Archive for August, 2013

Serial Short Story: Closure Part 2

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Part 2 of Closure for your enjoyment!

She approached with caution, and as she stepped through the open gate, a breeze rattled aspen leaves. Pine needles rustled in the wind, and created a sound almost like a woman’s sigh. She stopped and glanced around. She was alone, just as she wanted. Pippa walked as near as she dared. Like Jason had said, the place was dangerous. But maybe it wasn’t just the hulking ruins that harbored danger; maybe it was the phantoms that lived here. She knew they lived here.

The sound of an engine startled her, and she swung around. A sheriff’s car pulled into the area and stopped next to her SUV. Great. She recognized Jason as he exited the vehicle and walked toward her. His face was a mask of disapproval. She’d be lucky if he didn’t write her a citation for trespassing, but she didn’t care.

When the deputy reached her, he planted his hands on his hips again. Tall, hot, and totally masculine, he embodied a true alpha male. Yet she didn’t fear him. Instead his presence eased her mind.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he asked. “Did you break the lock?”

“Of course not. I planned to stand outside the fence, but when I got here it was open.”

“It’s not safe up here.”

“So you said before.”

A gentle smile touched his mouth. “You in the habit of disobeying orders from law enforcement?”

She returned his grin. “No. I’ve never even had a speeding ticket Sgt. Hawkes.”

“Jason.”

He hadn’t asked her to call him by his first name that night a year ago, but since she’d thought of him this way all along, she certainly didn’t have trouble calling him by his first name. “Jason. I suppose you’re going to ask me to leave now.”

A breeze rattled the chain link fence.

“No. I understand about PTSD. My father had a bad case of it after Operation Desert Storm. He had a lot of symptoms. Nightmares. Bad temper. The works. So I guess you could say I understand what it’s about even though I’ve never had it myself.”

Relief made her say, “Everyone responds a little bit differently to trauma.”

His brow furrowed. “What you experienced … it was bad. A nasty situation.”

She shook her head, and she rubbed her arms once more trying to banish the cold. The temperatures hovered around the upper forties, and with the cloud cover increasing, it would probably snow later tonight. She imagined the blackened, crumbled building with snow crusting the stonework.

She closed her eyes. “The fire did it to me. I never realized how afraid of it I was until it happened.”

She remembered rushing from the building with the other members of the team, horrified after they’d discovered a fellow paranormal investigator dead. The fire hissed, snapped, crackled in her ears even now, the heat building so fast. So fast. He touched her shoulder, and her eyes flew open as she gasped.

“Easy.” His voice rumbled softly as he cupped her shoulder and rubbed gently. “You all right?”

*

Next week, the end of Closure

Serial Short Story: Closure Part 1

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Hey guys, here’s the first part of CLOSURE which is the last short story connected to my Asylum Trilogy. This story takes place in present day and has some spoilers in it since it takes place after the last book, Asylum III: Shadows Fall. Still, this is just a tiny romance and I hope you like it and pick up the whole trilogy!

Closure

One year after the tragic events at Tranquil View Condominiums, PTSD still holds paranormal investigator Pippa Collingwood in its grip. Perhaps with the help of sheriff’s deputy Jason Hawkes, she can find closure.

Simple, Colorado

October

Present Day

“I’m interested in the Tranquil View site,” Pippa Collingswood said to the receptionist at the front desk of the sheriff’s department offices. “I need to go there.”

The tall, older woman looked up at Pippa with skepticism written on her round face. “No one goes there.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s condemned and the corporation that owns it hasn’t done anything to the site.” The woman’s rough-edged voice held pure contempt for the idea. “Damn place is dangerous if you ask me. They’ve put a fence around it, but the teenagers keep getting in there trying to make some crazy Blair Witch type movies.

Pippa glanced at the woman’s nametag. “Connie, all I want to do is see the place. I’m hoping …” She drew in a deep breath. “I’m hoping it brings me some closure.”

Connie tossed her pen aside. A patient expression eased over her face. “Did you live there?”

Apprehension rose inside Pippa. She didn’t want to explain to a stranger, but what choice did she have if she wanted to visit Tranquil View? “No. I was on the paranormal investigation team that was up there when the place burned down last year.”

Connie’s eyebrows went up, and she tilted her head to the side. “Really?”

“Really.”

Connie’s attention went toward the office door, and Pippa followed the woman’s gaze. A tall, muscular man dressed in a sheriff’s department uniform stood in the entry. Jason Hawkes.

The khaki, long-sleeved shirt couldn’t hide the width of his shoulders, and Pippa knew all too well the power in his arms. Heat flooded her as his dark eyes caught and held hers. Recognition blossomed in the deputy’s expression. Pippa wondered if he remembered the night of the fire as well as she did, and the sparks that ignited between them.

“I wouldn’t advise anyone go up there for any reason,” the deputy said.

“I understand. I’m not one of the teenagers, and I don’t have any intentions of doing an investigation or a movie about the place. I just need to see the place.”

“Closure?” he asked as he moved into the room and stood near Pippa.

Didn’t the man have a sense of personal space? He stood too close, or maybe her body reacted too easily to memories of how it felt to have his arms around her.

“Deputy Hawkes, I don’t want to break the law. That’s why I came here to see what the proper procedure is to visit the place.”

“I do a check of the place now and again to make sure the fence is secure and some idiot kid hasn’t fallen into the ruins and hurt themselves,” he said. “But Steele Company doesn’t like people snooping around. The county also doesn’t want lawsuits.”

Frustration rose inside her. A cold sensation filled her center, and she buttoned up her long wool coat and tugged her sock hat down over her ears. “I’m not going to sue anyone.”

“Why are you back in Simple?” he asked.

What could she say without sounding like an idiot? She gave herself a moment and took in Jason’s disturbing presence—disturbing because her mind didn’t seem to want to work properly around him. Since he’d taken care of her the night of the fire, she hadn’t forgotten him and the compassion he’d shown her. Even if the deputy wasn’t the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen, Pippa couldn’t ignore the law enforcement command in his husky voice or the way he planted his hands on his hips. She dared meet his deep brown eyes, and her breath caught.

“I’m dealing with PTSD,” she said.

Although PTSD was better understood since the return of soldiers in recent years, people often reacted as if she’d grown a second head when she explained that she had PTSD. Jason’s gaze warmed, his rugged features softening. He pushed one hand through his short hair, but he didn’t say anything and the silence lengthened.

Pippa’s temper shortened, and she tried a deep breath to bring back her perspective. “Look, what if there was someone with me? I’ll head back to Denver and return with a friend. I won’t be alone.”

Connie chuckled. “Wouldn’t do that, either. The weather is supposed to go to hell in the next few hours.”

Pippa had seen the weather report. “I know. I’m staying at the Burns Inn in town. I figured I’d stay a few days, do a little shopping and relaxation.”

Jason crossed his arms over his chest. His gaze had returned to sharp and speculative, and she mourned the understanding and compassion she’d seen in his eyes moments before.

“As I said before, I advise against a visit up there,” he said.

Enough was enough. She wouldn’t get a satisfactory answer here. But she also wouldn’t give up. “All right. Sorry to have bothered both of you. Thank you for your help.”

Pippa hurried past the deputy, tears filling her eyes as emotions threatened to swamp her. She hated feeling this way, this out of control. She’d never been like this … until the fire. She understood her low threshold for frustration might have something to do with PTSD, and she’d talked with a therapist more than once. He’d suggested she return to Simple at some point and face her proverbial demons. She could face the monsters in her memories and her dreams if she saw the place that haunted her every day and every night.

Determination fueled her as she left the parking lot and headed back up Main Street. She didn’t take in much about the town as she drove toward Tranquil View. Simple had gone through an uproar after the condos had burned down. All she wanted was to learn how to clear her mind once and for all of the weird events of that night. Maybe she could even forget how it felt to be held in Jason’s arms. She shivered, but not in cold. She turned down the heat and pulled the sock hat off her hair. She pushed her fingers through her short blond curls. She felt out of sorts and edgy, and not only because she headed toward Tranquil View. Because she couldn’t afford to forget that night. Sure, she could banish memories of the fire, but then she’d also have to forget the comfort and the attraction she’d felt growing between her and Jason.

Forget it. He probably has.

Then again, maybe not. She could have sworn she saw memories in his eyes, as if he’d recalled the night with vivid clarity, and not just because of the tragedy. She shrugged it off. She’d visit Tranquil View, exorcise the demons in her head then go back to town for some shopping and relaxation. She had two days left on her vacation before it was back to her work as a legal assistant in Denver.

As she drove up the long road toward Tranquil View, her muscles tightened. She concentrated on taking one slow breath after another. Her iPod was plugged into the radio and played a podcast she listened to on a regular basis. The discussion on paranormal investigation distracted her. Whenever she drove anyplace these days she listened to a podcast and the PTSD symptoms lessened. Her heart beat in a slow and regular rhythm. Her breathing stayed smooth and slow. All is well.

When the long driveway up to Tranquil View appeared, she slowed the vehicle to make the turn and stopped. She inhaled another deep breath and another. Steady. You can do this. She forced her foot down on the gas pedal and continued up the tree lined hill until she reached  chain link fencing. The huge fence circled the front of the property. Pippa parked and turned off the car. She stared at the burned out ruins of Tranquil View Condominiums. Hair on the back of her neck prickled as she looked through her windshield at the huge acreage of blackened buildings. She rubbed her arms and this time when she shivered, cold was a factor. She pulled on her sock hat and got out of the car. As she walked, she realized the gate on the fence hung wide open. What was the chance of that?

Part 2 coming up this weekend!

Serial Short Story: Whispers Part 3

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Here ya go! The last installment of this short story. Enjoy!

As if agreeing, wind fluttered through the pines and set them in motion. The breeze tugged at her curls—her blonde hair was tucked under her modest brown tweed hat.

He reached out and touched the collar of her matching suit. “You’re all buttoned up. How are your parents? How is the college?”

“My parents are fine.” Her father’s work with the post office gave him a reasonably good income, and her mother was still raising Sarah’s sixteen-year-old sister. “Beth is giving mother quite the time.” She drew in a heavy breath. “Work is … I’m getting bored with it if you want the truth. Helping young woman enroll in a college for secretarial skills … it lacks …”

“Excitement?”

She smiled. “You could say that.”

He tilted his head slightly to the side, curiosity in his eyes. “What would you do if you weren’t working at the college?”

His question made her pause. “I don’t know.” The fact she didn’t know disturbed her. “I don’t know.”

He reached up and gently brushed his fingers under her chin. “Maybe you are as lost as I was. You denied you saw ghosts after people mocked you. Do you still pretend you can’t see them?”

She looked around. “I don’t see them anymore. Sometimes I feel them. But I’m not sure I want to see them again. Admitting the truth to people now won’t make us any less ridiculous in their eyes, Malcolm. Why don’t you just tell the doctors you were wrong and you can leave here?”

Disappointment entered his eyes. “I will. But can I be honest with you from now on? Can I spend the rest of my life telling the truth to you? There are other people like us in the world, Sarah. We don’t have to pretend to be something we’re not anymore.”

Tears filled her eyes in a rush and the surprise and amazement held her immobile. Part of her felt betrayed. “How many other things did you hide from me over the years?”

He shook his head, and the trees above swayed under a huge gust of wind that sent leaves and pine needles rushing across the ground. His dark eyes held hers, sincere and warm. “Nothing. I want us to begin fresh. Start right now admitting everything we should have to each other.”

She closed her eyes for a moment and tried to ground herself in reality. For her dear, dear friend seemed so sane and so wonderful in that moment. When she opened her eyes, he watched her closely. His expression was open and sincere.

“You’ve been through so much,” she said, her throat tight. “I never imagined when I came here that you’d tell me all this.”

He nodded. “Walk with me.”

They strolled through the graveyard. It wasn’t a walk through a romantic garden, but it was all they had right now.

“Do you have any suitors?” He’d asked her that once, just before the United States had agreed to help the allies in the war, and he’d shipped out to Europe.

“Yes.”

She glanced up at him and caught the subtle change in his expression that said he didn’t like what she’d confirmed. “Bent?”

“Yes.”

He grunted. “You’ve been seeing him a long time. Why hasn’t he asked you to marry him?”

Good question. She’d expected it, too. “I don’t believe he loves me. But I expect he will ask me to marry him.”

Malcolm turned toward her, his expression determined. He cupped her face. “Would you say yes to him?”

She clasped his forearms and felt all the power there. “People expect me to.”

“But would you?”

“No. Not now.”

“Why?”

She had to be as honest with him as he’d been with her. Anything less would serve no purpose and leave her raw and broken. “All my life I’ve wanted to be special to you. I thought I was, but only as a friend. When you went to war, and all the time you’ve been gone … I’ve been frightened. When you came back, even when you said they were sending you to an insane asylum, I didn’t care. Because it meant you were safe. Because …” She swallowed hard and pushed forward. “I couldn’t accept a marriage proposal from Bent. I love you too much.”

There, she’d said it. If he rejected her and turned away—

“Thank God,” he said. His eyes were bright and hopeful. Hot with emotions. “Thank God.”

He kissed her, and she moaned into his mouth as surprise and happiness overtook her. He tasted of love and genuine desire, the passion between them storming her as he drew her into his arms. Her body tingled and warmed from her breasts to her loins, a swirl of intense physical longing that overwhelmed her. She responded with everything inside her as she recognized the culmination of what she’d wanted forever.

When he drew back from the kiss, he kept his arms around her. “Marry me, Sarah. Let’s build the life together we should have had years ago.”

Tears rolled down her cheeks, but happiness fueled them. “Yes, yes. I’ll marry you.”

He kissed her again and again until she drew back this time.

“You make it sound like we’re old folks. We’re only twenty-five,” she said.

“We’ve wasted too many years denying who we are and what we know.”

She held his face between her palms and cherished these seconds. “People still won’t believe that we see ghosts and that places are haunted. This place is haunted.” She shivered and released him long enough to turn in his arms and look at the hulking asylum. All the years she’d suppressed her ability to see ghosts came back, and she drew in a sharp breath as more feelings rushed her. Inside this building it wasn’t just broken soldiers and ghosts that she saw, but a darker energy. “Malcolm … oh, God.”

He clasped her shoulders from behind, adding support and strength even as fear threatened to take over. “I know my love.”

She turned back around and said with urgency, “You have to leave here. Today. Now. I’m so afraid something will happen to you. Something horrible is going to happen here someday soon.”

He nodded, his eyes tense with understanding. “I know. It’s why I sent the telegram. Come on, let’s go to the administration desk and see if we can sign me out of this place.”

She turned back to him. “It might take a while.”

“I’m no longer in the military. I don’t believe they can keep me here.”

“What we do when we leave here, Malcolm?”

“Find someone to marry us?”

She smiled as happiness replaced all the bad emotions Tranquil View threatened. “Yes. Let’s hurry.”

The End

Up Next: Closure

Serial Short Story: Whispers Part 2

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

Hey all, I hope you enjoy the next installment of Whispers!

“Check out with us at the administration office before you leave, Miss Billings,” the nurse reminded Sarah. She left before Sarah could thank her.

Sarah reached Malcolm, and they stood among the graves. Above them the pines and aspens stirred in a gentle breeze. A wild thought winged through her mind. The trees are whispering.

She shook off the ridiculous notion “Malcolm. It’s so good to see you.”

He reached for her outstretched hand and took it between both of his big, warm palms. “Sarah. Thank you for coming.”

His voice, always deeply masculine and husky, brushed over places inside her she hadn’t realized she’d had until now. A low hum vibrated in her stomach and the attraction she’d always felt for him increased sharply. Whether he was insane or not, she couldn’t pretend she didn’t have a keen desire to be near him.

Her fingers tightened on his. “When I got your telegram it sounded so urgent I couldn’t refuse.”

One side of his mouth lifted in a half smile. Doubt filled his deep brown eyes. “Mom and Dad haven’t visited.”

Surprise and disappointment struck her. “But you’ve been here a month.”

He shrugged and let go of her hand. “They aren’t too pleased with this situation.”

“Of course not. They want you happy and healthy the way …” How could she say this without maligning his present situation and making him feel worse?

“The way I used to be,” he finished for her. “I know. Things would be less messy if I’d come back from the war without any scars and the same man I was. That hasn’t happened.”

Darkness marred his handsome features, and that’s when she saw the bump in his nose, the telltale sign it had been broken at some point. “You broke your nose? When did that happen?”

He drew in a deep breath. “Several months ago.”

“Are you … you weren’t wounded anywhere else were you?”

A wicked gleam touched his eyes, and she saw the old Malcolm. “All the essential parts are there. The ladies will still recognize me.”

Heat filled her cheeks. “Malcolm.”

His smile disappeared. “Ah, come on, Sarah. You always understood my humor. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten.”

“You haven’t been gone that long. Now tell me. Why did you send me the telegram? What’s happened?”

He released a sigh. “I almost sent the telegram to my parents, but they’ve washed their hands of me. They wouldn’t have believed any of it.”

It pierced her soul to think of his parents disowning him; they’d always seemed such lovely people. What had twisted them so much they no longer acknowledged they had a son? “Why?”

“It’s too strange.” He glanced around as if he expected the tall trees to listen in on a private conversation. “All insane.”

Worried, she asked him softly. “What is? Malcolm you’re scaring me.”

His gaze landed on her. “You know those voices you used to hear as a kid? The ghosts you saw?”

She nodded. “How could I forget?”

“I remember telling you that you were the silliest girl I knew.”

She smiled even as the old memory pinched. “Yes, you did.”

“I’m sorry. It was cruel and I was wrong.”

This was a huge change, and she didn’t know what to think. “That can’t be the reason why you asked me here.”

“Like I said, I was wrong.”

“You believe me now, after all these years? What changed your mind? In your telegram you said I had to come here because it was a matter of life and death.”

“Yes.” His eyes, so dark and intense, slid over her with special attention. “It is a matter of my life or death.”

Alarm rose inside her, choking off her breath for a moment. “Have you talked to doctors about it here? Are you thinking of harming yourself?”

He snorted softly. “No. And the doctors just think I’m just here because of … because of the war.”

Pained, she spoke in a tone as quiet as his. “Aren’t you? What happened to you in the war?”

His serious eyes assessed the area, as if searching for something. “What didn’t happen?” He shrugged those big shoulders again. “Nothing happened to me in the war that didn’t happen to thousands of other men. Such horrible things I can’t tell you. But the war did make me want a full life. It made me want more than what I had in the past.”

“You mean you want to finish law school.”

“No. I don’t want to be lawyer. I never did. Father wanted me to be a lawyer like him. I feel there’s something more meaningful out there for me. The war made me see that.”

“I always thought you were just following your father’s footsteps. I’m glad you’re rethinking what you want to do.”

He held one hand up. “We’re confusing things here. Yes, I want a different occupation, a different future. More than that I wanted you to know that when I was a child, I saw ghosts, too. But the one time I told my parents, they didn’t believe me. Just the way yours didn’t believe you. All this time I’ve lied to you and pretended I didn’t see them. I did such a good job of denying it that I did stop seeing them until I got here. Now they are all around me. All the time.”

Her mouth dropped open and surprise punched her. Whatever she’d expected him to say, it hadn’t been this. “We could have leaned on each other when we were children, when no one else believed us. Why did you deny us that?”

“Fear. Plain and simple I was afraid of what my parents would do, and what other people would think. It was easier to be a selfish child and mock you than to be brave enough to admit everything to you.” The grim expression on his face told the truth. “I can never apologize for that enough.” He glanced around. “The woods are alive, though. There’s this evil that exists in the soil itself.”

She could have cried to see her handsome, strong friend like this. He was over six feet tall, and though she was five feet eight inches tall, his broad shoulders had always made her feel protected. Today, perhaps, he needed the protecting.

“Malcolm—”

“I’m not insane.”

She crossed her arms and gave him what she hoped was a stubborn look. “Did you tell someone while you were still in Europe about the ghosts? Is that why they sent you back?”

“I got a knock on the head. A shell blew me back into a trench. I guess when I woke up I was babbling about it. They decided I was insane and sent me back.”

“I see.”

“Do you? The war has set me free, as strange as that may sound. It’s taught me what really matters to me.” Once more he grinned, and the warmth in his eyes almost melted her on the spot. “You are beautiful today, nymph.”

Nymph. His childhood nickname for her rang sweetly in her ears. She’d always secretly loved when he’d called her that, but never would admit it. “Hush, Malcolm Seaton.”

His expression returned to stoic. “Who’s to hear but the trees?”

*

Later this week, Part 3.

Serial Short Story: Whispers Part One

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Today is the start of a brand new short story in my Asylum Trilogy world and it’s called Whispers. Enjoy!

Whispers

Before nurse Annabelle Dorrenti and soldier Cade Hale discover the evil in Asylum II: Shadows Rise, Sarah Billings is determined to save her childhood friend Malcolm Seaton from his delusions.

Simple, Colorado

June, 1918

Sarah Billings walked into Tranquil View Asylum certain that her dear friend, Malcolm Seaton, had been hallucinating. A place this beautiful couldn’t have ghosts or harbor evil.

Keep telling yourself that, Sarah.

Remembering her childhood and all the things she’d seen and felt … well, better to forget a painful past and pretend everything was normal in this monstrosity of a place. Beauty and sincerity aside, Tranquil View Asylum felt as ill as those residing inside it. No. That didn’t make sense. Buildings shouldn’t hold feelings or illness. They sheltered or incarcerated. That was all. She couldn’t start thinking like Malcolm or she’d be in here with him, lost to reason and sanity.

Before she’d entered the building she’d felt the oddness of this place—the tell-tale sensations that always made her aware a building wasn’t quite right. Yet she couldn’t let anyone know that. Least of all her old friend Malcolm. She remembered too well that time long ago when he’d laughed at her beliefs.

She stood in the two-story rotunda, her gaze taking in the huge area with its strange combination of Victoria architectural extravagance and cold sterility. She’d heard of these Kirkbride buildings, designed to help the mad, and far more comforting and soothing to the insane than the prisons they’d once suffered and died in. The quiet felt deep. To the bone.

A shiver danced over her skin. Though the temperatures were warm outside, the building was cold.

Nothing ghostly lingered here, no matter what Malcolm said. She hadn’t seen anything unusual, nor had the dead walked up and insisted on talking to her. That was how she knew Malcolm must be insane or lying.

Uncertainty pricked at her. The building did feel sad. It was old enough to have people’s experiences imprinted on it and for their ghosts to linger. Was that how Malcolm felt? Old and tired and used up? Worry penetrated any happiness she felt about seeing him. He’d been through so much.

A cackle echoed through the building and she started. It was if the building wanted to remind her of its true purpose. She touched the brim of her hat and tightened her grip on the small purse in her left hand. Everything went quiet again. Still, even the summer day and crisp high-altitude air couldn’t clear her of one feeling.

Apprehension.

She frowned and looked around, uncertain for a moment where to go. Where would she find Macomb in this huge place? She noted the sign pointing toward administration just ahead.

Just inside the door to the office, a young nurse sat at a desk. She looked up and smiled.

“May I help you?” the nurse asked.

“I’m here to visit Malcolm Seaton.”

The young woman’s smile broadened. “Are you Sarah? He got your telegram and is expecting you.”

“Yes. I’m Sarah Billings.”

The nurse stood. “There are a few rules to follow while you’re here. I’ll take you to where he is, but when you return to the building, you must not wander into any other area. Most of the soldiers are well mannered, but there are others with significant problems. It wouldn’t be safe for you.”

Sarah nodded. “Of course.”

“If you’d return to this office at the end of your visit, we would appreciate it.”

“Why?”

“To assure us you are safe, of course. We don’t recommend you visit with Malcolm more than an hour or two.”

“That’s a very generous amount of time.”

The nurse nodded. “Malcolm is one of the …” The nurse hesitated. “He’s not dangerous. If he was, you wouldn’t be allowed to visit him without an escort.”

Part of Sarah wanted to agree. Of course her old friend would never hurt anyone. But he had, hadn’t he? That was part of the problem.

The nurse gestured toward the door. “This way please.”

Sarah expected the woman to take her to a ward. Instead, they left through a back door that brought them outside again. Another large building, separate from the main area, stood to the east. She kept pace with the nurse, uncertain about where they were heading. Then Sarah saw the graveyard past the building. It stood on a rise, tall pines and the occasional aspen acting as shade. Most of the stones marking the final resting place of the deceased were mere white crosses.  A tall figure, garbed in the uniform of a United States Army soldier, stood near one of the graves and looked down.

“Is that Malcolm?” Sarah asked.

“Yes.”

“Why is he in the graveyard? Is he mourning a friend?”

The nurse stopped walking, her expression a bit pained. When she looked at Sarah, her youthful face held sincerity. “He mourns every soldier here, living or dead.”

The nurse walked onward. Sarah followed. As they entered the graveyard, the tall man turned to the left and noticed them. Sarah’s breath caught. She hadn’t seen Malcolm in more than a year. She’d expected a thinner man, perhaps. So many soldiers came home from the war ill. He looked healthy. His skin was a bit pale, but other than that, he was still the handsome man she remembered. He was over six feet tall, and a uniform looked splendid on him. His coal-black hair was short, his face perhaps more chiseled, his cheekbones a bit sharper and his eyes harder. In that one moment, Malcolm was every bit the ruthless soldier and not the charming, happy young man she’d known all her life. The apprehension Sarah had felt in the building returned, but this time for a different reason. Uncertainty had plagued her all the way from Denver, first on the train and then in the hired car that brought her here. She drew a deep breath and let it out, determined he wouldn’t see her trepidation. What if he’d truly lost his mind?

As they came closer, his expression changed from serious to a gentle smile. Her heart melted a little, a sweeping sensation of familiarity and friendship. And maybe … just maybe … a little more.

*

Later this week is Part 2 of Whispers!

Serial Short Story: Awakenings Part 5

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

Hey everyone,

I was working for a friend last week and got behind the power curve. As it turns out, this part of the story is the very end! 🙂 After this short story is Whispers, the next Asylum Trilogy short story. I promise this one won’t take so long to put up on the blog. 🙂 Thanks for your patience!

Their lips touched, a gentle brushing of mouth against mouth with so much promise. His mouth was firm and loving as he took the taste deeper. Her hat, clenched in her hands between them, acted as a barrier. She tossed the hat to the side, eager to enjoy his kiss. A wave of longing, tenderness and hunger swept over Edie, and she knew it belonged to her and to him. Gently and slowly he drew away and put the smallest distance between them.

“Miss Jones…Edie.” His gaze was as hot as their kiss. “I’m sorry. I wanted to thank you, but I didn’t plan that. I wouldn’t blame you if you slapped my face.”

She grinned, filled with happiness and understanding. “I’m a modern woman, Cullen. Or at least I’m trying to be. A kiss isn’t apt to scandalize me.”

His eyes sparked with more interest. “Then perhaps you will allow me to take you and your grandfather to dinner tonight?”

“That would be wonderful. I warn you, though. Grandfather is sometimes pompous. He thinks he knows everything.”

“That’s half the men I know.”

She sighed. “And half the women I know.”

They laughed.

“As for slapping my face, do you think you would if I kissed you again?” he asked.

She slipped her hands up to his lapels and drew him close, happy to kiss him once more. “I just might.”

Her teasing didn’t deter him. “Someone might see us and there could be a scandal.”

“One can only hope.”

He narrowed his eyes. “What of the ghosts? Do you think they care?”

She glanced around, sobered for a moment by what she’d revealed to him about his sister, and the ghosts that still lingered at Tranquil View. “I don’t think they see much happiness around here. They might be entertained.”

“Hurry then.” His voice went husky with desire. “We wouldn’t want to disappoint them.”

They kissed again.

The End

*

Next up is Asylum: Whispers

Serial Short Story: Awakenings Part 4

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Today we continue Awakenings! Enjoy Part 4.

“You haven’t seen your sister’s ghost?”

“No. Part of me wishes I would.” For a moment the world seemed to still around them. The breeze stopped, and the trees no longer spoke with rustlings and whispers. “Tell me about yourself, Miss Jones. Your grandfather seems very protective of you.”

His request surprised her; no one ever wanted to know her background. She turned the big hat around in her hands. “My grandparents took over my guardianship when I was six after my parents were killed in a carriage accident. They tried to curb my abilities, but realized they couldn’t. Instead they saw it as a good way to make money. And so did I.”

His mouth dropped open and his brow wrinkled a little. “I wouldn’t expect you to admit that.”

“I only do because I’m honest. I am a real medium, Cullen. I don’t need the money; my parents were well off and so are my grandparents. But that doesn’t stop my grandparents from wanting to put away more money for me. They think I’m on the way to spinsterhood and believe the money will keep me well in my old age.”

He chuckled softly. “I’m sure you’ll find a husband soon enough, Miss Jones. But I can understand them wanting you well provided for.”

She sighed. “They mean well. But I also told them that after today I’m no longer taking clients for pay. I don’t need the money, and I don’t want to be on display any longer.”

He took a step nearer, his gaze so intent and serious she almost held her breath.

“There must be disadvantages to being as famous as you are,” he said.

She wandered a step or two away, looking back at the asylum with its dark visage and painful history. “Oh, yes. Many disadvantages. Yet I have so much to be thankful for. That’s what I concentrate on if I can. I have other plans for my future.”

“Such as?”

She paused. “Women’s suffrage.”

He nodded, expression approving. “A noble cause in my estimation.”

She smiled. “You surprise me. Most men throw scorn my way and want nothing to do with me after hearing my conviction. My grandparents say that’s why I’ll never marry.”

“I’m not most men, Miss Jones.”

“I can see that. Please call me Edie.”

His eyes turned warm with interest, and that steady glow inside her ignited into a full appreciation for him. She liked him more than any man she could recall. An image flashed through her mind of his sister, and she turned her gaze back to the asylum.

“Is my sister here?” he asked.

She drew in one deep breath and relaxed. “She was, perhaps. But not now. She ran away with the young man because she believed he could take her away from all the pain she’d suffered during her life. The repression. The anger. She ran to escape.”

“I suspected that. I tried to tell my parents she didn’t deserve what happened to her.”

She touched him on the shoulder, wanting his strength under her fingers. “You did everything you could. You aren’t to blame for her death.”

His gaze met hers and the grief felt like a live thing; for a moment she couldn’t shield herself from his pain, and she didn’t wish to.

“My parents blamed everyone including me when they discovered she’d run off with this man from the asylum. My sister and her man didn’t have enough money to pay for first or even second class. They were in third class and so many of the people in third class died.”

“What were they doing in Europe?” she asked.

He rubbed a hand over his face and sighed. “They’d run to Ireland where the rest of his family is. My parents decided having her back in the United States was more important than being angry over her leaving. They sent word to her that they forgave her and wished to meet her betrothed. So my sister and her betrothed booked the passage on the Titanic.”

“Your sister isn’t trapped here, Cullen. She has visited your parents and the people here at the asylum. And she’s visited you. But she isn’t trapped anywhere or at the site where Titanic sank.”

He wandered toward a big rock on the edge of the cemetery and sat on it, his hands on his thighs as he stared at her.

“She’s visited you when … while you’ve been grieving. She worries because you blame yourself far too much.” She walked toward him, drawn to his presence and the hurt she felt still burned within him. “Have you smelled her rose water around you on occasion?”

His head snapped up, his expression surprised. “Yes.”

“That’s when she’s visited you.” She waited for any sign that Elaine might still be here. “But she never lingers. Grieve for her as much as you need, but don’t blame yourself for what happened to her. She’s at peace and only visits you to bring peace.”

Moisture brightened his eyes, and he let out a ragged sigh. “It isn’t fair how she died. Why didn’t she get to a lifeboat? What happened to her?”

“I’ll see if she’ll come to me and explain.” Edie closed her eyes and drew in two deep, slow breaths. She waited until one picture arose in her mind. “Elaine was with her betrothed. They were …” Nausea touched her stomach as another scene flickered into her mind. “They tried to get out of the third class area but there’s a gate across an entrance. They can’t get out.”

“God.” His whisper was broken and sad.

She opened her eyes and took in his sad expression. “I can’t see anything else. But perhaps we don’t want to. It may hurt too much to think of it.”

He nodded. “She was cheated of life. The life she deserved.” His fists clenched, and his face transferred to anger. “Damn it.”

She drew in another deep breath to maintain some mental distance from his pain. Yet it didn’t work. She felt his pain and anger.

“There’s nothing you can do.” She knew her words were little comfort, but she said them anyway. “She isn’t suffering any more. She’s at peace and with her betrothed. They’re happy.”

Conner nodded. He smelled of man and leather, and she wanted desperately to touch him again.

“Thank you. I feel much better knowing,” he said.

“Good. She’s your guardian now. She’ll be there when you need her.”

Tight grief eased from his eyes and mouth. He touched the side of her face, the gesture startling and yet wonderful. “You’re a beautiful soul, Edie. Thank you for helping me.”

“Of course.” A little breathless, she absorbed the heavy attraction overwhelming her. She liked his touch and wanted more of it.

He must have sensed what she wished, and he leaned in to meet her halfway.

**

Next week is Part 5!