Authors: Rose Pressey
I’d rather find that a ghost was the source of a mysterious noise in the night than an intruder. Ghosts I could ignore. A prowler likely wouldn’t give me that option. So when a loud bang startled me awake
in the wee hours of the morning, I remained under the covers and willed for the sound to be Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Another thunderous bang rang out and I c
ould no longer deny that a living person was likely making the noise somewhere near my house. The last time I’d heard a noise in the middle of the night someone had actually been murdered in my backyard. No way could that happen twice.
mmied out of bed and eased across the hardwood floor in my bare feet. A large area rug would be a nice addition to my bedroom. That would have to come after I found the money to buy a new mattress. If I kept my mind occupied with thoughts of decorating I wouldn’t be too scared to investigate the source of the mysterious noise. That was the bad part of living alone—I was the only one around to check things out.
When I reached my bedroom
door, I grabbed the Louisville Slugger that I’d leaned up against the wall. My swing was terrible, but an intruder’s head was a large target. I’d swing like I was aiming for a piñata full of cash.
As I inched out from my bedroom with
the bat held high, I turned to the right into the dimly lit kitchen. A small nightlight illuminated the corner of the room. I’d check the back door first since it was the nearest to my bedroom. I’d left the little porch light on when I’d went to bed.
After what had happened recently, I was on edge.
A local grade-school teacher had been murdered in my back yard. I doubted anyone would blame me for being jumpy.
When I reached the door, I flicked off the light so that I could see what might be out there in the darkness. Not that I would be able to see
much, but at least if someone was out there they wouldn’t be able to see me.
As I peered
through the window panes, nothing caught my attention. It was dark though, so anything beyond a few feet from the door, I probably wouldn’t see. I switched the light back on and headed toward the front door. I inched down the hallway and entered the living room. Thank goodness I knew where all the furniture in the room was so that I wouldn’t trip or stub my toe. I clutched the bat so tightly that my knuckles hurt.
The top portion of the front door had a window that I’d covered with a
black and cream fabric shade. The porch wrapped around the front of my Victorian-style home. Through the living room window, I noticed that the porch light was off. I thought for sure that I’d turned the light on before bed.
After setting the bat against the wall, I peeked out from behind the shade. Again I saw nothing out of the ordinary. When would I fin
ally not let every little noise bother me? There was nothing out there in the night waiting to get me. No monsters or deranged killers. I needed to go back to bed and try to get a few hours’ sleep before dawn. This time I made sure to turn on the porch light.
When the yellow glow from the bulb
flooded the area, I saw him standing with his back facing me. He was at the end of the steps. My hand flew to my mouth. I hadn’t been crazy after all. Someone had made the noise.
man turned around to face me. He squinted against the brightness. His rugged good looks hadn’t faded since the last time I’d laid eyes on him, but I wished I wasn’t looking at him now. He had dark hair and haunting eyes, with a smile that lit up any room. He wore dark blue jeans and a white t-shirt with writing on it that I couldn’t make out.
My ex-husband Ross
Perkins was the last man I wanted to see. And he knew that too, so why he was standing in my front yard was a mystery.
It was too late to turn off the light and pretend no one was home. He climbed the steps and stood in front of the door. I pushed the shade back
, hoping that he hadn’t seen me. When he’d taken off with that floozy Jo Beth, who he’d met in a bar, I’d sworn that I would never be nice to this man again.
“I know you’re there,
sweetie. Can I come in? It’s raining pretty hard out here.” His voice dripped with saccharin like a too-sweet dessert.
could drown for all I was concerned. Okay, so I wasn’t mean enough to want him to really drown, but he wasn’t my favorite person.
“What are you doing here, Ross
?” I checked the lock to make sure that it was secure.
Can I come in?” he asked with a pronounced Southern drawl.
“No way. I fell for your so-called charm once. Th
ose days are long gone.”
n, baby.” He tapped on the door.
As if the knocking would make me change my mind. “
I’m calling the police.”
The sheriff w
as the last person Ross would want to encounter. They had been best friends until a few years ago. Sheriff Kent Klein had figured out that Ross was a rat. It had taken Ross cheating on me before I’d finally admitted it. What could I say? I always wanted to see the best in people. Sometimes you just had to give in to the fact that some people were bad and would never change. Ross was one of those people.
No. Please just let me in to talk with you,” he said.
I moved the shade a tad for another look. He flashed a little grin. Rain pounded the sidewalk now and thunder rumbled in the distance. I s
houldn’t let him in, but he looked like a lost puppy out there in the elements. I’d find out exactly what he wanted, and when the weather eased up, he would have to go. Ross wouldn’t have shown up unless he wanted something.
I unlocked the door and steppe
d to the side, motioning for Ross to enter. “Come in, but don’t steal anything.”
He chuckled. “You still have your same wry sense of humor.”
“You keep telling yourself that I was joking.” I shut the door and then turned to face him.
scanned the space. “Nice place.”
“Again, I’m going to ask what you want and why you felt the need to come by at two in the morning. Have you been drinking?” I asked.
This time he released a hearty laugh. “I haven’t touched a drop of liquor in two months.”
I eyed him. “Well, congratulations. That still doesn’t answer why you’re here though.”
He touched a framed photo of me and my best friend Claire Ann. “You always made my insides flip with that smile of yours.”
I reached over and took the frame from his hands. “Oh, save the sweet talk.”
“This is my hometown. You can’t be surprised that I came back.” Ross sat on the edge of the sofa.
I hoped that he was just in Honeysuckle for a visit. No way did I want to see him every day.
“Don’t sit on the arm of the sofa.” I motioned for him to move. “How did you find me?”
“It’s a s
mall town. All I had to do was ask around.” He moved from the arm of the sofa and plopped down on one of the cushions.
“Don’t get too comfy
,” I warned with a wave of my hand.
I assumed that he had been asking about me before tonight. Not many people in Honeysuckle were awake at two in the morn
ing so that he could have inquired about my whereabouts. Unless he’d been at the local bar. He claimed he’d not touched liquor, but he’d also sworn that he hadn’t cheated either. When I’d caught him in bed with another woman, I’d soon discovered just how easily Ross lied. Fibs rolled off his tongue with ease.
His mother had probably been his source for finding me.
His parents still lived in town. I tried to avoid them as much as possible.
Do you have anything to eat?” Ross propped his feet on the white distressed coffee table.
I’d just repainted the table after rescuing it from a Dumpster. Someone had tossed the thing away, but I’d seen the potential. Now it had a new life thanks to a couple coats of antique white paint, a little distressing, and a layer of brown glaze.
“Will you kindly take your feet off my furniture? I had to put up with you while we were married. I no longer have to do that thanks to a little thing called divorce.”
He placed his feet on the floor. “Okay, here’s the deal. I need a place to stay. I saw the sign outside. You have plenty of rooms.”
Since inheriting the house I’d decided to run it as an inn to help pay for expenses. I didn’t need guests that badly though. The place had come a long way in the short time I’d owned it. The walls had been a dark red like something out of a scary movie. The high ceilings and the large baseboards had been overshadowed by the harsh color. Now the room was a soft neutral taupe. Bookshelves flanked the gorgeous fireplace and a stunning crystal chandelier hung from the middle of the ceiling.
I waved my hands. “No way.
You can’t stay here.”
He smiled. “
Just for one night.”
“Why don’t you stay with your parents? Have they finally banned you from their home too?” I had to admit I was proud of my snarky comment. He deserved it.
“They’re out of town. I just need a place for one night until they return.” He clasped his hands together in a begging gesture.
I crossed my arms in front of my chest.
“You never even apologized for what you did and now you want my help.”
“Maybe that’s why I came here
—to apologize,” he said.
I quirked a brow. “Well, I’m waiting. Here’s your chance.”
I could have sworn he grimaced. “I’m sorry for anything I did to you.” His voice was emotionless.
“That wasn’t very
sincere,” I said.
“Come on, Raelynn. Help me out. I promise I will be out of your hair in the morning.”
He smiled from ear to ear.
had always done this kind of stuff to me. I was tired and just wanted to go back to bed. He would plead until I gave in or called the police. Rain patted against the window, bringing with it guilt if I threw Ross back out there.
I released a deep breath and said, “Fine, just one night
. But after that you are out of here.”
ed the distance between us, but I stopped him short. “Whoa. What do you think you’re doing?” I placed my hands on his chest and pushed him away.
He held his hands up. “I was just going to give you a thank
“You just keep your hands to yourself. Just think of it as a big bubble around me.” I drew the imaginary boundary around me.
He nodded. “Sure. Whatever you say. Listen, I’m starving. Do you have anything to eat?”
“Now you want me to feed you too?”
Like a stray cat, if I gave him food I would never get rid of him. Without a word, I walked across the living room toward the kitchen. “I’ll see what I can find.”
“You’re the best,” he said from over my shoulder.
Bright light flooded the room as I switched on the refinished chandelier I’d recently installed over the kitchen island. Since inheriting the house I’d painted the kitchen walls a warm beige and added a few decorative items around to make the space my own. On one wall I’d hung a chalkboard that I’d made out of an old picture I’d recycled from the thrift store. A few coats of inexpensive chalk paint and it was ready to go. I added cute sayings, motivational quotes, or even recipes. If I had a guest staying I would usually list the items I had available for breakfast.
sat on the stool next to the island.
I stared at him.
“What? You think I’m actually going to prepare food for you?”
He leaned back.
“If I started going through your cabinets to see what you had you would freak out.”
Fair enough. He was probably right about that.
“Fine. I’ll set the food on the counter and you can make it.”
s like a good plan to me.” Ross’ mouth curved up in one of his cheesy smiles again.
Too bad I didn’t have rat poison because I could set it out for him as a joke. I’d love to see the expression on his face if I did that. He never could take a joke.
I gathered bread, turkey, and low-fat mayo and placed in front of him on the island. Turkey wasn’t Ross’ favorite, which made it an even better choice in my opinion.
His lip twisted up to one side. “Turkey, huh?”
He picked up the jar of mayonnaise. “Low
“Take it or leave it.” I pulled
a knife from the drawer and pointed it.
I didn’t actually point the knife directly at him. Just having a little fun at his expense. He stared at me as I handed him the knife.
“I knew you were mad at me, but I didn’t know you were this upset.” Ross spread the mayo across the bread.
he’d taken a couple slices from the bag, I grabbed the bread, twisted the top of the bag shut, and placed it back into the pantry. “I got over being mad at you a long time ago.”