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Ashes of Midnight
by Aurora Rose Lynn

Category: Romance/Science Fiction
Description: The Inasad, a breed of light shifters, ensnared Grant Calder, who now lives between two dimensions. When his housekeeper, Violet Georges, reports for work, she finds an isolated mansion where she appears to be the sole occupant, except for an employer who never leaves his room. On All Hallow's Eve, she finds ghostly apparitions dancing in the ballroom. Alone and frightened, she barges into Grant's room to demand answers only to discover a naked man waiting to pleasure her. Is he the ghost who has been tormenting her in her dreams or is he a wretched soul who needs help?
eBook Publisher: Cobblestone Press, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: February 2010


7 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [57 KB]
Words: 11579
Reading time: 33-46 min.

Chapter One

He trailed passionate kisses along the silky curve of her neck as she quivered in anticipation. His lips left burning fire in their wake. Was she making love to a ghost?

Violet Georges told herself she should have known better. Ghosts didn't exist, and yet here, on the rumpled cotton sheets of her single bed, he rested his elbows on either side of her head and gazed into her face with adoration. And outright lust. At times, she couldn't see his face clearly. It was as if a thick, gray haze hung its languid pall between them, obliterating any sense of reality. Violet felt the heat of his muscled, powerful body, and her nipples beaded into tiny points of pleasure. Even if she'd wanted to, she wouldn't have been able to speak for sheer exhilaration. No man had ever aroused her as this man did.

She wanted to ask his name and where he came from, along with a hundred other questions, but none of those things mattered. Nothing was important except the burning need spiraling through her naked body. Glistening tears struggled down the sides of her face and into her long, mussed hair. If she didn't hold onto him, he'd vanish into the ethereal realm from which he'd come.

"Please--" She reached out to him imploringly, wanting him to make love to her, to thrust his hard cock into her wet sheath to ease the desperate longing. Her hands sliced through empty air. Suffocating need fluttered in the pit of her stomach. This gorgeous man, she sensed but couldn't clearly see, wasn't flesh and blood. He couldn't be if he left her breathless and hungering for his caress.

The lace curtains around the sides of the window overlooking the expansive, well-kept gardens billowed ghost-like into the night-darkened room. Filtered silvery light laid a swath of illumination along the plush carpet. All Hallow's Eve was one day away, when tortured souls and those expecting grim reckoning waited for the night to claim its own.

Violet dragged in a breath, shuddering as the man above her faded away, leaving her desperate and unsatisfied. Leaping up from the bed and hastily surveying the empty room, she shouted, "Dammit! Who are you? Where are you?"

Hushed silence answered her.

She ran to the window, leaned out and studied every lurking shadow, but her would-be lover was nowhere. Where had he gone? Why did he come to her in the dead of night and disappear without as much as a word? Violet still sensed him, the slight musky scent lingering in the air, but there was no visible presence.

Haunted by what could have been, she didn't bother to pull on her flimsy nightgown and sank onto the bed in dejection. The search for her elusive lover was futile. She'd known that all along.

* * * *

The next morning, Violet, dressed in a maid's uniform, served breakfast as she had for the last six months. She set a silver tray with two slices of French toast, three slices of bacon, a glass of orange juice, and a cup of black coffee next to the door of the master suite she wasn't allowed to enter no matter how dire the circumstances were. Down the hall, she hid herself in a nook and waited. Just maybe the man who paid her salary would retrieve his breakfast and she'd get a glimpse of him.

Brockhurst was so much like the mansions she watched in the horror movies. There were so many rooms she still hadn't counted them all although she was up to one hundred and two, including bathrooms. Most of the rooms were unoccupied and dusty, but the ones that were lived in were opulent and well-furnished. Lived in, Violet corrected herself, meant that she cleaned them, but she witnessed no signs of use. It was, she admitted, like working for a ghost who never made an appearance. Except in her wild, hot dreams.

Her employer never had visitors. At least, none she was aware of. Whoever he was, he liked three meals a day and tea promptly at four p.m., much like an aristocratic lord. Sometimes, if she listened with her ear pressed against the door, she heard what sounded like a printer printing or a fax machine whirring, but never more than that.

After several minutes of waiting, she gave up. Her monthly salary at Brockhurst was three times what she'd been earning as a housekeeper for several middle-class clients. She was a live-in housekeeper here with two half days off, and the responsibility of paying bills and shopping for groceries. The name on the credit card was Grant Calder, but that was all she knew. If there was an unusual request, he left her a note taped to her work desk in the kitchen, which she saw first thing in the morning. Once in a while, she waited for him, but he never made an appearance.

She sighed as she made her way to the kitchen on the first floor, descending a staircase with an elaborately carved banister that seemed to have been made to fit her hand. The distance from the staff area to the master suite seemed like two miles through unbelievable luxury. Crystal chandeliers hung from the vaulted ceilings, stately walnut furniture sat forlorn, and the bathrooms each had marble heart-shaped tubs and heated towel racks. All that was missing were people. The place was as empty as a tomb.

Violet didn't mind though. She was saving every penny of her salary, and in a few months, she would give her notice and then she'd register for art school. She sipped her coffee and began to load the dishwasher. It would be time to move on, to start toward accomplishing her dream of painting murals.

One of the fine bone china plates slipped from her hands. She grabbed it just as it would have hit the floor. Setting it into the dishwasher, she let her mind wander into forbidden territory. What would it be like if the man who'd come to her on the last night of the month for the last half year, stayed and made love to her? She'd never had dreams that left her body damp and sweaty and aching before she'd arrived at Brockhurst. Maybe the grim place was getting to her.

Soft music forced her to stand still and cant her head to one side to listen intently. The music of a waltz seemed to be coming from the ballroom, reminding her of Strauss, violins, elegant women dressed in beautiful, pastel-colored ball gowns and gallant beaus.

Her eyes widened. Violet had never heard music at Brockhurst before. Leaving the kitchen, she wiped her hands in her apron, and set out to discover the source of the music. As she approached the ballroom, the music's volume increased, and she couldn't help thinking she was being irresistibly drawn to that part of the house. She peered around the staircase but saw nothing. The music, she decided, was definitely coming from inside.

To get a bird's eye view, she climbed the stairs, set her palm on the railing, and closed her eyes to attempt to regain her composure. Of course, if anything strange happened, wouldn't it have to be on All Hallow's Eve? Soft but insistent, the music continued. Taking a deep breath into her lungs, she blinked her eyes open.

And gaped.

Her heart raced with terror. She tried to convince herself that the evidence of her eyes was lying. The muted, disturbing sound of the waltz continued. Violet swallowed hard in disbelief. Someone was playing a joke on her. Or were they?

Down below, a couple flowed in time with the rhythm of the waltz. Their steps were perfect and synchronized. The resemblance to reality stopped there. The tall man and his partner, a willowy woman, glided across the floor in a seething gray mist. They were both completely nude, the man's powerfully built body light and graceful, and the woman matched him with a perfect figure and elegant movements.

Violet gasped. At first, she couldn't make out their faces. The whole scene changed with the frequency of a murky kaleidoscope where vibrant colors simply couldn't exist. She saw the man's face. He was a complete stranger but with an aristocratic profile. When she set eyes on the woman's upturned face for a fragmentary second, Violet let out a groan.

The woman's face was just like her own in every respect.

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