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Horse Power: Complete Free Read

 

Several years ago, I began collecting a series of short stories written and inspired by
my travels — not the places so much but as the disconnectedness, that being outside of time sense that’s always there when we cross oceans and timezones and find ourselves completely out of our own context. While the series is slow at coming together, I add a new story every now and again.

 

The original title I’d planned for the collection was Jet lagged and Lusting that because many of those stories came out of the fevered dream space that in which one finds oneself when trying to recover from a long journey. It’s a space where sleep is uncertain and fleeting and being awake feels completely surreal, almost as though our bodies aren’t quite connected to our minds.

 

I find that in those times, I’m very open to the Muse, and to strange thoughts and ideas that seem more real than not and that lead me to a different creative space inside myself. Horse Power is one of those tales. I wrote it and shared it several years ago and today felt like a good day to share a free read. I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

Horse Power

I didn’t think it strange when I first saw the horse running on the beach in the middle of the night. That in itself was strange … that I didn’t think it strange, I mean. It was a very high tide and the wind was just blowing out the tail end of a storm, which was not going out peacefully. I didn’t think it strange that the white horse, who looked almost silver in the moonlight, was alone, frolicking in the waves. I didn’t even think it strange when I glanced away long enough to pull on my bathrobe and looked up to find a man standing where the horse had been. That he was naked and that the horse was nowhere in sight I didn’t think was really all that strange either. I just figured as jet lagged as I’d been the past couple of days I was dreaming, and a disappearing white horse and a hunky naked man on a midnight beach well that was a helluva lot better than some of the jet lagged dreams I’d had.

 

I had rented a cottage on the beach near Lincoln City for a bit of holiday and some much-needed downtime from my hectic schedule. I’ve often wondered how different my life would have been if I’d gone to the mountains instead. But hindsight is always better than foresight, and it’s better not to dwell on what I can’t change. I spent a lot of the first couple of days wandering the cottage in the middle of the night and sitting on the deck watching the ocean. That’s what I’d been doing when I saw the horse and then the man. As I watched, suddenly a wave high enough to cover a house swept over him, and I cried out, dropping the untied sash of my robe and pressing my face to the sliding glass door of the cottage. I had no idea what to do. No one could swim in that high sea. I didn’t even know who to call – 911, the Coast Guard, the police. As the wave scoured the beach, I stood nose pressed to the glass, heart racing. I had to do something. But what? And who would believe me? Surely anyone I did call would think that I was on something, or drunk, or … jet lagged. If there had been a man on the beach such a wave would have washed him far out to sea by the time anyone got there to check out my call. Still, I couldn’t just do nothing.

 

Straining my eyes to make out the darkened beach, I fumbled for my phone on the table next to me. I only glanced away for a split second to grab the device, but when I looked back, as the waves receded, the man was standing unmoved exactly where he had been. No, I think he was even closer. His back was to me, and he seemed to be looking up at the moon, his arms raised, his head thrown back. For a moment the thought flashed through my head that he might have been a marble sculpture standing there on the sand.

 

But then he turned, and honestly, I forgot all about my speculations. He was magnificent, unruly hair tossed around his head in the wind, water glistened and sheened off his arms and torso and dripped down the curves of his elbows and buttocks. He was muscle and sinew – not like a body builder, more like a dancer. But even a dancer couldn’t move like he did. He moved like the waves and the water. He flowed, muscles undulating beneath taut moonlit skin. I was so mesmerized by the look of him, the move of him that it took me a second to realize not only was he walking toward where I stood inside the cottage, gawping at him, robe wide open, but he was looking right at me.

 

I should have stepped back out of view. I should have pulled the curtains. I probably should have been terrified, but I just stood there staring. As he moved across the sand it was impossible not to notice his heavy cock becoming heavier with each step until he rested a protective hand against it, a hand that both protected and caressed, and the clench and tremble below my belly was a sign of just how aware of his cock I was. I was far more aware of my body warming and moistening and swelling to the sight of him than I was of the fact that a strange naked man on the beach was watching me with hunger in his eyes. By the time he reached the deck that led to the sliding doors of my room, the arousal I felt was liberally laced with fear, but when he vaulted the railing as easily as if it hadn’t even been there, I let out a shriek, dropped my cell phone on the floor in my efforts to jerk the curtains shut and fled into the bathroom. It was only after I locked the door behind me that I realized I had stupidly trapped myself. There was no window in the bathroom, no escape route if he did find a way in. Every horror film I’d ever seen rushed back to me along with every serial killer tale I’d ever heard. Abductions, tortures, kidnappings and white slavery all ran through my head for a split second. Be calm, Sadie! Be calm. It’s just your imagination.Surely it’s just your imagination, I told myself.

 

I woke in the morning stiff and sore and sprawled on the bathroom floor in my robe. There was nothing I could use for a weapon, and my watch read 9:00. The wind had died down, and if the forecast was right, the sun would be out and it would be a beautiful day. I cinched my bathrobe tight around my waist and, with fingers none too steady, unlocked the door, took a deep breath and poked my head out. The cottage was deserted, everything exactly as I’d left it, curtains hastily drawn, phone on the floor near the edge of the bed. After gathering enough courage to open the curtain and venture onto the deck, I discovered everything exactly as it had been the evening before. There were no footprints on the decking, no footprints on the sand beyond. There was no evidence of the naked man at all.

 

 

I dressed hastily and walked out onto the beach behind the deck. There were no footprints of any kind up close to my cottage, just lots of strange odd-shaped indentions in the sand. In my muzzy-headed condition, it took me a few minutes to realize they were hoof prints. I just figured someone had been out for an early-morning ride, though I thought it was a bit cheeky for them to come this close to my cottage.

 

As I went through the day, a little shopping in Lincoln city, a drive up the coast, lunch at Tidal Raves in Depoe Bay, my thoughts about the naked man on the beach became less thoughts of the scary stalker kind and more thoughts of wondering what might have happened if I’d invited him in when we were both clearly aroused by the situation. After a long walk on the beach in the afternoon sun, the man constantly in my thoughts, I masturbated in a long steamy shower leaning up against the tiles pretending the spray was the rain and the waves, that it was his mouth making my nipples tingle and rise, that it was his fingers opening me, stroking me, finding all the places that made me grind and shift and buck like a mare waiting for a stallion, that it was his fingers spreading me and making me ready for his cock. Thoughts of his cock reminded me of the white horse on the beach, and that made me wonder at the enormity of my need thinking of him vaulting my deck railing, thinking of the horse frolicking in the waves, thinking of the ebb and flow, of the undulation of sex, of his body penetrating mine; thinking of the overwhelming wave of release I might have had if I’d simply opened the sliding door and let him in.

 

When the sun set, I became ridiculously bold – perhaps it was due to jet lag, but certainly a couple of glasses of good Oregon Pinot Noir didn’t hurt. I stripped out of my clothes and wrapped myself in a blanket, then I settled in the chaise lounge with my glass of wine and my Kindle. I always had several erotic novels pulled up for my reading pleasure. I had a lot of sexual energy and at that point in my life, I was my only outlet, so I read a lot of erotica and watched a bit of porn now and then, but the man on the beach was even better than porn, and he was my own fantasy story come to life And then I’d ran away from him! I couldn’t really believe he was real, and yet if he was a dream, it really pissed me off that I’d done something so stupid as to run away rather than to stay and let him properly fuck me. I didn’t place much stock in lucid dreaming. I figured you get what you get, and your unconscious has a vicious sense of humor when it comes to the dreams you get, but I really, really wanted to revisit the man on the stormy beach. Instead, I got the horse.

 

It was the soft whickering that woke me. The moon had risen in a bright disk painting the pale horse in a silver grey dance of light and shadow. He pranced and sidestepped just beyond the edge of the waves, tossing his main, tail flowing like a kite behind him as he frolicked. Then suddenly he stilled, as though he were aware of my wakefulness. Seeing that I was no threat, he moved forward toward me. I stood, pulling the blanket tightly around me and moved to the rail, then I remembered the bowl of fruit on the kitchen table. “I’ve got something for you, boy,” I said. “Wait here, I’ll be right back.”

 

I was only gone a minute — just long enough to nab an apple, but when I returned, the horse wasn’t alone. The man from last night sat astride him, just as naked as he was the night before. But this time I wasn’t scared. This time I felt myself in control of the dream. He watched as I strode boldly down the steps onto the sand and offered the apple to the horse, feeling the soft velvet of his muzzle against my palm as he took my offering.

 

Then the horse gave me a gentle head butt and I lost my grip on the blanket. As it slid open, the man offered me his hand. It was a dream, I told myself. It had to be, so I lifted my hands to him letting the blanket fall away as he bent and scooped me one-armed onto the broad back of the horse and settled me in front of him. I gave a little gasp as, with the flat of his large hand low on my belly, he pulled me back against his hard naked chest.

 

And then we were like the wind racing down the beach dangerously close to the swell of the waves. The spray took my breath and stung my eyes and for a moment I saw nothing but a blur. He slid his hand up my belly to caress my breasts, and on upward to cup my throat and my jaw, drawing me around, and I twisted and arched toward him as he mantled me and took my mouth and I breathed in the fresh breath of the storm humid and wild on his kiss, a kiss that lingered and deepened as the rhythm of the horse drove me back against his body, back against the urgency of his cock pressed to the small of my back.

 

Once he was certain I wouldn’t pull away from the dance of his tongue, his caress migrated downward again, thumbing my nipples until I squirmed and ached, stroking my belly in little kneading circles, each one lower than the one before, until he shivered his fingers down through my tight pubic curls. Even spread wide as I was mounted on the muscular back of the horse, unconsciously, I opened still wider as he teased and worried his way between my legs.

 

 

I pressed hard back against his body for leverage to get long thick fingers into places slick as seaweed and more heated than the laboring back of the horse. He intuited the depths of me where the hungry places begged and wept for release. With fingertips and the broad flat of his thumb, he explored the valleys and folds, the swells and undulations until I growled and arched and forgot how to be civilized. The salt spray that had misted us now rose above us in glorious curling waves, higher and higher until we road in the dark rise of their foamy shadows. The horse screamed and reared and I fell back against the man, who was now guiding the animal with only his knees, one hand teasing and making me ready, the other cupping my buttocks and lifting me until I could feel the insistent press of him pushing, prodding, opening me. Then with a loud, inhuman cry like a warrior at conquest, he plunged home deep and hard, forcing the breath from my lungs in a desperate cry for relief just as the horse turned headlong into the roll of the wave and took us down to the deep.

 

I came to myself in the semi-doze of the place where fantasy happens, naked breasts peeking to break the surface of the calm ocean undulating beneath me as I let the waves carry me in. It didn’t seem strange to me that I was naked and unafraid in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, nor did it seem strange when I realized I wasn’t in the middle at all, but gently riding the swells in toward the beach next to my rented cottage. It didn’t even seem strange that the sun was rising in the sky when my last memories had been of heated sex and full heavy night. What did seem strange, as I waded up the beach and wrapped myself in the discarded blanket that lay exactly where I’d left it, was that my cottage was swarming with police.

 

From my deck, two uniformed officers spotted me and the place went wild. Before I could speak, I was swarmed by EMTs trying to shove an oxygen mask in my face while one kept telling me just to relax and breathe deeply. When I was finally able to convince everyone that I was all right, a plain clothes detective named Dirk Snyder shooed the EMTs away and guided me the chaise lounge.

 

“What’s going on, detective? Why are all these cops in my cottage?”

 

He took a bottle of water a uniform handed him and gave it to me. When I’d drank most of it back in thirsty gulps, he settled onto his haunches next to me and held me in an earnest gaze. “Ms. Gibbons, you’ve been missing for three days.”

 

“What?” Suddenly the deck felt more like the deck of a ship as the memories of the wild ride on the beach came back to me. “How can that be?”

 

“The cleaner came Tuesday morning and found the place wide open. Several of the neighbors thought they saw you walking into the water. The tides were still high. They feared the worst.”

 

Since that night five years ago, I’ve read everything I can about the gods and goddesses and the spirits of the deep. I’ve read all the mythology and fairy tales I can find about water and water deities. I’ve read about water horses and mermaids and how sometimes they seduce people and take them down to the deep never to be released again. I guess I was lucky. But I’m more inclined to believe there was a reason for my survival. That reason is my daughter, conceived sometime during those three days I was supposedly missing. Every once in a while I have faint recollections, intimations of dreams of a place beneath the waves, of a man and a horse nearly interchangeable — always insatiable, and of me always ready and full of longing. The memories leave me aching with a desire I have no name for, and when I can stand no more and give myself relief beneath my sweat-drenched sheets or in a foamy bath or a steamy shower, I wish I could bring it all back to me – those three days.

The child who bears little resemblance to me but is a constant reminder of her father is the beautiful gift he left me, and yet I want more. Every day I want more, and yet I can’t bring myself to return to the sea because I’m afraid he’ll come for us, but I’m even more afraid that he won’t. Someday I’ll gather my courage and take the child he gave me back to that beach at Lincoln City and tell her about her father, and when the tide is high and the storm blows out on the heels of a full moon, we’ll wait for him together. Someday.

 

Thinking About Vegas Again

Five Things I Love About Vegas

After my first visit to Vegas in 2011, I knew I’d be back, and I knew I wanted to set a novel there. In fact, I’ve set several there now, the last being Buried Pleasures, with another one in the works for the Medusa Consortium series. The first novel that I set in Vegas, however, was Fulfilling the Contract way back in the day. Fulfilling the Contract is the follow-on to The Initiation of Ms Holly, and the second novel in The Mount Series.

 

As I begin to think about writing the next Medusa novel set in Vegas, I don’t think it’s at all surprising that I’m feeling a bit of longing for Sin City. I never thought I’d like Vegas. I expected to hate the place, and I totally fell in love. So what I’d like to do is share with you five things that totally intrigue me about Las Vegas.

 

Contrast

Las Vegas juts up out of the Mojave Desert like so many gigantic glass and concrete erections. It’s just so brazen, sky scrapers and lights and swimming pools in the most desolate place one can imagine all surrounded by high mountains and desert. It has OTT written all over it. Bright lights and decadence are all thrust up right smack dab in the middle of exquisite emptiness.

 

Views

Vegas and the surrounding area is a visual feast second to none. From my hotel room on the 22ndfloor of the Elara, I could see mountains and desert beyond the compact city. I never knew there were so many shades of kaki and gold and beige all hemmed in by the blue of the mountains. And then there were the Vegas lights. All night long, there’s always a riot of colour and sparkle, glass and steel, neon and fountains. A simple walk on the Strip – even in daylight is a people-watcher’s paradise. I never wanted to blink, never wanted to look away, and often found myself wishing my vision was 360 degrees.

 

Anonymity

As an introvert, you’d think Vegas would be the last place I’d want to hang out, but the thing about Vegas is that it’s a place where everyone is friendly and yet everyone is anonymous. One of the things I loved most was walking the streets amid the crowd and feeling exactly like one of the voyeurs I planned to write about in FTC. Because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, it was easy to be anonymous in a crowd of people who were all anonymous, which leads me to my next observation.

 

Recreation

When I say recreation, I don’t mean gambling, swimming, hooking up. Yes all of those things are happening. It’s all happening in Vegas. What I mean is that in Vegas there’s a sense that anyone can be whoever they want to be for the time they’re playing tourist, and no one, no matter how bizarre, seems out of place. There’s something almost magical about being able to go somewhere and be someone else for a few days. for a writer, being able to go someplace and watch everyone being someone else and wonder who they are when they’re not in Vegas is like a gift from the Muse.

 

The Feeling of Permission Granted

Strangely, though prostitution is legal in the state of Nevada, it’s not in the city of Vegas, and yet Vegas feels, at its very core, like a city waiting to give permission for almost anything. I suppose to some degree any time one goes on holiday and does the touristy-thing, one is set apart, out of one’s own context, able to act differently, feel differently, breathe differently. But Vegas has with it that extra adrenaline boost of permission. Go ahead, be naughty, gamble, drink, have sex with strangers, dance naked in the fountains, and in the morning, no one will be the wiser. At the core of the city, the Strip, the casinos, the hotels, there’s a libertine feeling, and yet one only has to walk a few blocks in any direction to discover normal Las Vegans simply going on with their lives.

 

All of those feelings, those observations, those experiences helped to inspire and shape Fulfilling the Contract and made the voyeuristic and BDSM play feel somehow a little more set apart to me, a little more secretive and naughty, and of course, outrageously fun. And since I’m waxing nostalgic and missing Vegas, I thought I’d share a little excerpt, a blast from the past from Fulfilling the Contract. Enjoy!

 

Fulfilling the Contract Blurb:

Limo driver, NICK CHASE’s bad night gets worse when he picks up TANYA POVIC at a bar only to discover the explosive sex they share lands her in breach of her very strange contract. Blaming himself that Tanya will lose the large completion bonus earmarked for her mother’s surgery, Nick negotiates with her boss, the tough and mysterious ELSA CRANE, to allow him to fulfill Tanya’s contract and secure her bonus.

 

Elsa runs Mount Vegas, which offers voyeuristic pleasures for a price. Nick’s job, with Elsa and her quirky team, is to give clients something worth watching through the plate glass windows of Vegas’s luxury hotels and beyond. The learning curve is steep and kinky. As Nick and Elsa’s relationship sizzles and ignites more than hotel room rendezvouses are exposed. In this sequel to The Initiation of Ms Holly things get positively dangerous as Rita Holly and her team are called in from London to lend a helping hand. Bets are being placed. Will Nick fulfill the contract? Will he and Elsa take the gamble? And will they find a way to win at the high stakes, double or nothing, game of hearts?

 

Fulfilling the Contract Excerpt:

‘Surely you can give Tanya one more chance,’ Nick said. ‘And really, it was my fault. I’d had a bad day and I wasn’t on my best behaviour.’

Elsa tossed the headset back onto the dressing table and rubbed the back of her neck. ‘Mr Chase, unless you want to fulfil Tanya’s contract for her, this conversation is over. It’s been a long day, and I’ve had enough. Pagan will escort the two of you back downstairs and since Tanya no longer works for me, I don’t care if you fuck her brains out. Now if you’d –’

‘Alright,’ Nick interrupted. ‘I will.’

Suddenly all eyes were on him. ‘Tell me what to do and I’ll fulfil the contract for her.

After all, it’s my fault she’s in breach.’

Tanya gave a little yelp that sounded like a kitten in distress and Elsa laughed out loud. ‘Mr Chase, you don’t even know what Tanya’s contract involves.’

‘I assume it has something to do with what’s going on in room 2031. It’s not prostitution is it?’

‘No! No, is not prostitution,’ Tanya said, the excitement nearly vibration through her voice. ‘Is nothing like that.’

‘Well actually it’s something like that,’ Elsa corrected. ‘My people get paid for sex.’

‘I don’t understand,’ Nick said.’

She nodded him over to one of the scopes set up at the bedroom window. When he balked, she nodded again. ‘Go ahead; check out what’s going on in room 2031.’

Nick nearly knocked the scope out of focus at his first view of the naked ass of a man pistoning his cock into a woman bent over a big bed. Her head was buried between the legs of another woman, who was pinching her own nipples for all she was worth and writhing beneath the serious tongue action.

‘Then they are prostitutes.’ Nick’s voice was suddenly a whisper, as though he feared he might disturb the people he viewed through the scope.

‘No.’ Elsa leaned close to him as though she could see over his shoulder. ‘They all work for me, and they get paid a lot of money to have sex with each other while someone else watches.’

With difficulty, Nick took his eyes off what was going on in the scope. He suddenly felt dizzy. ‘Let me get this straight, these people –’ he nodded around the room ‘– All of these people and those –’ he pointed to the scope ‘—have sex with each other and people pay money to watch.’

Elsa nodded ‘A lot of money.’

‘And that’s what Tanya was doing? That’s what the contract’s about, having sex and letting people watch?’

‘That’s what the contract’s about,’ Elsa said. With a smirk, she pulled Tanya’s red panties out of Nick’s pocket where he’d forgotten he’d stuffed after he’d picked them up from the parking lot at the Mango. She handed them back to Tanya and replaced them with a black business card, briskly patting his pocket as she did so. ‘I know how much you loath your job, Mr Chase, and I can almost guarantee you’d find what Tanya does a lot more satisfying. But –’ she ran a hand down and gave his crotch a quick grope ‘– It takes some serious balls.’

He elbowed her away and shoved past Tanya and Pagan. ‘You people are all crazy if you think I would … if you think I might …’

Elsa offered him a smile that he felt, much to his discomfort, right down between his legs. Then she lifted an eyebrow and gave a shrug that made the dark gloss of her hair shimmer in the subdued lighting. ‘You asked.’

 

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

 

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 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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