It was yesterday night, the night before Halloween, mind, a night dark and wet like a duck’s behind, and I was scheduling blog posts, a rather dull activity, in most cases, when I came across this title, which had been on my list for a while. The Chef and the Ghost of Bartholomew Addison Jenkins. Very pretty cover, remarkbly intriguing title. I started copying and pasting blurb, pictures, teaser. An evening like any other, in a blogger's life, I thought.
"Hey," I said,aloud, to the cat, "Ever heard of a Bartholomew Addison Jenkins?"
And then someone coughed.
Nothing major, mind. There was no hint that someone might be having a sore throat. It was a quiet, polite cough, and yet every hair on the back of my neck stood on end and I went prickly all over. Holy smokes, I thought, what the hell? I turned around and, there right behind me stood a… man.
“Good evening,” he said, most politely.
“Um … good evening,” I said, and stared. At first I stared because this guy was standing on my precious Persian rug wearing heavy black shoes (with a silver buckle) which is heresy in this house. Then I went on staring because he was … how shall I put it … translucent? Slightly see-through?
He was only a little taller than me, wearing a pair of knee knickers and a long, dark jacket. The knickers were tight around his flat, hard belly, and his eyes were an extraordinary shade of light brown. His hair, pulled back in a short ponytail, was a darker brown. His expression was at once thoughtful and merry.
“Er … excuse me, you would be…?”
“Bartholomew Addison Jenkins,” he said, bowing. “I prefer Bart. I do keep up.” He extended a slightly transparent hand which I shook. His fingers were either very hot or very cold. I couldn’t tell which. It tickled a little to touch them.
“O-ok,” I said, giving a quick look to the screen of my computer to confirm it really was the same name as the cover of the book I had just pasted. It was! “I didn’t realize you did live interviews,” I said, by way of giving myself time to process this interesting turn of events. Then I bit my tongue. Live interviews with a ghost … right.
Bart smiled. “My lady,” he said.
“Um, well, sit down, please… would you mind telling me a little about you? Let’s start from the beginning. I can’t place your style at all. Where and when do you come from?”
“New York State. The Hudson River Valley,” he said. “A little town called Englehook. Pleasant place, not too terribly affected by the recent war, although of course there were certain … disturbances.” He put his hands in the pocket of his long, silver-buttoned jacket.
“Between the United States and the Crown.”
“Oooh, THAT war. I see. And how did you become, how shall I put it, defunct? Is that an indelicate question? I am terribly sorry.”
Bart’s smile faded. “You understand, m’lady, it is impolite to discuss that in better ghostly circles. It assumes a certain … intimacy.”
“Indeed! Oh dear, oh dear. I apologize. Ok. So now you are haunting people’s apartments, I read. How is that working out for you? What is an average day in a haunted flat like?”
“It depends, of course, upon the tenants of those rooms. Ghosts often sleep in the daytime to preserve their energy for pleasurable activities in the evening, and that was indeed a mercy before Alma moved in! The previous tenants were untidy and uninteresting. Hippies.”
(I cringes, given my penchant for mandala curtains and fringed things, but I let it pass. Helooked so courteous)
“Alma? I must admit I am curious. What is it like for a ghost, to, well, you know, fall in love, I suppose? I mean,” I gently poked at his chest, and felt something like a shock of static electricity. “Is there a heart beating in there? What are the symptoms of ghostly passion?”
Bart’s eyes gleamed. They were light brown, almost bronze in color. “It is very much as it was in the flesh. A hot rush, an urge for release. But as in the flesh, there are certain…shall we say dangers. And the requirement to practice a sort of restraint, lest … oh, we needn’t discuss this now. Let me say that ghosts, like those on the other side of the veil, have only a certain amount of energy to expend.”
“That’s intriguing. And all this prickling and hair rising that you do to people… Do you do that on purpose, or does it just happen? What are the physics of ghost-to-living-human interaction? And is there an etiquette to it?”
“I am considered to be a master at those—as you say—physics. And the etiquette is as it always was and shall be. The lady must be willing. Loving Alma is the first time I sampled the pleasures of the boudoir with the living since I have resided on their side. There is a warmth and sweetness to her that I had almost forgotten. With other ghosts, lovemaking is more like a lightning strike. But I am being indiscreet.”
“Fancy that!! Ok, just a couple more questions … back to the story. I have inside info that a, um colleague of yours is making an appearance. Name of Geoff? Can you tell me a little about him? And the other ghosts in your … er … circle? How does one becomes a ghost?”
“Geoff is a hot head. I swear he did not know he was dead for decades! He is a master of the low jest and yet cannot take a joke at his own expense. And I do not know how this fate befell either of us. Not everyone who passes remains here.”
“Do you mean we don’t all become ghosts? What are the rules?”
“We do not. And the rules are those we discover as we proceed. We do not need food, although we enjoy the aroma of it cooking. We appreciate beautiful music. And love—that we may enjoy, if cautiously. There’s no real peril for the living in an involvement with us. No fear of—how do I put this delicately—offspring. We are utterly harmless, and we cannot…” He coughed again. “I swear to you, lady, we are quite thoroughly harmless. We are.”
“Uh-ah?” I say, a bit doubtfully, but he smiles on serenely, carefully not ignoring my skepticism. “Ok, the million dollars question… Albus Dumbledore said, that to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. What is your take on the matter?”
“Dumbledore! What a curious name. An adventure, yes, and one that may be delighted in.”
“Wow! Thank you! Well, I’ll be reading more about you in the book soon, so I’ll leave it at that. I am sure you have a busy time, giving interviews all over the globe. It was most courteous of you to pay me a visit.”
He took my hand and looked deeply into my eyes, and again I could not tell whether his fingers were hot or cold. My arm prickled. And then he bowed. “My lady,” he said, and vanished. The light on my desk went off, and so did my computer. I hoped I’d remembered to save the changes to my blog!
And so I was left alone in the room again. And not a speck of dirt stained the Persian rug.
Autumn, 1982. MTV is new, poodle perms are the rage, and life just might be getting better for Alma Kobel. Her ugly divorce is final at last. Her new job as chef at Bright Day School’s gorgeous old estate is actually fun. But the place is haunted—and so is Alma’s apartment. Bartholomew Addison Jenkins’ ghost has been invisibly watching her for months. When he materializes one night, Alma discovers Bart—as he likes to be called—has talents she couldn’t have imagined…and a horrifying past. What happens if you have a one-nighter with a ghost? And what happens if one night is all you want—and you end up ghosting him? Some spirits don’t like taking “no” for an answer.
Read an Excerpt at Evernight
or download a sample from Amazon!
Read an Excerpt at Evernight
or download a sample from Amazon!