Current Word Count: 30,021
Phoebe awoke to the sensation of being stared at. When she opened her eyes, Kaden was studying her face, his expression odd. She blinked. Although they were already entwined, he pulled her more snugly against him.
“Good morning, chere. Last night was beautiful.”
“Mmm.” She closed her eyes and breathed in the smell of him. She wasn’t going to delude herself and make believe that it was anything other than a fling, but she wanted to absorb every tangible moment of it. Keep it, for herself. Would she ever feel like this again?
“I think we need another round,” he said and then was inside her.
“See what you do to me? I never forget. A few hours with you and I forget everything,” he said.
“All of your words. You must break hearts all the time.”
He glanced at her before tearing the foil packet. “No, chere. I don’t break hearts.”
No use arguing. She just wanted to make sure that hers stayed unshattered.
After they made love, she lay against him, her fingers tracing patterns over his chest. She did feel happy like a cat after a bowl of milk. She felt unfettered and it had been so long since she had felt like this. She didn’t even care what time it was. She refused to glance at the digital display on the clock.
“Phoebe, are you in there?” Chloe asked through the door.
“Yes. Go away,” Phoebe said and then snuggled her cheek against Kaden’s chest as if she could burrow in.
He squeezed her and kissed her temple. “I forgot there was a world outside of this room.”
“I’m coming in,” Chloe said and then did.
Phoebe was about to unleash a string of words, which would have been profane to her, but stopped the instant she saw Chloe’s face. She sat up, the sheet clasped tightly around her.
Chloe crossed the room and opened the curtains. “I can’t believe you didn’t hear me scream earlier. Look at this!”
Outside of the window what looked like a red fog undulated. It licked at the window like a hungry animal trying to reach its prey. Phoebe gasped. Kaden’s hand gripped her shoulder.
“What is it?” Phoebe asked.
“We don’t know. We can’t reach anyone. The cells don’t have a signal. The landline is down. The electricity’s off,” Chloe said.
“Is it all around the house?”
“Yes. Even Aunt Philo’s worried.”
Phoebe nodded. If there was any time to be worried, this was probably it.
“Let me get dressed and I’ll be there.”
Kaden embraced Phoebe one more time after Chloe left. Phoebe stared out the window for a moment, remembering the moon from last night. Her grandmother and aunts had always told her to see patterns. There were very few coincidences. Concurrences were seldom random. Whatever had bled across the moon last night had leached into the atmosphere.
Everyone was already gathered in the kitchen. Jared was the only one sitting at the table, nonchalantly eating pancakes as if a blood red mist were an everyday occurrence.
When he noticed Chloe staring at him, he shrugged. “I need carbs if I’m going to help kill the fog from hell.”
“Fog from hell. Now that’s fitting,” Aunt Philo said.
Her gaze swept from Kaden’s face to Phoebe’s where it rested. She raised an eyebrow, but a slight smirk tilted her lips. If the circumstances had been different, Phoebe imagined that Aunt Philo would be asking all kinds of nosy questions. Hopefully when the time was appropriate, she would have forgotten.
“What is it?” Phoebe asked Aunt Philo.
“The hell if I know. Did you see the moon last night?”
Phoebe nodded. “Yes, but I got a little distracted.”
“I can see that.”
Phoebe grabbed a couple of coffee mugs from the cupboard and poured cups for her and Kaden. She added a touch of sugar to hers and then two teaspoons to his. She frowned and looked up at him. He was looking at her quizzically.
“How did you know I took two teaspoons?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. It seemed right.”
Chloe snorted. “Focus, Phoebe. Playing footsie over coffee is not going to help the situation.”
“Oh, give it a rest, Chloe. If you’re so concerned start looking at the book instead of expecting Aunt Philo and me to do everything,” Phoebe said and then her eyes widened. So did Chloe’s. When was the last time she refused to put up with Chloe’s crap? Not in years.
Phoebe sipped her coffee and moved to the sliding glass door. The fog seemed alive. At her approach it swirled a little faster, became a little redder.
“My god, did you see that?” Chloe asked. “It was like it recognized her or something.”
“Kaden, go stand next to Phoebe,” Aunt Philo said.
As Kaden crossed the room, the fog seemed to lash at the door. Phoebe jumped back startled and her coffee swished out of her mug. She reached blindly for Kaden’s hand and gripped it. The fog became denser, more opaque. It rattled the sliding glass door.
“Crap,” Aunt Philo said. “End of experiment. Why don’t you two move back across the kitchen?”
Phoebe grabbed some paper towels and cleaned up the coffee spill, waiting for Aunt Philo’s observations, but a part of her thought she knew what they would be. Was this fog related to her being with Kaden? Normally that would seem a little egocentric, but she couldn’t argue that things seemed to happen when they were together. Was this part of the original curse on Kaden?
She glanced at Aunt Philo who was watching her. Her Aunt’s blue eyes were narrowed slightly as if she were considering the possibilities.
“What’s happened to the Grands?” Phoebe asked, remembering that her grandparents were supposed to be arriving this morning.
“No idea. I’m at a loss, Phoebs. I know it’s not safe for you two to go out, but I have no idea if it’s safe for us. I mean, how do you test that theory? Throw pancake eating Jared out the door?” Aunt Philo asked.
“Hey, I’m just minding my business eating these awesome blueberry pancakes,” Jared said with a mouthful of pancake.
The battery operated clock above the kitchen sink ticked away the seconds. Phoebe tried to wrap her mind around the problem. Was the protection spell no long keeping the house safe? If it weren’t it was just a matter of time before the fog found a way in, if it could.
“Is the house protected anymore?” Phoebe asked.
“I don’t think it’s broken through.”
“But what about the rattling of the door?”
“I’m going to hope that was the wind. If it weren’t . . .let’s just say we are officially up shit’s creek and no paddle to be seen. But I don’t think we are. Maybe it’s time to be proactive.”
“Proactive is good,” Chloe said.
Kaden warmed a couple of pancakes in the microwave and then sat next to Jared who had helped himself to another stack.
“Man, we don’t get pancakes like this back home,” Jared said.
Kaden grinned. The pancakes were fluffy, moist, and dotted with plump blueberries, and virtually melted in his mouth.
“Good right?” Jared asked.
“What do you make of this?” Jared asked, gesturing with his fork at the sliding glass door. The women had left the kitchen so it was Jared, Tito and Kaden in the kitchen.
Kaden shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“It’s a little freaky,” Tito said, leaning back in the chair and stretching his long blue jean clad legs out in front of him. “My great grand-ma would be talking about evil spirits, my grandma too. You got to quit talking yourself out of it, bro.”
“Why? How do we know this isn’t some kind of optical illusions cooked up by three crazy women who call themselves witches?” Kaden asked.
“Because I believe in this shit. You couldn’t pay me to go out there in this. Would you go out there? And what about Phoebe, bro? I’ve seen you look at her. I ain’t never seen you look like any of the other girls like that. She means something to you. She’s gotten to you. And I think that’s a good thing,” Tito said.
Kaden didn’t reply. He chewed on his pancakes and sipped his coffee and his thoughts drifted to Phoebe. She was different from every woman that he had been with and it had nothing or at least very little to do with this whole witch thing. He hoped it did. She brought out emotions in his that he had never experienced. He had never felt protective of a woman before, except his sister, and that didn’t count. He had never felt something that felt strangely akin to joy before when he saw a woman. That’s the only way to explain it. She touched some part of him that related to happiness that must have been lying dormant for forever, until her.
“Tito’s right, man. It’s like you actually care,” Jared said.
Kaden winced. Not because the implication was that he cared about Phoebe, but that he had never cared before. What kind of an asshole did that make him?
He looked out the sliding door at the fog gyrating and wondered if there was a lesson in all of this. Was he being blind to all of the possibilities? Maybe it was time he opened his mind up.
“I think there’s a song in this whole thing,” Jared said. He twirled that last forkful of pancake around the plate to soak up the remaining syrup. He stared at the bite reverently before plopping it into his mouth.
“Really?” Kaden said.
“Yeah. I’m thinking something with electronica and drums.”
“That’s not really us.”
“Yeah, and that first song you wrote when you were back in SoCal wasn’t us either, but I’m thinking you’re gonna sing it.”
“But, bro, we don’t do electronica,” Tito said.
Jared nodded. “I don’t think we should perform it, but I do think we should write it. I’ve got it stuck in my head right now. Maybe I’ll work it out on the piano.”
He stood up, took his plate to the dishwasher and then disappeared into the family room where the upright piano was. Moments later, they could hear Jared playing a one-handed melody.
Kaden looked at Tito and grinned. “I guess he did find some inspiration.”
end Day 19 part 2