He rolled out of bed and slid his feet into his slippers, wiggling his toes and digging them into the fuzzy warmth. Did other people consider slippers a decadent treat, or was that just him? Chuckling, he headed for the bathroom, mentally going over his to-do list as he freshened up and dressed for the day. Or what was left of the day.
First order of business, of course, was brunch. Then onto kitchen construction, and finishing off the demolition of that wall. He pulled on a tank top and made his way into the kitchen, grabbed an apple and started absently munching while he considered the construction area, and the odd little hole within the hole. Haddon had told him all about the tiki, but neither of them had been able to come up with a reason for the thing to have been where it had been.
Link frowned. Why would a person stick something in a wall? He’d heard of planting a Saint Joseph statue upside down in a yard for luck in selling a house—his grandmother had sworn by all those old Catholic wives’ tales—but even a Google search hadn’t turned up anything related to sticking a tiki in a wall.
And for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out the mysterious draft that seemed to emanate from the hole. He swallowed a last bite of apple, dumped the core in the garbage, and walked over to the wall. The temperature dropped drastically about a foot away, and became downright freezing up close—nearly cold enough to send him searching for a coat. He leaned in and peered up along the studs, to the ceiling. Just like the dozen other times he’d done it, he saw no daylight, no cracks, nothing that would indicate air was getting in.
He shook his head. Maybe the issue was behind one of the studs? He wrapped his hand around one of the boards that made up the tiki’s hiding place, and tugged.
His vision became blurry and the floor under his feet seemed to shift left and right. A bright flash of red surrounded him, dimmed, and dissipated, followed by several more flashes, though all of them less intense. The frigid cold gave way to warmth, and he gasped. This wasn’t his kitchen.
Link now stood in the middle of a room he didn’t recognize. None of his belongings were there, and in fact, the placed seemed to be stuck in a time warp—no modern appliances, no overhead lighting. Instead, a large window over the sink and a couple lanterns provided light, and the warmth he’d felt radiated out from a hearth with a large, metal pot hanging over a crackling fire.
A man and a woman stood in front of the sink. They were just as odd as the rest of the house—she wore a pale blue dress with long sleeves and a high collar, and he looked like he’d just walked away from business meeting, complete with suit jacket and tie. They didn’t seem to notice him, didn’t turn to look at him, and they certainly didn’t seem as surprised to see him as he was to see them. She was quite beautiful, he had to admit, with pale skin, flowing blonde hair and big blue eyes. By contrast the man’s complexion was dark, his black hair short and curly atop his head, his eyes a deep brown Link could only describe as chocolate. She epitomized everything Link had ever imagined about women from the early 1900s, and the man, although far too skinny, reminded him of the Samoan wrestlers he’d grown up watching in WWE.
As he stood there, though, he realized he knew them. Impossible as it sounded—he’d never seen them before in his life, they weren’t long lost relatives he’d glimpsed in faded photographs or even celebrities of a bygone era—he knew them. The woman’s name was Winifred, and the man... Link wrinkled his brow in thought. Keoni! The man was Keoni.
“Keoni! Stop it!” Winifred giggled and wiggled in the big man’s grasp, fighting back with not much effort as he nuzzled her neck and nibbled her earlobe.
“You protest too much, woman!” Keoni straightened and looked down at her with a grin, ignoring her protests. “Admit it—you enjoy my attentions.”
She blushed and smoothed out her skirt. “I’ll admit no such thing. Now here,”—she handed him a large metal bowl full of apples—“help me peel these for the pie.”
He took the bowl and sat it down on the counter, reached for a knife.
Winifred sighed and picked up another knife. “One day, I want to do this in a home of our own.” She smiled dreamily out the window. “I can imagine it now. A kitchen just like this.”
Keoni raised an eyebrow. “Just like this? Not a little bigger?”
“Perhaps a little bigger.” She grinned. “Big enough for three to work in, I suppose.”
“Three? Are you planning on bringing your mother along?” he teased.
She gasped and shook her head quickly. “Certainly not! I meant...perhaps...perhaps a child.” A new blush climbed her cheeks.
Keoni leaned over and kissed that bright red skin. “I will give you a proud home, and as many children as you wish,” he whispered.
Link’s chest tightened. Keoni would give every bit of his heart and soul; all his blood, sweat, and tears to see her happy, even if it killed him. Link didn’t know how he knew that, but he felt absolutely certain of it.
Winifred turned her face to press a long, lingering kiss against his lips. She broke the kiss and cleared her throat, turned back to her apples. “I heard they plan to make New Mexico a state.”
Keoni chuckled. “Perhaps we’ll go there some day.”
She wrinkled her nose. “I hear it’s very dry and unpalatable there. My Cousin Elizabeth has been, and she tells me it does quite hideous things to one’s nose.” She lowered her voice and leaned in close. “She tells me her nose bled for twenty straight days, every morning she would awake with her pillow fully red from it.”
Link nodded sagely, aware that to discredit anything Elizabeth Dunshire had said would be Keoni’s ultimate demise. Still, he knew the man dreamed of a warmer climate; somewhere sunny and bright year round. Somewhere like his beloved homeland. Link shook his head. How in the hell did he know that?
“Link!” Link frowned. The fearful shout hadn’t come from either of the two other people; they still hadn’t even looked his way.
“Link!” John shook him roughly.
Blinking rapidly, Link took a deep, shuddering breath. He squinted up to see his friends John and Danny squatting next to him on the floor. On the floor? How the heck had he gotten on the floor? “What...? What are you doing here?”
“We stopped by to see if you needed any help with the construction and found you here passed out.” John frowned and ran his hands through Link’s hair. “Did you hit your head?”
“No. I...” Link wrinkled his brow and tried to remember what had happened. Keoni and Winifred! “Did you see them?”
“See who?” Danny asked.
John’s eyes went cold and his face filled with rage. “Did someone hurt you?”
“Did you get a look at them?”
Link looked back and forth between them. “No...nobody hurt me. But there... This is going to sound crazy and impossible, but I swear to God there were people here. A man and a woman.”
Danny frowned. “Like someone broke in?”
Link shook his head. “No. Like... Like they lived here.”
John raised an eyebrow. “You sure you didn’t hit your head?”
“Positive. I was standing here, thinking about the tiki, and then I walked over to the wall to see if I could find where the draft was coming from, and I...” Link’s eyes went wide. The images had started when he’d touched the wood.
“You what?” John prompted.
“I touched the wood.” Link rolled his eyes at Danny’s snicker. “Not that kind of wood. That wood.” He pointed to the studs. “I was going to try to shake it and see if there was a hole behind it or maybe it was rotted or something, and then I saw them. Keoni and Winifred. They were right here, clear as day. Only...” He glanced around. “It wasn’t here. It didn’t look like this. I don’t even think it was this house.” He took a deep breath and swallowed hard. “And I knew them. I’ve never seen them before or heard of them but I... I knew them. As well as I know myself or Haddon or you guys.”
John stood up, held a hand down and pulled Link up as well. He ran his hand over his beard absently. “Huh.”
“Huh?” Link echoed. “That’s it?”
John held his hands out wide. “Well? What do you want me to say?”
Danny shivered. “This is weird, you guys. Like, paranormal weird.”
John scoffed and flapped his hand in the air, but Danny shook his head, his face pale and his arms hugged around himself. “I’m serious. Didn’t you say it gets colder near that spot? And now you’re seeing ghosts? I think the house is haunted. You should call someone.”
“Like who, the Ghost Busters?” John chuckled and gave his husband a playful shove.
“Maybe.” Danny stuck out his chin and slapped John’s hand away. “You can’t be too careful with stuff like this,” he said to Link.
Link frowned. All the strange things—the cold, the visions—had started after they’d removed the tiki. And Keoni did look Hawaiian or Samoan. And tikis were linked to Polynesian people. Maybe there was a method to Danny’s madness. There were tons of paranormal shows on TV where people went around investigating places for hauntings, but how many of them were real, and how many were faked, and how did one go about finding an accredited ghost wrangler. Did such a thing even exist? “But who would I call? Do you have any ideas?”
Danny nodded. “I know exactly who to call.”