LOVER IN STONE, Installment No. 9

Installment No. 9
“Wait, I’m coming.” Getting breathless, Angelia turned back around to give her father a quick hug. “I’ve got to go,” she nudged her chin toward an impatient Merrick bounding toward the stairs.
“I could speed you there so you arrived before he did,” Anton lifted a dark brow, accenting the mischief swirling in his silver eyes.
“No,” she grinned, unable to resist his stoic charm. “He’s right. I’ll catch up.”
“It’s good-bye then, chickie. Be careful.”
“I will, Papa. And hold Mom tight, give her my kisses.”
“Of course.”
Angelia spun on her heels and ran for the staircase.
Of course her father would most assuredly hold her mother to him. He was going to have to. Marguerite was going to go berserker. Guilt anyone? She felt bad for leaving her father with her mess to clean up, but she had no choice. Merrick was right about needing to leave as soon as possible. Enough time had been wasted. The Scriptum could already be within the Second Circle and spiraling farther downward by the minute.
As she ran, she shuffled the pack to her back, cinching the belts across her chest and waist to keep it from bouncing. Her heart thumped too hard, but no telling if it was because of the daunting prospect of her mission, or the exhilaration of going on an adventure with a real Chimera.
She couldn’t separate the two things, not when her feet drew her closer to Merrick. Slowing as she neared him, she sized him up until she was standing so close she could smell the smooth leather of the clothes he was folding into the pack at his bare feet. Some other scent teased her senses, too, something crystalline and very male.
Merrick turned when she approached, and Angelia ripped her eyes from his broad, naked chest with its flat nipples, to look up into a tight face. Slate gray eyes hit her so hard she took a physical step backward. Away from him.
“That’s right, chickie. Not too close.” His sneer revealed one long, thick, and very sharp canine. “You wouldn’t want the big, bad Gargoyle to eat you.”
“If that’s to intimidate me, you’d better try harder. I was raised with Vampires.” She was a braggart, an empty windbag in the cruel face of his taunting.
“If you’re not scared, human, then you’re a bigger idiot than I pegged you for.”
Her retort never left her lips. Merrick abruptly yanked her snug against his taut, naked body, and exploded around her with a snap and flutter so thunderous she’d have cowered if he wasn’t holding her so tight.
She understood then, in one terrifying blur of black feathers that swallowed her body whole, that she was indeed an idiot.
And so very beyond her realm as the Chimera engulfed her in his wings and rocketed her toward Hell.

****

They stopped at the Archway, where for the past two thousand years Merrick had perched as Guardian to those passing into Hell. He felt the grass on his bare soles as he alighted, his bones registering the solidity of the earth beneath him.
Yet, his skin and muscles felt so much more as he basked in the warmth of the body he pressed to his. The human woman’s heart pumped fast, priming her blood so it raced beneath her skin. Her unique blend of honey and lavender puffed under his nose.
He wasn’t sorry for the nectar of her, he was chagrined to have caused her fear. He’d done it on purpose, like a lout, in a fit of temper. Because she unnerved him. The confusing part? She did so even in his distilled form.
The human woman wielded a power over him that shouldn’t be possible. He’d gloried in the contrasting silk of her cheek against the thicker skin of his torso, the heat of her breath, the clinging of her delicate, yet strong arms around his waist as he’d vaulted them into the sky.
So help him, he fought not to dig his lion’s claws into her, resisting the urge to press her tighter with his padded palms. God in Heaven, but the ancient Vampyre Anton and his wife had named their foundling correctly.
This human seemed like an angel.
And strike him dead if he harmed her. As it was, he danced on the edge of suffering his demise. Because he was holding her too tight, even with both sets of their feet solidly planted on the ground. He should release her, not stand there gripping onto her like a stricken imbecile.
He was Kynd, dammit, he didn’t do the mating thing. He was not a performer in the carnal arts of creation.
Folding his wings with a powerful ruffle, he slid the rest of the Chimera behind his bare skin. In his shift, he kept the human woman trapped upright in his changing arms, lest she wobble and teeter to the dirt.
He gazed down at her when he was finished, to register her alarm, her vertigo.
Well, wasn’t he the lucky one: his night just brimmed with surprises.
The woman seemed barely fazed, just a little flushed, gazing up at him with those dark blue eyes shining with the thrill of her ride.
Merrick released her as if her skin caught fire and would burn him.
****
Swaying like a lone two by four standing vertical, Angelia glanced straight up into the fierce glint of granite eyes, and clamped her jaw shut. Which did wonders for her balance. Good thing, too, since Merrick scraped her nerves until they sang for him. She didn’t need him knowing it.
But their passage through the sky?
Sheer terrifying exultation, unlike anything she’d ever experienced. The Chimera had gifted her with something wondrous.
Flight.
Scary, yes. But she’d felt incongruously safe in Merrick’s grasp. She’d forgotten all about his tenuously tamped rage as the air ripped over them, across the surface of his feathers, filling her ears with a sound she could only liken to the strains of a choir. A sound which resonated to the core of her, as though it was a deeply buried memory she couldn’t excavate.
But she’d dig later. Right then, she’d rather think about how being wrapped snug in those singing wings, she’d felt none of the frigid night sky. Only the Chimera’s strength, his heat, the rough skin of his chest against her face, as if he was encased within a film of stone.
Immediately, she thought of his eyes, so like slate, too, and stole another glance up at him, steeling herself against the vision.
He moved before her as naked as Adam. Well-built, powerful, his muscles dragging on bone, flexing as he bent over his pack to retrieve his clothing. She watched transfixed as his spine curved, his ribcage expanding masterfully as he drove his hand into the sack. Two symmetrical scars lined his back. Where he kept his wings?
~S.C. Dane
~Installment No. 10 coming Saturday, February 28, 2015

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