It’s Friday! Time for chapter 37 of In The Flesh, in which Michael gives Susan a break.
There’s only one more episode of In The Flesh left, so be sure to mark next Friday on your calendar for the big finish!
In the Flesh is very dark paranormal erotica. When Susan Innes comes to visit her friend, Annie Rivers, in Chapel House, the deconsecrated church that Annie is renovating into a home, she discovers her outgoing friend changed, reclusive, secretive, and completely enthralled by a mysterious lover, whose presence is always felt, but never seen, a lover whom she claims is god. As her holiday turns into a nightmare, Susan must come to grips with the fact that her friend’s lover is neither imaginary nor is he human, and even worse, he’s turned his wandering eye on Susan, and he won’t be denied his prize. If Susan is to fight an inhuman stalker intent on having her as his own, she’ll need a little inhuman help.
Missed Out on Any of the story? Follow these links to IN THE FLESH so far:
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25 Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, Part 35, Part 36.
You can also read In The Flesh on Wattpad.
In The Flesh Chapter 37
“Talia said this is where you’d be.” Michael sat down next to me on a rock in the last of the afternoon sunlight. “She also said Alonso doesn’t know you’re here.”
“I got tired of everyone watching me like I might explode or my head might start spinning in circles. I had to get out of there.” I nodded to the cavern behind me. Alonso’s still worried about my tolerance of sunlight. That’s why I’m here in the mouth of the cave. If I suddenly smell burning flesh, I’ll make a dive for it. Where were you?” I asked, hoping I didn’t sound as pouty as I felt. “You left in a hurry.”
“I’ve been home making a few arrangements.”
“I see,” I said, but I didn’t. I didn’t see at all. I thought after last night we’d reconnected and made everything right, that after last night we’d stopped pushing each other away, and yet it felt like Michael couldn’t get away from High View fast enough after the Guardian revealed himself. I suppose I couldn’t really blame him. It was bad enough to watch your girlfriend become a vampire, but a vampire with a resident demon was surely a bridge too far – even for an angel.
“I had an important delivery,” he said. “And I had workers coming to help install the blackout blinds. I didn’t want to put it off any longer.” Before I could do more than offer a surprised glance, he continued. “I was trying to make the house more vampire-friendly back before I knew you could tolerate sunlight.” He shrugged and looked down at his hands folded in his lap. “I had to do something constructive or go crazy when you … when you wouldn’t let me near you. Anyway, I suppose all that’s irrelevant now, but the blinds had already been paid for and they seemed like a good idea – you know, just in case you do suddenly smell burning flesh.” He stood and offered me his hand pulling me to my feet. “Come with me, Susan. Come back to my place with me. I want you to see what I’ve done, but mostly I just want you to myself. Oh I know you’ve got to spend time with Alonso, and I’ll make sure you’re back first thing in the morning. It kills me that there are things the vampire can do for you that I can’t, but at the end of the day when he’s finished your lessons, I want you in my house. I want you in my bed, in my arms, and I don’t want to wake up with half the vampire menagerie and a gorgon poking their noses in the door to see what we’ve got up to during the night.”
“Alonso won’t like it and neither will Magda,” I said.
“I don’t care. Do you?’
I squared my shoulders and huffed out an exaggerated breath. “Nope! I’m sick of caring what everyone thinks is best for me. I’m not a child, and I’m tired of being treated like one. Let’s go.” When I tugged him back toward the cave, he shook his head. “I know a short cut to the Jeep. I parked it off the property so we could sneak away. They won’t even miss us.”
“Of course they’ll miss us,” I said. “We can’t even sneeze without someone knowing.”
“Well then they’ll surely appreciate a few less sneezes around High View.”
It was just a walk across the meadow and then we were heading down Honister Pass, and I was away from High View for the first time since my new life had begun. We didn’t talk much. There seemed less need to now that we bore each other’s mark. That he wanted me to be with him, that he’d planned and prepared, even hoped when things weren’t looking very promising, that was enough for now.
At his house, there had been several changes, but the most obvious was the Las Vegas-style blackout blinds in Michael’s bedroom, just inside and above its lovely French doors. “I guarantee no sunlight will touch your alabaster skin through those monsters,” he said stroking my cheek with the back of his hand. “I know it’s not an issue under the circumstances, but just in case. And the basement, well I can have it made up any way you like if you’d feel safer there – you know a study for you to write in, a library. I’ve even drawn up plans to have the basement loo turned into a nice bathroom with a spa tub. We can even move the bedroom down there if you want — just to be sure.”
“Alonso’s the worry wart, not me. I believe the Guardian won’t let anything happen to him and therefore he won’t let anything happen to me either.”
“Yeah, well I didn’t know that before this morning, did I? So that really didn’t figure into my plan.”
“Your plan.” I sat down on the edge of the mattress, feeling weak kneed all of a sudden. “Michael, are asking me to move in with you?”
He sat down next to me and folded my hand in his. “You can’t go back to your old life, Susan. You’ve burned all the bridges in a major way.”
“Writing and being a vampire aren’t mutually exclusive,” I said. “In fact, under the circumstances, no one would know the difference even if I worked side by side with them — not unless I got hungry and decided to have a little sip from one of my colleagues.” Then I thought about my tiny closet of a flat in Brixton that took the lion’s share, and then some, of my income just so I could live alone, and –technically live in London. The truth was, I didn’t want to go back. The truth was I couldn’t help feeling excited about the life ahead of me now, even as the thought terrified me.
“That’s not the point.” He gave my hand a squeeze. “You belong to the Consortium now, and Magda will want to keep an eye on you. I reckon she’s already making arrangements to have your flat lease terminated. She’ll want you to stay with the vampire until he teaches you the ropes, though what that means is up for question now that you’ve become prison warden for the Guardian.”
“That doesn’t answer my question. Are you asking me to move in with you?”
“Oh Magda will find you a fantastic place, I have no doubt. She always does, and I know the vampire would keep you there as long as he could, but …”
“Michael, I’m not a charity case. I can bargain and negotiate for myself. I want to hear it from you. Do you want me here, or do you feel obligated because … well because Magda sent you to steal me.” I made quote marks around the word ‘steal’ with my fingers. “If you’re doing this out of — ”
Michael stopped my words with a kiss that felt as hungry and as voracious as I felt when I fed, pulling me tightly to his chest, to the pounding of his heart, quite literally pulling me onto his lap. And for a moment, I forgot what the question had been. I forgot what planet we were on as his hands skimmed my back and then moved up to cup my head, stroke my hair and hold me close. When he pulled away breathless, he shook me slightly, as though he were trying to wake me up. “How can you even ask such a question, when having you with me is the one thing I’ve wanted for more lifetimes that you can imagine? Of course I want you here! I want you in my arms when I fall asleep; I want you in my arms when I wake up; I want you like the air I breathe, all the time, Susan! All the bloody time! If you don’t want to live here, if you want a place in which you’ve had a little more input in the choice and the decoration, that’s fine. Anywhere you like. Just say the word. I just want you, that’s all. I just want you.”
I stopped any further conversation with a single word of my own, a word which I breathed into his mouth and pressed deep onto his hard palette with my tongue. “Yes! Yes,” I repeated again and then again, as I pushed him back onto the bed and straddled him. After that it was a long time, a very long time, before either of us spoke again.
Long toward midnight we dozed in each other’s arms, and I dreamed. I dreamed of following a trail of blood, sparkling like a path of rubies on the snow. I followed the drip, drip, drip like a trail of breadcrumbs over the fells and into a deep tangle of woods. I followed it to the entrance of a cave, I followed it deep underground to a candlelit chamber where shadows danced like phantasms against the stone. There it ended in a stain on the cave floor that looked inky black beneath the pale body of a man curled on his side, face toward the wall. Before I could see who he was and if he still lived, there was a groan deeper in the cave beyond the play of candle flame. When my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I saw another man chained to the wall — arms spread wide, shoulders slumped, bare back sheened in sweat. It wasn’t until then that I saw the third man, only a silhouette that, try though I might, my dream vision could not resolve. “I’ve been waiting for you, scribe,” he said softly, and his voice crawled over my skin like I’d walked through a heavy spider’s web.
I woke with a jerk to find Michael raised on one elbow watching with concern. “Bad dreams?”
“Strange dreams.” I moved to lay my head on his chest and told him in as much detail as I could remember, unable to shake the feel of spider webs over my skin.
When I finished, he kissed the top of my ear and let out a slow even breath. “Do you think it was because of him – the Guardian?”
“I don’t know. Possibly. I mean there was a man chained in a deep cave, but nothing was very obvious, if it was about the Guardian. And why would there be three men?” I shrugged. “It probably should have been a nightmare, but even though I was in it, I watched it all from a distance. It didn’t feel like a nightmare. I don’t know what it felt like. Yes I do. It felt … almost prophetic. But then again, it was just a dream,” I added quickly, embarrassed at such a ludicrous idea.
“Have you talked to the Guardian since your first surprise visit?” he asked, his hand moving down to stroke my back.
“No, but I will. I mean I have to. He lives inside me, and that’s a real head job – even though I was prepared for it, or as prepared as I could possibly be. He’s right; the situation will take some getting used to for both of us. I can’t help but feel there are things he could tell me, things he could teach me. Whether he will or not, I don’t know, but the one thing I do know is that he’s intrigued by our situation. Very intrigued.” I decided not to add that I was too.
Michael lifted my chin so that our eyes met in the darkness. “Susan, it’s dangerous to trust him. You know that.”
“He’s with me twenty-four-seven now, Michael. I can’t ignore him. There are just things I need to know. I would feel better about our situation if I could discuss a few ground rules and ask a few questions. I just can’t believe that if I say nothing, ignore him, as he’s said I could, for the next however many years I have ahead of me, that he’ll be blissfully quiet. Clearly he doesn’t trust Magda. Not that he would have any reason to. I get that,” I gave a dismissive shrug. ‘But if I now belong to her, as it appears I do, if she wants me to do some nebulous work for her that has something to do with my abilities as a scribe – whatever the hell that means, well, I can’t think it’ll be a waltz in the park. I have … options – way more options than I had when I first came to Manchester to see Annie. And because of the Guardian, I have even more options than I would if I were just a vampire. I also have a whole new life – a double life — that I haven’t begun to understand yet, and like it or not, the Guardian is a permanent part of it.”
He pulled me on top of him and hugged me until I groaned. “All right, whatever it takes, whatever you feel you have to do, I’ll be here. You gave me back my life, Susan. You gave me the chance to share it with you, a chance I thought I’d lost forever. I’ll take that on whatever conditions I have to – vampire, demon and all. All I ask is that you don’t try to bear it all alone – what’s ahead of you, what the future holds. I know Magda, and I can help you deal with her. I know the Guardian probably better than anyone. Certainly I’m the only one who’s lived to tell the tale except for Annie, of course, who was just his pawn. And I know Alonso and his familiars. Everyone is quirky. Everyone has an agenda of some kind. I’m no different. But I know that all of us, everyone associated with the Consortium, we all want what’s best for you.” He curled a finger under my chin. “But I’m the one who loves you, Susan. I’ve loved you forever, and that’ll never change, no matter your choices. I want to be a part of your life. I want to be there to help you deal with whatever comes next. But mostly I hope that I can be there just because you want me by your side.”
I pulled him close and buried my face in his shoulder, next to the thudding of his pulse, resisting the urge to lick him there possessively. “Of course I want you by my side or I wouldn’t be here in your bed right now. Maybe I haven’t loved you forever, but I promise you, I got around to it as soon as I possibly could
under some pretty trying circumstances, and like you, I’m not planning on going away. Will that do?”
He kissed me fervently and offered a smile that warmed me to the core, which always felt slightly chilled now that I was a vampire. “That’ll do, Susan. That’ll do just fine.” With that, he slid up into a sitting position, bare back pressed against the headboard. With what had become a rather expert flick of his nail, he opened the flow of his heart’s blood to me and pulled me close. As I fed next to the steady beat, beat, beat, even knowing how uncertain the future was, I felt happier than I could ever remember feeling. If Michael was with me, if we were together, then it would be all right. Deep in my chest in some nebulous place, I sensed the Guardian waiting, waiting to see what his future would be. Our uneasy truce, our sudden change of circumstances reminded me again that my uncertain future might be a lot of things, but it would most definitely not be boring.