An Arum—it was an Arum.
It rose up, reaching the top step. The head tilted, moving much like a cobra. A voice whispered. What do we have here?
Holy crap, the voice—the voice was in my head.
An arm extended. Fingertips formed, and a startled heartbeat later, the fingers drew back. Sssomething not right.
There was a moment in the back of my thoughts when I acknowledged that the voice reminded me of Sarah’s—of the words only I had been able to hear in a roomful of people.
The shadow body pulsed and rippled, drifting closer. Fingers curled inward. A tugging motion swept over my body, and I slid an inch forward before I was able to stop myself.
The thing hissed as it reached out again. Sssomething not right. Sssomething not natural—
It made another sound, a cross between a growl and a moan. The thing shrank back, losing its form. In a puff of icy, black smoke, it faded into the shadows clinging to the cracked walls. The shadows in the stairwell of the basement returned to the normal level of acceptable creepiness.
I stood there, mouth hanging open. Did that just happen? Or was that just some really, really messed-up nightmare? Like, a long, extended nightmare.
“What in the hell are you doing?”33Jumping a good six inches off the floor, I let out a little shriek. “Luc.”
He stood just inside the kitchen, his amethyst eyes churning. “I know you were told not to go into the basement.”
Heart thundering, I struggled to catch my breath. “I didn’t go into the basement. The door opened, and this Arum came up the steps. Holy crap, I thought this place was haunted at first.”
A bland expression settled over his face. “The place isn’t haunted.”
“Yeah, I know that now. Why is there an Arum in the basement?”
Luc strode forward, brushing past me as he peered down the stairs. A moment passed. “The reason you were told to stay out of the basement is because there are tunnels that run underground, allowing the Arum to travel without notice. Sometimes they come up and say hi when they know I’m here.”
My mouth dropped open. “Well, that sounds perfectly normal, Luc.”
“They’re not always in the basement, and it’s not always a problem.” He closed the door and faced me. “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t think anyone would be here, and I didn’t want you to freak out.”
I stared at him, pretty sure my expression summed up every What in the hell? thought I could possibly have.
“But of course, I should’ve figured that you’d be actively trying to get yourself killed and put a dead bolt on the door.”
“Whoa. I’m not doing anything.” I snapped out of my stupor. “The door opened by itself. I didn’t touch it, and if you say that again to me, I’m going to start thinking you’re actively trying to get yourself killed.”
His eyes narrowed. “What are you even doing in the kitchen at two in the morning?”
“I couldn’t sleep,” I confessed, surprised when I saw his expression soften a bit. I ignored it. “And what are you doing in the kitchen at two in the morning?”
“Couldn’t sleep, either.”
I pushed my hair back from my face. “And what was an Arum doing in the basement at two in the morning?”
His lips twitched as he glanced at the closed basement door. “Probably stopping by to see who was here.”
“Do you think maybe you could’ve told me about the Arum possibly creeping around in the basement instead of being all vague?”
Luc’s jaw locked down.
“Yeah. I see that didn’t cross your mind. Instead of ‘Don’t go into the basement,’ you could’ve been like, ‘Hey, sometimes Arum creep around in the basement, so don’t go in there.’”
“I thought you didn’t go into the basement.”
Oh my God, I wanted to stomp my foot, like legitimately stomp my foot in his face. “I didn’t go in there. I just opened the door the rest of the way, and it came up the stairs like something out of a freaking horror movie.”
Luc arched a brow. “I think the Arum would find that description a bit offensive.”
My mouth dropped open as anger simmered, mixing with frustration over everything. “Whatever. I’m not talking to you.”
“Actually, you are talking to me.”
Raising a hand, I flipped him off as I stormed past him. “Talk to that.”
“That’s really mature.”
I lifted my other hand and extended that middle finger. “Two-for-one special.”
“Now that doesn’t even make sense.”
Reaching the stairs, I looked over my shoulder at him. “Shut up.”
He laughed—he actually laughed.
Doing my best to not stomp up the stairs because other people were sleeping, I stalked toward the bedroom, my hands curled into tight fists. I stepped inside.
“I can’t believe you told me to shut up.”
Whirling around, I glared at where he stood in the hall, right in front of my door. “I can’t believe you think I care that you’re surprised.” Gripping the bedroom door, I launched it shut. “Lucas.”