The Winter Spirit by Indra Vaughn
Blurb: Nathaniel O’Donnelly likes his life quiet, his guests happy, and his ghosts well-behaved.
Although a boyfriend wouldn’t go amiss. Someone to share his beautiful B&B with, even if it is in the middle of nowhere and he’s long past the wrong side of thirty. Problem is, Nathaniel's living with a ghost who thinks he’s cupid, and whose arrows fly a little too straight.
Gabriel Wickfield had the unfortunate luck of dying before his time, and now he’s stuck trying to make romance happen to earn his right to move along. Not that he’s bored in the meantime–Nathaniel is just too easy to tease. And also a little bit scrumptious…
With the curse reaching its expiration date, Gabriel needs to make this final match this Christmas. Without it, nothing but darkness awaits.
Love can conquer all, but can it beat death?
Review: Oh wow. This was beautiful. Made me tear up in places. Wonderful writing. Highly recommended.
No reply, of course. There never was one when I really needed it. With a sigh of annoyance I turned away. Heading downstairs, I pushed the cuff of my checkered sleeve back and looked at my watch. Only six am. There were two guests at the Lake House B&B. Neither of them would be up before eight, so I had plenty of time to put some effort into my own breakfast.
On my way past the reception desk, I slowed and glanced at the check-in log. It was still handwritten, even though I did keep records on the computer too these days.
Owen Ashurst, arrival two pm. The booking had been made through the B&B website, not over the phone. But I just knew. I knew. I eased a long breath through pursed lips, hoping it’d settle the squirmy nerves in my belly.
“It’s fine, Nathaniel,” I told myself. “It’s fine.” I wanted to close my eyes and remember all the ways in which Owen and I had been best friends for life. Until life got between us.
I forced myself to walk on toward the kitchen and open the swinging door. Elisa Brown wasn’t in yet, and that suited me fine. I usually didn’t mind her bright and cheerful personality as she did the dishes and restocked the food pantry. But today I wanted a little peace and quiet to ease my whirling mind.
Without giving much thought to what I was doing, I set about making an asparagus and feta cheese omelet, toasted and buttered two slices of bread, roasted a couple of tomatoes and mushrooms, and slid it all on a plate with perfect timing. The old house with the white country kitchen was still quiet. I settled in the seat at the head of the huge wooden table with a sigh of relief. My nerves were ebbing. There was nothing to worry about. Owen was just another guest.
I scooped some egg onto my fork and aimed it at my mouth, when the pan I’d left in the sink rattled. I put the fork down again.
“Gabe, I swear, if you mess with me today I will cover every mirror in this place for an entire month. Don’t think I won’t.”
Satisfied, I lifted my fork again. I opened my mouth. The pan gave a tiny rebellious rattle and I was about to say something else, when the door behind me opened. Elisa burst inside in a flurry of snow and…Christmas lights?
“Morning Elisa.” I knew better than to comment, despite the fact that the outside of the Lake House already looked like an exploded Christmas tree.
“Before you say anything, these are for inside. And morning, Nathaniel.”
“I wasn’t going to say anything.”
“I could hear you think it from here. It’s time for a Christmas tree in the house again.”
I gave her a long steady look. She shrugged out of the oversized winter coat needed in these Michigan winters. Her curly blonde hair drifted with static around her round, pretty face. “You do remember what happened the last time we had a Christmas tree, don’t you?” I still suspected Gabe, but innocent until proven guilty and all that.
“I do. That was five years ago. I got a fake one, so this one won’t catch fire. It’s still in my trunk.” She fluttered her eyelashes at me. “If you’d be so kind.”
Resigned, I shoveled eggs in my mouth as Elisa went to hang her coat away. When she returned she busied herself with tidying up the pots and pans I’d used. I’d feel bad about her cleaning up my mess if it wasn’t her job.
“So still just Anderson and Houzer? No stragglers wandered in last night?”
“No, but we do have a new guest coming in today at two.”
“I saw, yes. Owen something. I freshened up the Bear room yesterday.”
“Actually, I’d like to put him in the Superior room.”
Elisa zeroed in on me like a well-aimed missile and I mournfully stared at my empty plate. I had a vague idea a mouthful of food would come in handy any second n—
Two tiny fists planted themselves on a pair of well-formed hips just inside my field of vision. “Nathaniel O’Donnelly, is there something you have to tell me?”
The B&B had twelve double rooms, and each of them was named after a lake in Michigan. It’d make sense to put Owen in the Bear room because it was down the same hallway as the other guests’ rooms. Efficient, when it came to changing sheets and towels. Conflicting with my plans to keep Owen close to my own room, which was at the opposite end of the large old house.