Home > When She Dreams (Burning Cove #6)

When She Dreams (Burning Cove #6)
Author: Amanda Quick

 

Chapter 1

 


   You poisoned me.”

   The words tumbled out in a slurred mumble, not the scream of rage Maggie Lodge intended. The drug had plunged her into a waking nightmare. The office of Dr. Emerson Oxlade, Dream Analyst, was starting to revolve. Bits and pieces of the walls and ceiling were becoming transparent.

   “Calm yourself, Miss Smith.” Oxlade spoke in stern, authoritative tones. “Remember, you have extremely delicate nerves and are therefore inclined toward hysteria. It is why you came to me for therapy. I am attempting to help you.”

   Oxlade knew her as Miss Smith because she had booked the consultation under that name. It was her long-standing habit to use a false identity when she made appointments with experts in the field of dream analysis. She had initiated the practice after she had been released from Sweet Creek Manor Psychiatric Hospital, and it had served her well. The proof of its effectiveness was that she had not resided in another asylum since leaving Sweet Creek.

   “I did not come here for therapy,” she said. “I distinctly told the receptionist that I was booking a consultation. There is nothing wrong with my nerves. I am not hysterical, damn it. I’m furious.”

   But she knew she probably sounded as if she were on the edge of hysteria. She should have heeded the warning she got last week when she walked into the office for the first time. The space was drenched in invisible shadows.

   She had told herself the bad energy had been left behind by some of the troubled people who had come to Oxlade for help with their nightmares. Now she wondered how much of the dark stuff had been laid down by Oxlade himself.

   It wasn’t the first time she had wandered into a pool of energy that was so murky it was impossible to distinguish the source. But if she made it a rule not to go into any space that reeked of other people’s nightmares, she would become housebound. Her sensitivity had already done enough damage to her personal life. She would not allow it to turn her into an agoraphobe.

   “I assure you that you have not been poisoned,” Oxlade huffed. “My enhancer has some side effects, but most people find them enjoyable, even exhilarating, provided they have someone to guide them through the experience. That is why I am here. I will show you how to make the most of your talent for lucid dreaming. Together we will achieve great things.”

   “Bastard.”

   “I gave you a very light dose this first time. I’ve never used it on anyone with your powerful dream talent. Didn’t want to overdo it. In a few minutes you will be deep in a waking dreamstate. The enhancer has hypnotic effects. It will cause you to become extremely suggestible. That will allow me to take control of your experience.”

   “Stop it,” she said, trying to fight off the terrifying sensation that her mind was starting to separate from her body. “You drugged me, you fraud. You’re no better than the others.”

   Screaming for help would have to wait. She had to focus on overcoming the visions, and at the moment she could not do two things at the same time. Her priorities were clear: Escape first. Scream later. The inevitable nightmares would no doubt follow, but she could handle bad dreams. She was an expert.

   She gazed up at the disappearing ceiling, groping for a strategy.

   “Do not fight the effects,” Oxlade said. “It will make the process more difficult. Remain calm.”

   “Shut up.”

   “You will learn to embrace my enhancer, Miss Smith. I will guide you.”

   He was still speaking in the clinical manner of a doctor who knows what is best for a patient, but now she detected a disturbing element infused into the words. Lust. Not the sexual kind. Some sort of sick desire.

   Should have picked up on that unpleasant little quirk sooner, she thought.

   But the first consultation had seemed to go well in spite of the energy in the office. Oxlade was the latest in the long line of doctors, therapists, quacks, and con artists she had encountered in the past few years, but he was the one with the most respected reputation. He wrote papers for scientific and medical journals. He gave guest lectures at distinguished academic institutions.

   After the first consultation, Oxlade had been eager to have her book a series of appointments with him. Now she knew why he had been so enthusiastic. He was obsessed with her—not with her as a woman but with her talent for lucid dreaming.

   It was not the first time she had found herself in such a situation, but none of the other so-called experts had attempted to drug her. Oxlade had slipped past her usually sharp defenses.

   The walls and floor were almost invisible now. Oxlade’s desk and the bookshelves crammed with weighty volumes and academic journals drifted around her in midair.

   “Just another few minutes, Miss Smith, and we will be ready to begin our journey through your astonishing dreams,” Oxlade said.

   She realized she could hear him but she could no longer see him. That was not good. Cautiously she turned her head on the cushion, searching for her tormentor.

   Oxlade floated into view. He was ensconced in his big leather chair, tailored trousers artfully hitched up over his crossed knees, pipe wedged in the corner of his mouth, notebook at the ready. The gold signet ring on his little finger sparked ominously. Behind the lenses of his spectacles his pale eyes glittered with a sheen of unwholesome excitement. The eyes of a reptile.

   His head began to change shape. It grew longer, snakelike. His pipe was now a thin, forked tongue.

   She knew she was letting the hallucinations gain control. She could not allow that to happen. This was a nightmare. She knew how to handle bad dreams.

   You need a plan.

   She had to move if she wanted to escape, but the revolving room was disorienting. It affected her sense of balance. Nothing seemed solid or substantial, not even the couch she reclined on.

   The couch.

   Getting off the couch was clearly a crucial first step. Thinking logically wasn’t her strong suit at the moment, but she was suddenly very certain she could not get out of the office if she did not get off the damned couch.

   The room was badly warped. Everything was wrong, but she knew how it was supposed to look. Oxlade tossed you into the deep end of a dream.

   She pulled hard on her self-control, forcing the hallucinations to recede. The furniture settled back on the floor. The walls and ceiling grew solid. She took a deep breath and struggled to a sitting position.

   Oxlade was annoyed. He leaned forward, his viper eyes glinting. “Lie down, Miss Smith. You will get dizzy if you try to stand.”

   With another fierce effort of will she succeeded in swinging her legs over the side of the couch. She was profoundly grateful she had worn trousers to the appointment. Not that the choice of attire was simply a stroke of good luck. Countless hours spent in the offices of dream analysts, psychiatrists, and therapists had taught her there was usually a couch involved. She had also discovered that some practitioners were not above trying to seduce their clients on said couches. It was easier to deal with such situations when one was wearing trousers.

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