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Still unsure if this story is right for you? Here's a view of one of my favorite chapters. Enjoy!
THE PULL WAS SUBTLE AT first, like a shift in the wind pushing Nina toward an invisible opening. So much time had passed since the last time she’d sensed the switch turning ‘On’ to something greater than her existence—long enough to forget such things were possible. Still, the crisp coolness of the barrier or the sound of the chimes wasn’t surprising when she passed through to the other side.
THE TWILIGHT USED TO BE a source of comfort. She had played here often as a child, only now she stepped along the familiar trail with heartache twisting the pit of her stomach. Since her last visit, the vibrant path had all but crumbled into ruin. The once luscious gardens and beautiful forest were reduced to a barren landscape. Dragging bare feet, she slowed progress up the mountain as much as a sense of urgency allowed, grieving paradise as she travelled.
Time moved differently here—it was almost stagnant. She wondered if this world was a reflection of her inner self; if the loss she had experienced was mirrored by the rot and decay evident in every direction. All she had ever hoped for was gone, just as the water gurgling along riverbanks and the mighty oaks stretching to the sky were gone. Even the warmth of the sun refused to penetrate through the grey hue of crushed dreams. She would never find peace here again. Hadn’t her mother warned as much?
“The Twilight is his home. If you go there, Sinauf will come for you.”
And she was right. He had come, but not for her…
Is it possible to go back? Nina questioned. She’d been to the past before, but had never tried to interfere, but could she? The wind picked up in a low howl of protest as her hair whipped against her cheeks, but she ignored the warning, wondering if turning around would save her parents. Encouraged, she looked over her shoulder, but the trail had erased into blackness. The putrid odor of stagnant water wrinkled her nose as shrilled cries pierced her soul with terror. Death lived there—only death. Too afraid of what dwelled in the past, she Walked off the cliff, stepping from the edge as darkness enveloped the place where she stood. Never falling, her feet made contact with a lovely manicured lawn.
“I had a feeling you’d be wanting to see me,” Jenny Webber drawled out. The southern accent dripped off her tongue like liquid honey, so naturally any stranger would have believed she was born a Georgia peach, but Nina could see her long-lost friend behind the pretenses.
“Well, what’re you waiting for? C’mon in! I can’t tell you how delighted I am that you accepted my invitation.” Dissolving into vapors that would have put Scarlet O’Hara to shame, she widened the door and Nina bounded through, excited at the prospect of catching up. Then she remembered she was Walking. Jenny’s invitation wasn’t meant for Nina, but for the dark figure standing on the porch.
His face was lost in shadow. The only feature clearly visible was the fire-blue of his eyes. He must have flashed the redhead a smile, because Jenny melted like butter in a hot frying pan. The air all but sizzled as he fixed his burning gaze with unguarded interest at the green silk robe tied about her waist. The blatant display surely raised an eyebrow as he stepped out of the still, black night and into the bright, plantation home.
“I must admit, the circumstances that brought us together the other night were very entertaining. But when you called to say you would be willing to share even more about your friend’s unique abilities, and perhaps tell me where to find her…well, that titillating bit of information was completely irresistible. Of course, you already know all the best ways to tempt me. Don’t you, kitten?” he whispered, insinuation lacing his voice as he spoke in her ear.
The hair on the back of Jenny’s neck stood at attention. He didn’t touch her, but Jenny shivered with anticipation. Or perhaps it was something else that caused her to tremble as he slinked past and entered the lavishly furnished living room.
The mansion had been built on the ashes of Atlanta in 1887, a testimony to the South’s tenacity even in the midst of defeat. The original owner, Colonel Thomas Wheeler, had wanted to hear the sound of rustling silks as his four daughters danced at parties, and to see them brought up in elegance and luxury. Perhaps, he had hoped to drown out the sounds and sights of dying soldiers on battlefields. Perhaps, he had wanted to regain some of the grandeur they had all fought for. In this estate, at least, he had succeeded. More than a century later, giggling debutantes in formal attire still descended the polished wooden staircases, while perfect gentlemen waited at the bottom of the twin spiraled banisters to lend an arm in escort.
Jenny's dark visitor was a sharp contrast to the gentlemen who had formerly graced this house, as well as to the hickory hardwood floors and beige-toned walls. Light, neutral colors spoke of warmth and safety, while he was the embodiment of cool danger. His jet-black hair jutted past the length of his ivory jaw, blending seamlessly with his black trench coat, as if his hair was an extension of the leather. Even his designer jeans and Doc Martin shoes were varied shades of ebony, projecting the appearance of a dark, romantic figure, like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. The only hint of color was a rich, burgundy, button-down shirt made of the finest silk that peeked out from under his jacket. But it was more than just his appearance that set him apart. He held a dark appeal, and Nina suspected that he wasn’t even really a man. If he was, he certainly wasn’t a gentleman.
His legs, long and elegant, stretched out with commanding confidence as he walked across the front room and eased himself into one of the white suede sofas grouped together in the center of the space. Tapping his graceful fingers on an oak end table, he gave Jenny a slither-hither look that had all of her circuit boards overloading.
Nina could feel Jenny’s emotions as if they were hers. Undiluted sexual desire punched through her system as Jenny admired his striking, self-assured posture. She burned for him. So many sensations assailed Nina at once it was as if his presence filled the very air around her. Intoxicating was the only word to describe his effect. Intoxicating and addicting, like heroin. She knew that Jenny wanted him, and that she would sell out her old best friend for just one taste.
Jenny came through so clearly to Nina, while the other figure remained shrouded in obscurity. She tried to touch his mind, but his thoughts evaporated into smoke.
“Well, here I am, caught within your capable clutches. Are we going to play out your little game, or did you plan to simply gawk at me for the rest of the evening?” he asked. Nina could feel the taunting amusement curve the corners of his mouth rather than seeing it.
There was no Heathcliff now. The shroud around him shifted ever so slightly and his words carried more authority, like that of a dark prince staring down upon his lowly subject. “It hardly makes any difference to me, but you might feel uncomfortable when your father comes home. I don’t think he’d appreciate you dribbling all over the upholstery.”
Jenny cringed as his snarky observations hit their mark. Her father did tend to treat her like a pampered Pomeranian who couldn’t be trusted past the front door. Thoroughly chastised, she lifted her chin, annoyance flickering now in her dangerous eyes. Nina knew that look. Jenny had decided it was time for a shift in power. Floating across the room with the grace of a ballerina, she positioned herself directly in his line of sight. Her luscious, full lips parted in an appealing manner, practiced to perfection, as the tip of her tongue darted out to moisten them.
“There’s no need to worry your silly little head over that stuffed shirt. He's run off to D.C. for the weekend and left helpless little me here all alone. I don’t know what I'll do with so much temptation all around me… Any suggestions?” Her wanton gaze lingered momentarily on his bemused expression as she opened her robe coyly and let it slide to the floor.
Jenny averted her eyes as her skin flushed a bright strawberry on appealing cream. The light played off the red in her hair, complimenting her ivory skin and striking green eyes like a forest fire across a snow-covered wood. The air flooded with a heady mixture of berries and gardenias from the lotion slathered on her skin. Any man would have been reduced to incoherent babble at the sight of her…any man.
Jenny was playing a perilous game and Nina wanted to cry out a warning. No! You can’t win this time. He doesn’t follow the rules! But any alarm would have fallen upon deaf ears. It was only a movie to Nina, and the outcome wouldn’t change with a protest.
“Certainly, I could think of a few,” he said, traveling his eyes along the skimpy nightgown Jenny had barely managed to squeeze into. Green lace and satin hugged tight in all the right places. The dark aura around his body expanded out, wrapping around Jenny as his eyes touched the curves of her body. Moaning, Jenny’s breath came in ragged bursts as the heat of his gaze roughly raked along her skin, as if his hands were stroking everywhere his eyes touched.
But Nina could see what was really happening. Fingers protruded out of the dark cloud directed by his vision, searing and violating Jenny without a single physical encounter. The invisible foreplay intensified until her legs finally melted out like warm vanilla ice cream, reducing her to a puddle on the floor at his feet.
As he stared down at Jenny, Nina could feel contempt pulsating under his cloak, but she wasn’t prepared for the viciousness of his true nature. All she could do was look on in horror as he introduced his favorite kind of sex. With incredible ease, the shadow penetrated into Jenny’s thoughts, desecrating her most private and vulnerable sanctuaries. Ruthless, he ripped away her defenses, not even bothering to hide the rape he was committing on her mind. He found it entertaining to watch the terrified confusion play along the tremble of her lips as she tried to understand his intrusion.
Pushing harder, he pierced the door into her deepest recesses. In his excitement, the shield around his thoughts faltered, giving Nina a tiny look into his mind. The information he was seeking in Jenny was there, but he growled in frustration when he finally found it. The story she had told him was a lie! There hadn’t been any contact with the girl for years. A name written on the back of a tattered photograph was the only remaining tie. Anger surged through his system as the shadow leapt back, returning into a shroud around his shoulders.
“However, the false circumstances under which you have lured me here require a declining of your unappealing offer.” He leaned in close enough for his rage to creep along her neck, and Nina sensed his satisfaction as Jenny shivered from the sting of his words.
Reaching over her, he opened the end table drawer and removed a photo, faded with age. In the picture stood two girls smiling on a sunny beach, no older than twelve when the moment was captured. One was all fire, clearly a younger version of Jenny, and the other, causing him to catch his breath in excitement, was Nina. The bottom of Nina's stomach fell out as he read the handwriting on the back of the photo: Jenny Webber and Nina Douglas, Huntington Beach, CA.
“I don’t understand why you’re so worked up over Nina. So she said a special gift ran in her family. Big deal! My father thought she was a liar,” Jenny protested, dropping her fake accent. Her full, generous lips pouted as she pushed her curls away from her face. Swampy eyes swam with confusion as she looked at him. He stared back at Jenny with a detached coldness, her raw, violated emotions causing her to look away. Pulling her robe off the floor, Jenny fastened it around her waist again, attempting to regain a shred of dignity.
“I found the picture, and that’s why I called,” Jenny claimed, meeting his stare again in beautiful defiance. Standing to full height, her gaze carried a haughty quality you could only find in a preacher’s daughter wearing lingerie.
“I think your reason for summoning me is evident,” he scoffed. Discomfort crawled under Jenny’s skin, adding to his pleasure. “You wanted to use me, just like you have used everyone who has had the misfortune of crossing your path. When we first met, I found your lack of scruples endearing, but now I find it a little over the top and borderline pathetic. Something really must be done to rectify your character flaws.
A dangerous look flashed in his eyes as the shadow encompassed Jenny again, showing Nina a fleeting glimpse of his beautiful face. Fear licked through her senses as the reality of her friend’s situation clarified, sputtering her heart to a stop before starting up again at double speed. Jenny was trying to turn away from his malevolent stare, but the monster held her frozen to his gaze. Nina cried for Jenny to run, but her body remained fixed. A scream ensued from somewhere deep inside her, but it only passed as a tiny whimper.
“Nina.” He savored the name as it rolled off his tongue, looking at Jenny with ferocious derision. “I wouldn’t expect someone as ordinary as you to understand why she is exceptional. Even in this worn and faded image I can see her radiance glowing. She is an angel.” The last word was spoken in complete rapture, and Nina found herself mesmerized by the beauty of her name spoken in his melodic voice.
“This photograph was taken on Huntington Beach six years ago?” He didn’t expect a reply as he paced the room, caressing the tattered paper like it was a priceless treasure. “I had hoped for a more viable connection, but at least it's a start. Nearly three years have passed since I have felt even the slightest flicker of her.”
As he walked past the open drawer of the end table, Jenny caught a glimpse of her father’s gun, lying under the papers just a few inches away. If she could just reach it... Her hands shook with effort the as tears streamed down her cheeks, lining them with black mascara.
“Do you want the gun?” he asked, barely glancing away from the photo as a strangled sob escaped her lips. “Are you sure? By all means, take it then,” he said, nodding his head, like an overindulgent parent allowing their child a cookie, as Jenny’s hand reached for the gun of its own accord.
“Please, don’t do this!” Jenny managed to choke out in a strained voice she didn’t recognize. Helplessly, Nina watched as the shadow forced Jenny’s hand to grasp the handle and slowly inch the weapon towards her temple. Blue eyes filled with hell’s fire stared at Jenny, feeding off of her fear like a delicious dessert while she fought the invisible force to keep her finger away from the trigger. “Please, please, oh God, please, no!”
“Now, there’s no sense bringing Him into this. He won’t help you. In fact, I’m not entirely certain that He exists anymore, and even if He does, why would He want to save you?” he asked with dispassionate interest. “You are no faithful servant or beacon of virtue. No, I think your salvation would be a waste of His time. There are much more admirable candidates, of that I assure you,” he said, his focus temporarily drawn to the photo again.
“I’m looking into your soul right now and there is nothing worth redeeming,” he went on. “You are a spoiled rotten, overindulged bit of plastic who has to buy her friends and drape them like jewelry. If your daddy wasn’t Reverend Webber—‘the face of family values’—I doubt anyone would even give you the time of day.
“You’re vain, and as shallow as a mud puddle. On top of all that, you’re insecure, needy, and quite frankly, useless in every way. I don’t understand how anyone can tolerate you for more than a few hours, even with your ample assets.” His words held a challenging quality, like he was begging her to contradict even one of his cruel statements. His razor tongue had hit the mark. All that he said was true and Jenny knew it, but Nina knew Jenny had plenty of good in her, too. Nina remembered the girl who had befriended her when nobody else would. If only Jenny could see herself in such a light. Given the chance, she could become that girl again.
“So, why don’t we just get this over with?” Amusement danced within his eyes as the shadow descended, violating Jenny’s mind again, forcing her to see every shameful transgression she had ever committed. The terror in her mind sharpened as though he were drawing it out, like infection from a festering wound. For the briefest moment, Nina connected with his thoughts and she understood his motivations.
There was enough hurt living in Jenny to feed him for days, but it would never fill his insatiable need for more suffering—and for vengeance. Most of his victims begged for death long before he was finished, but tonight he lacked the patience or the desire to toy with his prey. With a sickening raise of an eyebrow, a loud boom vibrated the windows and Jenny’s blood splattered over the white furniture.
Along with her body crumpling to the floor, Nina witnessed Jenny’s essence collapsing in on itself, until everything she had once been became concentrated into a dense ball tied to a thread of light. The silver cord shined in the darkness of death—the only tether to a failing body. Pulled taut, the string vibrated and finally snapped, and Jenny’s previous existence fell away as she ascended away from her earthly vessel.
Despite the horror of all that just transpired, Nina felt slightly exhilarated by the beautiful journey Jenny’s soul was making. Nina even felt a momentary stab of envy—to be free, to have nothing holding her. A golden light appeared in the darkness and a primal need pleaded for Jenny to soar into the brilliant spiral.
“You don’t really think that is what you are destined for, do you Jenny?” The shadow pulled her away from the light and her essence changed into a mockery of her physical form.
“No!” Nina screamed, grief overcoming sense. Jenny turned her head as if she could sense Nina standing there, but the darkness was pulling her spirit down into the depths of a prison governed by her killer. Nina no longer envied Jenny; her fate was far worse than death.
Still caressing the photo, the monster strolled to the entrance, quietly humming a melodic tune. Reaching for the door, he hesitated, as if he too could feel Nina’s presence. She held her breath, afraid to give him any indication as the shadow paused for a moment before joining its master. A sigh of relief rushed from her lungs as the handle turned, but his final words left her chilling and burning simultaneously.
“Nina, my angel, I’m coming for you.”