Masquerade, By Kayden McLeod
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Genre: Erotic Paranormal Romance (Werewolves, Vampires and Zombies)
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Heat-Rating: Three Flames, Boiling
What lies behind the façade isn’t always what it seems
Abigail claimed the land of North Vancouver as her own, sharing it only with a clan of vampires, the Jericho Coven, who accepted the werewolf into their territory without qualm. Within their numbers is one, Cyrus Jericho; a suave, brooding vampire who isn’t quite as he appeared. He declares Abigail for his own the moment they meet, despite the fact that another werewolf pack is in British Columbia looking to claim Abigail into their midst, no matter what they must do to see that goal complete.
Nightmares always had a way of instilling fear, even in the bravest of folk.
Abigail knew, in theory, dreams every now and then meant something, but she had no clue how this scene pertained to her, short of giving her a healthy respect for her rambunctious subconscious.
It could have something to do with it being three days short of Halloween, a time when all sorts of monsters came out from under their self-imposed guises, to play under the light of the moon at midnight, the witching hour at its peak. Many of them celebrated this time of year for good reason.
The possibilities of mischief and creating unimaginable havoc would be at their peak of power and potential, though she wouldn't know much about that.
Abigail wandered a decrepit graveyard, the kind people of today never saw anymore. The unevenly cut hills, gnarled live oaks and chipped gravestones of varying heights and intricacies made her shiver in apprehension. It seemed her dream-self wasn't quite as courageous as her wakeful-self. Normally, she feared nothing, not even death. Yet the undeniable urge to cower in terror now hung over her head.
Abigail looked down to see she carried a single white rose tipped in fresh blood, a substance her subconscious mind told her she craved. This fact made little sense to her. She wasn't a vampire but something else entirely. She knew they existed and was even acquainted with a few of them, but even so, this fact didn't faze her terribly much as she continued up the unseen path.
A simple, formless black nightgown shrouded her and her bare feet allowed rocks littering the ground to cut deeply into her soles. Her thigh brushed upon a roughly hacked-up tombstone, which sliced her clean open. The heavy, humid air filled with the sickly sweet scent of her life-fluid. Her teeth and gums ached painfully, as if her canines fought to extend. Why? What…or whom was she feeling?
It surely wasn't her. It couldn't be. While many traits of hers were unusual, this was not one of them.
Her gaze darted about. The oaks were winter-bare, even though it was merely fall. The branches dipped and reached into the nothingness of the icy cold night, curling toward her in a menacing fashion.
A shuffling and then a moan caused her to lift her head, but her body would not stop to properly assess the situation like she would at any other time. A moment later, the sound of something being ripped or torn caused a foreboding she could not escape.
Just what lay out there in the darkness, waiting while she was powerless to stop herself from just meandering into its grasp?
A piercing howl, not so much different than a wolf's but just enough that Abigail knew it wasn't an everyday animal, sent an excited thrill along her erect spine.
"Even in dreams, you're going crazy. You know that?" she said softly, unable to quite bring herself to speak at a normal volume for fear of disturbing the…dead? Why would she care about such things? Alas, she remained terrified of what resided below the ground.
The soil began to slope upward toward an old granite angel with half-extended wings. It's face, stance, everything about it seemed more sinister than angelic in the shadowy light thrown from the partially cloud-covered stars which lent little comfort to her.
The left arm looked sawed off, but as she grew closer, Abigail realized someone or something had snapped it off leaving the edges not as clean as they appeared at first glance.
Abigail felt unstoppably drawn to the statue, like a magnet which pulled her bruised feet against her will. A trickle of wetness worked down her leg from the wound which throbbed with the rhythm of her heartbeat. Her breath came in ragged, hard won gasps of her terror when she thought about the unseen adversary.
Something did watch her, semi-aware of her presence just as she was of it.
Stopping in front of the statue, she reached with her free hand to touch the saintly features staring out at her in warning.
Abigail wanted to turn back, to go back to where she'd come, though the likelihood of that was close to nil. The dream had begun after her entrance to this place. Therefore she didn't know how to get out, which way to turn and run if the need arose to maintain her safety. Her instincts screamed that specific allotment of time fast approached an end.
The guttural howl sounded again, far too close; near enough that every hair on her body rose to attention at the unnerving sound.
Panic froze Abigail's breath right there in her lungs. Her blood pounded through her at an alarming pace, giving her a headache and lending a hazy quality to the scene around her.
Then a figure stumbled from behind the nearest trunk, one so incredibly wide, it was no wonder how it hid this man—or what she thought to be a man.
When he saw her standing there, displayed so vulnerably beside the broken angel, the silhouette froze in motion, foot not even touching the dead grass.
He snarled, gaze moving to the space on the ground at his side before cutting back to her. His quiescence seeped into Abigail, and she stood at his mercy. Not that there would be any. Not from him.
When he moved into the light, she shook in foreign cowardice. Somewhere, deep inside, Abigail knew him. It was truly impossible not to recognize him, even if her mind wouldn't bring up the facts associated with the creature before her.
He rushed into motion, leaping into the air. Abigail didn't so much as flinch when he landed in front of her, revealing a masquerade of "human" flesh. Whatever this thing was, it had never been as such. It certainly wasn't like her.
His long, dull hair lay upon his shoulders saturated with filth and leaves, falling around him in a disarray of stringy, dirty white. His red-rimmed blue eyes focused on Abigail and her alone, flickering with a predatory nature that grated against her own.
She felt as though he'd made a silent declaration while they maintained eye-contact, and somehow she knew he had claimed her in some form. In which context, thought, she had no idea.
Something within her flared, sparked back into being and reminded her Abigail would never be weak or compliant. This time wouldn't be any different, dream or no.
"Abigail," he called. His shallow voice grated on her nerves. In the back of her mind, the possessiveness with which he said her name angered her.
Her eyes strayed to the rounded object in his hand, a gore–stained, severely mangled skull. With little room to doubt it could be an old bone dug from the ground, she cringed. She knew this because the chunks of flesh still attached were fresh, the bone beneath luminescent in the moonlight.
Next her gaze moved to the base of the tree, and she saw the decapitated corpse there. This entity must have killed and eaten parts of it—stripping it nearly bare before her arrival.
The man was a monster, no less.
The stained clothes were enough evidence of that fact. Its garb wasn't of this time but that of olden days long since gone—a parted shirt bared a blood-coated chest, broken up with ties of blue upon ashen flesh which held the material together and tight-fitted pants flared over grimy, sodden boots.
This thing had made a real mess of its snack, something she would never do. Abigail had seen and done a great many things in her life, but this had never been among them.
Run, damn it, run! she screamed at herself. Make your feet work. Do you wish to end up like its past meal? Turn tail and get the hell out of here!
The man began to speak in a language she ill understood—or perhaps he did in fact speak English, but his growls garbled it past recognition. Eventually, though, the words became clearer to her.
"Abigail, so beautiful," he said calmly, not looking in her direction, but at whatever lay behind her.
She backed up until she collided with the nearest tombstone, stupidly pleased she could finally move of her own accord and thinking herself safe. Surely now she could escape.
"Mine." He stared pointedly at her, and she sneered in response.
"I belong to no one," Abigail snapped. As usual, her tongue got the better of her.
His eyes narrowed on her. "I beg to differ, moj ljub. I want you, and I always get what I want."
His hypnotic eyes enraptured her, for a moment, looking past the gruesome image he represented and seeing just the man.
Distraction could be a bitch. In this case, that was a definite.
The dirt burst underneath Abigail's feet, spraying up to her knees. A bare-boned hand escaped the soil and grabbed her ankle in a painful grip, joints biting into her flesh as the second arm revealed itself from the swirl of dirt.
"Abby, you will never escape me."
Reproduced with the author's permission.
Copyright Kayden McLeod 2010
All rights reserved by Silver Publishing