Chapter 1

The woman’s eyes glinted like shark teeth. Their radiant light shone out from beneath the shifting shadows of her heavy locks. Her eerily wafting ebony hair swam around the soft curve of her face, trailing long tendrils animated by some invisible wind. The heft of it cascaded in soft waves over her buttercream shoulders like spilled ink on porcelain.

Her visage was entrancing but Aveny barely noticed. It was her eyes that bound Aveny’s gaze – a deep seaweed green rimmed with circles of cerulean blue, framed by dancing clouds of obsidian. 

The woman peered down at Aveny appraisingly, a penetrating gleam in her razor gaze. Aveny, sprawled roughly across the bed – all sleep-mussed hair and twisted pajamas – was immobilized by her expression.

Some small part of her yearned to reach out, to touch the woman and ignite the surge of energy she was sure would follow. But she remained still, bound by fear-laced awe. If they were to touch, would the resulting wave invigorate or annihilate? It seemed more likely to stop her heart or cleave her mind like a melon.

The woman tilted her head almost imperceptibly. She lifted her chin slightly, gazing skeptically down onto Aveny’s immobile form.

Aveny was stunned once more at her sheer unearthly beauty. But there was something else in the dark obscurity of the woman’s wild eyes – something raw and dangerous.

Aveny gasped and bolted upright, the dull blackness of the room enveloping her senses. She gulped in large breaths, aware, for the first time, that she had stopped breathing.

When her heart slowed to its normal rate, she reached out for Brand’s warmth in the darkness. Her touch met the cool silk of empty sheets. That’s right – he was on shift tonight.

She lay back, her mind engulfed in the slowly evaporating memory of the woman – a woman she now knew she’d seen before. Not just once; what was it? Dozens – perhaps hundreds – of times?

It was not the sight of her that was new, Aveny now realized, but the recollection. How many times had she visited Aveny’s dreams, she now wondered, only to disperse at first light, leaving no trail to mark her path?

But not this time. The raven-haired woman’s visage lingered in Aveny’s consciousness like abandoned spider web – a nearly invisible remnant. Her memory, the damp destruction of a receding tsunami. 

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