William ran a hand through his hair and stared at the screen.
“Bullshit, all of it,” he muttered before hitting the backspace button until everything he had just written was erased from the screen. Shaking his head, he saved his document, pushed the chair back and stood. “I need a break. Then I’ll start over.”
He picked up the phone and punched in a number he now knew by heart. The phone had only rung once. “I need you. Meet me here in an hour.”
The woman on the other end of the phone laughed. “It’s All Hallows Eve, William, a holiday sacred to my people.”
“Fine, I’ll call someone else.” William growled. Reaching for the End button, he paused, waiting for Irena to say something to stop him.
“So dramatic, you must need me quite badly. I’ll be there in an hour.” Irena giggled as she hung up the phone.
William sighed, he didn’t want to deal with Irena or the games she played, nor did he want to continue seeing her, she had been hinting at wanting a relationship, something he wasn’t interested in. Placing the receiver gently in the cradle, he headed for the shower. “This will be the last time I deal with her,” he vowed.
* * * *
William pushed Irena up against the wall. She groaned as he nipped her neck before trailing hot kisses down to her shoulder.
“William, fuck me.” Irena grabbed handfuls of her skirt and pulled it up as William’s hands moved clumsily over the button of his fly. His lips never stopped moving, trailing kisses across her collarbone and up the other side of her neck. He managed to undo his fly and work the zipper, shoving down his pants. His cock sprang free, the slit already weeping a single drop of pre-cum.
He stopped kissing her long enough to bend down and extract a small silver packet from the pocket of his pants. Ripping it open, he quickly sheathed himself before kissing her again. She hooked her leg around his waist as he positioned himself at her entrance. With one thrust he was inside of her, withdrew, and slammed into her again. He began to lose himself as he fucked her. He fucked her fast and hard, not caring whether she came or not, he just needed a release, something to take his mind off the writer’s block he was feeling.
He felt a finger of fire trail up and down his spine. His balls drew closer to his body as his cock twitched within her slick channel. He came on a roar, pounding until his balls were empty. Resting his head on her shoulder, his breath came out in harsh pants. Fingers trailed through his sweat-soaked hair.
“Let’s go up to bed, lover,” Irena whispered, her voice husky with arousal. “I want to ride you.”
* * * *
William rolled over onto his back, chest moving up and down rapidly, his heart threatening to beat out of his rib cage. A quick glance at the clock told him it was midnight. Sighing, he sat up and threw his legs over the side of the bed. Without turning to her, he said, “It’s over, Irena.”
“Of course it is. I’ll give you time to rest and then we’ll go for another round.”
William shook his head. “I mean this, what we’re doing, it’s over. Get your clothes and get out.”
“What?” Irena stared at him in shock.
“You heard me. Get your clothes and get out. I don’t want to see you again.” He knew he was being cold and callous but Irena wasn’t one to take hints.
“You can’t do this to me. How dare you do this to me!” The bed creaked as she scrambled to his side. The bed dipped next to him. Her fingers slipped through his hair and grabbed a thick clump, pulling his head back. “William, tell me this is some sort of sick joke.”
“I’m tired of you, Irena, and I have no desire to have a relationship with you. Now get your things and leave.”
“You bastard. After all the nights I put up with you, your refusals to go out anywhere with me. Do you understand how humiliating it is, having to compete for your attention with your blasted writing? And this house, you’re obsessed with it. Always talking about what needs fixing or redoing. I’m tired of all of it. Since you love this house so much, you shall be cursed.” She gave a low hiss. The sound caused William to still. A chill ran down his spine at her words.
“I curse you, William Moore. By the moon and the stars. By the elements of life. Your body shall know the meaning of emptiness. Your soul shall be tied to these walls. You will hunger and thirst for nothing. Here on this land you shall remain until you know the meaning of love.” Irena hissed again. “I curse you, William Moore, for your insensitivity, your callousness and inconsideration. You will be tied to this house, never to leave it as you so clearly wish not to. I curse you, William Moore, until you find true love.”
Fire blazed through William’s body. His back bowed and his mouth opened on a silent scream. He writhed on the bed while Irena’s magic burst through him. His bones were melting, muscles being stretched taut. His heart was threatening to beat out of his chest, and pain shot through his brain, almost as if it was about to explode. He couldn’t think, breathe or move. Time passed lazily, yet swiftly at the same time. Squeezing his eyes shut, he prayed to whatever gods would listen, pleading with them to make it all stop.
Finally the fire ceased and a burst of cold shot through him. Shivering and weak, he eased his body back onto the mattress. He opened his eyes. At first the room seemed bleary, but after a moment his vision began to clear. The room appeared the same. The soft red-orange glow of the fire danced on the ceiling, the lingering scent of sex and perfume hung in the air. Turning his head slowly, ignoring the pain, he saw that the furniture looked the same--at least the items in his vision were.
He hissed when he felt the muscles in his legs jump. His stomach flipped and he moaned. He slid his arms around his abdomen and rolled over, groaning as he went. Pain wracked his body as his head began to pound again. As his body began to calm down, he rolled onto his back, panting. His eyelids felt heavy as exhaustion took hold. He tried to grasp at consciousness but it eluded him. After what seemed like an eternity of fighting, finally he drifted off to sleep. Night became day and then back to night.
The moon rose high above the trees that surrounded the house. William awoke with a start and, looking around, he tried to place the room he lay in. He had dreamed that he’d been floating over his body and throughout the house. He had watched the day pass, levitating and observing normal life as it rolled on. Now awake, he rolled out of bed, the pain in his body had ceased. He felt solid enough. Rising, he walked over to a set of double doors and undid the latch. Pushing them open, he breathed in the night air. He strode out onto the balcony and surveyed his property. Closing his eyes, he began to move haltingly, controlling his movements and breathing as he started his tai chi exercise. He let the concerns of his life float away.
In the distance he heard the door downstairs open and footsteps pounding their way up the stairs. His assistant’s voice called out to him, “Hey, Will! Willll? I have some papers for you to sign that the publisher needs ASAP.”
The door to his bedroom banged against the wall, followed by a gasp. “Oh, my God!”
The horrified words were followed by loud thuds, thumps and a clatter of something metallic falling on the wooden floor. Frowning, William pivoted and entered the room, his mouth open ready to ask what was wrong, when he saw the reason for Maggie’s shock. There on the bed, lay his naked body. It took him a few seconds to comprehend everything he saw.
Once it had sunk in, he dashed toward Maggie and started shouting at her. “I’m right here! Maggie, I’m right behind you!” He reached out to touch her on the shoulder, and watched in horror as his hand slipped right through her. He held his hand before his face, it seemed solid enough. He tried again, and the same thing happened.
Deciding to deal with that later, he tried talking to her. “Maggie, I’m right here. Maggie.”
She didn’t move, just stood before his bed staring at his naked body.
“Maggie!” he shouted--still no response. In frustration he tried to pick up a nearby vase. Instead of his hand passing through it, he found he could pick it up. Concentrating, he threw the vase across the room and watched it shatter against the wall. Maggie jumped and whirled around. She was gazing right at him, her face as white as a sheet.
“Maggie!” He tried again, still no response. He swore and focused on picking up another item off a nearby table. He threw a picture frame against the wall, watching it thud then fall to the ground. Maggie screamed and ran out of the room. William rushed after her, calling to her, but she didn’t stop. She rushed down the stairs, and fumbled with the locks before managing to throw open the door and run out into the driveway.
The cool night air swirled around him. Reaching out, he took hold of the door knob and slammed it shut. He found himself floating upward, toward the ceiling. He passed through the floor and into his bedroom again. Cursing, he began picking up various knickknacks and throwing them against the wall.
His anger soon morphed into sorrow and then back to anger. “I will find you and get you back for this, Irena.”
Five years later
“I’m telling you, this place is just what you’ve been searching for. Nice peaceful area, great neighbors, the school isn’t far from here and neither is the hospital or police department. This is the perfect place for you, Aly.”
Alyssa Washington glanced from the wrought iron gate to the imposing Victorian house. Rounded flower bushes dotted the long expanse of green lawn that stretched from the high iron gates to the wraparound porch. No weeds peeked up from between the large cobblestone pathway. She couldn’t help but think there was something wrong, everything seemed so perfect, pristine. Narrowing her eyes, she looked up at the windows and noticed a curtain move, the fabric swaying softly. She glanced at Jess Carter, her best friend and current real estate broker, and based on the woman’s rigid posture and the constant tucking of invisible strands of hair behind her ear, something was up.
She faced Jess. “Cut the crap, Jess, why hasn’t this thing sold? It’s like a freaking dollhouse. It’s at the end of the block, set far back from the road, the yard is huge. The neighborhood is nice and peaceful. And like you said, everything that matters is not that far off. So, what’s wrong with it? I mean, come on, seventy thousand dollars for all of this, and I haven’t even seen the backyard or the supposed pool house this place comes with. Cut the bullshit, why such a really low asking price?” Aly didn’t miss the way Jess’s eye twitched. She crossed her arms. “Spill or I walk.”
Jess took a deep breath. Not a good sign.
Jess started. “Okay, here’s the deal ... it’s haunted.”
“Haunted, by a ghost. Well, not a ghost, it’s the ghost of the famous author William Moore.”
Aly blinked, a flush of heat went through her body. William Moore, the William Moore, aka William M. Howard aka William M. MacGregor. Excitement crept up her spine. She didn’t believe in ghosts but the thought that maybe, just maybe, one of her favorite authors haunted this house made the building more interesting.
“It’s all nonsense, though, but people believe it. Strange things happen in this house. Furniture breaking, loud noises, screaming in the dead of night, all sorts of things. They even brought in ghost hunters but those guys were driven out within a matter of hours, at least that’s what I hear. All I can tell you is that this place is in pristine condition, the grounds meticulously manicured and the price is a steal in this market. So what do you say? Yes or no?”
Aly pursed her lips and thought before she responded. “I want to see the inside. Granted, it’s the best house I’ve seen so far, but I want to make sure that everything is as it should be.”
Jess hesitated but then nodded. “You got it, follow me.”
Aly followed Jess as they made their way toward the house. Their heels clicked on the cobblestone, echoing out into the strangely quiet yard. Aly tried to ignore the oppressive silence. Not even birds could be heard chirping. Their footsteps thudded up the stairs and onto the porch. Aly shivered. Suddenly the nice cool day had gotten colder. She felt as if someone was watching her, the hair on her arms and the back of her neck was raised. Glancing around, she saw nothing, but she couldn’t shake the feeling. A click told her that Jess had unlocked the door, and Aly dashed in after her, hoping to escape the unseen eyes.
Once in the house, the feeling didn’t get any better. It got worse. She felt as if eyes were burning into her, as if they were trying to see her very soul. Taking in the open floor plan, she saw that the living room, dining room and kitchen were all separated by either cabinets or tables. All the furniture seemed to be of good quality, not even a coat of dust to be seen anywhere.
Aly and Jess made their way through the first floor, inspecting every nook and cranny.
“Jess, why is all the furniture still here? The fridge is empty but there are pots, pans, plates and silverware still here.”
“Well, it’s been said, every time people come in, trying to take things out to put into storage until his brother or whatever relative will finally show up and get the stuff, weird shit starts to happen. One time, the pipes in the basement burst when they were trying to clear out his writing room. The movers took that as a sign and refused to enter the house again. Funny thing is, if you go into the basement there’s no damage, and in fact the pipes seem brand new.”
“You sure they weren’t high or drinking on the job?”
“Positive. His ex-assistant, Maggie, gave them a drug and alcohol test, they all passed with flying colors. Some say the house is cursed as well as haunted.”
Aly shrugged. A seventy thousand dollar house complete with furniture, haunted or not, with brand new pipes was not something she could pass up. Despite her decision already being made, she wanted to explore a bit more. She’d started toward the staircase in the middle of the room when something Jess said struck a chord within her. “Wait, you said brother or some relative. Why aren’t they living here?”
“No one wants the house. William was supposed to be some sort of black sheep of the family. I thought you knew that? You being a fan of his work and all,” Jess pointed out.
“I know his work not the personal details of his life,” Aly stated. I’m not a stalker. I just really like his work.
“Oh, ’cause in high school you were never seen without one of his books on you. I always thought you just loved the photo in the back of the book.”
“He never had his picture taken for any of his books. Anyway, if I left any of his books at home, my mom would find them and throw them out. She said young ladies shouldn’t read smut.”
Jess started to laugh. “Sounds like your mom. Gotta wonder how she feels about you writing smut for a living. I mean, she’s all smiles but never says anything when the topic comes up.”
“That’s ’cause she’s deluding herself into thinking that I’m an accountant not an erotic romance author. She refuses to tell her friends what I really do for a living.” A chill ran through Aly as she took a step up onto the stair.
“You okay? You look a little...” Jess came over and touched her shoulder.
“Yeah, yeah fine, just thinking of what I could do with a house like this. It’s too big for me alone, you know,” Aly said sadly.
Aly refused to voice the thoughts running through her head. The day before, she and her mother had another “talk,” one where her mother praised the attributes of marriage, and Aly just sat there, saying nothing. She would never admit to how lonely it had begun to feel for her lately. All of her friends were getting married. Before she had come to view this house she had received an invitation to a college friend’s wedding. Two months ago, Jess had gotten engaged. It’s a lonely place to be when all of your friends are in love and you are still single.
“You’ll find someone.”
Aly wanted to say, when, when will I find someone, but kept her mouth shut. Instead, she made her way up the stairs, pushing away any thoughts of relationships or love. Once on the second floor, she opened the first door she came to and squealed with delight. Dashing into the room, she whirled around--books, books and more books were everywhere. She felt lightheaded, it became hard to breathe, her heart threatened to beat out of her chest. Floor to ceiling, shelves were laden with books, and even lined the windows.
“I thought you’d like this room,” Jess said from behind Aly. Jess walked past Aly toward a shelf. Slipping out a leather bound volume, she flipped through the pages, and then put it back in its place. “He’s got a nice collection here. But we’re not here to see his library; we need to see the rest of the house. Stop drooling and come on.”
Jess grabbed Aly’s arm and dragged her out of the room. Despite her yearning to go back to the library, she made her way through the second and third floors as well as the attic. The end of the day found her sitting on the bottom stair, gazing around while Jess took a phone call.
Aly couldn’t understand why everyone said it was haunted. Nothing horrible or amazing had happened. She couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched, and except for a few cold spots, the house was perfect.
“Hold on a sec.” Jess came over to Aly. “I’m going outside. The reception in here is crap. I’ll be back in a few.”
Aly nodded and watched Jess walk away. She loved the house. A few things needed to be added to make it feel like home, but she loved it none the less. The house had a cozy, warm feeling to it. She could actually picture herself curling up with a book in the library or writing in the study.
“I love this house and I’m going to buy it, ghost or no,” she declared. She heard a door slam on the second floor. No items or blasts of cold air flew around the room. She was a bit disappointed.
* * * *
William leaned against the door of his study and blew out a breath. He closed his eyes and an image of the petite woman sitting on the stairs formed in his mind. When he first saw her walk up with her friend, he had noticed her immediately. While her friend wore a sleek, figure-hugging suit, she wore jeans and an oversized sweat shirt that hid her curves. Black strands of hair slipped from the messy bun atop her head. Not a stitch of makeup decorated her mocha face. Next to her friend she appeared plain, frumpy almost.
He saw no life in her until she walked into his library. Her large brown eyes rounded, light and life flooding them for the first time. He’d watched, enthralled, as she leisurely circled around to take in the whole room. Then he became aroused by the hunger he saw in her eyes. He knew she wanted to start taking books off the shelves, curl up on the couch and read them. For some reason he wanted her to see him like that. It had been so long since a woman even glanced his way with hunger in her eyes.
Over the years he’d had his share of women, but for the first time in his life he wanted to pursue a woman instead of it being the other way around. He should have known better than to date a witch, but had wanted to be with her to learn more about her kind and scratch the sexual itch. It had nothing to do with romance. Now he was paying the price for his callousness.
His reasons had nothing to do with not wanting to be seen in public with her. He simply refused to do anything that she could perceive as him wanting a relationship. She assumed he had had an unusual attachment to his house. He never dissuaded her of her ideas, which was probably why she thought he should be cursed to roam this house and the surrounding property until he found true love, whatever that was. He doubted he would ever fall in love.
He phased through the floor until he was before her. He watched her stand and walk toward the door, open it and close it behind her. He smiled and floated toward a nearby window. Pulling the curtain back, he watched her talk to her friend before they both left. Getting into a car parked in the driveway, they drove off.
“She’s interesting,” a voice said behind him.
Swearing, he whirled around to find his brother behind him. “Damn it, Deacon, don’t do that. I’m guessing you went around the back and used the door in the kitchen so the women wouldn’t see you?” William became solid, his feet drifting toward the ground until they both touched the wooden floor. Deacon wore black suit pants, a black silk shirt and black loafers, his long red hair pulled back into a ponytail. Deacon Moore looked every inch the businessman and heir of the Moore banking empire that he was. Shoeless, William wore worn jeans, a black button-up cotton shirt, the top two buttons undone, his long red hair hung loose, down to his waist.
Deacon shrugged, and headed toward the kitchen. One big bag of groceries sat on a counter. Floating toward his brother, William thought about the woman who would soon own the house. He didn’t want a roommate but knew the house couldn’t continue to go unoccupied. Deacon had told him their father refused to keep it in the family. The only other option had been selling it. As loathe as he had been to allow that, William went along with the plan.
“So, have you tracked down Irena yet?” William asked, hoping he would finally be rid of the curse.
“Nope, she’s disappeared completely. Don’t worry, we’ll find her eventually, and reverse whatever this is.”
“I know you will because you’ve never let me down, not once.”
Deacon gave him a rare smile.
William felt sad for his brother. Deacon had never done anything wrong, not in his whole life. William had always been the screwup and liked it that way. He hated growing up in a house that felt more like a mausoleum than a home. There were rules for everything and perfection was a requirement. William could never live like that, so at fifteen he left home. He moved in with his uncle and from there things went up. He got his first book deal at seventeen and had a best seller by nineteen. He juggled college and writing, and still managed to graduate at age twenty.
He had worked very hard for everything he got, and enjoyed life to the fullest. Now, at thirty-seven, life wasn’t as fun as it used to be. He spent most of his time keeping kids from destroying his property and keeping people from buying the house. He still managed to write, and with his brother’s help, by Deacon passing off all his manuscripts as being found in storage, he continued to get published, but life for him lacked something.
His thoughts drifted to the woman who was determined to buy the house. His brother puttered around the kitchen making dinner for himself while William thought about the current changes in his life.
Then something occurred to him. “Shit.”
Deacon whirled around. “What?”
“How the hell am I going to live with her when I’m like this? Do I remain invisible the whole time or do I do the intermittent corporeal thing sometimes?”
Deacon shook his head and went back to cooking.
With a thought, William pulled a chair out from under the kitchen table and sat down. “And another thing, how’s my body doing?”
“Just lying there, nothing rotting off, no smell. It’s like you’re asleep, only no breathing or vitals.”
After the initial shock of seeing his body on the bed, it took William some time to figure out what had happened. He hadn’t seen any white lights, fire or anything for that matter. It felt as if he had fallen into a dreamless sleep and awakened like any other person. The only difference, his spirit had been separated from his body and he was see-through and able to phase through objects. After trying many things, it took him three days to learn how to become corporeal, although he couldn’t hold that form for long. At that time, Deacon had been in the house cataloguing all of William’s worldly possessions, including the unfinished manuscript William had been working on before he “died.” Deacon had been so shocked to see his brother standing before him that he’d fainted. Once Deacon had come to, William calmly explained things. At first Deacon had been hard to convince, but after mentioning Irena and the spell, things began to make sense and Deacon moved quickly to make sure that William’s body wouldn’t be destroyed.
The brothers felt that Irena hadn’t killed William, but had performed some sort of botched spell that caused William’s current situation. While Deacon searched for Irena, who had just vanished, William went about continuing to write. Five years later, William’s life had some semblance of calm.
Now he wanted to allow someone to share the house with him, the only problem was how to live with her in his current condition. “Could you do me a favor and find out what you can about the woman moving in?”
“Also, why the hell is Dad selling my house for a measly seventy thousand dollars?” William’s eyebrow rose in question.
“Because he didn’t want to give it away for free, and Mom insisted he put a price on the house. You know Dad wants nothing to do with anything involving you. He thought seventy thousand dollars was a reasonable price for your house, everything in it and the land it sits on.”
“So good to know I’m loved,” William said dryly.
“Hey, at least he hasn’t taken your portrait down from the sitting room.”
“Goody, I feel so loved now. How’s Maggie?”
“Well, aren’t you the chatterbox today. Maggie is fine, enjoying her European vacation, all expenses paid, of course.”
“Of course.” William nodded.
“So what’s up? What’s with all the questions all of sudden? Normally we talk about your latest masterpiece, business, and my lack of a love life while eating, and then we part ways.”
William shrugged. He didn’t know why he wanted to know all these things. Normally, he had no interest in anything but himself. If he were honest, his encounter with the woman earlier left him craving some sort of human contact; a reintroduction to being a social creature, if you will. He had sensed the same loneliness in her that had gnawed at him his whole life. If it weren’t for Deacon he would truly be alone. “I don’t know. Something about that woman calls to me,” William said softly.
“I guess I see a bit of my loneliness in her. Things have become so monotonous. Write, scare people, write some more, not eat dinner with you, then go back to write or watch TV. That’s my day in a nutshell. The days just blend together. She’s like me, at least, I think she’s like me.”
“You like her,” Deacon teased.
“I never said that,” William said defensively.
“You’re attracted to her.”
William crossed his arms over his chest. “I am not.”
“Look at you. You’re attracted to her and acting like you’re five.” Deacon laughed.
“I don’t even know her and I’m not acting like I’m five.”
“Yeah, but you said she calls to you,” Deacon teased again.
“Shut up. So how are things in the banking world?” William asked, trying to change the subject.
“Same as they were the last time you asked. So, what are you working on?”
“I’m struggling. I need a sounding board. I’m not sure how this book is going. I like the storyline but it’s very different from what I usually write.”
“Do you want me to read it? I could read it but I’m not sure if I could help,” Deacon pointed out.
“Thanks, but I know you’re busy. Sometimes, I read it over and I start thinking the premise is horrible. That maybe it reads like porn,” William said, disgusted.
“Maybe this woman came at the right time. Maybe she’ll give you some of the insight you need.”
“I don’t know. I have to figure out how to interact with her first.”
Deacon shrugged. “Very true.”
William sighed. “I’m going back up to work on the story some more. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“And I’ll clean up. Good luck with the book.”
“Thanks.” William pushed back his chair and walked away.
Six hours and many starts and stops later, William gave up. He just wasn’t sure what he was doing or if it was any good. He went to his bedroom, shut the door, undressed, got into bed and flicked on the TV. He zoned out after five minutes, his thoughts drifting to his soon-to-be roommate. Deacon’s words echoed around his head. Could it be? Can she help me?