They arrive at the Paramour.
Gerard, who was sitting next to her, saw it happen. He leaned over and whispered in her ear, “Are you sure this is a good idea?”
Willow shook her head to try to clear her own thoughts. “It will be fine.” She said wondering if she truly believed it. The men on this shuttle were afraid and that was causing a lot of anger. She looked out the window. “Oh my God. I’ve seen this place before. It was used in the filming of Halloween H2O.”
“Yeah.” Gerard said following Willow’s gaze. “It’s been used in TV shows too.” He couldn’t help the shudder that passed through his body as he saw the gates swinging open.
Willow squeezed his hand. “It will be okay.”
Gerard looked into her eyes. “Listening in?”
“No.” Willow said softly looking down at their clasped hands.
Gerard smiled. For a minute he’d forgotten she couldn’t hear his thoughts when they touched.
“But I can’t help but hear some of the other’s thoughts. They think this is a very bad idea.” Willow whispered.
Gerard turned to look at his friends and was stunned by the looks on their faces. Willow had to he hearing how upset they were. His eyes zeroed in on Mikey. The guy looked petrified. He saw that Alicia was holding his hand and whispering to him.
The shuttle began to move up towards the main entrance. When it stopped everyone began piling out. Willow took several steps away from the shuttle and looked up at the impressive mansion. A chill suddenly ran down her spine as she spotted someone standing in one of the upper windows.
“I’m scared.” Mikey said reaching Willow’s side. Beside him Alicia’s face showed her concern for her husband.
Gerard was suddenly beside them. “Man, you can change your mind. Brian booked this place for a week but we don’t have to stay.”
Mikey looked into Willow’s eyes. “Why do I feel like I have to do this?’
“Because you are tired of being afraid.” Willow said gently. “You want to face your fears.”
Gerard was trying hard to believe in Willow but she hadn’t seen what this place had done to his brother. “Hey, we’ve got all our stuff. We can rent another place to practice and write while we’re here. We don’t have to stay.” He said again.
Mikey hated that he was shaking. He didn’t want to appear weak in front of everyone. “I don’t know.” He said looking down.
Willow reached out and touched his arm. “The decision is yours. I know you’re afraid and that makes you angry. Use that anger to face this. I promise you, I’ll help you do this.”
Mikey continued to look down at the ground.
“Mikey?” Alicia said softly touching his arm. “What do you want to do?”
The others were standing a short distance away waiting for his answer. They didn’t know if they should take their bags and equipment out of the shuttle.
Gerard watched his brother struggle to make a decision. He knew how hard this was for him and while he didn’t want to blame Willow it was hard. She had told Mikey this was a good idea. Now looking at him, seeing him shake, all the memories of the last time they were here flooded back to him. He just wanted to get back on the shuttle and get the hell out of here.
Mikey finally looked up. He locked eyes with Willow. “You see her?’
Willow knew who Mikey was talking about. She’d seen the woman standing by the door as soon as she gotten off the shuttle. There was nothing threatening about her. However, the images she picked up from the person watching from the window worried her. “By the door? Yes, I see her. Is that the woman you saw before?”
“No.” He answered shaking his head. “That’s not her.”
Willow let herself listen to his thoughts and answered them. “She means us no harm. But yes, you are right. Now that you are starting to accept your gift you will see more of them. They will be drawn to you and I can tell this place is a gathering.”
“Gathering?” Gerard asked trying to make since of the conversation.
Willow glanced over at him. “Yes, a gathering. A place where many of the departed congregate.”
“Holy shit.” Alicia whispered.
“It’s not a bad thing.” Willow tried to make her understand. “Chances are you won’t even notice unless you get spooked and start trying to see them.”
Bob had moved over towards them and had been listening. “Well I’m not psychic or anything but weird shit happened to me here.”
Willow looked over at him. “You saw someone?”
Bob shook his head. “Nope but weird stuff happened. Like the tub in the bathroom would fill up with water in the middle of the night.”
Willow smiled, “Oh a poltergeist. They can be very mischievous.”
“Oh shit.” Alicia said again. “I saw that movie and they were not nice.”
“Pure Hollywood.” Willow said in a calming tone. “I promise they won’t try to suck you into a TV.”
“How the fuck can you kid about this?” Gerard exploded suddenly. “This is serious. Look at him.” He cocked his head towards Mikey. “He’s gonna lose it again.”
Willow understood he was worried about Mikey so she tried not to take offense. “I’m not trying to make this into a joke. I get this is hard for Mikey but you need to give him some credit. He chose to come here. He wants to face his fears. He needs our support.”
“Uh the driver wants to know if he’s supposed to take out shit out of the shuttle.” Frank said walking over to the group.
“Yeah.” Mikey said standing up straighter. “We’re staying. We’ve got material we need to work on.” There was a new determined tone to his voice.
Gerard shot Willow an angry look then walked towards the shuttle. He was so afraid this was all a mistake. One that could cost his brother his sanity.
Corrine, the main housekeeper, met them at the door. She remembered the guys and welcomed them warmly. Gerard made the introductions for the women..
Willow walked inside and immediately felt overwhelmed but was determined not to let it show. She had to put up a brave front for Mikey. Walking further into the entry hall she forced herself to smile as she looked around at the lavish decor.
“Will you be staying in the same rooms you chose last time?” Corrine asked.
“I want my same room.” Mikey said praying his voice wasn’t shaking.
Gerard stared at him. “Are you sure, Man?” He knew the memories Mikey had from that room were brutal.
Mikey nodded. “Yeah, I want everyone to keep the same room they stayed in.”
Bob groaned, “Great. I just hope that tub don’t keep me up all night.”
Frank knew the tension was already thick. He just wanted to get his stuff stored away and spend some time with Jamia. “Okay, by me.” He said picking up his and Jamia’s duffle bags. “This way.” He said to her.
Jamia smiled. “Lead the way.”
Ray grabbed his and Christa’s bags too. They followed the first couple up the huge staircase.
Bob shrugged, grabbed his bag and followed them.
Gerard was still staring at his brother. “You sure you don’t want to take another room?”
Mikey understood his concern but didn’t want it to appear he was weak. “I’m sure Gee. Besides you will be in the connecting room.”
Gerard nodded. “Yeah, I will.” He reached down and picked up his bag. He was planning on grabbing Willow’s but she lifted it before he had a chance.
“Show me our room.” Alicia said gathering up her bag while looking at her husband.
Mikey nodded, picked up his bag and started for the stairs.
Corrine gave them a smiled then returned to her duties. She knew these men were familiar with the place and would come to her if they needed anything.
“She’s wondering why you asked that the normal crew be dismissed for the week.” Willow whispered to Gerard as they started for the stairs.
He sighed, “I just thought it would be best if there weren’t a lot of people around.”
Willow looked around in awe. There were a lot of people around he just didn’t see them. As they ascended the steps she listened to Mikey’s thoughts. She wanted to know if he was seeing what she was. She had never been in one location with this many departed people. They seemed to be everywhere.
“What are you doing?” Gerard’s question caused her to pause.
“I’ll tell you later.” Willow really didn’t want to get into this right now.
Gerard had asked because he noticed how her eyes kept darting around. What was she seeing?
At the doorway to his bedroom Mikey stopped and turned to Willow. “Why didn’t I see all of them last time?”
“You hadn’t accepted the fact that you could see them.” Willow explained. “Now that you have they can sense it. They know you can see them and they want to be seen.”
Alicia looked around. “You guys see people?” her voice was shaky.
Mikey nodded, “Yeah, I see them.”
“And it’s okay.” Willow said softly. “It’s really okay.”
He took strength from her words. “Yeah, it’s okay.” He turned and opened the door to the bedroom he at one time thought he’s never see again.
“Where is my room?’ Willow asked as Mikey and Alicia walked in to their room and closed the door.
Gerard moved down the hall to the next door. “In here.” He said not looking back.
Willow frowned, “That’s your room.”
His patience snapped. “No shit. You think I don’t know that?’
“I’m not staying in the same room with you.” Willow said prepared to stand her ground.
He turned to face her. “Why the hell not? They all know we’re sleeping together. What’s the point in pretending we’re not?”
Willow really didn’t have an answer for that. “Just because.”
“Just because?” He repeated. “What are you worried about your reputation being tarnished? Sorry Sugar but that happened when you stayed with me. They all know how I am. They all knew I wanted to get you into bed.”
His words hurt. “And so you did.” She said softly.
He regretted his outburst. “Look, just stay with me, okay? Besides you’ll be closer to Mikey,”
Willow’s head was starting to hurt. Many of the departed had realized she could not only see them but that she could “hear” them. She continued to stand in the hallway making no move towards his room.
Gerard didn’t want to beg but damn it, he wanted her in his bed. He sat his bag inside the bedroom door then walked back towards her. “You promised to keep me safe too.” He said softly reaching out to touch her cheek.
Willow closed her eyes as the feeling of his touch filled her senses.
“Please” He whispered.
Opening her eyes she nodded. Gerard took the bag from her hand and she followed him into the bedroom. As soon as she stepped over the threshold her chest felt tight and her breathing became labored.
Gerard sat her bag down then closed the door. “So tell me, still think this place isn’t cursed?”
Willow took several deep breaths. She had to stay in control. “Not cursed, it’s a gathering.” Sinking into a chair she added, “But there are some dark beings here.”
Gerard didn’t like the sound of her voice or her words. “What does that mean?’
“It means that this is going to be very hard for your brother and for you.”
He sat down on the bench at the foot of the bed. “For me? Why?”
Willow looked across the room at the figure standing in the corner. The young woman glared at Willow. Try as she might Willow could not hear the woman. She was deliberately blocking Willow’s attempts.
Gerard watched Willow closely. “What are you looking at?”
Willow turned to him. “We aren’t alone.”
A chill ran down Gerard’s spine. “Shit, are you telling me that something else is in the room with us?’
“Someone, Gerard.” Willow said softly. “A young woman.”
“Well what does she want? Why is she here?”
Willow looked over and tried again to listen. This time she picked up a few images one in particular made her gasp.
“What?” Gerard crossed the room and squatted down by Willow’s chair.
“Oh, my.” Willow said rubbing her forehead. “I’m sure this is the woman Mikey saw in your room.”
“The one he saw choking me?” He whispered.
“That is not the image I just got from her, but yeah.”
Gerard stared at her. “What image did you get?”
Willow hated that the emotion she was feeling at the moment was pure jealousy. She tried to let it go. “Gee, Mikey told you what was going on when he first walked in the room.”
“Oh, shit.” Gerard actually paled. “You’re telling me a ghost my brother said I had sex with is watching us right now?”
“Not us. You.” Willow said softly. “She’s very drawn to you.”
Gerard had no idea how to respond. Suddenly he was very confused and very afraid. He reacted to this in the only way he could think to respond. Leaning over he cupped Willows face in his hands and kissed her gently.
Willow hadn’t been expecting the kiss. At first she only felt the sensation his touch brought but then there was a sharp pain in her head. She broke away and lowered her head.
“Willow?” Gerard touched her back as she hunched over. “What is it Sugar?”
“Very angry images.” Willow whispered. “Your action just pissed her off.”
“Well, fuck.” Gerard said while rubbing Willows back. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for you to get hurt. I just…”
Willow raised her head and looked into his eyes, “Just what?”
He told her the truth. “I was afraid and…and I just wanted you to make me feel safe.”
His words touched her deeply and she was forced to blink back tears. Looking across the room she saw that the woman was gone and sighed, “It’s okay. I’m fine now. She’s gone.”
“What happened?” He was confused.
“When you kissed me she grew angry. The images she projected to me were painful.”
“Painful? I don’t understand.”
“I saw a bright flash and a large fire. There was a body withering in the flames.”
Gerard broke into a cold sweat. “Oh fuck. It was a woman, right?”
Willow understood why he was asking. She had heard about this before. “It was an image of Joan of Arc. The way I always picture her from a famous painting. But in the painting I don’t remember there being flames.”
“There aren’t.” Gerard said excitedly. “She is standing in armor, right?
“It’s a painting done by Ingres in 1854. When I was here before I saw the same thing. I knew I had seen that image of Joan of Arc before and did some research. Yeah, you’re right there are no flames in the painting.”
“But there are in the image she projected.” Willow said slowly. She was trying desperately to figure out what this all meant.
“So why did she show you that?” Gerard asked. “What does it mean?”
“I’m not sure.” Willow said taking another deep breath. “But I have to tell you something.”
Gerard waited, holding his breath.
“The young woman who was just here was dressed as a novice.”
“A nun?” Gerard sputtered. “She was a nun?”
“I’m not sure but I don’t think so. I mean it’s my guess she was a novice studying to take her final vows to become a nun.”
Gerard was dumbfounded. When he spoke his voice shook. “We should leave here.” He said squeezing Willow’s hand. “Now.”