He was being watched.
He didn’t hear footsteps, any sound at all, but he felt eyes boring a hole in his back. He still felt the hints of earlier touches, traced the line where lips had run along the cord of his neck. He shivered, and not from the cold.
He already had his BMW X5 key fob in his hand, the vehicle’s immediate recognition welcoming him when he put his hand on the door and opened it quickly. His breath was chilling, the tendrils hanging in the frozen air. Cold. It had grown much colder in seconds.
Cole threw his East Dane briefcase on the passenger seat and moved to get in.
“Stop.” No, it was his imagination. It was the voice from before, the one that always called to him in his dreams. He would turn, look, but there would be nothing, no one.
He wasn’t there when Cole was twelve crying from pain he knew wasn’t his, his parents bundling him up late that night, rushing him to the hospital.
Back then, Ansu had watched from the door opening. He needed her and had stretched out his hands as he reached for her, screamed for her to make the pain go away. Ansu had only shaken her head, her regret clear in her bent shoulders and the curve of her frame.
“Stop that infernal noise, Cole Brightside,” his father growled as he maneuvered his latest luxury car at Mach speed to a place where Cole would stay for months, alone and afraid, each night more terrible than the last as he felt searing burns, sharp blades cutting his skin. The doctors, the medicine, the nightmares that came each and every night were brilliant in their vividness. Each night, his mind was in a different world.
Each night, he heard the voice, the sound of it seeping into his bones, calling for him while he slept.
Returning to the present, Cole slowed his breaths and practiced the relaxing exercises learned years ago, attempted to settle himself.
“I am here,” the voice said, but Cole refused to look. He put a hand out to close the door, the other to secure his seatbelt.
When the door failed to move, he looked up, and all attempts at control fled in the face of the man who held it.
Cole couldn’t breathe. He was here, so many years later. The years of therapy, of hiding what the doctors could never fix, and Cole knew in his soul the creature he’d seen, the keeper of the voice he heard so long ago, was outside of his car standing in the cold.
Cobalt blue eyes looked at him, traced his body from head to toe.
“I have hoped for so long, prayed for your return to me.” That voice. Cole would never forget it, the growl, the sandpaper roughness of it. Cole dropped his hand from the wheel, unable to look anywhere else but at the man currently staring at him.
“Why? How?” Was this real? When he sat before yet another therapist his parents had purchased, one who would keep the oddities of the only Brightside child a secret, he’d been convinced he was just dreaming, that these were the thoughts of an anxious child in his subconscious.
Cole shivered, his need for the stranger overwhelming him. “I don’t know you.”
“But you do, my Sunil. You have known me for centuries, and you will know me again.” The stranger moved toward him, his body throwing Cole further into the interior of his car. He had seen that face before, knew that touch, and knew how it would feel to be against his body.
“Mr. Brightside? Sir? Is there a problem here?” Mercer, the research company Cole worked for, had hired Freddy recently. Cole liked him and was grateful to see him now as the security guard peered around the car then reached for the walkie-talkie strapped to his ample hips. “Sir?”
The man looked at Cole, his blue eyes appealing to him, asking him to speak. When Cole said nothing, only shook, he stepped back. The light revealed the pale white blond hair Cole remembered but couldn’t believe shined before him outside his dreams. “I’ll leave you for now, Sunil.”
“Cole. My name is Cole.” Cole barely heard himself speak.
“You will always be Sunil to me.” Bending down, he pressed his lips against Cole’s, and Cole’s mind exploded. He saw things, people he didn’t recognize. Ice capped mountains, and not those in the French Alps where his parents often vacationed. He saw immense buildings with immaculate wooden doors carved with mythical beings and decorated in foreign script. He knew those words, knew them as if he’d read them moments ago.
When he was released, when he breathed again, he spoke. “Raksha.”
Raksha smiled. “Sunil.” When he pressed forward again, Cole leaned away.
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