|“Are you for real going to start another book at ten o’clock at night? You know what happens when you do that!”
“Oh posh!” I waved my hand at Austin in a dismissive gesture. “I was only going to start the first chapter. Those things tend to be boring anyway, so I figured I’d get it out of the way tonight. Besides, I’ve been dying to read this one!”
Austin laughed humorlessly. “That’s what you said about the last five books. Seriously Caroline, you haven’t come to bed with me in a month. I’m starting to feel really neglected over here.”
I raised my eyebrow at Austin, sometimes the man could be a real drama queen. He shook his head at me and walked up the stairs, shooting daggers with his eyes as he went.
“He’ll get over it,” I sighed as I opened to the first page. “I’m only going to read one chapter anyway.” I snuggled into the couch cushions and immersed myself into the Scottish highlands and the McGregor clan.
The next thing I knew, I had finished my adventure with the Laird Ian and his new English bride. I blinked as my eyes adjusted to the world around me. The boring one. The one where I’m just mom and wife and nothing exciting ever happens to me. The sun was coming up here. “Oh, I did it again,” I groaned. “Austin’s going to give me a real earful this time.”
“How was that one chapter?” my husband who had the worst timing ever said as he came down the stairs with our children in tow.
“Long.” I said, standing up. I stared at the rows of books adorning my shelf and placed my highlander back in his rightful spot. My fingers lovingly stroked the spines of each novel as I considered which to indulge in next.
“Breakfast?” Austin’s voice cut through my thoughts.
“None for me, thanks.” I said, choosing a vampire romance from the stack. I shivered in anticipation.
“Caroline, really?” Austin’s voice twinged with anger. “You just stayed up all night reading. Please tell me that you are not going to start another book right now!”
“Oh Austin,” I said. “I’m just going to read one chapter.”
There was no rebuttal to my reply and I found the silence confusing, as if the real world had actually vanished. When I looked up, he stood there in that kitchen staring at me. The look on his face was unreadable, so I shrugged and turned back to my book, which was totally readable.
When I was halfway through chapter two, Austin said, “The kids and I are going to the zoo today. Would you like to go with us?” I could tell this was his way of extending the olive branch. “Or would you rather stay home and sleep? You haven’t slept in three days Caroline. I’m worried about you.”
I looked up from the beautiful page with hundreds of glorious words and blinked. Sleep. Of course I’d slept. Hadn’t I? “I’m fine, Austin. But I do think I’ll stay here today. You guys have fun with the animals.”
“I don’t know why I put up with this!” he practically screamed. Did I mention he has a bit of a temper? Drama. Queen.
“Okay,” I said, waving to him. “Love you, honey. Have fun at the zoo. I’m just going to read one more chapter and then I’m going to sleep. I promise.”
I didn’t quite understand Austin’s reply, but Cat just met Bones and they were fighting, so I couldn’t leave them just yet to ask. After I’d finished reading the sexual tension, I asked “What did you say, honey?” But only silence answered. I glanced up and took in the noiseless house. “Huh,” I said. “They left already.” I thought of my promise to go to bed after reading one chapter. Of course now I was halfway through the book. “Just one more chapter and then I’ll nap.” I said, turning back to those wonderful pages.
Several hours later, I blinked and rubbed my dry eyes and shut the back cover of the book. Cat and Bones were together and all was right in their world. For now. I smiled and felt warmth surge through my body. Oh what would it be like to have a love like that, I wondered and looked around to see if my husband was home. He may just get some attention after all. The silent house told me that I was alone still, so I shrugged my shoulders and wandered to my bookshelf.
I scanned the spines of my best friends, looking for one to spend the rest of the afternoon with. Did I want saucy damsels in need of rescue? Or would another vampire hot fest quench my reading appetite? I sighed. There were just too many choices. I settled on an old favorite about a cemetery for pets and settled back into my comfortable spot on the couch.
The sky was growing dark very rapidly and I looked up from page two thirty five to see if I had missed Austin and the kids coming home. A shadow crossed in front of my window and a shiver ran down my spine. Someone lurked outside my front door and every instinct inside me said that it was not my family.
Suddenly my front window exploded and shards of glass flew at my face. I screamed and cradled my head, peaking out to see what had destroyed the panes. A very large wolf stood on top of my coffee table, panting and looking wild eyed around my room.
Adrenaline filled my every pore and my brain screamed for me to run, to get out of that space as quickly as I could. But there was something about this wolf that when he turned to look at me, I felt no fear of him. He seemed familiar, almost human. I stood up with my hand outstretched as if to pet him, but when my fingers were mere inches from him, he growled and snapped as if to warn me away. I stepped back and fell onto the couch in a most unladylike fashion.
A pounding on the front door broke the staring contest between the wolf and I.
“Who – Who is it?” I called out. Perhaps the owner was looking for his strange dog.
“FBI, open up! We need to use this house!”
“What?” I said, walking to the door. When I opened it, thirty people in dark uniforms stood on my small front porch. “What is this?”
“Ma’am,” a short redheaded woman said. “We are tracking a serial killer in this neighborhood. We believe he has the Senator’s daughter. Please, can we set up base here?”
I looked at them all, my mouth hanging open. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t speak. I stepped back into my house and they seemed to take that as an invitation to come in. I watched, body numb, as the agents invaded my house one by one.
“A serial killer in my neighborhood.” I whispered as a shiver ran up my spine.
“Excuse me, please” said a gravelly voice to my left. I looked to see the man strapped to a dolly, the leather mask over his face preventing him from fully opening his mouth. “Would you happen to have any fava beans?”
I screamed and raced up the stairs to my bedroom.
“What the hell is going on?” I said after I had slammed and locked the door. I walked over to the window and watched the sun set between the houses. “Where are they?” I looked up and down the street, but there was no sign of Austin’s car. They should have been home hours ago. I felt the bile creep into my throat. I needed to find my cell phone.
“Would you mind closing those curtains? I really am trying to sleep here without being roasted, thank you very much.” a smooth and sexy voice said from the bed. When I turned, a tall, pale man lounged on my pillow. He wore no shirt, exposing his muscular chest and a patch of hair that looped around his nipples and traveled all the way down his stomach to his…
I shook my head, attempting to clear the carnal thoughts from my mind. I was married. There was no way I should be thinking of another man like that.
“Who are you?” I asked a little too harshly. “And what are you doing in my bed?”
“Oh Caroline,” my name poured from his lips like warm butter and caused my toes to tingle. “I’m hurt that you don’t know me after the hours, no days we spent together.” He flashed a seductive smile and fangs peeked out.
“Eric? Wait, what? How is that possible? You’re not real. Oh Heavens! I’ve done it. I’ve cracked!”
The tall, lanky, and dripping with sex appeal vampire sauntered over to me and placed his hands on my shoulders, steadying my body as my brain continued its mental breakdown. Eric either wasn’t aware of my mental state or he didn’t care. He leaned his face into my neck and I felt his tongue flick out and lick along my collarbone. My body became a mass of nerves firing rapidly. I couldn’t move and I couldn’t breathe. I was completely under his spell.
“There,” he whispered and I felt the stinging brush of teeth being dragged along my skin. The slight pain jerked me back to reality and I stepped out of his embrace.
“No!” I screamed. “No! No! No!” Eric stood still with an amused, and sexy, grin on his face. It took every bit of control for me to back away from him and retreat to my closet, but somehow I managed. I sat panting in the dark for several minutes when he knocked on the door.
“Are you planning to come out any time soon?” he asked, laughter rimming his words.
“No!” I called back. “No, I can’t. I just. I can’t.” I heard his laughter and realized how silly I was being. After all, wasn’t it I who said that I much preferred Eric to Bill. And here he was in my bedroom while all I could do was hide in the closet waiting. Waiting for what, though? For Austin to come home? At this point, I didn’t know if he ever would. I had no idea what happened to him.
My heart continued to thud in my chest and the stale closet air really made breathing difficult. I couldn’t stay in here all night. I would have to find a way out somehow. And then I saw a light shine above me around the attic door.
Up, I thought. That’s it. I’ll head up. I reached above my head and pulled the ladder down to begin my ascent to the safety of the desolate attic.
I pulled myself up the ladder and settled into the lush green grass. Wait. Grass? I looked around me, my hands feeling for the fiberglass insulation that I knew should be here. Instead I was met with grass and trees and hairy legs. I slowly looked up the pair of legs to find a man standing over top of me in a plaid skirt. Or, a kilt rather. His red hair was tied back and his linen shirt opened at the chest to expose a thick patch of red.
“Who ‘re ye?” He asked with a thick Scottish brogue. “And what ‘re ye doin’ on my lands?”
I looked down at myself, but I was still wearing the same clothes that I had on yesterday. “I, umm.” I said, searching for the words, but it seemed my brain had completely deserted me. “I’m Caroline and I don’t know why I’m here. I’m supposed to be in my house.”
The highlander threw back his head and let out a deep laugh, as if what I said humored him. He offered his hand to help me to my feet. When I was eye level with him, I looked into his deep blues and asked. “Who are you?” Although, I had a feeling I knew the answer.
He stepped back into a slight bow and said “Laird Ian McGregor at yer service.”
“Laird…” I whispered and covered my mouth. It couldn’t be. There was no way. How in the world? I turned to look where I had just climbed, but the ladder and the opening to my bedroom closet had completely vanished. Tears stung my eyes and I thought about Austin and the kids. Would I ever get to see them again?
“Ye look like you could use a hot bath.” Ian said. “My keep is this way. We’ll get ye right in no time.”
I nodded and followed him. It was all I could do. The sun had set and I didn’t want to see what the night would bring if I stayed out here.
Several hours later, I was dressed in a very constricting corset and yards of fabric. I had always envied the women in my books who dressed thusly. Now, I would give anything for my t-shirt and yoga pants.
After a hearty dinner, I was shown to a bedroom. It looked a bit too large and ornate to be a simple guest room. I studied the rough features around me and walked over to the bed. It looked small, but clean. My body felt weary and I hoped that sleep would bring me out of this breakdown that I was suffering.
The sound of the door closing made me jump and turn around. Ian had entered and stood in front of the door. “I hope the room is to yer liking,” he said.
I nodded. “It’s very nice.” I paused and looked around. My hands fidgeted with the fabric of my dress. “Is there someone who can help me get this off so that I can sleep?” I asked, hoping that Ian would leave to find them and I’d again be left alone.
A fire quickly flashed through his eyes and he appeared to take my question as an invitation. “I’d be happy to help.” he said walking toward me.
“Oh!” I said, straightening. “No, that’s not what I meant.” But Ian had spun me around and was unhooking the buttons on the back of my dress. He then put both of his hands onto my shoulders and shook me, hard.
“Ouch!” I said, my head flailing back and forth. “Not so rough, Ian! I’m really not in the mood.” I gave him a stern look over my shoulder.
He stared at me, puzzled and then shook again. I squeezed my eyes in an attempt to control the dizziness of having my brain shook to bits.
“Who’s Ian?” I heard Austin say through the fog in my brain. “And why would you not be in the mood?”
“Oh Austin,” I sobbed, hiding my head in my hands. “Don’t harass me when I’m so sad that I’ll never get to see you again.”
“Caroline?” Austin sounded concerned and so close. “Open your eyes honey. You’re dreaming. Those books have taken over your brain!”
“Austin!” I felt annoyed with him. Why couldn’t he understand that I was locked in a room with a Scottish laird and that I would never see him or the kids again? I looked up to tell him that in plain English and blinked at the brightness of the room. Instantly my annoyance was gone and I threw my arms around my wonderful husband. “You guys made it back!” I giggled. “I was so worried. Wait. Where’s the werewolf? And the FBI?”
Austin raised his eyebrow and shook his head, laughing. “I am glad to see you slept. Maybe you can take a break from your books now. Just for a little bit?”
I nodded. That was certainly the strangest dream I’d ever had. “Definitely,” I agreed. “No more staying up late reading.” I looked at the pile of books lining my bookshelf and then at the discarded book on the couch next to me. “Then again, what harm could there be in one more chapter?” I nibbled the bottom of my lip and looked from Austin back to the book. “I mean, I was almost finished.”
Austin threw his hands into the air and screamed. He looked at me and said, “woman, you are an addict if I’ve ever seen one!” Then he walked out of the room.
I stared at him and started to follow when my book fell onto the floor. I picked it up and glanced to see if my husband was coming back. When the door frame stayed empty for a bit, I shrugged and opened those sweet pages to the place I had left off. There was no harm in one more chapter I decided.