Mesmerized, Gabbie stared at the ghost of a man whose striking good looks outstripped her imagination. Khaki shorts and a short-sleeved rugby shirt showed off his lean, athletic build. Black hair framed a square face of even features that reminded her of Warren Beatty in his heyday.
He flashed a grin. "Hey, relax. I'm one of the good guys."
One of the good guys? It was like a macabre joke. She wanted to run from the room, but she couldn't move. She remained frozen where she sat.
"That's good to know, only I wish you weren't here. You aren't here. You can't be."
She closed her eyes and prayed she was in the middle of a dream and that he'd disappear. But when she opened her eyes he was still perched against the desk, waiting patiently for her attention.
Was she losing her mind? No, she was hallucinating. Her mind was creating the image she thought she could see, because of what she'd been told about the man who had died while living in this cottage. Except that notion wouldn't fly. Last night, when she'd sensed his presence and heard his voice, she'd known nothing about Cameron Leeds.
At least he showed no sign of being hostile. "Are you a ghost?" she finally ventured.
"I suppose. Or we might use another term if you prefer: phantom, wraith, apparition, specter. All euphemisms, wouldn't you agree?"
Now that her terror had abated, Gabbie was astonished at how quickly she was adapting to the reality of her situation. The ghost of Cameron Leeds haunted, or whatever the appropriate term was, her cottage. Still, she refused to get caught up in his semi-flirtatious banter. She remembered what Lydia and Darren had said about his reputation with women, even though she and could see how any susceptible female might fall victim to his charms.
She was shaken by his ghostly appearance, but totally impervious to his appeal. The certainty broke the spell that had rooted her. She was free to move.
"I'm going to make myself a cup of tea." She strode from the room.
"You have a cup of tea on the table," he said. "Please come back."
She caught the urgency in his voice. "I need to be by myself."
"I have to talk to you."
Oddly enough, he made no attempt to follow her, but hovered just inside the den. "At least tell me your name," he shouted.
"It's Gabbie. Gabbie Meyerson."
"Are you coming back? Please come back to the den so we can talk."
And then it dawned on her. Perhaps he couldn't follow her to the kitchen, and could only manifest inside the den.
Though Cam continued to call to her, she didn't respond. She couldn't. Eventually he fell silent.
She braced herself against the sink and breathed deeply to regain her equilibrium. "There's a ghost in the den waiting to talk to me." She spoke aloud to get some sort of grasp on the situation.
It sounded weird. It was weird.
She'd heard of people who communicated with spirits and with the dead, but she'd certainly never known one. Yet, beneath the strangeness of it all, she sensed exhilaration. A thousand questions arose in her mind, questions that demanded answers.
Curious as she was, Gabbie remained in the kitchen. Her life had been in turmoil the past year and a half, and now she was embarking on a new beginning. She longed for serenity.
But her need to know finally propelled her back to the den. She hoped he'd be gone. She hoped she'd fallen asleep while preparing for her class and he'd been a part of an unusually vivid dream.
She hadn't been dreaming. He stood in front of the bookcase. Was it her imagination or was he more transparent? At any rate, he was eager to see her.
"I'm glad you came back, Gabbie. I need to talk to you."
"Why? You don't even know me."
He waved that away. "I know you now. And I can tell you're intelligent and resourceful, as well as a stunning, sexy woman."
"No personal remarks, or I'm out of here. Don't tell me I'm the only one you've made contact with."
Cam sighed. "You are. I wasn't about to scare the women from the cleaning service half to death."
"But you didn't mind scaring me."
"Only because I desperately need to talk to you." To emphasize his urgency he stepped closer, crowding her. Again she felt that strange chill in the air.
Gabbie leaped back and upset the table beside the recliner, spilling her tea.
"Sorry," he said. "I don't mean to frighten you."
"It's the cold." She hugged herself.
"I'll try to remember. This is so weird for me."
"That makes two of us. But what did you need to talk about? Why do you come back to the cottage from wherever you're supposed to be?"
"I come back to find out who murdered me."