Beyond the Shadows by Anna Hub
Award-Winning and Int’l Bestselling Author
What if your shadow was the gateway to a sinister new world?
Selena Parker’s journey into the unknown begins in her dreams, but the consequences are carried back into her conscious life and she soon realizes paranormal forces are at work. Her shadow has become more than just an image; it is a gateway to a sinister new world where mysterious creatures roam and she is confronted by danger that challenges her will to survive. She finds the man whose fate is linked inexplicably to her own but she knows nothing of him and doubts his true nature. Her only option is to place her life in his hands while they search for a way to stop the shadows claiming them forever.
At first, I couldn’t breathe, and once again my skin stung as though an unseen force might rip it from my body. I clamped my eyes shut and waited until the stagnant feeling in my lungs dissipated.
Darkness surrounded me, and the sound of crickets clicking became louder, as though they had paused upon my arrival and were beginning to relax. The forest floor was soft and moist, sinking as I crouched. I checked the ground was stable before I stood up and found my balance. The crickets stopped again. No other threatening sounds reached me and yet instinct warned me danger was nearby. Something wet crawled over my foot. I struggled to withhold a scream as I jumped to the side. Another warm body collided with me and a hand curled over my lips before I could cry out.
“Shh.” Warm breath exhaled over my neck.
I struggled to break free, but the hand tightened.
“Who are you?” he whispered.
I couldn’t reply. He shuffled to the side dragging me with him as he moved. The trees rustled, and the light of the moon crept in to join us. We were surrounded by dense foliage, too conveniently wrapped around to have grown that way naturally. He released, and pushed me away in the same movement and finally I saw his face. Brayden. He looked completely different to the man unconscious in the hospital bed. His eyes were sharp—almost accusing.
“How did you get here?” he asked.
“Do you remember me?” He stared at me with fierce eyes, and I struggled to continue. “You spoke to me in the restaurant.”
“How did you land here?” his voice came out cold.
It didn’t matter where I’d landed, I needed to know why this was happening. “You warned me about this—about the shadows—”
“Tell me how you passed here.”
"I went to visit you in the hospital.”
“You shouldn’t be in the hospital. You shouldn’t be here.”
I edged further away. “I didn’t know what else to do.”
Suddenly his back straightened, and he leaned outside to check our surroundings. Seconds past and he gradually turned back, his gaze resting by my feet. “If they find you they’ll kill you.”
He must have been talking about the men with the grey eyes. “What are they?”
“I don’t know.”
The crickets chirped again. “The other day I was chased by one—”
“You were there,” I prompted.
“It’s not just them, the ones with the grey eyes. There are animals too.”
Eventually, he leaned back against a tree; his demeanour flat. Shouldn’t he be eager to hear my story? Didn’t he want to share information so we could find a way to save ourselves? Instead, he closed his eyes, as though he had nothing else to say.
I stepped forward. “You grabbed me when I was being chased. Why did you do that?”
“Your shadow is the only way to escape,” his voice hollowed out—detached.
“Did you push me through it on purpose?”
“The more the shadows take you, the faster they come back for more. The only way to escape is to force yourself back through.”
In the darkness I could barely make out my own hand, there was no shadow. Did that mean there was no way to go back? My chest tightened as I realised I would be trapped with this stranger until morning hit. Back in the hospital, it had been late in the afternoon. Soon the sun would set there and perhaps that was when morning would break here.
I couldn’t help wondering if I’d made a mistake coming here. There was something about him that made me uneasy. Not just his silence but the impression that he was lost. Both physically and mentally. Although his posture had been tense under the moonlight, he didn’t actually seem afraid. Not the way I was—with wide eyes and shaking hands.
He turned, his eyes wandering blankly before they focused. “Soon it will be morning; that’s when they hunt. As soon as the sun hits, you need to force your way back through your shadow. Throw yourself at the ground, as hard as you can. The longer you spend here, the harder it is to go back.”
I blanched. I’d waited for the shadow to take me from the hospital. I’d almost come by choice but that only made things worse. “And then what?”
“Then you hide from them.”
My lungs swelled with air, but I couldn’t force myself to exhale. “But I can’t. It doesn’t work.”
“There’s no other way.” He took my hand abruptly. I wanted to pull back, but he held on too tight. “I’ll try to come back with you.”
“Where are we going?”
He pushed the ferns aside and held a finger to his lips for silence. “We can’t stay here.”