TWO – PALE GLORY
Tony put all thoughts of Jenni behind and ran up the beach. The woman lay still and prone, a white body draped in a white dress, perhaps a quarter-mile distant. He couldn’t make out any other details.
Tony’s heart pounded in his chest as he ran. Who was she? Was she dead? How had she come here to the beach on the Frost Estate?
He remembered there’d been some trouble with teenagers last month on Wind Point’s south shore. But that was the other side of the peninsula. Kids seldom strayed onto Frost lands. The local townsfolk both esteemed Tony’s family and feared them—not without cause.
Though the Frost fortunes and influence had waned in the middle of the twentieth century, his father Daniel had rebuilt much of the family’s empire. A word from a Frost in the right (or wrong) place could stigmatize a person for life.
And some officers on the police force were anxious to gain the Frosts’ favor. Cops knew that forcibly discouraging trespassers found on Frost lands might win them a boon later on. Others knew it, too. Had someone gone too far with this pale trespasser?
Or maybe this was some kind of a message being sent to the family from an enemy. Abner Winslow, the Frosts’ arch-rival, lay dead in his tomb, but his nephew, Grant, had recently returned to Frosthaven. Grant seemed straightforward enough, and he was dating Tony’s cousin, Ivy, but there had been a lot of bad blood between the families over the years.
Perhaps Grant wasn’t the upstanding young man he made out to be.
Of course, the Frosts had other enemies as well.
Tony shook his head, chiding himself for worrying so much.
You go on like this and you’re no better than your relatives, he thought. You’ll see dark shadows around every corner. You’ll become everything you despise.
The woman lay only thirty yards away now, but something about her aspect brought Tony up short. He stopped running and peered at her in the dim light. Her dress was moving, writhing across the surface of her still body.
Then Tony realized it wasn’t her dress… Moths covered every inch of the woman. The insects were a pallid grey or white, about the size of a folded dollar bill. A disturbing face-like pattern decorated their backs and wings. They clung to the unmoving figure, flapping their wings and crawling over each other.
Tony sprinted forward, waving his hands and shouting, “Shoo! Shoo!”
When he came within five feet of the body, the moths exploded into the air. For a moment, a great, papery cloud swirled around Tony, and then the insects vanished into the darkness.
Tony looked at the woman lying on the beach.
She was beautiful. Her pale white skin shown smooth and unblemished in the night when the lightning flashed. Her blond hair, almost silver in coloration, draped sensuously in long, wet waves across her slender form. She wore a white plaited summer dress, cinched at the waist with a thin cord. The dress was cut low at the top, revealing a generous portion of the woman’s cleavage as she lay on her back. The wet fabric clung to every curve of her body. Her feet were bare.
Tony wondered if she’d been the victim of a boating accident. He couldn’t tell if she was breathing.
He kneeled and leaned close to her, reaching toward her neck to feel for a pulse. As his fingertips brushed her skin, the woman’s eyes slowly opened.
“Oh!” Tony gasped. “I thought you were dead. Are you all right?”
She looked at him with her deep, black eyes, a smile playing across her pale lips. “I am now,” she said softly.
She sat up and embraced him. “Hold me,” she whispered. “I’m so cold.”
Despite himself, Tony did as she asked. She did feel cold—chilled to the bone. He tried to remember what one was supposed to do for people with hypothermia. Warming them is the first step, he thought. I should get her inside. Take her to the house.
He tried to stand, but she held him tight. She felt heavy for someone so thin.
“C’mon,” he said. “I have to get you someplace warm. I have blankets in the house. I can make a fire in the fireplace.”
“Are you an artist—or a writer?” she asked.
The question startled him. “Um… artist.”
“And what is your name, artist?”
“Anthony… Tony Frost.”
She released him just enough so that he could look into her face.
“And I,” she said, “am Glory.”
She looked at him with her black eyes and Tony fell into their depths.