HERE to read more about not only Calum but how Dakota's victorian came to need a paranormal investigation.Welcome! If you popped in Friday you know that I’m sharing excerpts from my latest release, The Victorian Lure (Calum’s Curse: Ardetha Vampyre). For those of you just joining me, grab a cup of whatever makes you happiest, sit back and enjoy what’s to come. Yesterday, I talked about the roots behind the writing of The Victorian Lure. After you read this post, be sure to click
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Today, I’m continuing where I left off yesterday. The first moment the Worldwide Paranormal Society enters Dakota’s Victorian and the first moment Dakota meets lead investigator, Leathan Stewart…
He waved his team on and walked through a thick layer of brown crinkly leaves. “Look at this mess. The shutters are drooping. The paint’s peeling. And─” He shook his head. “What’s that smell?” Halfway up the crooked, creaky steps, the front door opened.
“Hello?” he said. No one responded. What the hell?
Leathan silenced his fellow paranormal investigator, Devin, with a sharp shake of his head. The others followed them inside, all silent.
“She’s here somewhere.” He started to climb the stairs. “Devin, search the first floor, Seth, the second, Andrea, the third. I’m going to the top, where she said she might be.”
As he walked he paid attention to details. To the common eye everything looked pristine and new. But he had a talent…he could look closer, see it as it had been, sort of a psychic ability. At first, he saw faded areas in the paint where paintings had hung before, holes in the hardwood that must have tacked a run rug. He looked up. The ceiling was starting to peel; small water stains marred the corners on the second floor and the odor of mildew faint but there.
When he looked closer at the walls, he envisioned the paintings that had once hung there, unknown faces from the nineteen fifties based on their clothing. The stair runner had been red, then faded, then removed. The stains on the ceiling, a problem never fixed because the former family couldn’t afford it.
Using his gift, he stopped looking, started feeling. A tear slid down his cheek. Not his but that of the woman who had removed the paintings because they were moving. Her husband wanted a divorce. Aggravation when she spilled warm milk on the carpet runner when rushing to get it to her child on the second floor. Would she be able to get the stain out? The day she moved, two children in tow and glared one last time at that water stain on the ceiling. Why did her husband blame her for that too?
An uncomfortable shiver rippled through him.
There was more to this house, much more, much deeper and something didn’t want him here…or did it? Well worth investigating. Climbing the last stair to the third floor, he looked around. Energy pulsed here, stronger than anywhere else. Usually he could see it, darkness at the corner of everything. This time he couldn’t. But he could feel it. Like a dull throb at the base of his skull.
Leathan opened the door to the fourth floor. Cool, rosewood-scented air poured over his face. He climbed stairs covered with a thin tan carpet until he reached the top.
Then he saw her.
He almost stumbled back. It felt like a freight train drove through him. Leathan blinked twice. He had expected her to look a thousand different ways but nothing like she did. Maybe five-eight, with a slender build, she was beautiful, exotic.
When she stepped beneath one of the three lights, he took an involuntary step back and sucked in a breath. Damned hot! Surreal with pale, silky smooth skin, her rich blue-black hair was cut in a stylish bob fashioned longer in the front, shorter in the back. The light cast her face into a striking combination of cheekbones carved high and wide, lips full and pouty. Her chin line delicately chiseled from a hard square into oval slopes made to fit a man’s hands. Startling green eyes appraised him.
Nodding, she turned away and walked to the state of the art computer system tucked in the far corner of the room. “I’m glad you came. This whole house is screwed, and it all started here, Mr.Stewart.”
“Leathan.” He lowered his bag from his shoulder and surveyed the room. The door to a small bathroom stood ajar from a small make-shift kitchenette in the corner of the room. A two person table with what looked to be a left-over microwavable soup bowl and spoon had been placed next to a tiny built-in counter with a microwave on it, a mid-sized refrigerator beneath. A mattress without a box-spring cuddled in another corner.
“Good thing I had a bathroom and some food up here or I might not have made it,” she said softly.
Honestly, after a week, he fully expected to find her cowering and completely mad. But no, she appeared composed, totally unafraid, which made him wonder.
“I came as soon as I could.” Leathan headed for the computer. “Good to meet you…Dakota, I’m assuming?”
“Yeah, Dakota, sorry.” She paced away from the computer.
Was this a hoax? Dakota didn’t act as though she feared for her life. If anything, she struck him as rude, almost careless in her attitude.
“I’m completely trapped on this floor,” she continued.
Dakota’s brows furrowed. “I must have been persuasive for you to come so far.”
And, despite himself, he was a fan of her site.
Leaning back in his chair, he watched her pace. “I assume you believe in the paranormal, Dakota.”
Her gaze flickered his way. “Now I do.”
“I didn’t say that.” Dakota shrugged. “What does it really matter?”
Leathan didn’t reply right away. His silence forced her to stop pacing.
“Sorry,” he said. “This is part of what I do. Try to understand the homeowner as well as what is haunting them.”
Leathan kept his eyes locked with hers for a few moments. She should be crazy, out of her mind if what she said was true. Why wasn’t she afraid?
Leathan stood and followed her.
Dakota’s gaze stayed on him. “Shut it off.”
Within a foot he stopped. “No.”
“Get me off this floor first then explore it all you want.”
Ah, fear. “Are you that afraid of it?” He angled his body so she had a clear shot of the computer.
“I’ve been stuck on this floor for one week after seeing─” Her words trailed off. He knew she worked hard to keep her eyes on him and not turn away from everything.
“Please,” she whispered.
Leathan contemplated her for several moments. Dakota was stubborn. She was also petrified. He could see how she struggled to keep herself together.
“All right, let’s get you off this floor.”
Relief shrunk her pupils. Her shoulders fell a quarter of an inch. “Thank you.”
“There is a condition though,” he said.
“I didn’t realize ghost hunters came with conditions.”
“If I get you off this floor, I want to know everything. All the things you aren’t telling me now,” he countered.
“Aren’t you curious why I’m not telling you everything right away?”
“No.” He took her hand. “Fear does funny things to people. Obviously, being trapped here is your greatest fear amongst many. I only ask that you tell all once I help you face this one.”
Dakota pulled her hand away. “I asked you to come. You did. I’m grateful. Of course I’ll tell you everything once you get me the hell off this floor, out of this house.”
Leathan went to the nearest window and wedged it open. Snowflakes curled in on an icy wind and caught on his five o’clock shadow. He held up a hand. “Come.”
“What’s the point?”
“I would think that’s obvious.” He wiggled his forefinger. “Come. I need to see if you can stick out your hand.”
Dakota nodded. “I can.”
He narrowed his eyes. Understanding dawned. She didn’t like heights. So he challenged her pride. “What don’t you fear?”
Just as he figured, fire flared in her emerald eyes. She threw back her shoulders and came to him.
“I’m starting to think contacting you was a mistake.”
Before she pulled more excuses out of her rabbit’s hat, Leathan grabbed her hand and pulled it out the window. Nothing stopped it. Not even a sluggish otherworldly cloud of resistance. Still, her hand gripped his. The muscles in her slender forearm clenched. Placing his free arm over her arm, he stiffened when he felt what he could only describe as intense static electricity shoot through him.
She made a low sound of shock─possibly pain─and he loosened his hold. Had she felt it too? Dakota’s eyes met his. Her finely arched brows drew down. “Let go.”
He did. She rubbed her hand before tucking it away in her sweatshirt pocket.
“So what, should I have scaled four stories to the ground with sheets tied together?” Dakota spun away and walked to the top of the stairs. “I suppose many would have tried.”
Leathan rubbed his fingers together, recovered from the aftershocks of touching her. “You don’t have enough sheets to have made it.”
A small smile graced her face then vanished. “I’ll tell you one thing now.”
“Despite my doubts you were meant to be here.”
He tried not to ask her a thousand questions, knew she needed time, needed to escape from what she considered the most imminent danger. “Let’s get you out of here.”
Dakota’s chest heaved. She nodded. “That’d be great.”
For a split second, he wished she didn’t wear such a baggy sweatshirt. That he could see her chesta little more clearly. Where had that thought come from? Shaking his head, he walked down the stairs and stopped, feet on the door jam. Looking back, he raised his hand and gave a come hither motion.
“Every time I try to cross that threshold the pain is unbearable.”
Dakota’s nostrils flared. “Talk me through the rest, eh?”
“Just do it.”
Staring at him, she battled within until she came to a conclusion and quickly descended three steps.
“See, was that so bad?” he said. “But what about that?”
He pointed behind her. She looked.
Fast─before she knew his intentions─he climbed the stairs and scooped her up. Dakota yelped and wrapped her arms around his neck. Leathan left the fourth floor and flew down the stairs.
“Out of the house, please,” she urged in his ear.
Not a problem. Passing through the foyer, he opened the front door, transcended the stairs, and stopped. Bottle cap snowflakes drifted in thick sheets. Wind whipped and stung the side of his face.
Dakota gripped his neck tighter, nails dug into his skin. “I’m out. I’m out.”
She repeated those words over and over. Carefully, he set her down. When her feet hit the ground, she pulled away, turned, and started to run.
By the time he caught up she was halfway to the ocean. He grabbed her arm. She yanked and twirled away. Leathan growled and pursued. Fast little thing! When he once more caught up, she was ankle deep in the water. From behind he wrapped his arms around her chest and pulled her close.
“Are you mad? Or just suicidal,” he roared.
Dakota said nothing at first. Her body shook. Her head rocked back and forth. When she spoke her voice sounded hoarse, desperate. “Let me go.”
Frowning, he pulled her closer. “No. You’re out of the house. I got you here. You owe me an explanation, lass.”
Leathan spun her, grabbed her arms, and forced Dakota to look at him. “You owe me.”
Bleary eyed, she peered at him through the veil of falling snow. “It should have ended here to begin with. This wouldn’t be happening now, the past damn week, had I only possessed the courage.”
Sudden comprehension made his mouth drop. Every fiber of his being wanted to shove her into the water, say “good riddance, be done with it you coward above all cowards”…but he couldn’t. How was it that a woman like this wanted to end her life? What on God’s green Earth had brought her to such a point?
Then he thought better. Those who wanted such deserved it. He released her abruptly. Dakota stumbled before she landed with a splash into the water.
Leathan turned away, disgusted. Old wounds threatened to bubble to the surface. He’d dealt with suicide before. Damned if he would again. Human life was a gift.
Screw him? Furious, he spun to witness Dakota stumbling out of the sea with a finger pointed at him. “Go back.” Walking backward, he nodded toward the black ocean beyond. “I won’t stop you from that. Not the sort of service you sought me out for. Sorry.”
Dakota stopped, legs akimbo, arms shaking. “We have a bigger problem.”
“What bigger problem could there be?” He walked her way. “A haunted house or its suicidal
“I’m thinking the haunted house has us all beat.” Dakota stared past him, eyes wide.
When was the last time he’d got so aggravated with a woman? Especially one he’d just met. Had she really been trapped on the fourth floor or had that been some sort of a suicidal cry for help? Who cared if he’d sensed the house was a little spooked. Leathan would leave this case for another investigative crew. “My team and I will leave in the morn. It’s obvious you sought me for whatever twisted reasons your mind told you to.”
Dakota’s gaze fell from the horizon. Her eyes narrowed. “You are a complete jackass.”
“And you have some serious issues to tackle.”
“Turn around and tell me if you still feel the same.”
For no other reason than to make his way back to his team, Leathan turned.
He stopped short.
Sky here. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win an Ecopy of The Victorian Lure. Interested in checking out the character blog for the paranormal investigators from Calum's Curse? Head over to Paranormal/Syfy Romance- Deep, Dark & Delicious.
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