Samhain. All Hallows Eve. Halloween. Whatever the name, this was the night when those who had died were said to return to walk among the living. At midnight on Samhain, the Dumb Supper was served—a special meal held in their honor. An extra place was set at the table, heaped high with the best food as an offering to the dead. No talking was permitted until the ritual had ended. If there was a ghost here, Olivia hoped a Dumb Supper might draw it out.

When everything was ready, she took a seat at the table and served food for herself and her guest. She took a moment to put herself into the proper frame of mind before she began.

“Spirits of the dead, I invite you to share in this meal, prepared from the fruits of the harvest. Join me now, if you wish. If not, go in peace and know that you are remembered.”

Her voice sounded strange in the empty house as she offered the invitation. She didn’t really expect an answer. In all the years she’d practiced this rite, she’d never once seen any sign of supernatural activity. Shortly after midnight, she began to nibble at her meal.

Cold wind whistled through cracks in the walls and made the candle flames flicker. Shadows danced in her peripheral vision. Nervously, she looked around, but there was nothing to see. She should just finish the meal, then she could go home and get out of that corset and have a hot bath.

A nearby floorboard creaked. Olivia paused with her goblet in midair. It must have been the house settling, as it had before. Nothing to worry about.

Another creak, closer this time.

Oh, gods, what if there was an intruder in the house? Someone might have followed her here. Olivia wasn’t sure she believed in ghosts, but she did believe in murderers, and her heart began to beat faster. What could she use for a weapon? Feeling foolish, she set down her goblet and picked up a fork, holding it with the tines pointed down so she could stab anyone who tried to attack. Another floorboard creaked, this time just a few feet away. She looked around, but no one was there.

When the chair opposite her scooted back, she jumped so hard that she nearly impaled herself on the fork. Olivia stared, shaking. Silverware clinked, and she focused all her attention on the place setting opposite hers. Nothing moved, yet a bite was missing from the turkey, and there was less soup in the bowl. She started to speak, but remembered that this was a Dumb Supper. After a moment, she forced herself to continue eating while she watched the food on the other plate gradually disappear.

When there was nothing left, the chair scraped back. Floorboards creaked again, this time moving away, and she wondered if she should say something now. Before she could decide, the piano began to play. The notes poured out, pure and sweet, as if the instrument had been tended with loving care over the last hundred years. There should have been broken strings and notes out of tune, but it sounded absolutely perfect. Emotion swelled in the music, and though she was no expert, Olivia thought the player must be truly gifted. Mesmerized, she went to stand next to the piano. In the soft candlelight, the piano keys moved as if of their own accord.

Olivia closed her eyes and let the sensuous melody roll over her. How could she fear a being who offered such an exquisite gift? Leaning against the instrument, she allowed herself to relax just a little. When the last note died away, she opened her eyes and took a hesitant step forward.

“That was beautiful,” she said.

The air stirred, starting at her left side, then moving behind and around the right until it fell still. A presence stood before her.

“Beautiful music for a beautiful woman.”

She gasped at the rich baritone voice only inches away. A lock of her hair moved, and she faltered a moment before she could speak. “Who are you?”

“I could ask you the same question.”

“My name’s Olivia.”

“Olivia,” he murmured. “To what do I owe the honor? I’ve not seen this tradition observed for many a year now.”

It felt surreal, talking to an empty room. What would she find if she reached out to discover the source of that voice? She wasn’t sure she should try. An invisible fingertip traced the line of her jaw while he waited for a response. It felt solid and warm. An unexpected tingle of pleasure followed in its wake.

“A-a friend of mine recently purchased the house. She’d heard the place was haunted and asked me to investigate.”

“I see. And what will you tell her?”

“That it is,” she answered with a nervous laugh.

“Does she mean to evict me? I won’t bother her. She won’t even know I’m here, except this one night.”

“She thought we might help you move on.”

“Move on.” The words carried a note of amusement. “To where?”

His touch moved up to her hair, and one of the pins slid free.

“To…to wherever spirits go after death. What are you doing?”

“I want to see your hair down.”

Another pin dropped to the floor, and another, until her hair fell past her shoulders. Olivia’s breath came faster, her chest straining at the corset.

“How are you able to touch me? You’re a ghost. They aren’t solid…”

“Aren’t we? How would you know?”

She had no answer. He was the first one she’d ever encountered.

“It’s been a long time,” he mused, “since I saw a woman dressed like a proper lady. But you aren’t a proper lady, are you? I think you’re more of a ladybird.”