Just one year earlier, Cassidy's daughter, Maddie, was attacked by a creature who was unleashed by human hands from its chains beneath The Protector, an ancient oak on the Christopher property. In the dead of the night, Maddie calls her best
Someone has unleashed an ancient evil bent on destroying Cassidy Christopher by eradicating the women he loves, one by one...
Just one year earlier, Cassidy's daughter, Maddie, was attacked by a creature who was unleashed by human hands from its chains beneath The Protector, an ancient oak on the Christopher property. In the dead of the night, Maddie calls her best friend, Robyn Warren. Robyn hastens to be with the only family she's ever known.
In the wake of newfound surrender to a love they can no longer fight, Robyn and Cass find they have everything they've ever wanted...except time.
ARE YOU THERE?
The sound of his voice transported her instantly across two thousand miles to Cassidy Christopher's arms. Robyn lay hedonistically enshrouded on the plush bearskin rug in front of the crackling fireplace. Cass looked down at her from the shadows, pushed back only by the amber flames trapped behind a metal screen.
A jolt of heat raced through her when she realized nothing separated them. No denim, no cotton. Nothing but warm, smooth flesh, soft hair and hungry gazes met.
"I'm here, Cass. Always for you."
His smile put a lump in her throat as his face drew nearer. Oh, she loved him!
More and more, she found herself coming to this place to be with him the way she needed to be with him. Woman to man. Lovers.
"Every time I think of you, you become more real," he said in a hushed voice, deep enough to reach right inside her.
She touched her hand to his muscled chest, tangling her fingers in the soft hair covering it. Real. Yes.
A helpless, throaty laugh escaped her when his nipples tightened and his flesh rippled beneath her reverent touch.
The truth didn't matter. This... this stolen time she had with the man she would give anything for, had become so real to her, there were times she wondered if Cass knew what was happening in her mind when they talked on the phone.
His mouth came to within a hair's breadth of hers. "I want you. I need you, honey." She saw the fire in his eyes, and it ignited her as much as his harsh words.
She wrapped her hands around his face and pulled him down to her, whispering, "I'm yours. I want to be with you."
His lipswere ravenous on hers, yet so loving. He was familiar to her in a way that wasn't possible. Over the past year, they'd shared everything. How could it feel new each time?
"Talk to me," he whispered as his mouth moved over the point of her chin and down.
Robyn laughed quietly. "How can I talk? I want you, too. Don't stop. Love me."
He glanced up at her. She saw everything she needed from him in his eyes. Love. Love he hid at other times. Love he denied them both because of beliefs she didn't share.
With her hands cradled around his dark head, she watched him with half-closed eyes. Her moan got stuck in her throat as the pulse of something dark and cold went through her. She opened her eyes to blackness above her.
Something was wrong. She could feel it in every bone in her body.
Cass looked up and she met his eyes. "What's happening?"
This had never happened before. Their secret place had never been invaded by anyone or anything else before.
Abruptly, what she saw wasn't Cass above her. She was there, in his house, standing at the front door alone.
Maybe I should wait...
A crash above her startled her into turning toward the noise.
How much longer, honey? Cass's voice tugged her back.
A couple of minutes.
Are you okay?
I'm fine. Don't worry...
Another crash overhead, and then a voice. Come to me. Come to me now.
It's not time, Robyn insisted.
It is time. Come to me now, my sweet.
She ran headlong over the slippery ground with heavy, erratic footfalls. Twigs broke all around her, and she held up her arms as she raced blindly past branches. It was coming... behind her... so close she could feel its hot breath on her neck.
Robyn Warren sat up with a shriek. Her heart thumped viciously in her chest. It was only when she recognized her surroundings in the shadowy light of dawn and acknowledged she must have been having a nightmare that she heard the phone ringing.
She turned toward her nightstand. Oh no, Cass...
The feeling something was wrong continued to grow inside her. Cold, ice cold...
She snatched the receiver, demanding "Cass?"
"Robyn," another voice, just as familiar as the one she anticipated, murmured.
"Maddie. Where are you? What's going on?" A quick glance at the clock revealed it was only five a.m., which meant it was around seven in Wisconsin where Maddie and Cass lived.
"He's coming for me. I feel him. I hear him. He took someone else. Now, he wants me."
Maddie sobbed so bitterly, Robyn no longer understood the words she said.
Even when Robyn tried to calm her friend down, she knew something was desperately wrong. And she was out of reach to do anything about it.
The thought of Maddie hurt -- God, after everything she'd been through! -- dug right inside Robyn like a merciless claw.
"Maddie, please, listen to me. I need you to hold on."
Robyn rose from her bed and moved over to the desk in the far corner of the room. She'd had an extra phone line put in when she bought her computer. Now, she was glad she'd gone to the expense.
"I can't do it anymore, Robyn. He's been killing me slowly, but now he's coming and I can't resist this time, either. I have to--"
Just as Robyn picked up the receiver of the phone on the desk to call Cass, her connection with Maddie was severed.
"No!" Robyn cried. She checked both phones for a dial tone. They worked. The disconnection had been made from Maddie's end.
Robyn quickly dialed Maddie's number, but got an extremely loud error message from an automated voice. She punched out Cass's number just as quickly. It hadn't even started ringing before he said, "Robyn."
She heard him say her name through the phone line and in her head. There wasn't time to wonder about it... or to remember she'd been with this man in her fantasies only minutes ago.
"Something's wrong with Maddie. She just called me and the line went dead."
"There's a blizzard here. My phone was down, too." He paused as if wanting to add something, and Robyn sensed he wanted to tell her he'd tried calling her a few minutes ago. He'd tried desperately. Had he had the same nightmare?
Her fantasies, like the one before her nightmare, weren't real, but so many times she had a hard time separating them from reality. Cass hadn't been making love to her. He hadn't asked her what was wrong when the cold fear seized her.
He hadn't been terrified for her when their connection -- their private fantasy -- cut short. And yet a part of her felt he had been with her.
"Until now," he added softly.
"It's more than that," Robyn told him, vividly remembering the tone of his daughter's voice only a minute ago. "I think Maddie's in trouble. I think you need to go to her. Now. Please hurry, Cass. If anything happens to Maddie...." She swallowed a cry of her own hysteria. Maddie had already faced a demon. Once in a lifetime was more than enough.
"I'm going," Cass said, and she heard it in his voice as well. He felt it. Something was wrong.
"Call me as soon as you can. Be careful."
He hung up, and Robyn stood with the phone in her hand and her jaw tight. She was over two thousand miles away from them. What could she do except wait? Her only consolation was that Maddie lived less than ten minutes from her father.
Desperately, Robyn whispered Cass's name in her mind.
He didn't answer.
Copyright © 2003 by Karen Wiesner
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