**Contains some adult content**
A hand ghosts down my arm. Goosebumps trail behind the feather-like touch. “Do you like that, Micah?” he whispers in my ear before nibbling the lobe. His heavy accent is hard to place, and he’s avoided my question every time I’ve asked where he’s from.
“Yes.” My breathy response and labored pants are the only sounds in the room.
His sultry chuckle sends a shiver down my spine.
“When will I see you?” My arms, frozen in place by his power, remain paralyzed when I reach for him. I grip the sheet to have something to hold on to.
“Soon,” he replies, the same as all the other times I’ve asked. He licks a path from my neck to my chin. “You smell so delicious.” He inhales long and deep. “Perfect.”
Another tremble works its way through me. It’s like this every time he appears. He rarely touches me—often staying only long enough to remind me I’m his—but when he graces me with his barely there touches, it feels like I’ve grabbed a live wire. The shock and heat make every hair on my body stand on end, and it sets my teeth on edge. My back arches against its own volition.
There is no denying I crave it.
A flash of light followed by a rumble loud enough to rattle the windows woke me. I reached out to grab my mystery lover, only to grasp nothing but air, his form fading into the darkness. My heart hammered in my chest as I became aware he was gone. I pulled at my sweat-soaked t-shirt, the overhead fan chilling my skin, and I reached down to pull up the blanket I’d kicked to the bottom of the bed.
Each time I broke free to touch him, he disappeared in a veil of mist. And each time, I grieved his absence. I often wondered why my mind conjured him. What was missing from my life that left me dreaming about a fictitious man at night and longing for him during the day? I rubbed my chest. The ache was real. The feeling of loss, of something missing, often left me depressed and lethargic when I woke up.
Another rumble shook the house. The storm had brewed since late afternoon, and even though I expected it, it still unnerved me. The electrical current in the air was an almost palpable thing. Like the feeling from my dream.
As the wind picked up, I watched ghostly apparitions play along the walls. It was easy to imagine their dancing forms as long-lost people searching for their life, gone whether by old age or tragedy. I reminded myself it was simply the trees swaying in the wind and settled back under the covers, taking deep, measured breaths to calm down.
It was after midnight and turning out to be another sleepless night. Lately, a feeling of unease slithered along my spine as soon as the sun set and continued well until the first ray of light swept across the room. After a few nights, I’d prayed and pleaded to whatever god would listen, I would finally get a good night’s sleep. But my prayers went unanswered.
Every night turned into the same thing, that unsettling feeling of being watched, only to search every nook and cranny or look out every window and find myself alone. And if I managed to drift off, dreams of a man whose face I could never quite remember plagued me. Sometimes feelings would linger when I woke: fear, happiness, confusion. Love. None of it made sense, and I chalked it up to eating something before bed that didn’t agree with me. I could recall his touches and his voice, but never his face. Though lately, little nuances broke through dark hair, dark skin, a flash of fangs.
Fangs? That was new. It only added to the conundrum. I couldn’t help but feel something was about to happen. And it scared me.
The sound of a car door and the beeping of a large vehicle backing up startled me from my thoughts. I glanced at the clock again. One-fifteen. Who was backing a big truck up at this time of night?
I slid from the bed and peeled back the curtain. The storm had died down to a slow simmer in the distance. The time between the streaks of lightning dancing across the sky became further apart, and the crack of thunder didn’t shake the house anymore as it moved away.
The house next door had been vacant for years. Its eerie countenance was enough to scare the local kids into thinking it was haunted. The peeling paint and broken boards were a testament to its age and dilapidated state. A moving van sat backed up to the garage, its interior light the only thing providing any visibility. Dark shadows carrying boxes passed between the van and the house. Why were they moving in during the middle of the night?
I dropped the curtain and climbed back into bed. Maybe tomorrow I’d get up the courage to meet my new neighbors. For now, I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping to dream about my mystery man again.
When I finally rolled out of bed the next morning and peeked out of the curtain, all was quiet next door. The house still looked dark and haunted, but the moving van was gone and no one stirred. Had I dreamed it all too? My sleep-deprived brain told me it was nothing but my imagination, just like my mystery man.
As I made my way to my car, the feeling of being watched followed me all the way. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and I searched the road and sidewalk. My gaze landed on the house next door. A familiar tingle ran along my spine, and I hurried to jump into my car.
By the time I got back home, exhaustion weighed me down. I wanted nothing more than to climb into bed and sleep for days. I forgot about being watched or the new neighbors. But, no sooner than I’d closed my eyes, the dreams started. Only this time, instead of passion, they were filled with fear.
White puffs of air rise above my head as my breath saws in and out. The trees’ menacing branches reach for me, determined to grab and trip. I know if I fall, he’ll catch me.
“Where are you, poppet?” His voice echoes in my ear, too close for comfort. It’s as if he stands next to me instead of trailing behind. Against my better judgment, I glance back. A dark shape drifts behind a tree.
“No need to run, Micah. I won’t hurt you.” His sing-song voice sends chills down my spine. I push forward, jumping over a fallen log. “Stop!” His voice rings out through the woods, and I freeze.
Cool arms wrap around me from behind and his warm breath whispers in my ear, “There we are. Not much longer now.” My heart picks up its frantic rhythm. I can’t decide if his words thrill me or disgust me.
My eyes flew open, and I bolted upright in the bed, searching the room. The only noise was the blood rushing in my ears as my heart threatened to explode. Though I’d felt fear before in the dreams, this wasn’t the same. Those were more fear of never seeing him again. This was almost as if a different person hunted me instead of my mystery man. I could still feel his body pressed behind mine, and a shudder ran through me.
A low, haunted laugh sounded outside my window, causing my skin to crawl. The curtains fluttered in the wind, and I rushed to slam the window shut. I didn’t remember opening it, but I’d been so tired lately I could hardly remember to change into my pajamas before climbing into bed.
I flipped on the lamp and sat on the edge of the bed. It looked like another sleepless night.
“Are you scared of me?” His breath slides along my jaw and neck.
“Y-yes.” My breaths come faster whether by fear or excitement I don’t know.
“Why?” He raises his head, and I gasp. His stark blue eyes, a contrast to his dark skin, pin me in place. He is beautiful.
I lift my hand and run it through his silky black hair. Surprise hits me again when I realize I can move. “How? Why?” What has changed?
“It’s time.” As I go to reach for him, he disappears.
Everything slowly came into focus. The sun rose long ago, its light already filling the room, and I blinked against the brightness. The dreams had grown in intensity, leaving me more fatigued each day. At the rate I was going, I wouldn’t be able to drag myself out of bed to get to work. Maybe it was time to call the doctor about something to help me sleep.
I grew restless when evening approached and decided a walk might clear my mind and allow me to sleep.
A slight breeze ruffled my hair as I stepped outside, and I breathed in the cool air. The nighttime creatures sang their song as I strolled down the sidewalk. It took me a moment to realize all noises stopped when I reached the edge of the new neighbor’s property. It was as if they were afraid of a predator near the premises. A shiver ran down my spine. I could sense it, too. Just as I turned around to head home, movement to the side caught my eye, and I turned only to run into a hard body.
“I’m sorry—” When I looked up, familiar blue eyes and dark features stared down at me. My breath stalled in my chest. It was him.
A smile spread across his face. “So we meet, poppet.” A quiver of excitement raced through me as my heart fluttered.
“Yes, it’s me. I told you I would come for you, Micah.” He wrapped a hand around the back of my head and one on my shoulder, arching my neck. Much like my dreams, I was frozen in place, helpless to do anything but whatever he desired. He ran his nose along my jaw to my neck and breathed in. “You always smell so delicious and make my mouth water. I can’t wait to have a bite.”