Copyright 2017 Jess Hanna
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
The clear water of the reflecting pool shimmered like diamonds. The humidity made everything sticky, and the climbing mercury did nothing to temper the madness that came with it. Demetrius told himself he never intended for things to go as far as they did. He had always tried to maintain a calm and even demeanor as was demanded of him by breeding and upbringing. In stark contrast to his lifelong training, he lay half on and half off the stone bench surrounding the pool and stared into the water, tears streaming down his soot and blood covered face.
Everyone else was gone, and he was left to deal with the fallout alone. He remained partially on that bench throughout most of the day and into the evening, contemplating what had happened and what was next. One thing he knew for certain. His chance for a life in Paradise Valley had vanished.
That summer began like any other. Twenty-year-old Demetrius traveled with his parents, older brother, and younger sister to the mansion in Paradise Valley for an extended holiday. It was the most expensive house in the otherwise squalid community, their wealth something of a legend among the locals. And while his family was better off than most, what money they possessed paled in comparison to their contemporaries. Summers gave them the chance to rule as supreme royalty over the rabble.
The town of Paradise Valley was nothing much to speak of. A single four-way stop in the middle of a bayou marked the center of town. A few broken down shacks, a general store, and a seedy bar branched off from the intersection. Farms and poorly constructed houses spread outward from that point. The few families in residence were the poorest of the poor; forgotten relics of a society that deemed them an unworthy investment. In the midst of this human rubble, there was one star that had always shone its way to Demetrius’s heart.
Isabella was unlike any female he had known, and he had seen plenty. The society snobs, trophy mistresses on the arms of old men, and the phony women that surrounded him had nothing on her. Her inner beauty spilled over into outer beauty, making her the personification of perfection.
During the two weeks prior to the family’s arrival, the house staff worked furiously to prepare the mansion. Demetrius tried to hide his enthusiasm when he found out Isabella would be working as a maid for the season, but his uncharacteristic smile betrayed him.
When he arrived at the mansion, the staff lined the outside of the circular drive closest to the front entrance, waiting for their arrival. The men and women stood straight with newly cleaned and pressed black and white uniforms, eager to serve. Isabella stood out from the rest. Her golden light brown tresses, even pulled back, were something to behold. And her milk chocolate eyes were divine.
Demetrius’s heart skipped as he exited the car and walked past her. She gave him a coy smile which he returned as he continued into the house.
Every chance he had, Demetrius stole away to spend time with Isabella. He accompanied her while she worked, chatting about anything and everything he could think of. She humored his affections and her work never suffered for it. Her infectious laugh made him weak in the knees, and she had the enchanting voice of a siren. But all was not well with the young woman.
Several times he had gone to meet her by the reflecting pool and noticed her seated on the stone bench, contemplative, with her head bowed in prayer. He hated to disturb her, and would sit and watch her peaceful face as she uttered unknown words to her god.
Demetrius never had any real use for religion. And neither did his family. They played the game as well as they could to secure their position in society, but it was never anything more than that. It was the same with most of the families in his circle. Which was just one of the reasons why he was so enamored with Isabella’s pure devotion to her beliefs.
As the season went on and the heat grew more intense, Demetrius’s feeling for Isabella ignited a flame within him. His undeniable passion fueled the flame into an inferno, and he knew that his heart was hers forever.
One day at the reflecting pool, he decided to share his feelings with her. He sat with her on the stone bench, taking her hands in his and declared his love for her. She blushed and put a hand to her face, playing the coy maiden to perfection.
Demetrius’s father did not approve of the special attention Demetrius paid to Isabella, and was furious. He called Demetrius into the parlor on a particularly sweltering day and spoke to him with a harshness usually reserved for insubordinate staff. “I absolutely forbid you from engaging any further with this peasant girl.” His disgust was evident in the way he referred to Isabella as a mere peasant girl. “She is too far below your station, and I will not have that commoner romantically linked to our good name.”
Furious, Demetrius threw a tantrum of epic proportions. “I refuse to cast her aside. She is my one true love, and has warmed my heart like no other. And just because you settled for someone deemed worthy by your imaginary station in life does not mean I have to give up on my dreams of romance.”
“Then you leave me no choice,” his father said. “Isabella can no longer work here, and is forbidden from accessing this property effective immediately. And if you are seen with that girl, there will be severe consequences.” He turned his back to Demetrius and walked away, his word final.
From that point on, Demetrius spent his days deep in the village of Paradise Valley, away from the mansion, and away from his family. His rebellion was hidden from most of his family, but it did not go unnoticed by everyone.
Demetrius and Isabella became inseparable. Their time together was the talk of the village, with the townspeople predicting that their union would be Isabella’s ticket out of poverty. That is, if his family didn’t tear her to shreds first.
His heart hopelessly entwined with hers, Demetrius was blinded by his love. Emotions so intense were never allowed in his civilized society, and he longed to be wild and free, no longer ensnared by the rules and responsibility of his position.
The first time making love with Isabella was unlike anything he’d experienced. The raging passion consumed him from the inside out, and he was forever lost in her embrace. Her enchantments were so great that he resolved to do anything for her, including forsaking his own good name in her defense.
It was after a marathon session of lovemaking that Demetrius resolved in his heart to leave his family and live in the wilderness with Isabella forever. She encouraged his eagerness and made plans for him to run away to her tiny cabin in the woods of Paradise Valley. It was the same cabin where her mother gave birth to her nineteen years earlier. His resolve was set, and he knew there would be no turning back once he made that fateful decision.
Everything changed during a particular tumultuous day in late August.
Dark clouds came in waves that afternoon, threatening a late summer storm, as he set out to meet Isabella by the reflecting pool. The risk of being caught with her so close to the main house only intensified the adrenalin that rushed through his veins. He’d picked a small bouquet of flowers from the garden before heading down there. They were selected hastily and looked rather shabby, but his heart was in the gesture. With his head full of dreams, he played scenarios in his mind about the fairy tale that would be his life. It was the fervent male grunting he heard as he reached the trellis that lead to the reflecting pool that burst the bubble of his fantasy and had him scratching his head.
Isabella was nowhere in sight, but he could hear the male voice in the sounds of obvious animal lust. He almost turned around to go the other way, leaving it be, but decided to follow the noise where it led. It was a decision he would regret.
In the bushes off to the side of the reflecting pool, Demetrius saw a man with his pants pulled down on top of a woman with her skirts pulled up to her hips. The man was thrusting back and forth, and the woman, while appearing compliant, sounded like she was whimpering. Once again, Demetrius considered turning around and going back to the house as it was none of his business, but the noises coming from the woman compelled him to investigate further.
As he drew closer to the couple, he recognized both voices. The male was his older brother Thomas, and the female was Isabella. Enraged, he tore through the bushes to confront them, dropping the bouquet on the way.
“What is going on here?” Demetrius yelled, his face the shade of the reddest rose.
His brother Thomas stopped his grotesque gyrating and spun off of Isabella. Demetrius took a step toward him and Thomas stumbled to his feet while pulling up his trousers, guilt plastered all over his face.
Isabella lay trembling on the ground, tears streaming down her face, her clothing torn in several places. It was obvious to Demetrius what had happened. Thomas had taken advantage of her.
Demetrius turned to his brother, who was buttoning up his trousers a safe distance away. “How could you do this, Thomas? What were you thinking?”
Thomas stood in place, stunned into silence, the shame of what he’d done apparent. He attempted to speak, but Demetrius heard none of it. Instead, he rushed toward his brother, intent on giving him the beating of his life. Thomas turned and ran, unaccustomed to such brash and violent behavior.
Demetrius would have continued in pursuit of Thomas to the ends of the earth, but he had to get Isabella somewhere safe first. He rushed back to the reflecting pool and wept over her as she stood against a tree, attempting to straighten out her skirts. She leaned into his shoulder, and allowed him to lift her off the ground in a show of strength. They were quite a sight, Demetrius carrying the helpless Isabella, who barely held onto his shoulder.
Once they reached the cabin, Demetrius helped her clean up and watched from the living room as she slipped into a light flowing nightgown. He then tucked her into bed and sat in a chair in the small room as she drifted into unconsciousness. He admired the softness of her features for a moment before dark thoughts of his brother Thomas spoiling her virtue entered his mind.
After some time spent watching Isabella, Demetrius grew tired and fell asleep in the chair. He dreamed of a bright burning fire and crystal stars reflected against a black sky.
The next morning, Isabella was gone. In her place was a note that simply read,
Gone to see your family to make amends. Please don’t come looking for me. I will be back soon.
Demetrius tossed the note onto the floor and rushed out the door. She was crazy to think he would sit idly by as she fed herself to the lions. His heart galloped as he sprinted through the woods on the way to the mansion.
He saw smoke rising in the distance long before he’d reached his rural palace. It was white, grey, and varying shades of black, spiraling into the sky. He inhaled the acrid scent as he drew closer. Flames leapt high above the trees and he felt the heat on his face as he stumbled up the driveway. He had no idea if anyone was left inside, and thought nothing of his safety as he burst through the closed front door.
It was quite a sight to behold. Fire raced up the walls on either side of the great room, with the central staircase intact. The support beams overhead crackled as the timber buckled under the pressure, sending embers skittering down on top of his head. Servants scattered like mice, seeking to escape through the open door behind him.
Demetrius stood at the foot of the stairs, unsure which direction to take. “Isabella!” he cried out, expecting no response in return. “Isabella,” he cried out again, desperate to save her from the inferno. Silence was the only reply.
He had just put one foot on the staircase when he caught sight of his angel. The simple white dress that hung loose on her frame was covered in soot and something crimson like blood. As he readied himself to rush headlong into danger to save her from the raging fires of that hell, he stopped short when he saw a bloodied blade in one of her hands and the head of his father in the other.
“My darling”, she called out to him, holding the head out to him like a grotesque trophy. “We are finally free to do as we please.” Her twisted smile caused a loosening in Demetrius’s bowels and bladder that he was ashamed to admit. But his love of her prevented him from seeking safety.
Isabella cast aside the head as she descended the stairs, looking no less divine than before. It rolled down the steps with a series of sickening thumps before coming to rest near his feet. Her eyes reflected the fire and her smile was sardonic.
He took a step back as she approached, admiring her new dark beauty. She reached out the hand not holding the knife and he took it in his own, leading her down the remaining steps. Hand in hand, they walked through the great room toward the parlor that lead to the reflecting pool. Flaming timbers crashed down around them in a great shower of sparks.
They had just approached the trellis overlooking the pool when a figure emerged from the smoking ruins of the mansion. As the smoke cleared, the hulking shadow was revealed as Demetrius’s brother Thomas. He ran toward them, a fire burning in his eyes. His face was half burnt, and blood poured out of the side of his mouth. Baring his red stained teeth, he cried like a demon and rushed toward them.
Demetrius pleaded with Isabella to take flight with him, to run away from the danger, but she refused. Instead, she stood her ground with the knife held loosely by her side, nonchalant in the face of certain death. He was never more in love with her than in that very moment.
Thomas’s rage propelled him toward Isabella with violent passion. He was armed with nothing but his bare hands against the frail, defenseless girl. Isabella held her free hand out in front of her and blinked once, revealing inky pools of darkness where her eyes should have been.
Demetrius choked on his own saliva at the sight of her, and had no time to react as Thomas was stopped short, clutching at his own throat as he was lifted off the ground. Demetrius watched in horror, stunned into paralysis, as an unseen force snapped his brother’s neck. The rage in Thomas’s eyes left, replaced by the emptiness of certain death. His body fell to the stairs in a heap.
Isabella turned toward Demetrius, again holding out her free hand to him. She blinked once more, and her eyes returned to their normal milk chocolate color. Shaking, he took her hand and allowed her to lead him down the stairs to the stone bench surrounding the reflecting pool.
She sat down first, setting the bloody knife to her side. He sat next to her, taking her hands in his. She blinked again and stared at him with her new eyes that had turned entirely black; the most enchanting eyes he’d ever seen.
“My darling,” she said as she touched his face, smearing the blood from her hands onto his cheek. “Now, we can finally be together.”
Demetrius smiled and leaned over the side of the reflecting pool. Isabella followed his lead. What he saw in the mirror of the water jolted him out of his stupor. His perfect creature, his soul mate, was transformed into the most hideous monster he’d ever seen. Her flesh was flayed away, and in its place was blood, bone, and sinew. He recoiled and retreated from her.
“What’s the matter darling, is there something in my teeth?” she said, before laughing like a mad woman.
Demetrius attempted to stand and fell down to the ground. Isabella laughed at him again with the mocking tone of the devil himself.
Stumbling, he made his way to the other end of the pool, putting distance between his beloved and himself. He kept his eyes on her as she stood up and snatched the knife off the bench. The sound of the blade scraping against the stone grated on the nerves in his teeth.
Isabella walked toward him with all the dark, seductive grace she could muster; though hideously transfigured, a ghost of her former self. “What’s the matter, Demetrius? Don’t like the real me?” She twirled and laughed again, throwing her head back.
Demetrius’s mind spun. “What’s happening here?”
She huffed to herself. “Men. So dumb. So easy to manipulate. You still don’t get it, do you?”
Demetrius was dumbfounded.
“Your father. My father. My mother. Don’t you see?”
She became agitated and picked at her thigh with the knife as she moved toward him. Blood spilled from the wounds. “We are all family…brother.”
The words took a moment to penetrate before the shock of what she just revealed overtook him. So much so, that he doubled over and felt the wind leave his lungs. His one true love. His perfect soulmate. His half-sister. Bile rose into the back of his throat, making his mouth taste sour. He felt the urge to vomit, but suppressed it.
A loud crack from the other side of the reflecting pool made both of them stop and turn. Part of the mansion collapsed, shaking the ground with its impact and sending fire and sparks toward the heavens. A cloud of smoke billowed out from the newly formed hole, burying the sky. It was a glorious sight to behold.
Isabella put the knife to her temple and twisted it, drawing a thin line of blood. “Now Demetrius, be a good boy and let me destroy you. Then we can all move on from here.”
Demetrius’s mind reeled, struggling to process the staggering implications of Isabella’s revelations. She was his half-sister. His lust for her resulted in the dual sins of fornication and incest. And now everyone else was dead. A cry escaped his throat and his chest grew tight from the emotions boiling inside him. With tears spilling down his face he said, “You made me fall in love with you. How could you do this?”
He doubled over again, a searing pain spreading across his stomach. He wondered if Isabella was responsible for it, using her unseen power in the same way that she killed their brother Thomas. In a way she was partly responsible for his current pain, but it was his own crushing guilt and continued longing for her that caused most of it.
She dropped the knife to her side and looked at him, but seemed far away. “Well, I guess that’s the price our father paid for brushing his sin under the rug of his perfect life. I watched you all of these years, waiting for the chance to pay him back for what he did to my mother. What he did to me.”
Having enough of words, Isabella ran toward Demetrius, intent on completing her plan of revenge. He turned and fled from her, fear driving his survival instinct. The shoes he wore gave him no traction and slipped out from under him as he rounded a corner. He came down hard, his chin hitting the stone patio. Stars exploded across his field of vision.
He heard the slap of Isabella’s bare feet on the hard surface running after him and turned himself over to face the sky. Smoke from the house shielded the sun that tried with all its might to pierce through the hazy grey. He lay there, taking in shallow breaths, ready to accept the death that was coming for him. He didn’t know how he could live any longer with everything he had ever loved stripped away from him.
The sound of Isabella’s feet stopped and he sensed she was near. He raised his head and looked toward her. Her half-burned, matted hair cascaded down the side of her head. Her breathing was heavy, which caused her ample bosom to rise and fall with each respiration. Demetrius was repulsed at the sensation in his groin, the lust for his half-sister.
“Get up, Demetrius”, she said. “It’s time for you to pay for our father’s sin.”
Accepting his fate, Demetrius pushed himself off the ground and stood up to the best of his ability. His head felt heavy from the concussion he’d suffered from his fall, and he swayed from side to side. He looked toward his sister, his love, with a mixture of loathing and remorse.
“I want you to remember this moment, Demetrius. How much you hate yourself for what you’ve done. I want you to suffer in your misery and die in your shame, just like my mother.” Her eyes flared with a hatred Demetrius had not seen before.
“Kill me,” he said in a soft voice. “Please, just kill me.”
Isabella sauntered up to him and leaned in close, her lips brushing his ear lobe. He felt her warm breath against his skin and shivered. It was intimate and sensual, sickly seductive. “Oh, no. Nothing as simple as that my love.”
She kissed his cheek with her soft, full lips and took a step away from him. If she was not going to kill him, what did she have planned? What could be worse than having the love of his life stab him in the heart?
Demetrius’s eyes grew wide as Isabella raised the knife in front of her, stopping for a second to admire its glittering brilliance before placing it over her own heart. He had no time to react as she plunged the blade deep within her breast, piercing her heart, and ending her own life.
He rushed over to her as she collapsed to the ground. He held her head in his hands. Hot tears flowed down his face, dripping onto her doomed body. She cracked open her eyes, revealing their human color, and gave him a sick hateful smile. She brought her gore covered hand to his face and with her last breath said, “My darling brother. I have always loved you most.”
Demetrius lay by the reflecting pool well into the night, watching the stars overhead sparkle like suspended crystals. He wept bitter tears over his future, unsure of how he would ever be able to recover from the sudden tragedy his life had become. His entire family was decimated. And his half-sister Isabella had destroyed any chance he had at love. His only comfort as the sole remaining heir of his earthly father was the coldness of coin.
His future, once so clear, was opaque and unknown. Redemption seemed an impossible reach. His sins were too great to bear the burden of forgiveness. He was doomed to become one of the walking damned, unless he could find a way to save himself from the depravity of his own evil heart.
Instead of seeking that salvation, Demetrius resolved to lay by the reflecting pool and stare at the stars.
About the Author:
Jess Hanna is an author of supernatural thrillers that explore spiritual themes. Jess’s stories intrigue and entertain while tirelessly pursuing the truth. He lives in Grand Rapids, MI with his wife and works in the publishing industry. He is also a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
Connect With Jess Hanna Online:
If you liked ‘The Reflecting Pool’, check out these other thrilling titles.