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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

 

New Episode of Interview with a Demon

Author’s Note:

It’s been awhile since I’ve put up the next part of my interview with the Guardian. I apologise. You have to remember that interviewing a demon is not actually my forte. I’m not a journalist, and I’m certainly not comfortable with my first big interview being the Guardian. I would like to say that I have more control of the situation than I do, but I wouldn’t want to lie. Needless to say the efforts have taken their toll. I’ve had to have a bit of recovery time before I could face our next session. I’m not sleeping well. I find myself fearing that I will drift off and end up back in the Guardian’s prison even without Talia, the succubus, to guide me there and safeguard my time with him.

 

When I’m not involved with the interview, I’m thinking about it, obsessing over it, over him. In the beginning I wanted to hurry and get it over. I had hoped for one meeting with him to do it all. Now, I find myself dragging it out, struggling to stay away, and yet dying to hurry back and finish.

 

Both Susan and Talia have banned me from his prison for a few weeks, fearing for my health, even though he has been nothing but polite to me, and done nothing that should affect me so. But he is a demon, and I have no special powers, no abilities to protect myself from him, so the interview has not been an easy thing to write.

 

While the Guardian has asked that our efforts be kept secret from Magda Gardener, I have heard the whispers between Talia and Susan about bringing her into the situation just in case. The Guardian, I think would not like that, and we all fear that to do so would mean having to abort the interview, since we can’t really imagine Magda being best pleased about our efforts.

 

In the meantime, I drink lots of coffee. Read into the night to distract myself and wander about the house and the garden at all hours. Having a bit of a break has helped, and I’ve had time to organise my notes and prepare this posts. But I know what is ahead. I know Susan’s version of the horrors that happened in Chapel House. I know what the Guardian has done. The idea of hearing his view on what went on there, I have to admit, I find both daunting and very frightening.

 

 

The links to the interview so far are at the bottom of this instalment. 

 

 

Chapter 7  Disappointments and Possibilities

“As my lovely Annie immersed herself in the scented waters of the big bath, I did all that was in my power, limited as it was at the time, to surround her, embrace her. I wanted her to feel as though the lover she imagined sharing such an experience with was, indeed there with her, delighting in her every touch, in her every sigh, in her every moan, and oh, how she moaned.”

 

I did my best not to let my own discomfort show. While it was true I didn’t want it to interfere with the interview, it was also true that I didn’t want the Guardian knowing just how uncomfortable the thought of his love life made me, and as I’ve already stated, I feared if he couldn’t actually read my mind, he could certainly read me. After all, he fed off body language, off emotions, off of physical responses, and the more visceral the better. But thankfully he seemed wholly caught up in his story.

 

“Perhaps it is not mine to tell, perhaps Susan would admonish me for sharing such a detail, but my dear Annie had come to Chapel House with the very idea of pleasuring herself, of enjoying an evening of carnal delights at her own hand. How I longed for it to be my hand, my mouth, my sex fulfilling her deepest desires. So convinced was I that she could sense my presence, that she had come clandestinely to Chapel House in hopes of drawing me to her, even seducing me, if you will, that I brought all of my essence to her that night. Understand, my dear KD, that I have no need to do such a thing, for by nature I am not limited to one space, having no fleshly container.

 

As I moved over the surface of the water, as I stirred it gently with my presence, oh how she writhed and shuddered and cried out in her pleasure. So very responsive was she that I became as a breath across ruby-hard nipples. I became as lips and tongue and teeth teasing across warm supple flesh. I became as a lover’s urgency moving down, down, down into the water. With my very will I cupped her, fondled her. I traced the crook and role, the stroke and plunge of her delicate fingers, as though they were my own reveling in that sweet, briny landscape, which I wanted desperately to touch, to kiss, to feast upon. I ached to plunge my essence deep inside of her again and again. With every fiber of myself, I willed her to acknowledge me. I was intoxicated with her presence, delighted in her pleasure.

 

I pressed as close to her as my imprisonment allowed me, close enough that my embrace was nearly a second skin. At that moment, that very second before she cried out, I was certain, so very certain that she felt my presence, that she knew I was there. And oh, how she did cry out, a cry worthy of a wild beast at the moment of the kill. In that second before her convulsions of release moved in waves over the water, I could have wept for the joy of it, as I waited for her to acknowledge me, for her ecstasy to be followed by terror. And then, I knew that terror would vanish, and she would delight in my presence, and yield to me. You cannot imagine how I felt, K D. And …”

 

Once again he stood and moved to the cliff edge. And I began to breathe again, wondering how long I had held it tight in my chest. I sat very still not daring to acknowledge to myself the impact of his tale upon my own flesh. After all, none of this was real. I was only here through a dream.

 

Suddenly his shoulders tightened, his hands clenched into angry fists and the air around us felt like that charged moment before a lightning strike. I white knuckled the arms of the chair, and my heart went racing again, at the raw, explosive emotion expressed in flesh that was not real. He continued. “You cannot imagine my disappointment, my raged at my own powerlessness when, instead, she dried her hands and reached for her mobile phone. Then she began taking photos of herself in her post orgasmic bliss. Oh they were nothing obscene, not really, just very … shall we say provocative. That she might share this moment with another enraged me, disappointed me. In my unhappy state, I caught only the fact that she was quite pleased with herself as she texted some friend named Susan about what she had just done. Before she sent the text, I read over her shoulder, her final words as she closed.

 

Think what a story you could make from this!

 

“She could not possibly have known that I had already imagined the story of her little exploits, only my ending was not the one she had chosen. I watched helplessly while she got out of the tub, as though nothing at all had happened, and dried herself. I was desperately disappointed, and had I been able, I would have punished her thoroughly for her behavior. In the end, this woman, who I had fantasized about, dreamed about, this woman who I was so convinced would surely feel my essence and discover I was there, was no different than all of the others had been throughout my endless imprisonment. In the end she would only be a vicarious experience once removed.

 

“I remind you again, KD, that these emotions I now ascribe to myself are only my way of trying to make you understand a little better my desperate loneliness, which of course, was not really loneliness at all so much as perhaps a loss of purpose. Even that’s a mortal way of describing what I experienced that night in Chapel House, my first time alone with Annie. If you had chosen to interview me before my current incarceration, you would have found the experience far more disturbing and far more difficult to understand. While Susan is certainly no longer mortal, she is still human in so many ways. I would have been far less able to tell you my story if not for my experience of her lingering humanity.

 

“Of course, if you had come to me before,” I felt his presence bloom around me like heat from a fire, “you would most likely not have survived the experience, but then,” he added quickly, “neither would you have cared.”

 

The heat receded in a heartbeat, and at that moment, mine was a heart beating very fast. He continued as if he had done nothing out of the ordinary, and perhaps he hadn’t. “Annie removed herself to the chapel for her repast. She boldly walked up the aisle between the pews all the way to the altar and brazenly seated herself atop it. Oh how I wanted her to notice me at that point, so intriguing did I find her. She had opened the wine and was nibbling on a few grapes when the response to her text came.

 

TMI

 

“That was all the first text said. At the time I didn’t know what that meant. Susan has since enlightened me.

 

“Annie only laughed her lovely silver-bell of a laugh, and then she proceeded to take several unholy selfies from her perch. Irreverent, I suspect is a better word, for that would describe my dear Annie. Then, with the laughter of a misbehaving child, she sent them to this Susan, and my jealousy bloomed again at the thought that perhaps the woman was Annie’s lover, though I didn’t think Annie had a taste for women. The text that returned piqued my interest.

 

Oh I can think of a few stories, all right, but no respectable publisher would buy them.

 

“Oh yes, this text very much piqued my interest. That this Susan was a scribe made
me lean close, my attention focused wholly on Annie’s reply.

 

You have to come, Susan. You’ll love the place. You can’t help but be inspired by it. I’m inspired, and I have no imagination. Come next weekend. Can you?

 

The response was almost immediate.

 

Dying to see. No pressing deadlines. All right! I’ll drive up Friday afternoon.

Read previous instalments here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

 

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

 

 

 

 

Wolf Around the Corner Tour and Giveaway

 

 

Wolf Around The Corner

By Aidee Ladnier

 

 The Giveaway!

Aidee is giving away a $5 Amazon GC, $10 Amazon GC, Ebooks from her backlist, print books from her backlist. The winners will be chosen by Rafflecopter. Please use the RaffleCopter below to enter. Don’t forget you have a chance to enter every day so be sure to visit all the stops on this tour. You may find those locations here.

 

About Wolf Around the Corner:

 

Frank’s family taught him that his wolf was dangerous, unwanted. Now his best friend’s brother wants him in bed and on stage. But giving into his wolf’s need for love could risk the quiet life Frank has created for himself—and his heart.

 

Settled in the small town of Waycroft Falls, Frank is content to be a lone wolf among the white picket fences and dollar book bins until he finds himself sniffing his best friend’s brother. Tom smells like hot apple pie and his Broadway smile has Frank lolling his tongue. But when the visiting actor learns Frank’s secret and plies him with hot kisses to get him to star in his play, Frank can’t help but wonder if Tom is only acting.

 

Tom ran away from family obligations to be a Broadway star. If he could make it there, he could make it anywhere…but he didn’t. Trudging home to Waycroft Falls to open his sister’s new performance space brings him face to face with a werewolf—a werewolf that would be perfect for Tom’s shoestring production of Beauty and the Beast. Staying in Tiny Town USA would be worth it if he can somehow convince the sexy wolf to expose his furry condition on stage and howl privately in Tom’s bed.

 

Wolf Around The Corner, a paranormal semi-finalist in Passionate Ink’s 2017 Sexy Scribbles Contest, is a full-length fairytale romance with a side of wolf shifter. If you like your romance with gorgeous men, humor, and small town magic, you’ll love Wolf Around the Corner! Buy your copy now and settle in to watch the drama unfold!

 

Genre: M/M Paranormal Shifter Contemporary

 

Buy Links:

Amazon  | B&N| iBooks| Kobo| Smashwords| 24Symbols| Indigo| Angus & Robertson| Mondadori

Wolf Around the Corner Excerpt:

 

The first thing he always did was take a large lungful of air. It reoriented him to the outside. His animal cataloged the smells—car exhaust, grass, tree pollen, and wait, a mouse skittering in the Dumpster out back. Frank’s urge to run built. He circled the apartments, looking for the storm drain near the landscaping wall. Inside him, his animal wiggled in excitement at the prospect of being freed. Frank shucked his clothes behind the wall and tucked them into the shelter of the pipe, out of view. Then he shifted, his hands lengthening, hair sprouting, and muzzle growing. His point of view shortened, now three feet from the ground as he blinked through the eyes of his wolflike animal. Frank couldn’t stand still any longer. He sprang into the woods.

 

Frank ran, crashing through the underbrush and into the darkening shelter of the trees. He leaped over a shrub, felt the give of a sapling as he plowed through the brushwood. The animals and birds quieted at his loud, headlong dash, knowing he wasn’t of the forest, only disguised and playing at being a creature of the wood.

 

His paws skidded on a pile of old leaves. Frank almost lost his balance as he skipped up and over a fallen log. Around him, the scents of the forest all pushed in on him. Here a whiff of mold, there an astringent sniff of decay, everywhere the menthol of evergreen sap and wild herbs growing scattered on the forest floor.

 

Dry twigs snapped beneath his paws. His tongue lolled from his mouth, the fresh taste of the woods painting the back of his throat. The sun dipped below the horizon, the sky inking the tops of the trees. And Frank ran on until his limbs stopped, shaky and trembling. He collapsed onto a blanket of pine needles and leaves, moss and fungi cradling him as he panted.

 

As he caught his breath, the sounds of the woods lapped back around him. Insects and birds first. A harsh caw from a crow shrieked a hundred yards to his right. The chirp of a cricket sawed a few feet away. The rat-a-tat of a woodpecker echoed above. And the still of twilight calmed him.

 

When he’d rested enough that his legs would support him again, Frank began the slow jog back to the apartments, letting his nose guide him through the darkening visibility of the woods. He could smell Mrs. Reynolds’s nighttime cocoa, and Mr. Reynolds’s liniment that stank of capsaicin. The lighted windows of the apartment building led him the last few feet, and he scurried up to the storm drain.

 

But his clothes weren’t there.

 

The sky darkened into night.

 

Frank knew Mrs. Anderson was out, but he could try to get the elderly Reynolds couple to buzz him inside. And hope they didn’t ask why he was naked trotting up the stairs.

 

Or he could stay in wolf form without a tag, which meant a night outside running from animal control and/or dodging every human that would mistake him for a stray dog.

 

Or wait, a third option. There was an oak that almost reached the ledge of his apartment window on the second floor. He never bothered to lock the window. Frank shifted back to human and sprinted across the yard.

 

He leaped for the lower boughs of the tree, grunting as the bark dug into the flesh of his palms. Frank swung himself up to straddle a branch, regretting it as the rough wood scraped his thighs. He crouched in the tree, awkwardly trying to shield his more delicate parts from the smaller whiplike twigs. He skirted around the trunk, grimacing as a low branch brushed a little too close to his groin. There. He was now on the side that faced the apartment house.

 

Frank balanced upright, his arms pinwheeling until he caught another branch higher up to steady himself. The leaves around him shivered on their stalks, the rustling loud. Please don’t let Mrs. Reynolds look out her window.

 

Using the taller branch as a guide, Frank placed one bare foot in front of the other and inched away from the security of the trunk. The limb beneath his feet shook as his weight tested its strength. He slid a foot farther out on the branch. It dipped, the leaves at the tip brushing against the side of his window. Just a few feet more.

 

An ominous crack sounded beneath him, and Frank froze. The branch popped again. It wouldn’t hold. He could make a jump for it. Frank swallowed hard. He should make a jump for it.

 

Frank jumped. And missed the house, falling into the azalea bushes.

 

Just as his hunky new neighbor from across the hall walked out of the apartment building and down the front steps.

 

Frank had seen Tom in the hall that morning, carrying boxes. Trying to be neighborly, Frank had introduced himself and offered to help. Tom had turned Frank down but flashed the whitest, most even teeth at him. Frank had seen nothing whiter outside of a movie theater big screen. They’d exchanged pleasantries, commented on the weather, and then gone their separate ways. Or rather, that was what Frank wished had happened. What went down was:

 

“Need help?” Frank barely got the words out when his new neighbor turned in the doorway. Frank froze. God, the man was gorgeous.

 

“Naw, man. I got it.” Tom shifted the box in his arms to hold out his hand. “I’m Tom Davidson.”

 

Frank wiped a clammy hand on his jeans and shook Tom’s hand. “Hot.” And Frank knew his mouth had disclosed the exact thing his brain was thinking. Idiot. Who said that to a guy he’d just met? A guy like Tom already knew he was hot.

 

Tom tilted his head as if he hadn’t heard Frank right. “Yeah. The temperatures are a little warm for this time of year.”

 

Frank didn’t dare correct him and kept his mouth shut, afraid he’d say something worse.

 

“Okay, well then, see you around, Frank.” Tom chuckled and continued into his apartment.

 

Meanwhile Frank beat it down the stairs, unsure how he managed not to walk into traffic as his mind ran over the exchange fail again and again.

 

So yeah. That was the less than stellar first impression he’d given Tom this morning. And now Frank followed that up by hunkering down naked in the azalea bushes.

 

“Are you okay?” The gleam from the safety light caught Tom’s dark gold hair as he tilted his head to peer over the shrubs. The shadows sank into his chiseled cheekbones. He looked like a brooding movie star ready to sweep a celluloid damsel off her feet.

 

Too bad Frank was a naked man trying to keep from exposing himself. Frank crouched down farther, making himself as small as possible, hoping the azalea’s pink blooms would distract Tom from looking at his hairy backside.

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“Are you sure?” Tom leaned closer. “Are you… Do you have any clothes on?”

 

Frank racked his brain for some reason he’d be naked and hiding in the bushes. “Um, I, uh, just got out of the shower, and I leaned too far out my window.”

 

“Oh my God. Did you fall from that height?” Tom glanced up to the second floor, to Frank’s closed window and then back down. “Do you need an ambulance?”

 

Frank sighed. This conversation was only getting worse. Cupping his hands over his privates, Frank rose from behind the bushes.

 

“I’m okay. Just need to get back inside. I have a hidden key if you can get me past the front security door.”

 

Tom’s eyes widened when Frank stood. Frank winced, sure he looked like one long scrape covered in leaves. He blew at the hair in his eyes. A twig dangled, caught in an auburn strand, but Frank was unwilling to expose himself to yank it out.

 

“Sure. Sure.” Tom fumbled for his key and opened the door. Frank half hopped over the acorns and chestnut burrs to slide past Tom. Tom wrinkled his nose as Frank passed. Good old wet dog smell. It always clung to him after a run in the woods.

 

Frank took the stairs two at a time to escape.

 

After a shower and shave—why did going furry always lead to needing a shave? The rest of his hair receded. Why didn’t his beard?—Frank spent thirty minutes in front of his bathroom mirror, trying to psych himself up to knock on Tom’s door and invite him over the next day for coffee or to watch football. He scratched behind an ear, feeling the healing scab from a graze he’d gotten when he’d fallen into the azalea bushes. Staring at his reflection, he tried to look earnest and approachable. He could do this. He had game.

 

“Hey, I know you don’t know many people in town, and I’m a loser, but would you like to spend time with me?” Frank made a face at himself. Probably shouldn’t label yourself as a loser.

 

“Yo, you want to watch football? No, how about basketball? Baseball? No? What about Mexican wrestlers?” Oh God, what if Tom doesn’t like sports?

 

“I ordered two large pizzas by mistake tonight, and I could use some help, or I’ll be gorging on pepperoni for a week.”

 

Lame. Frank’s own gaunt features stared back at him from the mirror. Who was he kidding? He’d always be the guy who lost the genetic lottery and ended up with the family curse.

 

Galen’s syndrome was rare, only affecting about one in 2,000, but well-known enough that most people had at least heard of it. The Greek surgeon Galen had coined the word lycanthropy to explain the shape-shifting curse that traveled down through a family tree. Like most recessive gene disorders, it only manifested when two genes were passed down to a child, leading early scholars to think the afflicted had been re-cursed or spared for a generation due to divine providence. It was only with modern medicine that curses were found to be attached to DNA, breaking and molding chromosomes like magical radiation. But despite better understanding of the disorder, the stigma remained, not helped by the occasional local television feature linking the disorder to werewolf mythology.

 

All Frank knew was the recessive curse gene made him even more different from his family. He’d already been pushing it when he came out as gay. Turning into a wolf at sixteen had been…well, more than his father and stepmother could handle. She wanted to protect the kids, she told him. He loved his half siblings, didn’t he? It wasn’t safe to have a wild animal around children.

 

It had gutted him. They turned him out of his own home. He’d been angry. He’d done something stupid, lashing out, snapping at his sister Robbie. It still hurt, remembering the tears on his baby sister’s face, her eyes wide and scared. Of him. It was then he knew his stepmother had been right. Dangerous animals didn’t belong in a family. So he’d left, traveling all the way across the state until he landed in Waycroft Falls. It had been hard that first year. There were a lot of adult things he still hadn’t figured out.

 

Like how to ask out a guy who he hadn’t known his whole life. Moving from one small town to another had been a bad idea. Frank bonked his head against the mirror, gazing down into the white porcelain sink. He rubbed at a stray hair that clung to the side.

 

But on the plus side, small towns meant he rarely needed a car. And he could shift and run if he needed. He should take his clothes with him

 

About Aidee:

Aidee Ladnier, an award-winning author of speculative fiction, believes that adventure is around every corner. In pursuit of new experiences she’s worked as a magician’s assistant, been a beauty pageant contestant, ridden in hot air balloons, produced independent movies, hiked up a volcano, and is a proud citizen scientist. A lover of genre fiction, Aidee’s perfect romance has a little science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or the paranormal thrown in to add a zing.

 

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Concerto Part 8: Into the Storm

It’s time for another instalment of my online serial, Concerto. Once again the Muse has broadsided me with events I had not foreseen. I LOVE writing! Enjoy Into the Storm, and if you’ve missed any of the previous episodes or if you’d just like to start at the beginning, follow the links below this instalment to the the story so far.

 

 

Concerto Part 8 Into the Storm

I paced the cottage a couple more times, running my fingers along the keyboard, stroking the pianist’s clothes on the chez lounge, looking over my shoulder as I did so, half expecting him to walk in on me. When he didn’t, I settled onto the seat and pulled the white shirt to my face, to my nose, breathing in the scent of the storm, of the man, of his passion and feeling the anxious flight of butterflies in my stomach along with the heavy ache of desire below.

While the rain didn’t lessened, the wind had picked up enough to clear the mist. Dawn faded to anemic daylight, and the viewpoint above the sea became visible. My landlady had told me the manor house once stood there. Now little remained but the foundations and a bit of tumbled down wall — only the few stones that were left after the rest were, no doubt, plundered over time and taken for other more practical dwellings. The broad stone chimney still stood in stark relief against the cast iron sky, a silent reminder of what had been, a keeper of secrets and stories lost in the past.

And then I saw him. It had to be him. There was no one else here but the two of us, and the storm was the perfect deterrent to any lost tourists who might wander in by accident. I was sure the cow-path of a road was completely impassable in this weather without an off-road vehicle. A great gust of wind made my heart stop as he was driven to his knees too close to the edge of the cliff for my comfort. I yelled out for him to be careful, even knowing full well that he couldn’t hear me.

The thought of the lone chimney, the ruined manor house, the overwhelming sense of isolation the storm had brought with, made me suddenly desperate for his company, desperate to not be alone, and above all desperate to have him safely back in the cottage. I all but ran to the French doors, slipping into my worse-for-wear sandals and, as an afterthought, grabbing up one of the throws for a little extra protection from the wind and rain. They were wool, after all.

Seeing the storm through the windows of the cottage and flinging myself into it were two very different things. The wind howled in my face taking my breath away and making my eyes stream. The horizontal rain was icy and needle-like against my face. I put my head down and trudged, all but bent double, toward the viewpoint, only looking up long enough to make sure I was going the right way. I hadn’t gone far before the slip and slide of the wet ground and the pressure of my body snapped the strap on one sandal. My foot slipped sideways and I went sprawling onto the slick rock to keep from twisting my ankle. It was a sure sign that I should turn around and go back, that I should wait for the pianist in the cottage. But there was something in the way he shoved his way back to his feet, fists clenched, back stiff, shoulders rigid; there was something in the way he gazed out at the empty sea that pushed me on. I took only a few more steps before I gave up and just ditched the sandals entirely. By that time I was walking on rock, and what short grass the thin, nutrient-poor soil could support.

Twice I called out to him, but the wind only blew my words back in my face. It was as I reached the foundation of the manor house and all but fell against the chimney that I realized he was naked. “What are you doing? You’ll die of exposure.” I yelled, lunging toward him, only too late realizing just how close to the edge of the cliff he stood. With a twist of his torso he scooped me up, redirected my momentum, and sent us both tumbling to the ground in the shadow of the chimney, both grunting hard from the impact.

“Do you have any idea how dangerous that was,” I spoke between desperate gasps for breath, “what a risk you took? What the hell were you thinking?”

“It’s not your business what I was thinking, nor is it your business to follow me.” Even in the storm, his voice was cold, distant. I went still beneath him, and the tremor that passed up my spine had little to do with the in climate weather. He searched my face with hard, dark eyes. His expression was one I could not define, and yet one that made me ache in a different way, as though I were once again isolated, once again the only one on this lonely stretch of coast. Then he all but collapsed on top of me and bundled me to him. With a startled sense of shock, I realized he wasn’t shuddering from the cold, his body was racked with sobs, the kind of sobs that accompany deep, hopeless loss. I could do little but hold him to me and stroke his back as the rain came down in sheets and the mist descended again.

Alarmed by the returning fog, and not knowing what else to do, I drew him close and all but yelled to be heard above the roar of the waves. “You can’t be out here like this. You’ll get hypothermia. Come back to the cottage, I’ll build a fire, you can take a hot bath.” He didn’t fight me as I wriggled out from under him and offered him my hand. As he stumbled to his feet, I draped the wool tartan around his shoulders, for all the good it would do, but it made me feel better.

As I turned back toward the cottages, I suddenly realized just how dire our situation was. I could see nothing. The landscape had been swallowed in a blanket of grey. Then the wind went deadly still. Mist swirled heavy and smothering around us. There was no trail visible on the bare rock and thin grass. “I don’t know if I can find the way back,” I said, turning toward  him.

And then the world fell away. I’m not exactly sure what happened. Even to this day when I think back on the occasion, I can never be sure what was real and what was from the fall. I must have stepped in a hole. I yelped and went tumbling backward, but not before I glimpsed the manor house, towering up behind us, lights gleaming golden through the many windows, smoke wafting from the enormous chimney, and in the calm, I heard piano music wafting from an open window.

 

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

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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