“Sounds like it,” Kayla murmured. “How did you snag his eye when so many were after him?”
“Oh darling, because I was the one woman who didn’t want him. He was always such a sucker for the challenge. He couldn’t stand that I wasn’t interested in the least. He pursued me with the single-minded focus of a bloodhound on the scent of a rabbit.” Her expression turned sly. “And when I was sure he’d worked hard enough, I let him catch me.”
This story was getting good. Kayla settled more comfortably, ready for more details. Although there was something distinctly wrong with the fact that her love life was so sterile that she’d settle for past juicy tidbits from a client who was nearly a fossil. “He wasn’t married or attached? Usually men of that nature were already snatched up back then.”
“Oh, honey, no one could put a ring on that finger. Not that some didn’t try, mind you. He was a wily one. And singularly attached to his womanizing ways. Would you believe…no, I shouldn’t,” Estella’s mouth pursed shut as if she were suddenly reminded that she, of all people with her stellar reputation, shouldn’t be sharing such salacious stories and Kayla hoped she reconsidered because she was quickly getting sucked into the story. “These stories are not fit for polite society. Honestly, I haven’t talked about that time in my life for so long. I think I got caught up in the nostalgia.”
“Oh, I don’t mind! I love hearing about old stories from the past. When we were restoring this house, we poured through lots of old photos. I have a few of them in my study. Perhaps you’re in some of them?”
“Perhaps,” Estella mused, eagerly asking, “May I take a look?”
“Absolutely.” Kayla hopped up to get the box of photos. When she returned, she handed the small box to Estella with a hopeful expression. “Please let me know if there’s anyone you recognize. I would love to label them and perhaps return them to family members. Most of these photos I received from the Historical Society but a handful I found tucked away in a drawer in the master bedroom.”
“May I see the ones that were in the bedroom?” Estella asked and Kayla quickly plucked them from the box. Thankfully, she’d already separated the two piles and clipped them together. Estelle slowly perused the small stack and finally stopped on one, a smile wreathing her lips. “Ahh, I remember that night. The party. If Archibald knew anything, it was how to throw a bash.” She showed Kayla the picture, pointing out herself as the one closest to Archibald. A group of people, dressed to the nines, mugged for the camera and at the center of a bevy of women, Archibald, a snifter in one hand and a cigar in another, wearing the devil’s own grin and looking every bit the part of a modern day lothorio and Kayla startled when she realized her hallucination on the first day of moving in, had indeed, been of Archibald Blackstone. A flush stole over her body as she forced a delighted smile for Estella’s sake. Those eyes — dark as sin and just as piercing — seemed to caress her exposed skin (and she knew that wasn’t possible but she had goosebumps that said otherwise) and while she wanted to snatch up the photos and return them to the box, she waited for what seemed an interminably long time before Estelle reluctantly relinquished the pictures. “Ahh, thank you, dear. That brings back memories I haven’t thought of in a very long time.”
“No problem. It was fun,” she said, ignoring the flutters that remained in her belly. Against her better judgment, she dared to ask, “I have an odd question…do you remember any of Archibald’s favorite music from the day?”
“Actually, I do,” Estella answered with a nod. “He was an ardent fan of Bing Crosby — and who could blame him? — the man had a beautiful voice. So sensual. My apologies, dear, but the music of today has no soul. Bing’s voice was like melting butter on a hot stove. Smooth and melodic. Why do you ask?”
She shook her head, not even sure why she asked the question. It was ridiculous to even entertain the thought. “Nothing, just curious,” she lied with a bright smile, wishing she hadn’t asked. “Now, shall we get down to business? I have some lovely fabrics to show you and when I first saw them I knew they were made for you.”
“Of course,” Estella agreed, the wistfulness clearing from her gaze. “You’re a busy woman and I’m a silly old fool for spending so much time on a long-dead past. Yes, yes, please show me your samples. I’ve heard marvelous things about your talents and I’m ready to be amazed.”
Kayla spent the next hour detailing her vision for Estella’s newest home and by the end of their meeting, Kayla felt fairly confident she’d just landed Estella de Clare. Her elation was enough to make her forget that tiny little tremble of anxiety that refused to settle and enough to cause her to laugh off her fears and pop open a bottle of champagne to celebrate.
That music…Kayla scissored her legs against the smooth silk of the sheets, her nude body delighting in the carnal depravity of such a decadent night as her head swam with the dizzying affects of too much alcohol. She laughed and the sound seemed off, as if echoing through a tunnel, and she struggled to sit up but she gave up with a giggle as she simply didn’t have the strength to master the simple move. Bing Crosby’s voice mingled with the scratch of the vinyl and she sought out the sound but her vision was blurry and she couldn’t quite tell where it was coming from. Memories that didn’t seem quite hers clashed with memories that were and she struggled to make sense of something that was nonsensical. She closed her eyes and suddenly, the warm touch of hands parting her legs caused her to gasp.
“Shhh, my darling, let me taste you,” a voice crooned as she sank against the pillows, sliding as he pulled her close. She was dreaming, she realized muzzily, but never had a dream seemed so real. She opened her eyes and saw a dark head, the strands gleaming in the dim bedroom light, and then the invasion of deft fingers revealing her clitoris, parting the flesh so that his tongue could curl around the sensitive nub. Ohhhh my Godddd…this was some dream. The sensation of warm, wet flesh toying with her clit was more real than anything she’d ever experienced. Any minute a unicorn would go trotting by so she’d know for sure, this wasn’t actually happening, right? But if it wasn’t actually happening, where was the harm in enjoying every blessed, toe-curling minute? She squeezed her eyes shut as his firm hands gripped her hips and jerked her to his mouth, his touch insistent and she thrilled at the possessive growl he uttered against her dewy flesh.
“I’ve waited a long time for someone like you,” he said, flicking her swollen nub without mercy. Then, he slipped a firm finger inside her, probing, pressing her G-spot and thrumming the secret ridged spot until she was writhing, unable to breathe.
“I know this isn’t real,” she gasped, perhaps needing to say the words so she could hear them herself. “I know this isn’t real! It’s an amazing, incredible, s-s-ex dream that probably means…ohhhh God, probably means, that…that…I have some kind of repressed emotional need that I…I…holy shit…I….” And then she couldn’t speak any longer because a monster of an orgasm screamed through her body, ripping her words to shreds in her mouth as she sucked in deep lungfuls of air and everything clenched and released, singing a chorus of pleasure that zinged through her veins and collapsed her will like a soda can beneath a booted foot. Every muscle went rigid as the contractions of wild sensation caused her to babble like someone who’d suddenly gone mad but she couldn’t bring herself to care because it was the single most exhilarating pleasure she’d ever experienced in her entire life and she didn’t want it to end.
Sweat beading her body, she slowly became aware and she realized she was gripping the sheets, her 1600-thread count, not silk, sheets and she uttered a shaky laugh. She clapped a hand over her forehead, wiping away the moisture as she struggled to sit up. That was some dream. Freud would’ve had a heyday with that one. Logically, she’d dreamt about Archibald — yes, she had no doubt it was him — because of her visit with Estella. Plainly that was the reason. She chuckled at her reasoning, though her body was still tingling from that amazing orgasm (not even with a vibrator had she
achieved such an epic O) and after getting a drink of water, climbed back in bed. A delicious lethargy caused by total relaxation stole over her body and she began to drift back to sleep but just as she about to slip away from consciousness…a voice, deep and amused, tickled her ear.
“Now you are mine, pretty girl. All mine.”
“Jesus, what’s wrong with you?” Lola exclaimed, jumping away just before getting splashed with tea. Kayla gasped and apologized, rushing to grab some paper towels to sop up the mess before it ruined the hardwood floors. “You’ve been jumpy all morning. Are you okay? Did the meeting with Estella de Clare go okay? I thought you were confident that you could land that account.”
Her jumpiness had nothing to do with Estella. Or did it? She couldn’t think straight. “It went fine,” she answered, throwing the sodden paper towels in the waste bin. “I’m just tired.”
“It’s this big house. I told you shouldn’t live here. Frankly, I find it creepy.”
“It’s not creepy, it’s beautiful,” Kayla shot back, rubbing at her eyes. “I just need a little more caffeine.”
“No, that’s the last thing you need. You’re already as wiggy as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rockers and don’t try lying to me because you’ve always been a terrible liar. Out with it, business partner before I hold you down and breathe on you with my coffee breath and force a confession out of you.”
“Anything but that,” Kayla said, finding a chair and sitting in it heavily, not quite sure how to tell her sister what was really on her mind. She searched for the right words and when Lola made an impatient gesture for her to get on with it, she just decided to throw it out there. “I had a sex dream last night.”
Lola blinked. “Excuse me?”
“A sex dream. I mean, as in, I actually…well, um, hit the, you know…”
“You came?” Lola finished for her and Kayla nodded, her cheeks flaming. “And?”
“And why is that freaking you out? People do that all the time. This is what happens when you swear off dating. You get all bound up inside and those sexual urges need an outlet. You’re lucky you didn’t wake up humping the bedpost in my opinion.”
“What? I’m just sayin’.”
“Ugh. Why do I even try with you? You never take anything seriously.”
“Au contraire, I always take sex seriously.”
“Ha ha, smart ass. That’s the last time I confide in you.”
“Oh, calm down you drama queen. So who were you sexin’ up in dreamland?”
“Like I would tell you,” Kayla retorted, still miffed, but she had to tell someone and her sister was the safest, if not the most sensitive choice. She relented grudgingly. “Okay, I dreamed that the original owner of this house, Archibald Blackstone, was the one who was…doing the honors.”
“Archibald Blackstone…so that’s his name? When I was asking around no one could rightly remember the name. Although, that name is pretty sexy. Sounds like a British Lord or something,” Lola did a fake shiver of delight. “And obviously, he had some talent in the boudoir?”
“Oh yes, you could say that,” Kayla answered, her cheeks blooming. “Is it sad that it might’ve been the best I’ve ever had? Wait, don’t answer that. I already know.”
Lola laughed. “Well, consider yourself lucky. My sex dreams aren’t as fulfilling. I always wake up before the big moment and instead of some hunky guy, I’m usually getting it from someone totally gross, like the homeless person who’s always begging at the corner of Burmingham and Eleventh Street. Makes for some awkward moments.”
Kayla made a face. “That’s gross. I think you might need professional help.”
“Says the woman banging a dead guy,” Lola quipped before heading for the door. “I have that appointment at the fabric store. I’ll catch you later.”
“I didn’t actually bang him,” she muttered as Lola exited. “I just had the best oral of my life. A figment of my over-active imagination gave me the best orgasm of my life. Perfect. Maybe I’m the one who needs professional help.” Or maybe she ought to start dating again. Scooping up her textile samples, she headed for the study that served as her office and made a mental note to forget that it’d ever happened.
After a long, satisfying day, Kayla curled up with a good book and, with a fire crackling in the gas fireplace, settled in for a relaxing night. She didn’t care what Lola said, this house was amazing. And just as she’d predicted, the house made a great first impression on clients. She was just getting into her book when an odd sound pricked her ears. She glanced up and tracked the room, but finding nothing, returned to her book. Maybe she ought to get a cat, she mused as she flipped the page. All those little noises she heard now and then were probably a mouse running around. A cat would take care of that little problem. She reached for her wine glass and heard the noise again. Kayla ignored the chill that washed over her and purposefully took a sip. She was not going to allow paranoia to get the better of her. Ghosts didn’t exist and her over-active imagination was not going to run away with her tonight. Nope. Not going to happen. She was going to read her book, enjoy the quiet and then go to bed. End of story. That might’ve worked…if the faint breath at the shell of her ear hadn’t made her shriek and throw her book at thin air as she leaped from her spot on the sofa. Her wine glass, toppled and fell in slow motion to the floor and she made a mad, useless dive to catch it, only to watch it shatter when it hit the hardwood, sending glass and red wine everywhere.
Shit! So much for a relaxing evening at home. Irritated and annoyed at her overreaction, she went to get something to clean up the wine and glass, only when she returned, she found the glass whole again and the wine in her glass. “I know that the glass fell and the wine spilled,” she whispered, gripping the broom and the dishcloth in sweaty palms. “What the hell is going on?” Her heart rate quickened with an erratic beat and she licked her lips as they suddenly seemed parched. There’s a logical explanation for this, she tried rationalizing but her mind was shrieking and babbling, so much so that she couldn’t hardly see straight. “I don’t believe in ghosts, okay? There’s something scientifically plausible going on and I refuse to let my ignorance scare me into thinking my house is haunted. Just not going to happen. I paid cash for this house. My life savings and a large portion of my inheritance, so I’m not walking away from this investment. This is all I have.” She didn’t know if she was saying all this for her own benefit or for the supposed ghost that didn’t exist but she felt marginally better for uttering the words. At the very least her heart rate had slowed to an acceptable level and she didn’t fear an impending cardiac event. She gulped down the wine and returned the glass to the sink and then grabbing her book, found her place and sank back into her favorite guilty pleasure — a romance novel.
The thing about romance novels that she adored was that the men were always, at their core, good men. And Kayla had experienced a shortage of good men in her life as of late. Her last boyfriend was a shining example of her wretched judgment when it came to the opposite sex. Hayden had been gorgeous — a surfer type — whose smile had snagged her eye right away. But as it’d turned out, hers wasn’t the only attention he’d caught and she’d actually found him screwing another girl when he’d claimed to have a cold. She, like the schmuck, had gone to his apartment armed with chicken noodle soup with visions of nursing him back to help, but had been doused with the cold reality that not only was her hot surfer a liar, but a cheater, too.
And then there’d been Roger, the banker — total opposite of Hayden in every way, except one — he’d been a serial cheater, too. She’d discovered dirty text messages on his cell and then, to add insult to injury, pictures, too.
So, yeah, dating had been a sore subject for her and she was a bit gun-shy. Maybe, if she were being honest, a dream lover was preferable to the real thing because at least a dream lover would be faithful.
A yawn cracked her jaw and her book drifted from her fingers to land on the floor beside her. The sofa was soft and inviting and her eyelids were refusing to remain open. She’d just catch a few winks and then drag herself up to bed.
No sooner had she started to fall asleep, she felt a presence near her. The hair on her body began to quiver and stand at attention and she actually squeezed her eyes shut harder. “No,” she pleaded, almost for her sanity, even as her body tingled with awareness. “I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in the supernatural. This is a dream and I refuse to believe that it’s anything more than my over-active imagination playing with my tired brain.”
So open your eyes and prove it. But she couldn’t. A part of her was so afraid that she’d open them and, indeed, see Archibald Blackstone staring down at her with that damnable grin and those wicked dark eyes and she would straight lose her mind. Open your eyes. Prove that you’re not going insane. Slowly, almost reluctantly, Kayla allowed her eyes to open and when she didn’t see Archibald, she actually barked a short laugh as she sat up. Good one, Kayla. Either you need a better sleep schedule or you need meds. Hopefully, it was sleep. She turned off the lights and headed for her bed, rubbing the goosebumps from her skin as she climbed the stairs to her bedroom. Tomorrow she would laugh about this. Yep. That was the plan. In the light of day, she was going to laugh her fool head off.
“Halloween is just around the corner. Are you going to Izzie’s party?” Lola asked the following week as they were enjoying a quick lunch before client meetings. Her sister’s expression turned concerned as she added, “In case you were considering it, I just thought I’d let you know, Roger might be there.”