Episode 4 by Caroline Lee
She knew her eyes must be as wide as saucers, and she couldn’t seem to make herself inhale. The terror of being spoken to—whispered to, in her own house—was still wrapped vise-like around her chest. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak. Could only stare up at him. Whoever he was.
“Hey.” The stranger gave her a little shake, and Sarah suddenly noticed how warm his hands were on her upper arms. “Are you okay?”
She forced herself to close her eyes on his concerned gaze and inhale. Once sharply, and then again slower. She willed her heart to slow its beating. It almost worked.
“Miss Prescott?” How’d he know her name? “Do you need help?”
“No.” Her voice was barely a whisper, so she swallowed and tried again. “No, I’m fine.”
“Sorry for saying it, ma’am, but you don’t look fine. You look like you’ve seen…” The way his lips quirked up made her very aware of the fact that he was still holding her on her own front porch. “A ghost.”
Well, shit. The Prescott ghost. Something the lawyer had laughingly mentioned when she’d signed all the papers accepting the house and the property. Only, this wasn’t some pre-teen, slumber party spooky tale. She was a grown-ass woman, and she most definitely did not believe in ghosts, goblins, vampires, or any of that other horror-story shit.
And then his smile grew, revealing an intriguing, crooked front tooth, and Sarah felt an icy breath against the back of her neck. The wineglass stem broke off in her hand with a snap.
She sucked in her breath sharply, and his gaze—and hands—immediately went to her injury. She ignored the burn from the cut across her palm. “Did you feel that?”
“Feel what?” He was cradling her hand, and Sarah refused to let herself notice how nice it felt. “We need to get this wrapped up.”
He glanced over her shoulder into the house. “You left a window open in the library. It faces my living room. I figured you liked the cold.”
“I hate the cold. I didn’t leave—” But he didn’t hear her, because he was pulling her into her own house, and into her kitchen, and pushing her down to sit at the small table while he rifled through her pantry. Sarah sat stiffly, her fingers locked into a fist around her aching palm, and tried not to think about the steady drip-drip-drip of her blood on the pine boards.
“Here, lemme see that.” The stranger—he really had remarkable eyes—laid out an old first aid kit on the table beside her, removed some bandages, and knelt in front of her.
As he began his ministrations, Sarah frowned down at his dark curls. “You certainly know your way around my house, Mr. Next-Door-Neighbor.”
He looked up at that, and flashed a smile, bright against his dark skin. “Eric Singleton. I’m an E.M.T.” Then he focused on her hand again. This whole experience was definitely weirding her out.
“Well yeah, Mr. Singleton, but that doesn’t answer my question.”
A slight chuckle. “I’ve been looking after Prescott House for five years now, since the Dewey, Cheetum & Howe firm contracted me to be the caretaker. You’ve been here, what? A few weeks? I figure I know my way around this place a lot better than you do.”
She took a deep breath, ignoring the subtle scent of cloves that clung to him, and swallowed her other questions. In much less time than it would’ve taken her, Eric Singleton placed her well-bandaged hand on her lap—there went her plans for a nice, hot bath—and sat back on his haunches.
It was an odd feeling, to have such a handsome man kneeling at her feet. And Sarah didn’t think she could take any more odd feelings today. “So, in your five years here, have you noticed anything…?”
“Ghostly?” He smiled again, and Sarah bit her bottom lip. “Only four other times. Once a year. Every year. Same day.”
She swallowed past a suddenly dry throat. “What day?”
“Today. October thirty-first. All Hallows’ Eve.”