And finds it an Altered State
Jack of Spades #1
The doorknob rattled. Bart affected an expression of disdain and pretended an interest in the blousy female that he didn’t feel.
The door opened, and he kept his attention on the television. Let Sabine know that he wasn’t the center of Bart’s existence.
“Well now, that gumbo does smell good.”
Bart shot up a few more inches into the air and turned his head at dizzying speed. It wasn’t Sabine, coming home repentant and ready to make amends for his earlier behavior. The man who entered bore only a vague resemblance to his lover, being dark-haired and slender. Laurant.
Bart sat upright and floated downward, until he sat on the sofa. Laurant intrigued him. The man was devilishly handsome, a real charmer, who could probably have any man or woman he wanted, and yet he seemed always to be so…alone. So lonely. He had an aura of otherness, a poetic sort of soul. Reminded Bart of a drunken slob of a man he’d met in Boston once…Edgar Poe.
Laurant wasn’t human of course, but in retrospect, perhaps Edgar hadn’t been as human as he’d pretended either. Regardless, the incubus fascinated Bart. They were a lot alike, and if only the man would pick something up… Laurant visited Sabine frequently and was familiar with the layout of the apartment. Innate curiosity sent him roaming…but soul-deep sensuality made him touch. He probably wasn’t even aware that he did it…as he passed the sofa on the way to the kitchen he stroked one lean long-fingered hand along the supple leather. In the kitchen he brushed a hand over the lush cotton dish towels, caressed a silver spoon with a delicate touch. Everything, every sensation seemed to please him.
Bart watched avidly, following him into the kitchen where he checked the gumbo, sniffing appreciatively. “What’s going on?” Bart asked, well aware that his words would go unheeded, willing Laurant to pick up a gold coin, or the spectacles on the coffee table, one of the volumes of literature from the bookshelf…even that. “Why are you here? Where’s Sabine?”
Laurant’s head tilted to the side, his gaze scanned the apartment. “I know you’re here. I can feel you watching me. Show yourself.”
Hah. “If it were that easy, don’t you think you’d have seen me in the last few years you’ve been playing games here? And by the way, you can’t play cards for shit. You fold too easy. And you talk too much during a game. You’d have been shot…” He trailed off and those deep set eyes seemed to track him. He almost believed Laurant could hear him. “I should know, after all. It’s a bloody good thing you don’t make your living playing cards. Oh come on. Pick something of mine up, damn it!” The last burst out as Laurant fondled a silver filigree box that had belonged to Sabine’s grandfather.
Bart didn’t like the box. It seemed to disapprove of him, which Sabine said was ridiculous, but as Bart reminded him, the whole concept of a them was sublimely ridiculous in a farcical way.
“Yes! That’s it. Pick. It. Up.” He growled as Laurant replaced the box and moved on to a rosewood trinket box. As soon as the man’s hand closed on the bit of wood, Bart focused everything he could pull together into being. “It’s about time!” he groused, hoping the man wasn’t one of those non-believers who’d be blocked by his own certainty that ghosts didn’t exist, weren’t real, or were the product of indigestion.
“Bart, I presume?”
Bart suppressed a shiver at the sensual voice. It seemed the timbre of the man’s voice echoed, stirred the very atoms of Bart’s being. The effect of the man…being the recipient of that intense stare, was so much more powerful when Bart was physically present. “Don’t do that,” he protested, struggling to keep himself together.
“Did I do something?” Laurant seemed surprised. He held out a pale hand. “I’m Laurant. It’s a pleasure to finally meet the…man…Sabine has spoken of so often.”
“Does he?” He realized the other man still held his hand out, though his smile was fading rapidly. “I can’t shake your hand.”
“Forgive me. I shouldn’t have assumed.”
“It’s…Sabine would have to explain the science behind it. I didn’t pay enough attention, and I dare say the field of physics has changed enough since 1829 that, even if I had, it wouldn’t make any difference to my understanding of my own existence.” He stopped talking and just stared as Laurant’s eyes dulled and his smile froze. “Indeed. So where is he?”
“I have no idea.” Laurant sniffed. “I don’t smell any sulfur or brimstone. Nothing but gumbo really.” He reached out a hand then snatched it back.
“Please don’t, thank you. It hurts when you put your hand through me, and”—Bart frowned—“I’m not a demon.”
“I see. Speaking of which…how is it that I can see you now and never have before?” Laurant let the box go as though just realizing he’d been touching it, and Bart sighed.
“Great Caesar's ghost. Now I suppose I’ll have to wait an hour for the fool to lay his hands on something else of mine.”
“You ought not to speak about people that way. Not to their faces, in any event.”
“You can still see me?” Bart peered closely at Laurant, who stepped back a little, holding up a hand.“I can see something…shimmery about the air, like heat on the highway in the summer, but I can hear you quite clearly.”