Can two suspicious men learn to trust one another before a demon curse destroys them both?
At the request of his aunt, Medium Maxim Thomas travels to the London mansion of actor Ian Northhill to search for paranormal dangers. The first-born sons in Ian’s family have all died on their thirty-fourth birthday, and Ian’s is just around the corner. The problem is, he doesn’t believe in ghosts, demons or curses.
When Maxim and Ian meet, they’re overwhelmed by lust, but great sex doesn’t change Maxim’s bitterness toward actors or Ian’s loathing of “phony” psychics. Unable to ignore their desire for each other, the men try to overcome their prejudices. While Ian performs a retelling of Jekyll and Hyde on stage, a real life Jekyll and Hyde plots to destroy him. Will Ian trust Maxim enough to allow his lover to save him from the family curse?
Aunt Judith gave Maxim a tour. The three-story house was made of brick and dark wood and had a narrow, winding staircase leading all the way up to the attic. Judith had her own living quarters with a spacious bedroom and sitting room. Her family pictures and needlework made her living space homier than the rest of the house, but nothing could fully soften the creepy coldness of the gargoyle carvings and general dimness that reminded Maxim of a dungeon.
“Do you feel anything at all out of the ordinary?” Aunt Judith pressed. Her brown eyes looked so hopeful that Maxim hated to disappoint her.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t.”
He’d been in homes even older than this and some quite new ones that were clearly haunted — most by harmless and sometimes even friendly spirits, but here he sensed nothing.
Finally they stepped into an enormous parlor decorated in black, gold and burgundy. An elderly woman — still attractive with large blue eyes and gray hair braided down her back — sat by the fireplace. Maxim could hardly believe she was over one hundred years old.
Flames blazed in the hearth — a welcome chill against the crisp winter morning.
“Mrs. White, I’d like you to meet my nephew, Maxim Thomas.”
“Pleased to meet you, Maxim,” replied the old woman with a disarming smile.
“The pleasure is mine, ma’am.”
Maxim shook her offered hand. It was cool and slender, the veins prominent. He had expected her to have a delicate grip, but her handshake was surprisingly strong for her age.
“It’s a pity my son isn’t home. I’m sure Henry would love to meet you, but I fear he won’t be back from the theater for several hours.”
“Hopefully they can meet at another time,” Aunt Judith said.
“To be sure. In the meantime, please sit and join us for tea.”
Maxim sat in the chair the old woman indicated and Aunt Judith sat as well. Soon they were chatting. Mrs. White, despite her obvious mental issues, was very pleasant and talkative. At times she spoke quite lucidly, but in regards to her family, she was living a fantasy. She couldn’t distinguish between her deceased son and her living grandson. Maxim considered how difficult it must be, not only for Aunt Judith to care for this delusional woman day and night, but for her grandson as well.
A short time later, a woman of about thirty entered with a tray set for tea.
“Maxim, this is Melissa, the cook and housekeeper,” Aunt Judith said.
Melissa grinned. “I like to multi-task.”
“She’s doing a splendid job while Richards is away,” Mrs. White said.
“Richards is the butler,” Aunt Judith explained.
“A very interesting man,” Mrs. White went on. “His family has served ours since the days of Benjamin Northhill. Benjamin built this house in 1795. He was a genius in business and those excellent career instincts have followed every generation of Northhill men. Henry was quite good at business, until he got the wild idea to become an actor. Changed his name to Ian and has been treading the boards ever since.”
Maxim glanced at Aunt Judith and raised an eyebrow. He wondered if Mrs. White was even aware that her son — rather her grandson — was such a famous movie actor as well. It would do no good to ask, considering the poor woman’s mental state.
After tea, Aunt Judith finished the tour of the house, including the kitchen and attic. Again Maxim sensed nothing.
“Aunt Judith, you realize there’s probably no reason for concern,” he said softly, as they made their way to the dining room where Mrs. White awaited them for lunch. “Mr. Northhill’s grandmother is alive and well and she’s long past thirty-four. You say he’s in good health –“
“But, Maxim, I told you that it’s only the men in the family who die young,” Aunt Judith whispered.
“Then other women in the family have lived to a ripe old age?”
Her brow furrowed and after a few moments, she replied, “I believe Mrs. White is the only daughter in… well it must be generations. But we can’t discuss it now.”
Of course she was correct, since they had arrived at the dining room.
Maxim hadn’t planned to stay so long at the house, but during lunch he fell into conversation with the women and realized how much he had missed his aunt. She reminded him of his mother in so many ways, and he quite liked Mrs. White as well. After lunch they went for a walk, then played cards. Before he knew it, dark had fallen.
He glanced at his watch and said, “I seem to have overstayed my welcome. I should leave –“
“Hello,” said a cheerful male voice.
Maxim turned to Ian Northhill who approached, a pleasant smile on his lips, his rag doll hair windblown. He wore a black wool coat belted around his narrow waist.
Maxim felt a slight jolt. No, he wasn’t impressed by meeting a famous actor, but it felt a bit odd to see someone in person after viewing them on screen only. He was a bit surprised to see Ian wearing rather thick black glasses. Apparently the man usually wore contacts. Glasses meant a deficiency and heaven forbid a perfect, airbrushed actor would show the general public that he was somehow flawed.
“Henry, you’re home. Goodness, is the show over already?” Mrs. White asked.
“Uh, no, darling. In fact I must get back to the theater soon. I forgot something and came by to pick it up.”
“Ian, I’d like you to meet my nephew, Maxim Thomas.”
Ian’s charming smile broadened even more and he fixed his gaze on Maxim. Beneath the glasses, his eyes were every bit as blue as they appeared in his movies. He had a beautifully sculpted face — high cheekbones and a long, straight nose. His slender mouth had a perfect bow on his upper lip. Maxim found himself wondering how those lips would taste, then he felt a wave of self-disgust. He sounded like thousands of other fools who fantasized about an illusion. Ian was just a bloke like any other.
He offered his hand to Maxim. “Of course. Your aunt speaks about you often. I’m so glad to meet you.”
Ian already knew about him. That seemed odd, but in a way it made sense that Aunt Judith would mention him, in particular if she was close enough to Ian to be concerned about his welfare.
“I often wondered why you didn’t visit your aunt sooner, but she tells me you’re quite busy running a shop in Leeds.”
“Yes.” Why couldn’t Maxim think of something else to say. Not that he had to worry. Ian had apparently inherited his grandmother’s gift for conversation.
“And you went to school in Australia?”
“A lovely country. I’ve been there several times on promo tours. Enjoyed it immensely. How long will you be in London?”
“Just until Tuesday. I’m off to find a hotel now, actually. I didn’t intend to visit so long, but we started talking and –“
“Well you’ve come to see your aunt, so why not stay here?”
Maxim wondered if he looked as surprised as he felt. “Here?”
“There’s about half dozen guest rooms. Why not put at least one of them to use?” Ian said with another easy smile, then his brow furrowed. “Unless you have other plans. That must have sounded terribly pushy of me.”
“Actually that sounds like a wonderful idea,” Aunt Judith said. “If it’s truly all right with you, Ian?”
“Absolutely. In fact I wish I had more time to stay and talk now, but I really must get back. Goodnight, darling.” He stepped toward Mrs. White and kissed her cheek.
“Have a wonderful show.” Mrs. White patted Ian’s hand, then glanced at Maxim from the corner of her eye and said, “I just can’t bring myself to tell him to break a leg. Silly of me, I know.”
Ian chuckled softly. His gaze met Maxim’s and Maxim’s heart skipped a beat. Somehow Ian’s eyes seemed even lovelier in person — they were so big and their expression soft, yet they glittered with confidence and vitality.
“See you later, Judith,” Ian said, then turned to Maxim and offered his hand again. “A pleasure to meet you. I look forward to talking more later.”
“Glad to meet you as well.” Maxim took his hand and was again surprised when Ian gave his a double squeeze. Had Maxim imagined it? Surely the man couldn’t have —
Yet according to the news media, Ian had no confirmed partner, either male or female. He’d been open about his bisexuality. Was it possible he was interested in —
No. Absolutely not. And even if he did have an interest in Maxim, it would do him no good. Maxim wouldn’t date an actor. Not after —
The whole idea was insane. Even if Ian was attracted to him, he would most likely only be seen with one of his own kind — another actor, director or model. Someone who would look pretty on his arm at industry events and enhance his career.
Not a shop owner.
And this shop owner was certainly not interested in another self-absorbed bore.
Ian released his hand, swept out of the room and headed for the stairs. Maxim glanced after him.
“Well it seems my boy has taken quite a liking to you.” Mrs. White wagged a finger at Maxim.
“So it seems.” Aunt Judith glanced at Maxim with a half-smile on her lips. He almost felt as if she was psychic — sensing his frustrating attraction to the wrong kind of man. Yet for Maxim it wouldn’t be the first time…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The child of a painter and a psychic dreamer, Saloni Quinby feels spirituality and storytelling go hand-in-hand. She loves the scent of gardenia, the sound of wind chimes and the taste of honey. By listening to what isn’t said, she creates works based on unspoken desires. Saloni prefers blurred gender lines and many varieties of romance. In a world where passion must at times be restrained, she believes erotica is a pleasure to be shared. With her stories she would like to make her fantasies yours and hopes you enjoy the ride.
Saloni can be found online at http://kate-hill.com/katehillsaloniquinby/.