While traveling in a storm, Glen Harper takes a wrong turn and crashes his car. Unhurt but cold and wet, he decides to get help. Using a distant light as a guide, Glen discovers an uninhabited cottage, where he lights a much needed fire. Glen quickly warms up but soon becomes aware of a presence in the room.
Hank Waterford is the caretaker of the estate where Glen found refuge from the storm. They meet when Glen, thinking he’s alone in the cottage, jumps into Hank’s bed.
Both men are strongly attracted to each other, but they have to overcome a hurdle Glen never anticipated: the spirit of Henry, the estate owner’s son, who committed suicide after his unrequited love for Hank became too much to bear.
Together Glen and Hank must deal with Henry, who haunts the manor house as well as Hank’s cottage. Can they find a solution that will allow Henry’s spirit to finally come to rest? Will he accept Glen and Hank’s relationship, or will he become a malevolent presence in their lives?
I opened the door and saw him sitting in the armchair before the fireplace, his toes stretched out toward the flames. I walked to the fireplace, stopping where I could feel its warmth and see the man fully, too. He was smoking a pipe and seemed unaware of me, immersed in his own thoughts. He was wearing a loose, pale blue shirt and jeans, and I had to admit he looked impressive. Again, there was something about him that twigged my memory. But, before I could pursue this, he became aware of me and looked me up and down.
Then he removed the pipe from his mouth and said, “What are you doing in my house?”
I was taken aback at this, not by the question itself but by the tone, which was far from friendly. I felt a slight rise of indignation, arising from the man’s evident lack of appreciation of the blow-job I had given him just hours ago.
“Pull up a chair,” he added before I could reply.
I brought over one of the wooden chairs and sat down on it. The warmth of the fire helped sooth my ruffled feathers. I just told him about the accident, seeing a light through the trees, and finding his cottage.
He frowned. “But how’d you get in?”
I shrugged. “It -- opened. I mean, I banged against the door, hard, and then it just -- kind of popped open.”
The man’s eyebrows rose and I could tell he didn’t believe me. I felt my face begin to burn. “Well, look at the latch,” I said defensively. “I didn’t force anything.” Part of me, however, wasn’t entirely sure of that, and I mentally bit my lip.
The man nodded but still seemed to be doubtful. I saw he was holding the volume of Spenser. And he, seeing me notice this, tapped it with a fingertip.
“This,” he said. “You brought it down here?”
I nodded, and swallowed. He hit the front of the book with the flat of his hand, which made me jump slightly, and shook his head.
“So, you were up at the manor house, too! My, my, my! You do get around, don’t you?” He looked at me sharply. “And what happened up there? How’d you get in there? The door just pop open there, too?”
My face burned. I felt both defensive and desperate. I wanted this guy to like me!
“Yeah, well -- it did, actually. I mean, I pulled on it, sure, and it opened.”
There was a silence.
“Maybe the lock didn’t work,” I suggested. “Or maybe it wasn’t locked.”
The man gave me a significant look in response, but he said nothing for a while.
“You know what my job is?” he said at last.
I shook my head.
“I’m caretaker, up at the manor house, the whole estate. I take care of it.”
“Yeah. I go up there from time to time to check things. And,” here he leaned towards me, “I always lock the doors. Just like here at the cottage.”
I felt at a loss. Lowering my head, I said quietly, “I’m not lying.”
There was no response. Then he said, “Okay. Tell me what happened, up at the manor house.”
So I did. Everything, unvarnished, including my impressions and feelings. And when I looked up I saw him looking at me with a very odd expression on his face. We regarded each other without speaking for a while. He seemed to be puzzling something out.
At last he said, quietly, “So -- it’s happened to you, too.”
“What? What do you mean?”
He moved his head from side to side. “Mmm -- well, the doors slamming, for one. The change of feeling after sunset, for another. And the outside door --”
“It did open,” I said. “Go up and look at it!”
He regarded me closely, and then nodded. “Actually, I’m beginning to believe you.”
“Thanks!” I said a bit huffily.
He waved that away, and appeared to be considering again.
“What I don’t understand,” he said at last, “is how you got in here.”
“I told you,” I said, “I pushed on the door, and it opened.”
He looked at me, his brow furrowed. But he said nothing.
Hesitantly, I said, “What -- do you know -- what it is, up at the -- manor house.”
He lowered his head in response to this. He was still leaning forward, and now he let his head hang down completely. I began to feel sorry for the man. Also, I was struck by the masculine beauty of his strong neck. But I waited. He said nothing for a while. Then, at last, he snorted.
“Yeah,” he said, his voice bitter, and evidently speaking to the floor. “The manor house. And that’s the right word. Oh, they were big on manners, let me tell you. Everything done properly.”