Claimed by the Beast

By: Natasha Knight

Chapter One





A sound caught Rachel’s attention and she glanced out the window. Her heartbeat picked up like it always did at any strange noise, but once again, looking out into the dark night, she exhaled in disappointment and let the curtain drop.

He wasn’t here. It wasn’t him. It was just another sound.

She walked back into the kitchen and poured a glass of water, took a sip, and set it on the counter next to the ever growing pile. It had been more than a year since the night Elijah had brought Marcus back home. More than a year since Marcus had said goodbye and left again. More than a year and she still held on to hope. Stupid hope.

Her eyes felt hot with tears. The doorbell rang and she quickly wiped at the one that had escaped, slipped on her jacket, and headed to the front door.

“Hey! You ready to go?” It was Lisa, someone she knew from work.

“Yeah, just a sec, let me grab my purse and keys,” Rachel said, waving to Walter who sat in the driver’s seat smoking his cigarette, turning the music up. She went back inside, collected her things, and turned on a lamp in the living room. They’d likely be back pretty late and she hated to walk into a dark house. She then locked the door behind her and climbed into the backseat of the old model Corvette. It reeked of cigarettes and pot and she had to roll her window down even though it was late December, freezing cold, and snowing.

“Here,” Lisa said, passing back a joint.

Rachel hesitated but then took it, bringing it to her lips. She spared one glance into the woods across from her house before inhaling deeply. Walter pulled the car out onto the street as she closed her eyes and sat back.

When her cell phone rang a few moments later, she didn’t bother to look at the display. It would be Elijah or Kayla checking on her. Again. She was over it.



* * *



Kayla hung up the phone and turned to the sleeping baby in her arms. Clarissa was almost four months old now. Her hair was coming in slowly but for the most part, she was still bald. She had Kayla’s eyes but her personality was wholly Elijah. Kayla buttoned up her shirt and stood. Clarissa made a small noise and turned her head, a drop of milk sliding from the corner of her mouth onto her cheek. Kayla touched it, wiping it away, then brushed the backs of her fingers over the baby’s soft face, her slightly open mouth. Her breath was warm and she hardly stirred when Kayla walked her into her bedroom to lay her in the crib. She tucked her in, kissed her forehead, and turned on the night light before leaving the room, keeping the door just slightly ajar.

She checked her watch—a little after ten.

She and Elijah had rented a house about half an hour from where Rachel lived. Ever since their return with Marcus and then his subsequent departure, they had both felt the need to be closer to Rachel. Rachel put on a brave face the last few months, but both Kayla and Elijah had been watching her and neither missed the destructive path she seemed determined to travel.

She picked up her phone intending to try Rachel again but changed her mind. She had promised herself to give Rachel space. Rachel was working through her disappointment in her own way. Neither Elijah nor Kayla liked it, but Kayla knew they needed to respect Rachel’s privacy. Marcus had been away for more than a year without a word. As angry as that made Kayla, she knew it hurt Rachel to know he chose to stay away. Whatever Marcus was working through though, in Kayla’s eyes, it didn’t excuse his coming back into her life only to disappear again just weeks later.

She went into the kitchen to pour herself a cup of tea when her phone rang. Looking at the display, she smiled and hit answer.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey yourself,” Elijah answered. “How are you?” Elijah was on his way back home after a work trip took him out of town.

“I’m good. Tired but good. And missing you.”

“Is Clarissa sleeping?” he asked.

“I just put her down for the night. Well, for the next few hours at least.” At four months, the baby still woke at least once a night to feed. Kayla loved the time with her but it was absolutely exhausting, especially when Elijah was away and she was on her own.

“It’s going to take me a little longer to get home with the snow, but I should be there before she wakes up for the next round. If you get a bottle ready, I’ll feed her and you can sleep.”

“Okay, I’ll have one ready, but wake me up anyway. I miss you.” He’d been gone for the week and she wasn’t used to having him away for so long.

“Go get some sleep. I’ll be home before you know it. One question for you though, have you heard from Rachel?”

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