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I’m not an impulsive person, but tonight I was feeling self-destructive—or maybe just stupid. Incredibly stupid, to come to the hip, slightly derelict side of the city just because I’d been dumped…again. My friends hadn’t wanted to come, but I’d managed to drag a few of them to the first club. They’d looked around with distaste at the dimly lit, dirty, body-packed dance floor and immediately begged me to go somewhere else. It definitely wasn’t our usual scene.
‘You know, David, a new wine bar opened uptown’ one of them had said. ‘It would only take twenty minutes to get to Serendipity, they have live jazz tonight’ another suggested.
But I wouldn’t be dissuaded. I’d ordered shots when they ordered watered-down beer (the establishments around Graveston didn’t bothering serving wine), and I was properly smashed within an hour. They’d had enough and headed for the door.
Troy pulled me aside before following the others. “You really should come with us. Someone’s going to try to pick you up,” he said, eyes flitting around the questionable patrons, “and I don’t think you want the attentions of these kind of people.”
“Maybe that’s just what I need,” I retorted. Not that I really believed I was going to get hit on. Not only was I in jeans when every other guy was in skin-tight leather, but most of the men had chiseled features and cut bodies. I had plain light brown hair, pale blue eyes, and although not in bad shape, I doubted I measured up to the ruggedly dangerous club-goers.
Rolling his eyes at my refusal, Troy tucked a card for a cab company into my pocket and gave me a sad shake of the head before leaving.
Fuck it, I thought. I’m tired of keeping on the safe side of the street.
My most recent ex had been like all the others—nice, made a good living, easy on the eyes, etc.—and our relationship had drifted into the realm of ho-hum in under three months. A record. I always ended up in ‘Friendville’.
The alcohol in my system made me feel bold, though—like I could start over and be someone else. I went to the next club, one that was pumping music so loud I could feel the vibrations of the base about a block away. The building was nondescript outside, but once you stepped in, the place looked like a glitzy, converted dungeon. The walls were sleek black, the lighting pulsed with blue and red and purple. It was better maintained than many of the places in the area, but the floors were still sticky and I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to see what the place looked like in proper lighting. But the patrons definitely weren’t interested in lighting. From the dark corners I could see entwined bodies moving in rhythm, and in a panicked moment, I wondered if they were doing more than dancing.
The shock of my surroundings began to sober me. I headed for the bar. After twenty minutes, I’d observed enough to know that the club wasn’t quite as bad as I’d originally thought. I wasn’t about to be abducted or raped out in the alley, but it was by far the seediest place I’d ever been. The dance floor writhed with sweaty bodies showing more skin than a beach. I remembered dancing when I was just a young, stupid teenager, and how damn fun it had been. I hadn’t hit thirty yet; I wasn’t an old man. I was going to fucking dance.
I did, and it was both more exhausting and more erotic than I remembered. I returned to the bar sweaty and satisfied. I ordered a drink with water on the side, which I quickly downed. I turned around and gazed out over the crowd as I nursed my bloody mary. It was a tacky drink to get on this side of town and the bartender had given me a mild look of disgust when I ordered it. I was too drunk for it to bother me. Too drunk to remember that this part of town actually saw its fair share of vamps.
I just sipped my drink and considered heading back to the dance floor. I almost did…then I saw him. He was on the balcony above—dark, handsome, and vaguely dangerous for some reason I couldn’t put my finger on. We made eye contact and when he smiled, my skin began to tingle. My heart thumped louder in my ears than the music as I saw him head for the stairs and cross the room toward me. The stranger moved with a predatory grace and even in the low light of the club he glowed pale.
I should’ve put two and two together, but I was damn drunk…and horny. So when he stood in front of me and leaned in to whisper, “You’re new,” all I could do was try not to gape at his beauty.
“Y-yeah, it’s my first time here.” I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing to admit or not, but his dark eyes sparked with amusement, making me blush.
He leaned past me over the bar to order a drink I’d never heard of, the heat of his shoulder pressing into mine as he did so. I tried unsuccessfully to suppress a jolt of arousal. I’d never been the carnal type—I always thought things through and kept my passions from ruling my head. But in the instant his arm went about my waist, all rationale fled.
I could blame it on the liquor, but I knew that wasn’t the case. There was something about this man who stood before me—grinning like a wolf eyeing a rabbit—that sparked a fire deep inside me. His eyes almost looked gold in the light of the club. Looking in those eyes, a sudden, keen desire shot through me, more raw than I had ever known before.
The stranger moved his lips to graze lightly over mine, then down along my jaw line. I felt him press a kiss to my throat and breath deep—a low, rumbling groan escaping those perfect lips. His grip on my waist tightened, pressing our hard groins together.
My pulse rushed and I felt him draw his tongue across my jugular. It almost seemed as if he could smell my arousal and taste the excitement on my skin.
“Wanna get out of here?” he asked in a husky whisper, barely heard over the music.
The words reverberated against the shell of my ear. All I could do was nod stupidly and follow him out the door. Even the odd looks we got on the way out failed to trigger the proper warning bells.
I hailed a cab and stepped into it with him in a daze. I didn’t do one-night stands. Even in college it had been rare—I barely dated casually. I was a long-term kinda guy. So the fact I was now about to take a complete stranger home—a mysterious, good-looking one at that—had my heart pounding with forbidden, childlike giddiness.
It wasn’t until we were actually walking into my apartment and he stood waiting outside the door that something itched at the back of my brain in warning.
“Are you going to invite me in?” he asked.
What an odd question, I thought, frowning. “Yeah, come in,” I said with a shrug, wondering at his odd formality. It didn’t seem in keeping with his dark, broody, let’s-go-fuck attitude earlier. Once he crossed the threshold and grinned, however, I was suddenly slammed with my mistake like a wall of bricks.
Shit! My mind squeaked. You just invited a vamp into your home! Stupid, stupid, stupid!
I held up my hands and backed away, a cold chill slithering down my spine. He just smirked and came toward me.
I’d always wondered why vamps had a weird hang-up about being invited in—I’d never more than half believed it. I mean, seriously, blood-sucking low lives were really that hung up on a common courtesy? Yeah, right.
Now, I understood it differently. It was probably the way they defended themselves if anyone ended up called the cops: ‘But, officer, he invited me in.’
Fuck. What the hell was I going to do now?!
My apartment wasn’t very big, just a glorified studio really, and I suddenly found myself with nowhere to go and a very hungry looking vampire stalking me. My knees hit the back of my bed and I tumbled backward. I couldn’t have been more obviously helpless prey if I’d plastered a sign to my forehead!
He was on top of me in seconds.
His limbs were like a cage above me, hemming me in. His lips clamped down over mine and somehow a moan passed my lips rather than a protest. No, no, no! I berated myself. Vamp equals very bad idea! But it didn’t matter, my body just went on begging for more.
“You smell good,” he breathed, his rough voice humming along my every nerve.
If only I could say that he held me down with superhuman strength or psychic powers of the mind or something equally impressive, but I couldn’t. It didn’t take much more than the feel of his firm body and insistent lips to make me whimper in surrender. Sure, he was stronger than me, but that’s not why I let him have his way. I let him have it because he was driving me insane with his kisses and his hands seemed to burn me like fire.
My clothes were tossed aside quicker than I could blink. Fear warred with my passion, but my cock didn’t seem at all concerned, the selfish little bastard. All it knew was that this man above me was pushing all the right buttons.
“Mmmm,” he murmured, tasting my mouth.
His lips were forceful, nearly bruising, and his hands seemed determined to map every part of my body. And beneath every touch of fingers and tongue and teeth, I could sense the consuming need he had for me. It should have been terrifying, but all I felt was the thrill of being so desired, so wanted.
When my lips were finally released, I opened my eyes and watched as he yanked his shirt over his head, and I swallowed hard at the vision that greeted my sight. His abs were taut, like steel beneath his alabaster skin. Removing his shirt had tousled his curly black hair, making him appear even more rakish and sexy—not that he needed much help. His hips were as defined as marble from where they rose out of the low hem of his pants, and an enticing little trail of curly hair led from his navel down into his pants, like a silent invitation. The man was my private wet dream.
Too bad he was a vamp.
Once his grinning lips lowered to lick down my chest, however, I wondered if even that mattered. He tongued and sucked a nipple, causing me to moan shamelessly. My hands dug into the sheets under me so hard I expected to tear them. And the intensity of lust only increased as he worked his way lower.
He kissed along my ribs and sampled the dip of my navel, all the while holding my hips in a forceful grip. It was excruciating pleasure, yet I knew we had only just begun.
I couldn’t tell you how long he ravaged my body—the dizziness from the alcohol and my own desire blurred together and made my head spin. I began to imagine that vamps needed lust more than blood, and that the stranger before me was an incubus. It was a ridiculous notion, but I felt as if he were drawing out my passions to the very edge.
When he took me in his mouth, I had to push him away before I explored. I didn’t want to come just yet—I knew when I did it would wrack my body and leave me utterly spent. With a shrug and a kiss to my cheek, the man flipped me over and gave the same attention to my back. The hot, wet touch of his tongue down my spine made my entire body spasm with need. His kisses over the swell of my ass were playful, throwing me off my guard just before he buried his face in my ass and gave me the best rimming I’d ever had.
I was panting and covered in a fine sheen of sweat when he guided me up onto my knees. To steady my trembling body, he wrapped strong arms around my waist.
“Are you ready?” he asked, in that deep, resonating voice of his.
I nodded, once again unable to form words.
He invaded my body slowly, inch by inch—not at all what I had expected. I’d envisioned him slamming home hard and fast, but this drew out the pleasure like a knife. My thighs shook and I had to lean my weight on my forearms just to hold myself up.
An amused chuckled drifted to my ears, but I had no time to register annoyance as he began to move inside. God, he was big. It stung and I clenched my teeth, willing my muscles to relax.
“Breath,” he said softly, brushing the hair from my eyes.
I did, and he paused to drag his mouth down my throat. My eyes shot open as the first scrape of pointed teeth grazed the crux of my shoulder. He didn’t bite down, but I knew he would. For the first time that night, the reality of what was to happen hit me. A good deal of the alcohol had burned through my system, and I as my mind sobered, I realized with a shock that I had a vamp’s cock up my ass and I was at his total mercy.
“Relax,” he said gently, his tone incongruous with the image I had of him leering over me from behind.
Then his hand reached around to stroke my receding erection, and my passions overtook me again. There was nothing I could do now; I might as well enjoy it… I didn’t have to try very hard.
The vamp readjusted himself behind me and started a smooth, undulating rhythm. I still had to force myself to breath at first, but soon, the pleasure outweighed the pain—maybe the slight sting even intensified it.
Feeling my tension ebbing away, his pace increased, until I could hear the beat of our bodies slapping together in a primal, staccato rhythm. Soon, he was pounding madly into me and I was thrusting back for more. No one had ever been so deep. I grew lightheaded, the thrill I had felt earlier that evening rushing back to me as my orgasm began to build.
Nothing mattered but this moment—the lusty, raw, unfettered sex.
I gasped loudly and suddenly I felt a change come over the man inside me. His fingers around my hips dug down hard as he slammed with new force against me. I cried out, helpless, taken—and soaked in every minute of it.
The vamp lifted me up, holding my back to his chest as he fucked me. One hand went back around my cock, the other across my chest. I could sense him waiting for me, his eagerness for me to come. My sight went blank as a fierce, streaking fire explored inside me. And in the same moment, I felt his mouth smother my neck, sharp fangs piercing the tender skin.
It intensified my orgasm tenfold, and he milked my cock as he drank from my neck—until, spent and weak, I went limp in his arms.
As I fell into bed, I thought I heard the man murmur something, but my mind was already being pulled into the black respite of sleep.
* * *
“So, how was the club? End up going home with a handsome stranger?”
I nearly jumped out of my skin as Holly asked me this over my shoulder the next week at work.
“No way!” she said, her eyes wide at my reaction. “Y-you did?”
“Keep it down!” I hissed, pulling her from the hall into the empty break room. “I just had a…fling, ok?” I said once we were inside.
“Fling! Listen to you, you are so cute!” she giggled. “We both know you don’t do flings, hun.”
“Well, this one was,” I insisted, “so just keep it to yourself.”
She didn’t of course, and half the office was teasing me about it by the end of the week, which really didn’t help my peace of mind. I barely knew what to think about what had happened that night.
I’d woken up alone, very sore and very hung over. It was all a bit fuzzy until I reached up to touch a particularly sensitive area at the base of my neck. I jumped out of bed and ran to the nearest mirror. Christ, there they were: two little puncture wounds, just like you’d read warnings about in health class.
I was surprised they weren’t larger, and damn happy that they seemed to heal so fast, because heaven only knew what my friends would say if they learned I’d been bedded—and bitten—by a vamp.
That first week, I tried to reassure myself that it had been one night of misguided passion. It was over and I could just chalk it up to drunkenness. I certainly wasn’t going to spend my time thinking of some vamp who’d used me and just left me passed out on my bed.
Not that it was surprising. Everyone knew that vamps only led to trouble. It was like taking up with an addict or a prostitute—most would do anything just to get their fix. But whenever I thought about that night, all I could remember was the mutual ecstasy we’d shared. Was I so commitment-crazy that I longed to start up something with a vamp just because we’d had one night of amazing sex?
By the end of the week, I’d managed to push the issue to the back of my brain—but the situation wasn't as finished as I would’ve liked.
As I sat in my apartment that Friday night, ignoring my friends’ calls to go with them to some tedious wine tasting, I heard a noise out on my balcony. The last thing I expected to see was a slim, familiar silhouette standing outside the glass doors.
My heart nearly jumped into my throat. Oh god, my throat. I wondered why the hell I wasn’t more concerned for its safety as my arms slid the door open.
The man stepped quietly inside. I could see the glitter of his eyes in light—dazzling, pulling me in. We were on the bed in minutes, him fucking me like his own private joy doll, me moaning with unabashed rapture. When he bit down, I almost anticipated the sharp sting.
I was fucking hopeless.
After that, his visits became routine. He dropped in whenever it suited him, pinning me to the bed without conversation, taking what he needed, and slipping away while I lay in a dreamy daze of the afterglow.
My co-workers and friends noted my fatigue and eyed me with scrutiny.
“You’ve been looking pretty tired lately,” Troy remarked, raising an eyebrow. “Having some late nights, are we?”
“Uh-huuuh. You’ve got that rumpled morning-after look all the time, you know. If you’re hiding some new beau, you’d better come clean,” he teased.
I scowled and told myself to lock the balcony door at night. I couldn’t keep this up. Enough was enough. I wasn’t some blood slut. But every time I went to flip the latch, something stopped me. Just like something woke me up in the dead of night just before I heard the scuffle of the vamp’s footsteps outside the door.
Even if he was careful not to drain me, I knew this wasn’t healthy. I was probably going to end up diseased or something and eventually my friends would discover my secret and then I’d be up shit creek.
But I couldn’t seem to stop, and before I knew it, this had been going on for nearly a month.
Now I understood the dangers everyone talked about when it came to vamps—how they were like a drug you just couldn’t give up. Was my life going to spiral out of control now? Would I end up getting so involved with this vamp that I’d lose my job, my home, and end up some vamp tramp? It didn’t seem that dangerous. My vamp didn’t seem to want to take over my whole life and ruin it, but he did seem to just be using me to satiate his lusts for both blood and sex.
And there was also the fact that this relationship could go absolutely nowhere. That just wasn’t like me. I preferred commitment. I didn’t go for jerks just cause they were hot… So what the hell was I doing?
Finally, I decided something had to be done. Maybe if I held him at bay long enough one night so we could actually talk, then I could convince him to leave me alone.
Yeah, right, an evil little voice whispered in the back of my head.
I ground my teeth and fixed my will. I would do this. I’d break this off…somehow.
I stayed up late, waiting. It was another Friday—a night he usually always stopped by. Though I couldn’t pin down why, it was much more nerve-wracking sitting at my little table near the kitchenette waiting to talk to my vamp than it was waiting in the bed for him to fuck me. Life just didn’t make sense anymore.
Around two in the morning, I saw his shadow and heard the familiar shhuuck of the sliding door as it closed behind him. I’d left every light on and I felt my breath hitch as I was caught by the beauty of his face—I hadn’t seen him in bright lighting since the first night I’d taken him home.
I opened my mouth to tell him ‘This can’t go on’, and somehow found myself in his arms, his lips swallowing my words.
We didn’t even make it to the bed. He took me up against the wall, every light blazing, as if highlighting my shame. When I came, my legs gave out and he had to hold me up. Then it was over, and he was slipping his shirt back over his sculpted body.
“You don’t always have to leave, you know. You could stay,” I found myself saying. It wasn’t what I’d meant to say at all, and my voice sounded like a sulky schoolgirl’s.
“I didn’t think that’s what you wanted,” came the low rumble of his voice.
“What are you talking about?” I asked defensively. “You’re the one that just swoops in here whenever you feel like it and then leaves once you’ve gotten what you wanted!”
His handsome face crinkled into a frown that managed to make him look pouty and cute rather than dangerous.
“You have never invited me to stay.”
I had to roll my eyes. Apparently being invited in was a bigger issue than I thought. It must be a vamp-culture thing. I didn’t get it.
“Well, I’m telling you now that you can stay, or even come at a normal hour—you don’t have to just come around to fuck and feed!”
I knew my voice was sharp, but I couldn’t believe this guy had managed to turn the tables on me and make me feel bad for him. He stood there for a moment, glaring, then grabbed his jacket and left without a word.
For days after I tried to remind myself that I was the victim in this scenario. I mean, vamps were, wells, vamps! Blood-thirsty, self-serving, scum-of-the-urban-jungle types. Everyone knew it… didn’t they?
I frowned, trying to think of everyone I knew and if they had ever actually met a vamp themselves. Then I sighed. Of course they hadn’t! They were all respectable types. But I had to admit that, other than my vamp, the only knowledge of vampires I had was all hearsay. Could I have been mislead?
The vamp showed up a fortnight later, earlier in the evening this time, and at my front door. I blinked at him when I opened it.
“You said I could come,” he said snappishly when I stood there dumbly.
“Uh, yeah. Just surprised you used the door,” I said, stepping aside to let him in. “I thought all you vamps liked to make dramatic entrances through windows and stuff.” I chuckled weakly, trying to lighten the mood because he did usually come in through my balcony—and seeing him at my doorstep like a normal person was…weird.
But he just shrugged. “I didn’t think you’d want your neighbors knowing a vamp was visiting you.”
Well, shit. Now I felt like an asshole. Had he actually been trying to be considerate of me? I looked at his back as he wandered into the kitchen area and thought how odd it was to feel compassion for the guy who’d been using me as his personal fuck-toy and blood bank for the past month—but maybe I’d been misinterpreting everything from the beginning.
Still not sure of how to deal with this potential revelation, I shut the door and followed him inside.
“Did you want anything to… eat? Drink?” I asked lamely. Did vamps ingest anything except blood? And how weird was it that there was always so much gossip about vamps, but no one knew these simple, little things about them?
“Got any hot chocolate?”
My mouth opened then shut it. Hot friggin’ chocolate? Was he serious or just fucking with me? Was he going to ask me next if we could watch some Little House on the Prairie and snuggle?
“Umm, I think I might have some… somewhere,” I muttered as I opened my cabinets and began searching. “Here’s a can. It’s not fresh, but…” It was peppermint flavored, too. Something I’d gotten as a Christmas gift heavens knew when.
“It’s ok if it’s old. Just stir a little of your blood in it for me for flavor.”
I dropped the canister and swung my head around to find him smirking.
“Oh…” I said, giving a weak chuckle. He could joke. Who knew?
“I’m not sure where my kettle’s at,” I said after a moment of searching. “The only thing I ever drink hot is coffee.”
“It’s ok, you don’t really have to make it.”
There was a distinctive strain of disappointment beneath his words.
“Well, would you like anything else, umm…?”
I blinked. “Huh?”
He wanted ‘Vince’? Did he want me to bring him a victim or something? Horrified, I tried to remember if any of my neighbors were named Vince.
“My name,” he clarified tersely when he saw the look on my face. He rubbed his face and gave a heavy sigh. “I can’t believe you’d let a guy into your bed for an entire month and not even ask his damn name.”
My jaw dropped. I-it wasn’t like that at all! I mean…
“You don’t know my name either!” I protested, feeling I’d scored a point.
“David. I asked you at the club before we even left. I guess you were too drunk to remember.”
I didn’t, and probably had been. Crap. Vamp, +1.
“Look,” Vince said, “you don’t have to do this.”
“Pretend you want to be friends or something. You’ve treated me ok so far. Sure, you didn’t want to know me and didn’t want me hanging around, but you didn’t call the cops and you didn’t try to blackmail me or anything. So, I’d be ok just keeping things as they are if you want.”
I was lost. “What are you talking about? Why would I blackmail you? How would I blackmail you?” If anyone was holding all the cards, it was him.
Vince looked back at me like I’d just stepped off the short bus chewing on my notebook instead of a sandwich.
“Are you really that clueless?”
“Yes!” I snapped. “I’m really that fucking clueless! I don’t understand what’s going on here! You’re acting like I’m the bad guy!”
His eyes darkened a shade and I gulped. He might not have superhuman powers, but his eyes looked like they could fry me to a crisp in two seconds flat if he wanted to.
“No, I’m the bad guy, right? I’m the cold, calculating, drain-scum vamp, huh?”
I bit my tongue against the instinctive ‘yeah’ that wanted to pop out. It was how vamps were always described.
“Let me fill you in,” he went on, “almost every human I’ve been with has wanted something from me—a thrill, a pet, whatever. They’ve never wanted me. I’m just a vamp, and that’s all they ever see. And the politicians and the media just love to paint us in a poor light, like we’re preying on defenseless little humans. But humans don’t need blood. They can get their own food, they can buy it, they don’t have to wait for someone to give it up to them, or worry that when they do they’ll misinterpret things and sick the police on their asses. And humans never trust you, never want to be friends, because they think you’re only after one thing.” He sighed and my heart clenched at the melancholy in his voice. “And sometimes they’re right. It’s tough. I don’t want to think about blood all the time, but I have to in order to survive. And I never know when I’ll be able to eat—except for lately, because you’ve been around, and you’ve let me. That doesn’t happen often, and usually when it does, the person wants something from me. They know they have the upper hand, and power does that to people.” He glanced at me, gauging my reaction.
I was dumbfounded.
I tried to look back on our time together with a new perspective—from Vince’s perspective. He’d approached me, brought me home when I was drunk, waited for me to invite him in and then I hadn’t said two words to him afterward. I’d never asked him about himself, never asked him to stay. I’d basically treated him as coldly as I’d thought he was treating me. Only he wasn’t. He was just being his weird vamp self, waiting for me to ‘invite’ him, ask his name, say anything to him beyond ‘fuck, yeah!’
Wow. I was actually the asshole here. I’d believed everything I’d heard about vamps and never thought to question it.
I sat down at one of the chairs near my small kitchen table, feeling suddenly drained and defeated.
“You ok?” Vince asked.
His concern only made me feel even more guilty.
“Do you think,” I began, “that we can start over or something? I really don’t know where to go from here.”
It was Vince’s turn to look surprised. “I… yeah. You still want to get to know me?”
I shrugged. “I do, but…”
Damn, how was I going to explain dating a vamp to my friends?
“…this isn’t going to be easy,” I finished.
“I’ll understand if you don’t want to get involved.”
Geez, he looked like a puppy that I’d just kicked. How could a guy who was so broody and sexy look that way?
“I didn’t say that!” I took a breath and plunged ahead. “I’m not sure how this will work, but I want to give it a shot.”
For the first time since I’d met him, Vince smiled, fangs and all, and I realized I wanted to see that smile a whole lot more often.
“Ok,” he said simply, leaning over to kiss me.
This story is currently included in the Hallow's Eve Anthology available on Amazon, along with several other stories that involve supernatural or spooktacular worlds. Enjoy!
Everyone starts off with the best of intentions. I’m convinced of this. No one goes out of their way to be an ass or make others miserable. But it happens. It was happening right now.
“Isn’t this exciting?" my friend Julie chirped as we sat, packed to the gills, in her compact four-door. After several long hours in the car together, ‘exciting’ wasn’t the word I would use to describe it.
How she’d roped us all into this ‘haunted hotel’ weekend, I had no idea. No, that wasn’t true. Julie was a sweetheart and I’m sure the others in the car owed her just as much as I did. She’d been there for me when I came out, had gotten drunk with me during my self-pity sessions at college. She always had your back. She was also someone that didn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘no’. But how could you begrudge her?
I glanced to each side of me as I sat smooshed in the middle of the back seat. To my left was Julie’s best friend, Donna, and to my right was Stewart. I restrained myself from glaring at his chiseled, handsome, arrogant face. What the hell kind of name was that anyway? I gave him credit for at least going by ‘Art’ instead of ‘Stew’. Not that either would improve his personality. I could tell he didn’t want to be on this trip anymore than I did, and he obviously sensed that Julie was itching to set us up. The way he’d wrinkled his nose when we’d been introduced that morning said everything I needed to know. Oh, he knew. And he thought I was way beneath him. That was just fine by me, because I didn’t date egotistical douchebags anyway.
“Here we are!” Julie said as she pulled up to an old colonial style house. I’m sure she thought she was taking us all on a lively trip to the east coast for a hauntingly good time, but this place looked well past its prime.
“It looks…interesting,” said her fiancé, Brian.
The rest of us shared disparaging glances as Julie parked in front of the large New England farmhouse.
“We aren’t seriously going to stay here? Overnight?” Art asked as we all stepped out of the car and got a good look. At least there was one voice of reason in the party.
“Of course we are!” Julie looked as if he’d grown two heads.
“It’s a wreck,” I said.
“It’s <i>historical</i>,” she insisted.
I shared a look with Brian, who just shrugged helplessly. Easy for him to shrug it off—he wasn’t going to be sleeping alone and would probably get some good sex out of this deal. What about the rest of us?
Best of intentions.
I shook my head and grabbed my bag from the back seat. We trudged up the steps, each one squeaking ominously. In the growing dusk, the windows on the first level looked back at us like black, lidless eyes. The house had three floors and a large porch out front. The front corner on our left sprouted a turret, adding to the house’s vague creepiness. At least it was large enough to fit us all comfortably and a fresh coat of paint to disguise the undoubtedly decaying wood. That still didn’t make me want to step inside of it, but I didn’t have much choice.
Julie unlocked the door and he filed inside. After a moment, she flipped the lights on. I had to admit, it was nicer inside than out. The parlor was spacious and opened to a larger living room, with an open kitchen to the left and a fireplace against the opposite wall on the right. Cozy, but…
“What’s that smell?” Donna asked.
“What are you talking about?” Julie said, frowning.
“No, I smell it too,” Brian said. “Like…roses that have started to wilt.”
“Well, maybe there’s a vase somewhere someone forgot to change.”
Brian nodded. “Sure. Anyway, let’s bring our stuff in and settle into our rooms.” He grabbed his duffle and headed up the stairway.
With relief, we saw that the upstairs rooms were as well maintained as the living room. Julie and Brian claimed the master suite, which only seemed fair since Julie had put in the most money to rent the place—and driven the six hours to get here. The rest of the rooms were smaller and furnished with the same basic bed, chair, and nightstand. Julie had planned ahead and chosen which ones would best suit us.
“Why is my room so cold?”
“It’s the turret room, Dev,” Julie said beside me, “so most of the wall faces the outside.”
“I can see that.”
She gave my shoulder a smack. “Don’t sulk, sweetie, it’s unbecoming. You’ll get a ton more light in here in the morning, and we have a lot planned so it’ll help you wake up bright and early! So I did you a favor.”
“Gee, thanks,” I smirked, dropping my bag at the foot of the bed. “I never get up ‘bright and early’.”
“Well, get over it. You’re going to have fun, even if I have to force it on you!” she said as she left, her giggle echoing down the hallway.
I sighed and sat down on the floral bedspread. I knew why Julie was making such an effort. Sure, she wanted a getaway with friends before she and Brian tied the knot later in the year, but I was sure it wasn’t just that. More than anyone she’d seen how gutted I was when ass-face Kyle had broken things off with me several weeks before. Donna’d had a bad row with her family, too. As for Art, I didn’t know him well enough to know if he’d been through anything recently, or if Julie only had him along in the hopes we’d make out like rabbits at some point so I’d get my mind off Kyle.
Unpacking my bag, I put my toiletries case and books on the nightstand and nearly sneezed my head off when I tucked my clothes into the set of drawers against the wall opposite the bed. That damn stinky rose smell seemed stronger upstairs. I stuffed the last odds and ends away wherever they would fit and headed down to the kitchen, where everyone else was milling about.
As I walked in, my stomach growled loudly and everyone turned to stare.
“Hungry much?” Donna teased.
I rolled my eyes at her. “I can’t possibly be the only one.” I looked to Julie. “What’s there to eat around here?”
“We could get groceries and cook,” she replied doubtfully.
“We should definitely get supplies for breakfast and maybe some bread and deli meat for lunch.” Art looked through the fridge and cabinets as he spoke, noting what had been left by previous renters. Not much more than salt and pepper.
“Or deli tofu,” Julie noted, nodding toward me.
Art turned to me; eyebrows wrinkling with the same distaste his nose had shown me before. “You a vegetarian or something?”
“Pescatarian actually,” Julie supplied. “I <i>told</i> you that.”
“Hmm,” was all Art said before continuing his inspection of the kitchen.
“It’s a little late to start cooking now, isn’t it?” Donna said.
“Does anyone besides me even <i>cook</i>?” Brian asked, eying us with amusement.
“I <i>can</i> cook,” I told him. “I’d just rather not.”
He chuckled and took Julie’s hand, leading her toward the door. “Come on. We can go into town and find somewhere to eat.”
Piling back into the car, we drove around for a while, my stomach growling louder each time we turned our backs on another over-priced seafood restaurant. Finally, Julie went into a shop to ask for recommendations. She came back with a half a pound of pumpkin fudge and directions to a pizza joint not far away.
“<i>This</i> is the place?” I asked as Julie parked about ten minutes later.
For once Art looked like he agreed with me. He shook his head as he left the car. “It’s called ‘No Name Pizza’?”
“Yep,” Julie said cheerfully. “Come on. The woman at the fudge store said they have a little of everything here and it’s all good!”
Art and I shared a skeptical look, but followed behind.
As it turned out, she was right. Things worked that way for Julie, it was one of the reasons it was so difficult to argue with her. The pizza was damn good—even if they did <i>fry</i> the eggplant topping—and the portions were fantastic for the money. We ended up with two full boxes of leftovers, the only food we’d have for tomorrow since the grocery was closed by the time we finished dinner.
“That was good,” I said as we walked out.
Art must’ve picked up on something in my voice, because he asked, “But…?”
“Well, it was a little weird to be the only POC in the place. Everyone was nice, it was just odd.”
“Person of Color,” Julie told him.
“Oh,” Art blinked. “Was it uncomfortable?”
It hadn’t been, but Art’s sincerity made me squirm under that blue gaze. I would’ve expected him to think it was silly of me.
“Not really. Just noteworthy, I guess.” Hell, the fact my family was originally from India escaped even my notice on occasion. I hadn’t grown up with other minorities around; most of my close friends were white. It wasn’t that big of a deal to me—so the concern in Art’s eyes was unexpected. Maybe I should’ve been offended; I wasn’t looking to be coddled. Instead I found it sweet, which was a mystery unto itself.
I was more than happy to climb back into the car and have the conversation steered in a new direction.
If the house looked rundown during at dusk, it was ten times worse when we pulled up well past sunset. None of us had remembered to leave a light on and the place looked abandoned.
“Kinda creepy, huh?” Brian said with a grin as we walked through the door. I looked at him, bewildered. Did he <i>enjoy</i> how spooky this was? No wonder he and Julie were made for each other.
“I like my comfort without the creepiness, thanks,” I told him. Then jumped two feet in the air as something shrieked and jumped at me from behind.
“Julie! You maniac!!” I scrambled up from my graceless fall to the floor as she doubled over in laughter. “If I didn’t love you so much, I’d kill you! No, maybe I should anyway.”
Straightening up, she waved me off. “Oh, come on! It wasn’t that bad!”
“Maybe,” I muttered. I actually didn’t mind the teasing, but with Brian around, I wouldn’t be able to get her back, and she knew it! Not fair.
My eye caught Art smirking at me and I glared—though I wasn’t sure what ticked me off more, the fact he found my terror amusing or that I found his smug mouth so damn attractive.
“Hey,” called Donna from the kitchen, “look what the owners left for us!” Walking over, we saw her open the fridge wide. Snug on the bottom shelf were two 6-packs of beer and a note welcoming us to the house.
“Now <i>that’s</i> proper hospitality!” Brian grinned and handed out the beers.
“How did you not see this before?” I asked Art, as I uncapped my beer.
“I was looking for <i>food</i>,” he said, as if I was a simpleton. I rolled my eyes.
We all made ourselves comfy on the sofas and Art and Donna stoked a fire from the pile of wood left just outside the door on the porch. It was damn nice, but we all got sleepy fast. I’d hoped the evening would last longer; I didn’t relish sleeping alone in the drafty room upstairs. I reminded myself that I was just being silly and headed upstairs with the others once the fire was doused.
I didn’t believe in ghosts or the ‘paranormal’, I told myself. So there was no need to feel spooked just because Julie had told us the house was—supposedly—haunted.
“Good night, everyone!” Julie called as we went to our respective rooms. “Sleep tight!”
I shut my door, undressed, and hopped beneath the frilly bedcovers. I didn’t know what it was about B&Bs that made every single one decorated with the same doilies and rose prints. Speaking of roses, that awful smell just wouldn’t go away. I grabbed my eye-mask from the nightstand, turned off the light, and willed myself to sleep.
Thankfully, I was a good sleeper. I was out in minutes.
Not so thankfully, I stirred from sleep later in the night when fart-face Kyle started hogging the blankets again. Why did he always do that?
“Gimme,” I mumbled, yanking the comforter back over me.
I heard a giggle and the covers slowly slid back down my body. I groaned.
“Dammit, Kyle!” I said, sitting up.
By then, I was fully awake. And remembered I wasn’t at home. And I wasn’t with Kyle. I was <i>alone</i>.
The giggling drifted past me again. I froze. My eye-mask was still in place and I wasn’t sure I wanted to remove it.
It had to be Julie. It would be just like her to tease me like this. Only…she and Brian didn’t get much time alone and I couldn’t imagine her getting up in the middle of the night just to tease me. Unless she’d rigged something earlier…
The covers started to slip away from me again and without thinking, I pulled off the eye-mask—and saw a faintly glowing silhouette hovering at the foot of my bed.
I bolted. Prank or no, I wasn’t staying in there another second! My heart was slamming against my ribs like it was trying to escape as I scoured my mind for what to do, where to go.
Who was in which room again? The faint ripple of giggling caressed my ear and I bolted into the closest room I could find. I shut the door fast behind me and listened for any signs the apparition had followed.
A soft rustle of fabric behind me made me start.
Art popped up from the bed, moonlight framing his blond waves and making him glow like an angel.
“What the hell?” he sputtered, breaking the illusion.
I rushed over to his bedside. So unbelievably grateful to have another rational human being beside me. Though light would be better—where the hell was the lamp?
I found it as my eyes adjusted to the dark, and Art swore as I flipped it on.
“Hey! What are you doing?”
I ignored his irritated tone. “Can you scoot over?”
Without waiting, I slumped down next to him in abject relief, trying to will my heart to stop racing against my ribs.
<i>It’s ok now. It’s ok.</i> That’s all I wanted to hear.
“Uh. Mind telling me what you’re doing here?” was what I heard instead.
I looked over at Art—hair all mussed, eyes slightly red and groggy, smooth naked chest staring back at me. Oops. I looked up and found him smirking.
“I saw a ghost!” I spat out. “In my room. It…it pulled the covers off me and—”
“You sure they didn’t just slip off while you were sleeping?”
“<i>Yes</i>. And there was <i>giggling</i>.”
Even in the crappy dim lighting, I could see the skepticism in his face.
“There doesn’t have to be a ghost in the house for you to hear laughing, you know.”
I opened my mouth to refute him, then stopped. It was true, of course, but that didn’t make what had happened to me any less real. “You weren’t there,” I finally managed. “It was…not normal laughter.”
“<i>Right</i>.” He raked a hand through his hair, making it stick up on end. Maybe if I was noticing such dumb little things, it meant I was beginning to feel normal again.
“Let’s be frank, ok?” he said. I looked at him and nodded. “There wasn’t any ghost, was there?”
He spread his hands. “Hey, I’m flattered, really. But come on, that’s a pretty flimsy excuse to try and get yourself into my bed.”
My jaw dropped. I couldn’t even articulate a sentence for several moments as I battled my fury and bewilderment. Finally I sputtered, “You think I made it up?”
Shrugging those impressive shoulders he said, “Sure. It’s not the first time someone’s made up some story to get in my bed.”
“S-stop saying ‘get into my bed’! I’m not trying to get into your bed, you ass!”
“No? So you weren’t going to ask to spend the night here with me?” His eyes were more awake now and sparking with amusement.
“Of course I was!” I gritted my teeth as he grinned. “Because of the <i>ghost</i>, you self-centered moron!”
“Mmm-hmm.” With a sigh, he rubbed his face. “Look. It’s ok. I get it. But I really need sleep. So I need you to just suck up your pride and go back to your room tonight, ok?” He moved past me and turned the lamp off with finality.
“You are such a horse’s ass!” I snapped, fleeing the room. Only the fact it would’ve woken up the entire house kept me from slamming the door shut.
Back out in the hallway, I bit my lip and weighed my options. My heart began to pound again as I stood there alone. I glanced at the door to my room.
Not a chance in hell I was going back in there. And I wasn’t going to take the chance on barging into anyone else’s room. That was certain.
The living room it was.
I made my way down by the light of a small lamp on one of the parlor tables that had been left on. Grabbing a quilt from the wicker hamper next to the sofa, I sat down—and spied the remote. Ah, TV. Blissful TV. Wrapping the quilt tight around me, I settled in, quietly cursing handsome, skeptical men.
I woke up the next morning with a kink in my neck and the foul taste of humiliation in my mouth. I didn’t know which was worse, freaking out over a supposed ghost in my room or Captain Handsome tossing me out of his room because he thought I was lying about it.
Stretching out my cramped body, I heard the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs and sat up. Should I hide the evidence that I’d slept on the couch? I didn’t relish explaining the reason why to anyone, but I didn’t want to lie—I wasn’t very good at it. A fact a certain egomaniac didn’t understand about me.
“Dev? What are you doing up already?”
Of course it was Julie; she always was an early bird, though god knew why anyone would voluntarily get out of bed on <i>vacation</i> before 10am.
“I had trouble falling asleep so I came down to watch TV and passed out. I definitely don’t want to be awake yet,” I said, snuggling back under the quilt. There, that explanation was truth enough—it just glanced over <i>why</i> I couldn’t sleep.
“But you’re already up!” Julie said cheerfully, coming over to nudge me under the quilt. “Come on, this is perfect! I want to go out for breakfast and everyone else is awake. Let’s go get the world’s best crab cakes!”
“For breakfast?” came Brian’s sleepy mumble from the doorway.
“See,” I said, poking my head out from under the blanket, “listen to the <i>sane</i> people in the house!”
Julie arched an eyebrow and grinned. That look in her eye never boded well. “If you get up, I can promise you French toast and coffee. If you <i>don’t</i>…” Her grin turned evil. “I will use my knowledge of all your most ticklish places!”
I groaned. “You’re such a bully!”
“Aw, come on, Julie. If he really wants to sleep—”
“He’s just being a baby!” Julie told Brian. “I know he can’t say no to a good breakfast—with fresh berry compote on top of that French toast.”
It did sound amazing…
“Ohhh, that is <i>really</i> good!” I said around the mouthful of toast.
Julie just winked, gracious enough not to say ‘I told you so’. And I had to admit, it was nice to wake up early. Sometimes.
“So,” Julie asked, “did anyone see anything last night?”
“Like a ghost, silly!”
I felt Art’s eyes on me and glanced at him just briefly enough to make me feel even more self-conscious under his gaze. I’d avoided speaking with him all morning. I <i>really</i> didn’t want to talk about last night, but if I didn’t bring it up, Captain Ego would definitely think I was lying.
Julie picked up on my hesitancy like a wolf with the scent of raw meat. “What’s this? <i>Did</i> you?”
Julie clapped her hands gleefully. “Tell me all about it!”
“Aww, come on! You can’t leave me hanging!”
With a sigh, I told her, “I thought something was tugging at the blankets on the bed. And…I heard something. It creeped me out…I don’t know, maybe there’s an explanation for it…”
“Wait—what did you hear? And what <i>exactly</i> happened with the blankets?”
I stuffed my mouth with French toast. “Nuth-im.”
Julie pouted, but I shrugged. “No ghosts before breakfast,” I said after I swallowed.
Of course, the moment we left the restaurant to walk around town, Julie tugged me back from the group. “So, spill it. What happened?”
I checked that everyone else was out of earshot and told her, “I woke up from the blankets being yanked right off the bed.”
“And then there was this awful giggling.”
“You’re kidding me!”
I watched Julie’s wide-eyed, fascinated horror with the satisfaction that at least there was <i>one</i> person who believed me.
“Hand to god,” I said. “And it gets worse.”
“Yeah, I ran out and then into Art’s room—and the dickhead didn’t believe me.”
“Oh, Dev. He was probably half-asleep.”
“Trust me, he was awake. Not only that, he thought I was just using it as an excuse to spend the night with him.”
“Really? That doesn’t sound like Art.”
I gave a ‘humph’ and gave her a look that said <i>exactly</i> what I thought of Art.
“I’m serious,” she insisted. She crossed her arms as we watched the group walk into a little nautical shop on the corner ahead of us. “I’ll get to the bottom of this.”
“Wait.” I grabbed her arm. “Don’t make a big deal about it. He obviously already thinks I’m a loser. Don’t make it worse.”
“He doesn’t think you’re a loser.”
I gave her a look and thankfully she relented. The rest of the day was actually nice. Everyone but me needed last-minute costume accessories and we just spent the day shopping and smiling at all the little kids dressed up and trick-or-treating about town. It was one of my better Halloweens, at least so far. I wasn’t relishing the party later, but it wouldn’t be big so maybe that would be all right too. What I would do <i>after</i> the party, when it was time to sleep… Well, that was another matter. And I didn’t want to think about it just yet.
Once we got back to the house, everyone started getting ready for the evening’s festivities. As a teen, Julie had lived in a town not far from where we were and still had friends she kept in touch with there; several of them were going to come over to celebrate with us. I wasn’t a big party person, but we’d picked up a couple cases of beer and bottles of wine on the way back, so I knew I’d be able to fortify myself, so to speak. As I made my way back to my room, I knew I was going to need it. Even with the sun up, the bedroom spooked me.
Still, things could be worse—I could have to worry about a costume. Somehow, I’d convinced Julie to let me <i>not</i> dress up this year. She’d had high hopes of us being the main cast of Rocky Horror Picture Show, but apparently I hadn’t been the only one to veto that idea. It didn’t stop Julie from dressing her and Brian up as Brad and Janet, though. She explained with glee how they were going to wear the normal clothes at the start of the party and change into just their underwear halfway through—to be more faithful to the movie. Or, I suspected, to just be remarkably silly. It would be fun to watch, though.
After trying to keep myself busy in my room for half an hour, I decided to get a head start on the evening and went to the kitchen for a beer. Art was already there, looking annoyingly good in metallic-green skintight pants, no shirt, and a triton in his hand. I suspected from the way he gleamed in the light of the setting sun that he’d oiled himself a bit too. Who was he trying to impress?
“Who’re you supposed to be?” I asked, moving past him to the fridge. “That guy from <i>Catching Fire</i>?”
“Huh? I’m Triton,” Art said peevishly, “Ya know, God of the Seas?”
I snorted. “You’re going as a ‘god’ for Halloween? So <i>humble</i>.”
“What about you?” Art asked. “Not even going to bother?”
I shrugged. “I don’t go in for Halloween much.”
“Are you kidding?”
He gave an amused smirk that I found not in the least amusing. “What?” I asked.
Taking my hand, he said, “Come on. We’ve got…” he glanced at the clock on the mantle, “twenty minutes to get you dressed up.”
“I don’t want to get dressed up!” I sounded like a petulant child and winced inwardly.
“Dude, it’s Halloween. Relax. Have a little fun.”
“Says the guy <i>not</i> being stalked by a ghost…” I muttered. But I let him drag me upstairs because, really, there was no way he was going to be able to come up with a costume in that amount of time anyway.
Oh how wrong I was…
“A pirate?” I scowled as I examined myself in the mirror—Julie’s loose ivory blouse graced my shoulders, laces left open. Art had tied one of her magenta scarves with gold accented thread around my waist and was currently affixing another pale blue scarf over my head.
“Why not? Pirates are hip these days.”
“No, pirates who look like Johnny Depp are hip these days. Or were. I think the trend has, mercifully, died.”
Art shrugged as he examined his handiwork in the mirror. “So what? You’re more like a classic, Errol Flynn type pirate.” He grinned.
“I’m a little too Indian to be Errol Flynn.”
“You know what I mean,” he said pleasantly. But I didn’t.
“Hey. I’m sure Julie or Donna has some eyeliner around here—we could give you some Jack Sparrow liner!”
I rolled my eyes. “<i>No</i>. Why does everyone want to get me in eyeliner? Julie was determined to have me go as Frank N. Furter from Rocky Horror.”
Art chuckled. “They wanted me to go as Rocky.”
“Figures.” We both shook our heads and I gave Art points for having a sense of humor—even if I still thought he was an arrogant ass.
“Why don’t we head downstairs? It sounds like the party’s getting started.”
Art nodded as he led the way.
“You probably would’ve made a good Frank, actually,” Art said as we descended the stairs.
I snorted. “Too short.”
“You’d look good in the corset and thong, though.”
I nearly tripped. Where the hell had that come from?
“Uh, thanks.” I guess. “I think you would’ve fit Rocky better though.”
I wasn’t trying to flatter him. It was the truth. Tan, blond, and toned, he would’ve been stunning, much as I hated to admit it. And right now he had that sappy Rocky-like grin on his face, though I had no idea why.
We headed to the kitchen; I grabbed a fresh beer and mingled. Julie put on her ‘monster party’ mix (mainly Thriller and The Monster Mash) and the party went into full swing. Brian had bought some spooky decorations, and candy for late trick-or-treaters; Donna found a scary movie marathon on TV; it was low key, but pretty fun.
Somehow I found myself on the sofa with Art, watching everyone else dance.
“What did you do last Halloween?” Art asked over the music.
I let out a long exhalation. “My boyfriend—<i>ex</i> boyfriend—Kyle convinced me to go to a 90’s drag show.”
“Heh, really? Was the 90’s so long ago they actually have those now?”
My grin answered his. “For people born in the 90’s, I guess. It was pretty good, actually, but Kyle had too much to drink and was an ass.” Art popped open a new bottle of beer for me and handed it over. “What about you?” I asked.
He shrugged. “I went to a party with some friends, but I ended up spending most of the night arguing with the guy I was seeing.”
“Yeah, he’d been hitting on this other guy <i>right in front of me</i>.” Art shook his head. “I put up with him <i>way</i> longer than I should have.”
“I know the feeling.”
We looked at each other and smiled. I clinked our bottles together. Nothing like a little pain to bring two people closer, I thought.
I looked back at the makeshift dance floor in the middle of the living room and tried not to laugh as Julie demonstrated the proper way to Monster Mash to Brian.
“Hey, I’m sorry about how I acted last night.”
I blinked, turning back to Art. Was he being sincere? “Don’t apologize just because I got mad. You still don’t believe me, so there’s no use in apologizing.”
“I was rude.”
Art let out an exasperated huff of air. “You don’t sugarcoat things, do you?”
Sighing, Art stared at his beer, picking at the edge of the label. “I just don’t believe in things I can’t see. It’s hard for me to accept it.”
I frowned. “So I automatically made it up?”
“I didn’t know what else to think. I was just trying to come up with some kind of rational explanation.”
“So you decided that I was so hot for you I’d lie to get into your bed?”
I saw him wince and wondered if Julie had pushed him into this or if the alcohol was loosening him up. Either way, I wasn’t sure I believed him.
“It was a stupid thing to do. I know that, ok?”
“As long as we both agree you were being stupid.”
That finally got him to look at me—well, to glare—and I smirked. He shook his head.
“What are you going to do tonight? Are you going to stay in your room?” He asked.
I blew out a long breath. “Dunno. Depends how late the party goes, I guess. I’ll probably just try to crash on the couch again.”
He paused. “What if we both stayed in your room?”
I lifted my eyebrows. “Are you trying to seduce me?”
He snorted. “Fair enough. Just hear me out—you get to sleep in a bed instead of a sofa, and if something <i>does</i> happen, I’ll be there and I’ll get to see it too.”
“And if nothing happens? You’re going to use it as proof I was lying.”
“I didn’t say that!”
When I gave him a look, he shrugged. “I believe you saw <i>something</i>. This way you might get the chance to prove me wrong. Where’s the harm in that?”
I grinned. “True. Ok, it’s a deal.”
* * *
Brushing one’s teeth should be a very mundane task. It shouldn’t involve thinking about how good arrogant guys look with their shirts off or how un-arrogant they might have acted that evening. I rinsed my mouth out and deliberately did <i>not</i> glance at Art behind me in the mirror. I didn’t know what he was looking for, but it was distracting as hell and I wanted him to just <i>leave</i>.
I rolled my eyes at myself. Even if he left me alone in the bathroom, we were still going to be sharing a bed that night.
How the hell was <i>that</i> going to work?
I slipped my toothbrush back in my travel case and left him to it, heading back to my room to do something, anything, but think about the night ahead. Julie and Brian were still downstairs with a few friends. Donna was already in bed. I sat gingerly on the edge of my bed and waited.
Nothing else strange had happened that day and no one else had seen or heard anything weird the night before. Except me. Why would the ghost have it in for just me? Or was it the room itself? I tried to remember the description of the house online, from the site we’d rented it from. I’d thought they’d mentioned something about the history of the place. No other details; I would’ve remembered if it had said, ‘Oh, by the way the quaint little turret room is haunted by a ghost that thinks it’s hilarious to steal your blankets at night!’ I should’ve cornered Julie earlier and asked her what she knew about any hauntings that had happened here. Unfortunately, my thoughts had been preoccupied by Art’s glistening pecs. Damn him.
“You want a certain side?”
I started at Art’s voice. He came inside and shut the door behind him. He was wearing a loose t-shirt and boxers that had no right looking so good on him.
“Which side of the bed do you want?”
“I could put the blankets on the floor for you,” I noted.
“You want me to sleep on the floor?” He might as well have been asking if I wanted him to sleep on a heap of rat carcasses, from the contempt in his voice.
“Hey, you’re the guy who was so offended when I wanted to share <i>your</i> bed.”
He swiped a hand through his hair, and I must’ve been more tired than I thought because I could’ve sworn I saw him blush.
“Hey, I know what a jerk I was and I apologized. Can we just leave it at that?”
“Fine,” I muttered, scooting over to take the far side of the bed.
He lifted the blankets and slipped under. “You want to leave the light on?”
I shook my head. “It’s fine.” It wasn’t, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to admit that.
It grew quiet and we could hear muted conversation from downstairs as it floated up through the floor.
“You’ve known Julie a long time, huh?”
“Yep. Met freshman year at college. First day of orientation, actually.”
“How do you know Julie?”
“Through Brian. We work for the same tech company and started there around the same time—about two years ago now.”
“How did she convince you to come here this weekend?”
He snorted. “She’s Julie,” he said by way of explanation. I smiled; I knew just what he meant.
It felt odd conversing in the dark like this—as if we were boyhood friends or…lovers. I forced myself stop my racing mind. I’d broken up with Kyle over three months ago, but my heart still felt sore from the blow. And I was lonely. I needed to try to sleep before I did something stupid.
“Wow, that weird rose scent really is strong in here,” Art said.
“I know. Don’t remind me.”
I heard him ‘hmph’ and plump up his pillow. A few minutes later, his breathing evened out. Somehow, I managed to nod off shortly after.
“Dev,” came a rough whisper in my ear. “Dev!”
I groaned. Somewhere in the back of my sleepy brain, I knew I should probably listen. But I was tired and whoever it was trying to wake me up was not going to win.
“Damn it, Dev!”
Now someone shook me and pulled at the blankets. Chill air swooped in and I swore.
“I am leaving this goddamn room in two seconds and if you don’t come with me, I’m <i>leaving you here!</i>”
That annoyed tone. Art. What did <i>he</i> want?
“Huh?” I muttered, rubbing my eyes as I sat up.
That’s when I saw it. At the end of the bed, something was <i>glowing</i>. Some kind of floating orb—and an eerie giggle emanated from it as the blankets sunk to the floor.
We both sat staring at it, paralyzed as it grew from a small ball to something more than a foot wide.
“What. The. Hell?” Art whispered.
I didn’t think it could get worse, but it did. The orb took shape, shifting into a grotesque face—a wide, inhuman mouth grinned at us before it began to crackle. Then it moved towards us.
“Fuck me,” Art said, voice heavy with terror.
“Run,” I hissed, shoving him off the bed and stumbling behind him.
We must’ve made it into his room at warp speed. I stood against the closed door as Art rushed to turn on the bedside lamp.
As the blissful light washed over me, my fear gave way to irrational anger. This was <i>Art’s</i> fault, dammit!
“I <i>told</i> you!” I ground out through clenched teeth. “I told you and you didn’t believe me, so we just <i>had</i> to stay the night in there! Well? Are you happ—”
Art closed the space between us in a flash and, before I could react, his hands held my face and he was kissing me.
No, not just kissing—kissing like I was his lifeline and he was a dying man!
And why was I responding to him? I heard a moan escape me as his tongue parted my lips and pushed inside. His hands clutched my sides, seeking the edge of my shirt to slip underneath. The tickle of his seeking fingers brought me out of my daze.
“Wait, wait! What’s going on?”
Art encircled my waist with his arms, eyes fixed on mine, breath coming in pants. And sexy as all hell.
“I just…” he began, “I’ve never seen anything like that. It scared the shit out of me. And I… I just wanted to kiss you.”
“I’m sorry—I guess I’ve got a lot of adrenaline in my system. But I’ve wanted to kiss you. It seemed stupid to keep waiting.”
I stared at him. “Are you drunk?”
He ignored me, putting his palm over my chest. “Your heart’s racing like a rabbit.”
Oh, fuck it.
I wrapped my arms around him and took his mouth again. I wanted to put the sight of that room behind me just as much as he did, and what better way to forget than lust?
Our few clothes fell to the floor as we made our way to the bed, tumbling down naked on the sheets. Art trailed kisses over my jaw and neck and collarbone, while I raked his back with my nails. Our erections pressed together, two stiff swords fighting for dominance. Damn, but his skin was warm and smooth, with the faintest dusting of pale hair over his chest to his groin. I reached between us to feel him.
His dick was a little longer than mine but felt hard and silky under my fingers. His breath caught as I touched him and he swelled in my hand. He bit down on my shoulder. Oh my, he was quite <i>responsive</i>, wasn’t he?
As I started to work him, he gasped, “Wait!” Bracing himself up with one arm, he took his free hand and wrapped it around both our cocks.
“Oh, yeah…” he groaned. I couldn’t help but agree.
I moved my hips to the rhythm of his pumping, straining against him. He leaned down and our tongues danced together until he grunted and I watched his face scrunch up as he came. The feel of his warm semen coating my belly sent me reeling. My breath hitched as my orgasm hit me harder than I had ever experienced before.
We lay in a sticky heap afterward, panting to catch our breath. After a few minutes, Art reached over and grabbed the tissue box from the bedside table. We cleaned up, tossed the tissues away, and then—as if we’d been sleeping together for months, Art yanked the covers over us and pulled me into his arms to lie against him.
“So,” he said as I laid my head over his chest, “You’re not circumcised.”
“Nope.” I frowned. “Does that matter?”
“No! It’s just new.”
“New can be good.”
I looked up to see him smiling. “Agreed.”
Yawning, I settled in, but just before I dozed off, I asked, “You’ll leave the light on…right?”
Art tossed his bag into the trunk and helped Julie lift the cooler in behind it.
“Good weekend, huh?” she asked.
Art’s eyes inadvertently drifted over to where Dev chatted with Donna and Brian on the front porch. “Yep.”
Julie laughed. “I <i>knew</i> you two would hit it off!”
Art tried not to roll his eyes—and failed.
“Admit it,” Julie said, poking him in the ribs, “you wouldn’t have gotten together if I hadn’t nudged you two a bit.”
Art’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”
“You know,” Julie said with a shrug, “getting you to come here, putting you in rooms next to each other.” She waggled her eyebrows and Art chortled.
“Are you sure it was just that? You didn’t, perhaps, plant that ghost in Dev’s room?”
“Well,” Julie said, “I did plan a little something—but I thought it didn’t work.”
“What exactly did you do?”
“Oh, nothing big, just put a recorder on a timer under his bed to make spooky ‘moaning’ sounds. I tried to rig the curtains with a rope through the windows so they’d open and close by themselves too. But the rope snapped when I tried it, so,” she shrugged and put her bag in the trunk before closing the hatch.
Art eyed her closely. “<i>Julie</i>, come off it. I think you did more than that.”
She looked at him with wide eyes. “What do you mean?” Her mouth dropped open. “What did he say? Did he tell you? Was there really a ghost?”
Shaking his head, Art thought better of pursuing this conversation. “Either you’re hiding something or—”
“I’m not! I swear it!”
She really did look sincere.
“It’s just that we saw—”
“<i>We?</i>” her voice squeaked. “You saw it too? Wait, what were you doing in his room?” Her questions rattled on until Dev and the others walked over to the car.
“You will tell me <i>everything</i> later,” Julie said—not to Art but to Dev as he opened the car door.
It really was cute seeing Dev all bewildered. Art motioned Dev ahead of him into the back seat and couldn’t resist kissing the nape of his neck as he stooped.
“Hey!” Dev sputtered.
Dev glared, but Art knew he was all bluster. He also knew he wanted to see a <i>lot</i> more of him. Ghost or not, he was glad someone had opened his eyes to Dev’s charms.
The car pulled away and Art turned to give the house one last look before they left.
“Art, what is it?” Dev asked.
But he could’ve sworn, in that last glance up at the turret room, there had been a pale figure staring back at him, and waving good-bye.