He weirdly doesn’t say more than that on the topic.
“Did you get your answers?” he asks me as his head turns to the side, eyes on mine.
“I got more answers than I’ve gotten so far, but Emit finished the cookies a lot faster than expected. Damien…puts images in my head that really fuck with me when he’s too close, so I had to extract myself. But I still got some of the answers I wanted from him.”
I try not to fan myself when I think back to both of those encounters, and end up clearing my throat a few times when I feel blush rising to all the usual places.
“Good. Wish I could have been more help,” he says with a soft smile as he inches closer, putting our faces inches apart, as I finish up the orange and put the peelings back in the bowl.
“You’re the only person who seems to want me to find answers, so I’d say you’ve helped a lot. Besides, Grandma always called those her bartering supplies, so I’m glad they finally have a purpose,” I say quietly, my eyes moving over his dark ones.
“You should have carried on with Damien, since he’s restricted to being only a giver,” he states very seriously, even as he stares at my mouth like he wants to be the one kissing me.
His hair is a little old-school—a Mr. Darcy sort of cut that doesn’t do things for me usually, but he’s a ghost. I can look past the hair if I can look past the fact he’s a ghost.
His hand comes up, stroking my cheek with a touch I can’t feel.
“I’ve made some progress on your vampire case,” he goes on, his hand moving down to my shoulder, slowly easing lower.
“And?” I ask distractedly as I watch the hand I wish I could feel.
“I’ll let you know when I have something concrete for you to take to Van Helsing, love,” he assures me with a small grin. “Now, tell me, sweet gypsy, why it is you’re single enough to go drive two out of three men and one ghost out of our minds?”
I roll my eyes, even as I battle a little bit of a smile, because it’s really, really rare I get flattery of any sort.
His hand travels back up to my face, making me wish I could actually feel his touch. It figures that the one guy who shows real interest in me, as something other than a simple fascination, is already dead.
That’s just my life.
“Right before everything happened with Mom, I’d just ended a two-year relationship,” I decide to tell him, since it’s so easy to tell him anything. Well, almost anything.
I keep my dark secrets to myself. Even Anna thinks I’m a monster now, though she likes monsters. I don’t want him thinking the same.
“Oh? And this lad was someone you loved?”
My smile grows tight. “Have you ever had to keep a part of yourself hidden? So hidden that you know there’s never going to be any way to show someone else without them running away?”
He grins. “Gypsy magic can be terrifying for mortals. Monsters, however, seem to love a little gypsy in their lives.”
“Ha,” I state dryly. “The monsters like to study me like I’m a science experiment, and now I’m doing the same to them. I’ll stop when they do. It’s a game between us. They have zero interest in me on a true romantic level.”
“Too bad Vance is gay. He’d be the most obvious choice for a corporeal boyfriend, eh?” he asks, seemingly amused.
“I wouldn’t go that far. But I weirdly feel more comfortable with him, knowing he’s not interested in women,” I confess, causing his grin to only grow.
“So this lad you ditched…what was his name?” he asks idly.
“Jerome,” I answer on a sigh. “He wanted me to move in, but how could I explain the weird things that happen in my life? What happens when that insane cult hunts me down and he gets caught in the crosshairs? Before I could decide what to do, he actually dumped me.”
“What?” he asks, confused as he props up, as though he can’t fathom someone dumping me.
Again, I don’t get such flattery under normal circumstances, so I eat it up a little, while trying not to be obvious about it.
“I wasn’t spontaneous enough, was one reason,” I say with a shrug. “It’s hard to be spontaneously sexy in some closet when you have a slightly dangerous arsenal always packed in your bra and can’t let your guard fully down. I felt responsible for his life when I was with him, and I took the responsibility serious.”
“How do you fit so many things in that bra of yours?” he asks more seriously, though his lips twitch.
“Very small glass vials,” I state dismissively. “The point is, unhooking my bra at random could have been bad. And when he showed up at my place, I had to kick him out if there were potions cooking on the stove. He couldn’t know I was a gypsy, and I couldn’t stop being a gypsy.”
“We never stop being what we are, even when it’s an inconvenience,” he says as his lips touch my cheek…I think.
Hard to tell, since there’s no sense of physical feeling.
“You should be very glad I’m not in flesh. It’d be hard to get rid of me,” he says, back to the flattery I pretend to be used to, so I can seem cool and stuff.
My phone rings, interrupting us, and I glance down to it.
“That would be the Van Helsing now,” Ace says with a small grin as Vancetto Valhinseng flashes across my screen.
I programmed the names long before I knew my best clients were monsters or a monster hunter.
I answer, hearing Anna shouting about starting a harem in the background. I guess she’s still with the ‘pretty monsters’ who beat me to Vance’s house.
“I can’t accept gifts of gratitude,” Vance tells me very sternly, causing my grin to grow, since that’s a weird thing to say.
“Oh, shit. You gave him the gift as gratitude?” Ace asks, laughing as he turns his head away.
Pressing the mute button, I explain to Ace, “I saw Emit and Damien peering through the window when I got there, so I played it by ear.”
Ace laughs harder as I return to my call, unmuting it.
“Why can’t you accept a gift of—”
“It’s a Van Helsing thing. Our curse demands we kill, save, and never be thanked with any sort of token of appreciation. I can’t keep this unless you’re willing to barter, and I would like to keep it.”
They really do like the gifts, which means Ace definitely knows his shit.
“Hmm. I’ll think of something to trade for it.”
“Actually, I thought about giving you a small weapon.”
All the background noise cuts out, and Ace’s laughter ceases as well.
Ace clears his throat as I sit stupidly, not sure why this is apparently a big deal.
“You’re giving her a weapon?” I hear Damien asking incredulously.
“A small one worth more in estimated value,” Vance’s muffled voice replies.
“There’s something special and forbidden about a Van Helsing weapon, isn’t there?” I decide to ask.
“Only when it’s given and not stolen,” he tells me. “It’ll be the first time I’ve gifted a weapon to anyone outside of my knights.”
I sit up a little, trying to give him my attention since this sounds big. I’ll ask about these knights when my brain isn’t already short-circuiting.
“Just for an old pocket watch?”
“It’s a very exquisite timepiece, and it’s a gift from a Portocale. The only justifiable gift I can give in return must match the debt, but it comes with conditions.”
Ace exhales like that’s a good thing.
“I’ll explain the magnitude of the gift later, but considering you’ve been attacked by vampires recently, it may not be a bad idea for you to have protection,” Vance continues.
I feel like I’ve accomplished something, weirdly enough. “Okay,” I say again, though this time there’s more excitement in the word.
A Van Helsing weapon? I wonder if it’ll be a little disappearing handle-blade thingy I can tuck in my bra. He said it’d be small.
“No more gifts. I’ve forgotten how hard it is to resist a gift from a Portocale gypsy,” Vance adds before hanging up.
“Is there anything you can tell me about the history between gypsies and monsters?” I ask Ace as I put the phone away.
He stands abruptly.
“Gypsies and monsters have a very long and intertwined history. I’m afraid there are some secrets not even I can divulge,” he tells me idly. “I should go do more recon work on the vampire situation.”
He’s gone before I can argue, and I drop to the bed, trying to figure out how I started falling for a ghost. Though, I have to admit, he gives exceptional advice on monsters and their weaknesses.
“You have your smitten face,” Anna says, causing me to startle on the bed when she appears beside me. “I missed your ghost boyfriend again, I suppose,” she adds on a sigh.
“Yes. You did. How was your day with the pretty monsters?” I ask her on a smile.
“We went to Disney World,” she says wistfully.
“Of course you did,” I tell her as I stand and start to head to the bathroom so I can privately enjoy my musings about another ghost.
“Is it true that ghosts grow entirely lucid when they possess a body, even if they’ve started the final decay?” she asks seriously.
Pausing, I turn and look over my shoulder.
“What makes you ask that?”
“There was a set of dead triplets who showed up at Disney World and told me as much when I was trying to possess a woman to have fun with the wolf man.”
“You’re too far into the disease to possess someone unless they’re willingly possessed, and it’s wrong to just try to take someone’s body. You’re dead, Anna. Don’t hurt the living just because you’re not happy about it.”
She mocks a gasp. “Harsh.”
“You got real with me about my ribbon girl theory and made me face up to being a monster. This is me returning the favor and pointing out your reality.”
I go to the shower, and she follows, predictably toeing the salt line. If I shut the door, she’ll start singing, and I’d rather talk than let my gypsy urges cause me to sing along with her again.
“I would like to be lucid for one perfect day,” Anna says quietly as I climb into the shower.
“It would drain you to possess me if that’s what you’re asking. I’ve already told you this. I’m a gypsy. It’d be twice as hard, even with my permission, for you to keep living after ejection.”
“The triplets think it would be safer with a gypsy, actually.”
I’m not sure if these triplets of hers even exist, and I’m not an expert on possessions and what it does to ghosts, so I shut up.