Jaedyn glanced up at the roof combs of the Mayan temple, her heart racing at the find she’d made. Deep inside the structure in a dirt-piled corner where she’d been digging out of sheer desperation lay delicate artifacts of the Mayan tribe.
She’d only been hacking away at the hard ground, really, as she sat against the cold stone of the Shrine of the Sun because of her frustration in not being able to find the phantom that haunted her. For weeks, she’d been waking way before dawn, seeing an image that seemed to be transparent. An image of a handsome man as he stood watching her, waiting.
She’d been drawn to him in a way she’d never been before, compelled to be in the same place twice each day just to see him. Several times they’d reach out to the other, only to have the image fade away as if it had never been.
She’d tried to find out who he was, why he appeared and disappeared during the twilight hours and early morning dawn. Each time she saw him, a blend of heat and desire coiled and curled in the heart of her.
Each time she caught sight of him she found one more thing to covet, one more play of muscle she wanted to caress. And his smile, when he smiled at her, it sent shivers of heat spiraling leisurely and sensuously throughout her body like a long slow slide into a warm pool of water.
She’d never met a man who moved her in the way he did—with just a glance, a smile, a yearning in his eyes. The irony of the whole thing was they’d never shared a word and yet … yet, it seemed like she knew him. Like she’d always known him. Like she’d been searching for him her whole life without even knowing it. And it hurt so badly that she couldn’t communicate.
They’d come close once, so close sparks flew into the heavens like shooting stars. There’d been a wavering light. A kind of ethereal glow, really. They were standing close, separated only by the ebb and flow of luminescence and it seemed time stood still.
They stood bathed in the light, gazing at each other then took a step forward. Their palms touched, somehow, and it seemed the whole world exploded around them. The current of energy was so strong it shot high into the early morning sky with a staggering force. Jaedyn felt the strength of it run swift and true through her fingertips and exit out her toes. She could swear she sizzled from the heat of it. Then the blaze of light blinked out, turning the early gray streaks of dawn dark again as if it had never been. He was gone.
That had been weeks ago and still she never got over the heat that swirled into her from the touch of his palm against hers. If she were superstitious, which she wasn’t of course, she’d say there was a curse floating in the air. A curse keeping them apart. Maybe a curse of the grounds. Or the shrine itself, perhaps.
From that day forward, she’d read more, studied more, researched more of the Mayan legends. She’d run across a myth about lovers that were constantly on a quest, constantly searching for each other but could never quite seem to connect. It stated he was of the night and she was of the day. Always looking, always pursuing, then finally the day came, the early morning shades of dawn bathing them in an eerie glow and like magic they came together never to be apart again.
That legend had touched a part of her and she wept. She saw people eyeing her in bewilderment as she wiped the tears from her face.
She came to think of that legend as her own. She thought of him as her vanishing warrior, romanticized his appearance until she wondered if she was making more of it than it was. It could have been a trick of the light, she told herself, then immediately shot that down because it happened nearly every day now. And she was not hallucinating.
She reached out and touched the stones protruding out of the building. They felt warm, nearly pulsating under her palm. She looked around her at the greenish-yellow light of late afternoon. Something was wrong. She couldn’t put her finger on what it was. It was only a feeling. A vague sense that something was very, very wrong.
She felt the earth move under her feet, felt the ground shift, reposition itself, and tremors begin. She heard the rumble, saw dust from the top of the shrine stream downward and lost her balance. Her last vision was of shadows casting the image of her mystery man through a shimmering doorway. She could almost hear him calling her name, which made no sense for he knew no more about her than she did about him.
The pain was excruciating as the stones came falling down in the ruins. Jaedyn felt the sharp edges of the age-old stones slicing her skin as the weight pulled her under. Stunned by the impact, she tried to remain conscious, knowing that help may be hours away. No matter how hard she tried to hold on, the darkness closed in around her.
Dalton Bridger lost his breath, his heart as he saw the woman that came to him in twilight dreams crushed under falling stones.
Dreams. Always the dreams. And the pain of loss. The never knowing if it was real or an illusion. She’d come to him so many times, surrounded most times in a misty fog rising from within and reaching for him. Then before he could get to her, she would fade away. He’d run, racing like the wind to reach her in time but she’d vanish like she’d never been.
There’d been that one time when they came together in an explosion of sound, of senses that rocked him to the core. To this day, he still reeled from the shock to his body just by the slightest of touches.
And now, now she was laying underneath a pile of rubble and he had no way to save her, a barrier standing between them. Dalton dropped to his knees in despair, sending up a silent plea that he be granted this one request, to be able to make it through this obstacle that stood in his way. Somehow, he had to find a passage to the other side.
He uttered words he’d read inscribed on a wedge of stone he’d found buried deep inside the earth. Shortly after the find, the visions began. He’d translated the language, after all that’s what he did for a living. He was a linguist, a paleographer and epigrapher, was proficient in twelve languages, even the ancient ones. And those ancient languages held his attention more than any he’d run across. So much so that he became engrossed in all things ancient.
That’s what he was doing here at these ruins. He’d found that wedge of rock and it had grown so warm underneath his fingertips, he nearly dropped it. That in itself got his attention. Almost as if it were calling to him, pleading with him for deliverance, to do something to give it peace.
But the more he searched for answers, the less he knew. The woman in his visions haunted his every waking moment. Then came to him in dreams that were so real, so captivating, he was mesmerized by her very appearance. No matter what he did, the plans he made, the schemes he came up with, he failed to find a way to bring those brief glimpses of the other side into his life.
The inscriptions and pictograms on that stone slab told a legend of a searcher, cursed into walking the night for the woman he loved. She’d been cursed to roam the earth in the light of day. The answer lay inside a circle, a circle he hadn’t been able to locate. That part of the stone tablet had been broken.
The section in his possession had contained a set of numbers, a set of coordinates he liked to think. However, there was no proof of that. He’d spent many a night searching deep into the hard ground, probing through fallen debris, digging and brushing at anything he discovered. But thus far he’d never found the circle or the missing part of the stone tablet. At the very edge of the broken stone was a phrase, a mingling of words, a breaking spell to bring the cursed lovers together.
It was these words he now murmured into the light. His words blended with the air, drifting on a breeze that sprang from nowhere. He spread his arms wide, threw his head back and breathed deep. Holding his palms upward, he welcomed the light into him, absorbing the blush of the rays as it encircled him.
He couldn’t say what it was exactly—only a glow, a shimmering light that swirled around him. The spin of light swept upward in a playful manner, brushing over his body almost in a lovers’ caress.
Then a surge of flaming radiance shot upward and splinters of golden light shadowed the length of his body followed by another burst of a blinding white light that heated the area where he stood.
He felt a warmth, a pressure of forward motion then the translucent wall wavered, flickered with a dazzling light and an opening formed. He felt a nudging, a gentle prodding, moving him forward through the breach in the aperture.
He needed no more urging, clamoring through the slash in time that kept him separated from the woman in his dreams for so many days like a man crazed. He ran to the pile of debris that had collapsed on top of the mysterious woman he’d come to think of as his.
Dalton knelt where he saw her go down and began digging, his knuckles scraped and bleeding from the abrasions by the sharp edges. He uncovered a few strands of silver laying across various sizes rocks. Taking consolation in that, he pushed the stones until he came across an outstretched hand.
He felt for a pulse, his heart beating so hard in fear he thought it would burst right out of his chest. Thank God, it was there, faint but beating steadily.
Frantically, he began grabbing stones and heaving them to the side. Little by little, he uncovered her body. A body, that like his own knuckles, were abraded by the deluge of heavy stones that came raining down on her head.
He pulled Jaedyn free, brushed debris from her face and smoothed her hair from her face. He seized a bottle of water that came through the earthquake without a scratch with a trembling hand. He tugged his T-shirt over his head, wet an edge and wiped away the dirt that had collected on her cheek.
He thanked the Mayan Gods for allowing him entrance into their sacred domain of the day if that’s what it was. He did most of his work at night, preferring the cool soothing moods of the night. It’d been a fluke that he was here at this time of day. That again was a fluke of another kind.
He’d taken up one of the fragments of stone he’d unearthed, dusting the edges, brushing lightly until he uncovered an odd symbol. An uncontrollable urge to get to the ruins overcame him so hard and fast, he was out the door before he knew what he was doing.
And now, he was here. Holding his destiny in his arms.
And before he could take a breath, he was snatched back inside of the barrier that always stood between them, bereft, alone and shattered.