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by Jan Irving
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica
Description: Hiding behind the safe mask of Obsidian, his online persona, Kain Mitchell woos Nick Anders, an untouched artist. Nick tells himself that Obsidian is merely his erotic muse, but when Kain drags him down into his dark world, echoing the myth of Hades and Persephone, Nick discovers he wants to see him, touch him, and move beyond the limitations of masks. Because as seductive as Obsidian is, Nick senses Kain's real isolation. Implicated for the murders of young men matching Nick's description, Kain lives under a shadow, and troubled by the mystery, Nick pushes to get closer. Driven to prove Kain's innocence, Nick pursues the killer with Kain's reluctant help--and strives to become the human submissive and tender lover needed by the lonely and otherworldly warrior. BDSM and Paranormal elements.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2009 2009
eBookwise Release Date: September 2009
49 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [301 KB]
Reading time: 180-252 min.
Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
Rainer Maria Rilke
* * * *
Obsidian: Let me guess, you got your nickname from a woman?
Moonbeam: How did you...?
Obsidian: I know a lot about you, Moonbeam. You should be more careful what you share about yourself on the 'Net. You're quite naive. But it's a useful quality to someone like me.
Moonbeam: Am not.
Obsidian: Are too.
Moonbeam: Prove it?
Obsidian: My favorite words. :smirk: You're nineteen--I saw you tell Steve a week ago when he wanted to know if you're going to dress up and cavort on Halloween--and you nicely avoided his fishing for a hook up, by the way. Very kind, aren't you? An interesting weakness. You said you were too old and he suggested certain venues where it's fun to wear a mask--year round. You are an art student. You enjoy working with oils, but you dislike water colors because they are ... watery. So less control. And you like that, ingénue. You like control.
Moonbeam: So do you...
Obsidian: Of course. So you have to be a blond with your nickname...
Moonbeam: Yes, all right, I am blond.
Obsidian: A cute blond.
The curser blinked and Nick felt perspiration prickle his hairline. It was always like this in the chat room since the aloof and mysterious Obsidian had taken an interest in him, cutting him from the herd of other users.
He didn't know why he had let it happen, because Obsidian was ... threatening.
Moonbeam: You said I reveal too much about myself, so maybe I'll leave that one.
Obsidian: Don't be fucking coy. I know you are cute.
Moonbeam: :sigh: I am cute.
Obsidian: I knew it. Your eyes are blue to go with that "moonbeam" hair?
Moonbeam: :squirms: Why this focus on what I look like?
Obsidian: Appearances are extremely important. Don't tell me you slob around in wrinkled cotton. :pained:
Moonbeam: I suppose you're some high-powered businessman who wears designer labels. I am just an ordinary guy. A poor, starving artist.
Obsidian: Still here, Moonbeam. Tsk. We were talking about YOU. You also have a boyfriend. I'm not sure if he can't satisfy you sexually or you just haven't let him fuck you yet because I get a strong vibe that you are a virgin, aren't you?
Moonbeam: What? What the fuc-? You DON'T know me. YOU DO NOT.
Obsidian: Stop shouting! Excitable, aren't you? It's 2:22 A.M. If you were MINE, you wouldn't be in some fucking chat room; you'd be lying on a bed, coated with sweat, worn out with my arm lying over your body, pressing you to the bed. MY bed.
Nick heard the key in the lock.
Moonbeam: Right, because you're some kind of legendary lover. You're so infuriating sometimes! I have to go.
Moonbeam: Good night.
Moonbeam: Has left the room.
Obsidian: Has left the room.
* * * *
Kain reached for a pack of cigarettes, lit one. At least he could still do this, and it wasn't like he could kill himself by smoking anymore. He got up and paced the halls of the big pile of a house he'd purchased on impulse. Mostly dust and wood floors, not decorated as his downtown penthouse had been. Maybe he should get that designer out here.
He shook his head, taking in faded wallpaper and the water stains on the ceiling. She'd probably run from this job.
His house was hopeless and he knew it, but it suited him now.
He picked up his Blackberry and hit a familiar number.
"Blond tonight. Not too tall. Blue eyes. And no talking. You know the drill," he directed his connection.
"We have someone new, Mr. Mitchell," Ernie's voice purred. "Young and he loves to be of service."
"Just be sure to tell him to follow instructions." Kain ended the call.
* * * *
The room for his "date" was set up. A bed, lube, condoms ... and handcuffs.
"Put them on and face the wall," Kain ordered from the shadows.
"I can barely see anything. It's fucking dark in here!" Weak laughter. The young man looked over one bare shoulder, obviously trying to make out his client.
Kain ignored the curiosity. He needed this, a body under his control, purchased for his very specific needs.
Still burning with mingled resentment and stimulation, Kain sheathed himself and mounted his date from behind as soon as the trick was on the mattress. The metal of the handcuffs gleamed softly in the light from the hallway, clinking gently. Only stars lit the room.
His hired date let out a groan as he was penetrated by Kain's thick cock.
Kain wrapped a hand around his throat, feeling the pulse, the frailty of life.
He let out a long growl of relief. Against blond hair he whispered, "Moonbeam."
* * * *
"So is your secret admirer on?"
"He's just.... "Nick shrugged, tucking some of his silver-blond hair behind one ear, uncomfortable. He spent a lot of time on his own since Miguel spent nights at a Laundromat, but they'd worked that out, deciding that it was ... best. Or maybe he'd let Miguel go because he knew it was easier for him. He shifted his feet, feeling the ground between them a little off. He missed him. Missed how they used to be.
Nick knew he was a romantic. He was the one who liked to cook a meal, light some candles, buy the best wine he could afford and spoil his boyfriend. Even though he was lost in his art half the time, talking, touching, making contact, was important to him.
But for the past year whenever he reached out to Miguel, there was nothing solid. Just a feeling of things unsaid.
"Yeah." Miguel lifted Nick's hand, entwining their fingers. His lips parted, the ones Nick had once drawn over and over in a sketchbook, along with his heavily lashed sherry eyes and the springy black hair he'd inherited from his Chilean-American mother. "Seems like you spend a lot of time with this guy online lately. Should I be jealous?"
"He's not real," Nick said pragmatically, reminding himself of that again. And reminding himself that the mysterious Obsidian served a purpose. "So spending time with him is really killing time." He got up from the worn wood of his desk chair and went to settle on Miguel's lap, curling his arms around his boyfriend's sturdy neck. He didn't treat him as delicate or untouchable. He knew that was important from their counseling sessions. Miguel had had a bad relationship with his first boyfriend, who could be violent, and still shied away from Nick because of it. "Just the requisite fantasy, which helps my art, Mr. Darcy in the chat room. Is that all right?"
Miguel scratched his eyebrow. "I'm not sure I like it, you having a fantasy man who is not me."
"He could be you," Nick couldn't keep from saying. He bit his lip a second later, knowing what was coming.
"Nicky, we've been through this before; it's not like I don't want to! I just ... I can't."
Nick felt immediate guilt. It was just sex, for Christ's sake! He needed to get over it. Everything else between them was comfortable, so why couldn't he just leave it alone like Miguel asked? "I know. I'm sorry. Really."
"If you know, why do you bring it up all the fucking time?" Miguel glared.
Nick swallowed. "Because we've been together a long time. Because I get scared, I guess," Nick confessed, "that you and I.... "Miguel had been his first crush. The first guy he'd kissed. "I barely see you."
He didn't want to admit it, that it hurt sometimes that Miguel spent more time with his musician friends than with his loyal boyfriend. But Miguel was talented and ambitious. They were both just starting out, taking classes, hoping for a break. He understood that. He needed to express himself so fucking badly. Some nights his muse woke him up and he was dabbing oils while half-asleep, rubbing his eyes, sipping cold coffee.
Miguel was the same, often leaving the shower with shampoo bubbles clinging to his half-washed hair so he could scribble some musical notes on a free piece of paper.
"He inspires my art. You know what that's like." Nick knew that Miguel would understand. That was within the boundaries of their unconventional arrangement, which had deteriorated into one of buddies, of being in a comfortable rut. But Nick didn't know how to change it. The more he tried, the more Miguel pulled away, leaving him alone.
"Oh." Miguel shrugged since Nick had plenty of experience sketching male models in school and he had never been jealous of them--until recently. "Well then, I guess he's no threat."
"He can't give me what I need," Nick said honestly. "Because he's just a fantasy so he can never touch me."
Miguel studied him, lips tightening. "Neither can I, remember?"
* * * *
Obsidian: Moonbeam? Stop fucking lurking.
Moonbeam: What if I am?
Obsidian: Moody. Maybe you should take some evening primrose.
Moonbeam: Is there some reason you are riding me tonight?
Obsidian: Maybe I only wish I was. Are you still there? I was waiting for you for ... some time.
Obsidian: I may have been a tad abrasive. I'm ... sorry.
Moonbeam: You think?
Obsidian: So tell me more about the boyfriend. Is he tall, dark and handsome? Does he make your heart beat faster and your cock hard?
Moonbeam: As if I'll share more about him with you.
Obsidian: I know you help support him. Must be hard since you barely scrape by.
Moonbeam: How do you know that? I've never talked about that with you.
Obsidian: I may have had you investigated.
Obsidian: I was curious. It was not stalking. Not the way I define it anyway.
Obsidian: I obtained a picture. You are cute. I like to look at you.
Moonbeam: I'm leaving now!
Obsidian: Don't. Don't do that. Nick--! Moonbeam.
Moonbeam: You admit you--Fuck; I don't even have words...! I just met you online two weeks ago. Okay, we've talked every night, and it's been good for my art, but--
Obsidian: Talked for hours. You've told me things you've never told anyone, haven't you? Not even the boyfriend. And don't tell me the climaxes I've given you have been just for your art.
Moonbeam: How do you know I--? That doesn't give you the right. And can we get off the topic of my boyfriend, please?
Obsidian: You could have been anyone. I needed to know. I wanted to own your face.
Moonbeam: "Own my face?" Obsidian! I'm me. I am not comfortable with a fake persona so I'm just ... me.
Obsidian: You drew me and I admit it made me feel a little vulnerable. I'm not accustomed to that. And ... I wanted to see what you looked like.
Moonbeam: That is both creepy and--
Moonbeam: Oddly touching.
Obsidian: Don't go. Don't be pissed. You should be flattered. I think of you every night I wrap a hand around my cock. I spill with your name on my lips.
Moonbeam: Shit! Will you behave? Now, I want an even playing field. You tell me about you. Or I leave.
Moonbeam: I fucking knew it! Fine, continue playing the dark mystery man, but I'm leaving.
Obsidian: I was ... am thirty-five years old.
Moonbeam: Was? Strange choice of word.
Obsidian: Do you want to hear this or not, you little pest? I have dark brown hair. Green eyes. I'm taller than you--Over six feet.
Moonbeam: Why have you been spending all this time with me? I'm alone a lot at night, working on my paintings, but you...?
Moonbeam: Obsidian? Talk to me.
Obsidian: I have some time on my hands. Just lately. And I live at night.
Moonbeam: To stalk someone?
Obsidian: Very funny. I don't need to do that. I can--I did--
Obsidian: Nothing. What are you working on?
Moonbeam: The seascape. I think that I've overcome the problem I had with perspective. And I like that it's set in winter since the clouds are heavy with rain, but drifting fast. It's really wonderful to try to capture that. You know, there were many great landscape artists in the last century who just painted clouds, changing weather patterns. I imagine that sometimes. Everything just stopping long enough so you can paint clouds every day. It was another world.
Obsidian: You were frustrated.
Moonbeam: You told me to go jerk off and then look at it again. :amused:
Obsidian: It worked, didn't it?
Moonbeam: Sex is not the answer to everything.
Obsidian: Says someone not getting what they need.
Moonbeam: About that...!
Obsidian: Yeah, yeah. Your boyfriend is a saint. I take back all the true things you can't handle.
Obsidian: Don't be pissy.
Moonbeam: I did mention "infuriating," right?
Obsidian: I make your heart rate pick up. Admit it.
Moonbeam: Obsidian, I'm poking back. Tell me one true thing about you from the past few days that you would normally not share.
Obsidian: That's unwise.
Moonbeam: Be unwise.
Obsidian: I hired a hustler who looks like you.
Moonbeam: You what!
Obsidian: You asked.
Moonbeam: I have a boyfriend!
Obsidian: So tell me when you jerked off for your "art," you didn't imagine my hand on you, gripping your cock, my voice in your ear, urging you on. Come for me, boy, so fucking beautiful, shoot all over my hand!
Obsidian: Little liar. We are engaged in real flirtation, Moonbeam. What do you think this is? It's not fucking Victorian pen pals. I'm closer to you. I touch you; put my hands all over you whenever we meet.
Moonbeam: No, this is just fantasy. It has to be fantasy!
Obsidian: Fantasy is a powerful thing. It's where dreams and goals bud.
Moonbeam: I'm signing off!
Obsidian: You'll be back ... Right? Probably.
Moonbeam: Has left the room.
Obsidian: That went well.
Obsidian: Has left the room.
* * * *
Obsidian pressed his hand against the glass of the Pancake House window, looking in.
Nick was working tonight, serving customers, sharing his smile freely.
His hair really was the color of his nickname, Moonbeam. Soft silver shafts in his eyes, dimples, beautiful pale skin that would feel like silk against the back of Obsidian's hand. Skin that would bruise so easily.
He shifted back and forth down the aisle between tables, talking to customers, sharing his conversation so easily, sharing himself so that Obsidian wished he could lock his Moonbeam away where only he could touch, see, enjoy that smile, that fresh skin, like Hades stealing away Persephone.
He thought of his home, of the vines strangling it, of the quiet so the dull tick of the grandfather clock kept him awake for hours.
It was on an endless night like that one, when he could hear nothing but his own heartbeat, when no one wanted to know him, that he had met Moonbeam in a chat room.
He wanted him under his roof, locked in a room with a big silver key. Watched by Obsidian alone, only for Obsidian's pleasure, so he could spill his desire on him, taste him, his come, maybe steal a droplet of blood. He'd be so careful--
Obsidian watched, hands on the cool glass, on the outside, until a drop of rain spattered his cheek, falling from the awning that circled the storefront. Wiping the wetness from his skin, he was reminded.
He couldn't touch Nick. He couldn't risk hurting him.
Aching, he almost turned away.
* * * *
Obsidian was so focused on Nick, watching him, that he was oblivious to a man sitting on a shaded park bench across the street, watching him.
His observer folded his newspaper when Obsidian hesitated, then finally headed into the restaurant.
"Feeling a little lonely, are we?" the stranger whispered, satisfied. This would fit very well with the larger game in play.
* * * *
"You've been distracted lately." Miguel reached for the syrup when Nick placed a plate of waffles in front of him in Charlie's Pancake House where he worked part-time.
"Just working on a piece." Nick shrugged, rubbing his hands on his apron. Oh shit, the things he'd exchanged with Obsidian! He knew it wasn't real, but he felt a little guilty. How much of what belonged rightfully to Miguel alone had he given away? Worse, wanted to give away.
Nick ground his teeth, reining in his feeling. He was using Obsidian, his virile genie in a bottle. He had to stopper him up again and live his life.
"I thought you finished that," Miguel continued, seemingly oblivious to Nick's confusion.
Nick blinked. "You knew I was having trouble?"
Miguel stroked Nick's arm, making a silent apology for his harsh words previously. "Of course. Aren't you just like me? Whenever I can't master something on the cello it puts me in a pissy mood until I get it. Even knowing better, knowing I'm tired or played out, I keep going. But not to play, not to create, would be like living death. You're the same; that's why we belong together."
"Yeah." Nick kissed Miguel, smiling. It would be okay again. They would be okay. They understood each other. He'd push Obsidian aside again. His sexual allure. His ... loneliness.
But when he pulled away from Miguel, his gaze collided with the cat-green eyes of a customer. Staring at him. Examining his face, his body.
Slouching in a booth across from Miguel's table, wearing a hat pulled low. Insolent eyes. Eyes that claimed what didn't belong to anyone but Miguel.
Nick's heartbeat picked up and he looked away, flushing.
"Sorry." Nick shrugged, self-conscious for some reason. "I promise to give you my full attention tonight!"
"Don't go online," Miguel urged. "I hear from my friends there are a lot of predators in chat rooms and you're pretty open about yourself. Innocent."
"I'm not exactly Little Red Riding Hood." Nick gave his boyfriend an indulgent look. "But tonight ... I stay safe."
"Safe." Miguel stabbed some waffle with his fork. "Interesting choice of words, don't you think?"
Feeling eyes on him, Nick glanced again in the direction of the booth and he pulled out his pad, ready to take an order, forcing himself to face that probing gaze again.
But the stranger with the beautiful green eyes was gone.
* * * *
Kain Mitchell lit another cigarette, ignoring the pile in an ashtray by his laptop. Couldn't sleep. Couldn't block out the memories, the pain, the fear at what he'd become.
He rubbed his eyes, which were so sensitive now. Closed them and thought about Nick: the blond hair, the cool skin, the quick smile. Soothing. When was Kain going to bring him closer, under his hand?
He stirred, restless. The nights were for staring at the ceiling, seeing to his abominable need, and occasionally getting quick, nasty relief in an alley or crouched in a shadowy room.
The only thing that provided any light, any ease, were his conversations with Moonbeam.
He stared at the flashing cursor in thei--the chat room. Moonbeam hadn't shown for three nights and Kain was restless.
Unstimulated. Needy. He hated that it came down to that.
Rubbing his eyes, he glanced at the book of Greek myths he'd been rereading. No wonder Hades had dragged Persephone into his dark world, if this was how he felt.
"Fine, that the way you want it?" Kain muttered, narrowing his eyes. Kain had been sifting through Nick's life. His employment records. His tuition payments. What he threw out in the fucking trash. Kain's fingerprints were all over Nick's life, like his hand pressed against the cool glass looking into the Pancake House. Looking into Nick's life.
He picked up his phone and speed dialed Cassandra. "A fine arts student named Nick Anders."
"Kain? I do have a personal life, you know." Her normally smooth whiskey voice was burred with annoyance. "It's three-thirty in the goddamned morning! Uh, boss."
But she had worked for him for years, taking a chance on a new guy who had barely unpacked his desk when he had a flash on how to fix the Problem of the Week in a manufacturing firm. She'd been an assistant to a VP, but she'd helped him out and eventually wound up working for him--which had paid off.
"And you're already sleeping? Not very promising. Who is he? Maybe I've had him before."
Cassandra sighed and then, as if knowing better than to argue with him, asked, "Who is this student again?"
Kain spelled out Nick's first and last name, imagining Cassandra shoving back her sleek blond hair and writing on the notepad she kept by the bed. He knew her habits. He'd even slept at her apartment a few nights after the accident, trusting her to keep him safe until he hired Finn and bought his house.
"And what did the unfortunate Mr. Anders do to piss you off?"
"Something," Kain said, frowning at the blinking cursor. "He works at the Pancake House on campus. Get him fired from his job."
"Kain, have a heart! He's just some kid."
"I know what he is." Kain swallowed. "He interests me, Cass." She couldn't doubt him. Not like the others. Not like himself.
"You're not yourself. I've been worried about you. You're barely interested in making the board meetings lately."
"I doubt I'll ever be 'myself' again, not after.... "He took a deep drag and confessed something he'd only share with someone he'd known a very long time. "Cass, he touches me." And no one had. Not in months. Not since the fire.
"Oh, shit. I hate it when you use that husky voice," Cass murmured and Kain knew that if he'd been another kind of man, she'd have allowed herself to love him, maybe. But she was smart enough to remain a good friend.
He smiled now, sensing victory. Nick. I won't give you a choice.
"We fund interns at the university sometimes so hire him to work in the library at Telemachus House. That way he won't really be out of work."
"Oh, sure, you're doing him a favor," she agreed wryly. "Are you sure he can find the library? Your house is a fucking scary ruin."
* * * *
Nick paced, arms crossed, chewing on the end of a paintbrush. He had a pan with some almond oil simmering in the kitchen and the scent relaxed him even as it stimulated his senses. To paint, he needed two things: to be alert and to feel.
If his work lacked passion, then it was flat canvas coated with blobs of oil paint, but if he could nail it, channel it, bring it up and make it live, then he made something that moved people.
And at this point, it helped a little to pay the rent, as well as give him the grades he needed for his degree.
Finding a touchstone of passion lately wasn't a problem; he'd filled canvas after canvas. His time offline had been fruitful.
Obsidian.... The name teased him and he frowned.
He scrubbed his jaw, thinking that even when he chose to avoid his connection to his mystery man, Obsidian lit him up. His imagination ... his fantasies.
And more than that, he could sense how lonely Obsidian was. As alone as Nick felt?
He was reluctant to share the crimsons, the bulbous shapes, and the frankly sexual works with Miguel. They were new growth in Nick's art that his boyfriend hadn't been a part of, by choice.
Now he leaned his head against the window and looked from the dusty attic to the rainy asphalt below. Fall leaves blew in spirals, going nowhere. He saw a figure on the street below, and for a moment it looked like the man was looking up at Nick's window, but then he continued walking and Nick shook off the impression.
He could return to his single bed now, to the room next to Miguel's, be a good boy and lie awake, staring at the ceiling, wondering if somewhere Obsidian was doing the same thing. If he was thinking of Nick.
Abruptly he returned to his computer, his heart rate picking up, his hands a little shaky and his throat dry.
He sat there, staring at the blank screen, chewing his lip.
Obsidian was the forbidden. Bad for him, he just knew it, but Nick felt so isolated and he felt a match for his loneliness in Obsidian.
He turned on his computer.
Obsidian: Where the fuck have you been?
Obsidian: Nick? Don't you fucking sign off!
Moonbeam: Don't call me that. You shouldn't call me that! Here, I'm Moonbeam. I told you this has to be fantasy.
Obsidian: Fine, although one day I will know why you are so insistent. Here in cyberspace, Moonbeam belongs to me.
Moonbeam: You missed me; that's why you're so pissy. I ... missed you too. I couldn't stop thinking about you.
Obsidian: You're an interesting distraction. If you were in my house right now, this second, do you want to know what I'd do to you?
Moonbeam: No, please.
Moonbeam: What would you do? Tell me!
Obsidian: I'd handcuff you to the towel rail in my bathroom. I've got this big fucking palace of a spa, kind of seventies retro since it hasn't been redone, but as large as some living rooms today, as long as you like yellow and orange ... I'd kiss a path down your spine and your head would fall back, silver-blond hair gleaming dully like metal in the light from the hallway.... By the time I reached your backbone, just above your full ass, your legs would be spread. I'd open your cheeks and put my tongue inside you.
Obsidian: I want to eat your ass.
Moonbeam: Obsidian, stop!
Obsidian: But you're excited, admit it. I excited you. You'd let me do anything to you, wouldn't you?
Moonbeam: You're angry with me. But I have a life, I have a boyfriend, and this thing with you.... I need to kick you like a bad habit. I keep trying...
Obsidian: This is me doing you.
Moonbeam: Yes, I know it is. I should go.
Moonbeam: This is wrong. I'm a loyal boyfriend.
Obsidian: It's not wrong. I touch you, he doesn't, and from what you've told me, it's his choice. Do you even share the same bed? I've ... imagined you together and I'm sure you're "affectionate" or whatever you want to call it, but he might as well be your best friend.
Moonbeam: Can we talk about something else?
Obsidian: Don't leave.
Moonbeam: I can't stay long. I have to get my transcripts together.
Moonbeam: I, uh, lost my job.
Obsidian: Does the boyfriend know?
Moonbeam: No, I didn't tell him, didn't want to worry him. Turns out I got a call from the dean's office and they found another gig for me since the waiting job fell through. The Pancake House where I wait tables is on campus. I think this new job probably would suit me better, but--
Obsidian: Pays the same?
Moonbeam: Way better! But ... I liked the people I worked with, you know? And there was a lot of time to just space out, think about a piece I'm working on. Plus my manager was really good to me and I was helping her organize her collection of gothic novels. She has arthritis, so--
Obsidian: Good news then.
Moonbeam: Except I have to commute to some creepy house just outside the city. And I'll miss Marilyn; she was very accommodating if I was trashed from working late on my paintings. She even lets me hang them in the Pancake House sometimes to try to make a little extra money.
Obsidian: I'm sure you'll make out all right. She's just someone you worked for, after all.
Moonbeam: I guess I'll have to, but she's a friend and I'll miss her.
Obsidian: But you'll have more money.
Moonbeam: That's not all that matters to me! I liked my little rut of a job, can't you see that?
Obsidian: Sounds like rut is a good way to characterize it. Maybe doing something unexpected will stimulate you.
Moonbeam: How do you mean?
Obsidian: Your muse, of course. You better get your rest if you have a big day tomorrow.
Moonbeam: You're letting me go so early? And ... How did you know I start tomorrow?
Obsidian: Apparently, I'm psychic as well as indulgent. You will come back because you can't stay away and we both know it, don't we, Moonbeam?
Moonbeam: :sigh: You didn't answer my question, you evasive bastard. And yes, master, I will return.
Moonbeam: I read your tone as purring.
Obsidian: You artists are so imaginative!
Obsidian: I want you to use that imagination.
Obsidian: Indulge me.
Obsidian: Close your eyes and imagine my lips against your backbone. My tongue--
Obsidian: Sweet dreams, Nick.
Obsidian: Has left the room.
Moonbeam: Has left the room.
* * * *
Nick climbed out of the Lexus, staring at Telemachus House, the place he'd been assigned to work--what he could see of it. Ivy and jasmine draped over the portico, covering the windows with tenacious green tendrils. It looked like the vegetation had the house in a death grip, slowly crushing the life from graceful columns and wedding cake architecture.
He shivered, reaching back in the car for his transcripts, muttering his annoyance over this necessity. He didn't want to work all the way out here, miles from the university. As he'd told Obsidian, he liked his little rut of a job because his mind could range free while he was on autopilot, and now--
Something told him he would be marked by being in this house. Gripped like the pallid timbers and Corinthian facade.
A heartbeat after he closed the passenger door, pebbles struck his shoes.
The Lexus pulling away!
"Hey, what the fuck? How do I get home!" Nick yelled, slamming a hand against the retreating trunk of the car. But the driver only continued down the road at a serene pace, ignoring Nick.
"Dandy!" Nick put his hands on his hips and stood there, a little shaken.
He chewed his lip, but then turned reluctantly to face the house. The light hitting the windows at an oblique angle made them shine like secretive eyes, watching him.
Nick shook his head at his own imagination and took a deep breath, again wishing he was back at Charlie's Pancake House. His rut of a job. His rut of a life.
But he was here now and he had to stay and meet with the mysterious Mr. Mitchell, his new boss. He needed this job. Without it, he couldn't afford his share of the rent or to keep taking classes. This was life or death for him.
He trudged over sodden piles of damp leaves to the double front door which sported curled white paint, like the scales of some abandoned creature. There wasn't a bell that he could find at first glance, only a quaint door knocker in the shape of a lady's closed fist.
Heart thudding in his ears, Nick reached for it, feeling a bit like Jane Eyre as he struck the door and the sound echoed ominously.