Authors: Erin Kellison
LAY ME DOWN
Able to navigate sleep’s vast dreamwaters, wild child Maisie Lane makes easy money as a courier delivering packages from one dream to another. So what if her employers are on the shadier side of the law? Her sister thinks she’s living for the pleasure of the moment. Pleasure is involved—why shouldn’t it be?—but every step Maisie takes is part of a careful plan. That is, until she crosses into a dream so evil, she has no choice but to run.
Special Agent Steve Coll is tasked to recruit Maisie for Chimera, the organization that polices shared dreams. At first he’s taken with her funny and carefree spirit, then brought to his knees by her tough and passionate soul. Touching her is forbidden ecstasy, but Steve can’t resist breaking the rules with Maisie. A darkness is gathering, evil preparing to strike, and only Maisie stands between it and innocent lives. No matter what happens, Steve won’t let her stand alone—he’ll die before he leaves her side.
Fans of paranormal romance and bad boys, get ready for a dark, sexy plunge into fantasy and desire. The Reveler Series is set in a contemporary world in which people can indulge in Rêve, or shared dreaming—a pop culture phenomenon sweeping the world. Imagine being able to fall asleep at night, only to wake in a dream world, one in which you are lucid and in control—where you can be anything you want to be and do anything you like. But you must be careful…dreaming can be as dangerous as it is seductive.
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LAY ME DOWN
Copyright © 2014 by Erin Kellison
Cover design by Micro Application Solutions, LLC
Published in the United States of America
First electronic publication: May 2014 by Fire Flower Publishing, LLC
Table of Contents
Steve Coll hit his left-turn signal and checked for traffic, but most of his attention was focused on the woman half sitting, half kneeling on the passenger seat beside him. She hadn’t yet decided if she was going to cooperate (the least likely), stage a getaway (her usual way of coping), or try to kill him (on direct orders from her boss).
Her predicament was the most fun he’d had in a long time, especially since it was the woman herself who was gnawing her thumbnail in suspense. Even she didn’t know what she was going to do.
What a way to live.
Maisie Louise Lane wasn’t just another Reveler whom Chimera wanted to recruit. She was the ultimate recruit, the critical talent. And it was Steve’s job to secure her cooperation and loyalty.
Which meant she was probably going to try to kill him.
At least he’d get a kick out of watching her work up to it. She might just pull it off, too. Maisie could do anything; it was potentially deadly to think otherwise.
“If we’re going to Vegas,” she said, “I need to pick up some things from my place.”
Steve checked his rearview mirror. Still clear. “Not an option. It was ransacked after you left. Nothing much remains but the scum waiting to grab you.”
“Well, I’ve got some clothes at my sister’s and my laptop is there, too.”
“Your associates have that place covered as well, and since your sister had to drown one of them so that
could get to safety, it’s not an option, either.”
Maisie was standing on the only bridge she hadn’t burned, an empty gallon of gas in one hand, lit match in the other.
He flicked a gaze her way for a quick assessment. Her magenta-dyed hair was showing blond roots. The black makeup around her big gray eyes was smudged. And yeah, she was wearing the same outfit—tight, dark-green jeans with a slouchy black tank on top—that she’d been wearing when she’d escaped his companionship on the UCSD campus yesterday. The several narrow leather bands around her wrist hid scars from wounds she’d inflicted herself.
She had her sister to thank for keeping her alive this long, but the company Maisie kept was now more dangerous. Big sis had done as much as she could. Time for someone who didn’t love Maisie to take over.
“Well, I have to shower and change. I stink,” she said.
Strangely, he really didn’t mind the sharp edge to her usual feminine scent. And at the moment, he wouldn’t put it past her to crawl out a bathroom window, dripping and naked, to escape him. So she could just wait.
“When we get settled, you can have first dibs on the shower.”
Another glance in the rearview. A black car edged into their lane, some five car-lengths behind them.
“You mean in Vegas? That’s like an eight-hour drive.”
“Five,” he corrected. “And new clothes will be waiting there as well.”
“I choose my own clothes, thanks.”
“This is torture,” she said.
The black car kept its distance, which Steve didn’t like. It should’ve pulled up a bit by now. Its front window reflected a bright glaring spot of the sun, whiting out the rest, so no driver was visible, even if Steve could make him out from this far away.
He debated letting the car continue its pursuit to find out for certain if it was deliberately tailing them. He’d been eluding her business associates for the past few days while attempting to win Maisie’s cooperation. That her sister Jordan had become a Chimera was helpful. That those same associates had gone after Jordan had forced a choice on Maisie: family, or wealth and power?
Family had won, which was how Maisie had come to be sitting next to him, regardless of her mood.
Steve cruised through a late yellow light; the black car ran the red that followed.
Damn. Better to lose them now than to chance an incident on the road before he and Maisie reached their destination.
He hated to do it while driving, but fine.
Steve let his vision blur slightly so that his darksight could sharpen, and he imposed a simple waking dream on the real world. He showed the occupants of the black car that his car was turning to the right, down an intersecting street, while in reality he continued straight ahead.
The black car turned down the street, following the dream.
Which meant that yes, the car had probably been following them, and the driver didn’t have the darksight to recognize a waking dream for the illusion it was.
Steve glanced at Maisie again, the other immediate threat to his life.
She was staring at him, unblinking and wary. “What was that?”
Maisie, however, did have darksight, though still undeveloped.
Chimera agents each had talents, most of which were awakened during lucid dreaming, the revolution taking over the world. Maisie, should she prove loyal enough to join them, could also cross between one dream and another effortlessly.
Steve gave her a friendly smile. It was the only answer she was going to get. He didn’t even share what he could do, what he really was, with people he trusted. They’d be afraid.
“Fine. Whatever.” She folded her arms and hunkered down in her seat. “Wake me when we get there.”
Steve had to stop himself from laughing out loud. The humor felt good, though, lodged in his throat and warm across his chest. As if he would let her escape him that way. Her associates could catch up to her Darkside, too.
No. Not happening. She had no idea whom she was dealing with.
Maisie Lane was about to be afflicted with an extreme case of insomnia.
He was keeping her high and dry until it suited him for her to sleep, yet another one of his abilities. She’d sleep when he did.
Beside him, she sighed and modulated her breathing so that it was deep and slow. Eyes closed, the tension dropped out of her. She went quiet, studiously so, as she sought refuge.
It was cute, really.
Steve banked onto the I-15 exit and climbed onto the freeway, heading north. Traffic mid-morning moved fast along the ten-lane stretch. If they made good time, maybe they could get there before rush hour.
A colorful billboard advertising a new Rêve—the term used for commercial shared dreams—rose above the graying buildings below. The billboard depicted a black door with a fanlight above and a knob in the middle. The number 221B gleamed in brass above a subtly ornate knocker. Doors led the way into Rêves, and this door led the dreamer to 221B Baker Street, Sherlock’s home. Stories and adventures were the rage, far exceeding the thrills a theme park could offer. Rêve was a fully immersive experience for which people would pay anything.
Of course, just as Rêves offered unlimited worlds to explore, they also offered innumerable ways to exploit and/or threaten dreamers. It was Chimera’s job to police Rêves and to venture (or track) beyond Rêve into the waters where natural dreaming occurred. A certain kind of talent was required, and it was Steve’s job to recruit the personnel who had it.
Like Maisie here, who’d been playing in illegal Rêves for at least a year now and had gotten in a little too deep with the criminal element.
The minutes ticked by. He changed to the far left lane and accelerated.
Any second now she’d realize she was trapped in the waking world.
She huffed a little. Squirmed.
He restrained a grin, but glanced her way to see if she’d figured it out yet.
He found her looking back at him, a bad mood wrinkling her forehead. Then her forehead smoothed as understanding dawned. A glimmer of horror darkened her eyes.
She’s got it now.
The realization finished with a steady glare of hate.
Steve looked at the road ahead. “Just as long as we understand each other.”
See, now she wanted to kill him.
Before, she’d just wanted to escape and disappear for a while. She’d been thinking Phoenix sounded good. Crash on her friend Lola’s couch, but hide in her own dreamspace for a while, where she could be in control and keep the unfriendlies out until they lost interest in her. An excellent plan.
It was Steve’s fault she was happily contemplating ways she could make him suffer, and five hours’ worth of traveling time—no sleep, no music, no decent conversation—was bound to make her think up the worst possible.
Death by rat bucket was the top contender. She’d need a feral rat, a bucket, and a blowtorch.
At least her murderous thoughts kept her from contemplating how royally screwed she was. To head directly to Mr. Graeme, her ex-boss, was insanity. They should be heading any other place but Vegas.
Desert turned into dirty metropolis turned into high-rise splash and glitter off the freeway.
Apparently, they were staying at a hotel on the Strip, because they were creeping along Flamingo trying to merge into the turn lane. They finally pulled into the traffic-jammed, sweeping roundabout that was valet parking at The Wake Hotel.