Authors: Robin T. Popp
Tags: #Fiction, #Ghost, #Romance, #General, #Horror
Copyright © 2005 by Robin T. Popp
Seduced by the Night
copyright © 2005 by Robin T. Popp. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
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Printed in the United States of America
First Paperback Printing: September 2005
To Adam, with love
can shoulder the weight
of the world as
know you're there
catch me should I fall.
And to Mom and Dad
Mom, for sharing her love
of all things paranormal; and Dad, for being the
example of perseverance that taught me to never
give up on my dream.
There are several people I have come to rely on as I undertake each writing adventure. Their creativity, friendship, and support sustain and motivate me. I would like to thank Donna Grant, Mary O'Connor, Georgia Ward, Corkey Sandman, Adam Popp, and Marlaine Loftin for brainstorming plot ideas, reading various drafts, keeping me on track, and just generally being there for me.
Also, I would like to thank Michelle Grajkowski for being such a terrific agent and having such enthusiasm for my writing.
And I would like to thank Karen Kosztolnyik for taking a chance on me and my writing. I appreciate this opportunity more than you'll ever know.
by William Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Great tongues of fire leaped from the structure, more brilliant against the night sky than any fireworks display; beautiful, mesmerizing—and deadly. Lanie Weber stood close, feeling the heat beat at her, her skin burning despite the protection of her gear.
"Lanie's crew takes left; Marcus—center. We'll take right. Let's go." The fire chief's muted voice carried to her over the roaring of the flames, and she nodded to let him know she'd heard.
With the fire hose cradled along her right arm, Lanie gripped the nozzle securely with both hands. Her second lineman braced her with his elbow, offering resistance against the pressure of the water, which tried to propel her backward as soon as the water started to flow.
Lanie adjusted the stream until a focused, narrow torrent shot forth. She concentrated on the left side of the structure, her only goal to contain the flames and protect the exposure of the house next door, because it was too late to save the one-story home. At least no one had been hurt.
Though she couldn't hear anything beyond the noise of the fire, Lanie was aware of the family's devastation. In their minds, they had lost everything, but Lanie knew what real loss was. Houses, clothes, possessions—those things could be replaced. The loss of a loved one…
Shying away from the thought, she turned her full attention back to fighting the blaze. After ten years as a volunteer firefighter, the heat of the flames, the acrid smell of smoke, the camaraderie of the other volunteers, even the mechanics of putting out the fire—these things were familiar to her. Tonight, of all nights, she needed the comfort of familiarity about her.
Hours later, Lanie shut off the water for the last time and eased the hose to the ground. Leaving it to the rookies, she walked to her truck, the evening's adrenaline rush long since spent. It had been a long mop-up, and the sun was already climbing high in the sky. Removing her helmet, she tossed it into the back, then opened her jacket and welcomed the cool breeze against her hot, sweaty body.
"Don't you have a flight to catch?" The chief came to stand next to her, angling his raised arm to show her the time on his watch.
"Yeah, I guess so." Her tone sounded as weary as she felt. She briefly considered canceling, but arrangements were already made.
"Thanks for coming," he added. "It would have been a lot tougher without you here."
She shrugged. "I didn't feel like sitting at home last night anyway, and three calls in a row kept me from dwelling on other things, you know?"
He nodded, wrapped an arm around her shoulders, gave her a fatherly hug, and then walked off, leaving her to climb into her truck and drive off to face her future—alone.
Truly alone, because her father was dead.
She knew the pain of his loss would hit sooner or later, but right now, she felt numb. It was like standing on the precipice of a great, bottomless chasm while the wind beat at her, pushing her until, eventually, she knew she would fall. But not yet. There was too much to do.
Arriving home, she saw the light blinking on her answering machine. Playing the message, she heard her employer's sympathetic voice urging her to take off as much time as she needed. Grateful, she showered and changed into fresh clothes, then saw that it was well after noon. She'd been too depressed last night to eat dinner and too busy fighting fires all morning for breakfast. Now there was no time for lunch.
Grabbing her duffel bag, she set the security alarm on her house and climbed back into her truck, navigating the Houston traffic until she was on the freeway headed out of town. She tried to focus on the road, but her thoughts pulled her back to a faded but never forgotten memory.
She was twelve years old, and her father had left her in the cold, sterile waiting room of the city morgue while he went in, alone, to identify her mother's body. He'd not wanted Lanie to carry the image of her mother's battered body with her for the rest of her life, wanting her, instead, to remember her mother as she'd last seen her—energetic, happy, and full of love and vitality.
remembered her that way. So much so that for years, she'd suffered from the belief that her mother's death was all a huge mistake; that her father had identified the wrong body and any day now, her mother would return—because a woman so full of life would never have surrendered to death.
Now, sixteen years later, she was having to accept a loved one's death again. This time would be different, she vowed. This time, there would be closure. Yesterday afternoon, when she'd gotten the phone call from Admiral Charles Winslow about her father's accident, she'd been insistent. If her father was dead, then she wanted to see the body, and she didn't care how difficult or impossible it was to arrange. If her father's body couldn't be flown back into the United States, then she would go to South America.
Fortunately, the admiral had understood. A friend of the family for years, "Uncle" Charles was the one who'd talked her father into accepting the top secret research position earlier that year. He was also the one to suggest the private charter company that would fly her to the town of Taribu in the northern part of the Amazon, making the arrangements himself.
Bringing her thoughts back to the present, Lanie concentrated on driving. Three hours later, she steered her truck onto a narrow side road and drove for several minutes before spotting the gate with the large ANYTIME—DEY OR KNIGHT PRIVATE CHARTERS sign across the top. Pulling across the dirt lot, she parked in front of the plain white building that seemed so out of place in the middle of the endless open stretch of land. Behind it were two smaller buildings.