Aaron has come to Fairview to find his ex’s teenage sister, who went missing in the city. As a witch both rich and powerful, Aaron follows a trail that leads him to a bar frequented by supernaturals and to a bartender who attracts Aaron’s attention — and not just because the bartender is keeping something from Aaron. When Aaron runs out of leads, he follows the mysterious and pretty bartender, and the next thing Aaron knows, he’s foiling an attempted abduction.
Ilya has built a quiet life in Fairview mixing drinks and flying under the radar. He is a banshee, and the psychic ability and mild telepathy that comes with that makes Ilya a sought-after commodity. That carefully constructed life Ilya built for himself breaks into a thousand pieces when a handsome witch starts asking questions and becomes Ilya’s rescuer mere hours after they meet.
The witch, Aaron, vows to protect Ilya and to keep his secret. Now Ilya has to decide whether he will give Aaron his trust and risk a lonely but safe life as a night bartender in a wintry city in which people disappear only to then turn up murdered.
Aaron buried his hands in his coat pockets and gave the bleak Fairview midday sky a hard look. Not that the sky gave much of a damn. It was late November, just after the Thanksgiving weekend, and for most of the morning, it had sleeted in a way Aaron had never before experienced in his life. It was like a hot shower, except the cold, freezing water got all the way through to your skin and passed the cold to every inch of your body.
“Damn city just might be cursed with bad weather,” Aaron mumbled as he walked along a street in the Old Town, which should lead him to a bar friendly to the not-quite-human clientele if his online research skills hadn’t failed him. A deep black cloud caught his attention. It zapped across the horizon as if blown by a particularly vicious breeze. Aaron frowned before he picked up his pace. The sooner I’m done here, the sooner I can go back to Morrowvale where November doesn’t suck so bad your balls want to freeze off in surrender, he thought.
In all honesty, Fairview wasn’t a bad place. The city itself was nice enough. The parks and trees here littered the streets with the bones of leaves turning to sludge in the puddles left from the earlier sleet showers, and the people, while ignoring both other people and the suck-tastic weather, dressed a little nicer than the average Morrowvaler. Aaron had also never had Japanese food as good as he’d had an hour ago in a small, unassuming place he’d accidentally walked into, at least not outside Japan. That counted for something, at least in Aaron’s book.
Traffic was in what passed for a bit of a midday lull in Fairview. The honking had ebbed to a not-eardrum-shattering noise, and Aaron managed to cross the street without it feeling like he was gambling with his life.
The Ragdoll was a basement bar, and if Aaron hadn’t been looking for it, he probably would have missed the small neon sign that was either broken or just off this early in the day. A wrought-iron fence further hid the sign and the door, which lay at the bottom of a flight of stairs. This could be a private gambling den or the hideout of a bunch of Russian spies, Aaron thought.
He walked down the stairs and pulled the door open just as another sleet shower was getting ready to wash the streets and everyone walking outside with icy wetness. Aaron shivered as he crossed the threshold and blinked into the softly lit bar.
Last week’s Thanksgiving paper turkeys and fall-colored garlands were still up, though a busboy collected the decorations into a cardboard box labeled “Turkey Day” in black sharpie. There were no Russian spies and no gambling going on here.
Surprisingly, there were several patrons in the bar this early in the day. Aaron spotted a handful starting their day’s drinking early, but most nursed mugs of coffee or were digging into sandwiches which, admittedly, looked better than was right in a basement bar. Judging by their business suits, those were just office workers who knew where the good sandwiches were at. The music was pop, playing just loud enough to offer background noise without becoming obnoxious. This place, despite the outward appearance, looked hip, trendy even. Fucking Fairview. This city is as confusing as a clown at a dinner party, Aaron thought.
Aaron’s fingers closed around the talisman in his pocket. With his touch and the smallest pinch of magic, he felt the worked metal coin activate and the spellbound to it sizzle to life. Three people, including the strawberry-blonde girl behind the bar, whipped their heads around to look at him. So, this place really is supernatural friendly, Aaron thought. The talisman heated rapidly in his pocket. And Dora definitely was here before she disappeared.
That confirmed, he let go of the talisman and walked straight to the bartender. The other two patrons who’d noticed his magic had gone back to ignoring him like the good Fairviewers they were.
“Hi,” Aaron said, giving the strawberry blonde his best winning smile. “What’s good here?”
She shrugged. “Depends on whether it’s drink-o’clock in your world or not. If not, the pumpkin spice latte kills. If yes, you look like a Macallan kind of guy.”
Aaron grinned at her. “You’d be right about the whiskey, but I think I’ll go with the latte,” he told her.
He was doing his best with the charming vibes, which usually worked even if he turned it on women, but the bartender just nodded and went about preparing his coffee. Aaron watched her, more interested in the fact that she was making coffee at a bar decked out with an impressive assortment of liquor than anything else. The coffee machine was one of those intimidating ones that took up some primo counter real estate, and from the looks of it, it saw some use.
When she was done, she brought the latte over to him and puffed a dash of cinnamon over the foamy top right in front of him. The warm scent of the spice immediately made Aaron feel just a little more optimistic about everything. The mug was the cutesy kind with a grinning, red-nosed reindeer on the side.
“There you go,” she said with little enthusiasm, though not exactly unfriendly.
“Thanks, miss,” Aaron said. Before she could walk away again, he focused on her instead of the latte. “Could I ask you something?”
“I’m guessing I’m not your type, so go right ahead,” she said.
Aaron’s eyes widened, and it was the girl’s turn to chuckle. “Half-succubus,” she said in a whisper. “The gay-dar is practically built-in.”
He nodded, fighting the color rising to his cheeks. “Right. Makes sense.” Aaron cleared his throat. “I was wondering if you’ve seen this girl,” he said and pulled the photo Patrick had given him from his pocket. It showed Dora smiling, her blond hair shimmering in the sun.
The half-succubus took a look, then shook her head. “No, sorry. Friend of yours?”
“My ex’s sister, believe it or not,” Aaron said. “She went missing, and I tracked her first to Fairview, and now here.” Aaron had the cellphone gods to thank for that. It made using his magic almost unnecessary, although Aaron still liked to confirm the actual person had been to a place, not just their phone, hence his talisman.
About Alexa Piper
Alexa Piper writes steamy romance that ranges from light to dark, from straight to queer. She’s also a coffee addict. Alexa loves writing stories that make her readers laugh and fall in love with the characters in them.
Mediums are the main attraction in one of my favorite places, Cassadaga, Florida. If you want to communicate with a loved one who has passed away, this is the go-to town.
As you walk along the quiet streets, many of the homes are Victorian with wide porches and colorful gingerbread trim. Others are more like cottages or bungalows. The atmosphere is peaceful and serene, and you see signs outside the homes advertising psychic readings
A fascinating bookstore offers the schedule for the month including tours, healing and massage services, orb photo opportunities, educational sessions, and so much more. This is the perfect place to begin learning about Spiritualism and the history of the town.
A historic hotel dominates the smaller businesses and residences. Its 1920’s style luxury immediately brings about a sense of a slower, simpler pace of life. It’s supposed to be haunted, but the ghosts are friendly!
Even if you don’t see a ghost during your stay, you can get a tarot card reading, experience a reiki healing session while reclining in a crystal bed, or have your aura photographed.
I could go on and on about this charming location, which is only about 20 miles from Daytona Beach, but truly in a different world.
My recently released novel, Witch Trial Legacy is set in Cassadaga and surrounding areas and is the first in a collection where romance collides with supernatural suspense.
The Cassadaga Collection: Witch Trial Legacy
If you are a fan of Tricia O’Malley or Kay Hooper, you’ll love The Cassadaga Collection: Witch Trial Legacy.
Sybilla Sanborn must break a centuries-old curse before everything she cares about goes up in smoke.
Sybilla is a nurse gifted with the ability to heal with her touch but cursed with visions of future tragedies she cannot prevent because no one heeds her warnings. With help from the mediums of the spiritualist town of Cassadaga, Florida, she learns she is descended from both the first person executed for witchcraft in this country and the man who accused her.
Conn Ahern is an Iraq war vet dealing with pain and PTSD while working as a paramedic and struggling to save the ranch his grandmother founded. He’s an atheist who wants nothing to do with the people of the town.
When Conn and Sybilla meet, sparks fly, but not always in a good way, and their relationship fans the flames of jealousy and revenge in someone who doesn’t want them to work things out.
During a séance, her ancestor’s spirit reveals how Sybilla can rid herself of the curse and save Conn, but the price may be too high.
Here’s an excerpt that shows Sybilla meeting with a medium and experiencing a past life regression where she views what happened to her ancestor:
This time she didn’t even make it up the sidewalk before the door opened. “Did you glimpse me from the window again?”
“Nah, this time it was my psychic power.” Mr. Bennett said it deadpan.
Not sure if he was joking, she nodded and followed him inside.
Today he sported a blue and yellow Hawaiian shirt over tan pants and sandals. He carried a tray with a pitcher of ice water and two glasses into the living room and set it on the coffee table. “Okay, you’re familiar with the drill by now.” He gestured toward the recliner.
She sat there, and he settled in the other one. “The initial routine will be the same as the previous sessions. First, a short prayer, then I’ll put you in a state of deep relaxation. When you’re completely open, I’ll guide you to younger times in your life. Eventually, we’ll return to previous lives or those of your ancestors. The process is a little like hypnosis, except I won’t be giving you suggestions or commands. Instead, I’ll guide you to remember past incarnations. Time is not a concept of the other side, so during a session, we could move backward or forward from the present. Who you were, and who you are, and who you will be are all the same. Only our mortal minds need to sort events into before and after. So, whatever happens to you, go with it. All right?”
She touched her butterfly necklace. “What if I get scared or find out something terrible? What do I do?”
“Trust me. If you tense up or I think you’re becoming frightened, I’ll bring you to the here and now. Remember, none of what you see or hear is happening in this lifetime, but the past and can’t harm you. Are you ready?”
“Let’s do it.” She leaned back, closed her eyes, and listened as Mr. Bennett said the invocation and guided her through relaxing by contracting and releasing the muscle groups in sequence from her feet up to her neck and face. An odd floating sensation went through her as if she hovered a few inches above the chair.
His calm, soft voice surrounded her. “Now, I want you to remember a time when you were young and happy. Tell me about it.”
“My birthday when I was five. I had on my princess gown with a tiara in my hair. Mommy looked so beautiful in her white slacks and lacy top, like a queen. The cake was white with white icing and gold candles. Everything at the party was white and gold. So lovely.” Sybilla sighed. The day had been one of her best, before the visions and the fear.
“All right. Imagine yourself as a toddler.” He paused. “Now as a baby.” For a moment he remained silent again. “Now, go further, all the way to the womb.”
Imagining myself in utero is silly. No one can remember before they were born. Black nothingness, although warm and safe.
“Let your mind drift to before this existence, to when you manifested as someone else, someone with a different name and a different body, a man or a woman, adult or child. Do you remember?”
She viewed the world from a different perspective as if she were shorter. Her chubby body was that of a child. Young, maybe six or eight. She stood in a cell beside a woman who wore an ankle-length, black skirt with a white apron, and a dark, long-sleeved blouse. The woman wept and sobbed into a handkerchief.
Mother. She clung to the woman. “Don’t cry. I love you. What’s wrong?”
Rough hands gripped her shoulders from behind and plucked her from the woman’s arms. “Mistress, say goodbye to your daughter.” A male voice, cold and harsh.
The woman clutched her and hugged her hard.
The man with the cruel grip dragged her away.
She wailed. “No, let me go. I want my mother.”
The man lugged her out as she kicked and screamed, and her mother shouted, “Damn you, Matthias North. You bear false witness against me. Though I am no witch, I condemn you and your line forever. No one will ever again believe you or anyone descended from you for the rest of time.”
“A witch you are, proved by the curse that falls from your foul mouth, evil one.” The man spat on the floor.
When he reached the outer door of the jail, he handed the struggling child to a woman. “Take her and find a family to care for her until she is grown. The witch hangs tomorrow.”
About the Author
Katherine Eddinger Smits is a direct descendant of Susannah Martin, one of the victims tried and executed for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. With a master’s degree and over 20 years of clinical social work experience, Katherine addresses real-life issues of self-acceptance, body image, relationship dynamics, fears, and phobias through stories of fantasy and romance which include mages, mermaids, and magical creatures. Mystery, suspense, and a little sex add spice to her books.
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Mia Fleming’s precognitive her visions about Carpenter Techtronics are so vivid, she resorts to sending anonymous emails to the company. She’s also having visions of a gorgeous man who arouses her to the point she’s satisfying herself just to get some relief. She’s shocked when the man shows up in her office, demanding to know what she knows about Carpenter. Dan Romeo is just helping his friend track down the person threatening his company when he meets Mia. One look at her and he has a hard time thinking about anything but indulging in off-the-charts sex with the intriguing woman—until bodies begin falling. As Mia’s visions escalate, so does the explosive sex between her and Dan, as well as an unexpected emotional connection. When Mia is almost killed, Dan and his team must race to find the culprits before they can strike again—or put Mia down for good.
#3 SCENT OF DANGER
Kelly Monroe was shocked when her dog, Xena, a Caucasian Ovcharka seemed to bond at once with Rick Latrobe, a partner in the high profile Phoenix Agency. Ovcharkas are known for linking with only their owners. But Xena is picking up Rick’s wave length, very much aware when an attempt is made on Rick’s life and sensing all kinds of danger signals related to Rick’s current project: ferrying a shipment of arms to a private security cadre in Iraq. Rick is nearly killed when the shipment is stolen by terrorists who are hot on his trail. Only Kelly and Xena—coached by members of The Lotus Circle to expand the psychic link between the three of them—can keep him safe. As Rick scrambles to learn who’s behind the whole mess, the relationship he and Kelly have deepens. But Xena is the real star, not only signaling when danger is at hand but “sniffing” out the killers.
#4 FREEZE FRAME
Katherine “Kat” Culhane was a highly sought after remote viewer, but her gift was beginning to splinter, and just at a time when she needed it the most. Her sister Mari, along with Mari’s employer and his family, have been kidnapped. But Mike D’Antoni, a partner in the shadowy Phoenix Agency, is suddenly back in her life and could be the only person to help find the hostages. The chemistry between them is just as hot as it ever was, but they parted on very bad terms. Can they put the past behind them as they race to find and rescue the hostages? And what will happen when it’s time to say goodbye again?
#5 FEEL THE HEAT
Summer Cahill lives as quietly as she can, protecting her ability as a psychic healer. But danger brings former SEAL and Phoenix partner Troy Arsenault into her life—along with scorching nights and intense emotions. Resisting him isn’t even a question, in or out of the bedroom. He protects her from the evil stalking her even as he takes her beyond the physical boundaries of anything she’s ever experienced. When Summer is kidnapped, Troy’s world is turned upside down and he employs all the resources of The Phoenix Agency to rescue her. He won’t rest until she’s back safely in his life—and in his bed— for the rest of their lives.
#6 FORMULA FOR DANGER
Running back to Texas after an emotional disaster in San Francisco, J. L. Mitchell, microbiologist, is throwing herself into the development of a new, drought-resistant grain. Little did she expect to reconnect with Cole Martin, who rings al her bells, or to discover that her formula was at risk of being highjacked. As her work progresses, so does her relationship with Cole. When she is kidnapped, he brings all the recourse of The Phoenix Agency, where he has just become a partner, into play, hoping they will be in time.
Thanks to Delilah for letting me pop onto her blog on my birthday. Shout out to all my fellow Scorpios!
I just launched the latest novel in my steamy contemporary Thirsty Hearts series. For a few years, I’ve outlined some books that added a paranormal twist. I’m fascinated by the world of psychics and cartomancy and have developed a total tarot card addiction that’s finally under control now that I’m channeling that energy into my writing. Kisses & Kismet features an enemies-to-lovers story with a twist of magic. There’s a psychic, a ghost, and a hero with a sly secret.
Kisses & Kismet
The heroine, Lilith Carver has suppressed her abilities as a psychic and a medium since a frightening incident with her foster sister when they were teenagers. Lilith and Kali, her sister, have been estranged, but the death of Kali’s boyfriend brings them back together. It also puts both women at odds with the man’s son, Jamie Wylde. Jamie and Lilith have sparks from the start as they’re on opposite sides of a fight over the Wylde family estate.
Lilith will do anything for her sister—even use the gifts she’s tried to ignore to uncover Jamie’s secrets. Jamie’s plan to exclude Kali from the Wylde fortune has one obstacle. Lilith. Equally matched and battling to win, Lilith and Jamie find themselves wanting to win at love above all else.
For more on Kisses & Kismet, read the excerpt below. As happens when I’m writing, I fall in love with the characters and the world. I have a story brewing in my mind for Kali as well, so stay tuned! It will be a second-chance romance, and when you read Kisses & Kismet, I’ll bet you’ll be able to guess with whom.
Jamie lifted his chin to a haughty angle, but his evasive glance told me I was right. Preston was trying to tell me something. If I wanted to help Kali, I would have to set fire to the carefully reinforced walls at the edges of my psyche and listen.
“And you should be more careful of the truth,” I snapped.
“No. Your sister should.”
“What does that mean?” I edged closer to him.
“I don’t have to listen to this.” He flipped the watch at his wrist to eye level. “Shit. I’m supposed to be somewhere.”
“You can’t run away. This isn’t over, you know.”
“Oddly, I do,” he grunted with a grim smile. “You’re relentless.”
I took another step forward and poked the center of his chest. The grumble of my own voice through gritted teeth shocked even me. “You have no idea.”
His gaze snatched down to mine as he took a half step back, trapped against the open door of his fancy car. The electricity between us crackled on my skin. My breath quickened.
The dim light of the parking garage played with the angles of his face. The perfection crumbled. A rogue curl of dark hair slipped to his forehead. The arrogant mask he wore fell away revealing confusion, trepidation, and hurt.
He straightened his shoulders, adding to his height as he stared down at me, and sneered. “Is this your plan? You corner me in a parking garage and start touching me and giving me your best siren’s eyes?”
He cackled and lifted his hands up as if touching me might give him some incurable disease. “God, you and your sister are alike. But I’m not my father. I’m not going to let a little horniness make me lose my mind.”
I covered my mouth and mockingly wretched. “Ugh. I’m going to lose my lunch.”
“Really?” He snickered under his breath. “Yes. That’s why you touched me.”
“I was making a point. If you’re horny, that’s your problem.” Still, I stepped away from him. “Understand this: I’m not going to let you railroad my sister.”
I spun on my heels and stormed away, not totally sure where I parked or if I was even on the right level of the parking garage, but I didn’t dare risk looking confused. I kept walking to the other side of the elevator. Finally, the screech of his car down the exit ramp pierced through the roar of rushing blood in my ears. I closed my eyes, clenching and unclenching my fists to relax.
If I was going to fight for Kali, I needed to control my emotions. Because when they controlled me, that was a disaster.
About the Author
Kris Jayne is a devoted writer, reader, and traveler. She spends her days blissfully sweating out the writing process in the Dallas area with her dogs, Otis the Shih Tzu, Rocco the Terrier, and Red the Foxy Mutt.
Her passion for writing is only matched by her passion for the adventures of travel. In 2008, she let a friend talk her into sleeping outside for the first time in her life when she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. If you’re buying her a gift, she has a penchant for single-malt Scotch and scarves.
In addition to Kisses & Kismet, Kris launched two holiday romances in November and has a sexy, friends-to-lovers book launching in January.
Maybe you only know me as a writer of action-adventure/military heroes/cowboys — Uncharted SEALs, Montana Bounty Hunters, Texas Cowboys, etc. — but I also write paranormal romances. They are, in fact, what I love writing most. I began with my Night Fall vamps and weres, moved on the write more vamps, weres, and ancient demigods in the Dark Realm series, and have written witches coupled with various forms of shapeshifters for my Beaux Rêve Coven series, but the two stories I feel are my best in the genre are my Caitlyn O’Connell stories, Shattered Souls and Lost Souls.
Today, I’m introducing you to Lost Souls. Here’s what it’s about…
Private Investigator Caitlyn O’Connell is tapped by Memphis PD to discover who has been using a Memphis hotel as his killing ground. Women are going missing, and their bodies are found inside the walls of the hotel. But the bodies themselves? They appear to have been murdered in the distant past. With ghosthunters and cops crawling all over the crime scene, Cait and her detective ex-husband Sam Pierce race to find the demon responsible before he kills again.
Now, that doesn’t even begin to describe a book that delivers one of the biggest shocks I’ve ever written. Enjoy the excerpt below!
Comment for a chance to win a download of one of my
Caitlyn O’Connell stories!
Darkness sank as murky as the sultry summer air, as heavy as a blanket pulled over a child’s head to hide the monsters lurking in a shadowy closet. Street lamps popped and sizzled, darkening then lightening, but failing to flare bright enough or long enough to chase away deep pockets of inky black. Cait was creeped out, since all she had were glimpses of silvery light from a full moon rimming buildings and casting deeper shadows to cloak alleyways and doorway stoops.
Another full moon. An event she was acutely aware encouraged monsters, both human and supernatural, to come out and play. Edgy and beyond bored, she almost wished for something out of the ordinary to happen, but then quickly changed her mind. The last time her job had given her a real challenge she’d battled a demon in an attic while a wraith latched its freezing fingertips around the man sitting beside her, slapping him around like a rag doll.
For just a second, she relished that last memory. At least Jason had been awake.
For the umpteen thousandth time that night, Caitlyn O’Connell sighed. This time exaggerating the sound. Loudly. Actually, more of a groan than a sigh. A sound that invited Jason Crawford, lying back in the seat beside hers, to wake up and keep her company. She was bored as freaking shit. Surveillance was the one part of her job she truly hated. In fact, she thought she might like having her ingrown toenails cut better than sitting in a dark alley waiting for something to happen.
The weather irritated her even more. Although she’d stripped down to a tank top and jeans, the insides of her boots were damp from the oppressive summer heat. Not a trace of a breeze stirred, and they’d shut off the sedan’s engine to be able to hear vehicles approaching, so the AC sat silent.
What good was having magic if she couldn’t even muster up a spell to start a breeze? She’d tried waving, punching, wiggling her nose, but nada. Worse, she’d tried to come up with a poem to appease The Powers That Be, but hadn’t found a line that sounded even remotely elegant with “wheeze” tacked on the end.
She supposed she’d used up her last favor asking for intervention with Worthen’s monstrosity, the Civil War–era demon resurrected in his tomb, for which she’d had to beg The Powers and a certain sorcerer for help defeating. Or perhaps they didn’t like how she’d ignored Morin since she’d fought the demon and won. Whatever. She was a PI, not a witch. And right now, she had a job to do.
So why couldn’t she and Jason be watching the Peabody Hotel? Or any of the nicer hotels in the downtown area? The Deluxe Hotel was anything but deluxe. The marquee above the entrance was missing a few letters and read, DELUXE HO, which on second thought appeared apropos for the sleazy dive.
The whole area had an aura of neglect. Trash overfilled bins and cluttered the gutters. Worse, a small tattered sign was taped to the hotel’s glass door: AA MEETING, 9 PM SATURDAY.
Mocking her. The very thing her ex-husband, and now sometimes boyfriend, had been nagging her to locate.
And worse yet, the car she sat in reeked of stale onion-and-anchovy pizza. If she didn’t know him better, she might have thought her partner had ordered it on purpose. But he’d munched away happily, while she’d chosen to drag in the scents from the overfilled bin they’d parked beside. Better unknown trash than fishy-smelling onion breath.
Her cheeks billowed around another harsh exhalation. How the hell could Jason sleep through all the noise she’d been making? She aimed a scowl his way, caught the quick lowering of his eyelids and a twitch at the side of his lips.
She gave a grunt and turned back to watch the entrance of the seedy old hotel where Mrs. Oscar Reyes was scheduled to meet up with her boy-toy. Or so Mr. Reyes had informed them this morning after hacking into his wife’s Facebook account.
“Get me pictures of the bitch,” he’d said, clearing his throat when Cait had given him a narrow-eyed glare. “I won’ believe it ’til I see.”
She’d eyed his oily hair, brushy mustache, and stocky frame and wondered why he was so surprised his wife had sought the attention of a lover who called her his “mariposa rubia.”
“Blonde butterfly,” Jason had translated under his breath since Cait’s Spanish was limited to curses.
Oscar Reyes was the typical slimy client they attracted—spouses seeking ammunition for divorce court, employers wanting an employee followed for proof they hadn’t been injured badly enough to warrant workmen’s comp.
Since Oscar had already done the legwork and found cyberproof of his wife’s infidelity, Cait wondered why the hell he’d hired them to snap the shots. A $500 retainer plus their hourly fee would rack up quite a bill in no time. But she’d refrained from asking him.
The nice fat check they’d gotten from the Memphis PD for helping find her first partner’s killer and three young women who’d been kidnapped by a demon hadn’t lasted long. So she and Jason were back hustling for smaller fish.
Which reminded her again of the half-eaten pizza in the backseat.
Ready to pitch the box into the trash bin, she paused when headlights flared as a car turned onto South Front Street. A low-slung sedan stopped in front of the hotel.
Cait waited for the beams to extinguish, and then raised her camera with its night-vision lens and took a look. Just as Oscar had predicted, Sylvia Reyes stepped out of the car, her bleached-blonde hair neon bright in the viewfinder. She wore an ass-hugging mini-skirt, four-inch heels, and a top that rode the curves of her full breasts.
Cait clicked off a couple of shots of the woman entering the hotel, then reached out and backhanded Jason’s belly. “Time to move.”
“Mmm, wha’?” he said, pretending to waken from a deep sleep.
She rolled her eyes. “Like you’ve been sleeping? It’s Reyes’s wife. Let’s follow and see if we can catch her with her boyfriend.”
“Sound grumpy.” Jason flashed her a smile. “The anchovies gettin’ to you?”
She shrugged, pretending the stench hadn’t made her slightly nauseous. “It’s your car. The smell’ll be here for a week.”
With quiet moves, they opened their doors. Cait quickly replaced the special lens and hung the camera on her shoulder before jogging to the entrance. She pushed through the grimy glass, lifted her head in a vague nod to the clerk at the reception desk, and walked to the elevators, eying the red digital numbers above the doors. There were two elevators. Only one was moving, and it stopped and held at floor three.
She elbowed past two men and a woman laden with cameras and equipment bags. One held out a device Cait thought might be a light meter, but she changed her mind when a red light beeped on the top and it clicked like a Geiger counter.
“Do you see that?” the chubby man with a Fu Manchu said, elbowing the skinny dude beside him. “We’ve got something here.”
“Told you there’s lots of activity in this old place.”
Activity? She eyed them again, read the logo on their bags, and rolled her eyes. REEL PIS: PARANORMAL INVESTIGATORS. As if. She stuck her finger in the elevator button, doing her best to ignore the morons. She hadn’t heard so much as a whisper or a wail since she’d entered the hotel.
“Faster goin’ up the stairs,” Jason said, pulling her arm with one hand and pointing toward the stairway door. He flipped the door handle and pushed through. “After you,” he said with a flourish of his hand. His grin said he knew how much she disliked racing up three flights.
She gave him the stink-eye and started the climb. When she reached the third-floor landing, she glanced through the door’s rectangular window, saw no one in the hallway, and opened the door.
The corridor smelled as bad as it looked—urine to complement the yellowed beige walls, mildew to enhance the brown-and-green plaid carpet.
Gasping to catch her breath, she looked left, then right, and caught a flash of impossibly blonde hair a moment before Sylvia Reyes turned the corner farther down the hallway. Cait hurried after her, on the scent of a woman about to cheat on her husband. She turned the corner, entering a hallway marked by a door frame for a double door that no longer existed. The corridor was empty. No room doors along the short hall closed to indicate where their target had gone.
Jason drew up beside her, his eyebrows rising. “What now? Listen for moaning?”
Giving him a shove, she took a step past the hallway door frame, and then halted, some instinct keeping her from pushing forward. Or maybe what stopped her was the yellow police tape covering one of the doors. Not something she had time to ponder right that moment because a strange hum sounded. A bulb popped, plunging the hallway into darkness. The hairs on her arms lifted a second before electricity arced from a light switch, sending out a bolt like lightning that shot toward the ceiling, then turned, traveling toward her, hitting doorways as though searching for ground. The jagged dagger of electricity darted, then blinked out, but not before she saw a figure, one in four-inch hot pink heels, her eyes rounding in terror—a figure she could see straight through to the piss-yellow wall behind her.
Darkness took the figure. Then another hissing arc flared from the light switch, brightening the hallway again. Sylvia Reyes was gone.
Jason grabbed her arm, pulled her back around the corner, and flattened her against the wall with an elbow digging into her belly.
The white bolt flickered past the corner, then dove to the floor, sparking out with a fizzle.
“Bad wiring?” he whispered.
She shook her head, shoved away his elbow, and stepped into the hall again. The faint smell of something burning lingered in the air. The hall was once again empty. And dark.
Cait held still, listening, and then she heard the sound. A soft wail. Like a distant echo. “Hear that?” she whispered.
“No. What do you hear?”
She swallowed. “Not anyone living.”
Then the faint sound of whispers rose, maybe half a dozen voices joining in chorus. Her hand dropped to the camera at her side. She flipped off the lens cap, raised the camera, and looked through the viewfinder. Nothing out of the ordinary, other than a really sleazy flophouse. Still, she clicked off a couple of shots. “Let’s go.”
“Don’t want to wait around until she leaves? A shot of the lady kissing her boyfriend good-bye would close this case.”
Cait shook her head, not wanting to voice what she suspected. Not before she was sure of exactly what she’d seen. “No. Let’s get back to the office. I have to look at something.”
Jason knew her well enough not to ask any more questions. The fact she was cutting the surveillance short told him they had a problem.
This time they took the elevator. The sooner she got out of here the better. Well, she’d gotten what she’d wished for. Something out of the ordinary had definitely happened.
Back at the Delta Detective Agency, Cait slipped the memory card from her camera into the slot in her computer. With a couple of clicks, she found the file of pictures and opened it.
There was Sylvia Reyes outside the Deluxe, her small cat-like features coated in too much makeup, her coarse blonde hair flattened to rest limply on her shoulders. Her expression was furtive, but excitement sparkled in her dark eyes. Another shot caught her too-tight skirt hugging her J-Lo butt. Then Cait clicked on the last two shots, unsure what she might see inside the third-floor hallway. Maybe nothing. Maybe something she didn’t want to see.
The shot showed an empty hallway. The photo was blurred, but the differences between the hall’s actual appearance and what was on the computer screen was startling. Gone were the yellowed walls and crappy brown and green carpet. In its place was wallpaper—a foiled gold-and-wine-colored paisley. The carpet was a solid blood red. The fixtures—lights, switches, brass plates on the door—were shiny and new.
“Where’d you take that?” Jason asked, hovering at her shoulder.
“At the Deluxe,” she said, closing out the file. She suppressed a shiver of dread.
“No kiddin’? How come I didn’t see that?”
She didn’t dare look his way. He’d see her shock and ask more questions. Questions she didn’t have any quick answers for.
“Tacky as hell, but—”
She gave a sharp shake of her head. “That’s not the way it is.” At last, she shot an upward glance.
Jason pushed out his lips. His gaze settled on her, waiting.
She knew he wouldn’t let her up from the chair until she gave him at least a clue of what was going on in her head. “It’s the way the hotel was.”
His gaze narrowed. “What do you mean?”
She rubbed a hand over her face. “I don’t know what I mean.”
A frown dug a line between his blond-brown brows. “I don’t think Reyes is going to pay us for those shots or our time since we didn’t get what he wanted.”
“Reyes is the least of our problems,” she muttered.
Jason groaned. “It was the anchovies, right? This is your revenge?”
Her mouth tipped up into a smirk. “You think this is all about you? Poor little rich boy.”
He shook his head, grinning, but the fine lines beside his hazel eyes deepened with worry. “Since this case looks like major woo-woo is involved, you have the lead. Where to first?”
Cait grimaced. Once again, she had no doubt they were headed straight down the rabbit’s hole. “I need to talk to Sam about that taped-off room.”
‘Tis the season… of ghosts, witches, curses and supernatural mysteries.
Autumn is my favorite season. It’s not just the blazing leaves ranging from ruby red to gold, nor the culinary delights of pumpkins, cranberries and sweet potatoes… it’s something deep in my Celtic soul that seeks rebirth during this time of year as the nights come earlier and mists shroud trees and fields. This is a time of reflection, gratitude and renewal. Autumn reminds me of the cycles of time – life, death and rebirth.
I’m a sacred site junkie, and was fortunate enough in younger years to stand within Stonehenge at sunrise, sit in a crop circle, and visit many places of mystery and power around the world. I’ve lived in a haunted house on the side of an isolated Irish hill, and knew no greater fear than having to get out of my car and enter the dark house alone.
I’ve collected sticks, stones and feathers all my life. Everything has a purpose. Spirit tells me things in symbolic speak – whether it’s a red-tailed hawk soaring above my car, or an ant hill in my lawn, there is a message.
My mother feared her psychic gifts. Since she was born in September and died in November, I’ll share a story here today in her honor. She went home to Ireland to die, so I was thousands of miles away at the time, in the home she’d made on the far side of the Atlantic. We’d said our good-byes before she left. One morning my father, who was with her, called and said she’d surely not make it through the day… that he’d phone after she passed away. At three o’clock in the afternoon, as I stood in her kitchen looking out over her swimming pool, I suddenly felt her around me. A little decorative tile she’d kept propped up on the kitchen countertop for years slammed face down onto the counter. I picked it up and read, ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life.’ In that moment I knew she was gone. I knew my father would phone soon, and sure enough I got the call ten minutes later. She’d stopped to touch me one more time on her way out and had summoned enough energy to put on that impressive supernatural display.
That was twenty-eight years ago, and I still value her message. You can, too. No matter what you are going through, every day we can all say, ‘today is the first day of the rest of my life.’
So, let me take a moment to share a bit about the novella – Autumn Masquerade – I released it this time last year. It’s a tribute to the beauty of this glorious season. Anna works in the corporate world and carefully guards her secret – she is a gifted psychic medium who speaks with the dead. Circumstances force her to be the only psychic at a luxurious masquerade ball in a palatial mansion, and she fears being unmasked. What will her boss think if he finds out she is psychic? Even if he doesn’t fire her, will he ever take her seriously again? Perhaps what is really bothering her is that beneath those concerns, she has fallen in love with the handsome widower. His rejection would leave her devastated. Neither of them knows that help is only a dimension away. His deceased wife decides the only way they’ll ever get their act together is with some assistance from beyond the grave.
Have a splendid autumn and be sure to read some wonderful stories.
Delilah, thanks for having me as your blog guest today.
GEMMA JULIANA is a multi-published author who lives in an enchanted cottage in north Texas with her handsome hero, teen son and a comical dog. She loves making new friends and hearing from readers. Exotic coffee and chocolate fuel her creativity.