|UNHACKABLE HEART: Glenn -- Call in a demonologist|
Glenn clicked up four fingers. “The minimum number of computers you run at one time. The minimum number of USBs on the necklace that taps your belly button ring. The minimum number of different kinds of haunts going on out in that house. At least one of the four will require the expertise of a demonologist.”
Her scowl was nearly of epic proportions. Dare he tell her more?
“He’s on his way. He’s been fasting. That’s right you heard me, fasting. He is affiliated with the Catholic Church.”
She lifted one graceful and manicured hand, stop-sign fashion.
Cole laughed. He pointed at her hand. “I have fifty pictures of her like that, blocking the shot. You have lovely hands, Tessa, but God help the man trying to take your picture.”
She ignored Cole while slipping her hand into Glenn’s. “Don’t you remember that didn’t work to do any more than stir the strife and infuriate the things in that house? I was there. I’ll never forget it. Sounds scary, hardcore, bumping around in the darkness. The darkness out there bumps back. What’s he gonna do, bless the house or something?”
She pointed at Cole this time. “Do you hunt ghosts, too?”
“Nah. Those kind are too creepy for me. But I will help you hack the house if you want.”
She must not have been done with Cole, though, because she moved closer to him. “But you will hack anything, huh? Even a house?”
“Mirror right back at ya, Tessa?”
Glenn couldn’t seem to stop himself; he wanted her attention back. “She’s just mad at you because you were stupid enough to admit to trying to take her picture. Don’t you know? She‘s invisible.”
That seemed to please her quite a bit, because now she was smiling at him. “How sweet of you to notice! I am.”
Glenn shot a grin at Cole over her head. See? “All’s fair, bud.”
Cole shot back. “I can make you invisible, Tessa, so no one can trace a digital fingerprint or footprint.”
She did turn back toward Cole. “Your jujitsu is that strong?”
“I have long wished to be absolutely invisible.”
“I know,” Cole said quietly as he smiled at her.
“Are you coming along? To hunt the ghosts?”
Glenn crossed his arms over his chest. “He is a skeptic. He is scared to death of that stuff. Want to open his mind?”
Cole glared at him, clearly not happy. “I could if you wanted me to, Tessa.”
“Okay,” she said and clapped her hands. “So what are we waiting on?”
As if her question had conjured up the men in question, a pound pound came from Cole’s connecting room at the main entrance.
Although Cole left to answer his door and let the dozen men into his room, Glenn reached for a lock of her hair. As he rubbed the silky red-gold curl, he wondered if they would all get shocked, world rocked, trying to take down the dark forces.
“Wow,” Tessa said. She wasn’t looking at him when she said it. Instead her gaze was locked on the massive pile of gadgets to hunt ghosts that his friends were carrying into the room. “I take it back. It looks like it might be a blast!”
She spent the next hour meeting the other ghost hunters and their state-of-the art equipment.
Glenn picked up his ringing cell phone.
Tessa, leaning against the chest piled with gadgets, stared at him as his eyes found hers and she whispered in his ear. “Hiya, stranger.” Although she pushed off the chest and walked his way, she asked, “They want to go to Haven. How nice of you to offer this town a Haven 24/7. Do you want to go?”
I want to be alone with you, but he didn’t say that aloud. “Do you?” he asked instead.
Tessa had reached him and sat on the edge of the bed. She hung up her phone and patted the mattress beside her. “I’d rather be alone with you, Glenn.”
She might as well have punched his solar plexus. But she laughed and reached up to finger the hair at his neck. “Wow. You look like you might run. Go on with your friends then. This hotel room is crammed like a hackers’ convention. I thought you wanted me to get to know you a little better?”
Glenn raised his voice over all the commotion. “Hey. Get out! Now.”
She laughed again. The force of her smile aimed at him twisted his gut with lust. “That’s what I like about you, Glenn.”
As the door shut behind rumbling male laughter, Glenn turned his full attention on her. “Oh yeah? What’s that?”
“You tell me,” she suggested.
“I developed scruples?”
Her intent, though, must not be to simply flirt with him. She flicked off his hat and flung it on the other bed. “Falling is the easy part.” She laughed a bit wickedly and pushed him back on the bed. “You can help me get back up later. Much later.”
She smelled of wildflowers and spicy female. He inhaled deeply until his lungs filled with her scent, still caught in steamy green eyes as inviting as a hot spring.
“We’re wasting time,” she whispered in his ear before sinking her teeth over his earlobe. “Do you want to touch me?”
Glenn groaned. “Yeah.”
“Oh yeah? Where would that be?”
He lifted the edge of her shirt, pulling it up before fingering the guns dangling from her navel ring.
“I was silly, long long ago. To be afraid of you, of your warm body, of this.”
Glenn rolled her under him and kissed her until they were both senseless. “No way,” he panted. Ugh, had he really said that?
He pressed his mouth to her dainty little earlobe. “I’m not gonna be that guy. Your little sex buddy.”
She blinked but rocked up into him.
He groaned. “No,” he said with less conviction. “I’m not gonna let this get all mucked up with taint. No, babe. You can’t poison this honeypot. It could be real. It could be real good.”
“You don’t want this?”
“I do. Just not like this. In a hotel room. On a whim that may not be induced through toking dope but by a high of too many technical toys in the room. It’ll slip away like grains of sand in your hand in the light of day. You will so run from me if you don’t like your decision tomorrow.”
“Maybe,” she cocked up on one elbow, “I should have gone with brute force penetration testing. Wanna try it?”
Glenn cupped her face. “Lay beside me here.” He tapped his heart. “Get to know me here, Tessa. I’m the one who’s been waiting on you.”
She flung one arm over her eyes. “Do you think if none of that had happened, that we still would have met?”
“Lady, you were stuck in the sticks with dial-up service and a phone that would snuff off if the wind blew the wrong way. I knew you before any of it happened!”
“I was married then.”
“You were off-limits but I am not blind and you are not invisible.”
“And now something good will come out of it. Another good thing.”
She lifted her arm off her eyes. “I’m leaving,” she reminded him as if he needed reminded of her intentions.
“You said that last time.”
“I may be slow . . . but I finally did it. Really learned a lot along the way, mostly how much love hurts.”
“See?” Glenn sat up. “If you aren’t ready, you will vanish like a ghost. Love is still as much as a four-letter word as wife to you.”
“Bring on your demonologist then so we can get this thing done. Get in. Get it done. Get out. I don’t believe in that stuff anymore, all hope for that is snuffed out. I’m sunk in that subject; do I need to say more for you to comprehend?”
“Not you, no siree. Not you. You float back up like a bobber. You do believe in happily ever afters.”
“Fuck you. I don’t.”
Glenn rolled to his feet before grabbing his hat on the other bed. “Now that was rude.” He sat his hat gently on his head. “I’m frustrated too, Tessa. I know.” He tipped the brim of his hat. “Get some sleep. We hunt ghosts at sunset.”
Before he pulled her door closed, she asked, “Are you mad at me, Glenn? I’m sorry.”
“I’m mad, but not at you. I’m mad that you think you could burn that out of you. I saved your sacrifice from the bonfire. I know you. I’m mad that you still carry that wound, that it hurts you so much if I touch it. Think about that while I’m gone. Goodnight, Tessa.”
Tessa blew out a frustrated breath and turned on the cold water for a shower.
Much later, finally wrapped in a web of slumber, Tessa kicked off the sheet while trying to move out of this dream.
Prince charming in neverland, he was coming and he was pissed.
“No freakin’ way!” he roared. One big arm swiped the CDs off the desk. “I told you no protection, no nothing. The big boys want to play in your sandbox. If you try this putting software on the computer again, I’m gonna break the hand that touches the CD.”
“You’re sick, Sammy. Go do another bong and mellow out. You need some help.”
“No. You are the one who will need help if you try this again. You will pray for help if you try to leave. I’ll kill you and bury you out here. No one would find your body.”
One hand squeezed her throat. “Do you understand,” he demanded. “I can’t quite make it out.” He squeezed harder when her fingers pulled at his.
Tessa sat up, gasping for breath. As she panted, she rubbed one hand over her throat as if to banish the memory. He’d meant to kill her. Although she might rather not, she had to warn Glenn of what happened next.
She reached for her phone and dialed his number, despite the time at half past five in the morning.
Glenn, voice still foggy with sleep, answered, “Good morning, beautiful.”
“Are you sitting down?”
“I’m laying in bed.”
“Okay.” She blew out a slow breath.
“Tessa?” he sounded worried.
“You should know before hunting the ghosts, the six foot shadowy man who haunted me also saved me.”
“He, it,” she couldn’t make her mouth form the rest of the words. Instead she leaned forward to pull her laptop close. She typed it out in long hand IM and sent it to him.
The shadow grew stronger & stronger with the more fear & fury filling the house.
He said nothing for so long she wondered if she’d lost her signal and how far he was from a computer, if he’d heard her IM bleep or if he was still waiting for her to answer him.
Finally, in a gruff tone, he asked, “Are you okay?”
“Just dreaming. Do you think I’m crazy or do you believe it?”
“I don’t want you there when we hunt them down and trap them.”
“No really, what do you think?”
“Is your car still dead?”
“As far as I know, it hasn’t been towed off the highway yet. The mechanic said he’d call.”
“Good. I believe it’s gonna be powerfully dangerous tonight, Tess. I’m not taking you.”
“Then I won’t let your friends in for their equipment.”
“Let them in, Tessa, so we can setup. I’ll pick you up at sunset if you will stay with me and hold my hand the entire time you are in that house. Would you consider standing behind me?”
“I didn’t think so.”
“I’m scared though, Glenn. I am.”
“I know. We’ll take care of that for you. After tonight I hope you aren’t haunted; I hope you can heal.”
“I like you, Glenn Reston. I really do. If you were here I’d kiss you.”
“Maybe tomorrow morning, babe. Maybe you’ll press those pretty lips against me and not your gun.”
But after he picked her up at sunset and drove to her haunted house, Tessa wished she’d declined to come as the demonologist rubbed oil in a cross on her forehead.
All the men on the team, even Cole, accepted the Latin blessing before Glenn wrapped her fingers in his and walked into the house.
“Don’t let go,” he urged her, “no matter what.” He steered her past a pile of running equipment.
Tessa . . .
“Did you hear that?” she squeaked.
A different man with a thermal camera pointed toward one of the downstairs bedrooms, grunted, “I did.” Two men swung off in that direction, one asked questions while the other man taunted the force.
“Don’t provoke it,” she squeaked again.
The demonologist swung a golden vase of burning incense in front of him as he chanted in Latin.
Cole bumped into her back. “I hate this,” he hissed in her ear. “I’m not out in the van, hacking the house.”
Glenn headed toward the stairs to carry them to the upstairs bedroom even while a crash like broken glass sounded from the basement.
Tessa hesitated on the stairs, not wanting to go up there. She opened her fingers and tried to release Glenn’s hand. He didn’t let go, but he wasn’t the one who tugged her hair. “Glenn, I wanna go. See how quiet it is? They don’t want to come out and play on demand.”
“The biggest bullies are always the biggest chickens. Stop hiding. This is your one and only chance to tell us why you stay here.” When nothing happened after Glenn spoke, she pulled at his hand to release her again.
Cole topped the stairs behind her. “Show us why you hide here,” he commanded. A low tech tape recorder in one hand to capture any possible EVP, a digital thermometer in the other, Cole raised his voice. “Show us proof of your powers.”
Tessa almost yelped as they walked into the upstairs bedroom where Sammy had blown out his brains. She tugged now, in all earnestness, for Glenn to let go of her hand.
The air grew frosty around them. “Glenn,” she whispered and a cloud of white breath puffed out her mouth.
Another man behind Cole hollered down the stairs. “Up here, the action is up here.”
Nothing more happened as more men and more equipment filled up the room.
She almost breathed a sigh of relief.
“Look,” said the demonologist, not in Latin this time.
She looked out the large windows behind the house, looked down at the woods where the cave opening glowed a dark blood red.
Before she could sputter, Glenn pulled her closer to him by his hold on her hand. “This woman belongs to me.”
Hell on earth broke loose in the house, front bedroom windows exploding, shattered glass raining down on them. The floor rumbled before rolling under their feet like it had turned into waves. A three foot black shadow hissed and batted the tape recorder out of Cole’s hand. His curse word was overpowered by her shriek when an invisible force shoved Glenn back into her.
Join us, Tessa.
“I wanna go. I wanna go. I wanna go!” she shouted at Glenn.
Glenn stood steady at her front and Cole almost smashed against her back, Tessa only managed to whisper her next words. “Shadow?” The six foot dark shadow, a man, held out one hand to her.
“I wanna go,” she squeaked as crashes and bangs came from the downstairs or the basement.
When the shadowman moved closer to her, Glenn growled, “I command you not to touch her.”
Shadow lifted his other hand and shoved Glenn to the side of Tessa instead of in front of her.
“No, no, no,” she repeated like it might make it all stop, wanting Glenn out of the house now too.
The priest kept swinging the vessel of incense, chanting now, and tossing holy water from a bottle toward the shadow.
Now, Tessa. Do it now.
Tessa grabbed her head with her one free hand and brought her other hand with Glenn’s over her forehead. “Retreat, it’s in my head!”
“It’s under the bed,” Cole choked as the big bed bucked up and down like a monster played rodeo underneath.
Do it, Tessa, do it now.
A white mist out of the corner of her eye filled into a soldier in Confederate Civil War clothes. It flashed once and disappeared down the stairs. Four men chased after it.
Thud thump. Thud thump. Thud thump. Footsteps like by heavy boots sounded in the next room.
Come back, Tessa. Come back.
The walkie-talkie at Glenn’s hip bleeped before the announcement. “Hotspot in the basement.” Decade old carbon monoxide monitors screeched in the basement. The smoke detectors shrieked in every room.
Tessa . . . join us. Now. Do it now.
“Enough!” Tessa screamed and reached into her jacket. She pulled out her gun.
“Damnation!” Glenn roared before snatching the gun from her trembling hand, pulling her down the stairs and out the front door.
His anger kicked up the action in the house a notch as other men shouted excitedly to each other.
Bricks rained down in the side yard until the dust settled and all grew quiet inside and outside. As soon as Tessa stepped out of the house, all activity stopped.
“Whoo-hoo!” she heard someone holler. “I hope we got all that. Looks like we come back tomorrow night.”
Glenn poked her in the chest, waving her weapon around with his other hand. “I told you not to bring your gun!”
He hooked both strong hands around her shoulders like he wanted to shake her. “When it was in your head, calling you upstairs aloud and by name, did you want to point this freakin’ thing at your temple and blow out your brains?”
She refused to look at him as that is exactly what the darkness upstairs had whispered in her ear.
“Damn you, Tessa.” But then his mouth slanted over hers.
Cole stumbled out, breaths heaving, and leaned against the truck. “Holy hell, I’m not coming back!”
But the other men talked and high-fived, ready to rock, adrenaline cooking, making plans to go to Haven and review their evidence.
The demonologist coughed, urging Glenn to let go of Tessa, to stop kissing her. He coughed again. “I’m Paul,” he said to Tessa.
She blinked at him, brain at a nonfunctioning level after that kiss. Glenn still had strong warm arms wrapped around her waist, holding her upright, holding her against him.
Paul continued despite her lack of response. “This house is cursed. I will fast again another day. You must be ready for it.”
Finally she uttered, “I want to burn it down. Would that get rid of it? Or must we fight to send it to hell for eternity?”
“It’s much stronger than I have battled before,” the demonologist admitted. “There are at least six different types of forces in there, mixed in with an ancient curse on the land. Two residual harmless forces. Four intelligent beings, two are shadow-people and one a full-bodied apparition. One lost soul, trapped and wandering. One is indeed demonic. What do you want to do, Glenn?”
Tessa squeezed his hand. “Please, Glenn, let’s just burn down the house and destroy the cave? I’m afraid someone will be severely hurt experiencing severe paranormal and dealing with demons.”
What will Glenn choose?