“Daniel did wonder about how absolutely bizarre Kate always had been. As a child you simply accept whatever is presented to you as an obvious truth and for Kate to live in an abandoned house deep in the woods and to be wearing this bizarre full-cover outfit even during the heat of summer was something Daniel had simply accepted as part of who she was. She was just Kate being Kate. Now, as an adult, Daniel approached her with a sense of skepticism. Despite all these oddities of Kate, Daniel was glad that at least he had a friend that would believe him no matter how bizarre his story may be or how little evidence he had to support it other than his word and a small scratch that it had happened.
Instead of sitting, Kate paced back and forth nervously in front of Daniel as she forced him to recount every detail of the encounter in pristine detail. Once he got to his arm, she asked to see it and he obediently held it out for her to see that there was nothing to be seen and hence he had no proof. She peered at it through her sunglasses for a little bit before sadly saying “Daniel, with these glasses I can’t see anything of note. Now, I have no choice but to reveal to you what I have been wanting to tell you for a very long time. Well, if there is any consolation it is that at least I can be here for you now and you know me well enough that perhaps our relationship can survive this.” Kate stopped and took a deep breath and said “Perhaps, I can survive this.”
Kate stood in front of Daniel deep in thought. She nodded slowly. “Daniel, would you at least say we are friends?” Daniel nodded “Yes, definitely.” Kate continued “Daniel, I have known you since you were a little child. Now you are a grown man. Has my appearance changed any while you have known me?” Daniel shook his head. He had been wondering the same the night before but now wanted to give Kate the benefit of the doubt. Daniel said “It’s hard to say though, Kate, I don’t really see much of you with the hat and glasses and such.” Kate smiled slightly “Yes, they were necessary for me but now they are no longer useful but instead are a hindrance.”
Daniel asked “What do you have to show me?” Kate nodded “A great deal. In fact, it is a bit scary but let me explain something to you first. These things have tagged you. Think like when natural scientists radio-tag an animal. Here they have tagged you in a way that you can’t see and can’t remove.” Kate crouched in front of Daniel and grabbed his hand with one of her gloved hands “Daniel. This is critical. They did this for a reason. They will come back for you. I have an idea as to what they want from you and, even though it doesn’t necessarily require you to die, once they have obtained what they want your life will mean nothing to them. If they get what they want, I shudder to think of the implications not just for you….”
Kate paused, swallowed hard and continued reluctantly “…but also for the galaxy.”
Daniel started to get nervous. Who the hell was Kate anyhow? Was she one of them?
Daniel started to pull away. Kate continued “You don’t believe me and that is fine. That is why I have to show you this. But, please do just two things for me. First, just keep telling yourself that this is Kate your friend and what you see of me does not change anything.” Daniel was perturbed but obedient “Ok, and what’s the second?” Kate raised back up to standing in front of him “Try your absolute best to not run away in terror.” She said.
Daniel was still confused but now curiosity was beginning to over-rule his hesitance. Daniel nodded and said “Ok, yes, you are Kate and we have been friends for a long time. I am not afraid of you.”
Kate looked a little relieved “Ok, just keep repeating that to yourself. I’ll do this slowly so as to not shock you too badly.”
Kate took off her hat. It would be hard to call what was on top of her head ‘hair’. It was flat black fronds looking more like seaweed than hair. As her hat was removed, Daniel noticed that the hair moved. At first he thought it was just floating up under static or something but then it stayed in the air and wiggled around. Daniel gasped as he quickly understood the truth.
Kate was from really far away…
Daniel held up the thilihear, “I guess that explains this.” He said. Kate smiled “Yes, sorry I lied about NASA. I never worked for your space administration. I have, however, spent a great deal of time in space.”
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Jess has only been here for two and a half weeks and my resolve is already starting to thin. I thought I would be able to do this. It was a simple plan. Jess would move in. We would still hang out like always. She would go about her normal activities and I’d do the same. Only, plans aren’t quite working out that way. We no longer have school and we don’t start work until the end of summer. As a result of these two things, we spend so much more time together now than before. From the moment she stepped through the doors of this apartment, it was over. Who would’ve thought that going over house rules would be so hard and stimulating. I was fine up until the moment she touched my thigh. Sure she’s touched me before; but it was always so innocent, playful and from the waist up. This particular touch, although innocent to her, was anything but for me. I have never in my lifetime, been so turned on by the mere touch of her hand; or anyone else’s hands. She doesn’t know it, but that touch sparked something in me that I’ve been holding back for years. She struts around here in her tiny shorts and tank tops at night; those legs of hers sweeping out from beneath them. I try to be the respectful best friend. I pretend I don’t notice, but a guy can only take so much. I’m noticing things about her I’ve never noticed before. I thought I knew everything about her. I’m quickly finding out that there is so much more to Jess than I realized and I want to know it all.
I don’t think I can hold back any longer. Having her under the same roof with me day and night, it’s just a matter of time before I do something stupid to chase her away. So my heart has decided that instead of fighting what I feel for her, I’m going to win her over. There’s still our friendship that I have to consider. Which means I have to make a plan. I have to take this slow. I have to make sure she falls for me before she realizes how deeply I’ve fallen for her already. Slow and steady always wins the race right? That’s what I’m going for...the win.
June 15, 1865
Lily sat on her horse looking intently south, up the valley. The mountains blocking their path to the west, endless prairies as far as the eye could see behind them. They had joined a large wagon train at Fort Laramie and were into their second day on the Oregon Trail. The train was turning right, headed to the north, away from the valley and toward the mountain passes discovered by the mountain men decades before.
“What’s this valley called?” Lily asked the scout riding alongside.
“Doesn’t have a name I know of, ma’am. Maybe Chugwater? I’ve heard some call it that after Chugwater Creek way up the valley,” pointing to the south and east of where they sat.
“How far to Denver City from here?”
“Denver City’s about due south of here, ma’am. If you were a bird, you could fly there in a little less than two hundred miles.”
“Thanks. And the name’s Lily, not ma’am. Lily Smoot.”
She trotted over to the wagon. Gus was driving. John swaying up and down in a Cheyenne cradleboard on his back. Lincoln was riding alongside. As in the previous train, he had taken the job of getting children up and down the back of the wagon to ride with Auggy the bear.
“This is it, Gus,” she said.
“Look all around. This is the valley Iliff told us about. The greatest ranchland ever.”
The two men looked around at the gentle hills to the base of the mountains, the trees green in the few creek beds to the south of them. A sea of ravines hidden among the hills all the way to the looming mountains in the western distance.
“Must be quite a sight when it’s covered with buffalo,” Lincoln said.
“It’d be an even better sight covered with our cattle,” Gus said.
“Iliff told us we wouldn’t last a week up here,” Lincoln said. “The Cheyenne and Sioux aren't even crazy about the wagon trains headed west through here, but they’ve agreed to give them free passage as long as nobody stays.”
As if on cue, two of the scouts trotted over.
“Gus,” one of them said. “Craziest thing. There’s a group of Indians approached us from the west when we made the turn to the north. The scouts said they came in peace. They asked if we had a wagon with a big black bear on it.”
Lily looked out to the west. Toward the magnificence of the mountains. And Mount Laramie towering over all. On a hill above the pattern of threaded ravines, about two miles away, she could just make out a small group that looked to be two of the wagon train’s scouts with three Indians.
“What’d you tell them?” Gus asked.
“I said we’d go look and see.”
“You got anybody who’ll drive our wagon for a while?” Gus asked.
“Sure. You going out to see what they want.”
“We know what they want,” Lily said.
“Oh, honey, we're fine. Your dad is watching TV with Emily. I'm working on another blanket for Carol. Since my son isn't doing his part to give me more grandbabies.”
Less than a minute on the phone and already she’d managed to chastise him for not having kids. The woman was diabolical. “Mom—”
“Everett, the shower is all yours—oh! Sorry.” Corrine stopped when she noticed him on the phone.
But not before his mother heard her voice. “Oh, honey, did I hear a woman in the background?”
“Yeah, Mom, but—”
“Who is she? Are you dating? Do you have a girlfriend I don't know about?”
“She's…” He glanced up to her. She mouthed an apology. She glowed with freshly scrubbed pink skin while rubbing her hair with a towel. Her trim legs were showcased in short yoga shorts, a tank top, and no bra. He cleared his throat “…a friend.” He winked at her.
“What friend, honey? You didn't tell me about bringing a friend on your trip.”
“I wasn't aware at thirty-three I still had to clear my friends with you,” he said before he could think about how his words sounded.
Now, curled onto the love seat, Corrine choked on a sip of wine.
“Don't take that tone with me, young man.”
“Mom, I’m sorry. I didn't mean—”
“You've always been a good boy.”
“Well, other than the time you ordered three hundred dollars of porn on pay-per-view.”
He winced. Now he and Corrine were even with the embarrassing stories. When he dared to meet her eyes, he found her with her mouth agape, eyes wide. Could a hole just open up and swallow him now. “Mom! Listen!”
“You're on speaker. Say hello to Corrine Anderson. Corrine, meet my mother Barbara Harden.”
“Oh, hello, sweetheart! I'm Everett's proud mama.”
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Harden.”
“None of that Mrs. Harden business. Call me Barbara. I insist. I apologize for the porn talk. I hope you won't think any less of my son. He was fourteen, after all, and fourteen-year-old boys have one hand in the fridge and the other in their underwear. My son was no diff—”
Everett scrambled for the end button, and for the first time ever in his life, he hung up on his mother. He braced his elbows on his knees, holding his head in his hands, and heard Corrine try to suppress a giggle.
“It wasn't that bad.”
“How nice of you to lie to make me feel better, but we both know that was the equivalent of having your breasts out at the water park.”
“A simple vow for a complicated fate. Life and love proven through blood and flame. Choices changing destinies on a dime.”
After slaying the dragon and “rescuing” Olivia, Crown Prince Magnus will settle for no one but her as his bride - his final challenge to overcome before becoming King Magnus, Dragon Slayer.
Through trials of blood, fire, and death, Kaden has broken the curse confining him to a dragon’s form for over a century. With fire brewing inside him, he struggles to reach his beloved Olivia in time to save her - and his own sanity.
Unsure of the fate of her dragon, Olivia is consumed with grief. She consents to wed the prince in order to save the lives of her family. His advances push her to take her destiny into her own hands.
But deep in the woods trouble stirs, as an old enemy seeks to rectify a curse broken. The prize of a life earned must be stripped away again… permanently.
I was in an accident right after high school. The Saturday after graduation, my best friend Clarissa was driving us to an end of school year party at a classmate’s house. We never made it. I don’t know what caused the accident. I was in a coma for over a month. When I woke up my parents were the first faces I saw. I was so out of it. At first I was disoriented and confused. I didn’t know where I was or how I ended up there. No one would tell me anything. I wasn’t allowed to watch television or listen to the radio. I guess they didn’t want to overexert me and send me into panic mode. I remained in the hospital for a week after I woke. The doctors put me through a series of extensive tests during the week. Physically I was fine with the exception of a few scars from cuts and bruises caused by the accident. Mentally...I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. When I was released and my parents took me home. That’s when they decided it was time I learned what happened; or at least what they knew from the accident reports. I sat quietly and stunned listening to them recount the events that happened after the accident. The reports said our car was found off a curve down in a ravine. There was no indication of foul play and our blood alcohol levels were clean. They couldn’t conclusively say what exactly could have caused it. I was found unconscious and immediately taken to the hospital. Clarissa was pronounced dead at the scene.
Later that evening John sat on his porch and looked out at the ocean as the sun was setting. Clouds spotted the sky, which in the light, seemed to have a silver lining. Jake, Johns moody old cocker spaniel moseyed around in the sand digging holes and eyeing the birds that flew over him suspiciously. On the table, next to John sat his pad and a steaming cup of coffee with a metal thermos next to it. This was how John spent most of his evenings and was quite happy about that. It was peaceful and it always gave him time to think about Elizabeth and days gone by.
His house, their home, was one of the first on this stretch of the coast back in the 1970’s. Over time others were added, some gaudier than the others but for the most part John enjoyed his neighbor’s half of which lived in other places and had the ones here as their vacation home. With fall approaching the sightseers which flocked to this area from all over were mostly gone and John, like many other local residents, enjoyed the peace and quiet. He looked down at his fire pit, briefly thinking of starting one but decided it wasn’t worth the effort tonight. He leaned back in his chair and sipped his coffee. Just then the silence was broken by a child’s laugh.
He craned his neck and saw his neighbors from 3 houses down walking down the beach with their dogs. They were a nice family and had a wonderful story. John and his wife knew the man and his son when it was just the two of them, but now a sweet woman holding a 2-year-old toddler joined them. Elizabeth adored the younger woman, but never met the toddler.
The man waved to John as they walked near the water’s edge. He responded with a polite nod of the head and a little wave. He wouldn’t have minded if they stopped to talk but that neighbor loved privacy as much as John did and respected his. John looked over at Jake and saw him watching the other dogs. “Leave ‘em alone boy. You're a bit old for rough housing with the pups.” John said. The old, blonde cocker spaniel looked at his master and seemed to understand. Instead of running across the beach he just rolled around in the warm sand.
John poured more coffee from the thermos into his cup and looked down at the pad of paper. He picked up the pen and began writing.
My dearest Lizzy,
You would think after this much time living on the beach that our dog Jake would realize his holes always get filled up with sand as soon as he digs them. He tries regardless and I can appreciate the effort. Some things are worth going after no matter how many times you must try. You taught me that. I’m just sitting here on the deck watching the sunset and it made me think of you. It made me wonder if I could have treasured all those sunsets we shared together even more than I did; if that’s even possible. Those times ended too soon my dearest.
Do you remember the first sunset we ever saw together? Of course, you do but it's still nice to talk about I think. It was my birthday, the middle of January and pretty damn cold up in Seaside but it was still nice. It was the first time you let me hold your hand. 40 years later and the first sand dollar you found is still on the mantle above the fireplace. I find myself looking at it, thinking about our younger days. Despite the fact you were taken too soon I consider it a miracle that you ever came into my life. Our life together was a miracle. You were mine.
Yes, I’m feeling sappy. I’m just a man who misses the love of his life more than he knows how to bare.
The sun is down now and the sky is beautiful and filled with the leftover light of reds, yellows, and pinks. I’m hoping as always that you are somewhere watching the same sunset as I am so we can still share them in some mystical, magical way. I think there might be a game on tonight.
Your ever-loving husband,
The old, beat-up Chevy pickup came to an abrupt stop about a foot from the back of Ruby’s prized Jeep. She scowled with disapproval as the driver shoved open the door and dropped to his booted feet before the engine even had a chance to shut off.
"Help you, miss?" he asked, with a slow, deep twang, wiping the dirt from his hands with a handkerchief he’d pulled from his back pocket.
She squinted against the midday sun a little harder now as his voice rang a touch familiar. She watched him for an over-long moment, the mother cat twisting her lithe body around his legs in greeting. Sweat glistened on his tanned, muscular arms as he bent to pick up the kittens that came out to join their mother.
She smiled. There had to be something special about a man who elicited the love of animals. He was at least six foot two, and built like he could lift a hundred pounds straight over his head with no problem at all. A smudge of dried mud followed the line of his strong, stubbled jaw. He could be the most handsome man Ruby had ever seen. Not a sophisticated, city kind of handsome. More a Russell Crowe, gladiator, kind of handsome.
The irritated scowl returned to his face after he put the tiny, tabby kittens down, almost like he’d just remembered he wasn’t pleased about being pulled away from something important. This made him all the more interesting. Part of Ruby was glad she'd been such a bother. The day just became more intriguing.
“They’re adorable. And they seem to like you.” She tried to break the awkward silence.
Curious, soulful green eyes peered out from under his dusty Stetson hat. He gazed first at her well-worn Justin cowboy boots, then slowly up her long legs to the khaki shorts, pausing momentarily at the denim shirt she had tied loosely around her waist, showing just a hint of pale skin. His gaze stopped momentarily at the mess of red-blonde hair she’d pulled away from her face, before he finally met her eyes.
Ruby held her giggle as he finished his perusal, not wanting to make him self-conscious since she’d recognized him. Billy MacCallister. Had to be. My, how he’d grown from the runny-nosed brat who used to follow her around so many years before. He’d been the pain-in-the-butt, kid brother of her best friend.
But, this grown up Billy MacCallister was a whole different creature. Mercy, he’s definitely a full grown man now. Ranch life looks good on him.
"So," Ruby avoided his eyes to keep him at a disadvantage for just a bit longer. She reached down to pet the dogs again, calming them. "How's your sister these days, Billy?"
He stopped wiping the dirt from his jeans and searched to get a better look at her face.
"What's the matter, Billy? Think you're seeing a ghost?" A smile crossed her lips.
"Ruby?" he asked, quietly at first then louder. "Ruby?" This time with unashamed excitement. Billy took two long-legged strides toward her, tilting his hat to get a better look. "Well, look at that, it is you."
Before Ruby had a chance to respond, he lifted her off the step and twirled her around, not caring at all that she now wore half the dirt he once had all over him.
The enticing scent of musk shampoo, salty sweat, and horses swirled around her, drawing her in. How could a man smell that good after working in the mud? It took all her strength to keep from leaning in and making a fool of herself. He smelled like home to her and she had to admit, it felt good to be held.
"Billy, good grief, put me down." She tugged at her shirt to keep it down, embarrassed. The pups jumped up, anxious now to play, as Ruby tried to gain composure. Not an easy task when being twirled around by a handsome cowboy.
"Ruby Lattrell, it’s so good to see you. How the hell are you?” The honest joy in seeing her poured from him. “Oh my God, you look fantastic!" He set her down and brushed the hair away from her face, looking her over now with those same hungry eyes he'd had as a love-struck kid.
She glanced away, self-conscious. When she finally mustered the courage to gaze up at him, she couldn't help but return his infectious smile. There was no worry there, or pretense. The tiny lines around his joy-filled eyes showed only that he knew how to smile. How to laugh. Something she’d forgotten how to do a long time ago.
"Well, that’s certainly more of a welcome than I expected." She stepped back to get some space and a better look at him. He had to be coming up on thirty now. Strapping. Still driving his mom crazy with that unruly chestnut hair tucked behind his ears, no doubt. Same innocent, broad smile that held secrets.
He continued talking and following her every move, anxious to know everything all at once. Where had she been? How had she stayed so perfect? Finally, he realized she hadn’t said a word. He stopped then, smiled that secret smile again, his eyes slowly filling with concern. "Ruby, I'm sorry I'm just going on. How are you? Are you all right? Oh Lord, I'm so sorry about your grandmother."
Ruby flushed when he caught her staring. "Oh, I ah, I'm fine. Thank you, though. I can’t believe she is gone. This place will be really weird without Granny Rube here." She took a step back toward the door, gathering herself, hoping she'd find the key in the usual hiding place so she could make a graceful exit.
"You don't act fine." He caught up with her, supporting her elbow like a real southern gentleman. "Let's get you inside."
Ruby didn't protest. She kind of liked the fuss he made. This was someone she'd known for nearly all her life. It felt good to know he'd missed her.
"Just wait till Claudie finds out you're home. She's going to just die." He reached behind the rusted iron pot for the key and turned it in the lock. "She's not living out here anymore. She's got a place in town. Married a nice city guy who moved here from Arizona, Mike Calloway. They bought old Fike's Market and fixed it up real nice. Doing real well with it. She likes living in town so much better than out here." He kept talking as he closed the door behind them.
The familiar smells of the house hit Ruby first, distracting her from what Billy was saying. Gingerbread cookies, Pledge furniture polish giving off an ever-present hint of lemon.
Ruby stopped in the entry, closed her eyes, and visualized her mother and Granny Rube laughing in the kitchen, handmade aprons tied around their waists, shoving cookies in that old Wedgewood oven, sharing private giggles.
Ruby stood for a long while as she replayed the memories over in her mind, only vaguely aware Billy had gone silent and held a supportive hand at the small of her back.
"Welcome home, Ruby," he whispered, his sweet eyes searching hers.
She didn't know why, but just then she couldn't keep herself from turning and wiping the dust from his cheek, feeling more true compassion from this one understanding look than she'd ever felt before.
"Thanks, Billy." She realized suddenly her eyes filled with tears. "Thanks for making me feel so welcome. I'm glad to be home."
She felt as if she’d stepped back in time. She was just a teenager when she left home almost two decades ago. Nearly everything in the house remained in the same place. The fireplace room still held the same worn velvet couches and mahogany side tables. The faded ivy wallpaper she'd helped Granny hang curled at the corners where moisture and age had gotten to the glue. The heirloom rug passed from her grandfather's family, now worn and fraying around the edges.
The same photos capturing a more innocent time continued to be displayed on the dusty river-rock mantle. Yellowed images of Granny Rube's parents looked too small and frail to have endured such a rough pioneer life. Next to that picture, Ruby saw the photo of her Grandpa Mac, taken only days before he was trampled to death by his prized bull, Heathen.
Ruby picked up the tarnished frame and held it close, realizing only now how handsome a man her grandfather had been, tall and lanky, his deep set eyes full of the devil. Reminded her of her mother.
"Granny used to say it served him right to get taken by the one beast on the ranch that was ornerier than him." Ruby wiped the dust from the frame and replaced it back on the mantle in the exact place it was before. "Momma told me Granny put Heathen down herself with a twelve-gauge shotgun the night he killed Grandpa Mac, but I still don't know if that's true. She had such a flair for the dramatic, it was hard to tell fact from fantasy."
"Your granny was a good woman, Ruby," Billy finally offered, a measure of respect in his voice. "Always remember that. She helped me out more times than I can count."
"I'm just sad I missed so many years with her. All I have are old memories of how things used to be. Silly stuff like, I remember when she calmed Jake and me during those hell-raising thunderstorms, and chased us into the pond when we were driving everyone nuts because we were so bored." Ruby turned away from the photos and took in the room once again. "She always had time for us. I can't believe I let her die alone."
There comes a point in everyone's life when they realize the fairy tales they have been told are nothing but lies. A little something to help you hide from the cold darkness of the real world. Ellie learned that lesson both, early, and hard. She let go of fairy tales a long time ago. Ellie stopped believing in happily ever after and embraced that darkness. Monsters, on the other hand, she knew were quite real. The world was full of big bad wolves.
There were rampaging beasts. Horrible, cruel, and twisted freaks that had no thought for human life. Devils, who delighted in the pain they caused. Savage fiends who destroyed those tiny pockets of light, of hope, that still by some miracle managed to survive in this bleak existence. Oh yes, there was evil in the hearts of men, and all of them wear human faces.
The past eight months had been quite an eye opening experience for Elliot Jo Fredricks. She experienced pain, both physical and emotional. She cowered in fear so powerful that it gripped her heart and paralyzed her at times. The cold rock of regret still sat in the pit of her stomach. She also felt love, and that taught her just because you're a monster, doesn't necessarily make you a bad person.
Ellie sat in the dark confines of the stolen Cherokee with the creature responsible for each of those lessons. Snowflakes whipped in the car's headlights. The wind blew hard, rocking the SUV, pushing it toward the center of the deserted road. The whistling sound of it ripped through the trees. Vincent took his eyes off the passing scenery to glance at her. His eyes roiling like approaching storm clouds. He touched her hand. Ellie laced her fingers between his and gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. The shadows pushed in around them.
Vincent leaned in close, those swirling grey eyes dancing over her face. She smiled through her pain and touched her other hand to the side of his face. Slathered in dried blood, it flaked in places. The contrast made his skin look so pale in comparison. Vincent pressed a gentle kiss against her mouth. A brush of silken lips nothing more. Ellie moved wrong and winced with the ache of it. Vincent hated seeing her like this.
Bruises covered the side of her adorable, heart shaped face. They spilled over her right eye, her high cheekbone, a bit of the side of her button nose. Blood dripped from a nasty cut that peeked out of her hairline. Her long blond hair was falling out of the ponytail she wore. Vincent carefully pulled it free of the rubber band. Let it fall snarled with a few clumps of dried blood over her slender shoulders.
He gathered it, guiding it around the right side of her neck. Vincent pulled her coat open gazing in at the gunshot wound in her shoulder. It was bleeding again. The bandage covering the six-inch long cut on the outside of her thigh was holding well. Only a few half dollar sized circles of blood had seeped through. She was a mess. Vincent frowned. He looked up at the scenery flying by them. They were almost there thankfully.
Vincent caught himself staring at her. He still wasn't used to the fact that she was his. That she chose him. Couldn't get past that not only did she let him touch her without cringing in fear. Ellie demanded he lay his hands on her. Things had certainly changed within the past few months. He ran his thumb across the back of her palm, over her knuckles. The softness of her skin sent a thrill down his spine.
“You need another pain shot?” he asked in earnest, reaching across the tattered seat for her blood stained and ripped black backpack.
Ellie blinked large, apple green eyes with a ring of licking gold around her pupils. “Are you kidding, you pump me full of more of that stuff and I'll go into a coma,” she said through clenched teeth. Moving just that tiny bit sent fire curling in her chest.
“Kind of the point,” Vincent said. His thick brows came down between his lovely gray eyes in a deep V shape.
Ellie held his gaze, chewing her lip thoughtfully. Vincent sighed. He could play this game too, be just as childish, as stubborn. No. He had to take that back. There wasn't anyone he had ever known that could be quite as stubborn as Ellie. “I can barely see as it is, Vincent,” she told him. “I need to be able to aim my gun in case any of the mercs followed us.”
Even the sharp jolts that made it through the drugs couldn't stop her from flying high. Her brother was safe, sitting in the driver's seat. After eight months of dread, spilled blood and death, they had saved him. They tore him free of the vile hospital that took him from her. Experimented on him, and infected him. They turned him into a monster, not unlike the man she had come to love. The man Ellie curled comfortably against.
“You really think they're going to follow us, Squirt? You blew that place to hell,” Edward said looking at her in the rearview mirror. He gave his almost shoulder length, wheat colored hair a flip. “Take the shot, Elliot. You won't let me take you to a damned hospital take the shot.”
Ellie frowned. Happy as she was to have him out of there Edward’s need to take control was seriously getting on her nerves. After everything that happened, he seemed to think the world would fall right back into the line it followed before those mercenaries busted down their front door and stole him away from her.
Their lives were different now. She was different now. Changed irrevocably by the things she had seen. The things she'd done.
Opening my eyes, I was relieved to see that tonight’s dream was a romantic veranda overlooking a Hawaiian beach and the ocean, and I was curled up in an exquisitely comfortable chair. The salty smell of the surf was pleasant and candles stood everywhere, their flames dancing in the warm night. The stars and the moon were shining brightly, gracing the terrace with an iridescent glow as the breeze flitted softly over my skin, tugging at my buttery-smooth silver gown and my free-flowing hair.
With a thought, a small table appeared near me with a bottle of red wine and a crystal goblet. Sighing in happiness and relief, I poured a glass and sat back, fully intending to relax until something popped up in the corner of my eye.
Entering dreamland had always been a mostly pleasant experience for me, and was usually my escape from the world. Since my powers blossomed on my eighteenth birthday, I had been able to control my dreams except for one little thing…
“Ian!” I screeched at the tall, dark, devastatingly handsome and yet loathsome man who had plagued my dreams at least once a night for five years. My subconscious loved to terrorize me with dreams of him, and though I had often tried to change them, it hardly ever worked.
“Hello, Alexandra. Took you long enough.” A slow smile spread across his lips and I shivered. No one should ever look that good, especially not him.
“Fuck you!” I spat the words at him as I gulped the wine and placed a ring of candles around him with a flick of my wrist, their flames shooting up more than seven feet in the air, effectively imprisoning him. Goddess, it felt good to do that!
“Alexandra, stop being childish. We need to talk.” Ian’s stern tone almost made me obey him out of habit but instead I shook my head, even as his eyes flashed dangerously at me. He crossed his arms over his form-fitting black t-shirt, which hid a tightly muscled chest. I barely stopped myself from drooling. Each time he appeared, he looked even more delicious than I remembered.
“I don’t think so, Ian. This is not childish. What’s childish is my subconscious tormenting me with dreams of you, or you running away and leaving me hanging for five years - don’t you think?” I snapped at him.
Oh, great, I was taunting Dream Ian again. You’d think I’d learn, but I guess not.
The candles around him went out with a whoosh as he strode determinedly to my chair and picked me up, silencing my shrieks and protests with a kiss.
I whimpered against his mouth as his tongue invaded, seeking mine. I wrapped my arms tightly around him. This was the only benefit of having this asshole in my dreams: because he made me feel like no other could, even when we clashed. Although it was just a dream, I melted like butter when his hot flesh touched mine.
Everything starts with little girls.
This little girl was walking down a white dirt farm road one day in June 1954. Her slender shadow was just twice her height. And it crossed the road in a westerly direction, reaching out nearly to the irrigation ditch that ran alongside. A single thick braid was bouncing up and down on her back. The braid was stiff and damp, for the little girl had just been swimming at the big Vanducci house on the hill. Plomp, plomp, plomp went her bare brown feet in the warm soft dirt, little puffs of dust blowing up in her track to settle slowly in the windless air.
Cradled in her long skinny arms she had a big nervous fighting cock with beady eyes. She’d found him by the side of the road just a moment before. And she was very happy to have met him there, for she’d had no idea that he had escaped from his pen in her mama’s backyard. The cock was brown and gold and purple. His feathers shone in the sun. He turned his head all the time, fast and jerky from side to side. Her eyes were like the bird’s eyes, black and darting. She turned her head like him too, looking everywhere.
Her name was Selena Cruz.
Surrounding her were vast fields of alfalfa, tomatoes, and sugar beets, cut through with irrigation canals and county roads, sliced like adobe cakes into gigantic squares. The valley was green where it was planted, brown where it was fallow, and wide: fifty miles from the yellow Diablo Range, which rose up directly behind her, to the blue Sierras on the horizon. Lengthwise its dimensions were beyond her imagination: five hundred miles from Red Bluff in the north to Bakersfield in the south.
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An Unbidden Visitor by Dianne Ascroft Narrator: Elizabeth Klett Published by Self-published on 11-21-17 Genres: Fiction , Historical Length: 32 mins Source: Audiobookworm Buy on
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