A Sexual Haunting


"If you don't like it, Bree, maybe you should run for a seat on the city council yourself," suggested Cindy.

Bree shook her head. "Maybe. Sometime in the future. But I've got too much work to do here in town. I couldn't believe I got the job when I interviewed. You know how conservative this place is. To hire a woman just out of college and put her in charge was a heck of a change for some of these people. I've got a dozen projects up in the air, and I know they would fall down and go splat if I wasn't around to push for them."

"A woman's work is never done," Mark said with a smile.

She flashed him a quick grin. "You've got that right, boyo."


After the meal was over and the leftovers put away, they retired to the front porch, which offered a gorgeous view of rolling farmland down to the shallow valley of the Nith River. The sun was setting in front of them, turning the sky to flames, the light reflecting off high, thin clouds. With Cindy's help, Mark had opened the wine, and they sat in wicker chairs, talking of small things as they sipped.

"You don't say much about your own family, Mark," Cindy said. "Are you not close?"

"Mom!" Brianna protested. "That's not very polite."

"No, it's okay," Mark said. His mouth curled in a half-grin. "I love my folks. They're good people. But the further apart we are the better it is for all of us. Mom was horrified when the book was published. She couldn't believe her son had written something so trashy. She always called me the good son. The one who never got into trouble. So when she saw the cover of the book, with Princess Chumani in that outfit which showed off her..."

"Underboobs?" Brianna suggested, a wicked gleam in her eye.

"Right." She nearly had a heart attack. I wasn't sure whether she was going to rant at me or stop talking to me altogether.

"Dad, on the other hand..." he sighed. "We just don't understand each other. His only comment was 'Well, at least you're not gay.' I didn't have the heart to tell him that if straight people could write gay or lesbian erotica, then I was pretty sure a gay man could write hetero erotica."

"Brothers or sisters?" Bree asked. She took a long sip of wine, the liquid warming her stomach. A matching warmth was beginning to grow in her groin, and she tried to keep from squirming. From the corner of her eye, she could see her mother looking at her with amusement.

It's not like that, Mama, she thought. It's not a case of infatuation. Yeah, I wanted to meet him because his book was steamy and funny as hell. But I like him, too. Is that so hard to believe?

"Two brothers," Mark was saying. "I'm the oldest. They both live near home." He grimaced. "Heck, you could practically throw a rock and hit all three of their houses."

"I don't know why your mom got so upset about the book," Bree said. "Why wouldn't she want you to be successful?"

"Oh, she's just very set in her ways," Mark said. "It's weird. I know she likes to read spicy stuff every once in a while. But the thought of her own boy actually producing it...she freaks out. It's like a person who loves steak, but can't bear to think of the butchering process."

Cindy excused herself to use the bathroom, complaining about all the wine she had drunk. As the door closed behind her, Bree saw Mark take a deep breath.

"So," he said, his voice deceptively casual. "Are you seeing anyone right now?"

She shook her head, trying to keep a triumphant smile from stretching her lips. "No. Not at all. I broke up with my last boyfriend a couple of months ago. Since then, I've been keeping to myself." She hesitated. Best tell him the truth now, Brianna. "But I should tell you something. If you're looking for a casual relationship, I'm not going to be the girl for you. I'm a virgin. And I intend to stay that way until I meet the right guy.

"That's why Lance and I broke up," she continued, pressing on in the face of Mark's silence. "He kept pushing me, you know. It's not that I have any sort of problem with sex. I don't. I get as horny as anyone else. But after seeing what Mama went through as a single mom, I made up my mind to wait."


"And furthermore..." she stumbled to a halt. "What do you mean, 'okay?'"

"I mean okay," Mark said. He reached over and held her hand. "I like you. I think you're smart, and funny, and attractive as hell. And I'm glad you told me up front. But there is no way I'm going to pressure you to do something you don't want to do. And that means anything. Your body is yours, no matter how beautiful I think it is. So if you decide you're ready and that I'm the one, then I'll be here. And if not, well, at least I was able to spend some time with someone I liked."

"Either you're too good to be true, Mark Watford, or you're the best actor I have ever seen," Cindy commented, stepping back through the doorway and onto the porch.

"Jesus, Mom! How about a little privacy?"

"If you wanted that, Bree, you should have waited a bit before spilling your guts to Mark, here." She sat down, heedless of Bree's embarrassed glare.

She stood up, trying to maintain a dignified pose. "Would you mind if I walked you back to your place, Mark?"

"Nope." Mark stood, giving a polite nod to her mother. "Thanks for a great meal, Cindy. I'm sure I'll see you again soon."


"Your mom's very nice."

"She's a pain," Brianna said, as they walked up the footpath towards the farmhouse. Unconsciously, she found she had reached for his hand, and that he had shortened his steps to match her stride.

"So is tomorrow okay? Or is Sunday night a bad night?"

"It should be okay," she replied. "As long as we don't stay out too late. Unlike some people I know, I have to be up early for work," she teased.

He nodded, not rising to the bait. "And unlike some people, I don't have a steady source of income. I got a three-book deal out of 'Savage Lust,' but if people decide they don't like 'Aching Loins,' I'm screwed. So I have to write even if I don't feel like it. Just like you have to go to work even if you don't feel like it.

"So what do you do for fun around here? Where would you like to go tomorrow?"

"Dinner and a movie?" She made a face. "I'll pass." Then her face lit as a thought struck her. "I've got an idea. Come by tomorrow afternoon. Maybe after lunch? Make sure you have a pair of good walking shoes."


"You like him, don't you?" Her mother's voice was quiet as she climbed back up the steps to the porch.

"I do," she sighed. "God help me, I do. He's not what I expected. His book is so funny and sexy. I thought he would be like that. Kind of manic, like a comedian. But instead, he's...quiet. Calm. Soothing."

She sat down in one of the chairs and poured the last of the wine into her glass. "Mom, do you ever regret not finding someone else after you and Dad split up?"

"No, not really," she answered. Her voice was tired and slightly fuzzy from the wine, and Brianna looked over, somewhat alarmed by the fatigue in her voice. She thought about her grandparents, and how they had passed away when she was a little girl. They were not much older then than her mother was now.

No, she thought. Mama takes better care of herself than Grandpa did. She won't die young. And she watches out for the breast cancer, too. She won't wait until it's too late like Grandma.

"I won't lie, Bree," she said. "It would have been nice to have a man around the house. Or in my bed. Maybe that way we could have kept farming the land, rather than renting it out. But after what I went through with Craig..." she trailed off. "I wasn't going to risk it again.

"But you," she continued. "You have a chance to be happy." She reached out, gripping her daughter's hand firmly. "It doesn't take a genius to see how much you like him. Or how much he likes you. I saw him looking at you tonight. He could barely keep his eyes in his head. So don't be afraid to reach for joy. The chance doesn't come along very often."

She stood up, swaying slightly, and yawned. "Well, I'm going to go to bed," she said. "I'll see you in the morning. Sweet dreams, Brianna."

"Sweet dreams, Mom."


After arriving back home, Mark changed into more comfortable clothes and tried to do some more work unpacking, but the effects of two glasses of strong wine made the prospect quickly pall. And he could not tear his mind away from Brianna. The way she smelled. The way she walked. The way her brown eyes lit up when she seized on a new subject. The way her small hand fit so neatly into his.

Finally he grunted, stopped unpacking, sat down on his sofa, and turned on the TV. The satellite hook-up had been completed only the day before, and he used the remote to thumb through the channels. The Blue Jays were losing, so he flipped to the movie channels. A pair of bouncing breasts caught his eye, and he recognized a steamy adult series which had been airing over the past several months. He stopped his search as his cock swelled in his boxers.

Why not? It's been weeks since you've been with anyone. And it's not as if anyone can hear you. Not like the old apartment, where the walls were so thin you could hear the neighbor's conversations.

He turned off the lamp and stretched out, pulling his boxers off. As his arousal grew, he ran his fingers up the length of his shaft, enjoying the tingle in his groin. His eyes were fixed on the TV screen, where two lovely blond women, bored without their husbands, were experimenting with each other. His breath quickened as one of them took the other's nipple into her mouth. His thumb rubbed his throbbing cock-head, smearing the drop of moisture which had escaped from his slit around the bulbous tip.

Suddenly, the TV shut off, the screen going dark and blank. Swearing softly under his breath, he groped for the remote control, but repeated stabs at the power button brought no result. He shivered suddenly, a cold breeze seeming to blow across the back of his neck, even though the air in the room was warm, and the curtains hung limply in the open window.

Damn this old building. Wiring is probably shot. I'll have to talk to Cindy tomorrow. He sighed. Screw it. I don't need to watch fake women to get myself off.

He settled back until he was lying on the couch. He closed his eyes, not thinking of his last girlfriend, eight months gone. Or even his last, unsatisfying hook-up at a book convention three weeks ago. It was Brianna who was in his thoughts. Brianna, with her warm tan skin, and her dark, mysterious eyes. Brianna, with her sweet voice, quick mind, and beautiful, ripe body. He imagined peeling off the sundress she had been wearing at supper, finding nothing at all beneath, kissing her hot mouth, her gorgeous breasts, her flat belly, then wandering down until he could taste her. He shuddered, his hand stroking more and more quickly, as in his mind's eye she rose above him, then sank down on his throbbing member, sealing their love with her body.

White-hot fire seemed to explode from his cock. He panted on the couch as he was wracked with spasms of pleasure, burst after burst of semen spewing into the air and dropping onto his chest and stomach with lewd plops. He groaned as the aftershocks subsided, quivers still pulsing through his oversensitized shaft. Slowly growing limp, his penis sagged into the warm puddle which collected on his stomach.

"Damn," he breathed. It had been months since he had experienced an orgasm so intense. He tickled the heavy sac of his scrotum with a finger, smiling as his cock twitched again in response, then rose to his feet. Picking up the t-shirt which he had discarded on the floor, he cleaned himself as he walked up the stairs towards his bedroom, already thinking about a hot shower and a good night's sleep.

In the dark, behind him, an invisible presence watched. She was still weak. But as the days shortened towards the equinox and the anniversary of her death, she would grow stronger.

This time. Please, oh Lord, grant me release from this living death. Let it be this time.

If a person listened very, very carefully, he might imagine he heard the soft sound of a weeping woman.


The next afternoon Mark presented himself at the Martin's front door promptly at one in the afternoon. Following Bree's instructions, he wore a heavy pair of walking shoes and good, thick socks. Unsure what she had planned, and keeping in mind the warm, sultry weather, he opted for shorts and a gray cotton t-shirt.

"Anyone home?" he called. Remembering the night before, he let himself in. He followed the sounds he heard to the kitchen, quickly discovering Brianna with a pair of backpacks and a small mountain of supplies. She was dressed similarly to him, with her hair pulled back into a ponytail, which was threaded through a old high school softball hat.

"You're here. Good," she said, tossing him a canteen with a blinding smile. "Fill that up while I pack up."

"Yes, boss," he teased. "Where's your mom?"

"She went out with some friends this morning," she said. Sunscreen, snacks, a spare shirt, and her cell phone vanished into the pack with quick efficiency. "With that bunch, brunch usually turns into a shopping trip or a walk downtown. And plenty of time for gossip. I don't expect her back until suppertime.

"So," she said, slinging the straps of her backpack over her shoulders, "Are you ready for a hike?" She handed him his pack as he nodded. "Wait," she said. She eyed his head critically. "Do you have a hat?"

"Sure," he replied. "At the bottom of a box in my living room. Do I need one?"

She shook her head. "Black hair, pale skin...and it looks like you haven't set foot outdoors in six months. Two hours in the summer sun and you'll be as red as a lobster. Don't you spend any time outside? Or are you too busy writing sexy stories for people like me?"

"Hey," he protested, as she turned away and began to rummage in a closet. "I like spending time outside. I just haven't had the time to do it lately. It's not easy being famous."

"Boo hoo," Brianna replied. She came back from the closet, a disreputable fishing hat in her hands. It might have started life dark beige in color, but it was now so faded and stained it was all but colorless. Nevertheless, it had a wide, floppy brim and sat comfortably on his head. She nodded, satisfied. "All right. Let's go."


Less than half an hour later they pulled into the parking lot at the Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area.

"There's a bigger park closer to town," Brianna said. "But this one has better hiking. Besides, the other one will be chock-full of families with their kids. It has a fantastic swimming pool. Mom used to take me there a lot when I was younger. But I figured you would rather not have to plow through a bunch of screaming teenagers to get to the good stuff."

"You got that one right," Mark said, climbing out of her car. Her eyes went to his well-toned legs. Despite the fact that he didn't seem to get outside much, they looked good. As they sat on the bumper of the car to put on their sunscreen, she bit her lip, tempted to offer to oil him up. Oil all of him up.

Down, girl.

In a few minutes they were walking briskly up the Captain Kidd Hiking Trail.

"I didn't know Captain Kidd made it as far as Ontario," Mark said.

She stuck her tongue out at him as they crested the first shallow hill, the noise of the parking lot falling away behind them. "Smart-aleck. Maybe you should pay attention. It might give you some ideas for your pirate book. What was the title again?"

"I think you can remember," he said, as the forest canopy closed in above them. As if they had walked into another century, they were surrounded by birdsong and the quiet, furtive noises of small animals in the underbrush. Stray beams of sunlight arrowed in through the leaves, striking highlights from the thin, dark hair on his arms and legs.

"Right. 'The Pirate Captain who Ransomed My Aching Loins,'" she giggled. "Doesn't leave much to the imagination, does it? So what's the plot? Oh, let me guess," she said, before he could answer. "There's this pirate captain. And on the high seas he rescues a maiden fair, probably from even worse pirates. Despite his terrifying reputation, he is actually noble and virtuous, in exile for a crime he did not commit. He and the woman, who is naturally blond, busty, beautiful, and cold as a fish, have many adventures. By the time we are halfway through the book, he has thawed her icy exterior with his fiery passion, and their fates are inextricably bound. By a quirk of fate, they are able to clear the captain's reputation, punish the wicked, and they all live sexily ever after. The end."

Mark nodded slowly. "That's a good plot. Basically checks off every item on the list for a typical bodice-ripper. And completely wrong."


He smiled down at her, his blue eyes dancing in the sunlight. To their left, the trees cleared as the shore of Pinehurst Lake came into view. In the distance, they could see canoes and small boats out on the water, and people fishing from piers.

"I like to break the rules, as far as romance books are concerned. Not copy them. So yes, there is a pirate captain. But she," he stressed, "Isn't running away from a crime she didn't commit. She actually embraces it. She's a privateer, and she is working for the English to raid American shipping during their War of Independence.

"She has an all-woman crew-"

"Oh, of course she does," Bree said with a smile.

"-and they capture and board another ship. Which is where we get our male love interest. He and his fiance are traveling to America. He is a doctor, and she takes him prisoner, as there has been an outbreak of sickness on the ship and she needs someone to take care of her crew." He frowned pensively. "I'm trying to work in a way the crew can all be infected by a case of incurable horniness. Either a curse from loot they have stolen from another ship or some sort of sexually transmitted disease."

"Make it infected food," Bree suggested. "Have the cook be the carrier, but because she isn't hygienic, it spreads to the rest of the crew. And that'll give your sexy doctor a chance to prove to the captain how smart he is."

He smiled down at her. "That's a really good idea. And the time he spends investigating will give me time for the two of them to begin to trust and respect each other. Plus, I can include some hot sexytime with the crew." To her amusement, he blushed.

"You perv!" she grinned. "You just want to throw in a little girl-on-girl action, don't you?"

"Perish the thought. I just wanted the opportunity to investigate gender roles in eighteenth-century naval tradition."

"Bullshit. But our two main characters. They fall in love, don't they?" Bree asked.

"Of course," Mark replied. "But not easily. Our pirate captain is very much the dominant character early on. And our poor doctor is not exactly an alpha male. He's shy, reserved, and sexually inexperienced. So he completely fails to pick up on the hints she throws at him. I'm hoping to make the story a comedy of manners, like some of the Jane Austen books, where the two characters are from such different worlds they can barely communicate. She's lower class, worked her way up from deckhand to captain. He is upper class, born to wealth and privilege.

"I thought it would be funny to have a book where it would be the older, experienced, female character deflowering the shy, uncertain male character. It is always the reverse in traditional romance. Even in books where we have a 'strong' female character-" Bree could almost hear the quotation marks, "-she usually starts out as a virgin who must lose her virginity in the most demeaning way possible." His mouth thinned angrily. "When I was researching my first book I skimmed a bunch of romance novels. I don't know how many times the male lead practically raped the female lead. And how often she enjoyed it. It made me sick.

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