“What?” He had the audacity to look confused.
“I’m not selling.”
He balked. “Fee, I don’t think you understand. You don’t have a choice. If you refuse to cooperate, I’ll take you to court, and then there’ll be those legal fees and …” He trailed off and closed his eyes. “Look, this place is worth half a mil, you can buy a nice flat with your share. I mean, it’s just you, isn’t it?”
He glanced about, and for the first time in forever, I wished that a hot guy would walk in toweling his hair, PJ bottoms slung low on his hips. He’d pause at the sight of Lucas and frown slightly before walking over to my side and pressing a kiss to my forehead and asking, Fee, babe, who’s your friend?
“Fee?” Lucas prompted.
“No, Lucas. This was Aunt Lara’s home, her legacy. Her parents lived here and their parents before them.”
“And they’re all dead. She’s dead. But we’re not, and we have to live our lives.” He had the audacity to cup my shoulders and look into my eyes with pity. “Live your life, Fee.”
Anger burned away my control, and my fingers curled into my palms, nails biting flesh. I shrugged him off. “Get out.”
“Get the fuck out of my house, you unfeeling wanker.”
He looked genuinely confused, as if I was overreacting, but fuck that he was after my home. My reaction was perfectly valid. How dare he come back into my life after all this time and try and take my house? How dare he intimate that I had no life?
How dare he breathe the same air as me. “Out!”
He backed up as I advanced. “You want this house, then you better fucking lawyer up because you’re going to have a fight on your hands.”
I shoved him out the front door and slammed it in his face before leaning back against it, heart hammering in my chest.
I’d fight for this place. I’d fight tooth and nail, but I wasn’t a fool. I knew the law, and he’d win.
He’d win, and I’d lose the only home I’d ever known. “What the fuck am I gonna do, Cyril?”
But my python had curled up into a ball and tucked his head away, fast asleep.
The pastries sat in their box on the coffee table uneaten. My appetite was gone, which was saying something because I bloody loved pastries. The clock ticked tauntingly at me, 6:30 a.m. The sun would be up in an hour. I should sleep, but Lucas’s words echoed in my brain.
How could he do this to me? He said he saw me as a sister, so how could he take my home? How could he sell Aunt Lara’s legacy? They say blood is thicker than water, but not for Lara.
My mother dumped me in an orphanage at the age of two and a half. Foster homes were my destiny until Lara took me in and gave me a forever home. I was luckier than most. I found a mother and escaped being emotionally scarred. I figure my bio mum probably did me a favor, and no, I never tried to find her. I didn’t care. I had Aunt Lara.
I could have moved out years ago, but no, I became a twenty-five-year-old still living at home, and then she was gone. Aunt Lara was a unique case, a spirit so pure, so good that they shifted her to Deadside immediately. They took her from me. Had it been a year already? She might not even be at Deadside any longer, she may have moved on, but I needed to know she was okay, and I’d get that information beyond those wrought iron gates.
“Fee? What happened?” Cora crouched in front of me. “Are you okay?”
I smiled. “Look at you, sneaking in like a ghost.”
“Fee?” She looked worried.
I shrugged, not sure I wanted to talk about it just yet. “What makes you think something’s wrong?”
She lifted the lid on the pastry box. “An untouched fruit and cream cheese breakfast tart, that’s what.”
“Lucas came by.”
Okay, I guess I did want to talk about it.
Cora sucked in a sharp breath. “Love-of-your-life Lucas? The-one-that-got-away Lucas?”
I nodded. “The-one-that-wants-to-sell-this-house Lucas.”
“What?” She gaped at me.
I grabbed a tartlet. Now that Cora was here, my appetite seemed to be returning. I took a bite and groaned as flavor tangoed in my mouth.
“What are we going to do?” Cora looked bewildered. “This is our home.”
“I don’t know, Cora. I really have no fucking clue.”
“Fuck it,” Cora said. “Go to bed and sleep. I’ll wake you this evening, and then we’re going out. We’re gonna eat a shitload of food and get wrecked at the bar.”
“You can’t get wrecked. You’re dead.”
She grinned. “Fine, I’ll watch you get wrecked and make sure you get home okay, how’s that?”
“Urgh, Cora, not in the mood. I’m too old for the clubbing scene, and it won’t stop Lucas following through on his threat. We’re just delaying the inevitable shit storm.”
“Twenty-five is not too old for anything, and Lucas can eat shit out of the shit storm. We are going out and we’re hitting pause on all the crappy stuff.”
I groaned, already exhausted thinking of the effort required for a night out, not to mention the shoes. My feet ached at the thought.
She needed to see reason. “Cora, babe, remember the last time? I was home by ten-thirty, in my PJs, eating a kebab and watching TV.” I looked up pleadingly at her. “I was happy.” I fake sobbed as if longing for that moment again.
“That was a year ago, and it wasn’t your fault. People need to learn to look but not touch.”
She had to go and remind me of the reason I’d come home early. “No, I need to keep the anger in check.”
“And you have. You do. There is nothing wrong with standing up for the underdog. Nothing wrong with a little righteous indignation.”
If only it were that simple. “Cora … I don’t know.”
“I do. Tomorrow night we partay at Eclipse.”
“Eclipse?” I frowned. “Never heard of it.”
“That’s because it only opened two months ago, and we haven’t been out in forever. Trust me, I have heard excellent things from the local specters. It’s only open two nights a week, Fridays and Saturdays.” She raised her eyebrows. “Margaritas…”
I pouted at her. “That was low. You know I can’t resist the M-word.”
She winked. “Oh, I’m willing to get down and dirty, woman. Now, go get your beauty sleep.” She squinted down at me. “You need it.”
It was only when I was crawling into bed that it hit me. I’d completely forgotten to tell her about the monster and the reapers.
How weird was that?
“Partay!” Cora said for what felt like the hundredth time.
“I swear, Cora, if you say partay one more time, I’ll exorcise you.”
“Which will land me at Soul Savers, at work on my day off. Not cool, Fee, not cool.” She wagged her finger at me.
I took my favorite bootcut jeans off the hanger and stroked them lovingly. They were made of the softest, uber stretchy denim, and I hadn’t been able to fit into them for months. They made my thighs look slim, and my ass look like a peach. A large mutant peach, but still … It was time for the test. Had taking the stairs been worth it? Had the hours at the gym paid off, or had I counteracted the exercise with the pastries and donuts my taste buds loved so much.
Taking a deep breath, I began the shimmy into the magic item. Please fit, please fit. Yes. They were on. Now for the test. I closed my eyes, said a soft prayer to the jean gods, and zipped up. Bam. Check me out.
“I love those on you,” Cora said. “You need to wear them with this.” She handed me a silver cami, tag still on. I’d bought it on impulse on a day when I’d been feeling fabulously confident, but it had never made it off the hanger.
I eyed up the sexy garment wistfully. “Too strappy, and it makes my tits look obscene.”
Cora grinned. “And you just made my point. Put it on. I’m gonna do your makeup, and you’re gonna look hawt.”
“No one says that anymore.”
I didn’t make up my face too often. My complexion was on the pale side and makeup, even the slightest amount, stood out starkly, but Cora was magic with her brushes and the nude colors. She added just enough to accentuate but not look gaudy.
I studied my reflection. “I actually do look hawt.”
Cora sniffed. “No one uses that word.”
I hugged her waist. “I love you, and I want you to look hawt tonight too, so take some.”
Her eyes widened. “What?”
“Draw from me.”
“But, it’s forbidden,” she said in a hushed, dramatic tone.
I rolled my eyes. “Not if I give you permission.”
Her eyes lit up. “Okay, if you insist. Just a little.”
She touched my shoulder lightly, and my skin tingled, a breathless feeling came over me briefly, and then she was done, standing in front of me in full solid form.
My head spun a little with the aftereffects of the siphon, and Cora handed me a bar of chocolate.
I looked down at my waist. “Are you insane?” But tore off the wrapper and ate it anyway.
Cora closed her eyes and flipped her outfit. Not all ghosts could change the way they looked, but a level four like Cora could manipulate her spectral image. A midi skirt and a strappy top paired with cute heels appeared on her body. Her blonde hair framed her sweetheart face, and dark blue shadow made her cornflower-blue eyes pop. She kicked out a leg and did a little Betty Boop bop.
I grinned at her. “You know what, Lucas aside, I have a great feeling about tonight.”
“Me too,” Cora said. “Me too.”
Eclipse was heaving with bodies. But by the time we got to the club, my body was souped-up on margaritas and Thai food, and the crush of people didn’t matter. We elbowed our way to the bar, and Cora ordered more drinks.