This wasn't Rachel's idea of a fun weekend. When Ben had said that he was taking her away for the a few days she had imagined a West End musical or perhaps an out of town spa break. She certainly hadn't planned on tramping across the moors with only the sheep for company. She thought that she'd got to know him better than this. They'd only been dating for a couple of months but she already knew that Ben was fun, good looking, a great listener and that he doted on her. What more could any girl want? She'd even begun to suspect that he might be The One but this six hour march across a wasteland that squelched underfoot at every step was starting to change her mind. Still, at least there was the promise of a decent hotel to look forwards to at the end of it.
Ben had promised that they were staying someplace special. At that moment with mud in her hair and aches in places she'd never realised could ache before she'd be happy with a hot meal and a shower. He'd kept the precise location a secret but had said that it would be an experience that she would never forget. As she crested the final hill all thoughts of a palatial five star country retreat disappeared like the slowly setting sun.
'That's it?' she whimpered. 'A rundown inn stuck in the middle of nowhere?'
His enthusiastic grin gave her the answer. 'But it's so much more than that,' he replied, as enthusiastic as an excited puppy. 'It's supposed to be the most haunted inn in the county. My mum said that stories about the ghosts in it have been passed down our family for generations. My ancestors have always lived around here, you see. I don't know if any of it's real or not but I've always wanted to spend a night here.'
Great, thought Rachel. He's looking forwards to a night of ghostbusting more than he is a night with me. How could he be so different to the lovely man that she though she'd come to know over the last few months. More importantly, how many other secrets did he have hidden away?
Despite how it looked from the outside the hotel turned out to be lovely, anything but the fake Victorian horror that she'd expected. The staff were really friendly and when they were shown to Room Seventeen she found that it was clean and newly renovated. Best of all the bed was huge and incredibly comfortable. After a delicious meal she quickly fell asleep. She hadn't meant to but the walk had totally exhausted her. Yet her sleep wasn't at all restful. Several times during the night she'd half awakened to find Ben smiling beside her, propped on one elbow and gazing down at her while she slept. It should have been creepy but she found his presence strangely protective as if he were watching over her. It may have been a dream or just that moment when you're just on the verge of waking but soon it faded as she drifted off again.
Soon she was back in the land of dreams and this time the dream was much more vivid. Ben was looking down at her once more but it seemed much more real. She could feel the heat of Ben's body, intense and intimate, like the most detailed dream ever. This time when he smiled down at her she smiled back and pressed closer to him, yet even in her sleep she recognised that it couldn't be real as he was muscular in a way that the Ben she knew was lean.
Copyright Shaun Finnie 2015