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The Photograph
by Regan Taylor

Category: Romance/Fantasy
Description: From the time Carrie Taylor discovered the magical worlds of romance novels, she has devoured them one right after the other. She not only thrilled to each new hero, one more dashing than the one before. Carrie clearly saw herself as each beautiful heroine waiting to be rescued by each daring hero. And then one day, she brought home a photograph. A very special photograph and suddenly her imaginary hero turned into a living and breathing man. Or did he? At one time Black Eagle scoffed at the girls of his village wishing on a falling star. And yet his one great wish, that of a woman of his own, was never realized. And then one night, he wished upon a star. Can the love of a man from the past help a modern woman with her modern problems in a modern world?
eBook Publisher: Mundania Press LLC, 2011
eBookwise Release Date: July 2011

eBookeBook

Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [321 KB]
Words: 75652
Reading time: 216-302 min.


Chapter One

* * * *

He backed her against the door, holding her firm in his embrace. "You are mine, Cassandra, mine and mine alone."

As the stunningly handsome blond-haired man took the dark-haired beauty in his arms, his oh, so sensuous lips coming closer and closer to her own, Cassandra knew he would take her in a passion that only grew hotter and hotter with each taking. She felt him hot and hard against her, leaving no doubt what he wanted of her. "Yes, Erek, yes. Now and always."

He reached for her, pulling her into his embrace, knowing this was the love he had waited a lifetime for. No man, no army could keep them apart. Never again would they be torn from each other. This would be a love for all time. "I love you, Cassandra. I will love you forever."

* * * *

Carrie Taylor sighed and closed her eyes as she held the book to her chest. "Why don't they make men like that in real life? Why can't I meet my own Erek? A man who's not only totally gorgeous on the outside with a fabulous chest and nice butt, but a really nice guy on the inside? A guy who you can tell anything to and he'll listen and help you do whatever it is you really want to do?"

While good for company on a dark, cold, rainy winter night, Taister's 'meow' didn't really answer her question. She scrunched the long-haired black cat's ears before turning off the light beside her bed. As she snuggled under the covers, she heard Taister's purr from the foot of the bed. At least he was faithful, not like that jerk Dean. "Dean Welman--what an absolute loser," she told the cat. "The porker. Taister, tell me this, just because I hung out with him--all right, dated him--am I a loser?"

When the cat didn't respond with more than a louder purr, Carrie thought back on the man she'd recently broken up with. Dean had come on all charm and kisses, promised her the moon and then went and two-timed her. Such was the story of her life. "Hell, he wasn't even that hot in bed!" Chalk up number--well whatever number he was. And come to think of it, he was definitely the loser. "I'm well rid of him, Taister, that's for sure."

Drifting off to sleep, Carrie replayed the last few chapters of Her Knight in her mind, seeing herself in the role of the heroine, Cassandra. Erek, of course, looked just like the model on the book cover. She could almost feel the soft velvet of the deep burgundy gown worn by Cassandra on that same cover, her cheeks warming at the thought of the bare-chested Erek with his long blond hair flowing over his shoulders, his powerful hands kneading her breasts. Erek was the best hero she'd read in a long time. As a dream lover, he was ideal. At least in her dreams someone loved her.

The alarm jarred her awake long before she was ready for it to be morning. Even the music from her favorite oldies station sounded way too loud when she wanted a few more minutes in the big four-poster bed in the castle with Sir Hot Bod Erek. Unfortunately, or fortunately for the pocketbook, her sense of doing the right thing and holding down a job demanded she get up and head into work.

Padding towards the kitchen, she found a note from her roommate Molly, who worked for a police department in the next county.

She read the note and sighed. "Man, Taister, things are getting worse at that job of hers instead of better. I really thought--well, hoped actually, that one of these days things would get better. It appears not."

Taister meowed up a storm while she tried to read the note; so much so that she was sure he was telling her if he didn't get his breakfast ASAP, life on planet Earth, as they knew it, would end.

"Okay, okay, little man, let's keep Earth in orbit another day. One can of the stinky, wet, fishy food coming up. Molly wants to get together for dinner. I sure hope it's good news for a change and not more BS from her supervisor. She needs to be catching a break and soon. Did you hear her talking about that crazy supervisor of hers the other day?"

The black cat continued his own little diatribe on how he was missing out on some of life's greatest joys because she had slept till the alarm and taken a shower instead of rushing to make his breakfast. After all, he had some serious cat things to do.

"Sounds like you didn't catch the entire 411 on it and, that you don't much care, either. I'm hurrying, I'm hurrying and just so you know, I've thought about it, long and hard and here's a news flash for you: Life as we know it will not end if you don't get something to eat, right here and now."

Taister grumbled, or at least that's what it sounded like and she couldn't miss the look he shot her. "And some people think cats don't know how to communicate. If there's one thing you can do, and do well, it's communicate."

Carrie finally put the dish down on the floor. Taister ate his requisite two bites and went off to engage in his own morning ablutions. "You sure have a tough life, Taister, a real tough life." He only gave her a quick glance before returning to his grooming. Carrie grabbed her coffee and headed off to get ready for work.

* * * *

Just a few short hours later at work, Carrie looked up from yet another mailing project and to her surprise, there stood Erek--in full knightly garb. While seeing his bare chest would have been mighty pleasing, the shining metal of his suit of armor and the way that metal triangle piece kinda sat there up front between his thighs sure conjured up some pleasant thoughts. "Sweet Carrie, I hath been looking for you."

"Erek?" The sight of her latest mental lust--break made her glad she'd chosen to wear her favorite sheer ivory shell under an ashes of roses blouse and thigh highs in lieu of pantyhose.

"Yes my love, 'tis your Erek." He took a step towards her, his hand outstretched in a courtly gesture. "I've come to take you for a ride, a short one because you are at your labor, so we will think of it as a prelude to our time tonight."

"Oh, yes, Erek. I like the way you think."

He turned to shut the door and began to divest himself of his knightly garments while he boldly strode to her desk. Seeing his intent and knowing the type of ride he planned, Carrie unbuttoned her blouse. Erek's eyes lit up in anticipation and he reached out a hand to cup her lace-covered breast. "Ah, sweet Carrie, I like this corset much better than those of yore." He lowered his lips to hers. At first he brushed them ever so slightly, tasting the sweetness there. "Ah my love, your lips are like the freshest berries. I hunger for the full meal."

His hand kneaded her breast as she reached upward to partake of a full kiss. His warm tongue was like honey and she melted to his touch. His hands pulled up her skirt, murmuring against her lips as he did so, "I love these hose you wear. The memory of them when we are apart makes me crave you all the more."

Carrie acknowledged to herself that she felt pretty sexy in her thigh highs along with her 'come do me' red pumps, but she wasn't going to bother Erek with that trivial knowledge.

"Carrie. Carrie?"

What the hell? She turned to find her co-worker Maria standing beside her, hand on her shoulder and no sign of Erek in the room. "What's going on? How long have you been here? Where's..." Oops, better not ask about Erek. I don't need anyone thinking I'm crazy 'cause I imagine my romance heroes being with me in the flesh. It was bad enough when I called out that one character's name when I was in bed with Dean right before we broke up.

"I've been standing at the door calling you for the past two minutes. Man, when you get into your work you really get into it. Although I can't imagine stuffing envelopes is that absorbing."

"It's not. I mean it is. Well not absorbing, you just need to be really sure you get them stuffed just right. And well, I was just thinking."

"Well, think on this, girlfriend. A bunch of us are trying out the new cafe up the street, Gazillios, for lunch. Wanna come?"

"Yeah, sounds good. Let me grab my purse."

During lunch the group shared the usual good laughs about some silliness that happened at the office in the morning with one of their co-workers. "Okay, so what did Visa do now?" Carrie asked.

"I can't believe you missed it!" Debra told her.

"Sorry, you know how it is when you get totally involved in work."

"Right. More like thinking about your latest romance novel," Maria whispered to her.

She play-slapped her friend. "So what happened?"

"Well, you know how Visa's been on this total man hunt?"

"Yeah. That's not exactly news. She's always sniffing out a new guy."

"This morning she comes strutting in wearing this bright red sweater two sizes too small for her and the reddest lipstick ever on her lips."

"I thought she was going to fall out of that sweater." Macy put in.

"Who's she after now?" Carrie asked.

"Anyone she can get!" Doug answered.

"Like you'd know." Maria jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow."

"I so would. She was after me a few months ago. Never wore that sweater, though," Doug mused.

"So if she did, would it have turned you straight?"

"Probably not. Still, it is something to watch." Doug chuckled.

"Why do you call her Visa?" Sandy, the new girl asked.

"Because like Visa, she's everywhere you want to be. Invited or not, there she is. In fact one time she even showed up at this funeral. Didn't know the guy who died or his family, just showed up because a bunch of people she knew were going."

"So do you give everyone nicknames?" Sandy sounded a bit nervous waiting to hear what they called her.

"Actually, no. Just Visa."

Downtown Napa--if you could call it a downtown--is a city full of quaint shops, charming restaurants and has an overall enchanting aura to it. Not too far from San Francisco, Napa sports every variety of eatery, but with the magic of a small town. The shops look like Christmas through the entire year. Little lights peep out of windows with pretty curtains, trees dotting the curbs, with full bushes in open spaces. Even though considered a city, it has all the ambiance of a long ago small town...quaint and cozy. The cafe they went to had the best quiche and smoothies, some of which Carrie saved to bring back to work with her for an afternoon snack.

As the group passed Carrie's favorite store, the Treasures Antique Shoppe, she made her excuses. "Maria, I'll be along in a few. I want to see if Mr. Merle has anything new in the store."

"Looking for some new treasures in Treasures?" She laughed.

"Yeah. Even though I split with Dean a month ago I still feel like I need something comforting or to do something special for myself."

The people who wandered into the quaint shop were always friendly and interesting, each with their own story about what they were looking for and why.

The owner, Mr. Merle, seemed to enjoy talking to each person, hearing their story and helping them find just the right item. He was an elderly man, seventy-five if he was a day. With his snow-white hair and twinkling blue-gray eyes, when Carrie spoke with him it was like speaking to a beloved grandfather or great-uncle. There was something magical, for lack of a better word, about him. It was almost like he came from another time and place. He always had a kind word, good advice and knew some intricate detail about every item in his shop. Maybe it was because he seemed to have this thing about bringing couples who really loved each other, like soul mates, together that Carrie believed him when he told her there was a wonderful man out there for her, just waiting to appear, even though all she ever seemed to meet were jerks like Dean.

They exchanged waves of greeting when she walked in, before he turned to complete whatever it was he was working on. The kindly old gent was always busy tinkering with something or other. She quickly spotted a large old trunk towards the back of the shop chock full of what looked to be some fascinating bits and pieces. Tea cups, ribbons, a few leather bound books, a spindle of yarn and papers filled it to almost overflowing. It reminded her of one of her pirate stories where the kidnapped maiden finds just the object she needs to escape her captor when they arrive in port.

She stood, gazing into space a moment trying to remember which it was, "Oh yes, Captive of the High Seas. Captain Black Jack Walters, wasn't he a hunk and a half?" she asked no one in particular.

The author described one of the most passionate love scenes she'd ever read when Black Jack and the heroine made love during a storm while at sea. She'd re-read that scene over and over and tried to entice the guy she'd been dating at the time to rent a boat during a storm so she could find out for herself just how intense sex could be under those conditions. He thought she was crazy and that was the last she saw of him. When she asked the next guy she dated about it Carrie had to settle for a waterbed in a hotel up in Reno to see if the rolls and pitches added to the experience. It didn't.

Digging deeper in the trunk, she came across a photograph. No ordinary photograph, this one was very, very old, one of those ancient tintypes used way back when. Like in the old west...which reminded her of a western she'd read a few months before about a woman who pretended to be a mail order bride and ended up married to the town's sheriff.

"They sure don't make em like Sheriff Rick Hansen, that's for sure." She drew a curious look from one of the other women in the store, causing Carrie to make a mental note to stop talking to herself, especially about her romance novel heroes.

She studied the old, faded photograph for a few minutes, unsure if it was truly so blurry or if it was just that the picture was kind of cloudy. Interestingly, one of the people in it seemed to stand out. He was either a proud Indian warrior or someone made up to look like one. Truth be told, it wasn't his firmly muscled chest, those pecs that made you want to reach out and touch them, something that almost always drew her attention. No, it was his eyes. Carrie had never seen such compelling eyes in her life. They were dark, like molasses, warm and comforting. Even in the photograph, they seemed to hold her, to reach out to her and make her want to be with him.

It wasn't like in her imagination. This felt so real. As if he called to her through time and space. Nor were they the same kind of feelings she had when she looked over the hunky models on the covers of the romances she devoured like candy. No, this felt different, far different than anything she'd ever felt before. Taking the photograph, she headed to the register to ask the Mr. Merle about it. At some point she'd heard he had an abiding interest in paranormal type happenings, not that she felt there was anything odd about the photograph itself. After all, it was just an old photograph. She appreciated him because he'd talk to her about the things that interested her. Mostly she talked to him about her romance problems--he always seemed to make her feel better.

"Hey, Mr. Merle. How are you doing today?"

"I'm good, Carrie, I'm good. And how's my favorite treasure hunter?"

"I'm just fine."

"That no-account fella Dean hasn't been around bothering you, has he?"

That was another thing she liked about Mr. Merle, he listened to her and remembered things she said. Too bad he wasn't forty years younger because he'd be the perfect date. Sir "D", her pet name for Dean, so named because he was--in a word--dickless, had dark hair and brown eyes and while he had a chest that made any red blooded female want to run her fingers over it, when it came to personality, his was non-existent. While it didn't bother her, he didn't deal too well with his Napoleonic height, or his scrawny butt and legs. His being so short didn't faze Carrie.

For that matter, his lack of height didn't seem to bother anyone but him. He seemed to think the world owed him for being short and he tried to be such a Casanova to make up for whatever lack he thought he had. He wasn't even that good in bed. It was always all about him. Talk about getting the old one-two punch. That was Dean. One thrust, two thrusts and he was done.

"No, he hasn't. It's really over, finally. At least I hope it is. He was calling a lot in the beginning, after we broke up, but he finally seems to have backed off."

"Well, I'm glad to hear it. Never did like that fella. There was something about him that just didn't seem right. I tell ya, Carrie, somewhere out there is the right man for you. He may just pop out of nowhere like a bolt of lightning."

"It would be nice, but so far nothing. So, Mr. Merle, I found this photo while I was poking around. I'd like to buy it."

Mr. Merle leaned over the counter and took a look at the photograph. It could have been Carrie's imagination, but it looked like he made some kind of hand signal over it, kind of like what a magician did at a party she went to as a kid passing his hand one way and then the other.

His smile seemed luminous when he said, "I'll tell you, Carrie-girl, one of my relatives took that picture years and years ago, back in--oh, I guess around the mid-1850's or early 1860's thereabouts. He was all up for being a journalist and then those tintype cameras came about and he just knew there was a career in that. Taking pictures. I always did like that picture."

"Oh, so it's not for sale?"

"No, I won't sell it to you, but I'll give it to you. There's something about it that makes me feel it should belong to you. It's yours if you promise to care for it real close."

"Oh, I will. Are you sure? I don't mind paying for it."

"Yup, that photo's been looking for a home for some time and I believe it found the right one with you."

Carrie happily brought the photo back to work and carefully placed it on the corner of her desk. She told herself she was being so totally cautious with it only because she'd promised Mr. Merle she would take care of it and remember to take it home with her that night. He had been most determined she immediately bring the photograph home with her. Yup, it was because she promised Mr. Merle she'd bring it home, certainly not because Carrie already imagined the Indian in the photograph coming to life and carrying her away. Several times during the afternoon, though, she picked it up to study it. Try as she might to take in all the elements in the picture, she always came back to the warrior. So much so that when she prepared to leave work for the day it was the first thing she picked up to bring home. With plenty of time before meeting Molly for dinner she stopped off at the local gift shop and found an antique-looking frame for her new picture.

They picked a little Italian restaurant with great antipasto for dinner. With its red-checkered tablecloths, wooden chairs with plump cushions matching the tablecloths, and old wine bottles with the basket-type bottoms holding multi-colored candles, it was, for Carrie, like she'd really gone to Italy. At least that was how her books described the cafes there.

She showed the photo to Molly as soon as they sat down to dinner, asking her roommate, "Isn't this the coolest photo ever? I found it at Mr. Merle's and he gave it to me."

"That's a pretty old photo. Carrie, look how funny the people look. It's like they all have bug eyes."

Carrie giggled in response to Molly opening her eyes so wide all of the white seemed to show. "Yes, but it's so cool. Look at the Indian, isn't he gorgeous? No, wait. More than gorgeous, there is just something so, so, so..."

"Uber hunky?"

"Yes! That's it...uber hunky about him."

Molly studied the photo a moment longer before replying. "You know, there is something kind of cool about him. Too bad he's not around anymore."

"Yeah...a guy like that would be a once in a lifetime kinda guy."

"Uh huh. Only I'd want him to be coming here, not me going there--I wouldn't want to live back then: no microwave, no electric coffee pot, no lattes, no pizza. Much as I'd like to be hanging with a gorgeous guy, I'm not about ready to give up my creature comforts."

"Mmm, I'd have to agree with you on that one, maybe."

"Maybe? Girl, think about it--no hot showers, no coffee pot with an automatic turn on in the morning, no cars, no cell phones..."

"Less stress, more time to have, well...quality time, cleaner air."

"Rough work-hardened hands, no sunscreen."

"Men who aren't afraid to be men."

"Ah...right...marital rights, you don't get the vote."

"Yeah, well I guess. Still, sometimes I do wonder what it would have been like to have lived in another time."

"From the faraway look in your eyes I can see you're already mentally traveling somewhere other than the present," Molly told her. "I suspect even with all those historical romances you've read you don't know what it would be like."

"No, not really. After all, the books are all made up. Well, yeah, there's historical research and such. But to have really lived it, not just imagined it would be so incredible."

"Is it the times or the men you are interested in?"

"Ooo-la-la, the men." Carrie paused a second before mentioning to Molly, "You'd also have no Julie Prince to deal with."

Molly sighed and spun her fork around her angel hair pasta. "That's true, although, I'd rather send her to the dark and dirty past. Life would be so much better, at least the work life, if I didn't have to deal with her."

"Which brings me to your note this morning. What did she do now?"

"Same ole, same ole," she sighed.

"Want to talk about it or let it go?"

"You don't mind hearing me bitch about her again?"

"Bitch about the Bitch? Hell. No. It makes me appreciate how easy it is at my job and besides, that's what friends are for. If it helps you deal with it, I'm all over it."

"Thanks. I do need to vent. I sound like a broken record. She just did what she usually does, again, yesterday. I go on my days off and someone else--that stupid blond bimbo badge bunny, Kris Harris, the skinny one who does all the officers, screwed up again."

"The one who if she stood sideways and stuck her tongue out would look like a zipper?"

Molly giggled. "That's the one. The Zipper."

"Why don't they do something about her?"

"Because the guys like her...well not like her personally, but I hear she does amazing things in the patrol cars when she's out on ride-a-longs. Do you know she's slept with twenty-one out of thirty-three straight male officers in the past two years and broken up two marriages?"

"Sounds more like a suck-a-thon."

"You got that right. Someone needs to put a leash on her."

"Or a chastity belt."

Molly snorted. "I knew I could count on you."

"So bimbolina screwed up again, and..."

"Of course I got written up for it. Eventually I'm going to remember that if the Zipper blows it, rather than blowing an officer, I shouldn't point out that I wasn't there on a particular day because Julie will write me up for not being able to take criticism and heaven forbid I show her that twit did it because then I'll get in trouble for trying to blame co-workers, even if it is their mistake. I gotta get out of there."

"Did you hear anything yet from the application you filed with county?"

"No." She sighed again, "The problem is, with all the bogus write ups chances are I won't get another job. Julie gets off on writing up those bullshit log entries, and since she hates to lose staff, it keeps anyone who wants to leave dispatch from finding a better job. I swear if someone took up a collection to get her laid I'd contribute twice the going rate. I'm just a bummer, aren't I?"

"Absolutely not."

"Bitching aside, I do have some good news."

"Give!"

"Since Shannon is about to finish her probation and her graveyard rotation I'll be going back on graves in a few weeks."

"And that's good because?"

"I won't see Julie or I'll hardly ever see her. Maybe a few minutes before my shift on Fridays and Mondays, but otherwise I won't have to see her. And, working nights, there's less chance of someone doing something I can get blamed for."

"I know you've always preferred graves, but I like having you around to do things on the weekends. Does Vincent know? Have you told him?"

"Not yet."

"Will it bother him?"

"You mean me working Friday and Saturday nights? Who knows? I mean, he knew I worked for the police department and did shift work when we first started dating. And I've covered a few graveyard shifts the past few months since we met. We'll see how it goes. Since I'll have seniority, of a sorts, after Maria and Sally, I can always move back to swings for the next rotation if it's a problem for us. Although our relationship better be moving to the significant other stage for me to put up with Julie through a weeks of swings."

"Well I'm glad you'll be out of Julie's radar for awhile." She drew in a deep breath and shook her head, "We're just a pair. I've got boyfriend issues and you have job ones. Somewhere between the two of us is someone who is issue free."

"Well let's hope we find her soon."

"Speaking of someone who is issue free, Visa pulled one of her stunts today."

"Oh, no. What did she do now?"

"Red sweater, two sizes too small, spiked heels--hooker heels--and this red lipstick that looked like something out of a bad 50's B movie."

"She so doesn't get it, does she?"

"No. I'll tell you, Mol, sometimes I swear the woman has no self-respect. She's like a cartoon character. Doug Mitchell said she was sticking her chest out trying to make it look like she had more in the cleavage department than is actually there. It was pretty funny."

"Any guys around to pick up on her show?"

"No." Carrie giggled. "We must have been her dress rehearsal."

"Well at least you have something to laugh about at work."

"Yeah, we do. I'm really sorry that things are so shi-tay at your job."

"Thanks. Carrie, I swear that woman stays awake at night thinking up the next hair brained thing she can come up with to disrupt someone else's life. Usually mine. Right now I just want to look forward to the weekend."

"I wish I had an answer for you. Short of just quitting, I can't think of anything. Although, hmm, you know, I have an idea. Let's fix Julie up with Dean and they can take off on a wild and wacky weekend together...and forget to come back. Maybe they just both need to get laid, you know?"

"That, my friend, was a visual I just didn't need. I do feel better for talking to you, though."

Later that night, Carrie grabbed one of her newest romance novels--a steamy regency she'd picked up the day before and headed to her room. Reading a bit before going to bed was a habit she had started back in junior high. Back then, it was Dickens and Dumas that held her attention. Especially Dumas. In high school she first 'discovered' historical romances and was hooked on Rogers, Woodiwiss and a host of others, buying each book as they came out. Of course, she had to hide them between her mattress and box-spring when she was at school because her mom would have had a hissy if she found out she read what she called "those smut books."

Even now she liked to read a bit before going to sleep and found when she read a good romance it definitely left her with sizzling dreams. Only tonight, when she climbed into bed to read her newest regency with a to-die-for viscount, she found she couldn't get far. Talk about a total first.

Instead she kept glancing over at the photo now sitting on her light pine nightstand. Tearing her gaze away from the picture, Carrie looked over her room.

It was everything she had always wanted...girlie and at the same time very sensual and conducive to sweet dreams, if not a few romantic nights. When she was dating anyway. It was a study in contrasts and yet the epitome of all she was. Pale lavender satin sheets covered the bed beneath a fluffy white down comforter. Bunches of pillows in all sizes and shapes, along with several stuffed teddy bears that reclined on them, decorated the head of the bed when she had the time to make it. The bed itself was a pine four-poster with matching nightstands, a dresser and an armoire she couldn't resist buying when she saw the mini-closet it held. Stained glass nick-knacks hung from the center curtain rod, covered by sheer lacy curtains on the windows. A bookcase--a very large and very full one--took up almost one wall.

Her favorite pastime was sitting in bed, vanilla votive candles scenting the air with herself dressed in a sexy nightgown, propped up against the pillows reading before she fell asleep. She usually drifted on to dreams of the hero in whatever book she was deeply engrossed in.

Tonight, however, she just couldn't stop looking at the warrior in the photo. Finally giving in to impulse, she picked it up and, after studying it for quite some time, placed a kiss on his image. She held it to her breast and thought about the fact that not since high school, when she'd read her first romance novel, had she done anything like that. Who kissed a picture? She set it on the nightstand, then picked it up again, giving the man in the photograph another quick kiss and could have sworn she felt...warmth...warmth?...coming from it. As she set it down, she wondered if she really saw the photograph give off a flash of light.

"Okay, I'm becoming certifiably weird. No more antipasto for me."

* * * *

"Take that, Sir Dickleth," was heard over the clash of swords as Sir Erek, a companion of the Round Table, advanced on the heartless jerk, err, mis-knighted knight. Amid the thrusts and parries and parries and thrusts, Sir Erek avoided the pathetic blows Sir Dickless tried to strike him with. "Lady Carrie-etta deserveth mucheth bettereth than you, you dickless-eth wonder."

"I am not dickleth, Sir Erek...merely a shrimp of a jerk with not much in the package and I will win back the fair Carrie-etta."

"I thinketh noteth thir Dickleth, err Dickless."

Lady Carrie-etta stood by on the sidelines, musing over how her hero had suddenly developed a lisp.

Carrie woke and shook her head, realizing it wasn't a lisp at all, but her dream hero, the ever charming Erek, was merely speaking in a Shakespearean type dialect which was definitely out of place if he was one of Arthur's knights. "Well it was a dream so he can talk anyway he wants as long as we get to the good part."

Trying to avoid looking over at the photograph, telling herself that she wasn't about to become obsessed with it, she glanced at the book she had been reading the night before. Why were there no heroes like in her books out and about anymore, only guys like Dean? She really, really did try to avoid looking at the photograph, but somehow it seemed to call to her. It was like the man in the tintype was somehow a part of her. Finally giving in to the urge to look at it once again, she picked it up and gazed into the enigmatic eyes of the warrior within.

Sighing, she asked aloud, "Why aren't you real and here with me?"

Not expecting an answer, she put it down and rolled over to go back to sleep and resume her dream...but not at the sword fight--at the part where Erek had vanquished Sir Dickless and she and Erek got to the good part.

* * * *

Somewhere in the Mid-west, 1850

Meanwhile a hundred and sixty years ago, an Indian warrior and his friends stood before a white haired man with a camera. One of the warriors told the tall, good-looking man, "Don't do it, Black Eagle. Don't let the magic box take your spirit."

"Black Eagle, that's hokum. The camera doesn't take your soul or spirit. It's just an image of you, but it's not you. I promise you, nothing will change for you. You'll still be you," the white haired man assured him.

"I am not afraid. The magic box is nothing to me. Go ahead, Arthur Merle, take my photo-graph."


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