To Die For

To Die For

P.A. Brown Patric Michael Victor J. Banis

Price: $5.99


Through snow, storms and fire, love is strong and protects. These three stories tell tales of lasting love, old love, family love and new love through it all.

Victor J. Banis, Patric Michael and P.A. Brown bring us three tales of love that endures and protects. LORIN'S BACK by Victor J. Banis has a self-centered ghost that shows his past love that old friends can burn fire bright as lovers. Family love and a new love conquer the glowing hell during a storm in A LIGHT OF DIFFERENT MOON by Patric Michael. And P.A. Brown's ghost shines his love through the snow to protect and guide a new love to his partner left behind in ANGEL LIGHT. Through snow, storms and fire, love is strong and protects.

PUBLISHED BY: ManLove Romance Press
CATEGORIES: ManLove, Paranormal, Romantic Fiction

EBOOKS BY ManLove Romance Press

EBOOKS BY Victor J. Banis

COPYRIGHT Victor J. Banis/

The first time, he came for cocktails


The first time, he came for cocktails. I suppose that should not have seemed too surprising. After all, there were a dozen other people there for the same purpose and, also, ostensibly to meet my fiancée, Margo Sellers, although most of them had known her longer than I had.

So the addition of another male guest, even an unexpected one, shouldn't have been altogether alarming. There's usually at least one uninvited guest at every such function. However, there is nothing quite so likely to create a sensation at a cocktail party as the appearance of a male guest in the raw.

For one thing, there is the breach of etiquette to consider. It implies either a gauche ignorance on the part of the guest, or inadequate information on the part of the host. For another thing, it tends to discomfort the other guests who, at the very least, are certain to feel overdressed.

"Of all the nerve," I thought angrily, staring in astonishment at the naked body posed in the doorway. Granted, it was quite a spectacular body, lean and hard and deliciously hung. It was annoying nonetheless. "And just like Lorin, too," I thought.

It wasn't until I had thought this last that the full shock hit home. It's bad enough to have a perfectly sedate and proper get together spoiled by the entrance of a naked male who insists on playing with himself in full view of the other guests. But when that naked, dick-fondling male happens to be someone that you know beyond question has been dead for five years—that, I think, is more than any host should be expected to take in his stride.

About his death there was no question, either. I had watched them lower that same pretty body, although not in quite the same condition, into the ground.

"Paul, what on earth…?" Margo exclaimed with good reason. At the moment of Lorin's entrance, I had been in the act of refilling her cocktail glass. In the moment or so since, I had continued to pour unceasingly, with the result that what the glass could not accommodate was now overflowing into Margot's lap.

"Oh, I am sorry," I cried. I righted the pitcher, but not before the front of her dress had been thoroughly soaked. She jumped up, not quite gracefully, and held her skirt out in front of her.

"I should think you are sorry. What in Heaven's name were you thinking of?" She made fluttering little attempts to wipe away the excess with a lacy handkerchief, without much success.

"Thinking of?" I stooped down to lend a hand and my own handkerchief. I should have thought the reason for my consternation would be obvious to anyone in the room. "Why, I was looking at…"

Fortunately, I looked up just then to find the doorway empty. My eyes swept the room. All of the guests were properly trousered and skirted. Lorin was nowhere among them.

"Well, of course he couldn't be," I said aloud, looking back at the doorway. A dead man, after all, could not be attending a cocktail party in any state of dress—or undress, as the case might be.

"Who couldn't be?" Margo asked, bringing me back to the present moment. I looked up to find her staring at me with an expression of bewilderment, which no doubt was entirely justified.

"Oh, nothing." I busied myself with making the stain on her dress worse than it had been to begin with. Whatever had caused my weird mirage—and that was all it could have been—I certainly was not going to make a complete fool of myself by telling anyone else about it. I had a notion as to how this group would react if I told them about seeing a naked dead man in the doorway, shaking his cock at me in a lewd manner.

"Paul, are you all right?" Margo asked.

"Well, of course I'm all right." I gave up on the stain as a bad job and stood. I had set the cocktail pitcher on the table beside us, and I retrieved it now and started to fill my own glass. "Just because I happened to spill a drink," I began—and there he was again, this time leaning against the back of a chair just beyond Margo, his now stiff rod pointed at the back of her head for all the world as though he meant to shoot into her wispy coiffure.

I don't know what my expression must have been. For a moment I was struck dumb. I stayed that way until Margo fairly squealed, "Paul!"

I blinked and looked at her, to discover that I had managed to pour the rest of the martinis down the front of her dress. By this time, she was actually dripping on the carpet.

"Oh, God," I said. I put the pitcher down on the side table with such unwarranted force that it shattered. Ice cubes and splinters of glass went flying in all directions. "Here, let me…"

"No, never mind." She brushed me away with a nervous laugh. "I think I had better go upstairs and try to repair the damage as best I can. It's a Givenchy, too. Darling, are you sure… how many drinks have you had, anyway? I haven't been watching."

"Only a couple," I mumbled, but in fact I was not really paying her much attention. I was looking around the room, stupidly. Of course he was gone again. He had disappeared the moment Margo shouted.

I rubbed my hand over my forehead. I didn't feel as though I had a fever, and I certainly had not been drinking that much. However much it took to create that sort of hallucination, I was sure I hadn't had it. I made a mental note to talk to my doctor about this. Somehow the idea of having hallucinations of any sort didn't sound healthy, notwithstanding that I had been feeling perfectly healthy of late. Something had to be wrong. Normal people just didn't see these things—or, if they did, they had to a man neglected to tell me about it.

"Maybe I'd better take an aspirin," I decided aloud. By this time, needless to say, I had made myself the object of some very puzzled stares.

"Look, maybe it's time we should be clearing out of here," one of the men said, laying a most solicitous hand on my shoulder.

Far from being grateful for the gesture, I was annoyed at being treated as though I were in my cups. Whatever was wrong with me, it was not a result of drinking. I still felt in control of my senses, or reasonably so, at least.

"Don't be silly. Why don't you all just go ahead and enjoy yourselves? You know where the liquor is. Give me five minutes to get some pills working and I'll be back in full gear, all right?"

With my best air of nonchalance, I nodded around the room and made my way to the stairs. It was a relief to have a minute to myself to try to collect my scattered thoughts. In the bathroom, I shook two aspirin into my hand, swallowed them, and followed them down with a chaser of cold water. After that, I went into my bedroom and lay across the bed, letting my head hang down over the edge. Someone had told me once that it was good for the circulation. What they had not told me was that poor circulation would produce visions—lewd visions, at that.

Lorin Gebhard. The name echoed in my consciousness. What on earth had brought him to my mind, tonight of all nights? Not, of course, that he wasn't entitled to some place there, if I was to be perfectly fair. After all, he had once fully occupied all of my thoughts and emotions—but that had been five years ago, and during those years he had been gradually but firmly relegated to one of those dim corners that one only peeks into occasionally.

Why on earth had he come bounding out of that corner tonight and into the middle of my cocktail party?

"Well, there's a perfectly logical reason for it, now that I give it some thought," I told myself, closing my eyes for a moment. For one thing, I was only a few weeks away from my marriage to Margo. It probably wasn't too surprising that that should bring to mind my other "marriage," to Lorin, even if I had never heard of a similar case.

I had to smile at the word "marriage." Even in the homosexual sense, marriage didn't quite seem to describe the relationship we'd had. It was more like a roller coaster ride, a flight with Dorothy in a cyclone, an acid trip—and then had come the shock of his death. How ironic that Lorin, who had always boasted that he had never found anything so big that he couldn't get it down his throat, should have choked to death on something so small as a diamond, and one from his own cufflink at that, which had accidentally fallen into his drink. I always thought he would have been pleased to know what an expensive instrument Fate had chosen for his death. He had never done anything in an ordinary fashion.

There had been the predictable shock, of course, and a large measure of grief, but in all honesty, over a period of time, I had become gradually aware of another feeling: a sense of relief.

Lorin had been wild and wonderful, and I had been crazy about him. He could be fun, witty, entertaining. He was a magnificent sex partner—handsome, well hung, truly uninhibited. The truth was, however, he had been just too much for any one man—probably too much for a dozen men.

God knows, he'd had more than a dozen while he had been with me. For every wonderful gesture, there had been a score of disastrous or horrifying acts that had made my hair stand on end, and turned some of it gray in the process. For every moment that I had loved him, there had been hours when I'd gladly have shoved that fatal diamond down his throat myself. I didn't really regret any of the months we had been together, but eventually, and only when I was by myself, I had to admit the simple fact that I wasn't altogether sorry it was in the past.

It was in the past, too. That was the important thing just now. It was irrevocably in the past. Lorin was dead, and he certainly could not have been tripping around the party downstairs in the altogether, although it was the sort of stunt he'd have been likely to pull when he was alive. I had merely experienced some sort of hallucination, probably brought about by the lobster Newburg the night before, which had always done a number on my tummy. Now that I called it to mind, I even thought at the time it had tasted a bit strange.

I felt a light hand at my temples. Margo apparently had slipped quietly into the room to see how I was feeling. I sighed and reached for her hand. Dull though she sometimes was, she was thoughtful.

"I'm all right now, darling," I assured her gratefully.

"I'm so glad. You looked just dreadful downstairs."

The voice was not Margo's. It was every bit as masculine as the hand I had clasped. I felt a shiver zigzag its way up my spine. I didn't have to open my eyes to identify the voice or the hand. The truth was, I didn't even much want to open my eyes at all. They more or less opened of their own accord.

It was him, of course. He smiled as my eyes opened, and winked, just the way he had always greeted me before. "Hello, darling," he said, leaning over to kiss me.

I ducked. This was carrying indigestion a bit too far, to my way of thinking, and I was not about to start necking with undigested lobster Newburg.

"Now, wait a minute," I stammered, managing to get to my feet on the opposite side of the bed. "Stay away from me, you… you…" I couldn't, in my consternation, decide just what to call him. I didn't want to be tactless, after all.

"Tiger," he supplied with a mischievous grin. Fortunately he did not try to follow me to my side of the bed. At least, he hadn't yet.


"That's what you used to call me. Don't tell me you've forgotten."

"I haven't forgotten. But you aren't you." I paused for a second or two to stare at him. Blond hair. Flashing blue eyes. Large endowment, soft now but still impressive. He certainly looked like him. "Are you?" I added faintly.

"Well, of course, who else?"

"You can't be," I said, shaking my head stubbornly. "You're gone."

"How can I be gone when I'm here?"

"What I mean is, you…" But I still couldn't think of a nice way to put it.

"Crossed over. That's the term we like to use with one another. No one wants to be called dead, not to his face, anyway. It has an unpleasant ring to it, don't you think?"

It sounded reasonable, all right, but then, I had never before talked to anybody who was really dead, in the literal sense.

"Well, what are you doing crossing back? I didn't think that was allowed."

He got up off the bed, but still on the other side. For a hallucination, he was certainly authentic. Standing, moving, every detail, every gesture was Lorin. He turned slightly, and there was that funny little dimple at the small of his back, just above his cheeks, that I had loved to kiss on my way down.

"Sometimes it is," he said, looking around the room. "Don't you have any cigarettes?"

"Do you smoke?" I found it hard to imagine a mirage puffing on a cigarette. That seemed to credit lobster Newburg with quite a bit.

He shrugged. "I don't know. I was just going to find out. This is my first trip, you know, and it's been so long since I had a cigarette."

"I left mine downstairs. Look, why don't you just make yourself comfortable and I'll run down and get them." I edged toward the door, contemplating the possibilities of escape, at least for a moment.

"Oh, don't bother. There'll be plenty of time to try that later."

I came to a halt. "Later? Do you mean you plan to stay around for a while?"

He cocked an eyebrow. "Well, don't look so dismayed at the prospect, love. I can remember when you wanted nothing so much as to have me with you."

"That was before."

"Have things changed so much?" He started around the bed toward me.

"Don't touch me," I ordered, shrinking back against the wall.

"Don't be a goose. I feel just exactly like I always did. Which, if you'll recall, was rather nice. See?" He put out a hand and touched my cheek very lightly with one finger. I had to admit that it didn't feel at all ghostly. At least, it was not what I would have expected "ghostly" to feel like.

"You feel, well, real," I said hesitantly.

"Of course. But I don't always. Look." He waved his hand right through my arm without my feeling a thing. This was much more what one expected a ghost to be. I had a violent case of goose pimples.

"If you have any sort of control over that, I think I would just as soon you stayed solid. It's less disquieting, you understand."

"No problem. The hard part, actually, is staying visible. It's easier with you because of our, shall we say, closeness. A matter of rapport, in a manner of speaking. That's why you saw me downstairs but nobody else did. They weren't on my wavelength. That's putting it rather crudely, but you'd never understand the terms we use."

"You mean no one but me can see you?" This was at least some comfort.

"Not unless I really work at it. Probably in time I'll get better at it. That's what others have told me who have made the trip. But it takes a lot of concentration, and just now I don't think I could manage it for more than a short time."

"Please, don't manage it on my account," I said quickly. "I'm confused enough in my own mind without having to explain to everyone else downstairs what you're doing here. Which brings me back to the point. How did you manage to come back? And why?"

"Well, the how was a bit sticky. I'd applied for a pass a long time ago, just to come back and visit you, but there is so much red tape involved. You can't imagine. It just goes on forever. Then, when I heard about this marriage of yours, to that creature…"

"You mean Margo?"

"Who else are you marrying, pray tell, Moby Dick?"

"How on earth did you hear about it, anyway? I shouldn't have thought you got newspapers over there."

He grinned and wagged a finger at me. "Now you're getting confused with your terminology. It wasn't on earth, you see. But if you must know, it was Walter King. He brought all the details with him."

"Oh, that's right," I said, remembering. "Walter did die—excuse me, pass over recently."

"How did he go, by the way? He's been giving us the most elaborate tales about a Texas oil millionaire and a speeding Rolls Royce, which no one believes for a minute. I promised some of the girls I'd get the—pardon the expression—straight story while I was here."

I couldn't help smiling. Gossip, it seemed, was immortal, especially among queens. "I'm afraid it wasn't anything nearly so glamorous," I said, glad for the chance to get back at Walter King, who had knifed me plenty of times—rest his soul. "It seems there had been a prowler in his neighborhood who was inclined to molest the ladies while he robbed them. So, Walter said that if people were being molested, he was going to leave his back door wide open and a sign up to show where it was."

"I shouldn't have thought a sign was necessary, the people who have been through that one's back door. God knows, if he had ever shown it to me, I'd probably have crossed over a year sooner from the shock."

"At any rate, he left the door open, and they found him the next day, stone cold but smiling from ear to ear. Do you know, they never could get that grin off his face? It gave an odd impression at the funeral. They caught the man, by the way. He said it was an accident."

"Going to bed with Walter would be. But I hope they hang him. He sounds like someone we could use over where I am. All those goody-two-shoes."

I smiled. Then I remembered. "You've gotten me off the subject again, damn it. We were talking about why you came back."

"But I explained that. When I heard about this farce of a marriage, I figured I was needed in a hurry, so I just came anyway, without waiting for all that red tape."

"Then you're sort of AWOL?"

"Not quite." Lorin cocked his head to one side. I recognized that gesture. He had always used it when he was about to excuse his actions. "Actually, I borrowed a pass from another guy. He wasn't too awfully keen on using it himself, and he had taken sort of a shine to me, so we worked out a little trade, to use an appropriate phrase."

I said, dryly, "Still using the same old worm for bait, I see."

"Don't be insulting. I don't think worm is a very appropriate word."

"Whatever word you use, it's still hustling. And you're wasting your efforts anyway. I don't see what my marriage has to do with you."

"It's preposterous, that's what it has to do with me. In the first place, you could think of my social standing. Everyone is giggling and saying it's because I was a drab that you're giving up the normal life and marrying a woman. Besides, I can't be expected just to sit around and watch you do anything so silly."

"You're a fine one to talk about doing silly things." I was pouting, of course. He had always managed to make me do that. Even when I was utterly in the right, he could twist things around to make it seem that I was the one being unreasonable. I particularly resented it under the present circumstances.

"Besides," I said, "I like women. You know that. And I need someone like Margo. She's very sweet, and lovely, and she's stable. That's more than you ever were, I might add."

"Oh, stable!" Lorin threw his hands into the air. "There's something about that word that calls to mind horse shit and other odious matters." He plopped down heavily on the bed and gave me a shrewd look. "And don't give me this noble I-like-women routine. I haven't missed very much, you know. Margo Sellers, isn't that her name? And the name of that engineering firm you work for?"

I frowned and tried to look indignant. "Sellers and Sellers. But if you think…"

"How are you doing with them, anyway?" he interrupted me rudely. "When I left, you were on just about the lowest rung of the ladder."

"Well, I've done a little better."

"A little?"

"I'm head of the planning department. But that's got nothing to do with Margo. It's just possible I might have some ability. Give me a little credit, for Christ's sake."

"Oh, I do, darling, I do. And aren't you looking forward to another little promotion ere long?"

It was very annoying to argue with someone who apparently knew every little thing that was going on in my life. It seemed to me a man ought to be entitled to keep some secrets, particularly from someone who is dead.

"Since you already seem to know everything, yes, there's been some talk, but nothing definite, of course, but some hints of my maybe becoming a full partner in the firm."

"After the honeymoon, right?" Lorin smirked.

"Now cut that out! It's just possible, you know, that I could be marrying Margo because I'm in love with her. It's just possible."

Lorin threw his head back and laughed. "Oh, I guess it is possible, but it does boggle the mind, darling, I must say."

"Well, so do you," I said angrily. "If I must be blunt, I've a good mind…"

"Paul?" It was Margo's voice, from the hall.

"I do believe it's Minnie the Mermaid," Lorin said in a lower voice.

Before I could think what to do, Margo had reached the door, opened it, and swept into the room. I looked at her in dismay and then back to the bed. Thank Heaven he had had the tact to leave—or at any rate, he couldn't be seen. I let out the breath I had been holding and turned back to Margo.

"Are you feeling better," she asked.

"Oh, yes, much."

"I don't know." She gave me a funny look. "You look as though you had seen a ghost."


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