The Ghost and the Graveyard

Chapter 15


Grave Matters
Someone had injected me with liquid concrete. I dragged my limbs to bed, unable to form a coherent thought and fully aware that the best night's sleep of my life wasn't going to solve this dilemma. The summer heat had left the room stuffy, so I dressed in a cool silk camisole and shorts. But I didn't dare open a window. Every sound terrified me. The wind blowing a branch into the glass filled me with dread. After tonight, I pictured the things I'd seen in the graveyard and in my past-life memory fighting to get in, to hurt me. As tired as I was, sleep was impossible. I tossed and turned, drifting off only to startle awake and see the clock had advanced a mere five or ten minutes.
Fate's arrow had hit my ultimate weak spot; I had no control. Tonight, Rick and Prudence had taken away my world of safety and security and replaced it with horror and uncertainty. My body ached with tension. My mind raced. I rolled on my back and stared at the ceiling.
All at once, I sensed a familiar presence that registered as a heaviness in the pit of my chest. "Logan?"
"I'm here." His voice came from the corner of the room, and his body formed there.
"How long have you been watching me?"
"Since you went to bed. I was worried about you."
"I'm not doing much sleeping. But it helps to know you're here."
"I'm here, Grateful."
"Will you stay with me?"
He was suddenly standing next to the bed. "Yes."
"All night?" I asked.
"All night," he answered.
I scooted to one side of the bed. As he slid in next to me, I knew he didn't need to lie down but was doing it for my sake. I tried to close my eyes again, restless. Logan touched my face. Whatever he was made of brushed over me, an electrically charged feather, somewhere between a tickle and a purr. I reached for his hand. The density changed as my fingers passed through him, like plunging my hand into warm water.
Before Logan, I would have assumed a ghost would feel cold, and his kiss had. But on the inside, it was different. My hand slid through his, and he moved inside my skin, like warm fur caressing toward my shoulder.
"Mmm," I said, closing my eyes. Amazing.
He pressed closer, sinking his other hand into my side. Something low inside my body tightened. I arched into his hand and closed my eyes.
"This is... I've never done this before. Am I hurting you?" Logan asked.
"No. It feels good. Warm and tingly."
"Do you want me to keep going? I'm not sure what'll happen, but I like it. It feels right."
Several things went through my mind at that moment. I told myself that having Logan inside of me was not "sex"-he didn't have a body. And I needed comfort. I was a raw nerve, a frayed rope. Twelve hours ago I'd thought Rick might be "the one." Now, he was a monster. My whole world had gone topsy-turvy, and I was holding onto a ghost as if he were the most solid object in my universe.
"Don't stop, Logan," I said.
He leaned into me, quite literally. His entire form slid into my body. The plush electric buzz ran just under my skin from my scalp to my toes. For a second, the pleasure was so intense that I couldn't breathe. Inevitably, my body responded by growing wet, my nipples stretching my silk camisole.
I took a long, deep breath. I had to get naked, to see if I could touch the purr that ran right under my skin. Lifting the camisole over my head, I writhed against the mattress and Logan rolled in response. Just pulling my silk shorts down sent a warm rush through me.
I ran my hands over my breasts, tugging gently on my nipples, but the sensation happened from the inside out. Caressing lower, over my stomach, his hands followed mine on the other side of my skin. My fingers found the space between my legs, and so did Logan. He filled me with his power. I guessed he could be any shape or size he wanted to be, and right now he was exactly the right size to make every cell in my body call out for more.
Allowing my knees to drift apart, I rubbed myself faster as the power surged in and out of me. A thousand fingers massaged up my back. His power explored my mouth and reached places I'd never found erotic before, the arches of my feet, the back of my knees, my inner arms. I arched my back, throwing my head into the pillow.
"More. Please. Don't stop," I cried. I spread my arms wide on the mattress and let his power drive into me. Hot thrusts pounded, throbbing, stroking in just the right places. I neared the great shimmering cliff. He coaxed me over the edge, and I came apart. The power of it pushed Logan out of my body. I writhed on the bed and watched him flicker next to me, pure wonder in his eyes.
"I wasn't expecting that," I breathed.
"I wasn't either." His voice sounded weak, distant.
"Are you all right?"
"I think being inside of you has drained my energy. I'm sorry, I can't stay. I need to rest."
And with that, he broke apart in a flash of light. The mist he was made of soaked into the ceiling, probably returning to the attic. I rolled onto my side feeling sated, but wracked with guilt. I hadn't meant for that to happen. On top of everything else, I now had the added complexity of having led my ghost on. My gut told me what happened meant more to Logan than it did to me.
And despite what I'd just done, my last thoughts before falling asleep were of Rick. Rick the monster. Rick, who'd used our connection to take advantage of me. Rick, who I wanted even now.
Rick, who in a past life I was married to.
* * * * *
There's something addictive about having a cup of coffee and a hot breakfast prepared for you each morning. As I savored the berry crepes Logan left for me, I was racked with guilt. I couldn't objectively make the decision to become or not become the witch on my own. After the orgasm he'd given me the night before, and the perfect cup of coffee he'd made, I could almost forget it was his eternal soul I was dealing with. Not to mention his feelings.
I didn't want to be the witch, and frankly I could get used to having Logan around forever. He'd never leave me. I could fall into a relationship with Logan so easily. It would be as simple as doing nothing. But easy and right were two different things. As hurt as I'd been over the last several years, and as much as I needed control to feel safe, I still had a conscience.
I needed help. Someone who wasn't afraid to give me a firm kick in the pants if it was warranted.
I needed Michelle.
For the sake of our friendship, I decided not to tell her the entire truth. She would never believe me. But more than that, her specialty was mental health, and I didn't want to end up in the state mental ward. I had to figure out a way to ask her without really asking her.
I jumped in the shower. Usually the hot water was soothing, like I could wash away all of my worries, but today my insides crawled with unrest. Flashes of the last couple of days overwhelmed me. I closed my eyes and leaned my forehead against the shower wall. The pit of my chest felt heavy with...guilt? Fear?
"Are you okay?" Logan's voice came from behind the shower door.
I jolted at the sound. "Yeah. I was just thinking."
"How long have you been watching me shower?"
My answer came in the silence.
He gave a charming, boy-next-door laugh. "It's one of the few advantages of being a ghost."
I turned off the water and reached for my towel. "I should have kept the bouquet of herbs from Rick. This whole time, I felt you watching me, but I thought it was all in my head. "
"I'm sorry," he said, contrite. "Now that I know it bothers you, I won't do it again."
"Do you promise?"
"Yes. In fact, I'll leave you now. It's time for me to rest anyway. Have a good day."
"You too."
During the whole conversation, I'd never actually seen Logan. His voice had come from the empty corner of the bathroom. But I could tell when he wasn't there anymore. Some part of me had sensed him even before he'd spoken. The weight I'd noticed in the middle of my chest, as if I'd forgotten something important, came and went with his presence. This was new. While I hadn't recognized the feeling until it vanished, I was sure I would in the future.
Was I changing? Becoming more sensitive to the otherworldly? It made sense that I might be. I'd heard it took professional wine tasters years to perfect their ability to separate out complex flavors and aromas. Maybe I was developing a taste for the supernatural.
I tossed on a pair of ruby red scrubs and tied my hair back into the tightest ponytail I could, not a hair out of place. In my head, I thought through the events of the night before with painful clarity. I needed to fix this. I needed a plan.
Rain pelted the Jeep as I backed out of the garage and onto the street. I crossed the stone bridge. My heart sank when I neared Rick's place, the wind chimes creating a cacophony in the building storm. Emotions flooded me, a confusing concoction of anger, unrequited passion, fear, and an odd and unexpected longing. Between the rain and the mist welling up in my eyes, I didn't notice Rick standing in the middle of the road until it was too late.
I slammed on the brakes. The Jeep skidded sideways on the wet asphalt, knocking me against the door. I screamed with horror as I plowed into Rick. Only, there was no collision. At the moment of impact, he dissolved into a smoky mist and reformed behind the revolving metal of my vehicle.
Wearing nothing but black jeans and a trench coat, he reached forward and, in the blink of an eye, grabbed my rear bumper, stopping the Jeep's momentum. He saved me from an almost certain roll in the ditch. My heart pounded. He approached. His dark silhouette sliced though the storm.
Before I had a chance to say a word, he was sitting beside me in the passenger's seat. He'd never opened the door.
I gasped, pressing myself against my window and clutching at my chest as if the personal CPR could coax my heart into beating again. "I didn't know you could do that," I said.
He raised an eyebrow. "I can do anything they can do. I am the balance."
Over his shoulder, the entrance to the cemetery seemed to taunt me with its daytime innocence. "You mean, because the demons can become a mist, you can become a mist."
He nodded. "I can dematerialize like a vampire, I'm fast like a ghoul, strong as a zombie, and there are other things."
I refrained from asking about the other things. I wasn't ready to know. "So, if the vampires developed the ability to travel through time, you would suddenly be able to travel through time?"
"Yes. Although I sincerely hope that particular skill evades them." He leaned forward, crossing the center console and entering my personal space. "I am the caretaker, and in order to do my job, my power has to balance the evil. Balance is a natural law that applies to the supernatural. The only power uniquely mine is the beast."
"Oh." He was so very close. The intensity of his stare left me uneasy.
He frowned. "You smell of the dead."
I sniffed my scrubs, then grasped that he must mean Logan. I knew what a dead body smelled like, and I wasn't wearing that particular scent.
"What do you want?" I asked, suddenly defensive.
He looked at me with black eyes. Beads of rain dripped from his hair and ran in trails down his chest. The attraction was instantaneous. I crossed my legs and had to look away to keep from touching him.
"Have you thought about what happened last night?" he asked.
"Yes," I said toward the floorboard.
"Then, will you be with me tonight?" He reached across the seat and placed his hand on my thigh. His voice was thick with longing.
"No." I pushed his hand away. "You lied to me."
"I never lied to you."
"Well then, you omitted the truth. Same difference. Why didn't you tell me right away? Why didn't you tell me before-" I stopped myself. I'd almost said, before I fell in love with you. Why had I almost said that? Was I in love with him? How could I be in love with a monster?
"Before what?"
"Before now," I said.
"I wanted to get to know you like we were human."
"I am human," I said through my teeth.
"I did not want to scare you away. I knew this would be hard for you."
"You got that right." I fidgeted in my seat. "I have a choice, Rick. I don't have to do this."
Before I knew what was happening, he was across the seat and in my face. With his hand on the dash and his knee on the seat next to me, there was no place for me to go. I was trapped.
"What do you mean?" he growled.
My breath came out shaky. I swallowed hard. The first time I'd met Rick I thought he reminded me of a matador. At the time, I'd been referring to his Spanish good looks. But now I realized the comparison went further. A matador's job was to sever the bull's spine with his sword. The red cape is to distract the bull so that the matador can have his way with it. Rick was beautiful, but he was deadly. I was the bull. All of this, his seduction of me, had been the cape, a distraction to get what he really wanted. My soul.
"I mean," I said, my voice cracking with fear, "that this is my life. No matter what or who I was in the past, I don't have to be that now, or ever."
He jerked backward as if I'd punched him in the gut. The expression on his face was tortured, a pure agony that almost made me regret my words. "Who is he?" he gasped.
"Who is who?"
"The ghost whose smell lies under your skin?"
"His name is Logan. He lives in my attic."
His fist came down on the dash and the resulting boom startled me. The back of my head hit the window when I jumped. "Of course he does. Grateful, he's there to be sorted!"
"So? He says it doesn't matter to him. He says I have a choice." I rubbed the lump already forming on the back of my head.
"Do you not see that your attraction to him is an echo of who you were? Something in you seeks the power, even as you deny it. You could be a queen of souls, yet you waste yourself on one of them."
"Logan wasn't a waste, but I'm beginning to think this conversation is." Anger drowned out my fear, and I moved forward in my seat. "You can't bully me into this, Rick."
It was his turn to shake. A tear gathered in the corner of his eye. He shook his head, and it was gone. "I am not trying to bully you into anything. You must remember that when I look at you, I see my wife. I see my long-lost love. I forget that you are young. I forget that you are a new person. Forgive me."
He didn't wait for my reply. Before I could pull my next breath, he was gone.