Dark Angel: A Gothic Fairy Tale
 

© TJ Bennett

 

[Excerpt]

Sand. Wet and gritty beneath my cheek, between my fingers. My lungs seizing.

I need air.

Twilight was bleeding into the darker black of night. Shouting in the distance made me turn my head. It pounded ruthlessly, bringing on an almost overwhelming nausea. Fighting it back, I blinked hard. A rush of wind rose above the sound of the waves and a shadow passed over me.

I tried to follow the shadow with my eyes. The mist parted, and for a moment, I saw something move along the edge of the shoreline: a sleek, powerful beast, its fur black as midnight, its pale gaze fixed on me, its enormous body swaying as it stalked closer.

Fear possessed me, made me dimwitted with terror. My vision wavered again, and a dark form loomed over me. I tried to scream, certain the beast was about to lunge for me, but my lungs would not draw breath. I turned to face it, but the creature was gone. Instead, a man was there, reaching for me, his large hands clasping mine and pulling me just beyond the waterline and up onto the beach.

I have you,” he shouted.

He hung over me, sheltering me from the biting wind. Intense eyes beneath a slash of dark brows stared down at me from a lean, striking face—a face hewn out of wilderness and shadows, more frightening than beautiful, and yet somehow both.

I closed my eyes.

It did not matter who he was. I was safe.

“How in bloody hell are you here?” The deep voice above me sounded utterly perplexed. “How the devil did you accomplish it?”

I coughed out more water and said the only thing that came to mind. “Please do not—swear at me, sir.” A spasm of pain seized me, and I flinched.

“Well,” said the bemused voice. “You’ve spirit, at least. Good. You will need it.”

My tenacious grip on consciousness loosened, and I fought to retain it. I looked up at him with a sense of urgency pushing me on. I had to warn him. “A wild animal…I think—it might attack…”

His unblinking gaze reminded me of the creature’s fixed stare. “There was no animal when I arrived. You must have imagined it in your distress.”

“But—”

“I must move you,” he said. “Be brave.”

He lifted me and I cried out, my side screaming in agony.

He shifted me in his arms, tucking my head beneath his chin, warming me with his body heat.

Memories assailed me of the captain’s terrified face, of the futile push of oars against a raging sea, of bodies tumbling past mine in the water, of someone reaching out, capturing my hands, dragging me to the surface—

I struggled to lift my head and battle back the darkness long enough to ask him about my fellow passengers. My throat was raw with the seawater I had swallowed. I forced my head up. “Did you…save the others?”

He paused in midstride, then resumed walking. I heard the great weariness in his voice when he spoke again.

“There are no others.”

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