Heat Level: 3 Flames
Carly Anders is hearing voices in her head. Another one of her kind is trying to contact her. She knows of the malevolent freaks—others who are eternal like her and seek out the weak to inflict pain upon. For years, Carly has held up huge protective walls to keep herself and her secrets safe. Now, physically and mentally exhausted, Carly needs protection and rest.
She accepts the invitation to visit an internet friend who needs help appraising a collection of antique photographs. The situation is not ideal, but Carly hopes a male presence in her life will deter the determined suitor who haunts her thoughts and dreams.
Daniel Tremont is not what Carly is expecting.
The former funeral director has a secret of his own. Not only is he eternal like Carly, he is her creation from all those years before—her abomination she thought she killed. Daniel has been searching for Carly for years. He knows she is the piece of his life that he has been missing for so long. Now that he has found her, he has no intentions of letting her go.
Today wasn’t a typical day.
As Charlotte Hopkins exited the general store clutching a bag of sweets, the thick, acrid smell of smoke masked the typically fresh, sweet air of springtime. A crowd formed in the town center. Women and men alike coughed or covered their nose and mouth with sleeve or handkerchief. A sudden blaze at the lumber mill had erupted, a fierce fireball that had consumed everything and everyone in its path.
Charlotte needed to get home. Her father would need her.
Her father owned the only funeral parlor in town, and Charlotte loved to assist him with the whole theatre that was a funeral. She had no fear of death; after all, her whole life still lay before her.
Her mother preferred that she married an Undertaker, not became one. A woman’s place in the funeral business was behind the scenes, not causing them. A woman’s pride should radiate from assisting her husband to be a success by seeing to his needs, cooking his meals, and attending to the home, and eventually, the children. Women were to be seen and not heard from. Instead, they were to serve tea and biscuits to the bereaved.
But it was 1896, no longer the Dark Ages. Charlotte wanted to be seen and heard. Not smile politely while she served tea.
Charlotte knew she was destined for greater things in life. She always knew she was special, and it wasn’t just because her family said so. It was more a feeling deep down inside her. Something secretive and miraculous, but still unexplainable.
It stemmed from an incident on her fourth birthday when she some how fell into a pond behind the family home. Now thirteen years later, her parents denied the accident ever happened, and her older sister was forbidden to speak of it. There was the gossip regarding the flame haired woman who was somehow involved. It was nothing more than a malicious rumor, her mother insisted.
But Charlotte knew the truth. She had cheated death, and in doing so, this had made her stronger, somehow braver.
She rushed to the funeral parlor, but all was quiet.
“Father?” she called out. But her father was nowhere to be found. She hurried to his preparation room, but he was not there. It seemed the town folk had exaggerated a bit, there was only one body. One unfortunate soul who had perished in a most heinous way.
Charlotte was accustomed to all the putrid scents associated with death. But today, she was assailed by a new smell—burnt flesh.
She bit back the vomit that collected at the base of her throat and approached the embalming table where a newly deceased corpse lay.
The corpse was almost unrecognizable with red and blackened skin which had burned, blistered, and peeled away exposing charred bone in some places. Heat still rose from the body. His eyes open and lifeless, their color destroyed by smoke and flame. Even in this state, Charlotte could tell he was just a boy, not much older than her own seventeen years.
She didn’t know him. A lot of transient men wandered in and out of the lumber mill. Some stayed a few months, others just a few days before moving on. If no family claimed this boy, her father’s generosity would provide him a pine box and an unmarked grave.
A wave of sadness enveloped her. No one should die until they were very old, she decided. This boy had barely begun his life; it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right. If she had been spared death, why shouldn’t he be as well?
Charlotte closed her eyes and held her two now quivering hands above his lifeless body. “You shall live again. Rise.” she whispered from a force that came from an unknown place deep inside herself. Her body vibrated and a heat rushed through her chest and exited her fingertips with a strike of electricity that nearly knocked her off her feet.
When she opened her eyes, she wasn’t sure how much time had passed. She stared down at her fingertips that still emanated heat. A feeling of what could only be described as a quiet sense of power welled inside her. Whatever she had become that afternoon thirteen years earlier had reached its fruition.
The boy still lay on the table before her, but something had changed. His chest was now moving with shallow breaths, and a raspy sound came from his throat. An unconscious smile crossed her lips. So there was the answer to the question that had perplexed her for so many years. She had the power within her to raise the dead.
She stared, almost hypnotized, as his fingers uncurled from their death grip. The rasp from his throat now changed into a sickly gurgle, and bloody foam bubbled from his mouth. The first prick of fear mingled with the inexplicable needle of guilt that sobered her. What had she done?
The now living corpse began to thrash on the table and kick his feet. His arms looped in circles, and fingers grasped at nothingness. He was still burning, she realized. Panic now overtook fear. She knew she should run, but her feet remained rooted to the floor.
His body jerked without control until he flung himself off the table and landed with a thud at her feet. Like a lucid dream, she stared in silence at the abomination she had created.
Garbled sounds came from his bloody mouth, and she dropped to her knees before him. He was trying to speak. Even though her teeth chattered inside her head from fear, she bent down closer to him, her face only mere inches from what was left of his.
The words ground out from between clenched teeth, but she couldn’t understand him at first. But then inside her mind, she could clearly comprehend the words, “Kill me”. He repeated the same command; “kill me” over and over again like a morbid chant that filled her head.
Finally, when she was sure her head would explode, she staggered to her feet and grabbed a short, double sided blade from her father’s box of embalming tools.
Falling once again from her knees, she held the blade a foot from his chest and mumbled, “Our Father, who art in heaven...” Tears now blinded her. She quieted. There was no point in praying now, she realized. She had created him, she must destroy him. They were both damned to hell.
His hands reached up and seized her wrists, and tried to pull the knife to him. She threw her arms apart, and knocked his hands from her wrists. Arching her back, she came down she came down with all of her body weight and plunged the blade into his chest, hitting bone.
His torso shot up, propelling him into a sitting position, and knocked Charlotte on top of him. The blade slipped from her grasp and sliced her palm as it left her hand and skidded across the floor.
As she struggled to move off of him, his arms locked around her waist. But he was still weak, and she fought him off and somehow managed to get to her feet. Her own blood was coursing from the gaping wound in her hand.
Now to her horror, he was on his knees.
She pressed her palm to her belly to stem the flow of blood and searched in vain for the blade. She had to finish him off before he gained strength.
He was now on his feet, coming toward her in a morbid shuffle. There was no time now. She had to get out, leave town. When her father came home and saw the blood, the mess, and the reanimated corpse, he would know she is pure evil. The town folk will brand her a witch, and they would surely burn her along with her abomination, forever entwining their souls together. But as Charlotte fled the funeral parlor through the back door, a fleeting thought entered her brain, Weren’t their two souls now already entwined?
Grasping her skirt with her bloody hand, she ran as fast as feet would carry her. Through the woods, across a stream, she continued without hesitation. She never looked back. She could never return. She would never see her family again.
Safely away from the town, her pace slowed to a crawl. Her head was dizzy and sick. Her cut hand throbbed without mercy, the blood had slowed down to trickle. She had no idea where she was or how far she had travelled. She had almost no money. A few coins, and the bag of sweets she had bought earlier in the day.
As day turned to dusk, she continued to wander away from any civilization. Finally, she spotted a small house in the distance. A sliver of light was visible from the outside. Perhaps the homeowner would be kind enough to give her a drink of water from his well.
How did this happen, she wondered with misery as she wiped away a fine sheen of sweat from her forehead and made her way to the desolate house. One moment her life had been close to perfect, the next she had discovered to her horror that she was the devil’s spawn, and had to forever flee the life she knew.
Through what could only be a divine miracle, she arrived at the house and used her uninjured hand to rap on the door. After a few minutes, the door opened. A blond man stood before her. Her vision blurred and his features swam. He spoke, but it might have been a foreign language for all she knew. Finally, blackness overcame her and she fell forward into his arms.
When she awoke, Charlotte had no idea where she was or how she got there. In the glow of the candlelight, she saw the blond, handsome stranger as he patted her forehead with a cool, damp cloth. “Don’t worry,” he whispered. “You’re safe now.”
5 Stars, Night Owl Reviews Top Pick!
"SEE ME is a cleverly written paranormal romance novella flavored with a bit of horror. We meet Carly and Daniel, who are both eternal and searching for the missing pieces in their life. The reader is not bogged down with tons of fancifully written backstory, but introduced via a love story to two people who through no real fault of their own cannot die and are just struggling to get along with a never ending future. Emotionally driven, we feel their pain, we see their struggle, we elate in their happiness. The beauty of this story is its simplicity. When simple is done right it is beautiful, and SEE ME is beautiful. The quintessential paranormal romance".-CateyBlair, Night Owl Reviews