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Leslie floated through a gray mist. The whisper of the woman’s footsteps faded; everything went silent. The numbness and pain didn’t seem so awful. Nothing seemed bad except the pointed teeth and hungry look in the woman’s eyes, until what felt like a hammer rammed her left chin.
From far away, the woman’s laughter, then slurping sounds. The breeze on her face,
(OH! OWWW! How it hurts, it HURTS, my jaw what did you do)
and her eyes snapped open. Blood was dribbling from her nose, pooling on her neck and the sofa cushions. Her jaw seemed to burn in rivers of fire. Only dimly aware that she was sobbing, Leslie gazed at the woman in the white dress. She saw the fangs, still nested in the woman’s hideous smile, and the gray dots spiraled up before her eyes again. The woman sat on the sofa facing Leslie.
(My jaw, she busted my jaw)
She was licking maroon stains from her right fist. Leslie refused to give into the grayness. Instead, she pushed herself up on one elbow (oh, how it hurt, it was like being stabbed with knives) and faced her attacker.
“Oh, my God,” she heard herself murmur.
The woman’s voice, laced with what sounded like a thick European accent, wafted through the cloud of pain. “I wouldn’t run if I were you,” she said, smiling.
And if you try, her smile said, I’ll pulverize you. It gave the message loud and clear, without any accent.
Leslie looked up at the overhead chandelier. Spiked crystals hung from its brass plate. Like fangs. “I’m sorry,” she blurted between swift, harsh breaths. “I didn’t know anyone lived here.”
The woman sidled forward, pressing her leg against Leslie’s hip, chilling like a cold beef slab. “You’re the sorriest woman I ever met,” she said amiably.
Too much. The gray dots again, the woman’s voice fading into an eerie tunnel. Leslie waited for the sensation to pass, then continued. Her rattling teeth drowned out the sound of her whimpering. “I got sick…dizzy. Your door was open, and I thought I’d rest.”
“That doesn’t surprise me.” The woman smiled again. “We know each other well, Leslie. Quite well.”
God, she knows my name. Another hostile stranger like those bitches at Ross. Only this one uses her fists. Looking at the woman, Leslie sensed emptiness, a black hole. Her host’s vacant stare hinted that she’d become unhinged from the familiar landmarks of her life. Her pupils were dilated black marbles. Leslie recognized that look. It was the look of someone high on drugs. It was–
Don’t look at her eyes, a voice inside screamed. Leslie flipped her head sideways. She paid for the sudden movement with a thousand kilowatts of agony. “I don’t remember meeting you.”
“I’m Drusilla Mason. You give sick people breathing herbs, right?”
Leslie gulped, choking on the coppery taste of blood. The pain was now radiating to her head. “I’m a respiratory therapist,” she said. “I banged my head in a car accident, and the last two years became blank. Did we work together?”
“In a way,” Drusilla said. “Your lost years became mine.”
“I don’t understand.” Grabbing a tissue from her pants pocket, Leslie blotted her nose. The tissue came away soaked with blood.
“Don’t be coy, Leslie,” Drusilla said in a steady voice. “You threw yourself at my husband.”
“You’ve got the wrong person. I never chase after married men. You can take that one to the bank.”
“His name’s Kenworthy.” Drusilla licked her lips, clearing the blood off her chin. “Somehow, you got his attention. He married me because I look like you.”
Leslie swallowed again, tasting more blood. The grayness dissipated, leaving behind terrible throbbing in her jaw. “I don’t remember anyone named Kenworthy either,” she said, struggling to a sitting position. “I’m talking amnesia here.”
“I don’t know about amnesia, but you look awfully nervous,” Drusilla said in a sugary voice. She got up and paced around the room, eyes on Leslie.
Damn straight I am, Leslie’s mind screamed, because you busted my jaw. You’ve gotten into bad dope, Drusilla, something that made you crack, and there’s no telling where the pieces will fall. “I didn’t mean to intrude,” she said, fighting the tremors in her voice. “Please don’t…”
“Don’t hurt you? You have no concept of real suffering,” Drusilla sneered softly. “Frankly, Leslie, I think you lack manners. Here you lie, bleeding on my couch, and staring at me as though I were garbage, the way my masters used to look at me. I find that very offensive.”
Following is the review that will be posted at
www.lighthouseliteraryreviews.com under July 2006
Review Coordinator for
Lighthouse Literary Reviews
FOUR AND A HALF BEACON REVIEW FOR TWILIGHT HEALER
by Barbara Custer
Leslie Taite has a learning dysfunction and even though some believe with her impediment she might not have the mentality to work as quickly as others, she is indeed a good worker. Working as a respiratory therapist at the Betsy Ross Hospital, the co-workers have a tendency to be judgmental when it comes to her mother’s suicide and one of her brothers sometimes feels the same. After one highly upsetting incident she leaves the hospital only to end up in an automobile accident. When she awakes, she has a memory loss, but is thankful for Alex Wallach who saved her. He not only becomes her protector, but her friend as well as some strange things begin happening in the hospital. As deaths begin rapidly occurring in the hospital, she doesn’t know who to trust when vampires begin to appear, as well as some duplicates that bear an uncanny resemblance to her. When someone named Hades plans to kill every vampire, it leaves her wondering will she even be safe with Alex as her protector after learning the real truth
Twilight Healer is a mesmerizing page-turner. Leslie’s character emits a wide range of emotions as she is dealt a loaded deck in her life. I loved the part where Alex was thinking about loneliness after Leslie’s accident and he envisioned it as if it were in a circle, comparing it to the way the bats circled a body in Adria. The in-depth characters of Leslie and Alex seasoned the story greatly. The way Ms. Custer pens her characters and the plot is truly magnificent. Her detailed descriptions allow the reader to visualize everything in the story making it quite believable. For a moment I almost felt those icy fingers of dread touching my spine just like Leslie. Great dialogue, intense writing and a turn of events that will keep one on the edge of their seats, this is a fantastic read.
Reviewed by: Linda
Disilgold Soul Magazine salutes Barbara A. Custer with the YOUnity Guild Best Debut Horror Website of the Year Infusionary Award of Excellence 2005, YOUnity Guild Best Horror Magazine of the Year Infusionary Award of Excellence 2005, and YOUnity Guild Breakthrough Vampire Horror Author of the Year Infusionary Award of Excellence 2005. To contact Barbara A. Custer, try the DSG Brown Pages YOUnity 5 Star Book Directory online featured at pressreleaseblaster.ibuilder.com.
Amnesia and work related hassles become the least of Leslie’s worries when she discovers she has become a vampire. Though this has some advantages, among them a healing gift, the need for blood and the facts that she is now part of a centuries old war with other vampires and demonic deities of legend are drawbacks. To have the man she has come to love, to have a life, she must stop Drusilla, an otherworldly vampire and fight Hades.
This is certainly not the usual vampire novel. Bringing together elements never before mixed, Ms. Custer creates a unique setting in which other worlds are only a heartbeat away, or less if your heart no longer beats. Thanks for all your hard work. Let me know if you have any questions, Barbara
Ms. Custer has a winner here. I was taken into her world of vampires and the Undead.
Leslie Taite is a respiratory therapist who is mildly handicapped, and is taunted by her co-workers and one of her brothers, who blames Leslie for their mother’s death. She is always being called stupid or some other euphemism because she is “slow”.
Leslie comes to blame herself for things that go wrong in her life, especially on her job, and her mother’s death.
Leslie is employed by the Betsy Ross hospital, and tries really hard to do the job at hand perfectly.Â She gets really upset when things happen very fast and she doesn’t completely understand the instructions or doesn’t get them done fast enough to suit her boss or co-workers.
This happens with one or her patients, and she leaves the hospital in an upset state one night. She has an accident and develops amnesia as a result of a head injury. She has selected memories, but a lot of her recent memories are gone.
She is saved by a man that she knows slightly, who later becomes her friend and protector, Alex Wallach.
During this time, there are some murders and attacks on some of the hospital workers, and bats have been seen around the hospital. They sit on window ledges outside Leslie’s room. Leslie is terrified by them and terrorized by her co-workers.
Ms. Custer brings out the best in Leslie and has her becoming Undead/Immortal in this story. (Leslie finds out that Alex is Undead, and he changes her into being Undead also, when she faces actual death from being attacked by Drusilla, a vampire that hates Leslie.) Leslie agrees to her “turning” Undead, as she faces certain death otherwise.
Meanwhile, she falls with love with Alex and they both face Hades and his minions so that they can survive.
I’m sure you will enjoy this book. She makes vampirism and Undead believable. A must read for the horror enthusiast.
Review by Ginger Johnson, editor of Detective Mystery Stories