“Are you sure this is where we are supposed to meet up?” I asked Alex.
She shrugged, pulling out the cherry lollipop she was sucking on. She even seemed to make that look sensual, which was all the more disturbing when the face was my own. I supposed I could understand Daniel’s forced bonding to me as a mate. How that would make Alex look like me. It was kind of sweet to have someone’s greatest desire to be me. Well, it would be me if I got a tummy tuck, a face lift, a nose, and a boob job.
“Are you feeling comfortable?” I looked down at Alex’s clothing.
Alex had been fidgeting and twisting a lot since we had gone shopping the previous day. Right now she wore a white shirt and pink jeans. I didn’t even know jeans came in pink, but she found a pair. Her dark brown hair was dolled up into elaborate curls. It looked beautiful, like she had just come from a hairdresser. That wasn’t the case of course, how dare she have the ability to make her hair look however she wanted it at a whim.
“The underwear is too much, I feel so constricted in these clothes,” Alex complained.
“Would you rather walk around naked like Daniel? If you had your way, it would have been nothing but tube tops, miniskirts, and thongs.”
“What’s wrong with thongs?”
“Besides the fact that there is no way that is comfortable, my mom would start to ask questions. She gave us money to buy your outfits. No chance you’re going to come home looking like a… like a…”
“Like a what?” Alex asked, seeming generally curious.
I sighed, “Never mind, are you sure this is where we are supposed to meet up?”
“You already asked that this is where Stephan said to come,” Alex reassured me in a sisterly voice.
I shivered; it was entirely too easy to see Alex like a big sister. I was only just starting to get used to her being around. The other guys had complained about it religiously when they found out until I had to put my foot down. I didn’t like it any more than any of them, but it was my mom’s decision, not mine. Besides, I couldn’t just let her stay out in the cold, and somehow sending her back to Daniel’s cave seemed cruel. Now, I wasn’t so sure.
Alex perked up and pointed down the street, “Look, there they are now.”
Stephan was walking with Andrew, and Rune was a few dozen steps behind them. When Andrew saw me he gave me a dazzling smile. Stephan waved with a grin. Meanwhile, Rune pretended he’d rather be anyplace other than here. I was beginning to suspect that a lot of his behavior was an act. It was hard to believe he was some kind of demon. With the minion he had summoned and stuff, for some reason I had the impression they were wizards or something. Perhaps, I had been reading too many books. Samantha’s ‘Harry Potter and the Rippling Abs’ was a hot seller at our school right now.
“Where’s Daniel?” Alex asked cautiously.
Stephan shrugged, “He didn’t show up.”
“I’m present,” Daniel said, standing up from behind a nearby trashcan.
“How long have you been there?” I asked in shock.
“I arrived first, wanted to make sure you would be safe, checking for tracks,” Daniel waved his hands defensively.
“That’s the question you asked?” Andrew wondered out loud, “He’s not wearing any clothing!”
Of course he wasn’t wearing any clothing, it would rip up in his wolf form. I barely stopped myself from saying that. I was apparently getting a tad too familiar with Daniel’s habits. Daniel shrugged, seemingly unphased by the group of people around him. His sweaty muscular chest was flexing just by him standing there. He turned around and bent over. I looked away. I was right; there was a tattoo on his butt. It was a rose. The guys also made noises of protest.
“Come on man,” Rune shook his head in disgust.
Alex merely looked on curiously, perhaps a little too curiously. I had an inclination to cover her eyes, even though I was the younger sister. Wait a second, I’m not younger, and I’m not even her sister. I closed my eyes. The lines between reality and this supernatural world were getting harder and harder to distinguish. Daniel finally found his clothing and redressed.
“So, the reason I brought you here is because of that large mansion we are standing in front of,” Stephan pointed to a large gate doorway.
A long path shot off into a semi-forested front yard. The yard was larger than some parks. Peeking barely above the trees was the roof of a massive mansion. The Richfire mansion was a famous one. Everyone knew the stories about it. It was supposedly haunted by many different spirits and harbored serial killers and transients. On Halloween, kids would dare each other to go up to the front door. Teens would dare each other to sneak in and stay the night. Some never returned, as the story went.
“You expect us to go into a haunted house?” Andrew questioned.
“Rumors of people going in and never returning? Stories of serial killers and various monsters. If someone was up to no good, what would be a better place to hide?”
“This doesn’t sound safe for Jane,” Andrew explained.
“I’ll keep her safe,” Daniel thumped his chest.
“What am I, chop liver?” Alex looked irritated.
“I’ll be fine,” I responded with an edge to my voice, “I can handle this.”
Andrew looked at each of the men for support. Finally, he sighed, letting his large muscular shoulders slack just a bit.
“Well, that’s settled, let’s get going,” Stephan piped in, smiling.
The group opened the large iron gates and moved up the long pathway to the massive home. It was derelict, and was condemned and considered dangerous for no other reason than that. I felt a tingle at the back of my neck, almost like I was being watched through one of the many windows on the four-story tall home. The house was once white, but years of disrepair had left brown marks, cracks, and peeling paint on every surface.
Andrew walked up to the front door, knocking. Rune pushed past him, grabbing the door knob and pushing the door open.
“It’s abandoned, means no one’s home,” Rune sneered as he went through.
Andrew looked around, brushed his hands off on his pants, and then followed Rune inside. Two hands suddenly wrapped around my arm. Alex was grabbing on to me tightly. Apparently, this must have been very scary to her. I never let things like this scare me too much, the curiosity always got the better of me. I guided her through the front door, right behind Stephan.
The main hall was absolutely massive. A sudden switch and a buzzing sound and several lights turned on. Rune was at a light switch nearby.
“Looks like the place still gets power,” Alex chattered with nervousness in her words.
“It’s supposed to be dead, that’s why I brought everyone flashlights,” Stephan frowned, opening up a bag at his side, “I suppose you should each take one anyway, just in case.”
I grabbed my flashlight, a nice heavy mag light. At worst case scenario, it was heavy enough I could smash a head in if I needed to. Alex let go of me when I handed her a light. Perhaps it would make her feel a little better too.
“Well, we’re here, now what?” Rune asked impatiently.
“We’re looking for anything suspicious. We should break up in groups. Daniel and Andrew can take the fourth floor, Alex and Rune the third, Jane and I take the second, and we can all meet back on the first when we are done.”
Rune looked around confused for a second, “That’s funny, where is Alex?”
I looked behind me and stopped cold. Alex wasn’t there. She was just there holding my arm. Wasn’t she just there? I looked around, a sudden panic sinking in.
“Alex!” I shouted, to be joined in by Andrew and Stephan.
“Relax,” Rune interrupted, “She probably just ran out the front door; you saw how scared she was.”
Stephan thought about it for a second, and then nodded, “You’re probably right, either way we plan to search this place head to toe, so if she is here, we’ll find her. Rune, are you good by yourself?”
Rune laughed, “You think this place is scary. The scary thing would have been having to deal with that frightened succubus. I’m glad she took off.”
I looked over at Stephan. There was worry in Rune’s voice. It was reflected in Stephan’s eyes as well. It looked like they did care more about the disappearance than they were letting on. Rune began moving up the stairs, Daniel and Andrew moving closely behind him.
I looked over at Stephan, “You ready for this?”
Stephan gave me a calming smile, “Ladies first.”
The lighting was fairly inconsistent. Every other light bulb was out, making the hallways full of creepy dark spots. I eventually turned on my flashlight to deal with my nerves, if nothing else. We walked in perpetual silence. The feeling of being watched still didn’t seem to go away.
“Do you believe in an afterlife?” Stephan suddenly spoke up.
I looked over at him, the expressions of his face were hidden by the shadows of the darkened hallway.
“What brings that question on?” I asked.
Stephan shook his head, as if to himself, “I don’t know. It’s just that given my situation, I never gave it a whole lot of thought. But just above us is a demon named Rune, and Andrews an angel now too…”
“They said they come from alternate worlds that happen to be constantly in conflict. They both are here to help humans, but angels freely give and teach, where demons create contracts and bribe. Different philosophies on how to help us. Nothing about the afterlife.”
“I know that’s what they say, but still. It gets you thinking.”
We walked in silence for a few minutes. The feeling of eyes watching me continued to persist. I had to say something to break the feeling.
“What was your death like?”
Stephan stayed silent for some time. I almost assumed he hadn’t heard me when he finally spoke, “Nothing… I don’t remember much from when I was so young, around my death, nothing at all. You’d think if there was an afterlife, I’d remember it.”
“Maybe you weren’t meant to remember it,” I offered.
He smiled at me, “Thanks, I appreciate…”
A loud creak and then a resounding crack and I was falling. My body hit something hard and then I fell again. This time I smacked into something colder and harder. My ankle twisted and I let out a yell. Debris fell on top of me, dust rose everywhere and then I was in complete darkness.
Fear twisted through me. What was happening? Where was I?
“Are you okay?” the shout sounded distant, “I’m coming down.”
A sudden loud thump resounded next to me and I jumped. This put strain on my ankle and I involuntarily shouted. Something grabbed me and my first impulse was to push it away. The world around me was still dark and I could hear a buzzing sound.
“Focus, are you okay? Jane, it’s me, Stephan, you’re safe.”
I forced my eyes to focus and suddenly I could see Stephan’s beautiful pale face hovering over me in the darkness.
“Yeah,” I winced, “I think I’m okay.”
Stephan quickly moved several large pieces of flooring off of me. He went to pick me up when I winced.
“My ankle, I think it’s sprained,” I said.
“Oh,” He sounded depressed. As he turned, I noticed his left arm hung loosely from his shoulder, as if it was lifeless.
“I jumped down. It’s a two-story fall, ended up breaking my arm. It’s okay, don’t worry, it’ll heal pretty quickly.”
He turned away from me.
“Thanks,” I responded.
“For what?” He shook his head, “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” I replied back, smiling.
Stephan turned to me, his face serious, “I’ve been unable to be harmed for so long. It’s caused me to become callous, even reckless. I forget sometimes, what it’s like to be so vulnerable. I dragged you into this stupid house, even though it’s falling apart. I brought you out for bait and got you kidnapped by a werewolf too. I keep putting you in dangerous situations, and I haven’t even been thinking about the consequences.”
“I’m alright, and besides, I agreed to do these things too.”
“Still, when I saw you fall through that floor. I thought it was over. I was so terrified. Terrified of losing you. When I saw you here, still alive, my heart felt like it’d burst out of my chest.”
“You don’t have a heartbeat,” I joked to lighten the mood.
“I don’t, but it still aches. It aches for you. When I’m near you, I feel like I am alive again. You bring me back to life, make me feel and care and love. That’s all you,” Stephan moved closer to me.
“Stephan?” his body was so close to mine, I began to tingle.
“Could you do something for me?” Stephan licked his lips nervously.
“I’ve never kissed a girl before, I… no, nevermind. It was stupid of me to ask.” Stephan tried to look away, but I grabbed his arm before he could.
My heart began to beat loudly. If Stephan said anything after that, I couldn’t hear him. Instead, my eyes were transfixed on his lips. He started to move closer and closer to me, both of unable to glance away. His beautiful pale face illuminated in the darkness only by the lights above. My lips parted, I breathed in the fresh floral scent of his body. I wanted to taste him.
His lips came closer. My body trembled. His hand gently glided over mine. He grabbed it. He was just inches from my lips. Then centimeters. Then millimeters.
“Hey, are you guys okay?” a shout came from above us; I pulled away instinctively.
Stephan gave me a sad smile that said it was okay. He broke contact, although it still felt almost like I was hyperventilating. Too much dust in the air. I hoped it wasn’t asbestos. A head popped out from the hole in the floor just above ours. It was Andrew.
“Are you okay? Jane? Stephan?”
“Jane’s injured her ankle,” Stephan responded.
“Can you carefully pick her up and pass her to me? It might be safer than finding a stairway in that dark basement.”
“Is that where we ended up?” Stephan shook his head, looking down at me, “Are you up for this?”
I gritted my teeth and nodded. He bent over and picked me up. I gave him an odd look.
“What is it?” he smirked.
“Well, it’s just, you’re not as muscular as the other guys, I kind of thought…” I blushed.
“Being a zombie has some perks. For example, my internal limiters are off. It means I can do things at full strength. Most people can’t because you can hurt yourself that way. I heal so quickly, though, that any damage it does is short lasting. See? My arm is already healed.”
Stephan carefully lifted me up. The ankle tinged slightly, but the two men moved me carefully, and before long I was in Andrew’s arms. Andrew looked down at me with deep concern in his eyes.
“Are you alright? I was so worried when I heard the crash. This place is dangerous, you shouldn’t have come here.”
His voice had an intensity and deepness I had never noticed before. The calmness he used to have seemed almost nonexistent. He set me down, still looking into my eyes.
“I’m okay now, can you go help, Stephan?”
A flash of annoyance appeared on his face, but he turned anyway and reached down. After a brief second, he came up with Stephan. Well, I had almost made out with a dead man in a basement. I suppose if you were going to make out with a dead person, underground was the place to do it. I looked up at the ceiling and the hole I had made in the second floor as Stephan flopped down beside me.
“Thanks, Andrew,” Stephan smiled reassuringly.
“Should you act so smug after what you’ve just done?”
Stephan’s smile slipped, a look of concern on his face,” I’m sorry?”
“You dragged her into this place, and then under your watch, she almost dies. Did you think no one would notice?”
Stephan winced, he looked generally hurt by those words, “I’m sorry…”
“Don’t apologize,” Andrew snapped, “Just go find the others. I’ll bring her back to the main entrance.”
“I can help…” Stephan began.
“Haven’t you done enough?” Andrew snapped.
“Andrew!” I spoke up.
“No, it’s okay,” Stephan responded, “It’s no less than I deserve. I will see you shortly.”
Stephan turned and moved off into the darkness before I could say another word. I glared back at Andrew, who put on a mischievous grin before turning back to me.
“That was wrong,” I told him sternly.
“He’ll be fine, kitten.”
Kitten? What had come over Andrew? Andrew leaned over and picked me up. It was quicker and rougher than he had been earlier, and it tweaked my ankle. I grunted in pain. He began walking down the hall in the direction Stephan had gone. He turned into another hall and kept walking.
“I don’t think the main area is this way,” I told him.
He stopped suddenly, smiling down at me, his eyes seemed so different than they usually were. He opened up a door and carried me in. It looked to be some kind of bedroom. Before I could react, he laid me out of the bed, then moved back and shut the door, locking it.
“Andrew, this isn’t the front door?” my voice grew an octave higher.
Andrew smiled at me, “I want you, Jane.”
“You know my secret now. There is nothing holding us back. I know you want me. So there is no point in keeping back our passions for each other.”
Andrew crossed the room and in a second he was on top of me. He was so cute, his chiseled body, his beautiful face. His smile… he wasn’t smiling now, the look on his face looked more desperate than happy. This wasn’t the Andrew I knew. The thought was buried by the hot, beautiful man on top of me.
“This is too fast,” I barely managed to get out in a whisper.
Andrew’s hand began to glide and move up my shirt. No, my body told me this was wrong. His other hand went around the back of my head, he pulled me up and in a single swift move his lips touched mine. I could taste his cherry flavored lipstick. Wait, cherry flavored. The door suddenly flew open with a resounding snap.
“Get the hell off of her,” a confident voice demanded. I pushed Andrew away from me and looked at the door to see another Andrew standing in it.
The one at the door possessed the cool confidence I had come to admire. His face looked angry, but still kind and beautiful at the same time. I looked back at the face of the person on top of me. For a moment, it shimmered and I could see another face. A pale translucent face of a different boy, slightly younger than Andrew. Then the Andrew seemed to explode. White smoke shot from his body. It rose up and then squeezed through the cracks of the ceiling above it before disappearing. The person who was on top of me, with their legs wrapped around me shimmered again. Then, it turned into me. No, not me, Alex.
Alex looked down at me, utter shock and confusion on her face. Suddenly, she broke into a wailing cry as she collapsed onto my chest, whining and sobbing as she clung to me.
“What just happened?” Rune asked, only having just entered the room.
“Possession,” Andrew said calmly with pity in his eyes as he watched Alex shudder and cry, “I don’t think we’re alone in this house.”