Read Into the Light Online

Authors: Aleatha Romig

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Kidnapping, #Psychological Thrillers, #Spies & Politics, #Conspiracies, #Suspense, #Thrillers, #Psychological

Into the Light

BOOK: Into the Light
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OTHER TITLES BY ALEATHA ROMIG

The Infidelity Series

Betrayal

Cunning

Deception

Entrapment

Fidelity

The Consequences Series

Consequences

Truth

Convicted

Revealed

Beyond the Consequences

and companions

Behind His Eyes: Consequences

Behind His Eyes: Truth

Tales from the Dark Side

Insidious

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text copyright © 2016 by Romig Works, LLC.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Thomas & Mercer, Seattle

www.apub.com

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Thomas & Mercer are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781503935150

ISBN-10: 1503935159

Cover design by Shasti O’Leary-Soudant

To parents near and far. The lessons you bestow may seem to go unheard, but each word is buried deep in the hearts of children. With time, those memories provide the foundation to carry us through to another day.

God gave us memory so that we may have roses in December.

—J. M. Barrie

PROLOGUE

An impenetrable fog cloaked the woman’s thoughts, seeping into her being, binding and erasing everything she’d ever known. Before was gone. The only thing that mattered, with increasing urgency, was the present.

Desperately she tried to see past the darkness.

Nothing but black.

She winced with every turn, razor-sharp metal slicing her hands as she fought to escape the mangled cage. With only the howling wind as her guide, she searched for freedom, persisting until her bloodied fingers slid upon the vehicle’s slick exterior.

As she lifted her face to the wind, sleet pelted her cheeks and frigid air contracted her lungs. Each breath was more painful than the last. Her heart raced and adrenaline surged while a low hiss and an overpowering stench of gasoline assaulted her senses. With a final shove, she freed herself from the wreckage, falling onto the wet, hard ground.

Still unable to see, she created visions in her mind. The offending odor of fuel wafting through the icy air became a monster’s putrid breath, that of a dragon from a fairy tale capable of exhaling fire. Her imagination sounded an alarm that was both a nightmare and a beacon.

I need to get away.

As her other senses heightened, she moved to her hands and knees and began to crawl.

Right, left, then right again.

Without warning the dragon’s fiery breath bellowed and heat rolled in waves around her, thawing the frozen air and knocking her flat. Thanking God that she’d awakened and gotten out of the vehicle in time, she hoarsely screamed to the darkness.

The darkness didn’t reply.

She righted herself again and—inch by inch, foot by foot—crawled away from the dragon’s heat, her confidence and speed building with each yard.

Then, suddenly, her head collided with an unseen force that struck her left cheek. Before she could process what had happened, a deep, commanding voice shattered her isolation.

“Don’t!”

The single word echoed around her as pain, surpassing anything she’d ever felt, struck her lower leg. Crumbling, she collapsed to the icy ground.

“No! Stop!” she begged, unsure of what was happening.

With no sympathy for her pleas, the assault continued. Air left her lungs as her midsection sustained blow after blow. Turning into herself, she shielded her face and pulled her good leg to her chest.

“Stop!” the voice demanded.

Paralyzed by fear, she lay still, tears freezing upon her cheeks and her chest heaving with great, ragged breaths. Footsteps shuffled nearby before a new excruciating pain shot through her. She cried out as strong, masculine arms lifted her from the ground.

The clouding fog returned, settling upon her like a heavy blanket and lessening her pain with each of the man’s steps. The scent of leather and musk replaced the odor of gasoline as the simplest question came to her mind.

Who am I?

Unable to find the answer, the woman settled her cheek against the man’s chest. Her unseeing eyes closed, and she surrendered to the fog and the dark.

CHAPTER 1

Sara

In a place without light, I began to heal. Wrapped in protective nothingness, cold and pain no longer existed, concerns and deadlines were things of the past. I welcomed the dark, relishing its armor as it buffered me from the outside world. Slowly small recollections returned, flickers that made my body tense until I physically trembled. I recalled intense agony and an explosion of heat, yet my cocoon of blackness smothered the impending fire, keeping its flames at bay.

My mind sent signals that my body didn’t obey. Helpless, my hands, feet, and even the lids of my eyes sat heavy and immobile. Occasionally actual voices penetrated my cocoon and infiltrated my darkness. With repetition they became familiar. They wanted me and, finally, I wanted them.

“Sara, can you hear me?” the strong, deep voice called from beyond the darkness.

“Keep talking, Brother. We aren’t sure what a person hears while unconscious.”

“Sara . . .” Warmth enveloped my hand as it was lifted from my side. “I’m here. It’s Jacob. I’m not leaving you. You aren’t leaving me.” His voice cracked with emotion. “Come back.”

Sara . . . Sara . . . the name echoed in my mind.

Brother? Is he talking to me? Am I Sara? Who is Jacob?

The obvious emotion in each syllable of his request impelled me to answer him, to ease his distress, but I couldn’t. My mind and my body were still at odds.

The cocoon’s layers that had been my refuge now swallowed my will. No longer did they protect—they strangled and suffocated, muting my ability to speak. The warmth of Jacob’s hand and even the sound of his voice slipped away as I once again surrendered to the nothingness.

Smidgens of life scratched and tore at my darkened world. Slowly sounds returned, not only to register, but to linger—particularly one steady voice that called out over and over, repeating the name Sara.

The name ricocheted through my consciousness, and I searched for more, for more names, for faces. There were none. My only memory, the smallest semblance of recognition, was of piercing blue eyes. I couldn’t remember the entirety of the face, but blue eyes filled the voids when the voices stilled and my world quieted to the steady rhythm of mechanical beeps. I longed for the familiarity of that gaze.

With time I grew stronger, until finally I was fully cognizant of the world beyond me. As if a switch had been flipped, my battered body was suddenly present. I was no longer floating in nothingness—now there was a bed below me and a blanket upon my chest. The beeps that had been the backdrop of my unconsciousness became clearer. A clean, sterile scent permeated the stagnant air painfully filling my lungs. Exhaling slowly, I opened my eyes.

Adrenaline flooded my system, accelerating my heartbeat and sense of panic.

I can’t see.

Lifting my too-heavy arm and reaching for my eyes, I heard a voice. The voice that had stayed with me through the darkness splintered the stillness with a welcome sound.

“Sara? Are you finally awake?”

A spark of recollection flickered in my dark world. Jacob. I’d heard the name repeatedly in my unconscious state. Instead of reaching for my eyes, I reached toward the hoarse voice, toward
his
face. At the first contact, I flinched; even the tips of my fingers were tender. Trying again, I connected with his scruffy cheek and traced his strong, defined jaw. With each caress I tried to imagine what I couldn’t see, but my mind’s canvas remained blank.

“I’m here. Thank The Light, Sara. I knew you’d come back. I knew you didn’t want to leave me.”

“I-I . . .” Squeaks like fingernails on a chalkboard came forth as I tried to form words. “C-can’t.” Beads of perspiration dotted my skin. I closed my cracked lips and wished away the dryness of my mouth.

“No, Sara,” he reprimanded. “Don’t talk. Your neck was hurt, damaging your vocal cords. Just listen.”

I wanted to tell him that I couldn’t see, but he was right about my neck. My throat ached. Sucking my lower lip between my teeth, I snagged its crusted surface. When I touched my neck, the skin was tender.

“Here.” A cool, damp cloth touched my lips.

Instinctively I sucked the moisture from the rag.

“I need to confirm that you’re allowed to drink. We’ll find out soon.”

He took the rag away, but I wanted more. “P-please, more.”

A touch to my lips muted more of my request.

“Sara . . .” His words slowed. “I said no talking. Don’t make me repeat myself.” He lowered his voice to a whisper and brought his lips close to my ear. “Obeying isn’t optional. Remember that.”

Goose bumps materialized on my skin at his rebuke.

“They’ll be in here soon to question you. Don’t embarrass me.”

Embarrass him?
My pulse quickened as I struggled to understand. What the hell was he saying? This wasn’t right.

“They’ve told me,” he continued, “that after all that happened, your injuries could’ve been worse.”

Wordlessly I asked the question I couldn’t speak. Lifting my hand, I found a soft material covering my eyes.

Whatever it was, I wanted it gone; however, before I could remove the covering, Jacob stopped my hand.

“Your eyes were also injured in the accident. You hit your head. They say a nerve or something was damaged—there was an explosion.” He moved my hand away from the material. “Don’t touch the bandages. They need to stay in place and allow your eyes to rest.”

An involuntary shudder raced through me as I recalled an explosion . . . and heat . . . and pain. Understanding that the bandages served a purpose, I nodded my unspoken comprehension. Simultaneously a groan escaped my lips and pain stampeded through my body. The simple bob of my head had caused my temples to throb, drowning out Jacob’s words, leaving only a sickening internal buzz that echoed and twisted my empty stomach.

I pursed my lips and slowly exhaled in an attempt to calm the bubbling nausea. As it began to subside, the bed beneath me unexpectedly moved. I was being raised to a sitting position. Trying to hide the pain the movement inflicted, I pressed my lips together and willed my tears to stay behind the bandages.

The bed stopped, leaving me sitting up. I had so many questions. If only my throat weren’t hurt and I could speak.

Jacob’s gentle touch erased a renegade tear from my cheek. “I’m going to take you home, Sara. We’ll get through this, together.” His mellowed tone, as well as his vow, broke through my inner turmoil, endearing this man I couldn’t recall to me. As I took in his promise, warm lips brushed my forehead.

A cloud of leather and musk enveloped me—his scent. I again searched for recognition but found none. Any memories I’d had of Jacob or of my past were gone. He obviously knew me—not only knew me, but expected me to know him, to trust him. To obey him.

I’m not a dog
.

One moment he’d reprimand me like a child and the next offer kindness and support. His tone when he’d reminded me to be silent scared me, yet the fleeting kiss upon my forehead left me wanting. The pendulum swing was too much and too new. Releasing the breath I’d held, I smiled toward his warmth.

Then I heard his footsteps walk away, and my panic returned.

From farther away he said, “Sara, I’ll be right back. They need to know you’re finally awake. Do not speak to anyone.” With a sigh he added, “We don’t want you hurting your vocal cords.”

They? Who needs to know? Doctors and nurses?

I was obviously in a hospital bed. Once I heard the click of the closing door, I sat and listened to the room around me. Confident that I was indeed alone, I reached again for the soft bandage securely covering my eyes. Following it with my fingers, I found that the softness went all the way around my head and that under the material were hard domes covering both eyes.

My eyes could already be healed. How could someone else know if I could see? As the instinct to remove the bandages grew stronger, the word
obey
sounded in my head and I lowered my hands. Jacob had said my vocal cords and eyes had been injured in an accident. As I shifted, the pain told me he was right about the accident. I was probably more injured than he’d said. I took a mental inventory: my side hurt the worst, but my left leg came second. Reaching below the blanket, I found the edge of something hard, a cast.

I sighed and allowed my head to sink into the pillow. Each discovery was too much. Nothing seemed familiar. Nothing seemed right.

My cracked lips as well as the stale, dry taste in my mouth reminded me of the damp washcloth Jacob had offered me earlier. Fumbling for what I couldn’t see, I reached beyond the bed rails. When I did, I realized there was something attached to my right arm. An IV? Beyond that I found only air. My shoulders slumped, and I tucked my suddenly cold hands under the warm blanket and rubbed my still-sore fingertips.

Beneath the blanket I reached for the fourth finger of my left hand and found a ring. As I slowly turned it, the smooth surface remained the same. I was wearing a wedding band. I was married. How could I be married and not remember? Was I married to Jacob?

Questions continued to come fast and furious, each one without an answer, each one more unsettling than the one before.

While I searched for memories, the sound of the opening door brought me back to the present. Footsteps shuffled about the room while multiple people spoke at once. Though none of them spoke directly to me, I seemed to be the topic of conversation. Struggling to understand the ongoing discussions, I listened for Jacob’s deep voice. Finally the roar faded to a low murmur and then to silence as anticipation filled the room.

“Sara,” Jacob said, breaking the tension.

With a sense of relief, I inclined my face ever so slightly toward his familiar voice. His warm breath grazed my skin.

“The Commission,” he continued, “confirmed that you can’t speak, not yet, but they have questions. Right now they need to know that you’re hearing and understanding. So”—he picked up my hand—“I want you to respond by squeezing my hand.”

I tried to keep up, but I had no point of reference. Who or what was the Commission? Why did it have a say in my care? Unable to voice my concerns, I waited as Jacob’s fingers intertwined with mine.

“When a question is asked,” Jacob directed, “squeeze my hand once for yes and twice for no. Do you understand?”

I squeezed my answer, ignoring my tender fingertips.

“Brother Timothy is here to ask you some questions.”

Brother? Is he my brother? Do I have a brother?

I’d expected to see my doctor, or rather expected that he or she would see me. My mind spun. Brother Timothy was perhaps a part of the Commission. As Jacob’s grip tightened, I sensed that he was genuinely worried about what was about to happen. This must be the situation he’d been thinking of when he warned me not to embarrass him. I wanted to comply, but I also wished he’d given me more prompting, more background. Then again, I hadn’t spoken. There was no way he could know that I didn’t remember anything.

“First,” Jacob began, “the Commission wants confirmation that you remember me, your husband. You do remember me, don’t you?”

I hesitated, wanting to squeeze his hand only once, to give him something for his dedication and support. After all, I recalled him in recent memories—he’d been by my bedside while I slept in the darkness. But I couldn’t lie. Unless . . . unless he was the man with the blue eyes. I latched on to that glimmer of hope. If he was my blue-eyed vision, then I did remember him.

“Sara, stay with us. Tell everyone that you remember me.” His plea swelled with emotion, not only in his voice, but flowing in waves from his hand to mine.

In this unknown world, he’d been my one constant. Apprehensively I squeezed. The room seemed to hold its collective breath as I deliberated the second squeeze. Finally I relaxed my grip.

Jacob sighed, leaned closer, and brushed my hair away from my forehead. This still felt wrong. Nevertheless I needed time to make sense of everything. During that time, I didn’t want to fight the darkness alone. I took strength from his warm breath and adoration.

An unfamiliar voice spoke from near the end of my bed. “Sister Sara, I hope you recognize the seriousness of this situation.”

BOOK: Into the Light
3.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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