It took four long months but I finally carved out the time to get My Ghost rereleased. I got my rights back on this short ghost story during the same week I finally got the promotion I'd been angling for at the day job. That day job had to come first, of course.
This kickin' cover was created by the talented Syneca Featherstone!
A ghost of my past haunts me already, so running into another in the same graveyard where it all began is almost more than I can stand.
So why the hell did I bring him home?
My Ghost is now available on Smashwords by clicking HERE.
I'm working on converting files to upload at ARe and Amazon. Smashwords will filter down to B&N, Apple, and a few others. Hopefully soon. For those of you who have read the first edition, there are no major changes to the story in this new release.
The grave never changed: marble with his name cut in an elegant script, and the surface wearing a glossy shine. Chase Webber had a pristine grave marker five years later. A fresh wreath hung over the front. Fresh, as in new, not, well, live. The flowers were fake, but they looked real, and more importantly, they looked like they hadn't suffered any storms. In other words, his parents had already come and gone today.
I still couldn't bear to see his parents.
"Who are you?" The voice to my right was low and authoritative, and yet gentle and respectful too. It had been five years, but I recognized it. He had to be visiting Chase.
"A…" I closed my eyes. I had called Chase a friend before his death, but there had been days since when I doubted I understood the meaning of the word. Would a friend have done the things I'd done to Chase? I had never lied, always telling him exactly how it was between us, and yet, I knew—deep down, I knew—he had loved me, and though I could not return the favor, he gave me all of himself. Despite my whoring around, despite my disappearing for days and showing up on his parents' stoop rip-roaring drunk, despite the drugs, the women, the men. Most of all, despite the flamboyant insouciance in the face of his love, he had remained loyal, hoping someday I'd grow to love him too. I had often told him I couldn't and wouldn't, but I'd always known he had never believed me.
He had accepted all of my flaws, except that one.
"I was a friend," I said. In the twilight gloom he might not recognize me. My hair, now shorn up the back, had been long enough for a ponytail when last he saw me. With my face tipped down, hiding behind the longer locks, which fell from my forehead like a veil, he couldn't see me. I hoped he wouldn't remember my voice after all this time, because trying to explain—confessing my pain and fear and loss—would be the end of me tonight. I couldn't do it. Not then, not now. While I had been content to confess my sins to Chase back then—if only to remind him my heart did not belong to him—I could not talk to this man, this mutual friend grieving beside me. Not a word, not ever again.
He dropped to his knees beside me. I peeked at him from behind my raven veil of hair. He wore faded denim and a heavy wool overcoat that brushed the ground. From beneath a chocolate colored cowboy hat dark hair curled, trying to escape. For a brief moment, my fingers itched to tangle in those curls. I flinched away from the memory; long buried, and for a damn good reason.
"I haven't thought of Chase in years," he said. His eyes remained hidden in the gloomy shade of early evening that eddied under the brim of his hat like leaves gathering in an abandoned playground. Desolate and alone, like I'd always been. Even then. "The local paper had to write that article last week about kids messing around in the graveyard after dark."
When he turned his head, he sat back on his heels, mimicking my position. His gaze fell on the bouquet of little white flowers resting on my lap. Narcissus, the lady at the flower shop had said, or commonly called Daffodil. I preferred the former for Chase. He'd called me that on more than one occasion before his death.
I almost said he wasn't messing around, but then I hadn't been here the night he died. Chase’s intention had not been vandalism or scaring other visitors like most bored teens who'd outgrown trick or treating. He wanted to mess around with me but I had found a better offer: a cute nineteen-year-old twink with blue streaks in black hair and chestnut roots showing under his drug store dye job. I couldn't remember his name, but he'd taught me how to blacken my eyes by using a cotton swab to smudge the kohl. He'd also taught me the joys of a good rim job. It had been my birthday, after all, and Chase and I had agreed we weren't in a relationship and didn't have to be monogamous. We'd agreed. Even if it hadn't been what Chase had wanted.
I hated him for dying on my birthday. I did show up that night, just much later than we'd planned. He'd known I'd usually show up fashionably late, but the graveyard had been bathed in flashing blue lights when I finally arrived. I assumed he ran, as any kid our age would've done at the sight of a cop car. I hadn't known he'd already died. I learned that the next day when a detective showed up at my door.
My parents never understood.
"Can I buy you a cup of coffee?" said the ghost from my past. I turned my head to study him more closely. The light faded, and twilight didn't tell me much about his thoughts, but I could see the recognition in his gaze. I searched for anger, resentment, pity—anything—but his expression, a blank slate, hid him from me as effectively as I had ducked him for five years. He was ruggedly handsome, and if he changed the wool for a lightweight duster and lost the silver skull and crossbones on his hatband, he could've passed for a real cowboy. Just my type. Yet a crude rejection swelled in my throat. Manly, muscular, and solid; I always had been into older, stronger men, and he had a few years on me. Chase hadn't, and I might've told him so once or twice.
Chase had been the strong safety of our football team and the captain of the wrestling team. He'd been as manly as one could be at seventeen. Manly men still reminded me too much of him, of Chase, filling out and growing up first. Physically anyway. Sexually, I had been the beast, and his death had yanked my leash tight around that runaway train.
Tonight, squinting into the twilight, I admitted the cowboy ignited my libido. Still everything I wanted physically, but unfortunately I knew him. I recognized Diego Rivera, the man who'd befriended Chase, and the man who I'd called a friend back then while secretly loathing him for being a good buddy to Chase. When I hurt Chase, Diego would be there for him. I spent too a lot of time fearing Diego would reveal my flaws and show Chase how much of an asshole I really was.
Now, facing Diego again, I wished he had been successful.
"I don't drink coffee." Testing, staring into his eyes, meeting his gaze and digging past the common grief to the underlying challenge. I no longer resented him, and by the look in his eyes as he digested my snarky reply, he didn't hold anything against me either. He didn't want coffee and I didn't want his forgiveness. What he did want was a commiserating fuck. I hoped. I had no interest in talk, but I could use the night of sweaty bodies and words moaned into unintelligible expressions of lust and need. I may have thought of him like that once or twice in the year before Chase's death.
"Oh." He pulled his gaze away.
I leaned forward to set my narcissistic flowers at the base of Chase's grave, and then I stood and looked down at Diego. It wouldn't be the same but I needed to punish myself. "I might have a couple of beers in the fridge." I offered him my hand.
He hesitated, his gaze on my fingers. Silver rings decorated every one, including my thumb, and each nail had what I called my Goth French manicure: painted black, but with the tips chipped off until the white edges showed through. You know, like a French manicure but in black. I didn't usually let my polish decay nowadays, but I'd been chewing my nails for the past week, knowing Chase would haunt me on Halloween, also known as my birthday and the anniversary of his death.
I never gave him my love, but I never wanted him dead.
When Diego took my offer, his hand swallowed mine, warm and strong around my fingers. His grip conveyed gentle strength, and briefly, I allowed myself an image of him holding me down, naked, sweaty, and hard. I smiled.
"Shenanigans," he said, still holding my hand.
I didn't go by that old nickname anymore, but falling from his lips it sent my thoughts skating back five years. I trembled and pulled my hand away. Inviting him home could already be added to my list of Shen Stupidities.
He either didn't notice or ignored my reaction. Though I tried to escape his touch, his fingers lingered, brushing my palm in a silent invitation.
Yes, for an hour or two, I'd chase away the ghost of my past.
He cocked an amused smile at me, and the beauty of it struck me in a place I no longer claimed. I've always been more of an ass and cock man, but his smile drew me in. I wanted to kiss those lips but I resisted. Not here. Not in front of Chase's grave.
"It's good to see you, Shen," he said. Regret and joy mixed in his gruff voice.
Good was yet to be determined.
Thanks for reading. Have a great August.