Beth arranges Aaron’s funeral even though his body is not retrievable from the Misty Canyon Mine. Aaron had always been admired in the community because of his volunteer work, but Beth knew it was a façade that hid the cruel and vicious man underneath.
After Aaron’s empty casket is placed in the Ivytown Cemetery, which is located next door to the Mills’ home, Beth discovers that Aaron left her a fairly wealthy woman. Aside from money in his savings accounts, he also obtained multiple life insurance policies that all name Beth as beneficiary. However, there is a catch. Anthony Simonetti, Aaron’s attorney, informs Beth of a stipulation in Aaron’s last will and testament: if she remarries at any time in the future, she must repay all the money left her by Aaron to the Ivytown community center.
Having escaped her abusive marriage with Aaron’s death, Beth has no intention of entering into another serious relationship any time soon. Instead, she begins to enjoy her life by doing things Aaron once forbade her: eating her favorite foods, reading and watching television, leaving the house untidy, and parking her Bronco in the driveway of their home. He preferred she store her Bronco in the detached two-car garage behind the house, forcing her to walk through the connected dirt-road alley, rain or shine. “We mustn’t let you get fat,” he was fond of telling her. “I wouldn’t want to end up with a younger version of your tubby mother.”
Shortly after Aaron’s death, Beth begins to have vivid nightmares in which her husband returns from the dead to haunt her. She tries to tell herself that they are only dreams, but when she finds muddy boot prints leading to her bed she starts to question her sanity. The dreams continue, becoming more real with each episode. In addition, some of Aaron’s personal belongings that Beth stored in the attic keep reappearing in the bedroom, such as his hairbrush and Aqua Velva aftershave.
Beth receives a visit from her former co-workers from San Francisco, Morgan Bailey and Maxie Daniels. Morgan, once skinny with pimples and thick glasses, has changed considerably since Beth last saw him seven years ago: he wears contacts, works out at the gym, and his dermatologist did wonders for his skin.
Beth confides in Morgan and Maxie, revealing her disturbing nightmares and the physical evidence they leave behind.
Morgan begins to think there may be more to Beth’s nightmares than mere “hauntings.” They find items in a secret passageway in the Mills house that lead them to believe Aaron may still be alive, such as a begrimed miners hat, boots and legal documents. Morgan and Beth also find a skeleton behind a rock wall in the passageway, which turns out to be Aaron’s long lost mother Mikki Mills. Eventually it is revealed that instead of “running off” with another man as was reported when she went missing in 1980, Mikki was actually killed by Aaron’s father James and her body stuffed in the passageway.
Maxie Daniels’ brother Mark, who is known as a pub crawler, thinks he sees Aaron walking near the cemetery at night after his supposed death. Mark chalks up the sightings to his perpetual drunkenness, but he finally tells Beth about them.
After a near-fatal attempt on Beth’s life in which her killer attempts to hang her in an apparent “suicide,” it is discovered that Aaron Mills is still alive. He plotted his own death, setting the cave-in at the mine knowing any bodies caught there would be irretrievable. He makes sure people see him in and around the mine the day of the accident, but actually leaves before the implosion.
Aaron’s “co-conspirators” include his personal attorney Anthony Simonetti and Misty Canyon Mines secretary Amy Grace, with whom Aaron has been having an affair.
The purpose of the deception is to torment and “haunt” Beth until she receives the $5 million life insurance policy on Aaron. Unknown to Beth, Anthony Simonetti kept his name on signature cards belonging to all of Aaron’s bank accounts so he can withdraw the money any time he wants.
Aaron wants to drive Beth crazy with the “hauntings” to make her appear unstable to people around her so that an apparent “suicide” is no surprise to them. He plans to kill her, after which he will flee to Mozambique a rich man with Anthony Simonetti and Amy Grace.
After the plot is finally uncovered, Beth returns to San Francisco with Morgan and Maxie. By then, she has fallen in love with Morgan and they embark on a happy life together.