After losing a bet with his friends while vacationing in New Orleans, Tig is forced to jump over one of the guarded cemetery walls and spend one hour in the dark amongst the dead. He's scared out of his mind. It being the night before Halloween doesn't help his nerves, either.
But Tig finds more than he bargained for inside those walls. He's not alone...
A group of men gather there for a ceremony of sorts... one that places Tig naked and on his knees before them. Before the night of the dead is over, he'll be claimed, body and soul.
Tig followed his friends down the darkened New Orleans street. It was closing in on midnight in a city where that hour was more a state of mind than a time on the clock. He could hear revelers and the sounds of jazz instruments in the night, the sounds distant and muted, but still reminding him that the city barely slept.
The French Quarter had always been on his mental list of vacation spots. When his buddies had suggested driving down for a Halloween weekend to drink and otherwise participate in debauchery, he’d been one of the first ones to pack his bags.
Never in a million years had he expected to end up being forced into one of the city’s cemeteries. They’d already toured a couple earlier in the day and knew they were locked tight and guarded after dark. He’d heard the tour guide talk of those who broke in—to steal the bones of the dead for their rituals or to conduct rituals there on the spot. The guide had pointed to a spot where blood dripped from the side of one mausoleum from those who’d broken in the night before and done some kind of ungodly ceremony.
“You know,” Tig said, stopping in his tracks a couple of blocks from their destination. “What if there are others sneaking in while I’m sneaking in and they end up using me in one of their rituals? I could end up dead, one of their sacrifices.” He wasn’t afraid of the dead. He was afraid of the living who were enamored with the dead.
Jakob turned around and stood in the circle of one of the streetlights. He wore a broad smile on his drunken face. “You shouldna made a bet if you cannot ful-fill the termsss of the agreement.” He burped, punctuating the end of his slurred statement.
“I know, but…” When he’d agreed, the concept of jumping into a cemetery in the middle of the night had seemed a little less daunting. Abstract. Now that he was facing the reality of it, he was realizing just how much trouble he could get into.
“But?” Jakob asked. “But what?”
Tig didn’t know what to say. Either he did as Paul demanded or he’d never hear the end of the “chickenshit” comments to come. He could already hear the taunts in his mind…
His friends really could be assholes, at times. The bets were immature and stupid. This would be the last time he’d let them talk him into doing something this idiotic. And for what?
To prove what?
“You coming or…?” Jakob started clucking like a chicken.
The sound moved up the street, causing the rest of his friends to turn and circle back.
“He chickening out?” Paul asked, wrapping an arm around Jakob’s shoulder. “I told you he would.”
“I’m not,” Tig said, forcing one scared foot before the other.
Jakob hiccupped before turning back around and moving forward. Tig caught up with him, and they all made their way closer. As they neared, Tig saw the guys dipping into the shadows a block or so away.
Tig followed their lead and saw a car out front.
Paul turned to the rest of them. “Me, Ken, and Jakob will distract the guard and get his attention on us. Neil, you help Shortstack here get over that wall.”
“Will do,” Neil said before saluting Tig.
Shortstack. Tig hated that nickname. Just because he was a little shorter than the rest of them didn’t mean he was any less of a man. But Paul liked to push and prod him… always had. He knew which buttons to press and got off on infuriating Tig.
“You ready?” Paul asked him.
Tig lifted his chin defiantly, even though his knees were knocking and he felt like he could throw up. “Yeah. I’m ready.
He couldn’t see Paul’s face clearly in the dark, but he could feel the shark-like grin on the guy’s face. It was one he’d seen many times before.
Why do I let him push me into this bullshit?
“Let’s go cause a disturbance, guys,” Paul said.
And then they were gone. He stood back with Neil in the shadows as they raced drunkenly down the sidewalk. Paul ran over to the metal gate and pulled on it, clanging the chains while Ken jumped on the hood of the guard’s car.
It didn’t take long for the guard to leap out and shine his flashlight on Ken’s face, demanding the guy get down. The trio continued to play super drunk, causing grief for the man.
“Looks like we’re on,” Neil said, prodding him with a push to the back. “Let’s go, Shortstack.”
Tig clenched his jaw at hearing the name one more time, the anger surrounding it giving him something to latch on to in order to ignore some of the fear coursing through him. They moved to the opposite side of the wall, skirting it a few feet before Neil knelt and offered Tig a leg for a boost.
He climbed onto the offered leg and grabbed the top of the brick wall. His fingers slipped some. The wall was old as hell, and he wondered for a moment if it would be able to take his weight. He wasn’t a big guy, but a hundred or so year old wall wasn’t in the best shape, he was sure.
But he was able to pull himself up, holding on to the metal spikes along the top. He carefully dragged himself up and over the menacing spikes. Once on the other side, he gripped the wall’s edge to descend.
Only the old brick disintegrated in his hands.
He fell backwards, a scream coming from his lips.
The fall went on too long…
Everything was pitch black around him. When his back hit the earth, it was soft grass… not the hard stone and cement path he remembered from the tour. Tig took a breath, trying to determine if anything was broken… if he could move…
And it was then that he realized there was no wall.
Moving his head, he looked around.
Huge willow trees swayed along the banks of the river, the breeze spreading the branches out like massive arms. A full moon hung low in the sky. There was a huge bonfire not far from him… casting light all around. A group of men chanting something as they danced around it.
Tig rolled to his side and looked around. He was no longer in the middle of the Quarter. He was along the banks of the Mississippi—he was sure of it. Lights illuminated the sky well down the river, and he could see steamboats and paddleboats off in the distance.
How in the hell did I get down here?
Had the fall made him hit his head? Did he just now awaken, minutes or hours later?
He slowly rose to his feet, confused. Tig knew it was likely his friends, trying to scare him. They were doing a damned fine job of it.
As he neared the fire, it became apparent he didn’t know the men circling it. He searched their faces illuminated by the flames. There was no Paul. No Neil. No Ken… and no Jakob. None of them appeared familiar. He listened to the chanting, trying to decipher a language or what they were saying, but it didn’t register.
Some sounded Latin… some French… and even others were Spanish, he thought. He narrowed his eyes and watched them moving, the wind almost seeming to whip in time to their words. Their movements were chaotic, yet synchronized. They moved in time, together.
And then, as he paid a little closer attention… it was almost as if he could… see through them.
He shook his head and rubbed his eyes, sure he’d banged his head pretty good. Once he reopened them, he rose unsteadily to his feet. He took a few steps closer to the group, brushing his hands on his jeans. “Excuse me?”
They ignored him, continuing their dance.
The chanting came to a halt, and the silence that fell sent a shiver up Tig’s spine. One of the men closest slowly spun to face him. With the fire at his back, Tig couldn’t see the man’s face, but he thought he saw a hint of a glow to the guy’s eyes.
“Where am I?”
“Welcome, Tig. We’ve been expecting you.”
The deep rumble rushed over Tig like a warm wave. He couldn’t place the accent or understand the emotional reaction he had to the sound.
And he couldn’t fight the feeling he knew this man.
The one who kissed me.
Heat filled Tig, the same way he felt after a nice draught of cognac, but all over. His cock began to thicken, a need unlike any other filling him.
Just like before…