ISBN : 9781947649033
SA Rel date: 24 April 2018
Genre: New Adult Paranormal
Publisher: Fire Quill Publishing
Twenty-one-year-old Kaelyn has spent half her life hunting ghosts and killing them. But she’s not like the other ghost hunters who have to rely on spells and curses to banish ghosts back to where they came from, hoping that they don’t come back. When Kaelyn kills a ghost, they stay dead.
But in Mortimer Hall, a behemoth of a house, Kaelyn is about to face the most powerful and life-threatening ghost she ever met, and what she doesn’t know is that the ghost has been waiting just for her…
The toddler’s wicked laugh echoed throughout the basement, bounced off the walls, and traumatized my ear drums. I cringed and strengthened my grip on the dagger until my knuckles turned white.
Despite the danger I was in, I had trouble staying focused. Today had been a long day. After spending six hours cooped up in class trying to wrap my mind around criminal psychology, I had spent another two hours in the library crouched over dusty newspapers with pages yellowed from age, trying to find out as much as I could about the specter I’d dubbed the Main Street Basement Ghost. Then I headed to Main Street, to an apartment building straight out of a post-apocalyptic movie, and here I was, face to face with the ghost.
Well, maybe not face to face, since the toddler-ghost was playing a game of hide and seek.
The toddler laughed, and I followed the noise, farther into the darkness. I’d brought a flashlight, but the batteries had died about five minutes into the investigation. Usually, I had moonlight to guide me, but in this windowless basement, stark darkness was the only thing greeting me as I groped my way through stacks of boxes, mannequins, and things better left forgotten.
I caught a glimpse of a white, glowing figure moving in the back of the room. Knocking over several boxes, I rushed to the spot as fast I could.
The darkness worked as a disadvantage for the ghost. He was crouched behind a tower of books — nevertheless, the eerie glow surrounding him gave him away. In the daytime, he would’ve been much harder to spot, but in the darkness, he was a glowing beacon.
I stopped in front of the pile of hard covers and glanced at the glow resonating from behind it. The eerie light barely reached my torso. Getting rid of adolescent ghosts was never easy and a pang of guilt tugged at my heart. But this kid had killed three people already, I reminded myself.
At that moment, the kid launched himself at the books, toppling them over, crushing me. I raised my hands to my head for protection while I was continuously bombarded, trying to keep my balance at the same time.
He towered over me. His dark hair was disheveled, and he wore nineteenth- century clothes stained with blood. His head tilted slightly to the right. Half of it had been cut off, as if whoever had decided to rid the kid of his head, didn’t have the stomach to complete the job. His eyes were dark and hollow, and they stared at me with unmatched venom.
Leave me alone.
His lips didn’t move, but his voice was clear as day. Hatred glistened in his eyes. He snarled and launched himself at me with his fingers clawed, growling like an animal.
I took a step back and braced myself for the collision. His full weight hit me right in the chest, and I fell backward. I grabbed the ghost and held him away from me, while he gnarled, bit, spat, and clawed at me.
Drops of sweat dripped down my forehead, and blood oozed where he scratched me. I grimaced and pushed the ghost away with all my strength. It flew several meters backward, but instead of dropping to the floor, it hovered mid-air. Its eyes sparked with black flames, and it hissed at me.
Guess I pissed it off for real this time.
I scrambled around on my knees in search of the dagger I dropped to the floor when the ghost knocked me over. The search was proving useless as I couldn’t spot it anywhere.
The ghost’s mouth grew large enough to swallow a small person, forming a black, gaping hole. Its eyes became small slits, like a snake’s. It launched at me again, as fast as a leopard.
Running was out of the question. This thing, zigzagging toward me, its face the material of nightmares, was a lot faster than I was.
My gaze darted left and right, still in search of the dagger when I caught the silver sparkling in the ghost’s glow. It was behind him. Just my luck.
Lunging up, I ran forward toward the ghost, dropped to the floor, and dove below the phantom, straight at the dagger. My sleeve ripped and I bumped my elbow into the wall, but at least I had my dagger back.
The ghost howled like a wounded animal. Turning around, it pulled back its arm and swung at me. I grabbed it mid-swing with my left hand, clenching my teeth as I used all my strength to stop the attack, and with my right hand, I plunged the dagger straight into its belly.
The spirit and I stared at each other for a beat. He screamed, a sound that went through marrow and bone. Then he vanished.
Relieved, I stumbled backward. My knees were wobbly, and I had to hold on to the wall for support. Taking deep breaths, I tried to steady my heartbeat. With the ghost gone, the basement had gone from illuminated-by-eerie-ghost-glow to pitch black darkness.
When I’d recovered a little, I fumbled through the pockets of my jacket until I found my cell phone. The battery was almost dead, but I was hoping it would hold out until I got out of here.
Groping my way through the darkness, I bumped into a million different things, and almost suffered a heart attack when I ran into a life-sized mannequin. It seemed to take forever before I managed to make it out of the basement. I slipped twice on the stairs going up, and by the time I reached the hallway, I felt as if I’d just survived a year in Alcatraz. There were lights in the hallway, although they were on emergency setting; they went on and off every few seconds.
My backpack still lay where I’d left it, right outside the entrance to the basement. I slumped down against the wall, opened up my backpack and grabbed a bottle of water. I drank half of it, and poured the other half over my head in an attempt to cool off. Next, I pulled out my pocket mirror and inspected the damage to my face. Green eyes, thin, black eyebrows, a straight nose, high cheekbones, a small bruise under my left eye, and a cracked lip stared back at me. But at least my teeth seemed fine, and the bruise was small enough to cover up with concealer. My hair was a mess, though.
I loosened my ponytail and ruffled through my long, black hair. With caution, I searched my scalp inch by inch, looking for wounds. I had hit my head pretty hard the first time the ghost launched at me. But apart from a growing bump at the back of my head, the rest seemed fine.
My arms hadn’t been so lucky. They were covered in scratch marks where my sleeve had ripped. Another jacket ruined. My ankle throbbed and my head hurt, but all in all, the damage was minimal. Which was to be expected, considering that the Main Street Basement Ghost was a piece of cake compared to some of the other specters I’d fought.
I stumbled a little when I got back up. After hoisting my backpack over my shoulder, I walked through the hallway and out of the abandoned apartment building.
Another ghost had been sent straight back to the afterlife, and another paycheck awaited my collection tomorrow. My employer would be glad his building was ghost free, and that he could now safely find new tenants for the fourteen apartments above the haunted basement. As for me, I was glad I’d be able to pay the rent for another month, and buy some food for the table. A girl had to eat.
Sunlight peeked through the blinds. I rolled over, pulled the covers up to my chin, and groaned. Then the alarm clock started blaring like a fire alarm. I turned back around, hit it as hard as I could, and slumped back on my pillow.
There was no inch of my body that didn’t hurt, and the pain in my head resembled that of a migraine attack coming on. Maybe I had a concussion after all.
I mumbled a series of curse words below my breath as I got out of bed. Ghost hunting or not, no way was I going to miss class just because I felt like I’d been hit by a train, then was dragged along for twenty miles until they dropped me on a bombshell that exploded right after. When I was done yawning so loud that my neighbors could probably hear it, I staggered out of my bedroom.
“Well, good morning, Sleeping Beauty,” Mom said from behind the stove. She was holding a frying pan, the smell of pancakes filling my nostrils.
“Pancakes? Again?” I smiled, and my stomach growled, emphasizing how hungry I was. To me, all good things in the world started and ended with pancakes.
“Milk? Coffee? Hot choco?” Mom asked while I sat down at the table. The apartment wasn’t spectacular, at all. It had a small kitchenette, a table and two chairs, a stitched-up couch that looked as if someone might’ve puked over it back in the seventies, and a stained carpet that seemed to come straight from a murder scene, complete with blood spills and all.
You’d think ghost slaying would pay well, but if you wanted to live under the radar, and work solo, it was tough finding cases. Besides, the apartment had all I needed. Apart from the living area, it had a decent sized bathroom, and two bedrooms. One of them had been rat-infested when I first moved in, but I’d finally gotten rid of that problem last week when pest control dropped by.
“Coffee.” I scratched my head and yawned again. “What time did I get home?”
“About twelve-thirty.” Mom hovered behind the kitchen counter and dropped a plate with pancakes onto the table. She made her way around to me and kissed me on the forehead, almost blinding me with her ghostly glow. “You look exhausted.”
“Thanks for the compliment.” I snorted, digging into the pancakes. “If you didn’t make such great food, you’d be in trouble for that,” I said, between bites.
“Eat with your mouth closed.” Mom grabbed a cup of coffee and put it down in front of me. “You love being pampered, just admit it.”
I shrugged, but we both knew it was the truth. Even though I was twenty-one now, and I could watch my own back when I went out ghost slaying, I loved when Mom made me breakfast, combed my hair, or did whatever the heck moms do. The only real perk about spending my days chasing after ghosts, was still having my mom around — even though she’d passed away.
“Lots of classes today?” Mom slumped down on the empty chair opposite me. With the morning light peering through the window behind her, I could barely make out her shape.
“Yeah.” I took a sip from my coffee. “Parapsychology, two hours. Then I’ve got a study break for about one hour, and another two hours of developmental psychology, followed by an hour of English literature.”
“Bah.” Mom rolled her eyes. She shoved her chair back, and got up again to get me another load of pancakes. Whenever she was annoyed, she would walk. “I have no idea why you take that class. Isn’t it enough you have to deal with ghosts every day?” She was talking about parapsychology, the class she’d insisted I drop from the moment I started going to college.
I shrugged and studied her while she floated about in the kitchen. She wore a long, wide dress, gypsy style, with beads and chains, and an herb pouch around her hips. Her braided hair reached down to her waist. The dress had once been a myriad of colors, from purple to green to red. Her hair had once been dark brown, and her eyes had once matched that color. Now everything was dulled to gray and surrounded by the glow of the dead.
“Are you still grabbing a drink with your friends tonight?” She peeked over her shoulder, an eyebrow arched.
Of course, Mom hoped I’d say yes. She wanted nothing more than for me to spend some time with my friends rather than with the recently or not-so-recently departed. “Yes.” The word came out about as unenthusiastic as if I’d announced I needed a kidney transplant. “Although I don’t know why you insist on it.”
“You need to get out there. Socialize. No need to barricade yourself inside a cramped apartment with your ghost mother. You’re twenty-one, for God’s sake. It’s time you made some friends.”
I rolled my eyes before I gulped down another pancake. “We both know that making friends hasn’t really been on the agenda.” For the last decade, we’d moved from state to state, without settling down anywhere. We went from one town to the next, swiping the entire maleficent ghost population before moving on. Half of the jobs came without pay, and the ones that did barely offered sufficient funds to keep my head above water. But when I saw a case, I couldn’t say no, no matter if it paid or not, or whether it was dangerous or not.
“Honey …” Mom stopped when a shrill sound pierced the room.
I got up, knocking my chair backward onto the floor. “What the …” Only then did I realize that the unfamiliar sound was the doorbell. I gave Mom a look. We never got company.
She nodded at me and moved to her bedroom.
“Close the door,” I mouthed at her.
I grabbed the knife I’d used to cut the pancakes and walked to the door. Nobody ever showed up at our doorstep. Nobody good, anyway. My hand shook when I grabbed the key and twisted it. The knife felt like lead in my other hand, which I’d curled behind my back.
The door squeaked when I opened it. Hesitantly, I moved into the doorway, and my mouth dropped open at the same time I let go of the knife; it fell to the floor with a clattering sound. “What …” The words got stuck in my throat. My tongue felt like a dozen bees had stung it, making it thick and unable to move.
“Seen a ghost?” The guy standing out in the hall cocked an eyebrow, smirking at me, a smirk he’d obviously mastered through practice. His brown hair, short back and sides, but long in the front, covered his forehead and his left eye. The other one, stark blue like the sky right before a storm, gazed straight at me. He was at least two heads taller than my 5’4″. Muscles protruded from under his black leather jacket. He looked like a supermodel who’d taken a break to ride his Harley Davidson. The shadow of a two-day old beard marked his face, as well as a scar beneath his left eye that ruined his otherwise perfect cheek.
“You …” I spat out the word, almost choking on the nasty taste it left behind in my mouth. “What are you doing here?”
“Not the welcome I was expecting, but all right.” He threw an envelope at me. “Payment for yesterday’s job.”
I caught the envelope and stared at it as if it was the spawn of Satan. “You mean … you’re my employer?”
He licked his lips and conjured up a half smile. “I’d rather pay twice as much to a ghost layer from the other side of the planet than give you a job. Unfortunately, ghost slayers are rare and my client needed help fast.”
Even though it had been half a decade, I’d recognize him anywhere. Not just the scar, the leather jacket, the face that had haunted my dreams — and nightmares — ever since I met him. But his voice, that cocky authoritarian voice he used on just about everyone, sounding like he knew all the secrets to the universe, and you were just a dumb newbie who’d never taken on a real challenge. Always challenging, always tempting. That voice, I’d recognize anywhere.
“What do you want?” I put my hands on my hips, and felt the soft fabric of the yoga pants I’d put on before crashing into bed last night. Suddenly eating a pile of pancakes without showering first seemed like the worst idea ever, and I wished I had a genie who could give me some decent clothes in a heartbeat. Tank tops and yoga pants aren’t really impressive when you’re facing your self- proclaimed worst enemy.
“I came to give you your well-earned money.” He shoved past me into my house, stepping over the knife carelessly, invading my privacy without a care in the world.
I clenched my fists, wishing I was still holding the knife, because then I could do some real damage on him. But at the same time, I was glad I’d dropped it as it removed any temptation I might have to hurt him. Although I wanted to do just that, it wouldn’t be smart and I’d hate myself afterward. Hurting ghosts was one thing, hurting humans, another — no matter how despicable they were.
“So how was the Main Street Basement Ghost?” he asked, while he slumped down on my chair, in my kitchen, and grabbed one of my pancakes.
Somehow I thought that if we ever met again, my anger would’ve lessened. That the fury that threatened to overwhelm me last time, would’ve evaporated over time. No such luck, though. It was back now, fire and flames, pulling at my resolve, setting me on fire, demanding I hurt him the same way he’d hurt me.
I took a deep breath and tried to relax, but my muscles remained tense, prepared to snap at any moment. Without looking away from him, I pushed the door shut. “Easy.”
“Well, I should think so. It was an adolescent ghost.” He shoved the pancake into his mouth. “Delicious.”
“He did kill three people in the last fifty years alone.” I grabbed the empty chair, my mom’s chair, and sat down. “Again, what do you want? I don’t buy your story. You didn’t just employ me so I could get rid of that kid. I know you’re up to something, Alex.”
About the Author:
Author Majanka Verstraete has written more than twenty unique works of fiction. A native of Belgium, Majanka’s novels explore the true nature of monsters: the good, the bad, and just about every species in between. Her young adult books include the acclaimed Mirrorland (YA Dark Fantasy) and Angel of Death (YA Paranormal) series of novels.
Majanka is currently developing a new YA shifter series with a fresh take on fierce female detectives called THE ADVENTURES OF MARISOL HOLMES which will be published by Monster House Books in October 2018.
Her NA paranormal romance series, Ghost Slayer, has been picked up by Fire Quill Publishing. The first volume will be released in 2017.
When she’s not writing, Majanka is probably playing World of Warcraft or catching up with the dozens of TV series she’s addicted to.
Amazon Profile: http://amazon.com/author/majankaverstraete