Ellis knew he was dreaming. There was nothing unusual about that. He was a Level Five lucid dreamer, after all. He even recognized this particular dreamscape. But there was something different about it tonight.
He stands in the center of the circular room. The ceiling is transparent. He can see the night sky through it. High, gothic-style entrances to dozens of darkened halls ring the space.
Tango Dancer comes toward him from one of the many corridors. He wants to make love to her more than he has ever wanted anything in his adult life. But he is afraid that afterward she will walk away from him and vanish into one of the mysterious halls.
She glides into the circular room, smiling a feminine invitation that makes him ache with desire. She stops in the shadows. Raising one hand, she beckons him with a graceful curl of her fingertips.
He does not move. He knows that if he stays where he is she cannot see him clearly. It is better that way.
"Are you afraid of me?" she asks.
"No," he says. "I'm afraid of wanting you this much."
"I don't know," he lies.
"Yes you do. You think that I will leave you."
"Will you let that stop you from touching me?"
"No." But a great despair and anger well up inside him because he knows what will happen. She will demand more than he can risk giving her. She will want to see him, really see him. She will want to get very close and he cannot allow that. He has a rule about letting people get close. He put that rule in place a long time ago, when he was twelve.
She reaches out to him with both hands. "Come with me."
He starts toward her because, in spite of everything, he cannot resist her.
But when he gets close enough for her to see his face, she turns and runs away, disappearing into one of the dark gothic passages . . .
The harsh jangle of the phone jarred him awake.
He sat up quickly, trying to ignore his erection and the tight, heavy sensation in the lower part of his body. The phone rang again.
He swung his legs out from under the covers, planted both feet on the floor and looked at the face of the radio alarm. Twelve fifty-three. It was the room phone. Not Lawson. Lawson always called him on his personal phone.
That left Isabel. At this hour? Adrenaline spiked. His pulse pounded.
He grabbed the phone. "This is Cutler."
"Ellis?" Isabela hesitated. "I'm sorry to disturb you. I know it's late, but -- "
"What's wrong?" He cut in before she could get out another word.
"Well, I want to ask you a hypothetical question."
He glanced at the face of the bedside alarm clock again. "It's almost one o'clock in the morning so I'm going to assume this question is more than hypothetical. What is it?"
"It's a little complicated."
"Isabel -- "
"All right, here's the question. Do you think there are any serious laws against an honest citizen buying or selling e-mail addresses, at least one of which was created specifically for a government agency that doesn't officially exist?"
Copyright © 2004 by Jayne Ann Krentz.