Maggie strives to avoid her father’s employer, but the strength of Adrian’s allure can’t keep her away for long. She finds herself driving down that familiar driveway one wintry night intent on a short visit, but her stay is lengthened when her car gets stuck. She’s forced to walk the last stretch, but she senses she isn’t alone. A creeping fear lingers with her long after she arrives at the house, and the sensation isn’t dispelled in the presence of her werewolf lover.
Maggie’s horror takes physical form when something awakens her in the middle of the night. The horror flees, but there’s no question of it returning. Escape is found to be impossible, so she must enlist the aid of Adrian and his hostile servant keep her from the clutches of the phantom. Magical incantations, dark cults, and blood sacrifices culminate in a night of terror that leads Maggie through confusion and revelation as she tries to stay one step ahead of her demonic foe.
A cloudy, foggy day presented itself before Maggie O’Hara as she drove the long, winding coast road. A chill breeze blew off the bay and swept over the pavement. Snowflakes sprinkled her windshield and tinted the ground on either side of the slushy road white with a promise of a white Christmas.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked herself.
Because you love him came the reply.
Maggie sighed, but didn’t argue with the voice in her head. She was headed for Adrian’s home, and not only to tell him the latest news on her father. There was a constant tugging inside of her to be with him, and after two weeks apart from him she couldn’t find the strength to deny it any longer.
Maggie leaned forward and looked up at the dark night sky. “It just had to snow tonight, didn’t it?”
The road dove into the dark, wintry forest. Maggie’s heart gladdened when she beheld the opening to the driveway that led to Adrian’s home.
She bumped along the narrow, slushy private road. Small puddles of partially frozen water dotted the road, and the bumper of her car slid a few times as she drove through the uneven holes.
The large, secluded home loomed up on her. She slowed the car and glanced at her usual parking spot. A deep pile of snow, forgotten by the warm sun in the dense forest, stared back at her.
“Looks like I won’t be parking there. . .” she murmured.
Maggie pressed on the gas. She heard her tires spin, but the car didn’t move. She tried again, and for her trouble got the same result. Maggie pulled her foot from the pedal and slammed her fists against the steering wheel.
“Damn it!” she growled.
She grabbed a flashlight from the glove compartment and stepped outside. A quick look at the tires told her stopping had been a bad idea. They were buried a half foot in the slush.
The chill wind from before blew over her. A sorrowful moan seemed to ride the breeze. The sound sank into her bones like damp into an old house. She wrapped her coat closer to herself and shivered before she turned to the road. The tall house stabbed the sky with its peaks.
Maggie sighed and slipped back into the car. She grabbed the keys and a notebook full of her homework. A quick lock of the car and she trudged down the driveway.
She had gone fifteen feet when something made her freeze. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end.
Something brushed against her back.
Maggie spun around and shone the beam of her flashlight on the driveway. The light reflected off the headlights of her car. Nothing stirred.
The wind blew against her. The moan from before sounded louder. It sounded real.
Maggie stepped backward away from the car. The feeling of being watched crept into her mind. She turned and fled down the driveway. Her feet slipped and sank in the slushy snow. She stumbled more than once, but each time her fear drove her to catch herself and run faster.
Maggie reached the shut gate and slammed her shoulder against one of the stone columns. She looked back. The flashlight caught nothing but the dim reflection of her car. She grabbed her chest and caught her breath. Her heart pounded hard in her chest.
She took a couple of deep breaths and looked up at the wing that Adrian inhabited. A dim light lifted her spirits. She pressed the button beneath the intercom. “Hello? Is anybody-”
“Good evening,” came Albert’s reply.
Maggie sighed. It was good to hear the sound of another person’s voice. “Good evening, Albert. If I could just come-”
“Of course,” he agreed.
Maggie heard the familiar click as the gate lock was released. She shoved them open and slammed them shut behind her as she hurried down the path. Albert was just opening the door when she rushed up to the entrance.
He stepped aside and arched an eyebrow as she stumbled into the warm, albeit shadowed, house. “Is something the matter?”
Maggie straightened and shook her head. “No, it’s just-well, my car got stuck up the driveway, and I had to walk the rest of the way-”
“You act as though you ran,” a voice spoke up. Maggie gazed up the stairs and the weight on her heart disappeared as she watched Adrian step down them toward her. He reached the bottom floor and smiled. “You act as though you ran the entire length of the driveway.”
Maggie held up her thick notebook. “Knowledge isn’t something to take lightly.”
He chuckled. “No, I think not.” He stepped aside and swept his arm over the stairs. “If you would join me for a warm drink.”
“Very warm,” she agreed.
Adrian looked past her at Albert. “Some warmed bourbon, if you would, Albert.” The servant bowed his head and disappeared into the interior of the house.
Maggie sidled up to Adrian who stretched his arm over her shoulders. “To what do I enjoy the pleasure of your company this dark evening?” he asked her as he led her up the stairs.
She blushed. Her reasoning for coming now seemed so lame. “It’s about my father. I wanted to tell you how he was doing.”
His sly smile slipped onto his lips. “I see. Is he better?”
She nodded. “Much better. He came home a week ago, though the doctors say he shouldn’t go to work for another week.”
“With your father as he is I wonder how you were able to excuse yourself from his side,” he commented.
She winced and held up her notebook. “I told him I was going to be studying with some friends.”
“A lie?” he teased.
Maggie shook her head. “No. I brought this so I could study. If I stayed, that is. Now with my car stuck-”
“You are stuck,” he finished for her.
She ran a hand through her hair and sighed. “Yeah.”
He studied her for a long moment as they walked to his chamber door. “But that isn’t all that’s bothering you, is it?”
Maggie shrank beneath his astute observation. “It’s just the dark. That’s all. I really shouldn’t be afraid of it anymore, but sometimes-well, you know.”
Adrian opened the door and bowed his head to her. When he raised his head his eyes were tinged with a yellow color. “All too well.”
Maggie stepped into the room and Adrian closed the door behind them. The familiar warm fire crackled in the hearth, and before it stood the two high-backed chairs. She took one and Adrian settled into his usual place beside the mantel.
His steady gaze fell on her. “Will there be any lasting effects from your father’s illness?”
She shook her head. “No, at least the doctors don’t think so. He might be a little slow for a month, but that should be it.”
“And you?” he wondered.
She blinked at him. “Me? I wasn’t-” He held up his hand.
“You were not sick, but you know I speak of a different affliction.”
Maggie’s shoulders sagged and cast her eyes downward. “The mirror.”
He nodded. “Yes. Does its power bother you?”
She furrowed her brow for a moment before she shook her head. “I. . .I don’t know. I don’t feel any different, but it’s like the world’s changed. Almost like there’s something in the corner of my eye I can’t quite catch.”
“Does that scare you?”
Maggie sighed. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t.”
Adrian smiled. “And you are a terrible liar.”
Her eyes flickered up to him and narrowed. “I don’t have as much practice as you.”
“And I would have you have no practice at all, but that I appreciate your company,” he returned.
Maggie glanced at the French doors. “I told Dad I wouldn’t be back tonight, but I really should call someone to get my car out.”
“In the morning,” he replied as he stepped up to her. “I doubt any company would go this far out in such weather.” A knock on the door interrupted them. “Come in.”
The entrance swung open and Albert stepped inside. He held a tray in both hands, and on the tray was a large bottle of golden bourbon. Two short, fat glasses sat beside the bottle, and the contents steamed forth from the mouths.
Albert set the tray on the table beside Maggie and bowed to Adrian. “Will there be anything else?”
Adrian lifted one of the steaming glasses even with his face and smiled. “This is your special recipe?”
“Of course, sir.”
“Then that will be all.”
Albert bowed again and retreated from the room. Adrian turned and held the glass out to Maggie.
“I think you’ll find that though Albert is cool toward you, his drink is not,” he teased.
Maggie hesitantly took the glass and inspected the contents. She frowned and her eyes flickered to Adrian who had taken the other glass in hand. “Are you trying to get me drunk?”
“Do I really need to?” he pointed out. He raised his glass. “Cheers.” He tipped his head back and downed the contents.
Maggie half-heartedly followed his example, but with less enthusiasm and less loss of drink. She licked her lips and her eyes widened. “This isn’t bad.”
Adrian chuckled as he set his empty glass on the tray. “Albert is a wonder with everything he chooses to master. That is, everything but being the master.”
Maggie set her unfinished glass beside his and looked up at him. “How did you meet?”
Adrian resumed his position beside the mantel and gazed into the fire. “Albert has always been a family servant. He was hired by my father as a young man for his intelligence and loyalty. When my father died his loyalty proved to be strong indeed, for even after my-well, my change, he remained a steadfast servant.”
Maggie recalled back to the time when they faced their first Brotherhood member. “Did he know magic before you were changed?”
Adrian smiled and shook his head. “He hardly knows magic now and there isn’t a magic bone in his body, but he gets along with whatever spells can be concocted by more natural elements.”
Her face fell and she turned her gaze away from him. “I see. Then he was like me before I shattered the mirror.”
Adrian walked over to her and knelt before her chair. He grasped her chin in his hands and turned her head so she faced him. His yellow-tinged eyes smiled at her. “He is a friend, but you are something quite more dear to me.”
Maggie blushed. “I-I-” He leaned down and pressed their lips together in a long, passionate kiss.
Her body burst aflame with desire. She leaned into the kiss. Their hands groped each other, vying for a feel of flesh.
He carried her to the bed and pulled her clothes from her body. She writhed and squirmed beneath him before he lay his naked body over her. Their gentle lovemaking burned the night hours and allowed them a deep slumber.