School Spirits, Chapter 18, Ghost Hunters fan fiction

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 mine are my imagination and the thoughts that come from it.

Spook and I squelched down the hallway. leaving wet footprints in our wake. I glanced over my shoulder guiltily, thinking it was a good thing we hadn’t climbed up the dirt path on the other side of McKenzie, or else our footprints would have been muddy instead of just wet. We headed down the first floor hallway, I assumed towards my room. As we got to the end of the south wing, Spook hesitated at the door to the study lounge. Looking down at me with an expression I couldn’t decipher, he asked softly, “Shall we go inside and make ourselves comfortable?”

I bit my lip and glanced up at him, suddenly feeling shy and uncertain. I also felt wet and cold. Looking down at my dripping wet clothes and at the puddle still forming at my feet, I replied, “I’m not sure I can really get comfortable in these wet clothes. Maybe I should…” I glanced towards my room and then back at Spook.

Spook smiled mischievously, and I was sure he was about to make a suggestive comment about removing our clothes in the study lounge. I felt the heat rising into my cheeks, although I couldn’t tell if it was fueled by desire or embarrassment. Seeing my discomfort, his eyes softened, and he relented. “Maybe you’re right. I wouldn’t want you getting any more chilled than you already are.” He put his arm around me and walked me back to my room. I unlocked the door and was about to walk in, when Spook hooked a finger in my belt loop and pulled me backwards. He leaned down to whisper huskily in my ear, “Meet me back in the study lounge in fifteen minutes.” Noticing my shiver, he chuckled and teased, “Or else.”

Giggling and trying to pull away, I challenged, “Or else what?”

His eyes seemed to go a shade deeper as a lecherous grin spread across his face. “Or else I’ll come and find you,” he whispered. I wanted to ask what he’d do when he found me, but my mouth had gone dry, and I couldn’t make my lips form the words. I bit my lip, blushing, as Spook slowly backed away from me and headed towards the stairwell. He went through the door and then stuck his head around the corner and called, “Fifteen minutes.”

I giggled and headed into my room to change. With some difficulty, I peeled off my wet clothes. Seeing how my satin blouse clung even tighter to my skin, I recalled last night’s wardrobe malfunction and breathed a sigh of relief that my blouse was a dark color that didn’t turn transparent when it got wet. I contemplated what clothes I should put on; I really didn’t want to put on another pair of jeans, yet I felt self-conscious about putting on my pajamas–a tank top and low-riding Elmo lounge pants. I finally decided to wear the lounge pants with one of my longer T-shirts. By the time I quickly towel dried my hair and ran a brush through it, almost fifteen minutes had passed. My stomach flip-flopped as I contemplated not showing up in the study lounge, just to see what he would do when he found me. I decided not to challenge him, and headed down the hall towards the lounge.

When I got to the study lounge, I slowly opened the door to peek in. The lights were off, but the blinds facing the river were up, allowing a bit of light in from outside. A streak of lightning flashed across the sky, making me flinch, and I hoped we weren’t in for another storm. “Spook?” I said quietly. Getting no response, I stepped inside the room. “Spook?” I called, louder. Thinking he might be hiding and waiting to jump out to scare me, I turned on the lights and cautiously walked further into the room. I realized there was really nowhere for him to hide; since it was a study lounge, there were no closets or larger furniture for him to hide behind. I went over to the window and stood gazing out at the river. Even in the dark, the scene was so beautiful and so peaceful that I almost didn’t mind the increasingly frequent flashes of lightning.

After several minutes, I heard a low noise behind me, and the lights suddenly went out. Gasping, I spun around and pressed my back against the heaters; even though I knew it was Spook, it still startled me. He stood in the doorway, one hand on the light switch, silhouetted in the light from the hallway. I could just make out his expression in the light coming through the window; he wore a smirk, and his still-damp hair fell forward into his face. “Did I scare you?” he teased in a low, eerie voice.

I returned his smirk and replied, “You wish.” Crossing my arms in front of me, I challenged, “So, what happened to fifteen minutes? I thought I’d have to come find you.”

Spook chuckled and came into the room, closing the door tightly behind him, an action that sent a thrill of anticipation down my spine. He crossed the room and put his arms around me in a warm embrace. I leaned against him and laid my head against his chest, breathing in his scent. The usual scent of his cologne was missing; he smelled clean, like soap. He must have showered before coming downstairs; that’s what had taken him so long. My stomach flip-flopped as I thought about what would have happened if I had gone looking for him and had encountered him coming back from the shower in nothing but a towel. A delicious shiver went down my spine again as I imagined what he’d look like in nothing but a towel, and then in nothing at all. He drew back and looked down at me; I returned his look guiltily, wondering what he’d say if he could read my thoughts right now. He asked in a concerned voice, “Are you still cold? Maybe you need a hot shower to warm you up.”

I averted my eyes and thought it wasn’t a hot shower I needed, but rather a cold one. My mind drifted back to the image of him in a towel, and I found myself thinking about being in the shower with him. A flush crept up my cheeks, and I was grateful that Spook had turned the lights off. I really needed to keep my mind from going in the direction it was, although I wasn’t sure how I’d do that with him right next to me and with the memory of our kiss still fresh in my mind. I glanced up at him again to find him still staring at me. Once again I looked away, afraid he could read my mind. He drew me close again and said tenderly, “Or maybe I should just put you to bed.”

Oh, Lord, he wasn’t making this easy, was he? Trying to focus on anything but being intimate with him, I blurted out, “No, I don’t need you to take me to bed.” Realizing what I’d just said, I swore and pulled away, wishing the floor would just open up and swallow me.

Spook threw his head back and laughed. I didn’t need to worry about him reading my mind with my big mouth to blurt out my feelings. He was about to make a joking response to my comment when he noticed my discomfort and decided against it. “Why don’t we go sit down?” he said softly, taking my hand and leading me to the couch

We sat down, and I leaned forward with my elbows on my knees and hid my face in my hands. Honestly, could I make it any more obvious where my mind was tonight? Spook chuckled and reached over to draw his fingers slowly up and down my back. My skin tingled at his touch, and tensed up, breathing in sharply. What was he doing? Did he know what effect his touch was having on me? He moved closer and brought both hands up to massage my shoulders. His grip was firm, yet gentle, as he kneaded my muscles. I tried to fight the sensations he was rousing in me, but it was useless. Bringing his mouth next to my ear, he soothed, “Kyr, relax. I promise I don’t bite.” He chuckled and whispered huskily, “Although I may nibble a little bit.” To prove his point, he brought his lips to my neck and planted teasing kisses from my shoulder up to just below my ear.

A low moan escaped from my throat as I surrendered to his touch. I wanted nothing more than to lean back and just melt into him while he ran his hands all over my body. Alarms went off in my mind, warning me not to give in, warning me that I would just get hurt again, but my body screamed for his touch, drowning out all logical thought. As I thought about what I wanted him to do to me with those lips and those hands, the tingling sensation he had already aroused with his touch turned into a delicious ache that centered in one spot. I turned around and climbed into his lap, straddling him. I gazed into his eyes and saw reflected in them the fire I felt coursing through my veins. As I threw my arms around his neck, his eyes widened in surprise and pleasure. Pushing him down onto his back, I whispered his name and brought my lips fiercely down to his, savoring the heat and the softness of his lips as his mouth melded to mine. My hands roamed freely over his neck and down to his broad shoulders as I kissed him deeply, stroking his tongue with mine.

After several minutes, Spook drew back to catch his breath. I nuzzled his neck just below his ear, making him shudder and moan. Smiling with satisfaction, I teased, “How do you like it?” The evidence of his arousal was obvious, so I knew very well how much he liked it.

“Maybe that last drink was a good idea after all,” he teased back. “You’re even more of a firecracker than you were last night.” Nuzzling my neck in return, he growled, “I think you know I like it very much.”

Last night. Damn it, I was trying not to think about what had happened last night. I just wanted him to satisfy the ache that was building deep inside me. Moving from my neck to my jaw to my chin, he tried to claim my lips once more. With some difficulty–actually with a lot of difficulty–I propped myself up on my elbows to look down at him. Even in the darkness, I could see the desire burning deeply in his eyes, and I was tempted to just push everything to the back of my mind and kiss him again, but I knew I couldn’t risk the same thing happening again tonight. As he began nibbling on my neck again, I let out a sigh of resignation and began, “Spook?”

I pulled back, and his eyes met mine. Understanding crowded out the desire, and he closed his eyes and let out a long breath. I reached up to smooth the creases in  his forehead. He looked so pained and guilt-ridden that my heart ached for him. I wondered why I felt so bad for putting the brakes on; hadn’t he done the same thing last night, and then bolted out of the room? At least I wasn’t running away from him, although there was a part of me that wanted to.

“Kyr,” he whispered softly. He reached up to stroke my cheek, and I realized that silent tears were streaming from my eyes. “My sweet Kyr, don’t cry.” His tender words made me cry harder. He struggled to sit up and then gathered me into his arms and held me against his chest for several minutes. I couldn’t say for certain, but I sensed he was crying as well. Finally he sighed and said thickly, “I think we need to talk, hm?”

Unable to say much of anything at that moment, I looked up at him through red-rimmed eyes and nodded. I noticed that his cheeks were indeed wet, and I smiled weakly and reached up to wipe his tears away. He laughed shortly and joked, “So much for my manly image.”

I half laughed and half cried before answering, “You’re still manly enough for me.” As soon as the words were out, I squeezed my eyes shut and swore to myself. Why was I so impulsive with this man? Hadn’t I gotten myself into enough trouble already?

Spook laughed and put his arm around me. “Give it up, Kyr,” he said. “It’s no secret; you’re attracted to me, and I’m attracted to you. It’s time we stopped dancing around the truth and decide what we’re going to do about it.”

My eyes snapped up to meet his. The unreadable mask that he wore so often was gone. As I gazed up at him, it seemed I could see right through his dark eyes and into his soul, and I knew he was doing the same with me. I longed to throw myself into his arms and show him what I wanted to do about it; I wanted to pick up where we left off and finish what we’d started. His slow smile told me he was thinking the same thing, and we both knew that if I made that move right now, neither of us would be able to stop. I took a deep breath and looked away; I just couldn’t think straight when I looked into those beautiful deep brown eyes. Unable to put into words everything I was thinking and feeling, I simply choked out, “Last night.”

Spook’s smile faded, and he lowered his eyes. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, looking at the floor. “Last night,” he muttered. Raising his eyes to look at me, he admitted guiltily, “Kyr, I screwed up big time on so many levels last night.”

Lightning flashed outside again, followed closely by a long, loud rumble of thunder that jarred the windows. Spook and I both glanced over at the windows, as much to avoid each other’s gaze as to gauge the approaching storm. My thoughts raced as I turned Spook’s words over in my mind. What did he mean? What had he screwed up? I swallowed hard, but the lump in my throat refused to go away. Did he regret making a move on me last night? His actions when he left my room suggested that was the case, but what about tonight? What about that mind-blowing kiss outside McKenzie, as well as what had just happened here in the study lounge? I wanted to speak but couldn’t; I wished he’d just get on with it. I chanced a look at him; he turned to me at the same time. “Last night,” he repeated with a pained, sheepish smile.

“You said that. Twice.” I swore silently at the quaver in my voice. Unshed tears stung my eyes, but I was determined not to let them fall.

Spook furrowed his eyebrows, his expression echoing my hurt uncertainty. “Kyr, don’t look at me that way.” He gathered me tenderly in his arms for a moment, stroking my hair. When he drew back to look at me, his eyes sparkled. “I don’t regret a thing I did with you last night,” he said huskily. “Or tonight.” He chuckled as I felt my face reddening.

Irritated that he found the situation even remotely humorous, I replied, “Then what the hell happened?”

Seeing the hurt in my expression, Spook immediately became serious. He sighed and ran his hand over his face, shaking his head. “Where do I even begin? This whole weekend has been a roller coaster, and last night…” Standing up quickly, he paced back and forth in front of the window for a moment before he stopped and stood looking out towards the river. Lightning flashed again, illuminating his form. His shoulders hunched forward, and his head hung down. I could sense the conflicting emotions struggling inside him, but I couldn’t determine what those emotions were or how they played into what had happened between us. I sat stiffly on the edge of the couch, wringing my hands. I longed to go to him and just hold him, but I sensed that if I made that move, the whole conversation would be forgotten. As much as I wanted him, I knew that before we moved forward, I had to know where we stood and what he was thinking.

Finally, Spook looked my way and attempted to smile. He walked back to the couch and sat down next to me, gazing at me as though he were considering his words. Reading my expression, he reached up and slowly drew his fingers through my hair, sending shivers of desire down my spine. “You know I’d like nothing more than to just avoid this whole conversation and finish what we started a few minutes ago,” he began huskily, making me look up at him hopefully. “Unfortunately, my conscience won’t let me. You mean so much more to me than just a quick roll in the sheets.”

“Lucky me,” I joked, frustrated at his resolve yet elated at his words. “Leave it to me to find one of the few men who still have a conscience.”

Spook laughed and pulled me into a warm hug. “Kyr, what have you done to me?” he asked softly into my hair. “When I got divorced, I vowed to never let another woman into my life. I figured no one was worth the risk of getting hurt again.” He sat back and gazed at me fondly. “But ever since I saw you standing with Grant outside the Berkeley mansion, I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind.”

I stared back at him, bemused. It had been the same for me, but I had no intention of telling him that. Yet. Not until I knew what was going on in his head. “Then why did you act like you hated me?” I asked, still stinging over his attitude towards me during that first investigation.

Spook winced and looked away guiltily. When he glanced back at me, he asked, “Was I really that bad?” I raised an eyebrow and nodded, and he explained, “I guess I was trying to convince myself I wasn’t attracted to you, that there wasn’t…something…about you. It seems I did a better job of convincing you than I did of convincing myself.”

“So what made you change your mind?” I asked curiously.

He leaned back against the arm of the couch and thought for a moment before shaking his head and responding, “I don’t know for sure. I don’t think it was any one thing. Our after-hours walk along the levee, Grant and JoEllyn tricking us into investigating together…” He grinned mischievously and  pulled me down to lie next to him. “Of course, then there was rescuing you from your rock climbing disaster, and our little wrestling match in your room…” He playfully poked my ribs, making me giggle and try to get away, before he pulled me close again.

I sighed contentedly, recalling how it had felt snuggling up with him afterwards, and blurted out, “You don’t know how much I wanted to kiss you…” Realizing what I’d just said, I bit my lip and turned away, blushing.

Spook looked at me, surprised, and then chuckled. As I hid my face in his shoulder, he admitted, “You weren’t the only one thinking that, Kyr. And I just might have made it happen if we hadn’t started talking about Katie. When I came back later to wake you up, I had every intention of kissing you. If JoEllyn hadn’t come in when she did…” I drew back to look up at him, to see if he was just teasing me or if he was serious. The playfulness in his eyes was once again replaced by desire. My eyes drifted to his lips, hoping he would kiss me again, but he wasn’t ready to go there yet. “And Kyr, I had every intention of kissing you last night.When I finally did, it was amazing. I didn’t expect to get blown away.”

He sat up slightly, and I followed, wondering where he was taking the conversation. Letting out a long breath, he continued, “Like I said, Kyr, I haven’t even thought about being with another woman since…I just went too far too fast. I’m not that kind of man, really, I’m not.” He looked up at me and smiled. “And judging by your confession last night, I know you’re not that kind of woman.”

I felt the color rising into my cheeks once more. He would bring that up, wouldn’t he. Feeling the sting of his reaction, I muttered another confession. “Well, you’re not the first guy to ditch me after I told them that…”

Spook’s head snapped to look at me. “Wait, Kyr, is that what you’re thinking, that I ditched you?” I cocked my head as if to ask if he was crazy; what was I supposed to think? He thumped himself on the forehead several times, putting the pieces together. “Oh, Kyr. I’m so sorry. I never meant to give you that impression.” He took my face in his hands and kissed me tenderly. “My sweet Kyr, I would never ditch you for that reason. You being…inexperienced…only makes you more desirable to me. To think you’ve waited so long for the right man…” He gazed down at me with eyes full of adoration.

His words made my heart beat faster–he still wanted me! But he still hadn’t told me why he had left so hastily. Fighting the urge to kiss him again, I asked thickly, “Then why did you run out on me?”

He lowered his head guiltily before glancing up at me again. He seemed to not know what to say. Finally he sighed. “Like I said, Kyr, I never intended for things to go as far as they did, especially not that fast. As much as I wanted to make love to you, as much as I know you wanted to…Kyr, I  want your first time–our first time–to be special. I don’t want it to be in a dorm room during an investigation, and I don’t want to feel rushed or have to worry about getting caught.” He stroked my cheek with his thumb  and continued softly, “And I don’t want you to regret making love to me because we acted on impulse.”

“Spook, I would never regret making love to you. I want you to be my first,” I insisted, reaching up to brush his hair out of his face. “I’ve never…felt this way about someone. Not even about…” I lowered my head, suddenly confused. I had loved Trevor, and had been engaged to him, yet I had never felt anything as intense as I was feeling with Spook.

When I looked up at Spook, his eyes glistened with unspoken emotion, and I knew he was as taken aback by my words as I was. His lips widened into a huge smile, and he pulled me close for another tender kiss. When our lips parted, he said, “Make no mistake about it, Kyrie Carter, I will make love to you. And when I do, it will be somewhere where I can take my time and love you the way a woman like you should be loved.”

I bit my lip nervously and looked back at him, almost as aroused by what he said as I was by the way he touched me. As I held his gaze, unsure of what to say, I could see in his eyes that there was something more on his mind. I slowly drew my hand down his cheek and traced his mouth with my thumb. “Spook?” I began hesitantly, not wanting to spoil the mood. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

Sighing, Spook caught my hand and placed a quick kiss in my palm before looking at me anxiously. “There was something I didn’t tell you about last night, something that happened up in the tower…” He stopped to gauge my reaction. My eyes widened with concern, and my breath caught in my throat, but I said nothing, so he continued, “Kyr, during the fire last night…”

A low knock sounded on the door. Before I could move away from Spook, the door opened a crack, and Jason stuck his head in. Seeing us sitting together on the couch, he grinned wickedly and joked, “Now how did I know I’d find you two in here together?” Blushing, I scooted to the other end of the couch and crossed my arms in front of me, glancing guiltily at Jason. As he came into the room, he seemed to quickly assess the scene as he looked sharply at me and then at Spook. He said softly to Spook, “I take it you told her?”

Spook gave Jason a brief dirty look and then glanced guiltily at me. “I was just getting around to it,” he muttered, irritated.

Jason looked my way and winced, “I guess I came in at a bad time then.”

I turned to Spook and stared questioningly at him. “Told me what, Spook? What happened last night?” Jason took a step towards the door, but I stopped him. “No, Jason, you need to stay here. What happened last night that you guys didn’t tell me about?”

“Kyr,” Spook began, sliding towards me and taking my hands in his. He glanced over at Jason as if to ask for help, but Jason just raised his eyebrow as if to urge him to speak. “Kyr,” he began again. “I…almost didn’t make it out of the tower alive last night.”

My jaw dropped, and I searched his face, and Jason’s, to see if this was a joke; if it was, I was going to knock their heads together. The glazed appearance of Spook’s eyes and the lines of tension across his forehead told me that he was serious, dead serious. “What do you mean you almost didn’t make it out of the tower?” I noticed that Spook was trembling; I moved closer to slip my arms around him. He put his arms around me and held me for a long moment. When his shaking subsided a bit, I pulled back and asked with more calmness than I was feeling, “What happened?”

He returned my gaze and responded, “Right after you headed out of the tower, there was a creaking, scraping sound and then a loud crack. I looked up in time to see a huge flaming beam falling towards me. I knew I didn’t have anywhere to go, so I threw up my hands to shield myself the best I could. I slipped a little further down through the floor, which was probably a good thing. That beam hit the floor only a few feet from me. The firefighters told me I must have had a guardian angel.” My eyes flew wide with horror as I pictured the scene he described. He gave me a meaningful glance, and his voice broke as he continued, “All I could think about was that if you hadn’t left the bell tower when you did…” He didn’t finish his thought; he didn’t have to. I was the one shaking now as I thought about how close Mary had been to succeeding in her attempt to have Spook–or even me–die with her.

Spook pulled me close again; his embrace this time seemed desperate, as though he was afraid I’d disappear if he didn’t hold me tight enough. I held him just as tightly as I realized again how close I’d come to losing him, how close we’d come to losing each other. I was only vaguely aware of the storm going on outside as we clung to each other, locked in mutual gratefulness that we’d been given another chance to be together. When he finally loosed his hold, I pulled back and looked up at him. A sudden flash of anger made me shout tearfully, “Why didn’t you tell me this last night?” I turned to Jason, who was again trying to leave the study lounge, and shouted at him, “And you knew about it? I assume Grant knew too?” Jason nodded guiltily. “Why would you guys keep that from me? What if something would have happened?”

I angrily pounded Spook’s shoulder. Holding up his hands in front of him, he chuckled in between blows, “Ow, ow, ow, Kyr, stop!” He finally grabbed my wrists and wrapped his arms around me to stop me from hitting him. He held me till I stopped struggling and collapsed against him, sobbing. “This is why I didn’t want to say anything last night. You were upset enough without knowing the whole story.” The tension was gone from his voice now that he had told me the worst. He continued gently, “Maybe it was wrong to keep it from you…”

Maybe it was wrong?” I blazed. “So when were you planning to tell me?” Spook shrugged, giving me a sheepish smile. I pushed away from him and stalked over to the window, where I stood watching the storm. I was so irritated with him and with Jason and Grant that the streaks of lightning and the crashes of thunder didn’t frighten me at all; in fact, I felt as though I was part of the storm.

After a moment, Spook slowly walked over to join me at the window, and Jason followed him. Spook stood looking down at me till I turned my eyes to him. He held his arms out to me; a part of me wanted to turn away, but thinking about how close we’d been to losing each other, I buried myself in his arms, my tears beginning anew. He held me tightly, rocking me and whispering softly into my hair. Jason laid his hand comfortingly on my shoulder. Spook raised his head slightly and asked Jason if we could be alone; he nodded and squeezed my shoulder before quietly leaving the room.

After Jason left, Spook led me back to the couch. For several minutes we just sat together, silenty watching the storm. I leaned my head against his shoulder, and he rested his head against mine. Finally I raised my head to look at him. “Spook, why didn’t you tell me what happened?” I asked, hurt and anger mingling in my voice. Recalling his earlier jest that I was afraid of just about everything, I accused, “Did you think if you told me I’d be afraid to go back in the tower?”

Spook sighed heavily and shook his head. “I don’t know what I was thinking, Kyr.” He turned to me, his eyes filled with guilt and torment. “Maybe I did think the news would scare you, or maybe I was afraid you’d do something to prove you weren’t scared.” He took my hand in his and gave me an apologetic smile. “Kyr, I knew how upset you were already, and I just didn’t want to add to that last night. Can you blame me for wanting to protect someone I’m beginning to care a great deal about?”

I tried to keep my face stern, but his repentant expression made the corners of my mouth twitch. When he stuck out his lower lip and gave me his puppy dog eyes, I couldn’t help laughing. Suddenly, something in my mind clicked, and I asked, “Spook, is that why you…?”

Spook searched my face curiously for a moment before he understood. “You mean is that why I made a move on you?” When I nodded, he continued, “I told you I had already made up my mind to kiss you.” A sudden thought made him chuckle. “Of course, now that I’m thinking about it, I recall that you beat me to it. You planted one on me just before you left the tower.” I lowered my head, feeling my cheeks growing hot; I had forgotten about that. Spook tipped my face up to look into my eyes. “It seems there was more than one fire burning in that tower last night.” He planted a tender kiss on my forehead and continued, “I guess deep down inside, I was afraid of…something happening to me and not knowing if you wanted me as much as I wanted you.”

I slipped my arms around his neck and looked deep into his eyes. My voice shook with emotion as I asked, “I hope you got your answer.”

He wrapped his arms around my waist and growled, “Loud and clear, Kyr m’ dear. Loud and clear.” I giggled at his term of endearment before he brought his lips to mine once more. The rest of the world melted away as we kissed and caressed each other for what seemed like forever, yet wasn’t nearly enough time at all. When Spook finally pulled back, I still wanted more of him, and I tried to pull him back down. “Kyr,” he whispered breathlessly.

I smiled up at him, feeling even more intoxicated than when we had left the bar. “Hmm?”

Spook laughed at my expression, then became serious. “As much as I’d love to spend the rest of the night in your arms, I think we should probably get some sleep. I have a feeling the reveal might get a bit…intense.”

His reminder of what the next day would bring jolted me back to reality. Despite how real our experiences were–especially in the bell tower–and even though those experiences had been documented, I knew there was the likelihood that our evidence would either be rejected outright or swept under the carpet. I shuddered as I thought about the possible response to what we’d discovered about the bell tower’s history and replied reluctantly, “I suppose you’re right.”

As Spook walked me to my room, we were both more somber than we had been just a few minutes before as we each wrestled with our own thoughts. When we reached my door, I pulled out my keys and turned the lock. A sudden wave of apprehension made me raise my eyes to Spook’s. “Spook,” I began, my voice shaking. “Please stay with me.”

He returned my gaze and smiled slowly before responding reluctantly, “Kyr, as much as I’d love to finish what we started…”

“No,” I said, blushing. “That’s not what I meant.” Although I wouldn’t have refused him if he did try to continue. “I’d just feel safer if you were with me.”

Spook chuckled, but gazed at me steadily, assessing my expression. I knew he understood my uneasiness over everything that had happened on this investigation, and I hoped he knew how much I hated admitting that I wanted–no, needed–his protection. At last, he put his arm around me and led me inside. “All right, Kyr. I’ll stay with you.”

We were soon snuggled up together watching the last of the storm outside. As safe and warm as I felt wrapped in Spook’s arms, I was certain I would still sleep little if at all. Thankfully, I was wrong, and the steady patter of rain on the window coupled with Spook’s rhythmic breathing lulled me into a deep, restful slumber.

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