The Ghost and the Graveyard

Chapter 19


The Proposal
I didn't know as much as I thought I did about vampires. For example, in books and movies they always use silver chains to restrain the vamps. Turns out that silver doesn't work when the vampire possesses your best friend. The silver can't soak through the human skin to get to the vampire, and because silver is relatively weak, it breaks too easily. Instead, a plain old rope soaked in holy water will do. The rope restrains, and the holy water keeps the vamp inside the human. As an added bonus, with Marcus' fangs trapped in Michelle's human mouth, a regular gag was all we needed to shut him up.
"I think it's best that we keep Marcus bound until after the ceremony. It will be dangerous," Rick said. He leaned over my best friend's body on the couch in his cottage and tested the bindings. "Marcus did this to force us to remove him from the enchantments of the cemetery boundary. He'll do anything in his power to free himself, and I warn you he'll be much harder to catch if he escapes on the outside."
"So, we don't let him escape."
"He'll try to take advantage of your inexperience." Rick shook his head like he was breaking bad news.
"Whoa. What? I thought this was wham, bam, memories back. Poof. I'm the witch."
"I'm afraid it won't be quite that easy, mi cielo. The power will come, but learning how to wield it will take some time."
I sighed. "And I thought I was done with school."
He brushed my bangs back and ran his fingers down my cheek to my chin. His gray eyes wrinkled at the corners with his smile. "You are more than capable of rising to this challenge."
His stare was too intense. I had to look away. Fidgeting, I dug my fingers into the holes in the afghan on the back of the sofa. "This is beautiful," I said.
"You knitted it over one hundred years ago."
I yanked my hand back and wiped it on my jeans. It didn't help. The weirdness stuck to me. "Where does the, er, ceremony have to take place?"
"The attic. It is your seat of power," he said.
"Can we move a mattress up there, or do we have to do it on the altar?"
He lifted an eyebrow, and a sultry smile stretched across his face. My blood accelerated to a frantic pace. Beast or not, he was incredibly attractive. "Didn't Prudence tell you? The attic adapts to whatever you need it to be. It is made of your magic. It can look any way you want it to look."
"You mean, like, I can change it with my mind? No furniture-moving necessary?"
"You might need Prudence's help at first, but yes."
"Let's do it." I tried not to think about the double entendre, but heat crept up my neck to my ears anyway.
Ever the gentleman, Rick pretended not to notice. "I think we should take my car. Even though it's the middle of the night, it would do us no good to have a citizen of Red Grove see us carrying a bound woman into your home."
"You have a car?" It sounded stupid, even to my own ears. "Sorry, that was silly of me. Of course you have a car. We live in the boondocks. You wouldn't be able to get groceries without one."
Rick frowned. "There are things about me you should know. Differences. I...I don't need groceries, unless I'm cooking for you."
I thought about the night I'd been over for dinner, how I'd never seen him eat. The liquid in his glass looked different from wine but somehow familiar. It was familiar. I worked with it every day. Blood.
"Logan said you feed off blood and other things. So that's all you need?"
"The magic that makes me immortal is tied to the evil I'm here to control. My strength is their strength, but I also inherited their hunger, their desires. It isn't always ideal."
My face was numb. I stood motionless behind our vampire captive, staring at Rick as if he had sprouted two heads. My thoughts immediately went to the practical. We would never share a bowl of ice cream. We could never go out for pizza.
"Oh, I can eat," he said, and I realized he was reading my thoughts. "I drank the wine at your house the night we met, remember?"
I nodded.
"But I don't have to. And sometimes, nothing but blood will do."
"Oh," was all I could manage.
"There is much I should tell you about me, but we have years, maybe lifetimes, for that. There is something more important for us to talk about now." He walked around the couch to me and took my hands in his. "There will only be this one first time. In your last lifetimes, you married me before the ceremony. I would have it that way again, if you would let me."
Blink. Blink. Seconds passed, but he didn't break into laughter or say he was kidding. "Did you just ask me to marry you?" I asked incredulously.
"Yes." He walked to the bookcase on the far wall and opened an ornately carved ivory box. In it, a heavy silver ring with a lapis stone gleamed. "I have the ring you wore the first time. I planned to ask you in a more romantic way, but it appears we are pressed for time. If we don't get Marcus out of her by sunrise, he will die inside her body for the day and she will likely not survive it."
"But Prudence said I only had to sleep with you to take back the power. She didn't say anything about marriage," I whispered.
"Technically, that is true but...." His face fell. "These are different times than when I once knew you. When you and I first fell in love, a lady would not do such a thing without being married."
"I'll become the witch, Rick, but I will not marry you. I haven't known you long enough. I'm not even sure I love you." My entire world was out of control. Wasn't it enough I was becoming the witch? Did he have to own all of me?
Facing the bookcase, he closed the box. His expression went stony. I didn't need our connection to know I'd hurt him.
"I'm sorry," I said, because that's what you say to someone after you rip their heart out.
"Do not apologize for honesty, mi cielo," he said toward the bookcase. "But know this. I do know that I love you. I've loved you for over three hundred years. I will love you when the sun comes up in the morning and when it comes up on the three thousandth morning after that. I loved you on the day you died, and I love you now." He cleared his throat and turned to face me. "I am immortal, Grateful. I have an eternity to love you, whether or not you love me in return."
If I'd been forced to decide right then and there if I loved him, I would have said yes. I didn't know if the memories made me feel that way or if it was hard not to return such authentic and unearned affection.
He scooped Michelle into his arms and carried her toward the garage behind the kitchen. I opened the door for him.
"You drive a Tesla Roadster?"
"You sound surprised. Immortality makes one an environmentalist by necessity."
"These are, like, a hundred grand. How much does being a caretaker pay?"
"I invested wisely in the summer of nineteen-forty-five. Plus, you left me a large life insurance policy."
"So you mean this car is really mine, since I'm alive again."
"The life insurance policy belonged to my wife. I'll let you drive it when you hold that title once again."
I couldn't respond to that, so I concentrated on helping to shove Michelle/Marcus into the passenger's seat. "No backseat. I'll walk home." I turned to leave.
"Come, mi cielo. Don't waste time. Sit on my lap."
I didn't argue. He lowered himself behind the wheel, and I slid in after him. I had to practically lie down across his body to fit. I slipped my arm down the side of his seat and fit my chin into the groove of his clavicle. I wrapped my other arm across his chest and snuggled in. The dark smell of him, the spice of nightfall, filled my nose. With my best friend possessed by a vamp in the seat next to me, you'd think I could control my libido, but I caught myself inhaling Rick and wishing I had more than his scent inside of me.
He sensed my attraction immediately. I heard his breath draw in, and his face turned into my neck, nuzzling me behind my ear. "When we were married," he whispered, "you loved this."
I found out what "this" was when he bit my earlobe gently then licked up the back of my ear. Yep, even in a new body, that move rocked my clock. I shivered in the circle of his arms. His black eyes sunk into me, and my core tightened decadently in response.
"We've got to go," I said. "We have only a few hours until sunrise."
"Yes. Let's go."
Turns out those Teslas really can haul ass. Rick's car was tucked in next to mine in the garage before you could say "foreplay." The hardest part was getting up off Rick's lap. Or should I say, I got up off the hardest part of Rick's lap. Surprise, surprise. I was looking forward to this ceremony.