Title of Book: Cast A Pale Shadow
Genre: Psychological suspense
Author: Barbara Scott
Publisher: Triskelion Publishing
Date of Release: June, 2007
BUY CAST A PALE SHADOW HERE!
Rescued as she flees a relationship suddenly turned abusive by the mysterious Nicholas Brewer, Trissa is charmed by his kindness. But Nicholas has a dark past to hide and a fierce determination to retain full grasp of his present. Always the shadow of his other self, Cole threatens to overtake him. It is Cole who guards his most dreaded memories and Cole who has stolen great swatches of his time so that Nicholas ceases to exist. Throughout his adult life Nicholas has sought the magic to ward off those blank times . When he thinks he has found that magic in Trissa, what desperate measures will he take to make it last?
Together, in a boarding house filled with an eclectic group of people, Trissa and Nicholas patch together a substitute family that they hope will buffer them from a world that has not been kind to either of them. Their progress toward this goal is threatened by Trissa’s father, who is determined to retrieve her from her new life. The confrontation between Bob Kirk and Nicholas ends in murder and the reemergence of Cole. Now Trissa must summon the strength to discover which of her two loves is man and which is shadow.
“Once upon a time,” Nicholas whispered, so close he could feel the cold alabaster of her ear brush his lips, “There was a Sleeping Princess who waited only the kiss of her true love to awaken her from her long, lonely sleep.” He stretched himself out beside her, the chill of her body drawing away his warmth even through their clothes. He would see the soft, dark, warmth of her eyes again. She would open them to him. He would find the magic in her, in both of them this time.
With a light sweep of his fingertips— he could not bear to touch the pale stone of her forehead for fear the ice would reach in to pierce his soul— he lifted the tumbled wisps of her hair away from her eyes. He waited the very moment she flickered them open, when she would see that it was he Nicholas who performed the miracle and love him all the more for it. She had failed to give him the miracle he asked, but he would not fail her. They would have another chance.
Her perfect stillness nearly daunted him even while he envied her for it. Wasn’t that utter peace what he had wanted? That she had attained it so effortlessly while he was left alone and wanting filled him with resentment and fear. Perhaps it would never be possible for him and, in slipping away as she had, she had demonstrated her despair of him, her lack of trust.
“I can’t live without you,” she said so softly in her tear-filled whisper.
“I wouldn’t ask that of you,” he promised. But he realized now that she had not understood what he truly was asking of her. He couldn’t let himself believe her failure was deliberate. A misunderstanding. Yes, a tragic misunderstanding. That was all.
Her lips were slightly parted and nearly as pale as her ashen cheeks. Nicholas brushed his own tears until his fingertips were wet with them, then traced her mouth with their moistness. He could taste the saltiness of them as he kissed her, thinking of magic and miracles and wishes and love. But nothing happened. Her stillness was impenetrable. Her eyes refused to open. She was gone, and he could not reach her.
Tenderly, he straightened her crisp, white collar and smoothed the bright red wool of her favorite skirt, then folded the quilt around her, tucking it up and around her shiny black shoes, the ones she loved with the heels she could barely walk in. He tied the first rope at her knees and the second at her hips. Her cold, little fingers were stiffening slightly as he folded her hands, one over the other. across her chest.
Too late, he remembered the ring he had bought her and never gave her, never had time to. A vision of her bright, loving eyes brimming with tears as they might have been when she saw it for the first time staggered him back to sag in the cracked, leather armchair where she had sat on his lap so many times.
He would never see her again. He would never again hear her sweet laughter when he whispered in her ear. He would never again feel the, tender heat of her surrounding him, taking him with her as she plummeted over the brink of her waterfall of stars, as she called it.
Forcing himself to rise, Nicholas searched the drawers of the painted chest they both shared until he found the ring, still in its blue velvet box, still in its white paper bag. It had two tiny rubies, her birthstone and his.
“We are almost cosmic twins, did you know that? Only three days and two years apart,” she murmured with delight when he told her his birthdate. Lifting the ring from its satin nest, he breathed on it and polished it against his jeans before placing it on her third finger, left hand.
“Until death do us part, Cynthia. But it wasn’t supposed to part us. Why couldn’t you take me with you?” He rested his forehead against her hands until he felt their ice numb his heart.
Finally, there was nothing to do but fold the corner of the quilt over her face and tie another rope at her shoulders. Just enough twilight remained for him to complete his task without a lantern. Nicholas gathered his precious bundle in his arms and left the silent, empty cabin, winding his way through the trees until he reached the grave he had prepared.
Gently, he lay Cynthia at the edge, then jumped in, positioning himself to shoulder her and nestle her into the soft, cool earth at the bottom. If he could just think of a way, he would lay down beside her and pull the dirt like a blanket around them both.
But there was no way, so he hoisted himself up out of the grave and bid her goodbye. He began to fill the hole.
Cynthia. Michigan. Eventually he hoped that would be all he would remember. And in time that would fade and jumble, so that when the night terrors struck, he wouldn’t recall which face belonged to which name or whether last year had been the year for Laura in Milwaukee or was it the year before? Could it really have been as long as five years ago when Valerie— ?
He hated that it happened that way. It seemed disloyal to Cynthia and Laura and— no, it was best not to think of Valerie at all.
Nicholas had loved each of them, loved them to the depths of his soul, but he had to forget them. Or else how would he have the strength to go on to the next?
And maybe the next would be the one.
It was safer, he believed, to count to only two: the last one and the next one. He could not allow himself to think of the others, or to suppose there would be any beyond the next one. He was not some monster who wanted this to go on forever. Cynthia didn’t think him a monster. None of them did.