“It knew things. Things about me. Things about you. It mentioned your secret. I thought… I’m so sorry Andrew,” I apologized as I gently stroked Alex’s hair.
Alex had finally stopped crying on top of me. Now she just rested. Her head lay comfortably in my lap as I sat up in the bed. Everyone had finally made it into the room now, and we all stood around, staring at each other in uncomfortable silence.
“It’s been listening to us, to our conversations. Since we entered the house, maybe even while we were out on the street. It’s using everything it has heard to manipulate us,” Andrew explained.
“So, I’m still a little confused,” Daniel scratched his head, “You are saying a ghost spied on us, possessed Alex, used her to turn into Andrew, and then attempted to attack my mate?”
“That’s one way of putting it; I wouldn’t exactly call it attacking. It was more like sexually assaulting,” Rune replied scornfully.
“I’m alright Rune; he didn’t do anything to me.” I looked away from his glare.
Andrew spoke up, “Either way, if it’s a ghost that has been the culprit, then we need to be very careful. He could possess any given one of us at any given time. For… some of us, that could be incredibly dangerous. I would hate to see what he would do if he possessed werewolf powers.”
“Or an Archdemon’s?” Alex offered, turning her head towards the group.
“Can it be safe to say that the dead cannot possess the dead?” Stephan asked, his face still downcast, his eyes looking away from everyone else.
“No. In fact, you might be the most at risk of any of us. I’d imagine a ghost having few qualms about taking over a body that is already dead,” Andrew replied.
Stephan lowered his head. “At least I’m the weakest here and invulnerable. If it took me you could easily contain it and do whatever you had to keep it down.”
“Stephan, are you okay?” Andrew asked with concern in his voice.
“I let it take her. I just walked away and let it almost have its way with her, right after she fell down that hole and was injured.” A look of anguish flashed on Stephan’s face.
“Stephan, you did what you could. Even Jane was fooled.”
“Andrew,” I spoke up, “I mean, the other Andrew, said some things to him. They were not nice.”
“I am so sorry,” Alex spoke up, “I never would have said those things. I don’t believe those things. The ghost just wanted you gone.”
“You remember?” I asked.
“Bits and pieces, like a foggy dream. Oh, Jane… I would never force myself on you like that. You believe me, right? I love you and hurting you is the last thing I’d ever want to do.”
“It’s okay, I… l… think you’re a great person too,” I responded.
I almost told her I loved her in return. It was getting too easy seeing her as a sister. I’d have to put my foot down on this at some point, but now that we lived together things weren’t going to be any easier. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice my slip, their concern elsewhere.
Andrew moved over to him, resting his hand on Stephan’s shoulder. He squeezed slightly, causing Stephan to look back at him.
“You’re a good man. If I thought anything less, I’d never have let you near Jane in the first place. I count you as a friend I can trust. That’s why I left Jane in your care because I know you can keep her as safe as I can.”
Stephan seemed in better humor, but that humor slid off as Andrew walked away. His appearance turned sheepish instead. I could relate; the two of us had almost kissed. I think Andrew just replaced one form of guilt with another. I felt slightly guilty too, but I didn’t know why. Was I guilty of almost kissing Stephan, or was I guilty for actually kissing someone I thought was Andrew? Am I guilty because I thought I was kissing Andrew, or because it turned out to not be Andrew? My emotions were a bundled knot of confusion.
“The thing I don’t understand,” I said trying to deflect the situation, “Why is it interested in me?”
Daniel looked at Andrew before speaking up, “There is no reason to hide it. I think you are long past keeping secrets at this point.”
“Before you answer that,” Rune interrupted, “I would like you to explain why you are not wearing any clothing again.”
I sighed; Daniel was most certainly naked again. He did have wonderfully tanned thighs. No tan lines either, but given what I’ve seen, it didn’t seem that surprising that he tanned without underwear on.
“When I heard the commotion, I jumped into my werewolf form.”
“You shredded up your clothing, didn’t you?” Rune shook his head.
Daniel slightly blushed. After a second, Stephan sighed, unbuttoning his shirt. He tossed the shirt to Daniel. Underneath he still wore a tight white undershirt. While he wasn’t as muscular as Rune or Andrew, and certainly not Daniel, he still did have nicely defined abs, now that I got a peak.
Daniel put the shirt on, buttoning it up. It didn’t fit well, the buttons bulging. The shirt only went down to his waist, effectively covering up nothing. In fact, if anything, it accentuated his complete lack of pants.
Everyone looked over at Stephan, “Don’t look at me; I’m not giving him my pants.”
“Here,” Alex tossed Daniel an article of clothing.
It was a coat. It was my coat. Daniel wrapped it around his waist, covering himself. My coat was now pressed up against him. I glared down at Alex, who just shrugged and gave me a mischievous smile. I guess she was starting to cheer up.
“Enough about me,” Daniel interrupted my thoughts, “Andrew? We need to tell her.”
Andrew sighed, “I suppose you are right. Jane, have you ever heard the story of the star-crossed lovers? It’s a popular one at our school.”
“Yeah, but there are so many versions of it,” I spoke up.
“Well, in the one I’m thinking of particularly, there were two lovers many years ago. It was a young boy and a young girl, only fifteen years of age. The girl’s father owned this mansion, as the story goes, and was wealthy. The boy was a poor kid, who only met the girl on happenstance. They fell in love, but the girl’s father would never have approved. He was a vile tyrant who controlled his family with an iron grip.”
Andrew continued, “Eventually, the pair ran off and eloped. The boy worked nonstop for months with three jobs, keeping every penny he had so that he could afford to take her away from her family, starting with a romantic honeymoon where they could consummate their hasty betrothal.”
“Unfortunately, the girl’s father had found out. The story doesn’t really say what happened to the girl, but the boy snuck into the girl’s bedroom on that last night with a pocket full of money and a plan to escape the city with her. Her father was waiting instead, and he murdered the boy and buried his body in the basement.”
“I remember that one, but what does that have to do with me?” I asked.
Andrew glanced once more at Daniel before pulling out a picture, “We found this while we were searching one of the rooms.”
I hesitantly reached out and grabbed the picture. It was an old time black and white photo. The person in it looked remarkably like me. I took a long, hard look at the picture. That was so strange.
“Why is my great grandma’s picture in this house?”
Andrew’s eyebrows rose, “You know her?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen a few older photos of my great granny. She died before I was born, but they said I took after her a lot. I’m even named after her.”
“You never heard about any of this before now?” Rune asked in disbelief.
“She kept her history private. She never talked about her past. Grandma said she never mentioned her parents at all. I certainly never knew about us being rich.”
“It would seem that finishes our story. Your great grandmother must have run away and started a new life on her own. The boy, however, never left the mansion. Even you could imagine how he might react if he saw someone identical to his betrothed, even carrying the same name.” Andrew shook his head.
“What should we do then?” I asked.
“Well,” Andrew continued, “Since we know what it wants and why it wants it, I think we can conclude that it was just a coincidence. Either way, you should probably leave. It’s least safe for you here. We’ll continue to search the home on our own.”
“What if it attempts to possess one of you to get to me again?”
“Oh, I have a solution,” Alex suddenly perked up.
She reached into her handbag and then reached in further. It was about the point her elbow went past the relatively small pack’s lip that I realized something was amiss. I raised my eyebrows as she struggled to pull something out of it.
“It’s interdimensional. You don’t stay a demon without picking up a handful of interesting artifacts. I keep all kinds of things in here. Makeup, changes of clothing, that kind of thing.”
“Changes of clothing?”
“Yeah, well, you never know when I might end up turning into a guy, or simply my sizes change. I keep an assortment of generic clothing for that purpose.”
“Daniel’s wearing my coat around his waist, and you have a magical purse with clothing exactly for this purpose?”
Alex blinked. “Oops.”
I sighed, “Just get what you’re looking for.”
Alex dug around a few more minutes. She tossed Daniel a pair of pants and I recovered my coat. It was all warm. I didn’t really know how I felt about that. After another few moments, she pulled out a small device. It was shaped like a gun, however, it was more like a ray gun you might see from some alien science fiction drama.
“Here it is!” she declared.
“What is it?” Rune asked in annoyance.
“It’s a ghost gun.”
“A ghost gun?” Stephan asked with curiosity.
“Supposedly, if you shoot it at a ghost, it harms them or something. I’ve shot it at myself loads of times and it never did anything. So I think we can probably just shoot everyone. If they had a ghost in them, we should be able to tell.”
“It can’t harm people?” Andrew asked.
“Well, it has a list of side effects.”
“Let me see,” Alex turned the device on its side, seemingly reading a label located on the bottom of the gun,” Exposure to radiation can cause itching, constipation, rectal bleeding, hot flashes, Vietnam flashbacks, diarrhea, feminine odors, general well-being and peace of mind, abdominal cramping, and inability to distinguish reality from a cartoon.”
“You’re making that crap up,” Rune snapped, moving over and grabbing the gun.
He looked at the bottom of the gun for a second, mouthing off the words as he read. After a moment, he shook his head in disbelief.
“What the heck are feminine odors?” he asked.
“I…” I shook my head; this was not a conversation I was going to have with him.
“You’re not using that gun on me,” Daniel demanded.
“It’s the only way to keep Jane safe,” Andrew defended.
Daniel stared for a few minutes at the gun like it was a snake, and finally nodded. The others nodded in turn. Then, all of the men turned to me as I sat in my bed.
“Are you okay with leaving tonight?” Alex asked me with concern in her eyes.
I looked at each of these friends in turn. Every single one of them was willing to risk themselves to keep me safe. I knew that I should feel like the luckiest person on the planet. At the moment, I just felt guilty that I was the weakest link.
“I suppose it’s the safest thing to do now.”
“You have not been looking good lately,” Samantha declared, “You need like, a spa day or something. Maybe we should go out and get manicures.”
That would be nice. I totally could have used a girl’s day. The kind that actually involves someone who was a girl 24/7 at least. On the surface, spending several weeks with a group of attractive guys sounds fun. However, that was only in theory. In reality, it was severely nerve-wracking. I might have been developing a twitch.
It had been some time since I had left that haunted house. My ankle turned out to be bruised, not sprained, and after a few days of limping, I was back to normal. I had told my mom I fell down the stairs. With Alex to back up all of my claims, it was a lot easier convincing her of things. Furthermore, the boys showed no signs of possession since then, so I supposed I was in the clear now. That didn’t stop me from being on the defensive, though.
A boy asked me out this morning and I screamed and ran away. He could have been a Frankenstein Vampire voodoo Santa Clause for all I knew. It was another member of the Hawtness, Allan, which only made things more suspicious. He was kind of a library nerd but was still on the list because Samantha said he was book sexy. When I asked her what that meant, she said it meant you wanted to have sex with him on top of a pile of books.
“We could also go to the Demetrius concert coming up,” Samantha winked at me.
I sighed, “You’ve already forced me to have a Demetrius poster in my bedroom. You want me to have to go to a loud noisy concert too?
“Well, not all of us are surrounded by a constant stream of hot guys. Going to a Demetrius concert might be the closest thing I come to heaven.” Samantha gave me a puppy-eyed look.
I turned my head, trying to ignore her. Her lip fell down, tears welling in her eyes. It was times like this I remembered she was also in the drama club. I turned back to her.
“Fine, you win! We’ll go.”
Samantha laughed, clapping her hands just as the bell rang.
“Alright everybody,” our aged English teacher spoke up, “As you can all see, I’m nine months pregnant and ready to pop if you hadn’t noticed up until this point. As a result, I’ll be starting my maternity leave today. You will instead be taught by Mr. Xavier, the new substitute teacher.”
Oh yeah, the teacher had been seeming a bit chunky lately. However, wasn’t she a little old to be having a baby? She was almost thirty. The class broke into whispers at this announcement. Samantha rammed her elbow into me numerous times. Finally, I smacked her arm away and turned to her.
“What is it?” I snapped under my breath.
“Mr. Xavier is one of the hawtness,” Samantha whispered
“A teacher can’t be a hawtness.”
“He can if he looks like Mr. Xavier. I saw him in the halls this morning.”
I knew what she meant a moment later when a young, handsome man walked into the class. He had dark brown hair, a deep smile, and perhaps the greenest eyes I had ever seen on a person. He was wearing a t-shirt under a sports coat. He had one hand in his pocket and moved with a swagger that I couldn’t put my finger on.
“I just wanted to be here to introduce him. He has already received all of my notes and will follow my class lectures diligently. Please be respectful. Now excuse me, I’ll be off.” The old English teacher waved to the students before leaving the room.
“Well, that was brief,” the substitute smirked, “But yes, I am Mr. Xavier, and I look forward to getting to know each and every one of you.”
The new teacher had an accent. I couldn’t put my finger on it, it sounded old-timey and proper. Mr. Xavier looked at each and every student in the class, the girls especially, and his eyes seemed to linger on me just a bit longer. Was there a look of recognition in those eyes? I was just growing paranoid.
“The first things I will need is a student to help me after school. I have some things I want to rearrange in the classroom and some student perspective would be appreciated. Who would be interested?”
Several girls raised their hands. I wasn’t one of them. I had a meeting with the boys for club activities after school and didn’t have the time. Although, something was off about Mr. Xavier. The last thing I needed to find out was that Mr. Xavier was another supernatural being. No chances this time. What if he was a Frankenstein? Maybe I should investigate? Now I was curious. No, curiosity already got me, five guys, messing up my life. I would not add another.
“How about you Jane?” the man pointed at me.
The blood drained in my face. Samantha glanced at me, but it seemed she had grown past her jealousy. Now she just sighed at the inevitability of it all, her phone under the desk rapidly typing a tweet telling the whole school. A small panic attack surged through me. It wasn’t fair. I beat my curiosity. I didn’t raise my hand. Why was this still happening?
“How… how did you know my name?” I got out. Maybe if I just asked, things would be less problematic. It’s simple, are you, or have you ever been a magical creature, supernatural being, or dead?
“Seating chart?” he pulled up a folder from his desk, “I find the ones that don’t volunteer tend to have the more important things to say. I hope that’s alright.”
Some of the girls threw dirty looks at me. I just nodded; there was nothing else I could do. Mr. Xavier gave me a reassuring smile before looking back down at his folder. Suddenly, his smile turned sour.
“And another piece of news looks like we are getting a transfer student joining us today.”
Samantha seemed to perk up at the news, always the one for a new toy or a piece of gossip. When the person walked in through the door, my expression soon echoed Mr. Xavier’s. An incredibly attractive boy walked in. He had deep red lips and was perhaps the most beautiful person I had ever seen. Several of the girls around me shifted in their seats at just the sight of him. Alex.
Why did Alex have to be in a male form now? For that matter, why did he think this wasn’t extremely dangerous? If he shimmered in front of someone because of a sudden shift in who he likes, it would be impossible to explain. Alex gave me a deep smile, causing Samantha to let out another prolonged sigh of regret. Strangely enough, Mr. Xavier frowned at the behavior.
He put Alex in a seat on the exact opposite side of mine. It wouldn’t have been odd if he hadn’t had to kick a girl out of her seat in order to do it. That girl ended up moving to a seat adjacent to mine. Fortunately, no one was putting two and two together, simply more fascinated by the beautiful boy that joined their class. Samantha was most likely buying her time before she called me that night, demanding all of my secrets.
I sighed regretfully. It would be another one of those days. Mr. Xavier began the lesson. He seemed surprisingly adept in English, although he seemed to have almost a child-like giddiness associated with it. When one of the students fired a spitball across the room at the back of another student’s head, Mr. Xavier responded by wadding up a piece of paper and returning the favor. To everyone’s shock and surprise, it landed directly in between the eyes of the offender. The class responded by breaking out into laughter. The person deserved it; he was always gross, but can a teacher really do that?
The class was over before it began, and being the last class on this day, the students filed out and I waited for Mr. Xavier to tell me what he needed. Given my habit of staying later, I supposed I was probably a good choice to stay after school to help the teacher. I noticed Alex staying as well. After the majority of the students were gone, I moved over to him.
“Well?” I huffed.
Alex held up his hands, looking defensive, “Don’t look at me. This is mom’s doing. She saw me staying at home and before I knew it I was being enrolled in school.”
I pinched my nose. Of course, mom would do that. Well, he lived with me now. I couldn’t just leave him at home all the time. However, bringing another one of them into my school life just kept making things messier and messier.
“But why are you in boy form now?”
“Would you rather I came looking like your sister? I think that would cause more questions than this.”
“How’d you get around my mom enrolling you as a girl?”
Alex raised an eyebrow, “I’m a demon, is it really that hard to imagine? Plus, now I can be in the H club!”
“Oh right.” Alex stuck out his tongue. “We didn’t tell you about the name yet. We decided to call the club the H club. Stands for Hawtness Club. No one really got it, but Rune said you’d like it.”
A blush came upon my cheeks. Rune knew. Of course, he would be the one to know about that kind of thing. Still, doing that was embarrassing. Hopefully, no one else asked about what the club was doing. However, if Rune knew, soon everyone else would know too. I winced, so much for my private joke. Alex looked at me curiously and I focused back on him.
“What about you? Can you handle this? I mean, if you change… plus you’ve had trouble keeping a reign on your libido in the past.”
“I’ve got a better handle on it. Rune’s given me some tips to improve my ability to control myself, and it seems like it is working.”
That’s an idea for a Samantha fanfic right there; I scrunched up my nose. Maybe it’s better not to think about Rune having the talk with Alex on controlling his urges. Although now that it was in my brain, I wanted to hear that conversation.
“Alex,” Mr. Xavier suddenly spoke up from the other side of the room, interrupting us,” I appreciate your willingness to stay after, but Jane has already volunteered. You won’t be needed.”
Both Alex and I frowned. Volunteering isn’t exactly the way I’d put it. It was more like being forced against my will.
“It’s alright,” Alex gave Mr. Xavier a winning smile, “I’ll stay out of your way.”
Mr. Xavier grimaced. “Just go, I have things that need doing.”
Alex’s smile slipped from his face. He seemed taken aback that he wasn’t able to sway the teacher’s opinion on him with a look. I supposed he was the wrong sex for it. The smile came back a moment later when he turned to me.
“Well, I can see what I’m not needed,” Alex shrugged, standing up. “I’ll talk to you at our first school meeting. I’ll let everyone know to wait up for you.”
Alex gracefully stood and walked out of the room. Mr. Xavier watched his back with daggers until he left. Then, the teacher moved over to the door and peered out to make sure he was gone, and then made sure it was closed. That was a little odd. The teacher turned back to me, a grin popping on his face as he walked over.
“What did you need help with?” I asked, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable.
Mr. Xavier walked over to me with that swagger in his step. He smiled down at me, placing his hands on either shoulder.
“Jane, you and I need to do a lot of things together.”
I attempted to pull back. In a sudden swift motion, he grabbed the back of my chair and pulled me forward. He moved on top. His legs wrapped around me. His body pressed up against me. His eyes stared into mine. I gulped loudly, frozen as if in a daze. His body smelled of fresh apple blossoms.
I forced myself to work up the courage to say something, “Mr. Xavier, I…”
Mr. Xavier put his finger over my lips, shaking his head. “It’s okay. Together you and I are going to do everything.”
The door burst open and the teacher looked back in surprise. Andrew and Rune both raced into the room, heading for us. Each boy grabbed an arm, dragging the teacher back and then throwing him. I wasn’t sure which I was more surprised about, the teacher coming on to me or Andrew and Rune attacking him. Mr. Xavier landed hard on his butt in the corner of the room.
“You stay the hell away from her,” Rune snapped.
My eyes widened as I turned between Mr. Xavier and the two boys. I moved out of my chair and moved between the group. If I didn’t stop this now, someone would get hurt. The door flew open again in a rush, Alex in her female form burst in leading Daniel and Stephan. Daniel looked around the room quickly before taking a breath. His eyes snapped to the teachers, and he joined the others with open anger on his face.
“What’s the meaning of this? You can’t do this to a teacher!” Mr. Xavier replied angrily, trying to move back into a standing position.
Daniel moved forward past me, shoving his foot into Mr. Xavier’s gut and knocking him to the ground, “That’s true. However, you’re not really a teacher, are you?”
Suddenly, the teacher stopped struggling. The look on his face twisted and he grinned evilly. Andrew and Rune looked at each other. A brief flash of confusion on their faces was followed by understanding. They seemed to understand what was going on. Well, none of this was making any sense to me.
“What’s going on?” I demanded from the boys.
Stephan put a hand gently on my shoulder. “I suspected as soon as Alex told me about the odd teacher that rushed him out the door. This person is not your substitute teacher. He’s been taken over by the ghost from the mansion.”