Love is timeless… Nash Nation loves zeroes and ones, over-sized monitors and late office hours. He’s too busy taking over the world to make time for relationships—that is, until his new neighbor Willow O’Bryant barges into his life, and now Nash can’t shake the feeling that this isn’t the first time she’s interrupted his world. Then, the dreams start. And in the dreams—memories. Memories of a girl named Sookie who couldn’t count on love or friendship, never mind forever. Memories of a library and a boy called Isaac and secrets made in private that destroyed his world. The memories seem real, but who do they belong to? When Nash and Willow discover the truth, life as they know it unravels. The bridge between this life and the next is shored up by blood and bone and memory. Sometimes, that bridge leads to the place we’ve always wanted to be.
It was the dream. The waking dream again.
There was something tied up in that dream—a memory, the life I knew but had never lived. That was the only explanation.
The dream crawled inside my skull like a centipede. It stayed there, burrowed itself so deep inside my brain that imagination got squashed. Nothing was fantasy anymore. What had been figments of my imagination had grown to something real, something I couldn’t beat away. Something I couldn’t ignore.
It stayed with me during the investors’ meeting, as Duncan talked about projections and media outreach. He spoke and I watched his face, focused like I understood the meaning behind the noise, the unrecognizable words his mouth made. I knew he was expecting me to weigh in with some technical spin, but it was all I could do
to keep from completely drifting away.
Lucky for me, he liked the sound of his own voice. Even Duncan and his slick CEO arrogance didn’t distract me from the dream. The sound of his pitch, that salesman shine he thought might impress the investors didn’t do a damn thing to erase what I’d felt.
What I’d seen. What I remembered.
The dream stayed even as his nagging turned into a whining drone that made my teeth ache.
“What the fuck was that? You just tuned out. You weren’t engaged at all.”
No. I hadn’t been. Still wasn’t as I fed him some bullshit about a migraine.
“I’ll catch you later, man. I gotta jet.”
He didn’t buy my excuse. Duncan’s eyes narrowed and I swear I felt his stare hot on my neck as I moved out of his office and stood waiting at the elevator. Wasn’t much I could hide from him through that glass wall so I kept my head down, wondering how I’d gotten messed up with that asshole in the first place.
Ah. Right. I had a program and no cash. Duncan had deep pockets and was looking for someone’s coattails to ride. One plus one is always two.
Didn’t much care if he bought the migraine excuse. I felt something right at the base of my skull. A pressure, a dull ache, but I wasn’t sick. I was high.
My brain went into autopilot as I left Manhattan, grabbing the A train to get me to downtown Brooklyn. And the whole way home, with the rocking of the train, the funky smell of the city getting fainter with every stop, and the even worse body odor of all the compressed bodies, the ache in my head grew the closer we came to my stop, that weird memory nagging at me.
That shit wouldn’t let me be.
Over and over in my head, as I huddled tight behind my jacket in the still chilly weather, the memory came clear as a raindrop.
Me and her. Me and the woman I didn’t know. Me as a man I’d never been.
The smell of roses. The thick hint of dust and coffee.
The feel of worn book bindings and the scrap of metal chairs on wood floors.
The taste of honey on my tongue.
The woman wrapped around me, holding tight, like I was her lifeline. Her red hair between my fingers, her nails pulling at my collar. Feeling needed. Feeling free.
A gust of wind blew off my hood, had my eyes watering as I jogged the rest of the way toward my building, barely acknowledging the people grouped around the front entrance. But then the sound of kids screeching cut into my brain, and I finally noticed that Old Man Walker was handing out Jolly Ranchers from the top step; for his grandkids and the others bouncing around, he couldn't get the wrapped candy out of his pockets fast enough.
In that small chaos, compounded by an arguing couple from 3C coming out of the elevator, brushing past the cluster of kids in their red and green puffy coats and their sniffling noses, heels clicking on the tile floor and crackling over the candy wrappers littering the hall, I forgot about the dream. If only for a second.
Until I saw Willow at the mailboxes.
She didn’t look much like the woman in my dream. Her hair was not red, but light brown. The redhead’s had been thick and bone straight. Willow’s was wild, all over the place, as though she could never get it under control.
The woman in my dream had been thin with barely a hint of curve to her shape. Elegant, graceful like a ballerina. Willow was all dips and bends, luscious, her legs strong with well-defined muscle, and a wide, wondrous ass.
Suddenly the rest of the world receded and there was nothing but the movement of Willow’s hair as she dug the mail from her box, the rhythm of her limbs as she swatted at that thick mass of hair, the swoop of her jacket hem against all those round, perfect curves as she turned, her attention on the envelopes in her hand.
The smell of her skin, the jasmine in her hair, seemed to billow around me as I stood motionless in the lobby. She was everywhere, familiar and yet unknown. A stranger/not stranger I had held at arm’s length, but still far more real than my dream, than the memory it was trying to evoke.
Willow stopped short as she noticed me, pausing with the mail held against her chest, a frown appearing on her face. I knew that expression from the last time I saw her, when I lied and told her I didn’t want her, when I had spoken promises that even then I knew I’d never keep.
“Nash.” There was a bite in her voice, the clip of my name, as if she was trying to sound disdainful, yet her voice still held an undertone of something that, if it had a flavor, would have tasted like honey.
And then the dream, that sweet, stinging memory crashed over me. Déjà vu and fantasy and shit I did not understand hit me like a fever, and I was lost. The redhead kissed my neck. The hint of her soft, liquid tongue against my skin, tugging on my ear, wanting me with a fierceness no one ever had before, overwhelmed me, and I had to close my eyes to keep from being dragged under.
“Nash?” Willow’s voice reeled me back in, and I opened my eyes to see her sweet, concerned expression and the curve of her mouth, the fullness of her bottom lip.
Then Willow... she took the back of her hair in one hand, twisting it into a knot—the smallest gesture that I’d seen her do a dozen times—and suddenly I realized: the woman in my dream had done the same thing. The same motion, the same
movement. Just like Willow.
A sharp intake of breath—that was me. Willow had backed up a half step, her face confused, conflicted, and despite what I’d said before, I reached out and slid my fingers tentatively to touch her face, guiding her chin up so I could look into her eyes.
She made the smallest noise, something that sounded like moan and laugh at the same time. It transformed, deepened to a growl when I kissed her. Yet even as my mouth found hers, as my tongue slid along her lip, begging an invitation, one thought consumed me, something I didn’t believe was left over from my dream. One thought that made me brave, made me hungry: this woman belongs to me.
About Eden Butler
Eden Butler is an editor and writer of Mystery, Suspense and Contemporary Romance novels and the nine-times great-granddaughter of an honest-to-God English pirate. This could explain her affinity for rule breaking and rum. When she’s not writing or wondering about her possibly Jack Sparrowesque ancestor, Eden patiently waits for her Hogwarts letter, edits, reads and spends way too much time watching rugby, Doctor Who and New Orleans Saints football. She is currently living under teenage rule alongside her husband in southeast Louisiana. Please send help.