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The pagan holiday of Halloween fast approaches the paranormal town of Apple Hollow, and Trixie Lyal is ready for the celebration. Her plans for a fun parade around town change when Orion and she receive a one-of-a-kind invitation to an exclusive seance, courtesy of a mysterious gift-giver. They can’t resist going, but end up with more than they bargained for when the seance goes awry, leaving one of them with more spirit than they came with.Now they have to figure out what the spirit wants before it decides it doesn’t want Orion’s body any more. Their merry adventure leads them from the highs of Amazonian gypsy country to the lows of the old bone plot in their search to dig up a dark secret in the town’s past before they’re buried beneath trouble.
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Copyright © 2017 by Mac Flynn
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Continue the adventure
Other series by Mac Flynn
I was surrounded by ghosts and black cats. Cobwebs hung from the lampposts and tombstones stood around every corner. The sounds of cackling and screams echoed over the long street. Skeletons and scarecrows sat in lawn chairs beside doorways and glared at cars and people alike. Everyone on the street seemed oblivious to these terrors as they strolled down the sidewalks, some with children and some without.
I had my own kid to deal with. And speaking of that, something even more terrifying wrapped their arms around me and pressed me against their chest.
“If you don’t finish your shopping soon I’m going to have to kidnap you back to my place,” Orion warnedme.
I wiggled in his grip. “Will you let go? I just need one more thing for my costume, okay?”
We stood outside one of the shops on the main street of Apple Hollow. The businesses were decked out in decor that honored the yearly festival of harvest and spooks, Halloween. In my hand was a plastic bag. In Orion’s hands were a half dozen other bags, andme.
He opened his arms and dropped me back onto the sidewalk. “This better not take as long as the other clothes.”
I turned to face him and grinned. “You know you liked watching me show off those skimpy black skirts.”
An amused smile slipped onto his handsome face. “Yeah, but it’s made things really hard for me ever since.”
I stepped backward away from him. “Then just be a good were-boy and wait here while I go get the last thing Ineed.”
I spun around and hurried down the sidewalk. There was just the finishing touch left to get, and my costume would be complete. I walked up to a corner store devoid of Halloween decorations. The name Leto Drug hung above the door. I walked up to the counter that stood at the back of the store. Behind the wide window was a mess of shelves with a wide assortment of prescriptions pill bottles.
A man over eighty in a long white coat greeted me. His thinning hair was parted down the middle and there was a bright smile on my face. “Good morning, Miss Lyal. What can I do foryou?”
I froze my smile on my face. It was still unnerving having people know me and I having no idea who they are. Fortunately, his name-tag read ‘MikeLeto.’
“I was wondering if you had eye patches for sale,” I toldhim.
He smiled and nodded. “Yes, we do. They’re over there.” He leaned over the counter and pointed at a wall to my left. “Just over there. The kids already bought the smaller ones, though.”
“Good thing I’m bigger,” I commented as I walked up to thewall.
The bell over the door rang. I looked at the entrance and saw a short old woman shuffle into the store. She wore a flowered white dress with a white sash around her waist. In her firm hands was a purse. She shuffled over to the counter and smiled at Leto. “Good morning, Mike.”
He returned the smile and nodded. “Good morning, Bertha. What can I do foryou?”
“Just the usual, and a small pumpkin candle,” she replied.
Leto frowned, but grabbed a small yellow candle from a nearby shelf. “You sure you want to dothat?”
Bertha’s face and she pursed her lips. “Very much so.” She glanced my way. Her eyes looked tired. She bowed herhead.
I waved and returned to my patch perusing, but not without keeping one eye on the woman.
“So how’s the good reverend dealing with this All Hallow’s Eve?” Leto asked her as he packed her candle and prescription into a small whitebag.
She sighed. “The usual fashion, but I won’t give away the surprise.”
Leto laughed as he slid the bag over the counter to her. “Dang. I was hoping to warn my great-nieces.”
The old woman took her bag and handed the pharmacist some cash. “Not this year.” She turned and shuffled to thedoor.
“See you later,” he called.
She didn’t turn back as she left the store. I continued my perusing. To the right of the medicinal shelving was one of miscellaneous toys, including a blowgun and popgun. Most of the inventory was out-of-stock for the coming ‘trick’ part of Halloween.
I found two eye patches and walked up to the counter. Leto rang up the bill. “So going as a pirate for the big town bash, eh?”
I grinned as I handed him some cash. “Not exactly.”
He smiled as he gave me my change. “I see. Wanting to keep it a secret, eh? Well, how about a trade?” He leaned his elbows on the counter and nodded at the shelving where I just stood. “I noticed you were admiring the blowguns. I don’t look like much now, but I used to be quite the marksman in my youth. I could hit a target that was barely in my sight.” He tapped his temple. “And you know how good a sight a werewolf has, Ibet.”
“I’m starting to,” I admitted.
He nodded at my bag. “So now that I’ve told you my secret, what’s your costume?”
I smiled and shook my head. “Thanks for the secret, but I’m keepingmine.”
He frowned as I slipped outside. The darkening sky warned me night was only an hour away. That would make it the eve of Halloween, or one day until the rave Orion told me the town threw every October31st.
I met my mate almost where I’d left him. He sat on a nearby bench with the bags around him. His head was lolled back and his tongue hung out. A folded piece of paper sat on his chest. I grabbed the paper and unfolded the parts to read the contents aloud.
“I’ve lost the will to live. Please have me cremated.” I rolled my eyes and folded the paper. “Seriously?”
Orion raised his head and grinned. “A few more minutes and I might have seriously considered suicide.”
I tossed the paper onto him and picked up a few of the bags. “Then let’s go home before you make a spectacle of yourself.”
We left the shopping district and strolled up the residential streets. The lawns and porches were covered in wooden tombstones and floating sheets of ghosts. Jack-o-lanterns sat on the porch railings and the slight autumn breeze rocked the porch swings in which sat scarecrows and zombie mannequins. Cobwebs hung in the trees and bushes, and orange solar lights lit up the walking paths.
“Everyone sure does go all out for this, don’t they?” I commented.
Orion smiled and nodded. “Yeah, even more than Christmas, but you can’t really blameus.”
I snorted. “Yeah, it’s like Halloween every day of the year for everyonehere.”
We reached Orion’s house. A veritable cemetery covered his lawn and a large spider hung from its thread off the porch. We paused at the mailbox and Orion pulled out the small stack.
He flipped through the envelopes. “Junk. Junk. Junk.”
I looked up at the clear evening sky. “Even out here there’s no escaping the junkmail.”
He nodded as he continued his chanting. “Junk. Junk. J-” He paused and held up a vanilla-colored envelope. A frown slipped onto his lips. “Are you expecting any letters?”
I shook my head. “No. The only one who knows I’m here is my mom, and she prefers email. Why?”
He held the envelope out to me. “Because this is foryou.”
I frowned and took the envelope. There was my name scrawled on the back in black ink. The handwriting was a cursive style with wide, looping strokes. There was no return address, or even a stamp. I opened the top and pulled out two small, black rectangular slips of thick paper. The color of the paper was faded and some of the corners werebent.
Orion arched an eyebrow. “Tickets to Madam Bentley’s seance?”
I looked over the white lettering on the front. The words confirmed Orion’s comment. I raised my eyes to look at him. “How’d youknow?”
He nodded at the tickets. “People around here tend to avoid using black in their correspondences, but not Madam Bentley. It’s her callingcard.”
My eyes flickered up to Orion. “Let me guess. This woman isn’t afake.”
He shrugged. “I couldn’t say. I’ve never been invited to one of her parties. Some people say she is, and some say she isn’t.”
I studied the tickets again. They read as follows:
You are cordially invited to Madam Bentley’s seance on the evening of October 29th. Please arrive on or before six o’clock sharp. Do not wear gloves.
I furrowed my brow. “So if you’ve never been to one how did I get invited?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. Those in attendance are usually part of an exclusive and random list of the most influential people intown.”
A sly smile slipped onto my lips as my eyes flickered to him. “And you’ve never been a part ofone?”
He grinned. “I guess I’m not random enough.” He pinched one corner of a ticket between his fingers and turned it over. “These look like pretty old tickets.”
I nodded. “Yeah. Somebody got invited and decided they weren’t random enough.” I looked over the envelope. Something caught my eyes. I held the envelope close to my face and squinted. “Does this look like a smudge toyou?”
Orion took the envelope and studied the light black marking on the front. He sniffed the spot and nodded. “It’s a smudge. I’d say some sort of paint.”
I looked down at the tickets in my hand and shrugged. “Whynot?”
He arched an eyebrow. “You want togo?”
I turned to face him and held up the envelope. “I receive an unmarked, hand-delivered envelope with two tickets to an exclusive seance. Somebody wants me to go there, and I’d like to find out who andwhy.”
Orion smiled and plucked a ticket from my hand. “That makes two ofus.”
I glanced at my watch. “We’ve got enough time for food. What kind of clothes do people where to these things?”
Orion cringed. “Let’s just say it’s anything we can find in our closets and skip the shopping.”
I grinned. “But we had suchfun.”
He grasped my arm and turned me toward the house. “If you’re hoping for a case of Stockholm Syndrome then I’m going to have to disappoint you. Anyway, let’s get cooking and see if we can’t find a skimpy outfit for you towear.”
I rolled my eyes. “Always with the sexy outfits.”
He stopped and leaned down. His lips captured mine in a sweet, intense kiss that left me breathless. A thrill of heat tingled my body. I wanted him to keep going all the way to the bedroom.
Orion parted us and grinned. “I expect to see that pirate costume of yours soon, but right now we have a news story to discover.”
I sighed and stepped backward toward the house. “I think I’ve created a monster.”
His eyes flashed a deep yellow and his crooked smile showed off his sharp teeth. “Too late, but let’s get cooking before we’re late to the seance.”
I laughed as he sidled up beside me. “Yeah, we wouldn’t want them to dial the ghosts before we get there.”
If only we’d beenlate.
We ate dinner and found a couple of clean sets of clothing. The address for Madam Bentley’s house was across town and closer to the river in the larger-and-richer-house district. Victorian mansions towered over the cool floating waters of the swift river. Their dark back lawns stretched toward the river’s edge and sank beneath the white beaches. The front lawns were small and abutted the cracked sidewalks of yesteryear.
A half-dozen expensive cars were parked on the curb in front of Madam Bentley’s home. The lights of her mansion glowed brightly in the dark evening sky and welcomed her guests. Orion and I strode onto the small wrap-around porch and paused before thedoor.
I glanced at him. “Is there anything I need to know about this woman before I meether?”
He smiled. “Not really. She’s just another normal occupant of Apple Hollow.”
I snorted and knocked on the door. “There’s no such thing as normal in this place.”
We heard footsteps approach the door. The entrance opened and revealed an old woman. She appeared to be just shy of Methuselah’s age with her thin strands of white hair and so many wrinkles she would make a basset hound jealous. She was short, barely five foot tall, and her gnarled hands with long, sharp fingernails grasped the knob of the door. Her attire was a simple black dress, and atop her head was a small, round felt hat only slightly taller than a beret.
She arched an eyebrow. “Can I helpyou?”
I held out our tickets. “We’re here for the seance.”
The woman furrowed her brow, but accepted the tickets and looked them over. She slowly shook her head. “How strange.”
I frowned. “Whatis?”
She raised her eyes and looked from Orion to me. “I didn’t invite either of you to the seance.”
“They look like old tickets,” Orion spoke up. “Or could they be forgeries?”
She held them up to the light of a lamp on the wall to her right. After a quick perusal she shook her head. “No, these are most definitely mine, but you’re right when you say they’re old. I only ever order eleven to make an even number at the table, and this year is no different.” She lowered her arms and glanced at us. “Even is lucky, youknow.”
I shook my head. “No, I didn’t know, but could you tell us who might have missed one of your famous seances?”
She shook her head. “No. They weren’t well-attended when I started them fifty years ago, and someone might have kept one by accident.”
Orion furrowed his brow and raised his hand with the fingers outstretched. He counted down several times. “Eleven guests plus two makes thirteen. Not a very lucky number any more, isit?”
I elbowed him and smiled at Madam Bentley. “If this is going to be a problem we can-” She held up her wizened old hand and shook herhead.
“On the contrary, this may be fate working its web over us.” She stepped to the side and swept her hand over the entrance hall. “In such a case, I must insist you come inside.”
“Fate and a vanilla envelope. . .” I murmured as we stepped inside.
Madam Bentley closed the door and stepped in front of us. “Please follow me. Everyone else is already in the parlor.”
We followed the madam down the hall to a large parlor at the back of the house. The large shelves bespoke the room’s original purpose as a library, but the rest of the decor was more mystical. Many of the shelves were filled with tomes about the occult and witchcraft. The windows opposite the entrance were covered by thick black cloth curtains. A chandelier hung from the high ceiling and black hoods over the light bulbs muffled the light to give the air in the room a foggy appearance.
A round table stood in the center of the room over a large rug outlined with the symbols of the zodiac. Twelve chairs were positioned around the table, and in front of one of them was a crystal ball and a pack of cards.
The other eleven guests stood in small groups around the room. I didn’t recognize any of them, but from their fancy evening attire I guessed we moved in not only different circles, but probably different squares, too. All of them glanced in our direction. More than a few frowned.
Madam Bentley walked over to the table and clapped her hands. The quiet murmuring of her guests stopped. She gestured to the table. “Now that everyone has arrived, if everyone would take their seats we will begin.”
One of the older gentlemen nodded at us. “Who arethey?”
Our hostess smiled and turned to us. “These are two surprise guests for the evening.”
“But I thought this was only for eleven,” another man spokeup.
Madam Bentley nodded. “Often, yes, but as they have tickets we will accept the amendment for thisyear.”
A woman with a large fan fanned herself and stared down her long nose at us. “Just as long as they don’t interfere with my time with Snookums.”
Madam Bentley set her hands on the woman’s shoulders and smiled. “Should I connect with your lovely Pomeranian I will ensure you have ample time withhim.”
The guests fears allayed, they strode toward the table.
Orion raised his hand. “Ghosting before midnight? Isn’t that against the rules?” The other guests paused and turned to glare at him. I jabbed him in the ribs with my elbow. He winced and shakily smiled at the group. “Sorry.”
“While midnight is a strong hour to capture the spirits, with my powers we need no set time,” Madam Bentley assured him as everyone took aseat.
Orion and I took our seats between a thin young woman with a pale face, and a heavy-set man in a tight blue suit. Madam Bentley slipped into the seat with the cards andball.
She tapped her finger on the pack. “Would anyone care to hear their fortunes before we begin? A mere twenty dollars to know the future.”
The first older gentleman to speak about us glanced at the woman to his left. She was his age, but very plump and with bright but empty eyes. They wore matching wedding rings. “I’ll pass,” he commented.
“I would,” the former Pomeranian owner spokeup.
Madam Bentley pulled the cards from the pack and shuffled them like a professional poker player. “That is good, for I see a dark cloud aboveyou.”
“She should get her own personal weather forecaster for that,” Orion quipped. Another of his ribs were bruised, courtesy of my elbow.
Our hostess finished her shuffling and doled out eight cards face-down in two rows of four in front of her. She flipped over the one in the top-left corner, and I saw they were tarot cards.
“This is your past. You have had much grief with you pets,” Madam Bentley commented.
“Everyone knows she’s been through more dogs than a kennel club. . .” I heard the portly man on Orion’s left side mutter.
The woman dabbed her eyes with a silk handkerchief. “Yes, it’s true. I’ve lost so many of my babies.”
Madam Bentley flipped over five more cards, making six of them face-up. “I see more sorrow in your future, but greatjoy.”
The woman sniffled. “Will I. . .will I see my babies again?”
Our hostess flipped the last two cards. One of them I recognized as the Death card, and the word itself was scrawled beneath the image of the Grim Reaper. “I see you living to a ripe old age and joining them in the afterlife. You will take them for walks.”
The woman smiled through her tears. “They always loved their walks.” She sniffled and dabbed her eyes. “Thank you, Madam Bentley, for giving me such comfort.”
Bentley shuffled the cards and smiled at the rest of us around the table. “Would anyone else like their fortunestold?”
The portly man raised his hand. “I’ll have my fortune told, if that’s what you callit.”
A tense hush fell over the room. The Pomeranian woman’s mouth dropped open. Others looked to our hostess.
Madam Bentley sat up and frowned. “What do you mean, Mr. Ambigo?”
He shrugged. “I just don’t see how this is any more than a guessing game, and you answered all her questions with vague replies that anybody couldgive.”
A dark look passed over her face. “Do you mean to insult me, sir?”
He leaned back and folded his arms over his chest. “I’m just saying I’m not impressed sofar.”
Her eyes narrowed. “We didn’t you voice these concerns when you asked me for aseat?”
A sly smile curled onto his lips. “I thought you could prove me wrong. I guess I was wrong, but not in your favor.”
Madam Bentley slammed the cards down on the table and stood. “If you wish for a stronger display of my powers then we will move on to the summoning.” She marched over to the door and flicked off the light switch.
The room was plunged into darkness save for the crystal ball. It cast a bluish glow over those around the table and illuminated our faces with an unearthly hue. Our hostess resumed her seat and hovered her hands over the surface of theball.
Her dark eyes flickered to Mr. Ambigo. “Do you wish to contact someone, sir?”
Ambigo opened his mouth, but the Pomeranian woman spoke up. “Please try to contact my Snookums!”
Ambigo smiled and gestured to the woman. “The night is young. Let her go first.”
“How kind of you, sir,” Bentley dryly replied as she ghosted her hands over the ball. She closed her eyes and tilted back her head. Her voice echoed through the dark, quiet room. “Spirits on the Other Side, please heed my call. Bring us news of Snookums.”
The light from the ball flickered and changed colors. Several of the guests gasped as a faint fog appeared above our heads. The fog shaped itself into the form of a small, fluffy dog. I jumped when the dog let out a loud, clear, high-pitched, really-annoyingbark.
The woman’s eyes widened and a smile stretched across her lips. She stretched her hand out to the fog. “Snookums! Oh, my lovely little-” The dog quipped. Its foggy shape dissipated. The woman cried out and whipped her head to our host. “Madam Bentley, what’s happening? Where is my Snookums going?”
Madam Bentley’s eyes were rolled back and her mouth was agape. A strange groaning noise issued deep from her throat. One of the people beside her reached out to shake her shoulder.
Ambigo stood so fast his chair flew back and clattered onto the floor. He stretched out his hand toward the man. “Don’t touch her!” The guest froze and joined the rest of us in blinking at the man. “She’s in a deep trance. Touching her might kill her, or worse.”
The color drained from the Pomeranian woman’s face. “What could be worse than killingher?”
He looked up at the swiveling vortex of fog above our heads and pursed his lips. “I don’t think we want to findout.”
A thick scent of pumpkin spice filled the room. The fog above us spun faster and faster. The fog shaped itself into a human form. Dark trousers emerged from the mist along with a vest and jacket. The physical features were those of a young man. His bright blue eyes were accentuated by the glow from the crystalball.
They also looked straight atme.
The man mouthed a few words, but no sound came out. He pressed his hands against his chest to emphasize himself, and then he stretched them out toward me. I wasn’t great at lip-reading or guessing body gestures, but I could recognize a sign for help when one floated five feet above myhead.
I stood and tilted my head back to look at the ghostly apparition. “What is it youwant?”
“Stay seated!” Ambigo barked atme.
The ghost dropped its arms to its side and gazed into my eyes. A horrible mixture of sadness and fear flooded my thoughts. My body fell into a stupor. I didn’t even have the will to fight as the spirit flew atme.
“Watch out!” Orion yelled as he shoved me out of theway.
I dropped backward onto the ground and faced Orion. The ghost flew into him and didn’t come out the other side. Orion’s eyes widened. He dropped to his knees and pressed his palm against the floor. His other hand clutched his chest as his face scrunchedup.
“Orion!” I called out as I scrambled over to his side. I leaned down and looked into his agonized face. “What’s wrong?”
Ambigo knelt on Orion’s other side and set his hands on my mate’s shoulders. “Do you feel cold?” Orion could only nod. “Come on, then. We need to get you to the station.”
“The station?” I repeated as the man helped Orion to hisfeet.
Ambigo nodded. “That’s whatI-”
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