Jason Rockham has lost faith in others and himself. He no longer trusts and doesn’t believe in love. When he escapes to his cliffside home in Northern California, he meets a ghost who is the antithesis of everything he’s come to believe about people. Caine Carruthers fell in love with the laugh of a man he didn’t know. After his unexpected death, he sought out the man and found him bitter and disillusioned with life. With love in his heart, Caine sets out to show Jason that life is worthwhile and love is possible. Two incomparable heroes – a man who has lost hope and a ghost who believes love conquers all, including death. This story will make you laugh and cry and most of all… believe.
After rushing through his morning ablutions, Jason yanked on a pair of black shorts and a grey t-shirt. Padding barefoot into the kitchen, he found Caine sitting on the terrace with a tray on the table before him. The ghost appeared cleaned up from his swim and now wore a sage green t-shirt with the Caine Surf Shop logo and khaki shorts. His hands held the newspaper at arm’s length as he read.
Jason sat down across from him and reached for a muffin, breathing deeply of the fragrance of the warm bread. Setting it on his plate, he reached for the coffee pot and filled his cup. As he ate the muffin, he watched Caine read the paper. Finally, his curiosity got the better of him.
“Why are you holding the paper out like that?”
With a loud rustle, Caine folded the paper and laid it on the table, reaching for his coffee. “My eyesight isn’t what it used to be. If I don’t hold it at arm’s length, the letters are blurry,” he replied simply.
Jason gaped at him. “But… but you’re dead! Didn’t that fix the problem of old-age eyes?” he said, struggling not to laugh. “And how old are you anyway?”
“Forty-three.” Caine frowned down at the newspaper. “Maybe I can see the letters now. I didn’t even try. I’ve been holding the paper like that for a couple of years now. I didn’t realize it was a by-product of getting older. It’s just a habit now.”
Jason reached for another muffin, breaking open the golden cake. “As we get older, our eyes age too. Our near vision starts to weaken. It’s a common condition called presbyopia.”
Caine’s brows rose. “Fancy word for old eyes,” he said with a chuckle.
“I have it too.” Jason grinned at his lover, thinking he hadn’t felt so comfortable with someone in years. “I wear glasses for reading.”
Caine’s mouth opened as if he was going to say something, but then he closed it and smiled. “You’re not old.”
Jason shrugged and finished his muffin, leaning back in his chair with his coffee mug. “Thirty-eight isn’t that young. I wanted kids, but it’s too late for that now.”
“You can still have children, Jason. So you’re not married anymore. Hire a surrogate. It’s not like you can’t afford it.”
Caine’s quiet words froze Jason in mid-sip. He’d thought about a surrogate often, but he didn’t even know if his “boys” were up to impregnating a woman. The fertility specialists he and Lainey had gone to had never determined that the problem was his, so he just didn’t know if he could father children.
“I don’t think you have a thing to worry about, Jason. Just start the process. It will all work out,” Caine told him.
Jason stared in amazement at the ghost. “Me? Be a single parent? I don’t know if I could do it, Caine.” He shook his head. “When I was married, things were different.”
Caine cocked up one eyebrow in a sardonic expression. “Not really. Did you really think that Lainey would nurse a baby and ruin those perfect breasts you bought her? Did you think she’d pace the nursery at night holding and rocking a colicky infant? Change diapers? Deal with midnight feedings?”
Caine shook his head vehemently. “Jason, you know that was never gonna happen, and for all that she turned into a bitch because the two of you couldn’t have kids. She would have hired a nanny. Her getting pregnant was all about your money. It was never about her wanting children the way you want them.”
Jason sighed dejectedly. He’d always had the sense that Lainey had lied about wanting kids. He knew for a fact that she wanted his money, though. Her drive to take it all from him in the divorce proved that. Luckily, his father had made both his sons put their assets in trust long before either was married. The old guy had been whip smart and Jason had never appreciated that fact more than during the ugliness of his divorce.
“What’s it like, Caine?” he asked softly.
The golden head rose, blue eyes filled with more emotion than Jason had ever seen in someone’s gaze.
“Having a child?” Caine let out his breath on a long sigh. “It’s amazing. I remember feeling shell-shocked. I couldn’t believe I had created her, that she was part of me. All the things you think you’d never do – the diapers and puke and driving around all night in the car so they can sleep in the car seat when they’re fussy – are just automatic. You don’t even think of not doing them. Your child needs you so of course you just do what’s necessary for their existence. I would die for her…” He snorted then. “Well, if I wasn’t already dead, that is.”
Jason’s heart turned over. The love in Caine’s voice touched him. All the things he said, Jason wanted to experience, but likely never would. His chances had grown very slim.
“Just call the surrogate program, Jason. Trust me. You can do this. Make your dream happen. Don’t sit on your ass. Look what sitting on my ass got me.” Caine gestured to himself and his form shimmered like a mirage for a few moments. “Dead. You don’t wanna be dead. You just need to jack off in the test tube and let the expensive doctor inject your sperm into some waiting college student who needs money. Next thing you know, you’ll be chasing a little Jason around the terrace.”
Caine made it all sound so simple. Until Caine had brought it up, Jason had thought he’d successfully gotten over his burning need to have a child. Yet now, the ghost got him all fired up to try the surrogate program. Could he do it? Was he really not too old?
“You’re not old, damn it! And you can do it. Just believe in yourself and your dreams, Jason.”
Caine’s eyes met his, and Jason saw the stark determination in the blue irises. “You can do whatever you set your mind to. Having a child is not as hard as you think. That laugh I heard, the laugh I fell in love with, it came because you were happy and part of it had to do with the child you were speaking to. You were meant to have children, Jason. Don’t deny yourself. Promise me you will call the surrogate program.”
Jason wondered how they gotten onto such a serious subject for a morning after a night like they had had. Having children seemed like an odd discussion to have with your new lover after a night of hot sex. Yet, he felt comfortable having the discussion with Caine. Maybe because Caine had a daughter. Or maybe it had to do with how well they fit together both sexually and in their personalities.
He stared at the ghost who had opened the paper again. He couldn’t remember ever wanting someone as much as he wanted Caine. He couldn’t remember ever having such spectacular sex. He was pretty sure it had nothing to do with the supernatural and everything to do with who he and Caine were. Their spirits meshed perfectly, and if life had been different, he could see them growing old together…
A warm hand clasped his where it lay on the granite table top. “I wish things were different, Jason,” Caine’s voice whispered, emotion deep and raw in the quiet tones. “But they aren’t, so before I go, I need to know that you’ll be okay, that you’ll be happy. Please call the surrogate program.”
Jason’s throat tightened until he felt as if he couldn’t breathe. “Okay,” he croaked unsteadily. “I will. I promise.”
Caine’s hand tightened on his. “Thank you.”