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.