Ashes to Ashes Page 32


“Baby, talk to me,” he said gruffly. His brows were stuck in a permanent frown.

I looked at him as if he were nuts. “Later. We have work to do. This is our last show, remember?”

“This isn’t fair.”

“No, Dex,” I hissed at him. “This isn’t fair. You’ve had all morning to talk to me and you’re choosing right now, as we’re taking that poor woman upstairs to go look for the ghosties that traumatized her? What is with your shitty timing?”

“I don’t know!” he exclaimed, then recovered once he realized that Rebecca and Brenna were both waiting for us and staring at us, totally unimpressed. “We’ll talk later.”

I rolled my eyes and followed them up the stairs. It wasn’t as if I wanted to hold a grudge over him and Rebecca, but knowing me and my insecurities, coming to terms with it all was going to take time, and at the moment, all I could think about was the fact that we were heading up the stairs to our potential demise.

Or at least my potential demise. And no, I didn’t think I was being overdramatic, considering what a dead child had said to me last night, that I had what she “needed.”

I suppressed a shudder and continued on up the staircase. Luckily, none of us had any intentions of exploring the upper floors. The wind was blowing harder now, rattling the window panes and whistling through the gaps and parts of the ceiling that had started to leak with rainwater.

“Looks like we should just stick to this floor,” Dex said, much to everyone’s relief.

Just as we did before, we headed down the hall toward the room where we had seen Shawna’s picture hanging—and near the room where she had been with the bad thing. We were silent as we walked, listening for anything out of the ordinary. It was amazing how quiet that floor could be considering there was an active school downstairs.

When we approached the room with the desk, we were all suddenly overcome by a nauseating stench. I knew what death smelled like, and that was it.

“My god,” Rebecca said, covering her nose. “That smells wretched.”

We peered around the corner and saw something that immediately made me want to vomit.

The entire floor of the room, as well as the desk, was piled with the carcasses of hundreds of dead rats, festering with crawling maggots and flies.

“Fuck me,” I cried out as we all staggered backward from the disgusting sight. I looked over to Brenna who was turning a shade of green. “Do you normally have rat problems here?”

She shook her head, her eyes watering, and walked a few more feet away so we were out of the range of stench. “We have some, I guess, because the building was abandoned for so long, but not like this.”

“This isn’t a job for the Orkin Man,” Dex commented, still breathing into the sleeve of his jacket while filming us at the same time. “This is a warning of some sort.”

As if we hadn’t had enough warnings already. If this was how we were starting out our expedition, I didn’t want to know how much worse it was going to get.

He looked at us all. “Shall we continue?”

We all nodded begrudgingly and followed Dex further down the hall as the wind swept in through the open windows. We went all the way down to the end where it veered off into a wing with rotted doorways and a lot of water damage.

“Look,” Brenna breathed out. She pointed in front of her where an orange rubber ball was rolling toward us. It slowly came to a stop just a few feet away.

“Elliot?” she asked, her head cocked like she was listening, trying to hear through the creaking building and the howling storm outside. We all did the same until I realized there was a piece of equipment we hadn’t used yet.

“You guys,” I said, “I’m going down to the room to grab the EVP recorder.” Normally we brought the recorder out when we were filming the show and Rebecca usually handled it, but I guess since everything had been up in our faces since the moment we stepped in the building, it kind of slipped our minds. But for communicating with Elliot and possibly other ghosts, it could come in handy. It was amazing the sounds and voices the device sometimes picked up.

Dex frowned while Rebecca said, “Be careful.”

She didn’t have to tell me twice.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

I wasn’t planning on casually strolling down the second floor to get the EVP recorder, anyway. I was going to get in and get out as fast as I could. Ignoring the warning look in Dex’s eyes, I turned and booked it down the hallway, not looking into any of the rooms—especially the room of dead rats—nor looking ahead of me in case there was something I didn’t want to see. I ran watching my feet, and as soon as I hit the stairs, I vaulted down them. Once I reached the school’s floor, I relaxed and walked quickly over to the nurses’ room without drawing attention to myself from the passing schoolteachers.

I knocked just in case Kelly was in there with a patient. When I didn’t hear anything, I opened the door and peered in. She wasn’t in her office, so I walked through all the way to our room. Now I had to remember where the EVP recorder actually was. I went through my bag first then brought out the one that housed the camera equipment.

“Hey.”

I nearly jumped out of my skin and flung myself around to see Dex coming through the door to Kelly’s office. He gently closed it behind him, then came in the room and closed that door too.

“What are you doing here?” I asked. “I was going to come right back.”

“I need to speak to you,” he said, his voice grave and rough. He walked over to me, standing a foot away. “You need to talk to me.”

“I need to talk to you?”

“Damn it, Perry,” he growled, reaching out to grab my arm, holding it tightly. “You can’t ignore me forever.”

My mouth flapped open. “I’m not ignoring you.”

“Bullshit. Bullshit.” He pulled me closer to him. “So stop it. And talk.”

I’d never seen him so distraught, so volatile before.

His eyes narrowed for a second as he observed me closely. Then he straightened up and said, “Fine. I’ll talk. Look, Perry, I don’t know what to say other than I’m sorry. But I don’t think I should be punished for something that happened in the past, something that happened before I ever met you.”

I looked away, feeling the bubble of disgust rise up in me. “I’m not punishing you. But how the hell do you think it makes me feel to learn that?”

“And that’s why I never wanted to tell you!”

I put my hands on my hips and backed away from him, trying to reclaim my personal space. “By not telling me it looked like you had something to hide.”

He grunted, shaking his head. “There was nothing to hide. Nothing. Don’t you get it?”

“Sex isn’t nothing.”

He stroked roughly at his jaw. “Yeah, well sometimes to me, it is.”

“Nice.”

“Well, it’s the fucking truth. Do you want to know how it all started?”

“Uh, no.”

“I thought she was hot, okay?”

I grimaced, feeling stabs of pain in my gut. “I said I didn’t want to know.”

“She was hot,” he went on while my eyes widened incredulously. “And I’d just started the show and I was nervous. And she was upset over a breakup, and at the time I had no idea she was a lesbian. She just seemed like a flirt.”

I stuck my fingers in my ears. “La, la, la, la, la, can’t hear you!”

He pulled my fingers out, his grip hot and hard around my wrists. “Listen to me. We got drunk and it just happened. It wasn’t very good. It was awkward and I couldn’t figure out why. I couldn’t even come.”

I shut my eyes. “Dear god, I am going to murder you in your sleep if you don’t shut the fuck up.”

“And,” he continued, “the next day she fessed up and said she was a lesbian and that she was sorry for leading me on. And I told her it was fine, because honestly, even if she didn’t turn out to be gay, I wouldn’t have fucked her again. There was something missing from the start. So we obviously just decided to be friends and that was that. We never think about it, we never talk about it, because it was just that stupid funny thing that we once did. She’s like my sister, Perry, you know that.”

I glared at him. “A sister that you make all these inappropriate comments about. God, Dex, now I’m thinking back to all the times you talked about the three of us having a threesome.”

“Baby, you can’t possibly think I’m serious when I say that. That’s why I say it. It would never happen, and it should never happen, so it’s just funny. It’s harmless. If it wasn’t harmless, I wouldn’t dare joke about it.”

I glared at him, still unhappy. I tried to get out of his grasp but he held me firmly in place, his eyes blazing deep into me. “You should have told me,” I said.

“When?” he cried out. “When should I have told you? It has no bearing on our relationship, and it’s, frankly, none of your business.”

I bristled at that. “You’re an ass,” I seethed.

“I know,” he growled back. “You keep telling me. But even an ass deserves the benefit of the doubt from time to time. When would I have told you? Huh? When I first introduced you to Rebecca? Oh, this is my friend Rebecca. You should be friends with her. By the way, we once had terrible sex together. Or later on, maybe, when we started going out and she joined the show. Hey, now that we’re working as a threesome, here’s some interesting information that will make our jobs awkward as hell.” He finally let go of my hands with an exasperated sigh. “No, I don’t think so.”

Now that I was free, I turned away from him and walked over to the opposite wall, trying to get space and think. I know what Dex was saying and he made a lot of sense. I didn’t want to punish him over something he did prior to meeting me and I understood why he never told me. It didn’t mean I had to like it though. And it wasn’t the real reason why I was so upset. In the end, I didn’t think it had a lot to do with feelings of insecurity or betrayal. It was that I didn’t know this piece of information about Dex. And how could I expect to know everything when we’ve only been together for eight months? How well did we really know each other?

“Are you done being mad yet?” he asked.

I almost was, but then his callous words made me snap my head around and send him daggers with my eyes. “Hey, give me a fucking break, okay? Why don’t you put yourself in my fucking shoes for once?”

He shook his head, his eyes burning, and stormed over to me until he was right up against me and my back was pressed against the wall. He put his hands at my hips, holding them tight, and leaned in so his face was just inches away. I could smell his sweet breath, count the gold flecks in his brown eyes, see the enviable length of his dark lashes. It was probably a bad time to have the thought, but sometimes there was nothing sexier than Dex when he was angry.

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