here are some people who will tell you that if you fall in a dream it's a bad thing. I'm not talking about a fall because you've twisted your knee or turned your ankle. I mean taking a dive off a high-rise building or stepping into an open elevator shaft on the twenty-fifth floor. The kind of descent that pretty much guarantees that if you do reach the bottom, you're not going to walk away. Hell, you're not even going to get up. And when you step over that ledge, you're filled with absolute terror, because there's no way you can change the outcome. And these people, whoever they are, will tell you that if you actually do reach the bottom in your dream, then in the waking world you're dead.
Really? How the fuck would anyone know?
I've had a few nightmares in which I've fallen, and it's a truly horrible sensation. I always wake up just as I'm going into free fall with my stomach behind my rib cage and my heart in my throat. I feel helpless and panicky both at the same time, and my limbs tremble as I try to catch my breath. But I've never reached bottom.
At least not yet.
I can't say for sure that I was dreaming about falling, but I woke in the grip of the same kind of anxiety, soaked in perspiration, tendrils of hair clinging to my neck and cheek, and my heart was pounding hard enough it had to be bruising my rib cage. But at least I wasn't dead. I also wasn't alone.
Sitting bolt upright in my bed, I took in a wild gasp of air, and stared at the wicker chair in the corner. Whatever I thought I'd seen was now gone, leaving behind an empty seat. The only immediate threat to my safety would be getting my foot tangled in the bed covers spilling onto the floor.
I shook my head, which, given the sudden pounding, was a bad idea. Lying back down, I put an arm over my eyes. This had to be the worst hangover ever. Easily a hundred times more awful than the one following the puke-fest my best friend Laycee put me through when I turned twenty-one. That particular episode had been bad enough to serve as a dire warning on the pitfalls of drinking tequila, but apparently I'd not heeded my own advice. So much for good intentions. I'd gotten so drunk I couldn't even remember drinking!
My tongue felt thick and fuzzy, and the nasty taste in my mouth said there was a good possibility I might have licked the living room carpet at some point. I swallowedâa tentative action that had my throat screaming and seemed to confirm the carpet-licking theory. Whatever I'd done, it was way worse than anything that had happened the night I celebrated my legal status.
Raising my arm, I opened my eyes a fraction and focused on the square of pale light dancing across the ceiling. It stretched almost to the far wall, which meant the sun was heading toward the horizon and I'd been asleep for most of the day. Of course, that might not have been so long depending on when I'd actually made it to bed.
In an effort to minimize the sloshing of my brain against the inside of my skull, I carefully turned my head and checked the clock on the bedside table. The bright red display read 5:05, and the small dot in the upper corner said it was definitely p.m. Yep, I'd slept all day, which only partially explained why I felt like shit. The rest of the blame was going squarely on the shoulders of Jose Cuervo and whomever he'd brought with him.
Dear God, please don't let me have done anything embarrassing, but if I did, don't let it be posted on Facebook.
The haze fogging my brain started to lift, and in its wake I was bombarded with a series of weird, fragmented images. Any hope of being allowed to recall the events of the last twenty-four hours in a manageable dose was blown right out the water. Taking a page from the sink-or-swim school of accountability, I got shoved in the deep end as everything came rushing back. Ignoring the pain in my head, I bolted for the bathroom.
Somewhere between crossing the threshold of my bedroom and falling to my knees before the porcelain goddess, my cerebral cortex exploded into a B-horror-movie nightmare. Kind of like
on steroids, but without the generous budget or teenage cast. As I bent over the toilet, it took a little while for my brain to remember I'd already expelled the contents of my stomach several hours before. If I continued to dry heave, I was going to rupture something.
Slowly I got to my feet and gripped the edge of the bathroom sink with both hands. The face looking back at me in the mirror almost had me falling down again.
Jesus H. Christâwas that me?
I'd aged ten years overnight. Forget about getting wasted on tequila; I looked like I needed a hospital bed, and a machine that gave a reassuring beep so I would know I was still alive. My face was drained of all color. Even my sun-kissed freckles looked washed out. Dark circles ringed my eyes, and there was something white and crusty caked at the corner of my mouth. The woman in the mirror stared back at me with accusing eyes.
How could you not have known?
She demanded in a shrill voice. I wasn't ill, and I most definitely was not hung over. It was much worse than that. Panic now threaded through me. Like a wisp of smoke that turns into a flame that becomes a fire, it threatened to run out of control. I took a step back, hitting my heel on the base of the bathtub. A shower seemed like a good idea. Pulling back the curtain, I stepped into the tub. I needed both hands to turn the faucet on, but once the water washed over me, it sluiced away my panic. Numbness took its place, and leaning my forehead against the fiberglass wall, I gave my aching body over to the shower's pulsating spray. It wasn't until I tasted salt on my lips that I realized I was crying. I didn't fight it. Instead I shut down what remained of my rational thought process and let the tears flow. God knows I was overdue for a sob-fest.
I have no idea how long I stood there. I wasn't consciously aware that the water temperature had changed from warm to freezing until the sound of my chattering teeth forced common sense to prevail. In all the years of its existence, I was pretty sure this was the first time the hot water tank had ever been emptied. Wearily I turned the faucet off and stepped out of the tub.
I didn't remember taking off my underwear, but obviously I had as my bra and panties lay in a soggy pile in the bottom of the tub. It was just as well, really, because my fingers were now so cold I doubt I could have managed the intricacies involved in unhooking a bra. I wrapped a towel around me, tucking the end between my breasts. Dealing with my hair was going to take more effort than I was currently capable of, so I simply ignored it. If I couldn't comb the tangles out later, then I'd cut them out. Satisfied with my problem-solving skills, I shambled back to my bedroom.
I was in shock. I knew this because my body's physical response was eerily reminiscent of my reaction on hearing my dad had died, and the state trooper who'd been with me at the time told me I was in shock. I had all the symptoms that were typical of a traumatized condition. Chills, erratic breathing, clammy skin. Who was I to argue with a state trooper?
My core temperature, already lowered by the cold shower, fell a little further, and I began to shake as if I was having a seizure. Curling up in a ball, I hugged my knees to my chest and waited for the spasms to pass.
My boyfriend is a vampire.
Oh . . . fuck . . .