“Violet, are there pink elephants dancing atop your shower rod?” she asks as I tip my head back and look.
I’ve decided not to rule anything out, and it’s starting to make me feel more and more gullible.
“Would I see pink elephants in your body?”
“Doubtful. I’ve never seen pink elephants.”
“See where I’m going with this?”
“You just think you want to hijack my vagina,” I remind her.
“No, I think I want to have a day where I can enjoy a glass of smooth bourbon, the feel of silk against freshly cleaned skin, and the touch of a man before I forget I was ever a person and slip into the next phase of this disease that will leave me lost until I’m a pile of salt.”
It’s the most serious she’s sounded since she rode into my life on my mother’s casket.
I pull open the shower curtain and see her standing there with hopeful eyes.
“Let me ask Ace what he knows about ghosts and possessions, and I’ll think about it.”
“Really?” she asks on an excited squeal.
“You can’t have sex with Damien, because he can’t know that he can’t kill me,” I remind her.
“Yeah, but what if he can kill you? You heard what he said about pixies and fireflies, remember?” she states, trying her damnedest to reason with me.
“Vampires and werewolves, not…you know what? It doesn’t matter. The point is, I’m positive he can’t kill me, because I know I can’t die as certainly as I know I can’t fly.”
“I could fly once. I was Amelia crossing the Pacific.”
“I thought Amelia crossed the Atlantic. Or tried to.”
“No, it was definitely the Pacific,” she argues. “I remember.”
I close the curtain back and turn off the water before toweling off. As I get the towel wrapped around me and step out, I decide to go to the wall and pull up a piece of chalk.
Writing on the small chalkboard—my new way of communicating with Ace, since he can’t find me as easily as Anna—I try to ignore the weird butterflies in my stomach.
Need to talk.
Maybe when he pops in and sees it, he’ll hang around and wait on me like he’s started doing. The butterflies that accompany his presence are just a random fluttering—not the beginnings of an epically pointless crush.
Lies. All lies. I’m definitely crushing on a ghost.
“What about Emit?” she asks, getting back to her important topic.
“He’s a mountain of a man. He’ll crush you. I’m not sure he’s the kind of guy to take a spin on after being out of the saddle for so long,” I tell her as I move throughout the house.
“Are you sure Vance is gay? Because he watches your ass when you walk away.”
I pause, but then decide she’s ridiculous. Ace has been right about positively everything. Besides, even if Vance wasn’t gay, I’m certain he’s way out of my league. He’s too sophisticated and proper.
“I’m sure,” I tell her dismissively.
“I’ll work something out for you if I decide this isn’t going to kill you to try.”
“So what if it does?” she asks flippantly. “I’m already dead, and soon I won’t have any piece of my mind left that isn’t invaded by hungry hippos.”
She blinks at me, and I try to pretend there’s not a pang in my chest.
“I’ll work something out,” I tell her again while turning and walking away, batting away the stray tear that slips out before she can see it, as a weight settles onto my chest.
Never get attached to the dead, Violet. I always end up hurt when I don’t listen to my mother’s advice.
“It will kill her,” Ace tells me as he follows me through the house.
A sick, queasy feeling gathers in my stomach as I clutch the edges of the countertop. He cages me in from behind, his hands passing through mine like he’s trying to hold them as his face leans in next to mine.
“But there might be another way,” he finally says on a quiet exhale.
I turn around, and he pulls his head back, still leaning so that he’s more level with me as his eyes stay on mine.
He really is hauntingly gorgeous, and it’s devastatingly cruel that I found him a century or so after he’s been dead. My life sucks so hard sometimes.
“What other way?”
“You’re a gypsy,” he says as he looks around like he’s worried who’s listening.
A chill slithers up my spine, and I also glance around the room.
“A Portocale gypsy, to be more exact,” he goes on. “The ghost sickness is a side-effect of the Portocale curse.”
“What?” I ask on a rasp. “You’re saying Anna is dying because non-freak Portocale gypsies have to kill ghosts to stay alive after their thirteenth birthday?”
He gives me a sympathetic look as he presumably cups my chin, making me hate the fact I can’t feel him right now.
“You poor dear. Someone called you a gypsy freak?”
“Emit. He swore it wasn’t derogatory,” I tell him, wondering if I should feel retroactive offense now.
Mom has some reading material on gypsy freaks that I’ve not gotten started on yet.
“From Emit’s lips, it likely wasn’t derogatory. Careful who you let call you that, though. It’s not the same with all people, and you’ll look silly if you can’t tell the difference.”
Rolling my eyes, I look away. “I just learned monsters exist, and now I’m toying with alphas just because they’ve been toying with me. I already look silly.”
“Indeed,” he says too quickly, and I look over to see him smile. “But it’s certainly adorable to see you silly. And to you, a Portocale gypsy who could be the answer to their freedom from one particularly nasty curse, they are certainly harmless,” he assures me.
“How can I be the answer to their freedom?”
He lifts his head like he’s listening for something, and I shake out of my own derailed thoughts.
“So Anna’s dying for the same curse Portocale gypsies have to kill ghosts for,” I say quickly, hoping he isn’t about to bail abruptly—the way he normally does when he does that listening thing. “Why?”
“Doesn’t matter why. All that matters is that there may be a way to change it,” he says, smiling tightly as his eyes dip to meet mine.
Clearing my throat, I look down. “I feel like I owe you a debt for everything you’ve told me that no one else has bothered to. Since it’s been a lot, actually. More than I thought I’d get when I was running in circles. I hate to ask for more, since the debt is actually getting heavy on my mind, but—”
“Gypsies and monsters hate their debts,” he says with a smirk, winking at me. “I know. We’ll call it even up to this point if you promise to never tell your monster entourage they’ve had me for a stalker,” he says with a shrug. “They wouldn’t appreciate that, and I’d consider it the biggest personal favor I could ever ask for.”
“I promise,” I tell him without hesitation.
“A gypsy’s promise means the deal holds no matter what,” he tells me, smirking, as he gives me what would be a nudge…if he had a physical body. “So be sure you mean it.”
I’m not sure why I smile. Maybe because he’s trying to educate me on being a gypsy.
“I know what a gypsy’s promise is. When a gypsy breaks their promise, they’re no longer trusted. By anyone.”
“And that precious gypsy pride gets whittled away. You’re the first truly powerful gypsy to have pride in longer than I can remember,” he says a little more soberly, like he’s seriously making me consider this.
“I consider this a fair and equal trade. But you were saying something about curing ghost sickness, and that’ll be a new debt,” I go on, ensuring he knows that, because a sizeable debt such as that will certainly have to be paid, and I don’t know how I can repay a ghost for something like that.
“Curing the ghost sickness would be payment to me as well. Don’t get your hopes up. There’s a damn good chance this isn’t going to actually work, but everything’s worth a shot,” he tells me as he looks around. “I’ll be back with details as soon as I have a firmer handle on them.”
He’s gone in the next blink, and I exhale a groan as I lean over a table, refusing to hope for something that could crush me when it inevitably fails. I can’t lose Anna right now. She’s quite literally the only thing holding me together on some days.
Anna lands in my living room in the next instant like I’ve summoned her by thinking about her for too long.
“I think I have my shopping list sorted.”
“What shopping list?” I ask as I discreetly and quickly wipe away the stray tears and turn to face her, putting to use my best smile.
“The list for my big day.”
“What if you don’t really want a big day, but you’re touching the delusional phase and think you—”
“Have you seen the crazy ghosts who walk around in the delusional phase?” she asks me with a condescending expression. “I can assure you I’m not there yet. Other than the purple gorilla in the corner humping the donkey, I see nothing out of the ordinary today. But I’m still lucid enough to be certain that’s not legit.”
She gives me a firm nod like she’s trying exceptionally hard to let me know she’s of the sanest mind possible to make this decision.
It reminds me just how dire her situation really is. What’s the point in going on when you’re no longer really even there?
Trying not to get my own hopes up that Ace is going to return with an impossible cure at the last possible moment like the heroes do in movies, I don’t mention it to Anna.
Only one of us should have to feel disappointed.
“Let’s go shopping,” I say, smiling when she squeals in excitement and does her horrible happy dance.
“I haven’t seen much of our gypsy girl, and since she can somehow see me now, though it should be impossible—”
“There are plenty of gypsy freaks who can see you when you should be invisible,” Emit interrupts, talking over me as he runs a frustrated hand through his hair.
The four bitches on his sofa are lounging in robes, waiting on their alpha to remember they’re in the room.
He growls as he stares at the still-empty bowl the Portocale gypsy left him with.
It’s sitting right next to the warped knit covering she brought it in that smells just like her and that sweet blood of hers.
I pat my mirror in my coat pocket like I do every five minutes or so, just making sure it’s still there.