It was late when he decided to call it a night. Rather than take the risk of the animal possibly attacking him while he slept, Joshua slipped a rope around the wolf's neck and tied the other end to a chair. Taking an empty coffee can, he threw in a few rocks, and set the can on the seat. Although the animal was strong enough to move the chair, the sound of its struggle would awaken him in time to protect himself. However, to be on the safe side, Joshua placed his pistol on the sofa, close at hand.

            The animal complacently watched him take precautions. Its only movements were its brown eyes as it observed him.

            After refreshing the fire, and bringing in more wood to last through the night, Joshua grabbed the blankets from the back bedroom to settle himself on the couch. Inevitably, he drifted into restless sleep.

            What 'cha got for us, Sarge?

            Hey, Coburn! Anything look suspicious up ahead?

            No, sir. Road's clear. Just some old guy with a jackass walking along the shoulder.

            A what?

            He's carrying a load of wood, Sarge.

            I don't like the looks of it. Give him a wide berth anyway.

            Hey, what's he doing?

            Why is he stepping in front of us?

            It's a trap, Sergeant!

            Stop the truck! Get off the road!

            IED! Suicide bomber!

            Swerve! Swerve!

            Joshua jerked away at the sound of the explosion. At the memory that temporarily deafened him a heartbeat before the flames roared through the vehicle, incinerating his team and nearly killing him.

            He lay on the couch, trembling, sweat coating his skin as he fought the visions that filled his mind with the horrendous nightmare. Gasping for air, he tried to sit up, but his muscles had suddenly gone weak. He was totally incapacitated, unable to move, unable to call out for help. Unable to save himself or the others.

            There was a movement to the side. Instantly, his brain clicked, reminding him of the wild creature lying a few feet away. His fingers sought the comfort of the pistol as he listened for more movement. For the telltale rattle of the can of rocks as the wolf tried to free itself from its noose. But after another minute, he heard nothing more.

            The fire was low, but not to where he felt he needed to put on more wood. He'd do that later. Right now he was comfortable. Vague, non-threatening shadows filled the room. The gentle heat felt good on his face.

            Joshua closed his eyes. Maybe the wolf was just turning over in its sleep, he told himself. Maybe its leg is hurting. Or it could have heard something outside that alerted it.

            Whatever caused the wolf to make a sound, it had pulled him away from the monstrous shadows of pain and guilt that plagued him. For that, he was grateful.            

            Wolf, you've earned your keep tonight. I gotta grant you that.

            He relaxed his grip on the gun and willed himself to relax. To go back to sleep where, hopefully, he wouldn't have to fight any more demons. At least, not for the rest of the night.

            He adjusted his butt against the cushions, when he heard the noise again. A soft sound, like something shifting or moving along the floor. Curiosity got the better of him, and he opened his eyes, prepared to prop himself up on one elbow and glance over the arm rest near his feet, to see if he could tell what the wolf was doing.

            A woman stood there. Tall and shapely, her naked skin glowed faintly in the firelight. She was smiling at him as she brushed back her untamed hair. Joshua gasped, when she raised a finger to her lips. "Shhh."

            "Who... Where did you come from?" His fingers immediately curled around his pistol.

            "You are dreaming," she whispered. She had a slight accent. One he couldn't pinpoint. But it only enhanced her mysterious nature.

            "Dreaming? No, I'm not."

            "Yes. You are." She nodded.

            "I can't be. I don't know you. How can I be dreaming of someone I've never met?"

            She smiled enigmatically. Full lips in a pixie face. Wide, almost round eyes. In the dank light, he could see the gentle curves of her body. Her high, full breasts with their dark tips. The thatch between her legs was below the level of the arm rest, and he was tempted to sit up just to catch a glimpse of it, knowing it would be the same color as the unkempt, wild hair on her head. She was young, but not a child.

            "Where did you come from?" he demanded in a low voice.

            "From here." She tapped her temple.

            Joshua shook his head. "No," he denied again. "People like you are never in my dreams. People die in mine."

            "Not anymore." She placed her hands on the arm rest and started to come around the side. It was at that moment when she limped that he blinked in disbelief.


            "Shhh. What is your name?"

            But he wouldn't let it go. "Who are you?"

            "Tell me your name first."


            "Joshua." She tilted her head to one side as she sat down by his stocking feet. "I like it. It's a strong name."

            "Tell me yours. Then tell me what you are and why you're here."

            That little voice inside his head was yelling at him. Warning him. But this time Joshua knew the warning had nothing to do with self-preservation.

            The woman reached beneath the blankets and ran her hand up his leg. The pressure was firm, and his body responded with a vengeance. Joshua struggled to sit up as she reached his crotch. Her hand gently grasped his thick erection that bulged above his groin. She squeezed, and his body jerked in reaction. His lightning-fast reflexes kicked in, and he snatched her by the wrist. Her skin was warm. The bones felt fragile. But she was definitely real.

            "Who are you?" he almost growled.

            "Qitirin. My name is Qitirin."