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by Lex Valentine
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Gay Fiction
Description: A ghost whose belief in love transcends death teaches a rich man who's lost all faith to love again. Restaurateur Jason Rockham lost faith in everything. Then he meets a ghost who is the antithesis of everything he's come to believe about people. Deceased pro-surfer Caine Carruthers sets out to show Jason that love conquers all, including death. This story is part of the print anthology LOVE ME DEAD.
eBook Publisher: MLR Press, LLC/MLR Press, LLC,
eBookwise Release Date: March 2012
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [110 KB]
Reading time: 67-94 min.
The sound of water splashing in the bathroom sink pulled Jason from a deep sleep. Rolling over, he hugged his pillow and tried to ignore the sound. Chris would come back to bed soon and the annoying sound would stop. He sank into the pillow, willing deep sleep to return, but something nagged at the edges of his consciousness. Why the hell was the water running? Why didn't Chris get his ass back to bed?
Shock flicked Jason's eyes open as reality slammed into him. His heart raced and adrenaline shot through his body. Chris had dumped him a week ago, making off with his prize painting and several thousand dollars from the wall safe. That morning, Jason had come to his family's rustic cliff house on 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. Alone. No Chris. No anyone. Yet, he distinctly heard water running in the sink of the master bath.
He lay perfectly still, almost afraid to breathe, thinking there must be a burglar in the house. Although, he couldn't fathom why a burglar would wash his hands for ten minutes in the master bathroom. Didn't they just rob the place and leave? Jason shut his eyes tightly and buried his face in the pillow.
One one thousand. Two one thousand. Three one thousand
What the fuck? Why didn't the guy just take what he'd come for and leave? Jason thought as panic rose within him. He didn't know how much longer he could lie still and pretend to sleep.
The bathroom door creaked slightly as it opened. The covers lifted. Jason stopped breathing. The far side of the bed dipped. The sound of a pillow being plumped echoed loudly in the dark bedroom. The solid weight of a body settled in next to him and it was all Jason could do not to jump up and scramble out the other side of the bed. A contented sigh rent the silence.
Four one thousand. Five one thousand. Six one thousand.
Jason wondered how long he would have to lie there beside the burglar. He didn't want to be attacked and left dead or dying, which left him no choice but to play possum. A hand touched his naked thigh and he froze, a scream caught in his throat.
"I'm not going to hurt you, so just relax."
The warm hand stroked his thigh from knee to hip. The fingers caressed his skin with an expertise Jason had rarely experienced. He swallowed hard as the warmth of those talented fingers brushed his cock. It twitched and Jason cursed it silently. The traitorous organ was aroused by a total stranger! A fucking burglar!
"I'm not a burglar and I'm not going to hurt you. I want to help you."
In the dark, the disembodied voice sounded like the dulcet tones of a jazz singer. Rich, deep, and sexy as hell. A fine trembling took hold of Jason. He couldn't stop it. He knew the burglar had to feel the tremors; he lay pressed to the man's side after all!
The heavy body on the other side of the bed shifted and hard arms came around Jason. Warm lips trailed over the point of his shoulder and along his collar bone. Held tight to a wide, rock-hard chest, Jason could only shake in reaction, dumbfounded by his arousal. A stranger held him, caressed his back, squeezed his buttocks, and his fucking dick became hard as a stone! Jason wasn't sure what shocked him most, the fact that a stranger had aroused him or the fact that he let him.
"Help me?" Jason winced at the sound of his own voice. High-pitched. Squeaky. Fear-laced. Whiny. Geez. He sounded like a damned pussy.
A deep chuckle rumbled up from the hard chest that pressed against him. "You're not a pussy, Jason. Your fear is natural. But don't worry. I'm not going to hurt you. That isn't why I'm here."
Jason didn't understand why, but his fear began to dissipate. "Then why are you here?" he demanded, trying to show some balls. "And who are you? And why are you in my bed making my cock hard?"
The chuckle rumbled again, but louder this time. "I'm making your cock hard because I want you and you like how I touch you. That pleases me, you know." The voice paused for a moment, then said, "I'm Caine Carruthers."
Warning bells sounded in Jason's head. The name was familiar, but he couldn't quite place it. It sat on the edge of his consciousness, niggling him, but delivering no answers to his questions. "Cain? Like Cain and Abel?" he asked, stalling as he tried to figure out how he knew the man's name.
"No. Not like Cain and Abel. With an E," the stranger replied in an overly patient manner that told Jason others had voiced that question.
"An E? An E where?" Confused, Jason tried to ease back from the hard heat of Caine's big body.
Caine sighed heavily, the sound long-suffering. "My first name has an E at the end of it. I'm not C-A-I-N like the Biblical Cain. I'm C-A-I-N-E," he explained.
The man's identity exploded into Jason's mind. With a jerk, he yanked himself from the man's arms and stumbled off the bed, twisting the sheet around his hips as he snapped on a light. Bright blue eyes set in a celebrity handsome face stared up at him from the black and white bedding.
"You -- you're -- you..." he stuttered, trying to find the words to articulate the confusion in his brain.
Caine sat up and the black comforter fell to his lean hips. Jason stared at the wide expanse of bronze skin stretched tight over lean muscles that flexed and bulged when Caine moved. That chest had been photographed thousands of times. Jason knew exactly where he'd seen it before -- on the cover of Sports Illustrated... with the title "RIP Caine" emblazoned across the middle.
"Yes, I'm the guy who owns the surf shop across the highway from your restaurant," Caine said with a little smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. In fact, Jason could swear he saw a twinge of fear cross the man's face.
"Not that!" He inched backward, away from the bed, hoping Caine didn't notice. The man's sharp blue eyes gleamed and Jason stopped. So much for not being noticed.
"Ahhh." Caine leaned back against the white pillows. "Then you must mean the 'dead' part."
"Yes!" Jason burst out. Confusion didn't begin to cover how he felt. "You're a dead celebrity!" The fact that Caine Carruthers had been a famous surfer made Jason feel like he was being Punk'd. But how had they faked the man's death? And why were they doing this to him, a virtual nobody? He didn't even know Caine Carruthers!
"Oh, now, I wouldn't exactly say you're a nobody," Caine muttered in a low voice. "How many times has your restaurant been featured on the Food Network? Cooking magazine? Epicure? And this house. It's been on Better Homes and Gardens. Architectural Digest. Sunset. Your beach house in Malibu's been on HGTV."
Jason snorted. "People don't know my face. They know my restaurant. Rockport is famous, not me. Besides, how do you know all that about me?"
Caine shrugged, the muscles in his arms rippling. "Being dead has its advantages."
A shiver went down Jason's spine. He backed toward the door and saw Caine's eyes narrow. "Why are you here?" he asked hoarsely, his fear returning as he repeated his earlier question.
Caine sighed and shook back the shaggy blond hair that fell over his brow. "It's a complicated story, Jason. Are you sure you don't want to come back to bed? I'm not here to hurt you," he insisted for what had to be the fourth or fifth time.
Jason shook his head. "I'm going to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. If you know what's good for you, you'll get the hell out of my bed and join me."
Unsure if he had just made a huge mistake with his show of bravado, Jason turned and opened the bedroom door. He tucked the sheet around himself toga style and headed down the tiled hallway to the huge open kitchen. Refusing to speculate on Caine, he busied himself making a pot of Italian Roast coffee. While it dripped into the pot, he leaned against the wide granite counter and stared out the glass walls at the darkness of the Pacific Ocean.
Circumstances had brought him home to Cypress House. Whenever something went wrong in his life, he ran north to the house his family owned in Pebble Beach. It was the only place he ever thought of as home. The huge timber and stone house perched on a cliff overlooking Monterey Bay, surrounded by cypress trees, built in a vee shape with two wings and a pool in the courtyard between. Four bedrooms, five bathrooms, an office and a mini media room comprised the wings. A sauna and Jacuzzi were set into the side of the cliff, below the central courtyard. A huge open kitchen and a formal "great room" that combined a dining room and living room opened off the entry at the bottom of the vee.
Jason didn't like to think how much the damned house was worth. He couldn't touch it anyway. His father had set it up in a trust when Jason and his brother were kids. The trust owned the house. Jason and Evan just used it. One day, Evan's kids would use it since Jason had a feeling he wouldn't ever have kids of his own.
The thought of children brought Jason's thoughts back to the circumstances that had driven him to Cypress House. His life was a mess. His emotions were a mess. After being an eternal optimist his entire life, at the age of thirty-eight, Jason Rockham no longer trusted.
He should have known better than to play the games he'd been drawn into. They sucked him dry in a matter of weeks. Not unlike the gorgeous player who'd drug him into the games. Chris Matthews was young, hung, and totally bad news. Jason hadn't been able to resist him. For ten whole weeks, Chris had consumed him, mentally, emotionally, and physically. The guy could suck cock like nobody's business.
Chris had played him and Jason had known that all along, which made the whole situation rather sad. On the rebound from his marriage, pissed at all the alimony he had to pay out, Jason had been ready to resume the sexually free lifestyle he'd had before his marriage. Chris wasn't someone to get serious about and Jason knew it. Still, he'd let the little liar closer than he should have, leaving him several thousand dollars and one priceless painting short because of it.
The loss of the money and painting didn't bother him so much. His stupidity did. He knew better, knew Chris to be an opportunistic liar who waited for a chance to fleece him. He knew the guy used him, but he'd been helpless to stop himself from indulging in the mindless, hot, sweaty mansex. He'd gone ten years without touching a man and the moment his matrimonial bonds disappeared, he went nuts for hard bodies and harder cocks.
Life had been simple in his young, single days. Nothing but one hedonistic rush after another. No ties. Nothing to interfere with his pleasures. Then he'd met Lainey and had wanted her more than he'd wanted his pleasure-filled lifestyle. Love caught him with his pants down and in the end spanked his ass red.
He and Lainey had tried to have children, but eight years into their marriage, Jason knew it wouldn't happen. The doctors couldn't explain it either. Lainey blamed Jason. The last two years of his marriage had been filled with Lainey's growing hatred and resentment. During the divorce, she'd been furious to discover that he didn't own Cypress House and she couldn't take it from him. Her vitriol not only stung, it soured him on women, at least for the time being. Before he'd met her, he'd always been more attracted to men than women. But he'd been more than willing to give up being with men to be with Lainey. He'd fallen so hard for her that he would have done anything to have her. Now, he had nothing but painful memories and a restless sense of distrust.
Once free of Lainey and her bitter drive to rob him of his business, Jason had tried to return to his former lifestyle. He picked up men. He picked up women. He had threesomes and encounters in clubs. Then he'd met Chris. At first, his earnest, open demeanor had Jason fooled into thinking he was honest. Within a week, Jason had realized his mistake. Chris was a hustler. He had a hard-on for Jason as long as he kept his wallet open and the fun coming.
Jason hadn't been in love with Chris, although he had totally worshipped the man's cock. He'd expected Chris to move on when a richer man came along. When that day arrived, what he hadn't expected was an empty safe and a missing priceless painting. Wracked with anger at himself for not realizing the depths of Chris's dishonesty, Jason lost what little trust he'd had left in humanity. Between Chris and Lainey and all the other opportunistic little sluts of both sexes who had tried to latch onto him at clubs and parties, Jason had a tough time trusting people now. In fact, he had a tough time trusting his own instincts too.
Coming home had been the perfect solution. Lord knew he'd been driving his staff at Rockport insane with his micro-managing. He had a lot of garbage piled up inside him and he needed to take out all his mental trash. He couldn't trust people again, at least not yet, but the solitude of Cypress House would help him regain himself. Standing in the huge open kitchen, the tinted windows giving an unobstructed view of the bay even though he couldn't see the water in the dark, he felt freer than he had in many years. No one would demand anything of him here. Deep, peaceful silence enfolded the house and soothed Jason's nerves.
"It is very peaceful here."
Jason jumped, banging his hip on the granite counter. He glared at Caine, who also wore a sheet toga style, except his sheet had palm trees and little surfers on it. Jason frowned at it.
"Where did you get that?" he asked gruffly.
"Linen closet. It was yours as a child, wasn't it?"
"Yes, but how did you know that? And why are you here?" Jason's desire to understand Caine's presence returned with renewed force.
"I'm dead, Jason. It's not hard to know most things when you're freed of your mortal constraints." Caine opened a cupboard and pulled out a coffee mug, the mug Jason always used when he came to Cypress House. He filled it with coffee and pushed it across the counter.
Jason reached automatically for the mug, not asking how Caine knew how he took his coffee. "So you really are Caine Carruthers, the pro surfer who died a few months ago." He stared at the sun-bronzed skin of the man -- ghost -- in front of him.
Caine nodded. "Yeah. I died." His face tightened and pain flashed in his bright blue eyes. "I was pretty unhappy, so I guess it's no real loss."
Sipping his coffee, Jason realized that he believed Caine. He'd never before pondered the existence of ghosts, but found that he didn't have any difficulty believing in their existence. He knew Caine Carruthers was dead. He'd seen the evidence on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The fact that the man stood in front of him, seemingly corporeal, didn't really shock him, but it did pique his curiosity.
"How did you die?" he found himself blurting out. When one of Caine's brows rose, Jason flushed guiltily. "You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to," he said hastily, hoping the ghost didn't take offense.
Caine's lips quirked into a grin. "I'm not offended, Jason. I suppose it's a natural question for you to ask since you didn't buy the magazine with the sordid story inside."
Having Caine be privy to his thoughts unnerved him more than accepting that the man was a ghost. "I'm not much into sports," he muttered, turning away from that intense blue gaze.
"I know," Caine chuckled. "It's okay. I don't mind telling you how I died."
Jason looked up, meeting Caine's eyes again. The ghost smiled at him. A strange sensation took hold of him as he stared at Caine's handsome face. The instant attraction he'd felt when the ghost had held him returned.
"My wife shot me."