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Into the Mist

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Excerpt © 2005 Elizabeth Sinclair

PROLOGUE

A gauzy mist swirls around her. It cloaks her in a smothering, ethereal blanket. She gasps for air. It smells earthy, like the thirsty desert sands after a torrential rain. She spins away into another wall of white nothingness. The mist thickens, robs her of all sense of direction, pulls her ever deeper into the milky haze. Panic paralyzes her. She opens her mouth to call out. No sound emerges. The mist thickens. Her panic becomes palatable, breathing more difficult.

Suddenly, as if an unseen force has taken charge, the mist parts. Fearing it will close and trap her again, she runs through the opening, unseeing, uncaring about what waits on the other side. She knows only that she must escape the suffocating, white fog.

As she adjusts her eyes to the glaring brightness, a strange scene takes form. A withered old Navajo sits cross-legged before a boarded-up hogan; a twisted mesquite stump to his right resembles a snake coiled to strike. His ancient, leathery face bears the evidence of many summers spent beneath the hot, desert sun. Observing her closely through large, owl-like eyes, he measures her approach. That sharp, brown-eyed gaze, brimming with the wisdom of his years, never wavers from her.

With a sharp wave of his gnarled hand, he motions for her to join him on the ground. Welcome serenity replaces her panic. She obeys.

From beside him, the old Navajo picks up a small, leather pouch, then taking her hand, dumps the contents into her palm. She stares down at a silver chain coiled around a rainbow pendant. With her fingertip, she nudges the chain aside to better see the pendant. Inlayed with bands of turquoise, abalone, jet, and white shell, the rainbow’s arches catch the sunlight and glitter, as though alive.

His guttural voice, crusty and angry, comes from inside her head. “Sa?ah naghai bikeh.”

The pendant suddenly takes on an eerie luminescence, and with it, comes heat that intensifies steadily until it burns her palm. She cries out, but the sound is only in her mind. Dropping the necklace, she looks to the old man for an explanation. He’s vanished and so has the necklace.

In his place stands another man, younger, his muscular body untouched by time. His features, concealed in shadow behind a swath of dark hair, need not be illuminated for her to know his identity. As familiar to her as her own mirrored reflection, they live in her dreams nightly and reflect from her son’s face daily.

Hair, dark as a desert night. High cheekbones carved out by shadows. Eyes, dark and mysterious, haloed in amber, luminous, haunting, judging, accusing. And his mouth . . . Lord, his mouth. The mouth that loved her to the heights of passion and took her to worlds far beyond earthly reaches. His lips turn up slightly, as if reading her thoughts and finding amusement in her reaction.

A phantom breeze picks up his long, black hair from his broad shoulders and whips it away from his face. Light bounces off the contours of his coppery skin. He towers like a giant oak, strong, immovable, silent—always silent.

Radiating ferocity as strong as the foreboding prediction of a storm’s onslaught, he beckons, drawing her with his powerful magnetism. She reaches for him, the need to touch overriding all else, compelling her as surely as her need for her next breath.

Then he vanishes. The fog closes in again, swirling, suffocating, threatening. The panic returns.

###

Laura Kincaid bolted upright in her bed, choking and clutching at her throat. A soft, early, summer breeze laden with the fragrance of the rain-soaked Arizona desert blew through the open bedroom window. The air currents played with the white, organdy curtains, encouraging them to writhe in a mocking, ghostly dance, a twin to the mist of her nightmare.

She tore her gaze away and dragged deep breaths into her starving lungs. Finally able to breathe easily again, she fell back against the pillows, exhausted.

Rolling to her side, she checked the glowing face of her bedside clock. Four am. Trying to shrug off the nightmare as the byproduct of her late-night, fast-food supper the evening before, she snuggled deep into the warm folds of her blankets.

But the panic she’d experienced in the dream remained with her. Even though she didn’t understand them, the harsh, angry words of the old Navajo settled heavily on her soul, chilling her to the bone. As hard as she tried to dismiss their dire tones and make the excuse that some gastro-connected upset had caused her to dream about the old Indian, it still sent chills down her spine.

Not surprisingly, she found the appearance of the younger man, the man she’d walked out on eight years ago, the man who had haunted her dreams many times before last night, even more upsetting.

 

   
 

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