Rock N Soul
I’m Tyler Lindsey, and until recently, I had an okay apartment, an okay girlfriend, and an okay job as a bellboy at a respectable Boston hotel. Then rock star Chris Raiden died right before I brought his room service—stiffing me on the tip, by the way—and my life went to hell. My fifteen minutes of fame was more like five seconds, and my girlfriend left me in disgust.
But even worse—Chris is haunting me. Not the room where he died, like a normal ghost. No, somehow he’s stuck to me and is insisting on taking care of a bunch of unfinished business in California. So now I have to traipse across the country with the world’s most narcissistic ghost.
But . . . I keep having these weird thoughts. Thoughts about how much I like the way he makes me laugh. Thoughts where I kind of want to kiss the emo-narcissist, even though he’s a ghost and an asshole and I can’t touch him anyway. And even if I could, what will happen when he finishes his business and nothing’s keeping him here anymore?
"This richly rendered portrayal of death and love unites two people in desperate need of real friends, turning 'till death do us part' into a wrenching taunt as much as an affirmation." –Publishers Weekly
Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes:
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish. Click on a label to reveal its content.
Heat Wave: 5 - Very explicit love scenes
Erotic Frequency: 3 - Moderate
Genre: comedy, romance, urban fantasy / paranormal
Orientation: bisexual / pansexual
Themes: addiction, family, financial gap / class disparity, first love, friends to lovers, ghosts, self-discovery / self-reflection
Settings: America, Boston, California
Careers: musician, rock star, service sector
I didn’t actually hear a chorus of angels singing when I saw the bag of grapes sitting on the refrigerated shelf of a tiny Asian food store at two in the morning, but I definitely heard it in the back of my mind. Here, sitting before me, was a miracle. Red grapes. In a store that was still open. The words on the bag were Korean so I had no idea if the grapes were seedless or not, but Chris Raiden had been waiting for his room service for over an hour now. Which meant we were quickly approaching the point where a famous rock star’s wrath over late food might trump his wrath over seeds in said food, so they’d have to do either way.
Still, it’s always best to know exactly why I’d be getting fired, so I reached into the bag and pulled out a grape, then popped it into my mouth.
And the angels sang again because there wasn’t a seed. This beautiful, perfect plastic bag in this beautiful, perfect Asian food mart contained red. Seedless. Grapes.
“Hey,” a voice called from the direction of the cash register. “You can’t eat those. You have to pay.”
“I know, I know.” I snatched the bag from the cooler and trotted up to the register, giving the cashier a big lopsided smile. “Man, you don’t even know how glad I am that you guys are open right now.”
The guy shrugged as he rang up my purchase but didn’t answer. Not that I blamed him. People who have grape-related emergencies at 2 a.m. aren’t generally the type of people you want to be having a conversation with during said emergency. So I just closed my mouth and handed over the corporate card my boss had given me to make the purchase.
Cashier Guy could have been nicer, though. It wasn’t like I’d asked to be out running around Beacon Hill in the middle of the fucking night looking for overly specific types of fruit to keep a drugged-out bass player from complaining to my boss, so I felt like I should get a pass on this one. Still, though, there wasn’t time to explain, and I’m not usually that big on small talk with strangers anyway.
After paying for the grapes, I muttered a “Thanks,” scooped up the bag, and started jogging back toward the hotel. I slipped my phone out of my pocket and hit Call on Richard’s number.
“Tell me you got them,” he answered.
“I got them,” I practically crowed.
Richard let out a heavy, relieved sigh. “Thank God. How long will it take you to get back here?”
“I don’t know. Fifteen minutes?”
“I’m in Beacon Hill, Richard. It’s gonna take me a bit.” I stopped and scanned the street for cabs. And, in a burst of luck, one rounded the corner just as I was looking. I lifted the hand with the grape bag in it and started flagging like a lunatic. “Hold on. There’s a cab. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” I paused for a moment, fumbling with the phone while I added my other hand to the flagging. “Is he bitching about it?”
“No, he hasn’t called again. But it’s only a matter of time. You know celebrities.”
“I can imagine.” The cab turned toward me and pulled up to the curb so I could get in. I slid in the backseat and gave the driver the hotel address, then went back to the phone. “I’m on my way.”
* * *
The steak was done when I got there, but it took the kitchen staff a few minutes to wash and plate the grapes, and Richard’s hovering and hand-wringing made it seem like the longest few minutes of all our lives. To make matters worse, by the time I finally got the room service cart wheeled out of the kitchen and down to the service elevator, my phone was buzzing like an angry hornet for the tenth time since I’d made it back to the hotel, and I knew who was calling. I considered just ignoring it, but I had a few seconds while I waited for the elevator and then while it took me up to the top floor of the hotel, so I decided I might as well answer.
Besides, Carmen and I had been together for almost a year, and even though she could be incredibly high maintenance and a class-A jerk when she was mad at me—which seemed like always, these days—I wanted to keep her happy. After all, if I was nice to her now and showed up with a Chris Raiden autograph when I got home tonight, the sky was the limit as far as the sex-having went. So I pulled my phone out of my pocket and answered.
“Hey, babe,” I said, pushing the Up button on the elevator and tapping my foot while I waited for the doors to open.
“Have you seen him?” she asked in the sweetest voice ever.
I bit back a sigh. “Not yet.”
“It’s been over an hour since he called for room service,” she pointed out, as if I didn’t know that. As if Richard’s increasingly frantic texts during my grape adventure hadn’t been keeping me up-to-date on the subject. As if I don’t know how to read a fucking clock.
“Thanks. I’m aware of that.” I leaned against the wall by the elevator and pinched the bridge of my nose.
She hmmphed loud enough for me to hear through the phone. “And you expect me to believe you haven’t seen him yet?”
“I wasn’t in the lobby when he came in,” I told her, pinching harder like that would make the conversation end faster. “Mark took his bags up. And you know I’ve been out grape-hunting for the last hour. So no. I haven’t seen him.”
“I told you I’d call after I saw him, okay?” I was being sort of bitchy by interrupting, but there were only two floors to go and I needed to hurry this thing along. “I’m working. Let me work.”
The sweetness disappeared and there it was, the hard-edged bitchy voice that I’d gotten used to hearing lately. “I am letting you work, Tyler. You told me not to come down there, and I didn’t. So excuse me for wanting to know how it was going.”
The elevator doors picked that moment to open, so I pushed the cart inside and hit the button for the penthouse while I willed myself to be nice instead of snapping at her. “I found the grapes,” I said, trying to make it into a peace offering. “Had to go all the way to fucking Beacon Hill to find some, but I got the stupid grapes.”
“Good,” she said, still bitchy but a little brighter. Good work, Tyler. “Are you sure they’re seedless?”
“I’m sure. I’m not getting fired because I served a seed to Chris fucking Raiden.” Rolling my eyes, I muttered “douche bag” under my breath, then tucked the phone against my shoulder while I heaved the cart out of the elevator and into the hallway in front of the penthouse suite. “I gotta go. I’m about to knock on the door.”
“Put me in your pocket?” she begged, back to sweetness and light, and I sighed.
“Fine.” I started to slip the phone into my pocket, then put it back up to my ear. “But you have to shut up so he doesn’t hear you, got it?”
“Promise,” she purred, and I rolled my eyes again and dropped the phone into my suit pocket without ending the call.
I took a second to straighten my suit, and then knocked on the door. “Room service,” I called through the heavy wood, then stepped back to wait. And wait. And wait. I tapped my foot on the carpet and knocked again, yelling a little louder this time.
Still nothing. Typical. Rich fucks always thought they were so much more important than a working-class bellboy, which seemed to mean that they got their rocks off on making me wait in the hallway while they finished filing their nails or whatever. And rock stars were even worse, always wanting weird shit like red seedless California grapes even when they weren’t in season and making me run around Boston in the middle of the fucking night trying to find a twenty-four-hour fruit store.
I mean, I assumed so. This was the first rock star I’d done room service for. But the fact that this guy actually had demanded weird shit seemed like good evidence for the generalization.
“Mr. Raiden?” I yelled through the door, in case he was having hearing problems from the concert he’d just come from. “Room service.”
After a couple of minutes had passed, I sighed and pulled out my master key card. “I’m coming in, sir,” I called, wrinkling my nose at the sir but not wanting to offend a celebrity and lose my job. When there was still no response, I swiped my key card and let myself in.
Chris Raiden was passed out on the floor beside the bed, a pool of vomit in front of his face. I wrinkled my nose at the sight—leave it to a rock star to order a fucking rare steak and grapes and then waste my hard work by puking all over himself before passing out—and went over to him, then toed him with the tip of my shoe. “Mr. Raiden.”
He didn’t so much as twitch, so I sighed super hard and knelt beside him, calling his name again. No response.
He was so still, lying there on the carpet. His legs were twisted, like he’d fallen to the floor. His skin was pale and washed out, his eyeliner smudged everywhere. There was a trickle of blood smeared all down his arm, most likely from where he’d stuck himself with a needle. But most importantly, he wasn’t breathing.
“Oh, shit.” I pressed my fingers against his neck, feeling for a pulse, and didn’t find one. “Shit,” I said, louder this time, and scrambled to my feet.
Carmen was shrieking from my pocket, and I pulled the phone out and pressed it to my ear. “Shit, Carmen, I think he’s dead. I think he’s dead. What the fuck do I do?”
“Call an ambulance, you dumbass!” she yelled through the tinny speaker, and I stumbled my way over to the room phone and picked it up, dialing the front desk.
“Reception, Anthony speaking.”
“Anthony,” I said, a little bit of a whimper to my voice. “It’s Tyler. I’m in Chris Raiden’s room and I think he’s dead and I need you to call an ambulance. Now.”
“Shit,” Anthony said. “Okay, okay, I’m calling.” He hung up with a loud, resounding click and I raised my own phone back to my ear with a shaking hand.
“Carmen.” I eyed the corpse on the floor a few feet from me. “Holy fuck. He’s dead.”
There was a long pause on the other end of the line. Then she took a deep breath and said, “You know this is all your fault.”
I blinked a few times. “What?”
“You killed him,” she said, her voice rising in pitch and volume. “If you hadn’t taken so long to find the fucking grapes, he’d be alive.”
“What?” I asked again, straining to hear her through ears that seemed to be filling with cotton. The edges of my vision constricted in on me as I stared at Chris’s body. “What’re you talking about?”
But she just kept yelling, and after a few seconds I let the phone fall to the floor as I looked down at the corpse of rock star Christopher Raiden and tried to figure out what I was supposed to do from here.
“No,” I said. It seemed like a good response given the circumstances.
Richard crossed his arms and did a twitching-jaw thing at me. “You don’t get to say no, Tyler. It’s your job.”
I eyed him, trying to figure out how much of a bitch-face I could give him before I crossed a line and got fired.
So far today he’d been mostly smiling and friendly despite his current hostile stance, but just to be safe I only dialed up my bitch-face to about seventy-five percent of its capacity. “Damn it, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a physicist,” I said. Richard’s mouth opened slightly, and he stared blankly at me. “I’m a bellboy,” I explained, “not a maid.”
“Mr. Kingston wants his room cleaned,” Richard said, tightening his crossed arms and twitching his jaw even harder.
“Yeah, I know,” I said. “That’s housekeeping’s job.”
Richard let his arms fall to his sides, then shrugged. “He doesn’t trust foreigners with his stuff.”
“Okay, first off, that makes Mr. Kingston a douche. But second off, that pretty much just rules out Malika. Make the others do it.”
Richard hesitated. “He says they’re all foreigners.”
I blinked. “Natalie was born in, like, Iowa.”
“I know. Still. He says she’s foreign.”
“You can’t get more corn-fed American than Iowa. And she doesn’t even look foreign.” Which was true. Natalie was gorgeous, a platinum blonde with bright-blue eyes who stood about five eight, with five feet of that being pure leg. I’d tried to hit on her once. It hadn’t gone well.
“He thinks she’s Scandinavian, and Scandinavians are raging thieves.” He rolled his eyes. “According to him, anyway.”
I stared at him for several seconds. “You’re kidding me.”
“I promise you I’m not.” Richard looked almost sympathetic to my plight. “But he’s a good tipper, so just go swab out his toilet and throw some new sheets on the bed and stop your complaining.”
“I want security to give me a full, televised pat down after I get done.” I crossed my arms. “I’m not going to jail because Mr. Kingston thinks I stole his gold-spun butt floss.”
“Just go clean the room, Tyler.” And then he turned around and walked into his office and shut the door.
I stood there eying the closed door for a moment while I regrouped, then headed to the lobby to see if any guests needed help before I had to go up to the stupid penthouse. I could do this. It wasn’t like I hadn’t been back up to the room since Chris died in it—it’s the biggest room in the hotel and the people who stay there are usually VIPs, so excellent bellboy service is something they expect—but this was going to be the first time I’d been farther inside than just past the doorway. And even then, I’d made a point not to look deeper into the room, and especially not at the spot on the floor where I found him.
I’m not ashamed to say I’d had nightmares about it, at first. I’d woken up in cold sweats in the middle of the night and grabbed at Carmen for comfort, only to realize that she wasn’t there anymore. And honestly, even if she had been, she would have just rolled away from me and said, “Fuck, Tyler, I’m trying to sleep.” She’d never been much of a cuddler except on special occasions, and even less so there at the end of the relationship.
But anyway, the nightmares were weird, because he never got up and came at me like a killer zombie or anything. Most of the time in the dreams I just stood still and stared at his corpse, with its shallow glassy eyes pointed at the floor beside it, until my skin started to crawl, and no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t move for anything in the world. The sight of him had been burned into my mind when I found his body, and now my stupid subconscious kept making sure that I couldn’t forget a single gory little detail.
But I am a grown man and I am not a coward, so I decided to stop being a baby about it and go clean the stupid room. Chris’s body wasn’t going to be there. It had been hauled off in a body bag and buried somewhere in New York state, which seemed weird since I’d read the band biography and as far as I could remember, Chris had never lived there. Maybe he had family in the area or something. Who knows.
Time was passing, though, and I definitely wanted to be done and out of the room long before Mr. Kingston came back from wherever he had gone and decided that my blond hair meant that I was Scandinavian too. So I left the empty lobby and walked very briskly to housekeeping and took a cart into the service elevator.
I had to remind myself to breathe a few times on the way up to the room. It helped to know that I, of all people, was sure that he was dead. Really dead. So his body wasn’t going to be there when I opened the door. The nightmares weren’t real, and I had to face them one of these days. It might as well be today.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Incite the Masses. I mean, they were fine, I guess. Basic rock music, harder and edgier than the inoffensive bore-fest music that pumps out of the speakers at the hotel bar, but not thrashing death metal either. Alt-rock, maybe. What I’m saying is that if they came on the radio I wouldn’t change the channel but I also wouldn’t crank up the volume. They were okay.
I had a T-shirt, though. And all their albums. And I’d been to the concerts. I’d even gone to a fan convention once. But that was not because I was a huge fan—it was because Carmen Anders had great tits and tended to put out after listening to rock music, and she was a big fan of Incite the Masses. I mean, massive. Like when we started dating, she’d included a clause in our verbal contract that if she ever had the chance to sleep with any (or all at once if possible) of the band members, she was totally going to do it and I just had to be fine with it.
She hadn’t felt the same way about me putting Zoe Saldana on my free-pass list. Or even of me having a free-pass list. But that’s another story.
So anyway, playing the part of an Incite the Masses fan was sort of a requirement for getting to see Carmen Anders naked, and I didn’t hate their music or anything, so I’d bought a T-shirt, learned a few of their songs and (bam!) got laid. And then I’d skipped out on paying my internet bill so that I could buy her mosh pit tickets, and then I had to pay Vic Mitchell fifty bucks to cover my shift so I could take her to it, and then I got punched in the jaw by a very burly, sweaty biker type for elbowing my way past him to get her right next to the stage, but it had been worth it because after the concert, she kept me up all night long. And I do mean that literally. All. Night. Long. And it was awesome.
Which was mostly because she swore up and down that Eric Painter had made eye contact with her in the middle of “Strike a Match” and it was apparently the hottest thing that ever happened to her. And I’m about ninety-nine percent sure that she’d been closing her eyes and imagining that I was Eric with his deep raspy singing voice and his spiky gelled hair while I was boning her, but you know what? Still counted.
And after that, wonder of wonders, she’d stuck around. For a while, at least. Over a year. Then Incite the Masses came back to Boston on this year’s tour, and I’d been bare-ass broke and not in the mood to take a fist to the jaw again; plus, I’d been starting to get pretty tired of putting up with her shit, so when she’d not-so-subtly hinted that I needed to repeat last year and get her up to the stage again, I’d just told her I had to work. And she’d bitched and moaned and threatened to dump me, but I’d stood firm, man. I’d stood firm.
She hadn’t dumped me, though, mostly because while we were having a big screaming match about it, Richard called me freaking out over how Christopher Raiden had booked a room at our hotel for after the show and how he was probably going to want a rhesus monkey skeleton and where the fuck was he going to get a rhesus monkey skeleton on short notice and on and on and on about the damn rhesus monkey skeleton until I couldn’t even take it anymore and had to hang up. Not hang up on him, of course, because I need my job, but the “oops, I left the casserole in the oven gotta go” type of hanging up.
Carmen stared at me as I put my phone back in my pants pocket. “What the fuck, Tyler?”
“What? What did I do wrong now?” I picked up my jacket from where I’d thrown it on the floor earlier and fished around in my pocket for my keys.
“You took a phone call in the middle of an argument,” she said, her voice rising slowly in pitch like the argument was about to start up again.
Luckily, I knew how to shut that down. “Chris Raiden just booked a room at the hotel. Richard’s freaking out and talking about rhesus monkey skeletons.” I pulled my keys out and curled my fingers around them.
Carmen’s mouth dropped open. “Chris Raiden is staying at your hotel?”
I exerted a monumental amount of willpower and just barely managed not to roll my eyes so hard my retinas detached. “Yeah, that’s what I just said.”
“Well . . .” she said, a slow, dangerous smile spreading over her face. “Then I guess you know how to keep me, then.”
I had put on my jacket. “No idea what you mean.” After all, if you want your boyfriend to pimp you out to a rock star, you have to say the words.
“You’re going to let me in his room.” She leaned forward with an upsetting gleam in her increasingly cold eyes.
“Um, no.” I patted the sides of my jacket, more out of habit than anything else since I’d already found my keys. “I’m not doing that.”
“He’s on my free-pass list, Tyler!”
“Yeah, well, fuck your free-pass list.” I raised an eyebrow at her in a clear challenge. “I never signed off on that bullshit, and you’d bust an ovary if I asked you to let me fuck some other chick, so no. Not doing it.”
“This isn’t some other chick, Tyler. This is Chris Raiden. He’s my idol.”
“Oh, please,” I scoffed. “He’s not even your favorite band member.”
“Well, no.” She pursed her lips in her “trying to be alluringly sensual while deep in thought” expression. Which is duckface, of course. The crazy ones always think duckface looks sexy on them. They’re also always wrong.
After several seconds of duckface thought, she nodded as if she’d decided something important and smiled at me. “Surely Eric will be there too?”
“Doubt it,” I said, letting my words be clipped and harsh.
“But . . . they’re best friends. And bandmates. Surely . . .”
“Pretty sure Richard would have said that the band has rented out our penthouse if that was the case. And he just said Chris.”
“Oh, so you’re on a fucking first name basis with him now? All buddy-buddy?” She put her hands on her hips and sneered at me. “You’re some sort of bestie with Chris Raiden now and you won’t even let me talk to him?”
I actually rolled my eyes at that. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not sure if you can stop being ridiculous, but it would be fantastic if you could make an effort.”
“Fuck you,” she spat.
“That’s pretty much the only reason I’m still with you,” I snapped back.
“Let me in his fucking room, Tyler!”
“No. I’m not losing my job just so you can get a rock star to knock you up.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Then get me an autograph. If you can’t even do that, we’re through.”
“Yeah, whatever.” I reached for the doorknob. And then, because I felt sentimental for some stupid reason, I didn’t turn it. Instead, I sighed and looked back at her. “I mean, yeah. I can do that.”
She raised her eyebrows. “You’re not going to fight me on that, too?”
I shrugged. “Least I can do, I guess.”
She came over and wrapped her arms around me, laying her cheek on my shoulder. “Thank you, baby.”
I sighed and kissed the top of her head.
Apparently, the prospect of getting an autograph gets her off too, so I’d taken advantage of that newfound knowledge. Because only morons turn down chicks as hot as Carmen when they’re pressed up against them.
I, Tyler Lindsey, am not a moron.
Up at the penthouse, I stood outside the room for longer than strictly necessary while I talked myself into going inside. Finally, in a wild burst of energy so I wouldn’t have time to stop myself, I swiped my access card and wheeled the cart into the room. I closed the door behind me and eyed the carpet where he’d been lying, half expecting to see a body outline still there even though that was stupid.
But there wasn’t a corpse on the floor this time, which was probably comforting for Mr. Douchey Kingston, being as the room was his now. I looked around at his boring businessy suits and his multiple spare briefcases—which were a huge difference from the guitars, eyeliner, and syringes I’d seen in here before, although I tried not to think about that—and then pulled the cleaning cart farther into the room and parked it where I usually park my luggage cart. I eyed the carpet where the body had been again.
You’d think that it wouldn’t bug me. But it did.
It also shouldn’t have bugged me that Carmen blamed me for Chris’s death, since she’s batshit crazy and there’s no way any sane person could think it was my fault that the guy died. But when you get text after psychotic text about how if you’d just gotten off your lazy good-for-nothing ass and taken room service up five minutes earlier, you would have been able to save somebody’s life, it starts to really fuck with your mind.
And apparently with my motor skills too, because when I tore myself away from staring at the boring hotel carpet and went into the bathroom to clean, I fumbled as I was reaching for the half-empty bottle of complimentary hotel shampoo sitting on the side of the tub. The bottle hit the ground and rolled under the claw-foot sink.
I groaned. I was going to have to reach down there, and God only knew when the maids last deep-cleaned under that thing. Whoever designed that sink was a complete idiot, because there was just barely enough room to get your hand through but not enough room to scrub, and you could forget about using any kind of cleaning tool, because it wasn’t going to fit either. Mostly the housekeeping staff ignored the whole area unless somebody specifically complained about it, which hardly anyone ever did.
But I didn’t want to lose out on tip money because Asshole Kingston decided to get on his hands and knees and shine a flashlight everywhere to catch me leaving something dirty, so I crouched on the floor and reached down to fish around for the bottle.
My fingers hit something small and cold. I frowned and raked whatever it was out from under the sink. It was a ring, white gold with Celtic symbols on it. Chris Raiden’s ring, one that he’d gone on and on about in interviews until anyone even vaguely familiar with the band would have recognized it.
I peered at it for another few seconds, then put the ring on my hand. I mean, that sounds weird, but it’s a basic human instinct. You find a ring, you put it on. That’s totally normal.
What wasn’t totally normal was that when I looked up, Chris Raiden was staring at me from the doorway of the bathroom. And he was . . . slightly transparent.
I blinked at the cart for a few seconds while my brain tried to process everything. Then, without planning to, I screamed.
“Shut up, dude!” the ghost of Chris Raiden said, holding his hands up. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Like hell you’re not,” I shouted, and was pleasantly surprised that my voice had returned to its usual pitch. “I’ve seen plenty of horror movies.”
Chris tilted his head a little and stared at me. “What?”
“You’re going to drown me in the tub. Oh God.” I covered my face with my hands and began . . . well, I won’t say “whimpering” because that’s totally not something a guy like me does, but . . . well, okay, whimpering. But come on, there was a ghost and the bathtub was right there and that was how someone always ended up dying in the first five minutes of a horror movie to show the audience how gory the whole thing was going to be. I’m not an idiot. I know how movies work.
When he didn’t respond immediately, I peeked out through my fingers, and Chris frowned down at me. “What are you doing wearing my ring? And why the hell are you in my room when I’m still here? If you’re trying to steal my shit, I’ll have you fired so fast you’ll leave your shoes behind.”
A version of the truth was probably the best place to start. “Um . . .” I scooted backward toward the tub, even though that would just make it easier for him to drown me in it if he decided to. “I was just cleaning under the sink and I guess the ring rolled under there?”
“Why are you wearing it?” He scowled at me.
“I’m not wearing it,” I said, even though that was clearly not true. I mean, come on. The thing was right there on my finger. “I just, you know, tried it on.” I reached for the ring to take it off, but Chris took a step toward me and I cringed back against the tub, flinging my arm up to cover my face like that was going to help me not die.
“Dude, calm down. I’m not going to drown you in the fucking tub. What am I, a psychopath?” I peered up at him over the top of my arm, catching him mid-eye-roll.
Carefully, I lowered my arm the rest of the way and took a second to look him over. He was wearing the same clothes I’d found his body in, although the dried blood and vomit were gone, and his face and hands had lost their unsettling purple tint, thankfully. His eyeliner was back to stage-ready perfect, and his hair was freshly styled. In other words, he looked just like he would have if he hadn’t been out of his mind on heroin and/or dead due to the heroin. Really, the only thing that made him seem ghostlike at all was the fact that I could sort of see the outline of the cleaning cart behind him through his stomach.
Carmen would have immediately commenced trying to fuck him. Ghost or no ghost.
“So . . .” I said, slowly getting to my feet. “What do you remember? You weren’t in the room a second ago when I came in to clean.”
“Are you kidding me?” He rolled his eyes. “I was lying on the floor. I mean, right there. You couldn’t have missed me.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. “Yeeeeah. I think maybe you’re confused.”
“I’m not confused. Now give me my ring and get out of my room.” He held out his palm.
I pointed at his finger, where a see-through version of the ring in question was gleaming transparently. “You mean that ring?”
He inspected his hand. “Huh,” he said after a moment. “You have a replica, then?”
“. . . I think they sell them, yeah.” I cleared my throat. “But dude. I might need to tell you something.”
“You’re . . . well, you’re dead, dude.”
He narrowed his eyes and glared my own death at me. “Is that a threat?”
“No, it’s an observation.” I ran my hand through my hair for something to do. “You died like two months ago. In this room.”
“I’m calling security. I don’t care if you work here.” He stalked back into the suite. I tagged along behind him.
“Security sounds like an awesome idea, man. If you’re not dead, you have a lot of people who are going to want an explanation.” If he’s not dead. What a joke. I could see through the guy’s abs.
He shot me a black glare and reached for the phone, then frowned. He tried again. We both watched as his hand went straight through the handset and into the nightstand below it.
“Huh,” he said, then tried one more time. Silence fell as his eyes flicked comically back and forth between the phone and his hand. “Um . . . I guess that’s pretty good evidence for your ‘I’m dead’ theory.”
“Yeah, no joke,” I said. “So . . .” I tried for a minute to think of a way to finish that sentence, but there didn’t seem to be a good ending. “So.”
He looked around the room, then lowered his eyes to the floor. “Right there?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I was actually the one who found you. I was bringing you room service.”
“What . . . happened?” His face was pale in addition to being transparent, and he sat down heavily on the bed like he couldn’t keep his legs under him. The bed didn’t move at all when he flopped down on it, which was way more unsettling than you’d think it would be.
But anyway, that was a dumb question, so I raised my eyebrow at him again. “You’re seriously asking me what happened to you?”
“I don’t remember much,” he said, his voice soft in that way that makes men want to run for the hills before the crying starts.
“Um . . .” I swallowed hard. I mean, normally I’d just leave, push the awkward potential crying situation off on someone else, but I had no idea what the protocol was about leaving an emotionally compromised ghost to work things out for himself. Maybe that’s where vengeful spirits come from: some guy bailed on them instead of giving them a ghost hug or whatever and so they start killing people in their sleep. I couldn’t have that on my conscience. But
Or, check your local library.
Word Count: 113700
Page Count: 418
Cover By: L.C. Chase
Release Date: 01/16/2016