Since returning from Wonderland, Dallas Crosby’s life has begun a downward spiral. Fired from the job he loved, he’s slinging hash at a greasy spoon, dropped out of college, and he’s having court-ordered psychiatric sessions with the man he loves, Dr. Samuel Levi. Samuel has a knack for making Dallas doubt everything he’s ever known. Maybe Dallas is as crazy as they say?
The only bright spots in Dallas’ life are his precocious nephew, Oz, and his new neighbor, the very cute Campbell Cain. Campbell has been his Rock of Gibraltar. Too bad Dallas’ heart is taken, or he could fall for the sexy, gentle nurse.
When Dallas’ ex, the slimy Quentin Mandrake, unexpectedly contacts him, Dallas realizes there may be a way to return to Wonderland and prove to Campbell, and to himself, once and for all that he isn’t crazy. But what price sanity?
Dallas hated working the night shift.
He hated the drunks who spilled into the restaurant after the bars closed, at loose ends with themselves and having nothing better to do than to eat. And fight. And puke. Sometimes all at once.
It was a noisy, disgusting shithole. But it’s what he had to look forward to every night. Sometimes he got lucky and found himself on the day shift, when the drunks were busy at their various places of employment, pretending to be upstanding citizens of the sober variety.
Dallas hated the Rusty Heifer with a passion. What kind of name was that, anyway? Named by a drunk, for drunks, it was a far cry from the fine dining establishment where he’d been a sous chef six months ago.
Only six months, but it felt like a lifetime.
In the past six months, he’d lost his job, lost his lover, put his culinary classes on hold, and watched helplessly as his whole world shattered around him. He’d lived with his sister, Paris, and her young son Oz, for the first six weeks. And every day, she made sure he kept his appointment with his doctor. His psychiatrist, actually. Doctor Samuel Levi.
And that was a whole other can of worms.
The bus let him off near the converted Victorian mansion he still called home. At least that hadn’t changed, although not for lack of trying on Paris’ part. She’d said he should move out of there, start his life over somewhere else, but he resisted her well-meant advice. It was good to have a constant in one’s life. He liked the building, strange noises and all. Even if it was where he had met Samuel.
Or at least he thought he had.
Dallas wasn’t actually sure of many things these days. Best not to analyze. Thinking too hard about it only hurt, and Dallas surely didn’t need the pain.
He trudged wearily up the two flights of stairs that led to his apartment on the third floor. His hands smelled like antiseptic. Every night, when he got off work, he vigorously scrubbed away the scent and the texture of the Rusty Heifer from his skin. Better the sting than the stench.
He supposed he was lucky Dr. Levi was willing to accommodate Dallas’ fluctuating schedule. He was prepared to work around it, to see Dallas whenever Dallas was available. At least he was only going to the office three times a week now. Did that mean he was improved?
Hell, he didn’t even know what he was supposed to be improved from.
“You need coffee.”
No, he wasn’t hearing voices of people who didn’t exist, and he wasn’t hallucinating. Dallas glanced at the apartment across the hall from his. His previous neighbor, Mrs. Mayhew, had passed on a few months back…to a retirement community in Florida. Her apartment had been quickly let to another tenant, a young man by the name of Campbell Cain. Campbell worked as an OB nurse in a large nearby hospital. He was cute and bubbly and entertaining. He and Dallas had hit it off right away.
Sadly, Campbell was no substitute for Samuel, even if he seemed willing to be one.
Dallas flashed Campbell a tired smile. What he needed was a good healthy dose of Samuel Levi, something beyond the formal limbo they found themselves engaged in whenever Dallas visited his office—had there ever been anything more between them? The evidence said no, but Dallas’ weary heart insisted yes. Who was he to believe? Whatever―he was in no imminent danger of getting more of the same any time soon.
Sleep sounded good, too, except that it didn’t, because sleep led to other problems. Such as dreams he couldn’t control, dreams of the strange world he referred to as Wonderland, where he’d spent a little time with Samuel once upon a time.
Or had he?
Sometimes the dreams were of Dallas’ ex, Quentin Mandrake. Those dreams he spelled n-i-g-h-t-m-a-r-e-s.
He hadn’t seen Quentin recently, not since the one time in Samuel’s office, and he wasn’t really sure he’d seen him then. That day was more than confusing, and everything he did then was suspect.
Oh yes, Campbell had invited him for coffee. Part of their daily ritual, whether offered in the early morning, late afternoon, or at any time of an evening.
“Yeah, I do,” he answered the implied question at last, turning his steps toward his neighbor’s door instead of his own. He didn’t worry about the caffeine intake. He could sleep through any amount of caffeine. The trick was to tire himself out so much that when he fell asleep he would bypass the dream stage completely. At least that was his fervent hope.
Campbell was still in the early stages of living on his own for the first time. What little furniture he had was cheap, as he couldn’t afford much, but he made up for that by having terrific taste in what he was able to get. And he knew how to accessorize with a vengeance. In the short time he’d been there, he managed to make his living space warmer and more homey than Dallas ever had.
Campbell’s apartment was Dallas’ refuge. A haven from his troubled life.
Campbell had long dark hair that fell down his back when it wasn’t tied up beneath his nurse’s cap, and warm skin the color of heavily creamed coffee. Add to that eyes like emeralds and a smile that wouldn’t quit and you had quite the pretty package.
And yet Dallas couldn’t get past seeing Samuel long enough to enjoy the view.
He shuffled inside the apartment and flopped onto the sofa. It was tan and comfortable, and Campbell had added throw pillows in fall colors. It felt good to Dallas’ weary bones.