The dream woke Logan again. The vivid splashes of color,
blood red and orange blaze. The intense decibel of sound, roaring flames
and exploding metal. The acrid smell of burning rubber. The taste of
thick black smoke and gasoline.
And the screams.
He lay in his bed for long quiet minutes, his eyes searching
the darkness for the comforts of home, the whup-whup-whup of the ceiling
fan a hypnotizing lull above him. Deep breaths settled his pounding heart
while he made an attempt to relax. As usual, he failed. The demon was
there every time he closed his eyes, waiting in the dark, scheming to
steal his mind.
Throwing the sheet to the foot of the bed, he crouched
on the edge. The fan cooled the sweat running down his naked back, and
he clenched and unclenched the fists resting on his knees. Finally, he
stood, stretched, and threaded his fingers through his hair, lifting
the drenched locks from the back of his neck.
If he had a nickel for every hour of lost sleep, maybe
he could buy his way free of the nightmare. Hell, maybe he could make
yet another pact with the devil and buy eight hours of undisturbed rest.
Right now, that sounded as good as anything.
He padded barefoot to the kitchen, jerked open the refrigerator
door, and gulped down a swig of orange juice straight from the carton.
Anything to wash away the taste of the smoke, a taste that lingered,
planted by the demon in his mind as a reminder of his failures. A taste
his logical side knew he only imagined, the same way he conjured the
smells, the sounds, and the colors of disaster.
With a vengeance born of frustration, Logan tossed the
empty carton into the sink and slammed the refrigerator door. A glance
at the clock on the stove revealed he'd slept two hours. Two hours of
peace in a nighttime of horrors. He crossed the living room and walked
onto the-deck, leaning his elbows on the railing that framed his' small
square of escape. The wind whipped through his hair, cooled his heated
body, calmed his fevered mind.
As always the ocean summoned, calling to him with a promise
of peace. For Logan, peace was a fallacy and would be as long as the
demon lived. Until then, until he faced the monster in his mind, he'd
settle for a level of fatigue that would allow him to sleep. And he needed
to face it soon. That was obvious. It was beginning to interfere in his
How else could he explain his carelessness? How else could
he have followed Hannah for a month and never realized someone else was
doing the same? How could he forgive himself for another failure? How
could he explain the truth to Hannah? Or to himself?
And how could he be so stupid as to bring her into his
He bounded down the stairs, jogged across the sand and
into the tepid salt water. He needed a swim. The steady rhythm taxed
his muscles; the repetitive strokes tired his mind. Maybe he'd swim south
to Cozumel. Or maybe head east to Florida. Maybe he'd go down and see
what Davy Jones kept hidden in his locker.
Logan laughed to himself and slid through the water, his
arms slicing through the wall of salt and foam to drag his body along.
His hair slapped side to side and, with each breath his despair subsided,
replaced with the exhilaration of being alive. He'd never taken the coward's
way out. He loved being alive.
He loved the muscle rubbing across his ribcage with each
reaching stroke. He loved the burning in his calves, thighs, and buttocks
each time he kicked. He loved the water sluicing over his naked skin,
the way he overpowered nature with his human strength, fighting the tug
of the waves and the siren call of the open sea.
Someday he'd turn that strength on himself and battle the
inward man. Someday soon. But for now, he only wanted to sleep.
Dripping and sated, he trudged across the sandy beach he
knew well enough to cross blind. The moon lit the night sky, shining
down on sand the color of bleached bone. He turned back to the gulf and
stared at the reflected light sparkling in ripples across the black of
the sea. Waves pulsed, following one another to shore, every seventh
one washing over his feet.
At last his heartbeat slowed. His blood no longer pounded
in exertion. Or in terror. He turned to plod back up the beach.
Hannah stood in the comer of the deck, the pale light giving
her hair a burnished sheen. His steps faltered. He stopped, concealing
himself in the shadow of the deck, and, like a dog shedding his bath,
shook his head, drops of water showering down on the sand at his feet.
"Did I wake you?" he asked,
his voice quiet, respecting the still of the night.
"I thought I heard a door slam."
"Must've been the refrigerator."
"Oh," she replied, as if he'd
answered some earth-shattering question. He covertly watched her slide
to the deck, pulling her nightshirt
over her knees. Just as he had when she wore that slinky jacket, he found
himself wondering what she had on beneath.
"Couldn't you sleep?" she
asked, breaking the thick silence.
Logan kicked at the sand. It filtered
between his toes and the exotic feel of Hannah's skin through the sheer
weave of her hose
returned to haunt him. "I don't sleep much."
He shook his head though he knew she
couldn't see, wondering if he could trust her with his secret, or if
it would be best to keep
his mouth shut. "Nightmares," he finally answered and held
She scooted to the edge of the deck,
dangled her legs over the side and peered down. "Bad ones?" she
asked, and he resisted the urge to reach up and touch her.
Her question echoed with such concern
he felt compelled to take a small step on the long road to trust. Hoping
the darkness hid
the effect she had on his naked body, he answered, "Bad enough."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"What's to say? I wake up, head pounding, drenched
in sweat and come down here to swim it off." Don't ask any more,
he silently begged, honestly afraid of the truth. And of himself.
"Did it help? The swim, I mean," she
"I think I'm tired enough to sleep." But
not tired enough to get you out of my mind. He glanced up and Hannah's
vanished over the edge. Her bare feet trod across the planks.
"Not tired enough to forget?" she
asked from the far side of the deck.
"I never forget." He paced a trench in the sand,
scooping the granules to the side with his toes. Back and forth he walked,
wanting to talk, forming the words, afraid to speak but more afraid not
to. "The dreams. They're so real. Every color and smell exact. The
reality was bad enough. The dreams ..." he let the thought go unfinished,
unable to voice the horror.
Her touch on his shoulder sent an erotic burn licking over
his skin. The fire seared him, an inferno melting away the hard core
of bis soul. Clenching his fists, he turned on a wave of nervous unease,
drawing a blank mask across his face while wanting more than anything
to draw her into his arms.
"I thought you might be cold," she
said, offering him a towel and a candid smile.
He swiped the towel across his chest and arms then secured
it around his naked hips, his eyes never once leaving her. No censure
or ridicule marred her expression. The care and concern etched on her
face wanned him deep inside.
Placing his hands on her shoulders he
backed her away from the shadow of the deck. Cupping her chin, he tilted
her head to the left,
then to the right, and stepped back to gaze down. "It doesn't work."
"What?" she asked in a breathless
"Your eyes. They change, you know.
I wanted to see what color they were now. The moon's not bright enough."
"It is for some things," she
"Like what?" he answered in
a voice suddenly husky, seeing all too well the outline of rounded
breasts and the shadow
of pebbled nipples in the soft ethereal light.
In a moment out of time, she reached
up and stroked a thumb across the comer of his eye. "Like seeing
that your worry and exhaustion go far beyond what a good night's sleep
Logan grasped her hand in his, squeezing his fingers around
hers. Turning his face into her palm, he placed a kiss in the center.
She caught her lower lip with her teeth and returned his steady gaze.
He thought he'd die if he didn't pull her to him. But it was still too
His hand holding hers, he splayed her
fingers against his chest, his pulse thundering into her hand and into
his loins. "I
doubt if a year's worth of sleep would cure me," he said as much
to himself as to her, suddenly confused as to why he'd offered her that
glimpse into his soul.
She pulled at her hand. Before he released
her he added a suggestive wink and a not-so-subtle grin, trying to
relieve the intensity
of the moment. "But a couple of scrambled eggs would be a good place
"You mean cook?" she asked,
"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach." Hannah
gave him a lopsided grin. "Where do you come up with these cornball
"I'll tell you about it over breakfast."