Bloodfrost by Deidre Dalton is Book #1 in the Bloodline Trilogy.


Noel Gatsby's dreams take her away from the misery of her pain-wracked, disease-riddled body. The dreams become real when she awakens one morning to find herself completely cured. However, she soon learns her miraculous recovery comes at a price.

From Chapter Six


MADGE TILLEY UNLOCKED THE front door of her small house on Dane Street in Boston. Located between the Arnold Arboretum and Jamaica Pond in Jamaica Plain, the two-story house was one of her prized possessions, obtained in her divorce settlement twenty years ago. It was older home, built in the 1930s, with a red-brick façade and attached garage. The roof gathered in points, the A-frames reflecting over the front door and attic window on top. A small room over the garage served as her home office, connected to the house by a door on the second-floor hallway. Mature trees towered over the short driveway and miniscule front yard, which was enclosed by a three-foot chain link fence and gate.

Dither greeted Madge inside the front door, rubbing against her legs and meowing loudly. The six-year-old tomcat was a mix of Siamese and Himalayan breeds. His tail was gray-colored, while the rest of his body was white with definite markings of gray in his face, ears and feet. His eyes were a light blue, their round irises turning dark only when he was angry. When Dither was happy and content, his eyes often crossed as he gazed at her lovingly.

Madge reached down to scratch Dither behind the ears, using her foot to close the front door behind her. She set her slim briefcase, purse and car keys on the entry table, and then kicked off her shoes. Dither followed her along the highly-polished hardwood floor toward the kitchen, where Madge flipped on the overhead light.

Her kitchen was a gourmet delight, although she rarely did any cooking. The marble countertops were swirled with brown and cream colors, reminding Madge of a hot fudge sundae. The dark-wood cabinets with slim brass handles were full of stylish china, glasses and cookware, also rarely used. The stainless steel refrigerator had two sides, one with an ice-maker in the door and a roomy freezer. She used the freezer side more often, stocking it with frozen dinners, desserts, pizzas and an ever-present bottle of Sobieski vodka.

"Let's get you fed first," Madge told Dither, who by now had jumped onto the counter near the sink. He stared at her intently, his body frozen like a statue as he waited for his dinner. Madge took an opened cat food can from the fridge, popping off the plastic lid. "It's the same as breakfast," she warned the purring feline with affection. "I'm not forking over an entire can of food for breakfast and dinner, so you'll have to make do with halves and a bowl of crunchies to see you through."

Dither meowed loudly, finally moving from his perch to the edge of the countertop. He paced back and forth, pausing occasionally to watch her as she spooned moist cat food into his neon-purple bowl. She set the bowl on the counter, patting him lightly on the rump as he dug in.

Her beloved cat taken care of for the moment, Madge grabbed a short glass from the cupboard next to the fridge. She poured herself a healthy measure of vodka, sipping the liquid gratefully as she made her way out of the kitchen.

The office loft over the garage was her true haven. Untouched by the cleaning service that came in once a week, the comfortable space always gave her tranquility after a long day. Along one wall, bookshelves overflowed with legal volumes and romance novels in no particular order. A tiny, 13-inch television set was crammed onto one of the shelves, doing double duty as a bookend. A worn leather recliner in the corner had a footstool and overhanging lamp for reading. Her small desk faced the only window in the room, which overlooked the driveway. It was piled high with file folders and other papers, much like her desk at work, with a spot swept clean in the middle for her laptop computer. As with her professional office, she knew the relevance of every note or folder and could locate it on a moment's notice.

Madge turned on the television and then sat behind her desk, vodka in hand. She glanced at the TV screen, barely taking note of the local evening news. She liked the background sound more than anything else, which made her feel she wasn't alone. Leaning over, she opened one of the desk drawers and removed her journal. It was a nicely-bound affair, covered in creased red leather with a golden tassel to mark her place. She bought the blank journals in bulk from a stationary store in West Roxbury, who kept them on hand for her.

She opened the journal as she took another sip of vodka, admiring the gold-lined pages on white velum. As much as she relied on computers for her work and business efficiency, she preferred keeping her private journals by hand. She didn't want them somehow flittered to the internet by a mistaken key stroke for the entire world to see. Madge fished a pen from the middle drawer of her desk, intending to carry on where she left off from the night before.

First, she drained the vodka from her glass and leaned back in her desk chair. Closing her eyes, she allowed herself to pass gas loudly. She smiled, leaning forward again. "Yet another benefit to living alone," she thought happily. "I can burp, fart or run around naked and not have to worry about the judgment of others."

Sighing, Madge slipped on her black-rimmed glasses and began to write in the journal:

Madge Tilley's Journal

Madge paused, thinking how insane her observations might seem to someone discovering her journals. They were filled with accounts of her dreams and ensuing observations, which she began documenting nearly one year ago. She flipped the journal back a few pages, re-reading her entry from two weeks previous:

Madge Tilley's Journal

Madge recalled that first dream about Noel vividly, although at the time she was rather puzzled by it. She hadn't advertised for a position in her office because her longtime secretary had been firmly entrenched for more than ten years, giving no signs she was about to abandon ship. When the middle-aged Carol Moore gave one-day notice two weeks later, Madge had been floored. Carol was apologetic, citing her mother's sudden illness as the reason for her departure. As Carol's mother lived in faraway Phoenix, Madge couldn't very well hold a grudge against her otherwise faithful secretary.

Dither entered the room, ignoring Madge as he jumped to the leather recliner to wash his face after dinner. She watched her tomcat fondly, his right paw moving in rhythmic strokes over his face and mouth as he cleaned himself.

"Enjoy your dinner, did you?" she asked him aloud. "Was it up to snuff?"

Dither glanced at her briefly, with little interest, and then resumed his careful ritual of grooming.

Madge returned to her journal, flipping the pages back to her current entry.

Madge Tilley's Journal

Madge closed the journal, removing her glasses and standing from the desk. She yawned, glancing toward Dither again. He was curled up on the leather recliner, sound asleep. Smiling to herself, Madge left the room, empty glass in hand. She made her way to the kitchen, where she poured herself another healthy measure of vodka. She kept the ice-cold bottle of Sobieski away from her home office, knowing she would be tempted to imbibe more if the bottle was within easy reach.

After rooting around in the refrigerator, she assembled a small platter of sliced hard salami, stacked saltine crackers, a handful of Kalamata olives and a generous mound of crumbled feta cheese. It wasn't the healthiest of late-night dinners, but it would suffice for now. She made space on the platter for her glass, and then carried the lot back to her home office.

Dither lifted his head and sniffed the air when she returned, his nose twitching slightly.

Madge laughed at him as she sat behind the desk. "Yes, dear Dither," she said. "I know you hate my aromatic food. Did you ever think that's why I eat such things? So you won't try to snatch morsels from my mouth?"

The tomcat yawned, revealing his long, pointy teeth. Within seconds, he lowered his head and went back to sleep.

Madge leaned back in her office chair, balancing the food platter on her lap. She popped olives into her mouth as she absently watched the local news on television. Her eyes occasionally wandered to the closed journal on her desk. She shook her head, sighing as she bit into a slice of hard salami.

Her drive to keep journals about her dreams was still a mystery to her. The obsession in documenting her vivid flashes - which often came to fruition afterward - began nearly a year ago as she was recovering from chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. The diagnosis had initially sent her into an emotional tailspin, but with her usual common sense she realized it was her own fault. She had been a heavy smoker for years, so what else could she expect?

After several months of chemotherapy - during which she remained working, no matter how sick she felt - her doctor advised a complete mastectomy, also informing her that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and lungs. Devastated but refusing to show it, Madge numbly agreed to her doctor's recommendations. What else could she do? Curl into a ball and die? No, that was not for her. She would fight to the bitter end, if that's what it took.

The night before her mastectomy surgery, Madge lay prone in her hospital bed. She was alone, with intermittent visits by the attending nurse to check on her vitals. She stared at the stark white ceiling of her room for a long time, resisting the urge to fall asleep. She was terrified. At the age of forty-nine, she lived a life many women only dreamed of. She was a successful and well-respected attorney, making more money than she ever thought possible. She had a decent home and was generally happy with the flow of her life to date. Her brief marriage two decades ago was a mere blip on the radar, mattering little in the scheme of things. It had been a mistake from the get-go, but it was all water under the bridge now. Her true love was the law. She was consumed by her work, happy to be in the thick of a new case. Most men were unable to handle her professional devotion and strength of character, feeling slighted even in the newest stages of a romance. She gave up having relationships long ago, realizing she didn't need a man to be a complete person. She worked hard and played hard, and was truly happy with her life.

Cancer was not on her agenda, but here it was anyway, staring her in the face. She spent the night before her scheduled surgery alone with a thousand thoughts racing through her mind, not sure what the future might hold. It was nearly dawn when she finally dozed, only to awaken a half hour later. She felt strangely rested and alert. The pain, nausea and accompanying lethargy had left her body. She felt clean and whole, as if her entire being had been purified while she dozed. Was it the pain medication making her feel that way? Was she drug-induced delusional? Had she retreated into complete denial, or was it real?

Madge had perfect recall of the incident. She sat up in bed and rang the nurse, demanding to see her doctor. "Something happened in the night," she said excitedly, even though she knew it sounded like she was babbling. "Please, delay the surgery until I've had a chance to speak to Dr. Kopeck. I need to talk to him right away. Please, hurry."

Twenty minutes later, Dr. Kopeck appeared in the doorway of her hospital room. He was tall and balding, with thick glasses perched on his bulbous nose. Madge trusted him implicitly, but she needed to tell him how she felt. She was certain something about her condition had changed during the night, and she wanted him to perform the necessary tests before undertaking any surgery.

Dr. Kopeck had listened to her speak, nodding his head now and then as she described how she felt. She saw the look of understanding mixed with sympathy in his eyes, and it annoyed her. "Look," she said evenly. "I'm the patient, and you're the doctor. I get that. But I'm telling you, something changed during the night. What harm can it do to run some tests, or delay the surgery a few days? If it's the cost you're worried about, don't concern yourself. Whatever the insurance company doesn't cover, I will pay in full. And you know I'm good for it."

"I just hate to see you get your hopes up," he told her soberly. "Dealing with cancer is as much an emotional struggle as it is physical."

"Please, Dr. Kopeck. Trust me on this, will you? If the tests come back positive, just like they did before, I'll shut my mouth and go through with the surgery." She pleaded with him using her emotionally charged eyes, and he finally capitulated.

Two days later, Madge's tests came back free and clear. Dr. Kopeck was dumbfounded. He came to her hospital room, chart in hand. "The tumors are gone," he told her, his eyes wide with amazement. "I've never seen anything like it. The mass is gone from your breast, and the shadows in your lungs are no longer there. I don't understand it. It's just not medically possible . . ." He shook his head. "But I can't deny what I see. Just to make sure, I'd like to re-run the tests one more time. Do you mind?"

"Of course I don't mind," she replied happily. "And don't feel bad, Dr. Kopeck. Perhaps the initial tests were wrong - you know, maybe someone made a mistake in the lab and mixed up my results with someone else's. Who knows? After you gave me the initial diagnosis, perhaps my mind took over and convinced my body it was sick. We're all human, aren't we? Entitled to mistakes now and then? Especially when they turn out for the better?"

The second set of tests came back clean as well, so Madge was in the clear. She had dodged the proverbial life-ending bullet and had been given a second chance. After awhile, she convinced herself the scare had indeed been a lab mistake, and nothing more.

The dreams began shortly after her stay in the hospital. At first they were harmless. She dreamt of her secretary Carol bringing cookies to the office, and the next day - sure enough - Carol brought cookies to the office. In another dream, Madge saw Dither catching a mouse in the backyard and then trotting through the house with the dead rodent hanging from his mouth, proud of his kill and wanting to show her. The next morning Dither did exactly that, much to her disgust.

Then the dreams began to take a more serious turn. Madge dreamed of winning a specific case, and weeks later she did. She saw future clients in her dreams as well, and lo and behold, they walked through her office door within days. She had a rather disturbing dream about a client, a single mother, being beaten by her estranged husband the day before their scheduled appearance in divorce court. Rather than explain her dream to the client - and therefore rendering her position as an attorney less than credible - Madge invited the woman and her children to her home on Dane Street for dinner the night before the court date, plying the young lady with vodka until she was tipsy and forced to sleep over. Madge was convinced she saved the day, especially when the divorce was granted without incident.

She started to keep journals in order to detail her dreams, often wondering what strange cosmic occurrence had led to her sudden glimpses into the future. Had she been blessed with second sight after being spared the ravages of cancer? Or had she possessed the gift all along, only lying dormant until now? Whatever caused her visions, she was determined to put them to good use and - above all - pay close attention to their portents.

Madge knew there was a purpose to Noel's appearance in her dreams, now materializing in real time. With her typical practicality, Madge realized that fate had a way of playing itself out one way or another.



BLOODFROST ©Deidre Dalton. All rights reserved.

"Bloodfrost" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "Bloodfrost" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.