Coral awoke with a hypnagogic jerk into a cloud of clove cigarette smoke. The smell of waffle batter lingered from the previous dream. Unfortunately, so did her hangover.
A glowing cherry danced beside her and she spread out her hands in the dark. The left found the edge of the bed. The right caressed feathers.
She rolled away, spotting the glowing green numbers – 4:21 AM – casting the shadow of what she was seeking. She threw the switch and the horn of the unicorn lantern pierced the darkness.
“Ah! What the hell?”
Coral rolled over to discover both Lonnie and the peacock squinting against the light.
They were in Lonnie’s bed.
The three of them with the peacock, Xander, tucked under the covers between them with a cigarette hanging from his beak.
“I didn’t drink that much!” Coral protested.
“You again?” Xander grumbled, blowing smoke out his nostrils. “Come to harass me in this dream too?”
Lonnie was propped up on her elbow, eyes closed with her other hand stroking Xander’s downy breast.
“This isn’t my dream,” Coral said.
“Clearly, Miss Goth Lips. Now scram and turn off the light before you go.”
The light extinguished with a pop and the bottom dropped out from under her. She sank through the mattress and the floor in a lethargic decent. Instinctively, she reached out and grasped the edge of a cast iron tub.
She settled into a blanket of hot water, the steam filled air carrying the scent of rose oil bath pearls.
She was well acquainted with this nightmare.
The dark eased back, tucking itself away from the flickering of candlelight. But that’s where things went wrong. There should have been tea candles confined to the corners but this bath had a ledge filled with white pillar candles of varying heights seated upon gold candlesticks. They dripped wax into the bath where it formed rose petals clinging to her in a convenient censorship of the important parts.
“You look radiant in the candlelight.” She looked up, startled by the man seated on the edge of the tub.
This part was different too.
But different didn’t make him less dangerous even if he was handsome, significantly more so than the other one who haunted this bath dream.
“You’re positively glowing,” he said and he smiled, cupping her chin. “Which do you prefer? Berry Bordeaux or Pinot Noir?
Coral pulled herself easily from his grasp. “Either or. They’re both black in this light.”
He chuckled as he produced a gold lipstick tube from his breast pocket. “Call me a Bordeaux man then.” He made a production out of removing the cap and rolling up the lipstick before grasping her around the back of her neck as if scruffing a kitten.
“I like this color. I like all your colors,” he said as he outlined her lips with the tip. She could feel the exaggerated cupid’s bow as he drew on a thicker pair of lips than what she should possess naturally. “But this one looks the most natural on my skin. I like the way it forms an O around my. . .”
Coral whipped her head back. “Go to hell!” She grabbed the tallest candlestick within reach, sending the candle into the bath as she swung it at his head. The lipstick clattered to the floor as he disappeared in a wave of smoke, his laughter lingering as the candles extinguished one by one.
Lonnie had a waffle ready for her when she stumbled into the kitchen in the morning and belly upped next to Xander at the counter. He was bleary eyed and accidentally flooded his partial waffle with syrup.
“I thought you said you slept the best all year?” Coral asked him.
“Don’t use my words against me,” he snapped as he attacked his waffle in a less than dignified manner.
Lonnie looked between them. “I take it you two have become acquainted.”
Coral sipped her mimosa, the hangover suddenly wasn’t so bad. “Briefly. Thanks for the waffle.”
Lonnie turned back to the iron on the stove. “You’re welcome. For some reason I woke up with a craving for them. Must’ve been something I dreamt.”
Xander glared at Coral with syrup dripping from his beak. She was engrossed in making sure the butter melted evenly across the waffle crevices and missed the brief exchange when Lonnie turned back around. Xander cocked his head in an all too readable way.
We need to talk.
A/N: I didn’t care for how Xander turned out after I posted it during the A-to-Z Challenge. Layered Dreams turns that story into a dream and follows Coral through two more. I also switched to a third person POV so I apologize if that threw anyone for a loop.
Thank you for reading!