Witches. Great. There are witches.
“However, humans collaborating under one unified belief carry a great deal more power than they can or will ever realize. It’s one of the many secrets your new monster entourage don’t share with anyone who has less than alpha status, nor do they share it with the human allies,” he goes on.
“Then I probably shouldn’t know it,” I say very quietly, tension ratcheting up my spine as I look around, paranoid Damien has come back without Ace noticing him.
“Probably not. But now that I’ve told you a secret, you owe me one,” he says idly.
“You told me one of their secrets. Not one of yours,” I feel the need to point out as a grin tugs at my mouth again.
Oh, no. I’m flirting with a ghost.
Why am I flirting with a ghost?
“You asked, though,” he goes on with another shrug and a boyish grin. “And I gave you a direct answer.”
“An answer that sounds sketchy.”
“Sports metaphors work on you? I’ve been watching a lot of basketball in the pubs this past decade or so,” he says, staring at me expectantly.
“My dad is a basketball man, so maybe I can follow,” I say on a sigh.
“Proof of the power of the human mind,” he says as he moves in a little bit closer, our faces mere inches apart now. “When a team scores a certain amount of unanswered points, the other team calls a timeout. Why?”
“To ice momentum,” I state like I should win a prize for knowing the answer.
“Exactly,” is what he says, though it’s not quite as rewarding as I feel I deserve.
“It’s a common thing for a team’s shots to start going in with more and more confidence brewing. People seeing and believing in the momentum makes it’s visible to the human eye just how powerful the mind can be. Same for when a player is having a hot streak. Some of the fans are rooting against them, dreading each shot they see go up and in, because it’s like this guy can’t miss. Some of them are hoping and believing in said streak, cheering louder than ever when they see it playing out before their very eyes.”
He’s moved so close that my eyes are so very near to his, seeing the dark slate-gray color of them.
“When someone wants something and believes in it, and they have enough people all wanting it just as much in that same moment, it takes fewer people to generate that power. But still, that’s how monsters are killed. In the end, the humans don’t even know the power they’ve held over the monsters for too many centuries to count.”
“I really wasn’t expecting that sort of answer,” I tell him honestly.
I’ve gotten so many circling answers that it’s refreshing to have someone simply explain something to me that makes weirdly perfect sense, adding a bit of reason into the mix that helps me sort through things with a different point of view.
My horror movie obsession really might come in handy.
A piece of my mind flits back to my mother coaching me on my threading as I unraveled the curtains of our kitchen.
“How can we do this?” I remember asking.
“Because our ancestors made clothes so divine, that enough people started believing there was magic in our bloodline’s fingers.”
It’d been an intriguing answer as a child and a silly one as an adult that led me to the conclusion my mother didn’t have the real answer. Maybe that was the real answer after all.
“This is the part where you tell me something. Did you hear the vampires say any names, or drop any hints as to what they were up to?” Ace asks, drawing me out of my reverie.
Since I can’t mention the dying part, considering I don’t know him well enough to expose my most precious secrets, I shrug. “They mentioned a woman…Georgina, I think. They said she called a meeting after Damien asked about me.”
He nods like he’s thinking that over. “Damien was more concerned about your sudden disappearance than he’d ever admit.”
“Should I mention it to them?” I ask him, feeling nervous about getting more caught up in monster crosshairs.
“No,” he says with a shake of his head. “No, Georgina has a stick up her ass and is a stickler for rules. But if these unregistered vampires knew of Georgina, then that calls to question her integrity. However, Van Helsing can’t go after Georgina.”
“Why?” I ask, and then grin to myself.
“Because she’s a top tier beta who runs her own house. Only her alpha can question her about something like that without any concrete proof,” he tells me as his eyes meet mine again. “And he’s underground right now.”
“Arion. That’s the only one missing from the deliveries. A Shera chick is there for him. Arion is the vampire alpha, isn’t he?”
I swallow hard after saying that, because that means Shera is probably a vampire if that’s so.
“I’d call you clever, but that’s obvious by this point,” he says with a smirk.
“I’ve known about monsters for less than a week. I’d say I’m sitting at the front of the class right now.”
“You look like a give-the-teacher-an-apple sort of pupil,” he observes, eyes flicking over my ridiculous scarf and even more ridiculous head-wrap that has somehow stayed on during my sleep.
“I was actually the weird chick who was obsessed with death and dark poetry and sat in the back of the class to write said tortured poems,” I clarify, causing his grin to quirk up again.
“We’re all obsessed with death. Anyone who says they aren’t…they’re lying or in denial.”
“Why is Arion underground?”
“From what I hear, he’s a deranged psychopath who slaughtered over a hundred of Emit’s wolves, and just as many or more of Damien’s abominations,” he says too casually.
My eyes widen.
“Vancetto Van Helsing had to put him underground as punishment. It’s actually a very complicated tale,” he adds.
“What is Damien?” I decide to ask.
“Damien isn’t what he creates,” he says instead of answering. “Damien is a cluster fuck of a storm, and there are only so many creatures truly like him,” he continues.
“What are his creations?”
“I think we’ve talked enough about the monsters in town. How about you tell me the secrets that make Violet Portocale. Is your dad truly not a gypsy?”
“He’s so far from gypsy that it’s laughable,” I assure him. “He gets weirded out by the magic now.”
I’m not sure how exactly it happens, but I gloss over the darker parts, and somehow semi vomit the rest of my life story to him. Maybe it’s because he’s a ghost who’s lucid and can’t really tell anyone these things. I’m one of the few gypsies stupid enough to continuously make eye contact.
Even mediums convince the ghosts they can only barely hear them during certain parts of the day when they’re summoned.
I’ve stripped out of Vance’s jacket now that I’ve gotten hot, and the sun has lowered at some point, when I finally near the end of my story. He’s patiently listened, prompted me to continue, seemingly eager to learn all there is.
“Her voicemail said she’d just updated her will, and that she might have to go off grid for a while. She thought she was being hunted, but she didn’t seem entirely certain. That was the night before she died, and she racked up a bill at the hardware store.”
“Mom’s favorite store. She made all her own weapons.”
“What does a gypsy hunter need with weapons? Ghosts don’t die with weapons,” he says, more educated on that subject than possibly any other ghost in existence.
“Weapons to trap those ghosts—iron mostly.”
“Ah,” he says with a firm nod. “Things made with enough iron that can be melted down.”
“I guess. I don’t know. I never got to be a part of that, because she wanted me away from all of it.”
“I’ll explain that to you at a later date, love,” he says as he stands abruptly.
“I bored you to death,” I state on a sigh, feeling stupid now that I realize exactly just how long I’ve been talking about myself.
He’s smiling when I look over. “On the contrary, I’m more intrigued than ever. I just have to go haunt some other people. Told you I wouldn’t be clingy,” he says as he winks and disappears from the room.
He reappears almost immediately, leaning over the bed on the other side and startling me as he mimics the motion of moving my hair out of my face.
“Vampires need an invitation to come in. None of the other monsters do,” he says like that’s important for me to remember.
“That Martin guy’s house was welcoming?”
“Martin is a certifiably insane gypsy. It’s possible he invited them in without realizing it,” he tells me.
Like those are the perfect parting words, he disappears again. At least now I know what Martin is now. I hope I never meet him.
Anna pops in the second he’s gone, and I groan.
“You just missed the ghost I’ve been trying to introduce you to,” I tell her.
“You just missed your boyfriends riding dragons and burning down villages they wanted to pillage,” she replies with a straight face.
“Shouldn’t pillaging come before arson?”
“I tried to tell them that,” she assures me as she takes a seat on the bed. “Now tell me about what just happened in that house. Why did those ribbons come out of your bra and go into your neck? Or did that happen?”
“That happened,” I say on a sigh as I sit up. “The charms get the healing ribbons to go into place so that all that’s usually finished by the time I wake up.”
“Usually? That’s normal?” she asks on a squeak.
“Nothing about me is normal, but no. It’s only happened two other times, almost a third—not counting this last time.”
“What happened on the third time?” she asks in a hushed tone.
“I panicked before I could faint. It’s not pretty when I panic.”
“What happens when you panic?” she asks like she’s waiting for a ghost story.
“I thought you wanted to know about the ribbons,” I say, distracting her.
“I do,” she says as she perks up. “And I’m now more impressed with the fact your bra is part of your arsenal instead of just the unofficial holding ground for tiny, consistently unused potion vials.”
“When you were a child, did you ever hear the story about the girl who always wore the ribbon around her neck?”
“No?” she says, though it sounds like more of a question.
“You’d know if you’d ever heard it,” I assure her. “It’s pretty twisted.”