“Holy shit, who the fuck are you?”
As wake-up calls went, I could think of better ones. At least I could have if I wasn’t terminally sleep-deprived. I cursed the day I ever let Lilith buy me that voice-recording alarm clock—she must have been laughing herself silly when she sneaked in to leave that little message—and reached out to turn the bloody thing off.
And hit flesh. Bare flesh.
What the fuck?
Suddenly more wide awake than if I’d been mainlining espresso all night, I stared into wide, gray eyes, surrounded by enough kohl to light a fire with. The face that went with them contained full, red lips, a cute little nose, and was topped off by spiky black hair with just a hint of purple.
“Oh, thank fuck for that,” I breathed, relaxing. Because I’d just realized I was dreaming. Had to be, as no way was the real Cain Shepney, pop phenomenon and mega-star winner of Britain’s Got the Idol Factor, stark, bollock naked in bed with me. “Come back over here, Cain,” I mumbled, reaching out for him.
“Get the fuck away from me!” I felt a sudden chill as Cain ripped the duvet from the bed and wrapped it around his naked form, backing away slowly.
Oh, bloody hell. It was turning out to be a nightmare. Which was odd, because usually my dreams about Cain Shepney were strictly of the pleasurable sort. You know, the sort where you have to change your boxers after, and possibly the sheets as well… is that too much information? My mates are always telling me I over-share. Then they meet Lilith, and they realize that actually, I’m pretty reserved, considering. I lay back on the bed and closed my eyes. Maybe if I tried to direct the dream a little, it’d go back to being good? “Mmm, Cain,” I murmured.
“Look, just shut up, will you? And, and tell me who the fuck you are, where the fuck we are, and just how the hell I got here?” Cain’s voice got higher and higher, and cracked on the last word. It was a good thing this wasn’t real. It couldn’t have been good for his vocal chords.
I sighed. “Look, it’s a dream, okay? Just relax, and it’ll turn into that one with the teddy bears and the novelty condoms.”
“You’re completely insane,” Cain muttered. “I’m calling my manager.”
“Fine,” I said. “But you’re giving me back my bloody duvet, first.” I made a grab for it, and Cain sort of squeaked. We had a brief tussle, which ended with me victorious and Cain sprawled on his arse on the floor. My mouth went suddenly dry. Bloody hell, he was hung like a sodding carthorse. “Can I dream, or can I dream?” I said, smugly. “You sure you don’t want to get back into bed?”
“What was it?” he asked furiously, getting up and grabbing the phone off the bedside table. “Rohypnol? Or did you just spike my drinks? Hello? Neil? It’s me. Cain. I need you to send a car for me right now. And some clothes, all right? And yes, I know it’s practically Christmas! Seasonal fucking greetings!” He broke off to glare at me. “What’s the address?”
It was about this time I started to wonder. I mean, he was acting like, well, Cain Shepney, if he’d woken up in my bed. The real Cain Shepney. And trust me, I’d had the dream version in bed with me often enough to know the difference. “Er, 25, Eden Place?” I said cautiously. “That’s St Albans, AL1 4OT, for the satnav.” I paused, then swung my legs out of bed, glad I’d slept in my boxers. They felt like my real legs, not dream ones—I could tell, because my right ankle clicked where I’d broken it playing rugby when my foot hit the ground. “Um, are you really Cain Shepney? My name’s Sam, by the way.”
He stared at me, the phone seemingly forgotten in his hand, and then he nodded.
I sighed. “Oh, bloody hell. Did my mum put you up to this?”
A lot of blokes my age moan about their mums, but I reckon I’ve got more reason than most. Not that people tend to understand it when they first meet Lilith. That’s my mum. I started calling her by her first name when I was about eighteen, and people started asking whether we were twins, and if not, which of us was older. It’s a bit creepy, really—I’ve got pictures of her with me as a baby, and she hasn’t aged a day since. Not one day. The only saving grace is at least we look a lot alike, so people are more likely to assume she’s my sister than my girlfriend.
Don’t get me wrong. I love her and all. She’s my mum—but sometimes I just wish she’d get fat, or go gray, or start buying frumpy clothes from catalogues like all the other mums. Just, you know, be a bit more normal? Not go round in tight jeans and a crop top, showing her tattoos and picking up blokes my age.
I’ve never met my dad. Don’t know what he did, but Lilith said he had friends in high places. They split up when I was a baby, and he married some other woman. Lilith never talks much about him, but I wouldn’t fancy being in his shoes if she ever bumped into him again. I reckon I must take after him. Not the looks, obviously, unless Lilith actually had a kid with a bloke who looked like her brother, which is just way too creepy to even think about.
I’m pretty sure he wasn’t actually her brother…. Nope, not going there. But anyway, I reckon I must be a bit of a disappointment to her, personality-wise. I mean, Lilith’s got this whole rock-chick thing going on—or do I mean hippy-chick? I’ve never been all that up on chicks—different bloke every night, partying till dawn, getting wasted on booze and drugs, then getting up bright and early in the morning to go collect magic mushrooms in the morning dew.
Me, I get hungover on half a lager shandy, and although I look all right—tall, thin, high cheekbones and wicked cool haircut, courtesy of Lilith, of course—I’m just not into clubbing and partying and stuff. I work at the animal rescue center, mucking out cages and bottle-feeding hedgehogs. I like it. It’s peaceful, and the animals don’t take one look at you and expect you to be something you’re not. Not one of them, just to pick an example completely at random, has ever been out with me once, shagged me, dumped me, and turned up, a bit shame-faced, to take out my mother the very next evening.
“Um. Would you like some breakfast while you wait?”
Cain glared at me. “You think I’m eating or drinking anything you give me? I should have you arrested. Bloody date-rapist!”
We both jumped when the phone rang. Cain snatched it up. “Hello?” His face drained of color, completing the Goth look. “What? What the hell do you—? No, of course it’s not a bloody hoax! Well, did she check? Neil? Neil?” Cain stared at the phone for a moment, then put it down without looking. It missed the bedside table and hit the carpet with a dull thud.
“Look, maybe I’m jumping to conclusions, here,” I said cautiously, “but—car not coming, after all?”
Cain looked at me, his eyes deep pits of despair, blacker than the kohl that surrounded them. “He said he’d rung my mum, and she’d told him the real Cain Shepney was snoring in his bed over at hers, just like he was supposed to be.”
I gave him a sympathetic grimace. “Mothers, eh? Look, you’ve got this all wrong, you know. I haven’t got the first idea how you ended up here either. And, you know, I don’t think anything actually happened last night.” At least, I bloody well hoped it hadn’t. I’d be gutted if I’d shagged Cain Shepney and then forgotten all about it. And I’d seen enough to be damn sure I’d have remembered it if he’d shagged me.
I stood up and stretched. Cain grabbed the duvet, stepped back, and pulled it tightly around himself. Possibly because, standing up, I was taller than him by around a foot. Or, you know, it could have been the raging stiffy that was doing its best to poke through my boxers in a way that could, in the circs, conceivably be viewed as threatening. “Er, sorry about that,” I said, looking down. “It’ll go away in a mo. I just need to think about my mother for a bit.”
“You sick bastard,” he muttered.
“Hey, not fair! Sick would be thinking about my mother to get a stiffy—” Oh, fuck. Thinking of Lilith had made me remember that bloody doll.