Amber uncovers a conspiracy so earth-shattering it threatens the human race. She is forced to go on the run, and it seems that someone is after her on every corner—some for her power; some to make her their savior; others out of twisted love or simple lust. But theSalamander Stone attracts more than earthly evil. A demon is after her too, and what he wants is unspeakable.
Amber backed away from Meshak, keeping the hurricane lamp between them. The light hit his face from below, sending dark angular shadows high into the eaves of that tiny church, long shadows which rippled like living things as he paced steadily after her.
“Meshak,” she said, trying to keep her voice level. “We can talk about this...” His hand reached out and grabbed the collar of her jacket. “Meshak, don’t,” she cried, trying to twist away from him. But his grip was too strong. He pulled her, inexorably, into the darkness, making for the altar just visible in the murky light.
“Meshak,” she screamed, beating at him with her fists, her feet scrabbling on the dusty floor. With one violent turn she wriggled free of the jacket and for an instant he was left holding it stupidly. But as she tried to run, he was on her and dragging her back. She kicked and pummeled, but it was no use; it was like trying to stop a machine.
Amber was lifted and thrown heavily onto the cold stone of the altar. One of Meshak’s hands pinned her down as his other hand ripped at her T-shirt. She stared straight into his eyes, and those eyes were blank unfathomable pits.
It was then, as she struggled, that the Salamander Stone swung on its chain and came to rest right over her heart. The little lizard sent its clear note into the air as it picked up red and gold jewels from the dim light, casting them about in fiery points. It distracted Meshak. He tore his eyes from Amber’s to look at the Stone, glowing now with a life of its own, hot and heavy between them.
His grip loosened and there was a pause, both of them breathing heavily.
Amber felt for the Stone, clutching at it, though never taking her eyes from his. And at that touch her fear vanished and a deep and total revulsion rushed to take its place. Meshak sickened her, or something deep inside him sickened her. And she rejected this thing with every fiber of her being.
Meshak seemed to feel that pure revulsion staring up at him. He let her go and backed off a pace, breathing hard, staring at her, his face stricken. “I... I don’t mean to hurt you, Amber,” he faltered, “I just want...”
Amber rose onto one elbow, holding the Stone in front of her like a weapon. Meshak backed off still further. They both froze and for a long moment only their labored breathing troubled the air.
At last Meshak stirred. “Why do you hate me?” he said suddenly.