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Endless Winter

Imagine falling in love for the first time. Now imagine being told you had to have a baby with somebody else...

Trapped in an unfamiliar room with no way out, Anais has no idea just how much her life is about to change. A locked door stands between her and freedom but as she is just about to find out, the door is the least of her problems. 
When she meets and forms an attraction to the other-worldy Aethelu, she begins to feel that her life is now complete, but when they start to receive threats from a long forgotten foe, she must make a decision that will impact not only her family, but the fate of everyone. 
Don’t miss Endless Winter the first of the Guardians of The Light series by USA Today bestselling Author, J.A. Armitage, If you like fantasy and horror with quick paced action and danger, Endless Winter will have you turning the pages!

Chapter one

Anais had awoken after a night of such delicious dreams that she kept her eyes closed so as to savour the last remnants of dream and to put off the real world for just a few seconds more. A smile played on her lips as she opened her eyes, remembering that it was Sunday, her favourite day of the week, and that she could go straight back to sleep if she wanted.

She turned to look at her digital alarm clock, for even though she could theoretically sleep all day, she didn’t want to waste the whole day in bed, and she especially didn’t want to miss Winnie’s famous Sunday Breakfast. The alarm clock was invisible through the darkness and its usually luminous orange readout was now as black as the rest of the room.

Anais assumed that there must have been a power cut as the whole bedroom was a lot darker than it usually was. The power cut had extended to the outside lights as well. The streetlamp just outside her window was not throwing its usual glow across the room. Being late November meant that it was likely to be dark well into the morning which left Anais no clue as to the correct time.

 

This morning, though, Anais had such a wonderful feeling, a feeling of potential and warmth in her belly that she supposed it must be quite late in the morning and she’d slept well through the night. After a quick sniff to ascertain if breakfast was being cooked yet, Anais decided to stay in bed after all and try to get back into that wonderful dream she’d been having about a gorgeous prince with white blonde hair. Yawning, she stretched her arm out, plunging it into the total blackness of the room. Her hand brushed the wall next to her bed which was when Anais realised that something was wrong.

Her bed was in the middle of the room and the only wall it touched was against the headboard. She had at least three feet on each side of the bed until the pink floweriness of her walls. Unease started to build as she tried to rationalise her hand touching wall.

Perhaps she had just brushed against something on her bedside cabinet, but the angle was wrong and besides, all she had on her bedside cabinet was a book and a hairbrush, nothing that could have been mistaken for a wall. She opened her eyes for a second time, but it was so dark she couldn’t see anything through the blackness. She put her arm out again, and what she felt was definitely a wall. What’s more, it wasn’t her wall. Her bedroom at Winnie’s had beautiful printed wallpaper of flowers and birds. It was old-fashioned wallpaper, but it was flat. This wallpaper was patterned, but she could feel the pattern rather than see it, some kind of swirl.

She briefly wondered if she had fallen back into her old ways of going to bars, getting drunk and waking up the next morning goodness knows where and with a vile hangover though it certainly didn’t feel that way. There was no hangover, no pounding alcohol-induced headache or feelings of both nausea and guilt. In fact, despite the rising panic, there was still the underlying wonderfulness that her dreams had brought and the smile that she realised was still on her lips.

She dropped the smile and felt the bed next to her to confirm what she already knew. The bed was a single bed which sealed the fact that she was not in her own double divan. She thought back to the previous night to try to find reason in why she would not be in her own bed in her own room, but last night had been the same as it always was.

Leaving Winnie watching her soaps as usual, she’d taken her milk up to bed where she had read a few chapters of the novel she was currently reading before falling asleep. It had been a very normal evening, boring even, as she couldn’t stand the soaps and couldn’t think of anything to do, so had taken herself to bed earlier than usual in the hope she would finish the book she had been reading.

As her panic increased, her heart rate elevated and her breathing became sharper. The hairs on the back of her neck began to prickle uncomfortably and without thinking she raised her hand to her neck as a small gesture of comfort and to quell her rising anxiety. Any hope that she’d somehow been mistaken was lost when she got out of the bed. Her feet felt plush carpet beneath them, warm, unlike the polished floorboards she was used to. The long fibres, velvety soft between her toes, left her in no doubt of being in an unfamiliar room.

Leaving the bed and following the wall anti-clockwise, her fingers traced the same raised swirls around the room as she took in its dimensions. The room was about twelve feet in length and breadth, and apart from the bed, was devoid of furniture. She felt her way along the wall slowly until the third wall where she hit a doorframe, and then a door. She quickly felt for a handle, but there wasn’t one. Moving her hands all over the door in the hope that the handle was just in a strange position, either at the top or the bottom or even in the middle, was to no avail. It was as empty as the rest of the room, just the flat expanse of the thick wood door. The only evidence that a handle had once been there was a small hole where it had been removed. She bent down to peek out, but the handle was still on at the other side and so the hole was blocked. Poking her finger through to dislodge the other side of the handle resulted in a broken fingernail, but the handle itself steadfastly remained in place.

Her breathing became more ragged as she fought the rising panic. Taking a few deep breaths, she managed to slow it down to a more manageable state. Putting her ear to the door, she listened out for some kind of sound, but all she could hear was the sound of her own breathing. The darkness closed in on her as she stood by the locked door, giving her an unfamiliar feeling of claustrophobia. The walls seemed to be moving in on her, crushing her lungs, disrupting her ability to breathe. She once again steadied her breathing and tried to shake the feeling of intense fear that enveloped her.

She tentatively raised her hand and gently knocked on the door.

“Hello,” she whispered softly before realising how ridiculous and ineffective this was.

She was in a strange room, with no idea how she had got there and no way out, and she was tapping on a door as if embarrassed to disturb someone on the other side. It was this stupid, totally wrong feeling inside her that was making her into an idiot. Panic was there alright, but despite that, she still couldn’t shake the happiness, the total joy she had woken up with. She still had a warm feeling that something good was going to happen.

The thought occurred to her that she had somehow been drugged. It would explain how she had been removed from her bed without her waking up. The inexplicable feelings of joy were a mystery to her, though. She’d never heard of a drug that knocked you out and then made you feel wonderful hours later. She almost gave a giggle and then chided herself. Whatever the drugs were that had knocked her out were now making her feel giddy. The fear she was feeling, combined with the effects from the drugs, produced a curious combination of emotions which swirled through Anais.

Intellectually, she knew that she was in a desperate situation, but despite that, her heart was beating like it was full of the joys of spring.

The fear of the situation in which she found herself was fighting the warm, happy feeling inside her for dominance.

“It’s the drugs, it’s the drugs,” she breathed to herself.

She realised that while it was nice that she was feeling a lot calmer than she should, it would impede her chances of escape.

She needed her faculties about her now more than ever. She needed to be sharp and stay focused. A little bit of fear was not necessarily a bad thing.

After taking a few more deep breaths, she dropped the whispering and started to shout at the closed door.

“Let me out, Can you hear me?” She let her head rule her heart and screamed and shouted for all she was worth.

She let forth a string of expletives which, had she been at home, would have made Winnie faint.

‘Potty mouth,’ Winnie had called anyone who had so much as uttered a swear word. She abhorred anyone who “Was too lazy to speak the Queen’s English,” and if she was ever really angry or stubbed her toe, the worst you would get out of her was “pish” or “darn” or “sugar.”

Thinking of Winnie finally made Anais cry. Her fear dissolved into sadness as she realised that Winnie would be going into her room this morning to find an empty bed. Dear sweet old Winnie wouldn’t be able to cope with losing her. She was just a sweet old lady who knew everything there was to know about books and baking but was woefully naive about dealing with the real world. Anais didn’t think that Winnie would know what to do when she found that Anais was gone. Would she think Anais had run away, or would she know the truth? Surely, Winnie knew her well enough to know that she would never leave in the middle of the night without an explanation.

Anais finally gave in and cried until her tears ran dry. The fear for Winnie overshadowed the fear for herself. The sadness she felt for her only friend finally drove out the last remnants of happiness and the effects of the drugs at long last wore off, along with the kaleidoscope of emotions they had induced. Anais was spent, empty. She slumped on the floor and wondered what the hell she was supposed to do now.

Winnie had taken Anais into her home about six months previously and in many ways saved her life. She’d certainly changed her life at the very least.

 

Anais was born and had grown up in Los Angeles to British parents. Her father, Alistair was a world-renowned expert on rare books and ancient manuscripts. Having taught history and literature at UCLA, he shared his love of the written word with his only daughter. Sarah, Anais’ mother, worked on the set of a celebrity-driven chat show doing the makeup of the screen gods and goddesses of the moment. All three were happy with their lives, but both Alistair and Sarah missed their home.

A year ago they had decided to move back to York with Anais and had sold everything to set up a new life in England. They hadn’t even been back six weeks when a drunk driver had driven off the road straight into the couple, killing Sarah and Alistair instantly. Anais had been at home, filling in college applications, when she got a visit from a policeman. She was three days shy of her eighteenth birthday.

Newly orphaned in a foreign country with no money and friends who were over 5,000 miles away, Anais had very quickly spiralled out of control. Despite her parents being relatively well off, their money was all tied up in various trusts. Anais was looking at being quite a wealthy young lady, but various legal issues had to be addressed before she’d get a penny. The little money she did have went for six month’s rent on the house her parents had rented and the rest went on cheap alcohol in even cheaper bars. When the lease on the house was up, she had slept on the sofas of people she barely knew. She had hit rock bottom when by chance she walked into Winnie’s Rare and Antique Book Emporium. It was down a street she had never been on before, and she didn’t know what it was that had made her go in. She supposed it was because it reminded her so much of her historian father, who had loved old books second only to his wife and daughter. Inside she had met Winnie. Wonderful Winnie, who recognised a kindred spirit in Anais and shared her love of books, a trait she had picked up from her father.

They had chatted all afternoon and Winnie had made tea and sandwiches which they had shared. By the time the shop closed, Winnie had offered Anais both a bed and a job. Winnie had told her that she had been desperate to find a shop assistant who knew enough about rare books and she really needed to rent her spare room out. It was serendipitous that Anais had come into her life at just the right time for both of them.

Anais had first thought Winnie was crazy letting a stranger into her house (which was the second and third floors above the shop) but she soon realised she was just a lonely old lady who needed the company much more than she really needed a shop assistant. That had been six months ago. She’d been sober ever since.

© 2015 J.A.Armiitage

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