She felt guilty every time she considered indulging. It wasn’t that Klyra would have an issue with her having other partners, they’d discussed that pretty early on in their relationship and Roethe had met Klyra’s other lovers. It was that she was hiding the nature of her trysts from her girlfriend. She was hiding a lot from her girlfriend. So much that it felt like she was two completely separate people.
She had to be. Every time she thought about telling Klyra, she remembered how Baz reacted and how hard she had to work to keep up her respectable librarian facade. Even now it wouldn’t take more than a few conversations with the right people for him to shred her reputation. No it was best she kept her needs secret.
Respectable librarians did not enter into these sorts of arrangements with the ghosts that haunt their libraries. They didn’t spend their free time consorting with strange spirits. They didn’t try to summon gods so old no one remembered them. And they certainly didn’t willingly hand control of their bodies over to supernatural beings. Roethe was not a respectable librarian.
It was mostly just the one ghost. She didn’t know it’s name. She never asked. It was just what usually answered when she called. She’d stumbled upon it by accident while dusting the shelves years back. She turned a corner and was met with a sudden chill and the most intense need she’d ever felt.
She gasped and staggered back under the weight of it and the feeling immediately vanished, leaving her only mildly aroused.Heart pounding, she gripped the bookshelf beside her and reached in front of her with her other hand. As soon as her hand encountered the cold space, the desire returned and she let out a soft moan. She knew she should’ve run but she held completely still, wanting to see what would happen.
The chill traveled up her arm and around behind her and then stopped. She waited, chest rising and falling quickly over the top of her tightly laced corset. The high collar of her blouse felt oppressive and without thinking, she unbuttoned it, and then the rest of her blouse. She pulled it out of the waistband of her skirt and undid the cuffs before letting it fall to the floor.
The ghost didn’t move. It was pressed up against her back, though it offered her no support. She needed it to do something, anything. She couldn’t think.
“Please,” she gasped, leaning forward and bracing herself against the bookcase. The wood felt cool against her burning skin. She clawed the backs of her blunt nails slowly up the back of her skull in the way that normally focused her but it had no effect. She needed hands on her bare skin, teeth scraping against her lip, a body pressed against hers.
“Please,” she said again, louder this time.
The ghost moved, pressing tighter against her back. She felt a sudden pressure and then a rush and the cold flooded her veins. It surrounded her, forcing her to shrink down inside herself to make room. She was still aware of her body but it felt like her connection to it was frayed. Everything felt like she was experiencing it secondhand, like it was happening to someone else but amplified by the entity that had taken her. Her limbs were heavy and slow to listen to her own commands and if she didn’t try to do anything but feel, the ghost inside her could do what it wanted.
She didn’t fight it. She let it press her into a tight corner of herself to ride it out. Her body wasn’t hers anymore but she could still feel the way her breasts strained against her corset, the loose shoulders of her chemise sliding down her arms, her hand on her neck, the desperate heat between her legs. She could feel the shaky, stilted way the ghost moved her to the nearest reading chair, dropping her body into the worn velvet and rucking up her skirt. She could feel her nails disjointedly clawing up the base of her skull, scraping her scalp and gently tugging on her hair, the movements becoming smoother as she relinquished every last bit of control to the ghost that had claimed her.
She cried out with relief when her other hand found its way through the slit in her drawers and began stroking her. Her ghost shuddered in her chest and began furiously pursuing her release. She couldn’t have kept quiet if she tried to. Every sensation was amplified and it took no time for her to fall over the edge.
Warmth flooded her veins and she felt simultaneously like she was floating and like her body was too heavy to move. It wasn’t enough. The ghost still needed more.
Her fingers clawed up her neck, sank into her hair, pulled out the pins and let it fall in loose curls behind her. Sprawled gracelessly across the reading chair, head leaning over one arm, and a leg hooked over the other, the ghost chased another high. And then another. Her fingers pressed inside her. Her legs shook and her rib cage strained against her corset as she panted. That’s how Edlun Brenner, one of her colleagues, found her.
She hadn’t locked up or gone to her office. Thinking about it later she was surprised it took that long for her to catch someone’s notice. In the moment though she wasn’t thinking. The ghost inside her was raw, unending hunger and she’d been swept along in its wake.
“Ms Penderyn what on earth are you doing?” he asked sharply.
To Roethe’s credit, she did try to wrestle back some control in order to cover herself, but the ghost wouldn’t allow it.
“Ms Penderyn is occupied. Would you like to join us?”
It was her voice, but they were not her words. The ghost hadn’t stopped either and she could feel its excitement at having an audience. It was hoping Brenner would take it up on its offer.
He didn’t. Instead he lectured her on propriety, threatened to tell the dean of her actions, and when he realized she’d stopped paying attention, stormed out. She’d have to smooth that over later, but the ghost was quite right, she was too preoccupied to worry about it.
The ghost’s disappointment at his leaving distracted it enough to let her take back control of her body. She didn’t force it out. It felt too good having it there. Her veins were still buzzing with need and her own hand wasn’t doing it for either of them anymore.
“Stay,” she told it. “I have an idea.”
She stood on shaky legs, did her best to make herself presentable, and closed up the library. She hailed a cab and had it drop her in a tavern where she knew she could get what they both needed and an hour later she was tucked back into a crack inside herself as the ghost buried her face between a woman’s legs while a man took her from behind.
They, and her ghost, left her feeling sticky and exhausted but more relaxed than she’d ever felt before. She knew it wouldn’t be long before she tried it again.