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Chapter 12 of Concerto

Chapter 12  I Believe You

 

 

 

I slept all the way to Portree. I suppose it was a testament to how unwell I really was. Perhaps it was also a testament to how much I preferred the peaceful oblivion I found in sleep over the harsh reality of the waking world. It wasn’t that I expected to return to my pianist in the dream world. Whether anyone believed me or not, I knew in my heart of hearts what had happened to me had been so much more than a dream.

In my state of confusion and unhappiness, sleep was the best option. Besides, I couldn’t bring myself to be sociable, and Ian didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he hadn’t even turned on the radio, but left me in blessed silence making no effort to cheer me up. While he had been nothing but kind to me, I certainly had to be a major inconvenience, one that took him away from his work. It couldn’t have been his plan to taxi an invalid around all over the Scottish Highlands. And yet, I sensed no resentment from him, though in all fairness, I wasn’t conscious long enough to sense much of anything.

I didn’t wake up again until the door opened on my side of the Land Rover. For a confused moment I looked up into the eyes of my pianist, but when I slid my arms around his neck, it was Ian who spoke to me urgently, peeling me off him and chafing my hands in his. He looked nearly as confused as I was, but mostly he looked concerned. “Ms. Alan? Wake up. Are you okay? It’s me, Ian McLaren, remember?”

All I could manage was a deep breath and a nod. In that shared moment of embarrassment, he could not have missed the deep disappointment that must have flashed across my face when I realized who he was, and more importantly, who he wasn’t.

“We’re here,” he said when I gave no further reply. He helped me out and supported me with an arm around my waist until I could gain my bearings.

As he shut the door, I glance around me and reconsidered the wisdom of getting into vehicles with strange men. “Where’s here?” I asked. “This isn’t Portree.”  We were parked in front of a large cottage, which looked to be as much of a building site as the smaller cottage where my pianist had been.

“Just outside Portree, actually,” came the reply. “This is my Aunt Maggie’s place. Well one of them anyway. This one I may well buy off her when I’ve finished the renovations. It suits me.”

I stopped and only stood staring at the stone facade. As if he anticipated my next question, he said, “You’re in no condition to travel on to Glasgow today. In fact, you shouldn’t even be out of bed. Aunt Maggie tells me you’re in no hurry to get back, and I don’t fancy taking you to A and E with a relapse.”

When I still didn’t move, he turned to face me. “I’m happy to call my sister to stay if you’d prefer, or my cousin Patricia.”

I shook my head and forced a little chuckle. “I trust you, Ian.” I wasn’t entirely sure that was completely true, but at the moment, I was too tired and too ill to care.

The building site that was the outside of the cottage did not reflect the glorious inside, which was done up like a Victorian summer cottage, many of the furnishings and features clearly from the period. “Your work or your aunt’s,” I asked running a finger along the edge of a beautifully restored wrought iron table with a matching mirror in the slate tiled entryway.

“A bit of both. She has nearly a sixth sense for period design. Me, I’m just a builder with a love of history.”

“You don’t speak like a builder,” I said as he helped me out of my jacket.

“You know a lot of builders, do you?” He replied with a chuckle.

“Never actually met one before you, so I guess I’ve got no real data to go on.”

“You’re a writer, surely you don’t judge a book by its cover.” With that he led me down the hall into a small warm kitchen tiled in emerald green and white and nodded to the table. “Sit.” He nodded to a small kitchen nook tucked into a sunny corner, and I settled. “Maggie threw together some of her world famous potato leek soup last night. There’s plenty here for both of us, and you need to eat.”

I watched as he put a small pot onto the stove and then took a baguette from the breadbox and began slicing it. “It doesn’t seem to bother you, playing nursemaid to a crazy lady.”

“As far as jobs go, I’ve had worse.” He plugged in the kettle and set out two mugs. He didn’t deny the crazy lady bit though, and I didn’t really feel like hearing one more person tell me that I’d only imagined the whole thing.

“Besides,” he added giving the soup a stir, “it’s not every day I get to play chauffer and host to Sophie Alan, acclaimed writer of romance.”

“Not that acclaimed,” I said, holding the teacup in my hand for warmth once he’d given it to me.

He sat down across from me. “An author whose imagination is a fertile, exciting place.”

I sat the cup down and heat climbed my cheeks. “Is that a hint?”

“Actually that’s a quote on the cover of your last novel,” he said with a quirk of a smile. Then he got up to serve the soup.

“Yeah, well that was awhile ago. That imagination is not nearly as fertile and exciting these days.” Too late, I realized I’d left myself open for the lecture, which I didn’t get.

“Thus the weekend at my aunt’s cottage.” Before I could respond, he set a bowl of soup in front of me. “Eat. You need to eat to get better.”

He had effectively left me with nothing to say, and once again, he made it easy for me to do just that. We both ate looking out the window at the cottage garden awash in watery sunshine. I barely managed the soup before I was all but falling asleep at the table. He escorted me upstairs and into a suite that would have totally delighted me in its Victorian elegance had I not been too exhausted to care. He simply helped me off with my shoes, settled me onto the big mahogany bed and covered me with a large tartan throw. “Rest awhile,” he said. “I’ll be downstairs when you wake up.”

I woke from a dream of piano music, the melody my pianist was playing when I first met him. The room now bathed in evening shadows and the lace curtains wafted gently on a cool breeze. As the events since that weekend flooded back to me, I groaned and clenched my eyes tight hoping that if I lay there long enough I’d return to the dream world and the music would lead me back to him. When that didn’t happen, I got up and made my way to the bathroom to pee. In spite of the music in my dreams, the house was silent, that kind of peaceful silence one never finds in the city.

As I splashed my face with warm water, I realized I was hungry – something I’d not been since before my weekend at the cottage. It must be getting near dinnertime, I figured. The discomfort of not knowing exactly where I was and being completely at the mercy of a man I barely knew drove me downstairs.

My bare feet made no sound on the wood floor at the bottom of the stairs. Soft light from elegant glass wall sconces glowed with golden warmth, a warmth that made the place feel homey and comfortable rather than overdone. Fire crackled in a fireplace in a small study off the main hallway. I knocked softly on the doorframe and stuck my head inside. “Ian?” Tentatively I stepped over the threshold. The walls were lined with bookshelves full to the brim. Other than that, the room was sparsely furnished. There was a small day bed made up in a deep window alcove with a duvet pulled neatly over a cascade of pillows, and there was a modest desk with a large leather office chair. The reading lamp on the desk lit the pages of half a dozen books spilling over the desk along with a journal brimming with notes and sketches of building features and landscapes. It looked as though Ian had just stepped out. Perhaps he was hungry too.

It was only as I turned to make my way back down the hall to the kitchen that I noticed the grand piano in the room across the hall. My heart stuttered, my mouth went dry. I heard myself cry out as though from a great distance, as though I were suddenly someone else, someone moving outside myself. In truth, I might have been someone else sleepwalking across the hall and into a music room astonishingly similar to the one I had been in when, for a brief time, I was someone else, someone from another age, someone very much in love with my pianist. In that strange weaving of present and past, I was marginally aware of the evening light streaming through French doors. A well-tended patio garden lay just beyond and, unlike the building site that was the front of the cottage, the back was an exquisitely landscaped lawn leading onto the cliffs that hugged the sea.

As I ran an unsteady hand over the smooth, cool wood of the piano, flashes of my pianist overwhelmed me. It was hard to breathe. It was hard to think. It was hard to focus on anything but the instrument before me and the man I would forever connect to it. Even knowing what I now knew, even though all I had seen and experience made no sense and no one thought it had actually happened, I couldn’t keep from anticipating. I couldn’t keep from hoping that any minute he might appear at the door, settle himself before the keyboard and play for me.

All the while that wild haunting deluge of music, which was the first I’d heard him play, ran through my head in minute detail. I could hear the intricate ebb and flow of the counter melody. I could hear the drive and surge of the base line, I could hear each modulations, every tempo shift, every crescendo. I could hear it all, and I could see the hands of my pianist in the intricate dance of its creation. I dropped onto the bench and traced the keys, recalling the feel of those warm, strong hands beneath mine as we moved fingers together shaping the melody.

With a tentative touch, I played the first note, and then I played the next and the next – only just the melody and all only with one hand. But it was there, and so was what I didn’t play. I heard it all in my head. In my mind’s eye my hands rested atop his, relaxed, easy, as the melody coursed through both of us together, and I played. I played it all through a haze of tears, from beginning to end, to the point at which he
took me into his arms, to the point at which the music became a living, breathing being with power over us both. It was only then that I realized I was no longer alone. When at last I stopped and wiped my nose on the back of my hand, Ian stood at my side, breathing labored, shoulders tense. With a groan, he stumbled to sit down next to me on the bench, and with a hitch of breath he said very softly. “I believe you.”

 

If you’ve missed an episode of Concerto, here are the links.

 

Concerto Part 1: A little Night Music

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

Concerto Part 3: Too Much to Bear Alone

Concerto Part 4: Writing and Waiting

Concerto Part 5: A Duet in a Storm

Concerto Part 6: Remember How it Feels

Concerto Part 7: Unsettled

Concerto Part 8: Into the Storm

Concerto Part 9: Me, But Somebody Else

Concerto Part 10: Find Me

Concerto Part 11: Making Sense of it All

 

Concerto Chapter 11

 

Chapter 11 Making sense of it

 

“Are you sure you’re well enough to be here,” Mrs. McLaren said, watching me nervously as I stepped out of her battered Land Rover.

 

“Fine, I’m fine,” I lied. I’d been out of the hospital two days and had convalesced impatiently in a hotel room until, ready or not, I could stand it no longer and called Mrs. McLaren, who had promised to take me out to the cottages as soon as I was up to it. I had driven to Portree and endured another night and day in a hotel room in the pounding rain until the weather cleared enough that Mrs. McLaren would even consider taking me out. As it turned out, it was just as well. The trip up from Glasgow had exhausted me, and I wasn’t fit to do much but sleep and order in when I was hungry enough to eat anything. Every time I slept, I hoped that I would wake up back in the cottage with my piano player. But I didn’t. He didn’t even haunt my dreams during those nights of exhaustion and sickness.

 

The landlady watched me with a jaundiced eye as I walked slowly, carefully, through the cottage I’d stayed in, remaining close enough that she could catch me if I stumbled. Everything was exactly as I remembered it, but that was no real surprise. “As I said,” she reiterated, when I turned to her expectantly, “this is the only cottage that’s finished.” She didn’t repete the obvious, the obvious that I’d heard a thousand times, that there’d been no one here but me. She knew it would do her no good, and she wasn’t given to wasted words. It was just as well. I knew what I’d seen. I knew that I hadn’t been alone.

 

She opened the back door, and we stepped outside into the anemic sunlight. My first view of the other cottage felt like a gut punch. There was no patio. Instead a small earthmover stood to the side of a rectangular hole filled with muddy rainwater where the patio, no doubt, would be when the builders finished. To the side under heavy plastic stood several stacks of large paving stones.

 

“The place won’t be ready to lease until next summer.” She sounded almost apologetic. Then she gently threaded her arm through mine. I figured it was so she could catch me if I lost my footing. There was no disguising my trembling. Though more than a little of that was from the shock of what greeted me as I looked out at the other cottage.

 

With a bit of careful tugging, she pulled me away from the flooded would-be patio and around to the front door, which was not locked, the reason became obvious with the pounding of hammers and the mumbled curses of workmen coming from inside.

 

As we entered the front door, two men dressed in paint spattered jeans and ratty t-shirts, looked up, then laid down their hammers and nodded their greetings as though I were some strange creature they weren’t sure how to approach. No doubt they knew the tale. The story of the crazy American lady who was found wandering the cliffs in the middle of a storm had surely made its rounds in a place where I figured I was the most entertaining news that had happened in awhile. Mrs. McLaren motioned them to the door, and they left without a word.

 

Where the wood floor had been, there was, instead, bare concrete, and the fireplace had been newly bricked, the trowel and other tools of the trade still on the floor on plastic sheeting. There was no piano. In fact there was nothing but sawhorses and cans of paint with odd bits and pieces of lumber scattered around, along with a several half-empty bottles of water and sports drinks. The kitchen was exactly as I remembered it, unfinished and covered in drop cloths. As if she knew what I’d ask next, she led me to the bathroom. The tub in which I’d made love to my pianist was there, but sitting in the middle of the floor, and the plumbing was only half finished. Without waiting for me to comment, she led me into the master bedroom.

 

It was suddenly hard to breathe, and I saw the room through a haze of tears I blinked hard to control. The big bed sat in the middle of the floor exactly where it had been, but it was battered and weather worn. On top of a bare mattress that didn’t really fit the wooden slats, a sleeping bag and a pillow lay rumpled and tossed. An empty teacup and an open can of Red Bull sat on a backless chair to the side.

 

“Ian, he’s my nephew, he stays here when the weather is nice and he wants to work late, or get an early start,” Mrs. McLaren said. “Mostly though I think he just likes the place what with the sea and the cliffs.”

 

“The bed?” I managed, feeling like my throat was closing off.

 

“It was here when we bought the place,” she said. “No sense in having it restored until the cottage is a little closer to finished. Ian likes to sleep there.” She smiled indulgently. “Makes him feel a bit like a laird.”

 

There was little left to say after that. Mrs. McLaren walked me up to the cliffs where I’d been found, not far from the standing chimney and the ruined foundations of the manor house, all the while, in my head, flashes of the house in its glory days and broken strains of piano music made me dizzy and even more unsure on my feet. When I dropped down onto a rock near where Mrs. McLaren said I’d been found, she only stood next to me patting my shoulder, until the younger of the two men, the one I assumed was Ian, joined us. “Ms. Alan,” he said quietly. “You’d best go back to the cottage now, have some tea, get warm.”

 

I didn’t protest as he helped me up and the two flanked me, Ian close enough that if I should stumble he could catch me, even carry me if he had to. And to my embarrassment, he had to. We were nearly back to the cottage when a view of the earthmover and the whole where the patio should be made the ache in my chest bloom until it felt like the icy blasts of the storm that had raged all the while I’d stayed her with my pianist. “He asked me to find him and I don’t even know his name,” I whispered, and then the ground tilted around me and strong arms lifted me. I humiliated myself further by burying my face in Ian’s chest and sobbing all the way back to the cottage. Inside, he settled me on the sofa and covered me with a blanket. He sat with me until Mrs. McLaren returned with a cup of tea, which tasted like it might have had a nip of something stronger in it. “This’ll warm your belly and make you feel better,” she said.

 

When she was sure I wasn’t going to humiliate myself further, she motioned Ian into the kitchen, where I could hear them mumbling quietly. Occasionally their voices rose in what sounded like an argument, but it took me a minute to realize they were speaking Gaelic. Not that I cared that much. My own thoughts were too confused trying to sort reality from fantasy. But in spite of everything that I had seen, everything that was obvious, I was still certain that what I’d experienced with my pianist had been real.

 

In a few minutes, they returned to the living room and Mrs. McLaren sat down on the sofa next to me. “You’ve got no business traveling alone,” she said, “not in your condition. You shouldn’t even be out of bed yet. You’ve had a terrible shock. I’ve got guests coming and I can’t get away, but Ian will take you back to Portree and then on to Glasgow and help you arrange a flight home if you need.”

 

“I’m fine,” I said, setting the teacup aside and pushing to my feet.

 

“You shouldn’t be alone.” Ian gently took my arm with a rough hand and guided me back down. “If you don’t feel comfortable with me, I can get my sister, Mary to take you.” At this suggestion, I couldn’t help noticing that Mrs. McLaren stiffened.

 

“No.” I sighed half in defeat, half in relief not to have to make the trip by myself, one I wasn’t sure I could manage. “I’m all right with you taking me.”

 

Twenty minutes later, Mrs. L had me bundled up in Ian’s Land Rover like an invalid with a flask of tea and a basket of sandwiches. It was only after I was settled in that she handed me the coffee table book on the manor house and its history. “Maybe this will help,” she said, then waved us off.

 

If you’ve missed an episode of Concerto, here are the links.

 

Concerto Part 1: A little Night Music

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

Concerto Part 3: Too Much to Bear Alone

Concerto Part 4: Writing and Waiting

Concerto Part 5: A Duet in a Storm

Concerto Part 6: Remember How it Feels

Concerto Part 7: Unsettled

Concerto Part 8: Into the Storm

Concerto Part 9: Me, But Somebody Else

Concerto Part 10: Find Me

 

Interview with A Demon 8th Instalment

It would appear even the Guardian thinks I need a break from our interview. I have been ordered by him to take a rest before I continue with the interview. I hadn’t realised my exhaustion from the efforts of dreaming with him night after night, but that is a part of his power, to make one forget the consequences of too much time in his presence.

 

After sleeping sixteen hours worth of dreamless sleep under the watchful eyes of Talia and Susan, I woke to discover my bags packed and a plane ticket to the West Coast to spend time with my sister. I have been forbidden to enter the dream in which I can access the Guardian’s prison for two full weeks.

 

I’m writing this post from 37,000 feet over the Rocky Mountains, the write-up of my last visit with the Guardian before my enforced rest. It’s nearly midnight, and I’ll too be setting down in Oregon for some much needed R&R and distraction with my dear sister.

 

 

If you have missed any of the interview so far, you will find the links for previous instalments at the bottom of the post. 

 

Instalment 8: Meeting the Scribe

The pause, which I figured the Guardian meant to be dramatic, was an uncomfortable one. While he had just told me, in detail, his first intimate encounter with Annie, I wasn’t well acquainted with Annie. She was already out of the picture when I was called in to tell the tale. That made her story once removed from me, and even with that I found the intimacy nearly unbearable.

 

But Susan was different. I was much more closely connected to her story, and the thought of hearing such private matters made me want to call out to Talia to bring me back. With a start, I realized it wasn’t just hearing those details that frightened me, but for all practical purposes I had been feeling them too. Such was the Guardian’s gift. Throughout the entire interview, the reality of the tale he wove was far more virtual than I had until now realized. I wondered if he had planned it that way.

 

Considering her response to the Guardian’s sharing of his encounter with Annie, I couldn’t keep from wondering what Susan would do when he shared her story. And yet, she had told her own tale. She had told the lurid, the dark, the intimate details of a story too personal, one no one else need know, and she did it without flinching, something I could have never done.

 

It was only as the Guardian drew breath to speak that it occurred to me perhaps the pause had not been for dramatic effect at all but because what he was about to impart was far more personal and more difficult for him to share. But then perhaps I was anthropomorphizing. He was in no way human, as he kept reminding me. Still, I braced myself for impact as he began to speak.

 

“When I think of the coincidences, the synchronicity, as Carl Jung might have called it, that brought Susan and me together, I am still all astonishment.” He had returned to pacing the cliff edge. Though I could hear him easily enough, his voice had gone strangely distant. “That Susan was a writer, a scribe, meant only that she made her living with her imagination. That fact increased the likelihood of her being able to sense my presence, that I might find a way to draw her to me.

 

“It is essential at this point, K D, that you keep in mind I do not see humanity, flesh and blood, as you do. While most of the human world would look upon Annie as an astounding beauty, it would pay little attention to Susan — at least not before our vampire changed her. And in all fairness, Susan did little to draw that attention. Perhaps it was our similarities that drew me to her so deeply in the beginning. We both lived in our own private worlds and strove to avoid unwanted attention.”

 

He paused for a moment, as though he had not given this observation thought before. “I could sense her presence the instant she entered the front garden of Chapel House. Imagine the brightest light illuminating the darkness, imagine a black and white image suddenly not only brilliant with color, but alive, living and breathing and vibrating with potential for so much more. That is what I saw in Susan at our moment of contact.”

 

He chuckled softly and I could feel the warmth of a smile I couldn’t see. “Oh you would laugh, K D, if you had seen my response to that first encounter. Our essences had barely touched. I felt the tension move over her body with a little tremor, and then … then I fled like a frightened child, back to the crypt, back to the confines of my prison. There I remained waiting, for I knew Annie would bring her to me. You see, the crypt was Annie’s favorite place.”

 

“So I waited there, trembling, pacing, beside myself with anticipation. For, as you know, K D, my dear Susan is a proper Scribe. Her magic filled the entire space that was Chapel House and even that could not contain her. Oh, of course she knew nothing of this, nothing at all, and that realization filled me with both anticipation and fear.”

 

At this point, he turned swiftly to face me, as though he had forgotten his admonishment that I should not look at him. I quickly looked away, but not before the wave of raw, cold hunger washed over me. For an instant I felt as though I’d fallen through a hole in the world with no bottom in sight. And then I was drawn back to his voice, my eyes averted so that I could only view his feet in battered hiking boots, the kind that I knew Reese Chambers wore. “While you have not her magic, K D, you understand full well the power of words. Your Judeo-Christian mythology even states that for the act of creation to occur the power of the spoken word was necessary. Let there be light. And oh, how Susan was my light.”

 

He settled into the chair again, his fingers drumming on the leather of the arm as though he were thinking what to say next. And when he lingered long in the action, when I was just about to say something, anything to ease the tension, he exhaled long and slow. “You know that I deceived her. Strange that until that very moment, until Susan Innes walked into Chapel House, what I would do, what I had done for the whole of my existence had never seemed to be deception before. I knew nothing else. It was as much my nature as breathing in and breathing out is to you. And yet when I fled her that day, when I hid trembling in the crypt waiting for her, for the first time I questioned that nature.”

 

He raised a hand as though to negate what he had just said. “Please do not think that meeting Susan Innes suddenly made me more human. You see, K D, I shall never be human. I do not, I cannot think or be as you are. But I can draw parallels. I can, perhaps see things differently than I have seen them before. But this was not an epiphany, this was only my own understanding of the gravitas, the impact of what I would do. And from Susan Innes, I already knew, I would take far more than I had ever taken from anyone before her.” He sighed softly, sadly. “What I did not fully understand at the time was just how much she would take from me.”

 

“Then you didn’t know that there was a risk?” I asked.

 

“Of course I knew that Susan was dangerous, but that didn’t matter to me. It was a risk I was willing to take after my long incarceration. I gambled on the fact that she didn’t know she was dangerous. To be honest, I feared much more what our dear Magda Gardener would do if my plan came to fruition. But the arrogance in me also longed to gloat in my triumph over her once Susan had set me free, for I knew the Gorgon would want her as a part of her collection and would loathe that I had taken her for myself. None of that matters now, however. What’s done is done.”

 

He continued his story. “I waited for what seemed like an eternity to one who knows what an eternity feels like. And then I heard them on the stairs descending into the place that was my prison, which suddenly changed, became transparent, and then was transformed into the shape of the Scribe, the woman standing before me. Oh yes, K D, I saw her transformed to my freedom and my prison. I have often wondered if that first glorious view of her in the crypt was a premonition of what would be, and yet at the time all I felt was a sense of anticipation.

 

“But I swear to you I wasn’t ready for the presence of a true Scribe. The moment her feet left the final step of descent, the moment she stood wholly in the crypt, her own presence enveloped me as completely as my prison and, in an instant I was closer to her than I was to myself. I moved across the goose flesh climbing her arms at my touch. I reveled in the catch of her warm, humid breath as I took in the shape of her, the rising scent of both her terror and, blessed be all that is sacred, her lust. She knew I was there. She knew it as surely as her heart beating so rapidly, but the dear woman said nothing.

 

“Oh, the courage that must have taken for her to hold herself so, for her to keep our secret. She only urged Annie, poor oblivious Annie, to keep talking to keep sharing her plans, to keep discussing how she would make the crypt into a wine cellar with a bar. Anything to keep her talking just a little long, just a little more so that she might linger, so that I might take my beautiful Scribe into myself as she had done me. As my dear Susan played for time, I made love to her. Oh, it wasn’t the kind of love I wanted to make to her, the kind in which I lingered long and partook deeply, but it was a mutual exploring, a teasing. It was glorious foreplay and an intimation of what was to come. My touch and caress, her response and arousal, it was all an imparting of information, an understanding shared between two who knew beyond a doubt that they would become lovers. Those few precious shared minutes were giddy and edgy and filled with anticipation of what delights were to come when she returned later that night to free me.”

 

His sigh was like a soft fell breeze. The owl trilled again, and I held my breath. “I have not thought of that night since Susan was changed. I feared it would drive me insane for the longing of it.” He raised his hand as though he were shooing away an unwanted insect. “Not so much the longing for my freedom, but for the loss of that intimacy, the loss of that living flesh, of that beating heart that I would never know again.”

 

“You love her.” I knew the minute I said it that I had spoken out of turn. He didn’t answer for a long time and when he finally did, he sounded tired, and there was something else in his voice, a sense of melancholy, perhaps.

 

“I cannot love, K D. I have not that capacity.”

 

Strange that his words felt like a slap, and it was all I could do to keep from gasping at the impact.

 

There was another long silence in which I wavered between the need to apologize and the desire to make excuses for what seemed like a stupid question given what he had told me repeatedly about his lack of humanity. The Guardian sat quietly and studied his hands folded in his lap. This time when he spoke it was not to me. “Susan, darling, K D has been here too long. She is at risk if she lingers longer. Have the succubus bring her up from the Dream World so that she may rest for awhile.”

 

I woke up in the big bed. The room was dark and Talia was now in the winged back chair drinking wine and reading a novel. Susan sat on the bed beside me, my hand clenched in hers. Her eyes were wet. I wanted to say something to her. It seemed important that I did, but before I could form the words, I slept. This time there were no dreams.

 

 

 

Links to Previous instalments of the interview

 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

 

Find Me: Instalment 10 of Concerto

 

Sometimes things are just too good to be true, and with the storm raging outside and the heat of sex, music and passion raging in, it’s not easy to know where reality begins and dream ends. Crossing that boundary is always a shocker and never what you expected.

(You’ll find links to the rest of Concerto at the end of this instalment)

Concerto: Chapter 10 Find Me

I woke in the dimly lit room watching rain drops slowly drip down a curved tube. For a long time I just watched, fascinated by how clear the droplets were and how slowly, how evenly they drip, drip, dripped. “Still raining.” My throat felt like I’d been swallowing gravel. “Maybe Mrs. McLaren won’t be able to come get me. Maybe I’ll be stranded here with you for a while longer.” my tongue felt too big for my mouth, as I slurred over the words. My body ached all over – no doubt from all the lovemaking. It was only when my pianist made no reply that I tried to roll over in the bed and realized I was attached to the drip, drip, drip. There was an IV bag connected to the long tube that led to the vein in the top of my hand. My pianist wasn’t there. I wasn’t there, at least not in the cottage on Skye where I should have been. A nurse rose up from a chair next to the railing on the side of my bed.

 

Startled into an unpleasant wakefulness, I forced my way up onto one elbow. The needle in my hand pinched, and my joints ached with a vengeance. “Where am I? What’s going on?” The effort was a mistake. The tympani pounding in my head was outdone only by the toxic burst of colors in front of my eyes. I all but fell back into the bed with a groan.

 

“Easy now, just lie back and breathe deeply. That’s it. You’ve had a nasty knock to your head,” the nurse said reaching for my arm to take my pulse and my blood pressure, where the cuff had been left on my bicep.

 

“Where am I?” I asked again, trying to take in my surroundings without moving too much. I was still too muzzy in the head to decide if I should panic, or if maybe I was dreaming. Surely that was it. I had to be dreaming. “Where is he,” I ventured, holding my breath for a second listening for the piano.

 

“Who?” The nurse said without looking up from her efforts.

 

“There was a man with me.” I didn’t know what else to say. I still didn’t know his name, and I regretted it more than ever at that moment. “Is this a … hospital?”

 

The nurse, Claire, her nametag said, “Gartnavel,” she replied with a nod. I must have moaned or maybe gasped, because she looked up at me. “Glasgow?” Then she slid her glasses off and tucked them in her pocket, studying me through dark, liquid eyes until I would have squirmed if moving hadn’t been so unpleasant. “How much do remember,” she asked at last.

 

“What do you mean by that, how much do I remember? I was in bed with my … lover in his cottage. I fell asleep there last night. The landlady was supposed to pick me up later today and take me back to Portree.”

 

“Mrs. McLaren?”

 

“That’s right. I was staying at one of her cottages for the long weekend.”

 

Just then a woman in tailored navy trousers and jacket stepped into the room carefully shutting the door. Her short gray hair and no nonsense attitude made me think of Judi Dench in a James Bond movie. She offered me a smile that made me think it didn’t come easily, and then glanced at my chart. “Welcome back. I’m Ms. Jackson, your consultant.”

 

“My consultant?” It was suddenly a struggle to breathe. A knot tightened in my stomach as I tried once again to sit up. “Why the hell do I need a consultant? Where’s the pianist? Where is he? He was with me, and …” The world spun sickeningly around me and I eased myself back on the pillow, fearing I would throw up. I clenched my eyes shut, fighting back nausea with quick shallow breaths through my
nose. From somewhere far off someone was speaking to me, telling me to relax and breathe deeply. But I was no longer listening. I was lost in the music watching my pianist playing through the rain-pocked glass of the French doors on his cottage. Around me the storm raged and the rain came in sheets. I felt neither. I only watched and listened, but as I reached for the door to let myself in, the world went black.

 

When I woke it was dark outside and a different nurse sat by my bed. I felt like my head was full of cotton wool and everything seemed far away. I swear I could hear the drip drip of the IV and feel each drop going into my vein. I pretend I was still asleep. Maybe I was asleep. I couldn’t be sure I wasn’t dreaming, not when everything was so strange and out of focus. I only wanted to be back in the cottage curled up with my pianist. I wanted him kiss me awake and nibble my earlobe and then take me again in that lazy early-morning way that lovers do, who are new, who are still discovering each other, still unable to get enough of each other. And then I was once again standing outside the French doors listening to my pianist. This time I didn’t try to go in. I was too afraid if I did, I’d find myself back in the sterile room in Glasgow with the nurse hovering over me. Surely I must still be lying in the big bed next to my pianist, sated from so much lovemaking. No doubt, I was dreaming horrible dreams about leaving him, when I would have much rather stayed. I made myself a promise that as soon as he woke me up in some delicious way, I wouldn’t rest until he gave me his name. I needed to know his name. But, he didn’t know mine either, did he? How could two strangers have become so intimate?

 

I don’t know how long I listened. I didn’t get wet, I didn’t get cold, I barely heard the storm rattling the windows and howling around the cottage as he played on and on. I let his music wash over me in waves, carrying me to a safe place where nothing could touch me but the melody. It was the same melody he’d been playing the first time I heard him, and it held me in thrall just as it had then. With the edge of my nightshirt, I wiped the steam from my breath off the glass, and the music stopped. He turned to me and came to the door. My relief was short lived though, when he only placed a hand on the glass and said softly. “Find me.”

 

If you’ve missed an episode of Concerto, here are the links.

 

Concerto Part 1: A little Night Music

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

Concerto Part 3: Too Much to Bear Alone

Concerto Part 4: Writing and Waiting

Concerto Part 5: A Duet in a Storm

Concerto Part 6: Remember How it Feels

Concerto Part 7: Unsettled

Concerto Part 8: Into the Storm

Concerto Part 9: Me, But Somebody Else

 

Concerto Chapter 9

Sorry that it’s taken me a bit longer to get the next chapter of Concerto to you. It’s been a wild couple of weeks. Because I’ve made you wait, I’ve put the link from the last chapter up at the top for continuity sake. The rest are at the end. Enjoy!

 

 

Chapter 9: Me, But Somebody Else

In the blink of an eye I was transported into the opulent music room, lit only by moonlight. I looked out through eyes that were not my own, I wore clothes that were uncomfortable and unfamiliar. On slippered feet, I approached the pianist from behind. His music was angry, violent, his fingers harsh on the keys. There was no one else in the room. “What you want can never be, you realize?” He spoke without looking away from the keyboard. “Your father will never let us be together, you must know this.”

“I don’t care what my father wants. I want you,” I said in a voice that was not my own. It was softer, more treble, like a bird singing – one you could listen to for hours.

“You don’t care because you’ve never gone hungry, never known what it’s like to live without. Do you suppose for even a moment your father will continue as my patron if I run away with his only daughter? Do you not think that he’ll use all of his power and influence to make sure no one else will do me the honor either?” The music stopped. He fisted his hands and brought them down hard against the keys.

“But you’re the best. You’re astonishing. It’s only a matter of time before you’ll be sought out to perform all over the world, and then you won’t need my father or anyone else.”

“But I do need your father now. One mistake, take one false step, and he’ll cast me aside as easily as he does anything else that makes him unhappy.”

“I don’t care. I love you.” I moved to stand close behind him and threw my arms around his neck. “I want you and no one else.” As he pushed back the bench, I took his face in my hands and kissed him, and I was her – this woman who loved him — but at the same time I wasn’t her. Still one thing was clear, he was my pianist – the same — as surely as night was dark. And the kiss he returned, the kiss that wasn’t for me, was offered with that familiar passion, the same sense of need and hunger.

At last he pulled away and held me at arm’s length. “Then we have to wait. We have to wait until the time is right, until I no longer am a beggar at the gate.”

With a flash of light, the scene changed, and we were naked, rolling and tumbling in a big curtained bed, and he was deep inside me, the roar of our breath and our passion drowning out the storm.

“I shouldn’t have come, Felicity.” I heard his voice from far away. “You shouldn’t have invited me here of all places. Don’t you realize what we’ve done? We should have waited.”

“I’m tired of waiting.” Once again the bird like voice came from my lips. “Take me with you. Take me with you my love, and we will find a way.”

“We’ll find a way. Just take me with you, and we’ll find a way.”  I came back to myself wet and warm and sitting between the pianist’s legs in the big claw footed tub. I was leaning back against his bare chest, his arms wrapped tightly around me. “What happened,” I managed through a throat that felt like I’d eaten sand.

“You followed me into the storm. You fell,” came the clipped reply.

For a moment I sat silent, the heat of the water curling tendrils of steam in front of my face. “But, I saw …” I saw what I couldn’t have possibly seen, that’s what I saw. For a moment I debated how much to tell him. “Did I hit my head?”

“You fell, and then you were delirious.”

In a convulsive move, he pulled me closer until I gasped for breath as his arms tightened around my body and his breathing became more labored.

“I remember falling,” I replied, wriggling to get more comfortable. “And the rest was more like a dream. The manor house was there and we were there alone in the music room and you were playing the piano. And then we were making love. It was me, but it wasn’t me.” I forced a laugh as he all but mantled me from behind, his breath skimming my neck. “Dreams are funny like that.” And then I remembered why I’d gone to the overlook in the middle of a storm. “What were you doing up there in this horrible weather, and you were naked. Why?” My stomach dropped, as I recalled how I’d found him and, in spite of the heat of the water, gooseflesh climbed my arms. “Surely you weren’t trying to … I mean you were so close to the cliff’s edge. I was so scared.”

“No,” his voice was suddenly cold, distant. “I wasn’t trying to kill myself. You needn’t have been scared. I won’t, I can’t … do that.”

I turned as best as I could, slopping water over the floor, so that I could see his face over my shoulder. “Were you dreaming, then? Sleepwalking.”

His laugh was no more than a puff of breath against my ear that held little humor. “These days I’m never sure.”

Something in the way he said it made me shiver, but I forced a chuckle. “I think we all feel that way sometimes.”

He didn’t answer, only kissed the top of my head. For a long moment we sat in silent, the only sound the wind howling around the corner of the cottage.

“You called me Felicity,” I ventured.

He flinched at the name. Though he caught himself soon enough, we were skin to skin, I felt it like a tremor through my chest. He sighed out a deep breath then slid a hand up to cup my breast. “What, are you holding me responsible for your dreams now?”

“No. It just seemed so real. I couldn’t have been unconscious that long, if I was unconscious. It was less like a dream than it was flashes of memory.”

“You were stressed, concerned for me, and you fell. That’s all. What matters is that we’re both warm and safe and there are better things to think about right now.” He kissed my ear, then ran a hand down over my belly and between my thighs. I bucked and gasped, setting off another tidal wave of bath water. In spite of what had just happened, in spite of all my questions and doubts, I was ready, anxious for his touch.

“What’s your name?” I spoke around my efforts to concentrate as he nibbled and kissed my neck and shoulder and reacquainted himself with every furrow, every swollen fold, of me. Then with more splashing and awkward wallowing, he helped me turn in the tub to straddle him. “I don’t even know your name,” I said, my mind hanging on to at least that much in the heat of arousal he was stoking.

“Does it matter? Maybe you can find one in your dreams, Felicity.” Before I could respond, he thrust up into me with such force, with such desire, that all I could do was wrap my legs around him and hold on for the ride. Everything else went away. The rest of the world disappeared again, but this time in a storm of desperate lust.

 

If you’ve missed an episode of Concerto, here are the links.

Concerto Part 1: A little Night Music

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

Concerto Part 3: Too Much to Bear Alone

Concerto Part 4: Writing and Waiting

Concerto Part 5: A Duet in a Storm

Concerto Part 6: Remember How it Feels

Concerto Part 7: Unsettled

Concerto Part 8: Into the Storm

 

 

 

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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