Authors: Susan Hayes
Keri was just looking for a restoration project to distract her from the pain of her divorce and the loss of her grandmother. She thought she’d found the perfect distraction, an antique bed in need of some tender loving care. She would never have imagined her new project is more than just a bed, but the magical prison of an incubus.
Alistair has been bound to the bed for nearly two centuries by the spell of a long vanished sorceress, and he is starved for more than companionship and good conversation. When the lust daemon awakens from his long slumber he is eager to taste the sensual passions of the bed’s beautiful but wounded new owner.
What begins as the need to feed soon turns into something far more serious, but what chance does an immortal daemon and a mortal have at finding happiness together?
: 44, 651 words
Copyright © 2012by Susan Hayes
Cover design by The To Be Read Pile
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
For Mum and Dad, who encouraged me no matter what I was striving for.
And for Karen, for helping me in a thousand different ways.
This book wouldn’t exist without all of you
For being the world’s most understanding boss
Keri was in heaven. She’d always loved antiques; the craftsmanship, the sense of mystery, where they’d been and what they had been part of. Her ex-husband had always preferred modern styles, gleaming and new. Their home had been filled with a never ending parade of shiny new things, each as soulless and empty as their marriage had been.
Now she was free to choose her own style, and somewhere in this dark and wonderful little shop full of treasures she was certain she’d find the perfect project. Her fingers traced over the carved armrest of a mahogany settee and she sighed softly at the rich feel of the wood. It hadn’t been her intention to spend the day wandering through the dark corners of this little store, but something had prompted her to break with her usual routine and walk up the small alley just a few blocks from her apartment. When she’d spotted the sign advertising antiques and treasures she knew she had to go in.
She shook her head, a chaotic tumble of red waves flying around her shoulders as Keri laughed at herself. Whimsical wasn’t her usual approach to life, but today it just felt right. She absently tried to tame her unruly hair as she explored the haphazard stacks of furniture.
She had just gone deeper into the store when Keri thought she heard someone speak just behind her. Startled, she stepped back, tripping over a half hidden footstool and finally landing in an embarrassing tangle of limbs on the floor. Dust flew up in a cloud and she coughed, feeling utterly foolish.
“You alright back there? I thought I heard a thump.” A voice came from the front of the shop.
Oh no, the owner. Please don’t let him come back and find me in a heap on his floor.
“I’m fine, just bumped into a chair.” She called out and stood, her hand latching onto the first solid thing she could find to help her regain her feet. The moment her hand touched wood she heard it again, fainter than a voice, but still, she knew she’d heard
Keri turned to look at what she’d latched onto, and her jaw dropped in amazement. It was a bed. But not just a bed, it was a work of art. The headboard was hand carved, as were the four columns that formed an arching canopy overhead. Every inch of rosewood had been lovingly sculpted, and even beneath the grime piled on by of years of neglect she could detect a patina of aged wood, once well cared for. Without even considering what she was doing, she crawled into the chaos and started excavating her discovery. The more she uncovered of it, the more she loved it. She’d found her first project, she was going to restore this bed.
The store owner had been surprised at her choice, scratching his head as he stared at the massive piece. “That’s been there as long as I’ve had the shop. Came with the place I think. Got no paperwork on it, but if you’d like to have it Miss, I’ll get my boys to haul it out of there for you. Might take a few days, if that’s alright?”
“That would be fine, I’m going to need a few days to get the supplies I need to clean it up.” She ran a hand down one of the carved columns.
“It seems to be in fairly good shape, it just needs some elbow grease and attention.”
“Don’t we all Miss, don’t we all.” He chuckled and inclined his balding head towards the front of the store. “If you’ll follow me, we’ll get your address and information for delivery and then you can be on your way.”
As they wrote up the sale Keri surprised herself when she gave the address for delivery. Not to her small, overpriced apartment in Vancouver, but to the house she’d grown up in off the coast of British Columbia, a place she hadn’t visited more than a handful of times in the past ten years. With her grandmother’s passing it had been left to her, but she’d not yet screwed up the courage to go back for more than a few hours.
As he’d noted down her address he’d frowned. “Salt Spring Island? That’s going to cost you a bit more. I didn’t expect to be sending the boys on a ferry ride.”
“It’s no problem, I expected it,” she smiled as she acknowledged the longer drive.
“Nice out there, but a bit remote for me. You’re an artist then? There seems to be an awful lot of them living out there.”
Keri laughed. “Quite a few, but I’m not one of them. At least, not yet. I like working with wood though.”
Alistair’s mind stirred, shaking off the darkness for a moment as something brushed past his awareness. He’d been dreaming for what felt like an eternity, adrift in the void so long he wasn’t sure if he could feel anything anymore. But there was something, no; there was
out there, her energy felt as light as a gossamer web as brushed over his awareness again. He pushed at the magic that bound him and felt it give a little.
“I am here.” He directed the thought towards the unknown woman whose spirit called out to him.
Alistair felt the connection grow stronger and a sizzling bolt of heat surged through him as somewhere out there, the source of the energy reached out and touched his prison. He gathered what remained of his power and pushed again, harder than he’d dare attempt in decades.
The magic wavered, weakening once more and Alistair put all his effort into slamming one last message through the crack before it could seal him off again. “Help me.” He cried into the darkness before he fell asleep again, exhausted. This time though, he dreamed of a nameless woman whose soul called out to him so strongly he could feel her even through the magic that had imprisoned him for more than two centuries.
Keri stood on the deck of the Skeena Queen ferry, the wind tangling her hair as she watched them approach the harbor and her new home. “What am I doing?” She asked herself, the wind stealing away the words as she glanced back at her little hatchback, crammed to the roof with the material summary of her life. “Not much to show for a lifetime.” It had been almost too easy to make the move back to Salt Spring, she hadn’t realized just how tenuous her connections to her old life had been. A few phone calls and the rental of a storage locker for her larger furnishings and she was free to leave, just like that. She didn’t let herself spend too long thinking about what that meant about the current state of her life. What counted was that she was starting fresh.
Driving out of the harbor she’d been amazed at how many people crowded the area, tourists and summer residents swelling the local population far past its usual number. She made her way to the house, pleased to note that the neighbors had been taking care of the garden, just as they promised. As she drove in the gate the scent of lavender greeted her and she knew she was home.
The bungalow was just the same as it always had been, a bit older perhaps, the paint fading a little, the garden not as tidy as her grandmother would have kept it. Keri felt her spirit lift as her feet hit the gravel lined path to the front door. Inside things were just as she had left them, the furniture shrouded in old sheets, a light layer of dust on everything and a hint of stale must in the air. She threw open the windows and doors and started to unpack.
She had spent the next two days cleaning and organizing things, throwing herself into the manual tasks with enjoyment. She reclaimed every inch of the house from dust and neglect, the scent of pine-sol and wood polish oddly comforting as she worked.
By the time the delivery van had lumbered up the lane to her new home, Keri was ready. The two men were burly, friendly sorts who had clearly enjoyed the leisurely journey to the island and were in good spirits as they had introduced themselves to Keri before beginning to unload her new project.
The bed had been broken down into pieces, and they’d been careful with every part, easing the awkward frame through the bungalow’s narrow hallway and down to the master bedroom as Keri watched, eager to get started. “Can I offer either of you a glass of lemonade in thanks?” She’d offered as they settled the last piece into an empty corner.
“Sounds good to me.” They’d chimed in, in unison.
She’d poured them both a glass and then joined them in the bedroom, looking at the pieces with her first inkling of concern. “It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle.”
“Not to worry Miss, it’s relatively easy.” The older of the two men had taken another swallow of lemonade and set it aside, moving to where the pieces were settled. “You see this here? Simple tongue and groove set up. This bed was made to last, and they did it without screws or nails.” He rested a hand atop one of the columns.
“We’ve laid it out roughly in the right order; you just need to fit them together again. Nice bit of craftsmanship here, you got yourself an amazing piece.”
“Thank you.” She felt her worry ease as his explanation allowed her to visualize how the bed would go back together again. It had been beautiful back in the dim shadows of the shop, but here in her bright and cheery bedroom it was even more amazing than she remembered.
Amazing, And a whole lot bigger.
She’d taken measurements before she’d left the shop and known it would take a king sized mattress to fill the massive frame, but even that knowledge hadn’t prepared her for how much room it took up, or how much work it was going to take to restore it to its former glory. As she walked the men back to their truck and saw them off, she drove her doubts away. “It’s mine, bought with my own money and with no one’s input but my own, and I will make this work.”
She gathered up her supplies and crouched beside the headboard, it was time to get started. She went over every inch with a soft brush and a gentle cleanser, cleaning away decades of dirt and grime. It was painstaking work, but every time she looked up she could see the progress she had made and it inspired her to keep going. Seated on the hardwood floors of her bedroom with her back aching and the taste of dust in her throat, she let her mind drift as her hands worked.
It had been a hard year, first there had been the divorce, and then her Gran’s death. She’d been trapped in an emotional free fall; struggling to keep herself afloat while everything she had built her life around had been torn away.
Her heart panged as she thought of her dead marriage. She’d tried so hard to be everything Brent wanted, she’d starved herself while cooking him fantastic meals, worn the clothes he liked, kept his house and entertained his friends and co-workers at the parties he’d love to host.
She’d done everything he’d ever asked of her, but in the end it hadn’t been enough, she hadn’t been enough. Their lawyers had carved up the life they’d shared and called it a day, and then Brent had carved up her heart by marrying again, only a month after their divorce had been finalized.
She’d heard about it from friends, a destination wedding in Jamaica, a three month honeymoon in Europe. All the places he’d never wanted to take her, he had taken his new wife instead. She scrubbed harder, the wood gleaming under her fingers. “His new, younger, silicon enhanced wife.” She muttered aloud. “Everything you’ll never be.”
Her eyes burned and stung and she realized she was crying. She hadn’t cried in almost a year, wouldn’t let herself give in to the temptation. There’d been too much too do to give in to tears and grief. Now though, she had time. She let the tears fall, scrubbing them into the wood as she grieved for what she’d lost.