Episode 6 by J.A. Coffey
She tried to tell herself that the chill in the pit of her stomach was from the breeze of a half-opened window and not the memory of Brant’s lifeless eyes. That the accident hadn’t been her fault. That there was no reason for his spirit to contact her from beyond the grave.
But she was a damn liar.
“Me?” Sarah scoffed at the handsome neighbour, watching her with wolfish intensity over the rim of his wineglass. “I’m an open book. Just a widow looking to make a fresh start in a familiar place. Nothing to hide here.” Her voice only shook a little.
“Indeed.” Eric’s tone, and the way his gaze pierced her, spoke volumes. He smiled again. There was a pregnant pause. Thunder rattled the rafters overhead. Her ears popped and the moment passed, fading like his smile in the dusk.
“I should go.”
“Should you?” She bit off the end of her question. Any more wine on her empty stomach and she’d be inviting him to stay the night. And not just because the house that she now called home was giving her the creeps. Because she liked the way his broad shoulders made her feel protected. The heat blossoming between her thighs made her hotter than any bonfire.
His gaze up and down the length of her was like warm caramel. “Might be best. Besides, you have some unpacking to do.”
Had he seen the scads of boxes still lining the upstairs hall? For a nosey neighbor, Eric Singleton sure seemed to keep tabs on the interior of what should have been her last bastion of privacy. She quirked a brow and he pointed to the pale drop cloth covering the mirror in the front hall like a shroud.
“Oh, right.” So much for him being interested in her. “Thanks for your help, but I’m all set.” She swallowed the bitter tang of resolve and walked towards the front door, swinging gently to and fro on the rusted brass hinges. The scent of rain and dead leaves drifted into the parlor.
“Any time,” he rumbled, setting her thighs to quivering. “I mean it.” He put out a hand to stop the door from swinging into her face.
The open door.
“Wait a minute. Didn’t I…? Did you…?” Hadn’t she closed the door earlier? She shook her head. She must have had more wine than she thought.
“I’ll be around if you need me.” He frowned at the shadows at the top of the stairs then gave her a final, brief smile. “My number is on the cork board by the phone in the kitchen.”
If she needed him?
Ha, that was a riot. She was an independent and educated woman. A woman who’d had a shitty ending to the shitty day at the end of a monumentally shitty week. She most certainly did not need her hunky neighbor staring at her as if trying to decide whether to trick or treat her. If the cadence of her heartbeat was any indication, she definitely was up for the latter.
She closed the door firmly behind him, squared her shoulders and marched to the thermostat to crank the heat against the chill in the old house. The basement furnace rattled and clanged like a witch’s cauldron beneath her feet, but eventually the hot air began to eke out of the floor vents accompanied by a warm, cozy smell that reminded her of visiting her grandparents.
She’d always loved autumn as a kid. The cold had never bothered her until Brant… Now that she was ready to rebuild her life, there was no reason she shouldn’t love it again. As long as there were no more surprises. She glared at the front door, still resolutely shut tight.
“Exactly.” She nodded and brushed her hands together. Time to get things in order. The bath would have to wait. Step one, unpack the groceries. Step two, make dinner. Step three, make this house her own.
On her way back to the kitchen, she paused in front of the antique mirror. Stains on the faded wallpaper indicated the thing was probably original to Prescott House. It seemed a shame to hide it, so she snatched the cloth off. A cloud of dust enveloped her head.
She doubled over, coughing and gasping for air. The drop cloth slithered from her fingertips to the hardwood. Her lungs seized up and she hacked up a few decades of filth, straightening just in time to see a black shadow moving stealthily behind her near the foot of the stairs.