Shadow Whispers

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An Erotic Horror Story

Lexxie Couper

Published 2016 by Book Boutiques.

ISBN: 978-1-944003-27-2

Copyright © 2016, Lexxie Couper.

All rights reserved.

Prologue

The traffic moved like thick sludge along Main Street, New York, the sticky heat of the late summer day causing cars and motorists alike to simmer. Tempers rose, horns blared, and in his old car with its finely tuned engine, Chad Fisher watched his ex-girlfriend.

Watched her walk along the busy New York sidewalk. Watched her firm ass cheeks bunch and flex under the faded denim of her shorts.

His cock twitched, a painful rod of eager steel too long deprived of the velvet rasp of her tongue. A low groan rumbled in his chest but Chad kept his hands on the wheel. In fifty yards, Tess would be home.

He had to get to her first.

The forgotten shack deep in the scrublands two hours north awaited them. Prepared for their arrival. The double bed dusted with blood-red rose petals, the scented candles strategically placed. The heavy chains oiled and bolted to the concrete slab.

His obsession boiled like a vat of sickly sweet molasses churning in the cauldron of his skull. It was time to make Tess understand whom she belonged to. Whom she would always belong to.

He shot a look at the empty seat beside him. Plastic cable ties just waiting to lock around Tess’s wrists and ankles. Cloth and chloroform in easy reach in case she put up a fight.

A slow grin pulled at his lips and his deprived cock began to pulse with greed. It was time to bring their “break” to an end. For good.

Eyes back on Tess, Chad watched as she approached the intersection. Watched her turn the corner and disappear.

Now.

With a quick glance over his shoulder he planted his right foot, the powerful engine launching the unassuming car into motion.

After Tess.

A car blasted its horn as Chad cut across the congested traffic, a woman squealed as he crossed the sidewalk. He didn’t stop.

Sixty-two steps and Tess would be at her front door.

The undercarriage of the car ground over the gutter as, with a sharp turn, he left the sidewalk and turned into Tess’s street, leaving Main Street behind him.

There she was. Almost at her small apartment.

The street was empty, the sidewalk clear. The sun sat low on the horizon behind him. When Tess turned, its blinding rays would be in her eyes.

Chad’s cock sprang into ravenous life again.

Too fucking long deprived

His foot flattened the accelerator.

With a savage growl, the car, so long straining at the leash, leapt forward after her, closing the distance in a heartbeat.

He screeched to a halt and jumped out of the car before Tess even turned.

“Hi, blossom.” The words were a whispered breath as they slipped from his lips.

Eyes the color of dark chocolate locked on his. “Chad?” Recognition shattered to terror, seconds before he smashed his fist against her finely sculptured jaw. A jaw he had kissed a thousand times.

A jaw he would kiss a million times more.

She dropped into his snatching arms, limp.

Pliant.

Chad’s smile grew wide as, with an action he’d practised for the last six weeks, he threw her into the backseat of his car. Slamming the door shut, he moved to the driver’s side, calm, relaxed and totally at ease. If anyone looked out his or her window, all they’d see was a bloke in a baseball cap climbing into a late-model sedan. Nothing more. Nothing to remember.

Dropping into his seat, Chad snapped on his seatbelt, shooting Tess’s inert form a quick look in the rear-view mirror. “I’ve missed you, blossom.” He ran his tongue across his bottom lip, throat dry, balls aching. “You have no idea how much.”

With a silent chuckle, eyes lingering on her long, bare legs, his cock a straining shaft of hot steel in his jeans, Chad pulled back out into the street.

Straight into the path of an oncoming RV.

The last thing he saw before the RV tore him in half was Tess’s eyes. Wide and dazed, meeting his in the rear-view mirror.

Then nothing.

Chapter 1

He crossed the floor of her bedroom as he had every night for the last five: eyes burning with desire, cock a rigid pole pointing straight up from the dark thatch between his thighs. Moonlight filtered through the open window, playing over his almost pearlescent flesh and casting his face in shadows.

From her bed, body quivering with hungry anticipation, Tess Darcy watched him, pussy sodden with aching lust.

Muscles seemingly sculpted from smoke coiled and flexed as he approached her, fluid and steely all at once. The contradiction drove her wild and her pussy fluttered.

Her fists knotted in the tangled bed sheets, breath growing short and shallow with each step he took closer. A gust of hot wind blew through the window, kissing her already fevered flesh until she shivered with wanton pleasure. She pressed her thighs together, squeezed her pussy tight and bit back a moan.

How could she be this aroused? When even a summer night’s breeze almost brought her to climax?

Eyes that glowed with consuming passion raked over her and Tess gasped.

That was how. Her lover.

Silently he reached the foot of her bed, gaze burning a slow path over her tingling limbs, caressing her breasts, belly, pussy. Cool fingers, long and impossibly strong, curled around her ankles and as his hypnotic eyes held hers captive, he thrust her legs apart.

Wet tension flooded Tess’s sex. Oh, God, yes.

With fluid ease and undeniable purpose, he placed one knee and then the other onto the mattress, the corded columns of his legs pushing hers further apart, exposing her throbbing sex to his inspection.

Waves of hot want crashed over her. She arched her back, lifting her ass from the bed to meet her silent lover’s descending mouth. Immediately his tongue found her swollen clit, like the cool kiss of spring mist on her flushed sex. She bucked, wanting that tongue, that mouth, to devour her. “Jesus. That’s so good.”

The fingers around her ankles relaxed—just enough to let his cool hands slide up her calves to her knees, forcing her thighs even further apart. The tongue on her sex stabbed between her hot folds, lapped at the fresh cream coating them. It flicked the small nub of flesh until Tess flung her head from side to side and rammed her hips harder to his face.

Tension mounted. Her pussy contracted.

The tongue rolled over her clit, plunged into her slit and back to her clit again.

“Oh, fuck me.”

Her cry was hoarse. Raw.

The cool hands at her knees slipped to her thighs, icy on her fevered, wanton skin. Pushed her wider. Wider. Granting his insatiable, masterful mouth complete and absolute access to her clit, sex and ass.

Tess’s fists pulled on the sheets, tore them from the mattress. Juices flooded her sex.

Lick.

“Oh…”

Flick.

“My…”

Stab.

“Fucking…”

Suck.

“God…”

Bite.

“Yes.”

Just as she knew she could take no more, that she was on the edge of the precipice ready to fall, her lover stopped. Lifted his head.

Eyes like ice stared into hers, boring into her soul.

“Tease.” she gasped.

He didn’t reply. He never did. Instead he straightened, knees still firmly planted beside hers, and wrapped one large hand around his rigid organ, stroking its bulbous head with his thumb.

Tess sucked in a breath, the squirming tension in her pussy impatient. That massive, solid cock would be soon embedded in her sex, stretching her to the very limits. Meeting his burning stare, she caught her breath as he moved closer, cock lined up with her spread folds.

She was ready.

Ready to be consumed.

To be—

The raucous laugh of a lone kookaburra shattered the night.

With a gasp, Tess sat bolt upright, heart hammering against her chest, nostrils flaring.

She stared about the room, her eyes darting from one dark corner to the next. Nothing but unpacked boxes, stacks of books and deep moon-cast shadows. Alone. She was alone.

A growl of frustration tore from her throat as she dragged her hands through her tousled hair. A dream. Just another goddamn dream.

Outside, the insomniac kookaburra screeched with mirth again.

Biting back a curse, Tess dropped back onto her bed. “Fuck.” Her mutter fell heavy in the silence of the night, as did her angry sigh.

Five nights. Five nights in a row of the most explosive sex of her life, only to awaken every time to discover it was just a dream. She stared up at the still unfamiliar ceiling of her bedroom, craving release.

Five nights.

She shook her head, pulse leaping into frantic flight at the tickling strokes of her hair on her neck. “This is getting ridiculous.” Jumping from the bed, she crossed to the window, gripping the sill with hands that still trembled from sexual tension.

The distant flickering lights of Kangaroo Creek dotted the blackness, like some higher being had thrown down a handful of stars on a velvet blanket.

Tess snorted. Stars on velvet; what a romantic way to describe the weird little country town. She’d only been in the Creek, as the locals so eloquently called it, for four months now but already she knew there was little romance to it. Outback Australia might look like an amazing adventure in all the tourist pamphlets, full of exotic life and breathtaking scenery, but for a girl from New York trying to find herself again, it was just plain lonely.

But isn’t that what you wanted? Isolation?

A shiver rippled up Tess’s spine and the hair at her nape stood on end. Yes, that was exactly what she wanted. After the hell she’d been through—the nightmare of Chad’s obsession—the thought of letting anyone close to her again made her stomach roll and her chest ache.

She should have known he was unhinged the very first date. After only an hour in, his ice-blue eyes shining with a fervour at the time she’d found intriguing, he’d begun talking about their future. She’d thought he was joking at the time, the detailed description he gave of their future home—a small apartment overlooking Central Park, with an office for you and a personal gym for me, their future days—cuddling on the sofa as Frank Sinatra plays softly in the background, and their future nights—exploring each other’s bodies on red satin sheets. Slowly. Completely. Nothing but the feel of skin on skin, sweat on sweat—making her laugh. By the third date, that zealous enthusiasm for their “Happily Ever After” had tempered. He didn’t mention their supposed days to come, only the minutes they spent together, complaining occasionally that they weren’t enough.

It wasn’t until three weeks into the relationship, just when she was beginning to relax and begin to contemplate the possibility of their “days to come,” just when she’d let him move beyond the heavy necking session in his car or on her sofa to the “exploration” of each other’s bodies he’d spoken of on their first date, that she noticed he was everywhere. If she was having coffee with friends or colleagues at an inner-city cafe, he would conveniently be walking past, explaining away the coincidence with a laughing “What are the odds I had a meeting in the same suburb?” If she was conducting an interview on the steps of New York’s Town Hall, he’d be standing at a nearby newspaper vendor, an open magazine in his hands.

When she’d called him on it, a sense of disquiet squirming in the pit of her stomach, he’d scoffed, laughing at her over-suspicious journalist’s mind. But his eyes hadn’t laughed. His eyes had been flat. Unreadable. And when they’d made love that night—the last time she’d ever let him touch her—he’d whispered into her ear over and over again that she was his, only his, forever and ever, he loved her, loved her, pounding into her, punctuating each feverish statement with such brutal, savage greed she’d yelled at him to stop.

She’d told him it was over the following day. When he’d turned up at her office with a dozen roses, a diamond necklace, and an apology she didn’t want to hear. She told him it was over and she didn’t want to see him again.

But she had. Everywhere. He joined her gym, despite having his own in his garage. He started to jog the same route around the park she did. He shopped at the same grocery store she did. He sat in his parked car half a block away from her apartment, watching her leave for work. Waiting there when she came home. He sent her roses, after roses, after roses.

Then came the attempted abduction and the accident.

Tess swallowed, the memory bringing a lump to her throat. Chad had taken more than six months of her life. He’d taken her ability to be free of fear and anger.

She’d known she needed to get away from New York the second she’d walked away from his grave. She could still see him everywhere she turned. Everywhere she went.

She’d needed to get away from the city she loved to learn who she had become, hoping to God it wasn’t a scared, paranoid female. She needed isolation. She needed disconnection.

But seriously, when she’d dropped a dart onto a map of Australia to find her new home she hadn’t expected to end up in a town of less than a thousand, all of whom seemed to exist in some weird plane of reality. She might be from the Big Apple, but that didn’t make her ignorant. Did it?

You can tear the world’s politicians to shreds with your words, you can spit out insults in five different languages, but you can’t handle four months living in the country without blaming the people?

Letting out a sigh, Tess turned from the sight of Kangaroo Creek and dropped back onto her bed. So much for being a ball-busting, woman-of-the-world journalist. Less than half a year away from New York and she was going crazy.

A feather-light tickle traced across the line of her bare shoulder up to the angle of her jaw and she shivered, nipples pinching into rock-hard peaks of longing. Not just crazy, sex starved as well, if the last five nights were any indication.

Another delicate tickle played across her skin, drawing a lazy line up the long, hideous scar that ran from the base of her spine to just below her right armpit She closed her eyes, enjoying the imagined tactile sensation despite the horrible scar it travelled. The car accident had left her with more physical scars than she cared for. But none as terrible as the one on her back, where a sheered-off panel of the RV that hit Chad’s car had almost severed her spine. It was as obvious as the nose on her face.

What hadn’t been obvious were the scars inside. Those on her heart. Those on her soul. Just as she’d never wear a backless dress again, she’d never let anyone close to her again. It wasn’t worth it. Better to live with her dreams. At least they didn’t hurt her.

She sighed and flipped onto her back. God, she’d become maudlin.

The finger moved again. Down the line of her stomach, over her belly button to her mons.

Tesssa

Tess frowned. “Jesus, woman,” she muttered. “You’re so frustrated you’re not only feeling hands on your body, you’re hearing your name in the bloody night, as well!”

The hospital’s psychiatrist had told her she wasn’t ready to end their sessions. What if he was right? What if the accident had turned her into some sort of socially-crippled, sex-starved loon?

The thought was worrying. But it didn’t stop her sex fluttering and constricting with need. A need she’d denied since standing at Chad’s grave four months ago.

She sighed again, a numb chill rolling over her. Nothing could heal the scars from her ex, not even his death.

After six months of repeated reconstructive surgery, hours of painful physiotherapy and too many hours spent with a too intense psychiatrist, she’d been released from hospital an entirely different woman—body and soul—from the one found almost dead in Chad’s twisted, crumpled car.

Her first destination after her release had been the cemetery. Until she saw Chad Fisher’s grave, until she saw the lump of dirt he was buried under, until she saw proof he’d never bother her again, all those hours and operations were worthless. She’d needed to see he was dead.

The walk across the cemetery had been surreal. The biting cold winter’s day had seemed brittle, the freezing air ready to shatter. She’d threaded her way between the graves, some old and forgotten, others fresh and still adorned with bright, gaudy flowers, trying not to think about the sadness surrounding her. The icy breeze had burned her cheeks, made her nose run. She’d stuffed her hands deep into the pockets of her over-coat, her fingertips aching from the cold, her still traumatized limbs aching even more.

With every step closer to Chad’s grave she took, the more convinced she grew he wasn’t dead. It was a trick. He merely waited for her. Watched her. As he had the duration of their short, volatile relationship. As he had the weeks after she’d ended it. Waiting in the shadows, studying her every move. Following her wherever she went, a constant presence she neither wanted nor enjoyed. Knowing she would be alone soon. Easy pickings.

When she’d finally arrived at his grave, a chill colder than the mid-winter wind bit at her soul. She’d stood staring at the marble headstone, her eyes fixed on the epitaph.

Chad Fisher.

With tears and love.

Devoted eternally to life.

1980-2014

A lump had formed in her throat and she’d felt her heart smashing against her breast bone. Devoted eternally to life? Devoted eternally to being a stalking, obsessive creep, was more like it. She had wanted to get closer, wanted to touch the marble stone, trace the words engraved in its smooth, black surface to prove they were real, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t stand any closer in case a cold, clammy hand burst through the dirt and grass and grabbed her ankle.

Foolish? Yes. Ridiculous? Absolutely. But she couldn’t move. No matter how stupid she was being.

It wasn’t until she’d read the epitaph one more time—Chad Fisher. With tears and love. Devoted eternally to life. 1980-2014 that she’d finally released the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding, and a fear she didn’t want to hold anymore. She’d taken that final step, stood on the slight grass-covered mound directly before the headstone and, with a surprisingly steady hand, dropped her hospital identification band onto the ground.

She’d looked at the small strip of white plastic lying in the grass for a long moment, bitter hate welling through her. Hate and anger so strong she’d almost thrown up. “That is the last thing of mine you will ever get, Chad Fisher,” she’d whispered, the words whipped away by a blast of icy wind. Her identification band shifted, rolled once across the grave, before a blade of grass snared its edge, trapping it still.

An overwhelming urge to bend down and scoop up the band had rolled through her. Even giving her dead ex her hospital band was giving him too much. The wind lashed at her, making her blink and she shook her head. “Goodbye, Chad,” she’d said, as with one final look at Chad’s gravestone, the hideous scar on her back a molten line of agony, she’d turned and walked away.

She’d left his grave and had never been back, traveling to Australia a week later on a work visa, settling in Kangaroo Creek the week after that.

Yet that hate had never left her, and somewhere along the line it changed, manifested itself into a simmering odium directed solely at herself and her sexual needs.

Chad’s obsession with her had hung entirely on his driving need to possess her body. To fuck her anytime, every time he wanted. Since then, the thought of sex, of being on the edge of sexual ecstasy, sent cold shivers of fear through her. Except in her dreams.

In her dreams, she went to the edge. Went to the edge and fell over in the arms of her silent, dream lover. Willingly. Wantonly.

Would she ever be capable of that raw, instinctual connection again?

She didn’t think so.

A deep sigh escaped her and she closed her eyes, trying not to think about the slight throb beating along her scar. One day, she thought, feeling sleep creep over her again, languid and seductive. One day I’ll find it.

Until then, there were always her dreams.

And, as though he’d been waiting, her silent, ethereal lover was there. Reaching for her. Eyes burning with a hunger that sent ripples of eager anticipation through her sleeping form.

Tessa

He hurried away from the window, heart pounding. Shit. She’d almost seen him.

Grass, deprived of water by the blistering Australian summer, crunched under his feet, a brittle sound that seemed to echo across Tess’s backyard and into the surrounding bush. He closed his eyes for a second, biting back a curse. She could have discovered him and then all sorts of hell would break loose. He had to be more careful. What had he been thinking?

A hot ball of squirming tension rolled through his gut as the memory of Tess at her window filled his head; long dark hair dishevelled, sublime body free of clothes. Chocolate-brown eyes ablaze with a light he longed to see directed at him.

You were thinking with your dick.

He shook his head, moving deeper into the night-shrouded bush. No, he wasn’t thinking with his dick, though he desired her more than he should. For too many nights to bear he’d watched her toss and turn in bed, unable to do anything to release her of her dreams no matter how much he wanted. As the sun kissed the sky each morning, he knew without doubt he was falling deeper and deeper into trouble. But it wasn’t his cock driving him. It was his heart. That small, vital organ so revered by poets and songwriters alike.

He shot a quick glance over his shoulder, finding the hulking shadow of Tess’s home without any difficulty, despite the darkness. The pull on his soul to go back there, to enter her house, her bedroom—to enter her—was strong. Stronger than strong. A commanding desire almost too compelling to deny. To feel his hands, his flesh on her velvet-soft skin, to feel her heat permeate his being was a sin he’d willingly forfeit his existence to commit. But he couldn’t.

Picking up his pace, he moved fluidly over the underbrush, getting as far from Tess’s home as he could. The bush devoured him, startled animals scattering in his path. A distant part of his mind marvelled at their intuitive reaction; they knew what he was. He could sense it. Their fear tainted the small sphere of actuality he occupied, rippling over the surface like sullied oil on water. They knew what he was and feared what his existence on this secular plain could do. But it mattered little.

Because the rest of his mind sensed Tess more.

He couldn’t take it anymore. Sinking to his knees, he tore open his trousers, wrapping trembling fingers around his turgid cock and pumping its length with brutal force.

Every creature had needs. Even those with damned souls.

He would pay for it later, would burn in Satan’s heinous hold, but he couldn’t stop. As long as Tess Darcy was in his mind, his need consumed him and he could deny it no more.

As hot cum burst from the end of his cock in white spurts, arcing through the dark night to land in the dirt at his knees, Jared Pierce closed his eyes and held his breath.

He’d been sent to protect her, not covet her. But covet her he did.

May the Almighty have mercy on his libidinous soul.

Chapter 2

Kangaroo Creek’s main strip—Hill Street—was one mile long and as flat as they came. At the east end sat Divine Intervention, a small Christian bookshop run by the very shy Miss Kerry Peters that seemed far more busy than any Christian bookshop Tess knew of. At the other end, where Tess now stood, sat the Creek’s one and only library, ruled over by the silent Ms. Robyn Jones. Tess had been assured by one of the locals that the librarian could in fact speak, but in the six or so times she’d entered the somber building she’d seen no evidence of it.

To Tess’s cynical journalist’s mind, there was a perverse irony in the sun rising each day on the word of God and setting each night on the words of just about everyone else. It was as though Faith and Knowledge faced off each day in the small rural town. The fact that Divine Intervention had at least triple the number of souls crossing its threshold every day made Tess a little uneasy and for some reason, sad.

She moved her camera strap higher onto her shoulder and continued walking east. A dry gully sat behind the library, overlooked by a long dead weeping willow. By its massive size and impressive trunk, the tree had survived more than one summer presiding over the once watering hole, but this drought seemed to finally have beaten it. Its long branches, devoid of leaves, hung listless from gnarled branches, lifeless fingers reaching for the hope of moisture in soil long cracked and barren. The tree spoke to Tess, a sad testament to the brutal nature of life in Australia away from the lush rain-soaked coastal edge. She wanted to capture its moving story in black and white.

The first thing she’d done after moving into her new home, well, after locating the unwanted dead houseguest—a bloated, rotting possum carcass well on its way to decomposing into mush in the bottom of the bathtub—and giving it a hasty burial in the backyard, was turn the house’s small outside laundry into a dark room. She’d paid her way through university working as a freelance photographer and wanted to reconnect with that first love. Photography already afforded her a chance to immerse herself in the visual, a world of light and shadows and color and tone. A world where words were superfluous and hidden meaning just waited to be seen, to be brought into focus by a carefully framed image or exposure.

She’d made a small fortune by manipulating the written word, but she’d known there’d be no need for a political investigative journalist this far from civilization. Capturing the harsh beauty of the Outback, its isolation and tenacious spirit, was one way of finding who she was now. If there ever was a town that encapsulated the Australian wilderness, it was Kangaroo Creek. The thought of losing herself in her camera sent an excited thrill through Tess she hadn’t felt for many, many years. Not since the first interview she’d conducted at the beginning of her career.

She snorted. Who knew she’d grown so disenchanted with her ball-busting, take-no-prisoners journalism career? When had her love of words become so tenuous?

Maybe when Chad started writing you love poems every day, proclaiming his undying devotion and lust? Or when he started writing letters demanding you—

“Morning, miss.”

The gruff male voice with its thick Australian accent shattered Tess’s reverie and she started, snapping her attention to the man in flannel and dirty jeans before her. She gripped the strap on her camera tighter, glancing around. The sidewalk was empty, except for the man. “Can I help you?”

The man—obviously a farmer in town for supplies—raised his eyebrows as if something was truly amiss. Then a smile stretched his mouth, revealing the most awful set of mail-order dentures Tess had ever seen. “Aaah.” He nodded, pale eyes bright with sudden understanding. “You’d be that Yank sheila living in the old Milat house everyone in the pub’s been talkin’ about. Moved here from New York lookin’ for a sea-change, right?” He gave a dry, somehow snide chuckle. At his ankles a skinny dog sniffed its balls. “No sea here, miss. Only miles of dead dirt and dead sheep.”

Tess blinked, a shiver wanting to run up her spine. She shoved it down, wondering instead how the farmer would react if she told him about the live rats running the streets of New York. Or took his picture.

“The bush ain’t kind to city folk, miss,” he went on. “’Specially pretty little things from America lookin’ for something that ain’t there.” He tipped her a wink, the action both misogynistic and creepy. “You should go back to New York. It’s safer there.”

That chilled shiver tried to shoot up Tess’s back again. What did he mean by safer? Grinding her teeth, she gave him a flat stare. “Actually, I’m just about to go and shoot some of those dead sheep you mentioned.” Lifting the heavy camera in her hand, she jiggled it about pointedly. “Would you like to—”

Mervyn Sullivan.”

A sharp female voice cracked the tension, cutting Tess’s comeback short. “Stop harassing Ms. Darcy and get back to work. Your cows aren’t going to slaughter themselves.”

The farmer flinched and his dog took off down the street with a high yelp, almost knocking Tess over as it fled. Casting her a dark look, eyes resentful and surly, the farmer shoved past her. “Stupid fucking mutt.”

“Please excuse Merv, Ms. Darcy.” That woman’s coolly sharp voice sliced through the air and Tess turned around, finding a tall, striking redhead standing behind her on the steps of the library. Eyes the color of freshly cut grass studied her, missing nothing. Tess cocked an eyebrow, holding back a grin. So, the librarian has a voice after all. “The bank is on the verge of taking his farm,” Robyn Jones continued, poised as ever, “and he’s developed a dislike for anyone from the city. Even cities in other countries.”

Tess gave the woman a slight nod. “It’s perfectly okay, Ms. Jones.”

The librarian raised one of her own finely arched eyebrows. “Please, call me Robyn. And it’s not okay. Not after everything you’ve been through before moving here.” She paused. “Not after what Chad put you through.”

Tess’s blood turned to ice. How did she know that? No one in the Creek knew about Chad. Virtually no one in New York did either. She had no family to speak of and she hadn’t told any of her friends or colleagues he’d been stalking her.

Green eyes regarded her, seemingly seeing everything. “There’s something I’d like to show you, Ms. Darcy. Something Mr. Jenkins, the postmaster delivered to my hand this morning. Will you join me in my office?”

A stinging jolt shot up the length of Tess’s scar and she flinched, the powerful desire to shout “no” sitting heavy on her chest. But the reaction made no sense, even if it was from her gut, which she trusted without question. What could the woman possibly show her that was worse than an obsessed ex-boyfriend planning her abduction and rape?

What indeed?

“Well?” Ms. Jones asked with a twist of her lips.

Holding Robyn’s green gaze with her own, Tess mounted the stairs. Heart pounding in a way it shouldn’t.

Cool, dry air folded around her as she stepped into the old, stone building, shocking her sun-flushed skin. Her nipples pinched into rock-hard tips, sending shots of electricity through her body as they rubbed against the coarse cotton of her tank top.

“This way, Ms. Darcy.”

Robyn moved deeper into the dim library, spine straight, stride long and sure. She did not turn to see if Tess followed her past the rows of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, a fact Tess found both irksome and annoying. For a defiant moment she considered leaving, if for no other reason than to bring the haughty librarian down a peg. But then the sound of Chad’s name falling from Robyn’s perfectly red lips echoed through her head and she began moving. She wanted to know how the librarian of a small town in rural Australia knew her dead ex-boyfriend’s name. And her cold curiosity had nothing to do with once being a journalist.

The distinctive smell of books, dusty and somehow old, hung on the air, growing stronger with each step Tess took. It was a smell she usually enjoyed. Over a year ago her life had revolved around reading and research; she’d spent more hours in the New York Public Library than she could remember. Today however, it made her stomach turn.

She frowned at the thought. Why?

A scraping noise, soft and almost inaudible by the overhead air-conditioners rumble, sounded on Tess’s left and she snapped around.

Nothing.

Scowling, she shook her head. What was wrong with her?

Teeesssss

Ice ripped through her veins and she froze. Did she just hear—

“Ms. Darcy? Tess?” Robyn turned, casting her a cool look. “Is everything okay?”

Suppressing another scowl, Tess gave the librarian a slight smile. “Everything is fine, Ms. Jones. Tell me, is the library always so empty?”

Robyn bristled. “The good people of Kangaroo Creek find their entertainment in various places, Ms. Darcy. You of all people should know that.” And with that very ambiguous statement, she turned, disappearing between two bookshelves.

Tess’s eyebrows shot up. “What the hell does that mean?”

A sudden soft pressure played down her spine and across her hips—over the bareness of her thighs. Unexpectedly, an image of her silent dream lover filled Tess’s mind and her nipples tightened into painful peaks of hunger. Eyes closed, she sucked in a swift breath.

Teeeesssss.

A cool breath kissed her neck. Insubstantial fingers slid to her pussy.

“Ms. Darcy?” Robyn’s confident voice sliced through the library from somewhere behind a bookshelf.

Tess’s eyes flung open. She looked about herself, all too aware of the pounding beat in her chest, the damp heat between her flushed thighs. What the hell was she doing?

“Ms. Darcy?”

“I’m coming.” Tess called back, cheeks hot. Well, almost.

The librarian’s office was almost as gloomy as the library itself. Robyn stood behind a massive mahogany desk, shrouded in shadows, impatience rolling from her in disapproving waves as she watched Tess enter.

“I did not take you for a dawdler, Ms. Darcy. Surely life in New York is not so bereft of good manners?”

Tess arched an eyebrow. “Let’s not discuss manners, Ms. Jones. You know why I’m here. What do you know about my ex?” For a moment Tess thought the woman was going to argue, but then she pulled open a drawer in her desk and withdrew a large yellow envelope, handing it to her without comment. “What’s this?” The paper felt cold and rough under her fingers—and somehow alive. She wanted to drop it. Almost as much as she wanted to tear it open.

“It’s for you.”

With a barely suppressed growl, Tess dropped her stare to the envelope, turning it over in her hand.

Mrs. Tessa Fisher

c/o Kangaroo Creek

The words were scrawled in thick, black Magic Marker. As if the writer had been in a hurry.

A stinging jolt of heat shot up the length of Tess’s scar and her breath caught in her throat. Tessa Fisher. Chad’s surname. Someone was playing a sick joke. A very sick joke. Anger curling through her, she glared hard at the waiting librarian. “Who sent this?”

Utterly composed green eyes met hers. “Obviously someone who knows more about your past than anyone in the Creek does.”

Anger turning hot, Tess ripped open the envelope, catching the small, glossy photo that fell from its torn wound with a hand so close to trembling she felt sick. She lifted it. Turned it.

Stared at it.

Oh, God. No.

The photo had been taken beneath the Statue of Liberty, the blue of the spring sky so clear it almost hurt to look at it, the blindingly white tips of the water in the distance behind the same. It had been only their third date. Both she and Chad were smiling, but even now, Tess could see an uncomfortable light in her deep, brown eyes. And a burning possessiveness in Chad’s ice-blue ones. His arms were curled around her so tightly she could almost feel their tenacious pressure on her ribs now, his body pressed to hers so closely she felt the sear of his hips and jutting cock on her ass, even in the cold library’s office.

She’d developed the image that night in her personal darkroom, Chad by her side, his hands skimming lightly up and down her back, over her ass as she did so. He’d fucked her against the darkroom’s wall moments later, the soft red light casting their partly naked bodies in deep shadows, the smell of processing chemicals threading through her gasping, shallow breaths.

A finger of ice traced the line of her scar.

Two days after ending their relationship, she’d torn this very photo in two. She’d never given Chad a copy. So where had this one come from?

The finger slid back down to the base of her spine and she shivered.

Mouth dry, heart hammering, she returned her attention to Robyn. “Thank you for delivering this to me, Ms. Jones.” Her voice couldn’t have sounded more relaxed. In control. Blood roaring in her ears, she gave the woman a smile as she slid the photograph back into its envelope. “I would be quite upset if it were to be lost.” She folded the envelope once and pushed it into the back pocket of her denim shorts, then hitched her camera further up her shoulder. “Now I hope you don’t think me rude, but I want to catch the morning sun on Tin Hut Gully before the flies come out.”

Without waiting for a reply she left, the envelope burning into her ass cheek with each step she took.

If Robyn Jones had a problem with her New York manners, she could just stick it.

* * * *

Jared watched her walk from the library. Anger rolled from her in waves of tangible heat, rivalling the blistering temperature of the day. His gut tightened. Something had happened inside the old building. Something he should have seen, should have felt but didn’t.

He frowned, tracking her progress down the library steps. The smoldering sulphuric-red hue of her anger floated around her like a thundercloud, staining the air a deep vile scarlet. He’d never seen that color about her before. Auras of pensive blue, yes. Overlays of uneasy, guarded grey and insecure muddied brown, but never this turbulent red. Tess was angry. Very angry.

He clenched his fists, studying the color enveloping her. It boiled about her head, writhing and contorting—like a living thing in the throes of extreme pain. His heart clenched, feeling Tess’s torment. As always, he fought with the overwhelming urge to go to her. To embrace her, hold her to his body and kiss away her pain. She’d been through so much, possibly faced so much more, alone. And yet, she never faltered in her determination to deny it all. He admired her strength. It was almost stubborn, a trait he understood very well. A trait he’d been accused of more than once himself. Tess wouldn’t bow to her grief. But she wouldn’t acknowledge it either, and that was dangerous.

Jared’s heart clenched again. The One Almighty knew that, yet still he was forbidden to help her. Sent to protect and observe and that was all.

Denied longing flooded Jared’s being. He focussed hard on Tess as she made her way west, drawn to her innate sensuality and fragile resolve. What’s pissed you off so much, Tess? Why can’t I feel it?

A shower of brilliant white sparks suddenly erupted in Tess’s sullied angry aura, blinding him for a split second before disappearing again. Jared sucked in a hot, dry breath. She’d felt him. Her spirit had felt his presence. How had that happened?

How could that happen?

If her spirit sensed him…

His body stirring in a base, elemental way, he frowned at her back.

And she looked over her shoulder.

Straight at him.

His heart thumped into rapid life and, incapable of doing anything else, he stared straight back at her.

Time froze. For a glorious moment, Tess Darcy saw him. Deep, chocolate brown eyes held him prisoner before, with a distracted frown, she looked straight ahead again and continued hurrying along the street.

His pulse leapt into life and he felt the familiar tug on his being he’d experienced the second he’d laid eyes on her—like a fist around his damned soul. God, he was in trouble here. The last time he’d lost his heart to a woman, he’d had it destroyed. After so many months of watching Tess, of seeing her so deeply, knowing her soul so completely, his dead, shattered heart felt afire with life, with futile hope again. He couldn’t afford to fall for her. To do so would be just as dangerous as Tess’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge her grief. He couldn’t fall for her.

Yet he was.

And he was incapable of preventing it.

He started walking, following her path. She headed for the farmer’s shack she now called home. The murky red halo still rippled around her head, not a fleck of white to be seen in the shimmering hue. Whatever had angered her in the library still infuriated her now. Her feelings were no less intense than the moment she’d burst through the doors. Shoulders stiff, she marched along the empty street, the camera she wore slung over her shoulder bouncing against her hip with each step.

Something drew his attention to her butt, and it wasn’t just the sight of the wonderful curve of her ass cheeks. Something…cold. Something… Jared narrowed his eyes. “Wrong.”

He picked up his pace, gut clenching. Watching her storm along Hill Street.

Her hands continually opened and closed into bunched fists at her sides, as though she fought with them. Like they wanted to do something she did not. Orange agitation washed over the angry red halo and, in stiff, jerky movements she pressed the fingers of her right hand to her back pocket, pulling them away quickly, as if stung.

Spears of muddy grey and inky black spiked though her aura and Jared stiffened. Fear. Whether she knew it or not, whatever was in Tess’s back pocket made her scared.

And that worried him. A lot.

He needed to know what it was.

Jared’s pulse quickened. He needed to get…

“Closer.”

* * * *

Except for three dry eucalyptus logs and some tinder, the fireplace sat empty before her. Outside, the day was turning into a mean Australian summer scorcher, the midday sun and gale-force westerly sucking moisture from the air and flesh alike, rendering everything dry, brittle, and hot.

Tess held a cigarette lighter in one hand. Lighting a fire in this hot weather was lunacy, but so was the existence of the photo in her hand. A photo she knew she’d destroyed over a year ago.

She’d kept the goddamn thing in her back pocket for the entire morning’s shoot, too aware of it for her own peace of mind.

Now, three hours later, she was about to destroy it. Again. Once and for all.

Afterward, she would have a bath. Her scar ached and for some reason she felt dirty, a feeling nothing to do with the dust flying around on the hot summer wind. She was used to filth; it came with the territory of being an investigative political journalist. There was nothing more dirty in the city than a politician, especially one trying to keep secrets from his or her constituents. But filth from her own life needed to be scoured away. Now.

She raised the photo of her and Chad from her lap, refusing to look at it. Its existence defied explanation. It shouldn’t be here. It shouldn’t be anywhere. Withdrawing the cigarette lighter from her pocket she’d found in the kitchen drawer when moving in, she lifted it to the photo’s corner. After she set it alight, it—

A whisper came from her bedroom.

Indistinct. Someone saying…

What?

Blood running thick in her veins, Tess rose to her feet. She folded the photo and shoved it into her back pocket again, feeling its stiffness pressing to her butt cheek through the denim. Peering down the hall, she strained to detect what she thought she’d heard before.

And what was that, Darcy? Your name? Again? How many times do you think you’ve heard it since moving here? You’re losing your mind.

Grinding her teeth, she walked down the hall into her bedroom.

She’d spent quite a few days since moving in getting the room right. Getting it to the point where she felt at ease in it, comfortable. The walls were now a clean, cool white, the floorboards polished to a dull sheen on which lay a soft shag-pile rug the same color as the walls. White sheer curtains billowed over the large window, granting glimpses of the dry landscape beyond. A large framed poster for her favorite movie, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, hung on the wall opposite the bed, a small gilded mirror on the wall beside it.

Then there was the bed itself, sitting in the center of the room. Her one indulgence. A massive king-size made from Tasmanian oak with a mattress softer than a cloud, covered in pillows, cushions, and a bone-white throw.

And something else.

A pair of underpants. A black pair.

Tess frowned. Had she left those out this morning? She must have. How else would they be on the bed? Laid out as if waiting to be worn?

She frowned again, squirming unease fluttering in the pit of her belly. Black undies. The very color underwear Chad loved to see on—

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Darcy!” she snapped, cutting the ridiculous thought dead. “Don’t be so goddamn stupid.”

Snatching up the skimpy knickers, she bunched them into a ball and shoved them into the top drawer beside her bed. She’d felt foggy when she’d woken this morning, a little disoriented, a little exhausted. A night of wild, passionate dream sex did that to a person who deprived him or herself of the real thing.

Quick as a flash, an image of the silent man with the shaggy blonde hair she’d seen this morning outside the library flitted through her mind. And then it was gone, leaving her with a squeezing tightness in her sex she hadn’t experienced for a long time. Well, hadn’t experienced while awake, that was.

Scowling, she turned and left her room. Dreaming of sex with a faceless man every night and now getting horny over a stranger in the street she’d seen for all of about four seconds? It’s no wonder she’d found a pair of knickers on her bed. She was losing her mind! She’d probably put them on the bed to wear before having a shower and forgotten about them.

Storming back along the hallway, she rolled her eyes. Damn it, she really needed to get a grip. Hearing voices in public libraries and whispers in her bedroom…anyone would think she’d stepped into a b-grade horror movie, the way she was behaving.

But what about the photo? Explain the photo, Darcy.

She reached into her back pocket and yanked out the folded photograph. “The photo’s just about to go up in smoke.”

Still doesn’t explain its existence though, does it?

Refusing to think about just what the explanation might be, she plonked down in front of the fireplace once again. Jaw clenched, she retrieved the cigarette lighter from the hearth and held it to the photo’s lowest corner. “Destroyed. Again.”

She flicked her thumb and the cigarette lighter flared into life. Face composed, pulse steady, Tess leaned forward and touched it to the bottom edge of the creased photo.

The glossy paper smoldered for a second, as if denying the hungry desire of the flame. Black smoke curled from its blistering surface. The smiling faces trapped there began to bubble, twist. As she watched, they began to melt and then it was alight.

Heart pounding and throat tight, Tess dropped the burning paper into the fireplace. “Once and for all.”

She closed her eyes, suddenly completely drained.

And that was when he came to her.

Her silent dream-lover.

Am I asleep? The words fell from her lips without a sound.

Smooth, velvet-cold hands brushed across her shoulders, up her neck into the heavy curtain of her hair. The piercing gaze that drove her so wild night after night raked over her face. A smile pulled at his mouth, a mouth that could do wicked things to her. Had done wicked things to her.

With gentle pressure, barely more than the beat of a butterfly’s wing, he pushed her backward until she lay flat on the floor before the roaring fire.

Roaring?

A frown dipped Tess’s eyebrows, even as she gazed with rapture up at her lover’s descending lips. How could it be roaring? She’d only placed three logs in—

His mouth crushed hers as his hands grasped her breasts.

Even through the material of her tank, she felt their cool surface brand her flesh. Her nipples hardened immediately, aching for more, sending bolts of squirming electricity straight to her already squeezing sex.

His tongue plunged into her mouth, licked at her teeth. He tasted like mist. He felt like steel. The massive organ between his thighs rubbed at her wet sex, sopping the crotch of her shorts with the pearlescent beads of pre-cum on its tip and her own greedy juices. She pushed her pussy into its long, rigid length, wanting to feel it pressing on her swollen nether lips.

The hands on her breasts moulded to their shape, fingers playing over her flesh, despite the material of her shirt and bra.

What shirt? What bra?

The blazing heat from the fire touched her bare limbs and, with a moan of pleasure, Tess realised she was naked. Naked and flat on the floor with her lover’s hands on her breasts, worshipping her taut, aching nipples and his throbbing, engorged cock sliding over the pulsing bud of her clit.

When did that happen?

Did it matter?

The mouth on hers was all that mattered, the hands on her breasts, the fingers on her nipples. She arched her back, hungering for greater contact. His body was cool and she was so very, very hot.

Sucking her tongue deeper into his wet mouth, her lover moved his knees between hers, pressing her flatter to the floor with a bulk that somehow felt lighter than smoke. His hands left her breasts and she whimpered in protest, sensing, rather than hearing his responding chuckle. As his mouth continued to drink from hers, he pulled on her thighs, inching his palms down her legs until she locked them around his hips. The action thrust his cock harder against her entry and a moan rolled in her throat as scorching bolts of white lust shot straight to her clit. Fuck, he was good. A master craftsman, and she was his creation—a being forged from cold despair to become an object of burning, wanton desire.

Hands scouring up his back, she tangled her fingers in his short hair and yanked up his head, dragging the tip of her tongue up the bowed column of his neck, luxuriating in the gelidity of his smooth skin. He tasted like the night.

His Adam’s apple moved under her lips as an inaudible groan sounded in his throat. The response flooded her pussy with wet heat. She knew he wanted to pleasure her, but rarely did he let her know how much she pleasured him. The times he’d come to her in her sleep he’d taken her to blissful release without once demanding anything of her—the perfect dream lover—but now his consuming desire had moved beyond the blaze in his eyes, the fervor of his actions. Now she knew she affected him too.

She weaved her lips up his neck, let her teeth nip at his earlobe as her fingers moved to the hard pebbles of his nipples. His cock twitched as she dragged her thumbs across each and she felt new beads of pre-cum squeeze from its hot head.

The only warm part of his body

The thought flittered through her befuddled brain, unimportant.

Ignored.

God, she wanted this so much. Wanted to have him fill her, fuck her until the end of time.

Wanted so much for it to be more than a dream.

As if he heard her, the silent man lifted his head, staring at her with eyes that burned. It is more, Tess

The soundless words moved from his lips to her ears and Tess gasped. “You spe—”

He didn’t let her finish.

With a thrust that was both brutal and total, his cock plunged into her willing pussy. So deep, she felt its bulbous head press the wall of her sex.

Oh, God.” She threw back her head, sinking her nails into his shoulders as he drove into her again. Yet even as she did, her hands seem to grasp nothing.

You’re going mad.

Balls, heavy and hot with desire, slapped against her ass as he penetrated her again, again, again. Yes, she was going mad. A clear case of sexual insanity.

The fire roared higher. Devouring oxygen.

Lush lips fell on her neck, like ice on her sweat-slicked shoulder. Teeth nipped at her fevered flesh as a cock that grew larger and larger with every thrust, punched deeper into her pussy, invading not only her sex but her being as well. Filling her. Consuming her.

Possessing her.

The cold thought sliced through her pleasure-fogged head and her heart froze.

NO.

An angry shout rocked the room—her soul—in a silent voice somehow familiar.

Chad?

Eyes snapping open, Tess stared up at her lover. And saw the ceiling. “What the…”

Rising up onto her elbows, she looked around the empty lounge room, squinting at the bright midday sun flooding through the windows. Shameful disgust rolled through her. Christ. Scrambling upright, she dragged her fingers through her hair. Her scalp felt hot with sweat, but whether from the sweltering heat of the day, or the sweltering sex she’d just dreamt, she didn’t know.

She shifted, crossing her legs beneath her in an attempt to ignore her still throbbing pussy and aching clit. She let out a ragged breath. What the fuck was wrong with her? Not only was she dreaming during the day, her mind was so messed up, her one source of release now sounded like her dead ex-boyfriend?

She dropped her head into her hands, feeling stupid. Stupid and empty. Opening her eyes, she stared blindly at the barely charred logs. She needed to get her act together. She couldn’t go on like—

Something bright and colorful in the fireplace stopped the thought.

Something that shouldn’t be.

Her heart a pounding hammer in her chest, Tess leaned forward, trembling hands lifting the “something” from the scattered ashes.

The photograph of her and Chad. More perfect and spotless than it ever had been.

Mouth dry, blood cold, Tess stared at it. “What the fuck is going on?”

End of Extended Sample

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