How far would you go to redeem yourself?
As a young girl, Lucinda was able to see spirits, a gift that didn't come without its problems. Now, a dedicated young veterinarian, she is committed to the idea that every life can be saved.
After a devastating accident, Lucinda tries to escape her past by moving to a small town. There, she meets a newcomer and feels an immediate connection with him. But there is another mysterious stranger to the small town, one that stirs within her a mixture of unease and desire.
As Lucinda is drawn into a bitter tug-a-war from the forces around her, she is likewise pulled into a dangerous twist of past and present events. Forced to make difficult choices, she finds that the two men are locked in not only a battle for her life...but a battle for their salvation.
Lucinda rode her bicycle home, heeding a sudden pull to take an alternate route. The wind scraped her cheeks as she rode on, lost in thought. Past the edge of town, she hit fields and found herself veering down a dirt foot path which led toward an old church. Crows took off from the surrounding fields, complaining loudly of the intrusion.
The one-room church stood alone. White-washed and peeling, the building was flanked by a small, forgotten graveyard. A single tree reached out with dead branches, sheltering the gravestones from the light. Circling the graveyard was a rusted, wrought-iron fence. The gate sagged on its hinges and squeaked quietly in the breeze.
Leaning the bicycle against the graveyard fence, Lucinda walked up the church’s rickety, wooden steps and checked the rusty door knob. Finding the door to be open, she walked in. The door shut quietly behind her, shrouding the room in silence.
From the corners of her eyes, Lucinda saw spirits scatter.
Walking slowly down the middle aisle, she passed the wooden pews, one by one. Stained-glass windows stared down like eyes over the pulpit. Ablaze with the light from the setting sun, the windows cast shades of scarlet and crimson across her skin.
As a child, Lucinda had attended church with her parents. Every Sunday, they had gone out of a sense of routine or faith — she wasn’t sure which. It was a routine that she hadn’t continued. Any remnants of her faith had died after the accident.
Movement continued in her peripheral vision. It was only a matter of time before they would grow insistent. Lucinda sat in the front pew, hands clenched into fists. The only sounds she heard were her breath and heartbeat, counting out the mortal seconds. She sat in the stillness, ignoring the activity around her. She had no idea how much time had passed before she finally stood to leave.
Once outside, Lucinda saw that twilight had fallen over the area. Still lost in thought, she walked over to her bicycle and placed her hands upon the cold handlebars. She had entered the church to do some- thing — something she felt was important. Had she done it? In her heart, she felt unsure.
An almost inaudible sigh broke the silence. Startled from her reverie, Lucinda was surprised to see a dark form standing in the graveyard, head bowed.
Cronan looked up. His face seemed to be contorted in grief. As she walked through the gate and into the graveyard, she realized she must have imagined it. The mocking smile was there, as usual.
“Fancy you here.”
“My friend is in the hospital. I came here…” She looked away, uncertain.
She let her gaze wander over to the forgotten church.
“Did it help?”
Lucinda frowned. “What are you doing here?”
“I am here — ” he paused as he ran a hand along the top of a head- stone “ — to visit the dead, of course.”
Lucinda narrowed her eyes at him in disbelief.
Cronan returned her look, unflinching. His dark coat stood in stark contrast against his pale skin. “Was your friend hurt badly?”
“Yes, she was. Is. I’m worried about her.” She took in the gravestones and shuddered. “She was in a car accident.”
A chilly breeze blew through the clearing, causing Cronan’s coat to flap behind him like dark wings. The breeze pushed the dead, wet leaves aside that had collected between the headstones. Crows cawed in the distance.
“Can I ask you a question?”
He raised an eyebrow.
Lucinda hesitated. “My friend. Marny. The one in the hospital. She said she heard whispering before she crashed. She was the only one in the car. What do you think about that?”
“I think that if she heard whispering, then that is what she heard.” He studied her thoughtfully. “There are many things in the world we do not understand. That does not mean they do not exist.” He took a step toward her and took her hands, intertwining his fingers within hers as if in prayer. “Is that not what faith is based upon?”
She shivered involuntarily and pulled away, dropping her gaze to the ground. “Can I ask you another question?”
“You saw that woman on the cliff.”
Lucinda nodded wordlessly.
“As I said, there are many things in this world that we do not understand.”
She turned away from him, pondering the faces of the headstones reflecting the dying light. The names had long-ago been weathered and forgotten. “I know what I see. I don’t know what I believe.” She sighed. “I mean, I always thought it was just me.”
“That sees them. I usually only see people I’ve known. Or animals. I don’t know why I see that woman on the cliff.”
Cronan moved in closer behind her. “Death exists whether people see it or not,” he murmured.
“I understand that. And I know that some spirits — ” the words caught in her throat “ — get stuck. Like in churches, and graveyards. They seem so empty.”
“Ah, that is where you are mistaken. They are not empty. They are full.”
She turned to him. “Full?” She stepped back, putting some space between them.
“Yes,” Cronan replied. “Full of rage, fear, confusion, loneliness.”
“Loneli — nobody wants to feel those things, Cronan.” Lucinda frowned. “Especially after you’re — ”
“Yes.” She was quiet for a moment, listening to the wind blowing across the fields. Her thoughts wandered. Looking up, she was startled to see him scrutinizing her. Lucinda flushed. “I have to go.”
Pushing past him, she exited the graveyard and made a grab for her bicycle. A small rustle off to her side caught her attention. “Oh!” Lucinda bent down. Naked and helpless, a baby brush rabbit lay in a cluster of grass. Its eyes were closed and its breathing labored.
Cronan peered over the fence. “Nature’s plan. I am sure the crows will take care of it.”
Lucinda looked up at him, shocked. “That’s a terrible thing to say, Cronan!” She ran her hands over the baby rabbit. “It looks like a cat got him or something. Teeth marks here and on the other side. He’s cold.” She picked the rabbit up carefully.
Cronan studied her quietly, running his thumb along one of the wrought iron spikes that topped the graveyard fence.
She looked across the silent fields. “We must have scared it off, what- ever it was.”
“And now it waits for its prize.” Ignoring him, she cradled the rabbit in her hands, trying to warm it.
“All life depends on death. It is hopeless, Lucinda.” His eyes flickered over her. “It will die.”
“I’m not letting that happen, Cronan,” Lucinda replied firmly. She unbuttoned her coat and rolled the baby rabbit up in the bottom of her T-shirt. “Everything can be saved.”
“Everything?” Cronan replied solemnly. “I have my doubts about that.”
“Well I don’t.” She set her jaw stubbornly. “I’m taking him back to the hospital. I can save him.” She carefully buttoned her coat and took her bicycle by the handlebars.
Cronan watched as she walked with determination across the empty fields. As he watched her, his hands gripped the iron fence, emotions warring within him.
*Second place in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll 2012
*Paranormal Reads give BETWEEN 4 out of 5 Bats
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