This is Stephan’s lead, a creepy abandoned mansion? Are you sure this is where we are supposed to meet up?” I asked Alex.
She shrugged, pulling out the cherry lollipop she was sucking on. She even seemed to make that look sensual, which was all the more disturbing when the face was my own. I supposed I could understand Daniel’s forced bonding with me as a mate. How that would make Alex look like me. It was kind of sweet to have someone’s greatest desire to be me. Well, it would be me if I got a tummy tuck, a facelift, a new nose, and a boob job.
“Are you feeling uncomfortable?” I looked down at Alex’s clothing.
Alex had been fidgeting and twisting a lot since we had gone shopping the previous day. Right now she wore a white shirt and pink jeans. I didn’t even know jeans came in pink, but she found a pair. Her dark brown hair was dolled up into elaborate curls. It looked beautiful like she had just come from a hairdresser. That wasn’t the case of course; how dare she have the ability to make her hair look however she wanted it to on a whim.
“The underwear is too much; I feel so constricted in these clothes,” Alex complained.
“Would you rather walk around naked like Daniel? If you had your way, it would have been nothing but tube tops, miniskirts, and thongs.”
“What’s wrong with thongs?”
“Besides the fact that there is no way that is comfortable, my mom would start to ask questions. She gave us money to buy your outfits. No chance you’re going to come home looking like a… like a…”
“Like a what?” Alex asked, seeming genuinely curious.
I sighed, “Never mind. Are you sure this is where we are supposed to meet up?”
“You already asked that. This is where Stephan said to come,” Alex reassured me in a sisterly voice.
I shivered; it was entirely too easy to see Alex like a big sister. I was only just starting to get used to her being around. The other guys had complained about it religiously when they found out until I had to put my foot down. I didn’t like it any more than any of them, but it was my mom’s decision; not mine. Besides, I couldn’t just let her stay out in the cold and, somehow, sending her back to Daniel’s cave seemed cruel. Now, I wasn’t so sure.
Alex perked up and pointed down the street. “Look, there they are now.”
Stephan was walking with Andrew and Rune was a few dozen steps behind them. When Andrew saw me, he gave me a dazzling smile. Stephan waved with a grin. Meanwhile, Rune pretended he’d rather be any place other than there. I was beginning to suspect that a lot of his behavior was an act. It was hard to believe he was some kind of demon. For some reason, with the minion he had summoned and stuff, I had the impression they were wizards or something. Perhaps, I had been reading too many books. Samantha’s ‘Harry Potter and the Rippling Abs’ was a hot seller at our school right now.
“Where’s Daniel?” Alex asked cautiously.
Stephan shrugged. “He didn’t show up.”
“I’m present,” Daniel said, standing up from behind a nearby trashcan.
“How long have you been there?” I asked in shock.
“I arrived first; wanted to make sure you would be safe; checking for tracks.” Daniel waved his hands defensively.
“That’s the question you asked?” Andrew wondered out loud. “He’s not wearing any clothing!”
Of course he wasn’t wearing any clothing; it would rip up in his wolf form. I barely stopped myself from saying that. I was apparently getting a tad too familiar with Daniel’s habits. Daniel shrugged, seemingly unfazed by the group of people around him. His sweaty muscular chest was flexing just by him standing there. He turned around and bent over. I looked away. I was right; there was a tattoo on his butt. It was a rose. The guys also made noises of protest.
“Come on man.” Rune shook his head in disgust.
Alex merely looked on curiously; perhaps a little too curiously. I had an inclination to cover her eyes, even though I was the younger sister. Wait a second; I’m not younger. I’m not even her sister! I closed my eyes. The lines between reality and this supernatural world were getting harder and harder to distinguish. Daniel finally found his clothing and redressed.
“So, the reason I brought you here is because of that large mansion we are standing in front of,” Stephan said, pointing to a large gated doorway.
A long path shot off into a semi-forested front yard. The yard was larger than some parks. Barely peaking above the trees was the roof of a massive mansion. The Richfire mansion was a famous one. Everyone knew the stories about it. It was supposedly haunted by many different spirits and harbored serial killers and transients. On Halloween, kids would dare each other to go up to the front door. Teens would dare each other to sneak in and stay the night. Some never returned, as the story went.
“You expect us to go into a haunted house?” Andrew questioned.
“Rumors of people going in and never returning? Stories of serial killers and various monsters? If someone was up to no good, what would be a better place to hide?”
“This doesn’t sound safe for Jane,” Andrew explained.
“I’ll keep her safe.” Daniel thumped his chest.
“What am I, chopped liver?” Alex looked irritated.
“I’ll be fine,” I responded with an edge to my voice. “I can handle this.”
Andrew looked at each of the guys for support. Finally, he sighed, letting his large muscular shoulders slack just a bit.
“Well, that’s settled. Let’s get going,” Stephan piped in, smiling.
The group opened the large iron gates and moved up the long pathway to the massive home. It was derelict and was condemned and considered dangerous for no other reason than that. I felt a tingle at the back of my neck, almost like I was being watched through one of the many windows on the four-story tall home. The house was once white, but years of disrepair had left brown marks, cracks, and peeling paint on every surface.
Andrew walked up to the front door, knocking. Rune pushed past him, grabbing the doorknob and pushing the door open.
“It’s abandoned; means no one’s home,” Rune sneered as he went through.
Andrew looked around, brushed his hands off on his pants, then followed Rune inside. Two hands suddenly wrapped around my arm. Alex was grabbing on to me tightly. Apparently, this must have been very scary to her. I never let things like this scare me too much; curiosity always got the better of me. I guided her through the front door behind Stephan.
The main hall was absolutely massive. A sudden switch and a buzzing sound and several lights turned on. Rune was at a light switch nearby.
“Looks like the place still gets power,” Alex chattered with nervousness in her words.
“It’s supposed to be dead; that’s why I brought everyone flashlights,” Stephan frowned, opening up a bag at his side. “I suppose you should each take one anyway, just in case.”
I grabbed my flashlight; a nice heavy maglight. Worst case scenario, it was heavy enough I could smash a head in if I needed to. Alex let go of me when I handed her a light. Perhaps it made her feel a little better too.
“Well, we’re here; now what?” Rune asked impatiently.
“We’re looking for anything suspicious. We should break up into groups. Daniel and Andrew can take the fourth floor, Alex and Rune the third, Jane and I take the second, and we can all meet back on the first when we are done.”
Rune looked around confused for a second. “That’s funny; where is Alex?”
I looked behind me and stopped cold. Alex wasn’t there. She was just there holding my arm. Wasn’t she just there? I looked around, a sudden panic sinking in.
“Alex!” I shouted, joined in by Andrew and Stephan.
“Relax,” Rune interrupted. “She probably just ran out the front door; you saw how scared she was.”
Stephan thought about it for a second and then nodded, “You’re probably right. Either way, we plan to search this place head to toe so, if she is here, we’ll find her. Rune, are you good by yourself?”
Rune laughed. “You think this place is scary? The scary thing would have been having to deal with that frightened succubus. I’m glad she took off.”
I looked over at Stephan. There was worry in Rune’s voice. It was reflected in Stephan’s eyes as well. It looked like they did care more about the disappearance than they were letting on. Rune began moving up the stairs, Daniel and Andrew moving closely behind him.
I looked over at Stephan. “You ready for this?”
Stephan gave me a calming smile. “Ladies first.”
The lighting was fairly inconsistent. Every other light bulb was out, making the hallways full of creepy dark spots. I eventually turned on my flashlight to deal with my nerves, if nothing else. We walked in perpetual silence. The feeling of being watched still didn’t seem to go away.
“Do you believe in an afterlife?” Stephan suddenly spoke up.
I looked over at him, the expressions on his face hidden by the shadows of the darkened hallway.
“What brings that question on?” I asked.
Stephan shook his head, as if to himself. “I don’t know. It’s just that, given my situation, I never gave it a whole lot of thought. But just above us is a demon named Rune, and Andrew’s an angel …”
“They said they come from alternate worlds that happen to be constantly in conflict. They both are here to help humans, but angels freely give and teach, whereas demons create contracts and bribe. Different philosophies on how to help us. Nothing about the afterlife.”
“I know that’s what they say, but still. It gets you thinking.”
We walked in silence for a few minutes. The feeling of eyes watching me continued to persist. I had to say something to break the feeling.
“What was your death like?”
Stephan stayed silent for some time. I almost assumed he hadn’t heard me when he finally spoke. “Nothing… I don’t remember much from when I was so young. I remember nothing at all about my death. You’d think if there was an afterlife, I’d remember it.”
“Maybe you weren’t meant to remember it,” I offered.
He smiled at me, “Thanks, I appreciate…”
A loud creak and then a resounding crack and I was falling. My body hit something hard and then I fell again. This time I smacked into something colder and harder. My ankle twisted and I let out a yell. Debris fell on top of me, dust rose everywhere and then I was in complete darkness.