Strange events are heavy on Barker Christian's mind this summer at Northshire Inn along Lake Erie. Although the inn feels sleepy, romantic, and hidden, innkeeper Barker knows all its annoying in and outs, and supernatural and grating secrets.
Barker's very much aware of the drug use that occurs in room 202, and there are disturbing ghosts in room 112 that haunt the paying guests. Nor can he forget about Radcliff Roberts, the famous horror writer in room 210, who is up to something naughty during the evening hours. Two other strange events occur: Matty Lavender, lead singer of The Thorns, is missing; and a watercolor artist appears on the opposite side of the pond that some guests can see and others can't.
Barker stays grounded by his interest in Cal Pipp, the inn's maintenance man. Cal is breathtaking, easy on the eyes, and someone Barker's heart desires. Only problem is Cal doesn't know Barker likes him.
Until summer heats up, ghosts materialize, and a different side of Cal appears ...
Cal Pipp. He caught my eye at Northshire Inn. I would have married the thirty-six-year-old had he asked me to be his faithful and loving husband for the rest of his life. Wouldn't have contemplated his proposal in a second. Would have wrapped him in my arms, kissed him, and simply agreed to be his partnership until the end of time, hitched.
He didn't live at the inn. Like Maddy O'Dee, he lived in downtown Templeton. Both rented flats from Norman Kelly, a real estate tycoon for the last sixty years. Both arrived daily at the inn around eight in the morning for their shifts, were determined laborers, and then returned to their private lives thereafter. Cal had me with his morning hellos, his friendly winks, and generous handshakes. That morning was no different.
I found him at the tool shed, preparing to repaint the mailbox at the end of the drive. Summery sun bleached the box of its barn red hue and David requested that it had a fresh coat of paint for the holiday. Cal exited the small, cedar-boarded building with a paint brush and can of paint. I noticed he didn't have a shirt on, and I studied his V-shaped chest of dark hair, pumped pecs, and precisely designed abs. Khaki shorts sat low on his sculpted hips and just about drove me wild. I walked up to his meaty frame and, happy to see him, bubbly chirped. "Good morning, Mr. Pipp."
Cal became startled and jumpy. He dropped the can of paint to the ground and it fell it on its side. Fortunately, it didn't open and spill all over the ground. That would have been a fine mess to clean up. "Jesus, you can't sneak up on me like that, Barker."
I could. I would. I liked jumpy men, particularly dark-haired ones with perfectly white teeth, deeply set blue eyes, a full head of onyx-colored hair, and scruff on his chin and cheeks, plus a broad line of chiseled shoulders.
He righted the can and said, "Barker, you're going to give me a heart attack one of these days. Who would you have to ogle then when I'm dead and gone?"
We faced each other. I couldn't help myself and literally drooled over his six-two frame and sweaty muscles, thinking him the perfect man for me. Hell, even his cream-colored Timberland work boots and dark green bunched-at-his-ankles socks turned me on. Everything about the hulking man screamed: Take him and take him now! Tackle him to the ground! Be naughty with him! Don't let him get away!
"I'm sorry. You brighten my day and I'm always happy to see you Cal. Never do I mean to scare you."
He pointed at my mouth. "You have drool on your upper lip."
I wiped it away. I'd rather have his lips on my lips. Whatever. "See what you do to me."
"You always try too hard to get in my khakis," he told me. "I'm not the perfect man you think I am."
"I can't help myself. You know I think you're the most amazing looking man on the planet."
He waved a hand at me, blushed. "You're a pet, Barker. Always feeding me compliments. You do good things for my low self-esteem and ego. You should bottle that shit and sell it. You'd be a billionaire."
I couldn't imagine him having a low self-esteem for the life of me. But maybe he did. Hmmmm.
He lifted the gallon of paint and we walked along the stone drive to its end. Beams of sunshine glistened on his perfectly built body. Sweat hung on his chest, moistening its thin hair.
He loved it when I asked about his special-needs niece. Angie Pipp was thirteen and struggled with Autism. She slurred her words, lost interest in conversations, spent most of her time staring into space, and was obsessed with her Uncle Cal. "She's excited about the parade on the Fourth. The girl loves floats."
"You taking her?"
"Heck yeah. Wouldn't miss that time with her if the world were ending."
I lightly punched him in the arm, meeting his sticky-sweaty morning skin with my fist. "You're a good man, Cal. Both of you work for each other."
"She's my angel," he admitted. "The child I will never have. I'd do anything for her."
We stepped up to the sun-bleached mailbox next to Auckland Road. He removed a metal gadget from one of his pockets, fell to one knee, and pried the paint can open. Before I realized it, he was painting the upright structure, just as David wanted.
Standing, I ... I ... I wanted to move up to his beautiful face, unleash the semi-hard dick in my shorts, and push it between his lips. No one was around. Just the two of us. Hidden by woods, stones, and creatures of the wild. Cal could have blown me off right there and then, desiring me, making me huff and puff and ...
That didn't happen. Things like that never happened to me. Not with other guys. And certainly not with Cal. Instead, I was alone, a single man, and simply stood in front of him, watching his chest muscles move as he applied the barn red color to the mailbox, one gentle stroke after the next. Slow strokes. Careful strokes. Brightening the wood. Feeding it new life.
I had something else he could stroke, but, again, that wasn't going to happen.