Welp, it’s been a while so I figured a decent sized excerpt was in order. This is unedited, so please excuse any typos. I’ll try and catch them if I see them after I hit publish.
Writing is going reallly well! I’d like to keep you guys in the loop more this month and hopefully I’ll have good news soon about my progress. Thanks and hope you enjoy!
My dreams and memories, the hidden spaces in my mind… something delicate, like several thin fingers, rifled through those secrets like a filing cabinet. Like a bandit in a hurry before a security guard caught onto the theft.
Distraction. I need to distract whatever it is that’s rummaging through my head. This is my dream.
I slapped Jesse’s frozen face.
The shower shifted, morphing into the old fashioned one we’d used in the hidden apartment in the New York library. And with that realization came all the intensity of the moment we’d shared. His thigh spread my legs as I thrust my pussy against the corded muscles there, straining for release. I moaned and the sound parted my lips, lips already bruised from kissing him.
But you hate him. He killed you. He raped you. How can you—
As if waking from a deep sleep Jesse pulled away from our kiss and opened his eyes. He blinked several times before his human eyes gained focus. A slight tilt of his head, his gaze running back and forth over my face.
This wasn’t the memory of him now. Somehow the real him had emerged from the dream. He’d been taken from me, surrendered himself for my crime. And yet here and now, he stood before me in defiance of that separation.
This isn’t just a dream after all. What is this place? How can he be here?
Jesse could see me and feel me, and I could sense him waking to the truth hidden within the dream. My empathy sweetened the moment for us, freeing him from being the frozen thing that had halted my escape from this place. I grinned so wide my lips hurt, and then I pressed that smile against his frowning mouth, pulling him closer, wrapping my arms around him and sliding my tongue deep into his mouth.
Real. As real as a dream could be, as real as when we found ourselves face to face with his witch mother centuries before. Dreams for a witch could be strange after all. Maybe this was the power of our bond stretching across time and space to reunite us.
“Evie…” He returned my kiss with a groan of relief and hunger. Finally, finally, wrapped his arms around me. He crushed my body against his and took what I gave. His hold hurt, but I felt anchored by the pain and savored the bruising intensity even as I winced.
My fangs lengthened and I tasted blood, his and mine. I tasted venom. I reached down between our bodies and grasped his cock in my hand. His answering growl almost made me come.
I had him in my arms. His towering height, his solid muscle. The curtain of his long, dark hair clung to me like his smell. I dug my nails into his arms when he drove his fangs into my throat, clawed his back through the silken strands. The air filled with the sweet perfume of his blood. When I opened my eyes to blink away the tears, a mist of red had replaced the clear water of the shower. Blood soaked passion had replaced the cool, clean escape.
I’ll never be clean. I’ll always be the mess you made…
How can you love him?
His body tense against mine, and I knew he’d heard the voice too. Not mine, but the stranger, the one who couldn’t understand how I could’ve chosen such a beast as a mate. The one who questioned if I’d really chosen at all.
Jesse growled against my throat and pulled free. No trace of passion or hunger now. He’d loosed a predator’s growl for the benefit of an enemy I couldn’t see, only sense.
He shoved me and I hissed when my back connected with the opposite wall of the shower. As if catapulting into glass, I felt a piece of the dream shatter against my spine. Somewhere beyond this strange mental trap, the throb of real pain, my real body, beckoned.
My mate’s eyes, black with vampiric hunger, stared at me with confusion. His brow furrowed and his chest heaved. He wrung his hard cock with one hand the way he did when trying to ease the ache. His stare covered the length of my naked body and he squeezed himself with a sharp inhale. Still, he didn’t approach. He didn’t motion for me to come closer.
He bared his fangs at me instead. Like I’d become the kill.
“You’re not real.” The sneer he leveled at me made my shoulders fold in on themselves.
This is just a dream.
I tried to reassure myself. The last time he’d looked at me, at anyone like this, he’d been planning how to break them before killing them.
I felt like I’d emotionally regressed. Time rewound and I’d become the girl in that first motel again. All that fear, all that anguish. Staring into the face of a killer and knowing I’d be the thing he killed if I didn’t figure out how to survive.
How can you love him?
Yes. How could I love him? I stared down at the bottom of the tub and saw blood rising around my ankles.
He forced you to watch while his brothers raped and killed an innocent girl.
I slammed my eyes shut, trying to shake the images of that first night from my mind.
He made you come for him while you witnessed the horror. While you felt everything. He said you were powerless. You were his. And he proved it over and over.
How can you love him, Evie?
The sinister command in that toneless voice rattled me. I felt whatever control I had of this dream slip through my fingers, bleed like wine on white cloth. Bleed into Jesse the way my thoughts used to bleed into his. Only this wasn’t an accident. This had to be the stranger tugging me further and further away from escape.
Jesse lifted his head as if he could see a sky beyond the celling of the shower. Gray mists loomed above us. Blood rose up to my knees. My thighs.
“I know she’s not real you fucking bitch!” The boom of his voice echoed off the shower walls and sent me scrambling for the corner. I slid to the floor, wrapping my arms around my knees and sank under the rising tide of blood to hide—
Only to find myself in a white room splashed with red. Blood painted the walls, blood covered my naked body. A torture chamber. Or a mating chamber for a vampire queen and the heir to an empire.
“That the best you can do!” Jesse paced before me and stared up at the ceiling, still talking to the stranger controlling this world. Naked and covered in wounds from the torture he’d endured for my sake. We made quite the matching pair, streaked in blood and trapped in a white room.
Vaughn wasn’t here to terrorize me this time. Nor Altani. Nothing driving us apart, and yet I couldn’t get him to see me anymore. We weren’t in this together.
No… that’s not true. There’s something tying you together, alright…
The voice startled Jesse and I at the same time. Jesse’s eyes darted to me. To the area obscured by my drawn in knees.
Before I could even think about the conflicting emotions our child conjured in me, Jesse sprinted and closed the distance between us.
He snatched me up by neck. I screamed as he held me against the wall, my feet dangling well above the floor. The glint of something shiny captured my peripheral vision.
“No! Jesse, please!”
I gasped at the pain as he stabbed me in the womb, digging and twisting the knife as if rooting out a seed buried in the earth.
“S-stop!” I could only croak out the words as he stabbed me again. And again.
He released me and I collapsed into a heap at his feet cradling my stomach and sobbing.
“Ah. I see now.”
Jesse’s voice. But something sounded off.
None of Jesse’s panic came through in the calm, measured tones. Something behind the richness of his baritone made my blood curdle. “That’s the answer I was looking for.”
I looked up just as Jesse crouched in front of me. Our gazes were level as I sat up and scooted into yet another corner.
The thing wearing Jesse’s skin assessed me for a moment, then turned his attention to the bloody knife in his hand. “Sometimes in dreams, up is down. Sometimes left is right. And sometimes, we attack what we want to protect the most…”
He twisted the handle between thumb and fingers, sniffed the blade and then licked the length.
“You’re not Jesse.”
The creature wearing my mate’s form stared at me. Like a kaleidoscope, Jesse’s onyx eyes melted into glittering white, from the corners to the center, burying any semblance of my mate’s true gaze. The effect made me shudder. Someone watched him through his eyes, someone else. Something else.
A voice answered my question through Jesse’s, echoing just under his rich baritone. “He is him and I am me.” The stranger tipped the knife to their left and then to their right, pantomiming the separation.
This blade wasn’t like the shiny thing I’d glimpsed before he stabbed me, a knife that had been reminiscent of Vaughn’s favorite toy. This knife had an obsidian blade, like the one Masilda had used in the first rite at Allamuchy. Even in my tortured state, I could admire the beauty, the symmetry, the sheen of the weapon. So unlike that primordial knife Masilda had used in her ceremony. Perhaps this knife didn’t vibrate with as much power and history as Masilda’s, but that didn’t stop me from shaking with fear. I’d felt the bite of that blade and it didn’t tickle.
“How could you love a thing like him?” The stranger spun the knife around by the base of the handle using the tips of his fingers. Slowly. “How could he love something he’s bred to kill? It didn’t make sense until I took a step back and let you both touch the threads. A baby. You’re pretending to love each other because of a bond and series of perfect accidents. Threads connecting. A pretty lie.”
I might as well have been in another room. The stranger seemed to be talking to himself now, puzzling out pieces of the story he’d gathered from my joint dream with Jesse.
No. It’s not a lie. It’s real.
“A lovely abomination is what you two are.” I stared at Jesse, hoping to find the real him within the possession. I thought maybe I saw something swimming in the depths of his gaze. “Nature’s perfect ruse.”
“It’s not a lie.” I swiped away tears at the stranger’s words.
Fear stirred my insides like a straw and not for the first time I wondered if the stranger’s words were true. My mate bond. This baby. My life. From childhood to now, my life had been a series of painful mistakes I’d tried to right, messes I’d never be able to scrub clean.
I only wanted to make the best of the worst life had to offer.
A lie could help me see everything in a prettier light. A lie could help me believe I loved Jesse, that I wanted this baby, that if I found him we could have something like happiness together. That I could keep my family safe.
I could be more than a killer.
Yes. A brutal, bloody happiness built on cruelty and the suffering of others. I always have been selfish after all. Why not breed and bring another killer into the world and put the cherry on top. And to think, Masilda said I could still be a good person.
My dream body processed the sting of something lost, something I’d been clinging to. But when I looked down the wounds to my belly had disappeared. Instead I saw a silken thread, so thin and iridescent I might have imagined the thing. The length trembled from my womb to the knife the stranger held with Jesse’s large hand. Spinning the knife. Drawing the thread tauter with each measured turned. The thread seemed to disappear into thin air at times, only to shimmer again where the light touched, like dashes written in the sky with glittering ink.
“Who are you?”
Something sinister hidden inside his body smiled with Jesse’s lips. “You shouldn’t be able to see me unless I want you to. But I think we’re well past what should and shouldn’t be possible. I want to meet you. In the real world, where I have your mate. He’s waiting for you, Evie. He wants to see you. Will you leave him to face his punishment alone? Or will you come and offer up something they want more?”
Leverage. Whoever you are, you want leverage.
I shuddered. And Jesse’s eyes widened and turned black in an instant. He broke the intruders hold, then jerked the knife hard, until the thread snapped, no longer stretching from my womb to the blade. The clatter of obsidian on the white tile of the floor echoed like a clock chiming midnight.
Jesse shoved his palms into his eyes so quickly I startled. Groaning he shook his head.
“Don’t say another word! Don’t tell me where you are and don’t let me see you go. You have to leave!”
“Jesse, what’s going on? Where are you? Tell me where you are so I can find you—”
Jesse reached one hand out, his eyes still jammed shut, and covered my mouth to silence me. Between us, I saw the faintest, thinnest string buried inside his hand, rising up just like the thread that had extended from the intruder’s blade. Taut and stretching into the sky, the string disappeared into mists swirling above our heads. I couldn’t see where the string led, but I thought of marionettes. I thought of insects buzzing, trapped on the sticky gossamer lines of a web.
“Don’t come here, Evie. Whatever you do, don’t come here! I can’t protect you and she knows too much now.”
Before I could ask another question, Jesse shoved me and I propelled away from him, floating out of the white room, out into the pitch black endlessness I’d arrived in at the start of my dream. Jesse seemed to be at the end of a long corridor, growing farther away by the second. Only the white light of the room, straining thinner and thinner, connected us.
I reached out for Jesse. I called out for him. He turned his back to me and the hallway disappeared as a door of solid shadow slammed shut. A ring of light surround the door, a symbol that our bond hadn’t been extinguished. But I no longer had access to him. He’d blocked me out of his mind again. I floated alone in the abyss, cut off from him. But also cut off from the sinister presence that had infiltrated his mind, his dreams.
A witch. I know she’s a witch.
A witch unlike any I’d every seen before. She played with dreams like putty.
But she’s not infallible. Jesse, wherever he is, was able to fight her at least a little.
My spine crashed against a wall of water and I sank into a vertical ocean. Drowning, spiraling. Down became up. Water, my nemesis and savior, cradled me even as my lungs flooded with death.
I have to wake up now. I have to wake up.
Sunlight beamed down on me as I floated up to the surface of the water. Light so bright that gold had been replaced by blistering white heat.
I shielded my eyes with a forearm as the brightness intensified. Nearly blind, nearly to the surface. I squinted, and all around me saw the glistening gossamer threads of a spider’s web covering the surface of the water. I swiped them away, thinking of the strange witch and Jesse’s warning. I lashed out wildly, struggling to break through the dream, to stop drowning in this prison of the mind, and as I did a surge of excruciating pain vibrated from my shoulder.
My wounded shoulder. That’s right. My real body, the fight—
Goodbye, Evie. I look forward to meeting you.
Reality finally claimed me before I had time to worry that the witch had followed me there.