Want to read a sneak peek of To Stop a Shadow, Tina and Trent’s story in the Spirit Chasers series? You know you do!
Here it is:
Snow crunched under Trent Austin’s black dress shoes, the cutting February wind stinging his eyes, as he made his way to the front steps of the 1889 Victorian home. Peeling paint, once bright green, littered the half-rotten porch in a dingy, lead-filled mess. He exhaled a curse and took a step back to examine his new burden.
The grimy-gray gingerbread trim framing the door and every window probably used to be white. Arches of the same curling pattern accented the top of the porch and the eave. The three-story structure could have been quaint and inviting in its prime. Now it sat vacant and crumbling near the back of the property, rows of hedges and willow trees obscuring it from the street. The isolation of the house and the darkening sky above made it appear more like a scene from a horror movie than the lush, Victorian mansion it once was.
Trent ascended the stairs, stepping lightly on the creaky wood panels to avoid putting a foot through the floor. He slid the key into the lock and twisted the knob. The hinges creaked as the door swung open, the knob pulling from his hand as if someone on the other side yanked it from his grasp. Definitely like a horror film.
He peered inside. Hollow darkness greeted him. Haunting. A shiver ran down his spine, and it wasn’t from the chilling winter air whispering through the trees.
The whole scene creeped him out.
His great-uncle, Jack Austin, had died in the living room two weeks earlier, and his will had granted the house to Trent. He’d only met the man a handful of times, and the hostility he’d felt from his uncle made those few encounters more than enough. The man was off. Perpetually mad at the world. Insanity didn’t run in the family, but Uncle Jack could have been an exception.
And judging from the ghoulish condition of his house, disturbed seemed like an appropriate description of Jack. Trent had always thought his great-uncle menacing. The unnatural silence engulfing the home only intensified the feeling.
He hesitated at the threshold, almost afraid to cross it. What if Jack’s spirit still lingered inside? What if the basement was full of bodies, and their spirits were crouching in the shadows, waiting to attack?
If someone had asked him if he believed in ghosts four months ago, he would have laughed. He’d never given the idea much thought until he encountered one himself. Now, not only did he believe in ghosts, but he also believed in the power they could exert over the living. The way spirits could control people. Destroy their lives. He’d seen it firsthand. And if his uncle had left him the house so he could haunt him…
Get a grip, man. Don’t be an ass.
He stepped one foot into the foyer and held his breath. He reluctantly pulled the other foot in and flipped on the light switch before he exhaled. The stale, musty scent of mold and dust made his stomach turn. The place would have to be aired out before anyone would consider buying it. The smell of death—or what he imagined death would smell like—still lingered in the air. He shuddered.
He hung his coat on the rack to his left. The dark, cherry wood stand reached nearly six feet high and had intricately carved, claw-like feet with talons that looked like they could slice open a whale. Not the most inviting piece to welcome guests into a home. Then again, Uncle Jack didn’t seem like the type of man who’d have many visitors.
Immediately to the right lay the living room. Blood-red upholstered furniture stood on clawed feet that almost matched the sinister-looking coat rack. The whole room had an eerie feel to it. Of course, that was probably because all the drapes were drawn. Hanging from tarnished brass rods, the heavy, dust-filled, crimson curtains appeared to be velvet and had dirty, gold tassels that brushed the hardwood floor.
The dark, papered walls and cherry wood enhanced the gloomy aesthetic of the space, making it look more like a chamber from Dracula’s crypt than an old man’s living room.
“A little light ought to cheer this place up. Maybe.”
Before he could take a step toward the window, an icy breath on the back of his neck stopped him cold. His stomach tightened as the first tendrils of dread crawled up his spine, and he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. This house is old. It’s just a draft. He opened his eyes and moved forward. A frigid hand grasped his shoulder.
He froze, his breath stopping mid-inhale, his heart rate speeding into a sprint. It was his imagination. It had to be. He’d let his mind run wild since his encounter with the ghost in his friend Logan’s house three months ago, but he had to control it now. He would not lose his shit in this dilapidated mansion. “Leave me alone.” His voice came out much steadier than he anticipated, and he straightened his spine, relaxing his shoulders.
The hand lifted. The cold breath dissipated. Was it gone?
Yeah, right. He had to turn around. Had to face whatever it was that didn’t want him opening the windows. He held his breath; every muscle in his body tensed as he slowly pivoted, ready to bolt at the first sign of a spirit. His eyes widened as he found himself face to face with the coat rack.
He shook his head. Paranoid idiot.
“Hey, buddy. I don’t suppose that was you breathing down my neck?” He chuckled. “Nah. You’re just a block of wood, aren’t you?” He patted the bulbous top of the stand.
Ever since he’d helped Logan vanquish the ghost from his house, he’d had the disturbing feeling he was being watched. Like he’d opened himself up to spirits, and they were slowly creeping into his life, waiting for the right moment to scare him to death.
Not that he’d encountered one since then, but something deep in his gut warned him that his run-ins with spirits were far from over. Especially now that his best friend was engaged to a psychic medium.
Satisfied the icy breath was nothing more than a draft, he took half a step toward the window. Before he could plant his foot, the coat rack fell—no, flew—into his shoulder, missing the side of his head by mere inches. The stand skidded across the wood floor and landed five feet away.
Trent turned on his heel and sprinted out the door. There was no way in hell he was sticking around to see what had pushed that coat rack. Whatever it was, it didn’t want him going near the window.
He jumped into his car and slammed the door. Once he pulled onto the road, his erratic breathing finally slowed. There had to be a logical explanation. It wasn’t a ghost. The house was old and drafty. The floor was uneven. The coat rack had fallen over…like the door had swung open on its own.
Could it have been the spirit of Uncle Jack? Was it a ghost at all? It didn’t matter. He didn’t plan to keep the house very long. In fact, the quicker he could get rid of the decrepit heap, the better. He’d put it on the market as soon as he found a real estate agent willing to take it. It wouldn’t be an easy sell, so he’d have to hire someone good.
A slow smile curved his lips as a name danced through his mind. He knew just the agent for the job.