In my reality in my drea.., p.5
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       In My Reality (In My Dreams Book 2), p.5

           Cameo Renae
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  “I remember hearing that name around campus. She drowned a few months ago. They found her body on the rocks down at the end of the beach.”

  “Did they say how it happened?”

  “I heard she was drunk and went swimming with her boyfriend at night. She disappeared, and when he couldn’t find her, he called the cops. I remember hearing the sirens. They had fire trucks, cops, and the coastguard searching for her, but they didn’t find her body until the next day.”

  Betty wailed, hearing the news. “What do I do? I’ve been lost for months, and you’re the first person I’ve seen.”

  “I can help you cross over, but you have to want to go. It will be much better for you to move on. You won’t be lost or alone anymore, and you’ll have loved ones waiting for you.”

  “Where’s Nick?” she asked. “Where’s my boyfriend?”

  “I don’t know,” I said. “I just arrived today. I don’t know who your boyfriend is.”

  “I need him to know it’s not his fault, and how sorry I am I didn’t say anything about the baby. I was scared and didn’t want him to worry.” She laid her hand on her belly, her face twisting in grief. “Please…can you tell him for me? Tell him it’s okay to find love again. I want him to be happy. I want him to live.”

  As she revealed her heart, mine broke all over again. Her words were very similar to those Michael spoke to me.

  “I will,” I replied.

  “Promise me,” she demanded.

  “I promise.”

  “What are you promising?” Emily whispered from behind me.

  “She has a message for her boyfriend, and I’m promising to give it to him.”

  “Oh, okay.” I could barely hear her voice. “How are you going to give him the message if you don’t know who he is?”

  The ghost girl came closer. “His name is Nicolaus Hoffer. He lives in an apartment complex called the Blue Lagoon. It’s big and blue. He’s on the third floor, room thirteen.”

  I nodded. “I’ll make sure I find him.”

  “Hey, you guys all right?” Tyler called from the bonfire.

  “Yes, we’re okay.” Emily waved back. “We’ll be right there.”

  “It’s time for you to cross over, Betty. I’ll find Nicolaus and give him your message. Believe me, I know how important it is to you. I went through the same thing with my boyfriend.”

  She nodded and wiped her eyes. “What do I do?”

  “All you have to do is walk toward the light. Once you cross over to the other side, you will be welcomed by those who love you.”

  “Thank you,” she said.

  I could see a doorway of light getting brighter behind her. “I pray you find the peace you’ve been searching for.”

  Betty walked toward the light and before she entered, her head twisted back, and she smiled. When she passed through, I felt peace wash over me. In my heart, I felt a bit of sadness and envy, knowing she was entering the same realm as Michael.

  I wished I could see him again.

  There would never be another like him, and I’d come to grips with that. He’d wanted me to be happy, but without him, trying to find that same happiness again was like trying to pull myself, neck deep, out of quicksand. The process—my process—might have been slower than others, but it was mine. My timing. My life.

  Emily moved up, standing beside me. “Did she cross over?”

  “Yeah,” I exhaled, zapped of energy.

  “Come on. Let’s get back to the fire and get you a beer.”

  “Right now, I’d prefer a coffee.” I laughed. “Encounters with spirits are draining. Almost as draining as the Pierce brothers.”

  Emily belly-laughed. “Logan is a handful, but I think Liam is more your type. He’s the most level-headed of the two. And he’s smart, handsome, and wealthy.”

  “That would all be amazing, if I was looking for a guy.”

  “Look. I told you I wouldn’t push. But at least give a few new friendships a shot. If it happens it happens, if it doesn’t...then hell, in six days you’ll be back in Alaska, hiding in your cave.”

  “I’ll never forget the best parts with my bestie,” I said, hugging her neck.

  As we headed back to the bonfire, everyone was in great spirits. Tyler handed Emily her beer, and she finished it with one chug.

  “I need to pee. There is a public bathroom back there,” she stated, pointing back toward the entrance. “Wanna come?”

  “Sure,” I said.

  “Tyler, we’re going to take a walk to the ladies’ room,” she said after a burp.

  “You ladies need an escort?” Liam asked, extending his services.

  “Yeah, we can walk with you,” Logan added.

  “No, thanks,” I answered. “It’s not that far. We’ll be right back.”

  Emily grabbed my arm and dragged me toward the public beach bathroom.

  The music was loud, and the people on the beach were only getting louder. The alcohol was kicking in, and so far, there were no rowdy people. A few cops could be spotted on the outer rims of the beach, watching from above.

  Trudging through the sand, I looked up and saw someone sitting alone in the dark. He was near the entrance, his figure dimly visible by a single streetlight.

  It was Mason. He was on a beach chair, with a beer in his right hand. He glanced up at us as we neared him, so I smiled and waved. I couldn’t help it. His resemblance to Michael was uncanny.

  “Don’t bother. He doesn’t like people,” Emily muttered.

  But as we passed, he gave me a nod. At least it was something. An acknowledgment.

  “Hey, ladies.” A big guy, at least six-feet tall, popped out of the dark in front of us.

  He looked like a football player, and I could smell alcohol on his breath from a few feet away. His eyes were droopy, and he was obviously plastered.

  “Pete, we’re on our way to the bathroom. Move,” Emily said, pushing past him, pulling me with her.

  He grabbed hold of my arm. “Is this your friend from Alaska?” he slurred.

  “Yes. Now let go of me, please,” I demanded, trying to pry his fingers off. As I struggled, I could tell it was making him agitated.

  “Hey, I’m a nice guy.” His face came inches from mine, sniffing my hair. “Wow. You look beautiful.”

  Images of Buck, the cabin, and barely surviving his drunken attempt to rape me came crashing back.

  “Let go of her. You’re being an asshole,” Emily said, pulling on his arm. He pushed her off, then pulled me into a bear hug.

  “No!” I ground out, pushing against his chest. He was just so big and drunk, my attempts to get out of the hug weren’t registering.

  “It’s a welcome to California hug, Alaskan princess,” he said, teetering a little.

  “I don’t want a hug,” I yelled, my nerves kicking into high gear. Pushing on the side of his knee with my own, I made his unsteady legs buckle.

  We both went down into the sand, his massive frame landing on my chest, knocking the wind out of me. I gasped for air, but it was hard to come by.

  His body jerked back, and oxygen rushed to my lungs. Pete’s body rolled to my side, and he lumbered up, looking around, confused. Emily grabbed hold of my arm and pulled me away.

  Mason stepped between us, his fist cocked back, ready to strike. “Get the fuck out of here, Pete, or I’ll beat your ass so badly, you won’t remember your name.”

  Pete mumbled and looked hurt. “I just wanted to say hi.”

  “She’s not interested.”

  Turning to head back to the party, he growled and staggered through the sand.

  “Mason, you asshole! I know where you live.”

  Mason stood firm until Pete was out of sight. He shook his head and walked over to us. “You all right?”

  “Yeah,” I answered, turning to Emily. She nodded but was obviously shaken.

  “I’m so sorry, Lizzy,” she said. “This is my fault. I didn’t know—”

  I looked into
her eyes. “Hey, we happen to be hanging out with lots of drunk people, it was bound to happen.

  “I know. But you were supposed to be safe with me.”

  “I am safe,” I said, looking at Mason. “Thanks.”

  “It was nothing,” he said before turning and walking abruptly away.

  “Wait,” I called after him. “Are you all right?”

  He paused, his head craning back with a crooked grin. “Never better.”

  Continuing back to his chair, instead of sitting down, he leaned over, folded it up, and carried it off the beach and up the street. I guess he was done for the night.

  “I don’t need to go to the bathroom anymore,” Emily said. “I think I already peed myself.”

  “You did?” I giggled.

  “Okay, maybe not. But I want to get Tyler and head back home before I really do. I’m done for tonight.”

  “Sounds good to me,” I replied, still drained from the encounter with the spirit.

  On the way back I looked toward the dark road where Mason disappeared.

  How’d he leave from view so quickly?

  We’d reached the group and told Tyler we were ready to go.

  “Lizzy, would you like me to walk you home?” Liam asked, standing.

  “Nah, there’s no need,” I answered. “Tyler will be with us. Besides, I think I’m going to turn in early tonight.”

  “All right,” he said, with slight disappointment written on his face. “Will you at least let me take you to breakfast in the morning?”

  His question caught me off guard. “I—I don’t know…”

  “Yes, she’s free in the morning,” Emily answered, “but you have to have her back before eleven. I have plans set for the rest of the day.”

  “Deal,” he replied, then turned his attention to me. “If it’s okay with you?”

  All eyes were on me, and the pressure to answer doubled. “Yeah, sure.”

  A smile brightened his handsome face. “Cool, I’ll pick you up at eight?”

  “She’ll be ready,” Emily answered before I could. Shooting him a smile, she grabbed my arm and dragged me away. “Bye, Liam.”

  “Goodnight.” He smiled and waved, a dimple adorning his left cheek.

  The night was young, and more people were just starting to show up on the beach. There were a hundred people more than there had been an hour ago, and one more bonfire.

  “I’m getting hungry,” Tyler said, towing Emily across the sand with me in their wake.

  “You ate a little over an hour ago.” She huffed.

  “I have a fast metabolism. You know me.”

  “Yeah, I do,” she said, leaning against him. “We’ve got stuff for sandwiches.”

  “Perfect,” he said, kissing her sweetly on the lips.

  They were so perfect together.

  Halfway to their townhouse, Tyler stopped, his finger pointing to the middle of the dimly lit road. “What the hell—who is that?”

  “Holy shit,” Emily said, running forward.

  “Em, wait.” He grasped her arm, tugging her back.

  “Whoever it is needs help. I have to go. I’m a nurse for God’s sake.”

  “You’re not a nurse yet,” he noted with concern.

  “I have one year left,” she snapped, shaking herself from his grasp.

  “Then let me go first,” he said, jogging in front of her. “Stay behind until I know it’s safe.”

  I followed behind the two of them, my eyes on the dark figure sprawled on the ground. When I saw a beach chair a few feet away, my stomach dropped.

  Emily knelt down and rolled the body over. “Oh no, it’s Mason.” She felt for a pulse, then looked up to Tyler. “Call 911. We need an ambulance.”

  “No,” Mason moaned. “Don’t call.”

  “You’re injured. You need help,” Emily urged.

  “I said no,” he grumbled, struggling to move up to his elbows.

  “Stay still,” Emily ordered.

  “I’m not injured. I had a seizure,” he explained. “It happens infrequently, and I’m fine now. Just leave me alone.”

  Emily assisted him to a seated position. His hands held the sides of his head.

  “Are you sure you’re okay, man?” Tyler held the phone, ready to hit send for help.

  “I’m sure. I’ll refuse care, even if they come.”

  “Why are you so stubborn?” Emily asked, using the light from her cell phone to check his head for injuries. “You have a few abrasions on your left cheek, but that’s it.”

  A cold chill enveloped me and goosebumps rose on my arms and legs.

  Dammit. Not now.

  I glanced around, and standing on the front porch of one of the homes was a spirit. She was transparent; her entire frame was white, almost mist-like. She was standing sideways, but her head snapped forward like she’d felt me. In a split second, her body disappeared and reappeared on the street, just ahead of us. Her eyes were hollow, but she was looking directly at me.

  Mason tried to stand, but when he got to his feet he wobbled. I stepped to his side, steadying him, and shockingly, he wrapped his arm around my shoulder. His eyes glazed a bit, focused on me. I swallowed hard, my heart hammering against my chest.

  “Thanks,” he breathed.

  “No problem,” I replied.

  The spirit disappeared and reappeared again, directly in front of me, making me gasp.

  She tilted her head to the side, studying me. She wasn’t looking for help. She was a wanderer. She was here of her own will, and didn’t want to leave.

  Yes, I was able to gather that information by being in its presence.

  The spirit bitch wouldn’t leave, and without thinking, I spoke out loud to her. “If you don’t want my help, beat it.”

  “Excuse me?” Mason blurted, glaring at me.

  “No, no, no,” I apologized, trying to backpedal. Crap. “I wasn’t talking to you.”

  “Then who the hell were you talking to?”

  Emily’s eyes widened, then a light clicked on in them.

  “She was talking to me. We had an argument earlier, and were just arguing behind your back.” She spoke as if she was someone reading a prompt for the first time and doing a horrible job. It was evident she was fibbing. “I’m sorry, Lizzy. I do want your help.” Her eyes narrowed on me.

  “I forgive you,” I replied.

  Tyler and Mason were looking between the both of us like we were mad. At least the spirit had disappeared, along with the cold chill.

  “Just take Mason to our place,” Emily ordered.

  Mason didn’t argue, so Tyler took his other arm, and we led him up the road to the townhouse.

  As we turned onto their street, Mason stopped.

  “You know what? Just take me home. I’d like to rest in my own bed.”

  “I know,” Emily returned. “But you’re still weak, and you might have a concussion from the fall. Because you refused medical care, I feel responsible for you now. I don’t want you to be alone for the next few hours, and after I see you’ve had no more episodes, you’re free to go.”

  Mason turned to Tyler who shrugged. “I suggest you humor her, man. She’s in nursing and has access to needles. She also knows where you live.”

  “Tyler,” Emily admonished, her eyes darting to Mason. “Look. I just want to make sure you aren’t actually injured. If anything happened to you and we didn’t call an ambulance, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”

  “I don’t want anyone to die on my account.” Mason dropped his arm from around my shoulder and stood a little more stable on his own. “One hour.”

  “What?” I asked, not sure of what he meant.

  “To prove I'm all right, I’ll stay for one hour. That’s it. Then I’m going home.”

  “Deal,” Emily said, unlocking the door.

  Inside, Mason sat on the couch as Emily dashed up the stairs. A few minutes later, she returned with some alcohol, cotton balls, antibiotic ointment, and a box of

  “Lizzy, clean him up, while Tyler and I whip up some mini sandwiches,” she said before the both of them headed into the kitchen.

  I stood there, frozen like a damn fool. I wasn’t the nurse, and Mason didn’t seem like someone who wanted help. Not knowing what to do, I kept staring at my friend’s backs as they left me to my own devices.

  “Are you just going to stand there?” Mason’s voice caught me off guard.

  When I turned, he had a smirk on his face, and although it made me feel uncomfortable, there was also something comforting about it. Aside from the odd feeling I got each time I saw him, Mason was handsome. He just seemed like someone who had built a wall around himself.

  “Umm, no. Here,” I said, offering him the supplies.

  His brow rose. “How am I supposed to clean my injuries when I can’t see them?”

  I was confused. Was he asking for help? Or did he want me to show him to a bathroom and a mirror? Embarrassed I couldn’t tell the difference, I continued to stare. Was he pulling my leg? I couldn’t tell. My sarcasm radar was broken.

  There had been a time when I was witty and sarcastic, but that was before Michael’s death. Now, I was just…dull. I’d be the first to admit the past few years had done me in. I craved solitude and isolation.

  “Do you want my help?” I finally asked.

  A grin raised the corners of his lips. “I mean, I wouldn’t say no.” He laughed at my wide-eyed expression, then patted the empty space next to him. “Yes, I would very much appreciate your help.”

  I proceeded to sit next to him, trying to keep a straight face; my insides were knotting, my heart and pulse racing.

  Why is my body reacting to his closeness? It’d been a long time since I’d felt this kind of excitement, if that’s what I would call it. He had come to my rescue tonight, so maybe I was just reacting to his heroism.

  I uncapped the alcohol and poured a bit on a cotton ball. Holding it up, I raised my eyebrows, giving him a chance to back out.

  “Do what you got to do,” he said, presenting his injured cheek to me.

  More butterflies somersaulted inside my belly. But he was a guy I’d just met. He shouldn’t be affecting me…yet, he was.

  I couldn’t deny it felt different being around Mason than with the other guys. I knew his looks played a huge part of it. What were the odds of Tyler and Emily living next door to Michael’s doppelganger? I mean, he wasn’t a twin, but the similarities…the shape of his eyes, his lips, his hair, his height. It was all a bit unnerving.

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