She's a hot mess, who drinks too much,
shags too much, and knows too much!!!!
Silken black tendrils danced in the breeze, whipping against his neck as Gunner galloped across the sand. Waves crashed against his hooves and splashed a combination of water and sand into the air, spraying Cassie’s face and soaking her clothes. Hugging her legs against him, she strained to maintain their grip on his drenched torso. She squinted against the scratchy invasion of saltwater and sand in her eyes and turned her gaze towards the ocean. One long, golden ribbon of sunlight spread across the horizon and glimmered like spun gold falling off the edge of the world, and then just like that, stars appeared, blanketing the heavens with a diamond-like glow.
As they raced into the burgeoning night, dread delivered promises of doom, and her body tensed against the unease. An unknown desperate urgency prompted her to increase their speed, and the need for answers egged her on—she had to hurry. The reason for haste seemed to be a blur in her mind, but she knew the answers were within reach. If she found them, everything would work out.
Changing direction, she prompted Gunner away from the beach, and into the abyss. The feeling of dread grew with intensity, telling her to hurry, or she wouldn’t get what she needed. She dug her heels in, pushing Gunner to increase his speed—he powered on, even though they couldn’t see. Afraid of losing her balance, she twisted her fingers through his black locks in an attempt to maintain a firmer grasp. He whinnied against the sudden yank of his mane, came to an abrupt stop, and reared. Surprised, Cassie struggled to hold on as his mane slipped from her grasp, and she slid from his back.
Bracing herself for a hard fall, she closed her eyes, wincing against the impending impact, but the crash she expected morphed into a swift whirling journey through nothingness, until her body jolted in protest upon landing on what felt like a chair. Surprised by the painless fall, she opened her eyes.
Cassie surveyed her surroundings, recognizing the open room as that of a courtroom. Beams of sunlight flooded the room, burning her eyes and blurring her vision. A few rapid blinks drew her surroundings into focus. She sat, as a spectator, facing the witness box. Confused, she waited for what came next.
A bailiff entered the room, through a side door near the judge’s bench, and led the accused towards the defendant’s box. The shamed man had his head hung low, but when he sat on the bench, he forced his head up high, defiant and seemingly unconcerned. He scanned the room but paused when his eyes connected to hers. She gasped, crying out in surprise while assessing the familiar green eyes looking back at her.
Randy tossed her a sly smile and winked, like they shared some dirty secret and this was just a blip, and then he stood and turned his attention towards the judge.
The ridiculously aged female judge called the court to order in her raspy, one-too-many-cigarettes voice. After pausing for a long sip of water, she struggled to clear her scarred throat and began to read the charges.
Dazed, Cassie sat numbly in her chair, waiting for the answer to Randy’s incarceration. Her frantic thoughts muffled the judge’s voice, until three terrifying words echoed throughout the courtroom.
Jolting in her chair, Cassie’s gaze flew back to Randy, but the eyes looking back at her no longer belonged to him. The body and features belonged to Randy, but his hypnotic green eyes were gone—replaced with cold, dead, baby-blues that could not be mistaken—they belonged to Dillon.
Cassie Woods jerked upright in her lounge chair, clasping her hand to her throat and choking on each rattled breath. Reality slowly seeped in, and the astonishing truth behind the dream viciously squeezed her soul while her heart raced wildly in her chest.
Raking shaky fingers through her tawny hair, her brown eyes bulged against the images that were now permanently etched in her mind. She blinked rapidly, hoping to wipe away the dream, but the vivid images didn’t fade like with typical dreams. They hung on, clear and vibrant, like a memory, and that’s how she knew...
“What the hell?” Eryn Miller scrambled to Cassie’s side. Their eyes met, and Eryn easily read Cassie’s terrified gaze. “Dillon,” Eryn hissed, reaching out to take her best friend’s hand. “It was just a dream.”
Cassie shook her head. “It wasn’t just a dream…it was like the others.” She rolled her shoulders, attempting to shake off the residual unease that the dream left behind.
“What happened?” Eryn squeezed Cassie’s hand, silently assuring her friend that everything would be fine.
Closing her eyes, Cassie released the hateful truth, flinching as the ethereal words rolled off her tongue. “It’s Randy. I think he’s going to take the fall.”
“What? No, that’s impossible. Randy’s innocent.” Eryn dismissed the idea with a toss of her waist-length blonde hair, as though it meant nothing, even though she knew better. They both did.
Cassie met Eryn’s azure eyes, and shook her head. “You know, as well as I do, that being innocent doesn’t mean shit. I need to talk to Randy. This doesn’t make any sense.” She stared down at her hands while trying to interpret the mash of images that presented themselves in her dream. “It was vivid, like I was chasing something—a truth. There’s something I know, or I need to know, but can’t quite recall. It’s hard to explain, but it’s overwhelming. Breathtakingly so…”
“Well, we’ll be home tomorrow. You can talk to Randy then. For now, just chill out and relax. Besides, Randy would have called if there was a problem.”
Cassie nodded, leaned back in her lounger with a heavy sigh, and stared out over the endless horizon. The sixth Hawaiian sunset promised to be every bit as fantastic as the last five they had witnessed. An explosion of intoxicating shades of reds, pinks, purples, and golds mingled across the sky, reflecting a mesmerizing illusion across the water. This was Heaven, or at least, as close as Cassie had ever been.
As amazing as it was, Heaven couldn’t distract her from the truth. Nothing could, because the truth cruelly mocked her, reminding her of what they had done.
Tomorrow, they will fly home, leaving paradise behind, potentially trading it for the worst kind of hell—and maybe prison. Pinching her eyes shut, she attempted to purge her mind of all negativity. It didn’t work. Those cold, dead, baby-blues haunted her, tormented her with memories of the night from hell.
She had worked the case as a honeypot to catch Dillon in the act—he took the bait. But when she shut it down before it went anywhere, he followed her out to the parking lot. One thing led to another, and she pulled her gun on him. He didn’t appreciate being emasculated and proceeded to follow her home, where he attempted to rape her.
If it hadn’t been for Daniel, her co-worker who also shared a psychic gift, she’d be dead, rotting in that old barn cellar. If it hadn’t been for Daniel, they may never have found her.
After the rescue, Daniel, Randy, Ben, and Eryn took care of the cleanup which included a huge bonfire containing Dillon’s remains and the floorboards from the cellar—she could still smell his flesh burning—it’s the kind of odor you never forget.
It was the kind of situation you never forget, and she could still see his cold, dead, baby-blues, still feel his reptilian tongue sliding across her cheek. There is nothing like the fear of dying, the terror in those moments before it happens.
Thank God, Daniel shot him. Squeezing her eyelids tight, she focused hard on erasing his eyes from her memory. If only she could forget, God how she wanted to, but her mind didn’t want to let it go.
“Stop thinking about Dillon.” Eryn sighed, annoyed. “No wonder you’re having dreams about him. You need to lock that shit up and forget all about it.”
“I can’t help it. I’m scared.” A single tear escaped Cassie’s eye, but she bitterly batted it way. “I swore that I wouldn’t shed another tear for that prick, yet here I go again.”
“I think it’s more selfish than sadness for Dillon,” Eryn spat his name like the poison it was. “No one is going to prison for that bastard. I promise you. Just keep your shit together, and your mouth shut, and everything will work out just fine.”
Keeping her shit together wasn’t even a remote possibility, but no matter what, she had to keep her mouth shut; there was too much at stake, for everyone involved.
Still, the shit storm of recent events couldn’t easily be pushed aside. Cassie struggled to recuperate from what went down, and Eryn’s casual acceptance pissed her off—like the fact that they covered up a murder didn’t mean anything.
No big deal, we’ll just kill a guy, incinerate the remains and go through life as if nothing happened…Fat chance of that, she thought. Mostly, she envied Eryn and wished she could be as flippant about what they had done. Getting past the fear of being caught had proven to be a challenge.
“I’m trying, Eryn...it’s been a lot, you know?” There were no words to describe the anxiety that crushed her shoulders with its weight.
“You’ll get through this, believe me. The bastard had it coming. Think of how much better the world will be without his disgusting rapist ass lurking around every corner. Don’t give him a second more of your life. You have bigger and better things to think about. You have an exciting career as a private investigator, and a chance at a fresh start. It’s time you get happy already! Honestly, I thought the Hawaiian vacay would cure you, but now I’m out of ideas.” Eryn huffed, slumping back in her lounger.
Cassie nodded, knowing that Eryn was right. Still... “I know. I’m sorry. This has been awesome. I’m not sure what Heaven is like, but I’m thinking lounging on the beach, with a Mai Tai in hand, watching the horizon explode like an impressionist painting is close to it. No more Dillon-talk. I promise. This is our last night. Let’s enjoy these final moments in paradise before heading home.”
Eryn glared at her, looking unimpressed. “You’re so full of shit.” She picked up Cassie’s cell and handed it to her. “Text Randy, so we can enjoy our last night in peace.”
Cassie rolled her eyes, grabbed the cell, and sent a text to Randy. Everything ok there?
Hoping Randy would reply, ASAP, so they could move forward, she set the phone down and looked to Eryn, frowning because she felt bad about ruining the mood. Eryn put every effort into making this vacation a memorable one, and Cassie tried to take advantage of the opportunity to relax, but there was just too much weighing on her mind.
The neurotic side of her brain nagged her to keep checking the Regina news online for anything about Dillon. It wasn’t enough to know he’s considered a missing person—she was terrified that the police somehow knew what they had done.
And the dreams, the regular ones, tormented her with the events of that night as if on auto play and permanently etched in her mind. This last one, the courtroom dream; that had been different, like the others.
This dream and that dream, and all the other dreams, couldn’t outshine the other thing she could do. Although she still couldn’t fully accept it as truth, Daniel insisted that she struck Dillon with an electrical force emanating from her hands; it knocked him out, but it also felt as if she had been stun-gunned, she was convinced that Dillon had stunned her…apparently, that wasn’t the case.
Eryn shook her head, frustrated with Cassie’s denial. “Why can’t you accept the fact that you have a psychic gift and embrace it, already? You won’t have a moment of peace until you do. Maybe you should go see your dad when we get home. Somehow you need to learn to control these dreams. You should tell him what happened with Dillon,” Eryn suggested.
Cassie’s dad shared the same precognitive gift as her, but his abilities were much stronger. Telling her dad about Dillon’s murder was not something she had the nerve to do. Plus, he probably already knew, since he seemed to know everything else that had been happening in her life.
“What? No…” Her cell phone chirped, interrupting the debate.
Eryn grabbed the phone and answered before Cassie could protest.
“John, you need to help Cassie…Yes, it was another dream…How did you know? What?!” Eryn blanched and handed the phone to Cassie. “You have to talk to him.” She got up and walked along the beach, giving Cassie a moment of privacy with her dad.
Cassie held the phone to her ear, and with little girl desperation, replied, “Daddy?” For the first time in her life, she needed her dad, so she listened intently to what he had to say. He was the only person who truly understood what she was dealing with, after all.
“I know what happened. I know everything.” Dad’s soothing tone, only made her feel worse. Crap. Dad knew—Cassie knew he knew, but hearing him say it, produced a flush of humiliation that burned her cheeks. How much did he know?
Tears poured from her eyes in response to his words. “The minute you get home, you come by and see me. I’ll show you how to take control. Trust my words, Cassie, everything will be okay. I promise, Darling.” His British accent soothed her soul, washing over her and creating a sense of calm. She wondered if this was another of his gifts. Whatever the case, Cassie legitimately felt like she could trust him.
She had no choice.
The dreams threatened her sanity, and the overwhelming exhaustion, from the lack of quality sleep, affected her ability to cope with anything, and she needed that ability to cope, desperately. Her life had been spiraling out of control for weeks, and she honestly didn’t know what to do about it. Thankful that her dad would help, she nodded and hung up, feeling hopeful but still slightly on edge.
“There, see, you already look better,” Eryn said, sitting back down in her lounger. “Before you know it, you’ll be back to your ass-kicking self, and Dillon will be long forgotten.”
“Ass-kicking?” Cassie tilted her head and made a doubtful face.
“Okay, how about electrifying?” Eryn giggled.
Cassie shook her head, unable to hold back a grin. Her cell buzzed with a text alert. It was Randy. All good here, see you next Monday.
A sigh of relief burst from her lips as she passed the phone to Eryn.
“See, I told you. Now, let’s order a few drinks and chill.”
Leaning back in her lounger, Cassie stared out over the horizon, inviting the eclectic array of purples and pinks to flood her mind’s eye and mend her wounded spirit. The stress of what Dillon had done to her and what they had done to Dillon weighed heavily on her body and soul, and the burden had taken its toll. It wasn’t that he didn’t deserve to die—he most certainly did, but it was still wrong.
Randy couldn’t go down for Dillon’s death. It wasn’t right and it wasn’t fair. As her boss, mentor, and friend, he had only ever looked out for her, and now it seemed like he would pay for their association. She prayed that the dream was wrong, that there was another plausible explanation.
She longed for the days when nightmares were just dreams and reality was simply reality. Those days were long gone, and now the nightmares had become her reality.