I was teasing myself, and I enjoyed that. The urge to just let him take me was unbearable because I knew what pleasures lay ahead, but I wanted to hold off for as long as I could. The longer I waited, the better the end when it came.

My heart raced and I think he could sense it. As if he were unable to resist any longer, he buried his hands in my long, dark hair and pushing into me, we kissed at last. His skin felt cold against mine. Entwining our bodies as if we were one, he pinned me to the bed. Arching my back, I let him kiss every part of my face, neck, and breasts. He released a gentle moan, and this just made my heart race faster still.

“I love you, Sophie,” he whispered in my ear. Now I could feel his heart racing. He ran his mouth over my neck, and I felt his teeth nip at the skin. His whole body seemed to tense up.

We had made love many times before, but there was an intensity about him tonight that I hadn’t felt before. He pressed me flat against the bed and I writhed beneath him. I gasped, but not out of fear. Not yet.

“I want you, Sophie,” he groaned. “I want all of you.”

“Then take me,” I whispered against his chest, and I thought my heart was going to explode.

I felt his whole body shudder, and my back arched again as he moved over me. Then, he twisted as if his spine was stretching out of shape. I opened my eyes a fraction and looked into his face. His jaw looked as if it was locked tight and he gripped the bed sheets with his fists. Throwing my arms around his neck and wrapping my legs about him, I pulled him close; I couldn’t fight it anymore.

Then, like crying out in pain, his back made a cracking sound as if every one of his ribs were breaking. He lunged backwards and sat kneeling at the foot of my bed. He threw his head back and I screamed as what looked like a pair of fangs cut their way through his gums.

A jet of blood shot out and covered my breasts and face.

He clutched at the air with his hands and I watched in horror as his hands transformed into a set of razor-sharp claws.

Smearing his blood from my face, I shook with fright as his ears grew into points. Then, his whole face began to change shape. His nose contorted into something similar to a snout and lengths of wiry, black hair bristled from every part of his naked body. Then there was a sound, like a beating heart – and it was loud and filled the room. It was then that I saw two giant black wings flapping behind him.

It wasn’t that I found him hideous; it was the thought that just moments ago I had been making love with this black-haired creature who was now perched at the end of my bed. All I could do was scream and pull the bed clothes up around me. I couldn’t believe that it was him, that he had hidden this from me. I felt cheated and betrayed – not scared.

Tears ran down my face as I looked at the beautiful creature before me.

“Sophie!” he said, but his voice had changed. It was deeper and had a booming quality.

I didn’t know what to think or how to feel. I loved him – more than I had loved anyone before. He had meant everything to me.

But he had cheated me – fooled me, and that made me angry. Covering my face with my hands, I sobbed uncontrollably and turned away from him.

“Sophie,” he tried again, “You don’t have to be scared.”

“Get away from me!” I shrieked, kicking out with my feet.

“Sophie, let me explain,” his voice boomed. “I love you!”

I peered back at him over the top of the sheet. Part of me wanted to go to him. I loved him, and even as he sat like a giant bat at the end of my bed, a part of me still wanted him.

He had a look of brutality about him that I knew had always been there – and that’s what had turned me on about him. He wasn’t like other guys – he didn’t make love to me like other guys had. But to know that I still wanted him now, that I was aroused by this beast, scared me – I felt ashamed and repulsed by myself – not him.

So, staring at him over the top of the blankets, I screamed, “Get away from me! You freak – you animal! Get out!”

“I love -” he begged.

“GET OUT!”

He jumped from the bed, where only moments before we had been making love, and went to the windows. Throwing them open, he climbed onto the ledge. He looked back at me with his dead, black eyes, and to know that I still loved him and always would, broke my heart.

“I’m so sorry,” he growled.

Then, leaping from the window, he spread his wings and shot into the night sky.

Throwing back the bed covers, I raced to the window and watched him disappear into the night as tears...

... ran down my face. I opened my eyes and brushed them away. Even though I was free from my nightmare, those feelings of love and loss for the creature I had seen were still raw inside of me. It was like I was in love, but I didn’t exactly know who with or why. How could I have such intense feelings for someone I had never met, let alone seen? As I swung my legs over the side of the bed, I knew that the creature in my dreams was the letter writer – he was called Potter. I might not have met him – but he was a real and living person – the cop who I’d shot had told me so – and for reasons I didn’t understand, I was in love with him.

10

Sophie

I spent the next few weeks hiding out at the farmhouse at the top of the hill. On the morning I had woken from the dream about the man called Potter, I had thrown on my dirty old clothes and made my way back down the narrow coastal path to the small town of Beechers Hope.

I knew I was in trouble and by now, most of the police force would be looking for me. The cop who had killed the Skin-walker had probably been discovered on the road by now. The gun that had shot him and the Skin-walker was covered in my prints. They were going to believe him over me any day. Everyone would be ready to believe that I had shot them both in my escape. I had no one to turn to other than my mother and father, and did I really want to drag them into the nightmare that I now found myself in?

I had switched off my mobile phone, removed the battery, and tossed it into a stream minutes after running away from that cop as he bled on the road. I had been around enough police investigations in my role as a pathologist to know that my phone could be traced – even if it was switched off. The battery had to go too. I had enough cash on me to last a week or two, if I was careful – but then what? Credit cards were a big no-no as well. They would leave an electronic footprint every time I used them. I might as well fire a flare into the sky and scream, “come and get me, boys!” But I knew the longer that I hid, the longer I went on the run, the guiltier I looked.

I needed time to come up with a plan.

This man Potter was somehow connected, I was sure of that, but all I had was his letters. The young woman, Kiera Hudson, was also a big part, but where was she now? If I could find either of them, then perhaps I could prove my innocence somehow. The blood would have helped me prove to the authorities that something crazy was going on, but that cop had taken the vial.

With my brain working overtime, I reached Beechers Hope. Although the streets were pretty quiet, I was paranoid that everyone I passed would somehow know that I was on the run and call the police. It didn’t help that it was mid-January, winter, and the seaside town of Beechers Hope was yet to fill with tourists and holiday makers. That wouldn’t happen for months yet. I could have disappeared amongst them and no one would have given me a second look.

With my head bent low, I cut across the town square and disappeared up a narrow side street. Halfway up, I spied a charity shop. In desperate need of some new clothes, and with little cash, I thought it would be an ideal place to find myself something new to wear. I pushed open the door and a bell tinkled above my head. The shop smelt musty, and someone had tried to disguise this by placing small bunches of lavender around the shop in glass vases. There were racks of clothes and shelves with second-hand books.

There was also a display case that was full of odd-looking knick-knacks that had been donated to the charity shop.

Along the far wall was a counter and behind it sat an old woman with a fuzz of white hair. Her skin was wrinkled up like an old prune and her puckered lips had been smeared crudely with red lipstick. Hearing the bell ring, the old woman looked up from a book that she was reading. She waved a gnarled looking hand in my direction and then went back to her reading.

I slipped between the racks of clothing, looking for anything halfway decent. The hangers made a jingling noise as I pushed the clothes aside, checking out each garment. I wanted something that would be completely different from the clothes I would normally wear. If I were to stay on the run, I needed to look different than how I usually looked; I needed a new identity somehow.

A lot of the clothes on display were more suited for the older woman. Then, as I looked about the shop, something caught my eye. It was a pretty-looking dress that was covered in a faint floral pattern. It wasn’t something I would normally have been seen dead in. I took the dress from its hanger and held it against me for size. It looked as if it might fit, but it was more like something a hippie would wear. There was another dress very similar a couple of rows down, so I took that from its hanger, too. Again, it was something a tree-hugger might wear, but it was different from my usual tastes. Folding the dresses over my arm, I knew that I would also need a coat. I found a long brown coat with a fake fur collar – very seventies – and knowing that it would suit the whole new hippie look I was reluctantly going for, I took the items to the counter.

“Do you need a bag?” the old woman asked me as she removed the hand-written price tags from the clothes.

“Yes, please,” I mumbled, trying not to make eye contact with her. Then, taking the coat, I added, “I’ll put this on now – it’s freezing outside.”

“Okay, dear,” the old woman smiled sweetly at me, and I noticed that some of her red lipstick was stuck to her front teeth. It looked like she had been eating strawberry jam.

I took the coat and put it on. It had a belt that I fastened around my waist.

“It suits you,” she smiled again. “Funny time of year to come on holiday.”




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