I saw the first one right after class. It was late April and already hot as a Swedish sauna in my home town of Scottsdale, Arizona. Kendra Perkins had stopped me to ask about a mark on her undergrad veterinary assignment, and while I was moving my hair away from my neck and longing stupidly for winter, I looked over her shoulder and there he was.
The man was extremely large and very blond. He wore a banded tunic with leggings and had leather bands on both his wrists.
My first thought was, how the heck had he gotten to the back of the classroom without me seeing him? Especially with that long gun-metal gray sword that was hanging from a belt at his waist.
I blinked twice and stared. He didn't move.
Crap. He appeared to be real.
"Is there a medieval festival in town?" I asked with a little skip in my voice.
Tunic-man looked right at me, startled. His eyes were ice blue.
Not one of my students, I realized. I'd never seen the guy before. And believe me, I would have remembered. Scary and way too attractive. Well, let's just say scary.
I'd only taught for one term and I'd only been out of veterinary school for a year, but the impetus to protect my students was automatic.
I stepped around Kendra. "Hello―can I help you?"
I managed a smile and that seemed to surprise the stranger. He frowned and bent his head slightly as if to bow. Then he swung around, walked through the wall and was gone.
"Row, who are you talking to?" Kendra asked behind me.
I turned, my mouth gaping. "Didn't you see that guy dressed up as…as…" What, some sort of warrior?
Kendra shook her head. "I didn't see nothing."
"Anything," I corrected.
Somebody was playing tricks. I walked to the classroom door and peered out. The hall was empty. No pranksters jumped out at me. No Derrick, Mark or any other of the motley crew in my first year class.
Kendra eyed me. "You're kinda weird, you know. But in a nice way." This, coming from an eighteen year old with spiky black hair, black leather boots, arm bands and a complete assortment of Goth piercings.
Shaking my head, I let the whole thing drop.
That night, I had peculiar dreams. I was in a world where the sky was azure, the sun was orange instead of yellow and the green was too dark for normal foliage. The edge of the forest looked over a verdant valley. I scanned the sky for birds, as I always do, and saw none. Where were they?
From behind a split tree trunk, a little ground squirrel peeped out at me. It wanted to know what I was doing here, but before I could answer, I heard the pounding of hooves. Whether guided by instinct or by something more powerful, the squirrel and I slipped back into the foliage just in time to miss being seen by the riders. Horses whipped by us, frenzied mounts with riders clinging to their backs.
I waited until the last animal had swept past us. Waited until the air was clear of pounding. Then I stepped into the clearing.
Down the meadow I drifted, past Queen Anne's lace and clover. No bees hovered over the delectable menu of wildflowers. I called silently and nothing responded.
How could that be? This valley should be teeming with life.
I headed down to the river's edge and tried to get the attention of any frogs or fish that might be swimming in the turquoise water. Two clear eyes looked up at me and I smiled, reaching down to cup the small fish in my hands.
A deep male voice thundered behind me. "Who are you and what in Hades are you wearing?"
As I turned, the scene faded and I awoke in a sweat.
The second time I saw Tunic-man, he wasn't alone. It was the same classroom, two days later. I was alone, marking papers at my desk. I heard a sound and looked up.
There they were in front of me.
I dropped my pen. "Holy crap, you scared me."
The blond one wore the same tunic and leather get-up. This close, I put his age at mid-thirties, a little old for this sort of play-acting. His companion was blond as well, but younger, shorter and just as bulky.
They looked right at me.
"She's a comely lass," Tunic-man said in an unusual accent. "And she has the look of the Huel women."
The younger man's eyes lit up with excitement. "Astonishing. But is she fertile?"
My mouth gaped. Fertile?
"Excuse me," I said. "I'm right here, you know."
They stared back at me, shocked.
I sighed. "I'm not deaf and that is rather a personal question. Don't be rude." It's always best to talk plainly with students, I find, especially since I'm not much older than they are.
The younger one spoke first. "She can hear us?"
Tunic-man nodded. "Apparently so. Woman, what is your name?"
"Woman?" I pushed back the chair and jumped to my feet. "Are you fucking out of your mind?"
"You don't have a name?"
I was almost speechless. Almost, but not quite.
"I don't know what fraternity you guys are from" I said, "but if you don't tell me what is going on this very minute, I will personally see that you two never ever graduate from anything other than obedience school."
Tunic-man looked at his friend. "They have schools for the obedient here, Janus. We should think about such things."
"This one doesn't look very obedient."
"Perhaps they don't send their women."
I picked up Epidemiology for Veterinary 1 and slammed it on the desk. "This has gone far enough. Leave my classroom immediately."
To my surprise, Tunic-man grabbed Janus by the shoulder and pulled him though the wall.
I watched the empty space for a good thirty seconds before reaching for the cell phone on my desk. I called a co-worker.
"Debbie, it's Row," I said. "Have there been any strangers hanging around lately? Strangers in weird medieval costumes like extras from Lord of the Rings?"
Debbie, of course, laughed and said I was crazy.
My name is Rowena Revel, but everyone calls me Row. Except for Dad, who calls me Red. It's the hair, which is a true auburn and reaches nearly to my waist. It's my one vanity, and by God, I deserve it. I'm not especially tall and I'm not slim. They invented underwire for women like me.
There are worse things though. I may look sloppy in pants and a tailored shirt, but I look pretty darn good in slinky evening wear and satin nightgowns.
That night, I slipped into one of my favorite nightgowns―a Natori―in a sapphire blue. It had spaghetti straps and came with a matching full length dressing gown with lace edging. I had planned to wear it on my honeymoon. That didn't happen.
If I had to tell the story of my life, it would be through the dogs I have known, not the men. I've loved animals all my life. I became a vet so I could care for them. I find, as most animal-lovers do, that little creatures give back a lot more than they take. I can't say my experience with men has been the same.
My expression in the bedroom mirror was sad, but the nightgown was as beautiful as the day I first set eyes on it.
Piper, my West Highland White Terrier pup, yipped and I looked down at his sweet furry face. "Come on, little one. Time for bed."
We settled into the four-poster bed…and into our dreams.
The sky was azure, the sun was orange and the air was as still as it had been the last time.
How could I be back in the same dream?
"Who are you and what the Hades are you wearing?"
I turned, perplexed.
A dark-haired man in a tunic hovered over me. "Well, speak!"
I opened my mouth, then closed it, floundering for words. "It's a Natori. I got it for seventy-five percent off at Saks."
His anger turned to puzzlement. "What is this 'Natori', and where do you hail from that maidens wear such flimsy items of finery? Where are your undergarments?" He crossed his brawny arms in disapproval. "You are obviously not from here. That much is certain."
I took a deep breath. "I 'hail'―as you so quaintly put it―from Scottsdale, and I don't wear undergarments to bed. Besides, I wasn't expecting to be here."
"Wasn't expecting to be where?"
"Oh, for Pete's sake, in this dream."
This was getting absurd. I was starting to feel like Alice.
"So you're a Scot."
Good Grief. "No, I'm American. Scottsdale is in Arizona."
That seemed to stump him, so I took the opportunity to look him over. He was worthy of it. With the sun behind him, his hair looked black, but I could see now it was really a rich brown. Yup, he was wearing the same sort of tunic as Tunic-man and friend, with the leather bracelet thingies. This dream was becoming predictable.
He frowned. "Are you a witch?"
"No," I said slowly, as if talking to a dull-witted child. "I'm a vet."
His brows drew together. "What is your name, vet?"
I smiled with pride. "Dr. Revel, I qualified last year."
He didn't seem impressed. "You shouldn't be out here alone, clad in only a Natori. It's not safe. Who is your father?"
"Tom Revel. And although it's none of your business, my mother was Rowena Revel, nee Trefusus, if that makes a difference. What's this all about, anyway?"
His dark face turned white. "Rowena?"
"It's my first name too, actually. Rowena Revel. But everyone calls me Row."
He sat down. "Rowena Trefusus?"
I nodded. Oh boy. This didn't have a good feel. I wasn't liking this dream at all.
"What about you?" I asked.
"My name is Jon. Jon Trefusus."
I stared at him, my heart hammering. "And that would mean what exactly?"
Before he could answer, we heard hooves pounding over the ground, approaching with great speed. Jon grabbed me, threw me to the ground and covered my mouth with his enormous hand.
He needn't have bothered. I wasn't going to say a peep.
I could tell from the horses that this wasn't a group I wanted to meet. Images of fear and loathing invaded my mind. I sensed pain caused by the lashing of a whip. I tried to tune them out.
Jon held me down. Don't make a sound, his hard gaze commanded. I tried to reassure him with my mind, but my gift never works on people. Especially in dreams.
We were so close I could smell him. Fresh hay, leather and something rather musky. It shocked me to be that close to a man I didn't know. It shocked me even more to find my body reacting so primitively. I squirmed, but he moved his leg over my hips and pinned me down.
After a few minutes, the meadow returned to silence.
Jon pulled his hand away from my mouth, then put his index finger to his lips. He lifted his head and looked swiftly about. Then he smiled an 'all clear'. He was about to say something when I saw him glance down.
I followed his gaze. Oh, crap. My nightgown had twisted and the top, which had been somewhat daring before, was serving absolutely no purpose now.
I saw the hunger in Jon's eyes and tried to roll away. His leg held me down and both his hands pinned mine to the soft grass. I heard him groan as his mouth moved down to my throat.
I struggled as he pulled down the strap of my nightgown and bared my breast. When his mouth latched onto my nipple and sucked hard, I gasped.
Jon tugged at my skirt and I tried to push him away. It was like pushing against a rock face.
"Stop," I cried.
I awoke in a sweat, my heart racing. The light of dawn filtered through a crack in the blinds. It was hot in the bedroom and the thin strap of my nightgown had slipped off one shoulder in the night, baring one breast.
My nipple was damp.
ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL is now available at Smashwords and Amazon Kindle Store
Over the next few weeks, it will become available at Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, iBooks, Sony eReader Store, Diesel and more.