"Gee, Martha, Barnabas Collins sounds just like Captain Gregg!" Jonathan announced excitedly.

"Martha, tell him to stop it! Stop talking about your silly little imaginary friend," Candy pouted. "I'm already scared of vampires. Stop scaring me with ghosts you little brat."

"Now, kids, that's enough TV and enough of your quarreling. Off with the two of you! No more Dark Shadows until I see some homework finished."

"I can't count on my fingers that fast, Martha."

"Maybe this will teach you to memorize those times tables," the housekeeper chided. "Now go on upstairs and get those books out before your mother gets home and has to scold you, too."

"Captain Gregg isn't silly and he isn't little," Jonathan warned Candy. "He's real to me."

"Ok, so he's a real stupid ghost. Barnabas is a sophisticated vampire," his sister sniffed, examining her nails. "Mom will have to fix my polish tonight."

Jonathan glared at her. "I'm going to the Master Cabin to work at Mom's desk you sissy."

Candy ignored him and pulled a Tiger Beat magazine from her three-ring binder. "Do you think Mark Helmore looks like Mark Lester?"

Jonathan ignored her and slammed the door behind him. But Captain Gregg sat at his mother's desk, pouring over a freshly typed manuscript.

"Ah, lad," he greeted Jonathan reasonably. "Fleeing from one female den right into another? There's hardly any room for we seamen at Gull Cottage."

"Yeah, well I woulda told Candy to shove off but she would tattle tale to Martha," Jonathan said dejectedly.

"Well then, let's head to the Wheelhouse. Women abhor dirt, dust and other manly items like sea trunks and navigational charts. You can tell your mother I was helping you with your schoolwork."

Captain Gregg vanished, although not before carefully replacing Carolyn's manuscript exactly where she'd left it and carefully feeding the paper back into the trusty Royal.

The door was open when Jonathan trudged into the old attic.

"Cheer up, me boy. It's not Candy's fault. Neither she nor Martha are aware of my existence. Your mother suggests we wait a little while longer before revealing that secret. And I must say, I rather enjoy the time we have to truly get to know one another without the distraction of other females, no matter how lovely."

"Huh?"

"Rather, I am certain your sister will find me neither stupid nor little once we are formally introduced. Certainly your mother doesn't."

"She thinks you're overbearing. Does that mean tall?"

The Captain smiled. "It means she finds me most attractive. But to your point: Barnabas Collins is played by an actor trying to sound like a distinguished naval captain."

Jonathan stared at the Captain. "But you 'n Barnabas don't sound American."

"Blast it lad, I was born over 100 years ago."

"So was Barnabas."

The Captain laughed first. "Fair enough lad. My formative years were spent in London, where I lived with a Captain's family after stowing away on my first ship. My accent is considered so suave, so very debonair that many North American actors dream of sounding like me."

"Gee, I thought so. Captain Gregg, I didn't believe in ghosts 'til I met you. Does that mean there are vampires, too?"

"Just Claymore, lad, sucking your mother dry –"

Jonathan paled.

"No, he's not a blasted vampire. More like a leach."

"Jonathan Muir! You run along now, and don't try to tell me you were up here doing homework!" Carolyn stood with one hand on the doorknob, the other on her hip.

"We were just talking about vampires, Mom." He looked ruefully at the Captain. "Maybe later you can tell me if there's any vampires in Schooner Bay."

Jonathan clunked down the stairs. Carolyn thought to follow but quickly changed her mind. She closed the door quietly, instead.

"Should I ban Dark Shadows?"

"Why do you ask, m'dear? Care for a Madeira? Twice in one week would be a lovely break from routine, not that I ever take you –"

"You know what I'm asking Daniel Gregg. Ghosts exist – are there other supernatural creatures I should worry about? This may sound silly, but not too long ago I would have laughed at the very idea of your existence and now, now . . ."

"Me either, my dear. Without you, why, I'd, oh blast," he mumbled.

She accepted the Madeira and sank gratefully onto the couch.

"I have to admit Schooner Bay is a little gothic," Carolyn smiled. "But Gull Cottage is no Collingwood. Still, I hear they call us "Strange Maine." If Dark Shadows has ghosts, werewolves, witches and what not, it just makes me wonder sometimes if some of those things might be real, too."

Captain Gregg swirled the Madeira in his Waterford sherry glass.

"I never believed in ghosts when I was alive," he mused. "Though the thought of meeting you haunted my every waking moment. I suppose you could say I built this house with you in mind."

Carolyn felt the ineluctable burn rise in her body, the unavoidable rush of desire and love. If he can be so real, if I can love a ghost so strongly, what else might be out there?"

The Captain gazed at her adoringly. If I can love this woman, he thought, perhaps all possibilities are endless.

"Nay, Madame. 'Tis but one overbearing spirit you need concern yourself with."

Jonathan waited until Candy left to call Penelope on the downstairs phone. Carefully, he removed the Rosary he'd found on the ground outside the Catholic church and arranged it carefully around the bedpost, so it rested by his pillow. He wasn't sure about the garlic, so he stuffed several cloves under his pillow, to be removed after Candy fell asleep.

He can drink her blood, he thought, and then smiled.

Barnabas is cool.