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First pages

1: I’ll Always Remember my First

I’m the night janitor in a haunted teahouse, in the small, Pacific Northwest town of Sunset Cove, where things happen no one talks about. Ever. You’d think that would be enough weirdness for one person in a lifetime, but not for me. I’ve started a business on the side, to sort and sanitize supernatural drama. That is to say, I am the community’s first private detective. My name is Abby Jenkins.

I’ve studied sleuthing for years, reading every Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie and Charlaine Harris book in the public library. I rock at jigsaw puzzles. I’m naturally nosy. And my whopper-credential is that I know all the usual suspects in town, both of the human and supernatural kind. Of course we get visitors, but that’s beside the point. I figure I can solve a local whodunit with the best of them, especially if there’s a butler involved. What could possibly go wrong?

Although my jobs may sound unusual, I’m not a freak. I look like a regular thirty-two-year-old mom, the kind you see at the grocery store herding her three young children through the shopping aisles. My blond hair lives in a creative ponytail and my thrift-store clothes are stained with life. I can’t remember the last time I put on makeup. I avoid mirrors, not because I’m a vampire, but because they make me cranky. You could easily pass me by, and profile me as a normal, single-mom-next-door—a minion in the landscape of America. But I’m not. Unusual things happen to me.

It’s as if I have a sticker on my forehead, reading: “Send me your ghosts, poltergeists and living dead, and see what happens.” Some people call me, “that widow,” others, “the janitor in that place,” and now some call me, “the private dick without a dick,” but I refuse to be defined. I am simply Abby.

Let me tell you about my first case. Trust me, I’ll always remember my first.

***

At 2 p.m. on a stormy day suitable for ducks, I sat at my desk across from my first client in the attic of the Sunset Cove Teahouse, a Victorian gingerbread home with a wicked reputation for things that go bump in the night. The palms of my hands itched. I had never expected to live out my dream of being a detective, and I wasn’t sure I could pull it off.

I pushed a box of tissues across the desk towards the woman, hoping to stop her tears. She had cried since she entered my office, four minutes ago. I didn’t know her name or why she arrived at my doorstep. She walked in and sat down. Her fancy scent made my nose twitch.

I drummed the old, oak desk with my fingers and watched the seconds tick by slowly on the antique clock hanging askew on the opposite wall. My stomach twisted. This was not what I expected for my first day. I figured I would be looking for lost cats, wandering spouses or, at worst, lost souls. I had not anticipated tears.

My visitor was a noisy, theatrical crier, all sniffles and broken sighs. Her face flushed crimson and perspiration beaded her forehead, all signs she was definitely a live human. I checked the clock. Six minutes had passed.

I didn’t recognize her, so she had to be new to town. Fine lines radiated from her eyes. I pegged her to be a well-preserved forty-five. Her trembling right hand, holding a tissue to her nose, had a salon manicure. An expensive charm bracelet dangled on her wrist. Her left hand, resting on her lap, had a ring with enough diamonds to sink a casket. My fine sleuthing abilities surmised she could afford me.

“It’s haunted,” she blurted out. She blew her nose loudly and commenced crying again.

“I know,” I said. Of course I knew. Everyone knew. The Sunset Cove Teahouse was haunted and a—shall we say “interesting”?—gang of ghosts called it home. It was only quiet at that moment because they played elsewhere during the day. All I could hear in the house was the sound of people—of the breathing variety—coming and going from Azalea’s teahouse on the main floor, looking to find good fortune in their tea leaves. Azalea, the owner of the house was, among other things, a talented tea-leaf reader. The house belonged in a catalogue for the Best Haunted Businesses.

Trying to retain my cool PI persona I looked out my window. I could see most of Sunset Cove, a small inlet with a few boats, and a sleepy town nestled in a cozy semicircle around it. My window box overflowed with purple petunias, yellow pansies and midnight-blue lobelia. The sweet scent of the flowers almost masked the smell of the supernatural. I breathed in my Norman Rockwell moment, determined to wait out the woman’s tears.

They continued.

I squirmed in my seat, and I was not a squirmer by nature. Her problem had to be big, but that didn’t cut it with me. Label me a thrift-store snob if you like, but she looked way too comfortable to have any real issues, like starvation or marginalization. Or how about cultural genocide? Maybe her poodle got a bad haircut.

Most people dress casually in our sea-side town of five thousand people. For women, yoga pants or leggings with cool footwear covers you anywhere at any time, but she wore a pair of navy-blue dress pants, a white silk blouse and a well-cut blazer; an impressive power outfit, designed to take control of any situation. Her straight, platinum-blond, shoulder-length hair had enough highlights for a fashion cover. She wore black-leather stilettos with red soles that would cost more than six months of my part-time janitor’s salary. What could this woman possibly know about trouble?

She sniffed loudly.

“Would you like a cup of coffee?” I said.

She shook her head. “I need help.” She broke into another elongated sob.

The ticking of the clock echoed in the room. What did one do with a whimpering woman? I took a deep breath and decided to wait out her emotional episode. After all, doesn’t everyone need a good cry every now and then?

I am an expert on the power of crying. Two and a half years ago my husband died of cancer, leaving me with three children to raise, all under the age of six. Losing my high-school sweetheart broke my heart. Having to raise our kids on my own almost broke my backbone. I cried a lot as I pulled my life together, but I did it. I built a new life for myself.

The icing on this new life was to be this supernatural-PI gig, but it wasn’t looking too sweet at this moment. Why had I ever thought taking on other people’s problems would be fun? In one word—Eric. That’s why. My boyfriend Eric talked me into the mystery business. “Become a detective,” he said. “You love to solve mysteries,” he said. “You’re a natural,” he said. “And I’ll help,” he said.

Yeah right. At this moment, as I faced the whimper-queen, I felt like a real natural: a natural idiot. And he wasn’t here.

I handed her another tissue. “My name is Abby and I want to help you.” This was the third time I had said that, but this time she stirred.

Sitting back in her chair she made eye contact. Behind the tears, the hardness of her baby-blues jolted me for a second. This was no ordinary wilting woman.

“Charisma Dubois,” she said with a slight French accent that purred.

I nodded.

“I have a problem I’m told only you can help me with.”

Me? Did she want advice on breast feeding? How about potty training? I did have some awesome coping tips for late-night diarrhea. Nope, I guessed none of the above by the look of her. “Go on,” I said.

“I have inherited a property.”

“That’s nice,” I said with trepidation, because something in her tone was off.

“Oh, I don’t care about the property. I will sell it after . . .”

“After?”

“After I find the treasure.”

Of course, there would be property and treasure. “Treasure?”

“My great-grandmother Louise Dubois was a bit odd.”

“I see,” I said, though I didn’t see at all.

“She didn’t believe in banks and kept all her assets in diamonds.”

“And the diamonds are in the house.”

“Yes. Maybe. I’m not sure. I’m not sure at all, actually.” She stopped to sob. “According to my uncle’s will,” she continued, “I have been left my great-grandmother’s manor. No one has ever found her diamond stash and I believe it’s there.”

“Did anyone else inherit?” I didn’t want to get in the middle of a family feud. I’d seen too many murder mysteries about them.

“No. I’m the only living relative, and my uncle bequeathed me the house and all its contents.”

“Okay. So you want me to clean it so you can find the stash?” It was a Lysol job after all. Right up my alley.

The woman’s eyes shot wide. “Heavens, no.”

“Then what do you want me to do?”

Her spine stiffened as she raised her pointed chin. “I want you to find my diamonds.”

“Why don’t you go into the house and look?”

“I tried that.” Staring at a spot above my head as if the answer were there, she wiped gently at her nose. “I was told you understand abnormal things, things beyond the normal, supernatural events and such.”

“Are you saying the house is haunted?”

“It would seem so. Yes.” The color in her red face drained to a sage-green hue. Now the hysterical crying made sense. Encounters with the dead unravel the best of us.

My squirmy butt froze. “Okay, let me get this straight. You want me to go with you to a haunted house and look for diamonds.”

“Yes,” she said with glee. “But not with me, Ms. Jenkins. No, no, I don’t want to go back there. I’m from Montreal. I’ll pay you to find the treasure for me. I’ll pay you well.”

“Uh-huh.” Clearly something in the house had scared the bejesus out of Ms. Dubois. If I was a sane person I would’ve turned her down right then and there, especially given my experience with a poltergeist, but the scent of mystery pulled on my natural and too abundant curiosity. Not to mention the thought of having extra money in my pocket. I rubbed my chin.

“I’ll pay you double your normal fee.”

I pushed a contract her way. “We’ll start with a two-hundred-dollar retaining fee, and I’ll charge you by the hour. If you write down the address I’ll get started tomorrow.” Surely Eric would turn up by then and we could go together during the day when most ghosts are busy in other dimensions. I gave her a professional smile and myself a mental thumbs-up.

“I want you to start today.”

I nodded. Of course, Ms. Power Suit would demand more than I was willing to give.

After she filled out the contract and handed me five-hundred dollars in cash, she wrote down the address, which I read out loud: “Graystone Manor, 333 Witch’s Peak Road.”

“It’s five miles north of town, up a windy road, but not hard to find,” she said. Her eyes narrowed to pinpricks. “I will pay you double your regular fee for every hour you look for the treasure and an extra finder’s fee when you retrieve the stash.” She hesitated a moment. “Say ten thousand dollars.”

Ten thousand? Oh my word! My heart raced. There were so many things I could do with that kind of money, starting with finding a place to live without a leaky roof.

I bit my lip. I needed to concentrate on things at hand. Witch’s Peak? I didn’t know there was such a road. For that matter, I didn’t know there was another haunted house in town. I had so much to learn.

“The sooner you start the better,” she said as she pulled a set of keys out of her purse and handed them to me.

I stood to shake her hand and wondered.

Better? Is that better for me? Better for her? Or better for the ghosts?

Two

The day was gloomier than a Stephen King nightmare. Originally from the interior, I have ongoing issues with the weather in the Pacific Northwest. Sunset Cove is on the edge of civilization, nestled comfortably between a mountain range and the ocean. You could not find a more beautiful place to live when the sun shines, but when the storms settle in, it turns nasty. It had rained for three days straight. According to Alfred, my favorite weather guy on the radio, a storm front had moved in from the Pacific, bringing with it a low ceiling of dark clouds and constant drizzle. With a low, rumbling voice, he warned lightning could strike later in the day. I put on my rain-coat and rubber boots and headed out the door.

As I drove to Witch’s Peak Road, I wondered why I didn’t feel more excited about visiting the haunted manor. It was my first investigation, my opportunity to prove myself as a detective, to earn a reputation in town as the queen of investigators and, best of all, it was my chance to earn ten-thousand dollars. I should be thrilled, I really should, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had bitten off more than I could chew, which in the supernatural world could spell disaster. Whatever I bit could bite back and chew with ferocious intensity. Unease sank its teeth into my shoulder muscles.

And where the heck was Eric, my PI partner?

Worrying won’t help, I told myself. I needed a to-do list, a straight-forward way of going about things. A one, two, three fix-it solution. Ms. Dubois wanted me to go into her haunted house and find a lost item. That should be simple.

So what if the manor was haunted? I did “haunted” on a regular basis. What was one more domain of the undead? The memory of the poltergeist who had tried to devour my children crossed my mind. Yeah, there was that. Not all ghosts were equal. Like breathers, there were some I would prefer not to meet. Especially in a spooky place. My gut clenched. But what were the odds it would be one of the bad guys?

Fifty-fifty? Too even. Life’s not like that. At least not mine. Okay. Sixty-forty, bad to good. But it only takes one nasty poltergeist to ruin your day.

What had I gotten myself into? And why on god’s green earth was I going in alone?

Technically, I was not supposed to be doing this alone. Eric was my sworn partner in stealth, my protector and my guy, but I had no idea where he was.

Did I even want to think about Eric right then?

I met him the second night I was in Sunset Cove and we’d been an “item” since then. Albeit an unusual “item.” It’s hard for me to describe Eric without using a lot of sappy superlatives. You could say he’s beyond the normal. As in, way beyond.

To start with, he’s physically large, as in six-foot-six inches of easy-to-look-at muscle. With the broad shoulders of a line-backer and six-pack abs of a gymnast, he makes an unforgettable impression wherever he goes. His eyes are an arctic blue that turns steely when he’s mad. A battle scar crosses his right brow, but that just adds to his rugged good-looks. The only imperfection I’ve found on his body are his feet, which are so long they look like flippers, but who looks at a guy’s feet when there are better bits to admire?

To be honest his Nordic good looks are not what I fell for. He has more integrity than a legion of boy scouts. He’s the kind of guy who’s always there for his loved ones, feet firmly planted on the ground, shoulders squared to danger. The kind of guy they write stories about. For the last two years, he has stood by me and my children, helping us in every way he can. He is my rudder in my mucky life, my rock in the murkiness, my confidant and my friend.

Yes, there is no question in my mind, or my heart, Eric Eklund is the perfect man for me. Perfect, except he’s dead.

As in dead and gone, but not completely gone. Eric is a thousand-year-old, Viking ghost.

As they say, love is complicated.

After my client, Charisma Dubois left, I had considered waiting for Eric before I started the investigation. I probably should have waited. But he’d been missing for the last two nights and that wasn’t normal for him.

Did I mention my number one complaint about having a ghost for a boyfriend is they don’t use cell phones?

When Eric faded into another dimension three mornings ago, he warned me not to expect to see him for a few days. While it sounded odd, I didn’t press him. I didn’t want to seem clingy and I had come to accept that his life as a ghost had complications I didn’t fully understand.

I smiled weakly, and he said, “Later, my snygg rumpa,” in a low rumbling voice that raised the temperature in the room. Yeah, I knew his words meant “nice ass.” I’d let him pillage my village anytime, if that were possible.

But now was not the time to think about him and our complicated love life. I needed to concentrate on the mystery at hand, the one that could put a solid roof over my family’s head. I had to take command of this situation, so it didn’t take command of me. Supernatural beings like to do that. I hit the steering wheel with the palm of my hand. I would make my first visit to the haunted manor a quickie. I’d go in and straight out again. What could go wrong?

I needed to keep it simple. To start with, all I needed to know was if anyone alive or dead lived there. That shouldn’t be hard. I’d check the kitchen for food, which would cover the living souls, and smell the house for the other kinds. Resident spirits may not be active during the day, but their scent lingers and I have a pretty good nose for them. Supernats all have distinctive odors. I find one part disinfectant to two parts water clears the air for twelve hours.

I took a deep breath. I would get a smell of the place.

Five-minutes tops. That was all my mini-investigation would take. I would get the information and hit the road. Hopefully I could tell Eric all about my adventure that night and together we would figure out our next step while I drank a big glass of merlot. The thought of talking with Eric calmed my nerves. Having a partner in crime was wise, even if he was absent.

The old wooden sign on the road read: Graystone Manor, 333 Witch’s Peak. It stood at an odd angle, as if the ground had sunk under one of its legs. Beneath the words some jerk had written in spray paint: “Beware.” It was in orange and outlined in black. A paralyzing fear slithered up my spine as I turned into the lane leading to the manor, which sat at the top of the hill. I crossed my fingers and prayed to all that is holy.

Tightening my grip on the wheel, I followed the long driveway as it wound through a dark forest and thought about what ten-thousand dollars in cash would look like. Trees hung over the road, forming a canopy of leaves. Light streaked through the foliage here and there, and at times I found myself in total darkness. The place definitely had atmosphere. I’d give it that.

I emerged into a clearing and there stood Graystone Manor in all its gloomy glory.

As I stepped out of my car, a chorus of unearthly howls greeted me. Long, low, baleful howls that echoed through my bones, sounding like the lament of a thousand tortured souls. A graveyard chill washed over me and sent goose-bumps down my arms. The incessant howls surrounded me, enveloping me with a sense of dread darker than my worst nightmare. All this in less than a minute. I tried to swallow my fear, but my mouth was too darn dry.

Just dogs, I told myself, but my body knew better. They were not normal dogs.

I slammed the car door, squared my shoulders and turned to face Graystone Manor, as if it were the monster who hid under my bed throughout my childhood. It was just a building, after all, a place with four walls, nothing more. Okay, maybe it was more than four walls. It was freaking formidable.

Was it the sound of the hounds? Maybe it was the cold gloominess of the sky, or the horror of being alone at this moment. Who knew what forces were at work on my mind? The manor had a supernatural presence larger than the accumulation of gray stones used to build it. Standing four stories above the ground, it loomed over me with a menacing air. The windows were blackened by dark curtains. No smoke came from the brick chimneys. The shutters on the first floor hung at crooked angles. It had more than a weathered and empty look; it had a distinctly forbidding look.

Now that I thought about it, I had heard Joy, the receptionist at the teahouse, tell me about this place. When she had turned ten she had been double dared to spend a night here, but she had chosen to kiss the guy with the bad acne instead, and he was now her best friend. The forbidding appearance of the place had given her goosebumps, but that had been a minor part of her story. That would be over ten years ago. Any manner of beast could have moved in since then.

A flash of light drew my attention to the second floor. Had someone opened a curtain?

I swiped at the rain running down my face. I couldn’t stand there forever in the storm. The chorus of howling canine beasts seemed to agree, their voices growing louder.

The gray sky darkened as dusk settled into the landscape, as if it were a paralyzing metaphysical condition and not a matter of diminishing light from the sun. I had hoped to see the place in full daylight. Where had the time gone? I checked my cell phone. Whoa Nelly. It was only 3p.m. and yet the gathering gloom made it feel like night. Why so dark? Growls accompanied the howls and I questioned my need to see inside the house. I could go home to my children. The ones who lived under the leaky roof. Damn those hounds from hell, the gathering of inexplicable darkness and the oppressive supernatural feel of the manor. Damn it all.

I would take a couple pictures and get away, have proof that I had arrived. At least I could do that.

As I clicked the camera, a cat brushed against my legs, sending a tidal wave of dark thoughts shuddering through my system, stealing my breath and pinching my sanity. A voice inside me said I should be scared. I should be very scared.

But, instead, I felt anger.

Oh to heck with this supernatural dog-and-cat show. I won’t be deterred by anyone’s flea-ridden pets. Let’s see what’s hiding inside.

Three

In the century that Eric Eklund had roamed the earth he had experienced many things, some good, some not so good, he would say, but the only thing that truly repulsed him was witches. He hated everything about witches. He hated their spells, their politics, their interfering ways and most of all their cackle. Even good witches cackled in dark moments. This he knew. It was in their blood. Whenever he heard the sound, it prickled along his ghostly spine. As a personal rule, he did his best to avoid witches.

Until this day.

Eric, known to be philosophical from time to time, might have enjoyed the irony of the situation, if he could have stepped outside himself. He would muse how odd it was that death constantly put him into situations that made him uncomfortable, as if a gravitational pull existed to torture him. He would undoubtedly blame the Norse trickster god Loki. But today he wasn’t thinking about the ironies of death, or the machinations of the gods.

Today he was searching for a witch. Not just any witch. He was searching for the one who could give him a beating heart. He wanted to reverse his death, to be a warm-blooded, breathing man, to be a partner to Abby.

He had given up trying to discuss this with her. She didn’t approve of his quest and she had made that more than clear. “It’s forbidden,” she had said. “Forbidden for a reason.”

All the so-called supernatural experts agreed on this point. The unnatural transformation of a ghost to a human would upset the balance of the universe, yada, yada, yada . . . Ox crap. If he held her in his arms, he knew Abby would change her mind.

Besides, no one knew exactly what trouble would result from his getting a heartbeat. They just said it would be bad. Really bad. If he were to become alive, there would be a price. That was just the way the balance of matter and energy worked on an elemental level of magic. It sounded like superstitious-garbage to him.

Grunting, and cursing in ancient Swedish, he slid between dimensions and landed at the door of the mӓstare’s castle, which sat on top of the highest mountain in Eyeacore, the realm of the ancient magi.

***

The acrid smell of burning sage and old magic oozed from the seams of the ten-foot iron doors in front of him. If he had any sense, he would turn back now. A crawling sensation ran up his ghostly spine as he reached for the enormous carved handle. He could still go back. He could . . .

Images of the moon, the sun and the stars covered the doors, symbolizing the light and dark magic that dwelled within. It could be a bad sales job, he thought. Sorcerers were known for their power, intellect and secrecy. Honesty was never their strong suit.

He gripped the handle. His shrink had told him this sorcerer was one of the oldest witches in the universe; a true mästare, a magical guide whose specialty lay in accessing the mystical essence of life. A wizard to avoid. We shall see.

With a low moan the door pulled away from his hand, revealing a long, dark corridor, lit with the flickering light of ten tall candelabras set out on tables lining the walls.

As he entered, six closed doors appeared, three on one side and three on the other. Light trickled beneath each.

Why did witches make everything so complicated? Why could there not be one door? That was how a Viking would do it.

A light breeze arose from the polished marble floor, adding an earthy smell to the sage and magic, but they were far from earth and the scent had been added to make him feel more at home. The sound of a steady heartbeat grew with the smell. Bump bump . . . bump bump . . . bump bump.

För fan i helvete. For the devil in hell.

He forced himself not to think about whose heart he heard, or what had happened to them. The sorcerer could be testing him. It was just a sound, no more special than the sound of a cricket at sunset, or a music tape.

A creaking sound drew his attention to the right. The first door opened, spilling blinding light into the corridor. He squinted. A tall, wizardly-man emerged from the light with a nine-foot walking stick made of weathered oak. He wore a gray wool cloak and an impenetrable expression. As he approached, the back light dimmed.

“Viking, I have been expecting you,” he said. As his voice resonated in the hallway, the walls magically shifted, leaving Eric standing before him in a large, regally appointed room. The sorcerer smiled. “I am Guiden.”

“I am Erick Ecklund of Sweden.” He bowed.

“You are the ghost who wants to live again.”

How did he know? Only his friends, Abby and his shrink knew, and none of them would betray his confidence. He said nothing.

“Your heart, great warrior, precedes you. Your desires are known.”

Eric nodded. “Is it possible?”

“I see you are not one for small talk. So Viking of you. Necromancy is no small matter.”

Eric liked to look a man in the eye when he spoke to him, a man-to-man exchange, but he couldn’t do it with the sorcerer. Holding the mӓstare’s gaze proved more difficult than taming a wild gelding. His eyes did not appear human at all. Maybe they never had been. His orbs were multi-faceted mirrors, shifting with the flickering candle-light, and within them Eric could see an ebbing and flowing of some unseen force. They held more depth and more power than Eric imagined possible. Blue one moment, gray the next and sometimes white, they constantly evolved, as if they had no point of origin, or point of destination, as if they were beyond all such concepts; as if they reflected the universe itself.

Eric swallowed his humility and held his ground. His battle-axe hand itched.

The old witch—for Guiden was a witch among other things—gave him a patronizing smile, as if he understood Eric’s thoughts and found them simple.

“To return something dead to life requires turning life to death,” he said with the matter-of-fact tone of a tax accountant.

That made sense to Eric. Ugly sense, but sense all the same. A life for a life. “Must it be human?”

The wizard tilted his head and sighed. “Would you barter for your life with a rat?”

“No, of course not. But I have no intention of taking the life of a human.”

The hooded head tilted and the sorcerer’s orbs glinted at Eric from an angle. “What if the human deserved to die?”

“No one deserves to die.”

“I see. You are not willing to be my assassin.”

“Definitely not.” Eric’s free hand formed a fist. The sorcerer was not the first to want to use his warrior abilities.

Guiden shrugged as if it were not a biggy. “There are other ways.”

Hope swelled in Eric’s chest. This was what he had come for. Surely there was a way. His love for Abby could not be denied forever.

“But I have to tell you, Viking, killing a person would be the easiest. Matter for matter. Energy for energy.”

“You said there was another way. Perhaps more elemental? I heard there is ancient magic that could do the deed.”

“Yes there are ancient spells, but they all involve death. You cannot have life without death.”

“I see.”

The sorcerer’s orbs turned black. “But we could stick with life, if you insist. That is to say, we could have you both alive at the same time, but not in the present.”

“In the past? You mean we could be together in the past?” Why hadn’t he thought of that?

“Yes. If we transported Abby back to your first lifetime, you could be together and both of you would be alive.”

“But her children?”

“There are children?”

“She has three.”

The mӓstare’s expression turned sour. “No, you would not want to risk young lives.”

Eric’s heart fell. “Is that it, then?”

“Eric Eklund, I know you’re a Viking warrior, but I also know you have a brain. Think, man. I am making you a once in a lifetime offer, something only I can give you. I am offering you immortality.”

“Without a soul.”

His gaze flashed fire. “I’m not in the business of souls. Buying, selling, trading or destroying them. I’m not convinced they exist, for that matter. I don’t care about them. What I offer you is a chance to be alive again. Be my assassin and you will breathe forever. You can mate as many times as you wish through all eternity. Live like a god.”

“With blood on my hands.”

“You’re used to that. It’s just a red bodily fluid.”

“No, Grand One. I thank you for meeting with me and I thank you for your honesty. I cannot be yours, or anyone else’s, assassin.”

“Hmm.” The scent of sage intensified. “How about once. Only once. One man. You kill one man for me and I will give you one lifetime in return.”

He shook his head. “I will not barter lives.”

“You have killed men in the past. Many men. What is one more?”

“I never killed a man without a reason, and I never will. It is a matter of honor, a matter of what is right and what is wrong. In warfare I kill to protect my people. I will not kill a stranger for no reason.”

“Oh, I assure you there will be a reason.”

Eric shook his head. “I will not bargain my soul for your profit. I love Abby and she me, but neither of us would want me to kill others so that we could consummate our love.” He turned to leave, before he gave in to the temptation of the offer. The thought of holding Abby in his arms was tempting and immortality beyond comprehension. And damn it all from here to eternity, the sorcerer was right. Killing was easy for him.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Jo-Ann Carson's stories are a saucy mix of fantasy, adventure and romance. Her latest stories are in the Gambling Ghosts Series: A Highland Ghost for Christmas, A Viking Ghost for Valentine’s Day, Confessions of a Pirate Ghost and The Biker Ghost Meets his Match. She also wrote the Mata Hari and Vancouver Blues series. Currently she’s working on a spin-off series called A Ghost & Abby Mystery. Once a school teacher, she loves watching sunrises, playing Mah Jong and drinking coffee.

Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
How far would you go for someone you love? Would you risk your life? Your soul? Although the story is light and fun, these questions are central to the plot.
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
I enjoy reading all kinds of books, but lately I've been drawn to the stories of Charlaine Harris, Angie Fox and Kristen Painter. Their light and dark paranormal worlds are rich backgrounds for stories and I love their humor.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
I love this question. I don't have a choice. The stories haunt me.

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Two Old Flames. One New Destiny.
High Ground
Small town under siege by laser weapons firm