The Ghost and the Graveyard
Anxiety checked into Hotel Grateful the moment I woke up. When Michelle's life was at stake, becoming the witch seemed like the obvious thing to do. But now in the light of day, I realized what I'd done. Let's just say I could forgive myself for having sex with a virtual stranger by intellectualizing that I'd been married to him in a past life, and we shared each other's thoughts. The sex was incredible, after all, and people had gone farther on less.
But even if I could set the sex aside, I did magic that involved cutting myself. I drank Rick's blood. Even for me that was pretty racy. I hadn't done anything evil. On the contrary, I'd cast out a vampire and sent Prudence to heaven. But what did becoming the witch mean for my soul? I was in uncharted territory here.
What now? If I wasn't able to send Logan back, I'd be obligated to include him in my life. It wasn't like either of us could move out.
But it was obvious Rick wanted more from our relationship. Hell, he wanted to get married. I was twenty-two years old. I wasn't ready to be married. To be honest, I wasn't sure I was ready to have made such a lifetime commitment as becoming the witch.
Speaking of lifetime commitments, there was something I needed to know about Rick-the sooner, the better. I turned over within his arms and was startled to find his eyes open and watching me. "Oh, you're awake!"
"Yes," he whispered. "I don't need to sleep like you do."
"You don't sleep?"
"I do, but I don't need the amount that you do. Not if I'm well fed. A few hours a week is sufficient."
I thought he was joking, but his face gave no hint of humor. The light filtered through the lace curtains and washed over the hard bones of his jaw, the crooked line of his mouth, sharp cheekbones, and clear gray eyes. Without thinking, I ran my hand up his body, from his stomach to the scar on his chest. My fingers lingered there, teasing the raised flesh as if it were the most natural position in the world. His gray eyes widened.
"I need to ask you something."
"Then ask, mi cielo." He leaned into me, tracing his nose up the side of my face. He buried his lips in my hair.
"We had sex last night."
"Yes, we did," he breathed. "But that isn't a question." He nibbled my ear.
I pressed my hand against his chest, trying to fight the lightheaded feeling that was quickly overcoming me. "Unprotected sex."
He pulled back to meet my eyes.
"How worried should I be?" I asked.
"I can't impregnate you. Unfortunately, this immortal body is unable to procreate."
"Actually, I'm on the pill, so I wasn't so much worried about the possibility of pregnancy. I was asking more for peace of mind about your history. You know, STDs?"
"STDs? You're worried about sexually transmitted diseases?"
"I'm a nurse, okay? It is everyone's responsibility to be worried about STDs. Let's face it, you are tall, dark, and handsome and have had more than a lifetime to be with who knows how many women. You may be immortal, but I'm not. I want to know if I should be worried."
Rick placed his finger under my chin and his pupils expanded crowding out the gray. I thought I would drown in those black pools, like the darkness would swallow me up. The thought should have been frightening, but it was oddly peaceful.
"The only person I have ever made love with is you," he said.
I blinked a few times in his direction while that piece of information sank in. "What?" I asked dumbly.
"I was a virgin when I married you and I could not bring myself to be with anyone else after your deaths."
"Wow." The word slipped out of my mouth. In front of me was a man with a face and body that would fit as the lead heartthrob in any blockbuster movie. Rick was a man who could make women swoon, and he'd waited for me, not once but multiple times.
"You need to know that I've been with other people."
"It was before you knew of me. The times are different now. It is to be expected."
I cocked my head to one side. "We're not married, Rick. I haven't promised you that I won't be with anyone else ever again."
"Then marry me. Make that promise."
"I'm not ready for that." As much as I wanted to avoid the tension building between us, I forced myself to maintain eye contact. He needed to know I was serious.
His expression darkened. "It's Logan. I smelled him on you. You've been with him, and you want to be with him again."
"I don't think I need to remind you that Logan doesn't have a body."
"What of it, Grateful? Will you tell me, honestly, that you haven't had sex with him?" He scowled.
When he put it that way, I supposed that being possessed by a ghost while I masturbated was a type of sex. To call it anything else would be fooling myself. "Yes, we did."
Rick leaned over me, his arms on either side of my body and his face too close. The position made me claustrophobic, and I pressed my head into the pillow to maintain some distance.
"No more," he commanded. "You are mine now. Mine." The smell of pine, earth, and water filled the room, strengthening with his emotions.
"Excuse me, but the only person I belong to is me." The words floated oddly calm from my lips, partly because I knew he wouldn't hurt me and partly because I was expecting to have this conversation.
His face contorted as if I'd punched him in the gut. His head jerked back, and for a moment, I thought I saw tears in his eyes. Then his entire body began to convulse. I watched his black eyes close as the spasms reached his head.
When the seizure ended, Rick opened his eyes. The irises flashed green.
"What the hell?" I wiggled under his arm. In a clumsy and very unsexy fashion, I spilled over the side of the bed and onto the floor. "What's going on, Rick?"
"Rick? Guess again, Grateful." Rick's lips moved, but Logan's voice came out.
"Logan, what are you doing? Get out of his body!" I slapped Rick's shoulder as if I could knock Logan out of him.
"Isn't this what you wanted? A little bit of both of us? Not to have to choose?" Logan's voice was venomous.
"Logan, this is wrong. Get out!" I tried to thrust my power into him but what was a hurricane last night came out of me a tiny puff of air.
Logan laughed. "Sun's still up, sweetheart. It takes practice to be able to use your power during the day, or so Prudence told me. Besides, if you really want me out, all you have to do is ask."
"Please, Logan. Please get out of Rick."
A cloud of dark smoke filtered from Rick's mouth until a transparent Logan stood beside a very pissed-off caretaker.
"I will send you over myself, foul vapor!" Rick growled. He raised his hand, preparing to strike.
I placed myself between the two of them and held up my hands. "Everyone, relax. I will do the sorting in this house," I said to Rick. I turned toward Logan. "No matter how much a certain soul deserves the underworld."
"I would prefer the underworld to watching the woman I love be with another man for eternity. It's torture, Grateful, torture. You let me taste you. Not just the sex but our conversations, our dates. Did you think I'd be happy to live forever in this house, watching you come and go with...with him? Don't threaten me with hell. This is hell." He flickered out and receded into the corner, nothing but a glowing orb.
"Easy enough to do as you please," Rick seethed. "I'll send you to the underworld and put you out of your misery."
"Rick! Stop! Logan isn't a bad person. He doesn't belong in hell. I saw that much last night." I pressed my hand against Rick's chest, his bare-naked chest. I couldn't help myself. I glanced down his body, to the heavy length between his legs, and a current of desire zinged through me.
"Oh, spare me," Logan said.
Rick backed off, taking forced interest in the window.
"Look, Logan, I'm sorry. I do like you and have enjoyed your company." I placed my fists firmly on my hips. "But as I've said before, I consider what happened an accident."
Logan groaned. Rick sputtered something under his breath that sounded like "no accidents."
"Besides, now that I'm the witch, a romantic relationship with you would be inappropriate anyway. It would be like a teacher dating a student. I'd be taking advantage of you in a way."
"You've got to be kidding. Is this the spiel you tell yourself to get to sleep at night?" The lights in the room flickered.
"You heard the lady. She's not interested," Rick said through his teeth.
I rolled my eyes at the dramatics. "I'll try again to send you home, Logan, but I can't make any promises. Until we find a way to sort your soul, I think we'll just have to make the best of it."
"What does making the best of it mean for you and me?"
"Honestly, I don't know, and I don't think I should have to decide right now," I answered.
Logan shook his transparent head in exasperation.
"Even if you were alive and standing in front of me, a flesh-and-blood man, I wouldn't know what our future would hold. So how can I give you any guarantees when we don't know for sure where you'll be tomorrow?"
Logan didn't get a chance to respond. A knock at the door heralded Michelle's entrance, her eyes skipping around in her best attempt not to look at Rick's assets.
"I'm gonna hit the road, Grateful. Thanks for the memories," she said.
"You're not upset with me about this, are you?" Why would she be upset? What's a little vampire possession between friends?
"Manny's going to be pissed I didn't come home last night, but I definitely don't blame you. For Pete's sake, you have enough to worry about."
I threw my arms around her and hugged her tight. "You're the best. Let me know if I can help you with whatever you decide to tell Manny."
"Oh, you can help. In fact, he may hate you once he learns you made me work a double for you last night."
"Fair is fair." I smiled and walked her to the door.
"See you tomorrow."
I started to close the door behind her.
"Oh, and Grateful?"
"The thing about Manny is that I know even now that he'll forgive me. Marriage is about trust. You have to trust the other person more than anyone, even yourself sometimes, or the relationship doesn't stand a chance. Promise me you won't rush into anything on my account. I'd never forgive myself."
"I promise. But thanks for the reminder."
She nodded and headed for her car. I marched back upstairs to tell Rick I was ready to find Marcus. I didn't have time to analyze my feelings for Rick and Logan. I needed to kill the vampire who'd possessed my best friend and murdered me a lifetime ago.