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Monday, October 5, 2009

Welcome Stephanie Adkins

How far would you go to set a tortured spirit free?

While preparing a haunted house for their town’s annual Halloween fundraiser competition, lovers Corey, Keith, and Landon stumble upon the ghost of Civil War Union soldier, Major Joseph Harland. When the Major mistakes Corey for Madelyn LaMont, the woman who murdered him during the war, he sets out to seek his redemption in ways they never dreamed possible.

But as his restless soul licks the flame in Corey’s blood, they soon realize that there’s much more to his story than meets the eye.


As far as Corey was concerned, all of their hard work was paying off tenfold. Just when she thought she had seen the last of the townspeople, someone else would run by her and out the front door, screaming.

Dressed in her witch costume, she stood at the foot of stairs and made sure no stragglers went upstairs to plunder around. At his grandmother’s request, Landon had roped off the stairway to keep everyone contained on the first floor.

The guests were led along the haunted trail first before entering the house through the back door. The path continued on through the candlelit kitchen, dining room, den, and then finally out the front door, which now remained open after some poor soul almost took it down trying to escape.

Landon and the rest of her coworkers were dressed in their costumes and scattered here and there about the house, ready to pounce as soon as someone walked by. After two hours, she’d heard so many people screaming that it didn’t faze her anymore.

Keith stood a few feet away beside the den door, dressed as a vampire. He hid his face behind his black cape, and when someone walked by, he yelled and lunged for them. It was funny to watch the expressions on their faces as they raced out the door.


Corey’s back stiffened. The noise in the house did nothing to diminish that voice. By now, she would have recognized it anywhere. Looking across the foyer, she wondered if Keith had heard it too, but he was busy readying himself for the next victim to come by.


It was getting closer. No sooner had she turned around and gazed up the empty stairway than the heat flooded her body and caused her to stumble backward. Grabbing on to the handrail, she steadied herself just as Keith yelled and another guest charged past her and out the door, screaming.

The warmth in her body smoldered with each passing second, but it never escalated to the point of being painful like the times before. Falling to her knees, she crawled under the rope and began making her way upstairs. His beckoning call was a magnetic force that refused to let go, like the cinder he kindled in her blood. Her feet felt like lead, but somehow she managed to make it to the stop of the stairs.

Glancing around expectantly, she inhaled sharply when she heard him breathing close by. It was a faint sound like the time before, but she could still make out his labored breaths, even above the noise that emanated from downstairs. The only light to guide her way was the moon shining brightly through the large bay window in the front bedroom, which also seemed to be where the sound was coming from.

When she walked inside the room, she looked for him, but he remained hidden. All that greeted her was the frigid air that embraced her whenever he was near. Loosening the black cape around her neck, she let it fall at her feet before taking off her witch’s hat and dropping it to the floor. She heard two sets of footsteps on the stairway, but she didn’t turn around when Landon’s voice interrupted the stillness.


Before he could finish his sentence, every nerve inside her body painfully ignited all at once, causing her to scream and fall forward. In seconds, Keith had his arms around her and stopped her from hitting the hardwood floor.


She heard Landon’s quick intake of breath, and Keith’s arms constricted around her body. She almost felt like crying. Finally, someone else could hear it too. Maybe she wasn’t going completely insane after all. Keith turned her around to face him. Even in the moonlight, she could make out his terrified expression, which did nothing to ease her own fears. Placing his hands at her face and neck, he very gently caressed her skin while she fought to hold on and wait for the burning to stop. After what seemed like an eternity, nothing happened. Her body was an incinerator, melting her slowly from the inside out.

“Keith…,” she begged. “Please…”

Through weary eyes, she could see the confusion and helplessness written all over his face as he rested his hands on her bare arms.

“You’re freezing again,” he exclaimed.

When he leaned forward and pressed his lips to her forehead, she closed her eyes and drifted. She tried to focus on something other than the pain, so she listened closely for the sound of his breathing. But now, above the commotion from downstairs, it was difficult to discern his presence in the room other than the way he singed her blood and held her in his freezing embrace. He was there. She could feel it. But his slow, steady breaths…they were gone.
Keith lightly brushed against her mouth and slid his tongue along her parted lips. It was maddening. His hands and mouth were so hot. Why couldn’t he feel the raging inferno as it coursed through her body and made her tremble?

It was hard to believe Joseph could torment her more than he already had, but she realized with despair that this time was worse, much worse. With every fleeting moment, the fire grew until she prayed silently for him to just kill her and put an end to her misery. No matter how fervently Keith tried to caress the pain away, he refused to loosen his hold. She moaned in anguish as tears escaped and rolled down her cheeks. It was too much.

“Corey, please don’t cry,” Keith pleaded, cradling her head in his hands. He looked at Landon with desperation.

“We’re leaving,” Landon demanded, walking over swiftly and lifting her up in his arms. Weakly, she put her arms around his neck and held on. “The only time he tortures her is when she’s in this damn house.”


As they made their way to the stairs, Corey inhaled deeply when she felt a strange sensation flow through her body. Even weak and disoriented, she could tell that it was different than what she had been subjected to. It was cold. Whatever it was didn’t distinguish the fire by any means, but it lessened the pain considerably. At least now she was able to take a breath without it threatening to rip her apart.

“Wait,” she pleaded softly against Landon’s throat. “Go back…please.”

The two men looked at each other, unsure of what to do next, but in the end they conceded and returned to the bedroom. Landon carried her over to the chaise lounge and set her down carefully. Gripping the sides with her hands, she closed her eyes and tried to stop shaking.

He knelt on the floor in front of her, but both men remained quiet as they watched her. The screams and laughter from downstairs traveled up the stairway, but there was so much going on inside her body and mind that the noise left Corey unfazed. Keith left her side and walked over to the bedroom door to close it. The blaze in her blood had dwindled, but though it was no longer unbearable, it was still a fire. Landon looked up at her questioningly as Keith came to stand behind him. Reaching out, she placed a hand against Landon’s cheek and looked wearily at them both.
“Touch me,” she whispered. “Please.”


Helen Hardt said...

Hot, hot, HOT, Stephanie -- and perfect for October!


Stephanie said...

Thanks Helen!