Authors: Victoria Rice
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Fantasy & Futuristic, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal, #New Adult & College, #Vampires, #Paranormal & Urban
Books We Love Ltd.
Copyright 2013 by Victoria Rice
Cover art by: Michelle Lee Copyright
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights unde
r copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
* * *
To my family who provide a wealth of inspiration and encouragement to follow my dreams. To Sherre and Beth, and all of you, who support and foster my muse. To Michel and Alisé, may your love reign forever.
* * *
“Though lovers be lost, love shall not; And death shall have no dominion.”
The early morning fog quietly unveiled a face, eyes wide, unseeing. The realization of what I had done surged through me like a cold poison, bathing me in a mind numbing horror.
I had killed a man.
The mist squeezed around me like a tight fist. I knelt there, my body rigid, my frantic breaths pushing at the white veil that swirled around the body like a shroud.
He blinked, once, twice, an
d then broke out into laughter.
I shrieked and fell backwards. My flashlight fell to the ground, rolling to shine on him. He continued to laugh as his body twisted and bowed, joints popping, bone rasping against bone. He stretched as if wakening from a deep sleep and rolled over onto his knees.
“Well, that was a bit of fun,” he chuckled with a smooth British accent. He gracefully got to his feet and brushed off his clothing, inspecting the damage. Muddied from the road, his blonde hair stuck up on one side like a clump of flattened weeds. His torn black t-shirt revealed a pale chest and a tear in one leg of his jeans showed a white expanse of thigh. He was young, maybe late teens.
He looked at me and grinned. “Did you happen to see which way it went?”
I screamed again, clawing at the ground to drag myself away. The heels of my tennis shoes slipped on the damp asphalt as I kicked to scramble backwards.
He put his hands on his hips. “I’ll take that as a no.
Well then, no matter. It won’t go far.” He took a few steps towards me and held out his hand. “My name’s Stephen, and yours?”
The next moment I found myself standing in front of him, steadied by his grip on my arms. I didn’t remember getting up, I didn’t remember moving. The calm feelings that w
ashed over me felt like a lie.
I stared at his eyes in fascination. His irises darkened and slowly expanded into two huge pools of black. He abruptly let go of
me and took a step back. He watched me as he ran his fingers through his hair, picking out stray bits of grass and leaves.
“Liz,” I squeaked out, not believing what I’d just seen.
“So …,” he said as he began to walk around me, his movements slow and measured, almost predatory. “How are you feeling? Any aches, any pains … anything broken?”
“No,” I said. I whirled around to face him. “I hit you with my car! You should be dead or something!” My mind couldn’t make sense of it. His clothing was torn but there wasn’t a mark on him. There should be scrapes, torn skin, or worse. There was no blood. Oh God. Was I in one of my freaky dreams or had I fallen asleep at the wheel?
I began to wobble on my feet. “Oh God …Oh God …”
“No, just me … Stephen,” he said with an angelic smile.
I stumbled backwards. My foot slid on the gravel and I almost lost my footing. “My God,” I wailed, “I’m dead!”
“You’re quite all right, not to fear … still kicking
.” He laughed. “And yes, you’re dreaming. Now Liz, did you happen to make any calls regarding our little incident?”
I shook my head and struggled to hold back tears.
“Good girl, now shall we get on with it?”
He faded into darkness,
as heavy and suffocating like a bad dream.
My car gave a couple of shudders and died. The silence was filled with the sound of its wipers screeching back and forth in time to Muse, my favorite band. Ab-so-lute-ly fucking fabulous. I had to drive all the way to Nova Scotia, Canada, to hit a deer when I could have done it back home in Iowa turning out of the driveway.
Fate had finally found me. I’d joined the club, the family curse. You weren’t an Aldridge if you didn’t have at least one hoofed beast under your belt. Whistles and reflecting lights be damned, it didn’t matter what you tried. Thank God Almighty it wasn’t in the car with me.
My cousin hadn’t been so lucky. He’d got up close and personal with one. He still claims he’s got deer shrapnel in him. He’d returned from a tour in Iraq without a scratch on him, and then two days later, nailed one on Hwy 18. He got out of it with only a couple of broken ribs and an antler in the shoulder. Go figure.
I crawled out of my car. The fog hemmed in by trees was a suffocating wall of dark grey, thick with the scent of decay, weeds and evergreens. I picked my way over crumbled asphalt and did a quick sweep of the road and ditches with my flashlight. It was quiet. Quiet was good. Quiet meant
that a crazed piece of “almost” road kill wasn’t skittering around to run right over me thinking I was the door to freedom. It also meant I wouldn’t hear its pitiful cries as it lay in the ditch thrashing in pain. A shiver of revulsion slid down my spine. Surely I had just nicked it. Yes, “optimistic” would be the “happy” word for today. I generally had one for special days with memorable moments, like this one. It was like a page-a-day desk calendar.
The passenger side of my beat-up Toyota teetered on the brink of the ditch, the front tire off the ground, the back one stuck in a couple inches of mud. Blood glistened across the crushed fender and the bumper yielded one more dent on a car riddled with them.
My parents had given me the rusted out Toyota on my sixteenth birthday. I quickly found out it had a mind of its own. It ran over anything smaller than an overweight cat, like swatting flies on the road. After the first week, I’d started notching its kills on the front bumper. To date, it proudly wore seventy-three kills, the envy of any other heap on the road. I called it the Beast. My dad had a different name for it – the Varmintnator.
I weighed my options. Tell
my parents now, give them one more reason why I should have stayed in Iowa, or, let them find out when they got the notice from the insurance company. Then when the yelling stopped, just shrug it off, no big deal.
Maybe I’d just forget to fix it. Yeah, less trouble all the way around.
A cold chill ran down my spine. At this time in the morning, there should be crickets, a couple of birds chirping it up – something. The fog tightened around me in silence, compressed by the dark walls of trees. The hair rose on the back of my neck.
A few seconds later I was in my car, doors locked and huddled behind the steering wheel. When nothing plastered itself to the window, I let out a huff. Me? A coward? Hell, if I could drive all the way to Nova Scotia for college I could certainly handle a little roadside accident.
I turned the ignition. The engine gave a few sputters and started, purring like an asthmatic cat. I sat there for a moment as the sound of the engine did its magic and calmed my nerves. I reached out to the steering wheel. A wave of dizziness washed over me and my surroundings faded.
“I’m sorry love, you are just so … fetching,” he whispered as he pulled away, the cool touch of a kiss lingering. He gazed at me through lowered lashes then picked up a strand of my hair and brushed it against his lips, gently, back and forth as if he were petting his mouth. A smile came, a soft curl of lips. I stiffened and looked back up to those fascinating eyes drowning in darkness.
“So Liz, college student … all the way from Iowa, will you remember me?”
“No, I won’t remember you Stephen,” I said. A thread of fear worked its way through my veins as his eyes continued to darken.
He sighed. “More’s the pity,” he said. He was silent for a moment then inhaled a deep breath, closing his eyes, the look of peaceful rapture on his face. He slowly exhaled and opened his eyes. “Do you remember what happened?”
“I … I ran over you?”
He quirked an eyebrow
. “Well now, I must be losing my touch.” He paused, his fathomless eyes gazing into mine. “Try again Liz. You ran over a deer.”
“A deer?” I understood his words but they didn’t make sense. “But you don’t look like a deer,” I argued.
He hitched up one side of his mouth into a wry smile. “Well then Liz, pretend you ran over a deer and you never saw me. So, what did you run over?”
“I ran over a deer.”
“Excellent,” he said approvingly. “Now what do you see on the fender of your car?”
“I see blood … blood from a deer,” I said with pride. I was good at this game.
His lips twitched in amusement. “You’re doing well Liz. Now let’s go back to your car. Someone will be by shortly to help you.” He wrapped his arm around mine and drew me towards my car. “Now don’t forget to be careful driving in this fog. I wouldn’t want you to run into another deer.”
I nodded. “Yes deer, I will be careful.”
He snorted, and then broke out into laughter.
What the hell was that? What had he said? The harder I thought about it, the more it slipped out of my head like vapor.
I closed my eyes, wishing it was
Michel who had kissed me.
Michel. I loved the sound of it, so foreign, sexy – so French. I cooed the sound of it in my mind, “Mee-shell …”
He was the perfect height to wrap all those hard muscles around me and tuck me under his chin. His hair was a thick cascade of dark brunette, almost black. It held a touch of a wave and fell just past his broad shoulders, the texture so fine it slipped through your fingers like silk. Long midnight lashes fringed warm brown eyes. His lips were full, pouty luscious. He was all male, all salty sweet.
Too bad he wasn’t real.
In my fantasy world, I was his beloved Alisé. She was feminine, soft and looked at the world as if it were a bright shiny toy. She had a stubborn, rebellious streak that got her into heaps of trouble. My role in these nightly dreams was so well scripted it was as if I looked through her eyes, heard her voice in my head, felt everything she felt, touched everything she touched, like elusive snatches of someone’s life.
I had no clue as to why the setting was a couple hundred years ago in France. Maybe Freud would have something to say about that, or maybe I just had a secret desire to rid myself of electronics and the convenience of tampons. Hmmm, no.
During the day I’d catch myself thinking of him, imagining what he might be doing, wondering if he was thinking of me. Those were the bad days, the ones where I thought I was going crazy. I’d never told anyone. Hell, I wasn’t going to let anyone know I was one fry short of a Happy Meal.
I let out a long breath, held it for a count of ten and pushed thoughts of Michel out of my mind. I wasn’t going to go all teary-eyed for missing him. God knows I’d done enough of that. The college town of St. Germaine in Nova Scotia, on the edge of the Atlantic, was to be a fresh start. Number one on the agenda was to forget him. Stomp him out of my heart, once and for all. Granted it would be a challenge since I’d dreamed about him all my life. Did I say I was crazy?
I put the car in gear but it refused to budge. One back tire whined against the slick road while the other dug deeper into the mud. I banged my forehead on the wheel a couple times then shut off the engine.
“Fu-ck-ing piece of shit!”
Oops. One did not speak derogatory comments to the Varmintnator.
I petted the dashboard. “Sorry baby, didn’t mean it. You know that, right?” I gave it a couple of noisy smooches then searched for my pink Hello-Kitty cell phone on the floorboard. It’d been given to me as a joke to match my fluffy slippers and the two t-shirts I
’d picked up in Minneapolis at a thrift store. I had a pair of Kitty underwear too. That I had not bought in a thrift store.
I found my phone hiding under the passenger seat buried under a pile of empty soda cans and a week’s worth of fast-food wrappers. I brushed it off and did my magic touch with my fingers on the glass
. I had just reached directory service when the car began to fill with a faint light. I adjusted the rear view mirror and looked behind me. Two headlights pulled up and stopped. Through the illuminated swirls of mist, a man stepped out and strolled towards me, hiking up his pants in short jerks. He appeared at my window, tapping against the glass. I rolled it down a few inches. An old man worried a toothpick like a chaw of tobacco.
like yuh need some help, eh?”
“Yeah, well, I had a run-in with,” I frowned, “… a deer. I think it ran off.”
I stuck my hand through the window. “I’m Liz.”
“Mornin’, Alby’s my name,” he grunted. He clamped his hand, thick and heavy with calluses, down on mine for a quick shake. Age crisscrossed his skin like blistered dirt in a dry creek bed. He slid a stained John Deere cap up to bare the front of his forehead and rolled his toothpick to the other side of his mouth.
I dug through the mess on the floorboard and felt around for the dumped contents of my purse. I found my mace, covered in ketchup. I licked it clean, bad choice. I reached for a crumpled brown napkin from the floor and wiped off my tongue in several quick swipes to get rid of the rancid taste. I rolled the mace on my jeans for a quick dry and polish.
Weapon in hand, I scrambled out and follow
ed him to the front of my car.
He let out a grunt when he saw the
fender, then shook his head when he saw the bumper. “It’s seen some action eh?” He bent down on his haunches, bracing himself against the scarred metal to look underneath. “Well, looks like nothin’s busted up. Yur lucky day there, eh? Lucky ya weren’t killed.” He groaned as he stood up. “Deer, ya say? Not too many of ’em this far south. Haven’t been for a couple of years.” He snorted in disgust. “Used to be all over the place like those damn rabbits.”