School Spirits, Ghost Hunters fan fiction, Chapter 9

Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I affiliated in any way with TAPS, Ghost Hunters or any of the people involved.  The only things that are truly mine are my imagination and the ideas that come from it.

The ride back to campus was a bit uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally.  Physically, my muscles were screaming from the strenuous activity I was unaccustomed to, as well as from the pain I was experiencing from my fall.  My cheek throbbed as well, and I was sure it was bruised and swollen by now.  Emotionally, I was still mulling over my new potential interest in Eric as well as whatever had just occurred between me and Spook.  Of course, Spook was adding to my confusion by repeatedly grinning at me as though he held some delicious secret.

When we got back to the residence hall parking lot, Spook picked up my backpack and offered to escort me back to my room, even though I insisted I was a big girl and could  go by myself and carry my own backpack.  I looked to Jason and Grant for support, but they both laughed and sided with Spook.  Grant teased, “Come on, Kyr.  He’s just trying to be a gentleman.”  He winked.  “Or a knight in shining armor.”

I blushed, recalling not only our conversation from the previous night, but also my momentary vision of Steele as a black knight.  Having Spook right next to me as that image came to mind again made my mouth go dry as I looked at him.  Jason’s words pulled me from my reverie.  “It seems she does need someone to rescue her—our very own Danger-prone Daphne.”

Not missing a beat, Spook laughed and quipped, “Nah, she needs her own moniker—how about Kyr-tastrophe?”

As they all laughed at Spook’s joke, I rolled my eyes and began stomping up the hill towards the residence hall; those guys were impossible.  Spook caught up to me, my backpack on his shoulder.  He looked at me curiously and asked, “So what was the knight in shining armor joke about?”

Feeling my face turn red yet again, I glanced back towards the parking lot, wishing I’d given Grant a kick in the shins.  “It was just that—a joke,” I replied, hoping I sounded nonchalant.  “Part of the whole matchmaking attempt.”

Spook was silent for a moment, then chuckled and glanced sideways at me.  “You do come off as a damsel in distress sometimes.”

I stopped in my tracks, now wanting to go back and kick Jason in the shins too.  Spook laughed and grabbed my arm, pulling me along.  “Come on, Kyr,  We’ll get them later.  You need to get some rest.”  His reference to “we” gave me a funny feeling in my stomach, and I found myself letting him guide me into the residence hall and down to my room as though I really did need his help.

After Spook left me off at my room, I stood in front of the mirror looking at my bruised and swollen cheek.  While it wasn’t the worst black eye I had ever seen, it was still pretty noticeable, enough so that I doubted that JoEllyn’s makeup would even conceal it.  I saw with some dismay that I also had quite a few scrapes and bruises on my arms, and I was sure my legs had fared the same.  Even though I usually wasn’t overly-concerned with my appearance, it bothered me that I looked as though I had been in a nasty fight. Finally I sighed, then closed and locked the door and went over to lie down.

No sooner had I gotten comfortable than there was a knock at the door.  I groaned, punched my pillow and got up to answer it.  There stood Spook with a small bag of ice wrapped in a bandana.  “I thought you might want to get some ice on that shiner,” he offered.

I smiled, took the ice and thanked him.  “But it looks like the damage is already done,” I replied, smiling wryly and glancing in the mirror again.

“It’s not that bad,” he consoled, reaching up to touch my cheek gently.  “A little ice should take away most of the swelling.”  He stepped back and gave me a mock-stern look.  “Shouldn’t you be resting?”

Putting my hands on my hips, I responded, “Well, I would be, but someone knocked on the door.”  Honestly, did he practice being annoying, or did it just come naturally?

He chuckled, “You could have just told me to come in.”  He leaned against the doorframe and crossed his arms.

Rolling my eyes, I retorted, “Not if the door was locked.”

Spook gaped at me wordlessly as if I were crazy, then shook his head and laughed incredulously, “So the woman who thinks nothing of going out walking alone in the middle of the night locks her door in an empty residence hall in broad daylight.”

At first his amusement irritated me, but then I realized that he was right; my logic was a bit flawed.  Still, not wanting to let him get the upper hand, I quipped, “Well, how should I know who’s going to come get me?”

Spook laughed again, “Kyr, who’s going to come get you?  It’s the middle of the afternoon!”

You think you’re so smart, I thought to myself, crossing my arms and glaring at him defiantly.  “Well, you’re here, aren’t you?”

He stopped laughing abruptly and stood up straight, returning my defiant look.  Oh no, I thought anxiously.  Please tell me I didn’t just insult him and screw up again.  Just as I was about to apologize, he lunged at me, saying, “Oh, I’ll get you, all right!”  I squealed as he bear hugged me from behind, pinning my arms at my sides.  “Now I’ve got you; what are you going to do?”

I giggled and tried to squirm free, enjoying this impromptu wrestling match.  Trying to remember how I’d gotten out of this hold when my brothers and I rough-housed, I quickly dropped to my knees trying to slip out of his grasp.  He seemed to anticipate that move and took advantage of his position and wrestled me to the floor.  He laughed triumphantly and tickled my ribs.  “Oh no!” I blurted out, then began shrieking and giggling uncontrollably, trying to get away.  As sore as I was from climbing, I was shocked that he could tickle me without hurting me.

He pinned me face down on the floor and teased, “Why Kyr, I never would have guessed you’re so ticklish,” and tickled even harder.  Trying to push him off me, I begged him to stop, laughing so hard even I couldn’t understand my words.  “I won’t stop till you say ‘Uncle,’” he teased devilishly.

It seemed to take forever, but I finally managed to scream, “Uncle!”  He laughed triumphantly, then released his hold and rolled off me.  I lay there giggling and holding my sides till he grabbed my hand and helped me sit up.  He tried to pull me into a hug, but I quickly grabbed the ice bag I had dropped and shoved it down the back of his shirt.  It was my turn to laugh triumphantly as he yelped and squirmed around, untucking his shirt to get the ice bag out.

He slid over to lean against the bed.  “Well played, Kyr,” he chuckled, tossing the ice bag to me.  “But I think you’d better get that on your cheek.”

I slid over against the bed to sit next to him, easing the ice onto my cheek.  I winced as it made contact with the bruise and then relaxed as the cold began to seep in.  Without thinking, I leaned against Spook and sighed, smiling,  “It’s been a long time since I wrestled like that.”

Putting his arm around me comfortably, he grinned wickedly down at me, sending a warm shiver through me.  For just a second I wondered if he would try to kiss me, and if I would let him if he did.  “I used to torture my sister like that all the time,” he said, resting his head on mine, smiling wistfully.  “God, I miss her.”

His words jarred me into realization, and I jerked my head up to look at him.  “Oh Spook,” I breathed,  “She’s not…?”

He looked at me, confused, for a second, then understood.  “No, no, no, she’s all right,” he corrected, sitting up.  “She lives over in London.  She spent a semester abroad in college and fell in love with the place.”  He looked at me with a mixture of pride and longing.  “She’s getting her Masters over at Oxford.  We were the best of buddies growing up, and it’s hard not being able to see her or talk to her very often.”

Tears came to my eyes.  This softer side of Spook was unexpected, and I was touched by his obvious love for his sister.  Touched and jealous.  I said aloud, “My brothers all live in the states, and I hardly see them either.  They sure don’t miss me like that.”

Spook looked at me, smiling knowingly.  “I knew you had to have at least one brother, the way you wrestled.”  He pulled me closer again and asked, “Older or younger?”

I chuckled at his insight.  “Older.  All three.”

“Ohhhhhh,” Spook replied, as though he understood something.  “The baby and the only girl.  So Kyr’s a little princess,” he teased, rumpling my hair.

“Hardly,” I said irritably, pushing my hair back into place.  Everyone always assumed I was spoiled because I was the baby and the only girl; nothing was farther from the truth.  “My parents expected more of me in everything, and they did all they could to keep me safe and protected.  They never let me be ME.”  I thumped the ice bag down on the floor and continued, “I guess my brothers saw it differently, thought my parents lavished me with attention growing up.  Now that Mom and Dad are gone, we’ve gone our separate ways and hardly talk anymore.”  Why did I tell him all that, I thought.  I’m sure he doesn’t care.

Spook tightened his hold on me.  “Kyr,” he consoled, “I’m sure they care about you.  And they probably understand now how it was.”  I said nothing, but just wrapped my arms around him, needing—something.  I relaxed against his chest, surprised at how right it felt.  I closed my eyes, breathing in the manly scent of his cologne, mixed with the smell of his sweat, an intoxicating combination.  The roughness of his T-shirt and the warmth of his touch as he slowly stroked my back were so comforting, and the steady thump of his heartbeat quieted my emotions.

I didn’t realize I had fallen asleep till I felt myself being lifted and then laid on the bed.  My eyes fluttered open; seeing Spook, I tried to sit up and apologize, but he stopped me with a finger on my lips.  “Shhhh,” he quieted me.  “You get some sleep now.  I’ll come and get you for dinner.”  He leaned down to pull the blanket up over me, and I could have sworn he brushed the top of my head with a kiss.  I smiled drowsily and drifted back to sleep.  I may have fallen asleep blissfully, but my slumber was anything but blissful.  I soon fell into a very troubled dream.

Spook and I were once again investigating Appleton Hall.  We climbed the stairs to the third floor and stood in the stairwell gazing down the long hallway into the darkness that was punctuated only by the points of light from the laser grid.  Everything seemed quiet, so Spook stepped carefully into the hall.  Pausing at the bell tower door, he grasped the knob and tried to turn it; it was locked as we knew it would be.   He glanced over at me and smiled comfortingly.  I smiled back, and we made our way to the middle of the hallway.

We sat down on opposite sides of the hall and began an EVP session.  “Is there anyone here who would like to speak with us?” Spook began.  Even though he spoke softly, his voice seemed almost too loud in the eerie silence.  “Can you give us a sign of your presence?”

Before I could speak into the silence we heard a click and then a slow creak from the direction of the bell tower door.  As silent as a cat, Spook quickly sprung up and walked stealthily down the hallway.  I followed close behind him, not wanting to be alone.  As we neared the bell tower door, the darkness seemed to press in around us, and the atmosphere became oppressive.  Spook turned to look at me, apprehension evident in his eyes; even he sensed there was something negative here.  He reached back for my hand, and I gladly took it.

When we reached the bell tower door, it stood wide open, as we had known it would.  An ominous feeling emanated from the tower as we peered up the stairs into the deepening blackness.  Spook turned to me to say something, and in the moment that he faced away from the tower, I saw a female apparition staring down at us.  She appeared to be solid, but she was surrounded by an eerie green glow.  Her long, dark, straight hair was held back with barrettes on either side of her face, and she wore a simple 1950s-style dress.  What held my gaze, however, was her face, which was frozen in an expression of combined evil and insanity.   Her smile was forced and much too wide.  Her eyes, too, were much too wide, and the malice in them was almost tangible as I stood transfixed.

I tried to say something to Spook, but all that came out was a strangling sound.  I was so paralyzed with fear that I could not even raise my hand to point to the apparition, but just stood staring at her.  Seeing the terror in my eyes, Spook quickly turned to see what had frightened me so much.  Of course, by the time he turned towards the stairwell, the apparition had vanished.  However, a maniacal laugh rang out from the top of the stairs and then moved farther into the tower.

Without hesitation, Spook bolted up the stairs in pursuit; feeling a sudden rush of foreboding, I hurried after him, begging him not to go.  By the time I got to the top of the stairs, Spook was already in the middle of the tower, by the bell mechanism.  On the far side of the tower, where I had heard the voice the first time we were there, there was a shadow figure.  It seemed to be taunting Spook, baiting him, enticing him to come closer.  Heedlessly, Spook went towards the figure, asking, “Who are you?  Why do you haunt this bell tower?  What do you want?”

As he moved closer to the swaying figure, I heard again the insane laughter as it answered, “Yooooooooouuuuuuu.  I waaaaaannnnnnt yoooooouuuuuuuu.” 

His eyes on the figure, Spook continued towards the far end of the tower.  Suddenly, I remembered the weak part of the floor.  Too late, I reached out my hand towards him and shouted, “Spook!  Watch out!  The floor…!”  With a sickening crack, the wooden floor splintered and caved in beneath him, and he began to fall; screams of maniacal laughter filled the tower, drowning out Spook’s shout.

I ran towards him and threw myself to the edge of the gaping hole, grabbing his hand.  To my horror, the hole did not go to the room below on the third floor; rather, it appeared to be an endless chasm.  If I let go of Spook’s hand, he would fall forever into nothingness.  I couldn’t let that happen.  I WOULDN’T let that happen.  The fear in his eyes as I held to him matched the fear in my heart.  He was too heavy for me; I couldn’t hold him.  He was beginning to slide from my grasp.  I let go of my flashlight and grabbed hold of him with both hands.  I began sliding closer and closer to the hole.  He was falling—no, he was being pulled—farther and farther into the chasm, and I was going to fall with him.  “Kyr, let me go!  Let me fall!  Don’t let her pull you in too!”

“No!” I screamed, struggling to keep my grip on his hand.  “I can’t let you go!  I won’t let you go!  I can’t lose you, Spook.  I can’t lose you!  I love you too much!”

His eyes glowed with something I had never seen before, and it gave me strength.  I pulled and struggled back an inch, two inches.  I was doing it!  I was pulling him back from the chasm.  “I love you, Spook!” I repeated.

His eyes glowed brighter, and he smiled up at me.  “Kyr, I love you too.”  Suddenly there was an ear-piercing scream and a flood of white light, and Spook came up out of the hole and into my arms.

Suddenly we weren’t in the bell tower anymore.  I didn’t know where we were, but it was a beautiful place.  I looked around me; we were on a grassy shore by a lake I had never seen before.  A mountain loomed before us just on the other side of the lake.  The full moon bathed the surroundings with silver.  The only sounds I heard were crickets and the whisper of a breeze.  I shivered slightly from the chill and realized I was lying on a blanket wearing—nothing?

I suddenly became aware of Spook lying beside me, one arm beneath me and the other stroking the hair out of my face.  I gazed up into his eyes.  Even though he was mostly in shadow, I could see the desire on his face.  I was afraid to move, knowing this was just a dream; if I moved or spoke, he might disappear.  Reading my thoughts, he laughed and said huskily, “This isn’t a dream, Kyr.  I’m not going to disappear.  I’m not going anywhere without you.” 

He pulled me to him, and his lips claimed mine.  There was no gentleness in his kiss, and I didn’t want any.  I tangled my hands in his hair and then ran them down his muscled back, feeling his raw strength.  His hands explored my body as well, stirring sensations I had never known before.  Something tightened in my belly, sending a tingling ache to my very core.  I moaned with desire as his lips moved down my neck to my shoulders.  His beard, softer than I imagined it would be, made my skin erupt in gooseflesh.  He drew his tongue across my collar bone and down to my breast, stopping before he reached my nipple.  He paused and glanced up at me, a wicked expression on his face.  I arched my back and moaned again, trying to pull his head back down, wanting more of him.  “Tell me what you want, Kyr,” he teased.

I closed my eyes, breathing raggedly.  “I want you,” I whispered, barely able to get the words out.  “I want you now.”Just saying the words made my whole body tremble.  This was the man I had waited my whole life for, and I wanted him in a way I had never wanted another man.

He growled hungrily and brushed my nipple with the tip of his tongue.  When I arched my back again and whimpered, he circled my nipple with his tongue again and again making me crazy with desire.  I began grinding my hips against his, knowing, yet not knowing what I wanted, needed, would die without.  He drew back, ready to claim me as his…

“Kyr, wake up.”

I moaned and smiled, the delicious sensations still coursing through my body as I heard his voice.  I opened my eyes to see Spook sitting on the bed next to me, stroking my hair and smiling curiously down at me.  He chuckled and said softly, “That must have been some dream you were having.  You’ve been tossing and turning and mumbling in your sleep for the past five minutes.”

Recalling what I had just been dreaming, I sat up, panicked, wondering if he had been able to make out anything I had said.  I looked at him, blushing at the things he had been doing to me in my dreams, embarrassed as I recalled the way those things had made me feel, were still making me feel.  I found myself wondering again how hard I had hit my head.  He was still looking at me with a bemused smile, as though he were trying to read my thoughts.  Oh Lord, I thought anxiously, please don’t read my mind now; I would just die if he knew what I had been dreaming, and about him of all people.  I needed a cold shower, badly.  I groaned inwardly as my mind made the connection between a cold shower, being naked, and my dream.  I dropped back onto my pillow and covered my face, trying unsuccessfully to shake the images from my mind.

“Should I let you skip dinner and go back to sleep?” Spook teased.  “You seem to be really out of it.”  He laughed and poked me in the ribs, trying to get a response.

“Stop!” I said, stifling a giggle and pushing his hand away.  The last thing I needed was him touching me.

He laughed again and began poking my ribs with both hands.  “Aw, does Kyr wake up grumpy?  I can fix that.”

I grabbed his hands and squirmed away from him, trying not to laugh.  “Come on, Spook, quit it.  I mean it.”

Before I knew it, we were scuffling again, both of us laughing like kids.  I snatched up my pillow and began pummeling him with it.  He expertly ducked away again and again, trying to grab my arms and pin me down.  Oh no, you don’t, I thought.  That’s not happening again.  I got behind him and tried to pull his arms behind his back.  That only worked for a second before he wrestled one arm free and reached back to grab my knee.  I shrieked and grabbed his hand.  “Not my knee, Spook, NO!!!!” He kept tickling as I tried to get away from him.  He swung around to face me and lunged towards me, trapping me in the corner.

“Hey, Kyr, are you ready to leave for…”

Spook sat back, laughing and pushing his hair out of his face.  JoEllyn was standing in the doorway, a look of shock on her face.  She seemed to be at a loss for words, which was just fine with me at that moment.  I was sure I’d never hear the end of this later.  Her face turned as red as mine, and she quickly stammered, “I…I’m sorry, I was just…seeing if you were ready…to go for dinner…”

Spook looked between JoEllyn and me and laughed delightedly.  “I don’t know whose face is redder.”  Oh, how I wanted to smack him just then.  “Don’t worry, Jo,” he assured her, “you’re not interrupting anything.  I was just waking up Sleeping…Grumpy here.”

I lunged for the pillow and gave him a final swat before climbing out around him to get off the bed.  “Who needs an alarm clock with this dork around?” I grumbled, unable to completely suppress a smile, which he returned.

JoEllyn glanced at me, ready to make a teasing remark, when I saw her jaw drop.  “Kyr!  Your face!  What happened?”

My hand flew up to my cheek.  I could feel how swollen it was, and now that my attention was on it, it began to throb again.  “Oh,” I hedged, trying to make it sound like nothing.  “A little climbing mishap.  You remember what I used to look like when I came back from Geology Club trips.”

“But you never came back with a black eye!” she exclaimed.  “That was more than a little mishap!”  She glared at Spook.  “So much for you keeping an eye on her!”

It was my turn to glare at Spook, who was now looking both sheepish and guilty.  So that was why he showed up, because he thought I needed someone to keep an eye on me.  Honestly, the nerve of him!  And I was more than a little piqued at JoEllyn if she had sent him along to keep an eye on me; she knew how I felt about that.  Suddenly wanting to get at both of them, I spat out, “Ask him whose fault it was,” before I flounced down the hall to the bathroom.  I saw a flicker of shock on his face before he turned a guilty glance towards JoEllyn.  I knew that remark wasn’t true, and I knew it wasn’t necessary, but after what had happened earlier and just now, before JoEllyn arrived, and after the very suggestive dream I’d just had, I needed to put distance between us and fast.  He had already said there could never be anything between us, and I had gathered from our conversation that he saw me as a stand-in for his little sister, nothing more.  I fought back tears as I thought to myself, little sister; you’re just a little sister…again.

Half an hour later, we were all on the way to Pizzaverse to grab a quick supper before our last night of investigating.  JoEllyn and I had wrinkled our noses at the thought of another meal of pizza, but not wanting to quibble, we decided to make the best of it.  Besides, I didn’t want to squabble over yet another issue, especially since I knew I had at least one confrontation coming before the day was over.

JoEllyn and I again rode together.  I played with the drawstring on my hoodie as I mulled over the exchange between Spook, JoEllyn and myself this afternoon.  Although nothing had been said about it when we’d all gathered in the parking lot before heading out, it was evident that Spook and I were pretty much back to square one.  By the curious looks Amy and Amber gave Jason, Grant, Ed and Phil, I gathered that they had heard about what happened at the quarry, and they seemed to be expecting us to be arm in arm or something.  I caught a meaningful glance pass between Phil and Spook; Phil raised an eyebrow at him, cocked her head and mouthed, “Well?” but Spook just shook his head and rolled his eyes.  I narrowed my eyes at them, wondering what they were up to.

As we drove, I noticed that JoEllyn kept glancing my way as though she wanted to say something.  As much as I hated confrontation, especially with my best friend, I knew I had to clear the air.  I spoke into the uncomfortable silence.  “Jo, why did you have to send someone—especially Spook—to keep an eye on me this afternoon?  You know how I hate it when someone does that to me.”

JoEllyn sighed remorsefully and replied, “I’m sorry, Kyr; I really am.”  She seemed to be searching for the words to say.  “I talked to Spook right after you all left campus.  He asked me if you really had any experience with rock climbing and if I thought you’d be okay after your little tiff.” She smiled apologetically and continued, “I told him you’d gone a few times, but I always worried till you came back in one piece.  He asked to borrow my car so he could go keep an eye on you; I didn’t send him.  I guess he brought Jay and Grant along so it wouldn’t look obvious.”

“That figures,” I muttered.  Why did that man think I needed someone to take care of me?

Now that the subject had been broached, JoEllyn seemed to be in a more playful mood.  “You know, Kyr, I don’t think he really believed you needed someone to look out for you.  I just think he wanted an excuse to go watch you climb.  He does kind of like you, you know.”

I sighed audibly.  JoEllyn was nothing short of persistent when she got an idea into her head.  “Come on, Jo,” I said irritably.  “Knock it off with the matchmaking already.  It obviously didn’t work.”

She didn’t look the least bit ashamed that we had figured out her little plot; at least Grant had the decency to feel bad about being found out.  “Are you sure it didn’t work?” she teased.  “Let’s see, he did come up and rescue you when you fell.  You two are on a first name basis now, even though you’re mad at him.  And you two did seem to be getting along pretty well up in your room earlier.”

I felt my cheeks reddening as I thought about how it must have looked to JoEllyn when she walked in on us wrestling on my bed.  My stomach started doing flip-flops as I wondered what might have happened if she hadn’t shown up when she did.  I shook my head to rid myself of that thought.  Of course, nothing would have happened.  “He was just horsing around, Jo, nothing more.  He told me I reminded him of his sister; that’s why he was picking on me.”  Okay, so he hadn’t actually said that, but he had insinuated it.  At least, that’s what I told myself, even though there was that traitorous part of me that kept wanting it to be otherwise.

I caught a fleeting glimpse of sympathy on JoEllyn’s face before she could hide it, and she tried to smile as she said, “Well, at least you two are friends now, although I was really hoping you’d find a little romance.”

I rolled my eyes and shook my head.  When had JoEllyn become such a sappy romantic?  Oh yeah, I recalled.  About the time she started seeing Brad.  Why couldn’t I meet a guy like that, I thought to myself.  Someone sweet and kind and romantic, someone like Brad…or like Grant.  Suddenly I remembered Eric.  Turning to JoEllyn, I smirked, “Who says I didn’t?  I suppose Spook didn’t tell you about Eric, did he?”

JoEllyn’s eyes flew open and her jaw dropped.  “No, he didn’t!  Who’s Eric?”

We had just pulled into a parking space at Pizzaverse, so I quickly told her about the professor—how sweet and kind and smart he was, how he was working on his Ph.D., and how he hoped I’d come around again the next time I was on campus.  Smiling, I finished, “He’s so much like Grant!”

JoEllyn had clasped her hands together and grinned like a schoolgirl as I told her about Eric.  When I finished, she gushed, “Oh Kyr, he sounds wonderful!  What does he look like?  Is he cute?”

I stifled a squeal and took a breath to begin describing him…and I found that I could hardly picture his face.  My smile faded a bit as I began, “Well…he’s got blond hair and blue eyes…”  Just then I glanced over and saw Spook getting out of the TAPS van.  He caught my eye and gave me a devilish grin that made my mouth go dry.  I lost my train of thought for a moment, then recalled that I was telling JoEllyn about Eric.  Not able to remember anything else about him just then, I finished lamely, “…and a smile that takes my breath away.”

JoEllyn looked questioningly at me, and then noticed I had been looking at Spook.  Her eyes narrowed as she tried to figure out what had just happened.

Turning away before she could say anything, I grabbed the door handle to get out of the car.  Before I could open the door myself, it opened, and Spook bowed low and said playfully with a mock British accent, “Milady?”

JoEllyn giggled, nudged me and whispered, “Your knight in shining armor.”

“Sssst!  Would you stop!” I hissed at her, feeling my face turn red and hoping he hadn’t heard.  When I turned back to him, I saw that he had; he was trying unsuccessfully not to laugh.

JoEllyn opened her door and hastily whispered, “Sir Spook,” before getting out, still giggling.

I bit my lip, trying not to giggle along with her, but “Sir Spook” was such a ridiculous name for a knight that I suddenly sputtered and started shaking with suppressed laughter.

Spook hauled me out of the car and caught me in a headlock.  “What’s so funny, Kyr-tastrophe?” he asked, rumpling my hair.

He let me go, and I gave him a playful shove before I noticed that everyone else had conveniently gone inside.  Spook leaned against the TAPS van and jammed his hands in his pockets.  He was trying to be laid back, but I could tell by his body language that he was either nervous or agitated.  “Look Kyr,” he began.  “I’m really sorry about this afternoon.  You kind of left me in a huff, and I was afraid you might take some unnecessary risks to try to prove you’re not afraid of everything.”

Knowing he had just been concerned, but still a bit irritated, I replied, “I appreciate your concern, Spook, but I really don’t need a babysitter.  I can take care of myself, you know.”

He snorted good-naturedly and reached up to touch my still-swollen cheek.  “Oh, I can see how well you can take care of yourself,” he teased, then laughed as I smacked his hand away.  He caught my hand in his for a moment and said, “I really am sorry if I upset you.  I can’t help it; you just remind me so much of Katie, and I want to look out for you the way I always looked out for her.”  He gave me sad puppy dog eyes and pouted, “You still my buddy?”

Despite the comparison to his sister, a delicious warmth washed over me at his words.  I smiled and replied shakily, “Yeah, I’m still your buddy.”

“Cool deal,” he answered, throwing his arm around me and starting towards the pizza shop.  “By the way,” he added,” would you do me the honor of investigating with me tonight…Lady Kyr-tastrophe?”

I giggled and ducked my head.  Obviously, I had a new nickname.  Okay, if he wanted it that way.  “I’d be delighted…Sir Spook.”  Feeling playful, I reached over to poke him in the ribs.

“Nice try,” he responded.  Great, he obviously wasn’t ticklish at all.  He made a grab for me as I took off running before he could catch me.


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