Well, I tried to scream.
I was so beyond scared stupid that nothing would come out even though I knew my mouth was gaping wide open.
I jumped back quickly, crawling backwards as fast as I could, creepy crawlies be damned. My thoughts consisted of nothing but the most unholy experience of my life: coming nose to decaying nose with a body in a haunted house on the exact same night a body had been left in my shower. My life could not get any worse.
I crawled until I hit a solid wall, and then let out a shrill little shriek when a hand wrapped around my bicep.
“Relax Princess,” Kade said close to my ear.
“There’s a body,” I replied from my spot on the floor.
I gripped his hand, digging my nails in.
“A dead body,” I repeated, falling on my behind when I lifted my other arm to point to what was obviously a body in the middle of the room.
“It’s okay Addison,” he said calmly, grabbing me around both biceps as he helped me off the floor and wrapped me in his arms. I buried my face in his chest, too distraught to really enjoy what should have been an orgasmic moment.
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” I mumbled over and over again into his chest.
I had a severe case of the shakes and nothing short of a case of whiskey was going to chase away the chill running through my body.
“We need to call the police,” I said, pushing away from Kade.
“No. What I need is for you to follow directions without arguing. I need you out of here,” he replied firmly.
“Are you crazy?! We have to call the police,” I practically shouted. My nerves were getting the better of me and I was starting to hit my hysterical point.
He shook his head.
“That’s not an option,” he replied matter of fact. “What I need to do is figure out what’s going on and you need to get the hell out of here before whoever did this comes back. I’m asking you to trust me.”
“Trust you,” I replied in disbelief. “I am trusting you. I haven’t assumed you killed the guy. Hell, I haven’t even assumed you knew him. All the more reason for us to call the police.”
“Trust me. Getting the police involved is the worst case scenario.”
“I don’t understand,” I replied on the verge of tears. “Why wouldn’t we call them?”
He sighed in frustration and shook his head.
“Because getting arrested for murder isn’t on my list of pressing items at the moment.”
I’m pretty sure my mouth dropped open in disbelief.
“What the hell is wrong with you,” I screeched. (Yes, actually screeched.) “I just tripped over a body and your biggest concern is the possibility that you could be arrested? Are you out of your mind?” I yelled. “Now is not the time to worry about covering your own ass!”
He gave me a cold stare.
“Listen Princess,” he snapped, his patience clearly gone, “I get that calling the police seems like the logical thing to do, but believe me, the police are not going to look too kindly on either of us when they arrive. Hell, you shouldn’t even be here,” he said, waving around. “But if you want to stay here and do what you think is the right thing, I’m not going to stop you.”
He gave me a final look and started to walk back to the foyer. This time he hadn’t masked his emotions. The expression was full of anger, and a little hurt. I had just told him I trusted him and then I accused him of worrying about his own self-preservation, which up to this point had never appeared to be in his nature. Our few interactions had consisted of him protecting me and watching out from my wellbeing, not the reverse.
I silently berated myself for my stupidity in letting my mouth run away with itself.
Nice going Addison. Throw out completely false accusations to the only guy on the planet who demonstrated he was anything but what I accused.
Kade made it about a foot into the foyer when realization dawned on me.
He was leaving. He was going to leave me here…all alone…at night…in a creepy abandoned house…with a BODY!
“Wait!” I screamed.
Any tiny shred of calm I had remaining was quickly disappearing.
He stopped and looked back at me over his shoulder.
“You’re not really going to leave me here alone, are you?” I asked in horror.
He didn’t answer. The look on his face told me all I wanted to know. He was as serious as a heart attack. If push came to shove, he would leave me here without a second thought.
I swallowed the panic that was starting to rise up again.
“Kade, you can’t leave me here alone! Please don’t leave me here alone,” I pleaded on the verge of tears.
He said nothing, but watched me with a dark penetrating stare.
I’m not proud to say that I was on the verge of begging him to stay. (Hell, I already was begging him to stay.) It’s not like I was in a position to worry about how it looked. In a few seconds, I was going to go into full blown damsel in distress mode with fainting as a definite possibility. I was desperate. This situation, as much as a nightmare as it was now, would only get worse if he left me here alone. I’m not fazed by a lot of things, but being in an abandoned-creepy-crawly house in the middle of a dark stormy night alone with a body (A DEAD BODY!) pushed me beyond my comfort zone by about a hundred miles.
Kade said nothing, but continued to watch me. I could see the indecision in his eyes. His instincts were probably telling him to run like hell, and considering our recent history, I couldn’t blame him. I was bringing more trouble into his life than anyone could have ever bargained for. If he left right now, and never looked back, I would be freaked out as hell, but I wouldn’t blame him.
After what seemed like forever, he sighed. Running his hands through his hair in frustration, he turned back towards me, cussing under his breath.
“You do realize that I don’t actually owe you anything,” he said, placing his hands on his hips. “Hell, just a few hours ago you didn’t even think you could trust me.”
“I know,” I replied weakly.
He sighed again, rubbing the back of his neck.
“I don’t know what the hell…” he started.
A loud creak sounded from the room above us, causing him to break off mid-sentence.
Panic instantly started to take over.
“What…” I started, but Kade put his finger to his lips, cutting off any further questions.
He moved further into the foyer, grabbing the gun that had been tucked behind his back.
I stood in the doorway, watching the precision of his steps as he made his way silently to the stairs, trembling more violently the closer he got (me trembling, not him). I desperately wanted to believe that the noise we heard had been Ghost or a mixture of the rain and house settling, but common sense, maybe instinct, told me that the way Kade responded to the sound dictated it was nothing quite so simple. Hell, from my own very limited experience I knew that for a big guy Ghost moved around as though he was floating. Somehow I doubted that he would give himself away by making such a rookie mistake such as stepping on a rotting floor board.
I chewed my lower lip in trepidation. I was afraid that if I unclenched my lip from my teeth, I would let lose a scream like all the dumb chicks in the B movie horror films. Every muscle in my body screamed for me to run like hell, but I couldn’t just leave Kade. Besides, trying to find my way back outside was likely to result in me breaking my neck.
Standing at the bottom of the stairs, Kade stared up the empty staircase. He didn’t move and I questioned if he was even breathing. His inherent (possibly highly skilled or trained) stealth movements left me in awe. Somehow I always managed to sound like a herd of horses walking, and he stepped around with such a dainty step. (Note to self: Never admit you actually used that word to describe the dangerously sexy guy currently brandishing a gun.)
I stifled a nervous giggle that was on the verge of escaping. All of this life and death drama was really starting to take a toll on my composure, which is why I blame nerves for what happened next.
Seemingly satisfied with what he did or didn’t see, Kade turned back to me and motioned with his head that I should head to the front door as he tucked the gun back into the waistband of his pants. Exactly twenty seconds later, a large dark figure lunged at him from the top of the stairs. Something must have alerted Kade because he quickly turned back, throwing up an arm to block the blow that the dark figure threw at his face.
The rain outside was suddenly coming down harder and in heavier sheets. Rolls of thunder randomly broke the steady wave every few seconds.
It was official. I was living a real life horror flick.
In the dark it was almost impossible to make out what exactly what was happening, but I could make out painful grunts and the sounds of fists hitting flesh in the darkened hallway.
“Kade!” I screamed, looking around for something, anything, to defend myself with.
Finding only a broken lamp near the doorway, I charged into the foyer, lamp held over my head. I couldn’t determine which one was Kade in the dark hallway so I hesitated. Lightning struck outside and I was able to make out Kade for a brief moment before we were encased in darkness again.
Unsure of where my sudden bravado came from again (I will later blame it on hormones), I swung the lamp as hard as I could, catching the side of the head of the dark figure but landing a more solid blow to Kade’s shoulder instead.
Kade pushed off the figure to stop me from delivering another blow, and in that quick pause the figure took advantage of the situation. Pushing between us, the figure shoved me against a wall and ran like hell toward the front door with Kade hot on his heels as he forcibly pushed open the awkwardly slanted door.
The sudden push caught me off guard and I slammed into the wall where the side of my head bounced against the exposed wooden frame. I crumpled onto the floor like a lightweight, dizzy from the blow.
Kade had made it to the dilapidated porch when he looked back in time to see me crumble to the ground.
“Shit!” he yelled as he ran back towards me. He cupped the side of my head trying to determine the extent of my injuries, but with no light, his attempts were pretty futile.
“Addison,” he said, shaking me slightly.
“Ow,” I winced, holding my head. Connecting headfirst with a wall beam can really give you a headache.
“Jesus,” he said with what sounded like a sigh of relief. “Can you stand?”
“I think so,” I replied as I tried to stand on my own.
Sensing my usual lack of coordination, Kade pulled me up, his arm wrapped around my waist to catch me in case I fell…again.
“What happened?” I asked, blinking away the white spots that danced in my vision.
“Someone decided to join the party,” he answered, leading me toward the living room where he unceremoniously dumped me on an old disgustingly discarded couch.
“Is he gone?” I asked
As if on cue we heard the distinct sound of squealing tires.
“They are now,” Kade responded, abandoning me on the couch as he walked over to what was left of the front windows. He stood off to the side and quietly watched for any movements.
“Are you hurt?” I asked, touching the sore spot on the side of my head.
My hand made contact with warm blood and I took deep steadying breath to remain calm so I didn’t faint. Just another thing to add to the list of things that were not going well for me tonight. Creepy abandon houses, check. Dead bodies, check. Dark figures attempting to kill you in the creepy abandoned house where you found said body, check. Blood, check check.
“You mean other than my shoulder where you decided to attack it with a lamp? Just peachy,” he replied sarcastically as he turned back from the window.
His voice left no question that he was beyond angry. I just hoped it wasn’t at me.
Pissed off Kade? Yup, add that to the list of things that were not going well for me tonight. Actually, add it to the list of things that flat out scared the shit out of me. As I had witnessed before, Kade can be scary as hell when he’s mad. Hell, he’s always scary, but right now he was I-want-to-run-screaming-from-the-house scary and not the sexy-as-hell-please-rip-my-clothes-off-bad-ass scary I had been checking out just previously.
“Stay here,” he said with a finality I didn’t even try to challenge.
He stomped out the room and into the foyer. Seconds later I could hear his hurried steps as he ran up the stairs.
Shit! In all the excitement, I had completely forgotten that Ghost had gone upstairs earlier to check the place out. My stomach clenched at the very idea that he could be laying up their injured…or worse. True, I didn’t know the guy. And true, he had held a gun to my head, but based on the little interaction I had seen take place between him and Kade, I was certain they were pretty damn close and the thought of something happening to someone Kade cared about filled me with guilt and fear.
After what seemed like a million years, but was only about two minutes, I could hear heavy footsteps descending the stairs and slowly making their way into the living room.
I bit back a scream and nearly cried in relief at the sight of Kade and Ghost entering the room. Kade had one of Ghost’s arms slung around his shoulders as he helped support his weight. Ghost walked on unsteady legs and I could see the clear trail of blood that flowed freely from the back side of his head.
I jumped up quickly, moving out of the way as Kade helped Ghost to the couch.
Ghost was injured, but based on the very focused perusal he was giving me, I was willing to bet he was better than he was letting on.
“Bogeyman get you too?” I asked, flopping down next to him on the couch with a groan.
I had literally tripped over a dead body and had my head slammed into the wall. What things were crawling or growing over the furniture and floors no longer seemed to faze me.
He snorted in response, touching the tender spot on his head with a wince.
“I’m starting to like you Walker,” he answered with a smile as he laid his head back.
“What happened?” Kade asked, pacing back and forth in front of the couch.
“Fucker got the drop on me. Never heard him come up behind me. He must have been hidden in one of the rooms I hadn’t cleared yet and he pistol whipped me from behind just as I entered one of the bedrooms.”
“Don’t feel bad. He sort of got the drop on us too,” I said, pointing to the side of my bleeding head.
Ghost snorted. “No one gets the drop on Kade,” he said, looking over to where he continued to pace, “though I may have to reconsider that since it appears he actually may have gotten a lick in.”
The “lick” he was referring to was the torn sleeve on Kade’s shirt.
I cringed. “Yeah, I think I did that.”
Ghost’s head snapped in my direction and seeing the guilt written all over my face, he roared in laughter.
“Shit Kade. She got the drop on you? You’re getting soft buddy,” he said between laughs.
Ghost was laughing so hard he was crying and oddly enough it was a soothing thing to watch.
Kade didn’t find it quiet as amusing.
“What the hell were you thinking!” he suddenly yelled as he stood over me glaring.
He was gesturing with his hands and based on the way he was holding them, they were saying he was on the verge of actually strangling me.
I would like to say that this unexpected outburst didn’t catch me off guard, but I would be lying. Truth is I nearly peed my pants it was so unexpected and needless to say, scary as hell. The I-want-to-run-screaming-from-the-house kind of scary.
Instinctively I leaned back on the couch, trying to get some space between us and hopefully enough room that in the event he did attempt to strangle me, I had a split second head start out the front door.
“What do you mean,” I stammered.
“What the hell were you thinking getting in the middle of all that?” he yelled.
“I don’t know!” I yelled back with renewed anger. “Some creeping figure was attacking you in a dark abandoned house with a dead body on the floor. What did you think I was going to do, stand by and let him kill you? I figured that two against one were better odds.”
I couldn’t believe how ungrateful he was being! I tried to save his life and he was yelling at me like I was some delinquent child. Sure, I had been jumping at my own shadow since sneaking in here. And yes, I was having a very hard time accepting his detached demeanor to the body on the floor (which sadly was his second of the day). But dammit, I’m was going to at least try to defend myself when Mike Myers decided to spring out of nowhere. (For the record I’m referring to the hockey-mask-wearing-chainsaw-wielding creeper. Though come to think of it, Mike Myers of the Austin Powers variety is pretty damn freaky too.)
Kade stared at me in disbelief. It was his first time hearing a real hormonal outburst from me, and I really don’t think he knew how to respond. Either that or he was finding way more amusement out of the situation then I was.
He stood staring at me for another minute before he burst out laughing. And I don’t mean a little chuckle. No, a full blown gut buster that had him doubled over. Of course, Ghost was getting just as much amusement as Kade and was now laid out on the couch, breathless because he was laughing so hard.
“What the hell is so funny?” I asked outraged.
Was he seriously laughing at my heroics? I mean, come on! I had just helped him fight of the bogeyman for God’s sake. I think I deserved a pat on the back at a minimum, not being hailed in a chorus of chuckles.
“You,” he finally answered between gulps of air.
My eyes narrowed so much at his response that I could barely see through their tiny slits.
“And what the hell do you find so amusing about me,” I hissed. (Yup, I went full blown snake mode on him. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that that is not an attractive look on a woman.)
He straightened up, swallowing down the last of his laugh. The look on my face must have told him that I wasn’t amused because he held up his hands in mock surrender.
“Easy Princess. No need to go all Buffy the Vampire Slayer on me. I’ve sustained enough injuries as it is.”
Okay, that was it. Did he just call me Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Do I look like some ditzy, big boobed, blond cheerleader?
“Listen here you self-centered, jackass...” I began.
The smile disappeared instantly.
“Self-centered? And what exactly did I just do that was so self-centered? You know, besides saving your ass from a killer lurking upstairs?”
“You know exactly what you...” And just like that, the wind was out of my sails. “Killer?”
I sat forward suddenly, tucking my head between my legs trying really hard to avoid that whole fainting thing again.
“You think that’s the guy that killed...” I pointed over to the spot on the floor that I had purposefully been avoiding eye contact with for the past ten minutes.
“Can you think of any other reason why someone would hide upstairs in an abandoned house with a body when they obviously had a perfectly good car sitting just outside? What, did you think he was just hanging out for fun?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “There could be a dozen reasons why he was up there. Maybe he found the body, freaked out, and ran upstairs to hide when he heard you guys pull up?” I asked hopefully.
“That’s possible,” he replied calmly. “Or maybe he lured this guy to the house, killed him, was disturbed by us, decided to hide out upstairs until we left, got nervous because Ghost was checking the second floor rooms, then decided to get rid of any potential witnesses. Which scenario do you find more plausible?”
My mouth dropped open as I stared at him in horror.
His brow creased in confusion.
“What is that look for?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I said with a small shake of the head. “Just mildly disturbed that you would come up with that scenario so easily, is all.”
He grinned and I felt myself swoon. Good to know that even the most dire of circumstances didn’t kill my libido when it came to this guy.
“I told you, Princess. I’ve dealt with more than my fair share of dangerous assholes. Eventually you start to think like one.”