David pushed open the driver's door of the van, and heat struck him like a blast furnace. Sweat popped on his forehead. More gathered under his arms, trickling down his sides.
"Damn," he muttered, climbing out and standing beside the vehicle. He stretched his arms over his head then wriggled his shoulders. It'd been a long drive, and he was glad to be at Whiskers' Seaside Inn, even if he might bake before he got inside. He glanced at the building, a nice, two-storey affair set close enough to the ocean to gather any winds coming from that direction. Even as he thought it, a cooling breeze swept over him.
Quickly, he slid open the side door and grabbed his overnight bag. He'd come back for the other one when he was signed in and had a room. He pushed the slider closed, clicked the lock and headed for the entrance. Off to the right, waves crashed against the shore, and he wondered, idly, if the tide were going out or coming in.
He stepped inside the entrance and welcomed the chill of air conditioned comfort. He waited a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dim light then crossed to the desk, where a good-looking, dark-haired man in a crisp, white shirt looked up and smiled.
"May I help you?" the man asked in a kind voice.
"Yes, I've got a reservation. David Sanderson." David dropped his bag and looked around the lobby, admiring the fireplace and the cosy seating arrangement in a semi-circle, facing it. He looked a little closer and was surprised to see it wasn't a 'real' fireplace but electric or gas.
"Ah yes, here you are. Reserved for the weekend but left open for longer. I'll need your license plate number," the man added
David reeled it off and dug out his credit card. "I've heard you have an assortment of ghosts in the building."
The man glanced at him with surprise on his face. "Excuse me?"
David handed over the plastic and waited for it to be processed. He pushed it back into his wallet and added, "I've read articles on Whiskers'." He smiled. "I'm sorry, I should explain myself. I'm doing research into the paranormal, and your inn came up a number of times while I was looking for places to dig into. Hope that's not a problem."
At first, the handsome man appeared as if he might object, but then he replied, "It should be all right. I can't have you disturbing my other guests, though. Any sign of trouble, and you'll get tossed."
David raised his hands in surrender. "I'm not here to cause any trouble, honest. I'd just like to walk around, check out the building and grounds, if that's all right."
It took a moment, but the man finally smiled and held out his hand. "Yeah, it's fine. My name is Ethan Roberts. I'm the owner of the place."
David reached forward, and they shook. "I was afraid I'd gotten off on the wrong foot. I'm really sorry if I did. I'm honestly just here to check on the paranormal incidents I've read about."
"Well, Mr. Sanderson, you're more than welcome to look around. Just let me know if you're planning on doing anything weird. I'll warn the ghosts." Ethan smiled.
David grinned. "Right. If I decide to get into one of those fancy Ghostbuster outfits, I'll yell. No problem. I'd love a beachfront room on the ground floor if you have one. It's been a while since I was anywhere this nice, and I'd like to take full advantage, if I can."
Ethan checked the register and said, "You're in luck. I've got one left. It's a single, but no kitchen facilities."
"Sounds perfect. I wasn't planning on doing any cooking. All I need is a bed, maybe a desk or table."
"You got it, as well as a TV and bathroom." He reached down and fumbled under the counter, at last coming up with a room key. "You'll be in room six."
When David had the key in hand, Ethan walked out from behind the desk and strode to the centre of the lobby. He nodded towards the hallway to their right. "Room six is three-fourths of the way down."
David revised his opinion on Ethan's looks, deciding he wasn't just good-looking, he was a hunk. Tight jeans hugged his hips, and if the bulge in the man's crotch was any indication of his size, his wife was a lucky woman. He quickly joined Ethan and peered down the long, well-lit hall. "Fine. Oh, is there a coffee maker?"
"Yes, every room has one. There should be two packets and the fixin's, as well."
Ethan had just opened his mouth to add something when two more good-looking men came into the lobby from the seaside entrance. One, a tall, bronze-skinned fellow wearing a pair of cut-off jeans and a ragged T-shirt, had dark eyes and a warm smile.
The other one captivated David's interest. Tall with shaggy, blond hair, he sported a short, well-trimmed beard that made David's heart skip a beat. He'd always been a sucker for facial hair. He decided the rest of the guy wasn't bad, either. The khaki shorts and tank did little to hide the man's body. His physique was amazing, and David's breath caught. He wouldn't mind getting acquainted with this hottie.
The men were talking, almost loud enough for David to make out their conversation but not quite. Unfortunately, they didn't approach but paused and said their goodbyes. The bearded hunk veered away and walked out of the inn. David watched him until he was nearly out of sight.
The owner of the inn spoke in a cheerful voice, dragging David's attention back inside. "Hey, Cade, I didn't expect to see you until later." He took a step towards the newcomer and held out his hand. Instead of shaking, as David had expected, Ethan dragged the man close and gave him a hug.
"I finished sooner than I thought I would." The man returned the embrace then backed away, looking David squarely in the eye. "Hi, I'm Cade Wyatt, handyman and partner to this guy." He patted Ethan on the arm affectionately.
David gaped for a moment. He wasn't used to seeing men act so familiarly with each other, but liked it. "Nice to meet you. I'm David Sanderson. Just arrived from the interior."
"Mr. Sanderson's going to be doing some ghost research. He'll be around for a few days, at least."
Cade looked at David, a wry grin on his face. "So, our ghost stories are getting around, are they?"
David wasn't sure if the man was trying to make fun of him or simply making conversation. Deciding to tread carefully, he replied, "It would seem so. The rumours, anyway."
Cade nodded. "The ghosts are here. I'm sure you'll find one or two for your research."
David thought he was serious. He couldn't be sure, looking into the man's eyes. They seemed to contain a spark of mischief. A long, blond ponytail down his back bespoke a streak of independence. END EXCERPT