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By Brenda Williamson
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Brenda Williamson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTimber closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She was right where she aimed all her life, and she couldn't let anything damper her spirits.
Fight the panic, she prayed for strength.
Though not a firm believer in God, she didn't think it hurt to try and get some outside guidance.
With a conservative smile, she took her sunglass out of her bag and sat them on top of her head in case she had another bout of the wild eyes. Whenever possible, she avoided letting anyone see her irises change colors. It brought questions, and she didn't like the feeble excuses she made up to divert them. The glasses slipped forward. She caught them and pushed them back in place.
When the fine hairs on her neck prickled, she listened with an intense sense of forewarning and waited. The panic rose slower than when the man grabbed her. It gave her the time to look around and focus on landmarks. More importantly, she hunted out the niches in which she could hide.
The colors she saw blurred and distorted with a swift flicker of different shades. As easily as the summer leaves turned to the yellows and reds of fall, her irises dilated into dark pinpoints, giving her better vision. Things began to dull to gray tones.
Her nostrils flared, accepting the change in the wind.
Damn, she mutely muttered in thought.
Unprepared to look directly at anyone, she lowered her thick lashes when footsteps approached. Her insides flip-flopped like a fish out of water. Her jumbled nerves prevented her from venturing a peek.
"Ma'am, do you need help with your luggage?" a man asked.
The unfamiliar voice lowered her defenses. She cracked open an eyelid and looked at his black shoes. Navy blue work pants sheathed his legs. He stood ready in the bus depot with a willingness to assist because it was his job, she determined. His fingers touched her hand with an attempt to take the bag from her. He already expected she would say yes.
"I don't need any help." She yanked her bag away from his grasp.
Her head lifted and his wide-eyed gaze amplified his shock. She remembered the sunglasses sitting on top her head and quickly pulled them down to her nose, covering her eyes. She had seen his sort of look all through life. It brought back the familiar taunts from her childhood and the cruelty still haunting her sleep. It took years before she accepted she couldn't make her eyes stop changing colors. It took self-therapy to resign herself to the total abnormality of her existence.
Timber hurried away from the man and went to the far end of the building. She went around the corner and stopped abruptly.
"Good day, miss." A short jolly fellow with a twisted moustache smiled.
"Hello." Her eyes stabilized. The gray shades went away, but she kept the glasses in place. "Are you from Wolverton Manor?"
"No, miss, and you shouldn't be wanting to go to that place." His cheerful smile vanished. "Those folks don't like visitors."
"But I'm expected." She looked about, feeling the strange wary sensation returning. "I thought someone might meet me here. I sent a telegram of my arrival."
"I don't know your business with the Wolvertons, but my advice would be to get back on a bus and leave. People around here don't take to them folks and their odd ways."
His jolliness vanished and before she could ask anything else, he walked off, leaving her to wonder about the family she never knew existed. The invitation-style letter made it sound like she'd be welcomed. Disappointment settled in her bones. She should have known things were too good to be true. She grew up in foster homes. She moved so many times, from family to family, and town to town, she lived in confusion and frustration all the time.
Timber stepped from the curb onto the narrow street. She started to cross near the intersection and stopped. Looking up at the hill, she saw a paved road disappear into the dense stand of trees. Above the forest, the skyline displayed a series of attached roofs of an obscured mansion. She studied the silhouette against the smoky afternoon sky.
Something inexplicably electrifying captivated her about the massive structure. Her invitation didn't give directions, other than to take the bus. She saw why. She felt the magnetism of the place beckoning her to the wrought iron gates. What she would learn about the Wolvertons would come firsthand.
When Timber first received the letter, hope welled in a whirl of fantastical imaginings. Like some kidnapped princess, she thought she would finally return to the folds of her real family. She'd meet a whole slew of overfriendly people who searched for her since her disappearance.
She would belong.
She would be loved.
She would finally have a real home.
Gawking like a tourist, Timber reached in her bag for a camera. The impact of someone plowing into her knocked the air from her lungs. Tires screeched on the pavement and drowned out the terrified squeal she made.
She struggled to free herself from the massive weight pinning her to the street.
"Mustn't stand in the road," a strange man said while lying on her like some overweight bear. "It's a rule, mustn't stand in the road."
Her vision began dancing in the familiar rainbow of colors. She resisted her fears, not wanting to attack anyone again.
"Mustn't stand in the road," he repeated, getting up slowly.
A mediocre amount of relief relaxed her muscles. Her distorted vision returned to normal. The fact the man appeared mentally handicapped helped tranquilize her adrenaline-laced veins, but it did not curb her rising anger. As of late, the only emotions she had were fear and resentment. The letter gave her the profound surge of happiness she needed.
"I was crossing the road, you moron," she groaned, crawling to her knees. "Look what you've done!"
Blood dripped from her scraped hands and arms. The grit from the surface of the road was embedded in her raw flesh. She wanted to cry. At the same time, she needed to blame someone and he seemed the wrong one to direct her irritation toward.
"Mustn't stand in the road. It's a ..."
"I know, I know, it's a rule," she finished with agitation.
Timber looked at his crooked face. The nerves apparently not working on one side gave him a gruesome appearance as if he were an image in a funhouse mirror. His one eye drooped and the other resembled a large blue shooter marble.
"I know, now please calm down." She stroked his arm feeling pity for his condition.
If she should feel akin to anyone, it was this deformed soul.
"Buckeye!" a man yelled. "Get away from her."
Timber turned toward the loud, approaching threat.
The root of her irritation appeared from the sporty red car that almost skidded into her. The cretin strutted regally en route for her. Long legs, wrapped tight in jeans, took long strides in a determined gait. Her gaze locked onto the bulge against his pant's zipper. She gulped and looked at the rest of him. Narrow hipped and wide-shouldered, the heartthrob made her heart to thump harder inside her ribcage. Her nipples tightened with an ache of desire of which she had limited knowledge.
He brushed back his wavy, charcoal black hair with one hand. A gust of air ruffled it and his long fingers raked through the locks again. He handsomely began removing all her thunderous fury and she was taken aback by the warmth of his gaze. His obvious look at her chest made it impossible to ignore the ripple of heat feathering over her breasts.
When his tongue eased out and ran a slow lick over his full lips, images jumped to mind of licking him. Her mouth watered as if she could already taste him. She watched the corner of his mouth twist up with a grin and it made her cringe at how horribly misplaced her thoughts were.
Excerpted from Wolverton Blood by Brenda Williamson Copyright © 2006 by Brenda Williamson. Excerpted by permission.
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