Love in Purgatory
by Timber Philips
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Gracelyn Adams just thought she was depressed. After months of feeling blue, losing her friends one by one, she is at her wits end dealing with the nonstop soul-crushing despair she feels every day. Even though, she knows there is nothing at all to feel sad about. Her job is going well, her life is on track, but things go from bad to worse when she begins having ‘episodes’ at night.
Then he shows up. Inside her bedroom, in her locked apartment, on the twelfth floor. Has Gracelyn gone completely off the deep end? Or does this stranger hold all the answers to unlock this prison of sadness she’s been living in?
I don’t remember falling asleep.
I must have, though. That, or I must have completely come off the rails, gone off the deep end, because as I lay there crying to myself, I either dreamed the most real dream or crossed the line into full-on hallucinations.
A puddle of blackness was on my bedroom floor between my dresser and the closet. It wasn’t right, though. The moon and city lights that made their way through my bedroom curtains clearly illuminated the cream-colored carpet in a strip, and there was nothing obstructing the light to cause such an irregular shadow in that particular spot.
Yet the pool of darkness remained and, come to think of it, it was too dark to be a simple shadow. It appeared liquid and alive, which didn’t make any sense at all.
The irregular darkness swirled, lifting and curling back in on itself at the edges, fluid in its movements, wafting up like smoke, but not, at the same time. It was more like what would happen if you dropped a spot of black ink into a clear glass of water. It plunged and roiled up from underneath, bulging at its center and expanding, twisting and stretching into a tall pillar before drawing down and seemingly falling or peeling away from a crown of snow-white hair, rushing down off the long straight strands as if they were abhorrent for the darkness to even touch.
That inky darkness continued rolling down the emerging figure of a man, a tall man, clad in very black, very thick, scale mail armor. His already-wide shoulders were made mammoth by the terrifying black metal pauldrons that sat heavily on them. The hilt of a sword rode over his shoulder as the dark continued to make its way down his frame, disappearing into the carpet at his feet as if it had never been, my eyes following it in morbid curiosity.
When the blackness had completely fled, my gaze instead fixed on his feet, traveling back up his legs, taking stock all the way. He wore greaves on his legs, both shin and thigh, and solid boots. A helmet was tucked under one arm, a round shield with a raised shield boss rode on the other, his fist hidden behind it.
I must be hallucinating, because it was all wrong. What bothered me, you know, other than having a giant of a strange man with long, straight white hair and equally white skin standing in my room, was the armor. It didn’t match. Any of it. It was a scatter of different time periods and my scientific historian’s brain rebelled. I bravely finished looking over my hallucination and met his eyes, which took me aback greatly.
They glowed a monstrous red, the color of garnets, and I’m not talking just the irises, either. His eyes were wall-to-wall, bright, glowing red, the whites, irises, pupils all swallowed in rich, glowing, gemstone red, drowning in fiery blood. The light faintly reflected off his ghostly-pale skin surrounding them.
What the hell was my subconscious trying to tell me?
He stepped free of the last vestiges of the pool of darkness on my floor and set his helmet on my dresser. The sound was very real and made my breath still in my chest.
Did hallucinations come both visually and audibly in a way that complimented each other?
I couldn’t remember. I tried to remember my high school and college psychology courses, but nothing detailed about hallucinations of the mind would come back to me. I wanted to blink, wanted to squeeze my eyes shut and count to three, open them, and see nothing was there, but I couldn’t look away.
He was still watching me with those terrifying eyes, like he couldn’t take them off of me as much as I couldn’t bring myself to stop watching him. The tears that tracked down my face were uncomfortable, and yet I was frozen, unable to move even to wipe them away. I think it was fair to say my fear had caught up and I was absolutely, one-hundred-percent paralyzed by it.
He unfastened the large buckle at his chest that held his sword to his back, carefully laying the giant blade lovingly on the carpet along the length of my antique dresser. He leaned his round black shield against the old wood’s surface beside it before he straightened and pulled the gauntlets from his hands.
He watched me still, deliberately laying his gauntlets beside his helmet on the dresser top. Everything about his movements was careful and calculated to be as non-threatening as possible.
I thought to myself, Good luck with that as I managed to sit up, pushing against the mattress, yipping and drawing my injured wrist up, cradling it against my chest.
He froze when I made the sound, neither of us moving, neither of us breathing. When he was sure I wouldn’t start screaming, that I was rooted to the spot I was in and that I wouldn’t bolt, (how could I when he was between me and the door?) he started pulling at the straps and buckles holding his leather shoulder pieces in place.
As he worked his armor off into an ever-growing pile, his gaze never wavered from mine. His every movement was slow and precise. I waited and watched, feeling panic swell in my breast even though he was being so very careful. He was moving in such a way that I understood perfectly; he was trying not to spook me, which in turn made me panic, made my me fear what he wanted, what he was doing here, all the more.
I began to silently will myself to wake up again, even going as far as to speak, low and intense: “Come on Gracelyn, wake up. This isn’t real. Wake up. Wake up, wake up, wake up!”
It wasn’t real, this couldn’t be real, but with every creak of leather, click of buckle, and rattle of scale, I was growing increasingly concerned that my sanity had completely fled and that perhaps, just maybe, I wasn’t asleep at all, but awake and indeed hallucinating.
How could you even tell? I worried.
He worked off his greaves one leg at a time and shucked out of his scale mail with a loud rattle. I pushed myself back into the corner where my bed met the wall, careful of my wrist this time, and hugged my knees.
“This isn’t real, this can’t be real, wake up, Gracelyn. Wake up!” I had abandoned all pretense that I was asleep and dreaming and was pretty certain I had just lost my mind completely.
The man put a hand out and approached me, his bare feet a whiter shade of pale against my cream carpet. He wore black leather pants and a billowing black linen shirt. I squeezed my eyes shut, forcing yet more pent-up tears to slide down my cheeks, and though I wanted to simply stay that way, not looking, I forced my eyes to open. I somehow fully expected him to be gone, but nope, he was just that much closer.
“Shhh,” he soothed, and, gripped with terror, I tried to push my way back through the wall, my feet sliding against the sheets, my back pressed firmly into the damnably unyielding drywall.
Hallucination. It’s just a hallucination. He’s not real, this isn’t real. I thought desperately.
The bed dipped where he placed his knee on the edge, allowing it to take his weight. I squeezed my eyes shut again and cringed. Hallucinations wouldn’t make the bed dip. Hallucinations could be visual, could be auditory, but they couldn’t affect the physical world around you. Of that, I was certain.
“Who are you? What’s happening to me?” I wailed and put my hands over my face. The bed moved beneath me again and strong arms pulled me against a granite chest. I sobbed.
Oh, my God, he was going to rape me. I thought savagely to myself, Only in New York City could you be attacked in your apartment by a Lord of the Rings fanboi decked out in full armor
Timber Philips hails from a land filled with beauty and steeped in magic; the Pacific Northwest. She swears you can see fairies and goblins, magic and promise around every tree and in every drop of water and she shares that magic whenever she can. She loves welcoming everyone to her worlds of romance rooted in fable and fantasy.
What are you passionate about these days?
Writing good stories that take the readers miles away from our current reality. Things feel like they have gotten so bad, lately. I want to provide a magical escape from all of the negativity permeating our reality lately. I want to write stories that leave the reader sad they have to come back when they reach the last page. Provide worlds to escape to that are so real they come back to real life feeling better and have a more positive outlook to take out into the world with them as a result.
What inspired you to write this book?
It was actually a strange dream I had back in high school when I was depressed myself. Around the first time I was dealing with suicidal thoughts and ideations. It was a real difficult time for me, but that dream always stuck with me. So, when I grew up, I put it to paper finally.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I am currently in the editing phase of ‘Love Springs Eternal’ which will be the first book in a four book series. Ironically, ‘Love Springs Eternal’ was also a dream I had and centers on a witch who doesn’t want to have anything else to do with love when the love of her life walks out on her – or so she thinks. Too bad for her, she lives in a small coastal town steeped in old magic and as a result of a spell gone awry from long ago, the little town has a love festival around the same time every year in the spring. This time, she’s determined to avoid the festival that’s sprung up around the rogue spell at all costs, preferring to lock herself away all alone in her big old family mansion. Of course, the fates or what have you have other plans, when a mysterious stranger knocks on her door mere moments before the spell is set to spring. It’s insta-love like you’ve never seen it before with action, mystery, danger, and suspense all throughout. A story of letting go and holding on, of living through the hurt to love again.
Who designed your book covers?
All of my covers are designed by Dar Albert of Wicked Smart Designs. She’s an award winning cover designer who is also based in the Pacific Northwest and I live for her creations. She has this way of bringing a visual representation to my words like nothing else and I can’t say enough good things about her. You should look her up at www.wickedsmartdesigns.com and browse some of the covers she’s done. Her artwork is phenomenal.