Authors: Alexa Snow,Jane Davitt
LAYING A GHOST
Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow
This e-book contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language and may be considered offensive to some readers. Loose Id® e-books are for sale to adults ONLY, as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase. Please store your files wisely, where they cannot be accessed by under-aged readers.
Laying a Ghost
Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow
This e-book is a work of fiction. While reference might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Copyright © February 2006 by Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow
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Editor: Ansley Velarde
Cover Artist: April Martinez
“It’s starting to look promising out there; will you be fishing this afternoon, then, John?”
John smiled up at the waitress who’d just brought him his lunch. Katy was a sweet girl, but for all that she’d been born and brought up on the island, she didn’t have an eye for the weather. The clouds scudding across a deep-blue sky were bringing more rain, and although that wouldn’t stop him from fishing, the wind carrying them would make putting out to sea difficult.
“Not today, no.” He picked up his knife and fork and prodded at three miniature carrots on the edge of his plate, looking even smaller next to the pile of chips and the generous piece of homemade chicken and vegetable pie. “Did these shrink when you cooked them, lassie?”
Katy giggled, tossing her head so that her long ponytail of dark-brown hair swung jauntily. “It’s
idea, is that. Thinks the tourists appreciate a bit of style. It’s that nouvelle cuisine.”
John sighed. Stella Duncan was a fine woman, and she’d done wonders turning a small, dingy shop selling ice cream and postcards into a well-lit, airy tourist trap with a thriving restaurant attached, but sometimes she got just a little too ambitious. John recalled the night he’d strolled into the Eilean Bay Restaurant and Bar, wanting nothing more than a ham sandwich and a pint of bitter, only to find that it was Caribbean Night and the menu consisted of searingly spicy food with sticky fruit cocktails made from -- as far as he could gather from one cautious -- tinned pineapple juice and one hell of a lot of rum in place of a decent ale. He pushed the carrots aside in mute protest and reached for the bottle of ketchup before Stella came out of the kitchen and whisked it away for being too common.
“The ferry’s coming in,” Katy remarked, hitching her hip onto the table and staring out the large window with the air of one who has nothing to do. John started to count silently. He’d reached four when Stella appeared in the doorway and gave the back of Katy’s head a fierce glare which fifty years had honed to a weapon.
“And is it a holiday you’re wanting, Katy? A long holiday with nothing to do but twiddle your thumbs because you’re out of work?”
Katy jerked upright, green eyes wide with appeal, and turned to face her employer. “A holiday? No, Mrs. Duncan! And I wasn’t -- I was just making sure John -- Mr. McIntyre, I mean, had everything he needed.”
Stella studied her in grim silence and then sniffed disbelievingly. Katy hurried past her, head down, and Stella winked at John, her thin face lightening, before following Katy back into the spotless kitchen.
John chuckled, shook his head, and applied himself to his food, staring out at the choppy sea as he ate it. The ferry was making its ponderous way across the wide channel separating Traighshee from the mainland, skirting around the smaller
He made his way into the gift shop, which had a small sign in the window saying “McIntyre’s Taxi. Enquire Within” -- Stella was his auntie’s cousin, and family helped family. So far all the passengers had been locals. There was young Jim Cameron, back from visiting his gran in Oban; and the Holloways, laden with art supplies to be transformed into paintings; and pots for Stella to sell as authentic island crafts, although the pair of them were English, with strong Midland accents even an American tourist couldn’t mistake for a
As he watched, the final passenger disembarked, and John smiled, scenting a fare. Hadn’t seen that one before. Even from a distance of a few hundred yards, the man stood out, the battered brown leather jacket and jeans he wore doing nothing to disguise the fact that he was clearly a visitor. In fact, they emphasized it. John was wearing jeans himself, but they were stained white with salt-water and decorated with the odd splotch of oil as he’d spent the morning tinkering with the engine of his boat. This man’s jeans were clean, dark and well-fitting, and his leather jacket, no matter how worn, marked him as a visitor. John, like most men his age on the island, owned a suit for funerals, an oilskin for bad weather, and spent the rest of the time in a shirt and a thick sweater, shedding or adding layers as the seasons changed.
The newcomer was carrying a large suitcase and had a heavy bag slung across his shoulders. From here, John could see something wrapped around the man’s left wrist, and he frowned. If the man had hurt himself, he’d not be here for the fishing or the climbing -- not that Traighshee had anything like the Cuillins, but there were some challenging climbs on the single mountain, Ben Dearg, that reared up, heather-clad at its base, from the centre of the island. Ben Dearg had been mist-shrouded at sunrise when John had woken, and that, more than anything, had told him that the weather would be chancy.
The man got closer, and John’s eyes narrowed with an interest he hoped he could keep from showing on his face. It wasn’t curiosity that drove John now, but a strong, visceral attraction, the kind of reaction that bypassed sense, because it really wasn’t sensible to be standing there with his cock half-hard and his heart pounding. Not when he knew nothing more about the man than what he’d gleaned from a glance or two.
John took a breath that was supposed to calm him down and didn’t do much because he couldn’t drag his eyes away from the stranger. The longer he looked, the more his mind had to work with. The man walked toward him, his head tilting back to follow the swoop of a seagull diving down to snatch at a scrap of food on the road, exposing the strong, clean line of his profile.
It had been too long and lonely a winter, that was all, but John didn’t think he’d be the only one viewing him with approval. The visitor was good-looking by anyone’s standards, with dark, straight hair. He was taller than John by an inch or two, and with a runner’s build to him. He looked tired though, and as the clouds split and the warm May sunshine poured through the gap, illuminating him, John saw that his first impression, of a man in his mid-twenties, had been a little off. The man looked to be about thirty, like John, and the green eyes squinting against the sun were shadowed with fatigue.
The shop door opened and John abandoned his pretended study of a dubious oil painting of
The stranger exchanged a few words with Stella, his voice low enough that John was unable to tell where he was from. Stella studied his face with a mixture of curiosity and concern that John wasn’t used to seeing -- fine a woman as she was, and people on the island tended to add that phrase whenever she was spoken of, Stella wasn’t known for being soft-hearted.
She was nodding now, and a moment later her eyes moved over and met John’s as the man turned to look in his direction as well. “Fare for you, John,” Stella said, raising her voice enough so that it carried across the room to where John was standing. “This fella’s going to Rossneath House and needs a ride.”
John walked over to greet the man, extending his hand automatically. It was taken briefly in a strong clasp and his smile was returned just as fleetingly, dropping off the man’s face as though it was too much effort to keep it there. John had seen men look like that before, coming back from three days and nights fishing on the trawlers with sleep a fond memory by the time their feet were back on land.
“You’ll be kin to old Ian then, will you?” John asked, barely troubling to make it a question.
Rossneath House had stood empty for two years now, its owner dying slowly in a nursing home on the mainland. His choice -- there were plenty who would’ve taken care of him, but the old man was stubborn and preferred, he said, the charity of strangers to the pity of friends. John hadn’t known Ian Kelley well; he’d kept himself to himself, as much as was possible on an island where gossip was less a character flaw than a hobby, but he’d liked him well enough. Ian had had a sister, two decades younger than him, born late enough to have been spoiled by parents who’d never thought they’d be blessed with children again. A bonnie girl, with just this man’s dark hair and green eyes, she’d left the island as soon as she could, and broken her parents’ hearts doing it.
Not that John blamed her. Fiona Kelley had left before he was born, but she wasn’t the first teenager to go, and she hadn’t been the last. There wasn’t a lot to keep a youngster on the island, and from the odd photograph of her that he’d seen in his mother’s album, her skirts flying as she danced at a ceilidh, she’d been one of the restless ones. Her feet had danced her all the way to
And now it looked like Fiona’s son, Ian’s nephew, had come to the island to look over his inheritance. John shrugged to himself. He’d see the place, be on the next ferry out, and it’d be put up for sale within the week most probably. Not that anyone would buy it, with the state the housing market on Traighshee was in. Philosophically resigned to yet another building on the island being abandoned for the gales to tear down, the rain to wash clean, and the sheep to wander through what remained, John waited for the man to speak and confirm what was less a guess than a certainty.
“He was my uncle,” the man said. His eyes, John decided, were unsettling; not because of anything in particular about them, but because of the way they didn’t stay still. They flitted from one thing to another as if the man were nervous. Not that it was any of John’s business if he was.
“I don’t want to delay you, but I was hoping for a few minutes to sit down.” The dark haired man straightened, the creak of his leather jacket making it clear that it had been in his possession for some time. Turning to Stella, he asked, “I don’t suppose there’s any chance I could get an espresso?”
The look of disdain that swept across Stella’s features was there and gone quickly enough that John doubted the newcomer had seen it. She didn’t make any attempt to hide it from her voice, though. “You’d be not supposing right,” she said. “We’ve got coffee and tea. Even some of that herbal stuff without caffeine, although I can’t see why anyone would bother. It’s not a proper cup of tea when it’s made with grass clippings.”
The man lifted his right hand and shifted the strap of the bag across his shoulder as if it were too heavy. His left hand, the one that was wrapped up, was braced at his hip. “Coffee would be fine, thank you,” he said. To John, “Can I buy you a cup? If you don’t mind waiting, that is?”
John shook his head. “No hurry -- I’ve nowhere else to be this afternoon. Thanks,” he added, nodding at Stella.
The man looked as if he’d be the better for something warming him, and although it wasn’t too early for whiskey -- it was
too early for that -- coffee would probably do the job of keeping him awake a little better. And he’d be lucky to find anything in the cupboards at Rossneath House. When Ian Kelley had left, a deputation of women had gone in, stripping it of perishables and cleaning it, sighing sadly as they worked. They hadn’t gone back since, though, and even if respect had kept the windows from being smashed, two years of dust would be lying thickly over the rooms of the rambling stone house.
Stella gave him a glare that he unerringly traced back to the disdained carrots, but waved at a table by the window. “Sit down then and I’ll bring them over.”
The man bent to pick up his case, but John stopped him. “Och, it’ll be in no one’s way there. Sit down, man; you look all in.”
“Thanks,” the man said, his American accent briefly fading as his shoulders slumped. He followed John to the table Stella had indicated and pulled out a chair, sinking down onto it with his bandaged wrist in his lap. He glanced up at John. “Do you know the house?”
“I know all the houses on the island,” John said simply. “You’ll be wanting to see it, but I’m thinking once seen you won’t want to stop there, so I don’t mind waiting until you’ve looked your fill and then bringing you back here. This early in the season, it’s easy enough to get rooms. There’s a hotel and half-a-dozen boarding houses; take your pick.” The man opened his mouth to speak, but before he could reply John clucked his tongue. “I’m sitting here talking and I never told you my name. John McIntyre. Pleased to make your acquaintance.” He waited expectantly for the man to introduce himself, sternly quelling the impulse to reach out and offer his hand again. He could still feel, though it had surely to be his imagination, the faint warmth of that fleeting handclasp against his palm.
“Nick Kelley,” the man said, not offering his hand either. There were little lines around his eyes that seemed to indicate that he hadn’t been sleeping for a lot longer than it had taken for him to travel here from the states.
“Sorry -- you’re the first person I’ve really talked to for a couple of days. I’m probably kind of disjointed.” He frowned. “Is it really that bad? I mean, I know it’s been basically abandoned for a couple of years, since Uncle Ian went into the nursing home, but ...”
He stopped as Stella came over to the table with a tray holding two cups of coffee and a plate of biscuits. “Here you are,” she said, setting the things out. Her eyes narrowed shrewdly. “Hurt your arm, did you?”