Sam Cheever has added another great book to this fun, unique series. A fascinating mix of historical, paranormal and cozy mystery, the Yesterday’s books are unlike anything you’ve probably read before. Here’s what readers are saying about Sam’s latest installment:
“…this is the fourth one of this series and they just keep getting better as they go. Sam is able to keep it fresh and that is one of the things I love about her writing. You SHOULD try it.” Amazon reviewer
“Wow what a mystery! Loved the characters and the story line! Sam has done a great job as always!” Charity Chimni Reviews
“Another AMAZING book from Sam! …a great murder mystery. It was very creatively written with enough twists to keep me guessing until the end. We’ll done Sam!!!” Amazon reviewer
The grand parlor was done up in its usual, breathtakingly spectacular fashion, with candles twinkling from every surface, silver silks draping the massive tree in the very center of the huge space, and the familiar scent of pine coming from yard upon yard of fresh pine boughs decorating the room. The boughs were wrapped in red velvet ribbon and sparkled with thousands of glass beads that captured the flickering candlelight and turned it into fairy magic.
Young Elizabeth Nelson hid behind the banister of the upstairs walkway and watched through the wide double doors as the graceful beauties in the ballroom swayed and flirted behind delicate lace fans, their dashing dates fawning outrageously. She sighed, her eyes tearing up with happiness at the sight.
Someday she’d be a lovely dancer, with a slender frame made perfect under the auspices of whalebone and strapping. She wouldn’t even mind the discomfort of having her innards compacted, as her beautiful cousin Charlotte liked to lament. Lissie’s nine-year-old waistline had a ways to go to even become compact-able. Eyeing the elegant dove gray silks, burgundy-toned sashes, and emerald satins on the women swaying to the waltz far below, Lissie knew she’d be the Belle of the Ball one day. The thought made her smile, despite the moisture in her eyes that made stars dance around the candles.
There was a commotion near one of the veranda doors and she turned to find Papa returning from a smoke in the gardens with several older gentlemen of a certain wealth and status. The men had rosy cheeks and were even more animated than usual, no doubt nurturing the brisk December air in the center of their well-padded breasts.
Lissie watched her Papa with a regretful gaze, knowing that if she were down there with him he’d wrap her up in his big strong arms. He’d smell of crisp clean air and his favorite pipe. She’d love nothing more than to sit on his substantial lap and watch the dancing from only a short distance away…to experience the music as the dancers were…a beautiful memory in the making.
The thought made her sigh wistfully.
A servant ran up to Papa and whispered in his ear. His handsome round face folded into a sudden frown and he nodded briskly, quickly addressing his friends before hurrying away to attend to whatever the servant had revealed. Lissie returned her attention to the dancers, her small chin propped on a pale, pudgy fist.
She was so entranced by the people and the music the first scream didn’t quite register in her mind. It wasn’t until a moment later, when one scream became several and the music stuttered to a halt, that Lissie finally turned to see what horrible consequence had occurred to mar the annual Nelson Christmas Ball.
A beautiful young woman Lissie knew all too well stumbled out of the downstairs hall and fell against the banister. She was white as a sheet and her beautiful dress was covered in a glossy splotch of vivid red blood. Lissie leapt to her feet with a gasp as she realized the woman was mortally hurt. She was ready to run down the stairs. To help in any way she could.
But then Papa ran from the shadows, his face pale as paper and his big hands covered in blood. In that moment Lissie realized her comfortable, beautiful world might have been irretrievably lost. That was when she screamed. When the nine-year-old saw a version of her much-anticipated future she didn’t want to see. And when Papa’s haunted gaze lifted to hers, it was the reason Lissie ran sobbing away from him, instead of into his once comforting embrace.
Pratt’s big hands clutched the steering wheel, capturing Anna’s attention and holding it as the sun caressed the bleached blond hairs along his strong forearms and burnished his short-cut dark brown hair. She smiled, feeling lucky to be in the company of her two favorite men, heading for a party.
Pratt turned at her perusal and fixed his wide, golden brown gaze warmly on her. “You okay?”
She nodded, feeling excitement churning in her stomach as Pratt turned into the long, winding driveway. “I’m perfect.”
“Yes, you are.”
She bit her lip to squelch a pleased grin and turned toward their destination. “Oh, look at the lights!” Up ahead, perched on the top of a hill and burnished by what looked like a thousand strands of silvery lights, Nelson Hall looked like something out of a fairy tale. “It’s beautiful.”
Pratt threw her a smile, nodding. “Duncan has really done some work on the old place.”
It was true. The last time they’d visited the big, historical Hall it had been in a terrible state of disarray, with overgrown trees and grounds, a broken gate and crumbling structures everywhere. Duncan himself had been broken, a lonely man who’d given up on life. But things had changed for the better at Nelson Hall and Anna knew she and her friends had had some small part in that.
Not the least of which was returning one of Duncan’s ancestors to the fold to keep him company. With that thought in mind, Anna turned to observe the overly quiet passenger in the backseat. Joss had his trademark cowboy hat pushed back on his head and was perusing the spectacle on the hill with a slight frown on his handsome face. She took a beat to enjoy the view, taking in his long, muscular legs, thick dark gold hair and broad, chiseled jawline, complete with a permanently etched stubble that made him seem a little bit dangerous. A useful thing in a ghost from the 1800s. “Penny for your thoughts?” she offered with a smile.
Joss didn’t notice the smile, he was laser-focused on their destination. “The place brings to mind Gotham City in its day.”
She turned in her seat, giving him her full attention. “You’ve been to New York City?”
“Not directly, no.” He finally looked her way, fixing her with an intense, dark-blue stare. “Old friend of mine went there once. He described it in a post card and this here’s exactly the way I pictured it in my mind.”
Pratt eyed their friendly specter in the rear-view mirror. “I’ll bet Lissie will be glad to see you.”
Anna saw the quick concern darkening Joss’s handsome features before he quelled it. She wondered at its cause. He’d had a similar reaction every time they’d mentioned seeing the sweet but troubled ghost again. Even though he’d worked hard to hide it from her. “Are you glad to be seeing her?” she asked softly.
“To be honest, the prospect does make me a mite all-overish. The gal was a bit unpredictable the last time we saw her. I just hope she don’t hit the ether runnin’ when she finds out poor Bessy couldn’t come as promised.”
Bess. Anna sighed. The long-dead saloon girl had always been …difficult…but she’d been uncharacteristically morose all week since realizing she wasn’t going to be able to attend the party with them. “I’m at a loss as to what’s holding her to Yesterday’s,” Anna said. She glanced at Joss. “You know I’d find a way to bring her if I could, right?”
Something in her tone must have reached through Joss’s weighty thoughts and yanked his attention, finally, to her. “Don’t you worry yourself about it, darlin’. I reckin’ I’ve just grabbed a rattler by the tail one too many times of late. I’m a bit horse-shy.”
Pratt chuckled. “I know the feeling. That’s why this outing will be perfect. The Apple Blossom Ball is behind us. All that ugliness is shoved into the past. This will be good for us.” He gave Anna a gentle smile. “It’ll be fun to just enjoy the holidays with friends.”
“The past ain’t inclined to stay there, Puke,” Joss grumbled. “Me and Bessy and Lissie are proof of that.” Still, when Pratt pulled around the newly repaired fountain to the base of the wide front steps, Joss did perk up and look a bit happier.
Anna shoved her door open and stepped outside, her gaze drawn immediately to the happy fall of water from the large fountain. The naked woman at its center carried a stone vessel on her shoulder and the water sprouted from the top of it, cascading over the pocked form of the ice-covered statue and splashing in silvery sparkles into the deep basin at her feet. Red and green lights, fixed on the inside lip of the basin, bathed the woman’s form in Christmas colors. The last time they’d visited Anna remembered the basin had been full of leaves and it had been dry. Certainly, there had been no cheery lights.
“I’m surprised Duncan has this thing running right now. It’s likely to be a giant popsicle before we leave.”
“I’m glad he does,” Anna told Pratt, smiling. “It’s such a happy sight and sound.”
“Much better than before,” he agreed with a nod.
“There you are!”
They turned to find Duncan smiling at them from the open door. “Come on in before you freeze to death.”
Placing a hand in the small of Anna’s back, Pratt leaned close and lowered his voice. “Dangit, I was hoping to get to use the Ebeneezer Scrooge door knocker again.”
Anna chuckled softly. “We’ll come back out and give it a pound or two later, when Duncan’s not looking.”
“If you don’t mind, darlin’, I’m gonna pop off and find Miss Lissie.”
“Of course, Joss.” She started to reach out and touch his arm, stopping just before her hand found his to avoid the snap of electricity her touch would create. “Tell her I said hi, will you? I’ll look for her later and we can have a nice chat.”
Joss inclined his head and, after throwing Pratt a look filled with meaning Anna couldn’t decipher, he disappeared.
She would have asked Pratt what the look had been about, but Duncan was frantically ushering them inside. She made a mental note to ask Pratt later. It wouldn’t be the first time the two men made a plan behind her back. Usually it involved ensuring her protection. She didn’t mind the fact that they cared about keeping her safe. It was the implication that she needed protection at a Christmas party that was making her stomach tighten.
That thought threatened to put a damper on her day. Fortunately for her the dire thought was chased completely away when she stepped through the door.
And found herself smack dab in fairy land.
Duncan’s eyes sparkled as she stood before the thirty-foot Christmas tree, its graceful branches dipping under the weight of candle-shaped lights and silver silk. “What do you think?”
Anna shook her head, too filled with emotion to speak. “It’s beyond amazing.” She looked around the huge ballroom, taking in the rich green of the draped evergreen boughs wrapped in the vibrant red of fat cranberries, and the abundance of spluttering white candles in polished silver holders. “Everything is gorgeous. I can’t believe this is the same place I visited before.”
He nodded, clearly pleased. “I’ve tried to make it as much like it used to be as possible.”
“It looks very authentic.”
“I had an expert help me.”
She skimmed him a look and found him grinning widely.
Duncan nodded. “She’s been such a joy, Anna. I can’t thank you enough for bringing her to me.”
A ponderous knocking sound filled the space, halting Anna’s response.
Duncan held up a finger. “Hold that thought. I’ll be right back.”
She watched him hurry toward the door, noting the bounce in his step and the way he held himself. He truly did look healthier than the last time she’d seen him. She wondered if it all had to do with Lissie or if there was something else…
“Duncan seems changed,” Pratt said from behind.
Anna turned to look at him. “Yes. He’s apparently enjoying having Lissie here.”
“Well, that’s good…right?” Pratt fixed her with a speculative look. “You don’t look happy.”
Anna checked herself, realizing that he was right. She’d been frowning thoughtfully. “I am. I was just thinking…”
“Gird your loins!”
Anna rolled her gaze around to Joss, standing at her other side. “Excuse me?”
He cocked a hip, shoving his hat back on his head as he gave her his trademark lop-sided grin. “Nothin’ good ever comes from a woman’s wool gatherin’, darlin’.”
“You should talk.” She glanced behind him. “Didn’t find Lissie?”
“Oh, I found her all right. The gal’s in a rare pucker. She’s backin’ and fillin’ like the world was perched on her shoulders.”
“Maybe she just didn’t want to talk to you,” Pratt said unhelpfully.
“Shut pan, Puke. ’Sides, I ain’t no coot. I cotton when to skedaddle.” He shook his head, clearly insulted that Lissie hadn’t been happy to see him.
“She’s probably just feeling the pressure of the party. Apparently, Duncan has relied pretty heavily on her to make this event just like the ones his family used to hold here.” She twisted her fingers together before she gave in to the desire to touch him. All that would create was pain and sparks. Not exactly comforting. She’d have to rely on words. But they didn’t seem enough. Ever since she’d temporarily lost him due to a murderer’s scheming, Anna couldn’t seem to stand the thought of him being, even slightly, unhappy.
Not having him around had made her realize more than ever that she loved the handsome ghost more than she should. “Maybe you could offer to help,” she said softly. “Lissie is very proud. She probably doesn’t know how to ask. But if you offered…”
Joss scrubbed a hand over his square chin, seeming to consider her suggestion.
“I guess it wouldn’t hurt none ta ask.”
“Good luck,” she told him on a smile as he popped away.
A brisk wind filtered past as Duncan held the door open for his new arrivals. Anna shivered, rubbing her arms. Something dark slipped through her consciousness and she had a moment’s panic that the cold was more than a gust of outside air.
“I should get our suitcases,” Pratt told her, frowning. “You’re cold.”
“I’m fine.” Anna touched his arm. “They can wait until later. But thanks for offering.”
“Hey, the ghost isn’t the only one who can be gallant.”
“Hi, Miss Yesterday.”
She turned at the familiar voice, which squeaked just a bit at the end of her name. Pierce Johnson shoved long fingers into his unruly red hair and grimaced, quickly patting the shiny curls back into place. He was dressed with his usual tidy perfection, in ruthlessly creased charcoal slacks, which were too short as usual and showed striped red and white socks beneath the cuffs. The socks were folded an exact and careful inch from the top. He wore a red button-down shirt whose sleeves were also creased and the tails were tucked with manic precision into the usual white belt holding his trousers around a narrow waist.
The eighteen-year-old autistic man seemed uncomfortable in the new place, his gaze downcast and his fingers twining nervously together.
“How are you, Pierce? You look very festive today.”
“I’m festive every day, Miss Yesterday. But I’m a little discombobulated. I had cranberries in my oatmeal this morning instead of banana.”
“That’s his new favorite word,” a woman laughed, coming up to him and giving him a quick hug that he shrugged off with a frown.
“It’s a good word, mother. I like good words.” He plucked at his shirt, gazing around. “There is no dirt in this place. Mr. Nelson is not negligent with his duties as a homeowner.”
Heather Johnson took her son’s rebuff and quick change of subject in good form. She was no doubt used to it. Her son didn’t like being touched. “How are you, Anna? Pratt? Isn’t this place amazing?”
“It is. I can’t believe how much Duncan’s done since I last saw it.”
“He didn’t do it alone,” Heather told her. “Scarlett’s been helping him.” She frowned. “It’s really too bad Ellie couldn’t be here. I think she’d definitely approve.”
Anna didn’t comment, knowing Duncan’s sister could have been with him if she’d considered family over her own desires.
“I didn’t know Scarlett was back,” Pratt offered. “After what happened at the Ball, I assumed she’d get as far away from Crocker as she could.” He smiled when he said it, but Anna knew the sentiment was real and she shared it.
Heather chuckled. “That was a mess wasn’t it?”
Anna thought it a weird way to refer to murder. She frowned, remembering the terrifying events. Despite the fact that she and Pratt had taken a big step in their relationship, she still had trouble sleeping and found herself jumping at the slightest thing. “I think it will affect all of us for a long time to come.”
“I brought some of my famous apple cake, Miss Yesterday.” Pierce’s gaze spun around the room, carefully avoiding being caught by anyone else there. “You have to promise not to eat it all. You know you tend to be kind of an oink around my baking.”
“Pierce Adam Johnson, you apologize right now,” Heather scolded in an urgent whisper.
He shrugged, finally skimming a quick look over her face. Anna saw the humor in his eyes and barely kept from smiling herself. “No, he’s right, Heather. I think I ate three slices at the fair. My jeans definitely suffered for a couple of weeks afterward.”
Pierce nodded, his lips turning up at the corners.
Pratt dropped a hand into the small of Anna’s back. “Your jeans fit just fine, Boss. Don’t let this rascal tease you for enjoying his delicious cake.”
Pierce plucked at his shirt and skimmed a look past Pratt’s face. “Where’s the cowboy? I need to speak to him about the pudgy lady. She’s yelling at everybody and making them nervous.”
Heather sighed. “He has such an imagination.”
Anna’s gaze locked on Pierce, willing him to look at her. “Where is the pud…erm…yelling lady?”
Avoiding her direct gaze, Pierce pointed toward the curved staircase in the center of the big room. Anna didn’t see Lissie. Or any other ghosts for that matter. The realization bothered her and she glanced at Pratt. He shook his head as if he could read her mind.
He couldn’t see her either.
“Is she there right now, Pierce,” Pratt asked softly.
“Of course. Are you needing glasses, Mr. Pratt?”
Heather looked like she was going to pass out. “Young man, you apologize to these wonderful people right now or we’re going home.”
Pierce grinned before he could stop himself and shrugged again. Anna realized that was exactly what he wanted. She de-tensed as she had the thought. He’d probably made up the whole Lissie sighting just to get his mother riled up. The autistic teen liked all his ducks in a row and he craved familiar things. Nelson Hall, as beautifully as it was made up, was definitely outside his comfort zone. “It’s all right, Heather. He’s not used to being here.”
“That’s no excuse for rudeness,” she told them, reaching into her purse for her keys. “Let’s go, Pierce.”
Pratt winked at the teen before he turned away, feigning unhappiness at being dragged back home.
Anna barely contained a smile and was glad she had when Heather turned back suddenly. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be silly, Heather. It’s all good.”
“The boy’s fine,” Pratt agreed. “Don’t be too hard on him.”
She shook her head and gave Pierce a little shove on the shoulder. “Let’s go, young man. I’m very disappointed in you.”
Pierce let himself be pulled toward the door and then stopped, resisting his mother’s enticement to leave as he turned back to Anna and Pratt. All traces of the smile were gone. “Tell the cowboy to watch out for the pudgy lady. She’s stirring up trouble and nothing good’s going to come of it.”
His words were swallowed up in the arrival of another small group of guests, but Anna felt their impact like a punch in the gut. Anna’s stomach clenched around a sudden jolt of fear. She tried to pull air into her lungs and discovered that it wouldn’t come. Her world spun and she reached out with one hand, feeling for one of the gilded, upholstered chairs Duncan had placed in conversational groups near the tree. Pratt grabbed her as she stumbled, easing her into a chair.
He leaned down as her chest started to heave under a wave of certainty that things were going to go horribly wrong again. She knew he was questioning her, trying to soothe. But she couldn’t hear a thing beneath the roaring in her ears.
Only two little words rose above the cacophony. Surging from the chaos in her mind to cause her knees to weaken. Not again. The words throbbing with fear.
Please god, not again. Don’t let her start the ugliness all over again.
From the Author
The best books yank you into their world, wrap you in a warm gauze of pleasure, and set you free to bobble upon the surface of a rich and immersive story-line. Hopefully, at the end of that experience you emerge energized, satisfied, and ready for more fun. But there are soooo many books to choose from. And you have limited time in your day for reading. You need to choose carefully. So why choose a Sam Cheever book?
- Fascinating, three-dimensional characters you can’t help relating to
- A unique plot that plays across your mind like a fine symphony
- Witty, firecracker dialogue
- A distinctive mix of humor, romance and adventure that will keep you turning pages well into the night
So, why don’t you take the plunge? Indulge that adventurous spirit. Treat yourself to a little harmless fun. You’ve certainly earned the right.
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