The complete Death's Dragon series featuring all three ebooks!
Adelaide didn't expect to find anything on that deserted road except raccoons and squirrels. What she discovered, however, was a fantastical new world of magic and shadows, along with its sexy guardian.
Wow, was I lost.
I wasn’t speaking metaphorically. I found myself on a lonely road in the middle of the woods, and of course, per horror movie union rules, I was alone and had no idea where I was. And it wasn’t the kind of lost where I could turn around and go back the way I came. I wasn’t even sure which direction that was because of the thick mess of fog that had surrounded me. Every turn of the road was another chance for my truck to hug a tree.
“You just had to take a shortcut home. . .” I muttered to myself as I bumped my way along the unfamiliar dirt road.
Night had fallen an hour ago and I had ventured on this little unscheduled trek just slightly before then. I leaned forward and squinted through the dirty windshield.
“Really should have cleaned that a week ago. Maybe a month.”
My inane yammering was to keep the creeping fear in the back of my mind from forcing my foot to the floor, along with the gas pedal.
The little farm where I worked lay far behind me, and in front of me was the great ghostly specter of Morse Woods.
“Try not to think about the stories,” I advised myself as my mind did exactly that.
My thoughts wandered to the old farm hand who had been showing me the ropes, sometimes literally. Billy was his name and farming was his game.
“Didn’t anybody teach you to tie a rope?” he snapped as he snatched the rope from my hands.
My shoulders slumped. “No, I was too busy learning to tie some algebra letters together.”
He scoffed as he made a knot five times stronger than mine in a tenth of the time. “No letters out here except what’s branded on the cows.” One of the said cows gave a discomforted ‘moo’ from its corral. He handed the rope back to me. “Now learn from that so you can close the bags.” The bags to which he referred were the grain sacks for the perturbed bovine. They stood about us like pudgy soldiers awaiting their turn to be emptied into the full grain bin.
I hefted one of the fifty-pound sacks close to me and gave the knot a try. A bit of fumbling and I got a shadow of the old codger’s knot. Better, but he wrinkled his nose. “That’ll have to do, and I suppose it’s not bad for a bean counter.”
I snorted at the reminder. I’d been hired by the farm not to feed the livestock, but to count them, and their feed supply, and everything else that needed accounting. Then Billy had come into the house asking for help in moving the grain bags to the mouth of the bin, and my accounting day had ended.
I leaned back and wiped the sweat from my brow. All of a sudden a flock of birds flew out from a wilderness of trees on the far side of the large feed lot. They were black ravens, and their caws filled the air as they took to the skies and sailed overhead. Their cries spooked a few hens who roamed free in the yard.
“I wonder what scared them,” I mused, more to myself than to the old hand in front of me as I snatched up a broom to sweep up the corn debris from the bags.
He frowned at their retreating tail feathers. “Death.”
I blinked at him. “But they’re carrions. They should love something that’s dead.”
Billy shook his head. “Nobody’d dare lay a beak on Lady Death.”
I swept a few times, creating a nice pile that the chickens noticed. The feathery fiends scurried over and began pecking at the ground. A couple of them began a heated argument with one another. “Hey!” I scolded the pair.
Billy scoffed at me. “Never mind them. Chickens are always fighting.”
“I don’t like fighting,” I argued as I plopped my broom square between the pair, stopping the fight. “Especially when it’s a couple who’s supposed to get along.”
“They’re the least to worry about around here,” Billy mused as he jerked a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the forest. “More to worry about a cow wandering there and meeting her.”
I paused in my peacemaking and raised an eyebrow at him. “You mean the Grim Reaper?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know as she’s that one, but she’s the one around here.” He nodded at the mess of woods that stretched for a hundred miles to the west. “That’s here place there. Sometimes, if yer stupid enough to go in there at night, you can see her parading around inspecting everything. Some folks say she’s got a nice bit of treasure stored away in one of them trees, and she sticks around to protect it.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You’re just pulling my leg.”
He cast a side look at me and his eyes didn’t have the expected twinkle, but rather a stern seriousness that caught me off guard. “I don’t joke about them woods, Miss Griffin. My pa saw something in there when he was a boy that stayed with him till his dying day. He saw the woman in black himself, and she spared him that day so he could tell other folks about her and tell them to stay away when the fog was thick. ‘No good would be had by any who ventures into my domain when the fog is thick.’ Those are her words exactly, just as my pa told me.” He grimaced and rubbed his chest with the palm of one hand.
A slight bit of panic touched me and I took a step toward him. “Are you okay?”
Billy dropped his hand and nodded. “Just the old ticker. It’s telling me there’s change in there air. Smells like fog tonight, too. Better get the cows close to the barn.”
“Wish I was close to the barn. . .” I muttered as I eased around a bend in the road that loomed out of the mist.
Now here I was several hours later bouncing up and down the rough road with no chance to turn around and no idea where I was headed. Worse still, that hideous fog that floated just on the other side of the truck door made the hairs on my neck stand on end.
“Just a few more miles,” I assured myself as I readjusted my sweaty palms on the steering wheel. “And then you’ll see the crest of the hill and then town will be just down that sledding slope.” Memories of those wintry times gave me a bittersweet smile. Those were the days before my mother passed away, leaving me an orphan.
It was at that moment that a huge shadow darted across the road. I slammed my foot on the break and the truck skidded to a stop just a few yards further. My heart pounded in my chest as I looked in the rear view mirror. There was nothing but drifting fog.
I fell back against my seat and pressed a hand against my chest over my furiously beating heart. “Easy there, old boy. Probably nothing but an owl.”
That’s when I heard it. A long, low howl somewhere near the road. I shot up and nearly cracked my head against the sun shade. My eyes darted over my misty surroundings. Every instinct of mine told me one thing.
“Time to get out of here.”
I put my foot on the gas pedal and the truck lurched forward only to die. Panic gripped me as I turned the key back and forth, but the starter wouldn’t even turn over. There was only the ominous click of failure as the fog around me seemed to grow thicker and thicker.
I froze as a shadow came up to the passenger side window. A hideous face pressed itself against the glass. The thing was covered in fur, and two large yellow eyes stared at me from the darkness. Clawed hands fumbled for the door handle and I realized too late that I had forgotten to lock it.
I let out a scream and scrambled out my door just as the creature entered from the passenger side. My foot caught on the step and I stumbled to the leaf-covered ground. I flipped onto my butt and beheld the creature crawl slowly across the seat. It easily moved on all fours, and its hands were more like claws. The thing’s entire body was covered in thick gray hair and it had a large mane down its back that resembled a hump.
The creature had a long snout which it curled back and revealed two rows of long, sharp fangs. Drool dripped from its lips as it curled its long fingers over the edge of the driver’s seat.
I stumbled to my feet and darted into the foggy woods. The creature gave chase as I heard it land on the ground and lope after me. I risked a look over my shoulder, but the mist blinded me. I could still hear it, though, as its panting breath came closer and closer.
I pumped my arms as my heart thumped hard against my chest. My feet stumbled over the uneven forest ground, and the toe of one of my treason shoes caught a root. I slammed against the hard dirt and the air was knocked from my lungs.
My harsh wheezing cut through the eerie silence that surrounded me. The quiet captured my attention. I lifted my head and looked about me. The heavy steps of the creature no longer stalked me, but an old problem with a new twist reared its ugly head.
I was lost again, and now I was lost in the woods.
I eased myself to my feet and wrapped my arms around myself. The chill of the fog had sunk into my bones and my strained nerves were still prepared for a surprise attack by the wolf creature. I turned in a circle in search of my footprints, but they were nowhere to be seen.
Judging the direction I had come, I eased myself through the thick fog, ever watchful for my pursuer. After a while the creeping suspicion of going the wrong way entered my mind, and my old friend panic followed on its heels. Still, I stumbled through the woods, my clothes catching on branches and the damp dirt showing as stains on my pants and butt.
As I ventured over a small and completely unfamiliar hill I paused on the top and looked around. The mist had lifted enough for me to see some thirty yards ahead of me. A flat area of swampy land spread out for some twenty feet until it met a mess of flat rocks embedded in the grassy earth.
None of this looked even vaguely familiar.
I took a deep breath and put one foot on the downward side of the hill. My foot shook the earth.
I paused and frowned. Surely I hadn’t gained that much weight hiking. Then it happened again, and I knew it hadn’t been from me.
The steady rhythm of heavy feet shook the earth with each step, and they were coming straight toward me. My eyes grew as wide as saucers as the owner of those feet stomped out of the mist.
It was a huge troll, and it saw me.