Lessons in Sin
The sweetest heaven.
My heaven, my salvation—neither of which I deserved.
The lemony scent of her sank into my lungs as I took and took, and she had no choice but to be taken. She was my charge after all. Mine to instruct. Mine to discipline.
I kissed her with all the pent-up hunger of the last six weeks. She echoed my intensity, stroking my lips and tongue with eager, impish caresses as though my mouth held what she most needed to exist. I wanted to give it to her, and I did. With a palm on one of her bottom cheeks, I squeezed the firm curve of it, punishing her sensitized welts.
Her moan shuddered through the night. Her kiss shuddered through me, and my brain stopped functioning. We could’ve been the last humans in the world, for all I felt was her.
Just her, the woman who made me so painfully hard, and the cocoon of darkness that was our freedom from the outside world.
I ground my cock against her, telling her with my body what I should never again demand with words. I wanted her innocence, her pleasure, her pain. I wanted her completely, no matter how wrong.
“Magnus.” My name was a plea, her voice pitched with lust and longing.
It only heightened the ache. I ached with the pressure of hard heat. Ached with the knowledge that I only needed to lower my zipper and thrust beneath her skirt.
The thought made me frantic, and I kissed her harder, deeper, needing more, more, more.
I tore my mouth away and spun her around. The blankets tripped up her legs, and she stumbled. I didn’t help her. I shoved her. To her knees, onto her chest, I followed her down to the tangled pile of fleece.
I couldn’t stop my hands from sliding up the backs of her thighs. Couldn’t stop my fingers from pinching and twisting the welts on her hot little ass.
A scream rippled out of her, spurring me to fall upon her and ride her, grinding, dry humping as my fingers fumbled with my zipper. Mindless, feral, I wanted inside her with every drop of my blood. And hers. I wanted to make her bleed.
Her neck turned, bringing her gaze over her shoulder, her eyes bright with female awareness. Her hair dragged through the mud, her face and hands coated with it.
Everything inside me stilled.
This was wrong.
She shouldn’t be held down like this. Not in the mud. Not in the cold. And never ever with me.
“No,” I whispered. Then louder. “No.”
I shoved away from her, driving myself back across the wet earth while battling every desire to claim her.
“What are you doing?” She pushed up, wincing as she rolled to her butt. “Why did you stop?”
“I’m hurting you.”
“No, you’re not.”
“You won’t.” Breath burst from her lungs on a loud guffaw. “I won’t allow it.”
I sprung to my feet, roaring, “I was seconds from taking your virginity in the mud like a fucking animal!”
“Because I was giving it to you!” She stood, too, her knuckles whitening around fists at her sides. “If you want it, it’s yours. I’d much rather get rid of it with you than with Tucker Kensington or some other fumbling boy.”
“I’m not fucking you. Not now. Not ever.” Pounded by fury, I paced, circled a tree, returned to her side, and exploded. “So help me God, if you so much as give Tucker your mouth, I’ll bloody your damn hide so completely you won’t be able to sit for a month. Do I make myself clear?”
“Oh, Miss girl. Is that supposed to be a threat?”
Miss girl? Did she think I was joking around? That this was a laughing matter?
“No one touches you!” My voice thundered with my rage, scaring off whatever was in the trees.
She stumbled back.
I stayed with her, shoving my face in hers.
“Do I make myself clear?”
Her eyes squeezed shut. Then she spun away without another word.
The Imperial Orchid
Miles rubbed his chin and felt the growth of a day’s beard. He could barely remember the night before except that he had lost a goodly sum on whist, and he vaguely recalled a blonde half-naked in his arms.
He opened his eyes gingerly and saw that there was no blonde in sight, and he was indeed lying in a bed in one of his favorite brothels. The curtains covering the windows were crimson red, and the bed was a plush mattress in an ornate wooden frame with baby cupids detailed in the artwork. He groaned as his head ached; he had lost count of the number of whiskeys he had consumed the night before.
He contemplated looking for his trousers and getting dressed, but he knew that would cause his head to pound more. He preferred to lie in bed a while more until he felt a little better.
A sharp knock fell upon the door, and he looked up, wincing. He looked around but knew he was very much alone. Had the blonde returned? He wasn’t up for any more love play.
“Come in,” he called out.
He grinned with relief when his companion and long-time friend from university, Percival Browne, entered the room.
“You look like half-baked shit,” Percival told his friend as he picked up Miles’s trousers from the floor. Miles groaned as he caught the pants Percival flung at him.
“I don’t remember much of last night, Percy. Except that I lost a fair amount, and there was a blonde.” He tossed the bed sheets back and pulled on his trousers.
“Do you see my shir—” he began just as the clothing article hit him in the face.
“Cheers, mate,” Percival said as he took a chair opposite the bed. Miles narrowed his eyes at his friend as he pulled his shirt on.
“And did you say, ‘lost a fair amount?’” Percy eased the chair back. “If I recall the exact amount you lost as the correct amount, your best bet is to go to America and start afresh, so your father doesn’t skin you alive.”
The Day We Die
The noises of the crowd and the mayor’s voice fade into the background, and for a moment, the only sound that cuts into my head is the frenzied beating of my own heart. The stage blurs in and out of focus, and my breathing quickens and my heart thunders like a racehorse. I clench my hands into tight fists, trying to quell the tremors racing through them.
This is it. In a few minutes, I will be Branded. An adult—though not in age. I’ll know my fate, my future; everything that means anything.
I inhale. Exhale. The air squeezes out of me in one quick rush, and for a split second, I can’t breathe. Fear wraps its unforgiving fingers around my heart, chilling it to the core.
Then, a hand on my arm. A whisper of a voice in my ear.
“It’ll be okay. Here.” It’s the boy beside me.
I shake my head vigorously, and the thundering applause rushes back to my ears. It’s loud. Very loud. I blindly accept whatever the boy is offering me, and a round tablet drops into my palm.
He gently holds on to my hand behind his back, smiling and waving fearlessly at the crowd. His expression is brave and bright, his unfamiliar fingers warm around mine. I squeeze them until I’m sure I’ve cut off his circulation, but he doesn’t let go—just gives me a gentle squeeze in return.
I look wordlessly at him, my dry tongue unable to make a sound. He’s taller than me, wearing a black tux. Blond, tousled hair frames a good-looking face—sharp jawline, arched brows, a charming twinkle in his eye. As he waves, his gaze sweeps to me…and a quiet, grim smile plays at his mouth. His steady eyes sharpen as they meet mine, boring into my soul. Blue eyes. Soft blue.
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The shopkeeper grabbed the doll from among the top shelves. “Here you go.” He handed it to her. Just then, her fingers met his, and she heard the shopkeeper’s voice. “Where did this hideous and filthy-looking girl come from? Good thing I noticed her fast, lest she would get my dolls tainted with her hands. Let’s hope she leaves soon.”
She gazed at the shopkeeper, whose mouth remained closed. Those words stung. Even though the shopkeeper never said them, Penny knew they held more truth than those he said. These were his thoughts, and she was reading them when she accidentally touched him.
Then she felt dizzy, and a gloom fell over the store as if something had suddenly blocked out the sunlight from the windows. But it wasn’t the windows. It was the shopkeeper. His form emitted an ominous light and right above his head, she saw black mist rising, forming the shape of a face with eerie glowing eyes. It stared straight at Penny. “Penny…Penny….” Penny heard an insidious voice calling her.
Stop! Stop! She willed her mind to look away.
“Penny…Penny!” A force pulled her back and she almost crumpled to the floor if Thomas had not held her firmly. “Are you alright?” he asked.
“There’s someone–!” Penny pointed toward the shopkeeper, who was frowning at her. The eerie face and black mist were gone.
“What is it?” Thomas asked.
It took her a while before she spoke again. “I don’t know. It was there a while ago.” As she looked down, she saw the doll lying on the floor. She picked it up and slowly stroked any dust off it as if it were a real girl.
“How much is it?” he asked the beleaguered keeper.
“Four silver pieces.” Thomas handed the silver to the shopkeeper. A look of relief appeared on his face as he took the money. The horror of the black mist weighed heavy on Penny’s mind as she made her way out. She recalled the mean thoughts of the shopkeeper. For a moment, she had believed the outside world was different and she finally found a place she belonged. Penny blinked hard as her eyes began to water.
Suddenly, the streets seemed less joyful than before, and the sounds of the people and activities seemed drowned out by the memory of the black mist.
That voice. It called her name.
She knew for certain it was no hallucination. It was the first time such a vision had occurred. She never saw it when she touched others before, although there weren’t really that many, to begin with. There were only a few who could tolerate standing within inches of her.
She must have drifted off in her thoughts because the next thing she knew, she had fallen behind Thomas and someone bumped into her from the side.
“Watch where you are going, you–!” A rough-looking man said. “Hey, little girl, are you lost?”
“Don’t be afraid, I just want to help. Let me take you home.” He grabbed her by the arm.
“Stop it, let me go!” Penny tried to pry his fingers free.
“This must be my lucky day. I wonder how much this girl would fetch.” She heard the man’s voice, yet his mouth remained closed.
She stared at the man, who stood there, frozen in time. Not just him. The entire town had come to a standstill. A ball was floating in the air, as the boy who threw it waited an eternity for it to fall back down.
Then, the surroundings turned black, and the black mist appeared around the man’s frame. The eyes of the black misty face shone a pale white.
“Penny…Penny…” spoke the insidious voice.
“NO!” Penny screamed and forced her eyes shut. At once, the darkness lifted, and the sounds of reality replaced the heavy silence. “Get away from me!” she screamed with her real voice audible.
“Hey!” A familiar voice said, and the rough-looking man turned around, his face meeting head-on with a big fist. The man fell to the ground before Penny. “Touch her again, and you will never touch anything for the rest of your life!”
The man crawled to his feet and bolted. “Penny, didn’t I tell you not to—Penny? Penny!” Penny ran off before Thomas could finish his sentence.
Penny kept running. All she wanted then was to get as far away as possible from this place, from the prejudice, the black mist.
She didn’t know how long she ran before Thomas finally caught up with her. “Penny, it’s alright now.” He wrapped his hands around her head, and she tucked her head in his tummy. “What happened, Penny? Please tell me.”
Penny told Thomas about all that had happened. The black mist, the eerie face. Although Thomas understood little of it, he listened, for he knew there was always much truth in what she said. The world wasn’t as great as Penny thought out to be. It broke his heart she had to learn this fact on her first outing.
The outing had come to an end, and they returned to the castle. The one happy thing the outing brought her was the doll she bought. She gave her a name. Cinder. And she became Penny’s companion ever since.
She thought of the boy named Canyon, and how he was the only person without disdain for her, though, she wondered if it would be the same way if she touched him and read his mind.
But most of all, she wondered about the black mist. What was it? And that eerie face. Who, or rather, what was it? What disturbed her most was the fact that it called her name like it was reaching into her mind.
Jeff scowled. If this punk stole something, would he get fired? If it was the wrong thing, maybe. So Jeff stopped at the end of the aisle, straightening cans, just close enough to notice the kid was muttering to himself. Jeff sidled closer.
But that didn’t stop the boy from pulling something off the shelf, ripping it open, and eating it right in front of him. Oh, hell no.
“Umm, are you going to pay for that?”
The kid ignored him, jamming another handful into his mouth.
“Hey, kid, I said…” Jeff trailed off. The kid was shoving batteries into his mouth, chomping on them like they were carrot sticks. What the fuck?
As he stared, the kid dropped the package of AAs and ripped into another. Chewing and snorting like a pig as he ate.
“Is this some sort of reality TV show?” Jeff looked over his shoulder. “Kevin? Maggie? You can come out now, I’m not buying this. It’s not funny. You can stop now.”
But no one answered. There was no hey, you got me. No hidden camera crew came out and explained what was going on. Just some weird kid making his way through a twenty count package of batteries. Must be drugs then. People did all sorts of crazy things on drugs.
That’s it. Jeff didn’t like being pushy, but he was going to have to put his foot down. If the boy was high, there was no telling what other crazy stuff he was going to pull. Jeff tapped on his shoulder. “Excuse me, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
The kid turned and smiled in a rictus of jagged teeth, ringed with blood. His pupils were constricted into sharp points that didn’t meet Jeff’s gaze as he crammed the last handful of batteries into his mouth.
I stood at the hearth to warm myself. The heat felt good against the room’s deep chill, and the dancing flames intrigued me. My family couldn’t afford wood as a fuel source. Trees were a precious resource in the Outlying Lands. Burning them required a permit and cost a fortune. Given the heaping pile of logs stacked beside the fireplace, neither of those obstacles had been a problem for Reece.
He approached me with another strange device. “Turn and face me.”
I did as he asked, noting the way firelight flickered over his dark hair and reflected off his eyes. The effect was startling. Who was this man, that he gave the order for a bluster’s death one moment and shimmered like a cat the next?
The device he held began to glow. A warm ray of light extended above me and washed over my entire body. When it finished, an image in my shape hovered above his palm. A red dot blinked on the lower right half.
Exactly where my dagger was hidden.
“Well, look at that,” he said. “My little butterfly has a stinger.”
I took a step back, knowing what he was going to ask of me. But I wouldn’t give it up, not the gift Mum had given me long ago, the one valuable thing I owned.
“Hand it over, Morrigan.”
“Don’t call me that. My name is Willow.”
He shrugged. “If you prefer. Now do as I say.”
I hesitated, and his icy-blue eyes narrowed.
“We can handle this one of two ways. Either you give up your weapon willingly, or I take it from you. And I assure you, I won’t be gentle about it.”
“But this is my only protection,” I said slowly.
“You won’t need it. I’m all the security you require.”
I didn’t want his security. I had my own, and his silky arrogance was starting to get on my nerves, calling forth an unreasonable yet potent desire to challenge him. “My mum gave it to me. It’s mine, and you’re not taking it.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “Oh, yes, I am. I won’t risk your attacking me when my back is turned.”
“It’s not for attacking, it’s for defending,” I argued irritably. “Which is exactly what I’ll do if you come any closer.”
“You are no match for me,” he said, with a husky laugh. An infuriating smile played at the corner of his mouth. “Do yourself a favor, and cease this childish game before you get hurt.”
Something desperate slid through my belly, hot and unrecognizable. It shook me with its intensity, and I had no strength against its will. Retreating another step, I felt for the weapon through my skirt. Vibrations tingled across my palms, and the skill’s power rushed through my veins. When I pictured the flat, silver surface of the blade, it trembled inside the scabbard as if ready to leap into my hand.
Let him try for it. He would regret laughing at me.
“Keep your distance,” I warned him, “or we’ll see who gets hurt.”
Crystal’s House of Queers
Crystal and JD are very happy to be back in school. They’d been online from mid-March through May and then from late August until Monday, two days ago. During that time, Crystal had seen virtually none of her classmates. She’d never been very social, but she had missed seeing her art teacher and especially Haley. They’d been close friends in the elementary grades but had drifted apart in high school.
Crystal unties her hair and shakes her head. “One reason we went back this week is that special needs students don’t learn as much in remote learning.”
“Who said that?” asks Summer.
“SPED teacher.” Crystal bends over the table to grab her computer and feels her grandmother’s eyes searching her, just like she felt the moose eyes earlier.
“Crystal, why aren’t you wearing a bra?”
She lifts her eyes to Summer, who signals to hold her shirt against her chest. “Why are you looking?” She stays bent as she shoves books and her computer into her bag. “No one cared about me wearing a bra before. What difference does it make now?”
“Crystal, we’ve talked about this. You developed over the summer. You can’t be flashing everyone.”
“Am I flashing, or are you making a special effort to look down my shirt?” She feels blood rushing to her face. Her eyes throb.
“Please stand up straight.”
Crystal finishes stuffing her pack without hurrying, drags the zipper closed then swings her pack onto her shoulder as she stands. “Better?”
“Please put on your bra.”
Mac coughs. “Just don’t bend over in front of the boys, Crystal, and keep your jacket zipped.”
Crystal cocks a brow. “Because it’d be my fault if they stared at my boobs?”
JD laughs. “Gena calls them boobs too. A lot of my friends call them tits.”
“JD!” Everyone flinches when Summer slaps the table. Crystal can remember only one or two other times when she screamed at JD. He now stands with his mouth open, breathing noisily. His eyes bulge. “There’s no need to be crude. Why are you and Gena talking about her . . . breasts?”
Because they’ve been having sex for the past six months, thinks Crystal so loud she wonders whether anyone hears her. “C’mon, JD. We need to go.” Crystal pushes a chair farther under the table and heads for the door.
Summer grabs her arm. “Why are you being so defiant about this?”
“I’ve gone my whole life without my chest being strangled and bound. No one cared. Now if I don’t crush my boobs all day and much of the night, there’s something wrong with me. Guys go shirtless at PE all the time. Why can’t the girls?”
“That’d be embarrassing,” laughs JD as he moves through the door. “Hope you feel better, Mac.”
Summer releases Crystal’s arm and wrings her hands. “Now you want to go topless? Where are you getting these ideas?”
“Why do I have to get them from somewhere besides my own head? Cause I’m too dumb?” Her heart pounds in her chest and lips tighten against her teeth. She wants to say much more but is afraid to start another argument. She tries to slow her breathing. “Hope you feel better, Mac.” She exits the house and heads toward her Honda 4-wheeler where JD sits sideways behind the seat.
“I think it’s my turn to drive,” he says, just like every morning.
Crystal straddles the seat and starts the motor. “It’s not your turn until you’re older than me.”
“And what day will that happen?”
“Exactly.” She zips up her jacket, shifts gears, and races away from the house down her long driveway, bordered by spruce and aspen.
Last weekend, Kato told her she needed to wear a bra when she returned to school. He said he didn’t want guys staring at her all day. They’d been best friends their whole lives and had never even kissed. Then her boobs grew over the summer, and he couldn’t keep his hands off her. He complained she was teasing him, being coy, making him think dirty thoughts. All during July and August, she’d felt excited and confused, sometimes angry. Before this past weekend, they’d only kissed, and honestly, she’d never wanted to do anything more.
But she finally relented. The experience wasn’t very exciting, certainly nothing like her dreams of girls. Or kissing Haley in fifth grade.
At first, the dreams bothered her. Could something more be wrong with her brain beyond what school told her? She’s never fantasized about a boy. After Saturday’s session with Kato, she believes she understands why, but doesn’t know what to do or who to tell.
What’s the worst that could happen?
She could laugh. Walk away. Tell others.
What’s the best she could say?
How amazing would that be?
When the best option offers so great a reward, Crystal always ignores the danger. Witness—her encounter with the moose this morning.
Maybe she’ll talk to Haley today.
Join us for this tour from May 3 to May 21, 2021!
Meet the Author:
A native of Detroit and currently living in Atlanta, Susan Pepka has enjoyed great diversity throughout her life. Mother of three and grandmother of four, Susan has experienced life as a preschool teacher, technologist in diagnostic imaging, co-owner of a successful wellness center, meditation teacher, and now a published author with the debut of her first children’s book, Gus’ Fortunate Misfortune.
One of Susan’s greatest pleasures is reading wonderful stories that stir the imagination and nourish the spirit. Her passion is helping others find ways to healthier, happier, and more meaningful lives. Her wish is that all beings live together in harmony.
connect with the author: website ~ facebook ~ goodreads
Book Title: Z is for Zebra: A Mosaic Menagerie by Judith Caseley
Category: Children's Fiction (Ages 3-7), 53 pages
Genre: ABC Book
Publisher: Full Cycle Publications
Release date: May 2019
Content Rating: G.
Meet the Author:
Judith Caseley has written and illustrated over forty books for children, including “Dear Annie” and “On the Town: A Community Adventure”. She fell in love with the mosaics that decorated a restaurant in Sea Cliff, New York, and in the unique style of her picture books, began making her own.
connect with the author: website ~ twitter ~ goodreads
May 3 – Cover Lover Book Review – books spotlight / giveaway
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