A Haunting Getaway

Summary

Tobias and Tris plan a relaxing weekend in an old farmhouse but it turns out to be anything but.

Genre:
Adventure / Romance
Author:
cjgw
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
18+

A Haunting Getaway


“You’re kidding!” Tris turned to her husband, her eyes wide with excitement. “This is the place you rented for us?”

Tobias grinned at her; thrilled she seemed to like it. He had to admit the late 1800s farmhouse, nestled in the hills of Western Maryland, exceeded even his expectations. If it weren’t for the cream-colored wood trim and large covered porch painted in the same warm hue, the bluish-gray stone of the house would have made it seem cold. The neatly trimmed dark green hedges and colorful yellow and red flowers planted under the windows and alongside the porch added to the warmth of the home.

“So, you like it?” Tobias asked as he pulled their SUV next to the small Honda Civic already parked in the wide, gravel driveway.

Tris turned to him, nodding and smiling. “It’s so beautiful!”

Tobias shrugged. “I figured you deserve a little side getaway after putting up with Evelyn for the last ten days before we head back out to Chicago,” he teased. Evelyn, Tobias’ mother, wasn’t one of Tris’ biggest fans and during the year they were dating had made her dislike of Tris well known. She’d cooled down for a while after they married, but now that Tris and Tobias were moving back to Chicago so Tobias could become associate general counsel at Prior Telecommunications, Tris’ father’s corporation, Evelyn’s enmity had returned.

Tris laughed as Bruno, their four-year-old Italian mastiff, stuck his head between them and licked Tris’ cheek. “See, Bruno likes it too,” she said.

Tobias gave the dog’s massive head a scratch and looked up just as a dark-haired woman, dressed in jeans and a red sweater, stepped out of the house and onto the porch. “That must be Johanna, the owner.” They both got out of the car while Tobias sprang Bruno from the backseat. He held on tightly to the dog’s yellow, reflective leash with one hand before he could dash off too quickly to explore his new surroundings, then reached out his other hand for Tris to grab onto as they all approached the house together.

“Hi! I’m Johanna Reyes. Are you Tobias and Tris Eaton?” Johanna asked as she came down the porch stairs. She was a curvy woman in her mid-forties with light brown skin and warm brown eyes. Her dark brown hair was pulled back into a bouncy ponytail, underscoring a long-ago faded scar that ran the length of her face and ended at her cheek where her broad smile began.

“Hi! Yes, we are,” Tris replied as she reached out to shake Johanna’s hand.

“So nice to meet you both,” Johanna greeted, turning to shake Tobias’ hand as well. “And who is this handsome fellow?” she asked, holding out her hand for Bruno to sniff.

“This is Bruno,” Tobias said. “Say ‘Hi!’ Bruno.” The big, dark, brindle-colored dog plopped his butt on the ground and raised one paw.

Johanna laughed and leaned over to shake Bruno’s large paw. “Well hello, Bruno!” She smiled up at Tris and Tobias. “Come on in. Let me show you around.”

“Why don’t you go ahead with Johanna,” Tobias said to Tris. “This guy needs the men’s room first.”

Johanna turned to open the door for Tris and led her into the renovated farmhouse. The foyer was painted a cheerful golden yellow, accentuating the gleaming hardwood floors. Directly in front of Tris were a set of wooden stairs presumably to the bedrooms upstairs. A large living room was to her left while a smaller family room was on her right with a short hallway that Tris could see opened up to a huge chef’s kitchen at the back of the house. “Oh, Johanna, it’s just as beautiful on the inside as on the outside!”

Johanna grinned broadly – obviously proud of the house, too. “We did a lot of work in here. It’s hard restoring a house that’s over 100 years old, but it was our goal to make it an inviting place for people to rent.” She ran a hand lovingly along the creamy white trim around the doorway. “We wanted to keep the integrity of the original frame, but still make something comfortably modern for our guests.”

Tris turned around in the foyer. “Well you certainly accomplished it!” she said, impressed. “But why turn it into a B&B? Why not keep it for yourself? This place is gorgeous!”

Johanna laughed. “When my husband, Manuel, and I moved back here, we built our house closer to Hagerstown so Manny could be close to his restaurant. This place has been in my family for a long time, but had been empty for a while. I didn’t want to sell it, so I thought I’d turn it into a B&B since tourism is popular in this area.”

Johanna beamed as she began to recite the history of the house, “The house was built in 1885 by Edgar Simpson, a local businessman. Edgar was married to my great, great aunt, Elizabeth. They didn’t have any children so Edgar left it to Elizabeth’s nephew, Samuel, my grandfather, and it was eventually passed down to me.” She led Tris into the bright living room. It boasted several large windows and a stone fireplace with firewood stacked in a neat pyramid next to the hearth. The windows were covered by sheer, white curtains, allowing Tris to see the trees that lined the perimeter of the property where Tobias was now walking Bruno. Along the wall across the fireplace were bookshelves filled with books, ranging from classic literature to contemporary fiction, while a few deep chairs and a couch surrounded the fireplace along the exterior wall. “We’ve kept as much of the original wood as possible,” Johanna gestured to the floor and the wood paneling along the walls before continuing out of the room to head to the family room, Tris following in her wake.

The family room was small but cozy with light streaming through the open windows. A television was situated on a polished wooden stand along the wall opposite a dark brown loveseat and matching chair nestled against the other wall. “This was originally a rather tiny dining room,” Johanna explained. “Since most people here are tourists who don’t have much need to entertain, we converted it into a small family room. Our guests seem to prefer it to the larger living room. It’s more comfortable and it was the easiest room to wire for cable since we already had to make repairs to the outer wall.” Johanna led Tris down the short hallway to the kitchen next, gesturing to the table with four chairs along the wall as they entered. “Here’s the new dining room,” she chuckled. It was apparent though there was more than enough room for the added eating area at the back of the house due to the open kitchen floor plan.

“As you can see, the kitchen is the highlight of the main level. It has been completely modernized with energy-saver appliances. There are plenty of dishes, glasses, pots and pans – that sort of thing – in the cabinets. There’s a drawer dishwasher in here,” she said as she ran her hand over the appliance nestled under the cabinet, its faux wood paneling designed to blend in with the cabinets. “And over there’s the microwave and this toaster is also a convection oven. No coffeemaker though.” She gestured to the gleaming stainless steel teakettle on the range.

Tris sighed wistfully. “That’s okay. I’m off caffeine anyway,” she said, running a hand over her small swollen belly.

Johanna smiled. “How far along are you?”

“Four months,” Tris responded, “and the idea of the next six months without caffeine is going to be daunting.”

Johanna chuckled and patted her forearm. “It’s temporary and I’m sure will be well worth it in the end. Let’s see, there’s a half bath right over there and here’s the mudroom, complete with washer and dryer; more modern additions to the home, but completely necessary ones.”

“That’s a convenience I’ll happily take,” Tris replied with a nod as she spied Tobias and Bruno romping around the backyard now. Tris couldn’t help the tug of her lips as she walked to the back door and watched them through the window. Tobias’ dark hair had grown just a bit longer recently, letting her see more clearly the natural curl to it. She wondered idly if their child would inherit those soft, dark curls and her hand drifted down lovingly to rest on her stomach again. Tobias’ long-sleeved shirt covered his arms, but Tris could imagine the bulge of his muscles as he tugged on Bruno’s leash lightly to get the dog to run back to him. He looked up, saw her and smiled as he headed up the few stairs to the back door. He led Bruno into the mudroom. “Wow, this looks great,” he exclaimed, wrapping his arm around Tris’ waist and hugging her close, as he looked around the kitchen. Bruno was leaning into Tobias’ leg, his tongue hanging out with a doggie smile on his face.

Johanna smiled at the picture the three of them made together before turning to continue on with the tour, “Let me show you upstairs.” They followed her back into the hallway and up the wooden stairs. Out of the corner of her eye, Tris thought she saw movement in the living room. She paused at the base of the stairs and looked into the room. Seeing nothing, she decided it must’ve been the trees moving in the breeze outside the window that caught her eye. Shaking her head to herself, she continued up the stairs after Johanna, Tobias and Bruno.

There were three large bedrooms, each roughly the same size, on the second floor. Johanna gestured to the one next to the bathroom. “This is the largest and next to the bathroom, so we call it ‘the master bedroom,’” she joked since the room was barely a few square inches larger than the other two. “The bed is a queen-size in this one, full-size in the other two.”

Johanna opened the door to the bathroom and Tris grinned at seeing the large claw foot tub. “Is that original?” Tris asked, excited. Relaxing in a tub full of bubbles was one of her favorite indulgences.

“Yes. It’s cast iron and weighs a ton!” she chuckled. “We added the hand-held shower head to the faucet. You can attach it to the holder on the wall then pull the curtain around if you’d prefer a shower.” There was a decorative iron railing mounted to the wall surrounding the tub with a shower curtain tucked against the wall. “There’s extra towels and toilet paper in here,” Johanna said, gesturing to the tall corner cabinet.

Tobias leaned in behind Tris. “I think we can find a good use for that tub later tonight,” he whispered in her ear. Tris gave a low giggle and swatted him lightly on the arm.

Johanna, clearly not having heard Tobias’ commentary, continued to speak as she led them back down the stairs, “That’s really it. There’s an attic, but it’s unfinished and there’s really nothing up there but supplies. The carriage house outside holds lawn care equipment, but you shouldn’t have any need for it. In the winter, we come and take care of any snow removal.”

“This place is amazing,” Tris said, “thank you so much for showing us around.”

“Oh, it’s no problem. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you find us?”

Tobias gestured for Bruno to sit. “Our friend, Uriah Pedrad, is a travel writer and he mentioned it to me. He’s wanted to stay here for a while now, too. We’ve got a long drive back to Chicago with this guy,” he scratched Bruno’s head, “and finding places that’ll take a 125-pound dog is a bit tough.”

“Well, we’re happy to have you. And tell your friend anytime he wants to stay and write an article about us, we’ll be happy to have him!” Johanna said with a laugh.

Tobias chuckled. “We’ll definitely let him know. He’s been pretty keen on coming here.”

Johanna flapped a hand. “Oh, it’s probably because of the house’s history.”

Tobias raised his eyebrows. “Is it a historical property?”

Johanna nodded. “Yes, but that’s not it.”

Tris frowned. “Then what?”

Johanna placed the key on the half wall separating the living room from the hallway. “Oh, didn’t you know? The house is haunted.”

Tris glanced at Tobias then back to Johanna. “What are you talking about?”

Johanna chuckled. “The rumor is that the house is haunted. I’ve never experienced anything myself, but some of our renters and even a few of our handymen have.”

Tobias leaned against the stairway post, his arms folded across his chest. “So, what’s the real story?” he asked, his blue eyes dancing with amusement.

Johanna shrugged. “Well, I told your wife this house was built by my great, great aunt’s husband, Edgar. Elizabeth was 17 and Edgar was nearly 35 when they married. Elizabeth was his second wife, his first having died from what was probably tuberculosis. By family accounts, Elizabeth was young, charming, vivacious, and everybody loved her. Edgar, on the other hand, was stuffy and strict. A lot of people considered it an odd match, but Edgar had a lot of money and apparently offered a pretty big dowry for Elizabeth’s hand. I’m betting he needed her to soften his prickly business image. They were married for about a year when Elizabeth became pregnant. Three months later, Elizabeth disappeared. According to the family story, late one stormy night, Edgar claimed he awoke in the middle of the night to find Elizabeth gone. He said he searched the woods, but it was raining so hard, he wasn’t able to see anything. The next morning, he looked around the house and discovered some of Elizabeth’s things, including her jewelry, were missing. Edgar hadn’t had any children with his first wife so he began to suspect he wasn’t the father of Elizabeth’s baby. Edgar believed she’d been having an affair, figured the baby was her lover’s and ran off with him. Her brother, Thomas, never believed that. He’d always suspected that Edgar was abusive toward his sister, but he could never prove it and Elizabeth wouldn’t admit to anything. When she disappeared, Thomas was convinced Edgar had killed her, but there was no evidence, no proof. It was easier for everyone to believe Elizabeth had just taken off with another man. Thomas’ parents convinced him to drop it, but he never wavered from his belief that Edgar killed his sister. It was a major family drama when my grandfather went to work for Edgar as the bookkeeper in his store. But, it was a good job and Edgar had always liked Samuel. Edgar had a massive heart attack at his store in town and died when he was 50. He had never remarried so left everything to Samuel.”

Tris backed into Tobias, convinced she felt a chill. “So what’s the ghost story?” he asked, squeezing his wife’s shoulder. He was slightly disconcerted himself, however, it was more due to the similarity to his own parents’ disastrous marriage than because of any belief in ghosts. Luckily for Tobias, his mother had left his abusive father before anything too horrible had happened, taking Tobias with her.

Johanna leaned against the post. “Not long after Edgar’s death, Samuel moved into this house. His wife, my grandmother, Carol, claimed she could hear a woman sobbing sometimes and that the house was abnormally cold, especially in the living room. Sometimes, she said, she could see a strange blue light coming from the living room at night, but she never got up the courage to go see what it was. Grandma Carol was the imaginative one in the family. She told all the bedtime stories and was an amazing quilt artist.” Johanna smiled fondly at the memory. “Anyway, after Grandpa had a stroke, Grandma moved out. My parents had never really felt comfortable here since they were an interracial couple and this area wasn’t super friendly to that when I was a kid. When I married Manny, we moved here and decided to turn this into a B&B. That’s when we began to hear the stories.”

“What have people seen?” Tris asked, her voice sounding just a bit nervous.

“Well, in addition to the sound of the woman sobbing, the coldness in the house and the blue light in the living room, people claim to have seen faces in the glass and heard footsteps in the hallway, that sort of thing.” Johanna shrugged, a wry smile gracing her lips. “Like I said, I’ve never heard or seen anything myself, but it makes for good publicity.”

Tobias laughed, shaking off the slight nerves at the sight of Johanna’s clear disbelief. “I bet!”

Johanna turned to the door. “I’d better get going. You guys have a great weekend!” With a final wave, she exited, letting the front door close behind her.

xXx

Tobias zipped the now empty duffel bag up and dropped it in the corner, nodding in satisfaction. They’d set up Bruno’s cushion at the foot of the bed so he wouldn’t feel alone in a strange house. While Tris was downstairs unpacking the food they’d brought, Tobias had gotten them settled into the bedroom. He’d even set up the chargers for their phones and laptop. There was no TV in the bedroom, but he figured, if necessary, they could stream a movie from their laptop. Bruno stood in the doorway, staring at him with his big, soulful, dark eyes.

“Not bad, huh, buddy?” Bruno wagged his stubby tail in agreement. Tobias nodded, giving Bruno a good scratch under his collar. “Let’s go see what your mom is up to.” Tobias jogged downstairs, his faithful canine companion next to him. Tobias had inherited Bruno from a co-worker whose daughter had turned out to be allergic to dogs. Originally, Tobias was only going to watch him for the weekend while his co-worker searched for a new home, but by the time Monday had rolled around, Tobias had decided to keep Bruno.

Tobias stopped in the doorway, watching as Tris moved around the kitchen, a fond smile touching his lips. Bruno went up to her and leaned against her leg. She chuckled and reached over to fondle Bruno’s floppy ears. Tobias had refused to have them cropped when he first got Bruno and now he was glad he didn’t after seeing the adorable picture he and Tris made together. He loved watching Tris with Bruno; she took such delight in him. In fact, it was thanks to Bruno that they met…

Tobias had only had Bruno for about a month and the four-month-old puppy had been all clumsy paws and enthusiasm. Tobias had just finished law school and was clerking at the US District Court in DC, subletting a one-bedroom carriage house on Capitol Hill. He’d taken Bruno out for their normal Saturday morning walk, intent on grabbing a cup of coffee and a double chocolate chip muffin from his favorite coffee shop. But once they’d rounded the corner to Eastern Market, Bruno suddenly jerked his leash and got away from Tobias, running off and crashing into a petite blonde woman, knocking her down and licking her face enthusiastically. Tobias had run over to them, mortified and ready to take the woman to the hospital when he realized she was laughing. “Shit! Sorry about that,” he’d said after wrestling Bruno off of her and holding out a hand to help her up.

“It’s okay,” she’d replied, laughter still in her voice. “I’m a dog person so it’s not a big deal. I had to leave mine back home and I’ve missed them so much.” She’d been looking down while she talked, brushing grass off her jeans and reaching for a tote bag almost as big as she was, but once she’d finally looked up, her clear bluish-grey eyes met Tobias’ darker blue ones, and at that moment, Tobias felt a flip to his stomach and his mouth went dry. She was pretty, yes, but there was something else about her that had grabbed him and as corny as it sounded, even in his head, when he looked at her, Tobias felt he’d finally found the person he’d been waiting for his entire life.

“I, um, I’m sorry about your coffee,” he’d stammered, gesturing to the spilled disposable cup on the ground. “Let me buy you another.”

She’d responded by smiling up at Tobias then, and this time his heart had nearly stopped. Her smile had lit up her entire face, turning what was a pretty face into sheer beauty. “Okay, I’d like that. I’m Tris by the way,” she had replied, sticking her hand out.

He’d taken her hand and looked deep into her eyes, seeing the same spark he knew was in his, and answered back, “I’m Tobias.”

Tobias grinned at the memory and as if Tris could read his mind, she looked up at him and smiled the same soft smile she’d given him when he’d offered to buy her a new cup of coffee all those years ago. He still felt that same pang in his heart, even now staring into the eyes of his wife. These last three years with Tris had been the best of his life and now, with a baby on the way, Tobias didn’t think life could get any better. He finally had the family he’d dreamed of having when he was a child, when he’d been the rope in his parents’ never-ending battle of tug-of-war.

“Hey, we all unpacked upstairs?” Tris asked, taking Tobias out of his thoughts.

“Yeah.”

“Good, because I’ve got us all set up for a movie in the family room. There’s cable in there; I’m sure we can find a good movie to watch. Ready to veg out?”

He nodded and held out his hand. She took it and led him into the family room. He chuckled when he saw she’d already laid out a couple of cans of soda, a bag of popcorn on the end table, and a rawhide bone on the floor. Bruno happily curled up next to the couch, chewing enthusiastically on the bone while Tobias sat down and pulled Tris against him. He turned on the TV with the universal remote as she curled up next to him, opening up the bag of popcorn.

“We made good time today,” she said, pulling out a handful of popcorn while Tobias surfed around for a movie.

“Yeah, after a restful weekend here, we should be able to do another four to five hours before stopping. There are a couple of places in Ohio I’ve sketched out that’ll let us have Bruno in the room. Then, it shouldn’t be more than another five or so to Chicago. Think you can handle that?” He kissed the top of her head, settling on an action movie they both liked.

“Sure, that sounds like a plan.” Tris nodded, dipping her hand into the popcorn bag again. As the opening to the movie began, Tris wondered if she’d be able to convince him to go get her some cookies too.

xXx

Tobias had been completely unsurprised when Tris fell asleep against his chest. As the pregnancy progressed and her morning sickness had stopped, her two favorite activities were sleeping and eating. What he hadn’t expected was to fall asleep with her. They’d only driven about four and a half hours today, but between that and dealing with Evelyn, he figured they both deserved a break.

He eased out from under her, lowering her gently onto the couch. It was just becoming dark, he noticed, stretching. He turned down the volume on the television so it wouldn’t wake Tris. As he entered the hallway, he felt a cool breeze coming from the living room and looked in, trying to see if there was an open window. All the windows were closed, but for some reason, it felt colder in there than in the family room.

Strangely uneasy, Tobias eased back into the hallway. He shook his head, figuring he was just a little out of sorts from the impromptu nap. He heard clicking and looked down to see Bruno behind him, looking up expectantly. He whined a little and Tobias glanced at his watch. It was nearly 7 PM and, right on time, Bruno wanted dinner. But there was something more important Tobias felt they needed to do first. “Come on, boy. Let’s go pee first.” Bruno’s tail wagged in agreement.

In the kitchen, Tobias clipped on Bruno’s leash and led him out through the back door. He and Bruno walked towards the line of trees that bordered the yard behind the house. Bruno sniffed and lifted his leg. They walked a little into the trees, Tobias being careful to keep the house in his sights. He didn’t want to wander too deeply into the woods with night falling.

Bruno suddenly stopped, staring into the growing darkness, his ears perked. Tobias looked after him. “What’s up, boy?” he asked. The wind blew and the gentle sway of the branches threw odd shadows on the ground. Cold fingers seemed to travel up Tobias’ spine as he stared into the darkness. There was something there, just beyond that line of trees… Bruno pulled him a few feet deeper then stopped, sniffing the ground intently. He looked up at Tobias and whined a little. Tobias tugged on Bruno’s leash, feeling more than a little uncomfortable by the rapidly falling darkness. “Let’s get back. You’ve got to be ready for dinner.” Bruno looked up at the mention of dinner and allowed Tobias to lead him back to the house.

Tobias let them back into the house and unclipped Bruno’s leash. He flipped on the light, grabbed Bruno’s travel bowl and filled it with fresh dog food. He placed it on the floor and Bruno descended on it as though he hadn’t eaten in years. Tobias chuckled and figured he’d start their dinner, too. He pulled the lasagna out of the fridge and fiddled with the oven until he got the right temperature. He slid it in and set the timer.

Checking his watch, he decided to grab his laptop from upstairs. As he entered the hallway, he felt the cold air again. Shivering a little, he went back into the family room and pulled an afghan off the chair by the window and gently covered Tris with it. He headed up the stairway, Bruno, who was now licking his lips with a satisfied doggy grin, in tow.

xXx

The sound of a woman sobbing woke Tris up from her nap. She opened her eyes and blearily looked at the television. She reached over to the end table and groped for the remote, turning the TV off. She yawned and pushed the afghan off her shoulders. She looked at it, smiling tenderly. Tobias could be a typical guy at times, but with her, he always had a soft, thoughtful side. She folded the afghan and caught scent of the lasagna. Her smile grew. She turned and noticed the strangely dim blue-white light coming from the living room. She went into the hallway, figuring it was Tobias. He must be on his laptop, she thought, although she couldn’t figure out why he hadn’t turned on a lamp. She stopped at the base of the stairs, shivering in the cold air, a sudden feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach. There was something not right, something that made the hair on her arms stand on end. She could have sworn at that moment she heard the sharp sound of flesh hitting flesh. She started to turn to make sure the television was turned off, when she again heard the sound of a woman sobbing. Tris froze, rooted to the spot. Part of her wanted to take the few steps necessary to bring herself into the room, but the other, more cautious part, was screaming at her to stay out. She stared into the dark living room, the blue-white light still glowing from its unknown source, filling her with both curiosity and fear.

She jumped when she heard Bruno growl and the pitter-pat of his paws as he exited the bedroom and came down the stairs to her. Tris heaved a sigh of relief as his warm, furry body leaning against hers. She looked down, scratching him on the top of the head. When she looked up, the light in the living room had faded. Bruno whined, staring into the dark room with her.

“Hey.”

Tris jumped as Tobias flipped on the hallway light and came down the stairs. His smile faded as he took in her pale features. “Hey, you okay?” He cupped her cheek. “You look a little sick. Are you nauseous?”

“Uh, no.” Tris shook her head. She glanced back into the room, feeling a little silly when she saw the light was gone. “It’s just, um, cold out here.”

Tobias nodded. “Yeah, I noticed that too.” He walked into the living room, flipping on the lamp. Tris’ eyes widened when she saw the room was empty. Tobias held his hand out in front of the fireplace. “Hmm, I wonder if there’s a problem with the flue. It’s a little chilly right here. We’ll have to remember to mention it to Johanna.”

Tris let out a shaky breath. “That must explain the noises I heard.”

He turned to her, frowning slightly. “What noises?”

“I could have sworn I heard a woman sobbing.” She put her hand on Bruno’s head, drawing warmth from him. “You don’t–,” she took a deep breath before continuing, “you don’t think there’s anything to those ghost stories, do you?”

Tobias laughed. “No, no I don’t. I think it’s a great story to draw in tourists,” he replied, but the look on Tris’ face made him think she thought otherwise. “You don’t think there is, do you?”

Tris shrugged. Ordinarily she would say no, but the sounds of slapping, of a woman crying, had just seemed so real. Plus, there was that odd light…

“I just don’t know,” she said, her voice small.

Tobias crossed to her and kissed her forehead. “You probably just heard the wind whistling in the chimney. The wind is picking up; it’s going to rain a bit tonight.”

Tris nodded, but she wasn’t convinced. “Yeah, that must be it.”

He ran his hands up and down her arm. “C’mon, that lasagna has got to be close to done.”

“Did you make a salad?” she asked absently.

Tobias made a face, hoping he’d be able to joke her out of her nervous mood. “No, why would I?”

Tris rolled her eyes and grabbed his hand. She pulled him into the kitchen. “You know better than that,” she chided.

*Chapter break*

Tobias grumped good-naturedly when Tris made him eat the salad. His antics had the effect he wanted; the nervous fear he’d seen on her face while she stood at the bottom of the stairs had disappeared. Bruno sat close to the table, ever hopeful for a scrap of lasagna, not salad, to hit the floor, but heaved a huge, disappointed sigh when Tris cleared the plates away.

“Need help?” Tobias asked.

Tris grinned, “Nope, you cooked. I’ll wash.”

“There is a dishwasher, you know,” he pointed out.

She looked at him in confusion. “Why in the world would I waste water like that?”

Tobias shook his head and smirked, “Whatever makes you happy.” He kissed the side of her head and affectionately added, “Weirdo,” before heading out of the kitchen, Bruno at his heels.

Tris chuckled to herself. Tobias didn’t understand, but Tris found washing dishes to be quite comforting. Even though she’d grown up with a housekeeper, Tris’ parents had insisted that they all contribute to the household by performing some of the chores, too. When Tris was younger, she and her mom would split dish washing duty, with one of them washing and the other drying, allowing them to spend hours talking about anything and everything. So when Tris moved to Norfolk, she continued to do them by hand in order to feel closer to her mom. But now that they were moving back to Chicago, Tris was looking forward to being just across town from her mom.

As she filled the sink partway with water, Tris put away the few leftovers they had, thinking they would be perfect for lunch the next day. They were only staying the weekend so Tris had chosen small things that they could finish in a couple of meals.

Moving her hands in the soapy water was, as she’d expected, soothing. She smiled a little when she heard the water moving in the pipes above her. Tobias must’ve decided to take a shower, she guessed. Tris put the last dish onto the drying rack and emptied the sink of water. She looked up expecting to catch her reflection in the dark glass of the window above the sink, but instead saw a man’s face staring back at her.

The face was translucent blue-white, but Tris could see a look of rage on his face. He was frowning, his eyes flashing with fire while the thin lips between his Van Dyke moustache and beard twisted up into a grimace of pure hatred. Tris gave a short scream and backed away from the window as Bruno came running into the room, barking and snarling, Tobias frantically close on his heels. Tobias grabbed Tris and turned her around, holding her upper arms in a tight grip. “Are you all right? What happened?”

“Th…there was some…someone in the window,” Tris stammered, her heart racing, her mind trying to process what she’d seen.

“Someone?” Tobias asked sharply, his eyes flickering towards the window.

Tris nodded and took a deep breath. “Like a…like a reflection,” she finally was able to spit out.

His body taut and on alert, Tobias moved to the window and looked out. “I can’t see anything from here,” he muttered.

Tris hesitated for a moment then said quietly, “I don’t think it was a person outside.”

Tobias turned to look at her. “What are you talking about?”

“I think it was a ghost.”

Turning from the window, Tobias faced her and gently put his hands on her shoulders. “Tris, honey, there’s no such thing as ghosts.”

“You didn’t see it!” she burst out.

Tobias took a deep breath, trying to stay calm. “Okay, Tris, okay.”

Tris shook her head. “You don’t believe me,” she muttered.

“No, it’s not that. There may be someone outside.” He frowned and took a deep breath. He would be surprised if there were someone out there – Bruno hadn’t made a sound until Tris screamed – but he wasn’t going to take any chances. He called for Bruno who quickly came to his side. Tobias pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and handed it to Tris. He grabbed Bruno’s leash off the shelf in the utility room where he’d left it last and clipped it to Bruno’s collar. Spying a flashlight, he picked it up and turned it on. “Stay here,” he ordered Tris.

The sharpness in his tone snapped Tris out of her stupor. “Wait a minute. What the hell are you doing?”

“I’m going out there.”

“No way,” she said stubbornly. “I’m going with you.”

He whirled around, his blue eyes fierce. “Like hell you are.”

“You can’t go by yourself!”

He took a deep breath, seeing the terror on her face. “I’m not. Bruno’s going with me.”

“Tobias…”

“I’ll be all right. Just stay here and lock the door behind me. Call 911 if you hear anything wrong.” He cupped her cheek in his palm. “It’ll be okay, Tris. Promise.”

She covered his hand with hers. “You have exactly five minutes. Any longer and I’ll call the cops.”

He grinned, glad to see his wife’s spunk return. “Yes, ma’am. C’mon, Bruno, let’s go check it out.” Tobias flipped on the flashlight and Bruno led him outside. Tris locked the door then stood in the doorway, cell phone at the ready.

As soon as he disappeared from her sight, Tris began to doubt what she’d seen. She was tired despite the nap and she had to wonder if she was just seeing things. Now, in the peaceful quiet of the kitchen, the whole thing felt a little silly and a lot more surreal to her. She glanced at the time on the phone in her hand. Four more minutes and she was not only calling the cops, she was going out there after her husband herself.

Tobias led Bruno around the house, the flashlight trained on the ground. He kept close to the house, looking for anything unusual, stopping outside the kitchen window to see if there were any footprints, but he saw nothing that would indicate anyone had been there. Other than Bruno stopping to relieve himself, the short trip was uneventful until they came around to the back of the house again. Bruno tried leading Tobias toward the woods. He whined, looked at Tobias, then back at the trees, whining again. Tobias looked into the darkness at the line of tall trees, the discomfort he’d felt earlier in the day returning and Tobias shifted nervously. There was something not quite right beyond the trees, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. However, the wind chose that moment to pick up and Tobias felt the first few droplets of rain. Shaking his head to himself, he led Bruno up the porch stairs. Tris was still standing in the mudroom door waiting nervously and unlocked the door to let them in.

“Well, I didn’t see anything. Plus, it’s starting to rain,” Tobias said as he reentered the house, putting the flashlight back in its place and unclipping Bruno’s leash. He closed and locked the door behind him.

Tris bit her lip, nodding. Tobias looked at her, hating to see the distress on her face. Wanting to make her feel better, he put his hands on her shoulders and said, “Look, Tris, if you want to get out of here, just say the word. We’ll grab our stuff and find some other place to bunk for the night. I’m sure there’s something around here that will take Bruno, but if not, we can go into Hagerstown. It isn’t far.”

Tris stared at him. It was clear he didn’t quite believe her, but his willingness to drop everything, lose their deposit and shell out more money to find a place that took pets, a place that probably didn’t exist at this late of hour, was enough to calm her down. “No, no, that would be silly.”

“Are you sure?”

She nodded, stepping close so he could envelop her in his arms. She felt herself settle into his calmness. “You’re right. I’m probably just letting Johanna’s story get to me.” Lifting herself up onto her tiptoes, she brushed her lips over his. “I just need to unwind a little and maybe climb into bed for a while.”

Tobias deepened the kiss. “I have just the plan for that.” His hands trailed down her arms and tangled their fingers together. “Come with me.” Pausing to flip off the kitchen light, he led her up the stairs, Bruno trailing behind them. They stopped outside of the bathroom and Tobias gestured for her to look inside. Curious, she did, and felt her heart melt.

“Tobias,” she sighed. The bathroom was glowing in candlelight and a bubble bath had been drawn in the large claw foot tub, though only a few listless bubbles still lingered on the surface of the water.

“I told you I had a use for the tub,” he whispered.

Tris turned to him, a huge smile on her lips as she wrapped her arms around his neck and brushed her lips across his. “You’re the best husband ever.”

He pulled her close and teasingly squeezed her bottom. “Why don’t you go get undressed? I’ll reheat the water for us.” They separated, Tris stepping into the bedroom while Tobias let out a little of the water and refilled the tub with hot water and a squirt of bath gel to create bubbles. He was brushing his teeth as Tris reentered, wrapped in a robe.

“Your turn,” she said, reaching for her toothbrush as they swapped places and he strode into the bedroom. She’d just finished rinsing her mouth when he walked back in, blissfully naked. Tris leered at him teasingly as she twisted her hair into a messy bun on top of her head. Tobias winked and grinned mischievously as he stepped into the tub and sat. He held out a hand to her.

“Come join me,” he beckoned.

Her eyes locked with his, Tris slowly untied her robe and let it drop off her shoulders, enjoying the flare of heat she saw in her husband’s eyes. She reached out and took his hand, allowing him to help her into the tub and settled herself against his chest. The warm water surrounded them and Tris closed her eyes in bliss. Tobias’ arms came around her, his hands resting on the small bump of her stomach. They sat together quietly, soaking in the peace and quiet.

“Thanks for putting up with Evelyn.” Tobias let his lips brush along the lobe of her ear.

Tris chuckled, “She actually wasn’t that bad this time.” Tris’ relationship with her mother-in-law was frosty at best, with occasional acts of hostility thrown in by Evelyn. To Evelyn’s viewpoint, Tris had gotten in the way of Evelyn’s master plans for Tobias and had then added insult to injury by diminishing her motherly influence with him.

Once she’d divorced Tobias’ father, Marcus, and married Admiral Max Shephard, Evelyn remade herself into the perfect Navy wife. They’d moved a lot with Max, first to Hawaii then to Japan and finally to Virginia Beach. Tobias had thrived and excelled in Navy life, graduating first in his high school class. He’d attended Evelyn’s alma mater, the University of Michigan, then thrilled her even more by choosing Georgetown law school, graduating with honors. When he’d accepted his clerkship at the US District Court, Evelyn had felt assured her son was on his way to the life she wanted him to have, one that would show her arrogant bastard of an ex-husband that she could raise their son much better than he ever could.

As part of Evelyn’s master plan, she’d wanted Tobias to marry Nita Matthews, the daughter of one of the first friends she’d made as a Navy wife. Nita and Tobias had known each other since they were kids. Her father and Tobias’ stepfather had been Naval Academy midshipmen together and had served together on a couple of other bases. Jeanine, Nita’s mother, and Evelyn decided they wanted nothing more than to be grandparents together, so they’d thrown their children together at every possible chance. Tobias liked Nita well enough, but hadn’t come close to loving her and any hope for Nita disappeared the second he’d met Tris. Nita had been truly happy when Tobias broke the news that he was dating Tris and was more than happy to let Evelyn and her mother know that she was thrilled Tobias had fallen in love with someone as she wasn’t in love with him either. However, Evelyn still decided that Tris was all flash and no substance when she learned of Tris’ career in public relations and proceeded to trash Tris among her friends at every opportunity. She had made up her mind that Tris was a low-class gold digger and was latching onto Tobias not only because he was poised to become a successful attorney, but also because his stepfather had been an Admiral and a rumored pick for the Joint Chiefs before he died. Max had made very powerful friends among politicians as well as military and businessmen and Evelyn’s dream was that those connections would carry Tobias, and also her, to the top of the Washington political and social scene.

When Tobias finally brought Tris to meet her, Evelyn had been severely embarrassed to realize that Tris was actually Beatrice Wright-Prior, granddaughter of Senator Samuel Wright and currently the head of public relations for the charitable arm of her father’s business, Prior Telecommunications, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the country. Both sides of Tris’ family were ridiculously rich and well connected, more so than Evelyn could ever be, but Tris refused to play the game and that solidified Evelyn’s belief that Tris was not the right wife for Tobias. Evelyn tried to convince Tobias that he didn’t need to marry Tris and to just use her family’s connections to his advantage, but Tobias had stubbornly refused and married Tris despite her objections. Eventually, Evelyn had to mellow a bit or risk losing Tobias for good. He may not have married the girl she wanted, but Tobias still seemed to be poised to live the life she wanted as a successful DC attorney, maybe even a politician someday if he played his cards right, and he was still close enough for Evelyn to be able to ride on his social coattails. That is, until the job offer came from Tris’ father. Evelyn had been livid when Tobias told her he had accepted the associate general counsel position at Prior Telecommunications, at their headquarters in Chicago, taking him far enough away that Evelyn saw all her dreams of the Washington social scene crumbling into dust and she blamed Tris for it.

Tobias reached for the washcloth he’d draped over the side of the tub. He dunked it into the warm water and squeezed the water over Tris’ shoulders. She sighed contentedly. “Is it wrong of me to say that I’m glad we’re moving far away from Evelyn?” he asked softly. “She can be so overbearing.”

“She’s your mother, Tobias.”

He winced. “Don’t remind me.” He hugged her tightly as she laughed. “Still, thank you for putting up with her.”

She tilted her head up and reached back to curl her hand around the nape of his neck, pulling his head down for a kiss. “You usually make it worth it,” she teased.

Cupping her chin in his hand, Tobias deepened the kiss. His hands wandered down across her chest, gently caressing her breasts. They’d become more tender since she’d become pregnant, so he was much more careful than he used to be. Tris arched her back a little while his left hand slowly slid further down her body, across her stomach where their baby grew inside.

Tris moaned a little as his long fingers parted her and teasingly began tracing her flesh. Tobias smiled into her mouth, increasing the pressure of his fingers. She’d always been responsive to him, but now he seemed to turn her on even with the lightest of touches. Tris covered his right hand at her breast with hers, her other hand reaching around his neck to keep him in place, kissing her. She could feel him hardening against her bottom and she wiggled her hips a little, teasing him. In response, he increased the pressure again, alternating between rubbing and plunging inside her. He loved the little sounds she made deep in her throat as he pleasured her, sounds which only spurred him on more as he slipped one then two fingers inside her. She came quickly, gasping against his mouth, squeezing the hand that covered her breast.

She slumped back against him, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. “Wow.”

Tobias chuckled and kissed the side of her head. “Does that qualify as ‘worth it’?”

Tris gave a breathy chuckle as she reached behind her and grasped him firmly then pumped him with as much movement as she could from their current position. “I think you still have more work to do, mister.” He pushed lightly on her hips so she could scoot forward, allowing him to stand up behind her. He stepped out of the tub than helped her out, wrapping her in a towel before he grabbed one for himself. Tobias’ breath caught as she reached up and unpinned her hair. He loved watching those blonde locks fall around her shoulders. They dried each other off, their eyes locked. As soon as she felt they were dry enough, she grabbed his hand and dragged him into the bedroom. Tobias followed, chuckling.

“Eager, aren’t we?”

She glanced over her shoulder and gave him a mock glare. “You got me all worked up, soldier, and now you’ve got to do something about it.” She stopped next to the bed. “Assume the position.”

Tobias snapped off a salute. “Ma’am, yes, ma’am!” Tris couldn’t hold in her giggles as her husband pulled back the covers and settled himself on his back, his hands crossed behind his head. “Be gentle with me.”

Tris snorted and crawled as best as she could on top of him. “No promises.”

Tobias sat up and framed Tris’ face with his hands, his fingers sliding through her soft hair to the nape of her neck as he pulled her towards him and gently caressed her lips with his. The kiss may have begun gently, but it soon caught fire. Tris melted into him, her hands coming up to cover his. Neither of them knew how long they sat, just kissing, but the passion rose to a peak between them until Tris could stand it no longer. She finally broke the kiss and pushed him back down, maneuvering herself into position and gradually lowering herself onto him. They both let out a moan of pleasure and they stilled, staring into each other’s eyes and basking in the love they each read there. Soon Tris began moving, undulating her hips against his. Tobias gripped her hips and surged into her, making her whimper. They moved together slowly at first, savoring the pleasure, but inevitably they began moving faster, more insistently. Love and lust and pleasure built upon each other, layer after layer, until neither of them could stand it anymore and they shattered together; their voices echoing each other.

Tris went limp and slid down next to him. Tobias pulled her onto his side, burying his face in her hair. He breathed in her scent, loving the feel of her body, warm, soft and naked snuggled against his side. “I love you,” he mumbled sleepily.

“I love you, too,” she breathed, sinking with him into sleep.

xXx

Bruno’s sharp bark sliced through the peaceful night. Tris and Tobias jerked awake, Tobias sitting up in time to see his dog scramble to his feet and hurry out of the room, snarling. Tobias jumped out of bed, yanking open a drawer and pulling on sweatpants. His eyes searched the room for a weapon, finally settling on the small lamp on the dresser. He yanked the cord out of the wall and threw the lampshade aside, holding it like a baseball bat.

“Stay here,” he snapped to Tris, “close the door and call the cops.”

“Tobias,” she started and he cut her off with a glare.

“Call the cops,” he repeated. He started to pull the door closed behind him, but stopped. “I love you,” he said and closed the door behind him.

Tris pulled on sweatpants and a sweatshirt quickly, grabbing the cell phone as she moved to put her ear to the door. Surprisingly she didn’t hear anything. Tris knew she should do as Tobias said, but something stopped her. She carefully opened the door and peered out. Moving cautiously into the hallway, she glanced down the stairs and saw Tobias and Bruno standing at the foot of the stairs, frozen. Tris crept down the stairs, noticing the blue-white light emanating from the living room. Once she reached the bottom of the stairs, Tobias glanced up at her, too shocked to be angry she was there. Tris peered into the living room and her breath caught in her throat.

The eerie scene played out before them like an old cinema reel, the sound so muffled they could barely hear it, the images so faded and nearly translucent they could see the actual furniture through them. A woman sat in a rocking chair, her dark hair curling around her shoulders. She was wearing a long dressing gown, the high neck trimmed with lace, which floated over the round mound of her stomach. Tris realized that this must have been Elizabeth Simpson, Johanna’s ancestor, and they may be about to see what really happened to her.

Elizabeth looked up at the menacing figure standing before her, seemingly distraught, as the argument played out almost silently before them. Tris and Tobias could only hear the murmuring of voices, muffled as though they were hearing them through a wall, and couldn’t make out any distinct words, only the anguish in Elizabeth’s voice and the fury in Samuel’s. Tris gasped and grabbed Tobias’ bicep, recognizing the man’s face as the one she’d seen in the kitchen window. He glanced at her.

“Is that who you saw in the kitchen?” he whispered urgently. Tris nodded and he pulled her tightly to his side, Bruno growling deep in his chest next to them. Tobias laid a comforting hand on Bruno’s head as they prepared themselves for whatever would happen next.

They watched as Samuel slapped Elizabeth so hard her head snapped around. Bruno barked loudly, but otherwise stayed next to Tobias. They watched as Elizabeth raised a trembling hand to her cheek, staring up at Samuel, seemingly betrayed. She stood, trembling from head to toe, and looked as though she were screaming at Samuel. She turned to walk away when he grabbed a fireplace poker and slammed it into the back of her head. She fell to the ground and looked back to see the poker crash down on her again. Bruno barked like mad and Tris and Tobias jumped with each blow then stood shaking when Samuel finally stopped hitting Elizabeth. He stood over the body, the poker dripping with blood, his chest heaving. Samuel threw the poker aside as he stared down.

“Tobias, we should do something,” Tris whispered.

He glanced over his shoulder at her. “Like what? They’re already dead!”

“I–,” Tris broke off as Samuel reached down and scooped the dead body into his arms. He walked towards them and they froze, all except for Bruno who raced into the room at the ghost, jumping and snarling, trying to bite through the translucent image. Samuel didn’t stop and walked straight through Tris and Tobias, cold air slicing like a knife as he passed through them, disappearing down the darkened hallway towards the kitchen.

Tris and Tobias stared at each other for a moment, stupefied, then together they bolted up the stairs, Bruno at their heels.

“Tobias, what the hell was that?” she started. “What–

“We’re getting the fuck out of here,” he said, bluntly cutting her off and throwing the suitcase on the bed. Tris stared at him for a moment, watching him throw on a shirt and pull on shoes as she tried to process what they’d just seen. She shook herself out of her stupor and began pulling clothes out of the drawers, stuffing them into the suitcase haphazardly. Tobias grabbed the suitcase from her when she was done and ran down the stairs. Tris pulled on socks and shoes, watching Bruno pace the room nervously. When she was completely dressed, she stuffed the laptop and their cell phones into the carrying case then she and Bruno ran down the stairs, meeting Tobias at the foot. Tobias clipped on Bruno’s leash and threw open the door.

“Come on. We’ll get everything else tomorrow,” he said urgently, holding out his hand to her. She took it and they hurried out into the stormy night.

It was still drizzling, the wind blowing in strong gusts as they hurried out towards the car. Bruno was barking madly, pulling at his leash. Tris jumped into the passenger side of the car, stuffing the carrying case between her feet. As Tobias struggled to get the suitcase in the back, Bruno finally pulled hard enough to break out of Tobias’ hold, running at full speed toward the trees at the back of the house.

“Goddamn it, Bruno!” Tobias looked back at Tris, who was sitting anxiously in the passenger seat. “Stay here, I’ll get him!” Tobias yelled. Before Tris could say a word, he closed the back door and raced after Bruno. Tris pulled open the glove compartment and rooted around until she found the flashlight they kept there. She grabbed her cell phone from out of the carrying case and pushed open the car door; there was no way Tobias would be able to catch Bruno in the dark.

Tris hurried around the side of the house, following the sound of her husband’s voice shouting after Bruno. She slipped a couple of times on the mud, but managed to stay upright as she made her way through the trees. She’d gone just a few feet into the woods behind the house when she finally came upon them, Bruno digging wildly into the ground, Tobias tugging at his leash.

“Bruno, stop! Come on, man, stop!”

Tris trained her flashlight on the hole Bruno was digging and gasped. “Tobias, Tobias, stop! Look!”

“What the hell are you doing out here?!” Tobias looked up at her, furious and terrified to see her standing there.

Tris gestured again with the flashlight. “Look!”

He turned and looked down at the ground. “Oh, sweet Jesus,” he murmured. Peeking out of the ground, partially uncovered by Bruno’s frantic digging, was a human skull.

xXx

The following few hours were a flurry of activity. They’d made their way back to the car, Bruno in tow, and called both Johanna and the police. Everyone arrived at once, Johanna, the coroner, the police chief and the police chief’s very excited daughter, an anthropology student from the University of Maryland, home visiting her parents.

Tris and Tobias felt a little silly describing the ghostly scene they’d witnessed, but considering the skeleton, they were both convinced that what they’d seen was real. After the police finished with them, Johanna insisted they stay with her. They all arrived just after 2 AM and Manuel had a guest room all ready for them. Tris and Tobias practically collapsed onto the bed from exhaustion. The next morning, after a gigantic brunch from Manuel, they went to meet Johanna back at the house.

They pulled into the driveway and stared at the house, much like they did just the day before. Tris smiled a little at Tobias. “It doesn’t seem real does it?”

He laughed a little. “No, no it doesn’t.” In the bright afternoon sunshine, the house looked warm, cozy, and inviting again; nothing like the terrifyingly cold horror it had felt like the night before. Squeezing her hand, he grinned at her. “You ready?”

Tris smiled back. “Absolutely.”

They exited the car and Tobias opened the back door, letting Bruno jump down. Grabbing the leash, he looked up to see Johanna come out onto the porch, smiling at them. Taking Tris’ hand, they walked up to Johanna, who grabbed them each in turn, hugging them tightly.

“Wow, it feels warmer in here, doesn’t it?” Tris asked as they entered the living room.

Johanna gave a little laugh. “Yes, it seems so, doesn’t it?” She looked around the room as if seeing it with new eyes. “I spent my whole life in and out of this house and never knew what was here. It’s incredible.” She gestured to the couch. “Please, sit down.”

“So, what did the police find?” Tobias asked as he and Tris perched on the couch, Bruno sprawled at their feet.

“They removed the skeleton last night. Underneath the remains, they found a bag of clothing and jewelry.” Johanna gave a little laugh. “I recognized the pearl encrusted brooch as the same one Elizabeth had worn in her and Samuel’s wedding picture. It’s one of the only pictures we have of them. They’re going to date the bones and see if they can get any DNA to try and match it to mine.” She shook her head. “I don’t need it though. I’m sure it’s Elizabeth.” She smiled sadly. “It looks like Thomas was right. Edgar did kill her and made it look like she left him.”

Tris and Tobias looked at each other. “I wonder why now,” Tobias mused. “Why show this to us?”

“I’ve done a bunch of research on hauntings since we began getting the reports here,” Johanna said. “I think it was a combination of things. Animals seem to be more in tune with the paranormal.” She smiled at Bruno who lifted his head as though he knew they were talking about him. “Plus, I think Tris’ presence helped. Pregnant women also seem to be more receptive to paranormal phenomenon and maybe Elizabeth thought another pregnant woman would be willing to see – to help her.” She looked around the room again. “I do wonder if I’d spent more time here, if she would have tried to get me to help.” She idly touched the scar running down her face, her eyes pensive as she thought, Elizabeth and I had a few things in common.

Shaking off her slight melancholy, Johanna turned her attention back to the couple in front of her. “Are you guys sure you want to stay here another night? Manny would love to have you at our place again.”

Tris and Tobias glanced at each other and smiled. “We’re sure. Besides,” Tobias glanced around again, “the place feels different today. I think we’ll be okay.”

“Okay, if you’re sure.” They stood and walked Johanna to the door. She turned back and impulsively hugged them again. “Thank you both, so much.”

“We didn’t do anything! Actually, Bruno did most of the work,” Tris grinned.

“So he did.” Johanna rubbed Bruno’s head, scratching behind his floppy ears, making the dog groan in ecstasy. She laughed and straightened. “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow then!”

Tobias slung his arm around Tris’ shoulder as they watched Johanna drive away. He turned to his wife, brushing his lips across her gently. “So, think we can finally get some rest now?”

She laughed a little then kissed him more firmly before pulling back, a coy look upon her face as she played with the collar of his shirt. “There is still that bathtub upstairs… I’d hoped for at least one more relaxing soak.”

“Then I’ll race you upstairs,” Tobias teased as he closed the door behind them. Their laughter could be heard throughout the house as the sun shone brightly outside, banishing the shadows away.

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