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Number one, this wasn’t a dream. Whatever was happening in my suddenly crazy life was real. I could no longer escape my nightmares each morning just by opening my eyes. Whatever divide we crossed when we fell asleep and opened ourselves to a wider reality, I somehow managed to bridge it. Fantasy and reality merged into a new dimension where the boundaries between the two were less certain and I could exist at once in both.

Maybe I wasn’t completely convinced my other world wasn’t merely a figment of my sometimes over active imagination, but since I could no longer distinguish between what was reality and what was fantasy, I was going with the presumption it was somehow real. All of it. Con almost died. He would have died if I wasn’t there to save his life. I don’t know how I traced the glowing silvery marks on his skin, or what they signified, or how they saved him, but they did. He was better now. I was the one who returned so sick from his world I couldn’t stand, as if the mysterious illness he suffered was transferred to me. I was better now too and I didn’t need to trace any strange marks on my own skin. Just another mystery to add to my growing list.

Once I accepted Con was not only the man of my dreams, number two wasn’t a big stretch. Bale, who played a starring role in my nightmares since I was a little girl, was real too. I didn’t know what he wanted from me but whatever it was, he proved he was willing to use Con to get to me, even to the point of outright murder. Just like before. Just like our previous lives together when Con died at Bale’s hands trying to protect me and our son.

Con was convinced things would turn out differently this time. I shared his certainty but for different reasons. He thought we could defeat Bale. He was convinced there was some secret we would discover on my former world that would free us from Bale’s clutches. I wasn’t as confident as Con about our happily ever this time around, but I knew one thing with certainty. I would not be the one left alone this time. I would not endure another shattered life of searing regret. And most important, I would never again watch the man I loved die in my place so his murderer could amuse himself by replaying his horrific death over and over again in my dreams.

This led me to number three. Con could no longer act as a shield between me and my ancient enemy. This wasn’t his fight. It was mine. I didn’t know how or why it all began, but there was some connection between me and Bale Con wasn’t part of. Bale resented Con’s interference. I clung to it, even though Bale proved definitively the last time they engaged each other Con was no threat to him. He found him slightly amusing if irritating, like a boy confronting a hardened warrior with nothing more than misplaced arrogance and a toy sword. I was to blame for Con’s death.

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