I'm so excited today! I get to share the AMAZING cover for my work in progress: Dreamscape (Netherworld Book I). I'm hoping for a summer release, and I can't wait to share the depth and magnitude of this world with you. It's blown me away, and I hope it does the same for you :)
So without further delay, here it is:
Isn't it BEAUTIFUL? I just love it and can't stop staring at it, lol.
In case you are wondering, here is the blurb:
Every night before Amelia falls asleep she makes a wish to dream of him – the man who calls her to their beautiful private oasis, her sanctuary where she is free of her greedy landlord’s threats. But tonight, he will not call Amelia to him. Tonight, another man will step into her world to claim her. Tonight, Amelia’s shattering reality will crumble - and disappear into the Dreamscape…along with her freedom.
When Amelia dreams tonight, her nightmare becomes her new world where Seth is her captor and anything is possible…except escape. Seth needs Amelia to break the curse that binds him to the Dreamscape. He must convince her that she was made to free him, that she was made to join him.
For if he fails, he will never escape his prison, and he will lose Earth to the Netherworld where the evil Erobos wait to consume the human realm and everything in it. If he fails, Seth will lose the one thing that matters to him: Amelia.
When Amelia dreams tonight, her nightmare becomes her new world where Seth is her captor and anything is possible…except escape. Seth needs Amelia to break the curse that binds him to the Dreamscape. He must convince her that she was made to free him, that she was made to join him.
For if he fails, he will never escape his prison, and he will lose Earth to the Netherworld where the evil Erobos wait to consume the human realm and everything in it. If he fails, Seth will lose the one thing that matters to him: Amelia.
Those of you who read Horizon got a sneak peek at Dreamscape, but I'm going to post the first two chapters here for your enjoyment :) Keep in mind this is a work in progress so it hasn't been edited and whatnot. It is copyrighted and comes with the usual disclaimers.
Not much surprises me anymore.
This girl does.
She is delicate in every sense of the word except in her bold stare. Instead of cowering in the corner pleading for her life, she hugs her knees to her chest and watches me.
I watch her in return, wondering if she could be my salvation. After a long while she lowers her face, not out of fear or rage; it is indifference I catch in her smoky green eyes.
What is even more interesting is no recognition toward me lingers in her expression although this girl has seen me every night for the past few years. To be fair to her, she did not see me in my true form, but I somehow imagined she would recognize my energy.
Despite the calm exterior she presents to me, her heart thuds against her chest like a bird trapped in a cage. I stare, fascinated, as a single drop of sweat escapes her dark hair and traces a line down her forehead—the only outward hint of her reaction to her fiery surroundings, or is it to me?
She is beautiful—the most beautiful of those I had to choose from. If I am being honest, it is the main reason I have called her here; yet, something about her draws me nearer that has nothing to do with the fine outward shell she dons. Even in her dreams she was extraordinary.
Unfortunately dreams do not always represent well the dreamer. I never truly know who I have until they are in my domain. Pink lips move, but nothing comes out. I imagine her voice is as sweet as those lips muttering incomprehensible phrases.
Is she praying to a god that cannot hear her in this place? Is she saying goodbye to loved ones?
I shake my head. Impossible. She has no one. Another reason she is here with me.
Her body tenses when I step closer. Finally, I make out her words: Wake up.
I smile. She thinks she is dreaming still.
I can have fun with this. Fun does not come easily to the keeper of the netherworld.
When I’m two feet away she shifts back and thrusts out a shaking hand. She finally speaks, and I am rewarded. Her voice is the sweetest sound that could ever exist, although her words are a harsh command.
“Stop!” she says.
She scrambles backward and jumps to her feet, facing me in a fighting stance. With the stealth of a cat she rocks to her toes and shifts her upper body as if for a quick escape. Eyes wild, body coiled, she might as well be hissing at me.
I want to laugh. There is no escape from hell.
Disregarding my impulses, I let her thoughts congeal before I destroy her hopes. The giant pendulum behind me punctuates the sound of her pulse. Schwoosh plunk, schwoosh plunk…the sound usually soothes me, but in this moment I cannot countenance another schwoosh.
She has to see this is real; I only have until morning to make her mine, and I have wasted enough time as it is hoping to calm her before I shatter the foundations of her existence.
Working to still my breath, my senses heighten, slowing time. She is not ready for my fake, and I easily catch her wrists before she can bypass me. She kicks at my shins, and I let her momentum topple us over. Her eyes fly wide while we fall toward the carpet, and I know she expects pain from me. I eat her fear like a fine brulee, savoring each moment.
The instant we crash to the floor, she struggles to get away. Her scent surrounds me, intoxicating me, threatening to steal my focus. It has been too long since I’ve held a woman in my arms. “There is no escape,” I tell her. If there were I would not be here.
For the briefest of moments our gazes merge. She swallows, her eyes searching mine as if she is trying to see my core. My muscles harden in anticipation of what she will do next. Even though I would never admit it, the next words she utters cut me to the soul.
“You’re a nightmare,” she insists. “You can’t hurt me.”
I hear the desperation in my voice; however, stopping my impetuous reply is impossible. “Nightmare I may be, yet I assure you I am as real as the blood that flows in your veins.”
Doubt flickers across her face. She still does not believe this is her new reality. I glance over my shoulder toward the fiery pit that abuts this room with no end—my prison.
Flames burst forth at my bidding, rushing toward us. She gasps, and I see the moment she feels the heat. I take pleasure in her realization and let it go too far. The inferno consumes the carpet, the sofa, even my prized hound succumbs.
She is unaware everything will reappear at my command—everything except her. Her expression morphs into one of utter terror. My own terror rises as a fierce cry escapes her throat. A few seconds more will find me holding a pile of ash.
The instant I sever my connection with the flames, they plummet into the abyss until the next time I call them. My blood freezes in my veins. Why have I done this?
Her voice rushes out in a gust. “What are you?”
I should be used to this question, yet it pierces my heart. A muscle in my jaw jumps, and so does she. “I am the darkness, and you are now mine.”
A shudder finds me as I lie in the darkness remembering the last thing my captor said to me before he plopped me on his bed and left through the only door in this massive room.
He thinks he is the darkness.
No doubt he’s a monster, yet the world has never seen a more beautiful horror. Neither have I. An angel pales in his shadow—with his dirty blond hair, blue eyes that are deep as the darkest ocean one second and the next the color of a summer sky. Add a strong jaw and towering height to the mix and what you have is a man that should grace the cover of a fashion magazine.
Yet in those beautiful, terrifying eyes I see my death. I’ve been telling myself to wake up for hours. Unfortunately, the burn that covers the majority of my left arm keeps me from sleeping. Where his body shielded mine, the flames didn’t touch me, but the rest of me aches from the contact. I’ve had worse sunburns, really, but it’s the idea of his actions as much as the pain that freaks me out.
I still don’t know what he is or, worse, what he wants from me. I have to find a way out of here. I have to find a way to escape him.
The lights flash on making my eyes squint against the sudden glare. Not waiting for him to speak, I spin toward the wall even though his quiet approach tells me there’s no way he’s gonna leave me alone. A soft touch hesitates then rests on my shoulder. I shrug it away as if it’s acid.
His grunt makes my muscles bunch. If he were an ordinary man I might have a chance in combat. I’m quick when I need to be—even held my own with some of the roughest thugs in Seattle, Vegas, and recently the hopping metropolis of Provo, Utah. The mountains are stunning, but the nightlife could use some work.
Justine used to say, “Stay sharp, kid. No one knows when their time’s up.” Well, she sure didn’t. Justine was my grandma. She died last month at only fifty-eight.
I miss her fiercely. If she were here, she’d tell me to get over it, so I’m trying.
Thank my lucky stars she waited until I got my diploma to ditch me; although, I’m not quite sure how it’ll help me now. I still have no idea where I am, and it’s starting to worry me. No one’s gonna care if this psycho keeps me for the rest of my life or slits my throat.
I’m alone in this world.
My mom only made it to twenty-one before she overdosed on crack. My dad lasted to a ripe old age of thirty. He got killed by a rival gang when I was twelve. I never saw him anyway, so my life hasn’t been much different since he bit it.
Justine was my ticket to normal, and she left me with no money, no prospects—unless you count the hazy offer I got from Roberto.
I used to hang out with him when I had nothing else to do. He graciously asked me to share his pad under the viaduct when I told him the news. I gave him a swift “no thank you” even though I should have told him not even if I weren’t half his age and he had most of his teeth. I couldn’t hurt his feelings like that. He was nice enough, but seriously?
If I hadn’t just turned eighteen I might have found somewhere in the foster system to camp for a while. A grunt comes out of me even though I don’t want to make a sound. As horrible of a thought as it is, being here is probably better than wading through families until one stuck or I got kicked out.
My captor’s hand flits over my arm, rubbing in some sort of salve that takes the sting away but singes my nose. I would tell him thanks, but he did this to me so he doesn’t deserve it. My jaw clenches against the velvet strokes of his fingers. I’m gonna ignore his soft touch if it’s the last thing I do; there’s something seriously wrong with him.
His dark voice fills the room. “I—” His hesitation trips me up, and I almost turn around. Before I can move, though, he continues, “I hope you like it here.”
I face him in a nanosecond. “Did you really just say that to me? Hello, you seriously can’t be that wacko. I mean, come on. You stole me in the middle of the night and brought me to your lair like the freaking Phantom of the Opera then you set your living room on fire, torch your dog, not to mention almost me, just to make a point?
“Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I’m not one of those girls who thought Christine should have ended up with the Phantom, so you might as well let me go now. Save us both some trouble.”
He smiles, which makes me clench my jaw again. With a tight flick of his head, he motions toward the hallway. “You want to go?”
I jump to my feet, ignoring the sting of his hand sliding down my arm. I’ve seen weird. I’ve even seen freakish, but I’ve never seen something like him. “Where’s the front door?”
His thick brows hit his hairline. “Even if I could tell you that, you have nowhere to go.”
Strange answer. My mind flits over how much he knows about me, partly because I don’t want to acknowledge the shiver that travels over my skin, but mostly because I can’t believe he doesn’t even know how to get out of his own pad. I nod in his direction. “Exactly how long have you been stalking me?”
His eyes come alive, yet he gives me a casual shrug. “A while.”
I send him a disgusted frown. If I did find a way to ditch this place, would he find me again? “Don’t you know how creepy that is?”
A slow smile covers his mouth. “Creepy isn’t the worst thing to be.”
His world must totally suck.
I smack my lips together before I lock eyes with him. “So—are you ever going to tell me why you brought me here? I figure if you wanted to kill me I’d be dead.” I try not to let hope or fear show in my eyes. Who knows just what is going to set off this freak?
In the amount of time it takes me to process what he’s doing, he’s at my side. This sudden burst of speed sends panic to my veins, but his calm voice stills my pulse.
He leans over, his lips a breath from my ear. “I’ll tell you what,” he says. “If you can find a way out, I’ll let you go.”
My heart stutters then speeds like a racecar toward the finish line. There has to be a way out—he came and got me for the love of bald eagles, and since he’s offering… “I’ll take that deal,” I say, sending him a cocky glance.
He smirks a challenge at me. “Go ahead.”
I glide into the hallway puffing out my chest, getting my swagger on. Other than frying my arm, he hasn’t made a move to hurt me, so oddly enough I feel almost comfortable around him, like it’s okay to be myself. It’s just a matter of time before I discover the hidden latch to my freedom. He doesn’t know how tenacious I am. He’s also right behind me, and I’m hyper aware of his every move. We’ve got something weird going on between us, but heck if I know what it is.
I’m tempted to check his face to see if I’m headed the right way, but I keep my back to him. Flickering tapers set into curly candelabras drape the space in a caramel glow. Although extremely cool, it’s not much light to go by, which, unfortunately, makes it twice as hard to see where this hallway leads. The super weird part is there are no other doors or even windows, just a dingy corridor that seems to stretch on forever. I stop to tug every sconce, thinking one will give under the pressure and unlock the door to my freedom. No such luck. I bristle at my captor’s dark laugh but keep going.
After a few minutes of getting nowhere, I sprint forward, running as fast as I can on the uneven surface. He follows behind me. His breathing is even while my lungs ache so bad I’m worried they might burst after only a few minutes.
The hallway stretches forever in front of me like an endless highway to Nowheresville. One thing’s for certain: I’m getting nowhere, so I slam to a stop and bend over, sucking in wind.
This is the worst shape I’ve been in. I got kind of lazy when Justine took me in five years ago. At first after she found me, I made life pretty difficult for her, thinking she was just going to ditch me too. Wouldn’t you know it the minute I thought I’d have her forever is when she left me. Being with her was the only time I’ve felt safe in my whole life. I should have known it wouldn’t last.
Psycho dude inches closer to me, and I snap up, turning to face him—the door is right behind us.
No way. There is no freaking way. I blink a couple times just to make sure my eyes are working right. When that yields the same result, I lower to my haunches to check the cobbled floor. If this thing’s a conveyor belt, I’m a red banana.
With as much composure I can muster I say, “You’d better start giving me explanations, buddy. Why am I here? What is this place? Who are you? I don’t even know your freaking name!”
Deep blue eyes flit towards the door. When he looks up again, he holds out his hand.
I shake my head. I’m not touching him on purpose. He’s not far from me. He could snatch me up like he did when he barged into my room and stole me from my bed, but he doesn’t.
His voice is barely audible. “Come with me. I’ll explain everything.”
My heart pounds against my chest. This is it. All I have to do is stay calm and she won’t know; she won’t figure it out. If she opens the door first, she will have a choice to leave and given her history she will. There is no way I am letting her go no matter what now. Even if she manages to see through my bluff, I’ll figure something out to keep her with me. I motion for her to move ahead of me, but she shakes her head like I want her to.
For her to be tied to me, this has to be her decision—her mistake. I reach for the handle with controlled movements, hoping I don’t give anything away. A smile spreads my mouth when I face the door and block her access. The cool metal knob twists, and I push the door away. With practiced movements, I lead her into my shrine.
My whole body sighs once she is over the threshold. This girl might just have what it takes to break my curse. She is determined enough, bright enough, lovely enough, so why am I still afraid?
Like an unpracticed youth, I am not sure how to start the conversation. After a while she grunts, so I dive in. “You are of the blood.”
Her face pales, and I’m lost in her confused eyes. “Blood?” she asks then gulps.
Maybe not the best thing to start with. I smile at her, but she flinches. Am I that frightening? I drop my gaze and pace the room, attempting to make myself less obtrusive. “Long ago…”
She chuckles before she speaks and the sound startles me. “In a galaxy far, far away,” she says, still laughing.
I like her smile. It brightens my mood as well as a full moon on a cloudless night. That aside, I still don’t know what she means. “To what are you referencing?”
Dark brows furrow, and I want to smooth the lines on her forehead. She looks as if she is going to tell me something important before her eyes harden. “Nothing. Go on.”
“Have you ever heard of the Oneiroi?”
She tries out the word. “O-near-ee?” I nod. She considers this for a moment before she says, “Um, no.”
Explanations will be difficult. If there was one thing I used to be able to count on, it was the passing on of legend within a community. What has happened to the world? I take a deep breath and hold it, attempting to solidify a plan. Best to start with something she will understand. “Where do you think dreams come from?”
She sits on the couch, her movements waiflike. Confusion narrows her eyes as she takes in her surroundings. “Hey, how did you get another sofa so…” She makes another brief sweep of the room as if to make sure, and her gaze settles on Baltek. Her hand covers her mouth then she points at him. Her voice cracks when she speaks. “Oh my gosh, that dog looks just like the one you fried earlier.”
It takes all my will not to laugh. “I’ll get to that, but please, answer my question.”
Her head bobs in a decisive nod. “Subconscious, right?”
I smirk at her surety. “Not quite.”
She gives me a belligerent stare and cocks her head. “Next you’re gonna tell me they come from you.”
She is smart. “Actually, they do.”
She scoffs and stands up. “Right. So you think you’re the darkness and that you control dreams.”
Not the response I expected. I am encouraged. “Very good question. I have limited access these days, and I need your help.”
Her raucous laughter startles me while her open body language entices me. “Good one. You want me to control people’s dreams?”
“No? But I thought you just said—”
This is the trouble with the young, they do not listen. “What I said was I need your help.”
More scoffs before she says, “You have a funny way of asking for help, buddy.”
She’s right. I may have gone overboard with the drama, but I get out so little. “Are you willing to listen?”
Her eyes remain guarded. “Listen, sure, but I’m not committing to anything just yet.”
“Very well,” I relent, “I will try to give you the shortest version I am able. I only ask that you not interrupt me. Agreed?”
She fidgets in her seat, flicking out a dainty hand as if she is swatting a gnat away. “Yeah, sure, get on with it already.”
Her impatience astounds me, but I continue as if it does not. “You come from a bloodline of clairvoyants. Your mind is capable of reaching into the minds of others around you.” I get a raise of the brows, yet she stays silent. I am further encouraged. “I should clarify one very important point for you. The Oneiroi do not control dreams, we send them. Once released, they are for the dreamer to control or reject.” Her eyes focus on me, and I take my usual chair, opposite her, hoping to keep her interest. “There are legends about us, but legends have faded in your world. We used to be called upon for assistance; however, in recent years humans hardly pay attention to their dreams.”
In the cutest gesture I have ever seen, she holds up her hand as if I am her teacher. I guess in a way, I am.
“Yes?” I say.
“I think I’m following you here, but why does it matter if people don’t remember their dreams?”
For someone so young, she pays attention more than I’ve given her credit for. “In the beginning of time the Oneiroi were charged with filling the minds of royalty. This is one form of divine guidance. At first, we only gifted good dreams, but as time went on it was clear warnings were also needed. You see. If left to their own conscience, most mortals will choose the easiest path. It takes a brave soul to stand up to tyranny or bigotry, yet it takes an equally brave soul to become a tyrant or a bigot.”
She raises her hand again. I am really beginning to like her. “But what does this have to do with me?”
The most important question of all. “I shall make this simple; however, if you have further questions, you may ask.” She nods. “There used to be many of us, now there are only four…including myself that have not converted to the Erobos, or those that call themselves the dark ones.” She is right to shudder, but to my surprise, she does not interrupt me. “Essentially, my brothers and I are allowed to recruit one mortal for aid every so often, and I have chosen you.”
She tucks her legs under her and leans further into the cushions. A very good sign. “Why?”
If she knew all my reasons she would hate me. Nothing can change what I’ve done. Not even her. I lift my shoulders in a casual shrug that I do not feel. “You are gifted with the sight, you are of the blood, and you have no complications to distract you.”
Her brow creases as she studies me. “What if I don’t want to help? Do I get to leave?”
Unbelievably, she still thinks there is an escape. Let her retain her hope, for now. “If you can find the way out, you may leave at any time.”
She cocks her jaw to the side, riffling her fingers through her dark hair. “Cryptic your middle name?”
Despite my efforts, a chuckle escapes me. “I haven’t a middle name.”
She smiles. “Ha. All right, do you have a first name?”
Such an insistent one. I’ve expected her to resist me, yet she is still gathering information. “You may call me Seth.”
Her smoky eyes lock onto mine. “You have a weird way of answering questions, Seth. What if I take the job and don’t like it?”
My fingers curve along velvet armrests of my chair. Her skin is softer.
My pulse quickens with the thought of touching her. I swallow, and make my body relax. “My offer stands. If at any time you can find the way out, you may leave.”
I barely have finished speaking when she blurts, “What about time off?”
“You will not require time off.”
She gives me a once over. “Everyone needs time off.”
I stand and she startles. Instead of moving toward her as I had planned I take a step back. “Are you agreeing?”
She shrugs and joins me on the carpet as she says, “It’s not like I have anything better to do. Who knows? It might be fun.”
This guy is certifiable, but at least he’s entertaining. He should be a movie producer, or screenwriter, or something like that. His ideas floor me.
It’s taken everything in me to agree to help him. What I should be doing is crying in the corner, or clawing through the walls to escape. It might come to that, but not yet. I’m intrigued by him as much as I am afraid of him. It’s stupid to feel this way, yet I can’t seem to make myself feel anything else.
For a moment I wonder how long I’ve been here. I guess it doesn’t really matter because I no longer have a home to go back to. Once the landlord figures out I’m not coming to get my things, he’ll probably cart my stuff off to charity or, more likely, his third floor unit. Slimy weasel. Even the night before my eviction when he came to make sure I knew my time was up, I didn’t miss his eyes clamping onto my mp3 player.
I push my greedy ex-landlord out of my mind because Seth’s voice still echoes in my thoughts. You are of the blood.
I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous. Next, he’s gonna tell me he’s a vampire and my blood called him to me. Yeesh. It’s bad enough he thinks he controls dreams. I’d hate to see what would happen if he thought he was the lord of the undead instead of the netherworld, or whatever he said this place was. Truth is I stopped really listening after he told me things about myself he shouldn’t know or even be able to guess.
Still, he’s right about a few things. I have no clue where blood is concerned, but I’ve been able to feel people out pretty well all my life. It’s what’s kept me out of real trouble, but clairvoyant? I don’t think so. I’d be raking in the dough if I could read people’s minds. I’m not one of those ninnies that would use my power for the greater good or anything like that. I figure, if you got something to lift you up in this world, best use it.
He turns toward the far wall where the pendulum swings and then faces me again. “Please, excuse my manners. You must be hungry.”
“I could eat,” I tell him, but the truth is I haven’t eaten in two days, unless you count that ketchup packet I found in the back of my fridge. My stomach jumps at the mere thought of food, making me forget the questions I have about this room. Like where all that fire came from, and why there is a giant pendulum suspended out of what looks like nowhere as it rocks back and forth. The sound is strangely hypnotic, but I make myself focus on more important matters.
He laughs. I like the sound even though I know I shouldn’t. I’m getting myself into all kinds of trouble by acting like everything’s hunky-dory, but until he does something stupid, I’m willing to pretend with him. Poor guy.
My inner voice yells at me. He’s not normal, how can you treat him like he is? This place isn’t normal, either. I’m trying to convince myself that it’s an elaborate illusion, but even if I discount the pendulum and fire pit, I still can’t figure out the weird hallway to nowhere.
He turns toward the wall closest to us again one of the panels roll away. A small gasp escapes me and his smirk irritates me. Where in the world did that come from? On the other side is another room. I file in behind him, hoping he’s not leading me to his torture chamber. Trying to be subtle about it, I hover at the threshold, unwilling to go in all the way until I make sure it’s relatively safe.
As if he’s read my mind, he says, his voice deep and strong, “I will not harm you, Amelia.”
My skin prickles when he says my name, and, suddenly, my head goes woozy. Using the wall to steady myself, I try to shrug off how weak I am. I’ve been going on adrenaline, but my body seems to have run out.
Sky blue eyes show nothing but concern as he approaches me. It doesn’t take a brainiak to know what he’s gonna do. For some reason, though, I just can’t handle the thought of his hands touching me, so I rush past him, stumbling into the room before he can grab my arm.
Doesn’t work. He’s at my side and guiding me toward a small table in the corner. As if he’s being careful with me, his body curls around mine, but I won’t let myself feel safe around him.
An awkward moment passes between us as he guides me onto a chair. Moments later, he sets a plate of delicious smelling, steaming hot food in front of me. Where he got it is anyone’s guess. It wasn’t there a second ago, or maybe I’m just too weak to notice things right now.
I make myself wait for him to sit even though I could down this meal in two minutes flat. He sets his own plate down then settles into his chair. “Go ahead,” he says.
My fingers shake as I reach for the knife and fork. When I look at him, he gives me an encouraging smile then looks back at my utensils. Doesn’t he know I could use these against him? He’s either stupid, or he thinks I’ve got no chance in fighting him. Either way, all I want right now is the hunk of meat wafting savory goodness toward my eager nose. I fumble with the silverware, but manage to carve a chunk off the gigantic steak and shove it into my mouth. After two bites, I’m swallowing, ready for the next.
His hand flashes out and covers mine. My heart explodes at his warm touch and my skin erupts in those strange tingles again. I go still as a cornered rabbit. Taking a deep breath, I raise my eyes to his. I don’t have to say a word for him to release my hand.
“Forgive me,” he says. “I merely thought you might need some help.”
“I’m not a child,” I say in a cutting tone that makes me flinch.
“Trust me, I am aware.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I ask even though any brainless bimbo could have caught his innuendo. I’m no bimbo and I’m not brainless. What I am is so mad right now I might plunge this knife right into his sculpted chest.
A muscle in his jaw jumps and so do I. “Only that I know who you are. I know how old you are. And I know you are starving. Let me help you.”
I smack my lips and take the closest goblet. My head’s rushing with warning bells and my body has tensed again, but I sit back and let him cut my food.
I take a sniff of the drink in my hands. “What is this?”
He sighs before he answers me. “Apple juice. Only apple juice.”
My favorite. It’s creepy how much he knows about me, but I can’t keep my hands from bringing the drink to my lips. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything so good.
He makes one last cut and hands me my utensils. I try to smile at him, but it feels wrong, forced. Of course it’s forced, you idiot. He kidnapped you for heaven’s sake.
His smile is relaxed, easy. With a tilt of his head, he eyes my food. The starving part of me shakes her fists at him, so I set to work piling the meal away. My stomach does a happy dance, greedily asking for more, but I know if I don’t stop soon, I’m gonna make myself sick.
I swallow hard. I hate when he uses my name. My body stiffens every time he does it. “Seth?” I say more casual than I feel.
“You needn’t rush. There is more food if you desire it.”
I nod, but suddenly, I’m not hungry anymore. I raise my eyes to his. “Why do you really have me here?”
Amelia’s question reminds me of just how much work I have still to do. I can imagine us sitting at this table, enjoying the evening meal so easily…too easily.
She wants to know why I have brought her here. Should I tell her how lonely I am? Should I confess to her that I have watched her grow from a gangly girl into the beauty that sits before me? Should I let her know how much I’ve ached to have her with me for real?
No. That would be the stupidest thing I could do. I take a sip of my drink, letting the sweet liquid roll on my tongue before I swallow.
“I’ve already told you why I have brought you here, Amelia,” I say. Even though I know my answer will not appease her, I do not have another to give.
She sends me a frosty frown. “Why do you keep saying my name?”
I smile to myself. “Is it not customary to use one’s name in a conversation?”
She stands up, and her heart jumps into a run even though her legs stay put. Her chest rises and falls so rapidly I am worried she will swoon. Her voice comes out breathy. “This has been…interesting, but you really need to let me go now.”
I study my napkin. “I cannot.”
Before I can say anything else she runs into my chamber. She makes it into the hallway before I catch her elbow. I wonder if she knows how fast she just moved. Astonishing.
She pulls against my light grip. “Let go of me, Seth!”
“As I have already told you, you may leave if and when you can find the way out. I am unable to grant your request. You are the only person here that can access the mortal world.”
She pries my fingers off her arm. “You’re so full of it your breath smells like horse crap.”
I step away, tempted to check for myself. Then I realize she is not being literal. “As I said before, you are welcome to try,” I say, stepping back into my room.
My blood is pumping so fast I have to calm myself down or I will do something I will definitely regret. I can’t let her see me like this, so I close the door behind me. She will find me when she is finished throwing her tantrum. So much for avoiding the usual complications. I had hoped to have her ready within a few days, but I see now, it will take far longer. Until she comes to accept her fate, training her will be futile.
A high-pitched keening reaches my ears. Her frustration slices my gut in two.
I’ve done this to her. I’ve taken away her life. I can expect nothing less from her, yet anger charters a trip through my veins.
What did I expect? That she’d be grateful for a place to live and food to eat. That she’d learn to enjoy my company. I remind myself that she only needs time to adjust. She hasn’t even been here a full day, and I am expecting her to accept this life.
As much as I’d like to, I cannot allow myself to pity her. She had no life before I claimed her. She should be grateful. A sigh escapes my lungs. Baltek nuzzles my hand with his wet nose. I pat his head, wishing I could ignore Amelia’s cries. No doubt she has found her flight attempts futile, once again. Her screaming might cut a hole in my resolve if I’m not careful.
A clattering in the hall startles me. What has she done now?
I fling the door out of the way and am into the hallway before she can yank another sconce off the wall.
She whirls around then throws herself onto the discarded candelabra before she brandishes it in front of her like a sword. “Stay away from me!” she demands in a hoarse voice.
No small miracle she still has a voice with all the screaming she’s done. Hot wax clings to her flesh, and I know it has to hurt. However, her eyes are feral and her body shaking.
“Amelia,” I whisper. “Calm down.”
“Don’t you tell me to calm down, you sadistic freak! What did you give me? I’m hallucinating, right? This can’t be real. This can’t be real!”
My instincts tell me to show her just how real this is, but I slow the rushing blood in my veins. “I know how frightening this must be for you,” I say. “Please, come back inside.”
She shakes her head. “What’s the point in having a hallway if it doesn’t go anywhere?”
I’ve asked myself the same question for millennia. Unfortunately, I still do not have an answer. With cautious movements, I raise my hand toward her. “Please, Amelia. Come back inside. We’ll talk.”
“And what else?” she hisses at me.
It’s not hard for me to catch her insinuation. I shake my head. “I will not harm you. I make a solemn vow to never harm you.”
Her tongue flits out and slides along her bottom lip. I close my eyes against the image. She should not do such things. Hoping she will follow me, I swallow and turn away from her, away from my instincts to take what I have craved for so long.
The candlestick twangs against the cobbles before her sobs fill the space. I’ve never hated myself more than I do in this moment.
She doesn’t even protest when I pick her up and carry her into her room. Baltek moans at me as I walk by. I give him a silent command and he takes his place on the rug. I’ve neglected him today. I’ll have to make it up to him later.
Amelia cries into my shoulder, and I want nothing more than to hold her for the rest of eternity, yet I have to let her go.
I lay her down gently, and she curls into a ball. I’ve been expecting this reaction from her; I just never thought it would cut so deep. “Rest well, sweet one. I’ll be in my room if you need me.” Before I make it out the door, I turn back to her. She doesn’t respond, but I’m quite sure she’s listening to my every breath. “And Amelia, you may ask me any question you like, but know this: I will always tell you the truth.”
I cry for hours or days; maybe it’s been years. I don’t know.
What I do know is that I have to stop. I have to think. Being irrational won’t get me out of this place.
Seth was so gentle with me, too gentle. I can’t imagine why a man like him would have to resort to kidnapping to get a woman, but maybe he gets off on it. I shudder at the thought. I don’t know a thing about him, and it’s beginning to scare me more than I want it to.
I’m not quite awake, but no matter what I do I can’t fall asleep, not with him in the next room.
I flop onto my back and stare at the ceiling. My stomach aches from crying and my eyes throb to the beat of my pulse. It’s as if every part of me is aware of Seth, even though he’s sitting in the next room.
My fingers ball up and I pound the mattress. I blew it. I totally had things under control until I had to go and let my inner wimp convince me that I was long overdue for a tantrum.
Maybe I was.
But as I lay here in the candlelit room, I’m convinced the only way I will ever get out of here is to go with the flow. The only problem is I can’t seem to make myself get up because, once I do, I’ll have to talk to him. I’ll have to look into his entrancing eyes and hope I can clean up the mess I’ve made.
I meander toward the door but stop when I notice my reflection in the mirror. Someone unrecognizable stares back at me. I’ve dealt with pain. I’ve dealt with heartache, but I’ve never felt this lonely…this isolated.
I’m sure that’s what he wants me to feel. Too bad for him, I’m no wilting rose. Justine taught me to be strong, and I’m not about to cower in this room for days or weeks when I can still function. I’m gonna see what his deal is one way or another, but he’d better watch out. This rattler is ready to strike.
I shake my head at my reflection. Big talker, I tell myself, wondering what I did to get into this predicament. For years I’ve prided myself on being hyperaware of everything around me, yet I never noticed him. Not once.
There’s no way I’ve ever seen him before. I would have recognized someone as hot as he is, so my only conclusion can be that he is pretty darn good at stalking. Another shiver slices through me.
Why’d he have to be so nutso anyway? If he wanted a date all he had to do was introduce himself, maybe suggest a movie and dinner after flirting with me for a while. Now, there’s just too much weirdness involved for me to ever be willing to think of him in a romantic way, no matter how he looks. My inner voice shoots me a yeah right, but I ignore her. She isn’t the one in control here. I am.
The only thing is—how am I going to get his guard down without chumming up to him? More importantly, how in the world am I gonna convince him that he needs to let me go?
I glance in the mirror again. Man, I need a shower, but I’m afraid to ask where the facilities are. Unfortunately, my bladder isn’t about to let me get away with that excuse for long. I peruse the room again looking for a door that I know doesn’t exist.
There’s an enormous closet thing against the far wall I didn’t notice before. Maybe it’s a wardrobe. Either way, it takes up nearly the entire wall, which, in this room, is saying something. The dark wood is carved in intricate scrollwork that matches the bed.
The place is elegant. I’ve never seen something so ritzy in my life. I’m kind of afraid to touch anything, yet all my fingers want to do is trace the oval inlay in front of me. The scene is of some kind of lake with wildlife all around it. What’s weird, though, is there’s a creature hidden behind a grouping of trees. Only its outline is visible. It could be a bear on its hind legs, but for some reason, I don’t think it is.
I let my fingertips glide along the wood, wondering who made this piece, wondering if it somehow could transport me into the magical land depicted in its glassy depths, away from this stifling space, away from Seth.
When I pull open the doors, I’m surprised to see a gigantic rack full of freshly pressed dresses, skirts, shirts and pants. Along one side is a row of shelves with sweaters. Shoes in every assortment I can imagine rest on the bottom shelf.
A husky voice cuts through my musing. “Ah, I see you’ve found your wardrobe.”
Feeling rather than seeing his approach my body stiffens. I thought he was going to stay in his room.
I grit my teeth, pretending his presence doesn’t affect me as much as it does, pretending he’s invisible. It doesn’t work. “Leave me alone,” I say. I’m not ready to see his face, or am I just not ready to face him?
He doesn’t answer right away, but he doesn’t leave either. I’m sure he’s waiting for me to acknowledge him, and he’s gonna be waiting until hell is blessed with its first frost.
His arm brushes my shoulder as he sidles in next to me. I make myself step away and walk calmly toward the bed, knowing there’s no use in me sprinting past him again. A burning rage ignites inside me. It’s all I can do to keep myself from landing a solid punch to his pristine face.
I can’t risk it. Beatings I can take, but I’m still not sure what he wants from me, so I’m saving my strength in case I need it.
When he clears his throat, I whirl around, expecting to see frustration in his blue eyes, but all I see is patience, which only manages to make my blood bubble a little more. I grit my teeth then say, “What do you want from me, Seth? Don’t give me that crap about dreams, either. I’m not in the mood.”
I ignore Amelia’s biting tone. I’m too focused on those full lips that are currently frowning at me. I deserve no less for what I’ve done to her, for what I will do to her.
I clear my throat again, hoping it will clear my mind. “I thought you might like to freshen up?”
Her creamy skin flashes pale, but she recovers quickly. “Not until you tell me what I’m up against here.”
I had hoped to have civil conversations with her right away, but apparently from her deepening frown, she is not in the mood for that, either. Best to be honest with her. “I’ve delayed as long as I can. I have business to attend, but I promise we will discuss this as soon as I return.”
I motion toward the opposite wall where her bed rests. Her hypnotizing eyes follow the movement and widen when the door emerges at my command.
I’ve found it is best to reveal my lair, as she called it, piece by piece. I am pleased by the smile that tugs her mouth. No doubt, she thinks it is a way out. Hopefully, the room that awaits her will offer some solace.
I don’t hover even though I would love to see her reaction when she opens the door. Instead, I leave a tidbit of information I’m hoping she will want to bite. “I shall see you when I return.” I turn to leave, but she’s blocking my way before I can take a step.
Her eyes laser into mine. “I thought you said there wasn’t a way out of here. You’re not leaving me alone in this place.”
I give her a regretful smile. “I’m afraid I must. Duty calls.”
“You said you couldn’t leave! What else have you been lying to me about?”
I bypass her easily and make it halfway across my room before she even crosses the threshold. She sprints to catch me, and I let her curl her fingers around my bicep savoring every second of skin to skin contact I am allowed. I have failed to realize the advantages of wearing short sleeves until this moment.
Her velvet touch is enthralling, but I command my blood to slow, my heart to remain calm. With practiced movements, I stare at her hand then look directly into her eyes. Her pupils dilate and her lips part in an invitation I know she does not intend to offer.
Her pulse is a siren song, but I cannot get caught up in the sound; I cannot allow myself to get distracted by her sultry scent, either. My feet refuse my command to step back, so I smile instead.
That’s all it takes for her to drop her hand to her side and move away from me.
“Amelia,” I say. I am unsure why I want to use her name so often. Maybe it is her mere presence that creates the desire? My voice reflects the softness I feel for her. “I know you are scared, and I am sorry for causing your fear. You will see in time, you needn’t fear me, yet I have no more time at the moment to give you. Please step away from me.”
“You’re not ditching me!” she hisses.
I close my eyes and shut my heart against the panic in her voice. “You are not ready to follow me, sweet one. Please, do as I say.” When she doesn’t move I pick her up.
She pounds my chest, my shoulders, my back. “Let me down!”
Oh how I wish I had time to resolve this conflict. I cannot help myself as I slide her body along mine when I am inside her room. My lips brush her ear and she stiffens, but her heartbeat tells me a different story.
I keep her in my embrace while I speak because I know if I see that mouth of hers, I will not be able to go. I speak calmly into her ear, “I will return in a few hours. Make yourself at home. If you need anything at all, merely speak your request.”
I let her go and slide through the door, locking it the moment it shuts. Her fists pound the barrier between us. “Seth, you can’t do this to me! Seth! Please! Let me out.”
I grit my teeth and focus, calling the flames. With Amelia screaming at me, I step into the dreamscape.
I scream until my voice runs out. I pound the door, kick it until my foot aches. When that fails to budge the door, I scan the room for something to smash through it.
He left. Seth left me here. Alone.
Nothing’s changed, really, but in this moment I’m lonelier than I could have ever imagined. He’s using mind games on me; however, it’s not going to work.
That little stunt he pulled before he locked me in here won’t work, either. What kind of idiot does he take me for? I’m not going to fall for him just because he ran his velvet tongue along my earlobe.
I ignore the shiver that snakes down my spine and open the door he materialized out of a frigging wall. I have no clue how he did that, but he must have spent tons of dough on his equipment. He wants me to believe he’s all mystical or something, but I have him figured out. He’s not going to get to me. I’m not going to let him.
The cool brass handle gives under my twist. With the slightest pressure, the door slides open and a bright light blasts on, illuminating the most amazing bathroom that could ever exist.
A gigantic tub rests in the center of the room. Mahogany cabinets line the soft green walls and all I can think of doing is searching through them to see what’s inside. I’ve never been to a spa, but I doubt any could compete with this.
I find some bubble bath that smells like plums along with a sponge and shampoo. I rush to the other room and grab some clothes to change into. Without hesitating I turn and lock the door. He’s probably got a key, and I might be stepping into his trap to get me naked, but at this moment, I need a bath so bad my skin aches for it.
I’ve only had one real bath in my life and that’s when Justine splurged for a fancy hotel on my sixteenth birthday. We were in between towns so it wasn’t like I had a crew to hang with anyway. She was so sweet to me that day. Took me to see a movie and got me some new clothes at the mall.
I’d tried to get her to take me to the discount stores, but she wouldn’t hear of it, said I needed something special.
I still have those jeans she paid a hundred bucks for. At least I did.
My head can’t seem to keep from shaking. I miss her so much it hurts my heart every day of my life, but maybe I won’t have to worry about that anymore. It’s not like I have a life now.
Suddenly, I’m not so eager to take a bath. I’m not so willing to give in. Maybe I should let myself simmer in my sweat for a while, see how much he likes me then.
After I relieve my bladder I bypass the tub and go back into the bedroom. Seth said all I had to do was ask for things and this room would magically give them to me, so I begin with something simple. “I want real light in here,” I say into the nothingness.
The room explodes with light from a source I can’t seem to find. I smile.
“I want a door out of this place,” I demand, going right for the good stuff. Nothing happens. I sigh. Should have known he was lying. I try again out of spite. “I want a million dollars.”
A bunch of neat stacks of bills appear on my bed. No freaking way!
I rush over to the money and take a crisp hundred between my fingers. Feels real enough. For a moment I get caught up in it all. I gather as much of it into my arms as I can and sniff.
Somehow, I thought money would smell better. I shrug then throw myself onto the pile; pretty soon I’m covered in money. The fascination dies pretty quickly, though, so I try my request again. “Show me the front door.”
“Show me the back door.”
I think for a minute then demand some chocolate from my friendly neighborhood genie room. It’s cool and all, but all I can think about is getting out of here. A basket filled with Belgium chocolate appears on my bed. I throw the money on the floor and rip through the plastic.
The first bite throws me for a spin. It’s soooo good. Better than any old yogurt could ever be, no matter what they tell people on TV.
I slap my forehead for being such an idiot. Seth’s probably taping this right now, sicko. My stomach tumbles to my toes. What if he has cameras in the bathroom?
But how can I be sure?
I march in there and trash the room trying to find the cameras but unless he’s got them imbedded in the tiles they aren’t here. I’m being so paranoid right now, but I don’t know how to be anything else.
I tell the room I want a clock with the real time on it. A cordless number appears on my nightstand, big glowy numbers and all.
After debating for an hour, I decide to clean up the bathroom. I just wish I knew why it matters so much to me that he doesn’t see it destroyed.
After I get a whiff of myself, I even break down and take a bath. When I walk into the bedroom, nothing’s different. Two hours have passed by without one peep from Seth or his dog.
Sure. Fido gets to go out for a stroll, but I’m locked up like the newest inmate.
My teeth grind together and make this awful noise that makes me want to grind my teeth more. Why do I keep having to remind myself I’m Seth’s prisoner? It’s like a part of me would be more than happy to be buddies with him or something. So not cool of me.
After a while, I lay down and try to sleep. It doesn’t work, yet I’m so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open. I tell the lights to turn off and they do, then I think of something. They blaze back on at my command and I’m at Seth’s door faster than I should be able to move.
Weird. I shrug and try the knob. “I want this door to open.”
The heat registers before the scene does. His wall of fire is at full blaze, but it hasn’t scorched his room. In a weird way it looks like an upside down waterfall or a really weird supersized movie screen.
When I’m pretty sure it’s not going to rush at me like it did last time, I step into his room. Any other time I would have thought what I was seeing was amazing, but right now all I can think about is where he’s gone. I check the hallway just to make sure, but I’ve spent too much time there already to be tempted by it again.
I take a step closer to the fire and an image flickers in the flames. It looks like a park, but the scene is pitch black and hard to make out. My feet move closer, even though I know I’m stupid for doing it.
As I step nearer, I’m able to see more. A picnic table takes shape, as does a street light down the way. The heat from the flames calls to me, beckoning me into its embrace. It’s like a drumbeat in my head. Come to me, come to me, come to me.
Part of my brain is screaming at me to turn around and jet back to my room, but that part is overshadowed by my curiosity, this strange compulsion I feel to take that first step through the flames. For some reason I’m no longer afraid of the fire and I should be. What the heck’s wrong with me?
My muscles bunch as I anticipate moving through the flickering wall. Maybe that’s my way out of here? Maybe it’s like that show on TV, but that was water. I scrunch up my nose and bring my fingers closer to the flames. Only an inch away, my skin scorches. I stumble back and clutch my hand to my chest. I take a deep breath then sigh, realizing how close I came to killing myself. Before I can register anything else, something in the flames moves. A ghostly shape detaches from the shadows. All I can think is it’s coming for me. It’s going to see me. No. It’s going to get me.
I turn and run.
As I step from the shadows I see her. For one frightening moment I think she’s going to join me. I panic. Wild thoughts bombard me, yet I don’t have time to stop her from crossing the barrier.
She’s not ready. Even if she manages to pass the test of the flames, she’ll be taken immediately. I should have talked to her before I left. I should have explained. Dwelling on my regret will not help me now. I try to focus my energy, to morph into something that will help her.
She seems to notice me and hope sprouts in my chest. Her face contorts with fear and I am now optimistic. When she turns and flees back into her room, my heart sighs. I should have warned her before I left, but I didn’t think there was any way she’d be able to get into my room.
Suddenly, anger takes me. I’m just now solidifying but I can already feel my firing pulse in my veins.
She’s brazen. It’s part of why she’s here with me, but I need her to be level headed. I need her to listen to me. No matter what, I have to find out how she got into my room.
It shouldn’t have been possible.
Reality is I should have been more careful.
The moment I’m corporeal again, I rush back through the barrier and head for her room.
The damn door is locked. I twist the knob, but it doesn’t budge. What the hell is going on? Whose house is this anyway?
I pound on the door, yet I make sure my voice is level. “Amelia, I need to speak to you.”
“Go away,” she shouts. Her voice is so full of fear it surrounds me.
Although it is nearly impossible, I make myself stay calm. It will do me no good to make her fear me more than she already does. “I’m going to speak with you one way or another, so you might as well open the door.”
“Leave me alone. You’re a liar! I don’t want to talk.”
I grit my teeth and try to swallow my rage. “Amelia, I’m giving you to the count of three.”
She huffs which only manages to infuriate me further. I bypass my counting and charge through her door; it shatters on impact.
She jumps from the bed, and I make myself stay put. My body ignites from one look at her. Why is she dressed like that? Her little shorts barely skim the tops of her sumptuous thighs.
The terror in her eyes quells my fervor. As it should be, she recoils away from me, backing toward the bathroom.
Calm down. I have to calm down.
I close my eyes and pinch the bridge of my nose. “Why were you in my room?” I ask. My voice is harsher than I want it to be.
She laughs, and it’s all I can do to not throttle her. When she finally gives me an answer, it’s not what I expected. “All I did was ask the door to open and you’re acting like I just committed grand theft auto!”
I cross the distance between us in less time than she can make it into the bathroom. I don’t want to have to crash through another door, so I stop her. I expect her to scream when I grab her shoulder. She doesn’t.
Her eyes ice over before she looks at my hand. “Let go of me, you freak!”
“Freak, am I? I’ve been called many things in my time, but freak has never been one of them.”
“Well, bully for you.”
She stares me down. “Seth.”
What I want to do right now is crash my lips against hers just to see what happens. Instead, I try to level with her. “I need you to understand something very important.” I take her to the door and thrust a finger toward the flames. “I am not the worst thing out there. Within my realm, you are safe, but the moment you cross into the dreamscape, you will be targeted. Do you understand me?”
She sneers at me. “You’re delusional. I wasn’t going to say anything, but you really need to see a shrink. There’s no such thing as a dreamscape.” She yanks on her arm, and I let her go. For now. “All I want is to go ho…” Her words die and she grits her teeth. “I just want out of here, okay?”
“You heard me.”
“Yeah, but I thought you might be reasonable. I promise I won’t say anything to the cops. I don’t even know where we are. Just let me go, and we’ll pretend this never happened.”
“But it has happened. You belong to me now.”
She shakes her head and steps away from me. Every time she does it I’m reminded of how much she fears me, despite her bluster. As tasty as it is, her fear is not what I desire.
If she will only give me a chance to show her, to explain, I know she will want to be here—at least I hope she will.
Her back is to the wall and she looks like she is going to either kick me or pass out.
“Please listen to me,” I coax. “I promised to give you answers, and I’m sorry for upsetting you, but you don’t know how much danger you were just in.”
Her expression morphs into pure desperation. “The only danger I need to worry about is you! Just let me go!”
I lower my head, not able to take the panic in her eyes. “I cannot. You need to accept this.”
Seth wants me to accept this. What does that even mean?
Am I supposed to just give in? Am I supposed to let him go on pretending?
He scares me more than I want to admit. It’s not that I think he would physically harm me. I’m more worried about keeping my wits. I’m already panicking every time he leaves, and I know that’s not good.
I’ve been alone most of my life, but here, in this place, I can’t stand it. It’s like I’m the only person that exists. A chill slithers down my spine, but I keep my cool. I’m waiting him out. I haven’t said anything to his demand that I accept this because there’s really nothing to say.
He sits down on my bed, and I can’t quite believe how good he looks there.
Man, I wish he was ugly.
He smiles at me knowingly, so I figuratively wipe the drool from my mouth. I’m so stupid sometimes it kills me. He motions for me to sit. I scoff and slide down the wall to the floor, stretching my legs out in front of me.
His voice is soothing after being alone for so long. “I know you still aren’t ready to accept the inexplicable things you’ve seen here,” he says, “yet how many times will you have to see before you believe?”
I make like I’m picking something out of my teeth. “I don’t know how you’ve done it, but there has to be a logical explanation.”
Now we’re getting somewhere. “Yeah, what’s that?”
“Some things are not explainable.”
“Good one,” I say, mustering up the courage to look at him again. He sits there, still, with that knowing gleam in his eyes. What he thinks he knows about me, I’ll probably never know, even still, I’m determined to prove him wrong. “Mind saying something that doesn’t need an interpreter to understand?”
“There is a way for you to leave,” he says, his voice guarded. When my eyes bulge out of my head, he waves me off. “The Dreamscape—”
I groan. I can’t help it. “Not that again.”
His blue eyes narrow at me and for a moment I’m lost in those volatile depths. “I thought you wanted the truth,” he says, breaking the spell.
I glance at his dog, which just peeked into the room, to distract myself. “I do.”
“Are you sure?”
I scoff. “Your truth and mine aren’t anywhere near each other, so it won’t do you much good to talk to me anyway.”
“I’m not leaving until we agree on a few rules.”
“Sure thing,” I say. “Anything to get you out of my face.”
He pulls his bottom lip between his teeth and smiles. His voice comes out as a low purr. “You haven’t seen in me your face yet.”
My heart explodes from the smoldering look he’s shooting at me. All I want to do is give in to him, yet I know I can’t. His blatant flirting is getting so hard to resist, and I don’t know why. He’s a total freak, and I know it. Besides, I haven’t been here that long. I should be able to hold my own for as long as it takes, but with each smile he gives me, I melt a little bit more. Without a doubt I’m totally, irrevocably, pathetic.
I give him a face and say, “Let’s keep it that way, all right, Seth?”
“Sure, Amelia.” His smile withers away, which makes me want to tell him a joke. “Anything you want.”
I steel my resolve again and grit my teeth. “In that case, let me go.”
His head shakes, but he tilts it back and smiles. “Where would you go if I could let you out of here?”
I smirk at him. “I’d find a place.”
I nearly gag, partly because that’s just gross and partly because I hate that he knows about my friend. “You’re sick.”
“Maybe, but I’m offering you more than you’ve ever had in your life.”
I glance at the wads of cash littering the floor and so does he. “Yeah, everything except my freedom.”
“If there were any other way, I would—” He shakes his head. “No. I’m not going to lie to you. Every so often I am allowed one hour out of my prison. I’ve learned to use that time wisely. This time, I came for you. I’ve been waiting years to have you here with me, and I will do everything in my power to keep you here for a very, very long time.”
I make a choking sound. I can’t breathe for a second, but I recover before he can reach me. “I don’t think I want to know the depths of sickdom you’ve sunken to. Just let me out of here.”
“Amelia, I’m not going to tell you this again. If you ask me to let you go one more time, I am afraid I might do something rash. You don’t want that and neither do I, so please, just listen to me. After I have finished, you may choose to believe what you will, but until then I ask you to stay silent, for both our sakes.”
This girl doesn’t know what she does to me. She also doesn’t know what is good for her. She’s still staring at me, leaning against the wall and it’s all I can do to keep from yanking her against me and shutting her up with my mouth.