Prologue: Foggy Dreams and Hothouse Foreboding
Foggy Dreams And Hothouse Foreboding
Fog. All she saw was fog. But then, that’s how it always began, really.
The heavy fog made the air thick and hard to breathe. It surrounded her in a suffocating cocoon.
This was her idea of Hell.
A blinding white light flashed through the fog. Panic overwhelming her senses, she turned around, frantically searching for a way out, the feel of gritty sand beneath her bare feet.
Another blinding flash.
Something was moving through the fog; she could feel the change in the air surrounding her.
“Janet…” a man’s voice whispered.
Jane could detect the lilt of an Irish accent in his voice, though it was barely noticeable. She felt a chill run down her spine at the eerie, haunted sound.
She began turning every which way, looking for the source of the voice.
She could see a dark figure pushing through the fog – a man, walking toward her. God, why couldn’t she open her mouth to scream for help? Why couldn’t she scream?
She could make out his dark hair, his lean figure, and his substantial height… but she could not see his eyes. Oh, those eyes… She remembered those eyes.
She opened her mouth and tried to cry out but her voice was gone.
He was getting closer. Her heart was racing in her chest as she tried to think of a way to escape. He was nearly in front of her now. She looked up and let out a silent scream of terror at what she saw: his eyes were white in color and opalescent, but they seemed to hold the pain of ages long past and burdens too great for any one man to bear. They seemed to call her – no, beg her for something, but she couldn’t understand what.
She screamed once more, but there was still no sound. She broke out into a run but she could hear his voice call out to her through the fog.
“Janet… Janet… Janet!”
Beep! Beep! Beep!
Jane Parker shot up in bed, perspiration beading all over her body. She blindly felt for her screaming alarm clock, slamming her hand down on the ‘off’ button harder than was really necessary. Jane ran her hands over her eyes wearily, trying to shake the feelings of helplessness and confusion brought on by the dream.
The dreams had gotten worse since her family had moved to the small Maine town of Lysander. Jane didn’t know if it was the stress that made them worse or her increasing dread of her first day of school, but whatever was causing them they had to stop. She didn’t know how much more of it she could take before she wound up in the loony bin.
Jane had been having these dreams for years but only of late had they become frightening. Before there had only been the fog and sand, and that ominous voice with the hint of an Irish accent, but now a face came with that pleading voice.
It was his eyes that Jane found the most frightening. White and opalescent, but filled with so much pain and longing. They unnerved her to her very soul. This mysterious dream man made her feel like he wanted something from her, but she couldn’t understand what. And he seemed familiar – so familiar, with his black hair and opalescent eyes, but Jane knew that she’d never seen him before. She would have remembered him; there was no doubt of that in her mind.
Jane slammed her hand down on the bed with a grunt of frustration. Why can’t I figure out who the hell he is? she thought angrily. This was the seventh time she had dreamt of him in the last month and she couldn’t bear not knowing who he was to her weary, befuddled mind.
Jane looked at her alarm clock. 5:18 A.M., it read. She wouldn’t have time for a long run this morning. She had wasted too much time thinking about the ‘Phantom of Dreams’ as she’d dubbed him. It was better than the ‘Opera Ghost,’ like from The Phantom of the Opera. Who came up with that anyway?
Jane sighed as she got up and gathered her running clothes, walking around and in between the mass of cardboard boxes as well as she could, a chill going up her spine at the feeling of the cold wood floors beneath her feet. The boxes had been in her attic room when Jane and her parents had moved there three weeks ago. There were three floors and seven rooms in the old Moncrieffe place and her parents had still insisted that she take the attic as her room, saying that her typing annoyed them.
Jane glanced over at the old typewriter she’d bought with her meager savings. Her parents were too cheap to buy a laptop, even the new smaller, cheaper models. They could afford two BMWs, but they couldn’t afford a small laptop for school and writing.
Jane shook her thoughts away sadly and got ready for her daily run before her first day at St. Defendens High School.
It was dark still, but the first rays of dawn were peeking through the glass walls of the fragrant hothouse. It was always this way in the mornings, and Lukan Masters could always be found laying across the cushioned white wicker bench in the middle of the rather large glass building at that early hour. It was one of the few places that no one dared to bother him, not even his best friend, Sofiya. The Haven, being a hotel, had very few places for private, undisturbed contemplation. The hothouse was one of them.
At that moment Lukan was contemplating the strange feeling he had in his gut that something was going to happen, though good or bad he couldn’t tell. All he knew was that it was something important - something vital even, that would have a lasting effect on him.
This year would be different.
He had learned to listen to his instincts long ago on everything. As he was so often right, he couldn’t afford not to listen to them. Of course, there had been times when he allowed his heart to cloud his judgment. Lukan shook his head, trying to shake the thoughts away as well. No, he wouldn’t think about that. There was too much pain in those memories, and those times were in the past. They were far better left there.
His thoughts went back to the strange feeling in his gut, and it occurred to him that the feeling’s appearance coincided with Lilith’s recent strange behavior. His mentor and friend had been acting like she was floating on cloud nine, something highly unusual for the generally composed and passive woman. She was very rarely unhappy but to see her in this constant state of euphoria was unnerving. And Lukan was getting the decided impression that it had something to do with him. She was constantly sending him conspiratorial looks, as though he were in on some great secret, though what that secret was he hadn’t a clue.
Lukan sighed and closed his eyes, breathing deeply the scent of the flora around him. Azaleas, blood-red rhododendrons, sky-blue cornflowers and forget-me-nots, exotic flowers that were nameless to him. This was as close to heaven as he could ever get on the spinning orb that he lived, and he soon would be forced to abandon it in favor of the hellish nightmare he called school.
Lukan laughed bitterly. It was such a farce; he had no idea why Lilith insisted on putting them through it. The whole Coven was forced to endure it, from Ray to Moonbeam. Only Study managed to escape it, and that was more or less because of his phobia of the outside world.
I guess getting chased by a bunch of fifteenth century villagers with torches and pitchforks will do that to a guy, Lukan thought dryly.
A familiar ache in the pit of his stomach warned him once again: This year is going to be different.
He ignored it, brushing off an imaginary speck of dust on his immaculate clothing, resigned for whatever came. He just hoped that it wasn’t Lilith setting him up with some weird girl again; it was never any fun. Lilith always became so irritated when he made them cry.