Bored with her life on the horse farm, Dorianna Sahfi dreams of adventure, never realizing that an ancient evil hungers deep in the woods nearby. When tragedy strikes the farm, a mysterious stranger hires on to help pick up the pieces. Soon Dori finds herself falling for his gentle manner and remarkable green eyes. After a dreadful accident, Dori makes a choice that has far-reaching consequences and unknowingly initiates a chain of events that will devastate her entire family.
Now a monster is watching from the footlights and she’s wanted for a murder she did not commit. She can’t go back. Her past is lost forever and the future holds unthinkable horror.
A terrible secret hidden in a tattered, old journal may be her only hope.
In a world where good is bad and bad is owrse, who can she trust? Can seh find a way to defeat an ancient vampire before he destroys her…and all she holds dear?
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Dori knew that something was terribly wrong as soon as she glanced out the back window. The motion light illuminated her broodmares which stood frozen like life-size statues in the pounding rain. Trouble was evident in the way the horses’ ears were pinned back. She spotted the problem immediately, and her heart lurched as her beloved Zee lay on the ground before them. For a moment she froze in panic, but then she raced for the back door.
She made the paddock quickly and shooed off the other horses. She dropped to her knees in the mud. The mare was covered in dozens of puncture wounds. It was if a pack of wild dogs had attacked her, tearing meat from bone. Weeping, bloody wounds blanketed the animal, the normally sweet tang of horseflesh mixed with a metallic stench.Dori’s stomach rolled.
Zee was panting and a slick sheen of sweat covered her body. She didn’t try to rise as Dori approached.
“Easy girl. Shhhhh, Azeezah. Good girl,” Dori said, trying to control the panic in her voice. “Damn coyotes!” She silently cursed Amir for being away at the horse auction.
The hulking mare rested in the mud, one nostril bubbling as she lay in a dirty puddle. Azeezah’s eyes darted around looking frantically toward the heavens, toward the other mares, and finally coming to rest on Dori’s own eyes. Wordlessly she pleaded with Dori to help her.
“Got to get the vet out here…hold on, Zee. Just hold on a little longer.”
This was the mare that she had helped foal, the mare that she named – Azeezah, Arabic for ‘Close to the heart’. This was the mare whose eyes now begged for mercy.
Azeezah’s sides began to heave even faster and her breathing became labored. Her life was slipping away through the holes in her flesh. The other horses grew more and more nervous, blowing and stomping as they stood watch around her.
“Zee, come on girl, don’t leave me now…”
The mare tried to roll to her knees, groaning in agony.”
“That’s it girl, up you go!” but with a great huff the mare fell once again to the ground. Dori realized that the vet would never make it in time. She began talking; saying the things she knew she’d never have a change to say later and gingerly caressing Zee’s wounded neck.
“What a beautiful girl you are Zee! I knew you were my horse as soon as you were born. You were the first of all the horses to get to me when I called. You always outran your sisters when you heard my voice. Please, Zee, just hold on.”
Dori leaned toward her precious mare, brushed away Zee’s matted forelock and kissed her gently on the cowlick in the center of her forehead. The mare’s breath grew shallow and she shut her eyes against the pain. Dori continued to talk, reliving the precious moments they had shared and the strength she drew from this proud creature.Pausing momentarily, she knotted her hand in Azeezah’s mane, pressing her cheek into the horse’s thick neck. She inhaled the wonderful scent of horse, and choked on the lump in her throat.
Zee made a wet, gurgling noise and her body shuddered and then went still. Dori lay down, covering the horse’s body with her own, no longer conscious of the mess the blood was making. As her mind accepted the hopelessness of the situation, Dori buried her face in the mare’s neck and sobbed.
“I love you my Azeezah. You are taking my heart with you.”
She rubbed the horse’s muzzle, her neck, her mane and her withers.
“I’m going to miss you so much…think about you every day…”
Dori, unable to let go yet, kept rubbing and talking while the day dawned. She remained there stroking the horse’s mane as the farmhands arrived and dug a giant hole.She stayed with Zee while time passed surreally and shock and loss set in.
Before they lowered her best friend into the cold ground, Dori cut off a hank of her mane. She gripped that hair and stood over the mound of dirt in the corner of the farm until her knuckles went numb, mourning alone and in silence.
The farm buzzed with the news like a persistent mosquito sent to annoy her. Growing anger pushed her sorrow aside; this was an unnecessary loss. She felt like she was coming up for air as she buried her pain. Without realizing she was moving, Dori marched toward the hay barn. The farm hands moved out of her way after seeing her expression. She stepped into the nearly empty building and looked around, contemplating. Without turning, she spoke to the men who had followed her from a safe distance.
“Set up the temporary stalls in here before nightfall.”
“The ones we use for horse shows. All the horses get run in at night from now on. I’m not serving the coyotes an all-night buffet.” Dori didn’t have to ask twice.
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