Wednesday and Thursday were pretty much repeats of Tuesday. They went to the seminars; Amanda asked her questions and they learned about each of the different systems. Tuesday and Wednesday night, Michael called Mrs. Gatopardos and they would discuss what Michael had learned and would consider the pros and cons of the systems he had learned about that day. Each day, they would decide which of the six different systems Michael and Amanda looked at that day most closely met the requirements of SoGa Industries. Finally, on Thursday, Michael and Amanda left the computer show at lunch and returned to their hotel. Michael called Mrs. Gatopardos and they discussed the different systems that had made the final cut. After about an hour, they made their final decision and Mrs. Gatopardos gave Michael the green light to purchase the system and software they agreed most closely fit the needs of the company. Michael was to return to the computer show after the call and tell the representative of the company they chose their decision and make the purchase of the hardware and software necessary to run the system. After this, he and Amanda were given the rest of Thursday and all day Friday and Saturday to do as they wish.
During their rounds of the seminars on Tuesday, Amanda started being less clingy where Michael was concerned. In fact, she started spending more time away from Michael’s side than next to it. When they ate lunch and dinner on Tuesday, she didn’t seem to be bothered when Michael, who had noticed the change in her attitude toward him, sat on the opposite side of the table while they ate. She still looked at him longingly but she wasn’t bothered by not being by his side. Tuesday night, Amanda started sleeping in her room. For some odd reason, the change in sleeping arrangements bothered Michael somewhat but he accepted the change without complaint.
On Thursday night, they had gone to dinner at a five-star restaurant as guests of Mr. Paulo Katamotza, an Iberian Lynx, the salesman of the company that they had bought the complete system for SoGa Industries from, and his wife, Ilus, a Eurasian Lynx. After dinner, the four of them had gone dancing at The Arctic Wolf. Amanda and Michael had had a couple of glasses of very fine wine and had danced, almost continuously, for three hours. As they danced, Amanda had placed her head in the crook of Michael’s neck, and later laid her cheek against his chest and smiled contentedly as she listened to his heartbeat which was beating somewhat faster than normal for him. For his part, Michael had laid his cheek against the top of Amanda’s head, smiling happily. He couldn’t understand the feelings and emotions he was experiencing but, he knew that he enjoyed them and wanted to continue feeling them. No human girl had ever evoked the emotions he felt that night. Yet, at the same time, the feelings scared him. He believed he had defeated the mental block that had told him that he was some kind of pervert for having the feelings he had for Amanda and, as a result, had prevented him from accepting the possibility of a relationship with a Humanimal woman, especially Amanda, but he still couldn’t bring himself to tell her the depth of his feelings for her. He remembered the mental block telling him that it was, by no means, defeated and would return. This thought scared Michael as he was concerned that it would rear its ugly head at the most inopportune time.
At a little after 1700, Amanda and Michael thanked Mr. & Mrs. Katamotza for a wonderful evening and had said their good-byes. Because of the closeness of the dance-hall to the hotel, the extremely low crime rate, and the pleasantness of the evening, they decided to walk back to the hotel. As they walked, Amanda reached out and took Michael’s hand. The touch of her hand in his gave him a thrill beyond words. Amanda was obviously feeling the effects of the rather potent wine and lay her head on his shoulder as he put his arm around her shoulders. They arrived at their floor and he escorted her to her door. After she opened the door, she turned, put her arms around his neck, pulled him to her, and kissed him.
“I love you, Michael.” She whispered. “I hope that one day you’ll love me, too.”
Michael smiled warmly and said, “Me, too, Amanda.”
Amanda turned and entered her room. Then, she turned to face him and smiled flirtatiously at him. After she closed her door, he smiled to himself as he went to his room. He went inside and sat in the easy chair for several minutes thinking. As he sat there, he started fighting a mental battle as concerns over his feelings for Amanda started again. Finally, he shook his head violently to clear the thoughts away, got undressed, and got into bed. In about twenty minutes, he was asleep. Just before he fell asleep, he thought he heard a soft, derisive laugh inside his head.
As Michael slept, he had a couple of dreams. The dreams were different and yet, of a similar nature. The first dream was as follows.
Michael dreamed that he was in a church attending a wedding. He looked around but he couldn’t see Amanda. “Now, where is she?” He thought. “I can’t imagine going to a wedding and Amanda not accompanying me.”
Michael looked toward the altar and saw a white Arctic fox in a tuxedo standing there and looking toward the doorway to the narthex of the church. The fox had a bored look on his face like he really wished he was somewhere else. Michael took an immediate dislike to him. He couldn’t understand why he would act that way on his wedding day. Michael felt that the fox was absolutely not trustworthy and whoever he was marrying was a very unlucky girl and would come to regret her decision to marry this loser.
Suddenly, an organ started playing a wedding march and everyone looked toward the doorway. Michael couldn’t see the face of the bride because she was wearing a veil that reached from the top of her head to just above her smallish breasts and wrapped around her face from ear to ear. He couldn’t even see what race she was. However, he could see the father of the bride. It was Jacob Fuchs.
“This must be the wedding of one of Amanda’s sisters.” Michael thought. “But, where is Amanda? She should be sitting next to me.”
Michael looked around and saw that he was the only person on his side of the church. “What’s going on?” He thought. “Why isn’t anybody else sitting near me?” He looked on the other side of the church and saw all of his and Amanda’s friends there. He even saw the entire Panthera family over there. Michael was confused and saddened to think that nobody wanted to sit near him.
As the bride to be walked down the aisle, when she reached the pew that Michael was sitting in, she turned her head and looked at him. “Why is Amanda’s sister looking at me?” Michael thought. “Maybe she sees Amanda and I can’t.”
Finally, Mr. Fuchs and his daughter arrived at the altar. He took his daughter’s hands and placed them in the hands of the Arctic fox and stepped back. There was something about that Arctic fox that Michael didn’t like. He seemed to be arrogant like he had won something that he didn’t really deserve. As Michael looked at him, he knew it wasn’t the Arctic fox that had been pestering Amanda at Bruno’s that night so long ago. That Arctic fox was smaller than this one. As Michael thought about it, even though she was a cross-dressing lesbian, he remembered that she still had feminine aspects about her. This fox was masculine, not masculine looking, masculine. He was obviously a tod.
The wedding ceremony began and, after about 30 minutes, the minister said, “If anyone knows of any reason that these two should not be wed, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.”
When the minister said this, the bride to be, Mr. Fuchs, the minister, the Arctic fox, and everyone else in the church turned and looked directly at Michael. The Arctic fox still had a smug look on his face; it was a look that said, “You’ve lost, Michael. You had your chance but you blew it.” For some odd reason, Michael felt a need to speak up but, he was frozen in place and his mouth wouldn’t open. He couldn’t understand why he wanted to say something but the urge was strong. He heard Amanda’s voice telling him, pleading with him, to speak up, say something, tell everyone that he objected but, his mouth wouldn’t open despite his attempts to speak up.
Finally, after several seconds, the minister announced the exchanging of the vows. Finally, the minister said, “You may now kiss the bride.”
The Arctic fox lifted the veil and Michael saw the face of the bride. The feline features, the stripes, the strawberry blonde hair, the amber eyes with round pupils could mean only one thing. The bride was Amanda! Had she finally given up on him? Had she decided that he was no longer worth waiting for? Once again, Amanda turned to look at him. He could see the sadness, the tears forming, and the pleading in her eyes but, it was too late. His opportunity to object had come and gone with no reaction from Michael.
“Oh, my God!” He thought. “No! No! Please dear God! Let this be a nightmare! I want to be that guy up there! Please, dear God, let me be that man! I love her! I love her more than I love my own life! Please!”
Suddenly, Michael’s eyes popped open. His breaths were coming in quick, shallow gasps. He looked around without moving his body. As he looked around, he saw that the room he was in was dark. He felt wet on his face. He reached up, wiped his face, and found that he had been sweating. His t-shirt was soaked with sweat. The bed he was lying on was also wet with his sweat. He reached over to where Amanda had slept for most of the week to pull her closer to him but, she wasn’t there. For a second, he panicked then, he remembered that she was sleeping in her room. Finally, he thought, “A dream. It really was a dream. But, what did it mean? Was it a premonition or was it a subconscious fear that Amanda might really tire of waiting for me and find someone else? I don’t know why it should bother me so much. After all, I’d said so many times that I couldn’t bring myself to even consider a relationship with a Humanimal woman. I’ve told Amanda on so many occasions that I wouldn’t stand in her way if she found someone else before I could overcome my aversion to that kind of relationship.”
Michael lay there for a few minutes before his eyelids started closing again. Despite his fear of the dream he’d just had, he succumbed to the need for sleep, and, once again, his eyes closed in slumber. Almost immediately, he found himself in another dream.
Michael saw himself standing at the altar of the same church. He looked at himself and saw that he was wearing a tuxedo. He turned and looked toward the entrance to the narthex of the church and looked at the pews. On one side, he saw humans including his parents, not Drs. Leo and Tigresa but his own human parents. He felt confused because he knew they were long dead. He looked at the other side of the congregation and saw nothing but Humanimals, including Drs. Leo and Tigresa and their cubs, Ophelia Fuchs and her kits, Jonathan Poema, Robert Jordegern, Albert Rooikat, and everybody else he knew. He also saw three females that he recognized but couldn’t understand why they would be at his wedding, a tiger-striped white skunk, a striped skunk wearing frameless glasses with rather large lenses, and a well-developed red fox vixen. He also saw the Arctic fox he saw in the first dream but this time, he was accompanied by a Mexican red wolf woman and a young mixed-race pup. Sitting next to the female Mexican red wolf was a larger male Mexican red wolf. Michael couldn’t understand why he should know these four but he seemed to recognize them, especially the male wolf. The Arctic fox was looking at him and smiling happily as he put his arm around the wolfess. It was as if Michael had had a hand in his relationship with the wolfess. But, Michael couldn’t understand why he would even remotely assist an Arctic fox, especially this particular Arctic fox, in a relationship.
While he stood at the altar, Michael looked toward the other side of the altar and saw Bertha Karhu, Wanda Anaguma, and Michelle Tierboskat standing there in bridesmaid’s dresses. As he looked at them, he heard a voice in his ear. He turned and saw Richard Panthera and his brother, Edwin, standing next to him as his best men. He heard Richard say, “Michael, this is what you really want, isn’t it? You don’t want to see Amanda marry that Arctic fox out there, do you? If this is what you want, you need to say something to her. Tell her how you feel about her. I know you love her. I could tell from the way you talked to her at Max’s Gym. Sure, you said you weren’t interested but I also saw how hurt you were when you realized you’d upset her. Don’t be a fool, Michael, tell her. Tell her soon or you’ll live to regret your decision.”
Michael turned toward the entrance to the narthex of the church. As he looked, he saw Anne Panthera walking toward the altar carrying a small basket filled with rose petals which she was slowly dropping to the floor. Anne wasn’t two years old now. She looked like she was three or four years old. This dream had to be taking place at least a year in the future.
Immediately behind Anne was Erich Fuchs, Amanda’s youngest brother. Erich was carrying a pillow on which lay two golden rings. After Erich entered, the doors to the narthex were closed. When Erich reached the altar, a wedding march started playing and, a few seconds later, the doors reopened and Michael saw Jacob Fuchs, with Amanda on his arm, enter the nave of the church. Amanda was wearing a beautiful white sleeveless dress with lace trim around the neckline and arm openings. The dress had a 6-foot long train and a veil that hid only the top half of her face. He recognized her feline muzzle, tiger-striped face and arms, and her foxgloves. Michael could feel emotions welling up inside of him that he’d never felt before as he smiled happily.
As he was watching Amanda’s approach, he felt a hand on his shoulder and Edwin’s voice saying, “Are you nervous, Michael?”
“Yes, I am Win.” Michael heard himself responding. “This is the happiest and scariest day of my life. I don’t know if I deserve to be here. I was always distant toward Amanda. But, she never gave up on me.”
“I don’t blame you for being nervous, Michael. You’ve got a beautiful fiancee who loves you more than she loves anything or anyone else. It was her love for you that kept her around and hoping. I hope that I can find a woman half as beautiful and loving as your tiger-striped red fox.
“Richard’s right. Even though we weren’t here in body, we were here in spirit. We could see how you felt about Amanda. We could also see how much she loved you. Now, you’ve finally taken that step that should lead down the road to eternal happiness. I won’t tell you to not mess it up because I know you well enough to know that you won’t.”
“Thanks, Win. It took me a long time to get over my aversion to the idea of marrying, or even dating, a Humanimal. I’m so glad that everyone accepted my decision and her.”
“Michael, bro, you should know that we don’t care who you marry as long as the two of you love each other. Mom and Dad had said to us often enough that you should have known it without even thinking about it.”
Just then, Amanda and her father arrived at the altar. Mr. Fuchs took Amanda’s hands and placed them in Michael’s. He stepped back and the wedding ceremony began.
It was at this time that Michael woke up. This time, he was smiling happily. This was the dream that he now realized he wanted to experience. No longer would he refuse to acknowledge his feelings for Amanda because now he realized that what his brother had said in the dream was true. His parents had always told him and his siblings that they didn’t care who they loved as long as they were happy with that person and he had never been happier with anyone than he was when he was with Amanda. Now, Michael had to find the right time and place to tell Amanda how he felt about her.
As Michael thought these things, he had rolled over and his hand had landed on something soft and furry. At first, it didn’t register in his sleep-dreary mind that this furry thing was something out of the ordinary. His hand slowly, gently caressed the fur as his mind slowly revived from the sleep and dream he had so recently been enjoying. As his hand caressed the furry body, his now marginally awake ears heard a soft moan and a sound like someone trying to purr directly in front of his face. The caressing stopped and his right eye slowly opened. In the darkened room, he could barely make out a body lying in his bed, a feminine body. Taken completely unaware his arm jerked back and his body followed suit. He jerked back so violently that he almost fell out of the bed. Now, he could hear soft giggling coming from the other side of the bed, giggling he recognized immediately.
“Amanda!” Michael whispered hoarsely. “What are you doing in my bed!?”
Stifling her giggles long enough to answer him, Amanda said, “You said that I could sleep with you as long as I was in heat. Well, I’m in heat.”
“Amanda, what did I tell you about lying to me?”
“I’m not lying.” She said, giggling again.
“Yes, you are.” He replied, smiling. “You were in heat last weekend. You won’t go into heat again for another twelve weeks.”
“How do you know?”
“Because, my dear, your giggles are a lot different when you’re in heat. When you’re in heat, you sound like a drunk person giggling at something that nobody else finds funny. Now, your giggles just sound like you’re trying to pull a fast one on me. On top of that is the fact that the tutor that Drs. Leo and Tigresa hired when I first arrived in the Panthera household told me that Humanimal females go into heat every thirteen weeks not to mention the fact that you made it a point to remind me that you’d be going into heat on the Friday we would be coming to the computer show when we found out we were coming to Jaguarville.”
“Oh, well, I felt safe when you let me sleep with you last weekend and I had a hard time sleeping Tuesday night and last night. Please let me sleep with you until we go back home.”
Michael paused, thinking. Finally, he said, “Very well. Your father said he didn’t mind you sharing my bed. So, I guess it’s all right.”
Michael had taken his t-shirt off after his nightmare so he was bare-chested. Suddenly, he felt something furry, warm, soft, and slightly protruding from Amanda’s chest brush against his chest. In shock, he asked, “Amanda, are you naked?”
“No, I’ve got my panties on.”
“And nothing else?”
“Ye-es.” She responded, somewhat flirtatiously.
“Go put your nightgown on.”
“Why-y?” She whined.
“Do you remember our agreement?”
“Yes. But, that was for only as long as I was in heat. I’m not in heat any longer.”
“True. However, you weren’t going to sleep with me after your heat ended. Therefore, if you want to continue sleeping in here, you have to continue following that agreement or go back to your bed.” Amanda whined. “Those are your two options, Sweetie.”
Amanda whined again. “And if I refuse?”
“I’ll pick you up, carry you to your room, put you in your bed, and I’ll lock that connecting door when I walk back through it.”
With mild frustration mixed with a little fear, Amanda said, “If I go to my room to put my nightgown on, you’ll lock the door behind me.”
“No, I won’t; I promise. Your father said it was all right with him if we shared a bed. So, if you want to sleep in here, I have no problem as long as you are completely covered.” Amanda hesitated. “If you want, you can leave that door open and take the key with you.”
Amanda threw the covers off of herself as she leaped out of the bed and tip-toe ran to her room. She quickly found her nightgown, pulled it on, and raced back to Michael’s bed, stopping just long enough to gently close the connecting door. Michael shook his head as he smiled at her antics.
When she returned to the bed, Amanda got in, scooted backward until her back touched Michael’s chest. Then, she reached behind her, caught his left hand, and pulled it under her neck. Next, she reached behind her, caught his right hand, pulled it over her right side, wrapped herself with his arms, and sighed contentedly causing him to smile at her.
Michael looked over his shoulder and noted that the clock registered 2234. “Well,” he thought, “we’ll get two more hours of sleep.” He yawned, pulled Amanda a little closer to him, eliciting a happy sigh from her, and fell back asleep.
The alarm went off at 0030 awakening Michael. He lay there for a few minutes thinking. These thoughts passed through his mind as he lay there enjoying the warmth of Amanda’s body as she held him. Michael lay his cheek on the top of her head as he thought, “What is wrong with me? Here I am lying in bed with the sweetest, kindest, most loving, most beautiful woman I’ve ever known and I can’t tell her how much she means to me. I have to figure out a way to do that before she gives up on me and makes that nightmare come true.”
After a couple of minutes more of this cuddling, Michael gently shook Amanda’s shoulder. He was rewarded with Amanda lifting the right side of her muzzle’s lip in a silent snarl. He shook her shoulder again and again she snarled, only this time a quiet growl came from her throat. Ever one to tempt fate, he shook Amanda’s shoulder a third time. This time, however, when she started to snarl and growl, he gently scratched the top of her head, the sweet spot between her ears. Her snarl disappeared and the growl died in her throat as she slowly opened her eyes. She looked around somewhat disoriented. When her eyes turned to Michael, she smiled happily.
She yawned and said, “Good morning, Michael. Were you shaking my shoulder just now?”
“Yes. And if I didn’t know you better, I would have been scared of that snarl and growl you gave me for my efforts.” Michael laughed.
“I’m sorry. I thought I was dreaming that.”
He hugged her and said, “That’s all right, Sweetheart. I know you wouldn’t bite me for awakening you.”
“Humph. Don’t bet on it. I’ve bitten Marshall once or twice when he woke me.”
“Marshall? Should I be jealous?”
She laughed lightly. “No. Marshall is the oldest of my younger siblings. He’s the only one of them that protected me from my mother’s tirades as we were growing up. He’s four years younger than me and I used to play with him when he was a kit. I guess he bonded with me. In fact, on my first day at work, he kept me from spending the day in jail.”
“Jail!? What the—“
“Oh, my mother didn’t think I should work. She said my husband should support me. So, she called the police and reported a tiger-striped young woman was attempting to break into houses in our neighborhood. Marshall walked outside just as the police officer put handcuffs on me. He wasn’t happy.”
“When he told the police officer I was his sister and I lived in the house, the police officer removed the handcuffs.”
“Were you late for work?”
“Yes, but the police officer drove me to work in his patrol car. He even offered to talk to Mr. Blaidd and tell him why I was late.”
“Before we left for work, he threatened to arrest Mother for filing a false police report.”
“Why didn’t he?”
“I stopped him by explaining why she did it. He agreed to not take her in with the threat that, the next time she filed a false report, no one was going to stop him from arresting her.”
Michael smiled and said, “I guess she hasn’t tried that since.”
“What was done about the police report?”
“The police officer called on his radio saying it was a case of mistaken identity.”
Michael smiled again and said, “We’ve got to get up. Today’s the last day of the computer expo and I want to see what advances have been made in miniaturizing computer components. It should be about time for personal computers to be developed.”
“Yes. Small computers you can own. They fit on desks. They’re also called desktop computers for that reason.”
“Oh. That’s nice.” Amanda said but made no attempt to get out of the bed.
Michael nudged her and said, “Come on. We need to get up, get dressed, eat, and go.”
Amanda stretched languidly and whined, “Ooh, no-o-o-o. Don’t you want to stay in bed with me all day?” She snuggled closer to him. “I could keep you warm.”
Michael leaned close to her ear and whispered, “As tempting as that offer is, I’ll have to pass. We’re being paid to go to the computer expo every day. Today is the last day. Come on.”
Amanda threw the covers off, jumped out of the bed, and lightly ran to the connecting door. She stopped long enough to say, “Well, hurry up, slowpoke. I bet I’ll be dressed before you are.” Then, she disappeared, laughing, into her room, leaving the door wide open.
Michael just shook his head and smiled.
Just as Michael finished getting dressed, Amanda walked back into Michael’s room. She didn’t rush in. She wasn’t walking dejectedly like she did when she thought Michael didn’t want her around him; she just ambled in wearing a smile of happiness. When she saw Michael was dressed, she took his arm and led him out the door and to the elevator. She pressed the call button and, when the doors opened, led him inside. The elevator operator was Elizabeth van Horne.
“Good morning, Elizabeth,” Amanda said, cheerfully. “I hope you’ve had a wonderful week so far.” Amanda looked at Michael and added, “I know I have.”
Michael saw the look on Elizabeth’s face and said, “She didn’t mean it that way, Elizabeth. She’s just happy to know that I’d defend her from someone who might hurt her.”
“Oh, I see. Are you going to breakfast?”
“Yes, we are,” Michael said.
“Well, I hope you enjoy it. How much longer are you staying here in Jaguarville?”
“We’ll be heading back to Catlanna Sunday morning.”
“That’s too bad. Jeffrey asks about you almost every day. He really enjoyed having dinner with you two. He thinks you are a cute couple.”
Amanda smiled enigmatically and said, “Thank you. I think we’re a cute couple, too.”
“Your heat’s ended, hasn’t it, Amanda?”
Amanda sighed and said, “Yes, and I’m still a virgin.”
Elizabeth laughed and said, “Don’t worry, Amanda. I foresee a very happy, loving relationship for you.
“Ground floor. Watch your step.”
After breakfast, Amanda and Michael went back to their rooms, brushed their teeth, caught the elevator back down, and started to walk the twelve blocks to the Convention Center. The computer expo didn’t open until 0300 but Michael was never one to be late to anything if he could help it. Amanda fairly skipped as she walked beside him. From the way she was acting, he guessed she was happy that, even though she wasn’t in heat, he had allowed her to sleep in the bed beside him last night. She said she thought that maybe he was starting to look at her as a potential mate after all. She was also amazed that he was completely unconcerned with her threat reaction when he had awoken her this morning; she was equally amazed that he seemed jealous when she mentioned Marshall. These thoughts made her happy, happier than she had been in a long, long time.
Amanda suddenly got quiet. It looked like she was deep in thought and didn’t speak. After several seconds, Michael said, “You’re very quiet all of a sudden, Amanda. Are you all right?”
In a tear-filled voice, she said, “Michael, you wouldn’t chase some other girl, would you?”
Startled by this question, he said, “Amanda, what brought this on?”
“I don’t know, Michael. It’s just a thought that crossed my mind. Please tell me. Would you?”
Sensing how distraught she was over this question, Michael placed his arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer to him as he said, “I can honestly say that I have no intention of chasing any other girl, human or Humanimal. I’ve grown very fond of you and, as a result, enjoy your company. Does that put your mind at ease, Sweetie?”
Smiling happily, Amanda put her arms around him and said “Yes, Michael. It does.” She kissed his cheek.
Arm in arm, Amanda and Michael walked into the lobby of the Convention Center. It was only sparsely populated since it was an hour before the computer expo was to open. Michael led Amanda toward the food court. As they walked, Amanda said, “Michael, the expo doesn’t open until 0300 and it’s barely 0200. Why are we here so early?”
Michael smiled and replied, “When I enter the expo, what am I going to do?”
“Talk to the vendors, look at all the computer items, and learn as much as you can about everything, especially those, what did you call them, personal computers.”
“Correct. And what am I going to say to you during that time?”
Amanda made a wry face and said, “Next to nothing.”
“Exactly. I want to spend the next hour talking to you. That way, you won’t feel so bad when I seemingly ignore you while we’re in the expo.”
Amanda smiled and said, “Okay.”
At that very instant, the air was shattered by a loud, ear-piercing voice saying, “AAAAAMAAAAANDAAAAA!”
Amanda froze, crouched defensively, and whispered, “Oh, God! Not her, not here, not now!”
Michael turned just in time to see a tall, buxom, red-haired red fox vixen with a toothy ear-to-ear grin on her face, run up, grab Amanda in a bear hug and swing her around and around. He stared in dumb fascination as the strange vixen put Amanda down but continued to hug her. As he stared, the vixen became aware of his presence and stared at him. He looked at her open-mouthed because he recognized her. He recognized her from the dream he’d had just a few hours ago but, more importantly, he recognized her.