Happy Halloween! If you’re looking for a story about being haunted, Livi’s novella Ashford’s Ghost is now available on its own in eBook.
Four months ago, Livi successfully killed the afreet who abducted her family and tried to murder her. Then she took over his villa and made ither base of operations/home, as any respectable treasure hunter in need of better digs is wont to do.
But this house is haunted, and she’s starting to think the ancient murderer she used the Seal of Solomon to destroy might not be entirely dead after all. Isolated in the house by a violent snowstorm, Livi is trapped with a dark force gathering strength by the hour, threatening not only the safety of her family but possibly her very sanity.
We now go live to Skyla at her new release celebration.
This is exactly the same as what was in Hauntings: Two Tales of the Paranormal BUT it also has the first three chapters (about 10K words) of the third Livi novel as a bonus. The final ebook will be going out to Patrons of Snark at certain reward levels shortly, though everyone got to read it while it was being posted.
ICYMI, here’s the novella’s playlist.
Below the cut, I’ll past an excerpt.
Above me the floor creaked slightly, just the smallest groan of wood under Cardosa’s steps. There was no telling how long he’d be up there. Ahead my gaze snagged Em’s open door, several meters down the hall. I could at least double check for any passageway in the closet, even if I wouldn’t go traipsing through it on my own.
I stepped swiftly for Em’s room, sparing the barest of glances into my own.
My feet stuttered to a halt when I caught something in the corner of my eye.
The curtains in my room were closed, leaving the room dark and shadowed. Bedclothes were still in disarray since I’d jumped out of bed. The air shimmered, not like heatwaves this time but flickering twists that altered the scene before me.
I blinked slowly, firmly, trying to clear my eyes, and took two steps into the room. The temperature remained normal, not growing hot nor cold, and the air was still and deathly silent. I reached out gingerly, passed my hand in front of me, but the shimmering didn’t affect my skin—just everything else I saw. My heart hammered loudly and I breathed through the fear, curiosity and confusion rising in place of terror.
Was I going mad as well as being haunted? Had the lack of sleep led to hallucinations?
Sudden quick steps and a child’s laughter sounded in the hall behind me; I spun around just as the door slammed shut, nearly jumping out of my skin.
“Em?” I called stupidly, foolishly, but what other child would be in the house? Denny couldn’t have dropped her off, but…
But you know she’s not here. What the hell is going on?
I went for the door, twisting the knob and yanking, but it was stuck tight. The lock was on the inside, just a cheap little thing, but no matter how I turned it, the door wouldn’t unstick.
I pounded my fist against the wood. “Cardosa? The door is stuck!”
Perhaps he couldn’t hear me, though, the walls and floor in the villa thick and insulated. I reached for the light switch, flicked it back and forth, but the overhead lamp stayed off.
A flashlight was pinned to my belt, but I didn’t reach for it yet. My eyes adjusted to the darkness of the bedroom, little by little able to make out the shape of the furniture, the bed. I whirled around and went for the nearest window, jerking the curtains wide open to spill the cold winter light inside. The glass fogged beneath my breath and I pressed my palms to the pane, staring at the endless blanket of white snow beyond.
A door creaked open behind me.
I spun and saw it was the closet, not the main door.
What are you doing. I immediately paced around the bed to peer in the open closet. You are being stupid, you don’t just walk through—
This wasn’t stupidity, though, because this entity enjoyed playing with me and the last thing I needed to be was screaming and terrified. Fuck that noise—I’d investigate, not sit in the corner and cry until someone rescued me.
I debated going for my gun, but I hadn’t found anything to shoot today other than a window. Besides, I might need my hands free. My fingers found the light switch just inside the dark closet, and I braced, unsure if it would work after the main one didn’t.
The light above flickered three times before coming on completely. I spared a glance upward—it could be the storm, could be the wiring, or could be something entirely less natural.
I crept forward, gaze scanning the racks of clothes. I’d barely used a third of the closet space—there’s no sense hanging T-shirts and caving coveralls, after all—which left plenty of blank walls and empty hangers. The passage Laurel and I had found in the other room was located in the very back of the closet, so I went there first, knocking my knuckles gently against the wall.
It didn’t sound as solid as it ought to.
I felt around the shelf above, squeezed myself beneath the empty rack to crane my head back, searching for something that might be a latch.
The closet door slammed shut and I let out a rather unflattering yelp.
But I kept breathing, kept calm, searching for a notch or latch or something—there had to be a reason I was led in here. Unless, of course, it was to burn me alive.
Minutes from now I’m going to be sitting in a burning closet saying, “This is fine” and sipping my coffee.
I stepped back with a frustrated sigh, instead looking around at the rest of the closet for anything that might be off. The one in the pool had been behind a sconce, but the light here was directly above me behind a brushed glass shade tight against the ceiling. I tried feeling along the molding around the door—nothing there.
I went back to the rear wall again, running my hands along the painted drywall and studying the corners. The walls hit at a tight forty-five degree angle, sharp. Perhaps it was a seam for a door, I couldn’t say for certain. I scanned my memory for different types of locking mechanisms, wondering if I could at least picture how this was put together, what ran behind the ceiling and floor.
I pressed my palms to the right, near the edge of the wall, and pushed hard.
There was a click and the wall swung inward—invisible push latch.
I pulled out my flashlight and shone it inside.
The air in front of me wavered and dizziness hit. I blinked, grasped the wall with my free hand, and tried to clear my head. My stomach lurched and I smelled—
Coffee? Why I did I smell coffee?
My eyelids were heavy as I forced them to open, head swam as I struggled to stay upright. The world that remained didn’t require my flashlight, bright sunlight streaming through big windows in a white hall with dark wood floors. French colonial architecture, the bones old but kept in repair. Bright splashes of green came from potted plants on side tables, and at the end of the hall ahead of me was a kitchen, a granite countertop just visible, and the scent of breakfast and coffee wafting toward me.
I trembled, my steps unsteady as I moved forward. And even before my gaze snagged the silver-framed photo on the small table to my left, I knew this hall, knew this house, knew the footfalls in the kitchen ahead of me.
This wasn’t real. Couldn’t be real.
But I looked at the photo to my left, at the little girl with a long strawberry blonde braid hanging over her shoulder beneath an English riding helmet, her hand firmly latched on the reins of a dark hunter—the horse much bigger than it should be for an eight-year-old, but she’d insisted over and over that she could handle it.
That I could handle it.
Because I was looking at a photo of me. In the hallway of my family home, where I’d not set foot in over seven years.
This isn’t real. You know it’s not real.
But I breathed in the smell of cooking food and brewing coffee, felt the solidness of the floor beneath my feet, shivered at the coolness of the picture frame as I gingerly touched its sharp edge.
It felt real.
The footfalls in the kitchen drew my attention again, then the gentle whisper of a chair leg carefully pulled over tile. A newspaper rattled and my heart lurched.
I started toward the kitchen I knew couldn’t exist, shaking straight down to my marrow as I neared the archway toward the person I knew couldn’t exist, my lips parting to utter one single, terrifying word.