The dark fog rolled over Nina, its icy sensation slicing into her bones. Her ankles shuddered in pain, her toes curled and the soles of her shoes lost traction as an oily residue slipped over the grass beneath her feet. The lawn became too slick for balance, and she slid, arms wheeling, desperately trying to remain upright.
Clawed hands rose from the black tar covering the grass. Phantom fingers grabbed her ankles and jerked her off her feet. Nina hit the ground hard enough to lose her breath, and the fog was on her instantly, completely suffocating her with a frigid sense of evil.
A groan ripped from her throat. The psychic pressure of unimaginable eons threatened to crush her ribs. Pain swept over her skull and buried shards of twisted emotions deep into her psyche. Anger, hatred, lust and fear.
Gaining enough oxygen to gasp, Nina spat, “You don’t scare me.”
Cold fingers clutched at her legs and dragged her across the lawn. She grappled with the slippery grass, searching for purchase, but she found none. Her fingers speared into the dirt, but the crumbling soil gave way beneath the entity’s pull, tearing at her nails and pushing garden debris beneath them until her fingertips felt as if they were being impaled.
“No! I will not be your sacrifice!”
Panic was another voice in Nina’s skull. Wordless and incoherent, it screamed mindlessly as she was towed through the garden toward the laughing shadow figure. The closer she came to it, the louder the panic screeched, until she couldn’t even catch a single thought of her own.
But she was flooded with thoughts from the entity.
Not every scream in her head was hers—the Marsden ancestors were displayed in all their gory tragedy. Nina’s brain flickered with mental images of broken bodies, shattered skulls, and garlands made of entrails, macabre decorations for the paving stones and bushes. Life ebbed from the corpses littering the ground, but their spirits rose up—only to be consumed by the shadow.
“Cannibalizing them,” she croaked. “But you took energy in a variety of ways, didn’t you?”
The figure had grown, strengthening in leaps and bounds from the deaths it provoked. Falling was its favorite, and Nina’s brain convinced her that she’d been dropped—the vision so real she felt the wind rushing over her face. So many fell. The act produced so much emotion the creature could feast, and inspired such a sense of freedom that it came close to feeling joy.
But the shadow figure preferred its victims to live. The living gave more than the dead, able to feed the beast for an entire lifespan, especially the Marsdens, sunk as they were in darkness and despair.
Sharp sticks and stones dug into Nina’s hips and chin. “You strung the women along for years. They were the strongest, weren’t they?”
The unforgiving grip on her ankles went beyond cruel. The shadow drew her closer in rough jerks, unimpressed that Nina struggled so hard to crawl away, uncaring that its history infected her mind. More images slammed into her, growing stronger with proximity.
Nina’s spine went rigid. Scenes of rape, torture, incest, and murder flipped through her head like faded photos in a fast-forwarding slideshow. Emotions surged over her, lashing her, bringing physical agony as her muscles cramped and her skin split in narrow furrows.
Nina lost touch with reality for countless moments. Her body convulsed.
Inside and outside—the two entities worked together. The weakest of the living were culled and the useless destroyed for a great rush of energy, but the strong were savored. Marsden women were born with gifts that seemed more like curses, and pieces of their souls and sanity were stolen over years, decades and generations. They were slowly consumed.
Pain scored Nina’s skin, cutting off the vile images. Still convulsing, she forced her eyes open. Shock spun through her, her heart stopped beating. Even as the creature before her came into focus—a sight she’d never wanted to see again—claws raked over her body.
“Oh, God.” A prayer, as absoluter terror filled her.
The beast was etched into her memory for all time. Broad, heavily muscled shoulders and legs shorter than they should be, though it towered over her, a dark thing of misshapen proportion. One moment it could look angelic, the next a chimera from the depths of hell. It could touch her gently, but had taught her pain. Dragging its claws over her hips, it ripped past the fabric of her jeans and drew blood. So familiar. New scars were painted between the old, faded ones and Nina recognized the feel of its taint.
Lust slammed into her pussy as her body remembered.
She’d been trained too well.
Nina screamed hoarsely, her only fear made manifest before her. In the back of her mind, she knew it wasn’t right, but terror blotted out all rationality. She kicked, dislodging one phantom shackle from her leg. Bucking until the claws at her hips slid from her body, she twisted onto her back. The grass slipped against her skin and greasy residue coated her hair until it matted with her struggles.
Courage flickered into life, a hot ball in her chest, but faltered under a withering wave of emotion. Anger, terror and lust rioted within her head. The figure grew, strengthened and darkened until Nina closed her eyes—but its form had been plucked from the depths of her memory, and there was no escape from the fear it brought.
Michael’s pounding footsteps seemed to shake the ground. New terror filled her. Eyes flying wide, Nina struggled harder, desperate to gain her freedom before Michael could reach her. As a Marsden, he was much too vulnerable to the shadow figure’s influence.
She spun until she feared her leg would break. Her muscles burned as if they were being ripped in two, with streaks of agony crossing her upper thigh to bite into her hip. Nina clawed the ground, using her tenuous hold on the earth to dislodge her other leg.
But she was too late. Without hesitation, Michael dove into the fray. The entity screamed with laughter and a single glance at her would-be hero’s focused eyes told Nina that Michael knew exactly where the shadow figure was. He could see it, and her instincts told her that was a truly terrible thing.
The only Marsden men who could see the evil were the ones who went mad. Michael was growing closer to the curse that had claimed his family, the blood ties he held to the past roaring to the forefront.
The demonic form from Nina’s memory vanished. The shadow figure appeared in its place, weaving and dancing over the slippery lawn as Michael spun with it, blinking rapidly as if he couldn’t quite believe his eyes. She wasn’t certain what his goal was when he lurched forward, arms outstretched, but missed the entity by several inches.
“I thought you could see it.” Nina’s voice was barely her own, filled with ragged remnants of fear and hoarse from screaming. She rolled to her knees, lightheaded and numb.
“I can almost—”
“Behind you! Move.”
“—see it.” Michael’s words whooshed from his chest as the entity slammed into his back.
Nina rocketed to her feet. Ignoring the pins-and-needles pain shooting through her calves, she lunged for Michael. The soft material of his shirt slipped through her greasy fingers as his feet slid on the grass. She didn’t have the strength to keep him upright, and he took her to the ground when he fell.
The entity circled them, swiping with claws, whipping them with its foul fog. More desperate than ever, Nina pushed at Michael, urging him back to his feet. He pulled her up with him and made her move without giving her time to find her balance but Nina didn’t care, she was too busy angling him toward the house.
They only made it a few steps Nina was thrown to the ground. Barely able to breathe, she flipped to her back, eyes rolling, searching for Michael. The entity circled him, taunting the living man with spinning speed, but Nina could feel its intent gathering like a storm.
Then she suddenly gained a clear impression of what the entity was waiting for.
Her scream was drowned out by Michael’s as the shadow slammed into his chest. He fell to the ground but immediately bounced to his feet. Awkward, unbalanced, he crouched and blinked. Like on his body, a thick, sticky residue coated his spirit—a substance Nina had only learned to perceive after she’d been covered with it herself so long ago—and she knew the damage had been done.
The entity was inside him.
Michael blinked rapidly, his chest working and his hands clenching. The muscles along his shoulders and arms flickered with tension, then crawled over his bones as if they acted independently of his brain’s commands. Veins popped out on his forehead and neck, winding down in dark, twisting streaks as the skin around them pulsed and throbbed. He threw his head back and snarled. To Nina’s psychic sight, a small aura of darkness burst into life around his body like a sun—if suns could produce pitch black light.
Michael turned to face her. Nerves shrieking and goose bumps rippling over her skin, Nina froze, but the sheer vulnerability of her prone position prodded her into moving. Just as she flinched, Michael’s eyes hardened. Then he was on her.
In spite of the entity’s chill, Michael was hot. Burning. His skin blazed against hers, overwhelming her senses. His hands were hard, scorching a path over her body as he pressed hard enough to hurt, and the pain he gave sent pleasure winging through her. It was a combination Nina had been taught to enjoy.
Fear had her fighting instinctively. Tearing from his hold, she turned onto her stomach. Her knees sank into the soft soil and she used them to push her body forward, sliding along the slick grass. He caught her belt loops and dragged her back. Nina twisted and bucked but perverse pleasure streaked along her nerve endings.
Michael used a touch she remembered from long ago. When she’d been young and stupid. Nina’s mind went blank as she rolled and kicked. Michael dodged and deflected. Every time she managed to gain an inch, he caught her and pulled her back.
And Nina’s body wept—with joy, a sense of homecoming, in memory and pure excitement. She’d never wanted that type of pleasure again, she was too afraid of what she needed, too afraid of the perversion inside her own desires to let someone else see the truth.
Michael’s eyes were uncompromising, sparkling with the evil thing’s lust and amusement, buried beneath the natural arrogance of Michael. He already knew, he’d already seen the truth.
“Please!” she yelled.
Nina held on to the idea that Michael was still in there, somewhere. His fingers could have ripped at her skin and his fists could have landed blows anywhere on her body. She knew the shadow wanted it—the images were pouring into her brain—but somewhere deep inside, Michael’s soul was fighting his possession.
She lunged, but he pushed her back down. His fingers twisted in her shirt, tearing it, shredding it down her spine. Cool night air flowed over her, heightening the terror. Then Michael stroked her skin, and she lost her mind.
Pleasure spread across her muscles. Nina bucked, but he held her down and tore at her pants. His hand worked between them, he wrenched the button right off her jeans and her waistband sagged open.
“Don’t, Michael.” Nina gasped and fought harder.
Memories rose around her like specters from their cold and lonely graves. With the help of the entity, Michael knew exactly how to touch her, exactly how she liked it, exactly how to mix the pleasure with pain. His heat burned her everywhere, his rough touch sparked unwilling excitement, heightened by fear and tinged by the loneliness of the past years.
By the time he pulled her jeans over her ass, Nina’s pussy was gushing. He yanked at her wet thong, snapping the fabric. She found herself lifting against the pressure of his hands, seeking a harder touch. He smacked her, his hand firing her skin and sending a delicious sting radiating over her bottom. Then he gripped her cheeks and spread them apart, exposing her to the night.
He pulled her to her knees and pressed his chest to her spine. His teeth buried themselves in her skin with a delicious sting. Fast, so fast. Nina barely had time to process the pleasure he was heaping on one area of her body before he was at the next. His hands danced from her hips to her shoulders as if he tried to feel every inch of her at the same time.
And his touch was perfect. Exactly what she never wanted. She arched into him as fear caught her and pleasure ripped into her. His hand, slick from the residue coating the grass, pushed against her lower belly. Nina tried to widen her knees, but they were trapped by her jeans.
Michael’s knuckles banged against her spine as he unfastened his pants. Nina felt his cock under her ass, the heated thickness of him lodging between her cheeks as he slid between her legs.
One hand darted up to her breast. Pushing under her shredded shirt he pulled at her bra and caught her nipple. He gripped it tight as it puckered, an agony that had Nina throwing her head back in pleasure, but that opened her to his next touch. Michael sent his other hand skating down to find her clit. His fingers tugged both peaks until she caught fire.
His cock slid inside her pussy. Every muscle in Nina’s body tensed, waiting for his full invasion.
He paused. She lost her mind. Both his hands spasmed on her, as if he were fighting against his impulses, but it was too late for that. Nina had been dragged, kicking and screaming, into her worst nightmare, and she’d be damned if Michael let her go before she was ready.
“Don’t fucking stop now!” she screamed. “Fuck me!”
She pushed back against him, slipping over his cock, grinding her ass against his groin. He slid in the cream he’d forced from her and sank a little deeper. Nina arched, her spine pliable, driving them both on as more honey flowed from her body. Emotion, memory and sensation urged her on until she writhed against his hold, pulses of delicious pain licking over her nipple and clit.
He shoved into her with no finesse but infinite pleasure. After years of vibrators, Nina struggled to relax around his dick. Thick and hot, hard and giving, he thrust deep. She felt every ridge, every stutter in his pulse. He filled her completely.
Beautiful pain spiraled down Nina’s pussy, locking her dripping flesh around him. He pulled from her roughly and sank back in. Heat rose up her spine and everything tightened—his fingers on her nipple, his fingers on her clit, her pussy on his cock.
Then he rode her hard. Michael fucked Nina until she lost her breath, her fear, and her mind. Maybe her heart, too. He fucked her until she was blind with bliss and drawn taut in agony. Harder and harder, until his balls were smashed against her ass and her knees were buried in the dirt.
He gave her exactly what she wanted, exactly what she’d been missing.
Nina came apart in a searing wave of pleasure and pain. Every muscle contracted, every nerve tingled. Her heart stopped, then kicked against her ribs until she thought they’d break. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t scream.
Jerking and snarling, Michael pushed deep and filled her. Her thighs trembled as he poured his pleasure into her and only his convulsive grip on her mound helped her stay up on her knees. Then he collapsed, taking her to the ground with him.
The black, roiling fog retracted with a suddenness that left Nina shuddering on the oily grass for a breathless moment. With a sickening pop, the shadow figure climbed from Michael’s body and staggered back, laughing, but only half-pleased with their surrender. Michael groaned in her ear, shifting until he pulled from her body, releasing her from his weighted prison.
Everything had happened too fast. Hardly enough time to understand it, let alone process what had happened.
Nina dragged in a breath and struggled to her knees, pulling her pants until they were up around her hips. Between her legs, the mixture of him and her was sticky, thick and oily. An uncomfortable reminder of how fucked up she was.
Leaving Michael gasping on the ground, Nina limped back to the house on shaky legs, impatiently swiping the tears from her eyes.