FIVE – NIGHT VISION
Tony dragged himself home to the A-frame well after midnight, feeling completely exhausted and frustrated.
He’d searched the entire shoreline on the north side of Wind Point, all the way up to the Arabella Islands. There’d been little to see in the darkness, certainly no strange women.
He’d even ventured out of the Frost Estate onto the south side of the peninsula. This, too, had yielded no tangible results.
Finally, he’d driven down Wind Point Road into the outskirts of Frosthaven—even though he had no clear idea why he was doing so. He bought a copy of the Frosthaven Chronicle from a vending machine. But reading the headlines and the police blotter section turned up no news of shipwrecks or missing persons.
In fact, the only item of interest was the escape of the Reverend Ben Stringer—a man the media had dubbed “The Naughty Preacher”—from police custody. Stringer had beaten his wife to death the previous month in some kind of perverse S&M game.
Though the paper speculated that Stringer had fled to Canada, the context of the article made it clear to Tony that no one had any idea where he’d really gone.
Disheartened, Tony returned home and sat down at the kitchen table.
He wondered briefly why he’d gone on this futile quest. Jenni was right. He should have gotten some sleep.
Thought of his lover brought a smile to Tony’s face and a warm feeling to his chest. He wished she was with him and thought fleetingly of the ring hidden away in the fireplace mantle.
“Go to bed, you idiot,” he said aloud to himself. “No more chasing after dreams tonight.”
He drew a glass of water from the tap and drank it. After that he went upstairs, used the facilities, and then collapsed onto the brass bed.
Exhaustion overtook him, and he slept a deep, dreamless sleep.
Some indeterminate length of time later, a soft tapping sound awoke him. Tony sat upright in bed, but saw nothing in the darkness. He realized that something was covering his skylights, blocking the light from outside. Peering into the gloom, he discerned what it was: moths—hundreds of them crawling over the glass in a huge swarm. But they did so silently, like pale white ghosts. They weren’t making the noise he’d heard.
Listening, he discovered the sound was coming from the front of the house. He got out of bed and walked to the railing of the balcony that overlooked his studio below.
Something was tapping on the north-facing sliding glass doors. Outside, fog had rolled in from the lake, covering the A-frame in a grey blanket and making it nearly impossible for Tony to see anything.
Was that a figure beyond the glass?
Tony crept downstairs to the main floor, his feet making almost no sound on the carpeting. What he saw when he reached the landing made his heart leap.
It was her. Glory. The dream woman.
She stood outside on the deck, gently tapping on the pane glass of the sliding door. Her pale form and clothing made her almost invisible in the fog. She looked tired and forlorn.
Tony felt unsure if he was awake. It seemed a fog had rolled into his brain as well—perhaps from lack of sleep. Something inside him compelled him to walk to the door and slide it open.
“Glory?” he asked tentatively. “Is it really you? Jenni said you were only a dream.” Why was he having trouble thinking?
She smiled at Tony and held him with her dark eyes. “I am your dream, Anthony Frost. I’m everything you desire. May I come in?”
Tony stepped back from the door and motioned for her to enter. “Please.”
She swept inside, her bare feet barely touching the floor. She made no sound as she walked. In her wake he caught a scent like rushing water.
Probably the fog, he told himself.
“You look cold,” said Tony. “Can I get you a blanket?”
“I’ll be warm enough—now that I’m here with you. You could light a fire if you like, though.”
He crossed to the fireplace, threw a few logs in, and set about lighting them. “What about food?” he asked. “Coffee? Anything? I’m sorry I can’t think of anything else to offer. I’m pretty tired.”
“That’s not the nourishment I crave.”
He looked up from his task and arched one dark eyebrow. She sat across the room, perched lightly on a barstool.
“I came to watch you work.”
Tony got up from the fireplace and crossed the room to her. Already the logs had begun to catch; he’d grown quite expert at lighting fires in his years living alone. He looked in her eyes, trying to find the pupils in the dark. But there was nothing—only languid blackness.
“I’ll need some light,” he said.
“The fire will suffice.”
“And I don’t have anything to paint. I finished the one I started earlier. And the others… well, my model isn’t here to work from.”
Glory stood and let the gown slip from her shoulders and to the floor. The dim glow from the fire licked her pale body with illumination.
Her silver-blond hair cascaded over her white shoulders, falling down over the top of her chest. Her breasts were round and large, with only a hint of faint pink areola around her erect nipples. She had a flat, firm belly and a deep navel. Fine, downy hair hid the secret curves of her genitals—but only barely. Her long legs swept gracefully down to her slim bare feet.
Perfect, thought Tony. He felt a stirring within his loins and tried to fight it back.
She smiled at him and whispered, “Paint me.”