Nothing was going the way Shealy had planned.
â€śDad, be reasonable. I justâ€”â€ť
â€śReasonable?â€ť Donnell Oâ€™Leary demanded, his face
turning an alarming shade of red.
Theyâ€™d just finished dinner and were leaving the restaurant
as he spoke, his outburst drawing the eyes of the other
patrons. Shealy had known her dad wouldnâ€™t be happy about
her plans, but she hadnâ€™t anticipated this. She eyed his
coloring with dismay. Heâ€™d already had one heart attackâ€”she
didnâ€™t want to give him another.
â€śIâ€™ve told you this before, Shealy,â€ť he said in a tight,
angry voice. â€śThere is nothing for you in Ireland. Not
one bleeding thing. No reason to go back. Ever.â€ť
â€śI want to visit momâ€™s grave,â€ť she said calmly. â€śAnd I
donâ€™t understand why that should upset you.â€ť
â€śWhy would you care about seeing her grave?â€ť he exclaimed,
as if the idea were too bizarre to contemplate. â€śSheâ€™s not
even in it.â€ť
For a moment, his words robbed her of a response. She knew
her motherâ€™s body wasnâ€™t in the graveâ€”after the awful
automobile accident her body had never been found. But six
years had passed since her death and Shealy needed closure
that still hadnâ€™t come. It was so unlike her father, so
insensitive of him not to understand that. Sheâ€™d been in
the hospital when theyâ€™d held the funeral services and then
her dad had packed them up and moved them to Arizona. Sheâ€™d
never even seen the place where her mother rested, in
spirit if not in body.
But she didnâ€™t want to explain to him why she was so
determined to go there now. She couldnâ€™t talk about the
nightmares that chased her through the restless dark.
Nightmares about her mother. Horrible, gruesome dreams that
told the time had come to face everything sheâ€™d tried to
forget. She needed to move on and that meant first going
â€śItâ€™s not safe there,â€ť her father stubbornly continued as
she stepped into the warm night air outside of the
â€śSafe? Dad, Ireland is ten times safer than Phoenix. Their
â€śItâ€™s not safe for you, Shealy.â€ť
The sharpness of his tone held a bite that stopped her on
the shadowed blacktop. Somewhere in the back of her mind a
strange tickling sensation began, creeping down her spine,
making her skin pucker despite the summer heat that still
held tight to the evening.
â€śWhatâ€™s that supposed to mean?â€ť she asked. â€śWhy wouldnâ€™t it
be safe for me?â€ť
He avoided her eyes. â€śThere are things you donâ€™t know,
â€śSo enlighten me.â€ť
â€śThings that should not be talked about, not in the open.
Not at all.â€ť
Ah. Inside, she gave a sigh of relief and a mental
eye roll as understanding hit her. For a minute there, heâ€™d
actually rattled her.
Donnell Oâ€™Leary was a conspiracy theorist to his wee Irish
soul. He had issues and opinions about everything from
underworld religion to common traffic laws. No doubt next
he planned to spout about the Troubles or the Government or,
God forbid, the Protestants.
â€śDad, letâ€™s try to stay within the bounds of reality. Iâ€™m
talking about a trip to a civilized country. Two weeks in
the land of green and blarney. Iâ€™m not headed for JuĂˇrez,
for Godâ€™s sake. Iâ€™ll be back before you even know Iâ€™m gone.
Iâ€™ve already got my ticket. Iâ€™m going.â€ť
Donnell grabbed her arm as she moved past him and jerked her
around to face him with a sudden violence that shocked her
into silence. â€śDo you think I took you away from there on a
whim? Do think Iâ€™d have ripped us both up by the roots if
Iâ€™d had a choice?â€ť
For a moment, she could only stare at him, noting his color,
the spark in his eyes that almost looked like panic.
Frowning, she said, â€śYou told me we moved because of the
doctors. The specialists at Mayo Clinic that Dr. Campbell
wanted me to see.â€ť
â€śAye. And in part thatâ€™s true. But thereâ€™s more to it,
things Iâ€™ve shielded from you. Things that are best left
alone. Things you need to stay away from. Are you
hearing me, girl? You are not. Going. Back.â€ť
A gust of hot wind blew across the parking lot, chasing the
echo of his anger. The restaurant had been packed when
theyâ€™d arrived and theyâ€™d had to park in the back, by a
dumpster. Now the lot was dark and deserted. The
burned-out streetlight over their car left shadows rasping
against the heated tar and whispering sounds scampering
across the abruptly taut silence that followed.
She wanted to tell him to calm down. She was twenty-four
years old and she didnâ€™t need his permission, but an
undefined feeling of threat prickled and poked at her. She
opened her mouth to demand to know what these mysterious
things heâ€™d been protecting her from were, but an
instinct as old as time silenced her and urged her toward
the car. Pushing her to get out of the open.
â€śShhhh,â€ť he said. His eyes were wide, his expression
frightened as he scanned the empty parking lot.
The air grated against them, lifting the hem of her skirt
and blustering beneath it. It was hotâ€”always hot in
Arizona, but now that heat had weight and a dark, malevolent
A trill of fear crept down her spine, but she didnâ€™t know
what had scared her, why she suddenly had a sense of dĂ©jĂ
vu that clenched her tight and terrified her.
â€śGet to the car,â€ť Donnell said, turning her and pulling her
to the Toyota next to the dumpster.
â€śWhatâ€™s going on?â€ť
A soundâ€”like a hundred nails running down a chalkboard, like
a thousand knives scraping china, like millions of screams
that went on unendingâ€”ripped through the oppressive quiet.
The blistering cacophony surrounded them, an invisible wall
that herded them into shadow and gloom.
â€śDad, what is that?â€ť she asked, gripping his hand, feeling
the tremors coursing through his body. That tangible
evidence of his alarm escalated her own. Her dad had
weakened with illness, but remained one of the bravest men
sheâ€™d ever known.
He tried to pull her toward the car, but the air felt
strangely gelatinous, a membrane holding them captive in the
small space they filled. Beyond the unseen barrier, the
everyday world faded until there was only dusky night alive
with that terrible sound. Shealy clapped her hands over her
ears and so did Donnell, both of them turning in place,
searching for an exit. Seeking an explanation.
Beneath her feet the asphalt began to rumble and shake.
Pieces of the parking lot cracked, spidering like a
shattered windshield. Was it an earthquake? A car alarm
joined the melee, as if in response to her panicked
thoughts. She grasped at a perverse sense of comfort the
explanation brought. Earthquakes were real. Shadows that
hemmed people in werenâ€™t.
But even as she thought it the darkness to her left split
down the middle, like a huge piece of velvet ripped in two.
She heard the sound of it tearing, felt her breath seize in
her chest as she watched the fissure grow. Felt again that
unfathomable sense of dĂ©jĂ vu. Through the rent in the
night, she saw a rock and shale wall shooting straight up
and perpendicular to the earth. At its base there was a
huge stone plateau and on it stood a man and teenage boy.
Mouth dry, Shealy saw the man suddenly look up, his golden
brown eyes wide with shock. For an instant they stared at
one another, Shealy and this man, and she felt the touch of
that glance like she did the heat, the fear.
A queer sense of recognition staggered her.
There was no way sheâ€™d met this man before and then
forgotten him. No possible way. He stood well over six
feet, perhaps even six-five. Tall and muscular, so
perfectly sculpted the Greeks might have used him as the
model of Atlas, holding the world on his shoulders. A wound
seeped blood into the fabric of his open shirt and
splattered the burnished skin of his tight massive chest and
muscular abdomen, but he stood tall and strong. And those
eyes...those incredible eyes....
Who was he? Where was he?
Donnell muttered something that sounded like Tier
Nawn and squeezed her hand tightly. She jerked her gaze
from the man to her dad, saw the anger and . . .
recognition in his face.
Sheâ€™d barely had time to process that not only did Donnell
see the man, but he recognized him too, when a second
section of darkness shredded to her right and through the
gaping hole she saw another man, standing alone in a white
room that gleamed with marble. Like a photonegative of the
dark and powerful warrior to her left, this one had pale
skin with blue eyes that blazed with rage
â€śFeck,â€ť her father shouted and tried to put Shealy behind
him, but the world shuddered violently and nearly knocking
them off their feet. As if looking through windows, the two
men caught sight of one another and the reaction was
The one with the golden-brown eyes lunged forward, exploding
from the gash in the darkness like a demon. The pale man
moved only seconds slower. In a heartbeat they stood in the
swirling circle of confusion with Shealy and her dad trapped
in the middle between them.
The blond man made a grab for Shealy, but her father blocked
it. Enraged, he struck Donnell hard in the face, making him
stagger back. Shealyâ€™s screams joined the chaos as she
tried to get around her father and stop his attacker. Her
dad was not as strong as he used to beâ€”illness had withered
away much of the brawn that heâ€™d once worn so easily. But
he seemed determined to keep her safe.
The pale man came at them again, but the dark one with the
luminous golden eyesâ€”the one her dad had called Tier
Nawnâ€”shoved the other man back, shouting something at
him that Shealy couldnâ€™t understand. It felt like the world
exploded, imploded, ripping free of its moorings.
Everything began to spin.
The ruptures in the darkness shrank, that gummy membrane
surrounding them grew tighter, pinning them. And yet, the
pale man strode forward easily, intent on Shealy. She
didnâ€™t know why, didnâ€™t know how to evade him when the very
air had become an enemy imprisoning her. What, in Godâ€™s
name, did he want?
Her father tried to stop him but he gave Donnell a hard blow
that sent him sprawling at her feet. She was still
screaming, but she couldnâ€™t even hear her own voice over the
roaring coming from beneath her feet, overhead, all around.
His fingers reached for her throat and in his eyes she saw
And then the other man slammed into them both, knocking the
pale man away and falling on top of Shealy.
All the breath left her body as he crushed her beneath him.
Her head hit hard against the asphalt. She saw stars,
bright bursts of color, then black on black nothingness.
â€śWho?â€ť she tried to ask. Who are you?
But the viscous cocoon caved in around them and Shealy felt
a great suction pulling her. She cried out for her father,
heard the echo of his voice as he shouted her name. She
turned her head, saw him prone beside her, managed to get
her hand out and touch her fingers to his just as the pale
man, relentless and determined, crawled over Donnellâ€™s inert
body to reach her. But in the same instant, a force she
couldnâ€™t comprehend hauled her toward that great tear in the
darkness, to that rocky cliff sheâ€™d glimpsed earlier.
The suctioning pressure grew until it felt like it would
crush her, collapse the cage of her ribs, and compress her
skull leaving her nothing more than flattened goo on the
sizzling parking lot. The man on top of her tried to ease
his weight, pushing up with massive arms. He was enormous,
his muscles so sculpted they looked illusory. But the
weight of him added to that grinding pressure left her in no
doubt that every single inch of him was real. He had dirt
smudged on his face, a bloody cut on his collarbone, and
eyes that burned like whiskey. He stared into her face as
if he might find answers there. If she hadnâ€™t been so
scared, she might have saved him the trouble. Shealy
Oâ€™Leary didnâ€™t have any answers.
Still he probed, grimacing as the air compressed,
excruciating and unyielding. She stared into his eyes,
feeling his ragged breath fan her face, the tremble of his
arms as he fought an unwinnable battle with the agonizing
Who was this man?
The force bore down on them both and she clenched her eyes
tight, knowing sheâ€™d probably never find out the answer
because whatever was happening to her would likely going to
kill them both. The man fought the weight of it but his
arms finally gave and he collapsed. His body covered her
from head to toe, their faces side by side, his breath now a
hot burst against her ear. The shrieking sounds rose to a
crescendo and then suddenly it felt as if theyâ€™d punched
through the crust of asphalt and were falling. . . .