I’m on my way home from Snowdonia while you lovely lot are reading this blog. My first foray into paranormal and urban fantasy was my four booked Lakeland Witches Series. I’ve chosen to share a little excerpt with you today, since at the moment with the launch of Blindsided only five days away, I really am thinking thoughts of ghosts, demons, succubae and all sorts of things that go bump in the night.
Perhaps one of the most powerful questions that paranormal and urban fantasy allows both reader and writer to explore is a very big one — just who are the real monsters? Though that question is asked over and over again in literature of all kinds, it is never more evident than in urban fantasy and paranormal, a perfect place to explore the making of a monster and the making of a hero. That being the case, I think it’s no wonder I’ve enjoyed writing both the Witches series and now the Medusa’s Consortium series.
The excerpt below has always been one of my favourite passages from the second Lakeland novel, Riding the Ether. Anderson is a favourite of the characters I’ve created, and for him to finally have met his match was a delight for me to write. If the lines between relationships were skewed in the Elemental Coven of the Lakeland witches, they are even more so in Medusa’s Consortium, but not quite as congenially. The battle to live and work and love with the monsters is never an easy one, but oh what a delight it is for both writer and reader.
Enjoy this excerpt of Anderson and Cassandra’s first meeting in the flesh. And remember, book one of Medusa’s Consortium, In the Flesh is now on sale at 99 c/p, and you can now pre-order Blindsided, book two of Medusa’s Consortium.
Blurb for Riding the Ether:
Cassandra Larkin keeps her ravenous and dangerous sexual appetite secret until she seduces Anderson in the mysterious void of the Ether. Anderson is the sexy, insatiable ghost who can give her exactly what she needs.
But sex is dangerous in a place like the Ether…
When the treacherous demon, Deacon, discovers the truth about the origin of Cassandra’s powerful lust, he plots to use her sex magic for revenge on Tara Stone and the Elemental Coven, who practice their own brand of sex magic.
Cassandra must embrace the lust and sexuality she fears and learn to use its power. Will she stand with Anderson, Tara, and the Elemental Coven against Deacon’s wrath or suffer the loss of friendship, magic and love?
Excerpt for Riding the Ether:
Marie Warren felt a chill crawl up her spine from where she stood over the sink doing the washing up, and she knew she wasn’t alone. But the ghost was upon her before she could fully register her presence. Thinking that it was Lisette, she was about to chide her for sneaking up on her when she turned to find Serina Ravenmoor standing almost on top of her.
Marie jumped back hitting her hip against the edge of the counter. ‘What the hell are you doing here?’
‘I’m sorry,’ the ghost stepped back. ‘I’m not a very good judge of distances anymore, but I need you to come with me. Where’s Mr Anderson? He has to come too.’
‘Now why would I want to go with you? And who do you think you are waltzing right into my kitchen like you own the place and –’
‘I know where Cassandra Larkin is, and if you don’t come quickly she’ll die.’
The ghost barley got the words out before Anderson materialized out of nowhere. He ignored Marie and focused on Serina. ‘I felt her leave the Ether just as we were preparing to enter. Do you know where she is?’
She nodded. Please hurry,’ Serina’s eyes welled. ‘I don’t know what happened, but I’m afraid she’ll die.’
‘Then take me to her at once.’
He turned his attention to Marie. ‘I shall send Miss Ravenmoor back with instructions to where we are as soon as I am with Cassandra.’ He didn’t wait for a reply, but vanished and rematerialized next to Serina Ravenmoor in a small dark space, curtained off, barely big enough for the mattress on the floor. Books stacked in avalanches against the wall overflowed into what little space remained. And there beneath a tangled duvet, looking so much like the dead that it twisted his heart, was Cassandra Larkin.
‘This is not how I would have wished our first meeting in the flesh, my darling.’ He spoke softly, sinking onto the mattress next to her. Serina watched him as he took her pulse, which was barely there. ‘Has she spoken at all since her return?’
‘Only that she lost Deacon in her nightmare.’
‘My clever darling,’ he brushed the hair away from her pale cheek. ‘Clever and ever so reckless.’
Even without flesh, Serina Ravenmoor trembled with impatience. ‘She’s dying, and you’re the only one who can save her now.’
He would have offered a sharp retort, but the look in the woman’s eyes stopped him.
‘You still don’t know what she is, do you, Mr Anderson, or what she needs.’
Irritation at Serina Ravenmoor rose like fire in his chest. ‘Tell me if you know what she needs, Madame, and do not waste precious time.’
She took a step closer, still holding his gaze. ‘She’s been kind to me. She doesn’t deserve this.’
‘I can tolerate little more, Miss Ravenmoor. I beg of you, speak plainly!’
‘She’s a succubus. And if you want to save her then she’ll need your energy.’ She nodded to the front of his trousers and the seat of his manhood.
‘A succubus?’ He would have laughed at the utter absurdity of such an idea had the circumstances been different, had Miss Ravenmoor’s countenance not been deadly serious. He felt as though the woman had kicked him in the vitals, had ridiculed him in some cruel way by so slandering his beautiful Cassandra. ‘Surely I have not understood your meaning, Madame.’
‘You understand me. Perfectly.’ The little ghost reassured him. ‘And if I weren’t dead, she’d kill me for telling you.’
‘But I had not thought such beings to be more than legend,’ he whispered, feeling his heart race at the thought of the magnificent woman who had bedded him, a creature whose power was even more sexual than his own and far more dangerous. She was a being completely unlike that which the legends and myths had spawned in his imagination.
‘She doesn’t exactly advertise,’ Serina said. ‘I’ve never seen anyone so full of self-loathing.’
Anderson’s heart twisted still further at the very thought that one so exquisite should loath herself. ‘Now that you have said it, I certainly do see how she could be such. When we were together, I would have happily stayed with her, derelict in all other pressing duties, stayed with her and let her take me until I was completely empty of myself.’
‘She would never have let you do that.’ Serina Ravenmoor seemed horrified at the very thought.
Anderson shook his head. ‘No. She would not.’ He laid a hand on the clammy cool of her forehead. ‘Then it is my … It is my seed that she needs to be healed.’ He spoke softly to the Ravenmoor woman.
The ghost shook her head. ‘It’s more than that. Much more. It’s your lust she needs. Your essence. She won’t take from anyone but you, and she may not even take from you now that you’re not in the Ether. It was only there that she felt she could safely control her lust and not do you harm.’
‘She told you this?’
She looked into his eyes, and shook her head. ‘She doesn’t know how much I know, but I often stayed with her when she didn’t realize I was here, watched what she studied, read over her shoulder.’ She shivered and chafed her arms. ‘You know, to pass the time. I doubt you can persuade her to take from you all she’ll need.’
‘Do not you worry, Miss Ravenmoor. I shall persuade her.’ He turned his attention back to the woman lying helplessly on the mattress, and the pull in his heart was nearly unbearable.
‘Go and tell the others where I am. It may be that I have need of them, for I have every intention of giving Cassandra Larkin all that she needs to heal.’
Serina did as he asked, and he was alone with the exquisite woman that, in spite of their intimacy, had hid far more from him that he would have imagined possible. He removed his clothing and slid under the duvet next to her cool flesh, pulling her to him gently, offering her his warmth. And even in her weakened state, the touch of her flesh vibrated over his body so deliciously that the power of his own lust surprised him under the circumstances.
As he gathered her to him, in spite of being reassured by Miss Ravenmoor of what she needed, he feared that even the first brush of a kiss against her lips would be more than she could bear. And yet even in that briefest of contact, the cool of her lips warmed to his touch, and her chest rose with a shudder. For the tiniest of seconds he feared that he had injured her still further, and it was he who could not breathe for the weight of such fear. And then she spoke, and he thought his heart would burst with the relief of it.
‘I’m not dead?’ There was surprise in her voice. And pain.
‘You are most definitely not dead, my darling, nor shall I allow you to pass when I have not yet known the pleasure of your exquisite flesh.’
Her lids fluttered and with what seemed a tremendous effort, her dark eyes opened to gaze upon him, and she forced the slightest of smiles onto parched lips. ‘Anderson, if I’m dreaming, don’t wake me.’
‘It is no dream, my darling. I promise you it is not.’
‘I’m home?’ she forced the words up through the tight muscles of her throat, words that sounded abraded and raw.
He nodded. ‘In the flesh.’
‘And you’re here.’
‘Also in the flesh.’
Her eyes widened and her pulse raced, and in spite of her weakened condition, she tried to rise from the bed. ‘Deacon, is –’
Anderson covered her mouth with his stopping her words, and settled her back on the bed, then he spoke. ‘Deacon is not here in the flesh, thanks to you, my darling.’
She could not hold back the tears of relief, but there was no strength to wipe them away. Anderson did that for her. ‘Sh! my darling, Shshsh. He is not here, and you are safe with me now.’ Perhaps it was the press of his ill-mannered member against her thigh that suddenly brought to her attention the fact that he lay next to her naked and fully aroused. As he feared, it was not a thing that pleased her.
She thrashed weakly. ‘Anderson, you have to go. You can’t be with me here like this. You have to go. Please! You can’t stay. You mustn’t.’
‘Sh!, my darling, shshsh. I will not allow you to send me away.’ He held her until she stopped struggling, then he kissed her again, more insistently. ‘I know who you are, Cassandra,’ he whispered when he pulled away. ‘Why did you not tell me? You insult me to believe I would have thought less of you because of your gift.’ Fearing that her struggles would weaken her further, he wasted no time, but slid his hand down over her mound to ease open her womanhood, sliding a finger carefully down between the folds of her, and she gasped, pulling oxygen into her lungs as though she had only just remembered how to draw breathe. She was surprisingly warm and wet to his touch, and she responded by shifting her hips upward to his probing, only a little, only just, weakened as she was, but the response was there, and it was the response of arousal.
Ever so gently, he pushed back the duvet until her lovely breasts, nearly translucent in the pale light, were exposed, then he nursed at each of her bosoms until her nipples rose to greet his tongue and lips in a delicious caress of their own. With each press of his mouth on her flesh, with each probing of his finger into her wetness, she strengthened, and the feel of her against his body became more and more exquisite, kindling his arousal to a heightening flame, filling him with a sense of well-being and ecstasy that he had only ever felt in high magic. And yet even that paled in comparison to the feel of Cassandra Larkin, naked and needy in his arms.
It was only when he carefully pushed her legs apart and eased himself on top of her that she panicked. ‘You know what I am! Dear Goddess, Anderson,’ she croaked, shoving at him with all the strength she could muster in her still weakened state. ‘If you know what I am, then you know why we can’t do this here. We’re not in the Ether. It’s the only place you’re safe from me. Please.’ Her words became nearly incoherent in her tears, in her weakness. ‘Please don’t do this. I can’t live with the thought of hurting you. You don’t know what I’m capable of. You don’t know what a monster I am.’ She struggled beneath him, but she was too weak, and he held her, cradled her, careful that his weight was not on her
‘I will hear no more such talk, my darling. You are by no means a monster, and you can take nothing from me that I do not freely give.’ This time he kissed her hard and spoke between the thrustings of his tongue and the suckling of her lips. ‘I have already told you, Cassandra, you cannot harm me, and we will hear no more of this. I will not be denied. You will take what you need from me, all that you need from me until you are sated, until you are healed. I shall hear no argument.’
‘You’re not my boss.’ She tried to shove him with the flat of her hand against his chest. ‘You can’t tell me what to do.’
He held her hand to his chest and gripped it tightly. ‘Then when you are healed and once more yourself, you may punish me as you see fit for my transgressions, a thought which I relish.’
She wept against his neck, and though she yielded willing to him, she was still weeping when he entered her with the slightest shifting of his hips. It disturbed him deeply that his arousal was such when she was in anguish, but he knew how close she walked to the gateway of death, as only one who has already passed through it could know. And he would not allow her to make that journey no matter how she protested. And she was, indeed, ready for his penetration, slick and dilated with need, need that he understood was now far beyond the simple drive for sexual satisfaction. The satisfaction of such need would make the difference as to whether Cassandra Larkin crossed through that dreaded gateway or woke healthy and strong to breathe the blessed air of the living.’
With the first thrust, her back arched, she gasped for air and her whole body stiffened. For a terrifying second he feared he had hastened the very thing he sought to prevent. By the second thrust, however, Cassandra had the strength to wrap her legs around him. He pulled her to him with a sigh that was almost a sob. ‘Dear woman, do not ever, ever do such a thing to me again. I was desolate without you,’ he whispered against her throat. ‘It cannot be thus again. I could not bear it. Take from me what you need, my love, all that you need. It is the desire of my heart that you do so.’
‘I don’t want to hurt you.’ But even as she spoke she curled her fingers in his hair and pulled him to her. ‘You don’t know me. You don’t know what it’s like when I need. When I’m empty, my emptiness is bigger than the void. Oh goddess, Anderson, please don’t let me hurt you.’
‘You shall not harm me, my darling.’ He spoke around the rise of euphoria in his head and the feel that his manhood could never get enough, but this was only his desire for her, he told himself, and even if it were otherwise, even if all that he was she took from him, then it was an exquisite ending to a very long existence. But he would not let it be so for he could not bear the thought of her anguish at such an ending for himself.
It was desperate and deep, her need, like oxygen when it is most needed, like food when meals have been missed, like the filling up of an empty ocean. And she wept even in her passion, wept that she was reduced to such raw need, wept that it was offered to her so freely, wept that if felt so good.
For his part, he was surprised by it all when he had the wit to consider beyond the pleasure of her powerful lust. All the while she took from him, he held his seed, feeling the intense pleasure that one does when the weight of lust rests heavy and tight in ones loins, when every second longer that one may hold off one’s release, the pleasure becomes more exquisite. And it was long in the process of their pleasuring before he became aware that his strength was indeed waning.
She sat atop him head thrown back, pale hair falling wild and tangled around her face. Her lovely bosoms danced with her thrustings. Her dark eyes had grown pale in the rise of her magic, the colour of the sky over Blencathera when it thins to the palest blue before it darkens. The room was awash in the sound of racing water and wind in summer trees, and he could feel himself being pulled into the emptiness of her need, filling it with his very essence, with something far beyond the life force which he had given up long ago.
Her orgasms began as tiny ripples from a place of weakness and grew to ocean waves washing over both of them, cleansing away Deacon’s touch, imprinting upon her flesh Anderson’s lust, and it was at that moment Anderson feared that Cassandra could no longer release him no matter how badly she desired it, that she was beyond herself, and with each thrust that weakened him, she grew stronger. With a shudder of fear that he barely felt in the ecstasy of their sex, he knew that if he could not of his own accord pull back from her at the right moment, then he would, indeed be lost.
But the thought had barely entered the bleariness of his mind before his manhood convulsed mightily and he emptied himself into her, then she fell forward against him gasping for breath, and pressing her lips to his.
‘There now, you see, my darling. All is well,’ he whispered, easing her off of him and once again down into the white fluff of bedding, when to his great relief, he realized he still had consciousness and essence and being, and though he was barely able to hold it together, he still had flesh. ‘You have pleasured me deeply and healed from my pleasuring. Am I not twice blessed? ’ The words came from his throat feeling raw and tight with emotions he could not, in his present condition, contemplate as he desired, not the least of which was relief. ‘Rest now my love. Rest and heal, and when you are able, we shall take you back to Elemental Cottage where you shall be safe.’ She was already asleep before he had finished his sentence. And it was just as well. He did not want her to see him in his weakened condition. It would only distress her, and for no good reason.
He slipped from the bed and pulled the duvet snugly around Cassandra’s shoulders. Then with trembling hands, he wrapped himself in an afghan and stumbled from behind the heavy curtain that separated the sleeping area from the rest of the bothy to where he was surprised to find the entire coven and Serina Ravenmoor squeezed into the tiny space amid the avalanches of books and notebooks. Everyone was present except Tara. Sky caught him before he fell to his knees and settled him onto the make-shift bench next to the small table.
He forced a smile and with an effort cleared the growing fog from his head. ‘I am indebted to all of you for your help, indeed do not look so concerned. All is well.’
Sky laid an unnecessary hand on his forehead, as though he were still numbered among the living, and though superfluous, it felt soothing, indeed. ‘We didn’t do anything, Anderson. She released you of her own volition.’ She shook his head. ‘I wouldn’t have thought it possible in her condition, knowing what she is. But then until today, who knew that her kind even existed.’
Anderson looked around the room again, and it was Marie who spoke, as though she had read his thoughts. ‘Tara was here. She left when she knew you were alright. She’s pretty upset still, about what you did. About what we did.’ She squeezed Tim’s hand.
‘Don’t worry, she’ll get over it,’ Fiori said. Then she nodded to the make-shift bed chamber. ‘Is Cassandra alright?’
He forced a smile past the pain in his heart that he had so wounded Tara, but it was more than he was capable of considering at the moment. ‘My dear Fiori,’ he said. ‘I believe Cassandra Larkin, will not be journeying through the gates of death today. She is now resting peacefully. However,’ he breathed. ‘I am undone. Please do not make my condition known to her, as it will only trouble her unnecessarily, and I shall be well, only I shall be unable to manifest flesh for a brief time. But I am, indeed very well. Very well indeed.’ It was only as the last words passed from his throat that Anderson realized he was no longer in the flesh and that Sky sat on the bench holding only the afghan he had been wearing.