If you just started reading my blog, you should probably know my muse abandoned me last year when I went through some personal medical issues. I began writing this story weekly to give myself the kick in the butt I needed to keep it moving forward. The story (originally intended to be a short story) has gotten bigger, more intricate, and expanded into a full length novel. Warning: It's also unedited. This is the first book in the Hearts in Darkness Trilogy, which, believe it or not, is almost completed. The two other books are close to completion as well. Read about all the characters at the link below.
Chapters posted in March through May are here on the weekly blog list. Chapters posted prior to March are at the DEFEAT THE DARKNESS page. Start there to read the book from the beginning.
This story is about to heat up. You go ahead and read this chapter, I'm going to work on the next scene.
After the pain, will come the pleasure.
When Shelby opened her eyes, she was in bed in a darkened room, but she could see detail as if it were fully illuminated.
Where was she?
The last thing she remembered was talking to Kyle before she suddenly began to shiver and sweat. That was followed by nausea and excruciating pain. Finally, it stopped, and then she passed out.
Her hair was in her eyes. She tried to brush it out of her face but in her weakened state, her arms were too heavy to lift.
In her drowsy state, she was still able to hear Kyle’s voice register. He was speaking with someone in the next room. The other man’s voice wasn’t familiar. His dialect was American, but when she listened more closely, she caught a slight Scottish burr in a word or two.
He stopped speaking as if he sensed her listening, and as soon as she struggled to sit, he said, “Ack, Kyle. Yer Shelby’s awake.”
What the heck? Still from her prone position on the bed, she quickly checked the room for a camera. Seeing none, she was still busy wondering how the Scot knew she was awake, when Kyle called her name.
“Shelby?” he said, “I’ll be right there.”
Then more male mumbling followed. A familiar voice with a soft Spanish accent she knew to be Victor Salazar’s, argued with another—a deep, gruffer voice that made all the fine hair on her back stand on end. She felt the urge to stand and fight or claw her way from the house. Weird reaction. Panic like she’d never known before filled her with dread even though her rational mind dismissed it.
The Scotsman said, “Hurry. She’s reacting to Garr.”
Kyle appeared at the side of the bed as if out of nowhere and gripped her shoulders to still her. With a strength she didn’t remember him having, he lifted her off the bed. Cradling her in his arms like a baby, he sat back down and calmed her with his soothing voice.
“Shh, relax. Everything will be all right.” He reached for a glass from the nightstand beside the bed. “Here, drink this.”
She took a sip and choked. “This is terrible.”
Kyle stood his ground. “Drink it. All of it. Victor says it will help ease your symptoms.”
“What symptoms?” When she woke up without any memories of how she got here, she figured that was what Kyle meant. “Do you mean, what happened in the car?”
“That and other symptoms you’re about to experience. Drink up. Victor made the concoction just for you.”
“The stuff tastes like a combination of old, dirty socks and cut grass,” she said.
Kyle cocked his head to one side and asked, “You know that because…?”
“Okay, never mind. I stand corrected.” She was too tired to argue. “It tastes like what I would expect that combination to taste like.”
Scrunching her nose before she did as he asked, she held her breath and quickly drank the rest down. Swallowing the potion actually soothed her parched throat and immediately eased her stomach cramps.
He looked tense when he took the empty glass from her and put it down on the night table.
“What will I begin to experience?” she asked, watching him closely for a reaction.
“Come into the den so we can talk,” he said.
That didn’t sound like it was going to be good news but the blank look on his face didn’t give away anything. She usually could read Kyle, but not now.
He helped her stand, allowing her a moment to get her balance. Having him touch her triggered every sense in her body to a fevered pitch. The immediate sensation was at first not unlike touching an open circuit. She had to shake his hands off to regain her composure.
He moved away from her, edging closer to the door. “Victor is here already.”
“What about Max?
“He took some blood and returned to his lab. Come. I want you to meet our host, my friend, Dylan. We’ll stay here while you recuperate and hope the authorities track down Amyra soon.”
“Is he the one with the Highland brogue?”
“Brogue? Yeah, come to think of it, the old accent does pop out when he’s excited.” Kyle laughed. “I think he’s been in this country for a long time, though.”
“Tell me how you and Dylan met?” she said, as she tested her feet.
“An old friend of Victor’s put us in touch. They arranged for me to finish recuperating from the jungle ordeal here at his place when I returned. He freelances for local and state police as a consultant and when necessary, also for the FBI.”
“That’s handy under the circumstances.” She took one tentative step then another.
Kyle opened the door wider, and she halted mid step when she caught a strange scent in the air.
“Who else is out there? I thought I heard someone else.”
“Deep, gravelly voice?”
The sense of panic set in again. She couldn’t control the trembling in her hands or the vibrations rising from somewhere deeper inside her. She nodded at him but had to stop when the room spun.
“That’s Dylan’s friend, Garr. He’s here to help with Dylan’s ward, Jackson. You okay?”
Shelby winced and slowly shifted her attention to the doorway. “What’s that smell? Wet dog?”
“No. But I understand why you might think that.” Kyle looked like he was holding back a grin when he approached her and wrapped her in his embrace. “You’re trembling. There’s nothing to be frightened of here. You’re safe with any one of us. Do you understand that?”
“Yes,” she breathed. “I do. But something inside me doesn’t trust… I think it doesn’t trust Garr.”
Smothered by Kyle’s enticing scent, an overwhelming need for him sparked within every cell in her body. Relaxing into his familiar embrace, she was inexplicably drawn to the power of his presence. Suddenly, an exotic fragrance, emanating from both her body and his, permeated the surrounding air blocking the other repulsive dog scent. Leaning into him, she gripped his t-shirt and buried her nose in his chest.
“God, you smell…amazing!”
She fanned her fingers over his broad chest, testing the feel of him as he nuzzled her ear.
Kyle tilted her chin up with a knuckle and stared at her mouth. He brushed a finger over her bottom lip then bent his head to take her lips with his. The kiss started as if he moved in slow motion, but the longer his lips lingered, the stronger the pull between them grew. He opened his mouth enough to slip his tongue across the seam of her lips and tested the entrance.
Opening to him, their tongues tangled in that old familiar dance. A sigh escaped from her when he pulled her closer, and she didn’t miss the moan of arousal Kyle released against her lips when he pressed her hips against his obvious erection.
His muscles bunched and bulged beneath her touch, and his scent caused something beneath her skin to ripple. She shivered when she felt the same ripple answer beneath his. He held back some kind of unleashed power in the muscles beneath her fingers. Lost in the frenzy of her desire, she didn’t notice when Kyle took control until he moved her away, holding her at arm’s length.
“We shouldn’t keep them waiting,” he said with what appeared to be some amount of effort. His chest rose and fell with ragged breaths, so she knew he wasn’t unaffected.
That didn’t prevent her from being mortified by her lack of self-control. This behavior was out of character for her. Back in the car, she’d played into the role of damsel in distress. Here she was dropping at his feet the first time he glanced in her direction again, and she’d practically climbed his body. All the while, the image of him with that woman played repeatedly in her head.
The urge to hide her face in shame and run was so overwhelming that she shuttered her expression against him, refusing to allow him to see the emotions clearly expressed there. She wanted him, she needed him, and dammit…she loved him.
The fact that she was behaving like a cat in heat was even more mortifying under the circumstances. All that was left, that could be more humiliating, was for her to wrap herself around his body and rub all over him. That impulse almost surpassed the sudden desire she had to throw herself down on the bed and beg him to mount her. The urges were just so freakin’ irresistible. And the idea that it all sounded so damned appealing pissed her off even more.
…and that other scent, what is this feeling it’s causing? Although not unpleasant, the scent plagued her like a dream she couldn’t recall. Not foreign, but not entirely unfamiliar to her, either.
I know what it is… No, the identity was not quite revealing itself, yet.
The closest state she could compare it with was hunger. Hunger for Kyle? Yes. But hunger for something else, too.
“It’s blood,” the Scotsman said from outside the doorway. “Follow me. I’m Dylan MacGregor. And that wet dog smell is coming from Garr over there.”
“How?” She gasped and felt heat rush to her cheeks when she noticed a darkly handsome man across the room glaring at her.
“Sorry,” Dylan said, “I didn’t mean to intrude. I’m a very sensitive psychic, and sometimes I can’t shut out strong emotions.”
“Oh, sorry.” Shelby glanced at Garr in the way of an apology said, “I-I didn’t mean to imply… It’s just my senses are off. I’ve never been so hypersensitive to… well, everything.”
“Nothing to be sorry about.” Dylan chuckled. “Come to think of it, he does smell a wee bit like wet dog after a good drizzle.”
The man named Garr emitted what Shelby could only compare to a low growl of warning. The sound made her hair stand on end the same way his scent had. Kyle stepped in front of her, and to her amazement, growled back. Victor came out of nowhere and held Kyle back.
This looked like the ultimate pissing contest. Testosterone reeked in the air. There was no mistaking it. Shelby not only smelled it, she felt it battering her like waves pounding the shore after a bad storm.
“Ah, men, I think yer frightening the lady.”
The wet-dog smelling man broke into a hard grin. “Sorry, Kyle. I was growling at Dylan. No offense, ma’am.”
“Uh, none taken,” Shelby said, and let out a sigh when the tension in the room eased.
Kyle had been coiled like a snake ready to strike and his growl had been different. Not like the sound a dog makes—or even a wolf. It was otherworldly in a way she’d only seen in horror movies. For a moment, she thought his eyes glimmered with a crimson light.
“What is going on? I feel like Alice when she fell into the rabbit hole.”
Victor held out his hand to her and asked, “May I?” But he was watching Kyle for a reaction. “We’ll explain everything. You should sit. Dylan will help you relax while we show you a few things.
“Of course.” Shelby glanced at Kyle and noted the tension still present in his jaw. He was working hard to control himself, but something else inside was fighting him for power. Instead of taking the hand Victor offered, she took Kyle’s. “You’re coming with me? Right?”
For a split second, a shudder visibly traveled through Kyle, and then he forced a smile along with the composure that once seemed so natural to him. He rubbed the inside of her wrist with his thumb, and along with the heat it sent to her core, he sent reassurance.
The dog man stood. No, she couldn’t think of him like that now. There was nothing canine about him. Too big, too much power. More like wolf and hunky, intimidating male.
Garr strode to the door. “Why don’t you all get settled? I should check in with the guards.” He picked up a backpack of sorts before he moved toward the hallway. On the way out, he looked over his shoulder, made eye contact with Shelby, and winked. “Nice meeting you, doc. I’ll take a shower before I stop in again.”
She gasped, heat rising in her cheeks once more. “Oh, no. Please that’s not...” Then she heard his deep rolling laughter all the way out the door.
Everyone moved around the room, settling on their spot, each finding a comfortable position like a battle station. Relaxed isn’t what she’d call it. What she found was even she looked for a spot with certain vantage points. Vantage points she wasn’t aware off until that moment. Chair. Door. Escape.
Even more strange.
“Your thoughts are instinctive. You are feeling the beast within you practicing survival techniques,” Dylan said.
Beast? She was already getting used to having the man in her head, although it was highly disconcerting to think he could rummage through her thoughts, so easily.
“I only hear what you’re projecting so loudly I can’t shut it out. I’d never invade your privacy unnecessarily.” Dylan sounded insulted.
“Of course you wouldn’t.” And she believed it. “I’m going to have to turn down the volume I guess. It may take a while though. You know, I’m still freaking out about all this.”
Victor interrupted. “The world holds many secrets the average person is unaware of. You are about to be introduced to some of those secrets. There’s no need to be afraid. You will be shocked, surprised, disbelieving at times, but it is all true and we will all be here to see you through this.”
“But what? Why me?” she asked and glanced from one man to the other.
Victor answered first. “While you were in Guatemala you were exposed to a virus that caused your blood to mutate. The change in your blood is causing other changes, too.”
Shelby’s stomach dropped. As a doctor, how many times had she been present when a patient was given the bad news? Hundreds? “What sort of changes? Cancer?”
“No, nothing like that,” Kyle said. “What you have won’t kill you as far as we know.”
Dylan spoke next. “Before we go into more detail, I’d like to offer you access to my mental link. I can keep your emotions from becoming involved while we explain everything and it will seem to be a movie, a visual explanation under controlled conditions.”
“I don’t know—”
“It’s best this way, Shelby. There’s so much you need to know.” Kyle looked deadly serious. “Any other way is too difficult for the mind to absorb. I don’t want you to suffer any more than you will.”
“Uh, that sound ominous.” Shelby pulled her hair out of her face and asked, “Just how much suffering?”
“You saw me shortly after I was infected. How did I look?”
“Okay,” she said and turned to Dylan. “If there’s an easier way, I’m in. I’m no glutton for punishment. My mind is in your hands. And I know I haven’t said so, but I appreciate what you are all doing to keep me safe.”
“You’re welcome, doctor. As I told Kyle, someday I’m sure you’ll return the favor.”
...All rights reserved. No part of this may be copied or reproduced without the written permission of the author. Copyright 2012, Eliza March