Peter didn’t know what to think. Maybe his blood should have been tested sooner, but for what? Occasionally spotting a ghost could seem almost normal for a healthy person. The old former hotel, like many old buildings in Roseland, was thought to be haunted. Other than being a little banged up, and feeling like an idiot for tumbling down the stairs, Peter felt good. Besides, the doctor had given him clearance without any concerns. A blood test wouldn’t hurt, though. There might be something to that powder from the coffin after all.
Pulling Nine close, Peter wrapped his arms around her. Tongues dancing together, they kissed. He didn’t taste any blood in her mouth, nor did he expect to. Nine felt so natural in his arms, he didn’t want to let go. But this was becoming a bad habit. Willing himself to pull back, he stepped away at arms length. The smile on his face refused to go away.
Nine blushed, briefly, and shivered. She showed him that crooked smile he liked so much, nose pinched and a devious look in her eye. From her pocket, she produced a card colored deep violet with an ink drawing, squiggly lines curving about each other forming the petals of a rose and slender lines forming a stem.
“For you, Peter,” said Nine. She held the card up close to his face. Within the top of the stem, he found a tiny red heart.
Feeling a little like Valentine’s Day in junior high school, Peter blushed. Smiling, he accepted the card. Nine’s darker side often made softer moments like this seem surprising. However, black for the rose reminded him even her romantic side came with a touch of darkness.
“You made this?” he asked.
She nodded her head.
Over Nine’s shoulder, in the hall, Tara glared at them.
Setting the card down on the desk, he pushed it behind the PC monitor while keeping his eye on his sister.
With a wiggle of her fingers, Nine turned and left the office. Tara stepped aside, and Nine marched by her without a word ignoring the icy stare. Melting into the doorway, Tara loomed like death warmed over.
“I suppose you’re sleeping with all the waitresses now,” said Tara.
Peter winced. It was just like her to drain all his happiness away, but they weren’t children anymore. And this much cruelty was abnormal even for her. “Hey, I don’t appreciate you talking that way at work.”
“So, it’s true then.”
“Please, go, Tara. Leave your wine and just go.”
With a huff, Tara spun away and stomped down the stairs.
At the other end of the hall, a woman stood there staring up the stairwell. In her hand, she held a sword by the dark scabbard just below the round guard. It appeared much like the Japanese Samurai sword that he had found in the coffin, a gift from Steve Reynolds, but this sword couldn’t be the same. Could it? The woman didn’t look like a thief. She appeared at ease, studying the stairs. When she turned looking in his direction, he recognized her at once.
Slow, careful steps, Kandice Knight began easing her way towards him. Holding the sword by the scabbard to her side with one hand, she grabbed the sword by the handle with the other. She appeared determined to use the weapon, and Peter felt a his stomach drop.
“I already told you,” said Kandy. Her voice sounded distant, muffled even. “I don’t need your help.”
Not recalling speaking to her before, he raised his hands and shook his head. He tried to think of something to say to calm her down, but words were lost to him.
Kandy’s eyes narrowed in determination, and her silent steps quickened. “Now,” she said, “get the hell out of my home!”
Peter backpedaled into the office, and Kandy faded away like a ghost melting into the air. Banging the corner of the desk caused a loud squeal. Spinning around, he fell into his chair.
His heart thundered.
What did she mean by getting out of her home? This was his restaurant. Kandy seemed like a ghost, but she wasn’t really. She was Itoril. According to Tigris, some Itoril could move in ways through time that they seemed to disappear. Like taking a wormhole, he thought, but Tigris hadn’t been able to explain it well to him. Could it be possible that Kandy actually lived here, but somehow she rarely crossed paths with him?
Glancing about, he searched the office expecting Kandy to reappear out of her wormhole, or whatever it was. Voices from the restaurant below came through the floor like muted mumbles among clattering of plates and one man’s bellowing laughter. The room remained empty.
Letting out a long breath, Peter envisioned Nine’s grinning face while his heartbeat slowed down. Even in his head, Nine appeared playfully wicked. He liked the way she teased him, and how her crooked grin told him how much she enjoyed it. He thought he should do something for her. Go out on a real date, something secret so others don’t think he’s showing favoritism, or worse, taking advantage of Nine by holding her job over dating. With so few employees, one fewer this week, he couldn’t afford any misunderstandings.
Just beyond the doorway, dark smoky tendrils billowed up out of the floor, a swirling mass forming a human-like figure, a dark ghost. As the darkness faded, color appeared until she was plain as day.
Kandice Knight stood at the doorway, her sword in one hand, and with the other, she reached out. She appeared to be turning an invisible doorknob, and pushing the door open slowly as if the door had been closed.
Tingles raced down Peter’s neck.
Not until the ghost door was fully open did Kandy make eye contact with him.
“Kandy,” said Peter. There was something he was about to tell her, but it slipped away.
“Have we met?” asked Kandy. Her voice sounded even more distant like she spoke from another country. At least she appeared friendlier than before with a calm, curious expression. The sword in her hand still looked threatening even within its scabbard. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m Peter Gray.”
“Yes, I know that name.” Kandy bit her lip. “I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?”
“Yes, a few minutes ago. In the hall.”
Her expression darkened.
“Peter Gray,” said Kandy, her voice becoming stern. Her free hand moved slowly reaching for the sword handle. “Why are you in my home?”
“I’m here to help you, Kandy. That’s what Steve Reynolds wanted.” Exactly how he was supposed to help, he still wasn’t certain about. Somehow it involved blood and venom.
Her fingers wrapped around the sword handle. “Does it look like I need help?”