The Lost Night
Even the mysterious world of Harmony has people who don’t quite fit in. They’re drawn to places like Rainshadow Island, a beautiful sanctuary where anyone can feel safe—and where secrets are closely guarded...
Schooled in an exotic form of martial arts, and with the ability to detect the auras of dangerous psychic criminals, Rachel Bonner and her dust bunny companion have found peace and quiet on Rainshadow Island, operating a bookstore and café.
But her tranquil new life is thrown into chaos when Harry Sebastian, the descendant of a notorious pirate, arrives to investigate strange developments in the privately owned woods known as the Preserve.
Immediately drawn to the amber-eyed woman, Harry must tread carefully. While Rachel’s special talents can help him track down dangerous rogues who have violated the Preserve, they can also sense the heart of darkness within him. But desire can weaken the strongest of defenses—and leave even the strongest man wanting more…
A NOTE FROM JAYNE
Welcome to Rainshadow Island on the world of Harmony.
In the Rainshadow novels you will meet the passionate men and women who are drawn to this remote island in the Amber Sea. You will also get to know their friends and neighbors in the small town of Shadow Bay.
Everyone on Rainshadow has a past; everyone has secrets. But none of those secrets are as dangerous as the ancient mystery concealed inside the paranormal fence that guards the forbidden portion of the island known as the Preserve.
The secrets of the Preserve have been locked away for centuries. But now something dangerous is stirring…
“You belong to me,” the vampire said. “Soon you will understand that you are meant to be my bride. No matter what happens to me in this place, I will escape and I will come for you.”
Marcus Lancaster’s voice was rich, compelling and resonant, the voice of an opera singer or the ultimate conman. He accompanied the words with a sly whisper of compelling energy that shivered with promise. I can fulfill your deepest desires.
Rachel Bonner did not doubt for a moment that he truly did want her but she was certain it was not because he had fallen in love with her. Lancaster was one of the monsters. That crowd didn’t have the capacity to love. They were inclined, however, to be obsessive in their desires and, therefore quite dangerous.
“I knew this was a waste of time.” Rachel gathered up her notepad and pen and got to her feet. The silvery charms attached to her bracelet shivered and clashed lightly.
“You cannot run from me, my beloved,” Lancaster said. He reached up with one well-manicured hand and touched the ear stud in his left ear. The small item of jewelry was made of black metal and set with a stone that was the color of rain.
The gesture was casual; made in an absent manner, as if Lancaster was not aware of what he was doing. But the hair on the back of Rachel’s neck stirred. A chill of intuition raised goose bumps on her arms. Her palms went cold.
Lancaster wore another piece of jewelry, too, a discreet signet ring engraved with the image of a mythical Old World beast, a griffin.
She had shut down her senses so she wouldn’t have to view Lancaster’s aura but there were traces of his energy on the table and everything else that he had touched in the room. She could not abide the way he was watching her. She had to get out there.
She looked at the one-way window set into the wall as she went toward the door and raised her voice a little to make sure her unseen audience could hear her.
“That’s it, Dr. Oakford, I’m finished here. There’s nothing I can do with this one.”
She did not have to see the faces of Dr. Ian Oakford and the other members of the clinic staff who were observing the therapy session to know that they were all reacting with shock and outrage. Ditching a patient the way she had just done was extremely unprofessional. But she no longer cared. She’d had enough of Oakford and his team, enough of their research, enough of trying to fit in to the mainstream world of clinical para-psychology.
A woman -- at least one had been raised in a Harmonic Enlightenment community -- could take only so much. Her parents and her instructors at the Academy were right. She was not cut out for mainstream life.
Most people would not have known Lancaster for what he was. Tall, blond, blue-eyed and handsome in a slick, distinguished way, he was a natural-born predator that moved easily among his prey. But the dark side of her talent for aura healing was the ability to see the monsters and recognize them for what they were.
Lancaster had made a tidy fortune in the financial world. But a few days ago he had shocked his associates and his clients when he had voluntarily committed himself to the Chapman Clinic. He claimed to be plagued with severe para-psych trauma induced by the death of his wife several months earlier. His symptoms consisted of nightmares and dangerous delusions – precisely the severe symptoms required to be admitted to Dr. Oakford’s new research program at the clinic.
She opened the door, stepped out into the hall and signaled to the waiting orderly.
“You can take Mr. Lancaster back to his room, Carl,” she said. “We’re finished.”
Carl moved into the therapy room.
“Time to go, Mr. Lancaster,” he said in the soothing, upbeat tone he used with all of the patients.
Lancaster chuckled. “I think I make Miss Bonner nervous, Carl.”
He got to his feet with leisurely grace, as though he was still dressed in the elegant silver gray suit and white tie that he had been wearing when he had walked into the clinic. Credit where credit was due, Rachel thought. Lancaster managed to make the baggie shirt and trousers that were standard issue for all patients look like resort casual attire.
“Do you think she’s afraid of me, Carl?” Lancaster infused his mellifluous words with just the right tincture of regret. “The last thing I want to do is frighten her.”
“No, Mr. Lancaster, I’m sure Rachel isn’t afraid of you,” Carl said. “She has no reason to be afraid of you, now, does she?”
“An excellent question, Carl. One that only Rachel can answer.”
Rachel ignored both of them. The tiny stones set into her charms were starting to brighten. That was not a good sign because she was not consciously heating the crystals. They were reacting to her anxiety, a strong indication that her current state of psychical awareness and control was anything but harmonically tuned.
This was it, she thought. Lancaster was the last straw. She was going to hand in her resignation. The money was good at the clinic and the work provided the illusion that, in spite of what everyone back home said, she could make a place for herself in the mainstream world. But she had not signed on to deal with monsters like Marcus Lancaster. Nor was he the only one enrolled in the research trial. There was a very good reason why the patients in Oakford’s project were housed in a locked ward.
She was an aura healer. She needed to use her talents in a positive way.
According to mainstream theories of para-psychology, energy-sucking psychic vampires were a myth; the stuff of horror novels and scary movies. But Rachel had met a few in her time and she knew the truth. The monsters were real. The good news was that most of them were relatively weak. They tended to pursue careers as conmen, cult leaders and politicians. They preyed on the emotionally vulnerable and the gullible.
Nobody denied that such low-level human predators, existed, but few thought of them as vampires or monsters. Psychology textbooks, therapists, and clinicians had invented more politically correct terms to describe them. The diagnostic descriptions often involved the phrase personality disorder, or, para-sociopath. But the ancients back on the Old World had got it right, Rachel thought. So had the philosophers who had founded the Harmonic Enlightenment movement and established the Principles of Harmonic Enlightenment. The correct description for the Marcus Lancasters of the world was evil. When that particular attribute was coupled with some paranormal talent you got psychic vampire.
The question that was worrying her the most was why Lancaster was attracted to her. She knew it was not love or even simple lust that had made him fixate on her out of all the members of the clinic staff. She had learned at the Academy that it was the prospect of controlling others that fascinated the monsters. By the nature of her own psychic ability and training she possessed a high degree of immunity to their talents. But she suspected her immunity was the very quality that had drawn Lancaster’s attention. She was a challenge to him. Seducing and controlling her would affirm his own power.
The problem for the creeps was that they were incapable of achieving any degree of inner harmony. They spent their lives trying to fill the dead-zones on their spectrums. No ponzi scheme was ever lucrative enough, no cult was ever large enough, no business empire was ever sufficiently profitable, no position on the academic or political ladder was imbued with enough power to content a vampire.
And for the subset of vicious monsters who were drawn to death and violence, no amount of torture and killing could satisfy the bloodlust.
But monsters had dreams, too, Rachel thought. Evidently Marcus Lancaster had concluded that controlling her would fulfill some of his own dark fantasies.
Ian Oakford was waiting for her at the end of the hall. Last month when she had met him she had done a little fantasizing of her own. Ian was an intelligent, good looking man with a very buff build and a lot of stylishly cut brown hair. He was endowed with the strong-jawed, trust-me-I’m-a-doctor presence that the patients and most of his female staff found appealing. Rachel was convinced that he could have had a lucrative second career as an actor playing a doctor in pharmaceutical commercials.
Not that Ian wasn’t already doing very well for himself. He was still young by the standards of the profession, but his talent for para-psychology combined with a lot of drive and ambition had taken him far. Six months ago he had been appointed director of the new research wing of the Chapman Clinic. The funding from drug companies had quickly followed. He had several clinical trials in various stages of progress.
At that moment, however, Ian did not exhibit the kind, reassuring air that people liked in those engaged in the healing profession. Behind the lenses of his designer glasses his gray eyes glittered with anger. His square jaw was rigid.
“What do you think you’re doing, walking out of a therapy session like that?” he demanded.
His voice was tight but controlled. Ian prided himself on never expressing extremes of emotions of any kind. He viewed such displays as a symptom of instability in the aura. He was right, of course, at least according to the Principles, and she had admired him for his self-mastery. But she did not need her talent to tell her that he was furious. She didn’t blame him. He had taken a huge risk bringing her onto his research team. Her professional failings reflected badly on his judgment.
She braced herself for the inevitable. This was it, the end of her first really good job in the mainstream world. Her parents would breathe a sigh of relief. They had warned her about the difficulties she would encounter when she left the Academy and the Community.
“Marcus Lancaster is not experiencing severe para-trauma, Dr. Oakford,” she said quietly. “He’s faking it. He’s incapable of feeling any sense of loss unless it affects his bottom line or threatens his personal safety. A dead wife wouldn’t cut it, trust me, not unless her death cost him financially which, according to what I found online was not the case. Just the opposite. He inherited a lot of money when she died.”
“You’re wrong. No one could fake those night sweats and hallucinations.”
“He is,” she said simply. “And you and the others here at the clinic are buying his act.”
“Why would a man in Lancaster’s position pretend to have such a severe mental illness? It could destroy him financially and socially. No one in his right mind would voluntarily commit himself for treatment in a para-psych hospital the way Lancaster did unless he truly feared for his sanity.”
“I have no idea why he committed himself voluntarily,” Rachel said. “You could ask him but I can tell you right now he’ll lie through his fangs.”
“Sorry, teeth. As I was saying, I don’t have any idea why he went to so much trouble to get into your research project but if I were you, I’d watch out for a lawsuit somewhere down the road.”
“I suspect that Lancaster has a long history of financial cons and schemes,” she said. “Maybe he’s got a plan for proving that he was a victim of unethical research practices. Who knows? I can’t begin to guess his objectives but I can promise you that there is nothing you or I or modern para-pharmaceuticals can do for him. We can’t fix the monsters.”
“I have warned you before that we do not use the terms like monsters and vampires in this clinic. I realize you’re not a professional, Miss Bonner, but that is no excuse for unprofessional language.”
“There are no such things as human monsters. How many times do I have to explain to you that Lancaster suffers from para-psych trauma complicated by an underlying instability of his para-senses?” Ian must have realized that his voice was rising. He regained control immediately. “I did not hire you to diagnose my patients. Your sole responsibility is to identify the erratic currents in their auras so that their disorders can be treated by a qualified therapist and appropriate prescriptions can be written.”
“I understand,” she said.
Behind Ian, Helen Nelson and Adrian Evans, the two members of the staff who had been observing the session with Oakford, walked quietly away in the opposite direction. They knew what was going to happen next, Rachel thought. They were on their way to spread the gossip.
Just before the pair turned the corner Helen glanced back and gave Rachel a sympathetic look. Rachel managed a wan smile in return. She was keenly aware that most of the professional staff at the clinic viewed her with disapproval and, in some cases, outright hostility. Helen had been one of the kinder people on the research team. She had gone so far as to invite Rachel to join her for lunch in the company cafeteria a few times. In return Rachel had done free aura readings at a birthday party for one of Helen’s friends. There had been a lot of white wine and canapés that night. Rachel had known full well that she was there as the entertainment for the evening. But she had hoped that it was the first step in building a circle of friends outside the Community, another step toward mainstreaming.
She knew now that she was never going to be accepted at the clinic. She had done her best to blend in but pinning her hair into a tight bun, and donning dark-framed, serious glasses and a white lab coat couldn’t hide the truth. Everyone at Chapman was well aware that she was not a real para-psychologist. She wasn’t even a licensed therapist. In addition she qualified as a curiosity, especially among the men on the staff, because she had been raised in a Harmonic Enlightenment community.
She had discovered early on that there were a lot of myths and misunderstandings in the mainstream world concerning the harmonically enlightened lifestyle and a number of them revolved around sex. The one aspect of her attempt at mainstreaming that had appeared promising at first was her social life. Men had lined up to invite her out on dates at the tearoom and later here, at the clinic. But the whirlwind of dating had dissipated rapidly after she had been forced to make it clear that women who lived by the Principles were not necessarily inclined to hop into bed whenever the opportunity arose.
Until a couple of weeks ago she had been making her living selling tea and giving aura readings every Wednesday and Saturday at the Crystal Rainbow Tearoom in the Old Quarter. She had been trying to recover her sense of inner balance following the disturbing events that had occurred on her last trip to Rainshadow Island.
Oakford had found her in the Crystal Rainbow. Why he had wandered into the tearoom that day, she had never discovered. It was not his kind of place. But a quick glance at his aura had warned her that he had some real talent. Her first thought was that he had found it amusing to watch her do the readings. A lot of people treated aura readings as a form of fortune-telling – a parlor trick that was not to be taken seriously.
But Oakford had been serious. He had ordered a cup of tea, sat down at a small table in the corner and quietly observed her work for nearly an hour. In the end he had been convinced that she was a natural -- a talent who could not only read auras but also diagnose disorders of the para-senses. He had concluded that she would be useful to him at the clinic and promptly dazzled her with the promise of a high salary and -- more importantly – a respectable opportunity to practice her healing abilities.
He had said nothing about the monsters.
“Here’s the problem, Dr. Oakford,” she said. “Lancaster does not present with a simple instability of the aura.” She was rather proud of the does not present line. It sounded clinical, she thought; very professional. “There’s a whole chunk of the normal spectrum missing in his energy field. Think flat-lined.”
“That’s not possible,” Ian snapped. “If his aura was flat-lined, he’d be dead.”
“Not his entire aura. But there is a blank section on his spectrum. It’s like someone shut down the lights in that region.”
“I would remind you, Miss Bonner that it is your job, indeed, the mission of this clinic, to turn on those lights for our patients.”
“Okay, maybe the light thing was a bad analogy. Let me try another approach. In the old days, people would have said Lancaster was soulless. That was always a big element in the traditional vampire myth, you know. Today most lay people would tell you that Lancaster lacks anything resembling a conscience.”
“This is a para-psychiatric clinic, Miss Bonner,” Ian said. It sounded as if he had his teeth clenched. “We do not deal in matters of religion or philosophy. We are focused on using modern science to diagnose and heal illnesses of the para-senses.”
“And a worthy goal that is,” she said quickly. “I’m all for it. In fact, I was thrilled when you asked me to come to work here. I’ve always felt I had a calling to do this kind of work. Oh, wait, that sounds sort of religious or philosophical, doesn’t it? I mean, if my life had taken a different direction, I might have had your job.”
Ian’s eyes hardened. “Think so?”
Okay, that had been a tactical mistake.
“Well, no, probably not,” she admitted. “I wasn’t born for upper management.”
Another poor choice of words, she realized.
Ian flushed a dark red. Alarmed, she rushed to calm the gathering storm.
“I’m more of an entrepreneur,” she explained. “I could never do the kind of work that you do. What I’m trying to tell you is that I can’t fix Marcus Lancaster or anyone else like him.”
“In that case,” Ian said evenly, “your services are no longer needed here at the Chapman Clinic. You’ve got fifteen minutes to clear out your desk. A member of the security staff will escort you to the door.”
Although she knew an escort to the door was standard procedure when someone got fired, it hurt to know that Ian did not trust her.
“Afraid I’ll steal some paperclips or a list of your drug company clients on my way out?” she asked.
Ian shook his head and exhaled heavily. “I’m sorry about this, Rachel. I really believed that you would be an asset to my team.”
She rezzed her talent. The charms on her bracelet clashed lightly on her wrist, generating just enough ultralight to allow her to view Ian’s energy field. Ian was angry but he was also experiencing genuine disappointment and regret. He had taken a chance on her, hoping that she might give him an edge in the highly competitive world of para-psych drug research and she had failed him.
She heard Carl and Marcus Lancaster in the hall behind her. She did not turn around but she could feel the monster’s energy.
“Isn’t she lovely, Carl?” Lancaster asked. “Miss Bonner is going to be my bride, you know. The voices tell me that she’s my perfect match. We have so much in common.”
“Congratulations,” Carl said. “Be sure to send me an invitation to the wedding.”
“I’ll do that,” Lancaster said, sounding pleased.
“Meanwhile, it’s time for lunch.”
“Yes, of course,” Lancaster said. “Do you suppose there will be quiche and perhaps a nice white wine at lunch today? I haven’t had a decent meal since I arrived here.”
“This is Wednesday,” Carl said. “That means meatloaf.”
“I really don’t like meatloaf,” Lancaster said. “But I will tolerate anything so long as I can be near my beloved. Her radiance lightens my aura like a fine champagne.”
“No wine at lunch, either,” Carl said.
“I was afraid of that,” Lancaster said.
Carl guided him along the hallway.
“Damn it, Rachel, whatever you did to Lancaster in that therapy session has worsened his condition,” Ian said. He kept his voice low but it was plain that he was not just angry, he was concerned for his patient.
Rachel shuddered but she did not turn around. She listened to the retreating footsteps, suddenly very glad to know that in fifteen minutes she would be out of the building and far away from the clinic.
“I know you don’t want to hear this,” she whispered back, “but Lancaster is deliberately acting crazy. His aura is very stable -- scary stable, in fact. He is in full control of himself and his talent. He’s a full-on psi-path and he’s dangerous, sir.”
“You’re wrong,” Ian said. “There is definitely instability in Lancaster’s aura. He is an ideal candidate for the drug trial that I am conducting.”
“Right.” She clutched her notebook to her breasts. She really needed to get out of the clinic. She fought the suddenly overwhelming urge to run. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go pack up my office.” She started to move around him and paused. “I do have one piece of advice for you, although you probably won’t take it.”
Ian narrowed his eyes. “What?”
“Do not believe anything Marcus Lancaster says.”
“If you have any proof that he’s lying, now would be a real good time to provide it,” Ian said, his expression fierce.
She tried to come up with something, anything that would impress Ian.
“His ear stud,” she said.
Ian blinked. “What about it? The crystal isn’t tuned amber. It can’t be used to generate energy. That was checked out when he was admitted. The patients are not allowed to possess amber. And it’s certainly not gem-quality. It’s just a cold, decorative stone of some kind.”
She took a deep breath. “Here’s the thing, sir, I’ve seen stones like it before. Also, you should know that Lancaster doesn’t need amber or charged crystal to use his para-senses. He’s a natural. I think he has a mid-level talent for psychic hypnosis but that’s not my point.”
“Ridiculous. There is no such talent.”
“I didn’t expect you to believe that but think about this, sir, why would a guy who wears designer suits and watches that probably cost more than the entire city-state budget wear a cheap ear stud?”
“Probably because it has sentimental value,” Ian snapped, exasperated.
“Trust me, there isn’t an ounce of sentiment in Marcus Lancaster.”
“What makes you think that you are qualified to offer an opinion on Lancaster’s para-psych profile?” Ian said. “You were selling tea and giving aura-readings when I found you at the Crystal Rainbow.”
“Yes, I was and I think I’ll go back to that career. I don’t seem to be cut out for clinical work or for the mainstream world, come to that.”
She tightened her grip on her notebook and stepped around Ian.
Surprised by the hesitation in his voice, she paused and turned back.
“Yes?” she said.
“Even though you were technically here on probation, I’ll see to it that you receive two weeks’ severance pay,” Ian said quietly.
“Thanks. I appreciate that. I spent a fortune on new clothes for this job. I’ll be paying off the credit card for a while.”
“I suppose you’ll be going back to the Crystal Rainbow Tearoom?”
“No,” she said. “I think it’s time for Plan B.”
“You’re going to return to the Harmonic Enlightenment Academy?”
“No. The truth is, I don’t belong there, either. Ever heard of Rainshadow Island?”
“No,” Ian said.
“Not many people have. It’s one of the islands in the Amber Sea. It’s not even on most maps. My great-aunts ran a bookshop and café there for a couple of decades. Several months ago they retired and moved to the desert. They left Shadow Bay Books to me. I’ve just let the shop sit, closed up, until I could decide what to do with it. In the back of my mind the shop was my fallback plan in case things didn’t work out for me here in Frequency City. Good thing I didn’t sell it.”
She started walking again, heading toward her office.
“One more thing,” Ian said.
She paused and turned back to face him again. “What now?”
“You said you’d seen stones like the one in Lancaster's ear stud.”
“On Rainshadow Island. As far as anyone knows, that’s the only place they have ever been found. They’re called rainstones.”
She hurried away down the hall to the tiny office that had been allocated to her. Two months ago when she had accepted the position at the clinic she had been so excited at having her very own office she had taken dozens of photos of the small, spare space and emailed them to everyone in the family. She shook her head at the naïve memory. As if an office was proof that she had found her place in the world.
“I should have known this wasn’t going to work out,” she said into the silence. “Not like I wasn’t warned.”
It took ten minutes, not fifteen, to gather up her personal possessions and dump them into a cardboard box. Carl was waiting at the door. He looked unhappy.
“I’m really sorry about this, Miss Bonner,” he said. “It’s been nice having you here. The patients all like you. So do I. Things seem more cheerful and sunnier here when you’re around.”
She smiled. “Thank you, Carl, but Dr. Oakford is right. It’s best that I leave. I don’t belong here.”
Carl cleared his throat. “I don’t suppose you happen to have any more of that tea that you blended for me, do you?”
“Not here in the office but I’ll mix up another batch and send it to you.”
Carl brightened. “Thanks, I appreciate that.”
Five minutes later she was alone on the street, the cardboard box containing her things tucked under one arm, her purse slung over her shoulder. The low, dark clouds opened up as she walked quickly toward the bus stop. Naturally she would get caught in the rain without an umbrella today, she thought. Some days were just flat out un-harmonic from start to finish.
The cold, sleeting rain plastered her tightly pinned hair to her head and soaked her new, low-heeled, black pumps. The shoes would be ruined. Not that it mattered, she told herself. No one wore black, low-heeled pumps on Rainshadow. Boots, athletic shoes and sandals were the norm there. And she just happened to own a new pair of boots.
She waited for the bus, chilled to the bone but aware that she felt a lot better now that she was away from the Chapman Clinic.
She would survive the rain and the loss of the job. What mattered was that she would never again find herself alone in a therapy room with Marcus Lancaster. Because she was quite certain it was no coincidence that he had manipulated the situation so that they had wound up together today. If she remained on the staff at the clinic he would manipulate things to ensure that there were more such encounters. She knew that as surely as she knew the Principles.
Another shiver of apprehension swept through her. Rainshadow was Plan B but the thought of returning to the island made her uneasy. Something had happened to her the last time she was there – something unnerving. Twelve hours of her life had vanished.
She had gone into a psychic fugue late one afternoon and wandered into the forbidden territory of the Preserve. Somehow she had not only survived the night in the dangerous woods, she had done what most people who knew the island considered almost impossible -- she had managed to find her way out of the Preserve.
She had emerged at dawn the following morning but she had no memories of the night.
She had, however, collected some souvenirs along the way – dark dreams that now haunted her sleep, the faint memory of ethereal music being played somewhere in the night and a handful of rainstones.
“The Lost Night is enthralling, a skillfully narrated story that begins as a tale of detection but becomes something more.” —The New York Times
“No novel based on Ms. Howard’s life, no matter how skillfully crafted, could have been as believable as The Lost Night. It is a quintessentially American narrative of self-creation and redemption, a postmodern Gatsby with a hard-earned, doubt-tinged happy ending. I don’t know when I’ve read a better first book.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Powerful.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“The Lost Night illuminates a bond between a father and a daughter that neither time nor death can undo.” —The Washington Post Book World
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