The ghost hunter a paran.., p.17
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       The Ghost Hunter, a Paranormal Romance (The Hunter Series), p.17

           Lori Brighton
 

  Camile leaned against the countertop. “A poltergeist isn’t the remnants of a dead person. They’re just…spirits that somehow form, and they’re always mischievous.”

  Wonderful. Like she needed more mischief in her house. A dull ache throbbed at the base of her head, threatening to erupt into a migraine. “All right, let’s get this over with.”

  “This shouldn’t take long. I’ll just…” Camile looked around the cottage, the frustration apparent on her face. “Take a little of everything.” She started shuffling through the cupboards, grabbing bottles by the handful. “Aunt’s books are stacked by the wall if you wouldn’t mind grabbing the ones on spells.”

  Ashley nodded and weaved her way around Camile’s piles of clothing to the small stack of books. Dictionary of Spells stood out like a beacon of knowledge and she grabbed the book. How To Do Spells was next, followed by How to Reverse Spells. She grappled with the manuals and stood. As she turned, her left leg brushed against the pile, sending novels to the floor with a thud, thud, thud.

  “Crap.” It was all too much, damn it. She placed the books she held on the kitchen table and started to pick up her mess. Rose didn’t need more to clean when she returned, Camile had done enough damage.

  “What’d you find?” Camile asked, still searching the kitchen.

  “Spell books, and…” She spotted a book lying open on the floor. “And this.” She held it up, figuring the more books they had, the better.

  Camile glanced back. “Ah, yeah, a book on mythological beings. It’s good. Might be something in there about poltergeist.”

  Eagerly, Ashley flipped through the novel. There was more than one powerful being she was interested in knowing about. A drawing of a man flashed across a page. Something in that picture gave her pause. She stopped and flipped back until she found the drawing.

  It was a simple sketch. A knight in armor holding a sword. Even though the print might have been basic, with little artistic endeavor, there was something about the man that called to her. His dark eyes were fierce and his demeanor powerful, a silly picture that made her heart slap wildly against her ribcage.

  Her gaze slipped down to the lettering underneath. It was in Latin, or something similar and equally confusing to read. With a frown, she studied the drawing once more. What was it about the man that felt vaguely familiar? Then she noticed the emblem on his shield just barely visible from the angle he stood.

  Realization struck cold.

  Ashley sucked in a sharp breath. “Oh my God.”

  Cross with sword.

  She knew the symbol well. That same symbol was on the damn door in her basement. The same symbol that had thrown her on her ass.

  “What does it mean?” she whispered to no one in particular.

  “What’s wrong?” Camile asked, starting toward her.

  How the hell did she explain without sounding like a crazy person? Then again this was Camile, a woman who had brought a man back from the dead. “This book…this…this picture.” Ashley was so shocked, she could barely speak. Frantic, she scanned the page, trying to find any detail, any information that would explain away the similarity. The words in Latin popped out at her, there in the middle of a paragraph.

  “All hope abandon ye who enter here,” she whispered.

  “What?” Camile demanded.

  The door flew open before she could explain. Ashley jumped to her feet and stumbled back against Camile. The door bagged loudly against the wall with a thud that shook the small house and made them gasp. Mad Rose stood on the threshold wearing a green housecoat and a scowl.

  Her beady eyes fell on them and narrowed. “Whoot the bloody hell have ye two doone?”

  Camile’s face paled, but she offered no response.

  “I’m sorry, what’s wrong?” Ashley asked, feeling she should say something.

  Rose’s eyes flashed to her and Ashley wished she’d kept her mouth shut. “Whoot’s wrong? Ah’ll tell ye whoot’s wrong.” She shuffled into the house and slammed the door shut. “Ye two meddling fools is whoot’s wrong.”

  She dropped her suitcase with a thud then shrugged off her black shawl.

  “Balls. How’d you know?” Camile asked, playing with that blue bracelet as her gaze flickered nervously from Ashley to her aunt.

  Rose threw her arms wide, the fat underneath jiggling with anger. “Bloody hell, ah could feel the rift all the way in Edinburgh!”

  “What’s she talking about?” Ashley whispered, clutching the book to her chest.

  Camile’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “She knows, about the magic I’ve performed.”

  “Oh.” Ashley stiffened, surprised but not shocked. But then, she doubted anything would shock her anymore. “Well, yeah, but no worries. I mean, she was trying to help me and it’s actually good that she brought Devon back to life.”

  “Back tae life?” Rose’s face grew red. “Ye never bring anyone back!”

  Camile flinched. Ashley cringed.

  “An’ now ye’ve opened a whole can o’ worms.” She shuffled into the kitchen area and started flinging open cupboard doors.

  “What worms?” Ashley dared to ask.

  The old woman spun around to face her, her hands fisted on her wide hips. “Ye never git anything fer free. Ye brought him back an’ with it, ye opened a bloody portal.”

  “A…a portal?” That didn’t sound good.

  “Aye,” she snapped, shuffling through the bottles in the cupboard.

  “Like a science fiction portal?” Ashley dared to ask.

  “Nay, ye bloody moron. A spiritual portal where any demoon can coome through and now we’ve got tae close it before something does.”

  “Umm, Aunt Rose,” Camile finally stepped forward, her face flushed with guilt. “You see, there’s a slight problem.”

  Rose spun around and narrowed her beady eyes. “Whoot?”

  Ashley had to resist the urge to slap her hand over Camile’s mouth. After all, did Rose really need to know all the details?

  “Well, you see,” Camile started, nervously twisting that blue beaded bracelet around her narrow wrist, “something already got through. A poltergeist.”

  Rose sighed and covered her face with her gnarled hands.

  “But we took care of it,” Ashley rushed out.

  The old woman peeked between her knobby fingers. “Ye did?”

  Ashley nodded, surprised Rose wasn’t knocking their heads together.

  She dropped her hands to her sides, a determined glint in her eyes. “Well then, let’s git that portal closed before soomething else coomes through. Camile, git yer arse over har and find ma herbs.”

  Camile rushed to the cupboards, which left Ashley to stand alone in the middle of the living room with nothing to do but worry. When Rose started toward her, Ashley scurried aside. Ghosts she could handle, but not this witch. The old woman collapsed into a chair near the table, not bothering to glance Ashley’s way.

  “Bloody morons.” Rose flipped through the spell books.

  Even though Ashley could feel her anger like a tidal wave, she knew it was a prime opportunity to get information. Time to be bold and incur the wrath of Mad Rose.

  “Rose.” She stepped hesitantly toward her. The old woman raised a gray brow. Ashley flushed under her scrutiny, but forced herself to continue. “I…noticed a picture in this book.”

  Rose continued flipping through the pages of a spell guide. “Go on.”

  Relieved, Ashley set the book beside hers. “The warrior…the knight.”

  Rose stilled, her hand hovering over the book. Ashley wasn’t sure if the woman was confused, or waiting to hear more, so she pointed to the picture. “At least, he looks like a knight, with a sword and shield. It’s just that…on his shield he has an emblem, a cross with a sword behind it.”

  She was silent for one long moment. “Aye. Rafael’s Warriors.” She said the words as if Ashley should know who the Warriors were. And was it her imagination or had Rose’s voice come out gruf
f and shaky?

  But Ashley’s leeriness quickly gave way to excitement. Finally, she was getting somewhere. She leaned forward, her hands flat on the kitchen table and her heart racing in her chest. “Who are they?”

  The old woman’s jaw clenched. She turned her attention back to her spell book, seemingly completely unconcerned. Why did Ashley have a feeling the woman was trying to avoid eye contact? “Knights, at one time. They fought fer the Lord against evil. But legend has it that one of their kind turned bad. For atonement, they were forced intae menial servitude on earth until God deems otherwise.”

  Ashley sank into the chair next to Rose, partly because she wanted to hear more, mostly because her legs were too weak to hold her up. “Menial servitude? What does that mean? What do they do?” She had so many questions she had to stop herself from blurting them out all at once.

  Rose sighed and closed her spell book with a snap. “They’re responsible fer sending spirits tae the other side.”

  Ashley’s mouth went dry. Everything was fitting together one by one. Puzzle pieces falling into place. “You mean they escort the dead to heaven?”

  Rose picked up one of Camile’s bras that was hanging on the back of her chair, grimaced and tossed it aside. “In a way. Boot these spirits are spirits who donae want tae go.”

  Spirits that don’t want to go. Spirits like Rachel, Samuel and Bill. “Oh.” Ashley sank back into her chair, her mind and body growing oddly numb. “And why wouldn’t they want to go to Heaven?”

  “Not Heaven, the other side. There’s a difference between the other side an’ heaven. Heaven is…well, Heaven. What ye’d imagine it tae be. While the other side, is…well, a sort of waiting room.”

  So familiar. Everything she said was what Cristian had implied and what she’d deduced. Who would have known he was telling the truth? “And these Warriors, they force them there?”

  She nodded, and flipped a page. With a gnarled finger, she pointed at a drawing. A Warrior stood, his wings flared wide and sword in hand as he fought a demon.

  Wings. Sword.

  Her mind spun. She stood so fast her chair tipped back and crashed to the floor.

  Cristian and Devon were Warriors.

  Dear God. Had she been wrong about them all along? Could they truly be guardians of good? Her stomach churned. The last few days spun through her mind like a video on fast forward.

  “I’ve got the herbs,” Camile called out, her voice sounding hallow to her buzzing mind.

  “Good, because we’re going tae need them tae close the portal. Ye,” she pointed at Ashley, her harsh voice snapping her back into the present.

  “Yeah?” Ashley squeaked.

  Rose pushed away from the table, standing. “Ye’ll be inside and ye’ll need help. Get that lad, the big, strong one.”

  Ashley closed her eyes and resisted the urge to groan. “Cristian?”

  “Aye, ye’ll need his help if ye want tae close the portal.”

  “Fanfreakingtastic,” she muttered.

  Chapter 21

  Cristian strolled around Ashley’s room, studying the place for portals. It was obvious she hadn’t the slightest desire to be stuck in this small space with him. She’d made sure to keep her distance. Too fucking bad for her. The woman had brought back to life the one man who wanted him dead, and in the process she’d opened a portal. A portal only he had the power to close. Betrayed by woman. Ironic that Devon would turn another female against him.

  He knew Rose had told her the truth about who he was. He’d known the moment she’d meekly arrived, politely asking him for help. Even now she was sitting on the edge of her bed, watching him as if she expected him to sprout wings and a halo. He’d rather have her angry and annoyed. Where was the woman who mocked him? Who fought him? Who drove him mad?

  He snapped the curtains together, blocking out rays from the quickly fading sun. Steeling himself, he faced her. It was odd being here in these tight quarters that held her scent. For some reason the chamber seemed smaller, or he seemed larger. Following Rose’s advice, he’d settled a few candles around the room to help harness their powers and concentration. He felt like he was trying to seduce the woman. All he needed were some bad eighties ballads and he’d be set.

  “Rose is ready. They’ve surrounded the house with a protective spell and are holding it steady while we perform the ritual,” he said, more to cover the awkward silence than to impart information.

  Ritual. He knew the word sounded creepy, like they were going to sacrifice a goat, or a virgin. Hopefully she was neither.

  She stood and stuffed her hands into her back pockets, looking unsure and nervous. “So then, what now?”

  “Now, we get to work.” He moved to the middle of the floor where a white candle burned brightly. “Sit,” he ordered with a nod.

  She glared at him, apparently annoyed with his commanding tone, but settled on the throw carpet without comment. He was thrilled to see his exalted position hadn’t influenced her as much as he’d thought.

  With the candle, a stone bowl full of herbs and Cristian’s sword between them, it felt like they were attending the last supper. “Give me yer hands.”

  She swallowed hard and slipped her hands into his. Her smooth skin moved over his calloused palms. The contrast was damned near erotic. Shivers raised the fine hairs on his skin. He silently cursed his reaction. When the hell had he lost control over his own body?

  “Let’s get started,” he snapped out like a military captain giving orders. His grip tightened on hers, making sure she was paying attention. “They’ll try to scare us, frighten us into giving up, we can’t.”

  She shrugged, unease flickering in her hazel gaze. “All right.”

  But he could tell she wasn’t taking this seriously, hadn’t a clue what could happen. She would soon enough. “Ready?” He didn’t wait for her response, but closed his eyes and started mumbling Latin.

  Vaguely he was aware of the soft hiss as the candle flames sputtered and flickered, whether from the power he harnessed, or the soft evening breeze coming in from the open windows, he wasn’t sure.

  He released her hands and pulled forward the bowl Rose had given him. An odd mixture of herbs and flowers added color to the gray stone. Wildflowers that a child might have picked for his mother. Hell, he’d probably picked the same species for his own Mum hundreds of years ago. Now those flowers represented so much more. Cristian picked up his sword, laying dormant at his side and grasped the hilt.

  He lifted the weapon high, the blade gleaming under the candlelight. “The Lord is my shepherd…”

  The flame hissed, turning brilliant blue. A common reaction. Certainly only the beginning, but that didn’t keep Ashley from sucking in a sharp breath of surprise. Was she finally starting to understand the direness of the situation?

  “I shall not want…”

  Cristian brought the sword low and rested the blade against his left palm, the metal cold on his skin.

  “He maketh me tae lie down…”

  Gritting his teeth, he jerked the blade across the palm of his hand.

  “No!” Ashley shouted, reaching out as if she could stop him.

  He ignored her sudden concern, forcing himself to remain focused. Even as he began to mutter in Latin, he couldn’t help but wonder if her concern was genuine. He swallowed hard and focused on the throbbing in his palm. The blood would help solve their problem and the pain would keep his mind focused.

  He set the sword on the floor, and lifted his left hand over the bowl. Blood pooled in his palm, a dark red puddle, then dripped into the stone container. Purple and brown herbs mixed with red. The liquid turned brilliant blue…then shifted to green and suddenly flared back to red. Small bubbles popped, and the potion hissed, then just as suddenly, fell silent. So far, everything was right on track but he knew more was to come.

  He waited, his heart thundering in his chest, waited to see what would happen next. One never quite knew. While he waited, his gaze flickered a
round the room, looking for signs of action. Nothing but stillness. He returned his attention to his palm, where blood still dripped a steady stream into the bowl.

  Ashley swallowed hard, her wide gaze darting around the room. She was finally taking the situation seriously, although he found no vindication in her fear. Tucking her legs underneath her, she looked like she was ready to bolt. He couldn’t let her leave, not until he got what he needed from her.

  “Shhh,” he hissed.

  She frowned, glaring at him. “This is the whole craziness that goes along with closing a portal? I’ve seen more action on bingo night with Grandma.”

  Cristian resisted the urge to smile. God, he admired her spirit. “You don’t have a grandmother.” Cristian’s gaze slowly traveled the room. “And tis never easy. There’ll be more.”

  The minutes passed, and still nothing happened.

  A soft sigh escaped her lips.

  “Bloody hell, if ye can’t keep quiet, then leave,” he snapped.

  She raised her brows, the stunned look on her face priceless. “Leave?”

  Of course he knew she wouldn’t leave. She was too damn curious for her own good. Something rattled behind him, but Ashley didn’t seem to notice. She was too intent on telling him off.

  “This is my pub. And if anyone should leave, it’s—”

  Cristian grabbed her arm and jerked her forward.

  “What the hell?” She pulled back, attempting to slip her hand free of his hold. A soft rush of air brushed by them.

  Ashley froze. A second later a vase shattered against the wall, the pieces pattering to the ground.

  Cristian smiled slow and sure. “The fun’s started. I’d take cover if I were ye.” He jumped to his feet, his sword in hand.

  “Take cover?” She scrambled to her feet. “Where?”

  “Anywhere.” He pushed her aside and with a growl, leapt forward. He felt it when her heart hitched. Felt her harsh breath as if she was standing beside him when she was across the room. He could ignore her as much as he could ignore himself. Damn it all, he’d need her help.

 

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