Everyone has secrets, some deadlier than others. Psychic Ryley St. James’s secrets threaten to kill her, and now both the living and the dead are out for blood.
There’s nothing that Ryley hates worse than her father, but serial killers rank a close second. Alive or dead, they’re all the same—they need to be stopped. When a ghostly serial killer torments a young girl, Ryley must put an end to his reign of terror and figure out a way to shove him into the great beyond.
But when a fellow psychic turns up dead, and another one suddenly goes missing, Ryley suspects that it’s not just the ghostly threats she needs to worry about. There’s also a live predator lurking somewhere in the shadows.
As she gets closer to the truth, she’s forced to confront her own personal demons. Her father’s sinister presence is getting dangerously close to her life, the reapers are demanding answers, and the ghostly serial killer wants to add her to his body count.
It’s not a matter of if she’ll die but who will get credit for killing her first.
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Manhandling spirits was exactly what Ryley had planned for the evening. She wasn’t opposed to playing reaper to scare a ghost out of the little girl’s closet.
“Are you sure you’ve got time for this? You know you don’t have to. I’m sure you’ve got to get to the bar,” Maggie said, standing in the doorway of her daughter’s bedroom.
Maggie was one of the few friends that accepted Ryley for who she was. It helped that they could both see spirits and talk to the dead, but that was where their similarities ended. Ryley’s extended to being able to shove lingering spirits into the light.
“Kent’s working the bar. He won’t care if I’m a little late.”
Ryley gestured to Maggie’s wrist. “I’m digging your new ability to accessorize.”
“Emily Jane made it for me.” Maggie grinned and twisted the pink and purple beaded bracelet around on her arm to show Ryley that Maggie’s name was spelled with white beads in the middle.
“I bet you wore the pasta necklace, too, when she made it in daycare.”
“She’s my daughter. I cherish all of her gifts, and look, she even picked my favorite colors.”
Pink and purple were elegantly splashed around the house, including in Emily Jane’s closet.
“I tried to deal with this spirit by myself, but I can’t get the sucker to come out for me,” Maggie said, leaning against the doorframe.
“It’s fine,” Ryley said.
Maggie glanced at her watch. “I’m sorry it’s so late. I tried calling Rose again and she hasn’t called me back. I left her a message to see if she’d come over and help.”
“The closet creeper is probably scared of you and your sister.” Ryley glanced at Emily Jane sitting on the bed behind her. “I bet you didn’t know your momma is a ghostbuster.”
Emily Jane giggled. “No, she’s not. She’s a waitress at the diner.”
“It’s her secret identity,” Ryley said, holding in her grin and returning her gaze to her friend Maggie. “She hunts ghosts on the weekends when she’s not with you, and by day, she’s making sure we’re fed. She’s the real hero, and one day she’s going to share her very secret coveted apple pie recipe. It’s my favorite.”
“I’ll tell you what; you get rid of this bast…bad ghost, and I’ll steal the recipe for you,” Maggie offered.
Emily Jane covered her hand with her mouth. “Momma, stealing is bad.”
“You’re so right. I’ll just borrow it and return it when I’m done.” Ryley winked.
Emily Jane nodded her head as if that was an okay substitute.
“Okay, go back to the living room before you scare this one away again. We’ve got work to do,” Ryley said.
“You sure you don’t need me to stay?”
“Nope, you can take your ghostbusting mojo back into the kitchen. I’ve got this.”
“Okay.” Maggie kissed her daughter and began to close the door.
“Please don’t close it,” Emily Jane said, the fear evident in her voice.
Emily Jane could see ghosts, and she was just at the age that they scared her.
Something Ryley and Maggie had been working on.
It was hard for a seasoned psychic like Ryley to remember being a little girl and scared in a room where a sliver of hall light shined through the partially opened door. Hand drawings of flowers of every shape and size covered the pink walls, and glow-in-the-dark fluorescent green stars were stuck to the ceiling.
When Ryley was Emily Jane’s age, a menacing dead guy in the closet would have scared her, too. Not so much now as an adult.
Ryley didn’t usually handle haunted cases that didn’t directly involve her home or her life, but this case was special.
Emily Jane was unique. The scared and haunted look in the six-year-old’s eyes was real.
Ryley had seen that same look in the mirror more times than she ever cared to admit.
Emily Jane was scared, and Ryley intended to stop the haunting in its track.
The music box with the dancing ballerina playing across the room should have soothed Emily Jane. The soft non-threatening melody played three times in the first thirty minutes they’d been waiting for the real nightmare to show up.
It might have worked if a living person had started the damn thing and not a ghostly apparition from someone long dead.
The smell of roses from a grandmotherly energy lingered in the air as if trying to soothe Emily Jane’s fears.
Ryley’s nose twitched as she fought a sneeze before squirming on the hardwood floors, trying to get comfortable to no avail. She hadn’t thought to use a pillow.
“You want one of my pillows? I can share.” Emily Jane said from the comfort of her bed.
“You can keep them. I’m good where I am,” Ryley lied.
Honestly, she hadn’t thought she’d be in the room long enough to need one. Ghosts seemed to gravitate toward her no matter what the environment.
That was thirty minutes ago. Now she was pondering the need for a sleeping bag. This floor was going to be hell on her back.
No matter. She wasn’t leaving until she saw more action than the music-box-loving ghost.
“Grandma visit often?” Ryley asked.
“Sometimes. I’m not scared of her. She keeps me company.”
That was good to know. Ryley hadn’t even met her grandparents.
The room turned darker, right before her eyes. She felt the tense vibe of energy hiding in the shadows where evil and monsters lurked. Ryley inhaled the heavy energy. It weighed on her chest, making it difficult to breathe, like ten thick blankets on a hot summer night.
Scratch. Scratch. Scratch.
Emily Jane pointed toward the closet door as if there was any question about where the sound originated.
It was about damn time.
Ryley held her fingers to her lips, afraid she might scare the ghosts off.
Emily Jane whimpered, pulling the comforter in front of her, taking a defensive position on the bed surrounded by her stuffed animals.
Those animals were no protection, not even if she used them as projectiles. Ryley knew firsthand.
“He’s here.” Her little voice came out in a whisper.
Ryley shoved off the floor to stand up.
Her muscles ached in protest, but no way was she letting this chance escape.
The doorknob started to jiggle like someone inside the closet was trying unsuccessfully to open it and get out.
Emily Jane ducked beneath the covers, unwilling to look.
“Don’t be scared.” Ryley grabbed her bag of supplies and pulled out the salt container, spreading it in a strong line in front of Emily Jane’s closet door.
“This salt line should keep the ghost in the closet from getting out. And just in case, I’ll sage your room, too, before I leave. Tonight, you’ll sleep good, and I’ll come back tomorrow to do it again.”
“You promise no one will get me?” Emily Jane asked without moving the sheet.
“Come look with me. They can’t hurt you.” Ryley held out her hand.
“No.” Her voice cracked, and her hold on the blanket started to shake.
“One day, you will have to face these guys and stick up for yourself. They’re scared of girls that know how to protect themselves.”
“Did you ever have monsters in your closet?”
She had worse than that. Her monsters were both alive and dead.
The closet handle stilled, and Ryley wrapped her palm around it. It was ice cold to the touch. Whispers from the other side grew louder.
She threw open the door. A gangly man stared back at Ryley.
He grinned, showing her his missing tooth.
Ryley’s breath caught in her throat.
His clothes were of prison blue. The number on his shirt was 52678.
The scent of the sweet little girl was long gone, replaced by cigarette smoke and sweat. An eerie reminder of Ryley’s own childhood ghostly haunting.
The memory slid down her spine like an avalanche.
She swallowed around the lump in her throat, taking a step back, refusing to take her eyes off the closet for fear the ghost would attack.
Ghosts like this always did.
There was a twitch in the ghost’s eye just as every hanger in the closet flew off the hooks and straight in her direction.
Her hands flew up to block her face, just as the wire hangers scratched and drew blood against her bare arms and cheek.
One caught her on the side of the face near her eye, digging in deeper than the rest.
Emily Jane’s scream vibrated off the walls while she ran from the room.
When the projectiles stopped, Ryley peeked beneath her arms to find the ghostly prisoner grinning.
Her breath shuddered as her gaze landed on the salt line. Her eyes narrowed to slits. “You want to play?”
His evil grin grew as he tried to fly out of the closet, reaching for her neck. The salt line kept him away.
Anger replaced the smile.
Ryley bumped against the dresser, knocking over a frame as she reached behind her, making her way around the furniture and out of the room.
“You’ve screwed with the wrong girl. Don’t go anywhere. I’m coming right back to finish you off.” She stepped out, closing the bedroom door behind her.
“What happened?” Maggie was at the end of the hall on her knees, comforting Emily Jane in her embrace.
“Oh my god, you’re bleeding.” Panic laced Maggie’s voice.
Emily Jane’s white, fearful face shined as tears slid down her cheeks. “I can’t go back in there.”
“Yet. You can’t go back in there yet,” Ryley said, stepping around them and heading to the door. “And I wasn’t hurt, just a few scratches.”
“Where are you going? Who was in there?”
“I’m just going out to the car. I’m going to need more supplies to deal with this.”
Maggie was quick to follow behind.
Ryley yanked open the door and popped her trunk, unzipping the bag she only pulled out in the event of emergencies when dealing with darker entities.
She pulled out the container of black salt and the spray bottle of holy water.
Maggie’s eyes widened as Ryley returned with the new items in hand.
“Is that black salt?”
“Yeah, a friendly FBI agent sent me some in the mail after I helped her and her team with a problem in Phoenix. She said to only use it in dire circumstances.” Ryley was still coming to terms with the fact that the FBI employed witches and more on a special team designed to deal with unseen threats.
“And you think this is dire?”
“Just extra precaution.” Ryley touched Maggie’s arm and lowered her voice. “Whoever the hell that is, he’s strong, and he’s not going to go willingly.”
A look of defeat flashed in Maggie’s eyes.
“I’m going to get rid of him from her room tonight, and I’ll come back tomorrow and do the entire house.”
Maggie rubbed her neck. “Emily Jane had to have been so scared.”
“I’m sorry, Maggie,” Ryley said, heading back inside the house.
“We’ll deal with it like we always do.” Maggie ran her hands over her face. “What’s in the spray bottle?”
Ryley grinned. “Holy water.”
“You have a friend that sent you that too?”
“Let’s just say, if you have some demons to expel, I probably wouldn’t go to the catholic church on Hwy 98. I borrowed some of their holy water and replaced it with water from the tap.”
Ryley walked over to a water gun lying among Emily Jane’s pool toys sitting on the washer and took it to the kitchen, filling it up with some holy water from her sprayer while Emily Jane looked on, hopeful.
Ryley handed it to her. “Anything comes near you, you spray it.”
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ABOUT KATE ALLENTON
Kate is a USA Today Bestselling Author who has lived in Florida for most of her entire life. She enjoys a quiet life with her husband, Michael and two kids.
Kate has pulled all-nighters finishing her favorite books and also writing them. She says she’ll sleep when she’s dead or when her muse stops singing off key.
She loves creating worlds full of suspense, secrets, hunky men, kick ass heroines, steamy sex and oh yeah the love of a lifetime. Not to mention an occasional ghost and other supernatural talents thrown into the mix.