Chapter 2

I stared at the girl in front of me before I could gather my bearings enough to nod. Her eyes had regained their vibrant green coloring, although she didn't regain the puffiness underneath her eyes. She stared at me now and I realized she was waiting for me to speak.

No, not to speak. To run away. To leave her alone. After all, I did just meet her. I still had the chance to leave.

A normal guy would leave.

But I couldn't. My eyes instead had wandered to her hair, the messy black strands falling over her shoulders. They were tucked back behind Alaina's ears now, but when she had been Alaria it had fallen in her face, giving her a dark look.

"How did you and her come to share a body?" I was almost shocked at how normal my voice sounded, as if I were asking about the weather. Then again, I didn't exactly deal with the most normal things every day.

She frowned. "It's part of some sort of game."

I blinked. "Game?"

"Yes." She said, sighing. "Alaria should be the one to explain it since she knows more about it than I do, but I guess she's letting me do it. It's a competition. The spirit world's ruler only rules for a thousand years at a time. At the end of that period, all the spirits who want to rule are allowed to possess a human body on Earth. They pretty much viciously fight until the end of the competition when there's only one spirit left standing and that spirit will be the new ruler until the next competition."

My eyes widened. That was something new. She stared at me again with her sad eyes, fearing that I would leave. Keep talking. I told myself. "They fight? How does that happen? I mean, they're ghosts, aren't they?"

"Well," Alaina shifted from foot to foot, occasionally fidgeting with her blouse, "they take on a physical form. Time stops. Everything sort of . . . warps. It's strange. They gain special powers as well. I . . . I don't know. You'd have to see to believe it." Her heavy gaze met the floor, and I realized that she couldn't look at me.

"Do the spirit's choose their, ah, partners?" I asked, mouth dry.

"Yes. They usually choose the one most suitable to them and, occasionally, fight for a specific person, although most don't. When a spirit chooses their host, they mark them as well. It's kind of a way to claim them as theirs." She said, sneaking a glance at me.

"Marking?" I questioned.

Alaina nodded, before pulling up her shirt to bare her midriff. On her toned side, there was a crest that just about anyone could mistake for a tattoo, although it was too perfect to be a tattoo. It was of a bow and arrows that were designed in intricate blue and gold. The bow and the quiver were crossed so that they made an X. She tugged her shirt back down, green eyes going back to studying the floor.

I opened my mouth to speak, but I found that I really couldn't. Spirit world? Ruler? Competition? It sounded a little far fetched. I shouldn't believe it.

But how many other things did I believe in that other people didn't? Besides, she wasn't lying. I could tell. She looked more afraid than anything. I suppose I could believe she has multiple personalities, but how would her eyes change color? Multiple personality disorder didn't include the abnormal physical changes. Just personality.

"Well," I spoke faintly, "it sounds interesting."

Her head snapped up, eyes widening in shock. "What?"

She wanted confirmation. I made myself smile and walk over to her. "I said that it sounds interesting."

Alaina's smile was brilliant. She threw her arms around me and, automatically, I hugged her back. When she pulled away, her eyes were a sly dark blue.

My heart slammed into my throat.

Then she smiled, looking cunning and daring. "I hope you're prepared. If you hurt her, I promise you that you will regret it for the rest of your short, miserable life."

I took a deep breath and smiled at her. "Well, then I don't plan on hurting her."

Then her eyes were green, and she was laughing. "Alaria! Stop it!"

Alaria, crossing her arms and rolling her eyes (a habit I had a feeling she gained from Alaina), smirked. "Why would I do that?"

I smiled warmly, enjoying Alaria's company much more now that she wasn't threatening to kill me. Honestly, a guy can only stand so many death threats. They were like sisters in a way. One looking out for the other, even if the one was murderous and shared the other's body.

A spirit?

I simply added it to my list of weird things.

So long as they didn't know about my secret, everything would be just fine.

. . .

I smiled as I closed the door of my house. Josh was a nice guy and, not to mention, the first person that I told about Alaria who actually believed me. A lot of people didn't believe me, and I could understand why. It wasn't really something that you would really believe.

But he did.

Be careful. Alaria warned in my mind, no longer speaking aloud now that we were alone. There has to be a reason he believed you. He's not normal.

I frowned, strutting away from the door to my bathroom. You don't trust anyone.

And there's a reason for that. She pointed out.

I just rolled my eyes. Well, you have reason to trust him, now. He believed me. And he hasn't treated me, or you, like we're crazy . . . even though he's a doctor and has to work with proof rather than the supernatural.

That's what I'm trying to say. Alaria pointed out. He believed us too easy. He's probably got a spirit!

Then why didn't he want to fight you? I asked, looking around for a towel in the laundry room. I was sure I had just washed a load of towels a bit before John came over. It figures that they would disappear when I decided I wanted a shower.

I don't know. She stated, entirely serious. If her tone had been a bit more easygoing, I might have pointed out that it was the first time in our years together that she had ever admitted to not knowing anything. That's why I'm telling you to be careful. You don't know him.

I know him well enough. I stated stubbornly, finally finding a basket of towels. I was getting tired of the conversation.

He's hiding something. I know it. I can feel it in my bones. She stated heatedly.

I frowned, yanking out a towel and stomping toward my bathroom through the empty house. Those bones that you can feel are mine, thank you very much, and they feel that John is a very good man. I doubt he's hiding anything. And I'm sorry you don't feel the same.

I slammed the bathroom door shut, finally being met with some peace when I realized that Alaria hadn't replied. I sighed. I was ready for a nice, comforting shower.