And you reach nothing.
Have you ever wanted to melt into the
darkness? Dissolve into the shadows?
You can lose yourself in the black
emptiness. But while you may lose yourself, the night always knows where you
Eli Hayes stood alone in the
darkness. The night sky was clear, lit by the stars and a perfect quarter moon.
Shadows fell across the ground, casting a thick and almost tangible black film.
He was aware of the tension in his shoulders and the ache in his jaw. Closing
his eyes, he breathed in slow and deep. He stayed that way, quietly meditating,
until the pain melted away.
opened his eyes again, the shadows followed the path of the gravestones. He
squatted in front of a square chunk of marble. He read the name and date slowly,
committing it to memory as if he’d later be quizzed on the information. As if
it wasn’t already etched in his mind, a permanent fixture there.
out. The stone felt cold against his fingertips. He traced the letters. Deep
grooves in cold rock. All that was left at the end of existence.
Fortunately for Eli, not all
his nights were spent with the dead. The slow rhythm of Amanda’s breathing
relaxed him. He stroked her hair, enjoying the way the thick strands tickled
his skin. He hated to wake her. Hated that she would leave. But that was not
his choice to make.
He glanced at
the bedside clock. 11:52 p.m. Amanda would soon be gone, and he’d be left alone
with the silence of the night. Once that would have been a comfort. But now…
He kissed her
cheek, whispered that she needed to wake up, and pulled his thoughts out of the
stirred. She cracked her eyes open and sighed. “What time is it?”
“I wish I
sleep from her eyes, Amanda said, “You wore me out. I could have slept all
I like watching you sleep.”
tell me I was drooling or snoring or anything like that.”
“No, you were perfectly angelic.”
“I can just
propped up on her elbows. The dark smudges beneath her eyes made him smile,
though he couldn’t quite say why. Maybe because the ruined makeup and tousled
hair gave him a sense that she belonged here, belonged with him.
“I never got
the chance to tell you,” Amanda said, “since we got a bit distracted. I love your
“And I love
having you in it.”
Eli was still
stunned at having her here in his bed. He’d thought he could maintain the
distance with her. He normally brought women to hotels, which kept it all from
getting too personal. More importantly, the anonymity of hotels protected his
privacy. Still, here he was. Here they were. Together. In his bed.
Amanda must have a hundred questions running through her mind. So much between
them remained unsaid. He couldn’t have missed her expression when he’d invited
her here, despite her attempt to keep the shock and eagerness from showing. He
didn’t need to be an empath to know what she was feeling. The questions danced
behind her beautiful green eyes, but she’d chosen not to give them voice. He
wondered if she’d sensed that asking would have meant the end.
stared off toward the dwindling candle, her expression troubled. Perhaps
letting her this close had been a mistake after all.
But, no. She
wasn’t upset about him. Her stress came from another place.
in thought,” he said. “What’s on your mind?”
flopped back against the pillow. “I hate having to tiptoe around my father like
this. It’s ridiculous. I’m thirty-two years old.”
“I have a
right to stay out all night with a man, if I choose.”
“Yes, you do.”
that would mean telling him about you. And then he’d want to meet you.”
you’ve told me about him, we already know he would dislike me.”
envision me as an adult woman who enjoys sex and can make my own decisions,”
Amanda said. “He wouldn’t dislike you, exactly. He’d hate what you stand for;
that, in his mind, you’re using me for sex. His natural distrust would be
further complicated by your differences. The two of you are like night and
preconceptions will be difficult to dissuade.”
least a century behind the times. My divorce didn’t help. Now he thinks I need
protecting from the evil in the world.”
such a bad thing for a father to feel.”
“It can be
nice, in moderation. The funny thing is, he loved my ex, probably even more
than I did. So his judgment isn’t all that sound.”
feels guilty about that, and the guilt drives him to be overprotective now.”
Amanda glanced at the clock and groaned. “I should go. I have the early morning
shift with my mom.” She sighed. “I wish I could just lie here in your arms all
his finger from Amanda’s lips to her bellybutton. “I’d like that.”
pushed him back and rolled on top of him. “Would you really?”
inside him. His body betrayed his need. “Do you even have to ask?”
verbal acknowledgement would be nice now and then.”
nipped his bottom lip, and said, “I can probably get away with another hour.”
deep inside, he shuddered. Forever. I
need you to stay forever. Those words weren’t spoken. Not even the emotion
surfaced. His voice remained controlled, heavy only with sexual desire. “I’ll
take what I can get.”
Eli woke at dawn, despite the
fact that today was Sunday and he had nowhere to be. He could sleep burrowed in
his closet, wearing a padded blindfold, and he’d still awaken the instant the
sun crested. An ingrained habit he couldn’t shake.
perfume lingered on the sheets. He closed his eyes and breathed in the scent.
him mysterious. He supposed that was the word women used when a man kept secrets.
Until they married him. Then they called him deceitful.
Or so he
even come close to marriage.
himself out of bed and stepped into the bathroom. As he brushed his teeth, he
considered his predicament. Mysterious.
The word made him feel like a fraud. Of all the things he was, mysterious
ranked low on the list.
he asked himself. His reflection had no answer.