She kissed him like she wanted to suck the enamel off his teeth. Kyle smirked and slid his hand down her back, tracing the zipper with his fingertip, but not undoing it. Yet. He knew enough to take his time. After all, eager older women were his specialty.
Connie gave a soft growl and pressed herself against him, her head nestling against his throat. This one knew what he was doing, which was a tad disappointing. Corrupting the truly innocent was much more fun. On the other hand, a young man already familiar with both the mechanics and geography of a woman’s body made for less work and better results.
He pulled away from her eager lips, wiping the small, waxy, crimson remnants from the corner of his mouth with his thumb. Her lipstick was mostly unsmeared, but then women like her only used the best. Like her perfume. He ran his nose against her collarbone, audibly inhaling her, knowing it would turn her on. “You smell amazing.”
She chuckled and ran her French tips through his hair. “You do too.” It was true. Young men never used decent cologne, and the healthy smell of his drugstore deodorant, sweat, and hormones beat that toxic, cheap body spray.
They fumbled and groped and banged off walls all the way to her bedroom door. She pulled him in by the hand, kissed him again, then pulled away. With a knowing smile, she gestured around the room. “So. Here we are.”
There they were. Kyle looked around at a real woman’s room. No dorm room fumbling or roommate hushing tonight. Spotless. Classy. Expensive. Maybe the priciest room he’d seen outside a hotel room. And probably high maintenance. Like her. But that wasn’t his problem, was it?
Surprisingly, all the lights were on. Most older women went for mood lighting that not only set a tone, but concealed imperfections and masked insecurity. Not that Connie-Bonnie? No, definitely Connie, had anything to be insecure about. A gym-toned, firm body wiggled under that satiny fabric. Between a personal trainer, expensive lingerie and good genes, she was probably ten years older than she looked. And she clearly wanted him to see everything she had. The way she danced and squeezed his junk right at the bar in front of everyone—the woman was definitely an exhibitionist. Kyle had no complaints.
He spun her around so he stood behind her, pressing himself against the muscled product of all that gym time. Big hands circled her waist and slid upward as he ran his lips along her flawless nape. Just as about to let his hands cup her breasts, he spotted something out of the corner of his eye.
Up in the corner. He wasn’t seeing things. A tiny, single, red dot.
“Is that… is that a camera?”
Connie spun around, took his chin in her fingers and nodded. “A girl can’t have too much security. You never know who might find his way into her house.” She gave a naughty chuckle and playfully nipped at his lips.
“Yeah, but it’s on now? Like it can see us?” He gave the camera a mocking salute, and then stopped as the possible consequences occurred to him. His hands dropped to his side and every other part of him was perfectly still.
“Afraid you’re going to wind up on the internet or something? Don’t be, honey. It’s just for me. Kind of my thing.” The thought hadn’t occurred to him until that moment, but yeah. Getting splashed across the interwebs wouldn’t be great. Not a big deal. He was the guy, after all. But not something he wanted.
She pressed against him. “Don’t you think it’s kind of hot? You ever done it on camera before?” Connie reached up and toyed with the buttons of his polo shirt. “What? I’ll bet you’ve got what it takes to be my big, bad, porno stud, dontcha?” She punctuated the question by running the pink tip of her tongue along the V of his collarbone.
Kyle groaned. He’d seen himself on video before—grainy cell phone shots meant only for himself and his partner. It was the twenty-twenties after all. And if she enjoyed performing for the camera, this could be a lot of fun. “Just for us, right?”
Connie nodded. “Just for us. ‘Kay?”
The evening was getting wilder and weirder, which was just fine with him. Life is about the stories you can tell, and he’d swapped more than a few war stories with his cronies at the car lot. Kyle let out a playful growl and dropped his head to her chest, eliciting a squeal from the woman.
There was another sound as well and froze. It was almost inaudible, just slightly lower in tone. Barely detectable above the AC.
“What?” Connie squinted, studying him. The unexpected appearance of microscopic crow’s feet showing her exasperation.
“Did you hear that?” Kyle stood and looked around for the source of the noise. If might be just his overactive imagination. There were certainly enough wicked ideas bouncing around in his skull at that moment to confound his senses.
She took his chin and turned it to her, those eyes burning into him. “No. Come on, let’s…”
That time, he was sure he heard it. A low, deep moan, muffled and unrecognizable. Kyle couldn’t place it, maybe a sick animal, maybe not, but the sound oozed through the walls. Whatever it was made the hair on his arms tingle and stand up. He pushed off her, holding her at arm’s length, and looked around, trying to home in on the source. “Shush.”
“Don’t shush me.” Connie hissed. She halted a moment, then clearly reached a conclusion. “Okay fine. You want to know the truth? I think you’ll like it. You seem like the type.”
She bunched his shirtfront in her small fists and dragged him to the bed. He landed on his back, legs dangling over the edge of the mattress. Then she straddled his legs and looked down at him, a cat smugly studying her mouse. She raised her blond head up to look directly at the camera, gave a smug smile and a finger-waggling wave, then turned those eyes back on him.
“Since you like to ruin surprises, you naughty boy. My husband likes to watch. Me. With other men.”
Kyle scrambled out from under her, rising to his feet, tucking his shirt into his pants. “Your husband?”
Disappointment crossed Connie’s pretty face and she blew a raspberry at him. “Don’t BS me. You knew I was married.” The married woman displayed her fingers to him, bright light catching the huge sparkling stones in her ring. “You sure didn’t mind a minute ago Or when I was buying your drinks and letting you shoot tequila off my tits.”
Kyle ran a hand through his perfect black hair. “Yeah, I know but… I thought you were divorced. Or at least he was out of town—” His eyes whipped one way, then the other. “Is he here? Like, he won’t come and axe murder me or anything, will he?”
Chuckling, Connie took Kyle’s shirt and ripped it out of his pants, then ran a chilly hand under it and across his firm, young abs. “No, Tiger. He’s somewhere he can’t do anything about this but watch. Just like we like it. Now stop wasting my time.” The icy fingers dropped from his stomach inside his pants, gripping the part of him in charge of his decision making..
He groaned, and any opposition vanished. “You are a freak, aren’t you?”
“No argument. Think you can keep up, Junior?” Connie pulled her hand out enough to unsnap his tight jeans, then reclaimed him in her grip. She shuffled to her left a tad, knowing that when the kid did what she knew he’d do, the camera would capture it perfectly.
Young men seldom disappointed. He unzipped her dress and yanked it down, then undid her bra and dropped it to the floor, exposing her breasts; real and close to perfect. As his mouth dropped to her chest, her left hand stroked his head. The other offered a playful hello to the camera, and she blew her audience a kiss.
Kyle moaned at the sheer decadence of the moment. He’d never felt like such a stud, and his determination to prove his worth swelled. Aggressively, his lips captured a hard nipple, and he heard another moan. Louder but no less muffled and indistinct.
But this sound wasn’t from either of the room’s occupants. It was unlike their panting or gasping. This wasn’t pleasure. It was soul-deep pain. Kyle stepped back, shaken.
“That didn’t sound like he’s enjoying this at all. Is he okay?”
“He’s fine, goddammit.”
She reached for him, eager to distract her playmate, but Kyle pulled away and took tentative steps towards the closet. “Is he in there? I mean, I know this is all a game with you guys. He’s really okay with it?”
Connie’s lips curled in a sneer. “What do you want, a fucking permission slip?” Her voice was becoming more harpy than siren..
The young man, thinking about how this might ruin the evening, was about to concede when another plaintive sound wafted into the room.
“Noooooooo. Stop it.” No level of denial could pretend someone wasn’t begging for help.
“That doesn’t sound like he’s digging this at all. Is he in there? Whaddya have him tied up in the closet?” Moving faster than her, Kyle threw the sliding closet door open and ducked inside. He pushed aside a rack of designer dresses and almost tripped over the dozens of shoes scattered across the floor.
In the back corner, a razor-thin line of light extended from floor to ceiling. He pressed his hand to the sheetrock, and it gave a bit. He froze with his hand on the wall, undecided whether to continue.
A shriek assaulted his ears. Connie’s voice echoed in the small space, “Don’t you fucking dare.”
The other voice persuaded him. It was guttural, obviously male, and knotted his guts to hear it. He ignored Connie’s pleas and leaned forward. The hair on his arms stood at attention, his mouth dry as sand.
“Help. Me. God, help me.”
Kyle pushed and nearly fell into another room tucked behind the enormous closet. His forward momentum drew him forward, just out of Connie’s reach. A single fingernail scratched down Kyle’s back, and somehow it registered in his mind he was bleeding.
Scrambling to avoid the woman’s talons, he scooted on his knees into a small, dark room. Raising his head, he blinked to help take in what he thought, but couldn’t believe he saw.
The only light in the space came from four thirty-inch screens, one per wall. No matter which way one looked, there was no missing the high-resolution, garishly lit, color view of Connie’s now-empty bedroom.
Kyle didn’t have time to think about the walls. On the floor in the center of the room, taking up most of the space, was a ring of white crystals, several inches deep. In the center of the circle was a faint figure, not lit by lamplight but by an inner phosphorescent glow. Kyle was sure it was a man.
Only it wasn’t. At least not a live one.
The figure hovered motionless in the air. Its lower body fading to nothingness the closer it got to the floor. It didn’t even appear to have feet. The body simply faded to nothing the closer it got to the floor. The upper body was more solid, but still opaque. It wore colorless khakis and a golf shirt. Then Kyle saw the figure’s face. The left half appeared to be a handsome man, about fifty years old, although the face was droopy and lined, as if deprived of sleep for years. Where the right side of the face should be was a dark, mangled, scabbed over mess, unrecognizable as anything human. No one could mistake the agony behind the clouded, damaged eye.
“HI honey, I’m home.” Connie put her hand on Kyle’s shoulder and moved alongside him, her attention on the spectral vision. Was it a fucking ghost? He couldn’t believe it but that had to be what it was, right? “Kyle, this is Bert. Bert likes to watch, don’t you, babe?”
The spirit’s head tilted to the ceiling and a pitiful roar vomited up from somewhere inside it.
She continued, her voice artificially calm, like oil over shards of glass. “Bert, honey. This is Kyle. Isn’t he pretty? We’re going to have so much fun. And you get to watch. Again.” She pursed her lips in a mock kiss to what was left of the man she married. Icy fingertips stroked the younger man’s cheek for a microsecond before he jerked away, almost slamming into the wall to avoid her touch.
The question croaked out of Kyle’s throat. “What the fuck is this?”
“He’s what’s left of my dear husband. Maybe you’re not as smart as you look.”
He had to know. “What happened to him?”
The smile never left the woman’s painted lips. “A little gardening accident. He keeps all kinds of equipment in the garage. Some of it is really dangerous, apparently. Like that hoe. Sharper than it looked, huh Babe?”
The figure pointed to its mangled face and screamed its fury at her. Kyle cowered against the wall, his tan complexion turned ashy grey. Connie stood with her hands on her hips, talking to her guest but keeping one satisfied eye on the specter.
“Since he likes to watch so much, I figured I’d let him. He can watch me. Just like he made me watch him with that little slut.” She turned to Kyle, trying to regain her composure. It didn’t really work. The madness in her eyes belied the perfect makeup and clothes.
“I found a video on his phone. The bastard wasn’t even sorry. He laughed and told me he was leaving me for a hotter piece of ass. Then held me down and made me watch it. Didn’t you, you limp-dick bastard?”
She continued explaining to Kyle in a freakishly calm voice, “She was even younger than you, sugar. I didn’t want to see it, but he sat on top of me and made me watch. Every minute of it. Then again. Holding the phone up to my face. Told me he was going to divorce me and marry her. Thought it was hysterical. Said his lawyers would make sure I got nothing. Can you believe that shit?”
Kyle wasn’t sure if it was a question, or if she directed it at him, but he was incapable of responding. His eyes were wide with terror, and his throat dry and constricted— equally appalled by the woman at his side and the horrible figure floating in the circle.
He raised a finger and pointed at the apparition. “How did you…?”
“It’s called a Devil’s Trap. It’s just rock salt, but spirits can’t cross an unbroken line. There’s enough there he’s not going anywhere. Ever. Are you sweetheart? Even his shit-hot attorneys can’t get him out of this. We won’t be disturbed.”
The figure’s mouth formed a circle, and the voice struggled to form clearer words. “Let me go.”
Connie chuckled. “Don’t think so. It’s your turn to watch.” She reached out to take Kyle’s trembling hand. “Come on, kid. Let’s go.”
He ripped his hand away from her; the nails leaving bloody tracks down the back of his hand. “You’re frickin’ nuts. I’m not going with you.”
The thing that had once been Bert inched closer to the salt line but couldn’t get any closer. It spoke to Kyle.
“Break the Circle. Let me go.”
“Don’t you dare, you little shit. He has this coming.” She turned to the spectre. It’s my turn to put on a show isn’t it darling.. My. Turn.”
The voice on the other side of the line pleaded. “Do it. For the love of God.” The sound echoed in Kyle’s chest, painfully churning his guts.
Connie shrieked. “Don’t!”
Desperate to take some kind of action, Kyle shouted incoherently and stepped forward, taking a kick at the salt line. The first kicked merely left a smeared but intact barrier. Connie leapt at him, tugging at him, trying to pull him back. The second time, his shoe left a bare spot on the floor. As the woman screamed her outrage, the spirit collapsed into a dense fog and drifted through the opening. It reformed on the other side, its mangled face inches from Connie’s . Her face was a mask of fury and horror. The gaping hole that was once Bert’s mouth opened. The odor of rotted meat filled the room, and the walls shook with the figure’s horrible scream.
Then it was gone.
Kyle stood immobile for a second, panting and looking around, uncomprehending. There was no misunderstanding the hatred in the woman’s eyes though. She lunged at him, talons first. He’d never hit a woman before, but he shoved as hard as he could. Her head hit the wall with a sickening thud, and he ducked through the entry to the closet.
Connie yelled after him, “You don’t know what you’ve done! Get back here!”
Kyle banged his head on the door frame in his rush to escape and he stumbled into her bedroom. Connie’s voice trailed after him. He thought he heard her footsteps behind him, but all he could think of was escape. He tripped over a pair of Manolo Blahniks, yet scrambled away, making a break for the door with Connie screaming like a harpy behind him.
He almost made the stairs when cold fingers grabbed his ankle and he felt gravity betray him.
Two weeks later, the door opened and a drunken couple stumbled into the foyer. The young man — twenty-first birthday shots scenting his breath, pushed the woman against the door and kissed her hard.
“You sure we’re alone?”
In response, Connie wrapped her arms around his neck and stuck her tongue down his throat. When she needed air, she pulled back to smile into his baby blue eyes.
“My boyfriend’s home.”
The kid’s eyes widened. She put a finger to his lips.
“Shh. It’s cool. He likes to watch.”