Chapter One

"Good night, Miss Langton!" her boss called after her as he straightened his tie and belt buckle. "Oh," he said as he reorganized his desktop. "and Laiken?"

"Yes, Mr. Wesley?" Laiken answered over her shoulder. Once she had her golden copper hair pinned back up in a bun, she smoother her rose-colored suit skirt back down over her thigh high stockings and buttoned up her white blouse. Laiken turned around to grab her jacket and gave Mr. Wesley her brightest smile, hoping to hear his French accent just one more time. She was a sucker for accents; just the sound of one made her body tremble.

"Have a bon holiday. I hear your birthday is coming up," she nodded, wondering why he was bringing it up. "I want those preliminary drawings in by next Saturday. Bon soir!" he handed her briefcase to her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. Apparently it wasn't anything important, she actually hoped he was going to take her out for her birthday.

Nodding again, Laiken grabbed her briefcase, following her boss to the elevator that led to the parking lot. They rode down in silence and she couldn't help but notice Mr. Wesley watching the lights as they counted down to the main floor. Laiken felt like he didn't want to be around her as the silence slowly became uncomfortable. She smiled when the doors opened and he ushered her forward. Once in the parking lot Laiken watched as Mr. Wesley got into his sports car and peeled out towards the highway. Shaking her head, she moved towards her own vehicle. She couldn't believe that her birthday was only two weeks away, Halloween, and that she was about to publish her first big project! It would be her first graphic novel. She was very excited and wanted to devote as much time and effort into her work before she handed them in. Laiken still had so much to do before the week was through; Mr. Wesley had one of his publishers coming to look over her work to decide if her graphic novel was going to get published.

She stared up at the moon, enjoying how the light played on her skin. She thought to herself, it will be full soon. She'd always enjoyed the night, drawing her power from the moon. Laiken could feel her powers height the fuller the moon became. It was different, like she could feel everything. Laiken wondered if her sister felt the pull of the coming moon. She needed to call her to find out if she was going to be ready for the party. It had been so long since Laiken had talked to her twin. Sighing, she tried not to let her regret and guilt over take her when she thought of her twin. Unlocking the door to her car, she climbed in and turned on the heater. She couldn't help but smile to herself about how her dream was slowly coming true. She'd started working with Mr. Wesley three years after she'd graduated from college, and she hadn't even worked for him a year when he noticed her working on something that she wasn't supposed to be working on. When he had called her into his office, she thought she was going to be fired. To Laiken's surprise, Mr. Wesley had told her to continue working on her own project and bring it to him when the first rough draft was finished. After she had, he'd fallen in love with her drawings, and to reward her for her hard work he had taken her out to dinner and invited her back to his home. Like any woman who had a weakness for accents, she'd fallen into his bed.

Laiken shook her head and concentrated on driving. As soon as she was on the road, the weather decided to take a turn for the worse. Rain began falling upon the city. Until she noticed it wasn't rain, it was snow. Snow in October? She hadn't heard of snow in October in, well the last time was when she was younger. Snow fell in big, fat fluffy flakes covering the hood of her car. Missouri hardly got snow, depending on where you lived, but not St. Louis. Smiling to herself, Laiken allowed herself to enjoy the snow for just a bit. When the apartment complex came into view Laiken sighed and pulled into the parking garage.

"Thank the Goddess!" she giggled hysterically, a piece of hair falling into her face.

Ignoring it, Laiken grabbed her briefcase and climbed out of the car, pushing a button to lock the door. As she walked past the discard bins she felt a darkness pressing in around her. Laiken glanced over her shoulder, gazing into the dark corner of the garage but saw nothing. Even though she didn't see anything, she could still feel...something. Not wanting to figure out what it was, Laiken rushed out of the garage toward the apartments.

Walking faster up the stairs to the very top floor of the complex building, Laiken dug around in her purse for her keys. The warmth of the apartment welcomed her as she stepped into the foyer. Laiken turned on the overhead light, laying her keys on the table next to the mail. Her parents wondered how she could afford an apartment with such a high rent. Growing up they'd never really had much of anything. However, in high school Laiken promised herself that she would have the best apartment in the world. At least to her anyways and now she did. Once out of her pumps her feet thanked her, rubbing her toes on the carpet. She'd been standing in those all night. Laiken had never liked high heels until she'd met Mr. Wesley. Now she bought them all the time. She hung her jacket in the side closet, then head into the living room. The carpet was beige, like all apartments, but had crème colored walls. She'd argued over furniture with Roxanne before they'd moved in, but had settled on a tan chaise with gold and red accent pillows. Along the far wall sat a loveseat with a burgundy covering, gold and green pillows on both ends. A dark chestnut coffee table sat between them. Under all this was an extra large forest green plush rug to cover the ugly beige carpet.

On the wall next to the stars sat a flat screen TV that you didn't need a remote to work. All you had to do was say what you wanted to watch and it would play. Roxanne had decided that the room needed a little plant life. Of course, when Laiken was thinking little she thought a pot here and there with flowers or ferns in them. Nope. Roxanne basically made the living room a jungle. Any kind of flower you could imagine filled the room; fire lilies, various colored roses, daisies, you name they had it. Laiken's favorite flower was the tiger lily, which she bent to smell as she walked into the kitchen, where lavender, sage and jasmine were hanging above the sink to dry for satchels.

Unfortunately, once she turned on the kitchen lights, footsteps could be heard coming down the stairs. The kitchen was a good size with more crème walls and rose-colored tiles. An island in the middle of the room had a fruit tray sitting on it and a pot and pan rack hanging above it. Everything was stainless steel with the counters a dark marble. Laiken set her briefcase on the island and grabbed a glass out of the oak cabinets just as Roxanne waltzed into the kitchen, smiling brightly when she saw Laiken.

Roxanne went to the refrigerator, her blond hair pulled up into a high ponytail that bounced when she moved. She wore a silk night-gown that rested at her thighs. It was black silk with two pink bows; one falling into the valley between her breasts and the other lay just above her tail bone. She grabbed a juice box and turned towards Laiken, smiling.

"You know, I thought you weren't ever going to get home tonight!" Roxanne said pouring juice into a glass. "Mr. Wesley working you late nights again?" she smirked, knowing full well what was going on. Roxanne knew what was happening when Laiken returned home late at night.

"Please," Laiken scoffed, drinking her juice. "Don't start that again, Roxie. I'm not in the mood. Besides," she announced. "I have some great news!"

Laiken smiled, pulling her briefcase in front of her. Inside was a folder that held what she'd been working on for the past four months. Roxie rinsed out the glasses and took the folder out of her friend's extended hand. Laiken only had a third of her novel to finish and couldn't wait to get Roxanne's thoughts. It paid to actually live with someone who was an editor. She waited patiently as her friend leafed through the folder…slowly.

Roxanne made snorts of laughter during some parts; sighing and nodding in others. Laiken could almost read what kind of notes Roxie was making as she paced the kitchen. Then finally, she closed the folder and laid it in front of Laiken. When she started pacing again, she began whispering to herself. That's how Laiken knew something was either good or bad; Roxanne would talk to herself. She was in critique mode, and the anticipation was killing Laiken. She watched the bow on the back of Roxie's gown like a cat watches a gold-fish, anything to pass the seconds. Roxanne finally stopped in front of her friend, tapping a well manicured nail on her full lower lip and smiled.

"I think," she paused, making Laiken wait more, wanting to laugh at the frustrated look on her friends face. "You have a great novel here! The plot is well thought out and your drawings…I'm totally jealous."

Laiken squealed, jumping up and down hugging Roxie. She valued her friend's opinion more than the woman knew. Laiken always said that Roxanne was the best editor in the world, but Roxie loved being a photographer and designer so much more. Editing was really just a side job. Picking up her folder, Laiken flipped through the pages. "Are you sure? I think page twenty-four needs more detail during the fight between Antonio and Benvolio," she pointed out, and then continued. "Maybe page forty-six, when Cassia proclaims her love for Antonio before…well you get the picture."

"No, no don't change a thing!" her friend warned, hitting Laiken on the arm. "I think this graphic novel will be a best seller and will definitely get you what you've wanted for years."

Laiken couldn't believe that this was happening. All her dreams were coming true, a dream of becoming a big time graphic novelist. All her works of art on every shelf in every library, book store, you name it! She scooped up her folder, told Roxanne good night, and head up the stairs to her room where she hoped to get some sleep. But first, a much-needed shower to clean off what had conspired earlier at work.

She sighed, thinking out loud. "I must seem really pathetic, chasing after my boss." Sighing heavily she placed her briefcase on her desk. "I really do need to get a life." Passing her alter her cat, Nyte, crawled out from under the table and pressed her body around Laiken's leg. "Hello Nyte," Laiken patted her familiar on the head and smiled. Mistress.

Nyte followed her into the bathroom, sprawling on the carpet by the sink. Turning on the light, Laiken ran hot water for a bath, pouring a lavender and chamomile gel underneath the running water. She watched a moment as sudsy bubbles formed, smiling. Just the scent made her muscles relax. She went around the room and lit a few candles as well, honeydew and cinnamon filling the air with their sweet and spicy aroma. She would definitely sleep well after this. On the wall above her toilet was a small shelf that had a few items from her old altar. Lighting a white candle, she said a healing chant and wished for a relaxing night. Once the tub was full, and bubbles filled the water, Laiken turned off the water and began to strip off her work clothes.

Before she got in the tub, Laiken walked in front of her floor to ceiling mirror, examining her body. Something she did when she stayed late nights at work because Mr. Wesley could get a little…rough. She stood naked and turned side to side to see her body fully in the mirror. Her legs were long and toned, her butt firm and high, slightly rounded. She skimmed her creamy thighs with her fingers, over the smooth surface of her pubic bone, up the expanse of her stomach that seemed a little flatter than normal, and finally up to her plump breasts. They'd always been high and perky, but tonight they seemed bigger than her usual C cup. Sighing, Laiken let her hair down from the severe bun that lay on top of her head.

It fell like waves of fire down her back, laying to rest below her knees. Her reflection stared back at her, whiskey amber eyes gliding over her body. Shrugging, Laiken stepped into the tub, and laid back to enjoy her bath. Nyte mewed from the rug but didn't move. She had a habit of wanting to get in the water with Laiken. A moan of sheer pleasure escaped her lips as the water hit her senses, she thought to herself.

"I just want to lay here forever."

Everything that had happened tonight seemed to melt away as the steam rose up from the water. Laiken sighed heavily, thoughts of her birthday and work slipping into her mind. Mr. Wesley wanted those preliminary sketches, but all she could think about was her birthday. In two weeks would be Halloween. She carried a heavy secret on her shoulders. Well, her family knew about it, but her co-workers and boss knew nothing about it. If they found out there was so much more to their world they would freak! Shaking her head, Laiken dipped under the water to rinse her hair. Finally, she emptied the tub and stepped out. Nyte got up and pranced into the bedroom where Laiken knew she'd be waiting on the bed for her.

Once dry, Laiken walked back into her room completely comfortable being naked in her personal space. She'd blown out the white candle, thanking the Goddess for the relaxation. She put on a blue chemise along with matching panties and then began rubbing rosemary lotion into her skin. Laiken turned off the lights to the bathroom with just a thought from her mind, turning off most of the bedroom lights as well, leaving the bedside lamp on. That was her secret, she was a witch. In her family she was known as a Wiccan. She could move things with her mind, brew potions, she knew a little bit about healing, but most of all Laiken was to fire. It was her element to call and worked best at night when she could draw her power from the moon. Climbing into the comfort of her queen sized bed, Laiken grabbed her laptop and began making notes about what needed to be improved in her graphic novel. She hoped it would be enough before she made the last touches tomorrow night. She added to the notes that she'd already made, making sure not to redo anything. Laiken finally turned off her laptop and set it on her bedside table, noticing that her clock read four-thirty in the morning.

Finally done for the night, or in her case early morning, she lay back into the comfort of her plush pillows, cuddling up to her favorite penguin, Mr. Penguiny. However, sleep wouldn't come to her easily, only thoughts of terrible things to come. Things she hadn't thought about since she was in her early childhood years when she and her twin, Morganne, gained their great-grandmother's power of insight and the knowledge of things that had been or what is to come.

Fire rose up out of the dark abyss, surrounding everything in its path. Red and orange flames licked the walls of the building as she tried to pass through the hallway. On the walls hung paintings of all sizes, all unrecognizable, the canvases curling into charred pieces. She dared not use the wall as a guide for fear of burning her hands. Pieces of flaming ceiling came down all around her; one piece hitting her on the shoulder. Laiken screamed as a blister welled up on the reddened skin, puss filling the clear bubble. Tears filled her eyes as the pain shot down her arm.

"Roxie!" she yelled as the smoke gagged her, sending her into a round of coughing fits.

The smoke filling her lungs made it impossible to breathe; the flesh burning the inside like she had drunk a bottle of acid. She could feel her knees going week, just as her body collapsed to the floor. "Roxie, where are you?"

She couldn't seem to figure out where her friend was, or if she was even alive. Laiken's own personal hell come to life in her dreams, consuming her. Just then, a voice came up out of the roaring fire. "Help! Some help me, please!"

That voice was so familiar; Laiken knew she'd heard it before. It was distant, almost a whisper. She couldn't tell if it was a child's voice or that of a woman. "Hello?" Laiken answered, hoping it wasn't Roxanne's voice. "W-who's there?"

More smoke filled her lungs, making it impossible to breathe let alone speak. Tears spilled from her eyes, running down her face, blurring her vision. Laiken looked down. She could see her hands and clothes were torn; blackened from all the smoke and fire. Blisters lined her hands, fingers and arms; blood dripping from her nail beds. Spots on her legs were bleeding from cuts she didn't even know she had. Laiken felt like she was going to pass out from all the heat and lack of water and oxygen, her head was fuzzy and felt foreign to her. As she tried to pick herself up off the floor, she heard a loud groan coming from above her. The building started quacking around her; the shaking walls sent balls of flames billowing around her. Suddenly, the ceiling gave way and began to fall in on her. Screaming, Laiken jumped out of the way as a large piece of plastered ceiling the size of a boulder fell where she had once been lying.

On top of the plastered pieces lay what looked like a body. Laiken, confused with the sight as she walked around it, made sure nothing was going to fall on her. Blacked and charred from the fire, the body barely had any flesh showing. It smelled like dead skin just cooked over a hot grill. Blood and puss oozed from blisters that had popped from the fall. The sight and smell of it made stomach roll, bile rising in her throat. Laiken swallowed, forcing it back down into the pit of her gullet. Bending to look at it, she could almost tell it was a young woman about her age. The woman's chest barely rising and falling with each breath she tried to take.

"H-help me…" she coughed as blood spurted from her mouth to her full lower lip.

Laiken about jumped out of her skin when the woman's raspy voice mixed with the roar of the fire. "Don't worry, I'm going to get us out of here." She said carefully grabbing the woman's arm to try to help lift her to her feet.

The woman didn't even scream or jump as Laiken tried to lift her. Large pieces of charred flesh melted off the body and slide into Laiken's hands. She could feel the bile rising again into her throat as the woman's arm slid from Laiken's grasp and hit the floor, more flesh peeling off. There was blood everywhere; on the floor, her clothes, and her hands. Laiken fell to her knees, retching next to the wall. The smell of vomit, blood and infection mixing together hit her senses hard. Bile kept rising up and out of her body as the stench became stronger with each passing second. Finally, when she was sure she had nothing left to throw up; she got slowly to her feet and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Laiken groaned hard when she felt her bottom lip bust open from the process.

"P-please help," the woman requested, almost pleading even as her voice was weak and raspy. "Help me."

Laiken could hear the desperation in the woman's voice, the sound becoming faint as the roar of the fire got louder. It was getting close, and more smoke filled the hallway. She coughed as the smoke filled her lungs. "I'm going to go find some help. I'll be back as fast as I can, I promise."

Before Laiken could even move an inch, the woman's hand shot out so fast, it caught her off guard. She had her fingers wrapped around Laiken's ankle in a vise grip. She screamed, looking down to find red eyes glaring up at her within a skinless, blackened face. Laiken could see the muscles in the woman's face, the stark white of the bones standing out against the blood and burnt tendons. Her stomach rolled again, bile rising up into her throat, but she forced it back down as she tried to look the woman straight in the eyes. "If you don't let go, I can't go get help," she could feel the panic rising in her guy when she recognized whom she was staring at. Her twin sister, Morganne. No, please Goddess, anything but this! She couldn't see her sister like this, dying in the pain of Laiken's fiery hell. "No, please no," she whispered to herself through tears.

"No, you must stay."

Laiken tugged and tugged, but couldn't break free of her vice grip. "Please, let go, you're hurting me, Morganne." She pulled her leg with her hands, but Morganne's grip only got tighter. "Let go…NOW!" Laiken pulled one last time only to be rewarded with the most gruesome sound.

Not only was Laiken's leg free of Morganne's grip, but when she looked down-ever so slowly-Morganne's forearm had come completely off her body. She didn't even scream or move when her arm had dislocated from her body. Laiken, however, did scream and even tried to kick off the broken limb. "Leave me and you'll die too," Morganne said crawling towards her, dark eyes staring holes into Laiken's own horrified gaze.

Morganne dragged herself with her one good arm; skin falling off to land on the floor, mixing with the ashes, blood and fire around them. "No!" Laiken screamed above the roar of the fire as she heard another groan from above. Before she could move the building collapsed around them, fire eating up everything in sight; Laiken and her twin as well.

Laiken woke screaming, her legs kicking at nothing but air. The dream had felt so real, she felt as if she'd actually been killed by the collapsing building. Her skin, warm to the touch, looked fever pitched. "Morganne," she gasped, wondering to herself if her twin was having the same dream. When she sat up in her bed, she looked around to make sure she wasn't still dreaming. Making sure there was no fire or her sister's mangled, burning body. Nothing, thank Goddess. She laid her head back on her pillows and nearly screamed when she saw Roxanne looking at her like she'd sprouted horns on her head.

"Roxie, shit!" Laiken loudly, her hand flying to her chest.

"Are you okay?" Roxie asked making sure that her friend wasn't going crazy from all the late night's she'd been pulling for the past three months. She pressed her palm to Laiken's forehead to see if she had a fever. Laiken's skin, tinted red as if she did indeed have a fever, was normal temperature to the touch. She worried she'd been having the dreams again. "You were screaming out about fire, and asking for help."

Brushing her hand out of the way, Laiken sat up in bed. She looked around the room, there was no fire, no burning building, and Goddess help her, no one trying to kill her. She could still feel the pressure of her sister as sweat trickled down the middle of her back. Why had she had that dream? The only time she ever had that dream was right before her father had been in an accident at work.

"Laiken, are you all right?" Roxanne's voice was full of concern as she watched Laiken's eyes go from silver back to amber brown.

Laiken shook herself, looking up with somewhat of a grin, hoping to at least make her friend think she was okay. "Sorry. No, it was just a really bad dream. Something I haven't had in a long time and it usually signals trouble," she managed a smile for her friend. "Don't worry, I'll be all right!"

Roxanne looked at her skeptically, shrugging her shoulders before standing. "Going into work this morning?" She knew the answer to that one before it was even said. She also hoped that nothing bad was going to happen. Her senses weren't helping because she could feel something coming, and usually she saw it before it happened, but this was different.

"Yeah, Mr. Wesley said he wanted to see the work I've completed so far, and to give me information on the guy who's supposed to be publishing it or editing it, I'm not really sure which one." Mr. Wesley hadn't really been forth coming with that information as of late. She sensed that he didn't want her to leave his company. Not that she would, it was a great job. Just because she was about to have her graphic novel published didn't mean she would quit her job. Even though he'd said he wanted it in two weeks, she wanted to show him her notes and get his opinion on what might need to be changed or added before the inking process happened.

Laughing, Roxanne smiled. "Uh-huh, sure, I just bet he's going to 'give you information.' You don't have too much fun!" She laughed all the way out of the room leaving Laiken to contemplate what her dream had really been about. The dreams had begun just before her and Morganne had been bestowed their great-grandmothers magick. This dream could only mean one thing; a warning…or worse. But a warning for what? Maybe it was a warning for someone in particular, but whom?