Shades of Death
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by Denyse M. Bridger
Description: Deep within the ageless Carpathian Mountains, an ancient evil wakes. Imprisoned many centuries ago, the creature has waited, patiently, for the one destined to grant her freedom. Arienne Lereaux has studied the preternatural menace called "vampyre" for most of her life. She is an expert in the field. Loosely affiliated with a secretive organization called The Institute of Paranormal Research and Investigation, she turns to them when she unearths what may be the first representation of the vampyre ever to exist. The enigmatic and attractive Head of the Institute, Adam Raven, has spent a lifetime tracking the clues left by his mother's disappearance in the mountains of Romania nearly twenty years past. When Arienne arrives at the secluded island headquarters of the Institute, he wonders if she holds the key to finding his lost mother. But before too many days pass, the city of Vancouver is rocked by a series of grisly murders. As it races to find the culprit, the Institute faces an evil unlike any it has encountered before..
eBook Publisher: Solstice Publishing, 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: March 2010
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [239 KB]
Reading time: 140-196 min.
The Carpathian Mountains
* * * *
Darkness engulfed the region much too quickly, creating an atmosphere of menace and doom that was the stuff of legends and late-night terrors for several generations of Western movie-goers. This wasn't a film, however, and the woman who was running felt like anything but a B-movie heroine.
Arienne's legs were weak with fright and exertion, yet she forced her body to ignore its pleas for rest. The trees whispered, soft rustling murmurs that translated into nameless, formless threats in the fertile mind of the Parisian anthropologist.
The heavy forest grew thicker, hindering her flight over the rugged terrain, and the sense of menace grew with the rapidly thickening shadows. A demon pursued her, kept just beyond her perception, yet not far enough away to be completely undetected. Breathless and choking for air, her heart beating so fast she knew it would soon burst, Arienne glanced over her shoulder, perversely curious despite her fear.
She tripped for the umpteenth time and heard another rip take away still more of her clothing. Gasping, she groped for a tree trunk, used the reassuring solid bulk to anchor her whirlwind thoughts and turn them back to something real and sane.
The effort was anything but successful. It gave her the precious minutes to look around to see the results of her reckless foray into an alien world. Tears welled again, then spilled over her cheeks. She closed her eyes, choked on a sob of total despair.
"N-N-No... Please... Leave me alone!"
She winced at the stricken sound of her voice, and then pushed away from the tree. She twisted her ankle and went down on her knees, long hair falling, forming a curtain over her face. Now crying hysterically, she pounded the ground in futile defiance, anger and fear coursing along her veins with each labored breath she drew.
A short distance away, a figure watched the terrified woman. Mist hung in the air and engulfed the mysterious figure, haloed her in shifting, spectral wisps of light. She smiled, totally at ease in the murky night, her enigmatic expression disturbingly tranquil.
After several indeterminate minutes, she moved toward the fallen woman, her feet gliding over the forest floor.
Arienne stiffened suddenly and her head jerked up, eyes searching desperately for the ghostly presence she sensed. When she saw the apparition, her terror intensified. Unable to move, she waited as the figure came ever closer...
The stranger bent to take her hand, and Arienne gasped. She yanked her fingers away, stared at the limb for eternal seconds, then her gaze shifted, slowly moving upward, reluctance in every unwilling motion.
"Who are you?"
"Your best chance of survival. Will you allow me to help you?" She smiled down at Arienne, her expression offering no real comfort to the young woman.
"I simply need to know which path to take. If you can--"
"You would never find your way in this darkness. I can give you shelter." She paused, thoughtful. "I can also give you the answers you seek."
Arienne's sharp look became suspicious, but revealed her insatiable curiosity as well. The offer was tempting. Too tempting. Trembling inwardly, she nodded and accepted the stranger's hand when it was offered a second time.
"Your name?" Arienne wondered.
The other woman paused, then her mouth twitched into the smallest of smiles.
"You may call me... Zenobia." In an undertone that could not be heard by Arienne, she added, "It will do."
Arienne followed her unlikely rescuer, her eyes scanning the wooded area with the same fear that drove her when she ran.