Sherry awoke with a start, her body drenched in perspiration. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed, stumbled to the bathroom, and turned on the faucet. A montage of murky images from her dream nudged her sluggish brain. She closed her eyes, splashed cold water on her face, and concentrated. Ah, now she saw it clearly…a golden statue. Similar to Rodin’s The Kiss, elements of angst and passion mingled between the lovers, culminating in an erotic embrace.
Shaking her head to clear her mind, she opened her eyes and looked into the mirror. The face peering back was that of a stranger—the eyes, pools of desolation, the skin, ghostly white against the backdrop of her brilliant, auburn hair. She grabbed a nearby towel, patted the droplets from her face and dragged a brush through her tousled locks. With a sigh, she realized nothing could be done about her ghastly appearance, not now, maybe not ever. Not after what had happened.
She needed air. Now. Tossing the towel to the floor, she headed for the door of the hotel room. She had to get away from the walls closing in on her, or surely she’d go insane. Five days she’d been waiting. For him. There would be no more waiting.
Tears came to her eyes, and she wiped them away. Before fate stepped in, this was to be her honeymoon, and yesterday her wedding day. All that had changed, and, somehow, she had to accept it. But how?
She walked briskly from the hotel lobby and stepped onto the main street of Rio de Janeiro, assailed by the steamy heat. Elbowing her way through the crowd, she moved along the congested sidewalk to the sounds of boisterous chatter and laughter. She’d forgotten Mardi Gras was in full swing.
Already the humidity had rendered her sticky and wilted. Flicking her damp hair from her eyes, she drew in a breath of sultry air. She didn’t know which was worse, the relentless heat or the noisy crowd jostling her in every direction until she felt like a spinning top.
A man in a painted mask of a blue wolf loomed before her, his harsh laugh setting her already tattered nerves on edge. His breath reeked of garlic, pitching her queasy stomach into spasms. Sherry pushed him away and squeezed through a narrow gap in the rowdy crowd.Lightheaded, her bruised ribs aching from numerous elbow jabs, she staggered into the
doorway of an ancient shop. Plucking the fabric of her shirt away from her overheated skin, she leaned against the wall and looked at the sign overhead. The Old Green Door.
Curiosity compelled her to reach for the handle. To her surprise, the door opened, and she stepped inside, reveling in the cool air that greeted her. Her head pounded in perfect sync with the drums beating in the street. She couldn’t escape the noise outside until the parade ended, and since she hadn’t seen a schedule, she had no idea what time that would be.
The door closed of its own accord with a soft click behind her. All fell silent. How very curious, not a sound from Mardi Gras outside reached her ears. Had she stepped into another world?
She shivered, and a chill tumbled down her spine. The temperature had dropped considerably since she’d entered the shop, yet she could see nothing to indicate any type of cooling device.Bric-a-brac cluttered the tiny store, from antique furniture, medieval armor, and golden deities of all kinds, to dark teak wood and precious metals. Mirrors and paintings graced the walls, depicting great battles, hideous-looking beasts, sensuous women, and handsome men. Not one of the handsome men depicted was as beautiful as her man. An image of Lachlan flashed through her mind—black raven hair, startling azure eyes, and the sinewy, ripped body of a god. Her lover had done nothing extraordinary to keep his body in shape except live a healthy lifestyle. A busy politician, he’d found the time—no, made the time—to take her horseback riding, hiking, and water-skiing. She remembered every precious moment now with tears in her eyes.