England 1855 - The venturesome Lady Portia Phillips is determined to discover the identity of the puckish and handsome specter repeatedly appearing to her. As she investigates, questions arise...is this Spirit haunting her or is there some other explanation for his ethereal appearances? Is it a cry for help? Portia must learn the truth before she loses her heart to this appealing apparition.
He stood next to her canopied bed, admiring the reclining svelte body of the sleeping female. She slept with her curly strawberry-blonde hair freed from any confines, splayed in long tendrils upon her feather pillow. An errant curl kissed her left dark eyebrow as she peacefully dozed.
He wanted to touch her luxurious hair and to feel its softness but he feared waking the sleeping beauty. And she truly was a beauty. Her symmetrical facial features were delicate and her fair complexion flawless.
But he was confused. Who was she? And how had he come to be in her boudoir?
He surveyed his surroundings, discovering an opulent bedchamber decorated in varying hues of peach and pink…most certainly a woman’s room.
His confusion intensified and he felt slight panic. Nothing looked familiar. Where was he?
His gaze returned to the woman who slept blissfully unaware of his presence. He frowned as he tried to remember how he had arrived here and who she could be. Was she a prostitute?
He never frequented the dens of iniquity to satisfy his needs. He much preferred eager, wealthy widows who were more than willing to satiate his sexual appetite without demanding long term commitments and who were not in the least bit enthralled with his title or his own personal wealth.
He shook his head. Although he did not frequent establishments promoting prostitutes, he could invariably recognize one and this woman was certainly not of that low class.
Closely he examined the fetching female whose room he must have stealthily entered with lascivious intentions. He felt a twinge of guilt. There was no doubt in his mind that this young woman was an Innocent, untouched. It was not just her angelic face which conveyed innocence but it was the modesty of her night rail. The high collar fringed with lace and the long sleeves hemmed with ribbons and bows shouted modest propriety. Not to forget the good quality of the fabric and the expensive opulence of her surroundings.
Again, he searched his memory but all was blank. What was he doing in a Lady’s chamber, compromising her by his mere presence? If someone were to discover him, he would be leg-shackled in a ‘forced’ marriage before he could utter a word of protest. The mere thought sent shivers down his spine. Looking toward the window, he almost imagined the faint tolling of wedding bells in the distance…or was it a funeral dirge he was hearing?
Yet, he had no desire to leave her. His eyes returned to the sleeping form. It was as if he was in some way connected to her by some imaginary thread. He thought that an odd sensation.
He stood mesmerized by the loveliness of her face and imagined how her figure looked beneath her bedclothes. There was an outlined hint of slenderness and a suggestion of two full breasts. He felt a slight stirring in his groin.
As if in response to his desire to see her body, a long shapely leg moved and peeked out from beneath the covers. Now he absolutely felt himself harden at the erotic sight of her smooth limb. Slowly, he reached his hand toward the exposed calf, wishing only to caress its smooth skin. But her soft moan halted his progress.
He looked anxiously at her face, fearing she had awakened. But fortunately, she was still in dreamy repose. A contented smile graced her lovely face.
Perhaps he would chance touching her hair instead of caressing her leg. As he had wanted to do earlier, he would comb his fingers through its feathery softness. Then he would leave before discovery. He must leave before discovery.
He reached for strands of strawberry-blonde hair delicately spread upon the soft pillow but his fingers grasped…only air.
He stepped back as his eyes widened in horror. Feelings of dread and bewilderment gripped his heart. He looked down at his two hands which appeared transparent, wholly without substance.
Was he dead and she an angel? Was this heaven? Or was this ‘hell’ where he could look upon her alluring person but never touch her and never feel sexual gratification? He nearly groaned aloud. That would be apt punishment for his rakish lifestyle.
He began breathing heavily as fear clouded his thoughts. He was not a man who frightened easily but the unknown realm of death would prove disconcerting to the bravest of heart.
With tremulous fingers, he tried to touch his square jaw but felt nothing. He looked down at his flat stomach, his muscular thighs, booted calves and feet. They too appeared as translucent as his hands.
He had a sudden thought. Lifting his eyes, he once again scrutinized the room in which he stood. Perhaps this was not hell. Mayhap he was a specter…a spirit forced to roam the earth for eternity as punishment or…to complete an unaccomplished task.
He certainly looked like an apparition. He closed his eyes and racked his brain searching for memories of his death. A pervading sense of melancholy engulfed him. He had been so young to have died…his whole life still ahead of him.
The sleeping woman moaned softly. No doubt she was vocally responding to a dream. The sound drew his eyes to her form once again. Who was she? And if he were indeed a ghost, why was he haunting a woman whose acquaintance he had never made? He shook his throbbing head. He felt as though his brain would explode with all his unanswered questions.
He stepped closer to the side of the bed. It was time to wake her. Perhaps she could answer his questions. He tried to speak but his mouthed words lacked voice. Frustrated, he wondered what he should do to wake the lovely maiden. Impulsively, he bent over her reclined body and blew his breath onto her closed eyelids.
Her face distorted into an annoyed expression as she lifted her right hand to brush away what she most likely perceived to be a bug.
He was amazed. She had felt his breath! Her reaction added to his confusion. Could a specter breathe?
Slowly he trailed his transparent fingers down the side of her exposed thigh from her hipbone to her kneecap. She stirred in her sleep as she brushed away the ‘insect’ with her own long, slender fingers.
He cocked his head. She had felt his touch! Most curious! His initial fear and confusion was now gradually fading…and being replaced with intense curiosity.
This time he leaned forward and gently kissed her full lips, teasing the lower lip with his tongue. He felt nothing which greatly saddened him. Once again, he thought despondently that perhaps he truly was in hell.
She moaned. She had most definitely felt something.
He leaned slightly away as her eyelids began to flutter and her fingers gently touched her own parted mouth.
Groggily she awoke, blinking her blue eyes open. Instantly, she saw the man leaning over her and she gasped as she clutched the bedclothes to her chin. She tried to scream but her voice failed her. She felt petrified with fear and unable to move or even to breathe. Her mind was silently screaming. Who was this man? Why was he in her bedchamber?
Her eyes darted to and fro, frantically searching for an object to serve as a weapon but found none close at hand. Then her eyes riveted to the door. She had locked it prior to retiring. Of that she was certain. And her room was on the second floor, high above ground level. How could he have possibly gained entrance?
She began to panic as her imagination painted horrific scenes in her mind. What was the man’s nefarious intent?
Slowly, he stretched his right arm forward as if to touch her trembling hands with his own comforting hand.
She inched away from him, pressing her back against the headboard, cowering in fear.
The moon peeking from behind a cloud shone through the window at that precise moment, revealing the ethereal nature of his extended limb.
Her eyes widened in horror. Again, she tried to scream but found no voice. She trembled as she closed her eyes tightly. She concentrated on her ragged breathing, willing herself to calm down.
Mentally she chastised herself. She did not believe in ghosts. This was a nightmare brought on by excessive fatigue. After all, she had travelled several hours from London to her cousin’s country estate and the journey had just been too much for her. And her nerves had been on edge from the heated discussion she had had with her overbearing mother before her departure...which had, in truth, precipitated her leaving London.
She sat for several long moments before she finally had the nerve to open one eye. She silently prayed that the ghostly man would be gone.
He was still standing beside her bed, smirking mischievously.
She instantly squeezed her eyes closed. Perhaps she had eaten something which did not agree with her and she was suffering from hallucinations. She reminded herself…reassured herself… ghosts did not exist!
He felt relieved and delighted that she could see him. He was also amused by her futile attempts to dispel his presence. She obviously did not believe her own eyes. He was, however, sorry to be frightening her. But what choice did he have? He needed her to help him solve this perplexing conundrum. If only he could speak…
Several minutes passed before she opened both her eyes this time, shocked to discover that the apparition was still present. He seemed to be patiently waiting for her to acknowledge his existence. Summoning every ounce of courage, she possessed, and miraculously finding her voice, she stammered, “W-who…who are y-you?”
He simply smiled boyishly. Then he stepped backward away from the terrified woman in a mimed attempt to ease her fear. With a roguish grin, he bowed formally.
Only her eyes were visible above the coverlet which she held over the lower half of her face. She tilted her head as she observed the bowing specter. His playfulness somewhat eased her fears…but only somewhat. She began to scrutinize the ghostly man standing before her.
Whoever he was, he was appealingly handsome with his dark, curly hair worn long to his nape and two equally dark eyebrows. His face was perfectly proportioned with classical features enhanced by the two dimples which appeared on both cheeks when he smiled. His transparency made it difficult to discern the color of his eyes but his full lips appeared rosy.
He was dressed in what seemed to be quality garments albeit see-through… a well-cut frock coat and brocade waistcoat with doeskin trousers and polished black boots. Each garment appeared fashionably tailored to accentuate his slender but toned body. Were he not a figment of her imagination, she would have found him most attractive. She nearly giggled aloud. Most appealing, indeed, were she attracted to translucent men.
She grimaced, silently chastising herself for her ridiculous thought. She needed to cling to her fright as self-preservation.
He was feeling strange as if an unseen and powerful force was pulling him away. Nervously, he wondered to where he was being drawn. He did not want to leave her. Not yet. Not until she helped him determine what was happening to him. But he felt powerless to resist the pull.
Then before her disbelieving eyes the gallant gentleman suddenly faded into nothingness. In a blink of her eye, he was gone.