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Authors: Anna Sanders

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BOOK: Fire Licked
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Her answer was a whimper, frustration and lust in one. Cris played his fill before moving his fingers into even more hungry territory. She was so slick with arousal that the digits slid easily into the tight hole.

Panting growls tore from her throat as she arched into his fingers. “Cristis,” She pulled him by his hair so that he was forced to look into her wild, black eyes. “Take me.”

Oh, he was more than happy to. But bringing her to this point was highly enjoyable. Giving his hand one more twist for good measure, he moved to hold himself up in preparation.

Well, when she put it that way. How could he delay any longer?

With one thrust he was inside of her. The rickety bed squealed in time with the pumping of his demanding hips. His mouth captured her cries in a heated kiss, and his body steamed on top of her.

“You’re in for it now,” he groaned.

Her reply was to lift her legs to hug his hips. Isidora’s surrender was anything but subtle.

JUNE NINTH, AND LITTLE HAD changed. With the exception of the new lovers and their torrid explorations of one another.

Soon, however, Cris noticed that he was focusing more on the animal in his bed than on his task at hand.

“This isn’t going to last much longer,” he said.

The two of them stood nude before the window, Cris fiddling with the camera and Isidora fiddling with him. He’d gotten her a few dresses from the mostly abandoned town, but she had yet to wear any of them.

“I need more aerial shots.” He spun around to tug her into his arms. “Will you come with me?”

“Back there?” Her smile faded slightly and she looked away from him. “I… can’t.”

“Don’t worry. We can go downwind so it will be easier for you to breathe. I know exactly where to go. You’ll be entirely safe.”

“But the Fire Gods…”

“Oh please. If I was able to take you from them once, you don’t think that I could do it again?”

She wanted to believe him. Going back there held appeal for one reason, and that reason was him. Seeing him in the action while he captured images to add to his work sounded interesting and fun. Going back to the place of her purpose for death did not.

“Nothing will happen to you. Come with me, Isidora. You won’t get another chance like this.”

It was too tempting to back away from.

“How will we get there?” she asked.

He grinned. “We fly.”

CRISTIS BROUGHT THE TWO OF them to the ground with one last beat of his massive wings. Once they reached it, Isidora floridly cursed and scrambled away from him quickly to sit hard on the rocky earth. “You didn’t mind it so much the first time,” Cris teased her, folding the dark appendages behind him like some sort of giant butterfly.

“I wasn’t awake that time!” She was having a hard time catching her breath, her dress whipped about her legs as she pulled her knees to her chest. Thinking of doing that all over again when they had to return made her heartbeat even more erratic.

With attempted calm, Isidora smoothed down her windswept hair and kept her bottom firmly on the ground. “What do we do first?” She asked once her voice had stop trembling.

“First, we set up the tripod. Then I’ll take my hand held up to that ridge.” He pointed. “And unless you want to come with me—”

“I’ll stay here,” she interrupted.

Cris chuckled. “It will be easier on me anyway. I’ll get better shots without you screaming and choking me.”

She huffed at him and removed the backpack from her shoulders. “Just do your work. Monster.”

The set up for the tripod was surprisingly swift, or maybe it was just that Cris had done this so often. To prevent it falling over during one of the constant quakes, he bungied it into place with elastic cords.

While he connected everything, Isidora looked at the terrain around them. He really had brought her to a pretty area. It was a peak high above the still smoldering volcano, and though it was still hazy, the air was clear enough for her to inhale without effort. The massive ash cloud was blowing away from them, and as it went, she was able to see the lava track clearly.

He would get some amazing photos. The azure sky was peaking in patches through the haze, the fiery magma colored the forest a furious orange. What he wouldn’t be able to catch was the stinging smell of brimstone, which wasn’t such a loss.

The ground shook spastically and Isidora braced herself. It only lasted about ten seconds and didn’t detour Cris from his concentration.

“There, all shiny.” Cris stood back from the set up with a satisfied smirk. He turned to Isidora. “I’m not going far. You’ll be within ear shot.”

She shrugged a shoulder in response. “What could possibly happen?”

He really liked that answer. Leaning down low to peck her cheek, he chucked her chin. “Stay put.” Then he unfurled his wings and shot himself into the air with one strong push. She watched him go with a sigh of relief. At least it would be another hour or so before he was bringing her skyward with him. In the meantime she could mentally prepare.

The ground shook again and Isidora squeaked a bit in surprise. She tried to catch sight of Cris. By the time she found him, he was a floating outline in the horizon

Isidora decided to peek into the camera that Cris had left, just to see what kind of images he was getting. Scooting along the ground carefully brought her to the foot of the tripod. She stood cautiously, not knowing when to expect the next aftershock. Looking through the lens gave her a perfect view of the festering carnage. The sight was spectacular; the angle really portrayed the bewitching process artfully.

Another shake toppled her tentative footing and brought her away from the camera. She laughed nervously and sat on the ground as it continued. The tripod jangled unsteadily for a moment before righting itself. The eruptions seemed to be increasing in volume, the scenery blazed with color, and the earth shivered in ready reply.

It was getting rather persistent. Cris must not have noticed as he hovered in the air. Isidora picked him out again and silently pleaded with him to hurry back. Being alone was reminding her too much of her close call. Even the air seemed to thicken around her. A panicky spark seized her chest and she hugged herself tightly.

The quakes increased around her. Her nervousness spiked with it. Every few minutes she would strive to seek Cris. He was meandering further and further away until his former outline was now a mere dot.

How many snaps did he need?

It was quickly becoming something she couldn’t ignore. The air was dead around her, the only sounds that of the rolling earth. Her lungs were now actively searching for air. Part of that could have been her anxiety, but she was too unsettled to notice the difference.

The sky became darker around her. Still, Cris did not return.

A shadow covered her and she noticed a rise in the heat. It seared the nape of her neck. Confused, she turned her head to see if the clouds were changing direction.

Isidora’s eyes widened in shock. A scream escaped from her throat.

There stood Cherufe—a volcanic creation of stone and liquid fire. It stomped toward her, making the area quake in turn. Its visage was too horrible to describe. It looked like a person covered from head to foot in burning rocks, its eyes little more than flaming empty pits and a mouth that made only a rush of hot air instead of actual sound.

Cherufe reached out to grasp her. When the glaring heat connected to her skin, her screams turned even more terrible. Her flesh cooked against the magma God.

Powerless to do anything, Isidora wailed as Cherufe took her away. He dragged her down the mountain to a place where she would serve him.

And then be consumed.

CRISTIS WAS VERY PROUD OF himself. He’d found a way to get impressive pictures of the volcanic site without absorbing so much heat that he ruined his equipment. He hadn’t accounted for that last time, and it had cost him an afternoon of work.

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been out there but it didn’t matter. Not when it came to the caliber of his work. Isidora would understand. She had to.

Anxious to reach her side, Cris wound his way above the range and found the summit that he’d left her on. “Isi?” he called as he landed. “I got some great stuff.” He stuffed his second camera into its protective bag and set it beside the tripod.

She wasn’t there. There weren’t many trees that she could be hiding behind, and with the earthquakes he doubted that she would have wandered far. Intentionally, anyway.

He tried calling her name a few more times before he saw it—a faint trail disturbed on the gravely mountainside. Bending down, Cris traced it with his fingers. It was hot to the touch. He stared at it for a while before he saw that they were burning, coal footprints.

After he saw a clump of Isidora’s raven hair on the ground, he decided that he’d better follow it.

ISIDORA HAD GIVEN UP SCREAMING because every time she did Cherufe would tug out a clump of her hair. Her arms were so badly scathed from his flaming touch that she winced with every step. Her back and legs met every obstacle, and soon her blistered skin wasn’t the only thing flaring in pain.

Isidora did her best to recall the expert touch of Cris, but there was no room for that in the depths of her sorrow.

After everything, being soothed and saved and made love to, she was still going to die.

Cherufe took her to a dank cave. A place where even the ground burned. Isidora couldn’t hold back fresh cries and Cherufe did not appreciate them. He lifted her and threw her into a corner. She slammed hard into a wall of the hollow and crumbled to the floor. Cherufe walked away from her for a moment to a pile of skeletons.

She tried speaking to the molten being.
“Cherufe, if you are real, do you really require death to stop this scourge? Your sacrifices are to be willing! I am no longer willing!”

If he could answer, he didn’t.

“Please, lord of fire. I have so much life yet to live. It took until now for me to realize this. I cannot give myself over to darkness. I must live!”

Cherufe approached her with a skeleton head. He removed something from around its neck before tossing the bones aside. With his stony grip he reached out to her.

In his grasp was a myriad of ceremony necklaces. So. He had taken many before. And he wanted her to wear their garb.

The message was clear, though he could not speak.
The sacrifice is you

Isidora shook her head.

Instead of letting the issue go, Cherufe stomped the rest of the way to her corner. He grabbed her in a fierce grip and forcibly drew the decorations over her head. His touch scorched her anew and she screamed in agony.

Apparently the reason the Land Gods required a willing female was because they hated screaming. When Isidora could not stop her shouts, Cherufe caused more of them. He began to beat her with closed fists in an effort to quiet her, but the burning punches did just the opposite. She couldn’t stop and so neither would he.

Every time he hit her flesh it bruised and burned at the same time. Huge welts appeared all over her. She covered her face in an effort to contain the damage to her body, but it did not matter where his blows landed. She was soon growing weak from pain. Tiny dots danced before her eyes, she felt faint. She was no longer sure anymore if the wounds were bleeding or catching on fire.

Picking her up into his arms, Cherufe began to rip what was left of her dress off. Isidora managed to keep her arms over her head and face, but the will to protect herself was waning. She was going to die here.

When her body was dropped to the ground again, she did not think much of it. Part of her welcomed it, able to dimly acknowledge that she was no longer in a hold of hellish discomfort. But for the most part she braced herself in anticipation of something worse.

When stomps and grunts began to echo in the cave, she parted her arms.

Cris had descended to save her.

CRIS HAD ARRIVED TO SOMETHING he would only expect to see in a horror movie. Following the tumultuous footprints had brought him to the lair, and to the abused bandit. And she was at the mercy of what could only be the thing she was supposed to be given to in the first place.

There was no time for him to feel chagrined about his monumental mistake. No. He had to save her before any of that kicked in.

With a surge of speed, he flew directly into the monster. The element of surprise was on his side and the lava demon dropped the battered woman to the ground.

After that, it was a standoff between the two. It only took three or four punches to the face for Cristis to realize that Cherufe was way stronger than he was. Being made of lit stone might have its advantages. But Cris was able to absorb his heat, which drew some of it away from the creature. Not all, but some.

Cris began to evade the swings of the Cherufe instead of absorbing them. He flew just out of reach, doing his best to draw it from its cave. Cherufe thundered toward him with marked determination.

It took a lot of speed and concentration to avoid being hit again. Cris could feel his face swelling from what hits he’d already been exposed to.

He didn’t plan on accepting anymore.

He backed away in a zigzag from the fire lit fists flying his way. This was the only plan that he had so far. Getting the lava god away from Isidora. Beyond that, he had no real idea of what he was doing or how he was going to beat this thing.

Cherufe changed the direction and fury of his strikes. The difference cost Cris a hard punch to the abdomen and he was thrown backwards into a tree. His head spun for a moment.

Fuck. That thing was too strong. The force behind his swings was otherworldly. It plowed through a tree, knocking it aside as if it were a non-sequential blade of grass, still hell bent on destroying him.

The forest was thickening, which made evasion a near miss every time. Cristis wasn’t sure how many more blows he could take before he was knocked out of the game entirely. Cherufe showed no signs of fatigue.

Eventually Cris got caught in a thicket. His long wingspan was useless. Cherufe nabbed his moment of opportunity and picked the demon up furiously. After shaking him a good deal, making his neck fling about, the lava monster brought its fist back and gave Cristis a few well-placed smacks. Then he lifted him over his head and tossed him.

BOOK: Fire Licked
13.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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