Sam Cheever takes you into the Ether with Anna Yesterday…

Enjoy this fun snippet from Sam’s brand new release, Book 5 Yesterday’s Mysteries:

A strange feeling of sadness washed through her. The emotion felt foreign, too intense to be her own and she shivered under its impact. Anna laid the pile of cards on top of the desk. She had no idea what she was going to do with them. It didn’t feel right to throw them away. But they were of no use to anyone outside the Dashery family and there didn’t seem to be anything left of the lineage.

Another wave of sadness swamped her. Anna sat back in the chair, her body turning icy and her gaze blank. She had only an instant to become alarmed before it hit her…the brief, violent vision was like a punch to the gut.

A hostile gaze, squinting with dark intent, and a fearful cry, as disembodied hands snaked out from the fog and grasped her around the throat. She tried to scream but the ghostly grip choked off the sound. The pressure built, causing her eyes to bulge and her head to pound as panic seared through her. She reached up, tried to grip the ghostly hands at her throat, but her fingers slipped through the fog, finding nothing solid to grip.

Unfortunately, the pressure on her throat was very real.

Anna struggled against a deep lethargy and the bone-chilling cold. Something tugged at her arms and a deep, worried voice called her name. The pressure at her throat eased and she felt herself sagging downward, but the cold still infused her bones and the feeling of being lost in the fog was terrifying.

It had to be ether.

How was that possible?

Anna’s gaze slowly lifted to watch a slender, dark figure walk away, its form hidden inside a floor-length, hooded cloak and the blustery mist…

“Anna! Anna, wake up! What’s happening?”

A small part of her recognized Pratt’s terrified question, but Anna couldn’t pull herself free. She watched that retreating form, her mind struggling to recognize her killer.

Ice crept through her body, slowing the beating of her heart. She could almost feel her blood turning to sludge in her veins. Her thoughts turning fuzzy.

The figure in the swirling fog stopped, started to turn, and a hate-filled gaze pierced the ether, hitting her with the force of a blow.

Why? She asked the figure, watching the cruel lips curve upward.

You shouldn’t have done it…Celeste.

Anna frowned. But I’m not

The world spun and a familiar force slammed into her, sending her flying backward, toward a warm glow of light that beckoned her from the ether. She hit the light and it was like a thousand shards of glass ripping through her flesh.

 

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Sam Cheever has a Brand New Mystery – Fatal Assignment

 

A temporary office assignment turns deadly. And Blaise quickly finds herself in a killer’s crosshairs.

Backstabbing, infidelity, greed and power. There’s nothing more dangerous than office intrigue. Blaise continues her search for the perfect career by taking a temporary assignment in an architectural firm. Though she quickly learns that wrangling a proposal team to get to end of project is nearly impossible, keeping everyone alive might just be the hardest thing she’ll ever do.

With the help of her sexy fiancé, Dolfe Honeybun, Blaise is determined to get to the bottom of the body in the elevator. Problem is, with a cast of suspects longer than her To Do list, Blaise is up to her perfectly plucked eyebrows in possible killers. And she might not know who the killer is, but he knows everything there is to know about Blaise.

###

Blaise Runa checked her make-up in the mirror for the last time and climbed out of her car. Her phone rang as she started across the nearly empty parking lot to the ugly brick and metal building squatting alongside the street. The sun was still a vague promise on the horizon and Blaise felt the usual mix of excitement and dread as she approached the smudged glass doors leading to the lobby of the Beck and Poole Architectural Firm.

She tugged her phone from her purse and looked down, smiling at the photo of her newest love, Miss Ivy, the big eared sweet tempered mutt she and Dolfe recently adopted. Blaise punched the Answer button. “Hey, Handsome.”

“Morning, future wife. I couldn’t believe you were already gone when I woke up. Third time this week.”

Blaise pulled a lanyard free of her sweater and lifted the key card on the end, swiping it across the reader to unlock the door. “I have two days to get this proposal together and I’m still missing several pieces. I’m going to have to hit the database hard and try to pull together something for the team to edit.”

Heavy breathing came through the phone and Blaise blinked in surprise. “Are you giving me stalker breath?”

Dolfe’s husky chuckle replaced the breathing, followed by a wet slurp and a tiny yip. “Oh, is that Ivy?”

Another yip. “High, baby! Mama’s got to work today. You be good for Daddy, okay?”

She could almost hear Dolfe rolling his eyes. “You know she’s a dog, right?”

“I’m aware. But she’s my little fur baby too.”

“If she’s your baby then that makes her my baby and I don’t want to claim a baby this ugly.”

Blaise hit the stairs, eschewing the elevator in an attempt to skim the few extra pounds she’d piled on since taking the temporary project management position a few weeks earlier. The building had a killer cafeteria, with the world’s best pastries.

It was going to be the death of her.

“I hope you covered her ears before you called her ugly. She’s very sensitive.”

He snorted. “Sensitive? This little monster thinks she rules the world. She doesn’t have a sensitive bone in her puny little body.”

Blaise grinned. He wasn’t wrong. Ivy might only weigh ten pounds, but she thought she was a lion. “Give her a kiss for me, will you? I’ll see you tonight?”

“That’ll be a hard No on the kiss and a gooey Yes on the seeing me later part.”

“Love ya, babe.”

“I love you too, honey. But I have one more thing to say…”

“What’s that?” Blaise tugged the door open to the office on the third floor where she had a desk and flipped on the light.

“If we’re this monster’s parents, you’re taking the blame for these ears.”

 

BUY LINKS:

Amazon.com: http://samcheever.com/blog/fatalAM

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A Series is Born – Book 1: Country Cousins by Sam Cheever

Releasing at $0.99 for a Limited Time!

 

She’s just a country girl who loves her dog. But her life is about to get less countrified and more…erm…homicide.

Deer Hollow is a small community built in a verdant, rolling countryside. The nearest big city is over an hour away and big city ways are rejected at the Hollow. Unfortunately, the big city isn’t the only place where bad things can happen.
Things like murder…which has a funny way of messin’ up a debutante’s day and turning a sunny Sunday in June right over onto its bucolic head.

The whole communication revolution thing is a mixed bag of wonderful and tedious. Things like cell phones are a revelation, allowing twenty-something women like me, who have trouble sitting still, to stay in touch with the important people in their lives while we go about our business.

But even the best innovations have their downside.

For example, a wise woman once told me never to answer a phone call whose number you don’t recognize. Answer at your own risk, my cousin Felicity proclaimed one rainy day in the arboretum.

And I’ve since witnessed the intelligence of her advice. Several times over.

Unfortunately, I’m apparently a slow learner.

“Hello?”

“Is this Miss Joey Fulle?”

I frowned, not liking the “I want to sell you a bridge” tone of the caller’s voice. “Nope, sorry. I think you have the wrong number.”

“Actually, I believe I have the right number, Miss Fulle.”

“You’re not right,” I said quickly and disconnected before the man on the other end of the phone had a chance to give me bad news. I had no idea what kind of bad news I was expecting. But I knew it was there, lurking like a vulture in a tree, ugly and ravenous.

I tugged the soft twisty off my shoulder length red-blonde hair and reached up to smooth the hair back into my favorite style, which was a high ponytail. Sweat dripped down between my shoulder blades and I was glad I’d dressed for the heat of an early June morning. Though my plain white tank top and cut off jean short shorts were already damp.

My dog, Cacophony, Caphy for short, bounded up and stopped in front of me, a clump of fur between her jaws. I grimaced. “Caphy, what did you do? Have you killed something again?”

A blonde Pitbull with gorgeous green eyes, Caphy bounced several times, her muscular haunches springing her several inches off the ground each time, and then barked happily and ran off again, tail whipping the air. I sighed, knowing I should follow her and see if I could save whatever she’d decided to “play” with.

My phone rang again. I hit Ignore and trudged after my dog. “Caphy girl, where’d you go?”

The distant sound of barking drew me to a copse of old trees, their gnarled branches bigger around than I was and tangled together high overhead. It was behind one of these, an elegant old Elm tree whose knobby arms spread wider than the rest, that my dog was mostly hidden. I could see her butt wagging happily as she moved around behind the tree.

“Caphy, come!”

My sweet Pitty bounced out from behind the distant tree and grinned at me, her entire body vibrating with excitement. “What have you found, girl?” I murmured to myself. “Come on, Caphy.”

But she turned back to whatever she was exploring. That was when I realized she must have cornered something. I picked up the pace and hurried in her direction.

By the time I was fifteen feet away I smelled something rotting and knew that, whatever she’d found, I wouldn’t be saving it.

Real panic set in. “Caphy, you come here right now!”

My dog disappeared behind the tree and I growled with frustration. But a moment later she reappeared, heading in my direction with something hanging out of her mouth. “Ugh!” I fought an impulse to turn and run. Being corpse-woman was not tops on my list of favorite things.

In fact, I was pretty sure it wasn’t on the list at all. “Drop it, Cacophony.”

Of course she ignored me, her steps becoming bouncier and more excited the closer she came. Clearly she wanted to share her treasure with me. I didn’t know how to impress upon her that having a mangled, half dried corpse of a bunny or squirrel dropped on my shoes didn’t take me to my happy place. My usual response of shrieking and running screaming away from her treasure just didn’t seem to be doing much to teach her.

She was a very bull-headed pitty. I grinned at my pun.

Caphy ran up and dropped to her haunches a few feet away. She kept hold of the object, which I was trying hard not to look at, as if she was afraid I was going to take it away from her. She would be right about that. But it wasn’t going to happen until I had a bag or something to use so I didn’t have to touch it. I tried one more time to get her to let loose of whatever she was clutching between her jaws. “Drop it, girl.” If I was really lucky I could convince her to let go of it and I could drag her home.

To my shock she lowered her head and released the contents of her mouth.

I glanced down. My stomach did a painful little dance and my gag reflex kicked in. Caphy was watching me very carefully, letting the object lie there as if checking to see how I would react. I was glad it was out of her mouth.

In fact, I would have been elated about it.

But I was too busy shrieking and running away. It might not work for her…but it worked just fine for me.

 

BUY LINKS:

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Sam Cheever has a Fun New Cozy Mystery!

“I was snorting into my pillow so much I sounded like my grand dog Nova. People this is a keeper. I went out and bought the paperback this weekend! You need to read this NOVEL it will cheer you up, make you get over the blues and damn will make you walk around with a smirk and half smile for awhile. These characters become you friends and family. I have a lot of people read Flo and Company! They are a treat.” Karen Frost Reviews

~*~

 

Come to Silver Hills. Where an old nemesis can lead to new trouble and murder is a line item in a business plan.

Vlad Newsome isn’t exactly known as a people person. He’s really more contentious than convivial.

But something’s changed with him, and Flo and Agnes are suspicious.

Vlad’s suddenly “peopling”. He’s shaking hands and even curving his thin lips upward at times in a terrifying imitation of a smile.

Could it be he’s turning over a new leaf? Is he facing a life-changing event that’s made him grow as a person?

Nah…

He’s up to something. And Flo and Agnes are determined to find out what.

When a woman who had a beef with the reprehensible creature of the night known as Vlad Newsome turns up dead in her home…Vlad appears to be the culprit behind her murder.

Silver City PD certainly believe he’s guilty. But Vlad insists he’s innocent. It’s going to be up to Flo and Co. to solve the murder and find the “real” killer. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the ladies aren’t totally certain Vlad isn’t the murderer.

Will Flo and Co. walk away…leave Vlad to defend himself? If you believe that you haven’t been paying attention.

After all, this is Flo and Agnes!

 

~~*~~

“Maybe somebody died,” Agnes offered.

Flo rolled her eyes and pulled a spiky branch up to cover her face. “I hope not, since they’re all laughing.”
Agnes’s round face folded into a frown. “In some cultures, death is celebrated.”

“While I realize being a vampire could be considered another culture…I doubt any of Vlad’s victims or their families would celebrate death by fang.” Flo ducked, pulling the branch with her, as the goth version of a night manager skimmed a look her way. Regrettably, her movement totally exposed her fellow stalker.

Agnes gulped loudly as Vladwick Newsome fixed his black, deadly gaze on her, clearly miffed. “He saw me, Flo.”

Another man approached Vlad and, unbelievably, the usually unfriendly night manager offered the tall, tough-looking man his hand. They shook vigorously and Vlad actually leaned close, whispering something to the other man that made him smile.

“What the?” Agnes stood up, glaring across the street until Vlad turned her way. Then he said something to his new friend and started toward them, his dark eyes flashing with anger.

Flo grabbed her friend’s hand. “Come on. It’s still daylight. His powers are weaker when the sun’s up.”

Snorting, Agnes let herself be dragged toward the street. “I almost wish he really was a vampire so that would be true.”

Flo sighed. “Me too.” They hurried across the street and headed toward home. “I think we just witnessed Vlad’s attempt to foil our plans.”

Agnes shrugged. “To tell you the truth, I’m okay with that. I really don’t want to be a weekend manager.”

“Why not?” Flo asked. “I’ll admit the pay’s not great but it would be nice to have a little extra income, wouldn’t it?” Agnes didn’t actually have any income at the moment. She was able to live at Silver Hills because of an inheritance from her parents, which was just enough to pay for her apartment there and not much else.

Her friend shrugged. “It’s just…”

“Hey!” The snotty, strident voice assaulted them from across the street.

Flo grabbed Agnes’ hand, pulling her into a faster walk. “Don’t look back.”

“We can’t just ignore him,” Agnes said as she began to turn.

Flo jerked her around. “Don’t! He’s just going to threaten you and Tolstoy with eviction again.”

“Flo, you know he’s going to do that anyway. He’s going to be mad if I put my name in the hat for the manager’s position.”

“But if you get the job he won’t be able to threaten you with that ever again,” Flo reminded her.

She saw the moment the realization hit. Agnes’ round, expressive face brightened in a smile. “You’re right.” To Flo’s horror, Agnes stopped and turned as Vlad hurried closer. “What up, vamp?”

The cranky night manager curled his lip and oozed to a stop deep inside their comfort zone.

Flo took a step backward, glaring at him. “Vlad.”

He gave her a smug grimace. “Annoying woman from the second floor.”

Flo fought irritation. The man knew perfectly well who she was. He just liked to pretend she was so unimportant he couldn’t remember her name. She clamped her lips down on the desire to give it to him again. It wouldn’t make any difference and would allow him a win.

She was all about not giving Vlad Newsome a win.

He turned a piercing, nearly black gaze toward Agnes. Flo saw her friend twitch, her eyes widening as if she couldn’t look away.

“He can’t compel you with his gaze, Agnes.”

Agnes chewed on her bottom lip. “Are you sure? I’m feeling kind of woozy.”

“That’s because you stopped breathing.” Flo touched her friend’s thick wrist. “Drop your eyes and breathe, fool.”

Agnes didn’t blink. Her eyes were so big Flo was afraid they might be stuck. “Agnes, a bug’s going to fly into your eyes if you don’t blink.”

Agnes’ mouth opened into a horrified “O”. She hated when that happened. “I can’t Flo, he’s got me.”

Vlad chuckled darkly, clearly enjoying Agnes’ hysteria.

Flo reached out and punched him in the arm.

“Ow!” His smile died as he rubbed his skinny arm. “That hurt.”

Fortunately, when he looked away, Agnes broke the spell she’d put on herself. She glared at him. “You won’t stop me with your vampire ways,” she told him angrily.

He shook his head. “You people are idiots. There is no such thing as vampires.”

“That’s exactly what a vampire would say when it was about to be outed,” Agnes told him smugly.

 

BUY LINKS:

Amazon.com: http://samcheever.com/blog/vladhanding

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Paperback: http://samcheever.com/blog/vladpaper

Sam Cheever has a FUN New Cozy!

Come to Silver Hills. Where new friends are made and a grim reaper is born.

Agnes Willard is moving into Silver Hills. She’s worried about the change and concerned about fitting in. Luckily for her, Florence Bee has decided to take Agnes under her wing.

When Agnes’ cat Tolstoy escapes as they’re getting Agnes settled into her new apartment, they quickly find him across the hall, perched on a dying woman’s chest.

The new friends soon learn three things from the experience:

  1. The cat definitely has an instinct for and proclivity toward people who are on death’s doorstep.
  2. Finding and avoiding a killer is a really tough way to spend your first days in a new place.
  3. Agnes truly does have a unique talent for debauching a crime scene.

Grab your copy NOW! (Erm, sorry for yelling at you there. #:0)

 

EXCERPT

There was no sound of footsteps on the tile of the hallway. Nobody called out. There was no hint that they’d been joined by another person.

But suddenly Flo knew he was there.

Her head jerked up and she saw the lean, dark form in the bedroom doorway. She yelped softly with surprise and fear before she caught herself. “You did that on purpose.”

Vladwick, or Vlad as they called him, glided forward, the light from the parking lot beyond Betty’s window catching him just below the eyes and framing the black orbs of his gaze and the slicked back hair with the dramatic widow’s peak.

He looked like something from an old time Dracula movie. Flo half expected him to say, “Good eevvenning…”

But of course, he didn’t. Niceties were not Vlad Newsome’s thing. He glided over to the bed and glared down his long, pointed nose at the dead woman. His thin lips curled contemptuously. “How annoying.”

Flo and Celia shared a look and Celia shook her head, clearly disgusted.

“I know,” Flo said in her most rigid tones. “It’s such a shame when people die and disrupt your scheduled draining of unsuspecting villagers. Hopefully, it won’t affect your ability to stay ahead of the pitchforks and torches.”

He turned his glare on her. “Are you finished?”

Flo let contempt fill her gaze and focused it on him. “Maybe.”

“Good. Then tell me what you know about this.”

“I’ll tell the police when they arrive.”

His black eyes went wide. “Police? Why would we need them?”

“This woman was murdered,” Celia told him with a little too much relish.

Vlad blinked slowly, like a lizard. “And you know this how?”

Fortunately, Celia didn’t go into the specifics of how she knew. Flo wasn’t sure she could hear it again without hurling.

“Just trust us. She was alive when we were here earlier.”

Vlad peaked a slender black eyebrow, his thin lips twisting with disdain. “You were here earlier, when she was alive?”

Flo turned to Celia. “Do you hear an echo?”

“I do…I do…I do…” Celia responded.

Grinding noises came from the creature standing beside the bed. Flo really hoped he didn’t fracture a fang.

 

BUY LINKS:

Amazon.com: http://samcheever.com/blog/flochart

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Yesterday’s Mysteries Continue!

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

Excerpt

Yesterday, 1850

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.

 

Present Day

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.

~SC~

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.

“Lissie?”

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.”

She laughed.

“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.

Buy Links

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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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Sam Cheever has a fun new Paranormal Mystery!

Independence is the most important thing to LA…but can she live with herself if her freedom ends up costing her family their lives?

She’d watched a friend succumb to the smothering control of another magical user. She’d made a promise to herself it would never happen to her. For centuries her family has worn the badge of Familiar proudly, serving a long line of powerful Witches and becoming as formidable as the ones they served. But LA doesn’t believe she needs a Familiar alliance to be strong.

Until people she cares about begin disappearing…turning up dead.

Until a powerful and handsome male Witch walks into her life and forges an inadvertent magic bond while trying to save her life.

Now she finds herself in exactly the position she never wanted. But she quickly realizes she can’t save her friends and family alone. So it comes down to losing her independence or watching everyone she cares about die.

Will LA find a way to keep her independence and still save the people she cares about most? Or will her burning need for freedom be the cause of their deaths?

###

“Look, whatever your name is…”

“Deggart Kincaide. My friends call me Deg.”

I gave him an assessing look just to make him uncomfortable. It was a flaw I had. When faced with someone who thought he might want to be my master, I showed him my hard ass b-eye-itch to convince him otherwise. The tendency might actually have something to do with the fact that at the ripe old age of twenty-nine I was already a crazy cat lady with split ends.

Unfortunately for me, my assessing look seriously backfired. My victim was six feet two inches of deliciousness, with dark brown hair that fell across his forehead in a messy fringe, wide, full lips and dark silver eyes.

I knew I was in trouble when I started to pant a little.

“LA?”

I frowned, slapping the hand away that had been waving in front of my face. “How do you know my name?”

“Brock?”

Argh! I was going to reduce that demon to fur and nails the next time I saw him.

“Well, it’s been…erm…nice to meet you, Deggart, but I’m really busy.”

I grabbed the edge of the door and proceeded to shove it against him, trying to get him to leave. Turns out a door won’t close over a hundred and eighty pound man.

“That’s actually why I’m here. I want to help you find them.”

It appeared the demon had been very talkative. “Thank you, Deggart…”

“Please. Call me Deg. Save me from my mother’s ill conceived idea of a name.”

I twisted my lips to hide a grin. “Deg. Thanks for the offer. But I got this.”

“I’ve heard about your special skill.”

Biting back a hiss, I fought for a conversational tone. Though it was really hard to speak through gritted teeth. “My special skill?” If Brock had told him things he had no right telling him…

“This place. It’s a sanctuary, isn’t it? I commend you for your work. It’s about time somebody did it.”

I stared at him, trying to decide if he was yanking my chain. “Um.”

“Really. I spoke to an elderly calico yesterday…”

Yeah, those weren’t words you heard often. “You spoke to a cat?”

“I did.” He smiled. “We all have our special skills.”

I frowned. “So you just, what? Meow and hiss at them and stuff?”

He grinned and my stomach went, kerplunk. “It’s better than licking my butt to put them at ease.”

BUY LINKS:

Amazon.com: http://samcheever.com/blog/familiarterritory

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