Big Bad Karma Ch. 02bydarkgoddessnight©
Author's Note: I just want to say thank you again to everyone who has been commenting on Big Bad Karma. Your encouragement really makes me want to sit down and write just so I can see more of what you think.
I want to give a big thank you to my editor, Melanie, too. Without her, this chapter definitely wouldn't have reached its full potential. I'm so glad to have her along for the ride!
Darkness swirled around her like a cloak of shadows and encased her in a whisper soft cocoon. Wrapped as she was within its warm velvety folds, she was reminded of the security blanket she'd had as a child. Safe, protected, loved, cherished. They were all feelings the strange darkness evoked within her, and lulled her ever deeper into the serene comfort it provided. She could have stayed there forever, wanted to stay there forever, where life seemed so uncomplicated and worries didn't exist, but she knew it wouldn't last. Nothing that good could ever last.
Already she could feel it slipping away and she let out a cry of despair. Why, she wondered brokenly, was it being taken away from her? Had she done something wrong? What could she do to fix it? There were no answers, only the constant pull of some unseen force as it continued to drag her precious darkness away. It felt like her whole world was shattering, like something very important to her well-being was being ripped away and there was nothing she could do to stop it. For as long as she could, she clung to the unraveling darkness, but it was no use. All too soon, it was gone, dissolved into an insubstantial mist that was borne away on a gentle breeze.
Kayla suddenly found herself standing in a quiet woodland glade surrounded by towering trees and tall meadow grasses. She barely noticed. Bereft of her shadowy mantle, she felt bare to the soul and so terribly alone. There was a desolate emptiness inside of her that hadn't been there before, one that quickly welled with helplessness and misery. Death, she thought for a long moment, would have been so much more humane.
Brokenhearted from her loss, she was desperate for some sort of connection with her crumbling world. Through a haze of tears, she glanced around her surroundings, seeking solace and finding none. Had she been here before? She wondered as a sense of déjà vu settled over her. It was oddly familiar, though she didn't know how or why. Her eyes alighted on a single landmark before quickly moving on to another. How odd it was that she knew every one.
It slowly dawned on her that this was a dream, but the realization did little to diminish its realness. The earth beneath her feet felt solid, not dreamlike at all, and the grass tickled her legs as it waved lazily in the breeze. Oh yes, she'd been here before. She'd dreamed of it a hundred times or more, but all she could ever remember when she woke up were tattered fragments that she couldn't even begin to piece together. Now that she was here in the dreamscape, however, it was all beginning to come back to her.
The smell of pine and cedar saturated the air. It was a pleasant, comforting scent that grounded her somewhat and gave her a moment's reprieve from the ache in her heart. In all her past dreams, winter had been in full swing, and the grove, under a blanket of snow, had been slumbering. Now, though, it felt like spring. The snow and ice had thawed, making way for budding trees and flowers. The sun above gilded everything in a soft golden glow, cleansing away the last of winter's cold and reminding her of why this was a season of new beginnings.
She stood at its center, taking it all in like a breath of fresh air. Her heart still hurt, but she could already feel it beginning to mend. It was almost like having a splinter removed, she absently mused. It hurt to have it pulled, but once it was gone, the healing could begin. It would take time, she knew, but in the end, she would be better for it.
The slightest of movements caught her eye, and she turned, as if in slow motion, to watch a grey and white wolf trot out of the tree line. It didn't occur to her to be scared. On the contrary, she was positively elated. Even as it bound, and then leapt, towards her, all she wanted to do was embrace it like a long lost friend. She threw her arms wide and braced herself for impact.
For a stitch in time, the wolf hovered midair, scant inches before her. Their eyes met, her pale lavender to the wolf's brighter purple. Despite their obvious differences, Kayla almost felt like she was looking in a mirror for the first time. She couldn't help but like who she saw, and smiled. Unsurprisingly, the wolf smiled too.
The moment was over in less than a second and the wolf was once again soaring through the air towards her. She'd been expecting a collision, some sort of force behind the wolf's momentum that would slap flesh and fur together and knock the breath out of her. Instead, the wolf, like some ethereal creature, leapt into her with nothing more than a flutter of air to mark the event.
It was indescribable, the mixture of relief and wholeness that flooded her to the very core of her being. For so long, she'd lived without it that she hadn't realized she'd been missing an integral part of herself. The sheer joy was so overwhelming she couldn't decide whether to laugh or to cry. Her heartache, now all but forgotten, melted away like the winter's snow, leaving her refreshed and happier than she could ever remember being.
She had a vague sense that this was some sort of rebirth. The wolf had become part of her, or perhaps it always had been, but was only now able to express itself inside of her. She could feel it growing within her, expanding until there was no place left for it to go. Her skin prickled with sensation and, for a moment, she wondered if the wolf would burst through. For some reason, the thought didn't bother her in the least. After a few short seconds, the feeling went away and the wolf receded to a whisper in the back of her mind. It was most definitely still there, but it was quiet and relaxed and, she realized with some amazement, so was she. It was the first time in her life that she had ever truly felt at peace with herself.
Sadly, it was short lived. The blue sky above suddenly disappeared beneath a mass of black thunderheads and the wind picked up, whipping her long dark hair away from her face. The back of her neck bristled in alarm, as did that of her wolf, unnecessarily alerting her to the fact that something was horribly wrong. Lightning flashed and then struck nearby, splitting a tree in half and sending slivers of charred wood flying through the air like shrapnel. Instinctively, she covered her head and face with her arms as a scream broke from her lips. Even though it was only a dream, she could feel the wooden shards digging into her flesh.
The smell of blood and burning wood subdued the pine and cedar scent, making fear for her life all the more tangibly real. Dread crashed through her like a tidal wave. She ran -- what else could she do? -- but this was the land of dreams, and there was no place she could hide from her nightmares.
Something was watching her, something evil and oppressive. She could feel its presence all around her, closing in on her, crushing her. Burning sulfur assaulted her nose, followed in quick succession by a stab of agonizing pain that shot through her head and burst through every nerve ending in her body. She suddenly froze like a stone statue, her feet uselessly rooted in the unearthly ground.
Glowing red eyes filled her vision, and manic laughter rang in her ears like nails dragging on a chalkboard. Tears of fear and frustration poured down her cheeks. She couldn't move, couldn't breathe, couldn't so much as lift her hands to cover her ears.
Just as suddenly as it started, the laughter stopped, leaving the darkened grove deathly quiet. She could hear her heart beating hard in her chest, the only sound in the otherwise deafening silence. Minutes ticked by, hours, days. She didn't know. Just when she thought she might go mad, a rough male voice rasped close to her ear, and she shuddered in revulsion as the sound washed over her.
"You can't hide any longer," it said, and then she began to burn.
Kayla woke with a start and quickly wished she hadn't. Though the remnants of her dream still swirled blearily around her brain, the excruciating pounding in her head was enough to gain her full attention. Gods, how much did she have to drink last night? It was a logical but stupid question considering that she never drank, but she imagined this was exactly what a hangover would feel like, and she didn't like it one bit. Where the hell was an aspirin when she needed one?
Clutching her head in agony, she managed to roll to her side. It was a feat in and of itself, and sapped what little energy she had. Cringing, she buried her head against the pillow and prayed for a miracle. If something didn't happen soon, she just knew her head was going to explode, and she was pretty sure that she didn't want that to happen. If she could just open her eyes and stumble herself to the bathroom, she would probably be okay. If not, then she'd feel sorry for the person who'd have to clean up her brain matter.
She succeeded in prying one eye open -- a significant accomplishment on her part - and was almost surprised when she actually survived the attempt. Her brow furrowed in confusion, an action she immediately regretted when pain shot like needles into her brain. Why was it so damn dark in here? Normally, she left the hallway light on, and even when she didn't, the neighbor's outdoor light would shine through her bedroom window whether she wanted it to or not. Ugh, it was just her fricking bad luck that there would be a power outage at a time like this. Why did this kind of crap always have to happen to her?
She groped blindly for the candle she kept on the bedside table but her hand only came in contact with air. So she tried again. And again. Nope, still wasn't there. Where the hell was her fricking table with her fricking candle and her fricking lamp which was currently useless because of the fricking power outage? Yeah, she wasn't feeling particularly creative this morning.
Annoyed with herself and her predicament, she sat up, or rather, she tried to sit up but considering that her world tilted dizzily on its axis, she decided she'd be better off just laying back down. Alrighty then, her head would just have to explode. She just wished it would hurry up and get it over with. The pain was really starting to make her cranky.
Something -- a large, warm, muscly something that she quickly realized was an arm -- suddenly wrapped around her middle and pulled her tight against a big, hard wall that she could only assume was a chest. She was so shocked at first that she couldn't even react to the fact that there was a stranger in her bed. It didn't help that her response time was critically impaired by her nonexistent hangover.
Don't panic. Don't panic. DON'T PANIC!! Too late. She was panicking long before her mind started providing her with the pointless litany. Her heart thudded hard in her chest and she was practically hyperventilating. At least the adrenaline rush helped with her headache, but at a time like this, she couldn't really find any gratitude for small blessings.
Why was there a man -- at least, she thought it was a man -- in her bed? Her overactive imagination supplied her with a number of scenarios, none of which made any sense at all. Think, Kayla, think! What was the last thing she remembered? Okay, she closed the office up on Friday, and she was looking forward to her weekend. That's right, there was going to be a movie marathon on the Sci-Fi channel and she was intending on spending all day Saturday watching it. Then Phillip had called... What the hell had he wanted?
Oh yeah, deliver paperwork to a new client in the middle of nowhere. Her eyes widened as a flood of memories suddenly drowned her brain. She remembered needing to pee, her car breaking down, a Monty Python bunny of doom scaring her half to death, and then a wolf chasing her through the forest.
But that still didn't explain why there was a man in her bed. Wait, she'd hit her head, hadn't she? Maybe she had selective amnesia. Yeah, that must be it. Maybe she managed to find help, get gas for her car, went home and... picked up a guy?
Said guy stirred behind her, causing her breath to hitch in her throat. She couldn't be sure why he was there or, for that matter, what they had done together -- she cringed at the thought - but one thing was for certain, and that was that she needed to get away from him so she could clear her head.
As quietly as she could, she slid out from beneath his arm and climbed to her feet. The stupid power outage made it impossible to see, but she figured she had a clear path to the door. She took two steps -- one and a half if you wanted to get technical -- and walked right into a wall.
She stared dazedly at it, or rather the darkness that encased it, for a long moment, wondering who exactly had the audacity to put a wall in her path. As a practical joke, it would have been pretty damn funny if she hadn't been in so much pain. As it was, she was not amused.
It took her all of ten seconds to come to the conclusion that this was not her bedroom, or even her house for that matter. Oh Gods, had she been kidnapped? Had the man in the bed taken advantage of her? She went from practically hyperventilating to completely freaking out as her mind jumped to all sorts of conclusions.
A creak came from the bed, alerting her to the fact that her kidnapper -- or whatever he was -- had moved, and she spun around to face him, bracing herself for attack. What she saw unnerved her. Glowing green eyes pierced the darkness and they were staring straight at her. At this point, she did the only logical thing that her terrified brain could come up with.