The promise of winter’s first snowfall whispered across the low-slung evening sky. Oliver Bascombe shivered, not from the December wind but with the same anticipation he had felt at his seventh birthday party, just before the magician performed his act. Oliver did not believe in magicians anymore, but he did still believe in magic. He was stubborn that way.
The green cable-knit sweater was insufficient to protect him from the cold, but Oliver did not mind. At the edge of a rocky cliff a hundred and twenty feet above the crashing surf, he hugged himself and closed his eyes; felt the north wind prodding him and smiled. His cheeks were numb but he cared not at all. There was a delicious taste to the air and the scent of it was wonderful, exhilarating.
Oliver loved being by the ocean, relished the air, but this scent was different. This was the storm coming on. Not the metallic tang of the imminent thunderstorm, but the pure, moist air of winter, when the sky was thick and each misting breath almost crystalline.
It was bliss.
Oliver inhaled again and, eyes still closed, took a step closer to the edge of the bluff. All the magic in the world existed right here, right now. In the air, the portentous gray sky, the mischievous auguring of winter. A solemn oath from nature that soon it would bring beauty and stillness to the land, at least for a while.
A few more inches, a single step, and he would fly from the bluff down into the breakers and serenity would be his. One final enormous disappointment for his father to bear, and then he would not burden the old man any further.
A flutter against his cheek. A rustling in his hair. A gust swept off the water and struck him with enough force that he stumbled back a step. One step. Back instead of forward. The wind blew damp, icy stings against his cheeks.
Oliver opened his eyes.
Snow fell in a silent white cascade that stretched from the stone bluff and out across the ocean. For the longest of moments he stood and simply stared, his heart beating faster, his throat dry, holding his breath. Oliver Bascombe believed in magic. Whatever else life brought him, as long as he could hold on to such moments, he could endure.
He would endure.
Oliver chuckled softly to himself and shook his head in resignation. For another long moment he stared out at the ocean, his view obscured by this new veil of snow, then turned and strode across the frozen grounds of his father’s estate. The rigid grass crunched beneath his shoes.
The enormous Victorian mansion was an antique red with trim the pink of birthday-cake frosting, though Oliver’s mother had always insisted upon referring to it as rose so as not to impugn the masculinity of the household. Her husband wanted his home to be finely appointed, but drew the line at decoration that would be inarguably feminine.
The house was warmly lit from within. The broad bay windows of the formal living room on the south wing revealed the twinkling multicolored lights on the Bascombes’ Christmas tree. Oliver strode up to the French doors, melting snow slipping down the back of his neck and into his shirt, and rattled the handles, sighing when he realized the doors were locked. He rapped softly on a glass pane, peering into the rear entryway of the house at dark wood and antique furniture, tapestries and sconces on the walls. When his mother was alive, his parents had done everything in their power to give the interior of their home a European flair, such that it looked more like an English manor than a place in which people actually lived.
Oliver rapped again. The wind whipped up anew and rattled the French doors in their frame. After another moment he raised his fist again, but then a figure appeared in the corridor. The house was lit so brightly within that at first it was only a silhouette of a person, but from the hurried, precise gait of the figure he knew immediately that it must be Friedle. He was more than simply a caretaker, but that was how the man himself referred to his job, so the Bascombes did not argue the point.
The slim, bespectacled man smiled broadly and waved as he hurried to unlock the doors.
“Oh, goodness, come in, come in!” Friedle urged in his curt Swiss accent, then clucked his tongue. “I am sorry, Oliver. I locked the door without even considering that you might be outside on such a chilly night.”
A genuine smile blossomed on Oliver’s face. “It’s all right. All the preparations were becoming a bit overwhelming, so I thought I’d take a walk. And now it’s snowing.”
Friedle’s eyebrows went up and he glanced out the door. “So it is,” he noted appreciatively. But then his eyes narrowed and a mischievous sort of grin played at the edges of his lips. “We’re not getting cold feet, are we?”
“I was out for a stroll in the first snow of winter. Of course my feet are cold.”
“You know that isn’t what I meant.”
Oliver nodded amiably. “Yep.”
Friedle handled all the day-to-day business of running the household, from the largest details to the smallest, leaving Max Bascombe to focus on his work. Friedle paid the bills, answered the mail, and attended to small repairs and general upkeep, while at the same time overseeing the employment of the twice-weekly cleaning service, the landscaping crew, and the hiring of a snowplow man in winter.
When Oliver’s mother had died, it was Friedle who realized that someone was going to have to be hired to cook for father and son—the two men living in that silent old house. Mrs. Gray arrived promptly at seven o’clock every morning and remained until seven o’clock every night. Oliver hoped that she was paid well to spend so much time in someone else’s home. Friedle was another story entirely. He lived in the carriage house on the south end of the property. This was his home.
Oliver smiled warmly at the man, wished him good night, then strode down the corridor. The paintings on the walls reflected his father’s interest in the ocean—lighthouses and schooners and weathered lobstermen—and his mother’s passion for odd antiques, in this case crude portraits most visitors mistook for Bascombe family ancestors.
His damp shoes had squeaked from the moment he entered the house and Oliver wiped them on the Oriental rug before striding through the formal living room and the vast dining room. Though it was still early in December, the entire house was decorated for the holidays, red ribbon bows and gold candles and wreaths throughout the house. And from the other end of the vast place came the scent of a fire blazing in the hearth.
His path took him past the grand staircase and to a room his mother had always insisted upon referring to as the parlor. Despite or perhaps because of the fact that it drove his father crazy, Oliver had for years preferred to cozy up with a book or a movie in his mother’s parlor rather than the so-called family room. Katherine Bascombe had always kept her parlor filled with sweet-smelling flowers and warm blankets. The furniture was delicate, like his mother; the one room in the house where Max Bascombe hadn’t trammeled his wife’s decorative instincts.
Now Oliver paused a moment just at the door to the darkened room. The parlor was small by the standards of the Bascombe home, but it ran all the way to the rear of the house. The far end of the parlor was an array of tall windows that looked out upon the back of the property, at the gardens and the ocean beyond.
But tonight the view was obscured. Oliver could see nothing outside those windows but the snow that whipped icily against the glass. He looked at the small rolltop desk where his mother had liked to sit and write letters. Bookshelves revealed a combination of paperback Agatha Christie mysteries and antique leather-bound hardcovers. From time to time Oliver would take one of those older books down and read it, not minding the way the binding cracked and the yellowed paper crumbled. Books, he had always thought, were for reading. Writers put their heart and soul in between those covers, and it seemed to Oliver that if the books were never opened, the ghosts of their passion might be trapped there forever.
He inhaled the lemon scent of wood polish in the room, noticeable even over the powerful smell of flowers, and felt his mother’s absence keenly. In the wake of her death, Oliver had done as his father asked. He had gone on to law school and become an attorney, passed the bar not only in Maine but in Massachusetts, New York, and California as well. You had to be versatile if you wanted to be a partner in the firm of Bascombe & Cox. The problem was, this particular junior partner had no interest in being a lawyer. He had spent all four years at Yale in the Drama Club, doing Chekhov and Eugene O’Neill.
Oliver Bascombe was an actor. He wanted to live on the stage, to travel the world not in a private jet but by car and train. As an attorney it was his job to erase the trials and tribulations of others, yet he barely understood what his clients were experiencing.
He was a fly trapped in amber.
“What are you doing?”
Oliver started. He turned abruptly away from the parlor to find his sister, Collette, standing in the hall gazing at him. She had an odd smile on her face and he wondered how long she had been there, waiting for him to notice her arrival.
“Way to go,” he said, a hand over his chest. “Give the groom a heart attack the night before his wedding.”
“My, my, little brother. You’re not nervous, are you?”
Collette laughed and a ripple of warmth went through Oliver. So often he felt that the only warmth in this house came out of the heating ducts, but having Collette back in town, even if only for a few days, had been wonderful. Oliver, to his regret, was the image of his father, though somehow at once both thinner and more robust. But Collette was petite and her features fine and angular, so that she revealed in every glance the Irish heritage that had come down to them from their mother. A light of mischief gleamed in her eyes and, though she was his elder by six years, Collette was often mistaken for a girl half her age.
“Why would I be nervous?” Oliver replied. “It’s just my whole life changing forever tomorrow.”
Collette smiled again, the skin around her eyes crinkling. “You make it sound like a death sentence.”
A shudder went through Oliver and he caught his breath. His good humor faltered a moment and though he tried to summon it again, he saw in his sister’s gaze that she had noticed this lapse.
“Oliver?” she ventured. “Oh, Oliver, don’t.”
Collette shook her head as though she could deny what she had seen in his face. He had no idea what don’t meant, exactly. Don’t say it? Don’t feel this way? Don’t get married? Don’t fuck it up? But he could imagine some of what Collette was feeling just then. Her own marriage—to Bradley Kenton, a television news producer out of New York City—had failed spectacularly. They had no children, but Collette had friends in the city, a job she loved as an editor at Billboard magazine, and no desire to live with or even near her family again.
“I’m fine,” he assured her. “Really,” he lied.
His sister responded with a long sigh, then glanced around the hall before taking him by the elbow and ushering him into their mother’s parlor. She turned on a tall floor lamp whose glass enclosure had been designed by Gaudí. It threw strange, almost grotesque arrays of colored light across the room and upon Collette’s face. Oliver never used that lamp when he came here to hide away.
“Is it terror or dread?” Collette demanded, as though the question needed no more explanation than that.
Oliver was unnerved to discover that it didn’t. He turned away from her searching gaze and went to sit upon a sofa rich with deep crimson and blue. The tasseled pillow he placed on his lap as though it might protect him. Collette sat on the edge of the coffee table, arms crossed, one hand over her mouth. Speak no evil, Oliver thought as he turned to look at her again.
“I’m not afraid to be married. I guess I ought to be; I’m not sure I know anyone whose marriage I can honestly say I admire. But the idea of it is pretty appealing. The way a marriage is supposed to be, who wouldn’t want that?”
Collette frowned. “You don’t think you can have that with Julianna?”
Oliver swallowed hard and found his throat dry. Slowly, he shook his head.
“I thought you loved her.”
Images of Julianna crashed through Oliver’s mind like the ocean against the rocks. She was laughing and dancing on the hardwood floor in nothing but white socks and Oliver’s flannel pajama top, her raven-black hair spilling around her face. She was playing the piano and singing so sweetly at her parents’ fortieth anniversary party. What was that song? He could hear the melody in his head but was unable to put a name to it.
“I think I do,” he replied at last. “But how can you ever be sure? Honestly. Still, the idea of being married is nice.”
Collette leaned forward, her blonde hair draped across the left side of her face. She did not bother to push it away, but instead laid a comforting hand on his knee.
“So it’s not terror. Where’s the dread coming from?”
“I don’t know.”
His sister sat up straight, surveying him carefully.
A soft laugh escaped Oliver’s lips. “Yes, I lie.” The words were barely a whisper. “It isn’t fair, is it? Not to me or to Julianna. It isn’t fair that my cowardice has brought us to this.”
Collette shook her head and threw up her hands. “You lost me, Ollie. Stop playing Riddler and elaborate, if you please. How are you a coward? The only person in this world you won’t stand up to is . . .”
Her words trailed off and Collette stared at him. She tilted her head slightly to one side as though seeing him from a new angle might shed further light upon their conversation.
“Dad?” she ventured. “You’re dreading getting married because of Dad? In what world does that make any sense at all?”
Oliver held the pillow more tightly and slid down into the sofa cushions. He turned to gaze across the long parlor at the darkness outside, the snow almost phosphorescent where it fell near enough to be illuminated by the lights of the house.
“It doesn’t. Doesn’t make a bit of sense. But it’s been haunting me. Julianna’s family are wealthy and they’re local and they’re very tightly knit. We both work for the firm . . . the firm Dad helped found. Her father and Dad are both on the board of directors at the bank. They’ve golfed together at the club. She’s entrenched in that whole scene, same as me. If I marry Julianna, it’s the final concession. It’s not even defeat, but surrender. I’m giving up whatever chance still existed that I might someday do what I want instead of what he wants. Just like . . . just like Mom.”
“Ollie, Mom never surrendered. She never stopped loving the things she had a passion for.”
He laughed bitterly. “Maybe she never surrendered, but she was captured, sis. Think about it. Look at this house. One little room where she could do exactly what she wanted, where she could have it look like she pictured it, instead of how Mr. Imagination thought other people would expect it to look.”
Collette put one comforting hand on his shoulder. “Oliver, I know he can be awful, but you’re being unfair. All couples compromise. That’s what marriage is. Yes, he could be bullying—”
Oliver cut off her words with a curt glance. “If she was forced to compromise her passions to mix with his, that I could understand. But he doesn’t have any. His only passion is work. He had an image of how things should look that had nothing to do with what he liked or disliked, and everything to do with what he thought was appropriate. Mom used to tell me he wasn’t always like that. She said when she met him he had stars in his eyes. ‘Just like you,’ that’s what she said. But at some point, that part of him went away. But not for her. She was filled with passion, and . . . look, never mind.” He brushed at the air. “I’m sorry I started. It’s just . . . with her gone, I see it all around me, all through the house, and it’s just so fucking tragic.”
Collette hesitated a moment, gnawing her lower lip, then forged on. “And so, what? You think your life with Julianna’s going to be the same thing, only in reverse? Is that it?”
Slowly, he nodded. “The really twisted part is, I’m going to end up resenting Julianna just as much as I already resent him. How is that fair?”
Collette shook her head. “It’s not.” For several seconds she only stared at him, then she ran her hands through her hair and laughed, not in amusement but in obvious disbelief. “Jesus, Oliver. Now what? It’s two weeks before Christmas. You’ve got three hundred people coming to a wedding tomorrow. Flying in from LA and London and New York, some of them. I’m not telling you not to do it. I know as well as anyone what a mistake it is to get married if it just isn’t right. But if you’re going to call it off, you’d better be damned sure.”
A chill ran through Oliver. He stroked his chin, taking some odd physical comfort in the rasp of the stubble he found there. Something burned in his gut, but he had no idea if it was that dread he and Collette had discussed or simple guilt. His throat was still dry and his chest felt hollow, too quiet, as though his heart had paused to let him think. He lifted his eyes to gaze balefully at his sister.
“I guess running away isn’t an option?”
Collette smiled tenderly. “I think you’re a little too old for that.”
He fell into contemplation once again and his sister rose and began to drift about the room as if she were seeing it for the first time. She caressed certain knickknacks that she recognized from their childhood, ran her fingers along the spines of several books, then slid one of the Agatha Christies off the shelf. Oliver took all this in peripherally and only glanced over at her when she grunted softly in appreciation of the book and then continued to peruse the shelves, paperback clutched against her chest like a talisman.
Oliver lay back on the sofa, his head against the wall. It would not be a bad life with Julianna. She came from a similar background, but she still understood his dreams. Yet that was the worst of it, in a way, for though she understood what he dreamed of, she had never once considered it more than a dream.
He closed his eyes and imagined his future in this house or one much like it; his future with this bright, funny, beautiful girl who wanted to marry and raise a family with him. Perhaps it was the time of year, but images of Christmas mornings came into his head, of his children opening gifts beneath the boughs of a tree Oliver himself would decorate. If they were wealthy, so much the better. He would never have to fear for his children’s well-being. That was a worthy pursuit, wasn’t it?
“Shit,” he whispered, one hand on his forehead.
Collette turned quickly to regard him once more. “What?”
Before Oliver could reply, a familiar voice boomed out in the hall, shouting his name. Brother and sister turned to stare at the open doorway of the parlor, then Collette glanced at him.
Oliver took a breath then shouted, “In here!”
Heavy footfalls came nearer and a moment later the doorway was filled with the figure of their father, his face etched with the usual impatience. He was Maximilian Bascombe, after all, and it was not now nor had it ever been his place to go chasing about his own home for his children.
“I should have thought to look for you here first,” the old man said.
Old man, Oliver thought. What a quaint expression. It seemed almost insultingly ironic when applied to Max, who at sixty-six was in better shape than Oliver had ever been, salt-and-pepper hair the only hint at his age. But the phrase had never been associated with age in Oliver’s mind. Max had always been the old man in his mind. It was a crass term, reminiscent of bad sixties television. But as formal as they were in the Bascombe home, Father seemed too generous an appellation.
“What’s wrong?” Oliver asked.
“Nothing. I couldn’t find Friedle,” the old man replied dismissively. Then he held up a portable telephone Oliver had not noticed at first. “Julianna’s on the phone.”
For a moment Oliver froze. He stared at his father, his mouth slightly open, aware that he must look foolish, as though he had gone catatonic. His gaze shifted toward the phone and only when he reached out his hand to receive it did he understand what had happened within him.
“Thank you,” he offered, more from practice than purpose.
“Ollie?” Collette ventured, her concern and wonder clear in her tone.
Oliver cast her a resigned glance, then took the phone from his father. The old man muttered something about wanting to talk to him later about a case that needed to be dealt with before he and Julianna left for their honeymoon in South America. Oliver barely heard him.
He put the phone to his ear. “Hello?”
“Hey,” Julianna said, her voice soft and near, as though she spoke to him from a pillow beside his own. “What’s shakin’?”
A melancholy smile spread across his face and Oliver turned his back on his father and his sister.
“Oh, just celebrating my last night as a bachelor with a bit of perverse revelry.”
“As is to be expected,” Julianna replied. “I’m just getting rid of the gigolos and the mule myself.”
Oliver could not help himself. He laughed. Julianna was a wonderful person, kind and beautiful and intelligent. And he had made a promise to her. Wasn’t it up to him to keep his own passions alive? His mother had surrendered. And where his father was concerned, Oliver had always done so as well. But that did not mean that his marriage had to be a cage. It was up to him.
“It’s good to hear your voice,” he said.
As he did, his father retreated into the hallway. Collette came over to kiss her brother on the cheek; she stroked his hair a moment and he saw the regret in her eyes and knew it was for him. He nodded to her. It’s going to be okay, he thought, and hoped she would read his mind or at least his expression.
“So, what are you doing tomorrow?” he asked Julianna as Collette left the room, disappearing into the massive house with their father.
“Why?” Julianna asked. “Did you have something in mind?”
“As a matter of fact, I did.”
Hours later, Oliver was still in the parlor. It was late enough that Mrs. Gray was long gone, so he had made a trip to the kitchen for some hot cocoa. Somehow, in the short time he was gone, Friedle had come into the parlor and laid a fire in the stone fireplace. When he returned with a large steaming mug, a dollop of whipped cream bobbing on top of the cocoa, the blaze was roaring. Oliver was more than happy to feed new logs into the flames from time to time. Friedle had put a large stack of wood aside for him, and now it was nearly gone. Across the room, one window was open several inches and there was something delicious about the combination of the heat of the fire and the chilly winter wind that swirled in. Snow had begun to build up on the windowpane and some landed on the wood floor, slowly melting there.
This was magic; right here in this room with his cocoa and a worn leather-bound copy of Jack London’s The Sea Wolf in his hands. He had rescued the book from its lonely place amongst the other abandoned volumes on these shelves, but it was not the first time. The Sea Wolf was an adventure he had returned to many times over the years. Always in this room, in this chair, beneath this light.
With the snowstorm raging outside and the house gone quiet now, time slipped away. Oliver might have been twelve again. The fire crackled, casting ghostly orange flickers upon the walls.
He was lost in the book, adrift upon the sea aboard the Ghost with Wolf Larsen at the helm. All the world had been pushed aside so that Oliver existed now within the pages of The Sea Wolf, far from his concerns about the future and the delicate irony of his love for a woman destined to become, for better or for worse, his anchor.
Oliver had shivered several times before he really noticed how cold it had grown in the parlor. The fire was down to one charred log licked by weak flames. Reluctantly he slipped a finger into his book, dry paper rasping against his skin, and went to kneel before the fireplace. He used a poker to push back the black iron-mesh curtain in front of the burning log—the metal would long since have grown too hot to touch—and then carefully arranged two thin logs within.
The fire began to spread and Oliver picked up another log, this one fat with a thick layer of bark, and placed it diagonally atop the others. For a moment after he had closed the mesh curtain again he remained there, watching the blaze. Then, finger still holding his place in the book, he stood again and started back toward his chair.
Cold wind raced through the room, trailing chill fingers along the back of his neck. Again Oliver shivered, though this time he noticed it.
“Brrr,” he said, mostly to himself, a smile creeping across his face.
The open window rattled hard in its frame. He glanced over to see that the snow had built up much more than he had realized. One corner of the gap between window and sash was packed with pure white and enough of it had powdered the floor that it was no longer melting.
Oliver started toward the window. The edge of the Oriental rug was easily six feet from the wall but some of the snow had reached it. He paused to try to brush it away with his shoe but managed only to melt it into the carpet. The window rattled harder, buffeted by the storm. The sound was so loud and abrupt that Oliver jumped a bit and turned to squint in amazement at the snow outside his windows. The night seemed darker than before. The air whipped so hard against the panes of glass now that where it rushed through the opening it howled softly. More snow blew in with every gust.
“Wow,” he whispered to himself as he stood peering out through the glass. Even in the dark, he could see that what had begun as a light snowfall had become nothing short of a full-fledged blizzard. The snow was thick and plentiful, the ground already completely blanketed, and the wind drove it in twisting swirls and waves.
Oliver held the book up against his chest with his left hand, keeping it away from the open window. For a moment he simply enjoyed the storm. Then the glass rattled again, the window seemed to bow inward as though the storm was trying to get in. He reached out to close the window, but enough snow had built up on the sill that it slid only a fraction of an inch before jamming. He brushed as much of it out as he could. Even then, it seemed frozen in place. Awkwardly, finger still holding his place in The Sea Wolf, he set both hands upon the top of the window and put his weight into it. The window began to slide down.
A powerful gust slammed against the house, shaking all of the parlor windows, as though in defiance. The open window seized again and he worked hard to force it closed. The storm raged outside, buffeting the walls. The wind that passed through the narrow gap remaining between window and sash fairly shrieked.
The wooden frame shook and a long crack appeared in the glass, stretching a tendril from one side of the window to the other. Oliver cursed under his breath and let the book fall from his hand. The Sea Wolf struck the damp floor on its spine and something in its binding tore. Oliver barely noticed that he had dropped it, never mind that he had lost his page.
Swearing again, he struggled to close the window, worried that at any moment the glass might splinter further, even shatter. It would not close that final inch, however, and his fingers were numb with the frigid air, the whipping snow. It seemed impossible that it could be so cold.
Oliver paused, suddenly certain that he was not alone in the room. Friedle or Collette, perhaps . . . someone had heard the banging and come to investigate. But no . . . the presence he felt was not within the room, but without.
He narrowed his gaze and for just that moment, twisting with the currents and eddies of the wind, he saw a figure dancing in the storm, eyes like diamonds staring in at him, from a face with features carved of ice. All the air went out of Oliver then, as though his lungs expelled his final breath.
The wind drove in through that narrow opening with the force of a sliver of hurricane. The crack in the glass spread no farther, but the storm blew in so hard that it knocked Oliver backward. He stumbled, slipped upon the melting snow, and fell sprawling onto the Oriental rug.
Snow poured through the opening in the window and swirled and eddied about the parlor as though there were no difference between outside and inside. The storm had knocked, and now it had come in, uninvited. In a steady stream the blizzard slid through the inch-high gap between window and sash and raced around the room. Cold and damp, it slapped against his reading lamp and the bulb exploded, casting the room in darkness save for the light from the fire, which guttered weakly, only the iron mesh curtain keeping it from being doused completely.
Oliver gasped, sucked icy air into his lungs. His eyes were wide as he gazed about the room. He was too cold for this to be a dream, and his stomach hurt from the gust of solid air that had knocked him down. Splayed there on the carpet, he felt a sense of wonder but it was tainted by a primal fear that welled up from somewhere deep within him.
The storm began to churn and then to spin more tightly at the center of the parlor. The fire surrendered and went out, smoke sifting from dead embers and being sucked into the white ice whirlwind that knocked knickknacks off the coffee table and twisted up the rug beneath its feet.
Oh, Oliver thought. Oh, shit. What the fuck am I still doing here?
It was as though the frozen wind had numbed his mind as well as his body. No longer. He scrambled to his feet and ran across the parlor, bent to one side to fight the wind. His cocoa mug slid off a side table and shattered on the floor.
As he ran for the door, a gust of wind rushed past him, nearly knocking him over again, and blew it shut.
Oliver stood unmoving in the middle of the parlor, staring at the door. There had been purpose behind that wind. He was not alone. The storm was here, but it was more than just a storm.
He turned slowly. The vortex in front of the dark fireplace was changing, taking shape. Through the snow churning within that whirlwind, Oliver could see a figure, the same as he thought he had seen outside moments ago. A man, or so it seemed, made from ice, his body all perilously sharp edges, dagger fingers, and hair that swung and tinkled musically like a crystal chandelier.
Its eyes gleamed pale blue and with every twist of the vortex, every swing of its arms, it stared directly at him. At first Oliver had thought it was dancing but now he saw that it was carried by the snow, the storm.
“God, please, no,” Oliver whispered, shaking his head. “What the hell are you?”
The vortex slowed and then stopped.
The snow fell to the floor, blanketing the wood and carpet and furniture.
The winter man stood, chin proudly lifted, and cast a cold, cruel eye upon Oliver. Then he staggered, icy tread heavy upon the floor, and his sharp features changed. Pale blue eyes narrowed with pain and exhaustion, and Oliver saw that there was a chink taken out of his left side, like someone had chipped away a large sliver of ice.
“Help me,” the winter man whispered, in a voice like the gusting wind.
Then he fell hard, jagged features scoring the wooden floor. He lay half on the wood and half on the carpet. Where his wound was, water dripped onto the Oriental rug. Mind in a frantic tumult, Oliver stared at that spot and wondered if the winter man was melting.
Or bleeding.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpted from The Myth Hunters by Christopher Golden. Copyright © 2006 by Christopher Golden. Excerpted by permission of Spectra, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.