Ashes to Ashes Page 41


“Right,” I said, only then hearing the Jillian Michael’s DVD that was playing on the TV. “Well, I’m going for a walk to the river if you want to come do exercise the healthy and natural way.”

She put her hand on her hip and said, “Boring,” in an exaggerated Valley Girl impression and bounded back into the room before Jillian could yell at her.

I left her to her sweat session and stepped outside. It was back to being cloudy again, although the air was warm and there was a nice breeze coming out of the north that smelled like sweet wildflowers. I breathed in deeply and walked off down our quiet street like I used to do all the time.

I made my way down to the river, following the winding path, and found a bench where I could stare at the far bank, the Washington side. I plopped myself down, bringing my knees up to my chest and breathed in deeply. It was crazy to sit here and think about how far I’d come, even from the last time I was here at this very same spot. My life had changed so quickly, and in the end, so brilliantly.

With the wind whipping up my hair and a bunch of ducks waddling ashore that made me giggle about “duck spunk,” I sat there and let myself feel really, truly happy. I had no idea what the future held for us, but knowing Dex loved me, that I was going to marry him, that I’d be with him every step of the way—nothing seemed scary anymore.

I sighed and closed my eyes, leaning my head back on the bench.

“Hello there.”

I abruptly sat up and looked behind me.

There was a man standing a few yards away, in the middle of the path and smiling at me. Though he was handsome with his sharp features, sandy brown hair, and blue suit, there was something both unsettling and familiar about him.

I think it was his eyes. They were set deep and very dark, framed by long lashes.

I didn’t say hello back, just stared at him while all my warning bells were going off inside. It’s not like Portland was the rapist capital of the world, and it was the early afternoon, but still. There was something about this man who made my heart race and my legs want to run.

Finally, after he didn’t say anything else, just stared and smiled, I said, “Sorry, were you talking to me?”

He took two fluid steps forward and I noticed how shiny his wingtip shoes were. “Yes,” he said simply. “Sorry if I startled you.”

I forced a stiff smile. “That’s okay.” I immediately started thinking of plotting my way out of the situation. I could excuse myself and say I needed to get back somewhere. I could try walking past him, or I could try going further down the path. I looked over at the opposite riverbank, thinking maybe someone over there could help, but it was too far away.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said, putting his hands behind his back and rocking on his feet. “I don’t mean any harm. I’m new in town and wanted to see the Columbia River.” He grinned at me and stroked his clean-shaven face, and again I was hit with a weird sense of déjà vu.

“Where did you move from?” I asked, trying out my parents’ art of small talk. I knew I was probably overreacting in every single way, but the more I knew about this man, the more I could use against him later.

You are being so paranoid, I chided myself. Still, I brought my phone out by my side, my fingers twitching to hit the emergency call button.

“I’m here from New York City,” he said with a touch of arrogance. “Manhattan. And I haven’t moved here, I’m just visiting. I heard my brother was in town.”

I nodded, trying to ignore the tightening in my chest. “Cool.”

“Yes,” he said slowly. “Very cool. What’s your name?”

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. My tongue felt especially thick.

He chuckled coldly. “Oh, don’t worry. I’m sure I could guess your name if I tried.”

I didn’t smile. “I doubt it.”

If that fucker made any kind of move, he was going to know just how hard I could fight back. My karate skills were rusty and my hamstrings were tight, but instinct always brought them out.

“Pam,” he said. “No wait, Priscilla.” He took another step forward, only ten feet away now. I flinched, my body ready to run. “Nah, Priscilla is too fancy for some like you. It starts with a P though, I can tell.” He said the rest of that in a rich, velvety voice.

I found myself getting up, my thumb hovering above my phone. “Nice talking with you,” I told him. “I have to go back home.”

I started walking toward him, my body tensing as I went past, our shoulders almost touching because of the narrowness of the path.

“See you in New York then,” he called after me. “Perry.”

I stopped dead, my blood thumping through my head. I blinked stupidly and turned around to look at him.

He stood there looking like a cocky asshole. The stance was familiar; his eyes were familiar.

I felt like I couldn’t breathe. “How did you know my name?”

He smiled and shook his head, strolling toward me. I tried to run, tried to move, but I couldn’t do anything. I was stuck in place, paralyzed somehow. This wasn’t just fear, this wasn’t something on my end.

I couldn’t fucking move.

And he was doing it.

He frowned at me as he came close. “You really are pretty, you know that. And young. So young. Young blood is the best. My brother has excellent taste.”

No.

No.

Pippa’s message from my dream came flying back into my head.

I think the problem is something you won’t see coming. I think the problem will come in the form of someone who is trustworthy. And when I think he comes, he will bring you here. Where everything will end.

He tilted his head and watched me with a discerning eye, watching my face contort in horror. “He doesn’t know I’m here, and I wanted to keep it that way. I already tried to call the other week, but you answered and well, that was probably a blessing. I could never convince him to talk to me over the phone. You see, I was rather a jerk to him after our mother died. And yet, now I need him. And I’m sure I’ll need you. Perry.”

He reached out and put his fingers into my hair, cupping the back of my head. I could only stand there and watch as he brought his face in closer. Though the deep, almost exotic shape of his brown eyes were so much like Dex’s, this man lacked something that made him human, that made him real. As I stared into the black pupils, I could see a swirling vortex, a hole with nothing underneath.

No soul.

“I’ll give Declan your regards,” Dex’s brother, Michael O’ Shea, whispered before kissing me on the lips. I felt like a hand was reaching into my skull, into my brain and twisting it around until my world started turning black. “See you soon, princess.”

I slumped to the ground.

And that was that.

THE END

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