I write romantic fantasy. Such stories require a suspension of disbelief, as do so many Christmas tales. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy my humble offering.
Chapter 3 (excerpt)
[Meg has decided it is time to move on, to run again and try to escape her terrible memories. she goes back to the fogou one last time hoping to see its mysterious resident.]
Meg’s car drove itself to the fogou. She sat outside waiting, not sure what she should do.
She didn’t have to wait long. Man and horse startled her when they swam up from the dark entrance like a dolphin breaking the surface of the sea. As soon as he saw her he pushed off his hood and visited her with a smile that turned her brain into melted chocolate. She knew she should be scared or at least careful, but his appearance was so disarming that her common sense gave up the battle without a fight.
She got out of the car and went to meet him. Heat flushed her whole body when he took her hand and kissed it, so old-fashioned and gallant that she would have doubted its sincerity from anyone else. He continued to hold her hand as they began their walk across the plains.
Still he did not speak.
As she relaxed, she became intensely aware of the life around her. She breathed deeply of the sea air and licked its salt off her lips. Gulls flew overhead, their cries plaintive and haunting. Tall grasses waved in the ocean breeze, and the air was tinged with a crisp fall chill. The sun was warm on her face, and she closed her eyes, trusting him to lead her with sure steps. She did not open her eyes until they stopped.
He had brought her to a scattered group of boulders where they could sit and look out at a lighthouse on its distant craggy cliff. The day was so clear and the sea so calm that it did not need to sound its foghorn, but she saw that the bright light still kept its steady pace, warning seamen of the rocky shore below.
She was watching the lighthouse, but he was watching her. She could feel the intensity of his gaze as though it was actually, physically touching her, reading the feelings of her heart and thoughts of her mind.
“You are leaving.” It was the husky, soothing sound she had been longing to hear.
“Yes,” she answered.
“I have to.”
He stood up silently, took her hand, and led her away from the rocks to the place where the horse was grazing contentedly. As they neared, the animal raised its head. Immediately it shifted into a ready stance as its master climbed on.
“Good-bye,” she said sadly.
He reached down to her, his sad expression reflecting her own. She took his hand and pressed it.
In one fell swoop, he pulled her up behind him and took off.
The landscape was a blur as they flew through it, the horse’s hooves barely touching the ground. She found it difficult to focus, but one clear thought swam up into her mind. They were headed for the fogou.
Terrified, she saw the dark opening ahead, and knew that this time they were not going to stop gently inside. This was what she had been expecting. This was the true event she knew she deserved. He had waited until no one would be looking for her and stolen her away, going she knew not where to a fate she could only guess.
She held tightly to the body of her kidnapper. They barreled in and toward the rear without any change in speed. She braced herself for impact, but they passed through the solid rock wall without a micro-second’s hesitation. The passage on the other side was the blackest darkness she had ever known. Though she could not see, she cowered from the low ceiling and walls that were so close they touched the ends of the hairs standing up on her arms. Horse and rider raced on with absolute confidence, as though they could either see in the dark or knew the tunnel so well that they had no fear of a misstep.
She wondered if the beautiful, angelic face of her kidnapper had transformed into the grotesque visage of a hellish demon. Where was he taking her? Would she ever see light again? Was this her punishment for her crime? For weeks she had felt with melancholy self-loathing that she would burn in hell for what she had done, but now that the possibility was real, she changed her mind.
Of course, it was far more likely that he was merely a man, a stalker who had been watching for his chance and grabbed her to rape senseless before he murdered her and left her dismembered body where no one could ever find it. Her parents would never know what had happened to her. Would her co-workers and former friends, so viciously angry when she left them, have wished this end for her? Would they assume she had run away and be angrier, cursing her to the end she was about to face? Would they be worried, eventually remembering what they had once meant to each other and shared? In the darkness, in the frenzied movement of the rushing horse, in the midst of her terror and dread, her tears fell on the back of her captor for all that she had lost and would never know again.
Was it that in her terror time stretched out into eternity, or did they truly ride for hours in the darkness before she saw a light at the end of the tunnel? Instead of relief she wished for the darkness. This would be the place of her torture and murder, of unthinkable degradation, pain and horror. She wondered how she would handle the agony. Would she plead for mercy, offering to do anything he wanted so that he wouldn’t kill her? Would she beg for death in the face of hours of torture and pain?
They burst through the opening and into the light. The horse immediately slowed and calmed, and the man in front of her relaxed. He threw his leg over and slid off the horse, then reached up to lift her down next to him. She saw that it was the same beautiful face with its kind green eyes that she had come to know. He did not look like a man who intended to kill her in the most horrible way possible. Her legs buckled, and he steadied her as he led her toward a nearby house.
When her eyes adjusted to the light, she saw that they had come to an English village not unlike the one she had left behind. The cottages and shops were all lit invitingly in the advancing twilight, though it had been morning when they began their mad dash from the sea. She shivered in the colder air, and he put his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close as they walked.
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