Amber Macklin's world is cruelly shattered when she loses her baby girl three months after her husband's sudden death. Her cousin, Bryce, comes to her rescue, moving her into his home for fear she will kill herself from the grief. He provides solace and a shoulder to cry on, and he has loved her as more than a cousin for a long time. Amber and Bryce soon discover they are not blood relatives, which opens the door for romance as he pulls her through her darkest hours. When Mike, a college friend of Bryce's, stops by to visit, Amber senses a deadly secret behind his nice guy persona. She has a frightening dream that Mike is trying to kill her and recurring sleepwalking episodes where she draws detailed pictures of him torturing her. Deeply troubled, Bryce uses his ability to astral travel to investigate Mike and uncover his terrifying past. Mike has had his eye on Amber for some time, and when he learns that Bryce and Amber have become lovers, he is furious. Mike abducts Amber and takes her to his rural Georgia hideaway, and Bryce must rely on his astral abilities to track her down. But will he be too late?
She was too devastated to cry. The shock of losing Belle early that morning upset her beyond tears. Bryce, her sister Jenny, and Amber’s other cousin Luke, rushed to her side for support. Bryce encouraged her to stay at his home that night, and for however long it took to get her through this. He didn’t want her to be alone, fearing she might kill herself from the heartache. He would have preferred that she stay with Jenny during her time of sorrow, but knew it wouldn’t be a good environment for her or Jenny’s family. Jenny had two young children and a husband, and having a terribly distraught relative residing at their house would be stressful for everyone. He had loved Amber as more than a cousin for most of his life, and her staying under the same roof with him was going to be a challenge. Although he was an incredibly self-disciplined and confident man, he doubted his ability to hide his true feelings having her so close for an undetermined length of time. He couldn’t think of any viable alternatives. She could have stayed with Luke; however, she was closer to Bryce, and it made more sense. Luke traveled frequently, and wouldn’t have the time to spend with her.
She agreed to let them help because the thought of staying in her apartment surrounded by Belle’s baby things and an empty crib was more than she could bear. Jenny and Bryce packed her suitcases, while Luke drove her car to Bryce’s house. She let them swarm around her; she was too upset to do anything other than stand outside on the balcony and stare at the vehicles in the parking lot. The evening air was comfortable, so she pulled the screen door closed to let some air in and keep the bugs out. She was replaying the events leading up to Belle’s death over and over in her mind, trying desperately to remember if she saw something which may have prevented it.
“Bryce, check her medicine cabinet. She used to take sleep meds before she got pregnant. She’s going to need them now, or she won’t sleep for days,” Jenny said with concern while packing her sister’s underwear and lingerie. She was three years older and five inches taller. Both of them were pretty, with long blond hair and blue eyes.
“That’s true. She’s always had trouble sleeping. Won’t these drugs make her sleepwalk?” he asked seeing the bottle of prescription sleeping pills in her medicine cabinet, and taking them along with several other items.
“I’m not sure. She used to sleepwalk a lot when we were growing up. I don’t know if she still does. You need to be on the lookout for that. I think severe stress triggers it,” she replied.
“I remember you telling funny stories about her nighttime adventures. I’ve got to hide stuff from her. Car keys, knives, pills, anything she can hang herself with. God forbid she decides to take a joyride on one of her sleepwalking strolls. I better go check on her,” he said, handing the sleeping pills and other items from the cabinet to Jenny and walking into the living room.
Amber was still standing on the balcony staring at the parking lot, trying to process the day’s tragic event. Sliding the screen door to his right and walking up behind her, Bryce wrapped his arms around her asking, “Are you hanging in there, sweetheart?” and kissed her cheek. He was a little over a foot taller than her.
She leaned into him tilting her head back into his chest, placing her arms over his and replied, “I feel numb. I want to cry but I can’t. I’m frozen. I’m sorry I’m not helping.”
“You don’t have to do anything right now. We’re going to take care of you,” he said hugging her closer. “We’ve almost got your things packed.”
“Thank you,” she replied softly, appreciating the comfort his arms provided and knowing she could always count on him.
He walked back into the bedroom and helped Jenny finish packing. Amber snuck into the kitchen and quietly opened up the cutlery drawer. The butcher knife will fit nicely into my huge purse . . . she thought discreetly slipping it into her oversized handbag . . . I know he’s going to be watching me like a hawk. He’s going to lock up all the knives and pills. He’s an angel, but I don’t know if I can get through this. She closed the door to the balcony, locked it and took a seat on the sofa. A few minutes later they were ready to go.
They loaded her suitcases and other items into his black H3. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” Jenny said sweetly to her sister.
“Thank you so much,” Amber replied hugging her.
“You know you can call me anytime day or night,” she said. “Don’t worry about waking up Zac. You know my husband sleeps like a log!”
“I know. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Jenny got into her car and drove away. Bryce opened the door for Amber, and she stepped inside. It was dark now, and the sky was cloudy with no moon or stars in sight. He got in and started the engine. Pulling onto the highway for the ride to his house in Vienna, Virginia, he reached for her hand. She took hold of it with a death grip and closed her eyes. They rode to his house in silence except for the radio which was tuned to a classical music station. He hoped that type of music would be soothing to her, and she didn’t complain. She was so shattered and lost in thought that she didn’t even hear it.
When they arrived, he put her in the room next to his, a second master suite with its own bathroom. He lived in an enormous, five bed, four and a half bath home, with 5,000 square feet of living space on a half-acre lot. His home was valued somewhere around $2.5 million and looked like it should be in the pages of a magazine, with its soaring ceilings, light-filled rooms and mostly hardwood floors, except for the gourmet kitchen and large sunroom which displayed beautiful porcelain tile in a sandy beige color. He’d hired an interior decorator when he first bought the place, as his taste was masculine and industrial. The decorator brought his home to life and added warmth without seeming too masculine or feminine.
He was a wealthy man, and his accommodations were lovely and luxurious. He owned ten martial arts studios in the Washington, D.C., area, teaching some of the classes himself in the evenings and Saturday mornings. He was an expert in Tae Kwon Do and Hap Ki Do, although his company taught other forms of martial arts too. He had quit Luke’s underground gambling club shortly after Amber married James. He wanted to spend more time teaching classes, instead of being a bill collector for gambling debts and bouncing people out of the club. He was tired of playing a badass. His portrayal was convincing, and his physical stature helped it along. Standing 6 foot 3 with a hard, muscular body and shaved head, no one wanted trouble with him. Besides, his own legitimate business was thriving, and he had to stay on top of it. He was smart with money, and had made excellent investments in his younger years which had paid off handsomely. He could sell his company tomorrow and retire early - if he so desired. The Decker Martial Arts Company was having another record year – so much so that it was necessary to hire several new people to run the day-to-day operations.
Drifting off to sleep later that night, he relaxed and focused on leaving his body. He welcomed the familiar buzzing sound followed by a state of body paralysis and then the light, floating feeling enabling his astral body to sit up, get off the bed and walk through the wall into her room. Standing over her bed, he projected a field of white light around her sleeping body. On the astral plane, anything you think about can instantly materialize, so you need to be in a good mental state and in control of your thoughts before attempting it. It started as a weak transmission and gradually became stronger and brighter as he focused more intently on creating it. He sent loving thoughts to her and discovered that it made him feel good too. He generated this field around her for about fifteen minutes and walked back to his room, reentering his physical body and succumbing to a normal sleep state. A few hours later he woke up to find her naked in his bed, thinking he was James, and wanting to have sex with him.
“James, wake-up, you have to do me,” she whispered in his ear, pressing her naked body against the back of him and wrapping her arms around him in a spoon position. “Wakey, wakey, and do your wifey.”
Sitting up and turning to look at her, he saw she was completely naked and smiling, “You are a sexy man, come on, James, do me,” she said seductively, reaching for his privates. He liked to sleep in a pair of boxers.
Catching her hand before she could touch them he said, “Wake up! I’m not James,” and she continued staring at him.
Sulking, she said with a sigh, “You’re no fun anymore; I guess I’ll just sleep next to you then.”
“Do that. I need to get some sleep tonight,” he replied annoyed because the sight of her was exciting him and turning back over on his side to where the front of his body would not be in direct contact with hers. She cuddled up and put her arms around him in a spoon position. He held her hands to keep her from reaching below his waist. He was unable to fall back asleep and laid there in the dark trying to distract his mind. He wanted her, yet was too honorable to take advantage of the situation.
She began snoring after a few minutes, and he got out of bed, picking her up and carrying her back to her room. Her nightgown and panties were strewn across the floor, and he put them back on her . . . No one would believe this. I’m putting clothes ON a beautiful, naked woman, who crawled into my bed! He placed her back in bed, pulling up the covers and thinking the whole situation was funny. He watched her sleeping for a few moments, kissed her lightly on the cheek, and left the room. Walking back to his room he laughed thinking . . . What’s next? Is she going to sleepwalk every night? Was that a result of the white light?
Eventually, he fell back to sleep, missing the next episode. About two hours later she took her notebook and a few pencils and walked downstairs to the living room. Sitting on the sofa, she drew a picture of Belle, Mike’s angry face from her dream, and a strange, dreadful picture of two people, a man and a woman, dressed in clothing from another century lying dead on the ground with a dead horse on top of them. When she finished these drawings, she left the notebook on the sofa and trekked upstairs to her room, falling back into a normal sleep.
Theresa was quite chatty, and she and Jenny were talking up a storm. Amber gazed longingly at the jewelry store in the distance and decided to go look around while her sister caught up with her friend.
She gently interrupted them saying, “I need to use the restroom and then I’ll be at the jewelry store up ahead, just come and get me when you’re ready.”
“You’re going to look at engagement rings, aren’t you?!" Jenny asked excitedly.
“Yes. Come and get me when you’re done. It was nice meeting you, Theresa,” she said politely.
“You too,” Theresa replied and went right back to talking Jenny’s ear off.
Amber walked toward the jewelry store noticing that there were more people around now that it was lunchtime. She walked past a store selling beautiful, formal gowns and cocktail dresses and paused to look at a little black dress in the window, imagining how it might look on her and thinking about trying it on. She didn’t linger long and made haste to the restrooms which were between the dress shop and the jewelry store. She didn’t like the long, vacant corridor she had to walk through to reach them and quickened her pace . . . Bryce would have a fit if he knew I was walking alone down a deserted hallway. There were no entry doors for the men’s or women’s restrooms, just large signs indicating such and she walked into the appropriate one . . . I don’t like this. What if some strange man wanders in here? I guess it could happen even with regular doors.
After she finished and washed her hands, she turned and walked around the corner to exit and ran directly into Mike. He looked menacing in a black leather jacket; his eyes and expression were stone cold. She gasped in surprise and terror, knowing this wasn’t going to end well.
He quickly drew his handgun, shoved it into her stomach and said, “If you scream, or try to run, I’ll kill you and anyone else who happens to enter. This gun has a silencer.”
Amber was speechless and horrified because a woman was entering the ladies room absentmindedly talking on her phone, and Mike turned around and shot her in the forehead. The woman fell backward, landing with a thud on the tile floor. A voice on the cell phone kept repeating her name, “Dory, are you still there? Hello, Dory? Dory, can you hear me?”
Mike stomped his foot down hard on the cell phone, ending the call, “Do you want to be next?” he said hatefully to Amber and she shook her head no.
“Come with me, then,” he stated and motioned for her to walk in front of him. She did as instructed, although her heart was beating wildly and it was hard to breathe. She was in shock from seeing the woman get shot and die.
“Take a left; there are doors to the outside,” he said.
Amber glanced the opposite way down the corridor, and there was no one else in sight . . . I hope the security cameras catch this . . . she thought while trying to remain calm. They went out the exit doors to a parking lot, and Mike placed his arm tightly around her shoulders to make it look like they were a loving couple. I have to find a way to get free. I know he’s going to do awful things to me. They walked a short distance to a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and he used his remote to unlock the doors.
“Get in!” he demanded.
She opened the door and slid into the passenger seat thinking she would make a run for it when he walked around to the driver’s side and hide behind the vehicles in the parking lot while he went crazy shooting his gun. She didn’t get the chance to do that because as soon as she sat down, he zapped her with a stun gun and she was temporarily paralyzed. He got in and handcuffed her, started his car and sped through the parking lot in a hurry to get on the road with his coveted prize. Before exiting onto the highway, he took her purse and threw it out the window. It landed in a gulley.
She went back inside and got comfortable on the plush, chaise lounge in her sunroom. She quieted her mind and focused on Amber. She projected out of her body and into Mike’s kitchen, watching Amber cooking him breakfast . . .
. . . “I want four slices of toast with that,” he ordered.
“This isn’t the way to a woman’s heart,” she hissed wanting to throw the carton of eggs at his face one by one. Nina wanted to throw eggs at him too; she could feel Amber’s humiliation at being forced to cook naked.
While she observed the situation, she focused on one of the eggs in the carton. “Ready, aim, fire!” she thought, and the egg flew through the air, hitting the side of his head. She knew she had to be careful because Mike was crazy and she didn’t want him to go over the edge and shoot Amber. She had to be discerning yet effective.
“WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?” he bellowed as the egg splattered on him.
Amber turned to see what he was crowing about, and her mouth dropped open, “I swear I didn’t throw that egg at you. Although, I wish I had,” she said spitefully and wondered how in the world an egg flew across the room and hit him, and thought maybe it was from Bryce.
“Don’t just stand there, get me a damn towel and don’t burn the eggs! I know it wasn’t you, I’ve watched your every move. Unless . . . you willed it to fly out and hit me,” he said irritably.
“If I had those kinds of powers, I would have killed you yesterday,” she replied with disgust and threw him a towel to wipe off his face.
“You’re a bitch. I like you better sedated,” he stated.
She placed his scrambled eggs on a plate, buttered the toast, and sat his breakfast in front of him while he wiped the egg off with one hand, still holding onto the gun. “Can I get dressed now?” she asked with her hands on her hips, not caring anymore that she was naked, and feeling braver.
“Not yet. Open the refrigerator and take out the orange juice. There are two kinds, one of them is for you,” he said.
She grimaced retrieving the two types of orange juice from the refrigerator. She knew the one for her was laced with something. She assumed it was a date rape drug and the worst was yet to come.
“Pour me a glass of the one with pulp,” he ordered and watched her get two glasses from the cupboard and pour his drink. She set it in front of him. “Good girl. Now pour yourself a glass of the one without pulp and sit down, drink it, and watch me eat breakfast,” he said. She hesitated fearing it might kill her.
“POUR IT NOW! Exactly half a glass!” he demanded, and she did as instructed and sat down to watch him gobble up breakfast.
She knew she would soon be unconscious and started feeling the effects of the drugged orange juice quickly, since she had an empty stomach, “You eat like a pig. I wish you would drop dead.” The last thing she saw was his evil face as she blacked out. The amount of orange juice she drank contained a light dose of drugs. He wanted her to wake up shortly after he was done with her.
Nina was calculating her next move as she watched him eat. He finished the eggs and toast and carried Amber to his bedroom. She noticed the baseball sitting on a shelf near the bedroom door and smiled. He laid Amber on the bed and took off his pants.
“Baby, you are looking so sexy,” he said, and she could see he was ready for action.
“GET AWAY FROM HER!” Nina commanded, and he looked around to see who was there. She was delighted that he could hear her, this was an unexpected bonus. He decided to check the living room to make sure there was no one in the house, and he was at the perfect angle for what she had in mind. She willed the baseball to fly, and it smacked him in the groin before he realized what hit him.
He cried out in pain and fell to the floor screaming, “FUCK! THAT HURTS! DEMONS, GET OUT OF HERE!”
“Demons? Hmmm, what else can this demon do?” she thought with glee. As he was hunched over in pain holding his balls and crying, she moved the baseball bat sitting up against the wall and hit him on the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. “I need to get home and feed Buttercup. I’ll be back,” she thought . . .