Paul frowned as he peered past a drop of rain on the windshield. The single-story of beige brick and short, tidy asphalt driveway wasn't what he'd expected. The house, with its sweep of well-kept lawn, looked like any other suburban home. It sat on a sparsely populated, dead-end street in a far corner of Mansion Grove. Beyond the house, the limbs of an autumn-stripped forest rose up to the gray evening sky.
He pulled into the driveway and paused before turning the engine off. As he'd driven into the small residential community, both disbelief and irritation had wrestled with Paul's feelings for Melissa. He'd met her only three months before and for possibly the first time in his life, Paul thought he'd found a woman who incited his heart more than his libido.
Or at least somehow managed to put his libido in a reasonable proportion. Thirty-two-year-old Paul had, since age nineteen, possessed a powerful sex-drive. One that had, for the last thirteen years, demanded he satisfy himself within the eager flesh of countless women. His romantic longings had not been absent as much as muted.
Melissa, though, had changed the balance between heart and carnality. At least for a while. Over the last month his libido had grown gluttonous. No matter how often he and Melissa had sex, his lust remained unslaked. Her enthusiasm for the act had withered, along with her willingness to indulge inventive attempts at satisfying his blind, ceaseless lust.
Three nights ago, her patience broke and she'd left the apartment. Paul had, in a vague way, always known that he had a problem. With Melissa's exit, Paul had reluctantly agreed maybe he did need help of some sort. Even now, though, that agreement hovered in the periphery of his mind, shunned by a resentment Melissa had mandated Paul seek help from her mentor, Nadine.
He knew little about the woman other than she was, of all things, a witch. Melissa had never used the word, but the few things she'd said about the Gathering made it clear Nadine was more than den mother to a group of nature enthusiasts. He sighed and pulled the keys from the ignition. He snickered at the thought he was about to seek therapy from a witch. A witch, he thought, and climbed from the car.
The woman who opened the door was, like the house itself, not what Paul had expected. Nadine was neither an old, wizened crone nor a dramatic temptress with a penchant for black. She was, at a guess, somewhere either side of forty and stood about even with his nose. Dark, sober eyes gazed up at him.
The simple white gown falling from her throat to her feet made her dark skin and straight, waist-length black hair glow. Though her gown revealed little of her figure, he could tell easily enough she was slender. Paul caught his breath as he glanced at the jut of her high, modest breasts.
"Paul? It's nice to meet you. Come in, please." She said, and stepped back.
Her voice carried authority, as did the sculpted planes of her face. With only the few words she'd spoken, Paul could appreciate how others might trust and follow her.
"Thanks." He said and stepped into the house.
His eyes fixed on her rump as she led him into a large, open living room. A lamp sitting in a corner complimented dancing light from a fireplace. The room was, again, not what he'd expected. The few pieces of furniture were cream-white or a rich, dark brown. No goat's head or skulls grinned at him and he didn't see anything that suggested an interest in the occult.
"Please." Nadine said and gestured to a pale couch.
Paul sat. Nadine stood near the center of the room as if she was a minister patiently awaiting congregates to settle themselves. She smiled politely. Paul looked at her and started when he saw how transparent her gown was.
The contours of her lithe body were just more than hinted at. He bit his lip and took a deep breath. He crossed one leg over the other and glanced at the mantle behind her, telling himself he hadn't just seen compelling evidence she wore nothing but skin under her gown.
"I want to thank you for coming here tonight, Paul. It means a great deal to Melissa, and to me as well. I'm quite fond of her." Nadine said.
"Me too." Paul said.
He licked his lips and fidgeted. Now that he was sitting in Nadine's house, embarrassment crept into every corner of his mind. He knew Melissa wanted this meeting and had probably told Nadine a great deal. Still, he wasn't sure he could discuss something as intimate as his sex-life with a total stranger. She's not a stranger to Melissa, he reminded himself.
"I know this must be difficult for you, but from what Melissa has told me, I'm quite certain I can help. Otherwise I would have counseled her on some other form of action." Nadine said.
Paul squirmed and looked toward the front door. The thought of leaving seemed pointless when he realized Nadine already knew about his sex-life. Might as well ride this out, he thought. Maybe Melissa would come back to the apartment tonight, now that he'd honored her request. The ember of lust the thought spawned cooled. She probably wouldn't unless Nadine said it was okay. The thought brought a pang of resentment.
"Well, like you said, we're both fond of her." He said.
"Yes." Nadine said and nodded. The warm expression on her face shifted to a more serious cast.
"I won't waste your time, Paul. Melissa has told me a good deal of your problems. I also know you understand little of our beliefs and likely find them insipid. You at least will when I tell you why your libido is so powerful." Nadine said.
Paul cringed and felt a protest rise up within him. Melissa had never said much about her religious convictions and Paul had never pressed her on the matter. Not from a lack of interest, but out of respect and a suspicion she feared her unorthodox worldview would elicit derision.
"No," Paul said. "I really don't know much about what you and Melissa are into, but I don't think I'd call it insipid. Odd, maybe." He said.
His eyes crawled over Nadine's breasts and he could almost feel how her jutting nipples would feel between his lips. Living with Melissa the last two months had spoiled him. Her absence the last few nights and the sorrow it brought had subdued his libido somewhat. Now it awoke and Paul squirmed under its hot breath.
"What I'm about to say, I fear, will sound insipid. Or perhaps insane. Melissa has told me when and where you were born, and given the nature of your problem, its likely cause is quite interesting." Nadine said.
Oh boy, Paul thought, here we go. Melissa had given Nadine his birth date and now she was about to tell him his horoscope. He let out a breath, his spiraling lust momentarily cowed. He looked at the front door again.
"Quite simply, Paul, you were born during a Shade Storm." Nadine said.
"A what?" Paul said. He frowned and suppressed a laugh.
"I do know how it must sound to you. Absurd. Or fantastic, at best." She said.
Shade Storm. The phrase went round and round in his head, sounding sillier with each pass. Sitting in this house seemed sillier with every passing second as well.
"Do you know what a shade is?" Nadine said. She lifted her head.
"Normally I'd say yeah, but I have a feeling you don't mean a shadow." Paul said.
His eyes drifted over Nadine's body. For a woman who was near middle-age, she had quite a youthful figure. Paul swallowed as his mind gave detail to what his eyes could not discern. Her face was smooth and glowed with health. He imagined how smooth the rest of her would be and drew a deep breath.
"Quite simply, a shade is a spirit. Sometimes that of the deceased. And some are beings that never lived. As we do anyway. Or perhaps never lived on this world. No one knows for certain." Nadine said.
Her posture had changed as she spoke, becoming sure and authoritative. It was only when she had stopped that Paul blinked and realized Nadine believed every word. Holy shit, he thought. How, he wondered, could Melissa buy into any of this. He'd assumed Melissa and Nadine's beliefs would be some exaggerated form of back-to-nature enthusiasm. Spirits and otherworldly beings were just too much.
"Okay. So what's that have to do with me?" Paul said.
"The most direct but by no means full explanation is that you were exposed to a shade at the time of your birth. I suspect it whispered in your ear and made promises – carnal promises that few, if any men could ever hope to satisfy." Nadine said.
The fire popped and hissed. Paul simply stared at Nadine for several moments. She returned his gaze. He wanted to laugh and walk out the door. An unpleasant notion held him in his seat. If Paul didn't play along, Nadine could possibly break his relationship with Melissa.
"So, so you really think a ghost is making me hornier than the average guy?" Paul said. Somehow he suppressed laughter as he spoke. What the fuck has Mel gotten into, he thought.
"I do understand how all of this must seem, but simply, yes. I won't know until I've examined you." Nadine said.
Paul blinked. The idea, in tandem with her theories, should have broken whatever diplomatic patience he possessed. His blood raced through his body, though, as he thought of the petite woman being near him. Touching him. He bit his lip.
"I really don't know what you expect to find, but," Paul said and shrugged.
Nadine stepped to a far corner of the room. Paul's eyes fixed on the way her compact rump shifted as she moved. His cock swelled and he took a deep breath. She pulled a straight-backed wooden chair to the middle of the floor and set it facing the fire.
"Sit here please." Nadine said.
Paul looked at her and at the chair. He swallowed. This meeting had gone south rather abruptly. He couldn't believe this was all some weird joke. Again, he wondered if Melissa believed as fully as Nadine. She must, he thought. If so, then being difficult would add an unnecessary strain to their problems.
What the hell, he thought. He got up and moved to the chair, hoping his arousal wasn't obvious. Hoping his arousal didn't grow now that he was within a foot of Melissa's alluring mentor.
"Close your eyes and relax." She said.
He was within only a foot of her. Paul's carnal appetite became increasingly unconcerned by his feelings for Melissa. It pulled at the chain her absence had forged. It teased him with almost felt sensations of what fucking Nadine would be like. He closed his eyes and forced his attention towards the dull hiss of the fire.
Nadine stepped behind him, her feet whispering on the carpet. The sharp smell of the fire was joined by the clean, cool scent of Nadine. Paul hardened painfully. He bit his lip and willed away the desire for hot, slick flesh. The carnal ache became sluggish but refused eviction.
"Tilt your head back, please." Nadine said. Her voice sent a shiver down his spine.
Paul let his head fall back and flinched when he felt Nadine's fingers drift through his hair. Pleasant chills danced over his face and down his back as Nadine examined his scalp. She ran her fingers over the contours of his skull, just behind his ears. The feel of her touch soothed and maddened simultaneously.
"Keep your head as it is." Nadine said. She moved around him.
He felt her thighs butt against his knees as she leaned towards him. Her gown sighed as she moved and Paul could feel the warmth of her. He shivered and dug his fingers into his thighs. His cock yearned for the feel of her and for a moment Paul felt as if he would come in his pants. A sound jumped from his throat when she traced the shape of his face with her fingertips. A bitter feeling rose in him as he thought she deliberately aroused him.
"Open your mouth." She said.
He opened his mouth and wondered, absurdly, if she was a dentist. He might have laughed, but for the torture of having her so near him. His libido twisted the soft sound of her breaths into moans. The slightest sound of her movements conjured the sight and feel of her naked body under his. He gripped his thighs harder, fighting an urge to grab her ass and pull her down against his bloated, aching cock.
"Take your shirt off, please." Nadine said. Suddenly, she was no longer leaning over him.
Paul pulled his head forward and opened his eyes. The carnal spell broke. He stared into the fireplace and felt as if he'd woken from a fitful sleep. Nadine turned to the mantle. Paul heard a dry rustle as she fetched something from a wooden box.
He heard the burst of a match and when she turned around, she held a lit candle in her hand. It gave off an odd, bubbling dark flame and smelled vaguely rank.
"Your shirt. I need to look at your spine." Nadine said.
Paul shook off the grogginess and stood up. He eyed the candle. My spine? He thought. What's next, she'll ask me to turn my head and cough? The idea was funny only for a second before his libido seized on the notion.
He took a breath and did as she asked. The feel of his exposed skin heightened his arousal. Paul was no stranger to the gym and possessed a better than average physique. A hope Nadine would take an interest in him as a man withered when he saw the impassive look in her eyes.
"Turn around, please." She said.
Paul did and faced the couch. He knew he shouldn't harbor any hope tonight's meeting would lead to sex, but even an abstinence of three nights left him with a powerful need. Nadine, of course, would not satisfy that need. Still, Paul found himself setting his shoulders square. His libido whispered to him. Paul balled his fists and thought of Melissa.
"With this candle, I will see if you have been touched." Nadine said.
She stepped behind him and Paul suffered the aching command of his lust. This is ridiculous, he thought. If Melissa thought he did have some sexual hang-up, then help should come from a therapist. Not a fucking witch. Let alone one who was deliberately provoking the nature of his problem. Standing there, he felt like an idiot.
Nadine gasped and Paul frowned. She put a fingertip to his spine and Paul made a noise. For the briefest moment, it felt as if a tongue had licked the head of his cock. Nadine slid her finger down his back and the licking sensation grew stronger. He looked down at himself, half-convinced Nadine was somehow fondling him. Nadine's touch slid lower and now Paul felt the unmistakable feel of a mouth engulfing his cock. He made a noise and shivered.
"What the hell?" He said.
Nadine muttered something and Paul felt as if he were eternally slipping into the silken grip of a woman. The sensation grew stronger until Paul was gasping and shaking. Suddenly, the sensation disappeared. Paul blinked and heard a puff of air.
"What the fuck was that?" He said.
How the hell had she done that, he wondered. He spun around and saw Nadine put the candle back into its box. She turned and Paul involuntarily took a step or two back. The next thought turned his wary amazement to anger. She had, since he walked into the house, incited his arousal. Her gown, that bullshit about spirits and this exam. All of it was some weirdness he couldn't begin to understand. Melissa knew about it, as well. She must.
"Paul, when you were born, a being called an erotogaunt walked up your spine." Nadine said.
Paul's eye twitched.
"A what?" He said.
"A kind of vampire, to put it simply. When you have sex, it feeds on your life-force. Because of your feelings for Melissa, the sexual energy you produce is, for the erotogaunt, much like a vintage wine I imagine." Nadine said.
Paul simply stared at her. He half-expected her mouth to curl up a little. It didn't. Nor did her eyes gleam with amusement. Unbelievable, Paul thought. A shadow of grief drifted over his anger. He now had a rather good idea of what Melissa and her pals thought. How she could go in for this nonsense was beyond him. Shade Storms? Erotogaunts? She could keep them all.
"I can't believe Melissa buys into any of this." Paul said.
He grabbed his shirt from the floor and pulled it over his head. An urge to call Melissa that very moment grabbed him. He took a breath. Fuck it, he thought. Maybe he did have a problem with wanting too much sex. Maybe the strength of his appetites was too much for her, as it had been for a number of women. As far as he was concerned, Melissa could stay at her friend's place until Doomsday. Along with her witchy crap.
"Paul, I know how what I've said must sound." Nadine said.
Paul glared at her. His anger hadn't quite defeated his lust and he nearly hated himself for letting his eyes run over her body. For a moment, he wrestled with an urge to rip her gown off and satisfy himself. She had, after all, worked him up into that bizzare arousal. The urge made him feel dirty.
"No! No, I don't think you do know how it sounds to me or else you wouldn't say it!" He said.
He stared at her and felt a certain disappointment when she looked neither embarrassed nor offended. She said nothing.
"I don't know what you and Mel have got going, but I don't want any part of it. You two can pass this Casper the Horny Ghost shit off on someone else." Paul said, his voice unpleasantly loud in his ears.
Nadine simply gazed at him. Paul's eyes wandered over her body again and his cock stirred. A sound of irritation slipped between his clenched teeth. He turned and strode towards the front door. Nadine said something and Paul froze as his fingers touched the doorknob. An odd, pleasant sensation squirmed its way through Paul's body. The need to thrust into warm, slick flesh was maddening. Paul groaned and turned himself around. The sight of Nadine was a hazy beacon for his lust. She was within mere feet of him and the maddening ache demanded relief.
He stepped toward the living room, his mind filled with tantalizing thoughts of how Nadine's body would feel. A drumming roar filled his ears and the room grew darker. She didn't move as he neared her and Paul struggled with the maddening urges that lifted his hands. Her gown was so delicate. He'd rip it off without a thought and then fuck her as he'd never fucked a woman.
Do it, his lust whispered. She wants you to. Why else would she be half-naked? He grinned and reached for her, a keening ache in his cock. His teeth ground together as he realized what he was doing. A growl rose in his throat and his hands, only inches from Nadine's breasts, shook. Paul struggled against the whispered commands.
He fell to his hands and knees, gasping as he stared at the carpet. Nadine was a blur of movement in the corner of his eye. She could be a blur of movement under him. He dug his fingers into the carpet, his will breaking as the unholy need possessed him. Nadine stepped in front of him and Paul lifted his head. He lifted his hands towards her thighs.
Nadine touched a black wand to his head and said a word. Suddenly, Paul felt as if he had let out a long held breath. His torturous lust receded to an aggravating hum. The room lightened and the roar in his ears disappeared. His hands fell back to the floor and he crouched like that, taking breath after breath until his head no longer spun.
"What the hell?" He said at last.
Paul's mind danced with everything that had happened that night. His thoughts circled what Nadine had told him about the erotogaunt. Try as he might, any attempt at dismissing Nadine's ideas failed. Reason compelled him to draw a conclusion he feared.
"It can't be real." He said, his voice a whisper.
He flinched when Nadine moved toward him. She goaded him onto his feet and to the couch. As shocked as he was by the revelation this night had brought, Paul still lusted for Nadine. His member swelled along with panic the strange, horrible incident would repeat itself. His arousal grew to no more than a nagging urge, however.