A Tale of Ghosts and Demons
An invitation to tea becomes a seduction that binds a young corporate heir, a young woman with spirit touch, and an ancient samurai ghost in a web of desire, appetites, and secrets.
Ghosts & Demons …
In a world of technology and high-rises, the past seethes below the surface, waiting in the dark quiet places.
Kentoku is heir to a corporate empire, and the only one in his family aware that a very active spirit walks the hallways of his ancestral home. Keiko is a feisty young university student with an unusual spiritual talent — the ability to feel ghosts as though they were flesh. Ryudo is an ancient samurai guardian spirit to an old and respected family, grown powerful in the modern era.
An invitation to tea becomes a seduction that binds all three together in a web of desire, appetites, and secrets.
Alas, they are not alone in the dark. There are those among the living, and the dead, who would bind them to their service.
Willing, or not.
Praise for Hungry Spirits
Madame Butterfly Reviews
Grade: A- Sex rating: Commando
I didn’t want this book to end. It was long, longer than most ebooks or even novels, and yet, I was so caught up in this paranormal world that Morgan Hawke created in Hungry Spirits that I immediately looked for more books with this world, wanting more.
I loved just about everything going on in this book. The characters, who are so interesting and fun, the plot, the paranormal world and the general dark fantasy feel to it.
The plot is quite intricate and intelligently thought out, with many twists and turns. And there’s plenty of action, which kept me very turned on. Morgan Hawke introduces her paranormal world of ghosts, demons, dragons, Avatars and sorcerers in an easy to understand way. It’s developed very slowly along the way at just the right pace so there is no info dumping, but just enough info given to keep the interest up.
Reading Hungry Spirits was like going on a fun, exotic and unique adventure into a very creative and exciting world that was easy to get lost in. It’s just too bad there aren’t any more stories from this world. — Leah
Just Erotic Romance Reviews
GOLD STAR AWARD! Heat Level: Orgasmic!
“If you want an exciting, fast paced and uniquely carnal love story, HUNGRY SPIRITS is the book for you.” — Francesca Hayne
5 Stars! Heat Level: Sizzling!
“…One hell of a read. Ms. Hawke was able to hold my imagination captive, so much so, that I thoroughly enjoyed this book until the seductive end.” — Sheryl
Chrysanthemums & Lightning
“This historical mansion is supposed to be haunted. Isn’t that cool?”
“What?” The rubber soles of Keiko’s pink house slippers caught on the antique, red and gold carpet, making her trip. She barely stopped from pitching into the student directly in front of her. With the entire class crammed in the narrow hallway, there was barely enough walking room, never mind room to fall. She turned to her left, and frowned at her classmate. “Tika, did you say, haunted?”
“Yep.” Tika smiled, showing the boy-grabbing dimple in the heart of her cheek. The light shining through the warm cream of the rice paper wall, they were walking alongside, gave her oval face a warm glow. “The ghost of an old samurai is supposed to be watching over the family.”
Thunder boomed, rattling the rattan frames of the long, rice paper sliding walls on the left.
Keiko, along with more than half of her fellow students, looked up at the ceiling. Her class would arrange a haunted house tour during an autumn storm. She wiped her damp palms down the black jacket emblazoned with the university’s logo over her left pocket. Her hooded slicker had saved her hair and blazer from getting soaked, but the hem of her plain black skirt and her stockings were still damp.
Suddenly the rest of Tika’s comment sank in. Keiko turned to frown at her. “The ghost is watching over the family? Are you saying they’re in residence? They still live here?”
“Yep.” Tika put on a grim expression, and lifted her finger in imitation of their instructor. “This is a private tour granted to the university by the highly esteemed house owner; a very respectable alumni.” She leaned close to Keiko’s ear. “And I hear that the son, and heir to the family company, is currently attending, and…” She winked. “He’s supposed to be really cute too!”
Keiko frowned in confusion. “Where’d you hear all this?”
Tika shook her head, her sleek black hair falling onto a perfectly trimmed wedge at her chin. “It was in the documentation passed out in class. Didn’t you read it?”
“Yes, I read…some.” Keiko’s cheeks heated. Actually, she hadn’t read any. “I was working on my essay.” She fiddled with the plain black ribbon tie around the collar of her white blouse. “I missed the bit about the ghost.” She glanced around, but saw nothing unusual about the rattan-framed sliding walls on her left, or in the paintings hanging on the polished cedar wall on her right. “How big is this house?” How long is this tour?
“Really freaking huge; I bet we’ll be walking all day.” Tika sighed and reached out to stroke the rice-paper wall they were passing with her fingertips. “On top of that, with all the sliding walls in this place, it’s more of a maze than a mansion. Someone is bound to get lost.”
“Not me.” Keiko had absolutely no desire to wander away from her fellow students; not in a haunted house. She peered over the shoulders of the students ahead of her.
A tall man in a gray, military-style, uniform, leaned casually against the polished cedar wall on the right, as though he was some kind of guard. His arms were folded, defining muscle normally hidden under long sleeves. His sleek black hair was tucked behind his ears and a little overlong, falling just past his nicely broad shoulders. The tailored cut of his gray coat showed a flat stomach and narrow hips.
Keiko sucked in a breath. Damn… Whoever he was, he was seriously fine.
He lifted his chin and scanned up the line of students.
Keiko turned her head so he wouldn’t notice her impolite staring, and peeked from the corner of her eye. His uniform looked familiar, but she couldn’t quite place where she’d seen it before.
The line stopped, only two students away from the man against the wall. No one looked at him; not even a glance.
Tika sighed and started cataloguing just how handsome her latest boyfriend was. Her favorite subject.
Keiko smiled, then turned slightly away, rolling her eyes. Tika would probably be chatting non-stop for the next hour. Her gaze drifted to the man in gray against the wall.
Not one student looked his way, as though they just didn’t notice him standing there.
Weird. Curling a finger around the end of her long black ponytail, Keiko looked over at Tika.
Tika was deep into describing the perfection of her boyfriend’s butt, grinning and gesturing enthusiastically with her hands.
Keiko’s brows lifted. Tika wasn’t noticing the guy against the wall either, and that was really strange. He was blindingly handsome. There was no way she would have been able to resist flirting with him. What was going on? She turned back to look at him.
His face was…perfect, not too angular, not too oval, and he had a mouth to die for — but there was not one drop of color in his face, or in anything he wore. He looked as though he had stepped from an old black and white film.
Keiko suddenly realized where she’d seen that uniform. Although it was gray, rather than black, she was clearly looking at a military uniform from over a hundred years ago. She felt a far too familiar humming inside the back of her head, and the hairs at the back of her neck lifted.
She was staring at a ghost.
He turned and looked straight at her. His midnight eyes, under straight black brows, danced with flickers of unearthly blue fox-fire. He unfolded his arms and straightened, his eyes narrowing. “You see me.” His voice caressed the inside of her head with the warmth of late summer, and the perfume of faded chrysanthemums.
Keiko jerked her gaze away and grabbed onto Tika’s arm.
Tika yipped, then grinned. “What? Did you see the ghost?”
Keiko dug her fingers into Tika’s arm. “No.”
A summery chuckle echoed across her thoughts. “Yes…”
Keiko cringed, and peeked from the corner of her eye.
He was gone.
“Take it easy with the death-grip, will you?” Tika shrugged out of Keiko’s hold, then smiled. “If you’re that scared, I’m sure I can find a guy to hold your hand?”
Keiko clasped her hands behind her. “No, thanks, I was just startled.” Guys were even more trouble than ghosts.
Tika raised a perfectly manicured brow. “If you’re sure…?”
“I’m fine, really.” Keiko gave her a big fake smile, and jaunty wave.
The professor, at the very head of the double line of students, lifted his arms to signal that the tour was turning down a hallway on the right. He began droning on about the esteemed house’s artworks.
The students directly ahead moved forward.
Tika tugged on Keiko’s sleeve. “Go, go, go!”
Keiko rolled her eyes. “I’m going! I’m going!” Her slippers slapping on the carpet and her long black ponytail, swinging against her back, she trudged after the student before her. She was very careful to look away from where the ghost had been standing.
Thunder crashed overhead, rattling the paper walls.
Keiko looked up toward the ceiling, at the dangling Victorian era light fixture swaying slightly overhead.
Tika gasped, tripped, and fell hard against Keiko’s side.
Keiko toppled over toward the cedar wall on her right. She threw out her hands… and landed on her shoulder on the floor. She sat up, groaning, and rubbing her shoulder. “Thanks a lot Tika.” She froze. Right in front of her, where Tika and the rest of her class should have been, was a cedar wall — and no door.
She gasped, and looked up. The shadowed ceiling was very far away and artfully draped in magnificent sheets of scarlet and gold silk. She twisted around on her butt and discovered that she was sitting on the floor at the far end of long and deeply shadowed audience chamber. gigantic wall screens embroidered in brilliant rainbow hues lined the walls with indifferent light illuminating them from behind.
“What…?” She scrambled to her feet. “How did I get here?” The hair on her neck lifted and the back of her head shimmered with awareness.
“You fell through the door.” The voice came from right behind her.
Her breath caught and her hands turned to ice. She whirled.
The gray man, the ghost, was directly behind her less than a foot away, leaning against the cedar wall with his arms crossed. He smiled, and blue flames blazed in the midnight depths of his eyes. “I am Ryudo. Welcome to my home.”
Keiko sucked in a deep breath, turned on her heel, and bolted. Her slippers slapped loudly on the tatami mats fitted across the floor. She skidded to a stop near the wall screen at the opposite end of the huge empty room. There had to be a door somewhere.
Near the left wall a seam of light spilled across the shadowed floor from between two screens. A sliding door.
She lunged for it.
The screens slammed together.
Keiko jerked to a halt, her heart slamming in her chest. A shimmer of awareness tingled at the back of her skull. Ghost… She backed away from the door. Her back came in contact with the opposite screen. It slid under her hands. She turned and pulled on the bamboo frame. The wall parted, revealing a window.
She stuck her head out onto a dark cross hallway.
No lights were lit and no one was in sight. Windows line the entire opposite wall. Thunder rumbled. Beyond the glass, rain fell on a magnificent walled-in, outdoor garden, complete with shrines and fountains. The storm’s wind tossed the branches of the carefully pruned trees, and blown leaves stuck to the wet glass.
A sigh came from behind her, carrying the perfume of chrysanthemums.
Keiko lunged for the hallway. Something caught the collar of her coat, trapping her in the doorway.
Keiko gasped, barely stopping her scream. She tugged but her coat was caught fast. She wriggled out of it, and lunged into the hallway, and skidded on the slippery waxed wood floor, nearly crashing into the window across the hall. She turned around. The door she had just emerged from was gone, and her coat with it. She faced one long wall of identical bamboo-framed panels.
She stepped out into the middle of the hall with no clue which way she should go, left or right. Both ways led to a blind corner. There was not a sound but wind and rain. She was lost — in a haunted house.
She turned to her right and took a hesitant step.
Thunder rumbled, then lightning flashed beyond the windows. Shadows from the tossing branches moved in the hallway around her. Six long paces ahead of her, in the center of the hallway, something shimmered in the air. The shimmer coalesced into Ryudo.
Keiko’s breath stopped. She backed away. “Why are you chasing me?” Stupid question she knew good and well why ghosts chased her.
Ryudo’s black brows lifted. “Why are you running away?”
Keiko kept backing up. “You’re a ghost.”
Ryudo scowled. “I assure you, my…status of being was not my choice.” He stepped toward her.
Keiko whirled and bolted. Her slippers flew off her feet. She let them go and kept running in her stocking feet. Sliding across the waxed wood floor, she grabbed the corner and hurled herself around the right-hand turn. She skidded into a long gallery filled with standing glass cases crammed with vases, brass statuary, and funeral urns. The hall was dark but for the lights within the cases.
Keiko hurried along the slippery floor, past the displays, trying not to slide into any of the caseswhile searching for a door. There had to be a door. The end of the hall was a left hand turn, and then another long gallery of cedar walls lined with silk paintings. This hall was even darker than the last, but light shown at the left turn at far end. She scooted into the hall.
Thunder rumbled, and the scent of chrysanthemums whispered in the air. “Don’t go. Stay.”
Something pulled at the tie in her hair. She didn’t think, she shook her head and lunged into the dark hallway. Her long black hair loosened from the tie, tumbling free down her back to her waist.
“Ah… Very nice.”
Keiko turned the corner, gasping for breath, and found another cedar-walled hallway, this one very narrow, and lined with silk robes under glass. The light came from the cases. Her legs shaking, she walked as fast as she could. All this running was seriously beginning to tire her out.
A shimmer appeared at the end of the hall.
Keiko stopped dead, then backed away.
Ryudo coalesced with his hands behind his back. His booted feet were clearly not touching the floor. “Are you ready to stop running?”
Keiko scowled, and kept backing away. This game of his was getting on her nerves. “Are you ready to stop chasing me?”
“My pursuit will end, when you stop running.” He tilted his head, and pursed his full, colorless lips. “Though I will admit, I haven’t been this entertained in quite a while.”
Keiko stopped, her hands fisting at her sides. “You think this is fun?”
Ryudo’s brows lifted. “Pursuing the attentions of a pretty girl?” He gave her a breathtaking smile. “Absolutely.” He raised his hand, and gestured.
The black ribbon tie around Keiko’s collar fell out of its snug bow. She stared down at her loosened tie. “What…?”
“The only thing I find more entertaining …” Ryudo made a snatching motion with his hand. “Is undressing one.”
The ribbon slithered off her neck in a whisper of silk, and sailed across the room to his hand. Keiko gasped in shock. “My tie!”
Ryudo tilted his head. “Aren’t you a little warm all buttoned up like that?” He gestured again.
The top button at the throat of Keiko’s white blouse popped open. “Hey!” Keiko grabbed for her shirt. “Stop that! You… Pervert!”
He blinked. “Pervert?” A completely masculine smile lifted his lips, and pale blue fox-fire gleamed in the heart of his black eyes. “I can show you perversion, if you like.” He lifted both of his hands.
Oh shit! Keiko turned and bolted back down the hall. She spotted an inch-wide crack in a seam in the wall between two kimono displays and grabbed for it. The wall slid open to the left. She didn’t look, she just squeezed through.
Keiko found herself in another dark gallery, this one with murals embroidered in silk hanging along the right wall, with rice-paper walls lining the left. She groaned. Tika had been right. The house was a freaking maze.
Rain could be heard pattering against the roof tiles.
Keiko looked up. She had to be close to the outside.
The scent of summer and chrysanthemums washed across her thoughts. “Don’t go, I was just starting to get to know you.”
“Yeah right.” Keiko glared at the ceiling, and marched up the hall with determination. “By taking my clothes off ?”
“I was merely curious.” Soft laughter echoed. “Would you like to know what’s under mine?”
Keiko’s imagination suddenly filled with an image of a strong masculine chest, silky black hair falling across broad shoulders, and a stomach defined by sleek muscle. She shook her head. What am I thinking? He’s a ghost! But he did have nice-looking hands, and a mouth to die for… No. She would not even consider…what his butt really looked like. She ground her teeth, and forcibly slammed a lid on her wayward imagination. “No, thank you!”
Warm summery chuckles followed her down the hallway.
~ * ~
Chrysanthemums & Lightning
Keiko turned a corner and padded down a long, and very empty, hall with absolutely nothing in it, just polished cedar walls to either side, and deep shadows. Silence reigned, but for the soft falls of her feet on the smooth wood floors.
She groaned and rubbed at the back of her neck. She was tired, thirsty and more than a little annoyed. She knew her entire senior class was somewhere in the house, but she had yet to run across them, or anyone that lived there. She strongly suspected that Ryudo had something to do with that.
A seam of light spilled across the floor.
Keiko stared at it. Another door. She rushed forward, found the crack in seams of the wall, and peeked through it. The crack revealed that she was at the end of a very long, and well-lit, cedar-walled chamber filled with medieval weapons in glass cases.
There was another door, standing wide open, at the far end.
Keiko licked her lips. Finally, a real exit, and no ghost in sight. That didn’t mean he wasn’t there, but she didn’t sense anything, or smell any flowers. She shoved the wall panel to the side, and cautiously stepped through.
With hurried steps, she passed by the gleaming cases with a real sense of disappointment. She loved weapons, which was why she took the history course that had brought her here, and this looked like one of the best collections she’d seen yet. Unfortunately she just couldn’t afford to indulge herself, not with a ghost chasing her.
A case filled with ornate tantos from various eras caught her attention. She could not resist a quick look.
Though the hand grips of the daggers were wound with brilliant silk thread, in various elegant patterns, the squared blades were all of the same efficient design. Sleek, graceful and deadly… Antique tsubas, elaborate circular cross guards of brass, silver, and jade, were placed flat on a bed of gold silk, displaying their intricate filigrees of trees and beasts.
She bit down on her lip and continued on. Stupid ghost…
She passed an open doorway on her right, and looked in. Within a small alcove room, against the right wall, was a seated suit of samurai armor, lacquered in scarlet and black, and threaded with gold silk roping. The stag-antlered, flared helmet had a snarling gold mask. Two swords, a long katana, and a shorter wakizashi, were posted on a traditional lacquered wooden daisho frame at the armor’s booted feet. Unlike the rest of the exhibits, this one was not under glass. The whole display gleamed in a patch of sunlight cast by a row of small windows close to the ceiling.
Intrigued, Keiko bit her lip, and stepped through the door to get a better look at the antique armor. She’d never seen one that wasn’t within a glass case.
The room was very small and unusually warm. The scent of sun-warmed lacquered rattan, rich silk, and oiled leather, filled the small room. She leaned close, but didn’t try to touch. The intricacy of the armor was spectacularly beautiful, and very real. Her heart burned, and tears welled, with joy at seeing something truly rare from the distant past, and with the pain of what was lost. Bushido, the way of the warrior…
Keiko stepped back and bowed. The carefully preserved silk and rattan armor, represented the blood and spirits of those that had fought, and died, in defense of their people, and in service to their emperor. Samurai, to serve…
Her tears dampened the simple rice mat at her feet, and she was glad to leave something of herself behind.
“Tears. A worthy gift.” The voice was a whisper from summers past.
Keiko jerked upright, hastily wiping her cheeks, and looked about. No one was there, but the doorway on the right, the one she had entered, was gone. Huh? She walked over to where the door had been, but it was a solid unmoving wall. She stepped back and looked around. A seam had opened on the opposite wall, right next to a big clunky wooden door-handle. A line of bright light blazed across the floor from the seam. It looked like sunlight.
One door was gone, and another had appeared. She’d been tricked.
Keiko looked up at the ceiling, and stomped her foot. “You pain in my ass!”
There was a whisper of summer flowers in the air, but nothing beyond that.
Keiko groaned and faced the other door, and its large handle. She could stay in the tiny room, or she could take the rather blatant invitation being offered. She rolled her eyes, and crossed her arms. Great, some choice. Her gaze moved to the door. It couldn’t hurt to at least see where the door led.
She heaved a sigh, and walked over. Grasping the handle with both hands, she slid open the door, and found a small perfectly contained outdoor garden surrounded by smooth white walls. The sky was a faded blue and the sunlight seemed…golden. Insects buzzed in the humid warmth.
Under cleverly pruned trees, a pebble walk wound through the grass around a trio of tall decorative stones that were practically engulfed by late summer flowers. The walk ended at a stone, moss-covered small shrine that occupied the garden’s far corner. Beside it, a small bubbling fountain trickled into a tiny pond holding a single broad lily pad and a single perfect bloom.
In the very center of the garden was a very old, and well-groomed, cherry tree. Under the tree’s twisted, but neatly trimmed, leafy branches squatted a low circular table of polished golden wood with two thick, black silk, sitting pillows.
The garden was filled with late summer — but, she knew for a fact that it was late autumn. There should be no flowers, and the trees should have been bare of leaves. It had been raining, just minutes ago, and yet the grass was dry.
The hair on Keiko’s neck lifted and the back of her head shimmered with awareness. A warm breeze, carrying the scent of chrysanthemums, caressed her cheeks.
Keiko’s breath caught and her hands turned to ice. She whirled.
The eerily colorless, Ryudo stood directly behind her, less than a foot away, blocking the door. He smiled, and blue flames blazed in the midnight depths of his eyes. “Would you do me the honor of joining me in the garden?” He stepped toward her.
Keiko stepped back in a hurry, moving off the slate step, her stocking clad heels crunching onto the pebble walk of the impossible garden. She winced.
He stepped out, following her with booted feet that didn’t quite touch the ground. Behind him, the door slid closed with a snap. “Thank you.” He nodded, and his smile broadened.
Fear chilled her spine, and anger followed in its wake. Her hands fisted at her sides. “Why are you doing this?”
Ryudo lifted his brow. “I thought you might be ready for a rest, and a cup of tea.” He lifted his chin and stared past her shoulder.
Keiko blinked. Huh? She turned back to look at the low table under the cherry tree. A small square wooden tray occupied the table’s center, holding a rectangular terra-cotta teapot with a bamboo handle. The pot was richly glazed in several shades of aqua. Steam curled from the pot’s square spout and two small angular cups sat beside it.
Keiko’s anger dissipated under a wash of confusion. He brought her tea? She glanced back toward the handsome and bewildering ghost.
Ryudo stepped toward her.
She backed away to avoid him, stepping off the pebble path, and onto the neatly mown grass.
The ghost strode across the grass to the low table, and stepped around it to the far side. He tugged the skirts of his coat back and knelt on the cushion facing the door, clearly leaving the cushion facing the cherry tree, for her. He looked at her expectantly.
Keiko lunged for the door, grabbed the wooden handle and tugged. The door refused to slide sideways and open. She put her full weight into it. Open, damn you! Her stocking feet skidded on the slate step. The door didn’t budge. She turned to face the ghost, fear chilling her heart while anger heated her temper. “Let me out.”
Ryudo set his elbows on the table and folded his fingers together. “Don’t you want a cup of tea?”
“With you?” Keiko set her free hand on her hip. “No thank you.”
Ryudo scowled. “Why not?”
“Why not?” Keiko set both hands on her hips. “Maybe because you just spent the past hour, or so, chasing me through the house?”
He frowned. “I wasn’t chasing you, you were running from me.”
Keiko’s mouth fell open. “Of course I was running from you, you’re a ghost!”
“Yes. I am.” He looked away. “I am a spirit, in a house full of people that cannot see me, or hear me.” He clasped his hand together. “I just want a bit of conversation with someone that knows I exist.” He looked up at her. “Is that so very terrible?”
Keiko tightened her hand on the door handle. She knew, quite painfully, what it was like to always be on the outside looking in. But, her odd sensitivity to ghosts went further than seeing and speaking to them. She had the very physical scars to prove it. “I need to get back to my class. They’ll miss me.”
“Of course.” Ryudo held out his hand, indicating the pillow next to him. “After you have a cup of tea.”
“You’re not letting me go?” Keiko’s hands fisted at her sides. “This is kidnapping!”
Ryudo’s brows rose. “It’s an invitation to tea.”
Keiko scowled. “That I refused!”
“You refuse your host’s invitation?” Ryudo dropped his chin and lowered his brows. “How terribly impolite.”
Keiko’s mouth fell open. She was being rude? “You’re not the owner, you’re just a ghost!”
“Just a ghost?” Ryudo set his hands flat on the table, and his eyes narrowed. “This entire house is under my personal guardianship, and my domain, therefore you are my guest!”
Keiko backed against the door, and swallowed hard. She was not only trapped by the house’s guardian spirit, she’d just succeeded in pissing it off. But damn it, he was being rude too. One did not force one’s guests to…have tea.
She released a breath. Merciful Lady that sounded silly. Forced to have tea… “Do you regularly lock your guests in when they won’t have tea?”
Ryudo’s brows shot up, then he glanced away with a small shrug. “Only occasionally.”
Keiko snorted and crossed her arms. “No wonder you don’t have very many guests.”
His brows dropped low over his eyes and he glared at her. “What is so terrible about having tea with me?”
Keiko sighed. “It’s not the tea, it’s the fact that you just spent half the day scaring me to death, and now you expect me to keep you company?”
He sighed, and looked down at his hands. “It was not my intent to frighten you.”
“Is that so? Then why did you take my coat, and my tie?” She tugged at a lock of her hair. “And my hair-bow?”
He winced. “I was perhaps a bit over enthusiastic.”
“A bit?” Keiko set her hand on her hip. “You threatened to undress me!”
He rolled his eyes. “It’s not as if I can do anything to you, I am a ghost.”
Keiko shivered suddenly. But he could. Apparently, he didn’t know about her…oddness. She had no idea how he’d missed it, when so many others had not, but at that moment, she was truly grateful. “I would really like to leave. Now, please.”
“Of course.” He rose to his feet, standing with his head bowed, and his hands stiffly correct at his sides. “Please, forgive me.” His voice was barely a whisper. “One should not treat one’s guest in such a shameful manner.”
Keiko froze, confused. The ghost was presenting her a formal apology?
Ryudo’s hands tightened at his sides. “As you truly wish to leave…”
The door abruptly slid partway open under her hands.
He’s letting me go? Keiko pushed at the door, and it slid easily, all the way open.
“It’s just that, I haven’t had the pleasure of … a young lady’s company in a very long time.”
With one foot on the flagstone threshold, Keiko hesitated. If Ryudo’s uniform was any measure of his age, he had been a ghost for over a century. She couldn’t imagine existing that long, in a house full of people that didn’t even know he was there. And the one person he could speak to – wanted nothing to do with him.
Not even … tea.
She closed her eyes and shame brought heat to her cheeks. Yes, he was a ghost, but clearly, he was acting out of desperate loneliness. He hadn’t actually done anything truly awful, just embarrassing. Merciful Lady, he’d given her a formal apology. That was not the action of a night terror, a monster out to cut her to ribbons, but of a man who had done something he was ashamed of.
What could it hurt, to have tea?
Keiko turned around to face him. “I accept your apology, honored Ryudo.” She set her hands on her plain skirt and gave him a deep bow, her long hair falling beside her cheeks. “I am Keiko, and I would be honored to have tea with you.”
His head lifted his eyes wide. His lips parted. “You will?” He straightened and shook his head. “I mean, by all means, please do!” He held out his hand, indicating the other cushion and a truly breathtaking smile bloomed.
Keiko nearly reeled from the effect. Ryudo might be a ghost, but Merciful Lady, he was a gorgeous ghost. She swept her hands across her skirt smiled and strode to the table.
Ryudo tugged the tails of his coat out of the way and knelt, a host awaiting his guest.
Keiko smoothed her skirt down over her knees, and knelt on the offered pillow. A refreshingly breeze cool caressed her through the white cotton blouse. The blazer would have been uncomfortably warm.
Ryudo set his chin on his palm and gave her that wonderful smile. “Lovely.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh please…” She reached for the tea pot. It was surprisingly warm, and very full.
Ryudo tilted his head. “You don’t like compliments?”
“I don’t mind them.” Keiko gave him a tight smile. “It just doesn’t happen very often, not to me.” Carefully, she poured green tea into the two square cups.
His brows lifted. “I find that hard to believe.”
Keiko did not want to talk about her lack of…appeal. She set the pot on the square tray, and lifted her cup. “Out of curiosity, how did you…?” She lifted her free hand, indicating the garden. “Arrange this?”
“Ah, so you noticed.” Ryudo smiled sourly.
Keiko snorted. “Kind of hard to miss when it’s really raining outside.”
“Oh, yes, well…” He winced. “It’s an illusion.”
An illusion? She froze, with the cup halfway to her mouth. “Then, where am I, really?”
Ryudo smiled tightly. “We’re really within a rather empty room.” He raised his hand indicating the tree, and the sky, overhead. “Once upon a time, this garden really existed, right here, just as you see it.” He peered down at his hands, and lifted his shoulder in a half-shrug. “They expanded the house, and it was…lost.”
Keiko knocked on the table. “Wow, this is an amazingly solid illusion.”
Ryudo chuckled. “The table is not an illusion; nor is the cushions, or the teapot.”
Keiko peered hard at the cherry tree on the other side of the table, but it looked perfectly solid. “Incredible.” She sipped at the tea. It was wonderful. “So, how are you doing it; the illusion?”
Ryudo looked away. “I would rather not say.”
Keiko eyed her phantom host. It would have been horrifically rude to insist on an explanation. “All right.” She looked at the tea she had set before him. He hadn’t touched it. Probably, because as a ghost, he couldn’t touch it. She glanced away. “So how did you come to be in this house?” She flinched. Obviously he had died to become the house guardian. Perhaps that wasn’t a polite thing to ask. “You don’t have to answer, if you’d rather speak of something else…?”
Ryudo smiled sourly. “It was…asked of me, and I agreed.” He looked down at his hands. “It is not a bad existence, I can do a number of things I could not as a living man.”
Keiko nodded. “Like the illusions.”
He gave her a brief smile. “Yes, and the moving of objects, without actually touching them.” He stared at the tea pot and gestured with his fingers.
The pot obediently lifted and floated toward Keiko.
Her heart in her mouth, Keiko locked her hands in her lap. I will not freak out.
The tea pot tipped steaming tea into her cup, then returned to the tray.
Keiko released her breath very slowly and pasted a smile on her lips. “Well that must be entertaining.”
Ryudo set his elbow on the table and propped his chin on his hand. “Oh yes, all the screaming and running away from floating objects, can be quite entertaining.” He rolled his eyes and sighed. “But never leaving the house, and having no one to talk to, can get a little dull.”
Wanting to comfort him, Keiko set her palm over Ryudo’s hand. She froze. She could feel his long cool fingers under her palm, as solid as her own.
Ryudo stared at her hand over his. “I can feel…your hand.”
~ * ~
Chrysanthemums & Lightning
Merciful Lady, why had she done something so stupid? Keiko jerked her hand back.
Ryudo caught her wrist in his fist. “I can feel your hand.” His gaze narrowed at her and blue flame leaped in their depths. “You have the gift.”
Keiko pulled at her wrist. “It’s not a gift — it’s a curse!”
Mouth tight, Ryudo rose from the table and pulled her up with him. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Keiko glared at him. “Why should I? The last ghost that found out sent me to the hospital!”
Ryudo’s mouth opened. “What? But, why?”
Keiko curled her lip. “Because it bit me, but no one could see the blood, but me. They brought me to the hospital because I passed out. I woke up a week later with a machine pumping air into my lungs, and a brand new scar.”
Ryudo stepped away from the table, pulling her closer. “Why did the ghost bite you?”
Keiko dug in her heels but Ryudo’s grip was too strong to break. “Because it was a monster.”
“A monster?” Ryudo’s brows lifted. “It didn’t look human?”
“No.” She tried twisting her wrist, but couldn’t budge it in his grip. “None of them did.”
“Them? How many of them were there?”
“You’re the first I’ve met that actually looks like a man.” Keiko grabbed his wrist with her other hand and tried to peel it off her. “Let go.”
Ryudo caught her other wrist, holding them both. “Stop fighting me, you’ll only hurt yourself.”
Keiko glared up at him. “Let go!”
Ryudo stared down at her. “Answer the question. How many ghosts have attacked you?”
She jerked back in his hold. “I told you, all of them.” She couldn’t twist free.
“Keiko.” He trapped both her wrists in one hand, and caught her chin, forcing her gaze to his. “Give me a number.”
She glared up at him. “Twelve attacks, I think. Some of them had more than one ghost”
“Twelve attacks?” He released her chin and looked away. His brows dropped and he scowled, his expression clearly puzzled. “They all bit you?”
She turned away. “Some of them…cut me.”
She looked at him, startled. “What?”
His jaw was tight and his eyes narrowed. “Show me the marks.”
She scowled at him. “I am not taking my clothes off.”
His gaze narrowed and blue fire blazed in their depths. “You will show me where they hurt you, or I will unclothe you myself, and search.”
Keiko jerked back. “You wouldn’t…”
“Wouldn’t I?” His gaze dropped to the buttons of her blouse. “I will see what was done to you.”
The top button at her throat was already open from before. Keiko abruptly felt the second button release. And then the third, right over her heart. Panic struck. “Stop!”
“You will show me?”
She glared at him. “You’re going to have to let me go, so I can unbutton my sleeves.”
“All right.” He stared past her shoulder.
The door from the garden, leading into the house, slid closed with a hard slam.
Keiko jumped and looked over at the door. Her heart beat in her mouth. She was locked in. Again.
“You are not leaving, until I see what was done to you.” He released her wrists.
“Fine.” Keiko stepped back, turned away, and tugged the buttons at her wrist. Once he saw her scars he’d let her go. Her ugliness chased everyone away. “Why?” She unfastened both wrists. She looked over at him. “Why do you want to see my…” She swallowed. “Scars?”
His face was a mask of anger. “To see what has attacked you!”
“I told you! They were monsters!” She glared at him, and jerked at the rest of her blouse buttons. “Monsters, Ryudo, with big teeth and claws!”
He flinched back. “How long has this been happening to you?”
She unbuttoned her blouse to the waist. “I was just a kid, still in grade school, when the first one bit me.”
His eyes widened. “Grade-school?” He looked away, and folded his arms. “That’s not supposed to happen.” He shook his head. “You’re not supposed to come into your gift until you reach sixteen, or older.”
“Yeah, well apparently, I got it early.” She turned her back to him, and tugged the white cotton from her shoulders, revealing the back of her plain white bra, then jerked the blouse off her arms, leaving it hanging from her skirt’s waistband. “There.” She closed her eyes. Her back was a complete mess of jagged rips from claws, and teeth…and other things. “Look all you like.”
Summer insects, buzzed in the silence.
“God…! Your back!” His voice was tight, angry, and very close. He was standing right behind her. Cool fingers stroked the ridges along her back. “Are there more?”
She flinched away from his touch. “More, what?”
He set his hand on her shoulder, holding her still, for his exploring fingers. “Did they damage more than your back?”
She folded her arms across her breasts, and shivered under his light touch. “Just my back, but the scars go down to my knees.”
“Keiko, these are demon marks; bites from creatures made with hate. What are you doing to attract that kind of ghost?”
“I told you, I’m cursed!” She turned to glare at him from over her shoulder. “I attracted you too, remember?”
Ryudo’s brows lifted and his lips parted, then he scowled. “Keiko, I am nothing like those.”
Keiko smiled grimly. “Oh, no?” She pointed at the door. “Show me the difference, Ryudo. Let me go.”
He took a breath, his chest seemingly expanding with air. He released it in a sigh. “I…can’t.”
Keiko closed her eyes and felt the betrayal burn in her heart. He had been so wonderful, a handsome man flirting over tea, not a…a monster. Then, he had discovered what made her truly different. She could feel the dead, as though they were real, not the phantoms everyone else barely knew were there.
“Keiko, I need you.”
Wearing only her bra, her blouse hanging from the waistband of her skirt, she refused to look at him. “For what?”
“I need… Keiko, look at me.”
Keiko hunched her shoulders, and looked over at the closed door. “Just bite me, or cut me, or however you intend to make me bleed, and get it over with, so I can go home.”
“Keiko! Damn it, I don’t want to hurt you!”
“Then what do you want?” Keiko looked over her shoulder at him. “Just say it!”
Ryudo’s mouth was tight and his expression grim. “Turn around.”
She shook her head. “There’s nothing to see. They only got my back.”
“Keiko.” He took hold of both her shoulders. “Show me.”
“You don’t need to see any more.” She leaned away from him. “They only got my back.”
“Keiko.” His fingers tightened on her shoulders. “Just, turn around for me.”
She closed her eyes in frustration. He wanted to see and he wasn’t going to let it go until he saw, so… “Fine.” She turned around under his hands and stared defiantly at him.
His gaze slid down her unmarred throat to her crossed arms, then down her smooth belly. He frowned. “Put your arms down.”
She jerked her arms down, letting him see her plain white bra.
Ryudo frowned. “Nothing.”
She rolled her eyes and gave him a sour smile. “I told you so. Happy now?”
His gaze roved over her, and he seemed to take in a breath. “God, you’re beautiful…”
The air slammed out of Keiko’s lungs. “What…?” Her voice came out in a tiny airless squeak. Even though he was a ghost, he was still a very fine looking man, and his clearly admiring words sent a spear of warmth straight through her. Heat filled her cheeks.
Ryudo looked up into her eyes. “Keiko those…things, scarred your back because they were just trying frighten you, not kill you.”
Keiko scowled. “They sure acted like they were going to kill me!”
“They were trying to make you afraid.” Ryudo shook his head “If they had wanted you dead, they would have gone straight for your stomach, where your spirit sits.” He dropped a hand from her shoulder, and pressed his cool, and very solid, palm flat against the soft skin of her belly.
The contact was so unexpected, her breath caught. Erotic heat flared under his palm and spread. Sweat formed at the base of her spine and soaked into her blouse, but she couldn’t tell if it was from fear, or the fact that his touch felt so…right. Her knees weakened and her balance slipped.
Ryudo wrapped his arm around her shoulders, keeping her upright, with his palm against her bare belly. “I have you.”
Falling back, against the ghost’s all-too-solid arm, she caught hold of his coat. Gripping the heavy wool with both hands, she was amazed. “I can actually feel your coat.” She pressed her hand to the buttons over his heart, and felt his body beneath it. “I can feel…you.”
He nodded and pressed his fingers into her belly. “As I feel you, but no one else.”
An exciting rush poured into her veins, tingled up her spine, and spilled into the back of her skull. A small moan escaped.
Ryudo smiled, and color seemed to bloom in his cheeks, and full lips. “Your gift is responding to me.”
Keiko shook her head and jerked at his coat. “What gift? It doesn’t do anything except let ghosts…hurt me.” Her gaze dropped to his coat, and she frowned. The coat seemed to be darkening, right under her hands, and becoming…black with red trim, and the buttons looked more gold, than silver.
He pulled his palm from her belly to catch her chin, drawing her gaze to his. “You have the power to make the dead live, and feel, again. For a short time anyway.” He released her chin, and set his palm back on her belly. “And it lives here. This is what those…creatures were after.” He looked into her eyes. “They wanted to feel alive.”
Keiko frowned in confusion. “By biting me?”
He scowled. “They terrified you to make the gift spill into your blood. They bit you so they could drink your power straight from your veins.”
Clutching his coat, she shivered hard. “Like vampires?”
He snorted. “Without doubt. Vampires are supposed to be blood-drinking ghosts.”
She looked up into his eyes. “Is that what you want, from me? To drink my power?”
His smile vanished, and an aching hunger filled his midnight gaze. He licked his lips. “Yes.”
She flinched, and her hands turned cold. Another bite, another scar…
“Keiko, I don’t want to hurt you. There is another way, a better way.”
She looked up at the handsome ghost, and trembled, teetering between desire and terror. “What way?”
Ryudo’s arms closed around her, and the pale blue fox-fire in his dark gaze trapped hers. “Fear, is only one way to bring your gift to potency.” He tightened his hold, pressing her breasts into his chest, and pulling her hips against his. “The other, is passion.” His hand slid down her bare back, and shivers followed, then awakening heat. He lowered his head, his black hair sweeping against her cheek, his lips a breath away. “Kiss me.”
She focused on his lush mouth, and hesitated. She licked her lips. He was a truly handsome man, and it was only a kiss. What could it hurt? She lifted her chin, and brushed her lips against his.
The cool velvety softness of his lips parted, delivering unexpected warmth and breath.
“Yes…” His damp tongue slid across her bottom lip, then darted in to stroke the tip of her tongue.
She met his foray and lightly swept her tongue against his. He tasted like fresh clean water, and shadows. He tasted, exciting. She sought more, and her eyes drifted closed.
He swept his hands up her back, and cupped her head, angling her mouth to fit his. Sucking her tongue into his mouth, he captured it, and suckled.
A small moan escaped her throat. She released his lapels and skimmed her hands around to his back, feeling the firmness of his body beneath his coat. Vibrancy, and darkness, pulsed in a delicious, yet shivery, combination under her palms.
He moaned softly against her lips. “Yes, more…”
She slid her hands around his waist, pulling him tight to her. The simmering dark within him brushed against her heart. Carnal hunger bloomed. Her nipples tightened to aching points under her bra. Urgency coiled tight, and moisture seeped into her panties. She gasped, and trembled.
“Yes, that’s it.” He lapped, then sucked on her tongue, moaning in greedy delight. His erection swelled and lengthened against her belly. The hint of aroused male perfumed the air.
Simply unable to resist, she rolled her belly against his growing firmness.
He skimmed one hand down her back to cup her butt, holding her snug to him, and groaned into her mouth. The fingertips of his other hand brushed the nape of her neck, drawing tiny shivers. He sucked the plump fullness of her lip into his mouth, and very gently bit down, holding her mouth to his.
His tender bite surprised her, and she sought to repay the caress with a one of her own.
He chuckled, and engaged her questing tongue while skimming his hands across her back. He touched her bra strap, and stilled, his fingers resting on the catch. He tugged. The bra parted, and opened.
Startled she pulled from his kiss.
He locked her in his embrace, and took her mouth. He subdued her alarm with gentle yet determined incursions of his skilled tongue.
She sighed, giving in to the hot drugging spiral of excitement building urgently within her.
He pressed his warm palms to her back, and explored her contours, slowly drifting downward, to the waistband of her skirt. He tugged on the skirt’s zipper, and drew it down.
She pulled back. “Wait, what are you doing?”
He locked his arm around her waist, holding her firmly to his chest, and smiled. “Undressing you.”
~ * ~
Chrysanthemums & Lightning
He was undressing her? Alarmed, Keiko pushed at the ghost’s all too solid chest. “Ryudo? You said you wouldn’t!”
“Keiko.” Ryudo caught the back of her skirt, bunching it in his fist. “I can’t seduce you with your clothes on.” He tugged. The black skirt slid down from her hips and fell to the grass, revealing the white lace garter-belt holding her stockings, and the white lace panties over them. His brow lifted. “Lace and stockings? Very nice.” He ducked down and set his arm under her knees. “Modern panty-hose is annoying.” He rose, scooping her up into his arms.
Lifted into the air, Keiko gasped softly, and threw her arms around his neck. “Ryudo, wait!”
Ryudo turned slowly, with her in his arms. “Keiko, I have already waited a hundred and fifteen years.” The world around them began to darken and fade. “My waiting is done.”
Keiko looked around in alarm. The trees and flowers became shadows that changed shape and dimension. The sounds of summer drifted away, replaced by the sound of thunder rumbling somewhere, far away. She turned to look into Ryudo’s shadow-filled eyes. “You’re going to…you mean to, have sex, with me?”
“Is there another meaning for seduction?” Ryudo gave her tight smile. “Terror spills your power into your blood, but it does not release it from the body.” He strode forward, carrying her into a darkness filled with the sound of late autumn rain on a tile roof. “To taste your power, they have to break the skin, and drink it from your blood.”
Lightning flashed, briefly illuminating a bamboo framed, rice paper screen standing before a broad window.
His voice whispered intimately against her ear. “When I bring you to erotic climax, orgasm, I can take all I need in a single kiss.”
Thunder rumbled again, louder and closer. Another lightning flash revealed a thick futon bedroll upon the floor, angled outward from a shadowed corner by the window. Two low pillows rested side by side. The bed’s coverlet was scarlet silk.
A warm golden glow bloomed against the back wall, opposite the window. The glow coalesced into an antique Victorian oil lamp, with a scrolled oil font resting upon the head of kneeling girl of brass. Flame brightened in a slender glass chimney, revealing that the lamp rested in the very center of a low table of golden oak, pushed up against a cedar wall. On the table, less than a hand-span from the oil lamp, a rectangular aqua tea pot rested on a square lacquered tray, accompanied by two square cups. Two black pillows rested on the polished wood floor.
A delicate, bamboo-framed, white silk screen, the room’s only decoration, was positioned against the wall opposite the window, behind the table. The screen was finely embroidered with a magnificent spreading cherry tree.
There was no door.
Ryudo released her legs, setting Keiko down on the smooth wood floor. He cupped her shoulders and smiled down at her. No longer was he a gray image, but a man fully realized, wearing a neatly pressed, black wool uniform, decorated in scarlet and gold braid, with glossy black boots.
Keiko looked up at Ryudo’s face. “This … seduction, is the only way?”
His features seemed carved from ivory, though his full lips were a rich dark red. His hand closed on her shoulders, and his fingers, no longer cool, but warm, caught in her bra straps. “Yes.” He drew the white elastic straps down her arms. “I prefer drinking from the fount of desire.” He tugged the bra from her arms and let it fall to the floor. His eyes narrowed, and his smile turned feral. “Pleasure serves no finer banquet.”
She shivered under his gaze, but left her hands at her sides.
His gaze lifted, and his dark eyes caught hers. “Exquisite.”
Keiko licked her lips. There was no escape. She was not leaving, until the ghost had taken what he would, of her. Her belly clenched in sudden and ravenous anticipation.
He smiled and dropped to one knee. He shook back his silky black hair, and thumbed it behind his ears. Trapping her gaze with his shadow-filled eyes, he eased forward, opened his mouth, and captured the pink tip of her nipple, sucking it hard into his mouth.
Carnal fire speared straight down into her core, and focused on the tiny point of her clit. Her belly clenched in dark hunger. She gasped and her knees weakened. She grabbed onto his shoulders, nearly falling atop him.
His hands cupped the fullness of her buttocks, and his fingers closed on her lace panties. He suckled on her nipple, making loud wet sounds of masculine enjoyment.
Bolts of rapture stirred by his lips and tongue stabbed straight down to her clit, and her belly tightened with a voracious greed that ruthlessly demanded more. Soft needy sounds slipped from her throat.
He clamped his teeth down, in a tender bite, then flicked his tongue, hard, against the sensitive flesh.
The inflamed point of her clit throbbed with exquisite agony. She choked, and her body went rigid with violent anticipation. Her breath stilled.
He jerked on the lace with both hands, and tugged her panties down.
She took a single breath.
He closed one hand on her bare ass cheek, and slid the other hand up, between her legs. His palm cupped her feminine core. He pulled back from her breast, and captured her gaze. “Open, for me.”
She gripped the shoulders of his coat and gasped for breath. Her heart’s shock warred with her body’s fierce tormenting hunger. Hunger won, and her legs parted, all by themselves.
He smiled. “Ah… Good.” Two of his strong fingers delved into the soft hair, and past, between the plump lips, then deeper still, among the sensitive, and wet folds of her secret flesh. “You’re very close.” His fingers curled, and found her swollen clit.
She gasped and came up on her toes, bucking against his palm. She dropped to her heels, trembling.
He licked his lips. “Almost there.” He brought his hand up from her butt to grab her hair at the base of her neck. His dampened fingers flicked against her clit.
A bolt of erotic lightning struck, and her body eagerly tightened. She lunged up on her toes in anticipation of a glorious fall… Her mouth opened in shocked delight, and a small cry escaped her throat.
“There.” He pulled his hands from her.
She slid back from the brink and cried out, collapsing over his shoulder, panting and shuddering in acute disappointment.
His smile broadened. “You’re ready to be taken.” He lifted her from the floor, cradling her in his arms, and carried her from the lamp’s light into the shadows.
Keiko’s heart slammed in her chest, but she couldn’t tell if it was from fear, or wicked anticipation of his taking.
Ryudo knelt on the broad futon and sat her on her knees in the center. His lips brushed hers. He sat back on his heels and pulled a red length of silk from within his sleeve. He stretched it between his hands then leaned close.
Keiko started. “What…?” She reached up to touch the red silk.
“For your eyes.” Ryudo brushed her hands away. “You are not yet ready to see.”
“Why not?” She froze and fear washed cold down her spine. Was he monstrous after all?
“Do not be afraid.” He pressed the cloth across her eyes. “I will bring you only pleasure. This, I swear.” He pulled her forward, against his chest and knotted the cloth behind her head.
She shivered in his embrace. He wasn’t a man, he was a ghost, and he had her trapped in a room with no exit. She was completely at his mercy.
He caught her shoulders and pressed her back until she lay against the mattress. “Be at ease.” He straddled her with his knees, and his hands closed around her wrists, pulling them above her head. “Only pleasure.” His lips brushed hers in a gentle kiss, but he did not release her wrists.
A hot sultry breeze swept across her skin, carrying the scent of chrysanthemums. The sound of rain on the tiles was loud, and thunder rumbled far away.
He rose above her, with the sensation of hot shadowy flesh, as though his clothes had evaporated. His voice whispered from the darkness. “I will give you pleasure unlike anything a mortal man can give you.” His mouth closed on her breast, and his tongue made wet circles around her tender nipple.
Carnal hunger quickened and clenched in her belly, a banked fire leaping to furious life. She arched and moaned.
Hot, moist breath whispered across her other nipple, and then a tongue, and yet his mouth still lapped at her other breast.
She gasped in confusion, even as arousal stormed through her, instigated by her deliciously tormented nipples.
Hands cupped her breasts, and yet his hands were still on her wrists. Fingers came from nowhere to caress her hips, even as other hands slid under, and down, to cup her butt, and squeeze.
She arched her back under a sea of gently stroking palms and exploring fingers. A moan escaped her throat.
A mouth opened on her belly and a tongue investigated her navel. Teeth gently scored her hips, her belly and her inner thighs, nibbling then gently lapping the sting away.
Hands lifted her knees and parted her thighs. Hot breath washed against her intimate flesh, and then a tongue stroked her with wicked purpose. The tongue swirled across her folds then flicked across her clit, delivering delicious bolts of brutally salacious delight. Yet still, tongues circled and flicked at both her nipples.
Her legs were lifted higher, and another hot, wet tongue circled the tight rose of her anus with forbidden intent.
She cried out, overwhelmed by the sensual assault of tongues, lips, and gentle bites, writhing in voluptuous and voracious passion.
The tongue at her core slid into her, and lapped, then lengthened into a finger that stroked and flicked against something truly delightful.
She moaned and bucked against the hands that held her, striving for more of that riveting sensation.
The finger within her, thickened, becoming rigid and deliciously knobby. It thrust inward, deeply, striking that delicious spot.
She arched back with an impassioned cry.
“Yes, oh, yes,” he whispered. “Give me your pleasure. Give me your rapture. Give me…everything.”
The rigid length pulled back, and thrust, then again, and again…
She bucked against him, her body welcoming the delicious invasion. Sweat ran from her skin, and the musky scent of exertion, and lust, became a thick perfume permeated by the scent of chrysanthemums.
The mouths on her nipples clamped down in brutally tender bites that seared her with ferocious delight. Tongues lapped at her skin. Fingers and hands caressed her ass, her thighs, and squeezed her breasts for the mouths that plundered them.
Climax rushed upward and crested. She trembled hard, teetering, balancing on the razor’s edge of the abyss, wanting the fall into pleasure, but afraid of what would happen once she did.
“Yes!” His summer hot breath caressed her lips. “Give it to me!”
Something small and damp, a tongue, lapped at her clit, delivering an unexpected spark.
Her breath stopped. Climax exploded, slamming her down into a pounding spiral of agonizing rapture that ripped screams from her throat.
His mouth covered her lips, stealing her cries, stealing her breath, filling her mouth, and possessing her.
He released her mouth from his devouring kiss. “Your essence is as potent as plum wine, and just as sweet.” His many hands and lips traveled across her skin delivering light caresses and soft kisses. “Oh yes, a worthy keeper, and protector, of my heart.”
Keiko trembled in his hold and gasped for breath. “I don’t understand.”
“You will.” His lips brushed hers. “I want to love you again.” Teeth bit down on her breasts in gentle inciting bites, and nails scored her flesh leaving trails of shivering delight. The shaft within her pulsed gently, in time with her heart. A tongue swept across her lips. “I have so much to give you.”
She moaned. “How much more?”
“No more than your heart can bear.” A mouth sucked hard on her nipple.
The bolts of pleasure wracked her with tiny shudders. “I can’t take… I can’t take much more.”
“You can. You will. You were made for my love. You were made for me.”
Restrained by invisible hands, twisting among limbs she couldn’t see, mounted and taken while wreathed in wet tongues and wetter mouths. The pulsing shaft fucked her cunt, relentless, and tireless, like the mouths that tasted her flesh. She writhed in a mindless abyss of physical sensation that shredded all thought, but her body’s joyous rapture.
And through it all, Ryudo’s voice echoed in her mind with the searing heat of late summer, and the scent of chrysanthemums. “Give me your passion. Feed me your ecstasy. Love me, Keiko. Love me…forever.”
~ * ~
Chrysanthemums & Lightning
She awoke to the sound of rain and opened her eyes to an opaque rice paper screen obscuring a broad window in a cedar-walled room. It was over, Ryudo was gone. She shifted and found that a heavy silk kimono of deep scarlet covered her naked body. She groaned and sat up on the thick futon, clutching the heavy kimono to her breasts. She was still wearing her stockings and garter belt.
“Are you all right?”
She yelped and turned.
Seated on a pillow at the table, by the cherry tree wall hanging, was a very human young man, not much older than she. Dressed in dark pleated pants and a white dress shirt, his tie was loose and his cropped black hair just a little mussed, as though he’d scrubbed his hands through it. In the light of the oil lamp, his face was sculptured perfection with a mouth made for sin.
“I’m…” She clutched the kimono tighter and looked for her clothes. “I’m okay.”
He smiled. “Good. I didn’t think he’d hurt you, but he doesn’t always understand our limits.”
“Hurt me?” Keiko turned to look at the beautiful youth. “Who?”
The young man folded his arms, looked firmly at the wall and scowled. “Ryudo.”
Her mouth fell open. “You know about him?”
The young man rolled his eyes and smiled sourly. “I should. He’s my house guardian. I’m Kentoku.”
His house guardian? Then this was…his house? And she was an uninvited guest. “I’m terribly sorry…!” Clutching the robe to cover her nudity, Keiko lunged from the futon and tripped on the robe.
Kentoku launched off the pillow, hands out. “Are you all right?”
She backed away and bobbed a small bow. “I’m Keiko. I was part of the tour. Please excuse me, I didn’t mean to stay…”
“Relax!” He held up his hands. “I know, Ryudo told me.”
She stilled. “You can talk to him?”
Kentoku shrugged. “I’m the only one in the family that knows he’s there.”
Keiko shook her head. “My class, my instructors… They must have hunted all over the house for me!”
Kentoku hunched his shoulders and stared at the floor. “Uh, no they didn’t.”
She jerked back a step. “But I was gone so long, they must have missed me…?”
Kentoku turned away. “Ryudo contacted me before…before anyone knew you were gone. He didn’t want you missed.” He turned to look at the silk hanging, and the cherry tree. “I told your instructor, that you weren’t feeling well, and left in a taxi.” He released a breath. “It was the only thing I could think of, at the time.”
Keiko’s shoulders slumped. “Oh. Thank you.” She frowned. Ryudo had told him that he had her? Her chin lifted. “Then you knew? You knew I was here, all along?”
Kentoku scowled at the floor. “Yes, I knew.”
Keiko stepped back. “And you let him…do this?”
“I didn’t let him!” He turned to face her, his hands fisted at his sides. “Before I said one word to your teachers, I tried to get to you first. He locked all the doors on me.” He turned away and hunched his shoulders. “I couldn’t find you. I couldn’t stop him.”
Keiko looked away. He had tried to rescue her. “Oh…” She closed her eyes. “I’m…sorry.”
Kentoku sighed. “I’m sorry. He’s my house guardian, but he’s really powerful, and no one knows he’s there. No one knows these apartments even exist, but me.” He turned away and scowled. “No one wants to know.”
Keiko rolled her eyes and sighed. “No matter how often you tell them, they won’t believe, because they don’t want to believe.”
“Exactly.” He looked up and smiled.
Keiko smiled in return. It was so amazingly wonderful to meet someone else who knew that ghosts were real.
Abruptly, he averted his gaze. “Oh yes, and I’m to…” He swallowed. “Arrange for your accommodations.”
“Arrange for my, what?” She shook her head. “I don’t understand.”
Kentoku turned to the side, shoved his hands in his pockets and studied his stocking toes. “As Ryudo’s formal consort, you’re entitled to living quarters his apartments –“
She gasped. “As his, what…?” She put up one finger, and shook her head. “Oh no, I am no one’s mistress!”
Kentoku frowned at her. “But I thought you just, uh…” He swallowed and blushed furiously. “I meant, that he…and you…you both, just finished…” He threw out his hands helplessly and gestured vaguely toward the futon in the corner.
She scowled. “Had sex?”
He winced. “Yeah, that.”
“We did.” Her hands fisted in the scarlet silk she held. “But that doesn’t make me his mistress.”
Kentoku lifted a hand and scrubbed at the back of his cropped hair, wincing in obvious confusion. “But he said you…?”
Keiko stomped her foot and turned her back. “I don’t care what he said! I’m not!” She looked up at the dark ceiling and released her breath. She was being rude to someone who did not deserve it.
Kentoku gasped. “Your back…”
Keiko flinched. Her scars. She was holding her robe in front of her, and he could see her entire naked back side.
“What happened to you?”
Keiko slowly turned back around and kept her gaze down. “Ghosts. That’s what they do to me, when they catch me.”
“No. He didn’t, but others have.”
“My God. I’m…sorry.”
She peeked at his expression. He didn’t look disgusted, only concerned. She took a deep breath. Better not to think about it. “May I have my clothes please?”
He smiled suddenly, and brilliantly. “Sure. I’ll even give you a ride home.” He strode for the gleaming table.
Keiko tilted her head and her brows lifted. “You’re going to let me leave?”
Kentoku picked up a neatly folded bundle from the pillow under the table. “Are you kidding? I’ve been beating my skull trying to find a way to explain your presence to my father.” He walked over to her and presented her clothes. He rolled his eyes. “Father does not believe in ghosts.”
Keiko took her clothes and smiled wryly. “So a ghost’s mistress…?”
Kentoku snorted. “Oh yeah, that would go over real well.” He carefully turned his back to her. “Though Ryudo is going to go ballistic when he finds out I let you leave.”
Keiko padded over to the futon and set the kimono down. So what if he looked? He’d already seen the worse, her back. “What will he do?” She pulled out her bra, but didn’t see her panties.
“Who? Ryudo? He’ll lock knock things over, and torment me in the night…”
Keiko winced and shrugged into her blouse. “I’m…sorry.”
Kentoku sighed. “It’s okay. Ryudo is much easier to deal with than Father. All I have to do is spend a few nights at a friend’s house until his temper cools. He can’t follow me out the house, or disown me.” He jingled the change in his pockets. “Though I suspect that this tantrum is going to be a whopper.” He scraped his heel on the wood floor. “He says he can…feel you, like a real person. That’s why he can actually, um… be with you.”
Keiko rolled her eyes while tucking her blouse into her skirt. “You mean, have sex?”
Kentoku shrugged. “Yeah.”
Keiko knotted her tie around her collar. “So, we had sex. People do it all the time.” Okay, so with Ryudo it was really weird, sex. “Don’t you have a girlfriend?”
He scowled. “Of course, it’s just that we don’t…do that.”
“Why not?” She shrugged into her jacket and folded the scarlet robe neatly on the bed.
Kentoku winced. “I’m supposed to wait ’til we’re married.”
Keiko froze. He was a virgin? The giggle just slipped out.
Kentoku turned and glared at her. “It’s not funny!”
Keiko shoved her hands behind her, and bit down on her lip. “Oh, no, of course not.” She took a deep calming breath, but the smile crept onto her face.
Kentoku rolled his eyes. “Come on, I’ll take you home.” He walked to the left wall and slid open a door.
Keiko frowned. That door hadn’t been there until he opened it.
On stocking feet, she followed the young master of the house through a number of narrow halls.
He tugged open a door and signaled her to wait. He dashed out. In only a few minutes, he dashed back and held up a pair of plain black loafers, and a bright blue, hooded rain slicker. “These yours?”
Keiko nodded and took them gratefully.
He closed the door, and led her into another set of even smaller hallways. He turned and whispered. “Servant’s access halls.” His quick stride led her through sudden turns and sharp corners halls. They stopped at a door that led into a garage. Sitting on the garage steps, they slipped on their shoes. He hurried past several expensive cars parked in a neat row on the left, and stopped at a silver Subaru parked right by the wide door.
Ensconced in the passenger side, and pulling out onto the rain, Keiko suddenly realized that her house slippers were somewhere in Ryudo’s room. She scowled. He was welcome to them.
The ride through the city was rainy and quiet, but for the sound of windshield wipers.
Keiko looked down at her hands. “Kentoku, I’m sorry you had to…find me, like that.”
Kentoku slumped in his seat. “I just wish I could have gotten to you before…anything happened.”
“Does he do this regularly?”
“No.” Kentoku’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. “There are a few stories about his…mistresses, but I just thought they were stories. Supposedly, the last woman he had was, oh…back during the last Imperial war. The story goes that she broke into the house, so he kept her.”
The last mistress was during the last Imperial war? Keiko frowned. “How old is he?”
Kentoku pursed his lips. “I’m not sure, Ryudo won’t say, but the house records say that he’s been there since the house was built during the early feudal era.”
That meant Ryudo was…hundreds of years old? Keiko’s mouth fell open. “If he’s that old, why is he wearing a late imperial uniform?”
Kentoku shrugged. “He does that. It’s in the records that he modernizes his appearance every century or so.”
Keiko frowned at the passing traffic. It sounded like Ryudo modernized his appearance with every new– She swallowed. –Mistress.
Kentoku frowned up at a traffic light. “Look, I’m sorry for Ryudo’s, behavior. He’s not normally like that.”
Keiko smiled sourly. “But according to your house records he is like that.”
Kentoku winced. “Seriously, I thought it was just a pack of stories. I’ve never seen him do that before, lock someone in the house and try to keep them.” He smiled. “Though I can see why he would want to keep you.”
Was that a compliment? Keiko firmly decided that she didn’t want to know.
He looked over at her. “This sounds really awful, but if you want to stay free, don’t come back.”
Keiko’s brows lifted. “You got me out that time…”
Kentoku shook his head. “Only because he didn’t know I was going to help you leave. He’s not like a normal ghost. I’ve seen him make illusions that you can’t walk through.” He glanced at her. “If he had been paying attention, I would not have been able to get you out because the door would not have been there.”
“And you live like this, all the time?”
“You get used to it after a while. He moves walls and doors around, and throws random objects, but he can’t actually touch me. ” He sucked on his bottom lip. “Not the way he can physically touch you.”
Keiko stared out her window.
“I’ve heard about people like you.” Kentoku looked at her briefly. “It’s said that the reason ghosts can touch you, is because you bridge this world and the next.”
That was news. Keiko turned to face him. “Is that it? Really?”
“I did some reading on this.” Kentoku nodded. “It’s like you’re halfway in both worlds, at the same time.” He frowned. “It also means that you don’t have the basic defense against the dead that most people have.” He held up his palm. “Life itself.”
Keiko frowned. “But I’m alive…”
Kentoku shook his head. “Physically you are, but spiritually, you aren’t. That’s why they can touch you.” He winced. “And hurt you. From what I understand, the only defense against the dead is something really and truly alive.” He looked at her. “If I were you, I’d take a martial arts class and find something you can use as a weapon against them.”
She shook her head. “I can see the martial arts class, but a living weapon?” She frowned. “Wait, a bo, a quarterstaff, is made of wood…”
“That’s right!” Kentoku sat up straight. “A rattan staff that’s still green ought to work.”
“And no one will think twice if I carry a bo around. I can just say I’m taking it to class!” Keiko smiled. “Thank you Kentoku, that’s brilliant!”
Kentoku blushed. “Please, my friends call me Toku.” He stopped the car in front of her apartment building. “Well, here you are.” He turned to look at her. “Look, I’m sorry about…Ryudo.”
Keiko opened her door. “It’s all right, really.” She turned and smiled at him. “Because of him, I met you and you gave me the secret to protecting myself. As far as I’m concerned, it was well worth it.”
Toku turned to catch her eye. “Keiko, I wish…” He swallowed hard. “I wish I’d met you first.”
Keiko froze. She lunged across the seat and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek. “Good bye.” She slipped out of the car and closed the door.
Toku waved and pulled away.
Keiko watched his car disappear into traffic. Martial arts classes and a living weapon…
Could it be so simple? She turned and walked into her building. Her jaw clenched. She would not be victimized by a ghost again. Not even a loving one.
~ * ~