***AUTHOR'S NOTE: All characters in this chapter are owned by me. Real life references to real people or locations are NOT owned by me, however the characters' interactions with the location are mine and are purely fictional.***

PROLOGUE – Shadows and Saviors

I awoke to that persistent beeping of a heart monitor. I opened my eyes to blinding fluorescent lights.

I tried to sit up, but I felt a searing pain down my back and in my gut so I stopped. I bit back a scream and blinked away tears.

What happened?

I took stock of my surroundings. I was in a hospital ICU in west Texas. The room I was in was sterile. Cold. The only break in the dismal atmosphere was a large purple orchid plant and a stuffed puppy dog that sat on the table by my bed. I slowly reached out and fingered the card tied to the flowers.

"You'll always be our miracle baby. Love, Mom and Dad"

"Oh good, you're awake," said a nurse disdainfully. She left the room without saying another word. That was… disconcerting… to say the least.

Ten minutes later a doctor came in. "Good to see that you are recovering." He came over to me and did some simple checkups on me. I shivered at his touch. He stepped back; his eyes obviously still showing disapproval. "I suggest you straighten up your life. You shouldn't be putting your family through this."

My eyes grew wide. He stoically ignored my reaction and turned to leave the room.


He stopped. He didn't even turn around to face me.

"What on earth happened to me?"

He sighed and turned halfway around, hands on his hips, a disgusted look on his face. "You had a heart attack."

What? "How? Why?"

He walked over to my bed and handed me a pamphlet. "Let's pretend that I'm smarter than you think I am, shall we? Moreover, that you are not as smart as you think you are."

Excuse me? I turned the pamphlet over in my hands. "West Texas Rehabilitation Center…" I looked up at him. "I was drugged?"

"More than likely this was just your body telling you to slow down on the partying. Your blood tests did not suggest an overdose; however constant drug usage over a sustained period of time can trigger this – if the doses are high enough."

I narrowed my eyebrows but still maintained a quasi-respectful tone. "What drugs are you talking about?"

The doctor frowned threateningly at me. "Someone your age having a heart attack this massive, please don't play dumb with me. Your life is at stake. Methamphetamines are not something to be played with."

I stifled a laugh. Dope? "Are you serious?"

I was involved in a lot of different substances, but speed was SO not my flavor. At all. I wouldn't even take rolls (ecstasy) that were cut with dope. Growing up A.D.D. and being medicated by Adderall for almost twenty years will have that effect. On top of that, I was always so careful to do exhaustive research on each and every substance before putting it into my body. None of them were considered heavy stimulants or depressants.

The doctor just scowled and walked towards the door. "Your family is here to see you, I will let them know you're awake."

I sat numbly staring at the pamphlet. This can't be happening! Even if this was drug-related, I hadn't taken anything for several days. The business had been extremely sparse lately, due to a recent raid of my cook's wearhouse in Dallas.

I shook my head and tried to recount the past twenty-four hours. At first I can't remember anything, but then foggy memories begin to drift into my consciousness.

I was smoking a cigarette, standing on the balcony of my friend's apartment. It was nighttime, and I was watching the empty parking lot and alley way visible from the patio.

Just as I put the cigarette out, I noticed a figure walking down the alley, but I couldn't make out any features whatsoever. Regardless, I felt my eyes drawn to them.

Suddenly they stopped walking and locked eyes with me. What was featureless and distant seemed to be inches from my face – all I saw were red, angry, veined eyes that would give the latest "demonic warfare" movie out today a run for its money.

I remember blinking, and the vision was gone. So was the figure in the alley. I had just shrugged it off when suddenly I felt ice-cold.

The next thing I knew I was thrown back into the apartment, through the living room, landing on the wall between my friend's dining room and kitchen. The picture frames behind me cracked as my body slammed up against them. I felt hot blood flow as the broken glass bit into my back, and a searing pain erupted from my stomach and my chest, as though my insides were being ripped apart.

I don't remember much after that moment. Later on I found out that my friend, who had been in the bathroom at that moment, came out to see me crumpled on the floor. She immediately dialed 911.

I guess that's how I got here.

Another nurse came in with my mother, my father, and my best friend, Holly. Mom looked like she had been crying for years. My dad looked like he was ready to punch someone. Even Holly looked pissed.

I squeezed Mom's hand. I hadn't seen my parents for almost three years. They had given me the ultimatum – "Don't come home and don't contact us until you are the daughter we raised again. We don't know you."

I was making ten grand a week hustling. Who were they to tell me to stop what I was doing?!

Fine. Fuck you, fuck God, who gives a rat's ass? I bounced, and had made good on the agreement of avoiding contact… So this was one hell of a reunion. Literally.

I felt a wave of sorrow as I saw the pain in my parents' eyes.

"Momma, Daddy, I didn't overdose on Meth!" I knew there was no way they would believe me, but I was adamant.

Holly put a hand on my shoulder. She knew my history with substances very well. "Don't worry, Desiree, I've already talked to them about that."

My dad scooped his arms between me and the bed and kissed my forehead. "It doesn't matter right now."

I wrapped my arms around my father's neck. "Daddy, It's over. I'm done, I can't do this anymore. And I'm coming home."

I felt the giant man collapse and he and my mother held me like they would never let me go.

"We've been praying for those words for years," my mom sobbed into my ear.

"I know. You were right. I'm tired of running from what I know is real," I pulled back and looked at her seriously. "If Jesus accepts do-over's, hopefully He will except mine."

She pulled my head to her chest. "Of course He will, sweetheart. He already knew you were going to do this before you were born."

We wept. Tears of agony and redemption never hurt so much or tasted so sweet.

I felt a chill and looked over my dad's shoulder. I saw a dark shadow was in the corner of the hospital room. Somehow… I knew it was what had attacked me.

I could swear it was laughing.

Do you really think that your Jesus will save you?...

I shivered. He can, and He will… but even if He doesn't...

I heard it snarl and it vanished.