“Damien Morpheous…what is he?”
Vance pauses, polish brush stopping mid-stroke, as his eyes come back up to meet mine.
“He’s going to give you a bullshit answer, but at least now you can’t pretend not to hear me,” the unnamed ghost says as he takes a seat on the floor, grinning like he’s won a prize as he stares at me.
I only notice him from my peripheral, as I make a vain effort to continue ignoring him.
The new ghost seems entirely too amused with me now.
“Damien is a complicated one to understand, considering he’s a mixture of lores that bleed together and fuse a creature that exists only as him. His creations—”
“His creations?” I ask incredulously.
“Like vampires and werewolves, he can turn humans into something. Though he turns them into things different from himself,” he answers, literally telling me something and nothing at all, just as the annoying new ghost I’ve collected said.
He finishes painting my toes at last and puts down my foot as he twists the cap back onto the polish.
“Explaining would take up too much time, and your pedicure is finished. Tell people you’re a Portocale,” he goes on.
“Told you his answer would be shite. Don’t worry, love. I’ll fill you in later,” the ghost says as he stands and mimes dusting his hands off, though the sound is absent, obviously.
My gaze flicks to him on reflex, seeing the front of his shirt tucked into a pair of what I think are some kind of old-school bad boy trousers, with somewhat puffy sides, and a narrower ankle on them that slips seamlessly into a pair of tall, leather hunting boots of some sort.
What was he doing when he died? Why does this damn drug keep leaving me vulnerable enough to stare at a ghost I would easily ignore under normal circumstances?
He gives me a smirk and a wink before vanishing from sight.
Vance glances to the vacant spot and then back to me.
“Are you okay?”
“Not even a little bit,” I confess, not bothering to look back at him. “And if I tell people I’m a Portocale—”
“The ones who hunt you are mortal. I can dispatch them easily enough,” he says dismissively.
My eyes do come back to him.
“Then why didn’t you save my mother while she was living here?”
His eyes hold mine for a long moment. I’m positive he’s not going to answer, but he finally does.
“Because your mother would have rather died than ever accept my help under any circumstances.”
“There’s going to be a resounding why to follow up every question I answer, because it’s not as simple as one direct answer. The questions and answers are threaded through some very lengthy, complicated histories that will take a lot of time to sort through. The only thing I can hope is that your ignorance makes you wiser than her.”
That’s not confusing at all.
He struts over to the couch and starts lying out a blanket.
“What are you doing?”
“Making my bed.”
“Because I’m sleeping here tonight,” he answers without turning around.
My lips prepare to parrot my constant question, when another voice startles me.
“There really is a resounding why to follow up every answer he allows,” Anna says from the corner of the room as she swoons a little.
“How long have you been there?” I groan.
“Long enough to remember why I fell in love with him back when he was a Cuban dictator.”
The Van Helsing looks more Norwegian to me.
“I’m sorry, but what?” he asks, glancing over his shoulder at me, reminding me he doesn’t know there’s a ghost in the room.
Does he know I can see ghosts?
It’s safe to make no assumptions or confessions in this…state of mind that has rendered me unable to get out of this damn chair.
“Where are you from?” I ask him by way of recovering. “Originally.”
“My family migrated to Romania two generations before I was born,” he answers absently. “I tan fairly better than they do,” he answers without actually answering. Or maybe Romania is the answer?
“Are they still alive?”
“Immortality,” he murmurs a little angrily.
Immortality. Yeah. No. I’m not sure if I buy that.
He aggressively finishes making the bed and exhales harshly as he turns to face me. His hair is just slightly disheveled, and I watch with some amusement as he pushes it back into place, only to seem annoyed when it falls over his forehead again. It’s the most untidy I’ve seen him, and that says a lot after the night we’ve had together.
“Why the fucking hell are you grinning?” he asks me seriously.
“Because you’re so beautiful,” Anna answers him, and for once, I might agree with her.
I guess the final decay is like being in a constant state of high on gypsy spice.
No wonder they pay me so much money. I’ve always been careful not to sample the goods for fear of what I might do on them.
“You worried your stash wouldn’t be as strong as your mother’s, but considering the calm I’ve had while discussing this, I believe it’s damn possible yours is stronger. So why aren’t you collapsed on the floor and passed out, little mortal gypsy?”
“Because I can’t get out of this damn chair,” I answer in a crucial tone.
It’s unbearably adorable when the monster slayer cracks a grin that he can’t seem to immediately wipe away. Especially with that errant lock of hair still haphazardly flopped over his forehead, while he’s standing so confidently in front of me in nothing but those very distracting boxers of his.
“Are you asking for my help, gypsy girl?”
“No. I’m simply alluding to the need of assistance, just to be vague,” I inform him, almost tipping out of the chair when I finally give it all I have to stand.
He’s immediately at my side, lifting me effortlessly before I face-plant the ground.
“He’s only touching you because he can’t touch me,” Anna says, reminding me she’s still here as Van Helsing starts carrying me up the stairs.
I don’t even help him with my weight, because I’m thoroughly wrecked.
“How do you know where my room is?” I ask as the colorful dots begin to speckle my vision with the swaying motion.
“You’ll find you’re the most interesting thing to stumble into our stale lives in some time. Your room is the least invasive thing I currently know about you.”
“He’s so creepy sexy,” Anna states on a dreamy little sigh. “Just give me fifteen minutes alone with him in the wood shed before he realizes just how boring you are and loses all interest.”
“You’re not borrowing my vagina,” I state sleepily, hearing a snort from above me as a soft mattress finds my back.
Covers are being pulled over me as I try to wiggle into a more comfortable position but fail.
“Certainly not when you’re in this state,” Vance states like he’s amused as he backs away, glancing at me for a second before turning and walking out.
“Ever heard the term ‘use it or lose it?’” Anna asks dryly.
I wait until I hear the click of the door before muttering, “I hate you.”
Vance is sleeping on her motherfucking couch. Are you shitting me with this right now?
Carefully and silently, I move all his weapons away from where he’ll know he left them, and then I mask them so that they look like innocent objects just lying around. I flip him off as I turn and start up the stairs.
I’m supposed to be the reckless one. Arion is the psychopath. Emit is the broken, savage beast. Vance is the one who has his knickers jammed up his asshole and is supposed to keep the rest of us in line.
Yet here he is crossing a major line.
Staying quiet, I navigate my way around any of the creaking boards I’ve mapped out to keep her from discovering when I’m in her house. Good thing I’m here to check in, since that tool is being very creepy and actually sleeping in nothing but his damn boxers.
Has he no boundaries?
Pushing through her door, I find her literally snoring. Rather loudly and not at all dainty. I guess she slept through a man breaking in and taking up residence downstairs because she couldn’t hear him over that hellacious noise escaping her.
“She’s only snoring because she got so high,” comes a familiar voice at my back, as I do all I fucking can not to alert the ghost that I’m aware of her presence. “She usually sleeps so quiet and still that I think she’s dead.”
How could I have possibly forgotten to stay invisible while this thing lurks around and haunts the curious gypsy?
“She got so high she fucked three men at once, and then she turned around and stole my baby from my arms while I was distracted. I already checked her trunk. It’s not there. But thank you for coming to help me find it, Dr. Morpheous,” she adds, reminding me it’s a safe bet the Portocale gypsy can’t trust a word out of her pet ghost’s mouth.
“My vagina does tricks. She also begs for treats. I feel like you should—”
The ghost squeals just before I’m shoved against the wall, feeling it crack behind me as my breath comes out in a rush. The Portocale gypsy snores right through it, as I grin in the face of the ever-stoic Vance Van Helsing, who is giving me an unimpressed look.
“Any reason you broke into her home and slept on her couch?” I drawl.
“I slept here with invitation.” His lips purse as my brow lifts in confusion. “Sort of,” he adds, bristling as he glares at me. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“I come around to make sure she’s not simply making a fool of us all, and watch her from time to time when she doesn’t know anyone’s watching.”
His look is weirdly horrified.
“Do you have any idea how sick and creepy that is?” he whisper-yells.
“Highly doubtful that it’s as creepy as you lounging on her sofa with your hand down your boxers,” I’m fast to point out.
He narrows his eyes at me. “Do not come into her house to watch her—”
“Don’t give me this self-righteous tirade. You and Emit watch her from just down the street. I’ve seen you,” I interrupt, rolling my eyes. “You simply can’t get as close as I can.”
His glare would be chilling and terrifying to any sane monster. He’s likely one of the few souls with the power to kill me. I know with absolute certainty he never will, and it only fuels my hatred for him.
He will, however, hurt me without mercy.
“This is crossing a line,” he bites out.
“So you’re the judge of what lines can or cannot be crossed? I haven’t slept over, Captain Underpants. And why do you have nail polish smudges all over your normally preppy fingers? Isn’t your OCD driving you insane?” I ask, distracted by the errant streak of pink here and—