Ghost of a Chance
When Ryan found out he'd inherited a title and a castle from a long-lost relative, he traveled to Scotland to learn about his heritage. But along with his birthright came a few complications: the castle is haunted by his ancestors, and they're not happy about it. Ryan's out and proud, but when he meets straight boy James, he falls for him. Is their relationship doomed, or do they have a Ghost of a Chance?
Ryan sat back against the couch, stretching his arms above his head, then patted his flat belly. He turned to look at James for a moment. “Thanks for dinner,” he said softly and sincerely.
“Any time,” James answered happily. “I’ll cook for you, even without the bet.” He stretched, too. “Let’s pause the movie so I can put stuff away, okay? You want coffee or tea?”
Ryan paused the movie and helped James clear the stuff away. “Tea is good.” He followed him into the kitchen and started washing dishes while James put the leftovers away.
They finished cleaning up and went back into the other room with steaming mugs of coffee and tea. Ryan started the movie again and took one of the cushions off the couch, tossing it on the floor in front of the TV. “Lie down there,” he said, smiling.
“Um, okay,” he said, eyeing the pillow. “On my stomach? Should I take my shirt off?”
Ryan’s eyes widened a little. He hadn’t really expected that, but he certainly didn’t mind. “If you feel comfortable taking your shirt off, by all means, go for it. Yeah, on your stomach.” With an effort, he avoided licking his lips at the thought.
James nodded, pulled off his t-shirt, and draped it across the arm of the couch. Then, seemingly oblivious to Ryan’s gaze, he kneeled on the floor, his back to the other man, and lay down with his arms crossed on the pillow. He rested his head on his arms and looked back at Ryan. “Like this?”
Ryan nodded. “Just like that.” He crawled across the floor and straddled James’ ass. “Just relax, okay? And if anything doesn’t feel good, don’t be shy.” He rubbed his hands together for a moment to warm them, and then lightly placed them on James’ bare shoulders. His skin was warm and smooth, and Ryan started to slowly massage his muscles.
“God that feels good,” James moaned, his voice deep and rough.
James’ voice did things to Ryan. He felt the low vibration through James’ body and his own like a ripple through a still pool of water. And it made him think of other ways he’d like to make James moan. His hands slowly worked downward, kneading the tense muscles of James’ back, circling his thumbs in broad, firm circles down either side of his spine. Before he realized it, he started to get seriously aroused.
Ryan wriggled a little further down James’ body until he was straddling his thighs. He worked his fingers deeply into the muscles of his lower back, keeping his touch just firm enough that he wouldn’t tickle. He worked his way back up very gradually, rubbing all of James’ back in a steady sweeping motion. God, it felt so good to touch him. Ryan’s heart pounded like a drum, and he swallowed hard.
Ryan sighed a little, lost in his own thoughts—fantasies about how James would tackle him to the carpet and roll on top of him and kiss him. Suddenly he felt a very hard shove against his right shoulder, hard enough to dislodge and toss him onto the carpet beside James. James, who was still lying on his stomach, looking like he was two seconds away from falling asleep. “What the hell?”
James lifted his head quickly, opening his eyes, looking around in confusion. “What? What happened?” He turned his head to see Ryan sprawled on the floor next to him. “Are you okay?”
Ryan leaned up on his elbows. “Something pushed me. It was like there was a hand on my shoulder.” He rubbed the shoulder in question, but there was clearly no one else in the room.
James glanced around. “It felt like someone pushed you? How weird. Are you sure you didn’t just slip?”
Ryan sat up more. “No. I didn’t slip. Something definitely pushed me.” He looked around the room. “If there’s a ghost in here, I don’t believe in ghosts, so you’re kinda wasting your time, you know?” He rolled over onto his stomach next to James and propped his chin in his hands. “I guess if someplace was gonna be haunted, this would be it, huh?”
“It is haunted, I told you that. The locals swear by it.” He looked around the room. “There are several different ghosts here, apparently. One of them is supposed to be able to make things move.”
“Oh yeah. I remember. But I totally don’t believe in ghosts, except…” He turned his head to look into James’ eyes. “Someone really pushed me, James. I swear.” He realized how close they were, and he couldn’t help but lick his lips, and just slightly press his hips down against the carpeted floor.
“I believe you,” James answered, looking into Ryan’s eyes. “Are you sure you’re all right?” he whispered.
“Yeah. It was nothing. It’s no big deal. I’m sure it won’t happen again.” He sounded more sure of that than he really felt. It was something to think about, certainly. He turned his attention back to the movie. He leaned a little closer to James and whispered, “Was the backrub okay?”
“God, yes,” James said. “I mean, yeah. It was great. I’ll have to work hard to win more of those.”
Ryan smiled as he watched the screen. He sat up again, leaning back against the side of the couch with his knees drawn up to his chest. He had to get rid of the little butterfly feeling in his stomach. This wasn’t good. Being aroused, well, he couldn’t help that. James was just appealing. But the silly, hopeful infatuation had to be killed right away. He sighed a little, trying to keep his eyes off James’ still half-naked body lying in front of him. Although he knew he should stop, he couldn’t help himself. “Come sit over here. I’ll rub your back some more if you want.” He really just wanted to touch him again, and this was the only way he could. He might not get another chance for a long time, although James didn’t seem phobic about it, at least.
“You sure you want to risk pissing off the ghost again?” joked James, sitting up.
“Oh, it would just figure that I’d have a repressed, homophobic ghost, wouldn’t it?” he asked, with a laugh, instantly regretting drawing a comparison between backrubs and gayness. He turned sideways a little and put his hands on James’ back again. He could almost feel the tenseness that seemed to have returned since he stopped rubbing the first time. The position was awkward, but he wasn’t quite bold enough to ask James to settle his fine body between his thighs.
A small sound escaped James once again. “I could get used to this.”
Ryan’s first impulse was to push. Flirt more, see how far it would go. But this wasn’t Hollywood, and there weren’t another half dozen gorgeous boys lingering around, waiting to be proven not-completely-straight. And he really, really liked James, way too much. It gave him pause. “Whenever you want a backrub, all you have to do is ask,” he said softly, massaging James’ muscles. He was still partially aroused from before, and again the moan...it was torture, but he was doing it to himself, he knew.
“I’ll do that,” James whispered, leaning into the touch. “Don’t tire your hands out,” he added, moaning again.
It was so tempting, so easy to just lean in a little closer, and rest his cheek against James’ shoulder as his hands moved lower down his back. “I won’t,” he said softly. And he might have touched someone just this way and meant nothing remotely sexual by it. He liked to touch people. Except in this case he was ragingly hard.
James’ breath hitched. “You’re very good at this,” he moaned. “I’m really glad we met, Ryan.”
Ryan squeezed his eyes shut. It was too late. He was already completely infatuated. There was nothing to be done about it, other than hope against hope. His hands lingered on James’ lower back, thumbs circling restlessly into the soft skin. “Me, too,” he whispered. His fingers rested just at James’ waist and then, almost without meaning to, his hands slid around, pinky fingers just skimming the edge of James’ belt.
And then everything went black and silent. Ryan raised his head and pulled away. “Oh,” he said softly.
“What the fuck?” James gasped.
The room was completely dark. Not even a sliver of light from the hallway. The power was out, clearly. “I think there’s a flashlight in the kitchen somewhere,” James suggested.
Ryan gasped when he felt James’ hand on his thigh for a moment before they were suddenly holding hands. “Oh. Okay.” He struggled to a kneeling position, still holding James’ hand. “We should go together.” He spoke barely above a whisper, mostly because everything seemed so freakishly quiet. He released James’ hand to pull himself to his feet, and when he reached for him again, his fingers brushed against his denim-clad hip. They were suddenly standing much closer than he’d thought, and he could feel the warmth from James’ skin. “You should put your shirt on. It might be cold wherever we have to explore for the fuse box,” he whispered.
James laughed. “I would if I knew where the hell it was,” he replied. “Let’s go find that flashlight first. I’m fine for now. Stay with me,” he said, squeezing Ryan’s hand and pulling him closer. “I don’t want to lose you in here.”
Stay with me, he’d said. As if Ryan could have been dragged away from him by a pack of snarling hounds straight from hell. “Okay. Let’s go around the couch this way, and then I think it’s a straight shot to the door,” he said quietly. He edged up to the couch, holding James’ hand in both of his behind his back, and then took small steps around the end of it. He frowned at himself as he thought that maybe he could stop short or stumble backwards just to feel what it was like to press up against him completely.
James edged along behind Ryan, stubbing his toe on the table. “Ow. Watch out for the table,” he suggested, stretching his arm out to see if any other obstacles might jump into their path. “Maybe I should go first. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”
Ryan smiled in the dark. “We’re almost in the clear,” he said. He reached back for James’ other hand and placed them on his hips so James was directly behind him. “I’ll go slowly.” He was almost willing his t-shirt to ride up so he could feel James’ fingers on his skin. He was a sad, sad individual.
Then he was around the end table. He reached out to touch the back of the couch as a reference point and took small steps in the direction of the door.
James’ thumbs slid into Ryan’s belt loops easily as they shuffled along. “The room seems so much bigger now.”
Ryan laughed a little, hands out in front of him, reaching for the door. “Yeah, just don’t think about the fucking dining room,” he said, snorting. He felt something solid in front of him and slowed to a stop as he fumbled for the door handle. He found it and opened the door. The great gaping emptiness of the foyer loomed blankly in front of him. “You’re sure you saw a flashlight in the kitchen, right?”
“Um, I think so,” said James. “But maybe there are candles. There have to be candles.”
Ryan made his way with painstaking slowness across the entry hall. It was disconcerting, because he had no idea how far he actually had to go. When he thought he was about halfway, his foot caught on a rug he hadn’t noticed and he started to fall, pitching forward.
James stepped forward and grabbed Ryan around the waist as he fell. He braced his legs to take Ryan’s weight, pulling the slim man back against him. One hand went under Ryan’s shirt, touching smooth, soft skin.
Ryan whimpered before he could help himself. James’ arms were much stronger than they looked and suddenly he was pressed fully back against that lean body. James’ hand was touching him—firm, secure. He found his feet and supported himself quickly, although he didn’t pull away. “Whoa,” he said softly. “Watch out for the floor.” He made a mental note never to move that rug.
“Are you all right?” James said.
Ryan’s hands came to rest on James’ arms. “Yeah. I’m fine.” Frustrated and half-crazed with lust, but otherwise not too bad, he thought wryly. “My hero,” he added with a little smirk. Just for a second he indulged the crazy fantasies in his head and relaxed back against him, feeling the solidness of James’ body supporting him. But then he straightened up. “Sorry,” he whispered. He was could feel he was blushing fiercely, but in the dark that was his own business.
“It’s okay,” said James faintly. He stepped back. “Nothing to be sorry about.” He slid his hand down Ryan’s arm to his hand, and placed it on his hip. “You follow me, now, okay?”
Ryan slid around behind James and put both hands on his hips. “Okay.” If James tripped and Ryan had to catch him, James would know exactly how Ryan’s body was reacting to all this intimate closeness in the dark. It was all he could do to keep his hands still on that perfect body he’d touched all evening.
They shuffled down the hallway toward the kitchen. The floor felt much more uneven than it had when there was light, but they made it without further incident to the double kitchen doors. James pushed them open, making sure Ryan got through behind him before they swung shut. “Okay, now here’s the tricky part,” he said. He moved toward the cabinets, his hands stretched out in front of him.
“There’s a tricky part? I thought it was all a piece of cake,” he quipped. He kept close behind him, letting James steer them around the kitchen. “Of course, after we find some light we have to actually figure out where the fuse box might be.” Ryan reached out to the counter, and pulled out a drawer, feeling gingerly around inside it. “You know, I thought I did see some candles, too, come to think of it.”
James found the cabinet he was looking for. “Okay. I think it’s here. But I have to lean down,” he warned Ryan, bending over and fumbling for the handle to the door. “It’s in the lower cabinet. I think.”
Ryan let go of him completely and backed away like he was going to be burnt when James bent over. All he needed was for that perfect ass to press against him and he’d moan out loud. He occupied himself with fumbling around in the drawer for candles. “Be careful,” he warned.
James laughed as he felt around in the cabinet, kneeling. “Yeah, there could be more ghosts lurking in the cabinets,” he teased. He rummaged around. “I think I found it,” he said excitedly. He was still on his knees on the floor, and the flashlight came on right in his face, blinding him for a moment. “Yes!” he cried triumphantly.
Ryan squinted at the sudden illumination. “Cool. We should find some candles, too, just in case.” He held out his hand to help James up, and it occurred to him that there was no need to hold onto each other anymore. His smile faded at that thought.
James let Ryan help him up, and shone the flashlight around. “Okay, you want to look in drawers while I hold the flashlight? Then we can try to find the fuse box.” He glanced down at himself. “And maybe my shirt,” he grinned sheepishly.
“Yeah,” he said, opening drawers. He found matches easily enough, but then he had an idea. “Ooh, dining room.” He closed the drawers and waited for James to lead the way with the light. Sure enough, there were a number of candlesticks positioned on the buffet. Ryan took one and smiled at James. “Shirt? Or fuses?” he asked. Personally, he would be content for James to go without a shirt all the time.
“I think shirt first. The fuse box is probably in the cellar or some place equally cold.” He led the way back to the drawing room. He easily found his shirt, and handed the flashlight to Ryan while he pulled it on.
Feeling the loss of closeness, Ryan scanned up and down James’ body with the flashlight, teasingly. “Oh, you’re putting clothes back on. Sorry.” He sighed dramatically, then grinned.
James poked his head through the neck of the t-shirt and gaped at Ryan. “Maybe after we get the power, and the heat, back on, I’ll take it off again,” he teased. He put his arms through and pulled the shirt down.
Ryan gasped and hit James lightly on the shoulder. “In less than two days I’ve turned you into a tease. That’s not good.” He handed him back the flashlight. “No more toying with me. Let’s find the fuse box.” He didn’t light the candle yet, since they had the flashlight.
James grinned at Ryan mischievously. “I’ve never been accused of being a tease before,” he joked as he led the way to the cellar doors.
Ryan followed close behind him. James’ little smile was permanently burned into his memory, and he couldn’t help smiling himself. In the light from the flashlight, the castle looked incredibly scary. Huge shadows loomed just beyond the pool of light. He slipped his fingers lightly around James’ arm, just above the elbow.
“I think this is it,” James said, whispering. He unlatched the door and pushed it open. The air emanating was cool and damp, but not unpleasant. The wooden stairs appeared to march into the darkness. “You ready?” he said softly, looking back at Ryan.
Ryan let go of James’ arm. “It’s only stairs,” he said. He didn’t want James to think he was a complete wuss, even though he was enjoying the whole protective thing. He followed him down slowly, one at a time. “I hope this doesn’t happen a lot.”
James shrugged. “An old house like this, could happen all the time. Though I would have thought the Earl would have had the electricity redone, you know. Since he had all the fancy shit installed.” They reached the bottom of the stairs and found themselves on a rough dirt floor. James moved the flashlight around, looking for what might be a fuse box or breaker box.
Ryan felt something crawl across his foot, and nearly jumped into the air. He ran into James’ back and flung his arms around him from behind. “Fuck,” he hissed. Almost instantly he relaxed and backed off. “Sorry, I think it was a mouse. Or something.” He shivered, hugging his arms around himself.
James stifled a grin. “It’s fine, feel free to pounce on me without warning again. I’m getting used to it.” He moved slowly along. This was no fancy wine cellar—it looked like no one had been down here in years.
Ryan sighed. But then something caught his eye. He took hold of James’ wrist holding the flashlight and pointed it towards a box on the wall under the stairs. “Is that it?” he asked. He wasn’t just making excuses to touch James. Really.
“It could be,” James said. They moved closer, and sure enough there was a steel box affixed to the wall that looked much newer than its surroundings. He swept aside the cobwebs and pulled the box open. “Yes!” he said, as he was faced with row upon row of circuit breaker switches. The top one, the main power switch, was obviously tripped.
“Rad,” Ryan said, flipping the switch. There was a distant humming sound, like the house was coming back to life. There was a faint glow of light spilling down the stairs, probably from the outside lights shining in the kitchen windows. “Much better,” he said, heading back up the stairs, feeling much more confident in his footing even with so little light.
James lingered for a moment, studying the breakers. “Weird,” he said, finally shutting the metal door and starting after Ryan. “I wonder why that happened anyway. Individual breakers will usually go before the main one. It’s like a last ditch thing.”
Ryan paused at the top of the stairs to wait for him. He knew very little about electricity. “Really?” He shrugged. “Maybe a ghost did it,” he said, laughing a little. He could hear the distant crackle of static from the over-sized television in the distance.
James frowned. “I was kinda thinking that earlier,” he admitted. “Don’t tell anyone, though.” He closed the cellar door. “I wonder if you shouldn’t have someone out to have a look at it.”
“Yeah. I’ll tell Nigel tomorrow. I think he’s coming by to give me a full report on the Earldom.” He suppressed a yawn. “I’ve totally lost all track of the movie. Do you wanna just go to bed?” he suggested. “Maybe we could try it again tomorrow or something.”
James glanced at his watch. “Wow, it’s late. Yeah, maybe we should just turn in.” They were back in the drawing room, and James picked up a remote and turned off the huge television, which was now showing snow.
Ryan bent over and picked up the pillow, tossing it back onto the couch. They headed back upstairs and got ready for bed, taking turns in the washroom. Ryan changed into pajamas and settled himself in the huge pink bed, yawning again. “Good night, James,” he called out.
“Night, Ryan,” James answered from the next room.
Ryan fell asleep quickly. Normally, he slept quite soundly, but something made him stir a while later. He felt inexplicably cold. He rolled onto his back and his eyes fluttered open. There, at the foot of his bed was a spectre. A man, staring down at him.
He sat bolt upright, and let out a sound of fright, almost jumping out of bed and dashing to the adjoining door. “James,” he whispered loudly.
James sat upright quickly. “Mmmwhat?” he mumbled. “Ryan? Are you all right?”
“There’s a man in my room.” He looked back over at the bed, but the ghost was gone. “Or there was.” Now that James was awake he spoke at a normal pitch. “He was standing right there, staring at me.” His heart beat a mile a second, and he shook like a leaf.
“A man?” James jumped up out of the bed and ran past Ryan into the master bedroom. He looked around wildly. “No one could have gotten in, the doors were all locked.”
“I-I think it was a ghost. He was kind of glowing a little, but I could see him as clearly as I can see you!” He hugged his arms around himself. “Could I sleep in your room with you? I can sleep on the floor. You won’t even know I’m there.”
James’ mouth dropped open. “You saw a ghost? Like, a real manifestation? Did it do anything? Say anything?”
“No. He was just standing there glowering at me. I was cold suddenly and I opened my eyes and there he was.” He looked at James, more grateful than ever for his presence.
James pulled the other man into his arms and held him close. “Of course you can sleep with me,” he whispered into Ryan’s hair. “But not on the floor.”
Ryan whimpered a little, and accepted the comfort James offered. “Are you sure? I don’t want to make you uncomfortable or anything. I don’t mind the floor, really.” But it was so warm in James’ arms, and suddenly he felt safe again.
“You could never make me uncomfortable,” James replied, stroking Ryan’s hair soothingly. He stepped back just enough to take Ryan’s hand, and led him out of the room and into his. “Come on. There’s plenty of room.” He tugged him over to the bed.
Ryan followed. It was a cruel twist of fate that he’d found the perfect guy and he was straight. Ryan just wanted to curl up in James’ arms and stay there forever. He’d never felt like this with anyone. He gave him a wan smile and slid under the covers on the opposite side from where James had obviously been sleeping. “Thanks,” he said quietly. “I really appreciate this.”
“What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t protect you from the ghosts?” James joked. “Wake me if you need me, okay?”
“Okay,” he said, settling into the overstuffed pillow. A friend. Yeah, that’s all they were. They’d only met. He was putting expectations on something that was way too fragile to bear the weight. He sighed a little, forcing himself to stop thinking about James and just try to sleep. He rolled over on his side, facing away from the other man. The bed was definitely big enough. There was no need for them to touch or even be near each other. And he was so tired. After a couple of minutes he drifted off again, ghost forgotten.