Verena Vincent

Holly's Dream Lover Fantasy

Prologue

Holly wasn't quite sure what woke her. All she knew was that one moment she was sound asleep, alone in her queen-sized bed as usual, and the next she was completely awake and absolutely certain that something was wrong. At first she thought maybe she had been startled out of her slumber by the screech of a passing ambulance's siren or perhaps a dog barking outside her window. But that wasn't it. Those sounds were common enough and had never given her this feeling of panic upon waking. This was something else. Something close and personal. And very, very threatening.

Her impulse was to reach over and turn on the bedside table lamp and vanquish her paranoid delusion with just the turn of a switch, but some instinct told her that would be a very big mistake. If she startled a thief she probably wouldn't survive this encounter, especially if she could identify his face.

Unsure what to do she stayed perfectly still, trying to keep her breathing as deep and regular as possible. She didn't know why, but it seemed important to appear like she was still asleep.

Waiting in the dark for something to happen was torture. She became hyperaware of her surroundings. Her white sheets, fresh from the laundry, felt cool and crisp against her skin. The scent of her own strawberry-scented organic shampoo tickled her nose and she remembered that she'd gone to bed with her long, curly hair still damp from the shower.

Most of all she was cognizant of her heart's frantic thump. It sounded unnaturally loud and urgent in the still room, and she thought how odd it would be if she went into cardiac arrest at the age of 29. Of course, if she truly wasn't alone, then a heart attack might just be preferable to the alternative. But she refused to think about that.

Unable to sustain the horrible anticipation a moment longer, Holly opened her eyes just a slit. She'd been half-expecting to see someone standing there, looming over her, but she seemed utterly alone. Nothing out of place. The room was very dark, but her bedside clock illuminated her surroundings enough that she was able to discern the shape of her bureau against the far wall, and the silhouette of her reading lamp on the bedside table. No sign of an intruder and yet something wasn't right. What was it exactly?

Scanning the room, something on the floor caught her eye. The cherry hardwood floors looked black in the moonlight, but the fluffy yellow throw rug next to her bed was quite visible. There was something on it. Something dark which did not belong.

She thought back. Had she left an item of clothing there? She wasn't typically a clean freak, but she rarely left things just lying around either. If she didn't feel like putting something away she had a tendency to throw it in her walk-in closet to deal with later. But she supposed she could have just left her jeans lying there. She had been tired last night. She'd worked late and had fallen into bed after slipping on the lacy pale lilac camisole and matching boy- short panties she was currently wearing.

Squinting her eyes, she tried to make out the exact shape of the item on the floor. It really didn't look like clothing. It looked like a bag or a knapsack of some sort. Could she have brought her camera equipment in here? Didn't seem likely. She usually left everything in her temperature-controlled dark room on the other side of the apartment.

This is ridiculous, she thought to herself. Why am I lying here wondering about what's on my rug, when I could just flip a switch and satisfy my curiosity? She was just about to reach over and turn on the light when something made her freeze. It was the bed. It had shifted, just slightly. She hadn't moved, so there was only one explanation. Someone else was here. On the other side of her bed. Waiting.

Adrenaline shot through her and she closed her eyes tightly again, hoping this was some terrible nightmare brought on by her poor diet and penchant for horror movies. But it wasn't a dark dream. It was happening. Now that she was aware someone was in the room with her she could actually hear his shallow, even breathing.

Trying to think rationally, she attempted to come up with a plan before he got tired of waiting. Were there any weapons nearby? No. Nothing. There was a security bar in the patio door frame on the other side of the room, but she doubted she could reach it before he fell upon her.

If she screamed, would anyone hear her? Yes. She lived on the bottom floor of a quaint turn-of-the-century building in downtown Vancouver. There were thousands of people sleeping and living within shouting distance of her.

But if she screamed, wouldn't he be likely to panic? And maybe hurt her before someone came to her rescue? But the odds were that he was looking to harm her anyway. Why else would he be in her room at night? Better to scream and stand a chance than lie here and wait for him to reveal his sinister purpose for being here.

Drawing in a deep breath, she was just about to unleash an ear-splitting screech when the sound of knocking shattered the silence. It was coming from the front door of her apartment and was followed by a commanding voice.

'Holly Chambers? This is the VPD. We've had a report of a prowler. Please open up and let us check the premises.'

The voice shocked her out of her paralysis and into action. She dropped to the floor and was scrambling forward like a startled jackrabbit, intent on putting as much distance between her and the dark form on the bed as possible. She got to her feet and threw open her bedroom door with enough force to send it flying against the wall. She didn't look behind her but she was vaguely aware of movement away from her and towards the patio door. Oh, thank God. He's not going to grab me, was her only thought as she sprinted through her dark apartment towards the front door and, hopefully, salvation.

An hour later, Holly was sitting at her own small kitchen table, watching her tea cup shake as she tried to bring it to her lips without dropping lukewarm Earl Grey down the front of her camisole. After two tries, she set the cup down and crossed her arms over her chest to keep her hands from trembling.

The police officer sitting across from her was watching her with so much concern in his expressive brown eyes that she feared she would burst into tears at any second. He really needed to stop doing that. She was having a hard enough time keeping her emotions together without this gorgeous cop watching her so closely; like he was sincerely worried she was going to freak out at any second.

A big part of her wanted him to leave so she could finally stop pretending she was alright, and indulge in a minor breakdown. But she was also terrified of being alone. How exactly was she going to sleep again? And here of all places. No, she needed to keep him here a little longer. At least until her mother arrived.

If she had met Constable Delgado under different circumstances she would have been wondering if he was actually a stripper in a police officer costume. He was just way too attractive to be a cop. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to be wearing rip-away velcro pants or a vibrating billy club like the cop impersonator she'd seen at her cousin's bachelorette.

This grim-faced giant with the wide chest and chiselled cheekbones was the real deal. After he'd gently removed her from his chest, Officer Delgado had shown her his identification before searching her apartment. He'd even reported his whereabouts on the small radio receiver attached to his collar, just like in the movies.

If this was a typical evening, and they'd met under different circumstances, she'd feel self-conscious about being practically naked in front him. But tonight she wasn't concerned about her lack of makeup or her bed-ravaged hair at all. She was a bit embarrassed at the way she'd launched herself into his arms when she'd finally gotten her apartment door open, but other than that, she just didn't care. These things seemed pretty inconsequential compared with what had happened earlier. Or more to the point, what had almost happened earlier.

Luckily, one of her neighbors had actually noticed someone skulking around behind her apartment. Considering the many homeless people who roamed the West End it was a real miracle someone had bothered to call the police regarding this particular incident. But they had, and for that she was incredibly fortunate.

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