In my reality in my drea.., p.4
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       In My Reality (In My Dreams Book 2), p.4

           Cameo Renae
 
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  The sun was starting to set as I opened my eyes. How long had I slept?

  I glanced at the clock, and it was almost six o’clock in the evening. Laughter and music echoed up the stairs, and I wondered why Em hadn’t woken me up. Stretching my limbs, I eventually rolled my legs off the bed and sat up. I felt rested and thankful for the nap.

  The smell of meat and spices drifted up the stairs to my bedroom, making my mouth water and my stomach growl. Emily had told me about Tyler’s cooking skills, so he must have whipped something up. His abilities in the kitchen were a positive, because Em could burn water, she was such a bad cook.

  I quickly dug through my suitcase and pulled out my makeup bag, a pair of blue jeans, and a white top with an owl printed on it. I popped the tags, then headed for the bathroom. After deciding to keep my hair down, I slipped into my clothes and quickly applied the makeup.

  I still hated the stuff, but it did help make me look more presentable. And since there were going to be a bunch of college students I’d never met before, I wanted to make a good first impression—for both mine and Emily’s sakes.

  Standing in front of the mirror, I could feel my anxiety growing. People. Small talk. Alcohol. Fire. It all spelled disaster. But they had these kinds of parties all the time. Emily said they were fun, and not nearly as wild as most people painted it. My heart thrummed, and my stomach twisted, so I tried to take in a deep breath and keep my cool.

  I wasn’t going to have an anxiety attack. I was going to socialize for a bit with Tyler and Em, then come back. Thinking about it like that helped a little. Before my mind could paint any worse scenarios, I left the bathroom and headed toward the smell of food.

  As I walked into the kitchen, I caught Tyler holding Emily in his arms, bending her backward, devouring her mouth. Awkward.

  I was just about to turn around when he lifted her back, and Emily’s eyes opened, catching me.

  “Hey, you,” she said, wiping the wet from her lips. “Sorry about that. Tyler was thanking me for cutting the vegetables so nicely.”

  Tyler turned to me and shrugged, and we all laughed.

  “I was getting worried he’d suck the life out of you.”

  Emily gasped. “That’s what you should be for Halloween. A life-sucking vampire. You’ve got the beautiful part down,” she said, disarranging the top of his blond hair.

  “Hey, don’t touch the do.” Tyler brushed his fingers through his hair, attempting to reshape it, before turning to stir vegetables in a pan.

  “The messier, the better,” Em said, squeezing his butt. He turned and shook his head, then leaned over and gave her a quick peck on the lips.

  They were so adorable it made me sick. Well, not really sick, but they were so perfect for each other. It’s funny how something so good and beautiful could come from something so devastating and tragic.

  Dinner was delicious. Tyler made roast beef with mashed potatoes, sautéed veggies, and gravy. We sat on barstools at their kitchen island and ate on paper plates because Emily didn’t want to do dishes. Apparently, their dishwasher was broken, and they were waiting for the repair guy to come and fix it.

  “So how was your walk today?” Tyler asked, striking up a conversation.

  “The views on the trail were breathtaking, and everyone here seems so friendly.”

  “That’s because they get tons of vitamin D,” Emily stated, shoving a piece of broccoli into her mouth. “No depression in a state with tons of sunshine.”

  “Yeah, no kidding.” I giggled. “It doesn’t help that I keep my blackout curtains up all winter.”

  “Lizzy, as a nurse in training, I’m prescribing you a week of fun in the sun. And parties at night,” she noted, wiggling her brows with a sly grin.

  Tyler shook his head. “And I’ll make sure she doesn’t drag you to the dark side.”

  “Thanks, Tyler.”

  “Yeah, wait until he introduces you to his friends. Then, you’ll be thanking me.”

  Tyler turned to her with narrowed eyes. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

  “It means you have good-looking friends, babe. But, don’t worry,” she said, grabbing the sides of his face and pulling him in for a kiss. “I’m yours, and no one could ever sway me. Besides, your friends seem really nice, and I only want nice people around my bestie.”

  Tyler agreed and helped clear the table. I stood to take my plate to the trash and Emily held her hand out. “No, you don’t. This week, you are our guest. No work for you missy. This week is all about relaxation and play.”

  “Relaxation?” Tyler laughed and turned to me. “Have you seen her calendar? The upcoming week looks like a damn unicorn vomited all over it. There are so many colors for all the activities she has planned. I had to take a freaking nap after reading the first few days.”

  “Ha-ha,” Emily exaggerated, rolling her eyes.

  “I’m here because of you, and you know me best,” I soothed. “I’ll let you decide. This week, I’m at your mercy.”

  Tyler gave me a side eye. “Are you sure you’re in your right mind?”

  “I am,” I smiled. “I’m in a new place and will do whatever you guys think will be fun.”

  Emily’s smile widened. She rubbed her hands together. “Then it’s settled. First thing’s first, you might want to grab a sweater before we leave.”

  “Seriously? I’m from Alaska. I’m baking in this weather.”

  “You’re right. I had a brain fart. I’ve adjusted to the weather here over the past three years. The cool breezes at night give me a chill.”

  As we walked toward the beach, I could feel a buzz in the air. It was a mixture of excitement and apprehension. The sun had set, and the moon and stars freckled the night sky. Music carried on the breeze, making Tyler bounce with each step.

  “My baby’s got some swagger.” Em giggled.

  “Oh, you have no idea. Wait until we get to the beach. I’ll totally embarrass you.”

  “No!” Emily squeaked. “Don’t. Please. My classmates will be there.”

  “Don’t worry about it, babe. They’ll totally think I’m cool.”

  “Or a complete goof.”

  Tyler turned to me. “What would Michael do if he were here?”

  “Tyler,” Emily warned, giving him a look.

  “No, it’s totally fine.” I was glad I wasn’t the only one who still thought about him. Having Tyler say his name in a normal conversation was nice. It kept his memory alive. “You know Michael. He’d totally embarrass me. But I wouldn’t mind, because it was one of the many qualities I loved most about him. Time is short, so live in the moment, and don’t worry what people think.”

  “Thanks for the guilt trip,” Emily said, throwing her arm around my shoulder.

  “Anytime.” I shot her a wink.

  The beach was filled with about a hundred people—much less than I expected. Three bonfires were spread out across the shore, with dozens of bodies hovering around each one. Boisterous laughter and loud chatter filled the air, while a giant boombox with speakers blasted music. As I looked around, I noticed that almost every person had a smile on their face.

  This place wasn’t as bad as I imagined, and I could slowly feel my anxiety subside as Emily took me by the arm and led me onto the sand. Tyler trudged ahead toward a group of people to the far left, where a few guys were waving and calling his name.

  Emily leaned in close. “The Pierce twins from next door are there. I’ll introduce you.”

  And there went my anxiety. I didn’t argue because, at this point, my words were worthless.

  When we arrived at the group, all eyes were on us. I quickly counted eighteen bodies around the fire. Five girls, who were obviously hooked up with the guys on, or in, their arms.

  “Hey, man,” a tall, good-looking guy said, walking up to Tyler, handing him a bottle of beer. When the guy turned, his eyes caught mine, and a smile lifted the corners of his lips. “You must be Lizzy,” he said, holding out his hand.
r />   Emily pushed me forward, and I stumbled, nearly falling, but the stranger caught me. I found myself pressed against his tall frame, wrapped in his arms, my face against his chest. His musky scent wrapped around me, and when I looked up, his light brown eyes were on mine. His hair was a golden brown, and disheveled, just like Michael’s used to be.

  “It’s nice to meet you,” he said, his smile widened. “I’m Liam.”

  I pushed back, stepping out from his arms.

  “It’s nice to meet you, Liam. I’m so sorry,” I said, glancing back to Emily, thoroughly embarrassed.

  “Sorry,” Emily mouthed.

  “Don't apologize. It was the perfect introduction.” Liam laughed.

  Another guy turned and stepped next to him. He had the exact same face, and his smile was just as wide. The Pierce twins.

  “Hey, Lizzy,” he said thrusting his hand out. “I’m Logan. As in Wolverine.”

  “God, you’re such a damn nerd.” Liam punched his brother in the arm.

  “What? Chicks like the Wolverine, don’t they?” Logan winked at me.

  “I guess,” I shrugged. “I prefer Cyclops,” I winked at Liam, “but Wolverine comes in a close second.”

  The group erupted into a din of hoots and hollering at my burn.

  “Damn! She told you,” Liam teased, putting his arm around me. “I knew she was smart the second I met her.”

  Logan shook his head and put his hand out again. “Good one, Lizzy. I probably deserved that.” When I gave him my hand, he leaned forward and pressed his warm lips against the back of it.

  The Pierce brothers were tall, handsome, and very charming. I wondered why they didn’t have girls hanging on their arms.

  “So how long are you visiting?” Liam asked, letting me go to grab me a beer.

  “For a week,” I replied.

  “And you come from Alaska? I’ve always wanted to visit there. My brother and I like to watch all those Alaskan shows. It must be an amazing place.”

  I couldn’t believe how awkward I felt. It had been so long since I’d had a conversation with a guy. A cute guy.

  “It has its ups and downs.”

  “Yeah, so we’ve heard,” Logan said, bumping arms with Tyler.

  “Come on, guys, I’ll introduce you to the rest of the gang,” Liam said, waving us over.

  Emily grabbed my arm and whispered in my ear, “Aren’t they cool?”

  “Yeah, okay. I’ll give you that much.”

  “It looks like you could have your choice of either. Being that their identical, I guess it wouldn’t really matter. Any choice would be a good one.”

  “Em,” I grumbled.

  She raised her hands in the air. “No pressure.”

  I rolled my eyes as Tyler grabbed her hand.

  Liam and Logan introduced us to everyone in their group. Halfway through, a guy walked up to the cooler, grabbed a beer, and whispered to Logan, creepily eyeing me up and down. He was tall and skinny, and looked as if he hadn’t lifted a weight in his life. His hair was a dirty blond and unwashed. He wore an old t-shirt and faded jeans. His eyes could have been blue or green, but were bloodshot.

  “Lizzy, this is a friend of mine. His name is Anthony, also known as Antman,” Logan introduced.

  “Hey,” I said, lifting my hand, gesturing a wave and feeling a bit awkward.

  Anthony smiled, and I shivered under his stare, catching an entirely weird vibe. A vibe that made me want to turn around and walk away.

  “It’s nice to meet you,” he said with a raspy, southern accent, extending his hand.

  I didn’t want to take it, but I didn’t want to be rude either. He was Logan’s friend, and Logan was a friend of Emily and Tyler. So, I decided to be nice and reluctantly shook his hand…which was dry and rough. As his fingers tightened, I pulled my hand back and tucked it in my pockets. He winked and said, “Catch ya later.”

  Another shiver ran down my spine, as this guy reminded me too much of Buck.

  I turned to Logan, and he quickly shook Antman’s hand and continued the introductions.

  Liam glared at his brother, leading him off to the side for a quiet, yet heated discussion. I wish I could have heard what they were saying above the music and chatter of the people around us.

  Somehow, after many introductions and a few beers, I ended up sitting on a beach chair wedged between Liam and Logan. Emily and Tyler sat diagonal from us, and every time I looked through the flames at her, she was watching with high expectation. If I could have rolled my eyes, I would have; but I had to admit, the Pierce brothers weren’t that bad.

  I quickly realized that although the twins looked exactly alike, their personalities were polar opposites. Liam was laid back and very careful with his words, while Logan was a chatterbox and a no-holds-barred kind of guy.

  Within thirty minutes of talking to Logan, I learned about their childhood, how he gave Liam a black eye, how he broke his arm at the age of six from falling out of a tree, that their parents were successful business owners, and that he and Liam went to private schools growing up.

  Both were studying business, but Logan chose college in California because he loved the beach and surfing.

  Liam asked a lot of questions about Alaska and what it was like living there. It was a place he wanted to visit, and supposedly at the top of his bucket list.

  When I had the chance to speak, they were both engrossed in what I was saying. It made me feel a bit uncomfortable because I hadn’t had this much attention in years. Particularly from the opposite sex…ones that were alive anyhow.

  As I was listening to Logan talk about how he ate an entire carton of ice cream in ten minutes, a cold breeze rushed over my skin. It could only mean one thing. There was a spirit nearby.

  Trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible, my eyes roamed the beach.

  Beyond the sparks and the flames of the bonfire, standing knee-deep in the crashing waves, was a girl. She was college-aged and wore a light-colored summer dress that was torn and tattered; her wet hair hung well below her shoulders. I knew it was a spirit because her eyes were like two balls of light staring directly at me. No matter how many times I’d experienced spirits, they still scared me.

  I stood and excused myself, right in the middle of another one of Logan’s stories. He didn’t seem too thrilled, but Liam laughed, thinking it was funny.

  I had to go. If I didn’t address the situation, the scary looking spirit would follow me, and I didn’t want her standing over me as I slept. Plus, I needed a break from all the attention. I felt smothered, like a fish out of water, and needed some fresh air.

  Emily stood and was at my side in a few seconds. “What’s wrong?”

  “Would you like to walk with me down by the water?” I asked.

  “In the dark?” she asked, her face a little twisted. “Why?”

  Giving her a serious look, I whispered, “Because it’s something I’ve never done and would like to experience on my first day.”

  She stared at me. “All right. Whatever you want. This is your vacation.”

  I linked my arm around hers and led her down to the water. When we were out of hearing range of the others, she stopped me.

  “What’s going on, Lizzy?”

  We were standing on the shore, about ten feet from the spirit. To say I wasn’t terrified would be a lie. She looked like one of those freaky spirits from a horror film. The kind that bent over backward and crawled on walls.

  I pulled Emily closer, glad she was with me. “Did a girl recently drown here?”

  “Oh shit. Don’t tell me…” She clawed at my arm and frantically looked around.

  “Yea, there’s a spirit right there, standing in the water.” I gestured. “She looks like she drowned.”

  “Oh my God. I can’t be here,” she said, moving behind me. “Are you sure she’s dead?”

  “Positive.”

  “Lizzy, you’re freaking me out.”

  I turned to her and narrowed my ey
es. “Em, you have no idea. I have to deal with this all the time…alone. You’re lucky I’m the one who can see the dead girl, whose eyes just happen to be glowing through her drenched hair and strands of seaweed.”

  Emily pressed her palms against her ears. “Oh, please stop. Don’t tell me. I’ll have nightmares for months.”

  I exhaled loudly. “Welcome to my world.”

  I took a step forward, my toes sinking into the wet sand. The cold waves gently rolled back and forth over my feet, but the water wasn’t as cold as the chill the spirit emitted.

  “Why are you here?” I asked the girl.

  “What happened to me? Where’s Nick?” she answered.

  Her body hovered over the waves, nearing me.

  “I’m not sure what happened,” I replied, scrunching my face in sympathy. I always hated when a spirit hadn’t figured out it was dead. “But you must have had some kind of accident because you are no longer living.”

  The spirit’s eyes grew wide, “No!” she wailed as a larger wave crashed on the shore, soaking me up to mid-calf. Emily jumped back, just beyond its reach.

  “I can’t be dead,” she said between sobs. “What happened to me?”

  The spirit melded into the backdrop, then reappeared inches from my face. I gasped, subduing a scream; my heart nearly exploding from my chest. Freaking ghost, almost gave me a heart attack.

  I just had to remember she wanted answers. She was lost, just like Annie had been, and hadn’t known she was dead.

  “What’s your name?” I asked.

  Maybe I could do some research and find out what happened to her.

  “Betty. Betty Brown,” she replied. “I was with my boyfriend. We were celebrating being together for one year and had a little too much to drink. He wanted to go for a swim. Then I woke up, and it was dark. I couldn’t find my way out, until I finally saw a light, and it led me to you.”

  My heart broke for her. I reached back and grabbed Emily’s hand. “Em, have you heard of anyone named Betty Brown?”

  She repeated the name a few times, her body trembling. “Is that the spirit’s name?”

  “Yes,” I answered. “She’s looking for answers.”

 
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