For one thing, his body was completely relaxed next to mine and this was one of the first times that Dawson was acting…normal. Yeah, talking about zombies probably wasn’t the biggest step known to mankind, but it was something.
On the flat screen, a zombie took a chunk out of some dude’s arm. “What the hell?” Daemon complained. “The guy just stood there. Hello. There’re zombies everywhere. Try looking behind you, douche canoe.”
“This is why zombie movies are unbelievable to me,” he went on. “Okay. Say the world ends in a shit storm of zombies. The last thing anyone with two working brain cells would do is just stand along a building waiting for a zombie to creep up on him.”
Dawson cracked a smile.
“Shut up and watch the movie,” I said.
He ignored that. “So you really think you’d do well in a zombie apocalypse?”
“Yeppers,” I said. “I’d totally save your butt.”
“Oh, really?” He glanced at the screen. Then he faded out and something…something else replaced him.
Shrieking, I jerked into Dawson. “Oh my God…”
Daemon’s skin was ghastly gray and hanging loose from his face. Patches of decaying brown skin covered his cheekbones. One of his eyes was just…a hole. The other was glazed over and milky white. Clumps of hair were missing.
Zombie Daemon gave a rotted, toothy grin. “Save my butt? Yeah, I don’t think so.”
I could only stare.
Dawson actually laughed. Not sure what was more shocking: that or the zombie sitting next to me.
His form faded out and then he was back—beautiful, carved cheekbones and head full of hair. Thank God. “I think you’d suck at the zombie apocalypse,” he said.
“You…you are disturbed,” I murmured, carefully settling down next to him.
With a smug grin, he reached for the bowl and came up empty. Some of it might have been on the floor. Feeling eyes on me, I glanced at Dawson.
He was staring at us, but I wasn’t sure if he was even seeing us. There was a reminiscent expression in his eyes, tainted with sadness and something else. Determination? I didn’t really know, but for a second, the green hue brightened, no longer dull and listless, and he looked so much like Daemon that I drew in a shallow breath.
Then he gave his head a little shake and looked away.
I glanced at Daemon and I knew he’d noticed. He shrugged. “Anyone want more popcorn?” he asked. “We have food coloring. I can make it red for you.”
“More popcorn but minus the food coloring, please.” When he grabbed the bowl and stood, I caught him sneaking a relieved glance at his brother. “Want me to pause the movie?”
His look told me no and I giggled again. Daemon sauntered out of the room, stopping at the door when the zombies crested the water. Then he shook his head again and left. He wasn’t fooling me.
“I think he secretly enjoys zombie movies,” Dawson said, glancing at me.
I smiled at him. “I was just thinking the same thing. He has to, since he’s all into ghost stuff.”
Dawson nodded. “We used to record those shows and spend all day Saturday watching them. Sounds kind of lame, but it was fun.” There was a pause and his gaze flickered back to the TV. “I miss that.”
My heart went out to him and Daemon. I glanced at the screen, chewing on my lower lip. “You know, you still can.”
He didn’t respond.
I wondered if the problem was that Dawson wasn’t comfortable alone with Daemon. There was definitely a lot of baggage between the two. “I’d love to watch some of them this Saturday before we check out the buildings.”
Dawson was silent as he crossed his legs at the ankles. I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to answer, just ignore what I offered, and I was okay with that. Small steps and all.
But then he did speak. “Yeah, that would be kind of cool. I…I can do that.”
Surprised, my head swung toward Dawson. “Really?”
“Yeah.” He smiled. It was weak, but it was a smile.
Happy about this, I nodded and then turned my attention back to the gore. But I saw Daemon standing just outside the living room. My gaze was drawn to his, and I sucked in an unsteady breath.
He’d heard everything.
Relief and gratitude poured from him. He didn’t need to say anything. The thank-you was in his stare, in the way his hands gave a little shake around the fresh bowl of popcorn. He came into the room and sat, placing the bowl in my lap. Then he reached over, took my hand in his, and it stayed that way the rest of the night.
Over the next couple of days, I came to accept that I probably did have a mini freak-out on Monday. There had been no more trucker hat sightings from hell, and then on Thursday, the whole Blake thing became a nonissue.
Dawson had returned to PHS.
“I saw him this morning,” Lesa said in trig, her body practically humming like a tuning fork with excitement. “Or at least I think I did. It really could’ve been Daemon, but this guy was thinner.”
To me, it was easy to tell the two brothers apart. “It was Dawson.”
“That’s the strange thing.” Some of the enthusiasm faded. “Dawson and I were never best buds, but he was always friendly. I went up to him, but he kept on walking like he hadn’t even seen me. And hey, I’m hard to miss. My bubbly personality is like its own screaming person.”
I laughed. “So true.”
Lesa grinned. “But seriously, something…something was off about him.”