Julia Dennis has spent her life bouncing around with no home of her own. When luck and fate gives her the opportunity to buy the home she’d stayed in as a foster child, she jumps on it Enchanted with the historical home, and the ghost she finds there, Julia starts down a path that will alter her life.
Thomas Perry was wrongfully hung for witchcraft in 1692. The trauma of his death trapped him in between the worlds of the living and the dead. Stuck in this “middle” world, he’s spent three hundred years on the land where Haven House now stands. When the new owner moves in, Thomas begins to remember things about life that had slipped from his mind almost completely. The desire to live and love has never been stronger for him.
Julia and Thomas are drawn together by love, will their love be enough to bring them together for the happily ever after they both deserve?
March 4, 1692
Salem Village, Massachusetts
He didn’t count the gallows’ steps, even though he’d meant to. Thomas Perry looked over at the set of steps that had led him to the rope, which now dangled in front of him. The people in front of the platform stood huddled in groups, their voices muted against the wind. They had come to watch him—the first victim of their fear and arrogance—die. His gaze focused on one man whose disdain for the proceedings was well known, Giles Corey. More than eighty years old, Giles had seen plenty of death in his lifetime. Thomas was surprised to see him. He had not believed the old man would attend his hanging.
Thomas watched him walk up to the platform and pause. The old man looked at the ground and sighed, then looked at him, his fury at the proceedings evident.
Thomas shook his head. He didn’t want someone to die trying to defend him. As if the old man understood, Giles nodded in return and turned to leave, but paused and turned back to Thomas. “I prayed for you, lad.”
Thomas nodded his thanks and then stiffened as the man who would lead him up the gallows’ stairs came toward him with a black head cloth in his hands. “No. I want to see him.”
There was no question as to whom Thomas was referring. The man who had been given the duty of hanging him looked to Samuel Howard.
Samuel shrugged, obviously not caring if Thomas died covered or not. Samuel just wanted him to die.
The hangman nodded and tossed the head covering aside. “Any last words?”
Thomas looked to Giles, but the old man had walked away. He swallowed hard as he realized Giles had walked to stand beside his father, far away from the crowd. Edward Perry was a devoutly religious man who’d lost his wife and all but one son, and now stood watching as the last of his children was about to be hung for witchcraft.
The insanity of the trial and his coming execution was unreal for Thomas. He shook his head. He wasn’t going to beg for his life.
Samuel Howard, standing at the front of the crowd, stepped forward. “Will you not profess your guilt so your soul may be welcomed into heaven?”
“I will not.” Thomas glared at the man. “The only thing I’m guilty of is being a better man than you.”
The rope slid around his neck, a rough reminder of what was yet to come. His gaze went once more to Samuel Howard, the man who had accused of him witchcraft. Rage boiled in Thomas until words spilled out of his mouth. “She’ll never love you.”
The woman in question, the daughter of the farmer Thomas had worked for, stood by herself halfway between his father and the crowd of curious onlookers. Thomas looked at her thinking he hadn’t had the chance to fall in love with her but even so, he regretted the life Sarah would now have because of the relationship she’d indulged in with him.
As if she understood, she lifted her chin and met his stare with her own. Her strength and easy smile had drawn him to her and he felt himself relax at her gentle nod.
Samuel Howard flushed red with anger. “Hangman, do your duty.”
Thomas closed his eyes at the whine of the lever that would drop the floor from underneath him. The moment seemed to stretch out ahead of him. He’d never considered his own death. The life behind him seemed distant and unreal, and the future he’d never thought about pressed against his chest, teasing him with a vitality and hope that would not be his.
The whine of the lever made his blood run cold. Desolation faded into fury then; these backward and superstitious people had let Samuel Howard kill him out of jealousy. Thomas looked at the man in question, and for the first time in his life he knew hatred. The last thing he heard was the give of the latch, wind brushing against his face, and then there was nothing.
* * * *
Sarah James took a deep shuddering breath and turned away from the gallows. Her gaze fell on Edward Perry. He was standing rigid; the only show of emotion the slight tremble in his hands as he shoved them into his pockets. Slowly she forced herself to walk to him. Purposefully she didn’t look back to the scaffold; her last memory of Thomas Perry would not be of him hanging. She pulled her cloak close to her body and continued walking. Tears welled in her eyes but she blinked rapidly to keep them from falling. The crowd would not see her fall apart.
The trial had been an absolute mockery; her own father had testified against Thomas. Yet, he’d been too much of a coward to come to Gallows Hill to watch the fate of the young innocent man he’d help murder. Sarah grimaced in disgust as she thought of her father and how he’d stuttered through his answers after he’d testified. He’d been able to justify none of his accusations against Thomas. Samuel Howard had convinced him that Thomas was the very devil and he’d blindly followed just like the rest of the town.
“Good morn, Miss James,” Edward murmured.
“Sir.” Sarah swallowed hard and her gaze fell to the ground. She’d indulged in a fantasy and a man had died for it. She bit down on her lip remembering the way Thomas looked at her and that sweet moment when she’d surrendered to the ache he’d created within her. It had been so beautiful. She’d never allow herself to consider what they’d done a sin.
“Don’t be blaming yourself,” Giles said softly. “We know where the fault lies.”
“Thomas was a good man.” Sarah kept her gaze on Edward Perry, her own grief paling in comparison. “He was none of the things Samuel painted him to be.”
“I know, miss.” Edward stiffened, his gaze moving over Sarah’s shoulder. “Samuel.”
“Sarah, I’ll see you home.”
Sarah turned and glared at Samuel Howard. As he reached out to take her arm, she jerked back in horror, not letting him touch her. “I’ve no need of your company.”
“You are evil. Every day for the rest of my life, I will wish you dead and when you finally die I will think of you no more.” Sarah spat the words. Gathering a fistful of her skirts she hurried down the hill and away from the injustice that had been done.
Julia Dennis tore open the large manila envelope and dumped the paperwork and keys to her new home onto her lap. Tossing aside the papers, she clutched the keys in her hand until the metal bit into her palm. This moment had been too long in coming. Despite the steadily pouring rain, she couldn’t have been happier. Holding the keys tightly, she picked up the paperwork again, letting her fingers brush over the letters of the deed, something she’d done often in the two months since purchasing Haven House.
Pulling the hood of her raincoat over her dark brown hair and pushing open the car door, she darted out into the rain toward the house. Pausing on the porch to catch her breath, she pushed back her hood, looked out into the drizzle and laughed.
It still felt odd. Nearly all of her life going home had meant greeting a small dorm room or, after she’d graduated college, an impossibly overpriced and tiny apartment. Now there was a house in her world.
Jingling the keys a little, she went to the door and tried the keys out until one worked. The click of the lock brought unexpected tears to her eyes. Opening the door and peeking inside, she laughed at her own foolishness and threw open the door.
“Hello, house,” Julia whispered, overwhelmed with relief. She dropped the keys into the pocket of her coat and turned a complete circle in the middle of the foyer.
She had a place of her own. The knowledge was amazing and warmed a part of her that had lain cold for years. The house had changed little since the time she’d lived there. She had been one of the many foster children to come through Haven House. It had been the one place in her life that had been safe and now it was hers.
Based on the realtor’s recommendations, she’d had the utilities turned on and a construction crew had been sent into the house before she’d shipped any of her furniture. The furniture that had come with the house had been polished and cleaned. Her shoes squeaked on the hardwood floor as she entered the formal dining room and turned on the light.
Having lived in apartments or the homes of others most of her life, first in foster care and then on her own, the furniture was a solid reminder that she had a whole new world to live in. A big beautiful house, full of the furniture she’d always wanted but couldn’t really afford. She’d worked hard for everything and valued what she had earned. Education had come first and now there was her home. The nagging thought that she had no family to share the space with was there, but she pushed that feeling aside and forced herself to think about making Haven House her home.
“There is time.” Her whisper filled the foyer and seemed to float above her head into the rest of the house.
Straightening her shoulders, she went back outside to gather her luggage. It would take several trips but she didn’t mind—nothing was more important than starting her life in her new home. Once all of her luggage was inside, she lugged it upstairs to the master bedroom. Julia sighed as she shrugged out of her raincoat and tossed it across her pile of luggage. Looking at the large sleigh bed she’d had shipped to the house made her wish that she wasn’t soaking wet. It would have been absolute heaven to crawl into it and go to sleep.
After unhooking her cell phone from her purse and dialing her best friend’s number, she sat on a small bench next to the door. “Hey! I’m here.”
“Everything set?” Melissa asked.
“Oh, yes. The movers and the cleaning people put everything to rights. I don’t have to do a thing but unpack the clothes I kept with me.”
“I can’t believe you spent all of that money on a house.”
Julia laughed. “It wasn’t all of the money. I still have a nice savings account. How are things?”
“Well, would you like me to tell you how much we miss you, or would you like to know how poorly your replacement is performing?”
Julia grinned. “Neither, tell me about your new guy.”
“New ex-guy.” Melissa sighed. “He couldn’t fuck his way out of a wet paper sack. How am I supposed to put up with that?”
“I’ve no idea.” Julia muffled her laughter, not wanting to encourage her friend. “It’s great to hear your voice. It’s odd being on my own again.”
“Well, you’re the one who moved,” Melissa muttered. “So, the house is beautiful?”
“Oh yes, the repairs went beautifully.” Julia stood and walked around her bedroom. She strolled to one closet and found it full of her winter clothes. “The mover even hung up the clothes I sent in the truck.”
“That must be the most expensive moving company known to man.”
“They were worth every penny.”
“Have you decided what you’re going to do yet?”
“I’m still thinking. I have an offer from a small law firm in town, although it would be nice to work with someone more experienced. I don’t know if I’m ready to hang my own shingle yet.” Julia leaned back against the wall and stared at the ceiling. “What about you, are you going to get a new roommate?”
Julia took a deep breath as her friend rattled on about roommate interviews, her job, and the work she was doing. After the phone call ended, Julia dropped her cell phone onto the bed and went into the large bathroom off the master suite. The old-fashioned claw foot tub made her smile; the plumbers that had been hired had begged to replace it. However, it was the one thing she had insisted on keeping. The rest of the plumbing in the house had been replaced. New sinks, a large shower stall. Her gaze darted from the shower stall and then back to the tub. What a decision, she thought.
* * * *
Thomas watched the woman with interest. It had been nearly two years since the house had been occupied, and the last owners had been an elderly couple. The best thing about them, of course, had been their television; he’d been playing with the new owner’s television since the movers had arrived with it. He hadn’t expected a single woman. He was interested in her in a way that had practically become foreign to him.
The woman shrugged out of her blouse, exposing a lacy bra and, uncomfortable, Thomas moved away from the door of the bathroom. Over the years, the privacy of others had not meant much to him, but somehow staying with her as she undressed felt wrong. This woman was different. Once in her bedroom, he paused and listened to her move around the bathroom. The rustle of clothing caught his attention. He started to move back toward the bathroom door but changed his mind and backed away.
Uneasy but overwhelmingly curious, Thomas edged back to the door of the bathroom. The woman had shed all of her clothes and was sitting on the edge of the tub filling it with water. She stepped away from the tub and humming softly to herself, walked toward him. He backed away quickly, but she only went as far as the chair where she’d dropped her bag earlier. Digging into the bag, he watched the woman pull out several bottles and go back into the bathroom.
Back in the doorway, he watched her sprinkle a fine powder into the water and then disperse it with her hand. He’d thought her beautiful the moment she’d entered the house, and seeing all that she had to offer a man had not changed his opinion. Her legs were long and shapely, the soft look of her skin drew him closer. He paused just inside the bathroom. The bottles were on the small shelf next to the tub and her arms were stretched over her head.
Her back arched gently, her pink tipped breasts moved gently. He reached out to her, but jerked his hand back. He was astounded at his lack of willpower, but even so, he let his gaze travel over the gentle curve of her belly and then downward. Her sex was shaved clean; the lack of hair surprised and interested him. He’d never been with a woman who had shaved like that. Turning her back on him, she stepped into the tub.
He watched her slide down into the steamy water; the soft smile of pleasure on her lips enticed him to move further into the bathroom. He almost turned to leave then, the guilt of invading her privacy coming back in full force, but he paused as her fingers brushed over the tips of her nipples. He watched the soft pink skin of her nipples change, hardening as she purposefully aroused the flesh.
Thomas moved closer as one hand slipped down into the water and between her legs. The woman moaned softly and let her head fall back against the edge of the tub as she moved her hand. He was torn between hating himself for remaining and indulging in the remnants of lust that stirred in him. His physical needs and urges had long since been abandoned, or so he thought. The woman rocked slowly against her hand, her breasts peeking out of the water with every movement. He moved closer. Her eyes were closed and her face was relaxed. Her lips parted slowly with a soft moan. He watched her jerk and go rigid in the water as she came. Thomas forced himself to the leave the bathroom before he gave into the impulse to touch her.
* * * *
Julia laughed softly to herself and relaxed in the scented water of her bath. Her skin was overheated from the mixture of the bath and her masturbation. The sensations of the orgasm lingered and her clit was throbbing gently between her labia. Still, as warm as her bath was, the air in the bathroom was starting to cool. Frowning, she finished her back quickly and dressed in a sweat suit and warm socks.
Drying her hair with a small towel, she went in search of the thermostat. It was on the wall at the bottom of the stairs. She turned it on and glanced into the living room, surprised to find the television on, the sound turned down very low.
She walked over to it and turned it off; her thoughts going back to one of the construction workers who had called about the repairs. He’d mentioned that the locals thought her house was haunted. It had amused her—nothing could make her regret buying Haven House. Frowning, she left the living room and hurried back up the stairs. Once back in the bedroom, Julia dropped her hair towel into an empty laundry basket and sat down on the edge of her bed.
“You knew the house was haunted.” Jumping at the sound of her own words, she glanced around the room.
Thomas grinned. It normally took people several weeks with him before they started talking to themselves. “Did you, now?”
He moved closer to her and paused when she jerked away. His eyes widened. It had been years since anyone had entered the house who could sense him without him trying to first gain their attention. The last had been a child and after the first time it had happened, he had stayed away from her. He could still see the terror in her eyes and hear the screams; never had he thought to scare a child like that. More than twenty years later, he still felt guilt and remorse.
“Can you hear me?” Thomas asked softly, moving closer to the woman.
Julia shivered, not from the cold, but from a memory of a sensation that had lingered in her since the last time she’d been in Haven House. Her third day in her fourth foster home, so long ago, had been a disturbing one. Having lost her parents only a month before, a part of her had already been broken by the system that was supposed to take care of her. Warm air brushed across her face and understanding dawned; she’d been warm because whatever lived in her house with her had lingered beside her.
Thomas moved closer and gave into a temptation so strong it stunned him. He brushed his fingertips against her cheek and the color drained from her face. She scrambled off the other side of the bed, her heart pounding. She edged around the bed and walked toward the bedroom door. It was open just a crack. He followed her, and the moment the heat of his presence hit her skin, Julia screamed like a ten-year-old girl, threw open the door, and ran.
Julia ran down the stairs and toward the front door, but stopped short of opening it. She turned and rested her back against the cool wood. Looking up the elegant staircase that led to the second floor of her home, she said, “This is my home.”
She lifted her chin and pressed her lips together. She would not allow herself to scream again. “This is my home,” she repeated and crossed her arms over her breasts. “I won’t leave here and you can’t do anything to make me.”
Thomas paused on the landing that separated the staircase into two parts. The woman was shaking, and while a part of him wanted to go hide somewhere deep in the house, he found he couldn’t leave her. He didn’t want to leave her. He went down the rest of the stairs and walked toward her. The moment he was close enough for her to feel him, she backed up against the door, hitting it hard.
“Damn it.” Julia rubbed the back of her head. “You bully!”
Thomas took a step back and inclined his head. He moved forward again and she stiffened. Her hands were balled into fists and he watched anger and fear war on her face. “Please don’t be afraid.”
Julia took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Forcing herself to calm down and focus on what she knew about the presence that was currently doing an excellent job of turning her into a screaming ninny. “You’re still here.”
Thomas paused, realizing that the woman in front of him and the child he’d scared twenty years before were one and the same. He took several steps away from her, guilty and angry with himself for scaring her again. “I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t run and hide again,” Julia whispered as the warmth retreated. “I have something to say.”
Thomas paused, no longer retreating, and watched her face, looking for the charming smile she’d had when she’d entered the house. Her expression was pensive but not scared, so he edged closer. “Can you hear me?”
Her silence told him that his question hadn’t been heard. He’d hoped perhaps that she could hear him, that at last he would have some verbal contact with a living, breathing person. A part of him felt cheated, but the mere fact that she could feel his presence and that he could touch her was more than he’d had in years.
Julia inclined her head; it was difficult to believe what was happening. “I know you are trying to tell me something.” She paused and then straightened her shoulders and forced her fingers to relax. “You tried to talk to me then too. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I never got a chance to apologize for scaring you.”
“I scared you more than you scared me,” Thomas said wearily.
It had been so long since he’d talked to anyone that the thought that there was finally someone who would be open to communicating was like an open wound. The limitations of his existence were his curse and the price he’d been paying for hundreds of years. Remembering the reason why he had died, and the woman he’d left behind to bear the brunt of their affair, made him angry and he turned from this woman.
“Don’t give up.”
He turned to look at her, and saw that she was holding out her hand. In disbelief, he reached out to her and brushed his fingers against hers. He didn’t understand how or why, but he could feel her. Her fingers curled against his and he sucked in a breath. “You were the first person I’d touched in over three hundred years. You were so sad.”
Julia swallowed hard, and shivered as the warmth of his presence slipped down her arm and into her chest. “I wish I knew your name.”
“I’m sorry I scared you,” he whispered.
She pulled her hand away from the heat and sighed. “I’m very tired. I didn’t expect to encounter you so soon. I don’t know what to do about this now.” Julia cleared her throat. “I’m going to go back upstairs to my bedroom. I’d like you, whoever you are, to stay down here.”
Thomas watched her edge around him and hurry back up the stairs. He had scared people in the past on purpose when they deserved it. It took a lot of work for him to manipulate objects in the living world, but he could do it when he was motivated. Moving furniture, turning off lights, banging on the walls had scared away a great many people from Haven House. Yet, none of them had ever reacted to him the way this woman had. It was amazing she wasn’t packing a bag and running for her life.
* * * *
Julia sat down on her bed and glanced at her closed door. In the morning, she would spend some time researching to find out who her ghost was. A part of her had hoped that he was still here, and another part of her had dreaded finding out. The memories of her first experience with the ghost in Haven House were vivid. She could still see him, but the adult was no longer afraid. She understood now that whoever he was, he was lonely.
The comfort he had offered her as a child hadn’t been appreciated at the time, but she recognized the comfort for what it was. Remembering his dark hair, the line of his jaw and the penetrating loneliness in his green eyes, she thought it was odd that he wasn’t visible to her now. Now that she was here, there had to be some way to help him. He didn’t deserve to spend the rest of his eternity as a ghost.
Slipping beneath the covers, she tried to forgive herself for screaming and running, as it didn’t mesh with the kick-ass woman-of-the-world self-image she had developed. A modern woman wouldn’t have run from a bunch of warm air and had screamed like a child in the process. It was embarrassing, but as only the ghost had been witness to the response, she assumed her secret was safe.
* * * *
“You aren’t supposed to touch the living.”
Thomas jumped a little and then sighed. “I haven’t seen you in a while.” He looked at Simon, his guardian pain in the ass. “Why are you here?”
“Just checking up on you.” Simon inclined his head. “You’re awful jumpy for a spook.”
“What is the harm in touching her?”
“I don’t make the rules, Thomas.”
“And what is the punishment for breaking it?” Thomas asked softly.
“You punish yourself far better than anyone else ever could,” Simon muttered. “Are you ready to end this, Thomas?”
“How can I be satisfied with the life and the death that was mine? The uselessness of it…”
“You were accused falsely and killed against His will,” Simon said softly.
Thomas glanced back toward the stairs to where the woman had gone. He wanted to know everything about her, yet he knew it was not his place to know all of her secrets. “She is beautiful.”
“Yes,” Simon agreed. “Her name is Julia Dennis.”
“It’s like I know her.”
“I do not find that surprising. She’s been here before.” Simon looked at Thomas.
Thomas shook his head. “No, that isn’t what I mean. I can’t explain it.”
Simon sighed. “It does not pay for a spook to think.”
“Stop calling me a spook,” Thomas snapped.
Simon laughed. “I’ll be around, Thomas.”
“Julia,” Thomas murmured; he didn’t notice when Simon left. He stood and looked up the stairway to her bedroom door. “Welcome home, Julia.”
Fighting the urge to go back up the stairs, he walked into the living room and looked at the television that was turned off. The first order of business as far as he was concerned was figuring out a way to let her know that turning on the television was difficult for him. He frowned and walked over to it. Concentrating, he pushed hard on the on button until the machine finally responded.
* * * *
Julia woke slowly, the morning sun teasing her eyelids until she rolled over and opened her eyes. The events of the night before came back to her abruptly, and sitting up, she looked around the room but saw nothing out of place. Pushing back the covers, she slid from the bed and hurried down the stairs only to stop in the entranceway of the living room. The television was on again.
Thinking her ghost made poor entertainment choices, she paused behind the couch and watched a woman in a tight T-shirt and shorts coaxing her non-existent audience through a morning work out. Moving around the couch, she turned off the television and went in search of the only thing that made her civilized in the morning. Fortunately, the coffee was in the first cabinet she opened.
“You should watch the news, it’s far more educational,” Julia muttered as she unwrapped a coffee cup and went to the sink to rinse it. “Are you even here?”
Warm air brushed against her skin; closing her eyes, she let it envelop her. It would be easy to surrender to the heat of him. How easy his existence must be compared to hers. What stress was there in the afterlife?
“There you are.” She leaned on the counter in front of the coffee maker with her empty cup. “I don’t have anyone to blame but myself. I’ve known most of my life that this house is haunted.”
“You are very pretty.” Thomas mused as he watched her preparing her coffee. She went to a box and pulled out a large plastic container. It slipped and sugar spilled out across the table.
“Crap.” Julia glared at the mess and then jumped as a line formed in the sugar. “Hey, don’t play in that!”
Then the letter “t” appeared, and Julia sucked in a breath as her ghost slowly spelled out his name. The gentle swirl of the final letter made her knees weak. “Hello, Thomas.”
Thomas smiled. It had been a long time since someone alive had said his name. “Hello, Julia.”
Julia smoothed the sugar over and took a deep breath. “What’s your last name?”
Gently, as if the wind was moving the grains of sugar around, letters began to form until the word “Perry” appeared. “Thomas Perry,” Thomas whispered. “That’s who I was.”
“When did you die?”
Thomas shook his head and backed away from the table; he wouldn’t discuss his death with her. He watched her frown and then sigh. She cleaned up the sugar quietly and then set about drinking her coffee. He leaned against the wall just inches from the table and watched. He hadn’t been thirsty or hungry since he had died. However, every moment he spent with Julia brought urges and feelings to the surface that had lain dormant for years.
“You’re very special, Julia. I’m glad you’ve come to live here.”
He watched her look around and then slowly stand up from the chair she’d been sitting in. “I have to get dressed and run some errands in town, Thomas. I’ll be gone several hours.”
* * * *
Julia pushed open the door and went back to the porch steps to retrieve the grocery bags. She took her groceries to the kitchen and put them away. The television was on, which meant Thomas was in the living room.
Walking back to the living room, she paused in the doorway. “I’m going to go upstairs and set up my computer. Then I’m going to try to find out what happened to you.”
Thomas flinched and turned to look at her. “I wish you wouldn’t.”
Julia moved into the living room and turned off the television. “I’m sharing my house with a ghost, that fact alone has me questioning my sanity.”
“Bloody hell woman, would you stop turning the TV off?” Thomas snapped and then stared at her hard.
“I need to know who you were,” Julia continued.
He walked to where she stood. “I was a good man and I died for nothing more than the jealousy and stupidity of another. Okay, okay, I admit I might have been something of a womanizer, but really, what twenty-five year old man isn’t?”
Julia held out her hand and let her fingers touch the warmth that had come to her. When her hand met with something solid she flattened her palm against it and moved closer. “I’m sorry for what you suffered, Thomas.” She felt the sadness in him. “But I have to know. It would be easier if I could see you or at least hear you.”
“I’m not supposed to touch you, Julia.”
She moved closer still as warm air drifted over her fingers. Pressure covered her hand. Realizing it was his hand, her eyes opened in wonder. A small sound of pleasure slipped from her lips as she moved her fingers. It was so wonderful, to touch him.
“You are ruining my good intentions.”
Julia moved her fingers and turned her hand over to mingle her fingers with his. “I can’t protect you from your past, Thomas.”
“Let me do the protecting,” he whispered as he brushed his lips against her cheek. “You’ll be safe here, Julia.”
Julia stepped back and touched her cheek. The heat of him seemed to cling to her skin. “I don’t know how to help you. There is little I wouldn’t give to have you speak to me, so that I could understand what keeps you here.”
Moving away from the heat of him was difficult but necessary. It was increasingly difficult to think when surrounded by him. Julia backed further away and turned to leave the room. Hesitantly looking back, she wondered if he would follow her upstairs. Cool air from the foyer brushed across her face, answering her silent question.
Thomas watched her, not sure he needed help. He didn’t want to think about the day his life had ended and he didn’t want to know what history had to say about it. He followed her as she left the entranceway of the room and walked to the stairs. A part of him didn’t want Julia to know what had happened to him.
Going back to the living room, he looked at the dark screen of the television. “You could stop turning off the television!” Thomas shouted, and then sighed.
The fact that she couldn’t hear him was really starting to grate on his nerves.
* * * *
Julia paused at the top of the stairs and looked down. He hadn’t followed her. Entering the room that would eventually be her home office, she looked around at the boxes the movers had left unopened.
Going through the motions of setting up her computer helped her move past the feelings that Thomas was evoking in her. It had been a long time since a man had been in her life, and even if he was dead, his masculine presence seemed to cling to her skin. Once she had everything set up on her desk and plugged in, Julia launched her dial-up connection.
“I’m getting a cable connection ASAP.” Rubbing her forehead roughly and humming to keep from getting irritated, she watched as her computer cycled through several numbers before a connection caught. “I guess I’ll need to add some guy channels to my satellite package too.” That amused her, as she had no idea what sort of programs her annoying ghost liked since the television was never on the same channel.
Calling up a search site, she began. It didn’t take long, considering the history of Danvers, Massachusetts. She found the name Thomas Perry in a place she never would have expected. He was listed among the men and women killed in Salem during the Salem witchcraft trials. Going through the trial transcripts, she read every word of what was said at his trial. When she finished, all she could do was sit there, stunned. Julia stood, turned toward the doorway and felt him … the warmth that drifted in the air alerting her he was with her.
“You were murdered.”
“Executed,” Thomas corrected softly.
Julia sat down in her chair again. “You must be so angry.”
“I wasn’t all that nice the first hundred years or so.” He watched her and wished his words did more than fill up on his own silent world. “I won’t hurt you.”
Julia snapped, frustrated. “I feel like I’m talking to myself.”
Turning back to the computer, she closed her browser and shut it down. Knowing how Thomas Perry had died did not ease the ache in her where he was concerned. Deep down inside his death hurt her. The fleeting memory of him in her childhood did not do his presence justice. The heat that lingered in the room told her he was still with her.
Standing, she pushed her chair against the desk. “There is no justice for what was done to you.”
“There’s nothing I can do to make it right.”
“Just being here, you’ve changed my whole world,” Thomas responded.
Julia went into her bathroom and wet a washcloth for her face. The Salem Village witchcraft trials had fascinated her in school. Now, as an adult she recognized it as a tragic situation spawned by petty but human motivations and fear. Thomas Perry was in her home, not in the past. Knowing who he was made ignoring him impossible. He’d been accused of witchcraft by a local merchant named Samuel Howard. His execution had been swiftly carried out in the early part of the period of hysteria and fear that had gripped Salem.
Disgruntled and uncomfortable for the first time since she’d arrived at Haven House, Julia checked her watch and decided that she needed to go back into town. Locating her keys and jacket, she hurried downstairs and out the front door. Locking it hastily, Julia was forced to admit internally that no matter how briefly she felt it, the reality of Thomas’s situation had her scared.
Once in her car, Julia felt a weight of fear lift off her shoulders. It wasn’t Thomas Perry she feared, but the knowledge that had been gained by just knowing he’d existed. She’d never allowed herself to believe in an afterlife until now.
* * * *
Julia didn’t even know where she was going until she was there, parking her car on the street across from the memorial. Not knowing what it would prove, she acknowledged that that she had to see his name on the memorial. Crossing the street, she tried to prepare herself for it. A large pedestal stood in the middle of the memorial with a simple but devastating inscription engraved on it. In memory of those innocents who died during the Salem Village witchcraft hysteria of 1692.
She touched the book made of granite then let her fingers linger on the shackles that were laid across the pedestal. After a moment she walked to the panels and found Thomas’s name. The words were simple and unbelievably vivid for what they revealed. Hanged March 4, 1692, Thomas Perry of Salem Village. Hand shaking, she ran her fingers over the engraved letters then pulled back, tightening her fingers into a fist. Unexpected tears formed, for never had history been as real to her as it was at that very moment.
“It’s sad isn’t it?”
Julia jerked and then offered the woman who’d spoken a shaky smile. “Yes, it is. You learn about history, but until you’re faced with the reality of it, you just don’t understand the enormity of some things.” Shaking her head, she offered the woman her hand. “Julia Dennis.”
“Ah, you bought Haven House. My husband’s company did the repair work out there.” The woman took her hand gently. “My name is Joann Perry.”
Julia glanced at the monument, then back to the woman. “Any relation?”
“Only by marriage. My husband Mark is a direct descendent of the youngest son.” Joann sighed. “I try to come by every once in a while and talk with Thomas.”
Julia’s mouth dropped open briefly. “Oh. You mean you come here.”
Joann laughed. “Yes, indeed. I know it seems foolish. But, he was such a young man when he died. It just breaks my heart when I think about it.”
“Yes,” Julia agreed. “I’ve no children but it must have been very hard on his parents.”
“Well, by that time all he had left was his father. Edward Perry apparently took his son’s death very hard, but he eventually remarried.” Joann brushed her fingers over Thomas’s name. “I was never graced with children.”
“That’s a shame,” Julia whispered, and looked at the woman again. She saw the sadness there, but also a contentment that spoke of a good life and a great deal of love. “Please tell your husband that we met and that I am very pleased with the house.”
“Of course.” Joann turned to her. “Have a good evening, Julia.”
“Yes, ma’am, I will.” Julia walked to the sidewalk and turned back.
Joann Perry was still standing where Julia had left her. Her fingers were once more brushing at the engraved letters of Thomas’s name. Julia imagined that there wasn’t a single speck of dust in his name, unlike the others on the monument. She checked the traffic and crossed the road to her car. As Julia started the car, she saw Joann Perry leave the monument and head down the street.