Tag Archives: Acheron

LOVER IN STONE, Installment No. 18

INSTALLMENT No. 18 #Acheron #Hell #sleeping bag
Angelia stirred as she awakened, snuggling deeper into Merrick’s arms, closer to his chest. The sleeping bag she was cocooned in seemed thicker than a pillow, dulling the delicate feel of her body against his.
Which shouldn’t matter. But still, he found solace in the wafting of that honey-lavender scent billowing from deep inside the warm nylon of the woman’s bedroll.
Not once did he put her down, not even during the crossing of the Acheron. Holding her had replaced his instinctive urge to take Kharon in his arms, to crush the other Kynd to him in a desperate hug to assuage his longing for touch.
To make up for his selfishness, he’d pressed close to Kharon, unabashedly sharing himself without having to put Angelia away from him.
Much to his surprise, the Ferryman peered down at the sleeping woman without saying a word. A strange light suffused the Kynd’s expression instead, and he reached out to caress a stray lock of her golden hair from her forehead.
Merrick’s whole body tensed, as if to lunge.
At what? Kharon, his brotherkynd?
Thankfully, the other Kynd had chosen to ignore the base growl seeping up out of Merrick’s lungs, and for his part, he’d done his damnedest to shove it back down where it boiled up from.
He was not furious that Kharon touched the human he held in his arms.
But the Ferryman curled his rough-tipped finger into his palm just the same, and drew his hand away.
Respecting my possessiveness.
Merrick apologized by clasping that retreating hand in his, holding it tight for the rest of the trip downriver. Angelia slept like a swaddled babe the whole time.
Even now as they traveled on firm ground, she wasn’t fully awake. But he felt her soft gaze on him, and he glanced down to steal a precious glimpse of those twilight eyes, which were lazy with sleep.
The small body he cradled in his arms stiffened under his glancing scrutiny, the woman’s senses firing to full alert. He didn’t relinquish this stolen chance to hold her, but drew her tighter against his chest to still her.
And his thoughts, which kicked like the hobbled horses they were. He refused to delve into his reasons for not setting her down, preferring instead to fall back on the excuse of who he was. Kynd needed touch almost as much they needed air to breathe, so of course he stole physical contact where he could.
Liar.
Ignoring that, too, he squeezed out the hint of a smile.
Which she ignored. But she no longer squirmed to get out of his arms. Now that was a gift. He could enjoy the feel of her a little longer, even if she didn’t care whether he offered her a rare smile or not.
“Where are we?” Angelia craned her neck to get a better view of their surroundings.
“Nearing the Castle of the First Ring.” His attention forcibly returned to the path before them, Merrick thought again of the Scriptum, and how it had made it through Kharon’s scrutiny, too, even though the Ferryman had seen the soulless man with the relic.
Maybe it does have a mind of its own.
What was it about that damned book that another Kynd would let it slip beyond his grasp? Well, Merrick wasn’t going to find out as soon as he hoped, which also meant he hadn’t been able to indulge in the company of his fellow Kynd beyond the length of the boat ride.
He and Kharon parted with longing hugs, and said nothing about Angelia beyond the obvious. Merrick figured Kharon felt bad enough as it was, that if the human woman in Merrick’s arms was the only one to retrieve that book, then the Ferryman wasn’t going to deny her passage.
“The Castle? I missed Kharon?” Angelia’s dismay yanked Merrick into the present. “How could I have missed a whole darned trip down a river?”
Merrick had known she’d be disappointed, but he still hated the sight of it. Wasn’t too fond of how it clenched like a vise on his heart, either.
Exactly where it shouldn’t.
“I figured the river would do its thing as it had done with Dante. It knocks humans out, makes them swoon.” He shrugged. “Or sleep, as it was in your case.” Even with his leather jacket acting as a buffer, he still felt the slide of her sleeping bag in his arms.
“But not you?” God, he didn’t want to see such disheartening failure crowding into those blue-black eyes, but there he was gazing down again just the same.
“No. The river doesn’t have the same effect.” If only she’d leave it at that. But he knew better. She was a scholar, wasn’t she? It was her nature to know, even if she wouldn’t like his answers.
“Go on.”
Merrick stared straight ahead, watching the path in front of him so he wouldn’t have to look down at the woman he pressed close to his chest. He’d been enjoying his hike with her in his arms. While she slept he could indulge his senses, could even pretend she wasn’t human, that she was an angel sent down from Heaven to bestow upon him some quiet moments of peace.
Which she had done. For a little while, the fomenting fury that pressed from the inside out of him, toughening his skin, abated, giving his body a break from its inexorable transition into stone.
Even now, she didn’t fight to get out of his arms, and Merrick savored the feel of her, which unleashed his tongue so it roved like a stray dog.
“The river has a voice—many voices.” He risked another peek down over his cheekbones to view the woman he carried. “Its flowing is like breath passing through the voice box, making sounds. The pitch is too high for human ears, so they can’t hear what’s being said. But on a subconscious level their brains are getting flooded, hypnotized. Which is why you swoon, or pass out.” Could he blabber on just a bit more?
“And you hear these voices?”
He nodded, not daring to look down again. Besides, awake, her body was heating up the sleeping bag she was in, as though the speeding up of her pulse warmed her from the inside out. “They’re mesmerizing, spellbinding.” Shut up, Merrick. “They make me want to stay, to enter into Hell and stay here.”
“But you can’t.”
Merrick snorted. “Yeah, well, it’s easier than you might think.”
At least, it had been easier, until he’d met the woman he now carried in his arms. He set her down, steadying her as she shimmied out of the constricting bedroll.
She clutched his arm as she did so, and the grip of it shot a twinge straight to his balls.
God Almighty.
He’d have to take her back to Acheron just so she’d pass out again, so he could function normally.
“But now that you’re away from the river, surely the urge is gone? I mean, you can’t want to spend the rest of your life in Hell.”
“Why not? It certainly has its advantages.”
~S.C. Dane
~Installment No. 19 coming Tuesday, March 31, 2015.

LOVER IN STONE, Installment No. 16

INSTALLMENT No. 16
Watching Angelia, Merrick felt his heart pinch, then decided to ignore it. She was damned beautiful standing there, her lids growing heavy over eyes that reflected the deep maroon of the water rolling by. “As you should be. Go get some sleep, I’ll wake you when it’s time.”
“You’re not sleeping?”
Merrick suppressed a rueful grin. “No. I’m Kynd, remember? We don’t exactly sleep.”
Angelia shrugged. “I suppose not. But don’t you nap, at least?”
“Yeah, when we need to.” Or wanted to, as Merrick did just then. He wanted to slip into Angelia’s sleeping bag right along with her, feel the weight of her body pressed to his as she drifted off with her dreams, while he lay with her in his arms, protecting her.
“And, you don’t need to,” she said, reminding Merrick all too clearly of who and what he was.
“We aren’t alone along the river. Souls are gathering for the crossing.”
“Right. Forgot.” Angelia stumbled from the riverbank to her bedroll, where Merrick hoped she’d settle in soon.
Because he could feel her eyes on his back, and he thickened with his need for her, the leather of his leggings pulling tight.
Bloody hell.
Just what he needed, another torment to contend with. As it was, he stood mesmerized by the murmuring rustle of voices in the water as it rushed past his boots, beckoning him to follow, to surrender his will and loose his Chimera from its singular Gargoyle form. His heart strained in his chest, rending him in different directions.
Merrick cursed as he turned to follow the woman. Better he risk her seeing his physical need for her than succumb to the invitation of the voices. He was rewarded by a spontaneous smile when she spotted him, and his chest grew tight.
Without undressing or removing her boots, she spread out her sleeping bag and burrowed into it. Merrick leapt onto a larger boulder and crouched, facing her. To his sensitive ears, her held breath seemed as loud as the creaking of his leather coat.
Because the human woman scrutinized him as closely as he did her, and the third of Merrick, his lion, wanted to devour her one sensuous lick of his rasp-like tongue at a time.
“Tell me what you know about Kharon,” he growled, his voice thick with need.
“What I know about Kharon?” She looked like she was trying to reconcile his expression to his words, her feather-light brows pinching over her sleepy eyes.
Merrick rubbed his palm across his mouth and nodded. He hoped talking would get both their minds back on why they were in this predicament in the first place.
Heaven knew, one more minute of watching her watch him and he was going to do something he’d never thought possible of a Kynd. He was going to ask a human woman for the novelty of a kiss.
“Yes. You know he’s the Ferryman,” he said, leading her, his eyes following the dip and rise of her throat as she swallowed.
“Of course. He escorts dead souls to Hades,” she nodded. Wisps of her blond hair, tinted by the red of the sky and the river, framed her face, her braid curving like a tail across her shoulder.
Dear God, help him; Merrick wished it was his tail draped there.
Angelia yawned and rubbed her fingers into her eye.
She was getting sleepier, falling under the spell of the Acheron, as he knew she would.
As it should be.
Merrick turned to stare back out at the river, letting Angelia surrender to the sleep that was fast creeping up on her. He felt the stirrings of unease that he duped her, that she wasn’t aware of what was happening to her, and he almost caved, almost blurted out the deception.
But he recalled her determination to get the Scriptum, and bit down on his urge to confess. She’d be upset if they were refused entry, and that clinched his resolve.
He’d let her fall into a dreamless slumber, exactly where he needed her to be in order to get by Kharon. Because, no matter how refreshed she’d be from a good night’s sleep, she would never be ready for the Ferryman.
She wasn’t supposed to be, that wasn’t how the crossing worked. Besides, Kharon would know she wasn’t destined for The Circles. Angelia, upon her death, would cross a more pleasant plane than this one of fetid, bloodied water and fire.
Which was why Merrick could not give in to his base desires. No matter how bad he wanted to feel and taste every inch of the woman’s bare skin, no matter how he longed to slide his hard, stone-rough body into her soft one, he could not.
Angelia’s destiny was the exact opposite of the Chimera’s. Merrick understood only too well what his future held in store, and it had nothing to do with God and his chosen angels in Heaven.
So he kept to himself while he waited a while longer until he was sure Angelia wouldn’t stir when he moved her. Then he knelt down to lift her so he could carry her across the river.
Yet, as he lowered himself, the scent of honey-lavender spread through him, and he couldn’t resist dragging his face along the skin of her slender neck, where the smell of her lingered strong, pooling where the shorter, gossamer strands of her hair curled along the base of her delicate skull.
So wondrous. He followed his nose along the slender line of her jaw to behind her ear, and it was all he could do not to press his lips to the silk of her skin, to drag his tongue so he could taste her. He thickened at his groin, grew uncomfortable with its urgent, unfamiliar weight.
God in Heaven, he could cast aside his resolve as easily as he could steal a forbidden taste of her, so he backed off, biting down on a frustrated snarl.
He wanted her as desperately as he wanted to stay in Hell.
Merrick took a steadying breath, then crammed his wanting down into the same abyss where his fury swirled. He gathered their things, then gently plucked Angelia off the ground, sleeping bag and all, and started down the path toward the Ferryman.
~S.C. Dane
~Installment No. 17 coming Tuesday, March 24, 2015.

LOVER IN STONE, Installment No. 15

 

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.
Had they?
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.”
~S.C. Dane
~Installment No. 16 coming Saturday, March 21, 2015.