Sneak Peek at The SIA: Are you Haunted?

I’m excited and thrilled to share with you the beginning of my new book, now available at amazon.com, titled: The SIA: Are you Haunted? Order today!

Meet Tess:

Yeah—that’s me. I’m the ghost hunter who doesn’t believe in ghosts, but I am determined to help people.

You see, everyone is haunted, one way or another. Some of us are haunted by hurtful pasts. Many of us are haunted by the stupid decisions we make–even bad decisions that we didn’t know were horrible at the time we made them. Yeah, that “hindsight is 20/20″ line annoys me, too, but it’s true.

Other people are haunted by things that go-bump-in-the-night–weird things that cannot be explained. We tend to write this group of people off as the crazy ones with wild imaginations or over-exhausted brains on overdrive.

We develop many ways to describe the unexplainable. We even make horror movies and write incredible, detailed novels and then pass these works off as “fiction” or “based on a true story” (which means a tiny grain of truth exists). Certainly, the super-weird stuff is make-believe. It’s not really real … is it?

Yes, I know how you think!

Regardless of your beliefs, the creativity of Hollywood covers many truths with a dangerous mask.

We live in a world that is filled with a bunch of screwed up people, including me, but I have access to an amazing source of unlimited power that many ghost hunters don’t use or acknowledge. Actually, they are oblivious that this power exists, but I know of its existence firsthand. I’ve seen it work.

The world is full of many lies and much deceit. We must be careful what we believe.

However, I do believe there is something horrible, something dreadful that haunts people and scares them enough to destroy them. It is not your overactive, caffeine-hyped, super-stimulated, imagination. This dreadful “thing” wants to come into your house today–if it’s not there already. It wants to steal your peace, your joy, and wipe out your family. It wants to drive you crazy enough that you never sleep.

I’m here to help you with that.

 

Prologue

Thump. Thump. Thump-thump-thump.

“Mom? Is that you?” I peek out my door, my head turning left and then right. I don’t see anything suspicious in the hallway. What is that noise? More curious than afraid, I step down the hall, the hardwood floor cool on my bare feet. I pause at the top of the stairs. The ticking of the grandfather clock echoes from downstairs with the slight hum of the ceiling fan, but other than that—nothing.

Thump-thump-thump.

I creep down the stairs, stepping around that spot on the third step that creaks and always gives me away. My eyes dart from the steps to the ceiling to the room below me. A cold draft snakes up my legs and winds around my waist. I shiver, missing my warm, fuzzy bathrobe.

A high-pitched squeal burns my eardrums. My hands fly to cover my ears. I scurry down the darkened stairs, not sure if the noise is before me or behind me. The screeching stops when I reach the bottom. My mouth is dry as my eyes soak in the scene before me. It isn’t possible, but yet the vision before me tells me another story, scorching my brain with images never to disappear, but always to remain, haunting me …

“Come play with me, Tessie.”

Chapter One

Hi. My name is Tess. Not Theresa, or Teresa—just Tess. My mom believes life is difficult enough and likes to keep things simple. My brother’s name is Matt—not Matthew, just Matt. We had a dog named Pete—not short for Peter, just Pete. You get the idea. So I’m just Tess—well, not just Tess—saying “just” makes it sound as if I’m no one special, but I am special. I’ve known it for years because I see things–weird things.

Big deal, right? Please don’t compare me to that kid in the movie who says, “I see dead people.” I’m not like that—not exactly … I guess my “gift,” if you really want to call it that, is similar to that kid’s. For me, it’s about more than seeing dead people. Besides, I believe dead people stay dead. I don’t trust that the unusual things I see are dead people–that is, people who once breathed oxygen and now have no reason to breathe because they’re—uh, dead. The dead don’t come back to life. Their spirits don’t stay to haunt the rest of us who still take breaths. Dead is dead. Whoops—I destroyed a few peoples’ source of income with the truth!

I see weird stuff. It’s that simple. I considered advertising that way, but imagining the phrase “I see weird stuff” posted on a billboard sign or slapped against the side of my van didn’t seem quite as catchy as “I see dead people.”

I have other issues. You don’t know me, yet you are not surprised by that statement. I’m in what people consider the “ghost” business. One might think that I believe in ghosts, but I don’t. That’s right. I’m the ghost hunter who doesn’t believe in ghosts. Laugh. It’s okay. People snicker at me, ridicule me, blog about me, and flog (in the verbal sense, anyway) me. I’ve heard it all, but that’s okay. I know what I know and no one and no “thing” can take that away from me.

Other famous ghost hunting teams have contacted me and tried to get me to partner with them. I’m better off on my own with my personalized team who understands me and my quirky ways—my “quirk perks,” as I call them. My team considers me odd, but they’re adjusting to me—I hope.

I wonder what they discuss when I’m out of earshot. Perhaps I’d rather not fathom the possibilities …

“Hey Boss,” Tommy says, entering my office, his brown eyes glowing with excitement. “Gotta hot one on line two.” He smiles and winks as I grab my phone, rolling my eyes as I hit the button to connect me. Sometimes, Tommy’s idea of a “hot one” compared to my version of what’s “hot” do not match.

“This is Tess with The SIA.”

“I need your help.”

“Okay.” I draw out my word. I can be a bit sarcastic. This phrase and the sound of a rattled voice is common. Everyone needs help. That’s why they call me. Why don’t they get right to the point and skip that opening line?

I shrug at Tommy, who gapes at me in anticipation, like a hungry puppy waiting for a treat.

“What’s up?” I ask the unidentified caller. I evaluate the length of my fingernails. The nail on my left ring finger is a touch longer than the others. I prop the phone between my shoulder and ear, plop down at my desk, and open my drawer to search for my emery board.

“It won’t stop.”

“What won’t stop?”

“The crying.”

“I get that a lot.” I challenge the caller to give me a more enticing statement. They should treat me as if they have one page to get me interested in the story before I burn the book.

“It’s a little girl. Her name is Meg.”

I freeze, halting the precise filing of my fingernail. “Say that again?” My eyes meet Tommy’s. His smile widens and I raise my brows.

“Meg keeps crying. She won’t stop. She’s just a little girl.”

“Where are you calling from?” I ask, the hairs on the back of my neck electrify as I anticipate the answer.

“Fairfield, Indiana.”

I clear my throat. “How old is Meg?”

The voice sputters, “Seven—eight, maybe—I’m not sure. She’s dead!”

The name was right. The age was right. The place was right.

“Give me two days. My assistant will make the arrangements.” I beep through to my associate. This time, Tommy is right. I nod at him, giving him confirmation.

“Yes!” He whispers, mouthing a thank-you to the heavens.

“We’ve got a hot one, Bev. I told him two days.”

“Got it,” she says, and takes the call from me.

“I knew it!” Tommy exclaims, breaking out a happy dance with enthusiastic arm pumping.

I drop the receiver back into its cradle as though it burns.

“You okay, Boss?”

“Yeah, Tommy. I’m okay.”

“I hate to use this phrase, but you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

I jerk my head out of my trance and force a smile to my face. “I don’t–”

“Believe in ghosts.” He finishes my sentence as he has a hundred times before this moment. “Yeah, so you say.”

I roll my chair back and stand. “But you’re right—we’ve got a hot one indeed.” I shuffle the papers on my desk into piles that make sense to me, but no one else.

He chuckles. Typical man—he loves being right—well, I guess gender has nothing to do with loving being right. I sometimes hate being right, but in some cases, I would love to be wrong.

“Life is awesome!” Tommy walks away, his focus back on the electronic device in his hand, perhaps feeding him with the latest best-selling mystery. Without looking up, he navigates around the filing cabinet and exits down the hall. One of these days, he will run into a wall or a closed door. We have office bets on which one happens first.

My smile fades as my gaze freezes on a painting by Theodore Clement Steele, completed over a hundred years ago of my family’s historic home, Woodside House. I have a love/hate relationship with this piece of colorful artwork, which reflects my relationship with the house. Some days, the painting reminds me of beautiful childhood memories. Most days, especially in recent months, my mind wanders to a haunting memory that scrambles my thinking, sets my pulse racing, and causes me to scream in terror in the middle of the night as I battle an invisible force. I refuse to ponder this memory—if I can help it.

A swift double knock bangs at the door and I jump. I guard my racing heart with clenched fists. Sweat beads on my forehead and upper lip. I exhale, releasing air I didn’t realize I held, and blink in rapid movements as my mind tumbles forward to the present. I grab a tissue and dab at the moisture on my face.

My efficient assistant strides in and plants a new itinerary for the week on my desk. “It looks like a three-hour-forty-five minute drive. I’ve got us set to arrive there in time for lunch. Check-in at the B&B isn’t until three—not that it matters.”

“B & B? No Ramada Inn?” My trembling hand tucks a lock of dark hair behind my ear.

“You can use a change. Besides, I have an ‘in’ with the innkeeper.” Bev smiles at me as though she has a great secret. “She misses you. And I have a coupon, of course.” Bev’s brow furrows as she studies me, her dark eyes narrowing. “You don’t look so good, Boss. I hate to say it, but you—”

“Look like I’ve seen a ghost, I know.” I suck in a deep breath and blow my bangs off my forehead.

Bev smirks and backs out of my office. “Get some sleep tonight,” she says, making a clean exit.

A shiver of apprehension tightens my skin. I rub my arms to ward off the chill that seeps into my bones. I dread the sinister events to which I cannot stop as they fall into alignment, preparing to unravel me.

I am going home for the first time in three years. Thanks Bev, but sleep isn’t on the agenda.

Order today!

The SIA: Are you Haunted? Now Available at amazon.com!

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