Beloved Darkness – Excerpt

Carsten was shivering, and Saff wanted to end the silliness. Then Carsten raised his hand and pointed to the window behind Jud. Malice-filled eyes stared back at Saff and she wanted to scream, but shock froze her vocal cords and she managed nothing more than a strangled gurgle as her mouth gaped open.

The old woman's face in the reflection was drawn. She stood right behind Saff's chair. Her brows came together and her face was drawn with pain. Black hair tangled around her face as it came out of the bun she wore on the top of her head. Her high-neck black dress was something out of a history book. It was her eyes that scared Saff. Hate. Pure malice radiated from her cold eyes as she gazed out of her reflection at Carsten.

Trembling hard, Saff's teeth rattled as she turned around to look behind the chair. Her neck ached for turning so far, but there was nothing there. The lights flickered.

"She's here. My friend is afraid," whispered Carsten. He was still making eye contact with Jud, but then he turned to his left.

Saff's arm and hand suddenly felt incredibly cold on that side of her body.

"Run away," Carsten whispered at nothing.

The plates in the dish drainer on the counter rattled as the soft sound of running feet clicked on the linoleum in that direction. One plate flew up and hurdled across the room like a Frisbee. The china hit the window and shattered.

"End this," Saff whispered.

* * * *

"Sage said to tell you Carsten is still sleeping safe and sound."

"Good," Saff said as she turned to look at Jud. His hair was damp and his waist was wrapped in a towel. He was male-model hot, and in his half-naked state she couldn't resist wondering if he'd feel as good as he looked. "Do you have anything to wear?"

He grinned. "Does the way I'm dressed offend you? I can take the towel off if you want."

There was a husky dare in his tone, and his sexy smile was erotic as hell. Saff kept her mouth shut. She didn't trust herself to speak.

"Hell of a day." He ran his hand through his damp, thick hair. "You're a brave woman. I can tell how much you love your son."

"He's the best thing that ever happened to me. I never knew what it was like to have something that mattered until I was a mother."

"Sage told me about the way you were both abandoned by your parents and then dragged around the country by your grandmother. That had to be hard."

"It wasn't so bad. Who really has a happy childhood?"

"Mine was good. I must be one of the lucky minority."

She nodded. "Maybe I'd have been a shitty single mom if I'd had a spoiled, easy childhood. I never wanted my son to feel the things I felt, but—"

"Yeah, this experience probably won't be Carsten's happiest childhood memory. But I bet when he looks back on this time, he'll remember you loved him and fought to protect him." He reached out and took her hand in an amazingly gentle way. "That's what matters, really, that you love him."

She shrugged. "I hope so. Loving him is the easy part, doing what's best for him is harder."

"I will do everything I can to help you." He spoke with conviction.

"Maybe there's nothing you can do."

"There is always something that can be done. I… Helping you matters to me."

For a moment, she gazed up into his face. He was tall, very tall. She bit her lip. She wanted him to kiss her, and the thought caused her cheeks to heat. Saff prayed he didn't notice.

He grinned, but suddenly his expression became serious and he took a step closer to her so that he shared her intimate space. "I swear I'm not one of those guys who sleep around. I'm single. This otherworldly sight of mine is my baggage. I have no ex-wives or child support to pay. This is crazy, but I've never wanted a woman more than I want you right now. I need you in my life, Saffron."

Her name tumbled from his lips and touched her ears like a caress. Hearing him speak the syllables sent a shiver through her and made her hot. She cleared her throat. His erection was outlined by the terry cloth. Every fiber of her physical body wanted this man to claim her, and her soul screamed and thrashed in the prison of her mind to act on the growing desire.

"If you're crazy, it's contagious." She took a step closer to him and then she was in his arms.