“You in or out?” asked the dealer.
Jeff slammed his cards on the table. Every eye in the room turned. The last of the billions he had inherited disappear into the dealer’s box. This riverboat gig had been his last hope. All his dreams were blown to hell. Now he had no family, no home, and no way to buy his next meal.
Real gamblers don’t like it when you owe them money, especially these. A sharp wind practically tore Jeff’s shirt off as he landed on the river bank miles from the next town. The landscape lay eerily silent under a blanket of snow as the boat floated away. His only chance now was to walk and pray he find shelter before freezing to death.
It was a glowing light that caught Jeff’s eye an hour later, drawing him into the woods with the promise of a warm campfire. Hours passed before he realized his footprints had vanished. Tired, numb, scared, and ready to give up, Jeff stopped. Instantly, a blinding white light surrounded him. Warmth permeated his body.
“It’s about time you got here,” said a woman. “I’ve been waiting all night.”
Jeff only stared, too stunned to think.
“You’ve had everything thing you wanted, Jeff, now it’s time to have what you need, a purpose. It’s time to give back some of the luck you’ve enjoyed all these years. I’m here to teach you to be a Dream Guardian.”
Sunlight flickered across Jeff’s eyes and he jumped up, blinking at the brightness. Nearly a foot of snow surrounded the ten foot patch of clear dry grass where he had slept. Had it all been a dream? The gold band with the small emerald on his finger seemed to disprove that. He fingered the ring, remembering the woman’s words from last night.
“The ring cannot be sold or traded,” she had said. “It’s ethereal. Only another adept can see it.”
That was one way to keep him from blowing it again. But could he really be a Dream Guardian. Jeff still didn’t understand what that meant, or how he wasn’t frozen solid. The air certainly felt frigid enough. In the distance he heard the roaring of an engine and took off at a run. He was still lost in the wilderness.
Or so he thought. Only a couple dozen yards away he stumbled into a road. For the second time in less than a day Jeff was too stunned to speak. Not just at the nearness of the road, but at the woman behind the wheel of the SUV sitting on the shoulder.
“Want some coffee and a ride, or are you going to keep me waiting again?”