AGE OF EVE Return of the Nephilim
By D. M. Pratt a BroadLit book
February 2013 Published by BroadLit ™ 14011 Ventura Blvd. Suite 206 E Sherman Oaks, CA 91423 Copyright © 2013 D. M. Pratt All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. ISBN: 978-0-9859596-8-5 Produced in the United States of America.
This book is dedicated to all the women who believed in me when I forgot to believe in myself. May you find unconditional love simply because you deserve it.
To Dr. Laurel Ashley Petersen whose work in Anthropology helped me understand the deepest nature of human desire isn't always human. To Ashley for sharing her mom. To Nancy, Cynthia, Barbara for their wisdom and guidance.
CHAPTER ONE Alone in the entry surrounded by hundreds of people, Eve stood wearing a dress that made her feel absolutely naked. At least in her belted shirt dress she felt armed, ready to face people, but her best friend had insisted this was the first day of the rest of her life and she needed to put it all out there. So she put on the slip of a pale blue silk dress, added eye lashes and ruby lips and piled her thick, honey colored hair into a twist on the top of her head. Her hair, people always said, was one of her best features; a river of flaxen, impossibly shinny and too thick which is why it was in a knot just like her stomach. She was out there, nipples first, and the cool air made her not-as-skinny-asshe’d-hoped naked body under the silk shift way more out there than she had ever experienced in her life. The constant thumping of the dance music matched the nervous beating of Eve’s heart as she stood feeling all alone, staring into a room full of people. She hung back, motionless, looking and listening, furious she had come and feeling more and more like an ugly puppy left abandoned on the side of a road than a pretty woman at a dance. That was shadowed by the anger that came with attending yet another party alone. But she was here so WTF! The swell of music echoed up from a DJ booth located somewhere beyond the grand entrance and expansive parlors that defined the infamous Gregoire Plantation Estate which dared her to enter. Each step she took was punctuated by the pounding rhythms and primitive war chants that played around her. The hypnotic melody was designed to entice people through the maze of festive décor, past the food and liquor and out onto the dance floor. She took that dare and stepped in, crossing the entry, through the parlor and into the dining room. It was filled with the aromas of red pepper sauce, Andouille sausages drenched in Cajun spices, and thick with the pungent tang of fine southern bourbon, always served with something sugary like coke or julep. That was just the southern way: the sweeter the better. Eve ignored the wall of chatter that echoed up from the party, unable to shake the ever-present feeling that someone was watching her. Eve took a long, slow, deep breath and crossed the wide marble hall. She descended the steps that led into the main parlor of the house. It was all that defined southern elegance. The mansion had been built by Lafayette Gregoire nearly three hundred years ago as his summer palace. It sat on the shores of a lake just twenty miles outside New Orleans. Six generations of Gregoires had been born, lived, married, divorced, fought and died here. Wars had been won and lost as the house stood enduring the centuries, while patriarchs and matriarchs ruled the lush lands of the Plantation Gregoire. Eve had always loved the house. She made her mother bring her here at least once every summer, when they came for their annual visits from Chicago, to walk the gardens that stretched along the lake. But until tonight she had never been inside. If she hadn’t been so nervous she would have been in total awe. She would have let her hand trace the beautifully carved wainscoting that paneled the lower half of the entry, falling in straight lines to meet the fine marble floor. She would have let her feet glide across the smooth burgundy surface that stretched out in a perfect circle in each direction and cascaded down the mahogany steps into the sunken living parlor. Eve glanced briefly back at the grand stairway that curled up from the entry and connected to the second floor. In a better state of mind she would have wondered about each of the ten bedrooms that stood like soldiers down the wide, dimly lit hallway. She would have felt each door staring
back in sealed silence keeping the long-forgotten secrets of those who had once inhabited them. But Eve had no time to let her imagination wander. She was feeling lost and hopelessly out of place. Why the hell have I come? She wondered. Damn it! Eve stepped across the crowded entry, through the sunken living room of the old mansion and out onto the balcony. She couldn’t help but feel something else growing beneath her normal nervousness—something beyond that innate fear of people that haunted her whenever she had to go out and face the world. Tonight there was something else: different, strange, almost exciting but not quite, not yet. No more than a tiniest quiver somewhere in the distance, gentle yet persistent. It rose up from some hidden place deep inside her and coursed through her blood like a fever. It left her feeling hot and sticky or perhaps it was the moist Louisiana summer night air that wrapped around her as she moved outside. The heat infected not just her body, but her soul with its subtle but constant reminder that the south in the summer was its own special hell. Eve sighed and walked forward. She saw the faces of all the people who always spent their summers at the lake, the snobbish southern Belles and handsome blue-blooded men whose families had lived in and around New Orleans for the past four hundred years. The women were porcelain dolls with expensive clothes, perfect hair, x-ray thin and way over-educated to be the trophy wives they had or would ultimately become. Eve turned to look at herself in the mirror. She wanted to make sure she was there. Yep, she thought, I actually came. What a masochist. Her reflection stared back at her. Her face was well painted to enhance what she had been told were her best features: nice lips traced with a line of ruby red, carefully drawn to enhance the shape and colored-in like the meticulous crayoning of an obsessive-compulsive six year old, heavy color on top, lighter on the bottom with a dollop of tangerine at the center of the bottom lower lip to give just the right effect of a pout. God, she believed the makeup advice she wrote about in her magazine. But she had followed the rules: flushed cheeks against pale skin that accented dark eyes which were encircled by black, spidery lashes that spiked around her almond shaped, chocolate eyes. Eve looked approvingly, thinking her hair was just the right amount of tousled to seem like she had not bothered quite as much as she had. She smoothed the soft, silk dress that clung appropriately well in all the right places and straightened her back. She had adorned herself with summer diamonds; as her grandmother use to say before she passed them on, “Some are diamonds, some are not.” Eve smiled to think of Maman and her little legacy of faux jewels that she lovingly passed down to her. They caught the dim candle light and sparkled from her neck and wrist giving the illusion she was appropriately spoiled enough to fit in with the rest of the guests She was as beautiful as she could be. So why did she feel so naked and vulnerable behind the cosmetic armor and fashion shield she had carefully donned to protect herself? Then, there was that feeling again. Something was coming and whatever it was, she was certain she wasn’t ready. “Dance with me,” a deep, sensual whisper commanded from behind her. Eve started to turn but hands—no , arms—encircled her and locked her in a gentle but firm embrace. Eve looked down and saw two large, olive-colored hands wrapped around her waist. The fingers were long and sinewy, the kind that belonged to great pianists or a master surgeon with smooth skin that had never seen a day of manual labor. His body felt strong and tall as he pressed himself against her back. Eve could feel each cut of the well defined muscles that ran down his stomach, flat and firm against her back.
He was taller than she by a head. She felt his breath rush warm and moist past her hair as it brushed her cheek. His scent drifted into her nose. This was no expensive bottled cologne, bought in stores; his scent was the scent of life and mystery and intrigue. It was strange and familiar at once, giving her the feeling that she had known him her entire life. It was sweet and pungent and touched her heart with a genuineness that eased the tension and made her melt into his embrace. Eve felt dizzy, giddy, intoxicated by this presence that carried her all too willingly into its magic. The music changed into a sensual ballad and with a graceful, fluid motion he took her hand and spun her around. The room rushed by her in a blur and when she came to face him, time stopped. She blinked and softly shook her head to clear whatever it was that clouded her mind and blurred her vision. Eve’s heart quickened for when the world came back she was looking not at a man but what could only be described as a soul, shimmering as clear as mountain air, tall and straight, warm and cloaked in what great poets try to describe as the essence of true beauty. From the indescribable illusion his eyes came into focus first, pale as a summer sky with flecks of silver that seemed to shower her with shimmering beacons of moonlight. His look gave a gentle warning that he wanted truth and would accept nothing less in return. Have I fainted, been drugged, died? She tried to think, to feel the ground beneath her feet to make sense of the dream she had entered. “You dance as beautiful as you are,” his melodic voice spoke in calming, tender tones. A voice so deep she swore she could feel the bass tones vibrate in her bones as she listened to each word. Again she tried to clear her mind struggling to come back from this waking dream. And then, he smiled at her. His lips were round, full, and smooth with corners that bent up into a smile even when he did not. His face was a vision that only Michelangelo could’ve chiseled from a block of warm, flawless travertine. His hair was midnight black and caught the candle glow, weaving silver lights around each curl like piles of ribbons that seemed to demand she reach up to play in it. “You dance well too,” she said feeling like an imbecile as the words tumbled out of her mouth. “Do I,” he smiled teasing her. “I think you like my arms around you.” Had he read her mind, felt her desire before she had even felt it herself? The tiny quiver that had been growing inside her since she arrived at the party exploded into a blazing fire that made her certain she would ignite if she didn’t run away. Her body began to tremble with excitement. She knew him though they had never met. She desired him in all the ways that one human being could desire another. She wanted to know everything about him, his hopes, his dreams, the world he lived and breathed in and yet she loved the mysterious feeling of knowing nothing: that first, enticing, unknown moment, unencumbered by the past, void of any expectations of the future, held only the now, existing completely in the present. Eve suddenly realized he had danced her off the wide, stone balcony that graced the backyard. As if on a carpet of air, they had drifted down six steps and through the English garden alive with a cornucopia of summer blossoms and thick with the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle. He led her gracefully into the black mouth of the massive topiary labyrinth of ten foot hedges that anchored the heart of the garden. There he stopped under the vast canvas of ebony sky and let the moonlight fall, lacing through leaves across her skin with a dusting of silvery radiance. The light illuminated their way
while erasing the rest of the world. Eve should’ve been afraid, but fear would not dare enter the cocoon of serenity he had so wondrously woven around her. Under normal circumstances Eve would have said something practical like what’s your name or engaged in an exchange of sensible facts like where the hell are you taking me? These were the questions that seemed more than relevant in light of what was happening, but not tonight. Suddenly they stopped, surrounded by four walls of shimmering green leaves. The calls of crickets and night creatures obliterated the strains of the lush, romantic music that drifted from the house, as if they alone were to underscore the astonishing encounter. He stepped closer, leaning into her. His body felt warm and safe. He pulled the pins from her hair to release it and as her locks unfurled and as they fell free, so did she. He encircled her waist with his arms lifting her momentarily with such ease she felt almost weightless. Eve felt weak and empowered all at one time. The pounding of her heart matched the throbbing that reverberated in his chest. He wanted her as much as she wanted him. His face drifted closer, his mouth hungry to taste her kiss. Slowly, tenderly, he brushed her lips with his. It was a kiss-less kiss, as sweet as if they had been twelve years olds exploring one another’s lips in an innocent prelude before the hormonal storm. He pulled her tighter. Eve’s knees went weak. Her body began to tremble. She was as helpless as a leaf caught in the throes of a torrential wind. He pressed his cheek against hers. “I love you,” he whispered. Now she panicked. Fear rushed in and brought with it a deluge of logic and harsh reality. She could feel her heart building up walls and iron bunkers of emotional defense with every breath. “You can’t love me,” she blurted like she had Tourettes syndrome. Her hands lifted into place to push him away. The words tumbled from her mouth like the charge of the cavalry racing in to protect a heart that had been broken so many times one more crack would surely shatter it into dust. “You … you don’t even know me.” He looked at her and smiled. His embrace softened and his eyes filled with tears. Grateful, heartfelt tears that held such honesty his words had to be true. Softly he whispered, “Even a blind man knows when he’s walking in the sun.” Eve felt her eyes flush with tears, her body melted, and in a single sigh, her heart surrendered. Forgetting the past, ignoring the future, taking a hold of the now, he kissed her. And without a moment’s hesitation she kissed him back.
CHAPTER TWO Eve reached her arms out wide and stretched like a cat that had been fed all her favorite treats. She was beyond comfortable lounging on the dewy grass, drenched in the warmth of the morning sunlight. She felt completely natural, as if every day should be as perfectly happy and as filled with wonder as this one. She smiled feeling satiated and ridiculously famished and then, she opened her eyes. Eve yelped and sat straight up when she saw the seventy-two year old Asian caretaker from the estate staring at her with a look of total confusion. Eve scrambled to her feet finally, quickly noticing she was completely naked. She frantically searched for the blue dress. It rested in the right hand of the caretaker. “Mmmmy dress!” she stuttered, holding out her hand demanding its return. Meanwhile her other arm awkwardly covered as many strategic spots as possible on her body. The old man’s eyes hung wide as dinner plates, gaping at her. His voice, or lack of, was mute, still caught up in the shock of finding a naked beauty that magically grew in his garden. “Turn around! Would you please turn around!?” Eve demanded, stumbling into her little blue dress. She had no shoes. She looked desperately for the expensive pair of Jimmy Choo’s she had spent two weeks’ salary to buy. They peeked out from beneath the hedge looking like the wicked witch of the west had died there, crushed to death by the ten foot wall of shrubs. Hopping on one foot she swiftly abandoned the idea of putting them on and turned to run. Eve stopped, she hadn’t a clue as to which way would get her out of the labyrinth. She gave an exasperated growl and looked back at the caretaker, totally embarrassed and completely frustrated. “Out? How do I get out?” she demanded. He pointed north. Her face was flushed scarlet red, her hair fallen and mussed and darkened by the wet morning dew that had drenched it. The silk dress clung, hanging disheveled on her full frame as she turned and ran, following the direction of his trembling finger. Eve ran twisting through the well manicured hedges that anchored the majestic garden. She turned what seemed to be a thousand corners until somehow she stumbled, still disoriented, out of the hedges and ran across the lawn to the house. The party had long ended. The hosts of the annual Belles of Charity summer fundraising event had long gone. They had taken the music, tables, dishes, glasses and flowers with them, leaving the old estate neat and clean for the next event that would once again bring its silent walls to life. Eve raced around the side porch and across the grassy lawn to her car. It sat alone in the gravel parking area just beyond the large horseshoe that welcomed visitors to the palatial estate. She refused to stop and put on her shoes willing her feet not to feel the tiny pebbles bite into the soles of her feet. She’d rather risk her feet than tear up the leather heels and ruin her stupidly expensive shoes. After all feet would heal, shoes would not. Eve glanced back at the house. It stared down at her, silent and imposing, like an elegant old empress bathing in the warmth of the early morning light. It didn’t judge her actions, merely observed. She had loved this house for as long as she could remember. She had told her mother when she was only seven that someday, when she grew up and became
very successful and very rich, she would buy Gregoire Manor and live there with her handsome husband and twelve brilliant children. But too many summers had come and gone and Eve was all grown up. She never got married nor did she ever have twelve brilliant children, not that any woman these days would really want twelve children she convinced herself, and the estate had never come up for sale. Buying the Gregoire estate was the last thing on her mind this particular morning. Vanishing off the planet would have been nice about now. Eve got to her car. She jumped behind the wheel of her Prius. Thank god she had left her purse and keys under the seat. As she dug through her little beaded bag, breathless, embarrassed and horribly confused, the full force of the night started to fill her mind. She had made love to a perfect stranger. She didn’t even ask his name. Shit she thought. She was Eve Elise Dowling, journalist for Southern Style, a small but respected fashion magazine in New Orleans, not some floozy without morals. What had she been thinking? It was obvious she had not been thinking. I made love with a perfect stranger, she thought, shaking her head as she ripped the little purse apart. She stopped. I think. I think I made love with a perfect stranger. Eve couldn’t remember a single detail past that first, amazing kiss. Eve crammed the key into the ignition of her Prius and pushed the electric starter button… silence. The hybrid didn’t even give her the satisfaction of a loud roar or a screechy squeal that, by every movie law she could remember, when she peeled out, was suppose to churn up the gravel and leave a rooster tail of dust heralding her escape. But she had not escaped. She was leaving quietly, confused and totally embarrassed. She sped through the twelve-foot high gates glimpsing in the rearview mirror the old stone lions that guarded the entrance to the estate. They had stood loyally for hundreds of years and watched people come and go keeping the secrets of the house as faithfully as a poodle allowed to stay in his mistress’ boudoir and watch. Now, they kept one more secret in their flat, stony eyes: whatever the hell happened last night. What had happened? She struggled, desperate to remember something, anything, about the night. But there were no memories, only thin snippets of images that flashed in her mind: his arms around her, their dance across the garden and into the maze of hedges, his eyes, his voice, the scent, the kiss that took her breath away, but nothing else. Eve turned down the lonely road that led from the estate and drove with the urgency of someone about to lose their mind. She ignored the glorious amber sunlight that crept over the wide flat leaves of the banyan trees and turned the sky from pale peach and pink to blue. A flock of snowy egrets took to the sky filling the blue heavens with great moving clouds made of birds. She could see beads of moisture that had rolled into delicate balls of dew and caught the light turning each bead to liquid, honey colored droplets that painted the broad flat leaves in rainbows of morning light. Their brilliant green hues peeked between the lazy carpets of Spanish moss as it draped the branches like a million calico cats clustering together to stay safe in the arms of the massive oaks, bald cypress and magnolia trees that lined the empty road. Who was he? She thought, suddenly able to taste his kiss on her lips. She brushed her hair from her eyes and caught his scent on her skin. She held her arm and breathed him in. It was as if she’d bathed in him. The car seemed to fill up with the strange fragrance that had been so much a part of him. It hung like incense, thick and sweet, that lingered in the air long after the embers had died and grown cold. She remembered the feel of his touch on her skin. But what the hell had happened!?
She felt insane. The lonely road flowed onto the highway which all too quickly filled up with a million cars. Behind each wheel sat expressionless people all focused on getting into the city to start the day. Up ahead, one by one, popping up on the horizon, she could see the skyscrapers that reached like jagged metal fingers into the sky and poked into the thick morning clouds that hung over the city. Eve drove across the Dewey Long Bridge that spanned the wide belly of the Mississippi below, rusty brown and choked with paddleboats, barges, and a dozen or so cruise ships. Her body was on autopilot as she took the turnoff that carried her into downtown New Orleans, but her mind was on the handsome stranger. She'd call Cora. Certainly Cora, who had grown up in New Orleans, whose family had been one of the darlings of the New Orleans’ blue bloods since long before the Civil War, would know the name of this magnificent man. Her eyes still on the street, Eve dug in her purse, hunting for her cell phone. She found it, punched up Cora’s number and growled with every ring. Finally, Cora answered. “Cora, where are you? We need to talk, NOW!”