Audrina knocked on the wooden door. "Mr. Edwards?"
Nothing. A cool breeze blew in from the Atlantic Ocean and Audrina tugged on the shawl around her shoulders. Where was Mr. Edwards?
She twisted the knob to the lighthouse door. It turned, but stuck. Glancing up, she noticed rust on the hinges. Leaning her shoulder against the door, she pushed it open. Built in the early 1800's, the lighthouse captured the ambience of the past, standing proud against the Maine coastline.
"Mr. Edwards?" Her voice rattled throughout the lighthouse. Audrina tucked a stray tendril of her auburn hair behind her ear, pausing near the entrance. He had to be here. Her aunt's diary related that he rarely ventured from the antiquated lighthouse. Fishermen and cruise liners depended on the light and audible signals from this building – especially when the weather became foggy.
Looking around, she spied a set of metallic steps in the middle of the building which led up to the Frenzel lens and fog signal. Across the entrance, to the right, was another door partially opened.
The autumn wind whipped around the windows, making a high pitched whistle. A wave of uncertainty coursed through her bones. Was Mr. Edwards in that room? What would she find? She crossed the floor, hesitating next to the opening. Oh, she was being ridiculous. What did she expect to find? A ghost?
Audrina eased the door open, revealing a compact room. A single bed rested next to the curved wall. A young man lay clasping a picture frame next to his chest.
She ran to his side. Sweat dripped down his temples. Gently, she removed the frame, putting it on the nightstand, and placed her hand on his forehead. Hot. He had a fever. How long had he been sick?
"Mr. Edwards?" She shook his shoulders.
The young man's lids snapped open, but his eyes were glazed over from fever. "Esther?"
"No, I'm Audrina, Esther's niece. You're sick."
"Esther – where's Esther?"
"She passed away two weeks ago."
"No." The man's voice faded away. Had he lost hope? Her heart went out to him. She squeezed one of his hands between hers, studying him. His hair was thick and curly, framing his ruggedly handsome face. His square jaw and broad shoulders exuded a raw masculinity and vitality, despite his fever. Audrina found him appealing. Despite his illness, his muscles were hard. Stubble grew around his chin. God, there was no denying the attractiveness of his feral looks.
Departing the room, she discovered a kitchen, but the food was bad. She needed to make a trip to the grocery store. She also needed to treat the fever. Turning her attention to the sink, she found a washrag and dampened it. Who knew how long he'd been ill. She returned to his bedside and wiped the rag over his face.
"I think I should call for the paramedics."
"No!" His eyes snapped open, fierce and adamant none be spent. His voice was rough with anxiety.
"A paramedic can treat you better than I—"
"No. I don't want doctors. I hate them. None of them can help me."
Audrina crossed her arms. Her expression stilled and grew serious. Mixed feelings surged within her. He had to know that a doctor could help him. Why didn't he want to see one? What was he hiding? Should she be worried?
He opened his eyes, staring at her. She couldn't look away, spellbound by his expression. He possessed such unusual eyes – deep malachite green surrounded by a golden ring hugging his irises.
"No…you're not Esther. You smell different. Perfect," he rasped.
His comment raised her curiosity, but she ignored it for now. "I'm Audrina."
"Esther's dead, you said?"
"Yes. I'm sorry."
"Why did you come?"
"She left me her manor in her will. I arrived a few days ago, but only found her diary today."
He struggled to sit up in the bed, his expression a mix of pain and pleasant surprise. "You're beautiful."
"My name is Damian."
"Damian." She squeezed his hand again. "Lie back down. I'll return shortly."
He returned the pressure from her grasp, then collapsed onto the bed. "Please…"
"I promise." Audrina stood.
He nodded and closed his eyes.
Audrina drove her car up the dirt access road and parked next to the lighthouse. Twilight darkened the clouds over the ocean, casting deep orange and red shadows over the horizon. A waxing gibbous moon crested over the stormy waves. She hadn't explored her aunt's manor to the extent she would have liked, and had only partially read her aunt's diary – specifically the last couple of pages which expressed concern for Mr. Edwards – Damian.
Her aunt knew she was dying, she had cancer, but she believed Mr. Edwards would become inconsolable and possibly lose his mind if she revealed the nature of her illness and therefore she hadn't confided in him. Audrina believed her aunt didn't want to break Damian's heart. What Audrina found odd was that Damian was a young man. Her aunt was eighty-two when she passed.
Grabbing her bag with the food and medication, she walked through the brisk New England chill and entered the lighthouse. Quickly, she prepared a bowl of soup and a light meal.
Damian still lay in the bed, clutching the washcloth. God, he looked so vulnerable – and oh, so handsome. Her heart constricted in her chest.
He mustered a smile. "You returned." His voice ached with longing.
"Take these." She handed him some antibiotics she hadn't used from a recent prescription and a glass of water. He swallowed them and sat up. Audrina spoon fed him the soup. He ate the crackers, never taking his eyes off her.
"Thank you. I was hungry."
"You need to rest."
"I'm cold, then hot, then cold."
"It's the fever. Do you have any extra blankets?"
"No. Can you lay beside me?" His gaze fell to the creamy expanse of her neck.
Audrina bit her lower lip with her teeth. Her heart ached under her breast. His eyes mesmerized her. Something intense flared between them – a spark. Desire? Mutual attraction? Fascination? His eyes drew her to him, despite only having just met him.
She said nothing, but lay down next to him, resting her head against his chest.
He kissed her temple. "Thank you."
Closing her eyes, she drifted off to sleep.
The rain struck the window in a rhythmic fashion, waking Audrina. She left the bed, found a candle on the nightstand, and lit it. The inky shadows faded away and the candle cast a soft light over the bed. The picture frame she'd taken from his hand earlier rested next to the pewter candleholder. Curious, she picked it up and turned it over.
The photo was black and white. Damian appeared the same with a head full of curls. A vibrant grin curved his lips. He stood next to a young woman who possessed long brown hair and a passionate smile. Audrina wrinkled her brow, confused. From the clothes she would date the photo in the late forties or early fifties. Who was the woman? Why did her features look familiar?
She clutched the frame to her breast and looked at Damian, uncertainty splayed across her face. Who was he?
He pointed toward the picture. "That's Esther and I years ago. I loved her very much, but…" his voice trailed off.
"She didn't want to be my lover, choosing to remain my friend."
"Lover?" Audrina arched an eyebrow.
Damian stood and held out his hand. "I've lived for over one hundred and fifty years, but Esther's loss almost destroyed me."
The flame flickered, casting stark eerie shadows over his cheekbones, giving him a feral appearance.
"What are you?"
He snared her eyes with his intense gaze. "I am a werewolf. Stay with me."
Attraction tumbled next to apprehension. "Why?"
"Because you feel the attraction between us, like I do." He paused. "I've been waiting lifetimes for you. I thought Esther might be my mate, but she was not."
"I don't understand."
"Esther's scent was close, but you, your scent, it's driving me wild, giving me hope. No one else has ever made me feel like this. You're my soulmate. Please stay."
Audrina couldn't deny the ache that thrummed throughout her body, despite the tension that coursed through her. What should she do? Dare she believe his claim? After several long minutes, she remained in her seat.
Word Count: 1376
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