Since this was a well-known fact, she was at a huge loss when she asked herself for the sixtieth time how she had managed to end up being the designated driver for the night. She reached to touch soothing fingertips to one of the hands Ashla had clenched around the steering wheel in a legitimate white-knuckle hold. Or we should have at least gotten a room at the hotel or something. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance! To party at the Theodore Hotel with so many rotten rich people? Plus, that guy who gave you the invites is totally into you.
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Since this was a well-known fact, she was at a huge loss when she asked herself for the sixtieth time how she had managed to end up being the designated driver for the night. She reached to touch soothing fingertips to one of the hands Ashla had clenched around the steering wheel in a legitimate white-knuckle hold.
Or we should have at least gotten a room at the hotel or something. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance! To party at the Theodore Hotel with so many rotten rich people? Plus, that guy who gave you the invites is totally into you. That man all but grabbed you at midnight to kiss you. The midnight tradition had allowed him to breach usual dating protocols, and he had taken full advantage of it.
Ashla had surprised herself with her willingness to go along with him. Not an entirely unpleasant experience and, now that she thought about it, one she might not be averse to repeating in the future. Ashla, I swear you are so…so…! The oncoming truck that crossed into their lane and hit them head-on at ninety miles per hour killed her instantly.
Chapter 1 Ashla stood shivering in the darkened streets of Times Square. How long had she been in this surreal, postapocalyptic version of New York? Had it been a week? She had lost track. One of the most populous cities in America, and she had yet to see a single soul besides herself.
Ashla was a bit hazy on some of the details of when this all had come about, of how and why the world had blossomed into this bizarre, barren landscaping, but she did recall her initial reaction of pure panic. She remembered quite clearly the act of running around to all of the places where coworkers, friends, and even family were supposed to be. The Bronx. Eastern Long Island. Eventually here, in Manhattan. There was no one. Oh, everything worked all right. All of it as if the regular occupants of the world would return any moment to pick up and go on just as they always had.
Only, there were some strange details missing. There was no television reception or projection. Lightbulbs, neon lights, and anything providing the smallest glimmer of illumination refused to perform their designated functions.
That had truly freaked her out in the beginning. The lack of light had made the vast vacant spaces of the city seem somehow claustrophobic and paralyzing. I t had gotten better, thank goodness, as her eyes had adapted to the total darkness with a surprising rapidity.
She had even grown accustomed to the fact that it always remained nighttime and never turned to day like it should. Things had definitely improved once she stopped thinking of reasons why there might not be a sun.
Another odd thing was the food. Food was always fresh for the taking, somehow replenishing itself as though invisible workers still carried out their daily duties of stocking and rotating it.
She never saw any of it happen, it just did. In the end, she had realized that the ideal course of action was to not spend too much time thinking about the details.
She never got answers when she did, and only managed to scare herself witless in the process. Explanations escaped her for those and many other anomalous details, but she was weary of the constant heart-racing panic that overwhelmed her every time she thought too hard about her shadowed environs. There was one light, however. It was the one and only relief to the dark world. The growing cycle of the moon, with its inevitable turn toward fullness, would shed more and more beautifully pale light onto the world around her.
She already knew no one was hiding in them. In fact, her reality remained completely devoid of humanity, just as it had for the better part of a month now. Two months? Even time seemed to have given up on this lifeless wasteland that made no sense to her. She supposed she had given up as well, eventually trudging away from the overwhelming grief over lost loved ones and even abandoning her furious frustration at her suddenly senseless world. Now she simply wandered New York and the rest of the tri-state area trying to amuse herself.
At least, it had been fun until she had taken a bad fall in a subway station and it had occurred to her that if she were hurt very badly, there would be no one around to help her; no one to rush her to a hospital for care; no one to care enough to keep her from rotting away from hunger and thirst alone in a dark, tiled tunnel. Aboveground might not necessarily be less hazardous, but it was far less enclosing and she took comfort in whatever she could at that point.
She was safe from dark, creepy subterranean dangers, perhaps, but she was also left feeling even more alone as towering buildings soared above her, miniaturizing her and making her feel as though she were standing at the bottom of a great abandoned canyon. It was at those times that she truly became frightened. Down deep to the bottom of her soul terrified. Because those were the times when she feared she had simply lost her mind. After all, what other explanation could there be? What could possibly make her forget her beloved sister Cristine?
Or even her brothers Malcolm and Joseph? Her parents. She took comfort that today she remembered it all, and tried not to worry about tomorrow. Other than all of that… New York City was her playground. Granted, they would have been more fun if there had been some decent light to see by, but she compensated for it by shopping close to windows that filled with moonlight.
She walked in whenever she wanted and walked out without needing to pay. Every day she picked a new store to get dressed in. She liked the priceless vintage dresses, lace and beads and hand-worked details that were so rare in the modern world.
It had a silk underlining and hand-crocheted lace over it in a perfect pastel cream. It was unique, delicate and beautiful, the style transporting her back to a time when men fought duels for the honor of a woman.
That was when she heard the first resonant clang of metal on metal. She was so startled by the sound after so much silence that she threw herself against a wall and hid, her breath panting and her heart pounding for a full minute before working up the courage to sneak to the window. Toppled over. It was a plausible idea, right up until the moment she heard the second crash of metal against metal, the clang reverberating in the dim world and vacant streets. Understanding crystallized when she heard the hard sound of running feet coming toward her, and she strained to somehow hide and see what was going on all at the same time.
She glimpsed the dark shape of a man an instant before a second man plowed up into him and they both came flying toward her. Ashla ducked with a scream and barely got her arms up protectively before they barreled through the plate glass window in a shower of shards.
Clothing racks and tables disintegrated as they broke the momentum of the two large-bodied fighting men. A sword. Not an Uzi. Not a handgun. Ashla was beginning to realize she had never given her imagination enough credit until she had gone crazy.
Now she had to admit that the sword was a neat touch to her little fantasy world. So were the men, for that matter. She watched with dismay as they grappled with each other on the floor amongst the inventory and glass debris. They were both dark-skinned and had dark coloring. The larger man kept his hair long, whipped back tightly into a plait, the jet color of it gleaming in the weak moonlight filtering into the store.
His brawny build filled out his clothing almost to test the integrity of his seams. Denim jeans in black hugged tightly to thickly muscled thighs, biker boots holding his braced feet in place against the floor. It was true, Ashla observed with concern, that the other man was outweighed and, while of impressive physique himself from what she could tell, he was also outmuscled. The curve of his hairline made his squared jaw and prominent cheekbones appear deeply exotic.
The ebony sheen of his wildly tossed hair set shadows on his already dark eyes, making him appear just a little wicked in his features. The impression deepened as he gave his opponent a slow, amused grin that belied his struggle to keep hold of his weapon.
Not today! Free of his opponent, the other man scrambled to his feet but did little more than stagger up against a nearby counter. His sword hung tiredly from one hand, the tip grazing the ground.
He raised the back of a broad hand to his nose, which, Ashla realized, was bleeding. For all his determination and bravado, it was clear even to her that he was exhausted and had taken a serious beating. Despite the dusk of his skin tone, she could see the swelling and color of new bruises appearing on his face and battered knuckles. The one named Baylor was on the floor groaning, trying to recover from a hard shot in the testicles that had to hurt even more than when a woman delivered it.
He was hugging an arm to his side, his ribs obviously hurting him, and Ashla found herself actually worrying that he had broken one or more. He looked up and suddenly Ashla found herself staring into deep eyes of black and menace. But as bad as the scowl initially was, the subsequent grin that showed his teeth was far worse.
Shelves: shelf , paranormal-rom Opening Line:"Ashla stood shivering in the darkened streets of Times Square. I tried very hard to like this new world but it was a tough read and fans should be warned that this is not a continuation of the Nightwalker series. After a horrific car accident our impish heroine Ashla awakens to find herself in Shadowworld. A strange version of New York City without any lights or people. It is also a place of endless night.
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