Dr. Mason Beaulieu thinks rival ghost hunter Haywood “Fort” Fortenberry is sexy but too credulous when it comes to the paranormal. Fort thinks Mason is attractive but too cynical. When they’re offered a chance to be locked up in reputedly haunted Wisteria Grove on Halloween night, however, both men jump at the chance.
Storms and mysterious sounds keep them busy during the night, and they discover a mutual respect for each other’s skills. As the investigation continues, Fort learns the truth behind Mason’s seemingly dismissive attitude, and Mason finds a new appreciation for Fort’s open-mindedness. But when an unexpected intruder derails the investigation, they learn that more than just hunting ghosts can offer them thrills and chills.
“I’m not trying to get a rise out of you,” Mason said quietly. “I think you’re a very attractive, intelligent man, and I already know you’re gay. We have a lot in common, and I wouldn’t mind at all getting to know you better. I’ve always gotten the feeling you don’t like me very much. That’s the only reason I haven’t asked you out.”
“Only because I thought you didn’t have a lot of respect for me.” Fort watched Mason intently, his expression unusually serious. “Calling me Dr. Woody, all those times you tried to get under my skin, all the comments about LaPS.”
“I was teasing you, but I wasn’t trying to be mean,” Mason protested, rising to his feet and facing Fort directly. “Hasn’t anyone ever flirted with you before? I’m sorry if anything I said was hurtful to you. It wasn’t meant to be. I only tease people I like; no one else is worth the effort.”
“The men who’ve flirted with me before called me names I like,” Fort pointed out, although a smile tugged at his lips. “I wasn’t hurt. I assumed you didn’t really respect me or the group I investigate with, so you poked fun at us. I just let it roll off, because there isn’t any point in getting all riled up over a difference of opinion. If all you meant to do was tease, well, I’ll look at it in a different light from now on.”
“I swear, Fort, I was only teasing. I told you I was envious of you, didn’t I? I never meant you to think I didn’t respect you.” Mason smiled sheepishly. “I confess I do have reservations about the psychic, but if that’s the way you go about things, I don’t knock it. Well, I don’t knock it much and never to anyone outside of our little community.”
Fort laughed and reached out to clap his hand on Mason’s shoulder. “It’s fine. I know plenty of people think mediums are as full of shit as a Christmas turkey.”
Mason grinned, relieved that Fort wasn’t offended, and he was encouraged that Fort had actually touched him. Maybe he could talk Fort into going out with him after all. “My, my, I don’t think I want to be invited to your house for Christmas supper if that’s what you cook with.”
“If you’re invited to my house for Christmas supper, we won’t need a turkey to have something full of shit,” Fort retorted, but his voice held a lighter note than Mason had ever heard in his rejoinders before.
“Why, Dr. Fortenberry, are you flirting with me?” Mason batted his eyelashes playfully. “If you keep saying such sweet things, you’ll turn my head.”
Fort made a scoffing noise, but he smiled at Mason, and there was a gleam in his eyes Mason hadn’t seen before. “I’m just trying to figure out how to speak your language so we can have a meeting of the minds. Seems we’ve both been pretty far off the mark until now.”
Mason’s breath caught, and he turned more serious. “If you have any questions, just ask. I know I spout a lot of nonsense at times, but I can speak plainly.”
“I might have a few questions, but not right now.” Fort glanced at his watch and held it up so Mason could see the time. “We should start getting ready for the investigation.”
For the first time he could remember, Mason was annoyed at having work interfere with his personal life. Perhaps he was being overly optimistic, but after almost four years of crossing verbal swords with Fort, it seemed they might finally be ready to lay down their arms. He had no idea how this night would end up, and it was entirely possible he’d open his big mouth and say something that would alienate Fort again. He’d prefer to reach an understanding with Fort before that happened, but they had made a commitment on this investigation, and since other people were depending on him, he couldn’t screw it up.
“I suppose so,” he replied with a sigh. “Let’s get these microphones deployed. I think we should try to avoid the windows and not put them close to anything crystal or metallic that might resonate with the thunder.”
“Good idea.” Fort cocked his head, listening to the growing rumble overhead, and frowned. “That’s going to play hell with our audio. But it adds to the creepy atmosphere for the audience, so maybe it’s a good thing.”
“That’s what I was thinking earlier, actually. It’s less about the investigation and more about garnering interest for the town.” Mason returned his attention to the microphones, handing three of the rigs to Fort. “We have enough to cover every room and the hallways, if we can find places for them. The audio will stream back to the computer for time encoding and storage. I guess we’d better hurry if we’re going to have time to run a systems check and then eat before we go live.”
Fort took the rigs and headed out, pausing at the door. “Save room for the dessert. I brought banana MoonPies.” He gave Mason a smile and a little wink, and then he was gone.
Had Dr. Haywood Fortenberry actually winked at him? Mason stared after him for a moment, then shook himself and hurriedly gathered up the rest of the mics. He was far more interested in investigating this new understanding between him and Fort than any non-existent ghosts.