to be if you end up toast? Pay attention!’ By the time she returned to his side, Reese was already examining Alonso’s hand, which looked to be badly burned.

‘Jesus! What happened?’ I said. ‘Is there a first aid kit in the bathroom?’rose images

‘No need,’ Alonso looked up at me with a blush. ‘I heal fast.’ Sure enough, even as he spoke the blisters that had looked to be 2nd degree burns, easily, were healing and disappearing in front of my eyes.

‘He’s a vampire,’ Talia said before I could do more than gasp at the sight. Alonso shot her an acid glance. ‘Well you are, you overly-sensitive bastard.’ She nodded to me. ‘Hell, she’s got a demonic parasite, you think she gives a fuck if you’re the goddamned undead?’

‘A vampire? Right.’ It said something about the incredible depth of the rabbit hole I’d tumbled down that I was barely phased by this delightful new tidbit of information.

‘Oh don’t worry,’ Talia continued just in case I might — worry. ‘You’re safe. Alonso’s well fed at the moment,’ she gave Reese a playful glance. ‘Besides, he never bites his guests, unless they ask him to.’

Reese sniggered. Alonso growled. Then he took in the room around us with a quick glance. ‘As you’ve all just witnessed, this is not the most comfortable suite for our little … undertaking. Certainly not for one such as me.’ He nodded to his hand, which was now completely healed. ‘Perhaps I may exercise my prerogative as host of this little soirée and invite everyone to adjourn to my study, which, though very well lit, indeed, has far fewer windows. ‘For those present for whom neither Reese nor Talia can provide nourishment, I’ll have Cook bring breakfast. Second breakfast for you, Ms. Innes,’ he said smiling at me. ‘And we can continue once I am not the only one who is well fed.’

When breakfast was over, we all arranged ourselves comfortably in Alonso’s high-tech basement study, complete with huge monitors disguised nicely as windows, which Reese informed me, were linked to cameras that gave Alonso the same gorgeous view of the high fells he would see from the windows in some of the brighter rooms on the upper floors. I perched on a sofa between Magda, who sat with my Mac in her lap and Michael, who held my hand nearly tight enough to crush bone. Magda downed the last of her coffee from a delicate china cup and continued the story out loud, me following along as she read.

 

The departmentalizing of Annie’s plans and the feel of the presence in the darkness became much more Bernini Hades and Persephone close uptumblr_lg4h59T3z31qe2nvuo1_500difficult when I felt the press of a warm, hard body against my back and the humid nip of a kiss against the nape of my neck. I explained away my little gasp of surprise to Annie by saying I’d almost lost my footing. I should have been frightened. I should have been terrified, and believe me, I was. But by the time I felt a large hand splayed low against my belly, by the time I was certain of the maleness pressed hard and low against my back, I was far more intrigued than I was frightened. Even if terror had won out, I don’t think I could have forced myself to move as the hand in the darkness migrated to cup my breasts and thumb my nipples, first one, then the other, and the press against my back became a slow insistent undulation.

               ‘The roses, they smell lovely.’ I managed a breathless response to Annie’s ramblings about plans for the overgrown mess of a garden. ‘You might want to consider a scent garden.’

               She laughed. ‘I can’t smell anything, but then you were always the one with the sensitive nose. Of course I’ll make sure there are lots of roses.’ She knew they were my favorite, but I couldn’t imagine her not smelling them, the scent was nearly overwhelming in the tight space of the crypt. To my surprise, as she rambled on about a patio with a Jacuzzi, the smell of roses was subsumed in my own scent and the humid, piquant scent of a man well aroused. The hand on my breast began a slow torturous descent, and I wanted nothing more than for Annie to keep talking, keep planning, anything to keep her from dragging me away from this place, at least for a few more minutes.

               I asked about the Jacuzzi, hoping that would give me another minute. By the time she got started about the sites she’d looked up online and the builders she’d talked to, I was rocking back against the hardness, craning my neck to yield as much bare skin as possible to teeth and tongue and lips all soft and warm and wet and sharp and hard and demanding. Oh I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible, but looking back, I wonder how the hell Annie couldn’t see? How could she have missed it? But she rattled on and on about some builder just up the road near Keswick who was supposed to be really good, some guy named Michael. Like I gave a fuck.

The study suddenly felt stuffy and overheated, and Michael’s grip on my hand convulsed. His Chillworth gunpoweder factoryjaw tightened, but he didn’t look at me. Magda paid little attention to either my discomfort or Michael’s. She just kept on reading.

               He was cute, Annie said. That led to observations about this Michael’s broad shoulders and nice arse and speculation as to whether or not he would be any good in bed, and was it wise to seduce him before he put in her Jacuzzi or wait till after and seduce him in it. All the while I nodded and pretended to be interested.

               I was thankful for the extra time, but Christ, how could she not notice me standing there legs a part, rocking back and forth and shifting from foot to foot like I had ants in my knickers. In truth, what I wanted in my knickers surely couldn’t actually be there, and yet I felt it, fucking hell, how I felt it! I swear, I could feel muscle and sinew, hell, I could feel the actual shape of an erection as though we were both naked, as though all he need do, this dark being who surely was just my imagination, all he need do was bend me over and open me, me struggling to keep my breathing quiet, me struggling to focus enough attention on my friend that she wouldn’t suspect I was about to come. Oh yes, I was terrified. I would have, should have run if I hadn’t been so intrigued, so turned on. I just wanted one more second, and then another and another. In desperation that shocks me even now as I write this in the dark silence of Annie’s flat, I grabbed onto a wrist that I swear was as solid and warm as my own and guided the caress, the tease the fondling of fingers and palm down my belly toward where I really needed it to be.

               Annie yammered on about this Michael, all the things she’d heard about him, all the things she wanted to do to him — at least I think she did. My God, my whole body felt alive, every cell, every molecule. I could damn near feel the coursing of my own blood through my veins. You have no idea what an exhilarating combination fear and arousal make. I lost track of what Annie was saying, and the air was filled with the scent of sex. I could smell him, actually smell this phantom man, who was as near release as I was, and I was sure, as my knees gave beneath me, I felt the warm wet of his orgasm against my lower back. And then for an instant everything around me was velvet and darkness, so perfect, so ecstatic. But just beyond that warm tight space. I knew. I knew as well as I know my own breath, I was terrified, and what I felt was like no terror I’d ever known before and, holy God in heaven, I want to feel it again.

               And then I was shivering on my knees against the stone floor in the crypt at Chapel House.

               ‘Susan? Susan, you’re scaring me?’ Annie’s worried face invaded my field of vision before she half-blinded me with her Mag Light, ‘Are you all right? What the hell happened?’

               ‘Sorry, I got a little light headed there. Probably just blood sugar. I missed lunch,’ I lied, stumbling quickly to my feet, making a quick swipe at the back of my skirt, surprised to find it was dry and pristine. Glancing over my shoulder into the narrow beam of the Mag Light I saw only the empty darkness of the crypt and the tunnel that lead back to the rusted barred door. But I was certain someone was there, someone I hungered for way more than I hungered for food. And I was equally certain that I would have him.Graveyard angel 1

 

I don’t know what happened. I was too lost in the words Magda read to notice anything else in the room until suddenly there was a groan, little more than a heavy breath released in desperation, and Michael came to his feet with all the dignity I suppose one could expect from an angel. He tugged at the collar of his t-shirt as though it were choking him, and then he turned on his heels and walked quickly out of the study, shutting the door behind him.

Before I could go after him, Magda grabbed my wrist and settled me back onto the sofa. ‘Let him go. This is no easier for him to take than it is for you and, I’m sorry to say, it’ll get harder before it gets better.’

 

In The Flesh Part 18: Dark Paranormal Romance in Progress. Enjoy!

In The Flesh 2 12006311_1476805985954344_6570546160088833292_nIn episode 18 of In The Flesh, it quickly becomes clear that even Alonso’s fortress is not safe from invasion. Michael is forced to share a part of his past he’d rather forget, and dreamtime with Talia uncovers a secret of which Susan has no memory — a terrifying secret written in her own words.

 

In the Flesh  is very dark paranormal erotica. When Susan Innes comes to visit her friend, Annie Rivers, in Chapel House, the deconsecrated church that Annie is renovating into a home, she discovers her outgoing friend changed, reclusive, secretive, and completely enthralled by a mysterious lover, whose presence is always felt, but never seen, a lover whom she claims is god. As her holiday turns into a nightmare, Susan must come to grips with the fact that her friend’s lover is neither imaginary nor is he human, and even worse, he’s turned his wandering eye on Susan, and he won’t be denied his prize. If Susan is to fight an inhuman stalker intent on having her as his own, she’ll need a little inhuman help.

 

 

To read the story in its entirety up to this point, follow these links to  Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4 Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13Part 14Part 15Part 16, Part 17

 

Read! Enjoy! Spread the word!

 

IN THE FLESH Chapter 18

I came back to myself sitting on the floor in Talia’s arms, she whispering softly to me, words I didn’t recognize from some language that sounded Eastern European. She didn’t try to stop me as I pushed myself to my feet. No one did. In fact no one moved. They all just watched as I sleep-walked my way to my bag, unzipped it and pulled out my computer case. ‘I bought this the next day,’ I said, emptying out its contents onto the sailor’s trunk at the foot of the bed. ‘After it all happened.’ Around me no one spoke. I had the very distinct feeling they were all holding their breath. ‘I needed a place. Someplace secure.’ I reached down into the side pouch of the neoprene lining, fumbling and fingering until I found the tiny flap of soft cloth Velcroed tightly to a pocket that was nearly impossible to detect unless you knew where to look. I’d found it by accident while we were shopping for belts and bags in the local Saturday market. The case was black with bright red roses strewn across it as though the wind had just blown a bouquet through an open door.

‘Looks like an old lady’s handbag,’ Talia remarked.

‘That’s exactly what Annie said.’ There was a sharp ripping of Velcro in the otherwise silent room, and I felt my way into the pocket, felt my way to the cool, smooth plastic of the flash drive still there, still secret, even from me, until a few minutes ago.

There was a collective inhaling of breath when I pulled it free from its hiding place and flipped Scribe computer keyboardMG_0777open my computer. As the screen flashed and the soft light competed with the bedside lamp in the receding night, everyone drew around me in a tight circle as though I were about to impart a secret. In truth, that’s exactly what I was about to do, and more than a little bit of it was still a secret to me as well.

‘You don’t have to do this,’ came a voice next to my ear, and I found myself embraced, caressed, tenderly fondled. I breathed deeply, breathed in the scent of roses, and suddenly Michael’s love bite on my breast burned like fire. I yelped and jumped back fumbling the flash drive, which Magda caught deftly then shoved it into the USB port. As it clicked into place, all the air went out of my lungs as though someone had suddenly punched me in the gut. The room swam before my eyes.

‘What is it? What’s wrong?’ Michael said, sliding his arms around me to keep me on my feet. The others stepped back as though they half expected me to burst into flame. For a second I wasn’t so sure myself. ‘I think Talia might be right.’ I managed. ‘Does anyone else smell roses?’

‘There are no roses growing in High View,’ Reese said. ‘The soil’s too rocky and it’s too cold.’

‘What do you mean, I might be right?’ Talia pushed her way in close, her blue eyes wide, looking at me once again as though I had two-heads.

‘I mean …’ I turned to Magda. ‘This guardian, does he do possessions, you know like demons, that kind of possession.’ Even as I said it, a sense of disappointment tightened my chest as though I had let Him down, as though I had deeply wounded him by my act of betrayal.

‘In a way, yes.’ It was Michael who answered. ‘When I was with him, he was desperate to know what it was like to have flesh. As a non-corporeal entity, his interactions with the physical world are limited. Oh he can affect mortals in devastating ways.’ He shrugged. ‘Angels too, I found out. But the physical aspect of him that corporeal beings think they experienced is only his fabrication to elicit the response in them he can’t have himself. He wants to know what if feels like to walk, to eat, to sleep, to … make love. The thing is, the more he affects a mortal, the less desire they have to interact with the physical world, and the more their desire to remain in his presence only. That leaves him constantly in need of new lovers, for lack of a better word.’

‘Bloody hell,’ Talia whispered. I could see that the succubus now shivered nearly as hard as I did, even still wrapped in the blanket, as she was.

I …’ Michael swallowed hard, and his chest rose and fell as though he’d just been out for a morning run. ‘I let him inside me a few times when we were … making love, when he wanted to know what it felt like, what I felt. He would then … use my body as his own. At first it was such an incredible rush of power. I’d never known my body was capable of feeling such things.’ He closed his eyes in a struggle for control, or perhaps only because it made sharing such an intimate detail of his life in such a public way a little easier. When he continued, he kept them closed. ‘In the end, the Guardian stopped asking for my permission. He … he came into me whenever he wanted, and when he was there … well sometimes I didn’t even know he’d entered. Then he started taking lovers, other lovers, using me with them.’ He fist clenched and opened and I could see the half moon depressions where his nails had bit into his palm. He gave a quick glance around the room, and color rose to his cheeks. ‘You see, being an angel, I was strong enough to be his vessel, where no human would be.’

As he spoke, I felt a tightening in my chest, an aching sensation just below the breastbone. ‘But I rose imagesam human,’ I managed the words as calmly as my near-state of panic would allow. ‘Surely He knows I’m not a suitable vessel.’

‘He’s not actually possessing you,’ Magda said. ‘Not the way he did Michael anyway. He’s attached himself to you like … well for lack of a better word, like a parasite.’

‘Christ! That makes me feel a whole lot better.’ The tightness in my chest made it difficult to breathe, and seeing Michael struggling with his memories of having the Guardian inside him only made it worse. I could do nothing more than stand there stupidly shaking my head and rubbing my chest, which hurt like it had in my childhood back when asthma was a regular part of my daily life. But I had outgrown that a long time ago and hadn’t had so much as a sniffle until recently.

Magda patted Michael’s shoulder gently, then perched on the sailor’s chest next to my computer. ‘You’re a writer, Susan. I’m assuming that also means that you read a lot.’

‘Of course I do.’

‘And romance? Do you ever read romance?’

‘Read it and write it as well,’ I answered. ‘What’s your point?’

‘Don’t tell me you’ve never had the hero of a story so posses you that you couldn’t stop thinking about him, even dreaming about him long after you’d finished the novel?’ Before I could do more than nod, she continued. ‘And in your own writings, aren’t here times when your own stories so posses you that they become more real than the world you live in?’

‘Jesus,’ I whispered, the pressure on my chest now felt like an elephant was doing a tap dance across my sternum with my heart providing a rapid staccato drumbeat. ‘That’s exactly what I was doing that night, the night I wrote that.’ I nodded to the words on the screen. ‘I remember now. It was just a story idea, something that came into my mind down in the crypt when I saw the rusty bars over the tunnel entrance at the back. I mean what writer wouldn’t find something like that intriguing, fodder for story?’ I looked around the room seeking understanding. Michael took my hand and gave it a squeeze encouraging me to continue. ‘I was in the middle of a major project at the time, so what I wrote that night was fast and furious, just to get the ideas down so I wouldn’t lose them. I do that all the time. I planned to come back to it later. I thought it would be a great story. But then it all suddenly felt so real. While I was writing it, I mean. I could swear it all actually happened, and for a writer that’s an exciting thing, because of course it’s all just my imagination, isn’t it? At least that’s what I told myself, and why would I believe anything else? It’s always been true before. But then…’

‘Then what,’ Magda asked.

‘Then I totally forgot all about it. Even when I bought the computer bag, even when I tucked the memory stick away, I forgot it almost as it was happening. How could I forget it? I never forget a story idea, no matter how lame it might be. How could I have forgotten something like this?’ I shivered, and Michael slipped his arm around me.

‘You forgot because the Guardian didn’t want you to remember. That’s how you forgot,’ Magda said.

‘I never meant to hurt anyone.’ I glanced around the room, all eyes were locked on me. ‘What am I going to do?’

‘You’re going to do exactly as I say, just like Michael did. And if you do that, I’ll get you and your friend through this, and it’ll be okay. I promise.’ Before I could ask how she could make such a promise, before I could ask who the hell she was that she could even be so presumptuous, Magda took me into her arms, and for a second the pressure in my chest constricted like a fist. I think I might have passed out, maybe from the shock of her embrace, maybe from His unwanted presence. I don’t know. Whatever happened, the scent of roses dissipated and when she released me, I could breathe easily again. She noted my surprise and her full lips quirked in a smile. ‘The Guardian doesn’t like me. He won’t hang around for my embrace.’ Before I could question what she meant by that, she nodded to the computer screen, and I turned to see the words I’d written about my first encounter with Him.

I wasn’t alone in the dark.

To my surprise and embarrassment, Magda began to read them out loud.

‘Wait!’ I reached for the flash drive, but in a move that was so fast I missed it completely; she grabbed my hand and shoved it away. I gasped and stepped back, the feel of her touch prickling like static electricity over my skin. ‘Please don’t. Please read that in front of everyone,’ I said, rubbing my hand where she had touched me. It’s …’

‘It’s personal, yes I know.’

‘What do you want her to do,’ Talia spoke up, ‘print out copies so we can all read it and have a little private wank session?’

Alonso shot her a look that would have stripped paint. She only shrugged, but before I could do anything more than blush with the mortification I felt, Magda spoke up.

‘If you want to have a wank, Talia, don’t let me stop you, but you’ll do it in front of all of us. Alonso and I might be immune to an attack from the Guardian, but no one else in this room is, includingGraveyard angel 1 you. That means I read it out loud in Alonso’s house with both of us present in the room.’

Talia said nothing more. In the charged space, there was a shuffling of feet and a lowering of eyes as though no one was really comfortable with this little arrangement, but then no one was about to argue either. It seemed that everyone would defer to Magda. I gathered she was the only one who had a plan, or at least I hoped she did.

Michael gave my hand another reassuring squeeze. I pulled a deep breath, braced myself, and Magda began to read.

 

In The Flesh Part 17: Dark Paranormal Romance in Progress. Enjoy!

In The Flesh 2 12006311_1476805985954344_6570546160088833292_nIn episode 17 of In The Flesh, Susan’s sojourn with Alonso Darlington and his entourage involves a return visit to a dream she doesn’t remember. Today’s episode is a little longer, in which much is revealed, and is often the case, when much is revealed, the plot thickens.

 

And check out the alternate cover the fabulous Kev Blisse has designed for me. Hard to say which I like best.

 

Read! Enjoy! Spread the word!

 

In the Flesh  is very dark paranormal erotica. When Susan Innes comes to visit her friend, Annie Rivers, in Chapel House, the deconsecrated church that Annie is renovating into a home, she discovers her outgoing friend changed, reclusive, secretive, and completely enthralled by a mysterious lover, whose presence is always felt, but never seen, a lover whom she claims is god. As her holiday turns into a nightmare, Susan must come to grips with the fact that her friend’s lover is neither imaginary nor is he human, and even worse, he’s turned his wandering eye on Susan, and he won’t be denied his prize. If Susan is to fight an inhuman stalker intent on having her as his own, she’ll need a little inhuman help.

 

To read the story in its entirety up to this point, follow these links to  Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4 Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13Part 14Part 15, Part 16.

 

In The Flesh Chapter 17

‘What?’ I came out of the chair nearly upsetting my coffee cup onto the white linen tablecloth the servant had spread. ‘Talia’s going to sleep with me? Are you crazy?’ I could imagine Annie getting a good laugh out of this, elbowing me in the ribs saying if I wasn’t up for the task she’d be happy to oblige.

‘Oh it’s nothing sexual,’ Alonso reassured me, gently patting my arm.

‘Well,’ the woman said with a modest shrug and a dip of her blue eyes that said she was checking me out. ‘It could be, if you want it to be.’

Before I could totally panic, Alonso slipped an arm around my shoulder and glared at this Talia person. ‘You’ll have to forgive my colleague, Ms. Innes. She has a very strange sense of humour. I promise, she’ll do nothing you don’t invite,’ I didn’t miss the threat in his voice, clearly aimed at the woman. Then he turned his full attention on me. ‘And I would suggest that what you do invite be nothing more than the sharing of dreams, considering that your … love life, as it were, is already somewhat complicated. You don’t need to add another complication to the menu.’

‘To the menu,’ the woman chuckled wickedly. ‘Oh, I like that turn of phrase, darling. Perhaps you should have been a Scribe yourself.’ She spoke to Alonso, but her gaze was locked on me. ‘She does look practically edible, don’t you think? Though I’m guessing you’re probably well-sated after feasting on Reese.’

Alonso growled at her. He actually growled and, I think — yes, I’m certain, he bared his teeth! My skin prickled and the fine hairs on the back of my neck rose. For a moment, I swear the man seemed more animal than human and, between him and the woman, who eyed me like I was dinner, I felt like I had been set loose in the primordial woods with the wild beasts.

‘What’s going on here?’ I started at the sound of another woman’s voice, one I’d heard in the dark of the crypt, dark moon image_xl_6338206and turned to see Maggie, with Michael right behind her. If I hadn’t been wrong-footed and frightened already, I certainly was now. Alonso and Talia might have been scary beasts in the woods, but Maggie was the huntress everyone feared, myself included. Even Talia was instantly subdued by her presence. In the midst of raised hackles, Michael came to my side and slipped a possessive arm around me, literally pulling me away from Alonso, just as a ginger-haired man in jeans and a plaid shirt entered the room.

‘Is everything all right?’ He asked.

Talia offered half a smile. ‘Of course it’s not, Reese. Come on in. You might as well join the fun.’ She gave Maggie a sideways glance and stepped up to flank Alonso on one side while Reese came to his other.

For a moment the room was deathly silent. Only Maggie stood alone, nearly blinding in her golden brilliance, and I couldn’t keep from wondering how someone so stunning could be so terrifying, and why. Even Talia paled in comparison – especially on my fright-meter. And the minute her gaze turned on me, even from behind the strange dark glasses she wore, I felt a tingle bone deep as though I had just passed beneath a high-tension wire and a million volts was just a heartbeat away.

‘How’s Annie?’ Christ in heaven, I don’t know how I found my voice in front of her. Maybe because I was still pissed off that she’d left me in the crypt at Chapel House. But she had rescued my friend, something I’d made a thorough mess of. I owed her hugely for that.

‘I’ve done what I can for her.’ Her voice was like honey dripping over hot flame. ‘She’s resting comfortably.’ She moved forward, gaze still locked on me, until she stood close enough I could feel her breath on my face, cool and sweet like the fell air. I was sure she could see how my pulse raced in my throat at her nearness. ‘Right now I need to know what you’ve done to release the Chapel House Guardian so I can learn how to return him to his prison. He was there for a reason, you know. Though I imagine you’ve figured that out by now.’ She gave me no time to defend myself and, if what everyone said was true, I had no defense anyway. ‘Since you have no memory of the momentous occasion, I need you to sleep with the succubus.’

‘Succubus? She’s a succubus?’ I nodded to Talia, who only shrugged modestly. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me! I have a demon trying to seduce me, an angel who’s marked me, and by the way, Michael, that mark — it hurts like a sonovabitch when the demon gets mad, and now you want me to sleep with a succubus? Honestly, I don’t see how the hell –’

‘Oh for fuck sake,’ Talia broke in, ‘stop being such a drama queen, do you really think I want to incur Magda’s wrath?’ She gave the woman a quick nod of her head. ‘If you want sex, you won’t get it from me. I’ll just tiptoe through your little dreamscape all nice and polite-like and prod a memory here and there as needed. You won’t even know I’m there. Your loss,’ she added under her breath.

‘I’ll stay with you,’ Michael said, giving Talia the look he might reserve for a rabid wolf.’

She cursed under her breath. ‘Anyone else want to join in? Why don’t we just make an orgy of it?’

‘Shut up, Talia,’ Alonso said. ‘We’ve already discussed this.’

Embarrassed by Talia’s bluntness and by my ridiculous whining when my friend’s life was in danger, I squared my shoulders and found my voice, cowardly though it was. ‘What do I have to do?’ I asked, hoping my trembling wasn’t as obvious as it felt to me. I was pretty sure it was only Michael’s support that was holding me upright at the moment.

2015-09-04 15.53.34               ‘You just have to go to sleep and dream,’ Talia said.

‘The juice,’ Alonso spoke, nodding to the empty orange juice glass on the breakfast table. ‘It contained some herbs that will make you drowsy very shortly. You’ll sleep in Talia’s arms.’ He nodded toward the door. ‘You should probably return to your room shortly, unless you want Michael to carry you.’

‘When were you going to tell me about this juice, about being drugged?’

‘I just did.’ Alonso replied ‘Besides, as Magda has said, we really have little choice if we want to put this monster back where he belongs and save your friend’s life.’

Magda lifted my chin on the curl of her fingers and, I swear, if Michael hadn’t been holding me upright, I would have fallen through the floor. Even through her glasses, there was something about being the center of her attention that made me feel like I was being unraveled one molecule at a time. But when she spoke, the situation became very tightly focused, indeed. ‘Susan, if I can’t sever Annie’s link with the Guardian, she will die. She’s been under his thrall too long. You’re the key, like it or not, and if you’re not willing to do whatever it takes, then it’s best you put a bullet in your friend’s brain right now, because her death will neither be easy nor quick. Do you understand me?’

There were no more jokes, no more snipes. The room was silent as a grave as I stepped away from Michael. ‘All right.’ I glanced at Talia, who nodded in return and stepped forward. ‘If it’s all the same to everyone, I’d like to make it back to my room under my own power.’ I was beginning to feel like my tongue belonged to someone else, and the floor felt a long way from my feet. With Michael flanking me on one side and the succubus on the other, I carefully maneuvered my way back down the hall. It was only as Michael kissed me possessively and tucked me down beneath the duvet that I noticed Magda perched on the edge of a sailor’s trunk in the corner near the bathroom.

‘Are you the audience,’ I slurred.

‘Afraid so, darling. Traditionally the dreamer and her dream walker are witnessed by a third party who doesn’t sleep and remains uninvolved in events so she can awaken the dreamers if … there are problems.’

‘Are you expecting problems?’ I looked from Talia to Magda and back again, to find Talia was stripping out of her clothes. For a second that thought disturbed me, but I was way passed holding a thought in my head for very long.

‘Possibly,’ came the reply that disturbed me way more than the naked succubus now sliding down under the duvet by my side. Whoever this Magda was, she pulled no punches and made no effort to soften the blows. Clearly the woman didn’t have to make nicey-nice.

Michael leaned down and kissed me again. ‘I’d wish you pleasant dreams, but under the circumstances … ’ He 2015-09-04 16.12.40 HDRshot Talia a warning glance, then settled near the foot of the bed on a battered captain’s chair that creaked under his weight.

My last memory of the waking world was Talia pulling me into her arms and kissing me as though she were pulling the breath from me, pulling me under, into the world of sleep, and just before I lost consciousness, I wanted nothing more than for Talia to keep on kissing me.

 

It was a cry of terror that awakened me from a mundane dream of sitting at the big desk in the study of Annie’s old flat tapping away on the keyboard of my Mac. After all the dreams I’d had, or thought I’d had recently, after the way dreams had bled so convincingly into reality, I was totally prepared to be the one screaming like a banshee and making a fool of myself. I was completely unprepared to find that it was Talia doing the screaming.

I shoved my way from under the duvet and fell on my arse in the middle of the floor amid blinding light, confusion, shattering glass and screams. Michael helped me to my feet, and eased me back onto the bed. By the time my eyes adjusted to the light, I discovered Alonso sitting in the middle of the floor with Talia in his arms. She was wrapped in a blanket, sobbing and trembling against his shoulder. Magda knelt next to her and Reese stood behind them shoving aside pieces of the shattered mirror from one of the wardrobe doors with the toe of his hiking boot.

When Magda saw that I was awake, she moved to my side, motioning Michael away from me. ‘Are you all right?’ She lifted both of my eyelids in turn, staring into each like she was an optometrist.

I shrugged her away. ‘I’m fine. What happened?’ I nodded to Talia.

‘The succubus claims the Guardian’s inside you, that he confronted her in your dreams. Was he there?’

‘Christ, Maggie, you’re as subtle as a heart attack,’ Michael spat. ‘Do you even know what tact is?’

She shot him a warning glance, and he shut up. ‘Clearly you weren’t seeing the same things, she saw. Were you dreaming?’ Suddenly all eyes were on me.

‘I was, yes. But it was nothing important, certainly nothing about Him,’ I shuddered at the thought of the dream visits I’d had from Him. No, if he’d been there I’d have known.

‘I know what I saw,’ Talia said, looking at me as though I had two heads.

‘Susan, perhaps you should tell us what you remember,’ Magda suggested.

I told them, a little embarrassed that I’d had such a mundane dream and poor Talia had clearly had a nightmare. ‘There’s no way He could be inside me,’ I added. ‘I’d know. I mean surely I’d know.’

No one nodded agreement. Instead they all gave me the jaundiced stare. That did nothing to make me feel Bernini Hades and Persephone close uptumblr_lg4h59T3z31qe2nvuo1_500better. For a moment, no one said anything at all. Then I remembered my friend, who supposedly was resting comfortably somewhere in the bowels of High View and an icy prickle crawled up my spine. ‘What about Annie? If He’s here, won’t He go straight for her? I mean isn’t she an easy target?’

Michael shot Magda an accusing glance, which she ignored. ‘Trust me, Susan, she’s safe from him.’

‘Instead he was drawn to the succubus?’ I said.

‘Everyone is drawn to a succubus,’ Talia replied with a convulsive shiver. ‘That was the whole point.’

Unnoticed, Reece had gone into the bathroom and returned with a glass of water, which Talia took from him with a nod of thanks.

‘I was the bate.’

‘Jesus!’ I suddenly felt queasy. ‘You mean you went into my dreams knowing you might encounter Him there?’

Talia gave no answer, only sipped at her water.

‘Just because it’s a dream, doesn’t mean it’s not real,’ Magda said. ‘The only one who would have half a chance against the Guardian if he were to choose the dream route, which I’m guessing is how he got to you, was Talia. She feeds on dreams, especially sexual dreams.’

Talia forced a laugh. ‘That didn’t work out so well, did it?’

‘So it was you He was waiting for then, not me,’ I said, standing to pace by the bed. ‘All I had was a dream about writing, something I do every day.’

‘Oh he wasn’t trying to seduce me,’ Talia said. ‘He was trying to chase me out, and that’s exactly what he did.’ She forced her way to her feet with a little help from Alonso and Reese, then came to pace next to me. ‘Tell me about your dream in as much detail as you can remember.’

I shook my head. ‘All right. It was a writing dream. I have them all the time. I have them more often when I’m close to a deadline. Usually those involve my laptop breaking down or my entire manuscript being deleted, that sort of thing.’

‘Look, what might seem completely mundane to you could be critical,’ Alonso said. I noticed his arm was now draped protectively around Reese’s shoulder and the two had crowded into the shadowy space next to the wardrobe away from the window.

‘It is strange,’ I said, sifting through the jumble of events of the past few days. ‘Every other dream I’ve had up rose imagesuntil this one has been either sexy or nightmarish or some bizarre combination of the two. Even if I just doze. I’ve dreamed a lot,’ I added.

Talia studied me for a second, brow drawn, then she huffed out a sharp breath. ‘May I try something?’

‘Of course.’ The words were barely out of my mouth before she pulled me into her arms and kissed me. She kissed me hard and deep, and I returned the favor with more gusto that I would have thought possible. Somewhere far off, I heard Michael protest and Magda cut him off. In the back of my mind for a split second, I heard Katy Perry singing I Kissed a Girl, and then the world went blank as though someone had just pushed the reset button.

 

I set in front of my Mac the tap, tap of the keys filling the silence like the rhythm of my pulse. The moon hangs heavy, framed by the open window in Annie’s study. I’m tipsy, but not drunk, at least not too drunk, but I can’t sleep. My whole body buzzes, but it isn’t an alcohol buzz, it was like being in the zone when all the words flow onto the page, and the story I have inside me explodes like magic, like an orgasm. I’m breathless and trembling and pushing, pushing, always pushing against it, rubbing against it, feeling it penetrate me, fill me, ride me in the darkness until every last breath, every last word, every full stop burst onto the page, and I’m left weak and trembling and wrung out.

Then I’m no longer in Annie’s comfy flat. I’m in the crypt at Chapel House, the darkness awash in the scent of roses, sweet, sweet roses. I’m writing away with insane focus, something that has to be said, something that has to be freed onto the page. And, fucking hell, I’m horny. I’m always horny when the words are flowing. When the story’s coming fast and furious, it makes me want to come too. I’m writing. I’m writing. I’m writing! The silver light bleeding through the bars in the tunnel, touches me like the words do, touches me exactly where they do, in places so private no one has ever touched me there before. And I’m shy, and I’m embarrassed, even ashamed, and I’m overwhelmed with desire that burns me and flashes across my synapses like sheet lightning. And I need! Oh God, how I need! I’m writing. I’m writing …but what I’m writing is more powerful than any story I’ve ever written, and I want more, good Christ I want so much more! I want it all and I need it with an ache that will surely destroy me if I can’t have it!

And the door’s not locked, and I’m terrified and aroused, and intrigued, and I can almost see the words flowing Scribe computer keyboardMG_0777onto the page as, with trembling fingers I open the barred door that creaks with ancient disuse. And He’s there like light itself splitting the darkness. And I write Him onto the page, feeling His lust, His need, His passion in every word. And when I’m finished, trembling and spent and replete, He’s there, fully present, fully mine to possess.

Then I hear Annie in the bathroom. The toilet flushes, and I hold my breath, hold my secret tight so she won’t hear. And when I’m sure she’d gone back to her bed, with fingers cold against the keys, I copy everything, all of it, every word, every nuance, every stuttering heartbeat onto a memory stick. Then I hide it away. But before I do, I delete the words from my Mac so no one else will see, no one else will share in my ecstasy, in my passion, in the shame that so arouses me.

It’s only then, when I feel His breath against my neck, and the scent of roses fills the night air, that I realize I can’t close the door.

 

In The Flesh Part 16: Dark Paranormal Romance In Progress. Enjoy!

In the Flesh 11880534_1463650103936599_545702979581425574_nIn episode 16 of In The Flesh, whisked away from Chapel House by Michael and the mysterious Maggie, Susan finds herself tucked away in the High Fells of the Lake District, where help comes from an old friend — one not particularly happy to see Maggie, and the help he offers may be as bad as the problem itself.

Read! Enjoy! Spread the word!

In the Flesh  is very dark paranormal erotica. When Susan Innes comes to visit her friend, Annie Rivers, in Chapel House, the deconsecrated church that Annie is renovating into a home, she discovers her outgoing friend changed, reclusive, secretive, and completely enthralled by a mysterious lover, whose presence is always felt, but never seen, a lover whom she claims is god. As her holiday turns into a nightmare, Susan must come to grips with the fact that her friend’s lover is neither imaginary nor is he human, and even worse, he’s turned his wandering eye on Susan, and he won’t be denied his prize. If Susan is to fight an inhuman stalker intent on having her as his own, she’ll need a little inhuman help.

 

To read the story in its entirety up to this point, follow these links to  Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4 Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12Part 13, Part 14, Part 15.

 

Chapter 16

It was deep night when I woke up with my heart hammering in my chest. I was groggy, disoriented and completely naked. It took me a few seconds to convince myself that I was no longer in the crypt at Chapel House. Then I recalled the events of the past – what was it anyway, twelve hours? Twenty-four hours? Maybe more. I remembered Michael quite literally carrying me away from Chapel House. I remembered Annie’s screams, and I remembered waking up in the arms of some man named Alonso, who clearly wasn’t happy at having unexpected guests in the middle of the night … or at least I thought it had been night. Nothing was very clear to me at the moment. The past few days were an insane blur that I still hoped against hope to wake up from and find it had all been just a bad dream.

Once my eyes had adjusted to the ambient light, the room was far from dark. The heavily carved wooden bed I was in looked ancient and battered. Next to the bed a trunk, no less battered, served as a bedside table, with a bare-bulbed lamp on top, cord disappearing over the edge into the dark. The other furnishings in the room looked to be a double-doored wardrobe and more trunks, lots more trunks and wooden crates. Clearly the room had been thrown together in a hurry to accommodate me, though as I turned onto my side it was easy to feel that the sheets and bedding were not only clean, but of the highest quality, possibly even brand new. The bed faced a large curtainless window, which opened to the night, to the light coming from the waning moon and the star-filled sky.

Without turning on the lamp, I stood and moved to the window, nearly tripping over my bag, which I had no memory of Michael grabbing before sweeping me away, but then I had not much memory of anything but fear and lust and anger. There was quite a bit of anger thrown into the pot when I found out Michael had kept the truth from me. The thing was, I had no memory of the truth myself. Could everyone be lying to me? None of it made sense. How could I have ever released a demon spirit from his prison beneath the crypt of Chapel House and set Him loose on my friend with the plan of returning to claim Him as my lover? I was a lot of things, and like most writers, I had a fair-sized streak of self-absorption, but I wasn’t vicious or cruel, and I considered myself a fairly decent human being in spite of all my neuroses and foibles. Of the two of us, Annie had always been far more self-absorbed, and I figured that was a part of her gift, a part of what made her as successful as she was. Not that I wasn’t successful, but my idea of success was quite different from hers.

As I moved toward the window, I had an overwhelming need to breath fresh air and was surprised to find that though the glass in the window itself seemed ancient, it opened with very little effort on my part. The air was that of high places, bracing and sweet, cold enough to raise chill bumps across my bare arms and delicious enough that I was reluctant to shut out the chill. After inhaling several lungsful of the intoxicating fell air and gazing up at more stars than I had any idea could be in a night sky, I made a more coherent effort to take in my surroundings. The bare slate floors were covered with a path of what looked to be very old Turkish carpets that ran from the bed to the window, in front of the wardrobe, and then to a door across the room, behind which I discovered a well-equipped bathroom – far more modern and luxurious than the rest of the room. I splashed my face with cold water, ignoring the urge to have a wallow in a very large claw-footed tub. From somewhere in the house, I heard the sound of voices, or thought I did anyway. I found my clothes neatly folded on a large trunk at the foot of the bed and slipped into them, now shivering from the cold breeze coming in the window I was not yet willing to shut. If someone was up in the house, perhaps they could answer some of my questions. Would Michael be here? What about this Maggie woman? Oh, I had a thing or two I wanted to say to her alright, don’t think I didn’t!

I pushed open the door that looked new and unvarnished and, on tiptoes, made my way down a long hall, my 2015-06-24 12.46.27feet silent on the slate floor. The place was not totally unlike the crypt at Chapel House, the walls were bare stone and the windows along one side were deep as though they belonged in some Medieval castle, and certainly the view out the window from my bedroom had done little to diminish that notion. I half expected the staircase to be narrow and winding down the inside of a tower, but I didn’t make it to the stairs, wherever they were. Just down the hall next to my room, a set of open French doors led into a darkened study. There was an open set of identical doors across the room, which led out onto a balcony. It was from there I heard voices carrying on the night air from down below. I couldn’t make out the conversation, but I did make out my name, so I eased my way across the room and out onto the balcony. Below, I could see a narrowly terraced garden above a beck running steeply down the hunched back of the fell. In the garden on a stone bench sat two men in quiet conversation. Neither of them was Michael, but I recognized the bigger of the two as Alonso. He sat with his arm around the shoulder of the other. The tone of their speech was soft and conversational, and I leaned forward over the stone railing holding my breath to hear something, anything that might give me a clue as to what was going on and where I was. Alonso was speaking to his companion, who offered a soft laugh at whatever the man had said. It was as Alonso slid his hand down the man’s back to rest low on his hips and drew him close that I realized what I was watching, what I was listening to, had become intimate and no longer had anything to do with me. Just as I turned to go back into the study and back to my room, Alonso pivoted on the bench and looked up at me. I swallowed back a yelp, and stumbled away from the railing, not terribly subtle, but it was dark, and I’d managed neither to fall nor cry out. I certainly had done nothing wrong. The doors to the study had been open and inviting. If Alonso had not wanted me there, all he would have had to do was close the door. But then again, supposedly I was notorious for opening doors not meant to be opened.

I made it halfway across the study, heading back to my room when Alonso’s large form blocked the door in front of me, and this time I did yelp.

His full lips twisted in a wicked smile, then he offered me a very formal bow. “Alonso Darlington, at your service, Madame.” The man was not quite as big as Michael – nearly as tall, but of a more slender build. Still, he gave the illusion that he was much larger than even the angel. “I’m sorry for startling you, Ms. Innes. I forget sometimes to make noise when I approach. I have startled Reese terribly more times than I care to admit. Though the other members of my staff and my colleagues are used to my … unusual ways, for Reese’s sake, I truly am trying.”

It wasn’t so much his silence as it was his speed that startled me. No human could have moved from the garden below so quickly. “Reese is the one you were with?” I asked, steadying myself on the edge of a large antique desk that dominated the room, willing my pulse to slow to a gallop. If this Alonso wasn’t human, the last thing I wanted was to anger him by saying the wrong thing.

“The one you saw me with.” His face lit with a smile that I knew full well was reserved for thoughts of one’s lover. “Yes, that’s Reese.”

“I … I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude.”

“You intrusion, my dear, is hardly your fault, and I do apologize for the state of the room you have been forced to endure. High View is being renovated at the moment, and we are in a shambles. And of course, I’m deeply sorry for my less than cordial welcome.”

“You don’t like Maggie, whoever the hell she is. I got that. Frankly, I don’t like her very much either, so no need to apologize.”

“It isn’t so much that I don’t like her. I have a great deal of respect for the woman, and in truth, I owe her much.” He moved to stand next to me, and I could feel him studying me, but looking into his eyes made me feel ever so slightly off balance, so I looked away, taking in the surroundings of what was not a study at all, but a lovely library that would have fit right into any stately home I’d ever toured. “It’s just that whenever Magda shows up, things get more complicated than I’d like them to be, and I try very hard to keep things simple and to not draw attention to myself.” As if he anticipated my next questions, he added. “Your friend is sleeping peacefully. Magda and your angel are with her at the moment.”

“He’s not my angel,” I snapped.

Alonso offered a low, throaty chuckle. “Oh I think that he is, my dear.” Before I could protest, he pulled an iPhone from the pocket of his black jeans, punched in a number and waited for a second, then I heard a woman answer.

He offered me a quick, reassuring smile that was nearly as hypnotic as my first glance into his eyes. “Talia, darling, if you’re finished, our guest is awake and we have need of you in the library.” He returned the cell phone to his pocket and motioned me to the leather sofa in front of his desk. I happily obliged, my legs still feeling none to steady. “You must be hungry. I’ve had Cook prepare something for you, figuring that the monstrosity who held you prisoner would have had little forethought for your creature comfort.” Then he added, “no doubt your angel has encouraged you to eat. Food is always essential in the presence of magic or one can find oneself in serious trouble.”

I didn’t bother to tell Alonso that the monstrosity he referred to had, indeed seen to my creature comfort, though I had no idea how long ago it had been. It bothered me that I found myself wanting to defend Him.

Alonso sat on the edge of the desk and crossed his legs at the ankles. I noticed he wore scuffed hiking boots, but then that was to be expected in the fells. “You say you have no memory of releasing this … entity into the world?”

“I have … sketchy recollections of dreams I had that night, the night it must have happened, but honestly, I Bernini Hades and Persephone close uptumblr_lg4h59T3z31qe2nvuo1_500don’t know how I could have done such a thing. I couldn’t even find my way around the shamble of a garden at Chapel House, and I had no idea where the key was to the place where He was apparently kept prisoner. I seriously doubt if Annie did either.”

“He … yes, well it would have been easy enough for him to guide you and for him to give you the location of the key if a physical key were necessary. I’m inclined, however, to believe that the key was magical, and you, being a Scribe, would indeed have the imagination to figure out what was needed to release … him.”

“But why would I do that? Why?” I asked.

Almost before I knew he had moved, Alonso sat next to me and took my hand into his, which was large, slightly calloused and cold. My first urge at the rush of current up through my arm and straight to my heart was to pull away, but his grip was firm, and I was afraid to move, feeling like a rabbit in the headlights. Then he spoke, and I found myself relaxing into the hypnotic lilt of his voice, with its slightly strange accent and its deep-chested baritone. “For the love of your craft, Ms. Innes, for the love of your craft is reason enough. Surely you know that by now.” He stroked the back of my hand with his thumb, and I found myself calming still further. “Were you not inspired by the crypt at Chapel House, by the tangle of the garden, by the fact that it was once holy ground? I’m certainly no writer, and yet such places stimulate my imagination. Do you not think that such an entity as the one you’ve released would have recognized your urge to tell a story, your imagination so stimulated and taken advantage if it were at all possible.” Then he leaned close, holding my gaze, and I felt as though I were falling. “Does not the Bible itself say that ‘the word became flesh and dwelt among us, that the word is living and active and sharper than any double edged sword?’ Words have power, my dear woman, power that nothing else in the history of human culture, nothing else in the history of our human nature have. The storytellers of old were revered. They sat in the presence of kings and queens as their equals.” With a sweeping gesture, he took in the bookshelves that rose from floor to ceiling all around us. “Some of the words in this room were written thousands of years ago, those who penned them have long ago turned to dust, and yet we read their words, their stories, and we’re transported, at times transformed by the minds of men and women long dead. Surely you don’t think that an entity who has existed as long as the one connected to Chapel House would not know this, would not seize the opportunity to take advantage of the magic of the mind of a Scribe and the stories she can create?”

“But it was never my intention. I didn’t mean to. I only … We were drunk, excited about Annie’s new home. We were celebrating, telling stories. I …”

Alonso smoothed the hair away from my face and held my gaze. “You underestimate the power of your magic. I understand my darling. You’re not the first Scribe to have done so, nor are you the first to have paid a high price for such a mistake. You’re among the greats in that.” He glanced around the room at the myriad books, and then offered me a reassuring smile. “Never mind. First you must eat, and then we shall see what we can do to aid your memory.”

Almost if by magic, a man dressed in full livery arrived with a silver tray and sat it on a table near the window. Alonso took my hand and guided me to sit in front of eggs, toast and porridge all washed down by rich dark French roast coffee. He watched me eat silently making no effort to join me. But then it was the middle of the night.

I had just finished the last of the toast with homemade raspberry jam when a tall woman in a form-fitting turquoise dress knocked softly on the open door and let herself in. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She was — well for lack of a better word, she was beautiful. She had dark, thick hair, startling blue eyes, and she had that way about her that made more ordinary people, myself included, want to be close to her so that they could look at her, just constantly look at her because surely this kind of beauty couldn’t be real. Then I was reminded of Alonso’s sudden movement, of his all but admitting he wasn’t human, and I suddenly wasn’t so sure about the woman either.

Alonso stood and embraced her, kissing her on the cheek. The two mumbled softly for a few seconds, glancing dark moon image_xl_6338206occasionally over their shoulders at me. Then he took her hand and led her forward. “Ms Innes, I’d like you to meet Talia. She’s a colleague and a dear friend of mine. She knows your problem and recovering lost memories and understanding people’s dreams is her specialty.” He shrugged. “Well, one of them, anyway.”

The woman studied me for a second, then smiled and nodded her greeting. I seemed incapable of doing anything more than smiling and nodding back.

“Now that introductions have been made,” I forced my gaze away form her and back to Alonso, “if you’ve had enough to eat, me dear Ms. Innes, and you’re ready, Talia is going to sleep with you.”

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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