Bump in the Night

Bump in the Night

by Heidi Belleau, Kari Gregg, Ally Blue

Paperback

$16.99

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626490635
Publisher: Riptide Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 10/14/2013
Pages: 170
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.39(d)

Read an Excerpt

Bump in the Night


By Rachel Haimowitz

Riptide Publishing

Copyright © 2013 Heidi Belleau, Ally Blue, Kari Gregg, Peter Hansen, Laylah Hunter, Brien Michaels, and Sam Schooler
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62649-063-5



CHAPTER 1

RESURRECTION MAN

BY LAYLAH HUNTER


Blue twilight has settled over the cramped streets of Sternberg, deepening shadows at the edges of the tradesmen's district. Josef leads his rented pony down an alley, watching nervously for any sign that someone might notice his passage. The bundle slung across the pony's back would cause far too many questions should it fall and spill its contents on the cobblestones.

The door he seeks is halfway down the alley, recessed in the grimy wall, where a weak lantern spills its light against the plaster. Josef knocks on the weathered wood: two sharp raps, a pause, then two more. He wills himself to stay calm. He has done this before—but never for stakes this high.

The door opens with not so much as a whisper. Any man who seeks this entry does not wish his passage remarked. "Good evening, sir," murmurs Geier, the old mortician. "May I help you?"

"I bring lavender, cut this spring."

Geier smiles, slow and crooked, and opens the door wider. "You'd best come in, sir."

Josef tethers the pony to the hitching ring in the wall, lifts down the heavy bundle from its back, and carries it carefully inside. Geier shuts and bolts the door behind him, then turns away to stir the tiny fire in the hearth as Josef sets his parcel down on the long table against one wall. This first part of the exchange is a waiting game, and Josef knows how crucial it is that he not seem impatient.

"Well?" Geier says eventually.

"You know why I'm here." The passphrase makes it clear enough what his unsavory business is.

"Remind me," Geier says. "I grow forgetful in my old age."

He's never the one to admit to this business first. He doesn't have to when he's the one holding the high cards. Josef nods. "I'm looking for a body."

"Ah." Geier's smile stretches thin over his aging flesh. "I do have a few of those on hand."

Josef grits his teeth. "A specific body."

Geier folds his hands together in front of himself, bony and grasping, vulture talons. "That's more difficult," he says. "Say more."

"You know exactly who—" Josef grimaces, then smooths his expression with an effort. "Tell me you still have the body of Adel St. Claire."

"Expensive, Herr Leitner." Geier shakes his head. "His family will be coming for him, you know. They'll not be pleased if I have to tell them I burned the body before they could take him home for a proper funeral."

"I'm prepared to compensate you for the trouble." He and Adel had planned for this, once it started to look inevitable that consumption would claim Adel's life. Josef has no worldly influence, no family or title, no gold to back up his claim—but Adel had all those things. He brought Josef coins, chains of gold filigree, and polished gems; Josef's purse is heavy with them now.

Geier looks skeptical. "Your word's always been good, Herr Leitner, but this is no small favor you're asking of me."

Josef reaches for his purse. "I know." He draws out a gold necklace, the metal heavy and cool in his fingers, and places it on the table. Geier says nothing. Josef adds an emerald, loosed from its setting, brilliantly faceted. "The unpleasantness would pass much more quickly than you could spend these."

"You've never been as charming as your friend," Geier says, shaking his head. "No love for the bargaining process."

"I'm not here to play a game." Josef struggles to keep the anger out of his voice. "Is it enough?"

Geier still only watches him, unmoved. "What if it isn't?"

Josef clenches his fists and takes a few calming breaths. He adds a short stack of coins to the bounty he's offering. "Now?"

"What if no price were enough?" Geier asks. "Giving you hanged men for your unsavory dabbling is bad enough, and nobody comes looking for them once they wind up here."

"Is this a rhetorical question?" Josef demands. He digs his nails into his palms so that the sting of pain might help him focus. "I will have him, Herr Geier. I must. Are you hoping to make me beg?" The wrapped body he brought with him is too damaged to be of any use, but there are mundane means for him to force his suit. The poker by the fire is heavy enough to cleave a man's skull, and old men's bones are brittle.

After another silent moment, Geier's face crumples into a wry smile. He makes a shooing motion with one hand as if he could brush the tension away. "I won't test your pride so," he says. "Leave the substitute and what payment you've offered. This way."

Josef's shoulders slump in relief as he turns to follow the old man. He works against death. He doesn't like the idea of killing, even for Adel's sake.

He follows Geier down the unlit hallway to a door marked with circular seals. The idiosyncrasies of the script are opaque to him—each magician writes in his own cipher and reading one another's is time-consuming work—but the basic shapes of the seal tell him enough. The room beyond will be cold.

Geier unlocks the door and opens it, and the chill swirls out around them. "Here he is, then." He leads the way into the small room. Three long tables stand there, one empty and two draped in sheets. Geier pulls back the sheet on the nearer one.

Josef's heart aches. Adel looks small and wan in death, cheeks sunken, fair skin leached of any blush. He's been dressed in his favorite frock coat, the brocade burgundy one that sets off the spun-straw color of his hair. It's wrong for him to be so still, horribly plain that his spirit has fled. Josef remembers him always moving, always laughing, his eyes bright and his hands clever. The blush that suffused his skin in moments of passion, the sweetness of his moans as he rode Josef's cock, the hunger of his kisses—

"Thank you," Josef says, his throat dry. He covers Adel's face again, wrapping the sheet carefully around him before lifting the body. It's not right for Adel to be so limp in his arms, so cold. "The door, if you would?"

Geier escorts him back to the alley door, studying Josef's face as he holds the door open. "If I ask what you're planning—no, no, forget that. I don't want to know."

Josef nods, stepping out into the night. "That's for the best," he agrees. He can hear the bolt slide home when Geier closes the door again.

He loads the pony with his precious cargo and makes his way home as quickly as possible, his heart in his throat. It makes him sick to leave Adel alone even long enough to return the pony to the stable on the next street, but it must be done. At least the girl tending the stable overnight seems utterly disinterested in him when she accepts the pony's return.

Josef can scarcely keep up the appearance of dignity as he hurries home again. There's nothing left to stand between him and his work now. Tonight will be the greatest test of his skills, the thing he's trained and studied and experimented for. If he succeeds, he'll never be parted from Adel again.

He throws the bolts to shut out the rest of the world—Adel teased him for worrying enough to install more than one lock on the door, as though some thief might look at his meager lodgings and see in them the hiding place for a great treasure.

The extra security goes some measure toward reassuring him now, though, as he stokes the fire and readies himself for the greatest spiritual feat of his life.

To make a body rise after the soul has fled is a difficult task, but not an impossible one. The principles were laid down some two hundred years ago and have seen refinement since; Josef has studied them carefully and practiced the art until he'd removed all of the extraneous showmanship from the pure elements of power. The flesh is scarcely the trouble.

Josef hangs up his coat, then rolls up his sleeves before he approaches Adel, laid out on his work table. No, the difficulty is in raising something more than a mere puppet, something with a will and a mind of its own. The installation of a soul in flesh is the domain of God.

Josef unbuttons Adel's beautiful frock coat, stripping it gently from his pliant limbs. Adel will be glad, he thinks, to have his favorite clothes to wear when he awakens.

He moves quickly through this first stage of the preparation; he has no wish to linger over Adel's flesh without the spark that animates it. He sets Adel's clothes aside neatly, then eases his body over onto its front to begin the more vital work. With a fine-tipped brush and a steady hand, he paints invocations along each limb, across the planes of Adel's shoulder blades, down the graceful curve of his spine. The language he uses is said to be the tongue of the stars, and no man of learning Josef has ever met can speak it aloud—but all of them agree it is the most potent alphabet ever devised for workings of the spirit. The paint is his own mixture, relying primarily on amaranth and powdered onyx, balanced with a dozen other ingredients he has recorded in only the most cryptic notes. It dries quickly, so he can turn Adel carefully over and add the complementary script across his front.

The penultimate step leaves Josef feeling queasy; it was far easier with experimental subjects than it is with someone who matters. He swallows his unease and picks up his scalpel, taking a few slow breaths to calm himself and wait for the shaking in his hands to subside. The prayers he has written across Adel's flesh are vivid, deep crimson against blue-white skin, and he studies them to be sure his lines are true. He glances up at Adel's face: eyes closed, mouth slack, too cold to be merely sleeping. Hesitating will only prolong the torment, he tells himself sternly.

He makes a single, clean incision in the skin of Adel's chest, baring the red of muscle beneath the skin's layers. There is, at least, no blood. In the hours since Adel last breathed, it has settled, gone cold and thick with no heartbeat to carry it on its course. Josef swallows hard. He deepens the incision, carves out a small pocket in the flesh, and fits the vital talisman into place: a polished garnet, infused with quicksilver, ritually charged, itself etched with the characters which mean life.

This would be enough to create a puppet, to instill some spark in the body before him if that were all that mattered. Josef thinks of Adel's laughter, of the quick and clever way his hands moved, and knows that would never be enough to satisfy him. He fetches the last ingredient, the cordial that he and Adel had prepared together in the final week of Adel's life. The vial is tiny, the mixture bitter and pungent. Josef holds it to Adel's lips and pours the contents into his chill mouth.

"Adel St. Claire, your time has not come," Josef says, his voice hoarse. "It is too soon for you to release your flesh. By my will and by your own you are called back. Return to me. Return to me, Adel. Take this breath and live." He leans down and seals his lips to Adel's, exhaling his own warmth into Adel's mouth.

For one excruciating moment, nothing happens. Josef's throat tightens with dread and his heart aches in his chest. Could he possibly have done something wrong? Did they miscalculate something in the cordial? Was the garnet left too long after its preparation, its potency squandered?

Then Adel shudders, a slow, full-body motion. The prayers written on his skin gleam in the firelight, shining brighter for an instant before they settle into a low, throbbing glow. His garnet heart pulses with light. His eyes open.

"Adel," Josef whispers, his throat tight. "Adel, welcome home." He takes Adel's hand, trembling, squeezing gently.

Another long moment passes with Adel frighteningly still; he is not breathing. But he sits up, eyes shining, lips parted, and reaches for Josef's face with his free hand. When he takes a breath, it's to murmur, "Home," as though he is trying to place the word. His fingers are chilled, tracing the arch of Josef's cheekbone. He looks lost.

"Home," Josef agrees, nodding. He turns his head to kiss the center of Adel's palm. "Just as we planned. Do you remember?"

Adel frowns. "I'm cold," he says slowly, like ... he is like a sleeper waking, disoriented by his long sojourn through the night. "Josef. I'm cold."

He remembers Josef's name. It worked. "Of course, you—come here by the fire. Let me fetch your clothes." He tugs on Adel's hand, and Adel slides off the table easily. There is no waste in his movements, nothing extraneous; he takes the three steps toward the fireplace without looking around, without needing his hands to steady him. "Here. Let the fire warm you for a moment."

The yellow light gives his skin a color like old ivory, the marks on his skin blackish with a deep red glitter to them. He stands in front of the fire, watching it with unblinking eyes as Josef goes to retrieve his shirt. He'll remember more soon. He'll come back to himself. The warmth and the adjustment will both take a little time.

"Once you feel well enough to travel, we'll need to leave," Josef says as he picks up Adel's fine linen shirt. "We can stay here for a day or two if you need time to adjust, but I'd like to get moving as soon as we can. When your family arrives to reclaim your belongings and realize how much is missing, they'll ask questions that will lead them here." He's babbling, and pointlessly. At least half of this plan was Adel's, before he ... before.

Josef holds out the shirt. Adel stares at it with his brow furrowed thoughtfully. He is still enough for a statue, an impression only strengthened by the champagne-marble color of his skin.

"You'll remember in time," Josef says, not sure which of them needs the reassurance more. He takes Adel's left hand and guides it into one sleeve, pulling the shirt up onto Adel's slender shoulders. "I have faith in you." He thinks Adel is moving with him more deliberately when he helps with the right sleeve.

Adel leans into him before Josef can fasten the first of the shirt's buttons, small but solid, cool face fitting against the side of Josef's neck. "Warm," he says, and rubs up against Josef in a wantonly sensual motion.

Josef shudders, heat pooling in his groin at the way Adel moves. "Wait," he says, "be careful." He pulls back, holding Adel by the shoulders to try to force some distance between them. If anything were to happen to the prayers that worked this miracle, what would happen to Adel's restored soul?

When he looks, though, the inscriptions on Adel's chest are unharmed. Carefully, Josef touches the word arcing above the pulse of Adel's garnet heart, and he finds that the ritual has changed the marks. Instead of granular paint resting on the skin, they've absorbed into the flesh itself, ridged like the scars from deep wounds. Adel will never look ordinary, then. It will remain visible, what he has become. Josef's prior experiments were never so viscerally affected—the paint left stains, but was never so completely absorbed as this. Could the connection between them have given the ritual more power? Or perhaps the fact that the subject himself assisted in the preparations?

"You're warm, Josef," Adel says, his voice still dreamy and distant, dragging Josef's attention back from the theoretical. "And I can touch your warmth."

"Of course," Josef says hoarsely. His hand is still splayed across Adel's chest. "Of course you can." It's encouraging to see Adel forming such thoughts. It means he's returning to himself.

Adel closes the distance between them again, almost drifting, as though some unseen force pulls him to Josef's body. "I want your warmth."

"It's yours. It's always been yours." He should be stopping this. He should be helping Adel with the rest of his clothes and preparing them both for travel. Instead, Josef is wrapping his arms around Adel's slender frame and holding him closer. The stillness of Adel's body unnerves him: no breath, no true heartbeat. He cannot let go.

Adel reaches up to twine his arms around Josef's neck. One cool hand burrows into Josef's hair, loosening the tie that holds it back and taking a firm grip. His eyes are so dark they're barely still blue, and the sparks in their depths seem to have a crimson strangeness to them instead of the yellow reflection of the fire. "Come here," Adel demands.

Josef lowers his head to give Adel his mouth. The bitter herbal taste of the cordial is still present on Adel's lips, and when he parts them, it's prelude to a bite. Josef moans, a helpless, half-swallowed sound, as Adel's teeth capture his lip. This is no teasing love-bite; he tastes blood, and shivers at the combination of arousal and fear that twists through him.

"Josef," Adel whispers, breathing the name into his mouth. "Help me. I'm cold. I need you."

Those words are as potent as a bolt through the heart. Josef could not resist if he tried. "Anything, Adel. I'm yours. I'll give you anything."

He's still unprepared for the chill when Adel pulls his shirt up and reaches beneath. He shudders at the touch, cold and hard. "All I want is you," Adel says. "We had this before. You were mine before. I remember."

"Yes," Josef says helplessly. He pulls his shirt untucked the rest of the way, hands shaking as he discards it. They're near enough to the fire that it will keep him warm, and if this is the first appetite Adel wants to satisfy now that he's returned, Josef can scarcely complain. It worked, and Adel is here with him. Everything else is secondary.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Bump in the Night by Rachel Haimowitz. Copyright © 2013 Heidi Belleau, Ally Blue, Kari Gregg, Peter Hansen, Laylah Hunter, Brien Michaels, and Sam Schooler. Excerpted by permission of Riptide Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

About Bump in the Night,
Resurrection Man By Laylah Hunter,
Mating Season By Kari Gregg,
Flesh and Song By Ally Blue,
Out from Under By Brien Michaels,
Sleeping with Ghosts By Peter Hansen,
Blasphemer, Sinner, Saint By Heidi Belleau and Sam Schooler,
Acknowledgments,
Also by ...,
About the Authors,

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Bump in the Night 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
TheMorningAfterRomance More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Christina Marie at The Morning After Romance: I loved and loathed this Anthology. I just want to point out the fact that this is not horror. I love horror. I am a horror fanatic. Not once did I find myself scared, or spooked, or tense, or creeped. Was I deeply disturbed? Yes. Because it is a dark read in the sense that rape hides around mostly every corner. Rape does not a horror story make. As it says in the blurb, this is "dark," and it is "paranormal." Just don't go in expecting horror, particularly if you're a fan of the genre. Go in expecting horrific acts of dubious consent in a paranormal setting, or no consent, or tentacle rape. Maybe even a dash of forced mpreg. I did not like this. I did like this. I am so freaking conflicted about this book. I had a very strong reaction to about 40% of the stories in this anthology. It was a strong reaction of loathing. We did not get along. It's unfortunate, because I really think that if the book had been arranged in a different order, some of my animosity would have been alleviated. However, the stories I did not like share common themes, a lack of romance and a lot of rape. They also have the misfortune of being clumped together in the middle of the book. I can read dub-con and non-con. But I do so in doses. I intersperse those books with others. I need a balance so I'm not inundated with a complete lack of passion or human decency in my reading. I need a warning. I need to not read back-to-back rape scenes. This book is not balanced. There is little or no romance in most of the stories, a mountain of consent issues, and it is oppressive to have that all piled together in the middle. Like this anthology is not horror, most of these stories are not romance (personally, I do not find any type of nether region prolapse, romantic). Ugh, this anthology is just oversaturated with rape scenes. I almost want to go into a lengthy discussion about rape culture, but I'll end up rambling on. But no, wait. Does no one else find it problematic that some of the major problems in m/f seem to trickle across genres? Are people subconsciously more comfortable with this in their fiction when it is happening to men? *Cringes*. I was uncomfortable. And then irritated. And then flabbergasted that it seemed to be a general theme throughout the anthology. I do want to say that these are all well written. The anthology is comprised of a group of talented authors. It is the content of the stories, not the writing styles, which put me in a rage. Resurrection Man by Laylah Hunter: 4 Stars I actually really liked this story. It was a great start to the anthology. I loved the author's writing style, the description, the atmosphere of melancholy, and the actual story. Really, I found the plot fascinating. However, I thought it ended way too soon. The ending was rather ambiguous. It just felt unfinished. As a result, Resurrection Man seemed like more of a beginning than a complete story. Mating Season by Kari Gregg: 1.5 Stars Let me start by saying that I am a fan of tentacles, tails, circus performing Genitalia, and other odd kinky things. Here, there be tentacles. Unfortunately, I did not like them. Not a bit. That was on account of all the rape though. This was less tentacle sex, more tentacle assault. Kind of like the stuff you would find in Hentai, only in sentence form. So, if that's your thing, then yea, you will probably love this story. I will say that while this is not for everyone, definitely not for me, there are some who will undoubtedly love it to slimy little pieces. Me? I found it, in no way, hot. It was basically a date rape nightmare; only with tentacles. I thought it was graphic, gross, ridiculous, and infuriating. Flesh and Song by Ally Blue: 3 Stars This one left me a little undecided. I loved it, and I didn't. It was beautifully written. It was also short, sad, and disheartening. It was like a retelling of the story of Odysseus and Calypso from Homer's Odyssey, only with a twist. It took me awhile to get into it. Sadly, right when I thought it was becoming great, it ended. Just a side note: I would consider this dub-con. Due to the effects of being on the island the main character is not capable of giving his consent. Out From Under by Brien Michaels: 2 Stars The main problem I had with this one, a problem that hindered any hope I had of enjoying it, is that I didn't know enough about Jason. He is the person that Brant goes through hell for. I guess he is this person that Brant loves? Basically, he is a person the reader knows nothing about. As a result, I was not invested in anything Brant was doing. I didn't really care too much how his story turned out. I suppose that, instead of being invested in Brant's story because of his relationship. I was supposed to be invested in his story because of his horrible situation (all the rape). Mostly, I just wanted the story to be over. Sleeping with Ghosts by Peter Hansen: 3.5 Stars I thought the story was great, the world building was amazing, and I really enjoyed the idea behind it. However, it ended way too abruptly. I would most definitely read a continuation of this, or another set in this world. Blasphemer, Sinner, Saint by Heidi Belleau and Sam Schooler: 4 Stars I liked this one a lot. I loved the characters the most. I thought that Tobias was a raging jerk. He was a judgmental, sanctimonious, obtuse prick. Completely unlikeable. Yet, he drew me in. I liked being in his POV because it was uncomfortable. More importantly, I loved watching him realize his mistakes. The character growth was delicious. I liked the story as well. I was invested, I read as quickly as possible to get to the end so I could find out what would happen to David. All in all, I thought Bump in the Night started and ended strong. Everything in between was all over the place, for me it was a roller coaster ride of love and loathing. *ARC courtesy of Riptide Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 3 Stars
Shoshanna_Evers More than 1 year ago
I got the chance to read Brien Micheal's contribution to the Bump in the Night anthology, and it was insanely scary and sexy at the same time. Not for the faint of heart!
jojoNE More than 1 year ago
With Halloween just around the corner the Bump in the Night anthology offers just the right amount of chills to make you think twice before going to sleep, or into a forest, or......well, you get the picture. With its vividly dark imagery and cruel twist to its erotic scenes, this is an unsettling group of stories that leave a lasting impression. Each story is set during a different time period with the evil ranging from man-made to otherworldly. The erotic m/m scenes are extremely graphic and not seen in a romantic light for the most part. These stories don't necessarily end happily but there's more of a happy for now sense to each with the characters doing the best they can with the choices they're given. You're not left with warm fuzzy feelings after reading each story but rather a feeling of acceptance. It's not easy reading these stories but each author has created a darkly atmospheric and lyrical tale that makes these reads hard to put down. There are somewhat disturbing encounters between good and evil represented that make for thoughtprovoking themes that don't always offer easy answers. Ultimately this is not a read for the faint of heart. Its themes and images are dark and make for grueling reads but are a perfect fit for Halloween and I especially recommend it to fans of the horror genre.