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Rousing Caine - Love Me Dead

Excerpt from Rousing Caine a novella in the MLR Press ghost anthology Love Me Dead.

Jason Rockham has lost faith in others and himself. He no longer trusts and doesn’t believe in love. When he escapes to his cliffside home in Northern California, he meets a ghost who is the antithesis of everything he’s come to believe about people. Caine Carruthers fell in love with the laugh of a man he didn’t know. After his unexpected death, he sought out the man and found him bitter and disillusioned with life. With love in his heart, Caine sets out to show Jason that life is worthwhile and love is possible. Two incomparable heroes – a man who has lost hope and a ghost who believes love conquers all, including death. This story will make you laugh and cry and most of all… believe.


Chapter One

The sound of water splashing in the bathroom sink pulled Jason from a deep sleep. Rolling over, he hugged his pillow and tried to ignore the sound. Chris would come back to bed soon and the annoying sound would stop. He sank into the pillow, willing deep sleep to return, but something nagged at the edges of his consciousness. Why the hell was the water running? Why didn’t Chris get his ass back to bed?

Shock flicked Jason’s eyes open as reality slammed into him. His heart raced and adrenaline shot through his body. Chris had dumped him a week ago, making off with his prize painting and several thousand dollars from the wall safe. That morning, Jason had come to his family’s rustic cliff house on 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. Alone. No Chris. No anyone. Yet, he distinctly heard water running in the sink of the master bath.

He lay perfectly still, almost afraid to breathe, thinking there must be a burglar in the house. Although, he couldn’t fathom why a burglar would wash his hands for ten minutes in the master bathroom. Didn’t they just rob the place and leave? Jason shut his eyes tightly and buried his face in the pillow.

One one thousand. Two one thousand. Three one thousand.

What the fuck? Why didn’t the guy just take what he’d come for and leave? Jason thought as panic rose within him. He didn’t know how much longer he could lie still and pretend to sleep.

The bathroom door creaked slightly as it opened. The covers lifted. Jason stopped breathing. The far side of the bed dipped. The sound of a pillow being plumped echoed loudly in the dark bedroom. The solid weight of a body settled in next to him and it was all Jason could do not to jump up and scramble out the other side of the bed. A contented sigh rent the silence.

Four one thousand. Five one thousand. Six one thousand.

Jason wondered how long he would have to lie there beside the burglar. He didn’t want to be attacked and left dead or dying which left him no choice but to play possum. A hand touched his naked thigh and Jason froze, a scream caught in his throat.

“I’m not going to hurt you, so just relax.”

The warm hand stroked his thigh from knee to hip. The fingers caressed his skin with an expertise Jason had rarely experienced. He swallowed hard as the warmth of those talented fingers brushed his cock. It twitched and Jason cursed it silently. The traitorous organ was aroused by a total stranger! A fucking burglar!

“I’m not a burglar and I’m not going to hurt you. I want to help you.”

In the dark, the disembodied voice sounded like the dulcet tones of a jazz singer. Rich, deep, and sexy as hell. A fine trembling took hold of Jason. He couldn’t stop it. He knew the burglar had to feel them; he lay pressed to the man’s side after all!

The heavy body on the other side of the bed shifted and hard arms came around Jason. Warm lips trailed over the point of his shoulder and along his collar bone. Held tight to a wide, rock-hard chest, Jason could only shake in reaction, dumbfounded by his arousal. A stranger held him, caressed his back, squeezed his buttocks, and his fucking dick became hard as a stone! Jason wasn’t sure what shocked him most, the fact that a stranger had aroused him or the fact that he let him.

“Help me?” Jason winced at the sound of his own voice. High-pitched. Squeaky. Fear-laced. Whiny. Geez. He sounded like a damned pussy.

A deep chuckle rumbled up from the hard chest that pressed against him. “You’re not a pussy, Jason. Your fear is natural. But don’t worry. I’m not going to hurt you. That isn’t why I’m here.”

Jason didn’t understand why, but his fear began to dissipate. “Then why are you here? And who are you? And why are you in my bed making my cock hard?” he demanded, trying to show some balls.

The chuckle rumbled again, but louder this time. “I’m making your cock hard because I want you and you like how I touch you. That pleases me, you know.” The voice paused for a moment then said, “I’m Caine Carruthers.”

Warning bells sounded in Jason’s head. The name was familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. It sat on the edge of his consciousness niggling him, but delivering no answers to his questions. “Cain? Like Cain and Abel?” he asked, stalling as he tried to figure out where he knew the man’s name from.

“No. Not like Cain and Abel. With an E,” the stranger replied in an overly patient manner that told Jason others had voiced that question.

“An E? An E where?” Confused, Jason tried to ease back from the hard heat of Caine’s big body.

Caine sighed heavily, the sound long-suffering. “My first name has an E at the end of it. I’m not C-A-I-N like the Biblical Cain. I’m C-A-I-N-E,” he explained.

The man’s identity exploded into Jason’s mind. With a jerk, he yanked himself from the man’s arms and stumbled off the bed, twisting the sheet around his hips as he snapped on a light. Bright blue eyes set in a celebrity handsome face stared up at him from the black and white bedding.

“You – you’re – you…” he stuttered, trying to find the words to articulate the confusion in his brain.

Caine sat up and the black comforter fell to his lean hips. Jason stared at the wide expanse of bronze skin stretched tight over lean muscles that flexed and bulged when Caine moved. That chest had been photographed thousands of times. Jason knew exactly where he’d seen it before – on the cover of Sports Illustrated… with the title “RIP Caine” emblazoned across the middle.

“Yes, I’m the guy who owns the surf shop across the highway from your restaurant,” Caine said with a little smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. In fact, Jason could swear he saw a twinge of fear cross the man’s face.

“Not that!” He inched backward, away from the bed, hoping Caine didn’t notice. The man’s sharp blue eyes gleamed and Jason stopped. So much for not being noticed.

“Ahhh.” Caine leaned back against the white pillows. “Then you must mean the ‘dead’ part.”

“Yes!” Jason burst out. Confusion didn’t begin to cover how he felt. “You’re a dead celebrity!” The fact that Caine Carruthers had been a famous surfer made Jason feel like he was being Punkd. But how had they faked the man’s death? And why were they doing this to him, a virtual nobody? He didn’t even know Caine Carruthers!

“Oh, now, I wouldn’t exactly say you’re a nobody,” Caine muttered in a low voice. “How many times has your restaurant been featured on the Food Network? Cooking magazine? Epicure? And this house. It’s been on Better Homes and Gardens. Architectural Digest. Sunset. Your beach house in Malibu’s been on HGTV.”

Jason snorted. “People don’t know my face. They know my restaurant. Rockport is famous, not me. Besides, how do you know all that about me?”

Caine shrugged, the muscles in his arms rippling. “Being dead has its advantages."

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