If I couldn’t be a writer, I’d …


I’ve had many jobs over the years, but none ever felt 100% right. Not until I rediscovered writing and a friend encouraged me to publish my first finished book. The book was a trainwreck, but I’d like to think I’ve improved over the years. But… if I could no longer write, what would I do?

Probably go slowly insane.

Aside from that, I’m not really sure. I’d probably have to go back to college to do anything I’d actually enjoy. I always liked Phsycs, and at one point I told my mother that’s what I wanted to study in college. She kept pushing engineering at me, stating it would be an easier and more lucrative field than Physics. Well, I have some bad news for her. I really, really didn’t enjoy engineering. The professors were awesome, and I had good grades, but it just didn’t spark my interest all that much. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Barring being a student for far longer than I’d like to become a physicist, I’d probably study graphics design. As aggravating as Photoshop can be, I like putting my teaser graphics together and the occasional book cover. I’m not sure I’d want to do that full-time, but it is something I enjoy.

In the past I’ve been an office manager, adminstrative assistant, stable assistant, Accreditation and Compliance Coordinator, Human Resources assistant, and a few other things.

If you could do any job in the world, what would you choose?

Publisher Spotlight: CHANGELING PRESS #EroticRomance #Publisher #RomanceBooks #Submissions @changelingpress


CHPSmash the Box!


Women’s Erotic Romance
Vampires, Werewolves, Dragons, Shape Shifters, and Aliens welcome!


Can’t color inside the lines? Do you have a secret drawer littered with stories you had to write — but can’t place, because you broke all the rules? We’re reaching out to the homeless. You know the ones I mean. Poor, abandoned, homeless short stories, novellas and serials. Too short. Too kinky. Too… weird. Just doesn’t fit.

What do you do with a story like that? Chances are, it belongs at Changeling.

We’re currently looking for Contemporary and Futuristic short fiction, single title, series, and serials in the following genres and themes:

Genres: Sci-Fi/Futuristic, Dark and Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, BDSM, Action Adventure, and Guilty Pleasures (Adult Contemporary Kink)

Themes: New Adult, Multiple Partner, Bisexual and More, Gay, Interracial, BBW, Cougar (M/F), Silver Fox (Older man, younger partner), Men and Women in Uniform, Vampires, Werewolves, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures, Other Shapeshifters, Magic, Dark Desires (Demons and Horror), and Hentai (Tentacle Monsters)

We’ve only got one heat level. Over-the-top hot! We can handle anything you send us as long as it meets our guidelines. We do accept multiple submissions. We do not accept simultaneous submissions.

We accept new submissions from 10 to 30K for single titles. Serials from unsigned authors must be submitted as a completed set.

ALL submissions must be Women’s Erotic Romance with a HEA or HFN (Happy Ever After or Happy For Now — if you killed off our hero in chapter ten, we’re not interested — unless you bring him back from the dead in chapter eleven!)


Full Submission Guidelines available here:

Submissions Guidelines Changeling Press LLC



What do you have to lose — except your inhibitions?




Silver Falls 2 – Love’s Magick Kiss

Silver Falls: Love’s Magick Kiss

Jessica Coulter Smith

In the magical town of Silver Falls, things are never what they seem.

When Hadley lost her beautiful twin daughters to a drunk driver, she thought her life was over. Though she’s still haunted by their loss, Lucas has always been there for her. She’s been able to lean on him as a friend, but now she wants more.

When her hunky neighbor finally asks her out, she knows saying yes is the right thing to do. His kisses make her knees weak, but he’s more than just a big teddy bear. Is it safe to trust her heart to a grizzly?


Available from Changeling Press



Hadley knelt in the snow in front of the two tiny graves. After placing a red rose on top of each one, she brushed the tears from her cheeks. It had been nearly a year, but it still felt like it was only yesterday. A day didn’t go by that she didn’t blame herself for their deaths. What if she had reacted just one second sooner? What if she had been paying more attention, would she have seen the other driver in time? But no amount of what ifs or wishes would change the fact that her two babies were gone. She knew in her heart that the blame lay with the drunk driver who had plowed into their vehicle, but she had a hard time blaming someone who was dead. She was the sole survivor of the crash, and there were many days she wished she hadn’t survived.

Standing, she brushed the snow from her jeans. The cold and damp was starting to soak through her clothes straight to her bones. Even if she did want to stay longer, she knew it was best for her to leave and come again another day.

Hadley wasn’t sure she was moving on exactly, but it was a step in the right direction. She often wondered if it would be easier to shoulder the grief if she had someone to share it, but her children’s father hadn’t been in the picture from the moment he’d learned of their existence. It had been shortly after his rejection that she’d moved to Silver Falls, leaving behind the big city for the comforts of a small town. Of course, she hadn’t realized at the time that she was moving to a town where humans were the minority. But even in a town of supernatural beings, no one had been able to save her babies.

Huddling inside her coat to keep warm, she turned and walked down the path toward her car. It had taken her nearly a year, but she was finally driving again. She’d felt guilty, asking her friends to drive her everywhere, but at the same time driving a car had terrified her. She’d finally worked through the issue in therapy and started driving two months ago. The new Ford Explorer gleamed in the sunlight. After the accident, she’d sworn to never own a small car again.

She’d spent plenty of time at the cemetery for the day, and now it was time to head home and get to work. There was always something she needed to do. Work had been difficult for her, but she’d managed — somewhat. Writing children’s books had been easier before the accident. She’d turned in a few projects to her editor, but only one had been accepted. She had a lot of work ahead of her to make the others presentable. But days like this one made writing nearly impossible. It made her wonder if she would ever get over the pain of losing her children.

As she pulled into her driveway, she noticed a large box on her front porch. She didn’t remember ordering anything and most of her friends lived in town. Who could have left something so large on her porch?

She got out of the Explorer and went to investigate. There wasn’t a return address, but she could see where one had been. It had smeared during transit and could no longer be read. She tried lifting it, but it wouldn’t budge. The thing weighed a ton.

With a sigh, Hadley realized she’d have to bother her neighbor for assistance. Lucas Bowman had been her neighbor for years and had always been kind to her. She didn’t agree with his lifestyle, but he seemed to be a genuinely good person, not to mention he was the hottest guy she’d ever seen. The man was mouthwatering to be sure. She’d be lying if she said he hadn’t starred in at least one or two of her fantasies over the years. She was surprised he wasn’t at work, but his truck sat in the driveway.

She knocked on his door. A moment later Lucas opened the door. He smiled when he saw her, making her knees feel weak. Her heart was beating so hard she was sure he could see it pounding in her chest.

“Hadley, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“The postman delivered a package today while I was gone and it’s too heavy for me to lift. Would you mind carrying it into the house for me?”

He nodded. “Just let me grab a coat. I’ll be right there.”

“Sorry for disturbing you.”

He grinned. “No problem.”

She waited patiently while he got ready and then led the way to her small house next door. Lucas hefted the box without any trouble and carried it inside, depositing it on her living room floor.

“Do you need anything else?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I’m sorry I bothered you.”

“It’s okay, Hadley. I was just going over some paperwork. I needed a break.”

“Are things going well at the store?”

He nodded. “Yeah, sales have been good. It’s been a good month so far. I’m actually surprised. This is usually our slow time of year. What about you? How are you doing?”

“I have good days and bad days. I went to see the girls today so it’s not one of my better ones. They say it gets easier, but…”

“I can only imagine what you went through, Hadley. There isn’t a time limit on grief. You take as much time as you need.”

She gave him a small smile. “Thank you, Lucas.”

“Well, I better get back home. If I don’t finish my reports, my employees won’t receive their checks on time.”

After closing the door behind him, she turned to face the mystery box. Peeling the tape off, she managed to open the top. All she could see were thousands of white packing peanuts. She reached inside and dug around until she felt something. Pulling as hard as she could, she managed to budge it a tiny bit, but it wasn’t coming out of the box. Whatever it was, it was large and heavy. No matter how much she dug, she couldn’t see anything but peanuts. It seemed she would have to bother Lucas again if she wanted to know what it was. But that could wait for another day. She didn’t want to disturb him again so soon.

Putting the box out of her mind, she went into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. She loved her Nescafe Dolce Gusto machine. She had a regular coffeepot for serving a large number of people, but when it was just her, her Dolce Gusto machine was her one guilty pleasure. After her cup of coffee was brewed, she added her favorite creamer and carried her cup into her office.

The light, airy room was inviting most days. The cheerful pale yellow walls could usually brighten her mood, at least a little. She looked out the window at the snow covered trees and wondered what she would work on first. There were several books that needed revisions. But she almost felt like starting something new. Turning to face her computer, she began to write.

* * *

Three hours later, Hadley had finished a story. It was one she had told her children many times before laying them down to sleep at night, one she had created just for them. She’d stopped and cried several times while she was writing, but she was glad she’d put the words to paper.

The doorbell rang, pulling her from her thoughts. She saved her file, then got up and went to answer the door. Finding her other neighbor, Grayson, was a surprise. He’d been kind to her since she’d moved to Silver Falls, and while she wasn’t sure they were friends exactly, she knew she could count on him if she needed to. He seemed like a sweet guy. If it weren’t for Grayson, she didn’t know how she would have made it since moving to Silver Falls. He’d stopped in and helped her quite a few times over the years, fixing anything from the kitchen disposal to leaky pipes, and always greeted her with a smile.

“Are you okay?” he asked with a frown.

She wiped at a stray tear and nodded. “I was just writing. It was a story I used to tell my children before bed. It was harder to write than I’d thought it would be.”

He stepped into the house and took her hand. “Are you all right now?”

“I’m fine. But thank you for asking. Oh, while you’re here, may I ask a favor?”


“I had a package delivered earlier today and whatever is in it is too heavy for me to lift. Would you mind taking it out for me?”


She closed the door and walked over to the box. “I don’t remember ordering anything, and I can’t read the return address, so I have no idea what’s in this thing.”

“Well, let’s find out.”

Grayson reached into the box and lifted out what was inside. Hadley cried out when she saw what was nestled inside the peanuts.

Grayson sat the large rocking horse down on the floor. “I take it you didn’t buy this?”

“I did, but… It was going to be a present for the twins’ third birthday. I had forgotten about it.”

He dug around in the box and produced a note. “It says that you forgot to pick this up a few months ago so they shipped it to you.”

A tear slipped down her cheek. “What am I supposed to do with it now?”

“Is there somewhere you want me to put it for now?”

“In the girls’ room.”

She led him down the hall to her daughters’ room. She pushed the door open and flipped on the light. Everything looked the same as it had the day they’d died. She hadn’t been able to change a thing yet, but it was on her list of things to do.

Grayson set the horse in the corner of the room and didn’t say a word. She couldn’t even tell what he was thinking. Her friends Tildy and Sasha both thought the shrine, as they called the room, needed to go. But Grayson… if he felt the same way, he kept it to himself.

“Thank you,” she said softly.

He nodded and followed her out of the room, closing the door behind him. Once they were back in the living room, he stood near the door, running a hand through his hair.

“I guess if you don’t need anything else, I’ll go,” he said after a minute or two of awkward silence.

“Would you like a cup of coffee or a soda first?”

“Coffee would be great, if you’re sure it’s no trouble.”

She smiled. “I could use a break to regroup before I try to write anything else today.”

“Need any help?”

Hadley shook her head. “Just have a seat and I’ll be back in a few minutes. You like your coffee black, right?”

He nodded.

Carrying the cups back to the living room, she smiled at Grayson. “Here you go.”

“Thanks.” He smiled. “So… besides your crying spell when I arrived earlier, how have you been? I haven’t seen you in the past week.”

“I’m okay I guess. I went to see the girls today so I’m more of a basket case than usual. Some days are easier than others. But enough about me, how is work going these days? I’ve noticed you’ve kept longer hours than usual the past few weeks.”

“Busy. Lots of leaky roofs this time of year. And I’m building a house in Carson Corners.” He took a sip of his coffee. “How’s your writing going?”

“Most days it’s not. I have a lot of unfinished pieces and several that need work before my editor can see them. Today is the first day I’ve finished anything.”

“It will take time.”

“It’s been nearly a year. People are tired of being lenient with me and hearing excuses. They just don’t understand what it’s like. Losing a child is like losing a part of yourself. Someone ripped me in half and threw the other part away. It hurts so damn much all the time,” she sobbed.

He pulled her into his arms and held her close. Gently rubbing her back, he murmured words of comfort in her ear. Even when her tears subsided, he didn’t let her go. Grayson’s arms tightened around her. “Feel better?”

She nodded and pulled back, removing herself from his embrace.

“Hadley, you know that any time you want to talk, or just need to be around someone, I’m right next door. You’re welcome to come over anytime you’d like.”

“I’ll remember that. I have this list of things I’m supposed to accomplish to move on with my life, and my friends think I should be crossing things off already.”

“But you’re not ready.”

“No, I don’t think I am. At least, not for all of it. And the things I think I could tackle, I’m not ready to do alone.”

“So what’s on this list?”

“Well… My therapist wants me to clean out the girls’ room. He thinks it’s unhealthy and the constant reminder of what I’ve lost is keeping me from moving on. He also suggested that I cut back on my graveside visits to one every other week.” She tucked her hair behind her ear. “I’m actually doing better with that one. I don’t go every day anymore. Sometimes I only go twice a week.”

“It sounds like he’s asking a lot of you. But if you do decide to box up the girls’ room, I’ll help you. I don’t think that’s something you should do alone.”

“You mean it?”

“Of course.” He took her hand. “You have friends for a reason. Don’t hesitate to lean on them in your time of need.”

“Is that what we are? Friends?”

“I’d like to think so. And despite what your other friends think, you should tackle the things on your list when you’re ready. I’m assuming there’s more?”

She nodded. “Stuff to do with work and my personal life. I tried telling him I didn’t have one before the accident.”

Grayson grinned. “I know several guys who wanted to date you. They were just worried you’d turn them down. Everyone in town knew your daughters were your entire world.”

“I always thought my daughters were the reason no one asked me out. Most guys don’t want to date a single mom, especially one with twins.”

“I think our dear friend Lucas would have asked you out if you’d been open to it,” he said. “And I know at least one guy in the pack who was interested.”

Lucas was interested in her? She’d always liked him, as more than just a friend, but she hadn’t thought she was his type. She’d seen the women he went out with and none of them looked anything like her. She was more of the girl next door type and they were more of the model type.

“If someone had asked, I would have said yes. I didn’t date because no one ever asked me out.”

“What about a movie? Say Sunday night?”

“Grayson, I don’t know…”

“Just as friends. It will do you some good to get out of the house.”

She hesitated only a moment before nodding. “All right. Sunday then.”

“I’ll call you Friday to set up a time.”

He had a point about getting out more. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d gone to see a movie, or gone out to dinner. She hadn’t even had a girls’ night out with her friends in over a year. Hadley had been hiding in her house since the accident, and she realized that’s what it was — hiding. Maybe Grayson was right. Maybe she needed to rejoin the land of the living.


Sneak Peek at Ashton Grove Werewolves Book 3…

Would you like a sneak peek into the 3rd Ashton Grove Werewolves book?  Moonlight Guardian is due out October 27th and while there are a few excerpts floating around here and there, and it’s available for pre-sale at All Romance Ebooks, I’d like to give you a little more insight into the book…

Chloe is a very strong woman.  She’s used to standing on her own two legs.  Needless to say, after having a brief affair with Michael – which she thought of as more – she finds herself pregnant and alone.  After losing her job, her car, and her apartment, she’s at her wits end.  After much soul searching, she feels she has no other option but to tell Michael about the baby and hope that he’ll lend her a helping hand.  Going to him for help goes against everything she believes in as an independent woman, but there are times when you just have to admit defeat.

Michael is surprise to say the least to find out Chloe is pregnant.  A cold dose of reality is what he needed to realize his life is lacking something important – a mate and a family of his own.  Convincing Chloe to stay by his side isn’t going to be easy, but he knows he has to give it a shot.  What he doesn’t count on is a little competition for her affection.

When Kiera and Gabriel throw a party inviting the entire pack to meet Chloe, Ramsey takes the opportunity to get to know the spunky redhead.  She might be carrying another werewolf’s child, but she hasn’t been claimed as a mate – yet.  Deciding to give Michael a run for his money, Ramsey sets out to win Chloe for himself. 

With two men trying to win her heart, Chloe feels more confused than ever.  She’d like to believe that Michael has changed, but can she risk her heart and her baby? Ramsey claims to care for her and can offer her and her baby a stable home life.  Will that be enough or should she hold out for the all-consuming love that she sees in the couples around her?

Moonlight Guardian
Book 3, Ashton Grove Werewolves
Release Date: October 27th
Wild Horse Press

New Publisher

I’m sure we’re all tired of the infamous “publisher hunt.” We find one, think it’s great, then find out things aren’t as wonderful as we thought. So we begin our search again. The plus side? Your books are published by various publishers. Why is this a good thing? Each publisher has their own marketing strategy. By being published by various places, you get more exposure. A good publisher will not have an issue with you submitting to other places (as long as it isn’t the manuscript you sent to them!). 🙂

A new publisher for romance and erotica is Wild Horse Press. You can find them at http://www.wildhorsepress.webs.com or you can google them. They have published my latest novel, Moonlight Protector, and will be doing the whole series. However, Whispering Lake is with Hearts on Fire Books.


Does this mean Wild Horse Press will publish all of my future novels? I’m not sure. I may still submit non-series titles to other places just to keep my options open and get my name out there a bit more. After all, marketing at Hearts on Fire is different than marketing with Wild Horse Press, just as I’m sure the marketing at places like Wild Rose Press and Samhain Publishing is different than other places. Each publisher is unique in their own way.

Bottom line? If you write romance or erotica, check out Wild Horse Press. Yes, they’re new and therefore unknown, but you’ll get a “yes” or “no” out of them quicker since they won’t be back-logged like a lot of places. In addition, you may find they satisfy all of your publishing needs. Worse case? You give them one book and send your next one elsewhere.

Personally, I think I’m going to aim for 3 or 4 different publishers. The more the merrier (or maybe the more publishers, the more insane I’ll become). 🙂 Only one way to find out!

And the words continue flowing …

Last Thursday my current novel was progressing, but not as quickly as I had hoped.  It was hanging at 58,000 words or so.  I had hoped to finish it by October and here it is, close to Thanksgiving, and I’m still plugging away on it.  I’m happy to say that I’m now at a little over 70,000 words and counting!

I don’t know if it’s the weather or the time of year… I’ve noticed that around Thanksgiving and Christmas there seems to be a different spirit in the air.  The spirit of giving, of hope, and apparently, creativity.  It seems that the muses favor this time of year, or at least mine does!

Maybe my next blog will be one of excellent news —  the completion of Book 1 in the Ashton Grove Werewolves saga!

Christmas is how far away ???

I realized with shock today that Christmas is only 36 days away!  Where did the time go?  Usually, I’ve stock piled presents throughout the year and I’ve started wrapping a few things here and there.  By Thanksgiving, I normally have absolutely no shopping left to do.  This year is definitely different.  It seems that the year slipped by without my noticing… so here it is, the week before Thanksgiving, and I only have presents put aside for my daughter.  I have only one or two items for my son and nothing put aside for my husband.

I guess this means that I will have to brave the traffic, crowds, and insane parking lots in order to finish shopping for the Christmas holidays.  I noticed last weekend that the chaos had already begun!  My grandmother needed assistance with her Christmas shopping so I volunteered to go with her… I was amazed to see people parking in the lined areas inbetween handicapped spots!  I mean, come on people!  Are you really so lazy that you can’t find a parking place that isn’t going to hinder a handicapped person?

It seems that next year I will have to pry my eyes away from the computer, my fingers away from the keyboard, and get my brain focused on something other than “finishing that next novel” in order to avoid the hazardous situation I now find myself in… Christmas shopping during the holidays!

Hopefully you are better prepared than I am and will be cozy in your house laughing hysterically as I struggle through the sea of people, fight over toys, and stand in hour long lines to complete my shopping this year.

Whispering Lake

Whispering Lake was picked up by Hearts on Fire Press on August 15, 2008, as an e-book.  As of November 15th, it is now available on Amazon Kindle, Coffee Time Romance, and Hearts on Fire Books as an e-book; as well as being available on Amazon as a paperback!  Yes, you heard me … it’s finally in paperback!

Here is an excerpt …


Chapter One

            It was mid-October and Cassandra Morgan was admiring the changing leaves outside of her bedroom window as she packed her suitcase.  Her friends had decided to take a trip to Whispering Lake, North Carolina.  Cassie was twenty-one and in college, but she still lived at home. Blue Ridge State University was thirty minutes away from her hometown and her parents wouldn’t pay for a dorm room.  They were still upset that she hadn’t decided to go to Oglethorpe, Rhodes College, or some other high priced university.  Her punishment was attending a college that could be paid for through scholarships and grants, which meant she had enough to attend the local state university.  She only had three semesters left before she graduated so she was trying to make the best of it.

            Cassie threw her favorite pink sweater and jeans into the suitcase and zipped it up.  She had already packed her toiletries, her i-pod and some magazines to look at during the trip to the lake in a smaller bag.  She glanced around her room one last time to make sure she hadn’t missed anything.  She caught her reflection in the mirror across the room and walked over to it.  Her hair was a mess as always.  The long chestnut waves hung down almost to her waist.  She had green eyes and a peaches and cream complexion.  The only thing she hated about herself was her freckles.  She was five-feet-two-inches tall with an hour glass figure.  Her hour glass was a little more pronounced than most with her thirty-six DD bust and wide hips.  She had a tiny waist, but her hips kept her firmly in a size eight.

Cassie turned around and headed toward the bedroom door.  She picked up her bags and started to leave when she felt a sudden chill in the air.  Looking over her shoulder, she saw her friend Matt sitting on her bed.  He looked gorgeous like he always did.  She guessed that was one of the perks of being a ghost, perpetual youth and good looks.

            Matthew Spencer had been about six years older than Cassie when he died, which made him twenty-seven years old for an eternity.  He had been dead for over fifty years.  Cassie had tried to get him to talk about his life many times.  Every now and then he would let something slip about his past, but other than his name and his age she didn’t know very much about him.  He had been a very nice looking guy, standing at over six feet tall and having a muscular build.  Matt had sandy blonde hair and sky blue eyes.  It had apparently been late in the day when he had died because he always had a five o’clock shadow on his jaw, which in Cassie’s opinion just made him even sexier.  Since Matt had first met her when she was about fifteen she was fairly certain that he saw her as more of a pesky sister than date material… not that they would be dating since he was dead and all.  Lord knew that she’d had her fair share of fantasies though.  She only hoped that she didn’t talk in her sleep!

            Ever since Cassie was a little girl, she had been able to see, speak to, and touch ghosts.  When she was little, her parents had just called them her imaginary friends.  When she had gotten older, she had learned that her ghostly friends needed to remain a secret.  Her parents had often looked at her with worried expressions when they caught her talking to a ghost.  To everyone else, it just looked like Cassie was having a conversation with herself… which isn’t a good thing if you want to stay out of the psychiatric ward.  It also made it rather difficult to have a boyfriend.

“Leaving without saying goodbye?”  Matt had a wounded expression on his face.    

“It’s easier to say goodbye when you’re here.  I thought you had forgotten that I was leaving today,” Cassie said with a grin.

Cassie put her bags down and walked over to Matt.  She sat in his lap and threw her arms around him in a big bear hug.  This was one of the times that Cassie didn’t mind her gift so much.  While she had trouble speaking with most living guys, she was able to be herself with Matt and could talk to him about anything.  They had been best friends since the day they met five years before. 

Cassie and Matt had gotten to know one another very well over the years.  They were so comfortable with each other that many mornings Cassie would wake up to find Matthew in bed with her.  He never did anything inappropriate, much to her chagrin.  While she knew they could never be together as a couple, she sometimes wished he would take advantage of her.  They hadn’t even shared so much as one kiss, not unless you counted a kiss on the cheek.

“I didn’t forget, but I had hoped you would change your mind.  I don’t like the idea of you being gone for a week,” Matt told her with a worried expression.

“You’re just afraid that you’ll miss me and be lonely.” Cassie looked at him and grinned.

“I already know that I’ll miss you, but that isn’t why I wish you would stay here.  I just have a bad feeling about this trip of yours.” Matt sighed and buried his face in her neck.  “I wish that I could go with you.”

Cassie sighed and snuggled closer to him. She would love nothing more than to have Matt with her over the next week, but they had both researched the matter extensively and hadn’t found a way for him to leave Ashton Grove.  Well, that wasn’t entirely true.  Cassie knew that she could bind Matt to her with magick, but she didn’t want to take away his free will.  What Cassie couldn’t figure out was what kept Matt in Ashton Grove.  He had told her on more than one occasion that he wasn’t from Ashton Grove and he hadn’t died there.  If he had been able to leave the place of his death, why was he stuck in Ashton Grove now?  It didn’t make any sense.

“I wish you could come with me too, but we haven’t been able to find anything on the subject of ghosts traveling from one place to another.  I know there has to be a way, but we’re out of time.  My friends are leaving in less than two hours.” 

Matt took Cassie’s hand in his.  He had grown very fond of her over the past few years and would hate for anything bad to happen to her.  When Matt had been alive, he’d had the ability to sense danger coming to those he cared about.  His ability seemed to have followed him into the after-life.  But what good was this gift if it didn’t tell him exactly what Cassie would be facing?  If he couldn’t protect the one person who had come to mean so much to him, what good was his gift?  If he were completely honest with himself, he would just admit that he loved her and be done with it.

There had been many nights that Matt had lain beside Cassie on her bed, just watching her sleep.  He would love to take her in his arms and kiss her senseless, but he knew they couldn’t have a future together.  She deserved someone alive that she could grow old with and have children with.  Matt was obviously not that guy.

Cassie kissed Matt on the cheek and stood up.  “I have to go.  I’ll miss you!”

“I’ll miss you too.  If I find a way out of Ashton Grove, I’ll come and find you.”

Cassie smiled at Matt one last time and picked up her bags.   She headed downstairs and sat her suitcase and small bag in the entry hall.  As she walked toward the kitchen, she could smell breakfast cooking.

            “Good morning, Mom,” Cassie said as she walked into the kitchen. She plopped down in her favorite spot at the kitchen table. Her mother brought pancakes and sausage over to her along with a glass of orange juice.  It smelled wonderful.

            “Good morning, sweetie. Are you all packed?” her mother asked.

“Yep, all set to go.  I’m meeting Kari at Amber’s house.  Amber said we could ride with her. She has a Ford Explorer so we’ll have more room in her car.”

 “Well, eat your breakfast. You don’t want to be hungry before you get there.”

 “I’ll be fine, Mom.” Just the same, Cassie tried to eat a little extra that morning just to make her mother happy.   Cassie was lucky enough to have a high metabolism so she never gained weight.  She could probably eat an entire cake and not gain a pound.

When Cassie was finished with her breakfast, she got up from the kitchen table and went to get her bags.  She loaded them into the trunk of her little blue VW Jetta and drove to Amber’s house. Small towns in Northeast Georgia tended to have winding roads, which meant that Cassie had a beautiful drive.  Cassie drove through the heart of Ashton Grove and looked at the beautiful old homes.  Every house in this area was at least fifty years old.  Every time Cassie drove through this part of town, she wondered if any of this had been around when Matt was alive.  She was really going to miss him!  There had seldom been a day in the last six years that they hadn’t been together.

Cassie pulled into Amber’s driveway and drove around to the back of the house.  Kari’s red Honda Del Sol was already parked beside the garage.  Cassie parked next to the Honda and got out of the car.  She pulled her bags out of the trunk and walked up the back stairs of Amber’s house.

Amber’s parents had died in a car accident a year ago.  She had inherited the house and their new Ford Explorer.  The house was beautiful.  It was a two-story red brick home built in the nineteen forties.  The inside was spectacular with hardwood floors, oriental carpets, stained glass windows in various locations throughout the house, and french doors.

“Hey guys!” Cassie called as she entered the house through the back door.

“Hey Cass!” Kari replied.  “All set for the trip?”

“You bet! It will be nice to get away from the house for a while,” Cassie said with a smile.

Kari Matthews was about four inches taller than Cassie and had medium length straight blonde hair and blue eyes.  Kari had a willow thin model’s figure. The girls had met in Ms. Robinson’s kindergarten room and had become fast friends.  No one had been able to tear them apart ever since. 

Kari was more popular than Cassie, especially with the guys, but that had never bothered Cassie.  As far as Kari was concerned, Cassie’s dating status and popularity rating, or rather lack-thereof, made her the perfect friend.  She could never be friends with someone she saw as competition.  Kari had always been one of those girls who always had to be the center of attention, especially when guys were around.  Even though she was about to graduate from college, she hadn’t changed much.

            Amber Tyler was about the same height as Kari, but she wore a size twelve while Kari wore mostly fours and a few sixes, not that she would admit to ever wearing a size six.  To Kari, a six was fat.  Amber had long red hair that frizzed if she didn’t straighten it and pretty green eyes.  She wasn’t what most would call beautiful, but she was pretty.  While she didn’t date as much as Kari did, she had been on her fair share of dates and had one or two serious boyfriends over the years. 

Amber had been friends with Kari and Cassie since she moved to Ashton Grove six years ago.  The three girls were almost inseparable.  If you saw Cassie at the mall, you were sure to see Kari and Amber as well.  Each of the young women had a special gift.  Cassie could see, touch, and speak to ghosts; Kari sometimes would see glimpses of the future through her dreams; and Amber was an empath, which meant she could feel other people’s emotions.  The three of them very seldom spoke of their unusual gifts unless they were alone.  Cassie and Kari were also Wiccans.  Amber knew of their beliefs, but no one else in town did.  In a small southern rural town, being anything other than Christian was a death sentence of sorts.  The south wasn’t considered the Bible belt for nothing.

Kari and Cassie were both solitary practitioners of Wicca, but that is where the similarities in their beliefs ended.  Cassie followed the Druidic tradition, based in nature and the elements, while Kari practiced the Dianic tradition, based more on feminism.  Both women cast spells, but Cassie only did so when she had to.  Cassie felt that the God and Goddess would want her to try and solve things on her own before asking for their help and wisdom.  Kari had a tendency to cast spells on a more regular basis as she liked to take the easy way out when possible.  The threefold law apparently didn’t mean much to her.

            The three women talked as they loaded Amber’s SUV with their bags.  They had a four hour drive to Whispering Lake from Ashton Grove, Georgia. Whispering Lake consisted of a fifty acre lake, about thirty cabins, a ten mile wooded hiking trail, and an assortment of activities and wildlife.  The lake was surrounded by mountains, which gave it a secluded feeling.  The interstate was a good hour away from the lake so it was a peaceful setting.  No horns honking, no cars speeding by … it was going to be a nice relaxing week.  The only thing that could have made it better would be Matt. 

Cassie really wished that he could have gone on the trip too.  It felt strange knowing he wouldn’t be by her side for the next even or eight days.  Whenever she needed an opinion on something, Matt was the one she asked.  If she needed help with a class project, she would ask Matt.  She relied on him a lot, but it was more than just that.  She felt truly comfortable with him and a special kinship.  If he were alive, she could easily see herself spending the rest of her life with him.

            Ashton Grove, Georgia, her hometown, only boasted a population of 875.  Cassie loved the quaint feel of small-town life, but she also enjoyed going to bigger cities like Atlanta or Knoxville when she had the opportunity.  The one downfall of being in a small town was not having a decent mall.  The Ashton Grove mall definitely could not compare to Phipps Plaza in Atlanta… and what girl didn’t love to shop?  Still, she was looking forward to their week at the lake.  It would be nice to get away from it all… well, all but Matt.  Cassie could tell she was going to have a hard time keeping him from her thoughts.

“What kind of activities did the brochure say they have at the lake?” Cassie knew that Amber would have practically memorized the brochure they received in the mail a few weeks before.  Amber had been so excited that she had talked of little else for the past week. 

            Amber smiled and started rattling off activities that would be available, “They have boating, fishing, hiking, and tennis.  It said they also have special activity nights in the main lodge, like karaoke night.”  Amber knew that Cassie loved to sing, but Cassie wasn’t sure she wanted to sing in front of everyone. Singing in front of her family or her closest friends was one thing, but to embarrass herself in front of complete strangers was another matter entirely.

            “Maybe we can go for a hike this afternoon. I bet the woods there are really pretty.”  Being a Druid meant that Cassie tried to spend as much time in nature as possible.  She always felt the most balanced after she had been in the woods or by a lake.  Being in the outdoors was very soothing to Cassie.

            “That sounds like a good idea to me. Do you know who you’re rooming with yet,” Amber asked.

            Cassie shook her head.  “No.  I just hope I end up with nice roommates. Or maybe even absent ones.”

            “At least the cabins each have two bedrooms.  I think I read that a few of the cabins had three or four bedrooms,” Amber told her.

            “I guess if I’m stuck with people I don’t know, I can hope for they are either quiet or will be out of the cabin a lot,” Cassie replied.

            “It’s too bad they ran out of three bedroom cabins before we made our reservations.  It would have been great if all three of us could have stayed together.”

            Cassie agreed.  She would have preferred staying with her two friends than staying with people she had never met.  She wasn’t shy.  Cassie just felt nervous around strangers.  She was always worried they would discover her unusual talent of talking to ghosts and would think she was a freak, or possibly schizophrenic.  It wouldn’t be the first time that someone suggested she ‘get help.’

            Amber turned the radio on and the three of them settled in for the four hour drive.  Kari was flipping through a magazine and Amber was concentrating on driving.  Cassie pulled out her i-pod and closed her eyes.  As she listened to Aimee Mann, Avenged Sevenfold, Green Day, and her other favorite artists, she thought of what this week could bring to her life.  When Cassie had called to reserve her room, she had been told that the only available room was in a four bedroom cabin.  The other three rooms had already been booked.  The lady said she couldn’t tell her who would be staying in the cabin with her, confidentiality or something like that.  Cassie just hoped they were nice.

–  –  –  –  –

Amber pulled the car to a stop in front of the lodge at Whispering Lake.  The three women got out of the car and gathered their belongings. They went into the lodge to get their cabin keys from the lodge manager.  Amber and Kari were sharing cabin number eleven.  Cassie was going to be staying in cabin number six with her  mystery roommates.

            As they walked toward their cabins, they planned on meeting for lunch in an hour at the lodge.  Cassie arrived at her cabin first.  She went up the steps and unlocked the door.  As she stepped inside, she found herself standing in a small living room with a fireplace, couch, coffee table and small TV.  A small kitchen was to their left and the bathroom was to the right. There was a bedroom off the kitchen, and three others off the living room.

            “Hello?  Is anyone home,” Cassie called as she closed the front door.

            Cassie didn’t get a response so she figured her cabin-mates were out. She would just have to find the empty room by process of elimination.  She started with the room off the kitchen, but saw a duffel bag   on the floor.  She went back to the living room and entered the first bedroom she came to.  She didn’t see a bag anywhere, but when she opened the dresser drawer she saw men’s clothing folded neatly.  At least she knew the gender of one of her roommates.

            As Cassie closed the bedroom door behind her, the front door opened and three guys walked in. Uh oh … this wasn’t looking good.  She was sharing a cabin with three men?  There had to be a mistake!  She could barely speak to men, much less live with three of them for a week!

            “Hi. I’m Michael.”  One of the guys stepped forward with his hand outstretched. 

Cassie reached over and shook his hand. “I’m Cassie.”

Michael hadn’t expected their fourth roommate to be a woman, but he wasn’t complaining.  She was beautiful! “These are my brothers, Cole and Gabriel.”

“It’s nice to meet all of you.  I wasn’t sure which room was vacant,” Cassie replied.

“Oh, here, let me help you with those.”  Michael reached over and took her bags from her. “The empty bedroom is back here.”  He walked toward the back of the cabin and pushed open the last bedroom door.  He walked in and set her bags on the bed. 

“I’ll let you unpack,” he said, backing toward the door.

After Michael left the room, Cassie closed the door behind him and leaned against it.  Whoa! Three gorgeous brothers all in one cabin… with her!  Each of them had been tall, almost as tall as Matt, and had coal black hair. Two of them had blue eyes and one had steel gray eyes.  She was so in trouble!  Cassie was usually tongue-tied and clumsy around cute guys and these three were gorgeous!  They looked like fallen angels with that thick, black, wavy hair.

On the other side of the door, all three brothers were looking at each other with dazed expressions.  Michael and Cole were twins.  They were both six-foot-one and were twenty-two years old, but they weren’t identical twins.  Cole had gray eyes while Michael’s were blue, and their noses were a little different too. 

Gabriel, at twenty-four, was the oldest and the tallest.  He was six-foot-two and very broad shouldered.  All three brothers worked out on a regular basis. 

Cole was still in college, but Michael and Gabriel had forgone college to work in their garage as mechanics.  Cole worked there part-time when he wasn’t in class.

The garage had been their dad’s, but not they each owned an equal share.  Cole planned on selling his share to his brothers once he was finished with college.  He could technically still keep his share and just work there on weekends, but he didn’t see the point.  His brothers would need the income from those hours more than he would.

            Michael was the first to speak. “Can I just say ‘Wow’!  She is hot!”

            Gabriel looked at his brother with disgust. “Is that all you can think of?  Did you not notice that she seemed a little nervous around us?  I’m betting the manager never told her she was staying with three guys.”

            Michael gave him a blank look. “Why would she be nervous about staying with us?”

            Gabriel looked at him. “I don’t know, maybe she’s heard of your reputation? Any woman with half a brain would be nervous to share a cabin with you!”

            Michael rolled his eyes. “Oh please. As if those women didn’t want to sleep with me!”

            Gabriel shook his head.  Michael was hopeless when it came to women.  He thought he was God’s gift to women.  Unfortunately, most women fell over themselves for a chance to date any of the brothers, so it was hard to convince Michael otherwise.  It would be nice if just once a woman actually told Michael no. 

Cole walked over to Cassie’s room and knocked on the door.  He heard a faint response that he took as consent to enter.  He opened the door and peeked in her room.  She was still unpacking her suitcase.

“When you’re done, would you like to see if they have anything left for lunch over at the lodge?  Or did you grab a bite to eat on the way here?”

            “No, I haven’t eaten yet.  Lunch sounds great,” Cassie said quietly.

            Cole smiled at her. “I’ll just be in the living room waiting for you.”

            When Cole left, Cassie smiled to herself.  He seemed like a nice guy.  Maybe it wouldn’t be so horrible sharing a cabin with the brothers after all.  They were definitely nice to look at, even if they weren’t Matt.  Cassie sighed to herself.  Was she ever going to get over Matt?  She knew that she couldn’t have a relationship with a dead guy, but she couldn’t seem to get him out of her mind.  Even when she had first seen her roommates, she had automatically compared them to Matt.  It was a habit she needed to break.

            Cassie put the last of her clothes away and left her bedroom.  Cole was talking to his brothers in the living room. “Are you ready?”

            “Sure.” Cole motioned for her to go ahead of him.

            “Aren’t your brothers coming too,” she asked.

            “No, they ate earlier.”

            They left the cabin and walked in companionable silence to the lodge.  When they reached the lodge, Cole held the door open for her.  Inside, Cassie could see a buffet set up for lunch.  She didn’t see Kari or Amber anywhere.  Cassie followed Cole over to the buffet and started fixing her plate.  She grabbed a sandwich and some chips and turned to search for a table.

 “Wait up. I’m almost done.” Cole said as he put a few cookies on his plate, to go with the two sandwiches and ton of chips already there.  They walked over to a table near the large picture window and sat down.  Cassie hadn’t expected for him to sit with her.  Most guys like Cole never gave her a second look.  Even the few who had, didn’t stick around once she started talking to ghosts.

            As they ate, Cole asked Cassie some basic questions… where was she from; was she in college; etc.  They found out that they both lived in Ashton Grove and went to the same college.  Cassie was a psychology student and Cole was studying biology so they didn’t have any classes together.  It was funny what a small world they lived in.  Imagine meeting people four hours away from home who lived in the same town.  Even though they had attended the same high school, Cassie didn’t remember seeing Michael or Cole before.  She wasn’t sure how she could have missed them!  Granted, they were a little older than her, but she still would have seen them in the halls.

            They ate the rest of their lunch in silence.  When they were done, Cassie’s friends walked in.  Cassie could tell that Kari was just dying to know who she was sitting with. Wait until they heard about her sleeping arrangements! She was never going to hear the end of this.

            Cole got up when he noticed her friends were approaching.  He didn’t want to intrude, but he definitely wanted to get to know Cassie better… just being near her made him feel more alive than he had all year.  The week was definitely starting to look up.

 “I’ll see you back at the cabin,” Cole said as he walked away.

            Kari and Amber sat down with wide eyes. It wasn’t exactly the norm for Cassie to hang out with hot guys. 

“Who was that and what did he mean he would see you at the cabin later?” Kari demanded.

            “Remember how I made my reservation a little late?  And the manager said I was sharing a cabin with three other people?  Well, Cole and his two brothers are those other people.”

            “Oh my god! You’re sharing a cabin with three guys?! Are they all that hot?” Kari was in complete shock, not to mention completely jealous.

            “Shh. Keep it down would you?! “

            Kari rolled her eyes. “Good grief Cassie. You’d think we lived in the dark ages or something. No one here could care less that you’re sharing a cabin with three guys.”

            Cassie knew that Kari was right, but being around Matt had rubbed off on her.  He had been born in a time when chivalry wasn’t dead.  He also had certain opinions of what men and women should and shouldn’t do before marriage.  Good thing he wasn’t here!

            They talked a bit more while Kari and Amber ate their lunch. When they were done, they went outside and decided to take a hike in the woods.  They passed by Cassie’s cabin on the way to the trail. Cole was sitting on the front porch and watched them start off down the trail.  The woods were really pretty and the girls walked in silence at first, just admiring the trees and wildlife.  They saw squirrels, raccoons and even a few deer.  Cassie felt completely at peace. 

            About thirty minutes into their hike, Kari decided to break the silence.  “Cass, can I ask you something?”

            “What is it Kari?”

            “As far as I know, you’ve never dated anyone seriously before.  Since you don’t have a boyfriend at the moment, are you going to take advantage of your current living arrangements,” Kari asked.

            Cassie stopped and looked at her friend. “What do you mean by that?”

            “Well, if I were the one in a cabin with three gorgeous guys, I think I’d be more than a little tempted to take at least one of them for a test drive.” Kari gave her a wicked grin.

            “Kari! I can’t believe you just said that!”

            “What? It’s true.  We’re adults and they’re adults. What’s the big deal,” Kari demanded.

            “The big deal is that I don’t sleep around,” Cassie told her indignantly.

            Kari snorted. “Far as I can tell, you don’t sleep with anyone period.”

            Cassie was blushing.  She had told her friends before how difficult it was to have a boyfriend when you had ghosts popping up at all hours of the day.  Kari had been snippy with her a lot lately.  She made it sound like it was a terrible thing to be a virgin.  Granted, Cassie didn’t know too many women her age that were still virgins, but that just made her unique.  Who was she kidding? It made her even more of a freak and she knew it.

            “So what if I haven’t?  You know how hard it is for me to date.  How many guys do you know that would be tolerant of me stopping to talk to ghosts at any given time? At least your gift is something you can keep hidden,” Cassie told Kari.

            Kari rolled her eyes at her. “Whatever, Cassie.  All I know is that if you don’t plan on taking advantage of that hunky guy you had lunch with, the least you could do is introduce me to him.”

            Kari stomped back down the trail.  Cassie looked at Amber. “What’s with her?”

            Amber shook her head. “I don’t know.  She’s been different this past year.  I think her popularity with the guys has gone to her head.”

            “I guess so.  We’d better catch up with her,” Cassie said as she followed in Kari’s wake.

            As Cassie started to walk away, Amber reached out and grabbed her arm. “Wait a minute, Cass.  About what Kari said…”

            “Don’t worry about it, Amber. So what if I’m going to graduate from college a virgin?”

            “I wanted you to know that I think that’s pretty wonderful actually.  My first time wasn’t so great.  If I had it all to do over again, I would have waited for someone more special.  You know, that one guy that you just can’t get out of your mind day or night,” Amber told her.

            Cassie smiled at her.  Unfortunately, she knew about that guy all too well… and he was a fifty year old ghost haunting her bedroom. “I know what you mean, Amber.  Thanks.”

            Amber smiled at Cassie and they start down the path after Kari.  They found her sitting on a log by the path.  Cassie went over to her and sat down on the log.

            “Kari, if you really want an introduction to the guys I’m staying with, that’s fine.  I don’t have a problem with that,” Cassie told her.

            “I should have known that you wouldn’t want at least one of them for yourself. What’s with you anyway?”

            “Nothing is with me. They are all really nice looking guys.  I’m just not up for a one week fling,” Cassie replied.

            “I think it would do wonders for you.  At the very least, you should try flirting with one of them.  You haven’t dated anyone in so long you’re probably rusty,” Kari said nastily.

            “Gee, thanks Kari.”

            “So … you said there were three of them.  Tell us about them,” Kari said.

            “Well, you saw Cole.  He’s the one that was having lunch with me.  His has a brother that looks like he’s probably his twin, except Michael has blue eyes.  Then there’s Gabriel.  I think he’s a little older.”

            “And out of the three of them, you like?”

            “I don’t know.  I don’t really know any of them that well yet.  They all seemed nice enough.  Cole was pretty great during lunch though.  He goes to Blue Ridge State too, but he’s about to graduate.”

            “Figures you would want Cole.” Kari pouted.

            “Kari, I didn’t say I wanted him.  I just said that he seems really nice,” Cassie told her.

            “Then you don’t care if I go for it? With Cole?”

            Cassie shook her head. “It’s not really up to me, Kari.  If he wants you, then by all means you can have him.”

            Kari got up from the log and started back to the cabins.  “Aren’t you and Amber coming?”

            “Actually, I think I’m going to stay here a little longer.”

            “Whatever. Coming Amber?”

            “Sure, Kari.” Amber turned to Cassie. “I’ll see you at dinner later.”

            “I’m just going to walk a little more.”

            Amber and Kari headed back down the trail.  Cassie got up from the log and kept walking deeper into the woods.  She was starting to feel unbalanced and being in nature always made her feel better.  Normally being around her friends made her happy, but Kari was getting meaner and meaner these days.  Cassie didn’t understand what was going on with her friend.

–  –  –  –  –

            Cole was sitting on the porch of the cabin when Kari and Amber walked by.  He wasn’t certain, but he would have sworn that Kari winked at him when she walked past.  What was that about? He had a feeling he hadn’t seen the last of her.  By now he was used to women coming on to him, but he hadn’t been on a date in a while.  Cassie was the first woman who had even sparked his interest this year.

He looked up the trail, but he didn’t see Cassie. Surely her friends hadn’t left her out there alone.  He waited a few minutes to see if she would follow.  When there was no sign of her after fifteen minutes, Cole started down the cabin steps and decided to go check on her. It would be getting dark soon.

He walked for almost an hour before he found her.  She was sitting on a rock by a spring with her knees drawn up to her chest.  Her hair was down and it was blowing in the breeze.  Her cheek rested on her knees and she had her eyes closed.  As he got closer, he could tell that she had been crying.  He felt an unexpected urge to comfort her.  The feeling surprised Cole.  He hadn’t wanted to comfort a woman in a long time… not since his girlfriend, April, had left.

             –  –  –  –  –

            Cassie wished more than anything that Matt were here with her.  What danger had he foreseen?  Did it have anything to do with Kari’s idea that Cassie should flirt with Cole, or was it something else entirely?  She knew of Matt’s ability to sense danger.  It had actually saved her more than once over the past few years.  She really missed him.  He always knew exactly what to say to make her feel better.

Cassie had walked a little further when she heard a noise to her right.  She looked over and saw a girl coming towards her.  Right away Cassie knew that the girl was a ghost.  They seemed to have a particular aura or something, not to mention that the air always felt a little cooler around them.

            “Hi,” Cassie said as the girl approached.

            “Hi.  I’m Sarah.”

            “It’s nice to meet you Sarah. I’m Cassie.”

            “I saw your friends leave. They were your friends, right,” the ghost asked.


            “Just wondering. That one girl seemed a little mean.”

            “She normally isn’t like that,” Cassie said, wondering why she was defending Kari.

            Sarah contemplated her for a minute.  “I know where there’s a stream nearby. Want to walk there? It’s really pretty.”

            “Sure. Lead the way.” Cassie followed Sarah further along the path.  About half a mile down the trail, she looked to her left and saw a beautiful stream with a large rock beside it.  She walked down to the stream and climbed up on the rock, pulling her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them.  It was late afternoon and the sun was already starting to sink behind the mountains. The air had gotten quite a bit cooler than when she had started her hike.   

“What did you want to talk about,” Cassie asked.

            “Nothing in particular. It just get’s lonely sometimes. There aren’t too many people like you who can see me and hear me.”

            Cassie reached over and grabbed the girl’s hand. “Don’t forget that I feel you too.”

            Sarah looked shocked. “I haven’t been able to touch another person since I died. How did you do that?”

            “I’m not really sure. It’s just something I’ve always been able to do.  I haven’t talked to anyone in my family about it so as far as I know I’m the only one who can see, talk to, and touch spirits.  Y’all are just as real to me as my friends are.”

            Sarah looked thoughtful. “It must be strange, having ghosts walk up to you all the time.  How do you deal with something like that? Isn’t it hard keeping something like that a secret?”

            “It was at first. I’m used to it now.  It’s a little embarrassing if I’m in the mall or someplace crowded though. Then people think I’m talking to myself.  It’s definitely hard keeping it a secret.  Sometimes I would like nothing more than to have someone to share this with.  I have two friends who know about my ‘gift,’ but it would be nice if I could share it with my family or to have a boyfriend that would understand.”  Cassie looked at Sarah. “Actually, my best friend is a ghost. His name is Matt.  Right before you walked up to me, I was thinking how much I wish he were here.”

            Sarah grinned, “You don’t think your family would understand? You had to have received this gift from somewhere.”

            “I’ve often wondered about that.  I guess I’m just scared that if I tell my parents I see ghosts that they will have me locked away.”  Cassie sighed.  “May I ask you something personal?


            “How long ago did you die?”

            “Three years ago.  It was fall when I came here with some friends.  We went hiking and it started to rain.  We had veered off the path and crossed the stream further up the trail.  When I tried to cross back over, I slipped on one of the rocks and hit my head.  The next thing I knew, no one could hear me or see me.”

            “I’m sorry,” Cassie said with compassion.  She could only imagine what that must have been like.

            “Don’t be. It wasn’t your fault.  It was just an accident.” Sarah smiled at her.  “Being stuck here isn’t too bad.  It’s just lonely.  I stayed behind to watch over my boyfriend, but when he left the lake I wasn’t able to go with him.” 

            “That must have been very sad,” Cassie replied.

            “It was.  The worst part was being alone all of the time.”

            Cassie laid a sympathetic hand on Sarah’s shoulder.  “You’re not alone now.  If I could find a way to release you from this place, I would. Matt and I researched that very topic over the past few weeks, but we haven’t been able to find anything yet.”

Sarah smiled at her.  She turned and started to walk back into the woods. “I will leave you to your hike.  Thank you for stopping and talking to me for a few minutes.” 

Cassie thought that Sarah’ story was a very sad one. It didn’t seem fair that she was stuck here.  She wished that she had her Wicca books with her or her laptop.  She might have been able to find a spell that would release Sarah’s spirit.  Of course, if she released Sarah from her prison on earth, she would have to do the same for Matt.  Cassie wasn’t sure she would be able to do that.  She cared about Matt far too much to lose him.  She knew it was selfish of her, but she couldn’t help how she felt.  She would be lost without him.

Cassie looked over at Sarah.  “You’re welcome.  I’m staying here for a week so maybe we can talk again before I leave.”

            “I’d like that,” Sarah said with a smile.  She turned and disappeared into the woods. 

Cassie decided she liked hearing the spring trickle by and decided to stay a little longer.  As she sat there, she started thinking about Kari.  Unlike Cassie, Kari had seriously dated several guys this year and two the year before.  Even though Kari hung out with Amber and Cassie, she was far more popular than either of them.  Cassie laid her head down on her knees and closed her eyes. 

After a few minutes, she let the tears come.  She didn’t understand why Kari couldn’t accept her the way she was.  So what if she didn’t date anyone seriously?  Kari knew that Cassie wasn’t like most people.  She wished her friend could be more supportive.  What was the big deal with sleeping with a bunch of guys anyway?  Wasn’t it better to wait for someone special? Someone like Matt? 

Thinking of Matt just made her cry harder.  Why did the most wonderful man she knew have to be a ghost?  Cassie knew a large part of why she didn’t date had to do with Matt.  Even if Cassie knew they couldn’t be together, she still compared every guy she ever met to Matt.  Every date she went on, she wished that it was Matt sitting across from her or holding her hand.  It wasn’t fair to the men that asked her out, but she couldn’t seem to help it.

            Cassie sat on the rock for the longest time and eventually cried herself to sleep.  An hour passed before Cole found her sitting on that same rock.  He stood there watching her for a few minutes… not sure if he should disturb her or not.  Why had she been crying?  Did it have anything to do with her friends leaving her out here?

            “Cassie?  Wake-up, Cass.” Cole gently nudged her.

            Cassie lifted her head and saw Cole standing by her.  She looked around and noticed it was nearly dark outside.  She tried to stand and nearly fell.  Her legs had fallen asleep from sitting in that cramped position for so long.  Cole deftly caught her around the waist and helped her stand up.  Being this close to him, she could smell his woodsy scent.  She wanted to wrap her arms around him and bury her face in his shirt.  For the first time in her life, she wanted to take solace in someone’s embrace other than Matt’s.  Instead, she took a step back and wiped the tears from her eyes.

Looking up at him she asked, “How did you find me?”

            “I saw your friends come out of the woods without you.  I waited a few minutes and when you didn’t come back down the trail I thought I would come and get you. It’s an hour walk back to the cabin and dinner will be served in less than two hours,” Cole replied.

            “Thanks for coming out here.”

            “Are you ready to walk back? Or do you need more time,” he asked.

            Cassie looked at Cole.  He looked concerned.  The thought that such a cute guy might like her was enough to put a smile back on Cassie’s face. Maybe this time, she wouldn’t think of Matt all the time.  It would be nice to go out with a guy and be happy just to be with him.

“No, I’m all right.  We can head back,” she said.

            As they drew closer to the cabin, Cole reached over and took Cassie’s hand.  Cassie looked at him in surprise, but then she smiled and threaded her fingers through his.  They walked in silence back to the cabin.  She had never felt this comfortable with anyone before.  It was like she had known Cole her whole life.

            “I think I’m going to go inside and freshen up a little,” Cassie said as they came to the end of the trail.  She knew her face was probably streaked from her tears and she had some fallen leaves stuck in her hair.  In other words, she was a wreck.

            “Okay.  I’m going to sit out here for a minute. Want me to wait on you for dinner?”

            “I’d like that.” Cassie said with a shy smile before going into the cabin. 

She grabbed her bag of toiletries and a clean change of clothes and headed to the bathroom.  She took a hot shower, washing her hair with her favorite lavender shampoo and using her favorite lavender soap.  When she was done, she got out and towel dried her long hair and put on her pink sweater and jeans.  She quickly moisturized her face and put on a little mascara and lipstick.  Her cheeks were pink enough from the hot water of her shower that blush wasn’t necessary tonight.

            Cassie put her makeup back in the little bag and put the bag in the mirrored cabinet above the sink.  Even though her hair was still quite wet, it fell in long dark waves down her back.  She put her dirty clothes in her room and put on her brown Dr. Martens.  When she stepped out onto the porch, Cole turned to face her.

            “Wow. You look great,” he said as his eyes devoured every inch of her. He couldn’t help but wonder what she was wearing under the pink sweater. 

            Cassie blushed. “Thanks.  Are you ready to see if dinner’s ready?”

            Cole nodded.  They started walking toward the lodge.  Again, he reached over and took her hand.  With their fingers laced together, they walked up the steps to the lodge and went inside.  Most of the people staying at Whispering Lake were already filling their plates.  They saw Kari and Amber across the room. Kari saw their joined hands and glared at her.  Cassie should have expected that since Kari had mentioned that she wanted Cole for herself.

            “Would you like to sit at the same table we had during lunch?” Cole asked her.

            “That would be great,” Cassie replied.

            “Let’s go.”  Cole led her over to the buffet and handed her a plate before grabbing one for himself.

            Cassie and Cole finished filling their plates and went to find their table by the window.  Just as Cassie sat down, she felt something brush past her leg.  She looked down and saw an adorable little dog.  She knew she shouldn’t acknowledge it though, at least not in front of Cole.  The dog was a ghost.  Cassie nonchalantly reached down as if she were going to pick something up and quickly patted the pup on the head.  She noticed Cole was watching her. 

“Dropped my napkin,” she said with a grin.  He smiled back and they started eating.

            From across the room, Kari had noticed Cassie’s move.  She knew exactly what had happened.  Cassie had attracted a ghost just as she always did.  At that moment, Kari knew exactly how she could separate Cassie and Cole.  After all, had she not told Cassie that she wanted Cole?  Besides, Cassie wouldn’t have the first clue what to do with a guy like that.  All Kari had to do was let Cole know that he was interested in a freak who talked to ghosts.  Everything else would fall into place after that.  Who would want to date someone like Cassie anyway?

It wasn’t fair that Cassie got to have the attention of a guy as hot as Cole.  She got up and walked over to their table.  After all, it wasn’t like Cassie was going to seriously date him anyway.  Kari might as well be able to have some fun during the trip and she planned on having fun with Cole.

            “Hi Cassie.  Seen Casper lately?” Kari asked snidely.

            Cassie could see Cole watching her, waiting for her response. “I don’t know what you’re talking about Kari.”

How could Kari do this to her? Cassie hoped she would drop it and walk away. No such luck!

            “You know what I mean.  Been talking to any ghosts lately? You know, like the one you were just petting under the table,” Kari continued relentlessly.

            Cassie gasped.  She shot her eyes over to Cole to judge his reaction.  He was just looking between her and Kari. 

“Are you trying to tell me that Cassie can talk to ghosts,” Cole asked.

            His calm tone wasn’t the reaction that Kari had hoped for.  He was taking this news entirely too well.  He was supposed to freak out and want to be as far from Cassie as possible.

“Yes, she can talk to dead people and animals. It looked to me like she was petting a ghost dog or cat under the table,” Kari responded, sure that he would get up at any moment and walk away from Cassie.

            Cole looked at Cassie. He could tell she was really uncomfortable with what Kari was saying. Could she really talk to and touch spirits?  “Is that true, Cassie?  You can see ghosts?”

             “Yes, it’s true,” she whispered.

She started to get up from the table, but Cole reached over and took her hand.  She looked into his eyes and saw that he wasn’t repulsed or freaked over her news. If anything, he looked intrigued.  Could she have finally found someone who would understand and accept her as is?

            “Please sit back down. I’d like for you to finish having dinner with me.  If you want to, that is,” he told her with a smile.

            Cole looked at Kari, “Anything else you’d like to share for her? I’m sure she’s capable of telling me these things when she’s ready.”

            Kari looked mad enough to spit nails. She spun away from their table and stormed back over to sit by Amber again.  Amber looked at Cassie apologetically.

            Looking back at Cole, Cassie said, “You certainly took that differently than I had thought you would. Aren’t you freaked out?”

            Cole shrugged. “Honestly, I think it’s kind of cool.  I always knew that things like ghosts existed.  I’ve never seen one, but sometimes I’ve thought I could feel one.  It kind of makes me wonder what else might be out there.”  He smiled at her. “Who knows, maybe vampires and werewolves are real too.”

            Cassie was amazed.  Cole was not only gorgeous, kind and seemed to like her, but he was also willing to accept her as she was… freakish powers and all. “I don’t know what to say. I figured by now you would have been running as fast you could to get away from me.  That’s what most guys do anyway.”

            Cole grinned at her. “It will take a lot more than that to run me off.” 

He couldn’t believe that guys would run from Cassie. So what if she could talk to ghosts?  It just made her different.  Everyone was different in their own way.  It was a small part of who she was.  Any man should feel honored to have such a beautiful and caring woman in his life. 

            Cassie smiled in return and finished eating her dinner.  Once they were done and had returned their plates to the kitchen, they left the lodge.  When they stepped outside, Cole turned towards Cassie. 

“I had a nice time tonight,” he told her.

            “Me, too.” Cassie smiled at him.  “Maybe we could do it again sometime? If you’re interested, that is.”

            “Oh, I’m definitely interested.” Cole smiled at her. 

He thought she looked even more beautiful in the moonlight.  She was a good foot shorter than he was, but she reminded him of a petite pixie.  She had delicate features and a full mouth that he wanted to kiss.  He wondered what she’d say if he leaned down and kissed her at that moment.  Deciding not to tempt fate, he steered his thoughts in another direction.

“Would you like to walk around the lake? Or head back to the cabin? I think I saw a DVD player and some movies in the living room,” Cole said.

            “How about a short walk first?”  Cassie couldn’t think of anything more romantic than a moonlit walk by the lake. 

Cassie had only dreamed of nights like this before.  She felt comfortable around Cole, but she also felt a little guilty.  She wasn’t sure why, but it almost felt like she was cheating on Matt when she was with Cole.  Would she ever get over him and allow herself to have a real life?  Her she was with a gorgeous guy that accepted her unique ability and she was thinking of Matt again.  There was something seriously wrong with her!

            They held hands and walked in the moonlight, looking out over the lake.  It was quiet despite the fact that all 30 cabins were full.  It seemed like everyone had decided to stay at the lodge for whatever activity had been planned for the evening, while the rest were quietly heading to their cabins. 

            Cassie was starting to shiver.  The night was getting cooler by the minute.  “Cole, would you mind if we headed back to the cabin now? It’s starting to get a little cold.”

            “Sure.”  He put his arm around her shoulders and started walking towards the cabin.  “Do you think you’ll feel up to a movie? Or do you want to head to your room?  I’m sure you had a long day.”

            His thoughtfulness touched her.  “I think I can handle a movie,” she said with a smile.


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Websites, Blogs and Book Trailers – Oh My !

It seems to me that selling a book is getting harder and harder.  First, you put all of your blood, sweat, and tears into the thing getting it written, edited, submitted to fifty publishers before it’s accepted… you think, “Ah, a reprieve!” only to learn that nope, it’s just beginning.  So you open a MySpace and Facebook page, join a few groups, and do your best to network.  Next thing you know, you’re hearing “Do you have a webpage?”

Ok… so then you find a free service to set up a webpage to see how things go before you start spending money on the thing.  Step number one is now checked off and you’re feeling pretty good.  Then someone else comes along, “Do you have a blog?”

A website .. a blog ..  ok, ok.  So you do some research to figure out this whole blogging mess.  I mean, what exactly is the point of a blog?  (shakes head)  But you set one up and figure, hey, I can talk anyone to death… talking on a blog shouldn’t be too hard!  So  now step two is checked off….  Uh oh, here comes another one of those people … “Do you have a book trailer?”

A WHAT ?!?!???  Book Trailer ???  Aren’t those for movies?  I mean, come on!  Get serious!  Who on earth wants to watch a video clip about a book?  Sheesh ….  but then you think about it, do even more research …  aha!  So it’s easy to create and you discover that the software is free, so, why not?  After some grumbling, tongue biting, threatening the computer, voila! Your book trailer is complete!  Um… now what?  Back to the internet you go …  Ah .. ok, so you can upload these things on your website and on YouTube.  So after registering for yet another site, you are set to go!  Item number three is now checked off!

You sigh deeply, feeling relieved and somewhat accomplished.  You have a website… you have a blog… and now you have a book trailer.  Peace and quiet at last! 

Then again, maybe it’s time to get back to that book you’re working on …. an author’s work is never done!

To Blog or Not to Blog …

That is the question!  As a new author, the first question I have been asked, not only by other authors, but also readers, is “do you have a blog?”  To which I always answered, “Um, no.”  Well, that has obviously changed as of today.

I can honestly say that I don’t understand all of the hype about a blog.  If you don’t have a blog, then it seems you are “one of those people!” .. whoever they may be.  And yet here I find myself starting a blog…

So please be patient as I figure all of this out…  hopefully I will have interesting tidbits, as well as some guest authors, over the next month.  🙂