by Rebecca York
Fast asleep, Catherine Emerson rolled to her side and snuggled
deeper under the covers. A moment later, she was caught in the web of a
Yet there shouldn’t be anything sensual about this place, she
thought. She was standing on the flagstone patio behind the vacation
cottage her mom had owned long ago. It was rich with good memories, and
she was surprised and happy to be back in one of the golden summers of her
The scene was slightly out of focus, and she blinked trying to
clear her vision. She stepped off the edge of the patio and dug her bare
toes into the sandy soil, then rolled her shoulders, feeling her breasts
move under the light cotton gown she’d worn to bed.
Why was she in her gown? And why could she hear the ocean? It was
too far away, wasn’t it? Regardless, the power of the sea, the waves
crashing on the beach, called to her. She wanted to throw off her gown and
plunge naked into the surf.
Eagerly, she started toward the water.
Yet she never reached it.
As she hurried across the sand, the scenery swirled and changed
around her. Somehow she was in a lush garden where three-shaded paths
wound between blooming pink and red azaleas. It was designed to look
natural, but she could see that the little oasis had been carefully
A little breeze sprang up, its cold fingers walking across her
skin, tightening her nipples to hard points and making her wish she was
wearing something more substantial than the light gown. Mist rose from the
ground, obscuring the shapes of the trees and shrubs and confusing her
sense of direction.
She spun around, a spurt of panic overtaking her. She could feel
the fog reaching for her with cold tendrils like ghostly fingers, cutting
her off from everything safe and familiar. There was danger here, hidden
in the white vapor.
And she knew what that danger was—the man who had been disturbing
her sleep for a week.
She had heard him calling to her. Heard him say he needed her,
needed her desperately—that he was trapped in a nightmare and only she
could set him free.
She had tried to tell herself that his voice was an illusion, a
product of her overactive imagination.
“If you’re real, let me see you.”
“I can’t. Not yet.”
“I need your strength. I need you to step across the gap between
“How? How did you find me.”
“With my mind.”
“That’s not possible.”
“I wasn’t sure it would be, either, but it seems I’ve managed
it. I can only do part of it, though. You have to meet me halfway.”
Their conversation had been the same each of the past six nights.
She always woke feeling frustrated, as though the dream had betrayed her.
Well, that was right in
line with the rest of her life, wasn’t it?
She had hit bottom. She hadn’t worked in two months, and running
out of money wasn’t the only thing that had her biting her nails,
figuratively and literally. She was a nurse. Helping people had always
been a big part of her life. It was part of who she was, and without it,
she felt lost, as if she wasn’t quite sure who or what she was.
Maybe that was the reason she was having dreams about a man who
needed her. A man who called out to her in the night. A man who told her
he was in grave danger, and she alone could help him.
It was a good theory, but she knew deep down it wasn’t true. She
hadn’t invented this guy. He was real. Yet how could he be? How could he
be calling to her when she didn’t know who or where he was, or even his
In the distance, a welcoming light shimmered through the fog. With
a sigh of relief, she hurried toward it. As she drew nearer, she saw that
the warm glow was spilling from the door and windows of a small white and
green bungalow, set amidst the lush foliage.
“Hello?” she called but got no answer. “Is anybody home?”
No one responded, and she became uncertain. She stopped in the open
doorway of the cottage, her eyes widening as she looked around. It had
appeared to be a humble little cottage, but the interior was
magnificent—like something from a more opulent, former century. A rich
Oriental rug covered the floor. Logs crackled invitingly in a stone
fireplace. Filigreed lamps glowed in the corners of the room, and the
furniture was all soft fabric and dark wood.
Who lived here? And why on earth would she be dreaming about such a
place. . . ?
Marcus felt his chest tighten. He had called out to Catherine,
asked her to come to him here, and she had. She’d finally broken through
the barrier of her own disbelief—because she had wanted it enough. At
least, he hoped that was the reason she’d come.
He remained still in
the shadows, watching her look around the sumptuous room he had
constructed for her pleasure.
His hands clenched on the carved wooden arm of his chair. He needed
her, and he didn’t like feeling dependent. Since reaching adulthood, he
had tried to live his life so that he needed no one. It had worked out
very well for years. But at the moment, it wasn’t working at all.
He’d gotten himself into a hell of a fix.
Catherine Emerson was his last, best hope.
Catherine. He whispered her name—but only in his mind. His
pulse beat faster as he looked at her, taking in details that had only
been hazy until now. Her
figure was nicely curved beneath the gossamer gown she wore. Her
shoulder-length hair was a rich chestnut, and her large brown eyes were
fringed by dark lashes. Her expression was wary—but he understood why.
She was in a strange place, caught by circumstances beyond her experience.
She wasn’t tall. Perhaps about five feet five. She looked small
and feminine. Well, actually—he’d describe her breasts more as
magnificent than small, which only emphasized her femininity and made the
rest of her slender form look nearly fragile.
He knew, though, that she possessed an inner strength. A strength
he hoped he could count on. If
she would lend it to him.
Text Copyright Ruth Glick 2004
Website Copyright ImaJinn Books 2007