Michael St. Hillaire is hired by Martin Anderton to help him with a stubborn ghost problem. However, the larger problem seems to be that Martin, the owner of an old Victorian B&B, called Widow’s Peak, wants more than just his ghost to be gone. He also wants his little establishment to be just a bit more famous. So, he invites a who’s who of paranormal investigators: The Ghost Doctor (a reality TV show hack), a magician, and Dane Mathiesen — who just so happens to be Michael’s ex. Michael is now, along with the other three men, challenged to be the first to exorcise a ghost, to prove the existence of life beyond death, and win an extra five thousand dollars.
To say Michael has been caught flat footed would be kind. If he’d known Dane was going to be here, he might not have agreed to this. Not after how he and Dane left things … well, how he left things. And why. All this is happening while Dane is making it clear that, whatever else happens here in this place — ghost or no ghost — he wants Michael back. However, Dane isn’t the only one with designs on Michael. The ghost, a prostitute named Jericho, also seems interested in Michael.
“[Jericho] is powerful. I think he has an agenda.”
“Michael, haven’t you learned yet? We all do.”
Dane isn’t going to beat around the bush when it comes to his agenda. He wants Michael back and he’s going to do anything he can to make this happen. The only reason he accepted this job opportunity is because he knew Michael would be here. That doesn’t mean he isn’t going to give the case its due attention, but every fiber of his being is focused on Michael. The widening of his eyes, the way his hands look, holding onto a sink. The set of his shoulders his sigh, his frown, everything and all of him.
As a child, Dane’s gift for reading psychometry led him to finding a rock used to kill nine women. The memory of those murders and the personality of the murderer consumed him, causing him to kill his dog. For years, no one believed him or believed in him, until he met Michael. Michael was the same; he heard ghosts, saw them, spoke to them. He understood Dane in a way no one else ever had before, and Dane — who had so little control over so much of his life — found something he could control. His love for Michael is obsessive and demanding. Michael, with his mind half in the ghost realm and half in the real world, was a constant frustration as Dane wanted and needed all of Michael to focus on him.
But it’s been eight years. Dane’s grown. Matured. And he won’t allow the mistakes of the past to come between them again. While Dane has measured every day of those nearly eight years, Michael hasn’t. He’s learned to focus more on the ghosts constantly talking to him, and learned to focus on other things. He’s earned to control himself, to protect himself. It’s tempting to give in to Dane, to let someone else shoulder the burden, even if just for a moment. But Michael has his own reasons to be shy.
He was a child when he found his gift. And while he has an innate control, it’s not perfect. It’s hard to focus on anything when the ghosts are talking, and why should he? Why should the dead, so often ignored and overlooked, be ignored in favor of the living? Why shouldn’t their voices be heard? Even when a small part of him wants to do nothing more than lie in Dane’s arms and let all the noise fade away, to be able to simply be himself, in his own body, in his own head.
Dane is obsessive. And possessive. But he’s also respectful, for the most part, of Michael’s boundaries. While he will loom close and whisper promises into his skin, he doesn’t try to physically control Michael. He wants the other man’s love, his consent, not just a quickie in an elevator. There are hints that their relationship could lead down a D/s lifestyle, but in this book, it’s simply Dane’s need to own Michael, and Michael’s desire to surrender to the pleasure Dane brings him.
The mystery behind the ghost, the B&B, and even the other ghost hunters is so very well done. The world building is a bit sketchy, but with the story’s focus on the characters and their growing relationship — and the tensions that hint at troubles still between them that will need to be dealt with further on — it isn’t really an issue. I was so pleased to see that my first two guesses as to where things were going ended up being wrong, and enjoyed every twist of the story. The writing is strong (the scene between Dane and Jericho in the attic is particularly compelling), the pacing is good, and all four characters had enjoyable arcs. I have read this author’s works before, and have always enjoyed their ability to tell a good story. I highly suggest this book for fans of the paranormal. Just an all around, excellent read.