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Authors: Michele Hauf

Tags: #Horror, #Time Travel, #Ghost, #Paranormal Romance, #vampire, #paris, #michele hauf

Dark Rapture (2 page)

BOOK: Dark Rapture
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Gary looked behind his reflection in the mirror. “Another headache?”

Vince nodded and rolled onto the bed. He moved carefully, not even wrinkling the material as he sank onto it. Then, as I if measuring his time, he slowly moved his legs down to stretch the length of the bed and laboriously reached up to pull a pillow over his face.

“It’ll pass. Let me get some sleep.”

“Do you want me to get anything for you?” Gary asked, but he knew that Vince would say no. His headaches, along with painful body spasms, were an all too common occurrence. He knew that Vince would simply stretch out and bear the pain until it subsided. “I know you’re sick of me saying this, but you should see a doctor.”

The pillow moved a little and Gary leaned in to hear Vince’s muffled reply. “You know how I feel about doctors.”

“Quacks, I know, I know.” Vince’s mother had cancer, and after all she had been through lately, it was enough to keep Vince far away from the clinics. “I’m taking a shower. No doubt you’ll be asleep by the time I get out.”

A spasm of pain doubled Vince’s body and he brought his knees up to his chest while his chin peeked out from under the pillow. Gary pulled the top sheet over his friend’s shaking body. He wished there was more he could do to ease his pain. No matter how often he saw one of Vince’s attacks, he’d never get used to them.

He patted Vince’s leg, his way of reassuring him that he wanted to do more.

“So what did you think of Scarlet?”

Vince peeked out from under the pillow, his hair clinging to the sweat on his face. “She’s hot, Gary. I’m surprised you never mentioned how gorgeous she is. Doesn’t look a bit like you, lucky girl.” He grimaced, tightening his grip around his knees to hold off the pain.

Gary shrugged. “Yeah, we’ve got the same hair, but after that I think I kind of got rooked in the lovely-young-thing department.” He flexed a firm muscle, squeezing it to test. “Not that I’m chopped liver. But you’re right, she is beautiful.” He stood and picked up the towel she had laid across his bed for him. “She’s looking for a boyfriend.”

The pillow fell back against the bed frame as Vince reached out and pulled the sheets up to his chin. “Oh yeah?”

“I knew that would interest you.” Gary paused by the bathroom door. “Bet the pain is nearly gone now.”

Vince smiled and nodded.

 

Chapter Two

 

The next day Scarlet sat sandwiched between the two men in the front seat of Gary’s beat-up Monte Carlo as they drove to check out the mansion. She listened while they excitedly made plans for their new home. She tried to maintain a polite distance from Vince, who sat slightly askew on the passenger seat to allow her room, but it was just too hard and she soon gave up, letting her leg slide firmly against the rich maroon suede that covered his long limbs. His arm was draped over the back of the seat, catching her hair as it fell like dark feathers over his forearm, and Scarlet secretly wished that he was aware of it.

Soon she noticed that Vince did seem distracted. She knew he was looking at her out of the comer of his eye and she tried to keep a smile to herself when he failed to hear Gary’s question.

With his hand cupped over his mouth, Gary attempted to get Vince’s attention. “Earth to Vince.” He chewed voraciously and recupped his hand. “Come in, space cadet.”

A red flush spread across Vince’s face. “What?”

The car sat idling at a stop sign beneath the darkening sky and the air was heavy and moist, signaling more rain.

“Uh…” Vince looked out the window. “…yeah. Just ahead. This is Penumbra Pass, isn’t it?”

Gary shook his head, winked at Scarlet, then drove on.

“So when did you find out about this place, Vince?” she asked.

“My aunt Rachel told me about it. She’s the only relative from my father’s side that I’ve ever known, including my father. He took a hike before I was born.” He and Gary cast each other a serious glance and Vince cleared his throat. “Anyway, this used to be my great-grandfather Lyons’ place. He’s been gone for a while and the mansion has been sitting empty since he disappeared.”

“He disappeared?”

“Yeah, well, we had a funeral for him but the coffin was empty.”

Scarlet gaped at Vince, not understanding the apparent humor both he and Gary seemed to find in the conversation. Why would someone have a funeral for an empty coffin?

“He just sort of disappeared one day, never came home, nobody could ever find him. So, after a few months, the maids left and the other servants packed up the mansion and went in search of work. He’s definitely dead by now.”

“He has a weird family,” Gary added while he navigated a long road canopied by tall trees lush with broad leaves and thick clumps of white flowers.

“Shut up, man. Just because a few of them ended up in the loony bin doesn’t mean that we’re all strange,” Vince said, though he remained light-hearted about it. “I have a picture of him.” He dug into his pants pocket and produced his wallet, which he flipped open before Scarlet. “My aunt gave it to me. Pretty freaky, huh?”

Scarlet took the wallet and pressed the time-worn plastic close to the picture for a better look. It was amazing. It was almost as if Vince was carrying around a picture of himself, though the blond man in the picture wore funny-looking sunglasses and sported a cane.

“Apparently he always used to wear those funky blue shades. Pretty cool that he looks so much like me, huh? I keep it with me. It’s the only tie to my paternal side of the family. Except now, I have the mansion.”

Scarlet handed him the wallet and said, “He’s a very handsome man,” hoping Vince would get the innuendo.

Pulling into the driveway, the Monte Carlo glided past a broken iron gate tangled in withered vines and yellow starflowers, and stopped in the middle of a jungle of weeds and overgrown shrubbery.

Forgetting her flirtations, Scarlet frowned. “This is it?”

Gary surveyed the treacherous greenery before them. “Afraid so, sis. Looks like we’re gonna have to get out the machetes and chop our way up to the door.”

He laughed, but seeing the solemn look on Scarlet and Vince’s faces he quickly clammed up.

An ancient two-story house sprawled before the trio. Visions of nightmares and death crept from the decaying fieldstone walls, and shriveled vines climbed the columns that supported the eaves over the front door. The entire front of the crumbling structure was enshrouded by more of the clinging vines, which appeared to be holding the building together in spots where the stones had crumbled and fallen away. The windows had been boarded up, and dead tree branches took their final resting place on the shattered red shingles. One could almost hear the house moan with old age and neglect.

Vince stepped out of the car, landing in a thicket of nasty weeds decorated with purple flowers and thorns. With his mouth hanging open and his head shaking from side to side, he stared at the miserable mess around him. The toe of his tattered cowboy boot kicked through the weeds and he huffed disgustedly when it became entangled in the wild vines.

Scarlet stepped out behind Vince. “Not quite what you expected?”

“You could say that.” He blasted her with a cold look, surprising her after having only seen his gentle demeanor.

He does get testy, doesn’t he? she thought, and she shrugged, offering him her unsure silence.

Gary hopped out of the car. “Well, fellow explorers, are we ready?”

Vince nodded and the two stomped down the tall purple-flowered weeds and tangled grass to clear a path for Scarlet to follow up to the crumbling brick steps. Dark clouds rolled over their heads and flashes of lightning pierced the sky in the distance. A cluster of palm trees in front of the house rippled as the downpour began, sending the threesome running for the door.

Brandishing a key provided by his aunt, Vince wrestled with the rusted lock, while Gary and Scarlet huddled behind him to avoid the pendulous raindrops. Finally, after much twisting and turning and swearing at the rusted mechanism, the heavy oak door creaked open to reveal a long, dark hallway.

Vince turned and sighed, as if to muster up courage to go in, and then stepped inside, followed by Scarlet and Gary.

Scarlet squinted to make out the features of the lengthy hallway. Muted daylight shone across the marble floor and lit up a portion of the richly papered walls. Everything in sight was thick with dust and cobwebs.

The wind rose, slamming the door shut behind them. They all spun to assure themselves that the others were still there. The hallway was now almost totally black save for the glimmer of light that shone through the boards on the windows to either side of the door.

Gary snapped his gum and laughed, but nervously.

“I can’t believe this,” Vince whispered.

“Help me pry one of these off,” Gary said as he hooked his fingers beneath a long slat of wood, which let in the hazy light.

Vince kicked the wood into the corner of the entryway and it bounced off the baseboard, leaving behind a deep gouge. “Man, this is a joke.”

“Maybe it gets better,” said Gary.

“Right,” Vince snapped, and started down the dusty hallway. “I bet it’s haunted, too.”

Gary followed his long strides while Scarlet brought up the rear, their footsteps lifting the dust from the floor in tiny billowing clouds. She looked over the maroon velvet wallpaper crusted with dust and traced a clean spot with her finger across the raised gold wood chair rail that separated the wallpaper from the brown burnished stucco below.

Above her head hung two crystal chandeliers, each at least six feet across by her estimate. The sparkle was gone from the many tiers of crystals, weighed heavily by a thick crust of dust. But the grandeur the house had once possessed was apparent.

Ahead of her, the men stopped in the kitchen. Hearing their groans and sighs, she felt awful that their dreams had been so quickly dashed by the house’s sad state of disrepair. This place was definitely going to need some work before they could move in. Which in a way was good, because then Gary would have to stay with her longer.

Gary flicked the sheets down from a window over the rusted porcelain sink and the three stood there looking at the grime, each sure of the other’s silent thoughts.
What a dump.

“It doesn’t look like anybody’s lived here for a hundred years. Except maybe ghosts.” Vince flung his arms out and the fringes on his pants shimmied madly as he paced the kitchen. “There is no way my great-grandfather could have lived in this mess. It’s going to take months to clean up.”

“Remember, you did say he’d been gone for a while.” Gary fingered a delicate cobweb that spread across the sink. “That might explain the, ah, mess?”

“Mess?” Vince shook his head and disappeared into the adjoining room, leaving Scarlet picking through the bare cupboards and Gary coughing in a cloud of dust.

Curious to find the hidden opulence beneath the debris, Scarlet pulled the handle on the drawer below the counter but jumped back as if she’d touched a hot stove. “Oh, my goodness!”

“What?” Gary rushed to her side. A swarm of shiny black bugs skittered toward the corners of the drawer to flee the light.

“Well, if we’ve been cast in the latest horror movie, I don’t like the set.” Gary shook his head. Then he laughed, invading the grayness with a positive note.

He took Scarlet by the arm and strolled her into the next room. They found Vince ripping down dusty coverings from the massive windows that stretched from floor to ceiling. The musty smell was almost unbearable. It was as though all the windows had been left open during a storm and then closed immediately afterward to allow the water to mildew and rot.

“And through here we have the grand room,” Gary said majestically as he led Scarlet over to where Vince stood. “Oh, don’t mind all that dust and dirt, after all—” he smiled devilishly, rubbing his hands together with an evil grin, “—we
like
it that way.” His sinister laugh made her giggle as they had when they were kids.

“Yeah,” Vince halfheartedly joined in as he walked over to the staircase. “I like the fact that when you go upstairs, you can take a chunk of railing with you.”

Splinters flew as he grasped and pulled out a thick spiral dowel from under the railing with such ease one would have thought it a balsa prop from a movie set. He whipped the rotting wood into the darkness behind him, where it landed with a dull
clunk
. A split second later followed the crisp rustling of tiny feet.

Vince laughed sarcastically. “I guess we can’t say that this place has exactly been
uninhabited
since my great-grandfather disappeared.”

Scarlet couldn’t help feeling sorry for Vince as he stared into the dark recesses of the room, his head hanging heavily, his hair veiling his disappointment. But this place did have hope, she thought as she looked around and was awestruck by the massive size of the grand room.

Thick velvet curtains of a dark forest green, dirtied with years of dust, hung two stories down to the floor, with long gold braided fringes dangling lifelessly around the edges. Underneath were graying white sheers that subdued the bright streaks of lightning that now flashed continuously in the sky.

Although the furniture had, for some reason, been removed, she tapped her toes on the faded hardwood floors and her mind carried her to a lush party buzzing with pretty maidens and handsomely dressed princes. She imagined herself layered in the finest taffeta and lace, dancing a waltz with a dashing stranger, her feet barely touching the ground as her prince swirled her across the expansive floor. She could almost hear the music singing out from an invisible spinet piano, until, of course, her two left feet sent her crashing back to reality.

“Vince, I see a lot of wonderful things in this mess.” She spun around and looked at him. “Don’t be such a pessimist.”

He merely nodded and headed up the stairs to explore the rest of the house. Gary beckoned and they followed the lanky blond, carefully tiptoeing up the fragile steps that creaked with the weight of their bodies. At the top of the staircase stretched a wide walkway carpeted with a threadbare Oriental rug, once a dark majestic burgundy, now faded to a light pink.

Glancing around, Scarlet noted that Vince had stolen ahead, now very interested in his surroundings.

Gary pried the wood away from the sills to reveal large double-paned windows all across the upper level. Through flashes of lightning, the two could make out the lavish gold trimmings and the ornately carved plaster on the walls that Gary estimated was over a hundred years old. At the end of the hall a dingy suit-of-armor stood guarding the long-forgotten mansion, and past it were the bedrooms.

Gary snuck up behind Scarlet while she examined the steel suit, running her fingers lightly over the dust. “So, can you tell yet that he likes you?”

“Not really, but I have been thinking about what you said last night. Would it bother you if I said I might also be interested in him?”

“Bother me? No. I think it would be great if you two got together. Vince is cool, but he could use a level head like yours to keep him grounded. I know you’d like him once you got to know him better. Not that he’s exactly your type—”

Scarlet broke in teasingly. “Now how would you know what my
type
is?”

“You’ve never been one to go for the rock n’ roll types, Scarlet. That’s evident from all the geeks you dated in high school.”

She laughed, thinking of the misfits she had snagged when she’d harbored thirty extra pounds of fat. “I’ve changed and I think it’s about time I change my type, too.”

BOOK: Dark Rapture
3.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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