Waking up alone always sucked. Waking up alone Christmas morning or, judging by the darkness around me, in the silent hours before dawn sucked even harder. But I discovered that emerging from a sleeping pill-induced slumber to find myself spread eagle, naked and tied to the four corners of my bed most disturbing of all.
"What the fuck!" I shouted, not even attempting to curb my annoyance. I tugged at my restraints, but whoever had bound me obviously knew their stuff because I didn't budge. Panting harshly, and I'll admit slightly panicked, I peered around, seeking any sign of the pervert who'd snuck into my apartment to truss me up like a turkey dinner. Nothing moved except for my curtains, as if a breeze stroked them, which made no sense. I kept my windows firmly shut in the winter and even covered them in plastic to prevent drafts. Apparently, a new air leak had popped up. Great, another thing for my nonexistent boyfriend to fix.
Single life bit the big one. Sure, I got to keep the remote and watch whatever I wanted. I could sprawl across my bed, live on frozen dinners, and not care what my breath smelled like in the morning. However, at times like these, when life bitch-slapped me, I really wished I could find a man who satisfied my needs and would make me want to change my status on Facebook from single to in a relationship.
As my mind babbled to itself, bemoaning our single state, I took stock of my situation. Dire and FUBAR-ed came to mind, but I'd always hated giving in to the odds. Straining my eyes, I looked to see anything at all in the murkiness of my bedroom. A camera manned by Ashton Kutcher waiting to scream "Punked!" would have worked nicely. But no, only darkness and vaguely recognizable shapes were visible.
I'd just about given up developing night vision when a single flame popped up from a candle I kept on my dresser. I blinked at the sudden brightness and wrinkled my nose as the stench of wick and dust came to me. As part of my emergency candle collection, one for every room in case of power outages, the candle in my room had never found itself used and, as such, didn't burn or smell as pleasantly as it should have. But with it lit, I knew one important thing other than the fact it needed replacing. I was not alone.
Ha, Mother! And you said I'd never spend Christmas with anyone because I was such a picky bitch. Of course, when I later recounted this story, maybe I'd leave out the part where I shared this holiday moment with a possible rapist and murderer. Then again, maybe I'd find myself lucky and my invader would prove to be only a cat burglar with a strange fetish for bound and naked women.
A part of me wondered that I didn't scream and thrash. Panic like every damsel in a horror flick. That smacked of cowardice though, and if there was one thing I knew as an officer of the courts, predators loved the smell of fear. Like I'd reward the bastard.
"Who's there?" I asked, my voice wavering despite my inner confidence.
No one answered, but a chill breeze floated over my body, pebbling my nipples in its wake.
"Great. Whoever it is left a door open and is wasting all the heat," I grumbled. I tugged again at my restraints, annoyed that the inconsiderate prowler would not only rob me but cause my gas bill to skyrocket. Energy companies. You had to hand the award to them as the biggest legal thieves of all.
Another rush of cold air swept through the room, and it was then I noticed something freaky. The candle flame didn't waver one bit. That made no sense, then again, neither did the cloaked figure floating above me.
The impossibly suspended figure did what my current situation couldn't. Fear clutched me, and I screamed, a shrill piercing sound that hurt even my ears.
"Would you mind not doing that?" The silky masculine voice came from my left, not above me, and I whipped my head sideways to see another robed figure at my bedside.
"Who are you? What are you doing here? And I will damned well scream if I please, dammit!" My terror coalesced into anger, a burning emotion more familiar--and welcome--to me.
The cowled person cocked their head. "I wasn't talking to you but my brother, the one hovering above you. Go ahead and scream if you want, although try and not make yourself hoarse because we'd really like to hear it once we truly begin."
"What? I--" Another first. Words escaped me. The weird dude, had to be a guy with that low voice, stole my voice with his threatening statement. Deciding not to dwell on how he and his accomplice intended to make me shriek, I turned my attention back to the floater above me, only to see the ceiling free of freaky levitating guys. Of course, that still left two weird dudes in my bedroom.
Wait, make that three, and they all stood at the foot of my bed, a trio of Grim Reapers in their long robes with the hoods pulled down low on their faces so only their chins appeared. Nice chins too. Square, clean shaven, much more attractive than any serial killers or burglars should own. There was only one conclusion to draw from the situation.
"Begone, you worshippers of Satan." I would have signed myself with the cross if I could, my atheist status not an issue when faced with obviously deranged religious whackos.
"Um, while we know of Satan, we certainly don't worship him," said one dark, melodious voice.
Despite myself, I couldn't help a shiver from coursing through me. It made my already pointed nipples harden farther. Dammit. I didn't want these nutjobs to think I was hot for them.
"What do you want with me?"
"We are here to help you change your life."
"No thanks." I was so proud of myself for staying polite. The Jehovahs didn't fare so well when they tried the same spiel.
A figure approached and pushed back his hood. The flickering candlelight made shadows dance over his face, but what I could see went well past good looking. Rugged planes to go with that firm chin, sensual lips that quirked at my regard. Figured a psychopath would have the face of a god, a visage that would make any girl drool and stutter under normal circumstances. But it wasn't his perfection that made shiver. No, that I could handle. What I couldn't handle were his eyes. They glowed, inhuman orbs whose depths swirled, a striated mist of gray that coiled and moved like storm clouds before a brisk wind. I'd either lost my mind or dreamed. I went with nuts because I certainly did not have the imagination to have thought this up.
"You're not crazy," the stranger whispered, leaning down until our noses almost touched. "What you see are the shadows of the past."
I disregarded his odd statement. "Who are you?" My question emerged low and breathy, and I really hoped, if he did reply, he wouldn't say death.
"The Ghost of Christmas Past, here to remind you of the mistakes you've made before."
Seriously? My pent-up breath whooshed out. "The Ghost of Christmas Past? Hold on a second. Are you implying I'm a Scrooge? I resent that. I'll have you know I give to charity," I huffed, all too aware of how close he was to me, so aware that a part of me wondered if he'd bend down farther and touch me with those lips. So sue me. It had been a while since I'd last gotten laid. Besides, I'd obviously drifted into some perverted dreamland, and I wondered where it was going. Hopefully straight from crazy into orgasmic.
He pinched the tip of my nipple, and I yelped. "This is not a dream. We've been watching you. Going through men like candy. Never satisfied."