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Charlotte Holley

Charlotte Holley

Charlotte Holley has an inborn love of all mysteries and the supernatural, and has been reading and writing about the paranormal for more than forty years. A mass communications major, she has written and published newsletters, magazine and newspaper articles, as well as poems and short stories since receiving her bachelor’s degree in 1980. As a beaded jewelry designer, she has also self-published twenty-two pattern collections on CD and in eBook form and has produced almost 400 individual original patterns. 

Having spent several years as a professional psychic, she has had extensive experience with the spirit world and has observed supernatural dramas that defy all rational explanation. Charlotte uses her expertise and story-telling ability to weave a powerful tale of mystery and horror, of love and deceit and of the overpowering desire of the human nature to make things right. 

Check out Charlotte's website at: http://charlotteholley.com/

Congratulations to Charlotte for her cover design of Born in Sarajevo by Snjezana Marinkovic (no longer with GSP), which finished in the top ten of the 2011 Preditors and Editors Readers Poll for Cover Art. And the 2012 Preditors and Editors top ten Short Story (All Others) Category for her Christmas story, Wishes and Promises.

 2011 P&E Cover Art 2012 P&E Readers Poll Top Ten Winner

New Titles by Charlotte Holley
Young Adult Titles

 

A Dozen Dreadfuls  Nancy  Wishes and Propmises by Charlotte Holley

Titles in the Kilesha Series

Kilesha and The Atlantis Rock Band: Going Home  Kilesha and The Atlantis Rock Band 2: Error in Judgment


  Titles in The Actor's Guild Paranormal Mystery Series:

McCann's Manor: Portal  The Bakery Murders: Challenge  Whispers From the Past: Vendetta

Buy McCann's Manor: Portal Print NOW!
Buy The Bakery Murders: Challenge Print NOW!
Buy Whispers From the Past: Vendetta Print NOW!


  Click on the thumbnails above to learn more about the books.

 

A Dozen Dreadfuls

   It's been said if two or more people strongly agree on any one thing, no matter how unlikely, that thing will come to pass. When art lovers and critics alike unanimously acclaim Sam Forbes' monsters in his Dozen Dreadfuls series as real enough to step right off the canvas and into the world, they unwittingly unleash a rash of gory killings and a plague of terror as well.
   As the only living human who knows what is happening, Sam sets out to make up for the damage his work has caused at the risk of losing his first and best claim to fame. Can he save the world from the horror in time, and what will he have left if he does?

                                                                                                              Excerpt

Word Count: 4137                            Pages to Print: 21
File Format: PDF                              Price: $2.99

      

Read the In-House Review of A Dozen Dreadfuls! 

 

Kilesha and teh Atlantis Rock Band: Going Home

     Long ago the last scientists of Atlantis engineered and “programmed” a dozen fish-like "babies" and released them to the sea, hoping their progeny would be able to save the world from the same cataclysmic disaster that sank Atlantis. What the scientists didn't know was the many Children of Atlantis would one day emerge from the sea and travel the vastness of space.
   Eons later, the five remaining “Children of Atlantis” return home on a mission to save the planet, where they are mistaken for a special new group of rock singers by a desperate teen, anxious to save his father's reputation and job. Can Kilesha and the Atlantis Rock Band rise to the occasion of becoming rock stars overnight, and still save the planet in time?

                                                                                                    Excerpt

Word Count: 3411                           Pages to Print: 19
File Format: PDF                             Price: $2.99

     

 

 

Kilesha and the Atlantis Rock Band: Error in Judgment

Dave Saren has a past riddled with drugs and booze, one he’s trying hard to overcome. The superstar rock band Pepper Tree Lollipop has a future they are trying to preserve, one that promises a bright hope to the teens of the world. When Lollipop is kidnapped by bigwigs from the drug scene, Dave finds himself in the hands of unscrupulous thugs who will stop at nothing to discredit the band’s anti-drug campaign, including implicating him as one of the drug mongers responsible for Lollipop’s downfall to the same dope they have been publicly waging war against. Can Dave save the day, his career and the esteem of his son Mike by escaping and rescuing the band, or will he succumb to the drugs they are already pumping into his system?

                                                                                                      Excerpt

Word Count: 3521                            Pages to Print: 18
File Format: PDF                              Price: $2.99

     

 

 

Nancy

   Gail is an average teenager with problems and a really big inferiority complex, trying to ignore the world so everyone will just leave her alone. The last thing she wants is to be singled out by the popular, ever-smiling and beautiful Nancy, but some things we don't want are exactly what we need.
  When Gail finally becomes friends with Nancy, she learns life isn't always what it seems and the beautiful, popular teen she has tried so hard to avoid has as many problems as she does . . . maybe even more . . .
 

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Word Count: 3990                            Pages to Print: 20
File Format: PDF                              Price: $2.99

   

Read the In-House Review

 

McCann's Manor: Portal

    Elizabeth Carr and her friend Kimberly Henson are psychically gifted and have worked together for years to help unfortunate souls find peace and go into the Light, a calling which has brought them much joy and adventure—and trouble and heartache.
   When John Carter, internationally acclaimed screen actor, meets Liz and Kim at a party and tells Liz of McCann’s Manor, they accept the invitation to live at the Manor for a year to try to help its restless spirits.
   They soon find themselves in the midst of a puzzle that could prove too much for even their honed paranormal skills. Nothing is what it seems. The doors Liz and Kim open may not be so easily closed, should they change their minds about the endeavor they have taken upon themselves, and a secret more sinister than they can imagine is waiting for them inside the passages of McCann’s two hundred-year-old Manor . . .

 Reviews:
               From Rita McClaren
               In-House Reviews

                                                                                                         Excerpt  

Word Count: 154,850                     Pages to Print: 559
File Format: PDF                            Price: $6.99

 

McCann's Manor: Portal by Charlotte HolleyORDER THE McCann's Manor: Portal PRINT BOOK! (ISBN # 978-0-9844521-2-5)

 

 

 

The Bakery Murders: Challenge by Charlotte Holley

   Liz Carr and Kim Henson got more than they bargained for when they agreed to move into McCann's Manor and rid the place of unfriendly spirits. 

   Nothing they had experienced in their ghostbusting careers could have prepared them for what lay ahead. They solved the mystery of the deaths of Leonard and Missy Tatum, as well as the murder of Benjamin McCann two hundred years before, but they never guessed that was only the beginning, nor could they have dreamed of the strange creatures from another world waiting to invade their lives.

   Now death stalks them on all sides as they attempt to unravel the enigmatic questions surrounding Benjamin McCann and the beautiful house he built . . .  

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Word Count: 155,701                   Pages to Print: 528
File Format: PDF                          Price: $6.99 

      

The Bakery Murders: ChallengeORDER The Bakery Murders: Challenge PRINT BOOK! (ISBN #978-1-61950-026-6)

     

 

Whispers From the Past: Vendetta by Charlotte Holley

     Whoever said the past is dead and buried never knew the evil wizard Arvashan or his fiendish plan to avenge himself on those who caused all the trouble at the very beginning . . . Liz Carr and Kim Henson find they have only skimmed the surface when it comes to the mysteries of the past and their lingering effects on the present. They are about to learn their lives and those of John Carter and Mark Adams are hopelessly tangled with Arvashan’s in a way they could never have expected.

The four friends, the local priest and the ineffable Benjamin McCann himself, have worked hard to return peace to McCann’s Manor, only to find each step forward has brought ever-increasing repercussions, leading them deeper into Arvashan’s diabolical schemes. Now the ancient sorcerer, infuriated by their success in freeing some of his captive souls, makes his demands, offering Liz an ultimatum she can never hope to accept or live with.

Liz has a few weeks to set her affairs in order and return with Arvashan to the past and a fate she has no memory of, or Arvashan will kill everyone she loves. The situation calls for a level of cunning and skill the friends will somehow have to find within themselves, along with a mastery of magic greater than any they possess, before they can emerge victorious over the ancient nemesis. But there is more . . . much more . . . and they are running out of time . . .

Word Count: 154000                                           
Excerpt
Pages to Print: 463
File Format: PDF
Price: $6.99

 

 



                                         

                                         


Whispers From the Past: Vendetta by Charlotte Holley ORDER Whispers From the Past: Vendetta Print! (ISBN #978-1-61950-143-0)
   
Wishes and Promises by Charlotte Holley
 

Steven Carmichael is missing in action in Afghanistan, and it's almost Christmas. How can his wife Janie tell their five-year-old daughter Kaitlin that her daddy is presumed dead? Both she and Kaity have been having dreams about Steve for a few weeks, but whose dreams are real? Kaity "dream-visits" her dad in his hospital bed and he promises her he'll be home Christmas Day, so little Kaity is convinced Steve is alive. Janie's dreams, however, have convinced her Steve has to be dead, though she can't admit it even to herself. What will happen Christmas Day when Steve doesn't keep his promise to Kaitlin?

                                                                                    Excerpt
Word Count: 10,500
Pages to Print: 43
File Format: PDF
Price: $3.99
Reviews
In-House Reviews
From Lena Winfrey Seder


    

   
   

Excerpts

A Dozen Dreadfuls

     He was alone; the streets, deserted. The city lay sleeping in the sultry hush of the summer's night. He trudged along, kicking the debris at the edge of the pavement, stopping now and then to rifle through the trash for anything that might be worthwhile. Here, he found a dime; there, a perfect silver chain someone had lost when the clasp came unfastened, freeing it to slide unnoticed into the piles of refuse. He smiled as he held the gleaming silver treasure up in the luminance of the streetlight before he stuffed it greedily into the crumpled paper sack he carried. The pickings were slim tonight, but he was grateful for what he did find.

     Rounding the next corner, he stopped cold. Two men were arguing in the alley. The heavier of the two grabbed the other by the collar, nearly jerking the man off his feet. "I said, give me the rest of it, punk!"

     "Quinn, I already told ya. This is all I got, man," the smaller man squeaked.

     Quinn let go and shoved his companion to the pavement. "Sure you did, Amos. Sure you did. Okay . . . fine. So give me the rest of the goods then, and we'll be square."

     Amos squirmed at Quinn's feet, looking like he'd puke when Quinn asked for the drugs. "Uh—no can do. See, my mark—well, he done stole the rest of it from me."

     "Is that so?" Quinn demanded, kicking Amos in the gut.

     The tramp ducked farther into the shadows, fearing the two men would spot him. This whole affair was no concern of his, and to tell the truth, he knew he should go on his way. He should be making tracks as far from here as he could, as fast as he could, but something made him stay glued to the spot, fascinated by the real-life drama unfolding before him.

     Amos was doubled over in pain from Quinn's assault.

     Quinn grabbed the writhing man by the hair of the head and jerked him to his feet. Amos screamed, but Quinn just laughed. "How many times do I have to tell you? You're supposed to take your mark for all he's worth; not the other way around, stupid. This is—what? The third time your mark has made off with the payload, leaving you with only crumbs? Does that seem right to you?"

     "No," Amos managed to say between gritted teeth.

     "And does it seem right to you for me to let you live when you are such a screw-up?"

     Amos' breaths were coming in short gasps now. He tried to escape from Quinn's steel grip, and the tramp thought he actually heard the sound of the punk's hair ripping from his scalp as Amos staggered free, leaving a handful of his hair in Quinn's hand. "Aw now, come on, man. Surely you don't mean that."

     "Of course, I mean it. You didn't lose the goods to your mark, did you? Did you?"

     "I—"

     Quinn threw Amos' hair to the pavement in disgust and reached inside his jacket, bringing out a .45 and aiming it at the other man in one fluid movement. He brought the gun to bear on Amos so fast the tramp could hardly believe his eyes.

     "No!" Amos wailed. "Please, man. I got a wife and two kids. Don't kill me. Please!"

     "I'd be doing them a favor, punk," Quinn spat. "You're a loser. Why don't you admit the truth? You sold a little of it for more than you should have and took the rest of it yourself. I know your kind. You're not just a loser; you're a junkie to boot. Probably beat on your wife and kids, you filthy—"

     Amos stared down the barrel of the .45, his hands shaking, his gasps a mixture of hysterical sob and wheeze. The front of his pants turned dark with the stain of urine that traveled down his leg and pooled at his feet. He didn't say another word, unable to pull enough air into his lungs to expel the utterance. He swallowed hard, and then closed his eyes, perhaps hoping if he couldn't see when Quinn pulled the trigger, it wouldn't be true.

     Quinn cocked the revolver.

     Amos winced and steeled himself for the shot that never came.

     At that exact instant, the tramp saw movement in the alley behind Quinn. He was still trying to decide what it was when a ten-foot tall monster took two giant steps from the shadows and knocked the gun from Quinn's hand. Another second was all it took, and pieces of Quinn flew all over the alley before Quinn even had the chance to react.         Back to Dreadfuls

 

Kilesha: Going Home 

    Kilesha sat alone in the memory chamber of the small space stinger and watched as the images of Atlantis' last days faded from the screen. Her ancestors had been wise beyond any being she had met in space—yet how could they have foreseen the time when their genetic creations would leave the solace of the sea and travel to the stars to learn ever more?

    Rashtor and the other scientists had sought to implant in those dozen embryos the knowledge of the Atlantean race, so they could one day lead the planet in understanding the great price to be paid for using the wrong kinds of technology. Atlanteans had unwittingly brought about the destruction of what had been their island paradise. Their applied science had almost destroyed the entire planet before they understood their mistakes. Realization had come too late to save Atlantis and its twelve million inhabitants, though the cessation of Atlantean technology had returned the rest of the earth to a more stable state—for a time. Now Earth faced new devastation unless something happened to forestall it.

    Kilesha fingered the button on the communicator device to call her navigator.

    "Yes, Captain?" a voice boomed.

    "How goes the battle, Rad?"

    "It is the same as with most battles, Captain. We have sustained little damage."

    "And our fuel reserves?"

    "The stinger hardly uses any fuel, Captain," he replied with pride. He'd had a hand in designing the stingers, and he believed them to be the best spacecraft in the universe. "We have a full supply."

    "Plot a new course."

    "Captain?"

    "You heard me. We have much discussed this decision, Rad. Plot the course."

    Silence.

    "Rad!"

    "Yes, Captain?"

    "You know the coordinates. Plot the course. We are returning to Earth. We owe it to them—and to ourselves."

    "Captain, I mean no disrespect, but to leave in the middle of battle—we will all be branded as deserters."

    Kilesha frowned. "I fail to see how that would be any worse than what they already think of us. This is the chance we have been waiting for, Rad; if we don't go now, there may never be another. Plot the course—and engage the invisibility device. I don't want anyone to follow us."

    "Yes, Captain."

    Kilesha put down the communication device, and then stopped to gaze at her image in the reflective glass in her chamber before retiring for the long journey. How would her kind be viewed on Earth? She wondered . . . She studied the webbing on her hands and feet; the fins on her arms, legs and back; all were genetic improvements which aided her kind in the rapid propulsion through water. Her skin was pale with a slight blue tinge, which made her virtually invisible in the water, but not at all like the colors of humans she had seen in the Atlantean archival memories. She closed her transparent eyelids and studied herself objectively with her violet eyes. Her hair was pale, almost clear, but perhaps the singularly most remarkable feature she possessed which humans did not was a perfectly developed set of gills on the sides of her face. She and the other Children of Atlantis could exist either on land, or in fresh or salt water indefinitely. Rashtor and the other scientists had given her forebears every feature they could think of to help them survive. Too bad the incredible, ever-seeking minds they had been given hadn't warned them of the dangers in quitting their own planet for the greater expanse of space.

    Had they remained on the planet, their breed might have thrived and continued to grow, but in space, they were oddities, easily subjugated because of their peaceful ways. Then again, she wasn't certain they would have fared well on the Earth, either. Mankind was exceedingly aggressive and warring, not unlike the beings they had encountered in space, preying on those who were different from themselves. Possibly man would have hunted the Children of Atlantis down and killed them as trophies, the way they did the other life forms on the planet. These humans were difficult to understand. Hadn't scientists of their own breed warned them of the possible consequences of their blatant and barbaric disregard for life? Hadn't they been told what the fossil fuel did to their environment? Why had they chosen to ignore the admonitions? Why the barbaric plunder of the Earth's natural resources in search of ever more fossil fuel, building more houses, bigger skyscrapers?

    Kilesha had been monitoring the seismic activity of the planet for some time using equipment so sensitive it could detect the beating of a single human heart halfway across the universe. Clearly, the mistakes of Atlantis had returned to plunge the planet into the same destructive patterns which had plagued it in the times of her ancestors. History was soon to repeat itself—only this time, it would be on a much more widespread scale, claiming the lives of perhaps three-quarters of the population of the planet.

    The world would suffer devastating, irreparable damage—all manner of cataclysms would be widespread across the face of Earth. Those who survived would be thrown into a dark age devoid of technology and subjected to the cruelest of elements in a world struggling to reclaim its primal dignity and ecological balance. The increased incidence of progressively severe natural catastrophes suggested the complete restructuring of the planet was alarmingly near. Billions of people would die, and the long, laborious process would begin all over again, a scenario doomed to replay until the people who believed themselves to be the supreme intellects of their world learned how to revere all creation—or until there were none of them left.

    The Ancients had held the belief everything in the universe was alive and sacred—and connected to everything else in the macrocosm. Each planet was sentient, as were all the individual parts of it. Every blade of grass, every grain of sand had a purpose, an intelligence; disturbing so much as one tree caused a myriad of actions and reactions which could lead to final and absolute destruction of the whole. Moreover, the entire cosmos of space and countless universes suffered under the same bludgeoning that affected whatever part of itself was afflicted.

    What happened on Earth, or any other planet, caused cosmic ripples to be broadcast throughout the entirety of space, sending intergalactic unrest to all. It could be likened to an individual having a severe headache. While the pain could be pinpointed to that one's head, the effects of the headache could be felt all over the body as the ailment made itself manifest to the entire being. Such was the interconnectedness of all that existed. Earth's long, arduous learning process had made itself felt everywhere. Here in space, the Children of Atlantis had been forced to fight as mercenaries in a war which raged because many of the intergalactic citizens wanted to eradicate the problems Earth was causing for the rest of creation.

    The planet and its citizens were viewed as a disease which needed to be eliminated so the rest of the worlds could find peace, much as a surgeon would cut a cancerous parasite from the body to preserve the life of its host organism. Kilesha and her crew were the sole survivors of the Children of Atlantis, forced into service as a punishment for having Earth as their origin. Once there had been many Atlanteans in the universe; now there were five. Kilesha knew the only chance they had for survival was to return to Earth and try—somehow—to stop the pollution, the global warming, the senseless warring, the use of fossil fuels and all the rest before it was too late and one of the intergalactic powers blew the planet to dust.

    What could five marine amphibians who bore a remarkable resemblance to humans, do to save the world and the entire universe in turn? She didn't know the answer; she only knew she and her crew had to try. It was for this time and purpose they existed; Rashtor and the other Atlantean scientists had been wrong in their assumption the genetic creations they had engineered would steer the planet on the direction it should take. Their purpose was to stop the total annihilation of Earth, to correct the blunders that had been made along the way and, God willing, to prevent the mistakes from happening again. She was clear on her mission.

   Ascending the steps to her golden sleep chamber, she pressed the button which stirred the life-giving liquid inside to effervescence. She watched the slow motion inside the pearly yellow liquid, slowly disrobed and immersed herself with a sigh of long-anticipated relief. She was old, though her supple, sinewy physical structure bore no evidence of her true age; her vital organs needed the replenishing energies of the rejuvenating briny nutrient bath to carry her through the ordeal to come. Space travel was not kind to the Children of Atlantis. Without their sleep chambers, they could easily succumb to the pressures and stress of prolonged travel in outer space. Rad and her other comrades would be entering their chambers soon as well. From their collective meditative state inside their separate sustaining chambers, their minds would be free to merge and formulate a plan for their arrival on Earth.

    She allowed herself to float freely inside the tank, relaxed, suspending all fear and doubt. She was going home to a world she had never seen with her own eyes. It would have been nice to be greeted by others of her kind, the way she had seen in recordings of Earth's astronauts on returning from their space travels, slight though those explorations had been. The images were recorded inside the memory pods, translated from broadcasts down through the ages—visions so real she was always astounded they were merely two-dimensional pictures. Too bad, she thought, there would be no Atlanteans to welcome their space-weary travelers home. Her heart longed to be cared for, to be regaled as a returning heroine, but that would never be. She allowed her gills to fill her lungs with the luminescent bubbling brine, thrilled to the shock as the fluid quickly began to merge with all parts of her body. It had been a long time since she had allowed herself this luxury; such a very long time. . . .                             Back to Kilesha: Going Home

 

Kilesha: Error in Judgment 

    Dave Saren pulled his shiny new red Mercedes E350 Sedan into the parking space on the back side of the airport, just as the equally lustrous gold Astra SP private jet was completing its circle of the runway. Plenty of time, he told himself as he watched the sun glinting off the plane a moment before he slid out from behind the wheel. Wondering where the transport van was, he crossed to the man standing by the limousine.

    He gave the man a curt nod and his card before he spoke. "Harry inside?" he asked, peering to no avail at the dark tinted windows.

    "Harry?" the man asked, seeming for a moment to have just awakened from a stupor. "Oh . . . no," he managed, after a pause Dave thought was just a tad too long, "Harry had a slight emergency with his—er—brother, and was called out of town late last night. Me and Chester over there are filling in for him today."

    "Chester . . ." Dave mused, scanning for the other man but not seeing anyone. "Where are the others?"

    "Don't need no one else," he answered. "Band has their own bodyguard, travels with 'em. They don't want no others gettin' in the way of their own man."

    Dave knit his brow as he considered the other man's words. Pepper Tree Lollipop's bodyguard was out of commission with a crushed shoulder and reconstructive surgery resulting from an accident that had left him maimed and two of his associates dead. At the band's request, Dave had lined up a security team to meet him here, escort the group to their accommodations and join their entourage for the duration of their stay in Austin. Whoever this guy was, Dave didn't think he belonged here, and he started to tell him as much when the lights began to dim. He felt an instant of bursting pain in his head as everything started to go dark, but not before he saw the black Chevy Express extended cargo van pull in beside the limo. Three armed men sprang out the back door of the van before the vehicle stopped moving, just as Dave's vision blurred completely and he staggered, and then slid to his knees.

    "And about damn time!" the stranger said to the new arrivals. "Here, get this yokel into the back of the van and cover him up before someone sees him."

    "Dave was faintly aware of rough hands grabbing his unresponsive body and tossing him into the unlit back of the van. His head slammed against something cold and unyielding, the inside wall of the van—? And he knew he'd wake with a terrible headache later—if he woke at all. At the moment though, he couldn't quite be bothered to worry about an aching head. These people weren't part of Dave's security crew, and that could mean only one thing. He—and the Lollipop Band—were in a lot of trouble. Two unsuccessful attempts to derail the band had been thwarted in past months. Didn't it just figure the crooks would succeed on his shift though? Were these the same attackers as before? What did they want? Why in Austin, just when he was getting his life back on track? Damn! Not now!

    He heard, more than felt, his hands and feet being tightly trussed behind his back with duct tape before they rolled him over, taped his mouth shut and pulled a long, dark cloth sack over his body. How had they drugged him? He tried to replay the scene in his mind, but found he was losing consciousness, and no amount of determination could shake the drugs coursing through his system. Mike and Benjamin's faces, full of shame and hurt, flashed through his mind and then faded, along with all other thoughts as he lost all consciousness. . . .                         Back to Kilesha: Error in Judgment

 

Nancy 

    Later that afternoon, I slogged home in the rain. I was sopping wet when I got there, only to discover I had left my keys at home that morning. My dad was at work and Mom had gone out. No telling when she'd be home—most likely after midnight when the bars all closed. Dad might not be home for two or three days; that's the way his job was.

    I put my books on the porch under the overhang where they wouldn't get any wetter and went around to the back of the house. My mom frequently locked her keys inside, so we always left one of the back windows unlocked so I could crawl in.

    It was raining so hard the dog didn't even greet me as I removed the screen and shoved open the window. I wondered if he would have bothered coming out, had I really been a prowler. The kitchen window was too high to climb into without standing on something, so I pulled a wooden crate over, climbed onto it and lifted one foot up into the opening.

    Just as I was about to shove off the crate, I heard it creak, then crack, and in another instant I was on the ground, one foot sticking through the splintered crate and the other scraped and bleeding from the knee down. I was muddy, cold, hurt and in tears.

    At that moment, I hated everything and everyone—the rain, the kids at school and most of all, my parents. They had no business leaving me out in the rain. Parents are supposed to take care of their kids—even fifteen-year-old ones. I took stock of my body, discovered I could still move and eased myself off the ground to find something else to stand on.

    In a few minutes, I was inside the warm, dry house, peeling out of my drenched, muddy clothes. I threw them into the washer and went to stand in a hot shower. After I cleaned and bandaged my wounds, I pulled on a robe and went out to get my books.

    I took the stack of textbooks, along with milk and cookies, to my room and crawled under the covers. I hated being alone. The house was so quiet and still—almost like a tomb. Life was miserable for me at school, but at home, it was even worse. I really had no one in the whole world. If I died, I supposed my mother would cry—mothers are supposed to—but I doubted she would really miss me. No one would, I thought.

   I sighed, knowing feeling sorry for myself would do no good, except to give me another sleepless night. I reached absently for the library book and opened it to the forgotten, perfectly folded pink paper—Nancy's letter. I turned it in my hands and thought I should throw it away. It was probably a love letter to some boy—maybe to Jack.

    The thought stopped me from discarding it. I had never read a love letter before, and I reasoned I might never get another chance. I unfolded the paper, looked at length at the beautifully shaped words before their meaning began to come across to me. I thought about what a wonderful home life Nancy must have to be so beautiful and good at so many things. How I envied her. I sighed again and began to read:                 Back to Nancy

 

McCann's Manor: Portal 

    . . . Kim arrived as a corpse was being hauled outside in a body bag. Two men were maneuvering an ambulance gurney down the beautiful stone walkway. Pulling her car around to the parking area, she saw more police cars. What was going on? She was stricken—could something have happened to Liz? She watched all the people dressed in uniforms and street clothes going about their various jobs while none of them paid any attention to her at all.

    What had happened? The weight of what she was seeing replaced her initial shock and she hurried to the entrance, but was denied access by one of the deputies, who stepped in front of her.

    “I am sorry, ma’am, but you can’t go in there just now. We are here on official business.”

    “The hell I can’t go in!” She spat at the deputy, leaning forward, trying to see who was inside. “I live here. Where is Liz?”

    “Over here, Kim!” came a familiar voice from the hallway, right inside the door. “It is okay; she does live here.”

    Kim walked to her friend’s side, took one look at her and added more questions to the barrage that were battling to be first from her mouth. “What happened to your head? Who did they take out in that horrible body bag?” Her best friend looked dazed and had a growing bruise on her forehead.

    Liz reached up and touched her head, found the knot was quite large. “I am fine. I fell and hit my head. The body bag is Ben McCann—and Timothy.” She turned to go down the hall and into the library. “Come sit and talk to me.”

    To Kim’s hearing, Liz sounded much too calm for the information she was conveying. “You are kidding!” she exclaimed. “I am gone for the afternoon and when I come back you have found McCann’s body? Where?” Kim, still shell-shocked, sat in one of the high-backed chairs by the windows, close to Liz and spoke in exasperation. “You scared the you-know-what out of me—I thought it was you in that body bag.”

    Liz felt her friend’s dismay, but answered with a smart-ass barb, “How do you think I would have gotten into that kind of shape all by myself?” She squeezed her friend’s hand and sat back again. . . .      Back to McCann's Manor  Want a bigger sample?FREE READ!

 

The Bakery Murders: Challenge 

     "Aren’t you going to ask a lot of questions, or say something smart-ass?" John wanted to know.

     "I am sure you must have some kind of explanation; I am just waiting for it," Mark said, giving John a reassuring nod.

     "When I was doing the thing with the Jewel and the lights and all, Ben just suddenly reached out and touched the Jewel—that was when the blue lights happened. You saw that, right?" John asked.

     "I saw the blue light, yes," Mark said. "I didn’t see Ben touch the Jewel."

     "Yeah, that is what I meant; you saw the blue lights," John said. "An interesting thing happened when he did that, Mark. When he touched the Jewel, it opened up a temporary portal. He was here one second and the next heartbeat, he had left. He was going home so he would be there when his body died."

     "What? You mean when he suffocated in the passage at the bottom of the fireplace?" Mark wanted to know.

     "Yeah, that’s exactly when I mean," John affirmed. "Here’s the thing, though—he sent his body home, but his soul merged with mine somehow."

     "Oh," Mark said, "I see. That is interesting."

     "You don’t believe me?" John asked.

     "No—no! Of course, I believe you," Mark said. "Why shouldn’t I?"

     "You don’t think it is a little strange?" John asked.

     Mark rolled his eyes and wagged his head side to side, replied, "Strange? We are sitting here on an alien world with Gorshans, Canitaers, Wylvaens and Gaeradons, having undestroyed a burned-out temple and genetically altered about fifty thousand Gorshans to be teddy bear sweethearts instead of mean, ornery gorillas, using magic—and you ask me if I think Ben’s soul merging with yours is strange? All right, maybe it is a little strange, but then, in view of all the things I have been through the past few days, it is almost normal. I don’t think my life is ever going to be the same again. I guess I’d rank it about seven on my weird-o-meter scale. Last week it would have been about a nineteen."

     John had to laugh at Mark’s response. It was the first laugh he’d had in days and it felt good. "Thanks," he said. "I needed that!"

     "So," Mark said hesitantly, "Ben’s in there with you. Is that a permanent thing?"

     "Yeah," John said. "I think it’s one of those ‘til death things."

     "Are you all right with it, then?" Mark asked.

     "Actually, I am," John admitted. "I know more now than I did, and I don’t feel as helpless about being stuck here while Liz and Kim are home being chased around by a maniac. I think I will adjust okay. I just don’t know how Liz will take the news that she can’t see Ben anymore."

     "Yeah, I guess that is a real kicker, but she wasn’t too happy the way things were, either," Mark pointed out. "She’s a pretty strong and smart cookie. I think she will adjust, too, pal."

     "I hope so, Mark; I really hope so," John said, "because I can’t undo what has been done, and Ben and I both love her and want her to be happy."                     Back to Bakery 
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Wishes and Promises 

                                                                       Prologue

“I want my daddy!” Kaitlin Carmichael cried. “Mommy, go get him. Now!”

“Kaity, honey, I told you before; I can’t do that. Daddy is far away, and he can’t come home right now,” Kaitlin’s mom Janie explained, brushing the wild auburn tangles of hair back from the eyes of her five-year-old.

Kaity sobbed inconsolably. “I—need—him, Mommy. He promised he’d come back soon, and I need him—now!”

Janie Carmichael held her daughter in her lap and rocked her, while Kaity clung to her with a strength Janie had never realized such a small child could possess. “What’s wrong? Did you have a bad dream? You can tell Mommy about it. Daddy left me in charge, and that means I can chase those scary nightmares away, just like he always does.”

Kaitlin looked at her mother like the woman had suddenly sprouted big green, hairy warts and pulled away from her, scrambling to the floor shaking her head. “It’s not the same. You aren’t the same as Daddy. Only Daddy can chase these monsters away!”

Janie tried to stay calm. She knew in so many ways she wasn’t an adequate substitute for her handsome, muscular husband. Even Kaitlin knew Janie was weak and scared; how could she possibly be brave and strong enough to chase away her daughter’s bad dreams? Worse still, how could she ever hope to tell little Kaity the truth? Steven Carmichael wasn’t coming back. Not now. Not ever. Daddy was missing in action in Afghanistan, and though Janie had tried with everything she had to will it to be otherwise, she had failed miserably. All she hadn’t done was to tell Kaitlin the news, choosing to postpone it until Steve’s death was confirmed.

“Aw, come on. You know Daddy wouldn’t want his best girl to be so unhappy this close to Christmas,” Janie cajoled. “What say we go downstairs and make some cocoa? I’ll read you a story, and then you can bunk with me the rest of the night. Huh? Would you like that?”

Kaitlin rubbed the tears from her eyes and wiped her hands on the sides of her purple flannel nightgown, searching out her slippers. Her chin was still quivering as she looked at her mother with her big, green teary eyes and shrugged. “Daddy would make me pancakes.”

Janie sighed. “Pancakes, huh? Is that what you want? Do you know it’s two in the morning?”

“Daddy says pancakes are the best way to make the monsters go away,” Kaitlin said.

Janie felt her shoulders sag a bit as she rose from the bed and headed for the door. Yeah, sure; Daddy’s pancakes would be the best cure for monsters. Hers? She doubted it. Everything Steve did was better than what she could do. He was a better parent . . . better storyteller, better cook. He even kept house better than she did. She fought back bitter tears as she held her hand out to take Kaitlin’s. “Pancakes it is, Princess! Nothing’s too good for Daddy’s girl.”

                                                                   Janie’s Dream

Janie woke much earlier than she would have liked, in view of the early morning pancakes and crying session with Kaitlin. She rolled onto her side and watched the little girl, who was sleeping peacefully now. It had taken more than three hours to calm Kaity down, but then she’d finally succumbed to weariness, into a deep, peaceful slumber. Janie wished she could have done the same.

Her own sleep had been fitful and troubled, with dreams of mortar fire and bodies strewn across sand dunes as far as she could see. In them, she wandered endlessly from one body to the next, looking for Steve. Always searching . . . she’d been performing the same futile hunt each night ever since she received word he was MIA. Missing . . . how could he be missing? Steve was the biggest, strongest, smartest man in his company, for heaven’s sake! Surely it was all a bad dream and she would wake up any minute.

The bright rays of sunlight peeping through the thin crack between the thick, dark drapes testified to the cold reality. She was already wide awake. Another day . . . and nothing was different; nothing was all right, and it would never be all right again. Steve was dead; otherwise she’d have surely heard something by now. She was only lying to herself if she thought different, and her logical self knew it; somewhere inside, she knew and even accepted it, but her heart couldn’t abide the thought.

The image from her nightly chase that taunted her most was the one she had tried the hardest to banish from her mind. All the dead soldiers in her dreams were bloody and gruesome, but not one of them was Steve. Except—as she walked through the carnage she found a lone Marine lying face-down in the sand. He was exactly the right build, the right coloring; she held her breath. His body wasn’t all bloody and mangled like the others, which made her heart pound with the unspoken hope that maybe . . .

Every time she found the man, she knelt close beside him and called out softly to him. She dared in that instant to hope beyond reason; surely she’d found him at last, and he was alive. Feeling her entire being tremble in response to the thought, she reached out to touch him, sure he was only knocked out . . . addled from a blow to the head or something minor. This was Steve! It had to be. She’d memorized every inch of that beautiful body. Surely no other man was as perfect as Steven Carmichael. Mustering all her strength, she reached to turn him, only to find he had no face. It had been blown off, and she still didn’t know if it was Steve, or just someone who looked so much like him she had been fooled. Still, something inside her wouldn’t believe she could be so easily deluded by any other man’s body, even if it did resemble Steve so uncannily.

How could she be sure? Would she ever know for certain, if they didn’t find his body? How could she go on living, knowing he was gone? She felt the tears flowing from her eyes. Steve, we both need you. Please come home to us . . . Then she shook herself and sprang out of the wide king-size bed, tearing off to the other end of the house, fearing her heart-wrenching sobs would awaken Kaitlin. Janie needed to be strong for her daughter, but she didn’t know how, and she was almost beyond trying.
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Whispers From the Past: Vendetta

                                                                Prologue
                                                                Arvashan

Darkness. Cold, unrelenting darkness so thick it stole her breath was all Liz could perceive, though she strained into the blackness. The entity she knew as Ptarmigan had spoken to her of such a place—a freezing, dark pit where no light penetrated. How had she come here, though? What sorcery was afoot for her to find herself banished to the depths of Ptarmigan’s prison? Or could the darkness, the cold, the feeling of isolation be merely illusion? Surely she wasn’t alone in this place, though she could sense nothing to indicate the presence of anyone else.

She fought to calm her racing heart, slowly drew in a breath and reached her hands out to probe the nothingness in front of her. “Hello?” she whispered.

Laughter.

“Who’s there?”

“You know me, Draita,” the voice whispered, so near her ear she whirled toward the sound. “Remember, my beloved. Remember . . .”

She forced herself to remain composed, even though the fear of the dark she thought she’d banished years before clamped down on her throat like a fist, threatening to choke off her oxygen. From where in her past did the all-encompassing panic she felt this moment spring? As a child, she remembered all too well, she’d been terrified of the darkness; but she’d believed the dread was far behind her now. She stood still, forcing a deep, ragged breath into her lungs. The darkness does not exclude the air, she told herself. Breathe! Just breathe, and be calm.

She heard another soft laugh very close to her as she felt a hand, light as a whisper, stroke her cheek. “What a strong, intelligent woman you are, Draita.” Her invisible companion sighed the words, more than spoke them.

Against her better judgment, she moved toward the voice and reached for the hand that had touched her, but found herself groping nothing but the velvet, frozen, blinding void. “I can’t seem to place your voice,” she said, feigning nonchalance. “You call me Draita, but my name is Liz—Liz Carr. Could you have mistaken me for another?”

Again the laugh, the mere hint of a touch on her face as she heard the soft rustling of movement so near her. The voice boomed at her. “What? You are reputed to be such an incredible psychic. Do you expect me to believe you cannot remember your past lives?”

“Past—” she began, only to be silenced as a pair of unseen hands grasped her shoulders and shook her. The question was the same one Benjamin McCann had put to her only a short while before regarding her lifetime as Constance, yet her reply was still the same, even though the name had changed. “I was Draita in a past life? No, I don’t remember. I truly don’t.” She tried to pull away from the phantom holding her, but stopped in horror as she realized when she tried to touch the being who held her in his grasp, she again found herself touching nothing. Why, then, did she still feel the viselike grip he had on her? This is insane. She thought for a moment she must be imagining things before she realized she’d been in this place before.

Here in this same abysmal, gelid blackness, she’d spoken to this being several times. It must be a dream she was having—a recurring nightmare, one that refused to let her waken. Wake up, Liz!

“No, not this time,” the voice roared as the ethereal fingers dug deeper into her flesh. “You are gifted, it is true; but I will not let you leave me again—not until you have heard what I have to say to you. Like it or not, you are going to stay and listen to me this time.”

“You’re hurting me,” she said in a low growl. “If you want me to listen to you, I can hear you better if I don’t have to strain over the noise of my shoulders screaming in pain. Let me go. I promise I’ll stay and hear you out.”

“Such a convenient excuse, that you have forgotten who you are,” the voice sibilated. “Very well, I will loosen my hold, but mind you this: if you leave me before I finish telling you what I wish to say, I will destroy everyone you love, Draita. Your children, your friends, your lover—all will die, and you will have no one to blame for it but yourself.”

Liz shivered at his words, cold as this blackness in which she found herself held captive. “Why would you threaten such a thing?” she asked as she reached to rub her upper arms and winced from the lingering pain she felt.

“You are very clever, Draita, but know this: I never make threats. I will do exactly as I have said if you try to escape me again. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes,” she whispered, “extremely clear. I’m listening.”

“That is reasonable of you.” He spat the words at her.

“What do you want?”

“You,” he replied.

“Me? Why?”

“I wonder . . . Is it possible you truly do not remember who you were? Is it conceivable you could have forgotten me? You were mine; how could you forget me? How could you love that miserable Jonathan bartraol more than you loved me?”

“Jonathan bar—John? I don’t know what you mean,” she stammered. “Who are you?”

“Has your beloved John even told you how he betrayed you mere days ago with Andaena, while he was away supposedly making the world a safer place for you? Has he told you he made love to your sister?”

Liz was getting more confused by the minute. Her head reeled; her stomach felt queasy. “My sister? I don’t have a—”

“This lifetime you have no sibling, but when you were Draita, Andaena was your sister. You do know her, though you now know the woman of whom I speak as Moira MacPherson,” he mocked with a dark chortle. “I take it your precious John has yet to tell you all of his escapades while he was in Gorsha.”

Moira? John made love to Moira while he was in Gorsha? While Kim and I were fighting for our lives against that demented maniac—she felt her stomach knot, her eyes stinging as she fought to hold back tears. “You’re lying!” she said. “John wouldn’t—”

He laughed loud and hard while she struggled to maintain her resolve not to cry. “Ah, so perhaps you do not know the man as well as you think, my poor, dear Draita. Perhaps he does not deserve such loyalty. That should make it easier for you to do the right thing; easier for you to agree to go back with me.”

“Go back with you? Where? I can’t leave—”

“But of course you can leave. You owe it to me; you were mine until he stole you. I’d have given you the universe for the asking, but you had to go off with the bartraol,” he said. “I am a greater wizard than he. I always was. Why should he be entitled to have you, as well as the title of the greatest wizard who ever lived?”

She felt her body trembling, but willed herself yet again to silence her fear. “I belong here. Even if I was this—Draita—in a past life, I’m Liz now. This is another lifetime,” she tried to explain.

“You still owe me the rest of your life because you never made it right in all these lifetimes since you chose him over me. You never once felt remorse for the sorrow you caused me, did you? I have waited since the dawning of the world for you. Now you will at last pay with your submissiveness to my will. You belong to me!”

“I belong to myself,” she argued. “I have no place with you, and I won’t go with you.”

“Willful as ever, I see,” he said, his tone growing cold and steely. “I realize you will have to have time to think about your situation . . . and your responsibilities. You have kept your word and stayed to hear my demands, so now I will give you your choices. You will return to your bed and prepare to come to me.”

“You’re not listening. I just told you—”

“No, I perceive you are the one not listening. You will prepare to come to me and you shall tell no one,” he restated.

“You’re mad!” she said.

“Perhaps so, my lovely one,” he said. “Unrequited love can do that to a man. As I was saying, you are to tell no one. I am prepared to give you the opportunity to say your goodbyes. You see, I can be reasonable; but I will know if you tell anyone of our little conversation, and I will kill them. If you tell even one of them, they will all die. Is that understood?”

Liz stood mute, feeling lost and afraid. How could she tell them goodbye without telling them why she was leaving or where she was going? It was preposterous even to imagine what this man was asking her to do. Is he even a man, or is he spirit? What powers does he have that he could know what I say to others?

“I can hear your thoughts, you know,” he said as he drew closer to her again, pulled her hair through his fingers and breathed in its fragrance. “I will know, and that fact is all you need hold in mind. Come now, let us be reasonable. Your children are coming for a visit in a few days, are they not? I know you will want to see them before you leave—want to spend the last moments you can with them . . . After they are gone, I will come to collect you.”

“That’s—kind of you,” she said through clenched teeth. “You’re all heart, aren’t you?”

“I think you will find I deal with others with as much kindness as they show to me,” he said. “I could kill them all anyway, you know. However, I felt it would be kinder to you if I refrained from hurting them, since I am taking you away from them. I want you to remember your last moments with them as being . . . pleasant.”

Liz considered his comment and sighed. “I think I deserve to know your name and how you look, if I’m to go anywhere with you,” she said after a moment of silence.

“What is the matter?” he prodded. “Are you afraid I am some kind of hideous demon or something?”

“The thought had occurred to me,” she replied.

Silence engulfed the darkness while Liz waited for what seemed an eternity. “Very well,” he said, “my name is Arvashan.”

She heard a sound like the snapping of fingers an instant before a small glowing orb appeared between her and the one who called himself Arvashan. The light, which floated eerily in front of her, began as a dim glow and gradually grew brighter until she could see the face before her. He indeed appeared to be a man, she noticed with some relief; tall and angular with long dark hair and gleaming, cold steely eyes. He moved closer to her and peered so deeply into her essence she wanted to recoil, but she stood firm, staring back at him. He was attractive—alarmingly so—and his eyes slowly swept her form, seeming to appreciate what they saw.

“I have waited so long for this moment. Now you have seen me, do you remember?”

The words were simple and cool, but she thought she could see past his façade. He seemed to be imploring her to remember, to love him, to surrender to his will. For a moment, she almost wished she did remember, but it was useless. The man had threatened to kill everyone she loved. She straightened and looked at him without emotion, then shook her head.

“I—still can’t remember,” she replied, “but from what you’ve said, I gather it’s been a very long time since we’ve seen one another. Sometimes I can’t remember the faces of people I met last year. Is it really any wonder I don’t remember someone I knew lifetimes ago?” She hoped her words were not as biting as the ones she wanted to say. Who does he think he is to threaten me? What gives him the right to a moment of my time, now or in the past?

He smiled at her, a smile she was certain he believed was charming and irresistible; and then he bent toward her and kissed her with a deep, hungry passion. She didn’t like it, but found herself completely powerless to resist or to pull away. He gathered her closer to him and deepened the kiss before he finally let her go and stepped away from her, extinguishing the light of the glowing orb and plunging her again into darkness.

“I will be watching you,” he said with a baleful laugh. “You will do well to remember that. If you talk about me, I will know, and I will take the proper steps to assure you regret it for the rest of your life. Farewell, my love. . . .”

                                                              Chapter 1
                                                         The Wizard’s Cat

Liz Carr swam in a dark, unplumbed well of black swirling current that threatened to pull her to the bottom of its unfathomable depths as she fought to wrest herself from the hold of the dream. Terror washed over her, wave upon wave. In the distance, she thought she heard him—Arvashan—still laughing at her, whispering, “Farewell, my love, my love, my . . . love . . .”

When she did finally manage to open her eyes, she found herself tangled in the sheets, gasping for air and groping for John. He wasn’t in the bed. She looked about the dim room, but saw no sign of him. “John?”

Timothy, Benjamin’s cat, chirred from somewhere across the room, padded to the bed and jumped up, bringing his big, gray furry face close to hers, his purr loud and comforting. “You know about him, don’t you? Who is he? Why does he want me to go into the past with him?” she whispered.

The big longhaired feline touched the tip of his nose to hers, the cold dampness of it shocking her senses, as he began making bread on her lap. She hugged him close to her, and realized she was crying. Was it the fear she felt when she couldn’t awaken from her dream, or was it because of the things Arvashan had said about John? How could she find out more about him without talking to anyone about him? Did he really know all her thoughts?

“He might,” she told Timothy, answering her own unspoken question. “Ben did . . . He still does, doesn’t he? Or did he give up that ability when he melded with John?” She still couldn’t completely understand what John had told her about Benjamin’s sending his spirit into John’s body at the moment of the transformation of the Gorshans. Benjamin had sacrificed his material being to become one with John. “Is that really why he sent you here? Did he know all along he wouldn’t be returning, except as part of John? Oh, Ben . . .” The thought of never seeing Benjamin again, except through John, tore at her heart once more, as it did every time she let it surface. Tears washed freely down her cheeks and onto Timothy’s fur.

At the mention of his master’s name, Timothy looked at her with an expression of knowing in his eyes, and touched her face again with his nose. The cat was uncanny in the way he seemed to understand every word she said. She’d had animals she was certain could understand her before, especially cats; but Timothy—well, Timothy was something else. She could swear it as she looked into his big, soulful eyes—not only did he understand her every word, but he seemed to have the ability to answer her. He was a remarkable cat, after all—a wizard’s cat. He belonged to the singular man who had built this manor two hundred years before for Constance. Benjamin McCann was an enigma she had only begun to fathom: a powerful wizard, descended from a line of wizards dating all the way back into the mists of antiquity.

She sighed and scratched the fluffy cat. “Now see, that’s proof, isn’t it? I mean, if I could remember my past lives, you know I’d remember being Constance. If I can’t even remember that lifetime, how on earth does he expect me to remember being Draita, at the dawning of the world?”

Timothy moved in a tight circle in her lap, curled up and lay in a ball flexing his big claws in the air. He watched her attentively, like a child might watch an adult who was about to tell him an exciting bedtime story.

“Does John really know everything Ben knew now? If he does, we’re in a lot of trouble, because he’ll know about the encounter I just had with Arvashan. It can’t have been only a dream, because why would I dream anything so crazy and twisted? No, I don’t remember him, but there is something . . . something about him, Timothy. It’s like he’s somehow mixed up in everything we’ve experienced here. I don’t know. Am I crazy? Could he be part of Ptarmigan?”

Timothy stopped purring and peered into her eyes, caught and held her gaze, then sat as though transfixed in her lap, peering right into the depths of her soul—or so it seemed. A spark of light flickered between the cat’s eyes and hers, drawing her to another place and time. She felt herself leaving her body and drifting. This wasn’t like it had been when Kim, Benjamin and she had traveled through the portal. No, she’d had her body with her then . . . this experience was more like the time when she and Kim had first come to the manor and she’d been drawn into the past to witness Ben writing the letter to Constance, and again when she had suddenly found herself in Ben’s time to see the treachery of David Spencer when Spencer locked Ben and Timothy in Ben’s own vault to suffocate beneath the fireplace.

“Where are we going?” she asked, though she expected no answer as she felt herself floating over an ancient keep in a land she could swear she had seen before—almost. The familiarity of it tugged at her, making her speculate as she found herself spiraling toward the earth and then inside the rough-hewn walls of the castle proper. She passed through the solid stone, as though it were made of nothing more than vapors, and found herself standing in a great hall, the magnificent fluffy gray cat at her feet looking up at her with an authoritative air.

“This way,” someone said, and she wheeled to look about the large room for the person who had spoken. The voice was soft and sounded like that of a young man, but she saw no one. Instead, she looked around the room, her gaze taking in her surroundings more fully. Aside from being spacious, it looked much like paintings she’d seen of early European castles, but it was sparsely strewn with crude wooden furnishings arranged haphazardly about the room, like they’d been tossed around in some kind of brawl. Some of the chairs were toppled and one was broken into splinters like it had been hit by an exploding grenade, but she knew grenades didn’t exist in this time—whatever this time might be.

The overall ambience of the room was brooding, dark, damp and about as inviting as a dungeon. “Well, are you coming or not?” the same soft voice asked with more than a hint of irritation.

“I—” Liz began before looking around again for the person who addressed her, but it was no use. “Show yourself!” she ordered, starting to feel a stabbing panic in her stomach. She didn’t think she should be here, nor did she want to be caught in the place uninvited. Finding herself in Peaitarrh’s manor, confronted by Moira, had been quite more than enough for her, and Tarrh’s place had been considerably more hospitable than this one—Moira, hounds and all.

She heard an exasperated sigh and felt something tug at her gown before reality hit her. Timothy was the one speaking to her! He disentangled his paw from her gown and shook his head. She looked down at the cat in wonder, but he hissed at her. “Yes, I am the one talking to you. Did you not ask me about Arvashan?”

“B-But, Timothy; you’re talking to me.” She stated the obvious with an incredulity the cat apparently thought was silly.

“Have you not often said if I could talk, what wonders I could tell you?”

“Well, yes, but—”

“What did you think? Did you imagine a great wizard’s cat such as myself was incapable of speech? Oh, I have always been able to talk; only you have not always been able to understand me. Just at the moment, however, it seems urgent to make myself heard,” he said, walking back and forth, furrowing his gray brow into what could only be considered a frown. “Now, will you do me the service of following me, or do I need to explain more to you about how I came to be able to talk?”

Liz regained a semblance of composure and straightened her back, then nodded at the cat. “Is this place—?”

“Arvashan’s keep . . . yes. And all this time I took you for an intelligent woman. What other vague trivialities may I clear up for you?” Timothy asked over his shoulder as he headed for the hallway. “I know all about the dastardly Arvashan and the terrible deeds the man is capable of; I was there—er, here—when the foul beastie conjured his spells. I know a great deal more about him than you will want to know, but the time has come for secrets to be revealed. I kept it all to myself until now, for now is the time he means to bring his plans to completion. Now is the time we must stop him, once and for all.”

“You were here? You mean you were with Jonathan bartraol in this time?” Liz asked.

“I mean I was with Arvashan in this time and this place. I was his friend, and a more loyal friend no wizard has ever had—until he started his bitter black business,” Timothy answered, just before he disappeared through a stone wall at the end of the corridor.

For a moment, Liz stood in the dimly lit hallway gazing at the spot where the cat had disappeared. Timothy had been Arvashan’s friend? What could it mean?

Timothy poked his big fluffy head back through at her. “Are you coming?” he asked testily. “You are not flesh here, remember? Just walk through the wall and do not be frightened at what you witness. He cannot see or hear us; I have taken care of that. Well? Come along, will you?”
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