Shadows Across the Moon Serial Novel Chapter 11 and 12

Shadows Across the Moon is a scifi romance serial novel with chapters being released daily. If you missed the first two chapters you can read them here-

Chapters 1 and 2

Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 5 and 6

Chapters 7 and 8

Chapters 9 and 10

Moderate violence and sex.

All rights reserved as stated in serial chapter 1. Copyright SF English

 

SHADOWS ACROSS THE MOON by SF English

Chapters 11 and 12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 11

“Come on,” Robert said as he tucked his gun in front of his pants.  He pulled out green glow sticks and gave Dane a handful.  He handed one to Grace, and she put it in her pocket.  It had been too risky for the chemical lights earlier.

The ocean at Grace’s back blew cold air through the fog.  The white-gray fog billowed, swirled and dipped.

To their left was the street that would take them back to the Hyatt.  To dead bodies and no hope.  To the right was darkness.  More fog.  Eerie winds that held the promise of fear.  The red lines of light moved swiftly toward them.

“Take my hand,” Grace extended her arm, and Paul took the offered hand.  He pulled hard, almost pulling her down.

“Leave him,” Robert told her as his gaze took in their fate.

“I won’t leave you,” she promised as she pulled on the large soldier.  Cold hand.  Dead hand.  What was he now?  Grace wasn’t sure, but if he could ask for mercy she would give it.  She would not leave him behind.

Warm hands fell on her shoulder and pushed at her gently.  Dane.  He moved her aside and took Paul’s hand.  He spread his leg slightly apart for leverage and pulled on the soldier.  Paul stood, unsteady at first, but let go of Dane and took a step.  His knees buckled, but Dane grabbed him.  Paul leaned on Dane, wrapping his arm around Dane’s shoulders for support.

“This is never going to work, “Robert said.  “We have to outrun those bastards.”

“No we don’t,” Dane answered.  “We’re taking the big guy’s boat.” With a nod toward the dock he threw his arm around Paul’s waist and turned in that direction.

The AIM soldiers were still a block away, but moving in.  To the right of them a thin, red beam of light appeared from around a building.

“Grace, go!” Dane yelled, nodding in the direction of the dock.

“Don’t shoot until you have to,” Paul said.  “They know our target is here.  They want her alive.  They won’t shoot until they’ve secured her.  Or unless they’re shot at.”

Grace moved up with Dane and Paul, Robert flanking her, watching her back.  Robert grabbed her hand, pulled her in front of the two men, then let go, so he could help Dane carry Paul to the dock.

The wood creaked under their weight.  The fog carpeted the path and faith brought them to the boat.  It was small, but big enough for all of them.  They lowered Paul.  Grace started to get in, but Dane held her back, shaking his head.

“Robert, you get in next.  Help Grace in.”

“Don’t want her in there without you?” Robert’s sarcastic tone had no humor to it.

“Not alone with him,” Dane glanced at Paul.  “Not even for a second.”

Robert got in, and helped Grace in.  She sat in the center of the boat, with Robert and Paul at the rear.  Dane got in, his heavy bulk rocking the small boat until he settled in next to her.  He had untied the boat from the dock and the small vessel began floating away.

The sound of the motor caused Grace to turn around.  It wasn’t loud, but the boat lurched forward as Robert started adding speed, and Grace had to steady herself.

Dane’s arm came around her, pulling her close to his warmth, which she was about to need desperately.

“How is it the motor works? I thought all electricity was off?” Grace asked.

“When all electricity began to be delivered through frequencies, they discovered that different frequencies could hold only certain amounts of electricity,” Dane explained.  “Larger cities have a different frequency of electricity than your rural areas.  So does the military.”

“I knew different frequencies held different amounts of electricity, but I didn’t know the military had their own.”  She’d gone to school and knew how electricity worked, but according to what she was taught, the frequencies had to be delivered to a stationary region.  Military had always “tapped into” nearby frequencies.  If they could shut down electricity where ever they wanted, but still have it for themselves, that would be a powerful weapon.  She had no idea technology had advanced so much.  It was working in their favor now.  The boat was a military.

The boat picked up speed, heading out into the ocean.  The waves were choppy as the wind picked up.  The motor was too small, the waves too choppy, and time wasn’t on their side.  Grace wondered how far they’d go on water.

“Where we headed?” Dane asked.

“Presidio apartments.”

“There are AIM solders there,” Grace told Robert.

“There are AIM soldiers everywhere,” he answered, glancing at Paul.

“How long will that take?” Grace said.

“Good point,” Dane said, looking at her, “We need to get off the water fast.  They’ll still be looking for us.”

“Bayside Village?” Robert asked.

“That’s good,” Dane said and turned to Grace.  “One of my homes is there.”

Robert turned the boat and they headed southeast.

Dane owned a home.  More than one.  The thought of it was extraordinary to her.  She knew he was rich, should have figured he’d own land and homes, but other than the company she worked for, she didn’t personally know a land owner.  It was rare that individuals were allowed to own personal homes and land.  The government controlled the land ownership and had for almost 75 years.  Many large corporations rented land from the government because they couldn’t afford to purchase it.  All of Detroit was owned by the government.  Before and after the attack.

Her eyes were drawn to the shore.  Fog and darkness went by in a blur.  They raced across the sea at break-neck speed.

“The fog isn’t bad out here,” Robert said.

“We control the fog in San Francisco,” Paul offered.

Dane and Grace turned in unison to look at him.  Grace knew there was something about this fog that wasn’t natural.

“We have a lot to talk about,” Dane told him, then turned back around, bringing Grace with him by pulling her close to his side.

They remained quiet the few minutes it took to get to Bayside village.  The village had become a private area for the rich and famous, of which Dane was both.  There was a single dock in the area and Robert pulled them along side it.  Dane tied the boat and helped first Grace, then Paul to the dock.

“We’re close,” Dane told them as he took her hand and scanned the area.  “Be alert, Robert.”

“I’m always on alert, Dane,” Robert assured him.

“People in this area are wealthy,” Paul offered.  Robert was helping him move, resigned to needing the soldier for information.  “They have travel skills.” He looked at Grace as she checked on him.  “People with travel skills need to be stopped.  Anyone able to move is to be exterminated by the time the fog reaches six feet.”

Grace immediately looked down.  It was level with her chin.  In less than an hour it would swallow her up.

At the end of the dock they turned left.  Dane took his gun out.  Grace felt the weight of her gun on her body, on her conscience.  She’d hold on to it, but it wouldn’t be more than a way to frighten someone off if it came down to it.  She couldn’t use it.  She knew that.  Killing someone would change her in a way she couldn’t live with.

She thought of the kitten.  That was the Grace she had been.  Now, she wasn’t sure who she was, but it wasn’t a killer.  She could never be that.

They stopped in front of a tall metal gate, guarded by watchful gargoyles on tall cement pillars.  The cement pillars were attached to a ten foot brick wall that went on forever.  Dane’ home was a variable fortress, and she was instantly glad that he was a celebrity, requiring him to protect his privacy.

Dane approached one of the pillars.  Without electricity he had to use brute force to move the heavy gates open.

The four of them walked through the gates.  Robert scanned the area one last time before Dane closed them in.

The house was enormous compared to other homes she’d seen.  It had to have five bedrooms or more.  It was a Victorian replica, which was very popular in the area.  There was surprisingly little fog here at all.  The gate was solid metal, the brick walls ten feet high, somewhere the fog was getting in, but very little of it.

Grace pulled in a lungful of fresh air.  The thought of the fog being so thick, getting into her lungs, had frightened her.  It had no odor.  She’d been able to breathe it without any problems or discomfort, but the eerie white-gray fog wasn’t like normal San Francisco fog, it had substance to it, heavy, wet.  Breathing better was just in her head she decided, but she took in a lungful of air as though she could exhale the fog from her body.

Flowers.  She had no idea what kind, but she knew the scent.  Juliana had received flowers once from a client.  She thought it might even be from Mr.  Miller, but there was no card that accompanied them.  They had been colorful.  She thought they might be tulips, but she’d not studied flowers in a long time, and had never received them herself.  Once, she went to a funeral and there were daisies and roses.  She’d been tempted to take a daisy home with her, but was too frightened to take it.  She was the last person to leave.  The funeral had been beautiful and she didn’t want to leave.  In the end, the flowers remained untouched.  No one would smell them but the undertaker.

A gazebo, white like the house, stood to the right between the house and the brick wall.  Benches inside invited people to stay and be comfortable.  A birdhouse, made to resemble the main house, stood six feet in the air next to the gazebo.  She wondered, briefly, what the place looked like in the day.  Home.  The word came and felt right.  This was nothing like the company house.  The company house was beautiful, very expensive with glass and chrome furnishings, the latest technological wonders and climate controlled interior.  But, it had never felt like home in all the years she worked there.  It was functional.  Like her.  She was content there, but it wasn’t home.

To the left was nothing but thick bushes, a palm tree among them.  That was where the smell came from.  There were flowers in the bushes, and the smell was divine.  She wondered what color they were and wished there was more light than just the moon and their glow sticks.  Running a path along that side of the house she noticed the tulips.  A cement pathway started at the side of the house beside the palm tree and disappeared out of sight along the house.

Tinkling bells, light and melodic, drew her attention to the extended porch in front of the house.  Wind chimes, small and metal hung out in front of the porch.  There were three, strategically placed along the length of the porch, all moving slowly, making music.  The sound made her think of Dane’s music and a smile curved her lips.

“You like it?” Dane stood beside her.  He seemed to hold his breath, waiting.

“It’s beautiful,” she nodded and cast her gaze from him.  His nearness was personal somehow, and she was very aware of his large frame next to her smaller one.  She became aware of her appearance, disheveled and in need of clean clothes.  She became warm under his close regard, and lost all ability to speak.

Heavy footsteps called them out of their private moment, and Grace ran to help Robert with Paul up the few steps of the front porch.  She offered her shoulder, but Dane gently moved her aside and put Paul’s arm around his neck.  Robert and Dane carried the wounded soldier inside.

Dane disappeared upstairs, and then came back with candles.  They only lit a few, keeping the lights in the house to a minimum. But, Dane built a fire in the fireplace. With the growing fog and fires burning across the city, the smoke from the fireplace was less likely to draw attention and was worth the risk in order to warm them.

Robert put Paul on the couch and went outside to check the area and find a way to bar the gates.  It wouldn’t keep AIM soldiers out, but it would keep looters out.  They hadn’t heard voices in the area, but it was only a matter of time until someone thought to come to the richest part of the city for loot.

“There’s food in the kitchen,” Dane said.

Grace stood next to Paul, trying to assess his wounds and determine what she could do.

“I’m not hungry,” she said as she crouched down next to Paul, putting her arm on the side of the couch to hold her balance.

Paul’s gaze never left her.  His human eye held emotion.  The other one was dark, dead and no longer of use to him.  The metal had pulled away from his face leaving streaks of blood, like tears, drying on his cheek.  Without thought she reached out to touch his face with gentle fingers.  He didn’t move.  He didn’t speak.  He didn’t breathe.

His skin was cold, but it was human.  A light sprinkling of whiskers attested that he still functioned like a human.  Like a man.  His military haircut was in need of attention.  His coal black hair was the same color as Dane’s.  His eye was brown, but a deeper brown than Dane’s.  Dane’s was a soft brown, Paul’s was almost black.  His lips weren’t as full as Dane’s but looked soft.

“Does it hurt?” She asked as her fingertips touched feather-soft beside the metal on his face.

“You’re soft.” Paul didn’t seem to hear her question.

Grace stopped her slow caress, and her hand hovered just above his skin.

“Don’t stop,” he said.

“She sure as hell is going to stop,” Dane stood behind her, tall and ominous.  “Grace, get away from him.”

“He needs medical attention,” she tried to sound unaffected by Dane’s harsh tone, but her hand went to her side, her gaze went to the front door, looking but not seeing.

“Are you a doctor?” Sarcasm poured out of every note in his voice as he spoke to her.

I’m a doctor,” Paul volunteered.  “Or at least I was once.”

“You mean until you were put in prison and turned into a zombie soldier?” Dane was furious.  Grace shouldn’t be so close to an AIM soldier.  The man could be dangerous.  What was she thinking?

“I was never a prisoner.”

“What?” Grace looked into Paul’s face.

“So you volunteered to be AIM?” Dane asked.

“Never.” Venom.  Anger.  Hurt. 

“Were you in the military?” Grace asked.

“I was a military surgeon for four years.  I was asked to work on a project, “he stopped, a line forming on his brow as he fought for a memory.  “I don’t know how long ago.” His eye fell imploringly on Grace.  Pain etched his once handsome face.

“What project?” Dane wouldn’t let up.

“Genetics,” Paul struggled again for the answers hidden deep inside of him.  “They wanted me to do something with genetics, but I refused.  It was top secret, I refused it, and to shut me up they did this.” His hand touched the metal on his face.

Silence filled the room.  Grace looked at Dane, but his face was a mask that hid his emotions.

“I don’t believe you,” Dane told him.  His voice was level, but his body had become rigid.

“Why not?” Grace believed Paul was telling the truth.  She could feel it.

“Look at him,” Dane glanced from her to Paul and back.  “He’s an AIM soldier, Grace.  He would have killed us…you, if the government told him to.”

“You can hear the difference in his voice.  See it in his face,” Grace felt desperation creep into her heart.  How could Dane be so blind?

“I don’t know,” Dane shook his head slowly.

Grace felt the heat of anger course through her veins.  For the first time all day she was warm.  It stared from the inside, radiated outwardly and soon it would spill over into the room.

“Because you can see what they did to him on the outside?” Grace tried to keep her voice level.  “Is he so different from you? Look what they did to you.  Do you want to be punished for something the government did to you?”

Dane turned and one step put him so close to her she had to crane her neck back to see his face.

“I am punished for it,” he said, his breath coming in and out so quick she could hear it.  “Every time I go somewhere I have to report where I am.  If it weren’t for Stephanie, they’d have turned me into what he is.”

She couldn’t keep the shock from her face.  There was so much about Dane she didn’t know.  He was wealthy, he was famous, but who knew he was lonely? Who knew he was watched closely by the government because he’d been an experiment gone awry? What else didn’t she know about Thomas Dane?

“I’m being punished right now,” Dane’s voice fell to a whisper, “I want to take you up upstairs, and claim you with my body, Grace.  I want you more than any woman I’ve ever known.  I feel the lust.  Hell, I feel anger.  But, when I take you,” his voice dropped lower, “And I will have you, Grace.  What will I feel?”

A tear spilled and ran down her cheek.  The pain in his voice struck her at her very core.  Did he want to love her? Or would anyone do? He spoke as though he were angry with her for what had happened to him.

“It’s not my fault,” she whispered back.

“No, Grace, it isn’t,” he assured her.  “It’s not your fault, not mine and not his.  But it doesn’t matter who’s at fault here.  What matters is that the government changed us into what we are now and it can’t be undone.  I will never feel love for a woman.  And he will always be an AIM soldier.” He glanced at Paul, whose body had gone on alert at the tones he heard spoken toward Grace.  “Look at him, Grace,” Dane continued.  “He’d kill me right now if he thought he could.  And no matter how much tender care you offer to either of us, it will never be enough to change what we’ve become.”

She wanted to deny it.  She wanted to scream at him, something that would make him understand her frustration, her desperation, to have life be different than what it is now.  But there were no words that would work.  He had hurt her with what he said, with the way he said it.  With the truth of it.  He could be wrong.  He didn’t know everything.  She needed to prove that to him.  As she put her arm around his neck and brought herself up to his lips she thought he was wrong.  His body stirred and a desperate moan escaped him when their lips touched.

 

 

Chapter 12

Kissing Dane was all about senses.  All about pleasure she’d never experienced before.  He’d freshened up when he was upstairs looking for candles.  His shirt, a soft flannel, smelled clean like air after the rain.  He smelled of sandalwood, from a scented candle or cologne she wasn’t sure because it was so faint.

Dane ate tiny spearmint candies that he had in his pack and she loved the way it tasted.  Her tongue ran velvet smooth across his, and she smiled inwardly, knowing her breath would now smell of spearmint.

His warmth made her body ache.  He leaned against her, his arms bringing her so close she could feel his need.  The closer he was, the more her body ached for him.  She waited for fear to overtake her.  Fear of the unknown, fear of being inexperienced, fear of being told that he would have her, but it didn’t come.  Instead the world fell away, the warmth was a cloud she lived in, and Thomas Dane was the center of the universe.

The front door opened, and a cold wind walked in with Robert.  Grace pulled away, unaffected by the cold, or the intrusion.  The embarrassment of being caught, of knowing Paul saw the whole display, was cast into the warmth of her desire for Dane, and it melted there like ice.

Robert looked at Dane, rolled his eyes heavenward, then glanced at Paul.  He went very still.  Grace’s gasp brought Dane around to see Paul grasping a large hunting knife.

“I thought you checked him?” Dane cast the question over his shoulder to Robert.

“I did,” Robert replied.  “He’s a stealthy bastard isn’t he?”

“What are you doing, Paul?” Grace kept her voice steady.

“I was afraid he would hurt you.” Paul lowered the knife, tucked it back inside a pocket at the side of his pants.

“Oh no you don’t.” Robert walked over with his hand extended.  “Give that here.”

Paul looked at Dane for a long moment.

“I don’t like how you talk to her,” Paul said.

“Like I give a damn?” Dane had pulled his gun as well.

“Give it to Robert,” Grace instructed Paul.

Paul pulled the knife out, all the while looking at Dane.  He turned the sharp blade and gave the handle to Robert.  Grace let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding.  Her shoulders relaxed.  This night was far from over.

“You said that the fog belonged to you,” Robert put the big knife into his pack.  “What did you mean by that?”

Grace walked away.  The testosterone was stifling and she needed to be away from the men for a moment.  She pulled a chair next to the fireplace and watched the flames dancing in the hearth.  Their voices carried in the big house and she could easily hear each word.

“We’ve put bio-weapons all over the city,” Paul began, “They’re filled with what’s called Fool’s Gold.”

“We know that much,” Dane said.

“We have machines at each post and within the city at central locations that make the fog.  As it gathers it becomes heavier.  It will encompass the entire city before it’s over.”

“What’s the purpose of the fog?” Robert asked.

“It holds the Fool’s Gold in place so it doesn’t affect other areas,” he explained.  “The bacteria are contained there until it changes into something harmless.”

“I remember someone saying something about fog at Detroit,” Dane said.

“Yes.  Here it isn’t so odd, but in Detroit it was obvious.” Robert took a seat in the rocking chair near the couch, and Grace could hear him moving back and forth.  She wondered if he realized he was rocking.  She wondered if it soothed him.

“Other countries use it, not many, but some of the more technologically advanced,” Paul told them.

“What would happen if there was no fog?” Grace asked, continuing to stare into the fire.

“It’s a delivery system.  The cases that hold the bacteria explode, but the explosion won’t damage much.  That wouldn’t be good for the price of the city,” Paul answered.  “Without the fog they can’t control how far the bacteria will go.  It’s too risky.”

“How many of those machines are there?” Dane asked.

“Ten.  They’re the size of a train car.  They’re heavily guarded.” Paul’s voice was guarded, almost monotone.

“Do you know where they’re placed?” Robert stood up and began to pace.

“Yes, but they’re too far spread apart.  The four of us could never take them out.”

“How much time do we have?” Robert asked.

“Seven hours.” Grace stood, but remained by the fireplace.  “Give or take.  I think they’re set to go off at 3 a.m.”

“That’s what I got too,” Dane said.

“3 a.m. is correct,” Paul confirmed.

“How are you guys keeping all of this under wraps? San Francisco is huge.” Robert took a seat again, rocking, then leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees.

“I was able to get a phone signal on the Golden Gate,” Dane shared.

“That’s right,” Grace walked toward them.

“I tried again at the Presidio, but nothing worked.”

“If you’d kept going you would have found a check point at the end of the bridge.  They must have been in transition of shutting down signals and installing their own.  The government has already announced to the world that terrorists have San Francisco hostage.  No one can call in, come in or leave.  According to news reports, San Francisco is already infected.  No one really knows what’s happening, but they’ll not take a chance on getting infected,” Paul told them.  His dark eye found Grace.  “If you’d have gotten to the other side of the Golden Gate, they would have taken her and most likely killed you.”

“Why? Why me?” Grace stood next to Dane.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Paul said, “But, it has something to do with that executive from Infinity, Inc.  Juliana Miles.  I know that much.  They want you pretty bad.”

“That’s all you know?” Dane asked.  So close to him she could feel the tension.

“I know she’s dying.” The comment seemed like a memory he had just pulled forth.  His gaze went to her, troubled, sad.  “Miss Miles knows something about your…” he struggled again to recall, “brain tumor.  It has to do with headsets her company is making for the government.”

“Anything else you’d like to conveniently recall?” Dane sounded angry, but his expression said nothing.

“Dane,” Grace placed her hand on Dane’s forearm, “you shot him in the head.  Give him a break.  He’s doing the best he can.” She said it evenly, but her heart was pounding so hard she wondered if the men could hear it.

“It hit metal,” Dane’s arm moved, his hand found hers, “it didn’t kill him.”

“From what I’ve overheard Juliana and General Willis say, Grace was experimented on using her headset,” Paul looked from Dane to Grace.  “That’s really all I can remember right now.  If anything else comes back to me I’ll tell you.” Paul began rubbing his forehead.

“Do you have something for his head?” Grace’s voice was so faint, so small, she wasn’t sure anyone had heard her.  “Something for pain?”

“You’re told that your brain tumor might be the result of an experiment, and you’re worried about his headache?” Dane’s voice was as quiet as hers, almost a whisper.  His face displayed emotions she didn’t recognize or understand.

“His headache can be fixed,” she said.

“I’ll get something.  I need some water,” Robert volunteered.

“Don’t drink out of the tap,” Paul warned.  “It isn’t safe anymore.  It’ll put you to sleep.”

“Bottled water in the fridge, Rob,” Dane told him.

Robert disappeared into the kitchen.  Paul closed his eyes, and rested his head on the back of the couch.  Grace could only guess at the amount of pain he had to be in.  He’d been shot in the head, his face was torn from metal, and he’d gotten some of his human memories back.  It had to be hell.

“He isn’t a kitten,” Dane’s voice was soft, but held a note of warning.

“No, I know that.” She leaned against him and was rewarded as his arms came around to hold her closer.  “But we can save him.”

“We?”

“I meant me,” she corrected, shaking her head, chastising herself.  “I meant me.”

Dane wanted to say something, but Robert came in with the water and pills and he knew he’d have to wait.

“Paul.” Robert handed the pills to him and then the water.

Paul took them and laid back to rest.

“What do you know about Stephanie Rose?” Robert asked.

“Not my assignment,” Paul answered, his eyes still shut.

“That’s not what I asked.” The threat was there and Paul’s body went rigid at the tone.

“I know she was a target.  But that’s all I know.  Like I said, she wasn’t my assignment.”

“Whose assignment was she?” Robert wouldn’t give up.  Not ever.

“Charlie Team.  They’re recovery.  Grace was assigned to them too.  We all get pictures put into our headsets so we recognize targets, but Charlie Team was sent out to find certain…targets.”

“What was your assignment?” Dane asked.

“Juliana Miles.” Paul grimaced, “Transport and safety for Juliana Miles.”

“You didn’t accompany her to her destination?” Dane asked.

“Couldn’t stand her,” Paul answered.

“AIM soldiers don’t have opinions,” Dane told him.

“Yeah, well…I still couldn’t stand her.”

“Where did she go?” Grace asked.  If she found Juliana maybe she could stop the brain tumor, and buy herself more than six months.

“Land base on Embarcadero,” Paul said.  He turned thoughtful.  “We should get her.  Maybe she can help you.” Then he looked at Robert.  “Stephanie Rose could be there, she could be at the command base.”

“Where’s the command base?” Dane asked.

“On a ship near Treasure Island.”

“We’ve got to get going,” Robert said.

“Where? To Embarcadero or Treasure Island?” Dane asked.  “We can’t make it to both places in seven hours.”

Robert pulled out Paul’s headset.  “This might tell us more, but it’ll take me a few minutes to get it to work for us.”

“I can plug in and make it work,” Paul offered.

“Can they kill you with that?” Dane asked.

“Not with a headset.” Paul paused.  “But, they could find me with it.”

“We can’t have that,” Robert said as he put the headset on the table next to him and began to work on it.

“I can help,” Paul offered.

“I don’t need your help.” Robert wouldn’t look at him.

“If I help we can get it done faster.  We can use it to listen in, and as a homing device.”

“Let him help,” Grace said.  “Please.”

Robert nodded, and Paul moved slowly to the end of the couch so he could work on the headset.

“We’ll get more weapons and supplies,” Dane told them.

She followed him upstairs, with a last look back to Robert and Paul.  Paul glanced at her, seeming to know her gaze had found him.  He disappeared out of sight as she reached the top of the stairs.

“Let’s get you one of my sweatshirts or sweaters, a scarf,” Dane slowed his pace, and she almost ran into him as she turned from looking at Paul.  “What else do you want?” His voice had changed, alerting her.

“Want?” she asked.

Dane nodded and put his arm around her back.  He pulled her close, but continued to walk slowly, backward.  He leaned down to nuzzle her ear as they passed through an open doorway into a bedroom.  The scent of sandalwood was strong in this room.

“What did I tell you I was going to do?” Dane’s breath tickled her ear and sent shivers down her spine.

He stopped long enough to shut the door.  A single candle lit the room and Grace knew it was Dane’s room.

The world spun, she spun, the light moved, the room moved and she found herself falling onto Dane’s bed, with him on top of her.  He wasn’t heavy, but he was very warm.  He filled her vision, her senses, her mind.

The bed was the soft, and she sank into it.  The blankets were thick and curtains hung from the four post bed.

“We haven’t much time,” he sounded apologetic, “But we’ll not leave here until I’ve had you.” He started kissing her eyelids, her cheeks, her jaw.  “Not until I’ve heard you call my name.”

The tone of his voice did something to her.  Her insides grew hot, her mind couldn’t concentrate on any one thing.  Wetness pooled between her legs, she was hot there and an ache she’d never known began to take root as he moved his hips, caressing her.  All of her senses cascaded into one; touch.  Her skin was alive and every molecule yearned to feel his touch.  He left a path of heat and flame down her neck with his lips.  His elbows rested on either side of her arms.  His fingers ran along her scalp as he let them tangle in her long hair.  He grasped the hair in his hands and tugged gently, firmly, until her head came back, giving him greater access to the sensitive skin of her throat.

He was everywhere.  All around her.  His large frame covered her.  His hips ground into her.  Slow.  Rhythmic.  Hard.  He was firmly ensconced between her legs and her mind cried out over and over for release.  Please.  Please. 

“Please,” the chant inside her mind found a voice.  Hers.

“Please, what?” He spoke into her ear, kissed her lobe and let her go.

He stood looking down at her.  He was a big man.  Over six feet tall.  His dark hair and dark eyes gave him an exotic look.  She’d never seen anyone so beautiful.  So incredible.  The evidence of his desire couldn’t be ignored.  Or denied.

Her gaze took him in as he sat up and removed his shirt.  His wide chest, his heavily muscled arms and rock hard stomach called out to be touched.  Something primal overtook her, her mind in a haze, she sat up and reached out to touch him.  Her fingers rested on his chest.  His heart beat there beneath her touch, hard and fast.  She’d never touched a man before.  His skin was like hers, but somehow different.  Harder.  A light sprinkling of hair tickled her sensitive fingertips.  She rested her palm on his skin and let her hand run slowly, smoothly, down his chest to his stomach.  Lines and ridges defined his abdomen, and she took her time to feel each one.  Her finger lingered at his navel then moved lower, to stop at the top of his jeans.

“I’ve never touched a man before,” she whispered.  She let her hand run over the soft material, over the bulge that claimed her curiosity.

His hands came into view.  Beautiful hands.  Capable hands.  Large hands.  He unbuttoned the top of his jeans.  He placed her hand there at the zipper, and slowly she unveiled him.  Dark blue underwear stood in her way.  She needed to know what he looked like.  What he felt like.

Her hand cupped him and he gasped.  She removed her hand, unsure.

“Don’t stop,” Dane whispered, “I like that.”

Before she could touch him again, he stepped back, and crouched down to look into her eyes.

“What do you know about making love, Grace?” His voice was calm, but she could see his heartbeat at the side of his throat, moving fast and hard.  One hand rested on top of her thigh and caressed slowly.

“I know the mechanics of it,” her voice dropped to a soft whisper.  She knew so little.  All about mechanics and none about pleasure.  She was heady with a mix of heated passion and utter fear coursing through her.

“This is going to be about you,” he promised as he leaned into her and brushed a soft kiss below her ear, “this time.”

His lips pulled on her lobe, gently sucking.  His tongue was heated velvet as it flicked across the sensitive lobe, and trailed down below her ear, to the pulse at her throat.

Sensations overwhelmed her.  Her nipples tightened, heat between her legs called the wetness forth.  Her legs parted, the tension rising, the need demanding.

She gasped as he pulled her closer to his body, fitting her opened legs on either side of him.  The scent of her need perfumed the air and she heard him breathe deeply.

“I’m going to put my hands on you, Grace,” he whispered.  “I’m going to touch you in places where no one has touched you before.” He nuzzled her neck, working his way back to whisper in her ear.  His hand touched her breast, his breath exhaled slow and hot into her ear as his thumb caressed the hardened nipple.  “I’m going to make you feel things.  Things that will make you warm.” He gently pinched the nipple and her body bucked forward at the unexpected pleasure it brought.  “Things that are going to make you wet.”

His voice mesmerized her senses.  His breath caressed her skin.  A voice to make love to.  It held her enthralled, cocooned inside a private world of pleasure.  Nothing else existed.   Nothing else mattered.  You should be kissed and it should matter. 

She burned to kiss him.  Her hands brought his face up to hers where his gaze searched her own, looking for her need, her desire.  His lips were inviting, calling to her.  Her pink tongue wet her lips and she touched them to his.  Soft.  Experimental.  Needy.  She opened her mouth to catch his bottom lip between her own.  Her tongue ran over the soft flesh, tasting him.  She pulled away, unsure of what to do.

She couldn’t move.  His gaze held her still.  His eyes focused on her mouth and a finger came up to caress, first the top, then the bottom lip.  He kissed her, his finger between them, feeling the connection.  He lowered his hand to grasp hers and brought her finger to their lips.  He placed it along his lower lip as he pressed them to her.

The heat of their mouths was liquid fire.  Soft tongues caressed within the dance and she moved her finger to feel their mingling, coupling, his tongue moving in and out of her mouth.

He slowly pulled away leaving her hand suspended in the air, longing for his to return.  He took it again, placing it on his cheek, caressing her hand with his skin.  His eyes closed for a moment.

“You like kissing me, don’t you Grace?” Slowly his eyes opened.  “You like it when I kiss you?”

Her heart almost stopped as his velvet-soft voice conflicted with the fiery desire reflected in his eyes.  She heard the click in his throat as he swallowed hard.  The muscles of his hard abdomen clenched as though he could control his breathing there.  Everything was held in suspense awaiting her answer.

“Yes,” floated in the air.

He let go of her hand, moving both of his to her face where he caressed her cheeks, jaw, neck He slowed as his hand moved over her shoulders, down to her breasts where they lingered, his gaze heating her there as he watched his hands move on her body.  He took the bottom of her sweater and paused.  He glanced to her just before he pulled it from her body.

Her skin, so sensitive and alive, became acutely aware of the cold, despite the roaring fire in the living room below.  Gooseflesh covered her skin in protest, but Dane’s warm hands began to move across her exposed flesh, warming her skin as he touched her, leaving her hot and wanting as they left.

“You’ll be warm soon,” he promised as his hands caressed the length of her arms.

She nodded, unable to speak.  Heat.  Cold.  Alive.  Her senses were confused, her mind overwhelmed.  But, she didn’t want it to stop.

A gasp escaped her as his hand cupped her left breast.  His lips replaced his hand and he kissed her hardened nipple through the soft cotton material of her bra.  An electric jolt of pleasure ran through her body and nestled between her legs.  Her hands grabbed his hair.  Pull or push? Stay or stop?

He moved to take in the other nipple.  Another jolt of pleasure caused a throbbing at the juncture between her thighs.

She looked down at him when he stopped.  His gaze found her, held there, searching before he spoke.

“Tell me what you’re feeling,” he instructed.  “What are you thinking?”

“You.” A breathy whisper, a single word.  It was all she could manage.

A satisfied smile told her she’d done well with her answer.  He rewarded her by moving his hand beneath the material of her bra and kneading her soft flesh.  His gaze remained, watching her.

“I’m going to kiss you again,” he promised.  “Every inch of you.”

His hands moved expertly to remove her jeans.  He backed away so he could pull them off and he tossed them behind him.  As he stood he peeled his jeans from his body, leaving the briefs in place.

Grace tried to control her breathing as she watched him undress.  She no longer felt cold, though she was sure it wasn’t any warmer in the room.

The dark underwear clung to his muscular body.  Her attention caught on the bulge there.  Hard ridges were covered in soft cloth.  Near the top of his underwear the head of his engorged penis protruded.  The skin was so tight that it shined when the candle light flickered there.  A small drop of moisture, a teardrop, sat in the very top, waiting to fall.

The feeling of being outside her own body was like a dream.  Her hand touched the material of his underwear, it was warm, he was warm.  The softness of the material was in stark contrast to the hardness beneath.  Her hand started low on his shaft and caressed upward, toward the exposed flesh.  The tip of her finger hit the small band of his underwear and hesitated.  Her index finger moved away from the rest, upward, painstakingly slow until she felt the smooth flesh of him.  The small droplet ran to meet the inquisitive finger, pooled where finger met flesh and she caught it.  She brought the wetness closer to her face, into the light for inspection, rubbing it between index finger and thumb until it was sticky.

His movement broke the spell and he was suddenly there kneeling before her.

“Have you ever tasted a man before?” His fingers encircled her wrist and he brought her hand closer to him.  He put her index finger into his mouth, heat swirled with his tongue, wet and inviting.  Then he was kissing her.  His tongue held the taste of him, salty, tangy, sweet.

He pressed her back against the mattress, blanketing her with his large body.  She felt him everywhere.  His hands roaming the contours of her body, warming her breasts, traveling down to cup her bottom and pull her closer.  Her legs were pushed to either side of his hips by his weight, by her need.  The hardness of him pressed into her heat, begging for flesh on flesh, flesh in flesh.

“Now it’s my turn to taste you,” Dane whispered in her ear.

As he kissed a hot path down her body he stopped to nibble on each hardened nipple.  His hands ran beneath her back to unhook her bra.  He removed it, rubbing his face on the soft flesh of her breasts, suckling her.  Bite.  Lick.  Heat.

Moving lower he kissed the softness of her belly.  His hands came up to the waistband of her simple white cotton panties.  As he peeled away her underwear his mouth moved lower.  He licked the tender skin above her hairline.

His knees settled on the floor and he spread her legs wider to accommodate his shoulders.  His hands caressed her body, her thighs.

Grace held her breath as his head dipped lower to nuzzle the soft curly hair of her mound.  The comforter of his bed was cold in her hands as she gripped them.  Her teeth that had chattered with cold now clenched in hope of suppressing a moan.

“Don’t be afraid, Grace.” Dane moved up to caress his cheek against her lower abdomen.  “I won’t hurt you.” The pressure of his hands on her thighs caused her to gaze at him.  “If it becomes too much to bear…say my name.”

His tone was so low she felt it vibrate through her body.  The melody of it echoed in her mind, soothing her.  Say my name.  The echo mixed with the sound of her breathing and it died away as he caressed the soft curls below.  Time stopped and she lived inside a cocoon of heated pleasure as his large hands spread her wider, and his tongue pressed against the gentle lips of her passion with a long, slow caress.

An electric rush of passion and heat centered where his mouth met her feminine flesh.  His hands moved to stroke her abdomen, the soft curls between her legs, her thighs, all the while his tongue probed and caressed.

Her hips moved as her need increased.  His hands moved along the inside of her thighs.  His finger slid through the folds of flesh to caress her and entered her slowly as his tongue became more demanding.  Harder.  Faster.  Deeper.  His tongue moved in circles at the pinnacle of her need.  He deepened his kiss as his finger slid farther inside her.  She felt the barrier there, the pressure, the pain.  His mouth sucked her in, his tongue swirling in time with a slow rhythm of his finger, moving in and out, going deeper, against the barrier.

The heat became the central point of her universe.  The pleasure became unbearable, but she wasn’t ready for it to stop.  Pressure built inside her body, building in time with her deepening breaths, building with the stroke of his tongue, of his finger.  Pleasure.  Pain.  Pleasure.  Pain.

He moaned into her flesh and the bass notes vibrated through her, taking her over the edge, slicing through her in a single flash of light behind her eyes.  Pleasure.  Pain.  Pleasure.  A wave of overwhelming ecstasy rolled over her body again and again, causing her legs to shake and her heart to stop as she drew breath.

Soft hair in her fists.  Dane’s hair.  When had she done that? She let go, panting, wondering if what she had done was appropriate.  Was right.  Was good.  Her body still craved.  Something.

Dane’s body slid up hers until his face hovered over hers.  She lay still, feeling the effects of her first orgasm.  She closed her eyes, concentrating on the feel of his skin across her body.  His heart beat hard against her chest.

“I’m afraid I can’t let you go just yet.” His smile was wicked and sent butterflies to flight in her stomach.  “I still have to make you say my name.”

Was she supposed to say his name? She felt unsure.  She had fought the urge to cry out, afraid the others would hear her.  Dane’s hair.   She’d lost control, but didn’t remember it.  Her fists had held the comforter, then she woke and they held Dane’s hair.  She couldn’t trust herself to stay in control.

“What if I can’t?” Fear of her own vulnerability, her lack of experience, her need to be worthy, caused the room to feel cold again.

His expression softened as his gaze searched her face.  He planted small kisses over her face before kissing her long and deep.  The cold vanished.  The hardness of him surrounded her, the scent of him, the feel of him.  His underwear was gone.  Somewhere in the madness of her passion she missed him removing them.  What if I can’t?  Her fear warred with her need.

He reached between them and opened the folds of her feminine flesh and placed his shaft just inside those folds.  He removed his hand and began to caress her with his hardness.  The sensitive spot he had ravished with his tongue came to life in an instant.  The friction built heat and pressure within her.

“What are you thinking, Grace?” He asked.  His strokes were long and slow.

The haze lifted from within her mind.  She was still unsure, but she didn’t want it to stop.  Say my name.  She wanted to give him pleasure like he did to her.  But her control was slight at best.  If she were to say anything she would be lost in the insanity of the feelings he gave her.  She wanted to fulfill his request, but she wasn’t sure she could.

“What If I can’t?” She couldn’t say more.  The rhythm of his strokes called to her senses.  Her body wanted all attention to focus on what he was doing.

His hips moved, the tip of his hardness held still at her entrance.  Slowly he moved the large head inside her.  An inch at a time.  Filling her.

“Don’t worry, Grace,” he whispered in ragged breaths and buried himself inside her, “you’ll say it.”

Her back arched off the bed.  Pleasure.  Pain.  Pleasure.  Pain.  Her hips bucked forward of their own accord.  The discomfort of her lost virginity was forgotten as his mouth claimed her breast.

He filled her, he surrounded her, he was the universe.  The thrusts became deeper, slower, as he concentrated, felt for something inside her.

“I can feel it,” he whispered.  He moved his hips, the head of his penis held at the entrance of her body.  He lowered his hips and placed his left hand beneath her, to elevate her hip.

“What do you feel?” She asked as her mind became lost in the sensation of his touch.

“This,” he said as he surged forward, bringing her hip toward him.

The feeling was incredible.  He moved in and out, over and over that same place inside her until she fought back the scream.  Nothing could prepare her for this.  No amount of training.  Her body was being consumed by its need for his.  She would do anything to keep him inside of her.  The building tension of pleasure throbbed each time he surged forward, each time he withdrew.  No Control.

Her breath caught in her throat as the pleasure overwhelmed her.  Her shoulders arched and her arms wrapped around his neck to bring him closer.  Closer.  Deeper.  More.

His breathing was erratic.  Sweat beaded his brow.  He kissed her neck, her ear, her lips.

“Look at me,” he demanded.

The desperation lived there in his gaze.  The vulnerability she felt was reflected there as his control slipped away.  The heat rose inside her, consumed her.  She couldn’t breathe.  A moan lodged in her throat as he drove deep insider her.  Dane.  He controlled the heat.  Dane.  It was too much.  Too hot.  The pleasure overflowed in a powerful charge.

“Dane,” the name was called out into the quiet room.  Her voice.  Her need.  Dane. 

A ragged cry, low in his throat joined her voice, echoing their pleasure as he spilled his seed inside her.

Her body shook again and again.  The waves of pleasure wouldn’t stop.  She fought for breath.  And in that moment insanity met with pleasure, leaving her vulnerable to the universe.

His cheek rested against hers.  His breath blew soft in her ear as he rested.  His heart hammered against his ribs, against her chest.

No one had ever touched her.  No one had ever wanted to touch her.  She’d loved a kitten once.  It was the only love she’d ever known.  Perhaps the only love she would ever know.  Taught to ignore others, not to interact.  No friends.  No family.  The greatest pleasure she would know came from a man who she’d always thought to hate.  Life was full of surprises.  And the tears that ran down her face were one of them.

“Did I hurt you?” Dane’s soft voice only caused more tears.

“No,” she whispered.  How could she make him understand? Hell, she didn’t even understand.

“Are you sorry?” The tone had changed and she looked at him.  “Don’t be sorry, Grace.”

The great Thomas Dane, inventor of the Emotion Chip, winner of every kind of award a musician and actor could win, held his breath as wetness pooled in his eyes.

“I’m not sorry, Dane,” her whispered promise soothed her as it was meant to sooth him.  “I could never be anything but grateful.”

“Then why tears?” He asked.

“It’s just that,” she couldn’t look at him as she whispered.  “It was so beautiful.  More than I imagined it would be.  I’m being silly.” Another tear slipped down her cheek.

“Tell me.”

She turned her head to look at him.  His beautiful face, his eyes shining in the candlelight took her breath away.

“All my life I’ve tried to see the lies our society has grown to accept.  To embrace.  I’ve told myself that I’m different because I could see the lies,” a catch in her voice caused her to pause.  “I thought someday I would be able to be like Stephanie, exposing the lies, and not living them.  But I’m a coward.  I know I have six months to live, and all those things that were so important didn’t matter anymore.  But they do matter.  My dying won’t change that.”

“You’re not a coward, Grace,” he started, but she interrupted him.

“I am.  Because I sold out.  I let Juliana scare me into hiding when I watched or listened to Stephanie.  I’ve spent these last few weeks going to funerals, fantasizing that they were my funeral, my family, my flowers.  I don’t have six months to die.  I have six months to live.  And I’ve been throwing it away, feeling sorry for myself.  Letting myself believe the lies because they’re pretty.  And just a moment ago I saw it happen again.  I let it happen.  I wanted it to happen.  And Dane, I believed it.”

“What? What lie?” He caressed her cheek and wiped her tears.

“I believed that you loved me,” her whispered confession caused a pain in his chest.  “I felt it.  I let it be real.  And it’s just another lie.  Nothing has changed.  I am a coward.  I want the lie to be true.”

Something akin to fear stole over him.  He couldn’t love her.  Somehow that harmed her.  Just as it had harmed him all of his life.  If they survived this, she would go away.  She would never agree to live a lie.  The knot in his chest unraveled letting pain flow freely through his body.  When this was over she would be gone.  In six months, she would be gone.  And everything inside of him cried out to stop it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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