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Patricia Barletta
Patricia Barletta
Patricia Barletta
Patricia Barletta

Excerpt: Moon Dark

Book 1: The Auriano Curse Series

Chapter 1

Venice, 1797

Someone—something—was following her.

Lady Sabrina Barclay hurried between the close-set houses of the humble sestiere of Santa Croce. She caught movement from the corner of her eye—down that narrow alley to the right, another to the left, even across the slippery tile rooftops. The motion was too quick, too nimble for a human. A shuddery twinge tiptoed down her back.

The alley opened into the Campo di Rigali, ringed by the plain stucco walls and dark windows of the houses. She halted in the shadows. Her destination was the chapel across the tiny square. Anxiety gripped her as she thought about crossing the open space to get there.

She peered into the deepening twilight. Nothing moved in the dusk. A line of laundry strung between two windows hung motionless. She could see no one lurking in the shadows. Of course she was alone. Everyone was out on the canals or celebrating in the Piazza San Marco. This was the time of the spring Carnevale.

Sabrina picked up her satin skirts and hurried across the cobbles, past the carved stone well. At the chapel’s wooden door, she glanced over her shoulder. As she did, her half mask caught on the hood of her black wool cape. She wanted to pull off the frippery of green velvet and yellow feathers, but instead, she pushed her hood back. No one went unmasked during Carnevale, and she had been told to remain anonymous. If anyone learned her identity or discovered the purpose of her errand, her son’s safety, her entire world, would be in peril.

Something skittered in a dark corner. Her hand tightened on the door pull of the chapel, the decorative ridges digging into her palm. She peered into the shadows. Only a rat. She grimaced in distaste.

An olive oil lamp flickered on in one of the small windows. Its pale light cast the animal carvings on the stone well into relief and threw the well’s shadow across the paving stones. She pressed back against the door and hoped no one could see her. With a click, shutters closed over the light. Stillness. Gloom. Yet she sensed eyes watching. Not from the windows. From somewhere else. She glanced up to the roofline of the houses but saw no silhouette against the dark, ethereal blue of the Venetian sky. An owl winged silently away into the night. The distant snap of a Carnevale firecracker startled her, prompting her to move.

Uneasy, she slipped into the chapel and leaned against the plain wood of the closed door. The sense of watching eyes receded, and she forced a breath into her lungs.

The chapel was small and dim and appeared to be deserted. The backless benches marched in formation to the sanctuary, where the carved white marble altar and the altarpiece behind it seemed to be waiting in holy repose. The sanctuary light glowed like a benevolent red eye. But she felt no sense of peace.

Gathering her courage, she pulled up her hood and hastened to a bench halfway down the aisle. Her soft dancing slippers made no noise on the marble floor. The muted swish of her satin skirt and petticoat sounded loud in the quiet. She had dressed as if she were attending a ball. Instead, she was here in this dark chapel on an errand that she had to complete.

The scent of incense and beeswax hung heavy in the air, still chilly despite the warming days of early summer. She shivered and hugged her woolen cloak closer as she sat. Pulling off her gloves, she folded her hands in her lap, bowed her head, and pretended to pray.

Her errand was to be conducted in secret. If someone followed her . . . No, she would not think of that. She must focus on what she had to do: Retrieve the note. Deliver it.

But first she needed to be sure she was alone. She listened for a footstep, a whisper, a breath, anything that would indicate another’s presence in the shadows. She heard nothing.

Sabrina glanced around in the dim light. The chapel was tucked into a quiet, working-class corner of Venice. No songs of gondoliers, no greetings of acquaintances passing on the canals, no shouts of Carnevale merrymakers reached her here. The silence was unnerving, but it assured her of solitude. A bank of votive candles cast a soft glow to the left of the altar. Shadows flickered along the frescoed walls and made the saintly figures portrayed there appear to dance. The stained glass windows, which would have sparkled like jewels during the day, were dull and dark, foreboding. Instead of safety and refuge, the dim chapel held an air of menace. 

She turned from those unsettling walls and windows to the altar and the crucifix hanging there as if she were beseeching the Almighty, but no prayer formed on her lips. She waited, forcing herself to be patient, her fingers curling into her skirt. She just wanted to be done with her errand. Furtively, she glanced left and right. She saw no one.

She ran her fingers beneath the rough wood of the bench until she touched a small piece of folded parchment affixed to the underside. Prying the small square from the wax, she rolled it into the palm of her hand. Her errand was almost complete. She released a silent breath.

About to bow her head again, she saw the candle flames jump from a draft. The hair on the back of her neck prickled. Someone else was here. She sensed a presence that curled icy tentacles around her heart. A presence that triggered a frail wraith of memory: Evil.

Run. The word exploded in her brain.

She gasped, snapped her head to the right. A shadowy black figure stood beside her. Before she could move or think, it lunged and shoved her off the bench. She cried out as she landed with a teeth-jarring thud on the marble floor. The breath in her lungs whooshed away.

A stiletto skimmed past her ear and thunked into the bench before her. It quivered in the wood, mere inches from her nose. The metal blade gleamed black and menacing. She scuttled back, only to be blocked by the bench behind her.

The dark figure had moved to the aisle and seemed to hover inches above the floor. It was a human-shaped shadow, but more—denser, blacker, canceling all light within its outline. Its eyes glowed like molten gold. They stared directly at her, and for a moment, she could not move. Could not breathe. Those eyes were frightening. Beautiful. Hypnotic. 

She tried to suck in enough air to scream. Only a whimper emerged from her throat.

The figure pointed to the door. Run. There is danger here. The words growled loudly inside her head.

With a leap, the figure rose into the darkness beneath the vaulted ceiling and disappeared.

Sabrina gaped up and blinked. Shock froze her. She tried to gather her wits, blinked again. That shadow thing had pushed her aside, saving her from the deadly blade and certain death. Her blood went cold.

Run. The shadow’s voice jabbed through her head again.

As she scrambled up, she realized she had dropped the message. Frantically, she searched for the little white square. She had to retrieve it. She shook out her skirts, skimmed her shaking fingers beneath the bench, over the cold marble of the floor.

Nothing. The note was gone.

Abandoning her search, she picked up her skirts and fled to the door. Behind her, she heard a strangled cry and a sickening thud, like a body hitting the floor from a great height. Then silence. The sense of evil snuffed out.

She escaped into the deep twilight of Venice. The sky still glowed cobalt, but the city was dark. The sliver of moon shed little light. Shadows were deeper, blacker. Sabrina rushed back across the square and entered an alley so narrow that the stucco walls of the houses were barely far enough apart to allow two people to pass each other. She checked over her shoulder. Someone could easily trap her. She hurried on, wanting only to reach her gondola.

In this modest part of the city there was little Carnevale celebration, so no one strolled the alleys, no old men sat outside to chat. She was alone. The solitary patter of her footsteps seemed much too loud as she hastened to the canal where her gondolier waited. The relative safety felt very far away.   

Somehow, someone had learned of her errand. The errand that was to be performed in secret—to collect the note and deliver it to the uncle of her late husband. She had failed him. He would be displeased. Sabrina didn’t want to imagine what form that displeasure might take, but she would do everything she could to protect her son from him, the man who allowed her to live beneath his roof.

And she would protect her son from the person—the evil—who had tried to kill her.

But someone—something—had saved her life. A shadow with eyes of molten gold who could speak to her inside her head. The creature intrigued her, awed her, captivated her. Frightened her with its strangeness.

Her stomach lurched. Fear from what was behind her overcame her apprehension of the scalding reprimand laying before her. Damning her voluminous skirt and petticoats, she raced the rest of the way to her gondola.

*    *    *

Sabrina arrived safely at the casa where she lived. Scrambling out of the gondola, she rushed into the house through the water gate, the canal-side entrance. She did not bother to call any of the servants to take her cloak as she hurried across the rough tiles of the andron, the undecorated water-level entry hall. She ran up the stairs to the study. The room, lit brightly by the center wrought iron chandelier, seemed empty. She circled around the massive gum wood desk and went directly to the small table which held several decanters and glasses. Her hand trembled as she poured herself two fingers of brandy. She gulped it down, but even its burn did not stop her shivers. She turned to the fire and its warmth.


She jumped. Harold Dunfield, the uncle of her late husband, stared at her in shock from his chair before the blaze. His cool blue eyes pinned her. He was dressed to go out for an evening’s entertainment, impeccable in his burgundy velvet coat and yellow silk waistcoat, his silvery hair perfectly tied back with a black satin ribbon. He had obviously been waiting for her. She had not seen him sitting there.

“What is the meaning of this?” he demanded, indicating the empty glass in her hand. 

Guiltily, she placed the glass on the mantle. “Someone just tried to kill me.” She choked out the words.

 His brow furrowed, but he said nothing.

“You never warned me my life could be in danger.” Her voice shook, and she took a breath to steady herself.

 “Really, Sabrina, I’m sure you are being overly dramatic.” Dunfield waved away her reproach.

 Of course he would show no sympathy for her ordeal.

“A stiletto missed me by inches,” she said.

“You must have been mistaken for someone else. There’s no reason why anyone should wish you dead. I’m only selling artwork.” Dunfield took a casual sip of his own brandy.

Frustration at his callousness and reaction to her fright brought tears to her eyes. She blinked them away and tried to make him see the problem—again. “They are Italian masterpieces, and you are selling them to our English king. If the Venetians discover their art is leaving the city—”

“They won’t.” His gaze sharpened. “Did you get the message?”

Sabrina swallowed. She did not want to confess what had occurred in the chapel. She would never reveal to this man that a shadow had saved her life. He would think she had gone mad. Perhaps she had, and the apparition in the chapel had merely been a hallucination. Except she still felt the bruise where she had landed on the hard marble floor. How could she explain something she did not understand herself?

“I lost it.” Her admission came out small and quiet. 

Anger turned his eyes to ice. “So you thought to cover up your incompetence with some fantasy about an attempt on your life?”

“No! I—”

“Stop.” Dunfield gave her a hard stare. “If you cannot perform a simple chore for me, like retrieving a message, then you are of little use. I am disinclined to support a destitute widow with a son if you are unable to give me some recompense.”

Her chest muscles constricted, and she had to force air into her lungs. She and Evan had no place else to go. This man, sitting so comfortably before the fire, had been her only recourse when she discovered her late husband had run his estate into huge debt. She had asked—no, begged—Dunfield to take them in. He had readily agreed. So she had moved from England to settle in Venice, where Dunfield had gained some prominence in the English community. When she arrived, she discovered he had other plans for her—delivering his messages to the representative of the English king in return for a roof over their heads. Now, she was trapped in a situation of her own design.

She caught a motion at the window. A pair of molten golden eyes appeared to float in the dark night sky. She stiffened her knees so she wouldn’t collapse into a boneless puddle. Dunfield must not learn of her shadowy rescuer. She sidled a tiny step away from the window to keep his attention.

Swallowing her pride, she said, “I am also cataloging your art collection, Uncle. That should count for something.”

“Yes, yes.” He dismissed her argument with another wave of his hand.

“I’ll go back to the chapel now to try to find the note,” she said, dreading a return to the place. She cast another glance at the window. Those golden eyes had disappeared.

“It’s gone,” Dunfield said. “Don’t bother.” Thoughtfully, he tapped his fingers on the arm of the chair.

Relief flowed through her, but she suspected Dunfield was planning some equally odious task for her.

“Tomorrow,” he said, “you will take Evan on an outing to the Piazza San Marco, and leave the usual signal that indicates that I must communicate with King George’s representative.”

Sabrina’s insides clenched. Not only would she once again have to play Dunfield’s secret messenger, this time he was placing her son in danger. She knew no argument would change his mind.

His gaze pierced her. “The French army is sitting on the border of the Veneto. They’re busy with Austria at the moment, but if they turn their attention to Venice, they’ll plunder my collection. I need to get it out of the city before then.”

Sabrina wondered what the French would do to an English woman with a young son. The thought gave her chills.

“Do not bungle this errand, Sabrina.”

Bowing her head, she chafed at his reprimand.

Dunfield abruptly changed the subject. “Is your costume ready for our masquerade ball?”

“Yes, it’s ready.” Resignation made her sigh. She hated masquerade balls. At the last one, she had spent the evening trying to evade an obnoxious little man who was convinced she was his paramour.

“You know we will be entertaining all of the noble families of Venice. And the Prince of Auriano will be attending.” A smug note crept into Dunfield’s voice.

“Yes, I know.” She clenched her teeth so she wouldn’t say anything inadvisable. Getting Auriano to attend the ball was a social coup, but that was not why Dunfield was reminding her. He was putting yet another possible suitor in her path, one more man who would reject her because she was too independent, or too cold, or too intelligent, or too outspoken, or too English. The rejections were embarrassing, despite her relief. When—if—she married again, it would be to someone of her own choosing, someone who would have a care for her, but also for her son.

“He is wealthy and powerful, Sabrina. I wish you to be at your most charming.” Dunfield’s cool words belied the underlying threat. If she did not perform as he expected, he would be furious. 

She tried to find some excuse to avoid the prince. “He is a rogue and a gambler.”

Dunfield’s blue gaze impaled her. “Auriano wields a great deal of influence. I could use the connection.”

That was his true reason for dangling Auriano before her. If she caught the prince, Dunfield would be accepted everywhere in Venetian society, and would not be merely tolerated as an amusing Englishman. The House of Auriano was very old and still possessed their ancestral castello in the north. The family was allowed to use the title of “prince” when no other family in Venice could. None of this swayed Sabrina. 

She tried another argument. “He is a rake, Uncle. He has a new lover every week. I refuse to expose Evan to such scandal.”

A disapproving frown creased Dunfield’s brow. “Your son lives in Venice now, not England. You can’t shelter him forever. If you are fortunate enough to catch Auriano’s eye, he will set you up in your own rooms.”

Sabrina gasped. “Are you saying that I should become his mistress?”

“I am saying to do whatever it takes to get him interested,” he snapped. “You may be able to lead him to the altar.”

“I’ve heard tales that he’s had men murdered.” Her fist clenched in rebellion. 

He brushed aside her objection. “What powerful man in Venice is not connected with such idle talk?”

“His family is rumored to be cursed.” An absurd argument, but she would try anything to dissuade Dunfield.

He laughed coldly. “Really, Sabrina. The family has more gold than the Vatican. Do you call that being cursed?” 

“I’m not looking for a husband, Uncle,” she said, and desperately used her last excuse. “I’m still grieving over the death of Richard.” Her words were well rehearsed, often repeated.

Dunfield frowned. “Two years is long enough to be in mourning. Your son needs a father. You need a husband. I cannot keep supporting you and Evan. His tutor is expensive and the boy should be sent to school in England.”

“But the sale of the art to King George—”

“—is not enough to sustain all of us forever. When I agreed to take you and Evan into my home, I did not foresee your spending the rest of your life under my roof.”

Neither did she, but she refrained from commenting. She wanted more for Evan than being the poor relation of this man. Her husband had been merely a knight, and so her son would never inherit a title. That did not matter. She wanted Evan to grow into a kind, honest person who could hold his head up with self-respect. But for now, living with Dunfield was her only option.

His expression softened. “You should not go through life alone, Sabrina. You need to find a mate, someone to protect you.”

Nodding obediently, Sabrina endured another lecture on her duties as a widow with a child to raise. She silently berated herself again for the naiveté that brought her under this man’s roof. Dunfield’s concern for her was only another form of manipulation. She was not anxious to wed again, despite having to live with this overbearing, hard-hearted man. Although she had been fond of her late husband, he had given more attention to his artifacts and moldy manuscripts than he had to her. With his sudden death, she felt a guilty sense of relief and freedom in taking charge of her life. Somehow, she would keep that freedom and make her own decisions. She just had to figure out how to do that and take care of her son as well.

Evan would be sleeping now, put to bed by his nurse. Sabrina wanted to go to him, check to be sure he was safe. But she could not escape until Dunfield dismissed her. And he  took delight in lecturing her. She reminded herself again that she was under his control in order to keep Evan secure, but the situation still chafed. 

As Dunfield droned on about the advantages to a connection with Auriano, she wandered closer to the window. Perhaps she could catch another glimpse of that shadow creature. Staring out into the night, she saw nothing unusual. The breeze stirred the shadows, but no  eerie figure appeared. She wondered where it had come from.

Shivering, she rubbed her arms as she gazed down to the canal. She thought she saw something move. No, nothing was there. She was seeing specters where none existed.

Abruptly, the shadow creature appeared before her, just beyond the glass. It balanced lightly on the narrow balustrade that guarded the long window. Sabrina swallowed a gasp and blinked. She shifted to block Dunfield’s view. He would call the servants, rouse the authorities to chase it down. It had saved her. She would protect it.

Blacker than the black night, its outline was human. Male. Naked. Perfectly proportioned. Its eyes glowed golden, and its gaze swept her from head to toe.

She felt its scrutiny as if it were palpable. The tiny hairs on her arms lifted. A shiver ran through her. She felt a bit faint. Gripping the window frame to keep herself upright, she stared.

Then, just as quickly as it appeared, the figure was gone, stepping back into the night air, dissolving once more into the dark.

“Sabrina, are you listening?” Dunfield’s irritated voice dragged her attention back into the room.

Chapter 2

Invisible, just one more shadow among the shadows of night, Sandro crouched on the rooftop high above the quiet, narrow canal. Waiting, watching, he focused on the casa across the water, where the woman from the chapel lived. He had retreated to this spot after coming face to face with her through the window. She captivated him. Her face, a pale oval, was framed by dark curls. Heavy lashes shaded her light gray eyes, and delicate dark brows flared above them. Her lips were full and lush.

He needed to touch her. Desperately. That brush against her in the chapel could not have been illusion. Even now, he imagined he could feel her. But that could not be. Not now, not when he was shadow.

He stared down at his shadowy hand and curled his fingers into his palm. He felt nothing, no pressure of muscle, no sense of skin against skin. But he had been able to touch this woman. More than that, he had been able to sense the power within her, hidden and unused. He wanted to know who—what—this woman was. He needed to discover if he truly could feel her.

Whenever he turned to shadow, the sense of touch was denied him, along with smell and taste. The deprivation wore him down, turned to madness when he craved those senses as he entered the Hunger, transitioning back to flesh and bone. He needed to know if that fleeting sensation of skin against skin was more than his imagination.

Sandro studied the casa. The house was moderate in size, but comfortable, its stone façade decorated by tall windows and small balconies. With a bit of snooping, he had learned it belonged to that Englishman, Dunfield, who collected artwork and made a moderate income as a merchant. Now, it seemed, from the bit of parchment he had retrieved from the floor of the chapel, the man was trying to sell a portion of his art collection and was using the woman as his messenger.

Although the Inquisitors, who dealt with threats to state security, might be interested, Sandro had no interest in the clandestine negotiations of a foreigner. But the woman who lived under the man’s roof . . . Ah, si.

With the darkness of night surrounding the casa, the lit rooms and their inhabitants were visible. He watched her listen to the Englishman. Her head was bowed in acquiescence, but her posture suggested resistance. When she exited the room, he could see her clearly. Her shoulders were stiff; her back was straight; her head was held high. Evidently, her relationship with Dunfield was less than placid. Bene.

Slowly, the casa went dark as lights were extinguished and the occupants went to bed. He had found the bedchamber where the woman slept. It faced the canal, and a small balcony, a pergola, hung suspended three stories above the water. Perfect.

Soon, she would be abed and asleep. He would wait.

Then he would know.

Was this woman his redemption or his destruction?

His impatience gnawed at him.

*    *    *

She was asleep when Sandro slipped into her room. With the moon almost dark, hardly any light came through the window, but the lack of light never hindered his ability to see. The embers on the hearth still glowed and cast a faint sheen on her form beneath the covers. He moved silently to the bedside and watched the rise and fall of her chest as she slept. Her lashes lay in a silky dark crescent on her creamy cheek. Raven tendrils curled at her temple where they had escaped in her sleep. She was exquisite. 

He remained unmoving, preparing himself for what he was about to do. Apprehensive that what he sensed in the chapel was his imagination, confused if it was real, he merely observed her. Her dark hair, twined into a single braid, lay across her shoulder. Her hand lay palm up beside her head on the pillow. Desperation brought him here, to touch her, to sense her beneath his fingers.

Hesitantly, he reached out and stroked his fingers across her palm. His skin came alive at the touch. In shock, he jerked back, folding his fingers into a fist. He could feel her! He had not imagined it.

He reached out again, skimmed his fingers down her arm. Able to feel her soft skin, he closed his eyes in a rush of sensation. How was it possible that he could feel this woman?

Her quiet breath came and went between parted lips. Tantalized, he brushed them and marked their outline. He needed to feel more. His body cried out for more. He had never before craved anything while shadow. That came later, during the Hunger. But now, all he wanted was to touch this woman.

Discarding common sense and decorum, he trailed his fingers down her neck, around her shoulder, splayed them across her delicate collarbone. Her skin was like silk. He felt a strange, pleasant tingle at the contact. She shifted beneath his fingers and breathed a gentle moan.

He jerked back in surprise. His fingers closed into a fist he held tight against his chest. He still could not feel his own skin. But he had felt her. And she had felt him. 

He watched her as he thought that over. She was not awake and most likely believed she was dreaming. He decided to make her dream memorable. Playfully, he traced his fingers around the neckline of her nightdress. He wondered how long he would have before she realized she was not dreaming, opened her eyes, saw him, and screamed. Testing, he tickled the valley between her breasts, just visible above her neckline.

Her eyes flew open and she gasped. She opened her mouth to shriek.

Do not scream, he said quickly, silently, as he pulled his hand away.

She froze. Shock registered in her eyes.

Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you, he told her. He held up his empty hand to show her, then dropped it to his side. Do not scream. Please.

She released her breath in a huff. Scrambling back, she grasped the covers like a shield, as if they would provide protection. Her eyes were wide, frightened. “Why shouldn’t I scream?” she demanded.

Because I asked you not to. 

“And if I refuse to comply?”

I will be gone before anyone arrives to help you, and you will look foolish trying to explain my presence.

“Get out.”

Amused at her bravado at the same time he was captivated, he said, You are beautiful

He watched a soft blush color her cheeks at his compliment, then disbelief and affront etched itself as a thin line between her brows.

Reaching out to erase that line, he curbed his impulse and let his hand drop. His action frightened her, and he saw her preparing again to cry out to alert the household. Without thinking, he placed his hand across her mouth. He was instantly aware of the feel of her. Her eyes widened, and she choked off her cry. Amazed at her reaction, he wondered what she felt when he touched her.

I will not hurt you, he repeated. Do you believe me?

She hesitated a moment, then nodded.

Will you scream if I remove my hand? 

Speculatively, she gazed at him. She shook her head. When he released her, she inched farther back against the pillows. “What are you?”

What do I look like? he countered.

“A shadow. A man. A man-shadow.”


Confusion, then fear flickered through her eyes. “What happened to you?”

That’s a very long story, he answered wryly, and one that would bring you nightmares.

She gave a delicate shiver, then tried to cover it by drawing up her knees. “I can hear you in my head,” she said. “How can you do that?”

I’ve had many years of practice.

Frowning, she said, “Why are you here? What do you want?”

The answer to those questions was easy. You.

“You can’t have me.” She swiped up the candlestick at her bedside and held it like a cudgel.

Chuckling, enjoying the exchange, he said, Ah, a passionate woman. I wanted to touch you.

The fingers of her free hand curled into the covers as she yanked them higher. That candlestick waved in threat. “No one touches me unless I allow it, and I’m not giving you permission.”

Passionate, but unloved, he sighed in mock regret.

Even in the dark, he could see the flush of anger in her cheeks. “How dare you! You know nothing about me. Get out!”

Reluctant to leave, nonetheless, he backed away. I know enough, he flung at her as he moved to the door leading to the pergola that looked over the canal.

“Wait,” she said, just before he slipped out.

He stopped, curious about what made her change her mind.

“You saved me in the chapel,” she said, as she lowered the candlestick.


“Thank you.”

Non c’é di che. He dipped his head in a bow, entertained by the contrast between her courtesy and the defense of her virtue. 

“But that doesn’t give you the right to touch me without my permission.” Her chin rose defiantly.

When will you give me permission? he teased.

Drawing herself up and clutching the bedclothes closer and higher, she declared, “Never.”

He laughed. Never is a very long time. Are you sure you can deny yourself that long?

Even from where he stood, he saw her eyes snap. She whipped the candlestick at him. “Get out!”

With another laugh, he dodged the missile easily. As he saluted her with an elegant bow, he decided to give her something to ponder. You are mine, he whispered, and allowed his words to caress her mind. Then he slipped out the door and blended into the other shadows of the night.

*    *    *

Sabrina felt as if his hand brushed softly through her hair. The sensation arrowed down through her body to end in a throb deep in her center. She gasped, swallowed, and reminded herself to breathe. She stared at the door to the pergola, closed now as if he had never gone through. How had he disappeared so quickly? Her heart raced. Her breathing came fast and shallow. She was furious at that thing toying with her. She was frightened at finding it hovering beside her bed. She was aroused by its delicate touch.

How could that be?

It—he—was a mass of darkness punctuated by those molten eyes. He was perfectly formed, like the negative of Michelangelo’s statue of David. She had been able to see the faint definition of muscle and features. Not human, and yet . . . 

His touch was charged with something beyond normal. She felt an odd tingle wherever his fingers had traced. Even now, long enough for the sensation to have faded, she imagined if she looked in the mirror, she would see a sparkling trail where he had touched her. And everywhere he touched glowed with warmth.

Her body wanted more. Her mind told her she was crazy. His last words created heat that flowed through her. Those words echoed over and over in her head.

You are mine.

Flopping back onto her pillow, she squeezed her eyes shut. She had been dreaming. Her mind was playing tricks on her. She’d had a terrifying experience earlier in the evening. With the same shadow. Who had saved her life.

But she knew. It had been no dream.

Return to Moon Dark

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