A Devil Of A Romance

Longlisted for Australian Writers’ Centre October 2020 Furious Fiction competition

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“This is kinda romantic,” Callum said, nudging Holly. “A cabin by the lake. You and me…

“Tied up, waiting to die.”

“Well, I said kinda.”

They sat on the floor, back to back, wrists and feet bound, a band of rope pulled tight around their waists.

It was supposed to be a routine haunting. Holly would clear the spirit, and Callum would back her up. Except there was no spirit. Just an elaborate ruse by a pair of amateur Satanists looking to sacrifice a psychic to their dark lord. That’s where Holly came in. Only the idiots forgot the ritual candles and ran into town to pick some up, leaving Holly and Callum alone. Holly would laugh if she wasn’t so damn angry.

“You shouldn’t have come, Callum. They wanted me. Now we’ll both die.”

“We’re not gunna die. We’ve been in worse fixes than this.”

His pinky finger caressed hers, causing a familiar tingle to zip up her spine.

He was right, they had been in worse fixes. Like the time they were trapped in the basement of a condemned house with a furious spirit who sent Callum soaring across the room, splitting his head against a wall. He still carried the scar from that wound. It ran through his left eyebrow. Holly found it sexy.

“Can you wiggle out of the ties?” Callum said, bringing Holly back to the present.

Holly tried to move. “No. But what if we drop to the side?”

They rocked back and forth, falling sideways onto the fluffy white rug that covered the cabin floor.

“What Satanist buys a white rug,” Callum said, as he puffed the long pile away from his mouth. “I mean, blood sacrifices and white do not go.”

“Focus, Callum. Move around a bit. It might loosen the knot.”

They flipped and flopped like two fish beached on the sand until Callum squirmed out of the rope with a “Ta-da!”

“Give me your hands,” he said.

Something wet and warm ran along Holly’s wrist. “Did you just lick me?”

“Maybe.”

“Callum. Focus!” She tried to ignore the goosebumps that erupted across her skin.

“Couldn’t help it,” he mumbled, as he tugged on her ties with his teeth.

The second Holly was loose, she crushed her lips to Callum’s, kissing him hard and deep. He didn’t object.

She forced herself to pull away. “Later,” she said, through heavy breaths. “We need to go.”

They clamoured off the floor and darted to the door.

“Hang on,” Callum said as he dashed back inside. He returned brandishing a bottle of red wine.

“Is that their sacrificial wine?”

“They ain’t gunna need it now. Besides, they owe us. We can grab a pizza on the way home!” He flashed a dazzling grin.

“You are unbelievable.”

“That’s why you love me.”

“That’s why you’re lucky I love you.”

“To the moon and back,” Callum said, and he leaned over and kissed her cheek.

Holly smiled. “And then back to the moon.”

© Amy Hutton 2020

In the Fervour of the Moon

Rayna’s basket bumped against her knee as she walked along the rocky path. “Granny and her damn goodies, she grumbled, glancing angrily at the hamper with its jaunty gingham cover. She spied a run in her tights where the rough cane had snagged a thread, creating a ladder up the side of her leg, disappearing under the petticoat ruffles that hung beneath her red velvet skirt. “Great,” she thought as she traipsed deeper into the forest.

The fallen leaves crunched beneath her feet as the trees became denser, the shadows darker, and the air cooler. When she gazed upwards, only a tiny patch of sky was visible beyond the branches high above.

A rustling noise sounded from the undergrowth and she stopped and peered into the gloom.

“Who’s there?” she said, a quiver in her voice.

A deep growl rumbled in return and an enormous grey wolf stepped onto the path in front of her.

She stood perfectly still, as the beast slunk towards her, its huge paws padding silently on the dirt, its brilliant amber eyes locked on her face. Her heart began to pound, thundering against her ribcage, and she furtively looked around to see if she was still alone.

“Please,” Rayna cried, as Granny’s basket trembled in her hand. “Please… Please… Please hurry up I have an appointment in town at three.”

The wolf rose up on its hind legs, its powerful form towering over her. A rush of heat surged through Rayna’s body and she watched excitedly as her unconventional lover transformed.

In just moments, he stood before her, naked and human, thick muscles rippling and glistening with sweat from the exertion of the change; a brilliant smile spread across his impossibly handsome face.

“My what big… everything you have,” she said, as she shrugged off her cape, dropped her basket to the ground and practically sprinted towards him.

He reached out a hulking arm, encircling her neck and drawing her in, holding her against his bare torso. Their lips crashed together, hungry and urgent, all wetness and teeth as they savoured each other’s taste.  Fireworks exploded behind Rayna’s eyes, like a shower of brilliant stars falling from the heavens, His long fingers artfully unlaced her bodice, his kiss never faltering, his mouth never leaving hers, and as she wiggled her dress from her shoulders and let it fall to her feet, they tumbled to the ground in a tangled mass of limbs and dizzy passion.

***

Rayna bit into the sandwich that she pulled from her picnic basket. “Michael, you really need to get over this twisted Little Red Riding hood kink of yours.”

His teeth were already starting to change; razor sharp canines poking over his still puffy from kissing lips. “Maybe next time I can blow your house down,” he said, with a grin.

“As long as there’s blowing involved babe, I’m all for it.”

Michael threw his head back and howled.

***

Rayna sighed as she watched Michael lope into the cover of the trees, the early afternoon breeze ruffling his soft, grey fur. She called after him. “Until the next waning moon,” and a shiver of anticipation ran down her spine when he turned and snarled, his amber eyes glowing with promise against the darkness of the forest.

 

© Amy Hutton 2020

 

Meet Cute Puppy

A panicky voice yelled out “Grab him!” just as Julia saw a blur of black and white fur dash past her legs. Without thinking, she lunged for the escaping dog and missed, tripping instead on a rise in the pavement and falling heavily to the ground with an “Ooof” and a thud. She was lying sprawled inelegantly across the concrete, half frozen with embarrassment, half too scared to move in case she was hurt, when something warm slurped her cheek. Gingerly rolling over, Julia saw a ridiculously fluffy puppy and reached out, drawing it onto her chest.

“Are you okay?” a man’s voice called. She saw a pair of bare feet come to a stop beside her and heard puffing like someone was trying to catch their breath.

Julia pushed a strand of her auburn hair out of her eyes and gaze upwards following the direction of the voice. She squinted into the glare of the clear blue sky until a handsome man’s face came into view and blocked out the sun.

“I am so sorry,” he said, “Are you okay? Can you move?”

Julia wasn’t exactly sure, but she nodded anyway.

“I opened the door and whoosh, he was gone,” he continued as he bent down and helped her to her feet. “Thank you so much for grabbing him.”

She nodded again; feeling slightly dazed and still clinging to the pup.

“Ooo, ouch,” the man said, wincing as he pointed to her leg. “Can I sort that out for you? I’m just around the corner.”

She followed his eyes to an angry, bloodied graze on her knee. Until that moment, she hadn’t even noticed that she was injured, but now that she had seen the wound, her knee began to sting and throb.

“You can trust me,” he added. “I’m a nurse.”

And as he smiled, she saw an adorable set of dimples appear in his cheeks.

Julia wasn’t sure if it was the shock of the fall or his dimples, but she suddenly felt woozy and rocked back on her heels.

“Whoa,” he said, reaching out with a steadying hand. “Let’s get you sat down and patched up.” He slipped his arm around her waist. “I’m Luke.”

She leaned into the security of his body. “Julia,” she said.

“Nice to meet you Julia. That troublemaker you’re holding is Wilbur.”

“Hi Wilbur,” she said, and she nuzzled his soft fur.

 

Julia was sitting on a chair in Luke’s kitchen with Wilbur on her lap looking up at her like he knew it was all his fault. She watched as a trickle of blood dribbled down her shin towards her sock. She was thankful she didn’t put on the skirt she was thinking about wearing that day, instead choosing a pair of shorts. At least as she lay spreadeagle on the footpath, she thought, she hadn’t been accidentally flashing anyone.

“Okay, let’s take a look at that knee,” Luke said as he walked into the room, squatted in front of her and opened-up his first aid kit.

While Luke checked out Julia’s wound, Julia checked out Luke. He was a bit of a knockout. Tall and pretty, with sparkling blue eyes and lashes Julia would kill for. His brown hair was short and spiky, and he was wearing a chest hugging, white t-shirt and what Julia suddenly realised was his underwear; tight, black boxer-briefs that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. She blushed and looked away, but not before Luke noticed and glanced down.

“Oh my god. I’m sorry. I didn’t even…”

Julia shook her head.  “No. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

“I ran out the door without…”

“No, really. I shouldn’t have…”

They stared at each other in silence for a moment, then started to laugh.

 

Luke stuck the final strip of tape to the gauze on Julia’s knee. “I think you’ll live,” he said, as he stood and smoothed out the front of his jeans. “So… Wilbur was thinking he’d like to make it up to you, and… um…buy you a coffee.”

“I would love that, Wilbur,” Julia said, looking at Luke.

“Wilbur also hopes you don’t think he’s an idiot.” Luke said, looking a Julia.

“No. Not at all. In fact, I think we could become…good friends,” she said, as she ruffled Wilbur’s fur.

“Man, I sure hope so,” Luke said, and flashed her another dimply smile.

Julia felt woozy again, but this time, she knew exactly why.

© Amy Hutton 2020

Serendipity

“You just have to have faith.”

“Faith in what?”

“Destiny.”

Beth spoke along with the characters on the screen. She couldn’t count how many times she’d watched Serendipity. It was her favourite movie and she threw in the DVD whenever she needed a pick me up. Like tonight.

It was New Year’s Eve and Beth was sulking on her couch as the rest of the world celebrated. “At least I have John Cusack,” she thought, smiling at his face on the TV. With his dreamy eyes and floppy hair. He had been her favourite actor ever since she was a teenager, swooning while she watched him shotgun beer in The Sure Thing.

“Can you keep a secret,” she whispered to her dog, Cassiopeia. The staffy’s tail wagged, thumping against the cushions. “I lost my virginity after shotgunning beer, with a guy named Greg, in the back of his van at the caravan park my parents used to take us to for the school holidays.” She laughed at the memory. She had never told anyone that. Not even her best mate Sharon. She always said her first time was with her first real boyfriend, when she was twenty. But it was at fifteen, with Greg, with his dreamy eyes and floppy hair.

Suddenly Beth had a brilliant idea. She peeled herself off the couch and padded barefoot across the tiled floor; Cassiopeia’s nails tapping behind her. Searching through a kitchen draw, she pulled out a biro pen. She opened the fridge, grabbed an Asahi beer and gripped it tightly in her hand. Raising the pen above her head, she swooped it down dramatically punching a hole in the side of the can. She quickly sealed her lips around the hole and pulled on the can’s open tab. Frothy liquid rushed down her throat, spilling from her mouth, and dribbling off her chin. When she finished, she wiped her palm across her face and let out a loud belch. “I still got it,” she said, grinning at the dog by her feet. Hesitating for a split second, she shrugged and pulled another beer from the fridge. It was New Year’s Eve, if she wanted to shotgun ten beers she would. But it turned out her limit was three.

Back on the couch feeling tipsy and a little bloated, Beth checked the time on her phone. It was almost midnight, so she stopped the movie and turned on the ABC. Charlie Pickering was already counting down to the fireworks, “Six, five, four…” When the clock struck twelve and the fireworks exploded, Beth leapt into the air, the dog excitedly joining in. The pair bounced around the room, Beth whooping “Happy New Year,” as Cassiopeia barked. Until breathless and sweaty, Beth dropped back on the couch in a heap. John.” She sighed wistfully and pressed play.

 “When did you get to be so unabashedly romantic?” Beth said, as she spoke along with the characters on the screen.

© Amy Hutton 2020