Evan Griffin moved into his remote country house with all the excitement and promise of a new start. He thought he'd found it until the strange noises began... When the attacks became physical, he was left bruised and battered and desperate for help.
When Evan walks into the offices of paranormal investigators, Knight & Stone, Ross Stone is dumbfounded by the injuries the man bears. Injuries Evan insists were caused by an unseen assailant in his own home. Something in the man's eyes tugs at Ross's heartstrings. But dare he risk getting close to Evan when he is fighting his own demons?
Pulling open the curtains to let in the morning light, Evan Griffin gazed out the glass pane at the rolling hills that surrounded his house on every side. His house. It sounded good in his head; new house and new beginning. Surveying the beautiful countryside that the large farmhouse was sitting smack dab in the middle of, he wondered how he could be anything but happy here. It was perfect--almost. But he wouldn't think about Mack now--couldn't. If he let himself walk that road, he'd end up in a useless heap on the floor and those boxes wouldn't unpack themselves.
Lost in his thoughts he opened the first box and began to sort through the linen he found there. Halfway to the linen closet, he was stopped in his tracks by a loud bang. "Fuck," he hissed, dropping the curtain and padding onto the floor. He listened intently for a moment and, hearing nothing, he bent to pick up the items he'd dropped. Then he heard it again, coming from the bathroom. Swallowing, an uneasy feeling unfurling in his belly, he opened the bathroom door and looked around the room. Everything seemed in place. His toiletries were on the shelf in a large shoebox and the stack of towels he'd unpacked yesterday were still sitting in the bone dry tub.
The tub was one of the things that had attracted Evan to the property. It was huge and at six-one in his bare feet, a tub that he could actually stretch out in was something of a novelty. It sat in the middle of the room on claw feet with old-fashioned steel faucets and the head end higher than the foot end, like something you would see in a Victorian lady's boudoir. The white porcelain was cracked a little with age and he would have to repaint the underside with some specialized paint, but he didn't care. The proportions of the room and the grandeur of the fittings, albeit a little worn, were what had clinched the deal.
"Jesus Christ," he spat, spinning around to find the bathroom door shutting him off from the rest of the house. His heart pounded in his chest when there was another crash and he spun around to see the large casement window at the end of the room banging in the wind. "For fuck's sake, Griffin," he admonished himself, walking over to the window, pulling it shut, and securely latching it. "It's an old house. The window was open which made the first slam and then the centrifugal force created by the window and the door being open caused the second."
He stopped in front of the mirror he had hung above the basin the day before and ran his hands through his shaggy hair, scratching his scalp with blunt nails. "If you're going to think that every knock, creak, and bang is something sinister, you might as well pack up and go back to the city right now." He shook his head at his reflection before turning on his heel and crossing the room to open the door. "And stop talking to yourself," he added with a smile, firmly closing the door behind him and heading back to the bedroom to get dressed.
* * * *
"You think moving houses can get rid of me, Evan?" She watched from her seat on the deep window sill as the man moved around the bedroom. "You always were stupid." Her hands clenched into fists as the rage bubbled inside her. Narrowing her gaze she smiled in satisfaction as Evan rubbed his hands together to warm them. "What's wrong, Evan? Cold?" She lifted her hands and gripped at the wet strands of her hair and hissed through her teeth. "Not as cold as me! But you will be... you will be. I'm not going anywhere until you and everyone you love has paid for what you did."
"I'm late, I'm late," Ross Stone mumbled over and over as his feet pounded the sidewalk. He bumped into other pedestrians on the way and tossed shouts of apology over his shoulder, left and right. If he'd had the time, he'd have stopped to say sorry personally, but that was all anyone was going to get from him today. If he was any later for this meeting, Jack would skin him alive.
Skidding to a halt outside the austere brick building, he all but flew up the stone steps and into the foyer. "Hey, Burt!" he yelled, waving a hand at the doorman behind the desk as he slipped and slid over the highly polished oak flooring.
"Late again?" Burt chuckled, returning the greeting with a lift of his hand. "Jack don't look happy, son!" he called after him.
"Tell me about it," Ross replied, bouncing from one foot to the other while he waited for the elevator, and then sighing gratefully when the doors finally opened. He ducked inside the metal box and pressed the button for the eighth floor. "My ears have been burning for the last four blocks!"
The elevator doors slid open again when it reached the eighth floor, Ross took a step back at the expression on the face of the man waiting for him. Jack Knight was not exactly the biggest man in the world, but what he lacked in height, he more than made up for in attitude. Ross took in the crossed arms, steely blue gaze, firm set of Jack's lips, and the little wrinkle above his nose that made him look halfway between really pissed and constipated. Not that Ross thought this was the time to let Jack know that.
"Erm... Hi?" he said, hoping his smile wasn't as sheepish as it felt. "Am I late?"
"I suppose you think that's funny?" Jack said softly, menace in every word. "Do you know how long I've had to entertain our new client?"
"Jeez, Jack. I'm only like ten minutes late, if that," Ross griped. "What's the big deal?"
"Look at your watch again, Ross," Jack ground out.
"Why?" Ross replied, not willing to play Jack's stupid games.
"Have you by any chance noticed that the hands haven't moved since you woke up this morning?"
"Don't be stupid," Ross hissed, looking back down at his wrist. "It's--" His gaze flew back up to the annoyed man in front of him. "Shit, how late am I?"
Jack tapped his fingers slowly on his forearm. "Two and a half hours."
"And a half hours," Jack repeated, his tone filled with the obvious desire to kick the shit out of his partner.
"If I say sorry," Ross said, sticking out his lower lip and looking at the other man through lowered lashes, "will you promise not to hurt me?"
"Put the lip away, Stone," Jack huffed, grabbing the neck of Ross's T-shirt and hauling him out of the elevator. "Just get your ass in the office. The poor guy is on his fifth cup of coffee; he's practically bouncing off the walls." He shoved Ross along in front of him. "I'll deal with you later. You're lucky we've known each other since the womb, man, or I'd be firing your ass about now."
"You can't fire me, numb-nuts, I own fifty percent, besides, you love my ass," Ross threw over his shoulder, opening the door to their offices and dumping his bag on his desk. He quickly threw his jacket on the chair and ran a hand over his short, dark blond hair before grinning at Jack. "Come on then, we don't want to keep him waiting." He snorted, ignoring Jack's hissed questioning as to whether or not Ross's birth may have been entirely legal and opened the door to the smaller room where they interviewed their clients.
"Mr Griffin?" Jack said shouldering his way past Ross and entering the room first. "This is my business partner, Ross Stone."
Ross approached the man who was looking out the big window encompassing one whole wall of the room. "Mr Griffin," he said, holding out his hand. "I am so sorry for my tardiness. Hell of a morning." His gasp was involuntary when the man turned and slipped long, slender fingers into his. The face he looked into was ruggedly handsome with a square jaw and high sloping cheekbones and quite possibly the hottest he'd seen in a long time, even covered with bruises and scratches.