Dawn’s End, a place of simplicity and goodness, is being overcome by a gruesome darkness. Possessing bits of information, Nicole and the dark man know only that they must complete their quest before Nightfall becomes permanent. How far can she trust this not-quite-human? Can they save a world, possibly two, when Nicole isn’t sure she can save herself?
Dawn's End Excerpt:
"Since the heart of Man is deceitful above all things, therefore for him that would truly know himself, . . . take notice . . . of his usual Dreams, there being scarce anything that more discovers the Secret bent of our minds and inclinations."
Thomas Tryon, A Treatise of Dreams and Visions (London, Second Ed. 1695), pp. 6-7, 57.
Chapter One—The Watcher
Like a tabby on a window sill, Nicole Newman stretched her lean body across the large gray boulder. The sun ignited the red highlights in her long, dark hair. She sighed and adjusted her hips. The pond lapped against the bulrushes, like a cat's tongue in a saucer of milk. A feline tongue. She held that image in her mind.It was oddly arousing. It had been so long since she had allowed herself to think such thoughts, but lately . . . .
Lately, her dreams were confusing, a jumble, but she often woke filled with yearning. Maybe it was time to let go of this self-imposed seclusion. However, the thought of dating again, getting to know a man—trusting, loving him—seemed overwhelming. Dreaming was so much easier than the real thing. So much easier than acting, doing, being. She felt like a mannequin tossed into a dark trunk, the lid shut and locked. Her sense of humor was suffocating along with her hopes.
Nicole had been coming here for a while, hoping to restart her engines. Spring was her favorite time of the year. She loved the way the pale, perfect tree buds unfurled, unblemished by insect or weather. The way the greens darkened from celery to forest-ranger green. She noted the growth of marsh marigolds, pitcherplants, and blue flags. She winced when the mosquitoes hatched and cheered the arrival of the dragonflies. No matter how long, how cold, or how brutal the winter had been, spring always returned. Out of darkness and death, life was reborn.
The colors and sounds around Nicole became muted. The smells of earth, pond plants, and wild creatures faded. Like a canoe carried downstream, Nicole floated into blissful, vulnerable sleep. The sunshine enveloped her like a lover's arms.
** * * *
Beyond the cattails, beyond the swamp grass and brush, dark eyes studied her. The hidden eyes shifted, their owner moving upwind. He sniffed, smelling the scent of her feminine body below that of marsh and animal. He licked his lips. She was beautiful, far more beautiful than she realized. Soft, sensual, with a hidden core of strength. Wounded, but ready to heal. In his hands, could she awaken that strength and courage? Could he reignite the spark within?
It was not the first time his eyes had studied her. Today, his dark eyes edged closer, closer, closer than ever before. The dark one judged her potential to fulfill his needs, to react according to his purposes. He ignored spring blossoming around him. His mind was filled with thoughts of decay, ruin, and death, and the power within this beautiful woman.
Nicole did not suspect the forest held its own watcher. He was oblivious to the natural beauty around him, drawn instead to the delicate treasure stretched out on the rock. She had filled his mind for weeks, and now he was slowly seeping into hers as well.
The dark one nodded. He would enter her dreams, her mind, and her soul. He would bend her to his will.
* * * * *
She was dreaming, dreaming of a dark bird. The cormorant slid blackly toward her. He grew in size, his torso widening into the shape of a man's, wide-shouldered, slim-waisted, rippled with abdominal muscles. His powerful legs thickened and lengthened. His expanding shadow blanketed her. Nicole's breathing increased; she arched toward him. He stood over her, a dark angel, an incubus. Wings outstretched, his feathers mutated into hands. Nicole reached out to meet his fingers, then jerked back when his nails transformed into claws. She looked up as the light fell upon his face. His dark eyes summoned, commanded. His beak receded into lips. His smile revealed thin sharp fangs. He hissed.
Nicole snapped awake, trembling. She took deep, slow breaths, steadying herself. Whoa, I have to cut back on the chocolate, she thought. It's making me have crazy dreams.
The park seemed overly quiet. The shadows had lengthened. Water lapped like an eerie heartbeat. She swung her legs off the stone and stood. She had the feeling everyone had left the park, and, yet, there was an uncomfortable sense of . . . . It was time to leave. Nicole hurried toward her car.
** * * *
The dark eyes blinked, fighting back disappointment. No matter. She would be back. Next time, he would have his chance. He had been planning for a long time. He had chosen her, and he was ready. She would come to him of her own free will.