Hello there, friends! To continue with the trend of guest posts, I’m leaking the prologue to my now not-so-top-secret project! The beautiful (wonderful, amazing, distressingly talented) J.M. White and I are writing a dark horror-romance, tentatively entitled Ashes to Ashes, which we hope to publish in the Fall of 2024. We hope you enjoy this sneak peek! If you want to keep up to date with this story, follow my newsletter!
This was a peaceful place—a grassy knoll freckled by spring blossoms. The wind caressed the landscape like fingers gliding through a pond. The lands themselves opened up for its calming sigh, a breath filled with the soothing scent of wild blossoms and summer.
Celeste felt the sun warm on her skin, breaking apart the ice that had formed around her bones. Basking in its glow, she laid back against the blue checkered picnic blanket. Her legs crossed at the ankles as her fingers tapped a rhythmless melody onto her belly.
“I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if you were still with me,” she said thoughtfully as her gaze drifted to the side.
Neil smiled at her as he rolled to face her. His fingers laced with hers, squeezing. “Wild,” he teased, kissing her hand. “But amazing. I always dreamed of our forever. “
Pain bloomed in her chest. Her hand closed around his, offering it a gentle squeeze in return. This was a sweet agony. A pain she shouldered because she’d learned to love these glimpses of a life stolen.
Rolling onto her side, she searched his face. Celeste studied the straight line of his prominent nose, the sculpted valleys of his cheekbones, and the chiseled angle of his jaw. Her eyes flicked to his, lost temporarily in the brown depths. Celeste inched closer, raking her fingers through his dark hair. She marveled at their silken threads. Not just that, but the scent of him, their closeness.
“I miss you,” she whispered. The corner of her mouth quirked up in a sad smile.
Neil watched her in return. His gaze traced the soft curves of her face, sweeping over her ginger hair as it fanned out around her. He leaned closer, kissing her sweetly. “I miss you, too,“ he said with a soft smile. “We’ll always have our dreams.”
And what cruel, beautiful dreams they were. To whisper her heart’s song to her.
“We will,” she agreed in a whisper against his lips, her arms coiling around his shoulders to hold him close. She kissed him, stealing from him—from this moment—the peace her soul so desperately craved. “I love you,” she murmured, her breath halting in her lungs.
It was silly how such confessions came freely now when they hadn’t come the lifetime before.
Neil brushed his nose against hers. His eyes closed as if savoring the sound of it. “I love you, too. With all my heart and soul, Celeste. I have always loved you.”
Her mouth crashed to his, unrestrained in her desire. Her hands made quick work of his shirt, knowing that in this place where dandelion seeds tickled their cheeks and the warm earth cradled their backs, he would not deny her. Her heart and body ached to open to him, to give him everything he deserved and so much more.
“Show me,” she whispered, not bothering to suppress the desperation in her voice. “Touch me.”
He clung to her, his hands against her hips as their chests met. “I love you,” he repeated as he rolled to his back and pulled her astride him. “I love you.” His hands pushed her skirt upward as his lips sought hers over and over.
Every repetition felt like an attempt to make up for time lost—a declaration for every day their hearts were forced to beat without each other.
His hands roamed, scalding her flesh with temptation’s touch. She hadn’t allowed herself this in the life they had shared. Hands and mouths wandered, sampling, teasing, claiming, but this… The delicious friction of his desire between her thighs as she rocked against him was a want she had never indulged.
Her head rolled back, and her throat bared as a breathless whimper escaped her. “Neil—” She shivered, her nails biting into his bare shoulders, admiring the crescents she left in the place where muscle met bone.
They had lost so much they would never be able to reclaim. But they had this. This place. This moment. These touches. His hands skimmed over her hips as he rolled them again, pinning her to the blanket.
Their eyes closed, breathing in the other’s sighs as fingers met flesh. Celeste sighed in pleasure as he sought out her heat, even as summer’s warmth seemed to fade.
Clouds appeared, blotting out the sun, chasing away the wild’s sigh with its wicked shadows.
Neil pushed up onto his elbows as the knoll grew silent. The birdsong ceased. The wind grew still.
“Did you hear that?” he asked, turning his attention to the spreading dark.
“No, Neil,” she whispered, her hands finding his face in her hands. “Stay with me—”
She screamed as an unknown force pulled him away. He scrambled for her, fingers clawing into the earth as he fought to get back to her. The ground split beneath his fingers, the soothing brown of his eyes blanching to white. His flesh went gray, bleached of youthful vitality, desiccating until only his skull stared back. Even still, he continued to struggle as midnight tendrils crawled up his frame, devouring him whole.
“I love you, Celeste,” he said in a voice so soft, so sweet, it shattered her heart all over again.
His head whipped back as if struck. His milky gaze focused on the sickness as it sprawled through their meadow. “Something is coming!”
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