UPDATE!!! C.C. has generously decided to give-away a signed paperback copy of “Don’t Wake the Dead”! This is limited to the US. Just comment to this post with what you hope to see in the next Wraith Files book. As for me I really want some lovin’ for Blaine. This series is definitely slow burn romance but oh so good!
Don’t forget to comment to this post and I’ll use my “Randomizer” to select a US address winner on Halloween night!
I’m going to turn today’s Pre-Halloween post over to C. C. Wood. She is the author of the Blood & Bone, Bitten, and the Wraith Files Series; well among other non-Paranormal series too. I asked her to write an exclusive short story of my favorite of her series – The Wraith Files; so she wrote 25 pages of Pure Teri Treat!
So here’s C.C.:
Halloween ties with Christmas as my favorite holiday. No, seriously. When it’s Halloween, it’s my favorite. Until Christmas comes along, then that’s my favorite. I can never pick just one.
I love this time of year. The food, the fun, the scary movies. All of it! I also love ghost stories, even though I was a weenie when I was younger and couldn’t sleep without a nightlight after reading a scary book.
So when Char approached me about writing a special short story for Halloween, I immediately knew that I should write about the characters from the Wraith Files series. They’re funny, unpredictable, and I wish they were real people so I could hang out with them all the time. I mean, they hang out in my head, but people look at you like you’re nuts when you start having conversations with yourself. I speak from experience.
Ghosts Are People Too is told from Teri’s point of view and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Ghosts Are People Too
A Wraith Files Short Story
I remained still and silent as a group of people moved around me, chatting and laughing. I intended to bide my time and, when the moment was right, I would strike.
But first…I had to select my prey.
He walked past me and I grinned. I loved catching him off guard. He shivered and I froze, worried that he might realize what was happening.
After a moment, he continued on his path, returning his gaze to the cell phone in his hand. My smile widened. My fun wouldn’t be ruined after all.
I glided forward, careful not to touch the people that surrounded me. While they wouldn’t know what I was, the deep chill I left on their skin would alert them to my presence. As I approached, he glanced behind him. His eyes moved right over me.
Without hesitation, I reached out and grabbed his butt.
“What the hell?” he yelled as he took two jerky steps forward.
I floated closer to plant a kiss on his cheek.
“Goddammit, Teri!” he roared.
I laughed so hard that I bent forward, clutching my belly. Stoney looked around, his eyes wide and wild.
“My ass is off limits, even to ghosts!”
Before I could torment him further, I felt the familiar tingle in my abdomen. “Shit.”
The tingling and tugging sensations increased until I found myself yanked toward Stoney. As I passed through him, he yelped and jumped to the side, swearing at me again. I yelled as I flew toward the wall, throwing my arms up in front of my face even though I knew it wouldn’t help.
When my body met the brick, there was a brief resistance before I slid inside and popped out in another room.
Zoe Thorne stood in front of me, her arms crossed over her chest and one hip cocked to the side. She tilted her head and her long dark ponytail swung over her shoulder. In the last thirty years, she was the only person who could hear or see me. When she bought the house that my spirit was bound to, I did my best to make her life miserable, but now I loved her to bits. She needed to loosen up a little though.
“Seriously, Teri? This is the first time you’ve been out with me to film, but the rules haven’t changed,” she complained. “How many times do I have to tell you to stop harassing Stoney? You may be a ghost, but that doesn’t give you free rein to run around grabbing people’s asses!”
I winced as her voice lifted into a shout. “No need to shriek,” I stated.
“How many times do I have to tell you the same thing?” she repeated.
Somehow, I managed to keep a straight face as I replied, “Just one more.”
I couldn’t hide my smile as Zoe released a frustrated, wordless yell.
“When we’re on set, you need to behave yourself,” she declared a few moments later. “We all have jobs to do and I won’t bring you out on the road if you can’t respect that.”
I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes. Zoe couldn’t leave me behind even if she wanted to. A few months ago, the spirit of the man who killed me returned to the earthly realm and tried to kill her. I was the only one who could contain his non-corporeal form and I’d nearly been banished to Hell along with him when she created a spell to cast him out.
Somehow Zoe managed to tie my essence to her life force. After I died, my spirit couldn’t leave the confines of the house where I was killed. Now, I was joined with Zoe and I went where she did.
For the first time in decades, I was seeing the world. It almost made up for the fact that I was a ghost.
I sighed. “Fine, fine. I won’t do it again. At least not while we’re on set.”
The muffled snicker that erupted from the man standing beside Zoe caught our attention. She and I turned toward Mal Flemming, whose face was dark red from the effort to contain his laughter.
“God, you’re no better than she is,” Zoe complained, which immediately set him off.
Laughing, Mal wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Though he was Zoe’s boss, he was also crazy about her. But she didn’t seem to realize it. It drove me nuts because not only was he the perfect man for her, he was a genuinely nice guy. After a life of dealing with not-so-nice ones and then another thirty years watching other women deal with them after I died, I recognized a keeper when I saw one.
“Stoney doesn’t care,” Mal murmured into her ear. “I’m pretty sure he likes the fact that she thinks his ass is grab-worthy.”
Zoe rolled her eyes, but she leaned deeper into his body. “Yeah, but I’m sure Blaine hates it.”
Mal shrugged. “He probably does, but he loves Teri. Maybe she’ll loosen him up a little. He’s had a stick up his ass lately.”
I bit back a snort. I knew why Blaine was cranky as hell but it wasn’t my secret to tell.
The man in question came around the corner. “Guys, we need to get started. We’ve only got permission to be here until two a.m.”
Mal kissed Zoe’s forehead and released her from his hold. “Let’s go then.” He followed Blaine around the corner.
Zoe gave me one more pointed look and growled, “Behave.” Then she followed Blaine and Mal into the other room.
I sighed and glanced around. The old sanitarium was gloomy and dank, the brick walls damp and dirty. Supposedly it was the most haunted place south of the Mason-Dixon, which was why Zoe and Mal chose it for the Halloween special this year. When The Wraith Files had been picked up by a major network Mal decided it was time to take things up a notch. Hence the most haunted place in the South.
“Who are you?”
I screeched and flew forward several feet before I gained enough control to stop my momentum. Pressing a hand to my chest, I turned toward the voice.
Another ghost floated in front of me, a man. I was no historian, but I guessed his outfit was from the nineteenth century. His hair was long and dark and pulled into a short tail at the base of his neck. And he was gorgeous. Maybe one of the best looking men, er, ghosts, I’d ever seen.
Unfortunately, all that sexiness was ruined by the disapproving expression he wore.
“Who are you?” I asked, crossing my arms over my chest. I was used to receiving the look he wore. Mostly when I was alive. The look that said I didn’t fit into his expectations of what a woman should be. Male or female, people tended to wear that facial expression when they found out I was an exotic dancer. Before I died it stopped bothering me, but now it stung. Probably because I hadn’t seen it in such a long time.
For all her prudishness, Zoe accepted me completely.
“My name is Jacob Fitzhugh,” he replied with a bow of his head.
He blinked and seemed surprised by my name, but he didn’t comment. Instead, he asked, “How did you come to be here? I haven’t seen a new spirit in this place in a very long time.”
“I’m here with the people who just left.”
“So they can see you?” He appeared shocked.
“Only the woman with the long dark hair. She can see and hear ghosts.”
“I don’t understand,” he responded. “You seemed to be speaking with her earlier, but that cannot be. I’ve been here for many, many years and no one has ever heard me before.”
I shrugged. “Zoe can. I like to give her a hard time, but she’s a good egg.”
“You speak strangely,” Jacob said. “I do not understand anything you just said.”
“Zoe is a good person. She’s kind and she helps spirits like you and me.”
His eyes brightened then. “You say she helps our kind? That she can help me?”
Shit, I should have known. Everywhere we went Zoe was a magnet for spirits in need. Somehow they found her without even trying.
“She does,” I replied. “C’mon, I’ll introduce you to her.”
Jacob stared at Zoe in awe as she smiled at him.
“I’m Zoe, Jacob. It’s nice to meet you. Teri said that you needed my help.”
Cameras and other various gadgets were set up around us to record the conversation. Well, at least Zoe’s side. Other than the occasional EVP, Mal, Stoney, and Blaine had yet to find a way to consistently record Zoe’s interactions with the living challenged.
Jacob’s eyes moved from Zoe to the cameras that surrounded them. “I pray that you are able. I have wandered this place for well over two centuries and you are the first who has heard me.”
Zoe’s simple response seemed to surprise Jacob because he fell silent. After a long moment, he began to speak.
“My wife found it difficult to carry our babes. She lost many within a month and finally died bearing our stillborn son when my daughter was ten. After that, Victoria and I only had each other.” He paused, his expression haunted. “That last winter, I fell ill. My daughter was only fourteen but she nursed me the best she could. There was no doctor in town and…” he trailed off. It wasn’t too difficult to guess what happened next. He swallowed and I knew it was merely a reflex. He could no longer eat or drink, but the urge remained. “When I returned in this form, she was no longer in the house. I had no will, no other family. I want to know what happened to her, that she was safe after I…passed.”
My heart broke for him. The knowledge that he had left behind a child, alone in the world, would have been agony.
I glanced at Zoe and winced when I saw the frown on her face. That wasn’t a good sign.
“Please help me find out what happened to my daughter. To find her,” Jacob pleaded.
Zoe leaned forward. “I’ll do what I can, Mr. Fitzhugh, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to find Victoria. I’ve never done anything like this before. Spirits usually find me.”
Jacob flinched at her words and his face fell.
“I can find out where she lived during her life and if she married,” Blaine offered. “The sanitarium was built on your land, wasn’t it?”
Blaine glanced at Mal and Zoe. “Anything else you want me to look up while I’m online?”
Mal got to his feet and walked over to Blaine. “I have some ideas. But we also have to keep filming because we can only be here for another five hours.” The two men disappeared around the corner. I couldn’t understand a damn word they said because it was some sort of technical terminology that sounded like a completely different language.
“We’re going to do our best to help you, Jacob,” Zoe stated, her smile reassuring. “If we can’t resolve this tonight, I promise I’ll keep working on it. I will come back.” She stood. “While the guys work, I’m going to make a call. My friend may be able to tell me how to summon Victoria’s spirit.”
Hope returned to Jacob’s face, but also fear. I recognized that look. He was afraid to hope, afraid that he would never find out what happened to his daughter.
I glided over to him. “Zoe means what she says. If she promises that she won’t give up, she won’t. I’ve known her for five years now and she’s never broken a promise to me.”
He faced me fully. “I believe you, Teri.” He paused, casting his eyes down to his feet. “It has been so long. I had given up hope that I would ever discover what happened to my Victoria.”
“One way or another, Zoe will find out for you,” I vowed.
He lifted his eyes to mine. “May I ask how you came to be as you are?” he queried. I must have made a face because he lifted a hand. “You do not have to tell me.”
Shaking my head, I answered. “It’s not that. It’s just…complicated.”
Jacob shrugged and I noticed for the first time that his shoulders were broad and he appeared to be in fantastic shape underneath those antiquated clothes. “We have eternity.”
“You do have a good point. Okay, so it all started thirty years ago.” I lifted my legs up and crossed them beneath me as though I were sitting down. Zoe always laughed when I did it and said I looked like a levitating yogi. “I worked as an exotic dancer in a club.”
“What’s an exotic dancer?” Jacob interrupted.
I hesitated, but decided to go with the truth. I was never ashamed about who I was during my life, I damn well wouldn’t start now. Jacob was from a different time and I knew he wouldn’t understand, but he could get over it. “I took my clothes off and danced for money.”
His brows rose. “Like a saloon girl? A loose woman?”
I laughed. “Oh, I’m sure I showed a lot more skin than any of them ever did. Usually I wore nothing but pasties and a thong. And sometimes not even the pasties.” At his confused expression, I explained further. Gesturing toward my chest, I said, “Pasties covered the nipples and a thong is a piece of fabric that covers a woman between her legs and has two strings that go around the hips and between her ass cheeks.”
If a ghost could blush, Jacob definitely would have been. “Dear God! You mean you danced naked?”
I couldn’t suppress my grin at his incredulity. “As close to it as I could legally get.”
“This was legal?” he asked.
I nodded. “Things have changed in the last two hundred years, Jake. Women are no longer expected to keep their bodies covered from head to toe.”
“I knew that,” he replied. “I’ve even heard of the job you describe but only as a—” he paused. “A stripper, not an exotic dancer.”
“They’re the same thing, but the word “stripper” always makes me think of peeling paint off furniture, which isn’t sexy at all.”
He blinked at me and I realized we’d gone way off tangent. “Anyway, I was working at a club, stripping, when I met a serial killer.” I knew I would likely have to explain that to him as well, so I didn’t wait for him to ask. “A serial killer is someone who murders more than one person in a specific, ritualized way. They are often sexually excited by the ritual and the act of murder.”
Jacob’s eyes grew wide, but he didn’t speak.
“He killed me in my home and my spirit was trapped there for twenty-five years. No one would buy the place because of what happened there, then when people forgot and started coming around, looking to purchase it, I did everything I could to scare them off. Then Zoe came and I realized she could see and hear me.” I blinked rapidly. The urge to cry, the burning sensation of tears, was there, even if my nearly transparent form couldn’t produce them. “She is the best thing that ever happened to me. She’s the sister I never had.”
“How is it that you are here?” he asked. “If you were trapped in your home, how were you freed?”
“Well, a few months ago, Zoe helped a ghost get justice for his death and he moved on to wherever we go when we’re no longer stuck here. When he left, something else came through the doorway. Something evil. We didn’t realize at the time was that it was the spirit of the man who murdered me. Actually, he wasn’t a spirit, more like a lesser demon.” The shocked expression returned to Jacob’s face. “He came after Zoe and I was the only one who could defend her. When she banished him back to Hell, I had to hold him in place, but Zoe wouldn’t let me go with him. Somehow, when she cast the spell, she tied my essence to hers. Now, I go where she goes.”
“It is strange,” Jacob replied. “When I was alive, I never would have believed something like that. In fact, I would have thought you were insane or possessed by Satan himself. Now, I know there are more things on this earth than I will ever understand. I have seen things I never thought possible.” His gaze focused more fully on me and I noticed that his eyes were a beautiful golden brown, even though he was nearly transparent. “I am glad you’re free to travel with your friend.”
Attraction curled in the pit of my stomach and I shivered, something I’d never done once I became a ghost. I shook off the sensation and focused on Jacob’s sad eyes. “I am too.”
“Teri!” Blaine called out from another room. “I think I found something, but I need Jacob to tell me if the woman is his daughter.”
Jacob and I moved forward in unison and our shoulders bumped hard. I stared at him in shock as the impact caused my body to fly in the opposite direction of his.
“What just happened?” I asked.
His face wore an expression of confusion and shock, a perfect representation of my own feelings. “I have no idea.”
“You’ve been around other spirits, right? Has that ever happened to you before?”
He shook his head. “What about you?”
“I’ve never been around other spirits, except the ghost of the bastard that killed me.”
We stared at each other until Blaine’s voice reached me. “Zoe? Have you seen Teri?”
Jacob turned away and glided toward the door, moving quickly. “My daughter,” he murmured.
Still reeling, I followed behind him.
Zoe and Blaine were waiting for us. Her eyes narrowed when she spied me and I knew that she could see the raw emotions on my face. I shook my head slightly, telling her without words that this wasn’t the time.
“Jacob, Blaine found records of a Victoria Fitzhugh in this area that fit the time frame. He also found a picture in some online archives and he wanted you to look at it to see if it’s her.”
I trailed Jacob over to the table where Blaine was set up with his laptop. His body grew perfectly still, hovering in midair.
“That’s her,” he whispered, reaching out a hand. His fingers passed through the screen and the image wavered. He jerked his hand back. “She grew up.” His mouth curved in a tentative smile. “She’s even more beautiful than she was as a child.”
I could hear the pain in his voice and reached out instinctively to comfort him. There was a faint buzz as our hands made contact and I curled my fingers around his. Jacob was so lost in his memories and his pain that he didn’t notice at first.
Blaine grinned at the computer screen. “I’m the man,” he stated.
Zoe rolled her eyes and Mal muttered something beneath his breath, but neither of them openly denied it. Probably because Blaine had been crabby as hell lately and would have wasted precious time arguing about his status as the man.
He flexed his fingers and began typing. “Okay, I’ll need a little more time, but now that I know who I’m looking for, I should have enough information to figure out where she’s buried and maybe to help you call her, Zoe.”
Jacob’s voice trembled as he whispered, “Thank you for finding my daughter. Thank you.” The words became nearly inaudible, more of a sigh than actual words. “Thank you.”
Zoe repeated his words to Blaine, but he waved them away. “Don’t thank me yet. I haven’t found everything.”
As he worked in silence, the affable mask he typically wore fell away, revealing the determined, razor sharp man beneath. Blaine was something of a paradox. He appeared to be nothing more than a surfer dude who was looking for fun while he burned through his trust fund. The longer I was around him, the more I realized that Blaine might like to have fun, but he thrived on challenges and the unconventional.
I squeezed Jacob’s hand, hoping to offer some small comfort, and he jerked. I glanced over at him and found that he was staring at our entwined fingers in complete shock.
“What in God’s name?” he murmured. His eyes lifted to mine. “How?”
I shrugged. I had no answers for him. He was the first ghost I’d met outside of the demonic spirit of my murderer. “I have no idea.”
“I’ve never been able to touch another spirit before,” he murmured. “In a century and a half, this is the first time.”
He lifted our joined hands to study them. The expression on his face was one I’d never seen before. I had no idea what he might be thinking. A quick look at Zoe showed that she was surprised as well. It also made me wonder if our bond was why Jacob and I could touch. As a necromancer, Zoe held power over the dead. Perhaps as her tethered ghost, I had some sort of power as well.
As cool as the idea sounded, I put it out of my mind. While it might have been decades since I’d felt true contact with another friendly being (because I don’t count dead psychomurderers), Jacob had been isolated for much longer.
I sucked in a breath I didn’t need when he released my hand and trailed his fingers over mine. It was an experimental touch, but I could see and hear the faint sparks of electricity that emanated from where our non-corporeal bodies made contact.
“Is some of the equipment shorting out? I smell something burning.” Blaine asked absently, his gaze intent on the laptop. “Mal, could you check.”
Zoe shook her head at Mal. “It’s fine, Blaine. Don’t worry about it.” When he started to turn around, probably to argue with her, she leaned down and whispered in his ear. I couldn’t hear her words, but he nodded and went back to work.
My attention returned to Jacob when he suddenly jerked me into his arms and hugged me tightly. “My God, I’d forgotten.”
As he spoke, I knew exactly what he meant. The longer we remained as spirits in this realm, the harder it was to remember what contact with another person felt like. The sensation of someone’s arms around me, the warmth of their skin, being able to lean on someone physically larger and stronger than me…I’d forgotten what it felt like.
But now I remembered and it made my body go haywire. Well, it would have if I had a real body. My ability to think clearly disappeared and I sank into his embrace. Never again would I take a hug for granted.
After a few long moments, he released me and I thought I saw a blush in his cheeks. “I apologize for my behavior,” he murmured. “I was somewhat overwhelmed.”
Seeing his discomfort, I did something I hadn’t in a very long time.
I let it go.
I didn’t tease him or poke him. I merely nodded. “Please don’t worry about it. I understand. It’s been so long since someone hugged me that I forgot what it felt like.” Hell, I probably hadn’t had a proper hug from someone for years before my death.
“Fuck me!” Blaine yelled. “I found her and she’s in this town.” He turned toward Zoe. “Time to do your magic, necromancer.”
Zoe sucked in a deep breath and released it slowly. “I have no idea what to do.”
Mal curved an arm around her shoulder. “Follow your instincts,” he advised. “They haven’t led you off path so far.”
My eyes met Zoe’s and I nodded. She could do this. I knew she could.
Only now I wasn’t sure I truly wanted her to.
While Zoe called the witch who was helping her develop her powers, Jacob drifted out of the room. My hand was still in his and he dragged me along behind him. We settled side by side a few rooms away, sitting cross-legged as we hovered several feet above the floor. I could sit on the floor itself, but Jacob never bothered to master interacting with inanimate objects.
All the while, he held my hand, staring down at it as if he was afraid it would disappear from his grasp.
Hoping to get him out of his mood, I said, “You know I used to tell men all the time that my eyes were up here, but I never thought I would need to because someone was staring at my hand.”
That got his attention. He looked up at me in confusion. “What does that mean?”
I smiled at him. “You’re staring at the hand the way men stared at my breasts when I was alive—as though you’re afraid to look away or they’ll disappear.”
Jacob’s eyes flicked down to my chest for a split second before returning to my face. He appeared embarrassed, but he didn’t release his grip on my hand. “I apologize. I never thought that this could happen.” He closed his eyes “I’m afraid that if I let you go, it will all end. That this will all have been a dream and I’ll be here alone once again, wondering what happened to my Victoria.”
I curled my fingers tighter around his. “It’s not a dream, Jacob. We’re going to help you find your daughter. Zoe is amazingly talented, even if she’s inexperienced. If anyone can bring her here, it will be her. You’ll be able to move on. Hopefully together.”
Jacob stared at me for a long moment, his expression unreadable. “What about you?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“What will happen to you?”
I shrugged. “The same thing that’s been happening for the last thirty years—I’ll keep existing and harassing the hot men that Zoe seems to attract. Except now I get to travel and see the world.”
“What will you do when she’s gone?”
His quiet question had the same impact as a punch to the gut from a ham-fisted gorilla wearing brass knuckles. I tried not to think about Zoe’s death. Not because of what it might mean for me, though the thought did occasionally cross my mind, but because my best friend in the world would be gone, separated from me. The world needed Zoe Thorne, even as its inhabitants shunned her. She possessed the character traits that I most admired and that society needed desperately.
Unable, to find the words to explain all that, I only whispered, “I don’t know.”
Jacob lifted a hand and cupped my cheek. My eyelids fluttered and I leaned into the touch without thinking. It was all instinct. “You should come with me,” he invited. “Whatever awaits us on the other side, I have no doubt that it will be far better than what you have here.”
I smiled, but it was from sadness. “You’re probably right,” I admitted. “But you’re also wrong. My living family wasn’t worth a damn, but Zoe…” I hesitated, searching for the right words. “She’s the little sister I always wanted. And Mal, Blaine, and Stoney are the brothers I never had. I love them all. They’re not just people I haunt. They’re my family.”
Jacob leaned closer. “But they are alive and we are not. Our time has passed and we are no longer of this earth. They belong here. We do not.”
Our faces were just an inch or two apart. So close that if either of us had been able to exhale, I would have felt the warmth of his breath on my lips.
“I don’t agree with that,” I argued. “I’m here for a reason and that reason is to help Zoe. She needed me so much when we met, Jacob, and she will need me again. I don’t know how I know it, but I do.”
Jacob’s only reply was to kiss me.
My entire body tingled with the same electricity that buzzed between our hands when as we held them. But as the sensation faded, I realized it wasn’t a passionate embrace. It was a farewell.
No matter how the night turned out, I understood then that Jacob intended to move on. He knew that his daughter had grown up. Even if Zoe couldn’t find her, Blaine would probably be able to tell him something about her life. How she lived, how she died. It would be enough to put his mind at ease and he would release his hold on this plane and drift into the next. It was his time.
But it wasn’t mine.
Slowly, he lifted his head and stared down at me. Though it was completely silent, there was an exchange of emotion, profound and tender. A moment of understanding and compassion.
“You are not what I expected, Teri.” His fingers stroked my face. “But I am pleased that I met you.”
I moved away from him and his hand fell away. “I’m glad that I met you too, Jacob.” I didn’t examine the emotions roiling inside me. There were too many. Frustration, sadness, but also certainty. I knew I wasn’t making a mistake by remaining with Zoe. And I wasn’t one to ignore my instincts, in life and in death.
“Guys,” Zoe called from the door. We turned toward her. “Blaine has all the information on Victoria’s life. And, Teri, with your help, I think I can call her spirit forward.”
“It’s time,” I stated as I held my hand out to Jacob. He hesitated for a moment but eventually took it.
When our eyes met, he repeated, “It’s time.”
Jacob and I hovered behind Blaine’s chair as he opened up several tabs on the laptop screen.
Though he couldn’t hear anything Jacob said, Blaine spoke directly to Jacob rather than to Zoe. It was something I liked about him. He always tried to treat me like a person, even though he couldn’t see me or hear me. He never acted as though I wasn’t there if he knew that I was.
Although there were times I was glad he didn’t know I was around. Like when he was showering.
“I found a few things about Victoria,” Blaine stated. “First of all, she married George Blake when she was seventeen. They had three children that survived into adulthood, two sons and one daughter. She lived until the age of forty-five before succumbing to some sort of cancer.”
“George Blake?” Jacob asked, his brows lifting. “He was fifteen years her senior.” He didn’t seem pleased by the idea as he frowned. “He was also my friend. He should have cared for her, not taken advantage.”
I floated closer, hoping my presence would help calm him.
“Teri,” Zoe murmured. I looked toward her and she beckoned me over. “I need your help.”
When I reached her, she smiled and whispered, “You can touch each other?”
Her grin widened. “Maybe you’ll be able to do more than touch and you’ll finally leave me alone about my sex life.”
“No chance,” I replied. “Regular sex would improve your attitude.”
She chuckled and I knew I wasn’t hearing the last of this. “Okay, so Angie suggested that I use you like a focus. She said that you could be my bridge into the other plane since you’re partially there anyway.”
I frowned at her. “How does that work?”
Zoe shrugged. “I’m not sure.” My expression must have seemed skeptical because she continued, “Hey, don’t look at me like that. I’m new at this necromancer stuff, remember?”
“Fine, fine,” I muttered. “What do I need to do?”
“Just stay close to me,” she replied. “You need to be nearby in order to act as a focus.”
With that, she closed her eyes and laid her left hand over the center of her chest. Right where the chain that connected us emerged. Immediately, I felt her channeling energy through me. It was strange. I felt stronger, more real. As she poured more and more energy into my form, I glanced down and saw that my body seemed to solidify. In fact, I was no longer floating, but sinking down to the floor. When my feet met the surface, I didn’t have to concentrate on remaining on top of it. I just did.
“Holy shit,” Blaine whispered behind us. “Is that…Teri?”
Without moving the rest of my body, I turned my head toward him. He appeared to be looking at the exact point where I stood in front of Zoe. I lifted a hand and waved.
“Wow, that is Teri,” Mal murmured.
I didn’t speak, afraid I would distract Zoe, so I blew him a kiss.
Both men grinned at me.
Suddenly, I felt a tug at the center of my body and it brought my attention back to Zoe. Her eyes were still closed and her brow furrowed as she whispered beneath her breath.
Movement behind her distracted me. A few feet from the floor, a ball of light formed, growing larger and stronger with each word that passed Zoe’s lips. As I watched in awe, the light spread, morphing from a sphere floating in mid-air into the figure of a woman in old-fashioned clothes.
The tugging sensation in my abdomen stopped as the glow faded, leaving only the woman behind. Her eyes were wide and frightened as she looked around her, until they landed on Jacob.
“Father?” she whispered.
Zoe finished the final sentence of her summoning and released a long breath. When she opened her eyes, she faced the woman.
“Victoria?” she asked.
The woman looked at Zoe, her fear fading slightly. “Who are you?”
“My name is Zoe Thorne.”
The woman’s eyes darted back to Jacob. “You’re truly here, Father? I’m not dreaming?”
I watched as he moved forward, his face gentle and loving. “You grew into a beautiful woman, Victoria,” he murmured. “I worried for you for so long.”
Her face crumpled and he reached for her. I gasped when their fingers passed right through each other.
“I have missed you so much,” Victoria said. “On my deathbed, I took comfort in knowing I would see you again but I did not realize it would take this long.”
Jacob looked as though he wanted to cry as well. If my tear ducts were functioning, I would definitely have been crying too.
Sometimes it sucked being a ghost.
“Were you happy?” he asked her earnestly. “They said you married George Blake a few years after I died. Did he coerce you or make you feel obligated?”
Victoria smiled and shook her head. “I was very happy, Father. I had always admired George after he moved to our town, and when you passed he was of great comfort to me. I loved him and our children. I had a beautiful life.”
Jacob stared at her with his heart in his eyes. “It makes me so happy to hear that. I feared for you, Victoria, when I realized I was about to die. I feared what your life would become. That fear kept me anchored here, unable to move on.”
“Will you come with me now?” she asked. “To where we both belong?”
Inexplicably, Jacob turned toward me. I wasn’t sure what he expected so I nodded encouragingly.
Victoria looked toward me, following her father’s gaze. “Will you be coming with us as well?” she asked.
I felt Zoe tense as she waited for my answer, but I replied, “My place is here.”
Jacob’s eyes pleaded with me to change my mind, but I shook my head. I wasn’t lying when I told him I belonged with Zoe.
Jacob switched his attention to Zoe. “Thank you, Zoe Thorne, for all your help. You have given me joy and peace.”
“It was my pleasure, Jacob,” she answered.
“Thank you for your help as well, Teri,” he said to me. “Until we meet again.”
As Zoe and I watched, they began to glow. As the light grew brighter, Victoria reached for her father’s hand. This time, their fingers touched and laced together.
The glow intensified until Zoe looked away. I couldn’t. My eyes remained locked on them as they seemed to fold in upon themselves, turning into hovering orbs. As the light flashed and began to slowly fade, I swore I felt a warm breeze brush my body. A feeling of tranquility settled over me. A sense of rightness that went all the way down to my soul.
The room was once again dark and Jacob was gone. Part of me wished that I could cry, but I was also happy.
A good man was finally at peace. Jacob was home.
As Zoe and the guys went through the rest of the building and finished filming for the Halloween special, I let myself rise up to the roof. Now that I was no longer confined to a house, I loved looking at the sky. Whether it was the middle of the day or midnight, I wanted to see it all. In thirty years, I’d nearly forgotten what it looked like.
I had no sense of passing time as I hovered above the roof on my back, staring up at the stars. The moon moved across the sky. A human wouldn’t have noticed the slow change in position, but I did. As the years passed, I noticed that hours often felt like minutes and years like weeks. I wasn’t sure if it was because I’d been around so long or the fact that I was a spirit, but time didn’t hold the same sway over me that it did everyone around me.
The quiet echo of Zoe’s voice reached me from several floors below. “Teri?”
I closed my eyes for a moment and braced myself. I’d known her long enough to know that she was going to want to discuss what happened with Jacob, and I wasn’t sure I was ready. He was the first man to touch me in thirty years. And not just physically.
I connected with him in a way I didn’t understand. He got me.
Zoe’s voice was coming closer and I didn’t want her wandering around on this roof. There were too many soft spots and places she could fall through. I righted my form and let myself sink through the roof, appearing a few feet in front of her as she walked down the hall toward the roof access.
“There you are,” she said. “I could feel you but you didn’t answer. It scared me.”
I took a closer look at her in the darkness and realized that she truly was afraid. Zoe feared losing me as much as I dreaded losing her.
“I’m sorry,” I murmured. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
I shrugged. “Define okay.”
Zoe studied me closely. “Do you wish that you’d gone with them?”
“No.” My answer was honest. Though a small part of me wondered where they went, it wasn’t my time. I hesitated. “Besides, we don’t even know if I could cross over now that I’m tethered to you. I might end up in some weird limbo or dragging you with me. Mal would never forgive me if that happened. I belong with you. I want to be here.”
Tears welled in her eyes. “Thank God. I was so worried that you wished you’d gone. Or that you felt obligated to stay.”
“The only thing I’m obligated to do is irritate you,” I quipped.
Zoe released a bark of laughter. “You excel at that.” She stopped laughing and met my eyes, her gaze soft. “You liked him, didn’t you?”
I looked down. “Yeah, I did.”
“And you were able to touch each other. Is that the first time that’s happened?”
Nodding, I answered, “Yeah, I think it has something to do with our connection.” I looked back up at her. “You saw that he couldn’t touch Victoria at first, didn’t you?”
“I noticed that. So you think that it’s because of me?”
“It has to be,” I replied. “I mean, according to the books you’ve been reading, necromancers have control over the dead, right? Maybe I’ve gained extra powers because of it.”
“Maybe,” Zoe agreed hesitantly. “But I think we need to learn more.” She paused and I could see she wanted to say something else.
“Spit it out,” I commanded.
“I’m sorry that he’s gone,” she finally stated.
“I was hoping you’d finally get a boyfriend and leave me alone about getting busy with Mal,” she said.
I rolled my eyes. “That’s never going to happen. I could be getting a shot of the magic D on a daily basis and I’d still give you shit about not letting that beautiful man into your pants.”
Zoe laughed. “I didn’t say I never would, just that I want to take things slowly.”
“There’s such a thing as too slow,” I shot back.
“I don’t want to make a mistake, Teri,” she admitted. “I love working with Mal, Stoney, and Blaine. If things don’t work out, I could lose everything.”
I floated closer. “Zoe, love is a risk. Sometimes it pans out and sometimes it doesn’t. But I can tell you from my observations, that if things don’t work out between you and Mal, it will be because you walk away. That man is in it for the long haul. He’s crazy about you. You should know that because I know I’ve told you this at least once before. Quit being so stubborn and jump, Zoe.”
“Hey, he’s taking me on a date next week when we get back. I’m moving forward.”
I just stared at her.
“I have to do this in my own time, Teri. Mal and I will get there when we’re both ready.”
I knew it was time to back off. I pushed her because I knew that Mal would love her like no one else and make her happy. I also knew the time would come for me to move on. It wasn’t now, but…someday.
“Okay, does this mean I can cop a feel of Mal’s butt whenever I want?”
Zoe snorted and tried to hold it back, the resulting noise a cross between a squeal and a donkey bray. It was hilarious.
We both cracked up then, her laughter echoing off the walls.
“I’m so glad I found you,” she giggled.
“I’m lucky you found me,” I said, my laughter fading.
Zoe’s chuckles quieted suddenly and she stared at me. “We’re both lucky, Teri. I need you as much as you need me. Maybe more.”
“No way,” I argued, trying to lighten the moment. I couldn’t handle any more emotional upheaval tonight. “I need you more.”
“I would have gone insane without you,” she replied.
“Okay, you’re right. You totally need me more.”
She laughed again, just like I intended.
Mal appeared in the mouth of the hall with a flashlight. “Are you two ready to go back to the hotel?” he asked.
My heart softened when he included me in that question, even though he couldn’t see me.
Zoe looked toward me and I nodded. “Yeah. We’re ready.”
As I followed Zoe back to the first floor, she asked softly, “Do you still want to come with me when we film? You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
“I wouldn’t miss it,” I answered.
“Good.” She paused. “They won’t all be this way.”
“No, they’ll be better.”
If you liked this short story and want more, you can read about Teri, Zoe, and Mal in The Wraith Files series. The first two books are available now and in Kindle Unlimited!
Don’t Wake the Dead (The Wraith Files, #1)
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1TYO8gu
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1XAFcgK
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Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/24zYTpa
The Dead Come Calling (The Wraith Files, #2)
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2h1fgKQ
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N6BC408
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01N6BC408
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01N6BC408
About C.C. Wood
Born and raised in Texas, C.C. Wood writes saucy paranormal and contemporary romances featuring strong, sassy women and the men that love them. If you ever meet C.C. in person, keep in mind that many of her characters are based on people she knows, so anything you say or do is likely to end up in a book one day.
A self-professed hermit, C.C. loves to stay home, where she reads, writes, cooks, and watches TV. She can usually be found drinking coffee or wine as she spends time with her hubby, daughter, and two beagles.
You can find C.C. on nearly all social media sites. Fair warning, her Instagram feed is full of food porn.
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