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LOVER IN STONE, Installment No. 21

INSTALLMENT No. 21 #lips #Angel #gargoyle
“Merrick?” Angelia’s voice quavered like the chicken she was, and she silently cursed herself. The Chimera needed someone sturdy, not some quaking ninny, so she’d better stiffen her Ramen noodle spine to be strong for him. Even if she had to fake it.
Her lips had not suddenly gone dry, dang it. But the swiping of her tongue to moisten them was like a slap to the face of her denial. Which she chose to ignore, and stood up, coiling her sweaty fist tighter with Merrick’s hold so he wouldn’t let her go.
Because she saw his agony. Heck, she felt it.
Whatever he did up on that Archway wasn’t good.
She’d seen the bony carcasses, so did she really want to know the gruesome details?
Yes. If it meant she could ease some of that drowning grief from his gray eyes, then yes. She wanted to comfort him so bad the need to do it quivered inside her, her body demanding she open up and take him into herself.
Acting on instinct, she reached out, pulling Merrick’s rough hand around her back and pressing her body to his.
He hissed as his arm drew her in tight. Through the opening of his unbuttoned leather jacket, she could see the hammer-like blows of his heart punching the thick muscles of his chest.
Jiminy, she could smell him, forcing her to remember there was a reason she’d let herself get squashed this close to Merrick, and it wasn’t to bask in that crystalline wildness. She was trying to give him solace.
“You stop souls from entering Hell, don’t you.” It wasn’t a question; she’d seen the evidence. But she wanted to come across as accepting, not as some dang coward.
He growled his answer, and Angelia closed her eyes as the scrape of it dragged delectably across her skin, erupting goosebumps in its wake.
“Yes.”
Ooh, she so, so, so loved his growl. Why didn’t she want to bask? She needed to dredge up every ounce of self-restraint she had to keep herself on track. But she would, for Merrick’s sake. “And humans without souls who wish to pass?” She knew such beings existed. They were the stuff of her nightmares from as far back as she could remember. They were the things the Gargoyles and Chimeras of her dreams protected her from.
They were probably why she idolized the Kynd.
His forehead pressed to her crown, his uneven breaths caressing her hair. “Angel, no more.” When he pulled back to look at her, he somehow plumbed a reassuring grin, and the sight of it made her go all gooey inside. Maybe it was because he seemed to be asking for mercy while his strong teeth reminded her that physically, he wasn’t vulnerable at all. “This Castle is probably the last beautiful thing you’ll see for a few days. You should be paying attention to that instead.”
Pfft. She highly doubted it. Merrick was beautiful, what with his black bangs curling in little spikes across his forehead, like a row of mini scythes, and cupping his smallish ear, which dragged her attention so her gaze followed the cords of his neck to the leather of his collar.
And he’d just called her Angel.
She bet he didn’t even realize it.
Besides, when she pulled her mind out of the sexual gutter, she noticed she was experiencing something far more beautiful than architecture or a sinful body: she was aglow from receiving the compassion of a Chimera.
Now that she knew how well-guarded a secret that was, she felt the privilege of his gift. He was treating her like Kynd.
Which made him irresistibly sexy.
Even to a virgin.
Her core squirmed again, but this time it pulsated, wetting her panties.
The muscles of Merrick’s broad shoulders bulged as he lowered his head to take a deep breath.
Dear God, he was sniffing her! He’d feel, too, the heat of her hand, the heat of her thighs, and she had to struggle not to place his hand where she readied for him, she had to resist the flaming urge to pull it between her legs and ride his rough palm.
His fingers gripped hers so hard she thought maybe he might break her bones. But she couldn’t stop her eyes from wandering low, to watch his manhood thicken, stretching the leather of his leggings. Her tongue stole out to caress her lower lip, for different reasons this time.
“Come on, Angel.” As Merrick tugged at her to resume their march toward the Castle, she caught the glint of thick fangs. Which should have frightened the bee turds out of her. Seriously, what was he going to do with those? Bite her?
Oh, please, yes.
She ought to wash her brain out with soap. She wanted the Chimera to bite her? Maybe it was time to stop living with Vampires.
Kynd didn’t drink blood, she knew that much. But she couldn’t shake visions of Merrick’s sharp teeth pinching her nipples, or sucking her breasts in between them.
Gads. She wasn’t helping the situation here, not when her nipples went rigid with the promise of what Merrick’s mouth could do.
Turning her attention to where her feet were going would be far more helpful. Merrick was dragging her toward the Castle, so she shifted gears to follow willingly, and freed her mind from her breasts to think about the words he’d spoken as he’d pulled her with him.
He’d called her Angel again. Merrick might have spoken to her like his teeth were smashed together, but he had called her Angel.
An endearment, not a curse.
She knew that because he didn’t let go of her hand.
He kept hold of her.
And she took it for the truce it was.
~S.C. Dane
~Installment No. 22 coming Saturday, April 11, 2015.

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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. 14

INSTALLMENT NO. 14 #humiliation #scent  #crave
Merrick watched the woman’s backside grow smaller for the second time in the same day. Just like before, he was struck dumb.
Was that shame he’d seen flash in those blue-black eyes? The Chimera had lived a solitary existence for millennia, but he recognized humiliation when he saw it. Because he saw it almost every day, perched atop the Archway with damned souls plodding beneath his paws.
That the human woman Angelia should fall victim to such a debilitating emotion cut away at the stone of his heart, something she alone seemed to have the knack for doing.
And Merrick wasn’t sure how to take that.
He didn’t like humans. With God on their side, they were doing a fine job of destroying themselves and the beautiful planet that had been gifted to them.
Their egos acknowledged no bounds. Nothing was too great or too low for them to grasp with their greedy, bloodstained hands.
Yet, Angelia seemed different somehow. As clever as she was, there was a naiveté she emanated, an innocence the Chimera hadn’t encountered since he’d been exiled to the gates of Hell.
Merrick plucked his leather coat off the ground and smacked the dirt and dead insects out of it.
This could have been her.
A rosy thought.
One that made him think of how fragile a human being she was. She offered him nothing but kindness and fair play, and he shoved it back down her throat.
But it was either that or acknowledge how he reacted to her. The scent of her went straight to his groin, so that it thickened and grew painfully heavy.
What was he going to do with that? Mate her?
Not on God’s green toy called Earth. Or in Hell, for that matter.
Except he wanted to, which was the problem. He wanted to taste her, he wanted to know what her softness would feel like as she encased the damned thing hardening between his legs.
She was the opposite of stone, which was the Chimera’s fate, and just once before his body succumbed to its doom he would like to feel the pliability of soft flesh yielding for him.
Merrick scoffed, shoving such nonsense out of his head. He would have to be satisfied with something more platonic, curse his infernal erection, if he wanted to savor the presence of the human woman.
He could cram his rage and the fact of his hardening skin away for the next several days. Hell, if he could do that it would give him something nice to think about while he was perched in immutable stone for the next few centuries. Maybe thinking of her would ease some of his rage so he could endure his granite prison.
“Angelia, wait.” Merrick trotted after the one thing that shined a little like hope, even if he could never touch her.

****
Her feet halted like the booted traitors they were when the Chimera’s growling command caressed her eardrums.
Brilliant.
So much for her shred of dignity. That was about to get tossed to the curb like the paltry thing it was. Angelia took a fortifying breath and turned to face her anguish head on.
“What, Merrick.” Her curt response was all she could muster as she watched him jog toward her. God, he was beautiful. Not pretty in any way, but striking, the way a tiger sliding through the jungle was beautiful. Sublimely powerful, muscles rippling with every self-possessed movement.
Who knew? Maybe one of the animals of his Chimera was tiger.
Oh yeah, the idea of that just stuffed her with confidence.
“Not Mr. Merrick?” He coaxed a chagrined smile to his lips as he pulled up in front of her.
Angelia hadn’t been expecting his grin, and the sight of it stabbed straight for her womb, which wrung taut with raw need.
She bit down on a gasp, and for one horrifying second she thought she gave herself away.
God, she couldn’t even focus on her Indiana Jones adventure without somehow messing it up. Getting moist for her guide would not prove her self-worth. Not to her father, or Aro. Least of all to herself.
Merrick lifted his chin as his nostrils widened. He took a step back.
Angelia’s cheeks warmed, the stings and bites growing sere from the heat rushing to her face.
Oh, she must be gorgeous, all reeking with needy sex and mottled like a toad. So attractive, the Chimera took a step backward.
Angelia stiffened her spine in the face of his revulsion. Then spun on her heel to flee toward the River Acheron with as steady a hiking pace as she could muster.
She wouldn’t let him see her run. She wasn’t a coward, dang it. No, she was not.
Yes, he weakened her.
But she couldn’t deny the soaring of her heart as he fell into a quiet pace behind her.

****

They reached the river Acheron by what would have been nightfall if they hadn’t been traveling beyond the Archway. Time simply didn’t exist in Hell, the sun didn’t rise or set. The sun didn’t appear at all. Instead, a red sky reigned above their heads, a constant part of the scenery Merrick paid no attention to.
Because, as Angelia walked, he followed her like a dog, trying to steal more of her scent whenever the breezes cooperated.
She never looked back at him, so she didn’t have a clue what he was doing. Hell, he didn’t have any idea what he was doing.
Chasing a scent like an animal.
Yes, he was.
But he couldn’t help himself. The smell of her had him hooked, as it had from the second he’d gotten a whiff of her back at the Triumvirate’s gallery. He could follow her scent instinctively, so the rest of the time they walked he turned his mind to the task at hand.
A surprisingly difficult feat given the way he practically salivated as he watched her walking ahead of him. She had a cushy, yet tight ass, one that begged squeezing, and long, lithe legs dropping out from the bottom of that tempting bum.
Merrick kept his hands clenched in fists lest he indulge his urges.
He had more important decisions to make than whether or not to sandwich his phallus between the cheeks of her ass. Besides, the fact that he wanted to should have been fueling his rage.
The Chimera hated humans, who tended to lord it over everything, the world being their God-given domain and all.
Humans were higher up on his list of dislikes than Ghouls. So, why wasn’t she pissing him off the way other humans did?
Well, he could rub that little nugget, too, while he sat frozen in Grotesque form on a window ledge.
Right then, he 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.
~S.C. Dane
~Installment No. 15 coming Tuesday, March 17, 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. 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

Wolf-Love, Final Installment #travel #self-discovery #author’s note

Wolf-Love

Final Installment

    Against Sofia’s better judgment, she and German returned to their room to change their clothes. Well, she wouldn’t be changing her clothes because she was still a wolf, the dress she’d been wearing still laying like a shed snakeskin on the floor of the dining room. Now that they were no longer downstairs, her mate was shucking his suit like a bear picking through the garbage: shit was getting tossed.

    Until he stood naked, turning toward her like Adonis. God, he was beautifully handsome, his muscles perfectly formed. Not over-pumped like he worked out in a gym, but well-defined and chiseled because of the lack of body fat. German was lean, built for agility, speed, and strength.

    Like a wolf.

    Huh. Add two and two and you get someone worth drooling over. Literally. Sofia ran her wolf tongue along the ridge of her left lip, and her mate’s verdant eyes caught fire. She smelled his arousal before her gaze picked up on the subtle tightening between his legs. Wolf senses. Nose first—but, oh, how sharp her eyes were!

    German’s smile lit his face, narrowed his green eyes with the lifting of his cheeks. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was dinner.”

    Sofia’s tail swept like a pendulum, heavy and low, side to side.

    As if she’d spoken, he understood. Then again, she guessed she had said something. Reading body language was a finely tuned and innate talent. Now that her wolf had blossomed fully from her, comprehending the nuances of the body didn’t seem so strange. And didn’t get her into trouble, either. No wonder her transition went pretty seamlessly: she was already half-way there, her body just needed to catch up with her brain.

    She loved her wolf self. Hugged it fiercely to her like the long lost twin it was. So, her mate standing in front of her nude tickled her skin beneath her fur. She was anxious for him to join her.

    However. German sat on his heels and opened his arms for her to come to him. He knew she wasn’t just excited, that she’d be asking a hundred questions if she could shift out of her wolf form. But circumstances kept her trapped. She couldn’t regulate her pounding heart, couldn’t cool the heat of her blood.

    “C’mere, Sofe.” His tender name for her. She needed comforting as much as she wanted him inside of her, and he knew that. She hadn’t been wrong to bind herself to this man. Who was a wolf, too. God! She loved him, loved their lives together. Unable to stop herself, Sofia squirmed against him, curling herself around her paws like they were a pedestal and her upper body a swivel chair. To be rubbed against German’s broad chest, inside of his strong arms. She kissed him under the chin repeatedly, her tongue flicking out, her nose nudging him.

    He tugged an ear, let it go, tugged again. Quieting her. Quelling her rising anxiety. It worked, even without the gentle swaying of a moving car beneath them. She felt his chuckle like bubbles fizzing across her fur. “Yeah, we dodged a bullet.” He resumed the tugging as they both grew quiet. “We’re homeless, though, Sofe. I’m your mate without a territory.” She heard his regret, his disappointment. Like he’d expected more from himself.

    How could she tell him he’d already given her more than she’d ever dreamed possible?

    No home? Hell, nothing new from where she was standing. In fact, she’d never been better equipped to be homeless. With her fur, she had portable shelter. Her wolf body was a damned grocery cart. Push it and food could be had.

    Aaaand…door number three? She wasn’t alone in any of it. No matter what the future held, elementally she knew German would always be there. They were bound together, his promise to her going far beyond mere words spoken. He was a living thing moving within her.

    Within her. Those weren’t just pretty words. The gray wolf prowled below her skin, in every cell, through her blood, so she always felt him, always knew he was with her.

    “We could head back to the northeast.” Sofia wiggled deeper into his embrace. Hell, yeah! As much as she’d enjoyed her first trip across the country, she missed Maine. If that was where German wanted to go, then they should be heading there yesterday. She released the whine building up in her chest as her tail thumped. “That’s a yes, huh?” She felt his smile along her fur as he buried his face into her ruff, his arms squeezing tighter.

    He needed her. As much as she needed him.

    After a deep breath, he stood up. “Okay. Just you and me, and our paws beneath us.” Determination hardened his features, pacing like a fierce thing in his eyes. “Wolf, Sofia. We leave here as wolves.” Which meant they would take nothing, so he wouldn’t owe anything to this pack. He would finally be free.

    But, he knew the risks and wouldn’t go if she didn’t dare. Wolves lived together not just for the camaraderie. As pack, they helped one another survive. Which wasn’t some theory discussed while sated and warm, comfortably safe beside a crackling fireplace.

    Survival.

    She’d been surviving on less than she had now. So, no, she wasn’t deterred, she wasn’t frightened. Loping toward the door, she stopped and yipped. If they were going then they’d better get going before the idiots downstairs did something predictably human: like take back their promise that she and German could go in peace.

    Her mate fell to his knees as he succumbed to his wolf.

    Joy swelled, expanding inside her, filling her to overflowing. To stem it, she ran, the Minnesota night enveloping her as she and the gray wolf burst from the manor. Sofia didn’t look back, but up, where the stars were sharp diamonds in a navy sky so wide the constellations were self-evident.

    German brushed her shoulder, matching his stride to hers. Other wolves emerged from the trees silent as ghosts, falling in behind them. Two, then four, five, and still they appeared like wraiths from the landscape to follow.

    German poured on a burst of speed. Not to lose them, but to strive forward, to release the exultation of a born leader overwhelmed by the unexpected show of solidarity, of loyalty. As he slowed then halted, the others circled, tentatively skimming their fur against the gray wolf’s. Against her own. Their tails swishing low. Her mate lifted his muzzle to the night sky to howl his triumph.

    Pack. The red wolf would get her family, after all. A fairy tale ending? Hardly. But it was Sofia’s version of happily ever after.

    ~S.C. Dane

    ~The End.

    ~Author’s note: As Monty Python is famous for saying: “Now it’s time for something completely different.” I’m going to change tack, veer off course, turn left at Dunkin’ Donuts. My next several blogs will be more personal; a little sharing of an author’s life and how I got to be where I am now: traveling across the country with my dog as my co-pilot. Title of the next several blogs? “How to Throw Away a Perfectly Good Husband.”

I’ll post a blog for you in the next several days, once my wheels find their groove. Wish I could give you something a little more concrete date-wise, but I’m traveling. The road has a way of chewing time, and the scenery tends to launch my imagination, so it takes me a little while to dig my toes back into solid earth. I apologize ahead of time for this inconvenience of being a little off the map (pun intended). But losing myself to find myself is kind of the point of my journey. I welcome you to hop aboard and share. I’m sure I’m not the only woman out there who had a dream and pursued it before time ran out. I would love to hear your stories!