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Haunted Love
chapters

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

epilogue


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Haunted Love
by SheridanC

     

Chapter Three

"Something strange is going on here, Luis," Sheridan stammered, hugging the heavy blanket Luis had given her after the frightening experience in her bedroom tightly around her shoulders.

"That's twice in two days we've seen that...thing." She shivered and leaned forward, grabbing a mug of hot chocolate off of the coffee table in front of her and bringing it to her lips.

Luis, from his perch on the overstuffed chair next to the sofa, only offered a grim look.

"Do you think it's a ghost?" Sheridan inquired, glancing at him. He lowered his eyes and sighed.

She knew it was hard for him to accept anything such as ghosts existed. He was a logical man, a person who looked for plausible answers. He was a police officer. He couldn't accept a ghost terrorizing the town of Harmony, much less Sheridan Crane in specific. As a police officer, if any reports should come in of strange happenings, he would undoubtedly look for some pyschopath on the loose.

Sheridan, on the other hand -- although frightened -- found the idea exciting. Harmony was dull. The French men who were trying to kill her were even dull compared to this.

However, as exciting as it seemed, she was scared silly to think that a ghost would be after her, much less that ghosts even existed.

"I don't know," Luis finally answered. He stood from the chair and ran his hands restlessly through his hair.

"You saw it," Sheridan reminded him softly, focusing her gaze on the light brown liquid inside of her mug. "And so did I."

"Twice. Yes, I saw it twice. Yes, you saw it twice. But the idea of a
ghost being after you is just plain ridiculous." He began to pace from the chair to the other side of the room, and then back.

"I knew you would see it that way," Sheridan sighed. She chanced a look in his direction. He came to a halt in front of the couch.

"Who wouldn't? Good gracious, Sheridan, it's a damn
ghost."

She grinned at him. "You just contradicted yourself."

He looked momentarily surprised, and then an irritated expression ravaged his features.

"Whatever! It was
something, okay? I don't know what it was, but it wasn't human."

He began pacing again.

"No, no, I don't think humans can fade away into nothingness," Sheridan replied dryly, sarcasm dripping on her words.

Luis's fists clenched and unclenched as he paced faster. "Okay, okay," he sighed in exasperation. "Let's just forget this ever happened. Maybe
it won't bother you anymore."

Sheridan sighed, rolling her eyes. "Whatever you say, Luis. If
it bothers me in the middle of the night, expect another presence on the couch next to you when you wake up."

She flamed red after realizing her words, and hurried to correct herself. "Ah, I mean -- in the livingroom," she stammered.

Luis looked amused, but didn't reply.

"So, ah, weren't we going to see your sister before this whole charade took place?" Sheridan inquired. "And stop pacing. You're making me dizzy."

Luis heaved a sigh and came to a halt in front of her. "Yes, we should go. Mama may start to worry." He offered a small smile. "I'll come with you to get your coat this time."

Sheridan shivered at the memory of the
thing, but nodded and dully stood from the couch to get her coat.


"Look who's here!"

The cheery voice rang out, startling Paloma, Hank, and Pilar from their conversation. It had been a dull one, Paloma conceded, but Hank made it cheery.

If he hadn't come when he had, Paloma was sure she would have died of boredom. Pilar had only talked about the family's problems -- Luis's clandestine love for Sheridan Crane; Ethan and Theresa's soap opera life; Ivy's marriage to Julian Crane. Paloma had found the topic of Sheridan and Luis the most interesting, but it was still dull, considering they hadn't yet admitted their feelings for one another.

Of course, Pilar had disapproved of Paloma's suggestion that they help Sheridan and Luis get together...but it wouldn't hurt if Pilar never knew that Paloma was secretly planning to get them together, now would it?

Hank had come a little after Paloma had finally decided to daydream during Pilar's incessant chatter -- had her mother
always talked this much? -- rescuing her from her seemingly endless boredom, and bringing a little life to the house.

Although, Paloma couldn't help but be amused that Pilar never mentioned Miguel...where was he, anyway?

Blinking away the memories of the day, Paloma rose quickly to her feet and met her brother at the front door of the Lopez-Fitzgerald house, Pilar and Hank in tow.

"Luis!" she squealed, wrapping her arms around her older brother. "Hi! I've missed you! How are you? Is this Sheridan? Nice to meet you!"

Luis chuckled at his sister. "Lot of questions you have there, li'l sis. Yes, this is Sheridan Crane -- how did you know about her?" He cast a suspicious glance at his sister.

"Mama told me," Paloma replied nonchalantly, and gave a warm smile in Sheridan's direction. "So, how are you handling this guy? Is he being overly-protective of you? I wouldn't be surprised," she added with raised eyebrows.

Before Sheridan had a chance to respond -- with an undoubtedly negative reply -- Luis interrupted, "I am not being overly-protective of her. We have good times. Isn't that right, Sher?"

Sheridan blinked at his friendly nickname. She rolled her eyes. "Sure thing, Lu-Lu."

"Lu-Lu?" Paloma laughed. "Oh, oh, nice one you have there!"

Luis flushed red with embarrassment, then cast an ominous glare in Sheridan's direction. "After this morning, how can you be so mean?" he huffed.

"This morning?" Pilar piped up, wide-eyed. "What -- oh, dear God, I'm afraid to ask -- happened this morning?"

"Yeah, Luis," Hank chimed in. "What happened?" He raised an eyebrow at his friend, but Luis was more interested in the fact that he didn't seem at all jealous.

Sheridan broke the wide eyes and curious questions with a sarcastic, "Oh, we just...
did it."

"Oh, my gosh! No--really?" Paloma squealed. "It's about time!"

Sheridan realized too late that they took her seriously. Pilar fainted dead away, and Paloma started laughing loudly and throwing her brother big grins. Hank merely shook his head and rolled his eyes.

"Okay, okay, she was kidding, you guys," Luis informed everyone, kneeling down next to his mother. "Mama? Mama, wake up."

Pilar's eyes fluttered open. She eyed her son before bolting upright and crossing herself. "Dear God, tell me you were joking, Sheridan."

"Of course I was," Sheridan chuckled. It was only then that she turned her eyes on Paloma and said, "What do you mean, 'It's about time'?"

Paloma fidgeted nervously, obviously disappointed to hear that they hadn't made love yet, but more worried about her careless choice of words.

"Uh, well, uh..."

"Paloma? What has Hank been telling you?" Luis demanded, giving his friend a harsh look.

"Nothing," Paloma replied quickly. "I just...well...assumed...."

Standing up, Luis brushed imaginary dust from the back of his pants and responded, "Well, don't assume anything. Sheridan and I aren't interested in one another."

It sounded like a lie even to his own ears.

The subject was quickly forgotten as the five traipsed to the kitchen, chattering loudly while Luis tried to get as much information out of Paloma as he could about how her life had been away from home. Sheridan listened quietly, noticing that Hank kept gazing at Paloma.

So, she thought as they all took a seat at table in the kitchen, it looks like Hank is interested in Luis's little sister.

She lifted an eyebrow and folded her arms over the table, studying Paloma's face.

She looked uncomfortable, distant. But more sad than anything else. Luis was busily trying to get her to say something about his aunt -- how was she, what was she like, et cetera -- but Paloma only lowered her head and fidgeted with the end of her red top.

Luis's little sister finally looked to Hank for help. Sheridan smiled triumphantly. She'd gotten the information she needed just by looking at the two.

They wanted each other. It was obvious. Now all Sheridan had to do was find a way to get the two together....


"Paloma."

The urgent whisper roused Paloma from her deep slumber. She was sleeping her sister's room, on the floor next to Theresa's bed.

Blinking away sleep, Paloma darted her eyes around the room, and, finding no one, sat up. "Wha...?"

"Paloma," came the whisper again, this time a little louder.

The dark made it hard to see, but she soon discovered that her sister lay sleeping peacefully in her bed. Murmurs of Ethan's name floated through the air, and then heavy breathing to indicate Theresa was still sleeping...dreaming of Ethan, obviously.

"Paloma!" the voice whispered, even louder.

"What?" she finally exclaimed in exasperation. On Theresa's bed, her sister shifted, mumbled an, "Oh, Ethan," and went back into her deep sleep.

"At the window, you dolt," the whisperer said.

Paloma looked irritably at the window, sighed, disentangled her blanket from her legs, and stumbled to her feet.

She was surprised to discover Sheridan Crane there with a huge smile on her face. The full moon in the background shone onto the young blonde woman's figure, illuminating it. Her blue eyes sparkled with mischief -- and something else.

"What? What the hell are you doing here?" Paloma asked in a whisper.

"Getting myself into trouble," Sheridan muttered, knotting her hands together and then dropping them to her sides. "Luis is going to go nuts if he finds out I'm not at my cottage," she added with a chuckle.

"Then why are you here?" Paloma said, a bit loudly. She lowered her voice, whispering a sorry, and repeated the question.

Sheridan looked from right to left before resting her gaze on Paloma. She lifted an eyebrow and grinned.

"It's about Hank," she replied simply. At the wide-eyed look Paloma gave her, she chuckled.

"Is he all right? What's happened?" Paloma demanded urgently. She gripped the windowsill so hard that her knuckles turned white. "Sheridan, please tell me he's all right...."

She was panicking, Sheridan acknowledged. "Oh, you're so easy to see through, you know that?" Sheridan chuckled. "Hank's fine," she added, "but I did notice something earlier."

"What?" Paloma asked, sighing with relief at Sheridan's words.

"Well," Sheridan leaned closer into Theresa's room, "you two have the hots for each other."

"What?" Paloma exclaimed, jumping back in astonishment. "What the hell are you talking about?" she said irritably.

"Oh, dear God," Sheridan replied with a groan. "You are so apparent."

"Well--" Paloma folded her hands over her chest and tapped her foot against the floor, leveling a grin on Sheridan "--so are you."

"Me!" Sheridan gasped. "What are you talking about?"

"You want Luis," Paloma stated simply, her grin growing wider.

"Oh, please," Sheridan responded, rolling her eyes. "You're making something out of nothing."

Paloma sighed. "Wait there. I'll be outside in a second."

"Fine," Sheridan replied, and disappeared against the side of the house.


Five minutes later, the two women were walking in the direction of the Crane mansion after deciding it would be best for Sheridan to return to her cottage -- for her sake.

The full moon cast a glow upon the streets, giving off enough light to guide their path. The trees on either side of the street swayed in the late night breeze, and owls hooted in the distance. A black cloud hovered in the sky, threatening a storm.

Sheridan and Paloma walked side by side, hugging their jackets to themselves.

"So, tell me the truth," Paloma said, breaking the silence between them as she sauntered onwards. "Do you like Luis -- in that way?"

Sheridan cast her new friend a glance, and then averted her gaze to the sidewalk she traipsed upon. "Well..."

"Come on. I'll tell you the truth if you tell me the truth," Paloma urged, looking at Sheridan.

"Well, I guess I do," Sheridan admitted, unconsciously tightening the jacket to her shoulders. "But it wouldn't work out."

"Why not?" Paloma asked, turning her gaze away.

"There are just some complications," Sheridan sighed. "Too many."

"Such as?" Paloma inquired. A swift breeze rattled the trees, causing both women to shiver and tighten their jackets.

"I overheard something," Sheridan replied softly, a hint of sadness seeping into her voice.

"What? What did you hear?" Paloma prodded.

"I--" The howl of a wolf, or dog, interrupted her. She walked at a faster pace. Paloma kept up with her.

Laughing sheepishly, Sheridan admitted, "Nights like these scare me."

"Me, too," Paloma laughed.

"Full moon...howls...wind -- dear God, I think I should have stayed at my cottage." A flash of the ghostly apparition invaded her thoughts. She shivered visibly.

"Can I tell you something?" Sheridan said to Paloma.

Paloma nodded. "Anything."

"Luis and I saw something...well, we saw something twice," she informed her friend.

Paloma stopped and faced her. Sheridan came to a halt, as well.

"What?" she asked.

"I don't know," Sheridan sighed. "It was -- well, it looked like..." She turned red with embarrassment. "A
ghost."

Sheridan was expecting anything from Paloma -- laughter, for her to turn and walk away, telling Sheridan she was crazy -- anything but the response that Luis's sister gave her.

"Oh. That's nice," Paloma said with a shrug.

"
Nice?" Sheridan responded incredulously.

Paloma grinned. Then she laughed. "I'm assuming Luis's response was to look for some logical explanation, huh?"

She began to walk again. The wind sped up, tossing her black tresses behind her.

Sheridan followed. "Hello? Did you hear me? I said we saw a
ghost!"

Paloma cast a glance in her direction. "Look," she said, "ghosts don't exist. I'll have to go with Luis's probable response. There has to be a logical explanation."

Sheridan rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Is
all of your family like this?"

"Pretty much," Paloma laughed. "Except for Theresa. She believes anything is possible." She smiled at Sheridan. "Let's get back to our earlier subject. What are these problems between you and Luis? What did you overhear?"

The Crane mansion came into view, lights from inside pouring over the front yard.

"I overheard him saying hurtful things. We've already discussed it -- Luis and I -- but he denies ever saying the things."

"Do you want to be with him?" Paloma asked softly, looking at her friend.

Sheridan gave her a sad smile. "I'd be crazy not to."

Paloma grinned triumphantly. "Good."

"What about you, Paloma?" Sheridan inquired. "What do you feel for Hank?"

Paloma turned red with embarrassment. "I-I've had a crush on him since he and Luis first became friends."

"You've known him for a long time, huh?" Sheridan replied as they took the path to her cottage.

"Yes," Paloma sighed. "A very long time."

Fallen leaves crunched beneath their shoes as they came closer to the cottage.

"So you want to be with him, hmmm?" Sheridan's mind worked a mile a minute with this new-found information. A mischevious gleam came into her eyes.

"Yes," Paloma answered softly.

"All right, then." Sheridan's lips curved into a sly smile. She would have talked further, but Paloma suddenly stopped dead in her tracks and looked with wide eyes ahead of her.

Sheridan's gaze swung forward. Looming above the cottage, a transparent figure hovered over the two women, its mouth shaped into the form of an O, and eerily frightening sounds filled the night air.

"Run," Sheridan choked out, but her legs wouldn't obey her command.

Paloma fainted dead away, hitting the ground with a thud. Sheridan opened her mouth and screamed hysterically, her knees growing weak beneath her. She fell to the ground beneath her and shrieked out Luis's name, the last thing that escaped her lips before blackness enveloped her.

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