Big Girls Love Fairy Tales, Too

winter-night-cover3Another Little Red Hen excerpt, this one from the contemporary fairy tale novel, The Last Winter Knight, free to download this week only:

The bedroom door opened on a long upstairs gallery that looked down on the entryway she’d seen when he carried her in. All of the gas lamps were lit, giving all the dark woodwork a cozy glow. The smell of something baking was coming from downstairs, and in the distance she was sure she could hear a woman singing. Closing the bedroom door behind her, she padded downstairs, the worn carpet runner soft and warm under her bare feet.

An archway down the hall from the library she had seen before led to a dining room. The windows were shuttered, and none of the lamps were lit. All of the furniture was covered with white dust cloths, even the chandelier over the long dining table and a huge, framed something hanging over the massive fireplace. But the swinging door to the kitchen was propped open, and she could see light beyond it. The singing and the smell were coming from there.

“Hello?” She passed through a narrow butcher’s pantry lined with glass-front cabinets full of china tucked away in quilted bags. “I don’t want to startle anyone.”

The singing stopped. “Not to worry, dear.” A white-haired woman in a black dress and a white apron was working at a long, wooden table in a kitchen straight out of a BBC country house drama. “You didn’t.” She was kneading a lump of pale brown dough. “Good morning.”

“Good morning.” The woman didn’t seem the least bit surprised to see her. “I’m Christabel.”

“Oh yes, dear, I know.” She sliced the dough into two lumps. “Bernard told me last night. I’m so glad to see you up and around.” Her accent was less obviously English than Bernard’s, but she was definitely not local. “I’m the housekeeper. Mrs. Sealy.” She finished shaping the second loaf and dropped it into a pan. “Can I get you some breakfast?”

“I can get it,” Christabel said. “I don’t want to be any trouble.” She was acutely aware of being naked under Bernard’s robe. Did Mrs. Sealy serve a lot of girls breakfast? she wondered.

“Don’t be silly. It’s no trouble.” She wiped her hands on a towel. “I just took a pan of cinnamon rolls out of the oven. Or we have chocolate croissants, if you’d rather.”

“They both smell amazing.”

“Sit yourself down. I’ll get you one of each.” She pulled a china plate down from a cupboard “And a glass of milk?”

“That sounds perfect.” She sat down at the table, the robe closed over her knees. The housekeeper set a plate of pastries in front of her and poured a tall glass of milk from a clay pitcher still beaded with moisture from the icebox. “Bernard is still asleep, I think.”

“I’m not the least bit surprised.” She set down the milk with a smile. “He’s always been a slugabed since he was a boy.” It was obvious from her tone that she was very fond of him. “Eat, dear, eat. You must be starving.”

She picked up the delicate croissant and took a bite. “Oh my god…” She thought she might be about to orgasm again. “That is so good.”

“Oh good,” Mrs. Sealy said, smiling as Christabel ate. “Did they come out all right? I was worried.”

“Trust me.” She took a big gulp of milk. “I don’t think I’ve ever had anything that good.” She was gobbling, she realized; the croissant was almost gone, and she had crumbs all down her front.

“Aren’t you sweet?” the housekeeper said, obviously pleased. “Try the cinnamon rolls. It’s a new recipe, and I’m afraid they won’t be fit to eat.”

Christabel took a bite. “Perfect,” she promised around a mouth full of sticky, spicy bliss. A sense of almost perfect well-being had come over her as she ate. A few moments ago she had felt embarrassed to be dressed in a robe; now she could easily contemplate dropping the robe and devouring the rest of the goodies naked.

“I’m so glad you’re enjoying them,” Mrs. Sealy said, setting the full plate of each within her reach. “You poor dear…Bernard said it was a terrible accident.”

“The car blew up,” Christabel said, still eating. Usually her tolerance for sweets was pretty low, but she could have eaten these all day. “If Bernard hadn’t been there…” She shuddered, remembering the smell of gas and the heat of the flames as he carried her away. And there was something else, something she had forgotten…she had dreamed about it…something horrible.

“Don’t think about it, dear.” The housekeeper was refilling her glass. “He was there. That’s all that matters.”

“Yes.” She took another bite of cinnamon roll, and the weird sense of foreboding faded away.

“What on earth were you doing in these mountains on your own in the middle of a blizzard?”

“I was lost.” She felt as if she could tell this woman anything. “I was supposed to be going to a spa. I had an appointment.”

Suddenly a door slammed open above them, and footsteps came thundering down the stairs. She turned to look just as Bernard came racing in, wearing nothing but a bedsheet.

One from the Vaults for Halloween

frankenstein_150211-173Earlier this week, me and my peeps Alexandra Christian, Crymsyn Hart, and Siobhan Kinkade went to the big city moving pitcher show and saw Benedict Cumberbatch and company in the NBT’s version of Frankenstein. And it was awesome!  I wanted to write a full, glowing review, but honestly, enough people have done that already – just trust me; if you haven’t seen it yet, just go already. And if you’ve only seen the version with Benedict Cumberbatch as Victor Frankenstein and Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature, go back and see the other one. Seriously, there are no words to describe how awesome Cumberbatch is in that part.

But I digress.  It’s Halloween, I just saw a kick-ass version of Frankenstein, and I don’t have time to write a new story at the moment, so I’m reposting this one.  It originally appeared in a gorgeous coffeetable book on the art of Isabel Samaras entitled Tender Hooks, and I’ve actually featured it here before. But for anyone who hasn’t seen it and wants a short, scary read, here’s for you. Fair warning, though – it is VERY gruesome and pretty darn explicit. Read at your own risk. bwhahahahahahah

 

The Bride

My darling sister,

            I have little hope that you could believe the strange particulars of my tale even if I could tell it to you sitting at your side.  In truth, I can hardly believe it myself.  But I beg you, do not listen when others will tell you I am dead, that my precious Charles is dead and I have succumbed to despair.  Those who would tell you such a lie are only protecting themselves, and in truth,  I cannot blame them.  But neither can I bear to think that you will grieve for me.  Know by these lines that I live.  I have found the every happiness you wished me not so long ago when you kissed me on my wedding day.  My Charles is here beside me, and my heart is full of joy.

                                                            Yours ever loving,

                                                                        Elizabeth

 

Elizabeth leapt down from the coffin maker’s wagon almost before the horses stopped.  “The hospital!” she demanded, grabbing the first British soldier she saw standing upright.  “Where is the hospital?”

The young man just stared at her as if he couldn’t quite believe his eyes.  “I don’t . . . who are you?”

She slapped him across the cheek.  “Listen.”  She took hold of his bearded chin and focused her eyes on his.  “I am the wife of Captain Charles Dumont of His Majesty’s Royal Marines.  He has written he was wounded.  He has asked me to come quickly.”  Her grip tightened.  “Where is the damned hospital?”

“There.”  He pointed across the ruined field to a half-demolished gatehouse.  “In the cellar – use the outside steps.”

“Thank you.”  She heaved the heavy carpetbag full of Charles’ notebooks in both arms like a baby and broke into a run.

The stone stairs were sticky with blood, and the charnel-house stench rising from the open doorway was appalling, but she didn’t hesitate.  “Ho, Miss!” the guard at the door called as she pushed past him.  “You can’t go in there!”

“Stop me, and I’ll kill you where you stand,” she muttered without slowing down.  A skinny young fellow in bloodied shirtsleeves and a bloody apron over his uniform trousers was coming toward her up the narrow aisle between the stretchers, carrying a tray with a brown bottle of laudanum, a small glass, and a crystal pitcher of water.  “Come with me,” she ordered.  “I may have need of you.”  Without pausing to see if he obeyed, she hurried along the line, looking down into each sweating, pain-twisted face.  “Charles!” she called out, fighting back tears.  “Darling, where are you?”  The officers and foot soldiers were all mixed in together, and some were obviously already dead, but she refused to panic.  She had come at once in the clothes on her back with nothing more than the notebooks; she must surely have arrived in time.

“Elizabeth!”  Alistair Gray was hurrying toward her through a narrow doorway to one side, wiping his bloody hands on a towel.  “In Christ’s name, why are you here?”

“Where is he?” she demanded, her legs going weak with relief.  “He sent for me – I came as quickly as I could.”  The look on his face made her blood run cold; she tried to shut it out.  “Where is Charles?”

“Dear Elizabeth.”  He tried to take the carpetbag from her arms, but she refused to loosen her grip, clutching it more tightly to her breast.  “He should not have sent for you.  You should not have come.”

“He is my husband; of course I should have come.”  She looked up into his eyes, clenching her jaw to keep from screaming.  “For the last time, Alistair, where is he?”

“Darling, Charles is dead.”  Her legs gave way for a moment, making her stagger, and Alistair caught her by the arms.  “Help me,” he ordered the young man carrying the laudanum.  “We must get her out of here—“

“No.”  She straightened up, wriggling free.  “Take me to him.  I don’t believe you.”

“Elizabeth, for pity—“

“He is not dead.”

“My love, I promise you, he is—“

“Take me to him!”

The fury in her tone made his face turn whiter underneath its freckles.  “Very well.”  He took her gently by the elbow, and this time she allowed it.  “Come.”

The dead were being stored like firewood in a gardening shed, the bodies of foot soldiers stacked along one wall.  Two officers had been laid head to foot on a low, marble-topped counter along the other wall below a row of windows.  One of these was Charles.  She let out a small, strangled sound, and the carpetbag fell from her arms.

“Elizabeth,” Alistair said, trying to take hold of her, but she pushed him away, moving forward.

“My darling . . .”  She touched his face, the skin as hard and smooth as stone.  “My darling, I have come.”  Half-blind with tears, she ran her hands over his body, pushing back the tatters of his clothes.  His head, arms, and torso were mostly intact, but one leg was little more than butchered meat and bone, and the flesh was swollen and torn over one hip, a sickening wound that smelled like blood and shit.

“He was in terrible pain,” Alistair said from behind her.  “The intestines were torn, Elizabeth.  I know you would have wanted to speak with him one last time, but truly, his death was a mercy.”

“He is still warm.”  She lifted a dead hand to her face, kissing the palm and curving the fingers to cup her cheek.  “His flesh is still pliable.”

“He has not been gone for long.”  She shivered, swallowing a sob, and he put a hot, dirty hand on her shoulder.  “Let me take you away from here.  The troops will be pulling out soon – Nappie is nipping at our heels.”

“Was his heart damaged at all?”  She caressed her husband’s face, tracing the curve of his jaw as she gazed down on his closed eyes, the dark brown lashes stark against his blue-white cheek.  The eyes beneath those lids were blue.  She imagined the moment when the life went out of them, when her darling one had ceased to live inside this shell she loved.  “And his brain?”

“His heart no doubt sustained a certain strain as he lay dying, yes.”  He knew what she was getting at; she could hear the horror in his voice.  “With the brain, it would be impossible to say what damage might have occurred.”

“But all of the tissue is present,” she persisted.  Letting go of Charles’ hand, she moved along the counter to examine the other dead officer.  This one had lost the top half of his head, but the rest of his body seemed virtually untouched.  She unbuttoned his trousers and pushed them down over his hips, making the young medic who was still attending them cry out in horror.  “Their frames are of comparable size,” she said with barely a tremble.  “Presumably the organs would be compatible as well.”

“Elizabeth, be quiet,” Alistair ordered.  “Think what you are saying—“

“I’ve brought the notebooks.”  She bent down and opened the carpetbag, pulling out the one on top and holding it out to him.  “He asked me to bring them.  Alistair, he knew.”

“You’re mad,” he insisted.  “Mad with grief—“

“Your experiments in London were successful—“
“Successful?” he demanded, aghast.  “The subjects went insane with violent rage the moment they awakened—“

“The subjects were dogs,” she pointed out.  “They had no true consciousness, no soul—“

“His soul is gone!” he shouted.

“No,” she said, tears spilling down her cheeks.  She was still crouched on the floor beside the carpetbag; now she reached out and took hold of his trouser leg, on her knees.  “His soul is waiting for me.  He will return.  He could not leave me.”  He was looking down at her, terror and tenderness mingled on his face in equal measure.  “He sent for me, Alistair.  He told me to come.”

“To say good-bye.”  He fell to his knees as well.  “Elizabeth, your heart is broken now, but it will mend.  You will love again—“

“No.”  She laid her palm against his cheek.  “If you love me, you must help me now.”  She stood up and went to the medic, still watching them as if he thought he must be dreaming, his tray still before him.  She poured a healthy measure of laudanum into the glass and topped it off with water.  “Go and prepare a surgery,” she told him.  “Dr. Gray must operate.”

“No,” Alistair said, shaking his head.  “You cannot ask me to do this.  I will not.”

“You will.”  She handed him the drug.  “I will help you.”  He drank deeply, and she smiled.  “We will bring him back.”

ššššššššššššššš

            Making ready was much easier than she had dared to hope.  The British troops had indeed moved out within the hour and left the dead and wounded behind with only Alistair and the one skinny medic to attend them.  There was no one to see them carry Charles and the other officer’s corpse into the roofless dining room that would serve as a laboratory, no one to ask questions as they assembled the equipment listed so carefully in Charles’ notebook, no one but Elizabeth to know how much of the opiate Alistair needed before he was ready to begin.

With Elizabeth standing on one side of the long dining table to mind the instruments and the medic ready at the other to do the heavy lifting, Alistair removed Charles’ ruined leg at the hip, dismantling the joint with a watchmaker’s careful precision.  “The skeleton can be saved here,” he said calmly, as if he were back in London addressing his students at the RoyalAcademy.  “But the flesh and organs must be replaced.”

“Sweet Jesus,” the medic groaned, closing his eyes.

“Steady on, lad,” Elizabeth ordered, refusing to acknowledge the tremor in her own voice.  “We’ve only just begun.”

Three hours later, the anatomical assembly was complete.  The medic lit lamps and tall torches against the gathering darkness, and Alistair mixed himself another drink, laudanum in brandy now instead of water.  “You’ve done beautifully,” Elizabeth said, standing by the body that now lay on the table intact, her precious Charles with the leg and cock of a stranger.  The medic had already discarded the leftover bits into one of the mass graves left open by the infantry when they marched away.

“I have done abomination,” Alistair said, his words slurred from the drug.

“Nonsense.”  She caressed her husband’s cheek for a moment before she turned back to his dearest friend, determined to go on.  “How do we charge the cells?”

Alistair looked as if he wanted to argue, but he smiled instead.  His flesh was as pale and drawn as the man on the table’s, his eyes rimmed in red, and his smile was like the grotesque grin of a skull.  “Not yet, my love,”  he said, raising his glass to her.  “First we must bind him down.”

The electrical apparatus was a clumsy, inelegant thing, a cage of greasy metal fittings and crystal tubes enclosing Charles on every side connected to an inner web of delicate copper wires that wrapped around his body like a shroud.  Back in London, she had wept to see such a thing constructed over the corpse of a dead dog, had bitten her own fist to the bone to keep from sobbing when Charles and Alistair had switched it on.  But now her eyes were dry.  “Have we made it properly?” she said, studying the beautifully-drawn schematic in the notebook.

“What does it matter?” Alistair said with a bitter laugh.  The mad light she had always feared in him had come into his eyes.  “How can we hurt him now?”

“Just what is it we mean to do, Doctor?” the medic asked.  “What is this contraption?”

“Oh come now, Sergeant, surely you’ve guessed,” Alistair said, draining his glass.    “We mean to make new life.”  He took Elizabeth’s hand and kissed it.  “Are we not gods, after all?”

Elizabeth caught his hand as he would let her go.  “Promise me you’ve built it just the way you and Charles did in London,” she said, her nails digging into his flesh.

“Oh yes.”  He drew her closer, close enough to smell the brandy on his breath.  “It is exactly the same.  When the sergeant engages those cells, the current will surround him completely and penetrate his flesh, just as it did to those poor creatures we tortured in London.  Every nerve will be charged with electricity at once, a fire in his blood, inside the marrow of his bones, a pain to raise the dead.  Remember how they howled, Elizabeth?”  Her lower lip trembled, and tears spilled from her eyes, but she refused to look away.  “Is this what you want?”

“Yes.”  Her voice was steady in spite of her tears.  “I will not let him go.”

“Selfish, stupid child.”  His grip was painful on her wrist, and he bent closer as if he meant to kiss her mouth.  She closed her eyes and turned her face away.  “The sin be on your head.”  He let her go.  “Not mine.”

She opened her eyes to find that he had turned away, and she whispered, “Of course.”

“Engage the cells,” he ordered the medic.  The young man obeyed, though his face was white as death with fear.  A high-pitched whine rose from the apparatus, and the vapor in the crystal tubes began to glow.  “Guard the door,” Alistair said, shouting over the din as the metal cage began to shake.  “For God’s sake, don’t let it escape.”  The medic scrambled for his rifle and stationed himself at the door, his bayonet pointed at the corpse.

Elizabeth barely noticed.  The spider’s web of copper had begun to spark and crackle, the body snared inside of it to twitch.  As she crept closer, she could see the veins along the inside of her husband’s arms deepen in color and begin to pulse with life.  “It’s happening.”  His fists clenched, a voluntary movement, graceful and controlled.  “It’s all right, darling,” she promised.  “I’m here.”  His eyes popped open, and his gaze met hers.  “You’re alive.”  She was laughing and crying at once, horrified by the pain she could see in his eyes but weak with relief.  “You will be all right.”

“Don’t touch him!”  Alistair caught hold of her arm, moving closer as well.  “The current would kill you.”  The sparks were reflected in the surgeon’s eyes, his expression a mixture of horror and fascination.

The body began to jerk on the table like a puppet shaken by the strings, but the apparatus was losing power, its whine losing pitch, its glow beginning to fade.  “No!” Elizabeth said, rushing to the cells, but she didn’t know what to do.  “Alistair, fix it – don’t let it stop!”

“The cells will only hold so much charge,” he answered, coming after her.  “A man is not a dog—“

As to dispute him, Charles threw back his head and howled, the muscles in his neck contorted with the strain.  His head thrashed back and forth against the table, his lips drawn back over his teeth.  The medic screamed like a woman as the creature lunged against the restraints, one powerful arm coming free.

“Turn it off!” Elizabeth cried.

“Elizabeth!” Alistair shouted, appalled, as the creature groped for her, breaking through the cage of glass and metal.  The surgeon dove for the controls, ripping at the wires, his hands burning as he grabbed the still-glowing copper.  “Sergeant, for God’s sake, help her!”

“My lady, come back!” the medic said, rushing forward.  He tried to grab hold of her with one hand as he aimed his rifle with the other, but she dodged him, pushing him away.  In the same moment, the creature on the table broke free.  He flung the cage that surrounded him away in a shower of sparks and breaking glass, howling and snarling like a wolf at bay.  Elizabeth screamed as he caught hold of the medic and shook him like a rag doll, the rifle firing wild as he dropped it on the floor.

“Charles, no!” she screamed again as he wrapped a hand around the medic’s throat and squeezed, snapping his neck like a reed.

“Elizabeth, get back!” Alistair ordered, drawing his pistol.

“No!”  She moved to grab for him, but the creature was faster.  Raising a heavy section of the apparatus that had saved him in both hands, he turned on the man who had been his dearest friend and broke the metal framework over his head.  Alistair staggered, the pistol falling from his grasp.  “Charles!” Elizabeth cried, but she could not seem to move; her legs had turned to water.  The creature raised the last broken pipe he still held and hit Alistair again, a sideswipe to his skull that sent him crashing to the floor.

“Charles.”  He turned to her, panting, his face still drawn with pain.  His dark brown hair was wet with sweat and falling in his eyes, and his head was lowered, his shoulders hunched – an animal at bay.  “You’re safe.”  Trembling, she made herself move closer.  “The worst is over, darling.”  He still held the broken pipe, now wet with Alistair’s blood.  “You have come back to me.”  He looked confused, a child lost in the dark, and she smiled, tears spilling down her cheeks.  “It will be all right.”  Moving slowly, she reached for the twisted web of copper still wrapped around his waist.  “No one will hurt you any more.”  He drew in a sharp breath as she touched him, his fist tightening around the pipe, but he didn’t move to fight her as she unwrapped the web and dropped it at their feet.  “I love you so much.”  She laid her palms against his chest, and he flinched, a tremor racing through him.  “I love you.”  She pressed her open mouth to his skin, the hard plane of muscle just over his heart.  She could feel his heart beating, stronger and stronger, feel his flesh warming under her hands, and she moved closer, curling against him, making a sound between a laugh and a sob.  He was alive.

He dropped the pipe and scooped her off her feet.  Making a sound that was almost like words, he kissed her, his mouth rough and clumsy on hers, his tongue pushing inside, and she tasted him, meat and metal, not revolting but different, not the taste she knew but somehow like it.  He carried her across the room and shoved her back against the broken plaster wall, and she felt a sharp stab of pain in her side.  “Elizabeth.”  His voice was thick and slurred, barely intelligible, barely human.  But it was her Charles’ voice, speaking her name.

“Yes.”  She caressed his cheek, framing his face in her hands.  “Your own Elizabeth.”  She kissed his mouth, drawing his lower lip between her teeth.  She was bleeding from her side, hot and wet, but she barely noticed, barely felt the pain.  He lowered his face to her shoulder, sniffing her flesh like a dog as he ripped at her clothes, baring her breasts.  Hunched over her, he wrapped his arms around her, one powerful forearm under her behind to lift her up, his mouth coming down on her breast, suckling like a child.  “Yes,” she repeated, faint with sudden, fiery want.  His touch was as rough as his kisses, and she gasped as his hand found her cunt.  He groaned low in his throat, and she felt his cock against her hip, hard and strange.  She trailed her fingertips along his side, across his stomach, and finally down over his hip, trembling with fear and fascination as she traced the seam where he had been remade.  He grabbed her wrist so hard she cried out, but she didn’t try to pull away.  He looked down at her, awareness dawning in his deep blue eyes.  He kissed her mouth again, more tenderly, more sure.  She wrapped her hand around his cock and guided him inside her.

He drew his breath in sharply, closing his eyes, and his arms tightened around her.  She braced her hands against his shoulders as he drove upward, pushing her up the wall, then wrapped her legs around his hips.  His bare skin felt hot against hers, as hot as ever in his life, and though the cock inside of her felt strange, his rhythm was familiar, a long, slow build that carried her passion with his.  She watched his face and nearly cried, the way his brow was knit in concentration was so much the way she remembered.  She pressed her cheek to his, her arms around his neck.  “My love . . .”  He quickened his pace, shifting her closer, his hips ground to hers, and the sharp thrill of her climax broke inside her.  She cried out, and he groaned, driving her harder against the wall, and she felt him come as well, the wet burst cooler than life and vaguely shocking, making her shiver.  She lay her head down on his shoulder, clinging tight, and he cradled her close for a long, sweet moment.  A sob escaped her as she pressed her face to his throat, her arms wrapped tightly around him.  Still holding her against him, he sank to the floor, and she curled close in his lap.

“Elizabeth . . .”  His voice was still strange but more tender.  He cradled her jaw in his palm, turning her face up to his.  He smiled down on her, haunted but alive.  “Thank you.”

“My sweet darling,” she said, laughing with relief.  Her face pressed to his chest, she felt his arms enfold her.  She knew they were safe.

“Elizabeth.”  Alistair was coming toward them, his head and neck and collar soaked with blood, his pistol aimed before him.  “Get out of the way.”

“Alistair, no,” she said, trying to struggle to her feet.  He was coming closer, stepping over the dead medic.  “Please, stop.”  Charles stood up, lifting her easily.  “Wait, both of you,” she protested as he set her to one side.

“It is a monster,” Alistair was saying, his eyes bright as if with fever.  “It must be destroyed.”  The pistol was shaking in his hand.  Charles snarled at him, taking a step forward.

“No!” she screamed, throwing herself between them.  The pistol shot ripped through her, a bolt of lightening through her chest.  She fell forward, clutching at Charles, an icy cold spreading inside of her, hot blood pouring from her breast.

“Dear God,” she heard Alistair say from behind her, a dull thud as the pistol hit the floor.  “Forgive me . . . .”  Then everything went black.

ššššššššššššššš

            When she opened her eyes, a man was bending over her – a demon.  Fire was consuming her; she was in hell.  She screamed, struggling in bonds that held her down, desperate to escape.  Searing, stabbing pain raced down her limbs, making them jerk without her will, and she whipped her head from side to side, gnashing her teeth in fury.  How dare they? she screamed inside her head, but the words would not come; she could not make them form inside her mouth.  As quickly as the thought was born, it died, lost inside a wild, animal rage.

“Peace, love,” the beautiful demon was saying, words that just barely had meaning.  Just outside the range of her vision as she fought, she could hear another creature sobbing, begging for . . . . something . . . . what did this mean, forgive me?   The fire was fading, the pain becoming less, but her confusion was growing.  The man bending over her was unfastening her bonds, and she began to cry.  “Come back to me.”  He kissed her, lifting her up in his arms, kissed her eyelids and her cheeks, and suddenly she knew him.

“Charles.”  Her voice was barely more than a rasp, but he heard her.

“Yes,” he said, smiling.  She looked down at her chest and saw a long, jagged line of black stitches.  He touched her chin and turned her face to his.  “And you are Elizabeth.”

The end

Sapiosexual Love Monkeys: Lucy’s Own Top 10

I originally posted this list on September 5, 2014. While the two brilliant artists we’ve lost this week were sooooo, soooo much more than crushes, they were crushes, too. RIP David Bowie and Alan Rickman – we miss you both horribly already.

david bowiealan-rickman

My baby sister was the first person I ever heard describe themselves as a “sapiosexual” – someone who’s turned on by brains more than looks, who has to have their intellect stimulated before they open access to their pants.  I was shocked and charmed; what an awesome word!  Apparently it’s been rattling around the interwebs for more than ten years, yet somehow I managed to miss it.  Love monkeys, on the other hand, are all me.  Well, me and my best friend, Petey.  We’ve been labeling our fictional lust objects love monkeys for decades (long before Kyle Smith or Edward Monkton used the phrase as the title for their two very different books).  It always refers to an unreal person in a book, movie, TV show, or videogame, and it means exactly what it sounds like.  Here, I’ll use it in a sentence:  My husband loves Gladiator as an action adventure, but it’s a killer love monkey movie, too.  And another:  All you need to know about the UK in the ’90s is that their ultimate love monkey was Colin Firth in a wet puffy shirt.

So a sapiosexual love monkey is a particular character in a particular story portrayed by a particular actor who by use of his big brains alone makes my breath catch short and my heart (and other less mentionable bits) to flutter in a fashion inappropriate for church.  These guys (my top 10 is all guys, though Angelina Jolie as Maleficent probably clocks in somewhere in the teens) aren’t all handsome; some of them are downright funny-looking.  Right up until they start talking.  Then they’re gorgeous.

So in reverse order . . . .

tom hiddleston as loki10.  Tom Hiddleston as Loki (Thor, The Avengers, Thor 2: We Couldn’t Call It Loki I; We Asked)

Loki is a snarky, dissatisfied, emo child.  He’s also the smartest guy in almost every room.  He’s so smart that he does himself injury with his own smartness – think of how much happier he would have been if he’d never had the brains to figure out his parentage.  Or to realize that his brother is a big ol’ musclehead who shouldn’t be put in charge of changing the spark plugs on the General Lee, much less  Asgard.  But like all the best egghead dreamboats, he’s just gotta know, and once he knows, he’s just gotta act, and once he acts, he’s committed; he can’t back down.  The scripts for these movies don’t really make Loki a love monkey in and of themselves – he’s clever; he’s hilarious; but he’s not necessarily sexy.  But Hiddleston does.  Think about it – in looking for the quote below, I played the devil finding anything Loki says that refers even obliquely to his sexuality, to him having any kind of sexual/romantic interest in anybody else.  He’s all about family and power and Shakespearean identity angst.  But he looks like Hiddleston.  He’s got Hiddleston’s eyes.  Even at his most enraged, there’s a vulnerability there, a need to love and be loved in return.  I hope they do get around to giving him a love interest before Marvel exhausts their narrative; I think he could play the living hell out of it.  But I’m not sure the die hard fangirls would survive.

Incendiary remark:  “Is it madness? Is it? IS IT? I don’t know what happened on Earth to make you so soft! Don’t tell me it was that woman?… Oh, it was. Well maybe, when we’re done here, I’ll pay her a visit myself!”

hugh laurie as house9.  Hugh Laurie as House (House M.D.)

This one is just insane.  Since the 1980s, Hugh Laurie has been the lovable nitwit in everything from Blackadder to 101 Dalmatians, the ultimate English buffoon, Benny Hill for the postmodern hipster.  He was Bertie Freakin’ Wooster in my beloved Jeeves & Wooster, for cryin’ out loud, the ultimate performance of the ultimate expression of the ultimate upper class twit.

But there were always signs.  In Sense and Sensibility, he plays stone-faced straight man husband to Imelda Staunton’s insufferable chatterbox  of a wife and manages to bring real depth and sympathy to a guy who barely gets a word in edgewise.  And have you seen Peter’s Friends?  He and Staunton are amazing together again as a married couple whose child has died.  When he threatens to leave her if she won’t let him into her pain, it’s one of the sweetest, most heartbreaking moments of connection between a man and woman I’ve ever seen in a movie.  (By the by, if you HAVEN’T seen this movie, and you ever get a chance, by all means, watch it – every performance is brilliant.)

So then came American doctor Greg House, who is not sweet or sympathetic in any way, who plays the buffoon for mean-spirited laughs, who makes it no secret that he considers the rest of the world utter morons.  And somehow, he’s sexy as hell.  His love connection with Cuddy may have jumped the shark for the show, may have completely ruined her character (though personally, I blame her V-neck sweaters), and was almost certainly doomed from the start.  But it felt inevitable from the very first episode – how could she NOT fall in love with him, twisted monster that he was?  House M.D. as a narrative may have run out of steam (and bizarro medical conditions) before the end of the second season, but Laurie was always hot.

Incendiary remark:  “The fact that the sexual pleasure center of your cerebral cortex has been over-stimulated by spirochetes is a poor basis for a relationship. Learned that one the hard way.”

Zachary Quinto as Spock8.  Zachary Quinto as Spock (Star Trek, Star Trek: Into Darkness, known in Spanish as ¿Que Es Más Macho En El Espacio?)

Mr. Spock as a character has been holding the fort of hopeless longing for sapiosexual geek girls (and boys so inclined, of course) for more than four decades, thanks to Leonard Nimoy.  He was the epitome of wholly unattainable bliss, the ultimate expression of the guy no girl can get, except every seven years, then you better eat your Wheaties.  But with the new movies, writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman risked life and limb at the hands of purists to put him in a love connection with Uhura.  Lucky for them, somebody had the good sense to cast Zachary Quinto.  With those big brown eyes and that perfect diction, he manages to make us–and Uhura–believe that he can somehow feel nothing and love her to pieces all at the same time.  Witness the dialogue below.  If any other dude fed any other woman this line of convoluted emo crap, she’d toss a drink in his face.  But Uhura melts like butter on pancakes, and so do we.

Incendiary remark:  “You misunderstand. It is true I chose not to feel anything upon realizing my own life was ending. As Admiral Pike was dying, I joined with his consciousness and experienced what he felt at the moment of his passing. Anger. Confusion. Loneliness. Fear. I had experienced those feelings before, multiplied exponentially on the day my planet was destroyed. Such a feeling is something I choose never to experience again. Nyota, you mistake my choice not to feel as a reflection of my not caring. Well, I assure you, the truth is precisely the opposite.”

sting7.  Sting as Sting (MTV in the 1980s)

There comes a time in every prepubescent’s life when she stops wanting cute and starts wanting sexy (or in the case of some contemporary types, starts seeing cute as sexy, which is apparently a thing, and go with God, ladies).  For me, that moment came the first time I saw Sting on MTV.  I was already a poetry-reading, short story-writing, literary-minded smartypants, so the sight of this angelic-looking creature with a sneer on his face and lyrics that referenced Shakespeare on his lips blew my baby mind entirely.  He was smart; he was mean; he was lovelorn; he was mad as hell about it.  He was beautiful in a way that was completely grown up and completely outside the realm of my experience.  I’m from Chester, South Carolina, and there are some fine-looking menfolk to be found there.  But in 1983, there was not no damned body who looked even remotely like Sting.  I gave him my heart entirely.  I committed every song to memory; I saw both Dune and The Bride on the day they opened and actually told people they were good.  I read Anne Rice with perfect confidence that the voice of Lestat was his voice.

A few decades of real world womanly experience on my part and his embrace of karmic sex and MOR adult contemporary have dampened my ardor somewhat.  But “Every Breath You Take” can still make me shiver even now.

Incendiary remark:  “Oh can’t you see? You belong to me.  How my poor heart aches with every step you take?”

Val Kilmer as Doc6.  Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday (Tombstone)

Val Kilmer is a weird case.  He can play smart.  He can play smart pretending to be stupid.  Or he can play dumb as a box of wet mice after a tragic fall, a persona he seems most comfortable adopting on talk shows.  But as Doc Holliday in Tombstone, there is no doubt; he is every sapiosexual woman’s favorite cowboy.  (Any guy who can make Kurt Russell in full snarling gunslinger mode fade into the wallpaper is doing some serious hoohoo voodoo, to borrow a phrase from my ex.)  There are many husbands of my acquaintance who can perk up their whole Saturday night by dropping a single, well-modulated phrase:  “I’m your huckleberry.”  He’s smarter, faster, meaner, deadlier, more articulate and better-humored than anybody else around him, even though he’s the one drowning slowly where he stands.  He travels with a woman more venal than he is and pines for an innocent girl he believes he destroyed.  And oh yeah . . . he’s got a Southern accent.

Incendiary remark:  “You are a good woman . . . Then again . . . you may be the Anti-Christ.”

Bowie as goblin king5.  David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King (Labyrinth)

In Labyrinth, a bright, imaginative, dissatisfied adolescent girl who feels misunderstood and ill-used has to choose between saving her infant half-brother and returning to mundane reality or abandoning him and herself to a multicolored fantasy world of her own creation where she can be queen and beloved to a mysterious goblin king in guy-liner and tight pants.  I can’t imagine why it resonated so strongly with me and every other writer girl I’ve ever met.  Not even all those damned Muppets can put me off, mostly because of David Bowie.  Everybody else might be making a Girls Own Dark Crystal, but he’s acting in Bondage for Babies: An Overview.  (Tonight’s Very Special episode of Sesame Street is brought to you by the letters B, D, S and M.)  He offers Sarah her perfect princess fantasy in exchange for nothing but total surrender of her will.  With glam-rocking tunes.

Incendiary remark:  “I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.”


eccleston dr who4.  Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor (Dr. Who, Season 1 or Season 14.98-5, depending on the age and/or Whoviananity of the person you ask, and yes, I know, he’s the Ninth Doctor, whatever)

Christopher Eccleston isn’t my favorite Doctor; if I’m honest, I like David Tennant better because I like my Doctor more romantic and emotional.  But Eccleston is the one who belongs on this list.  From the moment he says, “Nice to meet you, Rose.  Run for your life,” he is completely in charge of every situation; he knows what’s happening or how to find out.  He’s both more protective and more angry – you can see quite easily why the Daleks fear him and why trees, kids, and Rose all trust him instinctively.  Tennant rages; Smith shouts; but Eccleston seethes.  (All reports indicate that Capaldi is an even angrier Doctor – I can’t wait to meet him.)  When he smiles, he lights up the world, but when he glowers, he can scare the pants right off you.  In the best and worst possible way.

Incendiary remark:  “The TARDIS can never return for me. Emergency Program One means I’m facing an enemy that should never get their hands on this machine. So this is what you should do: let the TARDIS die. Just let this old box gather dust. No one can open it, no one will even notice it. Let it become a strange little thing standing on a street corner. And over the years the world will move on and the box will be buried. And if you want to remember me, then you can do one thing. That’s all. One thing.” The hologram turns to look at Rose. “Have a good life. Do that for me, Rose. Have a fantastic life.”

Robert-Downey-Jr.-in-Iron-Man-33.  Robert Downey, Jr., as Tony Stark (Iron Man 1 thru as many as he cares to make, The Avengers)

Tony Stark is the guy in the room who’s smarter than Loki.  He’s smarter than everybody but Bruce Banner, so he immediately wants to befriend Bruce Banner.  He has absolute confidence in his own intelligence; it’s physical strength that makes him a little self-conscious (witness his pissing contests with Thor and Captain America); that’s why he develops an unhealthy relationship with his Iron Man suit(s).  If he stayed the womanizing bachelor he is when we meet him in Iron Man 1, he’d be attractive, but he’d never make my top 10, much less my top 3.

But he isn’t alone; he has Pepper.  And that’s just . . . . golden.  I love every little thing about their relationship:  the banter between them, the way they look at one another when the other one isn’t looking back, the way they look at one another when the other one IS looking back, the way they seem more relaxed alone together than either of them ever seems when other people are around.  The weird and kind of wonderful thing is, even though Tony NEVER. STOPS. TALKING and when he’s with Pepper to talk is to flirt, the real sexy stuff happens in the tiny slices of silence in between.  I wanted a sexy quote from each of these guys for this post, and Downey as Stark has dozens of awesome one-liners.    But the real moments of connection, the stuff that really toasts my marshmallow happen in the tiny little slices of silence, like the look in his eyes when he wakes from a nightmare and realizes he almost hurt her.  Downey used to make a career (or half of one) out of playing puppy-eyed yearners in rom-coms like Chances Are, Heart and Souls, and Only You (for the ultimate expression of this persona that turns it wickedly on its head, may I direct your attention to Two Girls and a Guy?).  Tony Stark would have no patience with that sappy schmuck, but in those tiny little moments, Downey lets us see he’s still in there, and he loves Pepper with all his bleeding heart.

Incendiary remark:  “No. You’re in a relationship with me, nothing will ever be okay. But I had this twenty years ago when I was drunk, I can sort it out. I fix stuff.”

kinopoisk.ru2. Alan Rickman as Fucking Everybody He’s Ever Played (Every Fucking Thing He’s Ever Done)

Sapiosexuality might as well have been invented to explain the fandom of Alan Rickman.  He isn’t conventionally handsome; properly lit he could haunt a house.  But how many Harry Potter fans do you know whose favorite character was hateful, greasy-haired, hook-nosed Severus Snape long before Rowling revealed his tender, tragic secret?  Blame Rickman – we saw the truth in his eyes halfway through the second movie.  Notions of love monkeyness notwithstanding, the man is one of the great actors of our age; I’ve never seen him put a single molecule wrong, and he can convey more emotion in silence without even moving his face than most of his peers can put across jumping up and down and screaming.  Not for nothing did Kevin Smith cast him as the Voice of God in Dogma. (And if you’ve never seen that one, you should; Rickman’s monologue about telling the boy Jesus his destiny could melt the heart of Bill Maher.  Okay, maybe he’d have to be drunk.  And petting a puppy as he watched.  But still.)  He’s the quintessential English villain in American movies (though in Die Hard, he’s Austrian, right?), the cold, calculating foreign genius who has to be brought down a peg by the plainspoken Everyman American hero (even when that hero is Robin Hood, and who the heck thought THAT was  a good idea?).

But Rickman isn’t always the villain.  For me, his most romantic, sexiest, most love monkey-status-worthy performance is in Truly, Madly,  Deeply, aka Ghost for People Who Read Books.  In it, Rickman plays a modern day cellist who dies unexpectedly, leaving behind Juliet Stephenson, his girlfriend, who can’t stop grieving and move on with her life.  So he comes back to her as a ghost.  Incidents ensue, but in the midst of it all, she finally asks him why he decided to come back.  Here’s his answer – if you haven’t seen it, as you’re reading, imagine it in his voice.  If you have seen it, you won’t have to imagine:

Incendiary remark:  “But, the pain. Your pain. I couldn’t bear that. There’s a little girl I see from time to time – Alice, who’s three. Well, three and a half. Oh, she’s great. Everyone loves her, but she’s not spoiled – Well, wasn’t spoiled. She was knocked over and she died. Her parents, and family, and friends from kindergarten… She used to go to this playground. See, they made an area in the park. Gave ’em money for swings, and little wooden animals, and there are these plaques on the sides of the swing, bottom of the horse: ‘From Alice’s mom and dad. In Memory of Alice, who used to play here’. And of course, Alice goes back there all the time. And when you see the parents take their child from the swing, and see the sign… They hold on to their son and daughter, so tightly, clinging on for dear life. And yet… The capacity that people have to love… Where does it go?”

cumberbatch1.  Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock (Sherlock.  No, really, that’s it, just Sherlock.  Yes, I saw him as Khan.  Just Sherlock.  It’s my damned list, all right?)

And so, inevitably, we arrive here.  Every person I know who describes themselves as sapiosexual started doing so to explain their attraction to Benedict Cumberbatch.  It’s a fair point; I myself have described him as looking like an alien’s well-researched but ultimately unsuccessful approximation of what a human being looks like without ever actually seeing one.  I was already a fan of the first season of Sherlock the first time another woman expressed vicarious passion for him, and my first response to her was, “Dear god, really?  Why?”  It wasn’t that I didn’t think he was brilliant and that I didn’t enjoy every moment of watching him.  He just seemed like a supersmart alien creature, asexual, unattainable . . . . but then, that’s the point, isn’t it?  With “The Woman,” he proved he isn’t asexual at all.  With his relationship with John Watson, he proved he is capable of the deepest, most noble kind of emotional attachment, of real, self-sacrificing love.  (Sherlock and John are the only popular fandom couple where the slash fiction makes the slightest bit of sense to me – for once, I can see it.)  In Sherlock, Cumberbatch has created the ultimate sapiosexual love monkey for this moment right now, as distant and untouchable as Spock, as self-destructive as Tony Stark, as protective as the Doctor, as mischievous as Loki, as angry and as dangerous as Doc.  He’s the ultimate supervillain redeemed by his heart of gold.

Incendiary remark:  “The point I’m trying to make is that I am the most unpleasant, rude, ignorant and all-round obnoxious arsehole that anyone could possibly have the misfortune to meet. I am dismissive of the virtuous, unaware of the beautiful and uncomprehending in the face of the happy. So, if I didn’t understand I was being asked to be best man, it is because I never expected to be anybody’s best friend.”

So that’s my list.  As a romance writer, I have usually tended toward more conventionally heroic heroes, but the odd charming rotter with a beautiful mind has occasionally slipped in.  I’d put Aiden Brinlaw, the wizard hero of my third book, Wicked Charms (published under the name Jayel Wylie), in this list.  Scarlett Cross, the heroine in my Hollywood romance, Alpha Romeo, encounters a big-brained Cumberbatch type near the end of the book who’ll have a lot more to do in the sequel.  And I have a contemporary fairy tale coming out later this year, Christabel’s Tale, with a hero that is very much a sapiosexual’s dream.  And now that I think about it, my pet name for my own husband is Evil Genius.

Looks like I’m a sapiosexual, too.

Random Thoughts on the new Desolation of Smaug Trailer

hobbit_desolation_of_smaug_posterSo the shiny new trailer for The Hobbit 2:  The Desolation of Smaug hit the interwebs last week.  Have you seen it yet?  If not, here, I’ll wait:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPVWy1tFXuc

Pretty nifty, huh?  The three movies of Lord of the Rings in their extended director’s cuts on DVD, taken all together as one, are my absolute favorite movie of all time.  I watch them over and over; I watch the making of documentaries over and over; I love every little detail about them, even the stuff I don’t like.  (Admit it; you know what I mean.)  So I was really bummed out by the first installment of The Hobbit when it came out last year.  It was beautiful; the effects were amazing; it was perfectly cast; Martin Freeman is all that is light and light and lovely as Bilbo Baggins . . . but damn it all to hell, it was boring.  By the time the trolls showed up, I was sneaking peeks at my neighbor’s watch, trying to guess how many more minutes of dwarven whimsy must be endured before Gollum would finally show up.  I love the story of The Hobbit.  I’ve read the book half a dozen times.  One of my first experiences as an actress was in a children’s theater adaptation where I played no less than three parts – a troll, a hobbit, and one of Smaug’s legs.  But compared to the epic narrative of LOTR, this tale of a reluctant burglar and the dwarves who grow to love him is pretty simple stuff, even if you make the lead dwarf all angsty and hunkerrific.  Stretching it into three movies is a stretch indeed, no matter how fast and loose you’re willing to play with The Silmarillion to dig up some extra plot.

So now there’s this trailer for Chapter 2.  And again, it’s gorgeous, and it does look a lot more exciting than the first one.  Except . . . the stuff that looks exciting doesn’t look much like The Hobbit.  For example . . .

It looks like they’ve given Legolas some kind of romance.  Do what?  Don’t get me wrong; I loved the romantic elements of LOTR; I thought they added hugely to the overall experience of the story.  But those elements were all at least suggested by Tolkien’s original text.  I also really like Orlando Bloom as an actor and as an object for lustful perusal (though more below on how he looks in this).  But is Legolas even in The Hobbit?  I can totally deal even if he isn’t; they do go to Mirkwood where he’s from; it makes sense that he would be there.  But a elven sweetheart?  Seriously?  The only relationships I remember Legolas having in Tolkien’s original writings were his big brotherly love for Aragorn and his fun bromance with Gimli the dwarf.  He’s just not that kind of character.  Again, nothing wrong with expanding on the character, I suppose, but if I’m interpreting the tiny snippet from the trailer correctly (which, it must be said, is hardly assured), it looks like they’ve put in an angsty love connection just to bring in the ladies.  And this lady isn’t convinced.  (The fact that they’ve chosen human-shaped tank top hanger Evangeline Lilly, one of my least favorite actresses ever, to play the Elf Chick doesn’t help.)

And speaking of the elves . . . I hate their digitally enhanced shiny skin glowing with inner light.  It looks like they were going for Renaissance angel and hit Tinkerbell in Return to Toys R Us Mountain instead.  I get that the actors who play elves are a wee tad older now than they were when they made LOTR, and maybe that needs to be addressed.  But they’ve gone waaaaay too far.

Casting Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of the dragon was brilliance; he’ll be awesome.  (But oh, the bestial fan fiction the world will be forced to endure – Run, Bilbo, run!)

If we make it into the dragon’s lair in this movie . . . . what the heck happens in Chapter 3?

Why is Gandalf already so fussed about The Ring?  It’s been a while since I read it, but does Bilbo ever even tell Gandalf about finding The Ring in the The Hobbit?  He might; I just don’t remember.  But I do know that Gandalf doesn’t start making big, scary connections to Sauron until The Fellowship of the Ring.  I wondered about this when we had the addition of the scary spiders and poisonous forest and shadow in the ruins and blah di blah blah blah in Chapter 1.  They’re trying so hard to give this story the same weight and import as LOTR, but it just doesn’t work; it’s not that kind of story.

I will definitely see this; I will enjoy going back into this world.  But I’m afraid that just like with Chapter 1, I won’t feel satisfied.  I came out of every single installment of LOTR ready to buy another ticket and walk back in.  I just don’t see that happening with any installment of The Hobbit.