For the third night in a row, the same dream has pulled me from sleep, on the verge of screaming.
Henry running out of the house, heedless of my cries for him to stop, and right into the arms of that damned Swan woman. She hugs him briefly, then pushes him behind her as she straightens up to face me. She heaves a chainsaw from behind her back and, pulling the cord, brings the beast roaring to life. There's a demoniacal gleam in her eyes as she lets the thing rend the air between us for a few seconds.
Before I even realize what's happening, she's razing my beautiful apple tree to the ground. Limb by limb, apple by apple, she decimates my pride and joy until it's just a naked stump surrounded by sawdust and bloody apple pulp. No chance in hell of restoring my beautiful tree. Never again to see its limbs weighted down by the enormous, perfect, blood red fruits everyone in this damned town covets.
With a dark laugh, she grabs Henry and throws him across that beloved stump. He just lies there, looking up at her adoringly, as she lowers the chainsaw toward his chest.
It takes several tense moments to calm my fiercely beating heart and ease my labored lungs. Climbing out of bed on shaky legs, I grab my robe and make my way down the hall to check on Henry. He's peacefully sprawled on his back, covers thrown back haphazardly.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I move to tuck the covers back over his body and smooth a hand over his hair. Henry mutters softly in his sleep as I lean over to press a kiss to his forehead, but doesn't wake up at all.
Satisfied that he's safe, I head downstairs to check on my other baby. Disarming the alarm, I step out into the bitter night air. The moon is full, lighting up the yard almost as brightly as broad daylight. And my ancient baby is right there in the center spotlight of the moon's glow, hale and hearty, fruit glinting like so many ornamental hearts. I stroke a hand down the rough bark, practically feeling the power thrumming through it.
A shadow briefly mars the moon's glow and I glance up to see what caused it. A tremor runs down my spine as I swear one of the apples pulses and drips blood onto the perfectly maintained grass beneath it.
Whirling around, I can see her leaning against that damned yellow VW Bug she drives. Her jeans are well worn, hugging her legs in all the right places. If I squint, I can see the tiniest sliver of exposed stomach under her bunched up t-shirt. Her leather jacket creaks faintly as she shifts to a more upright position, but doesn't cross the street.
"What the hell are you doing here, Ms. Swan?" I ask, shaking off my casual perusal of her body and replacing it with the mantle of the bitch in charge that I am. "I could have you arrested for--"
"And who would you call to do the arresting?" she asks, cutting me off smoothly. "Graham? Oh wait, he's dead. So I guess you'll want me to arrest myself then?"
"You're insane," I finally say, unable to shake the feral gleam in her eyes, and watch as she saunters across the street toward me.
"Maybe I am, but the people elected me into my position."
I take a step back as she breaches the curb and continues across the grass toward me. Toward what is mine. Another step back, then two, and suddenly my back is up against the apple tree. She smiles and stands close enough to me that I can feel the heat radiating off her body.
"I don't know who you think you are, but you can't just come onto my property and threaten me."
That smile grows broader and her eyes look darker as she chuckles. "Who said anything about threatening you? I just wanted to see the moon from the best vantage point. Is it my fault you came out and beckoned me closer?"
"Beckoned--? What? I did no such thing!"
I try to move away from her, but she rests both hands against the tree, trapping me between her arms. My heart starts to pound in time with the thrum of power I can still feel from the ancient apple tree, and I pray my breathing doesn't quicken in response. She leans in closer, sniffing delicately, and I can feel the faint whiff of her breath against my cheek.
"Tell me, Madame Mayor," she whispers in my ear, "is it a job requirement that the Sheriff sleeps with you? If it is, I'm falling behind on my duties." And before I can answer, she leans down to drag her tongue up the side of my throat, right along the pulse thundering there.
"Emma." She practically purrs her reply.
"Emma." The word passes my lips huskily, followed by a low moan as she nips at my earlobe.
"What about Emma, Mom?" Henry's voice comes from nowhere suddenly. "Is something wrong with Emma?"
Blinking rapidly, the bright morning sunlight coming in the kitchen window temporarily blinds me. And then I focus on my son, staring up earnestly at me, and the heat of the coffee cup in my hand.
"You said Emma's name in a weird way," he says, eyes narrowing as he studies me. "Is she okay?"
I feel the flush of embarrassment heating my cheeks and throat as I remember just why I said her name the way I did. "I'm sure she's fine. I just had a nightmare about her last night. I'll check in with her today and make sure she's all right for you, okay?"
"Okay, Mom. Thanks!"
"You're welcome, Henry," I say, pulling him into a quick hug. "Now go get ready for school."
He scampers off upstairs to get his things ready, leaving me the chance to calm down. Rubbing along the side of my throat, I can almost swear my earlobe hurts.
"What in the hell was that about?" I mutter, unwilling to hear the answer just yet.