Franklin went missing approximately three weeks ago and Alderose had a damn good idea of where he’d gone.
Griswall Hall eclipsed her vision, awash in oil-light and shades of grey. Shades that gave birth to oblong shadows, dancing to the song of the township bell tower. For one moment, nearly inconceivable, the world was struck by a command for silence. She paused at the order, boots marred by mud, under skirts that were frayed and dirty. With breath held she stood against the heat of the night; cheeks of freckled copper covered by the tumbling state of her sticky sweat-weighted hair.
Then the bell struck again, singing warning to the quartered entirety of Kentworks, only to be followed by the sound of a sky rocking rumble.
She moved with the resuming of the world as the sky roared again. The midnight song of the ringing tower joined the loud dance of the thunder above her as the scent of ozone grew thick and filled her lungs with one sharp inhale. She felt the building of the coming storm as a knocking pressure against her skull, something that mingled well with the rhythmic beat of her frantic heart.
She took one deep breath then another...
And slammed her wood-brown ladder against the side of crumbling bricks and the rising storm was all but forgotten.
The weight behind the ladder was grounding, a new sensation beyond the constant churn of bile that clawed at her throat. She took a shallow huff of air, tainted by summer’s humidity, and tossed a narrowed gaze upon her clothing. Ruined. Much like her reputation.
She’d allowed that to happen, hadn’t she? With her lackadaisical attitude and nonchalance of Franklin’s courting. Now she was here, struggling against the rising yowl of the wind. A lady in the muck against a home that wasn’t her own.
A lady now divested of red corset and slick boots. She’d be faster up the ladder in chemise and skirt alone.
She gripped the first step tightly, swallowed the whip like heat of anger, and took the first dangerous step. To think that it would come to this, that she should be called the Crazed Widow of Kentworks, the Beast Who Burdened Men. All because the Constable thought she’d driven poor soft taxpaying Franklin away.
What would the women at society tea think if they were capable of seeing her here and now, arm over arm, and foot over foot, looking every bit the beast they’d claimed she was?
Well, if they thought her a beast, she’d show them a beast.
The sort willing to invade a lordtrix’s home.
By the time her grim covered fingers gripped the edge of a second story windowsill she’d run out of ladder and breath. With a wheeze she began to pull her body upward, powered by will and the burning mass in her chest. She ignored the complaint of aching muscles and the precarious wobble of the ladder as it held. Perhaps the Lord above would keep her safe, should the ladder fail.
Or maybe she’d tumble to her death, a heap of cracked bone and twisted limbs on the edge of Griswall’s gorgeous gardens.
A laugh bubbled up her chest.
She swallowed and leapt.
Miraculously, the ladder didn’t fumble, and she managed to tug face and wide eyes over sill. From her strained position, hanging and tense in her crime of invasion, she caught the gleam of flickering candles and shadows on virgin white walls.
What she’d expected to encounter was a scene of infidelity. One that highlighted sweat-slick bodies, thrusting, and grunting with an animal’s patience—a dance of furious rutting and little else. She’d expected mood lighting and yowling and screams. She’d expected Franklin, perpetrator and victim, back tense and in pleasure. But most of all, she’d expected to see the lordtrix and her reign over him. Had prepared for it even with the fury of a scorned woman set on confrontation.
What she saw was anything but—
Franklin was present, the first thing to draw her gaze in fact, but his position, his demeanor, his body was…
She had difficulty perceiving it, the splash of darkness that pooled against the deep red of satin sheets. His form was nude, spread eagle, and bound. His chest, a host to various symbols, carvings done on pear colored flesh that oozed slow crimson. Loops, circles, and lines stretched onward in bloom, endless in their indecipherable design. His head, once full of hair, now lay bald and bare while his eyes stared forward, glassy toward the ceiling. Though his lips moved his words went unheard—for the window was sealed as tightly as the door had been—but she may have been able to read them, were it not for the body that slipped into view.
There, blocking her fiancé’s face, hovered the sculpted backside of Miss Gail Waye, her neighbor. Immediately questions sprung to the front of Alderose’s mind. Why was Gail in Griswall Hall bereft of all clothing? Her back was host to an elaborate marking, a stain across otherwise untouched skin. The ink that twisted across the back of her shoulders and spiraled down toward the dip of her ass was just as confusing to perceive as the symbols across Franklin’s body. But what really drew her gaze wasn’t the odd manifestation of ink that stood out in startling contrast across her sun-kissed skin but the angry red welts that told stories across them. Those marks crossed one another and spiraled downward, visible and eye-catching on the back of Gail’s thighs and when she leaned forward to draw her plump lips across the rigid arch of Franklin’s neck, she could also see what dwelled between them.
More risen welts, just as real and claw-like.
But Gail wasn’t the only woman within the space nude and devoid of clothing. Various women, whose faces she’d seen in passing, who had laughed and tittered at her behind her back, were present and lounging. It was a perversion of their society tea, a literal mirror of positions and daintily held teacups. Were it not for the nudity, she might have mistaken the gathering as an evening slight. After all, why would those women of high position, with their husbands, land, and fortunes, bother with the widow whose beloved had left her? It made sense to not be invited.
She hadn’t been invited to this event either, perceived or imagined. This affair, where some of them glistened, slick from sweat and something else with bodies that shook in laughter, and lips pulled back in jackal grins. The flickering candlelight drew them all in a grotesque manner, twisting women into monstrous shapes with glazed eyes that gleamed in passing shadows. Their fingers were too long, their teeth too sharp, and their bodies were dotted in splashes of red.
Then she appeared, the lordtrix of Griswall manor.
With trembling arms Alderose held her breath, trapped as she was on the windowsill. She didn’t think herself too easily spotted, muck-doused and hanging in the dark, yet in the back of her mind she still rattled off a prayer. As one, the women in the space surrendered their attention, pausing their muffled laughter in a way so unnatural that the silence offered by Alderose’s surroundings seemed deafening. Some of them rose from their positions on stiff backed chaises and couches only to fall on their knees or curtsey so deeply she thought they might worship the ground with their tongues and noses.
And she, the lordtrix, towered over them all.
She peered at them from behind oddly structured glasses. Their orange tinted glare caught and held captive the dance of the candle’s flame and in the resulting glow it was like they’d consumed it. They sat proud upon the ridge of an aristocratic nose, like a sun setting across umber struck skies. A strong neck, graced only in the heavy gold of a trinket bare chain, was exposed and eye-catching as her braided ash-brown hair had been gathered and pulled tight, bound at the back of her head. Despite the state of undress in the bedroom parlor the lordtrix’s sported a pair of form-fitting trousers, the leather of which accentuated strong calves and toned thighs. She wore nothing upon her upper torso, giving sight to her naked chest and the smooth athletic panel of abdominal muscle.
Indeed, she held a captivating figure. One that spoke of might beyond simple hobbyist labors. The owner of Griswall was not a delicate figure, not with her sharpness of jaw and the dominant sway of her hips. No, her beauty had not been cultivated in the courts of ladyship, where value was in the falsehood of vulnerability and decorum. It had been bred and reared somewhere else. Through something otherworldly. Those few bitter glimpses she’d caught of Griswall’s mistress had not done her vibrance justice.
She was brilliant, too much so.
Alderose found it difficult to breath in the presence of that.
And perhaps, the other women had too, as one of them had taken to crawling, desperate before the other. She stretched her neck forward and pressed her lips to a casually extended foot, but the owner of the manor gave her no response. Instead, her gaze was upon Franklin.
Franklin… Franklin who now jerked in his bonds and arched with a wide-open mouth. Franklin, whose voracity rose as the lordtrix drew closer. Had he not been bound he might have leapt from the bed, so eager was he to be near her as she stood at its edge. She came no closer, despite his rattling, opting instead to take her nails—those far too long nails—and draw them across the sole of his foot—
And for one indescribable moment, Alderose thought she’d fall from sill, for she swore that touch could be felt upon her. Her foot twitched as it tingled and her thoughts seemed to stutter, fractured and tilted. She couldn’t be sure, in those precious disorientating seconds, whether or not she was Franklin, bound on that bed, while he was the one that hung, a tramp on the sill.
—and his being came alive due to it. He grew thick and heavy before the gathering, and some twisted sense of propriety told her to turn her head and look away. The other portion, subdued but not forgotten, grew outraged at the sight of it. For he had never been so eager to be in her presence in health, and now, carved as he was, how could he still perform despite his pain?
Or maybe because of it.
Her indignation faded quickly, replaced by terror and hard to swallow curiosity. Gail had moved to curtsey before the lordtrix, and despite her nudity the act still held the proper graces. Franklin, now wild in manner, screeched so loudly the window rattled. She heard it clearly, his desperation, and her heart must have mimicked his owns heady beat. Slowly, the lordtrix lowered over him, her fingers now tracing the art along his body. She did not touch him where he must have ached for it, and Alderose still maintained enough bitterness to be glad for it. He should suffer, something wicked whispered, for his dabbling in these darkest perversities. This ritualistic happenstance she could not understand that filled her with fear and the nauseating curl of longing.
But for what, she wasn’t sure.
She thought to knock on the window then. To cease the affront that she’d become voyeur to. Why not let them know that she was no fool and that Franklin was no man of God?
But the lordtrix opened her mouth, and as her lips pulled upward, she revealed inhuman teeth. Two sharp and glistening fangs slipped into view, slick with ribbons of saliva as a black stained tongue, forked and unnatural, licked across their elongated surface. Her glasses slipped ever so slightly as she leaned forward, and eyes of speckled gold with ringed pupils dilated and flexed in a human face. It was horrifying. It was electrifying. It was—
Her mind slipped and comprehension wavered. Something itched at the back of her skull as her breaths came in heaving gasps. Her lungs had tightened inexplicably from some primal feeling. It was different from her fear. Different from her anger. It was nearly an all-consuming uncontrollable thing, this sharp urging to flee. So, indisputable that she had nearly flung herself away from the sill to embrace of the ground below.
Thunder cracked behind her, a booming wild force, and she bit her bottom lip so hard the taste of copper filled her mouth.
It was then that the lordtrix paused over Franklin, hand upon his chest as she hovered. A woman said something over her shoulders, her lips moving though Alderose heard no speech.
But instead of facing the speaker, the lordtrix looked at straight at her, over the rim of her orange shaded glasses.
Alderose felt nothing when those eyes met her own wide hazel. Not the light tickle of rain as it began to fall. Not the sudden haunting chill that swept through the night nor the stiff numbness that flooded her limbs. All she saw, all that she thought, was of her.
That was when she fell.
* * *
Alderose woke with a gasp, disoriented and dizzy. For one fleeting moment it felt as if she were falling, wailing incoherently into the storm-opened skies. The rapid thud of her heart hadn’t settled and panic—fresh and thick against the back of her tongue hosting the taste of metal—still buzzed like honeybees rattling her eardrums. It wasn’t until she noticed something more solid than open air at her back that she stopped rolling her eyes this way and that.
Her gaze finally landed on a ceiling.
Her ceiling. Blanketed in darkness.
She exhaled slowly and unfocused heavy-lidded eyes. She’d been rushing toward a clumsy embarrassing death. She could see it in her memory, the threads of which felt real and gripping. How she’d gone from rain-skies to home, she couldn’t remember…
But everything ached, as if she’d fallen hard, just without the bone crunch or meat-splattering.
She groaned and tried to move her head but found it unresponsive. When she attempted to move her hand to rub her stiff neck, that too refused to obey.
The fear she’d felt, on the edge of her consciousness, came rushing back.
She wheezed with parted lips but found her tongue to be thick and heavy. Her squeaks and gasps were loud against the backdrop of suddenly oppressive silence. Something was wrong, whether from fall or lack of it, but each thread of coherence slipped away as quickly as a solution to her issue was fathomed. She was trapped, stuck within the confines of her unmoving body, one she could feel and yet—
The bed dipped downward.
The bed dipped downward as something hovered over her, a mass of darkness host to two glowing slits one amber, one gold. They moved in tandem—eyes, they must be—and took in her prone form while she keened. There was no bravery here, in the silence of her own rooms, where no ropes bound her and yet she could not move. And that thing, that shape above her smiled, flashing sharp teeth to the black that surrounded them both. The only light in the space remained those narrowed eyes, and it was from that illumination that she caught the shape of a hand.
With fingernails that bent long like claws.
“Awake, are you?” A voice whispered in the dark, husky in a way that reminded Alderose of fire pit smoke. “The night is full of surprises.”
Those nails drew patterns across her flesh, tickling burning trails that felt overwhelmingly heightened. The sharpness of touch was too much to be through clothing, or sheet. It was painful, the intensity of her awareness, as she laid there exposed before the sight of some shadow-born beast.
“You flush rather prettily,” the voice rasped with delight. “Aren’t I clever to not let you die?”
Alderose’s throat was tight, preventing speech, as weight settled like lead against her chest. She imagined it invaded her, inhaled through panting lips like something tangible, a heated liquid she could drown in. It burned in her lungs as those nails trailed downward, pausing at the dip of her belly button.
Then a nail pressed forward, inward, and Alderose groaned.
Terror tugged at something old and primal within the depths of her consciousness and the tangible weight in her being was stirred to respond. Suddenly, that space behind the skin of her belly fluttered, and the stare of the figure felt as physical as its touch. She shivered as the warmth of its skin settled upon her and all too soon the heat in her lungs spread outward, infecting her blood.
I’m more than just a little clever.
A voice slipped easily across her mind. Its voice, feminine and hungry, pushed that smoke throughout her mentality, clouding her thoughts and ruining clarity. The weight on and within her chest only increased but her labored breathing now stuttered for different reasons. Behind her belly, and deeper still, a fever churned. It mingled with fear, crafting a cocktail of wanton danger. She might have writhed from the rhythmic sensation, had her body moved to the demand and not been frozen. Instead, only one portion of her being reacted, twitching with each powerful throb it surrendered.
The figure moved ever so slightly, and slivers of light pierced the veil of the dark. From the corner of the space now danced flickering light. A candle or something else. She couldn’t be sure. She couldn’t muster up the care to be sure. Not when she could see better now. See it. Her.
The lordtrix from Griswall Hall.
Aloud, she heard rich and throaty laughter, and something deep within her clenched.
Sluggish ideals rose to the front of her mind and fought for indignation over fear-laced heat but the most she could manage was a soft strangled gasp when hands bared down upon her hips. Alderose’s body, immobile, was jerked against the chilled leather of the visible woman. Alderose’s legs flopped embarrassingly open as her ass rested between the lordtrix’s thighs. It angled her crotch against the flexing muscles of her belly and Alderose felt the strength of the arms that held her steady and fell rapidly toward awe.
But… that wasn’t right. Couldn’t be right… The odd twist of nerves that made her giddy only stirred the growing ache that insistently beat between her legs. She was painfully aroused for this woman. Her acknowledgement of that only made the infatuation dizzyingly abrupt. Suddenly, she was not the exasperated and jaded intended of Franklin Deveroe. She was a young woman again, as if freshly married, held in the powerful dominating grip of the one that meant to claim her.
Submissive and open to her better.
Slowly, the lordtrix leaned forward and the two-toned glow of her gaze pierced and softened. She melted beneath the consuming glare and quaked in her presence, anxious, expectant, and attacked by the inexperience of her youth.
Then that voice, like fingertips across her mind, spread her musings and spoke echoing questions.
Who are you, girl?
Concepts floated before her eyes, the pride of her name though it now lacked title. This time, when she opened her lips, she found she could speak, winded and thin.
Widow Graham. In her crumbling abode. Flinching at shadows that are decades old.
Something within her bristled at the mocking song, words personally cycled by the sympathy-lacking Constable.
Then the hands upon her hips squeezed and the ire melted away, back beneath the warmth that sought to blanket her.
You’re of interest to me, Widow Graham. A curious thing, climbing my walls. What did you hope to accomplish?
She swallowed thickly as yearning filled her. Goodness she wanted to answer, suddenly more than she’d wanted any other thing. More than she’d wanted Franklin even, and yet something still rolled, bitter and hardened, within that place between her eyes. The place that remembered this woman was a thing of sharp teeth and an invader in her home, asking her questions, demanding her compliance.
Then the woman tutted softly, removed a hand from her hip, and gripped the sensitive space that connected where neck met with chin.
Her head rolled and the sound of her own moan was loud in their space. So commanding, so thrilling so—
Again, that voice pressed, what were you doing on my sill?
The need to answer was a consuming presence. It stole across her skin like a familiar caress, distracting and luring until the answer was the only thing on her mind.
Franklin, was it? Her tone was amused. Is that his name?
The thing that touched her hadn’t known his name?
His relevance is nonexistent. Meat does not have need for something as novel as a name.
She released a small and helpless sound, as the words dug along the landscape of her mentality. She felt them become more than opinion. She felt them solidify as Truth, pure and strong as any spoken gospel.
I have a name. The voice confirmed.
And Alderose burned with desire to know, it leaked from her parted sex.
Do you know what it is?
Lordtrix and Goddess, Alderose thought unbidden as she wiggled in the grip of the monstrous woman. Which seemed to amuse the other slightly. She still couldn’t move, not completely, but she would have given anything to open herself further and press against the body that held her.
She felt the lordtrix grow pleased at that thought.
I’m not so certain you know what those words mean. Not yet.
Something as slick as fear filled her then, a shame that she knew to be truth. This woman was Lordtrix, higher in case than the peasantry beyond them that thought themselves lords. A title for the being meant to rule many and all.
But she wasn’t hers.
Yes, not yet.
But I enjoy the Hunt, and I’d like you to play my game.
Now hips finally rolled against her own, and though they were bear of cock, she could still feel the press of her stomach and the smooth tantalizing feel of leather. It was more than enough, so so much more than enough, and it was coupled with another indescribable feeling. Alderose’s mind was full of her, agonizingly stretched with the sudden influx of her presence. It hurt so good to be filled in another way—
And wasn’t there something bewitchingly perverse about it? To feel like a bride about to be bound, twisting and jerking but not on cock? On… on something else within her mind, which now obeyed her empty clenching sex? It was unnatural and an affront to nature and yet it was all that she craved.
The hand on her throat now joined its partner, manipulating her hips until she was rocking into each thrust. Her clit throbbed, unrelenting and swollen, agitated in its need for release as her inner muscles spasmed squeezing and seeking. Well trained and obedient to the age-old rhythm of… fucking.
While her brain was spread as open as Franklin had been.
And you will play as hard as you can, won’t you? Even if you don’t understand all the rules?
She nodded and drooled as their rocking grew firm, rough in the way of the desperate and starving. She only had enough mind left to breath and be empty. Only enough space in her head to listen.
Which is the best that any meat can do.
Above her the Lordtrix hissed, black stained tongue long as it licked across those fangs. With each yank of her body against her belly Alderose found her neck closer to the woman’s pulled back lips. The closer she came to her the more she… she—
That’s it, burn for me.
And she did in a way most unnatural. Her skin crawled and tingled, and her heart beat heavily, a hypnotic weighted thump that pressed against her ribs. It felt as if every cell in her body was ready for something, rushing with an eagerness that stirred her toward frenzy. I want became I need, but she wasn’t certain what for. Only that she felt, with her very soul, that she was rapidly heading toward a state that she was meant to truly be.
She would become only body and blood. There would be no Alderose or widow, just the rib rattling pound of slick twisted need. She was too full of more than just mind. Her skintight and muscle twitching. She needed to bleed to release that building pressure, a knot that swelled at the rapidly beating pulse of her arched neck.
There was something savage in the smile against her shoulder and the soft laughter that tickled her inner ear. The fangs that had once been grotesque and inhuman were now beholden of a beauty that made her vision blurry with unshed tears. They brushed with a teasing slowness across the expanse of a tightening throat, threatening to deliver something she now both craved and feared. She suffocated from the weight of it and the fever that filled her veins. She wanted it so badly. Wanted it, wanted it—!!
And her body silently begged.
It’s as if humans were bred for only this, the voice was fiendish in manner but Alderose couldn’t think past the throbbing of her being.
She wanted, only, in that moment to be meat.
The Lordtrix bit her.
She bit her and the pain was overwhelming.
But from one heartbeat to the next it was so much more than that. She shuddered and jerked in a hold that had turned steel tight. She felt muscles wrap around her back and pull her closer as the scent of something earthy, like the wood, and dew, and power slipped into her being through a wide-open mouth. Agony, once home beneath her itching skin, slipped irreversibly toward barely conceivable bliss.
It was a kaleidoscope of sensation, a sinful mixture that tugged at something more than just the blood within. Lips wrapped around her pulse and sucked, and she felt the deep throb of it within her womb. Those lips and that tongue soothed and tempted. Each suck and pull, drew something important away. Something she surrendered because it was right to. Submission felt natural, instinctual, addicting but more than that it felt… so… fulfilling. More than anything she could name. It drummed within her a sense of purpose as it shoved away jaded grey for wicked consummation.
It was euphoria when nothing had once touched her. Gold, when there had only be silver and bronze. Will, harsh and pressing, when she’d thought she’d only needed her own.
Then her mind stuttered beneath that Will as it gripped and held her, suppressed her, stole from her.
Who are you now?
She was Aldero—
—another suck and she mewled cutely.
alderose, she thought, i... i’m alderose
And what is alderose between my teeth?
she moaned, just meat.
The laughter was harsh, but playful and wheezing as it invaded her with Truth.