Tag Archives: Hell

LOVER IN STONE, Installment No. 19

 

INSTALLMENT No. 19 #skin #Aristotle #first circle of Hell
Angelia didn’t like the honesty chiming through the words he spoke. Merrick was dead serious, which quieted her all the way to the bone.
“Don’t worry. I’ll get you back out before I do.” The Chimera’s moment of being unguarded evaporated as if it had never been. He was again the storm cloud passing over the sun.
And his snide comment pissed her off, a visceral reaction that rarely happened to her. Usually, she just got sad. But, maybe Merrick was right, and being in Hell did have its advantages.
Angelia balled up her sleeping bag and stuffed it into her pack while she indulged in a rare mental tirade.
Did he really believe she was so shallow that the only thing she could be concerned with was her own safety? Did he really think his choice wouldn’t bother his friend, Darken, either?
Merrick was the selfish prig, not her, believing that staying in Hell wouldn’t bother anyone.
How could he do it?
Yeah, she knew he harbored a thick rage he barely concealed, but still, it didn’t mean he had to dwell in this ungodly place.
She slatted at the drawstring of her bag, cinching it taut like a hangman who relished his job.
“Angelia.”
Merrick calling her name was just as enthralling as the voices in the river.
At least this voice she heard. Regrettably.
Swallowing a deep breath, she cocked a disgruntled hip. “What.”
Merrick ran his hand across the top of his head, mussing his black hair. He seemed frustrated with her, like he didn’t know what to do with himself. His whole body tensed, his jaw clamping. She saw the slate of his eyes harden as his rage resurfaced.
“What?” She wouldn’t gulp, damn it.
The Chimera, still in his sexy Gargoyle form, drew up to her. He was a full head and shoulders taller than she was, and definitely twice as wide. Angelia’s head fell back, just so she could keep looking at him.
Towering over her, his body electrified hers. They weren’t even touching and her hips felt the pull of him, so that she had to fight to keep herself from slinking up against him like some big cat in heat.
Merrick glared down at her, the depths of his rock-like eyes fluctuating, plunging impossibly deep, then constricting till they were flat and shallow.
“The Castle,” he growled, lifting a muscle-roped arm with a clawed hand at the end of it.
Well, hookay. She couldn’t see the muscles rippling under his coat, but she sure as dogcrackers was imagining them. Angelia peeled her wanton gaze from Merrick to look where he pointed.
“Full of learned men, from before Christ.” His voice scraped thick, menacing.
Yeah, that growling factoid ought to register a little stronger than it did. She should be heeding the message, not the vibration.
The Castle housed the greatest minds of all time. Aristotle, Ovid, Socrates. Yet, all she could think about was the Chimera, who moved to stand behind her. Very close behind her.
He felt huge looming back there. She could smell the leather he wore. She could smell him.
What were a few dusty, old minds when she stood next to such heat? Such life? She didn’t want to meet the revered minds of history, she wanted to get to know this Chimera who delivered her to them.
She didn’t need a side trip away from this Gargoyle-shaped man.
Merrick lowered his head to drag his nose along her nape, erupting goose bumps over every inch of her skin. “Someone might know where the human who stole the Scriptum was headed.”
Dear God, she was practically panting. “Good point.” And oh yeah, it was a lead to follow, even if he’d said it to taunt her. Because they were on an important mission.
Except.
“Merrick?”
“Hmm.” Ooh man, she loved his growl.
“I’d rather learn about you.” There. She said it. Looking dead ahead and not at him, but she’d said it. Maybe her little fit of anger had given her the courage. She didn’t know, or care, but she would risk his denial.
****
Merrick’s heart pinged, then swelled, then constricted again, like it couldn’t figure out what its job was. His whole body went rigid, so Angelia’s softness, in contrast, seemed like a warmth cushioning the thin space of air between them.
He didn’t want to tell her a damned thing.
He didn’t want to refuse her, either. Not this angel who strung every nerve within him to singing.
She had given him something of herself when he’d carried her across the Acheron, even if she hadn’t known it, and had been asleep while doing it. Christ, she was giving him something now, a thrill in his skin he’d not felt since…
Never.
Merrick had never felt this taut sensation before. It maddened him, drove him wild. It was all he could do to rein in his urges. He could and should give a little something back to this woman, no matter how she tormented him. No matter if she was human, she deserved his consideration.
He wanted to give her more than his consideration.
Jesus. What was happening to him? A day ago, he wouldn’t have given a rat’s ass about hurting any human’s feelings. Now? Now, he’d met Angelia, Anton’s miraculous, beautiful daughter, and his own emotions had somehow gotten tangled up with hers.
She wanted to know about him. The Vampyre’s adopted darling was looking beyond the Chimera’s thickening skin, past the rage simmering in his very muscles. Merrick knew how volatile he was, yet she was seeing beyond that.
No, she was coaxing him beyond his consuming rage, and it unsettled him.
So, for both of their sakes, he would opt to tell her something a little safer, a little easier on his baffled emotions, while he steered them toward the Castle.
He dared to brush his knuckles against the small of her back to bump her forward. Even through her clothing, his fingers measured the inward curve of her spine, the bowing out of her wonderful ass, and his hand curled into a tight fist lest it grope for something more.
“Kharon is Kynd, like me. That’s how I got you across the Acheron.”
~S.C. Dane
~Installment No. 20 coming Saturday, April 4, 2015.

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LOVER IN STONE, Installment No.17

 

INSTALLMENT No. 17 #blood #vampire #hell
…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.
****
Death trailed the Vampire.
Aro could feel it in the throbbing of his veins as he followed his victim.
He was too hungry. He’d waited too long to feed, so his control was a little flimsy at the moment. Putting it off hadn’t been his idea, though. Dealing with the Triumvirate had taken more time than it should have.
Fucking Anton.
So, if Death followed him along this backwater excuse for an alley, then so be it. The specter could belly up and watch. Besides, it wasn’t as if the man he was following could serve Aro’s business purposes any longer. He could afford to drain the victim’s body dry now that the human had played his part in connecting the Vampire to the soulless thief.
Just so long as he didn’t get caught with the corpse stuck to his fangs.
Aro and his kind weren’t allowed to kill their sources of food anymore, not since the Triumvirate had wrangled Vampires into a tidy community of pansy ass do-gooders.
The three Vampyres, older than dust itself, had been more than capable of doing it and, damn them, the strength to maintain the edict.
Except Anton, the rotter. Who grew soft because of his affections for the human child.
Letting that old wound fester, Aro turned his ear to the squish of the footsteps ahead of him. The man he pursued was speeding up, as if he knew he was being followed.
Clever.
But then, Aro hadn’t hired him because he was an idiot.
Well, the fact the man haunted this pathetic excuse of a town weighed against that, now didn’t it? The Vampire was getting mud on the cuffs of his fine slacks, and all because he had to finish business.
Aro’s own blood slipped fast through his veins as the man broke into a run.
Oh, he loved a good chase.
The damned Triumvirate. They’d all but eliminated that thrill from feeding. Shadow your victims, make sure they remember nothing, heal the wound you leave. Sniveling diplomats. They took the fun out of being Vampire.
Although Aro might be one of the selected Vampires to deal with the Triumvirate on a regular basis, it didn’t mean he was a cowering mutt who did his masters’ bidding.
Quite the contrary. Aro had killed too many of his victims to bother counting. Tonight would be just one more body in a sea of blood. And he was going to happily glut himself till he was half drowned.
As if his dull instincts had kicked it up a notch, the human broke into a dead run. Aro could hear his breaths chuffing in the crisp evening air, his footfalls heavy and slapping. Smoke much? The man wasn’t accustomed to sprinting. But the plus side? His running enflamed his blood.
How glorious. A warm feast that would shotgun straight down the Vampire’s throat. Aro could hardly wait just thinking of how it would spew forth in heated torrents, stuffing his mouth so fast he wouldn’t be able to swallow it all.
Oh, the chase!
His skin tightened, his fangs stretching long, throbbing hard in his gums.
To cap off the excellence of this hunt, the tang of tree resin flowed like floral blood upon the spring night. The kill would happen in a backwater town, which tended to have trees in the unlikeliest of places. Slap-shod buildings were rarely far from some forest, poverty cutting the hamstrings so towns like this one couldn’t quite edge their way out of the primal dirt.
With the lovely scent of spring wafting on the breezes, this was turning out to be a good place to dine, after all.
His dessert? Shutting the human’s mouth up forever.
Stay with me Death, don’t be lagging back.
With the scent of Death in his nose, Aro craved the inevitable, the excess. His vision bloomed red with his lust. Now the slapping footfalls were united with their runner, and in a blur, the Vampire snatched the man’s collar in his fist. The pungent, old-onion odor of the man’s sweat assaulted his senses as Aro tugged him close.
So base are these creatures. Nose curling, his stomach heaved a slow roll before settling. Always it was thus when he dealt with the filth.
But a meal was a meal when one was very hungry. Beggars not being choosers and the like.
But first.
“Uh-uh-uh, Mr. Smith. Not so fast.” Aro twisted the collar until the fabric cut into the rubbery skin of the man’s neck.
Bulging his carotid artery.
Salivating wasn’t good manners, but then neither was eating while standing up. His fangs singing so hard they hurt helped to kick his etiquette out on its prissy ear. Like his hunger needed backup?
But first.
“Where are we off to in such a hurry, Mr. Smith? To count your money?”
Mr. Smith shook his head.
Tsk, tsk.
Mr. Smith nodded.
The fool. Perhaps he’d overestimated the man’s intelligence. It was good he felt Death so close.
“You have the key?” Unfolding his empty hand, Aro thrust it under the man’s crooked nose. “Hmm?”
The human fumbled at the waist of his jeans, twisting his legs to jam his meaty fists into his linty pockets. He was a big man, by human standards. Strong shouldered, muscled.
Stink or no, Aro was going to enjoy this meal.
A skeleton key, pinched between white, shaking fingers, bobbled upward into his line of vision. The rank tang of fear punctured through the old onion, forcing the Vampire to fight his own shivers.
So close now.
Aro plucked the iron key free, and it disappeared into his sleeve as if palmed by a street magician. He tilted his chin so close to the man’s ear his cool lips brushed the slippery skin, so intimate he could feel the slush of his victim’s banging pulse.
His own blood raced through his veins, nearly distracting him from the reason he stood in a filthy alley in the first place.
Business. Ah, yes, there was that. Along with what it all meant.
“The Guardian of Hell may just well be permanently removed, thanks to you and your partner, Mr. Smith. You’ve both done well.”
So they had. Because of Laurel and his sidekick Hardy, the Scriptum was coursing a sweet descent into the bowels of Hell, with the human woman and her Chimera escort blithely chasing their merry way after it.
The Vampire’s plan to remove the Guardian permanently couldn’t have gone better. Aro’s gamble that the Scriptum would lure the Chimera away from that damned Archway was paying off better than even he could have hoped.
He had seen Merrick’s distraction with the human woman, and was glad he’d decided to sacrifice her. Finally she could be put to some use. Another fortuitous break? When the Scriptum literally unfolded itself to reveal secrets of the Kynd to her, and therefore to Aro, head of the Literati.
It was as if God Himself aided his plan!
That the Vampyre’s daughter was the only one within the Literati able to decipher the text? Utterly priceless, and a stroke of luck that carried with it the force of a sledgehammer. Anton despaired, which made him weak.
Angelia could be replaced. But Anton? Never. The Triumvirate would falter.
And now this unexpected cherry on his blood sundae? Perfection.
Aro squeezed his long, strong fingers around the man’s shirt collar, lifting his Wal-Mart boots out of the mud, then pressed the hulk of his victim tight to the plank fence lining the grass clumped alley.
Never mind a preliminary lick of skin along where he intended to sink his fangs. It was a meal he wanted, not a dining experience. Still, the popping of punctured skin dragged a moan up Aro’s throat, while hot blood slid down it in choking gulps.
The Grim Reaper hovered, waiting. Patient.
Invisible to the living, Darken stood at Death’s heels, his huge fists clenched to keep his shrieking silent while the Vampire spoke of Merrick.
Death sidled in tight to the human, preparing to extract his soul from his dead body. Darken readjusted his grip on the scythe.
~S.C. Dane
~Installment No. 18 coming Saturday, March 28, 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. 13

 

INSTALLMENT No. 13
Merrick breathed in the honey lavender of Angelia’s hair, grateful she finally answered him. Her bones felt so fragile in his arms he worried that maybe he’d hurt her, that he’d been too strong.
If she’d been harmed?
Well, there would be hell to pay for it, ironically.
Merrick shunned the real reason for his alarm, refusing to delve into that heretofore non-existent treasure chest. He shifted the woman in his arms, releasing her slowly as he’d done when he’d taken to the air with her. As then, he didn’t want her tipping onto her lovely behind, which had become all the more beautiful since he’d discovered it might be precious to him.
Yeah, right. Forget it, dumb ass.
He was a lost soul, a hopeless cause. It wasn’t going to be long before he abandoned his post at the Archway to Hell and either threw his lot in with Lucifer, or perched his granite-turning butt on the ledge of a building.
Still though, he couldn’t stop looking at her. She was terribly shaken, her eyes almost black and shimmering with tears as she unfurled herself from his embrace to stand up. Her face bore the evidence of his preoccupation with her taunting ass, her cheeks and pert nose were dappled with angry stings.
She swiped at her watering eyes and heaved a breath, yanking Merrick’s attention to her breasts.
Great Christ Almighty. Her chest lifted and dropped repeatedly, and those beautifully bulbous things seemed to fill before his eyes. Two points projected from her shirt, like buttons wanting to be pinched, and Merrick fisted his hands and locked his elbows. He would not touch her like he was driven mad to do.
He’d never touched a female in his long life. He’d probably scare her worse than she already was. What did he know of a woman’s breasts? It wasn’t as if he had instincts in the mating department. It wasn’t like he would know what to do that would make her glad he was fondling them.
Did he?
His tongue certainly thought so. It slid across his fangs, which almost itched with the yearning to nip those points, and his mouth wanted to suckle them in, like a babe to its mother’s teat.
Merrick gave his head a sharp shake, dislodging such notions.
He was no babe, and Angelia no mother.
So, why did he want to cup…
Merrick shook his head harder.
The woman took a step back, her eyes still huge.
He needed to remember how he’d failed her because of his callous attitude over her being just a human. She wasn’t Kynd, or one of the Others, for that matter. She was human, one of the millions who were currently overrunning the earth, who shunned the Grotesques, who forgot to honor them by erecting architectural wonders on which the Kynd could spend their remaining years.
She would shun him as surely as her ilk already did.
God be damned, he shouldn’t care. But he did.
“You should go back. Get another guide.” He wasn’t the one for this mission no matter what the Triumvirate thought. He was too hard, he had been alone too long to interact with something as volatile, and fragile, as a human being.
Especially this one, who reminded him too sharply of all that he used to be.
Of all that he now was, and was soon going to be.

****

Angelia shook her own head, denying Merrick’s suggestion.
Even denying the hunger she’d seen burning in his slate eyes. Because it hadn’t lasted long, and now she wasn’t sure it had been there in the first place. Why would he have gazed on her with wanting?
She was mistaken. She was sure of it; especially when now what she saw in his stare reminded her of flagstone—flat and hard.
Dear God, he just saved my life from—
She swung her arm out as if it could possibly encompass the enormity of what had just trampled passed.
It was that, or open and close her mouth like a fish while she fought for air.
She was in shock and had merely imagined the Chimera’s wanting.
But, she couldn’t go back. She couldn’t look at Aro’s disappointed face and admit she wasn’t the human he should have pegged his hopes on.
Even her guide no longer wanted the responsibility of her, and wasn’t that just the icing on her crap cake.
Oh, she was utterly priceless.
Angelia swirled to face the glowing horizon and put one determined foot in front of the other, her jaw clamped tight with determination.
Fine. If the Chimera wanted to wash his hands of her, then she’d make it easy for him. She didn’t have much in the dignity department, but she had enough to know when she should cut her losses.
Her dream of working with one of the Kynd being one of them.
Never mind that every step she was taking in the opposite direction from Merrick sluiced so much regret down her throat she couldn’t breathe from the pressure of it.
She willed her rubbery legs onward. She would retrieve the Scriptum on her own if it killed her.
What a delusional ninny she’d been. Getting all hot and liquid for a creature Michelangelo would have palavered over. Just as if the Chimera would have welcomed her advances if she gathered the nerve to try.
He was beautiful, mythical, and she was—well, she was nothing special. But she did have one last opportunity to prove her worth. Throwing it away was not an option, not with her future riding on the success of the Scriptum’s retrieval.
Okay. She’d be a little more honest with herself.
She felt a personal connection to that book, and she wanted it safe in her arms. The book sang to her. Its message bypassed her logical brain and speared its truth straight to her heart, which was why she’d come to with Aro’s livid face hovering over her.
She remembered how everything had dissolved around her, including herself, as she’d listened to the strains emanating from the open pages.
The Kynd. They were meant to do something, but she couldn’t recall what. So was she, but she couldn’t remember how she was connected to them or what she was supposed to do about it. She’d passed out. And when she’d fainted, her answers must have dribbled out of her ears and dissolved into the cracks in the stone floor of the study.
I’ll get them back.
With one determined step forward at a time.
~S.C. Dane
~Installment No. 14 coming March 14, 2015

LOVER IN STONE, Installment No. 10

 

Installment No. 10
The Chimera secreted his full self from view, maintaining just the Gargoyle part for Angelia to see. He seemed innocently unaware of his physique, like he had no inkling to the irresistible draw of it.
Angelia remembered to close her gawping, fly-catching mouth lest she embarrass herself. She was on a very serious, life-threatening mission. Any minute now, she was going to be passing through the Gates of Hell, nothing proverbial about it.
Turning her attention elsewhere, she noticed the bones scattered and half-concealed in the trampled and tufting grass. Like they were the stripped shells of cars at an abandoned junkyard. Ookaay. So, he wasn’t the Guardian in the sense that he took your ticket and let you in. The thrill from her flight drained south, abandoning her like rats from a sinking ship. What she needed was a life raft named ADOS, as in Attention Deficit-Ooh, Shiny!
Look at something else, idiot. Like that cheery sign etched into the keystone of the Archway.
Huh. It didn’t exactly say what she thought it was supposed to. “Why doesn’t the inscription read Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate?” Abandon all faith, ye who enter here.
Merrick pulled the leather of his pants up over his hips before turning to answer her.  “Because Dante got it wrong, and the world accepted it as truth,” he spit out, his anger over the mistake evident, and apparently too fresh, despite the centuries that had passed.
She felt an inkling of it herself. “So, there is hope after all? Why hasn’t anyone amended this?” Angelia knew she sounded a bit shrill, but she couldn’t help it. Dante’s error was colossal, and she couldn’t slow the wild threading of her pulse, the hammering of her heart as realization dawned. “There are people down there who can repent.” Not a question.
“Angelia,” Merrick warned, his tone a mere octave above a growl.
She gripped her pack, like maybe it could defend her. “Yeah?”
Merrick softened. A little. If she hadn’t been sucking up every gorgeous detail of him, she’d have never noticed. “Turn back.”
Quick as a spark, regret flashed in his granite eyes, then disappeared.
Well, well, well. Merrick wasn’t all stone. Her father had seen it, too, or he wouldn’t have agreed with the Triumvirate to let her go. Anton trusted Merrick, and so would she.
“I appreciate your concern—I do. But, I’ve got to do this. The Scriptum holds too many secrets to fall into the wrong hands.” She didn’t say she needed the boost to her self- esteem.
Merrick’s thick muscles stiffened as a growl boiled from the bottom of his lungs.
She would have been a block of wood not to feel the charge crackling through the air, or that growl rubbing across her flesh. Merrick thought she didn’t trust him with the Scriptum.
His anger was justified. The Scriptum was about the Kynd, after all. About him. But, Angelia didn’t trust anyone with such an important relic, not even the members of the Literati. The book had revealed its secrets to her, even if she was fuzzy about the details.
She felt wholly responsible for it because it had entrusted her with its encrypted knowledge, and it had been stolen during her whole damsel-in-distress routine. If she hadn’t fainted, it wouldn’t have been taken.
He needed to understand how responsible she felt about that, how compelled she was to right her wrong. “What I—”
Merrick spun around so all she could see was the length of his broad back tapering to his narrow hips. Which, sigh, were hugged in rich, brown leather. A nice view, but she’d been trying to explain something a little important.
“Hey, I was trying—”
Merrick glared over his shoulder. “Shut it, chickie. We’ve got company.”
Angelia clapped her jaw shut for the umpteenth time already that day.
Another Gargoyle maybe? Or something more dangerous?
She would not look at the bleached out bones scattered around her. Heck, no. Like squirrels gunning it for the nearest tree, her feet scurried her closer to her guide and protector. Feeling safer, she peered around Merrick’s side, and tried to catch a glimpse of who, or what, he was waiting for.

****
The woman’s touch to Merrick’s back went straight to his groin.
What in God’s name is she to rile me like this?
Without turning around, he curled his fingers around her hand to remove its temptation. He didn’t need the distraction, or the pain, of his thickening flesh in his pants. Not when he was going to be greeting an old friend.
He almost leapt the entire distance from where he stood with the woman, to the Archway, where their visitor scratched his way to the top of the keystone and curled his muscled haunches to sit. Merrick left Angelia to stand on the ground with her excuses on the tip of her tongue, and her electric hands empty.
“Darken, my old friend. I was afraid you hadn’t heard my call.” He pulled the other Gargoyle close for a hard hug.
Darken’s strong arms enveloped more than just Merrick’s body. They were a balm to his raging heart, and savoring it, he held his friend for several long moments, enjoying the rare touch of another Kynd.
“Anything for a change of scene, Merrick, you know that.” Darken pulled back to reveal a smile loaded with a beastly row of sharp teeth. Yet his gray eyes glowed warm. An uncommon sight, given the Gargoyle had little to be happy for. Darken lifted his chin. “Who’s the human?”
Merrick turned, as if surprised to find such an anomaly standing on the ground below them. “She’s my charge. She’s going in with me.”
Darken whistled appreciatively. “No! Such a wisp of a thing, too. What’s she done to deserve her turn in the Circles?”
“Nothing. She’s the Vampyre Anton’s daughter. Under direction of the Literati, we’re going in together, and coming out the same way. I’m her guide.” Darken’s rare affability ran contagious, and Merrick harkened to it, his mood growing light—a welcomed respite.
Darken choked, incredulous. “Her guide?” He looked around Merrick to call down to the human. “You do know there are lovely vacation destinations right here on the surface, don’t you?”
Angelia nodded, and pointed two fingers to her brow, acknowledging the Gargoyle’s playfulness with a salute.
“She’s a little daft, Darken, pay her no mind.” Merrick grinned, and a rusted laugh scraped up his throat, sounding more like an angry crow than any effortless bubbling.
Thank God it was Darken he shared it with, his dearest friend. As Kynd himself, Darken knew all too well the weariness borne by those of their station. He understood, too, Merrick’s particular hardship, that he never observed joy, or love, nor any of the finer emotions that made creatures beautiful.
At one time, the Kynd were unabashedly open in their affections for each other. But since the Great Schism when they’d been cast from Heaven, too many didn’t have the opportunity to indulge their natural geniality.
God had seen fit to scatter them to the winds, where it was impossible for them to share in each other’s company for longer than a few stolen moments. As a result of this forced isolation, they were turning into the Grotesques the humans thought them to be.
“Aye, well, Merrick,” Darken’s good humor faded as he slipped an arm around his comrade’s shoulders. “If they can bring a spark of happiness, it’s worth the gamble, eh?”
“You’re a bloody philosopher, brother.” Merrick clasped the Gargoyle’s hand. “You’ll watch for me, won’t you? They’ve given us seven days. If we’re not out—”
“Aye. I’ll not let you surrender so easily, you nancy. It’s only been two thousand years and some change, you can’t quit on us already.”
His gratitude swamping him, Merrick clutched Darken to his breast.
After a couple of claps to his back, the other Gargoyle nodded, indicating the woman on the ground. “Besides, you’ve got company this trip. And by the looks of her, you’ll be too preoccupied to dwell on your inner demons.”
Merrick gazed down on Angelia, who had perched on a boulder to better watch the reunion. She was braiding her long, blonde hair into a golden plait.
“She’ll keep me on my toes, for sure.” He grinned for Darken one last time, but knew shadows prevented any merriment from reaching his eyes.
But the specter that bothered him most was the same uneasy feeling he’d had back in the gallery with the Triumvirate, when Merrick had first seen the human woman consoling the Vampyre.
Jealousy.
Impossible.
Kynd didn’t do jealous. Or any other base emotion they associated with humans. At least, they hadn’t before they’d been cast to Middle Ground.
Merrick shrugged to settle his wings even though they were tucked and hidden. The jealousy thing was but one more torment he would have to quell as he navigated the Circles of Hell.
Maybe he should be the one to turn back, let the Triumvirate find someone else to guide the human in her search for the Scriptum. Because now as he prepared to set foot beyond the Archway, his doubts walked in on cold fingers, gripping his heart with a chilling fist.
He hadn’t been kidding about reminding Darken to come looking for them after seven days.
Two thousand years of observing the torment of millions of tainted souls, of destroying creatures trying to sneak through the gate to raise…hell, and Merrick wasn’t far from pitching his own lot in with the former Angel’s.
At least then he would no longer be Witness and Guardian, would no longer have to endure the endless burden of his Kynd.
In Hell, the Chimera could let his rage have its due. He could give in to the violence steeping like a fetid brine in his soul. Better that than to poise on a building’s ledge, his fury still shackled to him. He would be unable to vent its poison as he perched helpless, entirely consumed in stone.
Merrick stole another glance down below. The woman was standing now, moving toward their packs. “I guess it’s time to go.” He winked at Darken, masking the fear that crept in with his doubts.
“I’d say. She looks like she’d go without you. Who’s guiding who, anyway?”
Merrick shoved his fist against the thick muscle of Darken’s shoulder. “Funny. You’re a regular comedian. I’ll come back just to catch your show.”
The other Gargoyle nodded, his smile slipping as he grew serious. “No, but you will come back. See you soon, old friend.” Clapping a rough palm to Merrick’s back, he pushed the Chimera down the wall. “Now get going, you’re wasting my time.”
Merrick landed easily on his feet, and didn’t look back as he left Darken atop the Archway. Still, though, his thoughts remained behind on his brotherkynd.
They had been cast from Heaven together, along with all the other Gargoyles and Chimera. And Merrick might have plucked the short straw when he’d been assigned to watch over the Gates of Hell, but Darken’s lot wasn’t any better. The Gargoyle was shackled to Death, and it didn’t take much imagination to figure out how that particular duty ate away at a Kynd’s soul.
Darken knew full well the agony of too many centuries lurking within the rim of shadows, when such a fate ran counter to the true hearts of the Kynd.
Not that anyone bothered to know. Gargoyles and Chimera had been vilified, and there they would remain, eternally maligned.
Merrick shrugged his shoulders again, this time to slough off his gloom, and walked toward Angelia, who held his pack out for him.
For a brief moment, he thought she’d pay him back for his ill manners back with the Triumvirate, and he tensed, ready to snag his supplies before she could drop them on the ground as he reached for them.
~S.C. Dane
~Installment No. 11 coming Tuesday, March 3, 2015.

Lover in Stone, Installment No. 7

 

INSTALLMENT NO. 7 #gargoyles #romance
Merrick didn’t look at the woman. He needed to keep his gaze drilled on the ancient trio seated in front of him. The clothing he wore had grown tight enough as it was, he didn’t need it cinching his crotch. Nor did he need to dwell on why he thickened in that region in the first place.
“The Scriptum, it seems, won’t come back in your hands.”
Oh, but damn. Her voice stroked like warm silk across his skin, making his chin tilt to better indulge the caress of her tone. He ground his jaw the second he realized what he was doing.
He was acting like a dog who loved the scratch of his furry ears.
“I’ll bring it back,” he growled, and instantly regretted the alarm flaring in those blue-black eyes. Merrick took an unpracticed step back. “What I meant was–”
“Of course you will, Mr. Merrick,” she assured him, as if she’d never flinched. “But I’m afraid that’s not the issue.”
Mr. Merrick. Like he wore a business suit and wasn’t part Gargoyle.
“Only she can bring it back. The Scriptum wanted her to touch it. She has to be the one to bring it back.” Aro’s needling grated on Merrick’s one nerve, and his claws pierced into his fisted palms.
Ignore him. Ignore her. Concentrate on the Triumvirate.
No better advice had ever been given. With a practiced eye, he watched the trio’s every subtle movement. His sharp hearing trained on the slender thrumming of their pulses, on Anton’s heartbeat.
The Vampyre suffered, yet did not speak against his daughter’s participation, or Aro’s assumption.
“If you don’t trust me…” Merrick dangled the bait, his sly gaze holding to the three in front of him.
“It is not a matter of trust, Merrick.” Anton rose, pushing his knuckles against the highly polished table top. “It is a matter of my daughter’s safety. She must go in, but she cannot go in alone. We need you, Chimera, to escort her, to keep her safe. That is all we ask.” He spread his hands, as if defenseless.
Because he was. This daughter meant a lot to the Vampyre. “And the Scriptum?” Merrick challenged.
Anton hesitated less than a heartbeat, yet Merrick couldn’t have missed it. He wasn’t just Gargoyle. His blood was an elixir of three formidable creatures, and Merrick knew the Vampyre could smell the subtle potency of the combination.
Even without being the one to escort Anton’s daughter through Hell, the Vampyre would deem it necessary to respect him. It would be perilous to do otherwise.
Resignation softened Anton’s expression. “I wish I could say it meant nothing. But I, too, have my duty to my kind. We will all benefit from the teachings of the Scriptum, its secrets. We cannot leave it in the hands of those who have stolen it away to Hell.
“My daughter is the one to retrieve it for us,” he admitted, his breath vacating his lungs on a long exhale. Anton’s silver eyes held Merrick’s, and hid nothing of his fear for his adopted daughter.
Merrick locked his gaze where it was while he chewed on his predicament.
The seconds limped by.
Keep not one, but two, precious items from getting destroyed? A nearly impossible feat given where he and the woman were expected to go.
“It will cost you,” he finally conceded, as forthright as the Vampyre who stood at the dais.
“Anything, Chimera.” The deal steeped down to the two players, as if the others in the room evaporated like non-essential vapor.
Well, not all of the others. Merrick never lost the trace of the human woman’s scent, of her watching him. She watched her father, too. He couldn’t have missed a single gesture of hers if he tried.
Anton and the Triumvirate would pay for that, too. Why not. “When I bring your daughter back with this book, you will owe the Kynd a building in their honor. One engineered with their retirement in mind.”
He couldn’t bring himself to say their deaths. The Kynd didn’t truly die. At first, anyway. They spent centuries encased in stone, perched on eroding ledges. They witnessed ceaselessly, watching the living below them until their bodies crumbled under the incessant ravages of time and weather.
Christ on the cross. Where was the deliverance from that torture? Oh, right. There wasn’t one. The Kynd got the nosebleed seats to the eternal game of life. Perennial passes for every season.
“It will be done, Chimera.” Anton’s acceptance rained on Merrick’s pity party, but his attention snapped back to the fore, like a pitbull scenting blood.
Just like that? This woman meant an awful lot to the Vampyre, and he cursed that he might fathom why. Merrick risked an appraising glance toward the woman who had cost the Vampyre so much, surreptitiously observed her dark eyes pool with tears, her fingers press to her lips before they formed the words Papa in a dreadful sigh.
Dear God. He wanted to hold her. Not just feel her small body enclosed in his arms, but to rub himself all over with that honey-lavender scent.
By thunder, Anton would pay. The Chimera would not rescind this deal, not when this human woman confounded him, made his body ache to do things it had never done before.
Merrick nodded his agreement, then peeled his attention onto the rest of the Triumvirate. “You mentioned packs for the journey. We’ll leave before this hour is up.” He didn’t wait for their reply, but stalked from the stone room that had begun to press on him like a cave.
He hated the underground. But more than that, he hated that he felt as if he’d just bargained for more than what was on the table.
~S.C. Dane
~Installment No. 8 coming Saturday, February 21, 2015