Read an Excerpt
By Christine Feehan
Wheeler PublishingCopyright © 2004 Christine Feehan
All right reserved.
"Joshua, this is a very important business meeting," Alexandria Houton cautioned her younger brother as she parked her beat-up Volkswagen in the large lot behind the restaurant. For a moment she rested her hand on his curly hair, looking down into his bright eyes. A rush of love instantly warmed her, pushing aside her fears and frustrations and her mouth curved into a smile. "You're so grown up, Josh, I don't know why I'm repeating myself. But 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 died in a car accident before his second birthday.
"I'm sorry the baby-sitter flaked on us. She was--um, 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 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 edge a sophisticated, expensive suit could give her.
Josh hugged his favorite toy, a worn Tonka dump truck. "I heard you telling her to go home, that she wasn't fit to watch over me because she was drunk."
Alexandria had specifically told him to go to his room. Instead, he had lurked nearby to eavesdrop. He knew it was an invaluable way to pick up information Alexandria considered proper only for adults. Still, Alexandria found herself grinning at his mischievous upturned face. "Big Ears, huh?"
He looked sheepish.
"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, a boardinghouse patronized mainly by 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, wildly imaginative video and computer games featuring vampires and demons, was looking for a new graphic designer. Ivan had graced the cover of nearly every magazine that counted. And he had been intrigued enough with her samples to request a meeting. Alexandria knew she was talented; now if only he wouldn't judge her on her youthful looks. She was competing with many more experienced designers.
Alexandria dragged her slim portfolio from the car and took Joshua's hand. "This might take a while. 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 move to a better neighborhood, a better standard of living. Joshua was a bright, sensitive, compassionate child. Alexandria believed he deserved everything good that life had to offer, and she was determined to get it for him.
She led him across the restaurant's back acreage, graced with a grove of trees. A path led to the cliffs overlooking the ocean. "Don't go out to the cliffs, Joshua. The edges are dangerous. They can crumble right under your feet, or you could slip and fall."
"I know, you already told me." There was a hint of exasperation in his voice. "I know the rules, Alex."
"Henry is here tonight. He'll be looking out for you." Henry was an elderly homeless man from their neighborhood who often slept in the grove behind this restaurant. Alexandria had frequently given him food and loose change and, more important, respect, and in return, Henry kept an eye out to do her favors.
Alexandria waved to the thin, stooped man now hobbling toward them. "Hi, Henry. It's so nice of you to do this for me."
"You were lucky you ran into me at the market earlier. I was going to sleep under the bridge tonight." Henry looked around carefully with his faded blue eyes. "There's been some strange things happening hereabouts."
"Gang activity?" Alexandria asked anxiously. She didn't want Joshua exposed to the dangers or pressures 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 about it."
"So what strange things have been happening around here?"
Joshua tugged at her skirt. "You're going to be late for your meeting, Alex. Henry and I'll be fine," he insisted, reading her distress. He settled himself under a canopy of trees, sitting cross-legged on a rock beside the faint path leading to the cliffs.
With creaking kneecaps, Henry sat down beside him. "Right. Go along, Alex." He waved a gnarled hand. "We'll just play with this fine truck, won't we, boy?"
Alexandria bit her lip, suddenly indecisive. Was it wrong to leave Joshua with just this worn-out, arthritic old man to look after him?
"Alex!" As if reading her concerns, Joshua glared at her, his manhood clearly affronted.
Alexandria sighed. Josh was far too old for his age, exposed to such a sordid life. Unfortunately, he was also right: this meeting was important. After all, it was for his future. "Thanks, Henry. I owe you for this. I need this job." Alexandria bent to kiss Joshua. "I love you, little buddy. Be safe."
"I love you, Alex," he echoed. "Be safe."
The familiar words comforted her as she made her way back through the cypress trees and around the kitchen to the steps leading to the balcony overhanging the cliffs. This restaurant was famous for its view of the crashing waves below. Wind tugged at her hair pulled into a chignon, spraying salt and droplets of sea foam. Alexandria paused at the intricately carved door, took a deep breath, raised her chin, and moved inside with an air of confidence her churning stomach belied.
Soft music, crystal chandeliers, and a jungle of beautiful plants gave the illusion of stepping into another world. The room was divided into private little nooks, its huge, flickering fireplace giving each recess a warm, intimate feel.
Alexandria flashed the maitre d' a smile. "I'm meeting Mr. Ivan. Has he arrived yet?"
"Right this way," the man said with an approving look.
Thomas Ivan choked on his Scotch as the beautiful Alexandria Houton approached his table. He often brought his dates to this cozy restaurant, but this young woman was a decided improvement. She was on the short side, slender, but with full curves and fantastic legs. Her large sapphire eyes were fringed with dark lashes, her mouth lush and sexy. Her golden hair was twisted into a severe chignon that emphasized her classic bone structure and high cheekbones. Heads turned to follow her progress. She didn't appear aware of the havoc she was creating, but the maitre d' seemed to be escorting royalty. There was definitely something special about this woman.
Thomas coughed to clear his throat and find his voice. He rose to his feet, shook her extended hand, and privately gloated at his good fortune. This gorgeous young creature needed him. A good fifteen years her senior, with money, influence, and and fame, he could make or break her career. And he meant to exploit every pleasurable possibility of that very favorable position.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Ivan," she said softly. Her melodious voice played over his skin like the touch of silken fingertips.
"Indeed." Thomas held her hand a moment longer than necessary. The sweet innocence in her eyes made her natural sexiness all the more provocative. He wanted her fiercely and set his mind to having her.
Alexandria kept her hands clasped together in her lap so their trembling would not betray her nervousness. She couldn't believe she was actually sitting with such a brilliant man as Thomas Ivan. Even more, being considered as the artist for his next project. It was the chance of a lifetime. When he remained silent, studying her intently, she searched for something polite and fairly intelligent to say. "This is a beautiful restaurant. Do you come here often?"
Thomas felt his heart leap. She was interested in him as a man! Why else would she make the inquiry? She might look cool and untouched, even faintly haughty, but she was fishing for information about his personal relationships. He lifted one eyebrow and gave her his carefully cultivated smile, the one that always took their breath away. "It's my favorite restaurant."
Alexandria didn't like the suddenly smug look in his eyes, but she smiled anyway. "I brought some 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. 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." Under cover of the table, Alexandria twisted her fingers together but tried to remain outwardly composed.
Thomas was startled. She was absolutely right. Michaels was a big name, with a big ego to match, but he'd never fully understood Thomas's vision. However, Alexandria's obvious professionalism irritated him. She looked so cool and untouchable. She wanted to talk business. Women usually threw themselves at him.
Alexandria could see the annoyance gathering on Thomas Ivan's face. She dug her nails into her palms. What was wrong? Doubtless she was coming on too strong. A man with his rakish, debonair reputation probably preferred a more feminine approach. She needed this job; she certainly couldn't start right out making him angry. What harm was there in a light flirtation? Ivan was a wealthy, handsome bachelor, exactly the kind of man she should be attracted to. She sighed inwardly. She never seemed honestly attracted to anyone. For a while she'd put it down to the unsavory men in their neighborhood, to her many responsibilities with Joshua. Now she secretly thought she might be truly frigid. But she could fake it if she had to.
Thomas Ivan's next comment proved her right.
"I don't think we should spoil our dinner with business talk, do you?" he said, flashing a charming smile.
Alexandria blinked away the image of a barracuda and allowed a soft, flirty smile 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 applied herself to her shrimp salad and the small talk that seemed to make her occasional dates happy. Ivan leaned toward her, frequently touching her hand to make a point.
She managed to escape once to check on Joshua. Under the sinking sun she found Joshua and Henry playing blackjack with a battered deck of cards.
Henry grinned up at her, thankfully took the food she had managed to smuggle out, and waved her off.
"We're doing fine, Alex. Go get that job you want so much," he instructed.
"Are you teaching Josh to gamble?" she demanded with a mock-severe frown. Both culprits laughed mischievously, and it was all Alexandria could do not to hug Joshua close.
"Henry says I could probably support you with this game, cuz I always win," Joshua told her proudly. "He says then you wouldn't ever have to pretty up to a no-good hound dog again."
Alexandria bit her lip to hide both her amusement and her overwhelming affection. "Well, until you're a full-fledged card sharp, I'll see to our support. So I'd better get back inside. If you guys 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 with Henry."
"Cool!" Joshua replied, his blue eyes dancing.
"Very cool. Cold, in fact," Alexandria warned. "Be careful. I'll be as quick as I can, but this man is not very cooperative. I think he thinks he's might score big tonight." She made a face.
Henry shook a gnarled fist. "He gives you any trouble, you send him my way."
"Thanks, Henry. You two boys behave while I'm working." Alexandria turned and began to make her way back toward the restaurant.
The wind was picking up, blowing the sea toward land, spitting foam through the air. Mist was seeping in, shrouding the trees in melancholy white tails. Alexandria shivered, running her hands up and down her arms. It wasn't really that cold, but the aura of fog and mystery distressed her.
She shook her head to clear away notions of evil lurking behind every tree. For some reason she was especially on edge tonight. She put it down to the enormity of this interview. She had to get this job.
She made her way back through the restaurant, winding through the jungle of potted plants and hanging green vines.
Ivan jumped to his feet to seat her, well aware that he was the envy of the other males in the room. Alexandria Houton just had some special magic that made him think of hot nights and untamed passion.
He ran his fingers over the back of her hand. "You're cold," he said, his voice a little hoarse. She made him feel like a blundering schoolboy, while she remained aloof, slightly haughty, an untouched siren watching him squirm.
"I stepped outside for a moment on my way back from the ladies' room, and the night was so beautiful, I couldn't resist looking at the ocean. It seems to be acting up a bit." Her eyes seemed to hold a thousand secrets, her long lashes locking up every emotion behind them. Thomas swallowed hard and looked away. He had to bring himself under control. He reached deep into his reserve of famous charm and began telling whimsical stories to amuse her, to engage her.
Alexandria tried hard to listen to his conversation, but it was difficult to concentrate on his anecdotes about the making of his brilliant career, his many social obligations, and the wearying string of women constantly pursuing him for his money. She was growing increasingly 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 throat. The illusion was so real, she actually raised a hand to her neck to check.
"Surely 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.
"No, thank you, I seldom drink." It was the third time she'd 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 so much. And she never drank when she was driving, and never around Joshua. He saw more than enough boozing in the halls and on the sidewalks outside their rooming house.
Alexandria flashed a smile to take the sting out of her refusal. As the waiter cleared away the plates, she very decisively reached for her portfolio.
Ivan sighed audibly. Usually women were fawning over him at this stage. But Alexandria seemed immune to his charm, out of his reach. Still, she intrigued him, and he had to have her. He knew this job was important to her, and he would use that if he had to. He could tell there was fire in her, locked behind her easy smile and cool sapphire eyes, and he was looking forward to enjoying some hot, steamy sex with her.
But the moment Thomas saw her sketches, he forgot about satisfying his ego and his lust. Alexandria had captured the images in his mind better than his own words had done. Excitement caught at him, and he nearly drooled over her exceptional drawings. She was exactly what he needed for his newest game. It was a hot concept, frightening and difficult, and it would blow away the competition. Her fresh, inventive approach was precisely what he needed.
"They're just quick sketches," Alexandria said softly, "without the animation, but I hope you get the idea." She forgot she didn't like Thomas Ivan very much as she watched the appreciative way he looked at her work.
"You have such a gift for detail. Such imagination. Such technique. And, looking at these, I feel as if you've read my mind. You actually capture the feeling of flight here," he said, pointing. He was impressed that she had caught such a stomach-churning sensation with her illustrations alone. What might she do with his vast array of computers and design programs?
Thomas studied one scene, feeling as if it were really happening. It was as if she had taken a photograph of a vampire caught in a brutal battle. It was so real, it was frightening. Her drawings, capturing his story line and the images in his mind so perfectly, so completely instantly created the bond between them that had been eluding him all evening.
Alexandria was suddenly aware of the brush of Thomas Ivan's fingers against hers, aware of the strength in his arms, the width of his shoulders, the handsome angularity of his features. Her heart jumped hopefully. Was she actually responding to someone physically? It was amazing what having a passion in common could generate. She watched with pride as he openly admired her renderings of the creatures of his imagination.
But suddenly a cold draft streamed through the restaurant, bringing with it the taint of evil. It crawled over Alexandria's skin like worms through a body. Revulsion welled up, and she 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. Its normalcy 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.
Thomas Ivan was far too busy going through her sketches to notice her uneasiness. He continued to murmer his approval, his head down, his eyes feasting on the richness of her drawings.
But something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Alexandria knew it; she always knew. She had known the very moment her parents died. She knew when a violent crime took place within her vicinity. She knew who was dealing drugs, when someone lied; she just knew things. And right now, while others in the restaurant enjoyed themselves, ate and drank and talked, she knew something evil was nearby, something so malevolent, she had never conceived of such a being.
Her eyes made a slow, careful circuit of the spacious room. Patrons were talking, eating, undisturbed. 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 loom over the room, a loathsome apparition seemingly seen by no one else as it reached out, claws extended, toward her, toward the three women talking with such animation. Alexandria sat perfectly still, hearing a horrible whispering in her head like the brush of a bat's wings, issuing an insidious command, buzzing insistently, powerful.
Come to me. Be with me. Let me feast on you. Come to me.
The words beat at her until shards of glass seemed to pierce her skull. The claws on the far wall opened, extended, beckoned her.
A chair scraping to her right broke the spell. Alexandria blinked, and the shadow faded away on the echo of maniacal laughter. She was able to move, to turn her head toward the sound of two more chairs scraping back, She saw the three women rise as one unit, toss money onto the table, and walk in sudden eerie silence toward the entrance.
Alexandria 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.
Alexandria!" Thomas rose swiftly to help her. She was ashen, tiny beads of perspiration dampening her forehead. "What is it?"
Blindly she tried to shove her drawings into the portfolio, 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 evil still clung to it, and her stomach rolled.
"You're ill, Alexandria. Let me take you home." Ivan tried to gather up the precious sketches and hold her by the arm at the same time.
Alexandria jerked her arm away, her only thought to get to Joshua immediately. 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.
She turned and ran, uncaring of the curious stares or Thomas 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 had exploded, her heart torn and bleeding. It was so real, she clutched her chest and stared down at her hands, expecting to see blood. No. Someone else's blood. Someone was hurt--or worse.
Alexandria 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, the aftermath of violence. She prayed it wasn't Joshua. Sobbing, she flung herself onto the narrow path winding around the building. She couldn't lose Joshua. Why had she left him alone with only an elderly man to watch out for him?
She 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, as if she were wading through quicksand. When she tried to pull air into her lungs, she found it nearly impossible. She 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 high. She could not indulge his macabre tastes.
Feeling her way carefully through the trees, she literally stumbled over a body. "Oh, God," she whispered aloud, praying it wasn't her brother. Learning 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 clasped his shoulder to turn him over.
Horror rose when she saw his mangled chest. His heart was literally torn out, exposed and still. Alexandria scrambled away, knelt, and was violently sick. There were ragged wounds on Henry's neck, wounds an animal might make.
Taunting laughter filled her mind. Alexandria wiped at her mouth with the back of her hand. This depraved 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.
Without sight or hearing, Alexandria moved steadily forward, every instinct drawing her toward the demented killer. She had the impression that he knew she was coming, that he was waiting. She was also certain he believed he was controlling her, deliberately commanding her to come to him.
Despite the strong wind, the fog remained heavy, yet now, through the thickness, she caught glimpses of more horror 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'd left just before she had. Alexandria could tell they were in some kind of trance, staring rapturously up at the man silhouetted on the cliff's edge.
He was tall and slender but gave an impression of great strength and power. His face was beautiful, like that of an Adonis, his hair shoulder-length and wavy. When he smiled, his teeth were very white.
Like a predator's. The moment the thought entered her head, the illusion of beauty was gone, and Alexandria saw the blood on the creature's hands. On his teeth and chin. The welcoming smile was a grimace, exposing vicious fangs. His eyes, on the three women, were black holes glowing a feral red in the darkness.
The women were smiling, simpering, reaching out to him. As they moved closer, he raised a hand and pointed to the ground. Obediently the three dropped to their knees and crawled sensuously forward, writhing and moaning, tearing at their clothing. The fog covered the obscene display for a moment, and when it cleared again she could see that one of the women had reached the man and was winding herself around his knees. She ripped away her blouse, 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.
Alexandria wanted to turn away from the horror of what was about to befall these human puppets, 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.
A 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.
Although the thick veil of fog hid her, Alexandria felt the impact of those hostile, unearthly eyes as the creature swung his head toward her, his neck undulating like that of a reptile.
As he examined her through the thickness of the fog, bat wings beat at her skull; the shards of glass pierced her over and over. The soft, seductive voice murmured insistently in her head. Alexandria ignored the pain throbbing in her head and focused her attention on reaching Joshua. She would not give this monster the satisfaction of knowing he was hurting her.
Her hand caught at Joshua's shirt. His feet continued forward, but she planted her feet firmly and held him still. Wrapping her arms around the child, she faced the monster, not more than fifteen feet away.
He was on the very edge of the cliff, his human puppets fawning on him, purring and begging for his attention. He appeared not to notice the women, his entire being concentrating on Alexandria. He smiled at her, a baring of fangs.
Alexandria shuddered at the sight of Henry's blood on his lips and teeth. This madman had killed sweet, harmless Henry.
"Come to me." He held out a hand to her.
She could feel his voice right through her body, pulling at her to do his bidding. She blinked rapidly to keep in focus the bloodstains on his hands and long, dagger-like fingernails. As she stared at the talons, the voice lost its beauty and took on a harsh, quarrelsome ugliness.
"I don't think so. Leave us alone. I'm taking Joshua with me. You can't have him." She spoke with determination, her spine stiffening, her blue eyes blazing defiance.
Absently one of his obscene hands caressed the woman rubbing at his waist. "Join me. Look at these women. They want me. They adore me."
"Keep fooling yourself." She tried to take a step backward. Joshua resisted her effort. She tightened her arms to prevent his moving forward but when she dragged him back a step, he began to thrash, forcing her to stop.
The 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 a hand behind him.
To Alexandria's horror, the woman licked his outstretched hand, and, simpering and fawning, she crawled past 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. Even as Alexandria gasped, he pulled the second woman up by her hair, kissed her full on the mouth and, bending her nearly backward, sank his hideous teeth into her neck.
The vivid sketches Alexandria had drawn depicting Thomas Ivan's horror stories were springing to life before her eyes. The creature feasted on the blood spilling down the woman's throat, then tossed her aside, over the cliff, as if she were nothing but an empty shell he'd found on the beach. Deliberately he ran his thick, obscene tongue over his blood-smeared lips in a grotesque display.
Alexandria found herself murmuring a prayer, a chant, over and over beneath her breath. Whatever this creature was, he was dangerous and insane beyond imagination. She took a firmer grip on Joshua and lifted him from his feet.
He kicked at her and fought, made little growling noises, and snapped his teeth at her. Alexandria managed to move 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.
The 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?"
The woman began to kiss him, his neck, his chest, moving lower and lower, her hands fumbling at his trousers. He fondled her neck. "See my power? And you are the one I have been seeking to join with me, to share my power."
"That woman doesn't adore you," Alexandria protested. "You've used hypnosis to make her a puppet. She has no mind of her own. Is that what you call power?" She put as much contempt into her quavering voice as she could.
A 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.
The crack was audible and seemed to vibrate right through Alexandria's body. She was shaking so much, her teeth were chattering. With one hand 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 and allowing her to fall into the greedy water below.
"Now you have me to yourself," he said softly. "Come to me."
Alexandria shook her head violently. "Not me. I'm not going to come to you. I see you as you are, not what you made those poor women see."
"You will come to me, and of your own free will. You are the one. I have searched the world for one such as you. You must come to me." His tone was soft, but held a whip of warning, a hiss of command.
Alexandria tried to take a step backward, but Joshua erupted into a growling frenzy, kicking and biting. She stopped again and got a firmer grip to prevent his 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 nightmare, praying someone would come. A security guard. Anyone.
"You do not know what I am, do you?"
Alexandria's mind felt almost numb with terror. She had spent considerable time reading and doing research on ancient legends of vampires to work on her sketches for Thomas Ivan. And this monster was the epitome of that mythical creature, feeding on another's blood, using hypnotic trances to command helpless humans to do his evil bidding. She took a deep breath to calm herself, to try to bring herself back to the world of reality. Surely 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 twenty-first century sociopath, not some legendary character of old. She must hold on to her wits and not allow the horror of the night to fuel her imagination.
"I believe I know what you think you are," she said evenly, "but the truth is, you're simply a vicious murderer."
He laughed softly, wickedly, the sound scraping like nails on a chalkboard. She actually felt icy fingers along her skin.
"You are a child hiding from the truth." He raised a hand and beckoned to Joshua, his glowing eyes on the boy's face.
Joshua struggled madly, fought and kicked, biting at Alexandria's arms in an effort to get free.
"Leave him alone!" She concentrated on subduing her brother, but 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.
Excerpted from Dark Gold by Christine Feehan Copyright © 2004 by Christine Feehan. Excerpted by permission.
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