The Awakening Page 5

“Maggie, night conies fast in the forest. Wild animals prowl around. Let’s get you settled in the house,” Drake advised.

Dry clothes would be more than welcome. Or, the thought came unbidden, no clothes at all. Briefly she closed her eyes against that stranger inside of her, a part of her that the jungle was slowly awakening. She was uncomfortable with that side of herself, a sensual, uninhibited woman who wanted to be the object of a man’s desire. She wanted to tempt. To entice. To seduce. But not these men. She didn’t know whom she was looking for, she only knew her body had come to savage life and was making intimate demands she had no way of coping with.

Maggie took a deep, calming breath and forced herself to look around her, to concentrate on other things beside the edgy need crawling through her body.

“Maggie?” Drake prompted again.

“You’re certain this was my parents’ home?” she inquired, staring in awe at the craftsmanship. The way the house blended into the trees, vines, and flowers made it virtually impossible to spot unless she was staring directly at it or knew exactly where to look for it. It had been cleverly designed to appear a part of the jungle itself.

“It’s been in your family for generations,” Drake said.

In the waning light it was difficult to see, but it appeared as if there were several flat areas running the length of the roof, almost like paths. The room was steeply pitched and with jutting dormers and matching mini balconies. “Is there an attic?” The house was already three stories. It seemed incredible that it could have a full-length attic but the large windows indicated otherwise. “And what are those flat spots on the roof?”

Drake hesitated, then shrugged casually as he unlocked the front door. “The roof is flat in spaces to accommodate easy travel if it has to be used as an escape route. There’s a basement with a tunnel, too. And yes, there’s an attic.”

Maggie stood at the threshold, watching Drake’s face closely. “Why would I need an escape route? Who or what would I be escaping from?”

“You don’t have to worry. We’ll all watch out for you. The house was designed well over a hundred years ago and is meticulously maintained. Over the years its been modernized but all the original features designed for escape were kept.”

She blinked rapidly, her hand going protectively to her throat. He was lying to her. It was in the sound of his voice. Her new, acute hearing picked up the strain, a sudden tension in him. His gaze slid away from hers for just a moment, touched on the forest long enough for her to have certain knowledge of his deceit. Uneasiness washed over her, through her.

Maggie took a tentative step inside, feeling as if she were being lured by the unique beauty and eccentricity of the house. By the secrecy of her past. She had such little knowledge of her parents. They were shrouded in mystery, and the idea of learning about them was far too great a temptation to resist. She remembered very little, vague impressions only. Angry shouting, the flash of torches, arms holding her tightly. The sound of a heart beating frantically. The feel of fur against her skin. Sometimes the memories seemed the thing of nightmares; other times she remembered eyes looking down at her with such love, such pride, that her heart wanted to burst.

Standing in the middle of the front room, she looked uncertainly at Drake as Conner and Joshua paced through every room in the house, ensuring there were no stray animals hiding. “Are you certain the village is close?” Before she had wanted to be alone, to rest and recover from the long journey. She was truly exhausted, having traveled for hours and definitely suffering jet lag, yet now she was afraid to be left alone in the large house.

“Just through those trees,” he assured her. “The house has indoor plumbing and we set up a small power plant on the river. Most of the time we have electricity, but once in a while it goes off. If that happens, don’t panic; there are emergency candles and flashlights in the cupboards. The house has been stocked, so you should have everything you need.”

She looked around at the well-kept house. There was no dust, no mold. In spite of the humidity, everything appeared highly polished. “Is someone living here?”

Drake shrugged. “Brandt Talbot has been the caretaker for years. If you need anything, you can ask him where to find it. He’s had the run of the house, but he’s going to be staying in the village. I’m certain he’ll help you with anything.”

Something in the way he said the caretaker’s name got her immediate attention. She glanced up at him as a frisson of fear chased through her body. Brandt Talbot. Who was the man that Drake had said his name so softly? Drake had sounded wary and his eyes had shifted restlessly to the heavy foliage outside the house.

The other men left her luggage in the front room, lifted a brief hand, and hurried away, Drake followed them at a much slower pace. He paused at the door, looking back at her. “You keep the bars on the doors and windows, and don’t go walking around at night outside the house,” he cautioned. “The animals around here are wild.” His sudden smile removed all traces of grimness from his face, leaving him looking friendly. “Everyone has been looking forward to meeting you. You’ll get to know us all quickly enough.”

Maggie stood uncertainly on the shadowed porch of her parents’ ancestral home and watched him go with a sinking heart. It was everything yet nothing like she had expected, a place of mystery and shadows that awoke something primitive and wild and very sensual deep within her.

Prev Next
Free Novels Read Online | Read Wuxia Novel | Read Xianxia Novel