Strange cravings. A sudden illness. Vivid dreams.
Lenore’s plain life gets turned upside down after her accident. She finds herself with an insatiable appetite for raw meat and a strange fascination with the night air. Her strange, lustful dreams haunt her waking hours. Is she losing her sanity? Can she find the answers to the sudden strange goings-on around her? Wherever the road she travels goes she knows one thing for certain; Nick will be there by her side. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know whether that’s good or bad.
Lenore stalked up the stairs and stopped in the hallway. She leaned against the wall and caught her breath. Her body ached and her head was a little woozy, but she didn't feel like she'd just fallen out of a moving vehicle. She heard the footsteps of the men follow her, straightened, and plastered a smile on her face. The men appeared and Nick paused when he noticed her face. A shadow crossed his own face and he stepped to the side to allow Stan through behind him.
Stan stopped in the doorway and glanced up at the ceiling. "Where did you want me to start tearing the walls down?"
Nick smiled. "I hope not literally," he countered.
Stan nodded at the hallway walls. "Not for any of the bearing walls, but a lot of these boards will have to go," Stan replied.
Nick bowed his head. "I will leave you to your work, and leave my pocketbook in your hands," Nick told him. He turned to Lenore and offered her his arm. "But I still owe you a walk through my jungle.
"Without a gun? There might be wild animals," she teased.
"While I like to hunt every now and then I'm afraid I don't own my own gun," he told her.
Lenore sighed and took his arm. "I suppose we'll at least feed the wildlife," she quipped.
Nick laughed and led her out through the front door. He guided her halfway down the path and stopped them beneath the wild canopy of an overgrown oak. "This is the front yard," he announced.
She smiled. "How can you tell through the branches and weeds?" she wondered.
"Just a lucky guess," he teased. He glanced around them at the broken branches, waist-high weed, and piles of dead leaves. "I hope you'll be able to tell someday soon. I plan on bringing this place back to its former glory."
Lenore furrowed her brow. "Why?" she asked him.
"Well, it is my home now," he pointed out.
She shook her head. "No, I mean why this place? Why take a rundown, spooky old home and put all that money into it when you could have bought a new one for a better price?"
He sighed and shrugged. "I suppose because this place reminds me of me."
She stared at the handsome, well-dressed man in front of her and then back at the rundown, decrepit house behind them. "I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I don't see the resemblance," she told him.
He chuckled. "No, I don't think many people would." He grasped her hands and looked into her eyes. She turned to him and a soft blush arose in her cheeks. His eyes were alight with a fire that quickened her pulse and left her breathless. "But I want you to understand. This place, these grounds, they feel like home to me. The wildness of the place is the wildness in my heart. Do you understand?"
"I-I'm not sure," she admitted.
Nick wasn't put off. He gave her hands a squeeze. "That's all right, I'm sure you'll understand someday. Until that day comes, let me show you around this place and maybe you'll get to know a little more about it and me."
Nick wrapped one of her arms in his and guided her off the beaten path and into the wilderness of the yard. They followed a wide rabbit trail that weaved through the weeds, under bushes, and around trees. They house was never farther than thirty yards away, but it might as well have been in another world. The wilderness blocked their view of all things human and wrapped them in its untamed embrace.
The yard was a mess of natural growth that was both a refreshing change from modernity and an uneasy reminder of how quickly civilization could crumble without proper care. Vines climbed up dead and living trees, and the limbs of bushes twined around one another. Leaves crunched beneath their feet, and birds and squirrels scattered at their coming. It was a dual picture of natural order and disorder.
Lenore clung to this strange, handsome man as weeds clawed at their clothing and branches blocked their way. She felt refreshed and yet frightened. The dark shadows reached out for her, called to her to come explore their deep depths. She almost obeyed the beckoning, but she was frightened by this strange new urge. It wasn't natural. It wasn't her.
"Are you all right?" Nick asked her, breaking the silence between them.
"I-I'm fine. It's just-well-"
Nick stopped them and turned her so they faced each other. Her hands were nestled inside his. He looked into her pale face and furrowed his brow. "Maybe you're not feeling as well as I'd hoped," he mused.
Lenore frowned. "I'm fine, just a little-I don't know. A little uneasy. This place still haunts my dreams sometimes."
"Because of the incident?" he guessed.
She nodded. "Yes." She sighed and shook her head. "You probably think I'm a big baby for being scared of something that happened so long ago."
"On the contrary. What happens in the past can effect us for a very long time," he argued. His voice lowered and he turned his head away. "Some scars never heal."
"Scars?" she wondered.
Nick smiled and turned back to her. "It looks like I've told you my other big secret. I'm not the Adonis people make me out to be."
She looked over his perfectly sculpted body and raised an eyebrow. "Is there a funny birthmark I need to know about?" she teased.
Nick chuckled. "Not something that tame." He released her hands and unbuttoned his shirt. Lenore's face reddened, but she didn't look away. The buttons fell one-by-one to reveal pale skin and tight muscles. He was halfway down the shirt before her eyes noticed the top of a large scar. Nick finished unbuttoning and opened his shirt for a full view.
His abdomen sported a scar that stretched from side to side. The old wound had jagged edges and at its widest was four inches. The flesh was a light pink and had grown back in uneven patches with valleys inside the scar.
He eyes widened. "What happened?" she gasped.
"An animal attacked me a very long time ago," he told her.
"How did you survive?" She instinctively reached out and glided her fingers across the scar. The skin was rough and pliable.
Nick flinched and grabbed her hand. "I'm rather ticklish there," he told her.
"Sorry," she apologized.
"It's fine. I would be curious about it, too, if I didn't see it every day," he replied. He buttoned his shirt and hid his wound. "As for how I survived, it was luck. I had a gun on me at the time and used the butt to bludgeon it to death."
She frowned. "Why not shoot it?"
A mirthless grin slid onto his face. "Bullets didn't seem to bother it much."
Lenore tilted her head to one side and raised an eyebrow. "What sort of animal was it?"
Nick took her arm and guided her onward down the path. "A wolf, if I'm not mistaken, but we were talking about your fears from the past," he playfully scolded her.
She cringed. "I'd much rather talk about your past. It sounds a lot more interesting."
"Perhaps another time when you've gotten to know me better," he replied.
"Do you have to be so mysterious?" she wondered.
He smiled with that strange half-grin of his. "What would a dashing man like me be without my secrets?"
"A dashing man who should have a pretty lady wrapped around his arm and for some unknown reason has this pudgy one," she countered.
"I prefer women with meat on their bones," he reminded her.
"And fat?" she wondered.
"What would a tasty treat be without a little fat to sweeten the deal?" he returned.
"A little healthier, but I'm starting to wonder if you want me around for my wonderful personality or my fat body. Am I going to be your emergency food rations?" she wondered.
He paused and tapped a finger against his chin as he stared into the distance. "I hadn't thought of that, but it wouldn't be a bad idea," he agreed.
Lenore rolled her eyes and freed herself from his gentle grasp. "Well, this emergency food ration would like to go back to the house. I think my jeans are covered enough in a wide variety of weed seeds. My neighbors will just love me."
Nick's face fell. "I'm sorry. I thought maybe you'd enjoy the scenery."
She sighed and ran her hand through her hair. "It's not the scenery, or you. It's a nice yard, what little I can see of it. It's just I feel out of sorts. Maybe you're right and I need to rest a bit," she told him.
He offered her his arm. "Then let's get back to the house. I know a shortcut through this mess." They wound their way to the rear of the house where sat the back door. The back was as decrepit as the front with damaged window panes and cobwebs covering every nook and corner. Lenore paused in the doorway and ran her hand along the frame. Nick watched her face as she examined the rough boards. "More memories?" he asked her.
"This is the door Stan and I used to get into the house." She winced and pulled back her hand. A large splinter stuck out from her finger. "The door still hates me. It bit me then, too." Lenore yelped when Nick grabbed her hand and quickly wrapped a handkerchief around her wounded finger. "Hey, let me get the splinter out first!" she protested.
Nick cautiously tipped the handkerchief so he could peek under the cloth, and he smiled. "No need." He pulled away the handkerchief and revealed to her an unblemished finger and no splinter.
Her eyes widened and her mouth gaped. She looked from the finger to Nick. "How?" she wondered.
He opened the handkerchief and in the cloth lay a long, thick splinter. Beneath it was a small dribble of blood. "It must have been a shallow wound, though it could have been nastier." Lenore reached out for the splinter, but he wrapped the cloth around the splinter and pocketed it. "I don't think you should test fate again," he teased.
She frowned and crossed her arms. "You're starting to remind me of my brother, and I'm not going to kiss my brother," she scolded him.
Nick smiled. "Is that a threat?" he asked her.
"Just a warning not to be such a worry-wart," she teased as they walked inside.