this is a very important business meeting," Alexandria
Houton cautioned her younger brother as she parked her beat
up Volkswagen in the large lot. Deliberately she picked a space
as far from the restaurant as she was able to find. For a moment
she rested her small hand on the curly head beside her, looked
down into bright eyes. A rush of love instantly warmed her,
pushed out the frustrated, harassed feelings. Her soft mouth
curved, revealed small, even white teeth, a melting, intriguing
dimple. "You're so grown up, Josh, I don't know why I'm
repeating myself. This is my only chance at a dream position
like this. You know we need this job, don't you?"
"Sure, Alex. Don't worry, I'll
stay around back and play with my truck." He grinned at
her, his beloved sister who had been his only parent since their
mother and father had died in a car accident before his second
"I'm sorry the baby-sitter flaked
on us. She was, umm, sick."
"Drunk, Alex," he corrected
solemnly as he gathered up his backpack and toy.
"Where in the world did you hear
such a thing?" she demanded, horrified that a six-year-old
would have to know what drunk was. She slid from the car and
carefully brushed off her one good suit. The outfit had cost
a month's income, but Alexandria regarded it as a necessary
investment. She looked far younger than her twenty-three years
and desperately needed the added confidence of a sophisticated
and expensive suit. "That's not a nice thing to say, Joshua."
He hugged his favorite toy, a worn Tonka
dump truck. "I heard you in the hallway telling her to
go home, she wasn't fit to watch over me because she was drunk."
He looked sheepish. Alexandria had specifically told him to
go to his room and instead he had listened at the door. He knew
it was an invaluable way to learn information Alexandria considered
proper only for adults.
Alexandria found herself grinning at
his mischievous up-turned face. "Big Ears. It's okay, little
buddy, we do better on our own, don't we?" She said it
with far more confidence than she felt. They lived in a rat-trap.
The boarding house was a flophouse for prostitutes, alcoholics
and drug users. Alexandria was terrified for Joshua's future.
Everything depended on this meeting.
Thomas Ivan, the genius behind the top-selling
video and computer games, primarily vampire and demon games,
was looking for a new graphic designer. Ivan had risen to the
top with his wild imagination and top story lines. He had graced
the cover of nearly every magazine that counted. Alexandria
knew she was talented, she just needed a chance. If only he
wouldn't dismiss her on her looks. He had been intrigued enough
with her samples to request a face to face meeting. It had been
shocking that he had even considered her when she was competing
with so many other talented designers.
Alexandria dragged the slim briefcase
from the car and took Joshua's hand. "It might take a long
time. You have your snacks in your backpack, don't you?"
He nodded, silky curls bobbing across
his forehead. Alexandria tightened her grip on his hand. Joshua
was everything to her, her only family, her reason for fighting
so hard to get to a better neighborhood, a better standard of
living. Joshua was a bright, sensitive, compassionate child.
Alexandria believed he deserved everything good life had to
offer and she was determined to get it for him.
She led him around the two-story building
to the back acreage covered in trees and thick brush. A path
led to the cliffs overlooking the ocean. "Don't go out
of the trees, Joshua, the edge of the cliffs are dangerous.
They can crumble right under your feet, or you could slip and
"I know, you already told me."
There was a hint of exasperation in his voice. "I know
the rules, Alex."
"Henry is here tonight, taking
care of the grounds. He'll be looking out for you." Henry
was an elderly homeless man who often slept in the small grove
of trees behind the restaurant. Alexandria brought him meals
and blankets whenever she was able. In return, Henry kept an
eye on them whenever he was in their neighborhood.
Alexandria waved to the tall, thin,
stooped figure hobbling toward them. "Hi, Henry. It's nice
of you to do this for me."
"You were lucky you ran into me
at the market, I was going to sleep under the bridge tonight."
Henry looked around carefully with his faded blue eyes. "There's
been strange things happening around here."
"Gangs?" Alexandria asked
it anxiously. She didn't want Joshua exposed to the pressure
of that kind of life.
Henry shook his head. "Nothing
like that. Cops wouldn't allow that in these parts, that's why
I sleep here. Fact is, they wouldn't let me stay if they knew
"So what do you think is strange
Joshua tugged at her skirt. "You're
going to be late for your meeting, Alex. I'll be fine,"
he insisted, reading her distress. Henry should have known better
than to say anything to get Alexandria worried. He settled himself
under a canopy of trees, cross-legged beside the faint path
leading to the cliffs and sent Henry a quick frown and a shake
of his head.
sat down beside him with creaking kneecaps and a faint, self-derisive
smile. "Go along, Alex," he waved a gnarled hand.
"We'll just play with this fine truck, won't we, boy?"
bit her lip, suddenly indecisive. It was wrong to leave Joshua
with this old man to look out for him. Henry would do his best,
but his body was worn out fighting arthritis for so many years.
Joshua glared at her, his manhood clearly affronted.
was far too old for his age, exposed to such a sordid life.
Unfortunately Joshua was right, this meeting was important,
it was for his future. "Thanks, Henry, I really owe you
for this. I need this job." Alexandria bent to kiss Joshua.
"I love you, little buddy, be safe."
love you, Alex," he echoed," be safe."
familiar words comforted her as she made her way through the
cypress trees around the back of the kitchen to the steps leading
to the balcony hanging over the cliffs. The restaurant was famous
for its view over-looking the crashing waves and the beautiful
ocean view below. Wind rushed through her hair, tugged at her
skirt. Salt and sea sprayed up from the foaming waves carried
on the wild breeze. Alexandria paused at the intricately carved
door, took a deep breath, her chin up and moved inside with
a confidence that belied her churning stomach.
music, crystal chandeliers, a jungle of beautiful green plants
gave the illusion of stepping into another world. The room was
divided into little nooks and crannies, flickering fireplaces
giving each individual recess a warm, intimate feel. The rooms
all opened one to the next, yet somehow kept the feeling of
flashed the Maitre D` a heart-stopping smile. "I'm meeting
Mr. Ivan. Has he arrived yet?" Her voice was melodious,
a silvery blend of notes that made men think of satin sheets
this way," the man couldn't help his approving look. Mr.
Ivan was a regular customer, often bringing his dates. This
young woman was a decided improvement. She was on the short
side, slender with full curves and fantastic legs. Her large
sapphire colored eyes were heavily fringed with dark lashes,
her mouth lush and sexy. Her hair, an interesting mix of silver
and gold, was twisted into a severe chignon. Most women couldn't
have gotten away with it, but it only served to emphasize her
classic bone structure and high cheekbones. Perhaps, in his
opinion, she was far too young and innocent for a rake like
Thomas Ivan, but technically, it was none of his business.
Heads turned as they wound their way through the restaurant,
bold eyes following their progress. She didn't seem to be aware
of the havoc she was creating and the waiter felt as if he were
escorting royalty. There was something special about this woman,
she was a lady and it showed in her carriage.
Thomas Ivan swallowed the shot of whiskey far too fast as Alexandria
approached the table. His face turned bright red and he was
forced to cough several times to find his voice. The Maitre
D` managed not to change expression or call attention to his
reaction in any way. Thomas was uncertain whether the warm glow
was from the whiskey or her smile. He rose to his feet, shook
her extended hand and allowed himself to gloat at his good fortune.
Alexandria Houton needed him. He was a good fifteen years her
senior, had money and influence. He was well established in
his field. He could make or break her career. He was in a very
favorable position and meant to exploit every pleasurable possibility.
a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Ivan," she said softly. Her
voice was a siren's whisper, playing over his skin like the
touch of fingers.
held her hand a moment longer than necessary then abruptly let
it go. It annoyed him that the Maitre D` held her chair to seat
her. There was a sweet innocence in her eyes that made her natural
sexiness all the more provocative. He wanted her immediately,
set his mind to having her.
kept her hands clasped firmly together in her lap so there was
no chance of betraying her nervousness. She couldn't believe
she was actually sitting in the same room with such a brilliant
man as Thomas Ivan. Even more, it was the chance of a lifetime
to be considered for his next project. She searched for something
polite and fairly intelligent to say. "This is a beautiful
restaurant, do you come here often?"
felt his heart leap. She was interested in him as a man! Why
else would she make the inquiry? His fatal charm always stood
him in good stead. She might look cool and untouched, even faintly
haughty, but she was fishing for information about his personal
relationships! He lifted one eyebrow, gave her his carefully
cultivated smile, the one that always took their breath away.
"It's my favorite restaurant." He wanted her to have
to dig for more information, really work to please him.
didn't like the suddenly smug look creeping into the depths
of his eyes. She smiled anyway. "I brought sketches with
me. Samples of ideas, drawings of the story line you suggested
for your next game. I see so clearly in my mind what you're
describing." Under cover of the table, Alexandria twisted
her fingers together but her face remained outwardly composed.
"I know you've been using Don Michaels for NightHawks.
He's very good, but I don't think he captures exactly what you
envision. I see so much more detail, so much more power."
was startled. She was absolutely right. Michaels was a big name
with a big ego, but he never fully understood Thomas' vision.
The truth was, the two men detested one another. Thomas Ivan
had no intention of working with Michaels again. They had definitely
come to the parting of the ways, they just hadn't announced
it officially yet. However, he was irritated with Alexandria.
She looked so cool and untouched. Women usually threw themselves
at him. She wanted to talk business.
could see the annoyance gathering on his face. He looked spoiled
and petulant. She dug her nails into her palm. What was wrong
with her? She needed this job, she certainly couldn't start
right out making him angry. What harm was there in a light flirtation?
Ivan was wealthy, handsome, an eligible bachelor. This was the
kind of man she should be attracted to. She sighed inwardly.
She never seemed honestly attracted to anyone. For awhile she
thought it was the men she was exposed to in their neighborhood.
After a time she put it down to her responsibility to Joshua.
Now she secretly thought it might be that she was truly frigid.
But she could fake it.
don't think we should spoil our dinner with business, now do
you?" He flashed a charming smile. His fast rise in the
world of computer and video games had made him a fortune almost
overnight. He wanted deference and respect everywhere he went.
blinked away the image of a barracuda and allowed a soft, flirty
smile of assent to curve her mouth. It was going to be a long
evening. She shook her head when he would have poured her a
glass of wine and succeeded in thinking up the usual small talk
that seemed to make the men she occasionally dated happy. Ivan
spent an inordinate amount of time winking at her and leaning
toward her to touch the back of her hand. The food was excellent,
the shrimp salad superb.
She managed to escape once to check on Joshua. Night was streaking
the sky shades of gray, slowly blotting out the sinking sun.
Joshua and Henry were playing blackjack with a battered, earmarked
deck of cards. Henry grinned sheepishly up at her, thankfully
took the food she had managed to smuggle out to them and waved
doing right fine, Alex, go get that job you want so much,"
are you teaching Josh?" she demanded with a severe frown.
She knew they expected her reaction to be one of outrage and
shock and she happily indulged them. She was rewarded when the
two culprits stifled a laugh. Their eyes were dancing mischievously
and it was all Alexandria could do not to hug Joshua close.
says I can support you if I learn this game, cuz I always win
him," Joshua told her proudly. "He says you won't
never have to pretty up to a no good hound dog again."
said that, did he?" she inquired biting at her lower lip
to keep amusement from surfacing. "I think we need to work
on your English, Henry, especially if you insist on tutoring
just never mind my English, missy, I been speaking it for long
before you were alive," Henry bristled.
raised an elegant eyebrow at him. "I'll just bet you have.
If you get cold, there's a blanket in the trunk." She handed
the car keys to Joshua. "Take good care of these, if you
lose them, we'll be sleeping out here tonight with Henry."
Joshua replied, his blue eyes dancing.
cool, cold in fact," Alexandria warned. "Be careful.
I'll be as fast as I can, but this man is not very co-operative.
I think he thinks he's going to score big tonight." She
made a face.
shook a gnarled fist. "I still got a little left in me,
girlie, he gives you trouble, send him my way."
Henry, that makes me feel better. You two boys behave while
I'm working." Alexandria turned away and began to make
her way back towards the restaurant.
wind was picking up, blowing the sea towards land, spitting
foam through the air. Mist was seeping in, shrouding the trees
in melancholy white tails. Alexandria shivered, ran her palms
up and down her arms to provide warmth. It wasn't really that
cold, more the atmosphere of fog and mystery.
shook her head firmly to clear out notions of evil lurking behind
every tree. For some reason she was especially on edge. She
put it down to the enormity of this interview. She had to get
made her way back through the restaurant, winding through the
potted plants and the jungle of hanging green vines. Oblivious
to the turning heads she seated herself at Ivan's table. He
jumped to his feet, trying not to look eager. He was well aware
he was the envy of the unattached males in the room. She just
had some special magic that made him think of hot sexy nights
and untamed passion.
touched her hand, ran his finger over the back of it to feel
her skin. It was as soft as it looked. "You're cold."
He said it abruptly, his voice a little hoarse. It annoyed him
that she made him feel like a blundering schoolboy. He couldn't
connect with her no matter how hard he tried. She remained aloof,
slightly haughty. An untouched siren watching him squirm.
stepped outside for a moment to make certain I had all my sketches
with me and the night was so beautiful, I couldn't resist looking
at the ocean. It seems to be acting up a bit." Her eyes
held a thousand secrets, her lashes long and inviting, locking
up every emotion behind them.
swallowed hard and looked away. He had to bring himself under
control. She was weaving some sort of spell he might not get
out of. He wanted sex, not a forever situation, didn't he?
tried hard to listen to his conversation. It was difficult to
concentrate on Ivan's antidotes, to follow the making of his
brilliant career, his social obligations and the weariness of
having women pursuing him constantly for his money. She was
uneasy, so much so that her hands were beginning to tremble.
For a moment she felt a shiver of terror, as if icy fingers
had wrapped around her slender throat. The illusion was so real
she actually raised a hand to her neck to check.
you'll have one small glass of wine. It's an excellent vintage,"
Thomas insisted, lifting the bottle and drawing her attention
back to him.
thank you, I don't drink often." It was the third time
she told him and she resisted asking him if he had a problem
with his hearing. She was not about to cloud her mind with alcohol
when this interview meant the rest of her life. And she never
drank when she was driving, and never around Joshua. It was
bad enough that he saw needles and pipes and empty bottles in
the hall and on the sidewalk outside their rooming house.
flashed a smile to take the sting out of her abrupt refusal.
As the waiter cleaned away the plates, she very decisively lifted
her briefcase onto the table.
sighed audibly. Usually women were fawning over him at this
stage. Alexandria seemed immune to his charm, totally out of
his reach. She intrigued him. He had already decided he had
to have her. He would have her and on his terms. He knew this
job was important to her. He could use that, he would if he
had to. Her beauty would complement his own good looks. And
there would be the sex, hot, steamy sex. He could tell, there
was fire in her, locked behind her easy smile and cool sapphire
moment Thomas saw her sketches, he forgot satisfying his ego
and lust. She had captured the images in his mind better than
his own words had done. Excitement caught at him and he literally
took the drawings right from her hands. He didn't stop to think
he would lose his negotiating tactics with his enthusiasm, or
that he had planned to use her need to get her into bed. She
was exactly what he needed for his newest game. It was to be
the hottest concept, one that was frightening and difficult
and would blow away the competition. She was exactly what he
needed with her fresh ideas.
just quick sketches," Alexandria said softly, leaning closer
to him, her large eyes coming alive with excitement. "But
you get the idea without the animation." She forgot she
didn't like him very much as she watched the way he looked at
have such a gift for detail. See how this drops way and you
actually get the feeling of flight?" Ivan was impressed
that she had caught such a stomach churning emotion with her
illustrations. What could she do on a computer?
did feel it as if it was really happening right there at the
table. And the vampire caught in the middle of a brutal transformation
was so real it was frightening. It was as if she had taken a
photograph. Her drawings, capturing the story line so perfectly,
the images in his mind so completely, created a bond between
them that had not been there before. He knew when they were
brought to motion, the hideous creatures would really come to
was suddenly aware of the brush of his fingers against hers,
aware of the strength in his arms, the width of his shoulders.
For a moment her heart jumped hopefully. Was she actually responding
to someone physically? It was amazing what something in common
could create. She watched with pride as he traced the wing tip
of an owl, the razor sharp beak and the clawed talons.
cold draft of air streamed through the restaurant, bringing
with it the taint of evil. It crawled over her skin like worms
through a body. Revulsion welled up and Alexandria sat back
in her chair, pale and trembling. She looked around carefully.
No one else seemed to notice the thickening air, the stench
of evil. Laughter and the low murmur of conversation surrounded
her, should have reassured her, but the trembling only increased.
She could feel sweat beading on her forehead, running down the
valley between her breasts. Her heart was thumping overloud.
Ivan was far too busy going through the sketchpad to notice
her uneasiness. He continued to mutter his approval, his head
down, his eyes feasting on the richness of her drawings.
was wrong. Terribly wrong. Alexandria knew it, she always knew.
She had known the very moment her parents had died. She always
knew when a murder took place within a close vicinity. She knew
who was dealing drugs, when someone lied, she just knew things.
And right now, while everyone else in the restaurant enjoyed
themselves, ate and drank and talked, she knew she was in the
presence of something so malevolent she had never conceived
of such a being.
blue eyes made a slow, careful circuit of the spacious room.
Patrons were talking softly to one another. Three women seated
at the table closest to her were laughing outrageously, toasting
one another. Alexandria's mouth went dry, her heart pounding.
She was unable to move or speak, frozen with terror. On the
wall behind Thomas Ivan, a dark shadow crept forward, began
to take shape. The shadow was stooped at first, but slowly began
to straighten until it loomed over the room, taking up most
of the far wall. The shadow moved, an ugly apparition more loathsome
than any creature depicted in a Thomas Ivan game. Long arms
stretched out like branches of a gnarled tree, seemed to reach
out, claws for hands extended toward her, toward the three women
talking with such animation. Alexandria sat perfectly still,
heard the horrible whispering in her head like the brush of
a moth's wings. An insidious command, buzzing insistently, the
to me. Be with me. Let me feast on you. Come to me.
words beat at her until shards of glass seemed to pierce her
skull. The claws on the far wall opened, extended, beckoned
to her. Beckoned.
chair scraping off to her right broke the spell. Alexandria
blinked and the shadow was gone, simply faded away on the echo
of maniacal laughter. She was able to turn her head toward the
sound of the chairs, saw the three women rising as one unit,
toss money on the table and walk in sudden eerie silence toward
wanted to scream at the women to come back. She had no idea
why, but she actually opened her mouth to do so. Her throat
closed and she fought for air.
Thomas rose swiftly to help her. She was ashen, tiny beads of
perspiration dampening her forehead. "What is it?"
she tried to shove the drawings into the briefcase, but her
hands were shaking and the sketches spilled across the table
and onto the floor. "I'm sorry, Mr. Ivan, I've got to leave."
She stood up so abruptly she nearly sent him sprawling backward.
Her mind felt sluggish and thick as if some oily substance contaminated
with evil still clung to her. Her stomach rolled at such close
proximity to total depravity.
ill, Alexandria, let me take you home." Ivan stood also,
trying to gather in the precious sketches and hold onto her
arm to prevent her from leaving.
jerked her arm from Ivan's touch, her only thought to get to
Joshua. Whatever the evil thing was, whatever creature was stalking
the night, those women, Henry and Joshua were in grave danger.
It was outside. Out back. She could feel its presence like a
dark stain on her soul.
turned and ran, uncaring of the curious stares or Ivan's bewilderment.
She tripped on the stairs, caught the hem of her skirt and heard
the rip. Pain and terror sliced through her. Her chest felt
as if it exploded, her heart torn and bleeding. It was so real
she clutched her chest and stared down at her hands, expecting
to see blood running freely. Someone else's blood, someone was
hurt or worse.
bit her lower lip hard enough to break the skin. That pain was
real and it was only hers. It enabled her to focus, to keep
running. Whatever creature was stalking the grounds had made
a kill. She could smell the blood now, was experiencing the
lingering vibrations, an aftermath of violence. She prayed it
wasn't Joshua. Sobbing, she flung herself on the narrow path
winding around the large building. She couldn't lose Joshua.
Why had she left him alone with only an elderly man to watch
out for him?
became aware of the fog then. Dense. Thick, like soup. It hung
in the trees like an eerie white wall. She couldn't see a foot
in front of her. It even felt thick like she was wading through
quicksand. When she tried to pull air into her lungs, she found
it nearly impossible. Alexandria wanted to scream for Joshua,
but some deep intuition kept her silent. Whoever the madman
was, he enjoyed the pain and terror of others. That was his
rush, his one high. She could not indulge his macabre tastes.
her way carefully through the trees she literally stumbled over
a body. "Oh, God," she whispered aloud, praying it
wasn't her brother. Leaning close she realized the corpse was
far too big. Cold and motionless he lay in a pathetic heap,
tossed aside like so much garbage. "Henry." Grief
welled up as she touched his shoulder to turn him.
rose as she caught a glimpse of his mangled chest. His heart
was literally torn out, lay exposed and still. Alexandria scrambled
away, knelt and was violently sick over and over. There were
ragged wounds on Henry's neck, wounds like an animal might make.
laughter filled her mind. Alexandria wiped at her mouth with
the back of her hand. The sick madman was not getting Joshua.
Determined, she moved instinctively forward toward the cliffs.
Waves crashing loudly against jagged rocks below and the wind
rushing through the trees made it impossible to hear anything.
sight or hearing, Alexandria moved steadily forward, every instinct
drawing her toward the demented killer. She had the impression
he knew she was coming, that he was waiting. She was also certain
he falsely believed he was controlling her, that he was an all
powerful being deliberately commanding her to come to him.
the strong wind the fog remained heavy, yet now, through the
thickness, she caught glimpses of a horror story unfolding.
Three women, vaguely familiar from the restaurant, were inching
their way toward the cliffs. The women had been at the table
to her right, they left just before she had. Alexandria could
tell they were in some kind of hypnotic trance. They were staring
rapturously up at the man silhouetted on the cliff's edge.
was tall and slender but gave the impression of great strength
and power. His face was beautiful, like an Adonis, his hair
shoulder length and wavy. When he smiled his teeth were very
a predator's. The moment the thought entered her head the illusion was gone
and Alexandria saw the bright blood on his hands. It stained
his teeth and chin. The welcoming smile was a grimace exposing
vicious fangs. His attention was on the women, his eyes, black
pitted holes, glowed a feral red in the darkness.
were smiling, simpering, reaching out to him. As the women moved
closer he raised his hand and pointed to the ground. Obediently
the three dropped to their knees, crawled sensuously forward,
writhing and moaning, tearing at their clothing. The fog covered
the obscene display for a moment and when it was clear again
she could see one of the women had reached the man and was winding
herself around his knees. She ripped away her blouse, deliberately
exposing her breasts, touching herself suggestively, rubbing
herself against the man's body, begging and pleading for him
to take her, use her. A second woman reached the cliff's edge
and clung to his waist, staring up provocatively.
wanted to turn away from the horror of what was to come, but
she caught sight of Joshua walking slowly toward the man. He
didn't seem to notice the women. He looked neither right nor
left, just walked forward as if in a dream state.
trance. A hypnotic trance. Alexandria's heart slammed against
her chest. Somehow this killer had hypnotized the women and
Joshua. They answered his bidding like mindless sheep. Her brain
was trying to analyze how he had accomplished such a feat even
as she hurried to intercept Joshua before he could reach the
monster. Fortunately, Joshua was moving very slowly, almost
as though he was being pulled reluctantly forward.
the swirling thick veil of fog hid her, she felt the impact
of those hostile, unearthly eyes as the man swung his head around
toward her. He seemed to undulate his neck like a reptile. She
could clearly see the red shine as he examined her, even through
the thickness of the fog.
wings beat at her skull, the shards of glass pierced her over
and over. The soft, seductive voice murmured insistently in
her head. Alexandria focused her attention on reaching Joshua.
She kept her chin up and ignored the pain throbbing in her head.
She would not give him the satisfaction of knowing he was hurting
hand caught at Joshua's shirt just as his speed began to accelerate.
His feet continued forward, but she planted herself and held
him still. Wrapping her arms around the child, she faced the
monster, not more than fifteen feet from her.
was on the very edge of the cliff, the women fawning on him,
purring and begging for his attention. He appeared not to notice
them, his entire being concentrating on her. He smiled at her,
a baring of fangs.
shuddered at the sight of so much blood. Henry's blood. This
madman had killed him.
to me," he held out his hand to her.
could feel his voice right through her body, pulling at her
to do his bidding. She blinked rapidly to keep the dark stains
on his hands, coating the long, dagger-like fingernails in focus.
She stared at the talons and the voice lost its beauty and took
on a harsh, quarrelsome ugliness.
don't think so. Leave us alone. I'm taking Joshua with me, you
can't have him." She spoke with a determination she didn't
realize she had. But she felt it, her spine stiffening, her
blue eyes blazing defiance.
one of his obscene hands caressed the woman rubbing at his waist
with her cheek. "Join me, look at these women. They want
me, they adore me."
fooling yourself." She tried a careful backward step. Joshua
resisted her effort. She tightened her arms to prevent his forward
movement. When she dragged him a step backward, he began to
thrash around forcing her to stop.
monster on the cliff raised an eyebrow. "You do not believe
me?" He turned his attention to the woman at his waist.
"Come here, my dear. I wish you to die for me." He
waved his hand behind him.
Alexandria's horror, the woman licked his outstretched hand,
simpering and fawning she crawled passed him. "No!"
Alexandria cried out, but the woman was already falling into
the emptiness of space, down to the greedy water and jagged
rocks below. Furious Alexandria glared at the man. "You
really are scum, aren't you? What was that supposed to prove?"
point," he said evenly. "I do not understand why you
would be so upset. After all, what are these women?" He
pulled the second woman up by her hair, kissed her full on the
mouth and bending her nearly backwards sank teeth into her neck.
vivid sketches she had drawn depicting Thomas Ivan's horror
novels sprang to life before her eyes. He feasted on the blood
spilling down the woman's throat, then tossed her aside, over
the cliff, as if she was nothing but an empty shell he found
on the beach. Deliberately he ran his thick, obscene tongue
over his blood-smeared lips in a grotesque display.
found herself murmuring a prayer, a chant over and over beneath
her breath. Whatever this creature was, he was a dangerous killer
and insane beyond imagination. She took a firmer grip on Joshua
and lifted him from his feet.
kicked at her and fought, made little growling noises and snapped
his teeth at her. Alexandria managed to clear two more feet
backward before she was forced to put him down. He remained
still as long as she wasn't moving away from his objective.
monster raised his head again, licked his fingers and smiled
hideously. "Do you see? They will do anything for me. They
adore me. Don't you, pet?" He lifted the last woman to
her feet. Instantly she wrapped herself around him, rubbing
suggestively, touching and caressing him. "You want only
to please me, do you not?"
woman began to kiss him, his neck, his chest, moving lower and
lower, her hands fumbling at the opening to his trousers. His
hand fondled her neck. "See, this is power, real power.
You are the one I have been seeking to join with me."
doesn't adore you. You've made her a puppet. She has no mind
of her own. Is that what you call power?" Alexandria put
as much contempt in her voice as she was capable.
low, deadly hiss escaped the monster's mouth, but he continued
to smile at her. "Perhaps you are right. This one is useless,
is she not?" Still smiling, still staring straight into
Alexandria's eyes, the man caught the woman's head between his
palms and wrenched.
crack was audible and seemed to vibrate right through Alexandria's
body. She was shaking so much her teeth were chattering. The
monster casually dangled the woman's broken body over the cliff's
edge. She hung there like a rag doll, her neck at a peculiar
angle, a once beautiful woman, now an empty, lifeless shell.
The monster discarded her by merely opening his hand, allowing
her to fall into the water waiting so greedily.
it comes down to the two of us," he said softly.
shook her head. "Not me, I'm not going to come to you willingly
and I see you for what you really are, not what you made those
poor women see."
will come to me willingly. You are the one. I have searched
the world for one such as you. You must come to me of your own
free will." His tone was soft, his words neutral, but there
was a whip of warning, a hiss of command.
tried a step backward, but Joshua erupted into a growling frenzy,
kicking and biting. She stopped again and took a firmer grip
so that there was no chance that he would escape. "You're
sick, you need help, a doctor or something. I can't do anything
for you." She was searching desperately for a way out of
this, praying someone would come. The restaurant was patrolled
regularly by a security company. Henry had told her he knew
their schedule. Why hadn't she paid more attention?
do not know what I am, do you?"
was using terror tactics and Alexandria had to concede to herself
it was working. Her mind felt almost numb. She had spent far
too much time reading and working on sketches for Thomas Ivan's
horror novels. This monster was the epitome of the cold-blooded
vampire feeding on an other's blood, ripping and tearing at
flesh without emotion. She took a deep breath to calm herself
and bring herself back to the world of reality. It was the fog
and wind, the dark, starless night and the eerie crash of the
waves below that made her think what could not possibly be.
This was a sociopath, not some fictional character in a book.
She could defeat him if she just held on to her wits and not
allow the horror of the night to fuel her imagination.
know what you think you are," she said evenly, "but
the truth is, you're simply a murderer with a vivid imagination."
laughed softly, wickedly, the sound scraping like nails on a
chalkboard. She actually felt icy fingers along her skin.
are a child hiding from the truth." He raised his hand
and beckoned to Joshua, his glowing eyes on the boy's face.
struggled madly, fought and kicked, biting at Alexandria's arms
in an effort to get free.
him alone!" Furious, she concentrated on subduing her brother.
He was strong enough in his trance-induced state to wiggle free.
Instantly he ran to the monster on the cliff, hugged his knees
and gazed adoringly up at the man.