Isabel tossed her toque into the back of her jeep and flopped down behind the wheel with a sigh. God she hated weddings! All that fuss over a fairy tale concept but her position at the country club made them one of her priorities. Her friends and colleagues never understood how she could be so negative about such a “magical occasion” but when your father walks out at 5 years old, you get to be a little cynical about things like love and romance. Besides, Isabel didn’t believe in magic.
The ominous looking sky rumbled as Isabel’s bright yellow jeep rolled into her driveway. Fat drops of rain pelted her as she strode through the front door. The first thing the brunette noticed as she brushed the wet curls from her face was that the light switch didn’t work. Carajo! The storm hasn’t even started yet and I’ve already lost power.
A flash of lightning revealed the house was ransacked. Isabel stood in the living room, gaping, as she took in the chaos and destruction. Smashed picture frames littered the floor and her curtains and walls bore slash marks as if from a large blade. Her furniture lay upended and what wasn’t smashed into kindling lay beside their cotton innards. A quick survey of the kitchen and dining room yielded the same results yet the doors and windows were still locked. Isabel fumed. Her house was sealed tighter than Fort Knox. How could this have happened?
Isabel pulled her cell phone from the pocket of her jeans to call the police but there was no signal. The deep rumbling overhead told Isabel the storm was far from over and with the power already out, reporting the break-in to the police would have to wait. Another crash of thunder and a gust of wind caused the French doors in the dining room to suddenly burst open and a large black bird careened into her. She fought to untangle herself from the frightened bird, feathers flying everywhere, before managing to push it away. A bright flash of lightning revealed the figure of a large man leaning in the doorway. Isabel’s heart thudded in her chest. This must be the home invader! Her mind flicked to the sharp knife set sitting in a block on the kitchen counter, and she wondered if she could reach it before the man attacked. A deep chuckle resonated throughout the room.
“Fear not, little one,” The baritone said. “No harm will come to you this day.”
Fear not? Had she been burgled by an unemployed renfaire actor?
“The cops are on their way so unless you want to spend the night in jail you need to leave my house.” She replied, hardening her tone against the fear in her heart.
Another chuckle and the silhouette waved his hand, straightening in the doorway. “You and I have business.”
The dining room lights sprang to life, giving Isabel a better look at the burglar. At 5’10” Isabel was not a short woman by any means, yet the stranger stood at least a head and a half taller than she. His raven hair fell to his broad shoulders in waves. He regarded her with deep purple eyes above a strong Roman nose, square jaw and a thick neck. His heavy muscular body was clad in a close-fitting leather doublet that opened just to his ribs to reveal a mass of thick curly hair beneath it with steel guards at his wrists. His trunk-like legs were encased in snug leather pants tucked at the knee into a pair of heavy black steel plate boots. He was a formidable looking man but bulky, and Isabel wondered if she could outrun the lunatic before he snapped her like a twig.
“What business?” she asked, still struggling to keep her voice from trembling. “I don’t know you.”
His lips curled into a smile that chilled her soul.
“I am Rakad, Lord of the Underworld and you have something that belongs to my mistress, Phaedra.” He replied with a bow.
Isabel shook her head, it was a mistake, it had to be. What the hell was a lord of the underworld? What could she possibly have that the man’s mistress would want?
“Look, Rakad is it? You have the wrong house.” She responded slowly. “As I said before, I don’t know you or anyone named Phaedra so please leave.”
The man’s face took on a stony expression, his amethyst eyes glowing with a fire that nearly stopped Isabel’s heart. He walked towards her slowly with a kind of spectral grace. It was as if his feet did not quite touch the ground. She looked down at his thick heavy boots upon the tiles and realized his footsteps made no sound.
“Are you not Isabel, daughter of the Duke of Kendra?”
“I am Isabel Kendra, but my father is a worthless bastard who ran out on us when I was a kid. He isn’t Duke of anything.”
Rakad’s lips tightened and he gave a quick nod. “The Duke of Kendra is a spineless coward who abandoned his country and his people during the onslaught of Phaedra’s armies.”
Isabel chuckled bitterly. “Sadly there are plenty of cowardly men in this world.”
Rakad nodded again, looking distracted. “As in mine.”
He refocused his gaze on her. “Before your father left, did he not leave you some token of affection or trinket to remember him by?”
Isabel’s hand automatically flew to her chest where, just beneath her red blouse, rested the beautiful silver dragon amulet her mother had given to her long ago. The morning after her father’s disappearance, her mother had slipped the chain and pendant over her head before they boarded the plane to San Juan. Leticia had told her to always keep it safe and tucked away because it was magical and monsters would get her if she ever took it off. As an adult she knew it was a ploy to frighten the child into not losing the necklace. Isabel often wondered why her mother had trusted such an expensive item to a small child, but her mother had a tendency to do odd things from time to time. Her habit of talking to the mirror in her bedroom, for instance.
Isabel steeled herself as she quickly dropped her hand, looked into Rakad’s eyes and replied, “No, he didn’t.”
A slow smile spread across his face and he chuckled. Isabel might have considered the man handsome if he wasn’t so damned frightening.
“Come with me. I believe the sorceress would like to meet you.”
Rakad turned back to the doorway and when he gestured an arm towards it, the air began to shimmer, her backyard replaced with a dimly lit stone room.
“You want me to go in there?” she gaped.
The Lord of the Underworld reached out and caressed her cheek with a single gloved finger that was colder than she ever thought leather could be. A chill went through her.
“Are you afraid?”
Isabel swallowed, her heart pounding and Rakad smiled, closing his eyes. “Ah, I do find the sense of fear delicious, don’t you?”
The air grew shallow and Isabel’s blood pounded in her ears as she fled from the room. There was no way in hell she’d allow this psycho to just lead her into a dungeon like a lamb to the slaughter. If she could just get to her jeep, she could get help and end this nightmare. My God, what was happening?
A dark feathery mass swirled before the front door as she reached it and she slipped and fell as it formed the shape of a man. Rakad leaned against the door, arms crossed and smiled. “Now now, that wasn’t very polite, Lady Kendra.”
Isabel spied pieces of wood on the floor as she clambered to her feet and backed away. He advanced towards her slowly, an amused look on his face even as she hurled the remnants of her couch at him. She turned and bolted again, this time heading for the kitchen.
Rakad approached the swing door to the kitchen when Isabel was suddenly upon him. The two crashed to the dining room floor and she pummeled him repeatedly with her favorite cast iron skillet until he lost consciousness. Trembling, Isabel glanced around before rushing to the window and tearing down the remnants of her curtains. She hog-tied Rakad as tightly as she could before fleeing back into the kitchen. Her shaking hands pulled the phone from the pocket of her jeans again and thankfully she had a signal.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“This psycho broke into my house, destroyed everything and attacked me. I need the cops to come to 17 East First Street, Bayonne, right away!”
“What’s your name, ma’am?”
“Where’s the man now?”
“He’s in the dining room. I was able to knock him out and tie him up.”
Isabel peered out of the doorway of the kitchen and gasped.
Indeed, the dining room was empty save for the remains of her dining set and her curtains, the knots she tied still in place.
“How in the hell?” She started to say when she heard a crash in the kitchen.
Isabel spun around and screamed as Rakad burst through the back door. Dropping the phone, she grabbed her knife block and launched the knives at the man. As he advanced towards her this time he did not look so amused. Terror gripped the young woman as she realized Rakad didn’t even stagger as the blades bit into his neck, shoulder and abdomen. The blood trail on the floor showed the man was mortal yet he approached her still, his eyes blazing with rage. She threw the empty knife block at him but he simply batted it away.
His hand tightened around Isabel’s throat, cutting off her scream, and slammed her against the wall. The pendant around her neck leapt from beneath her shirt collar and suddenly a bright light blazed forth. Rakad screamed and shielded his face as he staggered back, falling against the kitchen counter. Isabel stumbled forward, recovered her balance, fled from the house and leapt into her jeep. The tires slid and screeched as she threw the car into Reverse and sped out of the driveway. A figured appeared in the road before her and a flash of lightning revealed the menacing snarl of her attacker.
“Go away!” Isabel shrieked as she shifted gears again and stepped on the gas.
She resisted the urge to back over the man again after feeling a satisfying series of thumps. In the distance she could hear police sirens rushing to her aid but she refused to stop. Right now all Isabel wanted to do was find her mother.
Rakad snickered as he rose, wiping the gore from his mouth as he watched the jeep speed away. People often ran from him, he was death personified. Running, screaming or crying was the typical response of those he reaped and made his job tedious and dull. The ones who fought back were few and far between and amused him the most. This was the first time he’d ever encountered a woman who didn’t drop to her knees and wail or faint dead away before he carried her off. He found Isabel’s combative demeanor fascinating and knew his mistress was correct in assuming she was indeed a threat. It would be a pity to destroy the girl once Phaedra got what she needed from her. Rakad had entertained the idea of keeping her for himself until he eventually tired of her. He could already feel the power within the young woman and considered draining her essence himself. It might be enough to restore his power and he would no longer be under the thumb of that detestable harpy!