Visions of feral eyes haunt the waking hours of Alexandra Shaw. They both scare and intrigue her, and after one particularly strong dream she heads out to find where these visions are leading her.
Her destination turns out to be Greylock Lodge, a supposedly abandoned chalet up in the mountains. Getting there proves to be the hard part, but she's not the only one trying to reach the elusive lodge. A tense crowd waits in a small clearing, and among them is a handsome man by the name of Christopher Dayton. The eyes have called them all there, but they all have their different reasons for coming.
The crowd is presented with a challenge by two mysterious figures, people who can change into wolves and back again. Their goal, if they can make it, is to reach Greylock Manor at the far end of the forested valley. Anyone who can’t will lose not only the game, but their memories. Maybe even their lives.
Alex finds Chris at her side as she sets off into the dark, spooky woods where unknown dangers await them. The ‘game’ soon gets all too real, but Alex is determined to reach the end, no matter what. Chris is likewise set on winning, but Alex can’t help but notice the enticingly heated gazes he sends her way.
Along the way Alex discovers that even if she doesn’t reach the end, she’s perhaps found something more important: love.
That was my first impression of the forest in which I stood. Long shadows surrounded me, but I could make out the dense, ancient trees and brush. And then there were the footsteps.
They circled me again and again, hidden in those deep shadows as they summed me up. I wondered if it found my scent tasty or disgusting. With all the grease fat on my hands, I didn’t need a second guess.
I looked to and fro, following the sound but never seeing the noisemaker. “Who are you?” I shouted. I may as well have been calling to the sky.
The footsteps stopped, or rather, the noise stopped. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. A growl came from behind me.
I spun around. A pair of eyes stared at me from the darkness. One of the eyes was yellow and the other white. The growl repeated itself and I could see long, white teeth against the blackness. My whole body shivered as I took a step back.
And fell right into the arms of my very confused manager. I tilted my head back and sheepishly smiled up at him. “Hiya, Mr. Bradley.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Are you alright, Miss Shaw?”
I jumped out of his hands and spun around to face him, which was no tiny feat as the aisle between the fry maker and the burger grill wasn’t very large. “It’s nothing. I just spaced out for a second.”
He gestured to something behind me. “A very long second.”
I looked down at where he directed me and winced. I’d left a batch of fries in the hot oil a little too long. They’d turned from a nice yellow to a very unappetizing brown. Bradley lifted the basket out and set it beside the oil tank. “Would you like to offer me a different explanation?”
I bit my lower lip. “I guess I was just-”
“Thinking again?” he suggested.
I winced. “Something like that.”
Bradley sighed. “Miss Shaw, I’ve already warned you twice this week about daydreaming.”
My shoulders drooped and I hung my head. “I know, and I’m really sorry about it, Mr. Bradley. I promise it won’t happen again.”
He clapped a hand on my shoulder. “Well, I can guarantee it won’t happen again.” My heart skipped a beat as visions of the unemployment line clouded my mind. “No, I’m not firing you, I’m just going to let you off early for today so you can get some rest.” He tilted his head to one side and studied my face. “You look like you haven’t been sleeping well. Maybe that will clear your head.”
I nodded. “Yes, sir.”
He gave my shoulder a shake. “Come on. Get home and get some rest.”
I cast a furtive look at the remains of the fries. “What about them?”
He grimaced. “I’ll give them a proper burial and take the spot up myself, now get along before I have to boot you out.”
I leaned up on my tiptoes and pressed a light kiss on his cheek. “Thanks, Mr. Bradley. You’re a saint.”
His eyes were wide, but he shook off his shock and laughed. “Well, at least one person understands that.”
“Hey, Mr. Saint!” one of my coworkers called to him from the ice cream machine. “Could you use your saintly powers and clean out these nozzles?”
Bradley sighed and rolled up his sleeves. “Never a dull moment, now out while I take care of soft ice cream.”
I gave him a lazy salute and hurried out. Taking a nap sounded like just the thing, and soon I was in my dinged-up car driving through my small hometown. The junk-food alley gave way to the residential homes, and soon I pulled into the short driveway of my childhood home. Relief turned to guilt when I noticed the front curtain move and a face peek out.
I slunk out of the car as the front door opened and my mom rolled out. “What are you doing home this early?”
I bent over and clapped my hand on the arms of her chair. “No worries, mom. I just had a little accident at work and-”
I could have clobbered myself for my poor choice of words. “Well, the fries had a little accident because of me,” I explained as I turned her wheelchair around and pushed her back toward the house. “But everyone made it out alive and the fire department let me off for good behavior.”
My mom twisted around and revealed an amused smile on her lips. “How crispy were those fries?”
I winced. “Let’s just say they could have broken some false teeth.”
A snort escaped her lips, followed quickly by a sigh as she set her hands in her lap. “That isn’t like you. Is something on your mind?”
I shrugged as I rolled her up the ramp and into the small house we called our own. The carpet was stained and the kitchen cupboards were outdated, but the house was clean and painted. “I don’t know. I just keep getting distracted. Mr. Bradley thought maybe I should take a nap.”
“Mr. Bradley is right,” my mom mused as she grabbed the wheels of her chair and jerked us to a stop. She tilted her head back and smiled up at him, but I could see the worry in her eyes. “You’ve been having nightmares.”
I winced. “That obvious?”
She pointed down the single narrow hall and at the door to my bedroom. The door was slightly ajar. “Your bed sheets look like somebody tried to make an escape rope out of them and gave up halfway. That much thrashing about can’t be good for anyone’s sleep.”
I leaned down and pecked a kiss on her cheek. “Well, I’ll be sure to sleep this evening. In the meantime-” I straightened and rolled her toward the kitchen. “What say we cook up some grub?”
My mom smiled. “I’ll do the grease cooking.”
We soon ate and I slipped into my bedroom where I shrugged out of my uniform. I tossed the shirt onto the foot of my bed and paused to study the sheets. They were indeed coiled and clumped together like snakes wrestling to the death. I sighed and untangled them enough to slip between the serpents. My head had hardly hit the pillow before I fell asleep.
However, a quiet sleep was not to come to me.
Slumber brought with it the same visions I’d been seeing in my waking hours. I was surrounded by a thick forest of trees again, and a touch of ghosting fog added to the atmosphere. My body tensed, waiting for the sound I expected. I wasn’t disappointed.
It was the footsteps again, louder than I’d ever heard them before. I spun in a circle, but couldn’t see anyone. I also didn’t see the tree root beneath me, but my foot was kind enough to find it. I stumbled forward, but caught myself before I tumbled across the wet-looking ground. That was the last straw.
I balled my hands into fists at my side and glared at the darkness. “Whoever you are, come out and show yourself! Stop being such a coward!”
I got my wish as the hairs on the back of my neck sprang up. Something was behind me. I spun around and my heart skipped a beat when I saw a figure standing in the shadows of the largest of the trees. Whoever this was, they had the same yellow and white eyes I’d seen before.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and took a shaky step toward them. “W-who are you?”
Their reply was to step partially into the light and reveal all but the upper half of their face. It was a man above six feet in height with graying hair, but lacking in the wrinkles associated with anyone over fifty. He wore a crisp black suit with a gray tie that matched his hair. A silver ring flashed on his finger that clasped the top of a cane made of the same material. The cane sported an elegant curve that transformed into a wolf’s head, complete with an extra-bushy mane.
The man stretched out his hand to me. I looked from those strange eyes to his upturned palm. Something at the back of my mind screamed a warning. My heart told me to take it.
I took a step toward him, but stopped. My gullible heart nearly stopped when a pair of wolves sidled up on either side of him. They were huge, their shoulders in equal height to his torso, and their yellow eyes were focused only on me. I took a step back and a growl reverberated from one of the pair.
The wolves darted forward and leapt at me. As I threw up my arms I glimpsed the man’s lips move. He said only two words before the wolves tumbled down on me.
I shot up in bed, my body awash in sweat. My hand shook as I reached up and brushed my damp hair away from my eyes. A few whispered words passed over my trembling lips.
“Greylock. . .Manor.”