Blaze of Light

Chapter 1

The endless highway stretched through the midnight desert landscape like a huge black mamba. Candace Swenson tossed her mane of white?blond hair over her shoulder for about the hundredth time in the last hour. She stomped her foot in frustration, looking up and down the highway for any sign of life. There was nothing there, just darkness ad infinitum. Nearly growling in anger, she climbed back behind the wheel of her compact car and twisted the key. A click as the key slid to the side, then nothing, total silence. Candy hit the steering wheel, uttering a most unladylike curse. She spoke to herself to help allay her loneliness and fears.
"You stupid car! Five years you serve me faithfully, not even a flat tire. Now, when I'm in the middle of the Nevada desert, not even a gold miner's shack in sight, you betray me. Bad car; bad, bad car!"
She emphasized each 'bad' with another smack to the steering wheel. Then she fell back against the seat and gave some thought to her situation. She was stranded in the desert somewhere between Las Vegas and the Nevada/California border. She had half a tank of gas, the car had enough oil and water, she had the dirty hands to prove she had checked that, the battery was okay because the radio and lights would come on. So why had her car died? There had been no warning, just instant death. One minute, she had been driving along, singing with the radio to keep herself awake; the next, the car was slowing down and there was no longer any engine noise.
The last town she had passed was about ten miles away. If she remembered correctly the last road sign she'd seen, the next town would be about thirty miles down the road. With a deep sigh of resignation, Candy grabbed her purse and got out of the car. She double?checked the doors, making sure they were all locked, then set off along the stretch of highway she had so recently traveled.
Candy tried not to think of all the things in the desert that were nocturnal. She wished there were more cars on the road. Even if she couldn't get a ride, and she wasn't too sure about accepting one from a stranger, she wouldn't feel so desolately alone. She pushed the button on the side of her wristwatch that turned on the little light inside. The tiny glow barely illuminated the LED display. What did she expect at 4 AM, rush?hour traffic? Oh, why hadn't she waited until morning to set off on this foolish trek? She started talking to herself again.
"Because I couldn't wait to get away from that place, that's why. If I'd had to look at that pig's face one more time, I'd be in jail for murder right now!"
The 'pig' to which she referred had been her fiancé up until two days ago when she'd caught him in bed with her best friend. Now she had an ex?fiancé and an ex?best friend. In her cooler moments driving through the desert, she had realized that she wasn't as devastated as she should be. If she were honest with herself, she had to admit that she was more upset over the loss of her friend than her fiancé. That boded ill for what would have been her married life. She sighed. Maybe they'd done her a favor, kept her from making the worst mistake of her life. But she still wasn't about to forgive them.
She had waited until the next day to confront Brett because she knew she would have tried to do him serious bodily injury if she had talked to him too soon. Turned out, anytime was too soon. Candy's thoughts drifted back to that confrontation.
She and Brett stood in the kitchen of his apartment, a room in which she had spent many happy hours preparing meals for that slime. He was trying to rationalize his actions.
"Honey, I wanted you so bad and you wanted to wait till our wedding night. That is so old?fashioned. I was hurtin', ya know, and Jenny came over to ask me something about your bachelorette party. It was no big thing, Candy, really it wasn't. And I was thinkin' about you the whole time, baby."
Trying to hold back her tears, she wasn't about to let this cow turd make her cry, Candy glared daggers at him. Her voice was deceptively calm and rational.
"Let me get this straight. It's my fault that you slept with my best friend because I wouldn't sleep with you before we got married. So you made believe she was me. Is that about right?"

Brett smiled that seductive smile of his that had always made Candy's knees go weak. It didn't even cause a tingle this time. He stepped toward her as he spoke.
"That's right, baby. You make me so crazy, I just had to have something. It won't happen again, I promise."
The carafe from his coffee maker flew through the air, narrowly missing Brett's head, and smashed on the opposite wall. Candy screamed at him.
"I don't give a damn if it does happen again!"
A glass followed the carafe. Brett put up his hands to protect his face.
"I'm out of here, you low?life slime!"
His toaster smashed to the floor.
"You can have Jenny, or any other bimbo you can get your slimy hands on. I couldn't care less!"
Seeing his apartment under fire sparked Brett's anger. He yelled at the termagant before him.
"Great, that's just fine with me! If you weren't such an ice maiden, maybe you could have kept me. I'm better off without you, you frigid bitch!"
Candy froze in the act of throwing a glass canister. The rage inside of her turned cold, freezing her heart mid?beat. She carefully returned the canister to its place on the counter. As she slowly turned back to face Brett, she spoke softly.
"Frigid? How dare you!"
Her foot caught Brett so unexpectedly, he didn't have time to protect himself. Her toe slid smoothly between his legs and connected sharply with his family jewels. Brett's knees buckled and he hit the floor like a rock. Candy stood over him, shaking with anger.
"I hope I broke it! Did it ever occur to you, Mr. Lady's Man, that you don't turn me on? I didn't think so. Goodbye, you worm, and good riddance!"
As she left his apartment, Candy spotted Brett's most prized possession, a black tooled?leather case full of the baseball cards he had been collecting since childhood, sitting in its place on a bookshelf. Without a second thought, she grabbed the case and carried it outside with her. As she passed the swimming pool, Candy opened the case, letting the contents spill into the pale blue chlorinated water. When it was empty, she tossed the open case into the pool and watched it as it sank to the bottom. Then she went to her car, drove to the nearest pawn shop, and pawned her engagement ring.
Candy had cried herself to sleep the night she had found them in bed together. Now, her tears, like her relationship with Jenny and Brett, were through. She had to get on with her life, not let the sense of betrayal weigh her down until she wouldn't trust anyone ever again.
Candy smiled, trying to ignore the pain in her feet. She would have liked to do more to Jenny than tell her boyfriend about her boob job, but Candy had seen an ad in the Las Vegas Sun at the library. It said that the Excalibur Hotel and Casino needed waitress help. She had decided the timing was providential. She'd thrown all her stuff into her little car and headed for Las Vegas before she could chicken out. She figured she'd let her family and friends know where she was when she got settled.
Frowning worriedly, Candy realized that no one knew where she was, no one would be looking for her in the Nevada desert. If she expired by the side of the road, she could be carried off by nocturnal predators and...
"Stop that," Candy admonished herself, "you're just scaring yourself!"
She started humming a tune she had learned in Sunday School, hoping it might get the attention of somebody up there.
"Don't be frightened."
A masculine baritone came from the darkness at the side of the road. Candy believed she had truly jumped out of her skin, expecting to see an empty shell of herself fall to the road beside her. In truth, she had jumped several feet into the road away from the voice. She turned toward it and saw the outline of what appeared to be a tall man. She couldn't make out his features in the darkness. He had a nice shape ? broad shoulders, slim hips, long legs. Candy looked around for his car, but as far as she could see, and that had to be miles in each direction, there was no sign of it. She instantly became wary.

"Who are you?"
Seeming to sense her wariness, he didn't attempt to come any closer. She could see his teeth flash white in a smile.
"You may call me Dolph. What is your name?"
"Candy, uh, Candace Swenson. Where did you come from?"
He laughed - a deep, pleasant sound. Candy thought she must be going crazy because she could swear that masculinity oozed from this man's pores. She caught herself before she could start primping.
"That really wouldn't mean anything to you. I suppose you mean where is my transportation. Are you in need of it?"
The hair on the back of Candy's neck was beginning to stand on end. Something was not quite right about this guy. Suddenly, all she wanted was to get away from him.
"No, that's okay. I'm enjoying the walk. It's been nice meeting you, but I really have to get going, my boyfriend worries so much when I'm late. He's been known to bring the whole football team out just to look for me. See you."
There was a chuckle in his voice.
"If he's waiting for you back there," he pointed in the direction she had been headed, "why is your car pointed the other way?"
Candy turned toward her car. She could barely make it out, let alone tell in which direction it was pointed. She fought the urge to run from this strange man. She had the feeling she wouldn't get very far, anyway.
Dolph spoke a little louder, as if not speaking to her.
"I need some light, I can't see her well enough to decide."
Suddenly, bright white light flooded the road from the sky like a midnight sun. Candy was temporarily blinded. She gave a little gasp and covered her eyes with her hands to shut out the almost painful light.
"I want to see her, not blind her. Tone it down!"
His angry words were closer to her. Candy uncovered her eyes and looked up to see the most gorgeous man she had ever laid eyes on. He was taller than any non-basketball-player she had ever seen, at least six?foot?five. His long golden blonde hair fell below his shoulders, with a small braid framing one side of his face. He wore a close?cropped beard of the same golden blonde.
His attire was strange, but then so was he. His shoulders and chest strained the confines of his dove grey jumpsuit, as did the rest of his perfectly proportioned body. His silver leather boots had designs that Candy didn't recognize carved in black down the front. From his ear hung a very large earring in the shape of a tiny Siamese cat reclining on a hoop.
Candy looked into the eyes of this guy who called himself 'Dolph' and her breath caught in her throat. His eyes were green. Not 'blah' green like Jenny's, but dark emerald green. She'd never seen eyes that color, not even in the 'you can make your eyes this wonderful color with these contact lenses' ads. They seemed to suck her into their depths and hold her prisoner there.
As Candy studied him, Dolph examined his beautiful prize. She was tall, five?foot?nine or ?ten. She possessed the most stunning hair he had ever seen. It was the color of a white?hot rocket flame. Thick as a down comforter, it rippled about her shoulders and hips like a live thing. Though she tossed it back often, it seemed to have a mind of its own and it wanted to frame her high, taut breasts. Her bright, curious eyes were a soft grey?blue, her face pale and very feminine.
She wore tight black jeans and a form?fitting red shirt that emphasized her perfect curves. Her body seemed made to form to a male's, her long legs perfect for wrapping around his hips and guiding him to ecstasy. Feeling a tightening in his loins, Dolph straightened and, clearing his throat, looked up and spoke into the light.
"She'll do nicely. Transport us, then see to her vehicle. Continue on course and do not disturb me unless it is an emergency."
Fear, emotional trauma and exhaustion were all catching up with Candy, dulling her senses. She spoke slowly, finding she needed to think about each word. Her voice took on a high, childlike quality that made her seem very vulnerable.

"Where is that light coming from, and who are you talking to?"
Dolph stepped forward and placed his hands lightly on her shoulders. He spoke down to her as though she were a frightened child. His voice was soft and soothing.
"The light is coming from my ship and I'm talking to my second?in?command, Felix, who is still on board. He is going to transport us aboard, where we may get better acquainted. All your questions will be answered eventually, when you are ready to accept the answers."
A buzzing started inside Candy's head and quickly grew to a roar. She covered her ears in a futile attempt to shut it out. Strong arms came around her and pulled her against a hard body. A deep masculine whisper sounded in her ear, sending shivers up and down her spine.
"Don't be afraid and don't fight it. Trust me."
She looked into those beautiful green eyes and although she knew it was crazy, she had just met this man, she did trust him. When she relaxed against him, the buzzing quieted to a soft, pleasant hum. A lethargic warmth spread through her body, starting at her skin and moving inward until it filled her. Turning her head away from the solid wall of chest in front of her, Candy watched as the Nevada desert that had so recently imperiled her shimmered and disappeared.