Originally Released by Dark Roast Press: April 2008
History repeats itself in the small Mississippi River town of Bauman Creek where two star-crossed lovers met their end during one of the darkest times in the history of the United States. Over a century later, six academics arrive at the site of their demise, Evans House, a haunted place, to oversee an inheritance passed to the State of Illinois by the last of the Evans family. Three of those people, Tristan Pryce, Catherine Mullin, and Jake Bauman will come face to face with the secrets of this place in a way they never imagined. Secrets can never be buried deep enough though and amidst its dark halls, the shadows seem to whisper.
Excerpt from “Shadows Beneath”
Breathing rough and pulse elevated, Tristan woke to the dark room, perspiration dripping down his naked back. It was then that he realized that the shriek was his own; hand flailing, he hit the lamp twice before he managed to hit the switch and the soft glow chased away the shadows. He glanced at the travel clock on the bedside table and groaned. Just a couple of hours had passed, and he felt more exhausted now than before.
A dull aching pulse in his chest drew him from his thoughts. With each breath he took the pain slowly eased; he glanced down, his hand smoothing over his bare skin. He had to take a second glance to make sure his mind wasn’t playing tricks on him, but he wasn’t seeing things– four circular red marks were scattered along the surface of his skin. Taking a ragged breath, he ran a fingertip along one, staring in wonder as it faded, leaving no sign that it had ever existed.
Hands scrubbing over his face, Tristan swung his legs over the edge of the mattress and sat up. He finally stood on weak legs and slowly made his way to the bathroom. He was thankful he had his own private bathroom; it kept him from having to explain why he was up, and looking as though the devil himself had paid him a visit.
He tried to catch his breath as he leaned into the edge of the sink, the porcelain cold against his stomach, and his chest constricting with each heartbeat. God, he thought, I’m going to be sick. Jerking forward, he began vomiting in the sink, choking and sobbing, his whole body aching from the effort. When he finished, a flick of his wrist sent a cascade of cold water to wash away the remains of his supper down the drain.
Cupping his hands, he splashed water over his face, then rinsed the bitter acrid taste of gall from his mouth, and glanced into the mirror. His reflection told him exactly what he knew to be true—he looked like hell. Brought on by the nightmare, his eyes were wide and dark with the shock of sickness, and his skin was pasty with terror.
Then he saw the other face.
It was nothing but a faint reflection at first and then it began to form, another face just over his shoulder.
“This is just a nightmare—nothing but a nightmare,” he whispered to himself, as the face began to coalesce into something far more solid.
The skin was porcelain pale and smooth, stretched over high delicate cheekbones, and the eyes, piercing eyes the color of sapphires that held so many secrets, and shimmered with desire. Soft russet curls framed the pale face, and full scarlet lips moved, trying to speak.
Soft hands moved over his shoulders, stroking his chest down to his stomach. Slim fingers slid beneath the waistband of his pajamas, seeking out his flesh with soft touches. Moaning, he rocked into the questing fingers, wanting her to stroke him, to tease him. His face flushed bright pink as the ghostly fingers teased his nipples, caressing from one to the other.
I need you…want you…
Even knowing in his head there would be no one there, he still choked when he turned to face an empty room. A velvety caress of lilac-scented wind brushed along his cheek, down his shoulder, and sent him into a fit of denial.
“No.” He shook his head vehemently. “No, it isn’t real—it isn’t real.” His heart hammered so hard against his ribs he thought it would burst through his chest for a moment. He continued backing up until the rim of cold porcelain bit into his spine; his gaze slowly lowered to the floor where something lay that had no business being there.
It can’t be there, Tristan thought.
Bile rose into the back of his throat as he lowered himself to his knees, his trembling fingers reaching out to wrap around the stem and vibrant green leaves. It’s real, oh god, it was real, he thought. Pale, purple-tinted blossoms crushed between his fingers, releasing the scent of lilac once more, and a muted whisper drifted to his ear as the rich fragrance filled his nose.
His fingers began to grow warm as he looked frantically around the room for the source of the ghostly whisper. Finally, he decided he was dreaming and gave up searching, his gaze returning to the cluster of blossoms in his hand. What he saw caused him to choke, and then he let out a gasp of horror.
There was blood—so much blood.
From the delicate flowers, it dripped, pooling on the stark white tile of the floor. Splatters of scarlet speckled his bare feet as he dropped the cluster of blood soaked blossoms and stumbled to his feet.
“No!” Tristan screamed as he bolted from the bathroom, slamming the door behind him, and as he fled, soft laughter filled the bathroom.
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