INSTALLMENT No. 15
Right then, Merrick had more immediate concerns, like how he was going to convince Kharon the Ferryman that the living soul he escorted should be granted passage across Acheron…
Unless they were all lucky, and Kharon had recognized the Scriptum for what it was, and had seized it from the soulless man. Which could be possible. Like Merrick, Kharon was Kynd, and one observant son of a bitch.
The Ferryman, Merrick knew, also nursed resentment toward his lot, just like every Gargoyle and Chimera cast down from Heaven. It would do them both good to see each other, and if Kharon had the Scriptum, so much the better. Merrick would squander a bit of their saved time staying close to his brotherkynd.
They could both use the comfort. And maybe between the two of them, they could convince Angelia to read some of what was written in that book.
Rumor was, it contained knowledge of Gargoyles and Chimeras, and God only knew what else. But Merrick didn’t care about the rest, he wanted to know what it revealed about the Kynd.
Too much information in the wrong hands could be devastating for them. If others learned that Kynd truly turned to stone?
An involuntary shudder ran up Merrick’s spine.
The Kynd fought hard enough to maintain their fluid forms as it was, they didn’t need enemies ushering them quicker to their demise.
Enemies. Merrick wanted to spit the word into the trodden dirt beneath his feet.
The Kynd had never had enemies before they’d been tossed from Heaven. They hadn’t had allies, either, but they hadn’t needed them.
It was a compelling thought. Maybe if they’d had friends outside of the flock, the Kynd wouldn’t be suffering as they now were.
Which was water under the bridge, as far as Merrick was concerned; the damage was done.
Besides, they neared the Acheron. Merrick could hear the gentle glide of the water passing along the immovable shore. He lengthened his strides to close the distance between himself and Angelia, who slowed ever so slightly, her back bowing imperceptibly toward him as he drew close to her heels.
Did she even know how her body reacted to him?
Probably not. Being Kynd meant he picked up on things most others never did. Even if she did notice, he was Kynd. Chimera. Nearly Grotesque. She wouldn’t want him touching her more than was necessary to save her pretty neck, no matter what her body craved.
Angelia’s lips curled into a contented smile when she felt Merrick’s warmth, felt his shadow cloak her backside. She knew he only bridged the distance to protect her, to fulfill his obligation to keep her safe, but she treasured the feel of him just the same.
His nearness felt so darned good, like he fortified her somehow, just by being close. And she was bone tired.
She’d grown weary with the burden of having to sift through everything that had happened in the past twelve hours. She needed a nap, or a good night’s rest, before crossing the Acheron.
Her puffy sleeping bag, crammed in her pack, beckoned, and she’d do well to heed its call. Because it was going to take every scrap of cunning she could muster to get by Kharon’s legendary scrutiny.
“We’ll camp here tonight,” Merrick announced, twisting his thick shoulders out from under the straps of his bag and letting it slump to the ground.
Never mind his sublime grace, was he a mind reader? “Shouldn’t we keep going?” She wasn’t being disagreeable. It was just that resisting made her feel like she had a little bit of control over this escapade into Hell.
“No. We’re close to Kharon, and I want to be ready for him.”
As much as it peeved her, she knew Merrick was right. If the Ferryman didn’t grant them passage, then the Scriptum was lost. There was no way of getting into Hell proper without first going through Kharon.
Angelia shrugged out of her own pack, letting it plop down by her feet. She wanted to plunk right down with it and not get up until she’d slept a good thirty-six hours.
Swear to God she would have never said, “I don’t suppose you happen to have a spare danake or obolus in your pockets?” if she wasn’t so tired. Seriously? What a recluse-loser-square for asking if he had any coins to pay the Ferryman.
Oh, and yeah. Why not give herself a reason to look down at Merrick’s leather pants, to the bulge that definitely wasn’t a coin purse.
She shot her eyes back up to his face, utterly thankful for the red tint of the river so she could blame its cast on her blushing cheeks.
The Chimera’s eyes turned granite hard. He moved away from her to stand at the bank of the river to watch the blood-red water flow by. An excuse to ignore her.
Gads, she was such an ass. Why couldn’t Merrick have been the hideous creature she’d imagined Gargoyles and Chimeras to be?
Oh, no. He had to be Mr. Effing Universe and Captain Captivating. Even his hair attracted her. It was just long enough so the ends curled along the tops of his ears and across his forehead. The black of his locks was a startling contrast to the slate gray of his eyes, making them appear much lighter than they were.
He was tall, too, proportioned well. And for all his surliness, for all the rage emanating off from him like heat waves, she wanted him. Like a living cliché, she was attracted to the dangerous man. She wanted to feel the giddy rapping of her pulse, the strength of the Chimera’s arms around her.
So much for forbidden passion. Angelia let loose a tremendous yawn, the great suck of air as attractive as the grating hum of a kazoo. Merrick turned back around, his hard eyes piercing as they slid down the length of her. Even then he was every bit the impenetrable stone of the Kynd.
Man, her brain felt thick, like it was swaddled in cobwebs. “I’m sorry.” Angelia cupped her palm over her mouth, stifling another yawn, too sleepy to stay embarrassed. “I guess I’m more tired than I thought.”
~Installment No. 16 coming Saturday, March 21, 2015.