“…into my eyes,” he says like he’s finishing his sentence.
I stare directly into his eyes, because that seems to be something I can’t actually avoid with him.
He shifts, and I shift with him, following his eyes, and noticing his grin. When he stands and moves, my gaze follows him.
Suddenly, Damien becomes visible, and Ace steps out of him, laughing under his breath as Damien narrows his eyes on me.
“How could you see me?” he asks angrily.
The insane urge to grin is almost infectious. I think ghost insanity can be catching if you interact with the crazy ones for too long.
“Why are you in my room again?” I ask in deflection.
“Who are you?” he demands.
“Which name would you prefer right now? Violet or January?”
He actually growls at me.
“Are you part animal? Is that the kind of monster you are?” I ask curiously.
Ace outright laughs, his head tipping back, as Damien just continues to stare.
“You killed four vampires today, and now I realize you can apparently see me. Don’t you think you have some questions to answer?” he asks seriously.
“Tell me your secrets, and I’ll tell you mine,” I say with a sweet smile.
“He doesn’t quite know what to do with you. All his normal tactics are pointless, because you’re an untouchable Portocale,” Ace says as though he’s enjoying all this too much.
Damien’s eyes cut away from me, and he moves to the dresser where some flowers are. “I fixed your door, and if you’re hungry, there’s a tray of food on the table beside you. I brought it up when you first started stirring, but it should still be warm,” he says, confusing me with his abrupt one-eighty.
I glance over and see the food on the tray. It’s all laid out so neatly, and the plate is covered by a clear covering of some sort. There’s even a little rose on the tray, along with coffee, tea, and water. At least I’m assuming that’s water, since I don’t smell any vodka.
“I wasn’t sure what beverage you prefer,” he adds, the generous notion in no way an excuse for his invasive attitude toward personal boundaries.
“Why are you being nice?” I ask, suspicious.
“Clearly he plans to seduce you,” Ace answers as though that should be obvious. “You won’t let him close enough for him to study any other way at this point. And you’re wearing Vance’s favorite jacket.”
I really wish I could point out how very little sense all that makes.
“You should let him work his magic. You look like you could use some loosening up,” my newest ghost stalker adds.
Is it a requirement for all ghosts to get horny when they lose the ability to have sex ever again?
Damien casually rolls up his sleeves, as though he wants me to see the toned, tanned forearm porn he has going on. He really is quite possibly the most gorgeous man on the face of the planet. It’s like the tempting outer layer that coats the creepy monster center.
“At some point, we both need to start answering questions. You don’t want me becoming obsessed with you, Violet Portocale,” he says in a conversational tone, though it sounds distinctly like a veiled warning. “It’s best for everyone that I remain numb in my indifferent, dismal corner.”
“You may not believe it, but he used to be a lot of fun,” Ace says with a grin as he props up like he’s getting comfortable.
“It’s fascinating how you seem to want to make any of this my fault. Does this tactic work for you very often?” I muse.
“Worked perfectly fine before women’s lib,” Ace drawls. “He hasn’t had to try very hard at all since, because panties don’t get dropped; they get thrown,” he adds in a stage-whisper. “The twenty-first century is definitely a fast fave.”
“I’ll set up a lunch for us in the near future. Maybe we’re going about this all wrong,” Damien says in a voice that’s almost enchanting.
“Think of skunk when he talks like that,” Ace says, and I do.
The skunk thing works, because I snap out of the trance before I’m too lost to it.
“Stop using your mojo on me, or I’ll be forced to unravel some threads. I’m really tired. It’s been a long day.”
“You killed four vampires,” he says again like he knows for certain it had to be me.
How could they possibly figure that out so fast?
I just stay silent.
“There are rules about killing things, Violet. You got lucky this time,” he cautions me.
“What happens when it’s self-defense?” I ask, keeping things vague, since I definitely do not trust him.
“Why were you in Martin’s home?” he asks instead of answering me.
“Why do you answer questions with questions, when the original question is valid?”
“Keep that up, and he’ll hate you for making him want you,” Ace says around a yawn. “Personally, I prefer my women a little more subdued. Little more plump in the chest area too, but I could work with a smaller stack like yours.”
Okay, now I want to slap the ghost more than I want to slap Damien.
“Kidding. Obviously,” Ace says with a grin. “It’s cute how your ears get a little red when someone’s pissing you off.”
“What are you looking at?” Damien asks me as I cut my eyes back to him.
“Just waiting on the right answer before giving you my full attention,” I say.
“You crafty little thing. You really are a gypsy, because you know how to sell a lie,” Ace says as he leans up like he’s finally interested in all this.
Damien gives me a less impressed look, since he’s not in on the inside joke.
“Self-defense changes things. Works without question on unregistered vampires like the four you left behind today. Not so much on registered or respected vampires,” he informs me, studying me a little differently.
“I haven’t been abridged on the pecking order or politics.”
“Unregistered vampires are illegal, and they get killed by Van Helsing when he hunts,” he explains. “The pecking order starts when you’re registered. Don’t worry. You’ll figure out how that works the longer you’re in Shadow Hills.”
“All the vampires live here?”
“All the monsters have regions. They can’t live just anywhere in the world. There’s a system in place. Those who break the important rules pay the price. With technology being what it is, we can’t afford too many slips.”
“If you say it’s because humans can’t know—”
His laughter cuts me off, and I glance over to see Ace is suppressing his own laughter.
“Half the government are monsters in almost every country. Humans are well aware of our existence, and the higher up the chain you go, the more people you’d be surprised are what they are. It’s never the ones you suspect,” Damien says conspiratorially.
“However,” he continues, his smile slipping, “it’s the more simple minded, herd mentalities or fear mongers we prefer to avoid. We have a complicated but effective system to deal with the progression of each new era, and we deal with the fanatics who get too close when necessary.”
“You’re hiding in plain sight,” I state flatly. “In large clusters they could probably wipe out if they wanted to.”
“The humans know how important the alphas are to the overall order of the worldly pecking order, if you understand me,” he continues, perching up against the wall. “It took them a really long time to come to grips with the true reality of things, but money solves almost all problems,” he adds.
“That’s very true,” Ace says, getting bored again as he starts looking around my room, poking his head through my drawers and my closet.
“Without us, the apocalypse rolls in, and chaos will ensue,” he adds, smirking for whatever reason. “Have a good day, Violet Portocale. Try not to kill anymore vampires without a license to do so,” he adds as he steps out of my room.
I hear him jog down the stairs and hear my front door shut. My eyes flick to Ace, and I start to speak, but he puts his finger over his smirking lips in the universal hush sign.
He disappears from sight, and my gaze darts over just as he pops up near my door, gesturing to his eyes. “Right here,” he says.
I hold his gaze as he walks to the left…and back to the right…then back to the left.
Damien appears, and I arch an unimpressed eyebrow at him as Ace steps out of him and comes to drop down on the bed beside me, staring on at Damien with amusement.
“You’re going to tell me how you’re doing that at our lunch,” Damien bites out as he turns and stalks out.
Again, I hear the sound of him jogging down the stairs, and hear the telltale sign of the door slamming.
My eyes move over to Ace who says, “He’s really gone this time.”
Tires scream just outside as if to punctuate the departure.
“The older they get, the more tantrums they throw,” he drawls.
“How long have you stalked them?”
“Enough about me,” he says as he turns over and puts his hand under his head as he faces me, pretending he needs to support his head. “Why did you kill four vampires and how?”
“They attacked me, kidnapped me, and tried to kill me.”
“Why didn’t they just kill you to begin with if they wanted you dead?” he asks as though that’s the first question anyone should ask.
“Maybe they planned to drink me?”
“They’d be tempted, but it’d be death raining down on them if they did. A vampire can’t hide the scent of Portocale blood on their breath for a while. Unless they have a willing Portocale—which is highly unlikely—it’s an immediate death sentence.”
“Nice to know I’m a forbidden delicacy,” I state dryly. “That’s the second time today I’ve been told that.”
His gaze rakes over me. “Forbidden you are,” he murmurs under his breath. “The forbidden is always the most tempting.”
His gaze swings up to meet mine again, and I give him an exasperated look. “Are all ghosts so fixated on sex?”
“Are all flesh bags such prudes?”
I’m not sure why I grin.
He waggles his eyebrows at me as he pushes closer on the bed.
My smile slips as the reality slowly sinks in. “Why do wooden stakes work on vampires?”
“Because so many humans around the globe truly believe that to be a fact,” he says with a shrug of one shoulder, as though it’s an easy conclusion.
“The power of the mind is the absolute strongest force out there. Gypsies carry an abnormal amount of that power; the same is true for the witches out there.”