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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

 

Concerto Chapter 7

It’s time for Part 7 of my online serial, Concerto. Some of you may remember a few years ago I blogged about a wonderful trip Mr. Grace and I made into the Scottish Highlands and onto the Isle of Skye with my sister. The remote place we stayed at while we were on Skye was an inspiration, the place was as mysterious as it was wild – itself a work in progress being built from the ruins of the stables of a long-gone manor house. This story is inspired by that place and by my love for classical piano, or piano music of any type for that matter.

 

I’m not sure how long the story will be, but I’m happy to share the first two instalments with you lovelies. Be sure to check in for further instalments as they unfold. Remember it is a work in progress, so please be gentle with me. I hope you enjoy.

 

If you’ve missed any of the previous instalments of Concerto, just follow the links below.

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

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7 Unsettled

I couldn’t have imagined how intimately connected his music had rendered us until we made love. Nor had I any idea how truly ravenous we both were for a connection, even if it were nothing more than a touch from something outside ourselves. Though I had thought isolation and solitude was exactly what I needed to get my head in the right place, I realized, as he took me again on the Aubusson carpet by the piano, that isolation was, instead, my problem. It was contact I needed, it was interaction, passion, something to make my pulse race rather than make me feel more deadened inside. And making my pulse race was exactly what my pianist excelled at, as he poured himself into me again. When we finished shuddering out our release, he gently rolled me on my stomach and kissed and caressed the rug burns across my stinging bottom and hips.

 

Like a large cat, he licked and nuzzled the red marks, kissing and cupping and gently palming me open to make sure he hadn’t missed any of my wounds. By that time I was well on my way to a new set of rug burns on my knees and elbows, as I writhed and moaned and lifted my bum closer to his face … not unlike a cat in my own efforts. Without missing a lick, he reached, with a long powerful arm, to pull a couple of pillows from the sofa, which he then arranged under my belly, raising my hips so that his hands were free to touch and tweak and open each fold, each wet swell of me, now in far more need than my rug-burnt arse. In the meantime, he tongued, and suckled and licked until my mind was nothing but a heated haze of pleasure. I forgot my own name. I forgot my very existence except for how it related to his touch, his mouth, his fingertips finding in me my need as easily as he found a melody on the keyboard.

He was ready for me again, in no time, positioning himself with care for my tender bottom. I was far less concerned about my butt than I was about getting him back inside me. The ache and the urge that came from lingering so close to the boundary between soaring bliss and heart-stopping, free falling orgasm had bloomed to near desperation. His teasing thrust and withdraw, thrust and withdraw had me white knuckling the edge of the carpet, and mewling like a hungry kitten as he mantled me. He fisted my hair around strong fingers, holding me immobile while he wriggled a free hand down to thumb and stroke my nipples. And when they had gone pebble hard to his touch, he slid his hand over my belly and between my thighs to where my clit mirrored that hardness in pleasure very near pain.

 

“Please … Please, just do it,” I begged in a breathless voice. “Just finish it!”

 

“Oh my dear,” there was a growl of a laugh at the back of his throat. He brushed my ear with parted lips and nipped my earlobe. “I can’t finish it. It’s only just beginning.” Then he pushed up in me so hard that I screamed, at least I think I screamed. Agony or ecstasy, I didn’t know which, and it didn’t matter. One thrust, two, then three and the world exploded in shards of red and gold and bruised dark purple behind my closed eyes. He circled my waist tightly with both arms and roared out his conquest, opening the deepest parts of my emptiness to flood them with excruciating, delicious release and still more hunger, so very much hunger. And then I was plummeting, endlessly plummeting into the trough of the wave, as without breaking the connection, he rolled onto his side and pulled me into a spoon position. “Just the beginning,” he gasped. “Just the beginning.” Those were the last words I heard as I lost consciousness.

 

I awoke to the banging of the open French doors, in danger of shattering their windows in the wind. I was naked and bundled on the sofa in several of the tartan throws. I shoved to my feet and pulled one of them around me toga style as I stumbled to the patio to wrestle the doors shut, losing the tartan in my struggle. When at last I’d managed the doors, I was drenched and shivering. The fire in the hearth had burned to embers, and the cottage was deathly silent, in spite of the storm that still raged outside. The ticking of an ancient clock on the mantle was disturbingly loud, and I realized I’d never heard the sound of silence in this room. This space had always been awash in music or the emotions it elicited, or in the sounds of sex. Silence felt strangely out of place.

 

“Hello?” I called into the quiet, painfully aware once again, that I didn’t even know the pianist’s name. What had seemed irrelevant in the thrall of the music, and in the heat of our passion, seemed essential now.

 

The towel from last night still lay where I’d thrown it across the back of the chair. I dried myself with it, then gently cleaned the remains of our lovemaking from between my trembling thighs, the enthusiasm of our passion having made me sore in places that had not been exercised for a long while. My sweats were spread across two ladder-back chairs in front of the hearth. I slipped quickly in them, noting that they were still warm from the last of the fire. Then I tiptoed barefoot down the hall. The bathroom was tiled in jade green. The antique claw foot tub made me think perhaps this cottage was the landlady’s nod to a honeymoon suite before the money ran out. The room was empty and silent except for the drip, drip of the Fawcett in the sink.

 

The door to the master suite stood open showcasing a room much larger than the one in my own cottage. The large four-poster bed, which only added to the feel of a honeymoon suite, had not been slept in. A lushly upholstered chez lounge stood in one corner by the window looking out onto the sea – or would have been, if the mist hadn’t obscured the view. It was carelessly strewn with the clothing the pianist had been wearing.

Outside there was just enough light in the still-raging storm to confirm that dawn was breaking grey and thick. “Hello?” I called again, to no response. I discovered the kitchen dusty and unfinished. There were paint cans and throws strewn on the floor. A single burner camp stove sat on a makeshift table of plywood across two saw-horses. There was an enamel coffee pot and a hodgepodge of plastic plates and cups and cutlery. The unfinished pantry was stuffed with power tools and carpentry supplies.

 

I made another slow pass through the cottage wondering if I’d miss something, but feeling more and more unsettled with each step. I squinted out each window scanning the horizon as best I could in the storm, but there was no one. The place was silent. I was alone, and pianist was nowhere to be seen.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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