Tess looked out the passenger’s window at the seemingly endless wall of trees as her husband drove them to their new home. After what seemed like an eternity, they came to the town where John had accepted an invitation to take over as pastor of a small Southern Baptist church. The town looked bigger than she had pictured it when John told her about it after coming here to find them a place to live a month ago. It was set back in the forest, far away from the rest of the world, and this was the only church in town.
Soon they pulled into the parking lot in front of the real estate office. Tess stretched as she stood up. A cool breeze blew across her face as she inhaled deeply, savoring the scent of Jasmine that filled the air. As much as she loved living in the city, she was glad they were moving here. As long as she could remember, she had always preferred to be out-doors, surrounded by nature.
"Pastor Layfield!" Tess heard a masculine voice say.
"Mr. Johnson." John replied, shaking the realtor's outstretched hand. "It's nice to see you again."
"How was the trip?" Mr. Johnson asked.
"And my friends call me Bill."
"Bill." John repeated. "The trip was good. It's a beautiful drive."
Holding his hand out to Tess, he motioned for her to join him.
"Bill, I'd like you to meet my wife, Tess."
"Nice to meet you ma'am." Bill said to her, holding his hand out.
"It's nice to meet you." she replied, shaking his hand.
"Well if you're ready, we can go look at the house." Bill said looking at his watch.
Tess noticed that he looked nervous, but shrugged it off. It was already after six, and he was probably ready to go home.
"Sure." John answered. "We'll follow you over, okay?"
And Tess and John climbed back into the car and pulled onto the street.
Tess stood mouth hanging open and eyes bulging as she stared at the old Victorian house that stood in front of them. It's faded blue shutters stood open against its dirty white walls, allowing the sunlight to pour in through the open windows. It was her dream home.
"Oh, John! It's beautiful!" She said in awe, not noticing the chipping paint and worn porch steps.
"I knew you'd like it." John answered, putting his arm around her shoulder. "Come on, let's go inside."
With that, he took her hand in his and pulled her across the yard and up the front steps. After looking through all the rooms, Bill explaining all the little details of the house to them as well as answering their questions, they made their way out the back door and looked out across the yard. Tess noticed a path leading from the back yard into the woods, which surrounded them on three sides. She turned to ask Bill if he knew where it went, but he was discussing something with John and she didn't want to interrupt them, so she walked back into the library.
Bookshelves lined two walls from floor to ceiling, a huge fireplace filled another, and the forth held two large bay windows, one on either side, and a pair of French doors that led to a garden. Tess ran her fingers over the books as she walked the length of the wall. The previous owners had left the house full of furniture, as if they had left suddenly and didn't bother to take anything with them.
Tess could hear John and Bill talking in the distance. Suddenly she felt the air around her begin to cool and had a sudden feeling that she was being watched.
"What do you think?" John asked, wrapping his arms around her, pulling her from her trance.
"I love it!" she replied smiling brightly.
"I'm glad." He replied, kissing her tenderly. "Let's go back to town and get something to eat. We'll stop by Bill's office in the morning to start the paperwork."
"That sounds good to me." Tess answered.
Arm in arm, they walked out to the car and climbed in. As they drove, she wondered again where that path led.
'I'll have to ask Bill tomorrow.' She thought.
Tess and John sat in front of Bill's desk looking over the paper work as Bill explained everything. The more Tess thought about moving here and about the house, the more she wanted to leave. There was something here that wasn't right, something evil, and her intuition was screaming for her to run away from here and never look back.
"Do either of you have any questions?" Bill asked as he straightened the papers and placed then back in the folder.
"I can't think of anything else. Tess?" John answered, pulling Tess from her thoughts.
She had plenty of questions, but she had the feeling she wouldn't get any of the answers from Bill.
"Yes I do." She answered. "I noticed that the previous owners left all their furniture behind. When will they be picking it up?" She asked, hoping they didn't want it and if they did, they would come get it soon so they could get settled in.
"The furniture..." he repeated. “Oh... um... the furniture stays. You can throw it out if you don't want it."
Her question seemed to make him nervous. It was a simple enough question and it shouldn't have taken him off guard like it had.
"All of it?" she asked.
She remembered all of the antiques that filled the rooms of the house and couldn't imagine anyone leaving such beautiful old furniture behind.
"Yes Ma'am." He answered simply.
Reaching in the desk drawer, he pulled out a set of keys.
"Since there isn't anyone living there now you can move right in, if you like. The electricity and water are on, but the telephone is still disconnected, so if you need to make any phone calls, feel free to use ours. I'll have the contracts ready for you to sign by the end of the week." He said as he handed John the keys.
"Thank you." John replied shaking Bill's hand, then he and Tess turned to leave.
"Wait!" Bill called out as the door was closing.
He pushed the door open and stepped out onto the sidewalk where Tess and John waited.
"I just wanted to tell you to be careful." He said, a worried expression replacing the lighthearted one he held the last couple of hours.
"What are you talking about?" John asked.
"There is a ghost in the woods that surround the house." Bill answered, not beating around the bush.
"A ghost?" John asked. He didn't believe in ghosts, no one did.
Bill liked the couple and didn't want to tell them the story, but he didn't want them to get hurt, or worse. He took a deep breath and began, "The man who built that house was the town mortician. It was rumored that he would kidnap men and women from the city, take them to his house, then rape, torture, and kill them, although no one could ever prove it. One day a little boy disappeared. The town's people searched for three days before finding him in the woods, dead. They immediately blamed the mortician and formed a lynch mob. They chased him into the woods, cornering him in the old shack, and beat him to death. Two days later, a man walked into the police station and confessed to the crime. He's been haunting those woods ever since."
Tess and John stood dumbfounded at the story they just heard.
How could people be so cruel?
"I don't think we'll have any problems." John replied.
Although he didn't believe in ghosts, the story certainly sent a chill up his spine.
"You shouldn't, as long as you don't go in the cemetery after dark. And never go into the woods." Bill warned.
"What will happen?" Tess asked.
The story hadn't frightened her, but the warning, for some reason, did.
"He'll kill you." Bill stated matter-of-factly.
Seeing the look of disbelief written on both their faces he took a step toward them and said, "People go in those woods, and never come out."
John looked deep into Bill's eyes and knew he was telling the truth.
"Thanks for the warning." He said.
He and Tess stood where they were as they watched Bill disappear back into the building.
They climbed in their car and drove back to the hotel to check out. Since they had the keys there wasn't any reason for them to stay there any longer. They walked around the room, gathering and packing up what little they had unpacked, and checked out. A short time later, they pulled into the driveway of their new home.
Tess walked into the kitchen bumping her big toe on the wall as she fumbled in the dark for a light switch.
"Ouch!" She whispered loudly.
Finding the switch, she turned on the lights and hobbled over to the refrigerator. She opened the door and rummaged through the few groceries they had picked up on their way from the relator's office and pulled out a bottle of water and the things she needed to make a sandwich. She was always hungry after making love to John.
The story of the mortician still played fresh in her mind along with the warning Bill had given them about not going into the woods or in the cemetery after dark. It sounded like the kind of warning a parent would give their child to keep them out of harm’s way.
She could picture a man running through the woods, being chased by an angry mob, then ducking into an old shack. The man fell against the door after closing it and looked around trying to find a place to hide. The shack was empty except for the table and two chairs sitting in the middle of the room and a bear skin rug in front of the fireplace. The door shook as the mob began pounding against it, forcing their way inside, windows shattered, sending glass flying across the small room, and the angry cries of the people outside grew louder.
"Murderer!" They shouted over and over again.
Fear began to build up inside him as he realized what the mob intended to do - they were going to kill him. Fear was an alien emotion to him. Standing 6'10, and built as solid as a brick wall, he wasn't afraid of anything or anyone, but he wasn't running from just anyone, he was running from an entire town. He tried to defend himself against their accusations of murdering a child, but they had already condemned him. He watched as men began climbing in the broken windows and decided there was only one thing he could do, he would fight. One by one, he attacked them as they entered the room until they finally outnumbered him and knocked him off his feet. He curled up into a ball and covered his head with his arms, trying to protect himself against their blows, feeling every hit, every kick, and hearing every curse, until darkness finally engulfed him and released him from the pain that devoured his body.
Tears fell down Tess' face as the image disappeared. How could those people be so cruel? Why wouldn't they listen to him? Why wouldn't they try to find out what really happened? She sighed and wiped the tears from her face. Her heart broke for the man, the mortician, accused of murdering a child, tried, convicted, and put to death before he ever had a chance to defend himself.
Having lost her appetite, she put the food away and walked to the library. There was no way she would be able to sleep now, so she decided to look through the books and find something good to read. After only a few minutes, she found Shakespeare’s 'Hamlet' and reached out to take it from the shelf. The air around her turned cold and began to move, surrounding her body in a blanket. She felt the air begin to change, the blanket becoming a body. Invisible arms wrapped around her, a thick solid body formed against her back, long legs rested against hers.
Her heart pounded in her chest and her mind raced, trying to figure out what was happening. She knew instinctively it was the ghost, but there were no such things as ghosts.
'Yeah, tell that to him.' she thought.
The arms tightened around her pulling her close and Tess began to relax against the body she knew she couldn't see. She felt an erection pressing against her back as it began to grow, causing her to blush deeply.
"Don't be embarrassed, Tess." a deep sultry voice whispered.
Tess gasped at the breath of hot air on the back of her neck.
"Tess?" Tess spun around at the sound of John's voice and almost fell. The air immediately returned to normal and the arms and body were gone.
"John! I didn't hear you come in." She said trying to calm her racing heart.
"Are you okay?" He asked taking a step toward her.
Tess closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around his waist.
"I'm fine. I was going to get something to eat, but once I got down here, I lost my appetite. And since I was wide awake, I thought I'd come to see if I could find something to read." She explained as they left the room and headed toward the stairs.
Tess lay in bed awake all night trying to figure out what had happened in the library. She believed in the possibility of ghosts, but this hadn't been a ghost, or had it? And what did it want with her? She rubbed her arms where the ghosts had been, she could still feel the tree-like arms wrapped around her. An overwhelming sense of peace came over her as she closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Mark cursed himself for his actions earlier that night at his house.
"What in the hell happened?" he asked himself aloud.
He had gone to the house to kill the preacher, instead he found himself holding the preacher's wife. He closed his eyes and sighed. She felt so warm, smelled so sweet...
'Stop it!' He told himself. 'She's the wife of a preacher. Her fate has already been decided.'
Anger swelled up inside Mark as he remembered that night. He had been sitting at home alone eating dinner when he heard what sounded like a mob outside his front door. Opening the front door, he stood face to face with the town's only pastor, and behind him, every man in town and about half the women.
"Confess," The preacher shouted, "Confess your sin and the Lord will show you mercy. Deny it and you will burn in Hell forever."
Confused, Mark asked, "Confess to what? What are you talking about?" "You killed Tommy Morris." the sheriff shouted over the preacher's shoulder. "I didn't... " Mark began, but was cut off by the preacher.
"May God have mercy on your soul."
"Get him!" Someone shouted.
Suddenly the mob began to move toward him forcing him back into the house. He turned and ran through the house, out the back door, and into the woods. He ran as fast as he could, but somehow the mob was catching up with him. Out of breath, he stopped and, leaning against a tree, looked for some kind of shelter, somewhere to hide until nightfall when he could leave town without being seen. Seeing an old shack, he decided to duck inside. Surely there would be someplace he could hide for awhile. He could hear the angry mob growing closer and closer until they were banging on the door. For years they had accused him of kidnapping, rape, murder, trying to get rid of him. Tonight they would finally succeed. They would kill him. But he wasn't going down without a fight, so he watched as they began to crawl through the window, attacking each one. Overpowering him, they forced him to the floor, and began to beat him, the preacher barking orders rather than doing the deed himself. Wrought with pain, he closed his eyes one last time and slipped into the blissful darkness.
When he awoke the next night, he discovered that he no longer belonged in the physical world. The preacher had seen to that. So, they thought he was a monster; he would give them a monster. He began by killing the preacher, raping his wife and killing her. After that, he killed anyone and everyone who dared to go in the woods. Years of stories, gossip, and rumors had molded his spirit into the monster everyone thought he was.
A tear threatened to fall as he re-lived that fateful night. Angrily he wiped it away. An image of Tess invaded his mind. She was thinking about him when he entered the house. Wanting to scare her, he filled her mind with his memory, which was enough to scare even the biggest, toughest men, but instead she cried. She felt compassion for him, something which no one had ever shown toward him before, and she cried. He watched her move around the kitchen and into the library. He found himself surrounding her, wrapping his arms around her.
"Damn her!" He yelled.
He was going to kill her; he didn't need to start feeling anything for her. He knew he had time. She loved his house and she and the preacher would be here for a long time. At least until he killed them.
Tess pulled as hard as she could, determined to pull the weed up by its roots. She stopped, breathing heavily and looked at it, then positioned herself to start pulling again. She pulled as hard as she could landing smack down on her rump, the weed in hand. She gave a triumphant smile as she tossed it aside.
Wanting to get a head start on the spring planting, she started pulling the weeds from the garden soon after they had settled in. The garden was so big that if she waited till spring to do it, she would never be able to get it all done.
John had already taken over his duties as pastor. As he always did, he dove in head first, not taking the time to get to know the people or the town, and overwhelming himself with responsibility, which kept him very busy and left no time for them. She knew it would be like this, it always was when he started something new, whether it was preaching, organizing a fund raiser, or fixing the kitchen sink. But she loved him for it. She knew the members of the church would always be able to trust him and count on him to be there when they needed him, and that was important. Unfortunately, she would be very lonely until he settled in the church and things calmed down.
Hearing the thunder boom in the distance, she decided to call it a day. As she stood up, she looked over the garden at the work she had accomplished that day and nodded her head in approval. She was looking forward to spring planting.
The thunder boomed again, this time right over her head, as the sky suddenly grew dark.
"It sure moved in quickly." she said aloud as she looked up at the storm clouds overhead.
She turned to go to the house when lightning flashed; illuminating the darkening sky and something caught her eye, something on the edge of the woods... a man. She started to walk toward him, but stopped dead in her tracks as the lightening flashed again. Either the trees were smaller than they looked, or this man was huge. She noted he had long hair, a massive body, and was dressed like he just stepped out of the 1920's, in a pair of dark slacks and jacket, and a light color shirt. Tess tried to see him in more detail, but the lack of sunlight made it impossible.
"Tess." a voice whispered.
Tess jerked her head around looking for the owner of the voice, but found no one except the mysterious man by the woods. She looked back at him and found him staring at her intensely. Her eye lids began to feel heavy, she began to sway back and forth, and found it impossible to stay awake although she knew she had to go inside, she couldn't sleep out here in the storm. She tried to walk, but her feet wouldn't obey her commands. Still trying to fight the sleep that suddenly plagued her, she fell backward into darkness.
She felt a strong arm on her back and another under her knees, the side of her body rested against a body, her head on a large shoulder. She knew she was moving, but couldn't feel herself walking, she was being carried. She began to panic and tried to open her eyes.
"Shhhhh" the voice commanded softly, calming her down.
"John." she said slipping further into unconsciousness.
"No." the voice whispered.
Mark caught Tess before she hit the ground and lifted her effortlessly. An evil smile crossed his face as he looked down at the woman sleeping in his arms. After weeks of waiting, she was finally alone, and he was free to do with her as he pleased.
Although the preacher was no match for him and he could accomplish his "mission" even with the interference, he didn't want to have to fight off a man while taking his wife. The last time that happened, he ended up killing the woman before he could rape her, and that wasn't going to happen again. At least not with this one.
A cold rain began to fall, thunder boomed again shaking the ground beneath them, and lightning streaked across the sky. Mark carried Tess into the kitchen through the backdoor and into the hall, and stopped. Looking around, he was amazed at how different it looked than it did when the preacher first moved in. Tess had cleaned the house from top to bottom, which made a big difference.
Walking into the library, he noticed the hardwood floors and some of the furniture had been re-finished, the books had been dusted and straightened, the rugs, sofas and chairs had been cleaned. Everything was exactly as he left it, giving him the feeling that he had just stepped back in time.
He walked over to the sofa facing the fireplace and sat down. Pulling his arm out from beneath Tess' legs, he reached out, ran it across the soft rich velvet that covered the seat and closed his eyes, as memories began to take over his mind.
Tess stirred, pulling him back to reality. He stroked the side of her face as a tidal wave of emotions washed over him, some he remembered and others he never felt before. He wanted to torture her, rape her, and kill her, but at the same time he wanted to make love to her and protect her. Even before he died, no one had ever made him feel this way.
He stood quickly, turned around, and dropped her on the sofa.
"No!" He growled looking down at Tess, "You're not getting away that easily."
Tess' eyes flew open at the sound of his angry voice and she opened her mouth to scream, but before she could, he covered her mouth with his, kissing her savagely.
"Tess, I'm home!" John called out as he walked in from the rain.
The house was unusually silent as Tess always had the radio on. He walked into the kitchen looking for her, and then crossed the hall to the library.
Mark released Tess when John called for her and, looking her in the eye, his voice low and deadly, he said, "Next time." then vanished.
Tess sat up quickly, not taking her eyes off the spot where the man had been. He was there, wasn't he? Or had she been imagining it? 'You're losing it.' she thought.
"Tess, there you are." John said walking over to her.
"Why are you sitting here in the dark?" He asked turning on the light.
"I was just taking a nap." She replied as she leaned up and kissed him.
John looked at her closely. He could see the tears that were threatening to fall, her pale completion, the frightened look in her eyes. He wanted to ask her what was wrong, but he didn't want to upset her.
Tess fell into his arms suddenly and began to cry. He wrapped his arms around her trembling body and held her tight.
"What happened?" He asked, trying to control the anger that was slowly taking over.
"Nothing." Tess answered, "Just a nightmare."
"Tell me what happened." John demanded.
Tess sat up, wiped her face, and told him what she could remember. John stood up, walked to the window, and looked out.
"Are you sure it was just a dream?" He asked, thoughts of what could have happened to her running through his mind.
She was his world and he knew he would never forgive himself if anything ever happened to her.
"I'm sure." She answered simply, not wanting to think about what could have happened if John hadn't shown up.
"Come on. Let's get dressed and go out to dinner." John said smiling.
He wrapped his arm around Tess and they walked upstairs to their bedroom.
Mark stormed through the woods, cursing the preacher for interrupting him, again. Weren't the victims from the accident enough to keep him busy for awhile? What was he going to have to do, crash a plane? And why the hell didn't he think of this sooner? He stopped suddenly listening closely to the surrounding woods. Someone was here. Softly he walked forward following the sound of footsteps until he saw a young man, 19 or 20 years old, walking in his direction. Without making a sound, he sneaked up behind him and followed him a short distance.
He deliberately stepped on a fallen tree limb, surprising the boy, and grabbed him by the throat when he turned around.
"Don't you know that these woods are haunted, boy?" Mark asked in the same low deadly tone he used with Tess.
Without warning, Mark picked up the boy and threw him against a tree, crushing the back of his skull, and walked away.
Tess jumped at the sound of the phone ringing. Lately, she jumped at every sound, every shadow, every trick her imagination played on her. She had always been taught that the best way to overcome your fears was to face them, but she wasn't sure she wanted to face this one; this one was nearly seven feet tall and built like a tree. No, she would be satisfied living with this fear.
"Hello." she answered expecting to hear John's voice telling her he would be late again.
"Hello?" She said again.
Fear began to rise as she listened to the silence on the other end.
"Is anyone there?"
With a trembling hand, she put the receiver back in its cradle and turned to go. Again the phone rang, stopping her dead in her tracks. Slowly she reached out and picked it up again and in a small trembling voice answered, "Hello?" "Hey, Darlin', it's me." John answered, "I won't be home until late."
Tess' heart sank. She felt so vulnerable, so helpless here alone, and she was getting lonely. He had been working non-stop for the past two months and it didn't seem like there was any relief in sight. If only there were another church in town or if he had an assistant, maybe he would have more time for them.
"Can't it wait until tomorrow?" Tess asked, hoping against hope that he would say it could.
"No, Tess, it can't. You knew it would be like this when we first moved here." John replied.
"I know, but..." She started, not wanting to finish knowing it would only make her sound petty and selfish. "What time do you think you'll be home?" She asked trying not to let him hear the disappointment in her voice.
"I don't know." He answered almost coldly. "I'm the only preacher in this town, Tess; I have a responsibility to the people here. I came here to do the Lord's work, why can't you understand that?" He asked, his voice rising slightly.
Tears filled her eyes as frustration, fatigue, and loneliness were taking their toll.
"I do understand that, John, but I'm your wife. I need you too." Her voice broke as she spoke the words, and tears spilled down her face.
"I have to go. I'll see you tonight." He said before hanging up.
Tess stood still for a moment in shock; he had never hung up on her before. Angrily, she slammed the phone down and wiped her face. She knew she shouldn't have been so selfish, but she couldn't help it. She and John hadn't spent more than an hour together since they moved in, they hadn't made love since their first night here, and she was still afraid to be alone. Covering her face with her hands, Tess fell down on the sofa and cried.
Suddenly the lights went out, instantly pulling her from her misery. There was no storm tonight and she had already paid the electric bill, maybe it was the circuit breaker. Slowly she stood up and made her way out the library and into the kitchen to the basement door, where the circuit box was.
Just as Tess opened the basement door, she felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see who was there with her. Before her stood a man, maybe six feet tall, not too muscular but still much stronger than she was, his greasy blonde hair hung in his face while his eyes slowly glided over her form. A wicked smile formed on his lips as he spoke.
"Looks like it's just you and me. What do you say we have some fun?" Grabbing her by the arms, he pulled her to him and kissed her roughly on the mouth, then pushed her away, his grip on her arms tightening as his fingers pressed through the material of her dress. She struggled to get away only to be backhanded across the face and was sent tumbling down the stairs.
She could hear his footsteps as he descended the wooden stairs and tried to get up. A sharp pain shot through her left wrist as she leaned on it, and a cry escaped her as she fell back down to the floor.
"You didn't hurt yourself, did you?" The man asked laughing as he reached the bottom step.
"What do you want from me?" Tess asked trying to keep her fear at bay as she slid back away from him.
He knelt down beside her and, taking her broken wrist in his hand, said, "Oh, I think you know what I want."
She screamed in pain as he twisted her wrist and leaned closer. Through her tears she saw the man being pulled off her and lifted into the air.
'John' she thought, but her heart sank as she saw 'him' standing there, holding the smaller man in the air by his throat.
She watched frozen with fear as 'he' beat her attacker mercilessly until he stopped moving, and then turned to her. A wave of dizziness washed over her as she slid into unconsciousness.
"Rev. Layfield." The doctor said placing a hand on John's shoulder.
John stood up, wiping the sleep from his eyes and asked, "How is she?"
"She's going to be okay." The doctor answered sitting down in the chair across from where John had been sitting and motioned for John to sit down.
"She has a concussion, a broken wrist, and some bumps and bruises." He continued.
John held his face in his hands as tears fell. If only he would have come home for dinner last night instead of eating at the cafe' and calling, he could have been there to protect her. He took a deep breath and asked, "When can she come home?"
"I want to keep her here until tomorrow for observation." the doctor answered.
John nodded. "When can I see her?" He asked standing up.
The doctor smiled. "You can see her now."
John nodded and the two men walked out the waiting room and down the hall to Tess' room. The Sherriff stopped him just as they reached the room to ask him a few questions. No, he didn't know what happened, or who the dead man in his basement was, or who killed him. It was obvious that Tess didn't do it. Together they walked in the room, the doctor leaving them to make his rounds.
John's heart broke as he looked down at his wife. Her right eye had already turned blue and purple, there were bruises on both her upper arms, and she looked so pale... He pulled a chair up beside the bed, gently took her hand in his, and leaned over and kissed her forehead.
Slowly Tess opened her eyes, taking a moment for John's face to come into focus.
"John," she said, her voice just above a whisper.
"I'm here, Darlin'. How are you feeling?" He asked trying to sound as normal as possible.
"I have a headache." She answered.
"Honey, the Sherriff is here. He needs to ask you some questions." He told her.
Tess nodded as the Sherriff walk to the side of the bed opposite John. "Mrs. Layfield, I need you to tell me what happened."
Tess thought for a long moment before answering.
"The last thing I remember is talking to John on the phone." She closed her eyes, trying to remember more. "Blonde hair. I remember seeing blonde hair. A dark color shirt. I think there was somebody else there, too." She said.
"Mrs. Layfield, I'm going to show you a picture and I want you to tell me if you recognize the man in it." The Sherriff said holding the photo up for Tess to see.
Tess nodded. "He looks familiar." She said closing her eyes. "I think he was there first."
"You mean they weren't there together?"
"I don't think so. They could have been. I don't know." A picture of 'him' flashed in Tess' mind. She should tell him 'he' was there, but she wasn't sure if 'he' was real or just a figment of her imagination. The image of 'him' probably wasn't related to this case anyway. 'He' wanted to kill her, or at least that's the impression 'he' gave her.
The sheriff thanked them and handed John a business card and said to Tess, "If you remember anything else, give me a call."
Tess nodded and the Sherriff turned to leave.
"Sherriff, wait." Tess said. "There is one more thing. I got a phone call right before John called. I answered it, but there was no one there."
The Sherriff wrote the information in his notebook.
"The phone company has been having some trouble with the lines so it may be nothing, but I'll check it out." He said then thanked them again and walked away, leaving Tess alone with her husband.
John brushed the hair from Tess' face, the feeling of guilt washing over him again. He didn't know who had saved her from the attack, but he thanked God someone had. He stroked her hair and watched her as the medicine began to take affect and her eyes began to close. He leaned over and kissed her tenderly, wishing he could take her place.
Tess wrapped her arms around John's neck as their lips met in a deep passionate kiss. After the attack, John had tried to take a few days to be with his wife, but there was always something pulling him away. But not this morning. This morning the rest of the world didn't exist and they would give each other the attention that was long overdue.
John pulled Tess' nightgown up over her head and tossed it aside. His eyes roamed over her body as he explored her with his hands. He regretted not doing this sooner. Laying her down across their bed, he kissed her again, his tongue exploring her mouth as if it were the first time.
Tess' heart sank as she heard the phone ring. She didn't know who it was, but she knew what they wanted, her husband.
"Let it ring." She said as John reached out to answer it.
"I can't." John replied simply.
She could tell he didn't want to answer it any more than she wanted him to.
Tess watched him as he talked to the person on the other end wondering what could be so important at five o'clock in the morning. She smiled at him as he hung up and turned toward her.
"I'm sorry." He said softly, stroking the side of her face. "They just identified Billy Jones' body. The family has been asking for a minister and... I couldn't say no." Billy Jones had disappeared two weeks ago from a town about twenty miles away.
"It's okay." She replied giving him a tired smile. "I can't imagine what they must be going through."
"I'll be back as soon as I can." John said getting up.
Tess watched him as he moved around the room as he got dressed and searched for his keys and wallet. Walking back to the bed, he kissed Tess goodbye and left.
Tess closed her eyes and sighed in frustration. She knew the reason people had sex was to procreate and that it was probably a sin to have such strong carnal desires, but her body felt as it would spontaneously combust if he didn't make love to her soon. Unable to go back to sleep, she crawled out of bed and took a shower.
As the water fell over her body an image of 'him' entered her mind. Her first reaction was to cringe and push him of her head, but something made her look closer. The image was of him kneeling down beside her, gently stroking her cheek his eyes full of... compassion? Why had he saved her from the intruder that night after threatening her last time she saw him? Her curiosity was peaked. She felt the water begin to turn cold and turned it off.
His image was still in her head as she sat the table with her coffee, the same expression on his face. She had to know more about him.
Tess spent the day at the library looking through the old newspapers to see if there were any articles about him. After all, a man who is accused of kidnapping, rape, and murder kills a child, there's bound to be something about it. But she found nothing. She went to city hall next to look through the public records. All she found was his birth certificate, death certificate, and the original deed to his house. It was almost as if he'd been born a ghost.
"Well, at least I know your name." She said looking down at the copy of his birth certificate she'd taken with her.
Mark. Noticing the time, she hurried home to start cooking dinner.
Mark sat with his back to his headstone with his legs crossed Indian-style, and ran his hands over his face and through his hair.
He had gone to the preacher's house that night to hurt her, but when he got there, he saw a man backhand her causing her to lose her balance and plummet down the stairs. He followed them down the stairs watching him, waiting for him to hurt her again. When he saw the man twist her arm, he grabbed him from behind and picked him up off her and beat him to death. No one was going to hurt her but him! He went to her next, determined to finish what the man had started. Kneeling down beside her, he found himself stroking her face hoping she would be alright.
Mark roared in anger. Why didn't he finish her off that night? It would have been so easy to rip her clothes off and claim her body. He hated what she was doing to him. He wasn't falling in love with her, but he didn't want to hurt her either. He wanted to make love to her, to take his time with her and enjoy her body and have her enjoy his. But he couldn't, she was the preacher's wife and the preacher, all preachers, had to pay for what happened to him. Revenge was the only way his soul could rest in peace. Standing, he cursed himself for allowing his feelings to affect him like this.
He heard someone walking toward the far end of the cemetery and walked toward the intruder. He saw a little girl playing at the edge of the woods with her baby doll. An evil smile crossed his face as he began to form another plan to get the woman alone.
Tess and John sat down to enjoy their first dinner together in a week. Tess looked across the table at her husband, grateful for the few precious moments they had together. She knew he had to go to the hospital later to visit Mrs. Cole, but for now he was all hers. She learned quickly over the past few months not to take her time with him for granted.
Dinner was over way too soon and John was on his way to the hospital. A feeling of despair came over her as she watched him drive away, as if she would never see him again.
'That's ridiculous.' She told herself. 'You're just lonely.'
She tried to push the feeling aside, but the more she tried to ignore it, the stronger it became. Finally, she decided to read. A good book was just what she needed to help her relax. After cleaning the kitchen, she sat down in the library with a soda and began to read the book she started the day before, and soon she was lost in a world filled with knights, castles, and damsels in distress.
Mark turned the doorknob and gently pushed the door open. As bad as his luck had been lately, he didn't expect to find her here alone.
'Looks like my luck is changing.' He thought as he walked silently through the kitchen.
He stopped at the door and listened carefully trying to determine where in the house she was, and heard her breathing in the library. Walking toward the library, he imagined all the things he was going to do to her, how he was going to hurt her and how he would enjoy the sound of her screams.
Mark saw her sitting on a sofa on the left side of the room. She was reading a book and didn't seem to notice him. The smile on his face widened as he approached her. Finally he would have her.
A shadow fell over Tess' book and, thinking it was John, looked up smiling only to be greeted by Mark who looked more evil than she thought anyone, dead or alive, could look. Fear gripped her heart a she remembered the despair she felt when John left earlier.
She watched as Mark reached toward her and felt his cold hand wrap around her throat. She looked into his sage green eyes and knew what was about to happen and that there was no way to stop it. His grip tightened around her throat as he lifted her into the air and held her in front of him.
He looked down the length of her body.
"How am I supposed to enjoy you in this?" He asked in a menacing tone as his fingers played with the buttons on the front of her dress.
His fingers brushed against her breast through the thin fabric. This couldn't be happening. She was doing it again; she was making him feel for her. Angrily he threw her down on the sofa and lunged forward, his leg pressed against her belly holding her down.
"I've wasted enough time with you." He said as his eyes continued to devour her.
Tess couldn't think. She knew she should try to get away, or at least scream, but her body refused to obey. Instead it was betraying her. She felt electricity surge through her when his fingers brushed against her breast stirring a desire deep inside her. Helplessly, she lay pinned under him, helpless, awaiting her fate.
Tears formed in Tess' eyes as Mark buried his knee in her abdomen. Her hands pushed against his leg, trying to relieve some of the pressure, but that only made him press down harder.
Reaching down, Mark ripped open Tess' dress, sending buttons flying across the room, then ripped off the cotton bra she wore underneath and threw it aside. He tangled one hand in Tess' hair, pulling her head back and kissed her hard on the lips, while his other hand grabbed her breast, roughly kneading it in his firm grasp.
Tess struggled beneath him, trying to push him off, but he was too heavy and wouldn't budge. Her breath stopped as he kissed her neck with cool soft lips, and her body began enjoying his touch.
'No!' Her mind screamed. This couldn't be happening. She couldn't enjoy this.
"Stop." She breathed as he lowered his head and took her nipple in his mouth.
She had meant for the word to sound bold, commanding his attention, but it sounded more like a plea for him to continue.
Mark heard her poor attempt at a command and bit down hard on her nipple, smiling when she cried out in pain. This was more like it, he was in control, she was in pain, and that preacher was nowhere around.
"You don't think you can stop me, do you Tess?" He asked smiling wickedly down at her.
He released his hold on her hair, sliding his hand down her body, over the elastic waistband of her dress, and down her leg.
"Well?" He asked, his hand resting on her calf as he waited for an answer. He wanted to hear her admit that there was nothing she could do to save herself.
Tears fell down her face as she lay under him, praying God would take her now so she wouldn't have to live through what was coming, and at the same time wanting to reach up and touch him, to feel his cool skin beneath her fingers.
"Answer me!" He roared.
"No." Tess answered simply, thankful that her voice hadn't completely abandoned her.
Mark's hand continued its journey down her leg, and then started back up again, pulling the bottom of her dress up with it. He raised his eyebrow as he rubbed her center, the cotton material wet with unwanted desire.
"I see you're ready for me." He said as he grabbed one side of her panties, ripped them off and threw them aside, then continued to rub the cark bed of curls roughly.
Tess' mind was screaming for him to stop while her body continued to give into his touch. She shook herself mentally, pulling herself back to reality and began trying to push him away again. She felt his lips on hers, his tongue invading her mouth again, while his finger rubbed her sensitive clitoris.
Mark leaned up, breaking the kiss, his mouth hovering just above hers and watched her expression as he thrust his finger deep inside her. He was surprised to see that she wanted him and was struggling with herself to push that desire aside. No, she couldn't want him. She was supposed to be afraid of him. Angrily, he pulled his finger out of her and brought his knee up, pressing it down into her abdomen again.
Tess watched through her tears as he ripped open the front of his pants, releasing his erection. She didn't want this, her body longed for released, but not like this, not with him. She began hitting his chest, his legs, anywhere she could land a blow, and screamed for him to stop.
Mark stroked his member as he watched her feeble attempts to hurt him and push him away. Her screams were like music to his ears. Without warning, he grabbed her legs and spread them apart.
Tess's screams turned to sobs as he positioned himself over her. She begged and pleaded with him to stop, but it was useless. She felt his member pressing against her opening.
"Don't do this, Mark. Please don't do this." She cried as he began to push himself inside her.
Mark stopped suddenly and looked down at her. Her face was wet with tears, her voice small and fragile, her eyes full of misery and despair. He turned away from her and closed his eyes. He didn't want to do this to her, but he had to. Without getting his revenge he would be doomed to roam those woods forever, killing innocent people. The same people who turned him into the monster he was now. His emotions were taking over slowly. If he was going to do this, he had to do it now.
'There will be other preacher's.' He told himself.
But he didn't want another one, he wanted her. Slowly he opened his eyes and looked down at her.
"Damn you." He said in a low deadly tone. "Why do you do this to me?" Not waiting for a response, he pushed himself off her and vanished.
Tess lay still for what seemed like an eternity. Slowly she started to get up. Did that really happen? She felt like she was in a dream, but a dream doesn't leave your clothes in rags or your stomach feeling like someone just dropped a cinder block on it. She went around the room, collecting her torn clothes and took them upstairs, then took a shower, letting the water turn cold before getting out. She rubbed the bruise on her tummy as she pulled her dress on. Slowly she walked down stairs to the kitchen, catching a whiff of Mark's scent as she passed the library.
The phone rang, pulling her from her thoughts and she rushed to answer it. It was John, calling to say he'd be home late again. After a short, but sweet conversation, she hung up the phone and sat down to eat her dinner.
Mark paced the floor of the old shack, his emotions still running high. He didn't regret his decision to leave Tess, or did he? He was right there, his manhood pressed against her opening, just a thrust away from taking her, but he looked at her. He couldn't just take her, no, he had to look into those deep blue eyes, he had to give in to his emotions. For the first time he truly felt doomed, knowing he had just blown any chance he had of getting revenge. That was ridiculous! He was dead, stuck here until he finished his unfinished business no matter how long it took.
As he paced back and forth, he thought about all the other preachers he tried to take his revenge out on. Each time he would rape the wife, sometimes killing her depending on how much she annoyed him, the preacher would come looking for her attacker, and he would kill him. The details would vary in the different stories, but they were all basically the same. Maybe he was doing something wrong. Could there be another way for him to seek the justice he deserves? His pace quickened as he desperately searched for an answer.
He stopped pacing as his mind wandered back to Tess, the look in her eyes was too much for him. He closed his eyes as her voice echoed through his head.
'Don't do this Mark! Please don't do this!' She was helpless against him and she knew it as well as he did, pleading with him was her only line of defense, and it had worked. But why? They all begged him to stop. Then it hit him, she called him by name. He didn't realize it at the time, but she had definitely called him by his name. That's probably what made him stop his assault. It wouldn't be hard for her to find out what his name was, all she had to do was look up the original deed to his house. The sound of his name on her voice sent desire coursing through his veins. He remembered the look in her eyes when he slid his finger inside her. She wanted him, there was no doubt about it, but she refused to give in to her desire. She was trying to be faithful to her husband, while fighting to stomp out the flame of desire he lit inside her.
A smile tugged at his lips as he began to form a plan. It was so simple, why hadn't he thought of it before? Instead of raping Tess, he would give in to his desire for her and use her own desire against her. His smile widened at the thought of being with her, touching her, kissing her...
His smile faded quickly. How was he supposed to get close to her after attacking her? She would be terrified of him. He knew he wouldn't be able to go back to the house for awhile, the preacher would surely be spending a lot more time with her after he found out about tonight. He needed to get her to come to him. His mind searched desperately for a way.
His thoughts were interrupted by a sound in the corner. He looked over and saw the little girl he found playing in the cemetery alone. He couldn't bring himself to kill the child, as coldhearted as he was, he just couldn't do it. He had tied her up in the chair and put her in the corner until he could figure out what to do with her. He left her alone several times thinking someone would know where she had been playing and come looking for her, but no one ever came.
A smile spread across his face as he looked at her, that's how he would get Tess here. He would send her an image of the girl and give her a choice, either she comes to him or the girl dies. No, that would only frighten her more. He could put her in a trance. He'd done it before causing her to fall asleep that day in the garden. She wasn't here though, she was half a mile away and he wasn't sure it would work. 'There's only one way to find out." He said to himself. He closed his eyes and concentrated, searching for her mind and, after a few minutes, he found her.
Tess lay on her bed wrapped up in the comforter as she thought about what had happened. Tears flowed down her face as she realized just how close she had come to being raped. He was right there, if either one of them moved the slightest bit, he would have been embedded in her and there was nothing she could have done to stop him. As she thought about it, she felt the moister between her legs and cried. She wanted him. God help her, she did.
'It's just loneliness.' She told herself rather unconvincingly. 'You miss John and...' Her thoughts trailed off.
She was lying.
She reached up and touched her lips remembering how cold his skin was, how soft his lips felt, how sweet he tasted as his tongue invaded her mouth. Slowly, her fingers made a path from her mouth to her neck then down to her breasts, retracing the trail of fire his lips made earlier. Closing her eyes, she could see his face, the passion showing clearly in his eyes. Those beautiful sage green eyes. She would have gotten lost in them despite her misery if he hadn't looked away.
"I'm going to Hell." She said aloud.
As she tried hard to control her feelings of lust toward this man, something occurred to her. Mark died over seventy years ago; she was going to Hell because of a dead man! As quickly as the thought came to her, it left.
Her mind wandering back to the feeling of pleasure Mark had given her. 'What's wrong with me?' She asked herself.
The harder she tried to push him out of her mind, the stronger her desire for him grew, she began to feel lightheaded. The last time she felt this way was in the garden last fall.
"Tess" a voice whispered.
She looked around the darkened room for the owner of the voice, but knew she wouldn't find him here. That deep silky voice could only belong to one person, Mark. Even though she'd only heard him speak to her in anger, she recognized it.
Slowly, she crawled out of bed and walked down stairs toward the back door. She seemed immune to the harsh elements as she walked across the yard and into the woods. Her long flannel gown flowed behind her in the icy wind as her bare feet padded over the frozen ground. She didn't know where she was going, but she knew that Mark was there waiting for her.
John pulled into the driveway just after midnight. He felt bad about leaving Tess alone as much as he did, but he had an obligation to the church, and Tess understood that. He truly was blessed to have a woman like her.
As he made his way from his truck to the house, he saw someone walking across the yard. He took a closer look and saw it was Tess. Was she walking into the woods? No, not after the stories they heard and the disappearances of those people! Yes, she was and she was in her nightgown. Quickly he followed her, stopping at the edge of the woods for a moment before pressing on. The wind nipped at his face as he hurried to catch up to his wife. When he finally caught up to her, they were approaching an old shack. Just beyond the shack was a thin line of trees then the cemetery.
He watched as Tess entered the building and went closer to get a better look. Standing at the window, he watched as Tess walked up to a large man. He was big, but this man looked even bigger. The man took Tess' face in his hands and lowered his lips to hers, capturing her in a passionate kiss. John's blood began to boil as he watched his wife kissed this man in return. How could she do this to him?
Suddenly the door flew open and a little girl came running out. She stopped and looked up at John, tears in her eyes. Maybe this child was the reason Tess was here. The man could have threatened her and he knew Tess would do anything to protect a child, no matter what she had to do. He bent over and, taking the girl in his arms, told her to run away as fast as she could and not look back. After the girl left, he turned his attention back to the couple in the window. They were still standing facing each other, Tess stood with her back to him and the man facing him. The man still held her face as he looked down at her. John could see the passion in his eyes as they devoured his wife.
The man looked up at him suddenly, and a smile appeared on his face and John could only guess what the man was thinking.
"John" A voice whispered in his ear.
John spun around looking for the man who just whispered his name, but found no one. Slowly he turned around facing the window. He wanted to rush in and beat the hell out of that man for laying his hands on Tess, even though he knew it was a sin, but he was unable to move or look away. He had a sinking feeling that this was the ghost everyone had warned him about, and judging by the look in his eye, his wife was in terrible danger. His heart and mind told him to go in and rescue her from him, but he felt lightheaded and suddenly realized he had no control over his body. He had no choice but to stand there and watch.
Mark smiled as he looked out the window and saw John watching them. He hadn't expected him to follow her, to tell the truth he had completely forgotten about him. He quickly put John in a trance. If Tess were to see him or know that he was there, he might lose his hold over her, and that was a chance he was not willing to take! He had waited too long to have her to lose her like that. Satisfied he had control over her husband, he turned his attention back to Tess.
Mark lowered his head again and covered her lips with his. His hand moved from her face to the back of her neck, as his tongue pressed against her lips, silently asking them to open, which she did. He pulled her close to him, deepening the kiss. As he held her, he felt her body shivering and realized she was cold. He was cold anyway and never had to think about the weather. He cursed himself for not thinking about this sooner. Reluctantly he broke the kiss and, looking down at her, told her he'd be right back.
He sat her down in a chair then walked outside and began collecting firewood. Soon he had a fire roaring in the fireplace.
He walked back to Tess, who had been watching his every move, and, taking her by the hand, led her to the fire. Gently, he pulled her back into his arms and recaptured her lips, picking up right where they left off.
Mark ran his hand across Tess' face down her neck and over the flannel material that covered her body, leaving a trail of fire behind while his other hand rested on the back of her neck. He heard the sharp intake of breath as he covered her breast, and felt guilty about biting her earlier. He had been so hell-bent on revenge, he didn't stop to think that he might have actually hurt her.
In a trail of soft kisses, his mouth descended from her lips to her neck. Her skin was warm and soft, and he felt as if he would drown in her sweet scent as it filled the room. Slowly, he pulled her nightgown over her head and looked down at her form; her only clothing was the white cotton panties that covered the soft dark bed of curls that he had invaded so roughly earlier. Another feeling of guilt washed over him quickly, not lingering as his desire was beginning to consume him.
He looked into her glossy eyes. He hated having her in a trance like this, but it was the only way he knew to keep her here without frightening her or hurting her again. He wanted her hands to touch him, her lips to kiss him. He could easily make her do as he wished, but he wanted her to want to do those things to him. He smiled at her and was rewarded with a smile in return.
He kissed her again, his hands running down her bare back and up her arms. Pulling away, he looked deep into her eyes.
"Tess, look at me." He said gently, giving her back her free will.
Tess stared up at him, fear gripping her as she looked up at her captor. "What do you want with me?" She asked in a small frightened voice.
"I want you, Tess." He replied as he sent her his memory of the kisses they shared in the past few minutes.
Her eyes filled with tears as she looked at him, unaware of her nakedness.
"I want you too, Mark." Tess didn't want to say the words, or to admit to them, but the look of honesty and sadness she saw in his eyes made it impossible to lie to him.
He looked at her clearly surprised as he had imagined her running away from him screaming. Deciding not to push the subject, for fear she would change her mind, he pulled her to him and kissed her passionately as his hands continued to caress her body. He felt her hands on his chest, pushing his jacket off his shoulders and heard it hit the floor with a silent thud. Slowly she unbuttoned his shirt, her lips replacing her fingers as she exposed his massive body. The heat from her touch seemed to burn his skin as she slowly peeled off his shirt.
Tess opened the front of his pants as her lips covered his tummy. Her eyes widened as she pulled the pants down over his hips releasing his rock-hard erection from the confines of its fabric prison. She held it in her hand and stroked it as her lips found his chest again. With her free hand she ran her fingers over his chest feeling his muscles flex then relax under her touch. Her mouth found his nipple and she drew it in her mouth, sucking and nibbling until she heard him moan, which only made her appetite for him increase. She felt his hands become tangled in her hair, pushing her head down to his throbbing member.
Slowly, deliberately, she took the head in her mouth and sucked then slowly she took more and more of him in until he was deep in her throat. She sucked as hard as she could as he guided himself in and out of her mouth. She felt his body tense as he thrust into her mouth harder until his cool liquid spilled down her throat.
He pulled her up, kissing her, and then gently laid her down on the bear skin rug. He finished removing his clothing then pulled the panties down her legs and discarded them. He looked over her naked body as his hands lightly ran over her, feeling every inch of her before replacing them with his mouth.
She gasped as he spread her open, his tongue wet and cool. Every part of him, she realized, was cold. There was no heat radiating from him as the fires of passion burned inside. She could see it in his eyes though, and she matched that passion with her own.
She squirmed beneath him as he sucked on her hardened clitoris. His hands grasped her hips firmly holding her in place as he slowly licked the warm pink flesh down to her entrance and buried his tongue deep inside her. She held on to his shoulders as he made love to her with his tongue, her fingers digging into his flesh. She could feel her orgasm building inside her as he continued his assault on her sensitive body. She arched her back suddenly calling out his name as waves of pleasure washed over her.
He lapped up all the juices her body had to give and closed his eyes as he tasted the warm sweet liquid that flowed over his tongue. He loved the way her hot body felt under his cold skin. Slowly, he began to kiss his way back up her body, stopping when he saw the large bruise on her tummy. Tenderly, he ran his fingers over the bruise and covered it with kisses. He felt her fingers stroking his hair and looked up to find her watching him.
"I'm sorry." He said. The regret he felt reflected in his voice.
Tess only smiled at him. Something was happening between them, something that couldn't happen... they were falling in love. He didn't have to say anything; his emotions were reflected in his eyes.
He moved up, covering her body with his own, as their lips met in a deep kiss that said more than words ever could. She opened her legs as he settled between them. Slowly he pushed himself into her, filling her up completely, and began moving.
Her hands caressed his chest and shoulders as she nibbled on his neck. He moved at a slow steady pace, pulling himself almost completely out then filling her up again. She felt as if she were going to split into. Her fingernails dug into his back as his pace became faster and harder. Her back arched again as she felt another title wave of pleasure crash in on her, this one stronger than any she ever had before.
He felt her walls close in around him, pulling him in deeper as he felt his own release quickly approaching. With a few more thrusts, he exploded deep inside her, her hot body absorbing all of his cool liquid.
Mark and Tess lay on the bear skin wrapped in each other’s arms as the heat from the fire kept Tess' body warm against Mark's cold form. Mark stroked her hair as Tess ran her fingers lightly over his chest.
Mark looked down at the woman in his arms. He hated himself for using her like this, but he hated himself even more for falling in love with her. He had completely forgotten about revenge and had been drawn into her, consumed by the love that had swept over both of them. He closed his eyes and for some unexplainable reason, he felt at peace.
Tess looked up at him suddenly, tears filling her eyes. As they laid in silence, she felt his body temperature begin to rise. Or had hers dropped?
"Mark?" She whispered.
Her eyes silently pleading with him, begging him for an explanation. As he looked down at her, she could see the same questions that plagued her reflected in his eyes. She was sure that this was the end of... of what? Her eyes widened as she saw him begin to change, the air around him seemed to glow, and a peaceful look came over his features. Her body began to tingle, and she felt as if she were being pulled out of her body.
They sat up together then Tess watched as Mark stood up. He reminded Tess of an angel as a soft white light illuminated from his body. She took his hand as he extended it, and felt weightless as he pulled her to her feet. When she looked up at him, she found him staring past her at something on the floor. She turned slowly and looked down to the spot he was staring at.
Her hands flew to her mouth stifling the cry that escaped her throat as she stumbled backward. Mark caught her before she fell; wrapping her in his arms to give her the support she needed, and she leaned gratefully against his strong body.
The door flew open suddenly as John burst into the room, falling to the floor and gathering Tess' body up in his arms.
John had been in a trance, watching everything Tess and Mark did. He'd seen the look in her eyes when Mark went to get firewood and knew she was under the same spell he was. That's when he knew beyond the shadow of a doubt what the man wanted; he just hoped that that was all the man had planned.
His fear turned to anger as he watched Tess respond to his touch. He already had her in bed, why did he have to make her enjoy it? Unable to move or scream, he cursed the man he was watching, knowing that Tess wasn't responsible for any of her actions. The man had had a smug look on his face as if he were silently rubbing this in. But afterward, when they were lying together, the man seemed to have forgotten all about him.
John's eyes widened as he watched a thin white smoke surround them and a soft glow fill the room. He saw them sit up and the man stand, extending his hand to Tess. They began to fade as he pulled her up and by the time Tess was standing they had vanished. He ran into the room and over to Tess' body that lay lifeless on the floor. He pulled her up into his lap and held her as he cried.
Tess watched John as he held her body. She wanted to comfort him, cry for him, but perfect peace was all she felt.
"Are you ready to go?" Mark asked looking lovingly down into Tess' eyes.
"Yes." She answered simply smiling up at him.
Taking her by the hand, Mark led her away from John and hand in hand, they walked together into eternity.