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There's some stuff in this that could make sensitive readers a bit upset, so I want to give a heads up. I fictitiously used events that took place in the US in 2014 in this. Topics such as race, violence, war, religion, suicide, and rape are addressed. This is mature and contains sex scenes and harsh language.
And finally, though this probably doesn't need to be said:
©2017 Sue Baron
All rights reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
No part of this work may be reproduced or used in any way without prior consent of the author.
“I know you want to ask me if I need a donut, don’t deny it.”
Fiona only stared, trying hard not to drop the hazelnut macchiato she just topped off.
It was one thing to dream about people who came into the Purple Bear—who didn’t dream about their jobs?—but when those people said the exact thing to you in waking life…now, that went too far in her opinion.
She set the coffee down. “Wouldn’t that be a bit rude to say to an officer of the law?” Fiona tilted her head to the side and folded her arms over the swell of her breasts.
The words “West Virginia State Police” raised as his muscular shoulders lifted into a shrug. “Meh. I’ve heard worse.” A voice crackled over his radio. He grabbed the cup and headed for the door, throwing her a quick glance and tipping his wide-brimmed cap.
The barista watched until his dark blue and gold Chevy Impala disappeared then sat down on the stool behind the counter. It was the first time the state trooper said more than an order to her, and it went exactly like the dream.
“Just breathe, Fiona,” she mumbled to herself. “Merely an odd coincidence.”
“What’s that, Fi?” Jaime popped out from the kitchen. “Was that ‘Hot Cop’ I heard out here?”
She killed him with a cerulean look. For a month they had covertly admired the man.
“It was! Oh, how you’d love to take him out of that sexy forest green uniform. Hell, I wouldn’t mind taking him out of that uniform, but he’d probably shoot my ass. And not in the way I want, sadly.”
She gave him a sideways glance. Even after knowing him eight years, hearing her friend and boss lust after men was sometimes odd. Jaime Hess’s six-foot, muscular frame, and cropped blonde beard exuded masculinity; he never minded telling her how his picture could be found in the gay dictionary under “bear."
The pastry chef lightly punched her in the shoulder. “Damn. You’re shaking, Fi. Ya all right?” A blonde eyebrow raised in concern.
Fiona Albright inhaled, her titian-red ponytail bobbing. “Yeah. Yeah, of course!” She laughed. “It was the first time he said more than a coffee order to me. Made me all weak in the knees.”
“Getting all nervous schoolgirl on me? For shame!” Jaime shook his head and returned to the kitchen as a group of college-aged hipsters entered the shop. “Ohhh. Have fun! Looks like we’re gonna run out of soy milk.”
“You know they’d stop coming in here if you’d stop wearing flannel.” Jaime raised a hand above his head to flip her off. Fiona rolled her eyes. “Fucking hipsters. I fucking hate hipsters,” she said under her breath.
The sound of waves breaking met Fiona’s ears, but the fog was so thick, all she could see were varying shades of white: grayish-white sky above; pale pearl-white sand under her bare feet; foamy white waves breaking in front of her.
The warm water lapped up her bare legs as she moved forward. She closed her eyes with a moan as the gentle waves moved up her stomach. Then, like every night, she let the current pull her under.
A lush, walled garden surrounded her when she opened her eyes. Fiona turned around slowly, taking in the vibrant green of the leaves and the brightly colored flowers. Vermillion roses bordered the path she followed to a swing. She swung a moment, breathing in the fragrance of lilacs and gardenias.
“Mmm, Syringa vulgaris and Gardenia jasminoides,” she reminisced, the Latin names tumbling off her tongue with the same ease they had ten years prior. “If I only had made it to school for botany.” She sighed. “There’s something more for me here than just my favorite flowers, though,” she told herself, hopping from the wooden seat. She studied the forked path in front of her. “Let’s try right.”
Fiona didn’t think twice about how unusual her dream life was. Lucid dreams were her norm, though she kept the fact to herself. When people told her about their odd, sometimes frightening, dreams she couldn’t fathom not having control over her actions in her own. Luckily, not all of them end up overlapping the waking world.
She ended up at a white wrought iron bench, tucked her feet under herself, and picked up the leather-bound tome beside her. Though the language looked alien, her brain had no problem understanding the writing: an epic poem about two spirits in human form, brought together by a group of religious fanatics.
“Why is this so familiar?”
Fiona paused, suddenly feeling eyes on her. Her “hot cop” leaned against the stone wall in uniform pants and a white t-shirt, watching her. His musical chuckle bounced off the stone walls. “Caught me.” His amber eyes glinted playfully. “I do enjoy watching an intelligent woman read.” A corner of his full lips lifted. “You pout in the prettiest way when you do, Fiona.”
She closed the book, placing it carefully on the bench next to her. Her lips pursed, and her head tilted to study him. The slight cockiness in he way he held himself was annoyingly attractive. “I’ve had you in my dreams quite a bit lately. It’s a bit embarrassing, really, considering I don’t even know your name.”
He smiled as he walked toward her and knelt on one knee in front of the bench. “You do know my name. You made yourself forget.”
“Do I?” She bit her lip as she thought hard. “Why would I want to forget?” Her brow furrowed as she met his eyes.
He seemed at a loss for words. “Because forgetting was what you wanted. We both have, at times, but you managed it, somehow.” His gaze moved away from hers. “You’re the clever one. Sometimes, I think you like to make it difficult on me.” He gently grasped her hands; her fingertips tingled as he kissed them softly. “Let me help you remember. My name is Gabriel. Gabe, preferably.”
Fiona laughed. “Gabe, of course! What else have I forgotten?”
Gabe sighed, bowing his head. “So very much, Fiona. But you need to remember and soon. It’s gotten bad. We’ve let it go too long.” He stood up, releasing her hands. “We’ll talk soon, though. There’s not enough time right now. We both need to go to work.” He walked away.
Fiona snapped awake and glanced at the clock. “Time to go make lattes. Yay.”
The afternoon proved painfully slow. Jamie used the downtime to meticulously scrub the already spotless kitchen. A lone patron sat in the back typing furiously on a laptop. Fiona entertained herself with the latest Terry Pratchett book, pausing at times to mourn the author's recent death.
She took pause as the nagging feeling of being watched crept over her. The barista nearly fell off the stool as she met the trooper’s silent gaze.
“Jesus H. Christ! I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you come in, um…” Fiona struggled to make out the name on his uniform.
“Trooper LaCroix. Gabriel. Gabe, preferably.”
Let me help you remember. My name is Gabriel. Gabe, preferably. She swallowed hard, her dream dropping piece by piece into her brain. “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long, Gabe.” Her heart skipped.
Gabe’s golden brown eyes met hers. “It’s no problem. I’ve always enjoyed watching an intelligent woman read. Fiona, right? You pout in the prettiest way when you do.”
Her lips managed half a smile. “Thank you.”
He only nodded in response, his almond-shaped eyes holding hers.
“The usual then?” Fiona turned, trying to hide her mix of anxiety and confusion. “Hazelnut macchiato with grass-fed cow’s milk on its way.” She could feel his eyes on her back.
“You know I like it natural.”
She handed him the cup with a soft smile, half of her wanting to run. “There ya go, Gabe.”
“Thanks. Talk to you soon, Fiona.”
As soon as his uniformed back was out of sight, she ran into the bathroom. Up came her lunch and then the breakfast before it. Life had gotten way too weird for her stomach to handle.
Fiona sighed and listened to the waves break around her. A canopy bed on a tropical beach. What could be better than this?
Gabe’s uniformed figure slid onto bed next to her. He said nothing but kissed her neck and moved down to her breasts. She sighed as his tongue slid around one hard nipple and his fingers played gently with the other. Her hips bucked towards him, the fabric of his uniform teasing her nude skin. “Gabe.”
Her hands moved to the buttons of his uniform, fumbling and tearing at them. She slid her hand into the shirt and pressed it against his chest, feeling the steady thump-thump of his heart. She brought her eyes to his. “I missed you, Gabe.”
He laughed deep in his throat. “Now you’re remembering.” He worked his way down her stomach, tenderly nipping the delicate skin one moment then kissing it the next. He stopped right before the coarse, red trail leading to her womanhood and nuzzled the spot with the tip of his nose. “I like that you’ve left some proof.”
“I know you like it natural,” she breathed, carefully tracing the lines of his widow’s peak. Her fingers moved up, teasing the short raven black hairs of his crew cut.
Gabe glanced up at her one more time before turning his attention between her thighs. His fingers pressed into her backside, holding her fast to his mouth.
Fiona’s back arched as his tongue found the most sensitive spot. “Fuck, Gabe.” She dug her fingernails into his shoulders, holding him in place until the waves of pleasure ebbed. Her head lulled to the side and her blue-green eyes closed with a moan.
She felt Gabe move back up her body. Cool palms cradled her flushed cheeks; Fiona tasted herself on his lips as he kissed hers. His warm breath tickled as his lips brushed against her ear next. “Please remember soon, Fiona. It’s getting bad.”
She inhaled deeply, enjoying the smooth scent of sandalwood on him. “I don’t understand,” she answered sleepily.
“I know you don’t.” He exhaled heavily. He kissed her forehead before he left.
Fiona opened her heavy eyelids to find herself in her own bedroom. The best parts of her dream came back to her as she hugged herself. Gabe in that uniform. His fragrance. This infatuation. Her fingers took on a life of their own as they moved over her body.
It wasn’t that she particularly enjoyed the activity nor was it the way she wanted to spend her day off. This is self-flagellation. You deserve this, she lectured as her sneakers pounded the trail. Her face burned as she recalled waking up in sheets soaked with sweat and reeking of pleasure. You’ve got to stop thinking of that man.
Running in the park didn’t prove to be such a horrible reprimand; she found it soothing despite herself. Bright green leaves had begun to cover the naked limbs of maples, oaks, and birches. Brilliant yellow daffodils and a rainbow of pansies bloomed in the warm West Virginia spring. Children’s laughter echoed from a far-off swing set. Gabe's tall frame held downward dog among a group doing yoga in the park.
Fiona tripped, loudly yelping, “Fuck!”
The yogis turned as one. Gabe popped out of the pose and trotted over to her. “Fiona.” He knelt next to her. “Are you okay?”
She pulled herself up as Gabe laid a hand on her shoulder. “Yeah. I—” She cradled her head as a shooting pain ran behind her eyes. “Mebbe not.” The world narrowed to a pinpoint as she fell forward into his arms.
A nude Fiona tugged at the chain holding her to the stone wall then glanced at Gabe; the antler tattoos running up his arms and chest glistened with sweat in the flickering torchlight. He nodded, making the chain attached to his collar rattle. As one, their heads moved in the direction of the robed men in front of them. Fiona growled and lunged forward, hitting one priest with a left hook that knocked him to the ground. She bared her pearl-white teeth and laughed.
Gabe’s laugh shook him. “You cannot tame us, idiots. We are not here to do your bidding.” Though his voice was smoky, the guttural language made the warning ominous. He spat, hitting another priest in the face.
The robed man kicked Gabriel hard enough to halt the laughter and take his breath away. The captive coughed and spat a gob of blood on the damp stone floor.
Fiona knelt next to her consort and petted his dark, cropped hair. “We are not here to do your bidding. You do not know what you ask,” she growled, glancing up at her captors.
“We know exactly what we ask,” came a gruff voice from under a hood. “We called upon you. You are ours. You will destroy our enemy.”
The captives heads turned toward one another slowly.
The priests didn’t understand their smiles.
“We were fierce, weren’t we?”
The other Fiona sighed. “You do enjoy invading my dreams, don’t you?” She studied the pair in front of her; the Fiona and Gabriel before her were feral-eyed and filthy and radiated an ancient aura despite their youthful faces. She pursed her pink lips and turned her gaze toward modern-day Gabe.
“No, but it’s the only way to help you remember. If I said the things to you in the waking world, you would think I’m crazy.” His eyes moved to the collared pair. “This isn’t a dream, though.” She let him take her hand. “This is a memory.”
“You will destroy our enemies, slaves!”
Fiona took in the scene. One robed man swung a censer on a chain, spreading sickeningly sweet smoke throughout the cell. The others formed a half circle around the pair and began chanting in the harsh language.
“They had no idea what we are,” Fiona stated.
Gabe grinned. “They hadn’t a clue.”
The Fiona of memory tilted her head. “Destroy their enemies, they ask.” A finger moved down between her consort's well-defined pectoral muscles. “What say you, lover?”
Gabriel traced his tongue along the green vines and vermillion roses tattooed on Fiona’s shoulders and chest. “I say we give them what they want. We are their slaves.” His hands lifted her by the hips and slipped her down onto his hard manhood. He bit his lip and moaned as his lover slid up and down slowly. “Tell them,” he ordered, ruddy light glimmering in his tawny eyes.
Fiona reached out and yanked the closest cleric toward her. She held the stunned man’s ear close to her lips and licked his earlobe. “We don’t just destroy your enemies. We destroy this entire world,” the redhead whispered breathlessly before roughly throwing him up against the stone.
The man sat stunned as realization dawned on him. “Stop! Stop them!” he screamed frantically, crawling toward them. His shaking hand grabbed at Fiona; she backhanded him with all her might, sending him reeling.
The chanting ceased as his fellow priests stared at him.
“Pull them apart! They’ll kill us all!” His hood fell as he struggled to his feet. Firelight flickered in his frenzied eyes as they turned toward the copulating pair.
Clerics moved, but it was too late. Fiona’s vine-covered back arched, and Gabe dug his fingers into her hips. A flash of blood-red light filled the room as they orgasmed in unison.
Fiona jumped. “I forgot how intense it is!”
Gabe released an amused hmm and squeezed her thigh. “You have forgotten a lot, but it seems to be coming back. Try hard to remember.” He rose and walked from her.
“Wait, Gabe! Where are you going?”
He turned to her. “Wake up and we’ll talk.”
Fiona growled in the back of her throat as she awoke, the memory of the dream fading as she rubbed her eyes. She stretched her arms high above her head before rising to water the String-of-pearls and Dicondra Silver Falls plants that hung in front of the bedroom windows.
She next pulled her long, thick hair into a messy bun and threw on her favorite pair of cotton panties and cami. She purred, giving herself the once over in her vanity mirror. Her eyes ran over the moss-green vines and vermillion roses decorating her shoulders and chest.
Why do I feel like I’m forgetting something?
She shrugged the feeling off. “Let Operation Day-Off-Comfy-Fi begin.”
Comfort is a mystery, crawling out of my own skin…The song lyrics always seem to invade her mind when she least expected them. Damn you, Maynard James Keenan. She pouted and stepped into the hallway. Her brain never forgot her true feelings toward life, but she couldn't say she enjoyed the reminders it liked giving her.
Her bare feet automatically lead her to the coffee pot, which she found empty. “I know I set this last night. What the he—
“Fuck,” she uttered softly, noticing an oddly comfortable-looking Gabe napping on her tan suede couch. Her morning run came back like a boomerang to the face.
She tried her damnedest not to overtly stare at him in the Purple Bear, so, after quietly starting a pot of coffee, she turned to study him as he slept. One well-muscled arm draped over his head blocking the sun coming through the living room window; she could see the black ink of a tattoo peek from his sleeve but couldn’t quite make the design out. Maybe tribal? Her eyes moved up to his heart-shaped face, trying to figure out his ethnicity, but his features seemed strangely exotic in places: an alluring mix of Italian, Native American, and something she couldn’t quite come up with. Polish? French? Oh well, easy to look at in any case. She scanned down the six-foot-three body and bit her lip. “Mmm. You are gorgeous, Gabriel LaCroix.” She bit her thumb, trying unsuccessfully not to think about the night’s dream.
“How’re you feeling, Fiona?”
The smoky voice jolted Fiona from her reverie. “I was fine until the heart attack you just gave me.” He snorted in amusement pulling himself upright. “Thank you for helping me home”—a tinge of embarrassment gave her pause before saying his name—“Gabe.”
Gabe shrugged, his amber eyes meeting hers with an unspoken question.
The unsaid query tugged at Fiona’s brain. What the hell else does he expect me to say? Those eyes of his—the color of a hawk’s. She chewed on the inside of her cheek and turned toward the coffee pot. “Coffee,” she stated more than asked, pouring it into two mugs. “It’s not your usual, but I do have—”
A sharp exhalation left her as she set the carafe down. “I get the feeling you expect something of me, but I don’t, for the life of me, know what that would be.” A newspaper headline grabbed her attention as she turned back to him: “200 Dead in Multiple Suicide Bombings.” A lock of bright red-brown hair fell into her eye as she shook her head. “This world…” she mumbled.
Undeniable mischief flashed across his handsome face. “Do you not remember our, um, nocturnal meetings?”
Blood burned her cheeks as she moved her eyes to the floor.
“Ah, I thought so. I knew you’d remember the dreams, especially last night’s. Let me guess, you were running to punish yourself. You always enjoy a little flagellation—” he moved to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of cream—“though self-flagellation in the form of cardio is new.” He poured some into both mugs and moved back to the couch with his.
Fiona remained frozen a moment then threw the newspaper at him, half hoping to inflict a vicious paper cut. “You talk as if you’ve known me forever.” She paused as another headline caught her attention: “Student Admits to Frat Rape Lie.” “What the hell is wrong with people…” she breathed, with an uncomfortable shiver.
He mumbled something she couldn’t make out, folded the newspaper, and placed it on the cherry coffee table.
Fiona grabbed her coffee and sat on the other end of the couch. “Well, enigmatic statements are wonderful, but how’d you get into my apartment? More importantly, how do you know where I live?” Before he could answer, she shot “Most importantly—now that I think about it—should you have let me go to sleep with a head injury?” at him.
He sipped his coffee. “Your key and ID were in that little hidden pocket they put in gym shorts, but, being a cop, I can find out someone’s address if I have to. You didn’t hit your head, though.” He set the mug on a coaster. “But your hands and knees are a little worse for wear.” He paused. “And I have known you forever,” he added quietly.
A frustrated groan drowned out his last statement as she noticed the fresh red scrapes on her palms. “Wait, no. I must have hit my head, too. I blacked out.”
Uncomfortable embarrassment spread over Gabe’s features. “You passed out when I touched your shoulder.”
Great, Fi! All those years living rough and this is the time you weren’t vigilant. Good job! Her brain scrambled for a logical answer as her eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Did-did you slip me something? Honestly, I have been in worse situations and I’m—”
“What?” She thought she noticed hurt in his eyes as he cut her off. “No. Fuck no.” He threw his hands up then quickly calmed himself. “It must have been, well, I think, it was my touch. Then we shared a memory.” He met her eyes expectantly.
She met the amber orbs as parts of her dream returned: saccharine sweet smoke, chanting priests, wild-eyed versions of herself and Gabe chained to a wall. “This isn’t a dream, though. It’s a memory.”
“Mmm, a dungeon? Creepy clerics? You and I chained to a wall? The world going red?”
Coffee spilled over the rim of the mug as her heart lurched. She quickly set the mug down with trembling hands.
“You do then.” He took a long drink of his coffee. “I should’ve known this would take some time. You threatened to forget so many times.”
Fiona pinched the bridge of her nose and shook her head slowly from side to side. “Forget? What exactly do I need to remember?”
“Who you are. What we have to do.” He sighed. “It’s time. We can’t deny it.”
“And who am I?" “Mother Convicted in Infant Drowning Death.” Christ sakes, she thought. Why am I noticing all the worst headlines today? “Besides the best barista in Randolph County, West by-god Virginia?”
Gabe tilted his head and lifted an eyebrow with a half-smile. “We created this world, Fiona, and now we have to destroy it.”
Her eyebrows raised as she guffawed. “How exactly did you get into the police, Gabriel LaCroix, with you being bat-shit insane and all?” She stood up and walked back to the counter.
“If you think I’m crazy,” he started softly, “then why aren’t you frightened? For the most part, I’m a stranger, but you poured me coffee and sat down next to me as if I’m an old friend. You must remember something—maybe deep down—or you wouldn't be so comfortable being half-clothed in front of me.” He paused seeming to chew over something. “Especially with things that have happened in your past.”
She stomped over in front of him then crossed her arms over her breasts, suddenly aware of her lack of coverage. “What exactly would you know of it?” She shuddered as her adopted brother’s lecherous grin flashed across her mind.
Gabe rested his elbows on his thighs and rubbed his face in his hands. “You had to make this difficult. Damn it,” he grumbled, flexing his long fingers. “I have a feeling I’m going to royally screw this up, but you know there’s something different about you. You’ve know for a very long time. You’re never felt like you’ve fit into this world. I know. Others feel it, too. The way people look at you sometimes. The odd expressions. Not everyone, obviously, but Justin felt it. What he did—” He ducked as Fiona threw a left hook; she stared at him in surprise. “That’s the first time you ever missed with one of those. I remembered for once.”
She slapped the self-satisfied expression from his face with the other hand, wobbling as a stab of pain blurred her vision. She closed her eyes, suddenly sensitive to the sunlight brightening the room. “Don’t you dare vindicate that bastard. Good reason to rape me. I’m fucking special,” she spat opening her eyes.
Gabe moved his jaw back and forth, recovering from the blow. “I’m not justifying it—fuck that hurt—he—”
“Please leave now, Gabe.” Fiona tried in vain to avoid his amber eyes.
The man drained his coffee and stood up. “I went about this completely wrong, but I never claimed to be the smart one here. Things are coming back to you.” He glanced at the newspaper as he walked past her. “You’re noticing things you never noticed before.” She heard him pause at the table by the door and scratch something on the pad of paper there. “You’ll want to know more soon.” The door opened and closed quietly as he left.
Fiona curled herself into a ball on the couch, her head throbbing with her pulse. Memories of her brother and parents reared as she squeezed her eyes shut. “Dammit. Crazy bastard. Special.” She inhaled deeply, trying to calm the migraine, and cursed at the pleasant, earthy musk filling her nostrils. “Of course you would smell like Gabe now, couch. Thanks for nothing.”