With one hand pressed to the bodice, you glance over your shoulder. The men are turned away from you, Claremont’s hand clamped over both his and the werewolf’s eyes. Velvet of deepest royal purple sweeps around your hips, the skirt trailing to the floor and leaving you in a quandary.
“Could someone help button me up?” you ask, unable to reach much less close the multitude of tiny pearl buttons down the back.
“Yes, please!” Dominic shouts, spinning away from the ghost. His wide hands pull together the waning dress’ back and he cinches them tight. For a moment, the breath is stolen from your body and you gasp.
“For all that is holy,” Claremont sighs. He shoves the werewolf away, undoes the buttons Dominic failed to line up, and begins again. “Never send a brute to do a gentleman’s job.” As Claremont knots together every tiny button, you work your hands through your hair tossed over your shoulder. The fabric presses in around you, the sewn-in boning giving rise to your chest. Lace cups around your décolletage with the delicate design of the same flowers and vines filling the manor’s gardens.
A soft hand tugs your hair back so the ends swish against the dress’ closed back. “How do you feel?” he whispers, his voice twirling in your ear. Claremont places a soft hand to your stomach, causing you to shiver.
“It’s beautiful,” you say, giving a half twirl in the mirror. The skirts lift as if by magic, amplifying your curves and making you feel fantastic.
“He’s not gonna like that,” Dominic whispers.
You catch the werewolf’s rugged face twisted into concern and turn to him. “Who won’t?”
“Do not concern yourself with him. He’d prefer his books to a beautiful woman, which renders any complaint from him moot,” Claremont declares while slipping his arms around you from behind. One glides over your shoulders, sparks rising when his ghostly pallor touches your skin. The other holds tight to your stomach, his pinkie fiddling with the pearls and diamonds sewn to the bottom of the bodice.
“What else would my lady like to enjoy for the evening?” Claremont whispers in your ear.
With an elegant ghost and rugged werewolf at your disposal, what don’t you want to do? You open your mouth, when Dominic interrupts. “We should see him, before she…”
A great groan breaks from Claremont. He revolves you on your toes, his hands staying technically chaste but the way the fingers tussle with the beading and brush down the velvet are anything but. “I wish I could say the feral beast in our midst is wrong…”
“Hey,” Dominic complains, “I’m as sophisticated as you, Clarey.” Then he flinches and moves to try and scratch at leg with his other leg. It tugs on the pants Claremont forced him in. You know there’s no underthings below, Dominic’s build making that obvious.
“As you say,” Claremont says, tossing you a wry smile. With his hand wrapped around yours, Claremont leads you out of the bathroom and down the hall.
“Where are we going?” you ask. A warm palm rests across nearly the whole of your back. Dominic doesn’t push, but seems to be trying to hold you upright with his single paw.
Together, the three of you walk into what must be the front rooms. You see the main door ahead with a scene out of Dante’s Inferno carved onto it. To leave is to walk into hell? An interesting thought.
Claremont points to a gold chandelier hanging above the entranceway. Flames flicker on the candles, the light rising to reveal a second story. “To the library,” he says. “Forgiveness if you find books dreadfully dull.”
“I don’t,” you respond, trailing up the stairs at the behest of the ghost and werewolf. At the top, he guides you to a large door. Ornate doesn’t even begin to cover it. Mahogany, the rich wood is carved to reveal a scene out of a baroque castle. Latticework fills the whole of the outside, the border forming the edge of the world for the man in the middle. He stands alone, one hand holding a book, the other a blade while every fanged creature in the animal kingdom hungers for him.
As you step closer, you find a new addition to the door. Over the man’s featureless face, someone’s cut two slits where the mouth would be. Strange.
Claremont glides in front of you to grip onto the door handle. He gives a little bow and pushes it open.
The door parts on a room out of a haunted dream. Two stories tower above your head, every inch crammed with books. Spines of such an unending color and size overwhelm the massive shelves, leaving your head dizzy from the multitude of knowledge. Small tables with reading lamps attached at the base and a chair perched beside fill out the top floor above. On the lower level upon which you stand is a chair of richest leather, which gleams as if freshly oiled. A desk is near it, the entire top obscured with books.
What’s most haunting are the candelabras, all lit, and all floating in the air. They bob, never drawing close to the books they could threaten. You watch one, its flames circling as if an invisible finger is drawing over them.
And what nearly sends you spinning, were it not for the two men behind, is a black specter standing in the middle of it all. He is turned away, his body cloaked in a black cape, until he shifts to reveal a jawbone propped upon his stark white hand. “Ah, the jaw of the world’s last known Lycan. I wish I had a better place to put you.”
The man turns and the air flees from your lungs. Claremont is sophisticated, brandy in a drawing room. Dominic is rugged, chasing quail in the forest. This stranger is danger, a sharp dagger hidden in a secret pocket. Eyes of spilled blood stare at you above cheeks gaunt enough to match the unearthly pallor of his skin.
His hands flare apart, tossing the cape from his shoulders. He’s dressed in fine attire, the kind a man would wear to the opera. But there’s wear to it. The cuffs look darned, the elbows worn and patched. He’s been in those clothes for a long time.
“How can…!” the man whispers, his bleached lips trembling. Floating, he pulls the candles closer until a fiery spotlight is upon you. “You are not her,” he says, then whips his head to stare behind you. “Claremont. Was this all your game?”
The ghost chuckles. “Your face would be worth the effort itself. But no. She came of her own volition.”
“And happened to dress herself in the witch’s street clothes without your input?”
“I wouldn’t be so brash as to make that claim,” Claremont says and he fiddles with his top hat.
“How have you left the graveyard?”
“With the help of this beautiful and enchanting woman,” Claremont says lifting your hand and placing it to his lips. The stranger scoffs, but his eyes will not leave you. They keep darting over your face as if he expects to find another’s perched there instead. “And this nauseating dullard is one Orpheus Gravestone.”
The man doesn’t hold out his hand to you, and Claremont doesn’t show any sign of releasing yours. Instead, you’re trapped between the two glaring, when this Gravestone glances behind you. “Dominic?” he whispers.
“Orphy!” the werewolf shouts. He shoves Claremont aside, but brings you with to wrap his arms around the stranger.
The scent of ink, dusty books, and Turkish oils rise from Orpheus as Claremont somehow pulls you into his hug. Slowly, Gravestone lifts his hands to close off the embrace. “I can scarcely believe after… How are you walking?”
Smiling wide, Dominic tips his head to you. “She did it! She found my tooth.”
“You?” Orpheus turns to you, his lips pulled back to reveal what you feared you would find, fangs. But instead of a snarl, his mouth tips back into a great smile. Catching your hands, he clasps both together and begins to shake them. “I cannot believe… All these years that you’ve been trapped and she…”
The vampire cannot stop shaking your hands in his cold grip. You try to give back, but it’s like trying to push a wall. He keeps gazing at you in wonder and begins to lift your hand to his lips. Before its about to touch, he turns away and releases you. “I assume the tale is the same for you, Claremont?”
Bowing his head, Claremont says, “She is a delight beyond reckoning.”
Orpheus tips his head, his awkward look shifting to that of a professor about to begrudgingly praise a student. “Thank you for what you’ve done,” he says to you, the shine in his eye increasing. “Less so Claremont, but I won’t hold that against you.”
“I don’t know why my father kept you on payroll,” Claremont huffs.
“Because he’s the best tamer of the wild the world’s ever seen!” Dominic shouts, extending his hands wide into the air.
The ghost sighs, but the vampire chuckles at the werewolf’s exuberance. His gaze slips to you, both of you sharing a laugh at Dominic, when a blush bursts over Orpheus’ cheeks. He turns away and loads his arms with books left on a desk.
“That was another lifetime ago, Dom. Thanks to her…we remain static.”
Who is this her they keep mentioning?
“Do we though?” Dominic interrupts the vampire’s book gathering. “Look at me, on my two back legs. Wearing trousers!”
“You’re welcome for that, by the way,” Claremont adds.
“We aren’t locked anymore, Orphy,” Dominic says, catching the vampire’s hand. He stares up into his eyes and shimmies back and forth on his feet thanks to the lack of a tail. “Thanks to her,” he jerks a hand to you, pulling Orpheus with.
“That…that changes nothing. I am glad you’ve regained your humanity Dominic, after you foolishly tossed it away.”
The werewolf snorts. “You’re still alive, aren’t you? And Claremont. He’s been an annoying whisper on the wind for so long.”
“A sonorous whisper, if you please,” Claremont interjects.
“Now he’s here, walking around, touching…things.” Dominic turns to find the ghost wrapped around your arm. The werewolf lops back and wraps a hand around the small of your back.
“Claremont. How long do you have until you fade back to your shallow grave?” Orpheus asks.
“A few hours, which I’d much rather spend anywhere else. And with a certain someone else,” he answers, brushing his nose against your cheek so his lips have to press against your skin.
“And I remain trapped in this library under her spell. There is nothing this mortal can do.” Orpheus declares, before he cocks his head and stares longer at you. “Unless…?”
His eyes whip around the library, zipping from one book to another before he turns to take your hands. Claremont clings to your left and Dominic on your right, while Orpheus commands all your attention. “Mortal. Let me tell you the entirety of our tale.”
“So you will understand the enormity of what I ask of you.”
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I found the scholarly vampire in Ellen Mint’s Choose Your Own Reverse Harem Halloween Adventure. How far can you get? https://ellenmint.blog/ellen-mints-halloween-harem-adventure/Tweet
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