©2006, Cassandra Curtis
Blessed silence marked the layers of pain as she pressed her cheek against the cold glass and waited. She knew the noise would return as it always did, but for an instant, she could close her eyes and let her mind drift through the still landscape of darkness. Her thoughts settled in a valley of soft comfort.
Time held no meaning while the silence remained. If he died tonight, she wouldn't forgive herself. She could have told him. But would he have believed her? No, Kern was a man of logic and science. He would have dismissed her foolish notions.
A flash of lightning split the sky as she opened her eyelids. Rain clung to the clear perfection of glass, casting shadowy rivulets. She sensed his presence and turned away from the window to face the man who had interrupted her brief respite.
"You must learn to block the voices or go mad, Simone. The tuning crystal you wear is not dependable." He reached out and took hold of the multifaceted jewel, cradling it in the palm of his hand.
Simone captured his gaze, challenging him, and felt his fingers press into the flesh of her shoulders. A mistake–his mistake.
The thready beat of blood coursing through him woke her as nothing else could. It pulled at the dormant monster inside. She knew when the crescendo came, she would be helpless to fight the raging torrent of need...the desperate cravings.
“I am more than what you think I am, Kern. More than you can handle.” She welcomed the sexual energy that always accompanied the hunger. She’d worked with this man for over a year, and wanted him from the first moment she'd looked into his eyes. Cat’s eyes, secretive and knowing.
“You need to concentrate on the vibrations and learn to tune out the voices, or it’ll drive you insane.”
“The crystal—” She began.
“We can’t depend on it.”
“I am trying, you know. Maybe I need something to take my mind away from it. To just relax.” She sent a wicked thought his way, and wondered if he received it. Simone knew the exact moment when her planted thought registered.
“I thought we agreed our relationship was strictly a working one—a partnership to develop and test the crystal interface,” he reminded her.
“Afraid I’ll turn feral, Kern?”
“You don’t want me, Simone. This is the damn drug talking.”
“No, it’s not. You think you can hide inside that lab coat? I’ve seen you without the nerdy clothes, without the glasses you insist on wearing to work. Why, Kern?” She ran a fingertip down his smooth jaw to his lips, and watched his muscles flex in reaction.
“I don’t understand...”
“You work out in your basement. In the nude. I’ve seen you in my dreams, and my dreams never lie.” She removed his glasses and enjoyed the startled look on his face.
“How is that possible?”
“You tell me, Kern. You’re the scientist. I’m just the lab rat.” She imagined them in her bed.
His eyes darkened, becoming more intense, more focused. “It can’t be...”
She ran a hand down his shirt. “Feels real to me,” she whispered. Her hands drifted lower. "Don't be afraid. This won't hurt...much." Her fangs lengthened. Just a nibble, a taste, she promised herself.
Kern closed his eyes, a groan of acceptance escaping his lips, as he gave into the inevitable and bent his neck, exposing his throat.
She'd probably regret taking his blood, knew that by doing so, it bound him closer to her, but knowing these things didn't stop her. She was so very hungry and it had been so long...besides, she'd been fighting this crazy, overwhelming desire for him, almost since she first met him. Only his harsh groan of pleasure mixed with pain stopped her feeding.
"Why did you stop? Don't you want me?"
"Of course I want you, but I made a promise a long time ago, and I won't bind you to me." She took a careful step backward, the slight distance easing the temptation.
"I never asked you to promise me anything, except to help me with my research." Kern said, and closed the gap between them.
"The promise I made was to myself. A long time ago, probably before you were even born," she sighed, adding, "More than a sip and I'd make you my slave. I can't trust myself."
"Then trust me to know what I want."
"And what is it you want, Kern?"
"You. Only you." He pulled her into his embrace.
At that precise moment, she knew both heaven and hell in his arms.
©2006, Cassandra Curtis
On slow nights, I like to get as much writing done as possible. I figured the storm's golf ball sized hail kept most sensible people indoors, so I might even finish a chapter or two. I poured myself a fresh cup of Earl Gray and sat down on the barstool in front of my laptop computer. I knew that tonight I would defeat the "wall" –well...so long as the battery lasted and electricity stayed on.
I built a rhythm and stuck with it, my fingers dancing over the keyboard like drunken sailors on shore leave. But that's okay. I'm known as a woman of many drafts. I wasn't concerned with the misspelled words or crappy syntax. I let it flow. Stream of consciousness baby
Minutes blended into hours, and my cup grew cold. I got up to fix a fresh pot of tea when my eyes caught something on the far end of the counter. I walked over and picked up what looked to be a dirty coin—an old peso.
Kinda cheap for a tip, I thought. I threw it in the empty tip jar and went about making my tea as the coin continued to spin in the glass.
"Heads or Tails?" I registered the sexy cadence of a male, speaking Spanish, and barely made the translation.
I wheeled, looking for the source of the voice. Damn, must be getting old, 'cause I'd swear no one had entered the café since TK left hours earlier. I got out from behind the counter and glanced around. What the hell?
"Show yourself!" I said, thinking that if another disembodied voice spoke to me, I'd go ahead and burn a pound of white sage in this place tomorrow. Smoke them out.
"My last peso, señorita. A shot of tequila, por favor." Another coin, this one a bit shinier than the last, spun on the countertop.
A hazy image, like a faded recording flickered near the end of the counter. Spectral phenomena. The gals would never believe me. I'd give my best pair of stiletto boots for an EVP recorder or a digital thermal camera right now.
"Sorry, but this isn't a saloon. It's a café. Coffee, tea, hot cocoa, soda, or bottled water. Take your pick—if you can actually drink."
He seemed to pause over that consideration. "No tequila? Coffee, sí. Black."
"One cup of black coffee coming up." I walked behind the counter and made myself busy, wondering if a ghost could get hopped up on caffeine. I set it on the countertop and waited to see if he could lift it. The ghostly form began to solidify, his hands reaching out to grasp the sides of the mug. He bent forward, nostrils flaring at the rich aroma.
Damn, my first real lepke. And no one here but me, myself, and my shadow to confirm the sighting.
"Gracias." He looked up at me through a thick fringe of black lashes most women would kill for. His eyes were deep pools of swirling, dark chocolate. Antonio Banderas wished he looked this good. My ghostly visitor epitimized the words handsome desperado.
"So, you just passing through?" Oh real good. Make a joke about his transient, incorporeal state.
"I look for my brother. He rides with Pancho Villa."
"I think you missed him by a century. Not to mention that this ain't Durango or Chihuahua."
"Where am I ?"
"The Twilight Zone." Not very helpful, but what can I say? Anything I told him would make things more confusing.
He continued to sip thoughtfully as I drank in the sight of such a magnficent specimen. Shame he wasn't a living, breathing hunk of man.
"This twilight zone you speak of... your accent...it is American, sí? I am in United States?"
"Yes and no. The "cantina" is real, but in cyberspace."
"Yes...it's...well..." I struggled, searching my brain for a way to explain computers and the internet to someone who probably died long before the invention of radio. "...Sort of like you. Intangible. A kind of ghost."
"Ghost? You think I am a ghost?" Rich male laughter poured into every cell in my body. A quiver shot to my belly...and below.
"You're the one who said you have a brother that rides with Pancho Villa! Pancho and his men are long gone now. Dead and buried almost a century."
"No. It has been but a few short months since last I saw mi hermano. You are mistaken."
"Look, I'm sorry, but dead is dead. If it's any consolation, you might meet up with him if he's a ghost, too."
"Quit your talk of ghosts! I am no ghost. My brother is no ghost. Pancho Villa is no ghost."
"Ok-a-a-y...I'll just go back to what I was doing. Take your time." Sheesh, some 'people' are so pigheaded.
"I am not a ghost." He muttered.
I decided to ignore him. I hit the space bar on my sleepy laptop, and started rereading the last paragraph I typed. I heard a grunt, and looked up in time to see his hand go through the cup, then him go through the floorboards. Damn, that must be a real bitch. I debated whether to get up and check on him—providing he didn't also pass through the cellar—when he appeared at my side.
"Geeze, give a gal some warning! What the hell happened?"
"You are the keeper of this zone, senorita. Do you not know?"
"Not a clue, handsome."
His lips curved into a wide grin, exposing a set of flashing white teeth.
"You called me handsome."
Oh boy...I recognized that look. The big bad wolf wore one just like it, right before he took a bite of little red riding hood.
"Look, I have a weakness for Latino and Hispanic men, okay. I'm sure it's just a passing phase." So what if the phase had lasted over thirty years...
"I am also romantic, senorita." He rolled the "r"–stretched the sound on purpose. I imagined that trilling tongue coursing over my body. Stop it! He's a ghost–a fantasma!
My favorite apparition leaned forward and proceeded to place a ghostly kiss on my lips, even as his impossibly strong hands held my hips in place against his own. For a few precious minutes, I felt it. He was as solid and real as any man. His palms curved around to rest on my derriere, and press intimately.
The jingle of chimes at the front of the cafe broke the silence.
"I, umm...oh..." Where did my brain go? "I have customers." I scooped my pad and pencil off the counter, and practically ran to the table near the front of the cafe.
You'd think I'd have learned from my last ghostly encounter. It's difficult enough to maintain a relationship with a live man, let alone one who has been dead over a 100 years! They tend to disappear.
The newcomers were a pack of goth groupies. They ordered black coffee to go with their equally black lipstick and nails. Never have understood that. And I wondered if they, too, saw my handsome desperado? I turned to walk back and realized he was gone. Oh well, I knew it wouldn't last...
I took down four large cups from the hooked rack and placed them on the tray, then grabbed a pot of our finest blend and made my way back to the Marilyn Manson-inspired quartet.
Finished with my customers, I went back to the counter, sat down on my stool, and stared at the screen saver on my laptop.
Would I ever see him again? I hoped so.
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