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Body Temperature & Rising Heats Up February for FREE!

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Looking for some hot paranormal erotica? Here’s a hot excerpt to remind you that Body Temperature & Rising, book one of the Lakeland Witches Trilogy, is now FREE to download and enjoy all through the month of February! Be sure to get yours and immerse yourself if the steamy, sizzling paranormal chills and thrills.

Body Temperature & Rising Blurb:

Book one of the Lakeland Witches trilogy (Click here for: Book Two | Book Three)

American transplant to the Lake District, MARIE WARREN, didn’t know she could unleash demons and enflesh ghosts until a voyeuristic encounter on the fells ends in sex with the charming ghost, ANDERSON, and night visits from a demon. To help her cope with her embarrassing and dangerous new abilities, Anderson brings her to the ELEMENTALS, a coven of witches who practice rare sex magic that temporarily allows needy ghosts access to the pleasures of the flesh.

DEACON, the demon Marie has unleashed, holds an ancient grudge against TARA STONE, coven high priestess, and will stop at nothing to destroy all she holds dear. Marie and her landlord, the reluctant young farmer, TIM MERIWETHER, are at the top of his list. Marie and Tim must learn to wield coven magic and the numinous power of their lust to stop Deacon’s bloody rampage before the coven is torn apart and more innocent people die.

Lakeland Witches 1 BTRBody Temperature & Rising Excerpt:

Marie cranked the water to cold and stood in the sluice of it until her teeth chattered, and still it was as though a million tiny pinpricks were alive just beneath the surface of her skin, as though Deacon were still reminding every single pore in her body how desperately she needed to come.

She was shivering uncontrollably when Anderson opened the shower door and shut off the water, ignoring the splash on his pristine white shirt. ‘It is enough, my love. I cannot allow you to catch your death.’ He bundled her into a huge blue towel and began to dry her goose fleshed skin vigorously. He tisk-tisked. ‘My dear, even I am warmer than you when I first take the flesh. This will never do.’

She tried not to writhe beneath his touch, but the misery of her need was overwhelming. Her lip trembled, and in spite of her best effort her eyes misted. ‘I wanted him, Anderson. Dear God, how could I want him?’

He lifted her open palms and placed a kiss on each where her nails had pierced her hands. ‘You have no idea what you have done, do you, my sweet Marie? Of course you wanted him. That is his magic, to make himself the most desired of all beings, to make his victims feel in their bodies hunger and lust for him like they have never imagined. Even Fiori, who is a powerful witch, not to be trifled with, gave in. But you did not. You banished him twice and remained free.’

‘Then why do I feel this way if I’m so special? I feel like I’m on fire, I feel like I’ll explode if I don’t … if I don’t get some relief. It disgusts me that it’s because of him, and yet still I want.’

‘Shhh!’ Anderson stopped her words with a light kiss. ‘My darling Marie …’ He wiped a single tear from her cheek and lifted her chin so that she met his dark gaze. ‘… There are many elements, many facets to sex magic. And that with which Deacon has afflicted you, he cannot now take back from you. It is now yours. And what is now yours, you may freely give to me, you may allow me to ease your need, as you did earlier when the situation was more desperate. In doing so, we may, together, transform it to pleasure and even something more powerful still.’ He kissed her palms again. ‘If you will permit me?’

‘Permit you? I beg you, Anderson.’

‘My love, it would never in a hundred lifetimes be necessary for you to beg love from me.’ He took her mouth deeply, tongue plundering, teeth nipping, lips insisting. He lifted her in his arms and carried her to the bedroom, where the bed had been mysteriously, perhaps magically, made up. There, he pulled back the duvet, kissing and coaxing her down onto the soft mattress.

His body was shades of silver and shadow in the moonlight, teasing her eyes with glimpses of the hard plain of his belly and the tight half domes of his buttocks. As he shrugged out of his clothes, the shape of him still remained vague and mysterious but exquisitely solid, substantial as he moved onto the bed next to her, his anxious cock leading the way. He dropped a wet, suckling kiss on each of her heavy nipples, and she arched her back and ground her arse against the clean sheets.

‘I think we must first give you some much-needed relief.’ He brushed a thumb solicitously against her bulging clitoris, and she whimpered and shifted her hips against his touch. ‘The seat of your pleasure is ripe with your desire,’ he said. ‘And I have such a fondness for ripe fruit.’ Still stroking the swell of her with his thumb, he slipped two fingers between her pouting labia and the catch of his breath mirrored hers as he gently probed and withdrew and probed again until he found her g-spot and she soaked his hand and nearly bucked off the bed.

He released a deep sigh. ‘You are as wet as the fells in heavy dew, and the feel of you makes my own need almost more than I can contain.’

‘Please,’ she moaned. ‘Please …’

He lifted her on top of him and carefully positioned her, stroking her pussy lips, then parting them. She felt the press of the head of his penis against her pout. His hands on her hips guided her downward, and she cried out at the exquisite pleasure of him pushing into her grudging tightness, then yielding, then pushing again until she had completely accommodated the fullness of his erection. And suddenly her thoughts were as filled with Anderson as her body was with his substantial cock. Then he began to move inside her, shifting his hips in such a way that with each thrust he raked against the swell of her clit, sending shock waves of delight up through her body as she thrust back.

‘I think we shall not linger long this first time,’ he gasped between barely parted lips. ‘Your need is too great, and mine is little less so. Once we have achieved some measure of relief, there will be all the time we need for pleasuring, and I think we shall need a lot.’

She thought he might be right.

 

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Demon Interrupted Holiday Marathon Grand Finale

Happy Holidays and Welcome to the Grand Finale of the Demon Interrupted Holiday Marathon!

MistletoeThe Holiday Season is the season for TV and film marathons. Who doesn’t like to sit in front of the telly with a bowl of popcorn, their fave drink and totally veg out over blissful hours of  telly favourites? The holidays are also the time when we love to curl up with a good read. With that in mind, I thought it was an excellent time for a marathon reading of my paranormal erotic novella, Demon Interrupted, which I wrote and ran as a serial on my blog over six months earlier this year. BUT at that time, I could only manage an episode every three weeks, so I thought it would be fun to make it more easily accessible.

For those of you who don’t know, Demon Interrupted is a Lakeland Witches spin-off story set in the fabulous landscape of the Lake District with the witches of the Elemental Coven. With the completion of Elemental Fire, I left my witches with so many stories untold, and they left me with so many mysteries I wanted to know the answer to that I felt compelled to return.

Starting today, for the next nine days I’ll be running a sizzling, chilling instalment of Demon Interrupted for your reading pleasure.  Today I’d like to share with you chapter 17 of Demon Interrupted.  I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. Thanks for joining for this Work in Progress.  And if you want to know more about the Elemental Coven’s sexy adventures, check out the Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy: Body Temperature and RisingRiding the Ether and Elemental Fire. Enjoy!

 

Chapter 17

The Remaking

Demon Interrupted CoverTim Meriwether and Lucia sat at the kitchen table looking out into the rose garden where Ferris sat next to Cassandra in companionable silence. ‘At least Cassandra can get him out into the fresh air and sunshine. I thought Anderson and I were going to have to drag him out kicking and screaming.’

‘He mourns his Elaine deeply,’ Lucia said. ‘I would not have thought such suffering possible in a soul rider.’

They watched the two in silence for a long moment, then Tim spoke around a mouthful of Fiori’s homemade shortbread. ‘Lucia, let me get this straight, demons can travel in time, and you went back to get Ferris?’

‘Some demons can travel in time, but not all,’ Lucia said. ‘Riders can, I can, but usually don’t. Frankly there’s little in the past that interests me. Time is much less relevant to us than it is to mortals. We simply are, wherever and whenever we are. But Ferris was summoned by a mortal, and her magic was strong enough to call him to her. It could have simply pissed him off, in which case he would have considered her fair game and ridden her soul until she was insane. But she intrigued him, and then he fell in love with her.’ She shook her head. ‘Honestly, whoever heard of a demon falling in love?’

Tim held gaze over his cup of tea. ‘Whoever heard of a demon having a daughter?’ He nodded out the window to where Cassandra and Ferris sat side by side on a stone bench.

‘Indeed,’ the demon replied.

‘And whoever heard of a demon showing compassion for another demon? Tara asked from where she stood at the counter pouring steaming water from the kettle over a cup of Fiori’s famous hot chocolate mix. She had just come in from the garden with a trug of baby carrots and ripe tomatoes along with a bunch of coriander for the aubergine curry Fiori was planning for dinner.

Lucia’s robe flamed as though it were offended ‘I was simply being practical. Not being tied to time, and letting strong emotions, in fact the strongest emotion of all control him meant that Ferris could wreak havoc in any time during history he wanted. Few beings are more dangerous than an enraged soul rider. There are consequences to such actions, and mortals – no matter how weak they are – are not to be trifled with when it comes to their survival.

Tim nodded. ‘They hung Elaine, after all.’

Lucia glared at him. ‘And you think justice was served?’

‘I didn’t say that. Farringdon sounded like he deserved what he got, but still …’

‘Any crime that was committed has surely been paid for long ago,’ Tara said, leaning against the counter with the cup steaming between her hands. ‘Elaine hung for a murder she didn’t commit and Ferris has paid a very high price for his part in Farringdon’s death.’

DI_teaserI’m not saying he hasn’t,’ Tim said. ‘I’m just agreeing with what Lucia said about only being able to push mortals so far before they push back.’

Lucia offered him a look that she might have reserved for a very stupid child, then waved a dismissing hand. ‘Be that as it may, Ferris is not exactly subject to justice as you know it, Mr. Meriwether. That being the case, I could not allow Ferris to rain down his grief and rage on untold thousands. And I needed a protector for Cassandra. I needed someone to keep her safe from Deacon. I believe it’s what you mortals call a win-win situation.’

‘And you trusted a rampaging soul rider to take care of your daughter?’ Tim raised a sceptical eyebrow.

‘The pact we made, the magic it entailed ensured that Ferris would not remember his past until that pact was fulfilled. In fact he asked to live in the moment with only the memories he needed to care for and protect Cassandra and to oversee Storm Croft and her inheritance for her. I gave him the magic he needed as he needed it. I made his life peaceful and very bland so that he would also not attract Cassandra’s attention as a succubus. But I could not keep his past from him forever. I never imagined that he would refuse his memories, that he would mentally block them when our pact was finished. But he is a soul rider, those powers are his. He simply used them on himself.’

‘He’s still waiting for Elaine,’ Tim said, ‘He’s convinced she’ll come to him.’

‘There’s no doubt she guided him safely through his ordeal when no one else could,’ Lucia said. ‘Whether she was real or only a memory that he dreamed, I cannot say.’

‘Poor bastard,’ Tim said. ‘I nearly lost my mind when I thought I’d lose Marie to Deacon.’

‘The heart is a powerful thing,’ Lucia replied. ‘And if anything it’s even more powerful for demons, who must live without that organ. I cannot say whether or not he’ll heal. I can say that he would have died, and most likely everyone at Elemental Cottage as well if he had not faced his past.’

‘Are we expecting company?’ Alice came into the kitchen and stripped off her walking boots, face flushed from tromping the high fells.

‘Not that I know of,’ Tara said. ‘Why?’

‘Well, there’s a strange woman standing out in the front garden. She’s just … standing there looking sort of lost.’ Alice slipped into a pair of trainers with ragged laces. ‘I’ll go see what she wants.’

***

BTR_teaserFerris had always appreciated Cassandra’s ability to be comfortable with silence. She never had been much for unnecessary conversation, and he had never quite known how to make small talk. Besides all the words had been said. The memories of his past were so much sharper than he wanted them to be, and the serrated edge of them constantly cut into him like it all happened only yesterday. And really, it might as well have.

‘Lucia warned me it would be like this if I let her bring me into the future as she did,’ he said, gently squeezing Cassandra’s hand, feeling the effervescing comfort of her magic. ‘She said it was best I dealt with the grief and the pain in a normal timeline, but even she knew how I would have dealt with it after the destruction at High Moor.’ He turned to face her. ‘And I fear I would have been so much worse than Deacon ever thought of being.’

If Cassandra were shocked by his words, she didn’t show it. ‘When Anderson was lost in the Ether, and I didn’t know if I’d ever see him again, I had a focus for my rage. Goddess only knows what I would have done if I hadn’t.’

‘A focus, yes. That’s what Lucia brought when she gave you into my care. You were my soul reason for existence, caring for you and your inheritance, easing your suffering as best I could. She would have never given back my memories had she believed you hadn’t healed me’ He shook his head. ‘Oh the pain is still there as though I held Elaine’s lifeless body in my arms only yesterday, but the rage is gone. The rage couldn’t heal me, the rage could only dishonour the memory of what Elaine was to me. But caring for you, seeing how you suffered and knowing that I could do little but be there when you needed me, that was so much more important than my revenge on ignorant people who didn’t understand and had nothing to do with what happened. And now, my dear Cassandra, you’ve returned the favour.’ He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek.’

There was a soft clearing of a throat. ‘Demon, have you forgotten me already after only three hundred years?’

Ferris was certain his heart stopped. His breath stopped. Time stopped. He feared to turn, he feared that he might discover he was only dreaming or worse, that Lucia had been wrong and he was hallucinating. But the way Cassandra squeezed his hand and the catch of her breath could only mean that … Dear Goddess, let it mean … Slowly, holding his emotions in check just in case this was but a dream, he turned, and surely a vision from the Mother herself could not have been more lovely.

There she stood, between Tara and Lucia. Elaine. And still he feared he only dreamed her. ‘Ferris, you have a guest.’ Tara’s voice was laced with empathy. ‘She’s come a long way and waited a long time to be with you.’ She laid her hand gently on Elaine’s shoulder and nodded toward the bench. Still he didn’t move.

Cassandra released a sigh, then stood, kissed him on the cheek and moved to Tara’s side. And still he did not move. ‘If I’m dreaming, please don’t wake me.’ His voice cracked and he struggled to gain control, to take in the reality of the woman who stood before him.

RTE_teaser‘No dream, Ferris,’ Tara said.

‘And no hallucination,’ Lucia added. ‘Elaine is here. She’s real, just as you said she was, just as you always knew she was.’

Elaine offered a smile bright enough to shame the sun. ‘Well, technically I’m dead, but you are a demon, my dear Ferris, and you live among ghost riders. You know that death is just an inconvenience, that there are ways of overcoming it.’ She moved forward, slowly, carefully, almost as though she feared he would bolt. She was dressed simply in a summer skirt of flowered cotton and a blue t-shirt. Her silken dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She sat down next to him on the bench, not taking her eyes off him, but not touching him either. ‘I summoned you once, my dear rider, and we made a bargain. You fulfilled your end of that bargain. Surely you didn’t think that I would not uphold mine.’ The sparkle in her eyes went from mischief to misty, and she swallowed emotion. ‘I have waited a very long time to fulfil my promise to you.’

In his peripheral vision, Ferris could see Tara quietly motioning the others to the house.

He reached out a hand to stroke Elaine’s cheek, and then drew it back, shyly. ‘I am sorry, my dear little witch, but I can not now easily part with Farringdon’s vessel.’

She grabbed his fingers, kissed them and pulled them back to her cheek. ‘I no longer see Patrick Farringdon, when I look at that vessel, my dear Ferris. I see the one who wore it in a heroic effort to save me, the one who wore it in a tragic effort to avenge me, the one who gave up vengeance to serve love.’ She glanced over her shoulder just as Cassandra disappeared into the house. ‘The succubus is worthy of that love, and so are you, my darling rider.’ She leaned in and brushed his lips with hers, and he pulled her to him with a sigh that was near a sob, and the heart of him was near exploding at the feel of her solid and whole and warm in his embrace again.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and spoke softly against his ear. ‘The Fire Demon has told me your plight. I came to you as soon as you were able to receive me.’

‘When you came to me at Storm Croft, you didn’t know me, nor I you.’

‘That was but a hallucination, my darling, your unconscious trying to help free you, to bring you back to me. It broke my heart to see you so.’

He had so many questions for her, so much he wanted to talk about, and yet he found himself at a loss for words. For a long time they sat silently just holding one another, then he pulled her onto his lap. ‘I can’t get close enough to you, my little witch.’

EF_teaserShe offered a mischievous laugh and wriggled playfully against him. ‘There are ways of getting still closer, my dear rider, ways I seem to recall, in which you are quite well versed.’ She quirked her head toward Elemental Cottage. ‘And I’m sure you’ve learned many more methods of getting closer living among practitioners of sex magic, as you do.’ With her eyes locked on his, she began to slowly shift and grind her luscious bottom against him. ‘I have been waiting for the pleasure of your flesh for three hundred years, demon.’ She moved just enough that she could slide her hands down to fumble with his fly.

‘Even in this flesh?’ He caught his breath as she worried her fingers inside his boxers and stroked his erection.

‘Any flesh you wear, my demon, will service me very well. Of this I’m certain.’ With that she guided his hand up under her shirt and laid it between her breasts. ‘I am yours, demon, body and soul, just as I promised – all of my flesh, all of my heart, all that I am is yours to use as you will.

He wound a fingers in her ponytail and pulled her into a deep kiss, speaking against her lips, between hungry darts and probings of his tongue, ‘And use you, I will, my little witch. Just as I promised. Oh yes, how I shall use you.’

She shifted until she straddled him, the thin crotch of her panties unable to hold back the humid heat of her raking and sliding against his partially covered cock. ‘Don’t keep me waiting, rider, I’ve waited long enough.’ She shoved and tugged at his trousers and boxers, and he lifted his arse and nearly unseated her onto the grass, as he pushed them down until his bare butt settled onto stone. When he was free, his cock pressed at full attention between them, she stood, her eyes locked on his, and slipped out of her panties. Then she lifted her skirt, giving him an exquisite view of her tight dark curls just before her hand slid down to splay herself open for him. Then she climbed back onto his lap and sheathed him.

He sucked a harsh breath that sounded as though she had gut punched him. ‘Dear Goddess, Elaine, I can hardly contain myself in your impatience. Please, I want to make it last.’
She bit his lower lip and cupped his face in her hands so that he couldn’t look away from her. ‘I belong to you, demon. That was our bargain. And I know that it’s in your power to make it last lifetimes, but right now, I starve for you. I need you to fill me.’

In truth, he could no more refuse her now than he could all those years ago when she summoned him into the overgrown garden. His need for her castlerigg9was as great as hers for him, and there was no denying how that fact delighted him. Her grip on him was fierce as he clutched at her hips to push deeper into her. With a move that was like water flowing, she lifted the t-shirt off over her head so that he could see her breasts, ruby-crowned, dancing and swaying in the tight space between them. She wore no bra. Frantically she clawed open his shirt, ripping buttons off in her desperation to him, the get flesh against flesh. Then as he shrugged it off his shoulders, she wrapped her arms around his neck and tightened her grip on his cock still further. The press of her full breasts against his sharpened nipples, nearly sent him over the edge as they battled for breathing space, pressed tightly to each other, grinding and shifting until the world contracted around them. Ferris didn’t know when his demon had overwhelmed Farringdon’s vessel, but as he lowered Elaine onto the ground, it was his demon hands that cupped the rounded pillows of her bottom, and it was his demon flesh that rode her deep into the soft summer grass, thrusting his need into her with a lust that he wasn’t sure even the demon could contain.

She gasped her surprise as the rider overwhelmed the human vessel, then the gasp became a sob, her eyes wide and bright and deep enough to swallow him whole. ‘You are my demon,’ she grunted in a desperate breath. ‘You are so much larger than the vessel you wear, and I love all of you.’

‘And I love you, my little witch. You have held my essence safe in your heart for three hundred years, a burden I would have never wished upon you, and now you’ve come home to me. I am undone. I am truly undone.’

‘No my love.’ She wrapped her legs around his hips in a grip that told him she was near her release. ‘You are not undone. You are remade. And so am I.’ Then she clutched him in her orgasm with a grip so tight that he believed with all of his heart she would never let him go and, as he convulsed deep inside her, he felt as though he had come home at last and he had brought her home with him to a place where there was magic and laughter and family. His family, and now hers.

 The End

Happy Holidays and all the best in the New year!

 

 

Demon Interrupted Holiday Marathon Day 8

Happy Holidays and Welcome to Day Eight of the Demon Interrupted Holiday Marathon!

MistletoeThe Holiday Season is the season for TV and film marathons. Who doesn’t like to sit in front of the telly with a bowl of popcorn, their fave drink and totally veg out over blissful hours of  telly favourites? The holidays are also the time when we love to curl up with a good read. With that in mind, I thought it was an excellent time for a marathon reading of my paranormal erotic novella, Demon Interrupted, which I wrote and ran as a serial on my blog over six months earlier this year. BUT at that time, I could only manage an episode every three weeks, so I thought it would be fun to make it more easily accessible.

For those of you who don’t know, Demon Interrupted is a Lakeland Witches spin-off story set in the fabulous landscape of the Lake District with the witches of the Elemental Coven. With the completion of Elemental Fire, I left my witches with so many stories untold, and they left me with so many mysteries I wanted to know the answer to that I felt compelled to return.

Starting today, for the next nine days I’ll be running a sizzling, chilling instalment of Demon Interrupted for your reading pleasure.  Today I’d like to share with you chapters 15 and 16 of Demon Interrupted.  I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. Thanks for joining for this Work in Progress.  And if you want to know more about the Elemental Coven’s sexy adventures, check out the Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy: Body Temperature and RisingRiding the Ether and Elemental Fire. Enjoy!

 

 

Chapter 15

The Vessel

 

Demon Interrupted Cover‘I will spare you a long, drawn-out search,’ Lucia materialised in the wing-backed chair near the library’s fireplace. That her comings and goings were commonplace in the Elemental Coven was evidenced in the lack of so much as a gasp of surprise by anyone else in the room at her sudden appearance. ‘Soul Riders are very obscure in your magical histories. As with succubi, most people think them only a myth.’ She nodded to her daughter and smiled.

‘So now you’re going to be forthcoming with information?’ Tim said, folding his arms across his chest. ‘About damn time.’

She offered him the kind of tolerant smile one would offer a child or a simpleton, who struggled to understand basic concepts. ‘I can speak of what Ferris’ dreams have already revealed, what he has already shared with the coven; nothing more.’ Her gaze came to rest on Ferris, who sat in the other wing-backed chair next to the fire, still unable to get warm, though Sky said he no longer had fever. ‘Believe me, it is not that I don’t wish to help our dear rider understand what has befallen him, but the pact between us was sealed with powerful magic that makes it physically impossible for me to do so until he does. My memory of that period in his existence is linked to his own, as he wished it at the time. If he desires to understand his past and who he is, then he must discover it for himself.’

‘Then he is a demon.’ Tim said.

‘Of sorts.’ Lucia shifted in her chair and smoothed the flames of the fire robe across her lap. ‘I suppose you could compare Soul Riders to the furies of the ancient Greek myths, but much more –’ she shrugged ‘– mercenary.’

‘In the dream, Elaine bargained for my services with the price of her own life, of her own soul.’ Ferris closed his eyes and leaned his aching head against the back of the chair. It was easier to speak of the dream with his eyes closed. For him it wasn’t a dream; for him it was as real as the breath he now drew. ‘What she asked of me, I was more than willing to do. Her husband, Patrick Farringdon, deserved the worst I could do to him.’ He opened his eyes and looked around the room at his coven family who watched him intently, but there was no judgement in their eyes. For that he was thankful. ‘I was more than happy to do it. I … fed on his fear, his distress as I forced him into his own darkness. As he grew weaker, I grew stronger, and I shared that strength with Elaine.’ He scrubbed his hand over his face. ‘In the beginning it was not so much avenging Elaine that drew me to take her bargain as it was the possibility of riding a pure soul after I had finished with her husband. That was an experience, I had never had before, an experience I had never contemplated until she offered herself to me.’

‘She was hardly pure if she summoned a demon to torture and kill her husband, was she?

The words were barely out of Tim’s mouth before Ferris exploded from his chair and had the man by the throat. ‘You don’t know what she suffered, farmer. You don’t know what she endured.’

A sizzle not unlike an electric current grazed his body and expanded outward along with the scent of ozone. Somewhere far away, he heard gasps and cries and people scrambling.

‘Let him go! Let him go, Ferris! Let him go now!’ Someone shouted.

It was Cassandra’s voice that brought him back to himself, her hand on his arm, her succubus energy calming the fire and syphoning it from him until he could contain it, and he suddenly realised he held Tim by his throat, his feet several inches above the Aubusson carpet, something that a man of Patrick Farringdon’s stature could not have done. He released the farmer, who stumbled backward coughing and grabbing his throat. Then he caught his balance, and watched in fascination, along with the rest of the coven, as Cassandra moved into Ferris’ arms and kissed him on the mouth. At the touch of her lips, the world contracted and he fell back into the tight confines of Farringdon’s body.

No one moved, no one spoke, but he could feel all eyes on him. He did not apologise for his treatment of Tim, but turned and settled back into his chair. Only after he had settled and drank the glass of juice Fiori had set on the nesting tables next to him did Tara speak.

‘That –’Tara nodded to Ferris, but spoke to Lucia ‘—is the rider’s true form?’

‘This is the form in which our Ferris had chosen to enflesh himself before he took upon him Farringdon’s vessel.’

‘But you know this,’ Ferris said. ‘You’ve seen me in that form.’ He nodded to Tim, who still rubbed his throat, then understanding dawned as the others stared at him blankly. ‘Then that too must have been only a hallucination.’

castlerigg_Stone_Circle1Tara nodded. Then she quickly added. ‘No one was affected by it but you, though.’

‘Still,’ Fiori said, ‘the last time you came to my bed, Ferris, when you eased the nightmares for me, while we were making love I felt that you were somehow larger, somehow more than yourself.’ She shrugged. ‘I didn’t think too much about it, at the time. I mean dreams and the magic they evoke can do strange things to people.’

‘In all honesty, it is very rare for a witch to have the power to call and control a Soul Rider without being ridden herself,’ Lucia said to Ferris. ‘Your Elaine must have been exceptional.’

‘Are there others like Ferris?’ Kennet asked.

‘Perhaps,’ Lucia said. ‘Though I have never met another. We demons tend to stay away from each other as much as possible for obvious reasons, but Soul Riders are even more reclusive. The power extracted from a soul is unfathomable, so a Rider could easily get by only taking one soul a millennium, one truly corrupt soul, and staying in obscurity the rest of the time.’

‘I took more than that,’ Ferris said. ‘I took often and without remorse. I don’t know how I know that, but I do.’

‘What do you remember beyond the dream?’ Tara asked.

He shook his head. ‘Only intimations, vague shadows of insight that I know are true, but don’t know why or how.’ He looked down at his hands. ‘I don’t know how I ended up in Farringdon’s body, and clearly in my first encounter with Elaine at Storm Croft, she didn’t know either. In fact, she had no memory of who I was at all.’ Now, knowing what he knew, it hurt to think that she didn’t remember him.’

‘Ferris,’ Cassandra, who had been kneeling on the floor next to him since he attacked Tim, laid a hand on his knee and looked up into his eyes. ‘It’s very possible that your first encounter with Elaine was only a hallucination. As far as we know, you hadn’t dreamed before your dream in the Room of Reflection three days ago.’

Three days ago? How could he have been gone that long? ‘I suppose it’s possible,’ then he added quickly. ‘That doesn’t mean that she hasn’t visited me, that she hasn’t been with me.’

‘That she lived, there’s no question,’ Marie said. ‘And there’s documented evidence of the hanging of one Elaine Farringdon, wife of Patrick Farringdon, who owned High Moor Estate. It’s astonishing that she hanged rather than burned. The villagers firmly believed she was a witch, as of course she was.’ She looked down at her laptop. ‘But according to the histories, which are surprisingly detailed, she was hanged as a murderess, though from everything I can tell, it was a lynch mob that hanged her. She was never tried.’ She cleared her throat and nodded to Cassandra, who took Ferris’ hand. ‘I’m sorry,’ Marie said softly. ‘Ferris, I didn’t mean to be insensitive.’

He shook his head and straightened in his chair, forcing himself to breathe normally, forcing down the rage and the pain he felt. ‘Then I failed her. I couldn’t save her.’ His voice broke. ‘Clearly I couldn’t or she wouldn’t have come to me as a ghost.’ He nodded for Marie to continue

This time her voice was softer, laced with sympathy. ‘After her death, according to the history of High Moor, her husband returned, not dead at all, but only travelling and, in his rage, in his pain at the loss of his wife he …’

‘He what?’ Ferris asked, gripping Cassandra’s hand until he was sure she must be in pain.

Marie looked up at him, her eyes misting. ‘He … took her body and hid it away. No one knows where. There are lots of caves in that region. That night he returned when the village elders were meeting in the church. He locked the doors and …’

‘And what?’

She took a deep breath. ‘He locked the doors and burned the building with them inside. Then,’ she held his gaze. ‘Then he simply disappeared.’

‘I see,’ he said so softly that it was little more than a movement of his lips. ‘What else?’

‘Ferris, the really strange thing about what we’ve discovered is the accounts of Farringdon.’ Alice took over the story. ‘It would appear, as you say, the villagers hated him. In fact there seemed to be an incredible amount of sympathy for his young wife in the beginning. He married her for her father’s money, after whoring and gambling away all of his own. The accounts say that he beat her from their wedding night onward; that he bragged that while he may have been forced to marry her for her money, he had no intention of changing his lifestyle to accommodate the baggage her father couldn’t get rid of on anyone else in the kingdom. Apparently rumours of her being a witch made it difficult for her father to find a suitable match.’

With a growl of rage, Ferris threw his empty glass across the room and it shattered against the wainscot as the sizzle of the electric current surge over his body again. Next to him Cassandra tightened her grip on his hand and spoke soothing words that he could barely hear above his anger.

Marie spoke in a quiet voice. ‘It makes no sense that this man, who clearly despised and abused his wife, would be upset about her death. Oh, he might very well have played the grieving widower until the dust settled, but if as you’ve said was the case, he was already spreading rumours about his wife being a witch, then he would have found her death a vindication of his accusations. He would have never grieved her to the point of avenging her death upon the heads of all the village elders. The man was a lot of things, by all accounts, but he wasn’t crazy.’

The silence in the room stretched to the breaking point, and Ferris heard it as a deafening roar in his ears. The library felt as though it were stretching itself with the silence, pulling everyone else in the coven away from him. His head pounded. His muscles ached from the tension. When, at last he spoke, he could barely hear his own voice over the roar. ‘Then I was the one who did this thing. I was the one …’ he looked down at his hands as though seeing them for the first time, and fisted them until his fingernails cut into his palm. ‘I was the one, in this body, who avenged her death.’

No one spoke. ‘I am the one who failed her, when she trusted me, when she believed I would come for her.’

‘There’s more.’ Marie glanced down at her laptop, then back up at Ferris. ‘Though no one knows where her body was buried, there were accounts of sightings of her ghost for years to come. Nothing is left of that place now. The village was but a small one even then. High Moor was Farringdon’s last and poorest property. The rest he’d long since sold to pay his debts.’

All eyes were on Ferris. He knew they all hoped desperately he would remember, though to remember such hideous events was not his wish. He understood now why he chose not to remember them, why he made no attempt to discover his past. He was a demon. That would have been difficult enough for him to stomach, but there was no conflict in his being when Elaine summoned him. That he had done hideous things, he had no doubt. The very act of being a Soul Rider should have been repugnant to him, and yet of all the evils he had done, of all the heinous acts he had committed, even that he had burned the village elders alive he might have come to terms. But that he had failed Elaine, that she had died before he could come for her, this was the breaking point, the precipice beyond which he could not even beg forgiveness, for how could there possibly be any?

‘You must reclaim those memories, Ferris,’ Lucia said. ‘Though the pain of it seems unbearable, you must remember. The consequences have not changed if you do not, and you risk everything by trying to avoid the truth.’

‘I told you I wanted to return to the dream,’ he said. ‘I have to find Elaine, and if remembering the truth is the only way that I can do that, then I wish to remember every detail. I wish to know her suffering as though it were my own. I wish to … make amends.’

‘Ferris it happened three hundred years ago.’ Tim’s voice was unusually gentle.

‘Maybe so, but for me it feels like yesterday.’

Cassandra took his hand again and brought it to her lips. ‘You have no need to make amends, my dear Ferris. I’ve been your penance. Surely you know that. And no one could have been more trying that I’ve been.’

He leaned forward and kissed her cheek. ‘You have been my reward, little succubus, and my salvation.’ He closed his eyes and laid his head against hers, feeling her magic effervesce over him like a sea of champagne. He pulled away, still holding her hand.

‘She is not your salvation, demon, that you must find for yourself.’ He looked up to see Elaine standing in the doorway, wearing the robe she wore when she worked magic. She beckoned to him. ‘Come back to yourself, Ferris, my darling. It’s been too long, and I can’t come home until you do. We are bound to each other by powerful magic, remember?’ She turned and walked away.

‘Elaine! Wait!’ As he stood to follow her, the room fell away. He could hear panicked voices a long way off. Cassandra’s fingers slid from his. And he followed Elaine into a field and then onto a remote hillside, to the door of a shepherd’s bothy, into which she disappeared.

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Chapter 16

The Undoing

‘Elaine! Elaine, please wait!’ He shoved his way into the bothy behind her, but inside, he found himself looking into the eyes of a young shepherd, who stood over the hearth cooking porridge.

The shepherd nearly upset his cooking pot and fell back against the meagre stone ledge that served as a bed. ‘Milord, what are you doing here?’

It was then that Ferris realised he was wearing Farringdon’s body. The man had tried to run from his nightmares, but Ferris had taken advantage and rode him into the woods and into a cave. There he’d led the man deep into the winding tunnels and let him believe he was lost there in the dark, that no one would ever find him except for the demon that he ran from. As long as Farringdon clung to life, he would never be free of the demon. And in truth, the man would not live much longer. Ferris had become bored with his incessant grovelling and whining and grew impatient to get back to his little witch.

‘Milord?’

Ferris turned his attention back to the shepherd. ‘They all think you’re dead. They think she killed you and done away with your body. They come for her last night and took her off to the gaol, they did.’

The flesh that he wore suddenly felt icy and the heart in the chest he now controlled beat a wild tattoo. ‘They have taken her? They have taken Elaine?’

‘Yes milord. They thought you was dead.’ He squinted at Ferris. ‘In truth you don’t look so good, milord, shall I serve you some porridge.’

‘As you can see, I’m not dead. I’m perfectly fine.’

‘They don’t know that, do they? Everyone knows you think she’s a witch. Everyone’s afraid of her, and the way you look, who knows what vile magic she worked on you, even if she didn’t kill you.’

‘There is nothing vile about Elaine!’ Ferris backhanded the poor shepherd, who fell back on the bed and covered his bleeding nose with his hand.’

‘Please, milord, I meant no disrespect.’

‘I’ll return to High Moor and when they see that I am unharmed, they will release her into my care.’

The shepherd sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve. ‘Then you best hurry, milord. The elders are talking to hang her for her crimes. They think she’s cursed, ain’t that what you always said, milord? They think she’ll curse them all and their worldly goods and their seed.’

‘What crimes? She has committed no crimes!’ He grabbed the shepherd by the collar and shook him until his teeth rattled. ‘She is innocent. If anyone deserves their hatred, it is I.’

‘I’m sorry, milord! I’m sorry. Please! I meant no harm.’

He shoved the shepherd back hard against the wall and ran for the door. It was nearly half a day’s journey by horse back to High Moor House. Though alone, Ferris could make it easily in an instant, he needed Farringdon to prove that Elaine had not killed him. Though the man was deserving of death, which he would soon get, Elaine should not suffer for helping to rid the world of him any more than a farmer suffers from killing the vermin in his field.

He rode the horse at a murderous pace. Fortunately Farringdon had a taste for good horse flesh, and during the journey, he ended Farringdon’s worthless existence and chased his spirit from the vessel, which he needed in order to free Elaine, and which would be of more use to him purged of its evil. Any further tormenting of the toad’s soul paled in comparison to Ferris’ need to reach Elaine. He had to reach Elaine. His whole world, his whole existence had become only the need to be with her again, only the need to hold his dear little witch in his arms and whisk her away from this dreadful place. Yes, he would have to come to her as Farringdon, but once she was safe, he could quickly discard the vessel, and he would take her somewhere far away, somewhere warm and exotic, somewhere that they could be together and be happy.

castlerigg_Stone_Circle1Happy? The concept twisted his heart. In all his endless existence he had never thought about happiness. He had never contemplated what it might mean to be more than himself by virtue of giving himself to someone else, but since Elaine had summoned him he thought of little else. He urged the horse on still faster. He had not realised that the pleasures of the flesh hung in such a fragile balance with the frailties of the flesh. His heart ached, his stomach knotted, and the breath he now needed to keep the vessel viable raked at his chest like fire. He could not lose her! It was intolerable even to contemplate such a thought. He understood the frailty of flesh, he understood the delicate frailty of Elaine’s flesh, and he knew just how tenuous the life force was that animated all flesh. He feared that the frailty he now felt had little to do with the flesh he wore and had everything to do with frailties he had no idea a demon could experience.

The horse threw a shoe when he was but a short distance from High Moor. Cursing at the top of Farringdon’s lungs, he dismounted the lathered horse and continued afoot pushing the man’s weakened, unfit flesh beyond what it would survive if it were not animated by a rider. But even so, he could not save Elaine without the lump of flesh he wore as proof of her innocence and, indeed in his eyes her innocence shone like the sun. The rasping for breath, the hammering of the heart, the aching of muscles were easy enough for him to ignore when his plan was to discard the flesh of Patrick Farringdon as soon as Elaine was safe and away from High Moor. He prayed to the goddess of all things good, though he doubted she would listen to one such as he, he prayed on Elaine’s behalf. Surely the Divine would not deny one so vibrant, one so worthy, one who had already suffered so much. But he knew in the selfish depths of his demon’s being, that he prayed to a deity in whom he had little faith for one reason and one reason only. He could not lose her! He could not lose Elaine!

*****
‘His fever’s dangerously high,’ Ferris heard Sky’s voice as though it came to him through a long tunnel as he ran, endlessly ran, on Farringdon’s cursedly weak legs. ‘What the hell is he doing? We’ve got to bring it down. It’s almost like he’s rejecting his body.’

‘It’s not his body,’ Tim Meriwether said.

Ferris viewed them as though they were all looking down at him through a mist.

‘He’s dreaming.’ He felt his lovely Cassandra nudging at the edge of his consciousness, trying to ease her way into his dreams. ‘If I could just get in, maybe I could help him.’

‘Then hurry,’ Tara said. ‘If you don’t, there may be no choice but to…’

As the wall of High Moor appeared from the top of the hill, Ferris forced all thought from his head except reaching Elaine. He had to reach her on time. The burning in his chest, he knew beyond a doubt, was from far more than his efforts to push the flesh he wore beyond its endurance. Something was wrong, something that he should know, something far too important for him to have forgotten. The feeling of wrongness pushed at his sternum like a leviathan trying to escape, and he ran, stumbling and falling, ignoring bruises and cut, ignoring the hammering of the heart taxed nearly to failure as he raced down the stony road that led to the village.

‘He will not like this.’ He could barely hear Lucia’s voice above the roar of his efforts to breathe. ‘It was never my plan for him to go through this again, and alone. But he would not listen to me. He would not yield.’

She mattered not: nothing mattered but getting to Elaine. As he shoved his way into the gate, stumbling in the dust, the village was quiet. He saw no one on the streets and the feeling of wrongness tightened around him. A skinny cat blinked at him from its post atop a wood shed. As he rounded the corner into the square, he nearly ran into an old woman carrying water from the well.

P1020156‘Milord!’ the woman shrieked, dropping her water bucket. ‘You’re not dead!’

‘Where’s Elaine,’ he shouted, grabbing her by the shoulders and giving her a shake. ‘Where is my wife?’

The old woman yelped and dropped to her knees covering her head. ‘Please milord, don’t hit me. They thought you were dead. We all thought you were dead. We all thought she kilt you.’

‘Where is she?’ He screamed.

‘Oh dear goddess, please, mother, please don’t make him see this again,’ Cassandra cried out to Lucia.

‘I cannot prevent what he must do,’ the Lucia said.

He ignored their voices, even as the truth of it crashed around him, even as he forced his way to the village green hoping against hope that he was not too late.

‘Dear goddess, there must be something we can do,’ Tim cried out. ‘Cassandra, can’t you help him? Lucia? Damn it do something.’

The crowd stopped jeering when they saw him. They parted for him and the world went deadly silent as he stumbled forward to see what he never wanted to see, what he had blocked from his memories for 300 years.

‘Fill the tub with ice,’ Sky commanded. ‘We’ve got to bring his fever down.’

‘If this isn’t really his body,’ Tim said, ‘then he must be rejecting it. Is that what’s happening?’

‘He rejected it a long time ago,’ Lucia said. ‘Trust me, rejection of the vessel he wears is not an issue now.’

The silence dissolved into an endless roar long before he realised it was he, screaming his anguish to heaven. Four men lay dead at the foot of the oak, the last managing to cut her down before Ferris ran him through with his own sword. He kept no count of those he killed or injured in his rage before someone cut her down. Would that everyone in the village was dead and the place burned to ash and razed to the ground. Their lives he would gladly trade for the beating of a single heart. His own life he would gladly trade to feel once again the breath of the woman he cradled in his arms. But she was gone, and even he with all of his great power could not return her life force to her.

Cassandra sobbed in empathy.

‘Let him finish the dream,’ Lucia called out. ‘He has to finish the dream if he is to heal.’

But he would never heal. There was no balm for the depths of his wound, no comfort in the Ether, the Dream World or any realm beyond. The heavens opened and the rain poured turning the village green into a sponge and the streets of the village into a swamp. He did not remember when those who had come to watch her die had left. Surely they must have fled in fear for their lives. He remembered once pushing the battered flesh of Farringdon beyond its limits as he carried his beloved Elaine to a place on the hillside covered in heather and riddled with caves. There above the village in a remote place, he buried her near a stream that tumbled from a spring in the caves.

Two nights later, he attended the meeting of the village elders in the meeting hall. By then the rage in his belly had turned to ice. Only he walked away from the flames. From the side of her grave, he watched the blaze long into the night, heard the anguished cries of the villagers as they struggled to put out the fire and identify their dead. In his mind they were, all of them, already dead. They would sleep soon, and he would return to the village. If Elaine could not live, then neither could they, after all it was their actions that cost her life.

‘I don’t care! We have to get the fever down now,’ Sky said.

‘The ice bath is ready,’ Kennet replied.

But it was fire he watched, fire that burned, fire that avenged and yet it was the icy cold of death and emptiness he felt in his belly.

‘Come back to them, my darling Ferris.’ Cool lips pressed against his.

‘Elaine?’ He opened his eyes and found himself alone in his bed with Elaine leaning over him, caressing his burning cheek. ‘Elaine my darling, I told them! I told them you were here.’

‘No, my Rider, you are hallucinating once more. I am not real.’

Once again he sat on the hillside by her grave watching the flames rise in the night sky below.

Elaine sat down next to him and took his hand. ‘If you kill them all, every last one of them, and their livestock, even those from the next village who came to watch me hanged, I shall be no less dead. And you will live on, my darling Ferris. ‘You will suffer endlessly alone. I do not want that for you. I never wanted that for you. Go back home. They wait for you. They love you, and this world you see is now nothing but dust. It has been dust for a very, very long time. Remember it, for you must. Mourn it, for you lost much, but you cannot undo it, not now, not ever. Go home, my love, and remember that you are much loved by your little witch.’

He wanted to hold her, but she had no substance, like the mists that rose up from the high meadows at night.

‘Go to the Fire Demon, my Love. She will help you. She has use for you. Time does not hold her as it does me. Go with her, my love. Go with her and heal. Wait for me at Elemental Cottage, and when the time comes, when you have healed, I will come for you. We will be together again’ She blew him a kiss, then turned and walked into the hills.

He woke with a gasp of blessed oxygen as though it had been an age since he drew breath. The ice was no longer in his belly, but all over his body. The giant tub in his bathroom had been turned into the arctic and he was naked and shivering in its depths with the three strong men of Elemental Coven holding him in place while he struggled, Cassandra held his hand in an unyielding grip and Sky shouted, ‘hold onto him. Keep his head up! Keep his head up, damn it!’

‘I remember.’ He forced the words through chattering teeth. ‘Goddess help me, I remember.’ And then he wept as he had not wept in 300 years.

Don’t miss the sizzling final episode of Demon Interrupted tomorrow!

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Demon Interrupted Holiday Marathon Day 7

Demon Interrupted CoverHappy Holidays and Welcome to Day Seven of the Demon Interrupted Holiday Marathon!

The Holiday Season is the season for TV and film marathons. Who doesn’t like to sit in front of the telly with a bowl of popcorn, their fave drink and totally veg out over blissful hours of  telly favourites? The holidays are also the time when we love to curl up with a good read. With that in mind, I thought it was an excellent time for a marathon reading of my paranormal erotic novella, Demon Interrupted, which I wrote and ran as a serial on my blog over six months earlier this year. BUT at that time, I could only manage an episode every three weeks, so I thought it would be fun to make it more easily accessible.

For those of you who don’t know, Demon Interrupted is a Lakeland Witches spin-off story set in the fabulous landscape of the Lake District with the witches of the Elemental Coven. With the completion of Elemental Fire, I left my witches with so many stories untold, and they left me with so many mysteries I wanted to know the answer to that I felt compelled to return.

Starting today, for the next nine days I’ll be running a sizzling, chilling instalment of Demon Interrupted for your reading pleasure.  Today I’d like to share with you chapters 13 and 14 of Demon Interrupted.  I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. Thanks for joining for this Work in Progress.  And if you want to know more about the Elemental Coven’s sexy adventures, check out the Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy: Body Temperature and RisingRiding the Ether and Elemental Fire. Enjoy!

 

 

Chapter 13 

Tenuous Threads

‘My darling, you are exhausted. You must get some rest.’ Anderson moved to stand by the chair where Cassandra sat next to Ferris’ bed and rested a hand on her shoulder. ‘Please, sleep but a little, and I will sit with him, for I need no rest.’

‘I can’t leave him,’ she replied, in a voice that broke Anderson’s heart with its anguish. ‘He would never leave me if I were … lost. I tried … I tried to go in, to chase the dream with him, but some force keeps pushing me out.’

‘And you’ve done so against my express orders,’ Tara said, entering the room. ‘We don’t know what we’re dealing with, only that Lucia served as Gateway for him into the Dream World, and if what she says is true, he has to find his way back to us on his own.’

Anderson did not ask the question that he knew burned in all of their minds, the question for which there was no answer. Was Ferris truly lying in his bed dreaming or had they all been pulled into a hallucination of his making? When he had been discovered thus, Tara had insisted that everyone but she and Sky leave Elemental Cottage and take up residence on Lacewing Farm to insure the safety of the coven. It was rare that Tara’s orders were resoundingly disobeyed, but in this case no one would leave the sleeping Ferris, and no one had even hinted at moving him into the scrying mirror prison for their protection. They were all encouraged that the rapid eye movement signified the man was indeed dreaming, but that too could be a hallucination.

‘Is he still running a fever?’ Tara asked.

Cassandra nodded. ‘Nothing’s changed. Has Marie or Alice learned anything more about this Elaine he speaks of? If we could find her perhaps she could help us.’

Tara shook her head. ‘Marie says there’s no records of an Elaine and Patrick Farringdon ever having lived in or around Storm Croft. Further more the records, which were pretty well intact back to the 16th Century show no hangings of any women there ever.’

‘But she’s real. I know she is. She has to be,’ Cassandra said. ‘And my gut tells me she’s the key to everything that’s happening to Ferris right now.’

‘No one is arguing with you,’ Tara said, ‘ but whoever she is, she didn’t come from Storm Croft. Marie and Alice are widening their searches.

Without warning, Ferris sat up wide-eyed in the bed and spoke in a voice that none in the room recognised. ‘My little witch, he suffers just as you wish, but I am in need of your company.’ Before Cassandra could question him, he fell back against the pillow.

 

*****

 

What are you doing? How dare you bring him to me.’ Elaine cowered in the corner of the cot, blanket drawn up over her breasts. She trembled as she had not even when she had first summoned Ferris. ‘Get him out of here. Get him away from me!’

‘It is I who comes to you my dear little sorceress, be at peace,’ Ferris spoke from the lips of Patrick Farringdon. ‘I use his flesh, for as you know, I have none of my own, not real flesh. Please do not worry, I promise you his mind is on a dark journey that he will not soon forget, just as you requested. But I saw no reason to waste an opportunity, after all I ride more than souls, dear woman, and for me, it is a treat to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh.’

She placed her hand to her mouth and forced back a sob, and for a moment he feared that she would faint, but her strength, as always, was astounding. She took two deep breaths and spoke. ‘I do not care what you do with his flesh while you are playing with him, rider. But if it’s pleasures of the flesh you desire, seek them out with the kitchen maid or a whore in the village, or the stable boy, as he does. He brings no pleasures of the flesh to my bed!’ She shoved off the blanket and opened her thighs to expose dark bruises and angry red trails that looked like her thighs had been scored with a knife.

Strange to feel nausea, as he did. Strange to feel the physical fist of anger deep in his belly, that any man would treat a woman such as Elaine thusly. ‘I am sorry,’ he said softly. ‘I will return him to his bed and to his nightmares.’ As he left her, the flesh he had claimed felt less supple, less living, much more like the puppet that it was to him. Once he had shoved the moaning, whimpering Farringdon back into his bed, he tweaked his hallucinations to involve physical pain that matched his mental anguish.

He did not return to Elaine’s tower, for he sensed she was no longer there and, in truth, the fresh night air cleansed him of the vileness he felt from the body he had worn. While it was no less true that Patrick Farringdon’s flesh was just a vessel, that Ferris had upset Elaine by wearing it coupled with the sight of what Farringdon had done to her made him feel defiled. He found her in the overgrown garden to where she had summoned him upon their first meeting. She sat on the ground, was wrapped in only a blanket, staring into the ashes of the fire pit. He did not instantly move into her presence, but hovered above her in his non-corporeal form and watched her.

For three days her husband had been abed in his ague, and none in the great house, neither the physician, nor the priest, nor the village healer, could determine the cause, though some who knew him well suspected it was bad rum, or perhaps something he had contracted from a whore in the city. Elaine had not visited his room, feigning that her monthly cycle was heavily upon her, keeping her confined. Ferris could not comprehend why one so desirous that the man should suffer did not herself long to see the sufferings which he had visited upon the despicable creature. It wasn’t that she had not the backbone for such a task. Ferris was firmly convinced that if she could bring upon the monster more suffering than he, then she would have never summoned him and made such a desperate and dangerous bargain.

‘But do you not want to see how I make him suffer for you, my little witch?’ He had asked as rumour spread throughout the great house and the village of Farringdon’s strange ailment.

‘My dearest wish is to not look upon him again until he is a corpse,’ she replied.

‘Do you not know that there are rumours whispered that you have not come to your ailing husband’s side because your sorcery is the cause of his illness?’

‘They are not rumours, my dear rider, and I do not fear them. My life I have already relinquished into your hands as soon as he breathes his last.’

‘Ah, but if they act upon their suspicions and, if you are tried and condemned as a witch, then I may lose my payment for services rendered. This would displease me greatly.’

‘Then make every moment of his suffering seem as a thousand years, rider. This, I know you can do. Finish up the task with haste and claim your wage.’ He had never met such a woman as she and, in truth, what he now visited upon Farringdon delighted him most because it pleased her, and because he wanted, with all of the heart he knew he did not have, to avenge her suffering.

She breathed out a sigh that settled as barely visible mist above the fire pit. ‘I can feel you watching me, demon,’ she said without looking up. ‘Take form that I may see you. Your body is not repugnant to me. In truth, I find you pleasant to look upon. Show yourself and come sit with me.’

His body. He could not now remember from whence his body had come. It was little more than a memory of a physical form he once held, of the flesh of a soul he had once ridden, but he had kept the vessel because it was pleasing to him and particularly responsive to the pleasures of the flesh, though not in the way real flesh was when he controlled it. But it pleased him that she found him easy to look upon, almost as if the act he could now no longer recall had been done only to satisfy this mortal woman.

He did as she commanded. Strange that he allowed such a fragile being so much control over him. ‘I am sorry that my actions earlier displeased you. It was thoughtless of me. Though I meant it as a gift for both of us, I had not thought that in your weak mortal eyes, and with the burden of human memory upon you, you would not be able to see Farringdon’s flesh as I do, as nothing more than a vessel, which might be of some use to me.’

She reached out and laid a hand against the broadness of his chest, and he became aware that he was naked. He had always come to her naked, and for some reason this pleased him. It pleased him even more that she did not disapprove. ‘I have no objection to you using his flesh in any way you see fit, rider and, I assure you, I understand better than you think the use of flesh as a vessel, as a tool. Still, the sight of him sickens me, and I would require much more than my allotted time on this earth to look upon Patrick Farringdon’s flesh and see it as just a vessel. For that I apologise. I would ask, no I would beg, that when you’ve done as I have asked and when you take me, whatever use it is that you have for me, that it will not involve his flesh.’

He closed his fingers around hers and pulled them to his lips. ‘I have no wish to cause you pain, my dear little witch. You have suffered enough. 182You have my word that your service to me shall not involve that vile creature’s flesh. And now, I would offer you a small token of my esteem.’ He pushed the blanket open where it covered her thighs and she gave a little gasp of surprise as he eased it away from her soft flesh until the dark nest of curls that protected her womanhood was exposed. Then he very gently pushed open her legs, forcing her to lean back and place her palms against the earth for support. At first she tensed, then relaxed as he viewed her injuries. The breath he did not need, he drew in a hiss. ‘There is nothing I can do to this vermin to whom you are so hideously yoked that he does not deserve.’ Then he lowered his face until he could smell the scent of ocean and honey and sunrise nestled delectably just below the soft curls, and he placed a kiss on one inner thigh. The catch of her breath was sharp with surprise and perhaps a little pain, and she curled her fingers in his hair as he moved to do the same to the other.

‘What have you done?’ Her voice came out thin and childlike.

‘I have healed what Patrick Farringdon has wounded.’

With a little gasp of awe, she looked down to find the wounds on her inner thighs gone and pale healthy flesh in their place.

Before she could respond to his efforts, he moved to rest his head on her belly and she lay back on one elbow and welcomed the weight, fingers caressing the crown of his head and the nape of his neck. ‘Would that I could undo all that he has done and take that memory from you, my dear little witch.’ He planted a kiss on her navel, and felt her belly tense beneath his lips.

‘Do you have a name, rider? Oh I know that demons keep their true names secret, but you must have some name that I may call you.’

He lifted his head and met her gaze. ‘I am called Ferris when I have need of a name, and it would please me if you would use it when we speak.’

‘Ferris,’ she cupped his cheek and held him in the thrall of her dark eyes. ‘Why did you bring my husband to me tonight?’

‘I wished to show you that flesh can give pleasure as well as pain, for I believe this you have not known, and I mistakenly surmised that you would be more comfortable with mortal flesh than with my demon form.’

For a long moment the only sounds were the slight breeze in the trees and the rumble of distant thunder that threatened rain. He, who had no breath, felt as though he were holding it in his chest, waiting for her to speak.

When, at last she did, it was as though she released the breath he had been holding. ‘And can you not do that better with this body in which you came to me?’

‘The body in which you summoned me?’ He reached out and pushed the blanket away from her shoulders so that he could see her breasts, nipples raised and swollen against her fullness. Surely he was just receptive to the thunderous beating of her heart beneath them, but it felt as though something inside him mirrored its thunder and rejoiced in its nearness. ‘I can, my little witch. If you wish it.’

There was another moment of silence, in which his whole world became the beating of her fragile human heart and then she spoke in a whisper, as though her voice had left her. ‘I wish it, Ferris.’

It could not be that he felt such relief, such delight in her desire for him. He was a soul rider. Human emotions fed him; they did not affect him. He Bernini Hades and Persephone close uptumblr_lg4h59T3z31qe2nvuo1_500was incapable of feeling what transient mortals felt, and yet his desire for her was somehow beyond the need of his cock. He stretched out above her, sheltering her as the sky shelters the earth, and the sound in her throat was dark and rich and aching as her arms encircled his neck.

‘Show me pleasure, my demon. Show me all things I have not known. For in truth I shall never know them if you do not show me.’ Her lips curled in a smile as one hand left his neck and found its way to his cock. ‘Will there be room inside me for the sizeable staff you wield, rider?’

With his thigh, he eased open her legs and caressed a path down her belly, his fingers cupping their way through her curls. She gasped and bucked beneath him as he found her hardness. ‘Do not you worry my little witch, I will be certain that your womanhood is well prepared before my staff does your bidding.’

Her laugh sizzled along his flesh like the magic that had drawn him here. ‘My dear demon, no one’s staff has ever done my bidding.’

‘Then I am honoured that mine shall be the first.’ He opened her heavy folds with a stroke of two fingers and his cock jerked in her fist. ‘I believe your lovely portal weeps with joy at the very thought of commanding my staff, dear little sorceress. What new and powerful magic is this that you work on me, that I, who can have all and desire nothing desire you as I have never known desire.’ He raked his thumb across her hardened pearl and sighed as she sucked her lower lip and ground her bottom against the blanket. ‘And the scent of you, my dear woman, I am transported to paradise by the fragrance of your desire for me. And if the scent of you leaves me in such ecstasy, I can scarce imagine your sweetness on my tongue.’

‘Ferris no. Ferris, you shouldn’t.’ She squirmed in an effort to escape him, but he held her until she calmed, then lowered a kiss just above her mound of her womanhood.

‘Oh but I should, little one, and I must, and I promise you shall take pleasure in feeding me from your nectar.’ And he tasted her, from the hardened pearl of her lust to the very boundary of her nether hole, finding the deep, narrow well of her pleasure silky wet and honey and salt against his tongue, delighting in the vibrations of her moans, the tremblings of her pleasure. As the storm broke above them and the first raindrops dewed her soft flesh, he released her pleasure to flood her folds and down onto his face as she bucked and writhed against him.

‘Ferris! My demon,’ she cried out. ‘What have you done to me? Oh dear Goddess! I am undone!’

‘I have only begun to undo you, my darling witch. For there is a lifetime of pleasure you have not had, and I will do my best to make this moment seem as a thousand years. A thousand years of pleasure with you, my dear little sorceress, would never be enough. Taste your sweetness, my love.’ He rose above her, face glistening with her release, and she kissed him and ran her tongue along his jaw and over his cheek, and the ache in his cock was such as he could have never imagined.

She pulled away breathless, and held his gaze. ‘I now wish to command your staff, my sweet demon.’ With one hand, she reached for him, with the other she held open her swollen folds and, as he pushed into her tight depths, the storm broke in earnest.

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Chapter 14 

Corporeal

 
‘You cannot stay here and continue as though nothing is wrong, my darling Elaine.’ Ferris took form behind her and wrapped her in his arms. ‘I fear for your life. Surely you had not anticipated the suspicion Farringdon’s … sudden illness would cast upon you. The accusations are no longer veiled. Though there is no loss of love for Farringdon, him they loath, but you they fear. And fear drives mortals to do unspeakable things.’

Elaine leaned back against his chest and he tightened his embrace. ‘I anticipated everything, my dear Ferris. Surely you were not expecting that I would survive the choices I have made without paying a price. It is a price I have always been willing to pay.’

Perhaps it was. And in the beginning, perhaps it was a price he could have also accepted. It was a fair trade, her life sacrificed to him for his riding of Farringdon’s soul and the evil creature’s demise, but now Ferris found he did not want her death. He did not want to ride her soul. He wanted her as she was, and he wanted her to know happiness that had not been a part of her life. He took her hand and guided her deeper into the overgrown garden. ‘There is another way, my darling, a way that will silence the accusations of the villagers, a way that will fulfil my promise to you and yours to me.’ He settled onto a lichen-covered stone bench and pulled her onto his lap.

‘And what is that way, my dear rider, that would silence the mob and leave me hale and hearty to do your bidding?’

He lifted her fingers to his lips and kissed them. ‘Farringdon battles me day and night, but he weakens. I have only drawn out his suffering this long because you have asked it of me. I know the route that will take him swiftly and painfully to death’s door. But, my dear little witch, these superstitious villagers will lay the blame at your feet, and you will be tried for his death.’

She nodded. ‘I expected nothing less. But you are the demon, we have made a pact. My death belongs to you. The power is yours to claim your prize even as the flames lash at my skirts, is that not so?’

‘It is so, and when our pact was first made, I cared not about the suffering of my prize as long as in the end the prize was mine to claim. But now …’

‘But now?’

He took her face in his hands and held her gaze. ‘I do not wish your suffering, Elaine. I do not wish you to know the grip of a soul rider and the madness it brings.’

She studied him quietly for a moment, then her delicate shoulders rose and fell in a shrug. ‘Then you do not wish to … possess me?’

The embrace with which he surrounded her was hard enough to cause a gasp of breath. ‘More than anything I wish to possess you, my darling Elaine – body and soul.’ He kissed her fervently. ‘And heart.’

Her eyes misted and she swallowed hard. ‘My darling Ferris, all of those things, you already possess, and you have almost from the beginning.’ She nodded behind them to the great house. ‘But I cannot undo what has happened, and never in a thousand lifetimes could I go back to Patrick if we called off our agreement, not after being with you.’

‘But what if you could? What if you could make them all see what a loving, deserving wife you are, how you have taken the ne’r-do-well who is their master and turned his heart to the loving devoted husband he should be? Do you think they would call you witch then? Do you think they would shout for you blood then?’

‘You are suffering from your own hallucinations, my dear rider,’ she said, smoothing his hair from his face.

‘No, I am not.’ He held her hand to his cheek. ‘Listen to me, Elaine, if you could but see the flesh of Patrick Farringdon as only a tool, if you could trust me to chase from his flesh all that was that vile creature and leave only the vessel, I could wear that flesh. I could assume his role as your husband and no one,’ he squeezed her hand, ‘no one would ever know otherwise. He would be gone, and you would be safe and esteemed and loved as you should be, and I would be at your side.’

She began shaking her head before he could finish, so he spoke faster, ‘In our chamber, in our bed, in the private places I could wear this body if you would prefer it, my darling, but you would not have to fear for your life as you do now.’

‘No! I will not consider this path, demon. I know that what you speak is true but you do not know the suffering he has caused. If you did, you could not so easily look upon his flesh as just a vessel.’ She raised her hand to keep him silence. ‘Yes! I know that you speak the truth, and what you say makes sense, but I cannot abide even the vessel of him, and that you would wear it would defile you, my love. I cannot consider such a thing.’

For a moment the two sat in silence. Then she spoke. ‘I am still yours to do with what you wish, and if you must snatch me from the flames becausecastlerigg_Stone_Circle1 of what I do to Patrick, then so be it.’

‘Even if I treat you like a queen and take for you a palace in some distant land, you will still be a fugitive. Is this what you wish?’

‘I do not see how my legal status could be of concern to a demon.’

‘Your legal status is less a concern to me, my dear little witch, than your happiness, and once Farringdon has been destroyed and you are a fugitive with me, the time will come when you will crave what other mortal women have, things that I cannot give you.’

She pushed herself to her feet and turned toward the path back to the great house. ‘I am not other mortal women, my demon. Surely this you know by now. Finish what you have begun swiftly before I am the fuel for the fire, then take me and all shall be well.’

He relinquished corporeal form and followed her, making himself as a caress of spring sunshine wrapping around her, hovering close to her soft flesh, enfolding her, he whispered against her ear. ‘I beg you to reconsider, my love.’

She gave a little gasp at his presence. Her eyelids fluttered and her nipples hardened with the pleasure he gave, moving in places only a rider could reach. ‘And I beg you to understand why I cannot.’

The silence between them stretched, but the storm inside of him raged, and she felt his agitation with a prickle of goose flesh and a rising of fine hair. Human flesh was fragile, surely she, who had been injured and abused by the horrid creature who had been forced upon her knew this better than most. He would not have her so broken by those who did not understand her suffering

Without the hindrance of flesh, he could hear the rush of her blood in her veins and the acceleration of her breath like the wind on the moors. He could feel the tingle of nerve-endings aware of his presence and the pleasure, as well as the danger, it might carry. At last she spoke. ‘End it soon and take me away from here, Ferris.’

‘Very well, then –’ he took physical form again and she yelped at his sudden appearance ‘– you leave me little choice but to bring him back to himself.’

‘What?’ She scrambled away from him as he reached for her but she was not so fast as a demon. He caught her hand and pulled her back to him.

‘It is only a temporary respite for him, my little witch, and only to silence the accusations.’

The tension in her shoulders dissipated, but even in the darkness, even with his limited corporeal vision, he could see the shudder of her pulse in her throat. ‘Then what?’ She asked.

‘He will wake tomorrow miraculously recovered. He will say that he believes one of his enemies in Edinburgh has poisoned him, and he will leave at dawn to speak with the authorities in that city.’

She blinked. ‘I do not understand how that will help me. I want him dead.

‘Oh do not you worry, my little one. I shall be the one controlling his vessel, and he will know, and understand exactly what is happening to him as I do. I will not take him to Edinburgh. There is a shepherd’s bothy I have seen on my night prowlings in an isolated place in the hills. I will take him there, and when I am done with him, he will believe fiends from hell have chased him and dragged him to meet their master. His body will be found along the Edinburgh road, robbed and murdered, set upon by ruthless bandits.

‘And then?’

‘And then I shall come for what is mine.’

She released a long, shaky breath. ‘How long will you need?’

‘Two days; no more. I can take him sooner, but since you wish me to ride his soul until his mind breaks, then it is a task best savoured.’ And he would enjoy this one’s end immensely. ‘I will make sure that his body is swiftly found and that there is no doubt to your innocence, my darling Elaine. In the meantime, you must be seen in public places. You can use the excuse of your bleeding time no longer. You must do your best to go about as you did before you summoned me to you.’

Later in the night, he took flesh and slid down next to her under the blanket on the cot, where she lay curled on her side. He moved close until his body pressed against her and she moaned in her sleep. He hoped that her sojourn in the Dream World was a pleasant one. It had been his plan simply to watch her while she slept, but as he hovered above her, his urge to touch her drove him to take flesh and, in corporeal form, watching was not nearly enough to satisfy his need for her. Almost of its own volition, his hand went exploring, first to cup her breasts and then to slide down and caress the centre of her pleasure until it hardened to his touch and she squirmed against him and awoke to the feel of his manhood distended and stiff against her bottom. ‘Ferris?’ Her voice caught in her throat and her body jerked against him as he tweaked her.

‘It is I, my little witch. I could not stay away from you knowing that I would be deprived of your exquisite company for two endless days.’ He worried his hand between the press of her thighs, and she lifted her leg and bent her knee and trembled as he opened her folds and stroked. ‘Oh, my wicked little sorceress, your treasure is wet with the dew of your lust. Were you, perhaps, dreaming of me?’

‘Always,’ she sighed, sleepily. Then she reached behind her and fisted the length of his manhood. ‘And if the dream alone has not left me aching for the magic of your staff, then your fondling most definitely has, my love.’ She lifted her bottom and shifted until the valley of her gaped for him, and with a thrust of his hips, he pushed up into her from behind. He slid into her easier now, though the tightness of her sheath still astounded him.

She was always ready for his touch, always receptive to his cock, and he was ever amazed at the loveliness of her in the depths of her pleasure. She was beauty incarnate. She was the goddess herself, and she was his – he, a demon who had never been possessive in the way some demons were, certainly not in the way mortals were, but she was his heart, the heart he did not have, and now feared he could not live without. Her clenching and thrusting back against him brought him fully into the moment they shared. The ache of his load was heavy, at the very threshold of bursting. The bud of her pleasure tightened and stiffened against his tweaking. Her breath, her beating heart, her heat, her passion, her flesh — the most beautiful he had ever beheld, were, all in the present moment the simple eternity he wished for, an eternity with her. And when she clenched and convulsed against his cock, he could hold back no longer, and he filled her with his lust, grown heavy for her.

Outside the tower’s big window, an owl trilled and the sky paled with intimations of dawn. ‘I must go soon, my love,’ he said, kissing the nape of her neck.

‘Ferris?’

‘Yes, little witch.’

She turned in his arms to face him. ‘When you have finished what you must do, when you return for me …’

‘Yes?’

‘What will you do to me, once I am yours?’

He gathered her to him so tightly that her breath rushed from her in a little sob. ‘When I return for you, little one, I will possess you, all parts of you,’ he gave her a hard fast kiss just to demonstrate, ‘And I will do such things to you as you can scarcely imagine, wicked things, filthy wet things, things that will make you mindless with lust. I will make you writhe and tremble. I will make you beg and pant, and I will take you again and again and again until you are lost on the sea of my lust with only me to keep you from the tempest, with only me to keep you from the waves.’ He bent and bit her nipple enough to make her flinch, and then to sigh softly. ‘And I assure you, my dearest little witch, I will protect you from none of it.’

She wriggled in his arms and rolled until she was on top of him and the covers fell away so that he could see her exquisite nakedness in the greying light, as she lifted the rounded pillows of her bottom and squatted over his cock, which throbbed once again with his need for her. As she sheathed him, she spoke in a thick voice. ‘I would expect you to give no quarter, my demon,’ she said, ‘for I owe you a great debt.’ She rocked against him, guiding his hands to her breasts. ‘Use me as you see fit.’

 

*****

 

‘Elaine! My beautiful little witch. Elaine … Elaine … Elaine…’ Ferris awoke in his bed in Elemental Cottage calling out for her name.

‘Welcome back.’ Cassandra’s voice was nearly a sob. She sat on the edge of his bed clenching his hand in a white knuckled grip and bathing his face with a cool cloth.

‘I assume you’re making up for lost time?’ He squinted in the morning brightness streaming through the window to find Tara standing at the foot of the bed smiling down at him. ‘Either that or you just enjoy the Dream World so much you decided to stay for awhile.’

‘Elaine?’ He croaked. His voice felt as though it hadn’t been used in an age.

‘Still no sign of her,’ Cassandra said, offering him a glass of water, which he drank back thirstily.

‘Well then I have to go back. I have to go back to the Dream World. I was with her only just a few seconds ago. I was there to … Her husband … he deserved to die. He was a monster who deserved to die. He hurt her. Where’s Lucia? I have to go back.’ As he pushed himself into a sitting position, he caught sight of his reflection in the mirror, and the world spun and bucked around him, and for a second, he thought he would vomit. ‘Him! How can I be him?’ He shoved his way from the bed and stumbled to the mirror, running his hands over his face, the face of Patrick Farringdon. ‘I promised her I wouldn’t. I had a plan. How could this have happened? Why would I do this to her? I understand! I understand why she didn’t want me to wear his flesh, his hideous flesh!’ He fisted his hands in his hair and roared. ‘I can’t be him. I can’t! I promised her. I promised!’

‘Come now, my dear fellow. You can help no one in this state. Come back to bed. Fiori has made you some soup, and once you have regained your strength, you can tell us everything.’ Anderson slipped an arm around him and tried to pull him away from the mirror, and before he could fight the man off, Kennet joined him. Together, with strong, but gentle coaxing, they eased him back under the duvet just as Fiori arrived with a tray. He would have refused it in his torment but for the arrival of Alice and Marie right behind her.

‘We’ve found your Elaine, Ferris,’ Marie said. ‘No wonder we couldn’t find her at Storm Croft. She lived on the Scottish boarder.’ She paused and glanced at Alice, then at Tara, as though she were looking for permission, then she bit her lip. ‘Over three hundred years ago.’

 

Happy Christmas! Day Six Demon Interrupted Marathon

MistletoeHappy Christmas and Welcome to Day Six of the Demon Interrupted Holiday Marathon!

The Holiday Season is the season for TV and film marathons. Who doesn’t like to sit in front of the telly with a bowl of popcorn, their fave drink and totally veg out over blissful hours of  telly favourites? The holidays are also the time when we love to curl up with a good read. With that in mind, I thought it was an excellent time for a marathon reading of my paranormal erotic novella, Demon Interrupted, which I wrote and ran as a serial on my blog over six months earlier this year. BUT at that time, I could only manage an episode every three weeks, so I thought it would be fun to make it more easily accessible.

For those of you who don’t know, Demon Interrupted is a Lakeland Witches spin-off story set in the fabulous landscape of the Lake District with the witches of the Elemental Coven. With the completion of Elemental Fire, I left my witches with so many stories untold, and they left me with so many mysteries I wanted to know the answer to that I felt compelled to return.

Starting today, for the next nine days I’ll be running a sizzling, chilling instalment of Demon Interrupted for your reading pleasure.  Today I’d like to share with you chapters 11 and 12 of Demon Interrupted.  I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it. Thanks for joining for this Work in Progress.  And if you want to know more about the Elemental Coven’s sexy adventures, check out the Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy: Body Temperature and RisingRiding the Ether and Elemental Fire. Enjoy!

Chapter 11

Chasing the Dream

‘Lucia, I need you! Lucia! Lucia! Lucia!’ Shivering convulsively, Ferris woke croaking the demon’s name with a throat that felt like it had been bathed in hot coals. His head was pillowed on Tara’s lap, and it felt as though it would split in two. Someone had thrown a soft McKenzie tartan over him, and Fiori wiped his forehead with a cool cloth.

‘Welcome back,’ Tara said, smiling down at him.

‘Here, drink this.’ Sky handed him what looked like a glass of water, but it tasted herby and clean in his mouth and soothed his raw throat. He drank in thirsty gulps, nearly gagging.

‘Not so fast.’ She took the glass from him. ‘It’s stronger than you think. You’ll make yourself sick.’

As everything came back to him, he sat up in a panic. ‘It was … it was…’

‘It was a dream,’ Tara said, squeezing his shoulder reassuringly. ‘Your first in a very long time, my dear friend.’

‘And it was a doozy,’ Marie said, coming to sit cross-legged on the floor next to him. She was dressed once again in her pale blue ceremonial robe. In fact the whole coven was robed. He wondered how long he’d been out.

BTR_teaserHe drank again and looked around, the tension in his muscles dissipating with the sense of relief at being back with the coven, back in the Waking World. It had been only a dream. He had not betrayed them. He had not drawn them into dark hallucinations. They were all still in the Room of Reflection, and he was happy to see the horrific scrying mirror prison still untouched in its place on the altar. ‘It was a dream,’ he repeated, more for reassurance than anything else. Still not trusting himself, he looked around at the Elemental Coven, taking a mental head-count, Alice, Fiore, Kennet and Sky. Tim, Marie, Tara and Anderson. And, of course, his lovely Cassandra. Yes, they were all there, just as they had been when he entered the dream with Elaine. His stomach went into free fall. They were all there, but Elaine was not.

‘Where is she?’ He asked. ‘Where’s Elaine?’ Dear goddess, he hoped she hadn’t been so frightened that she’d fled. It must have been terrifying for her to see him like that, like he was in the dream. And humiliating for her to see herself as he had seen her with Deacon. Such a hideous creation from his unconscious would have caused anyone to run from him in horror. ‘Where’s Elaine?’ He asked again, struggling to keep the shame and the panic out of his voice.

For a moment, no one answered. The looks that passed between coven members were those same kinds of looks that flitted from person to person like a pestering insect when bad news is about to be shared.

‘Is she all right?’ He felt as though it were he who wore her noose around his neck, and that invisible hands were tightening it until he couldn’t breathe.

‘Ferris,’ Tara scooted closer to him and took his hand. ‘Ferris, You’ve talked about Elaine ever since you got back from Storm Croft. You even chased her across the fells when we were all in the Dream Cave, but Anderson and Fiori went with you and they didn’t see her.’

What do you mean they didn’t see her? I brought her back, we brought her back here to Elemental Cottage, and you asked her to stay, and we made love, and I left my body because it frightened her, the one I usually wear. Where is she? Just tell me where she is.’

‘Ferris,’ this time it was Cassandra who knelt next to him. He knew that look in her eyes; he knew that her honesty would not allow her to lie to him. ‘Ferris, no one has seen Elaine but you. You’ve talked to her, you’ve … been distracted by her, you’ve clearly seen her, been with her, but we, none of the rest of us, have seen her. At all.’

The feel of falling was so intense that Ferris shoved his hands against the floor to stop it. ‘And the dream magic? Who was I with then? Who did I dream with?’

She held his gaze. ‘You dreamed with the strongest dreamer, Ferris. You dreamed with Tara.’

‘No! That can’t be right.’ The ache in his chest seemed to have followed him from the Dream World and the sudden pressure in his head felt like his brain would explode. ‘She was here. Elaine was here and it was her I dreamed with. I know it was her.’ He forced himself to his feet. ‘Elaine! Elaine, please come back. I didn’t mean to frighten you?’

When there was no answer and when the only response from the coven was shared looks of distress, he changed tactics. ‘Lucia? Where are you, Lucia? Please, I need you. I know she was here. Elaine! She has to be here. Lucia, please, help me?’ In a wave of vertigo, he grabbed his throbbing head between both hands and would have fallen if Anderson and Tim hadn’t caught him and eased him back onto the cushions.

When he had calmed a bit and Sky had forced him to drink a little more of the herbal concoction, he spoke. ‘If you dreamed with me, Tara, then you must have seen her. And the rest of you all witnessed. Elaine was there.’

‘Elaine grounded you and sent you back to us, ‘ Kennet said. ‘But what Elaine represented in your dream journey none of us can actually say. That’s for you to find out.’

‘She doesn’t represent anything,’ Ferris growled. ‘She’s real, as real as Anderson and Fiori and Sky. She’s real, and I need to speak to Lucia. Please.’

Kennet bristled. ‘You know Lucia doesn’t come on demand,’ he said. The man would know better than anyone since he’d lived as her possession for over seven years, years that had taken their toll on him.

RTE_teaserTara laid her hand on Kennet’s shoulder. ‘You know Lucia. She’ll show up when she’s ready, Ferris.’ He couldn’t keep from noticing the way she rubbed her fingertips absently over her sternum, the place that Ferris had always thought of as “the door” where Lucia came and went to her new possession. In spite of that demonic lifeline that she now provided for the high priestess, Ferris knew as well as the rest of the coven that the truce between Tara Stone and the demon, who took up residence in her was an uneasy one at best. Tara nodded to Sky. ‘Let’s open the circle, get something to eat and then get some rest. I think we all need it, especially Ferris.’

He balked as she stood and offered him her hand. ‘I’m not safe. You know that. I need to stay close to the scrying mirror in case you have to put me there …’

‘Bullshit,’ Tara said. ‘You need to be with your family right now, not in horrid isolation.’ This time he took the offered hand and came to his feet.

‘And will I dream if I sleep?’ He asked.

‘Quite possibly, the coven leader replied. ‘The dam has burst in a big way and we still don’t know who you are or what you need to know to recover your memories. But you’re not going to hurt any of us, and I’m very encouraged by the fact that you did dream rather than hallucinate.’

‘He hallucinated Elaine,’ Tim said, then added quickly, ‘possibly.’

‘He didn’t,’ Cassandra responded. ‘If Ferris says Elaine is real, then she’s real.’

Ferris was encouraged that Tim, who was inclined to be argumentative, only shrugged and nodded.

‘In the meantime, if you dream while you sleep –’

‘I don’t need to sleep,’ Ferris interrupted Tara. ‘Perhaps it would be better if –’

‘As I said,’ she held him in a cast-iron gaze, ‘in case you dream, you’ll sleep with Kennet and me, since we’re the strongest dreamers.’

Kennet moved to take her hand and the look in his eyes convinced Ferris that it was useless to argue. ‘Besides,’ Kennet said, ‘You’ll be there when Lucia returns – not that she won’t find you wherever you are, but I like to stack the deck in our favour.’

Fiori’s classic late-night fry-ups with some of the best Cumberland sausages on planet Earth, was just the ticket for the caloric needs of the coven after performing such intense magic, and everyone ate with gusto. Ferris went through the motions but tasted nothing.

‘Ferris, are you sure Elaine and Patrick Farringdon lived at Storm Croft?’ Marie spoke around a mouthful of eggs. ‘Because I’ve been doing some research and so have Cassandra and Alice and none of us can find any evidence of any Farringdons at Storm Croft.’

‘She knew her way around the great house and she where the overgrown garden was,’ Ferris said, ‘and she spoke of the place as her hideaway from Faraday. I don’t know. Anderson, is it possible she might be from somewhere else? I thought ghosts were attached to places.’

All three of the coven ghosts chuckled and Anderson replied. ‘My dear man, as you can see we three are very far from the places in which we lived our lives, and though Fiori and I are not terribly far from the places of our deaths we are in no way attached to them. Indeed, Tara and I have been friends across several continents and all after my demise.’

EF_teaser‘You remember nothing before Storm Croft, isn’t that right, Ferris?’ Cassandra said. ‘Didn’t Lucia commission you to care for me at that particular place?’

‘That’s true,’ he said.

‘Then isn’t it possible that Elaine visited you in the place that she knew you would remember rather than the place where you knew her?’

Goddess, he loved the young succubus! She was the heart of him in so many ways and, as the others nodded agreement around the table, he felt relief that perhaps they now doubted him a little less about Elaine. He wanted them to believe him, needed them to believe him. He could not … would not believe that he had only imagined Elaine.

 *****

Tara and Kennet had drawn him into their lovemaking, as he had known they would. And as Tara welcomed him between her legs while Kennet caressed and fondled both of them, Ferris could feel the magic they wove around him, the protection spell along with the spell that would ease his passage into the Dream World. So strong was their magic that by the time he emptied himself into Tara, he already felt as though he’d been drinking champagne from Anderson’s special stash. The boundaries had softened to a gossamer blur and the world around him dissolved into images wrapped in soft gauzy cotton.

It was with a start he noticed Elaine sitting in the rocking chair by the foot of the bed watching him. ‘Elaine! Elaine I’ve been looking all over for you. Tara, Kennet, you see, I told you she …’ His words died in his throat as he discovered that he was alone in the bed. But it wasn’t Tara’s bed, nor was the room familiar to him.

‘She’s waiting for you,’ Elaine said. Then she stood and motioned him to follow.

‘Am I dreaming?’ He called out to her as he struggled into his trousers.

‘You mustn’t keep her waiting,’ she spoke over her shoulder.

He followed her into a long corridor lined with endless doors, each one identical to the other and, though he ran to catch up with her, he never seemed to get any closer. By the time she descended a staircase into a grand ballroom hung with chandeliers and lined with gilt mirrors he felt certain he had entered the Dream World again. The staircase continued downward through an enormous library whose shelves of books disappeared into the distance in front of him and above him. Then he descended to a drawing room where a blaze crackled in an enormous stone fireplace, and still they descended with Elaine always just ahead of him, just out of reach. Each floor revealed a different room, some grand, some plain, as they endlessly descended through dungeons and boudoirs, through kitchens and studies, through wine cellars and crypts. For days they descended. He could feel more than see the rising and setting of the sun, the turning of the night sky overhead. Elaine was always just out of his reach, moving as though she had conviction, moving as though nothing could stop her. He didn’t know how long they had descended before he realised the stairs were gone and they lowered themselves on bare rock, the path steepening with each step they took. Though there was no lighting that he could see, the deeper they went the brighter the red dance and shift of firelight reflected off the rock.

DI_teaserWhen the path became nearly too steep to walk, when he was convinced that surely they approached the centre of the earth, the space opened before him into a vaulted room and in the middle of that room stood Lucia, the dance of flames coming from the robe she wore. He was stunned by her beauty, which Elaine did not seem to notice. The woman moved, without stopping, without acknowledging the presence of the fire demon, to a stone ledge at the back of the chamber upon which she lay down and crossed her hands over her breasts as though she were laid out for burial. Before Ferris could call out to her, Lucia shrugged out of her robe and placed it over the supine woman. ‘Rest, my darling,’ she said, dropping a kiss on Elaine’s forehead. ‘I have no further need of you at the moment. My business is with this one.’

When she turned to him he was stunned to discover that, naked, her brilliance was even more dazzling that when she had been clothed in the fiery robe. She stood before him, the image of perfect womanhood and ancient power, terrifying and deadly, wild and exquisite, and yet his eyes darted back to Elaine.

‘Is she all right?’ he asked.

‘She is dead, my old friend, and has been for a very, very long time.’

‘So’s Anderson. So are Sky and Fiori,’ he said, desperate to erase the finality of her words.

‘And so they are.’ She reached out her hand. ‘But you did not come to me in order to discuss the afterlife of ghosts, my dear Rider. Look at you –’ she stroked his cheek with a scorching fingertip ‘—you have come to me in all your magnificence. How could I possibly resist?’ It was then that he realised he was no longer wearing the flesh of Patrick Faraday. He, like Lucia, was unclothed, as though he too had thrown off his robe and stood in the shadowy darkness that was his true nature. And though he did not know what that nature was, naked in himself, he felt full and strong and well-muscled. He felt power surge through him that he was certain human flesh could not contain, and he wondered how he had ever managed to fit himself into such a small and fragile vessel as Faraday.

Before he could contemplate further, Lucia moved into his arms and kissed him and guided his hands onto her breasts. ‘And now my dear Ferris, now that you have yielded to the world of dreams, I will guide you deeper.’

His cock responded mightily to the caressing and coaxing of the demon, who cupped his fullness until it felt as though it had never been emptied in all his long existence, and the need was unbearable. When he felt that he could hold it no longer, when he felt he would come in her hand, she pulled away and guided him to the ledge where Elaine lay beneath her robe. ‘I am a fire demon who has possessed, in succession, two witches powerful in Dream Magic, but neither Tara Stone nor Kennet Birch, nor any of their formidable coven can take you where you need to go, my dear Ferris. Even I may not perform such a
task. But I owe you a great debt for your patient and steadfast care of Cassandra, and I shall do what I am able to repay it.’ She sat on the edge of the bed and opened her legs wide so that he could see the depths of her — mother-of-pearl-slippery, swollen and splayed in welcome.

‘Kiss the Keystone, Ferris, and though I may not take you where you need to go, I may ease you into the
dream and guide you in the right direction. The rest, my dear man, is up to you.’

He practically fell to his knees on the cave floor and buried his face in her wet warmth, kissing and laving and lapping at her until he was intoxicated with the taste of her. His face was heavily dewed her juices and the Gateway was open and ready for him. Then he rose to his feet, gripped her behind the knees and thrust into her. It felt like he came instantly. It felt like he came forever, convulsing and trembling with her whispering in his ear, ‘chase the dream, Ferris. The Gateway is open to the depths of it, and you have but to enter. Chase the dream.’

 

Chapter 12

The Summoning

Demon Interrupted Cover‘What the hell?’ Ferris roared like an angry beast as he fought his way out of a blackberry bramble to land with his naked arse on the hard ground. The thick summer night effervesced with the tingle of strong magic, and the sting and bite of the bramble were evidence that he had been called, very unceremoniously, into physical form, but who would have treated him with such disrespect? And other than Lucia, the Fire Demon, and the demon who now possessed that evil aberration spawned in the Americas — what was it he called himself Deacon — there were few who could have done such a thing. Besides, what would either of them want with him? And certainly it behoved them to treat him with a little more respect than to up-end him bare-aresed and bleeding in a thicket. Whoever had done it, when he found them, they would be sorry for humiliating him so. He would make certain that they …

The yelp of a female voice put a halt to thoughts of punishing the transgressor. As he turned, the dance of firelight dazzling his eyes made him think for a moment that it was Lucia, who had summoned him. The Fire Demon’s sense of humour was evil at best. But the flames were nothing more than a tiny blaze set in an insignificant fire pit. And then he saw her. Beyond the blaze the woman stood as naked as he was with lustrous dark hair that hung down her back and over the swell of her breasts. He would not have imagined it to be possible, but the slender woman, body burnished golden in the firelight was the source of the magic that had summoned him.

‘What do you want, little girl, and why have you called me in such an uncivilised manner?’ He said, making his voice as thunderous as possible and pulling the shadows around him like a cape because it lent him at least a little of the dignity she had stolen from him.

But she did not cower. Instead she squared her shoulders and stood to her full height, which, as with most mortal women, was not significant compared to him. ‘I am no little girl, Rider, and I have summoned you to do my bidding.’

Though he made no effort to hold back the roar of his laughter, the mortal did not so much as cringe. ‘You summoned me to do your bidding, little one? You are either very brave or very stupid.’ With a sudden flick of his wrist the wind rose and swirled around her, whipping her hair across her face and then back over her shoulders, and he saw that she was, indeed, no little girl. Her breasts were in the full bloom of womanhood crowned by roseate nipples that peaked in the cool kiss of the wind he had summoned. His cock rose in response to her, and for the first time since his unceremonious arrival, he was pleased to be in physical form. This human, this mortal woman was delicate of build, skin as pale as the finest porcelain, skin that seemed lit from within, skin that contrasted with hair that was night itself and eyes that were like a moonless sky. Her hips flared away from her center as though they hugged the soft pillowing of dark curls that caressed her womanhood, and she stood unladylike, with her feet set wide apart on the ground so that even his tempest did not unbalance her.

‘I am neither brave nor stupid,’ she said, when the wind settled enough that she could catch her breath to speak. ‘I am without recourse.’

He moved closer to her, so that the fire did not interfere with his vision of her, and still she did not flinch. ‘You must be desperate, indeed, if you would summon a Soul Rider to do your bidding.’

She ignored his statement. ‘You have it within your power to visit horrible hallucinations upon those who displease you, do you not? It is within your power to drive them form their sanity, and it is said that you have power even to drive them to their death. Is that not so?’

He moved still closer, until he could see the rapid rise and fall of her chest that belied the nerves she hid so well, until he could feel her warm breath against the body that now held his essence. ‘Shall I demonstrate that of which I am capable upon you, little one?’ As he reached for her, she stepped back.

‘I do not need your demonstration, Rider. I only need you to use those powers in my service.’

This time he stepped close enough that she had to bend her slender neck back as far as she could to look up into his eyes. ‘And might I ask what’s in it for me?’

‘Anything.’ Her breath caught in her throat and for the first time he felt the passion of her request with the intensity of the powerful magic she had just performed and what that magic had cost her. And was that passion tinged with more than a hint of despair? ‘Anything you ask.’

‘And if you are the payment I demand?’

Her eyelids fluttered and her voice was little more than a whisper. ‘As I have said. Anything you ask.’

That she did not frighten easily, that she was braver than most men who had, ultimately, cowered before him made him want to taste her fear all the more. ‘Then I shall have you.’ He pulled her to him and took her mouth, not expecting the full pout of her lips to part for him, not expecting her body to relax and soften into his embrace nor her arms to encircle his neck. As his tongue flicked over hers, he was stunned to find it was not fear he tasted; it was power, exhilaration, need, mixed again with a heavy patina of desperation, and all of those tastes in this woman made him want her even more. His cock stretched hard, pressed against the tensing muscles of her belly. The pillowed press of her breasts against him in her battle for breath made him want to take more of her breath, so that the pumping of her lungs would keep her fullness rising and falling and nestling against him.

He unclenched her fingers from behind his neck and guided her hand down between them, down to rest on his cock. ‘It has been long since I have worn flesh. My need is nearly beyond my control. It may well be that I would split your fragile frame in two, little girl.’

Before the words were off his tongue, she circled his hardness with slender, but strong fingers, and began to stroke the length of him, whispering in his ear. ‘I told you, whatever you asked, and I am not nearly so fragile as you might think.’ But then the brazen child did something he could have never anticipated. She stepped out of his embrace, back just enough that he could not easily touch her. ‘But I am not yours for the taking until you have done my bidding, Rider. Then split me in two, you may, or in a thousand pieces if it please you.’

He growled his frustration, and his cock bucked against his belly. ‘I do not need your permission to take you, little one.’ He took a menacing step closer to her, and she stepped back again until she stood flush with the bramble behind her. ‘Nor do I need to do your bidding. After all, your invitation was not very polite, now was it?’

‘There was no invitation, Demon. There was a summoning and a bargain to be struck.’

‘Again, I will ask you why should I not take what I want now rather than wait. I am the one who –’

His words died in his throat as her power buzzed over him, a bolt of lightning and a touch of silk and he sucked breath to keep from humiliating himself as the content of his balls threatened to spill itself at her feet. Though in truth, he was not sure that perhaps it was his very life force that this woman, this witch threatened to coax from his cock with her magic. He raised his hands, palms facing her, in a gesture of peace. ‘Tell me then, what is it you want, little witch.’

She studied him for a moment with eyes bottomless as the night sky. ‘I want you to ride the soul of my enemy. Make him suffer long and hard, make him pay for what he has done. If this you do for me, then I am yours to do with what you will.’

‘Are you sure this is a price you can afford to pay, little witch?’ With a move that was no more human than he was, he pulled her into his arms and fisted her thick mane of soft hair and shoved it off her shoulders, seeking to admire the delicacy of the mortal form, as one did art in a gallery — beautiful creations that were far too fragile for any practical purpose. Their fragility in itself a part of their attraction, and his ability to break them somehow made them even more valuable to him. With his eyes shut, he tracked the beat of her pulse to the soft spot on her throat, then bent to nuzzle her there, and just as she moaned a sigh, he bit her in that spot against the thud, thud of her tenuous life force.

At first he thought the near sob that breeched her lips was a release of her pleasure, disappointingly easy, he thought. It was as he opened his eyes that he saw the bruises on her neck, green and angry in the dance of the flames, and he realised the sob had been one of pain. Though he was no fire demon, the thought of his little witch — for that is how he thought of her now, as his possession — the thought of her in pain kindled a strange inferno in his belly that burned with the same rage he would have felt if someone had so marred the Mona Lisa’s perfection. ‘Who did this to you?’ Even as he spoke, he noticed other bruises on her arms, on her hips … on the insides of her thighs. ‘Who did this to you,’ he growled.

She shoved her way free from his embrace and stumbled backward nearly falling before she caught herself. He could taste the rage rolling off her, overpowering the desperation, overpowering the longing, overpowering all else to the point that it was he who was rendered breathless by it. ‘The one whose soul I wish you to ride, the one who I seek revenge upon. He did this to me and more than even your demon eyes can ever see. He took everything from me, and I want him to pay! I want him to pay!’

‘Elaine! Woman! Where the hell are you, you little cunt.’

She jerked as though she had been shot, and in the next instant she was scrambling in the shadows for her clothes. ‘He’s not supposed to be here! He’s supposed to be in Edinburgh.’ Her voice was little more than a hiss. ‘And he’s drunk.’ The curse that she whispered under her breath was an ancient one in Latin, the shock of it coming from the lips of such a delicate female would have made his blood run cold, if he’d had blood. ‘I fear there will be more than bruises when next I see you, Rider,’ she said as she struggled into her gown.

As she turned to go, he grabbed her by the arm. ‘There shall be no bruises, nor any other sort of pain for you, my little witch. You are Elaine?’

She nodded, glancing quickly over her shoulder as the man roared more foul abuse into the night air.

‘And this roaring sack of excrement is the one whose soul you wish me to ride?’

She nodded.

‘And who is he to you?’

‘He is my husband, Patrick Farringdon, and I hate him with a hate that burns me like the flames of hell.’

As the man roared again, Ferris could sense the rage and fear and myriad other emotions racing through the woman’s delicate frame. ‘Elaine, what I do tonight is because I admire your bravery. This night, I promise you, he shall not harm you. In truth, he shall not harm you until next we meet. You intrigue me, my dear little witch, and I will hear your proposition.’

She surprised him by pressing a fervent kiss onto his lips before hurrying from the overgrown garden.

 

*****

 

Ferris found his little sorceress locked in a pleasant tower room that he suspected was the place to where she escaped the monster that was her
husband whenever she could. The walls were lined with books and there was a huge free-standing orrery in one corner of the room, close to a polished bronze telescope facing the large window that looked out onto the northern moors. On a huge desk, there were stacks of parchment and a holder with extra quills, not the kind of room in which one would expect a woman to spend her time.

As though she had heard his thoughts, she spoke. ‘This room was covered in dust when I arrived. Patrick Farringdon has no love for learning. He loves money and whores and torturing me. He doesn’t come into this room because I have convinced him it is haunted.’ A smile curled the corner of her lips. ‘He’s a very superstitious man.’

‘And yet her married you, little witch.’

‘Do you think I had a choice? He was more in love with my father’s money than he was afraid of my craft. After squandering his own fortune, marrying a witch seemed less loathsome than being poor. For him. For me nothing is more loathsome than being forced to do his bidding.’ Her voice was dark, venomous, and even Ferris’ skin prickled at the hatred therein. She shook herself and shrugged as though coming out of a bad dream. ‘I have no doubt that the time will come when he will use my craft against me to his advantage.’ She turned to face him, ‘If he lives long enough for such scheming. He has already let it be known among the villagers that I am a strange one, that I have … unholy tendencies.’

Ferris moved to stand behind her and closed the book she had been reading. ‘The death of one accused of witchcraft is not pleasant, my dear woman.’

She raised her eyes and looked out the window at the night sky. ‘I can only die once and then this suffering will be over. But I wish to insure that he suffers much before I do, and that my … dear husband … precedes me in death. Since he has not sought me tonight, then I assume you have paid him a visit.’

Ferris laid a hand against her jaw and pulled her hair back to reveal the angry bruise. ‘He will give you no bruises this night. Night terrors can be so troublesome, and they often leave one far too exhausted for such spineless activities as beating helpless women – for days at times, or so I am told.’ He slid his hand down onto her collarbone and was once again surprised to find she did not cower. ‘But then I see no helpless woman here.’

‘Is my proposal acceptable to you then, demon,’ she asked. From the angle at which he stood he could see the hardening of her nipples below the fabric of her gown and the rise and fall of the rounded tops of her breasts.

castlerigg_Stone_Circle1‘For the price we have agreed upon, I will do your bidding,’ he said. ‘It shall give me pleasure to lay waste to such a corrupt soul.’ He slid his hand down over her sternum and inside the gape in her gown to caress her breasts and felt the catch of her breath in unison with the catch of his own, which was only a memory of breath, but a memory he knew well. ‘In the meantime, I will enjoy the world of the flesh.’

She shoved his hand aside. ‘I am not yours to dispose of until you have given me what I ask.’ She pushed her chair back and came to her feet, turning to face him. ‘If you take me now, than I have naught with which to bargain.’

He bowed his head. ‘As you wish, my little witch.’ As he lifted her into his arms, she yelped and he felt her body tense against him as he carried her to the cot on the far side of the room where it was clear that she spent most of her nights. ‘Then you shall sleep, and I shall watch over you.’ He undid the robe that she had carelessly thrown around herself, the one she had worn from the garden, and slipped it off her shoulders. Then he guided her down beneath the blanket.

‘You don’t have to watch over me. That was not a part of the bargain.’

‘Indeed not,’ he said, as he settled onto the bed next to her. ‘But I must protect my investment. When my end of the bargain is fulfilled, I would not want my reward damaged and unable to uphold her end.’ He brushed a kiss against her lips. Her breath was warm and sweet and he longed to linger in it until dawn.

‘How can I trust you to keep your word?’ She whispered.

‘How can you not?’ He replied, curling up next to her on top of the covers. ‘What I have promised I will perform, now rest, my little witch, and be at peace.’

 

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