Must Love Ghosts ~ Ani Gonzalez

Blog

Tour:

Must

Love Ghosts

by

Ani

Gonzalez

Sept

7th – Sept 14th

 

Seducing the Rational Skeptic…

Abby Reed believes in folk songs, faery tales, and ghosts, but she doesn’t

believe in love. Things change, however, when her pen-pal-slash-best-friend,

Mike Stone arrives in Banshee Creek after his last tour of duty in

Afghanistan. When their Halloween Party encounter turns out-of-this-world

steamy Abby starts having doubts about friendship, ghosts…and love.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

“Well, I want you in my zombie apocalypse survival

team.”

Mike Stone turned towards the throaty female voice. A tall

girl with long magenta hair glanced at his military fatigues appreciatively.

Her eyes were yellow, with slit pupils, like a cat’s.

He was standing on a cobblestone street surrounded by

colonial buildings with brick façades and old-fashioned moldings. Baskets with

chrysanthemum blooms hung from wrought iron lampposts and vintage signs adorned

the quaint, if slightly run-down, shops. Banshee Creek, Virginia was the kind

of town where the shop signs announced “Ye Olde Bake-Shoppe,” and “Merrie

Colonial Pubbe.”

The magenta-haired girl in the black catsuit and sky-high

heels looked decidedly incongruous. She blinked as the afternoon sun hit her on

the face, and realization dawned. Contacts. She must be wearing contacts.

“That’s a very realistic costume,” she purred, her smile

displaying plastic fangs. “Warm, too. I didn’t realize it got so cold here in

October. Next year, I’ll put on a nice thick fur and come as a Siberian

were-cat.”

“Um, thanks,” he replied. He didn’t know how to tell her that

it wasn’t a costume. That he wasn’t an aspiring zombie survivalist, just an

ordinary soldier on leave.

“Here.” She handed him an orange flyer. “You’re officially

invited to the Banshee Creek Costume Party.”

He grabbed the flyer. It screeched “Party Tonight!” in an

exaggerated Gothic font.

“The Guinness Book of World Records people will be there,”

the cat girl explained, her feline eyes sparkling with excitement. “We’re

trying to make it the biggest Halloween costume party in history so make sure

you register.”

She winked at him, and turned to a spindly young man on

stilts. He was wearing large grey wings and red-tinged goggles.

“Hey, Mothman,” she shouted. “Great costume. We’re really

excited about the latest sighting.” She waved an orange flyer. “Do you know

where to register for the party?”

They walked off, leaving Mike behind. He looked at the

throngs of people lining Main Street. He counted three Elves, eleven

princesses, and a platoon of naughty nurses.

He’d forgotten it was Halloween.

More to the point, he’d forgotten it was Halloween in Banshee

Creek, Virginia. The Fall Equinox was no laughing matter in the Most Haunted

Town in the U.S.A.

Well, that accolade wasn’t official yet. But his Army buddy,

Cole Hunt, had been certain that his hometown would win the coveted title. Cole

and his friends had been diligently documenting the local hauntings so as to

convince the powers-that-be that their town could be the premier paranormal

destination in the United States.

And Mike had heard all about their plans. Cole had stayed in

touch with his Banshee Creek buddies all through their two-year deployment to

Afghanistan. He’d supervised the investigations from afar and edited the

documentaries in his free time. As a result, Mike had sat through endless hours

of night-vision footage and had spent many days listening to static trying to

discern what Cole described as “electronic voice phenomena.”

Oh, yes. His friend had a plan. Cole intended to come back to

Banshee Creek, marry his fiancée and turn the town into the ghost capital of

the United States.

But Cole didn’t get to come back.

He died in Afghanistan, and Mike, who had no plans, no

family, and no home, survived.

The irony was inescapable. The guy with no future made it out

alive, but the one with the plan, the one with the loving family, the one with

the devoted girlfriend.

That guy didn’t make it back home.

Mike hoisted his duffle bag, avoided a laughing foursome

dressed in Star Trek uniforms, and walked up the cobblestone street. He didn’t

have a life plan like Cole, but right now he was a man on a mission, a mission

to find 12 Hooded Owl Road, Banshee Creek, Virginia.

He looked down Main Street, assessing the town he’d heard so

much about. Banshee Creek was laid out like a typical small Virginia village,

with one main road lined with shops and Colonial row houses. An auto repair

shop with a neon 1950’s sign that read “Virginia Vintage Motors” sat on a

corner. The shop’s small parking lot was full of restored cars and a couple of

kids in ghost costumes were taking pictures around a black 1967 Impala. The car

was nice, but Mike’s eyes kept drifting towards a late-model Jeep Wrangler with

an elegant black paint job. Sure, it didn’t qualify as “antique” or even

“vintage,” but it looked cool and the price was very affordable.

Which was probably due to the stagnant local economy. Most of

the stores had “for sale” or “for rent” signs. Sheets of plywood covered the

windows of the local bookstore. A small movie theater held pride of place in

the center of town, but its marquee was broken and the last movie featured

seemed to be Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Yet there were a few signs of life. A real estate sign in

front of a dilapidated mansion with the sloping roof of a stereotypical haunted

house had a sold sticker. The row houses had small gardens in front, many of

them covered with weeds, but an enterprising soul had put out planters with

purple and orange flowers in an attempt to spruce up the sidewalk.

And the town still attracted visitors, in spite of its

ramshackle state. The streets were full of costumed partygoers and a couple of

businesses, including a pizzeria and a bakery, were busy with customers. The

crisp fall air carried the scent of apples and cinnamon and he experienced a

sudden craving for cider. The hardware store had a table in front filled with

Halloween paraphernalia and the glowing red goggles worn by the—what was the

name, again?—Mothman, that’s it. The Mothman goggles seemed to be quite

popular. A bunch of kids in black capes were trying them on and taking

pictures.

Back in Afghanistan, Cole’s plan to paranormalize his

hometown sounded silly and far-fetched. But here in Banshee Creek it was

starting to make sense.

“Looking for a house?”

He turned and a teenage boy in jeans and a yellow t-shirt

with a large letter X handed him a piece of paper. Curiosity piqued,

Mike took it, carefully avoiding the kid’s metal claws.

It was a homemade map, made by someone with a talent for

drawing and an excessive fondness for horror movie fonts. The title was

“Banshee Creek’s Haunted Houses” and there was something very familiar about

the style of the illustrations.

He identified Main Street and the Second Empire house, but

what was that strange dark line that crisscrossed the town? A river? Railroad

tracks? He squinted at the complicated script, making out the words

“geomagnetic fault.” Upon closer inspection he realized that several of the

buildings were marked with cartoon ghost symbols. He turned the paper to read

the map legend, which described the various ghosts and other critters that

supposedly infested the town. One of them identified as a brownie, but wasn’t

that a dessert? Or a uniformed child that sold cookies? At the bottom of the

page there was a hand drawn copyright symbol and the author’s name.

Cole Hunt.

He quickly looked away from the name, and focused on the map,

tracing the streets with a finger. There it was, right off Main Street, Hooded

Owl Road. According to the map, number 12 was two blocks down, turn left, and

keep going.

He hiked up his duffle and walked down the street. The sooner

he got this done, the sooner he could get back to his life.

Except he didn’t have much of a life right now. He had no

family, his closest contacts were now scattered across the country, and his

best friend was dead. But he had a fancy new title and, thanks to his

commanding officers, a new assignment at the Pentagon. He was going to find an

apartment in Arlington, get settled, and…

Things got hazy after that. Maybe he’d get a motorcycle…and a

girlfriend, definitely a girlfriend, a smart girl, with a nice smile, maybe a

blonde or a redhead.

An image popped into his head and he shoved it away. Not a

brunette. And absolutely not a brunette with warm brown eyes, freckles on her

nose, and the voice of an angel.

So, the plan was simple——job, apartment, motorcycle,

girlfriend. It wasn’t as interesting as Cole’s plan, that’s for sure, but it

gave Mike direction, a sense of purpose. He liked that.

Job, apartment, motorcycle, girlfriend, but first, there was

12 Hooded Owl Road.

He crossed Main Street, walking towards a battered white

bungalow with a large Argentinean flag and a dilapidated neon sign that read,

strangely, “F anco Pizza.” He squinted at the sign. No, the letter r was

defective, and, when it flickered on, the sign actually said “Franco Pizza.”

The pizza smelled pretty good though. Maybe he’d have a slice after completing

his mission.

The house at 12 Hooded Owl Road was an attractive Victorian

house, with a small porch, white gingerbread trim and green fish scale

shingles. It was old, but well kept, looking a bit like a dignified elderly

mermaid. A small pot of yellow flowers sat on the steps.

Mike smiled. The house was bright and colorful.

Just like its owner.

He shook the thought out of his head. He didn’t want to think

about the owner of the house. He was going to knock on the door, make his

delivery and leave Banshee Creek.

He walked toward the house, but, as he reached the porch, he

noticed a group of people walking down the street. The leader of the group was

a tall, redheaded man dressed in jeans and a biker’s vest. His companions were

all similarly attired in stereotypical biker gear.

Mike tensed. Two guys from his last unit belonged to

motorcycles clubs, and he was very familiar with the subculture. These guys

weren’t wearing costumes, although the biker wear featured a couple of unusual

decorative touches, like tentacles, UFOs, and several “trust no one” tattoos in

typewriter font.

The bikers were teasing a young man with an arm in a cast who

was dressed in plain jeans and a t-shirt and did not seem to be part of the

gang. At least, Mike had yet to meet a biker who’d wear a Berklee School of

Music t-shirt.

One of the bikers slapped the musician in the back, and the

young man stumbled.

Mike’s eyes narrowed, his body tensed and he felt a sudden

adrenaline rush. He automatically noted the number of bikers, assessed their

strategic positions and evaluated the situation’s potential for violence.

But the young man just laughed and made a rude hand gesture.

The bikers returned the gesture with a couple of catcalls, and then kept

walking towards Main Street chatting and laughing.

Mike relaxed, relieved to find he’d misjudged the situation,

and gave himself a good scolding. This was ridiculous. He had to leave his

war-zone reflexes behind, this was small town Virginia not Afghanistan. But he

turned back to the house and immediately tensed.

A willowy girl was locking the door. She was tall and slender

with medium-length brown hair, styled to curl at the ends in an old-fashioned

way.

Mike wasn’t looking at her hair though. He was looking at her

costume, a skin-tight black leather cat suit that outlined every single curve.

His fists clenched and he swallowed hard. He tried to walk towards the house, but

his feet wouldn’t move.

He couldn’t bring himself to approach her.

He’d faced enemy fire, ambushes, and IEDs. He’d trained

himself to overcome his fears. He’d walked through nightmares and survived.

But he couldn’t bring himself to face this girl.

Time to retreat and regroup. He’d continue on his way to

Arlington and figure out a different way to make his delivery. Maybe he could

hire a courier, or a parcel delivery service.

A group of costumed partygoers blocked his way as he turned

to walk away. He tried to push his way through what appeared to be a werewolf

punk rock band, but had to swerve to avoid the fur-bedecked subwoofers.

“Mike?” The throaty, sexy voice was unmistakable. “Is that

you?”

There was no fighting the siren appeal of that voice. He

sighed in resignation and turned.

The girl ran down the steps of her house and her smile was as

enthralling as her voice. Mike forced himself to smile back as he greeted the

girl he’d loved for the past five years.

Abby Reed. Singer, songwriter, enchantress.

And his dead friend’s fiancée.

 

I write sexy paranormal small town romance (whew, that’s

a mouthful!) set in Banshee Creek, Virginia, The Most Haunted Town in the USA.

My books feature feisty, irrepressible heroines conquering strong, controlling

alpha males. My heroes fall and they fall hard. It’s a lot of fun.

 

I was born and raised in a small mountain town in Puerto Rico, home to the chupacabras and

a host of lesser-known legends and hoaxes. Hence my love for quirky towns with

spooky stories.  I currently live in Minnesota with my husband and three

children, and I’m still trying to adjust to the cold.

 

 

 

 

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