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Haunted by Desire

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Haunted by Desire

Haunted by Desire

by Chad Moore

"Another lemon square, dear?"

Fox Mulder startled and glanced up from the notebook open on his lap. "No, thanks," he replied with what he hoped was a winning grin. "They're delicious but I'll probably bust if I have another."

Mulder sighed, wishing that Mrs. Smith would forget about feeding him and return to her story about the Legend of Terrell Manor.

He'd first learned about Terrell Manor from an old X-File buried in the back of a filing cabinet. It seemed that ever since the turn of the century the beachfront property had a number of reported supernatural incidents all linked to the spirit of Preston Terrell. It was what drew in the tourists, and also why Fox Mulder was there.

Preston's death occurred more than one hundred years ago, in 1887. That fact, and the knowledge that Preston had essentially been the black sheep of the Terrell family; Mulder found very little information regarding the spirit that reportedly haunted the Manor. Just over the past year, the strange occurrences had increased to the point that holiday-goers were actually too frightened to stay at the once popular manor.

Mulder was not here to spend a holiday. It had appeared that way to his superiors at the FBI, which suited Mulder just fine. So what if the nickname "Spooky" still haunted him, his interest with the legend had been stirred almost immediately. The story was absolutely perfect for him, he thought. Who had a better chance of unraveling the mystery of Terrell Manor? Besides, he thought, surely the best way to prove his seriousness about investigating the paranormal was to take the initiative and come back with real solid evidence.

The Manor had once belonged to the Terrell family, whose ancestors immigrated from England during the 1860's and settled here where they went on to build their magnificent home with wealth acquired from their fishing fleet. When the last of the family had died, the manor was declared an historical landmark and promptly bought and transformed into a popular bed and breakfast by one Lavinia K. Smith.

He'd arrived early and met with Mrs. Smith, whom he'd first spoken to from his basement office in Washington, at her private home and Mulder found her to be just as jolly as she seemed over the phone. She was an eccentric little lady in her sixties, dressed in heavy tweeds; a pair of gold-rimmed glasses dangled on a chain around her neck and a long cigarette jutted from the side of her mouth.

Over tea and homemade lemon squares he'd already learned all about Mrs. Smith - from her arthritis to her grandchildren - before gleaning information about Terrell Manor. He still felt a bit guilty using his FBI status, but it was the only way he could think of enabling him to stay in the old house on his own for his personal "investigation".

"And what about Preston Terrell?" he asked in an attempt to bring Mrs. Smith back on topic.

"Oh, my yes, Preston," she said, stirring in a huge lump of sugar into her tea. "One of the most popular young men in the community, wealthy and handsome, Preston could have had any woman he wanted. But he didn't choose a girl his father had selected from their own social background. Instead, he fell in love with a young fisherman named William Brake.

Because of the scandal, Preston's family threatened to disown him. Most of his friends disapproved, including Preston's best friend, Arthur McIntyre. He refused to let that stop him. Preston Terrell loved William Brake."

Preston's my kinda guy, Mulder thought as he jotted down key notes in the story. It took courage to stand up for what you wanted. In a way, Mulder felt similar in his quest for the truth. He went against the odds to fight for what he believed in much the same way Preston defending his right to love whom he wanted against his family and friends.

"There are those who insist that Preston and William's relationship would have ended sooner or later," Mrs. Smith went on. "But even they couldn't have predicted that it would end in tragedy. On Christmas Eve in 1887, Preston died under circumstances which were horrifying and are still shrouded in mystery."

Look out, here it comes, Mulder thought. He found himself leaning forward, literally on the edge of his seat.

"There was a party that night - a Christmas party, naturally. It was held in Terrell Manor. William showed up at the party and secretly met with Preston, and they went into a back room - I probably don't have to tell you what for."

Mulder blushed, but urged her to continue.

"Moments later, a scream interrupted the festivities. Preston staggered out from the back room where he'd gone with William, covered in blood. He collapsed upon the floor, multiple stab wounds covering his body..."

Mrs. Smith took a couple of good puffs on her cigarette and coughed violently.

"When the partygoers rushed to the back room, they found William and at his feet, Preston lay sprawled. William hysterically insisted he wasn't responsible for what had happened to his love, but no one believed him - because the family immediately accused him of the murder."

Mrs. Smith certainly does know how to tell a story, Mulder thought as he struggled against the shiver that wanted to work its way down his spine. Then again, he mentally checked, she's probably told it a million times to wide-eyed tourists.

"Some of the guests at the party tried to grab hold of William," Mrs. Smith continued, "but he escaped out a window. He was never seen again.

"The legend says that, with his dying words, Preston called out for William and continued to profess his love. The legend also says that the spirit of Preston Terrell continues to haunt the manor, restless because of his untimely end and longing to find his lost love. Although the case was closed and William Brake was officially held responsible for the murder, no one ever investigated what Arthur McIntyre was also doing in that back room."

The story really is a tragedy, Mulder thought. Not only did a young man lose his life, but his powerful family made sure that his lover took the blame. He wished he could have investigated the case all those years ago. It didn't take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce that Arthur McIntyre killed Preston in an act of jealousy. And now Preston's spirit haunted the Manor halls, unable to rest because of his brutal murder.

Mulder's attention snapped back to the present as he noticed the time. Woah! Mulder thought. Mrs. Smith's retelling of the events of 1887 had been so compelling; he'd hardly noticed how fast the time had gone by. Quickly, he recapped his pen, swept it and his notebook up, and got to his feet. He could hardly wait to head up to Terrell Manor and begin his investigation.

A sweet-smelling breeze ruffled Mulder's dark hair, casting his cinnamon-toned bangs across his forehead. He exhaled and stood, hands on hips, gazing up at the perfectly preserved Victorian home. It sat forlornly atop a grassy hill overlooking the picturesque Maine coastline. The pleasant roaring and crashing of waves against the beach could be heard nearby.

The baby blue sky was slowly giving way to the splashes of pink and orange of evening. Mulder crouched down to retrieve a suitcase and an old duffel bag he'd had ever since his university days from the backseat of his rental car. He locked the doors, hoisted the bag over one shoulder, and set off up the winding gravel path to the house.

Stepping onto the grand wraparound porch with its large pillars and swings, Mulder set his suitcase down and, taking the keys from between his teeth, opened the highly polished oak doors with the one given to him by Mrs. Smith. He breezed inside the elegant foyer with its pleasant oriental rugs, mahogany tables, and the polished-to-looking-glass-perfection hard wood floor.

The moment Mulder set foot inside the sitting room, his bright hazel eyes were instantly drawn to a portrait hanging above the fireplace. Looking at the painting, Mulder was certain it was Preston Terrell. The descriptions he'd heard of him matched exactly. The painting was of a strikingly handsome young man in his twenties, with sandy blond hair and eyes the color of the ocean after a storm. He wore a dark blue morning suit and the saddest expression Mulder had ever seen.

Mulder felt an uncontrollable tug at his heart and curiously pondered why the artist had immortalized the subject this way.

On his way up the grand, spiral staircase, Mulder found himself wondering about Preston Terrell. Obviously he was gay, or at least bisexual. Mulder thought how difficult it must have been for him at that time to have those feelings. People today were more liberated in their thinking and, except for some conservative right wing religious hypocrites; most people didn't give a rat's ass who anyone slept with as long as it didn't harm anyone. As a matter of fact, Mulder himself had dabbled and experimented with a couple of guys in college. He'd found the experiences exciting and easier and more natural from the sex he'd had with women. To be honest, Mulder was still wondering about his own sexuality, but his work left little time for exploration.

Mulder discovered the master bedroom exactly where Mrs. Smith said it would be: at the end of the hall on the third floor. Sumptuous was the first word that popped into Mulder's mind when he saw the enormous room. The fading sunlight spilled through two bay windows framed by rich dark blue draperies. Two French doors led into a private bathroom, while exquisitely carved wardrobes and dressers dotted the room. A canopied four-poster bed, large enough to sleep about five people easily , was the centerpiece. He snickered to himself at the mental images of fitting that many people on the bed to find out.

Unpacking his suitcase and duffel bag, he stowed his things away then headed off to explore the house. Moving through the elegant hallways, Mulder felt an odd buzz of energy go through him. He detected a faint scent of jasmine which he found perplexing since all the vases he passed contained arrangements of roses. He decided it must have been Mrs. Smith's perfume. She had mentioned she visited the Manor that morning.

Mulder traveled through the entire house, from room to room, awed by the elegance surrounding him while also checking for any potential cold spots. Disappointed at not finding anything unusual, the agent made his way back to the third floor. Moving through the empty hotel, he gave an involuntary shiver as a sudden memory of watching "The Shining" with his face hidden in a pillow flashed unbidden before his eyes. He quickly pushed the creepy feeling that flick had given him out of his mind. Mulder started to whistle an old Roxy Music tune to soothe himself as he headed down to find the kitchen.

It was just as impressive as the rest of the Manor. Mulder found the cupboards and the refrigerator well stocked, thanks to Mrs. Smith's staff, and he licked his lips hungrily. His own idea of a well-balanced diet usually consisted of cold pizza and sunflower seeds. Discovering such a well stocked larder made Mulder's mouth water and his stomach rumble. For now, he was too exhausted from the trip to indulge and settled for a quick sandwich.

Mulder turned off the kitchen light, deciding to hit the hay. He locked up and made his way back up to the master bedroom. Flipping on the light in the bathroom, he stripped down to his boxer briefs and flopped down on the very comfortable bed. Mulder was asleep before his head hit the pillows.

Sometime during the night Mulder woke up. He was a bit disoriented by the unfamiliar surroundings, but he quickly realized where he was and that he'd left the light on in the bathroom. He also realized that he was freezing cold.

He got out of bed to turn off the light and, as he came around the bed, he was startled by what he saw. There, lying at the foot of the bed on the floor, was the comforter and all of the sheets.

How did those get there? he wondered. The best he could guess was that he was so tired when he went to bed that he just forgot kicking them off, but how about the fitted bottom sheet? He picked up the covers and arranged them back on the bed. He stared at it, feeling a little intrigued and just a little bit unsettled. He had a fleeting thought of Mrs. Smith and the ghostly legend. He chided himself for being too fatigued to set up the equipment his friends, the Lone Gunmen, had loaned him. With one quick glance at a temperature detector, Mulder would have known if there had been a supernatural presence in the bedroom with him.

Mulder sighed. He ran a hand through his hair and glanced down at the bed again. He chuckled to himself and decided that his excitement and overactive imagination were probably getting the best of him. He went into the bathroom to answer an insistent call of nature. He glanced at his watch. It was two hours until dawn. He still had time to catch a few more Z's before morning.

Mulder got back into bed. This time he pulled the covers over himself, turned off the light, and rolled on his side to try and sleep. It didn't take very long and the next thing he knew the bright morning sun was shining through the large bay windows on his face.

Mulder pulled his arm out from under the comforter to look at his watch, but he wasn't wearing it. He glanced over and was surprised to find it sitting on the dresser. He got out of bed to put it on and had another surprise in store when he found himself completely naked, and his boxer briefs were lying in a heap beside the bed.

Mulder blinked. Didn't I have on my shorts and watch when I went to bed? Then he remembered waking in the middle of the night and going to the bathroom. Damn, I must have been so out of it I was half sleepwalking and got undressed before I got back into bed...

He grabbed his watch off the dresser and read it was nearly ten in the morning. He made his way down to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee. He didn't even bother to get dressed: the Manor was very secluded and he doubted anyone would see him in the kitchen wearing his skivvies, making coffee. While the coffee brewed, he stepped out on to the deck to look at the ocean. Mulder loved the feel of wearing next to nothing in the warm morning sun and never got a chance to do so living in an apartment. He realized he liked being here alone, free to think and do as he pleased.

After taking several deep breaths of salty air, he went back inside and poured himself a hot cup of java, then headed back out to the deck to drink it and plan his day. He was sitting on a lounge chair in the sun deciding what to do first and taking in the view. Beside the Manor was a clump of large dunes out of which tall rye grass waved in the breeze. Beyond the dunes were the beach and the crystal blue ocean.

The sun was warming his body and Mulder was feeling very relaxed. Well, maybe this is turning out to be a little vacation after all, he decided. He thought he'd better get up and retrieve the equipment cases from his rental car or he'd spend the entire day sunbathing half naked. As inviting as that idea was, he rose from the chair to return to his room and get dressed.

As he stood he looked down and realized he had the beginnings of a nice erection. The sun and sea air were having a very intoxicating effect on him, but with so much to do, he hurried inside and got dressed in a navy Polo shirt and an old pair of tattered jeans and set out to get something productive done.

Later that afternoon he had set up all the ghost detecting equipment he'd borrowed from the Gunmen in the kitchen, the sitting room, the upstairs hall, and the main bedroom. He found himself half relieved and half let down that he didn't have to dress up like Bill Murray with an air conditioning unit on his back. He left the temperature detecting meters and the video recorders running, and decided that was enough for today. Tomorrow he would go into town and question some of the eyewitnesses to the Manor's ghostly occupant.

His stomach made a grumble of complaint. He was starving because he hadn't eaten all day. Mulder decided he'd take a nice hot shower and then explore the food stocked in the refrigerator and pantries. After cleaning up and putting away the equipment cases, he went into the bedroom to strip out of his clothes and take that shower.

Quickly stepping out of his clothes, he went into the bathroom. A forlorn look passed over Mulder's face. Despite the two strange but explainable incidents last night, nothing too out of the ordinary had happened during his stay at the "haunted" Manor.

While the water warmed up Mulder looked at himself in the bathroom's full-length mirror. Thanks to his natural metabolism and due to working out a few times a week, he was in pretty good shape; a trim waist, nice muscle tone, not really built, but nice and lean. His thighs and calves were nicely thick from regular running and his butt was full and firm. Just before he opened the glass shower door he stopped at the large window that overlooked the beach next to the Manor. He wondered why it hadn't been covered for privacy and guessed that the view was too nice, besides no one could possibly see inside the bathroom since the beach was off-limits to the public at night.

He stepped into the shower and waited for the water to warm up. He shampooed his hair and soaped up his body. He turned the water up a little hotter and rinsed off the soap. Soon the glass began to steam up and the pulsating water against his muscles was having a relaxing effect on him. Mulder closed his eyes and just let the water beat down on his body.

As he slowly turned around, the water cascaded right down on his cock, and he moaned from the pleasure he felt. He moved directly under the stream and let the water beat against his groin. In no time at all it brought Mulder to a full erection. He leaned back, bit his lip, and just let it happen. He recalled the hard-on from that morning and decided a nice little hand job in the shower was just what he needed. Once the water got him to full attention he wrapped his hand around the base of his cock and slowly began to pump.

Another moan, this time mixed with a light whimper, escaped Mulder's lips as he massaged the head of his cock. He couldn't believe how good this was feeling. He just let himself go to the wonderful sensations building within his body.

Between the heat of the shower and the growing lust between his legs, in no time at all his orgasm was rushing through him. He stood straight up and spread his long legs wide. One hand pumped his rigid cock and the other was pinching one of his erect nipples. He was breathing heavily and moaning louder. He suddenly gasped as his release hit the glass shower door and his body started shaking all over. Slowly his breathing returned to normal but Mulder was very weak in the knees and he carefully stepped under the water again to rinse off.

Snatching a towel from the rack, he began to dry himself off. He was feeling much better now and couldn't wait to eat. He glanced out the window and thought he saw something move in the dunes, as if someone had just dodged out of sight. He watched for a full minute but didn't see anything and decided it was the wind and shadows playing tricks on him. No one was supposed to be on those dunes anyway. He padded into the bedroom, put on a gray muscle shirt and a pair of running shorts and made his way to the kitchen to prepare dinner.

As the spaghetti sauce was simmering and the noodles cooked, Mulder found a bottle of wine in the kitchen. After a bit of searching he found a corkscrew in a drawer, then he popped open the wine and poured himself a generous glass. After a couple of long sips of vintage red on an empty stomach he was beginning to feel a little woozy. The spaghetti was done and he sat down and devoured it. He was feeling quite relaxed now between the hot shower, a great meal and a half bottle of wine. He cleaned up the kitchen and took the rest of the wine out to the deck.

It was an unusually warm night for this late in the autumn. Mulder lay back in the lounge chair with his glass of wine and stared up at the stars. The sky was so clear that the stars looked as if they were within touching distance. Yep, this is the life, Mulder decided. No job, no city pressures, just peace and quiet. He had to admit he was really enjoying the solitude.

He reached down to pour himself a little more wine and was surprised to see that he'd emptied the bottle. He couldn't remember how long it had been since he'd last drained a whole bottle by himself. He took his last sips and closed his eyes. He settled back and listened to the ocean in the distance. In no time at all the sound of the gentle waves lulled him to sleep. In his wine-induced slumber Mulder began to dream. He was still on the deck in the lounge chair and it was night.

He couldn't see very well, but what he could feel was absolutely incredible: a warm mouth was engulfing his cock. In the dream he reached down and ran his long fingers through the silky hair on the head that was servicing him. He murmured in the dream to his lover to please not stop. He urged that fantastic mouth on with whispered affirmations. There was no answer but his paramour proceeded to suck even harder.

Mulder was moaning and holding the head below him as he began to pump his hips. A soft hand reached underneath him and Mulder felt fingers start to play with his ass. In his dream he was surprised because it had been a long time since anyone had pleasured him in that way. Slowly a finger pushed inside of him as the shadowed man greedily sucked on Mulder's throbbing erection. Mulder was going wild, thrashing around and begging him to finger him harder as he ground his ass into the other man's hand and pumped his cock down his throat. A crushing orgasm flooded through Mulder as he moaned and cried out at the top of his lungs. Mulder's dream lover swallowed every last drop he had to give, pulled his finger out of him and sat up. Mulder lay there with his eyes half closed, catching his breath. In the dream he mumbled gratefully how that was the best blowjob he'd ever had. Still no answer from the stranger. Mulder opened his eyes and looked down. All the breath went out of his body. There, sitting between his legs was Preston Terrell!

He just smiled warmly at Mulder, stood up and walked away. Mulder tried to get up to go after him but in his dream he couldn't move a muscle. He tried to yell but nothing came out of his mouth. He just lay there and struggled until he finally jolted awake.

He was still outside on the deck in the lounge chair. He was out of breath, covered in sweat and feeling woozy while trying to make sense of what had just happened. He sat up. His running shorts were pulled down to his ankles. His half hard cock was wet. He could feel a sense of confusion envelop him like a fog. Mulder blinked. He hadn't had a wet dream that intense since he was a teenager. He decided that he must have been masturbating in his sleep. He pulled up his shorts and fell back on the chair.

The sun appeared over the horizon. Mulder realized that he'd been outside all night. He lay there thinking about the dream and feeling oddly satisfied. After a little while, he picked up the empty wine bottle and glass and went back into the Manor to make a pot of coffee.As the coffee brewed, he tossed the wine bottle in the trash and vowed never to drink a whole bottle by himself again. He was more awake now and surprised that not only didn't he have a hangover but he was feeling pretty good. He made his way into the bathroom to take a quick shower. As he stripped off out his clothes, Mulder actually blushed but had to chuckle to himself: Drunken wet dreams and lack of ghosts aside, he enjoyed being here.

Later that afternoon, Mulder drove into the picturesque fishing village and paid a call on Mrs. Smith. She seemed excited to see him again. Over a cup of her fantastic tea she asked Mulder how things were going at the Manor and if he'd experienced anything unusual during the past two nights. Mulder told her no, which was a lie, but how was he supposed to tell this sweet grandmother about his dream? Mrs. Smith gave him a hard look and seemed about to say something when Mulder swiftly changed the subject and said that he would be staying through the weekend.

With a list of names of eyewitnesses to Preston Terrell sightings, Mulder thanked Mrs. Smith and set out to investigate. One person after the other told of basically the same story of a sad, handsome young man appearing in or around the Manor. Mulder was puzzled to learn that the ghost had never actually made contact with anyone before, though he had to be vague about the sort of "contact" he was thinking of. When Mulder returned to the Manor a beautiful sunset was beginning and a warm breeze was coming off the ocean. He went inside and immediately checked the ghost detecting equipment in each and every room. He deflated at the sight of inactivity. Could the ghost of Terrell Manor be the result of hysteria and overactive imaginations? Had he been affected himself? So much so that he was now dreaming of a nineteenth-century ghost giving him a blowjob? Albeit, one of the best he'd ever had. Mulder mused over the possibilities while he fixed himself a sandwich for dinner and took it, and a glass of lemonade up to bed. While he was eating Mulder felt certain that the ghost was real. Of course he had no physical evidence to substantiate his feeling, but what if Preston was trying to communicate with him through his dreams...

Mulder took a quick shower, slipped on a pair of clean boxer briefs and climbed into bed. He found that he could hardly keep his eyes open, which was unusual for him. He laid down for just a second to rest his eyes and before he knew it he was fast asleep.

Mulder didn't know how long he was asleep when the dream started, but this time instead of being out on the deck, he was lying on his back in the bed. Preston was standing at the foot of the bed smiling at him. Mulder was completely naked and couldn't seem to move, although he tried to get up several times. He tried to call out but no sound would come from his mouth.

Preston moved to the side of the bed, looked down at Mulder and smiled sweetly. He lifted a hand and brushed it lightly over Mulder's cheek as if to calm him. Mulder stopped struggling and just lay there. Preston sat on the side of the bed. He continued to soothe Mulder's face until his breathing came back to near normal. His soft hands then started to caress down Mulder's chest. Mulder felt shivers rush through him as Preston lightly ran his fingertips down his body.

Mulder glanced down and found he was getting hard. He couldn't stop himself. He looked back up and Preston nodded and smiled. Preston's other hand encircled Mulder's growing erection and began to slowly pump it. Suddenly, he took his hand away and stood up.

Mulder felt a surprising pang of disappointment. He watched as Preston walked to the end of the bed, got between his long legs and slid them apart. Preston lowered his head over Mulder's cock and started to take it deep inside his mouth. It was warm and wet and felt like nothing Mulder had ever experienced before. His entire body began to quiver with desire. Preston slipped one hand under Mulder's ass and gently pressed one finger against his tight opening. Mulder surrendered to the waves of pleasure sweeping over him as Preston fingered his ass and expertly sucked his cock. Mulder was surprised to see he could move his arms now and, instead of trying to get away, he held Preston's head in his hands and started insistently pushing it down on his cock, moaning and softly asking for more.

Just as Mulder thought he couldn't hold back his release any longer, Preston abruptly stopped and stood up. Mulder watched with glazed lust-filled eyes as Preston unbuttoned his own pants and let them drop. His cock was rigid and stood straight out from his trim body. He bent over and carefully turned Mulder onto his stomach. Mulder didn't even try nor did he want to resist as Preston climbed on top of him and placed the head of his cock against Mulder's ass. With Preston's body against his own, Mulder found himself pinned between Preston and the bed. He whimpered as Preston began to push forward with his hips. Mulder bit down hard on his pillow.

Mulder was moaning underneath him and Preston stroked his forehead as he'd done before to calm him. Soon Preston's cock was sliding freely inside of Mulder. The next thing Mulder knew Preston was thrusting into him with long hard strokes. Mulder gasped with the wonderful sensations shooting through him each and every time Preston's cock pushed past his prostate. He realized that his own cock was leaking beneath him and he could feel Preston's hot breath on his neck. Mulder found himself pushing back against Preston as if he couldn't get enough, and he couldn't. He wanted more and would have begged for it.

Lost in a haze of desire, Mulder didn't know how long this lasted, but he felt the sweet release building within. He was going to cum and nothing could stop it. He was bucking under Preston as his orgasm overwhelmed his senses with the force of a tidal wave. Mulder cried out from the intense pleasure and he gripped the sweat soaked sheets in his hands. The only sound he heard from Preston was a faint moan as his body shivered and Mulder felt the release deep inside his ass. After a few moments Mulder felt Preston's cock slide out of his body. He wanted to reach around and put it back, he felt so empty.

When he felt Preston's soft lips against his cheek, Preston whispered into his ear, "Thank you."

Mulder turned his head to capture that sweet mouth with his own but realized Preston was gone. He couldn't feel him any longer. Mulder felt himself drifting away and everything went black.

He opened his hazel eyes to the sun shining on his face. He instantly knew something had happened last night, but he was groggy. He felt a sweet twinge in his ass. Then he felt his cock twitch. The dream came rushing back to him. He just lay there bewildered, going over and over the dream. Did the ghost of Preston Terrell actually come to him last night and make love to him? As crazy as it seemed, the truth was, Mulder hoped so. As he recalled the feelings Preston had made him feel, he realized he not only enjoyed it but also wanted it.

Mulder managed to eventually get out of bed. His heart thumped hard inside his chest as he hurried to check the temperature readings and the infrared camera. Yes! There was a definite drop in room temperature during the night. With trembling fingers he ran back the video tape. Static. Mulder scanned the tape further. Nothing. He checked the camera connections. Mulder felt his heart drop. The auxiliary video cable had loosened and captured absolutely nothing. He checked a sudden urge to hurl the camera to the floor for fear of the Gunmen's wrath.

Preston's ghost was real. But he had no substantial proof. No one would ever believe his story.

That afternoon, Mulder showered, dressed and walked the beach for hours just thinking about what had happened to him. He felt changed somehow, in a very good way. He wasn't exactly sure how or what was going to happen next but one thing seemed absolutely certain: his life was different now.

For the rest of Mulder's stay at Terrell Manor, Preston's ghost no longer visited him in his dreams. Mulder's sleeping had reverted to its usual state of night owl insomnia. He had put his better slumber down to the sea air, but now Mulder pondered if it wasn't Preston's influence all along.

On his last day there, the agent packed up the equipment cases, then hauled his suitcase and duffel bag downstairs. In the hallway, Mulder stopped. He didn't think that the Manor would be haunted by Preston's ghost any longer. He took one last thoughtful look at Preston's portrait.

How Preston's spirit must have suffered all these years, he mused, bound to the one place where he'd lost his true love and searching for a special someone to give him solace.

Mulder felt a comforting warmth spread from his heart through his entire body. He smiled at the painting and whispered, "Goodbye, Preston." And then the Manor was empty. Save for the antique furnishings, expensive vases, mirrors and rugs. And in the sitting room, high above the fireplace, was the portrait of Preston Terrell.

He smiled.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Chad Moore