Cursed

 

 

Kevin knew something was wrong when he woke up on the beach next to a dead body.

 

He jolted upright and looked around, not sure where he was or how he got here. This was a nightmare, right? Had to be. There was no other explanation for it. The last thing he remembered was going to bed.

 

But what a vivid dream. He could feel sand under his hands, the cold wind off the water redolent of salt, the pounding of his blood inside his own skull. He thought he was trembling too, but not from cold. He wasn’t sure what was supposed to be making him tremble, but it wasn’t that.

 

He got to his feet, toes digging into cold wet sand, and noticed he was wearing his jeans but one of Toby’s t-shirts. The one he had tossed on the chair in their room, in fact. He could still smell Toby on it. Which was all very weird, because since when could he smell in dreams? And as far as details went, everything was so vivid. He felt awake. But he didn’t remember getting up; he didn’t remember getting dressed and coming here. So it had to be a dream. Or a nightmare.

 

He looked at the body, the man face down on the sand, and reluctantly turned him over. He wasn’t anyone he recognized; a townie perhaps, a tourist. He was young, mid-twenties, with short black hair, dressed in loud surfer jams and nothing else. Thankfully, he wasn’t dead; Kevin felt a pulse in his neck, faint and erratic, but definitely there. But while he was flooded by relief, he also got the strange sense that he should get the fuck out of here, because as soon as the guy regained consciousness he was going to kill him.

 

He didn’t know why he thought that, but he believed it was true. He stumbled up the shore, into the trees that lined this side of the beach, and gratefully got lost in the darkness, unconcerned about the rocks and broken branches that dug into his feet. This was a dream, right? Of course it was. It was like that dream he had the other night where he attacked someone outside a bar only to be cut with a broken bottle, and the next day, when he was in the shower, Toby gasped in horror and asked him how he got that cut on his arm. It was a deep cut, and in retrospect it had been hurting since he got up, but for some reason he paid no attention to it at all.

 

What the fuck was happening to him?

 

****

 

Kevin managed to pretend he’d been sleeping all night, and even managed to pretend nothing was wrong, although it was clear from the questions Toby asked and the looks he kept giving him that he knew something was wrong. But Kevin didn’t want to talk to him about it. He had no idea why, but what was he going to say? “I’ve started sleepwalking, and attacking people in my sleep.” Toby would think he was crazy. Hell, he thought he was crazy. If he still didn’t have splinters in his feet from walking back from the beach through the trees, he might think he was making it up too.

 

He wanted to talk to Van, she was into all the supernatural shit, but as it turned out she’d left early that morning. He didn’t think she was working that early, but Kai told him she was doing something for Grace. He made it sound salacious, but she was seeing Michelle, and Kevin really didn’t think Grace was Van’s type anyways.

 

He made his way to Grace’s home, large and stately and somehow wrong for this island. It would have been more at home on a Southern plantation or a posh English estate than in a semi-tropical setting. That was just one of the most obviously weird things about her.

 

He approached the front porch with great trepidation. He wasn’t sure why, but something about her gave him the creeps. He got this sense that she was dangerous. In fact, he was scared of her, and that just didn’t compute. Since when was he afraid of a complete stranger? He did his best to swallow it, mainly because he couldn’t figure it out and it made him feel like an idiot. He was tired of feeling like an idiot all the time.

 

He peered in a front window, hoping to see Van, but all he saw was an empty room full of furniture that looked incredibly old. They were museum pieces. He carefully moved around the house, to a different window, and glanced in there. This time he saw a different empty room, with a piano and a painting on an easel, facing away from the window. Was no one home? It wouldn’t be the first time Kai was full of shit.

 

“As peeping toms go, you’re especially inept,” a woman’s voice said behind him.

 

He jumped and turned in shock, facing the woman he least wanted to see: Grace. She was giving him a haughty, evil stare, her lip curled up in the faintest of sneers. “Hi, uh … hi. I was, um, I was looking for Van -”

 

“She’s not here.”

 

“Kai told me -”

 

“He was mistaken. Now go away.” Grace turned and started to stalk off, but she suddenly stopped and seemed to look at him askance from the corner of her eye, like he was a ghost in her peripheral vision. She suddenly snickered, a wicked little laugh, and shook her head before continuing off.

 

“Hey, what was that about?” Kevin asked, anger making him feel unusually bold. She continued walking away, picking her way along a garden path that was almost invisible to the naked eye. “Hey!”

 

She didn’t so much as turn as simply look over her shoulder at him. Her eyes were frosty, muscles taut along her jaw. “You don’t yell at me, boy. You’re lucky you’re damned enough as it is, or I’d turn you into the annoying little gnat you are.”

 

As threats went, that was bizarre. But his mind seemed to stick on what she said before the threat. “Damned? What’s that supposed to mean? Is that some kinda gay crack?”

 

She made a noise that suggested amusement, but a dark and ugly kind. “I don’t care what you stick your willie into. But I think I can guess why you’re here. Van can’t help you. Nobody can help you.”

 

He felt a coldness settle into his spine and radiate out into the rest of his body. “What do you mean?”

 

She turned towards him, but it made him nervous. She was standing twenty feet away, and yet she still seemed uncomfortably close. Her gaze was unrelenting, hard and hot; he felt scalded by it. “What I mean, idiot, is there’s a balance to all things. You were dead, and you were brought back. Now there’s a debt to pay.”

 

Kevin never quite understood what happened to him at the hospital. They said he fell into a coma so deep that his life signs didn’t register and he was mistakenly declared dead - thank god no one had started an autopsy before he woke up; he didn’t want to even imagine what it would have been like waking up on the table with some guy cutting your chest open - but he overheard a doctor arguing with another outside his room, just after they put him back into the living section of the hospital. One of them said there was no way he was in a coma; he was in an early stage of rigor mortis, something - fluids? - were accumulating in his chest. He was deader than dead. There was no way back from that, and he didn’t get it. He also didn’t get why the rest of the hospital was so quick to dub it coma and pretend it was something that could happen when it damn well couldn’t. Kevin never saw that doctor again, and wondered if he quit or was fired.

 

But he never thought he was actually dead. Didn’t you see things? Wasn’t there supposed to be a white light or something? But then again, he had no memory of going to the hospital in the first place; he couldn’t remember hurting himself at the party, or the party itself. His memory was remarkably fuzzy on those points. Toby and Van had filled him on some things, but even they weren’t sure about all of it. Some things only Kevin knew, and he couldn’t remember them. “I - I never died. I don’t know -”

 

“Yes you did,” she said coldly. “You were brought back by magic, and like everything else, magic has a price. You are supposed to be dead, but you were pulled back, and that leaves a gap that must be filled. A life for a life. Either you fill it voluntarily or involuntarily, but the price will be paid.”

 

He scoffed, trying to laugh at this crazy talk, but there was something about her and her dead (ha) certainty that was sending a chill down his spine in spite of the tropical heat. “Magic? Are you kidding me?”

 

Her look was scathing. “You’ve been in the Cove how long and haven’t figured it out yet? What’s happening to you now? Did you try and kill your pretty little boyfriend? Are you waking up in strange places next to bloody strangers? You’re magic’s bitch, boy, and you will do what it wants, whether you want to or not.”

 

Kevin could feel his pulse pounding in his temples, sweat pouring down his back, bile rising in his throat. “You’re crazy,” he said, slowly backing away. But how did she know about his sleepwalking? And what did she mean did he try and kill Toby? He’d never hurt him. What was that supposed to mean?

 

(Was that a possibility? What if it was Toby on the beach last night?)

 

Her look was unrelenting, her expression sharpening like a knife. “You know it’s true, but you still refuse to believe it. Pathetic. Go home. Your problem will resolve itself sooner or later. As soon as you pay your debt.” She then turned and walked away, but it didn’t mean anything to Kevin, who’d already taken off running.

 

He didn’t know where he was going, he just knew he had to get away from here.

 

 

****

 

Kevin tried to convince himself she was just a crazy old witch. Maybe she’d seen him sleepwalking or whatever - maybe she’d seen him on the beach. He should have asked, he should have stayed and confronted her instead of running away like a coward.

 

He hid inside a dive bar, in the darkest corner booth, mainly because he couldn’t bear seeing Toby or anyone who might recognize him right now. It was dingy and awful, poorly lit with darkened windows to hide the dust on the floor and the condensation rings on the tables and bar, the burns and scars of poorly placed cigarette butts. Never mind that there was a smoking ban - no one in here did.

 

What Grace said was nuts. It was completely batshit, unbelievable on a Weekly World News level. Was life a fucking Harry Potter novel now? Magic? What, could she not think of something else? Gnomes, perhaps? Vampires? Maybe he died and came back as a zombie. That would explain why he was hungry.

 

Oh god, what the hell was he going to do? He could dismiss her and her crazy cat woman ravings all he wanted, but there was still the fact that he was sleepwalking, and worse yet, sleep fighting. If he didn’t have the puckered scar on his arm to remind him of the reality of the situation, there was that story in the newspaper folded up and discarded on the bar, the one about a mysterious assailant who attacked a man on the beach last night. Luckily he didn’t remember the assault itself, but he was in the hospital. It didn’t say how he hurt him, but Kevin’s mind was roaming into some very dark places. There was no mention of sexual assault, so he could at least he could keep that off the list of possible atrocities.

 

He was staring down into his weak and barely touched beer, trying to force his mind to cough up some details about what he may have been doing last night, when someone sat in the seat across from him. “’Sup, bro? Didn’t expect to see you in here.”

 

Not bothering to hide his annoyance, he looked across at Adam. Unlike most times, he was wearing a shirt - a tank top, but hey, it counted with him - but like most times lately, his eyes were glazed and red and his pupils so large you could drive a truck through them. “What the hell are you doing here?”

 

“Just checkin’ in with Mitch. He’s my bro,” Adam said, gesturing towards the tall, bald black bartender, who had a very vague resemblance to a younger Samuel L. Jackson. That managed to be both attractive and intimidating at the same time. Adam gave Kevin a lopsided smile, like he wasn’t in complete control of his face. “You often get your drink on in the mornin’?”

 

He stared at him in angry disbelief. “How stoned are you? Are you still up from last night?”

 

He snickered, although Kevin hadn’t said anything funny. “When you feel as good as I do, you don’t got time to sleep.”

 

Kevin shook his head in disgust. “Go home and sleep it off.”

 

Adam seemed to ignore him, and reached into the pocket of his too tight jeans to pull out something else. “Wanna hit? It’ll lighten you up.”

 

He was holding out what looked like a few strands of dark green moss, but he knew it was “Saint”. He made a noise of disgust and shoved Adam’s hand away. “Keep it. You aren’t exactly a walking ad for it.”

 

“Man, you’re so wound. You need to chill, dude. This could help.”

 

“And wind up like you? No thanks.”

 

Adam laughed, but in a light, unhinged way that suggested his awareness (and sanity?) was frighteningly fragile. “Wow. How’d you end up with Tobe? You kinda seem like the type who’d still be in the closet if someone didn’t drag you out kicking and screaming.”

 

“You should know, shouldn’t you?” he replied icily. But Adam had already gotten up, and made a dismissive hand gesture as he stumbled out of the booth and eventually out of the bar, only colliding with one table and chair before making it to the door. “Closet queen,” Kevin muttered under his breath.

 

But he then realized that if anyone had a wasted life, it was Adam. Here he was, a trust fund brat who spent all his time working out and partying - that was it! He did absolutely nothing else, and Kevin was pretty sure he never had. He was killing himself one dose at a time; if he ended up dead tomorrow, who would be shocked? Only Adam.

 

He wasn’t thinking of it seriously - hell, he couldn’t say he believed any of this stuff, in spite of the sleepwalking - but right then, he decided that maybe he should find out where Adam was going tonight. And if he was going to be all alone.

 

If his death came sooner or later, would it matter much at all?

 

 

 

****

 

The rest of his day was totally screwed up. He tried to distract himself, but it never worked, and he couldn’t seem to get Van alone. The one time he went to her room to speak to her, Toby was already there. And he could hardly say, “Hey, I think I’m either going crazy or I’m cursed,” in front of him. (Was he a zombie? Some sort of undead thing? He was starting to wonder.)

 

He continued to pretend around Toby that nothing was wrong, but Toby seemed only to accept it, not buy it. They also almost fucked in the shower, but he couldn’t get into it, and Toby almost seemed to take it personally, like he wasn‘t attracted to him or something. Didn’t he understand that he had a lot on his mind, like maybe he was eventually going to wake up killing someone, maybe him? No, of course he didn’t, mainly because Kevin didn’t tell him, and it ended up in a semi-fight, one without a lot of shouting, but with lots of slammed doors and icy silences. In the end, that worked out for him, because Toby wasn’t expecting him to come to bed.

 

It was a warm night, one good for sitting outside, lurking, waiting for Adam to leave the hotel. Adam didn’t disappoint. Never mind that he couldn’t have gotten more than five hours sleep, he was already semi-lit on Cuervo when he headed out, down the path and through one of the wooded areas on the fringe of the beach. He was initially wearing a blue muscle shirt, but he took it off and shoved it in the back pocket of his jeans as he continued on. Kevin stayed back and stayed quiet, but he didn’t know why he was bothering, as Adam seemed perfectly oblivious, caught in his own private bubble of intoxication.

 

At first, Kevin thought he was taking a shortcut into town, and then maybe going to a private party, but he ended up in a part of town that Kevin had never been to before. The trees and undergrowth here were surprisingly lush, which made it good for hiding, but bad for following close, as the path narrowed into a small wooden bridge over a narrow slice of a creek. Beyond it, more verdant growth almost - but not quite - concealed a building that seemed to have a dark red light for illumination, but nothing more. What the fuck was this? Kevin hung back, and waited until Adam disappeared inside the place (Kevin heard but was unable to see a door open; he also heard a faint bit of guitar driven rock music as the door opened and closed. A club?) before going over the footbridge and getting a closer look at the hidden place.

 

There were no markings on this side whatsoever, and the door was almost impossible to find. If this was a club, it was one strangely hostile towards its customers. He found it eventually, and decided to peer in, see what Adam was getting up to.

 

The interior was dark, lit with bloody red neon that wasn’t very illuminating. The music came up loud, almost as if it was held back by a force field before; it was loud but oddly menacing, a cross between metal and Goth. Tool maybe, or a Tool wannabe.

 

This seemed to be a vestibule or a back entrance - there was no one here, and the empty room quickly gave way to what appeared to be darken, red lit halls. Could he risk Adam seeing him here? Curiosity got the better of him, and he slipped inside, letting the door close quietly behind him. The music seemed likely to hide any noise he could have made, but he still moved as quietly as possible. He had just made it the junction, where the halls branched off in maze like fashion, when a man’s voice said behind him, “Are you lost, little boy?”

 

He spun around, startled, and found himself pinned against the wall by a man with spiky platinum blond hair, wearing only loose jeans and a couple of necklaces. His smile was smug and slightly menacing; in fact, he oozed menace like sweat, and Kevin wasn’t sure why. He was only an inch or two taller than him - he could probably take him, if it came down to a fight.

 

The man had his hand against his shoulder, pressing him into the wall in such a way that he let him know he was holding back. Kevin got the sense he could push him all the way through the drywall if he wanted to. “Do you have an invitation?” the man asked. His voice was silky with a quiet threat.

 

“No. I’m, uh, with Adam -”

 

“No you’re not,” he quickly interrupted, smiling in a sharp, unfriendly way. It was a predator’s smile. “I don’t smell Saint on you, I don’t even smell alcohol. Adam always comes alone anyways, and he doesn’t have an invitation. He only buys drugs.”

 

How could he smell anything? The air in the club was humid, close, with the scent of skin, Saint smoke, sweat, sex. Kevin was starting to feel dizzy, and wondered if he was getting a contact high. “I - I made a mistake. I’ll -”

 

He tried to slip out of the man’s tenuous hold, but he increased the pressure and then did something he didn’t expect: he slipped his other hand straight down his pants. He jolted, not only because the contact was so intimate and so sudden, but because the man’s hand was so damn cold. Kevin grabbed his arm, but he had muscles like steel, and the look in his dark eyes was both amused and dangerous. “Yes, you made a mistake, and now I’ve got you by the balls,” the man said with evil glee. “Too bad you’ve been marked by one of the witches, or you’d make a fun midnight snack.”

 

This seemed surreal somehow, and he meant to shove him away, but he couldn’t. He felt paralyzed, unable to move, barely able to breathe. “Wh-what d-do you mean I’ve been marked -”

 

“You don’t know?” he snickered, flashing bright white teeth. For a moment, he thought his canine teeth were elongated, almost like fangs, but … no, he couldn’t have seen his teeth grow and contract. The drugs were getting to him, the low lighting. “You’ve been cursed, and if you don’t fix that soon, you’re gonna be joining us here.” He looked him up and down in an exaggerated fashion. “And frankly, I don’t think you’re gonna cut the mustard. Oh sure, you’ll bring in the twink loving crowd, but I think you’re a little too skinny for my taste.”

 

“I’m not a twink,” he snapped, trying to force himself to move. He still couldn’t. His heart was trip-hammering in his chest, and he was repulsed by this man … and yet also, a little attracted in spite of it all. He didn’t know why, he didn’t even like blonds (he was always attracted to darker guys), and this guy scared the shit out of him, but there was also something oddly magnetic about him. Almost supernatural. “I’ll get out of here. Let me go.”

 

The guy sniffed him. It was unbelievable, but he leaned in like he was going to kiss him, but instead he took a deep breath, breathing him in. “Ah, fear. It’s such a turn on.” His breath was cold on his cheek, like he’d been sucking on ice cubes.

 

“W-what do you want from me?” Was this guy going to rape him? He was a hell of a lot stronger than he looked, and for some reason Kevin couldn’t move. He wanted to, he was screaming in his mind to do something, but there was a disconnect between his body and his brain. It occurred to him that rape was quite possibly the best case scenario - he didn’t want to think about the worst.

 

The guy licked his neck, and he felt him scrape his teeth against his throat. His teeth seemed terribly sharp, and he had no idea how they got that way or how it didn’t cut his skin. “What I want I don’t think I can have right now,” he snarled, muttering afterwards, “Damn Tresum witches.”

 

He had no idea what he was talking about, but you know what? He didn’t care. He just wanted to get out of here and never come back. “I’ll go, okay? I’ll go.”

 

The man looked at him, his face so close to his he could have kissed him. Thankfully, he didn’t it. Something dark and unpleasant glittered in his eyes, like broken glass at the bottom of a pond. “You have to stop being so petrified. It’s making me both horny and hungry. Why don’t I do you a favor, huh? I’ll tell you how to break the curse.”

 

Kevin stared at him, trying to conjure up the evilest look imaginable, but all the man did was smile at him in a lopsided, eerie way. It was like a sneer with blunted edges. “Why?”

 

“’Cause I wanna help you. And you’ve been touched by Tresum; I can smell it. So here’s the deal: I help you now, and you owe me. One day I will come to you for a favor, and you won’t ask me why, you’ll simply do it. Got it?”

 

“What kind of favor?” He knew a deadly catch when he heard it.

 

The man’s grin grew wider, and Kevin could see his incredibly sharp - and weren’t they kind of long? - canine teeth as if someone was shining a light on them. Something in him was reacting in atavistic horror, and it was all he could do not to piss himself and cower in fear. His reptile brain whispered “Vampire,” but he ignored it. Vampires didn’t exist any more than actual witches did. “Oh no, Goldilocks, you agree to my terms now, or I’ll lock you in the basement and see if whoever marked you is willing to forget you. If they are, well … I guess you’ll be my snack after all. So what’s it gonna be, twinkie?” He stroked his cheek with the pad of his thumb, and while Kevin wanted to jerk his head away, once again he couldn’t. “Yes or no?”

 

There was no way out and he knew it. He had to play along, and maybe this crazy bastard would let up. “Yes.”

 

The man’s grin threatened to split his face in half, but it seemed purely predatory, happy in an unsavory manner. If a shark could truly smile, it would look like this. “Smart choice. How much do you know? Do you know that killing someone will feed the curse and shut it down?”

 

“So I’ve been told.” It was amazing that everyone was reciting the same line of shit. Was there a handbook somewhere? Perhaps a message board?

 

“But you have cold feet about killing just anyone, don’t you? It’s very … Human of you.” He said that last bit like it was a disgusting perversion. “What if I gave you a bad man? Someone who deserves to die.”

 

“No one deserves to die,” Kevin said, aware that he was being a hypocrite, since he had often fantasized about killing his step-father. But he’d never have done it! It was just something he occasionally thought about in his darker moments at home.

 

The man laughed like that was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. He had to pause and wipe away tears before continuing. “Oh wow. I’d ask if you were high, but I know you’re not. Okay Mr. Goody Two Shoes, did you hear about that kid that went missing over at Sandy Point?”

 

Kevin nodded, which was much more difficult than it should have been. He’d vaguely recalled hearing about it on the news. The kid eventually washed up on shore around the Thorson Beach area.

 

“The guy who killed her is named Robert Burbank. He lives in the Paradise Hills development. Know it?”

 

“What? You know who killed her and you didn’t go to the cops?”

 

Again that smirk, a razor blade smile of arrogance. “Why the fuck do I care about some little brat? The guy comes in here to buy drugs and watch - he’s too cowardly to do anything. He says he’s straight, but he wants to be one of us. He came in here high a couple of days ago and tried to impress me by telling me about this dark magic ritual he did with the kid - you need the blood of innocents and all that shit. Frankly, it’s just a waste of good blood. That fucker is a wannabe who has no idea what he’s doing, and nothing’s more dangerous than a Human who thinks he can become powerful by offing a few people and speaking Latin.”

 

Kevin tried to sift through all of this. Was he lying? Bizarrely, he didn’t think so; the guy spoke of Burbank with such raw contempt that it felt like the truth. But what was he saying exactly - one of us? He thought killing someone would make him gay? No, that didn’t make sense. The blood of innocents? Wannabe? Speak Latin? “Are you saying he’s like a devil worshipper or something?”

 

The man chuckled in that unsettling way of his. “Hell no, I’d like him better if he was. He just thinks he can become a big bad sorcerer by killing people and wasting blood. To hear him talk, he thinks the reason he fucked up is ‘cause he didn’t kill enough people the first time around. I’m thinking you and I can kill two birds with one stone here: you break your curse, and you get this wannabe outta my territory before he draws too much attention to us.”

 

“Us?”

 

The man licked his teeth in an exaggerated manner, still smiling. “Haven’t you guessed yet? We’re a sex club with a little something extra.”

 

“I can’t … even if he did kill that kid … I can’t kill anyone.” Or at least he didn’t think he could. Kevin had to admit that if he had a gun, he’d probably shoot this guy right now.

 

“You don’t hafta, little boy. You just concentrate on his name before you go to sleep. You’ve been doin’ a bit of traveling around at night, haven’t ya? Your subconscious will take you where you wanna go, and Tresum takes care of the rest.”

 

“How do you know I’ve been …” he couldn’t even finish the question. How did everyone know?

 

He gave him a predatory smile, eyes as hard as glass. “I saw you last night. I don’t have to go out for my meals - the great thing about this club is all my meals come to me - but every now and then I like to get out, stretch my wings … so to speak. I saw you on the beach with the surf tart. I really thought you were gonna kill him.”

 

Kevin wanted to tell him off, tell him that wasn’t true, ask him why he didn’t try and stop him, but all he could do was shake. This was real? This couldn’t be real. This was a nightmare.

 

The man leaned in and Kevin felt a small, sharp pinprick pain in the side of his neck that soon gave way to a powerful rush of endorphins. He felt weak in the knees as a feeling of pleasure surged like a tidal wave throughout his body. Holy shit, what was this guy doing to him? He wanted to push him away, but his brain and body still hadn’t quite connected yet.

 

The man pushed away from him, finally releasing his hold. A small teardrop of blood hung on his lower lip, and he licked it away with an evil smile. “I just had to have a sip. You young ones taste so good.”

 

Now that Kevin could move, he slinked along the wall, still feeling dizzy, and as soon as he was out of arm’s reach, he ran for the door.

 

Even when he ran across the bridge, he could still hear him laughing.

 

 

****

 

 

Back at the hotel, he threw himself in the bathroom and looked in the mirror, half expecting to see blood running down his throat.

 

Of course, that wasn’t the case. He had to look hard to see the bite mark on his neck, and even then it was a tiny puncture mark, hard to see, almost invisible. It seemed more like a hypodermic wound than something a Human tooth could make. Was he hiding a needle? Did he slip him something? Maybe that would explain everything. Maybe he was drugged and hallucinating.

 

Kevin knew he should just go sleep in an empty room, but he returned to their room and slipped in next to Toby, who was warm and familiar. For some reason, even though he told himself he was being a total idiot, he didn’t want to be alone. He couldn’t sleep for the longest time, he found himself staring into the dark, waiting for movement, so he simply clung to Toby and listened to him breathe. At least his skin was warm.

 

The next day he kept busy trying to figure out what was going on. He heard that the place he walked into last night was called The Lair; it was a sex club, exclusive, but no one seemed to know how you got in, or how you got an “invite”. He’d have asked Adam, but he was afraid he might figure out he followed him, and then there was also the very good possibility he’d blab to Toby. He asked Marco, since Marco seemed to know a lot about the town, and he got unusually serious on him. He pulled him aside and whispered harshly, “Stay away from that place. It’s not safe. Promise me you’ll never go there.” For some strange reason, he didn’t think Marco was talking about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. But he didn’t elaborate; just the name of the place seemed to make him angry and resentful, and coming from the normally lighthearted Marco, that was weird. Kevin told him honestly he had no intention of ever going there.

 

Kevin paid a visit to the library, and found out there was indeed a Robert Burbank in town, living up in the Paradise Hills development. He also found out he had been briefly questioned by police over the missing kid, but released due to lack of evidence. Had that creepy guy from last night pulled his name out of the paper? Had he really killed the girl? He could really see that guy from last night happily killing lots of people … and yet, that was it. Kevin had the feeling if he had done it, he’d have bragged about it. Deny it? No way. Denial was for people who were ashamed or knew they had done something wrong. That guy gave off the impression that he didn’t think anything he did was wrong.

 

He tried to look up Tresum curses, but it got all weird, and he gave up. There was something in there about a variety of ways to be turned into “the undead” (from the description, basically vampires), from spells to vampire bites to curses. He didn’t believe in curses, did he? That was as stupid as thinking that guy last night really had been a vampire.

 

Or at least that was Kevin’s thinking until he woke up in the shower.

 

The water was turning cold, so that’s probably what woke him up, but what was he doing here? He remembered lounging on the sofa downstairs, watching a bad movie that was still compelling enough that he couldn’t turn it off. Also, the lead actor was kind of hot. Kevin was aware that he was tired, and his mind was wandering over the Robert Burbank problem, and that creepy guy.

 

That guy was going to kill him, wasn’t he?

 

After Marco’s odd reaction and the few scattered bits and pieces that he’d been able to put together, he figured out the Lair wasn’t well known by name, because people who went there didn’t talk about it a lot. Which was weird, because in this day and age, everything had a web page and a gossip column piece devoted to it. How did the Lair escape? Maybe because it had freaky psychopaths like that blond guy to watch the doors and the clientele. Kevin wasn’t sure why he let him go, but he had a feeling he hadn’t seen the last of him. Did you ever see the last of the creepy stalker psycho types?

 

Kevin knew he wasn’t going to kill Burbank. That was just nuts. He had no proof the guy was anything like what the psycho said, and he could hardly walk into the sheriff’s station and ask if they thought the guy really did it even if they couldn’t hold him. So he was back at square one. What was he going to do? Turn himself over to a psychiatrist? All he knew for now was he was going to stay up all night and not fall asleep.

 

So much for that plan.

 

He must have fallen asleep at some point, but he had no idea when, and why was he in the shower? He checked himself out for injuries (or blood; he was expecting to see blood), but all he saw was a bruise that could have been something he picked up last night at the Lair, when the psycho asshole had him pinned up against the wall. But his heart started to pound and adrenaline started pouring into his system. Did he remember walking through a lush stand of trees unlike anything on this side of the island? Did his knuckles actually ache like he had punched something - or someone?

 

Out of the shower, he leaned against the sink and tried very hard not to cry. This was so fucked up. Had he hurt someone? Had it finally happened? Jesus Christ, were the cops gonna come beating down the door? He felt different, and that was the problem. He felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders in spite of the fear that he had done something awful. Maybe this was what insanity was.

 

He went back into the bedroom to find Toby asleep, the sheets tangled around his waist and half off the bed, the curtains billowing to indicate that the window was cracked to let in the breeze. It was a warm night, although not as bad as some.

 

Kevin crawled into bed, sure he was either insane or just a few hours away from arrest. Which was worse? He wasn’t sure. He was sure on either case that he’d never see Toby again. The thought of that made his stomach clench, and he snuggled up against him, breathing in the scent of his skin. “I’m so sorry” he whispered, feeling like he’d failed him.

 

He didn’t think he’d fall asleep, but he must have, because the feeling of his abdomen being kissed woke him up. He smiled, as it was kind of ticklish, but also kind of erotic. The weight of Toby sliding between his legs made him hard. Kevin ran a hand along his back and groaned, still half asleep but awake enough to want more. He felt Toby’s tongue trace up to his chest, and Kevin ran his hand through his hair, intending to pull him up to him for a kiss. But that’s when he knew something was wrong.

 

It wasn’t Toby.

 

The texture of the hair was wrong; it felt thinner and dryer in his fingers, and he realized, with the startling clarity of hindsight, that the man’s body was cool in contrast to the humid night.

 

He gasped as he meant to throw him off, but he was already pinning Kevin’s arms down, and he looked up to see the man from the Lair grinning down at him in a way that was anything but friendly. “I own you now, bitch,” he said, and his teeth glinted in the moonlight. Oh god, he did have fangs.

 

He pulled Kevin’s head aside by the hair, baring his throat, and went in for a bite.

 

Kevin jolted awake, nearly throwing himself off the bed. The sun was out, flooding the room with warm yellow light, and he was clearly alone - even Toby was already up. He could hear the shower running in the bathroom, which should have been a comforting sound, but wasn’t. He wasn’t sure he was even capable of comfort anymore.

 

He got dressed and went downstairs just to be with people, but of course today everyone either left early or hadn’t gotten up for breakfast. Someone had left the paper on the kitchen counter, though, and he saw for himself that a body had washed up on the beach near Paradise Hills. He knew with a cold, hollow feeling in his gut that it was Robert Burbank.

 

It didn’t mean he had done it. It could have been an accident. It could have even been that guy from the Lair, trying to set him up. But as much as he wanted to believe that, he couldn’t. Just like he didn’t need to look in a mirror and see that he had a new mark on his neck, as tiny as a pinprick, but not.

 

Kevin suddenly wondered if he had simply traded one curse for another.