The pagan holiday of Halloween fast approaches the paranormal town of Apple Hollow, and Trixie Lyal is ready for the celebration. Her plans for a fun parade around town change when Orion and she receive a one-of-a-kind invitation to an exclusive seance, courtesy of a mysterious gift-giver. They can’t resist going, but end up with more than they bargained for when the seance goes awry, leaving one of them with more spirit than they came with.
Now they have to figure out what the spirit wants before it decides it doesn’t want Orion’s body any more. Their merry adventure leads them from the highs of Amazonian gypsy country to the lows of the old bone plot in their search to dig up a dark secret in the town’s past before they’re buried beneath trouble.
I was surrounded by ghosts and black cats. Cobwebs hung from the lampposts and tombstones stood around every corner. The sounds of cackling and screams echoed over the long street. Skeletons and scarecrows sat in lawn chairs beside doorways and glared at cars and people alike. Everyone on the street seemed oblivious to these terrors as they strolled down the sidewalks, some with children and some without.
I had my own kid to deal with. And speaking of that, something even more terrifying wrapped their arms around me and pressed me against their chest.
“If you don’t finish your shopping soon I’m going to have to kidnap you back to my place,” Orion warned me.
I wiggled in his grip. “Will you let go? I just need one more thing for my costume, okay?”
We stood outside one of the shops on the main street of Apple Hollow. The businesses were decked out in decor that honored the yearly festival of harvest and spooks, Halloween.
In my hand was a plastic bag. In Orion’s hands were a half dozen other bags, and me.
He opened his arms and dropped me back onto the sidewalk. “This better not take as long as the other clothes.”
I turned to face him and grinned. “You know you liked watching me show off those skimpy black skirts.”
An amused smile slipped onto his handsome face. “Yeah, but it’s made things really hard for me ever since.”
I stepped backward away from him. “Then just be a good were-boy and wait here while I go get the last thing I need.”
I spun around and hurried down the sidewalk. There was just the finishing touch left to get, and my costume would be complete. I walked up to a corner store devoid of Halloween decorations. The name Leto Drug hung above the door. I walked up to the counter that stood at the back of the store. Behind the wide window was a mess of shelves with a wide assortment of prescriptions pill bottles.
A man over eighty in a long white coat greeted me. His thinning hair was parted down the middle and there was a bright smile on my face. “Good morning, Miss Lyal. What can I do for you?”
I froze my smile on my face. It was still unnerving having people know me and I having no idea who they are. Fortunately, his name-tag read ‘Mike Leto.’
“I was wondering if you had eye patches for sale,” I told him.
He smiled and nodded. “Yes, we do. They’re over there.” He leaned over the counter and pointed at a wall to my left. “Just over there. The kids already bought the smaller ones, though.”
“Good thing I’m bigger,” I commented as I walked up to the wall.
The bell over the door rang. I looked at the entrance and saw a short old woman shuffle into the store. She wore a flowered white dress with a white sash around her waist. In her firm hands was a purse. She shuffled over to the counter and smiled at Leto. “Good morning, Mike.”
He returned the smile and nodded. “Good morning, Bertha. What can I do for you?”
“Just the usual, and a small pumpkin candle,” she replied.
Leto frowned, but grabbed a small yellow candle from a nearby shelf. “You sure you want to do that?”
Bertha’s face and she pursed her lips. “Very much so.” She glanced my way. Her eyes looked tired. She bowed her head.
I waved and returned to my patch perusing, but not without keeping one eye on the woman.
“So how’s the good reverend dealing with this All Hallow’s Eve?” Leto asked her as he packed her candle and prescription into a small white bag.
She sighed. “The usual fashion, but I won’t give away the surprise.”
Leto laughed as he slid the bag over the counter to her. “Dang. I was hoping to warn my great-nieces.”
The old woman took her bag and handed the pharmacist some cash. “Not this year.” She turned and shuffled to the door.
“See you later,” he called.
She didn’t turn back as she left the store. I continued my perusing. To the right of the medicinal shelving was one of miscellaneous toys, including a blowgun and popgun. Most of the inventory was out-of-stock for the coming ‘trick’ part of Halloween.
I found two eye patches and walked up to the counter. Leto rang up the bill. “So going as a pirate for the big town bash, eh?”
I grinned as I handed him some cash. “Not exactly.”
He smiled as he gave me my change. “I see. Wanting to keep it a secret, eh? Well, how about a trade?” He leaned his elbows on the counter and nodded at the shelving where I just stood. “I noticed you were admiring the blowguns. I don’t look like much now, but I used to be quite the marksman in my youth. I could hit a target that was barely in my sight.” He tapped his temple. “And you know how good a sight a werewolf has, I bet.”
“I’m starting to,” I admitted.
He nodded at my bag. “So now that I’ve told you my secret, what’s your costume?”
I smiled and shook my head. “Thanks for the secret, but I’m keeping mine.”
He frowned as I slipped outside. The darkening sky warned me night was only an hour away. That would make it the eve of Halloween, or one day until the rave Orion told me the town threw every October 31st.
I met my mate almost where I’d left him. He sat on a nearby bench with the bags around him. His head was lolled back and his tongue hung out. A folded piece of paper sat on his chest. I grabbed the paper and unfolded the parts to read the contents aloud.
“I’ve lost the will to live. Please have me cremated.” I rolled my eyes and folded the paper. “Seriously?”
Orion raised his head and grinned. “A few more minutes and I might have seriously considered suicide.”
I tossed the paper onto him and picked up a few of the bags. “Then let’s go home before you make a spectacle of yourself.”
We left the shopping district and strolled up the residential streets. The lawns and porches were covered in wooden tombstones and floating sheets of ghosts. Jack-o-lanterns sat on the porch railings and the slight autumn breeze rocked the porch swings in which sat scarecrows and zombie mannequins. Cobwebs hung in the trees and bushes, and orange solar lights lit up the walking paths.
“Everyone sure does go all out for this, don’t they?” I commented.
Orion smiled and nodded. “Yeah, even more than Christmas, but you can’t really blame us.”
I snorted. “Yeah, it’s like Halloween every day of the year for everyone here.”
We reached Orion’s house. A veritable cemetery covered his lawn and a large spider hung from its thread off the porch. We paused at the mailbox and Orion pulled out the small stack.
He flipped through the envelopes. “Junk. Junk. Junk.”
I looked up at the clear evening sky. “Even out here there’s no escaping the junk mail.”
He nodded as he continued his chanting. “Junk. Junk. J-” He paused and held up a vanilla-colored envelope. A frown slipped onto his lips. “Are you expecting any letters?”
I shook my head. “No. The only one who knows I’m here is my mom, and she prefers email. Why?”
He held the envelope out to me. “Because this is for you.”
I frowned and took the envelope. There was my name scrawled on the back in black ink. The handwriting was a cursive style with wide, looping strokes. There was no return address, or even a stamp. I opened the top and pulled out two small, black rectangular slips of thick paper. The color of the paper was faded and some of the corners were bent.
Orion arched an eyebrow. “Tickets to Madam Bentley’s seance?”
I looked over the white lettering on the front. The words confirmed Orion’s comment. I raised my eyes to look at him. “How’d you know?”
He nodded at the tickets. “People around here tend to avoid using black in their correspondences, but not Madam Bentley. It’s her calling card.”
My eyes flickered up to Orion. “Let me guess. This woman isn’t a fake.”
He shrugged. “I couldn’t say. I’ve never been invited to one of her parties. Some people say she is, and some say she isn’t.”
I studied the tickets again. They read as follows:
You are cordially invited to Madam Bentley’s seance on the evening of October 29th. Please arrive on or before six o’clock sharp. Do not wear gloves.
I furrowed my brow. “So if you’ve never been to one how did I get invited?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. Those in attendance are usually part of an exclusive and random list of the most influential people in town.”
A sly smile slipped onto my lips as my eyes flickered to him. “And you’ve never been a part of one?”
He grinned. “I guess I’m not random enough.” He pinched one corner of a ticket between his fingers and turned it over. “These look like pretty old tickets.”
I nodded. “Yeah. Somebody got invited and decided they weren’t random enough.” I looked over the envelope. Something caught my eyes. I held the envelope close to my face and squinted. “Does this look like a smudge to you?”
Orion took the envelope and studied the light black marking on the front. He sniffed the spot and nodded. “It’s a smudge. I’d say some sort of paint.”
I looked down at the tickets in my hand and shrugged. “Why not?”
He arched an eyebrow. “You want to go?”
I turned to face him and held up the envelope. “I receive an unmarked, hand-delivered envelope with two tickets to an exclusive seance. Somebody wants me to go there, and I’d like to find out who and why.”
Orion smiled and plucked a ticket from my hand. “That makes two of us.”
I glanced at my watch. “We’ve got enough time for food. What kind of clothes do people where to these things?”
Orion cringed. “Let’s just say it’s anything we can find in our closets and skip the shopping.”
I grinned. “But we had such fun.”
He grasped my arm and turned me toward the house. “If you’re hoping for a case of Stockholm Syndrome then I’m going to have to disappoint you. Anyway, let’s get cooking and see if we can’t find a skimpy outfit for you to wear.”
I rolled my eyes. “Always with the sexy outfits.”
He stopped and leaned down. His lips captured mine in a sweet, intense kiss that left me breathless. A thrill of heat tingled my body. I wanted him to keep going all the way to the bedroom.
Orion parted us and grinned. “I expect to see that pirate costume of yours soon, but right now we have a news story to discover.”
I sighed and stepped backward toward the house. “I think I’ve created a monster.”
His eyes flashed a deep yellow and his crooked smile showed off his sharp teeth. “Too late, but let’s get cooking before we’re late to the seance.”
I laughed as he sidled up beside me. “Yeah, we wouldn’t want them to dial the ghosts before we get there.”
If only we’d been late.