Embrace the Night - By Amanda Ashley

PART One Prologue
Salamanca , 1995

The single headstone stood on a small rise, the luminous white marble glowing like a beacon in the gathering darkness. A thick gray mist rose up from the ground to meet the lowering clouds, but he needed no light to find his way to the grave site, or to read the inscription on the stone.


1865 to 1940

Beloved Wife

Gone From This Earth

Yet She Abides Forever

In My Heart

Sara. They had shared more than fifty years together. Had there been fifty more, a hundred more, it would not have been enough. She had filled the emptiness in his life, brightened the darkness that dwelled in the abyss of his accursed soul.

He groaned softly, experiencing the pain of her death anew.

"Why, Sara?"

The question, torn from the depths of his heart, echoed in the stillness.

Why, why, why...

He cursed himself for letting her go, and yet, loving her as he did, he'd had no other choice.

"Sara, beloved, come back to me."

The pain of their separation pierced him anew, as sharp as it had been the night she died in his arms.

His hand caressed the cold marble headstone, then came to rest on the earth that covered her remains. But the woman he had loved more than his own life was gone. Her soul, her essence, had departed the earth, bound for that heaven that was forever denied him.


The other half of his heart.

His solace in a dark and lonely world.

Sara, Sara, why did you leave me? Was my existence so repugnant you could not share it?

He groaned, deep in his soul, knowing he was being unfair. From the beginning, she had accepted him for what he was. Loved him with every fiber of her being, with every beat of her heart. Whatever anguish he was suffering now was not because of Sara's decision, but because of who, and what, he was.

Pressing his cheek to the damp grass, he closed his eyes, remembering how it all began...
PART One Chapter One
England , 1881

He had been observing her for the last thirteen years, watching, from the shadows, as the cumbersome braces on her slender legs were changed again and again. A weakness in the lower limbs, the doctors said. That was what kept her from walking.

He had seen the hope fade from her wide blue eyes as she accepted the fact that she would never run and play like the other girls who lived in the orphanage. Later, as she grew older, he had felt her despair as she realized that she would probably never marry or have children, that she would likely live out her days alone, with no one to love her, no family to mourn her, or remember her when she was gone.

He was the only one who sensed the true depths of her despair, her heartache, the only one who knew how she yearned to run in the golden light of the sun, to walk in the silver shadow of the moon.

He was the one who heard the sound of her muffled tears in the dark of the night. For others, she put on a brave face, but alone in her room, she wept bitter tears - tears that ate at his soul like acid.

He had never intended for her to know of his existence. Never. He had wanted only to watch over her, an unseen phantom who shared her loneliness and, in so doing, eased his own.

So it was that he was lingering in the shadows outside her room late one summer night.

He knew she had spent the afternoon sitting in the park across from the orphanage, watching the younger children at play, watching the couples old and young stroll hand in hand along the tree-lined path.

Watching life pass her by.

She had skipped dinner and gone to bed early that evening, only to lie awake long after everyone else in the house was asleep. A single candle burned at her bedside, its flickering light casting pale shadows over her face.

Now, hovering in the shadows on the veranda, he felt his heart ache. She was talking to herself, her voice low and soft, but not so low he could not hear it.

"You can do it, Sara Jayne," she said, her voice tinged with determination. "I know you can. The doctors could be wrong!"

For the next five minutes, he watched her struggle to inch her way to the edge of the bed, watched as she pulled herself to a sitting position, scooting over to the edge of the bed