Lanie surprised me by pushing on my chest until I was flush with the opposite wall of the tub. “And don’t you ever try to deny me what I want, Noah Crawford. Because in the end, I’ll take it,” she said, and then she climbed into my lap, grabbed my dick and …

“Lanie, don’t. You’re—”

Too late. She sank down on top of my cock, which was hardened to titanium strength, and took all of me in.

“Goddamn,” I growled, my head falling back as I felt her tight walls envelop me.

Lanie giggled at my reaction, a cocky sort of sound, and I snapped my head up only to be met with a cocky grin to match. My cocky grin. It was almost like looking into a mirror, and I wasn’t sure how the fuck I felt about that, but I supposed I was to blame. Yeah, I had definitely created a monster. Tit for motherfucking tat, just like I had suspected from that very first time we had been together in that respect, the night I took her virginity. I knew then that I’d have my hands full, and she was proving me right. She was impossibly stubborn, always having to prove me wrong. I couldn’t fault her for that, because I was the same damn way, and she had been learning from watching me. So I let it go, let her do her thing, let her make me feel good, because in the end she would have her way anyway.

And that was just fine with me.

The smell of hyacinths surrounded me, a cool breeze twirling the fragrance around my body. I could hear the sounds of a string quartet and the buzzing laughter of friends and families as they gathered. The sun was warm on my face and hands. It would have been stifling had it not been for the light breeze.

I was happy. This was a momentous occasion, even if I couldn’t quite put my finger on what exactly was happening.

“Oh, Noah, she’s spectacular. Just the type of girl I’d always hoped you’d meet,” a soft voice cooed from behind me. I knew that voice. I turned quickly, and there she stood: my mother, amid the tall grass, sprigs of purple, white, and yellow flowers blooming up around her red gown. Her arm was linked through my father’s, who was standing by her side with a proud grin on his face, his hair still black on top, white along the temples. My mother was right; it did make him look very distinguished indeed.

“Mom? Dad? What are you doing here?” I asked, confused. While part of me felt it only natural for them to be, another part registered that they shouldn’t have been.

“She’s a sassy one, too. Kind of reminds me of your mother.” My father looked at his wife adoringly.


My mother laughed, then kissed him on the cheek. “That’s a good thing. You Crawford men need a strong woman to keep you in line.”

Suddenly they were right in front of me. I hadn’t even registered the movement. My mother turned to me and smiled gently as she cupped my face with one hand. “She’s one in a million, Noah. Don’t ever let her go. Remember: From mud and murk, the red flower blooms, overcoming all to stretch toward the moon.”

I remembered her saying that all the time when I was younger, but back then I’d had no clue what it meant, and I still didn’t.

“The scarlet lotus,” I whispered.

She nodded once and grinned widely, obviously happy that I remembered. “We love you, Noah. You’ve made us so proud.”

My father cleared his throat beside her, and I turned to him.

“We have to go now, son. We can’t stay.”

Go? Go where?

“We just wanted to give you our congratulations.” He reached one arm around my shoulder and hugged me. “Oh, and thanks for the drink,” he whispered into my ear.

My mother kissed my cheek and I closed my eyes, inhaling the familiar scent of her floral perfume. When I opened them again, they were gone. I turned back and forth, all around in a circle, looking for them, but they were nowhere to be found. I stopped dead in my tracks when off in the distance I saw a woman dressed in white, her back turned toward me. Her hair was swept up and a veil fell over her face as she turned her head to the side and fidgeted with her dress. A bouquet of red flowers was in one hand. The breeze picked up again, carrying her scent toward me, confirming what I already knew to be true. I could tell who she was by the way my heart swelled in my chest as if it were about to burst. A huge smile spread across my face in anticipation. It was her.

“Delaine?” I called out, but she didn’t answer. She looked up at me, and although I couldn’t see her smile, I felt it warm my heart. But then she turned back around and ran away, her ghostly giggle tickling my ear.

“Lanie!” I called out, and then started to run after her, confused. “Why are you running away from me?”

I ran and ran, my legs heavy, my feet weighed down with what felt like cement bricks. When I thought I’d caught up to her, my hand reached out, but the fragile fabric of her dress slipped through my fingers and she was gone again.

She let out another ghostly giggle, playing with me, challenging me. “Come on, Noah. Catch me.”

With all the strength I could muster, I leaped forward, catching Lanie around the waist and pulling her into my arms. Even through the filmy veil, I could see her eyes, alight with childlike joy when she looked up at me. Her head fell back and a joyous laughter bubbled up into the warm air around us. Her body was soft and supple as it melted against mine. “Just where do you think you’re going, kitten?” I asked, holding her to me.

I could feel the warmth of her hand on my biceps and the delicate tickle of her fingers as she ran them through my hair. “Kiss me, Noah. Make me yours forever,” she whispered.

I reached for her veil, lifting it to gaze upon her unadulterated beauty and seek out my prize. When my lips brushed against hers, she disappeared.

“Noah, wake up. Wake up, Noah, you’re dreaming.”

I was jostled awake, still feeling the remnants of sleep in my partially paralyzed body. My eyes snapped open and she was there, her body pressed against mine, one hand on my arm while her fingertips gently massaged my scalp at the side of my head.

It was just a dream.

She looked down at me with a warm smile lighting up her flawless face. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I croaked in a sleepy voice. I rubbed at my eyes. “I’m good. Did I wake you?”

“You could say that,” she said with a playful grin. “You were holding me so tight I was finding it a wee bit hard to breathe. Lack of oxygen kind of has a tendency to wake you up. I think it’s called survival instinct.” She laughed.

I swept a stray lock of hair away from her face and tucked it behind her ear, then kissed the tip of her button nose. “I’m sorry.”

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