“Excuse me!” I said, getting off the bed in a huff, arms crossed, trying to control my temper.
He smiled lazily. “Don’t just yell at me. Tell me how you’re really feeling.”
Was he just fucking with me now? I felt myself snarling at him automatically. If he wanted to be afraid of me, fine. I’d give him something to really be afraid of.
“You see!” he said, getting out of bed and pointing his finger at me. “There you go, your mind is racing. You’re pissed off as fuck, plotting all these things you’re going to do to me.”
I would have chalked that up to paranoia, but he was right.
He walked around the bed towards me. A jolt of apprehension ran through me and down my spine. What was he going to do?
He came right up to me in the same manner that Miguel did but put both of his hands around the small of my waist. He looked down into my eyes, his face only inches from mine. I stiffened up awkwardly. Was he going to kiss me? That’s pretty much what had to happen.
I swallowed hard, my sides rigid against his warm hands that reached the small of my back. And I was supposed to be the scary one here. I thought I may just die of fright.
I tried to keep my eyes unemotional, my face blank as his languid eyes roamed all over my faces, making stops at my own eyes, at my cheek, at my lips. The corner of his mouth teetered, a smile appearing.
“So,” he said throatily. “Can you tell me what you’re thinking right now?”
No. I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell him that I all I wanted him to do was kiss me. I couldn’t tell him that he if didn’t let go of me in a few seconds, I’d be the one kissing him. I couldn’t tell him that all I could think about was how I never wanted anyone so badly in my entire life.
So I didn’t tell him that. I had to play it cool.
“I think you have the wrong idea, Dex,” I said carefully (suddenly worried about my breath).
He smiled and took his arms off of me. “Probably. Though I’m just doing what you did to me. This is what I get for being impulsive…this is me, going with the flow. You didn’t like that, did you?”
I stared into his eyes trying figure out if he liked it. All I got was maybe.
There was a knock at the door. We both jumped a bit and turned around. Will had opened the door and was peering in.
He saw us by the wall and quickly looked away. “Oh, I am so sorry. I was calling you and I didn’t hear anything. So sorry…”
He started to close the door.
“Hey, Will,” Dex called after him. “Don’t worry about it, we were just discussing something. Come on in.”
Will looked sheepish. “Sorry. I should have waited. I forget what it’s like to be young and in love. Supper is ready. We would love it if you’d come down and join us.”
Dex nodded. “Of course, we’ll be right there.”
Will nodded, smiling to himself for thinking he had interrupted some hanky panky, and closed the door.
Dex looked back at me. The extra space between us was a relief.
“I know your deepest, secret fear,” he spontaneously sang to me in his baritone voice, then twirled around the bed over to his suitcase and started unpacking.
I had no idea what just happened. I stood there for a few seconds, not saying anything.
Then Dex started to take off his pants.
“Uh,” I stammered and started finding somewhere else in the room to rest my eyes.
“Oh come on wifey, I’m just in my boxers,” I heard him say. That didn’t make it any better. Still, I had to peek. They were blue with stars on them. “You’ve caught men with their pants down before, I hope.”
Not the same, I thought.
Then his shirt came off. I finally saw the rest of the tattoo that he had on his upper arm. It was a large, black fleur de lis. He also had cursive writing tattooed across his chest, though I couldn’t read it properly. I was surprised. And a bit turned on (yes, again). I wanted to get a better look at it, to ask him about it, about both his tattoos. But his lightly defined abs, were distracting me as well. I blushed despite myself. I had to get out of there before I said something stupid.
“I’ll see you downstairs,” I said quickly and exited the room. I didn’t want to face Sarah and the dinner table on my own but it was looking like the better option.
I gently closed the door on Dex and cautiously crept through the upper hallway towards the stairs. I wanted my presence minimized as I examined the hanging artwork and photos that adorned the walls. I found a lot of framed scripture, stereotypical phrases and prayers from the Bible, a few crosses and artwork, as well. Most had a desert theme. There was nothing native or Navajo at all. I guess they really had turned their back on their roots. Not that I was one to judge…I just found it odd. But really, the whole situation was odd.
I paused at the top of the stairs and took in a deep breath, preparing myself to deal with dinner with strangers.
“Come on down already,” Sarah’s voice echoed from downstairs.
How did she know I was standing there?
“I can smell you,” she said simply. That was kind of gross. Was she a mind reader too?
I made my way down the stairs and turned the corner into their rustic dining room. The table was long, maybe it was supposed to seat a huge farm family, but luckily she and Will were at opposite ends at the head of the table and quite a distance from the places she set up for Dex and I.
“Sorry,” I said. “I was waiting for Dex.”
Will gestured to my seat, nervous but warm. “Please sit down, Perry.”
I smiled and sat down. The food was already served on the plates. Corn niblets, gravy, chicken and stuffing. Glad I wasn’t a vegetarian.
“Dex,” Sarah sniffed. She was still wearing her frock, poised at the end of the table like she was putting on a show. “What kind of name is that anyway?”
“It’s short for Declan,” I told her.
She snorted acerbically, “It is not.”
I didn’t want to argue with her over his name, so I told her the only thing I knew. “Apparently his mom didn’t know how to pronounce it properly.”
I took my chance to make her feel bad, as shameless as it was. “Yes, she’s dead.”
The weight of my words made Will nod sadly but Sarah wouldn’t have any of it.
“Your mother-in-law is dead? You lucky thing,” she cackled. “That’s every wife’s dream.”
“Sarah!” Will admonished from the other end. “Have some respect.”
“Sorry,” she said looking at me (or not) with a saccharine smile. “I guess I have fantasies about Mrs. Lancaster going on her merry way.”
OK. This was definitely getting uncomfortable. Where the hell was Dex? Not that I wanted him to walk into a conversation about his dead mother but still.
“Ignore her,” Will said. “Dig in.”
I tasted some of the corn. So far, so good.
“So how long have you been doing your show?” Will asked.
“Oh, we just started,” I said slowly. I didn’t like talking without Dex, it made me think our stories were going to get crossed at some point.
“Oh? What were you two doing before?”
“I worked as a cameraman. Perry still works in advertising,” Dex said, appearing out of the foyer’s darkness. I wondered how long he had been standing there. Didn’t matter, I was relieved.
He sat down across from me. “Sorry, Jenn called.”
My eyes were this close to popping out of my head. A) the mention of Jenn sent my heart amok and B) there shouldn’t be a Jenn in this scenario, so my reaction had to be as cool as possible.
I looked at Will. “Jenn’s our production manager. She’s very uptight about how things get done.”
Some might say she’s a skinny-ass bitch, I wanted to add but I restrained myself.
I didn’t look at Dex in case that gave anything away but I could tell he was embarrassed by his slip-up. Pretending to be married was going to be hard.
Neither Lancaster picked up on anything being awry though and we were able to eat without much incident and with a lot of small talk.
In fact, aside from a few hostile interjections from Sarah, dinner was actually quite pleasant and by the end I felt a lot more at ease with the Lancasters and our situation. Well, that was until I heard more about our situation.
“It’s really the sheep I am worried about,” Will said, explaining the hauntings. “In a way, I can live with the stones being thrown at the windows and the animals running through the house. I just can’t afford to lose anymore sheep. We’re struggling enough as it is here. The government does nothing to help.”
“Um, animals running through the house?” I asked.
He shrugged. His weathered, jowly face looked nonchalant but he couldn’t hide the seriousness in his tone. “Something running through the house…sometimes it looks like people, sometimes it looks like animals…I can put up with it…”
I couldn’t help but chortle at the absurdity of that. “Yeah but you shouldn’t have to.”
“Well, Maximus couldn’t do anything to help me. If you guys can, I’d be much obliged.”
“Oh, like they would help you,” Sarah abruptly laughed. She had been silent this whole time except for the occasional disapproving stutter.
I exchanged a look across the table with Dex.
“William you are such the fool,” she continued. “They don’t want to help your problem, they want to profit from it.”
“To be fair,” I found myself saying, “he contacted us.”
“Because that damn redhead told him to,” she countered. “You’re just going to rape and pillage this farm and our lives all for the sake of a little notoriety. You don’t want to help us and you can’t. You’re nothing but a bunch of hacks.”
“So you think you do need help then,” I said, surprised at my balls.
She paused. My peripheral vision detected an uncomfortable glance between Will and Dex. The boys were staying out of it.
“I think my husband is losing it. I haven’t seen anything running through the halls. And no, it’s not because I’m blind. I can detect far more than you ever could with your eyes. But the sheep having been going missing and have been killed in, well, gruesome ways and if that isn’t enough to send a man and his bags packing for greener pastures of the mind, I don’t know what is.”
And with that she wiped her lips with her napkin and threw it on the table.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to bed. Having people in the house is tiring.”
Will pushed his chair back and was ready to get up but she whipped her cane up in his direction. “You stay. You know I’m fully capable. You don’t need to make a show in front of your guests.”
Will closed his eyes, muttered something to himself and sat back down as Sarah went upstairs.
“Again, sorry,” he said, fumbling for an explanation. “She just doesn’t deal with new people very well. And she doesn’t believe in ghosts or anything of the supernatural variety.”