A woman who may have the answers.
Nikolas longs for his soul even as the darkness in him tries to take over. Tessa searches frantically for a way to help Nickolas before it’s too late. Together they fight physical and emotional battles in their quest for the one thing that could allow them to be together. Will they make it before time runs out?
Nikolas whistled softly as he walked to the park where he was supposed to meet his blind date. The sun was just beginning to set over the lake, and the sky was filled with color. He smiled, and thought about how the sky was like God’s canvas, painted with a Heavenly paintbrush. He loved living here in the small town of Cora Harbor, North Carolina, where almost everything was within walking distance.
Nik thought the park was an odd place to meet someone for the first time, and wondered why she had insisted on this venue rather than a nice restaurant or a movie. His friend, Jonathan, had laughed it off, and explained that Marianna was a simple, outdoors type of girl and would probably prefer going for a walk. Still, it was kind of strange for a first date. Nik hadn’t met Marianna, but Jon had shown him a picture, and she was a beautiful woman with long, blond curls framing her flawless face with its porcelain skin.
He sat down on a bench by the edge of the lake to wait for her. The sun was lower now, and the lights in the park were coming on. He noticed that the bulb in the light closest to the bench was broken out, and the little copse of trees nearby was deep in shadows. The park was beginning to empty out as darkness fell, and Nik checked his watch and wondered if he had been stood up. He felt a little pang of disappointment. His love life hadn’t been the best in the world lately. He was a little too ‘moral’ for most women’s taste, but he refused to jump in bed with someone just to scratch an itch. Intimacy was supposed to mean something, but most people these days didn’t agree with him, so it made it really hard to find a good woman to spend time with.
Nikolas stood up and was about to leave when he saw a figure step out from the shadow of the trees. Without the light to illuminate the area where the person stood, it was hard to tell who it was.
“Marianna?” he asked hesitantly.
He heard the sound of laughter. “Yes, Nikolas, it’s me. I’m sorry I’m late, but I wasn’t able to get out any earlier. Forgive me?”
He moved closer to her, trying to make out her features. “Of course, it’s fine. Would you like to go to dinner? Surely you don’t want to just spend time in the park on our first date.”
She laughed again. “First date? Does that mean you assume there will be more?”
“No, I just meant….”
“I’m teasing you, Nikolas. Come closer.”
“Why don’t you come sit down by the lake? We can talk for awhile, and then maybe you’ll agree to have dinner with me. Why are you staying in the shadows? Is something wrong?”
“Of course nothing is wrong, silly boy. But I want to show you something. Come to me,” she said.
For some reason, Nikolas felt compelled to do as she said. He didn’t know why, because this whole thing felt very odd. At the same time, he was very intrigued and even a little excited. He felt like this was an adventure. It was strange because he was usually so cautious, and suddenly Marianna didn’t seem like the kind of woman he wanted to be with. But as odd as this was, he found himself moving toward her. His mind was screaming that there was something very wrong with this, but something deep inside of him answered this siren’s call.
“That’s right, my handsome Greek lover, come to me,” she purred.
When Nik got close enough to finally see her, Marianna’s beauty took his breath away. The moon had risen and the pale light of it shone on her face, and Nik felt his body respond to her, call to her, and suddenly life was all about her. She took his face in her hands and drew him down to her, and he was powerless to resist. He didn’t want to resist. This was everything, this moment in the moonlight with the goddess who called herself Marianna.
“My Nikolas, I have a gift for you,” she murmured as she kissed him. He was lost. He wrapped his arms around her and wanted only to stay here with her for eternity.
He kissed her deeply and urgently, but soon she pulled back and looked at him. Smiling, she said, “And now for my gift.”
She nuzzled his neck and he moaned in pleasure. He felt a sharp pain in his neck, and then Marianna’s mouth was latched tightly onto his throat. He could feel a pulling sensation as if she was sucking the very life out of him. But he didn’t care. Nikolas reveled in the feeling, groaning as pleasure mixed with pain, and he welcomed every sensation. He began to feel uneasy as he felt his body become weaker. What was happening to him? The pleasure he had been feeling was rapidly leaving him and was being replaced by fear. He struggled to release himself from this woman’s embrace, but she was incredibly strong and he was getting weaker by the second. She lowered him to the ground as she finished drinking. Just as he was on the point of what felt like death, Marianna bit into her own wrist and forced her blood into his mouth. He gagged and tried to turn away, but she was too strong to resist.
“That’s right, Nikolas, drink. This is my gift to you.”
Nik’s head felt like it was in a vice as the pain became almost unbearable. It wasn’t just his head…his whole body was racked with pain. As his muscles spasmed, he also felt a searing heat rush through his veins. He cried out, but Marianna just laughed. Then the pain was gone, and a heavy lethargy came over him. He opened his eyes, and felt a chill of fear as he saw something rise from his chest. What was that? It was a ball of white light that seemed to come from deep inside him. He watched as it rose and hovered over his body as if it was reluctant to leave him.
“Be gone!” Marianna said sharply. As if her words released it, the ball of light rushed away into the night. At the moment the light disappeared, Nik felt empty. His body and heart felt hollow, like a shell that had been picked clean of its meat.
“What have you done to me?” he asked hoarsely.
She laughed. “Why, I’ve released you.”
He sat up, dizziness almost sending him back to the ground, but he fought it, and soon his head cleared. He looked around, and was surprised to find he could see everything clearly, even though it was dark. The night sounds in the park seemed to come together in a symphony of nature, and he could pick out each individual creature’s song. He drew in a long breath, reveling in the smells that he had never noticed before. All his senses were attuned to the music of the night. This would all be perfect if it wasn’t for that emptiness, that ache for something that was lost.
“What are you?” he asked as he stood. He felt much stronger now.
“You’re just like me now,” she said.
“And what is that?”
Deep down, he had known this. “And what was that light that came out of me?”
A chill ran through him at her words. But he knew what she said was true because he could feel the hollowness inside him. He had always taken his soul for granted, knowing it would be with him until his death. He had never expected this nightmare that had come to him in the form of irresistible beauty.
“No, I won’t accept that,” he said. “Bring it back. It wasn’t yours to take.”
“But you gave it so willingly, sweet Nikolas,” Marianna said, her voice like silk. “You could have walked away.”
“You gave me no choice!” he shouted. “You compelled me.”
“There’s always a choice. You made yours and you’ll have to live with it. Well, I’m not sure ‘live’ is the word to use.” She smiled in amusement.
“There has to be a way to get it back. There has to be a way to change what you’ve turned me into. Please, Marianna, I’ll do anything to change this.”
“I’m sorry, Nikolas…no, I guess I’m not sorry.” She laughed. “There’s nothing I can do. Your soul is gone and you’re now one of us, a creature of the night. It’s not so bad. You’ll learn to enjoy it.”
Nikolas fell to his knees, his face in his hands. His shoulders shook as he sobbed, but there were no tears. And the weeping seemed to just be something he was supposed to do. Because the shell he was now didn’t have the capacity to cry. All that was left was the cold void where his soul used to be.