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Looking for some books to put you in the Halloween spirit? See these below! From magic to demons and witches to zombies, you’re bound to find the right book to add a little paranormal to your fall reading!
Lady of the Tarot
WHAT THE CARDS FORETELL MAY BE REAL, AFTER ALL
1793: Having escaped the Reign of Terror, Emilie Maigny took refuge in England, trying to come to grips with the life and loss she left behind. When her brother, Sinjon, returns, a terrifying evil swoops down upon her. Nightmares plague her now, providing strange clues … but to what?
Scottish-born Linton Morrison spent his entire life in luxury, whiling away the hours in intense study of the tarot and the cards’ hidden meanings, but until he met the lovely Emilie Maigny, he would never have guessed how important his study might be–to his life and Emilie’s survival when terrible evil strikes.
A Cypher is all Emilie needs, but what is it? Is Linton the key? He may charm her heart–and he may be her only salvation.
Keywords: French Revolution, Gothic Romance, tarot, historical romance, 18th century Europe, Reign of Terror, fantasy romance, Family Saga, scandal, suspense
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Footsteps drew her attention to her brother. “Put those away!” he snapped.
He snatched at the cards; they flew from her hands. Emilie gasped in surprise.
Sinjon glared at her. “Don’t ever touch them again, do you understand?”
He spun on his heel and tossed the few cards he held into the fire.
Emilie rose from her chair. “What on earth is wrong with you?”
“You wouldn’t understand,” he hissed.
When he looked back at her, Emilie stepped back.
Sinjon’s eyes glowed red.
She blinked and the fire died from his gaze. Had she hallucinated?
A laugh bubbled up in his chest. “Even if I tried to explain it to you, it’d be no use. You’d never believe me.”
“I will if you’d but tell me and let me decide!” she said.
Sinjon took a step forward, and she stepped back. He took another step forward and Emilie felt her back hit the bookcase. Emilie closed her eyes, shaking her head. When she opened them again, for a moment, she believed she saw a devil standing behind him.
An eight-legged, hundred-eyed fiend, flesh dripping from its ruined carcass. It licked its lips as if ready to dive into a feast of which her soul comprised the main course.
She wanted nothing to do with men, cards, or parties now. She wanted nothing more than to escape. To get as far away from her brother, and this house as possible. Alas, no. She found herself caught in his gaze and the pain and hell she saw there.
Fearful, she sent up a little prayer, pushed past him, and ran for the parlor door.
Upstairs, she latched her bedroom door with shaking fingers. Sinjon would never hurt her. She’d imagined what she’d seen.
She clutched the cross at her neck. What on earth had possessed her brother?
Anger at her because of her lost engagement, or some other perceived slight?
Anger at their father’s death? At the populace who drove them out?
Or something darker?
She shook her head. “Silly girl. You’re imagining things!”
She anticipated morning, when Porter would arrive. Perhaps he would cheer their brother up.
On the other hand, Porter looked down his nose at Sinjon even on a good day. She wondered if it might not be better for Porter to spend the week in the arms of whatever lightskirt currently entertained him.
Emilie sighed and snatched her bedcovers back. How would Grand-mère explain to their guests if he showed up with a dollymop on his arm?
No, better for Porter to remain wherever he was. Grand-mère didn’t need more stress right now.
Longing filled her, a longing to go home, to return to her carefree days, the days of picnics and parties, and playing among their rich gardens. To see her father and mother again.
Who would ever believe their family would come to such a state!
Things would change. Her family would be happy again.
She studied the sparkling gold ring on her finger.
They had to be! If not, well, she’d have her own family soon. Nicholas would return her happiness.
Curling her finger against her lips, Emilie smiled to herself. Even when the worst rumors flew from France, he always said what she needed to hear. He never failed to make her smile.
Had Sinjon not knocked the cards from her hands she might’ve attempted to see what her future held, if she knew how to read them. Didn’t she deserve a happy marriage?
Such thoughts and pastimes were mere fancy. She’d never quite learned the trick of reading the future in playing cards. Thomas Paine and his followers knew best. The here and now was all that mattered. No one could peer into the future.
A rumble of thunder filled the night air. A slight shock tickled across Emilie’s skin. She rubbed her hands up and down her arms and blew out the lamp.
Sleep soon took her—until her door hinges creaked. She turned over and peered across the room. No moonlight shone through her curtains to help her see. She sighed and turned over, shooing away her apprehension. She’d had far too many nightmares lately. She told this one to go to hell and stay there.
A light flashed outside. She counted, waiting for the thunder.
But the thunder never sounded. Perhaps the storm was over?
She closed her eyes and dreamed. A couple danced on the parapets of a tower. A tall man with dark hair, handsome in the moonlight; a young woman dressed in the softest silk dress found in Paris’ shops. Emilie sighed wistfully as the couple smiled at each other as if no one else existed for them in all the world. She recalled the moments Nicholas smiled at her with such longing. He would make her content, she knew it. If he ever proposed.
A glance overhead showed stars lighting the night. They sparkled and danced in the dense navy blue sky, but clouds rolled back in.
She strolled to the tower’s railing and peered into the night, wishing on her star.
A thought whispered in her mind. A sweet voice, like a lover. But poison tinged the sweet sound: “Answer my riddle.”
The Tower of London rose up before her, and impossibly, she gazed down on a courtyard stuffed full with jeering crowds. A guillotine’s blade flashed as it swooped down upon the body of a woman tied to its bascule. Emilie’s hand flew to her mouth. The woman’s dress looked suspiciously like her own.
The blade’s crack rang through the night; lightning exploding from its edge shook the tower. The flash lit up the night sky. Electricity sizzled along Emilie’s skin and she pitched forward, wheeling her arms in the air for balance as the railing split open. The woman screamed and hugged her lover.
A second flash rent the sky, for a moment, she felt someone behind her. A quick glance showed Nicholas, clawed hands reaching for her throat.
And then the lightning struck the platform at Emilie’s feet. She grabbed for the woman and her lover but failed to reach them.
She and the two lovers toppled off the parapets, flung headlong over the edge, to the rocks and raging sea below, bricks racing along behind them as the tower tumbled down.
Bicycle Requiem: A zombie novelette
On the way home from a draining night of work, Theodora (called Teddy by her friends) finds herself guilty of something she’d never dreamed: a hit and run that results in a child’s death.
Wracked with guilt, Teddy hides her secret, carrying on as if nothing happened, but when the victim’s zombie returns, bringing along her own kind of disturbing justice, Teddy learns innocent little Mara isn’t exactly what she seemed.
And Teddy wonders, would jail be better than eternity with the vengeful girl’s accusing spectre.
Is it a small price to pay–and for what?
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I jammed headphones onto my head and stared at the ceiling, worried. How could I go to Ava’s party? Someone there would ask about the dents in my fender and then … and then … what?
Hours later, the light of the full moon filling my room, I couldn’t sleep.
Strange nightmares plagued my sleep: little Mara on her red bike pursuing me through ancient battlefields, speeding her way around and through the legs of screaming warriors. The little girl lying in the street, her bicycle askew, her limp body bent in odd angles; her candy apple red eyes watching me accusingly. Sirens blaring, a police cruiser behind my car, inside which I sat transfixed, afraid to move, watching myself beg a ghost for mercy. A girl dressed in police blues, her triple pupils lit with some ethereal, accusing fire. I squinted to see the words on her shiny gold badge. Was she a junior G-man? Had she somehow joined the Florida State Troopers?
Did they allow zombies to join their squad? Maybe she was part of a new training program for future Buffys. Sun glinted too bright off the badge and for a moment, all I saw were red lines and sparks. I blinked to clear my vision.
“You ruined my plans!” She spoke in a deep timbre far beyond her years, her voice sounding like a man’s tenor as she clapped handcuffs around my wrists. My shoulders bashed against metal as she threw me—or my dream doppelganger—up against my car. “You can be certain you’ve not seen the last of me!”
I couldn’t think of a word to say, my heart pounding through me, paralyzed me.
Maybe I should go talk to Ava. She’d have some advice for me. Know something of the truth. Perhaps she’d divine whether or not the girl on the news and my ghostly girl were one and the same.
I guessed what she’d tell me. Go to the police. And yet, the little girl held me tight. Screaming, her eyes glowing fire, her hair wriggling around her like snakes as blood and gore oozed from her lips and chest. I swallowed hard and tasted it in my mouth—warm iron.
I jolted up in bed. What was wrong with me? The pictures wouldn’t leave my head and so to distract myself, I snatched my IPOD from the bedside table. Surfing the Internet, looking for something happy to clear my mind, I fell back into morbidity, filling the search engines with all manner of monster names.
From the corner of the room, I heard the soft smacking of lips. I looked up to see the little girl, hovering by the ceiling, watching a spider hang in its web.
A shudder gripped me, but I resolved to ignore her and turned back to my Internet search. A simple definition drew my attention:
Zombies: Once-dead corpse reanimated by magic, or curse.
Though the body decays, it lives on, usually sustaining itself off the flesh and brains of the living.
Common in Haitian folklore and Voodoo.
Zombie. Well, the girl certainly seemed to fit that definition. But I saw nothing written about the hovering.
Some people say the zombie is a form of damned on Earth, not welcome in Heaven, not wanted in Hell, the zombie soul is forced to walk the Earth until doomsday.
The Artist’s Inheritance
The balance between good and evil can be an art… or a curse.
Trevor and Caitlin were once happy newlyweds, profiting from Trevor’s art. Until Trevor inherits his brother’s house, and with it, his part of an old Welsh family curse. Now, Caitlin will stop at nothing to save her beloved husband from insanity and suicide, even if it means she must embrace her destiny and become a witch.
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“Look, I love you, Trevor,” Caitlin said, “but why don’t you put your art aside for a minute and help me move the rest of these boxes out of the living room?”
He didn’t hear her, more intent on the chair. Beautifully carved of expensive oak, its curving armrests begged something to hold; its tall back reached toward the ceiling, though its peaked top fell far short of its goal.
He hadn’t wanted to just fit precut plywood slats together. No. He’d gone out, bought blocks of wood, chiseled and sawed away at the blocks day after day. He’d worked on it since late February when he’d bought the house in Gulf Breeze, Florida, from his sister-in-law Amelia. Almost before he’d finished packing his tools, he’d pulled out his sketchbooks to jot down ideas.
If he’d only stop working long enough to help her straighten up the downstairs, she could love the piece even more.
He said nothing.
“Trevor? Boxes. Move. Help.”
“Yeah, yeah. In a minute.” He strolled to his worktable by the attic window. Pencils, saws, gouges and other woodworking tools filled its surface. Trevor selected another gouge and turned back to the chair.
Caitlin crossed her arms, finding herself thoroughly dismissed, and not liking it one bit. Oh, for Pete’s sake! “Maybe you can use one of the empty boxes to move that thing out.”
“What? Move what out?”
She waved a hand to the chair. “Your project to make you the new avant garde?” If he didn’t get rid of it, she’d do it herself. She hated the thing. Her skin crawled whenever she looked at it, yet she couldn’t say why. “When someone buys it, you can use one of the boxes to ship it to them.”
A quirk creased his brow; the silent look proved he thought her crazy. “Sell it? Who’d want it?”
“Indeed.” She pushed the festering argument down, watching him finger the chair with mixed reverence and longing. Though lovely, she wondered why he would simply carve a chair when they had this beautiful landscape, Santa Rosa Island, and its intriguing Civil War era fort, outside their window.
Maybe his brother’s love of the fort drove him away from the subject.
She ran a hand along his shoulders. “Come downstairs when you can, honey.”
Trevor blinked and set the chisel aside. “I’m sorry. What needs doing?”
She tugged his hand. “Come on, I’ll show you.”
Another set of boxes managed to make it into the attic, but by dinner Trevor was hard at work again. Caitlin frowned, stirring a dish of steaming vegetables.
He was driven. She had to give him points for that. He spent hours, days thinking about his work; nights brought dreams of the chair. One night not long after they’d cleaned up the living room, Caitlin found him sitting in the attic, staring at the oak construction, muttering to himself.
“No, not good enough. Useless piece of trash—”
“It’s lovely. Keep going.”
“Ugly, terrible. Quit wasting your time.”
“Honey, who are you talking to?” Caitlin said.
He held the chisel poised against the chair. The moon shone through a gap in the curtains. Caitlin stood at the door, watching, worried. She took a step forward.
A frosty blast seeped over her.
She crossed her arms tight across her chest to ward off the chill. Another step forward and the chill vanished. She breathed a sigh of relief.
Her worry for her beloved remained. “Trevor?” Fixing her gaze on the chair, she could see yet more intricate designs in the wooden surface, swirling vine-like etchings, a few stylized horses and ravens.
The chisel fell from his grip.
Did she see a severed human head among the marks? “What are you doing?”
“Dreaming. I mean, I thought I was.” He scanned the room, bewildered. “I don’t know.”
She took his hand and tugged him to his feet. “I’d say you were sleepwalking.” She frowned at the chair. “Or I guess, sleep working.”
Trevor wasn’t prone to sleepwalking. How bizarre to find him working while unconscious! “Come back to bed.” She led him to their bedroom, pulled the bedcovers back, and he crawled underneath them, shaking.
Everything after she’d snuggled down next to him was an utter haze. Yet, somehow, here, three-thirty in the morning, he’d ended up in the darkened attic working on the chair again. She switched off the light and pulled him into her arms. “You need to give that chair a rest. You’ll burn out if you’re not careful.”
His twin brother Gordon had. Gordon worked himself to death his wife said. Of course, exhaustion wasn’t the official explanation for Gordon’s demise. The local news had a field day with the story. His was the first famous death at the fort in . . . a long time.
She didn’t want to think about it.
Three days passed and the more Trevor’s head cleared, the more he spent time with Caitlin and their new home. He trailed behind while Caitlin trawled the nearest garden center, picking out flowers for her garden, then spent all day planting. Beside the lavender, marjoram and other herbs she’d planted in spring she added some pink blooms—what the garden center employee called Echinacea. She was all set to plant a tray of geraniums, momentarily.
Caitlin took a swig from a water bottle and brushed the sweat from her brow. “I hope these last through fall. You know my horrible luck with plants.” Several years of trying in vain to keep chrysanthemums alive on their apartment porch proved her words. Somehow, she suspected those deaths were due to her timing and hoped she got it right this time.
Trevor bit back a laugh. “That was a fluke.”
“Uh huh.” Caitlin picked up a geranium start, squeezing its plastic pot to loosen the roots. “We’ll see.”
When she exhausted her day’s gardening efforts she allowed herself to relax. A shower proved a great balm to her aching back, and she smiled when she peeked out the window to see the red and purple blossoms in her new garden. If the geraniums and Echinacea didn’t last, she hoped the rose bushes would survive.
She rolled her shoulders and dragged the towel over her wet hair, deciding she would pay for all the hard yard work tomorrow.
If it didn’t kill her.
“You know, I think I’ll let you do all the yard work from now on, and just direct from the shade.” She sauntered into the bedroom. Empty. She slid her favorite nightgown over her head and padded through the house. Trevor wasn’t in the kitchen, either. Only the lunch dishes waiting in the strainer met her gaze. She peeked out the front windows.
Where did he get to?
Tapping met her ears. She mounted the stairs, and pushed the attic door open. There he stood, tools in hand.
Hard at work—again.
She leaned against the doorjamb, arms crossed, watching. “I don’t mean to sound like a worried mother, but haven’t you done enough work?”
“Mom was never so worried about me.”
No, because for all we know, she’s dead.
Caitlin shuddered, willing the thought away. She was unsure how to describe the sound of his chisel—tapping in designs, or nailing a coffin shut? “Suit yourself. Don’t blame me if your batteries are drained in the morning.”
“In a—oh, hell. I forgot what I meant to add.” He sighed and tossed the chisel onto the floor beside the chair. “You’re right, as usual.” He pushed to his feet and loped past her, placing a kiss on her cheek. “What’s for dinner?”
She rubbed her hand along his back, and turning, frowned at the chair.
For a split second, she saw a figure in the chair, a man with his head lolling at a weird angle. The lips gray and cold under the dark beard, the eyes open, staring at something she couldn’t see.
The soldier’s black boots waited beside Trevor’s monstrous creation, as if he might step into them any moment. His military-style coat hung over the high back. He’d died, and would never use any of them again.
Her heart seized for the poor man. Who was he?
The shape of his face changed, shedding the beard, the jawline tapering into a more feminine line.
The face mutated further until she recognized it: The face was her own.
Caitlin sucked in a quick, startled breath and took the stairs as fast as she could.
Caitlin’s Book of Shadows
Though their fame became legend, a rumor cropped up about the Fulmer family: Something terrifying stalked Caitlin and her beloved Trevor. Something the bits and pieces she left claimed she had to make sense of. When the curator of their collection finds Caitlin’s long forgotten diary, she wonders will it tell the whole tale? Will it tell why Caitlin seemed so determined to tell the difference between reality and nightmare? Why she thought herself a witch?
What will the holidays hold for Caitlin? Perhaps the answer lies between the lines of her story, one of lessons, struggles, and hopes for each new year.
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Caitlin worked the afternoon away in Kameko’s Print Shop, packaging a new order when the door opened. Hofter stepped into the shop. Caitlin froze. Hadn’t Arianrhod insisted she’d “taken care of him”? How, exactly, when there [the imp] was, flitting here and there amongst the customers, smiling, brandishing his claw-tipped fingers.
Caitlin narrowed her eyes watching him, unsure of what her eyes told her. He can’t be here.
She tried to will the unwelcome vision away but Hofter refused her silent order to leave. He approached one gentleman waiting in line. Hofter’s claws flashed. The man yelped and cursed.
Had he cut the gentleman? At least that’s what she thought she saw. She dropped the bundle of fliers she’d been carrying and screamed.
In the next second, Hofter disappeared but she couldn’t stop screaming.
Calvin sprinted out the office door. “What’s going on here?”
Hofter was gone and yet, she kept on screaming.
Calvin took her by the arms and shook her. “What is it, Caitlin?”
She pointed to the crowd. Hofter had disappeared and she knew though Calvin’s gaze followed the direction of her finger, he saw nothing.
“Maybe you need to take a break. Go on. Mark can handle things for now.” He turned and shouted over his shoulder, “Mark?”
The student assistant slinked into Caitlin’s spot at the counter as she tried to keep from running out the door.
Hands shaking, she pulled her purse from her locker seeking her cell phone to call Beryl.
“Sweetie,” Beryl said, “are you sure it was Hofter?”
“I saw him, plain as day.” Her mouth was so dry and heart pounding so hard she could barely get the words out. “There’s no doubt in my mind he’s not as imprisoned as she promised.”
“I’ll be right there.”
Yet, it seemed to take forever for Beryl to arrive. When she did, Caitlin stood back trying to do her work as she watched Beryl scrutinize the afternoon crowd of customers. She couldn’t stop shaking.
Beryl finally sauntered up to the counter and shook her head. “I don’t see him, Cait. I don’t even feel any remnants of him.” She reached out and ran her hand down Caitlin’s arm. The touch calmed her—a little. Not as much as she would’ve liked it to. “Sweetie, why don’t you go home and get some rest?”
Caitlin nodded to a watching, curious Calvin. “I would if I could, but I’m stuck here until closing.”
Beryl waved him over and proceeded to flirt with him. Caitlin didn’t know how she did it, but she managed to talk him into letting her leave. Driving her to Dr. Austin’s office herself, Beryl waited until Caitlin reformed from the puddle of sobbing goo she turned into. How she didn’t tell Dr. Austin the true nature of the monster she dealt with, how she managed to stay out of the nuthouse, was beyond Caitlin’s power to discern.
Even when she closed the door and the drapes that night, she could’ve sworn she saw Hofter hanging in the air outside her windows, grinning his evil, impish smile.
“Are you okay, honey?” Trevor asked.
“Yeah. I’m fine.” Liar. She slammed the drapes shut. Go to Hell, Hofter! And stay there!!!
Drawing Down the Shades
Business can be hell…
Life is good at Starfort Collectibles until the owners, Caitlin and Trevor Fulmer, acquire a beautiful statuette with a murky past. Shortly thereafter, mysterious hauntings wreak havoc on the couple when a ghost in the attic threatens retribution. Caitlin presses her coven for help before the ghost succeeds in meting out deadly punishment–on Trevor.
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Something crashed inside the store and Caitlin yelped in surprise. Trevor spun toward the door, yanked it open and cursed.
All the items that had once covered a small, scarf draped maple table—a framed ivory cameo of a three dancing maenads, a metallic-painted figurine of a woman pouring wine from a jug, and shards of antique glass—littered the floor, the glass shattered, the frames cracked. Above, the vent spewed a dust plume into the air, and from her vantage point, Caitlin thought the cover’s screws seemed loose.
Trevor cursed and knelt to pluck up the brass statuette.
Caitlin set a hand on his shoulder. “At least that survived.”
Trevor whispered something under his breath and standing, set the statuette back on the table. “All right,” he said. “It can’t hurt. Call Heather.”
* * * *
An hour later, Heather leaned against Trevor’s sales desk. Their friends Beryl and Sealya stood beside her. If anyone could figure this puzzle out, it was her three witch friends. She hoped.
“Are you sure it’s not a normal sound?” Beryl asked.
“It didn’t start until recently.”
“It could be mice.” Heather flipped a page in the phonebook, dark eyes narrowed on the text. “I can’t promise the exterminators won’t kick you out of here for a few days. You might just want to let it die.”
“And risk the decaying smell getting into all this?” Caitlin waved a hand around the shop. “I don’t think so.”
“Poisons will, just as well.”
“We’ll find some environmentally friendly chemical,” Heather said. “I know a few exterminators who use them.”
“Heather knows everyone,” Caitlin mouthed to her husband and he smiled.
“It could just go on its own,” Beryl said. “Squirrels do that.”
Caitlin peered up at the vent. “You think it’s a squirrel?”
“I don’t care why the vent rattles,” Trevor said, “I just want it to stop.” He pointed to the broken vase. “If I have to pay an arm and a leg to get an exterminator out, I will.”
The vent rattled again, loud, but the vases and bowls nearby remained still in their display case.
“Maybe there was an earthquake?” Heather suggested.
Caitlin and Trevor shared a glance. “I didn’t feel anything,” Caitlin said.
If there had been, the local news would’ve been all over it. Earthquakes in Florida were a rarity.
Caitlin moved a little closer to the door, reaching a hand toward the vent overhead.
A feeling of dread went through her. As if something passed through her that shouldn’t have.
“I—” She gulped. “I felt—”
Beryl frowned hard. Sealya and Heather drew up behind her. “Something what?” Sealya asked.
Beryl took a step forward. “Like what?”
A ghost. But it didn’t feel like Roland’s ghost, Trevor’s Civil War era grandfather who seemed still to love her so much. The presence felt, darker. It made Caitlin want to fall down in a heap and sob herself dry. She wanted to die and for a moment, looked down, eyeing the shards of glass on the table. She could see herself dragging one across her wrist …
She scrambled away from the shards, seeking out Trevor’s stability.
“Hey, Caitie.” He enfolded her snugly in his arms, smoothed a hand down her back. “What’s the matter, honey?”
“Save your money for now.” She sniffled, reached up and pushed her hair out of her face.
Beryl laid a hand on his arm, fingers grazing Caitlin’s shoulder. When she turned to meet her friend’s gaze, she noticed Beryl’s full attention on Trevor. “I think it’s something we can take care of for you.”
“Oh,” Trevor pffted. “Please. Go ahead. But I hope you don’t mind if I bow out of it this time.”
As if she could leave him out of it. They’d both experienced far too much of the other side lately. For now, Caitlin laid her head against his chest, hoped she could deal with this strangeness without involving him.
Unfortunately, whatever it was had taken up residence here, not at Noah’s, not at Abby’s gallery. Here.
She stepped back. “Let me talk to them alone.” She turned to her friends and ushered them to the far side of the store. “Well?”
“What do you think?” Sealya asked.
Caitlin folded her arms over her chest, watching through the open doorway as Trevor swished the broom over the mess by the antique table. She met Sealya’s eyes. “I think it’s a ghost.”
Beryl went stiff and closed her eyes. She took several deep breaths and after a few moments, opened her eyes. “I don’t feel anything.”
Caitlin frowned. Hard. “I’m telling you, there’s a ghost in here.”
“How can you be sure?”
She nodded to the windows. “Remember my soldier?”
“Feel the same?”
“More ominous. Darker, but yeah, pretty much.”
Beryl smoothed a hand over Caitlin’s back. “Something is here, then.”
Caitlin nodded. “The question is, what? Trevor’s lost six 19th Century vases. Do you know how ticked he is?”
“Well, you can tell him the good news.”
“What good news?”
“I think you’re right; it’s not the A/C unit,” Beryl said. “My guess is it’s another—” She paused, watching Trevor in the far room. Seeing his attention on the broken vase pieces, she glanced back to Caitlin and mouthed. “—imp.”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake.”
“I could be wrong.”
She didn’t buy it.
Beryl shrugged. “Could be just a ghost.”
That wasn’t much better. Caitlin shook her head and headed for the stairs.
“Where are you going?”
“I want a look at these ducts.”
Heather’s brow creased. “Looking for?”
Caitlin shrugged. “Just to be sure.”
Just to be rational, her mind said. Even though she had enough experience now not to question the paranormal, she hoped on the side of normalcy.
At the top of the stairs, she pushed the store’s attic door open. Boxes, packing crates, old furniture Trevor couldn’t fit in the shop downstairs littered the small space. Caitlin shuddered when she beheld a few of the Art Deco chairs he’d stored here. Would she never get over the scar his chair-like creation of last summer had left on her psyche?
A hand landed on her back, and she jerked. Wondered that she didn’t jump right out of her skin.
“We’re right here, sweetie,” Sealya said. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you.”
“You didn’t.” Much.
Caitlin gulped and crossed to the air conditioning unit. The old monster rumbled and hummed, keeping the winter’s humidity away from the antique treasures Trevor stored here. She knelt down beside the machine, and tapped its metal casing. She duck-walked to its far side. A sticker adorned the surface, McTainst’s Air Conditioning, 2009, scribbled across its surface in bold blue lettering.
She sighed in disappointment. “Good news is the darned thing might still be under warranty.”
“What’s the bad news?” Heather asked, hooking her thumbs into the belt loops of her jeans.
A dark feeling, like a dull ache spread through her fingers, intensifying as it moved up her arm. She snatched her hand back, cradling it for a moment, kneading her fingers into her skin. Where was the aspirin when she needed it? “Something’s wrong here.”
“What kind of wrong?” Beryl took a step forward.
“The same kind as—”
A loud, feminine shriek pierced the quiet.
Caitlin screamed and jumped up, a hand going to the peridot and gold pendant around her neck.
“I don’t think the A/C’s responsible for the broken vases,” Beryl said, her voice shaky as she scrambled to the far side of the attic.
Caitlin skidded to a halt next to her, her heart thudding like a jackhammer. “No. Seems to me, we’re haunted.”
The scream died away. Caitlin took a hesitant step forward. A cold breeze whooshed through her. She went rigid. “Oh, damn.”
“What’s the matter?” Heather asked.
The breeze blasted through the room, kicking dust along in its wake. It circled back to the air conditioning unit. Something inside the unit burst into flames.
Caitlin screamed and fell back into the wall of her friends’ bodies, their panicky breath filling her ears alongside the crackling, cackling flame.
The flame whooshed out leaving a light glow at the air conditioner’s grill, smoke twisting above it. Caitlin flexed her hand, once, twice. The pain seemed to be subsiding. Nothing to be afraid of.
She took a deep breath as she stepped forward. Complete and utter misery tightened her chest.
Caitlin’s heart caught, then rampaged. She turned toward the door. “Out, out, out!”
Beryl or someone pushed the door open. Heather went first, then Sealya followed. Beryl and Caitlin ran down the steps after them. She followed the women into the store, past Trevor where he conversed with a customer.
“What’s the matter?” he said. “Did you find something?”
“We’ll be back.”
“Excuse me.” Caitlin heard Trevor’s words and his footsteps behind her. Felt the air of his hand as he reached out for her. She didn’t stop. “Where are you going?”
“The coffee shop!” she shouted, reaching the porch’s top step. “We’ll be back soon.”
“I have coffee in the—”
She paused, turned. “Go home, honey.”
He pulled her coat from the coat rack and handed it to her, shutting the door behind him. “What do you mean, go home? Here. Wait.” He helped her into her coat. “Cait, what’s wrong?”
She slipped her arm into her sleeve, and hugged him. Warm, solid. “Trust me. Close up; take the day off. Stay away from that attic. Come home.”
She ran down the steps. “Ari would say so too, if she were here.”
Her friends’ excited exclamations blasted from her car but she ignored them. Trevor’s wide eyes said all she wanted to hear. He’d listen to her. He’d be safe.
Caitlin flopped into the driver’s seat, jammed her keys in the ignition, and skidded out of her parking place. Her heart didn’t stop pounding until she’d pulled onto Fort Pickens Boulevard.
She pulled off to the side of the road and laid her head to the steering wheel. The horn beeped. She laughed and turned her head, looking at Heather in the passenger seat. Her friend’s brunette ponytail was a mess, the beaded hair clip hanging halfway down it.
“Oh, damn. Oh, damn! What was that?”
“I think,” Beryl said from the back seat, “your husband’s in trouble again. Or will be soon, if we’re not careful.”
Caitlin gripped the steering wheel, pumping at it, like doing vertical push-ups. Or slamming herself against it. “Why the hell can’t these things leave us alone?”
* * * *
Mourning Dove Locket
For antique shop owners Caitlin and Trevor Fulmer, the intrusion of gods and ghosts is an unfortunate daily occurrence. After a young girl offers Caitlin a gold locket, however, she can’t help but notice it’s oozing with paranormal energy.
More significantly, the locket’s owner is surrounded by Otherworld spirits. Caitlin recognizes in the girl all the signs of a budding witch in the midst of a dangerous crisis.
Can she and her covenmates protect the girl and assist her in embracing her powers, before those beyond the veil extract their revenge?
Buy this book now at:
“Hi,” a girl’s voice drew Caitlin’s attention away from the jewelry. Behind her, for an instant, something shimmered in the sunlight. An old woman smiled, there and gone, startling Caitlin.
She’d had bad luck with fear the last year and wondered when her heart would give out from it. Ghost, another pesky ghost, she thought. Gulf Breeze was full of them, these days. The apparition already gone, Caitlin scrutinized the girl, taking in her dark ponytail, her shorts. She was about fifteen or maybe sixteen, Caitlin judged from the braided bracelet on her wrist, and her height. But more important markers interested her. The girl’s solidity, that she couldn’t see through her, the perfume-cloud around her, and the sheen of sweat on her lip and staining her blue short-sleeved school uniform shirt, told Caitlin she must be alive.
“You like jewelry,” she said.
Caitlin’s hand sought out her peridot and gold ingot necklace, the one she’d received from the goddess Arianrhod, an heirloom her former incarnation had left in her care. Payable on her next life.
The necklace had almost come at a stiff price, very nearly the loss of her beloved Trevor. If she ever met her other self, Kate, in a dark forest, they were going to have a long, serious discussion. She wondered if the other Kate understood what “what the hell, woman?” meant.
She’d seen enough of Kate’s tribulations to know she did.
Caitlin scanned the store, seeking out Hofter—the evil imp who had given them both fits.
Seeing that he wasn’t doing handstands near the doors of the dressing room—or anywhere else, for that matter—she turned back to the teen.
“Sure. Some pieces. Why?”
From her pocket, the girl produced a small, oval gold locket. “I bet you’ll like this.”
Caitlin cocked her head, studying the piece.
She offered it but Caitlin kept her hand firmly placed on her warm hip. She’d learned never to touch first. She’d even become wary of sniffing strange things, in the last few months. As there was no sense in jumping to conclusions yet, she met the girl’s hazel-eyed gaze. Clear and calm, yet expectant.
Her fingers proved warm and soft when she laid the necklace in Caitlin’s. This girl was no ghost.
“It’s my abuela—grandma’s.” She glanced over her shoulder to, Caitlin thought, a woman. “Mom doesn’t want it. She wants to sell it anyway.”
“You should give it back to your grandma, then.”
“I can’t.” The girl shook her head, disturbing her shining black curls. “But my grandma needs it.”
Caitlin wondered how many times a year her heart could stop, and yet, keep her alive. It is my Grandma’s. I can’t give it to her. But Grandma needs it. Oh…
Surely, these weren’t normal verbal slips. She knew present tense when it was used.
Caitlin studied the locket in her hand. Some sort of dove graced the smooth gold cover. She flipped it over, squinting for the maker name or some sort of engraving to identify the owner. She didn’t see one.
Turning it over one more time, she ran a finger over the dove, closed her hand around it. “I can’t take it from you, dear, but let me go talk to your mom.” She smiled at her. “Maybe we can work something out.”
The girl shrugged and headed in the direction of a table full of pots and pans. A woman of clear Hispanic descent stood there, perusing the items. Caitlin approached her yet her daughter made the introductions. “Mom, she’ll give Abuela her necklace.”
Did the teen have any idea what she said? She peered at the girl. She was no ghost.
The woman blinked dark eyes. “It’s a locket, mija, and you know she doesn’t need it anymore,” she said, a hint of accent to her voice. The woman met her gaze, a sheepish smile on her face. “Don’t pay any attention to her, ma’am.”
She doesn’t need it anymore. The grandmother might indeed be dead.
“She has an active imagination.” Yet Caitlin had a feeling the girl was more than imaginative. Was she a budding medium?
Caitlin knew how treacherous the training was. Her heart twisted for the girl. Was she too about to go through hell, as Caitlin had?
She held her hand out for the locket, but a little voice whispered in her mind that it would be better if she made a deal. “I’ll tell you what.” Why can’t Trevor be here for this? Buying and selling antiques was his forte; she was still an apprentice. “My husband owns an antique shop.” She opened her purse, pulled out a Starfort Collectibles business card, and handed it to the woman. “Your daughter says you’d like to be rid of this necklace. I’m sure my husband can give you a fair price for it.”
The woman took the card and studied the embossed lettering, the star sitting beside Trevor’s name.
Starfort Collectibles; Trevor Fulmer, Owner, Proprietor. Caitlin was still pleased with the printing job she’d done here. For however much she hated working for Kameko’s Print Shop, they’d done good work together.
Caitlin frowned at the memory of the print shop’s jackass manager, Calvin. Glad to be out from under Calvin’s thumb, she retrieved her cell phone. A quick search of Starfort Collectibles’ website gave her a good idea of a preliminary offer. Without Trevor, it felt strange to make such a promise, but then she remembered what Michela once told her: Legally, she owned half of their business. Wouldn’t any offer she made be just as valid? Still, flipping the piece over in her hand, she wasn’t sure. “Let me see what I can do.” Caitlin took a few steps away, dialing Trevor’s cell phone number.
“Starfort Collectibles,” Trevor answered in two rings.
“How much would you give someone for an old locket?”
“I don’t know,” Caitlin admitted.
“It’s a bit banged up. There’s a teenage girl offering it to me, so I suppose it’s expected.”
“Why would she offer it to you?” he asked.
“Don’t know. But I have a hunch.”
Caitlin glanced over her shoulder. The mother was trying to mind her own business, so Caitlin lowered her voice. “She claims her grandmother wants me to have it.”
“What’s the grandmother say?” he asked.
She cleared her throat. “I don’t think she cares for money anymore.”
“Oh…” The tone in Trevor’s voice told her he absolutely understood in what world the grandmother currently resided.