Sunday Serial: Giving up the Ghost Chapter Ten

Chapter Ten: Hero learns that her mysterious messages are just static to Jenny. So Hero agrees to a date with the dashing, and dangerous, Detective Kyle to enlist his aid in tracking down a murderer most fiendish.

I probably should have put some thought into what I was going to say to Kyle before I called. But I hadn’t and of course he answered on the first ring.

“Smyth.”

Hearing his voice again, made me shiver. Sure, his sexy side had been a little surprising, but I’d heard the promise in his claims. And it still made me blush. “Kyle, this is Hero.”

“Hero, is something wrong?”

Concern, I was sure I heard concern. “I wanted to apologize for last night. You’re right. I should have been willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.”  My words were a jumbled rush. “Um, so, sorry, I was rude and stuff.”

A pause, “Huh, I didn’t expect an apology.” 

We both paused. Again, I mentally kicked myself for not having figured out what I was going to say to him before I called. Apologizing and then asking for a favor seemed a little callous.  The silence stretched.  I finally broke it, “Um, do you want to get coffee or something, and um, talk?”   

“Sure,” then a pause, “I could do that.”

Uh huh, so hot sex-demon guy had to work to sound nonchalant. I filed that away for later. “I don’t know your schedule or anything,” I glanced at the clock again. Was it too desperate to ask him to meet tonight? “But, if you’re not busy tonight, I’m free. And I have information about Dee.” I reminded myself to try and sound as nonchalant as him.  Hey, if he was going to play it cool, I could too.

“Sure, I could meet you tonight.”

I smiled to notice there was no pause this time, but his voice had shifted back to being all business. As we finalized our plans, I wondered if I heard disappointment in his tome. Had he really wanted this to be a date or something? We decided to meet at, The Vienna, a local coffee house that wasn’t too far from my apartment, and had a great outdoor garden.  We agreed to meet at seven.

I was in the middle of tearing through my closet, looking for something to wear, but I couldn’t decide what said, “Hey I’m cute, but please don’t eat my soul.”  The front door opened and Jenny came strolling in, with dinner.

She took in the clothes hurricane in an instant and narrowed her eyes.  “What’cha doing, Hero?”  She set the take out containers on the table.

I dropped the blouse I’d been holding up.  “First,” I held up a finger, “You have to promise to hear me out.”

She kept her eyes narrowed, “Okaaay.”  She drew out the word, letting me know she wasn’t okay with this at all.   

“Second” I held up two fingers, “You have to promise not to get mad.”

Jenny shifted a pile of clothes from the couch, “I think I’m going to need to sit down.”

I remained standing.  “Ok first, I’m going to meet Kyle.”

Her expression was blank, “Who?”

I sighed, trust Jenny not to bother to remember the guy’s name.  “Kyle, the detective.”

She sat up straighter, “The lilu?  Are you crazy?” 

I held up my finger, “You promised to hear me out.”

She stopped and gave a small nod. I could see her clenching her jaw with the effort.

“Here’s the deal. I don’t think he’s trying to swallow my soul, or whatever it is they do.  And after what Aidan said about Dee’s death being unnatural, I need to find out who did this.  He’s a detective and can help me.”  I paused, watching a grudging understanding enter her eyes. 

She nodded tightly.

I shoved a pile of clothes to the floor, ignoring Jenny’s disapproving glance.  “If Dee was murdered, I want to find whoever did it, and make them pay.”  I was surprised to hear the cold anger in my voice.

Jenny started too interrupted to argue that she could help me.

I shook my head at her, “Did you find out anything playing Nancy Drew today?” I asked.

She shook her head.

Before she could protest, I continued, “And, I think I need to figure out how to talk to the dead, or whatever it’s called.  Aidan’s friend still hasn’t called me back, but I’ve gotten all sorts or weird calls today.”  I told her about the strange phone calls, the static and the voices. I decided my revelations about the photo could wait until after we dealt with the not-a-date with Kyle issue. 

She listened and frowned.  “Hero,” she paused, “Can I talk now?”

I nodded.

“You were supposed to call me if something weird happened.”  She reminded me. “Can I listen the messages?” 

I nodded and handed her the phone. 

I watched her listening and frowning in concentration.

“I only hear static.  Not Dee or anything else.”  She finally said.

I took the phone back, “Maybe I played you the wrong message?”

She shook her head, “Hero I just listened to like five messages of static.”  Her expression turned to concern, “Are you sure you weren’t hearing what you wanted to hear?”

I scowled at her, “Maybe it’s because of what I am.  Maybe you can’t hear messages from ghosts.”

She held up her hands, “Maybe, you’re right. I don’t know any other lemurias. I’m not really sure what you guys do.”  She looked at the phone again, “Maybe you can just call them on a phone. But I could see the images in the photos.”

I considered that. Jenny had been able to see the purple orbs, so it seemed reasonable to assume that she should be able to hear the voices too. I turned the phone to speaker and played the messages again. I clearly heard Dee telling me to call my mother. I watched Jenny the entire time.  All I saw was her straining to hear something.

She shook her head, “Sorry Hero, it’s just static to me.” She must have noticed my expression.

I could feel the tears of frustration burning in my eyes.

“But that doesn’t mean the voice isn’t there.  Maybe you’re right and I just can’t hear it.”

I blinked back the tears. “Well, I’m going to meet with Kyle.  I’ll see if he can hear it. And I’m going to tell him about Dee and see if he’ll help me.”

Jenny sighed. “You like him, don’t you?”

“Huh?”

She rolled her eyes, “Kyle,” she said, “You’re interested in him.  You like like him.”

I felt the blush, and knew that she had me.  It wasn’t really worth trying to deny it.  “I don’t know.  I mean, he’s…” I paused, “Ok, he’s hot, but that’s not the point.”

She leaned back, “It’s his job to be hot. He’s like me. We’re born to be attractive to humans.  Everything about us is attractive because we’re predators.”

“But I’m not human” I reminded her. “I’m a preter too.”  That seemed to make her stop and think. 

“I guess if you’re immune to me, you could be immune to his powers too.”

I didn’t tell her about the conversation I’d had with him at the sushi restaurant. He’d claimed that he hadn’t used his powers on me, and I had no idea to tell if he had.  But, I wasn’t going to tell Jenny that. “Maybe I am,” I shrugged.  “Either way, I’m going to meet him, and not just because he’s attractive.  I really don’t think he plans on hurting me.”

Jenny sighed again, “So you don’t want me to be mad that you’re going for coffee with what equates to lion, a hungry lion?”

I rolled my eyes, “I go to coffee with you all the time.” I reminded her, “And you’re just as dangerous.  Besides he’s my only option to find out who killed Dee.”

“What about Dee’s computer?”  She asked looking at the laptop.  “Or her office at the house, we haven’t checked out any of that stuff.”

I frowned at her, “I don’t know if we’ll find anything on her computer or in her office or anywhere in that house that will help.” I felt the crease between my eyebrows deepen, “Jenny, I’ve got to figure out what happened to her, and she kept so many secrets from me, I just don’t believe that she left me a secret diary that will explain everything.”

Jenny closed her eyes a moment.  “Alright,” she held up her hands in a show of surrender, “Go meet with him, but I need you to promise me something, well two somethings.”

I cocked my head at her, waiting for the request.

“I’m going to call you a half hour into your date, and I want you to answer. Just so I know you’re still alive and unaffected by him.” 

It seemed reasonable, and we’d both pulled the escape phone call ruse for each other with dates.  “I can do that, what’s the second thing?”

She smiled, “Let me pick out your outfit.”

I laughed.  “Wait you’re worried I won’t look good for my date with a sex-demon?”

She laughed, “You should call him that.  I’m sure he’d appreciate it.”

I almost told her then, about running into him and calling him that. But I didn’t. Until I was sure I could trust him, and I could convince her of it, the less I said about him the better.

She jumped up and began digging through my clothes.  “Besides, I am not letting you go out to meet him looking like dinner.”  She glanced at the pile of clothes and back at me, “Ok, cute but not dinner.”  She made me try on a bunch of outfits, and finally approved of black jeans and a lavender silk camisole covered by a sweater.

I had to admit that the outfit looked good.  It was a little sexy, but not overt about it.  I drew the line at letting her fix my hair and makeup.  There were some things I could do by myself.

Jenny gave me the once over when I was finished, and I could tell she approved.

I collected my purse and my keys. “Oh yeah, I totally forgot.  Are you free tomorrow afternoon?”

She glanced at her phone, checking her calendar, “I should be, why? Are we going to meet and giggle over your date?”  She softened her words with a smile.

“No, I have a meeting with Dee’s lawyer.”

Jenny blinked, “Her lawyer, she had a lawyer?”

I nodded.  I filled her in on the details of my other phone calls and finished by asking her to go to the appointment with me. “I’m sure he’s just a regular guy and all, but you’ve made me a little paranoid.  I thought having backup would be a good idea.”

Jenny nodded, “Smart. Of course I’ll be there.”

We decided to meet at Dee’s early. I should collect her mail and stuff. And Jenny’s hint that maybe we should start going through the stuff in Dee’s office too.

It was almost time for me to go and meet Kyle, but Jenny was making no move to leave.

“Um, Jen I gotta go.”  I pointed at my watch.

She found the tv remote and clicked on the tv. “I know, but I’m going to be here when you get home.”

“Really mom?”  I asked.

She nodded, “And don’t forget to answer your phone”

I sighed and left my apartment to meet with Kyle.

The drive to the Vienna took under five minutes, so I arrived about fifteen minutes early. I parked on the street in front of the two-story converted house. I wasn’t sure if I should just go in and find a table and wait for him. I didn’t date a lot, but the small voice in my head reminded me that this wasn’t a date.  Ok, I told myself, think client.  If I was meeting with a client, I’d totally arrive early and find a table and order myself a drink.

I headed inside.  A few college kids were seated in the scattered couches.  The Vienna was going for an upscale look, so these weren’t the usual mismatched, comfy type couches.  They were all dark chocolate leather and lacked a lot of padding.  The interior was trying to be urban chic.  It really just looked sterile and uncomfortable.  The hard lines of the dark couches weren’t softened at all by the stark white walls and concrete floor.  Some local artist had her work on display, and the sharply etched drawings of weird elongated people did nothing to make the place feel welcoming. 

I went to the counter and ordered a coffee.  I mentioned I was meeting someone, and that I’d find a table outside.  The young twenty-something at the counter gave me a bored “uh huh” when I told her I meeting someone.  So the interior and the employees made the Vienna less than desirable, but outside could almost make up for it.  

The back area, what would have been the backyard when the building was a house, was a warren of nooks for seating.  Plants had been allowed to grow a little wild, so vines snaked up trellises and potted flowers and bushes abounded.  With the barista’s attitude, I didn’t want Kyle to have to struggle to find me, so I scanned the tables near the door.  Some college kids had one and a few couples filled the others.  I walked further into the garden. 

I passed a small fountain and turned the corner.

I found a table mostly screened by towering hawthorn bushes, but it did face the door. I was getting settled in when I heard my name.  Kyle was standing at the door of the café.  He quickly headed over to my table.

“You’re early.” I said.

He smiled, “So are you.”

I felt my heart speed up a little at his smile.  Jenny was right; he must have been designed to be attractive.  I sat down across the table from him.  “Thanks for agreeing to meet me.”

He continued to smile, “How could I say no?”  He sat down, “And I want to be honest up front, I did a little checking up on your friend, the Rondalay.”

I raised my eyebrows, “You mean Jenny?”

He looked a little abashed. “Yeah, Jenny.  You’re right, I misjudged her.”

Well that was promising, and it meant that he must have preter contacts.  “Yeah, what’d you find out?”  I tried to keep from sounding annoyed, but I’m pretty sure I failed when he started to look more embarrassed.

“I didn’t know that she was estranged from her family.  Kind of the black sheep, I guess.  She’s not at all what I thought she was.”  He let the words trail off, clearly no longer comfortable talking about what he had found out.

“Huh, go figure.  I know my best friend, after all.”  Ok that came out snotty, but really who does a background check on someone’s best friend?  Oh yeah, I reminded myself, he is a cop.

Kyle cringed at my tone.  “This isn’t starting out as well as I’d hoped.”

I shrugged, not quite ready to forgive him yet.  “Not so much.”

He ran his hand through his hair and I noticed a stray bit that fell over his forehead.  Damn, he was hot. 

I shifted in my seat.

“I’m sorry I checked up on Jenny.”  He said.

“Thanks.” I muttered.  This wasn’t going the way I’d anticipated at all.  “Let’s just forget it, ok?”

His smile faltered, “So that’s it?”

“Huh?” I was totally lost. 

“Us,” he gestured at us, “You said we should forget it.”

I laughed.  I tried to stop when he just looked confused and a little like a lost puppy.  “Sorry,” I gasped around another laugh. “I didn’t mean this.” I gestured at the table, “I just meant all the stuff with Jenny and the other weirdness.”

His smile returned and this time it was a real grin.  “I’d like that.”

We sat in silence again, and I admit, it was still a little awkward.  Because I’m pretty sure he was thinking that this was a date and not a business meeting.  “So, I wanted to talk to you about Dee.”  Before I could go on my phone rang.  I glanced at the display on my phone and gave him an apologetic smile.  I mentally glared at Jenny, I was like ten minutes into my date and she was calling.

He laughed, “The friend phone call?”

I nodded and stood up taking my phone.  “I’ll tell her you aren’t going to kill me, and be right back.”

I walked a few feet away from the table and answered the phone.  “I’m fine Jenny.”

She sighed, “Are you sure he hasn’t used any weird lilu tricks?”

This time I sighed, “Since I don’t even know what a lilu trick is, I can’t be sure.  But, he’s been a perfect gentleman the entire time.”  I could picture Jenny scowling.

“Just don’t let him touch you.  They need to touch people to use their powers.”

“Okay, no touching.”  I paused, “Wait, how do you know that?”

I could hear Jenny’s scowl this time, “I called my cousin.  I figured someone in the family would know more about them than I do.”

Wow, that was big.  As far I knew, Jenny had cut all ties with her family at eighteen.  She hadn’t talked to any of them, in ten years.  “Wow, Jen are you really that worried about him?  I mean, calling your family.”

“Yes, I’m that worried. But I’ve kind of kept in touch with my cousin Andy for years.  It’s not like we’re all buddy buddy, but he’s more like me than the rest of the family.  And you have no idea how dangerous lilus can be.  My cousin, Andy, he told me all sorts of stuff about them.  I’ll fill you in later.”

I shook my head, knowing she couldn’t see it anyway.  “Well you can fill me in later.  Right now I’ve got to ask him to help me investigate, and I feel a little guilty asking him.”

Jenny barked a laugh, “Why? It’s not like you guys are on a date

or anything.”

I let the silence stretch between us, until Jenny started yelling into the phone.  I held it a few inches from my ear, still hearing her every word.

“Jen.  Jenny.  Jenson!” I finally broke through her tirade.  “It’s not that big a deal, and I don’t think I’d mind this being a date.”  This time I was rewarded with silence.  “Look, Jen, he’s a really nice guy.  And I like him.”  I took a deep breath, waiting for another tirade.  I heard nothing.  “Jenny?”

“If you’re sure that you really like him and that he’s trustworthy, ok. But, I am so checking for lilu magic when you get home.”

At least she was calm again.  “I’ll let you know when I’m on my way home, so you can prep the Ouija Board and candles.”  I said with a smile.  “Bye Jenny.”

I ended the call and returned to the table.  I smiled at Kyle, “We’re good.” I said and dropped my phone in my purse.  I could tell he wanted to ask about the call, but seemed to be holding back.  Since we’d finally gotten past the weirdness, I could understand that.

I caught his eye, “Yes, it was Jenny checking up on me, but to be fair, she always does that.”

He gave a small smile, “What did she tell you about lilus?”

I shrugged, “Not much.  It seems like no one in the preterworld knows anything about other preters.  It’s kinda weird.  Like, why not branch out, make friends?”

He gave me a quizzical look, “That’s mostly a siren-thing, and some of the other races, but Dee was all about getting preters together.  She changed preter society here. You said she encouraged your friendship with Jenny.”

I shook my head, “She never told me anything about the preterworld. I didn’t find out about it until after Dee died.”  I blushed, feeling a little foolish admitting it to him.  I may have been making the biggest mistake in my life by telling him, but if I was going to ask for his help, I needed to be honest.  I couldn’t fake understanding the preterworld well enough to fool him.

He frowned, “But that was what three days ago?”

I nodded sheepishly. “She didn’t want me to know.  I guess she was planning on telling me about it, but then…” I let my words trail off, reminded of the purpose of meeting him.  This wasn’t a date.  This wasn’t going to end with me having a boyfriend that I could tell Dee about.  If I was lucky, this would end with me getting him to help me find out who killed her.

“Sorry.”  He said, “Um, but can’t you see ghosts, you never wondered about that?”

I shrugged, “I can’t remember ever seeing anything ghostly, ever.” I was suddenly reminded of the summer I had spent with my mother. The strange man who’d talked to me, and her sending him away by screaming at him in another language. I tried to remember if I actually saw him leave the room. I couldn’t be sure, but I think he was there, and then he was gone. Like vanished, poof, gone. “Jenny claims that Dee blocked my powers.”  I blushed again, “Sorry, it feels really weird to say that out loud.”

He sat back in his chair.  “I guess it would.”  He seemed to be thinking, maybe imagining life without knowing about the preterworld.  Maybe about someone taking away your powers, I wasn’t sure.  He frowned.  “Wait, why would your aunt have blocked your powers?”

I cocked my head at him.  “I have no idea.”

“Huh, binding your abilities would take some major mojo.”  He sipped his coffee, still looking pensive.  “Huh.”  He said and shook his head.

I chewed on my lip, wondering if I’d told him too much. Wondering if my lack of preter knowledge was a problem.  “Did I just tell you too much?  I guess it’s kind of a lot to process.”

He stared into his coffee cup for a second.  “It’s not too much,” he looked up at me and smiled, “It’s just not what I’d expected.  And now understand why you seemed so… off.”

This time I frowned.  “I don’t think I get it.”

“Well, you were really distraught about Dee, but you’re a lemuria.”  He glanced at me to see if I was comfortable with the conversation.  I nodded at him to continue.  “It mostly made sense that first day, but after that, I kind a figured, you’d call up her ghost and talk to her.”

I found myself looking into his eyes, and saw the honesty there.  “I wish I knew how.” I shrugged feeling a little foolish.  I wondered how much of our conversations I’d misunderstood.  “Aidan, the mortician, thinks that the spell will wear off now, but I still don’t know how to call her, or anyone else.”  I realized that I may have made a dangerous mistake.  If Kyle wasn’t trustworthy, I’d be in serious trouble. 

He nodded slowly.  “Huh, if you want, I can see if I can find someone who knows a lemuria to help you.  There aren’t any locally, but someone must know one.”

I nodded, “Aidan offered the same thing, I’m still waiting to hear from him.”  I watched his face fall a little.  “But, I’d appreciate any help I can get.”  I think my words fell a little flat because he didn’t look much happier.  I opted to change the subject, “Um, do you know anything about Sosostris?”

He paled, and his expression turned serious and he leaned forward.  “Hero, I know that her death wasn’t natural.”  He reached for my hand and stopped. “I’m a cop and a preter.  If she was killed, I can help.” His eyes took a feral glint, “I can make sure you get justice for her death, the human world can’t do that.  It’s what she hired my family to do.”  The feral look still in his eyes, made the smile sinister.

I blinked at him.  I hadn’t expected him to go all vigilante on me.  “Wait, how do you know she didn’t die naturally?”

“Sorry, it’s hard to remember that you probably don’t know much about preters.  Her records indicate she was 89, but she didn’t look it.”

I shook my head, “I don’t understand.”  I was trying to follow what he was saying while simultaneously quelling the danger alarm in my head.  If he already knew it was murder, was he involved?  But he seemed so genuinely interested in helping me.

“Right, I wasn’t thinking.  Hecate can live to be like 200.  Even if she was lying with her official records, she didn’t look old enough to go naturally.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, “And was this discovery a cop thing? Or a preter thing?”

He still seemed to be trying to gauge my reaction, but seemed confused.  “Mostly a cop thing.  Sure people die, accidents and diseases, but with your aunt, it doesn’t feel right.”  He caught my questioningly look, “totally a cop feeling, not a lilu feeling.”

I hadn’t missed his attempted to dodge my question about Sosostris.  Was that a good sign or a bad one?  I didn’t know, but I took a deep breath and told him the truth, “Aidan said she was murdered.  Most likely by a…” I paused not wanting to mispronounce the word, “by a circe?”

He narrowed his eyes, “And Aidan told you about Sosostris?”

I nodded, “So what do you know about them?”

His eyes hardened, and his entire posture grew tight.  “Well, they were way before my time.  There are more rumors than facts about them.”

To me, he seemed to be stalling.  I toyed with my coffee, and gave him a chance to answer.

His expression remained hard.  “They were a group of preters.  They formed up sometime after World War One.”

I cocked my head at him, “Yeah, I got that part from Aidan.  What made them so bad?”

He aimlessly stirred his coffee, “It’s pretty horrific stuff, Hero. And I don’t know how much of it is even true.” 

I couldn’t figure out why he was stalling, unless he was working with them.  I started to ask him, but he interrupted.

“Are you sure you just don’t want to let me take care of this for you?”  He started to look hopeful.  “I just need you to call Aidan, and I can get all the details he has.  I can find who did this and take care of it.  You don’t have to be part of this.”

He wouldn’t meet my eyes.  The alarm in my head sounded again.  “I don’t have to be part of this.”  I felt the annoyance in my words, “There’s no way, I’m going to just hand this off to you and sit around waiting.  I want to know who did this, I want to know why.”  My voice was rising, “And I want to make them pay.”

He looked up at me, his expression blank.  I could see concern in his eyes, but his expression was stony.  “Hero, I don’t think you know what you’re asking.”  His words were even, and flat.  “We don’t have jail.  We don’t have trials.” He paused and caught my eye. 

I tried to stifle my shudder, but his eyes were feral again.  Dark and dangerous.  For a moment I saw him for the predator that he was, and I was scared.

“When I find who did this, there is only one punishment.”  His voice had dropped to a deep throated whisper.  “I will kill them.”

While it was still a whisper it was so matter of fact that I did start to shake. I couldn’t think of anything to say, I couldn’t even move.

His mouth twisted into a grimace.  And he reached across the table and took my hand.  “Scared?” He asked, calmly.

His hand provided no comfort this time.  I glared at him, “If you think this is going to change my mind you’re wrong.”  I pulled my hand away feeling my anger return.  “I want your help, but I’m going to be part of this.”  I watched him fight to maintain his stony expression, what I was realizing was a fake nonchalance.  “I’m not some weak little girl who’s going to sit back and let you fix my problems.”  He snapped at him, “I admit that I need help, but I’ll do whatever it takes.”

He closed his eyes a moment, his expression crumbled.  He looked at me, his brow furrowed.  “Hero, I can’t let you get hurt.”

I shot him a dark look, “That’s not your call.”

He barked a sardonic laugh, “Yeah, it is.  You need me for this.”

We sat silently for a few moments.  I was trying to quell my rage.  He was right, I did need him, but he was going to have to accept that I needed to be part of this.  Who did he think he was trying to play the big protector?  I didn’t need a white knight. I just needed someone to point me in the right direction.  Of course, that small voice inside me kept repeating that I couldn’t kill someone.  Even if that person had killed Dee, I didn’t even know how to kill someone. 

Our battle of wills stretched out, but Kyle broke the silence.

“Hero,” he paused and ran his hand through his hair, the frustration clear on his face.  He took a deep breath, “Remember at the restaurant when I said you gave off signals?”

I frowned at him, utterly lost by the change in subject.  “What does that have to do with anything?”

He laid his arms on the table and leaned forward a little bit.  “Just hear me out.”  I saw the pleading in his expression. 

I gave a sharp nod.

“I can’t let you get hurt.”  He paused and chewed on his lip a moment, “I’m not trying to be a jerk, or tell you what to do, or anything.  I’m not stalking you in the lilu sense.”  He let his eyes meet mine for a moment, “But, I am attracted to you.  A lot.  And because of that, I can’t let you walk into danger.”  He looked at me, still wearing his pleading expression.

I was completely confused.  He was saying because he liked me, he wanted to keep me safe?  I could kind of get that, but something was still off.  “Get over it.”

He shook his head, “I can’t just get over it.”  He looked frustrated.  “This isn’t some caveman – must protect the girl thing,” he said miming pounding on his chest.  “It’s a lilu thing.”  He rested his chin on his hand.  “I don’t know how to explain this to you.  At least not the right way.”

He really did look so lost, so helpless.  “Try,” I said.

“It’s all mixed up for me.”  He continued to rest his chin on his hand.  “I’ve always avoided relationships because of this.”

I was still completely lost, but he seemed to be trying at least.  I told myself to be patient, to let him figure out how to explain the problem.

“For me, for lilus, we hone in on prey…” he paused, “I guess prey really is the only word. You were right when you asked about stalking.  We’re hunters. We choose prey and stalk them, hunt them.  But if the person isn’t prey,” He sat back in his chair, his expression darkening, “You aren’t prey, but I want you.”  He gave a weak shrug, “I guess that is a little caveman like, but since you’re not prey, I need to protect you.”  His eyes flickered over my face, looking for some indication that I understood him. 

“Um, I don’t get it?  Just stop needing to protect me.”  I said, but I heard the confusion in my words and was sure it was echoed in my expression.  “It can’t really be hard.”

He gave a weak smile, “I don’t think I can.” His brow furrowed again, “The thought of you in danger, kind of switches on all my lilu instincts.”  He cocked his head at me, “I didn’t realize it until I found you unconscious at Dee’s house.  It was like seeing you on the ground flipped a switch in me.  I’ve never had to fight so hard to keep from giving my hunter side free reign.”  He started to reach for my hand and stopped himself.  “I was ready to literally tear apart the person who’d hurt you.  I started to change, in the house.”

I found myself trapped by his gaze.  What I’d come to think of as the feral look had gone away during his confession, but was back in full force now.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move.  I’d never really thought about how a rabbit felt when faced with a wolf, but I was pretty sure I knew now. 

Kyle forced his eyes away and looked down.  “Yeah, so I don’t know if I can turn it off.  At least not easily.”  He mumbled.   

With his eyes off of me, I took a deep breath. I guess the preter-thing was more complicated than I’d thought. “Ok,” I managed to stutter, “You don’t want,” I paused, “No, I guess you’re telling me that I can’t help you.”

He shrugged. “I don’t know.”  He ran his hands through his hair, and I noticed that his eyes were back to normal.  “I know that it’s dangerous.  Anyone who could murder Dee is super-powerful.”  He frowned, “It might be different if you could use your powers, but you can’t.  Right?”

I shook my head.  “Jenny said now that Dee is,” I felt my voice hitch up a little, “gone, they should come back.  But it’s not like I know what to do with them.”  I hated admitting it so openly, but he’d be honest with me.  “Aidan told me he’d see if he could find someone to train me, but until them.” I shrugged.  But the conversation reminded me of the phone calls.  “My, powers,” I cringed a little at the word.  It sounded downright stupid to me, but I wasn’t sure what else to use.  “I think they are coming back.”  I filled him on the strange phone calls, at least receiving them.  I left out the actual message, maybe it was a trust thing, and maybe it was me trying to test him.  I wasn’t sure.

He sat silently a moment, possibly thinking about what I’d told him.  “And Jenny couldn’t hear the voice?”

I shook my head, but had already pulled out my phone.  “You want to try?”

He nodded and I handed him the phone.

He sat listening to the messages, sometimes closing his eyes, almost straining to hear over the static.  He listened a few more times and then hung up the phone.  “So do you know how to call your mother?”

I blinked at him. “Wait, you could hear the message?”  I couldn’t keep the tremor out of my voice.  I’d told him I’d received weird calls, and the caller sounded like Dee, but I hadn’t told him the details.

He nodded, “Mostly.  There’s a lot of static and background noise, and I can’t identify the speaker.  But the messages are there.”  He paused and handed me back the phone, “I assume your mother is… gone?”

I appreciated his pause, but I hadn’t really known my mother.  Her loss didn’t invoke any of the confused feelings that Dee’s did.  I shook my head, “She died when I was a kid, but I was living with Dee long before that.”

He didn’t press for details, just nodded. 

“So how come you can hear the messages and Jenny can’t?”

He seemed to be thinking about the question.  “I’m not sure.  It probably has to do with what I am.”

I was a little distracted watching the play of emotions across his face.  I pulled myself together, “I don’t think I understand.  I really need like a dummies guide to this preter crap.”

His lips twitched into a smile and broke into laughter.

I scowled at him, but didn’t have any real venom behind the look.  How could I, when the smile transformed his face?

“Sorry, Hero.”  I finally quelled his laughter.  “I’m not laughing at what you don’t know. The idea of a book about preters.”  He laughed again, “Most of us would have a fit.  So many of the races love to keep up their mystique, using legend and folklore to make themselves sound better.”  He continued to wear a lopsided grin and his eyes sparkled.  “As to your question, lilus are kind of ghostly, or maybe ghost-like.”

I gestured for him to go on.  While I was beyond frustrated with having to ask for definitions of everything, Kyle at least seemed to be trying to explain it in regular people words.

“All the tedious mythology aside, we can, at least some of us can, kind of become spirits.” He paused, “Like the new agey, astral projecting thing. So we can sometimes see ghosts. We can’t interact with them much, but we’re like related, cousins or something.”

I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. The hot guy was Casper’s second cousin, or something. I didn’t even want to think about how that impacted his attraction to me, that was way more than I could deal with at the moment. My face must have given away my discomfort, because he was quick to keep talking.

“But I’m alive, and not a ghost.  And to be honest my abilities in the ghosting thing are a little weak.”  He blushed a little admitting that.

I wondered if it was a guy thing or a lilu thing.  “Oh,” I managed to form a word, I could make a sentence.  “Ok, I wasn’t really expecting that.  I was thinking maybe super-hearing or something.”

He started to smile again, “Nothing that useful.”  He cocked his head, “But being a ghost can be really handy for investigating.  Since only someone like you could see me.”  He sighed,

“Sometimes I wish I was better at it.”

I smiled back at him, “I’m sure you’re plenty good at lots of things.”  I felt myself blush hearing the double meaning in my words.  I was reminded of his claim that I was putting out signals.

His grin shifted into a seductive smile and his eyes darkened a little.  “Oh, I am.”  He gazed at me a second longer, and I felt ready to melt.  He shifted his hand forward and brushed his fingers over the back of my hand, and I shivered.  He shook his head and looked away, “I really need to work on being around you. And I didn’t do anything to you.”

I cocked my head, “Huh?  I don’t get it.”

He shifted in his chair, moving a little farther away from me and moving his hands into his lap.  “I’m sure Jenny warned you about a lilu’s touch.  We have to touch people to use our power.  I just wanted you to know, I didn’t do anything to you, just now.”  He finished and blushed.

I smiled.  “Yeah she warned me, but I don’t think you’re using some kind of Jedi mind trick on me.”  I wasn’t sure if I should tell him that I was immune to Jenny.  Then I wondered it that meant that I’d be immune to him.  He’d already proven he could do stuff that Jenny couldn’t, so maybe I couldn’t be immune.  I was still considering whether to tell him, when my phone rang.  It jangled some annoying ring tone that I knew I would never have chosen.  I frowned at Kyle, “Bad timing, I know, but is that my phone?”

He nodded, “I think so.”

I fished around in my bag and found my phone.  The display read blocked number.  “I need to get this.”

He nodded, “Based on the calls you get, that makes sense.”

I stayed at the table and answered the call.  “Hello?”

The static started, just like I expected then Dee’s voice. “Hero, call your mother. Tell her before they find you.”

“Dee?” I asked.

I was rewarded with an almost deafening burst of static.  “Hello? Dee?”  I was rewarded with silence and dead air.  I glanced at the phone, dropped call. 

“Was it her?” Kyle asked, his voice soft.

I slowly nodded and felt my eyes fill with tears.  “Yes, I think so.”  I could barely say the words around the lump in my throat.  Hearing her voice brought back all of the grief.  It was easier when I could pretend, or at least let myself be distracted by all the craziness.  I didn’t have to think about not being able to talk to her, about Dee not being alive.  I lowered my head and tried to wipe away my tears. 

This time he did touch me.  He came around the table and hugged me.  I felt his hands tangle in my hair.  “It’s ok, Hero.  I’ll find out who took her away from you.”

We stayed that way for awhile.  I was a little surprised to realize that I could still cry. I had thought over the last few days, I’d cried more than humanly possible.  Like there was some well of tears that could eventually run dry. Until I’d heard her voice so clearly, I hadn’t realized that I could still cry.  When my tears became sniffles, Kyle shifted away from me.  I notice that he kept his arms around me, and found that I didn’t mind at all.

He waited while I wiped away the evidence of crying on a napkin.  I’m sure I looked awful, but he turned my face toward his.  I found myself lost in his eyes.

“Hero, I’ll help you with this.”  His face was earnest, “And if you really need to be involved,” he locked eyes with me, “I’ll find a way to make it work with us.”

He looked so serious and so honest, and I really wanted to believe him.

“So, you’ll help me?”  My voice was raspy from crying. 

He nodded.

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